P i a n d O
The public bar at the Limerick was busy but my pathway was blocked by Millie.
“Go straight to your room before you have a drink, Ross.”
“Don’t tell me its been trashed again?”
Barry had noticed me and was heading toward me with a big grin on his face. What he wanted to tell me would wait, the owner’s wife was insistent.
“Your room hasn’t be trashed. Ross, please go up now.” She turned to intercept Barry.
The thought of anyone waiting for me was furthest from my mind at this stage. I opened the door but in the darkness could see nothing. I reached for the light switch as a voice came from my bed.
“Nice of you to finally come home.”
I touched the light switch; in the brightness it took a moment for me to see who was on my bed.
A spook was occupying my bed. Robin Anderson was sprawled over the cover, his hands behind his head.
“What in the name of all hell are you up to, you silly bastard?” I spluttered, trying to control my laughter at the spectacle of an overweight insurance executive making himself at home in my room.
“Your landlady let me in. I’ve known her for a long time and she told me you were on a date. She thinks it is really something your dating the very girl you were accused of trying to drown.”
I gave Robin a stinking look. “You’re on dangerous ground saying that…”
I was cut short. Robin finished my statement by elevating his voice to a higher pitch, finishing what I was about to say. “I was found not guilty by a jury of my peers, and so on and so on.”
“What’s all the furtiveness about?” I wanted to get down to the business reason for his presence. There had to be one.
“Two reasons. It’s taken a while for my Board of Directors to get the message. They want me to find out what’s going on in Harbour Vale. Apart from that, there’s been a young local being groomed in the art of loss assessment for a couple of years. He may be just the lad to give you some assistance.”
“What do you mean give me some assistance?” I could not imagine why an insurance company would be offering to assist me. “I haven’t got any large insurance policies that would cause a threat to my life, as fragile as it may be, in Harbour Vale. There’d be too many around who would want to make a claim. The way things are, protecting me would be an exercise similar to that given to George Bush. You know of him?”
“Keep politics out of this. Just because your passport’s American, you’re no more American that me or even the Consalvis.”
“Ha! So now the names are being dropped. You’re interested in the Consalvis?”
“More likely the whole damned town,” Robin corrected me.
“What do you want me to tell you?”
“Everything you know. Every little detail. By the way, how was your date today?”
Robin was smiling. The man who was taking his time swinging his legs to the floor to get up from my bed would have meant every word he said. If he really wanted every little detail, he would get it, one way or another. I did not fancy a work-over by this amiable but professional operator.
“My stroll through the bush with Frances was quite proper. I don’t have anything sinful to confess.”
“Ease up, old mate. Never has anything been so believable as your taking a stroll through the bush with a beautiful and intelligent lady. My question is, why?”
I told him.
“So that’s what they’re up to. All they’re doing is growing a weed in the hills, just like half the feral population is already doing. A profitable crop if they can get away with it. But Ross, let me ask you something. Do you really believe that’s all it is?”
The insurance assessor was watching me carefully. He’d asked a loaded question and he’d learn as much from the expression on my face as from my answer.