From Aberystwyth with Love (36 page)

BOOK: From Aberystwyth with Love
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I missed Vanya. Of all the clients who had sat across the desk from me, he was one of the very few I actually liked. I grieved for him, but I didn’t kid myself I could have saved him and because of that I know the pain will fade. I grieved for Arianwen too and with her I am not so sure. Despite all the comforting words people give me I know in my heart her death was my fault. I should have foreseen it. That’s what I get paid for.

I don’t know whether Old Barnaby killed Goldilocks and his sister, and really I don’t care. As a witch doctor it’s not my job to tie up all loose ends, that’s what cops are for, and even they understand that sometimes ends are best left untied. If Goldilocks and his sister really are in the foundation of the dam they are probably better off. Life didn’t deal them much of a hand; sometimes life doesn’t and there is nothing in all the world you can do about it except play with what you’ve got or quit the game. Now they are at peace. And they have a concrete headstone provided by the Corporation, which is more than most people get; the biggest ever, too; not even Barnaby will get a bigger one than that.

Calamity was waiting on the platform holding a small package wrapped in newspaper. She grinned at me and I did not need to ask how she had got on with her errand, the glee burning fiercely in her eyes already told me. I reached out and tousled her hair, aware of an upsurge of love in my heart. I made a mental note that if she ever wanted to start out on her own again I would definitely stand in her way. Calamity’s place was in my office, because sometimes even witch doctors get sick.

We walked down the platform to where an old lady stood waiting with a small suitcase at her feet. It was Ffanci Llangollen, the singer who once made a trademark of singing about how it would be a lovely day tomorrow. When a great tragedy struck she went on the road and continued to sing, travelling on nothing but the fuel of hope. We greeted each other. Clasped under her arm was a folder from Mooncalf Travel, covered in the stickers of the grand hotels and the railway companies and shipping lines. We told Ffanci we were sorry about the loss of her sister and she thanked us graciously.

‘No shopping trolley,’ I said with the deliberate banality that sometimes helps us through the difficult moments.

‘They don’t allow them on the Orient Express, so Mr Mooncalf was kind enough to give me this nice suitcase. I feel just the part now, like a dowager. He’s been ever so helpful, gave me the tickets gratis on account of my recent . . . misfortune. He wished me luck on my quest. He mentioned you: said you seemed to have got a wild fancy into your head about the tickets he gave you last time. He seemed quite put out about it. A simple oversight, he said, which you have misinterpreted out of all proportion. You will go and make your peace with him, won’t you?’

‘We’ll go directly after seeing you off.’

She smiled and waved something which she was clutching in her hand. It was a talisman.

‘A ticket to Hughesovka,’ I said.

‘Not just there but all the way to Vladivostok if need be.’

‘It’s a big continent.’

‘I know. I once met a man who surveyed it and told me it was as wide as the human heart. I have never given up hope. And I never will as long as my heart beats. This isn’t just a ticket to Hughesovka, Mr Knight, it’s a return – for two.’

Calamity unwrapped the newspaper package and revealed a little girl’s sandal. It had once been bright red but time and mud had now reduced it to the colour of burned umber. The guard blew his whistle. Calamity gave her the shoe.

Acknowledgements

 

I would like to thank my former editor Mike and my current editor Helen, and my agent Rachel. In addition, a substantial part of this manuscript was written while struggling with illness. I would therefore like to express my sincere thanks to all those whose help and support helped me get through this difficult period, particularly my family in Aberystwyth, David and Anwen, Andy and Lynda, Mitchy, Martin, Richard and Betsy, Nick Topley, Karen Penry, Boot and Rachey.

Malcolm Pryce
was born in the UK and has spent much of his life working and travelling abroad. He has been, at various times, a BMW assembly-line worker, a hotel washer-up, a deck hand on a yacht sailing the South Seas, an advertising copywriter and the world’s worst aluminium salesman. In 1998 he gave up his day job and booked a passage on a banana boat bound for South America in order to write
Aberystwyth Mon Amour
. He spent the next seven years living in Bangkok, where he wrote three more novels in the series,
Last Tango in Aberystwyth, The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth
and
Don’t Cry for Me Aberystwyth
. In 2007 he moved back to the UK and now lives in Oxford.

THE LOUIE KNIGHT SERIES
:

 

 

 

Aberystwyth Mon Amour

 

Last Tango in Aberystwyth

 

The Unbearable Lightness of Being in Aberystwyth

 

Don’t Cry for Me Aberystwyth

First published in Great Britain 2009

This electronic edition published in 2011 by Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

 

Copyright © 2009 by Malcolm Pryce

 

Lyrics from ‘It’s a Lovely Day Today’ by Irving Berlin © Irving Berlin Music Corp (ASCAP). All rights administered by Warner/Chappell Music Ltd. All rights reserved.

 

Extract from The Complete Poems of C Day Lewis published by Sinclair-Stevenson © 1992 in this edition The Estate of C Day Lewis. Reprinted by permission of The Random House Group Ltd.

 

Lyrics from ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ by John R Cash © 1955 Hi-Lo Music, Inc. (BMI). Copyright renewed 1984 and assigned to House of Cash, Inc. (BMI), administered by Bug Music in the USA. All rights outside the USA administered by Unichappell Music, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduced by kind permission of Carlin Music Corp London NW1 8BD.

 

The moral right of the author has been asserted

 

All rights reserved

You may not copy, distribute, transmit, reproduce or otherwise

make available this publication (or any part of it) in any form, or by any means

(including without limitation electronic, digital, optical, mechanical, photocopying,

printing, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the

publisher. Any person who does any unauthorised act in relation to this publication

may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages

 

Bloomsbury Publishing, London, Berlin and New York

 

Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 36 Soho Square, London W1D 3QY

 

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

 

ISBN 9781408809006

 

www.bloomsbury.com/malcolmpryce

 

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