M.C. Beaton

The Day the Floods Came

Agatha Raisin #12

2002, EN

? The Day the Floods Came ?


It was one of those grey days where misty rain blurs the windscreen and the bare branches of the winter trees mournfully drip water into puddles on the road as if weeping for summer past.

Agatha Raisin turned on the switch to demist the windscreen of her car. She felt that inside her was a black hole to complement the dreariness of the day. She was heading for the travel agent in Evesham, one thought drumming in her head. Get away…get away…get away.

For miserable Agatha felt rejected by the world. She had lost her husband, not to another woman, but to God. James Lacey was training to take holy orders at a monastery in France. Sir Charles Fraith, always her friend and supporter when James went missing, had just got married, in Paris, and without even inviting Agatha to the wedding. She had learned about it by reading a small item in Hello magazine. And there had been a photograph of Charles with his new bride, a Frenchwoman called Anne-Marie Duchenne, small, petite, young. Grimly, middle-aged Agatha sped down Fish Hill in the direction of Evesham. She would escape from it all – winter, the Cotswolds where she lived in the village of Carsely, a broken heart and a feeling of rejection. Although, she reflected, hearts did not break. It was one’s insides that got twisted up with pain.


Sue Quinn, the owner of Go Places, looked up as Agatha Raisin walked in and wondered what had happened to her usually brisk and confident customer. Agatha’s hair was showing grey at the roots, her bearlike eyes were sad, and her mouth was turned down at the corners. Agatha sank down into a chair opposite Sue. “I want to get away,” she said, looking vaguely round at the posters on the wall, the brightly coloured ranks of travel brochures, and then back at the world map behind Sue’s head. “Well, let’s see.” said Sue. “Somewhere sunny?”

“Maybe. I don’t know. An island. Somewhere remote.”

“You upset about something?” asked Sue. In her long experience, unhappy people often headed for islands, unhappy people or drunks. Islands drew them like a magnet.

“No,” snapped Agatha. So deep was her misery, she did not want to confide in anyone and, in a sick way, she felt her misery still somehow tied her to James Lacey.

“All right,” said Sue. “Let me see. You look as if you could do with a bit of sun. I know; what about Robinson Crusoe Island?”

“Where’s that? I don’t want one of those Club Med places.”

“It’s in the Juan Fernandez Archipelago.” Sue swung her chair and pointed to the map. “Just off the coast of Chile. It’s where Alexander Selkirk was marooned.”

“Who’s he?”

“He was a Scottish seaman who was marooned there and Daniel Defoe learned about him and wrote Robinson Crusoe based on his adventures.”

Agatha scowled in thought. She had read Robinson Crusoe in school. She couldn’t remember much about it except it conjured up a vision of remoteness, of coral beaches and palm trees. She would walk along the beach and feel the sun on her head and get her life together.

She gave a weary shrug. “Sounds okay. Fix it up.”


Three weeks later, Agatha stood in the hot sunshine at Tobalaba Airport in Santiago and stared at the small Lassa Airlines plane which was to carry her to Robinson Crusoe. There were only two other passengers: a thin, bearded man, and a young pretty girl. The pilot appeared and told them to climb on board. The girl sat in the co- pilot’s seat and Agatha and the bearded man on one side of the plane. The other side was laden with a cargo of toilet rolls and bread rolls. Agatha’s luggage, as per instructions, was limited to one travel bag. But the temperature in Santiago had been a hundred degrees Fahrenheit, so she had only packed underwear and light clothes. Her lunch was in a paper bag: one can of Coke, one sandwich and a packet of potato chips.

The plane took off. Agatha gazed down at the vast sprawl of Chile’s capital city and then at the arid peaks of the Andes. Then, as they headed out over the Pacific, her eyelids began to droop and she fell asleep. She awoke an hour later. She knew it was no use trying to talk to her fellow passengers because she didn’t speak Spanish and they didn’t speak English. There was nothing to see but miles and miles of ocean. She shifted miserably in her seat and wished she had brought a book to read. The pilot had a newspaper spread over the controls. She hoped he knew where he was going.

And then, suddenly, after another two hours of flying over the seemingly endless ocean and just when Agatha was beginning to think they would never arrive, there was Robinson Crusoe Island. Boo! It seemed to rear up out of the sea in front of them, black and jagged, as if the Pacific had just thrown it up. The small plane chugged towards a cliff, closer and closer. What’s happening? thought Agatha as the plane appeared to start heaving its way up the cliff face. He’s not going to make it. But with a sudden roar the plane lifted up and over the cliff top and came to land on an airfield. No airport buildings, no control tower, just a flat cliff top of dusty red earth.

It turned out the pilot had some English. Agatha gathered they were to walk down to a boat and the luggage and cargo would be taken down separately. She could feel goose-flesh rising on her arms. It was cool though sunny. Like a good Scottish summer’s day in the Highlands. Agatha did not grasp she had moved into a subtropical zone. She only knew that she should have packed a sweater. The pretty girl who had been one of her fellow passengers indicated the road they were to take, and, with the bearded man, they walked across the airfield of dry red earth where locusts flittered in front of them like so many pieces of blown tissue paper.

The road curved down and down. The Jeep with the cargo and luggage roared past them. “Bastards,” muttered Agatha, who was a strictly five-star-hotel traveller. “They might have given us a lift.”

Just when her legs were beginning to ache with all the walking, she saw the sea below, a cove and a launch bobbing at anchor. Seals floated on their backs in the green-and-blue water. Hundred of seals. There were already people waiting on the jetty, all young men carrying backpacks. Agatha, when she was miserable, liked to be fussed over and cosseted. When the luggage was stowed and they climbed on board and were given life jackets and told to sit on the hatches, Agatha suddenly wished she had stayed at home.

“You English?” asked a tall hiker type.

“Yes,” said Agatha, grateful to be able to speak after such an enforced silence. “How long until we get there?”

“About an hour and a half. You could have gone by road, but it’s pretty rough.”

“Everything seems pretty rough,” remarked Agatha. Above her, black mountains and sheer cliffs soared up to the blue sky. No beaches. Nothing but barren rock. A great setting for a horror movie or a movie about aliens. Amazing, thought Agatha, how, because of satellite television, one forgot that the world was really still a large place.

“I thought it would be tropical,” she said.

“That’s because Daniel Defoe set Robinson Crusoe in the Caribbean.”

“Oh,” said Agatha and relapsed into gloomy silence.

She brightened only when the launch cruised into Cumberland Bay and she saw a small township and trees and flowers. She turned to the hiker. “Where is my hotel? The Panglas?”

“Over there. That red roof.”

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