A Very Fine Solution V
We didn't go to Ojen. We turned left off the Monda road, and not right. No more than a switchback, narrow road, it was metalled - but the white lines ran out after a hundred yards. About that time the road started climbing. A sign at the side announced we were entering the Sierra Blanca National Park.
'We're eating here?' I asked Cajal.
'El Refugio de Juanar,' he grunted.
A moment later he pointed down a turn-off decorated with a poker-work sign which might have read like that. The BMW kept climbing. Cajal ignored a larger metal sign indicating that only National Park employees were permitted past that point. By this time we were on a dirt track. He executed a flashy handbrake turn and we got out.
'Let's take a walk,' he said.
I shrugged and followed him to the end of a track beaten through the wild rosemary. He came to a stop.
'Beautiful, isn't it?'
It was. The cliff dropped away sharply in front of us. We were at least a 1000 feet above Marbella. The tower blocks shone in the midday sun.
'It looks small enough to own, from here.' I said.
'Get thee...' he laughed. 'Come on, let's eat.'
El Refugio was a hideaway hotel. The sort of place lovers with money met for “nooners”. It was small, if there were 10 rooms, they were small too. Cajal and I sat in the dining room, wood from dead olive trees crackled in the fire. Through some French doors I could see some hardy Scandinavians drinking cold beer in the sunlight on the terrace. It must have been warmer than Uppsala, so I supposed they weren't that crazy. The food had been good, if rustic. At least mine had; Cajal had called the Chef out and told him he'd be cooking him a burger. He did it.
Cajal lit a cigarette. I refused the one he offered me. The waiter thought about coming over without an ashtray, but turned back to the bar to get one.
'Looked a bit sticky for you there, for a while.' Cajal began.
'I wasn't worried.' I took a sip of coffee, without brandy, for a change.
'No?' He blew smoke to the side and went on, 'Why not?'
I didn't tell him. He looked at me for a moment or two, as if debating whether to make something of it.
'No bodies, admittedly. But you must have powerful friends... James.'
'One's enough.' I said.
'Not for someone with powerful enemies.'
I asked him what he wanted.
'I don't like it. Things like this. Franco is gone. Spain is … different.'
Perhaps he wanted it to be more different still, more British, for instance.
I waited, hoping he'd get to the point of whatever he'd dragged me up here for.
He cracked his knuckles. It sat oddly with the faux-Brit image he'd created for himself.
'The bomb.' It was his turn to wait.
I shrugged, ' what about it?'
He sighed, 'Are all your operatives so stupid? It could only have been - '
'Quite.' He looked put out, as if disappointed that I wasn't so stupid as he supposed.
He slipped a photograph from an inside pocket, tapped a forefinger on a youthful Arab face. The quality wasn't terrific: cheap printer, cheap paper and the dire resolution of a picture taken on a mobile phone at twilight. The man had an arm draped around someone whose face was outside the frame. The snapshot had been taken in Puerto Banus. The 'Barak' was nowhere in sight, which made the photo at least a month old.
'Someone in Madrid wanted you to have this,' he said.
'Someone I know, or someone you know?'
'You call him Gormless George.'
He crushed his cigarette in my saucer and stood up. He tossed a mobile on the table.
'My number's on there. You wait here. Someone will contact you: they'll tell you more.'
'Who is it?'
'You'll know them, when you see them.'
He left, his Jermyn Street jacket flapping behind him.
Three coffees later someone did come into the Hotel dining room, apart from the Scandinavians. They'd come in shortly after Cajal had left. It must have been cold outside, but the brandy had probably warmed them up. It had certainly upped the volume. A tallish woman came in; well-dressed. About thirty, the high-quality maquillage was meant to be noticed but you would have called it subtle nonetheless. She could have been a lawyer meeting a client. She was a former hooker meeting me. I gestured to the chair Cajal had vacated an hour or two earlier.
'How was it?' I asked.
'A day or so. Cajal said it was this or...'
So much for Cajal's new Spain. Still, the woman's victim had deserved it, maybe.
She dumped an expensive -and new- looking briefcase on the table.
'You need this.'
'What's in it?'
'I don't care,' she said.
Inside was a canvas bag, tied and sealed – like a miniature dip bag. Only there was no HMG logo on the outside. I took out my Swiss and hacked through the string. The seal itself was blank, no number to indicate that it might have come from the Embassy. There was a typed sheet: only a few lines. There were also passports, other documents necessary for a legend : two sets in fact, one for me and one for the woman. I riffled through hers and stifled a laugh.
'What?' she snapped.
'Someone has a sense of humour' I said.
'What are you on about?'
'Look for yourself,' I shoved the passport across to her.
'Penelope, ugh!' she shoved the passport back. 'Call me Penny.'
I laughed out loud.
'What?' her mouth was a tight, flat line.
'It doesn't matter, really.'
But it was funny, if you thought about it. They'd sent me on a job with Miss Penny Monet.