Friday, 30 March 2007

Chapter 63

Harry had forgotten – or never realized - that Lillian McFry had never explicitly mentioned her age to Danny during their previous meetings – and he could be forgiven for giving himself a swift, mental kick as he worked out what he’d said. Little wonder, then, if Lillian was tempted to retreat behind the barricade she’d built up so successfully over the years.
‘Who are you, really,’ she was thinking to herself, ‘that you know more about me than I ever told your ‘son’?’
She pulled herself straight in her chair, wondering for a moment whether she should just stay there, safe in her past, or whether, after all, she could trust this ‘Mr Longhurst’.
“I think you owe me an explanation, Mr Longhurst. If that is who you really are,” Lillian said, casting a glance over towards a very discomforted-looking Danny.

Harry had to think fast. He knew, all too late, that he’d blown his cover, given too much information in a throwaway remark. He sensed this Lillian McFry was not only younger looking than her age, but a darn site smarter than your average centenarian. Maybe he could bluff it out: it had been a guess? ‘No good, Harry’, he thought – he’d been too specific. He heard the ticking of the clock on the sideboard, felt his collar getting tight. In an instant, he knew what he had to do.
“We’ve not been – I’ve not been – entirely truthful with you, Mrs McFry, he said, and waited for a reaction – any reaction – from Lillian. He caught the merest flicker of a smile cross the woman’s mouth, but he knew it said ‘I may be 102, but I’m still ‘all there’.’
“My name is Harry McFry. I’m a genealogical private investigator,” he continued, noticing Danny seem to shrink in his chair. This wasn’t going to be easy, Harry thought. Lillian appeared shocked.
“McFry, you say? Please don’t tell me you’re one of those McFrys!” Her voice spoke a genuine alarm, which made Harry wonder what it was that the McFrys had done to Lillian, to make her so – apparently – embittered.
“No, no … I can assure you it’s entirely co-incidental. I’m here merely because Danny contacted me about your medals. You see, I have reason to believe that someone is after them. Or, more precisely, the piece of paper that was with them.” Harry paused again, looking for a response from Lillian.
“You had better explain yourself further, Mr McFry,” was all she said. Danny was looking more uncomfortable by the minute.
“When Danny contacted me, I took the liberty of showing your medals to someone I know who deals in military memorabilia. He contacted someone who is an expert in the Spanish Civil War and, yesterday, I had the chance to meet him.”
Lillian was wondering what it took to become an ‘expert’ in the Spanish Civil War. It was galling to know that there were people making a living out of the experiences that she, and thousands of others, had gone through. But that, she supposed, was what ‘history’ was all about.
Harry continued. “Does the name Cyril Galloway mean anything to you?” he asked.
Lillian was sharp in her response. “Mr Galloway is a crook. I would not trust Mr Galloway to walk my dog – always supposing I had one.”
“Yes, I know. The thing is, Mrs McFry, I know that this Cyril Galloway has been to view your medals. I know that because he told Colin McAllistair so.” ‘Wait, Harry!’ the voice inside his head was saying, ‘see how she takes that!’
“I’m afraid I don’t know anyone called Colin McAllistair. But you are right, Mr Galloway did come to view the medals. What else do you know, Mr McFry?” Lillian was playing cat and mouse, Harry thought. And he didn’t enjoy being the mouse.
“I think someone else is behind all of this. I think that piece of paper with the medals may be a will of some sort. And I think someone wants to get their hands on it more than even the medals.” Harry paused, wondering if this last piece of information would open Lillian McFry up, but he sensed at the same time that this ‘little old lady’ was harder than any woman he had ever met in his life.
“Then it seems to me, Mr McFry, that you think too much!” Lillian seemed too be retreating again. ‘Try another tack, Harry!’ the voice inside him said.
“OK. Does the name Jonathan Harcourt mean anything to you?”
Danny felt the awful silence after Harry had asked the question envelope him like a blanket. Lillian McFry seemed to be struck speechless by Harry’s latest foil. He just hoped Harry knew what he was doing.


David Hodges said...

This is a fascinating idea, Thomas. More power to you for posting as you go. Is this the first McFry mystery? And are you really writing as you post (or posting as you write?)?

The metaphor that comes to mind is diving from a high board, THEN looking for the pool. You're a brave man either way.

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

As Bill Blunt would say, David 'It's a brave man who dives head first into a pool of metaphors' and I'm afraid I have been foolhardy enough to attempt it.

Yes, Harry McFly is genuinely being written 'on the fly'.

I'm very lucky in having readers who are kind enough to point out any obvious errors the spot as they wade their way through the story - and there have been one or two, along the way, as you will see!

Thanks for reading!

Kind Regards