I was drinking all day in the Crags and when I finally arrived home, I found Callum, my wife’s lover, in my bedroom. He was going through my bedside drawers. When I accosted the little punk, he had the nerve to pull a knife out on me. I took off my shirt, preparing to administer a beating which he would still have been reflecting upon in fifty years time, but Claire, my wife’s sister, got between us.
“Biggy! What are you doing? He is our guest!”
“He’s an aggravating little shit!”
“Polly would be very upset if you and Callum fell out…” Claire warned, her eyes beady.
“Very well,” I conceded. Callum was jabbering at me, a string of obscenities. I grabbed his neck, marched him out into the hallway, and kicked him into a corner. He left an unpleasant greasy residue on my fingertips and I sniffed at them uncertainly. I tried to imagine Callum and my wife making love. His blotched, pockmarked face would loom before her in monstrous detail, the air would fill with his wheezy panting, his cold body – all bony buttocks and elbows – would jerk and gasp witlessly towards his orgasm. In the living room, I sloshed together a large gin and tonic and reached for the phone. I needed to talk to Tori – however abrupt and awkward such an intrusion would be – and I dialled the number of her husband’s Portuguese farmhouse.
Tori answered within seconds, surprising me considerably. “Zbigniew!” she cried with delight. “How are you?”
“If a dog was in my state, you’d shoot it. When will you be back in Edinburgh?”
“Ah…” Tori trailed off. “Weeks rather than months. Things seem so much slower over here. We finished the harvest.”
“Really?” I did not care about the harvest.
“Eventually. The trailer for the combine harvester broke down, and we had to recruit four boys on bicycles. They dragged a large canvas tent between them, and we collected the grain in this tent. But Ricardo was furious most of the time. One of the boys was very fat and he could not keep up with the others, and I don’t think that one of the others even knew how to ride his bicycle. Ricardo was terrified that the bicyclists would crash their tent, and that all the grain would blow away.”
“But you’re finished now, eh?”
“More or less. By the way, Ricardo has been practising his English and he wants you to hear it…”
“There was the sound of fumbling down the phone and then Ricardo’s very loud, very splendid voice appeared. “I have been reading Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen,” he recited uncertainly. “It is very good. Very funny. But very, very sad.”
“You are a fucking joke,” I told him. “Why don’t you go and toss yourself into your combine harvester?”
There were sounds of agitation as Tori tried to recover the phone. “Eh? I don’t understand. Speak much slowly,” Ricardo despaired.
“Have you heard anything from Marcin?” I demanded over the commotion.
There was a crunch and Tori’s voice bit in. “I’m afraid not. I’m pretty certain that he’s in Edinburgh though.”
“So am I,” I agreed grimly. “I thought that I saw him in the Meadows.”
“We’ll find him, Zbigniew,” Tori promised sadly. “We’ll get our hands on him.”
But what will we find? I wondered to myself.