Saturday, 28 July 2007

Chapter 128


Harry was already at his office in Melrose Buildings when Danny arrived. He’d got there just before 7pm, and had caught Henry, the janitor, locking the main doors to the building.

“You can leave those open!” he’d said, as he approached him from behind. Henry had swung around, a broad grin on his face.

“Well, if it ain’t Mr McFry! How was your trip?” Harry hadn’t told him much about why he’d been going to Madrid, but Henry had imagined his weekend adventure was probably more ‘pleasure’ rather than ‘business’. He’d heard a thing or two on the grapevine about Harry McFry’s love affair with the city – or at least with someone who lived there.

“Oh, not too bad - you know. It’s hard to go to a place like that and not enjoy yourself.” If only it were true, Harry had thought, even as he said the words. “What about you, Henry? Much been happening around here?”

“Just the usual. A bit quieter than last week, anyway! Ma Shipman’s certainly been in a better mood. She’s gone to visit her sister for a couple of days. So, old Henry’s in charge of the fort.”

Harry had seemed a little un-nerved by the news of his landlady’s departure – much to Henry’s surprise. “When’s she back?” he’d asked, trying to seem casual about it.

“Sometime tomorrow is all I know. You going to be long here tonight, Mr McFry?”

Henry had seen an unexpected relief in Harry’s face when he told him about Ma Shipman’s anticipated return, and as he pushed open the door and moved into the foyer, Harry had turned to him and said: “Just a couple of hours, I should think. Don’t worry – I’ll lock up.”

“Well, don’t you forget to set the alarm when you leave, will you?” he’d asked. He needn’t have worried. If it was the last thing Harry did, he’d make sure he set that alarm.

*

When Danny rolled up around a half hour later, Harry’s office was already a fug of smoke, and he saw that the coffee jug was almost empty. Harry was sitting behind his desk, leafing through a pile of papers. The hard disk of the battered, old PC was whirring away, and a mug of coffee rested perilously close to the edge of the desk. Near the window, a flip chart had been erected on an easel, but its pages were still virgin white. Harry didn’t even look up as Danny entered, didn’t acknowledge him as he dumped his bag on the floor, loosened his coat and sat on the seat in front of the desk.

“Am I late? I thought you said 7.30pm?”

Harry looked up, startled to see Danny there. His eyes seemed to be on fire, and Danny could recognize someone who was in the same kind of ‘zone’ he himself had been in just a day or so before in the internet café in Madrid.

“No, no – you’re OK. I was early, that’s all. Here,” he said, smiling as he pushed a small sheaf of paper across to Danny, “you’re going to love this!”

His colleague reached to pick the papers up, trying to hide a grimace as he simultaneously stood up and moved across to open the window.

“What?” Harry asked, his annoyance difficult to mask..

“I can’t work in these conditions, Harry. I’m sorry. If I’ve got to be here for a few hours, I need some fresh air!”

“Whatever you say, kid,” Harry said, with a resigned look on his face, noticing for the first time just how polluted he’d managed to make his office in little more than half an hour. The ashtray on the other side of his desk was almost half full.

Sitting back down, Danny scanned the first sheet, before passing it back to Harry.

“Err … I guess I wasn’t supposed to read this one,” he said, trying to prevent his face going redder than he knew it already must be.

Harry looked quizzical: “What do you mean?” But when he saw it was the cover note that Ana had attached to the report she’d faxed through, he understood Danny’s discomfort. Only two words and an exclamation mark, but they hinted that Harry’s parentage might well be called into question.

“Oh … yes. You’re right. Forget about it. Just read the report.” When Harry had first read Ana’s words, he’d laughed. If she’d only known how stupid he’d been, maybe she’d have a different opinion of him? He’d managed, though, to dismiss her comments in an instant, as he’d wanted more than anything to read the DNA findings so that, when he’d passed the pages to Danny, he’d quite forgotten what she’d written.

Danny was soon engrossed in the technical detail of the report that had been prepared by Ana’s friend at the university in Madrid. Danny hadn’t had much experience of DNA testing, and he found it hard going.

“It doesn’t mean much to me, Harry,” he said, finally. “What’s this about a ‘half-sibilingship test’?

Harry had been watching as Danny scanned the report’s pages.

“Well,” he said, slowly rocking back in his chair and locking his hands behind his head, “I wouldn’t want you to think I was anything of an expert on these matters myself. But I ‘phoned a man who is: Blaine Bettinger – someone I know in the States. He talked me through it.” Harry waited from a response from Danny.

“And?” Danny was all ears. He knew Harry had wanted Laurel and Dacre’s DNA testing for a reason - that they needed to work out how they were related. But he already knew they weren’t half siblings. Not for the first time, though, he was quietly impressed with Harry’s contacts.

“It seems that there’s enough in the genetic coding to show that Dacre Lawrence and Colleen Blyth’s father were the same person. The two of them are – were – half brother and sister. Different mothers, same father, Danny.”

The penny was dropping, even as Danny’s eyes were widening.

“But … but … “ Danny said, trying to work out the connection, “that means it must be John Lawrence!”

Harry rocked forward in his chair, reaching into his shirt pocket for another cigarette. “It’s tempting to think so…” he said, as he lit up, “…isn’t it?”

“I’d say it was pretty clear cut, Harry!” Danny exclaimed.

“Maybe,” was all Harry said. But then he added, by way of explanation, “I’d rather wait until some of these certificates we need come through. Wouldn’t you?”

Danny saw what Harry was getting at. “Triangulation. You’re right. But at least it gives us something more to go on. So – what do we do next?” He placed the report on the desk, in front of Harry.

Harry paused a moment, taking another drag on his cigarette. “We shake the tree, and see what comes out, Danny. And you sort us out some more coffee. That’s what we do next.”

3 comments:

the domestic minx said...

Shake that tree baby!!!!

I'm just dying to see what drops out.

Brilliant, Tom, brilliant!!!!

Theresa111 said...

Thomas,

I would much prefer you draw the tree because I am so confused that I can no longer picture who is who in my head. Thank you.

Thomas Hamburger Jnr said...

Thanks, Doemstic Minx: Tree shaking coming right up!

Oh, Theresa - if only I had the time. But that might give the game away, anyway! Hopefully, you might have sketched out a few ideas yourself, or Chapter 129 will help! Thanks.

Kind Regards

THJnr