The Falcon & the Viper

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Chapter 80

A few days later Charlie and Samantha drove to Cornwall in Charlie’s beautifully restored Jaguar XK150, the rusty bodywork now repaired and resplendent in a shiny new coat of British racing green paint. A gift, at James’s suggestion, of a grateful prime minister and government. Samantha was pleased, as she had not found it necessary to pack a supply of tights. As they drove over the Dunheved Bridge on the A30 into Cornwall, Samantha decided now was the time to ask Charlie about something that had been on her mind after his fight with the terrorist. She turned to face him.

‘Charlie, when those marvellous paramedics resuscitated you on the boat, I saw the birth mark on your chest.’

‘Oh that, why do you ask, Sam? It’s not unusual to have one.’

’I know, but what is unusual is gran mentioned in her diary that Max Schiller, the German pilot she fell in love with, had one on his chest in the same place. She drew it out on one of the pages, and it’s almost identical to yours.

‘That’s a coincidence, Sam. Lots of people have one and anyway, they’re not hereditary.’

‘Not normally, no, but I looked it up. A genetic mutation of the malformation of the capillaries in the skin, which weakens the capillaries to the point that the blood stains the skin can cause some. . .’

‘Hold your horses, Sam. No way am I related to some German pilot who took part in the Battle of Britain!’ interrupted Charlie with a laugh.

They turned off the main road up a narrow lane bordered by high stonewalls and hedgerows typical of the Cornish countryside, and arrived at the hotel where they would be staying. Perched high on the clifftops, it overlooked the picturesque fishing port of Porthleven. Getting out of the car, Charlie grabbed their suitcases from the boot and they walked over to the reception, admiring the grand view out over the English Channel on the way.

Next morning at breakfast in the dining room of the hotel, Samantha asked Charlie about his early childhood spent in the small fishing port.

‘I don’t remember much about it, Sam. We lost both our parents in a car accident when James and I were only nine years old.’

‘I’m sorry, Charlie.’

‘I have got some happy recollections. One is looking for Spanish treasure with Dad, after some doubloons were found in a cove on the Lizard. Quite a few Spanish galleons were shipwrecked along this treacherous coast, even without the aid of the local wreckers. We lost our childhood friends in the town when we were sent to the orphanage in Exeter.’

‘Didn’t you have any family here who would have taken you in?’ asked Samantha.

‘No one leapt forward to take up the challenge of looking after us two tearaways.’ said Charlie with a laugh. ‘At least they didn’t separate us though, as some twins experienced at that time.’

‘Well, I hope we can find out what happened to gran’s child. If we can, it will be as if we’ve turned the last page of her diary.’

‘Hey up.’ said Charlie, looking at his watch. ‘We’d better get going.’

Driving down into the town, Charlie had an idea and pulled into an empty parking space close to the church.

‘C’mon Sam, let’s try the vicar first. It’s always a good place to start.’

‘Lead the way, boss,’ said Samantha with a smile.

Going inside, the vicar, a friendly, elderly man, welcomed them cordially and they introduced themselves.

‘How can I help you?’ he enquired.

‘We’re looking for any relations of Samantha’s grandmother, Catherine Faulkner that lived here for a short time in 1939, just before the war.’ said Charlie.

‘I’m not familiar with that name. Maybe one of my parishioners would recognise it.’

‘No, we don’t want to put you to any trouble, reverend, as we have an old address where she stayed. We’ll go there and see if we can find out anything.’

Samantha opened the diary and showed the vicar the address.

‘Oh, that’s down the road to the harbour and I think it’s close to the café there.’

‘Thanks, vicar.’

‘Is there anything else I can help you with.’ he enquired, smiling.

‘Well, yes.’ replied Charlie. ‘I used to live here when I was very young but moved away. Did you know my parents? My father’s name was David Britton.’

‘Now you come to mention it, I do recognise the name. I’ve been the vicar here for so long now, it feels at times that I’m as old as the church, and the memories not what it used to be.’

’Not to worry. I just thought . . .″

‘Ah, now I remember, it was shortly after I moved to the parish.’ interrupted the vicar.

‘David Britton, he was a popular local man who married a girl from nearby Lanner. Oh, wasn’t there a terrible . . .’

‘Yes, they were both killed in a car crash.’ confirmed Charlie.

‘I am so sorry that they were taken from you so early. I do believe they are buried here.’

The vicar went into his office and came out with the burial plan of the churchyard.

‘Ah, here we are. Row seven, second one down.’

They both thanked the vicar and Charlie made a generous contribution in the collection box towards the roof repair fund as they left. Outside, it was a fine day with seagulls wheeling around overhead, blown inshore from a strong southerly breeze. They walked to the well-tended graveyard and found the grave. Charlie stood staring at the headstone as Samantha kept a respectable distance to allow him time to gather his thoughts.

Following the vicar’s directions, they parked in the harbour car park, went in the café and ordered cream teas. Sitting down at a table next to one of the windows, they enjoyed the views of the harbour and out past the clock tower sitting on the breakwater to the sea beyond. Before long, they were devouring delicious scones covered in thick cream, spooning on generous amounts of strawberry jam on top. Finishing their teas and paying the bill, they went outside, walked to a small terraced house and knocked on the door, which was opened by a wizened old woman.

‘Good afternoon. My name’s Samantha Cox.’ greeted Sam.

‘What did you say your name was, my dear?’

‘Samantha Cox, and this Charles Britton.’

‘It’s just that my hearing’s not so good these days. What can I do for you?’

‘I’m trying to find out about a relation of mine, my grandmother, who stayed in this house many years ago.’

‘In this house? Are you trying to trace your family tree, like those adverts I’ve seen on the television?’

’Yes, Mrs….

‘Chegwin.’ she said, cupping her hand to one ear in an effort to hear Samantha.

’What was her name, my dear?

‘Faulkner, Catherine Faulkner. Apparently she stayed with a distant aunt of mine here shortly before the war.’

‘Why yes, she did. Why don’t you come in and I’ll make you both a nice cup of tea. I don’t get many visitors these days now, you know.’

Going inside, Samantha helped her make a pot of tea in the kitchen and brought it through to the living room where they all sat down.

‘How did you know my grandmother, Mrs Chegwin?’ asked Samantha.

‘Oh I didn’t, my dear. That was before my time. I was however, very good friends with Mrs Baker, who lived here all her life. I sold my house and moved in with Beatrice, what, some twenty years ago now, when we both lost our husbands within a short time of each other. Now she has gone too, last year as it happens.’

‘I’m sorry.’ soothed Samantha.

‘And my grandmother?’

‘I remember Beatrice speaking about young Catherine and saying she felt sorry for her, as having a child out of wedlock then wouldn’t have been very easy.’

‘What happened to her child?’ asked Samantha.

‘Why, I knew him very well, he was a good friend of my son John. They were like peas in a pod together. Both worked on the fishing boats in the harbour, well John’s retired now.’

‘What was his name?’ asked Charlie this time, wondering when they were going to get there.

‘David. He was adopted by a family here, married a girl from Lanner and they lived together in Porthleven.’

‘That was my father’s first name.’ stated Charlie.

‘Until that dreadful car accident they were involved in, of course.’

‘Car accident?’ Charlie said in surprise. ‘Would that have been David Britton?’

‘That’s right, my dear.’ replied the old girl with a smile.

Dumbfounded, Charlie turned and looked at a bemused Samantha.

‘Bloody hell, Sam!’ he muttered. ‘My father was your grandmother’s son!’

‘That makes us cousins, and first cousins at that!’

‘Hang on, didn’t Henry VIII change the law to marry his cousin? Which means if we wanted to we could…’

‘You’ve got to be bloody joking, Charlie!’ retorted Sam!

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