Harry parked the Land Rover outside the Post Office and slammed the door. The bang echoed in the street, bringing David Redman to the door, peering cautiously into the street like a startled guinea pig. When he saw Harry he smiled and smoothed his Pringle sweater over the bulge of his belly.
“Harry,” he greeted. “Oh good, you brought the logs. Do you want a hand with them? John and Ian are upstairs ‘practicing a new song’.” He made a face and Harry grinned at him.
“That’d be cool,” he said. He went to the back of the trailer and let the flap down. “Thanks Mr R.”
He had only moved two of the bags from the trailer to the narrow pavement before his two friends came round the side of the building and whooped at him. He grinned and gestured to the bags but they weren’t to be put off. Ian Jenkins, shorter, and brown haired, grinned back mouthing a welcome but before Harry could reply John, his brown hair sticking up wildly with gel, jumped in.
“We saw her,” he said. “Little red Mini, not one of the old ones like Miss Lloyd-Roberts but one of the souped up modern ones. Brand new too. And she got out and went across to the Dog.”
“Yeah Mr Douglas was waiting for her,” Ian took up the tale, “but Harry, are …”
“She’s got blue streaks in her hair,” John added breathessly. “Can’t be any older’n you, say. And she’s pretty. Fuck, isn’t Leeanne gonna be pissed.”
“No reason for her to be,” Harry said, lifting another bag and beginning to carry it round the back. Ian smiled and picked one up, following him but John, hands in pockets, continued to talk.
“Well, she’s pretty and you’ll be back and forth all hours, I bet, so ‘course she’ll be pissed. So what was she like? The Brendan girl, I mean. Did she say what they’re going to be doing up there?”
“No,” Harry said, tipping the logs from the bag and beginning to stack them in the wood store. “Didn’t see her. Helped carry her bags in but she was already in the house.”
“Yeah the Mini was full of bags,” John continued. “Smart looking’ stuff. Bet she’s made ‘em smarten the house up a bit too.”
There was a short silence while Harry picked up the empty bag and headed back to the Land Rover. Ian waited until he was out of earshot and poked John in the side.
“’Ent you go no tact?” he asked. “How’d you reckon Harry feels? That’s his house you’re talking about.”
John looked guilty for a moment then stuck out his jaw. “S’not my fault,” he said. “Stands to reason that what was good enough for Harry Dee and his mum and grandpa isn’t going to be good enough for some millionaire chick from LA or Detroit or wherever. Hey, do you reckon he knows what’s going on up there and isn’t telling us?”
“No,” Ian said and followed Harry back to the Land Rover. All the same he wondered, as he helped Harry chivvy John into doing his share of the work, if perhaps Harry might know more than he was letting on.
He took the opportunity to ask as they were on their way back home, David Redman having insisted that John stop ‘messing around’ and help stack some shelves in the shop. Ian got into the Land Rover and looked across the cab at Harry as he started the engine.
“So?” he said. “How’re you doin’ really?”
Harry pulled away from the kerb before he replied. “I don’t know,” he said bleakly. “Oh yeah, I’m okay. Granpa saw that I’d be all right even without what my dad left me and at least I’m still here – in the village where I belong. Couldn’t have stood it if I’d had to go off again like with school. I’ve got my bit of land and the Wood and the cottage. The farmhouse shouldn’t matter and it didn’t, Ian. It didn’t.” He slowed to take the sharp left into the lane that ran around the back of the village and, eventually, to the bungalow where Ian lived with his parents. “But this past few months,” he continued, “watching them gut the stables and cider mill, watching those lorries coming in and unloading God knows what, I – I’ve got – angry.”
Ian stared at him. “What’re you going to do?” he asked apprehensively. An angry Harry was generally bad news for somebody.
Harry chewed his lip for a moment then shrugged. “Nothing,” he said, “apart from wish Edward bloody Devenish had left well enough alone. Mum and I could have coped with the farm all right; even when grandpa died we managed. Dad didn’t have to go and marry her after all this time, did ‘e? Shit, that sounds so ungrateful but seventeen fucking years, Ian! Then his cow of a wife dies and, finally, he marries Mum, then …” He fell silent for a moment, jaw muscles clenching. “If she hadn’t married the bastard, she wouldn’t have been driving him that night and she’d still be alive.”
“Yeah,” Ian agreed. “And that let your brother …”
Harry made a very unpleasant sound. “My <i>half</i>-brother,” he growled. “Death duties my arse. He could’ve raised the money elsewhere. Selling the farmhouse was just pure bloody spite.”
Ian nodded, raising a hand to wave at his father who was patching a hole in a hedge. “Ooh, hang on, Harry,” Ian said. “Think Dad wants to speak to you.”
Harry nodded and pulled over to that side of the road, rolling his window down and smiling. “Hi, Mr Jenkins,” he said. “How’re you doing?”
Tom Jenkins, shorter than any of his sons and about half his wife’s width leaned on the bonnet and grinned. “Bloody sheep,” he said, wiping his brow with his wrist and leaving a green mark. “Hoped they wouldn’t notice that thin patch but no! Elunedd wondered if you’d like to eat with us tonight,” he continued, “before you and Ian go down for your band practice? She’s making spaghetti,” he promised.
Ian nudged Harry who grinned and nodded. He knew very well that John Redman wasn’t the only person in King’s Norton consumed with curiosity.
“Thanks Mr Jenkins, I’d like that,” he said. “Same time as usual? ‘kay, see you then then. Oh and I’ll bring you down a couple of posts to put in there,” he nodded to the hedge.
As he drove on his mood had lightened a bit and he grinned at Ian. “Your mum’s spaghetti is worth the third degree I’ll get. At least you can describe Miss Brendan, what she wore, how she seemed to be getting on with Glenn Douglas. All I can do is describe her bags.”
“Bags can tell a woman a lot,” Ian said wisely. “Bet mum’ll be just as interested in those.”
“Yeah,” Harry laughed then he frowned. “Brendan and Douglas. There’s something about those two names together. Wish I could remember what.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Ian said as they pulled up by the new bungalow that had replaced the refurbished farmhouse as the home farm for the estate. “It’ll come to you when you least expect it.”
“Yeah,” Harry sighed, looking up the lane towards the rise that masked the lovely building that had once been his home, “that’s what I’m afraid of.”