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Black Ice: Chapter 36

...The lime-green Ford was in the square outside the Hotel Borg and Palli was at the wheel.

'Where do we meet him?' I said, as I pulled the door shut.

He didn't answer. He didn't need to. My answer was a forearm like warm steel that slid across my throat and then thumbs searching for the carotid arteries...

Colin Dunne continues his classical spy tale of a Cold War great powers confrontation in Iceland. To read earlier chapters please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/black_ice/

In London we don't have weather. Instead we have days when you can get taxis and days when you can't get taxis, days when you have to hurry to the pub and days when you can stroll. Occasionally you get glimpses of weather in those spaces between the buildings if you look overhead. But for the most part weather is something that happens to you on holiday.

In Iceland they've got weather and to spare. When I got back from the base, I decided to let the day and myself just drift around. I spent four hours wandering round the city, and the weather got me wherever I went. On street corners the wind mugged me, tugging at my hair and pulling my tie. Plump white clouds, like the ones produced by smiling steam engines in kids' books, would without warning be replaced by scowling, sooty-coloured clouds so low they almost touched the roofs. Then the wind and the rain ganged up to scare me and, by the time I'd found a doorway to hide in, the wind scrubbed the sky clean and my face burned to a sun that was unfiltered by city muck and dust. If it had snowed too, it would've been a typical Icelandic day.

I sent Sally a card with a picture of a guillemot reassuring her that conservationists need not worry about its future so long as it retains its flavour. Then I bought her something white and woolly to put in the drawer along with all the other untouched presents from Daddy.

I even went right over to Vesturbrun. Outside Solrun's block of flats, two men sat in a car smoking and waiting for their shifts to end.

I passed the sports hall where, on my first trip to the country, I watched a Russian and an American locked in symbolic battle over a chess-board. They made a great pair. One - handsome, fancy dresser, pleasure-loving, never far from a pretty girl or a gin and tonic, dashing on to the tennis court. That was the Russian. So naturally the American spent all his time bolted up behind doomed moods of wild black genius. Somewhere the casting had gone wrong.

The battle was still being fought but with different champions now.

Later, I sat in the shadows of Hulda's sitting-room and listened to her soft voice, as the wind and the light prowled round outside looking for chinks in the defences.
Quite out of the blue she said that she'd hoped me and Solrun would make some sort of couple. I hardly knew what to say. Weakly, I muttered something about only spending a few days together.

She soon brushed that aside. 'Many people spend half their lives finding that they do not like each other,' she said. 'So why shouldn't you find love in a week?'

It's one thing playing the cynical old seen-it-all sod with young reporters, but it's quite another with someone who's twice your age and seen five times as much, so I shuffled my feet and settled for looking foolish.

I was thinking about an early night when the phone went. 'For you,' she said. 'An American.'

It was Palli. He was in a coin box. He spoke in a hushed, excited voice.

'You wanna meet Oscar Murphy?'

'Again?'

'Don't be stupid, Sam. The real Oscar Murphy. My buddy.'

If I didn't, I was the only one. 'Yes, I'd like to talk to him. But why would he want to talk to me?' Finger-tips to the head was all it took to remind me of the pan incident.

'He reckons you can maybe fix him a deal with that Icelandic cop you're friendly with.'

I remembered Petursson's words. 'That depends what he's done. Anyway, what's wrong with the Americans?'

'He thinks he'll get a better deal off the Icelanders and the Americans won't dare to change it.'

He could be right. It wouldn't have mattered anyway - I had to go.

I grabbed a jacket and a few thousand pounds in case he wanted a Coke. As I was flying out Hulda stood by the door.

'You are going to see her?'

'Who?'

'Solrun?'

'I wish I was, I can tell you. No, I'm going to see a couple of blokes for a drink and a chat.'

'She is up there in the mountains. That is where she is.' The old lady smiled towards the distant hills.

The lime-green Ford was in the square outside the Hotel Borg and Palli was at the wheel.

'Where do we meet him?' I said, as I pulled the door shut.

He didn't answer. He didn't need to. My answer was a forearm like warm steel that slid across my throat and then thumbs searching for the carotid arteries.

If I'd wanted to show off my classical education, I could've told them they get their name from the Greek word for sleep because the Ancients supposed that it sent you to sleep if someone blocked them.

My last vision was a stocking-masked head in the mirror. I did a few karate chops and judo throws all by myself in the front seat. They caused about as much pain as a fly's final spasm does to sticky-paper.

I sank into darkness. Those Ancients knew a thing or two.

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