This is the ONLY compulsory text

 

Partick Writers’ Group meet in two Glasgow Libraries (Partick and Hillhead) on the first and third Mondays of the month.

During Lockdown 2020 when the libraries were closed, S.L.A.T.ECharity founder and PWG member Michael Kerins set up a Whats App group to allow us to continue meeting. Christine Macrae suggested the idea of us writing a piece of continuous prose and the story of Still No Sign Of Doreen was born.


The first 1000 or so words are this years ONLY compulsory text in this year’s KerinsNaumov International Translation Competition.




Still No Sign of Doreen

 

Still no sign of Doreen. He’d been listening and watching out for her car all afternoon. She had been due to arrive at 2pm and it was now after 6. Feeling anxious, Luke left the cottage for a run along the shore. Although he missed the buzz and excitement of London, Luke had not regretted taking the yearlong lease of Rock Cottage until now. He was beginning to worry. He had left several messages for Doreen and only the last one sent yesterday had been answered. 

 

Can’t make Tuesday, see you same time Wednesday 

XX Doreen

 

There was not a word from her today. No ‘Sorry for delay, can’t wait to see you’ which was her usual message. To say that Doreen was often late was an understatement. But this didn’t feel right at all. This meeting was important. She wasn’t just coming for supper and an overnight stay. She was bringing news of new investors and their plans for the next move.

 

* * *

By the time Luke had clambered back up to the path along the dunes a wind had gotten up and the sun was low in the sky. He could just see the cottage in the distance. The sight of it lifted his heart and he knew his decision had been right. He stopped to look out at the sea, tempted to watch the sun slip behind the Sleeping Warrior, catch it in the act. But he had to get back. Didn’t want to be on that path in the dark. As he turned to make his way back towards the cottage he thought he saw a figure moving in the distance, but when he’d blinked the sweat from his eyes it had gone. His legs felt wobbly now, have to start training more, get out tomorrow, Doreen or no Doreen. Really, he’d give it one more day then he’d have to contact Charles, embarrassing as that would be.

 

He opened the gate where the garden backed onto the shore. As he walked up the shell-lined path in the fading light something caught his eye. A few yards away from the house sat an old Volvo. 

 

* * *

Then Luke realised it was the kisses – X X Doreen – that is what was wrong. Doreen x x always after and always lower case, he remembered their discussion on this very topic. She had said that the x mark for a kiss should mirror the kiss. She always gave him soft, gentle kisses in real life and always in pairs. ALWAYS. So the signature and kiss off should mirror Doreen, and this one didn't.

 

Whoever sent this message, it most certainly wasn't Doreen. 

 

In the gloaming, with the sea lapping, Luke’s eyes focussed in the on the car. He had never seen that kind of Volvo in real life. It was a creamy coloured Volvo SP1800 sports coupé, the kind immortalised by Roger Moore in the sixties TV sensation The Saint. He was thinking about contacting Charles regardless of how awkward it would all be, when out of the corner of his eye he realised the number plate CD 1411 was Charles’ private registration. Charles Dunlop, and his birthdate Fourteenth November. The cat is out of the bag.

 

* * *

Luke froze. Things had to be serious for Charles to drive all the way from his London power-base into the ‘wilderness’ (his name for Luke’s current whereabouts) instead of just phoning as he usually did.  Was there a connection to Doreen’s non-appearance?  Luke’s anxiety for his partner began to turn into a chill, stomach-clenching fear. He needed time to think, to stop trembling and get his story straight. Dunes!  He’d hide in the dunes until he felt more composed. Or until Charles gave up waiting for him.

 

* * *

It hadn’t occurred to Charles to go around the back. Most But ’n’ bens didn’t have a back door, but this croft had a sun lounge which looked onto the sea. 

He stopped tapping his foot and banged on the front door once more. The only thing that had kept him driving non-stop all the way to this Godforsaken dump was the anticipation of Luke’s face as he opened the door.

Why did he feel that Luke was there? He stepped to the side hoping to keek through the window. His foot struck an earthenware pot. A lid rattled and he almost lost his balance. He crouched down and cautiously lifted the lid, sniffing what seemed to be a rabbit stew. Charles had a flashback to a conversation about Luke’s neighbours. He was a charmer and had worked his magic with locals who provided him with eggs, bacon and pots of soup. He went to put his finger in the contents but changed his mind.

The pot was ceremoniously moved a few inches. In the gloaming a gleam of metal caught his eye. A key glinted at him.

 

* * *

Luke woke with raindrops on his face. He had not meant to sleep, hoping Charles would drive away. He stretched himself and headed to the cottage. The lights were on and Charles’ car was still there.

In he went. Charles was sitting with a cup of tea and his phone on speaker. ‘My partner has just walked in. I’ll get right back to you.’ He stared at Luke. ‘And where the hell is Doreen? Also, you look like …’

‘I know,’ said Luke. ‘It’s just that nothing makes sense. Doreen is missing and it’s not like her and…I don’t know what to do.’ Luke collapsed into a chair.

‘That was the investor that you and Doreen were supposed to meet. He’s furious. He’s not used to being mucked about. Get me up to speed,’ said Charles. 

Luke told him about Doreen’s text. How it had taken him a while to realise that Doreen wasn’t just late, she was missing, and how he thought she had been forced to send the text to look like she was still ok. 

‘I wasn’t happy about the offer. It seemed too good to be true,’ said Luke. ‘Now look what’s happened. We spoke about rival offers and I was never happy with The Glasgow People. They had form.

‘Time to get our own ‘people’ here to help,’ said Charles. I can get the investigators from Edinburgh here in thirty minutes. You’re out of your league Luke.’ He tapped the phone, ‘Scramble the helicopter. I’m sending the coordinates.’