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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Hidden Secrets - 11. The Lovers

A relationship is beginning

I woke up in an unfamiliar bed with someone’s arm across my chest. For a couple of seconds my brain struggled to process everything, then it all clicked into place. The clock on the bedside table showed that it was almost 8.30. I’ve always reckoned I have an inbuilt alarm as no matter how late I get to bed, I always wake up at around the same time. I stretched carefully, trying not to disturb Dan. He was lying face down, hugging the pillow with his other arm and he looked very relaxed and peaceful. So he should be. I smiled as memories of the previous evening filled my head with images and sensations I wouldn’t forget easily. I’d not felt so content or happy for a long while.

The dull light of an October morning filtered through the blinds. I heard a car start up in the street below, footsteps and voices as people walked by. Suddenly, the radio blared out, making me jump.

Dan woke with a groan. ‘Bloody alarm.’ He reached out to turn it off and blissful silence resumed. ‘Did it wake you up, too?’

‘No. I’m still asleep.’

He gave me a light punch in the arm. ‘Joker.’

I turned to face him. He still looked pretty good, even first thing. I couldn’t stop the smile that threatened to split my face. ‘Morning.’

He pulled me closer. We started kissing again. Neither of us could get enough of each other. It was the way of new relationships, but it had been so long for me that I’d almost forgotten. My body hadn’t, though and responded eagerly to every sensation of touch and taste. I was getting fairly close and Dan was obviously in the same zone when the radio alarm kicked in again.

‘Shit!’ Dan swore.

‘Ignore it.’

Push the Button by Sugababes was the wrong tempo for my liking, but we both managed to finish, then lay together in a breathless mess while the traffic reporter told of long delays on the M1.

‘I could do with waking up like this more often,’ Dan said lazily.

‘Me too.’

‘But I need to get to work by ten. It’s stocktake day.’

‘What fun.’ I absently wondered how much of the usual Thursday preparation Colin had bothered to do. ‘I’m not in until four.’

‘I’ll drop you at home on the way if you like.’

‘That’d be brilliant. I haven’t a clue where I am.’ I hadn’t been paying a great deal of attention last evening.

‘What will your aunt think?’

‘Oh, she expected me to stay out. She was more worried about me not brushing my teeth than anything else.’

We had a shower - not together as the cubicle was just too small for that - then a quick coffee. While Dan got ready for a long day at work, I perused his DVD collection. The house was a typical rental property; magnolia walls and Ikea furniture, but it was certainly cosier than Cynthia’s draughty old place.

‘I’m going to be thinking about you all day,’ I said. ‘So near and yet so far.’

He kissed me. ‘I’ll try to come up to the box for a cuppa if I get everything done in time.’

‘Just a cuppa?’ I grabbed his arse and pulled him closer.

‘Never know your luck.’ He paused. ‘And there’s always tonight. You could even bring a toothbrush this time.’

‘All right.’ I wanted more of him. It was evident he felt the same.

As promised, he dropped me at Cynthia’s house, then drove off to the cinema. I unlocked the door and had to fend off Nipper, who greeted me like a long lost friend.

Cynthia was at the dining table, opening her post. She raised an eyebrow. ‘I don’t need to ask if you had fun. It’s written all over your face.’

‘That transparent, eh?’

‘There’s tea in the pot.’

I went and fetched some, together with a bowl of muesli and joined her at the table. ‘We went to that restaurant you mentioned. It was good.’

‘It’s never disappointed. I must drum up some friends and have a meal there again soon. You know the building’s haunted?’


‘Oh yes. Like a lot of the older shops in town, it has a cellar. A man fell down the steps and broke his neck. That was what he told us, anyway.’

Another seance, no doubt.

‘He seems like a nice sort, your cinema manager.’ She gave me a sly look from behind the letter she’d opened.

‘Definitely.’ Recollections I didn’t need at the breakfast table sprang to mind. ‘Er, I may be staying out tonight as well.’

‘You’re old enough to do as you please, Terry. I’m glad you’ve found someone.’

‘You don’t mind being left alone?’

‘I’ve managed all these years. I enjoy my own company. One of the reasons I never chose to share my life with anyone.’

I had wondered. ‘So you never fell in love?’

‘I didn’t say that.’ She sighed. ‘It was different when I was young. I was a teenager in the nineteen-sixties but it wasn’t all fun and flower power. Not outside of the big cities, anyway. There was still an expectation that girls would find a man, get married and have a family. It all felt a bit stifling to me.’

I could see her point. ‘Didn’t you go to festivals and stuff?’ My parents had met at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. It was part of the family history.

‘Your father always had more freedom than I did. Partly because he was male, but also because he’d decided to rebel at an early age and just didn’t care. I was supposed to be the good girl in the family. I did well at school, got a job in the bank…’

‘The bank!’ It was hard to imagine.

‘It was a good career for a woman back then. And if I’d not been with them, I wouldn’t have managed to get a mortgage on this place. I was there for almost fifteen years.’

‘During the nineteen-seventies?’ Maybe some of the people who’d worked at the cinema had paid their wages in to her branch.

‘Yes. I started there in sixty-five. Why?’

‘Just thinking about what you said yesterday. Relationships and such. A lot of the people who were working at the cinema when it all happened are a similar age to you. You might have gone to the same pubs, clubs and so on. You might have served them, in the bank.’

‘I suppose so,’ she mused. ‘I’d not thought of that. It would help to have pictures though. Faces are easier to remember than names, after all these years.’

‘Another thing struck me, too. I know who was working there, but they’re all still alive. So whose body is it down the well?’

‘We could ask, dear.’

I knew she’d say that. ‘Well, yes…’

‘Now that you’re friendly with the manager, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind us having a seance in the stalls.’

‘I’ll see.’ I certainly didn’t want to take advantage of Dan like that.

Cynthia looked at her letter again, then back up. ‘I just had a thought. You say that all the people who worked there are still alive?’

‘I nodded.’

‘Then it might be someone who didn’t work there.’

Another layer of complexity. Sometimes it made my head spin just to think of all the possibilities. ‘It’s hopeless, isn’t it? I’ll never figure it out.’

‘You will if you ask the right questions. But do be careful.’

All during the day, I kept wondering what Dan was doing right now. My mind kept straying back to the fun we'd had and imagining what we might get up to later on tonight. Several times I contemplated sending him a text and even got so far as typing it out before deciding it probably wasn’t such a good idea. What if the miserable Karen got a look at his phone? The last thing I wanted was to cause him any problems.

It was almost a relief when it was time to leave for work. At least there would be plenty there to keep me occupied. Plus, the prospect of having to spend a couple of hours with the dour Colin was enough to suppress my sex drive until a more appropriate time.

Of course, when I stepped in through the front doors, the first thing that caught my eye was Dan checking the pick and mix hoppers. He gave me a smile that sent blood rushing exactly where I didn’t need it at work. I went to the office and signed in, taking the opportunity to adjust myself, before heading upstairs to projection.

Colin was in the staffroom, eating a bag of crisps. He barely looked up as I put my sandwiches in the fridge, then refilled the kettle and set it to boil. ‘Do you want a tea?’ I asked. Might as well try to be civil.

‘Just finished one.’ He crumpled the bag and dropped it on the floor beside the comfy chair.

‘Has “Brothers Grimm” come in?’

‘Yesterday. It’s made up and ready to plate on.’

Well, that was something, at least. I made a mug of tea and sat in the other chair, wondering how best to approach him for information. ‘I’ve been going through some of the stuff in the old chief’s office,’ I said, trying to engage him.

‘It’s a dump in there.’

‘Yes, I know. I was trying to find a manual for the projectors downstairs.’

‘Should be one somewhere.’ Colin rummaged in his carrier bag and brought out a Twix bar. Obviously, he was carrying on the projection tradition of healthy eating. ‘Maurice never chucked anything out.’

‘Must have been difficult working with him towards the end.’


‘So, what was George like as a chief?’

‘All right. Knew his stuff.’

‘He’s written a history of this cinema, did you know? I found it online.’

‘Stupid bugger. When I get out of here, I’m never thinking about cinema again.’ Colin finished his Twix in a couple of bites.

‘If you don’t like the job that much, how come you stayed this long?’ I probably shouldn’t have asked, but I was curious to know his reasons.

‘Got stuck, didn’t I? You do this job for a few years and no one else will take you on. Too specialised, like.’

It was a fair answer. ‘I left the business and came back again.’

‘More fool you, then.’ The Twix wrapper joined the crisp packet. He glanced at the clock. ‘Number three’ll be off soon. I put foam in the adverts, ready to swap.’

‘Great. I’ll go and sort that, shall I?’

‘If you want.’

There were a few more minutes before the feature finished. I sipped my tea. ‘So what was it like working here when the place was being tripled?’ I asked, looking for any reaction.

‘Bloody mess. Dust everywhere.’

‘Jack was the chief then, wasn’t he?’ I wondered if he could confirm whether Jack had been violent.

‘Aye. Used to complain to the manager every day. Fat lot of good it did.’

‘Maurice mentioned something about Jack pushing him down the stairs, the other day. Do you reckon that really happened?’

Colin shrugged. ‘Never had no problem with him myself, but he knew better than to try anything on with me.’ For the first time, he looked me straight in the eye. ‘Reckon he might have fancied Maurice and Maurice turned him down.’

‘Are you sure?’

He nodded. ‘Oh, aye. Bent as a nine bob note, that one. You’d have got on all right with him.’

The cinema grapevine had obviously been at work. I’d expected something like this, especially from Colin. But Jack’s sexual orientation was news to me. No one else had mentioned it and I wondered if Colin was just winding me up. Or implying something he considered to be a slur against a man who wasn’t around to refute it. ‘Hmm,’ I said noncommittally. Thankfully, the end sequence’s shrill note gave me the perfect excuse to leave.

I changed the advertising reel in screen three and plated off the previous week’s ads ready to go back. Colin seemed to have swapped out the trailers, too, but I stayed downstairs to check them through once the next show went on. On my way back through the foyer, I spotted Sylvia counting the bags of sweets. ‘Are you here all evening?’ I asked.

‘More’s the pity. Could just do with putting my feet up and watching telly.’

‘I had an email from George, who used to be the chief here.’

‘He’s well, is he?’

‘Seems to be. He was sorry to hear about Maurice’s condition. And he filled in some more bits of information, but they’ve raised more questions. I was wondering if we could have a chat, later?’

‘No problem, love.’

Colin had already gone by the time I reached the staff room; he’d been due off at five. I felt a sense of relief that I wouldn’t be burdened with his company for the rest of the evening. It was a pleasant surprise to find he’d tidied up his rubbish before leaving.

The next hour was busy, with shows finishing and projectors to be re-laced. At around six-thirty, I ate my sandwiches, then returned to the foyer to ask Sylvia a few questions. I waited for her to finish bagging up some change from the till, studying the latest posters. Matt Damon and Heath Ledger looked moody on the advertising for The Brothers Grimm. It hadn’t had brilliant reviews, but I’d probably watch some of it in the morning. I always ran films through before the first public show, to check the sound and picture and to make sure they had been put together in the correct order. Not that I thought Colin was intentionally incompetent, but mistakes sometimes happened. I remembered my old chief telling me how someone had once put a print of Pulp Fiction together with reels three and four swapped around and no one noticed until the third show on Friday evening.

‘Think I’ll give that one a miss,’ Sylvia said. ‘I don’t like these horror films.’

‘It’s not horror, exactly.’ I expected there would be a fair amount of gore and a lot of CGI, but what I really hoped for was some gratuitous nudity from either Matt or Heath.

‘I caught a glimpse of that “Saw" film,’ she went on. ‘Couldn’t get it out of my head. Give me a good romance or comedy any day.’

I had to agree with her there. I didn’t much like the grossness of some modern horror films either. ‘You probably won’t get any of those until after Christmas.’ Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire would be closely followed by The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. With only three screens, they’d be taking up most of our available auditoria until the New Year.

‘What was it you wanted to ask about, love?’

I hoped she wouldn’t think I was obsessive. ‘Stuff about the past.’

‘You like your history, don’t you?’

‘I always try to find out about a place where I’m working. What was it like when there were live shows here?’ Might as well guide her onto the topic easily.

‘Oh, it were brilliant. Foyer packed, queues down the road. Even when folk knew it was sold out, some would turn up on the off chance they might be able to squeeze in. The atmosphere was electric. Even if I was working out front, I could hear the music and all the audience screaming and applauding. Last one before we were tripled was Status Quo. Thought the place was going to collapse, the noise they made.’

‘That was when the burglary happened, wasn’t it?’

She nodded. ‘Might have known it, really. Wouldn’t take much for criminals to figure out how much money would be in the safe after a concert.’

I supposed not. ‘So, let me get this right. Maurice and Colin were both working here back then.’

‘Yes. Maurice had only just come back.’

‘He left?’ I hadn’t known that.

‘Not through his own choice. The company cut the manning levels and he got sent over to Westbridge. He used to come over for stage shows to help out. Then they brought him back permanently for the tripling.’

The projection numbers made sense now. I recalled the questions I’d wanted to ask. ‘Was he going out with Brenda at the time?’

Sylvia answered almost right away. ‘Yes. That’s why her and me fell out for a bit.’


‘Well, I’d been seeing Maurice, before he got packed off. I suppose I was a bit naive, thinking it would all be the same as before, but Brenda got in there first.’

I supposed that with them all being a similar age and working together, that sort of thing was bound to happen. Cynthia had implied as much.

‘We made it up again, though, after Jenny left. Brenda and she were thick as thieves. Jenny used to fancy herself as God’s gift to the boys. Reckoned she could wind them round her little finger. Brenda tried to be like her, but she didn’t really have the looks or personality to pull it off.’

That was useful to know. ‘So you and Jenny must have been in competition, too.’ Sylvia had been quite a catch herself when she was young.

‘Up to a point. I thought for a while she’d go after Maurice, but he wasn’t her type. Too quiet. Not like Trevor. Those two were made for each other.’

That reminded me of my other question. ‘Did he get into bother about going to the papers with that ghost story?’

‘They didn’t like it. But he said it wasn’t his fault. Said he got chatting to a man in the pub and didn’t know he was a reporter. It wasn’t long after that he handed in his notice, so who knows? Mind you, him and Jenny had made up their mind to see the world by then.’

Dan emerged from the office. ‘Sylvia. Could you just double check the number of cups out here? The count looks like we’re short.’

‘Will do.’

He turned to me. ‘Is everything all right?’

‘Er, yes.’ I felt slightly guilty for hanging around the foyer, even though I’d done all I could until the next shows went on.

‘Excellent.’ He winked at me before he returned to the office.

‘He’s very chirpy today,’ Sylvia said. ‘Couldn’t stop smiling earlier. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’d found himself a girlfriend.’

‘Hmm,’ I said. She evidently didn’t know about Dan and I wasn’t going to enlighten her. ‘Oh well, best leave you to get on. I might have film all over the floor by now.’

‘Let’s hope not, love.’

Once the final shows of the evening were running, I took the advert box down to the film dump, then made a mug of tea and checked the film reports. Colin hadn’t completed one for The Brothers Grimm, although he’d written in the diary it was made up and ‘OK’. It was probably a new print, so I had to hope that was the case. Another good reason to run it through first thing.

I mulled over the new information I’d gleaned from the earlier conversations. Had Jack really been gay, or was that just Colin being malicious? I guessed that given his track record, he probably hadn’t got along with Jack either. In any case, it was irrelevant to the situation; if he was gay, it just put him out of the mix of all the staff who’d gone out with each other. Even if that wasn’t the case, he’d have been a couple of years older than them all, plus he’d been in charge of projection, which back in the day meant that it wouldn’t have been acceptable to mix with ordinary staff.

Taking out my notebook, I wrote down the names again. Maurice had gone out with Sylvia, then Brenda, whom he later married. Sylvia had been with Maurice before her husband Phil, who hadn’t been working there at the time in any case. Jenny had dated Colin, then Trevor. From what Sylvia had said about Colin, I guessed she wouldn’t have touched him with a bargepole. Once again I speculated if Colin’s envy of all the relationships going on around him had made him into a murderer. Was he with anyone now, I wondered? He didn’t wear a wedding ring, but lots of projectionists didn’t wear rings at work due to the dangers of getting caught up in moving machinery.

Just to pass the time, I shuffled my cards and mulled over the events of nineteen seventy-five. Just give me some insight, I thought. A clue as to what might have happened. I fanned out the pack and picked three cards. The first, I labelled root of the matter. The second, the protagonist and the final card, the situation. Then I turned them up.

The first card was the seven of Swords. The card of cheats and thieves. Reference to the failed burglary, perhaps? A falling out of thieves came to mind, along with images of the stand off scene in Reservoir Dogs. Really? A lover’s quarrel turned violent seemed far more likely to be the reason for an accidental death and the need to hide a body.

Next card was the Queen of Swords, reversed. A ruthless woman. That was more along the lines I was already thinking. The centre of a love triangle, possibly. Sylvia didn’t strike me as at all ruthless and although I’d only met Brenda briefly on the day of Maurice’s accident, she hadn’t seemed that type either. Jenny seemed the most likely of the three to fit the bill, although never having met her, I couldn’t be sure. Was I becoming guilty of turning the cards meaning to fit my theory?

I turned over the final card. The Moon. That was fitting. A card symbolising confusion and a difficult, unclear path ahead. The cards were telling me what I already knew, which is often the case when you go looking for answers when you already know them, deep down.

I took another sip of tea, just as I heard footsteps on the stairs. A couple of seconds later, Dan came in.

‘We have to stop meeting like this,’ I joked.

His eyes flicked to the cards on the table. ‘Another reading?’

‘Sort of.’

‘Maybe you can predict how many admissions we’ll do with “Harry Potter”?’

‘Don’t think I need cards for that.’

Dan perched on the arm of the comfy chair and put an arm around my shoulders. ‘I’ve been wanting to see you all day.’

‘Well, here I am.’

He leaned down to capture my mouth in a kiss. For a while, it didn’t matter that we were at work, although the unmistakable sound of a projector running next door made it impossible to forget. When we finally parted, he smiled. ‘I’ve been wanting to do that all day, too. Are you, er, coming home with me tonight?’

‘You bet. I’ve got to be back here by nine, though.’

‘You’re working this weekend, aren’t you?’

‘More’s the pity.’

‘We’ll have to get our weekends off synchronised. I can sort out the management rota. You just do one on and one off with Colin, don’t you?’

I nodded. ‘Nice and easy. We should think about taking on a third projectionist, though.’

‘It would certainly save on having to pay for relief cover when someone’s on holiday.’

‘Or if they’re sick.’ I remembered what Harold had said about Colin’s habit of going off sick whenever he got fed up. ‘That’ll be Colin’s next move, I suspect.’

‘You’re getting on all right with him still?’

‘So, so. But I’ve not tried to get him to do any more than the bare minimum. I don’t want to risk upsetting the apple cart.’ Now that I had a relationship to consider, I had even less reason to want to work a six day week. There was something else I needed to clarify, too. ‘Do you want to keep this private from the other staff?’

‘I don’t like them to know everything I do outside of work, if that’s what you mean?’

‘Not just that. Isn’t there some rule about management and staff not being allowed to go out together?’

‘Not that I know of. Why, who told you that?’

‘Sylvia. So people can’t conspire to embezzle company funds together.’

‘Oh, that old thing. It wouldn’t apply to us anyway.’


‘Because you’re a projectionist. You don’t handle cash. Anyway, they scrapped it a few years ago.’

I was relieved to hear it. ‘That’s all right then.’

Dan ran his fingers through my hair; not that there was much of it as I keep it very short. ‘So, what about that cuppa?’

Copyright © 2022 Mawgrim; All Rights Reserved.
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This story will update every Monday

Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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Chapter Comments

This was a pleasant chapter. Terry is in a new relationship and he's happy. It turns out their dating isn't a problem with the company.

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10 minutes ago, Mawgrim said:

Colin's getting over not having been given the job. I don't see him as ever being 100% pleasant to anyone he works with, but at least he's doing his fair share of the work.

Perhaps his estimate of fair.

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21 minutes ago, centexhairysub said:

Terry and Dan waking up like that, except for the bloody alarm, was just too cute.  Loved their interaction there and later in the day.  

I still go back to the dream where the Trevor and Jenny talked about getting rid of this one like the other one; then the person was chased and fell down the well.  I think that means more than we know yet...

Do just love this story; keeps getting better and better.

It's still not clear if Terry's dreams are as a result of him thinking too much about the mystery and the murderous possibilities that may have occurred, or if they are his subconscious warning him about something. Or maybe a mixture of both.

Terry and Dan are definitely good together.

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5 hours ago, drpaladin said:

Or apparently failed burglary.

I like the way @drpaladin thinks.  Diversionary tactic for another crime??:2thumbs:

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