EXTRACT FROM CHAPTER 10 Rules of engagement
Gordon and Felicity’s relationship had moved
on, but not by much. There was still a gate joining their back gardens. The two chairs, side by side on Felicity’s veranda looking out towards the shore were now a fixture.
They had shared more escapades together, of the badly-behaved kind.
Close friends will have noticed that Felicity had feelings for Gordon. Tender moments of a sort; when she had slipped her arm through his and said. “Take me home,” after a village event or evening at the Bell.
She had, on occasions, discreetly hugged or kissed him on the cheek. Such moments of affection, Gordon thought, were a return for a small act of kindness. He was always there for her never questioning never critical. That was the way of it and Gordon thought the hugs were well worth his efforts.
They had shared quite intimate knowledge from time to time, but he was never told if she had put the pearl back in her belly button when he finally returned it.
She’ll tell me if she wants to, he thought.
“You ever lonely Miss Felicity?” said Gordon. He often reverted to this formal address when dealing with matters more personal; as if doing so would in some way be less obtrusive.
“How could I possibly be lonely with you living next door,” said Felicity smiling at her neighbour and she touched his arm gently as if to confirm, it’s you I’m talking to.
Gordon nodded silently. He wasn’t entirely sure what he wanted to hear. Perhaps it was just that the evening and the company were so perfect that he wondered how much better it was possible to get.
“What were you thinking about?” said Felicity conversationally.
Their adjoining back gardens were the most secluded place; completely private from the prying eyes of those neighbours, or more correctly, the nosey neighbour who would enjoy intruding with a telescope for the satisfaction of a good line in idle gossip. The wicker chairs were sheltered under the veranda but it was the warmest of evenings. The French windows were open wide. Behind them was Felicity’s study where she wrote her steamy fiction. The dappled light from her overgrown garden flickered like moving pictures on to the quarry stone floor. Beyond the garden the rhythms of the sea were mellowed by the wilderness of shrubs and trees. The lawn was rough cut at ankle height and there was a small well-tended vegetable patch.
“Sometimes think I’m a bit selfish about keeping my own company; and if I wasn’t so, I’d do more to keep you company.” This was quite a long explanation from Gordon and he wondered if it made much sense. He didn’t look at his friend when he spoke, but finishing he turned his head towards her.
“Extremely well put Mr G,” Felicity leaned towards him so their glasses of peach wine tinkled as if they were toasting a new idea. The nearness of Felicity felt good. “You see I feel very much the same. I enjoy my own company. I enjoy yours almost as much, but when it comes to loneliness, I never think of myself as lonely when I’m on my own.”
Gordon thought about this for a long time and decided it was the same for him. But then he remembered Reggie Frogmore telling him about when he and his wife were cruising in the Caribbean in their 40 ft. Schooner. Reggie and Penelope crewed it alone, and they were so close. Reggie had once said: ‘You couldn’t get a bar of soap between us.’ Gordon knew what he meant. So close that the one knew what the other was thinking. That sort of relationship was special and he wanted something like that for himself.
“You’re thinking about a closer relationship?” said Felicity boldly.
She does know what I’m thinking.
“I think we know one another very well Gordon.”
No reply. Silence.
“Don’t you? I can’t think of anyone I’d rather live next door to.”
“Me to,” he said nodding his head after a bit of thought.
“We could knock through and join up both cottages?” Felicity said, quite out of the blue.
“I can see a few structural problems with that,” said Gordon, “but I like the idea.”
Felicity nodded. “If we lived together, I’d miss living next door to you.
“That’s quite deep,” said Gordon.
Felicity smiled. “You could stop calling me Miss Felicity or Miss Trimble.”
“I will.” Gordon was getting the hang of it.
“I could…,” he hesitated. “I could…,” he was trying to think of something he could contribute to ‘getting closer’.
“Gordon you could just carry on being you.”
“Don’t seem enough really.”
“Well it’s a lot. We could have breakfast together sometimes; if you want?”
“No I mean I’m not giving enough,” he paused thinking about the implications of Felicity’s last statement.
“Did you say breakfast?” His heart raced at the thought of breakfast with Felicity. That suggested an intimacy right up there with Reggie’s bar of soap.
Felicity smiled at him.
“I’d like that,” he couldn’t help blushing. Good job it was getting dark.
Sadie couldn’t help smiling. She was cycling along a narrow country lane behind Tomas. He wobbled about looking dangerously out of control on a bike that might have been new at the turn of the century. She knew it was taking all his concentration to keep balanced and in control. She smiled because Felicity’s idea was working and Sadie was the happiest person. She dared not call out to him because it might make him swerve. She just watched his tall lean body swaying around on the old leather saddle. His back held straight and his head a shock of unruly blond hair.
“All mine,” she said; confident that he couldn’t hear her.
Sadie had moved back to her room in Portisham and Tomas visited regularly when his bakery duties permitted. The persecution of Tomas Florentine had ceased, at least for the present. They were out for the rest of the day and there was a picnic in the saddle bag.
At Baishley Manor, Freda and Marmaduke were taking afternoon tea in the back garden. No room for informality even here. Freda wore an ankle length, pink tent and Marmaduke was resplendent in white shorts and pink shirt. To Marmaduke’s everlasting irritation Freda often insisted he wear something matching. Under a sunshade the little round table was laid for two. Silver napkin rings were present but Marmaduke received a slapped wrist for getting jam on the linen serviette.
Freda was still hunting for a sleeping mole. Surprisingly their clumsy attempts to trap Dr Liversay had done nothing to stem her enthusiasm. She blamed Marmaduke for her failure.
“Sent me blundering into Alexander’s house,”
“It was your idea,” said Marmaduke helplessly.
“How embarrassing that he came here in person to ask if there was something I was looking for in his house and could he assist me to find it,” Freda felt humiliated all over again just thinking about the moment.
If Marmaduke was beginning to tire of spy catching, not so Freda. She was girding her loins for further action. The super spy catcher had turned all her attention to Tomas Florentine.
“He ticks all the boxes,” she said breathlessly.
Marmaduke shook his head. “He’s all wrong for a spy.”
“He’s new in the village and foreign. His parents were interned at the beginning of the war. He’s well educated and has very uncultured habits.”
Marmaduke looked at her in amazement.
“He runs along the shore in his underclothes and eats strange food,” Freda could hardly contain herself.
“His scones are amazingly good,” said Marmaduke spreading a spoonful of clotted cream on top of the strawberry jam.
“He keeps very strange hours and now he’s captivated the Philpott girl.”
“He’s a baker, for heavens sake, and I’m not surprised he finds Sadie Philpott attractive.”
Marmaduke took on a dreamy look. He was trying but not succeeding to remember the last time he had been captivated. Freda nudged his arm across the table pushing clotted cream up his nose.
“Pay attention, we must find out more about the foreigner.”
“Don’t you see,” Marmaduke shook his head “It’s all too obvious.”
His scone waived its way across the table.
“It has to be someone who blends into the community. Tomas stands out like a sore thumb”
Since the beginning of the week Reggie had been studying the lamp posts throughout the village. Their intelligence suggested that a blob of chewing gum was the signal that the dead letter box had been used.
“Trouble is all four have chewing gum on them,” he said miserably. “Admittedly it’s mostly at small-child height, and we’ve no idea when it was put there.”
“It’s not going to work,” said Gordon despondently.
“Perhaps we should assume the signal has been sent out by one side or the other,” said Felicity. “Perhaps chewing gum on all four lamp posts is their way of making sure they get the correct one.”
Gordon thought she didn’t sound as if she was convinced.
“So we start looking in all the dead letter boxes for a message.”
“We still have thirty possible locations,” said Gordon.
“Perhaps we should rope in some help,” said Reggie.
Dorothy Dymly-Whyte was seldom seen in the village and never alone the Ship’s Bell. Felicity led her with a hand under her arm. The success of Felicity’s plan depended on Dorothy being out there and seen around the village. Dorothy looked stunning in a long linen, low-waisted dress and a shawl. Her hair was one long plait and around her head, a cotton head band.
“When do I get to meet this mythteriouth man?” she said as they entered the lounge bar.
“This very moment,” Felicity whispered, “he’s right behind us in the corner.”
Dorothy glanced over her shoulder.
“Mmm heath very hanthome.”
“Now you recognise him, let’s just get a drink, and go outside.” said Felicity, pulling her towards the bar.
“Not now I’m here.” Dorothy pulled herself away, but Felicity held on firmly. A tug of war ensued, and it ended when the pair fell through the door and landed in a crumpled heap at the feet of the big stranger.
He stood up, taken completely by surprise.
“I am so sorry,” said Felicity, “my friend gets a… little carried away.”
“Oh,” said Dorothy gazing up at the stranger.
“Ith’s true I am completely...”
The stranger was transfixed by the two women who seemed to have thrown themselves at him. He looked down on them.
“Ladies,” he murmured in a deep husky throat and Dorothy fainted away in a sigh of pleasure.
Felicity reacted differently. “Oh you’re….” She quickly stopped herself from saying: ‘ou're not the same one as before.’
“You’re not English?” she quickly recovered.
“No ladies, I am not English and I am unaccustomed to the strange English ways.” He said this quite sternly. He was a smartly dressed, heavily built fellow with black crinkly hair and a short pointed beard. He sounded very fierce; until he smiled. “But I will try to get used to them,” he said. And the smile gave way to a grin, Felicity was reminded of a vampire, two gold teeth threatened his invitation.
“Will you permit me to order you refreshment?” He gave a little bow towards the ladies. Joe who had been leaning over the bar watching with great amusement came over and took their orders.
After a half an hour the ladies retired to Felicity’s home. Dorothy showed every sign of becoming besotted with the big Russian and Felicity increasingly apprehensive.
Both looked exhausted after the session with the foreign visitor.
“What exactly wath it you wanted me to do with him dear?”
With their feet up enjoying a cup of tea, they were re-living the experience.
Felicity looked at her friend and wondered how to explain. “Think I’ve changed my mind Dotty. He might be too hot to handle.”
Dorothy nodded her head furiously.
“Mmm I thought tho, though not too hot. He thounds very interethting to me, being an art exthpert and all that.”
“Not sure I believe all that.” Felicity wondered how much she could tell Dorothy. If I say he’s a foreign spy she’ll just go and ask him. If I don’t tell her she might be in even greater danger.
They were interrupted from further discussion by the sound of a crash as two bicycles
bounced off Felicity’s front gate.
“I know I said go cycling together but I rather assumed you knew how to ride bicycles,” Felicity stood at the front door looking at the tangle of wheels and bodies. Sadie and Tomas had landed like a couple of bookends with the bikes between them.
“We have some news,” Tomas said breathlessly.
“We’ve found a clue,” said Sadie.
“Well perhaps you did,” she said, “but just come in and meet Dorothy and later we can talk about it.”
Dorothy, still in the sitting room, said “What have they found dear?”
And as they came in Felicity whispered, “I think they've found love, and they get so excited about the simplest things.”
The day of the so called rocket testing display drew closer and a fair amount of excitement was being generated around the village.
Standing on the foreshore in the early evening Reggie Frogmore was scathing about the whole idea. He shook his head and muttered to Felicity: “This isn’t going to fool anyone. How on earth does the Steward think a sleeping mole will be flushed out by seeing his surprise firework display?”
More shaking of heads. Only Hector
hesitated to agree.
“I’ve learned never to underestimate the Steward.” Hector was clad in his everyday shabby cassock, at half mast, showing his bare feet in sandals. “I do worry though what he might be up to.”
“Don’t we all,” said Felicity.
The success of the evening depended upon being able to study the behaviour of those present when the fireworks started. The plan was that anyone with inside knowledge about the secret airbase would show themselves in some way.
By nine-thirty a crowd of over a hundred villagers stood on the shore expectantly watching, patiently waiting. One person conspicuous by his absence was Gordon. There were murmurs in the crowd. Anything as odd as a free firework display in the village had the mark of Gordon Drake about it, but where was he?
It was a humid evening. The sort, thought
Gordon, which promised violent weather but seldom delivered. A good thunder storm would clear the air and then everyone could breath easily again. He had waited till Sea Winkle was far enough away from the shore before starting the Seagull outboard motor.
They were making for the tiny island of South Binns. He leaned over the large wooden box amidships to where Pincher Martin sat on the bows. He was still in his taxi driver uniform; black leather cheese-cutter cap with a pencil tucked under the flap.
“Think we’re in for some weather. You a good sailor Pincher?”
“When I was a nipper Gordie, my ole man threw me in the arbour.”
Gordon sensed one of Pincher’s long involved stories coming up.
“E said ‘nipper’; never used me proper name, I don’t think e knew what it was. ‘Nipper’ he said, don’t come out till you knows how to swim.” Pincher nodded his head and looked smug for a well told story.
“Is that it Pincher; did it teach you to swim?”
Pincher shook his head silently. Then after what seemed like an age he said:
“Bloody nearly drowned me.”
“You know you can’t tell a soul about this business Pincher?”
“Too right Gordie. Especially on account of where I got these rockets from.”
“Liberated were they?”
“Couldn’t say, Pincher shook his head. “ Let’s just say they won’t be missed unless the army wants to start another war in the next few weeks.”
“Thought you said they were rockets Pincher,” Gordon became a bit alarmed.
“Somthin like that Gordie. Think they use them when they’re practising goin to war mostly.”
The pair arrived on South Binns. It was little more than a sand bank with a few tufts of grass and a small group of trees at the centre. At low tide it was a good place to grope for flounders in the shallows. The cockles were good too, although it was a long way to come. Tonight it was to be a platform for a firework display.
On the shore
expectations were rising. Any excuse was good enough for some people to gather and get the excitement going.
“One thing’s certain,” said Reggie standing behind the crowd where he could watch people come and go: “If I were a sleeping mole I wouldn’t be out here spying.”
“I’m inclined to agree,” said Felicity. “not one of his better ideas. In fact if I was a sleeping mole…,” she stopped talking and nudged Reggie. “Over there by the breakwater.”
“Oh my goodness, how did that happen?”
“I think I know why it happened, but I’m not sure how,” said Felicity. “But it’s my fault.”
Dorothy Dymly–Whyte was wrapped around the arm of the big Russian art dealer. They were looking at one another completely oblivious to the people around them.
“What have I done?” said Felicity.
“Does she know what he is?”
Felicity shook her head. “I don’t think Dotty cares.”
The big Russian had shed his smart conservative clothes and dressed down. Dorothy had replaced her regular eccentric dress for a plain skirt, blouse, and shawl.
“Oh dear,” said Reggie.
“She’s besotted,” said Felicity shaking her head.
The crowd had grown. Reggie had counted the dark shadows silhouetted against the skyline.
“Must be upwards of hundred and fifty now.” They all waited expectantly. The air had become heavy. Despite the lateness of the hour people were still in shirt sleeves and thin dresses.
“I hate this weather,” said Hector sauntering over to join them.
The distant rumble of thunder could be heard away to the east.
The air was oppressive.
“Calm before the storm,” muttered Reggie.
“At least it’ll clear the air, said Hector.
A miracle would be useful thought Felicity.
The murmurings of the village people, all staring out across the bay, slowly faded away. There was silence; like that moment before the lights go down in the theatre waiting for the show to begin thought Felicity.
Just like Sunday mornings before I start my sermon, Hector thought.
Just like the silence at the end of one of Hector’s sermons thought Reggie.
From his vantage point in the shadows near a section of tumbled down sea wall Dr Liversay was wondering what he was doing here amid a crowd, mostly his patients, waiting for some sort of explosive display over at the secret government establishment.
The Baishleys were there staring out to sea with the rest.
“Felicity Trimble with Commander Frogmore; I wonder what Penelope will make of that,” said Freda, and then added, “when I drop it into the conversation.”
Change is as good as a rest, thought Marmaduke. Wish I was standing there talking to Miss Trimble.
Leaning against one another, arms linked, Sadie and Tomas almost formed a single shadow. Behind them like the mother hen, stood Gladys Goodbody.
“Just let anyone spoil it for these two,” she murmured under her breath.
The wooden box with rope handles was heavy but Gordon and Pincher heaved it out of Sea Winkle and dropped it on to the sand.
“Shouldn’t want to carry this one too far Gordie.”
“Get it away from the dingy to be on the safe side.”
They dragged it across the island towards the centre. With a crowbar Gordon opened the wooden lid.
“Don’t look much like rockets,” said Gordon lifting out a hand size package. “Looks more like a bombs,”
“Job lot Gordie, should be a hundred in there.”
“Any instructions, do you hold them or what?”
Pincher shook his head. “They might be old stock. Best not hold em”
“Ten minutes,” said Gordon looking at his watch.”
They left the box open and wandered off towards the trees.
“Suppose this’s where you brought your girlfriends in your younger days Gordie?”
Gordon thought about an answer for a long time before deciding it would be far better not to reply. The answer would be all round the community by this time tomorrow if Pincher knew about escapades on South Binns.
He smiled at Pincher.
“Come on I’ll show you round.” They wandered off towards the tall trees.
The thunder rumbled around and they could see lightening dancing across the water beyond the island. They sat on the grass with their backs against a tree looking out over the harbour towards the secret military airbase. There was always a misty glow of light over the base.
“Hope what they're doing over there is worth all this effort,” said Gordon half to himself.
“Should we be in amongst the trees with all this lightening around,” said Pincher.
“Over there’s a tree struck by lightening. Not likely to happen again in the same place,” said Gordon relaxing a little more.
So when it did happen again in almost the same place, it was a bit of a surprise to them both. A fork of lightening struck the little island. For a second it was daylight. And then the darkness returned. When the lightening ignited the wooden box of explosives daylight returned again momentarily. It was followed by an ear-splitting explosion.
If the breath-taking display of light and sound had been stage-managed it could not have been more impressive. The combination of lightening setting off an explosion and the clap of thunder which followed, left spectators gasping with admiration.
Many amongst the crowd ignored the absurdness of the situation. They had come here to watch a display and no one seriously thought the secret government base was involved. Everything about it suggested a connection with the Steward. The notice in the village store, the rumours buzzing around the village; it all suggested the mischievous mind of Gordon Drake.
“He’s done it again.”
“Trust the Steward to pull something out of the bag.”
“Thunder and lightening to order, it don’t get any better than that.”
Someone down the front of the crowd applauded. Then almost everyone joined in.
“He’s surpassed himself this time,” said Reggie. “Even the Padre, with his connections, couldn’t manage thunder and lightening.
“How did he do that?” Felicity shook her head in disbelief
Hector smiled, “I must ask him. Can’t believe it’s his Sea Nymphs.”
The crowds thinned out as people decided they had seen all there was to see. Felicity watched people leaving in neighbourly groups. Miss Dorothy Dymley-Whyte
was still there, clinging to the big Russian. There was a third shadow in the group now. In the stillness of the evening their voices drifted up towards Felicity, Reggie, and Hector. There was an angry conversation going on, in Russian, between Dr Liversay
and the stranger. It was loud. It was difficult to hear, impossible to understand but the voices were definitely hostile.
On the island where two bodies lay lifeless, covered in the debris of trees, sea grass and mud, there was no movement and Gordon’s first thought was about how silent it was. Not a sound. He felt around with
his hands and removed a turf of grass from Pincher’s face.
“You alright?” No reply.
“Pincher,” he shouted and his voice sounded as if it was far distant. He raised himself on to his knees and shouted again. It was difficult in the dark but his torch still worked. They were both on their knees, face to face, shouting but there was no noise to be heard. Pincher’s mouth was moving ten to the dozen but nothing could be heard.
They had both been deafened by the explosion. They staggered around on the shoreline looking for Sea Winkle but it had drifted off in to the darkness. From the direction of the military airbase there was the noise of klaxons sounding. Floodlights came on.
Pincher, face to face with Gordon mimed a message which was clear enough to understand
“We best get the ell out of ere,”
Gordon shook his head.
“We have to wait. Dig back in the ground,” he shouted hoping Pincher would understand.
They burrowed back in to the sand amid the wreckage of the explosion until no more than two pairs of eyes remained. Then they heard aircraft lifting off from the airbase. A pair of Westland HR5 helicopters, flew overhead. Their searchlights travelled across the water in a pattern which got closer to South Binns. Finally powerful beams of light from the two machines criss-crossed the island.
If they find Sea Winkle we are sunk thought Gordon. They didn’t because Sea Winkle had sunk.
When the aircraft finally turned away, Gordon and Pincher sat up and leaned against the remains of a tree.
“You're taking all this very well Pincher,”
Pincher nodded as if he understood.
“I thought so Gordie. Wery nice of you to say so. You think we might get off home now. Milly’s doin some tripe and onions for tea. She’ll likely be wondering where I am.”
“I think we should. Wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t send out some troops very shortly.”
They found Sea Winkle after a long search. It had been completely destroyed by the blast. Only the Seagull outboard motor had survived. Gordon buried it in the sand, to collect another day.
“ It’s likely you’ll be late for supper,” said Gordon. “Hope your Millie won’t worry.”
Gordon retrieved Sea Winkle’s painter still attached to the bow and with it the name of the dingy. It would not do to leave that sort of evidence around. He then groped in the shallow water until he found the transom which formed the stern of the dingy where ‘Sea Winkle’ had been painted on with such elaborate care.
When completely satisfied that the dingy could not be identified he tied the painter around Pincher’s waist and with bundles of sea grass they walked backwards in to the shallows brushing their tracks away as best they could. Gordon led Pincher across the mud and shingle for the long trek home.
Sometimes they were waist high in the water because it was still an hour before low tide but they could not afford to wait. Gordon did not put a foot wrong during the long journey home. With unnerving accuracy he traversed the bay across the mud flats. This was his back yard and he knew his way as if he were walking across the village green. When Pincher frequently did put a foot wrong he was hauled back on the rope. Gordon regularly shouted encouragement but it was largely a waste of time. Pincher’s cries of terror and gurgles of drowning went unheard.
After an hour of wading through thick mud, deep water, shingle reaches, and banks of razor sharp sea grass they reached the shore and made their way around the bay to Loose Ends. Gordon kept Pincher on the painter as they trudged through
“Best if you tidy up a bit before getting back in the taxi Pincher. You’ll frighten small children and old ladies if you drive home like that.”
Pincher nodded in reply. Conversation was fruitless and anyway he didn’t have the energy to speak.
“Too right Gordie,” he kept saying. It seemed to be a reply which covered most of Gordon’s instructions.
The sombre but noisy crowd in Gordon’s kitchen gave it the feel of a war cabinet. The faces around the table were very grim. Everyone except Gordon was talking. He was listening but still not hearing much.
He sat hunched over the end of the table watching people’s lips but it didn’t work very well.
“You could have been blown up,” Felicity wrote on a piece of paper.
Gordon nodded, “Felt like I had.”
“Tomas heard them. They were arguing in Russian,” said Sadie.
“I think we should get that young fella back; Curley Cayle’s brother,” said Hector.
Reggie nodded to this. “Rupert wasn’t it Steward?”
Gordon nodded again hopefully.
“Doesn’t mean the Doc is a sleeping mole though, just because he was speaking Russian,” said Hector.
“He didn’t want anything to do with the Russian,” said Tomas. “He was asking to be left alone.”
“That supports the idea that the foreigner was here to make contact with Alexander,” said Felicity. “But I can’t believe he’s is a spy.”
“He might have got involved in his university days,” Reggie looked glum. He, like Felicity, was fond of their family GP.
“What about Inchmere house,” said Felicity. “Tomas and Sadie came across it while out cycling. Nearly killed themselves bringing the news back home.” Felicity wrote the word Inchmere down.
Gordon nodded. “Heard of it.”
“It’s a big old mansion set in its own grounds with some expensive looking security systems on the gates and on the top of boundary walls,” said Sadie. “It looked promising so we rang the bell and asked if we could fill our lemonade bottle with water.”
“Did you see anyone recognisable?” said Reggie.
Tomas shook his head, “No but we were sent on our way by two men who were arguing about what to do with us.”
“Tomas said they were gabbling on in Russian.”
There was stony silence in the room. Felicity put both hands to her face as if to stop herself crying out.
“Wonder if Sir Pip knows anything about the place? Who lived there years ago?” said Gordon.
“Do you suppose Pondpoker lives there?” said Hector.
“A Mere is old English for a small lake or a pond,” said Sadie. “Do you think Mr Cayle was making a connection between Pondpoker and Inchmere?”
It was clear that Gordon was struggling.
Felicity put an arm round his shoulders.
“You need to get checked out by Alexander,” she shouted in his ear. Everyone else stopped and looked. “He’s still our Doctor,” Felicity protested.
As proposed they agreed to activate the call sign described in Curley’s black book.
“But the lamp posts are already covered in chewing gum,” Reggie almost exploded.
Sadie shook her head: “The chewing gum must be exactly twelve inches from the ground.”
“Urrrh,” cried Reggie shaking. “That’s dog height.”
They all agreed to watch the thirty or so shortlisted dead letter boxes but Sadie and Tomas didn’t want to be left out. Finally it was agreed to bring in a larger surveillance team. Penelope Frogmore, Gladys Goodbody and Betsy Pickles. They were all stalwarts of a previous surveillance operation, with varying degrees of incompetence.
“Needs must when the devil drives,” sighed Reggie.
Gordon was sent off to Doctor Liversay. Although some hearing was returning it was always going to be a difficult consultation.
“Perforated your eardrums old boy,” said Dr Liversay. “Is it painful?”
Gordon shook his head.
“It’ll repair on its own. Your hearing will come back as it heals.”
“How did it happen?”
“The explosion; I was closer than most.”
Dr Liversay was peering in to Gordon’s ear with a light and a cone shaped instrument,
“You must have been. Heaven only knows where all this debris came from. Bits of tree, sand, mud; good heavens there’s seaweed as well.” He removed it piece by piece and deposited it in a little pile on a dish.
“You do get in some scrapes.”
“Don’t we all,” said Gordon. “I was doing some flushing out,” he said without thinking and then immediately wished he hadn’t said it.
Doctor Liversay didn’t register the comment.
“How is our mutual friend Miss Trimble?” The Doctor’s face lit up thinking about Felicity.
“She’s well I think,” he hesitated. “As far as her next door neighbour can tell.”
Doctor Liversay sat back down at his desk and looked thoughtfully at Gordon for quite a long time. He knew only too well where Felicity’s affections lay.
“Well Gordon Drake, I think I’ve been beaten by a better man, and I shall have to admit defeat as far as Felicity Trimble’s affections are concerned.”
“Heaven forbid Doc, that’s not like you. You sound like a beaten man.”
“Oh well, I am in more ways than I can say and I think you know that.”
“Whatever’s the rights and wrongs of it, you’re a good man Doc, and you don’t need me to tell you about where you belong in this community. It’s right there in the beating heart of Langford. Don’t ever forget that.”
“Touch poetic that was Gordon, but thank you for it.”
It was an unusually thoughtful speech for Gordon.
“That’s what I like about you Steward. You're fearless and worldly wise and….”
“That’s enough of that Doc, but I have to tell it how it is. If you ever want help with something, no matter what...”
Gordon’s sermon tailed off. He knew what he meant and he hoped Alexander did too.