Danger In Havana – Episode 26

BRYONY soon was confident enough to try trotting and although it was terrifying, it was also exhilarating. Holding on for dear life, her knees clamped around the horse’s flank, her hand gripping the pommel, it felt good to be going fast.

Who would have thought, she couldn’t help musing, that she would be out in the wilds of Cuba, without Warren to lean on, riding a horse for hours on end? And that she’d actually be enjoying the sensation, the freedom of being in control of her own destiny?

It occurred to her that she had come to rely on Warren perhaps too much. He was such a strong character, quite dominating, in fact.

She’d almost come to believe that she wasn’t good at doing things, that she always had to defer to him. Yet here she was, coping perfectly well in a trying and difficult situation.

Anna was missing, yet she’d gone out to find her. Bryony knew she’d suffered crippling anxiety following Warren’s death. No wonder, when she relied on him so much.

Now, here she was, not just coping, but actually enjoying the ride!

She could do things, she could be independent, she could take a stand. On her own.

Had Warren slowly, subtly, during their marriage actually undermined her without her even noticing? Had he played on his expertise on the computer and his wide knowledge of the world and all its ways to make her feel incapable, to try to control her somewhat?

Sometimes her friends had ticked her off, saying she was like a servant in his company, just waiting for him to tell her what he needed, and putting his needs before her own.

As she trotted along, a wide stretch of glorious emerald grass opened before them and Mark drew his horse to trot along by her side.

“How’s it going?”

“Not bad – pretty good, actually.”

It was his steady, stalwart encouragement that had helped her get this far.

Without it, she might still be back in Havana, nervous and ruled by her anxiety, waiting in vain for the Cuban police to do something.

Mark hadn’t pushed or controlled her into anything. He’d merely been there, by her side, a sensible authoritative voice, supporting her.

What’s more, she hadn’t once seen him bury himself in a phone or a computer.

It was refreshing; it had shown her what perhaps she’d been missing.

For once, her mind flitted to Warren and Bryony did not feel totally bereft by his passing.

Yes, it was sad, it was terrible for someone to die so young. It was devastating to lose her husband, the person she had pledged her life to. But it had happened, and time had passed.

There was a future after you lost someone. There had to be, because there were new people who could care for you, without curtailing you, without holding you back. Without needing you to bow to their needs.

And there were others still alive you had to care for.

You had to be strong for them.

*   *   *   *

Mark was looking far into the hills as he rode next to her.

“I was just thinking about Anna,” Bryony said to him. “Do you think we will find her at this plantation house, Mark? After all, what real evidence do we have that she is there?”

He gave her a serious look.

“You’re having those sort of doubts that always enter one’s mind at this stage in an investigation. You clutch at straws, at anything that will lead you one tiny, stuttering step forwards.

“Then, on your way to check it out, it’s so often that you are beset by fears that it’ll be a wild goose chase.” He shrugged.

“Sometimes it is, but then there are crucial times it isn’t. It’s like trying to do a jigsaw without a picture to follow. You just have to keep trying to pick up various pieces, small and seemingly insignificant leads and clues, and put them together until you get the final picture.”

“I fear maybe we’re too late.” Bryony was on the verge of tears.

“Look, if someone’s taken Anna, they’ve taken her for a purpose. Whether she’s been taken hostage for some reason or another, we set off as quickly as we could.

“There is no fast way to travel in Cuba. If she is being held at the country house, we’re not going to be there long after her. If she’s here, we’ll find her. Don’t give up hope. Instead, let’s just go over the things we know.”

“That sounds like a plan,” Bryony said.

It would help to make the journey slide by more easily. They’d been going for two hours now without stopping.

She searched her memory, like a filing cabinet, for the things they had discovered so far.

“OK, first of all, there was the man with the beard and the pot belly. I saw him around the hotel on a number of occasions, and you saw him, too, at reception on the day we arrived.”

“That’s right, and the more I think about it, the more I’m sure he was taking photos of you, but more of Anna.”

“It might just be a coincidence,” Bryony said, “but at the time he was taking those photos, she was chatting in German to a young guy in the queue.”

“And we know, from going to the cigar museum, that the bearded man taking the photos, Otto Weber, is German. Do you think he and the German lad in the queue were together?”

“No, definitely not,” Bryony said. “The young guy was with a group of boys his own age. They were obviously students, probably on a gap year or on holiday from uni.”

“What I’ve been wondering,” Mark said, “is what made Otto Weber so interested in Anna. Clearly she’s very attractive and there could have been a motive there – he might have developed some sort of obsession with her. But I don’t think that was it at all. Clearly, though, something about her sparked his interest.”

Tracey Steel

Having worked on a number of magazines over the years, Tracey has found her perfect place on The Friend as she’s obsessed with reading and never goes anywhere without a book! She reads all the PF stories with a mug of tea close by and usually a bit of strong cheese too!