Wednesday, 28 February 2007

Chapter 34

Danny arrived at Harry’s office about a quarter to ten: Harry had wanted a few minutes before Laurel arrived to check something out with him. Danny made himself at home, taking a mug of coffee Harry poured from a filter machine perched on top of a filing cabinet in the corner.

“We’ve got a bit of a problem here, Danny,” Harry said, leaning back in his chair with his arms folded behind his head.

“We haven’t got a motive for why anyone would go to quite such extreme lengths to hide Laurel McFry’s ancestors. I figure we’ve got to get some more information out of our Miss McFry, or this investigation is going to run up against the buffers. Are you absolutely certain she knows nothing about Lillian McFry?”

Danny considered the question a moment. “I don’t think she does. And the problem we’ve got is, we can’t tell her. My professional obligation is with Lillian, not Laurel,” he said.

The more Harry saw of Danny, the more he liked his style – ‘professional obligation’ weren’t words that figured heavy in Harry’s lexicon. But he saw the boy’s point.

“The starting point in all of this has got to be what we know,” Harry said. “And what we know is this: Lillian McFry, our little old lady in Telford, has a set of medals from the Spanish Civil War that are inscribed with the initials ‘LB’. Stan’s looking into that, by the way, and after we’ve finished with Laurel we’ll go across to see what he’d found.” Harry sat forward now, and took a glug of his coffee. “And we know that Lillian McFry claims to be Laurel McFry’s grandmother. So who was Laurel’s mother?” he asked Danny.

Laurel told me she doesn’t know much about her mother. Her name was Colleen Blyth, and she died in 1981, aged 44,” Danny replied, scanning a notepad on his lap. Laurel hasn’t been able to trace a birth for Colleen between 1930 and 1940. She’s got a copy of a marriage certificate for her father, Philip McFry, and Colleen, June 1970. Philip’s father is given as James McFry but Colleen’s father is given as ‘unknown’.”

Harry pulled a sheet of A3 paper from a shelf behind his desk, picked up a pencil and started to sketch out a rough family tree for Laurel McFry.

“OK. Let’s presume Lillian McFry is Laurel’s grandmother. We don’t actually know whether she’s her maternal or paternal grandmother, do we?”

Danny shook his head. “No, we know that James McFry – Laurel’s paternal grandfather, married an Anne Lawrence. She’s got all that. So it’s pretty safe to assume that Lillian is Colleen’s mother.”

It was Harry’s turn to shake his head. “We can’t assume anything in this business, Danny. She’s a McFry – either by birth or by marriage. That’s pretty much all we know.”

Harry could see that Danny was looking slightly embarrassed. He softened the blow: “But let’s assume she is, just to see where it takes us. Lillian would have had to have been born Lillian Blyth, and had her daughter out of wedlock. Or else her maiden name was McFry and she married a Blyth. Or maybe she just had a relationship with a Blyth. Then again, she might have been married more than once. Her maiden name might be something totally different.”

Danny was thinking of the old woman he had visited in Telford. It wasn’t easy to process thoughts of a 102 year old woman having had ‘relationships’. “I see what you mean,” Danny said, “it’s all starting to look pretty complicated.”

Harry adopted a sage-like countenance, nodding his head slightly: “It usually is where women are concerned, Danny – it usually is.” As he said this, he added a dotted line between the name Colleen Blyth and Lillian on the sheet in front of him.

“Now … what else do we ‘know’?” he asked.

Danny was scanning his notes again. “James McFry had three sons: Stuart, born in 1908, Thomas, born in 1911 and Philip, born in 1924 – Laurel’s father. Stuart died in 1944, Thomas in 1970,” he said.

“Where’s this information from, Danny?” Harry asked.

“It’s what Laurel told me when she asked me to look for her missing ancestors.”

“Have you checked it?” Harry asked. Danny had to admit that he hadn’t. “Well, let’s not worry too much about that now – we can always check it later,” Harry said, sketching the new names on the tree.

“Do we know anything more about Anne Lawrence – who married James McFry?” he asked.

“She had a brother, John James Lawrence. And he married…” Danny was flipping through his notes now, “…an Amy D Peterson.”

Harry added the information to the tree. He checked his watch. It was a couple of minutes from ten: Laurel should be here any minute. “Well here’s what we’ll do, Danny. We’ll start with scratch with Miss McFry. I want to find out what’s behind all this. No-one goes to the trouble of doctoring census images just for the sheer hell of it. My guess is there’s money behind all this – and I think our Miss McFry is holding something back.” With that, he folded away the sheet he’d been sketching on, stood up and made towards the filing cabinet. “You stay here, Danny,” he said, reaching for the coffee jug, “I’m just going to organize us all some brain fuel.” And he left the office, clutching the empty jug, and made his way to the small kitchen further up the corridor, just as the Town Hall clock started to strike the first of ten notes, faintly, in the distance.


Apple said...

Back home and finally catching up. I think this chapter just explained how Lillian could be both grandmother and aunt to Laurel. Of course when it come to genealogical puzzles I'm often wrong on my initial assumptions. Many mysteries yet to be solved. Well done!

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

You're smarter than Harry, Apple! I don't think he's anywhere near working out the puzzle just yet!

Thanks for your continued reading!