Fred's Fifth Favour-Part Six
Fred turned from the newly opened curtains, and the suburban morning tableau they revealed. Morning shower first; then Tom’s breakfast, then his own breakfast. Then he’d ring his daughter.
This done, he dialled Paula, his daughter.
‘Hi Paula,’ Fred answered his daughter’s voice. ‘It’s Dad. Just ringing to see how that last exam went on Friday.’
‘Oh Dad! It’s been amazing. I can’t believe the run of luck I’ve had! Nearly all the questions in all the exams were either things I did essays on, or things I’d revised the most strongly or both! I couldn’t believe how well it’s went!’
‘So you think it’s gone all right?’
‘Fingers crossed it has-though don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched! That’s what Mum always used to say-still does, even….’
Fred felt a momentary sadness.
‘How is she, these days your mum?’. As he spoke, his voice seeming to dip a little, and it seemed to him his daughter’s did likewise as she answered.
‘Oh, Mum’s just mum. She’s doing okay.’. There was a moment’s silence after this short answer.
‘Well tell her I send her my best wishes,’ said Fred.
‘You always do, Dad.’. After a moment, Paula added, ‘She always sends hers for when I speak to you or see you.’
Fred knew the lie, and that Paula knew he knew, but it passed without comment.
‘Well, I’m delighted for you that it’s gone so well, anyway,’ Fred’s voice suddenly regained vigour and conviction. ‘That's your education complete. Got your whole life ahead of you now: career, marriage, kids-my grand-kids!’. Half-consciously, he parroted the words in his dream.
‘Let’s just concentrate on getting a job first. Plenty of time for marriage and kids later. No need to rush things.’. Fred had a flash-back to the speeding car journey in his nightmare.
‘Of course not,’ he assented. ‘It’s just, I don’t want to miss those things...Aw, look, just ignore me, okay, Paula? I had an odd dream last night and it’s been on my mind. You know what a silly old sausage your father is!’
‘You’re not silly at all, Dad. Don’t be silly!’ laughed Paula. ‘Anyway, exams’ll be over for the housemates next week, and we’re all out for a big night out on Friday.’
‘Okay, well, have a good time then and I hope you have done as well as you thought!’
As Fred replaced the phone he felt reassured, upbeat and positive.
Fred turned on the television. The ending of a children’s cartoon was followed by what was billed as a new topical Sunday morning talk show, religiously and morally themed.
Fred settled down to watch. The show was set before an audience with a presenter with a microphone moving between two people seated before the onlookers in the studio, one of the pair being a young woman of about thirty, in a black gown and white dog collar. The caption named her as the Reverend Jane Tipping.
‘Religious belief will never become irrelevant,’ opined Tipping, forcefully. ‘I believe that human nature is such that, even were there in fact no deity, the belief in something higher, more exalted than oneself is a necessity of human life. People need dreams…’
‘So why not fulfil those needs by a concrete ambition, or some abstract and moral cause, rather than a fictional big sky fairy-and I’m not trying to be homophobic there,’ asked the second of the pair in front of the audience, captoned as Nick Gregory of the Society for Atheism. ‘When a ordained priest of the C of E says dream is as good as God, then to me that sounds very close to “God is as good as a dream” to me, I don’t know about you….!’. He was laughing as he reached this denouement and tailed off and sat back with a satisfied grin as laughter and clapping from the audience signified approval. Fred turned off the television, annoyed by the anti-religious bias in a programme on the morning of the Sabbath, of all things-then flinched with shock as he saw a face peering round the left edge of the front room window.
No sooner had the face appeared than it vanished. Fred got up and ran into the front hall, where he quickly opened the door. As he did so, a woman in her thirties, with Sally’s face, small form and curly hair appeared. Unlike her mother, the daughter’s hair was dark and she wore jeans. She carried a shoulder bag, not unlike the one Fred had brought.
‘Hello,’ she said. ‘Sorry, did I scare you? Fred, isn’t it?’
‘Susan?’. She nodded.
‘Righto,’. Fred picked up the shoulder bag he had brought, which sat nearby in the hall. ‘No problems to report. May as well get off. I don’t know where Tom is. Not seen him yet, but put food down for him.’
Fred returned to his his own house. Shortly after he did so, a long silver car passed along the street and slowed, then pulled up outside Miss Beaufort’s house. From ther car emerged a woman with small head with tightly-curled black hair, and a man with a large square head was topped with similarly dark hair, with a matching pair of thick eyebrows. They let a young girl and boy out of the rear seats. The man went to Ms Beaufort’s front door and rang the bell, then waited. After some moments, he rang it again. Still no response.
He gave several sturdy and spaced knocks on the door and waited again. The standing quartet began to fidget, and the children to mutter. Finally, the man walked over to the front room window and looked inside.
‘Curtains are open. No sign of life, though.’. He rapped a number of times on the glass and stood there, looking expectantly. Still nothing.
‘Neil,’. The man looked at his wife as she spoke. ‘Try the phone.’
Nodding, Neil took a mobile from his pocket, he dialled.
‘It’s ringing! The phone in there. You can hear it!’ pronounced his son, pointing.
‘That’s right. I’ve rung Auntie Dora to see if she comes to answer the phone.’
Though the four listened, there came no break in the ringing audible from within. Finally, Neil killed the call. Opening a gate at the house side, he entered and walked to the back of the house. His wife and children stood, looking anxious. One, two, then three minutes passed.
Suddenly Neil emerged from the house rear. He headed slowly towards the gate.
His face was pale, set, sombre and grim. Transfixed by her husband’s expression, his wife only dimly heard the front door of the neighbouring house being opened then closed and locked. Pocketing his front door key, Black set off on a brisk walk to his right. His usual slow, measured pace was replaced by what seemed like an almost anxious quickness, as the long legs of the big man took quick, long strides.
Presently, he reached his objective. By the side of the house he now stood by, Black saw the garage with its door open. Inside, a very short man with white hair was staring into the open bonnet of a car.
Black began to approach, slowly, stealthily; nearer and nearer. Soon, he was at the very edge of the garage door.
‘Ohh!’. The head of the small man jerked upwards in shock, as he suddenly became aware of the figure sillhouetted in the doorway. Black took another step forward, his body now visible in the light. His face was obscured by shadow, save for the faint glint of his mirrored glasses, and save for his chin, lit just enough to show the end of the scar that ran down that side.
‘Aw! It’s you!’. The snowy-haired man smiled. ‘Scared me, sneaking up like that! Don’t worry. I hadn’t forgotten our appointment! Just giving the old banger a check-over. It’s all set and ready to go.’. He shut the bonnet and approached the new arrival. ‘So tell me,’ he asked Black, ‘just what is this all about? You were so mysterious about it all the other day….’. He tailed off. Black’s breath had became audible and hoarse.
‘Uh-are you okay!?’ exclaimed the car’s owner. He approached Black, then flinched with a cry as Black’s arm jerked suddenly upward.