If Laurel McFry was a few minutes late for her meeting with Harry and Danny, she was able to use the time-honoured excuse of ‘finding a parking space’. There weren’t a whole lot of parking spaces close to Harry’s office, so to find one at all was a minor victory. As she walked into Harry’s office, she unbuttoned her overcoat, revealing an immaculate, black dress that was every inch as smart as the blue one she’d been wearing when she met Harry just a couple of days earlier. She hung her coat on a peg next to Harry’s, and took a seat next to Danny, nodding an acknowledgement to him. Harry noticed she had a black, A4 file on her lap as she curled into the seat.
“Well, then, Miss McFry,” Harry said, once she was seated, “seems like you’ve landed us with a puzzle alright.” He offered her a coffee, which she took, without milk. “Danny and I have spent quite a time wrestling with this one, I can tell you.” She noticed the implication, that the two of them were working together, but she was composed enough to reply “And what have you found?”
“Not a whole lot. But on the face of it, it does seem your McFry’s aren’t there.”
Harry was watching
“But you accept they should be?” she asked.
“There’s a suggestion – and that’s all it can be at this stage – that the original census images have been doctored. And we’ve got Danny here to thank for working that one out.”
Danny smiled. It was good to see Harry acknowledging his theory.
“It’s a relief, of some sorts, to know that I wasn’t going mad,”
“No one’s suggesting anyone’s mad,
Harry looked at Danny, who caught the cue. “Basically,
Harry chipped in: “And it’s not something someone would do on a whim. If we’re going to find out why, we’re going to need a lot more information from you – a whole lot more.”
Harry seemed to be consulting a mental checklist. “Motive. Our guess is there’s money behind all of this. Think. Who do you know who might want to go to such lengths, and why?”
“I really couldn’t say, Harry. Why would anyone do this?”
Harry was already getting a little impatient with his ‘cousin’. “You need to be just a little more frank with us, Laurel. We know next to nothing about Laurel McFry. But somebody else does.”
“That’s as maybe. But we still don’t know the ‘real’ Laurel McFry,” Harry said, taking a drink from his mug of coffee as he did so. “If you don’t mind, let’s start all over with your family tree.”
As he said this, Harry reached behind him for a sheet of A3 paper, and laid it on his desk.
‘Brilliant!’ thought Danny. Who would know that Harry was about to repeat an exercise he’d completed only a matter of ten minutes earlier?
“Father,” Harry said.
“Philip McFry. Born 1924. Died 2002.”
“And your mother?” Harry asked.
“Colleen Blyth. Born – I think – in 1938. All I know is she died aged 44, in 1982. I was seven.” Harry realized he had underestimated
Harry added Colleen to the new tree he was drawing. “It seems then, that your father must have been quite a bit older than your mother. How did they meet?”
“I really don’t know. They didn’t marry until 1970. I’m an only child,”
“Dad never really talked much about mum. I think he loved her very much, and it was just … too painful for him. I never felt … comfortable … asking him.”
“I realize none of this is easy,
Harry saw her eyes – bluer and deeper than he’d seen when he first met her - refocus on him.
“You see, Harry, I’ve never found a birth certificate for my mother. Here’s the marriage certificate.” She opened up the black, leather file she had on her lap, and drew out the copy of her mother and father’s marriage record, handing it to Harry.
Just as Danny had said, it gave Philip McFry’s father as James McFry, deceased clothing manufacturer, and Colleen Blyth’s father as ‘unknown’. Harry pretended this was new information (Danny noticed, and thought, not for the first time, that Harry should have been an actor), and made a note of it on his sheet.
“I know you were young at the time,
“We try not to make assumptions where family history is concerned,
“Yes. We have to start with what we know,” Danny said. Harry was pleased that Danny was on the same page.
“What about aunts and uncles, Laurel?” Harry asked. “Do you know whether your mother had any siblings?”
“If she did, she never spoke about them. I did have a look for other Blyths born around the same time as her. But I didn’t find any. In fact, I don’t think I have any aunts or uncles still alive, on either side of the family.”
“What about you father’s two brothers?” Harry asked.
It was the first time that
“Both dead before I was born. Stuart died in the war. Thomas, I found out from the death register, died in 1964.”
Harry added the information to the rudimentary tree he had been sketching out. A thought occurred to him. “Did you get the certificate, by any chance?”
“No,” Laurel said – realizing as she did so that she might just have made a fundamental error in not sending off for Thomas McFry’s death certificate. “McFry isn’t exactly a common name, Harry – I don’t have to tell you that, I am sure. When I found a death registered for a Thomas McFry, of the right age, I knew it must be him,” she said.
“Let’s not worry about that now. We can organize that pretty quickly,” Harry said, seeking to reassure her. No sense in making her feel more stupid than she already felt, he thought.
“OK. Let’s see where we are up to,” he said, checking his sketch. “Did you find any marriages for Stuart or Thomas?”
“I think Stuart married in 1938. I found probable marriage of a Stuart McFry to a Lorraine Beecham in that year. But he died in the war, and they had no children.
Harry considered this for a second or two. “And you’ve got the marriage certificate for Stuart and
“No.” To Harry, her answer seemed hesitant, reluctant even. “But I did find a Commonwealth War Graves Commission record which listed his wife as