Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Chapter 66

Danny Longhurst was getting worried. He’d trusted Harry –he was his ‘partner’, after all. But it seemed to him that everything Harry was saying was making Lillian McFry more anxious than she needed to be. First of all, he’d blown his cover by a making a stupid reference to her exact age. Then, he’d seemed to retrieve the situation by playing the ‘honesty’ card (even if it did paint Danny as someone who couldn’t be trusted with doing a simple job without calling for help from an outsider). To cap it all, he’d made the poor woman feel like an idiot, raising the ante by mentioning Jonathan Harcourt. He’d have played it a differently himself, he was thinking – a lot differently.
Still, he had to admire Harry. He’d walked in there, expecting to take a back seat to the game, yet there he was, tossing his chips down. ‘What have you got up your sleeve now, Harry?’ he was thinking, as he watched the thin face of Lillian McFry, just a shadow of the photograph on the sideboard.
But just then, Danny’s mobile phone began to ring. He shot a glance at Harry, noticing it seemed to startle Lillian from her train of thought. Harry indicated, with a nod of his head, that Danny had better take the call outside the room. Fumbling the phone from his pocket, he stood up and made his way to the hallway.

As Danny left the room, Harry smiled towards Lillian, almost conspiratorially: “Kids!” he said. “They’ve all got them, these days. Don’t see the use in them myself.” Lillian didn’t need to know that Harry had been what the phone companies liked to call an ‘early adopter’ – had bought a mobile phone for himself over ten years ago, upgrading every year to the latest model. Until, that was, he’d lost his phone at the airport. Then, he’d wondered long and hard about replacing it, but his finances hadn’t allowed it. It was something on his list of ‘things to do’, but just now it was low on the list of post-it priorities.
“I do know what a mobile telephone is, Mr McFry,” Lillian said.
Harry responded quickly, conscious that he’d hurt her with the news about Harcourt, and thinking how patronizing he must have sounded: “Of course. I didn’t mean to suggest anything. Now…” he said, leaving the word trailing, like a hook on a line, “I need to ask you about someone else – if you don’t mind, that is?”
“It seems to me, Mr McFry, that I don’t have much choice. You know more about me than I know about you. I can only speculate why that might be. But…” she replied – and Harry saw she was casting her own line – “I think you should know that I do not take kindly to people who deceive me.”
Harry shifted a little uncomfortably on his chair. “I’m sorry that I came here under false pretences, Mrs McFry. But I did so to protect someone else. I can’t tell you anything more about that. I have a professional duty to another client.” Harry wasn’t sure that would be the end of Lillian’s suspicions, but he had a few other cards he wanted to play, and he noticed that she’d waited until Danny was out of the room to be so frank with him. That had to be a good sign.
“Who is Margaret Lawrence?” he asked.
Lillian gazed into the far distance, as if trying to place a name that eluded her grasp.
“I’m afraid I don’t know a Margaret Lawrence, Mr McFry,” she said, finally. Then – thankfully, for Harry’s sake – she seemed to reflect a moment more. “The McFrys, you know – they’re connected to the Lawrences.”
Lillian paused for a moment. “But I expect you know that already,” she said. There was just the faintest hint of sarcasm in her voice.
Harry caught sight of Danny, who had finished his call and was about to enter the room. Everything about Harry was screaming to the boy ‘No! Stay There!’
Thankfully, Danny got the message. He hovered in the doorway as Harry refocused on Lillian.
“No. I don’t know about that connection. Please – tell me what you know. In family history, every detail can be a clue,” he said, wondering whether this might be the break he needed.
Lillian seemed to be considering her response. ‘This is it, Harry – you’ve got her now!’ he thought.
“There’s more to family history than pieces of paper, Mr McFry,” she said, almost sadly.
“I had a visit just this week, you know, from one of the Lawrences. Oh yes, he would have loved to get his hands on my medals. But I told him I didn’t have them any more. Which of course, was true.”
She glanced towards the doorway, where Danny stood, wondering whether he should come in just yet.
“I just pray they are safe, Mr McFry. For Laurel’s sake,” she said.
She had hardly completed the sentence when the phone on the table by her chair began it’s sharp, insistent ring.

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