“Julian! Julian!” she bellowed. “Open the goddamn door. What the hell are you playing at?” The cabin was a heavily insulated refrigeration unit. It was unlikely Julian could hear us, but even if he could, something told me he wasn’t going to unlock the door. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but it wasn’t good.
We drove in silence for a while. Fi looked out of the window.
“Julian, where are we going? We have to get Marcus to hospital. God knows what he was drugged with.”
“We’re going home,” said Julian firmly.
“No, we’re bloody not,” snapped Fi. “Hospital. Now!”
“We can’t,” exploded Julian. “We’d have to explain what happened, and the police would get involved. Your friend with the gun would get dragged in, and so would all of us.”
“We don’t need to mention Yannick,” Fi told him sharply.
“Yes we do, because we’d have to tell the cops where it all happened, and they’d go and check it out and find the boat riddled with bullets. And us smuggling carp wouldn’t go down well.”
“We can say we were at a rave and Marcus took something,” suggested Fi.
“Marcus is soaking wet. He’s covered in silt and has got pondlife in his ears, I expect. They wouldn’t buy it. I’ve got a back-up plan.”
“Hospital,” Fi insisted.
“Home,” Julian countered.
“Actually, you’re both wrong,” piped up Penny. “We can’t go to the house, Jules. Your goody two shoes of a daughter will insist on calling the police. Why the hell she had to turn up today, I don’t know.”
“Good for Carla. We have to tell the police,” cried Fi.
“No we don’t. And hospital is out for all the same reasons,” summarised Penny.
“The hell it is,” fumed Fi.
I didn’t have the strength to get involved in the argument but I gave her hand a squeeze to thank her for standing up for me.
“So where do we go then?” asked Julian.
“The lodge at Bellevue. Aid’s away, and I’ve got a key.”
“Bellevue?” Fi was incredulous. “But it was Aidan’s brother who’s just tried to kill Marcus! We can’t go there.”
“Aidan had nothing to do with that.” She sounded very definite about that. “He and Frank don’t have anything to do with each other anymore.”
“We are NOT going there,” Fi yelled. “Julian, take us to a hotel or something. Now!”
My stomach lurched again.
“Gonna hurl!” I warned them.
Julian screeched to a halt and I managed to open the car door before I threw up dramatically again. Most of it went outside the car.
“OK, we’re going to Aidan’s,” decided Julian. “There aren’t any hotels for miles, Fiona, and Marcus is no fit state to wheel past a receptionist without causing a commotion, is he?”
If I looked as awful as I felt, then no, I wasn’t.
“How come you’ve got a key?” Fi asked suspiciously.
“Long story,” Penny snapped back.
“I’d love to hear it,” retorted Fi.
“Some other time, Barbie.”
Not a good move on Penny’s part.
“What do you mean by calling me that?” she demanded icily.
I hoped to hell I’d never hear Fi talk to me in that tone of voice. It clearly meant serious trouble.
Penny turned round in her seat to sneer. “Well, you’re a bit plastic, aren’t you pet? Plastic brain and plastic boobs. Or rather, silicony.” She looked pointedly at Fi’s chest which her wet clothes were clinging to tightly.
“Fuck you, bitch!” exclaimed Fi. She was furious. I’d never seen her so mad, but then this evening had been kind of stressful. “These are all my own work! I’m 100% natural, all over, unlike some round here.”
“Yeah. It’s obvious you’ve had your lips done. They look ridiculous. And you’re all botoxed up. The top half of your face doesn’t move!”
“Well, my arms do. I’ll fucking slap you if you don’t shut up, you tart,” hissed Penny.
“And I’m a damn sight smarter than you, you cow,” Fi fumed. “I seem to be the only one who wants to do the best thing for Marcus.”
“He’s not the only one involved in all this,” Penny shot back.
“Girls, girls!” interrupted Julian sharply. “For Christ’s sake, Penny, get a grip and shut the fuck up.”
That was an odd way for an uncle to talk to his niece, wasn’t it? Fi noticed that too.
“You’re not related,” she announced triumphantly. “The pair of you are screwing. Jesus, Julian. Haven’t you got any taste in women?”
She might have put it in a more dignified way, but she was right. Bloody hell. Penny had wanted to screw me too a week ago, when her lover was asleep. I didn’t see a long-term future for that relationship.
“Shut it, Fi,” ordered Julian angrily.
“Watch it, Julian,” I managed to snarl, summoning up the energy to join the fray at last.
A strained silence fell. You could have cut the atmosphere in the car with a knife. We drove along for a few minutes, everyone quietly seething.
“So where are we going?” I croaked a few minutes later. I was feeling really sick again. “I can’t handle much more travelling.”
“Don’t you dare throw up in here again,” Penny instructed. “Car stinks, thanks to you.”
“Thanks to him?” screeched Fi. “Thanks to the murdering bastards who drugged him and tried to kill him, you mean, you stupid shit.”
“Now just you ...” Penny began.
“Stop the car. Stop the damned car, Julian. You bloody let us out here. I’ll look after Marcus from now on,” blazed Fi.
“Can’t do that, sorry Fi.” Julian activated the child lock. We heard a clunk in the doors. Fi started to shake and thump the one next to her.
“What the hell’s going on, Jules?” I asked.
“Nothing. Nothing’s going on,” he soothed. “Some of us are getting a bit worked up, that’s all. Now, we don’t need any more pointless arguments, ladies, and we certainly don’t want Fi jumping out of the car. OK?” Fi muttered angrily under her breath. You could feel the hate radiating off Penny, but she stayed quiet.
Julian smiled wanly. “That’s better. We’ll be at Aidan’s lodge in ten minutes. Marcus, can you hang on that long?”
“Good. We’ll make you comfy there, and then I’ll call a friend of mine who was a doctor in the UK before he retired and came here. I’ll ring him when we get there. We can trust him to keep our secret.”
“Well, I bloody well hope so. And if he says Marcus has to go to hospital, then you sodding well take him, OK?” Fi demanded furiously.
“Yes, Fi. If he says so, I will.”
“Think I’ll be OK,” I managed to croak. “Paracetamol will sort me.” I tried to smile.
“You need more than paracetamol, you nitwit,” Fi chided me, softening.
She leant close to me. I felt her shivering. I was cold too. We needed to get out of our wet things and try and make sense of everything that had happened tonight. Oh God, this whole thing was a nightmare. I groaned.
“Hold on, Marcus,” Julian cried, thinking I was about to chuck again. “We’re there now, see?”
We turned off the road and bumped down the drive.
“I still don’t understand why we’ve come here,” Fi whispered to me.
I shrugged. To be honest, I didn’t care where we were, so long as we weren’t moving and so long as I could stretch out somewhere and sleep. I was exhausted and my head was threatening to explode. I wanted to be still and quiet.
We pulled in outside the cabin. Penny hurried out and unlocked the door. She opened it. Fi and Julian helped me inside, heaving the block and chain in behind me. It was as claustrophobic as I remembered it when we’d stuck our heads inside with Aidan on Sunday and told him we wouldn’t be using it. But this time I didn’t care about that. I could stand there being no windows now. There was light, a gas heater, a couple of bed chairs leaning up against the wall and two camping stools, a sink and a hot plate. It would do as a temporary refuge until I recovered. I crumpled onto a stool while Julian opened out a bed chair for me. Fi supported me and stroked my hair.
“We need our stuff,” Fi told Julian. “Marcus and I have to get changed.”
“No problem. I’ll get it.” He disappeared outside. Penny hadn’t come in. Presumably she’d stomped back to the car.
“I need to lay down, Fi.” My head was swimming.
“Two seconds, honey. You’re soaking. We need to dry you off first.”
“OK,” I agreed, but I really couldn’t have cared less about being wet.
Julian bustled back in, his arms full of an assortment of clothes and towels.
“What on earth did you unpack those things for?” Fi cried in surprise. “We need all our gear. Julian, get our bags please.”
“OK,” he shrugged. “Two ticks. I’ll just put the gas heater on for you. Soon be nice and cosy.” He dropped his burden on the floor and fiddled with the heater. It woomphed into life.
Julian stepped quickly outside.
“Weird bugger,” frowned Fi, picking up our clothes from the floor.
But weirder buggerdom was to come. Julian turned and slammed the heavy door shut on us. We heard the key scrape in the lock.
“What the ...?” Dopey as I was, I looked at Fi in alarm.
She jumped up and began hammering on the door.
“Julian! Julian!” she bellowed. “Open the goddamn door. What the hell are you playing at?”
The cabin was a heavily insulated refrigeration unit. It was unlikely Julian could hear us, but even if he could, something told me he wasn’t going to unlock the door. I wasn’t sure what was going on, but it wasn’t good.
Fi carried on her battering. “Let us out. How dare you lock us in? We’re not your bloody prisoners!”
“Fi.” She was wasting her time. “Fi, baby. It’s OK.”
It wasn’t, but I had to say something. She turned towards me, tears streaming down her face.
“Marcus, I don’t understand? What’s going on?”
“Come here.” I just about managed to stand up.
She was in my arms in seconds. We clung to each other desperately for a few minutes.
“I’m sure he’ll come back. He said he’d get that doctor, remember?” I said finally.
Fi wiped her tears. She nodded and tried to smile. “Yes. Yes, he did. You’re right. But why he had to freak me out by locking us in, I don’t know.”
Most likely because he thought Fi would go off and call the police or an ambulance. All the same, it was rather a drastic move.
“OK, OK.” Fi shook herself into action. “Clothes. You undress and I’ll find you some dry stuff.”
Half slumped against the wall, I began to remove my hoodie and tee-shirt. They got stuck over my head and I almost started panicking in my muddled state so Fi helped me ease them completely off. She rubbed me down quickly with a towel.
“You should really have a shower, but looks like that’s a no-no for now,” she tutted. Then she dragged a sweatshirt over my head and forced me into my padded roomy checked shirt. “OK, fun part now.” She half-grinned up at me. She’d been severely rattled by the evening. I steadied myself as she undid my jeans and pulled them and my boxers down. I stepped out of them clumsily while she towelled me down. She pulled my socks off.
“Oh my God, Marcus. Your ankles!”
I looked down at them. Shit, they were a mess, all bruised and swollen. There were some raw patches too. But there wasn’t much we could do about them for the moment. Fi helped me into my jogging trousers. I collapsed gratefully back onto the stool while she rammed socks onto my feet.
“There. That’s better.” She opened out one of the bed chairs and dragged it over next to my stool. “Come on, park your bones there, baby.”
I wriggled onto it and lay down. It didn’t feel as good as I’d hoped it would, though. My head was spinning and my chest was feeling tight again.
“Better?” asked Fi, anxiously, quickly undressing and pulling some dry things on.
I nodded. “Much,” I fibbed. There was nothing she could do to help me, so it was pointless worrying her with the truth about how I felt.
“Omigod, you never got any paracetamols. There were some in my toiletries bag.” She began rifling through the pile of our belongings on the floor. “Oh for heaven’s sake! I don’t know what possessed him to just bring clothes in. He had no bloody right. He should have brought our bags as they were.” Her voice was getting higher and higher. My poor girl was about to lose it, and she’d been so strong tonight. I had to get in quick.
“Fi, angel. Don’t worry. It might not be a good idea for me to have any more drugs right now anyway. I could murder a coffee though. Is there anything in the cupboard there?” The thought of coffee actually turned my stomach but it would keep Fi busy.
“Of course. Oh, why didn’t I think of that?” She had a quick rummage. “Aha! Yes, everything we need. And there are even some Pot Noodles. Do you fancy chicken and mushroom, original curry or beef and tomato?” She triumphantly brandished the three pots.
“I think I’ll pass on those, thanks. Just coffee please.”
“Okeydoke. There’s even creamer and sugar so we can spoil ourselves.”
Fi fired up the gas ring and put the full kettle on it. She came over and sat next to me.
“I know I keep asking, Marcus, but how do you really feel? I’m worried.”
Would ‘like shit’ be acceptable? Probably not. Fi wanted specifics.
“Weak. Woozy. Sick. Chest sort of tight. Head hurts. Crappy.”
She stroked my hair again.
“Next dumb question. Any idea what they gave you?” she enquired.
I frowned. Was there anything I could usefully tell her? That coffee had tasted weird.
“It was in a drink. Sort of salty,” I managed.
Fi pulled a face. “I’d make a guess they slipped you a roofie. Someone did that to my friend Tiff, only luckily I turned up at the pub in time and got her home before she was date raped. She said looking back the drink had been a bit salty, but she didn’t think anything of it at the time. It took her a good 48 hours to get it out of her system, I’m afraid. But she couldn’t really remember anything that happened. You seem quite with it.”
“I guess,” I agreed. “Everything feels remote, though. I know what I’m saying and doing, but I’m not sure I have any control over it. Sort of like it isn’t really me. But that could just be the whiskey.”
I smiled wanly.
“Poor baby,” sighed Fi. “Maybe they didn’t give you very much.”
She stood up to turn the boiling kettle off. “Oh God, Marcus. This is all horrible. I don’t understand what’s going on at all.”
I didn’t either, not totally. All I knew was that Frank had tried to have me drowned and that Julian had gone strange. Neither were comforting realisations.
Fi made herself the curry noodles and then came over with a mug of strong, sweet coffee for me. I managed a couple of sips.
“Any better?” she asked.
“Liar!” she grinned, and ruffled my hair.
I closed my eyes and listened to her moving around and eating her snack. I felt her lay something over me. Then she began pacing around. I sensed her stop close to me.
“Marcus? Honey, I’m sorry, but can you talk to me for a second. I’m going crazy trying to sort out what’s happening.”
I forced an eye open. “Of course, Fi.”
“Right. Frank has tried to kill you. Why? Because we know about his fish smuggling scam. But how does he know we know?”
“Aidan told him,” I suggested. “He worked out we had a fish tank in the car and not a jet-powered vibrator!”
“Maybe,” agreed Fi. “But Aidan and Frank have fallen out. Supposedly. Most likely Tony told him who you were and he worked out you were here to check up on him and didn’t like that idea.”
I nodded, but wished I hadn’t as my head began to throb. I winced with the pain. Fi began to massage my temples. Gradually the pain eased a little.
“Now, how does Julian fit in to all this? I mean, he came to rescue us but now he’s locked us up.”
“He’s panicking? He’s scared Frank will be onto him, now that he knows who I really am. He’s also worried you’ll go to the police so he trapped us in here for now.”
“Why did Penny have the key for this place - Aidan’s unfinished cabin?”
That one I couldn’t answer easily.
Fi posited a theory. “She’s been snooping around for Julian. She’s his bit of totty after all. My God, Julian is an idiot. She’ll chew him up and spit him out in no time. They weren’t exactly warm and cuddly with each other tonight, were they?”
“Nope. Jules is a fool. Lou was a smashing woman. I can’t believe he threw her away for Penny.”
“The other possibility is that Penny has links with Aidan. Related? Exes?”
That was the puzzling connection.
“And what happens next? We’ve been here about an hour or so and Julian hasn’t turned up with a doctor yet. Is he going to? Is he going to come back at all?”
“Of course he is,” I assured her. I’d known the guy eight years. He was a pratt with women, true, but he’d always been OK with me. Up to now, anyway.
“Yes. Yes, of course. Carla wouldn’t let him abandon us, would she?” Fi was persuading herself. “OK. OK. Look, you have a sleep. I’ll wash up.”
Fi planted a kiss on my forehead and then marched up to the sink to do thirty seconds’ washing up. I closed my eyes and tried to clear my head, but it was swimming again and jumbled images kept crashing through my brain. I heard Fi’s voice a couple of times but it was too much effort to focus on what she was saying. And then I either slept or passed out. Next thing I knew, Fi was trying to turn the gas heater on.
She became aware that I was watching her. “Oh, I’m sorry. I woke you. It’s just the heater went out and I didn’t want you to get cold. You’re shivering. But - I think we’re out of gas. Bloody hell.” She thumped the gas bottle inside the heater crossly. It echoed hollowly.
Fi was right. I was shaking, but not with cold. Drug and alcohol induced.
“Yup, sounds empty,” I said. “I’d say we’ll be warm enough. If it gets cold, we can block off the ventilators so there isn’t a draught.”
I looked groggily around for where they were. But I couldn’t spot them. I frowned and looked again. Shit. There weren’t any.
Fi saw my worried expression. “What is it, Marcus?”
There was no point lying. “There isn’t any ventilation coming into this cabin. We’re airtight.”
And we’d been merrily burning the gas fire and the gas ring and using up a lot of our oxygen.
“Oh God,” said Fi faintly. “We’re screwed.”