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Bored to Death in the Baltics | Book 2 in the Dawson and Lucy Series

In which Dawson has only a foggy idea of events, and he and Sofija drink beer

‘Do you still have your gun?’ asked Dawson.

‘No. I have this knife. I good with knife,’ and Sofija tossed the nasty-looking weapon nonchalantly into the air and caught it again by the handle, whilst still looking at Dawson. It was extremely impressive, especially in the unstable lifeboat, but Dawson still felt a gun would be more use. Or two guns. A hand-held rocket launcher had its attractions too. ‘Gun would not work after I jump in water,’ Sofija continued.

Dawson wasn’t sure that was true but he was sure that leaving it behind gave their pursuers an extra weapon, not that they were likely to be short of firepower.

He heard the sound of the speedboat’s engine starting up behind them. It hadn’t taken the Russians long to discover that their bird had flown. The noise was curiously muffled, however, and looking back towards the Astrid, he realised that the ship had disappeared. A bank of fog was rolling across the sea towards them. This could surely only be good news. ‘Look, fog!’ he shouted to Sofija, who was sitting in the stern, one hand holding tightly to the juddering arm of the rudder. The lifeboat was bouncing around and making only slow headway. ‘They won’t find us in that.’

‘I think they have ears on side of heads. They will hear us.’

‘But their engine is much louder than ours. It’ll drown us out.’

‘Please not to use word drown. And yes, louder, but different. They will hear us. We have maybe ten minutes before they catch us.’ The bank of fog had now reached the lifeboat and all at once, Sofija’s face was not much more than a blur. ‘Turn the engine off. They won’t find us if they can’t hear us.’

‘I know what I do, Mr Dawson. You trust me, please. We nearly there.’

‘Nearly where?’

‘You should always look forwards, not backwards. You cannot change what is behind you.’ So Sofija was a bloody philosopher now, was she? Philosopher or not, she was right.

He turned his head to face the front. All he could see was fog and spray but no, wait a minute, there was something else, a darker smudge in the greyness. And suddenly they weren’t chugging along on the sea but scraping the bottom and lurching to a halt. They had hit land. Whilst Dawson was still taking this in, Sofija was out of the lifeboat, hauling him bodily out after her. Then she gave the boat a mighty shove back off the shelving beach on which they had arrived, turned it to face the open sea again and stood back as, with engine still running, it lolloped slowly off back into the fog and disappeared.

‘Good,’ she said. ‘Come.’

‘What is this place?’

‘Island. I know place to hide.’

‘What island?’

‘Does it matter? You have particular island in Baltic you prefer?’

Dawson had to admit that his preferences in this respect were quite limited, so he shrugged and followed the solid but fog-shrouded figure of Sofija up the beach and into a line of windswept trees at the top. She was making a good pace up a steady incline and he struggled to keep up. He didn’t want to risk losing her in the fog and getting lost. Abruptly, she stopped and he nearly cannoned into her. He suspected he would have come off worse in the collision.

‘Stop,’ she whispered, overlooking the fact they already had.

‘Why are we whispering?’ he whispered back.

‘Sound. It travel in fog. Russians not far away, listen.’ It was true. Dawson realised the sound of the speedboat’s engine had altered and was just a gentle puttering in the middle distance behind them. Perhaps the island was not as well hidden as Sofija had hoped.

‘Follow me. Be careful,’ said the girl, and Dawson suddenly realised they were standing on the edge of a cliff. Another good reason not to have cannoned into her, he reflected. He peered over the edge and saw waves crashing on to the rocks about ten metres below. The drop didn’t seem to concern Sofija, however, who slithered over the edge with the agility of a compact mountain goat. Dawson didn’t much like the idea of following her and falling to a soggy death, but the alternatives seemed even less promising. So he shut his eyes, took a deep breath and, trying not to look down, slipped clumsily over the precipice.

Immediately his feet landed on solid ground.

He risked a glance down. He was standing on a ledge. A very narrow ledge, admittedly, no more than forty centimetres wide, but enough to allow him to take a second breath. He looked around. The fog seemed thinner on this side of what must be, he realised, an extremely small island, but thinner or not, he could see no sign of Sofija. She had completely disappeared. He dared a look to the rocks below but she didn’t seem to be there and, tough as she was, she would have been likely to yell out had she fallen.

‘Sofija,’ he called, remembering despite everything to keep his voice down. ‘Where are you?’

‘Sssh,’ he heard in reply. That seemed a bit unfair. He’d thought he was ssshing. ‘In here, quick,’ and suddenly there was her round, ruddy head poking out of what at first glance appeared to be solid cliff-face. He shuffled along the ledge and saw she had crawled into a crack in the rock that seemed hardly wide enough to have allowed her admittance. She wasn’t exactly skinny. Not only was the crack completely indiscernible from above, it could hardly be seen from just a few feet along the ledge. Dawson hoped that it was equally invisible from the sea should the Russian speedboat venture round to this side of the island.

He squeezed through the crack and found himself in a dim but dry space a few metres square, with a low ceiling that wouldn’t even allow Sofija to stand upright, let alone the taller Dawson. Sofija was squatting at the back of the cave, and he hoped she was simply avoiding banging her head and not engaged in a more basic function.

‘Beer?’ she said, holding up a can. Dawson realised he was very thirsty. Hungry too. He had not received the usual slot-delivered breakfast that morning and it was well over twelve hours since he had last eaten.

‘Thanks,’ he said. ‘You don’t have any food hidden away in here too, do you? You never brought me my breakfast.’

‘Breakfast less important if you dead.’ This seemed a logical argument. ‘I have food here. Tins only.’

‘What have you got?’

‘Beans and fruit. Prunes. Not much. We can have a little.’

‘Beans then.’ Dawson felt that eating prunes might result in an undesirable outcome, given the lack of toilet facilities. It seemed an odd foodstuff to choose. She was busy opening two tins with the words Ceptas Pupiņas written on them. Not Heinz then, he thought.

‘What is this place? Why have you got this stuff hidden away?’

‘I find it, I not remember exactly, six, seven years ago. As girl, I like to explore. My mother was dead and my father, he always busy. So.’ She shrugged. ‘Is my secret place. Russians not find us here.’

Dawson had a lot of questions to put to this sparky, capable but also strangely vulnerable Latvian girl. He wasn’t sure what to ask first so tossed a mental coin.

‘What is this island called?’

She shrugged again. ‘I do not know. Perhaps it has no name. Big island out there,’ and she pointed out through the cave entrance, ’is Saaremaa.’

Dawson hadn’t noticed a big island; he’d been too busy trying not to fall off this small one. ‘Saaremaa,’ he repeated. ‘Is that part of Latvia?’

‘Estonia. Next country over. This island too, probably.’

‘Don’t you know?’

‘I not care. There is no customs.’ She laughed again. Dawson wondered what manner of disaster would cause her to lose her good humour.

‘Why are you helping me?’

‘Bored. I want adventure. This is adventure, no?’ Dawson thought that adventure might be too optimistic a word for whatever this was. ‘Also, I like you. You very nice. You not deserve to be killed by Russians.’ He was grateful for her help but found himself hoping that she didn’t like him too much. He had a Lucy waiting for him back home and knowing Lucy, doing a hell of a lot more than just waiting.

‘So do you think the Russians will give up?’

‘Maybe. Or maybe they think we go to Saaremaa.’

‘And then what?’

‘Perhaps we do go there. Is double-bluff, yes?’ And again she laughed. Dawson smiled back at her, though it was a little strained. If this was her idea of fun, he’d opt for boredom.

Bored to Death in the Baltics is available in paperback and ebook

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