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lomax61

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About lomax61

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  1. lomax61

    Any Day

    Thank you for reading. This story will stay on GA so please leave a ‘Review’ if you enjoyed the story (reviews really help in getting people to decide whether they want to read) or tell some friends who can read, too.
  2. lomax61

    Epilogue

    Two Years On. Maybe everything was fated. After all, Leonard knew Adrian was not a fan of surprises. And COVID-19 social distancing measures across the UK had effectively scuppered all plans for Leonard’s huge surprise second-anniversary party, two years after they had finally gotten it together in Wales. He had wanted to invite all their friends and family to his—to their—newly refurbished semi in Balham. Instead, they would be having an intimate dinner party at home with Toni and Jack. And, of course, Tommy. “Can I at least get out the Christmas lights. Hang them up above the table?” asked Tommy, hand on hip, head tilted to one side. Late afternoon, and he’d already showered and donned his makeup, and now dressed as a New Romantic wannabe, like a member of Duran Duran in their heyday. Not that fourteen-year-old Tommy would get the pop reference. After hearing it on YouTube, he still refused to believe that anyone other than Sam Smith could possibly write a song as perfect as Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This). “It’s almost June, Tom,” said Leonard, trying to find his mobile phone. “They’re just lights, Len. Your squad’ll love ‘em. Haziq at school says his mum used them all through Ramadan and put a load up for Eid-al-Fitr. Praveen has them at their temple, too. And I know for a fact Patrick has tons strung up in the Barbie boudoir he calls a bedroom and he leaves them on all year round.” Leonard finally found his phone beneath Tommy’s discarded schoolbook, left open on the kitchen counter despite Leonard’s request for him to take his study-from-home video call classes into the actual study. He placed a bookmark inside and closed the book, and set it onto a sideboard, clearing the work surface. They would need space for Jack. But Leonard couldn’t blame Tommy. He enjoyed being around people and, after Leonard had finished his business at his solicitors, he had been at home the rest of the afternoon planning the dinner party. “Patrick’s boudoir, huh? And how exactly do you know all this?” Leonard noticed a message from Jack to say they were almost there and would arrive around five-thirty. He had everything prepped and ready to go. He also left some instructions about getting pots and pans and cooking oil prepared for his arrival. “Oh, come on. I’m not the only gayster who’s been invited into the travesty that is Princess Paddy Chiffon’s palace. Talk about environmentally unfriendly tackarama.” Leonard couldn’t help laughing. Tommy had not always been so open and relaxed. He had been in numerous foster homes during the five years before Leonard and Adrian lucked upon him. Tommy’s mother had died from pneumonia when Tommy was seven. His father had put him straight into care, essentially washing his hands of the boy, before returning to his native Poland. Even now, Adrian got angry every time he raked over the injustice of Tommy’s past. But these days, straight-faced Tommy had a habit of making everyone laugh, even when Leonard wanted to have a serious chat with him. He had been their first-ever attempt at long-term foster care, eighteen months ago, and had transformed their lives. Twelve back then, he would be in their foster care until he turned eighteen, or for as long as he was happy living with them. The choice was down to him and the social workers who regularly came to check up on him. But being unashamedly gay had meant him being subdued in the past, often placed in homes with other kids who either ridiculed or shunned him, ones that stifled his more creative side. Not so with Leonard and Adrian. When the opportunity to foster him had arisen, they had jumped at the chance. “Are you being serious?” “No cap, Len.” Adrian was better at Gen Z speak than Leonard, but he knew the words ‘your squad’ and ‘no cap’ meant something like ‘your friends’ and ‘I’m totally serious’ respectively. “Fish them out, then. The lights. And be careful putting them up. The last thing I need is you falling off the table tonight, before we’ve even eaten a thing.” Leonard peered over to see Tommy rummaging through the cupboard on one side of the table where they kept the decorations just as the phone rang in his hand. Adrian’s name popped up on the display. “Hey, babe. What’s your ETA?” asked Leonard. Throughout the pandemic, Adrian had been trying to limit the amount of work on-site, and his boss, Tom, had been fully supportive. But this latest venture had been for an LGBTQ+ housing project, a couple of charities coming together to provide secure housing for gay kids thrown out of their homes or already on the streets. Tom had mentioned the cause to them, and Adrian had jumped at the chance to help. Ever since their housewarming in Wales, they had both agreed to devote more time to various gay charities. “Around seven. Sorry, love, we’re running behind finishing up tiling the roof while there’s still daylight, and what with tomorrow being Saturday, we don’t want to chance bad weather over the weekend, and end up having to mop up a whole lot of mess on Monday morning.” “Totally understood. Any preference for dinner tonight?” “Have you checked with the flexitarian?” One of Tommy’s requirements was that he would eat a mostly vegetarian diet, which included fish but also occasionally chicken. In his case, this usually meant once a week at the most. Fortunately, tonight’s three-course meal ticked all his boxes. “How about Thai? Something for everyone?” “Perfect. You know me. I’ll have whatever you’re ordering. Got to go.” Great, thought Leonard, because Jack would be cooking his delicious Thai food tonight. Tom Kha Het, vegetarian coconut soup with mushroom for starters, with his fabulous prawn cakes, while the main would be his version of Panang chicken curry, with deep-fried vegetable spring rolls, Thai mixed vegetables, and jasmine lemon steamed rice. Adrian and Tommy adored all of Jack’s variations, but those got the largest number of likes in the Day-Lamperton-Piotrowski household. Dessert would be a simple store-bought cheesecake with summer berries and ice cream, followed by a special anniversary cupcake served with coffee. “So is that the smacks we’re having tonight, Len? Takeout? Why all this fuss?” “I told you. It’s our unofficial anniversary,” said Leonard, realising Jack would shortly be there. He’d told Tommy about the anniversary surprise, but he’d managed to keep the surprise about Jack cooking to himself all afternoon. “And Jack’s on his way right now. He’s tonight’s chef.” “Jack?” said Tommy, appearing wide-eyed from where he had been rummaging around in a lower cupboard, the lights in his hand. “Shut up! Tell me he’s not cooking me his totally savage Thai.” “Just a quick FYI. This is our show tonight. Not everything’s about you, Tommy.” “You didn’t answer my question, Leonardo.” Once again, Leonard had to snort out a laugh. If any of the social workers ever tried to take Tommy away from them, they would have a serious fight on their hands. The blockade at their front door would put any production of Les Miserables to shame. “Yes, Tomasz,” said Leonard, pronouncing Tommy’s name in its original Polish form, which always had Tommy cringing and pulling a face. “Jack is cooking his special Thai dishes. For all of us.” “Fuuu—” Jack stopped, slapped a hand over his mouth, before throwing a panicky glance at Leonard. “Funtastic news.” Although they never scolded Tommy for the occasional expletive—apparently some families had—they didn’t encourage him either. But Tommy had sometimes been over-careful around them, not wanting to spoil a good thing. Because he knew only too well that foster parents could also just as quickly give up on kids they felt they couldn’t handle. Leonard shuddered at the idea of such a lovely kid being passed from pillar to post. “Fucking fantastic news, you mean,” said Leonard, which managed to get a grin and an eye roll from Tommy. “And I bought the salted caramel cheesecake, the one you like from your favourite cake shop. Now, let’s get these lights up, and then I want you to lay the table for five, while I chop vegetables with Jack.” “My choice of—?” “Your choice of everything, including place settings and centrepiece. Make the table shine.” “Seriously?” asked Tommy, a glint in his eye. “Shine, Tommy. Shine and sparkle, but no glitter, please. Makes too much of a mess.” “Gucci.” *** Half an hour later, as Leonard opened the front door to Jack and Toni, the table already looked spectacular. Christmas lights faded in and out around red and white feather boas that Tommy had somehow magicked up, the table laid with matching red and white table decorations and cream coloured candles. “You, young man,” said Toni, emerging from their downstairs bathroom, and stepping over the large holdall she had dropped in their hall. She stopped before Tommy, kissing him on each cheek. “Are a natural. Your nails are too perfect for the building trade, but if you need a few connections in the interior design world when you leave college, just let me know.” “Fashion, Toni,” said Leonard. “He’s thinking about fashion.” “He,” said Tommy, giving Leonard one of his looks, “is standing right here. And he is not thinking much further than passing his exams next year. If they work out okay, then I’ll consider the next step.” “He’s being modest,” said Leonard. “He’s being realistic,” said Jack, clunking bags of shopping down on the kitchen counter, then ripping off his mask and tossing it into the trash. “Thank you, Jack. Finally someone who lives on the same planet,” said Tommy, standing back from the table. “So. D’you think Ade will approve?” Leonard took another look at the table. As soon as he walked in the door, Adrian would know something was up. For starters, he would smell the food cooking, but when he saw the dining room table, he would ask about the occasion. Leonard had said nothing that morning but wondered if Adrian had remembered. Not that it mattered. Leonard had everything he could ever want in his life. Meeting Adrian had felt like a door opening in his life, and he cherished every day they spent together. Now, with Tommy around, the world had ramped up a couple of gears. “Ade will love it, Tommy,” said Jack, washing his hands at the sink. “Now, any chance of a beer before I roll up my sleeves and start creating magic?” “You don’t want to freshen up first?” asked Leonard. “You’re in the front bedroom, as usual, by the way.” “No, we’re good,” said Jack. “Only going to get more sweaty with all the cooking. But a beer would certainly help loosen things up.” “I’ll get them,” said Toni, heading to the fridge. “What about you, Len?” “Bit early for me,” said Leonard. “But then it is Friday night.” “Count me in, too,” said Tommy, a mischievous grin on his face. “As it’s a special occasion.” “He’ll have a cream soda,” said Leonard, to Toni who had opened the fridge door. “Don’t push your luck. If I’m still feeling magnanimous later, and only if you’re good and if Adrian agrees, we might let you sample a glass of Dom we’ve got chilling in the fridge.” “Seriously?” said Tommy, his smile widening. “Cream soda’s fine, then. Ice and a slice, please.” Toni took the can from the fridge and tossed it to Tommy. “Yeah, that’s not going to happen. Asahi okay, chaps?” Leonard loved having people to his house. Before Adrian moved in, he’d never entertained. Now they cooked indoors all the time and, whenever restrictions lightened up, they even invited people over. Adrian had become the master of the barbecue and, because of him, Leonard had finally gotten to know his neighbours. By the time the front opened, announcing Adrian’s arrival, the house was full of food odours and chatter and laughter. After tossing his mask and washing his hands, Adrian went over to Tommy first of all and gave him a hug and a kiss on the top of the head, then stood appraising the table. Leonard’s gaze sought out Adrian’s gold wedding ring, which sat pride of place on his left hand. Just seeing the band gave him a sense of pride, of belonging, something he hadn’t felt in a long time. But Adrian, quite rightly, gave his attention to their foster kid first of all. Tommy loved having Adrian’s approval and, even though older than Leonard, his relationship with Tommy was more like that of an older brother. A much older brother. Leonard could tell Adrian must have expected something because he grinned and winked at Leonard and, after a quick hug hello for Jack and Toni, walked into Leonard’s waiting arms. “You knew, didn’t you?” whispered Leonard, into his right ear. “I’d planned to book a table at the steak place you like. Around the corner. Just the three of us. I asked our wayward child to do the booking and was advised, in no uncertain terms, to back off.” They both looked around to see Tommy looking nervously at them, biting on the cuticle of his forefinger. “I never told him anything,” said Tommy, the guilt written on his face. “Honest. Not about all this, anyway.” “Come here, young man,” said Leonard, always the adult in the relationship. Poor Tommy appeared genuinely nervous until Leonard pulled him into their family hug. He managed to stay there for all of ten seconds before pulling away. “Eugh, you smell of tarmac and brick dust, Ade. You better not have splodged my shirt.” “Don’t worry, Prince Charming,” said Adrian, tousling his hair. “You and your ruffles still look fabulous. Now I’m going up to shower and change. See you in a bit.” *** After the meal, they sat in the living room sharing the bottle of champagne and cupcakes, while Tommy put on some of his favourite jams—music. As promised, he also got his first taste of the expensive wine, and Leonard watched him savour every bubble. After that, Adrian sorted out coffees using the gadget that eluded Leonard, to make drinks for Toni and Jack. “Before anyone else says anything,” said Toni, sitting up and raising her glass. “I want to just say again what a great couple you make and although this is not your official anniversary, now that you’re married—” “Shortest ceremony in the history of weddings—” said Jack. Instead of heading to Scotland two Christmases ago—at the invite of Kennedy—Leonard and Adrian had married. The registry office ceremony had been short and simple, only a few friends, including Toni and Jack in attendance. Still, they wanted to be an official couple when they welcomed Tommy into their lives. And then the following Christmas they had wanted to spend time together with Tommy in Wales. They both agreed to throw a big party in celebration during summer, until the events that rocked the rest of the world put paid to that. “We’re glad to have been with you for most of the journey. Happy anniversary, and here’s to many more.” Still sitting, they all toasted together. Tommy had taken his usual spot on the sofa, cross-legged in between Adrian and Leonard. Ever since he had been with them, he had always wanted to sit with them, as though he didn’t want to let them out of his sight. But this time, as they finished toasting and everyone put their glass down, Tommy jumped up from the sofa and they heard his footsteps thumping up the stairs. A few minutes later, as the rest of them chatted happily, Tommy returned with wrapped presents for Adrian and Leonard. They hadn’t expected gifts from anyone and both men gave each other quizzical looks. “Tommy, you didn’t need to do this,” said Adrian, accepting his gift and smiling anyway. “It’s not much,” said Tommy, look uncharacteristically nervous and excited. “I hope you like them. Sonia at school helped me find the material and we made them during our free periods. I based the sizes on ones you already have in your wardrobe.” “You made these yourself?” asked Toni, as Leonard unwrapped his long-sleeved, button-down shirt. Although the material was white cotton, the whole garment had tiny characters all over, small leaves of a tea plant in green. Even the collar and cuffs had been carefully planned, with a green and white paisley design to complement the pattern. Adrian unwrapped his shirt, which was a burgundy colour and had small coffee beans all over. His also has a similar design of paisley on the collar and cuffs, but this time in dark brown and wine red. “Oh my God,” said Adrian, standing up and putting the shirt on. ”I bloody love it.” Leonard thought he looked damned good in it, too, worn over the top of his black tee shirt. Leonard had to remove his short-sleeved shirt first, revealing his naked upper torso which put a grin on Adrian’s face, but he managed to slip into the shirt easily. After buttoning up, he went over and stood next to Adrian, the two of them posing for Toni’s phone camera. “Absolutely love them, Tommy. You are a true talent.” “You’re fam,” said Tommy, clearly pleased with himself, his cheeks reddened, and, Leonard suspected, not just from the champagne. “And I wanted to do something nice. Suits you two. Coffee and tea. You know one of the teachers at school refers to you as Mr Lemonade.” “Huh?” said Jack. “I don’t get it. Why lemonade?” “My bad,” said Tommy. “I keep talking about my two guardians, Len and Ade. They must have misheard.” Adrian laughed along with them all, pecked Leonard on the lips and was about to go and sit back down, but Leonard pulled his arm back and whispered in his ear. Adrian smiled and nodded. “We have something, too. For all of us, actually. So I need Tommy up here with us.” While Adrian waited for Tommy, Leonard went over to the sideboard where he had left his work case. Inside, he pulled out the large brown envelope he had collected that day. “I had to pop in to see my solicitor today. Usual work stuff. But she’s been in touch with the foster care authorities and looking into the possibility of us actually adopting you, Tommy. But only if you want to. We can submit the forms now, but we would normally need to wait another six months until you’ve been with us for two years. But the long and the short of it is, both Adrian and I would like to make you officially and legally a part of the family. I know your real father is still out there, so you may need to take some time to think—” “Yes. No. I don’t need—” The words came out in a high pitched cry, and before he had a chance to finish, his head was buried in Adrian’s chest, his arms around him, and his shoulders shook along with the sobs coming out of him. Leonard placed a hand in the middle of Tommy’s back and rubbed circles. Both him and Adrian had tears on their cheeks, and they could see Tommy’s reaction had produced the same response from Toni and Jack. Eventually, things settled down, and after Tommy gave Leonard a firm hug, he returned to form. “I hate you both,” he said, pouting and snatching a tissue from the box on the table. “Neither of you know how much time and effort goes into putting on mascara. Now I look like a vampire extra from Twilight.” “So you’re okay with the idea?” asked Leonard after they had sat back down on the sofa. But something in Tommy had softened, and he couldn’t help the smile pulling at the corner of his mouth. “Of course I’m okay with the idea,” said Tommy, with the ‘duh’ expression he loved to lavish on his guardians. “Will I have to keep my family name?” “If you want to. That’s your choice.” “Can I have yours, Len? It’s so much easier to pronounce.” “Of course you can, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Let’s wait until everything’s agreed, before we make those kinds of decisions. But this will mean you having to keep up your school grades, Tommy. If the social workers see any drop in your grades, they might take that as a sign that we’re not practicing responsible parenting.” “I know, I know,” said Tommy, looking flustered, even though Leonard had been half-joking. “I’m doing my best. But you might have to ask Grandma if she can help me with biology again. Without her help, I’d never have got through the half term exam.” Grandma. Leonard had asked his mother to look through Tommy’s science schoolwork, and they’d had several two-hour sessions over video chat during the holidays. He’d managed a B+ in the exam, which he was ecstatic about, but his mother had phoned Leonard after one lesson and asked him if he’d instructed Tommy to call her Grandma. He hadn’t—nobody forced Tommy to do anything—but much to Leonard’s surprise, she loved the endearment. “Why don’t you text her. You can also tell about our news.” *** In bed that night, Adrian read over the terms of the adoption. Leonard could tell he only skimmed most of the pages because he trusted Leonard’s solicitor, Helen. She had probably deferred the paperwork to someone she knew who had more relevant experience. But if Helen trusted them, then so would Leonard. “We’re going to have a son,” said Adrian. “We already do,” said Leonard. “But it’ll be official. And I’m going to give him Bryn Bach for his twenty-first. That way, it stays in the family. Don’t say anything to him yet, though. We’ll let it be a surprise.” “Wow, Lenny. That’s a wonderful idea.” He knew Adrian would approve. He had shifted onto his side, one hand cradling the back of his head, his gaze softening as he took in Leonard. “And when things get better,” said Leonard. “Do you think we could all go on a road trip and meet your aunt and uncle? In Hastings.” “Oh, hell, Lenny. You’ve got to stop doing this,” said Adrian, rubbing a hand across his eyes. “Enough emotion for one night, please. And yes. Yes, of course. I would absolutely love that.” After a moment, their eyes met again. “Why me, Lenny?” “What do you mean?” “You’re amazing. Successful, charismatic, everyone I’ve ever met likes you. And yet you chose me. I suppose I just wondered why.” “Are you fishing for compliments?” “No, I’m serious. Even that friend of yours, Kennedy, said he had a thing for you once. I just wondered what you see in me.” “Ade,” said Leonard, after leaning in a kissing him softly. “I love everything about you. And if anyone ever thinks to try to hurt you ever again, they had better think hard, because they need to get past me first. You’re brave, braver than anyone I’ve ever known. Not only did you survive unimaginable hardships on the streets, but you came through intact with not a bad bone in your body. I love those cute freckles you still have after all these years, and the way your eyes crinkle and only half of your mouth lifts when you find something amusing. And I love that when you laugh, it’s never at people, but with them. I could happily drown in the look you give me when we’re both blissed out from kissing and having sex. I love that your heart is so big and yet so fragile, and despite all of the suffering you’ve been through, you still think nothing of selflessly helping others. When I watch you sleep peacefully, looking like a little boy, my heart breaks thinking about you being homeless, fearing for your life every night. And I want to wrap you in my arms and never let you go. But most of all—and this might sound a little selfish—I love that I’m the one who understands all this about you, that I’m the one who’s won the prize of not only knowing your story, but spending the rest of my life with you.” Leonard could see Adrian processing everything he had said, breathing deeply. When their eyes met again, he smiled and reached a finger out to touch Leonard’s lips. “Well, I don’t have your way with words, but maybe I can show you exactly how much you mean to me with actions. Will that be enough?” “More than enough,” said Leonard, as Adrian pulled their bodies together. >>>END<<<
  3. lomax61

    Luca

    That’s a good question and not one answered (I knew I’d forget something!) but I’d like to think Luke and Max were very careful, and kept everything a secret. Only Matthew managed to catch them out, sneaking through the house.
  4. lomax61

    Luca

    Hi @Bft, yes it is a little, but I wanted to tie it into the comment made in the opening chapter, where Kennedy jumps in to defend him: Although made in jest, a quip about him by their friend Pete on a cruise holiday still stung. Thinking Leonard to be out of earshot, someone had asked Pete why he nicknamed Leonard ‘Any Day'. Pete had replied, "Because any day is better than Lenny Day. The man is a walking misery." Overhearing this, he had been shocked to the core. When had he changed from being a sexy lone wolf to a walking misery? Naturally, Kennedy had stepped in to defend him even though, in fairness, Pete—in his casual nonpartisan way—had less than respectful names for all of their friends.
  5. lomax61

    Luca

    Adrian stood between the kitchen and the terrace, leaning against the sliding door, watching the revelry of a housewarming party in full swing. Around the verdant lawn, each of the trestle tables had been decorated with a simple white tablecloth, and a small posey of colourful flowers picked from the garden. Guests sat around chatting with each other, people who either knew Lenny or Adrian or both and chatted like old friends. How on earth Lenny had managed to drum up almost fifty people had been nothing short of a miracle, but not only was the driveway currently packed with cars, many had parked along the lane leading to Bryn Bach. Luckily, PC Morgan had made an appearance in the morning and given them the okay to park along one side, as long as they left space for others to enter and exit. Having his left arm in a sling still meant Adrian being unable to help as much as he would have liked, and even though he felt a twinge of pain now and then, he had pretty much mended. At one point he was almost tempted to rip the damned sling off, having people constantly making a fuss over him. No, Toni, he didn't need anyone to feed him while he held a glass of beer in his usable hand. Yes, Pippa, he was allowed to drink alcohol in moderation. No, Jack, by hell, this would not stop him taking up the new job in London. Yes, Lenny, he could manage perfectly well in the toilet when the need arose, thank you—unless he wanted to come and help him out, so to speak. Eventually, as more people arrived, he placed his denim jacket over his shoulders to mask the sling, even though the hot summer's day warranted light clothing. Finally meeting Lenny's employees had been a hoot, hearing stories about his work life, little idiosyncrasies about the man. Everything was said light-heartedly, the people who worked for Lenny clearly adoring him. Lenny's cousin Eric and his wife brought Lenny's mother and his aunt Marcie from Drayton, while Toni and Jack had given Adrian's mother a ride. Adrian had forewarned Jack and Toni about his mother's piety, but by some miracle, they arrived not only intact but the best of friends. To keep in good favour with the locals, Lenny had asked Megan Llewellyn and her team to cater the party, a good call because the chef and kitchen staff had done them proud. They'd even hired Maggie Llewellyn and two of her young friends to don white shirts and black skirts or trousers, and offer guests drinks and finger food on silver platters in the house and garden, while artfully dodging Kieran and Kennedy's two kids and their ball of ginger lightning that passed for a dog. Megan and her husband, Dave, were invited as guests and enjoyed the fun, although Megan couldn't stop herself from helping out in the kitchen now and then, or pointing out things that needed to be done—much to the annoyance of her daughter. Had the house ever witnessed such merriment in the past? Adrian hoped so. If not, it would have been a tragedy, because Adrian could not help smiling and chuckling just hearing the walls echo with chatter and laughter, the squeals of children giggling coming from the garden, the occasional jangle of a wind chime on the balcony and the yapping of the pooch. Mid-June and they couldn't have picked a more glorious day, sunshine streaming in through the open patio doors, the smell of gardenias and jasmine from the balcony boxes wrestling with the aroma of sausage rolls and quiches baking in the kitchen. If a house could smile, he thought as he looked on, then that's precisely what Bryn Bach would be doing right now., But at one point, two weeks before, everything had hung in the balance. Thank goodness for PC Morgan and his quick thinking, because within half an hour, Adrian had been temporarily patched up by one of the emergency services professionals and carried off to a waiting ambulance with an ashen-faced Lenny glued to his side. Another hour later—and with pain medication dulling his senses—Adrian was being wheeled into the accident and emergency ward of a nearby public hospital. Fortunately, Adrian had been standing some way off when Darlington fired the shot, and the shell had hit the left side of his chest, knocking him over and, in the process, as he hit his head on an errant log, knocking him unconscious. Despite losing blood and having some pellets lodged in his shoulder, he had not been seriously injured. More concerned about him having a concussion, the doctors made sure nothing remained embedded in his flesh and kept him in a hospital bed for two nights mainly for observation. Matthew Darlington had landed in chest-high water but being unconscious had almost drowned, which under the circumstances might have been poetic justice. In fact, the chill water had brought him back to consciousness, before the police descended into the hole and hauled him out. Apart from a mild concussion—no fracture or more severe injury—he had also been kept in hospital for a couple of days. Right now, he was being held in custody on charges of carrying an unlicensed firearm, threatening behaviour, threat to kill, and a whole list of other misdemeanours, including a potential charge of manslaughter. Lenny's new security system did indeed record both image and sound, much to Freya's delight. And as far as Freya's actions were concerned, the two police constables wrote them up as self-defence, as an act of bravery. And both Adrian and Lenny concurred while vowing never to get on her wrong side. "What's the average sentence for manslaughter?" Lenny asked PC Morgan. Although both were on duty, he and PC Lewis popped along that morning for a quick glass of orange juice and to wish them well. "Depends on the severity of the offence. In Darlington's case with Max Williams, nothing was premeditated, everything done in the heat of the moment, so it's really hard to say. Sometimes a judge will take a more lenient approach to first offenders, but apparently your cousin has a string of previous minor misdemeanours. So already having a record together with subsequently threatening your life and admitting to trying to torch your premises isn't exactly going to work in his favour. At a guess, I reckon he's looking at three to five years, maybe more." "And what about Lenny's dear Auntie Malevolent," asked Adrian, making Lenny chuckle. "Not sure what will happen there, son," said MC Morgan. "She's bound to get called to testify, but a lot will depend on the son's confession. They could charge her with failure to act on her son's crime on the grounds of omission. But I doubt that will stick." Adrian knew Lenny didn't care. As far as he was concerned, she had already built a prison around herself. They chatted a little more about the day in question, with PC Morgan telling them some of the things they didn't know, like how Freya had punctured both tyres on Matthew's motorcycle before coming to find Leonard, and how incredibly clear the security footage—both audio and video—of the crime scene had been. "I would normally ask people throwing a party to keep an eye on the noise," said PC Morgan, as they both readied to leave. "But the beauty of this place is there's nobody to hear you for miles around." "Not always a good thing," said Lenny, raising an eyebrow. "Point taken, son. Luckily for you, on that particular day, we were already on the pathway when we heard Darlington mouthing off. Otherwise we'd have carried on down to the Hughes farm." "Freya knew," said Lenny. "Not sure how things might have turned out if you hadn't been there as a distraction. Matthew thought he was being clever, taking me to the secret spot. But apparently they all knew about the sinkhole." "Is she coming?" asked PC Morgan. "She said she would. I'm glad, because I want her to see the house." "I must say," said PC Lewis, at the front door. "You've done an amazing job on the place since we were last here. Even the little touches, like the pictures and the new name plate above the front door." The day before the party—preferring not to make a fuss on the day—Adrian had arrived and presented Lenny with a housewarming gift. He had been in Norwich that week, but had also met up with his new boss, Tom Bradford, and would be working for him the following Monday, staying at Lenny's place. He wasn't sure which of the two of them was more excited about the prospect. As for the gift, Adrian had always been one to go the extra mile in seeking out unique, meaningful gifts for people. Although standing at the front door, the present hadn't quite gotten the reaction he had expected. "Lenny, I hope you don't mind, but I commissioned these for the house. A friend of mine in Norwich runs her own pottery studio and I asked her to create a couple of identical house signs in ceramic, one to replace the one at the front gate and one to display above the front door." Lenny had unwrapped the ceramic tiles in front of Adrian. In bold letters, they announced the name of the house, which in Welsh meant small hill, and then, in curvy script beneath, he had added three simple words in Italian, because in his letter Luke had dreamed about travelling across Italy with Max: B r y n B a c h - Casa di Luca - Luke's home. Leonard had stood staring down, frozen to the spot. Adrian was about to ask if he liked the artwork when he noticed Lenny's hands shake slightly, saw him swallow a couple of times and a tear form in the corner of his right eye. "Oh, shit, Lenny. I didn't mean to—" "No, no. They're beautiful, Ade. Perfect. I love them," said Lenny, squeezing the bridge of his nose between thumb and forefinger, before reaching out and pulling Adrian into a gentle hug, careful not to touch his left arm. "We are so much on the same wavelength. I feel the same way. This is Luke's house. Always was and always will be. Let's fix them up today ready for the party tomorrow so everyone can see them. But before that, I've got something to show you." He had led Adrian to the living room, to what was once the bare wall in the alcove to the right of the fireplace, where a small cabinet now stood. Six large-framed photographs hung there now, two in the old sepia tones of the construction of Bryn Bach and Lord Charles with his arm around a young Harold Day. Two were of Luke and Max together. But the last two Adrian had not seen before, of Lenny and himself. One had them laughing at a joke together in the shell of the living room, in overalls and covered in plaster dust, while the other was them sitting on the top step of the terrace, with the sunset behind. All around the larger pictures, long white rectangular frames had been mounted--some positioned vertically, some horizontally--that held the small polaroids of Luke's friends at play. "Toni took the ones of us. Brilliant resolution on her phone camera. Kieran got them all framed for me. What do you think?" Adrian had to take a moment before responding. Of course, he appreciated the photographs of Luke and Max and the construction of Bryn Bach. But the ones of Lenny and himself, of their burgeoning relationship, touched a place deep inside him. "Amazing. And speaks to the history of the house, too." Exactly. It's a Bryn Bach history wall." When Adrian turned, his eyes were immediately drawn to a large oil painting over the fireplace. It took him a moment to recognise what he was seeing. Someone had replicated the picture of Luke, Pippa, Howie and Freya playing in the garden together as teenagers. The whole ensemble with the dance of light behind them felt like life, and youth and joy personified. Whoever had painted Luke, had captured his features wonderfully, the eyes with the same longing that they'd had in the original photograph. "See what I mean when I say we're on the same wavelength? Originally, I wanted the actual photo enlarged, but Kieran said his contact told him the print had too many wrinkles and creases, and that he couldn't do the picture justice without losing some of the resolution. I'm sure someone else could have done the job adequately. But then Isabelle, who I work with, piped up and asked if a friend of hers could make an oil painting based on the photo. And as you can see, her friend has a rare talent. For most people, this is simply a happy portrait of youth. But for those of us in the know, this is a special moment in time enjoyed in this house." "Oh my goodness, Lenny. It's absolutely brilliant. Has anyone else seen this?" "Apart from me? No, you're the first," said Lenny. "But tomorrow, everyone who comes here will." *** The official kick-off for the party was one. Maggie, her friends, and the burly Manor Inn chef—they never did figure out his name—arrived at eleven to set up the tables and chairs in the garden, and the bar to one side, and to begin preparing and laying out the finger food in the kitchen. Both Lenny and Adrian stayed well out of the way, seeing the hive of activity, and let them work their magic. Mary texted Lenny to say she would be arriving early, because she had to pick up another guest, but also because she wanted to park in the driveway, her husband having mobility issues. Lenny said nothing but simply agreed. They had offered Mary and her husband the downstairs room, but Mary had declined, saying she wanted to get them back home the same day. She arrived at twelve-thirty, and Adrian joined Lenny at the front door. Her resemblance to Matthew was uncanny, although her features seemed softer in some way. After whispering to the man in the wheelchair, and him nodding in return, she came up, and without a single word of introduction, threw her arms around Leonard. "Oh, Leonard. I am so sorry for my brother. I feel part responsible." "How could you be responsible?" asked Lenny, returning the hug and then letting her go. "Not sure how much the police told you, but Matthew called me the day he decided to come here. Said he was going to have it out with you once and for all. My brother is all bluster most of the time, full of hot air, and when I called Freya, she assured me you had a friend staying with you who looked as though he could handle any trouble." Mary looked over at Leonard and smiled. "I had no idea Matthew would be carrying a gun, otherwise I'd have called the police myself. Honestly, that's not like him at all. But then, I had no idea he was in such dire financial straits. He'd borrow money from me every once in a while—more of a handout, really—usually citing the fact that mum wasn't working. And I knew he liked a flutter here and there, but never realised things had gotten so serious. The police told me that he's involved with some pretty nasty and ruthless loan sharks." Adrian refused to feel sorry for Matthew. On the streets, he had witnessed the results of addiction first hand—drink, drugs and gambling, sometimes a combination of all three—and had experienced a lot worse hardship in his own life than owing money. With the right support, by talking to the right people like Citizen's Advice or even Gamblers Anonymous, he could have gotten legitimate help, without resorting to crime. "It's all water under the bridge now, Mary," said Lenny, as magnanimous as ever. "I'm just pleased you and your husband agreed to come." Mary introduced her husband, George, in the wheelchair—also a lawyer—and pointed to an older gentleman with a walking stick, currently leaning into the back of their car. "And that's my father." So, thought Adrian, Mr Darlington was very much alive and well. So much for what Lenny's aunt had told him. Once their introductions had been made, Adrian took the gift of bottles of wine from the older man and led them through the house towards the outdoor furniture they had set up to one side of the terrace overlooking the back garden. Maggie and her crew were having a well-earned rest at one of the garden tables before the bulk of the guests started arriving. While Lenny chatted to his guests, Adrian went to fetch everyone drinks. "Yes, I still kept in touch with Matthew," said Mary, wheeling her husband to one side of the table. When Adrian looked back in the house, he noticed Mr Darlington had stopped to look at the photos in the alcove. "Largely, I suppose, because I felt a little guilty after college, leaving him alone with mother." "I thought Matthew married?" "Yes, and they lived with her. Can you imagine? The marriage lasted all of three months before the poor wife moved back in with her parents. But I've kept in touch with Freya and Pippa over the years. More so with Freya. Will be great to see them later. I just hope Freya's still talking to me, now she knows what really happened to her father. But Freya's how I knew about your progress on the house. Which is absolutely lovely, by the way. Already brings back so many good memories." "Don't worry. Freya's coming. I asked her to come early, too. For a chat before the pandemonium begins." When Adrian took the glass of red wine over to Mr Darlington, Lenny and Mary came to join them, leaving Mary's husband on the terrace. As he approached the alcove, Adrian could see the older man's resemblance to Mary as plain as day, whereas Luke looked more like Lenny's side of the family. When Mr Darlington accepted the wine, he dabbed at his eyes with one knuckle. "You know, I can't help thinking a large part of this is my fault," he said, shaking his head. "Mary knows all this, but my marriage was already over long before I walked out. Even when we were together, I provided financial support as best I could, bought and paid for the flat my ex-wife is still living in, but spent as little time there as possible. Mainly because, when the twins were growing up, Millicent changed, became intolerable with her constant preaching and nagging and lecturing. But what happened to my eldest was the final straw. Most summers, when they came here, I either spent time working far too hard in a sales job that was frankly going nowhere, or with the woman who later became my second wife. I'm not without blame here and I can't help thinking I failed Luke." "You did your best, dad," said Mary, squeezing his arm. "You supported his dream to go to art college." "Not financially. Because I simply didn't have the money—" "He knew that," she added. Mary's fondness for her father was evident. "Which is why he planned to take a few years out, to work before starting college." "And I had no idea Millicent had pressured him into joining the armed forces," said Mr Darlington. "My son, the pacifist. She didn't consult me and, worst of all, Luke said nothing." "Nobody knew. That was the year after Mr Williams died. Luke shut down, talked to Nobody not even me, even when she outright refused to let any of us attend Mr William's funeral after everything he'd done for us. We didn't even come here for the summer that year, just stayed at home. But what a lot of people didn't know about Luke was when he was in high spirits, he was the life of the party, charismatic, and so much fun to be around. But when the lows took hold of him, he sank to rock bottom. He would close himself off completely from everyone. I only found out much later from Matthew about mother pressuring him and getting him to agree to enlist. I imagine he would have agreed to anything by then." "I should have been there," said Mr Darlington, shaking his head. "I should have done more—" "We all should have," said Mary, looking at the photo of Max and Luke. "But none of us knew the whole story. Until now." Everyone fell silent. Adrian knew only too well about parents failing their children. "From what I've heard, from people in the area who remember him," said Lenny, talking directly to Mr Darlington. "Luke seemed to be at his most happiest here in this house. I only wish I'd known him. I bet we'd have been good friends." At this Mr Darlington smiled sadly but appeared to relax. At the same moment, Adrian heard the newly-fitted front doorbell ring. As he went to see who had arrived, he overheard Mr Darlington's words. "I'm sure you would have been. And I can't thank you enough for what you've done here. Not sure if people might think it morbid to see photographs of my dead son on the walls, but for me, it's an absolute joy." When Adrian opened the front door, Freya stood there, a cloth shopping bag drooping from her arm, her hair newly-styled, looking fresh-faced and happy. Before Adrian had a chance to say anything, she pulled him into a tight hug, which surprised a breath out of him. "Oh, I'm so glad you answered the door, Adrian. I owe you an apology and an explanation. Pippa and her husband gave me a lift here. They're just parking up the car right now, so I'll be quick," she said, before letting the embrace go. "I'm sure Mary will have told you by now, but just before I saw you at the supermarket, she'd called me up and told me her concerns. I told her not to worry, that you two were perfectly capable of looking after yourselves. But as soon as you told me Leonard was alone, well, I felt responsible, so headed over there. I didn't want to panic you, so I didn't say anything. Matthew has always been all bark and no bite. Then on my way to your place, I saw his motorcycle turn into the side road for the Hughes farm. Anyway, I hung back a while and then followed. I know the fields around the Hughes' place like the back of my hand. And there was his motorcycle, parked up next to the turnstile, to the back path we always used to get to Bryn Bach. I got Howie's cricket bat from the back of my car and followed the path to the back of the house. And then, when I saw Matthew leading Leonard in my direction, I knew exactly where he would be taking him, so I got there first and hid in a bush. But admittedly, when I overheard Matthew claiming responsibility for my father's death and the vile things he said about him, well, I just went a little crazy. I'm so sorry you got to see that and if I scared you or Leonard." "Don't apologise, Freya. Honestly, we were glad to have you there. You seem a lot more cheerful today." As Adrian stood there, Pippa appeared along the driveway, arm in arm with a man he assumed to be her husband. She waved happily at Adrian and Freya. "Well, I finally agreed to visit Howie in Jakarta. Life's too short, don't you think? I also baked you a loaf of my favourite sourdough bread, fresh this morning. And you may not use this today, but I make my own apricot jam and marmalade. So I've brought you jars of both." "Perfect. Let's go and join everyone." *** Throughout the afternoon, as people came into the house and wandered around, having a nose-around at the bedrooms and bathrooms, Adrian felt pride that he had been part of the team to put the house back together again. A couple of times, he had even acted as a tour guide, showing the nice, minimalist bedrooms with the antique wardrobes and chest of drawers. He enjoyed pointing out the lack of radiators because of the underfloor heating Lenny had agreed to install and the huge family bathroom with a freestanding cast-iron tub and separate shower stall, all done with modern fixtures and fittings. Megan Llewellyn even sidled up to Adrian during the afternoon to ask if Lenny might consider selling the place. Adrian already knew the answer without having to consult Lenny. The house would be staying in the Day family for now. While most of the guests were polite to one another, Lenny's mother was, perhaps not unexpectedly, the exception to the rule. Adrian couldn't help his private snigger when he recalled the moment with Lenny later on. "Mum. This is Mary, your niece. Mary, this is my mother." "Lovely to meet you. My own mother won't be coming," said Mary, shaking Mrs Day's hand. "I should hope she wasn't invited," said Mrs Day. "Mum," said Lenny, with a gentle reprimand. "What, Leonard?" said Mrs Day, more than a little hostile. "The woman deserves to be locked up and the key thrown away. Trying to get my son killed. If your cousin Matthew were here with her right now, I'd make them both a nice pot of tea with some of your father's more exotic mushrooms. They'd never know know what hit them." "I'm sorry, Mary," Lenny began. "Please don't be. I would happily help you pour the tea into their cups, Aunt Geraldine," said Mary. After that, the two of them chatted like old friends. "Oh, my goodness," said Lenny, to Adrian, looking mortified as they moved away. "Apparently homicidal tendencies run in the family. Are you sure you want to associate with me, Mr Lamperton?" Adrian pulled him around and kissed him full on the lips. "I'll take my chances." *** At one point later in the afternoon, Lenny managed to steal Mary, Freya and Pippa away. He sat them down in the front of the room on the leather settees, talking about the oil painting and handing around some small polaroids Luke had taken, the ones that hadn't made the walls. Between them, the three ladies talked happily about the times they'd spent together. Mary had fewer recollections, having spent most of her time with her mother and Matthew. When Lenny passed around the letter from Max to Luke and the extra photos that hadn't made the walls, Pippa read the letter first but then Mary and Freya read together, both teary by the time they refolded the paper and handed the letter back. Eventually, Lenny told them the whole story of him and Adrian finding the dresser behind the wall, of the day Matthew arrived at the house with the shotgun, and how he had only just found the photos and read the letter from Max when Matthew had appeared. The police had told them each very little during their interviews. “Now things make a bit more sense,” said Mary. “The last summer we ever came here was the year Mr Williams drowned. Luke had done some decorations around the house, including painting the walls and covering those alcoves. Honestly, I didn’t even notice the dresser had gone. My mother had arranged with Matthew to have the house furniture sold off earlier in the year, and they would have collected everything after we’d left.” “That’s right. After Dad’s funeral. I let the clearance men in, before my grandmother and I came in and gave the place a good clean. And then you didn’t come back the next summer.” Everyone fell silent again, processing this information. "You said there were two letters,” said Mary. “What was in the remaining one?” "Kind of a goodbye note," said Lenny, going over to the dresser and pulling open the top drawer. “Meant for whoever found the dresser. In case Luke never could retrieve the furniture himself." Lenny settled himself back down and began to read aloud. "To Whom It May Concern. If for any reason I am prevented from following my dream, if I am unable to restore this beautiful piece of furniture to its rightful place in this beautiful house and this letter remains unopened, then I am lost. I have been kept from living out my life as I want with my love (and I know there's a member of my family who will try to stop this from happening). If that is the case, then I bid you all Tŷ Adar, which in Welsh means farewell. Luke." Everyone except Freya fell silent. "That's not right," said Freya, surprising them all. "Tŷ Adar doesn't mean farewell. And Luke would never get something like that wrong. Tŷ Adar means birdhouse or aviary in Welsh. Don't you have a bird box in the garden?" "Yes, you do," said Adrian. "In the apple tree. But I didn't know if it's the original or if it was replaced with a new one. Any idea, Pippa. It certainly looks old enough." "It's the original. We only cleaned the thing up a little.” "Let me go have a look," said Adrian. Adrian went out to the apple tree at the end of the garden. A couple of the guests smiled as he went past but soon went back to their conversations. The old bird box sat towards the back fence, within easy reach, fixed by wire from a thick branch of the tree. Made entirely out of sheets of a resilient wood, a large hole was drilled in the front and a perch installed inside. At the back, Adrian found a panel which could be lifted up and used to clear the mess from inside. He found nothing out of the ordinary but then thought about how Luke had hidden the photographs and letters in the dresser. Using his fingers, he reached into the box—which was thankfully relatively clean—pressed the floor inside and pulled, which also slid open a panel. Inside, he found a tiny pack wrapped in thick plastic. After a second, he replaced the other parts of the bird box and returned to the room. Everyone fell silent as he unwrapped the package. Inside he found a single TDK cassette tape, with nothing written on the label, just left blank. He handed the item to Lenny. "How will we know what's on there? Does anyone even have a cassette player these days?" asked Pippa. "We have one," answered Lenny standing. "At least, Luke left one in the cupboard. I didn't throw it away, but then I'm not sure if it actually works." "Only one way to find out," said Adrian. They brought out the old machine and placed it in the middle of the coffee table. Adrian found a mains socket and plugged in the device. On the display, a small green light illuminated, so he pressed a button to flip open the lid while Lenny slipped in the cassette tape and snapped the top down. Everyone around took a breath and glanced nervously at each other. "Are we ready?" asked Lenny. Rather than reply, everyone gave a simple nod, and Adrian pressed the play button. "Hello. This is Luke Darlington." The recording sounded loud and tinny, Luke's voice too young, too vulnerable. Adrian adjusted the volume, and when he looked across at Pippa and Freya, he noticed their eyes had watered up again. "If anyone ever hears this, you have found my grandfather's beautiful dresser and the photographs I hid there, and I hope they make sense to you. You also need to know that what I am doing, I am doing of my own free will. I know some of you who remember me will be sad, although my mother will likely call it a sin, but I cannot think of any other way out. I don't really want to go on living, not without the one person who made everything make sense, who made everything feel good and right. I am finally of an age where I can be who I want to be, but the love I have been waiting for has been taken from me, and I cannot imagine—do not want to imagine—a future without him. Everything was bearable knowing he was out there, and especially when we were together. I was going to use this recording to name people who wronged us, but all I feel right now is a calmness I have not felt in over a year, so I am going to let things go and forgive anyone who did not have our best intentions at heart. I just hope this house that was supposed to be mine, ends up with good people, who find as much joy here as I found during my short life. And who knows? Maybe we will meet one day, in another life, under different circumstances. Until then, I bid you farewell, and urge you to stay true to yourself—and keep the faith." This time, the moment of silence was shared by all. “I can’t believe he had nobody he could talk to,” said Pippa. “Maybe not family, but a helpline. Or why didn’t he pick up the phone and call one of us. I don’t understand.” Adrian sighed. He had lived through the same time, although under very different circumstances. “I think I understand. I’ve been that low once or twice when I was younger. And you know, sometimes it takes no more than a kind word or a sympathetic listener to bring you back from the edge. But you have to remember, this was back in the mid-eighties. AIDS had ravaged the gay community and homophobia was rampant. Lenny knows, but I would have been around seventeen, and living on the streets of London. And there were only a few gay support groups back then, the LGBT Foundation being one of them, and certainly no helplines that I knew of specifically aimed at gay men and women. Stonewall wasn’t established until the end of the eighties. And even though we’ve still got a long way to go, many people are more socially aware today, especially with the emergence of global movements like It Gets Better, The Trevor Project and LGBTQ+ Lifeline. Hell, today you can be openly gay and aspire to become an athlete, or a film star, or even a prime minster of a country. You can get married and have kids. We even have gay characters appearing in daily soap operas and gay-themed films where the gay men or women actually have a happy ending. Back then, as a gay young man, if you had described to me the world we live in today, I would probably have laughed at you. I hope that if there are any Luke’s out there today, they know they are not alone and only have to pick up the phone to get a kind word or a sympathetic listener.” “Hear, hear,” said Lenny, smiling at Adrian. *** By six o'clock, a few of the guests had started to leave. Adrian found Toni helping to load up the dishwasher in the kitchen, while Jack had decided to help the other of Maggie's friends collect up glasses and plates from around the garden. He noticed Lenny in the garden, laughing with his work colleagues, a silver tray in his hands, and felt a fresh wave of love fill him. Just as he turned away to check on the living area, someone tapped him on the shoulder. "Adrian," said the man Lenny had introduced as Kennedy, a close friend of his. Adrian instantly warmed to him and his husband, as well as their two somewhat exuberant boys. "Can I have a word?" "Of course," said Adrian. "In private?" said Kennedy. "Maybe in the study?" "Lead the way," said Adrian, more than a little wary. As they opened the door and entered the large room, he realised Lenny had already made the double sofa bed to allow Kieran and Kennedy to stay the night. Their boys would be sleeping on an inflatable mattress on the floor with their dog. But Adrian hadn't noticed what else Lenny had done with the room. Apart from a desk and the bookcases filled with Luke's books and others Lenny had brought with him, there were also figurines and a framed collage of photographs showing the complete renovation of Bryn Bach to its current state, which hung pride of place above the mantelpiece. More of Toni's smartphone photography handiwork. "Don't worry," said Kennedy. "It's nothing serious. I just wanted to say thank you." "For what?" "For giving my friend a new lease of life. He doesn't stop talking about you." "Honestly, I think you've got that the wrong way around. Lenny's done so much for me." "Well, I just wanted to say thank you. Kieran will tell you that I've always had a soft spot for Leonard, so I'm overjoyed to see him so happy finally. You know—and I shouldn’t be telling you this, because he won’t thank me—but a friend of ours, Pete, nicknamed Leonard ‘Any Day'. When someone asked why, he replied, "Because any day is better than Lenny Day. The man is a walking misery." Of course, I stepped and gave Pete a piece of my mind, but looking back, Leonard had become pretty sullen. He’s a different person now and I can’t help but think that’s because of you. So if you ever fancy a weekend up in Scotland, I've acquired a lodge on the banks of Loch Arkaig which overlooks Ben Nevis. You can either have the place to yourself, or join us for Christmas. We have a gathering each year and the two of you would fit in perfectly with our other friends." "Have you run the idea past Lenny?" Kennedy laughed. "What?" "I can't believe he allows you to call him Lenny. And the answer is, no, I thought I'd leave the idea with you. And only if you can spare the time." "Let me talk to him. But that's really kind of you." "And now you're in his life, you have to come to Sunday lunch at ours. We don't live far away. And Lenny tells me you've got some work through a friend of ours." "You know Tom Bradford?" "Well, we know his husband better, Marcus Vine? He's a celebrity chef. He catered our wedding." Adrian shrugged. He didn't follow the tabloids. "That's nice. And maybe you can come and have lunch at Lenny's place while I'm staying there." Kennedy laughed, not unkindly, but had a dubious quality to the laugh. "That would certainly be a first," he said eventually. "What do you mean?" "I don't think anyone's seen the inside of Leonard's house. Kieran has a conspiracy theory that he lives in a hotel. In all the years I've known him, he's never had a dinner party at home, let alone a full blown party like this." "Well, that's going to change," said Adrian. Before he could fully process what Kennedy was saying about Lenny, one of Kennedy's boys burst into the room, looking as though some tragedy had befallen him, as only young children can. "Dad? There you are! Link's lying across the seat cushion, being selfish, taking up all the space in the begonia. He won't let me sit down next to him." "In the what?" asked Adrian puzzled. "He means the pagoda," said Kieran, breathless, catching up with his son, placing a hand on either shoulder and looking apologetically at Kennedy. "Sorry, Kennedy. It's a pagoda, Clinton. A begonia is a flower. And why can't you play nicely—?" "Dad!" said the youngster, shaking out of Kieran's grasp and blatantly ignoring him. "Clinton James!" said Kennedy, in a voice that even had Adrian standing straight and taking notice. "Don't you ever let me hear you being rude to your papa again. Do I make myself clear?" Yes," said Clint, his bottom lip plopping out. "But Link—" "Remember what we said, Clint?" said Kennedy sternly. "What we all agreed?" "Yes," said Clint, quieter now, folding his arms and looking down at the floor. "Then tell me and your papa. What did we agree?" "That we would always look out for each other, no matter what, especially our family." As he had been speaking, behind him an almost identical version of Clint appeared at the door, followed by their cheeky ginger cockapoo, who poked his head from between the new arrival's legs. "And?" "And brothers should be friends." "Good." "I'm sorry, Clint," said the newcomer Adrian assumed to be Link. "Come back and play. Uncle Len's got a tray he's saved specially for us. Mini sausages rolls, sliders, cheesy puffs, marshmallows, chocolate ice cream and, your favourite, stringy french fries with cheese. Health food for kids, he says." "Yaaaaay!" said the two of them, racing away with their yapping dog, all animosity vanished. "Let's go back into the main room, too," said Kennedy, leading them back through, putting his hand on Kieran's shoulder. "I was just saying to Adrian here how grateful we are to see Leonard so happy. You have no idea what a world of difference you've made. So I just wanted to say thank you. He means a lot to us." "He gave me a job when nobody else would hire me," said Kieran. "Yep, okay," said Adrian, raising an eyebrow. "That's not quite the way Lenny tells it. "Out of interest—I mean, you two click so well—what is it you see in him?" asked Kieran. Nobody had ever asked that question before, and Adrian had to think it through. How on earth did he even begin to talk about all of Lenny's outstanding traits? "I suppose, for me, it's simple," said Adrian, before smiling and peering across the room to where the pair's twin boys clambered around a laughing Lenny, who lowered a tray piled with food onto the coffee table. As Lenny met his gaze and winked, a sudden thought came to him. Were they too old to be thinking about starting a family? Or maybe adopting a child? "And?" prompted Kieran. "You said it's simple for you," said Kennedy, nudging Adrian's arm. "For me? Any day is better with Lenny Day in it."
  6. lomax61

    Sins

    Explained in the next chapter. But any guesses would be hugely entertaining (for me)!
  7. lomax61

    Sins

    Leonard had not seen his cousin since the funeral. Back then, Matthew had dressed in a black suit and tie, with dark glasses. Today, he wore a dark grey hoodie covering his head, matching grey track bottoms more befitting a teenager, and black motorcycle boots. Except he could not hide his heaviness, nor the chubby cheeks and double chin. And without the glasses to hide them, his dark, wild eyes darted around the room before settling to glower at Leonard. When Leonard met his gaze, Matthew levelled the gun directly at his chest. More by instinct than anything, Leonard sensed from his cousin’s shifty body language that he was unstable. “You couldn’t leave things alone, could you?” came the high, nasally sound Leonard remembered, which might have sounded amusing under any other circumstances. “You had to pry. You had to keep digging.” “Matthew. What are you doing?” “Is that it? Is that what you found?” said Matthew, his head turning to the Welsh dresser, the barrel of the gun flicking in the same direction. “Where did he hide it? There was nothing here last time I came.” “Boarded up behind that wall,” said Leonard, pointing to the side of the chimney breast. When Matthew turned in that direction, Leonard used the heel of his palm to push the envelope beneath the drawer on the table. “Don’t lie to me,” said Matthew, returning his glare. “That space was empty when I was here last.” So Matthew had been the intruder. “In which case, we’d moved it to the other alcove. Covered by a dust sheet. Is that what you want? Is that what this is all about, the dresser?” “Shut up. What did he hide in there? What lies did my sick brother leave behind for you to find? Did he blab about what happened here that summer?” “I don’t know what you’re talking about. There were some polaroids of your family and his friends, a camera and film, and books, nothing more. You can check if you like. They’re still in the cupboards.” “Liar.” “See for yourself.” Matthew stood stock still, his mind appeared to be working, the barrel of the gun shaking slightly, “Did you kill him?” asked Leonard. The move was a bold one, but if he could keep Matthew talking, maybe Adrian would return and notice something wrong. Did Matthew bring his motorcycle with him, and if so, did he leave it in the lane? Leonard hadn’t heard anything. And the last thing he wanted was Adrian walking in unaware and stepping into the firing line. Perhaps he could distract Matthew somehow so he could alert Adrian. ”Did you kill Luke?” “Don’t be ridiculous. Luke took his own life. He hanged himself. Another of his sins, the sin of desperatio, the rejection of God's mercy, because when he choked himself he would have been unable to ask for repentance. Not that a heathen like you would understand.” “But why, Matthew? Why did he hang himself? Surely not because he was gay?” “Homosexuality is also a sin. My brother was an abomination, a sinner and a pervert. Just like you. Yes, my mother told me. And just like him, you will be going straight to hell.” Matthew thrust his chin out with pride. “I was the one who caught him, you know? Caught them both. That dirty, evil paedophile who molested my brother.” “Max Williams?” Now hidden beneath the drawer, the beautiful monochrome photograph Leonard had uncovered showed a clearly besotted Luke being cradled in the arms of Max Williams. “In our house, in our bedroom, lying there with my brother, kissing and touching each other. Disgusting. They shouldn’t have been doing that. Not only is it a sin, it was against the law. He tried to deny it when I confronted him. But I took an instant photo of them without them knowing using his camera.” “And Luke denied it?” “Not Luke. Him. I went to see Williams. On the farm. Told him I would go to the police, if he didn’t do what I asked. Get him thrown into prison. And I would have, too. But then he got all crazy and tried to grab me, take the photo from me, and I screamed back at him, told him not to touch me with his filthy, perverted hands. I didn’t mean to push him so hard, but he slipped in the mud and fell into the water.” “You pushed Max Williams into the pond?” “I didn’t—it was his fault. I never meant him to fall. I wouldn’t have even told anyone, as long as he’d agreed to give me the money I asked for. But when he tried to grab me, to touch me with those hands, I had to fight back. After that I ran back to the house to tell mother. She said not to worry, that it was God’s retribution.” “Your mother knew and did nothing? Did Mary know?” “What do you care?” said Matthew frowning, but then an eerie calm expression settled on his face. “No, just me and mother. And, of course, we had to tell my brother. That’s how she finally got him to agree to enlist. Except he weaselled his way out of that by taking his life.” Poor Luke. From what Leonard could tell, he had only just carved out a life for himself, a happy ever after, only to have everything ripped away from him by his family. Being forced to join the army must have been the final straw. “I can’t believe you tried to blackmail Max Williams.” “I needed money. I still need money. Some of us have—debts—to pay. And then you go and steal this house from under me, this house that should rightfully be mine. I’m the oldest male member of the family, not you.” Right at that moment, Leonard’s phone rang. When he looked down, the name Mary appeared on the display. Leonard leant forward, began to move his hand towards the device. “Don’t!” shouted Matthew, striding forward, turning the gun around and swinging the handle at Leonard’s forehead. Knocked him from his chair, he was sent sprawling onto the floor, agony flooding his temple. Black spots clouded his vision. After a second or two, the ebb of warm liquid begin to pool in his hair, with each heartbeat, with each throb of pain. He touched the spot gingerly with his hand and pulled it away to find the palm covered with blood. When he looked up, Matthew cradled the shotgun in the crook of this arm, and had picked up the device and pressed his thumb to silence the call. After that, he put the phone into his pocket. Returning his attention to Leonard, he pointed the gun at him again and stood back a couple of steps. “I warned you.” “Whatever it is you’re thinking,” began Leonard, truly fearing for his life. “You don’t need to—” “Shut up!” he said, waving the gun in the direction of the garden. “This is the only way. Get up. Go out through the glass door. Walk to the end of the garden. Slowly. Left hand side. There’s a door in the back fence. Go through and follow the path. And don’t try anything, because I’ll be right behind you and will be happy to shoot you in the back.” Leonard did as asked, climbing slowly and awkwardly to his feet, a wave of nausea hitting him when he stood upright. All the time, Matthew observed him carefully, the gun pointed at his body. Leonard stopped at the door, placed a hand on the cold glass to steady himself. After a moment, Matthew prodded him in the centre of the back with the barrel of the gun. Outside in the garden, the cooler air filled his lungs and steadied him, sharpened his consciousness. Very slowly and a little unsteadily, he walked ahead but could hear Matthew’s footfalls behind him. He had never checked the back fence of the garden, so had no idea what to expect. But just as Matthew had said, a door of slatted wood stood behind one of the larger fir trees already open. He stepped through, leaving the door open. “Where are we going?” he asked. “I told you to shut up,” came Matthew’s voice, followed by the sound of the door closing. Leonard noticed brown earth marking out a path between the tall grass and bushes growing wild either side. When he trod forward onto the route, he heard Matthew’s heavy breathing right behind him. “Why are you doing this, Matthew?” “You know why I’m doing this. Because with you out of the way, the house will pass to me.” “I have no idea what kind of delusion you’re under, but if anything happens to me, everything will pass to my mother.” “And from what I saw at the will reading, she cares as much about Bryn Bach as your father. With you out of the way, she’ll give me what is rightfully mine.” “Not if she finds out you’ve killed her son.” “She won’t. Because nobody will ever know.” Leonard skin began to prickle now. Had Matthew planned to get rid of him all along? Surely Adrian would think to come and look for him. His mind tried desperately to come up with ways to stall Matthew, but all he could think about was trying to stay alive. “I don’t get it. If you wanted the house so much, why did you try to burn it down?” “Because I wasn’t thinking straight. I worried what lies my brother had left behind in there about me, worried you might discover something incriminating. And I decided if I couldn’t have the house, then nobody would. But now I’m thinking more clearly, this is a much better way to get what I deserve, what I need. And now I’ve had the patience to wait for you to redecorate, I’ll get an even bigger sum when I sell the place.” “My friend is expecting to find me at home. Any minute now. He’s driving back from Llandrindod Wells.” “I’ll deal with him later.” If Leonard needed any incentive to stay alert, Matthew had just given him one. He only hoped Adrian would notice the bloody handprint he had purposely left on the sliding door and realise the danger. “You don’t have a clue about this area, do you?” said Matthew. “I bet you’ve never ventured outside the house. If we keep on this path, we’ll end up at the Hughes farm. A couple of centuries ago, there used to be lead mining around this region, but the mines were abandoned long before Bryn Bach was built. Nobody’s even sure where the entrance used to be and only a few of us know there’s a sink hole just off this path. We used to come here as kids. Goes down some sixty feet, by my reckoning. A sheer drop into darkness. Might even be full of water this time of year. How do you fancy a dip?” Leonard felt dismay wash over him. Matthew had already thought this through. Five minutes later and they reached a curve in the path, surrounded and secluded by tall bushes, where the ground on the left of the path sloped gently down. “Step off the path here, to your left, and keep going.” Leonard stepped into the long grass where no path marked the way and, for another few minutes, kept moving down the incline. Matthew said nothing so he assumed he was heading in the right direction. Eventually, he reached a clearing with a much steeper slope leading to the darkness of a hole in the ground, at least two metres in diameter. At some point in time, somebody had tried to erect a knee-high wire fence around the perimeter, but time and the weather had knocked over most of the posts on one side. Matthew moved to the left, around the rim of the slope, to where a cluster of evergreen bushes grew. “Go to the edge of the hole and turn around to face me,” called Matthew, pulling Leonard’s phone from his pocket. “Good, stop just there. Now you’re going to put your password in the phone and unlock it. Then throw it back to me. And don’t try anything.” Matthew tossed the phone to Leonard, which landed on the grass by his feet. He picked up the device and did as asked. What else could he do? On the display, he noticed more missed calls from Mary but nothing from Adrian. Was this how everything was going to end? Just as his life had begun? Once unlocked, he lobbed the phone back to Matthew. With one hand cradling the shotgun, and while constantly scowling up at Leonard, Matthew tapped a message into Leonard’s phone. “There. Done,” he said, with a grim smile. “Now as far as your friend’s concerned, you’ve decided to stretch your legs and get some fresh air, gone for a stroll and chose to investigate the field behind the property. As far as he’s concerned, you’ll be back soon. But, of course, you won’t. And one day they’ll find you tragically left the path and fell into this sinkhole. Or, then again, maybe they never will.” “You’re insane.” “In debt, maybe. But I am most definitely not insane.” A soft rustle of wind in the trees caught Leonard’s attention. Was his imagination playing tricks or did he think he saw something dark moving in the bushes behind Matthew. “Put the gun down, son,” came a familiar calm, but assertive voice, from a completely different direction. Leonard’s attention swung towards the sound. PC Morgan stood there with Adrian behind, appearing on the far side of the sinkhole. How did they know to find them? Leonard had difficulty interpreting Adrian’s expression which fixed on Leonard, and which seemed to be a mix of fear, despair and anger. In the meantime, Matthew had swung the shotgun around to point at the policeman. “Come closer and I will shoot.” “And if you do, you will go to prison for a very long time, son. Is that what you want?” “I want what’s mine. The house should be mine.” “He thinks that with me gone, Bryn Bach will be his,” said Leonard. “It will. And even if I’m in prison, my mother will sell the house on my behalf.” “Yes, and keep the money for herself,” said Leonard. “She would not.” “Of course she would. You’re as bad as each other.” “Shut your fucking mouth!” “Drop the gun,” came another voice, from the same direction he and Matthew had come. PC Lewis stood there now and Matthew backed up a step against a bush, swinging the gun wildly in all directions. “Don’t come any closer. Or I will kill all of you.” “That’s a double-barrelled shotgun, son. Even if you’re a sharp shooter, you’ll only get off two shots before you need to reload. There are four of us and, if you listen, a lot more on the way.” In the distance, Leonard could hear the faint sound of multiple police car sirens approaching, probably arriving at the front of the house. Matthew heard too, because his eyes started to dart around the clearing. “Shut up. Shut up all of you. Or I will at least kill him.” Matthew appeared crazy now, turning in a half circle, aiming the gun at each of them. “He told me, Adrian,” said Leonard, stepping to one side of the hole. Feeling more emboldened, he reasoned that if Matthew chose to shoot him now, at least Adrian was safe and there would be multiple witnesses to his action. “He confessed to me how he tried to blackmail Max Williams and then killed him.” “Shut the fuck up! I didn’t kill him. He tried to grab hold of me. So I pushed him away and he fell. I didn’t—” “You didn’t try to save him, though, did you? You could have jumped in to help, but you didn’t. You let a drowning man die.” “Why shouldn’t I? He was a paedophile, a bastard-fathering pervert, as well as the worst kind of sinner—like my brother. He deserved to drown like the pathetic rabid dog that he was—” But his cousin didn’t get a chance to finish the sentence. Hidden within a thick evergreen bush where Matthew had been standing, a figure stepped forward and swung what looked like a cricket bat at his head. The blow was not only fierce and powerful, but done with frightening accuracy, striking him on the side of the head. Matthew stumbled sideways, falling to his knees, dropping the gun and rolling slightly into the slope. All at once, seeing their opportunity, both officers began to move quickly forward, to try and reach him. Leonard took the opportunity to hurry well away from the sinkhole. But the officers were too far away, and Matthew, conscious still and desperate, scrambled to raise himself from the ground while reaching a hand out for his gun. This time, behind him, his attacker strode fully into view. Freya Williams. Matthew managed to fire off a random single shot before Freya connected another blow directly to the back of his head. This time he fell forwards, his body rolling down the rest of the steep slope and dropping into the crevice before anyone could reach him. Almost instantly, a splash could be heard. After a quick glance at the fierce, triumphant and frankly frightening face of Freya, Leonard joined PC Lewis who had dashed to the edge of the sink hole, while behind them he heard PC Morgan barking orders into his phone. “Despatch. We need emergency services with a rope ladder. And get some medics here, pronto. We have one man fallen into a hole, another with a head injury, and one shot in the chest.” With a loud crackling of tramped grass, other police officers, these in stark black uniforms with black helmets and carrying guns, began appearing from each direction. Instantly, PC Morgan ordered them to stand down their weapons. Leonard wondered who had been shot, until he turned to see PC Morgan leaning over the figure of Adrian, laid out on the ground. “No.” Leonard thought he had spoken the word out loud and began to rise. One of the black uniformed officer moved over and pushed Leonard firmly back down, telling him not to move. But he could still turn his head. Adrian lay unmoving on the ground, his eyes closed, blood oozing from the left side of his chest. “No,” he choked out.
  8. lomax61

    Intuition

    Broadband is very slow here in Hong Kong. It will arrive in the Netherlands around Sunday lunchtime...
  9. lomax61

    Intuition

    For clarification @travlbug. The black Ford Fiesta that may or may not belong to Freya🤣, is not parked outside Bryn Bach, but near a turnstile down a small lane PC Morgan told Adrian to take that probably 😋 leads to the Hughes farm.
  10. lomax61

    Domestic

    No mystery @Ivor Slipper for some reason GA duplicated the posting (probably me double clicking too enthusiastically), so I had them delete the second of the entries. I think there was only one or two comments made, so than likely you commented on that one.
  11. lomax61

    Intuition

    Ah ha!
  12. lomax61

    Intuition

    On the now familiar drive to the superstore, Adrian grinned to himself. If anyone were to ask any of his workmates, they would mention how obsessive he was about his keys and locks and security in general. The fact he had left them on the table spoke volumes about how much of a distraction Lenny Day had become, and how much he had let his usual unwavering guard down. He found a spot in the retail park near the front of the superstore. To optimise his time, he decided to walk across the main road to the Chinese restaurant and place his order first. Then, while the food was being prepared, he would head back to the superstore and stock up with drinks and breakfast items. If the weather stayed as clear and sunny as the day had been, he would make Lenny breakfast tomorrow morning, served up on the small table on the terrace. Fortunately, probably due to the early hour, the Chinese restaurant was almost empty, and after placing his order and paying, he strode across to the superstore. First of all, he stocked up with breakfast items, then headed for the alcohol aisle, preparing to pick out beers and wine for their meal. Rounding a corner, he almost bumped into another shopper carrying a basket. Without looking up, the woman moved to one side and began to pass by Adrian, until he realised he knew the person. "Freya. How are you?" Freya appeared a little surprised to be noticed, but recovered quickly and smiled a little shyly. She wore rather unflattering baggy tracksuit bottoms in grey, with a large woollen sweater in oatmeal, the sleeve cuffs pulled down over her hands as though she were trying to keep them warm. "I'm as good as can be expected. Where's Leonard?" "He's back at home, putting finishing touches to the house." "On his own?" asked Freya, her eyes widening for a moment. "Yes," said Adrian smirking. "Don't worry, he's a big boy. I volunteered to come out and do the shopping. And we're having Chinese takeaway tonight from the shop across the road." "That's nice," she replied, about to turn away. "Anyway, I'd better—" "We found some of Luke's personal belongings, by the way. Hidden away in an old dresser." "Did you?" she said, turning back, suddenly interested. "And?" "Nothing out of the ordinary. An old camera and tripod stand, some books and old polaroids." Freya looked away and smiled, nodding her head. "Nice, actually. Lots with your friends when you were younger. One included a good-looking, blond-haired guy. Standing by a tractor wheel. I don't suppose you remember who that was?" From Freya's expression, Adrian could tell she was not impressed. “Tim something. Can't remember his last name. Danish. He hung around with us sometimes that year. Thought he was God's gift. Too loud, too brash for my liking. But he got on really well with the boys. And Pippa, of course. Well, she pretty much threw herself at anyone back then. Tim worked for Megan's mum and dad behind the bar over the summer. He went off to London after that." "Wasn't that the same year your dad passed away?" "Yes," she sighed. "I try not to think about it." "I talked to PC Morgan. He said your dad drowned. An accident. I'm really sorry." Freya seemed to deflate. "It was all so senseless, so preventable. Fixing a fence on the steep side of the duck pond. Nobody knew Dad couldn't swim. How ridiculous is that? Not that the pond was usually deep. Water rarely came up to the waist, according to Geraint Hughes, the farmer, but we'd had heavy rains that year. I still find it difficult to conceive. They had the pond drained and filled in after that. Never forgave himself, Hughes, God rest his soul." "And then Howard disappeared the year after." Freya appeared confused. "Disappeared? Howie left, he didn't disappear. He'd always planned to go travelling after he turned twenty-one. We all knew that, Gran as well as Dad." "But people said he just upped and vanished." This comment got a reaction; a sharp shake of the head followed by a huff of disapproval. "Which people?" "Everyone. Pippa, Mrs Llewellyn—" "Heavens. What's the expression? Small towns, small minds. Just because he didn't throw a big going-away party—which would hardly have been appropriate a year after burying Dad—doesn't mean he disappeared. You should have asked me, I am his sister, after all. Yes, he left Newbridge. But he kept in touch, still does. He's living just outside Jakarta in Indonesia right now with his wife and three kids. Keeps writing to ask when I'm going to visit. But I'm not one for travel. Now his oldest is at university, he may visit with his wife one day. He's always threatened to show her the dung heap he grew up in." So Howie was alive and well. And he was married to a woman. Adrian smiled and shook his head. At least that was one mystery solved. "Look," said Freya, looking about herself. "I really need to rush—" "Hang on, Freya. Lenny's going to throw a house warming party on the twenty-eighth of this month, Saturday afternoon. He's probably going to invite you formally anyway, but please say you'll come?" "I'm not sure. I'm not good with crowds—" "But you ought to come along and see how beautiful the finished house looks. Lenny's put so much effort into restoring the place and I know he would love to have you there. Pippa will be there, too." "Let me think about it." "Please do. And one other thing before you go. Sorry to keep harping back to this, but the year Luke took his own life, did you see him? Pippa said he used to come down early, before the rest of the family." "No. Everything happened at Easter. We only saw the Darlingtons during the summer. Nobody knew he was here. Usually he'd send a card to let us know, and we'd get the place ready for them. But then, Gran and I were the only ones here. Howie had already left and Pippa was at university." "I see," said Adrian, recognising her eagerness to go. "Well, have a nice evening. And don't forget what I said." "I won't," she said, heading off. He watched her go and noticed her discard her basket containing the few goods she'd picked on a pile of boxes by the checkout, before rushing out to the car park, to an old black Ford Fiesta. She was an odd little thing, Freya, living a life of solitude, and Adrian almost felt sorry for her. Except that he had lived a similar life before meeting Lenny. Back to business, Adrian stood at one end of the long wine aisle and scratched his head. He had no clue about wine. Beers he could handle. Felippe had talked about various types of grape and wine, which one suited which food, how to properly decant a bottle of red. But Adrian had paid little attention apart from learning the names, so he made sure to fetch the right bottle. Did people drink a specific wine with Chinese food? "Having a spot of trouble over there?" asked a cheerful older man, who had stopped next to him, confidently picking out wines and putting them in his cart. "I am actually. I know this is going to sound like a stupid question, but what wine would you recommend to go with Chinese food?" "Actually, that's not stupid at all. In the past we'd never had used those words in the same sentence, wine and Chinese food. But honestly, these days, everyone has their own preference. And, of course, it'll depend on the dishes you're serving. People forget that China is a huge country with lots of regional varieties of cuisine. But my rule of thumb is that for your basic stir-fry or deep fried dishes, I go with something acidic like a Riesling or a Pinot Gris. If you prefer red wine, then you can't go wrong with a Pinot Noir. Here's a nice, reasonably priced Pinot Noir from Napa Valley, and the Rieslings and other white wines are at the end." "Thanks for your help. I'll get a bottle of each." "Sounds like a good plan. Enjoy your meal and have a nice evening." "You, too." Adrian watched the old guy move off. People tended to be much friendlier and more helpful in the smaller towns, which Adrian took to be a universal truth. He'd had similar experiences in Drayton. When he lived in London, people were more inclined to keep themselves to themselves. Satisfied with his purchases, he finished up at the checkout and dropped his shopping in the truck cabin before heading back to the Chinese restaurant. With his bags of hot food, he returned to the truck again, passing by a police car parked up in the retail park. He spotted PC Morgan sitting in the driving seat with the window wound down, his elbow poking out. "Trouble?" asked Adrian as he drew level and caught PC Morgan's gaze. PC Morgan laughed. "There will be, son, if they've run out of chocolate digestive biscuits. Bobby—PC Lewis—is getting them for the boys back at the station. Here he comes now. And he's smiling, so that's usually a good sign." "Quiet day, then?" "You could say that." "What you got there?" asked PC Lewis, grinning at Adrian, before resting his backside on the bonnet of the car. Adrian hadn't appraised the younger PC Lewis before, but he seemed far more relaxed and friendlier than the policemen Adrian had dealt with in London. "Chinese takeaway. And before you ask, there's only enough for two." PC Lewis laughed good-naturedly. "And how's the house coming along?" asked PC Morgan. "Pretty much finished," said Adrian, with a smirk. "Lenny had the home security specialists around. Motion detector lights front and back, with a top of the range home security system. Constant surveillance and infrared motion sensors like something out of a Mission Impossible film. I can even see everything from my phone, front and back of the house and the downstairs areas. The security company should have registered the address and landline with you at the station, in case there's any more trouble." "Be good to come and have a look at some point," said PC Morgan. "You'd be more than welcome." "Anything else since the last incident?" asked PC Lewis. "If there was, you'd have been the first to know. But no, there's been Nothing. Quiet as a mouse." "Bobby checked the road cameras along the surrounding A roads for that night, but there was no unusual traffic, nobody speeding away from your area." "I called Mr Lamperton and told him already, boss. Either they knew to avoid the cameras, or they were on foot or maybe on pushbikes," said PC Lewis. "Out of interest, can I take a look? At your camera security system on your phone," said PC Morgan. Adrian didn't want to hang around chitchatting with PC Morgan. What he wanted was to get back to the comfort of Bryn Bach and Lenny, but he obliged the older police constable. After all, they would probably be the ones called out if an alarm went off. At some point, he needed to talk Lenny through the system operation. He probably thought the system only worked at night, and then only if activated. Obliging PC Morgan, he opened the app and tapped in the password, displaying a fullscreen colour feed of the front driveway. After a glance at the crystal clear view of the front gate of the house, he passed the phone to PC Morgan. "We've had no eye witnesses to the incident," continued PC Lewis. "But honestly, in that secluded part of town I'm not surprised. Bryn Bach's the only house for about two miles in any direction. I told you we had some reports of vandalism over the holiday weekend—kids, they think—but yours was the only one involving a petrol bomb. If anyone does come forward, though, we'll let you know." "Look at that," said PC Morgan, showing the phone display to his colleague. "Clear as day." "Yes, boss," said PC Lewis, rolling his eyes at Adrian. "I've seen similar set-ups. Much better quality than our traffic cameras." "Difficult not to be," said PC Morgan, chuckling at the screen and swiping with his finger. "Anyway, gents," said Adrian, wanting to get away. "I should be heading back before the food gets cold." "We just came from down from your way," said PC Lewis, standing straight and about to move around to the passenger side of the car. "Almost tempted to pull over a motorcyclist heading for Newbridge. That wasn't your Mr Day, was it? If it was, you should tell him to keep an eye on his speed. Lucky for him, we don't have the new integrated digital speedometer fitted yet. I bet if we'd clocked him, he'd have been over the legal limit." "Lenny drives a car, an SUV." "And there's your Mr Day talking to his guest," said PC Morgan, talking over Adrian. "Guest?" said Adrian puzzled. "We don't have a guest. At least we didn't when I left the house about an hour ago. Our two guests left this morning." "Hang on, let's look from the other end of the room. Yes, there you go. See if you can recog—" PC Morgan's expression morphed into a frown. After pushing his forefinger on the screen a couple of times, he turned the phone to PC Lewis and then to Adrian. "Son, I think we've got a problem. Do you recognise this person?" There on the screen stood a figure carrying what looked to be a shortened shotgun pointed directly at Lenny's head. Wearing a grey tracksuit, with a grey hoodie covering the head and the upper part of the face, Adrian couldn't clearly identify the person, but the figure appeared large, chubby almost. Was this Matthew, Leonard's cousin? "Shit," said Adrian, his pulse speeding up, a cold dread running down his spine. "I can't see clearly, but I think it's his cousin, Matthew. And he has a motorcycle, so maybe that's who you passed. Why the hell would he be pointing a shotgun at Lenny? I need to get back, he needs my help." "Hold on, son," said PC Morgan, placing a hand on Adrian's arm. Like a switch being flicked, both his and PC Lewis's comportment changed, both straightening up and becoming serious, their professional training kicking in. "You're not doing anything. This is our problem now. Does this security system of his record sound?" "I have no idea," said Adrian frowning impatiently. "I think so. Is that really important right now? We need to get to Lenny. He's in danger." "And we will," said PC Morgan, getting out of the car. "Bobby, take the squad car and call this in. Tell them the intruder's armed and we need AFOs just in case this gets nasty. Head straight to the front entrance and park up. Use your lights, but no siren. Mr Lamperton and I will take his vehicle. I'll keep an eye on things, but I may use the back way." "Will do, Charlie." Back way? Adrian thought the house had only one access point. "We'll monitor what's going on from the car. From here to there is no longer than ten minutes. Whatever you do, don't spook the guy. I'll keep you posted on what we're seeing on the security camera." "Copy that, boss." "Mr Lamperton. Let's head to your truck." Adrian moved quickly, feeling idiotic with the bag of Chinese food still dangling from his hand. As soon as they reached the truck, Adrian unlocked the driver's side and dumped the bags in the back. "Do you want me to drive?" asked PC Morgan. "No," said Adrian, climbing into the driver's seat. Adrenaline filled his veins, but he managed a thin smile and a shake of the head. "No, don't worry, I'm fine to drive. And I know how this truck handles better than anyone. Do you want me to head the same way I came? The Newbridge road?" "Yes," said PC Morgan, jumping into the passenger seat, slamming the door, and clipping the mobile phone system onto his yellow jacket. "That's the quickest route back. And as long as you drive safely, you'll be okay to push the speed limit, son." Once they'd both belted up, Adrian put the car into gear and headed for the car park exit. "What's an AFO?" he asked, without taking his eyes from the road. "You told PC Lewis you needed AFOs?" "Authorised Firearms Officers. Look, I don't want you to worry, son. Remember that as police officers in this country we're trained to deal with these situations, even though we don't carry firearms. But in cases where a person is armed, we need to call in AFOs just in case the situation turns ugly. I'm sure it won't come to that, but we have to follow procedures." Adrian loved hearing people say they didn't want him to worry because that's precisely what he ended up doing. While he concentrated on driving, PC Morgan kept close tabs on the video movement on Adrian's phone. With the mobile system on his lapel, he kept in contact with his colleague, PC Lewis, to keep him appraised. "Bobby. It looks as though they're moving outside. Out onto the back patio. The external camera only covers the lawn down to the end of the garden." Adrian's pulse hammered in his neck. His heart cried out to be there with Leonard, even though his head reasoned that having the police with him right now was the best he could hope for. If anything happened to Lenny, and the person was still standing, Adrian wasn't sure what he would do to them. "No, Bobby. Stick to the plan. Come in from the front of the premises. See if the intruder used any mode of transport. If anything, they'll have to come back out that way. Hang on." Adrian glanced over at the phone in PC Morgan's hand. "Mr Lamperton, would you or Mr Day have left the front door open?" "No. After everything, Lenny knows to keep it shut." "Good to hear. But is there an access path around the side of the house?" "Yes, there is. To the right of the front door." "Did you catch that, Bobby?" said PC Morgan, and then to Adrian. "Looks like they're leading your friend to the end of the garden. They'll be out of camera range in a moment. Good job I know this area well. Take the next right up ahead." "What?" said Adrian, his head snapping round to look at PC Morgan. "But that's not the road to—" "Do as I say. I'm fairly sure I know where they're heading. There's a pathway from the back of your place that leads directly to the Hughes farm." Hurtling down the small lane, ahead of them through the gaps in hedgerows, Adrian glimpsed a dark coloured vehicle parked just beyond a turnstile. Only as they drove closer and PC Morgan told him to stop, did he realise the make and model. An old black Ford Fiesta.
  13. lomax61

    Domestic

    It was almost Wednesday where I live when I posted the current chapter. Just putting the finishing touches to the next chapter. Will post early tomorrow morning. So nobody’s money’s on Mr Llewellyn?
  14. lomax61

    Domestic

    Ni all gormod o feddyliau ddatrys posau. / Too many minds can't solve puzzles. Ond mae'n hwyl rhoi syniadau i Brian ar gyfer ei stori nesaf, neu barhad o'r stori hon!😉 / But it's fun to give Brian ideas for his next story, or a continuation of this story! 😉 Gadewch inni aros i weld! / Let us wait and see! I’m using Google translate, so the Welsh equivalent may not be entirely accurate.
  15. lomax61

    Any Day

    Apologies about multiple posting the same chapter. Not sure what happened there. Think I might have hiccuped when I hit save button, but Myr has Kindly sorted everything out now. Another chapter to come Friday. I’ll try to post it only once this time...
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