Bike 801–850

Wuthering Dormice

(aka Easy As Falling Off A Bike)

Parts 801–850

by Angharad

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Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 801

I could not believe how simple it was to let them find me. I’d driven the Mini to the back of the hotel, sneaked in the back way and then walked out to my Golf, which was when they attempted to kidnap me. As they were doing so, an old lady was getting into her car and she saw the abduction in progress.

“Just what do you think you are doing, unhand that girl immediately.” She marched over to the car and waving her umbrella, brought it down not on the gunman but on the head of his accomplice who’d got out of the car to assist his colleague. He went down like a sack of spuds.

The gunman then turned to shoot the old lady and I could no longer allow things to go unchallenged. He was still holding me at the nape of my neck, I twisted and brought my elbow up in his face, catching him in the eye. He swore at me and raised the gun to hit me with it and the old lady struck again, this time on his wrist knocking the gun out of his hand.

I dodged out of his grip and brought my other elbow back into his solar plexus. He groaned and I jumped away and kicked him at the same time, a moment later the old lady whacked him on the head and he collapsed, helped by my hand which caught him by the hair and rammed his falling head against the wing of the car.

Two more assailants ran towards us but as they did, the old lady picked up the dropped gun and pointed it at them, they turned and fled. She shot both of them. I’d have still been looking to find the safety catch.

Within minutes of my phone call the place was swarming with police and two ambulances took away the injured. I knew it was going to be a long day by the time we had told our story a dozen times to a multitude of coppers. Finally, Bill arrived and the policewoman who’d been guarding me withdrew.

“What the hell have you been doing? You were supposed…”

“…to blow the bloody doors off.” I completed the famous film quote.

“Eh?” he looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language.

Italian Job, the Michael Caine quote.”

“Cathy, you’ve just blown a chance to find where they’re holding Simon.”

“Look Bill, or whatever your real name is, I was busy being abducted when a nice old lady declared war on Russia. She laid out the driver of the car and when my abductor went to shoot her, I had to intervene.”

“Which one is he? Two of them have fractured skulls and the other two have bullet wounds.”

“I don’t know, oh he may have a black eye.”

“Cathy, what are we going to do with you? Why did you have to shoot them?”

“I didn’t shoot anyone, that was Myrtle.”

“Myrtle?”

“Yes the old biddy, she’s Myrtle Kingston, retired MI5 agent.”

“You’re joking?”

“Ask her for yourself?”

“But, she’s a legend in the service, I thought she was dead.”

“Dead? She’s alive and shooting.”

“You know, they say she nearly shot Mugabe?”

“No I didn’t, why didn’t she?”

“The gun jammed.”

“Wouldn’t they have got her for it?”

“Doubt it; she was brilliant at escapes from seemingly impossible situations. She once shot her way out of a building full of Chinese soldiers. Hit nine of them.”

“So she’s like Jane Bond?”

“More or less, yes. I must go and meet her a moment.”

“What about Simon?”

“I used my plan, you think of one?”

“Won’t the Russians talk? You know water boarding and stuff? Truth serum?”

“All of them were unconscious thanks to Batman and Robin.”

“Well they won’t be tomorrow will they?”

“What if they decide to take it out on Simon?”

“Why should they do that? It wasn’t his fault they blew it, was it?”

“They’ve lost four men, today. It’s hardly going to improve detente is it?”

“Serves ’em right, they started this, remember?”

“I’m well aware of that, Cathy. Go back to the house, I’ll contact you later.”

“What about my new friend, Myrtle?”

“I’ll get them to release her on police bail.”

“Will she be a target, now?”

“I doubt it, unless they had someone watching, they won’t know who did what. I hate to say this, but if they get you now, they may well be rather rough with you.”

“How about giving me a gun?”

“I don’t think so, people who carry guns usually get shot more easily than those who aren’t. Just think of our little Russian friends. They were the ones carrying guns.”

I know, but we only found one of them.”

“So you told the police, I don’t suppose they looked in the boot of the mini perchance?”

“No, I wasn’t near the mini.”

“So how come I found this in there?” He held up an automatic pistol in a small plastic bag.

“Search me guv’nor,” I said in a cockney accent nearly as bad as Dick van Dyke’s.

“Don’t push your luck, Cathy. If you’d taken this and used it, you could have had a custodial sentence of up to ten years.”

“What for self-defence?”

“For using a firearm.”

“So I just allow them to shoot me?”

“I would suggest you tell the police you found this under a car or something, if you use it; you’re on your own.”

He put the bag containing the gun next to my handbag and walked away. I quickly scooped it up and zipped my handbag up. Five minutes later, I was told I could go, apparently CCTV footage of the attack was made by the hotel cameras and my story was corroborated by it. I had to sign a statement and promise not to leave the country.

“My fiancé has been kidnapped by the Russian mafia, my children are supposedly in the safe custody of the security services, just where am I going to go?”

“I don’t know, ma’am, but I have to caution you against it.”

“If you bloody lot did your job in the first place, these goons would have been arrested at the airport.”

“That’s British Airport Police and Home Office, not us, ma’am, we don’t get to carry machine pistols.”

“Pity, I could have borrowed one for the weekend.”

“I don’t think so, ma’am, pretty lengthy jail sentence if you were caught in possession of one.”

“So what am I supposed to do if they try to grab me again?”

“Dial 999 and ask for police.”

“Sure, I’ll do that if you can guarantee to be there within five seconds.”

“Be reasonable, ma’am, we aim to be there within eight minutes for firearms.”

“Yeah sure, a fat lot of good that would do. I suspect if they try again it will be to kill me not abduct me.”

“We do our best ma’am.”

I shook my head and carried my rather heavy handbag out to the VW. I left the police HQ as quickly as I could, I wanted to get home and make sure Bill hadn’t unloaded the gun. I was feeling rather more anxious than I’d been before. If they came for me now, I was likely to be rather dead afterwards. My bravado with Bill had now changed into needing to find a loo rather quickly. I drove home as quickly as I could determined to find Simon and rescue him, but I was beginning to think his family were a liability and adding to the everyday risks of raising three girls. Once he was free, I might wave goodbye to my chances of being Lady Cameron in favour of keeping my children safe.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 802

My need for the loo overshadowed my need for safety, and I jumped out of the car and dashed in through the front door and into the cloakroom. As I washed my hands, it occurred to me, that I could have wandered into a trap and what was worse, my bag was outside in the hallway, so I couldn’t even do a Myrtle Kingston and shoot my way out.

I switched off the light and waited a few moments to let my eyes adjust to the darkness before I flung open the door and somersaulted out into the hallway grabbing my bag, pulling out the gun and shooting all three of my attackers. Um, actually what happened was—I somersaulted out of the loo, completely missed my handbag and the gun in it, and ended up crashing into the telephone table nearly knocking myself out. There were no attackers—mind you, if there had been, they’d have been helpless with laughter. I lay on the hall carpet rubbing my head. I made a decision from then on—I won’t try that again.

Having sorted out myself and my bag, I took the gun and after clicking off what looked like a safety catch, I checked out the rest of the house—I was on my own. I put the gun in the drawer of the telephone table—and I threatened the phone to allow any bogus callers through to me, because I’d shoot it.

I went out and collected the milk and bread from the car, plus the other bits and pieces I’d bought to tide me over. Here I was waiting again, this time for Bill to contact me, or the Russians to make a move.

I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I made myself some toast and boiled a couple of eggs. My simple repast was washed down with a couple of mugs of tea. It was nearly eight—too early to go to bed—and I didn’t want to watch telly. I set up my laptop and began processing some more rodent records.

One caught my eye which would need verifying, someone in Yorkshire was claiming a dormouse sighting. It’s quite a few years since they’ve been seen in Yorkshire or Lancashire, so I was wary of it. I’d ask someone I knew at York Uni to check it out for me. Her bag was squirrels, and I was pretty sure she’d be able to help, so I sent her an email with a copy of the record.

I heard a car pull up into the drive and my heart rose—Simon, I thought—then remembered he was a hostage. So it had to be Bill—the doorbell rang and I opened the door only to get a huge shock.

“Myrtle—what are you doing here?”

“Hoping for a G and T, I hope you have one?”

“I might. Do come in.” I let her in and shut the door, showing her the lounge where she sat in the chair by the fireplace. I looked in the pantry—much to my surprise I found a nearly full bottle of gin and some cans of tonic. I poured a good dollop of gin into a small glass and opened the tonic, she could pour that herself. I decided I’d stick with tea, I might need to use my catlike reflexes later and alcohol would impair them. The nearest I get to catlike reflexes is being in possession of a pussy. I blushed—I hadn’t called a fanny that since I was in school.

“You trying to get me drunk, gel?”

“No, sorry I don’t drink spirits so I’m never sure how much to pour.” I handed her the can of tonic.

“Is this Gordon’s?”

“No, it’s some stuff my parents got in Menorca.”

She poured in some tonic and took a sip, “Hmm, good stuff—of course they make it out there don’t they, loads of juniper bushes.”

“I dunno,” I shrugged, “I was at uni when they went, so didn’t get to see the place.”

“It’s nice, one big nature reserve.”

“So I’ve heard, they have dormice there too.”

“Probably, why are you interested in them?”

“I’m doing a PhD in them—well it’s sort of on hold currently—a little local difficulty.”

“Ah, this is the kidnap of Sidney?”

“Simon.”

“Quite. So, how do we get him back?” I nearly choked on my tea. This woman had to be sixty odd if not older, she’d probably be more of a liability than a help. However, she had saved my bacon earlier and she might be useful, if only to formulate a plan.

“I have no idea, what did you have in mind?”

“What sort of car does he drive?”

“A Jaguar XK, or something, one of the little sports jobs.”

“Does he have a tracker fitted to it?”

“I’ve no idea.”

“Cathy, find out—ask someone who might know.”

“I can’t think of anyone who’d know.”

“Where are his insurance docs?”

“In Portsmouth.”

“Let’s go get ’em.”

“That’s two hours away and what if he didn’t have a tracker fitted?”

“We’ll be four hours older for naught.”

“I’ve got an idea: he did the change to his insurance through the Internet—he uses one supplier for all his personal stuff, if I can remember his password.” I went through to the dining room and called up Gmail and his address, I tried the password I knew he’d used – cathybabe. Much to my astonishment, it opened and within a few minutes I found the copy of the note he sent his insurance company. The car did indeed have a tracker device run by a company in Norwich. I googled their website and contacted their twenty-four hour service. I took the phone number and rang them on my mobile.

Walking back towards the lounge I was astonished to see Myrtle had my landline phone in pieces. She looked at me and held out her hand—in it was a small electronic device. She dismantled the rest of the phone set and found another device—she threw both down the toilet. “They’re getting devious, not just one microphone but two—they don’t expect you to find both of them.”

I nodded and smiled. “Oh hi, this is Lady Cameron, my husband Lord Simon has one of your devices in his car. The number of the car yes, SI 58 MON, it’s a Jaguar coupe. Yes, we think it’s been stolen because it isn’t where he parked it a couple of days ago.”

They asked a series of private questions, his date of birth, his sister’s name and his pet name for me. Then the guy went off to his computer and told me the car was in Harwich, near the ferry terminal. He gave me a reference I could call up on any of the mapping sites and I’d be sure to find the car there—or at least the tracking device.

“Harwich?” said Myrtle—“They want you to think they’re heading for the ferry or have already done so with poor Sidney.”

“Simon,” I corrected.

“I thought your surname was Cameron not Simon—you’re not Jewish are you?”

“Would it matter if we were?”

“We could possibly plug into Mossad for some extra help.”

“No, we’re Scots, perhaps we could try kiltaid?” I said facetiously.

“Kiltaid? Who are they?” she looked at me for a moment and laughed loudly and I could see her yellowing teeth. “Kilt aid, I like it,” she said and laughed again.

She looked at the reference I’d written down for the car’s position and she texted it to someone on her mobile. “Getting someone to check it out?”

“Well, that would be a long drive to see, wouldn’t it?”

“Just a bit,” I agreed. “Why have you got involved?”

“I bank with High Street, I don’t want a bunch of commie conmen taking it over, it would seriously mess up my ISA.”

“Is that worth getting hurt for?”

“Oh yes, I really enjoyed myself earlier—a touch of the good old days.”

“Well you’ve certainly helped me so far.”

“What happened to the gun? Bill said he’d given you one for me.”

“It’s in a safe place,” I ventured, unwilling to hand over the firearm.

“Well go and get it, then. I can’t use it while it’s in a drawer or safe, can I?”

“Is this wise, Myrtle—I mean, the police take a dim view of people carrying firearms.”

“I have a permit, which as far as I know has never been rescinded, which is why they couldn’t do anything earlier.”

“I’ll get it.” I went off and removed the gun from the drawer and handed it still in the plastic bag to Myrtle.

“Oh yes, same as the one I used earlier.” She held it in her hand as if checking the balance. “Nice feel to it, oh yes, full magazine. Yes, girl, we’ll give those pesky Ruskies a bit of a hard time when we find them. Right off you go to bed, nothing will happen tonight.”

“How do you know?”

“Thirty-five years in the business, one learns a thing or two.”

I went up to my bed, feeling as if I’d been sent to the dorm by the housemistress for being a naughty girl. I was beginning to wonder if Myrtle was good news or not?

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 803

I’d taken forever to get off to sleep. Every little noise had me holding my breath and listening. I have no idea when I fell asleep, but it was very late and the next thing I knew, Myrtle was shaking my arm and holding a cup of tea for me.

“C’mon sleepy head, we have ruffians to nab.”

“Uh?”

“C’mon Watson, the game’s afoot.” She left chuckling to herself leaving me convinced she was as mad as a hatter. The quote from Sherlock Holmes did little to inspire me, although it did remind me that when I was about twelve, Holmes was my hero, and if I couldn’t grow up to be Irene Adler, then I’d wear a deerstalker and smoke a pipe. I’m so glad I grew out of that phase.

However it wasn’t before I started to keep scrap books and notebooks on various people, including of which clubs they were members—Holmes was so middle class. Surely, even in Victorian London, most of the crime was committed by the lower classes, either because they were starving or feeding a drink or drug habit. Huge numbers of women were prostitutes to feed their need for gin and to feed their large families. Even today, many prostitutes need to use narcotics to be able to do their job. I felt very sad for them.

I showered, and Myrtle, who’d brought her own sleeping bag, was dressed and eating a breakfast of toast and boiled egg. She’d apparently eaten the last one, so I had to make do with toast. Even after showering, I still felt half-asleep, whereas in contrast, she was simply buzzing with energy. Maybe I could go to bed while she hunted the Russians on her own, ratios of twenty to one would probably be about fair to give them a chance. However, before I could suggest my idea, she told me to hurry up and get ready, and to wear clothes suitable for a little manhunt. She was wearing a silk and wool skirt suit and knee boots.

I had on jeans and a tee shirt, which, when I indicated I intended to wear them, she insisted I dress properly and wear my makeup. “Myrtle, I’m not going into the office, you know, I might be scrabbling about on the floor with some deranged Cossack for all I know.”

“Your sex life is no concern of mine,” she retorted snottily, “but Stephen will be upset. You’re about to become an aristocrat’s wife—a lady—you should look and act the part.”

I nearly threw back at her, that I could pull rank and she should be taking my orders. Then I was glad I’d kept my mouth shut because she revealed she was the widow of the Earl of Totnes. No wonder she acted like Lady Muck, she was.

“So from now on m’dear,” she said, “I shall call you Lady Cameron, and you will call me, Lady Totnes.”

I surrendered and went up to change into the suit I felt was least likely to be missed if it was ruined. As it was a cooler day, I wore a skinny rib polo-neck in pink, under a black needle-cord suit with tiny pink flowers embroidered along the hem, down the lapels and the edges of the cuffs. Inside writ large was the name, Stella McCartney, another Stella had given to me. I wore my black boots and leather gloves. The skirt was quite a full one, so I had room to manoeuvre or run if needs be.

Taped to my leg, above the knee, was a knife and inside my handbag was a bag of pepper. Myrtle, sorry, Lady Totnes, had the gun either on her person or in her capacious handbag—that looked like a lethal weapon by itself—whereas mine was a small square shoulder bag, containing my mobile, purse, some makeup, my Swiss army knife and Leatherman multi-tool. I suppose that made it fairly solid, too, although I was no expert in swinging a handbag, so maybe Myrtle would give me some lessons in the field.

I’d not noticed what sort of car she’d arrived in last night, and was astonished to see it was an Aston Martin. Perhaps they gave them away as standard in the secret service? “Shall we take my car?” she said, almost jumping into it before I could argue.

This was now seeming like the plot in a very poor B-movie, as she started the engine and reversed off the drive like Lewis Hamilton, before screaming down the road. I shot back into the leather seat, I was sure the tyres were smoking as we screamed into the traffic and headed for the M4.

“Where are we actually going?” I asked, having just managed to catch my stomach and put it back somewhere between my lungs and my knees.

“To find Stuart,” she said, zipping past a coach as we joined the motorway.

“Stuart?” I asked.

“Your husband, you silly gel.”

“Oh that Stuart.” It was going to be a long day, assuming I didn’t actually have a heart attack in the car.

She had an amazing sat nav system and as she drove, she was tapping some figures into it. She then pressed a button and the screen produced maps with all sorts of little symbols on them. “There he is,” she pointed. “He’s on the move.”

“How do you know that?” I asked completely gob-smacked.

“The signal for him is moving. He’s in a car on the M25.”

“How do you know that?”

“Young Ambrose, told me last night, after you’d gone to bed.”

“Who’s Ambrose?”

“The man you’ve been liaising with.”

“Billy?”

“Oh he calls himself by all sorts of names, but his name is Ambrose, his mother is an old school friend of mine.”

“He was in my house?”

“Well of course, I couldn’t ravish him in the car, now could I? Think what it could do to the seats, this pigskin stains so easily.”

“You had sex with him in my lounge?”

“You didn’t play Lady Bracknell, in the school play did you? You do accusatorial indignation so well.”

I nearly choked. Here I was being driven at speeds of a hundred miles an hour, by an old woman who was at least twice my age, possibly nearer three times it, and she was acting more like a randy teenager than a pensioner.

“Heading for Surrey by the look of it,” she suddenly said and pointed to the map screen, “Don’t worry, Siegfried, we’ll save you.”

“Simon, his name’s, Simon.”

“Is it? Are you sure?”

“Positive.”

“Oh, I hope we’re rescuing the right one then.”

“So do I,” I said folding my arms and trying not to think about anything but putting as much distance between Myrtle and myself, as quickly as possible. She was stark staring bonkers.

“Don’t worry, Catherine, we’ll save him,” she said patting me on the knee. “Oh, nice knees,” she added, squeezing my leg, which had me jerking my leg away and practically jumping out of the car, even at high speed. She laughed, “Relax, Katie, you don’t know what you’re missing—unless you’ve tried it.” She then gave a very dirty chuckle and I felt very vulnerable. Compared to her, half a dozen elite trained Russian KGB operatives, would be a pushover.

We joined the M25—the London orbital motorway—which always feels as if they are trying to make it the widest road in Europe, if not the world. Each time I use it, they seem to have added or be in the process of adding, a new lane in each direction. It’s affectionately referred to as Europe’s first circular car park, because it becomes so congested but only between midnight and eleven fifty nine pm. Before long, the familiar traffic jam hove into view and I suspected we’d be held up for ages and perhaps lose our quarry and my Simon.

Suddenly, I heard a police type siren and I realised it was Myrtle. Not only that, but cars were parting so we could go by, and I could see the reflections of flashing blue lights on the cars we were passing.

“Isn’t it an offence to pretend to be a police vehicle?”—as if they could afford over a hundred thousand pounds per police car?—and this to someone who was carrying an illegal firearm and had shagged someone on my sofa while I was upstairs in my bed. No wonder she was buzzing this morning and I was like a zombie. What else was this woman going to do to amaze me?

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike)

Part 67 dozen (804)

The cars and other vehicles parted as we wove our way through the jumble of traffic. I was caught in the bind of trying to slide down my seat to hide my embarrassment and Myrtle rubbing my leg whenever I did. She was cackling like a demented witch.

“What do we do if we meet a real police car?” I asked hoping I wasn’t going to get myself arrested again.

“Don’t worry darling Katie—you have delicious knees—let Auntie Myrtle deal with it if it arises.” It didn’t of course, so she continued rubbing my knees until we turned off the M25 and down the A23 into Surrey. “What luck, they’re still moving, we’ll find Sigmund yet.”

By this time I was praying to escape her not rescue Simon, whose name she consistently forgot. I did notice that the symbol for Simon was still blipping on the screen of her tracking sat nav.

“Did Ambrose know about this tracker on Simon?” I asked.

“Yes, he swallowed one of those ridiculous pill things—don’t let him give you one or you’ll never be free of him.” I gulped in horror, then visions of Myrtle and him on my sofa made me feel quite ill. What would my parents have said? The sofa was relatively new before Mummy died. Mummy? I never call her Mummy—must be going senile or something.

“They don’t have any lasting effect, do they?”

“Why? You didn’t take one, did you?”

“Do I look like someone who’d do something as dumb as that?”

“Hmm,” she said and pushed some more buttons on the screen and the map changed as did the noise—it became very loud and continuous. “So he got you, too?”

“I—um—wondered what it was,” I lied, blushing and feeling very hot.

“Never mind, let’s get back to Samson,” she pushed buttons and the picture changed. “Oh oh, they’ve stopped moving. If he goes in a building, particularly one with a cellar—the signal gets fainter. Keep your fingers crossed.” She put her foot down and overtook a van on a bend. My fingers were crossed for something else, but the Aston, slipped in between the van and the truck coming the other way. I was really beginning to doubt we’d be rescuing anyone—more that we’d need a fire tender to cut us out of the wreckage of this lovely and luxurious car.

Did I mention the cream leather seats and the fact that if this journey went on much longer, I was likely to stain them—despite only having had toast, my breakfast felt as if it was being very rapidly processed and already making its way into my large intestine ready for evacuation. I was far less comfortable than I should have been on the leather seats—due partly to the fact that I was leaving my nails in them, I was holding on so tightly, and that I was clenching my buttocks equally tightly—to keep my breakfast in.

“Not far now,” Myrtle said with a hint of excitement in her eye. It was ridiculous—I should have been driving sedately to and from school taking my children there to have their minds structured and stretched, not careering round the main roads of Surrey in pursuit of a gang of bandits and chauffeured by a total lunatic—who would have made Modesty Blaise look pedestrian.

The bleeps of the screen got louder and more close together and suddenly she turned off the road, killed the blue lights—the sirens went several minutes before, not to warn them we were coming—as if it’s everyday that a luxury sports car screams into your drive at about a hundred miles an hour. Maybe it does in Surrey, people like Terry Wogan live here, don’t they?

She switched off the engine. “Right, you go to the front door and distract them—I’ll nip around the back and take them by surprise.” Myrtle had a plan and to my mind it sounded especially stupid.

“How am I supposed to distract them?” I whined.

“Oh I don’t know, pretend you’re collecting for Poppy Day.”

“I don’t have the box of poppies or collecting tin, let alone authorisation from the Royal British Legion.”

“Improvise, tell ’em you’re a strippergram, you’ll think of something. If we don’t hurry, it’ll be dark before we gain entrance.”

“Myrtle, it’s midday, it’s light for another five hours.”

“Yes but the rate you’re going, it’ll be dark before we rescue Sean.”

“Simon, his name is Simon—why can’t you get it right?”

“Why are you still sitting there whingeing when there’s work to be done.” Before I could say anything, she leapt out of the car and started trotting down the drive of the Victorian pile we were parked outside.

“Oh well, here goes,” I said to myself, at least I hoped it was just to myself. As I approached the steps leading up to the front door, a massive affair with an equally large portico, sadly in some decline and neglect, I desperately racked what was left of my brain to think of some apparently valid reason for calling at the house.

My legs felt leaden and my stomach churned as I mounted the steps and pushed the rather incongruous late twentieth century bell push. It rang inside because despite the traffic, I could hear it through the front door. All I needed now was Lurch to open the door, I’d probably throw a wobbly and fall in a dead faint.

I heard footsteps approach. I pulled my identification badge for Portsmouth University from my bag. It had my photo on it and if I held it by the top, you couldn’t see what it represented. The door lock clunked and turned and so did my stomach. “Oh shit!”

“Yes?” said a voice with a hint of a foreign accent.

“Katie Potts, Surrey County Council building inspectorate, I’ve come to see why you don’t respond to my letters about the material condition of this building. Don’t you realise that we could prosecute you if you refuse to carry out necessary maintenance? The fines we can levy are swingeing.” I was off and running—on pure bullshit. I’d put the badge back in my pocket and attempted to push past him. He resisted, “I have to see inside the building.”

“You cannot, is private,” his accent was more noticeable.

“I jolly well can, I informed you of this visit two weeks ago as per the pertinent Preservation of Buildings Act 1938, revised 1972 and 2004, I have a legal right to enter this building and inspect it, and there is nothing you can do to stop me. If you hinder me further, under the Local Authority Access Act, I am empowered to summon a police constable to enforce my right of entry.” I pushed once more and slipped inside the door while he was digesting the bit with the phrase ‘police constable’ in. “You see, you cannot legally prevent me…”

“I think I can,” he said and drew a gun from his shoulder holster and pointed it at me.

“I’m afraid this constitutes an illegal act under the Local Authorities Act of 1994, where attempted intimidation or menace is seen as a serious offence, in preventing an officer from said local authority viz. Surrey County Council, from performing her statutory function. I’m afraid I shall have to report you for threatening behaviour, now please put the gun away before I report you for illegal possession of a firearm and its use in preventing a council officer from performing their statutory duty, to wit, the inspection of this property under the previously mentioned act…”

“Shut up,” he said.

“I can’t until I’ve given you a caution about your seriously unhelpful behaviour.”

He clicked the safety catch off, “I said, shut it.”

“Oh all right,” I said swallowing hard and hoping Myrtle had penetrated the building by the back door.

“What is it?” called a voice from behind my host, which was just long enough for me to stand to one side, punch his wrist, stamp on his foot and knee him in the groin.

His response was something I took to be a curse in Russian; he dropped the gun, hopped, groaned and collapsed backwards. I picked up the gun and pointed it at his colleague.

“I’m here to do an inspection of this house on behalf of Surrey County Council, I’m afraid I shall have to report your friend for his non-compliance to a statutory requirement and for threatening an officer of said council with a loaded and probably illegal firearm.”

“You can’t come in, this private house.”

“Oh, and my colleague, who isn’t from Surrey County Council, has a gun pointed at you, and she’s licensed to kill you, which isn’t usually a requirement of the 2004 amendment to the Local Authorities Act, but a useful codicil.”

“Stick ’em up, Ivan,” said Myrtle with more menace than I could have produced. He went for his gun and she hit him with her gun and he went down like a stone and lay still on the floor. My victim was still rolling around looking for his nuts. The way my knee hurt, they were probably somewhere up round his diaphragm.

A shot was fired and we both turned to see a third man holding Simon, a pistol to his head. “Drop the guns, bitches, or he gets it.”

“Hardly an original line is it?” carped Myrtle. I was on the point of dropping my gun mainly because I was as likely to shoot myself as our opponent.

“Drop the guns,” he insisted, “or he dies.”

“You’ll follow him rather rapidly,” she snapped back holding hers in a relaxed grip.

“We’ll see, you old hag.” He pushed the gun roughly against Simon’s head, who squeaked through his gag.

“I say, that’s uncalled for, bullets are one thing, but insults can really get to one, d’you see?”

“You are an old hag,” he said again and laughed, which was when she moved her hand rapidly and shot him between the eyes. He fell backwards and Simon fainted falling backwards on top of him. I stood mouth open totally aghast.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike)

Part 67 dozen plus 1 (805)

“Bloody hell!” I said feeling my whole body shaking, “You could have shot Simon.”

“Yes I could, but I thought you liked him?”

“I do,” I said feeling bemused.

“I thought so, so I shot the other one. In all fairness, he was the one calling me names, so I suppose it’s sort of a quid pro quo.”

“But you could have hit Simon,” I felt tears form as I contemplated that as a scenario, then I heard him groan and rushed to help him, dropping the gun as I ran. Unfortunately, it was cocked and discharged a shot which hit the Russian I’d decked, in the same place as my knee. I screamed, but not as loudly as he did.

I tended to Simon who was asking for a drink. “I’ve got some water in the car.”

“Water? I want brandy,” he croaked.

Myrtle went to examine the recently shot Russian who was still squealing. “He’s all right, you just shot his testimonials off.”

“What?”

“The bullet shelled his nuts, if that doesn’t sound too corny,” observed Myrtle giving him a handkerchief to hold over the wound. “I think he’ll be sitting to pee, in future.”

She picked up the gun I’d dropped and passed it over to me, “Give it to Stephen, while we explore the house and make sure there’s no one else here.”

“What? Simon has been a hostage, he needs looking after.”

“Just give him the gun, I’m sure he knows more about using it than you do. Sidney, keep an eye on these two,” she indicated the two live Russians. Simon looked at her in astonishment but accepted the gun, whereupon, Myrtle grabbed me and together we searched the house—quickly.

There was no one else there, but Myrtle took sheaves of papers and carried them out to her car. Then she called Bill and told him to send an ambulance and a body bag. She spoke for a couple of minutes, then she broke the lock on the front door and Simon and I left with her and her flash car. Simon was most impressed with that.

“You know,” he said as we sped away, “I always fancied driving one of these.”

“Well buy your own, because you’re not driving this one,” said Myrtle and the look on Simon’s face was priceless.

I’d been doing some thinking while we headed back towards Portsmouth. “Bill knew where Simon was all along, didn’t he?”

“Probably, with the transmitter thing.”

“Why didn’t anyone tell me?”

“You’d have sailed in like the cavalry, wouldn’t you?”

“Where are my children?”

“Safe.”

“How can I trust you when you deceive me?”

“You have to.”

“Do I?”

“If you want to see the children again.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means sit back and shut up. Your children are safe, so are Stella and the old man.”

“Professor Agnew.”

“Yes, him.”

“Why do you have this problem recalling men’s names but get women’s correct every time?”

“Do I?”

“You’re gay, aren’t you?”

“Oh sweetie, you’ve worked it out—I spent half the journey here rubbing your leg—for a scientist you’re not very clever.”

“I keep telling her that,” said Simon, smirking.

“Keep out of this, Sebastian, this conversation is between grown-ups.”

“I don’t think naïveté and cleverness are necessarily in conflict.”

“Think again, little girl, sophistication requires intelligence.”

“In which case I’m happy to remain stupid.” I folded my arms.

“It’s such a pity, I could have taught you so much—you’re so like I was when younger.”

“God, I hope not,” I said and sulked.

“What a shame,” she said and shrugged.

“I want to see my family as quickly as possible.”

“Sorry, little girl, we do things my way.”

“Don’t patronise me, Myrtle, you won’t live long enough to regret it.”

“Are you threatening me, Cathy? Threatening me, after seeing what I can do and the contacts I have.”

“If you think I’m impressed by some cheap fairground antics, you’ve got another think coming. I’m not threatening you, Myrtle, it’s unladylike, but I think you ought to know that I have a pistol pointed at your back and at this range, even I couldn’t miss.”

“Good lord, I’m impressed, but the folly is that you’ve revealed your plan and I can now negate it. You can hardly shoot me while I’m driving at speed and I also have a gun, and you’re hardly a moving target.”

“If you harm one hair of her head, I’ll break your scrawny neck,” I’d never heard Simon speak with such menace.

“I think you may well be dead too, sunshine.”

“Even dead I’ll wring your neck,” he snatched the gun from her and it went off making me jump until the seatbelt restrained me. Suddenly there was a draught howling from the broken side window.

“You’ve damaged my car, you brute.”

“Be thankful I didn’t damage you.” Simon snapped back.

Suddenly, friends or allies become enemies, unless you dance to their tune. The potty old biddy thing hid a nasty, selfish almost psychopathic personality—yeah, maybe she was a female James Bond—he’s not very nice either, a cold blooded killer. Hardly a role model—indefatigable but inhuman, at least in my sort of job spec for the species.

“You realise that I could have your family simply disappear?”

“I don’t think you realise just who we are, Lady Totnes?” Simon told her.

“Oh, but I do, Scottish bandits who supported Charles Stuart.”

“We’re a direct line of Mary Stuart.”

“Sure you are,” she sneered back, “What are you going to do, stage a coup on Buckingham Palace?”

“Certainly not, we have an allegiance to Her Majesty.”

“What? You’re as big a turncoat as Winston Churchill.”

“I don’t think anyone is as big a turncoat as a Churchill, it’s one of their nicer qualities.” Simon could sneer as well as anyone.

“Never mind this crap, what about the children,” I said loudly.

“You and your stupid children, you can see why I didn’t have any of the wretched things.”

“I thought it was because no self respecting sperm would come near you,” I ejaculated back.

“Very witty, for a dumb scientist,” she laughed, “double entendre, as well. Very good.” Admittedly I’d missed that. But so what, as soon as she stopped the car I was going to kill her—the bitch.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 806

By the time the Aston Martin came to a halt at Tom’s house, I was cold from the draught from the broken window. I jumped out and stood waving the gun at Myrtle through the window in the driver’s door. As Simon got out, she suddenly opened her door against me, knocking me over and the gun from my hand. Then she floored the accelerator and showered me in a dust and gravel from the drive as she sped away.

Simon helped me up and I was crying with frustration, “Now we have no chance of finding where the girls and Stella and Tom are.”

“Come on, Babes, let’s go in.” He put his arm around me and we went inside. We sat and had a cuppa. I felt exhausted and not a little scared. When I told Simon, he pointed out that we had two guns with reasonably full magazines. I pointed out that one of them had killed someone and the other had wounded someone. We could be in deep trouble if someone wanted to make it difficult for us.

“You don’t think they’d do that, do you?”

“Why not? We’re sitters aren’t we? Hand guns are illegal—they don’t need anything else, do they?”

“Maybe not. So what do we do? Bury them in the garden like the IRA?”

“I’ve got a better idea. Wrap them in some plastic bags.”

Simon put each pistol in a carrier bag and rolled it up, then taped it sealed. Then he put the two into another bag and sealed it, then did the same again. Meanwhile, I found a long piece of strong string. I tied it around the guns and knotted it firmly. I carried the bundle out into the garage and Simon followed me: I lifted some boards on the floor of the garage and pointed at a flagstone beneath them, indicating I wanted it lifted. He shook his head but set to in lifting the heavy slab.

He was about to say something when I hushed him, we had no idea what sort of devices might be around the place. Underneath the stone was a well, with a drop of about ten feet to the water. Across the middle of the gap was a metal bar, which might have been some part of the well structure or simply a means of supporting the stone capping it. I tied the cord around the bar and lowered the guns into the water. Simon replaced the stone and I put the boards back over it. Even a sniffer dog would have difficulty finding that in a few hours, after our scents faded. To help the cause I sprayed air freshener all over it.

“We’ll have to use bikes,” I said locking up the garage, which was where I kept them.

“What?”

“Well, apart from Tom’s old Landrover, we don’t have a car.”

“What about Stella’s?”

“Where is it? It’s usually parked at the end.” I couldn’t see it.

“In the old stable, I put it in there a week or two ago, while you were out shopping.”

“Why?” I asked puzzled by this.

“Some seagull crapped all over it, and after she’d washed it, she didn’t want the same to happen again.”

We went into the house and found the keys to the old stable and Stella’s car keys. Sure enough, when we opened it up, there was Stella’s car and it had the best part of a tank of fuel.

“We’re mobile, then.”

“Yeah, except they know where we are–thanks to the trackers in us.”

“Damn,” said Simon, “I’d forgotten about them.”

“They hadn’t, they knew where you were all the time. What is their game?”

“Blowed if I know,” he said.

“The dog’s gone too, so I suspect they were taken by the security services, the Russians would have left her or shot her.”

“They might be dog lovers too, or maybe let her go to wander.”

“Doubt it, they’d have left her or shot her, dogs are too much of a hassle,” like children, I almost added—oh no, they wouldn’t would they?

“Why don’t we go up to Bristol, and bring the other two cars home tomorrow in the daylight.”

“What do we do about Stella’s car then?”

“How about you call for a taxi to go to the station and we take the train. Then you can buy me dinner in Bristol and we take a taxi back to my house, make love all night and drive back here tomorrow or not, as the feeling takes us.”

“Sounds good to me, especially after we get to your house.”

“I wonder why that is?” I asked in mock innocence and he laughed.

Dinner turned out to be a stale sandwich from the buffet at the station. We had to go to London and then to Bristol. What a pain! However, it was nice to sit cuddled up to Simon like two young lovers. We did the Guardian crossword together, well most of it.

“Do you think there’ll be bugs on the cars?” asked Simon.

“Does it matter, if they’re from the same source as the ones we swallowed, they’ll know anyhow.”

“Damn, I keep forgetting those stupid things. Next time I see Bill, I shall make him swallow a whole box of them.”

“I have a much more novel way of depositing them inside him,” I said.

Simon looked confused for a moment—more so than he usually does—then his eyes twinkled, “Yeah, with a broom handle,” he chuckled.

It was after midnight when the taxi dropped us at my house. We were just going in when I heard a small noise and saw a shadow move towards us. I pushed Simon down, and he grumbled until the shot rang out and ricocheted off the wall.

Instead of throwing myself down as well, I charged at the direction the bullet came from and pursued the would-be assassin. It didn’t occur to me that he’d shoot me—well, not until afterwards. He dashed off round the back of the house with me in hot pursuit.

The chase was short lived, as Simon did an intercept and stiff-arm tackled him. For those who’ve never played rugby, it means as the guy comes running towards you, you put your arm up level with the throat or face. In this case, Simon whipped his arm out at the bloke’s throat. His head and neck stopped, his legs came out almost horizontal to it before he collapsed on the ground with a wallop.

“I’ve always wanted to do that,” said Si, rubbing his arm.

“You mean you’ve never done it before?” I asked in surprise.

“Good God, no. You can kill someone doing it.”

“What about our little friend here?” I bent down to examine him, he was out cold, but he had a pulse. We half carried and half dragged him back to the house, where we stripped him and tied him up, finally gagging him and rolling him up in an old carpet in the garage.

He was carrying no identification, and his clothes had no labels in them, his gun however, was the same as the two in Tom’s well. We decided he was probably a Russian. He had no radio or car keys, nor a mobile phone, unless he’d dropped it. We decided it was unwise to look for any of these things until daylight.

We slept fitfully and in our clothes, so Simon didn’t get the night of bliss he’d hoped for. Moving around the house in the dark was also a pain, but there was no point in making it easy for them by using the house lights.

The next morning we both looked tired and irritable. We had something to drink and a piece of toast. Our captive was still there, and indignant at his nudity, he did eat and drink a little and use the bathroom. However, without it being a surprise, he found he couldn’t speak or understand English. Even when I cut all his clothes up in front of him. He protested loudly in Russian but then, I couldn’t understand him so I carried on.

As he was nearer my size than Simon’s, I loaned him a bra and pants, and an old dress, which he protested about wearing. Then we wrapped him back up in the old carpet and dumped him in the back of the estate car.

We crossed the Severn Bridge and finally dumped him in a field near Chepstow, before driving off back to Bristol. Where we packed furiously and went back to Portsmouth after checking both cars for devices—trackers and explosive ones.

I will admit, I did snigger as I drove back to Portsmouth about the Russian’s predicament, wandering the country lanes near Chepstow in a tight mini-dress whilst obviously being a man.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 807

On the way home, we stopped for lunch. Simon decided to have a curry, hoping it would neutralise his transmitter—from the smell of it, he might have been right. However, the last time he had one he ended up Vindaloo half the night.

I wasn’t very hungry so just had some salad.

“I was astonished to see you charging off after that gunman, last night,” he said breaking up a poppadam.

“If I’d known it wasn’t Myrtle, I’d have run the other way.”

“I think you looked better in that dress than he did.”

“Oh, I don’t know, I think he looked sweet.”

“If he gets a chance, he won’t miss next time.”

“I’m hoping by then we’ll have sorted this nonsense. I mean, Austin Powers would have made a better job of it than Ambrose is.”

“Who’s Ambrose?” asked Simon.

“That’s Bill’s real name.”

“Ah, I think I can see why he calls himself, Bill.”

“I’m still making my mind up about whether or not I want to kill Bill.”

“Didn’t someone make a film with that as a stupid title?”

“Martin Scorcese, I think, with Uma Thurman.”

“Oh, Emma Peel, maybe it’s not such a dumb film after all.”

“There is only one Emma Peel and that was Diana Rigg.” I felt very hot all of a sudden.

“You all right?”

“No, I feel very strange.” I got up and lurched out to the ladies, where I was violently sick, followed a couple of minutes later with the most awful stomach pains and diarrhoea. I only just made it to the loo in time—well changing ends and pulling down knickers—too much information.

I sat there my bum smarting and a horrible taste in my mouth. I really needed to clean my teeth, but my toothbrush was in my bag in the car. I managed to stand on wobbly legs and tidy myself up, then looking down into the pan spotted the capsule floating in amongst the…you know. I pulled the flush and watched while it disappeared down the hole. Hopefully there weren’t any more bugs on my car, so we—well, me, was free of MI-whatever tracking me.

I washed and went back out to Simon, who looked quite concerned. He stood and helped me back into my chair. “Are you sure you’re all right, you look very washed out?”

“I’ve been sick and cleaned out the other end—oh and Bill’s little pill floated away with it.”

“You were sick, it’s not radiation sickness or swine flu?”

“I think food poisoning from that sandwich is much more likely.”

“Could be, are you going to be okay to drive home?”

“Yes, I’ll be okay, but I’d really like to clean my teeth.”

“Where’s your toothbrush?”

“In my sponge bag in my case.”

“Don’t tell me, in your car?”

“Yes,” I smiled weakly.

“I suppose you’d like me to get it for you?”

“That would be very kind of you, Simon.” I smiled again and passed him my car keys.

He rose from the table and went out to the car park. I got a glass of water from the bar.

“I couldn’t be bothered to hunt for it, so I brought your case in.”

“Careful, my lappy’s in there.”
He had just placed my case on the floor when there was a terrific ‘BOOM‘ from outside and glass from one of the windows showered the room. Fortunately, we were standing away from it, although a couple who were near it ended up with multiple cuts. It took a moment to adjust to the shock, and I realised I was sitting on the floor and Simon had fallen over a dislodged chair. Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt.

“What the %$#k was that?” he said extricating himself from the furniture.

People were dusting themselves off. “Stay here, if it’s gas there could be another one,” I cautioned.

“Jesus,” said a male voice, “that car just exploded. It’s taken out a couple of others too.” We both rushed to the door, the remnants of my lovely VW were all over the car park and the Mondeo was damaged as well.

“Oh no,” I said as I swooned and Simon just managed to catch me. I came to, lying on a bed in a strange room. “Where am I?”

“You’re okay, Babes, I decided to rent a room for the night.”

“What happened?”

“Your car blew up, the police are still out there. Sadly the Mondeo is a write-off too.”

“That was my daddy’s car,” I said and burst into tears.

“I know, Babes, but at least we saved your laptop.”

“Yeah,” I sobbed, “but Paddington was in my car.”

“But you weren’t. I can get you another bear.”

“I would have been dead if my tummy hadn’t played up.”

“Looks like,” he said and hugged me while I trembled in shock.

The rest of the day was spent sleeping or talking to police. It was on the verge of being considered a terrorist attack, and I had a nice chap from Special Branch come to interview me. We told him the whole story. He knew of Myrtle and wondered why she had been so unpleasant. I told him that I didn’t want to see any of them ever again, but I wanted my family back. He told me he’d make some enquiries and see if he could speed things up.

When I talked it over with Simon, neither of us could decide who’d planted the bomb and whether it had been there for some time or done while we were in the pub. We were stranded for the night and normally, we might have taken advantage of a hotel room, but that night neither of us felt much like anything at all. How James Bond and his heroines can sh@g after he’s just killed all the baddies, I don’t know.

“I called Dad while you were asleep, he’s sending transport for us tomorrow; he’s also organising some cars for you and Tom.”

“Thanks, I’m not sure I want to drive one again—did you see what was left of the driver’s seat.”

“I don’t remember seeing the driver’s seat,” he said.

“Exactly, there wasn’t one, it was completely destroyed with the blast.”

“Goodness, your arse would have been sore then.”

“Soaring, I think, in orbit around the moon.”

“I shall never be able to look at the moon in the same light again,” he said and as he held me I started to snigger.

“You silly fool,” I said quietly cuddling into him, and he laughed.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 808

We spent a difficult night at the hotel, the wind got up and something creaked or rattled most of the time. I also suffered from my own wind which rumbled around my belly like a thunderstorm in the Alps, waking me up every half an hour or so.

The morning arrived far too quickly and so did breakfast. Simon gloried in telling me the full details of his divorce from the tracking device, so the curry had done its job—none of which encouraged me to want to eat. In the end I settled for a boiled egg which I had to force down. Simon stuffed himself with a full English—bacon, sausage and anything else they can fry. Just watching him eat it, made me feel uncomfortable.

Then glancing out the window he said, “Here’s our lift.”

I looked and saw a large silver Mercedes arrive in the car park and its two occupants got out. One came into the hotel whilst the other stayed by the car, his hand resting just inside the breast of his jacket.

“How do you know it’s for us?” I asked.

“I recognise the two occupants.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Shut up and get yourself ready, woman.”

“Yes sir,” I said saluting him—probably very badly. I went back to the bathroom and finished putting on some makeup—thought I’d better make the effort, never knew who I was going to see today.

“Did you know there was a police car outside all night?”

“No, I didn’t notice it.”

“The landlady has just taken them out some coffee. Aren’t you ready yet?”

“Yes, I’m coming.” I returned to the room and Simon pointed out the tail end of a large white car, “and they’re armed.”

“Cor, somebody is taking it seriously this time.”

“Well seeing as those scumbags killed four coppers last time they guarded you, they’re not taking any chances.”

“Good,” I agreed although I still didn’t like firearms.

He took my case and we went down the creaking staircase of the eighteenth century pub. The chauffeur, who’d come into the pub spotted us and stood to attention. He was well over six feet tall and looked in good physical shape.

“Good to see you again, Lord Simon, and you ma’am.”

“James, this is Catherine my wife to be.”

“Nice to meet you ma’am.”

“And you, James.” He picked up my case like it was a feather and took it out to the car, while Simon settled our account.

“He looks ex-military,” I said watching James go, he had rather a nice bum too.

“He is, Special Boat Squadron,” an elite group formed from Royal Marine Commandos, themselves an elite force.

“The other one is too, isn’t he?”

“Robert, nah, he’s SAS. James will tell you they’re a bunch of wimps.”

“Are they both armed?”

“Dunno, probably, why?”

“Robert, the one out at the car is.”

“How do you know?”

“He’s got his hand over a bulge in his suit.”

Simon stopped leaning on the counter and looked at me, “He’s what?”

“He’s got his hand covering a bulge in his jacket.”

“His jacket? For a moment you had me worried.” I looked at him in bewilderment.

We walked out hand in hand, me carrying my handbag and laptop in my right hand while Simon held my left one.

“Lord Simon, Lady Catherine, nice to see you again, sir, and to meet you, ma’am.”

“Likewise,” I said back, while Simon and he shook hands vigorously, when he held out his huge mitt to me, I was worried he’d pull my arm off, but all he did was gently squeeze my hand and let me go.

“How long to Portsmouth, James?” Simon said looking at his watch.

“I’ve instructions to take you somewhere else, sir.”

“From whom?” Simon spoke with irritation.

“Your father, sir.”

“Well, I’m countermanding those.”

“Sorry, sir, no can do.”

“That’s insubordination, James.”

“Very sorry, sir, but I have my orders.”

“I suppose you are armed, too?”

“I can’t answer that, sir.” Oh no, he sounded like Bill and Ben.

“So where are we going?”

“You’ll see, sir. I can’t tell you where we could be overheard.”

“Oh no, the last time I was taken in a car like that, I nearly got murdered. I am not going anywhere, could I have my case back from the boot?” I felt quite anxious.

“I’m sorry, ma’am, but I was instructed to collect you both and take you to a pre-arranged venue.”

“I’m sorry, but this being a pseudo-free country, I’m declining to come with you.”

“Lady Catherine, please, you are coming with us, please don’t make this any more difficult than it needs to be.”

I turned to run back to the hotel and his colleague stepped in front of me and grabbed me, whilst James snatched my bag and computer from my hand. Simon stood still, in shock as much as anything. I was dumped unceremoniously in the car and Simon got in the car, as if in a daze.

“You are still working for Dad?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I don’t know what I think about what just happened.”

“Sorry, sir, but we have our orders; it should become clear in a very short time.”

I sulked for the hour it took for us to achieve our objective—some large house in the country, where several large cars were already parked.

“Where are we?” I asked Simon.

“Not sure, think it might be Penscombe House.”

“It is, sir,” said James opening the door for me.

“Who lives there?”

“An old family friend, Sir George Edwards.”

“Who?”

“He’s an ex-cabinet minister and soldier. Dad knew him at school. His wife is nice, Lady Hilary.”

“What are we doing here, Si?”

“Hiding?” He took my hand and we walked together, my feathers were still ruffled and I now wished I’d been sick all down Robert’s back when he hoisted me over his shoulder. Well it works for babies when they don’t want to be handled.

We walked along some well-tended paths and into a beautiful porch, where a man obviously wearing a shoulder holster stood looking menacing. Once through the doors, we were greeted by Henry and another man, taller than Henry and with a fluffy moustache. I was introduced to him as George and his delightful wife, Hilary, a very attractive woman whose poise and appearance made me feel like a street urchin. She was so nice and I took to her immediately. She led me off to freshen up in her guest bathroom.

I emerged ten minutes later, washed and makeup and hair tidied up a bit. I still felt scruffy, but I did only have part of my wardrobe with me compared to her designer gear. For the first time in ages, I felt a bit out of my depth.

We walked together back downstairs towards a large room. “Tea or coffee?” she asked.

“I don’t mind, if it’s warm and wet.” I smiled back.

“It’ll be both of those, now which would you prefer?”

“Tea, I think.”

“Darjeeling?”

“Fine unless you have any Lady Grey?”

“We do but not easily available.”

“Okay, the Darjeeling is fine.”

“In here, Cathy.” I stepped inside a huge room with Chinese carpets and bookcases.

Then suddenly, “Muuummeeee,” came a loud shriek and I was almost knocked down by a runaway train.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 809

I fell to my knees and was engulfed by my three children, all of us in tears and hugging and kissing like there was no tomorrow—which given the way things were happening, could be possible. I was so happy for that instant, my feelings were of unconstrained joyfulness.

I don’t know how long we hugged and kissed and cried, but I didn’t care, Trish and Livvie and Mima were all here and safe and I could touch them, it wasn’t a dream. Simon came and joined our group hug, there were tears in his eyes too. Why had I been separated from these beautiful children? And I felt a growing urge inside me, that I would never be kept away from them by anything to which we hadn’t all agreed in future. I would destroy anything which tried to do so again. For now, I was just so pleased to see them and hug them, and touch them and speak with them.

When finally, I rose from hugging my kids to hug Tom and Stella and baby Puddin’, the other adults broke out into spontaneous applause. All I wanted to do was to take my family away, far away from everyone and spend time with them. However, I knew that was not likely to be what was planned for us.

“Thank you, whoever was responsible for keeping my family safe, but please never take them away from me again,” I said loudly to everyone present.

“Cathy,” said Henry, it’s a very complex story to tell you at the moment, but we suggest…”

“Who’s we?” I asked not prepared to accept any sort of the usual crap of which Henry was so full.

“We, are the bank, the intelligence services and the police.”

“I see, Uncle Tom Cobbley and all?” I replied sarcastically.

He looked embarrassed, and actually stared at his feet for a moment—“You were such targets, we had to keep the children safe…”

“While I played decoy?”

“We didn’t intend it to happen that way, honestly, it’s just things got a bit out of control.”

“You knew where Simon was all along, didn’t you?”

“No I didn’t, nor did I know that MI5 were aware of where he was and had him under surveillance. They wanted to draw out the Soviets.”

“Soviets? Henry, the Cold War is over. Fancy letting your own son be bait for a bunch of bandits—as for the security services, they are about as competent as the Keystone Cops—I’m sure Laurel and Hardy would have done a better job than the Flower Pot Men.”

“Flower Pot Men? Who are they?”

“Some clowns from MI5 called Bill and Ben.”

“George,” Henry gesticulated to our host, “Do you know this Bill and Ben of whom Cathy is talking?”

“His real name is Ambrose—the Bill character, and the dotty old biddy who fancies herself as Annie Oakley, Myrtle Kingston.”

“They’re not with us, Myrtle Kingston is surely retired by now, she’s well over sixty.”

“If I see her again, I shall permanently retire her,” I said with venom.

“They’re MI6…”

“Gee whiz, they could have introduced me to James Bond after all,” I said mischievously.

“Cathy, James Bond only ever existed in the mind of Ian Fleming, he’s a fictional character.”

“I know, and he’s probably the last person I’d want to meet, nevertheless, his department was involved.”

“It looks that way, but they are supposed to be spreading mayhem abroad, not here…”

“Don’t tell me, that’s your job?” I asked facetiously.

“Yes—no, home security is our job, they play away.”

“Well, I’m not impressed,” I said folding my arms, only to have Livvie and Trish pull a hand until I had them clamped against my legs.

“Don’t go away again, Mummy,” said Trish and Livvie nodded her agreement and they both began to cry, which set me off again.

“Look, you must want to spend some time with your children, who I must admit, are a credit to you and Simon.” He sneaked off before I could ask him any further awkward questions. Henry sloped off with him.

“Cathy, would you like to take your girls into the garden room,” asked Hilary, “It’s a bit more private and you could go out into the garden as well if you wanted to. Lunch is at two.”

“Thank you so much, Hilary.”

“It’s through here,” she led off and I followed with three little ones close behind, all hanging on to my skirts. We went down a corridor of wainscoted walls and family portraits suddenly turning into another room, through which we walked and into a huge conservatory, complete with grapevine and orange trees. It looked like something that belonged at Hampton Court Palace.

“Wow, Hilary, this is some garden room.”

“Yes, it’s lovely isn’t it, I come in here when I want to think, you know, when I have a difficult letter to write, that sort of thing.”

“Do you write many, then?”

“I’m involved with several charities, especially those of the Church of England.”

“So, you know the Archbishop then?”

“Do you mean Canterbury or York?”

“Dear old Rowan.”

“Do you know him?”

“No, I’ve never met him, but I get the impression that he’s a really nice chap who should be an academic not a politician.”

“Oh, he’s got a very difficult job at the moment. Would you like to meet him? I’m sure he’d love to have you on one of his charities.”

“I have this little difficulty.”

“You do? I’m sure we could resolve it for you.”

“I don’t actually believe in a supreme being, unless one means Barack Obama.”

“Good lord, you’re an atheist?”

“I prefer to use agnostic, when there’s evidence of the man upstairs, I’ll concede defeat once I’ve looked at it.”

“Aren’t these three miracles here before you evidence enough? Wasn’t bearing them a miracle in itself?”

“Hilary, these children aren’t mine biologically, I foster them and am hoping to adopt them before long. I know it’s what they want, unless they’ve changed their minds in the last few days.”

“But all they’ve done is talk about their mummy and daddy for the last day or so, especially when we told them we hoped to get you here soon. They couldn’t love you like that if you weren’t their natural mother, could they? I mean they are so sisterly towards each other.”

“Their parents, especially their mothers were ineffectual or absent. I treated them as I would want to be treated and we seem to have bonded very quickly.”

“Mummy, Kiki wants to see you,” I bent down to pat the spaniel who was wagging her tail so hard, her face was getting slapped every so often by it, as were my legs.

“Thanks, Meems, can you take her out in the garden for a few minutes but don’t let her pooh anywhere.”

“Yes, Mummy, come on Twish, we can take h’wout.” The three of them disappeared into the garden.

“I am astonished, Henry and Tom seem such proud grandparents.”

“Yes, I know and I’m really pleased for them.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 810

“Has no one ever told you about me?” I asked Hilary, who was a little subdued by my revelations about the children and my religious beliefs.

“Only insofar as you were Simon’s partner and were marrying him and that you had three children, which he’d taken as his own. I believe I heard you were a teacher or scientist.”

“Well all of that is true. I’m a scientist and teacher, I lecture in ecology—I’m a field biologist by training and inclination, with a special interest in mammals, especially dormice.”

“Oh my goodness, it’s you, isn’t it?” She said bringing her hands up to cover her mouth.

“Sorry, but you have me at a disadvantage,” I informed her and felt a little embarrassed. A number of scenarios flashed though my cognitive processes, not least some article or television piece which would suddenly make me a pervert or the antichrist or both.

“The dormouse film, that was you, wasn’t it?” She seemed excited at her discovery.

“The one on BBC the other month? Yes, that was my film.”

“You presented it so well.”

“I wrote, produced, edited and directed it as well.”

“My goodness, you are a clever girl. Wait until George finds out, he was most impressed with it. You didn’t do the camera work as well?”

“No, nor the sound, I left that to the experts.”

“And you’re not?”

“On dormice, perhaps, on the rest of it—definitely not.”

“She’s an expert on surveys, tae,” said a familiar baritone voice.

“Well, I would expect a proud father to advertise her success.”

“Hilary, she is very guid at whit she does, and richt noo, that’s being a mither tae three damaged wee lassies.”

I felt my cheeks burning. Then I noticed my three wains weren’t in sight any more. “Excuse me, I’d better find the girls.” I trotted out through the conservatory as quickly as I could. Then across the lawn and I was running almost flat out, whilst calling the girl’s names.

I heard barking and a moment later Kiki came running towards me, yelping in pleasure, so I thought, then I noticed the lead still attached to her collar. She ran up to me, she had what looked like injuries to her face and she was limping.

What on earth had happened? I carried on calling the girls and running in the direction from whence the dog had come. I felt frantic—at the same time trying to tell myself, there was probably a natural explanation other than something bad happened. Spaniels don’t always look where they’re going and trees and walls tend to hurt when you run into them. I was desperately hoping that was what had happened.

Gee whiz, I’d only just go them back, don’t say they were gone again. I ran even faster, wishing I was in trousers not a skirt and boots. Then I spotted it and screamed—Trish’s dormouse toy. She’d been holding it when she went outside. I’d almost commented on it, but then perhaps wondered if it was some form of comfort blanket. I knew she wouldn’t leave that behind easily.

Tears were running down my face as I ran around in circles, I saw two men running towards me—“What’s up?” called one of them.

“My children, they’ve disappeared.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, and the dog is hurt.”

“Okay,” he pulled out his mobile and dialled, “We’ve got a situation.” By this time the second man was with us.

“Do you know which way they went?”

“No,” my throat was hoarse from shouting and crying. He looked at the dog, who was wary of the stranger.

“Looks like she could have been kicked.”

“Please help me find them,” I pleaded with them.

“Don’t worry ma’am, we aim to do just that.”

Moments later a car arrived and Kiki and I were shoved into it and taken back to the house. As we arrived, all the men were either running around or getting into cars and in the distance I could hear sirens and then a helicopter. Yet with all this technology and manpower, it was my fault—I should have been with them, not bathing in compliments from Lady Edwards. I should have been with them—this was my fault—again. I felt like killing myself.

By the time I got into the house I was close to hysterical and I was half-carried and half-dragged up to a bedroom and told to lie on the bed. I protested and something was jabbed in my arm—I swore at them, accusing them of all being in on it and I don’t remember anything else.

When I awoke, it was dark and my head felt quite muzzy—like a bucket which had been hit with a heavy hammer and was still vibrating. It took me a moment to work out where I was and why my throat felt so dry. Then I remembered and I felt sick and hopeless. I should let the children go, assuming they find them in one piece—please God—they needed someone who was more competent than I appeared to be. Someone who wasn’t so up her own arse, that they could actually spend time with the girls, looking after them not their career. I was too selfish and immature to be a mother. If the truth was known, I probably needed one as much as they did.

I lay there weeping—where could they be? The whole point of being here was it was considered safe—was it an underestimation of our enemy? Had Simon or I not actually dumped our trackers, or did they follow the car that picked us up?

The door opened and in slipped Hilary. “How do you feel?”

“Dreadful, I’m a complete failure—I just want to die.”

“It was my fault, I detained you from going with them.”

“No, it was me, I’m responsible for them, I should have been with them.”

“We can’t find any evidence of anyone taking them,” she said brushing my hair from my face.

“I’ll never forgive myself if anything happens to them.”

“Nor I, I bear some of the blame, too.” She absently stroked my forehead which was so relaxing, I just wanted to sleep, protected by this older woman—a mother substitute? “Would you like some tea, I’ve found the Lady Grey.”

“Thank you, that would be really nice, my throat is quite dry.”

“I’ll get some sent up. If we hear anything, I’ll let you know immediately.”

“Please do, whatever it is.”

“Very well.”

“Where’s Simon?”

“He’s out with all the men searching the estate—the problem is it covers a few square miles.”

“But you had a helicopter, I heard it.”

“The police, they’ve been very helpful. Just rest, when we bring them back, you’ll have a lot to do.”

“Please,” I said and felt my eyes swollen with tears.

“We’ll find them, don’t you worry, you just rest and I’ll bring up some tea quite shortly.”

I drifted off to sleep and dreamt all sorts of awful things, mostly related to the girls but not always so. I dreamt I was with Kiki and we were being hunted by helicopter. It was so real I could hear the rotor blades swishing and see the brightness of the searchlights on the machine.

I awoke with a start, the helicopter was outside, I could hear it, plainly. I jumped out of bed and nearly fell over, my head and feet didn’t seem connected. I staggered to the window and the helicopter blades were just stopping and an ambulance was racing towards the house, blue lights flashing—I was out and down the stairs in half a second.

“Where are they?” I shouted at the first person I saw.

He looked exhausted and just pointed at the drawing room where we’d been united earlier. I charged inside it and there were my three girls. I screamed and fainted.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 811

“Cathy, Babes, talk to me,” through the fog in my head I could hear Simon’s voice a long way off. I could feel someone touching my body lifting me up. My face was hurting and I wasn’t sure why. “Lay her on the couch,” I heard Simon’s voice in the distance and my body was lifted and gently put on a bed or settee.

Inside my head, it felt like a swirling dust was spinning around like the gathering of tornado and I was hoping I could contain the storm when it broke. “Mummy, Mummy,” I could hear Trish’s voice and desperately wanted to listen to it, “Mummy, please wake up.”

I heard a groaning noise, then realised it was coming from inside me. The dust storm in my brain was giving way to a searing pain which seemed centred behind my eyes. Someone pulled open my eye and shone a light in it, then did the same with the other—it was blinding.

“Okay, she’s not unconscious, we have pupil response,” said a strange male voice. In the background I could hear a chorus of ‘mummies’ from all three girls.

“What is it then?” asked Simon’s voice.

“Concussion, I think, the bruise that’s coming out on the side of her face tends to indicate she hit something on the way down,” the strange voice continued. It wasn’t strange per se, but it wasn’t one I knew.

I felt something cold applied to my face, or the side of it and it felt nice, numbing some of the pain that was coming from that area.

“How many fingers have I got up, Cathy.” I heard Simon say loudly.

“Mummy, Mummy—wake up! Mummmmmmeeeee,” called an excited child’s voice, which I think was Livvie.

“I don’t think that’ll work here, sir,” said the stranger.

“It’s what we always did in rugby when someone took a belt on the brain.”

“Yes, sir, but they have to have their eyes open first, your wife clearly doesn’t at the moment.”

“Um…oh yeah.” I could imagine Simon sulking, his hands pushed deep into his jacket pockets as he walked away.

“What’s her name?” asked the stranger.

“Yeah, Cathy Watts,” Simon called back.

“Her name is Cathy Watts?”

“It used to be, she’s Lady Cameron now,” said a woman’s voice I presumed was Hilary. I obviously hadn’t actually warned her that we weren’t married yet, or if I had, she’d forgotten. Then again, with me in zombie form—was I bovvered?

The argument between Simon and the stranger continued but my ears were no longer interested in listening to it. I wanted my children near me, but how could I tell them? I felt as if I was hovering around inside my body rather than fixed as we usually are. Then things started to spin and I started vomiting and my eyes opened.

The first thing I saw was some sort of plastic cup being held in front of me, which contained…well, you don’t really want to know, do you? It stank of you know what, and I retched again. Nothing came up and Hilary appeared with a glass of water, for which I thanked her and sipped quietly. Three worried faces were staring up at me and when I spoke to them, they just beamed back at me.

“We was so wowwied, Mummy,” offered Meems—always straight to the point.

I looked at them, they were filthy dirty and cuts and grazes all over them.

“Where were you?” I asked.

“We felled frough the floow,” said Mima.

Trish translated, “We thought someone was chasing us and we ran, Kiki didn’t look where she was going and ran into a tree—she squealed so loudly, Livvie let go the leash and the dog ran off.”

“Didn’t you hear me calling?”

“No, Mummy, we just ran and ran and we found this old building behind some bushes, so we hid in there and Mima went to explore it and the floor gave way and we all ended up stuck down a hole.”

“You ended up—down a hole?” I repeated, shaking my head, except it hurt so I stopped. There must be Irish in her family somewhere.

“How did they find you?” I asked.

“We heard a man shouting and we all shouted back. But he couldn’t see us for the bushes and when he came in, he fell down the hole too.”

“An’ he was hurted,” added Mima.

“Hence the ambulance I saw?”

“Yes, Mummy, he bweaked his weg.”

“So how did they find you?”

“He had a phone with him,” said Livvie, “and he told Trish what to say, an’ they came an’ found us.”

“So you’re all okay?”

“Yes, Mummy, but you have a horrible bruise on your face.”

I touched my face and it hurt, “I expect I have.”

“You feel okay, now?” asked the strange voice and I could see it belonged to a paramedic, a man of about thirty.

“Yes, thank you, I’m sorry if I caused you any trouble.”

“No problem, Lady Cathy.”

“Thank you very much for helping me and my family.”

“That’s okay, it’s what we do.”

“I know, but I suspect a bit of gratitude never goes amiss, does it?”

“No, ma’am it doesn’t. I must be going.” He shook hands with me, then with Simon and he left. Simon left the room with him and I’m sure a bottle or two of Sir George’s best brandy went with them.

I discovered there were no intruders, no one should know we were there—until we had ‘Emergency, Camera, Rescue’ turn up—because of my family and my failure to look after them properly. While there were no bogey men to get them, they could have killed themselves in that derelict building, whatever it was. It was still my fault. I was definitely a failure as a parent and doubly so as a mother.

George told me later that he would have the old building demolished in the spring and some fencing put up there temporarily. What could I say? I still considered it was my fault not his; my children should not have been running about willy-nilly, without me being there.

In bed that night, Simon was so tired, he asked me a question and fell asleep before I could answer it. I felt emotionally exhausted but managed to dream of dormice without them turning into monsters, so I presume my mind must have eased, or it was the painkillers I took for my face—boy what a bruise that was—in some ways, I was pleased we weren’t expecting any visitors.

Until sometime a day or so later, when I had lovely green and purple smudges around my left eye and over my cheek down to my jaw, and I learned the Deputy Chief Secretary to the Treasury was visiting to see Sir George and when he learned Henry and Simon were there, he insisted he see them too.

Lady Hilary, being used to these sorts of impromptu dinner parties, killed the fatted calf and then proceeded to try and help Stella and I to find something posh to wear from her wardrobe.

I tried to wriggle out of it, but they all insisted that I should attend the dinner party. I did think about throwing myself down the stairs or something to avoid it, then remembered how sore my face was after falling over, so covered in copious amounts of concealer and base foundation—I felt like Coco the Clown, all that was missing was the red nose.

If said minister or his wife noticed, nothing was mentioned—especially as the dinner party was old fashioned enough for the girls and boys to separate after the meal—they went off to talk business whilst the ladies went off to play netball—ha ha fooled you—we went off to the drawing room and played bridge and talked and drank sweet sherry.

I withdrew early, feigning a headache—I don’t play bridge and despite being from Bristol, I do not like Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry. It might be a quality drink, but all sherry to me tastes like I imagine cat’s wee would.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 812

I was asleep when Simon came to bed smelling of whisky and cigar smoke—I know because the twit woke me up. He was ever so slightly pissed, how do I know? He couldn’t get his pyjamas on. Why? He got both his legs stuck in one leg of the pyjama pants.

Half asleep, I had to get out of bed and pull his pyjamas off and guide his legs in or the first time he needed to go to the loo, he’d have woken me up. Essentially, Simon prefers beer or lager to spirits, but if they’re giving the latter away, he’ll drink his share—then fall over. Tom, who’s drunk whisky all his life, can usually cost you a lot of money before he falls over, so you usually give up first. In complete contrast, wave the cork around and I’ll fall over just from the smell of it—I have minimal tolerance of alcohol, and so does my body.

Simon thought getting stuck in his pyjamas was the funniest thing ever. Mind you this from the man who thought a dormouse disappearing down the front of my blouse was the previous funniest thing ever. I don’t wish to appear judgemental, but I think judging mental was about right—his behaviour was mental.

“Ha ha, I can’t move, Cathy Babesh, you’ll have to—ha ha—help me, oh thish ish sho funny.”

“Funny, you call it funny to be woken up by some inebriated moron, who’s too stupid or drunk to undress himself?”

“Absholutely! Ha ha.”

“Well I bloody well don’t. I’ve got a good mind to leave you like that—all bloody night.”

“Ha ha,” he thought that was funny too. Actually, I felt like shoving him downstairs like that, see if hitting every one of them on the way down would sober him up. Of course the angrier I got the more awake I became. And the inevitable happened, he eventually fell into an alcoholic stupor and slept all night whereas I was wide-awake and slept very little.

“Gee bloody whiz, Simon, it’s three o’bloody clock. What have you been doing apart from drinking?”

“I love you,” he slurred at me, “gi’sh a kish.”

“No way, you drunken skunken, you smell like an old ashtray someone’s tipped half a bottle of Scotch into.”

He just laughed, I think his brain was stuck in giggle mode and I felt like slapping him to see if it would cause the needle to jump onto a more useful track. I didn’t because the way I felt, I might have knocked his head clean off his shoulders and I couldn’t face cleaning up the blood tonight.

“I’ve been doin’ bushinesh,” he beamed.

“What emptying a distillery?”

“No, that wash to schebrelate the bushnesh.” His slurring got worse and I knew I had five minutes to get him into the bathroom and back to bed before he became comatose until the morning—unless he’s been on beer and then he’d need to get up to wee several times, usually waking me in the process. Then he’ll tell me I’m not sleeping enough!

I’m sure if I did kill him, I could claim provocation—‘No, me lud, he didn’t beat me up, he just kept waking me up. Sleep deprivation and MI5 just got to me and I lost it.’ Any judge worth his salt should be able to agree with that. Lack of sleep does all sorts of silly things to one—this one at any rate, and irritability verging on homicidal is one of them. To put it in context, it makes PMS look like a stroll in the park. Bear with a sore head? Yep, like half a ton of very pissed-off grizzly—now you get the picture. I knew I’d be good at wildlife analogies, it simply needed the most appropriate one—I mean an irritable dormouse? A worked up weasel or spiteful shrew? That’s a laugh. A shrew is Britain’s smallest mammal, it spends practically all its waking life eating or looking for food—it eats things like insects and worms—invertebrates. It has to, to fuel its frantic existence. I remember when I was a kid reading some suggestion that a heart only has so many beats in it and therefore a pigmy shrew, whose heart beats hundreds of times a minute has the same cumulative number of heartbeats as an elephant which has a relatively slow beat, over the course of a life time. A comparison of a life counted in weeks against one which can reach fifty or more years. The bigger the animal, the slower the metabolism and consequently, the slower the heart.

Aren’t biologists wonderful—better than drunken w…no…I mean bankers. Biologists get to explore all parts of the globe studying its life forms—then I suppose, bankers do too. I mean some of the funny place names—I came across one recently, can you believe Wauwatosa actually exists, I found it on a map. I can’t believe they’ve got banks there, because let’s face it, with a name like that you’d think they were still waiting to invent money there, wouldn’t you? I expect it’s some trading post kind of place where the Indians or Eskimos trade in a few Sarah Palin skins for a few beads or an I-pod, or some other bagatelle.

I lay there listening to Simon snore or snort, I do believe he was still giggling in his sleep—what about, for God’s sake? He’s a banker, he doesn’t have enough cognitive functions to process humour. Then again, we had a cat who appeared to laugh, so maybe it’s some form of alcoholic rictus, with a repetitive wheeze which just sounds like a laugh.

Whatever it is, it’s driving me nuts. After another hour of wakeful anger, I rose and went in to sleep with the girls, who were in a room off ours. I clambered in with Meems, who opened her eyes, smiled and went straight back to sleep.

Can you believe that when we woke up, I made as much noise as possible because Simon groaned that he had a headache? He wasn’t used to drinking these days, since his incident with the paracetamol, his liver didn’t enjoy it one bit—not that I’m one to boast, except my liver recovered better than his, and I can use the tablets and drink if I want to, most of the time I don’t—I don’t particularly like the stuff.

He can’t prove it was my idea for the girls to go and jump on him, nothing was written down, honest. However, once Meems landed on his full bladder, he had to get up use the loo.

“You’re a cruel woman,” he accused me over breakfast.

“Hard-hearted Hannah, that’s me.”

“I was working,” he insisted again.

“Yeah sure,” I replied sarkily, tucking into my bacon and eggs—I didn’t really want it, but it annoyed him to sit and watch me eat it, while he stared occasionally into the cup of black coffee in front of him.

“I was, we cut a deal with the government.”

“How can you deal with a government who’s bankrupt?”

“No they’re not, not now anyway, I helped to show them how they could wrap some of the negatives in more positive ways.”

“Don’t tell me, disguising things like toxic assets into more marketable commodities?”

“Were you eavesdropping?”

“No I wasn’t, but forgive me, isn’t this what caused the crisis in the first place?”

“Um—not really, that was sub-prime mortgages.”

“It was the Yanks selling us all those toxic debts.”

“That’s a very simplistic view of things, Cathy,” he groaned and held his head.

“Yeah, but if you lot had been a bit more simple in your approaches, or perhaps I should say, honest, this crisis wouldn’t have arisen. Let’s face it, crap is still crap no matter how you package it.”

“Cathy—ooh my head—how can you eat that stuff?”

“It’s lovely, here have a sausage, here you can dip in my lovely runny egg. Simon—Simon where are you going?”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 813

The next day, while Simon and his dad were saving the economy, getting the UK out of recession, I was busy playing teacher to younger charges than I usually have. I’d emailed the convent school and Sister Maria had sent me a whole pile of work back. I was busy teaching that to Trish and Livvie, while Mima practiced her reading with her Auntie Stella.

Puddin’ would sit in one of those shaker things, like a reclining chair made of a trampoline—well, I don’t know what you call them—and she’d sit and play with her rattles and mobiles and other toys, sucking on her dummy and making contented noises as she did so.

Mima seemed to be picking up her reading very well—she’d had some instruction from the older girls, who both had reading ages well above their natural ones, possibly Meems would make it a hat-trick. They were all potentially brighter than I was—and I suppose I wasn’t stupid, especially if you compare me to Simon. Ooh what a bitch—you didn’t hear me say any of that.

Tom seemed to spend his whole time rearranging Sir George’s wine cellar with one of the gardeners helping him. I have no idea what they were doing, but Sir George was very pleased with the outcome so far. They would talk about it each evening over dinner.

We were eating one evening, the girls safely ensconced in their beds, when I decided to dip a toe in to enquire how much longer we would be staying to plague our host’s generosity.

“But, Cathy we love having you and Stella and the children here, the place feels like a home again.”

“Hilary, you are such gracious hosts that asking sounds a trifle ungrateful, but there are things I’d like to do,” I smiled sweetly at her, but it was driving me crazy—I had a home of my own to run plus a life of my own as well. I was just as much a prisoner as some of the people in open prisons, maybe more so, I couldn’t go out at all.

“There are developments under way to resolve the problem with our Russian friends. It shouldn’t take more than a few more days.” Sir George who was our ‘interface’ with the security services, had pronounced—the fact that he’d said more or less the same the day before yesterday seemed to go unchallenged, except by me.

“I think I micht jes’ cope wit’ anither day or twa,” said my treacherous professor. He was having great fun playing in the wine cellar and I learned afterwards, computerising the whole thing—well, the list element. Effectively, Tom was cataloguing the booze.

“What sort of developments, Sir George?” I asked and Stella nodded an agreement to my question.

“I’m afraid I can’t tell you just yet, things are at quite a delicate stage. However, we are getting there, Cathy, so just hang in there, as our American cousins say.”

“Are they kissin’ cuzzins?” said Stella quietly in a mock southern belle voice, and I choked on my rhubarb roulade. Don’t you feel so stupid when that happens at a dinner table. There I am in a relatively posh frock, coughing like a bad case of swine flu. How embarrassing can you get? I should know better by now, whenever Stella leans forward to me, there’s a funny coming and I’m likely to get a hernia from laughing. She managed to avoid the big one we had, she suddenly developed dengue fever, so she claimed—then the next morning discovered she’d got better thanks to some mysterious healing force. Why do I feel she’s always taking the urine?

I hadn’t used my ‘powers’ for months and was quite happy to keep it that way, however, things conspired against me. The morning after this meal, Sir George had a myocardial infarct—heart attack to you and I.

The paramedics were called and I saw our chances of getting home either postponed or rushed. Neither suited me, because if they rushed things, how would I know my kids would be safe? And if they postponed it how long would things take if someone else had to take over Sir George’s role?

We waited while the medics did their bit, the doctor and the two paramedics and their bags of tricks, which seemed to be whisked upstairs by the green clad emergency duo.

Hilary, who, I suspect had been kicked out of the room, came down to apologise for not being much of a hostess—that’s the British upper classes, polite and courteous at all times. Years of public school training makes them so—so what went wrong with Simon and Stella?

I poured Hilary a cup of coffee and Stella encouraged her to sit at the table with us. Tom had disappeared down the hole into the wine store and Simon was busy on a computer link to his office.

“How’s Sir George?” we both asked.

“The doctor doesn’t think it looks too good.” From the look on her face she wanted to burst into tears but was too controlled to do so. “It’s sort of in the lap of the gods.”

“Couldn’t you use some of your magic powers, Cathy?” asked Stella dropping the question on me out of the blue.

“Um—I haven’t done any of that for ages,” I spluttered and blushed.

“What magic powers?” Hilary asked, grateful for a slight distraction from her worry.

“Cathy, did some healing on a whole pile of people a few months back—several of them were beyond the skill of the doctors—and I should know, I’m a trained nurse specialist,” Stella announced, dropping me deeper in the mire.

“I don’t know, Stella, it’s a bit sort of random.”

“No it isn’t, you only have to touch them and they seem to improve. They do, Hilary, I’ve seen it happen.”

“When did you see it happen?” I snapped at her.

“When you did it to me, you’d forgotten that, hadn’t you. I also saw you bring Tom back from the abyss, so there.” If she’d stuck her tongue out at me, we could have started pulling each other’s hair and stamping feet—but she didn’t, instead she dropped me in it, ever deeper.

“Is this true, Catherine?” Now it felt like I was being carpeted by a headmistress, perhaps for fighting or wearing my skirt too short—you know the reasons, the crimes they prosecute in girls’ schools.

“Um—” I blushed,—“I might have helped one or two; but it was ages ago.”

“A few months,” corrected Stella, who continued her torment, “she produces this blue light from somewhere and it goes colder around her. It’s amazing to watch.”

“Blue light? Is this a Christian thing? The local church does healing, should I contact them?”

“You won’t need to, they’re like battery powered compared to Cathy, who plugs into the mains.” I glowered at Stella, no pressure?

“And you’re a trained nurse?” Hilary asked Stella.

“Yes, although I stopped practising a few months ago, when Cathy saved my life.”

“You stopped because Cathy saved your life?” asked Hilary and I cringed.

“I’d best go and see what the girls are doing,” I said slipping away from the table.

“I’d prefer it if you stayed, Catherine.” Hilary went into headmistress mode again.

“You’ve nothing to lose, have you?” said Stella upping the ante.

“I suppose not,” agreed Hilary. Unfortunately, I wasn’t necessarily in agreement with them. George might not either, he was the one with the most to lose. Just then, a staff member called to say the doctor was leaving.

Hilary went to see him and left Stella and I to have our playground discussion in relative privacy. “What the hell are you trying to do to me?” I snapped at her.

“Oh for God’s sake, Cathy, you know you can do this, so what’s the problem?”

“He could die, that’s the problem—in fact he probably will.”

“Only if you let him?”

“That’s unfair, Stella.”

“So why are you humming and hah-ing about it?”

“I’m not; I just don’t know if I can actually do it anymore—is that good enough?”

“If you can remember how to ride a bloody bike, you can remember how to save his life.”

Hilary came back into us, “The doctor says he’s got a matter of hours, that’s all.”

“Can’t they whip him into hospital—Oxford can’t be that far away?” I suggested in trying to distract them from my meagre abilities.

“He won’t make the journey—he’s going to die, my love is going to die.” Hilary broke down and we both went to comfort her, Stella giving me a very old-fashioned look as we did. I felt absolutely awful.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 814

The pressure was mounting on me and I could feel the tension. Hilary was trying to remain rational, although in some ways the time for that had gone. As soon as she asked me, I would have to comply—to try and save her husband, but with something I didn’t understand nor know if it was still with me, whatever it actually was.

She sat at the table and continued drinking the coffee we’d poured for her—it had to be cold by now—as if the action of drinking comforted her or distracted her body so her mind could play by itself. Her eyes were fixed on me, but I don’t think she was seeing anything, her mind was elsewhere.

“Catherine?” she said diffidently, and I thought , Here it comes, “Could you pour me a fresh cup of coffee?”

“Of course, Hilary.” Okay, so I got it wrong, none of us are perfect you know.

“Would you like Cathy to…?” Stella shut up when I fixed her with an icy glance.

“Would I like Cathy to what, my dear?” Hilary said back.

“Pass you something to eat, while she’s up?” Stella changed the subject.

“No thank you, my dear; I’ve quite lost my appetite.”

I passed her the steaming coffee and poured myself another as well, it was as much to keep occupied as anything. Part of me was calculating, if she doesn’t ask soon, it’s going to be too late full stop. Bringing a child back from limbo is different to an older adult, who might have all sorts of other complications beside the cause of death.

I sipped my coffee. “This is excellent coffee, Catherine. I have a niece called Catherine, it’s not you is it? I haven’t seen her for some years, d’you see?”

“No it isn’t me, Lady Hilary.”

“Oh, anyway, this is excellent coffee, or did I just say that?”

“If you did, then I’m sure it needed saying twice—and it is very good coffee.”

“You are kind, and sweet. A very pretty young lady.”

“Thank you,” I said blushing.

“You remind me of someone, can’t think who?”

I nodded, I wasn’t enjoying the conversation, but I recalled the assistance she’d given me when I was practically out of my tree with worry. I wasn’t going to offer—I wasn’t—I really wasn’t. Then I saw her and she suddenly looked about fifty years older than she was last night.

“This is excellent coffee, or did I say that?” she said, again.

I nodded. I wasn’t going to offer—if she asked me, that was different. I looked at her, it was as if she was shrinking before my very eyes. I felt my own eyes forming tears, how long were we going to play out this charade?

She emptied her cup and placed it loudly on the table. “That was excellent coffee,” she said and burped, “Oops, excuse me,” she blushed. “Two years at a Swiss finishing school—obviously wasted.” She laughed to herself. Then she seemed to snap back into the present and she looked at me, “He’s going to die, isn’t he?”

I felt the salty fluid roll down my cheeks, “Probably.”

“It’s too young, he’s only sixty—that’s far too young.”

I nodded my agreement. Stella was keeping out of things but her tear-filled eyes were missing nothing. “Would you like me to see—see if I can do anything to help him?” Damn, I wasn’t going to offer—was I?

“How can you help him, a pretty young thing like you? You do remind me of someone—now who is it?” She closed her eyes and they snapped open, “I’ve got it, you remind me of that girl on the TV, talked about mice, or something or other—very pretty—yes, you’re a lot like her.”

“Lady—um, Hilary, why don’t you go and have a rest, it’s been a very tiring morning and I’m sure you’d feel easier if you had a small nap.”

“I am quite tired—but rest? No, I can’t rest, my husband is dying, don’t you see? I can’t rest.”

“Maybe I can help him?”

“How can you help him? You don’t even believe in God, do you?”

Why do they always remember the bits that would have been better forgotten? “That doesn’t seem to make any difference.”

“Of course it does, I’d prefer my husband was seen by someone from the Church of England—they might be poofs—but at least they’re Christian poofs.”

I didn’t see that coming and its absurdity caught me on the funny bone and I snorted—then had to wipe my nose on a paper napkin. I blushed absolute scarlet. Try again. “Hilary, isn’t it supposed to be how you live rather than what you believe, that constitutes godliness?”

“Are you C of E?”

“Do you want him to die?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, of course I don’t.”

“Then I’d better see what I can do, hadn’t I?”

“Don’t you touch him.”

“Why?”

“Because—because you’re not Christian.”

“You knew that yesterday and the day before and you gave me and my family shelter and hospitality. When I was practically out of my mind with worry for my missing children, you came and comforted me and Sir George did all he could to help me. I cannot walk away and let him die—human decency won’t allow it.”

“Please don’t touch him.”

“I’ll make a deal with you, I’ll try and save him, if you don’t like the way it turns out—you can always kill him later.” I touched her on the shoulders and I felt her relax—she slumped in the chair. “Stella, help me shove her on the couch, keep her here—I’d better get up to Sir George before it’s too late, if it isn’t already.”

We dumped her sleeping body on the couch, she was heavier than she looked. “I knew you’d save him, how did you—knock her out?”

“It isn’t by any means certain, in fact I’d still suggest you keep the undertaker’s number handy—I dunno what I did, but I felt a need to touch her.”

“She’s gonna be all right, isn’t she?”

“How do I know, I deal with dormice—you’re the bloody nurse.” I dashed out of the room just as a maid was coming in to clear the breakfast dishes. “Can you leave that, your mistress is trying to sleep—she’s exhausted?”

“I s’pose I could, you sure?”

“Positive, look blame me if I’m wrong, but I’m not. Now, can you take me up to Sir George’s room.”

“But he’s very ill—maybe even—you know…”

“I know, that’s why I need to see him, before he does.”

“Oh you can’t disturb him, ma’am, your business will just have to wait and deal with Lady Hilary.”

“I have something which might just help him survive.”

“So why din’t the doctor give it to ’im then?”

“It’s something we’ve been trying at the university—still very hush hush, most doctors don’t know about it yet.” Once upon a time I couldn’t tell a lie to save my life, now I can do it to save those of others. How the mighty have fallen?

“I don’t think my master should be used as a guinea pig.”

“Would you prefer a live guinea pig or a dead master?”

“Ooh-er, I don’t rightly know.”

“Come on show me the way and then make sure no one disturbs me until I say—okay?”

“I don’t know about this, ma’am,” she said as I dragged her towards the stairs.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 815

I entered a large bedroom, the centre of which was dominated by two single beds. In the one nearest the door lay a man, I had to look twice to recognise him as the one who’d been running a meeting with a minister and two bankers. Now he looked much older with a grey pallor which didn’t bode well; his lips had a blue-grey tinge to them as did his nose. Okay, it was November, but it wasn’t cold yet. This man was seriously ill. Under his nose was a green plastic tube, with inserts for his nostrils, it was attached to a large tank of oxygen. His breathing was laboured and I felt my task was verging on hopeless.

“Hello, Sir George, it’s Cathy just come up to see how you are. I heard you’d been taken ill.” I watched his eyes, and although closed, I could tell he was hearing me—how much he was processing—was anyone’s guess. However, I’d come here to help and judging by the way his wife had relaxed when I touched her, I still had some sort of effect on people.

“I think I can help you to feel better, so in a moment, you’ll feel me touch you. I want you to concentrate on that touch and what I say to you when I say it. Don’t worry, I’ll remind you and guide you as we go along. The one thing you should try and remember if you can, is that you are going to get better and function as well as you did before. So just hold that in mind as we proceed. I’m just bringing up a chair for me to sit on, now you’ll feel me hold your hand. Here we go.”

I seated myself and picked up his quite large mitt in mine. It constantly surprised me how large men’s hands are compared to mine. His hand felt cold, as if his body was dying from the periphery inwards—given that he was suffering from acute heart failure, it wasn’t surprising as his body tried desperately not to die.

As I held his hand in both of mine, I visualised a light shining down from somewhere above me, entering my body through the crown chakra and passing through my hands and into his. The colour of the light was unimportant, but I suspected from previous reports that it would be blue or white or a combination of both. It was a big if, but it presumed that something was happening or going to. Like I said, a big if.

I’ve reported before when the energy or power, however you want to call it, has happened; it hasn’t always done what I thought I wanted to happen. Whilst, I’m not so naive that I would say I never wanted anyone to die whom I tried to help, it sometimes helped them do so in some way. This could be what happened today, if anything happened at all. It could be, after my big build up courtesy of Stella, that nothing happened—which might teach her to keep her large cakehole buttoned, or it might not. Stella was as unpredictable as my healing skills.

I felt that I didn’t have any skills other than acting as some form of catalyst for whatever happened to happen. I didn’t think about channelling or conduits, or the G word. I tried not to even consider whether it was a spiritual or purely a natural phenomenon. I was inclined towards the latter, but I didn’t want to dwell on this as it would distract me from helping Sir George in whatever way I could.

“Sir George, you might feel a coolness or tingling coming from your hand or arm—it’s okay, just let whatever is happening there spread gently around your whole body. It will take a little while, so I’ll stay quiet for the moment, except to say, that what I am doing is helping you, nothing I do will harm or hurt you—and have done this before, so I know it’s safe. Oh, you may form an impression of a colour being around you, like a coloured light—that’s not unusual and is fine. I’ll be quiet now.”

I concentrated on pulling down the energy or light and plugging it into him though his hand. I could sense—although given what his wife had said, he had massive damage to his heart. It felt as if the energy was flowing straight up his left arm only to be barred by his heart—like some sort of obstruction—a clot or maybe dying heart muscle? I tried to visualise the light—yeah it was easier to see it as light—moving around his chest and entering his heart from the right side, both sides being worked on at the same time—like two teams of rescuers working on either side of a barrier to reach the injured in the middle of the mess.

I kept pouring in the light, sucking it down from wherever it originated, through me and into Sir George. I kept saying to myself, over and over again like a mantra, the light is healing anything it meets and restoring things to a healthy condition. I said it out loud a few times for Sir George to get the idea of what I was doing—or should I say, trying to do.

As is usual in these things, after a while I get so locked into the process I almost trance—insofar as being unaware of time or space or anything else, except the light and the progress it was making. Today’s was difficult and I felt a bit of fear creeping into my head, in the form of doubt. I had to actively think past that and imagine I could see him up and moving about normally. It’s important not to think negatives or mention them—you just go with positives, stressing that someone is going to get better rather than not die.

I felt myself completely enclosed in a ball of pure white light, as if anyone looking at me would have been blinded by it, it felt so bright, yet it was wrapping me inside itself and whatever else was happening seemed on a different level, for this moment and it probably only was a moment, I felt to be somewhere special—I was enraptured, I knew everything and nothing, I felt everything and nothing except the moment and the intensity of the light. I knew I could trust whatever was happening and that I shouldn’t try to do anything but relax into the moment and the light. I was floating, bathed in a sea of light—there was nothing else—only the light. It was timeless.

Whatever it was I felt eventually faded. It may have been a nanosecond or half an hour. I felt strange—elated yet relaxed, as if whatever had been necessary—had happened. As I came back to my body—yes, it felt as if I wasn’t in it and was returning to it—I became aware of the hand both of mine were holding. It felt warmer and relaxed—so something could be happening. I opened my eyes and kneeling the other side of the bed, her eyes closed as in prayer, was Lady Hilary. A complication I hadn’t anticipated and it concerned me a little. However, she hadn’t actually stopped me, so I continued.

I now needed to speak to my patient—this could be tricky. “Sir George, I want you now to feel the light moving around your body, like it was entering through your lungs and being pumped about your body like oxygen is when you breathe, carried around by the circulation. Feel this light—this energy—entering into your bloodstream and moving all over your body—I want you to feel it bathing every cell, reaching every nook and cranny, taking away any darkness that’s there and healing any damage which could be there. Feel it percolating through your body and feel yourself growing stronger and stronger as it happens—feel yourself coming back to us as you normally are, fit and strong and healthy.”

I felt no interruption from Lady Hilary, so despite being told not to touch her husband, she was allowing me to continue. I tried to focus some light on her—she would need help to cope with the trauma she’d experienced since all this started; it wasn’t going to be easy.

I allowed myself to lapse back into my little trance and once again I was engulfed in a light, this time a rose pink one—that would have surprised me if I was analysing my process, but instead I was going with the flow—if the light wanted or needed to be rose pink—it could be rose pink, I didn’t care or need to, I trusted it and I hoped it trusted me.

I felt the energy gently increase, like one drop at a time and suddenly I was back in the intense white light—it felt like I was sitting in the middle of a sun, only one with no heat. It felt so bright that it shone through my eyelids and entered my body through my eyes—a massive photon stream drilling itself into me. I could do nothing but be there, floating in this enormous burst of light, like a supernova was happening around me. I can’t describe it—but for an instant I felt a surge of joy fill my whole being—like a psychic super orgasm—it consumed my whole being—then it was gone and I was left in the darkness.

I opened my eyes and it was dark. I glanced at the clock, it was after seven—I’d been there since before noon—I was tired and very hungry. I was still holding the hand of Sir George, it felt warm and when I touched his face, the skin felt warm and dry—so far so good. I listened to his breathing, he was still wearing the oxygen, but his respiration sounded good, as if he was sleeping, slow and regular. I heard another breather in the room and on glancing behind me, saw Lady Hilary, fast asleep on top of her bed.

“I’m going now, Sir George, you will sleep and wake normally tomorrow morning feeling much much better. Things are going to be all right. I’m going now but you will feel the light continues to stay with you, helping your body to relax and finish repairing itself. Enjoy your sleep and wake refreshed in the morning.” I patted his hand and left the sleeping couple to rest.

“Well?” asked Stella as I found my way to the dining room, they were all tucking into a curry—not what I fancied at all.

“I hope it’s worked.”

“What do you mean, hope?”

“Nothing is certain, Stella except you know what and there’s the rub.”

“Bloody hell, Lady Macbeth strikes again,” she said and Tom and Simon snorted.

“I think it’s Hamlet,” I argued.

“Oh I see, ’cos Greta Garbo could do Hamlet, Cathy Watts has to try it.”

“I vant a tuna salad,” I said in my best Swedish accent and even Stella cracked up at that one.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 816

The cook made me a tuna salad and with a fresh bread roll, it went down a treat. Despite her juvenile behaviour, Stella, with Tom’s help had looked after the girls while I did my Dr Kildare bit.

In truth, without their support, I wouldn’t have been able to try and help Sir George. So it should really be seen as a team effort. All I wanted to do was go to my bed and I was yawning as the others made conversation around the dining table.

I was nicely nodding off, my head resting on my hand on the table, when one of the house staff disturbed me, “Lady Cameron, could you come with me please?”

“Uh?” I popped open my eyes. He repeated his request. “Yeah sure, sorry I nodded off.” The man, who told me he was Paul Restorick, was Sir George’s secretary. He led me off down the corridor to a reception room. A few minutes later, he brought in a man.

“This is Dr Robinson, Sir George’s doctor.” We shook hands briefly.

“I called by expecting to have received a call from Lady Hilary long since, to say Sir George had died. He hasn’t.”

“That’s good to hear.” Well what else was I supposed to say?

“I’m told you spent some hours in his room today.”

“Did I?”

“What did you do to him? When I left him this morning he was practically breathing his last—I expected to be called back to certify his death so the undertaker could collect the body. I’m told both he and Lady Hilary are sleeping peacefully, and that he looks much better.”

“I didn’t do anything to him.”

“Well somebody must have, people don’t just spontaneously heal from a massive myocardial infarct. It damages the heart too much.”

“I wouldn’t know,” I played dumb.

“You’re a biologist or something aren’t you?”

“Why do you think that?”

“I’m sure I saw you on the telly on some nature documentary, it isn’t my bag, but there was nothing else on.”

“I’m glad you have such a high opinion of my efforts.”

“It was actually better than the average Attenborough, so I was surprisingly pleased by it.”

I wanted to say, ‘whoopee doo’ but resisted the temptation, he was already categorising me as a white witch or similar, so I didn’t want to wind him up too much. “I try my best,” I said feeling an obligation to respond to his back handed compliment.

“I enjoyed it.”

I nodded my understanding of his comment, but felt no further conversation was necessary. I turned to leave the room.

“Excuse me, you haven’t answered my question,” the doctor insisted.

“Which question was that?” I feigned forgetfulness.

“What did you do to Sir George?”

“I told you—I did nothing.”

“So what were you doing with him for so long?”

“It’s okay, I wasn’t having sex with him, if that’s what you think?”

He blushed. “Stop treating me like a fool, you must have done something or he’d be dead by now and he isn’t.”

“That would be a cause for celebration by most doctors, their patient not dying. Obviously, you have a different take on things.”

“When someone who should be dead but isn’t, and instead appears to be sleeping normally—I’d like to know why?”

“Sorry, I’m not the one to talk to, I did nothing but hold vigil for his wife, who was absolutely traumatised.”

“No one gave him any drugs or anything else while you were there?”

“Not while I was there, although I did possibly nod off at one point.” It was true, I hadn’t given him anything except TLC.

“Why don’t I believe you?” he glared at me.

“That’s your problem.”

“I suspect the tabloids would be interested in this story,” he said loudly, “Woman aristocrat—TV nature programme star—helps MI5 leader’s mysterious recovery.”

“It’s all speculation, and wouldn’t they be just as interested in, “Secret service boss charges ex-physician with breach of confidence.”

“You wouldn’t dare?”

“Try me,” I glared back at him.

We were eyeing each other up like two gladiators when the secretary reappeared with Lady Hilary. “Hello John, Catherine; I see you two have met.”

“Yes, Hilary, I’m delighted to meet your guest. I called by to see how George is, I was half-expecting you to call me,” the doctor said with mock sincerity.

“I see. So why are you talking with Catherine and not me?”

“I’d heard you were resting and that she had spent a long time with Sir George today.”

“I was trying to explain how I sat in vigil with him to give you respite,” I interjected, hoping Hilary would get the message.

“Indeed you did, Catherine, and much appreciated it was, too. That George seemed to improve during that time is a miracle.”

“I should like to examine him, if that’s okay?” asked Robinson.

“But of course, John, he’s sleeping but I’m sure he’d be happy for you to see him.”

“I have an ECG machine with me in the car, I used it this morning. I’d like to compare it with now and to see how he’s improved.”

“If you don’t need me, Hilary, I’ll get back to Simon and Tom,” I excused myself.

“Of course, Cathy.” I left them and returned to the dining room.

“What did they want?” asked Stella.

“That was a Dr Robinson, George’s doctor who is wondering why he isn’t signing a death certificate.”

“Oh, what will you do?”

“What can I do? Wait and see what he makes of it. He threatened to inform a tabloid paper.”

“Just what you need, Babes,” added Simon.

“I counter-threatened with reporting him for breach of confidentiality. He could get struck off.”

“You could get exposed as the secret healer,” said Stella, “I see now why you were so reluctant.”

“There were all sorts of reasons why I was reluctant, that was only one of them.”

“Is he going to survive?”

“George or the quack?” I asked.

“George—the quack is irrelevant.”

“I wish I felt that way.” I sat down opposite Simon and he poured me a glass of wine.

“I think we have enough friends in high places to make his life very difficult if he tries anything.”

“It’s our friends in low places, who are most frightening—but aren’t you forgetting your biggest ally here—Hilary. You’ve not long ago saved the apple of her eye—she’s hardly going to drop you in it, is she?” Henry had a point.

“I suppose we’ll have to wait and see,” I said and sipped my drink.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 817

It was nearly an hour later when Hilary came in, by which time I’d had two glasses of wine and was nearly asleep. “Catherine,” she said firmly enough to make me take notice.

“Oh, hello, Hilary,” I said trying to keep my eyes open a bit longer.

“Could you come with me, a moment?”

Uh-uh, is she going to tell me off for being a little tiddly? “Of course,” I struggled up from my seat and went out of the door with her.

She threw her arms around my neck and hugged me, “Thank you, thank you.” She kissed me on the cheek and hugged me again.

“What did I do?” I asked bewildered.

“You saved my husband, my reason for living. That’s what you did.”

“Oh that?” I said nonchalantly. Then blew it by sniggering.

“And what are you laughing at?” she asked me.

“Nothing—I didn’t do anything.”

“Didn’t you? Well, I couldn’t have made it happen.”

“Do we know for sure that I did?”

“It must have been you.”

“Why? Just because I was there, doesn’t mean I did anything.”

“Oh, it just happens to be circumstantial evidence, does it?”

“Something like that.”

“Whatever magic it was you caused to manifest, I’m grateful and so is George. He’d like to thank you personally, so would you come upstairs with me?” I hate this bit, they always insist I did something—I honestly didn’t except facilitate what happens.

By the time we’d got up the stairs I was sober again, she dragged me into the bedroom, “Here she is, Darling,” said my hostess.

“Cathy, how can I say thank you?” he said walking out of the bathroom.

“You should be resting,” I said.

“I feel great,” he said.

“Please rest for a whole night or you could undo all I’ve done.”

“Can’t you just zap me again, if it does?”

“No—it’s a one-off, it doesn’t work twice.” I didn’t know if it did or not, but I was taking no chances.

He hugged me and then lay back down on the bed, “Happy?”

“Only if you stay there until tomorrow.”

“Okay, Dr Watts, I’ll do as I’m told.”

“It’ll be the first time, ever,” teased his wife.

“Maybe the doctor just got things misdiagnosed?” I tried to throw some disinformation into the equation but Sir George recognised it immediately.

“I felt like death, Cathy and I reckon I was almost ready for the tunnel of light when you walked into my death and rescheduled things.”

“Yeah, don’t you just hate those women who have to interfere?”

“At the time I was a bit cross with you—you hauled my arse back into the real world and I now have to get well again.”

“Sorry, I’ll let you die next time.”

“Don’t you dare,” said Hilary squeezing my shoulder.

“Okay, I promise,” I chuckled.

“What did you do to me?” he asked.

“I did nothing except prepare you to cooperate with the light.”

“I was a goner, I’m sure of it, Hil, then I heard this lovely young lady’s voice calling me back. It was quite an effort to come back to her, she seemed such a long way off.”

“That was my fault, Darling, I delayed her.”

“What needed to happen, happened.”

“So we see,” said Hilary beaming a wide smile at me.

“I’m just a vehicle for the energy, it does its own thing when it’s ready to.”

“This is the god you don’t believe in?”

“Not in any way you would recognise, Hilary.”

“How do you know?”

“Your attitude earlier told me everything.”

“I think you’ll find I’m a changed woman.”

“Perhaps. That wasn’t the point of the exercise, it was to make sure Sir George recovered, and that seems to have happened.”

“I’ll say, I feel like a new man.”

“So what does Dr Robinson think happened?”

“I encouraged him to think he’d got things wrong or his machine malfunctioned, so George wasn’t as sick as he thought. He was pretty sure there was nothing wrong now.”

“Of course not, the energy does a thorough job.”

“Why did it save me?” asked George.

“Probably because you have things to do which need to happen.”

“Surely, that applies to you, young lady, not an old grouch like me?”

“Why? The energy doesn’t make mistakes.”

“We surely have been touched by God and one of his angels?” said Hilary, “and yet you cannot or will not see it?”

“Please, Hilary, let’s not go there.”

“But isn’t this evidence enough for you of the existence of a supreme being?”

“Not in any shape or form you’d recognise—I don’t mean this in any deprecatory sense, Hilary, but the ideas that move in my mind are nothing like the ones that move in yours. Don’t ask me to explain any further because I can’t, it’s all too abstract—but it enables me to say categorically, that I don’t believe in any god that has been conceived on earth. I am therefore agnostic and happy with the title.”

“I went to university, too, you know.”

“I’m sure you did, but it has nothing to do with that. It isn’t about IQ, it’s about experience. It’s something I know or don’t know, if you see what I mean?”

“You’ve lost me,” she said looking disappointed.

“It doesn’t matter. Feel happy with what you’ve understood to be how things happen.”

“How can I? You’re telling me I’m wrong.”

“No, I’m telling you that I believe something different, which I can’t explain because it’s numinous and at the same time isn’t.”

“Doesn’t numinous mean something to do with the g-word?”

“Yes and no. See it’s all contradictory or paradoxical. I’m glad you’re feeling better, Sir George, now if you’ll excuse me, I must go to bed, I’m exhausted.” I hugged them both and staggered off to my room. Ten minutes later I was in bed and drifting off to sleep—actually, I was flying, being blown by a terrific wind, up into the sky towards a blindingly bright light…

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 818

“Uh, what?” I murmured when Simon poked me.

“You’re dreaming, Cathy.”

“I am? Yes, I am,” and I immediately tried to get back into my dream, but to no avail. It had gone and all I knew was that I was enjoying it. Someone was going to show me something profound—some sort of eternal mystery was going to be explained to me—and Simon woke me up! The man is becoming a liability.

“What are you sighing about?” he asked me.

“You woke me up,” I grumbled.

“Well go back to sleep then.”

“It isn’t that easy, besides, I was enjoying my dream.”

“Well go back to sleep and re-dream it.”

“I can’t.”

“Why not?”

“It’s not that easy, I was being shown some sort of revelation.”

“Go and see it again.”

“I can’t, I’ve tried.”

“Try again.”

“I’m wide awake now, thanks to you.”

“You were making funny noises.”

“Funny noises?”

“Yeah, you were gasping and groaning.”

“Was I?” this was a surprise to me.

“Yes you were, it didn’t sound as if it was too pleasant either.”

“Didn’t it?”

“No it did not.”

“Oh, my recollection must have been wrong, unless I was having sex of course…”

“You were what?” He sounded shocked.

“It’s not just men who are allowed erotic dreams you know?”

“No, I suppose not,” he accepted and I waited for the follow up which was as inevitable as night following day—“Um, Cathy, you’re not—um still trying to get back to your dream are you—um, maybe I could help, um…”

“Nah, it’s okay, I’m just so tired—night night,” I turned over and nearly fell out of bed laughing. However, the consequence was I couldn’t get back to sleep for over an hour while I listened to Simon’s snoring showing me that he’d gone straight off. He’s like a cat, and can sleep anywhere at any time.

I reflected on my day—it seemed to have been a period of which I spent much of the time wrapped in my own thoughts or in a very bright light. Did that experience make me want to accept the G-word? Not in the way that practically every other theist does. My concepts were as definable as smoke and as easy to grasp; an abstract feeling as much as anything else which no one would recognise as anything other than an abstract thought or feeling—and yet I knew I was as close to the truth as anyone else.

My concept was about streams of consciousness—which was all anything was or ever could be. It required some filling out and considerations of self-awareness, but otherwise that was it. As streams of electrons can apparently have some awareness, I presume so can anything else—having said that the awareness I mean is not on the level of a human being’s, it’s more the sort of repulsion of two like poles of bar magnets. They know to repel each other, yet they would attract if they were opposites. There isn’t a consciousness like that of a vertebrate animal, but they do as we expect—why? They have an awareness of themselves and the other at some level—oh this is making my brain ache—time to sleep, I hope.

I tossed and turned a bit longer as I built more elaborate models of my consciousness theory and suddenly, the alarm was emitting horrible noises and the radio came on. I awoke without a memory of any of my insomniac ramblings.

The girls came in as they would at home, and they were pleased to have me with them, and to not have to be supervised by Tom or Stella—Trish explained that no matter how much they loved their Gramps and Auntie Stella, they loved me more. I had to get up and go into the bathroom before I burst into tears.

Whether they were setting me up with a drop of moral blackmail, I wasn’t sure, I hoped not, but it meant that I would stay with them all day if I could, which was what they wanted. Kids can be real monsters when the mood takes them, and my three were no different to any others. So we spent the day together, doing schoolwork in the morning and exploring the grounds of the house in the afternoon, taking Kiki with us and a mobile phone.

Sir George seemed almost back to his usual self and wanted to go back to work, I made him rest for a further day. Dr Robinson returned in the late morning and was a bit more circumspect than he’d been before. He’d obviously not been on the Internet looking for info on me to bring me down—and let’s face it, there is plenty if you look hard enough.

He had to accept that as Sir George was fit and healthy with no blood chemicals suggestive of a myocardial infarct, he had misdiagnosed the condition and thus caused distress all round. He apologised to both, bringing flowers for Hilary and a bottle of brandy for George. For me, he brought a box of chocolates—which I shared with everyone after he’d gone. I was tempted to ask if everyone thought he had seen the light?

Despite my knowing what colours were flowing, I hadn’t actually seen it only felt its intensity in my mind. So the brilliance which embraced me while I was with George, I didn’t actually see. I just got an impression of it and the colours involved—which was an improvement on the previous position—at least now I had some idea of what was happening.

When we were out walking, Trish asked, “Mummy, did you save Sir George?”

“Me? No Trish, I haven’t saved anyone, I just try to help when they’re in trouble.”

“Was he in trouble then?”

“Yes, he wasn’t very well, so I went and sat with him.”

“Did you make the light jump out of your fingers?”

“I can’t do tricks like that, Trish.”

“But I’ve seen you do it.”

“I think you imagined it, Trish.”

“No I didn’t, Mummy, I saw it.”

“I seed it, too,” added Meems.

“When did you see it?” I asked Meems.

“When I dwownded, I seed it.”

“Did you b’jove?”

“Yes I did, Mummy. I seed it when you made me betta.”

I had to be a bit careful here, what was the old wartime adage—‘Careless talk costs lives,’ if that was revised to cost reputations, it would sum things up nicely. “Girls, I want you all to promise me that you won’t tell anyone about these things, like you don’t talk to outsiders about Trish’s situation. Is that understood?”

“Why, Mummy?” asked Meems.

“’Cos it could get Mummy into trouble, dummy,” said Trish and ran off.

“I’s not a dummy, you wotten wabbit,” shouted Meems running after her sister—and who says culture is dead?

Livvie held my hand as we walked together; Kiki had gone haring off after the other two. “I won’t tell anyone, Mummy.”

“Thank you Sweetheart, that’s very kind of you.”

“It’s a pity you can’t use your light to make Trish a normal girl, isn’t it?”

“If I could, Sweetheart, I’d have it done months ago.”

“Does that mean she doesn’t really want to be a normal girl?”

“No, I think she wants that more than anything, but perhaps the light or energy, however we describe it, only works on sick people and Trish isn’t sick, just different.”

“Oh, I see, I think.” She squeezed my hand and we walked briskly after the others.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 819

We stayed for another couple of days before Sir George was able to go back to work. I spent the time helping the girls with schoolwork I got from emails from Sister Maria. We went for a walk most afternoons if it wasn’t raining, which it seemed to do with some regularity.

Then on the Friday evening, Sir George came home and at dinner announced that he considered the Russian situation was under control.

“What exactly do you mean, under control?” I asked.

“We’ve got the Russian government to sort it and most if not all of their agents have been recalled. So, I consider it more or less over.”

“That would imply that they were behind it all from the start.”

“Indeed, they were, Cathy. You have to remember that their country is less well-regulated than ours and the division between big business and organised crime is very blurred, as is the boundary between them and government.”

“I always thought that governments in this country were only polite bandits, with the revelations of the enslavement of children in Australia—I think our government is organised crime, where the Godfather gets elected by an unknowing population, most of whom have IQs in single figures. When you get into illegal wars…”

“Cathy, I think that’s enough.” Henry gave me a stern look from the far side of the table.

“But…” he grimaced at me and I shut up.

“Nothing is as it appears, Cathy, but that’s all I can say—except most of the people who get into government are decent types, trying to do their best for the country.”

“I’m sure Cathy appreciates that, George, don’t you, my dear?” Henry, ever the diplomat was closing me down. Given that George is employed as a senior civil servant by the government I was slating, he was probably correct and I was being naïve and perhaps a trifle rude as well. It’s poor manners to embarrass one’s host, just as it would be to do so to a guest. Could I claim it was my Sagittarian personality asserting itself? I doubt it. I stayed very quiet for the rest of the meal, and lost some of my appetite—something which was noticed by Hilary.

After dinner, she said she wanted to show something to me. She led me off to a small, but lovely room, it had several vases of flowers and others in pots, but the eye was drawn to an elegant writing desk, which I suspected was French and from the Bourbon period. She invited me to sit down and brought out a photo album, calling me to come closer to see the photos.

“A lot of what you were saying is quite true, Cathy, but we have to live with the double standards of government.” She showed me a number of photos of George in army uniform. “He was an intelligence officer in the Falklands and also in various other parts of the world. He still isn’t able to tell me about much of what he saw and did, some of it I know he’s ashamed of, innocents were harmed and that made him angry or sick. Sometimes he said he knew why things were done. Sometimes he couldn’t understand why, but he stopped asking because no one would tell him, and he felt he could do more good by trying to change things from inside the system rather than a lone voice in the wilderness, which could be easily silenced—if you remember Dr Kelly, who apparently killed himself after saying things about Iraq.”

“I’ve heard he was murdered.”

“I can’t comment, Cathy, but I know George was very angry about things.”

“So he wasn’t involved?”

“Good lord, no. He’d have resigned first.”

“Of course; I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have questioned his integrity.”

“That’s okay, because he’s head of MI5, people think he’s able to order this and that on a whim—he isn’t, it has to go via Downing Street or the Home Office.”

“I suppose it has, but he doesn’t have anything to do with MI6 then?”

“Not really, except when they have joint security meetings, every other week or emergency ones as required.”

“So did MI6 kill Kelly?”

“I don’t know, and George wouldn’t tell you, if he did know.”

“I wouldn’t expect him to.” We looked at some more photos. “He was quite a dashing figure in uniform, wasn’t he?”

“Oh if only you knew, Cathy, I had to fight quite hard to get his exclusive attention, he was very popular with the girls.”

“I can believe that from the photos.”

“Do you wish Simon had been in the forces?”

“No way, no he’s been hurt a couple of times being a civilian. With his luck he’d have stepped on a mine during basic training, or been shot during target practice.”

“They are supervised you know?”

“I know, and I have the greatest respect for the courage of the various armies around the world, especially those trying to bring peace and freedom to oppressed peoples. Except we are very selective aren’t we? I mean we invade Iraq because it has oil, we go to Afghanistan to help the Yanks, yet we don’t go into Zimbabwe, where that monster has been destroying the economy for years. Why? Because it doesn’t have anything we want.”

“You’re very cynical for one so young.”

“Are you going to tell me I’m wrong?”

“I wouldn’t dream of telling you anything, Cathy. What you did for George, leaves me in awe of you.”

“Why? I didn’t do anything.”

“You didn’t do anything? Why, all that was missing was a celestial choir.”

“What?”

“There was a light shining under the door, so I peeped in to investigate. You were the centre of the light, which was blindingly bright, and it was flowing into George through your hands.”

“Was it?”

“You mean you didn’t see it?”

“I suppose I either fell asleep or was in a sort of trance, so no, I didn’t—but I, er, know what you mean.”

“You are exceptionally blessed, young woman.”

“That’s a matter of opinion.”

“Just think of all the good you could do.”

“I have, thought about it, that is.”

“And?”

“It’s more of a curse than a gift.”

“How can the ability to summon God’s help, be a curse? If I had your gift, I’d be rejoicing.”

“Let me make a suggestion to you, imagine you’re just Mrs Jo Public, and you win a double roll over on the lottery—say, thirty or forty million. You are so pleased to receive the cheque that you agree to be used in the publicity. Suddenly, everyone knows who you are, and the number of new friends you have will grow exponentially.”

“As the beggars and criminals try it on, you mean?”

“Some will be genuinely in need as well, and I suspect a number of charities would try to tap you, too. Now if you were known to have some sort of magic charm that made people feel better, some would try to buy it off you for good and bad reasons, some would just try to borrow it because they felt a need. If that magic healed the sick, then you will be pursued by those who were very ill or even dying—and I don’t blame them, because if it were one of my kids, I’d try anything too.”

“So, you have a duty to share it?”

“Do I? I have a duty to bring up my children as best I can, I have a moral obligation to try and protect the environment, especially where that involves endangered species in this country, but I hope also abroad. I have no obligation to save lives willy nilly, just because I can, if it’s actually true—it isn’t always. People still die, even when I have tried.”

“But—George was at death’s door—and you saved him, I can’t believe you would walk away from someone else in need.”

“There are millions of people in the third world who are dying from poverty. I live quite comfortably, as do you and George. By your reckoning, shouldn’t we give all our money to them—isn’t that what Jesus suggested his followers do?”

“That’s different, Cathy, our money wouldn’t save that many and once it was gone, we’d be poor as well.”

“My gift for want of a better word, wouldn’t save that many either, and it tires me to use it. I don’t see the point of killing myself to save someone else when I have obligations which I feel I have to honour.”

“Oh—your children?”

“Exactly. I couldn’t help them much if I was so tired or dead, so I don’t try to heal many people. It’s also hit and miss, so I can’t guarantee anything. A while ago, I did help some very sick kids at Portsmouth—the press were chasing the magical healer, I had to stop, and swore I’d never do it again because it threatened what was precious to me.”

“So why did you save my George?”

“Because I could, or thought I might be able to. Also you and he had helped me and mine, so I felt obligated.”

“You shouldn’t have.”

“Not in the usual sense, you had shared more than your resources with us; you were taking a risk in accommodating us. I took one in trying to help him—it worked, thankfully.”

“You’re a strange lady, Catherine.”

“I plead guilty as charged,”—you just don’t know how strange.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 820

The following day, after discussion with George and Hilary, we decided it was safe enough to go home. The police would do regular patrols past the house and we’d be answered very quickly if we called for help.

We’d actually got away quite lightly, a few attacks but no serious injuries to any of us, except the police and I had to remember that four officers gave their lives while protecting us. Going into the house could be quite traumatic, thinking about the two who died there. How I was still alive sometimes baffled me. Maybe I did have a guardian angel or two. If they did exist, I hoped they were on overtime rates.

Simon’s car had been ferried to the Edwards’ house, but it was far too small to be of much use to carry a lot. It was decided that Tom would ride with Simon, and Henry would take the children, Stella and me. His big Mercedes had plenty of room for us and the luggage we had accumulated.

It was such a comfortable ride as well. I needed another car, which Simon was supposed to be organising in the next day or two, and Tom would need a replacement for my dad’s Mondeo. Simon had mentioned that as well. He’d delivered on the previous occasions, so I had faith in him. Tom had grumbled that he’d like to see any car before he drove it—and given he was driving down with Simon, he’d have plenty of time to discuss it. Poor Simon, Tom would ‘tak his lugs off.’

The weather was rather windy with showers, but it wasn’t cold. The journey down from the Oxfordshire countryside was fairly pleasant except the blustery showers which hammered down and then disappeared quite quickly, like the weather was conducting guerrilla warfare against us.

We neared Portsmouth in less than an hour, Henry was no respecter of speed limits and he wanted to beat his son in his piffling little toy car to the house. We drove into the familiar driveway and parked. I rushed ahead and opened up the house, while Stella and Puddin’ and the three girls followed me a moment or two later.

Henry was unloading cases from the boot when a motorcycle—one of these trail type bikes—pulled up, and before I could do or say anything, the rider pulled out a pistol and fired twice at Henry.

I watched in slow motion as Henry jerked twice and fell heavily dropping the case. I felt my hand go up to my face and I know I screamed. At almost the same instant, Simon arrived, understood what had happened and screamed after the bike in his toy car.

I started to run to the fallen man—my future father-in-law—who was lying on his back and bleeding from the two wounds. He was still conscious, but shocked. I tore off the hem of my skirt to try and staunch the wounds, and called for Stella to call an ambulance.

“What’s happening?” she shouted as she ran from the house.

“Henry’s been shot, get an ambulance and keep the children inside.” She dithered for a moment as she took on board what had happened. Then she shot back into the house like a rocket.

“Look after Simon and Stella for me, won’t you?” gasped Henry.

“No way,” I joked back, “That’s your job.”

“Looks like I just got my P45, doesn’t it?”

“You’re going to be fine, the ambulance is coming.”

“Too late, I fear…” he closed his eyes and his head sagged to one side.

“Henry, Henry, dammit man, we need you. Don’t die, please don’t die.” I felt huge tears rolling down my cheeks, and the heavens opened as another squally shower soaked me in seconds.

I had to keep him alive, I pulled my coat off and covered him and began CPR, even though I knew it would add to the bleeding. At the same time as I counted the compressions I imagined the light flowing down through my hands and into his dying body.

I gave two quick breaths and back to the compressions, Stella came out with a coat and draped it over me, she was wailing and I sent her back to the house—“Keep the girls inside,” I instructed her, she wailed and ran back to the house.

Everything seemed to be happening in slow motion still, I suppose the adrenaline was causing my brain to move at super speed, I felt the rain stop, but the water ran down the drive turning red with Henry’s blood as it went towards the road.

I heard the Jaguar return and it was shrieking as a piece of metal dragged along the road. Simon ran up to me to help and took over the compressions and I did the occasional breaths. Tom went to comfort Stella and look after the children.

“What happened to the car?” I asked after giving two quick breaths.

“It hit some fool on a motorbike, killed him.”

“Anyone I know?”

“The guy you stuck in a dress, I think.”

“Damn, I’m sorry, we should have turned him in.”

“Too late now, for everyone. No point in crying over spilt…blood,” is what he said but I was pretty sure it wasn’t rain that was rolling down his face. I concentrated on pouring the light into Henry with a mantra of don’t die, you have work to do. Some blood seeped from Henry’s mouth and I gasped, then it oozed out of his nose, and I wondered if we were labouring in vain.

Sirens grew louder and the ambulance screamed into the driveway. The two paramedics told us to carry on while they assessed the patient. “We’ve got some electrical activity, defib?” the one asked the other.

“Don’t see why not, not much to lose is there?”

“Stand clear, shocking.” Zap and the body jerked. They watched the machine. “Okay trying again, stand clear, shocking.” Once more the body twitched. We all helped ease Henry onto the stretcher and he was whipped into the back of the van, as the one paramedic described it.

I jumped in the ambulance as well, and Simon got into the Mercedes to follow us. The ambulance charged off on blues and twos, “You shouldn’t be here,” said the paramedic, who was attempting to cut Henry’s suit off to treat the wounds.

“He’s gone, hasn’t he?” I asked.

“Probably, we’ll keep trying until we get to casualty.”

“Let me touch him.”

“What, are you sick or something?”

“Or something, you stop the bleeding and keep out of the way.”

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I touched him and he calmed down instantly. “What was that?” he said and sat back in a stupor.

I placed one hand on Henry’s heart and held his hand with the other. “Henry, watch for the light and let it guide you back to us. I’m starting your heart again, let it beat and allow the light to help you breathe. I zapped him with the defibrillator and much to my surprise the monitor on the machine began beeping, it was weak but it was a heartbeat. Then I held his hands and pleaded with him to stay with us, whilst pouring in the light as fast as I could.

“What’s that?” asked the paramedic.

“He’s alive,” I said and continued to heal on him.

“What, he can’t be.”

“Stop the bleeding, will you?”

“Yeah, okay.” He shook his head and resumed cutting the clothing and then stuffing gauze into the holes. I continued pushing in the light and pleading with Henry to stay with us.

“What’s that funny light? He looks almost luminescent?” asked the paramedic.

“Oh Henry was quite an enlightened person,” I said and continued my efforts.

“So are you then?”

“Well, we’re family.”

“What the Addams family?” he asked as we suddenly stopped and his mate came around and opened the doors. “Tell the nurse who he is,” was their parting shot as they ran into A&E and I was nabbed by the nurse for information. As I was about to speak, Simon came in accompanied by two police officers.

“How is he?” he asked and I shrugged my shoulders.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 821

The next two hours were awful; Simon and I gave a statement to the police about what had happened. Simon was also cautioned, until it transpired the assassin had turned to fire at him and ridden under the front of a truck coming the other way. The bike had shot out like a snooker ball and bashed the front of his car—hence the damage. The truck driver had stopped and after Simon explained and the police were called, he slipped away to see what had happened to Henry. The gun was still in the motorcyclist’s hand—what was left of it. The police described it as mincemeat. Simon who was without any sympathy, said he was glad the man was very dead.

After the police left, we waited and waited. We even got the A&E reception to take my mobile number and call us if they heard anything from theatre—Henry was in emergency surgery. We’d gone off to the hospital cafeteria for a drink and were sitting in the public area, me feeling very scruffy with a torn skirt, when I felt someone walk up behind me. Given the experience I’d just had, to say I was nervous would be an understatement.

Simon showed no agitation, so I relaxed a little. “Excuse me,” said a male voice, “are you the lady who rode with me with the gentleman with the bullet wounds.”

I looked around to see one of the paramedics standing behind me. It was the one with whom I’d ridden. “Yes, that was me.”

“D’you mind if I sit here a moment?” he said indicating the empty chair.

“No,” I responded feeling a little apprehensive.

He seated himself and putting his mug of tea on the table asked, “How did you start his heart?”

“With the defib, same as you would have.”

“Yeah, except the defib was saying, that no one was at home anymore.”

“Obviously it changed its mind, maybe it’s a female one.”

His mouth laughed but his eyes didn’t. “And what was that blue stuff?”

“What blue stuff?” I acted dumb.

“Look, I know I had some sort of seizure when you touched me.”

“You didn’t, you were fine throughout.”

“So how come I didn’t see you start his heart?”

“I don’t know, how many hours had you worked?”

“Five or six, why?”

“Perhaps you were tired?”

“Not true, I was okay one moment trying to save someone who seemed to have died, I went all blank and the next moment he’s got a heartbeat and you’re touching him with this blue stuff.”

“Nah, I don’t think so, did you bang your head? I mean if you blanked or even blacked out—wouldn’t that mean you had some sort of fit? Wouldn’t that mean you couldn’t drive or do your job?”

“What are you saying?”

“I’m not saying anything, but the implications with a possible seizure are suspension of driving licence, aren’t they?”

“Are you threatening me?”

“Good gracious no, I told you, I used the defib while you were having a little rest, you looked very tired and then I helped by talking to my father-in-law while you stopped his wounds bleeding. Incidentally, I think your two’s prompt actions are what saved his life and my husband Simon, Lord Cameron, will be writing to ask that you be commended for dealing so professionally with his father’s injuries—especially, as you didn’t know if the shooter was still about or not. Isn’t that right, Darling?”

“Absolutely, Darling, I couldn’t have put it better myself.” Simon gave no indication that I’d kicked his shin under the table.

The paramedic smiled, “Okay, off the record, what did you do to me?”

“Moi?” I sat back in mock surprise.

Simon laughed and the paramedic narrowed his eyes at me, “Look, I don’t know if you’re some kind of witch…” at this Simon nodded so I kicked him again, “but I reckon you’re responsible for this blank I had.”

“On or off the record, if I were you, I’d let it lie, because if you let it be known you blacked out and then hallucinated, seeing whatever the blue stuff was supposed to be, they’ll suspend you, won’t they?”

“Did I black out then?”

“I don’t know, I was too busy worrying about Henry.”

“Should I report myself? I mean if it happened, it could happen again with disastrous consequences.”

“You take your job very seriously, don’t you?” I asked rhetorically.

“Of course I do.”

“Then relax, I can tell you with total confidence, it shouldn’t happen again.”

“You were responsible?”

“I can’t say anything about that.”

“But you did do something extra to him, didn’t you?”

“I thought we’d agreed to forget about it?”

“How can I? If I knew what you did, maybe I could replicate it and save lives.”

“You won’t,” added Simon, “You see, my wife, is really an angel.”

The paramedic looked at us both very suspiciously, then standing up said, “You’re both barmy,” and he walked away in disgust. Simon looked at me and smirked.

“I think you are, okay, usually it’s the angel of death, but occasionally…” my mobile rang interrupting him.

“Yes?” I spoke into the phone.

“Cathy, it’s Sam Rose, I think Henry could use some of that special TLC you do.”

“How do you know?”

“One of the nurses recognised you and called me.”

“Where do I go?”

“ICU, I think you know the way.”

I gulped my last swig of tea, Simon was already up and ready to go. “ICU, it’s not good,” he’d grabbed my hand before the words were out of my mouth and a moment later we were trotting then dashing across the hall towards the unit.

Sam was waiting as we arrived, “He’s in here.” He led us to a cubicle and I felt very anxious. I’d nearly died in this unit and I’d seen Tom and Meems in here too.

“Hello, Lady Cameron, I’m Ken Nicholls, trauma surgeon; we’ve managed to stop the bleeding and repaired an artery that was nicked by one of the shots. How he’s still alive, I have no idea. He’s on his second unit of blood and it’s up to the gods and your special skills—I’ve done all I can.”

“Thank you for all you’ve done.”

“Up to you now, Cathy,” Sam’s voice was ringing in my ears.

“Oh shit!” I mumbled as I walked to the bedside—was it going to work this time?

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 822

I asked for a bottle of water and some peace and quiet. They warned me that they would need to give another unit of blood within three hours. I nodded and then sat down at the bedside of Henry.

I drank some water and addressed my patient. “Henry, old fruit, I have a bit of a problem—you see, I can’t marry Simon unless you give me permission. So, if I were you, I’d hurry up and wake up, unless you want to see Simon left on the shelf.” I chuckled to myself as I said this—he’d be laughing too, if he was able to.

I settled down and asked for the energy to fill me and heal Henry. I sat and concentrated for a moment, then I felt as if my whole body was buzzing—as if I had an internal wasp’s nest. I knew it was time to try and bring another decent man back to life.

“Okay, Henry, here we go. You’ll feel the energy enter your body in a few moments, when it does, look for the light and listen for my voice—I’ll try and guide you back to me—unless of course you’d prefer Simon ran the bank for you?—I thought not. Let’s get on with it.”

I held his hand, and put one of mine over the bullet wound near his shoulder. It had hit his subclavian artery, and it was the one they had repaired; the other had hit his chest but missed both his lungs and heart. Apparently, the object of shooting someone twice is the second shot causes a form of shock which is often fatal. It was a miracle that he had survived at all.

I felt the area under my hand, the one over the gunshot, grow very warm—uncomfortably so. It was almost as much as I could do to tolerate it. The palm of my hand felt as if it was burning and I’m sure I could see flames around it. Oops—was I doing something I didn’t oughta?

I could smell burning, and it took all of my concentration not to run away and get help, but I didn’t, I stuck it and eventually my hand cooled down and I relaxed. I became aware of my other hand, the left one which was holding his right hand, it began to grow very cold—so did I. I began to shiver and I focused on the energy, trying to take myself away from my body and its distractions. My hand returned to normal and so did the temperature—when it was a trifle too warm, as hospitals often are.

I concentrated on the light, “Come on, Henry, make for the light and my voice. C’mon man, make it snappy.” I hoped he would take that as a joke, which was how it was intended. I drew down more light, visualising it entering through my crown and exiting through my hands into Henry, who was glowing.

I was trying to pump it up; make it impossible for him not to find me. I kept going, pulling down the light and passing it into him for some hours. Once more, I could feel myself immersed in this giant ball of light, which was hurting my eyes.

I rubbed them and opened them. Someone was stood in front of me—they came back into focus and I could see—it was Henry. So whose hand was I holding in the bed? I looked—it was Henry’s—duh, this wasn’t supposed to happen.

“What are you doing here?” I squeaked; my throat had gone all dry.

“You told me to come, remember?”

“I meant come back to your body”—God, these Camerons are so thick, it’s untrue—“get back into your body this minute.” He looked totally bewildered, but I needed him to recover physically, not become a ghost.

“But you told me to come to you and the light,” he protested.

“Since when have you been the expert?” I asked angrily.

“I’m not an expert, Cathy, but then neither are you.”

“Compared to you I am, now get back into your body or I shall go home and leave you here.”

“You can’t, Cathy.”

“Why not?” I yelled back at him.

“Because I’ll die.”

“If you keep standing there, you will anyway.”

“I only did as you told me,” he was sobbing—or his ethereal form was. His body was still rigged up to a bank of machines, beeping away in unison. “I followed the light.” He looked at the body in the bed. “Who’s that?”

“You—who else?”

“God, I look old.”

“You’ve been shot twice and lost loads of blood.”

“Oh, that would explain it then, you had me worried for a minute.”

“Henry, will you kindly get back in your body?”

“Is it going to hurt?”

“How would I know?”

“You were setting yourself up as the expert…”

“No, I told you I had more experience of healing than you did, I’m no expert.”

“So how do I do it then?”

“I don’t know, how did you get out of it in the first place?”

“I was floating about above it in the ambulance.”

“Oh great—how do I tell Simon?”

“Tell him what?”

“To hold on to this string, his dad’s attached to it like some phantom helium balloon.” The image flitted through my mind and I had difficulty not laughing out loud.

“What am I to do, Cathy? This isn’t funny.”

“I haven’t a ghost of an idea,” I replied and started to laugh.

“Very funny, if you don’t get me back into my body, I shall haunt you until you marry Simon.”

“I didn’t get you out of it in the first place, so it’s hardly my fault, is it?”

“No but you stopped me floating off in the ambulance.”

“Do you realise why you were floating off?”

“Not really, why?”

“You died.”

He laughed, “Don’t be silly, my body’s there on the bed, I can see it breathing.”

“Unless you get back into it, that’s all it’s going to do.”

“No, I always heal quite quickly.”

“Henry, if you don’t get back into it very soon, you never will again.”

“Are you okay, Lady Cameron?” called a nurse.

“Yes, thank you,” I called back, then to Henry I hissed, “You realise you’ve got no clothes on, don’t you?” I think his ghost blushed, it’s rather hard to tell.

“I thought I could hear voices,” said the nurse as her footsteps got closer.

“Quick, get in the bed,” I pushed Henry and he fell onto his unconscious body and seemed to enter it, his body jumped and shuddered and the machines went crazy for a moment.

The nurse came in, “What’s going on here?” asked the nurse and the machines reset themselves to normal and the heart monitor beeped more regularly. “I could hear voices.”

“It was only me telling Henry to get better.”

“I thought one of them sounded like a man’s voice.”

“Maybe I got a little hoarse; I was doing quite a bit of talking.”

“Could be,” she looked at me suspiciously. “I’ll take his blood pressure and replace the transfusion.” She did as she said she would, “He’s coming along very nicely, I’ll perhaps change the dressings on his wounds.”

She began to pull off the dressing on his collarbone. “Oh!” she gasped.

“What’s the matter?” I asked wondering if she’d seen a ghost—seeing as one had been hanging around.

“The wound.”

“What about it?”

“It’s healed.”

“It has?” I looked, “It has.” I’m better at this than I thought, so stick that in your catheter, Henry Cameron.

“That is weird!”

“No, that is Henry, he’s just attention grabbing.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 823

I came out of the cubicle only to have Ken Nicholls walk over to engage me in conversation. “How’s he doing?” he asked.

“He’s okay I think, more due to you than me.” I wanted to go home and see the girls.

“I don’t think so, I remember a couple of children who wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t been here to help them.”

“I think that’s all a bit exaggerated. I’m exhausted and would like to go home, so if you don’t mind, I’m going to go to the loo and call up Simon to come and get me.”

“If you can wait five minutes, I’ll take you home, save Simon coming out again and I’m going your way.” I went off to the toilet after accepting his offer, so by the time I came back he was ready and waiting with his briefcase to leave.

As a consultant, I suppose he earns about a hundred thousand a year so it was no surprise to see he ran a series 5 BMW. It was nice, but not as nice as the Merc run by Henry, and which Simon would be using until his Jaguar was repaired.

“So when did you discover you had this gift?”

“What, to count dormice?” I asked playing stupid.

“No—to heal the sick.”

“I haven’t, it’s rather hit and miss and I don’t plan to do any more of it if I can help it.”

“I wish I could get surgical incisions to heal up while I watched them.”

“Well, I tell you what, how about you do it and I’ll just go home and look after my children.”

“Why are you so embarrassed by it?”

“It doesn’t make any sense to me, and I want nothing more to do with it.”

“So, you wouldn’t be interested in doing some study on it?”

“No thank you.”

“But the potential for good is so great.”

“Well fine, you go and do it, but don’t involve me.”

“But you have something special.”

“Yes, three children whom I love very much.”

“How would you feel if I acted like you did, only operating when I felt like it?”

“You’re a professional, you signed up to do this, I didn’t, it just happened and I’ve had enough. I have to stop or my life would cease to be my own.”

“I’m sure we could set boundaries to protect you.”

“I’ve already set them—I won’t do any more.”

“What a waste.”

“No, it did what it needed to do—I want nothing else to do with it, it’s a curse.”

“Sam Rose told me you felt that way about it; I find that amazing, but it’s your decision.”

“It stops me from being normal, from choosing what I want to do with my life. I just want to be ordinary, look after my kids and Simon and I suppose Tom as he gets older.”

“This is it, I suppose,” he pulled into the drive.

“Thanks for saving Henry, he’s a silly old fool, but I’m rather fond of him.” I was about to get out of the car.

“If you hadn’t worked on him, he’d have been dead within a maximum of three hours.”

“Why?”

“His kidneys would have packed up and then his heart would have stopped. In fact if you hadn’t intervened, he would have died before he got to us.”

“I’ll bet he wouldn’t.” I wasn’t quite as positive as I made out.

“I’m telling you he would.”

“Thanks for the lift,” I said and got out of the car.

“If you change your mind, give me a shout.”

“I won’t, don’t worry.” I made my way to the house as he drove off. It was seven o’clock and I was tired and hungry. I rang the doorbell, because I couldn’t find my key. Simon opened the door and stared at me.

“Hi, Babes, how’s Dad?”

“If you let me in, I might manage to tell you.”

“Oh yeah, yeah, come on in.” He stepped out of the way and I walked into the house.

“Where are the girls?”

“Tom’s put them up to bed and is reading them a story.”

“I’ll just go and say goodnight to them, put the kettle on, will you?”

“I was going to get a take away, you fancy one?”

“Oh yes, just fish and chips would do me fine.”

“I was going to get a Chinese, but fish and chips sounds good to me.” He went off to get his jacket. “How is Dad?”

“I think he’s going to make it.”

“Thanks, Babes.” He hugged me and I felt so tired suddenly, as if I wanted someone else to take responsibility for a few minutes and give me a break. It wasn’t to be and I knew it, but I could dream. “I’d better go,” he said releasing me, and I went upstairs where the girls were all cuddled together listening to Tom reading.

“Hello, girls.”

“Mummmmeee!” they shrieked and bounced out of bed to hug and kiss me. Tom smiled and withdrew to give me some space with them.

“Is Grampa Henry, okay, Mummy?” asked Livvie, while Trish held tightly to me.

“I hope so, Darling. Come on everyone back into bed, and I’ll have a cuddle down with you.” I remembered lying down with them, but nothing else, until Simon came to get me to say my chips were getting cold. The girls were all asleep and it took a moment for me to regain my bearings and to untangle myself from their ‘hooks’.

The fish and chips tasted wonderful and we ate them out of the paper, although it isn’t the newspaper they used to use. It felt naughty to be slumming it at the same time, it also meant there’d be little washing up.

I brought them all up to date with how Henry appeared to be, which to my mind, meant he was doing okay. I thought we could go and see him tomorrow. I didn’t say anything about him turning up in wraith-like form, because part of me wondered if that was like a dream and didn’t actually happen. The interaction with the nurse and the ‘ghost’ of Henry seemed quite plausible to me. It is possible to be dreaming and interact with others at the same time. Recently, some chap was found not guilty of murdering his wife when he strangled her, dreaming he was fighting with an intruder. I found it a bit much to believe, but I don’t have details of the case.

I enjoyed the glass of wine which I had after my meal and the cup of tea after that. Stella had been super with the girls. She must have been beside herself with worry after what she’d seen in the drive. However, she stayed relatively quiet asking one or two questions before retiring to bed.

I followed her out. “Are you okay, Stella?”

“Fine now. I had every confidence in you, Cathy, but it’s been an exhausting day. So I’m off to bed.” We hugged and I let her go.

Tom went off to his study and began to deal with the hundreds of emails he had. Tomorrow, I decided, I would take the girls to school, including Meems, and after a bit of paperwork, I’d go with Simon to see Henry.

“Has, Monica been to see Henry yet?”

“No, she can’t, they’ve got no one to look after her dog. Usually, her help does it, but she’s away. I called her while I was at the chippy, and told her he was going to be okay.”

“That was a bit risky, wasn’t it?”

“Not really, with you in charge, I knew it would be okay.”

“Simon, he nearly died—he did die: what if he’d stayed dead?”

“Don’t go there, girl, be thankful he didn’t.”

“Would you have been head of the bank?”

“Dunno, possibly but it isn’t certain. It would have been up to the board of trustees. It’s all in trust—to avoid unnecessary death duties—I suppose I could have been the big cheese.”

“I’m glad I helped him to survive then.”

“Yeah, Babes, so am I, —so am I.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 824

“Is everything okay between your parents?” I asked Simon as we were getting into bed.

“In what way?”

“Well, like Monica doesn’t come to his bedside when he’s dangerously ill.”

“Like me, she knew that once you were on the case—everything would be okay.”

“Simon that is complacency to the point of—I don’t know—um…complacency.”

“You’re repeating yourself.”

“Well you lot could drive anyone to say things twice.”

“Gee thanks, that will do wonders for my self-esteem and developing mind.”

“Developing mind? Simon you’re nearly thirty.”

“Yeah but boys always take longer to mature than girls.” If anyone else said this I’d know it was just a joke—with Simon, I’m never sure.

“I can’t believe anyone would put their dog before their husband.”

“Nor me, but then Monica isn’t just anyone. I’m sure you’d do it for a dormouse.”

“That’s different, Darling, dormeese are protected.”

“You mean husbands aren’t?”

“Only by their wives.”

“Oh, that’s all right then, thank goodness for that.” He was quiet for a moment then continued, “I hope that wasn’t a dig at the fact you had to rescue me?”

“Would I do a thing like that to you? Besides it was that old crone Myrtle Kingston, who did most of the rescuing.”

“I got blood on my suit from that trigger happy hag.”

“Were you wearing a suit?”

“I think so. Yes, the grey one, it was ruined after your Russian friends finished knocking me about in it.”

“Simon, it wasn’t me they were after, it was your family—mine don’t own a bank, remember.”

“So it was. Can we make love now?”

“I hope that wasn’t your effort at foreplay.”

“Like the Australian one – you awake Sheila?”

“Never having tried it with an Aussie, I couldn’t possibly comment.”

“Want me to arrange a date with Skippy the kangaroo?”

“No, I think I’d really like to go to sleep.” I closed my eyes and seemed to drift off while Simon was talking about Australians he knew at university. Knowing him, he’d still be talking this time tomorrow, so I just went with the flow.

About two o’clock I was awakened by the gale, which was howling around the house. For a moment, I wondered where I was, then I heard the tap-tapping which had awakened me.

“What’s that noise?” I asked Simon after a quick poke in the chest.

“What?” he opened his eyes, “What?” he repeated.

“That noise.”

“What noise?”

“Something tapping.”

He sat up in bed, “Probably the wind, go back to sleep.”

“It isn’t the wind.”

“Go and see then.”

“Simon, that’s your job not mine.”

“Since when?” he asked yawning.

“You big and muscular—me smaller and pretty. There is a reason you know?”

“Is there?—I heard it that time. Okay, I’ll take a look.” He wearily got out of bed and pulled on a dressing gown over his tee shirt and underpants. He went downstairs in the dark. Wondering if it could be more of our little friends from across the Caspian, I pulled on my dressing gown over my nightdress, and followed him.

All I could hear was the storm raging all around me and the occasional tapping noise, then there was the sound of breaking glass and a pause. I stopped in the hallway, and reached out for a walking stick with a fairly stout shaft. A door opened and in the next minute I heard a flurry of activity in the kitchen—furniture being knocked about and things being broken.

I ran in and switched on the light. Simon had hold of an intruder and none too gently. The intruder was struggling. He was wearing a ski mask and hoodie. Then he elbowed Simon in the tummy and grabbed me with one hand and a knife from the block on the draining board.

I could see this becoming a hostage-type situation, so I ripped myself loose and began whacking him with the stick, he dropped the knife and tried to prise the stick from my hands so I didn’t see Simon come behind him. Simon hit him twice and the intruder went down like a stone, groaning.

We secured his hands with some parcel tape and the same with his ankles—I know it sounds like a bondage story—then we were able to pull off the ski mask. It was a coloured youth, he looked about sixteen. He was crying when we really looked at him.

“Call the police, Cathy, tell ’em we’ve caught an armed robber.”

“Don’t do that,” said the kid.

“Why shouldn’t I?” asked Simon.

“Jus’ lemme go an’ I’ll never come ’ere again.”

“That’s hardly a criterion, is it? If you’re banged up, you won’t come back here either. Call the cops, Cathy.”

“What’s your name?” I asked him—his eye was closing over where one of us had hit him—it could well have been me.

“I ain’t gonna tell you nuffin’.”

“Would you prefer to tell the police?”

“No, Missus.”

I sorted a few upturned chairs and Simon picked him up and dumped him on one of them. I reached to look at his injured eye and he tried to snatch his head away, whereupon, Simon grabbed his head and held it firmly.

“You’re going to have a bit of a shiner tomorrow.”

“So—don’t ’urt.”

“I can soon fix that,” offered Simon.

“Simon, can you fix a piece of wood or something over the window our little friend broke?”

“Are you going to be safe on your own with our little guest?”

“He’s quite harmless and I do have the stick.”

“Okay, I’ll see what I can find in the shed.” He took the keys with him and went out through the back door.

“Now, what is your name?”

“I don’t need to tell you nuffin’.”

“No, the police can sort it out with you if you like. They’re only a call away.”

“So, I ain’t frightened.”

“Why were you crying earlier?”

“I wasn’t, your bloke hit me, made me eyes water, that’s all.”

“Okay, what were you looking for?”

“Money, car outside is a Merc—you got money, aintcha?”

“It isn’t our car—it’s a borrowed one.”

“They say you’re on telly, so you gotta be rich.”

“I’ve been on telly, I’m not now. I’m not rich.”

“What about da professor bloke, he’s a doctor?”

“A doctor of philosophy and a doctor of science. He’s a scientist not a medical doctor.”

“He’s gotta ’ave money?”

“Not very much, and we don’t keep it here anyway.”

“You gonna ’ave more dan me.”

“Probably, but we work damned hard for it. What do you do?”

“A bit of dis an’ dat.”

“Thieving?”

“Sometimes, why?”

“Are you still in school?”

“What’s it to you?”

“If you don’t cooperate, I can’t help you.”

“Why should you help me?”

“Yeah, why should I help you? A little thug like you, why should I help you? I suppose you’re into drugs or booze much of the time, aren’t you?”

“What’s it to you?”

“Nothing, nothing at all. Does your mother know you’re out at this time of night?”

“Leave my ma out of dis.”

“Why? She’s responsible for you. I could make life very difficult for her, you know. I have some very powerful friends.”

“You leave my ma out o’dis,” tears were streaming down his face.

“Why? Why should I?”

“She’s…” his head sunk on his chest and he began to cry.

I left him alone for a moment, sobbing quietly to himself while I put the kettle on. It was now half past two. Simon came back with some wood and began securing the door. It looked as if it was going to be a long night.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 825

I took Simon a cuppa; he’d somehow managed to screw two pieces of wood together on either side of the broken pane. “Just stay close, but say nothing unless I ask you to.”

“Yes, boss,” he said and I poked my tongue out at him.

“Would you like a cuppa?” I asked the young coloured youth. He shook his head, there were still tear marks down his face.

I sat in front of him and drank mine. I was wearing my nightdress and dressing gown, along with my slippers. My hair was tousled and probably messy, and I had no makeup on. In fact, I probably looked like a mobile disaster area—oh, I forgot, the nightdress wasn’t silks or satins, it was a cotton one with a picture of a kitten in a hammock on the front, which came to mid-thigh, and the dressing gown was a woollen one with a tie belt.

“You were telling me about your mother, would you like to call her to come and get you?” Simon was sitting behind the youth and he snorted his tea at this question. The boy shook his head.

“Would you like me to call the police?” I asked and the boy shrugged—whilst behind him, Simon was nodding enthusiastically—like one of those dog things they used to put on the back window of cars. “Well would you?”

“Ya gonna do it anyway, why ask me?” said the boy.

“I might, especially if you keep up this surliness.”

“’Ow am I supposed to be, I’m tied up and for all I know you gonna kill me.”

“I’ll let you into a secret, I have killed, several times. It wasn’t nice and I have no desire to do so again. However, I think I ought to warn you—so don’t push your luck, sunshine.”

“Ya bluffin’, you ain’t killed no one.”

“I think the count is up around nine or ten. All of them Russians. One I hit over the head, another I shot with a bow and several arrows, another I burned and several I shot with an AK47.”

His eyes registered shock but his mouth kept up its disbelief, “You never killed no one.”

“I’m afraid she did or should I say, has.” Simon spoke from behind the boy which made him jump, he’d forgotten he was there.

“Was you in the army?”

“No, working with the security services.”

“What, you’re a spy?”

“No—I’m a teacher. Now before I make the list a confirmed ten, I think you’d better start spilling the beans, laddie or prepare to spend a very long time pushing up daisies under our muck heap.”

“You’d kill me?”

“No, I wouldn’t—the muck heap would. We’d just bury you under it and all the bugs and worms and fungi would eat you away to nothing.”

“But I’d be dead—so it wouldn’t hurt.”

“Not for several days and I can assure you it would be very unpleasant as the worms burrowed up your nose or through your ears or possibly even your eyes—assuming the ants didn’t get them first.”

“You can’t do dat.” He looked very worried now.

“Why? Nobody is going to miss a nobody like you, are they?”

“Yeah, I told me mate I was comin’ ’ere.”

“You’re lying.”

“No I ain’t.”

“Yes you are sunshine. Simon, when you’ve finished your tea can you dig a hole under the muck heap?”

“How deep?” he asked.

“Enough for this—(I pointed to the boy)—to be well hidden by shit.”

“You can’t do dat?” he looked very frightened.

“Are you going to stop me?” I asked and he struggled so much he fell off the chair winding himself in the process. “You could you know?”

“’Ow?” he looked fearfully at me.

“Tell me who you are and where you live.”

“No.”

“Okay Simon, couple of feet deep, I’ll strip him off ready—you’re soon going to have the fun of worms wriggling up your bum.” I smirked at him.

“No—no, I’ll tell you.”

“Carry on Simon, in case he’s lying—if he is, I’ll sling him out there anyway.”

“Okay, it’s off to work I go,” he chuckled and the boy wet himself.

“Wonderful—you can clean that up before we kill you.”

“All right, my name is Leon, all right?”

“Leon—why should I believe you?”

“’Cos it’s da trooff.”

“Where do you live?” He muttered an address which wasn’t too far from where I’d had a room at the university—in what seemed like years and years ago.”

“Are you on the phone?” The tears rolled down his face. “My ma has a mobile, we don’t have no landline no more.”

I demanded the number, which he reluctantly gave me. “Now tell me what the problem with your mother is.”

“She ain’t well.”

“What’s the matter with her?”

“She’s got MS.”

“As in multiple sclerosis?”

“Yes.” He looked defeated.

“So why do you go out thieving?”

“It’s a buzz innit? Da money is useful too, we don’t ’ave much.”

“How did you come out here?”

“I walked ’ere.”

“Okay, we’re going to take you home to her. Simon, watch him, I’m going to change.”

“Okay.” He sat opposite the boy and drummed his fingers.

I was ten minutes at most, dressed in jeans, trainers and a fleece top. Simon went and dressed and he was soon down. We dumped Leon in the back of the car and drove towards Portsmouth.

“You’re not going to try and um-help his mother are you?”

“Yeah, I’m taking her son back home to her instead of handing him over to the police.”

“Well that’s hardly going to stop him becoming the next Al Capone, is it, especially if mummy is ill?”

“Simon, just be quiet and drive.”

We pulled up outside a small terraced house which had seen better days. There was a light shining inside. I asked if Leon had a key, he said the door was always open.

“What is your mother’s name?” I asked him.

“Theresa.”

I knocked on the door and turned the handle, the door opened. “Hello, Theresa?” A voice answered from inside and I knocked and entered. “Are you, Theresa, Leon’s mother?”

She was reclining in an ancient armchair, “What has happened to my son?”

I looked at her, she was rather overweight and dressed very badly in a house which was both scruffy and in need of a good clean. She smelled so I didn’t get too close. “He broke into my house earlier and we have him in the back of the car.”

“I’ll kill dat boy, he brings shame on my head.”

“He came very close to breathing his last tonight.”

“Is he hurt?”

“He has a black eye.”

She laughed, “Well dat’ll go wid de rest of his face.”

“Indeed.”

“Why did you bring him home to his ma, not call de police?”

“I have children of my own. I frightened him by spinning him a yarn of burying him under my compost heap—alive, he didn’t go much on the idea of worms wriggling up his bum.”

“I ain’t surprised,” she showed me a wide-eyed expression then roared with laughter. “Maybe I should try dat ’ere?”

“I’ll loan you the shovel.” She laughed at my response.

“I don’t know what to do wid him, he’s gettin’ uncontrollable.”

“I want him to come to my house every weekend, I shall find him jobs to do, gardening, painting and so on and I’ll pay him fifty pounds for the weekend.”

“What if he say, no?”

“He’ll miss out on fifty quid.” I called Simon to bring him in. He dumped him unceremoniously on the carpet in front of his mother. “We had to restrain him to stop him getting hurt.”

I put the offer to him and he shook his head, “Dey’s boff mad, Ma. Dey was gonna kill me.”

“You shut up, you stupid boy. You gonna take da job, an’ maybe you behave youself better.”

“No I ain’t, dey was gonna bury me under da shit heap.”

“If you don’t behave youself, maybe dey still can?”

“No, Ma, dem’s crazy.”

“Good, you gonna do what I say not what you want.” She laid into him for several minutes. We shook hands and she gave me a very old-fashioned look. “’Ow long you ’ad de powah?”

“Me?” I winked.

“No wondah, I’s been feelin’ strongah. Bless you, lady.”

“Leon, I shall expect you at nine on Saturday, don’t be late or I’ll fine you.”

“How is I s’posed to get der?”

“You got there tonight. Goodnight Theresa.”

“Goodnight, Lady.”

“He won’t turn up,” Simon opined as we drove home.

“A fiver says he will.”

“You’re on.” He smiled; so did I, he was a lousy gambler.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 826

By the time we got home, it was too late to go back to bed—for me at any rate—Simon did and I hope he slept well. I instead got stuck into making bread and doing some chores. I tidied the kitchen and mopped the floor, then when it was dry, did some ironing. A quick cuppa and some toast and it was time to get the girls up—thank goodness they’d slept through the intrusion.

As I brought them downstairs, Tom emerged and asked about the noises in the night. I told him I’d tell him later. He noticed the broken window and asked me to get someone in to replace it. I told him I would.

The bread was ready as the girls finished their cereals, so we had hot bread with butter and jam on it—lovely. I made their sandwiches and they pulled their coats on, all three of them—it was Mima’s first day in nursery, courtesy of our Russian friends. I would collect her at lunchtime for the first week, then she’d be there all day. I think she was ready for it, so did she.

The headmistress was pleased to see us back and she made a fuss of the girls. I got Mima settled in her nursery class and escaped for a couple of hours. I actually went home and slept. I know you’re asking what did I drive? I used Stella’s car, which wasn’t as nice as my little Golf.

I had wakened Simon and asked him to sort out the window and the cars, before I crawled up to bed for two hour’s sleep. I zonked for one of them, then woke with a weird dream and a need to wee. I dozed after that, though I couldn’t recall any of the dream.

Simon had been busy and he went to get Mima at lunchtime whilst Stella and I got lunch. Puddin’ was sitting up and chewing on everything, and she had a bit of a cold. It was a sure sign she was teething, and Stella reported she’d had a couple of broken nights. She was already rolling about when we put her on the floor, Puddin’ that is, not Stella—she only does that when she’s drunk.

Mima made a huge fuss of me when she came home and, showed me a painting she’d done. It went up on the wall alongside those of Trish and Livvie and she was very pleased with herself. After lunch she had a snooze, and so did I while Simon took his sister to see their dad. I was really pleased that Puddin’ snoozed as well.

I awoke when the doorbell rang, it was some bloke delivering a car—an Audi A3, and guess what? It was for me. I admit I’d have preferred the TT, but I’d probably have lost my licence by Christmas. This was apparently a lease car. I signed the forms and the man left. It was black and very shiny and I couldn’t wait to drive it.

Tom was going to get the girls from school; he had a hire car at the moment, and was interested in getting another Mondeo estate, as he’d really liked my father’s one, which was only two years old. Daddy had just bought it when he had the stroke. So we were getting our lives back to normal. Henry wouldn’t need a car for a couple of weeks, by which time Simon’s Jaguar would be back from the repair shop. As the Jaguar dealership has its overdraft with High St Bank PLC, I suspect they would pull out the stops with Simon’s car. Although, I saw somewhere that Jaguar were doing very well in India, China and the UK.

While I was staring out of the window at my new set of wheels, I saw that the garden shed needed some repair work done—Leon had a project for the weekend.

The next thing was a glazier’s van arriving, and I made the two blokes a cuppa while they replaced the broken double glazed unit. Then before I could say anything, they started doing the back door. This time, with a door with a small window in it, and that was made of toughened glass. They were finishing as Tom brought the two girls back and he was quite pleased with the result—it was just as well, they asked him for a cheque to pay for it. He shrugged his shoulders and paid up.

Tom took over the children after I’d made him some tea, so I could get the evening meal ready—a pile of pork chops, with new potatoes, carrots, swede or neeps as Tom calls them and some broccoli. I had some profiteroles with ice cream for dessert, so I knew the girls would eat something.

Simon brought Stella home about six. She looked upset. “What’s the problem?” I asked when she came through to the kitchen.

“Daddy, the second bullet is lodged in his spine, they’ll have to operate and he could end up paraplegic.”

I was devastated, I hadn’t picked up on that at all, mind you I was trying to keep him alive for the surgeons to play with. “Is he awake?”

“Barely, they’re keeping him sedated to try and stop him moving about and doing more damage. They want him to go to Southampton as soon as possible.”

“I thought the spinal unit was at Salisbury, at Odstock Hospital.”

“Yeah, but the neurological one is at Southampton.”

“Okay, once we’ve eaten, if someone can put the girls to bed, I’ll go and see if I can help him.”

“They did ask where you were.”

“I doubt my skills would extend to extracting a bullet from someone’s spine, though maybe I can help to prepare him for the op and to recover afterwards.”

I began to dish out the food, and carried it through to the dining room to a table Livvie and Trish had laid with cutlery and condiments. Simon had a small bottle of beer and Tom a glass of wine—I suppose he needed it after paying the bill to the glazing company. I did offer to give him some of it—I did feel a bit responsible—but he wouldn’t hear of it. Tomorrow, I would do some survey work, if I got a chance.

I left Stella to clear up and drove myself in my shiny new car to the QAH, to see Henry. He was heavily sedated, but the nurse recognised me and allowed me to sit with him. They considered that he was making so much progress that they’d be able to move him from ICU to High Dependency in a day or so.

I sat by the side of him and held his hand; immediately the energy raced down my arm. I’d never felt it like this before, then before I could say or do anything, my other hand was pulled towards him. It actually felt as if someone had hold of it and was drawing it and me towards Henry. My heart was racing but my body wasn’t obeying my commands, it was like it was some form of robot with me inside getting a little frightened.

In a moment I was kneeling on the floor and my right hand was drawn under Henry’s body. Thankfully, he was on a ripple mattress so it depressed to let my hand and then my arm in. It was under the middle of Henry’s back, with my palm against his skin. The side of the bed was sticking in my right boob and it was hurting enough to make my eyes water. Whatever was holding my arm was pulling quite hard.

Then my hand got very hot again, and after several minutes I honestly thought I was going to faint or pass out. I was so hot and my hand felt on fire—much more of this and I’d be getting third degree burns. I was weeping, my hand was hurting so much, then I felt some fluid and then a small hard object and whatever was holding me let go and I fell onto the floor, almost in a faint.

I must have knocked over the chair as I went because the next thing I know, I have a nurse helping me up and as she did so, I dropped something on the floor.

“What’s that?” she asked and bent down to recover it. I was now alert—sort of—and drinking some of the bottle of water I’d taken in with me. She held it up to the light. “It looks like a bullet, where did this come from?”

“I think you’d better send for Mr Nicholls,” I said and smiled weakly.

“Let me get this right, something grabbed your arm and put it under Lord Henry’s back, it got very hot and the bullet fell out by itself?”

“Yes.”

“This isn’t a game is it? Some sort of wind up?” demanded Mr Nicholls.

“Why would I play games with you? Besides, Henry is family, so I wouldn’t do anything to harm him.”

“I see; so you’re trying to tell me this just magically erupted through his skin?”

“Yes.”

“Fuck me,” said the surgeon and ordered an x-ray, immediately. “You stay there,” he instructed and pointed to the chair.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 827

I sat down and folded my arms, while a porter and a nurse took the bed complete with Henry, down to Diagnostic Imaging. Talk about feeling fed up—I felt like someone who’d been caught scrumping apples by a neighbour. I only did that once and got a hiding for it from my dad. In some circumstances, negative feedback seems to work—or it did for me: you could say it made an honest woman of me. I sniggered at my own joke, which showed how bored I was.

Ken Nicholls came in holding the piece of lead I’d dropped when I fell over and the nurse had retrieved. “I’ve just shown this to a colleague, who’s an ex-army surgeon, he said it was a bullet which had hit something hard, like bone.”

“So?” I offered defensively.

“So where did it come from?”

“I told you.” I sighed, he didn’t believe me—mind you, I was there and I didn’t believe me.

“You realise if what you’re saying is true—it blows accepted science and medical theory apart.”

“I happen to be a scientist,” I threw back at him.

“Not just a pretty face then?”

“Not even one, no—but scientist, yes. I teach at the university.”

“Golly, a real scientist, and there I was assuming that the most difficult decision you had to make was which flunky you wanted to peel you a grape.”

“You patronising arsehole, how dare you? I run a house with four children and four adults as well as work. I don’t have any help except from the family.”

“Oh, I seem to have misunderstood—I apologise. I thought you were an heiress to the Cameron millions.”

“Simon might be, but we’re all very down to earth, besides, why should I give up my career when it isn’t absolutely necessary?

“Quite. So what do you teach?”

“I’m a field biologist cum ecologist.”

“So you have some idea of what is going on inside these bodies you—um—work on?”

“It’s a while since I did all that sort of stuff, but yes, I do have some idea.”

“So you would understand that what has happened here is impossible?”

“With regard to current theory, yes.”

“So is this some sort of trick? To keep up your credibility, perhaps?”

“Credibility? What credibility? I don’t believe in it all, so what credibility have I got to maintain? I don’t want these things happening around me—it’s like something out of a Hammer Horror film.”

“Come off it—you’re enjoying every minute of it, making people better, beating the doctors—real ego stuff.”

“Mr Nicholls, I don’t know how old you are…”

“Thirty eight, why?”

“Because you seem to have a great deal of maturing to do. Maybe they should lock you in cave under the Mendips—it seems to work for cheese. I am going home.”

“Oh no you don’t,” he stood in front of the door barring my exit.

“Are you going to include false imprisonment to the other social niceties you offer the public here?”

“I’d like you to wait for the results of the x-rays.”

“Why?”

“So I can prove your little trick didn’t work.”

“I see. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you it isn’t a trick, it’s what happened.”

“So if I asked you to see the chap in the next cubicle, you could sort out his aneurysm, could you?”

“Why should I?”

Before he could reply his mobile rang—“It’s got to be there, do an MRI, just find it.”

“Problems?” I asked sweetly.

“No, they’ll find it.”

“You have it in your hand. I didn’t think they could use an MRI for scanning metal things.”

“This small is okay.”

“If I’m going to be held prisoner here, then I’d like a cup of tea.”

“Ah, now we have the aristocratic wife asserting herself—fetch me a cup of tea wench.

“I can’t go through the door because Nichollsian, the densest, rudest, stupidest substance known to man is in my way. If it wasn’t, I should go up to the cafeteria and buy myself a cup of tea.”

“If you promise to come back down, I could move aside.”

“Why should I promise you anything, except a lawsuit?”

“Because you like masterful men and you love proving them wrong.”

“I’ve already won the argument, unless I can suddenly apport pieces of lead.”

“See you even have the words you need, how many people know the word, apport?”

“I have no idea, but it has been suggested that generally people with degrees and a university education have a marginally wider vocabulary than the oiks who go to medical school.”

“Well, that puts me in my place, sorry, I should have touched me forelock before challenging you.”

“Quite honestly, I’d have thought touching your foreskin was much more in your line. Now I’d like to go for that cuppa before they close the cafeteria.”

He blushed and laughed as I pushed past him. While I was of the same opinion that moving a piece of shrapnel through tissue without cutting things was so unlikely as to be impossible, I was now hoping that we were both wrong. If only to prove him to be a king-size idiot.

I sat there, just a few people occupying the other tables, feeling very tired and irritable. It was after nine and I should be home now, unwinding and getting ready for bed. Instead I was wasting my time drinking tea I didn’t really need while they did a scan on my future father-in-law. My mobile rang—it was Simon.

“How’s it going, Babes?”

“I don’t know.”

“Whaddya mean, don’t know?”

“As I said, I don’t know. I’ve just had a huge argument with the trauma surgeon, who is the rudest, most arrogant doctor I have ever met…”

“He does apologise in person though.” A voice interrupted me.

“I’ll call you back,” I said closing down my phone and shoving it back in my bag.

He placed a mug of tea down on the table. “They can’t find it—it looks like I owe you an apology.”

“You have it in your hand.”

“My pocket.” He reached in a pulled it out. “I’ve looked at Lord Cameron and there isn’t a mark on him. So how the hell did you do it?”

“I don’t know, I’ve told you what happened, I’m not repeating myself again.”

“This is solid metal—it can’t move through skin and bone and other tissue without some exit wound. There isn’t one.”

“I’ve got it: he never was shot and what you have in your hand is a loose filling from one of his teeth. There, now it makes sense.”

“Lady Cameron, you can’t just dismiss this as if it never happened. This is the most exciting moment in medical science since—I dunno—Pasteur discovered bugs.”

“For you maybe, for me, I shall deny all knowledge of it. Once Henry is out of here, I plan to never ever set foot in the place, ever again.”

“Lady C, you can’t just ignore it—this could save lives, it is so exciting.”

“Please, don’t tell anyone of this—if you do, I shall deny it and sue you for slander or libel or both or defamation or all three.” I stood up, “Good night Mr Nicholls, I hope our paths never cross again.” I stepped around him and walked out of the cafeteria back down to ICU. Henry was awake but very sleepy.

“Hi, Henry.”

“Cathy?”

“Yes, it’s me.”

“What am I doing in here? I’ve had the strangest dreams…”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 828

“How do you feel?” I asked Henry.

“Like I’ve been thrown down a flight of steps and I hit every one. Plus this burning pain in my shoulder and some slight pain in my back.”

“Do you feel well enough to go home?”

“I think so, why?”

“Call Simon and ask him to bring in some clothes, you can borrow some of his. I’m going to pop next door for a little while. Here, use my mobile.”

The nurse attending Henry heard us talking and came in. “Well you look better.”

“Do I? I wasn’t even aware I was ill.” Henry looked very disorientated.

“Can you disconnect him so Simon can take him home?” I asked sweetly, “Oh, and is that the gent with the aneurysm?” I pointed to the next cubicle.”

“He’s very ill, they can’t operate.”

“I’ll just go and have a little chat with him, Mr Nichols suggested I did.” Before she could challenge me, I went in and his wife was sitting with him. I said hello and told them that Mr Nicholls had asked me to speak with him.

“What can you do?” asked his wife, “are you a psychologist or priest?”

“No, I’m just a well wisher. If I can just hold his hand a moment.” I sat down alongside the poorly man, and once again I felt the energy surge into him. He began sweating and his wife looked rather anxious. “It’s okay, trust me, please, I’m a scientist.”

I was drawn to put my other hand over his abdomen and he began to groan gently, then he passed out. His wife stepped towards me, touched me on the shoulder to pull me away and suddenly became locked to me. She grunted and held her belly with the other hand, grunted again and fell gently to the floor. Moments later I felt a gentle pressure disengage my hand from the man’s abdomen and I let go his hand. He opened his eyes. “Did they operate?” he asked.

“Sort of,” I said, smiled and bent down to help his wife to her feet. “You okay?” I asked her.

“I think so, what happened?” she looked completely bemused.

“I think you just nodded off and sat on the floor, you’ve been under a lot of pressure recently.”

“Is he still going to…you know…?”

“I don’t think so, but you’ll need to confirm it with Mr Nicholls. Remind him he asked me to take a look at your husband. Oh and your gall bladder should feel easier now.”

I walked away while they were still bemused. “Was that Jesus?” I heard the man ask his wife, her reply was unheard but I felt my chin in case I’d magically grown a beard whilst I was with them—I was much relieved to discover I hadn’t.

“Simon will be here in half an hour,” Henry chuckled as he gave me back my phone.

“Good, I’d better get home then, I’ll need to make up a bed.” We hugged and I left quickly before Mr Nicholls came back.

I dashed to the car and drove home faster than I intended, however I did spot the police car behind me at lights and cursed as he followed me for half a mile. His big BMW probably would have stayed with my little Audi.

Back home, the girls were asleep and I checked on them before I made up the guest room bed. Moments after I went down to make myself a cuppa, the phone rang. I answered it.

“Lady Cameron?”

“Who is this?”

“Ken Nicholls.”

“I don’t think I have anything to say to you.”

“No, but I have to you—please don’t put down the phone,” he anticipated my replacing the receiver.

“Why?”

“I want to apologise and to thank you for saving someone’s life tonight.”

“Did I?”

“Yes, we were going to have to take Mr Henderson to Southampton for an attempt at surgery. He was probably going to die on the table, his aortic aneurysm was the biggest I’d ever seen and the previous attempt to repair it was breaking down. I’ve just had him checked over, it’s disappeared, not only that but his wife’s gall stones seem to have disappeared as well.”

“I try to help, and you did ask me to.”

“Um—yes, I did. I realise you are something special—they both think they’ve been visited by an angel. I haven’t told them who you are, because I realise what a problem it could cause you.”

“I did try to tell you.”

“Yes, I know. I stopped and had a think about what you said and I realised what effect this could have upon your children. If at some point in the future you feel able to study this talent you possess, I should love to work with you and try to understand and share it with others.”

“I don’t think I will, but if you could please keep this as quiet as possible, I’d appreciate it.”

“I don’t understand how a distended and almost rupturing aorta can suddenly rejuvenate itself and heal, but that is what seemed to have happened. How do you do it?”

“I don’t do anything, I’m just the vehicle for it, and sometimes I wish it would find another.”

“Send it to me, I’d love to be able to do it.”

“I wish it could, Mr Nicholls—I wish I could.”

“Maybe I should go to church on Sunday.”

“That’s up to you Mr Nicholls.”

“Maybe I’ll see you there?”

“I can guarantee.”

“Which one?”

“That I won’t be near one. I told you, I don’t believe any of it, Mr Nicholls, I wasn’t joking.”

“There’s a terrific irony here somewhere.”

“Indeed, but that’s life. I have to go, thank you for calling.” I put the receiver down and made my tea.

Simon came in with Henry as I finished drinking it, and we hugged. “Simon has just told me what happened.”

“Don’t listen to him, Henry, he’s such an exaggerator.” Simon gave me a filthy look and shook his head.

“The doctor seemed to have a very high opinion of you.”

“Henry, you’re joking—he can’t stand me.”

“He thinks you’re an angel, so does the guy in the next room.”

“Seeing as he can’t tell the difference between men and women, I wouldn’t put too much stock in his opinion.”

“What d’you mean?”

“As I left he asked his wife if I was Jesus.”

“He what?” said Henry and Simon roared.

“Has the Virgin Mary decided which room I put the Holy Ghost in?” Simon chuckled.

“Nae blasphemy here, if ye please,” said Tom, which caused Simon to blush. He slipped upstairs with Henry’s case. It was only then I remembered that Henry had been at Sir George’s house with us, so of course had his own clothing. I was definitely in need of a holiday. “Guid tae see ye again, Henry.”

“It’s good to see you too, Tom.” They embraced and went off to his study for a wee dram.

Simon came down looking sheepish, “I keep forgetting that Tom seems to be a believer.”

“And it is his house, even if I do throw my weight around the place,” I added.

“Yeah, perhaps we should move into one of our own.”

“That would devastate Tom.”

“Well, I’m not sure I want to be reprimanded for making a joke.”

“Simon, just forget it.”

“Well, I thought it was uncalled for.”

“Simon, forget it.” He opened his mouth to say something else and the glare I gave him made him think again and he walked away quickly.

“Where’s Daddy?” asked Stella, “I’m sure I heard his voice.”

“In the study with Tom.”

“Thanks for saving him, Cathy. I do appreciate it.”

“I did nothing, Stella, I’m just the barrel organ, not even the monkey.” She gave me a very funny look and went off to the study.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 829

Simon’s crabbiness lasted until bedtime; he pretended he didn’t hear Tom say goodnight. So I immediately became crabby with him. Two could play at that game. I may be one of Santa’s little helpers, but I could also play one of the Seven Dwarves—Grumpy.

Henry had gone up to bed feeling very well indeed, or so he said, so who was I to argue. He’d spent half an hour talking to Sir George on the phone comparing notes—their experiences were very different—like duh! What did they expect? A conveyor belt?

I sat at my computer on the kitchen table dealing with some emails—Erin had sold the Dormouse film to two more countries for twenty thousand pounds—it meant they could show it as often as they liked, but they could only translate the English into another language not re-edit it. Anyway, it meant I’d be ten grand better off in a few weeks. I could do with some good news.

Alan had also been in touch saying he’d been looking for potential harvest mouse sites and had two so far. At the moment the thought of writing and narrating another film was not closest to my mind. I sent replies and deleted a dozen spams that had got past my ISP. Why would I want Cialis or Viagra? I didn’t know, and as far as Simon was concerned, if he turned down my advances—I knew he was either ill or two-timing me. The last thing Simon needed was an aphrodisiac—perhaps a cold shower now and again, but certainly not a chemical stimulant.

Stella came and sat with me and we had a cuppa together—I seemed to drink gallons of tea these days, and the others seemed happy to join me. I thanked her for looking after the girls while I was otherwise occupied and she told me as I was saving her dad, she was the indebted one. She blushed as she said it, and I remembered back to that first day and how beautiful I thought she was. I still did and it saddened me that her one serious attempt to form a permanent relationship had failed through no one’s fault. I still felt guilty about the house I was holding and the fact that Des had told me he loved me more than Stella. Oh well, as far as the latter was concerned, she would never know.

“What are you thinking about?” I asked her.

“Des,” she said and tears formed in her eyes, “Pity you didn’t have the blue light stuff when he was killed.”

“Yeah, sorry about that, I feel the same about my parents.”

“I s’pose you do,” she said blowing her nose into a sheet of paper towel. “You know he loved you more than me, don’t you?”

“Who did?” I acted dumb.

“Des, who else?”

“Yeah, that’s why you had his baby and not me.”

“You could hardly have had his baby could you?”

“Seeing as I never slept with him, it would have been doubly difficult, wouldn’t it?”

“I can think of other difficulties too, Cathy.”

“Don’t you think I’m not aware of those?”

“I dunno, I did wonder for a mo.”

“Stella, I was trying to keep us on an even playing field, it was you he asked to marry, not me.”

“Only because he knew you’d turn him down.”

“Nonsense, why would he want the monkey when he could have the organ grinder?”

“There you go again, on about bloody barrel organs—they’re an anachronism.”

“So are tinkers.”

“Tinkers? What are you talking about?”

“If ifs and ans were pots and pans, there’d be no need for tinkers. My mother used to quote it all the time.”

“What’s that got to do with Des fancying you more than me?”

“The grass is greener,” I offered.

“What’s this? Have you been sniffing aphorisms again?”

“Forbidden fruits, that’s the one.”

“Cathy, you are barking. A barking dormouse—I ask you?”

“I am the dormouse who roared, not barked.”

Stella put the back of her hand to my forehead, “Hmm, just as I thought…”

“What is?”

“You feel rather warm, obviously delirious—it would explain the strange conversations.”

“No, you would explain the strange conversations; I don’t have them unless you’re here. If you don’t believe me ask Simon.”

“Ah, we have corroboration—I rest my case.”

“This is a kangaroo court,” I protested—albeit humorously.

“Yep, Skippy is now in session.”

“What is it with you and Simon regarding Skippy?”

“Simon had dozens of the films on tap when he was a kid—didn’t you?”

“No—I’ve never seen one—and don’t you dare tell him. I want my kids to grow up without a sense of anthropomorphism.”

“Antherwotism?”

“Turning animals into humans.”

“So you’re not reading them any more of Toad and Ratty, or the Just So stories or the House at Pooh Corner?”

“Go to bed Stella, I’m getting tired.”

“Why don’t you go if you’re tired?”

“I have emails to send.”

“I’m not stopping you.”

“I can’t concentrate on them, sorry.”

“Do ’em tomorrow, then.”

“Why? I have enough to do tomorrow as it is.”

“There,” she said, switching off my computer at the plug, “now you’ll have to send them tomorrow.”

“I wanted to do them tonight.”

“Tough, you can deal with them after you get back from dumping all your kids—it’s all right for some.”

“You sound jealous, Stella—has the little green-eyed goddess surfaced?”

“Bloody right, she has. Why is it that you have three wonderful children and have never even had to put up with so much as a period, let alone have the bloody things—with all the associated gore and pain? I’ve got one and she’s driving me nuts.”

“She’s teething, Stella.”

“I feel like knocking the bloody things out before she gets them. I’m not sleeping, she’s fractious and howling like a demented desert fox much of the bloody night unless I knock her out.”

“Why didn’t you say?”

“Say what?”

“You were having difficulties.”

“Why should I? What were you going to do? Give her a flash of blue light?”

“Perhaps, why?”

“Well now you can raise the dead, I expect they’ll be nailing you to a tree, won’t they?”

“Will they? I wasn’t meaning the blue light, I was meaning I’d have had Puddin’ for the odd night to give you a rest.”

“Oh!”

“How about I come and see her, maybe the blue light will assist her and you to sleep better.”

“Do you think it will?”

“Let’s find out…”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 830

I took Puddin’ and her cot into our room, Stella went off to bed and I settled the baby down, did my ablutions and went to bed. Simon was watching some war film on telly, and as I don’t like the genre, having an early night meant I wasn’t missing anything. I went out like a light, the effects of the past few weeks perhaps exerting a toll upon me.

I didn’t feel or hear Simon get into bed, nor apparently did I hear Puddin’ crying. Simon did and had to get out of bed to comfort her. Apparently this happened twice, so when I woke the next morning, feeling very refreshed and ready to go—Simon seemed a tad grumpier than usual.

“What’s your problem?” I asked him wondering if he was still angry with Tom.

“That little baggage,” he nodded at Puddin’ who was gurgling to herself, even if she did smell less than fresh.

“What about her, she didn’t wake in the night—did she?”

“Twice. Twice I had to get out to calm her down—you were lying on your back catching flies.”

“Who me?” I was horrified.

“You sounded like a buzz saw, probably what woke her up.”

“Me? Come off it, Simon, I don’t snore.”

“You did last night.”

“That is ridiculous. I’ve never heard anything so stupid in all my life. Me—snore?”

“Yes you—you’ve woken me up loads of time.”

“Simon Cameron, may God forgive you for such an outright lie.”

“What? It isn’t, I’m telling the truth.”

“And you expect me to believe that?”

“Yes I do, because it’s true.”

“Yeah, sure.” I got up and switched off the radio. Puddin’ woke and began whimpering for food and a change of nappy—she was soaking and smelly. “I’d better see to the baby.”

“How come you’re doing it, what’s wrong with Stella?”

“She’s very tired, so I said I’d give her a hand.”

“Be careful it doesn’t become a long term one.”

“I will, besides I’m too busy to offer more than occasional support.”

“Yeah, make sure you are.”

“Look, I’m going into the university today after I drop the girls off to school.”

“On a Saturday?”

“Saturday? It’s Friday.”

“No it isn’t, it was Friday yesterday.”

“Simon, it wasn’t.”

“Cathy it was, and if you are going to be so argumentative, why not take smelly bum there for a dip in the washing machine.”

“Washing machine? Simon, you can’t put a baby in a washing machine.”

“Yeah, course you can, then dry her in the microwave.” Now I knew he was winding me up—so in all probability, the snoring bit was the same. I felt relief flood over me—the idea of snoring was so awful. Phew, he nearly got to me that time.

I bathed Puddin’ and gave her some breakfast after dressing her. Trish heard me up and about and came to help me. “Why are you looking after baby Puddin’, Mummy?”

“Auntie Stella’s very tired, so I’m letting her have a lie in. It is Saturday, today, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Mummy, can we go out somewhere nice today?”

“I suppose so, where would you like to go?”

“To the shops.”

“Why? What do you want to buy?.”

“I can’t tell you Mummy.”

“Why is everyone so strange this morning?”

“I’m not strange, Mummy.”

“Well you’re hardly acting normally.”

“I am acting normally.”

“So why won’t you tell me what you want to buy?”

“Because I can’t, Mummy.” She started to sniff and I could see that it was upsetting her.

“Hey, you don’t have to get all upset, I only wanted to know so I could take you to the right sort of shop.”

“I want to go to the bike shop.”

“Bike shop? Whatever for?”

“See you’re asking me nasty questions again.” She flounced off crying which started Puddin’ off and I felt like getting in the car and driving off into the sunset. Seeing as it was only just light, I’d probably get some distance too.

Stella came down and took Puddin’ off my hands; she looked a bit better than she had the previous night. “What’s the matter with Trish?” she asked.

“I don’t actually know, she was acting all mysterious about going shopping somewhere.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Well I wanted to know where she wanted to go, and what she was buying.”

“Why?”

“I’m responsible for her.”

“Oh lighten up, Cathy, she’s hardly likely to be buying class A drugs or weapons, is she?”

“No, but I like to know what she’s doing. She’s only five, so she hardly appreciates the value of money does she?”

“You know what she wants to buy?”

“If I did I wouldn’t have asked her would I?”

“Well think about it.”

“Whaddya mean?”

“Duh! Like whose birthday is it soon?”

“I can’t think of anyone off hand, least I hope not, because I think I used up my last spare card.”

“Cathy, are you losing the plot here somewhere?”

“No, why?” I felt myself blushing, obviously there was someone whose birthday I’d forgotten and she wasn’t going to tell me who. I flicked through my mental checklist—Trish, Livvie, Mima, Simon, Stella, Puddin’ and Tom; oh could it be Henry? No I’m sure it isn’t. Damn, who else is it?

“You really can’t remember whose birthday it is next week?”

“No, whose is it?”

“Yours, you silly moo. Now can you see why she didn’t want to tell you?”

“Oh bugger, I forgot all about it.”

“Well your children hadn’t. You look after Pud this afters and I’ll take ’em out shopping.”

“Okay, seems like a fair deal to me and I won’t embarrass them. Just don’t let them spend too much, will you?”

“Do you honestly think I would?”

“No, but…”

“But you thought you’d better say so anyway?”

“Something like that.”

The rest of the weekend passed very quickly, it was cold and then wet again on the Sunday. Then Monday was a little better, Tuesday and Wednesday were back to wet and horrible. I took the girls to school each morning and collected them in the afternoon. Each time I did they’d giggle as soon as they saw me. “We knowed somefin’ you don’t knowed,” chanted Mima and they dissolved into fits of giggles.

It’ s now Wednesday evening, December 2nd and I still don’t know what they’re giggling about, presumably whatever it is they’ve bought me for tomorrow. Goodness is it really a whole year since the last one?

Simon came to bed a little while ago and he was smirking—now I am totally paranoid, I probably won’t sleep all night—the rotten buggers!

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 831

I did sleep, I was pretty tired, so despite my paranoia, my eyes shut by themselves and my body went into slumber mode. I didn’t sleep, I practically died until the next morning when three little aliens bounced all over me, squealing , “Happy Birthday.” I gave up the contest and was rewarded with three smiling faces each with a card they had made in school the day before. Then before I was quite upright, they produced a box, wrapped in fancy paper which they practically pushed down my throat.

In the end it seemed better to let them open it for me, although the silver and gold paper was shredded beyond any recycling use by three sets of weenie-raptor claws. Moments, and a pile of shredded gift-wrap later, I was presented with my present—yeah okay, being awakened early doesn’t do my vocabulary much good, something to do with still being asleep despite the open eyes.

It appeared I had a new cycling helmet. I wasn’t aware I needed one, but it was more use than a subscription to Penthouse. I thanked my three angels, and we had a quick hug and a kiss, then it was in the shower, dried, and dressed for school.

There was something going on between them and Simon which fed my recurrent paranoia—what were they up to? In fact everyone seemed up to no good today. Tom had a strange look on his face, Henry—yes he was still with us—looked positively conspiratorial, and Stella—she was probably the ringleader.

The closest I got to finding out what was going on was Simon telling me that I didn’t need to make the girls any lunch—he was treating us all to lunch, to celebrate my birthday.

“Do I get any say where?”

“Nope, it’s all arranged. I want you to wear something really nice—Monica is coming down to take Dad back with her, and I want her to feel in awe of your wondrous beauty.”

“Ha ha, now where are we going, and why can’t I wear jeans?”

“We’re going somewhere a bit more upmarket than that, haven’t you got a nice suit or dress you can wear?”

“Normally, you don’t care what I wear.”

“Well I do today, okay, they know Dad and I through the bank—I’d like to maintain the illusion we’re doing okay.”

“Why didn’t you say this before?”

“I dunno—I thought I’d give you the run around first.”

“So what are you going to wear?”

“My suit, the charcoal pinstripe.”

“Wow, we are going upmarket.” This was the suit that had cost Simon over two thousand pounds. I nearly fainted when he told me. Since then it had been wrapped in one of those plastic clothes’ covers and hung in his wardrobe. I’d never seen him wear it. This place must be special.

“Yeah, like I said, we want to impress, and we may be doing a little bit of biz while we’re there.”

“You cheapskate, fancy using my birthday lunch to get work—couldn’t it wait until later?”

“Maybe, but this will oil the wheels somewhat.”

I sighed and grabbed the kids and took them to school, I thanked them again for my lovely present and cards. It appeared as well that Stella was going to collect the girls and bring them to the meal.

“This is all getting silly,” I huffed and puffed to myself, “I could have just as easily got a leg of Welsh lamb and made a roast dinner for everyone.” But they all seemed in on this luncheon and I felt outvoted. If Simon was hoping for something special in bed tonight—he was gonna be unlucky, unless my mood changed somewhat.

When I got home, Stella dragged me into the bathroom and began tidying up my hair, increasing the blondeness of it with more highlights and restyling it. It looked really nice, but it was a bit much just for bloody lunch and I said so.

“It’s part of my prezzie to you.”

“Oh, well couldn’t we have done it another day, my hair wasn’t that bad, was it?” She seemed to nod that it was, I felt rather upset. I opened my other cards—the ones the Royal Mail deigned to deliver at eleven o’clock.

“Come on, you need to get ready.” She hassled me until I did my makeup and nails.

“Why all this fuss? What is no one telling me?”

“Simon’s doing you a presentation at the lunch.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“He’s got you something really nice for your birthday.”

“Why can’t he give it to me here?”

“Um—he can’t.”

“It can’t be a car, I’ve just got a new one, so what is it?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Why can’t you?”

“I don’t know exactly what it is.”

“So how do you know we need to wear our Sunday best and have our hair just so?”

“Because he asked me to do it for you.”

“What if I don’t go?”

“I think he’d be pretty peed.”

“It would serve him right, wouldn’t it?”

“Yeah, but he really thinks it’s something you’d like, that you’d really like.”

“I can’t think of anything I’d really like that I haven’t already got, except maybe the formal adoption of the children. He couldn’t have organised that because that’s something I’d have to do.”

“Well I don’t know about that, but he is absolutely sure that you’ll enjoy it.”

“So what shall I wear?”

“This,” Stella produced a beautiful green dress. “It’s the other part of your present.”

“What? It’s beautiful, Stella.”

“It’s a Stella McCartney. I know her enough to get her to design something special for me—or in this case you.”

“But—,” I was speechless, “It must have cost a fortune.”

“Simon and Daddy helped a bit towards it.”

“So what is going on? Is someone special going to be there?”

“Sort of, you know that film you made?”

“Yeah, the dormouse one.”

“Yeah, who would you like to impress with it?”

“Not Sir David Attenborough?”

“Put the dress on, I did check you’ve got some nice patent courts to go with it.” She lifted the dress over my head. It was thick silk, with an embossed design in the material and the most exquisite bead and lace design around the plunging vee neckline.

“I’m going to be cold in this.”

“No you won’t, put your pashmina on.”

I pulled on the tights and slipped on the shoes; it did look lovely, the dress I mean. The three-quarter sleeves, and the neck wasn’t quite as deep as I thought, although it did show more cleavage than I usually did. I was hoping I didn’t impress him—Sir David—into a heart attack. Henry could be a casualty as well, randy old sod he is.

I wore some jade and gold jewellery and of course my engagement ring, together with a gold bangle and my gold watch. The pashmina would almost keep me warm, I just hoped the car was warm before and after the meal.

“Why can’t I go and get the girls?”

“Because I am, now go and sit down and wait until Simon or Tom comes to get you.”

“Tom? Why can’t Simon?”

“He’s got to organise this presentation thingy, I think. Anyway, Tom is a safer driver.”

“If this is a wind up, Stella, I’m going to throw a wobbly the size of a ten on the Richter scale.”

“I have to go,” Stella said and disappeared in a puff of smoke—actually she didn’t but if she messed me about, she would the next time I saw her.

I was left to my own devices, but not for very long as Tom arrived in Henry’s car. I was by now so confused, that I collected my little patent handbag, threw my shawl around my shoulders and got into the car, which fortunately was warm inside.

“Daddy, what is going on?”

“Och, it’s Simon, he wants tae impress ye.”

“If he’s got Sir David Attenborough to come, I am impressed.”

“Oh he’s the bigwig is he, I wisnae telt.”

“Where is this place?”

“Oh I ken waur it is, alricht, ye jes sit still an’ dinna disturb me.”

He then proceeded to drive me around for nearly an hour before we drove into what seemed like a church area.

“I thought we were going to lunch?”

“Aye we are, efter we’ve been tae a blessing.”

“A blessing? I don’t believe that stuff Daddy.”

“Aye but apparently Sir David does.”

“No he doesn’t—I’ve heard him talk about it.”

Despite my protests Tom almost bundled me into the church

“This had better be worth it Simon, or you’re dead meat tonight,” I muttered under my breath. We entered the church which seemed to be almost in darkness and suddenly the lights all came on, the three girls all wearing new dresses came rushing out to greet me, Tom stuck his arm through mine and the organ struck up the Bridal March…

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 832

I walked down the aisle in a daze, encouraged by Tom and the girls. “We’s bwidesmaids, Mummy,” giggled Mima.

“You look really beautiful today, Mummy,” said Trish and I felt her arm around mine. Before me, stood Simon, I recognised the suit and some other man. As I neared them, I could see it was Henry. I’d never heard of someone having their dad as best man. Beyond them stood Marguerite, did she know this was a surprise to me? Surprise party—difficult but okay; surprise wedding—I don’t know what I think.

I honestly would never have thought that Simon was capable of organising this. There weren’t more than a few other people there: Pippa, Dan, Neal and Gloria from the department, Erin and Alan from my film and Monica. Is that why she wasn’t down to see Henry? Surely not, and what if Henry had died? They surely wouldn’t have gone through with this then, would they? If they had, I’d have been legging it away from here double-quick. As it is, I’m not sure if I’m going to stay.

We suddenly stopped and Stella popped a small posy into my hands. I took it without actually registering what it was.

“Dearly beloved, we are gathered…” Marguerite started to the small congregation. I kept thinking when she gets to the bit about anyone having just cause, I would say something.

My attention was taken by the building, it was a very pretty church—I looked up at the ceiling—big mistake. My head started to swim and instead of just cause, I just keeled over as everything went black.

Apparently Simon managed to grab my arm as I doubled up, which explained why I had some bruises on it the next day. I didn’t however hit the floor, which being stone would have hurt. He carried me out to the vestry and laid me in a chair.

Marguerite took over, “Cathy, are you okay?”

“My head feels funny,” I said, because it did and I felt sick. Someone, Stella I think, shoved a bucket in front of me and I threw up.

“This happens all the time,” said Marguerite’s voice, “Could someone tell the others, there’ll be a short interval?”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” I eventually forced out in between retches.

“I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“It was that all right,” I paused and upchucked again, “please note, I didn’t say nice one.”

“Cathy, do you not consent to this wedding?” asked Marguerite.

“I don’t know,” I said feeling the room slow to a gentler orbit.

“I can’t marry you unless you’re sure. I assumed because you asked me months ago that you were keen on the idea.”

“I am—keen on the idea—oh my head.”

“So she does consent, don’t you, Babes?”

“Do I?” I asked.

“No, Babes, it’s—I do.”

“Is it?” my head was swimming.

“Use your blue light, Mummy,” called Trish’s voice.

“I can’t find the switch, Sweetheart,” I called back.

“Let me try,” Trish pushed her way through, “Come on, Mummy, feel the light.” She placed her hands either side of my head. I placed mine on top of hers and I felt my head clearing. I opened my eyes and she was surrounded by an aura of blue light—it was so beautiful, I wondered for a moment if I was looking at an angel. I hugged her, and she said, “Please marry Daddy, otherwise we can’t be bridesmaids.”

Her words caught me in my throat where a huge lump formed and it seemed to pain in my chest as well and for a moment, I wondered if I was having a heart attack. Then I realised I was, not of a physical sort, but an emotional one. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I hugged her. “Don’t cry, Mummy,” she said and hugged me tighter.

A few minutes ago, I felt anger and shock at what Simon had done. Everyone knew but me. For a moment, I felt outrage—then I realised, he thought he was doing something special for me, for me and the children. It was certainly a surprise—initially a nasty one because it shocked me—then as I thought about it, and the shock wore off, I realised if I said no, that would be it—my little family would be over because they were all out of kilter with me. I always fully intended marrying Simon, but it was always tomorrow. Why? I don’t know. I wasn’t scared of the commitment, except I worried that it would constrain me as an individual, yet I wanted the three children for whom I cared, to commit to me—so why couldn’t I to them? I felt the love of the embrace of this child and it was killing me, exposing the cowardice in my own heart. If I loved her, I needed to act like her mother not her guardian and I wanted to be her mother, more than anything. I wanted my family to stay together, to fight together for the sake of the children because in protecting and nurturing them, we’d do the same for ourselves—as we watched them grow, so we would grow with them.

Someone passed me a tissue and I gently dabbed my eyes. I kissed Trish and stood up. I looked Simon in the eye and said, “Don’t you ever try anything like this again without discussing it with me.” He went to speak and I shut him up with a glance. “Let’s do it,” I said and walked out to the nave holding Trish’s hand.

I can’t honestly say I remember too much of the service, Trish, Livvie and Mima surrounded me as I said, “I do,” and as Simon said the same. Suddenly a ring was put on my finger and we were pronounced man and wife. Unless this was a dream, I really was Lady Catherine Cameron.

We were led back out to the vestry and with Tom and Henry, signed the register. Now it was legal, my God. I was still in a slight daze, Henry, Stella, Tom and Monica surrounded us and we were hugged and kissed. Then three little girls led us back out to the church and the small group who awaited us applauded as we emerged.

I didn’t eat much of my lunch but I certainly won’t forget my twenty sixth birthday in a hurry, nor the precious looks on the faces of three little girls who’d sort of fulfilled an ambition for the first time. At Trish’s age, I’d have killed to be a bridesmaid. We didn’t do the job properly now, and over lunch I told Simon that I assumed we’d be doing a very public ceremony sometime in the spring. I enjoyed telling him that—he spilled soup in his lap—but he agreed and I also recalled that we had to invite another little girl to take part if she wanted.

Tom said he’d happily pay for his daughter’s formal wedding blessing, but Henry told him it would be his pleasure to lay on the service at Stanebury, and Marguerite was asked if she’d do it again for us.

“I’d be delighted, if your local priest doesn’t mind.”

“Stella, you can help me organise it, and this time I want the works, white dress, long dresses for the bridesmaids, the men in formal dress—kilts, perhaps?”

“Only if it’s a warm day,” said Henry.

“Och ye big Jessie,” said Tom, and everyone laughed.

We did have a couple of photos of the day; the best one was of Simon and I with the three girls—we were becoming a family, a proper family. On Monday, I was going to ask our solicitor to start the process to adopt these girls—dammit, I was going to become their mother if it took me the rest of my life.

“Whit aboot a honeymoon?” Tom asked Simon.

“We’ve just been away for a couple of weeks—I think, Cathy, I mean Lady Cameron, my wife, would prefer to get back into her routine with the girls—oh and we’re going to see Father Christmas in Lapland in a fortnight, just for the weekend—with the girls of course.”

As you will imagine, that went down very well with three schoolgirls. Personally, if I get to meet him, Father Christmas, that is—I’m gonna ask him what happened to the doll I requested every year from ages three to eleven. That should fix the fat bastard!

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 833

That was it? I mean I was married—least I think I was: perhaps I should have been asking, is that it? What I felt about it, I couldn’t say, but it wasn’t all positive, nor was it all negative. A bit like the curate’s egg. I suspect I was still shocked, not to put too fine a gloss on it. I didn’t know how I felt about Simon either. I had just been tricked into marriage. I hope he did it for the best of motives, but he’d better not try anything like it again, or the divorce will cost him loads.

Lady Muck, that’s me—I don’t feel any different, but then I suppose I’ve been sort of using the title for a little while, so it’s hardly a novelty, unless one counts being able to use it legitimately. I told them I still want to use my original name as well, which will complicate things, but for instance, in my professional life, I want to remain Cathy Watts, unless Lady Cameron can open doors my ordinary handle can’t.

We were being driven home in the Mercedes. The three children were in the back of the car and Simon was driving. I hadn’t said much at all; he assumed I was overcome by the emotion—I suppose I was, but not necessarily the one he was thinking about.

The girls had enjoyed themselves, and I suppose I did it for them. It was a Thursday afternoon and they were just about squealed out, all I wanted was to get home and make a cuppa and sit quietly to drink it. I also wanted out of this dress—lovely as it was—I wouldn’t ever wear it again.

I called Mr Henstridge from the bedroom phone. I’d asked the girls to change out of their dresses and for Simon to make the cuppa. He realised I wanted a little space so he did as I asked him.

I was in luck, he had a space tomorrow morning at ten—I would just about get there assuming I could park. “Miss Watts, can you tell me what you wish to discuss?”

“Of course, you said my being married would help the cause of adoption?”

“Indeed I did, are you going to tie the knot?”

“We’ve done so.”

“Oh jolly good, I mean congratulations, does that make you Lady Cameron now?”

“Yes, although for some things I’m going to retain my previous name.”

“I see, well that’s fine, so are you wanting to try for adoption?”

“Yes, for all three—as far as I’m concerned they come as a package.”

“Very good, I’ll start the process. I take it all the children are in agreement with your action?”

“Yes, or they were a few minutes ago.”

“They will be asked by the court and also by social services.”

“Of course, as it should be.”

“Quite, so I shall look forward to seeing you tomorrow.”

I suddenly wondered if the girls did want me to adopt them. I hadn’t asked them for a while, perhaps I’d better do so now, or they could get suckered like I did. I went into their bedroom; they were still messing about taking off their dresses.

“Trish, could I see you for a moment?”

“Did I do something wrong, Mummy?”

“No, Darling, I just wanted to ask you a question, it’s a bit hypothetical but I think you’ll understand.” She looked very nervous. “Don’t worry, okay?”

“Did I do wrong to make you marry Daddy?”

“No Sweetheart, I’m a big girl, I make my own decisions. You’ve done nothing wrong.” She looked relieved. “Now, this hypothetical question…”

“What does that mean, Mummy?”

“It means it’s a question which may or may not be askable.”

“I don’t understand.”

“Don’t worry, it means it’s like a what if question.”

“What if I don’t understand it?”

“You will, but I need an honest answer.” She looked anxious and I hugged her. “If I had the chance to adopt you—that is to make you legally my child—would you be in favour—I mean, would you want me to?”

“Do I want to be your daughter, like proper daughter?”

“Well apart from your little plumbing problem, which we’ll sort out when you’re old enough, yes you’d be my little girl, not my foster daughter.”

“Gosh, Mummy.”

“So, honest answer, would you like me to try or not? I won’t be offended if you said no.”

“No? I want to be your daughter more than anything, Mummy.”

“So that’s a definite then?”

“Yes please, Mummy.”

“The bad news is I can’t promise you that we’ll be able to do it, but I’m going to try my very hardest.”

“Thank you, Mummy.”

“You’re welcome, Darling. Now don’t say anything to the other two, because I have to ask them the same question.”

I had videotaped the interview with Trish, and I did so with the others as well. They were both as positive and I showed them the tape afterwards. They all giggled with embarrassment, but they were also very supportive of each other.

“Does this mean we’ll be ladies too?” asked Livvie.

“One day, it could well be so. We have to get over the hurdle of the adoption process first.”

“Could they say no?” asked Trish.

“In theory, but I hope not.”

“Can we see the judge man again?”

“Don’t worry, if I feel we need to consult him, I’ll ask Mr Henstridge to organise it.”

“Me wanna be you daugh-ah,” said Mima loudly.

“Thanks, Meems, I want to be your mother officially, then we can be sure that no one will be able to take you away from me.”

“Or Daddy,” said Trish.

“Nor Daddy. Sorry, I meant that we would both adopt you.” Was that a Freudian slip? I hoped not.

“Yay,” the three of them were dancing around and getting very excited and it took quite a while to calm them down.

“I’m going to see Rushton Henstridge tomorrow,” I told Simon.

“Who’s he?”

“A solicitor.”

“You’re not divorcing me already, are you?”

“It crossed my mind for the trick you played on me.”

“It wasn’t meant like that.”

“I hope not, if ever I find it was, it’s going to cost you a great deal.”

“Cathy, we’re only just married.”

“Because you deceived me—never do it again.”

“I won’t—I didn’t deceive you—and you could have said no.”

“What, and look a total fool?”

“I’d have looked an even bigger one.”

“You do anyway, but that isn’t the point.”

“What is then?”

“I’m going to start adoption proceedings, I expect your support.”

“You need to ask me?”

“After the stunt you pulled earlier, yes.”

“Why didn’t you say no, then?”

“Because I actually care for you.”

“Don’t you think I love you then?”

“Not as much as you claim.”

“I’ll talk to you when you’ve calmed down.”

“I’m not upset, just disappointed.” My remark seemed to cut him to the core and he walked away with his tail between his legs.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 834

It was our wedding night—if such a title would be appropriate. In a literal sense we were newlyweds, but after the encounter earlier, Simon seemed frightened of me. We went to bed and after a polite goodnight, we settled down to sleep facing away from each other. I felt very guilty, I did love him very much but I was still mad at him—or maybe I was mad at myself and had nowhere to dump it.

“Do you regret marrying me?” came a very quiet voice after we’d lain there for probably twenty minutes.

“Do you regret marrying me?” I threw back at him.

“I don’t know—I seem to have misunderstood you—I was trying to make your birthday special.”

“It was that all right.”

“But not in the way I meant it to be.”

“How did you mean it to be?”

“I thought you’d enjoy the surprise—I mean, what can I give a woman who has everything?”

I resisted the urge to say penicillin, “Probably anything else would have been a lovely surprise.”

“I made a huge mistake, I’m sorry.” He rolled back over away from me, and I think he was crying.

I turned towards him, “I’m no longer cross with you, but you have to understand that you took the initiative away from me.”

“I know, I thought you were frightened of it.”

“I was.”

“So I tried to save you that fear.”

Now my eyes were filling with tears. “I was terrified, I wanted a quiet affair with just family and a few friends—but I wanted to organise it.”

“Did I get it that wrong?” he sniffed.

“No, you did a very good job considering.”

“Considering what?”

“Considering I had no input to my own wedding.”

“I said sorry.”

“I know and I accepted your apology.”

“So what was that about a big wedding blessing—if you were scared of it? It makes no sense to me.”

“Three or perhaps four little girls want to do the bridesmaid thing with long dresses and bows in their hair.”

“Do I know the fourth? I didn’t just marry her did I?”

“No, Simon, there was a little girl I did some healing with who wanted to be a bridesmaid, I promised her she could be one of mine—assuming she still wants to of course.”

“You’d go through a formal rerun to please your kids, but you wouldn’t do it to please your husband? I don’t know how I feel about that.”

“Simon, before you go off on one, can I finish?”

“All right—but I think I know where I stand already.”

“Before you prejudge me, please listen. Almost all young women want the whole shebang for a wedding. I say almost because I’m not one of them. Yes, I’d like to wear a lovely dress and make my vows with you, much as we did. But I assumed, with your family tradition, it was going to be an Elizabeth Daniel dress, and cast of thousands all gawping and filling their faces. I didn’t want to feature in Country Life or Brides Illustrated, I’m a woman with a past and I didn’t want that aired, partly because it would embarrass us and the guests.”

“How would it embarrass us? I’ve known all along—pretty well—about your past, and love you despite it.”

“I know, Darling, and I respect and love you for it. Maybe it’s my own embarrassment or perhaps I just don’t like a big fuss about things.”

“We could have dashed up to Gretna Green, or anywhere if that was how you felt.”

“I know, Simon, but then I’d have felt guilty for depriving your family of their tradition.”

“They are excited because you said you’d do a formal blessing ceremony up at Stanebury—but they weren’t expecting it.”

“The girls were.”

“Cathy, haven’t we got this all arse about face? Shouldn’t we be doing what we want for our wedding, not living up to the expectations of others?”

“Isn’t that what you tried to do?” I felt a fresh tear run down my face and into my ear as I lay cuddled into the back of him.

“I thought so, but I should have spoken to you—I should have talked to you—told you what I wanted to do—but it would have lost its surprise element. I wanted to give you a lovely surprise—that was all.”

“I realise that now—Oh, Simon, I wish we could start my birthday again, with the benefit of hindsight.”

“I’m afraid even your blue light stuff can’t make time reverse can it?”

“I don’t think it can do very much at all.”

“If there was any real miracle, it would have turned you into a genetic female and we’d be making babies right now.”

“I’d have settled for it making Trish a real girl, but it isn’t going to happen, so she’ll have to learn to cope with always being second best, like me.”

“Second best? When are you going to stop all this stuff? It’s you I love—I don’t care that you can’t have babies, everything else seems fine to me—that’s why I married you.”

I dissolved into tears—I really did feel like jumping off a cliff. I’d acted like a total fool. Because I don’t feel that I deserve things, I suppose I tend to avoid them. The whole idea of me—a pretend woman—marrying into a titled family in a big society wedding, would be like something in a very poor TG story. Almost like the Cinderella fable with a twist. Maybe it’s me who’s twisted.

I felt his arm around me. “I don’t deserve you,” I sobbed and trembled in his arms.

“Isn’t that for me to decide?”

I nodded and sniffed.

“Cathy, will you be my wife and the mother of our adopted children, and stop worrying about what others think?”

“Yes.” I felt him kiss my eyes. “Will you forgive me for being a silly woman?”

“Yes, of course I will.”

“Will you make love to me, my husband?”

“All night, if it’s what my wife wants.”

I hope I remember my meeting in the morning, and I’ve got to get the girls to school on time…

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 835

I was so tired the next morning, peculiarly, so was Simon. I was also very sore—but that’s probably too much information—I did manage to get the girls to school and tidy myself up enough to see the solicitor. I’d made a copy of the film of the interview with the kids and showed it to him—he asked to keep it as we might be able to use it in our submission. Otherwise, it was simply going through the adoption process, three times. We were going to submit that the girls had become like sisters and that they all wanted to stay together with Simon and I as their parents. It complicated the issue somewhat, as multiple adoptions are usually natural siblings, but Mr Henstridge was optimistic, and that it was a wealthy family who were looking to adopt these children, he felt boded well.

I was more sensitized to being addressed as Lady Cameron, than since it was first used erroneously months ago. Now it was my name—I had to go and sit down with a coffee and get my rather tired noggin around it.

I was sitting in a little coffee shop not far from the solicitor’s office, with a cup of latte in front of me, reflecting on the past few days, and staring at the new ring on my finger. I was lost to my own thoughts, when a voice broke through them. “Yoo hoo, Cathy.” It jarred a little, as I wasn’t expecting to hear it.

I looked up and Nora Cunningham walked into the coffee shop. “How are you?” she asked.

“Me, I’m fine and you?” I returned the courtesies.

“Tired,” she said, “We could be closing the home.”

“Why?”

“It doesn’t meet with the fire regs, and the charity can’t afford to upgrade the building.”

“What will happen to the children?”

“We have another home near Oxford, at Wantage, so they’ll have to go there or to another charity.”

“Are they all local kids?”

“Mostly.”

“That sounds a bit off, won’t they lose contact with their friends and have to change schools—that sort of thing?”

“Yeah—and yours truly, will be out of a job. Don’t need a rather old au pair, do you?”

I chuckled at what I hoped was a joke. “How much money are we talking about, to do the upgrade?”

“About a hundred and fifty thousand, why?”

“I wonder if it would be worth trying to raise it locally. It isn’t that much really for such a good cause.”

“You’re joking aren’t you? I thought you had a very poor impression of the place, or Trish did.”

“Trish’s experience is going to be different to most other children, for all I know the others could be quite happy there.”

“I like to think they are.”

“How about I come and see?”

“When?”

“This afternoon, I’ll ask someone to collect my three…”

“Three? You going for the set?”

“I’m fostering another girl, whose parents met with a tragedy and didn’t survive it.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“She copes very well, she and Trish are in the same class and are like sisters, so with Mima, I have my own pack of little brownies.”

“I should have called round to see you and check on Trish, but I knew she was in good hands. I can’t understand how you found it so easy to cope with her gender issues where others had failed. I take it Patrick doesn’t put in an appearance very often?”

“I’ve never met Patrick, and the other girls see her as a girl with a plumbing problem.”

“I’m so pleased to hear he—um—I mean, she’s doing well, she’s a bright kid.”

“She is a gorgeous girl, she only needed a little nurturing to emerge from her chrysalis, she’s going to be very pretty butterfly one day.”

“You think she really will go as far as the surgery?”

“I haven’t seen anything which makes me see it any other way. However, I do tell her that if she wants to change her mind, she only has to say and we’ll adjust things accordingly.”

“She hasn’t so far, then?”

“No, she’s settled into a convent school—it was the only place with vacancies. When I spoke with the headmistress, she was happy to take her and had dealt with the situation once before.”

“Goodness, so it’s more common than I thought?”

“That would depend upon how common you thought it was, according to the last statistics I saw. I’ve been a bit more interested in that sort of thing since having Trish come to stay with me.”

“Yes, I can understand that.”

“I expect we’ve all met successful gender switchers who are so well acclimatised they are undetectable.” I nearly laughed as I said this.

“I suppose that could be true—I don’t know, I’m sure I could tell a woman who used to be a man—I mean, they’d have larger hands and feet and an Adam’s apple—wouldn’t they?”

“Perhaps, unless they transitioned young, like our Trish.”

“I suppose that would make a difference, wouldn’t it?”

“I should think so, but I’m no expert,” I declared, which was true—that I’ve done something makes me experienced not expert. I was astonished that I wasn’t blushing at this economy of truth.

“He—I mean, she seems to have done so well with you, Cathy.”

“I hope so. I think I ought to warn you that I’ve put in for formal adoption of all three of my girls, so that will include Trish.”

“Oh how super, I hope they grant it for you—but three might be pushing it somewhat.”

“You know me, I enjoy a challenge. Now what about this ’ere ’ome of yours?”

“You would seriously consider helping us raise the money?”

“Absolutely—I mean, I need it there in case I get fed up with Trish…” Her face was a picture. “Only joking, you’ll need a tow truck to get her off me.”

We were still chatting having decided to have another coffee when I was called again. “Lady Cameron!” In dashed some young secretary type, who was looking about the place for me. I raised my arm and she eventually saw it and came over to us. “Are you Lady Cameron?”

“Yes, who are you?”

“Mr Henstridge would like to see you later if that’s possible.”

“Of course, I’ll call over and make an appointment when I finish my coffee.”

“Lady Cameron? It was Cathy Watts, I helped get custody of Trish.”

“Yeah, we tied the knot.”

“What beautiful rings.”

“Yeah, a friend of Simon’s is a jewellery designer.”

“What, he had someone design and make those rings for you specifically?”

“Yeah, why, is it that unusual?”

“Shall we say I know loads of married couples and you’re the only one with handmade rings.”

“Oh,” I blushed. “Well, I’ll see you later; I’d better go and find out what this solicitor chappie wants.”

“Apart from your money?”

“Yes,” I laughed.

“Who is it?”

“Rushton Henstridge.”

“Wow, you do move in exalted circles. If he can’t get you what you want with the girls, no one will. He don’t come cheap though.”

“No, he doesn’t. I wonder if I could interest him in supporting our common cause.”

“What the home?”

“The very same.”

“Hey, that would be really good. I’m really glad I met you, Cathy—I mean Lady Cameron.”

I nodded and went off to see what the problem was with the solicitor—I hoped it was a little one.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 836

“Ah, Lady Cameron, thank you for coming back.”

“Is there a problem I should know about?”

“Um—if you could wait a few minutes, Mr Henstridge should be able to see you and tell you himself.” I went and sat in the waiting room and read the handful of leaflets I’d grabbed on the way to the chair.

I didn’t actually learn anything from them but they whiled away a few minutes. I was asked to go back to his office. “Thanks for coming back—I called my contact in Social Services—they haven’t forgotten their last encounter with you.”

“Is that good or bad?”

“I’m not sure—they don’t like the idea of a child being encouraged to live in the wrong gender—they wonder if you could be encouraging Patrick to become a deviant.”

“I’ve done all I can to allow the child to express him/herself. It has been consistently as a girl. I haven’t put any pressure upon her to remain as female—in fact I’ve attempted to give opportunity for her to re-establish becoming a boy—which would have made Simon very happy.”

“Does he have a problem with her, then?”

“No, he loves all three to bits, but he’d have loved to have a son.”

“What about yourself—do you prefer a daughter to a son?”

“No, I would be happy to care for a healthy child regardless of its gender.”

“They will make a point of your own changeover.”

“Let them—having done it myself, I’m aware of the pitfalls involved and also that I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”

“If you think it’s such a handicap, should you perhaps be less encouraging of the child’s aberration?”

“What aberration?”

“The um—gender thing.”

“The child happens to believe she’s female and is astonishingly good at acting like one. It isn’t aberrant behaviour other than it isn’t necessarily congruent with her assigned biological sex. You saw the video—did you see an aberrant boy there?”

He blushed, “Please, Lady Cameron, I’m on your side—I’m just trying to prepare us for what could be a very trying time.”

“As long as it’s me that’s on trial not a five year old girl—that’s just fine. Just make sure we have the best barrister money can buy, I want to win this game set and match and I don’t care how much it costs.”

“I will brief a barrister in case we need one.”

“Oh we’ll need one, they’ll make sure of that.”

“Are you sure, you beat them comprehensively last time.”

“This time we’ve got to go through the adoption protocols, they’ll try to disrupt us through those processes.”

“That won’t work, I’ll tie them up in knots if they try.”

“Good, I hope you do. By the way, I ran into Nora Cunningham, the manager of the home that Trish came from. She’s saying they’re looking to close the place down—it doesn’t meet some health and safety regulations and they can’t afford to upgrade it.”

“I’m not surprised.”

“Mr Henstridge, I asked to be shown around the place with a view to launching an appeal to fix the place up.”

“Have you ever been there?”

“No, I don’t think I have.”

“It’s a dump.”

“So we raise some more and get it tidied up.”

“I think it needs knocking down more than tidying up.”

“Okay—if I was to suggest that, would you help?”

“I’ll make a donation.”

“I was hoping you’d be able to use your expertise to help me assemble a committee of the great and the good and if necessary, we make a bid to run the place.”

“What about the dormice?”

“No we just release them in woodland, sadly we can’t do that with children. Tarzan or Mowgli may have been brought up by wild animals, in my experience it doesn’t happen. They could be eaten by wild animals but not raised by them.”

“I meant about you being the chair of this committee.”

“ME?” I swallowed and blushed, “I couldn’t run a committee like that.”

“But it’s your baby.”

“I was told some years ago I couldn’t have babies, even metaphorical ones.” He threw me a grin which became a chuckle.

“You have a delightful sense of humour.”

“Do I?—I married an aristocrat—yeah maybe I do.”

“You would run this committee?”

“I don’t know if I could—I mean, apart from the skill level, there’s the time factor—I don’t have time.”

“Yet you expect me to?”

I blushed—“Um, well you’re an experienced procedure person.”

“Yes, as a lawyer, I need to be. But you’re a scientist—don’t you have protocols to follow on publishing papers, conducting experiments and so on?”

“Yeah okay, I’ll be on the bloody committee.”

“I think if you chair it, I’ll act as a secretary until we can find a couple of replacements.”

“Will we need to set up a charity?”

“If so, we can cross that bridge when we come to it. What time are you going to the home?”

“About seven—could you make it as well?”

“I suppose so—very well, Lady Cameron, you are very persuasive.”

“Mr Henstridge, you persuaded yourself because you love children.”

“Yeah, I’ve got two teenagers I maybe could donate.” He kept an absolutely deadpan face.

“It isn’t a car boot, Mr Henstridge.”

“Pity—selling them would be even better. Why is it that perfectly loving and decent children have to grow up into teenagers? Answer me that and I’ll take your case for nothing.”

“I can tell you biologically why—but that might not convince you.”

“No I suspect it wouldn’t.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 837

After my meeting I rushed home to start drawing up lists of those I thought might help. In order for us to get the meal over and done with early, Stella went to get the girls and I cooked. Simon was away so I couldn’t inveigle him until he came home.

Tom agreed to supervise bedtime and Trish looked at me—“Where are you going, Mummy?”

“I have to go out to a meeting.”

“You don’t usually go out at night, Mummy?”

I’m sure this kid can mind read. “Well I have to, tonight. Grampa Tom will put you to bed, so you be a good girl for him.”

“Where are you going, Mummy.”

“To a meeting, I just told you.” I could feel my heart beating faster.

“Where is your meeting?”

“Why do you ask?”

“I want to know where you’re going.”

“I’m not obliged to tell you, you know this?”

“Yes, Mummy, but I’d like to know.”

“I don’t think you would.”

“Why, are you going to the home I used to live in?” She asked it so casually and I nearly fell off my seat.

“Why should you suggest that?”

“You’ve gone very pale, Mummy, are you all right?”

“It felt very hot for a moment, maybe I’m having a hot flush.”

“If you’re not well, shouldn’t you stay home?”

“No, Trish, I promised I’d help.”

“Help who, Mummy?”

“That doesn’t concern you, young lady.”

“It does, Mummy.”

“How do you work that out?”

“Because you’re my mummy, and I love you and don’t want you to go out tonight.”

“What is all this about, Trish?” I wasn’t sure if I felt cross or concerned, perhaps a bit of both.

“Nothin’, you’re not gonna put me back in that home are you?”

“Hey, silly,” I lifted her onto my lap; “You’re here to stay—I told you, I want to adopt you. But yes I am going to your old home because they need to raise money to modernise it.”

“Don’t go there, it’s horrible.”

“Trish, I’m in no danger from going there—and you, young lady, are in no danger of ever having to go there again.”

“They were horrid to me, Mummy.”

“I know, but there are still children living there, so they need to have better facilities than they have.”

“Why do they? They were horrible.”

“Trish, I have made my mind up to help Mrs Cunningham, I’d appreciate it if you’d let me go and do so.”

“Take me with you.”

“What?” I nearly fell off my perch again.

“Take me with you.”

“A moment ago you were frightened I was going to send you back there, why the change of heart?”

“I want to hear what you talk about.”

“Trish, that implies you don’t believe me.”

She looked a little dismayed at my accusation. “No, Mummy, I do believe you.”

“So why do you need to come to what will probably be a very boring meeting?”

“I want to, Mummy.”

“Daddy, what do you think?” I asked Tom.

“If she says she wants tae go, I’d be inclined tae let her.”

“Trish, I don’t think it’s a good idea. I really don’t.”

“Well I do, I won’t let them bully me again.” She seemed adamant.

“Go up and change, put on your red top and skirt, your boots and better put your fleece jacket on too.” Before I could say anything else, she’d dashed off to her bedroom.

“I really don’t think this is a good idea,” I said to Tom and Stella.

“Well, she said she wants to go, it sounded pretty definite to me,” offered Stella.

“Ye’ve got tae ask yersel’ why she wants tae go—is it completion or facin’ doon some o’ her history?”

“I wonder,” I mused, before I went up to change, wearing a black needle cord skirt suit and red velvet top. I added my black boots and some black beads to complete the outfit. Trish came into my room as I was changing.

“Are you sure you really want to do this, Trish? You don’t have to prove anything—not to me.”

“Yes, Mummy, I want to come with you.”

“Okay, I suppose it’ll give me an excuse for coming back sooner.” As we came out of my room I glanced up at the stairs leading to the attic rooms, “I must ask your Gramps if I can turn one of those attic rooms into a study.”

“Can I do my homework in it, Mummy?”

“I don’t see why not, if Gramps lets me do it.”

“He will,” she chuckled.

“How do you know?” I asked her, tickling her tummy.

“Because he lets you do anything you want.”

“He doesn’t, he’s not as indulgent as your daddy.”

She laughed loudly and ran down the stairs.

We arrived at the home—a rambling Victorian pile, which would need more than a coat of paint; it looked totally ramshackle. “Is this where you lived, Trish?”

“No, I didn’t live there, Patrick did. I live with you.”

I hugged her, “And I hope always will—as long as you want to, at any rate.” She hugged me back and we got out of the car and braved the squally showers which were threatening.

Inside it was as bad as out but my attention was taken by Nora and Trish meeting for the first time in several months. “Hello, Trish.”

“Hello, Mrs Cunningham.”

“You used to call me, Auntie Nora.”

“No, Patrick did, I don’t live here.”

“Okay, Trish, I’ll go along with that.” She looked up at me, “I’m afraid no one will for much longer—it’s a fait accompli—they’ve already sold it to a developer.”

“Wait until Mr Henstridge gets here, we’ll soon stop that.”

“I called him just now and told him not to come and why: he agreed with me.”

“So what’s going to happen to the children?”

“They’ll have to go to Oxford.”

“Do they want to?”

“All but two don’t care—I’m trying to find them alternative accommodation locally; so far without luck.”

“If you get stuck, I might be able to take them pro tem. I’d need to speak to the others first.”

“That would give them a chance to decide a bit better: we’ve got to vacate this place by next weekend.”

“Strewth, that seems ungodly haste.”

“The developer wants to get going with his demolition.”

“This isn’t listed then?”

“Only as unfit for habitation.”

“That bad?” I asked.

“Yeah—’fraid so, sorry I couldn’t get hold of you to stop your wasted journey.”

“No bats here are there?”

“As in belfry? Why?”

“If there are, they can’t disturb them without a licence from Natural England.”

“Huh—that won’t stop ’em.”

“It could cost ’em thousands, at least a thousand per bat.”

“I don’t know if there are or not.”

“I’ll come around in jeans tomorrow and have a look.”

“Won’t you be guilty of disturbing them?”

“Yeah, but I have a licence.”

“Oh, you are full of surprises.”

“Right, I’ll get this young woman home and speak with Tom and the others to see if we can offer you temporary accommodation for your two charges.”

“Thanks, Cathy, you seem to care more than the charity who owns this place.”

“I can’t comment without knowing more about them, maybe they need to sell this to fund the other place.”

“Yeah, could be—oh, they did offer me a job in Wantage.”

“Are you going to take it?”

“Dunno yet.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 838

The next morning I was up early and couldn’t wait to get the girls to school so I could get over to the children’s home and begin my exploration of the attics. I was there at nine and by ten thirty I was pretty sure there were no bats roosting in the attics nor were there more than a few signs of droppings. Any that went there were very occasional.

I sat with Nora drinking a coffee, “So there is no sign of bats?”

“I wouldn’t say no sign, because there were one or two droppings but they could be years old and in no quantity.”

“We don’t have bats in the belfry, then?”

“I don’t know about belfry, but attics—no.”

“Oh well, I suppose it was worth a try.”

“If we’d found any, yes—smooth snakes in the garden or great crested newts in the pond would have been good too.”

“I’d have thought only nesting ospreys would have done to save us.”

“You’d need quite a garden pond to feed a pair of ospreys, and I suspect the RSPB would have forced you out even sooner to protect their rare predators—besides, they breed in summer not winter—they’ll be in Africa by now.”

“Couldn’t we get some stuffed ones and pretend?”

“Natural England aren’t quite that stupid and the average birdwatcher would be able to spot something wrong if the bird didn’t move for a few seconds. Then there is the problem that protected species are protected live or dead, so a dead, stuffed osprey is still protected.”

“From what—moths?”

“That as well I’d hope; no, the two legged rats which pervade this planet.”

“I thought all rats had four legs?”

“No, Nora, the most flourishing variety has two legs and far too much influence upon this miserable little planet.”

“Ah that sort of rat—I’ve dated a few in my time.” I sniggered and she began to do the same, in a few minutes we were laughing like drains—not that I’ve seen too many of those laugh. Come to think about it, I’ve never seen a drain laugh—English is a silly language at times.

I had to get home: tomorrow was Saturday and Leon would be around to repair the shed. I half-expected him to moan the whole time—if he did, I’d call him Mona. That’ll shut him up.

“What about the two kids I might need to temporarily accommodate?”

“Oh yes, I have to sort that out with them and the charity.”

“What are they girls or boys?”

“Two boys, is that a problem?”

“Boys, oh,” I felt my heart sink a little.

“Is that a problem, Cathy?”

“I hope not.”

“Maybe I can sweet-talk them into coming to Wantage.”

“If you can’t, I’ll take them, but it’s likely to be temporary only.”

“Of course.”

I left and went home worrying about my big mouth and the fact that I needed to keep it under more control. Why did I need to save the world all the time? Me and my big mouth, but having made the offer I had to honour it. My discussion with Tom had raised no objections—his response, “There’s plenty o’space, if ye’re happy, sae am I.”

I suggested that I would have to set clear boundaries and they would have to understand that if they breached them, they could be out. Tom emphasised, “It widnae be maybe, they’d be oot.” We’d have to see, we’d have to see.

The rest of the day went quickly as I caught up on some housework and cooking. I made some cakes, I was sure that Leon would help us eat some tomorrow, so would Simon. I just made simple sponge cakes which I’d turn into Victoria sponges with some jam. I missed not having a child getting under my feet wanting to help.

What was I thinking about? They hadn’t been with me that long. I’d had Spike with me longer than I’d been playing mothers. I wondered if the two boys would want to come to me. Did they know Trish in her previous life? If so, were they going to cause troubles? Would this all act as an obstacle to my adoption application?

I called Rushton Henstridge. He reassured me that this could only reflect well upon me as a responsible parent. I hoped he was right, but I felt less certain of my desire to have two boys living in the house. I’d not got their ages—oh what a mess I was making—they might be five or ten or fifteen. Oh hell—I hope not fifteen—Simon will be the only one who’ll be able to control them; they’ll be bigger than I am and possibly terrify me and the girls. What if they were Trish’s tormentors? Oh hells bells, my big gob.

At one point I was tempted to get Simon to bid for the site but then remembered it had been sold. I was tempted then to get Simon to create havoc for them, and maybe they’d need to sell it on—but that would be misconduct and he wouldn’t do it anyway.

Simon was due back on Saturday. I was glad he’d be here. I felt in need of my hubby’s support—goodness, am just a wee wifey after all? I needed to talk things over with him and I’d be pleased if he were here when Leon was, just so he’d know there was someone here who could kick his bum if required. I suppose I could do, but seeing as I had a muckle lump of a man, as Tom once described him—or something like that, I might as well use him. I mean he’ll eat his share and more of my cakes if I let him.

“Ooh, we having cake tonight?” asked Stella coming into the kitchen.

“No they’re for tomorrow.”

“Why? What’s happening tomorrow?”

“Our new gardener starts.”

“Oh that kid you cornered.”

“Yes, him.”

“Do you honestly think he will?”

“He’d better.”

“Why, what’re you gonna do if he doesn’t?”

“Send Simon to get him.”

“Is all this legal—I mean slave labour?”

“It isn’t slave labour, I’m going to pay him quite well.”

“Oh, I thought he had to work for nowt.”

“No, I’m paying him fifty quid.”

“Cor, that’s quite a lot for a yoof.”

“The two kids we could be putting up are boys,” I said breaking the bad news.

“Oh, that’ll make a change then.”

“I don’t know if I can look after boys.”

“Now’s your chance to find out.”

“What if they were tormenting Trish?”

“We tie ’em up and let her loose with a carpet knife.”

“To do what?” I was horrified at the prospect of that scenario.

“Join a soprano choir—poetic justice?”

“Wouldn’t that be operatic justice?”

“Two little maids from school are we…” she sang in a silly voice while she went back upstairs to her decorating.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 839

Saturday morning arrived and I was up early although I felt tired and yawned all through breakfast. “Careful, Mummy, you nearly swallowed my dish then,” said Trish with a serious expression but her eyes were sparkling.

“You cheeky little maggot, any more out of you and I’ll send you to Wantage with the other children from that home.”

Livvie’s jaw dropped. “You wouldn’t send Trish away would you?”

“Don’t send Twish away—nasty Mummy,” said Mima only hearing part of the conversation because she was trying to force-feed cornflakes to a reluctant doll.

“Does Trish look worried?” I asked, she was smirking, knowing too well that I’d never send her away—except to university, and we had a few years to go before that.

“Oh don’t send me away, I’ll be good and eat all my greens…” Trish was camping it up.

“You eat them all anyway.”

“Don’t send me out into the cold and wet.”

“It isn’t raining, is it?”

“No, Mummy,” said Mima now growing tired of the game. She wandered off to the lounge which was when the doorbell rang. She came back a moment later and said, “Mummy, there’s a bwack man wants you.” Stella who’d come down for a fresh coffee nearly choked to death and the other two girls were looking shocked.

“Ask him in, Mima.” She ran off to do so, and moments later led him back to the kitchen. He came in looking very cold.

“This, everyone, is Leon, he’s going to be doing some gardening and odd-jobs for me at the weekends.” I introduced the rest of them to him and added, “So if anyone has anything they think Leon can do for them, please ask him—that’s okay isn’t it, Leon?” He nodded and I offered him a cup of coffee.

“Can you make my dowwies eat veir food?” asked Meems, holding the doll up to the youth who towered over her. The other two thought it was hilarious and I’m sure he was blushing, although I doubt Mima intended to embarrass him.

“Meems, I meant things like cleaning their bikes or tidying the shed.”

“Can you clean my bike for me?” immediately spouted Trish.

Before Leon could answer—he was having a sip, well okay a gulp, of coffee—I interrupted. “Leon can help by supervising you cleaning your own bike, he’s not here to do things that you should do.”

“So he can’t clean the bedroom either, then?” sighed Livvie, getting in on the act.

“Certainly not you lazy lot, just for that you three will go and tidy your bedroom now, go on—off you go.” We watched the three of them grumble as they traipsed upstairs. Stella smirked—“And don’t you start, or I’ll make you tidy yours too.”

“Yes, Mummy,” said Stella and grinned while Leon had no idea where to look and he continued pretending to drink his coffee from an empty cup.

“You look cold, how did you get here?”

“Bike,” he sort of grunted back at me.

“I didn’t know you cycled?”

“Mum bought it for me yesterday.”

“Mountain bike?”

“Yeah, a cheapo one from ’alfords.”

“It’s still quicker than walking.” I chided, “Are you going to pay her back?”

“Yeah, a tenner a mumph.”

“Okay, I’m glad to hear that, how’s your Mum?”

“Okay.” He shrugged looking embarrassed again, like all youths do before older women.

“Did you bring anything to eat for lunch?” I asked and he shook his head.

“Din’t know I was sa-posed to,” he mumbled.

“That’s okay, you can eat with us, you’re not veggie are you?”

“No, ma’am.”

“Not that it would matter today, I’m doing a vegetable curry, you okay with that?” I asked the gangly youth and he nodded.

“Curry?” said Stella, “You don’t like curry.”

“I know, but I want the girls to be able to eat most things.”

“You’ll eat it, to make them do the same?”

“Not make them, but encourage them.”

“Cor, I’m seriously impressed,” said Stella with eyes dancing.

“Oh go and tidy your bedroom,” I snapped back.

“At once, Mummy.” She scuttled away giggling to herself while I blushed pretending not to be embarrassed by her.

I heard a car pull into the drive and watched Tom get out of a brand new Mondeo estate car. It was a sort of deep metallic red and he stood a few feet away and admired it. He’d bought himself a new car, about time too. He trudged up the drive and came in the back door.

“Daddy, this is Leon; Leon, this is Professor Agnew.”

They shook hands and Tom asked, “Are ye the laddie wha’s gaen’ tae dae the gerden?” Leon looked completely bemused. Tom looked at me, “Dis he no unnerstaun’ English?”

“Yes, but you don’t speak it very often.”

Tom looked incensed, “I’ll hae ye ken the purest English comes frae Scotland.”

“Absolutely,” I said while Leon stood grinning and baffled.

“Dinna werry, ladddie, ye’ll pick it up as ye go alon’.” Tom was smiling at the confused youth.

“I’m going to ask Leon to rub down and paint the old shed, before it falls down,” I told Tom.

“Aye, aricht. I’ll hae a coffee an’ be oot in a mo to show ye whit tae dae.” Leon looked totally ignorant of what Tom had said.

“He speaks English as well as Lallans,” I told the boy as I led him outside. At his questioning look, I said, “Lowland Scots dialect.” He nodded but was probably confused.

“Like Mel Gibson—Brave’eart?” he asked.

“Indeed, Wallace was from Paisley near Glasgow, so he’d be a lowlander. Well done kiddo, Daddy will be impressed.” Leon’s face split to reveal a huge white toothed smile. “Only don’t mention it too much, because he reckons the film was rubbish and Mel Gibson’s accent was the pits. He talked like a Highlander, or Heelander as Daddy would say it.”

“’Ighlander, now vats a good film,” said Leon. I nodded: we might just have a channel open for communication. “Your dad don’t wear no skirt, do ’e?”

“Only when he’s about to go out slaying Englishmen, why?”

“Only, Mel Gibson did in Brave’eart.”

“Don’t think too much about it, kiddo, it’s called a kilt not a skirt, and not many Scots wear them except for ceremonial purposes, like formal dances.”

“What, vey go to dances in skirts, bleedin’ weird if you ask me?” Fortunately, nobody was.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 840

I showed Leon the shed, a wooden one with a felt roof, it was mostly sound, though the odd strip of wood might need replacing. I gave him some gardening gloves and some sandpaper and told him to start rubbing down the old paint. He hadn’t got a clue—the way he was doing it, he’d have taken all day to shorten his nails let alone shift the old paint. It was just as well I was in my older clothes, because I had to show him and whenever I looked around he was looking at something else. I began to wonder if it was such a good idea. Reinforcements arrived in the person of Tom and despite the apparent communication difficulties, I left them to it.

I went back to my kitchen and shivered, I didn’t have a coat on while I was out. Cleaning up the kitchen warmed me up in no time and I set about organising various pulses and spices to boil up together to make the curry. I did a separate small pan of much hotter sauce for Daddy and Simon, which could be added to the milder large brew I was making—and even that smelt much stronger than the meals I usually prepare. I was wondering if I’d be able to cope eating it, I really didn’t like spicy food—but I wanted the girls to be able to eat it.

An hour later I was doing a mound of Basmati rice and I cheated with the poppadams: I’d bought those in from the supermarket. Things were going all right, so far. Next while everything was cooking I did dishes of various chutneys and fruits, and some yoghurt. For a cheap meal, this was proving quite expensive.

Finally Trish turned up in the kitchen, “What’s that smell, Mummy?”

“Why, don’t you like it?”

“Dunno, it’s different though.”

“It’s vegetable curry.”

“Do I like curry, Mummy?”

“I don’t know, but we’ll find out soon enough.”

“Do the others?”

“I don’t know, Sweetheart, I expect so—they seem to like most things I make.”

“It smells like some stuff you do for Gramps, now and again.”

“Gramps loves his curry, so does Daddy.”

“When will Daddy be home?” she stood on the step stool and gave the main pot a stir.

“Be careful, it’s all very hot on there,” I cautioned her, “Daddy should be home anytime.” I spoke more from hope than expectation.

“Are you glad you married him?”

“That’s a strange question, why did you ask it?”

She hugged me, “I didn’t want you to blame me if you weren’t.”

“I’m an adult, Trish, which means I’m responsible for my own actions. So I decided to marry Simon, no one made me—and that includes you, Simon, Auntie Stella, and Gramps. You aren’t to blame nor is anyone else.

“I’m glad you married him,” she said quietly rubbing her face into my chest.

“Yes, I know, and so am I.”

“You weren’t really going to send me back to the home, were you?”

“Darling, I will never send you away, even things like university we will discuss to make sure you want to go and where. Did my joke upset you?”

“Not really, it’s what I thought—that you were joking.”

“But you weren’t certain?”

“No.”

“Well rest assured, I will never send you away—I promise, and a lady’s word is her bond.” Couldn’t have said that a couple of weeks ago.

“I believe you, Mummy.”

“I hope you trust me—I’ll never intentionally hurt any of you, be assured of that.”

“We love you, Mummy—we do so hope you can adopt us all.”

“I’ve started the ball rolling, so let’s keep our fingers crossed shall we.”

The back door came flying open, “Damn fool child’s fallen off yon shed.” Tom was breathless and red faced.

“Don’t touch anything,” I said pointing at the cooker, and dashed out into the garden. I ran to the shed I’d indicated I thought should be done and there was no sign of Leon. I looked inside it—he hadn’t fallen through the roof and he wasn’t anywhere to be seen by the side of it. “Leon,” I called.

“Thon one,” Tom panting behind me pointed at one at the far end of the garden.

“What’s he doing up there? I wanted this one done.”

“That’s waur he wis when I came oot.”

I walked briskly up to the shed, which was a brick one with an asbestos type roof—the sort you need roofing ladders for. “Leon?” I called.

“In ’ere,” came back a muffled reply. I tried the door, but it was jammed shut.

“I’ve never been in that one, what’s in there?”

“It wis a well hoose.”

“But the well is under the garage.”

“Aye, there’s several.”

“Ding dong bloody bell, Leon’s in the well—how do we get in, Daddy?”

“The door wis sealed up.”

“I can see that, Daddy, how do we unseal it?”

“We canna.”

“Okay, we’re going to need a ladder or two. Hang on, Leon, I’m getting a ladder.” I ran back to the house grabbed the garage keys and brought the ladder out, Tom came wheezing up behind and between us we carried the ladder up to the shed. I lent it up against the wall and climbed up while Tom stood on the bottom.

I looked over inside and there about five foot down hanging upside down was Leon, caught by his jeans or his belt on a nail or hook sticking out from the wall. “Don’t move, I’ll get a rope.”

“I can’t,” he gasped.

I ran back to the garage just as Simon pulled into the drive. “What’s going on?” he asked seeing me running back up the drive with the rope.

“Leon’s fallen and got stuck.” I trotted back with Simon running behind me.

With Simon’s help and his extra reach and strength, what we did was split up the ladder: he put half down inside the shed—the well was capped with stone—then he climbed over and lifted the youth off the hook. Then they both climbed out and brushed themselves down. Leon had ripped his jeans, the bottom was pretty well out of them.

“What on earth were you doing up there?” I asked once we’d got them both safely out.

“Frowin’ da ball fa da dog, it wennup dere. Lookit my jeans my ma will kill me.”

I was laughing, his clothes were covered in dust and his jeans had torn the seat right out, his underpants were ripped too. “C’mon, let’s get you in and washed, then have some lunch.”

I shoved all their clothes in the washer while Simon showered in our bathroom and Leon used the one in the attic. He was going to have to borrow some of my clothes, I was nearest in size to him, either that or Stella and I’m not sure she’d be too pleased to loan any—I wasn’t to be honest.

I found a fairly plain pair of panties, and an old pair of jogging pants plus a tee shirt and sweatshirt. He dressed in them and the only giveaway was the colour—they were a bit of a girly pink. The girls thought it was hilarious—like something out of a Gaby story, suggested Trish.

“I can’t go ’ome in dese,” said Leon standing in the kitchen doorway, “dey’ll all laugh at me.”

“Let’s have lunch, shall we, and I’ll go and get you some afterwards—or I’ll give you the money and you can get them.”

“I ain’t goin’ nowhere dressed in dese,” he said back much to the amusement of three little girls.

“We could always call you Leona,” suggested Livvie to loads of giggles.

“Hey, I ain’t no girly, okay?”

“It does say Girl Power on the back of the sweatshirt,” Simon joked.

Leon pulled it off, “I din’t see dat.” It didn’t, Simon was pulling his leg and after Leon realised he’d been had, he laughed too.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 841

The lunch went reasonably well, with everyone bar me enjoying the curry—sorry, I just don’t like it—however, the girls did, so that was all that mattered. Simon and Leon fitted a makeshift roof over the old well cover, Tom having shown them where he had some spare wood and fortunately, some spare felt.

I went off with the girls to get Leon some new jeans—I got the measurements from his old ones, we also thought we’d get him some new undies and a tee shirt. That took us a couple of hours, so by the time we got back it was nearly dark.

I presented Leon with his new jeans and the girls gave him a little prezzie each, Meems gave him some socks, Livvie some boxer-shorts and Trish, a new tee shirt—one which didn’t have puppies or kittens on, but some sort of motorbike doing wheelies. I didn’t like it, but the girls thought he might, and they were right. He grabbed the stuff and ran up to the bathroom to change—emerging ten minutes later full of himself. The girls all high-fived him—that was funny watching Meems do it, and he thanked them for their gifts.

I asked him how he was going to get home in the dark and he shrugged about riding with no lights. I brought out a cheap set I’d got in one of the shops, but at least he’d be legal riding home. I asked him if he knew how to fit them, “Course I do, it comes natural to men, doan it?”

I gave them to him and left him to it, while I put the rest of the shopping away. I checked half an hour later and he still hadn’t done it. Simon peered over my shoulder, “Let the wife do it for you, she’s a whizz with bikes.”

I savoured the phrase, Let the wife which was something which would have been beyond my wildest dreams only two or three years ago, and here I was married to an aristocrat—who’dathoughtit possible—I can see the tabloid headlines in the Bristol Evening Post—Local Boy Makes Good, I was still sniggering to myself when I went out to the bike and our helpless handyman.

“You in’t laughin’ at me?” he said almost aggressively.

“No, I had a funny thought about something I was thinking of earlier, if that makes sense.”

“No it don’t.”

“Let’s have a look,” I said taking the bike into the garage and switching on the lights, “it helps if you can see what you’re doing.”

“Hey, dis is magic innit?” said Leon admiring my workshop equipment.

“Hmm,” I replied not really listening. I grabbed a screwdriver and pair of pliers and began mounting the rear light to his bike.

“Dis a funny knife,” said Leon.

“That’s a bike multi-tool it isn’t a knife.”

I know,” he said putting it down carelessly.

“Leon, please respect my tools, some are quite old and some are quite valuable.”

“Okay, okay,” he snapped.

“If you actually showed some attention here, you might learn how do to it next time.”

“Next time?” he asked in a surprised tone.

“Yes, the next time you need something doing on a bike.”

“Yeah, but I’s got you to sort it now, inni?”

“Not with that attitude, you won’t.”

“What is you accusin’ me of?”

“Ingratitude amongst other things.”

“What udder tings?”

“There,” I switched on the bike lights. I passed the bike to him. “I expect you next week, take care riding home, and give my regards to your mother.”

“Yeah, tanks for doin’ da bike.”

“Haven’t you forgotten something?” I asked him.

“No, I doan tink so.”

“So I can keep this, can I?” I held up some money.

“I tought you was keepin’ it to pay for da jeans.”

“No, those were a gift.”

His face lit up and he smiled, “Tank you.” He snatched the money, wheeled his bike out of the garage and set off for home.

I shivered going back into the house, having locked up the garage. “He’s going to be frozen before he gets home,” I said to Simon when he asked if our guest had gone.

“So, it’ll do him good.”

“How can freezing yourself be good?”

“Give him some moral fibre, if he’d had any in the first place he wouldn’t have been here at all. I’ll bet you paid for his jeans and things?”

“No, I used your store card,” I said as casually as I could.

He nodded, then a moment later said, “You did what?”

“I bought them.” The look of relief on his face seemed excessive for the amount it would have been. “Simon, is there something you’re not telling me?”

“No, why?”

“You looked concerned when you thought I’d spent your money.”

“Nah, just getting used to having two drains on my pocket.”

“Two?”

“Yeah, you and Stella.”

“Well don’t worry, as long as I have some of my own, I won’t bother you.” I turned on my heel and stormed into the kitchen to get supper started.

“Hey, Babes, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“How did you mean it then?” I asked indignantly. I felt like saying, if you can’t afford a wife, why did we get married? However, I resisted the temptation.

“Well you know with Stella?”

“Do I?”

“Yeah, I mean she’s taken you on enough shopping expeditions.”

“Yes I know and you usually end up paying.”

“Well then, I suppose I should be used to it by now, but times are a bit harder at the moment.”

“So, keep a hold of your cards and no one can spend them without your say so.”

“I can’t, Stella’s been using it for seven or eight years.”

“Well don’t complain to me, then. I won’t be using it.” I turned to face the fridge and started getting food out of it.

“Look, Babes, you’re my wife.”

“Yes, I’ve got a piece of paper and a ring to prove it.”

“C’mon, Babes, let’s not fall out over this, of course you can use my cards—all my worldly goods I thee endow—remember?”

“I remember, I was there.”

“So there, matter resolved.” He patted my bottom and walked out of the kitchen. He was very close to having a bowl of cold lentil soup tipped over his head—patronising twit. I’m his wife, his sister is a millionairess in her own right, and he queries my access to his cards? He can stuff them as far up his wallet as he can reach, as far as I’m concerned. I’ll spend my own money and he can go and whistle—bloody tightwad.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 842

I spent the rest of the evening, after putting the girls to bed, dealing with queries related to the mammal survey. I now had a backlog, which would take me weeks to clear, and as we were supposed to be going to Lapland next weekend, it would mean I’d be very busy until after Christmas.

Simon eventually noticed my absence and came looking for me. I was in the kitchen on my laptop. “Do I get the impression you’re avoiding me?”

“I’m busy, what do you want?” I was too, in the middle of trying to decide if someone saw a dormouse near Leeds, when evidence suggests they haven’t been seen there for years.

“My wife, is that too much to ask?”

“Your wife is busy.”

“So I see.”

“The desire to see your wife didn’t bring you home early from work, did it?”

“I was very busy.”

“There’s a coincidence.” I returned to my laptop.

“I’m going to bed,” he said walking away.

“Goodnight,” I replied and kept typing. I rejected the sighting on current evidence and without verification by another trustworthy and independent witness. As much of the evidence is taken from finding discarded shells of nuts and acorns, it is possible to fake it by taking the shells from somewhere else and scattering them. Too much like hard work—people will do all sorts of things to make a point, even a false one. The next phase would be more corroboration and nest boxes to estimate populations, which is usually when they really are found out.

An hour later I went to bed myself, Simon was reading some thriller. I washed changed into my night wear, cleaned my teeth and on getting into bed, pecked him on the cheek and lay down to go to sleep.

“Still mad at me are you?” he enquired.

I really didn’t want this discussion now, I was very tired. So I more or less ignored him.

“I’ve got more bad news, I’ve cancelled the trip to Lapland.”

“Fine, you can tell the girls.”

“So you are awake?”

“Yes, somebody close by keeps talking.”

“Very funny—I told you, you can use my cards.”

“I don’t need them thank you.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

“I think it was someone else who was being ridiculous earlier, so don’t lecture me.”

“You were only joking, anyway.”

“I was, you weren’t.”

“Of course I was, Cathy; besides, I apologised.”

“I heard you, and the patronising comments that accompanied it.”

“When did I patronise you?”

“You’re doing so now.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I never talk down to you—you women see things that aren’t there.”

“See things or hear them?”

“What difference does it make, it’s all your bloody hormones anyway.”

“What is all my bloody hormones?”

“This paranoia.”

“I’m paranoid, am I?”

“Yes, if you want to know, you are.”

“Thank you Dr Cameron, world expert on mental health.”

“Very funny.”

“What is your reasoning for your diagnosis and this had better be good, because I am no longer sleepy—just very tired and irritable.”

“You’ve just identified one aspect of it.”

“Simon, that is total crap and you know it, but then these days you seem full of the stuff.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Simon, shut up and go to sleep.”

“I’ll do no such thing.”

“Fine—I’m going to sleep somewhere quieter then.” I pushed back the duvet to get out of bed.

“Where do you think you’re going—I haven’t finished.”

“I have, goodnight.”

“Cathy, as my wife I insist you come back to bed.”

“Sit on this,” I said back giving him the finger—if you think that was rude, I could have told him what I really thought. To my astonishment, he jumped out of bed and ran to the door and shut it standing in front of it.

I couldn’t be bothered to fight him physically—last time he got hurt, so I turned around and picked up my cell phone and pretended to dial, then said, “Police.”

“Please, Cathy, don’t involve outsiders, let’s discuss this like adults.”

“Yes, my husband is keeping me against my will in the bedroom.” I said to the unconnected phone.

“Cathy, please?”

“Hold on,” I said to the phone and my imaginary policeman. “What?”

“I’m sorry, all right. I am really sorry.”

“I’ll call back later.” I pretended to disconnect the call. “Your apologies are just empty words Simon.”

“I love you, Cathy.”

“How about showing it then, by deed not just word. Words are cheap.”

“What do I have to do?”

“Why should I always have to be the one to show you where you get it wrong? If you were seriously thinking, you’d see it yourself.”

“Help me here, will you?”

“Okay, latest antisocial, sexist remark, you insisted I came back to bed because I was your wife. I didn’t vow to obey you, nor would I. I thought our relationship would be one of equals and in the beginning it was, you were generous and courteous now you’re mean and arrogant. Next point…”

“Okay, okay…I didn’t mean it like that, I wanted us to talk—I need you, Cathy, you’re my whole universe.”

“And you said I was crazy?”

“I’m trying to make you understand why I do what I do.”

“Well you’re not making much of a job of it, if you really wanted to I’m sure you could.”

“Please help me then.”

Part of me wanted to just go and sleep with the kids, but he is my husband and I did agree to marry him. He didn’t just pluck me up onto his white charger and gallop off with me, like in a Mills and Boon story. Maybe we should try that approach—yeah sure—don’t give the silly man ideas. I could hardly walk away, could I, so here we go again—is this the worse I agreed to?

“Why did you cancel the holiday?”

“British Airways—looks like a strike is on for Christmas.”

“We’d be back before then, wouldn’t we?”

“Dunno—so rather than get stuck in Lapland, with you grumbling about lack of clean knickers or something, I cancelled it. The girls haven’t mentioned it anyway, have they?”

“Not really, no.”

“C’mon then help me to understand women…” he said and I nearly screamed.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 843

We talked for about an hour—him, wanting to know what he did wrong—me, wanting the man I fell in love with back. They say women change when they have children, maybe I have, although I haven’t actually had any literally—but I do have to think differently now. I seem to be the matriarch of this household, having to worry about the kids, Tom, Simon and Stella and Puddin’. I’m not sure who’s supposed to look after me—my husband, but he can’t look after himself properly, so all that cost of a private education seems to have been wasted on the siblings Cameron.

Anyway to cut a long story short, we were talking amicably before we went to sleep and we did promise to be a little more tolerant of each other. Had we resolved it earlier we might even have made love, but it was too late and I was too tired.

Children don’t respect Sunday mornings and they were in bed with us before seven—before it was light, gee whizz. How can Simon remain asleep with three children sitting on him calling, Daddy? Perhaps his public school education taught him something—how to ignore all forms of females. Being a poor, grammar school girl, I was wide-awake and sought refuge downstairs. The aliens followed me, so at least Simon got a second chance for an extra hour’s shut-eye.

I fed them while they fed Kiki on some tinned dog meat and some stale bread. Then Meems helped me do a mix for the bread machine and set it off. After breakfast, for which amazingly, Stella appeared, I took the girls up to shower and dress, afterwards putting on the washing machine.

“Have you ever been to church, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“What brought that up, flossie?”

“I’m not flossie, I’m Trishy.”

“Oh, yes so you are.” We laughed and she playfully slapped me on the leg, “Trishy-washy, I suppose helping me do this?”

“You are funny, Mummy.”

I shrugged and sorted the next load for the machine, it was going to need three loads to do all the laundry, Simon having brought home a case load.

“So, have you been?” pestered Trish.

“Been where?”

“Church, silly Mummy.”

“I got married in one, didn’t I?”

“Oh yes, but I meant when God was there.”

“He has times when He’s available?”

“Yes, they said in school He’s always there, but is more accessible during services.”

“What does that mean?” I asked wondering if she understood all she was saying.

“You have more chance of talking to Him when there’s a priest about.”

“Why is that, then?” I was trying to stay neutral and let her think things out for herself although I wasn’t really comfortable with all the God bothering stuff they would be taught in school.

“They’re trained, aren’t they?” she continued.

“Don’t they come by bus then?” I asked and she looked confused.

“You’re laughing at me, Mummy.”

“I’m not Sweetheart, I made a joke but you didn’t see it. You said trained, which can mean on a train.”

“And you said, buses—that’s a silly joke Mummy.”

“I didn’t say it was a funny one.” I smirked and she frowned.

She picked up some dirty linen and placed it in the basket ready to put in the machine when the first load was done. “Will you take us one Sunday?”

“Where? To church?”

“Yes, me an’ Livvie wanna go sometime.”

“Why?” I knew why, but then I’d had the advantage of having been to one.

“We’ve never been and would like to go.”

“Do they ask you in school?”

“Ask us what, Mummy?”

“If you’ve been to church?”

“Oh yes, but we usually ignore them; one of the priests said you must be a heathen.”

“Did he now?”

“I told him you were a scientist.”

“Why?”

“Because he was saying nasty things about you, Mummy.”

“In his view, I am a heathen because I don’t believe.”

“He said, when it can be proved that Darwin created the world in six days, he’d believe in science as much as he does in the Bible.”

“I think he’d have to prove his God did it first in that time—according to the evidence, it’s an ongoing process and has been so for eight billion years.”

“Is that a long time, Mummy?”

“Eight thousand million years, I’d say so.”

“Is that older than Gramps?”

“Oh gosh, yes, Gramps is only seventy.

“That’s really old, Mummy.”

“You’ll probably feel differently when you’re seventy.”

“Is Gramps going to die soon?”

“Why on earth would you think that?”

“In the Bible, it says we live until we’re seventy—I hope Gramps isn’t going to die soon.”

“Trish, the Bible is an old book, most people in those days didn’t live to be thirty five or forty, let alone seventy. Gramps is going to live for a long time to come.”

“I hope so,” she furrowed her brow and looked very sad, “I don’t think I like the Bible.”

“Don’t pay too much attention to it, much of it is in the interpretation of who is reading it.”

“What does that mean, Mummy?”

“It means that we each read things and understand them differently. People read all sorts of things into Shakespeare that I’m sure he didn’t mean.”

“Is that what they do with the Bible, Mummy?”

“Yes, Sweetheart, and the Q’ran and any other religious book—sometimes they only see what they want to and can deliberately miss out bits they disagree with.”

“That’s naughty, Mummy.”

“Trish, you coming to play?” called Livvie.

“Can I, Mummy?”

“Yes but don’t either of you get dirty, we’re going Christmas shopping later.”

“Oh yeah—whoopee!” She ran off to meet up with her partner in crime.

“What ya doin’?” I heard Livvie ask her.

“Helpin’ Mummy sort the washin’—an’ did you know, Shakespeare wrote the Bible?”

“Wow, that’s kewl, Trish.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 844

This week the girls would be breaking up from school, so I had to do their Christmas shopping, some food shopping and if possible some work for the mammal survey. I had a sudden urge to see Spike, so after dropping the girls at school I drove to the university.

Pippa was pleased to see me, asked me how married life was and winked. I blushed and she winked again. I was blushing because we’d hardly had time to do anything romantic since being married. Oh well, the truth was irrelevant this time. Tom was at a meeting with the dean, so I went down to the labs. Neal was there and happy to see me. Thankfully he wasn’t so interested in my married life but told me he’d asked Gloria to marry him—he was prompted by Simon’s and my wedding. I bit my tongue.

The dormice were all hibernating in special nest sites we had for them. It might seem odd but they actually make nests in the ground—nest boxes, apart from being too cold in a frost situation, become too dry and the poor little mites dehydrate. So they build a nest in the ground of things like honeysuckle bark and various grasses and hopefully with a good amount of body fat then curl up for a few month’s kip. The furry tail serves as a way of keeping the nose and paws warm—well warm enough to prevent frost damage or frost bite, which is a form of gangrene. It also helps trap moisture and stop them drying out. Mammals lose moisture from the water vapour in our breath; over months it could prove to be a significant amount—just think about the condensation on the bedroom windows in winter.

The animals looked well and the weight charts showed we were obviously feeding them correctly. Dormice are one of the few rodents which can’t digest cellulose as in plant material, so can’t eat mature leaves; they can eat buds and some leaf shoots but before they become full of cellulose. They eat things like pollen and tree flowers instead.

“When are you getting married?” I asked Neal over a cup of coffee.

“In the spring, do you think Tom would give Gloria away, her father’s dead?”

“I’m sure he’d be delighted to.”

“I’m sure I shouldn’t be telling you this, but she wants you to be matron of honour.”

“Me? You’re joking?”

“She’s off today with her mum, they’ve gone Christmas shopping, but I know she’s going to ask you.”

“Why me?” I asked almost in shock.

“Because she thinks you’d do a good job and she’d like to have your three girls as bridesmaids.”

“I think that might be more possible than me as matron of honour.”

“Anyway, she’ll be in touch over Christmas.”

“Talking of which, who’s going to check the dormice?”

“We haven’t decided yet.”

“Well count me in for the odd day, preferably not Christmas Day—I’ll be sort of busy.”

“With three kids—I’ll bet you will.”

“Where are you getting married?”

“The same church you used.” I nearly choked on my coffee.

The Christmas shopping was chaotic, nearly every other resident of Hampshire seemed intent on clogging up the streets of Portsmouth. It took me longer than I intended and I had no lunch either—just no time. I grabbed a chocolate bar on the way back to the car and ate it as I drove to collect the girls. I had some pizzas in the fridge, which they all liked and although I didn’t, one night wouldn’t kill me.

Life in the fast lane this wasn’t—the road out of the town centre towards the school was painfully slow and frustrating. I was actually a few minutes late when I got there and the girls were talking with the headmistress.

“Ah, Lady Cameron, I was getting details of your wedding and the lovely dress you wore.”

“It wasn’t a wedding dress, the actual ceremony was an informal one as regards dress, the dressy one is after Christmas up at Henry’s estate.”

“Gosh, you get to do it twice—how lovely.”

“Mummy doesn’t think so, do you, Mummy?” said Trish dropping me in it.

I blushed furiously, “I—um—prefer to be out of the spotlight.”

“And this is the woman who did a TV documentary?” Sister Maria’s eyes were mocking me.

“I couldn’t see the audience.”

“You could on the YouTube clip.”

“I was assisting then.”

“Well I hope you’ll still present the prizes and the address for school prize day.”

“I said I would,” I blushed, me and my big gob.

“And a lady always honours her word,” said Sister Maria making sure I would or face my children’s disgust, “Isn’t that right, girls?” Of course they all agreed vociferously.

The drive back was the usual, squabbling and giggling from the back seat. I nearly mentioned the possibility of them being bridesmaids again, but decided as Gloria hadn’t actually asked me herself, I’d keep it quiet for now.

“Is the black man coming again?” asked Livvie.

“Leon? Yes, why?”

“Is he going to borrow your clothes again?” she asked and they all roared with laughter.

“Yes, put him in a skirt, Mummy,” said Trish and they roared again.

“No he won’t and no I won’t.”

“Aww spoilsport.”

“Any more out of you lot and I won’t do the pizza for tea.”

“That’s not fair,” came the response.

“It’ll be bread and dripping.” I wondered if they’d know what I meant, probably not.

“What’s drippin’, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“The bread, stupid,” added Livvie and they giggled.

When it had stopped, or at least was intermittent, I explained, “It’s runny fat from meat.”

“Eeeewww, Yuck,” and pretend vomit sounds came from behind me.

“People used to eat it years ago.”

“I ’spect they ate dinosaurs and rhinosaurs, years ago,” offered Trish.

“What on earth is a rhinosaur?”

“One of those things with a horn on its nose.”

“You mean a rhinoceros?” I corrected.

“Yeah, one of those.”

“I have news for you girls, dinosaurs had largely disappeared before Adam and Eve came on the scene. The rhinos would possibly have been woolly ones.”

“What like sheep?” Trish squealed and they all laughed again. Then there was a contest to see who could make the best rhinoceros baa—I know, it’s too surreal to contemplate, try being stuck in a car with it.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 845

Eventually, I managed to get the girls to bed and Tom read them a story. Simon phoned as I was getting stuff ready to wrap.

“Hi, Babes,” he said “Do you still want me to get a tree at the weekend?”

“Please, then the girls can help you decorate it while I do a few things.”

“You’re better at that sort of thing than I am.”

“Oh no you don’t, you’re going to do it with the girls, like we agreed.”

“Okay, if it’s a mess—it’ll be your fault.”

“As you’ll be in charge, I think it’s your responsibility, so can hardly be my fault.”

“Ah, but you delegated it to me, so you’re the officer in charge.”

“Fine—if it isn’t up to scratch, I’ll have you court-martialled and shot. I have to go, things to do.”

“What, no time to talk to your hubby?”

“I shall talk to my hubby on Saturday and tell him what a brilliant job he’s done of decorating the Christmas tree and keeping the girls happy.”

“Or shoot him?” he added.

“Let’s keep things positive for Christmas, shall we, Darling.”

“I hope that’s me you mean?”

“No I’ve got the Chancellor of the Exchequer here, who else did you think I meant?”

“That Scottish twit?”

“I presume as one, you’d know another one?”

“I hope I’m better than him,” I heard him sigh.

“Simon Darling…”

“You’re addressing both of us now then?”

“Simon, please shut up and go—oh, get a tree with roots, we can put it in the garden afterwards.”

“They always die,” he grumbled.

“Maybe this one won’t.”

“You gonna use your ’fluence with it?”

“Dunno if it works on trees and things.”

“Oh, all right, see ya.”

“Bye Si, I love you——”I said to an empty phone as he’d rung off too quickly.

“Tea?” asked Stella.

“Oh please,” I felt quite tearful.

“What’s the matter with you?”

“Oh, it’s nothing—tiredness, I expect.”

“Who was on the phone?”

“Oh that was nothing.”

“Who was it—Simon?”

“Yes.” Who else? I felt like saying.

“Why is it that I know dozens of couples who live happily together, get married and split up?”

“Stella, you are such a comfort,” I said sarcastically, but it flew over her head or washed off her back because she answered.”

“I try to be, Sis, I do try.”

“Hang on, you were one of the conspirators responsible for getting me married.”

“Yes, so?” she asked. Sometimes I wonder if she can do joined up writing because she fails sometimes with joined up thinking.

“So why did you, if you knew we had a good chance of breaking up?”

“Me?”

“You just said so.”

“When did I say that?” she looked perplexed.

“You just said that you knew people who lived together and then broke up after marriage.”

“Yeah, so what’s that got to do with you?”

Some days I should just stay in bed, it’s safer. “Stella, in case you’d forgotten, Simon and I got married a fortnight ago.”

“Duh! Like I’d forget, I was there—remember, I brought your girls—your bridesmaids.”

Remind me to kill you later. “Yes, I know, now put one and one together…” I explained very slowly my reasoning.

“Don’t be ridiculous, they’re just friends or acquaintances—you’re family, Sis.”

“I wasn’t officially until I married Simon.”

She looked at me as if I was talking in a foreign language, “Oh, I suppose that’s true literally, but we’ve been sisters ever since, well just after you fell off your bike.”

“I didn’t fall off my bike, Stella, I was knocked off it—remember?”

“Goodness, I wonder who did that, I mean I just happened to be passing and saw you lying in the hedge.” She sniggered and spoilt the effect.

“Stella, when you pulled up, I was still airborne—I didn’t land in the hedge until you’d got out of the car.” Something of an exaggeration I know, but I can do it as well as her.

“Okay, I killed a boy and gave birth to a beautiful girl in his place.” I mean what do you say to someone who lives in a parallel universe half the time?

I shook my head, “Hang on, I need to get something from upstairs.” I left her and went up to the bedroom. “Hello, Simon,” I said quietly into the phone.

“Hey, Babes, I thought you were too busy?”

“I’m never too busy to talk with my lover.”

“Shush, your husband’ll hear.”

We chatted for ten minutes or so and this time I was able tell him I loved him. He replied in a like manner.

“Where have you been?” asked Stella, “I made the tea ten minutes ago.”

“I had something to do upstairs.”

“Important, was it?”

“Why?”

“It must have been, you forgot I was making tea.”

“No I didn’t, but I needed to do it then.”

“Do what?” she enquired.

“Ah that’s for me to know and you, young lady, to guess at.” I gave her one of my smuggest grins and she huffed and passed me a mug of tea.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 846

It was Friday, I had frantic shopping to do, the girls were finishing school after lunch and I had all the usual food stuff to do and yet more Christmas shopping. My own fault, increasing the size of my foster brood meant more prezzies were needed and that was all time-consuming—especially when Tom said, here’s some money get the girls something for Christmas, and then Simon more or less did the same.

Asked what they wanted to buy, they had both answered, ‘Oh you know, something they’ll like.’ Why I should know, is something of a mystery to me—I don’t have any more idea than they do, other than I do listen when the girls say things. The thing they seemed to want this year was a swimming pool or a trampoline. I did point out that a swimming pool would cost thousands of pounds which we wouldn’t spend anyway, because it was excessive but a trampoline would be possible although they’d have to share it. The other thing I thought about was a computer or keyboard instrument for each of the older girls and a new bicycle for Mima.

Simon knew someone ‘in computers’ so ordered a laptop for each of the older girls and I organised a new bike for Mima. I got a new iPhone for Simon, and satnav for Tom’s new car. Stella I bought a new MP3 player, which she can plug into her car and Puddin’ would be the new possessor of a computerised mobile to hang over her cot—it projects whatever pictures you load into its memory—to keep her amused. If she’s as bright as my three, I’ll download Lady Chatterley for her to read.

The queues in the supermarkets were ridiculous, so in the end I came home and did an online order to Waitrose and agreed for them to deliver it tomorrow. I’d already spent so much by then that I did a big order and thought I’d worry about it later.

Stella and I had been invited to the school carol service, so we decided we’d go despite my heretical views; I can sing carols as out of tune as the best of them. We thought we’d better dress up for it so I wore a longish skirt in a wool material with some boots, a jumper and a jacket. Stella had trousers and cardigan on under her duffle coat—I told her she looked like Paddington Bear—well she would have with a sou’wester.

The carol service was sweet and they were saved my rendering various carols into sonic ordeals because I didn’t know many of the ones they sang. So we didn’t hark any herald angels or wash shepherd’s socks, let alone the three kings—one in a bus and one in a car, with one on a scooter sounding his hooter. Cor these kids won’t have ever lived until they’ve massacred some carols.

On the way back, Stella and I sang some of the unauthorised ones much to the amusement of the girls sitting on the back seat of my car. What happened to Puddin’, I can hear you ask—we took her with us, well they needed a baby Jesus for the nativity scene… Only joking, we did take her and she slept through the whole thing in Stella’s baby carrier thing—looks like a back to front papoose thingy. She woke for our personal carol service in the car on the way back, probably because of the giggling aliens on the back seat.

Did I tell you they’d asked me to read the lesson—me, a born again agnostic? The headmistress wanted me to be known so that when she announced I was doing the prize day, it wouldn’t be too much of a surprise to other parents. I didn’t really want to do it, but in the end I agreed—I had to, they’d put it in the programme. Hopefully as an infidel, they won’t try and persuade me to become a governor—that would be a step too far, probably for both parties.

I’d nearly forgotten about the reading, until Stella reminded me—I’d read through it weeks ago when I’d been asked—just after the dormouse film, and the governors decided I had a nice speaking voice, although I suspect the headmistress was the real culprit.

It was quite funny because the nursery class were also invited to the carol service and when I walked up to read the lesson, Mima shouted out, ‘Mummy’: it did wonders for my nerves—like shattering them. How I don’t have a nervous twitch, I’ll never know.

The girls were really pleased to have three weeks off—I tried to pretend that as they hadn’t been in school as much as the others, they had to go in on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. They didn’t believe me so the joke was on me.

On the way home my phone peeped for a text message which Stella read for me; I had to do the dormice on Sunday 27 and Monday 28, so I asked for volunteers and had three. I’d better put a gag on Meems when we go, Spike still has white hairs from last time they met.

Back in the house, Stella said to me, “You did that reading really well.”

“Seeing as I don’t believe any of it, maybe I did.”

“It’s a romanticised view of what they believe happened.”

“Why do they still believe it? Only because it absorbed the Mithras stuff, it was all added long after the event and the elevation of Jesus to the godhead. It’s all baloney.”

“Cathy, you’ll be telling me there’s no Santa Claus next?”

“No, he’s real, I saw him in John Lewis.”

“Thank goodness for that, I began to think I wouldn’t get any presents this year.”

“Mummy, can we have pizza again tonight?” Livvie had been sent by her co-conspirators to plead their case.

“What d’ya think?” I asked Stella.

“We don’t have to eat it, do we?”

“No, I’ve done us a casserole in the slow cooker.”

“They could always have a bit of both.”

“I doubt they’d manage both, although Simon loves the things—bloody cardboard food.”

“Oh c’mon, Cathy, some of them are quite good, I’m surprised you don’t make your own.”

“I don’t particularly like them.”

“If you made them yourself, you’d be in charge of what went on them.”

“I’ll think about it, but it doesn’t inspire—I’d rather do pasta than pizza.”

“Fair enough, but tonight they get pizza?” pleaded Stella.

“Okay, but no more before Christmas.”

Simon arrived home as I was dishing up the pizza and he and the girls finished it before I’d finished dishing up the casserole for the grownups! So he and they had some of that too. Stella was quite right, but I’m still not that interested in making them from scratch.

The girls were delighted to have Simon home early and he slipped me the key to his car as he played with them in the lounge. I managed to sneak the two laptops in without them seeing me, and they went up into the attic room wardrobe to be wrapped when the girls were in bed.

I was nicely settling down to my evening when the phone rang. “Can you get that?” I called to Stella.

“It’s Nora Cunningham for you, Cathy.”

I wonder what she wants, I asked myself as I took the phone. I mean the home should have closed by now or at least moved to Wantage—perhaps the Williams F1 team will adopt them. They have a place near there. “Hello, Nora.”

“Hi, Cathy, look I’m terribly sorry to dump on you, but you know you volunteered to have those two kids?”

“Um—yes,” oh bugger, me and my big gob.

“You couldn’t take them for Christmas could you?”

“How long over Christmas?” Pooh, pooh pooh!

“Is two weeks possible?”

“Have they got everything they need clothes wise and so forth?”

“Absolutely.”

“What are they and how old?”

“Two boys—is that okay?”

“Nah, turn ’em into girls and I’ll take ’em—unless you want me to do it?”

“Oh dear, I’m sor…”

“I’m joking, Nora, I’ll take them, how old are they?”

“Nine and ten,” she sighed down the phone.

“I’ll need to get them some presents to unwrap, what do they like?”

“Oh anything, they’ll have stuff from the charity to open.”

“Do they have bikes?”

“No—you can’t give them bikes, Cathy.”

“Watch me—don’t you dare tell them.”

“You are so kind, Cathy.”

“Don’t thank me, I’ll stick ’em on Simon’s bill, he just doesn’t know it yet.” She laughed, thinking I was joking. I wasn’t because I knew Simon had access to a charitable fund through the bank and they’d give us a grant towards it. We then discussed the logistics of her depositing the kids with us: tomorrow looked like the day!

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 847

The rest of the evening was spent in wrapping and hiding presents from their intended recipients, including the two computers in the attic room, which now were placed in my locked wardrobe. A sure giveaway to clever clogs like my girls, but I kept the key in my purse—something which they knew was out-of-bounds to them without permission.

The next morning, instead of shopping, I was preparing the larger of the two attic rooms for our visitors. I put two single beds in there deciding that as they were only temporary, they would be better together. All this took me until midmorning, when I stopped for a well-earned cuppa and a quick rest. Stella had the three girls with her, she was trimming their hair and adding some colour, in Trish’s case, she was colouring her hair quite a lot, to minimise any recognition by her previous housemates. They were told we were having some other children to stay over Christmas but nothing else.

I made up some extra bread and a big pot of chicken and vegetable soup, with noodles and old bike parts to thicken it up. Simon and Tom had gone to get the tree in Tom’s car. The rooms in Tom’s farmhouse are big and high ceilinged, probably about nine or ten feet high compared to seven foot something in today’s rabbit hutches. The tree would need to be about eight feet to have the effect I wanted, and I brought out the decorations from last year plus some new ones I’d recently got—I hoped we had enough. Simon had checked the lights last night and they were working then, but I’m well aware they can give troubles when they feel like it.

Tom would collect the bikes from the shop on Christmas Eve and they’d be locked in the garage, where I hoped I’d have enough time to assemble them, assuming I’d guessed right for their sizes.

Leon had gone with Simon and Tom to collect the tree and he was quite excited by it, they only had a little one at home. After a quick confab with Tom and Simon, I decided to invite his mum and him for Christmas and Boxing Days, which should also mean we wouldn’t be eating turkey for the next fortnight. I called the butcher and changed my order to one about the size of an ostrich.

I’d also put in a large order to Waitrose to deliver me enough vegetables and bread to feed us for a week. Simon would invite Leon, who would have to share with the other boys, and his mum could have the other guest room—I just hoped she would be able to climb the stairs.

The pantry was stuffed full of all sorts of edibles and the double sized fridge seemed full of chocolate, cooked meat and milk. I checked the thing was still working and was relieved it and the two freezers were in good order. I would ask Tom to check the generator was okay as well—in case of power cuts.

I tidied myself up and the girls came waltzing into the bedroom looking very glammed up. Trish was barely recognisable as the little waif who joined us some months ago, and she looked so real as a girl, no one would guess she was anything but a natural one. The other two looked different too, and Livvie, ever the show-woman, had got Stella to use a temporary hair dye and now had bright-pink hair. My eyes probably came out on stalks but I desperately pretended not to notice anything outlandish about her. She was definitely miffed by that, but I knew Simon and Tom would make up for my deficits.

The soup was done, I had a whole new loaf cooling, plus a tray of a dozen rolls baking in the oven—all I needed now was mouths to feed. I checked the table in the dining room: opened out it would seat up to fourteen. We didn’t quite need that, but I anticipated Nora staying as well. I hoped I had enough soup.

I heard wheels in the drive and saw a large Christmas tree driving an estate car. The boys were back. I asked Trish to get ready to open the door for them and to be ready to run the vacuum over the floor after they got the tree in place.

The roots of the tree were wrapped in a plastic bag and bound with tape, I hoped the pot they had would be big enough—Tom and Leon had cleaned it up and rolled it in from the shed earlier, and then half filled it with a mixture of sand and compost.

They brought the tree in as I took the rolls out of the oven, so I closed the kitchen door. Mima could still be heard as could Simon when he saw Livvie’s hair. “Gee-zuz, girl, what happened to your hair? You look like a walking candy-floss.” Fortunately, they all thought that was funny and I could hear them laughing.

They got the tree in place in the corner of the lounge, where the pot stood on a plastic sheet, and fifteen minutes later they had barely finished when Nora arrived. I opened the door to Nora holding the hands of two young boys.

“Lady Cameron, this is Danny and Billy,” she said and I nodded to them, they looked away.

“In you come, lunch is ready, Livvie, could you show Danny and Billy where they could wash their hands.” They followed the pink haired elf, who now had one of those reindeer antler hair bands on as well. It rather clashed with the colour of her hair, but the two boys were open mouthed and probably thought this was the local asylum. It wasn’t of course: we were far too crazy for them.

Trish was still busy with the vacuum so hadn’t seen our two arrivals, until she put the cleaner away as they were coming out of the cloakroom. I saw her expression as she recognised them, but they didn’t seem to know her.

She washed her hands in the kitchen and asked me what the boys were doing with us. I explained that they were the ones we’d been asked to put up over Christmas. I also explained that Leon and his mum were probably staying, and that Pippa and her two boys were coming for dinner on Christmas day, so we’d have a real houseful.

“Why did we have to have those two?” she asked me.

“What difference does it make?”

“They used to bully me.”

“No, they used to bully Patrick, they won’t bully Trish: firstly, because Trish is stronger and cleverer than them, and secondly, there will be a whole pile of adults here to make sure it doesn’t happen.”

“What if they do, Mummy?” she said in a whiny voice so unlike her usual one.

“They won’t even recognise you, you look so different to when you first came to stay with me. All they’ll see is the lovely young lady, who also happens to be my daughter.”

“One day, I will be—properly.” Her eyes filled with tears and it tore at my heart.

“I shall do everything I can to make it so, my Darling. C’mon, dry your hands and let’s go and feed the troops.

At lunch, it became obvious that the two newcomers were afraid of Leon, who being six or so years older, was much bigger, although they didn’t allow it to impair their appetites. They looked at the three girls and appeared not to know any of them. So far so good.

After we cleared up, and I made all the kids help, bringing dishes and cutlery to the kitchen, I announced that they were all going to give Tom and Simon a hand to decorate the tree. The three girls danced around in excitement, while Leon looked a bit bored by the whole idea. However, he would be the one who would be expected to go up the stepladder to arrange the lights and put the fairy on the top.

Nora and I discussed contingencies in case it didn’t work, and I put the emergency number on my cell phone. She gave me the papers with some background on both of them—“Danny has been abused, so he can be a bit awkward.”

“Okay, I’ll try and keep an eye on him. Was he the one who picked on Patrick?”

“Amongst others, but he doesn’t seem to recognise Trish, mind you I hardly did after her hair colouring. That was clever, but, your other girl—that’s a bit OTT isn’t it?”

“Livvie loves to shock, mind you Trish is a past master at it too. However, if we’d done Trish in the pink, she’d have been more visible and therefore more potentially identifiable.”

“No, do you remember when she told me that she never went to my home, that was Patrick, she’s someone different—I believe she really is, she has come on so well since she’s been with you.”

“I told you I’ve started adoption procedures with all three of them?”

“Yes, how’s it going?”

“I’ve heard nothing recently, but I don’t expect to before Christmas.”

“It would have made a lovely Christmas present for all of you.”

“It would indeed, but I’d rather not rush things and get it right first time.”

“If I can help, you know as a professional reference, just let me know.”

“That would be brilliant, Nora, any chance of a letter?”

“I can only do one for Trish, but I hope it will help give a good impression of who you are and how well you’ve looked after her. I must go, Merry Christmas, Cathy.” We hugged and she left after unloading her car of the cases and presents the boys brought with them.

“You were joking about bikes, weren’t you?” she said as she got in her car.

“No, they’ll be here on Christmas Eve, Giants I think.”

“I hope they don’t give you any trouble.”

“I’ve got the emergency social services number if we can’t resolve it. When will you collect them?”

“Does January the fourth sound okay?”

“I suppose so.” She nodded and drove off.

It was too late to go shopping now, so I thought I’d go and watch them messing with the tree and make drinks and mince pies for them. What do I get myself into, with my big mouth.”

Simon came out to see where I was. He picked up the cases and took them indoors. “Right, they can carry these up to their room by themselves. Danny, Billy take these up to your room. Trish, show them where it is will you?”

I was about to suggest I showed them, but Trish sighed and led them up the stairs. “Danny has a history of abuse and can be awkward,” I said quietly to Simon.

“If he gets awkward here, he’s out. I’ll go up and make him aware of that,” Simon hissed back through his teeth.

“He also bullied Patrick.”

“He’d better not try it here, or I’ll make him wish he hadn’t started.” Simon turned to go up the stairs.

“I don’t think he will.” I hoped my confidence wasn’t misplaced.

“Hmm we’ll see,” said Simon as he trotted up the stairs after them.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 848

I sneaked upstairs and listened while Simon read the riot act. “Right you two boys, I hope you’re going to have a good time staying with us, I know Lady Catherine has got you some nice things for Christmas—there were murmurs of approval for that—now you two are bigger than my three girls, I don’t want to hear any throwing your weight around or bullying them—got it?”

“What do we call you, Lord Cameron?” asked Danny, I think, I couldn’t actually see them.

“You okay with Uncle Simon, and my wife as Auntie Cathy—it’s less of a mouthful, isn’t it?

“Right there’s a wardrobe for your clothes and a chest of drawers if you need them. The bathroom is across the way, it has a shower in it, so I expect you to be clean. The kitchen is absolutely full of food, but please ask before you take anything, Cathy might have planned a use for it. Oh put your washing in the basket in the bathroom—if it isn’t in there, it won’t get washed. I expect you in bed by nine at the latest—the girls go earlier, but we read them a story every night.”

I heard laughing at that. “What’s so funny—they like it and so do we.”

“It’s a bit babyish,” commented Billy.

“They’re girls, they’re different to boys and it isn’t babyish at all, it allows us to spend some time with them, which we all enjoy. Right then, one last thing, if you want to leave the house or garden, let one of us know—we need to know where you are, oh and if you break anything or do anything stupid—tell us, if we find out the hard way, there’ll be hell to pay, and it could mean we call the duty social worker—that means a home wherever they can fit you in—you’ll probably be split up and I know the food will be better here. You’ll miss out on your Christmas presents too.

“Trish, go and tell your mother, we’ll be down in a moment to finish the tree.” Trish came out of the room and as she saw me I put my finger to my lips and sent her downstairs.

“Uncle Simon, is Trish really your daughter?”

“Of course she is, why?”

“She reminds me of someone who used to live at the home.”

“That young lady has never lived in a children’s home,” Simon stated this quite categorically, even though it was a fib.

“Okay, I must be wrong then.”

“I should think so,” Simon pooh-poohed the suggestion with bluster.

“I wish you were my dad,” said Billy, which I knew would make Simon’s day. “I’d like to have a rich dad, who was a lord or king or something.”

“It brings its own responsibilities, young man.”

“Yeah, but it must be cool to be a king or a lord.”

“It can help with making restaurant reservations, that’s about all—do you have problems making them now?” Simon was taking the piss.

“No, I don’t—I just tell ’em I’m a king.”

“Isn’t that an untruth?” asked Simon, who’d just blatantly told one or two porkies of his own.

“No I am a king, Billy King—see?”

Simon was going to have to watch these two. I wandered into the room as if I’d just come up the stairs. “Okay boys, have you settled in, yet?”

“We’re just doin’ that, Auntie Cathy,” answered Danny.

“Simon has explained everything?” They both nodded.

“Right then, Billy King and Danny Maiden, welcome to our home, I hope your Christmas is going to be memorable for its enjoyment. It’s only you who will spoil it.”

“Here,” said Simon, “if Billy is a king, is Danny a maiden—in which case shouldn’t he be with the girls?” I’m sure Danny was sick of hearing that one.

“I ain’t no girl—like that woofter we had back at the ’ome, Patrick call me Patricia, now he was a girl if ever there was one. I’m all boy, I am.”

“Yes dear, we can see that, Simon was only joking, and it means we won’t have to suffer the joke again, doesn’t it, Darling?” I said pointedly to Simon. I didn’t want reminders about Trish flagged up in his mind, which is twisted enough already if the reports were accurate. This kid had a few problems.

Simon blushed and shrugged his shoulders, “I guess not. C’mon, kids, let’s go and do the tree.”

“Can you send Trish up to the bedroom, Darling?” I asked Simon as they went down. He nodded as he led the boys down the stairs.

I waited for Trish in my bedroom; when she came in, I shut the door. “Have I done something wrong, Mummy?”

“No, Sweetheart, I just don’t want us disturbed. Danny thinks he recognised you.”

“Oh great,” her lip puckered and she wasn’t far from tears.

“It’s okay, Simon told him you had never been in a home and that you were our daughter. I hope that means an end to the matter, so just deny it if he says anything and get the girls to support you. I’ll try and speak to Meems, just in case she doesn’t understand.”

“What if he grabs me by my winkie?”

“That is a matter for getting rid of him—that would constitute a serious assault. I know he’s got problems, but I don’t want you provoking anything like that, because I suspect you’re cleverer than him—girls usually are. I also want him to go away—I mean I want both the boys to leave here feeling that they enjoyed themselves in a positive way. You live here with your sisters, I hope you’ll be pleasant to our guests.”

“He was horrid to me.”

“No, Trish, he was horrid to Patrick, because he didn’t understand. We’ve done away with the ambiguity.”

“What’s biguity, Mummy?”

“Ambiguity is where something or someone could be something else, so they aren’t clearly what you originally thought they were. That upsets some people, he thought you were a boy because that’s what he’d been told—you declared you were a girl, although you still looked the same. So he was confused. I hope we’ve removed any doubt as to who and what you are.”

“If he sees my name on anything, he’s going to know isn’t he?”

“Like your school stuff—damn I’d forgotten about that. Lock it all in the bedroom, you shouldn’t actually need anything before school anyway.”

“Okay, Mummy.”

“If he does guess, we’ll have to deal with it, won’t we?”

“I hope he doesn’t, Mummy.”

“We’ll cope, Darling, won’t we, whatever happens.”

“I hope so, Mummy.”

“We will, Sweetheart, we have love in this house, that’ll get us through anything.”

I opened my arms and she threw herself into them and sobbed and I held her tightly and cooed to her. “Life is going to do this to us every now and again, you know.”

“Why, Mummy, it’s so unfair—I’m not hurting anyone.”

“I’m afraid it does when you’re a bit different, but we’re all here to help you deal with it, we all love you very much.”

“I love you too, Mummy.” We hugged again, then after pausing to think, she asked, “Have people been unkind to you, Mummy?”

“Oh yes, Sweetheart, and sometimes they were people who should have known better.”

“What do you mean, Mummy?”

“I mean they were people I thought I could trust and they betrayed that trust.”

“Does that mean, I can’t trust anyone, ever?”

“No Darling, but it means you have to think carefully when you make friends, about what you tell people. Hopefully, by then, you’ll appear to be a normal girl in all but one place and that we’ll sort as soon as we can, but it won’t be for several years yet, Trish.”

“I know, Mummy—I wish I was a girl like you.”

“You are, Sweetheart, you are.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 849

At dinner, I watched Trish push her food around the plate rather than eat it. I was beginning to think this was a huge mistake, my taking in the two boys; after all my first responsibility was to the three girls. Tom was sitting next to her and he put his arm around her and hugged her—but she asked to be excused and left the table.

The two boys just ate everything in sight and after finishing thanked me for such a ‘super’ meal. I wondered if they were normally so polite, but my best source was absent: she’d gone up her room and shut the door, something we rarely did, but with such potentially dangerous strangers in the house, perfectly understandable. Stella and I had also locked away our jewellery—okay, that could be seen as over caution, or as I preferred to see it—reducing temptation.

I cleared up the after-dinner mess, with help from Livvie and Tom. I sent Livvie up to be with her sister. Meems was with Simon who was still messing with the tree. I noticed after Leon went, the two boys became more relaxed.

It was interesting that when they were decorating the tree, Leon seemed very attentive to ideas from Trish and Livvie and the two boys seemed to almost shrink away from him. I suppose it’s all about male dominance roles and hierarchies, with Simon clearly the top male, then Tom and Leon with the two boys at the bottom.

As I cleared the dishes to put in the washer, I thought about the women—it was different there, I was I suppose, the matriarch—it was after all Tom’s house and he had unofficially declared me his daughter, so I was effectively the daughter of the house. I also took responsibility for most of the day-to-day running of the house, while Stella helped, she spent much of her time looking after her own baby. I had no problem with that: babies are very time-consuming. Stella tended to play second fiddle to me, but could step into the breach in my absence and had done so.

Of the girls, Trish seemed to be the dominant one although Livvie would challenge this occasionally, and yet Mima had been with me the longest. Being a bit younger than the other two, she tended to be overshadowed by them much of the time. She was enjoying nursery as far as I could tell although her speech seemed much as before.

I checked on what the boys were doing. Simon was checking for a faulty bulb on the Christmas lights and they were helping him. They seemed to be gelling quite well. Maybe my fears were groundless and Trish was oversensitive—time would tell.

I went up to the girl’s bedroom. Trish and Livvie were lying on Trish’s bed reading, both were lying on their tummies with heads propped on hands while resting on their elbows—oh to be so young and supple again.

“Are you okay?”

“Yes thank you, Mummy,” answered Livvie.

“Trish?” I asked sharply.

“I’m okay.” She practically ignored me.

“Right, I’ll go then.” I turned to go out of the door and Trish looked up at me. I hesitated and I thought she was on the verge of saying something but she didn’t, so I left. If she had issues, she needed to come to me, I’d gone to her. I know Livvie was with her but that shouldn’t have been a problem, we could have gone to my room and spoken or she might have included Livvie in her confidence. She did none of these, so I left.

Downstairs, Simon had fixed the lights to much cheering by the boys and Mima. Tom even came out of his study to see what the noise was about. I could smell the scent of whisky on his breath, so I knew what he was doing—at near enough seventy, he was old enough to make his decisions.

An hour later, I put the girls to bed and read them a story—a Gaby one about a bike race in the Isle of Man—they seemed to enjoy it, even if the whole concept was preposterous.

Back downstairs and Stella and I had a cuppa while Simon started to teach the two boys how to play chess. I found it astonishing they didn’t already know how to play, then realised, I was about eight when I learned the basic moves. I was tempted to offer to get the other chess set out so both could play at the same time—but I felt quite stressed enough without adding to it by being beaten by a nine or ten year old.

Grandmaster Cameron won convincingly in both games

Both boys wanted me to play them, but I was too tired and stressed and I made them go to bed. Simon supervised them and I checked afterwards that they had everything. It seemed they did and they thanked me for a nice day. They’d had to have been conditioned to do that—these were feral kids, so manners seemed incongruous—didn’t they? Perhaps they were strict on boys at the home and this was its legacy—if so, I’d certainly seen worse.

Twenty minutes after bed it was lights out and I sent Simon to enforce the rule, he grumbled about his knees and the stairs. I took no notice, retired early myself and woke up at six the next morning—everything was white, we’d had several inches of snow. It possibly explained my lord and master’s knee pain the previous night.

I got out of bed and looked out the window. It was going to be too dangerous for Simon to try and get to work—I hoped, then we could take them all skiing or sledging.

The girls blasted into the bedroom before the radio had come on—they might have heard us talking. They were clearly excited and wanted to get out into the snow. Simon seemed enthused with showing me how good he was on skis, until I pointed out his weren’t with us. I didn’t tell him Tom had some—well, that’s for him to find out the same way I did.

At breakfast the boys, who’d brought skateboards with them, wanted to get out and play in the snow, albeit not on skateboards. They seemed to be surprised that (a) we had a castle in Scotland and (b) we didn’t seem to have any skis.

“I’ll bet you’re just windin’ us up,” said Danny to Trish.

“No we’re not are we, Mummy?”

“Not what, Sweetheart?”

“Windin’ up the boys.”

“I don’t know, Sweetheart, I wasn’t listening, I was talking with Gramps.”

“Oh,” she said.

“See, I knew she was lyin’,” Danny was triumphant.

“Lying about what, Danny?”

“’Avin’ a castle.”

“We do have a castle, or rather the Cameron family has one—would you like to see it?”

“Oh yeah, that’d be great.”

I asked Simon to show them his brochure for the ancient monument and I didn’t mean Tom or Henry.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 850

“Hey it’s true, you do have a flippin’ castle, can we go and see it?” Danny seemed suddenly impressed.

“I’m afraid not,” answered Simon, “we’d never get up there in this weather, besides, the staff have to make it ready for us.”

“What does that mean?” asked Danny, still enthused with the idea of going to a castle.

“It means that several of the rooms which we would use are sealed up during the winter and they take days to air out and heat—it’s a big old place and it gets quite cold in the winter.”

“Kewl,” said Danny.

“I think it’s colder than that,” said Simon oblivious to teen speak.

“It’s also up in Scotland,” added Trish.

“Yeah, well that ain’t far is it, I mean it’s still in England, innit?”

“No you nit wit,” said Trish loudly, “Scotland is a different country to England, everyone knows that.”

Danny blushed and glowered looking to someone to say she was lying again, which she hadn’t done.

“I’m afraid Trish is correct, Danny,” I spoke to try and defuse things, “and she knows because she’s been there. We stayed there in the summer.” A cold chill ran through my whole body as I recalled the occasion and the fact that we nearly all died.

“Did they fight battles there an’ things?” asked Billy.

“Oh yes, until quite recent times, I believe.”

“Cor, what wiv swords and shields an’ fings?”

“In the olden days yes, but in more recent times it would have been with guns.”

“What, cannons and fings?”

“And things, yes.” Like automatic weapons and shotguns. I shivered. “Look are we going to go and play in the snow before it all disappears?” I deftly changed the subject.

The answer was a pretty unanimous agreement, so I made them all help with the clearing up of the breakfast things. Then I sent the girls off to dress for the weather before looking at what clothes the boys had available. They didn’t really have much for keeping out the wet and were too big to borrow from the girls and too small to borrow from Simon or even me.

I sat them on the bed. “You are both going to get cold very quickly as soon as the wet goes through your jeans and jackets. As soon as you start to feel cold, you must say and we’ll come home, okay?”

They both agreed, I still wasn’t happy, but they did have a change of clothing for when we came back, so they’d soon warm up. I went to check the girls and they had their ski jackets and pants on with waterproof gloves and hats. Their wellies would keep their feet dry but not very warm.

I offered my spare gaiters to Danny, but they were too big—I was wearing walking boots and gaiters rather than wellingtons. My wellingtons were the right size for Danny, but not my green Hunters, they were too big, even with thick socks, so he had to borrow my pink flowery ones, which made Trish snigger. Billy managed to get into Stella’s yellow butterfly ones, which again made the girls snigger. My cold stare cut it short.

I was still worried the boys were going to get cold, but they insisted they were okay. So, while Simon got the two sledges out of the garage, I made up some flasks of hot chocolate and packed some biscuits as well. A small first aid kit completed the rucksack and I strapped it closed. I checked we had a mobile phone with us and we set off. Boy it was cold.

The sun came out for a bit and warmed us a little as we walked to the nearest suitable slope, about a mile away. Simon took the ruckie, I carried the phone, the boys pulled the sledges and Meems and Trish held my hands while Livvie walked holding Simon’s hand. It was treacherous under foot and within a hundred paces, Meems had slipped and only holding onto me stopped her going down.

Of course the boys were trying to slide on the sledges on the slightest slope—they had very little idea. In their hooded fleeces with girl’s wellies, they looked like girls and that amused Trish no end. I tried to caution her against laughing too much, as it would raise the subject in the boy’s minds too, and that wasn’t desirable. It would also create an us and them climate beyond one we already had, plus the boys would be looking for revenge if the girls made them look silly.

Half an hour’s difficult walking got us to the field with the slope and we let the boys have the first go on the toboggans. They were very reluctant to let the girls have a go, but I insisted and Simon growled at them, so they got off quite quickly.

I took a few photos of all of them sledging down the hill, with my little camera, and Trish took one of Simon and I standing in the snow. She also got one of Simon kissing me, although I’m so wrapped up in hats and scarves, you can’t really see who it is.

The boys became thoroughly soaked, their fleeces not being designed for lying in the snow, when they made angels: you lie in the snow on your back and move your arms up towards your head and then down towards your legs. I think they look more like giant moths, but what do I know?

When the snowball fight started, I withdrew with the girls to a safe distance and watched Simon and the two boys battle it out with a group of other boys. For some reason one of the other group threw one at us and it was on track for Mima until I stepped forward and intercepted it—it hit me on the bum.

One of the other group tried to sneak up on us, by walking under some fir trees. He threw and retreated under the trees. Even I can hit a tree, so I let fly with two snowballs in quick succession which went over his head and he laughed, until the avalanche of snow from the disturbed branches hit him. He was almost buried. The girls laughed themselves silly.

We left the boys to it, and started to walk home with our sledges. In fact, Mima, who hadn’t had a ride down the hill—she’s a bit too small for it—sat on the sledge and I pulled her home. She kept saying ‘mush’ which I believe is a corruption of the French, marche.

Livvie and Trish took over as dog team and they ran off pulling the sledge with them with Mima giggling until they hit a hard lump and she fell off—I spent the next ten minutes comforting her before we could go on and she walked holding my hand again.

Back home, I’d just stripped the girls off and shoved all their stuff in the washing machine, when the phone rang. “Hi, Babes, we have a situation.”

“What’s happening Simon?”

“Some nice little swine in the other team shoved a stone inside a snowball and it hit Danny in the face.”

“Is he all right?” My stomach flipped over.

“The paramedics are looking at him now. They want him to go to hospital.”

“What happened?”

“It hit him in the eye.”

“Oh shit, do we have to notify anyone?” I would have to look at the forms we had with them.

“I dunno, but the police are talking to the little shite, who I think did it.”

“I don’t believe this, Simon, they’ve only been with us a day or so.”

“I know—I gotta go, talk to ya later.”

“What’s happened?” asked Stella.

“Danny’s been hit in the eye by a snowball with a rock in it.”

“Not nice,” she said.

“No, very not nice,” I agreed and she nodded. While we’d probably agree it couldn’t happen to a nicer person, why did it have to happen on our watch? Oh boy, my luck is continuing to hold—and most of it is as bad as the weather.

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