“Max, come on! We need to get back while we still can,” Miranda hissed urgently. He’d been far too chatty conducting these interviews today and she was impatient to get things wrapped up and head back to the office.
“Ok, ok, we’re nearly done here,” he replied, not worried at all. “Besides, the forecast said it was just going to be a light dusting of snow and not until later today. We’ll be back in Palma by then.”
“You may not having been facing the window all morning, but I was. It’s snowing already and it’s a lot more than a light dusting! Get a move on!” she insisted.
“Jeez, chillax! We’re in mediterranean Mallorca, not wintry Wales. It’ll be fine,” he assured her while fumbling unhurriedly in his pocket for the car key.
“Didn’t know you were a meteorologist, Max. The forecast is now predicting a blizzard, and the temperatures are going to stay low for days, so it won’t just melt straight away, not up here in the mountains. And Mallorca isn’t exactly overrun with snow ploughs. We need to get back now,” she demanded.
Max jangled his keys in the air at her and led the way to the car, large white flakes settling in his wavy brown hair as he went. Miranda followed him stiffly, annoyance conveyed in every move. She had raised her concerns about the weather before they had set off, but Inés had told her that it would give them an incentive to get on with the case quickly - a lifelong Palma resident, she’d rarely been affected by snow herself and she dismissed the warnings as sensationalism.
Despite Miranda’s protestations they had set off as instructed to investigate a series of break-ins and thefts at museums to the north and west of Palma, this one in the former home of the poet and author Robert Graves, just outside the village of Deià in the Serra de Tramuntana. Nothing much had been taken in this instance, but it still warranted thorough investigation - it could be only a matter of time before the thieves stepped up their efforts. If they set their sights on Palma’s museums and galleries they would find plenty of value there.
“So... this is really getting deep now. I think we’re going to have to turn back...” Max confessed sheepishly, stopping the car and turning to look at his compañera.
“What the hell, Max?! I told you to hurry up!” she exploded. She thumped the dashboard in frustration.
“Ok, so you were right again, I accept it. But now we need to move on - well, back, actually - and figure out what we’re going to do, yes?” he conceded, trying to calm his passenger down.
“We’re going to be stuck in Deià for who knows how long! Great, just great.” Miranda folded her arms huffily.
“From the look of the sky and the lack of gritting, we are going to be here until the morning, sure,” he admitted, trying to be optimistic in the face of her irritation and negativity. Privately he reckoned it would be a couple of days minimum before they’d be able to leave the mountains, but he thought it best not to say so yet.
“Ugh. Just get us safely back into the village. We’ll have to find somewhere to stay. We haven’t got any food or clothes either.” She sounded exasperated at the situation and at Max’s part in creating in.
“We passed a supermarket and a clothing shop, so we won’t go naked and hungry. The hotels will probably be either closed for the season or booked up for Valentine’s Day, but maybe one of the shopkeepers will have a suggestion. I have some spare clothes in the boot, so why don’t you go and get what you need while I go to the supermarket and try and find us somewhere to stay?” he suggested cautiously.
She nodded grudgingly in agreement and he carefully turned the car round to return to the centre of the small village, going slowly over the fresh white carpet covering the road.
“You can call Inés and explain too,” she told him as he parked outside the shops.
“Thanks,” he said sarcastically, not looking forward to that conversation one bit.
“You are in luck: I have a holiday home in the village that’s empty at the moment. Just a small place, but if there are only two of you it will be ok. You are welcome to stay there until the roads are cleared.”
“Thank you, thank you so much,” Max enthused as he stood at the counter of the small supermarket. “That is fantastic news, Señora...?”
“Clara, please,” the shopkeeper insisted warmly. She was a short, dark-haired woman in her fifties with a friendly demeanour and kind eyes. She was pleased to be able to help the stranded policeman, community spirit being important up in the more remote hill villages. “And you’re Max and your partner is...?” Clara asked.
“Miranda. She’s just next door trying to get some clothes,” he informed her.
“Max and Miranda. Ok, well all I ask is that you leave some money to cover the electricity and that you put the bedding and towels on to wash the day you leave,” she said smiling.
“You don’t want any rent? Are you sure? That’s too much.” Max was taken aback by her generosity.
“No, it is my gift to a couple of strangers in their hour of need. It’s good for the place to not be cold and empty anyway. Don’t forget you’ll need to get some more logs for the fire as well as your food. Now, I will go and get the keys.” She headed to the far end of the shop and disappeared through a door marked for staff only.
Max browsed the aisles while she was gone and picked up a few things for dinner and breakfast, plus some toiletries. He hoped that they’d be able to get going in the morning, but made sure to check out what else was in the shop in case their stay was extended, as seemed fairly likely. He grabbed some chocolate, crisps and wine, deciding that since it was partly his laidback attitude that had got them stuck here, he’d do his best to make it a positive experience for Miranda. He’d rather not be trapped with a grumpy compañera if he could help it.
“How did you manage to get us a place to stay that quickly and for pretty much nothing?” Miranda was impressed, but too annoyed still to want him to see how much.
“What can I say? It’s my magnetic charm and rugged good looks,” Max replied with feigned arrogance. “Some people have just got it, you know.”
He unlocked the door to the small stone cottage, its shutters painted in the typical dark green common all over the island. He let Miranda enter and then followed behind her, carrying the bags of food and his clothing and setting them down on the terracotta floor. He straightened up and looked around, appraising their temporary home. The walls were painted white and the ceiling was low, with dark wooden beams only a few centimetres above Max’s head. The living room had a large stone fireplace, a small sofa and coffee table, and a well-stocked bookcase. Leading off the living room he could see a compact kitchen-diner with a table and chairs for two, a tiled bathroom, and the one bedroom.
“This is cosy!” he said cheerfully.
“Yeah, there’s only one bed,” Miranda replied flatly, returning from inspecting the other rooms.
“Ah. Ok, I will be a gentleman and take the sofa,” he offered.
“The two-seater sofa? It’s only just big enough for us to both sit on at the same time; there’s no way you can lie down on it.”
“So, you want me to take the floor?” he suggested, eyeing the cold tiles apprehensively.
She sighed with frustration. “No, I’m not making you do that. You’ll freeze. We’ll just have to share for a night or two, I suppose.”
“Great. Hope you don’t steal the covers - too chilly for that tonight,” he grinned. “And no snoring please.”
Miranda rolled her eyes. She was in no mood for joking around.
While Max lit the fire in the living room, Miranda inspected the bookcase: a few Sherlock Holmes stories, some Agatha Christies, travel guides to the island in various languages, a couple of mallorquín cookbooks, a compilation of ‘I, Claudius’ and ‘Claudius the God’ by Robert Graves, a few other titles she recognised like ‘Captain Corelli’s Mandolin’, ‘Atonement’, ‘One Day’ and ‘Pride and Prejudice’, some airport romance novels, and a selection of fiction in Spanish and German. Max definitely wouldn’t be short of reading material anyway.
She sat heavily on the sofa, crossed her legs and drummed her fingers loudly against her thigh. Max stood up, having got the fire going. He turned to her with a confused expression.
“Why are you so stressed?” he asked with concern.
“Because we’re stuck here, we have no idea how long for, and we should be at work!” she spat at him.
“Will you just relax please?” he said calmly. “We’ve got a free holiday out of this. It’ll probably never happen again, so I’m going to enjoy it. You should too.”
“We’ve got case notes to write up, files to work on-” she argued.
“Which we will do for a couple of hours in the morning and then we are free to do we want,” he interrupted, holding a hand up to stop her.
“Work is what I want,” she insisted.
“Oh, come on. Lighten up! Once we’ve got what we need to do out of the way tomorrow, let me help you relax a bit. We can have some fun while we’re here. You know, you’ve been here in Mallorca all by yourself for almost two years now: let me look after you for a change. It will be nice for you to not have to be completely self-sufficient for a little while. You can be too responsible and independent, you know.” He smiled encouragingly.
“Disagree. But we don’t have enough work with us to occupy more than a half a day, so I suppose we’ll have to fill the time somehow,” she agreed reluctantly. “Not that I need looking after!”
“That’s the spirit. You’re going to have a great time, I’ll make sure of it. All I ask is that you keep an open mind, give things a try, ok?” he pleaded, wagging a finger at her.
“Ok... but nothing weird. No appalling German music or spicy spreadable sausages,” she said with a shudder.
“You’re so uncultured,” he teased, before dodging a book she’d just launched at his head.
The cottage had been empty for a few weeks, since the last booking for the New Year and Three Kings, Clara had told Max. Like many Spanish holiday homes, the heating wasn’t really designed for a particularly cold winter. They had turned on all the electric heaters and the fire had been going for hours, but still there was a chill in the air.
After a simple dinner prepared by Max and then some time quietly reading on the sofa, they decided to go to bed. Even wearing most of their clothes still, the temperature of the sheets and pillows came as a shock as they got in.
“Woah, your feet! They are like ice blocks,” Max exclaimed.
“Well, don’t touch them then! Stick to your side,” she told him crossly.
“It was an accident!” he protested. “Look, I’m freezing and so are you. I can feel you shivering from here.”
“So? I’ll get warm eventually. I can cope,” she assured him tersely.
“Well, I can’t. I’m coming over,” he announced.
“Max!” She was starting to regret not making him sleep on the floor now. Personal space was something she valued and invasions of it were rarely welcome.
“Stop protesting. This is an arrangement of mutual benefit. Turn over please,” he requested.
“What?” Miranda tensed up, uncomfortable with the direction of this conversation.
“Turn over, I’ll lie behind you and you can just pretend I’m a giant hot water bottle on your back, ok? We’ll never get to sleep shaking from the cold,” he reasoned.
“I don’t think Carmen would be too happy about what you’re suggesting,” she said reprovingly.
“Umm... well, just let me worry about that. Can I come over before I turn into an ice sculpture please?” he whined. He wondered why he still hadn’t felt able to tell her he and Carmen had split up well over a month ago; what did that mean?
Miranda considered his proposal: she was frozen and with the heating already doing all it could, sharing body heat was the only way to improve the situation. She sighed in resignation.
“Alright, fine, you can come over. I’m tired and cold enough not to argue any more,” she conceded warily. “Just... not too close, ok?”
Max grinned and shifted over, pressing himself lightly against her back and wrapping his arm around her.
“Is the arm necessary?” she snapped.
“How else is your front half going to get warm? There’s nowhere else for it to go anyway,” he explained. “Wouldn’t be confortable.”
She sighed and reached a hand out of their cocoon to turn off the lamp.
“Good night, Max.”
Yes, it is, he thought, smiling to himself in the darkness.