Saturday, 20 October 2007

Chapter 154

In just a few minutes, Harry and Danny had established that Dacre Lawrence had assembled a collection of certificates that were almost a perfect mirror of the ones they’d ordered from their contact in Southport. With the kitchen door firmly closed, they were comfortable to leave the rest of them to get on with things in the lounge. They knew they had the key to this mystery in their hands.

Danny, though, was puzzled. “I don’t get it, Harry. There’s nothing to suggest Dacre Lawrence had an interest in family history. Where did he get these? And how come he got them so quickly?” The same questions had occurred to Harry almost as soon as Dave Morris had mentioned the papers he’d received from Mabel Harris.

They were bent over the tiny table in the kitchen, which Harry had cleared, and were methodically sorting the certificates, clinically and effectively.

“We can only guess,” Harry said. “You know how long it’s taken us to work through these McFry’s – and that’s with our Southport contact.” Danny noticed the use of the ‘our’, and liked it. “Even with the money he was clearly prepared to throw at this, there’s no way anyone could get this amount of information together in anything less than a week.”

“Maybe he brought someone in?”

“It’s possible. If that’s the case, it must have been before he visited Lillian. There’s certainly no way he could have got all this together in the time between him coming here and his subsequent stroke. From what Lillian says, he had about a week to do it, from when Galloway visited her, to when he himself did. It’s still a tall order…” As he said the words, a stray thought suddenly flashed across Harry’s mind. Unless…. it was incredible, he knew… but he’d read, recently, that the government was digitizing birth, marriage and death records. Millions of records had already been transferred from the standard microfiche onto a master database, in preparation for a streamlined service, not yet made public.

He wondered what Danny would make of it. “There’s one other possibility. Whoever he paid to hack into Ancestry could also have broken into the government database – the one they’ve been developing over the past two years!”

“Of course!” Danny exclaimed. He knew all about the plans for the digital records service, which promised to allow almost instant access to certificates that, until now, needed to be manually searched for. It didn’t seem so incredible that someone with the skill to manipulate online census data could also find a back door into the mountain of information the government was amassing, courtesy of the new project.

Harry was thinking about Galloway and Lawrence’s death, as they continued to sort the certificates.

“You realize this is probably a murder we’re dealing with – Galloway, I mean?” he said to Danny.

“You mean they killed each other?”

“Time will tell – but, yes. We’d be guessing as to what exactly happened. If Dave Morris knows, he isn’t telling. But, look at it this way: Galloway was obsessed with getting his hands on that bond. Lawrence, meanwhile, seems to have had a change of heart – witness his letter to Laurel. A letter he can only have written in the time between his return from seeing Lillian, and his stroke. There’s certainly a motive for enmity.”

“I still don’t get how Lawrence found Laurel. From what Lillian says, she told him nothing about Colleen. And Colleen’s the only real link to Laurel. How did he do it?” Danny started leafing through the remaining certificates. They were still bent over the table, as they talked.

“It’s clear that Lawrence thought he was dealing with a McFry when he came to see Lillian. He seems to have assumed she’d been married to Thomas McFry. Well, we know she wasn’t. All these certificates, too – they’re mostly to do with the McFry family. Just as he erased the census details, he might have been planning on altering the digital certificates – all to ensure that no one could make the link to the bond.”

Danny was catching up. “That means, he must have discovered Lillian was really a Blyth after his return to Thirsk…”

“Exactly. He must have searched for Lillian McFry in the national patient database using just her address details. That’s how he’d have found her as Lillian Blyth. Morris will be able to confirm that one for us, if we play it carefully.”

It was starting to come together for Danny. “You think there was something in Lillian’s medical records, Harry?”

Harry, though, was changing tack, again. “Maybe. I’m more interested in Stuart McFry. Look at this - Stuart McFry’s marriage certificate, and John Lawrence’s.” Harry laid the two marriage records next to each other. “Notice anything?” he asked Danny.

Danny studied the copy certificates. The one for John Lawrence confirmed the details he’d found in the index. It was Stuart’s – the one Laurel McFry might have sent for, easily enough, had she had the inclination – that made Danny’s pulse quicken.

Harry had turned to look out of the kitchen window. “Maybe we need to bring that cat in, out of harm’s way…” he said, to Danny’s puzzlement.

“The cat?” he asked. “What’s a cat got to do with it?”

Harry swung round to look at his colleague. “Well, it could get messy. Looks like Lillian’s pigeons are about to come home to roost.”


70steen said...

oooooooo brilliant Tom :-)
Bring it on !!!!!!!!!

70steen said...

I am waiting ;-)

70steen said...

ok I have read to novels since your last post..... I am going to have to do a re read :-P

Theresa111 said...


We are all waiting by holding our breath, darling. Please.......write.

jan said...

So glad I heard about this. Great makes reading.


jan said...


Theresa111 said...

I'm searching high and low
Don't know where to go
To find my friend Thomas
Come back ... promise

70steen said...

to as you may have realised meant two (2) I am now on four (4)tsk!!

Anonymous said...

Where are you, TH?
The suspense is killing!

Monica said...

We're going to enjoy it all the more for the waiting! Best wishes - hope everything is alright with you.