With the biscuits out of the way, it was time to move on. But Lillian, it was clear, wasn’t volunteering to begin. She seemed to be thinking something over, and the quiet in the room was nothing foreign to her. All eyes were on Harry McFry – even Dave and Jane had realised he knew more about this case than anyone else in the room. It was only a matter of seconds – though it seemed longer – before Harry broke the silence.
“So, Lillian … tell us what happened after Jamara. You lost touch with Jonathan, didn’t you?”
Lillian was looking into the near distance again, almost oblivious of her audience.
“I shouldn’t have let them separate us, of course,” Lillian continued. “That was my mistake. But he said we’d be alright, that he’d find me. Then, I got posted to the north, and realised I was expecting a baby. Everything was so chaotic up there. But I never stopped looking for Jonathan, and I hoped he would never stop looking for me.”
Harry wanted to let Lillian continue, but knew he’d have to step in now if the role of Stuart McFry was to be properly understood. “What about Stuart, Lillian? Weren’t you with Stuart McFry when you left
Lillian looked distracted. “Yes, yes, I was with Stuart. He hadn’t been at Jamara, but I met up with him shortly afterwards in
“And when I discovered I was expecting, I think he thought it was his child I was carrying…”
“Stuart thought the baby was his?” Harry asked. He needed to press her on this.
“Yes,” was all she replied.
There wasn’t an easy way for Harry to put the next question.
“And … was it?”
Laurel gripped the chair she was sitting on, her knuckles white, as she thought through the implication of the question. The moment was frozen for her, as she waited for Lillian’s response. If Stuart McFry was her grandfather, then he was her uncle at the same time. Had her father known any of this, she wondered? Did that explain how reticent he’d been to talk about her mother – his own neice?
Bill Blunt, meanwhile, had lost the plot, but he saw how the old woman was affected by the discussion, and Harry’s questioning, and knew this must be significant. He remembered the bond had been Stuart’s. He hoped Harry was following the money…
Lillian was still lost somewhere, trying to remember things she had tried to forget, for so long. Suddenly, she looked the fragile centenarian she was. “The truth is … the truth is… I didn’t know!”
Harry waited a moment to let the significance of what Lillian had said percolate the room. “What you’re saying is, you weren’t sure whether Colleen Blyth’s father was Stuart or Jonathan?” he asked, as gently as he could.
Lillian turned to Harry. “That’s precisely what I’m saying.”
Harry wanted to change tack, just slightly.
“So, you travelled to the north of
Lillian composed herself. Ana tried not to stare at her, did her best not to show how she was hanging on her every word.
“Colleen was born not long before we were evacuated from Bilboa. I’d been nursing there, almost right up to when she was born. Stuart was working on the defences for the city. The fascists had us cornered.”
Harry noticed McAllistair was getting animated. “Perhaps you can give us some background, Colin?” he asked.
McAllistair leaned forward in his seat. He’d started to think that, the way things were going, he might not need to mention his transaction with
“Franco had come to hate the Basques more than any other people. He thought they’d betrayed
“Tell us about
Suddenly, Lillian spoke. “Four plus three equals one!” she exclaimed. “That was what they used to say. The Basques would never be really free until they were united, the four Spanish provinces and the three French ones.”
“And the bombing? What was that like?” Harry’s question was directed to Lillian.
“That was the Germans, of course. Everyone said they used
“But you survived, Lillian,” Harry said, reaching across to place a hand on hers. “Remember, you’re a living testimony to the awfulness of
McAllistair nodded. “It’s the very least I can do.”
Lillian seemed to gather strength from somewhere deep within herself.
“Yes. I am sure his viewers will be interested in the recipe for rat stew that was so popular in