The Silver Cross

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Chapter Seventeen

Mum had already left for work when the telephone rang on Wednesday morning. When I answered it I recognised Wendy’s voice, and when I told her that Mum wasn’t there she said that Barry had woken up from his coma. She said that the police officer by his bed had heard him saying, “Stop shining that torch in my eyes, I’m trying to get some sleep!” and that he’d called the nurses over and they had called the doctor and then actually spoken to Barry, who kept insisting that someone had shone a torch in his eyes and woken him up. He was not strong enough to be questioned yet, but it was good news. They were still looking for Terence Duncan, though, but she was sure they’d catch him soon.

I had a little chuckle after she rang off and thought to myself, “That sounds like John up to his tricks again!” and I felt the cross round my neck. One thing was for certain, I wasn’t going to take it off until they had found Terence Duncan and put him away.

I’d arranged to meet up with Karina, or “cuz” as we kept calling each other, and people stared as we walked arm in arm into school and laughed with us when we told them why. She was also thrilled to hear that Barry had woken up again.

“Maybe he will know where the library documents are,” she said.

“That’s if TD hasn’t stolen them,” I replied.

There was another surprise in store in the morning assembly. Mr Pearson, the Head Teacher, said he had an announcement to make.

“Some of the parents have got together and decided to give an annual prize for Good Citizenship to one or more students who have shown exceptional help to the community. The prize is for £1,000.”

A murmur went round the school hall, and he raised his arm to quieten us.

“This year, I’m very pleased to announce that the winner of the Good Citizenship award is Lacy Clark. So Lacy, can you please come up and collect your prize.”

The hall erupted with cheers and the sound of clapping and “Woo hoo’s” as I walked shakily up to the front of the room, shook hands with Mr Pearson and held the shield that he gave me, which had my name engraved on it. Then he handed me an envelope with a cheque for £1,000 inside.

“Well done!” he said, shaking my hand. “I’ve read the article in the papers yesterday. You’d make a good investigative journalist.”

“Thank you, sir,” was all I could mumble.

Then the school photographer took some photos of us both, with me holding the shield. I knew I was the colour of over-ripe strawberries, but I didn’t care. I knew straight away what I was going to spend the money on, DNA testing, and some spending money for my holiday. What a result! I spent the rest of the day in a haze daydreaming about my birthday and the holiday, and seeing Julian again in the Library after school. And I couldn’t wait to see Mum’s face when I showed her the cheque. I also had a text message from Annabel saying: “What’s going on, Lacy? My Dad says there’s something about you in the local paper.”

I sent her a quick reply asking her to save it for me as I hadn’t seen it yet, and I would explain it all to her on holiday, to which she replied:

“OK cool Mum says she’ll pick you all up 6pm on Friday, see you then, can’t wait!”

Just as I was leaving school, Stephen Petrie found me and said that his father was related to the one who owned 31 Lavender Road, and they had joined VOCAL to find out why the Council had taken it over after the war, and that there were now about ten people in the group and a lot more enquiries since the article appeared in the Elham Gazette. He said they all thought that I should have a reward. I thought to myself, “I must read this article, maybe there’ll be a copy in the Library”. I could have a look in there later while I waited for Mum to finish work.

I put some makeup on during the bus ride and sucked a couple of peppermints, then messed my hair up to make it look sexier and not so much like a schoolgirl. I was going to be so disappointed if Julian didn’t turn up. But I need not have worried. As soon as I stepped inside the Library door he was there, waiting for me.

“Hello again,” he smiled, “I was hoping you would show up.”

My heart did a double backflip somersault. He was hoping that I would show up!

“So what have you been up to?” he asked, as we walked inside.

I took a sharp intake of breath. I had spotted a copy of this week’s Elham Gazette on the stand with the headline, “Schoolgirl uncovers massive Council cover-up”, with a large photo of me holding my award on the front page.

“Nothing,” I replied, walking in front of the stand to block Julian’s view. “I’m going on holiday this weekend so I’ve been sorting out stuff,” I continued, trying to change the subject.

“Oh, who are you going on holiday with?”

“Mum and some friends. Girl friends,” I added hastily.

We walked past the room where my Mum was working, and we watched her for a while.

“Jake really loves coming here now he understands what’s going on.”

“I’m still learning sign language,” I replied, exaggerating a bit, “I think it’s really interesting. In fact, I’d like to learn Morse code, too.” Now I was being completely random.

“I can do that,” Julian replied.

I looked at him in shock‒horror, as this was another spooky coincidence.

“Don’t you believe me? Seriously, I learnt it in the Scouts. I can teach you, if you like.” He gave me a beautiful smile revealing a row of perfect white teeth.

I gave him my best smile back. “Thanks. That would be really nice.”

“Okay, well when you come back from holiday just give me a call.”

He wrote his mobile number on the back of a scrap of paper and gave it to me. Our fingers touched as he handed it over and we both left our hands there for longer than necessary. I felt a tingle from the tips of my fingers right down to my toes.

Just then my mobile phone rang. There were some disapproving looks from people in the Library, and I saw on the wall a sign saying, ‘Quiet Area’ and a mobile phone picture with a cross over it. I noticed Karina’s name flash up on my screen, and then saw that she had also left a voice message.

“Excuse me, I’ll just take this outside,” I said to him, heading for the doorway. “This had better be worth it!” I can remember thinking to myself.

I walked back outside the library and looked at my ’phone again, and saw that she had also left me a text message. It must be something important, I thought, and had a look at it.

“Be careful 29 Feb again no CCTV.”

I saw something glint out of the corner of my eye and looked to my left, where I saw that a car had mounted the pavement and was heading towards me. I tried to move out of the way but I was frozen to the spot. I felt something burning my neck and I heard sounds of wheels squealing and glass crunching around me but I was still standing like a statue facing the car, which was now only a few yards away. Just when I was sure it would hit me, another car swerved to avoid a truck which had braked suddenly in the road, and it slammed into the car heading towards me and shunted it into some scaffolding around the building next to the Library, where it came to a halt. I heard somebody shout, “Look out”! Falling through the air came a large piece of wood, which landed on the roof of the car and sliced through it. I shut my eyes and could feel myself falling, but somebody caught me and dragged me away from the horrible scene.

“Don’t look, Lacy.”

I realised it was Julian. He pulled me back inside the Library and then lifted me up and carried me over to some seats. Outside I could hear screaming and shouting and other terrible noises but Julian held me to him and put his fleece over my head to block everything out except the beating of his heart, and I knew that he could feel my tears as I sobbed against his chest. After a few minutes I heard my mother’s voice, but I couldn’t look at her.

“Lacy’s just seen a terrible accident,” Julian told her, as I continued to sob.

“Are you all right?” she asked, her voice rising. I nodded underneath Julian’s coat.

“I’d better see if I can help,” she said, going to the exit.

I heard lots of people’s voices all around me as it seemed as if the whole Library had gone outside to have a look. In the distance I could hear the wailing of sirens getting closer, but I didn’t want to leave Julian’s arms and he continued to hug me, speaking gently. Then I realised that some of the victims of the pile-up had come out of their cars and were being led into the Library, sitting all around me. I heard a shaky voice say:

“It was the lights, they must be faulty. They just changed from green to red all of a sudden.”

And another:

“Did you see that? They were putting the sign up on the pub when the car crashed into the scaffolding and they let go of it.”

“I think they were doing some welding, did you see that light?”

Then somebody talking on their mobile: “Yeah, it’s just crashed into the Signalman’s Arms.”

“Julian,” I whispered, and he put his head down to hear me, “somebody just tried to kill me. They tried to run me over.”

“What?” he said back, and I know he was struggling to believe me, but he held me even closer to him. “You’re safe now,” he kept saying, “you’re safe.”

A few minutes later some ambulance men were directed into the Library and they were asking everyone if they were hurt and some people went into the ambulance, but I just shook my head and said I was okay, but when a policeman came inside and asked if there were any witnesses I said I had seen everything and gave my details. Then I asked if Wendy was on duty, and he looked a bit surprised but said,

“Yes, do you know her?”

I nodded and said I had her number and would like to speak to her. By this time Mum had joined me and had a worried look on her face. He called the station on his police ’phone and explained that we were in the Library at the scene of a RTA, and put her through to me.

“Hello Wendy, I think Terence Duncan just tried to run me over,” I said as clearly as I could, though my voice was shaking.

“Are you all right?” she asked.

“Yes, but if it was him, his car smashed into a wall and something fell on top of him.”

“I see. Will you be okay if PC Thomas here brings you into the station?”

I looked at Mum, who was as white as a sheet.

“Yes,” I managed to stammer, and handed the ’phone back to him.

So after talking further to each other, I said goodbye to Julian, and Mum and I got into the police car and went back to Wadham police station. We were there for a good hour as I gave a statement. Wendy said that she could not confirm who was in the car as it had been stolen, but as soon as she had any more news she would let us know. Then we went back home.

Mum was really upset when we got in, and we just sat on the sofa watching telly with her arm around me. I finally remembered to show her the engraved plaque I had won at school and the cheque in my school bag, but it all seemed a bit of an anti-climax after everything else that had happened. Mum did say, however, that if DNA testing was what I really wanted to do with the money she would get it organised, and I replied, “Yes please”.

Later that night we did get a ’phone call from the police confirming that it was Terence Duncan in the car, and that he had died. Some people had come forward and said that they had seen his vehicle mounting the pavement. And because of all the other circumstances surrounding his death, Mr Pritchard had also been taken in for questioning.

“Let’s hope this is all finally over now,” Mum said. But unfortunately for her, it wasn’t.

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