Thursday, 19 July 2007

Chapter 124

What led Cyril Galloway to decide to visit Dacre Lawrence on Monday afternoon, we will probably never know. Subsequent enquiries determined that the trip wasn’t outlined in his diary, so we can only speculate why he might have felt he needed to make an unscheduled trip all the way to Yorkshire to see his ‘friend’. Perhaps it was some sense of chagrin, that the doctor had seemed to suggest he (Galloway) might double cross him? Maybe he was covering all bases, anxious to give Lawrence the impression that all was well between them, so that when (or if) he recovered, no one could point a finger at him? He might be able to clear the air before his visit to see Lillian McFry the next day.

Whatever the reason, he enjoyed the drive over the Pennines, despite the atrocious weather. As he entered his home county, he braved the rain and wound the window down to breath in the air. ‘God’s own earth,’ he thought to himself, as he sped along the motorway. When he finally pulled into Northallerton, the rain had eased a little. He was, he reminded himself, on ‘the drier side of Britain’, a phrase he liked to use to describe the east of England because it reminded him of the old railway posters that proclaimed the same fact. He found the hospital easily enough, even though it had been some years since he’d been back to the area. As a nurse led him to Lawrence’s room, he straightened his tie. He had, he realized, always been the junior partner in their ‘business.’ The doctor had always taken the lead, until this time.

Earlier, Mabel Harris had visited Lawrence, bringing his change of pyjamas. She’d sat with him for a while, resisting the urge to taunt him about the certificates she’d found when she’d gone to his flat the previous evening.
“Are they treating you alright, Dr Lawrence? I imagine they are. An important person like you. They’ll be looking after you, I’ve no doubt.” Her words had sounded more patronizing than ever to her employer. He’d responded as he had done to anything she’d said during her visits, by staring resolutely at the wall ahead of him.
“What happened to your head? “ she’d asked, even though she knew all about Lawrence’s fall from the bed, courtesy of a brief word from the nurse in charge, as she’d passed the nursing station. “You’ll have to be more careful, doctor. You could do yourself a real injury.”

She’d glanced briefly around the room, noticing that whoever had dressed his wound had left the remnants of the bandage on the locker at the side of his bed, together with the scissors they’d used. “Slapdash – that’s what I call it!” she’d said, as much to herself as to Lawrence.

Shortly after she left, one of the members of staff had hurriedly changed his pyjama jacket, so that when Galloway arrived an hour or so later, he looked a little more presentable than he might otherwise have done.

“Hello, Dacre,” Galloway had said, as he entered the room. Lawrence seemed startled to see him, his eyes betraying anxiety and anguish in equal measure. Galloway, for his part, was shocked to see the bandage wrapped around his friend’s head. He wondered, for a moment, if he’d had some sort of operation on his brain. He stood at the foot of the bed, trying to gauge the extent of Lawrence’s disability.
“I thought I’d see how you are. Can you talk?” The question might have seemed insensitive, to someone who had suffered a stroke, but it wasn’t meant to be. Whatever Lawrence might think of him, Galloway knew that their relationship went back a long way. Without him, after all, he would hardly be running his own auction house in Telford.

“I hope you’re not upset by what I told you when I rang the other day. I thought you knew all about the McFry’s, and Jonathan Harcourt,” Galloway said. Just then, the thought occurred to him that, perhaps, Lawrence might not have known, after all. What if – heaven forbid – it had been him telling Lawrence what he knew that had precipitated the stroke? He would never forgive himself.

He thought his friend’s lips seemed dry and cracked, saw him seem to struggle to move his hands and arms, while his mouth and larynx failed, again, to do their master’s bidding.
“Let me get you some water, Dacre,” he said, turning to leave the room to find a glass and jug when he couldn’t see one there.

Whatever Herculean effort was required by Lawrence to finally lift his heavy limb, we will never know. But somehow, in the brief minute or so that Galloway was out of the room, he mustered the strength of body and will to reach across to the bedside cabinet, where he’d seen the scissors lying – exactly as the nurse had left them.

*

In his office in Cardiff, Dave Morris was explaining to his superior, Tom Gauntless, where he was up to with the investigation into Lawrence. Jane Tobias was sitting on a chair against the wall.
“I’m due to see a Lillian McFry tomorrow – I think she’s the key to this, along with someone called Cyril Galloway,” he said.
“What’s your evidence?” Gauntless asked.
“Lawrence’s notes. They’re a bit sketchy, but when you link them to the records he accessed, it starts to tell a story.”
“Don’t forget, he’s also implicated in fabricating census images on the family history websites,” Jane chipped in.
“Is that anything to do with us?” Gauntless asked.

Dave Morris would have preferred to have kept this angle of his inquiry under wraps from his boss.
“Insofar as he made cash payments to a young trainee from his practice to do that for him, yes – I think it is. I suspect the money came straight out of the practice budget.” Morris suspected nothing like that, just yet, but he thought Gauntless would find the explanation to his liking.
“So. You’re seeing Mrs McFry tomorrow? You know we’re still under pressure to get a report together on this one quickly - I don’t think I need to tell you why…”
Dave Morris knew his boss was still under pressure to get results from the Gilbert project.
“Don’t worry, Tom. We can do this, can’t we, Jane?” Jane smiled, confidently, and nodded her response, even as she wondered what Dave might have up his sleeve. It had better be good: Gauntless, she knew, wasn’t in the business of accepting second-rate work.

When their boss had left the room, Dave pulled open the file he’d prepared over the weekend.
“Here you are, Jane – take a look at this…” he said, as he pulled out a typewritten copy of Lawrence’s notes, which he’d put together the previous day. Jane Tobias studied the notes. Yes, she could see, alright. Suddenly, it almost started to hang together.

*

Sometimes we look for complex reasons to explain why certain things happen at certain times. When you discover that your great-grandfather was married on Christmas Day, for example, you might be tempted to assume he possessed a romantic streak that the general facts belie. In reality, it was much more common than you’d imagine, since it was one of the few days of the year when both parties to a marriage might be assured of not having to go to work, whether that be in a cotton mill or as a house servant. So, Christmas Day was often one of the busiest for nuptials in a cleric’s calendar.
Similarly, we might wonder why, against all the odds of probability, Lillian McFry was scheduled to receive so many visitors on Tuesday. Some readers might even suspect this is merely a writer’s device to allow Danny and Harry to get back from Madrid on Monday, and to build a certain tension in the plot. The thought’s unworthy.
The simple reason was that Monday was usually the busiest day in Lillian’s weekly schedule. Her nurse visited her, of course, but it was also the day she had her hair done. The very thought that she might receive guests without her hair being carefully coiffured was one which, even at the age of 102, she couldn’t possibly entertain.

And so, our story hinges – to some degree at least – on Doreen Parminster, middle-aged, mobile hairdresser and spinster of this parish who, in turn, liked to keep Mondays reserved for her OAPs, so that her entry into the working week was as undemanding as she could engineer it. Doreen usually saw Lillian mid-afternoon, and enjoyed her visits there. She’d lost her own grandmother a couple of years earlier at the tender age of 95, but had always enjoyed her tales of life between the wars. Lillian was now her last real link to that era, since an old age pensioner these days was more likely to have been a mod or a rocker in the 1960’s than anything else.

“So, Lillian,” she said, as she put the finishing touch to her styling, “what’s the week got in store for you?”
Lillian smiled. “Tomorrow promises to be quite interesting. Do you remember I told you once about Jonathan?” she asked.
“Oh, yes – I remember!” Doreen had exclaimed, pausing to perch on the arm of a chair to listen the better. Lillian had indeed told her about Jonathan Harcourt – more than once - and the sweetness and the sadness of the tale had beguiled her.
“Well, I’ve organized it so that tomorrow I’m going to finally find out what happened to him.” And she explained how, with the kind of guile and cunning that she might have assumed had been blunted by years of under use, she had arranged for a number of people who all, in their own way, knew a little about Jonathan, to visit her the following day.
Doreen was excited: “Oh, Lillian – that’s wonderful! I can’t wait to find out what you discover.”
Neither could Lillian.

9 comments:

Enumerator said...

Are we now heading for the Hercule Poirot moment, with all the protagonists gathered in Lillian's drawing room for the denouement?

But who is to be the Poirot figure?

Could it be Lillian herself, or that johnny on the make from the Fraud Squad? Will Bill Blunt invite himself? Will Ana fly in to sweep Harry off his feet?

Enough of this conjecture. I must show some patience and wait for the closing episodes (but hurry up, Harry, I'm off on my hols on Saturday)

the domestic minx said...

While I don't want this wonderful tale to end, I can feel it building to a climax I can hardly resist!
The tension is unbearable.

And I am horribly disturbed by the scissors...
*wince*

Fanton said...

I echo Doreen's sentiments exactly.

What WILL we discover? Anticipation...too...much!

70steen said...

Do you realise you are not allowed 'a life' mid climax of Harry!!
great stuff Tom :-)

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Well, Enumerator, I can only wish you a happy holiday and apologise for not being able to reach a conclusion before you leave. At least the 'other' Harry's out tonight!

Thank you, again, domestic minx. Ah yes ... the scissors...!

Thanks, fanton!

Oh, I do like the idea of a life mid-crisis, 70steen!

70steen said...

No it was a life 'mid climax!' Tom lol! (It is I who speed reads and gets the wrong end of the proverbial stick!)

Theresa111 said...

…as I am, disturbed by those shiny scissors. Don't want to think about it Minx!

I know you have been so busy Thomas. Simply wanted to send you lots of encouragement and hugs too. You are a fine writer and we all very much enjoy reading your Harry McFry.

Oops! 1 AM…I've got to hit the sack. Fabulous day.

Shinade said...

The true art of a gifted writer...you deliver your tales with such wonderful intrigue and detail and without an ounce of grandiosity or prtentiousness!!~jackie

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Thank you all for your encouragement (and lovely words)! Intermittent internet access and one or two other ah.. 'pressures' have certainly broken my flow a little!