Thursday, 31 July 2008
At times like this Gloria’s first reaction was to make tea. Malcolm thought that he could do with a brandy but as it was only just after lunch he supposed that tea would have to do.
Gloria was a firm believer in the restorative powers of a hot sweet brew no matter that it was 32 degrees in the shade, shock was shock.
‘So tell me again when did the police turn up at Michael’s house?’ asked Malcolm putting extra milk into his tea.
‘Lizzie said that the police car passed her when she was on her way down to the village to open the shop, so it must have been about 9 o’clock. As soon as she reached the shop she phoned Fliss to tell her.’
‘And what did Fliss do?’
‘Well apparently Fliss had been feeling guilty ever since she had found Carla. She blamed herself for not going to see her sooner. She thought that the police were going to Michael’s to ask him about Carla so she rushed over to his as soon as she had put the phone down from Lizzie.’
‘So when did she realise that Michael had been arrested?’
‘As soon as she pulled up at his house. That tall officer, you know the one who was here the other day? He was leading Michael out of the house in handcuffs. Poor Michael was sobbing and Fliss didn’t know what to do for the best.’
‘So what exactly has he been arrested for?’
‘Murder. Oh Malcolm it’s ridiculous. The police have made a terrible mistake; poor Michael wouldn’t hurt a fly.’
‘Well they must think that he’s capable of it. I’m surprised though that they told Fliss what they were arresting him for. It’s not as if she’s family or anything.’
‘Oh it wasn’t the police who told her. There was a journalist outside the house and he told her that Michael had been arrested for the murders of Sonny and Clara. The cheeky beggar asked her for a comment. She refused of course.’
‘’Well it just go to show that you never know who you are living next door to.’
‘You don’t believe it do you?’ asked Gloria incredulously. ‘Well I think that there has been a terrible mistake. Michael isn’t capable of murder. Look at the way he helps us with all the fund raisers. And you saw him at Sonny’s funeral. He could barely hold himself together that day.’
‘Maybe that was his guilty conscience kicking in.’
‘Malcolm how can you say that. You saw the state he was in. and why would they think that he had anything to do with Carla’s death, they were friends for heaven’s sake.’
‘I overheard her neighbours talking to Maria the other day. Apparently they had told the police that they saw Michael calling at Carla’s the night she died. They didn’t think anything of it at the time, they often saw him at her house but when the police said that her death wasn’t an accident they went down to the police station and saw our officer Arroyo.’
‘This sounds all very circumstantial to me’ said Gloria as she got up from the table to clear away the tea cups.
‘And what would you know’ snapped Malcolm ‘you don’t know hat’s going on the world half the time.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’
‘Well my dear, you must admit, you can be a little naive at times.’
‘Just because I think the best of people, rather than taking notice of idle gossip’
‘It’s not gossip you silly fool it’s a police investigation. Michael has been arrested for murdering two of our friends. Dear god woman one more and he would be a serial killer and you still believe he’s a nice man.’
Gloria couldn’t believe what she was hearing ‘How dare you patronise me’ she shouted
‘Well don’t be so bloody stupid then’ muttered Malcolm knowing that he had gone too far but still unable to drop it added ‘it’s about time that you joined the real world.’
‘And which real world would that be, your world?’ she snapped ‘the very important world of Malcolm Westbury headmaster. Who spent so much time in his precious school doing his very important job that when he retired he didn’t have a life to live anymore, well not in England. Your real world Malcolm? One that meant I had to up sticks and move out here to Spain with you so that you could reinvent a life for yourself?’
Malcolm looked at Gloria in horror. Had she really felt this way all along? He couldn’t believe that she had realised that when he retired he was leaving behind the only life he had ever known. What had happened to the quiet little mouse he had married to turn her into such a bitter woman.
‘Did it never occur to you Malcolm that I might have wanted to stay in England? No I suppose it didn’t, after all what did I have to stay there for. It wasn’t as if we had to worry about leaving children behind. Was it?’ She spat in fury.
‘You know that I wanted a family as much as you did, but we agreed a long time ago that what would be would be. And if that meant that we couldn’t have children then that’s all there was to it.’
‘Malcolm don’t you understand, it was mean to happen.’
‘What do you mean? I thought that you’d come to terms with the fact that you couldn’t have any children?’
‘But I do have a child.’
Malcolm looked at Gloria in disbelief ‘When?’ he asked
‘Before I met you. A long-time before I met you in fact. I was seventeen years old and my parents made me have him adopted.’
‘It was a boy’
‘Yes, I called him Simon, he’s all grown up now of course and I’ve not seen him since the day I gave birth to him.’
‘Why are you telling me all this now?’
‘Because his son has found me. You know him, Ollie, the young chap who was been working for Liam and Cassy.’
‘Yes’ laughed Gloria ‘he’s mixed race. Just like my son’
‘Why didn’t you tell me before? Why have you kept him a secret all these years?’
‘Why do you think Malcolm?’ cried Gloria ‘you wanted a child so much how I could I ell you that I had given mine away. Then, as the years, passed it got harder and harder to tell you.’
Malcolm was shocked to realise that his face was wet with tears and reaching out for his wife he clung to her feeling his silent sobs wracking his body.
‘So when do I get to meet this grandson of yours’ he asked through his tears
Gloria looked up into the face of the only man she had truly loved and whispered ‘Soon my love, very soon.’
Tuesday, 29 July 2008
‘Will you stop staring at me and get up, you are going to be late for work.’
‘I’m not going into the office. Bernardo is driving me to the train station. We have investigations in Barcelona today.’
‘It’s all right for some’ grumbled Isbel as she brushed her hair ‘some of us can’t go gallivanting off to Barcelona, some of us are stuck in an office all day. Will you be home this evening?’
‘With any luck I should be back by nine o’clock.’
‘I’ll wait dinner for you then.’
Isbel’s cooking was legendary down at the station and Goito knew that the promise of one of her special meals would be just the incentive he needed to conduct his investigations in Barcelona as quickly as possible.
The colonel of the Civil Guard was pleased to think that their outstanding cases were now solved but Goito knew that he would need more than the suppositions of Justin Crowther if he was to arrest Michael Angers for murder, even if Snr Crowther was a member of British Intelligence.
Goito’s team had been working flat out to collect statements from all of Clara Hale’s friends and neighbours and it was during of these interviews that another English couple had mentioned that they had met up with Michael on the Barcelona train only days before Sonny’s murder. With any luck this could provide the lead that Goito’s team so badly needed to secure a conviction.
As his wife left for work, Goito hurried to the bathroom to shower and shave. He knew that he had plenty of time before his junior officer was due to collect him but he needed to hurry if he was to enjoy a decent breakfast before he left the house. Looking in the long mirror, Goito patted his expanding waistline and promised himself for the third time that week that his diet would definitely start tomorrow.
The train journey to Barcelona gave the two detectives plenty of time to reread the witness statements. Gloria Westbury had proved to have an excellent memory for detail and was able to give a full account of their chance encounter with Michael on the train, including, much to Bernardo amusement, a rough description of the clothes he was wearing that day. Some of their most helpful information however came from Scotland Yard who were able to provide their Spanish counterparts with the names of Sonny’s friends who were in Barcelona at the time looking for their new business premises.
Retracing Michael’s steps through the city, the policemen were determined to interview Sonny’s friends. Michael’s explanation to Gloria Westbury for travelling to Barcelona that day had sounded unconvincing even to her and Goito was sure that the new bar owners could hold the key to the mystery.
Referring again to their notes Goito and Bernard turned off the Ramblas into the side street looking for the bar. They found that the Hot Jazz Club was a hive activity with a delivery van blocking the road unloading some very expensive looking leather chairs and inside there were decorators painting the wall above the shiny new bar area. In the midst of all the activity, Goito spotted Andy and Gerry attempting to get the new Gaggia coffee maker to work.
‘I’m sorry gentlemen but as you can see we’re not open for business yet’ called Andy from behind the bar.
Producing their identification cards Goito introduced himself. ‘We are investigating the murder of Sonny Langford and we have been told that you were friends of his.’
‘Sonny was a very good friend of ours and we help you in any way we can.’
Looking at the work men crowded into the small bar Goito asked if there was somewhere they could talk in private. Andy and Gerry led the policemen away from the chaos into the small office at the back of the club.
‘I’m not sure how much help we can be’ said Gerry ‘surely you should be talking to Michael Angers. Michael was with Sonny when he was murdered.’
‘It’s Snr Angers we would like to talk to you about. How well do you know him?’
‘Only through Sonny’ explained Andy ‘funny, he and Sonny were as different as chalk and cheese. Sonny was very flamboyant and lively while Michael is quiet and a bit of a home bird.’
‘What were they like as a couple?’ asked Bernardo ‘would you say that they were happy?’
‘I suppose so’ said Gerry ‘but I do know that Sonny used to get annoyed with him for being so jealous all the time. Michael was even jealous that Sonny was spending so much time helping us look for our new premises.’
‘It wasn’t us he was jealous of’ laughed Andy ‘it was Carl who brought out the green eyed monster in him.’
‘Carl is a friend of ours’ explained Gerry ‘in fact he has loaned us the money for this place, but Carl and Sonny go back a long way.’
‘Do you mean that they were lovers?’ asked Goito
‘Oh it was years ago’ dismissed Gerry ‘but you wouldn’t think it to hear Michael go on. Sonny used to laugh it off but you could see that Michael was uncomfortable with their friendship.’
‘How do you mean uncomfortable?’
‘Jealous. He was jealous of all of Sonny’s old boyfriends. He hated the thought that Sonny had had lovers before him.’
‘In fact’ interrupted Andy ‘Sonny was so worried that Michael wouldn’t have understood about Carl’s investment in the bar he swore us to secrecy about Carl’s involvement. He didn’t want Michael to know that Carl was here in Spain with us.’
‘What did he think that Michael would do if he found out that he had been seeing Carl?’ Asked Bernardo
‘Sonny used to say that Michael threatened to kill him if he ever found out that he had cheated on him.’
‘Oh my god, you don’t think..’ stuttered Gerry
‘I think Senors that we need to speak to Snr Angers again, as soon as possible.’
Thursday, 24 July 2008
Comandante Goito Arroyo Lopez walked out of the police station and into the bar and lit his first cigarette of the day. Whatever he told his wife Isbel, he was still going to enjoy this cigarette with his morning brandy after all how was he supposed to think without nicotine? It was bad enough that the police station was now smoke free without being deprived of his morning hit in the bar. And this morning he felt that he really needed something to help him with the latest death in the village.
Two incomers dead in as many months, his Coronel was starting to ask questions, even the English speaking press were getting in on the act. He needed to clear up these cases and quickly before they started reporting the area as the latest crime hot spot.
Sonny Langford’s murder had seem fairly straightforward at first, a violent robbery late at night that went horribly wrong. Sure his boss had been surprised when he’d found out that Michael and Sonny had been lovers but as far as the English were concerned nothing surprised Goito any more. Isbel accused him of being cynical about foreigners but Goito said he was only being realistic. There were as many different types of Englishmen as there were pebbles on the beach, so anything they did was only to be expected.
But the Russians they were different. The gangs that had moved into the area were running brothels and drugs down on the coast. So to Goito it seemed a natural progression for them to move into muggings and murder. Well let them stay on the coast we don’t want their sort around here.
The old lady’s death was different though. According to her friends and neighbours she was a quiet and law abiding soul. When they first examined the body, the detectives were convinced that she was merely the victim of a tragic accident. It appeared to them that she had slipped in the hall breaking her ankle and that when she had tried to stand she must have fallen again, this time hitting her head with fatal consequences. But not all her friends were so sure and Senora Hale had some friends in very high places.
Goito Arroyo had been assigned to investigate by the Coronel personally. Apparently there had been phone calls from London to some very senior members of the Civil Guard expressing concern that the old lady’s death shouldn’t be dismissed as an accident.
So here he was, as if he didn’t have enough on his plate with the Langford murder, he now had to investigate the old lady’s death too. Sipping his brandy and lighting his second cigarette Goito opened the autopsy report that the pathologist had sent over to him earlier.
Wading through the medical jargon it didn’t take Goito long to realise that the old lady’s friends were right. Clara Hale hadn’t died as a result of her fall. The pathologist was convinced that his investigations proved that she had been suffocated. Her mouth and nose had been covered, probably by a hand until she had stopped breathing.
The Comandante looked up from the report and sighed. He had promised Isbel that he would be home early tonight, she wanted to go and visit her father for his birthday and the old man was expecting them for his party at eight o’clock. His shoulders stooped as he walked out of the bar, not many things scared Goito but his wife’s anger when she realised that he would be working late yet again, was enough to make the toughest of men afraid to go home.
Back at his desk and fortified by the nicotine and alcohol, Goito called his officers into a meeting. What he need now was as much information as his detectives had managed to gather about both cases.
Around the room one of the junior detectives has been compiling a story board of all the evidence from Sonny’s road-side murder and this seemed as good a point as any to start from. Seeing the timeline of the investigation in front of him trigged something in the detective’s memory. Buried somewhere in all this was a link to both these cases, he just knew it.
‘Comandante, the Colonel wants to see you.’ Goito turned from the board and snarled at the young officer who had broken into his train of thought.
‘Can’t you see I’m busy’ he snapped
‘I’m sorry sir but the Colonel says that he needs to see you urgently.’
Goito grabbed his jacket and stormed up to his boss’s office ‘You wanted to see me Colonel.’
‘Yes Comandante Arroyo, come in. Please let me introduce Mr Justin Crowther. Mr Crowther is here about the death of the English woman Senora Hale. He thinks that he might be able to help you with your investigations.’
Goito glared at the Englishman, that’s all I need he thought a British Bobby telling me where I’m going wrong.
Justin Crowther uncrossed his long legs and stood to shake Goito’s hand ‘Comandante I’m very pleased to me you. Please sit down, the Colonel has very kindly offered me the use of his office for the rest of the day.’ Taking this as his cue to leave, the senior policeman hurriedly picked up his briefcase and left the room.
‘You must be a very senior policeman to have my Colonel being so generous with his office.
‘No, Comandante Arroyo, I’m not a police officer at all. I work for the British Government, the intelligence service to be precise.’
‘Goito looked stunned ‘Why is British Intelligence concerned about the death of an old woman in southern Spain?’ He asked
‘Because Clara Hale was one of us, retired of course but none the less we still like to think that we can look after our own, no matter how old they are.’
It took Crowther nearly two hours and several cups of strong coffee to tell Goito about Clara’s history in the service and when Goito thought that he couldn’t be any more surprised Crowther dropped the final bombshell.
‘A couple of months ago I had a late night phone call from Clara. She was worried that an old colleague of ours from another government department had recognised her. You must understand in our line of work the last thing any of our retirees need is to be recognised. As a policeman you know better than most that there are some very dangerous people out there. People who would pay dearly for information about an agent who they might hold responsible for, shall we say, some past indiscretion.’
Goito’s mind was whirling with everything he had learnt about the woman who had fooled her friends into believing that she was just a poor old spinster living out her final years in the sun. Could it be that she too had been a victim of the mysterious eastern European that had attacked Sonny. How ever mad it might sound, could there really be a Russian hit man on the loose in his patch?
‘You said that she had recognised somebody from her past. Did she tell you who it was?’ He asked
‘Yes she did’ said Crowther ‘it was Michael Angers. Sonny Langford’s lover. So now you understand why I thought I could help.’
‘Yes Senor Crowther, I understand a lot. I think that I should have another little chat with our Senor Angers but this time I think that it will be him that will need a lawyer.’
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
I had a lovely time last night. Some of the young Mums from the school arranged a girls’ night out. Yes I know that they are a lot younger than me, but we all seem to enjoy the same things, good food, stimulating conversation and the opportunity to get out of the house for a while and pretend that we are grown ups.
I don’t think that Martin was too amused though. He went out to the golf club as soon as I left the house, it’s a shame that he never wanted to take me out on a Friday night. I was supposed to be grateful for a quick drink in the club house after golf on Saturday, if I was lucky. Well I’m sorry but I have finally started to take control of my life and I’m enjoying it. I suppose that this is what being an independent woman is all is about.
Talking about independent women, I must give Clara Hale a ring soon. I haven’t seen her for ages, come to think of it I haven’t even seen her at the market, I hope she’s OK. It’s lovely that she is getting on so well with Michael. Gloria was saying that he has been really good to Clara, taking her shopping and even having her over for lunch once a week. With everything he’s been through lately I’m amazed that he can still be so thoughtful of others.
I phoned Michael earlier to ask how Clara was but Michael said that he hadn’t seen her since last week. Apparently they were having lunch together when the police called for him to go to the station. He’d left Clara to lock up the house and walk back to the village because he didn’t know how long he was going to be with the police. But he said that he’d phoned her later that evening and that she sounded fine then.
Gloria said that she hasn’t seen Clara for a while either so maybe she is poorly, well no time like the present I’ll give her a ring now if only to put my own mind at rest.
That’s strange her phone is just ringing out. I would have thought that she would be home now, after all it is lunch time and I know that if she does go shopping it is always of a morning before the siesta. Maybe there’s a problem with her phone, well the only way to find out is to go down and see if she is alright. It’s a lovely day and the walk will do me good.
It’s been ages since I’ve had the time to walk down to the village. I’ve been spending a lot of time looking after Grace and Olivia for Sophie. Not that that is a hardship, I absolutely love being able to see so much of them. When we first moved out here I missed my little granddaughters dreadfully, they are so adorable. Even so it is nice to have a day all to myself when I can catch up with my friends. I suppose I should be spending it with Martin as he is only home for the weekend but he has his golf today and I probably won’t see him until this evening when he will want picking up from the club house.
I wonder if I’ll see Paolo working on his farm, I hope not, that chapter in my life is well and truly over. I nearly fainted when Ella told me how he had been flirting with her and how she might have been tempted by him if she hadn’t have been so in love with Frank. Now don’t get me wrong, I know that he’s a free agent and that I have no right to be sanctimonious about this but did he have to pick my daughter to make a move on, for heaven’s sake it’s no time since we were rolling around in the hay together. What is that man’s problem, is he looking to bed the whole of my family, is he going to hit on Sophie next? No it’s best I don’t see him for a long time or I’ll have to learn enough Spanish to be able to tell him what a randy old bastard I think he is.
It’s a good job I didn’t drive down here today. I’d forgotten that there is a fiesta in the village this weekend. The police have been busy with the traffic cones and a lot of the side streets have been closed off for the procession. It would have been a nightmare finding a parking space by Clara’s house.
That’s strange, her curtains are still drawn, maybe she is still in bed.
‘Clara are you there, is everything OK?’ I call at the front door.
‘Senora are you calling for Senora Hale?’
Clara’s next door neighbour calls leaning at of her first floor window.
‘Yes Aina, have you seen her today’
‘No I think that she has gone away her curtains have been closed all week and I haven’t heard moving about in her house.’
‘That’s strange Michael didn’t mention that she was going away and I’m sure that she would have told him. I’m getting worried now. Is there any way that we can get to the back of her house?’ I ask
‘Yes Senora down the little alleyway and through the gate at the end. Would you like me to come with you?’
I have a terrible feeling about this and I must admit that I’m grateful that I don’t have to do this on my own.
Aina has come round with her husband Bernardo and it is with some trepidation that the three of us make our way down the narrow passage between the houses.
‘I’m sure that Senora Hale is fine’ says Bernardo, not looking sure at all ‘it was only the other evening that her friend called to see her and I’m sure that he would have said if she was unwell.’
Letting ourselves into the pretty little courtyard I try the kitchen door and find that it is unlocked. The kitchen is dark with the curtains closed and the three of us are fumbling around before Aina opens up the curtains and Bernardo and I walk through to the hall.
And that’s when we see her. Clara’s twisted dead body is lying on the cold hall tiles. Before we can stop her Aina follows us through the kitchen and her screams are drowned out by the band walking in the road outside leading the procession through the village.
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
Martin stood at the arrivals gate and scanned the waiting crowds. Impatiently he looked up at the large wall clock, the damn woman is late again he seethed. Too many things were changing in Martin’s life and he wasn’t happy about it. Before he was ill he knew his place in the scheme of things. He travelled back to London on a Monday with a case full of freshly laundered clothes and arrived back at the villa on the following Friday tired after a busy week to Fliss waiting for him with a light supper and a weekend planned with a few rounds of golf and drinks with friends. All very civilised and ordered.
In those days he never had to worry about whether he had enough clean shirts for the week or if his suit was back from the cleaners. It was understood that Fliss took care of things like booking the pool man and sorting out the gardeners. He didn’t have the time to be worrying about whether the car tax needed renewing or if he should switch utility suppliers on the apartment in London.
But since his heart attack it seemed to him as if his whole life had changed and not for the better. He felt that some weekends he was home Fliss treated him like an inconvenience, just one more thing that she had to schedule into her busy timetable. He was just another box on the chart that had to be fitted in between her friends, her grandchildren, her charity work, her life…well what about his life.
He wanted things to be the way that they had always been. He wanted to be the most important thing in Fliss’ life and didn’t consider for one minute that he might have been the reason why their relationship had changed after all it wasn’t as if he was still seeing Laura and thanks to Sophie that business with Tony Eagleton was all cleared up. So what was Fliss’ problem?
Martin walked out to the taxi rank seething with the injustice of it all. There was he trying to get home after working hard all week and she couldn’t be bothered to get to the airport on time to meet him. As he joined the long queue of weary travellers waiting for a taxi Michael plonked down his case and sulked like a teenager who has just realised that he isn’t the centre of attention anymore.
Running across the car park Sophie spotted her Dad looking petulant in the taxi queue.
‘Dad over here’ she called
‘Where’s your mother?’ sulked Martin as followed Sophie back to her car.
‘She’s looking after the girls, I said that I would pick you up. I’ve been checking out some stud farms and as I was over this way I thought that it would make more sense if I collected you from the airport. Sorry I’m late I didn’t realise what the time was.’
‘No harm done I suppose’ grumbled Martin ‘but Mum could have told me what was happening. I was just about to give up on her and get a cab.’
Martin’s mood slowly lifted on the journey back to the villa and by the time they were parking up he was a lot more relaxed and looking forward to a long cold drink before having a quiet supper with Fliss and hopefully the promise of an early night together.
‘Grandma look, Grandpa’s home’ called Grace as she ran out of the front door. Before he knew it Martin was being herded into the villa by his little granddaughters who were trying to tell him all about the new goats on the farm and how they had spent the afternoon baking cakes and going swimming. His head was spinning with the noise as he made his way into the kitchen looking for Fliss.
‘Hello darling, I’ve left a cold supper for you in the fridge, just a sandwich and some salad. I had mine earlier with the girls. I hope you don’t mind but I’ve arranged to meet some girl friends for a drink this evening and I’m running late. Sophie darling, would you mind dropping me off in the village on your way home?’
‘No Mum that’s fine. Are you ready to go now?’
‘Just let me grab my bag. Oh and Martin don’t wait up for me, you must be exhausted. I’ll get a cab home.’
Martin looked in disbelief as Fliss practically ran out of the house and helped bundled Olivia and Grace into the back of Sophie’s car. Is this was it has come to he wondered, a cold supper and an early night alone. It wasn’t that long ago when Fliss was complaining that he was the unromantic monster who didn’t have the time for their relationship, now here she was running out on him the moment he came in the door.
Taking his supper from the fridge and pouring himself a large glass of wine Martin sat down in the lounge and wondered why he had bothered coming home at all if this was all he had to look forward to. Drinking the wine in one gulp Martin and threw empty glass down on the coffee table.
Striding up the stairs to his bedroom he decided that even an evening at the golf club listening to Malcolm banging on about the bloody donkey sanctuary was better than sitting here on his own. So throwing his crumpled suit on the floor Martin changed into his cool cotton trousers and a clean sports shirt and grabbing his car keys from the hall table set off to spend the evening drinking with all the other sad buggers who had nowhere better to go on a Friday night.
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
When he was safely back home, Michael had finally broken down.
All afternoon he had kept his feelings of terror under control. There was no way that he was going to break down in front of the police chief but the strain of playing the part of the grieving lover was getting to him. Walking along the identity parade he had briefly considered pointing out one of the men. After all it didn’t matter to him which one he chose because none of them were Sonny’s killer. The police officers made no pretence in hiding their disappointment that he hadn’t recognised their suspect. Time and again they kept saying that surely he must remember the face of the man who had murdered his boyfriend.
Lying on the settee Michael’s sobs slowly subsided as the anxiety he had felt all afternoon slowly ebbed away. Sure the police were annoyed when they had realised that they had arrested the wrong man but thinking about it rationally he knew that they were still no nearer to suspecting the truth. He had been very careful to play his part well and he knew that he had given them no reason to suspect that he had lied about the mysterious foreigner who had stopped them on that lonely stretch of road.
All he had to do was keep calm, stick to his story and let the police chase around looking for their next suspect.
Opening a new bottle of scotch Michael poured himself a large tumbler full. It was taking more and more scotch each night to stop the trembling in his hands. He knew that keeping busy meant that during the day he could block out the memory of Sonny’s screams but the nights were different. At night he remembered every detail. At night Sonny’s screams filled the room and he could smell the sickly sent of his warm blood pumping from the stab wound.
So now he drank and hoped that the whisky would help to blot out the memories.
As he tried to get up to refill his glass his legs refused to carry him upright. Michael realised that he hadn’t eaten since breakfast and he had been drinking on an empty stomach. Staggering across the room he stumbled and fell against the edge of the settee. His head was spinning as lent on the sofa to try and stand, as he stumbled forward he noticed Sonny’s wallet lying on the floor.
This didn’t make sense, what was it doing on the floor under the sofa. The last time he had seen it was when he had hurriedly stuffed behind the cushions. But there it was, the soft brown leather stained for ever with the blood of his dead lover. Confused, he bent to pick it up and holding the wallet against his cheek he could still smell Sonny’s cologne lingering in the leather.
The shrill ringing of the telephone made Michael jump and staggering across the room still clenching Sonny’s wallet he picked up the phone.
‘Michael is that you?’
‘Clara, what’s wrong?’
‘Oh my dear I’m so sorry to bother you but I didn’t know who to call. I feel such a fool but I’ve had a little accident.’
The effects of the whisky were slowly clearing as Michael answered ‘what’s happened. Are you hurt?’
‘I fell over the stupid rug in the hall and I think that I’ve broken my ankle. I can’t get up its swollen and very sore.’
‘Don’t move Clara. Stay where you are I’ll be right over.’
‘Thank you so much. I’m really sorry to bother you with this especially today of all days.’
‘Don’t be silly, that’s what friends are for.’
And that’s when it hit him. Standing in the lounge with the walls spinning around him Michael fell to his knees. It was Clara who had found the wallet. Dear God it couldn’t have been anybody else. She was the only person who had been in his house since the funeral. She knows, she knows that I’ve got Sonny’s wallet. The wallet that I told the police the murderer ran off with. But surely she can’t suspect anything not when she has just asked me to help?
With his mind whirling Michael grabbed his car keys from the hall table and staggered out of the house.
The night was hot with a threat of a summer storm filling the air. As he pulled up outside Clara house Michael was sweating and the cotton shirt he had been wearing all day was sticking to his back. Wiping the sweat from his face he made his way carefully up the steps to Clara’s front door.
Peering through the glass panel Michael could see Clara lying in the hallway. He tried the handle and realised that the door was locked.
‘Michael is that you?’ Clara called out
‘’Yes Cara but I can’t get in the door is locked.’
‘Come around the back, the kitchen door is open.’
Michael made his way through the narrow passageway between the houses and into the courtyard at the back of the townhouse. The kitchen door was wide open and Michael walked into the kitchen switching the light on so that he could find his way through the small room.
‘I’m so sorry but I didn’t know who to call.’ Said Clara as Michael walked through to the darkened hall.
Michael stood and looked at his friend lying on the brown tiled floor. With a sense of detachment that he wouldn’t have believed he was capable of six months ago, he saw that her left leg was twisted in an unnatural angle. Kneeling down he tenderly touched her swollen ankle.
A wave of agony shot through Clara’s leg and she could barely hold back the tears as she cried out in pain.
Seeing her lying there helpless and venerable Michael felt no pity for her only a burning rage that she had found the wallet. What kind of game was she playing? Why was she asking him for help when she knew his secret? Could it be that she was such a lonely old woman that his help was better than none? Leaning over her twisted body Michael whispered in her ear ‘Who have you told?’
‘Michael what are you talking about, what’s the matter? Please can you just help me get up?’ Clara was frightened, why was he acting this way, she didn’t know why he was so angry.
‘Don’t play games with me you silly old woman.’ He spat ‘I know that you found the wallet. Have you told the police, is that why they came round to the house this afternoon?’
‘I don’t know what you’re talking about. You told me that they had arrested somebody.’
‘But you and I both know that they had the wrong man don’t we.’ He growled
Clara looked up at Michael, his eyes were burning with fury and as his trembling hands moved to her neck she cried out. ‘No Michael please no……
Thursday, 10 July 2008
I’m thinking of having a revolving door fitted to the villa.
So far in the past twelve months I have gone from living on my own all week to having Martin here of a weekend, then Sophie and her family and Ella come over for Martin’s party, then Sophie and the girls came to stay when their house in London was sold, and Alistair was backwards and forwards from Brussels. Then they moved out to their new house and Ella came to stay then we went on holiday then Ella and Frank came to stay now they’ve gone and it’s just me again waiting for Martin to come home at the weekend!
My head is spinning with all the coming and going, I should have a chart on the wall so I know who to expect next, all I need now is for some distant cousin to pop out of the woodwork looking for a cheap holiday in Spain and I will scream…
Ella and Frank very nearly missed their flight last night. I kept telling them that they should check their flight times but did they listen. No they bloody didn’t. They were far too busy exploring the village and taking long walks in the hills. It was nearly six o’clock before they eventually checked their tickets and found out that they only had half an hour to be at the airport. You wouldn’t believe the panic that set in and Ella’s language! it made me blush so god knows what it what doing to the holy Father. They were in a right tizz getting the car loaded and the way that Ella drove off you’d have thought that she was competing in the grand prix.
Sophie and the girls seem to be settling into their new house. It’s a shame that Alistair can’t get to be with them as much as he would like but apparently he is tied up with a big trial in The Hague at the moment. Sophie is hoping that he will be able to get home for a few days at the end of the month. I don’t know how she is managing to cope with everything on her own. She moved into their new house with the girls last week and hasn’t had a moment to herself since then. She’s been busy trying to make the house more homely and seems to have spent every evening either decorating or gardening. It’s a good job that she has Liam and Cassy so close by, at least she isn’t up their totally isolated and she says that young Ollie has been a great help with some of the heavy lifting and stuff.
I’ve tried my best to help her with the girls so at least she doesn’t have to worry about them during the day while she is working. I’ve become a regular now on the school run and have made lots of friends with the other Mums waiting at the school gates. We are hoping to organise a fund raising committee for the little village school. The head teacher would like to be able to take the older children on field trips and we are trying to raise enough for them to have their own minibus. So that should keep me out of mischief for a while.
Oh damn the phone’s ringing, it’s probably Martin calling to ask me to arrange his golf for the weekend.
‘Ella how lovely I thought you were Dad’
‘Is he OK?’
‘Yes he’s fine, its just that he usual calls mid week with a list of things that he wants me to get done before he come home at the weekend.’
‘’You’ll have to start charging him for secretarial duties’ laughed Ella’
‘Don’t you dare suggest it to him or he’ll have me glued to the lap top all day working on his spread-sheets. Talking about work have you settled back in to the routine after our wonderful holiday?’
‘Yes unfortunately. I was only saying to Frank this afternoon that two weeks back at the coal face and it feels like I’ve never been away.’
‘You poor thing. I’ll have to come over soon and spoil you with lots of home cooking.’
‘That’s sounds great Mum and I know that Frank would love to see you again.’
‘He seems a really nice chap, you’re lucky to have such a good friend.’
‘I know he’s so sweet he’s even asked if he can take me out to supper this week.’
‘Ella I hope you don’t think that I’m being silly but is it normal, for a priest to take a beautiful young girl out for supper?’
‘Oh Mum we’re just good friends and what’s wrong with friends going out for a meal together? When we were in Madrid we went out together for meals all the time.’
‘But that was different darling, we were on holiday and let’s face it you had me tagging along every night.’
‘Mum stop it, you’re making this sound really sordid. Frank and I are friends and that’s all there is to it. I’ll admit that he is rather dishy in a quiet intelligent kind of way but there is no way that we can ever be more than what we are now, good friends.’
‘Ella don’t shout at me. I’m only concerned for you, for both of you in fact. I can see the way that you look at him, I’m not completely stupid. I was young once as well you know. I just don’t want you to get hurt.’
‘Don’t worry about me Mum. I know that I’ll never have the kind of relationship with Frank that I would love to have so I’m prepared to settle for what I have now.’
‘So you do love him then?’
‘With all my heart but he must never know that or I could loose him. So please Mum, don’t breathe a word of this to anyone, not even Dad.’
‘Of course darling, I won’t tell a soul but promise me you’ll be careful, take it from me, a broken heart takes a lot of healing.’
‘Don’t worry Mum I’m a big girl now.’ Laughed Ella
‘I know darling, that’s what I’m worried about.’
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
Back at the farm Ollie had parked his campervan in it’s now usual place behind the new holiday apartments. His mind was in such a turmoil when he left Gloria that he was tempted to keep on driving, far away from the farm and the village, far away from the grandmother who had just rejected him. But as he drove away from Los Vista his hurt had turned to anger and driving back up the hill he had decided that what ever Gloria said he would make sure that this was not the end. He had come too far and had spent too long searching for his dad’s birth mother to give up on her now.
Back at the farm Ollie had parked his campervan in it’s now usual place behind the new holiday apartments. His mind was in such a turmoil when he left Gloria that he was tempted to keep on driving, far away from the farm and the village, far away from the grandmother who had just rejected him. But as he drove away from Los Vista his hurt had turned to anger and driving back up the hill he had decided that what ever Gloria said he would make sure that this was not the end. He had come too far and had spent too long searching for his dad’s birth mother to give up on her now.
Leaving the doors of the camper open to cool it off, Ollie made his way around to Liam’s office.
‘Liam can I ask you a big favour please? Can I borrow your computer again? I need to mail my Dad, there’s something I need to tell him.’
‘Sure no problem. I was finished for the day anyhow. Is everything all right Ollie. You look upset.’
‘No, I’m OK thanks, I just need to speak to my Dad.’
‘Listen, why don’t you give him a bell. We’ve the landline connected now. ‘
‘I’ll pay you for the call’ said Ollie searching in the pocket of his shorts for some euro notes
‘Yes sure, we’ll worry about that on payday. Here use the extension in the office. I’ll leave you to it. Just lock up when you’ve finished, you can pass the key in when you come up for supper.’
Right at that moment Ollie felt a huge rush of love for Liam and Cassy. He couldn’t understand how people who only a month ago had been strangers were now more like a family to him than his own grandmother.
As Liam walked across the courtyard Ollie picked up the phone and dialed his home number.
‘Hi Mum it’s only me.’
‘Ollie, is everything OK. Dad was frantic when he read your email. He’s on the computer now trying to get flights arranged so that we can come out to you.’
‘Oh Mum I didn’t want to upset him. That was never what all this was about.’
‘I know darling, don’t worry we're not angry with you, we just want to be there for you when you go to see her.’
‘I’ve been, oh Mum it was awful. She said that she didn’t want anything to do with me or Dad. Apparently her husband never knew that she’d had a baby and that’s the way she wants to keep it.’
‘’Don’t get upset darling, we’ll sort something out when we get there. That’s what families are for you know. Here’s Dad’
‘Dad I am so sorry.’
‘You should have told me what you where doing Ollie. Your Mum has been worried sick about you. We haven’t heard from you for weeks, we didn’t even know where you were. The last time we heard from you were
‘I’m sorry Dad but I knew that if I told you I was what I was doing you would have stopped me.’
‘Yes Ollie I would have done. It wasn’t up to you to look for my birth mother it was up to me, me son, not you.’
Ollie cringed at the anger in his Dad’s words. He was right of course and Ollie knew it. It should have been the son who looks for his mother not the grandson going behind his father’s back.
‘I think I can understand why you felt you had to find her and I’ll admit that there were times when I was your age that I wondered about where I really came from. But son you must had given the poor woman the fright of her life turning up out of the blue like that. We should have done this properly, gone through the proper agencies, given her a chance to get used to the idea and the opportunity to say whether she wanted to see you or not.’
‘You’re right Dad, I was stupid but I truly didn’t want to hurt you and Mum. I just needed to meet her. To find out why I am the way I am and I did. She told me all about your father and how they had met. Dad they met at art class, how mad is that!’
‘So it wasn’t all bad, this meeting with your grandmother?’
‘No, it wasn’t. She’s a nice lady dad. She is just frightened of what her husband would say if he found out about you.’
‘I can’t pretend that I’m pleased about what you’ve done and especially about the way that you’ve done it but maybe some good will come out of all this. Mum and I have managed to reschedule our lists and if I can get the flights arranged we are planning to come out to see you this weekend. Do you think that you could find us somewhere to stay please? It will only be for a week but hopefully that will be enough time to salvage something from all this.’
‘Sure Dad I’ll find somewhere and thanks.’
‘For understanding why I had to find her.’ Said Ollie
‘Don’t worry son we’ll sort this all out. I promise’
Ollie was trembling as he put down the phone but relieve that it was all out in the open now. The hardest part of this whole journey had been keeping it a secret from his parents. And it was with a sense of relief that Ollie decided that he would speak to Liam and Cassy at supper time and ask whether his parents would be able to rent one of their nearly completed holiday apartments. He knew that the first one only needed decorating and furnishing. If he offered to spend the next couple of evenings painting the walls maybe they would agree that his Mum and Dad could stay for a while.
And maybe, just maybe if he could persuade Gloria to meet up with her long lost son.
Thursday, 3 July 2008
‘Ollie, I’ve told you it’s not a problem. I’m sure that we can spare you for a few hours. Anyway it’s about time you had a day off. Are you going somewhere special?’
‘No not at all, there are a few things I need to get done and I don’t want to leave them ‘till the weekend.’
‘Well as I say it’s no problem. Do you need a lift down to village?’
‘I’m taking the van thanks, thought I’d make the most of the day and get some provisions while I’m out.’
Ollie couldn’t believe how easily he had fitted into life at the farm. He was even getting used to Sophie’s rather different way of doing things. Cassy and Liam were so laid back but Sophie seemed to him to be a lot more organised. He wasn’t sure if she believed him when he told her that he was just a graduate bumming around Europe for a year. The way she looked at him sometimes made him feel that she was looking right through his story but that won’t matter soon, he thought, after this afternoon he didn’t care who knew his real reason for being here.
The campervan was sluggish with not be used for the past month, so Ollie took it slowly down the hill and coasted the last hundred meters before parking her beside the entrance to Los Vista.
Checking his clothes the best he could in the camper’s small mirror, Ollie locked the van doors and made his way around the pool area to Gloria’s villa. Everything looked so different in the daylight and he had to stop himself from walking up to the patio doors.
He had spent a sleepless night planning what he was going to say to his father’s birth mother. He didn’t want Gloria to think that he was doing all this on a whim, he had to explain to her why he needed to know about her so that he could understand himself better.
Nervously he made his way up the path and was about to knock on the door when it opened suddenly. There standing in the doorway was his grandmother. Gloria looked at him quizzically before asking ‘I saw you coming up the path, can I help you?’
‘This might seem a strange question but was your maiden name Feathers?’
‘Yes but I’m Gloria Westbury now, have been for over thirty years.’
‘Mrs Westbury my name is Oliver Cranford I think that you know my father Simon.’
Gloria clutched the doorframe ‘You’re Simon’s son?’
‘Yes Mrs Westbury and I think that you are my grandmother’
Gloria realised she was shaking as she beckoned the young man into her house ‘Please go through to the lounge’ she said opening the door for him.
‘I’m sorry if I‘ve given you a shock. I did try and phone you but I couldn’t find the words. I have been looking for you for so long I can’t believe I’ve really found you.’
‘Why, why would you want to find me? This all happened so long ago.’
‘All my life I have known that I didn’t quite fit in.’ Ollie explained ‘Nothing was quite right, my Grandfather was a good man but I never really felt that close to him, we were so different. He was a real man's man. Do you know what I mean?’ he asked, Gloria couldn’t speak and just nodded her head. ‘He loved his sport and his cars and was very proud of Dad but then after he died I found out that that he had left nothing to Dad in his will. Dad said he wasn’t surprised and he would have expected every thing to go to Grandma, but it still seemed strange to me and I always felt guilty that I didn’t love my Grandma enough.’ He laughed ‘she isn’t the easiest woman in the world to love but Dad is really good to her and tries his best to get down to see her as often as he can. Not that she appreciates it but that doesn’t stop him going.’
‘When did you find out about me?’ Asked Gloria when Ollie stopped to catch his breath
‘Not long ago. While I was at University I started looking, then just before I graduated I finally found your marriage certificate and discovered your married name.’
‘Does your father know you’re here?’
‘I wrote to him last night and explained that I had found you and that I was coming to see you today.’
‘But why now, why after all these years’ asked Gloria
‘Because I needed to know you. I felt like there was a piece missing from my life and I wanted to see if you could help fill in the blanks.’ He answered honestly
‘But didn’t you consider what I wanted?’ Gloria sobbed ‘Didn’t it occur to you that I mightn’t want reminding about the past?’
‘I’m sorry, I didn’t want to upset you but I had to meet you.’
‘Nobody here knows about the baby. You have to understand how it was then, it was a different age. My parents were horrified when they found out that I was pregnant. Can you imagine their shame? Here was their sixteen year old daughter all ready to start her A level courses and she announces that she’s pregnant.’ Gloria shuddered at the memory ‘My mother was so angry she smacked me across the face. I’ll never forget the sting of her hand on my cheek; it was as if all of her hate was behind that slap. My father just stood there crying, can you believe it, actual tears were running down his face. And that hurt more than any slap, his silent weeping was like a knife in my heart.’
‘Did they make you have my dad adopted?’
‘Oh yes, there was no option. I was far too gone for an abortion though I was still stupid enough to think that they would let me play happy families. Of course there was no chance of that. As soon as they realised who baby’s father was they forbid me to see him again. Dad went around to his family and told them that if he ever came near me, he would kill him. ‘
‘Where was your boyfriend from?’
‘Not far away we met at the church youth club. Oh I see what you mean with him being black? His parents had come over in the fifties from Barbados. Clifton had been born there and lived with his grandmother for a while but as soon as his parents had got enough money together they brought each of the children over to England one by one. It was a lovely family. He had two sisters and a brother. He was a lovely boy, he was so handsome and kind and a wonderful artist. That’s how we started going out together we were both in an art competition in the youth club.’ Gloria smiled at Ollie ‘You have a look about him. It’s around the eyes. Clifton had such beautiful eyes.’
‘Do you know what happened to him?’
‘I heard that he got married and had a family and eventually retired back to Barbados.’
‘Do you have any more children?’
‘No my love, after I gave birth to Simon there were complications. I’ve never been able to have any more children.’
‘I’m so sorry.’
‘Yes so am I. My husband would have loved to have children. I’m just lucky he never insisted that we had the tests. You see Oliver, Malcolm doesn’t know about Simon. And after all these years I never want him to find out. Some secrets are best kept.’
‘But surely you want to see your son again?’
‘No, you don’t understand, I’ve answered all your questions but that’s it. I never want to see you again. I’m sorry but that’s way it’ll have to be. We can never meet again and Malcolm mustn’t ever find out.’
Tuesday, 1 July 2008
This is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to write. Where do I start?
I suppose the best thing I can do is try to explain why I have done the things I have done in the only way I know how.
I suppose it all began in school, the name calling, the bullying. It’s very fashionable these days to say you have to be strong and stand up to the bullies. But you try standing up to the boys I was away at school with, they were a nightmare.
I know that you and Mum wanted the best for me and thought that being a weekly boarder at Ludworth would give me the best start in life but it was a nightmare. It wasn’t just because I was the only black face in the year, it was probably more to do with me. I just didn’t fit in with the whole sporty macho atmosphere.
You know that I have always been happier to sit and paint rather than go out playing cricket but to the other boys that only made me suspect, gay, what ever name they decided to give me that term. So I retreated into myself. It was easier to cope that way. Even when I cam home at the weekends I didn’t seem to fit in any more. I didn’t have any friends and pretending that I was busy with homework was easier than admitting to you both that I was lonely.
But you were right about one thing Ludworth was a ‘good’ school and with my A levels grades I was able to get into a good university. But I still felt apart from the crowd. I suppose that I had spent too much time at school avoiding people and I'd never learnt how to be that sociable but I was lucky and found people who had the same interests as me and I now have a few good friends.
That’s where I started planning this trip. Sitting alone late at night in my student digs I began to wonder about where I came from. Not in any deep philosophical way, just why I loved the things I do. I have always felt that you and Mum were disappointed that your only child was nothing like either of you. I don’t mean my looks, good god EVERYONE says that I’m the proverbial ‘chip off the old block’ even Mum thinks that I am the image of you when you were my age. No I mean more the things that interest us. You are both so gregarious and love nothing more to be surrounded by your golfing chums while I am happiest with a couple of close friends eating a nice meal having a quiet drink.
If you’re both honest you’d have to admit that you were always slightly puzzled why I wasn’t keen to follow you both into medicine. It would have been the most logical thing to do I suppose. Go to medical school. But I knew that I couldn’t be like you and Mum. I just don’t have it in me to be a surgeon. All I ever wanted to do was to make a living from my art work but first I had to find an answer to some of the questions that had been rattling about inside my head for years. Where do I come from? What is my family history?
I suppose that I was about eighteen when I found out that you had been adopted. I don’t know why you had kept it a secret from me, where you embarrassed about it or did you think that I wouldn’t understand?
Granny told me of course. I had gone to visit her one Sunday for want of something better to do. She was as usual moaning about you and Mum not visiting her often enough. I hated it when she criticised you, it was so unfair, when I was little we spent every holiday with her and Gramps when I knew that Mum found her constant grumbling such a trial. She was fussing about trying to wheedle out of me what you were doing that weekend and when I explained that you were both on duty at the hospital she said that she didn’t believe me and that I was covering for you. I was worried that she was going to explode and tried my best to calm her down. That’s when it all came out. How she and Gramps had adopted you as a little baby and had given you every thing and look how you were repaying her.
It was mad, she was ranting about how she had met Gramps when he was working in Bermuda and she was considered a real catch. She kept saying that she came from ‘good stock’ and her mother had had six children so she knew that she was fine. So it was all Gramps fault that they couldn’t have children. I had never heard her so angry, it was as if she had bottled all this resentment for years and now it was exploding out of her.
I hated her for saying all those terrible things and I screamed at her to stop. And then when it happened, she clutched her chest and fell. You know the rest, I got the ambulance and they rushed her off to hospital.
Dad I am so sorry, I should have told you all this before but I was ashamed. I could have killed her with my shouting. I was just so relieved when the hospital said that it was an angina attack and that she would be fine. But she did me a favour I suppose. If she hadn’t have lost her temper I might never have known the truth.
The story of your adoption made a lot of things clearer to me. I had always felt different and now I knew why. But I had to know more and I wanted to find your birth mother before it was too late.
I know that I should have asked you but I was scared that you would say no, leave the past where it is, but I could I had to find her. And I have. She’s here, living in Southern Spain. She’s married to a retired Headmaster and seems a good woman. I haven’t spoken to her yet, I’ve tried but each time I phoned her I lost my nerve and couldn’t think of what to say. But I’ve made up my mind I am going to go and see her tomorrow.
Wish me luck Dad
All my Love