Cherringham - A Death in the Family
Cherringham - A Death in the Family
1. A Step in the Dark
Harry Platt woke suddenly, thinking for a second that he was under fire, looking for a muzzle-flash, reaching for his tin hat, heart racing, mouth open, gasping for air.
Then he realised he was at home. On the sofa.
The war was over.
He breathed a sigh of relief and sank back against the sofa cushions.
Click, click, click ... the things he knew settled gently into place like dominoes being stacked: one - the war finished long ago, two - he was alive (still), three - his name was Harry Platt, four - he lived in ... Cherringham, yes the village of Cherringham.
He looked around the sitting room.
He knew it was the sitting room - that was good. It was good that he knew this room, that he could name it. Always easy that one - it was the room he was sitting in and it was called the sitting room.
Ha! Ask me another!
No flies on Harry Platt!
I am in the sitting room. This is the house I live in. It is called Bramble Cottage. I am ninety-two years old. I live on my own.
No, that last bit wasn't right. He lived with someone. He was married.
But who to?
He heard his own voice shouting out the name of his wife. And wasn't that the damnedest thing - as if his voice knew more about him than he did!
My wife's name is Peggy. I have children. Two? Or is it three? Their names are ...
But he couldn't remember the names of his children, and anyway what the hell did that matter?
Buggers never came round to see him, so who cared what their bloody names were? They could go hang.
Anyway, there was more important stuff to think about. For example ...
It's too dark and I'm hungry and what the hell is going on around here?
"Peggy! Where the hell are you?" he called into the darkness.
He fumbled at the side of the sofa and found the switch for the special reading light. He clicked it on and the white light dazzled his face. He looked away - the damned thing was so bright! You could pick out a bomber in the night sky with that!
"Peggy! I'm hungry!" he shouted again in the general direction of the door.
He peered at the clock on the mantelpiece - nine o'clock, it said. No wonder he was hungry - he hadn't had his supper. Or had he? He looked over at the little plastic table that the carer put on his lap.
Hmm. That foreign woman. Spy probably. Careless talk costs lives . He didn't say much to her.
The plastic table seemed clean enough. And there was no left-over mug of tea.
But who was to know? Maybe he had already had his supper and they'd cleared it all away.
Hmm ... the place smelt of fish.
Whatever. Didn't matter. Didn't matter how many times he ate. If he was hungry he could damn well have supper again! He could have as many suppers as he wanted.
It was his bloody house - wasn't it?
And he had to put up with enough crap from everybody. People wiping his face, his hands, his ... everywhere.
Need something to eat - now!
He waited for someone to come. But nobody did. Maybe Peggy had gone to bed. Maybe she'd died! Popped her clogs! Ha! That'd teach her to leave him sitting on his own in the dark!
Hmm, if that was the case, he was going to have to get his own supper. He fumbled around the sofa for his walking stick, then levered himself up into a standing position and got steady.
His toes hurt, his feet hurt, his knees hurt, his hips hurt.
It was like taking a roll call. Easier to ask what didn't bloody hurt.
Slowly he edged away from the sofa, and making sure to take small steps, headed out of the sitting room into the hall.
Well, he guessed it was the hall - because the lights were off here too and he couldn't see anything.