Through My Eyes

Another outing for an old favourite of mine

***

The trees in the park are glorious. Like a magnificent pavan they unroll as far as these old eyes can see; their ball gown finery, gold and russet and crimson billowing and tumbling in the breeze. The pain is good this morning. It is there prowling like a great bear around the battlements but for now at least the drugs repel it. Soon though the other assaults will begin, first on my physical self, and then on my poor addled brain.

Here she comes now the “care assistant” who in truth needs some assistance to care. Bright and brittle in lavender and body odour. Brace for the first wave of attack.

“Oh Amy, what are you doing sitting here all on your own? Let’s pop you with the others so that you can watch something more interesting. It’s no good you just staring out of the window at nothing all day.”

Staring at nothing, the billow and wisp of cloud, the glorious, glorious trees and the oceanic swells of winter wheat rushing before the wind. “Staring at nothing.” And she will take me and “pop” me before that abomination; the television. She will line me up with the others ogling in aquatic dumbness at the flashing colours. How I hate it, the joyless laughter, the high priestesses with their pregnant pauses and their pregnant bellies and the ignoramus hoi polloi giggling and flirting, leaping into mutual degradation all for their fifteen minutes and a free holiday.

Don’t “pop” me anywhere you lavender suited storm trooper. Leave me in peace with the song of the birds and the glitter of the frost where it lays encrusting spider webs beneath the hedge. Treacherous vocal chords gurgle and splutter. Outraged obscenities transmute into meaningless drivel and so I am duly “popped”. The second invasion approaches, there is nothing in my arsenal with which to repel.

“Hello Amy, it’s Thursday.”

Good God Mrs Wilkins you don’t say, a revelation beyond all expectations.

“My Gerry comes today. He comes every Thursday without fail. He’s such a good boy.”

First of all you overblown dollop he is not your Gerry. He is Gerry who belongs to the world, he has a wife, a life and a reason to be. He can wash himself, shave his flabby fat chops and presumably grope ineffectively at his wife in the dark to produce his disgusting progeny. He is not a good boy, he is an avaricious little man who comes every Thursday in the hope that you will have expired on Wednesday night and the home haven’t had a chance to tell him. He comes so that he can pack up your feeble belongings and once and for all put this whole miserable responsibility behind him.

“It is a shame that you never had any children Amy, they are such a comfort.”

Comfort my arse you silly old fool. A cushion is a comfort. Haemorrhoid cream is a comfort, Gerry is a cretin.

Now, it comes, the deepest torture. Another careless carer, her mind on bus stop gropes with spotty youths and illicit fags in darkened corners, will spoon pap into my gullet. Bang the spoon on my teeth again you moron and I swear I’ll somehow find the wherewithal to bite your hand. Oysters fresh from the sea in the South of France. Tender pasta robed in piquant sauce, bejewelled with fiery peppers and bread still warm from the boulangerie. Drooling peaches and sun-filled melon with a Bacchanalian of sparkling white Bourgogne sipped from crystal goblets as the heat of the day bleaches the hills and diamonds sparkle in the bay. I can’t bear it, not another minute, not another mouthful, jelly and juice and plastic, oh god.

The outsiders approach. The floral tributes, chocolates, pictures of grandchildren. The hugs and kisses, grinning rictus and off set embraces. No don’t come over here, please don’t.

“Hello Amy, how are you today? You’re in the best place there’s a nasty wind out there and you’re lovely and snug.”

A force seven gale off the ocean, lifting my hair, gluing the clothes to my legs and startling tears from my eyes. His hair lifting and flicking as he smiles down at me, the two of us thrown together by the force of nature; external and internal. His arms a harbour, his broad chest my haven, and the warmth of his body welding us together in the blasted sunshine. The sudden silence behind a hedge, and the glory of daytime lovemaking. His tears, my tears, the ghastly separation as he leaves for the airbase, and the violence of waiting for his return. The devastation, the emptiness, and the total loss of reason when he is gone, and then the wretched years of decline becoming this traitorous slug of a body slumped in a dung heap home waiting for release.

He is here, he has come, it is time, thank God it is time.

“Nurse, excuse me nurse, can you come quickly and look at Amy I think there’s something wrong.”

Ah no for the first time in decades something is wonderfully right.

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Book out in 4 weeks!!!

Jennie Ensor: Exploring the realms of psychological fiction

The other day, after returning home from a most enjoyable holiday in France, I had a stab of realisation. My novel will be out in a mere 4 weeks!!! Eek!! My restored sense of inner tranquillity and vague thoughts of ‘Everyone’s on holiday now, you can relax for a while’, were instantly shattered. Cake flavour and hair colour for the launch party are currently being decided on, along with other very important things, such as who to invite.

On a more serious note, I’ve started a rough project plan listing what I should be getting on with, starting with the articles, guest posts and Q&A answers that I need to write (must try really hard not to leave them to the last minute). Then there’s a Twitter chat to prepare for, emails to local bookshops re stocking the paperback, sending the paperback out to journalists and reviewers, etc etc. So…

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Rags’ Riches – Conclusion

The wardrobe door was flung back against the hinges.  The sudden flood of light, accompanied by the crash and splinter of old wood ignited the cat. With a gargantuan thrust of his back legs he launched himself, just out, no aiming or thought just out and away.  Unfortunately, just at that moment the swarthy gentleman was taking a step forwards the better to search the depths of the cupboard.  The cat was leaping upwards, the man was leaning downwards, the two met midway.  Rags extended his claws as a result of shock and fear; they hooked into skin, one lodging in the tender flesh just inside a nostril.  Not unsurprisingly this caused the human to screech in a most inhuman fashion.  This terrified the cat even more and he scrabbled and scrambled upwards, clawing and reaching, rending the soft skin of chin and cheek and forehead.

The bloke staggered backwards, by this time Jenny had grabbed her camera and without anything approaching logical thought she pointed it and clicked the shutter button.  The scratched and bleeding ne’er do well now got an eye full of camera flash, he squealed anew and covered his eyes with both hands, effectively blinded.

Jenny grabbed the umbrella and charged forth brandishing it spear-like before her.  The crook had tipped on his axis and was now on his way forward again.  Due to the difference in height between the two, the pointed end of the gamp connected brutally with the squashy, tender parts that were inadequately protected by the soft, baggy track suit bottoms that were his preferred attire.

He collapsed in an S-shaped, shrieking pile on the bedroom carpet; his hands were clutching the area around the top of his legs which he truly believed were aflame.  Jenny leapt over him “Sorry, sorry – I’m so sorry”.

Rags had had just about as much as he could take.  He headed like a small ginger rocket for the stairs, the outside and safety.  For reasons that were never fully understood the second intruder leapt after the cat, whether he was fleeing from the ear curdling screams of his erstwhile companion or whether he believed the cat to be possessed of unnamed treasure it was difficult to know, but he was off in full pursuit before Jenny had reached the bedroom door.

Unfortunately, or not, depending on your point of view, his feet disavowed his ambition and tied themselves into a knot on the top step.  He tumbled in a flurry of flailing limbs and rolling, bouncing body parts from top to bottom of the narrow staircase arriving unconscious and uncaring against the front door.

Jenny fled as fast as her wobbling legs would carry her for the ground floor.  She jumped over the hunched and immobile body in the hall, grabbed the cordless phone from the little table and ran to the kitchen where she shot outside.  She secured the back door and tore the key from the lock.  She ran round to the front of the house where she paused, breathless and slightly hysterical, she dialled 999.

She reported the current circumstances, suggested that it would be very helpful if the local constabulary could send someone other than an apprentice and that perhaps an ambulance would be of some use.  The screeching of the various sirens and horns brought out such of the neighbours who were at home, all of whom stared in some bemusement at the batty old cat woman who seemed to be patrolling the front of her house armed with an old umbrella, her hair awry, her clothes askew and her face wearing a rather manic expressions which precluded conversation.

When the dust had finally settled and the nice police lady had provided a steaming cup of tea, Jenny took the time to shed a couple of tears of shock and nerves.  Only a couple, just for appearances sake really, because in truth she had found it all terribly thrilling.  Not to be repeated, no never that, but still quite out of the ordinary run of things.

The man from the bottom of the stairs was carted away on a stretcher to be given treatment for his concussion and a rather nasty broken wrist.  The other chap was escorted to a police car, hobbling in a most peculiar and careful fashion, blood smearing his shocked and ruined countenance.

“Hello, hello madam.  Are you alright?  Are you sure you don’t need a doctor?”  The young policeman was being terribly kind and friendly.  Probably felt that he had some sort of stake in the whole thing and Jenny was more than willing to let him bask in a bit of reflected glory.

“Has anyone been to the garage constable?”

“Yes indeed.  You are quite the hero.  The boxes are very clever devices indeed.  On the top they are fitted out to carry bottles of rather nasty Bulgarian wine.”

“Oh, is that all?  Wine – well!”

“Ah, but quite a number of them have false bottoms and that’s where it gets most interesting.  The bottoms appear to be used to carry bags of very valuable drugs.  Oh yes you are quite the hero and no mistake.”

“Drugs, well my word, drugs here in our little road.”

“Unfortunately they are everywhere and hidden away back here probably seemed a good idea. Well, if it hadn’t been for you and that old cat I don’t doubt they could have carried on for pretty well as long as they wanted.  Where is he the old fella?”

“Oh, I don’t know.  He was dreadfully upset and frightened.  I don’t know where he’s gone and I’m so worried about his leg.  He could have torn the stitches.  Poor old Rags what a rotten time he’s had.”

“Well, I’ll tell the lads to keep an eye out for him anyway.”

“Yes, that would be nice.  Thank you.”

“So, what are you going to do with your reward?”

“Reward?”

“Oh yes quite a handsome reward coming your way madam.  Quite a nice little sum.”

“Well. Goodness.  Really?  My heavens, who’d have thought it?”…

The next morning Jenny filled the cat bowls.  Everyone was going to have a special treat. She didn’t have the reward yet but had been assured that it would be substantial.

“Here we are my lovies, tuna treat and chicken livers in sauce, the little gold tins were scraped into various dishes and she did believe there were more visitors than ever.  Word must have got around the local cat population.

A stately ginger figure strode haughtily past the feline hoi polloi.  With a very superior glance in their direction Rags made his way through the garden and entered the kitchen via the back door.  He sniffed at the small empty porcelain bowl sitting next to his blanket.  His ears rotated just once, checking for untoward noises.  All was calm, he turned his great gold eyes upwards and stared unblinking at the daft old biddy.

“Oh Rags, how lovely.  You are quite famous you know and really rather rich.  Would you like something to eat?  I have a special tin of Pampered Pussikins, tuna in prawn jelly.  Do you think you could eat that?  Apparently he could.

Afterwards reclining on the settee, licking at a front paw he took stock of his situation.  It had been an interesting few days, he was getting on a bit and this daft old bat wasn’t bad – for a non feline.  Maybe he’d stay.  Just until something better came up anyway.  Jenny poured a cup of tea and plonked down beside him.  “Well Rags, that was different wasn’t it?”  He listened but none of what she said seemed to relate to food so he tucked his front paws under his chest and drifted off to sleep.  Jenny smiled and sipped her drink, life could be so very lovely couldn’t it, and so surprising.

 

The end

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Rags’ Riches – Chapter 16

Taking tiny little gulps of air she kept as still and quiet as possible. The two men were conferring, the low rumbling of their voices drifted up the stairs from the hall. Her fingers were tightly crossed in the hope that they would think she hadn’t arrived home yet.  Maybe they would hope that they were here before her, lying in wait.  Closing her eyes, Jenny visualised the kitchen, had anything had been left lying about?  She mentally ticked off the stuff that had been on the table.  The umbrella was here beside her, leaning against the back of the wardrobe, the camera hung on its strap, tapping against her side when she moved.  It was a matter of habit and tidiness that coats were always hung straight on the hook, so no problem there. Her damp mac may be dripping on the kitchen floor but surely they wouldn’t have noticed that, they were men after all.

Then the shrill, screaming jangled her overstretched nerves and took her breath completely, the kettle, she had put the kettle on.  It hadn’t even registered that the act had been completed, operating on automatic, fill the pot, plonk it back on the little stand and flick the switch.  Dozens of times a day, hundreds and hundreds of times a year, hands working without conscious thought and now the squealing, steam-driven whistle had betrayed her.  They knew that she was in the house because of the blasted cup of tea that was always her habit on returning to the home.

The automatic cut out killed the screaming noise.  “Lady, lady you here, we know you is here.  We need speak you.  Lady, come on out.”  Oh no, this lady wasn’t coming out.  If they wanted this lady out they would have to drag her screaming and kicking.  “Lady, we no hurt you. Just talking.”  Yes well, she wasn’t born yesterday now was she?

Rags had heard the voices and stiffened, his ears were rotating this way and that, little furry radar antenna seeking out the source of the disturbance.  He eased his muscles, stretching his limbs, full alert, taut and ready.  She didn’t dare move in case he took fright and leapt from her arms.  A dizzy spell swept through her, breathe you fool, she hadn’t realised that she had been holding her breath.  She took a gulp of the heavy air, in spite of the staleness it flooded her body with oxygen, oddly it made the dizziness worse.  She felt herself tip backwards in amongst the old coats.  The hangers rang quietly together.  Jenny and the cat froze at the tiny sound.  Had they heard it? Was it loud enough to carry through the old heavy wooden door and down the stairs?

Now came the heavy tread of their feet, mounting the stairs, running upwards, muttering to each other in a language she couldn’t understand.  She had lived in this house such a very long time and recognised the creaks of each stair and then the click of her own bedroom door.  There followed sounds which she imagined were the men tearing at her clothes in the built-in wardrobe.  Now that really made her cross.  There in the middle of the terrifying, awful afternoon she was cross thinking about the mess that she was going to have to clean up.

They looked into the bathroom, she heard the door smash back against the wall.  Next was the airing cupboard and then she heard them tread into the back room.  It could only be moments now until she was discovered.  She readied herself; Rags picked up on the tension and squirmed in her arms.  Footsteps crossed the floor the old boards creaking with the weight of them.  “Lady, you in here.  I know you in here.  Come out now, we not hurt you , only talking.”  The fastener creaked as they turned it and the tiny crack of light widened as the door was pulled open.

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Rags’ Riches – Chapter 15

Spinning around Jenny grabbed the camera, the table clutter and the cat.  Rags was not impressed.  He writhed and pushed against the grip of the old arms and the oddments of junk that were digging into various soft parts of his body.  He was also disturbed by the strange noises that the weird old woman was making “oh, oh, oh, oh my, oh.”

Juggling with the encumbrances Jenny ran for the front door, she was really rather frightened and judged the best form of attack was basically to run away as fast as she possibly could.

Through the lounge and down the tiny hall she fled.  The umbrella caught against the door frame, it would have made sense to just drop the blasted thing, but that didn’t happen.  She hutched it up under her arm and took a tighter grip on everything, including the cat who was now dangling, face forwards down the front of her body.  His back legs swung back and forth around her knees, his front legs were caught by the paw pits under her right arm.  His head writhed and pushed against the front of Jenny’s sweater as he desperately tried to gain purchase somewhere to extricate himself from this mad situation.

There was a patterned glass pane in the top half of the front door and to her absolute horror, Jenny saw the grey and threatening outline of a male figure. The other man from the garage.  “Oh, oh, oh my.”  She spun on her heels and scampered up the narrow staircase.  Flying into the back bedroom she dragged open the wardrobe door and pushed herself in between the old coats and winter jackets stored there.

It was a massive wardrobe, far too big for the room but it had been in the family for generations and thank heavens for it now.  Her fingers closed around the edge of the door and heaved it to behind her.  When she had been a little girl she had once tied a rope to the handle and tried to swing on the resulting loop. Of course the handle had been pulled off and what a dressing down she’d received from Daddy.  He’d repaired it with a big metal plate inside and now she sent up a silent prayer of thanks for his clumsy handiwork that had left great nuts standing proud.  She grabbed hold of one of these protruding metal rings and dragged the door closed.  She heard the little catch click into place.

She was panting now in fear as much as breathlessness.  The old cat was squirming strongly and trying his best to climb up the front of her jumper, his full battery of claws extended and hooked in the open weave of the woollen garment which clicked and unravelled happily in the darkness.  He was growling way down in his throat.  “Shush, shush, oh please hush now Ragsy.  Shhhh, she stroked his ears but he simply flicked his head refusing the caress.  He didn’t like this one bit, he wanted out and he wanted out immediately.  Unhooking the claws, dragging great loops of yarn loose from her top, she lowered him gingerly to the floor.  It was dark and cluttered in the wardrobe and for a moment she was overcome by a nasty dizzy spell.  Leaning back into the heavy wool of the old coats, she could smell the fabric, the remnants of perfume and a slight hint of mothballs.  The agglomeration of homely aromas calmed her somewhat.  She breathed deeply, Rags was scratting now at the bottom of the door in his desperation to be anywhere but here.

She propped the umbrella against the back of the wardrobe, hung the strap of the camera over her shoulder and carefully lifted the old tom and cradled him to her.  He straightened his front legs and pushed back from the stupid human.  Until now he had avoided employing his teeth but he was a whisker away from the final assault.  He spit and hissed and Jenny knew that she was actually in real danger of becoming badly scratched and bitten if she didn’t calm him quickly.  She hugged him to her with both arms and with the ends of her fingers she tickled and stroked at his face, she swayed gently as far as the confined space would allow.  His heart was pounding against his chest wall, she could feel it quite clearly and was overwhelmed with guilt, poor Rags she had frightened him dreadfully.  What a stupid old woman she had become.  Tears jumped to her eyes and trickled down the wrinkled cheeks.  They plopped on the top of the furry head causing him to flick his ears, he lifted his face to hers.  After a moment of breathless quiet he licked just once with his sandpaper tongue at the salt water dripping from her face.  The mad world stilled and cat and human were held in a moment of magic, of understanding and of mutual affection.

She had heard the thumping of the back door as it was swung violently open.  There was crashing and banging downstairs and she squeezed her eyelids tightly closed to avoid more tears as she imagined the damage to her things.  The cat now seemed to have entered some sort of suspended animation state.  He hung heavily in her arms.  She didn’t know whether his eyes were open or not but the manic thunder of his heartbeats had slowed noticeably.  She continued to stroke the ears and forehead as she waited in silent terror for what was to come.

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Rags’ Riches – Chapter 14

Controlling the urge to break into a full blown run was a problem. Juggling with the bag holding the flask and her biscuit box was a tussle, and trying to drag out the camera, without dropping the whole shooting match on the floor, caused her to jiggle and totter in the most alarming way.  Trying to keep her hood over her head was the last straw and almost finished the thing with Jenny spread-eagled on the rain-soaked pavement beside the main road. In the end the hood won its battle and so she sped onward at a fast walk with the rain pasting her hair to her head and rain drops rolling down her nose, and dripping off her eye lashes.

She didn’t head straight down Cloud Street, but went up to the next turning and along the parallel road.  This street had houses on one side and the railings of the park on the other.  She dodged between the parked cars, avoiding the small piles of dog mess that owners had decided didn’t need picking up, seeing as it was raining.  She did tut now and again but really there were more pressing matters today. She slowed as she neared the corner. A quick glance behind reassured her that, unless there was an aspidistra face behind any of the lace curtains – which was very possible, then she was unobserved.

She slunk sideways until she was almost brushing the garden wall with her thigh and then took small, tentative paces nearer and nearer to the junction of the two roads.  Nearly there, she leaned forward from the waist as far as possible.  There it was, the white van, parked outside the garage and the two swarthy characters shuttling back and forth, transferring boxes in and out of the space. Jenny took a deep breath.  Her heart was pattering in the most alarming way.  Her hands were shaking and quivering and, although she was no Lord Snowden, she had taken enough snaps to know that it wouldn’t work if the camera was dithering about like a leaf on a tree. Scrunching down a little she placed the black plastic case on the top of the garden wall. Another quick glance behind.  Not only did she suppose that all this looked very suspicious but also imagined that her behind was protruding in a most unbecoming manner.  No one seemed to be around.  She blessed the drizzle and turned back to the job in hand.

Crouching even lower she managed to position her eye, lined up with the viewfinder.  Ideally kneeling on the floor would have been the best option but no, what would anyone think, that was just too far beyond the pale. She pressed the little button several times.  It was an old camera and each time it was necessary to turn a tiny knob on the top, winding the film along to the next exposure.  She tried to judge it so that the men were in the frame carrying the boxes.  Five tiny clicks and then she remembered that Rags hadn’t had his picture taken this morning as she had planned.  He had leaped up in reaction to the flash and shot behind the settee where he had stayed for long minutes, glaring at her whenever she tried to coax him out. The last one must be saved for a snap of him, her golden eyed friend.

The strap on the bag with the flask in had slipped from her shoulder, pinning her left arm to her side.  The action of shrugging it back into place caused her leg to flex which in turn kicked the great umbrella which was leaning against the garden wall.  It fell to the pavement and the solid wooden handle made a great clatter.  The men at the garage heard the commotion and stopped in mid stride to peer up the street towards her.  She turned and took to her heels.  There was time for one quick glance back which witnessed them hurriedly throwing the doors on the back of the van together and at the same time kicking at the wood on the garage openings to secure it from prying eyes.

She scurried in a pantomime of a walking run back down the street.  The bag and her coat tails flapped and flew behind and the umbrella jerked willy nilly in her hand, doing its level best to inveigle its length between her pumping legs which would no doubt send her head over aspect into the rain filled gutters.

She didn’t dare slow down, she forgot all plans for shopping.  Hightailing as fast as her rather elderly limbs would carry her she made for the safety of the little house.  Making the alley way in record time she scuttered through the back gate and flung herself into the kitchen with tears of panic and hilarity mixing to trickle down her flushed cheeks, and she barely able to catch her breath.  The old cat stopped his daily ablutions and stared round-eyed at the apparition. His front paw halted on route to his left ear which was in need of attention, being slightly smeared with the remains of the butter that he had purloined while the mad old biddy had been out. “Oh my word.  Great heavens.  Oh Rags, good grief.”  He wasn’t sure what was expected of him and nothing that had been said seemed to be related to food and so he resumed his toilette.

Plonking the camera and other paraphernalia onto the table Jenny picked up the kettle.  She couldn’t remember the last time that she had needed a restorative cup of tea quite so badly.  She turned to the sink as the back gate rattled on its hinges and as her horrified eyes stared in disbelief the entrance opened and the smaller of the two men from the garage sidled into the back garden

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Rags’ Riches – Chapter 13

Of course it was raining, the daylight had brought with it dark clouds and drizzle. No matter, Jenny’s mind was made up.  In the early hours of the morning, sleepless and agitated a resolve had been reached.  It was time to find out what it was all about.

She dragged on her waterproof and flipped up the hood.  She made sure that Rags had some nibbles in his little bowl.  Since the break in, Mum’s china was being used for every-day.  After all, the set was spoiled now.  In reality it was probably better to have the pleasure of looking at it every day than leaving it packed away in the cupboard anyway.  One of the little fruit bowls had a chip in the rim and so it had become Rags’ biscuit dish.

She filled the bowls for the other cats and put them under the cover of the back porch.  They soon scuttered in, shaking damp paws and flicking wet little ears.  Right she was ready.  She picked up the big black brolly, fading to grey now and a bit rusty here and there, but still working and nice and wide.

The plan was to get up to the park and, if her remembrance was correct, she would be able to see the garages from the rain shelter.  There was a bench and really it would all be quite pleasant, a bit damp probably, but there would still be things to look at and then if the big white van came she would nip down the road and get her pictures.  She felt just like Nancy Drew, she really did.  There was a little butterfly of excitement fluttering around her tummy button area and every now and again a giggle threatened to bubble up from her chest.  It was all nonsense of course but she wasn’t doing any harm and darn it she did want to know what was so important about those boxes.

She carried a bag with a flask of coffee and a couple of shortbread biscuits, she had her book and the old camera with six places left on the film.  Pulling the back gate tightly closed she turned right and went down to the end of the back alleyway.  She was planning to walk up the main road to the park.  That way she didn’t have to walk across the front of the garages, just in case the men were there already.

It was chilly; the park was really a bit gloomy and soggy.  The rain shelter wasn’t as nice as she remembered.  There was graffiti on the old wood of the walls and chewing gum stuck on the seat.  The air was tainted with the smell of nasty vinegary sauces.  It floated up from piles of old fast food containers in the corners, where the wind had deposited them.  No, it was a disappointment but she couldn’t sit there.  With a sigh she glanced back towards the garages, there was no sign of the van.  A nice brisk walk around the park cheered her and got the blood flowing through her system.  Yes, lovely, she would do this more often, especially when the proper summer came.  She had forgotten how nice it was.  In spite of the difficulties brought by a shortage of money and a population that didn’t always appreciate the treasures they had, the park people were still managing to keep the flower beds and lawns nicely.

She wandered over to the railings separating the park from the graveyard.  She didn’t mind a nice graveyard.  She would often have a little walk around and visit with the memories.  She would sigh and shake her head if she found the grave of a young person or even allow a tear when it was the resting place of a soldier taken in the full flush of his young life.  All in all though she didn’t find them miserable or scary places, no they were more like walk-through history books and surely the whole point of having a headstone was so that people could think about who you were and what had happened to you. Her family didn’t do graves but that wasn’t to say they didn’t bring some sort of comfort to others.

She sat on a little wooden bench under a great beech tree and had her coffee and biscuits.  It seemed that probably the whole thing had been a waste of time.  She wasn’t beaten though, far from it, not yet.  She would come another day when the weather was kinder and she would bring that clever little blanket, the one with the waterproof backing that rolled up so neatly and then she could sit on the grass.  Yes that would be much nicer.

Passing through the great stone gates she turned to head back to the main road.  Now she would call at the butchers and the fish shop and then go home and get warm.  As she wandered towards the shops she saw it.  She was sure that was it. A white van swept past and turned into Cloud Street.  That was them wasn’t it?  Yes the horrible, unfriendly men from the garage, they were heading to the top of the road.  Now she had a chance.  Turning on her heel she paced quickly back up the pavement, Nancy Drew in full pursuit.

 

 

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Rags’ Riches – Chapter 12

Rags was settled in a comfy box and apparently disinclined for the moment to leave the comfort of Jenny’s breakfast room.  She had managed to give him his tablet and he had enjoyed the boiled Haddock.  She was reassured when, after his meal, he set to and washed himself thoroughly, carefully licking the injured leg but thankfully not nibbling at the sutures.  She knew that as long as he was eating and most importantly keeping himself clean he was on the mend.  She had provided a box of cat litter but he had yet to use it and that would be the final hurdle.

When she had arrived at the vet’s surgery, earlier in the day, Rags was already in his box waiting.

“Hello there.  Here he is, looking good and in a much better mood I’m glad to say.”

“Oh thank you so much Mr Warner.  Will you send a bill or shall I just pay you now.”

“Whichever you like is fine by us. I have had to charge you for the antibiotics and so on but I’ve tried to keep the cost to a reasonable level.  I know he’s not yours”

“You’re too kind.  I want to pay my way you know, but anyway I’ll bring you some of my ginger cake next week for your tea breaks.”

“Very apt, yes very apt indeed.”  The vet had grinned broadly at the thought of ginger cake payment for a ginger cat.  “Are you heading straight back home now?”

“Oh yes, well with the carrier and everything, I’m just going to hop on the bus.”

“Ah, I thought so. I have to go to an address near you so if you can hold on for another ten minutes I can take you in my car.  If that’d be a help to you of course?”

“Oh, how lovely.  Yes please that would be a big help.  Are you sure it’s not out of your way?”

“No, no.  You just take a seat over there and I’ll give you a call in a few minutes.”

The big car was warm and comfortable with flat luggage space where the rear seats should be.  Of course it smelled of animal and there were dog and cat hairs on the seats and boxes and bags that rattled and sang as they went along but Jenny thoroughly enjoyed the unexpected ride.

“Now then, it’s at the bottom of here isn’t it?”  As he spoke Mr Warner’s big capable hands spun the wheel and the car swung to the right. Jenny’s heart leapt into her mouth.

“NO, no, oh sorry didn’t mean to shout.  No, Mr Warner it’s two roads further on.”

“Can I get around the top way?”

“No the top of this road is blocked off by a row of garages.”  She peered through the windscreen; her knuckles were white against the brown leather of her old bag.

“Oh, well no problem I can do a U turn at the top on the garage frontages.”  She breathed a deep sigh and gulped back the lump in her throat.  The great white van wasn’t there and the area looked deserted.

As the car swung round in its arc and drew away, retracing its route, she glanced behind her.  There was a shining new hasp and staple on the middle of the door replacing the one they had interfered with.  There were new ones also at the top and bottom.  Whoever they were the owners were making sure nobody was going to gain entrance again as easily as she and Mr Morton had.

Once she had settled the cat and made herself a cup of coffee she took a moment to sit and muse.  Definitely the horrible men who used the garage had been back there since “the rescue” and so they had found Mr Morton’s note.  One more indication that they could have been the ones who came and ruined her home.  Not proof of course, not proof and she knew she should just let it go.  She should move past it and carry on but it was nibbling away at her, tickling and bothering her conscience. Why should they get away with it, if indeed it had been them and even more intriguing what was so important about an empty wooden box that they would go to all that trouble to retrieve it?

“Rags, there is more to this than meets the eye and I don’t think I like it, not one bit. No I don’t.”

The cat opened one brilliant gold coloured eye, peered at her and decided that, for now at least, he’d just stay nice and curled and sleepy.  With luck there may be more fish later and as for that tray of sand, well why not just for a day or so, until he was feeling better.

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Rags’ Riches – Chapter 11

Jenny didn’t sleep, well in truth she never expected to.  She had made a lovely cup of hot chocolate and sploshed a generous measure of whisky in it.  That usually did the trick but not tonight.

After all the hard work, she’d climbed up to bed leaving the house looking almost back to normal.  The little table had been packed into a big bin bag.  There was a place down in town where they might be able to mend it, providing it wouldn’t cost too much and who knew in this day and age.  Quite often it was cheaper to buy new but the new things were rarely the same quality and they didn’t have the little memories soaked into them.

One thing that Jenny was absolutely determined about though was that she wasn’t going to let this horrible thing spoil enjoyment of her home and her peace.  All you had to do was face it, put it in perspective and move on.  The damage had in fact been minimal and the mess was cleaned up.  The thing that was causing her to toss and turn and fidget was that blasted box.  She knew without the merest shadow of a doubt that it had been there when she left for the vet’s office. So, was it that the horrors who had ransacked her home had taken it for nefarious reasons of their own?  The other option caused her more concern.  Had the people who had invaded her space come specifically for the box and the rest was simply subterfuge and nastiness.

In the dark of her bedroom she sat up and tried to sort out her thoughts.  If the burglars had been children, who knew what their thought processes were.  They could have taken the box for just about anything.  If it was the men from the garage how on earth could they possibly have known where she lived?  No, it just wasn’t logical.  It must have been children, youths whatever you wanted to call them. Well, she could think of a few names but stewing and worrying at it wasn’t going to make any difference.  She lay down and pulled the duvet up around her chin but the feeling of disquiet wouldn’t leave her.

The next morning Jenny needed to bring Rags back from the vet and before that she wanted to go to the wet fish shop for a treat for him. During the trip to town she would call in to see the butcher.  She wanted to know just what he had written on the note pushed under the garage door.  Although it was for certain that he would have been cautious it might help to set her mind at rest to have him confirm it.

“Hello there Mr Morton.”

“And a good morning to you my dear.  How are you?”

“Oh, I’m alright thank you.”

“Well you don’t look your chirpy self if you don’t mind me saying so.  Has something gone wrong with that old cat?”

“Well, no it’s not that.  You see I’ve had a robbery.”

“Oh that’s rotten.  Was much taken?  You poor thing, I’m so sorry. The buggers, oh excuse me, it just makes me so angry.”

The honesty behind his reaction nearly brought more tears but Jenny steeled herself.  She was proud and made of pretty stern stuff and kindness was nothing to cry about now was it?

“No, as a matter of fact nothing was taken, just a mess and a bit of damage. I suppose it wasn’t that bad really, but it shook me up I have to admit.”

“Well of course it did, of course it did, you poor thing.  I don’t know, we do live in nasty times don’t we?”

“Oh well, there are a lot of good people about.  Yourself for instance.”  She gave the butcher a quick smile.  One thing she didn’t want to do was to reduce the conversation into a session bemoaning the state of society.

“Mr Morton, please don’t read anything into this but I did just want to ask.  When you left the note at the garage what did you put?”

“Oh, I see what you mean.  No, no I didn’t go into any details, no, no of course not.  I just said that a cat had been trapped and we had rescued him.  I felt that was vague enough.”  The big man’s eyes cloudy with worry.  “Oh, my goodness.  You don’t think it could have been because of that do you?  If I thought I was in any way to blame for your trouble.  Oh my word.”

“No, no don’t upset yourself.  I’m sure that was fine.”

“Ah but it wasn’t, was it?  I mentioned a cat didn’t I?  Now everyone knows you are the lady who feeds the cats.  Even if they didn’t they’d only have to be around for a couple of days and see the little beggars trouping down to your yard.  Oh, how stupid. I am so sorry.”

“No, no please Mr Morton don’t worry, after all what else could you say?”

“Here, here take this.  He plonked a great piece of pork onto a paper, wrapped it and pushed it across the counter to her.”

“No, now come on Mr Morton don’t be silly I can’t take that.”

“Take it, take it.  I feel as though I have done something stupid.  Please take it and I’ll feel better.  Cut it up for you and the cats.  Please.  Oh, what an idiot I am. I should have made up some sort of story, oh dear.”

He was so upset she didn’t tell him about the box.  He was already getting into a state and she didn’t want to make matters worse but the conversation had actually confirmed what in truth she had been suspecting.  The men from the garage had come to take the box back hadn’t they?

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Rags’ Riches – Chapter 10

It’s a cliché of course but nevertheless true.  The policeman who pushed his way through the kitchen door and tiptoed amongst the debris looked like a sixth former in fancy dress.  He was kind enough it has to be said.

“Have you anyone who can come and help you Madam?  Maybe you have someone you can stay with until you sort all this out.  I’ll have the fingerprint people here and they make a bit of a mess I’m afraid.”

Jenny shook her head.  He’d pulled the little black book from his pocket and made a note of everything she had to tell him.  The vet and Rags.  He had raised an eyebrow when she called Rags a stray and she knew straight away that he wouldn’t understand and the heart had gone out of her.  She had waited an hour and a half for him to come anyway.  She had used the time to check the rest of the house and felt blessed relief when it became apparent that “they” had only been downstairs as far as she could tell.

“Is there anything missing?” He held his pencil at the ready to list her goods and chattels.  She was trying not to be ungracious but really, what good was it all going to do anyway.

“No, I don’t think so.  They just spoiled things and broke things.  Do you think it was children?”

“Well, difficult to say really.  There isn’t that much real damage, just a mess and that would seem a bit like kids I admit but do you know anyone who might have a grudge?”

Not that much real damage, she looked in sadness at the little broken table and the pile of ceramic pieces.  No, not that much real damage but a great deal of hurt.

“No, I get on with my neighbours.  Well you don’t see them much anyway these days.  Not like it used to be, but no I don’t think I’ve upset anyone.”

“You feed the cats don’t you?”

“Yes.”

“Do you think that somebody might find that a nuisance?”

“Well I don’t think so.  Nobody’s ever said so.  They don’t stay, the cats.  They just come and eat and then mostly they go on their way.  Why would that upset anyone?”

“No, it’s probably not that, but you know people are funny sometimes. Anyway I’ll get the fingerprint people to call in and I’ll give you a crime number for your insurance company.”

“Thank you.  Is that all?”

“Sorry.”

“Well are you going to try and find out who it was?  Who came in, who did this.”  Tears flowed anew as she swept an arm around the wreckage.

“Well if they haven’t taken anything, there’s no way that evidence will come to light or anything like that so, I don’t know what we’ll be able to do.”

“What about cameras?”

“Cameras?”

“Yes, I thought there were cameras everywhere watching us all.”

“Well, yes but not here, not in a little road like this and not in the back alley way.”

“No, no I suppose not.  So there’s nothing you can do?”

“I’m sorry, no.  If you’d had things stolen it would have been better.”  Jenny gasped “Well no not better, of course not better, but in that case we could have circulated a list, you know to pawn shops and such like.  When it’s just vandalism like this it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to do much.  Anyway this is your crime number and the finger print people will be along in an hour or so.”

“Can you tell them not to bother?”

“Not to bother?”

“Yes, the finger print men, I don’t think I can face any more mess and if they can’t do anything anyway, well.”  She shrugged her thin shoulders.

“Shall I make you a cup of tea?”  The young man looked a little shamefaced, he knew only too well the heart ache that robbery caused but he was a realist and there was no point raising false hopes.  “You know the trouble is that even if we caught whoever did it they wouldn’t be able to do much. There was no physical hurt, no major damage.”

“Oh it’s alright I realise it’s not your fault.  Yes go on put the kettle on and we’ll have a cup of tea.”

When he had gone she started to tidy the kitchen.  After an hour or two things were starting to look better.  There wasn’t that much actual damage, a few breakages and some scratches but really it was quite superficial.  She was saddened more than anything that someone could do this for no reason that she could think of.

As she worked her way around the lounge, cleaning and clearing and picking up, she bent and retrieved the piece of old string that had been wrapped around the wooden box.  She fumbled it into a bundle ready to go into the shed.  Might as well take the box as well.  It was nowhere to be found.  When she had left to go to the vet she had pushed the two things together into the corner she was sure, but now, and in light of the major clean-up she had done, she could see without doubt that it was gone.  She had been feeling better but discovery that the box was missing caused her stomach to clench and cold sweat to break out on her forehead.  She was gripped with a feeling of real dread, and she didn’t really know why.

 

 

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