THE MONGOLIAN GIRL - CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX
Room 316 smelled like a fox’s den. Tom wasn’t looking forward to tonight. He placed the fur hat on his head, adjusted it, breathed in its wild animal odour then took it off again. Even though it was freezing cold outside, he decided he wasn’t going to need it tonight. He placed the hat on the top shelf of the cheap plywood wardrobe, closed the door, took a deep breath and headed out of his room into the corridor. He looked down at his brown Timberland boots and blue jeans showing beneath his long beige raincoat as he walked slowly along the thin red carpet to the hotel staircase.
On reaching the bottom of the stairs, he turned right and crossed the lobby to leave his key with the receptionist. She took it without looking at him. Tom opened the door onto
Tom slid into the seat next to her, brushed the wet snow from his hair and fastened his seat belt.
“Thanks for coming to get me.”
Daphne swung the steering wheel and they skidded slightly as they turned out of
“That’s all right. You are part of the family now, so to speak.”
Tom raised his eyebrows and thought, am I?
The streets were dark and deserted. Even the soldiers were staying indoors tonight. Only the sound of the windscreen wipers and the purr of the Range Rover’s engine broke the silence as they passed through the long rows of grim, five-storey apartment blocks. There wasn’t a single light on in any of the windows.
Daphne tutted. “Another bloody power cut. The Soviets are pulling out, you know. They’re the ones who built the power stations. They’re breaking down more and more nowadays. It’s not just the lack of engineers; the problem is all of the spare parts have to come from
“I hadn’t noticed at the hotel.”
“No, you wouldn’t. They’ve got their own generator.”
A red Number Sixteen bus approached and temporarily lit up the gloom. Tom wiped his window and looked out at the passengers who stared back at him. Nobody was smiling. They were cold, hungry and unsure of their future.
Daphne saw the apprehension in Tom’s eyes. She knew everything: Jim Lockey worked for her husband, after all.
He turned from the window to her. “Yes?”
“Where do you come from?”
“Henley.” Then he explained, “Henley-on
“I thought so. You’re Jack Rawlinson’s brother, aren’t you?” A look of concern crept into her eyes before she added, “So tragic what happened to him.”
The sound of the wiper blades moving slowly backwards and forwards in front of them seemed to get louder as they swept through the falling snow towards the yurt suburbs. Tom sighed and stared into the darkness that filled the Tuul Valley.There was still the lingering smell of a cornered animal in the air.