“And young Jack?”
“He has to stay for a while until they’re sure he’s okay to release.”
“Sounds like prison,” Derek said, without thinking.
Again a pause from Lois. “That might happen,” she said, and rang off.
CECILIA WAS SAFELY ASLEEP IN BED, AND GAVIN AND KATE SAT with a drink in hand watching the local news.
“Here we go,” said Kate, as the announcer said that a successful day in Long Farnden had been marred by an accident resulting in three people being taken to hospital. Luckily, they had some good shots of the soap boxes in action before the final race, and a great one of Mrs. Tollervey-Jones spurring on
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as she careered round the corner by the green. Then there was a shot of
turning off course and screams and shouts as the crowd tried to escape.
“Pity we can’t see exactly what happened,” Gavin said, leaning forwards to look more closely. “Mrs. T-J is in the way.”
“It still looks grim,” Kate said. “Perhaps they’ll tell us who was hurt, and how badly.”
But the item ended there, with no further details of names or the condition of the people involved.
The phone rang, and Kate went to answer it. “Josie? Are you back home?”
Josie explained she had just got in, and was ringing to say she’d picked up an evening paper in the hospital and had some news that might interest them.
“How’s the boy?”
“Ah, it’s not about the accident. But young Jack is okay, and so is his father.”
Josie gave her a brief account of their meeting in the hospital, and then said again that she had something else to tell them. She knew Paula Hickson had talked to Lois about things that had happened in the past, and this had something to do with where she worked once as a catering assistant.
Kate’s heart stopped. The construction development company and Tim Froot. She had forgotten all about him for one whole day.
“It’s about that building business in Tresham. You know that Dutch one? I think you said Gavin used to work there?”
“Me, too,” said Kate. “What’s the story?”
“Gone bust,” said Josie. “The boss is up for fraud and embezzlement, trafficking and God knows what else. They arrested him yesterday. Kate? Are you still there?”
ACK JR. HAD PLENTY OF TIME TO THINK WHAT HE WOULD SAY when the police asked him questions. It had been agreed that in view of the trauma he must have suffered, they would try to keep him resting and quiet over Sunday, and begin their questioning on Monday. He went along with this, sure that they would want his account of what had happened. He had no intention of telling them the truth, which was that he had steered straight at his and his father’s enemy, with the intention of seriously harming him. He knew he had succeeded, although when he asked the nurses they just flaffed about, not telling him.
Now, bright and early on Monday morning, he was ready for them. He had remembered that stuff about the steering not being right. The man from the garage had said so to Derek Meade, and he’d said John Thornbull would take a look at it. But had he? Jack had hardly left
’s side all day, until the final race had ended. He could not remember anybody looking closely at the steering, or anything else on the box, for that matter. If anybody had asked him about the steering, he would have denied that there was anything wrong with it. He knew it was perfect.
He helped himself to an apple from a bowl of fruit the nurses had brought him, and continued to think. He thought of possible answers to questions that were certain to be asked. It might be a good thing to blame the steering, and get Mr. Meade and John Thornbull to support him. Yes, that would be best.
To the nurse who had just come on duty, he smiled sweetly. He was determined now to get out of this place as soon as possible. He was fed up with the parents of screaming kids who looked across at him, all alone and without visitors, and came over to be nice to him. Little did they know, he thought, that he had ordered his mother to stay away and look after the others, and his father was still having tests somewhere else in this great rabbit warren of a hospital.
He needed to plan. With any luck he would be allowed home today or tomorrow, and then there would be a while before they would expect him back at school.
“Now then,” the nurse said. “How are we feeling today?”
“I don’t know about you,” said Jack Jr., “but I’m feeling fine. I hope the doctor will say I can go home today.”
“Ah, well, we shall just have to wait and see. Now, do you want anything?”
“To go home,” said Jack Jr., on the principle that if you said something often enough it was bound to happen.
The nurse had read his notes, where he was described as a mixed-up, feisty youngster, who needed firm handling. “Patience is a virtue,” she recited gently, “possess it if you can, seldom in a woman, never in a man.”
“If I’m a man,” retorted Jack Jr., “why am I in a sodding children’s ward?”
“No beds free in the men’s ward. One of them occupied by your father, I believe? Would you like a visit from him? I know he’s walking about.”
Jack Jr. considered this, and said he thought his dad would be coming down later to see him anyway. He needed some more thinking time before he rehearsed what he would say to the police. His dad would know at once if he was lying, but now he had no need to lie. The steering had not been checked, and the garage man had said it was loose. That was all he needed to say to anyone who asked.
“OF COURSE YOU MUST GO IN TO SEE HIM,” LOIS SAID FIRMLY TO Paula, who had called her to say would it be all right if she got Floss to fill in for her at the hall this afternoon.
“And don’t worry about asking Floss. I’ll do your hours myself. I’d quite like a chat with Mrs. T-J. I bet she’s impossible now she’s the soap box champion. Still, she did do well, the dear old thing. She’s put Farnden WI on the map! Several calls have come through from newspapers and telly people, and not
wanting to know about the accident.
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is a star!”
“Thanks, Mrs. M,” Paula said. “The kids are taken care of, and I can take in my two Jacks in one fell swoop!”
“Oh, right,” said Lois. She wondered whether she could sound out Paula on the husband and wife situation, and decided against it. None of her business, Derek would say. She wished Paula well, and said to give her regards to young Jack. “He’s in the news at the moment,” she added, “but he’ll soon drop out of it again, so don’t let him get too bigheaded.”
Paula said that now she would have Jack’s father to help control him, she reckoned her wayward son was going to be a lot easier to handle in the future. So there’s my answer, thought Lois.
Gran came in with coffee, and asked who had been on the phone. Lois was tempted to tell her it was a business call, but then relented and gave her a brief account of Paula’s call.
“Oh, that’s great,” said Gran, “and not before time. A boy needs his father, especially at young Jack’s age. I’m off now,” she added. “Triumphant meeting of the WI
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“But you weren’t on it,” Lois objected.
“I’m deputizing for you,” said Gran. “I told them you’d be too busy this morning, but I knew you’d want to spend some time with Jamie before he goes back.”
Old bag, that was meant to be a subtle reminder, said Lois to herself, but she smiled. Still, she’s right. But first, a call to my friendly neighbourhood policeman.
“Morning, Lois,” said Cowgill. “How are you, and how’s your clever husband? A great day yesterday. Must have raised a mint for the village hall refurbishment?”
“Not counted up yet. Anyway, that’s not what I’m ringing about. What’s more, you know it’s not.”
“Right. So what exactly did happen in the last race? Chris is going in to see the Hickson boy this afternoon, and anything you can tell us would be a great help.”
“Before we get on to that,” Lois said, “Derek says it’s possible
’s steering was faulty. He was supposed to have got John Thornbull to check it, but thinks he may have forgot. Now let’s talk about the man who was killed. You’ve checked, I expect?”
“He had no identification on him, but you know who he was, don’t you, Lois. Come on, light of my life, save me some valuable police time.”
“Hunter Cowgill,” said Lois, “don’t push me too far. Think back. Jack Hickson Sr. had a major bust up at Parks and Gardens, and injured a man who’d quarrelled with him. So, if you remember that Jack Hickson Sr. was standing next to the man who died, and a knife had been drawn a couple of seconds before
crashed into them, doesn’t that make you wonder?”
“What are you saying, Lois? Do you mean young Jack’s father killed him?”
“No, not that way round, stupid! The man flashing the knife was after Jack Sr., aiming to settle a score. It was when he fell backwards and hit his head on the bollard that he bought it. Got it? I don’t know his name, but I’ll probably find out. Just tell Chris to go easy on young Jack. What happens next will probably affect the rest of his life. Let me know how it goes. Please.”
Cowgill heard her end the call and remained staring at the receiver. Then he called for his assistant, Chris, saying that on no account was she to go to the hospital without talking to him first. Then he asked her to get him John Thornbull on the phone straightaway.
THE SHOP HAD BEEN MUCH BUSIER THAN WAS USUAL ON A MONDAY morning, but now there was a lull, and Josie sat down on her stool behind the counter and looked through the morning paper. She wondered if the Dutch company story was in the business section. It was, with many distressing details. The door opened and she looked up. It was Matthew Vickers, in uniform and with a broad grin on his face. “Love you,” he said, by way of a greeting. “Will you marry me? If not, I shall be forced to take you down to the station, and warn you that anything you do say may be given in evidence.”
Josie stared at him. “Have you been drinking?” she said. “And in uniform, too? I shall be forced to report you to your superior. And, since you asked me so romantically, the answer is . . .” She hesitated dramatically, and then said in a very small voice, “Yes, please.”
OIS AND JAMIE WANDERED ROUND THE MARKETPLACE IN Tresham, looking idly at a number of stalls set out under a big banner advertising a charity event. Twenty charities were represented, selling a variety of handmade and commercially produced goods. Each had its display and piles of leaflets explaining who they were and why they needed money.
“There she is!” Lois said suddenly.
“Dot,” said Lois. “I knew she’d be here. Come on, let’s go over and speak to her.”
Jamie frowned. So this is why his mother had mysteriously suggested they might go into town to do some shopping this afternoon. It was not exactly what he would have chosen to do in his brief time at home, but she had been insistent. Now he remembered who Dot was. She was a Nimmo, and he’d been at school with one of the latest generation. That one had been an engaging character, certainly, and no fool. But he did as little work as possible, and could not wait to leave school and join his father’s gang of small-time crooks.
Mum was after information, and Dot would be the source.
They approached the Alzheimer’s Society stall, and Dot beamed. “This is your Jamie, then?” she said, stretching out her hand. Jamie shook it firmly and smiled back. These Nimmos were irresistible.
“Pleased to meet you,” continued Dot. “I’m sorry to ask you the minute we’ve met, but would you be an angel and get me a bottle of lager from the pub over there? I’m dying of thirst. Here, here’s the money.”
So, she wants a private word with Mum, he thought, as he crossed the busy square to the King’s Arms.