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Find-Outers Head Westwardby Julie Heginbotham
A note from Julie: The Carbis Bay Hotel is situated in the stunning surroundings of Carbis Bay, where I have had the pleasure of staying on a couple of occasions, and have sampled their delicious cream teas on many an afternoon. I would like to express my thanks to Mr. Stephen Baker for allowing me to use the Hotel in this story.
"I hope Buster will be okay staying here with Thomas and Sheila, Fatty," said Bets, fondling the dog's ears. "I hate to leave him behind really, I'm sure he'll miss us terribly."
"He'll be fine, Bets. Stop worrying. This is his home, and he knows Thomas and Sheila – they'll spoil him just as much as we do."
Bets nodded. "You're right, he'd much rather stay in his own home than in a boarding kennel. I just wish the hotel took dogs."
"If you're worried, we can always cancel." Fatty looked at Bets over the newspaper he was reading. The break they intended to take was only five days, but if Bets was going to worry about Buster the whole time, then it seemed hardly worthwhile going.
"I'd like to go," she returned, with a smile at Fatty. "I feel guilty about leaving Buster, that's all. As you say, Thomas and Sheila are more than capable of taking good care of him. And Daisy is so taken with the hotel. She says that it occupies a dramatic waterfront location, and has direct access to its own blue flag beach. I can hardly wait until we all go down to Cornwall and join her and Paul."
"I wouldn't have thought she'd want us all down with her, whilst she's suppose to be on her honeymoon," said Fatty, with a grin, folding up the newspaper he'd finished reading.
Bets smiled. "It was a lovely wedding service though, wasn't it, Fatty? Daisy looked so lovely and so happy. I've no doubt at all that she made the right decision. Paul's a lovely man and simply adores her."
Fatty nodded. "Yes, he does seem a pleasant chap. So much like Roger. I'm glad Daisy took the opportunity for happiness. Larry and Helen are pleased too. Pity Helen had to fly out to Australia to be with her sister a few days later though, at least it means that Larry can come down to Cornwall with us."
"And Pip," added Bets. "I don't think he was too pleased that Mary's gone with Helen, but they did ask him to go with them."
"It has been planned for some time. It's not as though they've suddenly sprung it on him. It was pretty obvious he wouldn't care to go as he isn't fond of flying. At least Mary can visit her own relations out there."
"That's what finally made up her mind to go. She's not seen her cousins for over twenty years." Bets rose from the settee and picked up the tea tray to take into the kitchen. "I hope Thomas and Sheila arrive on time tomorrow morning. The coach leaves at nine-thirty from outside the town hall."
"They'll be here on time, stop worrying," Fatty shot back, as she left the lounge carrying the tray into the kitchen.
"Best ring him, Fatty, just to make sure," Bets called from the kitchen.
"I'll do it later." Fatty picked up his second morning paper and started to quickly browse through it, stopping at a page with a heading that instantly caught his eye. He started to read the article and became quite engrossed, not even noticing when Bets came back into the room.
She glanced at his serious expression whilst he read. "Something interesting?" she enquired.
Fatty glanced up, looking concerned. "Can you remember about twenty years ago, Bets. I was working on a case where gold bullion was stolen from a security van and most of the gang got away. The gold was never recovered, but there was something odd about the case, it was taken out of our hands by Scotland Yard and the next I knew was mysteriously taken out of their hands. If I remember rightly, one of the gang turned queen's evidence?"
Bets looked at Fatty in silent contemplation. "Vaguely, yes," she nodded. "Why?"
"It appears one of the gang member's has escaped whilst in transportation. Come to think of it, he also escaped about four years ago, but was caught a few days later."
"I'm sure he's no threat to you, Fatty."
"No, but it just had me thinking about that particular case," said Fatty, picking up the newspaper to carry on reading.
"It was obviously a planned escape," said Bets, matter-of-factly, beginning to put Buster on his lead. The dog's tail wagged ten to the dozen in excitement thinking of his walk. "Come on, Fatty, you can read the paper later. Buster needs his morning walk, and I've got all the packing to do."
Fatty discarded his morning paper and rose from the chair. "Come on then, old chap, a nice walk along the river for you this morning, where hopefully, it will be a little cooler." He looked at Bets with a smile. "It's only ten thirty, but the sun's baking hot already."
Bets nodded. "Reminds me of the hot summers we used to have as children, Fatty. We'd all be sat around in one of our gardens, hoping for a mystery to solve."
Fatty smiled at the memory. "Happy times, weren't they Bets? If only one could turn back the clock."
* * *
"There's Pip and Larry," said Bets, as they walked over to the town hall. "I was hoping they wouldn't be late."
Pip and Larry greeted Fatty and Bets as they approached. "It's going to be a lovely five days if this weather holds out," said Larry. "Daisy certainly chose the right month to wed Paul."
"Her quick decision was certainly surprising," Pip said, with a grin.
"That's all thanks to William Goon, terrorizing us all like that in May," said Bets, in angry tones. "He gave us all one heck of a shock, and I think that's what finally made Daisy's mind up. Life is too short to hang about and we don't know what's round the next corner."
"Yes, she certainly didn't hang about," returned Larry, with a grin. "Just eight weeks exactly after that terrifying Sunday, and now she's on her honeymoon, waiting for we gate-crashers to invade her privacy."
"I suppose we should all be grateful that she chose to get married before Helen and Mary's planned trip to Australia." said Fatty. "At least they didn't miss the wedding."
Everyone nodded. "Here's the coach," smiled Bets. "I'm so glad we were able to get these seats. You'll be able to sit back and relax, Fatty, as it is quite a drive down to Cornwall."
"I really don't mind driving," said Fatty, "In fact I'd prefer it than sitting on a coach full of elderly people."
The others laughed at Fatty's expression. "Unfortunately, we are now one of those elderly people," Pip pointed out with a raised brow.
"Thanks for reminding me," said Fatty, wryly, just as the coach pulled up and the automatic doors opened. A young woman with a pale blue uniform stepped out and welcomed them aboard, whilst the driver dealt with their luggage.
Sitting back in the comfortable seat, Bets smiled at Fatty. "I'm really looking forward to this break. It's years since we've been down to Cornwall."
"Did you bring any sandwiches?" asked Pip, leaning forwards and peering over the seat where Bets and Fatty sat.
"Yes, I knew you wouldn't think about bringing any," said Bets, glancing behind her at Pip.
"Nice one, Bets," he said, with a smile, before sitting back in his seat and grinning at Larry.
"You could have saved yourself a job this morning," said Fatty, glancing at her. "We could have bought something to eat here on the coach."
"I know, but I prefer to make my own," said Bets.
Fatty grinned at her, lightly shaking his head before opening his paper.
* * *
"Carbis Bay," said Bets, reading the sign they'd just past. "We're here, Fatty. Don't the flowers look wonderful?"
"Lovely," said Fatty, with a smile, as the coach turned right into Headlands Road, that lead downwards towards the sea.
"Hey, what a view," remarked Pip, leaning forwards speaking to Fatty and Bets, as the road started the steep decline. "The sea is a glorious colour. How inviting. And just look at St. Ives in the distance."
"I'm going to enjoy these next few days," said Larry, feeling just as excited as Pip.
The coach gently made its way over the railway bridge and drove further down the hill before turning left into the car park of the Carbis Bay Hotel.
"It looks really lovely," said Bets, looking out from the window. "Daisy says it was built in 1894. And look at the size of that conservatory. It's gorgeous."
Everyone started to alight from the coach, whilst the driver began to pull out everyone's luggage.
Once they'd collected their own cases, Fatty, Bets, Larry and Pip, made their way across the car park and through the opened patio doors, coming to rest by the reception desk, where a friendly young woman booked them in and handed over three keys, pointing them in the direction of the stairs and up to the first floor.
Bets and Fatty had a lovely room with a balcony that not only looked out over the bay, with views to St. Ives and Godrevy lighthouse, but you could look down through the glass roof of the huge conservatory that affronted the hotel.
"This is a lovely room, Fatty, and have you seen the en-suite? Sheer luxury," said Bets, beginning to open their case and unpack. "I wonder what sort of room the others have got. We'll have to go and see. They're only further along the corridor."
Fatty was stretching out trying the soft comfortable bed. "We can sleep with the French door open tonight, dear, and let the sounds of the sea send us off to sleep."
"Well, it's certainly hot enough to leave the door open, Fatty. In fact, that's what we'll do; it'll be nice listening to the sounds of the surf."
"Leave the unpacking until later, Bets. We'll go and have a cream tea in the conservatory and track down Daisy."
"She could be out," said Bets, hanging a few items of clothing in the wardrobe.
"She'll be waiting for us in the conservatory at 4pm," came Fatty's surprising answer, showing Bets a folded letter which had been handed to him when he signed them both in.
Bets took the letter and read it.
Hope you all had a good journey down. Meet me at 4pm in the conservatory for tea. Daisy.
"You never mentioned this," Bets pointed the letter at him, with a raised brow. "We'd better go and tell Pip and Larry and they can join us."
With the packing complete, and the time only 3.50pm, Bets and Fatty left their room and walked along the corridor looking for room numbers 20 and 21. "Here they are," said Fatty, stopping outside number 20. You knock on 21".
Pip answered Fatty's knock and Larry answered Bets. They were both ready to join them in the conservatory for tea, and so they all made their way down the red carpeted staircase with its half turn, and walked along the ground floor corridor, with its marbled floor and turned into the conservatory, opposite the bar.
Looking around amongst the wicker furniture and potted palms, they spotted Daisy over in the corner, sitting on a brown leather settee, looking over to them and waving her hand.
She stood as they approached and kissed everyone. "Lovely to see you, Daisy," smiled Bets, sitting next to her. "Where's Paul?"
"He'll see us at dinner," came Daisy's reply. "We've had a lovely walk into St. Ives today along the coastal path and it's quite a trek when you head back, especially in this heat, so he's having a lie down."
Fatty sat himself next to Bets, whilst Larry and Pip sat on the leather settee opposite, a low glass table between them all.
"You have to order over at the bar," Daisy informed them, as Larry looked around for a waiter.
"Right, is it a cream tea for five then?" asked Larry, standing and looking at everyone.
With a chorus of nods and yeses, Larry made his way from the conservatory to order their tea.
"You were right about this hotel, Daisy," began Bets, "it's lovely. The view from our balcony is marvellous." Bets looked out of the windows, looking across the Hotel gardens, to the same glorious view of St. Ives to the left of her and Godrevy lighthouse to the right.
"We've got the same view," said Daisy, with a smile, "but we're on the second floor. Our room is that one." Daisy pointed up through the glass conservatory roof and everyone looked up to where she pointed. Larry just returning wondered what they were all looking at and asked.
"We're just below you then," said Fatty. "Hope you don't keep us awake, all night long." He gave a wicked wry laugh and the others grinned at his implications.
"Behave yourself," Bets chided, with an embarrassed smile, giving him a dig with her elbow.
"At our age a comfy bed is for sleeping in," said Larry, with a nonchalant shrug.
Daisy grinned, good-naturedly, looking at her brother. "I may have snow on my roof, but I've still got a fire in my grate."
Everyone laughed. "Good for you, Daisy," said Fatty.
"Well, married life seems to suit you," said Pip, smiling at Daisy. "I've never seen you looking so happy and radiant."
Everyone agreed and Larry, in his usual dry tones, said. "Wait till the honeymoon period is over, sister dear. You'll be nagging him over the slightest thing, poor chap."
Daisy shot her brother a knowing smile and said. "And how are you coping without Helen? We all know you're useless without her." Daisy's brow rose, waiting for the reply.
"I'm staying with Larry at the moment, as both our wives are in the land down under," Pip informed them all. "It made sense really, both on our own." He left the words in the air and Larry just smiled around at everyone.
"I thought as much," said Daisy. "You're hopeless on your own." She looked at Pip. "Don't let him have you doing everything. Bets was running around like a scolded cock when he stayed with them last year."
"He wasn't that bad," said Bets, good naturedly, coming to Larry's defence, even though she knew deep down Daisy was right. Thankfully she saw two waiters approaching with their tea. "Cream tea, everyone."
The trays were accepted with thanks, and 'oh, doesn't that look nice, look at all the cream'.
Over their tea, Daisy told the others where to find the outdoor heated pool and the forms they could sit on around the garden. The hotel gardener passed by the window just as Daisy was talking about the garden and glanced at them all, then quickly turned away as they watched him pass.
"I've found him looking across at me on a number of occasions," began Daisy, "and every time I've looked over to him, he's quickly looked away."
"Maybe he's shy," said Larry.
"Or fancies you," said Fatty, with a raised brow. "Trouble is, with all that facial hair he's got it's hard to see exactly what he looks like."
"He must be awfully hot, in this heat," said Bets. "Wouldn't you think he'd keep himself clean shaven to keep cool?"
"He reminds me of Fatty in disguise," said Pip, with a grin.
Everyone laughed, and that of course led to the Find-Outers reminiscing over the many disguises that Fatty had changed into to help them solve their many childhood mysteries.
* * *
After tea they arranged to meet at 7pm in the lounge area so they could all dine together in the large dining room, which also had wonderful sea views, as well as a lovely side view that looked out onto the large patio that housed the outdoor pool.
Paul was happy to meet up with everyone once more, and bought a round of drinks before they made their way into the dining room. They chose a table for six in the far corner, which not only overlooked the sea but also the pool, which was lit up with glowing lights.
Their evening meal was as good as they thought it would be, and after everyone had managed to get through the dessert they retired to the conservatory, where coffee or tea was being served. Bets' face lit up with pleasure as she looked around her and saw the lit candles on the tables and all around the window sills, and along the ceiling of glass, fairy lights glowed with warm colours. They sat in the corner on the leather settees where they'd enjoyed a cream tea that afternoon.
"So what is everyone planning for tomorrow?" asked Paul, glancing at them.
"Pip and I are going for a walk into St. Ives by the coastal path," said Larry. "Then if we get too tired for the walk back, we can take the train that follows the coast to its final destination at St. Erth."
"That's a lovely trip to St. Erth," said Paul, with a smile. "Daisy and I took the train to Penzance a couple of days ago. You catch the main line train, from St. Erth."
Daisy was nodding at Larry. "You and Pip should go on the train, just for the fun of seeing the coastline it follows."
"We could do," said Pip, looking at Larry. "We've got all day."
"What about you and Fatty, Bets?" asked Daisy. "Have you anything planned?"
Bets looked at Fatty. "Not really, I think we'll just take it easy, maybe go for walk on the beach then sit around the garden."
"I was just telling everyone how the gardener keeps looking over in our direction," said Daisy, to Paul, suddenly remembering.
Paul's expression seemed to alter slightly, just for a split second, Fatty noted, before he said. "I don't think there's any harm in him, Daisy."
"Well if he looks our way tomorrow, I'll get into conversation with him," said Fatty, looking straight at Paul, with a knowing smile.
Paul nodded silently. "He probably doesn't get to talk too many of the guests, Frederick. Who knows, he may enjoy the chat."
After they had coffee, Fatty, Larry and Pip went over to the bar where they ordered a round of drinks for everyone. Standing, Paul said, "Excuse me ladies, nature calls," and headed over to the gents.
Bets turned to Daisy. "I have to say, Paul is a lovely man, Daisy. You look well suited together."
Daisy smiled at Bets. "He's a lovely person, I'm lucky we met. We just talk and talk. He even talks about his late wife. She must have been a lovely woman, by all accounts."
"You don't mind?"
"Not at all. That's a part of his life before he met me. The mother of his children. He'll never forget her, and I wouldn't want him too."
Bets smiled. That was so like Daisy.
"Funnily enough, I had a dream about Roger, last night," said Daisy, in quiet tones, so as not to be overheard by the other guests. "It was as though I was re-living the moment I went to the hospital and they told me he'd died in the ambulance. I was back there again, looking at his body, and I kissed him, goodbye. Can you remember me telling you about it, Bets?"
Bets thought back to that dreadful time in 1961. "I remember," she nodded, with a small smile.
"As I was about to leave I thought I saw Roger, over by the far door, and when I wiped my tears, he was gone."
Bets nodded again, remembering how Daisy had explained all this to her. She'd told Daisy that was probably Roger saying goodbye.
"How strange that I should re-live that experience again, in my dreams," said Daisy, in soft tones.
"You're bound to think of Roger," Bets assured her. "Paul is his twin. Who knows, they could even have been identical."
Daisy nodded silently, just as the men all came back together, Fatty carrying a tray of drinks. Paul handed Daisy her sherry with a warm loving smile that the others didn't miss.
"A toast I think," began Fatty, looking at them both, "to Paul and Daisy."
"Paul and Daisy," came the chorus.
The couple looked at each other with happy smiling faces, and Paul planted a kiss on her lips.
* * *
In the stillness of the night, the only sounds that Fatty could hear was the sound of the surf through the opened french door. The moonlight was shining slightly into the bedroom. It was a very warm night, and he'd not been able to get into a deep sleep. He glanced at the dimly lit bedside clock. 1.15am. He'd only been sleeping an hour.
He thought of Buster, back home. He'd never been on holiday without taking Buster before, or any of the other Busters they'd owned. He was one of these lucky dogs that went everywhere with their owners. As he should do, thought Fatty, he was one of the family. Thinking of his dog, made Fatty miss the adorable Buster even more. He suddenly heard Bets whisper.
"Fatty, do you think Buster will be okay?"
Fatty smiled into the darkness. Bets was missing him too. "I'm sure he's fine, my dear," said Fatty, softly, reassuring himself as much as Bets. "He's probably lying all over Thomas and Sheila, sound asleep."
"I miss him," came Bets, shaky whisper.
Fatty turned to Bets and put his arm around her. "We'll ring Thomas tomorrow, first thing if you like, and ask about him."
Bets swallowed back a sob. "Yes, we'll do that."
"We'll make a point of ringing every evening if you like," whispered Fatty, and then we can say 'goodnight' to Buster."
"I feel guilty I didn't ring this evening," said Bets, sadly. "But we were so enjoying ourselves."
"If anything was wrong, Thomas would ring immediately, so I'm sure Buster is fine."
Bets knew Fatty was right. She cuddled up to him feeling a little better. At least Fatty was here with her, even if Buster wasn't. He was her life and she couldn't bear to think of him not being around. She was safe when Fatty was with her. Contentedly she closed her eyes and drifted off to sleep in his arms.
Fatty wasn't so fortunate. He felt tired, but couldn't sleep. Something was bothering him. For years, his policing instinct had helped him in many of his cases, and had been a great gift, but now he'd retired he wished it wouldn't keep sending out alarm bells, when he least expected it!
* * *
Bets was happy once she'd spoken to Thomas and enquired about Buster, and feeling more relaxed about leaving him behind, they went down to breakfast. Pip and Larry were already down in the dining room and gave them a wave. Stopping at the white clothed long table near the entrance, Fatty and Bets said 'good morning' to the waiter who asked them to helped themselves to whatever they wanted for a starters, and that a waitress would take their breakfast order once seated. Fatty choose a bowl of mixed fruit, whilst Bets settled for a glass or fresh orange juice. They sat at the table with Larry and Pip, who were already tucking into a full English breakfast.
"Can I take your order?" said a young woman, who'd come to stand by the table.
Fatty and Bets ordered a pot of tea and the full English, same as Pip and Larry.
"The service is excellent," said Bets, watching the young woman walking away. "Even with a full dining room last evening, we didn't wait long for someone to take our order."
The others agreed. They were sitting at the same table as last evening and Bets looked out at the view. "The sea is a beautiful colour, and we'll be in for another hot day, judging by the cloudless sky."
Bets spotted the gardener, who immediately turned away from her view. She mentioned this to the others.
"Funny, but I thought I saw Paul speaking to him very early this morning," began Pip. "I woke early and made myself a tea. Whilst I was waiting for the kettle to boil I was looking at the view from the window, and spotted Paul. I watched him walking over the grass, then realized he was making for the gardener, who had just walked through the gate from the seaward side."
"What happened then?" asked Fatty.
"I don't know," said Pip, shaking his head. "They walked out of my eye level."
They stopped chatting as the waitress brought their breakfast to go with the tea; she'd left them not long before. "You look as if that bothers you, Fatty," said Larry, resuming the conversation.
"I've got this feeling that something isn't quite right," said Fatty, vaguely.
"Well, I hope it doesn't concern Paul," said Larry, indignantly. "He's only just married my sister, and I know we don't know too much about him, but he does seem a very nice chap."
Fatty shrugged his shoulders. "I can't help my instincts. We'll say nothing for now."
"There's Daisy and Paul now," said Pip, looking across the room.
Bets turned to see them picking up their starters, and as they moved from the table she gave them a wave.
"Morning all," said Daisy and Paul. "Another wonderfully hot day ahead," remarked Daisy, as she sat next to Paul at the table.
"It was really warm in the night," began Fatty, looking at Paul and Daisy, "even though we slept with the balcony door open trying to keep cool."
"We both slept like logs," said Daisy, with a grin. "Paul even over slept this morning. I had to wake him at eight." She threw him a mused grin.
"The bed is so comfortable," he smiled around at everyone, "and we did have rather a late night, with us all chatting."
Fatty smiled at him with a nod, and cast a quick glance over to Pip, who understood Fatty's glance. Maybe he had been mistaken then? Maybe it wasn't Paul he'd seen early this morning?
* * *
The next few days went by in a slow uneventful way. The weather was glorious, Fatty and Bets loved the hotel, and spent most of their time lazing around the garden, sitting by the pool and walking on the beach. Each evening they spoke to Thomas, who assured them that their beloved Buster was happy and having the time of his life. After the evening meal all of them had taken to spending their time chatting, and trying to get to know more about Paul and his life before he met Daisy.
They knew of his career in the army and being a physical training officer, until he had a leg injury in 1971. They learnt that he'd been married a year later and his son Donald was born in 1973 and his daughter Zoe in 1975. Both were unmarried and enjoying their own careers, his son being in the navy and his daughter a barrister. They'd all met Zoe, as she'd accompanied her father to the play that Daisy was in.
"My son will be home on leave, later this year, hopefully," Paul had informed them one evening whilst they sat around with the rest of the guests in the conservatory. "So I've promised him I'll bring Daisy over to see him for a few days."
"So your children are both still living in your home in Essex, then?" asked Bets.
Paul nodded. "Oh yes. It's their home too. My daughter is living there alone at the moment. But she has plenty of friends, who often stay at the week-end."
They all liked Paul very much and it was clear that he loved Daisy, just as much as she loved him. But Fatty's instinct kept rearing its ugly head for reasons he couldn't explain, and so he'd decided that the next day, he was going to have a word with the gardener, who, during the last few days, had repeatedly glanced towards the Find-Outers, and even though Fatty had looked his way, with a smile and a nod of acknowledgement, he'd always looked away evasively. Like Pip, he'd also thought he'd spotted Paul having a chat with him on one occasion, but according to Daisy, when Fatty had asked where Paul was, he was supposed to be in their room having a lie down, as his leg was giving him some trouble.
Rising early, Fatty told Bets he was going for an early morning stroll along the beach, and for her to go back to sleep. Bets smiled, and turned over, snuggling back down into her pillow.
Fatty took their key, and made his way out of the hotel and into the garden. The morning was already feeling warm, and looking down on the beach, he could see a few people having an early morning run. A glance at his watch showed 7.30am. He strolled all around the garden, but met no one, so he left the gardens and decided to go and watch the incoming tide for a while.
He felt calmed and relaxed watching the water – Carbis Bay was certainly beautiful. He looked over to the rocks on the left hand side and saw someone standing on them, fishing rod in hand. The tide was surrounding the rocks he was on, and so Fatty figured there must be another way onto those rocks, other than trying to scramble along them from the beach.
He was just turning away from the wall he'd been leaning on when he saw the gardener approaching. Fatty decided to confront him now, and started by saying, "Another lovely morning," in slightly raised tones, watching him approach.
He came up to stand by Fatty and beneath the beard and moustache Fatty could clearly see a smile.
"Hello, Fatty," said the gardener, his eyes shining brightly with pleasure, beneath his bushy brows. "You don't know how good it is to see you again."
Fatty felt a cold icy chill run through him, and for a minute he couldn't catch his breath with the shock that had him frozen solid to the ground. He simply stared silently in disbelief, slowly shaking his head. It certainly wasn't a ghost he was looking at. The person standing before him was as real as he was. Fatty almost choked when he spoke. "I can't believe it," he croaked. "Ern – Ern Goon. We thought you were dead."
* * *
Fatty could see a deep sadness in Ern's eyes, and instinctively hugged him like the long lost friend he was.
"I officially died four years ago now, Fatty, or so everyone has been led to believe, that is except my dear wife, Bernice."
Fatty looked at Ern. A thousand questions were whirling around inside his head. "I don't understand. Why?"
Ern looked at Fatty. "My life has been complex and there's so much I've always wanted to tell you. I feel now I can, but not here, Fatty. We'll meet up this afternoon. It's my half day and we'll have plenty of time to talk. Meet me at Porthminster Point. It's along the coastal walk into St. Ives. You'll see a road turning off Hain Walk on the right. It's a steep road, go down there and take the first right, it's signposted, as it's owned by the National Trust. Go over the stile and walk under the railway bridge onto the rocks, I'll wait for you there. It's quiet and hopefully we shouldn't be overheard. It's a local point for fishing from, but I doubt any one will be there as the tide will be out."
"Okay, Ern," nodded Fatty, feeling rather intrigued and wishing that Ern could explain everything now before he went back to the hotel. "Can I tell the others?"
"I wouldn't mention it yet to Daisy and Paul, but you can bring the others. You see I have to tell you something about Paul, something that Daisy is unaware of."
"I knew there was something about Paul," began Fatty, in firm tones. "My instinct was ringing alarm bells."
Ern smiled and shook his head lightly. "Paul's a great friend of mine, Fatty. He loves Daisy – that I do know – and wouldn't harm her for the world. That's why he wants you and the others to know his secret. He can't tell Daisy yet, not until you all know, then he'll be guided by what you all have to say."
Fatty was now totally stunned and shook his head in total bewilderment. "We've seen you talking to Paul, and thought how strange that was, especially when he never said anything to any of us about it."
"He has his reasons, Fatty, and it will all become clear later this afternoon." He glanced at the watch on his wrist. "You'd best head back, but say nothing to Daisy. Paul does know that I'm going to speak to you all, but doesn't know when. I thought best I do it today, as I believe you're going home tomorrow."
Fatty nodded. "Yes, but Daisy and Paul don't leave for another couple of days yet. But then I guess you know that too." His brows rose.
Ern grinned and nodded his head. "I'll see you all later. 1.30pm."
"We'll be there, 1.30pm."
"Swatsisaid." Ern threw Fatty a mischievous wink and walked away onto the beach.
* * *
Fatty walked back to the hotel almost in a daze. His brain was working over time, trying to foresee what Ern would say to him and the others. He thought back to the last time he saw Ern, which was on his wedding day. Ern was home on leave fortunately, from the Royal Navy, but wasn't married. He'd kept in touch with Ern by letter, and got plenty of post cards from various places that Ern had been fortunate to see during his time with the navy. But then Fatty's job prospects had changed, and no doubt Ern's also, and they lost touch.
But why was everyone, apart from his own wife, led to believe that Ern had died four years ago? Ern had said his life had been complex. Was it anything to do with being in the Royal Navy?
Fatty entered the hotel, almost bursting with the news he had to relate to the others, but feeling guilty that for reasons he yet didn't know of, had to keep this secret from his dear friend Daisy.
* * *
"Here's Porthminster Point," said Pip, as they approached the stile and began to climb over it.
Fatty helped Bets over, and Larry followed at the rear.
"I feel awful not telling Daisy where we were going," said Bets, as they walked under the railway bridge.
"Her and Paul had plans for today anyway," returned Fatty, "having booked their sea trip to seal island. So stop worrying."
They came to the rocks and looked around for Ern. Larry spotted him near the waters edge, and carefully the others scrambled over the various sized boulders over to him.
Ern hugged Pip and Larry and kissed Bets, amongst their bombardment of questions. He lightly slapped Fatty on the shoulder and led them all to a very large flat rock, surrounded by slightly higher rocks looking very much like a circular settee, on which they were able to sit.
"I don't think I've ever gone through such emotions as today, when Fatty told us about you being alive," began Larry. "Talk about a shock."
The others all had to agree and Ern looked at them a little shame-faced. "I guess you need an explanation."
"I'm a bit more concerned about Daisy," said Bets, "I don't like to keep a secret from her, Ern."
"Don't be, or any of you." He glanced at Larry, knowing he'd be concerned about his sister, with all this secrecy. "Paul is a great bloke and a very good friend of mine and we've worked together many times."
"Now we are intrigued," began Fatty, in surprise, "especially since you were in the Royal Navy and he was an army physical training instructor, before taking the job as recruitment officer."
Ern grinned wickedly, his expression clearly visible beneath his facial hair. "But the one thing none of you know, is that we were both working for a special department in M.I.5 as special officers, working undercover, infiltrating many criminal groups."
Of all the things that Ern could have said, this was one bit of news that took him and the others completely by surprise.
"What?" came the sounds of everyone.
"Do you mean to say you are a spy?" said Pip, slowly and quietly.
Ern laughed lightly. "No, not a spy, in the true sense. Just a special agent."
"Well, I'm amazed," said Fatty, at a loss for words.
"Same here," said Larry, shaking his head.
"How dangerous," came Bets words of concern.
"Retired now, but they did bring me out of retirement four years ago. That's when I had to 'die' to keep myself safe." He looked over at Fatty. "Remember the gold bullion job in the eighties, it was on your patch, but had to be handed over to Scotland Yard, and then my department M.I.5 mysteriously took it over?"
Fatty nodded. "I was only mentioning that very job to Bets, just before we came away. It was reported in the paper, a member of that gang has escaped from prison."
Ern nodded. "I was part of that gang in the eighties, and managed to scupper some of their plans. Most of the gang were caught and convicted on my evidence, but I never got to know where the bullion was hidden."
"Don't tell me they got you out of retirement at the last prison break four years ago?" said Fatty, putting two and two together.
"Yes, we managed to catch up with him again, but I was recognised, and so I had to 'disappear' and what better way to keep safe than to report my demise."
"This is all utterly amazing," said Larry, in awe. "It's like something you read about in a thriller."
"I think it's all rather sad," said Bets, softly, looking at Ern. "Your poor family, think you're dead."
The others nodded silently, looking with some concern and a touch of sadness at Ern.
"I had no choice," he began, quietly. "I can't go into details, confidentiality and all that, but it was the safest thing for me to do, and for all my family. Only my wife Bernice knows I'm alive, and I get to see her as much as I can. No one knows me in this disguise, only her. And she was used to me spending many weeks away from home when I was on a case, anyway."
Ern briefly went on to tell them how he managed to meet his wife secretly, and how they meet when on an arranged holiday two or three times a year, going as single people and meeting up as though for the first time, allowing them to spend the holiday together without suspicion.
"Didn't any of your family want to see your body when they learned of your death?" asked Bets, vaguely, having a little trouble taking in this extraordinary turn of events.
"That subject never came up," said Ern. "Bernice saw to that."
"But what about...?" began Pip, his head, like the others was buzzing with questions for Ern that needed answers.
"Sorry, Pip," interrupted Ern, "but I really can't answer any of your questions." Ern looked round at them all very apologetic. Fatty understandingly told him not to worry but to tell them only what he thought they needed to know.
"I can't say I envy you, Ern," said Pip. "By all accounts it seems you've lead quite a dangerous life."
"It's had its moments," he agreed. "All I can do now is see my family from afar; I was even a spectator at my Grandson's wedding. I saw you all there."
"Well, I'll be blowed," said Fatty, with a grin. "Seems you've turned out to be a much better detective and master of disguise than I ever was."
"I learned from the master," said Ern, looking seriously at Fatty. "Frederick Algernon Trotteville."
"Did you know your uncle, Goon, got married and had a son, William?" said Pip, suddenly remembering as Ern had mentioned he was at the wedding.
"Yes, he got married quite late on in his life."
"I bet you didn't know that William had us all held hostage the day after the wedding," said Bets, grimly.
Ern shook his head in surprise. "What? No I didn't. What happened?"
Fatty started to relate the incident to Ern, and the others joined in adding their own bits and pieces.
"And was John involved?" asked Ern, looking concerned.
Fatty shook his head. "No, he innocently introduced us at William's request."
"Thank heavens for that," said Ern, in relief.
"This rock is getting rather uncomfortable," said Bets, suddenly, moving herself from side to side.
"Sorry, it's not the comfiest of places to meet," said Ern, apologetically, "but I didn't want us to be overhead." He opened the back pack by his feet and brought out a variety of drinks and sandwiches. "Here, tuck in everyone. My treat." He passed the empty bag over to Bets. "Sit on this, might help."
"Thoughtful as ever," Bets smiled at him, making herself more comfortable and accepting the drink that Fatty handed her, and a potted beef sandwich.
"It's quite funny," began Pip, grinning around at everyone. "Here we all are, in our seventies, hats on our head, protecting us from the sun, sitting on hard rocks, eating sandwiches. We've all been friends since childhood, and we suddenly discover that Ern is a retired secret agent."
Everyone laughed. "I wonder what your uncle would have to say about it all," mused Larry.
"The only thing that Goon ever said, of course," said Fatty, with a grin. "GAH!!!"
"Ern," said Bets, when laughter had subsided, from Fatty's imitation of Goon, "I'm concerned about Paul and Daisy. What's his secret?"
Everyone's expression had changed from humour to concern, as they looked at Ern.
Taking a deep breath, he said. "I hope you're all ready for this, but Paul is not sure whether Daisy is. So if you're sitting comfortably, then I'll begin."
* * *
"Both myself and Paul obviously had to be checked out thoroughly before we were taken on by M.I.5. The department gave him all the relevant information that he was a twin. Paul always knew he'd been adopted from birth, but that was all. So it came as quite a pleasant shock for him. He knew one day he would go and see his twin, it was just a case of when."
Everyone was watching Ern quietly and with interest and so he carried on. "Paul was working on a special assignment, and was informed that his cover had been blown, so he had to step back until he got the all clear. After a few weeks had passed he began to think that everything would be okay, even though the department hadn't given him the all clear. This particular day, he'd decided to go and see his twin and introduce himself. He took a taxi and got it to drop him off, a short walk from Roger's address, as a precaution. To cut a long story short, he met Roger and they spent a couple of hours chatting, then Roger said he was going straight over to see his fiancée Daisy and tell her the good news. Paul thought nothing of it, and watched Roger drive off from the lounge window, as he was just finishing off the tea that Roger's mother had made him. Next thing he knew, he was walking passed an accident not far from Roger's. Two cars had hit head on. He went over to see if he could help, that's when he saw one was Roger, unconscious and badly injured and he knew he wouldn't make it. The driver of the other car he recognised as one of the gang from the group he'd been infiltrating. The ambulance and police were already on the scene and so Paul walked away in a daze, the full realization had hit him. It was meant to be Paul in that car. The driver who'd deliberately driven into Roger's car head on had thought it was Paul."
Everyone looked at Ern, shock and horror on their faces. Bets felt a cold shiver running through her. She didn't know what to say, it was as though her throat had dried up.
"What about the driver of the other car?" asked Larry. "Was he alive?"
"He died a few hours later in the hospital. Paul managed to get a taxi and went to the hospital, learning that Roger had died in the ambulance. He tried to keep a safe distance when Daisy arrived. At one point she looked over at him, then he left, as he decided there was nothing else he could do."
"She thought it was Roger's ghost, saying goodbye," said Bets, sadly. "She told me she'd seen Roger, and I said he'd come back to say goodbye."
Everyone remained silent, thinking back to that sad day.
"Paul has carried this guilt around with him for years," said Ern. "In his eyes he was responsible for the death of his brother. He knows he should have waited for the all clear, and he didn't. His brother was murdered by mistake."
"I don't know what to say," said Larry, softly. "It was all a long time ago now, forty eight years to be exact. Does Paul intend to tell Daisy?" He asked Ern.
"After his wife died, he purposely decided to seek out Daisy, and tell her the full story. That's why he came to Peterswood. But after meeting her and the talks they'd had about Roger, he felt he couldn't. Then he found himself falling in love with her. Something he hadn't reckoned on, as he always loved his wife."
"How come you're involved in this, Ern?" asked Pip, the question suddenly springing to mind.
"Paul and I have always kept in contact by code. When Daisy accepted his proposal of marriage, he booked them both into the Carbis Bay Hotel, as he knew I've been working here part time for the last twelve months. He told me of his dilemma, and I thought it was now time that the rest of you knew the truth. I advised him to get the rest of you down here, and that I'd have to break cover and tell you everything, and get your advice on whether or not he's doing the right thing in telling Daisy."
"Daisy is a very strong, determined woman," said Larry, a light of respect for his sister shining out from his eyes, "and my personal opinion is that she should know the truth."
"What about ignorance being bliss, though?" said Pip, always ready for an easy life without the twists and turns.
"It's difficult," said Bets, "but my gut feeling is that Daisy isn't afraid of the truth and expects nothing less. Losing Roger was a devastating blow for her, and she's managed to grow stronger through the years because of that experience."
Fatty was listening silently, and looked around at the others who were waiting for him to say what he thought. He nodded. "I agree with Bets and Larry, I think it only fair she should know the truth and Paul has to take the consequences of whatever Daisy decides."
Ern nodded. "I'll speak to Paul later."
"But what do we say in the mean time?" said Bets, looking around at everyone. "We have to tell Daisy that the gardener she told us about is Ern. I don't feel comfortable about deceiving her today."
"That's okay, Bets," said Ern, with a smile. "Tell Daisy you bumped into me whilst you were all out for a walk. Just don't mention Paul. Let's leave that up to him in his own good time." Everyone agreed.
"No offence to Paul," began Larry, "but how on earth could he be chosen to be a special agent with a leg injury?"
Ern smiled. "Let's just say that Paul over exaggerates that limp of his, it's come in handy over the years drawing suspicion away from him. His stick of course, was also his protection."
"What, a gun you mean?" said Pip in awe.
"No comment," returned Ern, evasively, but with a twinkle in his eyes.
"I've just had a thought," said Larry, in puzzled tones. "If you're supposed to be dead, Ern, then you must have a new identity."
A chorus of, 'of course, and 'what is it?' went around the small group.
Ern couldn't help grinning. "I remembered you all telling me, as children, about a gardener who stole a valuable cat."
"He lived next door to us," said Pip. "What was his name, Bets?"
"Tupping, I think," she said.
Ern nodded. "That's right, it was, and that's exactly who I am now, Edward Tupping. The department set up my new identity, passport, national insurance, pension, everything."
"Tupping was a horrible man," said Bets, pulling her face into a scowl. "You're not a bit like him, Ern."
"I would imagine the Tupping we knew, Bets, is long dead anyway," said Fatty, matter-of-factly.
"The one thing you all have to remember, though, is to use my new name at all times," said Ern, seriously. "Walls have ears, as the saying goes."
"Don't worry, Tupping, old chap," said Fatty, with a grin. "You can rely on us."
* * *
Bets felt sorry she was leaving to go home, the following day, whilst they waited for the coach to arrive at the hotel. They'd learnt so much, and there was Ern, working away in the garden, glancing their way from time to time, as they stood waiting by the side of the garden.
"You keep the garden lovely, Mr. Tupping," said Fatty, in a slightly raised voice. "I've got a slight problem with some of my roses." He started to walk over to Ern, so anyone looking on, would think he was going to ask his question. Fatty could be clearly seen talking to Ern, but couldn't be overheard. Then everyone's attention was on the coach entering the large car park, and Fatty said, 'thanks', rather loudly before walking away.
"Have a good trip back," Daisy said, with a smile, standing by Paul. "I'll see you all in a few days."
Bets gave her a small hug and heard Daisy whisper by her ear. "I'll try and speak to Ern when I get a minute." Bets gave her a knowing smile, happy they'd managed to tell her of the meeting with Ern yesterday, whilst sitting in a quiet corner of the garden. Fortunately, Paul was having a swim in the pool which enabled them to speak to Daisy alone, without the need for any excuses to Paul.
"Take care, you two," said Fatty, hugging Daisy, and shaking Paul's hand. "See you soon."
Paul smiled and nodding his head, said. "It's been lovely to see you all. Daisy and I appreciate you coming down."
Everyone knew that Paul's appreciation had quite a different meaning.
Larry and Pip kissed Daisy and shook Paul's hand. Larry spoke quietly by his ear, and received a knowing nod in return.
Once on the coach they all started to wave as the journey back home began.
"What did you say to Paul?" asked Bets, turning round to speak to Larry.
"I just said, 'tell her today'," Larry shrugged. "No point in keep putting it off in my opinion."
Bets smiled with a slight nod.
"Well, Fatty," she began, sitting back in her seat, and glancing at her husband. "It's been an enjoyable and enlightening five days. But won't it be lovely to see our beloved Buster again."
Fatty took her hand and gave it a squeeze. "Something for us both to look forward to."
"What did you ask Tupping?" whispered Bets, quietly.
Fatty answered quietly by her ear. "I asked him if he'd be safe, as the escaped prisoner is still at large."
Bets looked at Fatty with a raised questioning brow. She hadn't even given that a thought as Ern had explained about what had happened at the last prison break four years ago.
"Little did we know, Bets," carried on Fatty, in a whisper, "but an agent from the department was staying as a guest in the hotel, keeping an eye open, just in case."
"You just never know who you may be sitting next to," whispered Bets, in surprise. "Will we ever see Tupping again, do you think?"
"You can be guaranteed, my dear, that we definitely will be seeing Mr. Tupping again." Fatty gave her a knowing wink.
Smiling in satisfaction, Bets leaned back in her seat and looked at the passing scenery. That was something for her to look forward to.
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