I still found myself alone the following morning. I tried Delcie’s mobile again, but it was switched off. I was in two minds; I needed to continue my search for Eko, but I didn’t want to leave the House empty and open to the elements. Anything could happen — storms, flooding, thieves, opportunists, even squatters — a whole gamut of malevolence.
Angelique, what should I do?
Wait, Papa. There’s enough time.
I decided to raid the cupboards again — a few slices of toast and marmalade, together with a freshly brewed pot of tea, would fill a hole and tide me over until Delcie came back. It was most inconvenient.
Where was she?
I spent the morning in the sunroom — sunshine and heavy showers outside adding to my uncertainty — studying a map of Sumatra from the library and trying to figure out my next move.
Lunch came and went — I warmed up a casserole dish of leftovers from the fridge — and once the dishes were washed and dried, I paced around becoming more and more exasperated.
I tried Delcie’s mobile yet again. I stared at my mobile, willing it to connect, but to no avail. Still no answer.
Where the bloody hell was she?
By mid-afternoon I was back in the library thumbing my way along the dusty shelves until I came to the Tolstoy section. I wasn’t going to stay in the House long enough to revisit the four volumes of War and Peace, and I settled instead for a well-thumbed paperback of What Men Live By and Other Tales.
Back in the sunroom, and settled in my comfortable rattan chair, I began reading...
...and awoke to the incessant Nokia tune. It was dusk outside, but the mobile’s display screen was lit.
‘Hello,’ I said when it connected.
‘I got your message.’ It was Delcie.
‘About time,’ I said. ‘Where are you?’
‘In hospital. Why?’
In hospital? I rubbed my eyes. ‘What happened?’
‘I’m not playing twenty questions, Richard, and I’m not exactly in the right mood to be interrogated. What do you want?’
‘When are you coming back to the House?’
‘…Yes, I heard, but I’m stuck here alone.’
‘Yes, and I’m stuck here chained to my bed waiting for my test results, and for the bathroom queue to shorten.’
There was a pause. Had the line gone dead? But then I heard her voice. ‘Did I hear you right? Isn’t Charles there?’
‘No. And neither is Hannah. What’s going on, Delcie?’
‘So what happened to your toy-boy?’
I could tell this conversation wouldn’t be among the most productive we’d had. ‘Look, tell me where you are, and I’ll come and visit.’
‘Oh, so you’ve got a guilty conscience at last?’
I stabbed my finger to switch off the Nokia. Bloody woman. Sod the lot of them.
She didn’t call back.
Later that night in my room, with a ham sandwich for company, I stared at the ceiling.
Angelique, tomorrow I’m off to Lampu’uk. I think Eko is there.’
I hear you, Papa.
I awoke with a blinding headache at first light after another restless night. I dragged myself out of bed and tottered to the bathroom — red eyelids welcomed me in the mirror. It was as if I’d drunk copious quantities of alcohol the night before, but one tumbler of vodka and ice didn’t warrant my condition.
Bloody hell. Now what?
My hands were shaking as I made a pot of tea, and I shivered — a fever? Back in bed, having taken a couple of paracetamol tablets, I hoped I could shake it off, but if anything the symptoms got worse. I’d aged ten years — muscle aches and pains all over.
By mid-morning, I knew I had to see a doctor. No way was I going to stay alone in the House while I sweated out what I assumed was flu or some equally nasty variant.
Ironic — Delcie in hospital and now that was my next stop.
I laboured into a spare set of loose clothes and sandals, went downstairs, and fished out my passport and money from my bag.
At least it wasn’t raining. I locked the front door, and prayed that a taxi would be waiting outside. I was in luck.
I shovelled a handful of rupiah at the swarthy driver who, with his cap on backwards, looked more like a brigand than what I hoped for — a graduate from the Indonesian School of Motoring. My voice croaked. ‘Hospital,’ I said.
‘Si senor,’ he said.
I crawled into the back seat, avoiding the hole in the fabric, and slumped back. The brigand was — not to put a too-fine point on it — bloody bonkers, and I half-expected to land up in A&E as a crash victim, rather than an outpatient.
In my state, I couldn’t have cared less — an armful of morphine would have suited me fine. At the hospital — surprisingly with my limbs intact — I ignored the proffered ‘business’ card, turned away from the death-trap masquerading as a taxi, and staggered like a drunk into the entrance.