Hannah burst into tears, and I was in two minds whether to comfort her or bang my fist on the reception desk. God was still punishing me. Why?
As on auto-pilot, I knelt down and rummaged through Hannah’s belonging, but no padded envelope resurrected itself.
No sodding money. Bollocks.
I raised my head. We had drawn a silent crowd, all staring at me and the pile of women’s clothes — including Hannah’s underwear, the exposure of which, in a public place, would no doubt inflame Islamic sensitivities.
Bollocks to it all.
While a matronly lady on reception comforted her, and the crowd having no reason to linger, I scooped up the offending items and stuffed them back in her bag, stood up, and scowled.
‘We have to go back to the minibus terminal,’ I said. ‘Maybe it’s still on the van under the seats.’ While I held out as much hope of recovering our money as finding a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, there wasn’t a lot else we could do. ‘And we’ll leave our bags here, it’ll be quicker.’
Hannah face brightened now her tears had dried, but before we could make a move, a manager appeared.
‘Ah, welcome back, Mr. Charles,’ he said. A little grin slid onto his face when he saw Hannah. ‘What seems to be the trouble?’
I nearly laughed at the irony of the situation. The “old me” could have been mean and told him I’d been shafted once again by a woman, but the “new me” told him I’d misplaced my money, probably on a minivan, hopefully still in situ at the terminal station.
Hannah nodded, and repeated our woe by the gist of it, this time in Indonesian. His reaction was immediate. Called over the porter and told him to take the hotel courtesy car and escort us there and back.
‘Complimentary,’ he said. ‘I’m sure you’ll find your money. Inshallah.’
God willing. Not that God has been too willing so far.
‘Thank you,’ I said.
On our way we talked about what could have happened, but that had the effect of both raising and lowering our hopes. One thing Hannah was sure of — the envelope was in the bag before we caught a lift in the minivan. She checked while searching for a towel to dry ourselves.
So, given that our bags were subjected to a roller-coaster ride and assuming the envelope had tumbled out: best case, the money had been found, worst case, it hadn’t. Honesty versus Dishonesty; Good Samaritan, Bad Samaritan. Or the Islamic equivalent, but I didn’t suppose I’d see the maniac driver with a recently severed hand being held captive, either.
I was wrong. The first person we met when we pulled up next to the parked van was indeed the maniac driver. His hand wasn’t severed — much to my relief — because he was clutching a padded envelope with it.
Thank you, God.
So much for me not ever wanting to set eyes on him again. I resolved to be a better judge of human behaviour in the future.
I nodded, resolved to be not so naïve, in the future. And another thing puzzled me. ‘How did you know…?’
He was talking to Hannah, pointing to the van’s tyres. They both agreed on something. She showed him her ID. He looked at it, and the writing on the envelope, smiled, and gave us our money back.
Hannah turned to me. ‘He need new wheels.’
Too right. And therapy.
‘How much?’ I said.
She told me.
The amount was no more than one night’s stay in the penthouse suite at the Bel-Air with a three course dinner and a couple of bottles of wine.
We would downgrade to twin beds and eat salad. The wine would remain. ‘Okay,’ I said. Pay the man.’
I never wanted to set eyes on the thieving scoundrel again.
We split the rest of the money. I had enough to cover our hotel expenses, open up a bank account, and renew my visa, while Hannah shunned my idea of air travel back to Banda Aceh in favour of another lengthy and probably perilous bus ride.
‘Money not enough,’ she said, showing me our depleted wad of rupiah.
Priority. I smiled. Now that God was back onside, I asked our porter to return via a trustworthy Indonesian bank.
Maybe I‘d get lucky.
I didn’t. Banks were closed for the day. And, as it was Friday, we would have to spend the weekend killing time and running up an expensive bar bill until they opened on Monday at 9am. And then wait a further six hours until my UK bank opened. And then spend a fruitless half hour or so on the telephone until I lost my temper and they cut me off. Again.
The upside to the downside would be spending three nights in bed with Hannah. But such was my state of mind I knew the silver lining would have a cloud.
For once I was right.
Not at dinner time; Bel-Air’s cuisine and choice of elegant wine met my gastronomic ideals. But when we returned to our twin-bedded room with a clattering air-con and noisy neighbours on both sides, Hannah shied away from me.
She blushed. ‘Meester Charles, blood come.’
My face must have fallen a good few feet, because she caught hold of my arm, put the key in my hand, and pointed me at the door.
‘Go enjoy. I sleep.’
I shook my head. ‘I couldn’t possibly…’ but she pushed me away.
‘Not worry. Have many time together, Meester Charles.’
I felt a warm glow inside, better than wine. If it was her way of apologising for not taking care of me, it was a lovely gesture.
She was growing on me. I opened the door, blew her a kiss, closed the door behind me, and walked over to the lift.
I had one score to settle. If my unlucky streak held.