The Silver Cross

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Chapter Eleven

I woke on Thursday morning with a plan in my head. I found Barry Green’s card from the History Society and put his telephone number into my mobile. I was going to give him a call later on to see if he could help me find out a bit more about the Duncan family, and whether any more of them worked at the Council. Mum, meanwhile, told me she had made an appointment at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau for the following Monday to talk about the house and how to sort out changing “Irwin” to “Unwin” on her mother’s records. I could tell that something was bothering her, so hoped that she could fix it.

“When do you think the birth certificates will come?” I asked, as we ate breakfast together.

“I think the website said it would take about a week,” Mum replied. “I hope they come before Monday, anyway, because I can take it to my appointment.”

She took a few sips of coffee. “Lacy, actually there was something else I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Oh really, what’s that?” I asked, swallowing a mouthful of cornflakes.

“You know Tom at the Library? Well, he’s asked me out.”

“Oh!” I took this information in slowly. I admit I was a bit shocked. “What did you say to him?”

“I said I’d ask you first.”

“Really?” Now I was even more surprised. “Why are you asking me?”

“Well, it wouldn’t be fair to go out with him if you didn’t like him. What do you think of Tom?” She looked at me keenly.

“Well, he seems okay,” I mumbled. “He’s been very helpful, I suppose.”

Mum looked pleased.

“I’m only going for a coffee with him anyway,” she explained. “I’m not sure if I want a boyfriend again after being on my own all this time.”

I took a sip of my orange juice and considered this.

“In a few years’ time I’ll be leaving home, and you won’t have me to look after – I mean, me to look after you.”

Mum laughed.

“So is he married?” I demanded, suddenly feeling very protective of her.

“No, of course not!” she replied. “He’s been on his own for three years, in fact. He hasn’t got any children, either.”

“Okay,” I replied, after considering things. “It’s going to be a bit strange, I must admit, but I suppose it’s only fair to give him a chance.”

“I was hoping you’d say that,” Mum replied. “Anyway, we may both have boyfriends soon.”

She winked and I laughed this time.

“You’re teasing me, Mum. I don’t suppose anyone that good looking is going to ask me out.”

“Don’t say that. You’ve grown into a lovely, thoughtful and caring young woman. Why shouldn’t Julian want to go out with you? Or anybody else, for that matter?”

“You would say that, you’re my mother,” I retorted, but I was secretly pleased by her response.

Karina was equally positive when I met up with her at the bus stop. “He definitely likes you,” she confirmed, after I told her the whole story.

“We’ll find out for sure next week,” I replied. “How about you, are there any hot boys at your dancing class?”

She wrinkled her nose. “One or two. But they really fancy themselves. There’s about ten girls and only three boys, so they have to share themselves around a bit.”

“I bet they love that.”

“’Course they do.”

Then we continued laughing and joking, and making plans about what we were going to wear on holiday on our journey to school. As we got inside the gates I noticed Carly Richards was hanging around, and she came straight up to me.

“Lacy, can I have a word?”

“Yes, okay.” I looked at Karina. “Is it about Lavender Road?”

“Yes.”

“Well, don’t mind Karina, she knows all about it anyway.”

Carly hesitated for a second. “Oh, okay. Guess what, my Dad looked up the records for 21 Lavender Road, and it said that the house was sold by Peter Richards in 1949.”

I gasped. “But he was already dead then!”

“I know!” Carly replied. “So my Dad rang the Land Registry and they said there was nothing they could do.”

I thought carefully. This really did not sound fair.

“I think there may be something you can do. You might be able to sue the Council.”

“Yes,” agreed Karina. “Remember that article you showed me, where it said that if any further victims came forward they would be compensated?”

“That’s right, of course!” I replied. “Carly, I’ll get another copy and bring it in to you tomorrow.”

“Oh thanks Lacy, I’d really appreciate that.”

“No worries,” I replied as she walked away.

Karina and I looked at each other. “I’m still investigating my family,” I said to her. “In fact, I’m going to ring Barry from the Library again today to see if he knows any more about Councillor Duncan, and whether any of his family still work at the Council.”

Karina looked doubtful. “Lacy, maybe it’s time you went to the Police.”

“I will,” I replied, realising that perhaps she was right. “I just need to find out a few more things.”

I noticed that she was looking at my neck, and realised she was staring at my cross again.

“It’s not flashing at you, is it?” I asked.

Karina laughed. “No, not today. I can’t believe you’re still wearing it, though.”

“It’s hard to explain,” I replied, “but I feel like as long as I’m wearing it, I’m safe.”

“I hope you’re right,” she responded.

At lunchtime I gave Barry a ring. “Hello Barry, do you remember me, it’s Lacy from last week.”

“Oh yes, hello again. How can I help you?”

“I saw there was a Terence Duncan working at the Council, and I just wondered if he could be Councillor Duncan’s relative at all?”

“Hmm. Well it can’t be his son, Derek. He retired a few years ago and I’m not sure if he’s still alive, even.”

“Okay. And do you know what job Derek did, by any chance?”

“No, I’ve no idea. I know what I can do, though, if you come along on Friday night to the meeting I’ll introduce you to David Pritchard. He used to be the President of the History Society before me, and he was also a Councillor, so he knew the Duncan family. Maybe he can answer your questions.”

“Do you think he would know what happened during the war and what the Council did when a house got bombed?”

“Well I should think so. He would certainly be able to find out, anyway.”

“Okay, that would be really useful. I’ll bring Mum along as well.”

“Good. I look forward to seeing you both, then.”

I said goodbye to him and closed my ’phone, and thought about what I knew. It did seem a coincidence that my Grandmother had been knocked down on the one day of the year that the CCTV cameras were not working. I decided that I would not mention this to anyone at the moment, but would still ask Mr Pritchard about Derek Duncan. And he might have some other useful information, I thought.

When I got home there was some good news; I saw that two brown envelopes had arrived which were franked from the General Register Office, so I knew that the birth and marriage certificates were inside. I could barely wait for Mum to get home from work and open them. When she arrived she could tell that I was excited, so instead of relaxing and having a cup of tea or something to eat, she took the envelopes off the mantelpiece and handed me one, while she opened the other.

“I’ll go first,” she said.

Inside the envelope were two certificates.

“This is my mother’s birth certificate!” I went over and peered over her shoulder. “‘Margaret Unwin, Born 9 June 1940, Mother: Catherine Unwin, Father: George Unwin. Address: 25 Lavender Road.’”

“Great!” I shouted. “That all fits so far.”

“Well, thank goodness she knew her real Christian name, at least,” Mum replied. “So my mother was born in June, how lovely.

She opened out the next certificate and read aloud:

“‘4 February 1939, Wadham Registry Office. George Unwin, Bachelor, Age 23, married Catherine Brent, Spinster, Age 22, of 31 Lavender Road. Witnesses: Frederick Brent and George Unwin.’”

We both stood there speechless for a few moments, the names ringing a bell in my head.

“So that means...” – I hesitated and looked at my Mum – “that means they were neighbours and...”

Mum sighed a heavy sigh. “It looks like it, Lacy. It means they were also killed during the bomb blast. I knew it! I knew there had to be a reason why no-one came forward to look after Mum.”

“And why nobody claimed Frederick and Catherine Brent,” I added quietly.

“What was that, Lacy? Who wasn’t claimed?”

I realised that I had let too much information slip out, and there was no point in covering up any more. I went to my bedroom and retrieved the bits of paper showing the names of the dead and the bodies released for burial.

“What’s this?” Mum asked.

“It’s something that I got from Barry at the Library,” I told her, looking embarrassed.

“So what’s this here? Eh? It says here that Margaret Unwin was released for burial!”

“That’s why I didn’t show you, Mum. It’s that Councillor Duncan again, he falsified the burial records.”

“What, you mean he put Catherine into an Orphanage and then pretended that she was dead?” Mum sounded truly shocked.

I nodded unhappily. Mum went to the kitchen and put the kettle on, and I could hear her banging the cupboards.

“You shouldn’t have kept this from me,” she said, telling me off. “I’m going to the Citizen’s Advice Bureau on Monday, and I can show them this.”

“Good,” I replied, trying to calm her down. “Guess what, I spoke to Barry today, and he’s invited an old Councillor who knew George Duncan to speak to us on Friday night. Maybe he can help, as well.”

I could tell from the way Mum was stomping about in the kitchen and throwing the cutlery around that she was still angry.

“Shall I open the other envelope?” I asked rather timidly.

“Oh yes, I forgot about that in all this confusion. Open it, Lacy, I doubt there’s anything else that could surprise me. Unless it says John’s an alien from outer space!”

I laughed then, and realised Mum had calmed down a bit. I opened it up and unfolded the certificate carefully. “Shall I read it out?”

“Yes, go for it.”

I waited for Mum to come back into the living room and sit down with her cup of tea.

“Okay, here goes. ‘Kenneth John Unwin, born 16 May, 1915. Mother: Trudy Unwin, Father: George Unwin’.”

“We already knew all that.”

I showed her the birth certificate.

“And Mum, look at the address: ‘25 Lavender Road’. So John was born there, and his father must have owned the property before selling it to his son.”

“Thanks, this might be useful. I’m definitely taking these to the C.A.B. on Monday.”

“Why don’t we take everything to the History Society meeting tomorrow night as well,” I suggested. “Maybe the man who was a Councillor can help us.”

I looked at the certificate again. “What does this mean?” I pointed to a small ‘T’ written at the top of it.

“Oh!” Mum replied. “I was wrong, you have surprised me. I think that means he was a twin.”

“Wow! So William and John were twins! That’s really exciting.”

“And in that case, I definitely think we should try to track his family down,” Mum replied. “Even if we have to go to Canada.”

“Fantastic! When can we go?”

“I’ll have to start saving up; good thing I’ve got the extra job.

“Maybe I can get a Saturday job to help out?”

Mum looked at me and smiled. “Okay, Lacy, I’ll ask at the supermarket for you.”

I went to bed happily planning ideas for my trip to Canada. I took off the cross and looked at it again.

“I’ll try to find out what happened to Margaret, I promise,” I whispered, before going to sleep.

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