The paseo was new to Danny. Sitting outside a café in the corner of the Plaza Mayor, the thin, wintry sun sitting lower in the sky, he marveled at the procession around the square.
“And this happens every day?” Danny asked Harry, intrigued by the spectacle of hundreds of people walking in groups, mainly around the edge of the plaza, but sometimes criss-crossing it. Their movement was slow, relaxed and casual.
“Sure. Not just in Madrid, either. You’ll find it in the smallest town or even village.” Harry was starting to relax a little, now. In fact, he was feeling more tired than he had done in a long time, the effect of two late nights in a row taking their toll on his mind and body. Danny noticed it: Harry wasn’t drinking as quickly as he’d seen him do before, even if he never seemed to have a cigarette out of his mouth the whole time since they left the flat.
“So, what’s the plan, Harry?” he asked, eventually.
Harry realized he hadn’t got so far as having a plan, and he knew, now, that this had been a big mistake. He’d drifted into Madrid, thought he’d rely on his wits, but these were more than a little shell-shocked, it was clear.
“Well, I guess I need to ring Laurel McFry – and Bill, of course. I think we should see her before we see Lillian,” Harry said, thinking aloud.
Danny wanted to know what he planned to tell Laurel. “We need to be careful, Harry. We haven’t really got to the bottom of her missing family.”
Harry rubbed his chin. Danny was right. But Laurel deserved to know she could relax a little about her financial position. It was not only less bleak than she realized, it was positively sunny. Danny had only got as far as telling Harry that he’d done a little research into Lawrence and Galloway.
“Perhaps you’d better tell me what you found out about our friends in Thirsk and Telford,” Harry said, “that way we can work out what Laurel needs to know.”
Danny pulled his notepad from his backpack, and started leafing through his notes.
“First thing to know is that it’s highly likely that Dacre Lawrence’s father was a brother to Anne Lawrence, who was mother to the McFry brothers,” Danny said.
“Highly likely?” Harry asked. He was back on home turf, now – questioning, teasing apart, pulling out facts in the cynical way he’d made his own.
“Well … I couldn’t find them on the 1901 census together. Anne’s there, but John Lawrence wasn’t born until ,,,” (a slight pause while he consulted his notes) “…1908.”
“John Lawrence? This is supposed to be Dacre’s father, then?” Harry thought a moment. “And the evidence that they’re siblings?”
“Dacre Lawrence said his father was a cousin to Thomas McFry. Here’s Dacre Lawrence’s birth registered in Thirsk in the December Quarter of 1946,” Danny replied, pointing to the GRO reference number. “And here’s the only marriage of a Lawrence in the Thirsk area in that year – John, to a Margaret Spears. That would give us the Margaret Lawrence who was the witness at Philip McFry’s wedding.”
“OK. But what about other Lawrence marriages? Just because Dacre was born in Thirsk, it doesn’t mean his parents were married there.” Harry was enjoying being the bearer of bad news.
“Sometimes you get a hunch, Harry…” Danny said. And, it was true – sometimes, in family history, you had to work on that strange, instinctive feeling that something ‘seemed’ to fit. Harry knew that as much as anyone else, but it didn’t fit with his triangulation process. He wanted more evidence before he believed a hunch.
“It’s a big step from locating Dacre Lawrence’s father to saying he’s a brother to Anne Lawrence, Danny. You’re going to need certificates to bridge that gap…” Harry seemed to be thinking of something, while he spoke.
“I know. I thought you could ask your source at Southport…” Danny said, slightly apprehensively.
Harry didn’t like to acknowledge that Danny had guessed he had a link into the GRO certificate section: his own personal fast-track to births, deaths and marriages. But he knew it was the only way to move forward.
“I’ll ring her tomorrow,” he said, “first thing. That way, we might have them for our return to Birkenhead.”
Danny relaxed. He felt, at last, that they were working together. Somewhere deep in Harry’s mind, though, alarm bells were ringing.
“Wait a minute, though … didn’t you say that Laurel told you her father had an uncle called John James Lawrence, who had married an Amy Peterson?”
Danny was impressed that Harry had recalled this information, which he had scribbled in his notes from his first discussion with Laurel.
“Yep – but it was another of Laurel’s mistakes, just like she got Thomas McFry’s date of death wrong. She was looking at a different Lawrence family altogether – I found them in the 1901 census, but Anne was the wrong age. Just a red herring, Harry!”
Danny had done well, there was no doubt about that. But Harry would save the plaudits until later, he decided. Still, something put him in a good mood, whether it was Danny’s success with mining the records, or the knowledge that Laurel McFry might have slipped up again with her own researches. One thing was certain, however: he guessed Danny might have made a mistake in transcribing the year of John Lawrence’s birth – either that, or he might have to revisit his own theory about Dacre Lawrence’s father…
“Now,” Harry said, “I’m going to need your phone, if you don’t mind. I think I know now that we’ve still got to keep things vague with Laurel – although she deserves to know about the money. As for Bill Blunt … I’m definitely going to keep it vague where he’s concerned!”
With that, he reached across for the phone that Danny had pulled from his pocket, along with a scrap of paper with Laurel McFry’s number on it.
“Thanks, Danny,” he said, with a smile, “how’d you guess I didn’t have her number?”
Mabel Harris had been troubled by Dave Morris’ visit to ‘her’ practice. Although he’d made it clear that the purpose of his visit was purely to investigate Dacre Lawrence, she couldn’t help but worry that some of her own ‘indiscretions’, petty financial wrongdoings that they may be, might be disturbed in the process.
Perhaps that’s why she had determined to see what she could find that might assist Mr Morris in his investigations? Whatever the reason, as she pulled up outside his flat, wreathed in early evening darkness, she had a pretty good idea of what she might be looking for: anything to do with family history. Switching off the engine, she left the lights lingering for a moment on the windows of the ground floor apartment where Lawrence lived, the curtains gaped open just as he had left them on the day he’d gone for his little trip to Telford.
She reached into her handbag for his keys, and killed the lights.
Minutes later, she was pushing open his front door, where only a few pieces of mail provided any resistance. She switched on the hall light, and looked around. It was modest enough, for such a financially successful GP, she thought. But then, he didn’t have any family. She wondered what he did with his money, if he didn’t lavish it on his home?
She found his study, and clicked the switch on a standard lamp in the corner of the room. A pool of light spilled across a small coffee table next to his computer’s printer, which sat on another small table in front of Lawrence’s desk. There, in a neat pile on the coffee table, were what to Mabel’s eye looked like certificates of birth, death and marriage, stacked maybe half an inch high.
She knew what she had to do, and leant across to flick the printer on. It was a similar model to the one’s they used at work, and Mabel knew she’d be able to copy the certificates in a matter of minutes. After pushing them into the automatic feed, and setting the machine away, she went off to hunt for the pair of pyjamas she’d promised Lawrence, smiling to herself as she left the room. David Morris would have cause to thank her, she was sure, when she rang him the next day.