Meanwhile, lest we forget…
When Lillian McFry answered the phone on Sunday morning, she might have thought it would be her friend, from further up the close of bungalows, just ringing (as she often did) to see how she was. They had a practiced repartee – honed over many years. “No need to ring the florist!” she would say.
Instead, though, she heard the measured tones of a voice she immediately recognized, and which sent an involuntary chill down her spine.
“Good morning, Mrs McFry,” was Cyril Galloway’s opening gambit, before he introduced himself. “I’m afraid I owe you an immense apology.”
Lillian wasn’t accustomed to having her apologies served to her in a dumper truck, so it wasn’t the best choice of words on the part of the auctioneer. Which was a shame, as he’d thought long and hard about how he should approach his call to Lillian. He’d known it wouldn’t be the easiest call he’d ever made in his life, but he’d realized he could afford to sacrifice a former friend’s reputation on the altar of his greed. Dacre Lawrence was in no position to argue, he knew, and the thought sustained him.
“I’m afraid that Dr Lawrence may have misinformed you,” he said.
“Mr Galloway.” Lillian was quite sure what she wanted to say, even though she hadn’t for a minute anticipated a call from the auctioneer. She was sharp and clinical in her response:
“I may be an old woman, but I have learned the hard way to keep my wits about me. I know full well that you were in league with Dr Lawrence. I’m afraid that whatever business the two of you had with me is done.”
“Well, not exactly, Mrs McFry. Would that it were. You see, I know all about Harry – and I know he has your medals.” He waited to see how she took the news. Was that an intake of breath at the other end of the line? Had he shocked her, as he’d planned?
“I am afraid I made a big mistake telling Dr Lawrence about the medals. I can assure you that I had no idea he was such a crook,” Galloway said, wondering if she would take the bait.
“Then you should take more care of the company you keep, Mr Galloway.” Not even a chink was showing in the old woman’s armour.
“I fear you may be right, of course. I can see that now, well enough. But you see, I never fully appreciated the true value of the medals.” Galloway was finding it difficult. He wasn’t used to apologizing – even when he didn’t mean it. “I never fully appreciated what you did for Spain. I know it was a long time ago. And I know, now, that your medals are worth considerably more than I said they were.” He paused a moment, to let her process his plea.
“You see, I was very fortunate to see, some many years ago, their companion pieces.”
“Companion pieces?” Lillian said. “What do you mean?”
“Come, come, Mrs McFry. I mean the set that was issued to Jonathan Harcourt, of course!”
Galloway had turned the key.