Saturday, 10 March 2007

Chapter 45

By the time the fax machine had stopped printing in the corner of his office, Harry had assembled a selection of birth, marriage and death certificates that he thought might help Danny and him unravel the mystery of Laurel McFry’s parentage and – more particularly – that of her mother, Colleen Blyth. It suddenly seemed to Harry, however, that the thought had been midwife to a stillbirth.

He’d sent Danny out for lunch, and his new colleague had told Harry he’d go home to collect his laptop, so they could work alongside each other in the afternoon. While Danny was out, Harry poured himself a whisky and savoured its brackish flavour.

He’d rung Stan Redfearn, who gave him the number for McAllistair’s dealer, one Cyril Galloway. “Say, Harry,” Stan had said, “you got a problem with Colin McAllistair?” Harry was careful how he’d replied. “Not a problem, Stan. It’s just I’ve seen his type before. I’d rather deal with the organ grinder than the monkey.” Stan seemed to accept this, and they’d rung off with Harry promising him he’d let him know how much he got for the medals, when he sold them. “Don’t forget your old pal Stan, Harry!” he’d exclaimed. Harry had reassured him he wouldn’t.

Harry had found Cyril Galloway easily enough on Google, and saw that the telephone number tallied with that of an auction house in Telford where Galloway seemed to work. So much, so clear, Harry had thought. Galloway must have seen Lillian McFry’s medals down there. Maybe he and Danny would have to arrange a visit down to see Lillian McFry, he’d thought.

Whoever this Cyril Galloway was, there was a chance he was key to part of the mystery they were working on. He’d turned to look again at the paper he’d pulled from the medal box. It was in Spanish, alright, and he’d cursed himself for not having learnt the language. It wasn’t as if he hadn’t had the opportunity. He’d traveled too and fro between Madrid and Liverpool for over two years, during his relationship with Ana. Oh, he could ‘get by’ over there, well enough: order a drink, buy a newspaper, book a hotel room. But the paper in front of him looked more like a legal document, full of lengthy, technical phrases. He’d focused in on a couple of sentences, and brought up Babelfish on his computer.

Typing them in as best he could, he’d pressed the ‘translate’ button and waited to see what the programme made of them. As he’d read the result, his heart had sunk: ‘…and the foregoing shall revert at all opportunity to the daughter, before the son shall take it. If it shall proof that no-one succeeds it will go then to another…’. It sounded like a will of some sort, Harry thought. But Babelfish was useless - he needed a fluent Spanish speaker, he’d thought. And he only knew one of those.

By the time Danny had returned with his laptop, the fax machine had stopped spewing out the results of their earlier researches.

“Still raining out there, Danny?” Harry asked, as Danny set the laptop up on the desk beside Harry’s PC.

“’Fraid so, Harry,” Danny had said, turning to hang his jacket on the peg over Harry’s coat.

“Here we are, then,” Harry said, pleased that Linda had been able to get the results to him so quickly. He presented the young man with a sheaf of papers. He’d make sure he paid her extra for this one, he thought; another mental sticky note: ‘Take Linda out for a meal sometime.’ “Now we can really start to put Laurel’s family together.” And he’d been optimistic they would, too.

As the two of them began trying to make sense of the birth, marriage and death certificates in front of them, though, it became clear that Harry’s optimism was misplaced.

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