CHAPTER THIRTEEN - Dunkirk
The following morning I was up and having breakfast, (sorry, `la petit dejeuner'), by seven o'clock.
By eight o'clock I was informed by the hotel receptionist that my hire car had arrived. I can tell you it's one hell of a service. Your very own hire car gets delivered to the door of the hotel, and to hand it back you simply leave it outside and they come and collect it. Anyway, I signed for everything, paid money up front and was handed the keys. After that I was free to go wherever I liked.
For the record my hire car was a French version of the Renault Clio, and if you want to know the colour, it was a silver-grey. I think they all are. It was also a left hand drive, which was something I'd never driven before. But to be quite honest with you, once I'd gone a few hundred metres I'd got the hang of it and was comfortable driving it afterwards. The only awkward part I guess is the gear change and hand brake. Suddenly you find out what your right arm is for.
Anyway, fifteen minutes after being assigned my car I was on my way. Paris to Dunkirk is about 300 kilometres, that's just a little under 200 miles, which sounds a long way, but in reality it's remarkably easy to get to since the two places are linked by an extensive network of motorways. The hardest part was getting out of Paris. French road signs are hard to follow at the best of times. `Tout Directions' and `Centre-Ville', (`All Directions' and `Town Centre'), are the French favourites and in reality don't help at all. On the other hand `Nord', (North), seemed reasonable and whenever this cropped up I followed the signs.
Eventually I found myself on an Autoroute as the French like to call their motorways. This happened to be the A16 and not the A1 which I'd originally planned, but a quick glance at my map told me I was still heading north. The only difference being, that I would arrive in Dunkirk via Boulogne and Calais, and not Lens and Lille as I'd originally intended.
One more thing about French motorways before I concentrate on the story - you have to pay for the privilege. On joining the A16 I was asked to collect a card from a barrier machine. This I did and set off up the motorway. At an area entitled; `Peage', (Toll or Tollbooth), just south of Boulogne I was invited to pay. Some nice friendly smiling woman took my card from me, fed it into a machine and a price in Euros came up on a display right next to my window. I translated the value into English money. It came to something like ten pounds for what must have amounted to something like 120 miles of motorway driving. Anyway, I paid up and tried to look happy.
After that I was not asked to donate any more money to the French Treasury, and I carried on all the way to Dunkirk. I could only assume that the motorways from here on were free.
I considered that I'd done the journey in reasonable time. It had been something like a quarter past eight when I'd set out from Paris and very close to midday when I arrived.
* * *
The ancient fishing port of Dunkirk is to be found tucked away in the top right-hand corner of France and some five kilometres from the Belgium border. In France, apart from trudging over a few sand dunes, you cannot get any further north than Dunkirk.
I parked up next to the town square and filled a parking meter up with Euros. The maximum stay was two hours. At the centre of the square stood a town map, along with a well tended garden, a few trees and the statue of a man on a plinth. He was in period dress and I think he was holding a telescope in his hands, or it could have been a sextant, but whatever it was I've no intention of going back to find out.
I sauntered across to the map in order to check out my bearings. There was an arrow and the words; `vous et ici', (you are here), pointing to the town square, which was not very helpful since I knew exactly where I was. However, it did prove useful in another sense. I was looking for `Dunkerque - Ouest Docks', (Dunkirk - West Docks), and they were just on the left hand edge of the map and apparently were some five kilometres along the coast in the direction of Calais. The funny thing was, I'd just driven right past there: And to make myself feel even more stupid, I'd visited the West Docks once before, but a little more about that later.
Anyway, whilst in the historic old town of Dunkirk, and not wanting to rush away since I'd just paid for two hours parking, I drifted across the square to the rather imposing statue at the centre. I hadn't a clue who the man was other than surmise he was a pirate, since the word `Privateer' appeared on a plaque at the base. I assumed him to be the French equivalent of Blackbeard and probably gained his notoriety by looting English galleons. Throughout history it's just one of those little things the French did to annoy us. Another is to eat frogs' legs.
Then suddenly I took notice. Apart from the word; `Privateer', the plaque bore the name of the man standing at the top of the column. It read; `Jean Bart (1650-1702)'. Now the funny thing was, only the night before I'd seen that name. It had been on the side of a florist's van parked inside the courtyard of `La Cave de la Nuit'.
As you can imagine, this set me thinking. It seemed unlikely that a florist's van bearing that name would originate from Paris. It must have come from Dunkirk since Jean Bart was a local hero in the town. It therefore begged the question: Where would I find `Fleuriste Jean Bart'? Somewhere in this town there most certainly would be a florists by that name. From that moment on, the search was on. As you may well appreciate, there was no way I was going to leave Dunkirk without checking this out.
They say at times like this, ask a policeman. Well there wasn't one in sight. There never is when you want one. So I crossed back over the road and entered a `Tabac'. (These are registered tobacconists and the only place you can buy cigarettes in France. They don't even have vending machines, at least I never came across any.) However, that is besides the point and it didn't bother me anyway since I don't smoke. But all the same I purchased a packet of twenty horrible choking French cigarettes that went by the name of Gauloises. I then asked for a florists. I used my basic French for asking my way to the railway station and substituted the word `la gare' with `fleuriste'. Anyway, I can tell you it worked a treat. I even got confirmation that the name of the shop was called; `Fleuriste Jean Bart'. After that I followed directions.
The florists, when located, proved to be a good fifteen minutes walk from the town square, and very close to the old harbour. Next door to the florists there happened to be a small restaurant with tables and chairs outside. I took a seat that faced the shop front and waited to be served. It was lunch time anyway and I wasn't going to get caught on an empty stomach again. For the record I had a couple of glasses of St-Omer beer, (apparently a local brew,) and something called a `Croque-Monsieur' which basically was a toasted cheese and ham sandwich. In England we call this a `Welsh Rarebit', (pronounced Rabbit). I don't know what the Welsh call it, but it's probably cheese on toast.
Whilst sat alongside the harbour front and in glorious sunshine, I took stock. As you probably appreciate I had a lot on my mind, and I guess I don't have to tell you that all my thoughts and energy were channelled towards Claudette, the blonde headed French girl with the big tits. Even before witnessing the events of last night I was finding Claudette a bit of an enigma, and the more I thought about her, the more confused I got.
Let me explain. Right from the very start, what I couldn't figure out was how, at the time of Fatima's abduction, Claudette had failed to notice Fernando slumped against the back door. She had been serving behind the bar at the time, and just one fleeting glance at the security monitors would have revealed that something untoward was happening out back. Fernando must have lain in the doorway, dripping with blood and in full view of the cameras, for a good ten minutes, maybe more, yet seemingly nothing was seen or reported.
Furthermore, Claudette had been given an incentive to view the monitors. This was when Hulk telephoned from the foyer enquiring as to Pierre's whereabouts. The phone behind the bar was right next to the monitors, and anyone being asked the whereabouts of someone in the building, would, presumably, start by looking at the monitors. But reportedly nothing like this took place, and this I could not comprehend.
Then there were the events of last night to consider; and without knowing why Claudette had accompanied Pierre to France, and what she was doing at `La Cave de la Nuit' in the first place, then I was never going to be any the wiser.
On top of all that, and to compound my problems even further, the list had suddenly grown. Just when I was thinking that I'd got everything sorted something else had cropped up to shatter all my theories. There I was thinking how simple the operation to be - Europa Container Transport moved the bodies, and Anthea's chain of BDSM clubs provided the safe houses - when along comes a florists to cloud the issue.
Now, it could be possible that I was driving up a cul-de-sac here. I had no way of knowing whether the owner of the florist's van had any connection whatsoever with events at the night club, but it was something I just had to check out, if only to eliminate it from my investigation.
Whilst eating and pondering, I kept one eye on the florists. To me it looked like an ordinary little shop. There were flowers in the window and buckets outside full with bouquets. Yet there was an International flavour to the place. A sign alongside the building said something to the effect - and I loosely translate here - `Importers of flowers from Amsterdam'.
I tried to make out some sort of connection. After all, Amsterdam was well known for being at the very heart of the European sex trade. But I concluded that there was nothing sinister going on here and that I was just being paranoid once more. Amsterdam was the biggest exporter of flowers in the world when it came to tulips and daffodils, and Dunkirk seemed the logical place to import them into France. After all, The Netherlands was just along the coast, linked by motorway to Dunkirk, and with only the small country of Belgium standing between.
Anyway, paranoid or not, I sat, ate, drank and observed. I saw a little old lady wander into the shop and come out with a big bunch of roses. I also saw a man with a dog do the same. Somehow I couldn't imagine this little shop being the centre of an illicit vice smuggling ring, and I must admit, at the time, I was thinking of finishing off my second beer and walking back to the car. I think the overriding factor here was, that my two hours on the parking meter was about to run out.
However, as I downed the last of my beer, a florist's van came heading up the road towards me. It was a red Renault van and identical to the one I'd seen in the courtyard the night before. But without knowing the number plate, then I had no way of telling whether this was the same vehicle. It was at times like this I wished that I'd made a note, but I didn't, and contrary to what you might think, I'm not superhuman.
However, I am good at faces. From a distance I could see that there were two men in the van, and I was thinking, if I could just get a quick look at either one of them, and if he turned out to be one of the guys in the room with Claudette last night, then I would be onto a winner.
So, as the vehicle approached I stood up from my table and moved a little nearer to the florist's shop.
The van began to slow down. I could see that it was indicating to turn into a gap between buildings alongside the florists, so I took a few more steps forward. I wanted to get as close a look as possible. Then, as the van turned and the windscreen came into view, I found myself being dazzled by the sun. I cursed my luck. The sun's rays had caught the windscreen and reflected into my eyes just when I was about to identify the occupants of the van.
As I rubbed my eyes, all I could see was the rear end of the van disappearing through the narrow gap between the buildings. I walked a little way down the road and looked through the opening. The van was turning a second corner and disappearing around to the back of the florists. Soon it was out of sight.
I must admit, I was at one of those points in life when action before thought possessed me. I don't think I had time to think about it anyway. I simply set off down the drive in pursuit of the van.
At the corner to the second turn I stopped and peered around. The van had stopped. It had pulled up in a small area immediately behind the florist's shop. Beyond the parking area there was a small market garden hemmed in by houses on all four sides. Here I could see flower beds, greenhouses and potting sheds, and even a line of garden ornaments which included sundials, bird baths, statuettes and even garden gnomes.
I was thinking the red van had come to a permanent halt, but it moved again. This time to reverse up to one of the more larger sheds. After that, one of the men got out and opened up the back doors to the van. Then suddenly I knew that all my efforts had not been in vain. For there, stood alongside the van, was one of the men I'd seen with Claudette. I even got enough of a peek at the second man in the vehicle to see his face, and he too I recognised. He was the other partner in crime.
I felt like doing a little jig on the spot, but kept my composure. I realised now that I could be onto something big and had no intention of blowing the whole operation. From now on it was to be softly, softly with every move I made.
With the back of the van open and the doors to the potting shed swung out to meet them, it was difficult to see exactly what was going on. Both sets of doors were open in such a way as to shield any passage of goods from van to shed. But all the same it was noticeable that at least two items of considerable size where transferred from the van into the potting shed. I say this because on both occasions it took both men to do the moving. Finally the men entered the potting shed and closed the doors behind them.
This I took as my signal to act and moved in closer. Creeping firstly behind a row of garden statues, then encircling the back of a greenhouse, I made my way to the rear of the potting shed. Here I stood up and looked around. I felt relatively safe here. I was standing in a small gap between two potting sheds and in an area not overlooked by any windows from the neighbouring houses.
I put my ear to the wooden boards that formed the walls to the shed. I could hear two male voices coming from inside and the language was in French.
There was a window to the rear of the potting shed, but at first I didn't look in. I considered this a bit too risky. The last thing I wanted was to be seen. If necessary I would return after dark to take a good look around.
As I crept closer to the window I managed to get a better view as to what was on the inside. On my previous prying into what was happening within a building I'd had the advantage of curtains to shield me, but here there was nothing like that. Obviously curtains are not the sort of thing one puts up in a potting shed. But what there was however was a row of rather spiky looking plants stood in a row against the inside of the window. I thanked my lucky stars and peeked in between the stalks.
The inside of the shed was dark and the area only lit by a single bulb, so at first it was difficult to make out what the two men were up to. But as my eyes adjusted it became clear what was happening, and I think I nearly fell over.
Let me explain.
To begin with, it was now possible to make out exactly what the two sizeable items carried into the shed actually were, for they both lay on the floor at the centre. One of these items was an unmistakable coffin-shaped packing crate supplied by Meubles d'Erotique, the other, and perhaps more importantly, was the naked body of a young woman. She was lying face down with her hands tied behind her back and also her ankles lashed together. If anything I would have said that she was drugged since I detected no movement. However, and even without seeing the face, it was obvious to me that this was Claudette. The rear view of her body I'd seen plenty of the night before, and the long blonde hair was a dead give away.
At this point in the proceedings, instinct told me Claudette was desperately in need of rescue, but I forced myself to remain calm and for the time being simply observe and not go off half-cock. It was obvious to me that these people, whomever they were, had no intentions of killing her, otherwise they would have done that in Paris. Instead they had gone to a whole lot of trouble in bringing her to Dunkirk. I asked myself why someone would want to do that? But couldn't come up with a sensible answer.
The trouble was, I'd been through all this before when I first stumbled upon Fatima in a garage in Wimbledon. At the time I did nothing about it other than report where she could be found; and then look what happened? Those in charge proved grossly incompetent and she promptly disappeared again! And that, in my opinion was more than careless.
So I think you can see my dilemma, and anyway, how was I going to rescue Claudette? I guess in the movies the hero would have rushed into the shed, blasted the two abductors in a hail of bullets, then called the cops. But in reality, one, I hadn't got a gun; and two, I didn't think the police would have been able to make any sense of what I had to say even if I did try to contact them.
The best I could do was tackle the two men with a garden fork. Which, on the face of it was not a very clever idea, since it was two against one in their favour, and there was also the little problem of transport to consider. If I wasn't going to call the cops, then a quick getaway was needed. The trouble was, my car was a good fifteen minutes walk away, and I couldn't very well be seen carrying a naked body of a girl through the streets of Dunkirk, now could I? There was of course the Renault van. That would have probably done. But with all the other negatives stacked against me, this option was never really on the cards.
Anyway, after all that calculated and careful consideration, my conclusions were to simply stay cool, do nothing and observe. At least not until I'd found out exactly what these two guys were up to.
The first thing the men did was open up the packing crate. The inside was crammed full with flat packed pieces of wood and bubble-wrapping to protect the contents from damage. Gradually the two men began to empty the crate and place the contents on the floor alongside.
I tried to make out exactly what the pieces of wood would assemble into. I was aware of my own order and knew what an X-frame, a chair and a pillory looked like, but this was none of these items. If anything these pieces would join together to form a table or some kind of bench. Anyway, after all the flat, black painted pieces of wood had been removed from the crate and transferred to the floor, there followed the mandatory four plastic bags containing the fleece-lined cuffs, along with a couple of bags of screws and an instruction booklet.
The next thing the men did was turn their attention to Claudette. They undid her bonds and sat her up against the side of the crate. It now became apparent that she really was out for the count. For someone naked and in the presence of two men there was no noticeable effort on her part to conceal her modesty. Her head flopped, her shoulders slumped, her tits bounced, her legs spread, and in general her body had a life of its own. For a while one of the men struggled with the lifeless form, then gave up and let the unconscious body slump back to the floor. I don't know what they were trying to achieve, if anything, but whatever it was, they failed miserably trying to do it.
When Claudette's neck was reached they stopped. I guess they thought that she had been mummified enough, and I tended to agree with them. From what I could make out, if the naked blonde French girl ever did come round, then she would be in for quite a shock. There was no way she could have wriggled her way out of that little lot. She had been well and truly cocooned in layer upon layer of tightly clinging cellophane.For a while there was conversation and scratching of heads between the two guys. They then got their act together, or at least formulated a plan of action. From a bench alongside where they stood, a roll of clingfilm wrapping was taken up. Claudette was then returned to the floor and laid out flat with her arms by her side. Then starting at the feet, one of the men set about wrapping the clingfilm about the body. By the time the waist was reached the second man was assisting full time; then, working as a team, with one winding out the wrapping, and the other lifting and turning the body, they managed to make a reasonable job of it.
Next, from a separate roll of wide silver packing tape, a short length was cut off and placed over Claudette's mouth. I guess this was the final act in the poor girl's incapacitation. Now she could neither move nor make a sound if she ever recovered from whatever it was that had been injected into her: And that, I guess, was the final ignominy. They must have thought that she hadn't been drugged enough, because from out of a pocket a hypodermic syringe appeared. Then once more, and this time through the many layers of clingfilm, the full contents of the syringe got pumped into her thigh.
I didn't know how often they'd been injecting Claudette. But if this was only her second, and last night's dose had lasted this long, then I reckoned with this fresh lot inside her, then she could be out for a matter of days, possibly weeks. But obviously that was pure speculation on my part since I had no way of telling.
After that it was simply a case of lifting up the limp body from the floor and placing it in the crate. Claudette was laid to rest in a pile of bubble-wrap, and then the lid was replaced. I worried about breathing, but I guess the men had thought of that too, and, as one screwed down the lid, the other took it upon himself to drill several holes in the sides of the crate.
I think you must admit, the scene I'd just witnessed had come somewhat as a surprise and, at that point in time, I had formulated no further plans other than to conceal myself and observe. So imagine my predicament when the next part of the saga began to unfold, and do so at a rapid pace. The doors to the potting shed where opened and the packing crate returned to the van. After that, doors were slammed shut, the engine started up, and within no time at all the van was heading off down the drive, swinging around the first corner and disappearing from my sight.
I remember standing between the two potting sheds and looking out across a row of small standing statuettes and thinking; `fuck!'.
I wasn't even in a position to jump into a car and set off in hot pursuit. At best my own car was some fifteen minutes walk away, and I hadn't a clue where the van was heading anyway. I guess at this point in time I simply resigned myself to at least having gained a little more knowledge, but at the same time feeling as if I'd let Claudette down very badly indeed.
Anyway, after that I returned to my car. It was all I could do. I sneaked quietly out from behind the florist's shop and made my way briskly back to the town square.
On my return, my old friend Jean Bart remained aloof atop his plinth. I saluted him as I passed. I do believe the look on his face had changed. It was now a knowing smirk. If there was one bright spot to come out of all this, then it was my car. The parking meter had a couple of minutes left on it. So I guess, taking everything into consideration, things weren't that bad after all.
After making my way out of the town I rejoined the A16 motorway, which in this part of France follows the northern coastline. I then set off west in the direction of Calais. My destination being `Dunkerque - Ouest Docks', some five kilometres along the road.
I reminded myself that a visit to the docks was the prime motive for my coming all this way, and there was no reason for getting upset over the loss of a girl I hardly knew. Naturally I would report everything to Fernando as soon as I got back to England, but what would happen after that was anyone's guess. No doubt the French Authorities would get involved. I just hoped that they were a bit more professional than their English counterparts.
* * *
Now I don't want to bore you with my previous investigation, but for those of you that have read `Submissive Work', then you may recall that during that adventure I had cause to visit certain docks in the Dunkirk area; or at least park up very close to them whilst waiting for a ferry to come in. The trouble was, I'd not actually visited the docks, nor taken much notice of the full title, which just happened to be `Dunkerque - Ouest Docks'.
Anyway, on that occasion I'd crossed over to France with the intention of tailing a certain person that went by the name of `Boris Von Reidler'. Well as soon as I was within one kilometre of `Dunkirk - Ouest Docks', then I can tell you I was on familiar territory. I even found the lay-by where I'd previously parked and waited for Boris's car to drive off the ferry. It was at this point I pulled up for a second time, or at least in another lay-by over on the other side of the road. I did this because I wanted to clear my head before moving on to the docks. It was time for me to take stock once more.
Perhaps I'd better explain what was going through my head. When I first set out from Paris that morning there was only one thing on my mind. I wanted to check out Fatima's statement. In that statement she'd recorded her movements from Northern Africa to the United Kingdom. During that journey, which spanned two, maybe three weeks, she had spent her time either cooped up inside a container along with a dozen other girls, or, whilst waiting to be moved on, had been transferred to a series of overnight premises for safe keeping.
I think I'd got all that lot figured out and I don't particularly want to go over it again. However, there was one thing to come out of Fatima's statement that I didn't think had been picked up properly by Fernando's people, or at least not investigated fully. Fatima had spoken of looking out of an air-hole in the side of the container and identifying a group of men talking alongside the quay side.
Now I'm always looking for motives, and I had one here. Fatima must have been abducted for a very good reason, otherwise why would they go to so much bother, and take such a risk? In my opinion it was because she was about to spill the beans on someone, and that someone must have been a person she'd managed to get a good look at during that journey. Therefore, by deduction - and because the only part of her statement to mention seeing other faces occurred here at Dunkirk - then I was wondering whether, perhaps one of those men stood alongside the quay side was Mr. Big?
Well, that was my theory anyway. If Fatima had perchance seen Mr. Big and was in a position to identify him, then the abduction and everything else that happened afterwards would make sense. Obviously on this visit there would not be a cat-in-hell's chance of me bumping into Mr. Big. If he was here on the same day as Fatima, then presumably it was only to oversee operations on that particular day. But all the same a little knowledge of the dockside, the container bay, and the general layout of the place would all be extremely helpful when trying to piece together the events of that day.
The time was getting on for three o'clock in the afternoon when I finally pulled out of the lay-by and moved on up the road towards the docks. I could see the funnels of the big ships protruding above the roofs of the complex as I drove along the road. As I got ever closer the vessels moored alongside the docks grew in size, until, when I finally arrived, they towered above me. It is only when close-up do you appreciate the sheer enormity of these ships.
I pulled up in a large expansive car park. There were probably fifty to sixty cars parked in an area capable of holding two to three hundred vehicles. There were also separate areas for lorries and coaches. Looking around I could see that the complex was huge, yet there was still space for beaches and sand dunes. It seemed strange really. Here I was stood amidst a huge and bustling complex, yet there wasn't anything else visible for miles in either direction. I couldn't help thinking that moving your goods through a place so isolated was a good thing, especially if you were in the smuggling business. The less prying eyes the better.
I got out of my car and decided to go for a walk. Running all down one side of the car park was a high chain-link security fence. Over on the other side I could see hundreds of containers all waiting to be either transferred to ships, or collected and taken away, depending on which direction they were travelling.
My walk to the main reception area followed the chain-link fencing. This was a deliberate act on my part. I could have parked someplace else, and there were plenty of options, but I wanted to get a closer look at those containers.
At a point about midway in that walk I came to a sudden halt. Glancing up between two containers I found myself looking at a third container parked in the second row. Now this I found very interesting indeed. For one thing the back doors to the container were in the process of being opened, which I thought a little odd, since these things are meant to be checked and sealed by Customs. The second thing, and this is probably the most interesting factor of all here; parked alongside the container was a red Renault van. It was face on so I couldn't read the name on the side, but if I was a gambling man, I'd have put my every penny on it belonging to a certain `Fleuriste Jean Bart'.
One glance at the men told me this was so. There was also a third man with them. Immediately I moved to one side so as to shield myself from view. From this point onwards I was content simply to observe from behind the rear of a container.
As the doors to the container opened I managed to get a good look inside. I remember giving a little smile as I recognised the contents. Three very distinctive packing crates were inside along with a whole load of other goods. I took out a piece of paper from my pocket and reminded myself of a serial number. Then, by moving across the gap to the other side, I found myself in a position where I could read the serial number on the side of the container. I don't suppose I have to tell you that they were identical. This was the confirmation I was looking for. This was the same container I'd seen being loaded at the Paris depot of `Europa Container Transport` the day before.
I put my scrap of paper away and, remaining out of sight, returned my attention to the activity taking place next to the rear of the container. My two men were in the process of transferring a packing crate from the van to the container. It was a bit of a struggle but with the help of the third person, together they managed to load the crate into the back.
There were now four identical packing crates inside the container, and I was wondering if someone had changed the paperwork to read four crates and not three?
Anyway, after that there's not much more to report. The container doors were closed, its seals replaced, and farewells spoken.
As the red Renault van drove away I rubbed my chin thoughtfully. I now had two more unanswered questions to add to my ever growing list. One: Who'd be wanting to despatch Claudette to England? And two: What was the motive behind it all?
Like all my other unanswered questions, if I could only answer these two, then I was certain I'd be very close to unravelling this whole mysterious affair. As it was I felt further away than ever.
At this point I found myself with many different and very painful choices to make.
To begin with I considered following the red van, at least I now had my car with me. But after much deliberation I decided against it. I think I'd seen all there was to see. The men in the van, and possibly the third person at the docks could be identified and dealt with by the appropriate authorities over on this side of the Channel.
Next I consider getting Claudette out of there. But there were many factors stacked against me. One, if I did it alone, then I'd have to find some way into what appeared to be a secure compound; and two; Claudette was in no fit state to be moved anyhow; and three; if I were to inform the French authorities and let them handle this, then who exactly was I telling? I hadn't a clue as to who was involved in all this. It could have been a case of straight out of the frying pan and into the fire.
So I hope you agree with my reasoning here. I reckoned that my best hope was to wait until Claudette arrived in England. There she could get all the medical treatment she needed, and I knew a few contacts that I could trust. Harry Bell for one; Chief Inspector at the Drugs Squad in London. I'd helped him out before on my previous case and I think he owed me a favour or two. There was also something about this case I thought Harry Bell might find of interest. Remember those plants in the back of the potting shed? The ones I spied through? Well, they looked a little suspicious to me!
However, before coming to any decision I needed to know just one thing. I needed the sailing time of that vessel. I reckoned if I could find this out then I'd be in a better position to make a judgement, so I quickly moved on. The only way I was going to find out the information I needed was to pay the shipping offices a visit.
On entering offices I tried to look official without actually disclosing who I was and what I was there for. Luckily I found someone who could speak good English and didn't question my motives. He was a nice kind man, and actually presented me a free cup of coffee from a vending machine whilst we chatted.
I showed the man my purchase and despatch documents from Meubles d'Erotique and I also gave him the serial number of the container. I gave him some excuse as to the urgency and said I wanted to be at the other end to collect as soon as the cargo vessel docked.
After thumbing through several clipboards full of documents he came to my container. From that he determined that my vessel was not due to sail until the following morning. Today was Thursday and the container vessel was scheduled to leave Dunkirk at ten o'clock on the Friday morning. With a three hours crossing to Dover, and taking into account the one hour time difference, the man estimated that my container would arrive in Dover sometime around midday tomorrow.
I found this information very useful. What it meant was that Claudette would be back in England about the same time as me. My Eurostar train would be emerging from the English side of the tunnel at the same time as Claudette's vessel was docking in Dover.
Finding out these sailing times settled my mind and I now knew what to do. The moment I arrived back in England I would contact Harry Bell of the Drugs Squad and get him on the case. Even though he was based in London, I knew that he had men in Dover that were equally trustworthy.
Feeling a lot happier, I finished off my coffee and thanked the man. I then headed back to my car. My little excursion to the most northerly corner of France was over.
* * *
The rest of the day proved uneventful and I've nothing further to report. After leaving the shipping offices I got into my car and set off back to Paris. I had about a three hours drive ahead of me.
The next morning I was booked onto Eurostar. By midday I'd be back on English soil, and by one o'clock I'd be getting off the train in London.
It seemed to me that all the action from here on was destined to be taking place across the channel, and I didn't want to be on the wrong side when it happened.
* * *
End of Chapter Thirteen