Monday, 12 March 2007

Chapter 47

On the desk between Harry and Danny, the copy certificates they’d asked for were laid out, haphazardly. Harry was checking them off, one by one, against the list Danny had prepared from the indexes. At the same time, there were a lot of thoughts spinning through his mind.

He didn’t know much about the Spanish Civil War – but he knew enough. Those post-it notes stuck in the corner of his brain were getting pretty crowded, but he added another one: ‘Find out about Jonathan Harcourt’. While the little Harry McFry who lived up there was sticking it up, he caught sight of the reminder to look into the issue of Laurel’s shares. Maybe he could ‘throw a stone at two birds’ as Ana used to put it, when she was struggling to learn English idioms.

“Danny – make sure this is everything we asked for. I need to make a call,” he said, passing Danny the list.

‘Time to call in a few favours,’ Harry was thinking, as he picked up the phone. Moments later, he was through to his contact.

“Bill? It’s Harry here.”

From the other end of the line, Harry heard William Blunt’s deep guffaw of a laugh: “Harry McFry, GPI! My favourite private investigator! What’s happening, Harry?”

“I need you to check something out for me,” Harry said. He’d known Bill Blunt for only a little more than five years, but sometimes Harry thought it had been much longer, so familiar had they become. A respected journalist on the Birkenhead Beagle, Blunt it was who had broken the story of Harry solving the mystery of the Hartshorns. Since then, they’d shared a drink or two, usually in ‘The Letters’, a pub across the street which was Bill’s favourite haunt. A lot of people mistook Bill Blunt as a pompous old reactionary, but Harry knew there were depths to his friend that others never suspected. He liked Bill – he was a straight-down-the-middle sort of guy. He liked him better when he responded: “Just say the word, Harry boy. What’s the problem?”

Harry could sense that Bill smelled a story. ‘Better not give too much away, Harry’, he thought to himself. “It’s like this, Bill. I need to know who owns McFry and Sons now. Can you help?”

Sat in the corner of his office, half a mile away, Bill Blunt checked who was around. Over the way, he noticed a young girl reading a magazine on her late lunch break, and smiled to himself. “Sure, Harry. I’ll have my staffer look into it, and get back to you. You OK?”

There was a genuine concern in Blunt’s words, Harry noticed. He wondered what he knew. “Yeah, Bill, everything’s fine. But if you could get that information for me, I’d be grateful.”

Bill Blunt was trained to spot a lie when he heard it. The word on the street was right, he thought. Harry was on his uppers. Still, if there was something he could do to help him, he would. “Anything else, Harry?” he asked, not quite as an afterthought.

Harry paused a moment, before replying. “Yes. I need to find out about a Jonathan Harcourt – a journalist on the Daily Herald before the war. Anything you can get,Bill. But mostly what happened to him after he was in Spain during the Civil War.”

Bill asked Harry to spell out the name. “Sounds like you’re working on something interesting just now, Harry … want to let Bill in on it?” Bill Blunt hadn’t got where he was today by letting a possible story slip his grip.

“Can’t tell you now, Bill – I haven’t got the time. But if there’s a story in this somewhere, you know who’ll be getting it first,” Harry said.

Danny Longhurst paused from checking off the list Harry had given him, and saw his colleague was smiling, broadly, but just as quickly as Harry noticed that Danny was watching, the smile vanished. “Think you can help, Bill?” he asked.

Over in the newspaper offices, Bill Blunt was thinking. The Daily Herald ceased publication in 1964. More than forty years ago. He’d been a cub reporter out in Stockport at the time when the paper changed its name to the Sun, and he’d watched its political slant summersault backward and forwards ever since that date. It might be a tall order getting information on this Jonathan Harcourt chap. But it’s a brave man indeed who accuses Bill Blunt of ducking a challenge. “Don’t you worry, Harry. I think I’ve got an idea. Give me until the end of the day.” And with that, Blunt rang off, summoning his ‘staffer’ across from her desk, where she left her half-eaten sandwich, her diet Coke and her copy of a gossip magazine, until later.

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