Walking towards one another along the shore path, they nearly collided. The wind and rain buffeted Felicity and Gordon. Both had their heads down and collars turned up against the weather. When they finally met it was so noisy that conversation was a challenge. Felicity wore a duffle coat, the hood hiding most of face except for her mouth, which presently looked and sounded fed up. Gordon was completely absorbed in a different problem. The wild weather and their separate inclinations made what happened next, completely inevitable.
“Anyway it’s gone,” Felicity shouted over the noise. She held up a hand as if to show she didn’t
have it. “It was on the draining board by the back door and then it was gone.”
“It was probably just a mad moment,” Gordon shouted back. Pursuing his own train of thought. His mind was still on Marmaduke Baishley’s outburst.
Perhaps the Royal Army Pay Corps was just a cover story, he thought. Perhaps Baishley was a spy himself. Curley said it’s a dangerous game but I suppose some spies might just live till retirement; then die in their beds.
Felicity had looked slightly taken aback by Gordon’s remarks. She knew him well enough not to expect sympathy for her loss, but telling her it might have been a mad moment was a bit hard.
“Priceless it was.” She shouted above the driving rain, in case he hadn’t heard.
“You think Baishley might have been a secret agent of some sort and used the Pay Corps as a cover?” said Gordon.
“Pay Corps did you say?”
“He wasn’t speaking English to them?”
“Who wasn’t? What’s the Pay Corps got to do with anything?”
Gordon shrugged his shoulders.
Not being able to see Felicity’s face, or recognise concern in her voice, the discussion at cross-purposes, could have gone on and on. It took some time for him to register that she was actually upset about the loss of something precious.
“What was it again?”
“A pearl, the size of a….” she stopped rather self-consciously; “Quite large anyway”.
“Where did you keep it?” Gordon asked innocently.
Without hesitation Felicity shouted her reply, as if determined she would be understood.
“In my navel, usually.”
Anyone else might have been stopped in their tracks faced with this amount of personal information, but Gordon’s mind was still elsewhere, and living next door to Felicity Trimble, he had learned not to be surprised at anything. Whatever the reason, the revelation was accepted as calmly as if she had said ‘in my jewellery case’, or, ‘under the bed’. The fact that Miss Trimble normally kept a sizeable pearl in her belly button was accepted without question.
“Let’s go and look for it together. It can’t have gone far.”
It was a measure of their growing relationship that discussion on the where and why of the lost pearl would wait till it was found. Why Felicity kept it in her bellybutton, was far less important than where is might have gone. Later, after it had been safely retrieved, Gordon would puzzle these tantalising matters, but for now, given that it was so important to her, he was determined to find it; no questions asked and whatever the cost; and there would be a cost. Felicity’s welfare was a matter of high importance to Gordon. He had been known to go to great lengths to safeguard his neighbour. On another occasion his scheming to protect Felicity’s secret fame as the nationally acclaimed writer Rebecca Cutting from certain nosey parkers in the village had got him in to all sorts of trouble. Only last year that Freda Baishley came very close to discovering the identity of the famous author. In saving the situation Gordon was nearly eaten alive by Dorothy Dymley-Whyte the Squire’s unmarried sister. He shuddered now remembering how Dorothy, covered in body oil and naked except for a feathered headdress, extracted favours from him in return for her cooperation.