The Silver Cross

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Chapter Sixteen

I woke late the next morning as Mum hadn’t called me for school. I looked out of my window and saw that Tom’s car had gone, and could hear Mum washing up in the kitchen.

“Morning,” I called out in an attempt at normality.

“Hi Lacy.” She turned round and smiled at me.

I was relieved to see that she looked all right, and I went over and gave her a hug.

“Are you okay with Tom staying last night?” Mum gave me a searching look.

“I did feel safer with him around,” I admitted.

“He’s not going to be moving in, or anything like that. We want to take things really slowly, so that we can all get used to one another.”

“How comes you’re not at work?” I asked, changing the subject.

“I’ve taken the day off,” she said, “and I didn’t have the heart to wake you, either.”

“Have you heard any news about Barry?” I asked anxiously.

“I rang the hospital this morning and he’s just the same, I’m afraid. They’re going to do some tests later on.”

Just then the telephone rang and we both jumped. Mum answered it.

“Oh hello. Yes, we are fine. He’s out? I don’t believe it! What happened? I see. I see. Right. Yes, don’t worry, I will. Let’s hope for the best then. I’ll tell Lacy that. Thanks for letting me know.”

“What’s the matter?” I asked.

“It’s Terence Duncan. He was taken in for questioning last night but they’ve had to let him go, his father provided an alibi.”

“What about all my evidence?”

“Wendy said they’ve searched Barry’s house and the Duncan’s but they can’t find those documents, which are key pieces of evidence. The thing is they belonged to the Library and Barry shouldn’t have taken them, anyway. And it could just have been a normal burglary that went wrong.”

“What about what happened to Nan?”

“Well, there’s no evidence at the moment to link him to Mum’s death, except for Barry saying that he told Mr Pritchard she was looking for her birth certificate. The CCTV units not working, well it might be suspicious but without Barry’s evidence it doesn’t link up. So we really have to hope that he gets better and can remember what happened all that time ago.”

“But that’s crazy! It’s obviously him!” I was really frustrated and annoyed now.

“I wonder what it was Barry had discovered?” Mum replied. “If only we knew that, maybe it would be the final piece of the jigsaw.”

“I’ll just have to find out,” I replied, running back upstairs.

“Wendy also asked us not to talk about this to anyone,” she called out after me.

I was really upset now, scared and angry too. This man Terence worked in security, and he probably knew how to unlock doors on cars and houses. I turned my computer on and checked for any messages. To my relief I saw that Carol Stannard had replied to my email.

“Hi Lacy. I admit I was a bit taken aback by your request for DNA, but having thought about it, I’m sure my father would have wanted me to do everything I could to help you. It’s such a small thing, really. So leave it with me and I will be back in touch when I’ve managed to get it done.

P.S. I’ve been looking through my Dad’s old diaries, and in the one for 1951 there is a Christmas card still in its envelope at the back. The stamp is British and it says, ‘From Paul, Brenda and the girls’. I think it must be from Paul Brent."

I replied to say thank you and that we would be getting our DNA tested as soon as possible. Then I ran downstairs shouting, “Mum, we need to get our DNA done”.

“What’s that, Lacy? What are you up to now?”

“Carol Stannard’s agreed to get her DNA tested. So if we do ours, and also some of your Mum’s hair, we can prove we are all related.”

Mum sighed. “That’s the least of my worries at the minute. I just want this horrible business to be over.”

“We can’t give up now,” I said, sitting down next to her. “It will be the proof we need to get our house back.”

“I sometimes wish I’d never opened that old tin box. Look at us now, too scared to open the front door!”

I felt guilty then, because I realised that it must be awful to learn that your Mum was murdered rather than killed in an accident. But I couldn’t leave it there.

“She’s also found out more about Paul Brent. There was an old Christmas card from him and his wife, who was called ‘Brenda’.”

Mum looked a bit more interested.

“Really? I suppose we could try to find their marriage certificate. It would take our mind off other things.”

So she came upstairs and we searched on the government website for marriage certificates, until we found one that could have been his.

“Paul Brent and Brenda Smart of Elham, South London, 1945 – what do you think, Lacy, shall we go for that one?”

“That’s the only one married to a ‘Brenda’,” I replied, looking carefully at the screen.

“Okay.”

Mum paid with her debit card. I showed her Carol’s email. “So he had some daughters, that’s nice. They would have been Margaret’s cousins, and my second cousins.”

Just then there was a knock at the front door. Mum peered cautiously out of my bedroom window.

“It’s only the postman!” she laughed, and went down to open the front door, with me following close behind.

He handed her a large brown envelope with ‘Do Not Bend’ written across it. She thanked him and closed and locked the door again. I noticed that the stamps across the top were Canadian, and could hardly wait for her to open it. Inside were a few sheets of airmail letter paper full of neat handwriting, and accompanying them were a bunch of photographs.

“Oh great!” I exclaimed excitedly.

Mum immediately picked up a large A4 photograph and turned it over. It read, ‘Carol Stannard, Christmas 2010’.

“Oh my goodness, she looks exactly like Mum, only older!”

“And her eyes are like yours,” I noted.

The other photos were a mixture of her and the rest of the family, including William and his wife, Carol’s brothers and sisters, and some of her children and grandchildren.

“How sweet. This little girl looks like you did, Lacy, when you were little.”

I studied the photo of one of Carol’s granddaughter, ‘Bethany’.

“We should send her some photos back,” I replied.

The letter enclosed from Carol apologised for not writing earlier but explained that once she had spoken to me on the internet she had realised that we really were John’s family. And that because the brothers had been so close and had never got to see each other again after William had moved to Canada, she hoped we could all be reunited. “I’m sure that would have been their dearest wish,” she added.

“Aah, that’s really lovely,” said Mum, “I’ve got a tear in my eye. Go on then, have a look on the internet for me and get some prices for DNA testing.”

I smiled.

“Thanks Mum.” I went back upstairs and had a look. But that was a bit of a shocker because it seemed to cost around £400 each person. I knew that was way out of our league, but broke the news to her anyway.

“Twelve hundred pounds! That’d take me a year to save up. You’ve stumped me there, Lacy, I don’t know where I’d get that kind of money from.”

“But we have to, now Carol’s going to pay for hers. Well, you probably don’t need mine anyway, just yours and your Mum’s.”

“That’s true, just eight hundred pounds then.”

We both laughed. I knew that was more than she earned in a whole month at the supermarket.

“Anyway, Lacy, I think you should be doing some revising even though you’re not at school. I spoke to your Head Teacher and explained a bit about what’s going on, but I said you’d be back tomorrow. And I’ve got to go back to work.”

I went back upstairs and spent some time revising, as well as sending messages to Annabel and Karina. Annabel said she was feeling a lot better, and looking forward to our holiday. She still didn’t know anything about my investigations, and I just said that I had a tummy bug so had the day off. I really missed the long heart-to-heart talks we used to have, and couldn’t wait for her to get back to her old self.

Karina, of course, knew most of what was going on, but I updated her about Barry and the latest on Paul Brent and his family. She replied straight back with some interesting news:

“My Mum’s maiden name was Smart! I’m going to ask her if she knows a Brenda Smart when I get home.”

I replied, “Wow! Just imagine if we are related!” Then I wrote that I wished she was with me to help search for Barry’s discovery, and she said that we could talk about it at school tomorrow and meanwhile to scan her all the details and she would have a good think, but that it must be something really important to the Duncan’s personally.

After that I tried to make some sense of the lists that Barry had sent me, and which the police now had a copy of. I could see that he had emboldened the names of where the burials and the hospital records didn’t match, and I thought about those people and what had really happened to them. Maybe that was something to do with it? I studied the names and addresses again, but nothing new popped into my head. Then I read and re-read all my newspaper clippings, and by the end of it I had all that information whirling around in my brain and it was too confusing to make any sense. Then Mum called up to me:

“Lacy! I thought I told you not to tell anybody!”

She did not sound very pleased. I went back downstairs. The television was on and it was the lunchtime news. To my surprise I saw half a dozen people holding placards saying, “VOCAL want justice now!” standing outside Wadham Town Hall. I recognised some of the faces, too, so must have seen them around the school some time. The journalist spoke to the spokesperson in front, and his name flashed up as “Charles Richards”.

“This is a massive cover up by Wadham Council,” he stated. “I would urge people to read their local paper and look at our advertisement in there, which gives the names and addresses of those affected. If you think any of these may be relatives of yours, please get in touch with us,” and there flashed up a website address and ’phone number to contact.

Mum had covered her face with her hands and was looking at the television through her fingers.

“Err, sorry Mum, I’d already given them this information before we went to the police.”

“Come here!” she demanded. I sat next to her nervously.

“I suppose,” she said through gritted teeth, “this has all been kept secret far too long, anyway, and it’s not done us any good. The only people it has helped, at the end of the day, has been the likes of Councillor Duncan and his family.”

“So you’re not angry with me?”

She paused, and then gave me a hug. “You’re going to make a pretty fine detective, if I say so myself.”

“Phew!” I thought to myself, I really thought I’d gone too far this time. So, encouraged by that, I went back to my room and continued my detective work. I read again the article on Councillor Duncan’s death, and saw that he had lived at 16 Bishops Road. That address seemed familiar; I was sure there had been some bombings in Bishops Road. I searched again the release authorisation list of burials for Bishops Road and saw that there were two listed, a Mr and Mrs Everard from number 16. Then I saw that nobody had claimed them, and they had been “released for burial” to the communal grave. Wow, that must be it! He’d had the nerve to move into one of the empty houses and claim it for himself!

“Mum!” I shouted, running down the stairs, “I’ve found it! I’ve found out what Barry discovered!”

“Let me see, I don’t want to ring the police unless I am certain.”

I showed her my paperwork. Then she said, “Well done!” and rang Wendy at the police station. She said was coming straight round and she wanted a copy of my newspaper article as evidence.

Wendy turned up with a male colleague, Dennis, who was very friendly and said I deserved a “pat on the back”. Wendy told him that I wanted to be a police officer and he jokingly said he hoped I would join soon or I would do them all out of a job. Then I asked about Barry. Wendy said that he had a police officer guarding him all the time, and as soon as there was any change she would let me know. A few hours later, she rang to tell Mum that Derek Duncan was being questioned again, and that they were looking for Terence to arrest him.

“Phew!” said Mum, “I feel a bit safer now.”

Then the telephone rang again and it was Karina’s Mum, Sheila. She spoke to Mum for quite a long time, saying that she thought we could be related on her mother’s side of the family, as she’d had a Great Auntie Brenda and Uncle Paul Brent, but they had lived in Devon when she knew them and they’d had two daughters, Valerie and Yvonne, who were cousins of her mother, Dorothy. Brenda’s brother, David Smart, had married Emma, who’d had four children, including Sheila’s mother, Dorothy. And Dorothy had confirmed that her Aunt and Uncle used to live in Lavender Road – which made Karina and I cousins! Then we both spoke to each other on the ’phone and I was so excited that I was jumping up and down and screaming down the receiver, and Mum was just laughing at me. At last I had some real, live family that lived near to me and, better still, she was my friend. And Mum had found a cousin, too.

I could hardly get to sleep that night, thinking about everything that had happened during the day.

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