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Authors: Gwen Kirkwood

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BOOK: Darkest Before Dawn
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‘Don’t! Don’t say that, Sam, please.’ Rosemary’s voice broke as she looked up into his tired face. ‘He and Liam were such good friends. They had so many plans for when they went to university. Only God knows what will happen now, but I just pray Billy will survive. I know it’s selfish when the Lennoxes have lost both their sons.’

‘I suppose it is and my heart aches for them,’ Sam agreed, ‘but while there’s life there’s hope and we both have to cling to that now, Rosie.’

‘I know,’ she whispered. ‘Remember how thrilled we were to have a baby son after we had accepted there would be no more children?’

‘Yes, it was like starting all over again. And he’s dreamed about being a farmer since he could toddle.’

‘He’ll never be able to farm now, but I don’t care. All I ask is that he will live,’ Rosemary said, her voice breaking. Sam drew her close again and rocked her gently, giving and taking comfort from each other.

‘I should never have quarrelled with Alex over buying out his share of this place. He had no wife or child so I thought he might sell to the highest bidder one day. We had Billy. I was ensuring his future, making sure Martinwold would be his. I should have trusted Alex.’ He groaned. ‘Now Billy might not even survive.’

The grass sparkled with dew as the sun began to creep over the horizon. The birds were coming to the end of their moulting season and beginning to sing their joyous songs again, but for once Sam and Rosemary were oblivious to the beauty of their surroundings. Most of the cows were still lying, contentedly chewing their cud. They showed no desire to rise and make their own way in for milking.

‘I think they have a built-in time clock,’ Rosemary said as she prodded yet another recumbent animal until she got onto her feet and stretched, before beginning a slow amble towards the field gate.

‘They’re not so stupid as people think,’ Sam said. ‘They know when their udders are full it’s time to head towards the milking parlour. The milk yields will be down because we’re more than an hour too early but I shall feel easier if I know they have been milked.’

‘Yes, better for them to be an hour or so early
than several hours late if we get called back to the hospital.’ Rosemary shivered, wondering what news would await them.

‘We must be prepared to drop everything and go,’ Sam said.

At quarter to six they turned out the last batch of cows from the milking parlour and Rosie crossed to the dairy to check the water troughs were filled ready to circulate around the parlour for cleaning. She saw the police car draw up to the house. She called to Sam and ran to meet them.

‘Have you come from the hospital?’ she asked breathlessly.

‘We called in on our way here,’ Sergeant Gregory said. ‘The doctors say your son is holding his own but he is still unconscious.’

‘Oh,’ Rosemary said flatly and expelled a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. Her slim shoulders slumped.

‘That is good news in the circumstances, Mrs Caraford,’ Hazel Jacobs said gently.

‘We called at Highfold Farm earlier, to speak to Mr and Mrs Lennox,’ Sergeant Gregory said. ‘They are deeply distressed.’

‘They’re bound to be,’ Sam said gruffly as he joined them. ‘Jane Lennox is a wonderful mother to all three of the children, and Syd thinks, er, thought the world of Derek.’

‘So I gathered.’ Sergeant Gregory frowned, choosing his words carefully. He couldn’t tell them Mr Lennox was beyond reason. The man had refused to listen to anything they had to say. He insisted on blaming the Caraford boy. Nothing they could say would
make him listen. Even worse was his fury when his daughter crept downstairs in her dressing gown hoping for news of Liam. It was evident she guessed something was wrong when she saw the police car from her bedroom window, but she had been totally unprepared for the news of her brother’s death. The brutal way Mr Lennox told her had triggered a spontaneous reaction which convinced Sergeant Gregory she was telling the truth.

‘No! No, oh no!’ she had screamed. ‘It’s all Derek’s fault. He stole the –’ Mr Lennox had jumped to his feet as though he would strike her.

‘The Lennox girl was safely at home,’ Sergeant Gregory said now. ‘Her friend’s parents had given her a lift when her brother and your son didn’t return to the coffee bar for her.’

‘Thank God Fenella is safe,’ Rosemary said fervently.

‘Yes, she is safe, but she is very distressed.’

‘I thought her father was going to strike her when she came downstairs to ask for news,’ Constable Jacobs said quietly. ‘He’s a very disturbed man.’

‘He didn’t want her to talk to us, that’s for sure,’ Sergeant Gregory said grimly. ‘We shall need to
her again without him there, possibly on her own, or with her mother. We need to speak to her friend for confirmation too. Constable Jacobs escorted her back to bed and she was able to have a short conversation with her in her bedroom.’ He looked at his colleague and gave a nod.

‘Fenella said her elder brother came into the café and snatched the car key from your son. He ran out to the car and jumped into the driver’s seat. Her own brother jumped into the passenger seat. She said
they seemed to be arguing. She thought Liam was trying to persuade his brother to give back the car keys. Apparently your own son scrambled into the back as the car shot off down the High Street. She said the door swung open but he managed to grab it and slam it shut. She doesn’t know what happened after that but she is convinced her step-brother would have been driving the car at the time of the accident. Mr Lennox adamantly refuses to accept her version of what happened.’ Constable Jacobs said anxiously. ‘She was dreadfully upset.’

‘We need to get more statements, and hopefully some corroboration, but my guess is Mr Lennox is unwilling to accept any version except his own, even though he was not there,’ Sergeant Gregory said grimly.

‘All this may not be much comfort when your son is so badly injured,’ Constable Jacobs said gently, ‘but we’re going off duty now. We thought you should know we don’t think your son was driving at the time of the accident.’

‘Whatever happens to Billy, it is a great relief to hear that. He would never have forgiven himself if he was responsible for Liam’s death,’ Sam said.

‘Thank you both for taking time to come and tell us,’ Rosemary said gratefully. She looked up at Constable Jacobs. She turned her troubled blue eyes to Sergeant Gregory. ‘Would you…? Can I make you some breakfast, or a hot drink?’

‘No, thank you, Mrs Caraford, but it is a kind offer when you have so much on your mind,’ Sergeant Gregory said with a gentleness his colleagues would never have believed. ‘It has been a stressful night all
round. We’re both ready to finish our shift and get home to bed.’

Rosemary and Sam took turns at spending as much time at Billy’s bedside as the doctors would allow, with relief from Rena when she could get away from her own responsibilities, but it was several days before they were allowed to break the news of Liam’s death and even then Billy was still so groggy from his injuries and the heavy doses of medication they were unsure whether he understood. For the first time in Sam’s life the farm and the animals were a secondary consideration. The harvest had continued with the cooperation of the local contractor and his men. He and Rosemary had milked the cows each morning before going to the hospital.

‘Our own men are subdued too,’ he said as he and Rosemary sought comfort in each other’s arms a week later. ‘They’re wondering how Billy will accept the loss of his leg and the end of his dream to take over the farm. It’s a bitter blow to all of us but at least he is alive, thank God. The doctors seem fairly certain the blow to his head has not done permanent damage.’

‘We have a lot to be thankful for,’ Rosemary said,
determined to look on the bright side, even though her heart ached for Billy and his youthful dreams, and for Jane Lennox, Liam’s mother. ‘Billy’s careers advisor telephoned from school to enquire after him. He says Billy will be able to resume his education at university next year and he will do everything he can to help him choose an alternative career. He has offered to visit him in hospital when Billy feels up to it. In the short term I think the news of Liam’s death will affect him as badly as losing his leg.’

‘Yes. He’s beginning to think more clearly now they are reducing the medication, but he does have a lot of injuries, sweetheart. At least the drugs have given them a chance to heal. He was lucky the broken ribs didn’t pierce his lung as the doctors first feared.’

‘He is lucky to be alive at all,’ Rosemary said,
‘One of the younger doctors said it helped the patient’s spirits if they could regain some sort of mobility as soon as possible after an amputation but the broken ribs and having his arm in plaster will delay any attempts at crutches. I’m not sure Billy fully realizes that he has lost his leg yet though.’

‘Time,’ Sam sighed, ‘that’s what we’re all going to need, time and patience. Jo Finkle has proved himself a friend in need yet again.’

‘Yes, he may be an old man but his eyes are as sharp as ever,’ Rosemary said.

‘My father always said he could rely on him through thick and thin.’

Although in his eighties, Johan Finkle still walked up to Martinwold from his cottage every day to help with any odd jobs he could still manage to do. As soon as he heard about Billy’s accident he had taken
it upon himself to count and check the young animals in the fields each day, relieving Sam of that
. He had begun working for Sam’s parents when he was a young prisoner of war. He had known Sam and Alex, and their sister Tania, since they were born. They were all the family he had. He had offered his prayers when Rosemary was desperately ill before the twins were born, and he had rejoiced when Billy had arrived in the world eleven years later. Now he was as distressed by Billy’s accident as Billy’s own parents.

It didn’t seem possible that more anguish was yet to come. Rosemary had known Jane Lennox since Liam was at nursery school and she knew Jane would be stricken with grief over his death. She couldn’t believe Mr Lennox had forbidden her to visit, or even speak to her on the telephone, but Jane managed to phone from her mobile while she was out in the garden early one morning.

‘Fenella is dreadfully upset,’ Jane said, her voice shaking as she struggled to control her own emotions. ‘She knows Derek was to blame but Syd is so bitter he is blaming anyone and everyone except Derek. I–I’m afraid he has convinced himself it was Billy’s fault.’

‘Surely not!’ Rosemary gasped. ‘How can he think that?’

‘I’m dreadfully sorry, Rosemary. You and Sam have always been such good neighbours but Sydney is blaming you for buying Billy a car of his own. He – he’s being completely unreasonable. He refuses to speak to Fenella. He says she must tell the police Derek was not to blame. She w–wanted to visit Billy
in hospital but he is threatening to put both of us out of the house if we speak to any of you.’

‘Surely Syd must realize Fenella had to tell the truth to the police. She and Liam were so close. She must be full of grief, even without having to face questions and an enquiry,’ Rosemary said. ‘I heard her friend Amanda gave the same account to the police so Fenella couldn’t have lied, even if she had wanted to. Surely Syd must understand that?’

‘There’s no reasoning with him. I–I’m afraid of him, Rosemary. He – he’s going to need some kind of help to get over this. He refuses to speak to Doctor Jamieson, let alone accept any medication.’

‘I’m so sorry, Jane. I wish I knew what to do to help. Syd’s attitude must be making your own heartbreak over Liam even harder to bear.’

‘Yes, it is, but I wanted you to understand why I can’t keep in touch. Try to understand, Rosemary dear, it is not what I want, or what Fenella wants, but we’re doing our best not to aggravate him while he is in such a difficult frame of mind.’

After Jane’s phone call, Rosemary knew she should have been prepared but instead she burst into tears when the Reverend McCally called at Martinwold and gravely asked her and Sam not to attend the funerals of Derek and Liam Lennox.

‘I’m so sorry,’ he apologized for the fifth time. ‘Syd Lennox is not thinking straight in his grief. It is at his request that I am here.’ It had not been a request. It had been a command, accompanied by more
than the elderly minister had heard for many a year, a command instructing him to come to Martinwold and tell the Carafords they were not
welcome at the funerals of his sons and if they appeared at the church the funeral would be cancelled and he would tell the world their son was to blame for the deaths of his two sons. In his own bitter way he was doing that already.

Rumours were rife in the parish and surrounding villages but the Revd McCally had heard a firsthand account from Mrs Pearson, the mother of Fenella’s friend, Amanda. The two girls had seen Derek snatch the key and drive off at a crazy speed. The elderly minister feared Mr Lennox was on the verge of a mental breakdown, even allowing for his grief at the death of his own son, Derek, and the son he had adopted and given his name. Jane was a good woman who had done her best to fulfil her promises and care for him and his child. She didn’t deserve the misery she was suffering now over the death of her own beloved Liam and it was intensified by her husband banning her from seeing or speaking to her friends and neighbours.

It was an even worse shock when Sam and
saw the photograph of the crashed car in one of the newspapers and read the account. It reported that drink and drugs were involved but Rosemary stared in horror at the inference that Billy, the only survivor, was the one to blame.

‘Whoever the reporter is he has been careful not to state categorically that Billy is to blame,’ Sam said bitterly, ‘but he has made it as sensational as he can and he doesn’t care about the hurt he is causing, or what this might do to Billy if he reads it.’

‘We must hope no one mentions it to him,’ Rosemary said. ‘I doubt if he sees newspapers while
he is in a room on his own. I believe the story must have come from Syd Lennox.’

It was inevitable that Liam’s death would have a grave effect on Billy once he was able to take it in. They had been close friends since they started nursery and then primary school. One afternoon he was lying half sleeping, half dreaming as he gazed through the window into the distance. Beyond the hospital grounds he glimpsed the river, winding its way past the trees and the green grass in the park. He and Liam had enjoyed being in the rowing club. He wondered if he would be able to row without his leg. They didn’t have to be competitors. They could do it for fun, just the two of them. Surely he would still be able to swim? Anyway, Liam would help him get in and out of the boat. Good old Liam…. His brain cleared. Reality hit him with cold, hard facts that he had subconsciously thrust away. Liam was dead. He would never see him again. They would never do anything together, never share a joke, never laugh together, never help each other with their schoolwork. Never.

‘Oh God!’ he groaned aloud. ‘No,’ he whispered hoarsely, ‘no, not Liam….’ But there was no escaping the truth, which had been buried and blurred by the drugs. He wanted to howl like a baby. He turned his head away to hide the hot stinging tears which flooded his eyes. He wanted to turn on his side, away from the blasted corridor window where everybody could, and did, look in as though he was a goldfish in a bowl. The pain in his chest hurt as he tried to turn and he rubbed his eyes angrily and kept his good arm over his face so that no one would see his unmanly
tears. He felt there was a weight in his breast, hard and painful as though all his grief and loss had crystalized into indestructible rock.

His mother noticed the change in him as soon as she visited but she was too sensitive to probe.

‘He seems so quiet and withdrawn into himself,’ she reported anxiously to Sam when she arrived back home from visiting. ‘It’s as though a veil has descended. As though he has left his youth behind overnight.’

‘Well, his life has been turned upside-down. His plans – everything has changed,’ Sam said, drawing her into his arms to comfort her. ‘The doctors told him yesterday they need to remove a bit more of his leg because it’s not healing properly. He seemed to accept it philosophically, or so I believed, but it’s a sobering thought for anybody, let alone an active young man. Losing a leg, changing your life and youthful dreams, above all losing his best friend, they’re enough to make anybody withdrawn. All we can do is let him know we love him and we’re thankful he is alive.’

‘I suppose so, but my heart aches for him,’ Rosemary said, ‘and I feel so helpless. I can’t take him in my arms and kiss him better like I did when he was a baby.’

‘He is bound to miss Liam’s company. They were such good friends.’

‘Jane phoned earlier today. Syd was out. He had gone to the bank so she took the chance to telephone. She says Fenella and her friend would like to visit Billy in hospital but they’ll need to go in on the bus as it would make things worse if she drove them there and Syd found out.’

‘Jane is in a difficult situation but some young company might help Billy,’ Sam mused. ‘He might be able to talk to Fenella and her friend about the accident. I think he needs to get it out in the open, like poison. They were the only ones who actually saw what happened.’

‘That’s true, but Sergeant Gregory took his statement and he said it tallied with the account the girls had given. Thank goodness Billy has never read any of the newspaper reports. The local paper was not quite as bad. At least it hasn’t passed judgement until there has been an enquiry.’

Rosemary would have been dismayed to know Billy had read the newspaper reports. One of the young nurses had been furious at the injustice of it. She knew Billy had not had drink or drugs in him when he arrived at the hospital. She wanted to write to the paper on his behalf but both Billy and the senior nurse had asked her to ignore the reports.

‘It only prolongs the story,’ Billy said with a note of bitterness. ‘My parents are worried enough without reading all that speculation.’

‘We shall be removing the cast from your broken arm in a day or two,’ the senior nurse told him, sensing that he needed a boost. It was a small enough encouragement, considering he would have a long way to go before he was able to get around unaided with a prosthetic leg. She knew there were times when he had a struggle to hide his dejection and she admired him for that. He had proved a good patient. Even in the early stages he had only complained if the pain became unbearable. Breathing had become less painful as his fractured ribs healed. He was
beginning to consider the future.

‘There’s you trying to protect the parents, and there’s Mum and Dad thinking they have prevented you from reading any of the newspaper reports,’ Rena said wryly one day when she visited alone. ‘So, now you’re feeling a bit more like the brother I know and love, would you mind if I bring Fenella and her friend to see you? Her father has forbidden her to come but I could pick them up at the Academy on my way here. They get a half-day study leave now they are in fifth year. According to the rare conversations between Jane and Mum, Fenella has been desperate to visit ever since the accident but her dad has forbidden any contact with our family. I suspect Fenella is afraid you’ll think she was responsible for the newspaper reports.’

‘I’d never think that. It was all Derek’s stupid fault. Fenella tried to warn us as soon as she saw him. Liam said he had been trying to make trouble all day. He was probably jealous because Liam and Fenella had both done so well in their exams,’ he added bitterly, ‘but he acted like a madman.’ It was the first time he had managed to mention Liam’s name without feeling his throat choking with emotion. ‘We were getting up ready to leave. Derek snatched the car key. I can’t talk to Mum and Dad about it but I can tell you, sis. I’ve never felt so frightened in my life. I’ve wished and wished Liam and I had let him take the car and kill himself if that’s what he wanted. He went crazy. The more Liam protested the wilder he drove, waving his arm out of the window and hallooing at the clouds. We were flung about the car like rag dolls. I grabbed my seatbelt but I didn’t have time to find the slot, let
alone fasten it. I was flung one way and then back again as he turned right out of the town. I was thrown across the back seat and I braced my leg against the back of Liam’s seat. Suddenly we were heading straight at a tree. God, Rena….’ He buried his face in his hands for a moment. ‘As long as I live I shall never forget that last glimpse of Liam’s face. It was petrified with fear, and Derek was cackling like an idiot.’

‘He was an idiot. Drink or drugs seem to make idiots of the best of people,’ Rena said quietly, ‘but I’m glad you’ve been able to talk to me about it, Billy. So you think it’s all right for Fenella to visit? You don’t mind?’

BOOK: Darkest Before Dawn
2.38Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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