Tuesday, 20 November 2012

What a long day (part 8)

While Delta was out of Oscar's sight (she'd gone to the bathroom), two men introduced themselves to him as airport security and asked him to please come with them. As he followed them back past the restaurants and duty-free shops to security, he struggled to place the accent of the man who had spoken. This wasn't his forte but he didn't think it was a German accent. As the man who had spoken turned to open the door to a small office, Oscar spotted a black feather embroidered on his blue shirt. The same symbol was on his hat, and on the uniform of his colleague. Oscar made an effort to hide a small gasp, then entered the room and sat at the seat indicated to him.

The room was simple, with a single desk, two chairs on one side and one on the other, a small window offering a little light but no view to speak of, and a pot plant in the corner. The two men sat next to each other opposite the desk from Oscar.

“We have reason to believe,” started the man who hadn't spoken yet, in what was unmistakably a sing-songy, Swansea accent, “that you are travelling with a known terror suspect. She was last spotted at border control and we know she was working with an agency in Austria. Please tell us all that you know about the organisation that calls itself Friarr and the operation it was undertaking in Salzburg.”

For a moment Oscar was speechless. Terror suspect? He'd just thought Delta was a sweet girl who'd had a sheltered upbringing, and that she had decided to be fully inducted in the religious order her parents were part of. He realised now that he'd actually believed the story she'd told him, to the point where he felt like he should be defending her now.

“Uh,” he said nervously. “I'm not really sure what you're talking about.”

“Oh, come on, we've seen you together. You had lunch together, you haven't been out of each other's sight all day. We've only just been able to get you on your own!” It was hard to take the man seriously with an outburst like this.

“Gethin!” his colleague chided through gritted teeth.

“But Huw,” Gethin whispered in reply, “it's true. I'm sure he knows something and can help us get the girl.” The two men whispered a few more words to each other while Oscar wiped his brow and thought desperately about what he should say. Should he trust them and tell them everything Delta had said, or should he believe Delta and keep his mouth shut in order to protect her?

The two guards stopped muttering to each other and turned back to face Oscar.

“How do you know the woman you have been travelling with today?” Huw asked. “How did you meet?”

“I'm travelling alone,” Oscar answered truthfully.

“I'll rephrase my question. How did you meet the woman you had lunch with today?”

“We met in the airport,” Oscar answered, sufficiently truthfully and sufficiently vaguely.

“Were you on the coach with her when it crossed the German border?” Huw asked.

“I did travel to Germany by coach today.” Oscar had resolved to lie as little as possible without giving anything away.

Huw took a deep breath. Gethin looked as though he were about to say something but Huw stopped him.

“Is the woman you had lunch with today also travelling alone?” Huw asked.


“Did she tell you why she was in Austria this week?”

Oscar thought carefully about how to answer this question. He could simply answer 'yes', thus answering truthfully but frustrating his interrogators. Or he could give some indication of what she had said she was doing in a way that would put them off the scent. The longer he left it, the more suspicious they would become, so he would have to think of something quickly.

“She did. I think she said she was visiting a family friend.” He thought that would be the safest option.

Huw tried a different tack. “What do you now about Friarr?”

Oscar frowned and shook his head.

“What is your favourite colour?” Gethin chimed in.

Oscar blinked at him, then responded, “What's that got to do with anything?”

“Just answer the question!” Gethin tried to sound menacing but his high-pitched voice didn't lend itself well to that.

“I don't really have a favourite colour,” Oscar said. He had not thought about questions like that since childhood. And then it had probably changed every other week, depending on who his friends were or which football team was winning the league, or which colour wasn't in his hideous school uniform.

“Look, Mr...” Huw looked at Oscar enquiringly.

“Thornton.” Oscar now wondered whether they shouldn't have asked him that at the beginning.

“Mr Thornton, we're going to need you to tell us what you know about Friarr and what you know about the woman you were with today.”

Oscar paused for a moment, then said, “We are both travelling alone. The coach to transfer us from Salzburg to Munich was full and we ended up sitting next to one another. I told her I was here on business. She told me she was visiting a family friend. After that we talked about the weather.” Although he couldn't remember it now, he was sure the weather must have come at some point in their conversation – what self-respecting Englishman wouldn't mention the weather at some point early on in any conversation? “If that doesn't sufficiently answer your question, I don't know what will. I don't know anything much more than the fact she is on the same flight as me today.”

The two guards took a moment to compute what Oscar had said. He thought they were considering whether he really didn't know anything or whether he was hiding something. He sensed they believed he might be part of Friarr and part of whatever Delta had been doing with them in Salzburg. Telling them the little he knew might put him in danger. He hoped what he'd said was enough to spare him his life and let him get home. He glanced at his watch. It was half part three. The flight would be boarding soon. He didn't want to miss another flight.

“Please excuse us for a moment,” Huw said at last. He and Gethin got up and left the room, closing the door behind them. Oscar got up and followed them to the door, tried to open it and found it to be locked. They've locked me in! They've actually locked me in! He tried the door again, just to make sure he wasn't panicking unnecessarily. Then he crossed the room to the window. It didn't have a handle. And it was frosted, so no-one outside would be able to see him. He put his hands in his pockets and turned his back to the window, facing the door. He wasn't sure what to do next.

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