• Gina Fegan

Chapter 17. What to do

Pizza, with screen now at the far end of the table, and Ada chatting as they ate, was a success.

“I don’t care what you say, you’ve lost weight. Still, you are lookin good.” Ada sighed, “I wish I was there with ye. Though pizza’s not my favourite. Tricky to eat. I have mine with a knife and fork because I am well brought up, not like you lot.” She poured herself another glass of red wine on her side of the screen divide, and settled back,

“So where were we. A bunch of stuff to be sorted.”


Although Maeve, Orla and Marianne were all eating, they wanted to know the answers, all eyes were on Ada.


“The bloke in the woods connected to your Edward. I think he needs some researching. Marianne, could you do that? Check out the Hales family and see what you can find. Sometimes facts help, not always, but let's see what we are dealing with.”


Marianne nodded, smiling. Maybe she was happy at the prospect of her task, or maybe just happy to be home.


Ada got out a pencil and some paper on the basis that things were getting too complicated for her to rely on her memory. Alternating between sips of wine and tapping her lips with the pencil, Ada was thinking.

“Okay so.” Pause. “Here’s my idea. Maeve you talk to Steve, and find out about any old cases.” Ada tried to wink at Marianne and Orla without Maeve seeing her. Failing miserably.


Maeve interrupted, “Everyone knows I’ve been talking to Steve, so no need for snickering from the sidelines. Let’s stick to the plot. What else have you got Ada?”


Duly reprimanded, a slightly subdued Ada went on,

“Well, we need to know more. I don’t think that this is one thing. You keep tripping over things so let’s go at them one at a time.” Another sip,

“If you are going to help Steve, we need to know what goes on there, in the woods. Let’s start with your man, the real bloke. Is this Matthew really homeless, or camping out like Orla? How do we know if he’s an ex-service man?”

Ada had only written a few words, Maeve thought it was just to have something to do so that she didn’t drink the whole bottle in front of them.

“So someone has to find out what happens in Canterbury. To be honest, I’m thinkin I haven’t a clue. I give money at mass, if they are collecting, and then if someone is begging in the Streets I’d give them a bob or two. But beyond that I have no idea. Drugs? Would you know if he was on drugs? See what I mean. Your Steve would know about those kind of things.”


They weren’t expecting this. Real world problems were something they could handle between themselves.


Maeve was getting annoyed, maybe Ada didn’t have the answers they needed,

“Ada! We want to know about the spirit world. Can a spirit move? And what would ‘sort him out’ even mean?

Ada went back to her pencil, and another sip of wine. Maeve thought that they wouldn’t get any more sense out of her, so they left it at that for the night.


First thing in the morning Maeve went into town to get a SIM card for her Blackberry. Steve was the first number she put into it and then called. Coffee break at Fonds would give them a little private time without breaking any rules.


It had been raining, but they got one of those wonderful gaps when the sun comes out and lights up the world, as if it was always going to be like that. They dried off the seats and sat down. Maeve was well wrapped up and not bothered by the cold. She wanted to make this all sound normal, as if seeing Steve wasn’t anything special, so she started like they were in the middle of a conversation,

“Kieran and Colin, got the grant.”

Steve looked a little puzzled, so she filled in,

“I’m sure they told you. Inside. In Fonds.” She nodded backwards indicating the coffee shop behind them, “They want to train young unemployed people to become Baristas, and they got a grant to help the trainees. Isn’t that cool?”


Steve smiled, he recognised this as a diversionary tactic, as a way to fill out their conversation, their time together, without getting into anything too personal. Nice but not necessary.

“That’s great.” He wasn’t one for chitchat, he went straight into what he had come to say.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn't have asked you to do that. I am going to come clean.”


Maeve was scrunching up a paper tissue in her hand, colouring slightly, clearly nervous that he was about to make a declaration that she wasn’t ready to hear.


He noticed, and decided to change tack,

“It’s okay,” he took a moment to rephrase what he was going to say “I mean, the guy in the woods. We probably won’t be able to solve it. I wanted to give it a try.” He didn’t say that he wanted to spend time with Maeve. He didn’t think she noticed that he stopped short.


She breathed a sigh of relief. Although she wanted to be with Steve, she still wasn’t comfortable with it. Like with everything else in her life, when she didn’t want to face the reality of the situation, she would put off dealing with it directly. A little more time, she thought, I do like him, I’m just not ready right now. She reflected on how many opportunities she had missed this way. Regardless, she was still happy to delay.


Tension relieved, Steve went on,

“There have been more deaths than normal in Canterbury. Yes COVID-19 does account for many,” glancing at Maeve whose eyes were widening in anticipation.

“I think you can guess that yes, some of them, sadly, are suicides. But,..” Steve paused for a moment hesitating. He thought, better she knows than that she lands herself in more trouble by accident.

“...I have my own opinion, that some of them are unexplained. Your guy in the woods might be one. The woman who drowned in the Stour might be one. It’s very hard to drown yourself, you know,” he said looking at Maeve as if everyone knew that.


“Actually I didn’t know. I suppose I am lucky enough to never having contemplated suicide.” And somehow, Maeve felt guilty for not knowing, maybe she could have helped someone. “What do you want me to do?”


************


They all got home around the same time. As Maeve closed the door, she heard Marianne and Orla swapping updates, just in time, she thought.

Twenty minutes later the table looked like a military campaign was being planned. Remains of tea, crumbs from sandwiches and butter smeared where it shouldn’t be like an island of debris in the middle of maps, printouts, and sheets of scrawled notes.


Maeve was impressed, both girls had been working hard, and had come back with useful information.


First the Hales family, Marianne was confident that she had pinpointed the issue,

“It was called the Christmas riot of 1647 or the Plum Pudding Riots. The puritans had outlawed Christmas, they said it should be a normal working day. This Christmas fell on a market day, so the Mayor ordered the market to go ahead. The people thought this was against God’s will, they wanted the shops shut and Churches open. In the fracas some heads were bashed but the local people won. But this is no Hollywood story, so it wasn’t long lived.”

Marianne had it all down in her notes, with references. But she was telling the story in precis with relish, just glancing for confirmation of dates or names.

“So…. the really interesting bit is, that we have a family feud in the middle of all this. The Christmas riot triggered an uprising in support of Charles the first. Now at this point, old Sir Edward Hales sat in the House of Commons and was a ‘hang-em, shoot-em, flog-em type’ of Parliamentarian, but his grandson Edward Hales aged twenty-four was persuaded to lead the Royalists against Parliament! So they were on opposite sides. No wonder Edward doesn’t want you mentioning Royalists or Parliamentarians.”


Maeve and Orla were taking a moment to process all of this, it was a lot more drama that any of them had been expecting, Maeve started in with,

“But, we don’t know which side Edward was on? Nor which side the guy in the woods, Thomas Apps was on either?”


“Well, good question. I have found a gravestone of a Thomas Apps in St Dunstan’s dated 1755 so there definitely was a family Apps still here. And...” Marianne was getting excited.

“...I found more Apps sometimes written as Epps and they were carpenters or wheelwrights.” She finished with a flourish as if that explained something. Looking at Orla and Maeve’s blank faces, Marianne went on,

“Don’t you see? A carpenter. Outside craftsman. Our Edward was a house servant, probably young Edward Hales’s servant, because he mentioned the new house. So he probably employed Thomas Apps on behalf of his boss,....” She ran out of steam here, “Okay so I thought that made more sense that it really did. I’ll do some more digging.” Marianne, looked down at her notes, “but there is more, maybe something for you guys to do?”


Throughout all of this Orla was hopping from foot to foot. She had information to share but she also had a big favour to ask

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