It wouldn’t be easy getting Laurel on her own, and Harry wondered, even, if it was fair to pull her away from the proceedings when she had only just ‘met’ her grandmother. It was while he helped Bill prepare the tea that he realised he had no choice.
They worked quietly, both of them straining to catch up on where Lillian was up to in her tale, but Harry saw how quickly his friend seemed to be organising everything, as if he couldn’t wait to get back into the lounge and continue taking his notes. It was proof, if he needed it, that Bill still intended to write his story. He hoped Danny had been paying attention to Lillian’s account, just in case she’ added anything new.
Harry carried the plate, replenished with biscuits, into the room, Bill following along with the tray of drinks. Lillian had started telling her guests about Thomas McFry. Colin McAllistair looked up as they returned. He’d wondered for a moment what had taken Bill and Harry so long, but the historian in him had kept him focused on the drama of a story he’d been hearing of Lillian’s return to England – without her daughter – and how she’d settled into her ‘relationship’ with Thomas.
As the tea was handed round, Harry noticed that Dave Morris seemed bored – almost frustrated – and that Jane Tobias looked a little uncomfortable, too. He guessed they hadn’t been expecting Lillian’s life story, and were struggling to link it all to Dacre Lawrence. Well, that would have to wait, just for the moment. Danny, he was pleased to see, seemed more alert to the story Lillian was telling.
“Thank you, Harry,” Lillian said, as she took a biscuit from the plate. “All this talking is making me quite thirsty. And I’m sure our guests will appreciate a fresh cup of tea.” Harry picked up a flatness in her tone, as if the pain of revealing her secrets might be taking its toll.
As Bill Blunt took his seat and picked up his notepad with undisguised relish, Harry nodded and forced an encouraging smile purely for Lillian’s benefit - turning, as he did so, to
“Well, if you’ll excuse us, Lillian, I think Ana and I would like to go outside for a cigarette,” Harry said, suddenly.
“You go ahead, Harry. If I was ten years younger, I would have been joining you!” Lillian replied. “Now … where was I?” she asked, rhetorically, slipping back into her story while Ana collected her handbag and followed Harry out of the room.
When they were outside in the back garden, the door firmly closed, Harry reached for his cigarettes.
“Are you alright?” he asked, as
“Better let me have one of those,”
“I guess this has all been quite a revelation to you, Laurel…” he said, his voice trailing off as he lit their cigarettes.
“Oh, Harry! You’ve got no idea!” she exclaimed. “It’s like a whole life just opened up for me! I never thought it would be so difficult – it was all I could do to stop myself hugging her at one point.”
He let the silence linger a moment, until she felt ready to continue.
“This has all come as a bit of a shock to me. I can’t explain, but even just a little thing – like why my mother spoke such perfect French – it starts to make sense now. But why did she never tell me any of this?”
Harry had wondered about that himself.
“Maybe she never got the chance,
“But she didn’t have to leave my mother there! She was with Stuart – and he wasn’t my uncle then. If they’d come back to
“I don’t understand…“ she said.
“It’s like this. Laurel McFry only exists because her mother somehow met up with her father, Philip McFry. Now, if Stuart had been with Lillian, had married her even, do you think it’s conceivable they’d have allowed their daughter to marry her uncle?” It was easier for Harry to put the question that way, somehow.
“I … I see what you mean.”
Harry drew on his cigarette, and shook his head.
“Thankfully, it never happened that way,
“So tell me. What exactly did happen?” She was trying to hide an anger that was welling up inside her, the feeling that she was being, somehow, manipulated by Harry, had come to mind.
“OK, here goes,” Harry said, taking a deep breath. “Your grandfather was John Lawrence He came from Thirsk, in
“And you know this for a fact?”
“Yes. Your DNA shows a match to Dacre Lawrence, who was John Lawrence’s – Jonathan Harcourt’s – son. Or at least enough of a match to show Dacre’s father was your grandfather.”
“So… Dr Lawrence was … what? My mother’s…”
“Half brother. But he never knew that – at least not when he met Lillian.”
“He’d worked out before he met Lillian that he was related to the McFry’s, because his father was a cousin of theirs. He actually said as much to Lillian when he visited her. But I suspect he didn’t find out about his more direct link to you until later – and only Cyril Galloway can confirm that for us.”
“Not very much at all. In fact, I suspect she thinks Stuart McFry was your grandfather. And that’s why she’s wanted to keep quiet all these years.”
“But why didn’t they marry?”
“Ah … well, that’s the question I’d like her to answer. I have my own theory, but that’s all it is just now.”
She looked at him pointedly. “And you’re not one much for sharing your theories, are you?”
Harry ignored the comment. “If only I had those certificates, I’d be surer…” He realised she was still shaken by the news of the link to
“I’m sure Lillian had her reasons for not keeping in touch,
“Yes. I suppose I have to look at it that way.” She didn’t sound fully convinced, but Harry had other business he wanted to discuss.
“How so?” she asked, as Harry lit yet another cigarette.
“It’s like this. Bill Blunt’s got an extension on his deadline. I wondered why the old dog was so relaxed when we met him, earlier. It’s my guess they’re holding publication until later this afternoon, and that if he has his way they’ll run with your story on the front page.”
“Precisely,” Harry said. “I’ve already had a go at persuading Bill to kill the story, but he won’t have any of it. That’s why I need your help.”
“I don’t understand. If he won’t listen to you, why is he going to listen to me?”
“Oh, he won’t. But I’ve got an idea there’s someone – or, rather, something – that his editor will listen to, if you’ll hear me out.”
By the time their conversation had finished and they were ready to return to the bungalow,