Bill Blunt was next on Harry’s list of people to call, and he wasn’t about to pull any punches. He suspected that an article on Laurel McFry’s family might well be in draft stage, and could easily be heading for the front page of the Birkenhead Beagle - notwithstanding what he’d told Laurel.
“Bill?” he asked, when his old friend answered. “It’s Harry. I’m in Madrid… but I guess you already know that!”
In Birkenhead, Bill was surprised to receive the call. He’d given up hope that Harry might contact him, wondered, perhaps, if he might even be deliberately avoiding him.
“So, Harry - how’s it going?”
“I think I need an explanation, Bill. You see, I’ve had Laurel McFry on the phone. She’s none too happy that you’ve called her. Who put you onto her?”
Harry was trying to mask the anger in his voice, but Bill picked a shade of it up, nonetheless.
“Hey, Harry – calm down! No-one put me onto her. I found her myself: it’s my job, remember! And I’ve got a deadline to meet…”
“OK, OK. But you’ve got to appreciate this is a delicate situation. I can’t have you stomping all over it in your size nines.” Harry paused. Maybe he was being a bit unfair on Bill. “Look … I think it’s time you told me what you’ve got. If you want a story, I’ve got it for you, but you’re going to have to wait until next week’s Beagle.”
Bill wasn’t enamoured of the idea of a delay. But he knew that, for all his digging, he only had the bones of a story. He needed Harry, it was true. But maybe – just maybe – Harry needed him, too.
“What have you got on Harcourt?” Bill asked. Harry was a little taken aback by the question.
“Wait a second, Bill,” he said, as he lit a cigarette and inhaled deeply on the smoke. Danny watched as his colleague continued the call.
“That’s pretty much what I was going to ask you,” he said, finally.
“Tell me about the medals, then. I met Galloway, you know...” Bill thought this would make Harry sit up.
“I know: Laurel told me you mentioned him. I can’t tell you about the medals, Bill. But, anyway, this is about more than the medals. It’s a big story – and I can promise you, if you’ll just wait, you’ll get it first.”
They were sparring with each other, and neither of them wanted to give any ground. Bill was smarting, though. He saw visions of one of the nationals pre-empting his scoop: if seven days are a long time in politics, it can be an age for a weekly publication like the Beagle, and Bill knew it.
“Suppose I tell you about Harcourt, then. What do I get in return?”
Harry was wondering what he could trade, when all of a sudden the phone emitted a dull chirp, repeated for a few seconds.
“What’s that?” Bill asked.
“I don’t know. Is it another call coming through?” Harry said. As he pulled the phone away from his face to look at the screen he realized, to his horror, that the battery was dead. Bill was left, at the other end of the line, wondering why Harry might have hung up, and who the other caller might be.
“Damn that Harry McFry!” he said, angry that he’d made no progress from the call.
Danny Longhurst, meanwhile, was remembering, too late, that he’d forgotten to pack his phone charger before he’d left for Madrid. It was unusual for him to forget something like that. Well, there’s a first time for everything, I suppose.
That night, Dacre Lawrence injured himself. Even as Mabel Harris was leaving his room, he had become agitated, using what little strength he could muster to turn himself on his side to shout for the nurse. As he did so, he found himself rolling, unable to stop himself slipping from the bed to the floor. In the process, he caught the back of his head against the bedside cabinet and, as he lay prone on the floor, he could feel the blood slowly trickling down his face onto his neck.
It was over half an hour before a nurse arrived to check on Lawrence, and she immediately called for assistance to return him to his bed. Between them, the two dressed his wound, chatting all the while about their respective Saturday night’s out. They cleaned the dried blood from his face, but left him sitting up in bed in his spattered hospital pyjama top. Sadly, Mabel wasn’t expected back with a spare pair until the next day.
“Do you think it’s his wife?” one of the nurses said to her colleague. They were working quickly, this tiny drama in a room off the main ward an unexpected disturbance to their schedule.
“Who do you mean?” was the reply.
“You know – her who’s been visiting…”
“Oh … no. I shouldn’t think so. You don’t look the type to have a wife, do you, Dr Lawrence?” she said, smiling at the invalid. If she’d been able to interpret what Dr Lawrence meant as a withering look, then perhaps she’d have been more careful what she said.