My mind is racing. I’m on my fourth beer. I look at my watch. It’s ten past three. The watch always reminds me of Terry. Same make and model as his. Omega Speedmaster.
The whole thing seems unreal. But I know I saw him. I just know it. So if he’s out there somewhere I have to find him. But where do I start?
I should call Caroline. I dial her number.
“Hi babe. I’ve got a slight problem. I’m in the middle of nowhere up in the mountains and the bloody car has broken down. I’ve called the car hire people and they say someone is coming out to have a look at it but you know what Spain is like. Manjana. Manjana.”
She sounds concerned.
“Yeh fine. Just got to wait for the breakdown people and I’ll be back.”
“That’s not what I mean. Are you OKAY?”
“Yeh, really. I’m fine. Don’t worry. Look I’ve got to go. I’ll call you a bit later.”
I hang up. I feel guilty for lying but what else can I do. Say I’ve just seen my dead best friend? Don’t think so.
I walk back into the bar. It’s still empty but for the man behind the bar. I smile at him and speak slowly.
“So. The man… who was just here. He is a… Stranger?”
He shrugs his shoulders.
“Yes Sir. A stranger. I no see him before today.”
I try not to laugh. He sounds like Manuel from Fawlty Towers. I pay for my drinks and leave.
I’m standing outside and wondering where to go next. The Pharmacy seems like the logical place to go. Somewhere in there someone must speak English. I look up at the neon sign. It’s showing thirty – five degrees.
Inside it’s cool, the air conditioning is working well. A young, attractive, olive skinned lady smiles and says “Hola.”
“Do you speak English?”
Her smile widens, exposing a large amount of gleaming white teeth.
“Yes, but it is not very good.”
I smile back.
“Better than my Spanish. That’s for sure. Is there a Hotel in town, or a place to stay?”
She shakes her head.
“No Hotel. But…there are rooms at El Caliente. Is just a few minutes’ walk.”
She points in the direction of the main road heading out of town. I’m guessing it’s a kind of guest house.
I thank her and begin to leave but something catches my eye. Something familiar in a glass cabinet on the wall. There amongst a dozen or so bottles of aftershave is a small red object that I recognise. Fahrenheit.
I point to the bottle.
“Is forty euros.”.
For some reason I feel obliged to buy the aftershave. So I hand over forty euros and leave. I walk along the road that leads out of town and find El Caliente after ten minutes. It’s as I expected. A small guest house.
Inside it’s full of dark wooden furniture. The whole reception area looks dingy, probably because all the windows are covered with shutters to keep the place cool. There’s a bell on the counter. I ring it. A man appears almost out of nowhere. He doesn’t say anything. Just kind of gestures for me to speak.
“You have rooms? A spare room for one night?”
He nods. I think he says something but can’t be sure. He opens up a book that’s in front of him on the counter. Now he speaks. I’m surprised at how good his English is.
“You sign the book. Name and where you live. Then you pay me thirty euros for one night. Breakfast is extra five euros.”
He spins the book round and pushes it towards me. I quickly look at the other names in the book. One name jumps out at me. Thomas Porter. Could it be? TP. Same initials as Terry Palmer.
I point to the name.
“This man. He is staying here?”
Once again he nods.
“Yes. He is a friend of yours?”
Now I’m excited.
“Yes. Yes. Is he here now?”
“No. He went out this morning. No return yet.”
I pay the thirty euros and take a key for room nine. But I don’t want to leave the reception area in case he comes back and I miss him.
“Can I wait here in reception. I want to surprise him when he returns.”
The man just shrugs his shoulders.
“Okay. You want drink. Beer, Brandy?”
“Cold beer would be great. Thank you.”
I sit down on a hard wooden chair and notice something in an ashtray on the table in front of me.
It’s there. A tied up crisp packet.
He’s here, he’s definitely here. My mobile rings. It’s Caroline. I ignore it. Not now. Not now. I notice she’s rung seven times since I spoke to her and left voice messages. I can’t speak to her. I just have to see Terry and find out what’s going on.
The Spanish man brings me 2 bottles of San Miguel and one glass. I thank him and pour the first. It slides down easily and now I’m on to the second. I fiddle with the St Christopher hanging round my neck. All I can think about is Terry.
He must be in some big trouble. He’s running away from something. Something that’s out of his control. Something he’s scared of. But I’m here. As always ready to help. Ready to protect him from the bad guys.
And then it happens. I see him. He walks into reception and stands there looking straight at me.
“Jesus. How the fuck did you find me?”