The Jungle Book
The Red Knight
Knights and Castles
The Pied Piper of Hamelin
The Wizard of Oz
Boost your listening now
At eleven o’clock one morning the director of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes in Buenos Aires, Leonardo Martinez, asked Cristina Rinaldi to come into his office.
‘I want to talk to you about an important job I’d like you to do, Cristina. I think you’ll be interested in it.’
‘Of course. What is it?’
‘A museum in Paris wants to send some Impressionist paintings to Buenos Aires. I spoke to the Paris museum director, Philippe Maudet, this morning and he’s interested in using our museum to show the paintings. It’s an important job. Would you like to do it?’
‘Of course I would. Great! You know I’d love to see Impressionist paintings here in the museum,’ answered Cristina.
‘Good. I want you to begin work as soon as you can,’ the director said. ‘There is a lot you’ll need to do.’
Cristina felt good all day. She loved Impressionist paintings. This new exhibition was wonderful. She couldn’t wait to begin.
After work Cristina got onto her motorbike outside the museum. She was feeling good. She had an important new job, the sun was warm on her back and it was the start of spring weather in the city of Buenos Aires. Maybe tomorrow she could leave her jacket at home. This year September was warm, and people were already talking about a hot summer. Cristina started her motorbike and felt the warm air on her face as she rode along Avenida del Libertador. She never wore a helmet because she liked the feeling of the wind in her long hair. But her father didn’t know that. She remembered his words when he gave her the new motorbike: ‘always wear your helmet, Cristina – every time you ride!’ She hoped her father would never see her without it.
Every day at this time Cristina rode down Avenida del Libertador to the gym at the Recoleta Health Club. Her day’s work at the museum was finished and she was free. She usually forgot about her work as she rode down the Avenida. But today was a little different. She couldn’t stop thinking about her new job.
Cristina began to slow down for the traffic lights. The traffic in the city center was terrible. She didn’t work far from the gym but the road had so many traffic lights. She stopped and looked into the car next to her. She saw two men in the car. She couldn’t believe her eyes. One of the men had a gun. Then he looked out of the window at Cristina. She looked into his eyes, into his dark brown eyes and for a moment the man looked back. Then he turned his head and she saw a tattoo of a flower, a red poppy, on his neck.
Then she heard the sound of police cars. The man in the car lifted up his gun. Cristina felt afraid. She wanted to go quickly. She tried to start her bike but she couldn’t. Everybody else was moving but she couldn’t. Suddenly a taxi hit the back of her bike. She fell from the bike onto the front of the taxi and then down onto the road. Her head hit the road hard. She saw nothing, she felt nothing – she didn’t even hear the sound of the ambulance which took her to hospital.
Two hours later Cristina was lying in bed in hospital and her parents were waiting outside her room with a policeman.
‘Where’s her helmet?’ asked Mr Rinaldi, Cristina’s father. ‘I know she had a helmet. She always wore a helmet.’
‘She didn’t come in here with a helmet,’ the policeman told him.
‘I can’t believe it, she always wore her helmet,’ Mr Rinaldi said.
‘Maybe the helmet fell on the road, maybe the police left it there,’ Mrs Rinaldi said quietly to her husband. ‘It’s OK. I’m sure she’s going to be all right.’
They waited ten more minutes before the doctor came to see them.
‘She’s lucky,’ the doctor said. ‘She’s going to be OK. You can see her now, but she doesn’t remember anything about the accident.’
The doctor took them into the room where Cristina lay in bed. Cristina’s mother and father began to cry.
‘Are you sure she’s OK?’ they asked. ‘Can’t we take her home now?’
‘No, it’s better if she stays here for a few days,’ said the doctor. Her mother stood by her bed.
‘Come back and live with us, Cristina,’ she said. ‘It’s not safe for you in the city. It’s not only the traffic. We hear so many terrible things. Please, Cristina, your room is there for you. Come back and we’ll look after you at home. You can change your job if it’s too far to go.’
Cristina felt angry. She had her own flat in the city center and her own life. She liked to look after herself. But her parents weren’t happy about her staying in the flat on her own after the accident. Cristina couldn’t believe her bad luck. She lay in bed listening to her parents.
Her father tried some other ideas. ‘How about a flat with your brother, Cristina? He’d like it and he could look after you. Or maybe your mother could stay with you for some time. Just until you are better.’
But two days later she went back to her own flat alone.
She phoned the museum. ‘I’m OK. I’ll be back at work in a week,’ she told the director. Her mother visited her every day and Cristina talked to her father every night on the phone. They agreed to let her keep her flat but there was something they disagreed with her about. They did not want her to keep the motorbike.
All of Cristina’s family talked about Cristina’s bad luck. ‘It’s the traffic in the city center,’ her aunt said when she phoned Cristina. ‘It’s the same at four in the afternoon and three in the morning.’
‘Those taxi drivers go too fast and they don’t look,’ said her uncle who drove a bus through the city center every day. The story of the accident was in the newspaper, a short story on the third page. Cristina’s name and job were there but there was not a lot about the accident. Cristina’s brother cut the story of her accident out of the newspaper and put it on the fridge in his flat. It wasn’t every day that his sister was in the newspaper!
But Cristina herself was worried. She couldn’t remember anything about the accident except the sun on her back when she was riding down Avenida del Libertador. But she wanted to remember. The police were still asking questions. The taxi driver said Cristina was sitting there on her motorbike in the center of the road when the traffic lights were green.
The doctor said she was all right but Cristina felt strange – she got headaches – and she tried hard to remember what happened, to find answers, but she couldn’t remember anything.
A plan to kill
In another area of the city, Roberto Bocuzzi and his brother, Carlos, were afraid. They were afraid that the woman on the motorbike who saw their faces would tell the police. Roberto and Carlos had $50,000 from a bank robbery and now they were rich. But they couldn’t enjoy the money because the police were looking for them and this woman knew their faces. They didn’t want her to tell the police. So they waited and made plans. They made plans to kill the woman on the motorbike.
A week after the accident Cristina went back to work. She felt better and she really wanted to go back to her new job as soon as possible. She only got a headache now at the end of the day when she was tired. Her mother stopped visiting her in the flat but she bought a lot of food. She put it in the fridge so that Cristina didn’t have to go shopping for a few days. Cristina went back to her old life. She wanted to go back to the gym too but it was too early.
‘Be careful for a week or two,’ the doctor said. ‘Don’t do too much. Remember, you were lucky. You can’t remember the accident, but it was a bad one. You lost your memory and you were lucky not to lose your life.’
For two weeks Cristina worked on the Impressionist exhibition. She read a lot about the Paris museum and made plans for the director of the museum, Philippe Maudet, to visit Buenos Aires.
She took the bus to the museum in the morning now, or walked when she had time. She worked all day and then went home. She went to bed early and tried to rest a lot.
A few weeks after the accident Cristina went back to the Recoleta Health Club. She looked through the window into the office and smiled at the two people in there, Florencia and Daniel. Florencia was the receptionist and Daniel was the gym manager of the health club. Daniel was new there but he already looked at home in the gym. He spent most of his time in the office but he exercised a lot when the gym was closed to other people. He had blonde hair and blue eyes. Visitors to Argentina often talked about how many blonde, blue-eyed Argentines there were.
Cristina changed into her sports clothes and went into the gym. She only did a few exercises and then she went to have a shower. Daniel met her near the door.
‘You’re back,’ he said. ‘Were you on holiday?’ Cristina didn’t know what to say. She didn’t think anybody knew she had been away.
‘I had a motorbike accident,’ she answered at last. ‘I was in hospital for a short time.’
Daniel looked at her. ‘Are you OK now?’ he asked.
‘I’m much better, but I only did a few exercises in the gym today. I still have to go slowly,’ answered Cristina.
Daniel smiled and Cristina felt better. ‘Be careful then,’ he said and then he walked back to his office.
Cristina took a shower and thought about Daniel. She didn’t know many people in the city center – most of her friends lived near her parents’ house – and she hoped Daniel would become a friend.
Cristina was tired that evening, but for the first time she didn’t have a headache. She could finally forget about the accident and start living again.
On the other side of the city, Roberto Bocuzzi also felt better. He and his brother, Carlos, bought all the newspapers from the day of the robbery and the motorbike accident and looked at them carefully. They read a lot of stories about the bank robbery and then, finally, they found a story about the motorbike accident. It said that the woman worked in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes… They now knew who the woman who saw them was.
Every morning for almost a week Roberto stood outside the museum and waited. But he didn’t see her. Then, a week after the accident he saw a woman walking towards the museum. When she got nearer he saw that it was the woman he was waiting for. He remembered her long hair. He remembered her face. Roberto didn’t want her to see him, but there were a lot of people in the street so it was not difficult to hide. She walked quickly past him and she didn’t look at him. She walked through the door of the museum. Roberto looked at his watch. It was just before half past eight.
Roberto went to the bar behind the museum, the Cafe de Las Artes. He bought a cup of coffee and phoned his brother. Then he left the area quickly and took the bus home.
At three o’clock that afternoon Roberto left his flat again. At the bus stop near his home he waited for one of the colorful old city buses. The ride across the city center was slow and uncomfortable but at four o’clock he was outside the museum. He saw Cristina leave the building at four thirty. He followed her along Avenida del Libertador. She walked so fast that he almost had to run. After about fifteen minutes Roberto watched Cristina walk in through some glass doors. Above the doors he saw the name “Recoleta Health Club” in red letters.
Roberto found a bar with tables outside. From his table he could see the door of the health club. He waited until he saw Cristina leave the gym and followed her home. He followed her for a few more days. He wanted to know if she did the same thing every day. He also wanted to visit the gym before he decided how to kill her.
All the way from Paris
Cristina’s days were nearly always the same. She began work at the museum at eight thirty and left at four thirty. Then she went to the gym after work and stayed there for about an hour and a half. Then she went back home. She sometimes stopped at the supermarket on her way. Roberto and Carlos watched her for six days until their plan to kill her was ready.
Cristina, on the other hand, did not feel that her life was the same as before. The museum and her hours were the same but her work was very different. The new exhibition was keeping her very busy and she was very happy.
Cristina was sitting in her office when the phone rang.
‘Hello, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Cristina Rinaldi speaking.’
‘Oh Cristina, hello.’
Cristina knew the French voice. ‘Hello Philippe. How is everything?’
‘Fine thank you. How are you?’ asked Philippe.
‘Great. When are you arriving?’
‘On Wednesday. My plane arrives in Buenos Aires at nine fifteen in the morning. I’m travelling with Air France. The flight number is AF602. Will anyone be there to meet me?’
‘Oh yes. I’ll be there. I’ll meet you and take you to your hotel. Then, when you’re ready, you can come to the museum.’
‘That’s fine. Thank you, Cristina. I’m flying back to Paris on Monday so I’ll have time to look around Buenos Aires a little – everyone tells me it’s a beautiful city – so I’m going to be a tourist as well as a museum director!’
‘Good idea. There’s so much to see. I think you’ll like it,’ answered Cristina. She liked the sound of this man’s voice. ‘I’m looking forward to meeting you.’
‘Me too. I’ll see you at the airport on Wednesday.’
‘Have a good flight.’
‘Thank you. Good bye.’
Cristina put the phone down and looked at the picture of the Claude Monet painting she had on the wall in her office. When she was fifteen years old she went to France with her parents and fell in love with that painting with its field of red poppies. She went to see every Impressionist painting she could find in Paris. She spent hours in the museums and didn’t want to leave Paris. Her parents understood then that she was serious about studying art at university. She kept the picture on the wall in her office because it made her feel good. She had the same picture on her bedroom wall. She often looked at it when she was thinking. But today she looked away from it quickly. There was something strange about the picture today. It didn’t make her feel happy. It gave her a strange feeling inside. She didn’t know why. Maybe it was because she was thinking so much about the new exhibition. An exhibition of thirty-seven paintings was a lot of work.
She had a lot to do before Philippe arrived on Wednesday. She took her notebook and left her office. She had to talk to somebody about the lights for the exhibition.
That afternoon she left the museum a little later than usual. Carlos Bocuzzi was still outside but he was getting tired of waiting. ‘Maybe she went home early. Maybe she’s ill. Maybe she’s working late,’ he thought to himself.
Just then Cristina came out of the museum and Carlos followed her. Cristina walked into Plaza Francia as usual but then stopped for a moment. She looked up at the white stone bodies of the monument in the center of the Plaza. The French people who lived in Buenos Aires gave this monument to the city in 1910. This was the monument she could see from her office window in the museum across the street.
Now she was thinking about France and the French paintings that would soon be in the museum behind her. Carlos stood in the Plaza Francia. Most of the other people there were students from the university building behind the museum. They stood around in groups. They were waiting for friends and talking. In the park behind Carlos, the dog walkers of Buenos Aires were taking their dogs for their afternoon walk. Each girl or boy had seven or eight dogs that needed a walk morning and afternoon. It was often a job for young people who wanted to earn some money. They stopped at the flats in their area to get the dogs and then took them out to the city parks.
Carlos was watching Cristina and thinking. He was beginning to feel that he knew this girl and it was more difficult than before to think of killing her. But he knew that Roberto had a good plan.
‘I mustn’t be afraid,’ Carlos thought to himself. ‘Roberto is careful. He has thought of everything. Roberto has been to the gym three times, each time with different color hair and different clothes. Now Roberto knew about day tickets to the gym and knew which machines and weights Cristina used. This evening Carlos didn’t need to stay outside the gym and wait for Cristina. This evening Carlos could go home. It was the last time he had to follow Cristina – Roberto was going to kill her the next day. ‘I must not be afraid. Only a few hours more,’ he said to himself over and over again. Carlos was afraid but he felt sure that his brother would kill Cristina. Roberto was strong. ‘That woman has to die,’ Roberto told him every night.
An accident in the gym
The next evening, after work, Cristina was doing exercises in the gym. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty… her stomach began to hurt, but she did not stop. She was working hard. She wanted to feel as good as she did before the accident. She decided to stay longer that evening and do a few more exercises. She was finding it hard to stay in the flat in the evenings this week. She couldn’t sit quietly and watch television or listen to music. In less than twenty-four hours she had to be at Ezeiza Airport and she had to be ready for every question Philippe Maudet could ask.
She looked around the gym. It was crowded and most of the machines were busy. There were more new health clubs in the city of Buenos Aires than new restaurants. Spring was especially busy as people were beginning to think of the summer and going to the beach.
Cristina went into the weights room. It wasn’t crowded in there. You could always find a quiet place around five o’clock. Cristina chose her weight and lay on her back. She didn’t look behind her but she knew that there was somebody else there. She closed her eyes and thought about her favorite painting, the one in her office. This usually helped her to lift the weight. She thought about that field of red flowers, but once again the picture in her head of the painting gave her a strange feeling. The red flowers made her feel afraid. She decided to think about home. That was better. After a few minutes she was ready to lift the heavy weight above her head.
Daniel, the gym manager, sat in his office looking out of the door towards the busy gym. He was thinking about Cristina. She was the kind of person he liked and he felt they could be friends. Daniel had a girlfriend in his home city of Rosario and he was finding life very quiet without her. He had a cousin in Buenos Aires and sometimes they went out for a pizza together and then went dancing on Friday or Saturday evenings. But Daniel wanted to find some friends of his own and start to build a life in the city center. Cristina was the first person he wanted to make friends with. He wanted to ask her to go out for a pizza that weekend…
Suddenly, Daniel heard a shout. He got up quickly and ran out of his office. Somebody was hurt in the weights room. People were already there. Daniel looked down and saw the long black hair of the girl on the floor. It was Cristina.
‘Are you OK?’ Daniel asked. ‘I’ll call an ambulance.’
She wanted to get up. Her arm was hurt but she didn’t want to stay on the floor. She got up slowly and moved away from the people.
‘I’m OK,’ she said to Daniel. ‘I don’t need anything. It’s just my arm.’
Daniel took her slowly to his office and gave her a chair. ‘Sit here and rest for a moment,’ he said.
After a short time, Cristina looked a little better. ‘I feel much better. I don’t need an ambulance.’
‘Are you sure?’
‘I just want to go home,’ Cristina said.
‘OK, but could you tell me what happened?’ Daniel said. ‘It’s important that I know.’
‘I’m not really sure,’ Cristina said quietly. ‘I think the weight fell but I moved just in time. It hit my arm. Maybe it was too heavy for me.’
‘Accidents do happen sometimes,’ Daniel said. ‘The important thing is that you’re all right.’ Daniel then went to look around the weights room. He looked at the heavy weight on the floor. ‘Cristina must be strong,’ he thought.
He went back to his office. He wasn’t sure that Cristina was telling him everything about the accident. Her face was very white and she looked afraid.
‘Are you sure the weight fell?’ he asked.
‘No, it didn’t,’ Cristina said quietly. ‘Somebody pushed the weight. I saw it and moved just in time.’
‘Could it be true that somebody wanted to hurt her?’ Daniel thought. He wanted to find out who was in the gym that evening. Everybody who came to the gym showed their health club card to the receptionist and the number went into the computer. He could look at the computer and see who came in that day. He could also see how many day tickets were bought that morning. But he couldn’t know who bought the day tickets. First, he needed to help Cristina home.
‘Can I give you a ride home in my car?’ he asked.
‘No, thank you, I prefer to walk. The air will be good for me,’ Cristina answered. Then she stood up. She didn’t feel well. ‘Maybe that ride is a good idea,’ she said.
Before Daniel left the office, he spoke quickly to Florencia. He asked Florencia to try and remember anything she could about visitors to the gym that week. ‘I’ll be here early in the morning. Maybe you can tell me then what you remember,’ he said to Florencia as he left the gym.
Cristina was a little afraid. She wasn’t sure about going in Daniel’s car. He looked kind and friendly but she didn’t even know his full name. She was going to say that she wanted to walk, but then he said, ‘Don’t worry. I just want to be sure that you get home safely.’
Cristina got in. She wasn’t afraid now. ‘I think I’ve found my first friend in the city,’ she thought as he drove her home.
Looking good, feeling bad
Cristina opened her eyes and looked at her watch. It was six thirty in the morning. She tried to move but she felt bad. She felt her arm. It was very difficult to move. She closed her eyes again. She couldn’t believe it. It was a very important day for her but she couldn’t get out of bed. It was now nearly seven o’clock and she still couldn’t move her arm.
Any other day she could stay in bed, but not today. Philippe Maudet was arriving in Buenos Aires in less than three hours and she had to give a talk about the exhibition at the museum. She had to get up.
Her arm felt better after a shower but hurt when she brushed her hair. She went into the small kitchen in her flat and made a large cup of coffee. She didn’t usually eat much breakfast but this morning she felt that she needed some. She found some bread in the cupboard and put some dulce de leche on it. The sweet taste was really good. She walked back into her bedroom. She was trying not to think about the accident but she couldn’t stop. She looked at the clock and saw that it was time to get dressed. She didn’t feel good but she wanted to look good. She tried on a short black skirt. It didn’t feel comfortable. She usually wore that skirt to go out with her parents and it didn’t feel right today. She tried on a brown suit and then a green jacket and skirt, but she wasn’t happy with them either. At a quarter to eight she decided on a pair of black trousers and a white shirt.
She went back into her small kitchen. Her arm was hurting a lot again. She took some medicine and then she wrote down a number from the book near the phone. It was her doctor’s phone number. ‘Maybe I’ll call later about my arm,’ she said to herself. Then she left her flat and went to find a taxi.
On flight AF602 Philippe Maudet got up from his seat and walked down the plane towards the toilets. He didn’t feel good. It was difficult to sleep on the long flight. He cleaned his teeth, shaved, and washed. That felt a little better. He went back to his seat and sat down to eat his breakfast. Only about two hours to go.
The man next to Philippe wanted to talk. Philippe smiled at him and answered questions about who he was and where he worked. The man was a Porteno: he was born in the city of Buenos Aires. He wanted to tell Philippe everything about Buenos Aires. They looked at a map of Buenos Aires while the man talked about his city and its buildings. He told Philippe about the different parts of the city that he must visit: La Boca with its colorful little street called Caminito, full of color and life – the small metal houses there are blue, green, red and yellow and the painters work and show their paintings in the street.
He talked about San Telmo and its old buildings – in the restaurants and theatres of San Telmo you can see tango dancers and hear the real music of Buenos Aires. He talked about the Plaza de Mayo and the pink building, La Casa Rosada, where the President of the country works. He talked about the shops and the nightlife. ‘The city never sleeps: you can eat, drink and dance until the morning.’
They were arriving in Buenos Aires on 21 September, the first day of spring and Students’ Day. On this day the students in Argentina begin their last part of the school year. Across the country the city centers are full of young people enjoying themselves. They walk around the parks and go to bars and restaurants.
Philippe was interested. He was looking forward to seeing Buenos Aires. People called it the “Paris of South America” and he was sure that he was going to like it.
Roberto and Carlos Bocuzzi were still asleep at seven o’clock that morning. Roberto opened his eyes and remembered where he was. He remembered that Cristina Rinaldi was still alive. He closed his eyes again. He wanted to believe that he and Carlos were free, free to spend their money and live a good life without being afraid. He wanted to believe that Cristina was dead. But he remembered every moment of the evening before in the gym. He was using one of the weights in the weights room. Cristina was there in front of him, ready to lift a heavy weight. She was wearing grey shorts and a white T-shirt. She was slim and pretty. He could see her long dark hair around her head. Her eyes were closed. When she started to lift the weight, he moved nearer to her. When the weight was right above her head, he ran forward and pushed the weight down hard. She opened her eyes and looked at him. She saw the weight falling and moved just in time. The weight hit the floor. Then she shouted and people from the other room ran to her. Roberto left quickly and quietly. He remembered it all. He knew that she was still alive.
He got out of bed and walked into his brother’s room. He wanted to talk. They needed a new plan.
Meeting someone special
Cristina got into a taxi at eight o’clock. It was only about thirty-five kilometers to the airport, but she knew there would be a lot of traffic. She sat in the back of the taxi and she thought about Philippe Maudet. What did he look like? She knew his voice well but she didn’t know much else about him. In her bag she had a large piece of paper with “P. Maudet” written on it. She thought she would need it if the airport was very crowded.
She arrived at the airport early but she saw that the plane was also early. Philippe could be there at any moment. She found a good place to stand and she held the paper up in her hand. She watched and waited. After a few minutes, a man stopped in front of her and said, ‘Cristina, thank you for coming. I’m very happy to meet you.’
The first thing she saw were two very dark brown eyes smiling at her. Cristina smiled at the young Frenchman standing in front of her. She shook the man’s hand.
‘How was your flight, Philippe? I’m sure you must be tired. We’ll go to the hotel and you can rest before we go to the museum,’ she said.
‘No, no, that’s not necessary,’ replied Philippe. ‘I’m fine and I want to see the museum. Let’s go straight there. I’d just like a cup of coffee and then I’ll be ready for work.’
There was a good coffee shop near the museum. They could get out of the taxi in Plaza Francia, thought Cristina, drink some coffee and then go into the museum.
Cristina liked Philippe. He seemed the kind of person she could enjoy spending time with. She had the feeling the day was going to be all right.
The taxi driver was waiting outside the airport building. The driver smiled at Cristina and put Philippe’s small suitcase in the back of the taxi. Cristina and Philippe got in. The sun was just getting warm as the taxi turned into the Avenida del Libertador. Cristina could see Plaza Francia in front of them. She asked the taxi driver to stop. She then paid him while Philippe took his bag out of the taxi and found a table outside in the sun. He sat down and put on his sunglasses. He looked at all the young people around. He could see they were students and remembered that it was Students’ Day.
Cristina turned around and looked at the good-looking man waiting for her at the table. She sat down and the waiter came to take their order. At a quarter past ten they were sitting with coffee and churros. They talked for some time about their lives and their work and their love of Impressionist paintings.
Cristina and Philippe spent the day in meetings with the museum director, Leonardo Martinez, and other people who worked at the museum. It didn’t open to the public until half past twelve so they could have meetings and look around the museum easily.
Just before she had to give her talk Cristina ran to the toilets and took some medicine. Her arm was beginning to hurt badly, but she soon forgot about it as she talked about the exhibition.
She felt that Philippe was happy, but she couldn’t talk to him very much at lunch. They walked to a restaurant Campos del Pilar, near the museum, with everybody from the meeting. They chose Argentine beef and watched while it cooked on the fire in the center of the restaurant. Cristina was at the opposite end of the table to Philippe. She watched him talking and laughing with everybody. She could see that everybody liked him. She liked him too.
After the afternoon meeting, Philippe and Cristina were ready to leave the museum. Cristina was really very tired but she wanted to look after Philippe during his stay in Buenos Aires.
‘How about dinner?’ she asked.
Philippe smiled. ‘I’m really sorry, but I’ll have dinner in the hotel tonight, if it’s OK. I’m so tired. I think I’ll try and get some sleep. Can we go out tomorrow evening?’
‘Of course,’ Cristina said. ‘I’ll take you to the hotel now. We have a busy day tomorrow.’
‘Thanks,’ Philippe replied. ‘Maybe after tomorrow’s meeting, you can show me around your city a little. I’m looking forward to seeing it.’
Cristina took Philippe to his hotel in a taxi. ‘See you tomorrow. I hope you sleep well,’ she said. She watched him walk through the front doors of the Sheraton Hotel. She wanted to stay and talk to Philippe Maudet. She wanted to have dinner with him and find out more about him. She thought he was wonderful.
When Cristina got home she couldn’t stop thinking about Philippe. She smiled to herself. She listened to her phone messages. There were two from Daniel. He wanted to know how she was feeling and he wanted to talk to her about the accident. ‘Daniel is a nice man,’ she thought. And she felt happy. She tried to forget about her arm but it was hurting badly again. She took some more medicine and sat on her bed. She looked up at the picture of red poppies in Monet’s painting on the wall of her bedroom. The picture made her feel strange again. There was something wrong, but she didn’t know what it was. She lay in bed for a long time before she fell asleep.
There were two other people who couldn’t sleep that night: Roberto and Carlos. They were talking. Roberto was angry with himself, but Carlos understood. ‘I couldn’t kill her myself,’ he said. ‘It’s easy to talk about killing, it’s a different thing to do it. We must make a new plan. A plan that’s not so difficult. A plan where we don’t have to go too near her ourselves.’
‘But I almost did it,’ Roberto said. He couldn’t understand why he hadn’t pushed the weight down harder. He had stopped for one second. In that second, Cristina had moved away from the falling weight.
A bad night in town
At seven o’clock the next morning the phone rang in Cristina’s flat. It rang many times before Cristina answered. She took a long time to wake up.
‘Hello. Who is it?’ she asked at last.
‘Cristina. It’s me, Daniel. Are you OK? You didn’t phone me back yesterday. Is everything all right?’
‘Well, I’m fine, but I don’t like this feeling that somebody is trying to hurt me.’
‘That’s why I’m phoning you. Do you want to go to the police with your story?’
‘I don’t think so. I know I saw the man in the gym who pushed the weight. But I don’t think I could tell the police what he looks like. I don’t know him.’
‘OK,’ Daniel said. ‘But I’m worried about you, Cristina. Would you like to come to the club tonight and talk about it?’
‘I’m sorry. I have to go out. But I can probably come to see you quickly after work,’ Cristina said.
‘OK. See you later, then,’ Daniel answered.
‘Thanks for thinking of me.’ Cristina meant it. Daniel was very kind to her.
Cristina got ready and walked to the museum. She arrived a few minutes before eight thirty but it was not quiet. The museum was full of life. Cristina sat in her office for a moment. Three people looked in through the door at her.
‘Hi, Cristina. Great talk yesterday.’
‘Everything’s going really well, Cristina.’
‘Hi, Cris. Good luck today.’
There were smiling faces and kind words everywhere. She heard Philippe Maudet’s voice outside her office and went out to meet him.
Cristina and Philippe spent another day in meetings. After lunch, Philippe showed the museum directors photographs of the paintings he wanted to bring to Buenos Aires. He had a photograph of the painting with the red poppies, the same painting that Cristina had in her office and her bedroom. Cristina took the photograph in her hand. Suddenly she felt cold and sick. She didn’t know why. This was her favorite painting. It was strange that it was making her feel like this. She passed it quickly to the person on her left.
At half past five Philippe turned to Cristina and said, ‘How about our walk around the city? Is it still OK?’
‘Yes, of course. Do you need to go back to your hotel? I could meet you there if you want,’ said Cristina.
‘No, there’s no need. Let’s go now,’ answered Philippe. He took his jacket and followed Cristina out of her office.
The two of them left the museum and walked down Avenida del Libertador. Cristina showed Philippe the Recoleta Cemetery. She told him the story of General San Martin who was the “Libertador”, the man who made Argentina free.
And there above the buildings and the trees you can see the top of the English Tower,’ Cristina said. ‘It’s the same as Big Ben in London. The British people who lived in Buenos Aires gave the tower to the city in 1910.’ Philippe smiled. ‘You’ll want a tower like the Eiffel Tower from me before I leave,’ Philippe said.
‘No I’ll be happy with thirty-seven Impressionist paintings.’ Cristina smiled and they walked on down the Avenida.
As they walked, Cristina decided to stop at the gym so that she could talk to Daniel quickly. Then they could get a taxi and drive around the center a little. They could drive to Plaza de Mayo and see the famous buildings there, then come back to have a drink in a bar in the Plaza San Martin. After that they could walk on to the new area of Puerto Madero. She wanted to take Philippe to the restaurant where her father took her on the day she got the job at the museum. Then after dinner they could go to San Telmo and see a tango show at El Viejo Almacen. She couldn’t let Philippe leave without hearing the real music of Argentina.
Soon they were outside the Recoleta Health Club.
‘This is the gym I go to,’ Cristina explained to Philippe. ‘I had an accident in here two days ago and I need to talk to the manager for just a minute. Do you mind if we go in for a moment?’ Cristina asked Philippe.
‘That’s fine. I’d be interested to see inside,’ said Philippe.
They went in and walked past Florencia, the receptionist. She smiled at Cristina but stopped Philippe. ‘Excuse me,’ she said. ‘I need to see your club card, if you don’t mind.’
‘He’s a friend of mine,’ said Cristina. ‘We just wanted to talk to Daniel for a moment.’
‘I’m sorry. That’s OK,’ said Florencia and she phoned Daniel’s office to tell him he had visitors.
Cristina found Daniel and introduced him to Philippe. They talked for a moment about the gym and their jobs. Then Daniel turned to Cristina. ‘I wanted to show you the names of people who came here in the last few days. The only problem is that we don’t have the names of the people who bought day tickets.’
Cristina looked at the names but there was nobody she knew. ‘I’m sure I don’t know the man,’ she said. ‘I didn’t see him clearly but I’m sure I don’t know him.’
‘OK,’ said Daniel. ‘Florencia isn’t sure either, but I’ll talk to some more people. Maybe somebody else saw this man.’
‘Thanks, Daniel,’ said Cristina. ‘I’ll see you soon.
‘Nice to meet you,’ Philippe said to Daniel. Daniel shook his hand and smiled.
‘And you,’ he said. Daniel watched the two of them leave. He would like to be with someone tonight and thought about his girlfriend back in Rosario.
Cristina and Philippe walked out of the front door of the gym together. ‘Let’s get a taxi to the Plaza de Mayo from here,’ said Cristina.
‘OK, and on the way you must tell me more about this accident,’ said Philippe. ‘It sounds like a strange story.’ They stopped at the side of the road to look for a taxi. There were always black and yellow taxis around but sometimes it was difficult for them to stop in the heavy traffic.
Suddenly an old Peugeot 504, which was parked on Avenida del Libertador, started and drove towards them. Cristina was looking for a taxi when she saw the Peugeot coming right at them. She shouted and pulled Philippe back from the road, but it was too late – the car hit Philippe and then drove away along the Avenida.
An hour later Cristina was sitting on a chair in Philippe’s hospital room. She was listening to the doctor, who was talking to Philippe. The doctor told Philippe that he was lucky. His leg was badly cut but not broken. The doctor’s words gave Cristina a strange feeling. When she was in the hospital the doctor had used the same word: “lucky”.
She stood up and looked out of the window. The street below looked the same as on any other day. ‘Is it me?’ she thought. ‘Is it bad luck or is somebody really trying to hurt me?’
The doctor left and Cristina said, ‘It wasn’t a great evening in the city, I’m afraid. How are you feeling?’
There was no color in Philippe’s face. ‘I’m OK,’ he said quietly. He drank a little water from the glass by his bed. He looked at Cristina and tried to smile. ‘I’m not sure why, but 1 don’t think that was really an accident,’ he said.
Cristina agreed. ‘I’ve got a bad feeling too. We’ll talk about it later. You must rest now. Is there anybody you want me to phone for you?’
‘Don’t worry. I’ll phone the museum in Paris in the morning,’ Philippe said.
Cristina wanted to kiss Philippe. His sad face looked so beautiful. She was falling in love and she knew it. But first she had to find out what was happening, why someone wanted to kill her and to stop them. She needed to speak to Daniel. She walked quietly out of the room and went to look for the nearest phone box.
Cristina now felt that things were different. She could believe that she had had one accident in the gym but now this…? She tried to think. Why would somebody want to kill her? She wasn’t rich, she had no problems at work, she didn’t know many people in the city center. Why her?
She put some money into the phone and called the gym.
‘Hi, Florencia. It’s Cristina. Can I speak to Daniel please?’
‘Of course,’ Florencia said.
‘Hi, Cristina. Daniel speaking.’
‘Hello, Daniel. I’m sorry to phone you like this but I need your help. Did you see the accident outside the gym? My friend was hurt. Somebody tried to kill us, in a car. This time I’m sure. They drove straight at us. I’m at the hospital now. Philippe’s hurt but nothing’s broken.’
‘Wait, wait. What happened?’ Daniel asked. He sounded worried. ‘I didn’t see anything. I can’t believe it. Are you sure somebody tried to kill you?’
‘I know it’s true this time. I’m sorry, Daniel. I need help. I’m really afraid now,’ said Cristina.
‘OK, Cristina. Just tell me where you are and I’ll come and find you. Then we’ll decide what to do next.’
Cristina gave him the name of the hospital and thanked him. Her hands felt cold and dry. She wanted to cry but she stopped herself. She went back to Philippe’s room.
Daniel put down the phone but then he picked it up again. He phoned a friend of his cousin’s who was a policeman. Daniel knew him quite well because he came to the gym twice a week. Daniel told the policeman the story about Cristina. He then told him that he was now going to get Cristina from the hospital and take her to the police station. The policeman thought for a moment and then asked him to change his plans. He told Daniel to take Cristina home. He believed that the man who wanted to kill her could try to follow her. Daniel agreed. He left his office and drove to the hospital.
In the hospital car park, Roberto and Carlos were sitting in a car talking. They knew that Cristina was in the hospital. They had followed the ambulance there and seen her get out with the man who hurt his leg.
‘This time we’ll get her,’ Roberto said.
Carlos was getting more and more afraid. He wanted to leave the city and drive towards the north of Argentina. They had a cousin who lived in Tucuman, one thousand three hundred kilometers north of Buenos Aires. They could stay with him. But Roberto didn’t want to leave until he knew Cristina was dead.
‘The police will find her, Carlos, and she’ll talk. Or maybe she has already talked to them and they are looking for us now. If we’re in Buenos Ares, they’ll find us. Too many people know us. Somebody will talk.’
Carlos knew his brother was right but he was afraid. ‘So what do we do now, Roberto? How can we kill her?’
‘We have to follow her and kill her – with a gun. We’ll wait for her here. Then when she comes out, we’ll follow her and we’ll kill her. It doesn’t have to look like an accident. We’ll be quick. Nobody will see us. We’ll just kill her.’
‘I don’t think I can do that,’ said Carlos quietly.
‘No, you drive the car, I’ll do it. She has to leave this place at some time. We’ll sit here until she does.’
The brothers didn’t see Daniel’s car as he drove into the car park but they saw Cristina. She came out of the front door of the hospital and ran towards Daniel. The two of them went back inside the hospital.
‘Come on, let’s go and see Philippe and tell him where we’ll be,’ said Daniel.
‘Where will we be?’ asked Cristina.
‘With the police.’
You’re a good friend, Daniel,’ Cristina said as they walked to Philippe’s room.
Daniel was like a family friend. Cristina couldn’t believe it. In a very short time, two men had come into her life. One was now a very good friend and the other? She must wait and see.
Philippe looked a little better when they returned. He even smiled a little.
‘Hi, Philippe,’ Daniel said. ‘I’m so sorry about the accident. I’m just going to take Cristina to talk to the police. I think she needs to tell them her story.’
Philippe agreed. ‘I’ll go back to the hotel as soon as I can. Don’t come back here. It could be dangerous. I’ll leave you a message when I’m back in my hotel room.’
‘Be careful, Philippe. I’ll come to the hotel when I hear from you,’ Cristina said.
‘I’ll be OK. You be careful too. I’ll need you to look after my paintings,’ said Philippe.
Cristina got into Daniel’s car. ‘We’re going to the police, are we? Which police station?’ she asked.
‘We’re going to your flat,’ Daniel replied. ‘The police will be there. They are hoping that the person who tried to kill you will follow us. They want to get him. We’ll go down Avenida de Libertador.’
Daniel drove the car out of the hospital car park but he didn’t see the blue Peugeot leave the car park behind them. Daniel turned into Avenida del Libertador. The blue Peugeot turned into the same road a few seconds later and moved to the left hand side.
Cristina looked around her. She couldn’t believe that less than a month before she was riding her motorbike down this Avenida every morning and every evening without a care in the world. Now she had no motorbike and lots of problems.
Daniel drove slowly through the heavy traffic. There were a lot of people around as usual. Many of them were on their way to have dinner in the restaurants of Recoleta. People in Buenos Aires never really have dinner before ten o’clock in the evening and the city center was busy until at least three o’clock in the morning. All the traffic lights were red. It was always the same.
She looked at Daniel beside her. He looked tired and worried. He wanted to get Cristina to the police quickly.
He slowed down at some traffic lights as they were changing to red. Cristina turned her head and looked into the car next to them. She saw two men. The man who was driving the car was looking at the road in front of him. The man sitting next to him looked out of the window at Cristina. She looked into his eyes and she couldn’t look away. She looked into the dark brown eyes of that man and for a moment he looked back. Then he turned his head and she saw the tattoo of the red poppy on his neck.
Suddenly Cristina remembered everything. She remembered the eyes of the man and the red flower on his neck, the poppy. She remembered the car and the sound of the police cars. She knew that these were the same men who had tried to kill her in the gym. The same men who had driven their car at Philippe. And then she remembered the gun. The same gun that the man was picking up now. The same man, the same gun. The same red flowers in the field of the painting she loved.
‘Go, Daniel! Move! He’s got a gun! He’s going to kill us!’ she shouted. Daniel drove through the red light and on down the Avenida. The other car followed. Daniel didn’t have much time to think. He drove along the Avenida as fast as he could.
‘What shall I do?’ he asked Cristina.
‘Turn into Calle Montevideo. We’ll go past my flat. That’s what the police wanted. I’m sure they’ll be there,’ answered Cristina.
The Peugeot was still following them. Daniel turned into Calle Montevideo. Cristina saw the two light and dark blue police cars parked across the road near her flat.
‘Slow down, Daniel. Stop here. It’s OK. We’ll be OK.’
Daniel stopped the car suddenly and pushed Cristina down onto the floor of the car. The Peugeot behind was going so fast that Carlos couldn’t stop it. He tried but the car turned right and left and right again. Then it hit one of the police cars and turned over. There was a lot of noise. People were shouting. Cristina wanted to look out but Daniel said, ‘Stay there. It could still be dangerous.’
After another long minute it was quiet and two policemen came to open the door of Daniel’s car.
‘You can come out now. It’s safe,’ one of them said.
Then they heard the sound of an ambulance. It came into the street and stopped near the Peugeot. Cristina stood still. She didn’t want to watch but she couldn’t stop herself. The police pulled a body from the Peugeot. Cristina couldn’t see if the man was alive or dead but she could see the blood. Men carried the body to the ambulance. When the door was closed, the ambulance drove off to the hospital. Cristina could see the other man, the man without the tattoo of a poppy, sitting in the police car.
Six months later Cristina was standing in the main room in the museum. It was the first night of the Impressionist exhibition. She was wearing a short black dress and her dark hair fell around her shoulders. Music was playing. Cristina looked around. Her parents were there, talking together and drinking champagne. Daniel was there with his girlfriend from Rosario.
After a few minutes the music stopped and everybody was quiet. They all stopped talking. Leonardo Martinez, the museum director, started to talk:
‘Ladies and gentlemen. I am so pleased to welcome you to this important Impressionist exhibition. We have never before had this number of Impressionist paintings in Buenos Aires…’
Cristina felt a hand on her arm. She knew that hand. It was Philippe. He had come back to Buenos Aires often while they were organizing the exhibition and they had spent a lot of time together.
Philippe spoke quietly in Cristina’s ear, ‘It’s really happening. Your parents and friends are here. The paintings are here. Monet’s poppies are here. And we’re here together to see them too.’
‘I know. It’s wonderful. I wish you and your paintings could stay here forever.’
‘No, I have to go home. But I want to ask you something. When I take my paintings home, will you come with me?’
Cristina smiled at him with love in her eyes and nodded her head.
– THE END –
Hope you have enjoyed the reading!
Down the Rabbit-hole
Alice and her big sister sat under a tree one sunny day. Alice’s sister had a book, but Alice had nothing with her. She looked at her sisters book. There were no pictures or conversations in it.
‘Why is she reading a book without pictures or conversations?’ she thought. ‘I’m bored. I know! I’ll look for some Bowers.’ Then she thought, ‘No, it’s too hot for that and I feel sleepy.’
Suddenly, a white rabbit ran past her. It took a watch from its jacket and looked at it. ‘Oh! Oh! I’m going to be late!’ it said.
‘That’s strange! A rabbit with a watch!’ said Alice.
She jumped up and ran after the animal. It ran down a large rabbit-hole, so Alice went down the hole too. She didn’t stop and ask, ‘How am I going to get out again?’
Alice fell down and down. But she fell very slowly and didn’t feel afraid. ‘What’s going to happen next?’ she wondered.
She looked round. There were cupboards in the walls of the rabbit-hole. Some of the cupboards were open, and there were books in them. Sometimes she saw pictures. She looked down, but she couldn’t see any light.
Down, down, down. ‘When will the hole end?’ she wondered. ‘Perhaps I’m going to come out in Australia! I’ll have to ask the name of the country. ‘Please, madam, is this Australia or New Zealand?’ No, I can’t do that. They’ll think I’m stupid.’
She thought about her cat, Dinah. ‘What’s Dinah doing? Will they remember her milk tonight? Oh, Dinah! Why aren’t you here with me? Perhaps there’s a mouse here and you can eat it!’
Suddenly, Alice was at the bottom of the hole. ‘That didn’t hurt,’ she said and sat up quickly. She could see the White Rabbit and she ran after him again. They were in a different rabbit-hole now.
‘Oh, my ears and nose!’ the White Rabbit cried. ‘It’s getting very late!’
He ran faster and vanished through another hole. Alice followed him through the hole. Now she was in a very long room. She looked round for the White Rabbit, but she couldn’t see him anywhere.
There were four doors in the room, but Alice couldn’t open them. Also, she couldn’t see the hole anywhere. ‘How am I going to get out?’ she wondered.
Then she saw a little table. It had a very small key on it.
‘Perhaps it will open one of the doors,’ she thought. She took the key and tried to open each door with it. But it was no good. The key was too small.
‘This key has to open something,’ she thought.
Then she saw a very small door about 40 centimeters high. The little key opened it. She put her head down and looked through the door into a beautiful garden. She tried to walk through it, but she was too big. Sadly, she shut the door again and put the key back on the table.
‘Why can’t I get smaller?’ thought Alice. ‘This is a very strange place – so perhaps I can.’
She looked at the table. There was a little bottle on it.
‘That bottle was not on the table before,’ thought Alice.
The bottle had ‘DRINK ME’ on it in large letters. Alice looked at it carefully.
‘Is it all right to drink?’ she wondered.
‘I’ll drink a little,’ she thought. She had some and it was very nice. So she had some more.
‘This feels strange,’ said Alice. ‘I’m getting smaller and smaller!’ After a short time, she was only 25 centimetres high.
‘Now I can go through that door,’ she thought. She went to the door, but could not open it. The key was on the table. She went back to the table. But Alice was too short and she couldn’t get the key. She tried to climb the table legs, but it was too difficult. The little girl sat down and cried.
‘Alice! Alice!’ she said after some minutes. ‘Don’t cry. It isn’t going to help you. Stop now!’
Then she saw a little box under the table. She opened it. There was a cake inside. On it, she saw the words, ‘EAT ME’.
‘Yes, I will eat it,’ Alice said. ‘Perhaps I’ll get bigger and then I can get the key. Or perhaps I’ll get smaller. Then I can get under the door into the garden.’
She ate some cake.
‘Will I go up or down?’ she wondered. She felt the top of her head with her hand. But nothing happened – she stayed the same size. So she finished the cake.
‘Oh! What’s happening?’ cried Alice. ‘I’m getting taller and taller!’ She looked down. ‘Goodbye, feet! Who will put your shoes on for you now? I can’t do it! I’ll give you some new shoes for Christmas. I’ll have to send them to you!’
In a short time, Alice was more than three meters high.
‘I want to go into that garden!’ she thought. She took the little key from the table. Then she went to the door and opened it. But she was too big and couldn’t go through it.
She sat down and began to cry again. Because she was very big, her tears were very big too.
‘Alice, stop it this minute! Don’t cry!’ she said.
But she couldn’t stop the big tears and after a time there was water everywhere.
She heard the sound of small feet. She looked down and there was the White Rabbit again. He had his best clothes on, and in one hand he had a white hat.
‘Oh, the Duchess, the Duchess!’ he said. ‘She’ll be angry with me because I’m late!’
Alice wanted to ask him for help. ‘Please, Sir-‘ she said very politely.
The White Rabbit jumped. He ran out of the room and his hat fell from his hands. Alice took the hat.
‘Am I different?’ she wondered. I was Alice yesterday, but everything is different today. Perhaps I’m not me now. So who am I? That’s the question.’
She began to think about her friends. ‘Perhaps I’m one of them,’ she thought. ‘I’m not Ada because her hair is different to mine. I don’t want to be my friend Mabel, because she doesn’t know very much. I know more than she does.’ Then she thought, ‘Do I know more? Let me see. What’s four and four? Eight. Eight and eight is sixteen. Sixteen and sixteen is… Oh! I can’t remember! And she started to cry again.
But this time her tears were small tears – she was small again!
‘Why?’ she wondered. Then she understood. She had the White Rabbit’s hat in her hand.
‘I’m smaller because I’ve got the hat in my hand!’ she thought.
She put the hat on. It was the right size for her head.
‘Am I smaller than the table now?’ she wondered. She went to the table and stood next to it. She was smaller than the table. ‘I’m getting smaller all the time!’ she cried. ‘I’m going to vanish!’ She quickly took the hat off.
‘Now I can go into the garden!’ thought Alice, and she started to run to the little door. But before she got there, she fell into some water. She tried to put her feet on the ground but she couldn’t. She had to swim.
‘I’m in the sea!’ she thought. But it wasn’t the sea. The water was her tears.
Something was in the water – Alice could hear it. ‘Perhaps it’s a big fish or sea animal,’ she thought. She looked round. There, very near her, was a mouse.
‘I’ll speak to it,’ thought Alice. ‘Everything is strange here. Perhaps it can speak and understand me.’
‘Oh Mouse,’ she said. ‘Do you know the way out of this room?’ The Mouse didn’t answer.
‘Perhaps it doesn’t understand English. Perhaps it’s a French mouse,’ Alice thought. She remembered some words from her schoolbook, so she spoke to the mouse in French.
‘Where is my cat?’ she asked.
The Mouse moved quickly away from her.
‘Oh, I’m sorry,’ said Alice. ‘I forgot. You’re a mouse, so you don’t like cats.’
‘Don’t like cats!’ cried the mouse. ‘I’m a mouse. Of course I don’t like cats!’
‘No,’ Alice said. ‘No. But I think you will like Dinah. She is a nice, dear thing. She’s very quiet and good. She catches a mouse every day – Oh! You’re angry again! We won’t talk about Dinah any more-‘
‘We!’ cried the Mouse. ‘I never speak about cats! Our family hates cats! I don’t want to hear any more about them.’
‘No, no,’ said Alice quickly. ‘Perhaps – perhaps you like dogs? There’s a very nice little dog near our house. It likes playing with children but it works too. It kills all them – Oh! I’m sorry!’
The Mouse looked angrily at her and swam quickly away.
‘Dear Mouse!’ said Alice softly. ‘Come back again and we won’t talk about cats or dogs.’
When the Mouse heard this, it turned round. It swam slowly back. ‘All right,’ it said. ‘I’ll talk to you, but let’s get out of the water.’
They climbed out and Alice looked round. There were a lot of animals and birds in the water. When they saw her, they got out of the water too.
Alice and the birds and animals felt cold and wet. The largest bird spoke to Alice.
‘Good afternoon,’ it said loudly. ‘I am the Dodo.’
‘What is a Dodo?’ thought Alice, but she smiled politely. ‘Hello, Dodo. I’m Alice,’ she said.
‘I have an idea,’ said the Dodo.’ We all want to get warm. So let’s have a race – a Caucus race.’
‘What is a Caucus race?’ Alice asked.
‘I can tell you,’ said the Dodo,’ but I won’t. I’ll show you! That will be easier.’
He put the animals and birds in different places in the room. In a race, somebody usually says,’ One, two, three, go!’ But the Dodo didn’t do that. Everybody started to run at different times and stopped at different times too. After half an hour, the Dodo cried, ‘Everybody stop! All the birds and animals stopped. Then they all came to the Dodo and stood round it.’ Who was first? Who was first?’ they shouted.
The Dodo had to think about it. He sat for a long time with his finger in his mouth. Then he said, ‘Everybody was first. So everybody can have a chocolate.’
‘But who will give us the chocolates?’ the Mouse asked.
‘She will,’ the Dodo said and looked at Alice. The birds and animals came and stood round Alice.
‘Chocolates, chocolates!’ they cried.
‘What am I going to do?’ thought Alice. I haven’t got any chocolates.’ But then she saw a box of chocolates near her feet.
‘Here we are,’ she said, and opened the box. There was one chocolate for each bird and animal.
‘But Alice has to have something, you know,’ said the Mouse.
‘Of course,’ the Dodo answered. He turned to Alice. ‘What can you have?’ he asked.
‘I can have the box,’ said Alice sadly.
‘Give it to me,’ said the Dodo and Alice gave it to him.
They all stood round Alice again, and the Dodo gave her the box.
‘Please take this beautiful box,’ he said.
‘This is very stupid,’ thought Alice and she wanted to laugh. But she didn’t. She took the box and smiled politely.
The animals and birds ate their chocolates noisily. Some of them cried. The big animals and birds wanted more. But the chocolates were too big for the small birds, and they had to eat them very slowly. When they finished their chocolates, they sat and looked at Alice.
‘Oh, where is Dinah?’ said Alice. ‘I want her with me.’
‘And who is Dinah?’ the Dodo asked.
Alice loved to talk about her cat. ‘Dinah’s our cat. She’s very nice. And very clever and fast. She can catch a mouse in the morning for her breakfast and a little bird in the evening for her dinner – Oh! I’m sorry!’
It was too late. The birds and animals started leaving.
One old bird said, ‘I really have to go home. It gets so cold at night!’
Another bird called to her children, ‘Come away, my dears! It’s time for bed!’
They all spoke politely to Alice and left the room.
‘Oh, why did I talk about Dinah?’ cried Alice. ‘Nobody likes Dinah down here, but she’s the best cat in the world. Perhaps I’ll never see her again!’
She sat down and started to cry again. After a time, she heard the sound of small feet and looked up.
‘Perhaps it’s the Mouse,’ she thought.
The White Rabbit’s House
It was not the Mouse. It was the White Rabbit. He came slowly into the room.
‘Oh, my ears and nose!’ he said quietly. ‘The Duchess! The Duchess! She’ll be angry! They’ll cut off my head, I know! Oh, where is it? Where did it fall?’
‘He’s looking for his hat,’ thought Alice.
She wanted to help him, but she couldn’t see the hat anywhere. She looked round. Everything was different now. She wasn’t in the long room anymore, and there was no table or water. She was outside again, in the country.
The White Rabbit saw her. ‘What are you doing out here, Mary Ann?’ he asked angrily. ‘Run home this minute and bring me a hat. Quick, now!’
Alice didn’t say, ‘I’m not Mary Ann.’ She felt too afraid. She ran fast and after a short time, she came to a pretty little house. Above the door were the words ‘W. RABBIT’. She went in and ran up the stairs.
‘This is very strange,’ she thought. ‘I hope I don’t meet Mary Ann. Why am I bringing a rabbit his hat? Perhaps when I get home, I’ll do things for Dinah. Perhaps I’ll watch mouse-holes for her!’
She went into a small room. There, on a table, was a hat and a little bottle. Alice took the hat and looked at the bottle. It didn’t have the words ‘DRINK ME’ on it, but she drank from it.
‘I know something interesting will happen,’ she thought. ‘When I eat or drink something here, it always does. I hope I get bigger this time. I don’t like being small.’
She drank half the bottle. ‘Oh, I’m getting much taller!’ she cried. ‘Oh!’ Her head hit the top of the house and she put the bottle down quickly.
‘Oh no!’ she thought. ‘I hope I don’t get taller!’
She sat down. But after a very short time she was too big for the room. She had to put one arm out of the window and one foot in the fireplace.
‘I can’t do any more,’ she thought. ‘What will happen to me?’ She waited for some time, but she didn’t get bigger. ‘Well, that’s good,’ she thought. But then she tried to move and couldn’t. She didn’t feel well and she was very unhappy.
‘I’m never going to get out of here,’ she thought. ‘It was much nicer at home. First I get larger, then I get smaller, then larger… Oh, why did I go down the rabbit-hole? But it is interesting here. Perhaps somebody will write a book about this place – and about me! Perhaps I will, when I’m bigger.’ Then she remembered. ‘But I’m bigger now!’
She heard somebody outside. ‘Mary Ann, Mary Ann! Where are you? Bring me my hat!’ The words came from the garden, outside the window. It was the White Rabbit.
He came inside and ran up the stairs to the room. He tried to open the door. But he couldn’t because Alice’s back was next to it.
‘I’ll climb in through the window,’ the Rabbit said.
‘Oh no, you won’t,’ thought Alice. She waited and listened. One of her arms was outside the window. When she could hear the Rabbit outside the window, she moved her arm up and down. There was a little cry.
‘Pat, Pat, where are you? Come here!’ shouted the Rabbit.
‘Coming, Sir,’ somebody – or something – answered.
‘What’s that in the window?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘It’s an arm, Sir,’ Pat answered.
‘Don’t be stupid! How can it be an arm? It’s too big!’
‘It is very big, but it is an arm, sir.’
‘Well, what’s it doing up there? Take it away!’ said the Rabbit angrily.
Alice moved her arm again. Now there were two little cries. Everything was quiet for a short time, then something hard hit her arm.
‘That hurt!’ said Alice.
Something came through the window and fell on the floor. Alice looked down. It was a little cake.
‘A cake? Why did they throw a cake?’ she wondered.
Then she thought, ‘I’ll eat it and perhaps I’ll get smaller again. I can’t get bigger!’ So she ate the cake and two or three minutes later she was small again. She ran out of the house as quickly as she could.
The White Rabbit saw her. He ran after her but Alice ran too fast for him. After some time, she came to a wood. She was tired because she was very small now.
‘I have to get bigger again,’ said Alice. ‘But how? I have to eat or drink something, but the question is – what?’
That was the question. She looked all round her, but she couldn’t see anything with ‘EAT ME’ or ‘DRINK ME’ on it. There were some mushrooms near her. Some were white and some were brown.
‘I eat mushrooms for dinner,’ she thought. ‘I’ll eat some mushrooms and perhaps I’ll get bigger again.’
One white mushroom was as big as Alice. She stood up tall and looked over the top. There, on top of the mushroom, was a large green caterpillar.
The Caterpillar looked at Alice for some time before it spoke. Then it said slowly, ‘Who are you?’
It was a difficult question. ‘I… I don’t really know, Sir,’ Alice said. ‘I was Alice when I got up this morning. But then I changed – and then I changed again – and again.’
‘What do you mean?’ the Caterpillar asked.
‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘You see, I’m not me now.’
‘I don’t understand,’ said the Caterpillar.
‘I’ll try and tell you,’ said Alice. ‘You see, I change all the time. It’s very difficult for me.’
‘Why? I can change very easily.’
‘Well, perhaps it’s not difficult for you, but it is for me,’ said Alice.
‘For you? Who are you?’ said the Caterpillar and laughed. Alice felt angry. ‘It asked me that question before,’ she thought. She stood very tall and said, ‘I will tell you, but first, you tell me. Who are you?’
‘Why do I have to tell you?’ asked the Caterpillar.
This was another difficult question and Alice could not answer it.
‘This caterpillar isn’t very friendly,’ she thought. So she walked away.
‘Come back!’ the Caterpillar called. ‘I want to tell you something important.’ Alice turned and came back again.
‘Don’t get angry,’ said the Caterpillar.
‘Is that all?’ Alice asked. She felt very angry with the Caterpillar.
‘No,’ said the Caterpillar.
It did not speak for some minutes, then it said, ‘So you’re different, are you?’
‘Yes, I am, Sir,’ said Alice. ‘I can’t remember things, and my size changes all the time. Sometimes I get bigger and then I get smaller again.’
‘So you can’t remember things,’ said the Caterpillar. ‘Try this. Repeat, “You are old, Father William.”‘
Alice put her hands behind her back and repeated:
‘You are old, Father William,’ the young man said,
‘And your hair is now very white;
So why do you often stand on your head –
Do you think at your age it is right?’
‘You are old, Father William,’ the young man said,
‘You are old and really quite fat;
But you jump up and down and turn round and round,
Now what is the answer to that?’
‘That is not right,’ said the Caterpillar. ‘I know. Some of the words are different,’ said Alice.
‘It’s wrong from beginning to end,’ said the Caterpillar. It was quiet for a time. Then it asked, ‘What size would you like to be?’
‘I’d like to be taller,’ said Alice. ‘Seven centimetres is too small.’
‘Seven centimetres is a very good size,’ said the Caterpillar angrily. It stood up very tall.
‘It’s a good size for you, but not for me,’ said Alice. And she thought, ‘Why does it get angry all the time?’
The Caterpillar was quiet for some minutes. Then it climbed down the mushroom. ‘Eat from my mushroom and you’ll get bigger. Eat from that brown mushroom there and you’ll get smaller,’ it said. It started to move away a minute later, it vanished behind a flower and Alice never saw it again.
Alice looked at the two mushrooms and thought for a minute. Then she went to the Caterpillars mushroom and broke off some of it with her right hand. She went to the brown mushroom and did the same with her left hand.
She ate some of the brown mushroom. Suddenly, her head hit her foot.
‘Oh!’ she cried. ‘I’m really small!’
She quickly ate a little from the white mushroom in her left hand. She started to get bigger. She ate some more, and got very tall. Then she ate some from one hand and some from the other. In a short time, she was her right size again.
She felt quite strange. ‘What shall I do now?’ she wondered. ‘I know! I’ll look for that beautiful garden.’
She began to walk through the wood. After some time, she came to a little house. It was about one meter high.
‘I can’t go inside, I’m too big,’ Alice thought. ‘The people in the house will be afraid of me. I know! I’ll eat some of the brown mushroom.’
When she was 18 centimetres high, she walked to the house. She opened the door and went in.
The Duchess and the Cheshire Cat
Inside, a large, ugly woman sat with a baby in her arms. There was a cook by the fire and there was food on the table. Near the fire, there was a large cat with a big smile. This smile went from ear to ear on its face.
‘I think that woman is the Duchess,’ thought Alice. ‘Can girls speak to Duchesses?’ she wondered.
But the Duchess did not say anything to her, so Alice asked, ‘Please, why is your cat smiling?’
‘Because it’s a Cheshire Cat, that’s why,’ said the Duchess.
‘So Cheshire Cats can smile. I didn’t know that,’ said Alice.
‘You don’t know much,’ said the Duchess.
‘That’s not very polite,’ thought Alice.
She started to say something. Suddenly, the cook threw a plate at the Duchess. The Duchess didn’t move. The cook threw more things – plates, cups, spoons. Some of them hit the Duchess and the baby. The Duchess did nothing, but the baby started to cry. ‘Oh, don’t throw things at the baby!’ cried Alice. ‘You’ll hit its pretty nose!’
‘You be quiet, it isn’t your baby!’ the Duchess shouted. She began to sing to it. These were the words of the song:
Be angry with your little boy,
And hit him when he cries:
He has to know that he’s a child,
He’s really not your size!
The cook sang the song too. When they finished, they sang it again. The Duchess started to throw the baby up and down. At the end of the song, she threw the baby to Alice.
‘Here, you can have it now,’ site said. ‘I have to get ready. I’m going to see the Queen.’
The cook threw another plate at the Duchess. It didn’t hit her, but she left the room quickly.
Alice looked at the baby. It was a strange little thing and not very pretty. She took it outside. ‘I’ll have to take this child away from here, or they’ll kill it!’ she thought. The baby made a strange little sound and she looked at it again.
‘Its nose is changing!’ she cried. She looked at it very carefully. ‘Its face is changing, everything is changing! Oh! It’s not a baby any more, it’s a pig!’
It was very strange, but the baby was now a pig.
‘What am I going to do with it?’ Alice thought. The pig made another, louder sound. Alice put the little animal down and it ran happily away into the wood.
‘It wasn’t a pretty baby, but it’s quite a pretty pig,’ thought Alice.
She looked round her and jumped. The Cheshire Cat was up in one of the trees. The Cat smiled at Alice.
‘It looks kind, but perhaps it will get angry. They all get angry in this place,’ thought Alice. So she spoke to it very politely. ‘Cheshire Cat, dear,’ she said.
The Cat’s smile got bigger.
‘Please, can you help me? I want to go somewhere new,’ said Alice.
‘Where do you want to go?’ asked the Cat.
‘Somewhere different,’ Alice said.
‘Somewhere different,’ repeated the Cat. It thought for a minute or two. Then it said, ‘Walk that way and you’ll come to a house. A man lives there. He makes hats and he’s very strange. We call him the “Mad Hatter”.’
‘But I don’t want to meet a strange man,’ said Alice.
The cat didn’t answer her. It said, ‘Walk this way and you’ll find the March Hare. He’s strange too.’
‘But I told you, I don’t want to meet strange animals.’
‘Oh, you can’t help that,’ said the cat. ‘We’re all strange here. I’m strange. You’re strange.’
‘How do you know I’m strange?’ asked Alice.
‘Of course you are,’ the Cat said. ‘Everybody’s strange here. I’m very strange. I laugh when I’m sad, and I cry when I’m happy. That’s strange. Are you going to see the Queen today? She’s quite strange too?’
‘I’d like to see the Queen,’ Alice said, ‘but I haven’t got an invitation?’
‘You’ll see me in the Queen’s garden?’ said the Cheshire Cat, and vanished.
‘That’s strange, but not very strange,’ thought Alice. She waited for two minutes, and the Cat came back again.
‘What happened to the baby?’ it asked.
‘It changed into a pig? Alice said.
‘I knew it!’ said the Cat and vanished again.
Alice stayed under the tree for a short time. ‘Perhaps it will come back again?’ she thought. ‘But it didn’t.’
‘I think I’ll go and visit the March Hare?’ said Alice. She started to walk to his home. After some minutes, she heard a sound. She looked up, and there was the Cheshire Cat in a tree – a different tree.
‘Did you say “pig”?’ asked the Cat.
‘Yes?’ Alice answered. Then she said, ‘Cheshire Cat, one minute you vanish and the next minute you’re there again. I don’t like it?’
‘I know?’ said the cat. And this time it vanished quite slowly. First its body went, then its legs. Then all of it vanished, and there was only its smile.
‘There are a lot of cats without a smile, but a smile without a cat! Now that’s very strange!’ Alice said.
Slowly, the Cheshire Cat’s smile vanished too, and Alice began to walk again. She saw the March Hare’s house through the trees. It was bigger than the Duchess’s house.
Alice ate some of the white mushrooms. She got bigger again. In a short time she was about 60 centimetres high. She felt afraid, but walked to the house.
‘I hope the March Hare isn’t too strange,’ she thought.
A Tea Party
There was a tree in front of the house. Under the tree was a big table with a lot of chairs round it. But there were only three at the table: the Mad Hatter, the March Hare and a large brown mouse. The Mouse sat between the Mad Hatter and the March Hare. It was asleep, so they talked over its head.
When they saw Alice, they cried, ‘No, no, you can’t sit here! There isn’t a place for you!’
‘There are a lot of places,’ Alice said. She sat down in a chair at one end of the table.
‘Have some wine,’ the Mad Hatter said politely.
Alice looked round the table but there was only tea.
‘I don’t see any wine,’ she answered.
‘There isn’t any,’ said the March Hare.
‘Then why did you say, “Have some wine”? It wasn’t very polite of you,’ Alice said angrily.
‘We didn’t invite you to tea, but you came. That wasn’t very polite of you,’ said the March Hare.
‘No, it wasn’t. Cut your hair!’ said the Mad Hatter.
‘Oh, be quiet,’ said Alice.
The Mad Hatter opened his eyes very wide, but he said nothing. Then he took out his watch and looked at it. ‘What day is it?’ he asked.
Alice thought for a little. ‘Wednesday, I think,’ she said.
‘My watch says Monday,’ the Mad Hatter said. ‘You see, I was right. Butter isn’t good for a watch.’ He looked angrily at the March Hare.
‘But it was the best butter,’ answered the March Hare.
‘Yes, but you put it in with the bread knife. Perhaps some bread got in.’
The March Hare took the watch from the Mad Hatter and looked at it sadly. Then he put it in his tea. He took it out and looked at it again.’ It was the best butter, you know,’ he repeated.
Alice looked at the watch. ‘It’s a strange watch!’ she said. ‘It tells you the day, but it doesn’t tell you the time.’
‘So? Does your watch tell you the year?’ asked the Mad Hatter.
‘No,’ Alice answered, ‘but it’s the same year for a very long time.’
‘And my watch doesn’t tell the time because it’s always tea-time.’
Alice thought about that. ‘I don’t really understand you,’ she said politely. She looked round the table. There were a lot of teacups on the table.
‘We move from place to place,’ said the Mad Hatter.
‘Don’t you wash the cups?’ asked Alice.
‘No, we don’t have time,’ said the Mad Hatter.
‘Why not?’ asked Alice.
‘It’s a long story,’ said the Mad Hatter. ‘Time was my friend, you see. But he and I aren’t friends now. So he doesn’t do anything for me. And I don’t have time for anything.’
‘I see,’ said Alice and smiled politely. But she didn’t really understand.
‘Oh, look! The Mouse is asleep again,’ said the Mad Hatter. He took his teacup and put a little hot tea on the Mouse’s nose. It woke up and started to sing.
‘Be quiet!’ the Mad Hatter said very loudly, and the Mouse stopped singing.
‘Have some more tea,’ the March Hare said to Alice.
‘Thank you, but I haven’t got any tea. So how can I have some more?’
‘You can have more,’ the Mad Hatter said. ‘You can have more than nothing.’
‘I don’t think-‘ Alice began.
‘Then don’t speak,’ the Mad Hatter said.
Alice got up angrily and walked away from the table into the woods.
‘Perhaps they’ll call me back,’ she thought. ‘And then they’ll be nice to me and give me some tea and bread-and-butter.’
But they didn’t say anything.
When she looked back, the Mouse was asleep with its head on its plate.
“I’ll never go there again,’ Alice said. ‘That was a stupid tea party!’
She looked round and saw a door in one of the trees. ‘A door in a tree? That’s strange!’ she thought. And she opened the door and went inside.
‘Oh, good!’ she cried. She was back in the long room, near the little table! ‘I’m small now. I can get through the little door into the garden.’
The key was on the table. She took it and opened the little door. Then she ate some of the brown mushroom. She started to get smaller. When she was about 30 centimeters high, she walked through the door into the garden.
Inside the Garden
Near Alice was a small tree with flowers on it. There were three gardeners by the tree.
‘Be careful, Five!’ one of them said.
‘I’m always careful, Seven,’ answered Five.
Alice went to them. ‘What are you doing?’ she asked.
‘We’re making the flowers red,’ one of the gardeners said.
‘That’s strange!’ thought Alice. ‘Why?’ she asked.
The three men looked unhappy.
‘You tell her, Seven,’ Five said.
‘No,’ said Seven,’ You tell her, Two.’
‘Well, Miss, the Queen wanted trees with red flowers on them. But this tree’s got white flowers! We don’t want the Queen to see it. She’ll be very angry and cut off our heads. So we’re making the flowers red before she sees them.’
‘Oh no!’ Five shouted suddenly.’ The Queen! The Queen!’
The three gardeners fell to the ground, with their faces down. Alice heard the sound of many feet and turned round.
‘Oh good!’ she thought. ‘Now I’ll see the Queen.’
First, ten men with clubs in their hands came into the garden. Next came the King’s men. There were ten of them, and they had red diamonds on their clothes. The children of the King and Queen came next, all with red hearts. After them there were a lot more people. Most of them were Kings and Queens. The White Rabbit was there, but he didn’t see Alice. The Knave of Hearts came next. Last of all were the King and Queen of Hearts.
When these people saw Alice, they all stopped. The Queen said to the Knave of Hearts, ‘Who is this?’
The Knave of Hearts didn’t know. So he smiled and said nothing.
‘Stupid man!’ shouted the Queen. She turned to Alice and said, ‘What’s your name, child?’
‘My name is Alice, Madam,’ Alice answered.
She didn’t feel very afraid of the Queen. ‘They’re only cards,’ she thought.
The Queen looked at the gardeners. They were on the ground and she couldn’t see their faces. Who are these men?’ she asked.
‘Don’t ask me! I don’t know,’ answered Alice, not very politely.
The Queen’s face got redder and redder. She looked at Alice and shouted, ‘Cut off her head! Cut-‘
‘Oh, be quiet!’ said Alice.
The Queen stopped shouting. The King put his hand on her arm. He said quietly, ‘Don’t be angry, my dear. She’s only a child.’
The Queen turned away from him angrily. ‘Turn those men over!’ she said to the Knave of Hearts. The Knave did this very carefully, with one foot.
‘Get up!’ the Queen shouted.
The three gardeners jumped up. The Queen turned to the little tree and looked at it carefully. ‘What’s wrong with these flowers?’ she asked the gardeners.
‘Well, you see, M – M – Madam,’ said Two. ‘They were white, and – and-‘
The Queen looked from the flowers to the men. ‘I see,’ she said. ‘Cut off their heads!’
Everybody started walking again. The gardeners ran to Alice. ‘Help us!’ they cried. Alice put them behind some trees.
‘Don’t be afraid,’ she said. ‘They’re not going to cut off your heads.’
The Kings men looked for the gardeners but couldn’t find them. ‘Are their heads off?’ shouted the Queen.
‘Yes, Madam,’ shouted the King’s men.
‘Good!’ shouted the Queen.
Everybody started walking again and Alice walked with them.
‘It’s a very fine day,’ somebody said. Alice turned round and there was the White Rabbit next to her.
‘Very,’ said Alice. ‘Where’s the Duchess?’
‘Quiet!’ said the Rabbit and looked all round him. Then he put his mouth near to Alice’s ear. ‘They’re going to cut off her head!’ he said.
‘Why?’ asked Alice.
‘Did you say, “Oh no!”?’ asked the White Rabbit.
‘No, I didn’t. I said, “Why?”‘
‘She hit the Queen,’ the Rabbit said. Alice started to laugh.
‘Quiet!’ said the Rabbit again. ‘The Queen will hear you, she hears everything. You see, the Duchess came late. When she arrived, the Queen said-‘
Suddenly, the Queen shouted very loudly, ‘Cut off their heads!’
‘Who’s going to lose their head now?’ Alice wondered. She began to feel afraid. ‘The Queen isn’t angry with me now,’ she thought. ‘But it will happen. I would like to speak to somebody about it.’
She looked round. The White Rabbit wasn’t there. She looked up. There was something above her head.
‘What is it?’ she wondered. She watched for a minute or two. It was a smile! ‘It’s the Cheshire Cat,’ she thought. ‘Now I can talk to somebody.’
‘How are you?’ the Cheshire Cat asked.
Alice waited. She thought, ‘I won’t speak to it before it has its ears – or perhaps one ear.’
In another minute, she could see its ears and eyes.
‘Do you like the Queen?’ the Cat asked.
‘I don’t,’ said Alice. But then she saw the Queen. She was very near Alice. ‘She’s wonderful,’ said Alice. The Queen smiled and moved away. But the King saw the Cat’s head and came to Alice.
‘Who are you talking to?’ he asked.
‘It’s a friend – a Cheshire Cat,’ answered Alice.
The King looked carefully at the Cat. ‘I don’t like it,’ said the King.
‘Well, I don’t like you,’ said the Cat.
‘That’s not polite,’ said the King and got behind Alice.
Alice said, ‘A cat can look at a King. I read that in a book, I think.’
‘Well, this cat has to go,’ said the King. He called to the Queen, ‘My dear, I don’t like this cat.’
The Queen had only one answer to problems. ‘Cut off its head!’ she shouted loudly. She didn’t look at the Cat. The King smiled happily.
After a short time, there were a lot of people round the Cat. There was the King and Queen, and a man with a very long knife in his hand.
‘How can I cut off its head?’ asked the man with the knife. ‘I can’t do it and I’m not going to.’
‘Oh yes you are,’ said the King. ‘It’s got a head, so you can cut it off.’
‘Do something now, or I’ll cut off everybody’s head!’ said the Queen angrily.
‘What do you think?’ the King asked Alice.
Alice thought for a minute. Then she said, ‘It’s the Duchess’s Cat. Ask her about it.’
‘Bring the Duchess here,’ the Queen said.
Then the Cheshire Cat’s head started to vanish. Somebody came back with the Duchess. But now there was nothing above Alices head – not an eye or an ear or a smile. The King looked for the Cat for some time, but he couldn’t find it anywhere.
‘Come for a walk, you dear thing,’ the Duchess said to Alice. She put her arm through Alice’s and they walked through the garden.
‘She’s very friendly to me,’ thought Alice. ‘Perhaps when the cook isn’t there, she’s nice. When I’m a Duchess, I’m going to be kind to my children.’
‘Are you thinking?’ asked the Duchess. ‘You have to talk to me, you know.’
‘All right,’ said Alice. She could hear the Queen at the other end of the garden. ‘Cut off her head! Cut off his head!’ she shouted, every two or three minutes.
‘Will they cut off your head?’ Alice asked the Duchess.
‘Oh no, they never cut off anybody’s head. The Queen likes saying it, but she never does it.’
Alice wanted to ask more questions but they heard a cry: “The trial is beginning!”
‘What trial is it?’ Alice asked. The Duchess didn’t answer and started to run. Her arm was in Alice’s, so Alice ran too.
Who Took the Tarts?
Alice and the Duchess followed everybody into a house with one very large room. The King and Queen were there. They sat on big chairs above all the animals and birds. All the cards were there too. Near the King was the White Rabbit. He had a paper in his hand and looked very important. The Knave of Hearts stood in front of the King and Queen. He stood between two men and his head was down. It was his trial. In the middle of the room was a table with a large plate of tarts on it.
Alice found a place and sat down. She looked round.
‘I know a lot of the animals and birds here,’ she thought. She looked hungrily at the tarts.
‘I hope they finish the trial quickly,’ she thought. ‘Then we can eat the tarts.’
Suddenly, the White Rabbit cried, ‘Quiet please!’
The King looked round the room. ‘Read the paper!’ he said. The White Rabbit stood up and read from a very long paper:
The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts,
One lovely sunny day;
The Knave of Hearts, he took those tarts,
He took them all away.
‘Cut off his head!’ cried the Queen.
‘No, no,’ said the Rabbit. ‘We have to call people into the room, and ask them questions.’
‘All right then. Call the Mad Hatter!’ said the King.
The Mad Hatter came into the room. He had a teacup in one hand, and some bread-and-butter in the other hand.
‘Why did you call me? I wanted to finish my tea,’ he said.
‘When did you begin your tea?’ asked the King.
The Mad Hatter thought for a minute. The March Hare and the Mouse were quite near him and he looked at them for ideas. Then he said, ‘March the fourteenth – I think.’
‘Fifteenth,’ said the March Hare.
‘Sixteenth,’ said the Mouse.
‘Write that down,’ said the King to the White Rabbit. Then he said to the Mad Hatter, ‘Take off your hat.’
‘It isn’t mine,’ said the Mad Hatter.
‘Oh, so you took it from somebody, you bad man,’ said the King.
‘No, no! I sell hats. I’m a Hatter,’ answered the Mad Hatter. He looked very afraid.
‘Don’t be afraid or I’ll cut off your head!’ said the King.
‘I’m not a bad man!’ the Mad Hatter cried. ‘But the March Hare told me-‘
‘I didn’t!’ the March Hare said quickly.
‘Well, the Mouse said…’ The Mad Hatter stopped and looked at the Mouse. But the Mouse didn’t say anything, because he was asleep.
‘After that,’ said the Mad Hatter, ‘I cut some more bread-and-butter.’
‘But what did the Mouse say?’ asked the King.
‘I can’t remember,’ the Mad Hatter said.
‘You have to remember,’ the King said, ‘or I’ll cut off your head.’
‘I’m a good man, Sir…’ the unhappy Mad Hatter began. But the King wasn’t interested now.
‘You can go,’ he said to the Mad Hatter.
The Mad Hatter ran out of the room.
‘Take his head off outside!’ shouted the Queen. Two men ran after him. But the Mad Hatter ran very fast and they could not catch him.
Alice did not feel very well. ‘What’s wrong with me?’ she wondered. And then she understood. ‘I’m getting bigger again,’ she thought.
She was between the Duchess and the Mouse. ‘You’re hurting me,’ the Duchess said.
‘I can’t do anything,’ said Alice. ‘I’m getting bigger.’
‘You can’t get bigger here,’ said the Mouse.
‘Yes, I can,’ said Alice. ‘You’re getting bigger too.’
‘Yes, but not as fast as you,’ said the Mouse. He got up and sat in a different place.
‘Call the next person!’ said the King.
The next person came in. It was the Duchess’s cook.
The King looked at her. ‘What do you know about these tarts?’ he asked. The cook didn’t answer.
‘Speak!’ said the King.
‘No!’ said the cook.
‘Ask her some questions,’ the White Rabbit said to the King.
‘All right, all right,’ said the King. ‘What was in those tarts?’
‘Fish,’ said the cook.
‘Don’t be stupid,’ said the King. ‘Call the next person!’
Alice looked round. ‘Who can it be?’ she wondered.
The White Rabbit looked at his paper and read the next name: ‘Alice!’
The End of the Trial
‘Here!’ cried Alice and stood up quickly. But she was tall now, and chairs, tables and people fell here, there and everywhere.
‘Put everything and everybody back!’ said the King loudly. Alice put them all back in their places. Then the King asked, ‘What do you know about these tarts?’
‘Nothing,’ answered Alice.
‘That’s very important,’ said the King.
‘You mean, unimportant, Sir,’ said the White Rabbit. ‘Unimportant – of course,’ said the King. ‘Important – unimportant – important – unimportant,’ he repeated.
He looked at Alice carefully. He took a book and read from it. ‘Alice is more than a kilometer high. So she has to leave the room!’ he said.
‘I’m not more than a kilometer high – Alice began.
‘You are,’ said the King.
‘More than two kilometers high,’ said the Queen.
‘Well, I’m not leaving this room,’ said Alice.
The King’s face went white.
‘Cut off her head!’ shouted the Queen. Nobody moved.
‘You stupid woman,’ said Alice. She was very large now and she wasn’t afraid of anybody.
‘Cut off her head!’ shouted the Queen.
‘Don’t be stupid!’ Alice said. ‘Who’s afraid of you? I’m not. You’re only cards!’
The cards – all fifty-two of them – came down on top of Alice. She felt afraid and angry and started to fight them. Then she opened her eyes…
She saw a tree, a big old tree. She was under it, next to her sister. Her sister’s hand was on her hair.
‘Wake up, Alice dear,’ her sister said. ‘You slept for a long time!’
‘Oh!’ said Alice, and then she understood. She sat up and told her sister about the White Rabbit and the rabbit-hole. When she finished her story, her sister laughed.
‘Let’s go home to tea,’ she said. ‘It’s getting late.’
‘Oh yes! I’d like some tea!’ cried Alice. And she got up and ran home.
– THE END –
Hope you have enjoyed the reading!
Wendy, John and Michael Darling live in a lovely house in London. They have got a big, sunny nursery. There are colourful pictures and a big clock on the wall. There are toys here and there. The Darlings are a happy family. Mr Darling and Mrs Darling love their children very much. Wendy is the first child, John is the second and Michael is the third.
The children’s nanny is called Nana and she is a big Newfoundland dog! Her kennel is in the nursery and she is a wonderful nanny. She loves the children and the children love her.
One evening Mr and Mrs Darling want to go to a dinner party. They have their best clothes on.
‘Nana, it’s time to put the children to bed,’ says Mrs Darling.
Nana goes to the bathroom. She turns on the hot water for Michael’s bath. She puts her paw in the water to check the temperature. It’s perfect!
‘I don’t want to have a bath!’ says little Michael.
But Nana is a firm nanny and Michael has his bath.
Then Nana gives the children their pyjamas. Now they are ready for bed.
Mrs Darling comes into the nursery and smiles. ‘Good work, Nana! I see the children are ready for bed.’ Nana wags her big tail.
Suddenly there is a noise. Mrs Darling sees a young boy outside the nursery window. She is very surprised. Nana barks and shuts the window quickly. The boy’s shadow falls on the floor. The young boy flies away. ‘Who’s there?’ asks Mrs Darling. She opens the window and looks outside, but she sees nothing. Then she sees the boy’s shadow on the floor and says, ‘Poor boy, this is his shadow. Let’s put it in the drawer.’
The children are in bed. Mr Darling takes Nana to the garden. Then he goes to the sitting room and waits for Mrs Darling.
Mrs Darling sings to the children and kisses them. She is a perfect mother. Soon the three children are sleeping. Mr and Mrs Darling go to their bedroom. They put on their coats and go to the dinner party.
The children are sleeping and dreaming. Suddenly the window opens. A small ball of light enters the nursery and flies around. It is a lovely fairy called Tinker Bell. She is looking for something. After a moment a young boy enters the nursery and says, ‘Tink, where are you? Please find my shadow.’
Tinker Bell finds his shadow in the drawer and gives it to him. ‘Now I can stick the shadow to my feet with some soap,’ he thinks. He tries and tries again, but he can’t. He is very confused and starts crying.
Wendy wakes up and sees the boy but she is not afraid. His clothes are made of leaves. ‘Little boy, why are you crying?’ Wendy asks.
The boy takes off his cap and asks, ‘What’s your name?’
‘Wendy Moira Angela Darling. What’s yours?’
‘Is that all?’
‘Yes!’ says Peter. Then he thinks, ‘My name is very, very short.’
Wendy looks at his shadow and asks, ‘Can I help you with your shadow?’
‘Yes, please!’ says Peter.
Wendy gets her sewing basket and sews on Peter’s shadow.
After a few minutes she says, ‘Finished! Now you have your shadow again.’
Peter looks at the floor and sees his shadow. He is very happy and dances around the room.
‘Oh, Wendy, you are wonderful!’ says Peter.
‘Do you really think so?’ asks Wendy.
‘Yes,’ says Peter.
Wendy smiles and gives Peter a kiss on the cheek.
‘Oh!’ says Peter. ‘How nice!’
‘How old are you, Peter?’ asks Wendy.
‘I don’t know, but I am young. I don’t want to grow up. I always want to be a boy and have fun.’
Peter looks around the room for his fairy. He hears a noise and looks in a drawer. Tinker Bell flies out. Wendy is delighted to see a fairy, but Tinker Bell is afraid. She hides behind the big clock.
‘Where do you live, Peter?’ asks Wendy.
‘I live in Neverland with the Lost Boys,’ says Peter.
‘Neverland? The Lost Boys? Who are they?’ asks Wendy.
‘The Lost Boys haven’t got a mother or father. They are alone in the world and they live in Neverland. I am their Captain. In Neverland we fight the pirates. We also swim in the lagoon with the beautiful mermaids. Fairies live in the trees in the forest. The fairies are my friends,’ says Peter.
‘Oh, what fun!’ says Wendy.
‘I must go back now. I must tell the Lost Boys a story. They love stories,’ says Peter.
‘Don’t go away! I know a lot of stories,’ says Wendy.
‘Then come with me, Wendy. You can tell us stories. We all want a mother. Please come,’ says Peter.
‘But I can’t fly,’ says Wendy.
‘I can teach you to fly,’ says Peter.
‘Can you teach John and Michael to fly too?’
‘Yes, of course,’ says Peter.
‘John! Michael! Wake up! This is Peter Pan. He’s from Neverland. It’s a beautiful place,’ says Wendy.
John and Michael are very surprised.
‘We can go there with him. But first we must learn to fly,’ Wendy says.
Wendy, John and Michael are very excited. They try to fly but fall on the beds and on the floor.
‘No, no,’ says Peter. ‘Here is some fairy dust.’ He puts some fairy dust on their shoulders.
‘Now try again,’ says Peter.
‘Look, I can fly!’ says Wendy.
‘I can too,’ says John.
‘Me too,’ says little Michael.
‘Tink, show us the way to Neverland,’ says Peter.
They follow Tinker Bell and fly out of the nursery window. In the garden Nana looks at the sky and barks.
Mr and Mrs Darling return from the dinner party. They go into the nursery, but it is empty!
Wendy, John and Michael fly over cities, towns, mountains, forests and seas.
Finally they see an island in the sea below them.
‘Look, that’s Neverland,’ says Peter.
‘Neverland!’ say the children.
In Neverland the Lost Boys live in the forest in a secret underground home. There are six Lost Boys: Slightly Soiled, Tootles, Nibs, Curly and the Twins. They are waiting for Peter.
Suddenly they hear the voices of the pirates. Nibs is very brave. He goes out, hides behind a tree and looks around him. He sees the horrible pirates. They are walking in the forest. They are big and ugly. Their pirate ship is the Jolly Roger.
The pirates’ captain is James Hook. He is a cruel pirate and a very bad man. He’s got black eyes, black hair and a black beard. He hates Peter Pan. He’s only got one arm. The other is a hook! In the past Peter Pan cut off Captain Hook’s right arm during a fight. A crocodile ate the arm. Now the crocodile follows Captain Hook everywhere because he wants to eat him. The crocodile has an alarm clock in its stomach! Captain Hook can always hear it.
‘I know the Lost Boys live in this forest. We must find them and Peter Pan!’ says Captain Hook.
‘Tick, tock, tick, tock!’ Captain Hook hears the alarm clock.
‘Oh, no, the crocodile is coming to eat me!’ says Captain Hook. He runs away and the pirates follow him.
Soon some Indians arrive in the forest. They are looking for the pirates. The pirates are their enemy. Tiger Lily is their leader. She is the beautiful daughter of the Indian chief. She loves Peter Pan. Tinker Bell and Wendy love him too. The Indians go away and the Lost Boys return to play in the forest.
Then Nibs looks at the sky and says, ‘Look, there is a lovely white bird in the sky.’
‘Is it really a bird?’ the Lost Boys ask.
Tinker Bell says, ‘Yes, yes, it’s a bird. It’s a Wendy bird. You must shoot it!’ Sometimes Tink is a bad fairy. She knows it is Wendy, but she doesn’t like her.
Nibs takes his bow and arrow and shoots Wendy. Poor Wendy falls to the ground. The Lost Boys see Wendy and say, ‘She’s not a bird! She’s a lovely girl.’
Peter flies down with John and Michael and asks, ‘Where is Wendy?’
Tootles says, ‘Here she is.’
Peter goes over to her and asks, ‘Wendy, are you all right?’ Wendy slowly opens her eyes and smiles. ‘Yes, but I’m very tired,’ she says.
The Lost Boys are sorry. They decide to build her a little house.
When the house is ready Wendy says, ‘What a lovely little house! Thank you.’
‘Can you be our mother now? Can you tell us bedtime stories before we go to bed?’ asks Nibs.
‘Of course,’ says Wendy. ‘Come in and I can tell you the story of Cinderella.’
They enter, sit down and listen to Wendy’s story. It is a wonderful story.
Peter Pan is outside the house with his sword. He wants to protect Wendy and the Lost Boys.
The Mermaid’s Lagoon
One summer evening Peter, Wendy, John, Michael and the Lost Boys go to the Mermaid’s Lagoon. Beautiful mermaids live here and they are Peter’s friends. They swim and play in the blue lagoon. Then they sit on Marooner’s Rock to comb their long hair. They sit in the sun and laugh.
The children like the mermaids and John says, ‘I want to catch one!’ He tries, but the mermaid jumps into the water.
Peter says, ‘It is very difficult to catch a mermaid.’
Suddenly someone says, ‘Look, the pirates are coming!’
A small boat with two pirates is coming to the lagoon. John, Michael and the Lost Boys jump off the rock and swim away. But Wendy stays with Peter. They hide behind the rock. Peter sees Tiger Lily. She is sitting in the small boat. Poor Tiger Lily is a prisoner of the pirates.
‘Let’s leave her on this rock. When the sea rises, she will die!’ says Smee. The two pirates laugh. It is already night and it is very dark.
Peter wants to save Tiger Lily and thinks of something intelligent. He imitates Captain Hook’s voice and says, ‘Cut the ropes and let her go! Do as I say, you idiots! Let her go!’ The two pirates are amazed.
‘Can you hear Hook’s voice?’ asks Smee.
‘Yes, but what do we do?’ asks Starkey.
‘We must obey him and cut the ropes,’ says Smee.
They cut the ropes and Tiger Lily is free. She quickly jumps into the water and swims away.
Captain Hook sees everything and he is furious.
‘That horrid Peter Pan! This time I must attack him,’ he says.
He swims to the rock and fights with Peter. It is a long fight.
The Captain hurts Peter with his hook, but Peter fights courageously. At last, Peter wins the fight and Hook swims back to the Jolly Roger. Peter is now alone on the rock with Wendy.
‘The sea is rising and we are in great danger here. We must leave this rock,’ says Peter.
‘Oh, Peter, I am very tired and I cannot swim or fly.’
He sees a big kite with a long tail. It is flying slowly over the lagoon. He takes the tail of the kite and says, ‘Wendy, hold on to this tail and fly away with the kite.’ Wendy flies away.
‘The sea is rising. I must fly away,’ Peter thinks. When he gets home everyone is happy to see him especially Wendy.
The Underground Home
The Underground Home is a secret place. No one knows where it is. It is a happy, warm place. There is only one room with a big fireplace. Tinker Bell has her tiny room too.
Wendy is a perfect mother. She cooks and sews for everyone. She also tells beautiful bedtime stories. The Lost Boys are happy because they finally have a mother. John and Michael are happy because there is a new adventure every day.
Peter Pan is a perfect father. He brings home food and protects the family.
Wendy and Peter play with the children and laugh with them.
But one night something happens. Wendy tells the children this bedtime story:
‘In the big city of London there are two parents. They are very sad because they cannot find their three children. Every night they leave the nursery window open. They wait and wait for their children to return. But they don’t return. Poor parents! They are very sad without their children.’
‘Oh, Wendy, this is the story of our parents,’ says John.
‘Yes, it is,’ says Michael.
Peter listens and says, ‘Sometimes parents forget their children and other children take their place.’
Wendy is very surprised. ‘Oh, no!’ she says! ‘Perhaps there are other children in our beds! John, Michael we must go home!’
‘Do we really have to?’ ask John and Michael.
‘Yes, we’ve got to return home.’
The Lost Boys are sad and say, ‘Oh, Wendy, please don’t leave us!’
‘Don’t be sad. You can come and live with us in London,’ says Wendy.
‘Oh, how wonderful!’ the Lost Boys say. ‘We can have a real family.’ They jump up and down with joy. They dance around the room.
But Peter is not happy. He is very serious and says, ‘I’m not coming with you to London. I don’t want to grow up. I want to be a boy forever.’
Everyone says goodbye to Peter. Outside, the pirates are waiting for them! The children come out of the underground home and the pirates capture them. Then they take them to the Jolly Roger.
They don’t make any noise. Peter doesn’t know where they are.
He is sad without Wendy, John, Michael and the Lost Boys. He sits and thinks.
‘Tap, tap, tap!’ There is someone at the door.
‘Who is it?’ asks Peter.
He can hear the sound of little bells and opens the door. Tinker Bell flies in and says, ‘The pirates have got Wendy, John, Michael and the Lost Boys! They are in danger. Let’s help them!’
‘I must save them. Come Tink, let’s go to the Jolly Roger! This time I must attack Hook!’
The Jolly Roger
There is a yellow moon in the night sky. The folly Roger is in the bay near Kidd’s Creek. The children are on the pirate ship. They are prisoners of Captain Hook and his cruel pirates.
Captain Hook looks at them and says, ‘This time it’s Peter Pan or me! You idiots! Peter Pan can’t save you now.’ Hook laughs and then calls Smee. ‘Smee, get the plank ready!’
‘Yes sir!’ says Smee.
‘Now listen to me,’ says Hook. ‘You must all walk the plank!’
‘Walk the plank?’ asks John.
‘Yes! First you walk the plank and then you fall into the sea with the crocodile. It will eat you! Ha, ha!’ laughs Hook. ‘But I can save two of you. I want two young pirates. Who wants to be a pirate?’
The Lost Boys look at John. John looks at Michael and says, ‘The life of a pirate is exciting. I don’t want to walk the plank. I don’t want to be food for the crocodile. Let’s be pirates!’ Michael looks at his brother. Then they look at Wendy. She doesn’t like their idea.
Captain Hook laughs and moves his hook in front of their faces.
‘Do you want to be pirates, yes or no?’ he asks.
John and Michael say, ‘Never!’
Captain Hook is angry and says, ‘Then you must walk the plank and die!’
Wendy is afraid. She loves her brothers and the Lost Boys. She has tears in her eyes.
The boys stand near the plank and Wendy watches them. A pirate asks, ‘Who is the first to walk the plank?’
At that moment there is a loud noise. ‘Tick! Tock! Tick! Tock!’
Captain Hook’s face is white. He says, ‘The crocodile is here. He wants ME!’ He runs to his cabin and hides there.
‘Who is the first to walk the plank?’ asks a pirate. ‘Come on! Let’s go! The crocodile is hungry.’
Suddenly Peter Pan appears on the pirate ship. Tinker Bell follows him. Wendy and the boys cheer. They are very happy to see their young hero.
Hook and his pirates are furious. Hook takes his sword and says, ‘I want to fight you, Pan! Tonight you will die!’
Hook fights with his long sword and with his hook. Peter fights courageously. He pushes Hook to the back of the ship. It is a terrible fight. John, Michael and the Lost Boys fight the pirates. After a long fight they throw the pirates into the sea.
Peter and Hook move all around the big ship. Their swords make a loud noise. Suddenly Peter takes Hook’s sword and pushes him into the sea! Hook shouts, ‘OH, NO!’ He falls into the sea and into the mouth of the hungry crocodile.
‘Oh, Peter, we are proud of you!’ says Wendy. She kisses him on the cheek. The boys cheer. Peter smiles and says, ‘The Jolly Roger is ours now. Let’s go home!’
Home at Last!
At the Darling home, Mr and Mrs Darling and Nana are desolate. They always think about Wendy, John and Michael. They look at the three empty beds and tears come to their eyes. Mr and Mrs Darling never smile or laugh anymore.
Mrs Darling sits in the silent nursery and cries. She thinks of her children, their games and their happy voices. Nana tries to comfort her, but nothing can make Mrs Darling happy.
One night after several months something incredible happens. Wendy, John and Michael fly in to the nursery. Mrs Darling is sitting near the fireplace.
‘Mother, Mother we’re home!’ says Wendy.
Mrs Darling turns around and sees her three dear children.
‘Is this true or is it a dream? I can’t believe it!’ she says.
‘Oh, Mother, we are home at last,’ the children say.
Wendy, John and Michael embrace their mother and kiss her.
‘How wonderful to see you, my dear children! How wonderful to hear your sweet voices. Oh, let me look at you!’ She calls Mr Darling. Mr Darling is very happy and surprised.
There is great joy in the Darling nursery tonight.
‘Mother,’ says Wendy, ‘Peter Pan and the Lost Boys are here too. They are waiting outside.’
The six Lost Boys slowly enter the nursery. They look at Mrs Darling and smile at her.
‘Mother, these are the Lost Boys. They haven’t got a mother. Can they stay with us?’ says Wendy.
‘What dear little boys!’ says Mrs Darling. ‘Of course they can stay with us. And where is Peter Pan?’
Peter enters the nursery and says, ‘I am here, but I don’t want to stay here. I don’t want to go to school and I don’t want to grow up! I want to be a young boy forever. I must return to Neverland. I am happy with the Indians and the fairies.’
Wendy is surprised and says, ‘But Peter, when will I see you again?’
Mrs Darling says, ‘I have an idea. Wendy, you can visit Peter in Neverland every spring! You can stay there for a week.’
‘Can I really go to Neverland every spring, Mother?’ asks Wendy.
Peter looks at Mrs Darling and asks, ‘Is that a promise?’
‘Of course it is,’ says Mrs Darling.
‘Then I want spring to come quickly,’ says Peter.
‘Yes, very quickly,’ says Wendy.
‘Come on, Tink! Let’s fly home and wait for spring,’ says Peter.
Peter Pan and Tinker Bell fly out of the nursery window into the night sky. Their destination? Neverland!
– THE END –
Hope you have enjoyed the reading!
Government offices are much the same everywhere. Sometimes the officials in them are good people, helpful and kind; sometimes they are not. And if you need something badly, sometimes it is necessary to give little ‘presents’, maybe some money, which then disappears into a back pocket.
These are the ways of the world. People have been giving and taking bribes forever.
Marina Salcedo, Senior Clerk, second grade, hurried to her desk to open her pay envelope. It was the fifteenth of July, and tomorrow she was leaving for Manila, to get the promotion that she had been promised for five years.
She had worked in the Ministry for twenty years, and in the last five years the cost of living had risen greatly. Without the extra money from her promotion, her youngest son would not be able to go to college. Also, three years ago they had borrowed money on their house when her husband had had to go to hospital.
She checked her pay carefully. Two hundred and sixty pesos; this is what she would take to Manila. She walked down to the far end of the hall to the Chief’s office. The girls there were not talking. That meant the Chief was in. His secretary told her to go straight in.
The Chief was reading a dirty copy of Playboy, a magazine for men full of photos of women. He did not put the magazine away, and Marina stood in front of him, waiting for him to look up. He was about fifty, and going bald.
‘So you are leaving tomorrow, Marina,’ he said.
‘Well, you can have the afternoon off, to get ready. You will only have three working days in Manila. Do you think that will be enough?’
‘I would like to have three more days, sir, if possible.’
‘No problem, Marina,’ the Chief said. ‘Oh, and when you are there, will you please buy me the latest gabardine material for a pair of pants? I will pay when you get back.’
‘Yes, sir. Thank you.’
Gabardine material – it must cost at least sixty pesos. Last time, the Chief wanted a pair of Levi jeans; they had cost a hundred and twenty pesos. When she returned, they had played this little game: he saying he must pay, she refusing to take the money. After all, he was not a bad boss – three days off with pay, for example. And he did not try to touch her in the way he did with the other women clerks.
The bus left at six in the morning, driving along the valley through the newly planted rice fields, the water shining in the early morning sun. The roads were good, with strong new bridges, making the journey to Manila only ten hours. It used to take a full day. This was progress, the kind that people could see and enjoy. Marina knew there were problems in the mountain villages and other places, but in her province things were calm. Her own life was not so bad. She and her husband had finally built a house. Three children, one married and soon to leave for the United States; another soon to finish college; and the youngest nearly finished high school. But the cost of living had gone up. They had to cook on wood fires, and could not afford to buy toilet paper.
Five years ago she had asked for promotion. She had gone to Manila twice about it, and finally she had received a notice saying it would happen.
The bus arrived in Manila as it was getting dark. Marina walked to the street where her second cousin lived. They had been college students together. She would probably sleep on a hard sofa in their living room, but that was better than spending thirty pesos on a cheap, dirty room somewhere.
They were having dinner when she arrived and, like a good relation, she had brought meat, fish, and rice from her province. They seemed pleased to see her, but Marina noticed that her cousin soon asked, ‘When will you leave?’
‘I won’t be here more than a week,’ she said, ‘and I won’t eat here. I’ll spend every day at the Ministry, following up my papers.’
She was up at six the next day. Her cousin’s children, aged thirteen and fourteen, were getting ready for school. They had kept her awake playing rock music in the night.
When she arrived at the Ministry, she went straight to Personnel. The people that she worked with years ago in that office had all left, and there was nobody she knew. She asked for the person who worked on the papers of staff promotion, and was sent to the other end of the office, to a fat woman in her early thirties, with bad teeth, thin hair, and a uniform that was too small for her large body.
The woman brought out a list and read through it carefully. Then she moved some papers around on her desk, and looked up with a fat little smile.
‘I am sorry, Mrs Salcedo, but your name is not here. Maybe the forms got lost…’
‘But it cannot be,’ Marina said. Her voice got louder. ‘I have the official letter from you.’ She quickly pulled it out of her handbag. ‘Here… and the file number.’
The woman shook her head, and her fixed little smile did not change.
‘Mrs Salcedo,’ she said sweetly, ‘I will have to look through the files, hundreds and hundreds of them. I will have to ask one of the boys.’ She opened the drawer in her desk that was closest to Marina. ‘Why don’t you drop a twenty-peso bill in here for him…?’
For a moment Marina Salcedo could not believe this was happening to her. She worked in the same Ministry as these people. Then she remembered that Anita Botong in her office in the province did the same thing. It had gone on for a long time – too long to be easy to stop. She took a twenty-peso bill from her handbag, and dropped it in the drawer.
‘Will I come back this afternoon then?’ she asked.
‘Oh, Mrs Salcedo,’ the woman said, still smiling. ‘You know how difficult it will be. Why don’t you come back early tomorrow?’
‘I am from the province…’
‘Yes, I know. I will do all I can to help you…’
She had nothing more to do. She left the Ministry and took a jeepney to the market in Quiapo. What was the best kind of gabardine, she asked, and what did it cost? In the end she bought the material in one of the big department stores for thirty-four pesos. Then she looked round the rest of the market, and found that food prices were higher than at home. So, prices in the province were not so bad then!
She spent five pesos on a bowl of noodles with chicken for lunch, then walked around the city. She had not been to Manila for some time, and it had changed a lot. In Makati, a very rich area, there were tall, glass-sided buildings, and the streets were clean. It was like America. She thought of her son, who would soon be in America. One day in the future she and her husband hoped to join him there. But the future was here, in Makati. And if this was the future, was it necessary to leave the country?
The next morning, back at the Ministry, the fat woman had found her papers, but there was a new form to complete. Marina would have to fetch Form D22a from another office in the building, fill it in, and then take it to Personnel, who would sign it and send it back to the first office. This office was on the fifth floor, and the lift was not working.
The man in the Form D22a office was very sorry. ‘Oh, please come back tomorrow afternoon. We have no forms here at the moment – we have to get some more.’
Marina recognized the old game at once, and was annoyed. The top drawer in the man’s desk was open, and Marina dropped a five-peso bill into it. She must remember to carry two-peso bills, she thought.
‘Please, I am really in a hurry,’ she said. ‘Do try and find one. There must be one lying around…’
The man closed his desk drawer with a smile, then went to an old filing cabinet behind his desk. It didn’t take him a minute to find the form.
The form had a lot of questions, about dates of this and that, school and college, travel abroad… That made Marina laugh. How many government clerks have ever traveled abroad? She hadn’t even traveled around her own country.
Looking back over her past, she began to think about what she wanted from life. She had never wanted to climb to the top of the tree, to become a minister. Both she and her husband were happy enough with things as they were. After all these years, they had their own home, a piece of land, and they could sleep deeply at night, not worried by the kind of bad dreams that important ministers must have.
She took her completed form to the Chief in the office, who was said to be an honest man. Now was the moment when she would find out if that was true.
She waited and waited, and was at last called over to the glass-topped desk where Chief Bermudez was sitting.
‘Well, what is your problem?’
‘My promotion, sir,’ Marina said. ‘I’ve been waiting a long time for it.’ She put her papers on the desk in front of him.
Chief Bermudez read them all carefully.
‘Well, Mrs Salcedo, everything here seems all right. You know what to do next. After I sign the forms, you go to Finance to find out if there are funds to pay you. If there are, the Minister will sign the papers – and you will have your hundred pesos a month. And I think your pay rise should start at the beginning of this year, to give you those extra months. I will make sure that happens.’ He began to sign the papers. ‘I know you have worked for the Ministry for a long time. Things happen too slowly sometimes – I should not tell you this really – but we must be patient. We must push, and push, and push… but only gently.’ He smiled. ‘Good luck with Finance.’
They were now alone in the room. ‘Is that all, sir?’ said Marina.
‘Why, is there something that I have forgotten?’
In her surprise, Mrs Salcedo forgot to thank him. At the door she decided that Chief Bermudez was a good man. Perhaps she should buy him some gabardine material too. After all, he had added several extra months to her pay rise.
After a quick lunch, just some bananas and a drink, she went to Finance. The girls in the office were sitting talking, or reading newspapers, or doing nothing. The Finance Chief, she was told, was out and would not be in until tomorrow.
Marina left, and decided to go and see a movie.
The next morning she was back in Finance before eight o’clock. She noticed that the office had several pretty girls, and they seemed to do nothing.
At eight-thirty the Finance Chief arrived, Julio Lobo, one of the top men in the Ministry. He was wearing a brown gabardine suit – she recognized the material at once. She went into his office.
Chief Lobo was reading some files and adding up some figures on a calculator. He looked up at her. There were heavy bags under his eyes, and his thick lips smiled. ‘Yes?’
Mrs Salcedo explained her story, telling him she was from the province.
‘You can leave your papers here,’ he said, still smiling. ‘I am in a hurry. I have a meeting in another town today and will not be back until five. You can come and see me then.’
Marina now had to wait all day, and this endless battle to get her promotion was giving her a headache. But it could be worse in other ministries. She knew a teacher who had to pay a thousand pesos just to move to another town.
It was raining outside so she decided to stay in the building and visit the Education office, where she had friends. At three o’clock she went back to wait outside Chief Lobo’s office, and tried to read a novel, but it did not hold her interest. The pretty girls in the office were all talking about the disco they were going to that evening.
At five Chief Lobo arrived, and some of the girls went in and out with papers. When they had left, Marina went in.
‘Ah, Mrs Salcedo – yes, your papers are still here. I will work on them tomorrow, Saturday. Did you know I work even on Saturday?’
‘Well, I do. ‘ He smiled, showing teeth yellow from cigarette smoke. He looked at his desk diary, then at her papers again. ‘Mmm… a hundred pesos a month. Why, that’s one thousand two hundred pesos a year. Surely, you can afford to buy me a forty-peso dinner!’
‘Yes, of course, sir,’ she said.
‘Well, then, my favorite Japanese restaurant is in Ermita. It’s easy to find. I’ll be there on Sunday evening, at seven. I will have your papers – all finished. I see no problem, really.’
‘Thank you, sir,’ Mrs Salcedo said.
Forty pesos! If she did not eat, she could afford the meal. She would still just have enough to buy her bus ticket.
During Saturday and Sunday morning Marina did not leave her cousin’s apartment. Going out meant spending money. So she made rice cakes, cleaned her cousin’s kitchen, and washed the floor and the walls in the living room. When the family came home Saturday evening, the place was shining clean, and her cousin was very pleased.
On Sunday afternoon she went out to find the Japanese restaurant. It was mostly foreigners eating there, and it looked very expensive. She would have to give the waiters something too. She must be honest with Chief Lobo, tell him that she did not have the money, that she would give him a present later, when she had got her pay rise.
From there she went to the Manila Hotel, where in 1955 she had danced with her boyfriend, later her husband, when they finished their university studies. It was pleasant to remember those days. But the hotel had changed – it was all new inside, with thick carpets and fine wooden furniture. She saw the coffee shop, but she could not afford even one cup of coffee, so she sat on one of the deep soft sofas, watching the beautiful people walking past. So, there was progress under the government’s grand new plan, as this fine hotel showed.
At six-thirty she walked back to the Japanese restaurant. Chief Lobo was there, his fat stomach too big for his blue jeans, and his T-shirt smelly from his unwashed body. They sat down, and all around them were the delicious smells of fresh food cooking.
Marina found it hard to speak. ‘Sir, you know I am just a poor clerk in the province. I have only a hundred pesos-‘
Chief Lobo’s hand came down heavily onto her knee, and stayed there. ‘My dear woman,’ he said. ‘We are not going to spend all that. I will just have tea, and… some fish. Too much food is bad for me. But making love is not bad for me. So, after this, we go to a motel. That will be no more than forty pesos…’
Marina did not want to believe what she had heard. Then she remembered office talk about the Finance Chief – how he behaved towards women, what he asked for…
‘I have three children, sir,’ she said miserably. ‘My oldest is married, I have a grandson, the first.’
‘That’s wonderful,’ said Chief Lobo. ‘But you know, you don’t look like a grandmother.’ He looked at her body hungrily, and Marina felt her face turning red. ‘You have a good body, very nice…’
‘Surely, sir, with all those pretty girls in your office…’
Chief Lobo laughed. ‘Ha! You noticed,’ he said. ‘But they are young, they need teaching. I don’t want to be a teacher all the time. I enjoy beautiful, older women – like you.’ His hand moved higher up her leg.
‘I am forty-five,’ said Marina.
‘But you don’t look thirty-five!’ he said.
She followed him to his car outside in the street. Her mouth was dry with fear. She must be good to him. The future was in his hands. She tried again and again to talk him out of it, but he did not listen.
Alone with him in the motel room at last, she begged him one more time. ‘Sir, please. I will give you half the money I get from my promotion. I promise!’
Chief Lobo looked at her in surprise. ‘Stupid girl,’ he said angrily ‘It’s not money I need.’ He began to take off his shoes.
When she did not move, he shouted at her. ‘Take off your clothes!’
‘My poor husband, my poor children,’ Marina cried softly as he began to touch her.
She was back at the apartment at nine. She took a long shower, hating Chief Lobo, hating herself, hating the world. How would it be tomorrow when she saw him again? He had not even brought her papers as he had promised.
She did not sleep much that night. When morning came, she knew she must go on, finish the job. After that terrible evening, there was no battle that she could not fight – nothing could stop her now.
Chief Lobo’s thick lips smiled at her when she came in.
‘We will go up to the Minister’s office now,’ he said, standing up and picking up her papers.
The Minister’s office was very big, with a carpet, paintings on the walls, and tall green plants in the corners.
Minister Guzman was also wearing a brown gabardine suit, but Marina, looking at it closely, realized it was a finer, more expensive material. She had heard that the Minister had a drinking problem. He certainly seemed strange this morning – either sleepy or drunk.
Chief Lobo put Marina’s papers on the desk, and the Minister looked through them.
‘Ah, Mrs Salcedo… your promotion… I am very happy to sign these.’ To Chief Lobo. ‘Are there funds for this?’
‘Yes, sir,’ Lobo said.
After the Minister had signed the papers, he turned to her again. ‘Mrs Salcedo, how is it in your province? What are your problems? It’s good to see someone from your province here. You know, your province is very important in our New Society plan.’
Mrs Salcedo looked at him. Was the Minister serious? How could he be so drunk so early in the morning?
She shook her head. ‘We have no problems, sir.’
‘Come now,’ the Minister said. ‘Be honest. We need the truth, the facts. Only that way can we make progress.’
Marina shook her head again. ‘Everything is fine in our province, sir,’ she said.
‘All right then,’ the Minister said. ‘But you must work hard. All of you. You must remember we are building a New Society, progress for the people, a country to be proud of.’
He seemed to be talking to everyone in the office.
‘Yes, sir,’ Marina said.
‘We must all work together. Progress. Promotions are wonderful, but we must work for them. Progress…’
After Marina had bought her bus ticket, she had two pesos left. She had made three meat sandwiches at her cousin’s, and that would have to be enough until she got home.
When the bus arrived in her town, it was past six and already dark. To save money, she decided to walk home from the bus station. She only had a handbag, a small bag of clothes, the gabardine material, and two apples. Away from the town centre, the road was unlit and rough. She and her family lived on the edge of the town, where they could grow vegetables and keep chickens.
She had just turned a corner when a man jumped out of the shadows and grabbed her handbag. She held on to it as hard as she could, but the man pushed her and she fell, hurting her face on the ground. He took the bag, and as he ran, she shouted after him.
‘There’s no money in there – just my papers. My papers!’
But he was gone too fast and did not hear her.
She stood up slowly, feeling weak and strange. She still had a long way to walk, and her legs did not want to move. It started to rain, but her umbrella was in the handbag that was stolen. She did not mind the rain; it was losing her papers that felt like a heavy stone lying on her heart. Without the papers, there would be no pay rise. She knew, only too well, that nothing could make Manila send copies of her papers.
She would have to return to the capital, and the thought of that filled her heart with fear and misery.
At last she reached her house, with the trees all around it. When she pushed the door open, her family were eating supper and they ran from the table to greet her. They saw the dirt on her clothes, her pale face, her wet untidy hair. To their questions she gave no answers, and Marina Salcedo fell to her knees, the anger and misery coming from her in violent sobbing. No words of kindness, of love, no friendly touch could stop the river of her tears.
– THE END –
Hope you have enjoyed the reading!
Slowly Slowly In The Wind
At that moment Skip realized how much he hated Frosby. His blood boiled with anger.
Edward (Skip) Skipperton spent most of his life feeling angry. It was his nature. When he was a boy he had a bad temper; now, as a man, he was impatient with people who were slow or stupid. He often met such people in his work, which was to give advice on managing companies. He was good at his job: he could see when people were doing something the wrong way, and he told them in a loud, clear voice how to do it better. The company directors always followed his advice.
Now Skipperton was fifty-two. His wife had left him two years ago, because she couldn’t live with his bad temper. She had met a quiet university teacher in Boston, ended her marriage with Skip and married the teacher. Skip wanted very much to keep their daughter, Maggie, who was then fifteen. With the help of clever lawyers he succeeded.
A few months after he separated from his wife, Skip had a heart attack. He was better again in six months, but his doctor gave him some strong advice.
‘Stop smoking and drinking now, or you’re a dead man, Skip! And I think you should leave the world of business, too – you’ve got enough money. Why don’t you buy a small farm, and live quietly in the country?’
So Skip looked around, and bought a small farm in Maine with a comfortable farmhouse. A little river, the Coldstream, ran along the bottom of the garden, and the house was called Coldstream Heights. He found a local man, Andy Humbert, to live on the farm and work for him.
Maggie was moved from her private school in New York to one in Switzerland; she would come home for the holidays. Skip did stop smoking and drinking: when he decided to do something, he always did it immediately. There was work for him on the farm. He helped Andy to plant corn in the field behind the house; he bought two sheep to keep the grass short, and a pig which soon gave birth to twelve more.
There was only one thing that annoyed him: his neighbour. Peter Frosby owned the land next to his, including the banks of the Coldstream and the right to catch fish in it. Skip wanted to be able to fish a little. He also wanted to feel that the part of the river which he could see from the house belonged to him. But when he offered to buy the fishing rights, he was told that Frosby refused to sell. Skip did not give up easily. The next week he telephoned Frosby, inviting him to his house for a drink. Frosby arrived in a new Cadillac, driven by a young man. He introduced the young man as his son, also called Peter. Frosby was a rather small, thin man with cold grey eyes.
‘The Frosbys don’t sell their land,’ he said. ‘We’ve had the same land for nearly 300 years, and the river’s always been ours. I can’t understand why you want it.’
‘I’d just like to do a little fishing in the summer,’ said Skip. ‘And I think you’ll agree that the price I offer isn’t bad – twenty thousand dollars for about 200 metres of fishing rights. You won’t get such a good offer again in your lifetime.’
‘I’m not interested in my lifetime,’ Frosby said with a little smile. ‘I’ve got a son here.’
The son was a good-looking boy with dark hair and strong shoulders, taller than his father. He sat there with his arms across his chest, and appeared to share his father’s negative attitude. Still, he smiled as they were leaving and said, ‘You’ve made this house look very nice, Mr Skipperton.’ Skip was pleased. He had tried hard to choose the most suitable furniture for the sitting room.
‘I see you like old-fashioned things,’ said Frosby. ‘That scarecrow in your field – we haven’t seen one of those around here for many years.’
‘I’m trying to grow corn out there,’ Skip said. ‘I think you need a scarecrow in a cornfield.’
Young Peter was looking at a photograph of Maggie, which stood on the hall table. ‘Pretty girl,’ he said.
Skip said nothing. The meeting had failed. Skip wasn’t used to failing. He looked into Frosby’s cold grey eyes and said: ‘I’ve one more idea. I could rent the land by the river for the rest of my life, and then it goes to you – or your son. I’ll give you five thousand dollars a year.’
‘I don’t think so, Mr Skipperton. Thank you for the drink, and – goodbye.’
‘Stupid man,’ said Skip to Andy, as the Cadillac moved off. But he smiled. Life was a game, after all. You won sometimes, you lost sometimes.
It was early May. The corn which they had planted was beginning to come up through the earth. Skip and Andy had made a scarecrow from sticks joined together – one stick for the body and head, another for the arms and two more for the legs. They had dressed it in an old coat and trousers that Andy had found and had put an old hat of Skip’s on its head.
The weeks passed and the corn grew high. Skip tried to think of ways to annoy Frosby, to force him to rent part of the river to him.
But he forgot about Frosby when Maggie came home for the summer holidays.
Skip met her at the airport in New York, and they drove up to Maine. Skip thought she looked taller; she was certainly more beautiful!
‘I’ve got a surprise for you at home,’ Skip said.
‘Oh – a horse, perhaps?’
Skip had forgotten she was learning to ride. ‘No, not a horse.’ The surprise was a red Toyota. He had remembered, at least, that Maggie’s school had taught her to drive. She was very excited, and threw her arms round Skips neck. ‘Oh, Father, you’re so sweet! And you’re looking very well!’
Skip and Maggie went for a drive in the new car the next morning. In the afternoon Maggie asked her father if she could go fishing in the stream. He had to tell her that she couldn’t, and he explained the reason.
‘Well, never mind, there are a lot of other things to do.’ Maggie enjoyed going for walks, reading and doing little jobs in the house.
Skip was surprised one evening when Maggie arrived home in her Toyota carrying three fish. He was afraid she had been fishing in the stream, against his instructions.
‘Where did you get those?’
‘I met the boy who lives there. We were both buying petrol, and he introduced himself- he said he’d seen my photograph in your house. Then we had coffee together-‘
‘The Frosby boy?’
‘Yes. He’s very nice. Perhaps it’s only the father who’s not nice. Well, Pete said, “Come and fish with me this afternoon”, so I did. It was fun.’
‘I don’t – please, Maggie, I don’t want you to mix with the Frosbys.’
Maggie was surprised, but said nothing.
The next day, Maggie said she wanted to go to the village to buy some shoes. She was away for nearly three hours. With a great effort, Skip didn’t question her.
Then on Saturday morning, Maggie said there was a dance in the nearest town, and she was going.
‘I can guess who you’re going with,’ Skip said angrily.
‘I’m going alone, I promise you. Girls don’t need a boy to take them to dances now.
Skip realized that he couldn’t order her not to go to a dance. But he knew the Frosby boy would be there. And he knew what was going to happen. His daughter was falling in love with Pete Frosby.
Maggie got home very late that night, after Skip had gone to bed. At breakfast, she looked fresh and happy.
‘I expect the Frosby boy was at the dance?’ said Skip.
‘I don’t know what you’ve got against him, Father.’
‘I don’t want you to fall in love with an uneducated country boy. I sent you to a good school.’
‘Pete had three years at Harvard University.’ Maggie stood up. ‘I’m almost eighteen, Father. I don’t want to be told who I can and can’t see.’
Skip shouted at her: ‘They’re not our kind of people!’
Maggie left the room.
During the next week Skip was in a terrible state. In his business life he had always been able to force people to do what he wanted – but he couldn’t think of a way to do that with his daughter.
The following Saturday evening, Maggie said she was going to a party. It was at the house of a boy called Wilmers, who she had met at the dance. By Sunday morning, Maggie hadn’t come home. Skip telephoned the Wilmers’ house.
A boy’s voice said that Maggie had left the party early.
‘Was she alone?’
‘No, she was with Pete Frosby. She left her car here.’
Skip felt the blood rush to his face. His hand was shaking as he picked up the telephone to call the Frosby house. Old Frosby answered. He said Maggie was not there. And his son was out at the moment.
‘What do you mean? Do you mean he was there earlier and he went out?’
‘Mr Skipperton, my son has his own ways, his own room, his own key – his own life. I’m not going to-‘
Skip put the telephone down.
Maggie was not home by Sunday evening or Monday morning. Skip didn’t want to inform the police. On Tuesday there was a letter from Maggie, written from Boston. It said that she and Pete had run away to be married.
You may think this is sudden, but we do love each other, and we know what we’re doing. I didn’t really want to go back to school. Please don’t try to find me – you’ll hear from me next week. I was sorry to leave my nice new car.
For two days Skip didn’t go out of the house, and he ate almost nothing. He felt three-quarters dead. Andy was very worried about him. When he needed to go to the village to buy some food, he asked Skip to go with him.
While Andy did the shopping, Skip sat in the car, looking at nothing. But then a figure coming down the street caught his eye. Old Frosby!
He hoped Frosby wouldn’t see him in the car, but Frosby did. He didn’t pause, but he smiled his unpleasant little smile as he went past. At that moment Skip realized how much he hated Frosby. His blood boiled with anger, and he felt much better: he was himself again. Frosby must be punished! He began to make a plan.
That evening, Skip suggested to Andy that he should go away for the weekend and enjoy himself. ‘You’ve earned a holiday!’ he said, and gave him three hundred dollars.
Andy left on Saturday evening, in the car. Skip then telephoned old Frosby, and said it was time they became friends. He asked Frosby to come to Coldsteam Heights again. Frosby was surprised, but he agreed to come on Sunday morning at about eleven for a talk. He arrived in the Cadillac, alone.
Skip acted quickly. He had his heavy gun ready, and as soon as Frosby was inside the door he hit him on the head several times with the end of the gun until Frosby was dead. He then took off his clothes and tied an old cloth round the body. He burned Frosby’s clothes in the Fireplace, and hid his watch and rings in a drawer.
Then Skip put one arm around Frosby’s body, and pulled him out of the house and up the field to the scarecrow. The corn had already been cut. He pulled down the old scarecrow and took the clothes off the sticks. He dressed Frosby in the old coat and trousers, tied a small cloth round his face and pushed the hat onto his head.
When he stood the scarecrow up again it looked almost the same as before. As Skip went back to the house, he turned round many times to admire his work.
He had solved the problem of what to do with the body.
Next he buried Frosbys watch and rings under a big plant in the garden.
It was now half past twelve, and he had to do something with the Cadillac. He drove it to some woods a few kilometres away and left it there, after cleaning off all his fingerprints. He hadn’t seen anybody.
Soon after he got home a woman telephoned from Frosby’s house (his housekeeper, Skip guessed) to ask if Frosby was with him. He told her that Frosby had left his house at about twelve, and he hadn’t said where he was going. He said the same thing to the policeman who came to see him in the evening, and to Maggie when she telephoned from Boston. He found it easy to lie about Frosby.
Andy arrived back the next morning, Monday. He had already heard the story in the village, and also knew that the police had found Frosby’s car not far away in the woods. He didn’t ask any questions.
In the next week Skip spent a lot of time watching the scarecrow from his upstairs bedroom window. He thought with pleasure of old Frosby’s body there, drying – slowly, slowly in the wind.
After ten days the policeman came back, with a detective. They looked over Skip’s house and land, and they looked at his two guns. They didn’t find anything.
That evening, Maggie came to see him; she and Pete were at the Frosby house. It was hard for Skip to believe she was married.
It had all happened so fast.
‘Pete’s very worried and upset,’ she said. ‘Was Mr Frosby unhappy when he visited you?’
Skip laughed. ‘No, very cheerful! And pleased with the marriage. Are you going to live at the Frosby house?’
‘Yes. I’ll take some things back with me.’
She seemed cold and sad, which made Skip unhappy.
‘I know what’s in that scarecrow,’ said Andy one day.
‘Do you? What are you going to do about it?’ Skip asked.
‘Nothing. Nothing,’ Andy answered with a smile.
‘Perhaps you would like some money, Andy? A little present – for keeping quiet?’
‘No sir,’ Andy said quietly. ‘I’m not that kind of man.’
Skip didn’t understand. He was used to men who liked money, more and more of it. Andy was different. He was a good man.
The leaves were falling from the trees and winter was coming. The children in the area were getting ready to celebrate the evening of 31st October, when people wore special clothes and had special things to eat, and lit great fires outside and danced around them, singing songs.
No one came to Skip’s house that evening. There was a party at the Frosbys’ house – he could hear the music in the distance. He thought of his daughter dancing, having a good time. Skip was lonely, for the first time in his lite. Lonely. He very much wanted a drink, but he decided to keep his promise to himself.
At that moment he saw a spot of light moving outside the window. He looked out. There was a line of figures crossing his field, carrying lights. Anger and fear rushed through him. They were on his land! They had no right! And they were children, he realized. The figures were small.
He ran downstairs and out into the field. ‘What do you think you’re doing?’ he shouted. ‘Get off my property!’
The children didn’t hear him. They were singing a song. ‘We’re going to burn the scarecrow…’
‘Get off my land!’ Skip fell and hurt his knee. Now the children had heard him, he was sure, but they weren’t stopping. They were going to reach the scarecrow before him. He heard a cry. They had got there.
There were more cries, of terror mixed with pleasure.
Perhaps their hands had touched the body.
Skip made his way back to his house. It was worse than the police. Every child was going to tell his parents what he had found. Skip knew he had reached the end. He had seen a lot of men in business reach the end. He had known men who had jumped out of windows.
Skip went straight to his gun. He put the end in his mouth, and fired. When the children came running back across the field to the road, Skip was dead.
Andy heard the shot from his room over the garage. He had also seen the children crossing the field, and heard Skip shouting. He understood what had happened.
He began walking towards the house. He would have to call the police. Andy decided to say that he didn’t know anything about the body in the scarecrow’s clothes. He had been away that weekend, after all.
– THE END –
Hope you have enjoyed the reading!
I don’t usually pick up hitch-hikers, but this one was different. He wasn’t young, like the others, and he didn’t have a bag, or a girlfriend, or a sign with ‘London’ or ‘Lancaster’ on it. He just stood there, beside the road, with his hand out, waiting. He was a man about forty years old, in a grey suit and red tie. He was just watching the cars and waiting.
He was watching me while I slowed down. I remember his eyes. Very pale blue eyes, staring at me through thin gold glasses. They looked surprised. Perhaps I was something strange, something not quite real to him. Or perhaps he just had bad eyes. Perhaps he couldn’t see very well.
I stopped the car and opened the window. ‘Where are you going?’ I asked.
‘I’m going into town,’ he said. ‘Into Lancaster. Could you give me a lift, please?’
‘Yes, OK,’ I said. ‘I’m going that way. Jump in.’
He got in and sat down beside me. ‘Thank you very much,’ he said. ‘It’s very kind of you.’
‘That’s all right,’ I said. ‘It’s my pleasure.’
I started the car and thought about the words he had used. There was something strange about them. Hitchhikers don’t usually speak like that. They usually say something like ‘Are you going to Lancaster? Oh good, thanks a lot’. He spoke politely, like an older man. But this man wasn’t very old. ‘Perhaps he’s foreign,’ I thought.
I looked at him, and noticed something else.
‘Could you put your seat-belt on, please?’ I said.
He looked at me. ‘I’m all right,’ he said. ‘I don’t like seat-belts very much. I feel like a prisoner in the car.’
‘It’s the law, you know. And I’m a police sergeant, so I think you should wear one in my car.’
‘Oh, yes. I’m so sorry. The law. Yes… yes, I forgot.’ He looked around him, but for a moment he couldn’t find the seat-belt.
‘It’s there, behind you,’ I said. ‘You do it like this.’ I helped him to put on the seat-belt.
‘Yes, thank you,’ he said. ‘I’m terribly sorry. I never remember these things.’
‘Oh, really,’ I said. ‘Why? Don’t you have a car?’
‘No. Not now. I don’t like them. I did have one once, but that was a long time ago…’ For a moment I thought he would continue, but then he stopped talking and stared quietly out of the window.
I looked at him again. I’m a police officer, so it’s my job to look at people and to think carefully about them. I was sure there was something strange about this man. His hair – nobody has their hair cut quite like that now.
And that suit – it was quite clean, quite new, but the trousers and lapels were wider than they usually are… Where had I seen a suit like that before?
‘Do you live near here?’ I asked. I was still wondering about him. Was he a foreigner?
He smiled at me. ‘I live in Lancaster. In the centre of the town, in fact.’
I was listening carefully. ‘He speaks very good English,’ I thought. ‘He speaks in the local way. I don’t think he is a foreigner. But that face! It’s the middle of summer now, and we’ve had a lot of sun this year. Why is he so pale?’
‘What sort of job do you do?’ I asked.
He smiled at me again. ‘Oh, I don’t have a job at the moment,’ he said. ‘That’s why I don’t have a car now, you see.’
‘You haven’t driven for a long time, then?’ I said.
He looked at me again. That same quiet, surprised look. ‘No, I haven’t,’ he said. ‘Not for a long time.’
I smiled at him. ‘I thought you hadn’t,’ I said. ‘You’ve had to wear seat-belts in a car for many years. Sorry,’ I continued. ‘It’s my job. Police officers always play at detectives!’
‘Yes, I see,’ he said. He smiled. A quiet, polite smile was on his mouth, but those pale eyes were still and empty.
Then for a moment I stopped thinking about him because there was a lot of traffic on the road. Cars were moving very slowly, and I saw a policeman in front, with several police cars and flashing blue lights.
I knew the policeman, so I stopped the car beside him. ‘What’s the matter, John?’ I asked.
‘It’s an accident, Sue,’ he said. ‘One car stopped suddenly, and another car went into the back of it.’
Three people, I think, but they don’t look too bad. The ambulance will be here soon.’
‘Do you need any help?’ I wasn’t in uniform, but I had to ask.
He thought for a moment, and I heard the sound of the ambulance. It was coming towards us. ‘Well, it looks quite nasty, but we’ll be OK when the ambulance comes, Sue. There are two police cars here already. But you can ask the sergeant over there, if you like. He’ll know.’
‘All right, John, thanks.’ I drove on slowly to the accident. There was glass all over the road, and the two damaged cars were by the side of the road on the left. It seemed that one car had hit the back of the other, and pushed it off the road.
A young girl was sitting at the side of the road with a policeman. Her face was covered in blood. A man was lying on the ground beside the second car, and another policeman was kneeling beside him. The sergeant was talking to the driver of the first car, who was still in his seat.
I parked the car, got out, and went over to the man on the ground.
‘Is there anything I can do?’ I asked the policeman.
He looked up, surprised, and then he recognized me. ‘Oh, it’s you, Sue. I think he’s OK. He’s breathing, and his heart’s fine. But I don’t like the look of that leg.’
One of the man’s legs was broken in two places. It looked like there were two knees. He was breathing, but his eyes were closed, and his face was very white.
‘Can you go and help Chris with the little girl?’ he said. ‘I think this man is her father.’
I looked at the little girl. She was trying to walk, but she seemed confused. The policeman was holding her arm. I went over and knelt in front of her. There was blood all over her face. I couldn’t see her eyes very well.
‘Hello,’ I said. ‘My name’s Sue. I’m a police officer. Can you see me?’
She wiped her face with her hand, and nodded.
‘Good,’ I said. ‘What’s your name?’
Kate. OK. Kate, you heard that sound just now, didn’t you? That was the ambulance. This policeman, Chris, and I are going to take you over to the ambulance, and then the ambulance men will take you to the hospital and look after you. You’re going to be all right.’
‘But what about my daddy?’
‘He’ll come with you in the ambulance. He’s going to be all right, too.’
I held one of the girl’s arms, and Chris held the other. We took the little girl over to the ambulance and sat talking with her while the ambulance men lifted her father and the other driver into the ambulance. When the ambulance had gone, I spoke to the sergeant for a few minutes.
‘What happened?’ I asked.
‘I don’t know yet,’ he said. ‘I think the first car stopped suddenly, but I can’t think why. Still, that’s something that we’ll have to find out. It’s a funny place for an accident. I can only remember one here before – about twenty years ago, I think it was. That was a nasty one, too. A young man was killed – run over by a car. I remember that a little child was hurt then, too.’
‘What happened then?’
‘He shook his head. ‘I can’t remember now. Anyway, this one’ll be your job in the morning – I’m on holiday next week, remember? Thanks for your help.’
On the way back to the car, I could see one of the policemen. He was picking up the little girl’s doll from the side of the road. He walked over and put it in the police car.
A frightened passenger
When I got back into the car, the hitch-hiker was still there. He did look very strange – for a moment, I thought he was crying.
‘I’m sorry,’ he said, ‘but I hate accidents. Were… were they badly hurt?’
I looked at him quickly. His face was very pale. And… were his hands shaking?
‘Quite badly,’ I said. ‘One had a broken leg, and the young girl had a lot of glass in her face. But I think they’ll live.’
‘Oh, good. I… I’m sorry I didn’t get out, but you see… I hate seeing blood.’
I smiled. That’s all right. I don’t like it either, but I’m a police officer – it’s my job.’
‘Yes. I suppose you see a lot of accidents?’
‘Quite a lot, yes. But it’s funny, I’ve never seen one here before. The road’s very straight and it was clear of traffic, and it’s not dark or anything. A car stopped suddenly, and another car hit it. It’s very strange.’
For a moment my passenger didn’t answer. He just looked straight in front of him, the grey eyes in the pale face staring at the road and the traffic. Then he said, very quietly:
‘Cars do terrible things, don’t they? I hate cars. I hate them!’
I didn’t say anything for a minute. Then I asked him if he had a family in Lancaster.
‘Yes, I have one son. He’s at the University, you know. I’d been there just now, before you picked me up.’
‘Oh, really? Does he like it there?’
‘Yes, I think so. Yes, he likes it very much.’ He smiled at me – the same grey, pale smile. ‘But I still have to look after him, you know. He does silly things, and gets into lots of trouble. He needs me, you know – I’m sure he’d have an accident if I didn’t keep an eye on him all the time.’
That was a very strange thing to say about a son at university. My sister is at the University too, but I don’t think my father knows what she’s doing every day. I don’t think he wants to know – and I’m quite sure she doesn’t want her father ‘keeping an eye’ on her all the time!
But before I could say anything else, we had reached the centre of the town. I stopped the car outside the cemetery.
‘If you want the centre of the town, this is the best place,’ I said. ‘I’m driving home after this.’
‘This is perfect.’ He opened the door carefully and got out. Thank you very much. You’re very kind.’
‘My pleasure.’ I watched him walk away, a short, pale man in that strange, old-fashioned suit. Then I drove out into the traffic and forgot about him.
Where’s the body?
Next morning, I found the reports of the car accident on my desk. There were photographs of the two cars after the crash, and a plan of the area. The two cars had been drawn on the plan. The police had also spoken to two students. They had been walking beside the road at the time of the accident. The students had both seen the first car swerve suddenly in front of the second car and then stop, for no reason.
But the police hadn’t spoken to the drivers of the two cars because they were too ill. So I had to go to the hospital to talk to them. PC Brian Jones came with me. The doctors said we couldn’t talk to the driver of the second car or the little girl, so we went to see the driver of the first car.
He was sitting up in bed. He could talk now, but he had hurt his neck quite badly because the car had stopped very quickly. But it seemed that he didn’t want to say much.
‘Good morning, Mr Jackson,’ I said. ‘I’m a police sergeant. The doctor tells me you’re feeling much better this morning.’
‘A bit,’ he said. ‘But I still can’t move my neck. If you want to talk to me, sit on the end of the bed, and then I can see you.’
I sat on the end of the bed and looked at him. He was about thirty years old, with a thin, brown face, a small moustache, and dark hair. He looked very unhappy, and his eyes always looked away from me when he spoke.
‘I suppose you want to know about the accident?’ he asked.
‘That’s right, Mr Jackson. Can you remember anything about it?’
‘Remember it? Yes, of course I can. I’ve been thinking about it all night. But it wasn’t my fault, honestly. You must believe me! I was driving along quite slowly – about forty-five miles an hour, I think, or maybe fifty, but no more, really. Anyway, there’s no special speed limit on that road, is there?’
‘Only the limit for normal roads. You can go up to sixty miles an hour.’
‘Well, I wasn’t driving as fast as that. I was driving quite slowly, the road was clear, and I hadn’t been drinking. In fact, I never drink and drive, never – I’m sure the doctors tested that, didn’t they, Officer?’
I looked at my notes. ‘Yes, I think so. It doesn’t say anything here about alcohol, Mr Jackson.’
‘So it couldn’t be my fault, could it? I mean, I was going at a normal speed, slowly even, on a sunny day, and I hadn’t been drinking, and then there he was! Right in front of me!’
I felt confused. ‘I’m sorry, Mr Jackson, I don’t understand. Who was in front of you?’
He stared at me strangely. ‘Well, the man, of course. The man who was killed.’
Now I was really confused. ‘What? I’m sorry, Mr Jackson, but no one was killed. The people in the other car were hurt, but they’re both alive. One has a broken leg, I think, and the little girl hurt her face, but that’s all.’
‘Which car?’ asked Mr Jackson.
‘The car that hit you from behind.’
Now Mr Jackson looked confused. He looked even more unhappy, and his face went white, as white as the bandage round his neck.
‘Do you mean… are you telling me that a car hit me from behind, Officer?’
He put his hands to his neck. He had been trying to shake his head but he couldn’t.
‘I don’t remember that,’ he said.
‘You don’t remember anything about a car that hit you from behind?’
‘No, nothing. And you say there were two people in it? A man and a girl? Oh, how terrible.’ He began to cry, and took a handkerchief from the table beside his bed.
I thought carefully. ‘Let’s start from the beginning, Mr Jackson. You say you were driving along slowly, about forty-five miles an hour. Is that right? Then what happened? Think carefully, and tell me slowly.’
He put the handkerchief down, and stared at me, his eyes big and wide.
‘Well, then I saw him, that’s all. A man. He was running across the road in front of me. He didn’t look where he was going, or anything. He was just – there – suddenly. I tried to stop, but it was too late. Poor man – I couldn’t miss him!’
I waited until he had finished. The nurse gave him a drink of water. Then I asked, quietly:
‘Mr Jackson, do you remember anything about this man? I mean, what did he look like?’
He looked at me strangely. ‘Well, I didn’t have much time, did I? I suppose he was about forty or fifty years old, in a suit or something, I don’t know. His face was very white – I suppose that was because he was frightened. I think he had glasses on, and there was something red – perhaps it was a tie, or maybe it was the blood, I don’t know. But why does it matter? You’ve got the body, haven’t you? You know who he is.’
I looked at PC Jones. This man’s crazy,’ I thought. ‘Perhaps he has hurt his head, too.’ I felt sorry for him.
I spoke very slowly and carefully. I tried to make my voice as kind as I could.
‘Mr Jackson, we haven’t found a body. No one was killed in the accident. You didn’t hit anyone. You just stopped your car suddenly, and the car behind ran into you, that’s all.’
‘But… does that mean you’re going to prosecute me?’ he asked.
‘I’m not sure yet, Mr Jackson,’ I said. ‘We haven’t finished our investigations. But I’m afraid the police usually prosecute people for dangerous driving if they stop suddenly for no reason.’
‘But you can’t do that! I’d lose my job! I’m a salesman. I drive hundreds of miles every week, and nobody can work for our company if they have been prosecuted for dangerous driving. That’s why I never drink and drive – never! And I never stop without a good reason! There was a man there, in front of me – I told you! I saw him as clearly as I can see you now!’
‘Well, I’m sorry, Mr Jackson,’ I said. ‘But there was a serious accident, and at the moment it seems it was your fault. That’s all I can say for now.’
The doctor explains
Outside the room, the nurse stopped us. ‘Could you both wait in here a moment, please?’ she said. ‘I think the doctor would like to speak to you.’
We heard the nurse talking to the doctor outside the room for two or three minutes, and then the doctor came in. She smiled at me.
‘Good morning, Sergeant Fraser,’ she said to me. ‘You’ve been talking to Mr Jackson, haven’t you?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘Poor man – he’s not very happy, I’m afraid.’
‘No, of course not,’ said the doctor. ‘Well, it was a nasty accident, wasn’t it? And he’s hurt his neck quite badly. But the rest of him is OK. He should be out of hospital in a few days.’
‘Yes.’ I looked at the doctor carefully. ‘Doctor, are you sure that he hasn’t hurt anything else? His head, perhaps? You see, I don’t think he remembers the accident very well. He thinks he killed somebody who walked in front of the car, but he didn’t. Nobody was killed, nobody walked in front of the car. And he doesn’t remember the second car at all.’
‘Yes, I know,’ she said. ‘I wanted to talk to you about that. Of course, people do forget accidents. That’s normal. They often don’t remember anything about them. So I’m not surprised that he doesn’t remember the second car. But it’s very unusual to remember something that didn’t happen.’ She stopped for a moment, and looked at me thoughtfully. ‘So I thought… perhaps I shouldn’t say this, but I thought you should know. Last night this man had a small problem with his heart, a very unusual problem. For a few minutes it beat very slowly, it nearly stopped, and then it started again. And people who have a heart problem like that aren’t usually allowed to drive, you know, because they might become ill for a couple of minutes, and then of course a car would stop suddenly.’
‘I see,’ I said. ‘So you think that perhaps he had a small heart attack yesterday, too?’
‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘Maybe he had the attack because of the accident. I haven’t seen his doctor’s records, so I don’t know if he has ever had this problem before.’
‘I see,’ I said. ‘Well, thank you, Doctor. That’s very helpful.’
A good explanation
‘That explains it then,’ said Brian Jones, as we drove back to the police station. There wasn’t a man in front of his car, and he knows it. I mean, if the man did have this heart problem, then he couldn’t have a job as a salesman, could he? He wouldn’t have a driving license, and he’d lose his job. And he’s very afraid of losing his job, isn’t he? He told us that.’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘But that doesn’t explain his story, does it?’
‘Well, yes, maybe it does, Sergeant,’ he said. ‘Look at it this way. Perhaps this man had a problem with his heart several years ago, and then he got better, so he got his driving license back. His job and his driving license are very important to him, so he always drives very, very carefully. He never drinks and drives or does anything silly. And why is he so very, very careful? Because he’s always afraid that one day his heart problem will come back, and then he’ll lose his license, his job, and everything. Then yesterday it did come back, and so he had this accident. But he wants us to believe that it wasn’t his fault, so he has invented a story about a man who ran in front of the car. Only it isn’t a very good story, that’s all, because there wasn’t a man, and there isn’t a body.’
Brian Jones smiled at me. He is a young, clever policeman, and he was very pleased with himself. It was a good explanation, too. I couldn’t see anything wrong with it.
Back at the police station, I checked everything carefully. But no one had found a body, no one had seen a man who ran across the road. I looked at the front of Mr Jackson’s car carefully with one of the police scientists. There were no marks on it at all. Only the back of his car was damaged, where the car behind had hit it. Either Mr Jackson was mad, or he was lying.
But I felt sad, and a little angry, too. The doctor at the hospital had been very helpful, but why had she told us about Mr Jackson’s heart problem? That was wrong. I wouldn’t want my doctor to tell people about me when I was ill. Mr Jackson’s story was crazy, but I really think that he believed it. In my job, you know when people are lying – and I thought Mr Jackson was telling the truth.
I talked about it with my boyfriend, Simon, at dinner that night. Simon is a reporter, so he has to be very careful. He must never write about anything I tell him in his newspaper. If he did, I would lose my job. But we still talk about things, and sometimes it is very useful.
I told him about the accident, and Mr Jackson’s story. He looked at me thoughtfully. ‘It’s a strange place for an accident, isn’t it?’ he said. ‘The road’s very straight there.’
‘That’s right,’ I said. ‘No one ever stops there. I only stopped because I…’
For a moment I stopped talking, my fork in my hand. ‘Sue? Sue, what’s the matter?’ Simon said.
‘Simon, that’s it! I’ve remembered the thing that worries me about all this! The hitch-hiker!’
‘The hitch-hiker! The man Jackson described – pale face, suit, glasses, red tie. There was a man like that in my car!’
Quickly I told Simon about the man that I had picked up before I saw the accident.
‘Yes, but he wasn’t dead, Sue – he was in your car, quite safe. And you picked him up a long way away from the accident.’
‘Not very far away – about half a kilometre, perhaps. The traffic was moving very slowly – because of the accident. Maybe he walked there. It’s possible.’
‘You mean, perhaps the hitch-hiker was walking across the road, and Jackson saw him, stopped his car, and then the other car hit Jackson’s car?’
‘Yes, that’s right! And then the hitch-hiker ran on down the road, and then I picked him up! Simon, I have to find that man!’
Simon looked thoughtful. ‘Yes, but wait a minute, Sue. Why would the hitch-hiker cross the road there? There’s nothing there. And anyway, if he was walking towards you, he was walking away from town, not towards it!’
I shook my head. ‘I don’t know. But I want to find him. He said he lived in Lancaster. And another thing, Simon. One of the older police sergeants said there had once been an accident on that road before – something about a child, I think it was – about twenty years ago, maybe more. Can you check in your old newspapers and find out about it? I think it may help.’
Simon groaned. ‘You want me to check the records for a little thing like that? Do you know how long that takes?’
I smiled at him. ‘But you’ll do it for me, won’t you Simon?’ I said. ‘Please.’
Flowers on a grave
It took Simon a long time, but he found the newspaper story in the end. We met for lunch in the park in the middle of town, and he took it out of his pocket. He showed it to me and I read it carefully – a small yellow piece of paper, a newspaper story about a road accident eighteen years ago.
FATHER KILLED IN ROAD CRASH
Son saved by brave dad
A man was hit by a car and killed in an accident on the main road outside Lancaster yesterday.
Police said the man, twenty-five-year-old Mr David Holland, ran straight in front of the car. The car driver had no time to stop, and Mr Holland was killed immediately. A three-year-old boy, Mr Holland’s son Michael, was found by the side of the road, crying.
A woman, Mrs Helen Steadman, was walking with her dog by the side of the road. Mrs Steadman said that Mr Holland had been driving towards Lancaster with his son. Just before the accident he had stopped his car by the side of the road, and both of them had got out.
‘I think perhaps the little boy wanted to go to the toilet,’ Mrs Steadman said. ‘But before his father could stop him, he ran straight out across the road, in front of the traffic. Mr Holland ran after him, and managed to pick up the little boy and throw him to the side of the road. But then a car hit the father. It wasn’t the driver’s, fault – the little boy ran straight out into the road without looking, and his father ran out after him. Then I ran to catch the little boy before he could go back into the road again.’
The police said that Mr Holland was dead when they arrived. He will be buried in Lancaster cemetery on Tuesday. The little boy’s mother died a year ago, so he will live with his grandparents in Carnforth,
This is the first accident that anyone can remember on this part of the road. The road is very straight there and is usually very safe. The police do not think the car driver was driving fast.
I put down the old yellow piece of paper and thought for a minute. Eighteen years ago a man had run in front of a car and been killed, on the same part of the road. And yesterday, there had been another accident, and the driver of the first car – Mr Jackson – was quite sure that he had seen a man who had run out in front of him, and was also sure that he had hit him in exactly the same way.
‘It’s interesting, isn’t it?’ Simon said. ‘But it doesn’t help much, does it? Have you found your hitch-hiker yet?’
‘No,’ I said. ‘I’ve checked all our police records, and we have no records of anyone who looks like him. And of course he didn’t tell me his name.’
‘I see,’ said Simon strangely. ‘There is one other interesting thing that I haven’t told you.’
‘Oh? What’s that?’
‘Well, every day I walk through the cemetery on my way to work. I know the place quite well – sometimes I sit and have my sandwiches there at lunchtime. And so I notice the other people who come there – the people who put flowers on the graves and eat their lunch there. Sometimes I even read the gravestones, you know. I often wonder about them. What were the people like? How long did they live? It’s very interesting.’
‘In your lunch hour? How strange!’ I said.
‘Do you think so? I like it. It’s quiet and peaceful there, so I can think and read. Anyway, there’s one grave there that always has flowers on it. A young man comes to put them there. He’s a student, I think. And when I read this newspaper story, I knew I’d seen the name Holland somewhere before. At first I couldn’t remember the place that I’d seen it. Then I remembered – it’s the name on this gravestone: David Holland! I checked this morning because I wanted to be certain. And the date on the stone was the same too, 1978. It’s the same man who was killed in the accident!’
‘So?’ I asked. ‘What’s surprising about that? It isn’t surprising that he was buried there. He came from Lancaster. And I suppose that the young man who brings the flowers is his son. That would be normal, wouldn’t it?’
‘Maybe,’ he said. ‘But not every day, not after eighteen years. Anyway, the cemetery is just over there. Why don’t we go and have a look? We can go that way back to the car.’
‘OK, if you like. I didn’t know that you were so interested in gravestones, Simon.’
We got up and walked quietly through the park and into the cemetery. It was a nice, sunny summer afternoon. Neither of us wanted to hurry back to work.
‘There it is, look.’ Simon pointed, and I saw a grave just like all the others. There were a few red flowers on it.
We walked towards it, but then a young man came past us on the path. He knelt down beside the grave. He took the old flowers away, and put some fresh ones beside it.
We stopped a few metres away, and watched. The young man stayed very quietly beside the grave for several minutes. I could see his mouth moving. It seemed that he was talking to someone.
‘He’s praying, Simon,’ I said. ‘Come on, let’s go. We shouldn’t stand and watch him.’
‘OK,’ he said, and we moved slowly away. ‘But don’t you think it’s strange?’ he asked, while we were getting into the car. ‘I mean, his father has been dead for about twenty years, and this young man comes here nearly every day, with fresh flowers, and prays beside the grave.’
‘Yes, I suppose it is,’ I said. ‘But that’s his business, not ours. And it doesn’t help me with this accident. Come on, let’s go.’
An unhappy man
Liter that afternoon I had to meet Mr Jackson. I didn’t want to, but I had to. He came into my office unhappily, and sat down in front of me. He still had a bandage around his neck.
‘Good afternoon, Mr Jackson,’ I said. ‘I’m sorry, but I have investigated this accident very carefully now, and I will have to prosecute you for dangerous driving.’
His face went white, and I could see his hands begin to shake. ‘But… I’ll lose my job,’ he said. ‘You know that, don’t you?’
‘Yes,’ I said. ‘I understand that, and I’m very sorry. But your car swerved and stopped suddenly for no reason, and two people were badly hurt in the other car. They were lucky. You nearly killed them.’
‘But what about the man?’ he shouted. ‘I told you, I saw a man! He crossed the road in front of me! I’m not crazy, you know – I saw him!’
‘I know,’ I said. ‘And I think you believe it yourself. But we’ve looked for that man, and we can’t find him. Two students saw the accident from the side of the road, you know, but they didn’t see a man who crossed the road either. I’m sorry, Mr Jackson, but nobody else saw this man – only you. Perhaps your doctor can explain it, but I can’t.’
His hands were shaking even more now, and for a moment he couldn’t speak. Perhaps he’s going to have a heart attack now, I thought, here in this room. After a moment he stood up and walked to the door.
At the door he turned and stared at me. ‘You…’ he began. ‘You’re wrong! I’m not mad, you know, and I’m not ill either! You wait! One day you’ll see something like this, and no one will believe you either. Then you’ll know how I feel!’
He walked out, shutting the door loudly behind him.
That Saturday, I had to go to the University. My younger sister, Elisabeth, had just finished her studies, and she was getting her degree. My parents had come to watch, and we were all going out for a meal afterwards.
I put on a nice dress after work and went to the University. When I got there, we sat and watched and listened, and then everyone had tea outside on the grass. It was a funny day: all the students were wearing good clothes, instead of their normal jeans and T-shirts, and they all took their parents round to meet their friends and their friends’ parents. Everyone was standing there, talking to strangers and feeling a little embarrassed.
I was just getting myself another cup of tea when I saw him. He was standing there with a cup of tea in his hand, and a silly smile on his face – the hitch-hiker!
I stood quite still and watched him. He was standing in a group with two young men – students – and two older people. They talked and smiled for a few minutes, and then the hitch-hiker and one of the students moved away and began to talk to another family group.
‘That student is his son!’ I thought. ‘And I know him, too! He’s the young man we saw in the cemetery!’
The hitch-hiker was still very pale and he was still wearing that old-fashioned suit. I noticed another strange thing, too – none of the other parents talked to him. In fact, one man nearly walked straight into him.
But I didn’t think much about that, then. I knew that I had to talk to him – perhaps he could help me about the accident, even now.
I smiled, and walked towards him.
‘Hello,’ I said. ‘I didn’t think that I’d see you again!’
He turned quickly, and for a moment I was sure he was afraid. Or perhaps I was the first person who had spoken to him that afternoon. But then he smiled too. ‘How nice,’ he said. ‘You’re the lady who gave me a lift into town a week ago, aren’t you?’
So he remembered me, too. That was interesting.
He looked worried. ‘But you’re a policewoman, aren’t you? So you can’t be a student, and you’re not old enough to be a parent. So why are you here? Has there been a crime?’
‘No,’ I said. ‘My sister’s getting her degree, that’s all. Is this your son?’
‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Michael, come and meet my policewoman friend. She gave me a lift in her car the other day.’
Michael smiled and shook my hand, but I thought he looked a little nervous. ‘That… er… that was very kind of you,’ he said. ‘My father doesn’t have a car, and he’s always missing the bus. He never manages to catch the bus if I don’t take him to the bus-stop myself.’
I didn’t know what to say. ‘If he’s the young man we saw in the cemetery,’ I thought, ‘then his father’s dead! But he says this man is his father!’
The father smiled again.’ These young people!’ he said. They think they know everything. But really it’s my son who’s always getting into trouble. I have to look after him all the time, you know.’
People were beginning to go home. I remembered that the hitch-hiker didn’t have a car.
‘Can I give you another lift back into town?’ I asked.
‘Yes, please,’ he said. ‘That would be very kind. I… I’m getting old, you know. I get tired when I see too many people.’
The son smiled, and left us. We walked to the car. I didn’t speak much. I was thinking hard. What questions should I ask?
The hitch-hiker got into the car and smiled at me. ‘I hope we won’t see another accident,’ he said. ‘I hate accidents. All my life, I’ve been afraid of cars. I’m so glad that Michael isn’t going to work near cars or roads. He’s got a job in a bookshop, you know, and he’ll be able to walk to work. You can’t be farther away from cars than that.’
‘Yes,’ I said. It didn’t sound very exciting to me. ‘Is this job in Lancaster?’
‘Oh, yes, of course.’ The man smiled his thin, pale smile. ‘He doesn’t want to work anywhere else. He comes to see me every day, you know.’
‘When I met you the other day, where had you been?’ I asked.
‘With Michael, of course,’ he said. ‘At the University.’
‘How did you get there?’
‘I walked. It was a nice day.’
‘Did you cross the road about ten minutes before you met me?’ I asked. ‘Did you walk in front of a car, perhaps?’
He looked surprised and unhappy. ‘No… no, of course I didn’t.’
‘Are you sure? Quite sure? Because the driver of one of the cars saw you, you know.’
‘Saw me? What do you mean?’
‘One of the drivers in that accident saw a man, just like you, who walked straight across the road in front of him. That’s why he swerved and stopped. He thought he’d killed you!’
The man’s fingers were playing nervously with the seat-belt, and his face was whiter than ever. ‘Oh, no. That isn’t true. I was very careful, and anyway, nobody can see me when…’
‘So you did cross the road?’ We were near the centre of the town now, just outside the cemetery. I stopped the car and turned to look at the man more closely. ‘I think you’d better come back to the police station with me. I’ve got a few more questions to ask, Mr…’
But then I remembered. I still didn’t know his name.
‘It’s… er… David. David Holland,’ he said. He was still playing nervously with the seat-belt while he spoke. ‘But I’m afraid I can’t come to the police station. Thank you for the lift. I must go now. Goodbye.’
I tried to stop him, but he was going already. Going in a way that was not normal at all. He had not opened the door, but his leg and half of his body were already halfway through it. I couldn’t speak, I was too surprised. And as I watched, the other parts of his body – that thin, pale body in the strange, old-fashioned clothes – went through the door as well.
Through the door, right through the steel car door. And then he walked quickly away, and walked straight through the closed metal gate into the cemetery.
I didn’t see where he went. I was too shocked to move. When at last I got out of the car, and walked into the cemetery, he was not there. But there were fresh flowers on the grave under the gravestone that said:
‘He gave his life for his son’
I stood by the grave and thought for a long time. But I’m only an ordinary policewoman. I can’t arrest dead people, or people who aren’t there. I remembered the things poor Mr Jackson had said to me when he left my office, and I wondered what on earth I was going to do now.
– THE END –
Hope you have enjoyed the reading!
Young people should be given chances in life – especially the chance of a good education. Sometimes that means going to study in another country, far from home and family.
Young Tuaine is at school in New Zealand, but her home is on a South Sea island, where the warm waters of the lagoon are as blue as the sky above…
I am going to use this big notebook for my diary, and write down everything I feel and do. I brought the book with me when I left home. I used it for English at my school back home, and when I left, there were still plenty of pages not written on, so it will be good for a diary. At home I read a story called The Diary of Anne Frank. It was a very sad story, but I read it lots of times. Anne said it made her feel better to write things down, it helped her with all those troubles she had, so maybe my diary will help me feel better too.
Tomorrow it will be two months since I left home to come here. 61 days. Just two numbers when I write it like that, 61 days, but it is the slowest and longest time I can remember. How can 61 days go so slowly? I still think of home all the time, and I can remember every little thing about the island, except how warm it was. I can’t remember that, because here it is so cold all the time, but when I lie here and close my eyes I can see my friends, and my family, and all my favourite places. Mama and Papa, and Mele and Metua, and Rima, and the big black rock where we swam in the lagoon, and the path that goes to the top of our mountain, and the cool wind at the top. And if sometimes I can’t remember everything, there are the photos by my bed, and all my seashells.
When I was a baby, I was given to my grandparents, because I was the youngest in our family, and that is our custom. My real parents live on another island. Our village is called Vaipaka, and our house is a little bit back from the road that goes through the village, by the hill. When the last big storm – called Sharon – came, the waves from the lagoon came right over the road, but not as far as our garden, which was lucky. The wind blew all the flowers out of our garden, but at least the roof stayed on our house, not like at Mele’s place. A great piece of metal blew off their roof, right over the house, and cut their goat’s head off. It was terrible for the poor animal. There were some bad things that happened in our village, like Sharon, and some accidents on the motorbikes, but mostly there were good things, and I remember the good things, not the bad things.
School was good too, I liked it at the college, and I nearly always came top of my class. But I’m sorry about that now, it was coming top that probably sent me away. We had exams in the first term, and I came first or second in every exam. Mr Ashton, the teacher, came to our house and said to Mama and Papa that our school on the island wasn’t good enough for me, that I should go to school in New Zealand. Mama and Papa talked about it to Uncle George. I was worried, because I didn’t want to go away, but they talked about it again with Mr Ashton, and all my family put in some money for the plane and sent me here to Aunty Vaine’s.
Aunty Vaine is my mother’s cousin, and she has been living in Auckland for over twenty years. There’s four of us here in her house: Aunty, Ta (he’s seventeen), Marlene, and me. Marlene and I sleep in the same bedroom. She’s six. The week after I arrived, Aunty bought me a uniform, and I started at the girls’ college. I’ve got to stop my diary now, the video has finished, and Marlene wants to go to bed.
At first, Aunty was friendly. She asked me all about home and all the relations she hadn’t seen for so long, and she told me the things she used to do when she was a girl on the island. Then she asked me how much money did I bring with me from the island, and I said I didn’t bring any, and she got a bit angry. I told her Mama and Papa didn’t have any money to give me, and they told me that Aunty had a good job and earned plenty of money. Aunty said she worked in the chicken factory, but she didn’t get much money and most of it went on paying the rent for the house. Then I asked her where was my uncle? I didn’t like to ask about him at first because perhaps he had left her or something. Aunty started crying then and told me about the accident. Uncle Ben worked for a building company that made bridges. One day one of those very long, heavy pieces of metal fell on him. His back was broken, and he died in hospital. I told her I was very sorry I didn’t know about the accident, nobody at home heard about it. She said Uncle Ben didn’t come from our islands, he was from Niue, so she only told his family. I felt really sad for Aunty then, and bad that I came to live with her when she didn’t have enough money.
I haven’t been able to write in my diary recently. I have had too much schoolwork to do. School is very hard here, but the teachers are nice. My class teacher Mrs Price is best, she’s great, she introduced me to lots of girls. But they aren’t from my island, they’re Samoans, and their language is very strange to me. The school is so big, too, over a thousand girls, and so many rooms. It is scary, in a school where there are so many strangers. Everyone seems cleverer than me, their English is so good. I try hard to keep up, but I get much lower marks than I did at home. I don’t have enough time to do my work, that’s the trouble. Aunty is working evenings at the chicken factory, and I have to get the dinner every night. The only place I can study is in the bedroom, and the noise from the video is so bad. Every night Ta gets some videos, and always they are noisy, full of shooting and wars and shouting. I hate that Sylvester Stallone. I think it’s bad for Ta to watch just that kind of video. Marlene too. Yesterday I went and asked Ta please could he turn the video down because I was trying to study in my room, and he got angry and shouted bad words at me. He thinks he’s so special. What a laugh, he’s just a stupid boy who can’t get a job. He won’t turn down the video. I’m going to bed now.
It’s Sunday, but we didn’t go to church. Aunty used to go to church but she never goes now. When I asked why, she said she didn’t believe in God any more. I thought that was terrible and I asked her why. She said it was because God took Uncle Ben away from them, and left them with no one to take care of them, and not enough money. I don’t know if that’s right, but I can understand the way Aunty feels. I’m not sure about God. He can be very cruel sometimes, even to good people like Anne Frank and Uncle Ben.
In the afternoon we took the bus to visit Uncle Ben’s grave. There is a smiling photo on the grey stone, and shiny black letters,
BENJAMIN FILIGI, AGED 48 YEARS, MUCH LOVED HUSBAND AND FATHER.
We all cried at the grave, even Ta, when Aunty put the flowers on it. In the photo on his grave, Uncle Ben looks like he was a nice man.
I didn’t go to school today. I wanted to, but it’s a long way and I have to get the bus, and the bus ticket costs a lot of money. Aunty said she didn’t have any money left. She was getting angry with me, so I thought I will walk to school tomorrow instead of getting the bus. Today I tried to do my schoolwork by myself at home, but I didn’t do very well.
I am very tired tonight. This morning I got up at six o’clock and made some sandwiches for my lunch, and I left before any of the others were up. It was still dark, and very scary because there was nobody in the streets. I walked right down Dominion Road, and slowly the sky got lighter. My school bag was hurting my shoulder, and I was trying to remember the way the bus went from the time when I had a ticket. In the end I got to the school, but it took a long long time and I was late, and the teacher at the gate took my name and I had a detention. That was the first time I ever had one. My class teacher Mrs Price asked me why I was late. I didn’t like to tell her my Aunty didn’t have any money for the bus, so I said I slept in. Mrs Price asked me how I was getting on here, and she seemed a bit worried. At lunchtime she brought a fifth-form girl called Moana who was from my country to see me. Moana and I talked in our language. She doesn’t come from my island, but I knew some cousins of hers. I enjoyed talking to Moana, but it made me sad because I began thinking about home and all the people I knew.
When I told Moana about walking to school, she took me to the school library and showed me a street map. We saw that there was a much shorter way for me to come to school, I don’t have to follow the bus route. Moana asked me if I would like to come to her place one day, but I saw on the map that she lives at Te Atatu, too far away from my place.
I walked home that quicker way that I found on the map, but because of my detention I didn’t get home until six o’clock. I am very tired tonight, I can’t write any more.
Aunty gave me two dollars this morning. I had to decide if I will spend it on the bus fare or some lunch. There was only fried bananas for breakfast because Aunty doesn’t get paid until tomorrow, so I decided to walk to school and buy my lunch. At the end of one street there was a bridge over the motorway that was just for pedestrians. I stopped and looked down at the motorway. All those cars! It was like a great river running into the city. Then it started to rain. It rained and rained, very heavy, like it does at home, but very cold. I don’t have a coat or jacket, so I got wet through, on my hair, down my neck, on my legs, in my shoes. I kept on walking towards school, and getting wetter and wetter and colder and colder. Then I saw a clock on a building that said five minutes to nine. That was too late for school so I turned round and walked home again, and I was so cold I had to get into bed to keep warm. I didn’t get up until Marlene came home from school.
Aunty is working daytime at the factory now, so she told Marlene and me to stay home from school and do the shopping. We walked to the supermarket and after we had done the shopping there was some money left over. We were very hungry, so I got us some Kentucky Fried Chicken for lunch. It was so good! Marlene and I took the chicken to the park and ate it there. When people went past us, they stared. I knew they were thinking, why aren’t those girls at school? Maybe they would tell the police, so I said to Marlene come on, we ought to get home now. I felt bad about using Aunty’s money for Kentucky Fried Chicken, and I told Marlene not to say we had it. I won’t do that again. I went to bed in the afternoon, I didn’t feel very well. My head aches and I think I’m getting a cold.
I didn’t write in my diary for a few days, because I stayed in bed with a really bad cold. I felt miserable. I’ve missed a lot of school now, and I don’t know how I will catch up. Exams are next month and I’m very worried about them. Always at home I did well in exams, but I can’t here. I lie on my bed and stare at my photos and the trochus shell that Papa gave me. When I put the shell to my ear, I can hear the lagoon whispering to me. The trochus shells are very special to us. Once every year the people from the villages can get the trochus from the lagoon, but only a few for each family, so there will always be more for next year. The shells are polished for the tourists. But Papa polished this trochus just for me, and it is so beautiful with all the different colours, it is like holding a rainbow in my hand. Even the darkness here doesn’t stop the trochus from shining.
I had a very bad day today. When I woke up, I decided I must go to school and catch up my work so I will do well in exams and get a good report to send home to Mama and Papa. So I said to Aunty ‘I’m going back to school, ‘I’m walking but please could I have some money for my lunch? Then Aunty got very mad, and she shouted at me: ‘I’ve got no money left for you! I haven’t even got enough money for my own children! Why did you have to come here anyway?’
I told her I didn’t really want to come, and I’m sorry for all this trouble I am giving her. I said I don’t like it here and I want to go home. Aunty got even angrier and said she didn’t even have enough money for the bus, so how is she going to pay for a plane ticket? She said she didn’t ask me to come here, she only said yes because she couldn’t say no to her family. She said if I want to go home my family should send the money to pay, and I said they couldn’t because they spent all their money sending me here. I felt really miserable then and ran out of the room, crying.
Everything here is money. Money for food, money for buses, money for warm clothes, money for shoes. Back home we only need money for the motorbike and a bit of food from the shop. We get everything from the lagoon and the fields, and we don’t worry about money. But here money makes me frightened, because there isn’t enough, and I feel bad that Aunty has to get more because of me. I don’t know what to do. There is no telephone here to ring, or at home. All I can do is lie on my bed and stare at my photos and hold my trochus shell. No school again today.
Raining again. I didn’t go to school. I did some cleaning in the house and watched some TV There was a knock on the door but I didn’t answer it. The person put a letter in the letter box, and later I went out to get it. It was addressed to Aunty, and I opened it. It said because I hadn’t been to school, my Aunty should visit the school immediately. I put the letter in the rubbish. I don’t want Aunty to get mad again, but I’m worried. I know it’s against the law to not go to school but I can’t go back. I’m too far behind. Perhaps I can leave school and get a job in an office. That would help Aunty with the money.
So much happened today, I never had a day like it in my life. Ta gave me some money for the bus, and told me how to get downtown. I caught the bus and ended up in Queen Street, the first time I have been there. So many grand buildings! It was like a TV programme. I began to walk up Queen Street, but there was a freezing cold wind, and then it started to rain, and felt even colder. I couldn’t stop staring in the shop windows. All those lovely things! In one shop they were selling holidays, and there was a big photograph of home, showing my island! It was a very beautiful picture, the lagoon so blue, and the sea all around so dark, and the whiteness where the waves break on the reef round the lagoon. I wanted to say to people in the street, ‘Look, there’s my island, isn’t it beautiful?’ But all the people were just hurrying past, not stopping, not noticing.
I kept on walking up Queen Street, I was looking for a clothes shop, because I needed a jacket. The wind went right through my clothes, I felt I wasn’t wearing anything at all. I came to a very big shop and went in. There were lots and lots of jackets, but I saw one of the shop people staring at me, so I went back out into the cold and kept on walking. After a while I came to another shop which sold jackets. I was very worried about what I was going to do, but I was so cold and I didn’t really care how wrong it was. I just didn’t want to get caught. I went into the shop and started looking at the jackets. I had a white supermarket bag in my pocket, and I got it out, took a blue jacket and put it in the bag as quickly as I could. My hands were shaking, and I wanted to run, but instead I walked around slowly and pretended to look at some coats, then I walked out. I didn’t stop until I got to the bridge over the motorway. I took out the jacket and saw the price on it – 125 dollars! I put it on. It was so warm! It’s got wool inside and it keeps the rain out and everything. I wore it to just before I got home. Then I put it back in the bag and hid it under my bed.
I couldn’t sleep all last night. It was very bad to take that jacket from the shop. The church says you must not steal, and I can’t forget that. I have heard it all my life. I won’t wear the jacket again. I am too ashamed. Anne Frank did not steal, not even food when she was nearly dead from hunger.
Saturday today. Ta got three videos, all fighting and shooting. I can hear through the wall, and it sounds like a war is going on. At home on Saturday night we used to go across to the big holiday hotel on the little island of Tokoa. We used to sit under the trees and have fruit drinks, and watch the dancing for the tourists. It was beautiful there, and I loved the dancing and the music. I want to dance at Tokoa when I am older. I decided what to do about the jacket. On Monday I will take it back to the shop.
So much happened today. I will have to write it down very carefully to make sure I don’t miss anything. When I woke up I put the jacket in my school bag and told my Aunty I’m going to school. I walked into town and waited until it was after nine o’clock, then I walked to the shop. There weren’t many people inside, and I went over to where the jackets were and quickly started to take the jacket out of my bag. But as I did it, I looked up and saw a lady with grey hair watching me from the other side of some dresses. She saw what I was doing and came over.
‘What are you doing? Did you take this?’ she said. Her voice was very cross. I couldn’t explain to her that I was bringing it back because I had taken it before. I thought she wouldn’t believe me. She said, ‘Come with me,’ and she took my arm and we went over to the back of the shop. I started to cry.
We went into an office, and there was a man in there sitting at a desk. He was a young man in a suit. The lady told him she had found me taking the jacket, and the man said, ‘Is this right?’ and I just nodded. I couldn’t stop crying, so I couldn’t explain. I will have to go to court, I thought, and my family will be so ashamed of me.
The man told me to sit down and he rang someone on his telephone. ‘It’s a shoplifter,’ he said. Then the man asked me my name and my address and my school, and I told him those things.
After a bit a police lady came in, and the shop lady went out. The police lady was young and pretty, with dark hair. She sat down and asked me questions in a kind voice, and it was easier to talk to her than those other ones. I told her all about the jacket and what I did.
She said to the man, ‘I think she’s telling the truth, and I think we should talk to someone from the school first.’
The man looked cross, but he said, ‘All right, I have to agree. This is unusual.’
‘Very unusual,’ the police lady said. ‘I never heard of a shoplifter who took back what she stole.’ She smiled at me, and asked, ‘Who would you like us to talk to from school?’ When Mrs Price came in, she looked just as usual, not worried or anything. But I started crying again because I was so ashamed, and she sat down next to me and said, ‘Don’t worry, Tuaine, everything will be all right.’
Then she and the police lady talked, and they seemed really friendly to each other. I don’t think the shop manager liked that and he still looked angry. Mrs Price asked me why I hadn’t been to school. She has got grey hair, but her face is young and she talks in a very kind way. I told her about the money, and Aunty and my uncle and how he was killed. And about the exams and how I was worried about them, and how I got cold when I went out and how I took the jacket. I said I was very ashamed for what I did.
When my story was finished, Mrs Price looked at the police lady, and then they both looked at the manager. The police lady said, ‘The jacket has been returned, Mr Jackson, and I really don’t think this girl is a thief.’ The manager didn’t look at her, but he nodded his head.
I said to him, ‘I’m very sorry I took your jacket. I will never do it again.’ He stood up and nodded again, and Mrs Price said, ‘I’ll take you home now, Tuaine.’
Mrs Price and I sat in her car outside my house. She talked slowly and I felt she was thinking deeply about everything she was saying.
She said, ‘We can give you extra lessons at school to help you catch up. And I’ll find out if your Aunty can get some money from the government, I’m sure she can. That will help with the clothes problem…’
Then Mrs Price stopped, and she looked at me for a long time without speaking. She has very clear grey eyes, very kind and understanding, and her eyes seemed to see a long way into me.
‘Or,’ she said in a slow voice, ‘would you just like us to arrange for you to go home?’
I looked back into those grey, kind eyes. The way she said it, I knew it was really possible. Tears came back into my eyes. Through them I saw a house, and faces, and the lagoon, shining and blue.
‘I would like to go home,’ I said.
– THE END –
Hope you have enjoyed the reading!
Where Is Crystal?
The man in front of me was tall and strong, with thick dark hair. He sat in an expensive chair behind an expensive desk, and looked at me with cold grey eyes. He didn’t have time to smile.
‘OK, Marlowe,’ he said. ‘So you’re a private detective. One of the best in Los Angeles, I hear. I have a job for you. I want you to find my wife. Think you can do that?’
I sat back in my chair and lit a cigarette slowly.
‘Yes, Mr Kingsley,’ I said. ‘I think I can do that.’
‘Twenty-five dollars a day. Half a dollar a mile for my car. And a hundred in my hand now, before I do anything.’
He looked at me, and I looked back at him and waited.
Then he smiled. ‘OK, Marlowe, you’ve got the job. But don’t talk about it to the police. I have an important job here.’ He looked round his quiet, expensive office. The hot July sun didn’t get into this room. ‘I want to stay in this job, and I can’t have any trouble with the police.’
‘Is your wife in trouble?’ I asked.
‘I don’t know. Perhaps. She sometimes does very stupid things, and she has dangerous friends.’
He gave me a drink and told me the story. ‘I have a house in the mountains, near Puma Point. Crystal went up there in May. She often meets her men friends up there.’ He looked at me. ‘She has a lot of men friends… you understand? But there was an important dinner down here on June 12th, and Crystal didn’t come back for it.’
‘So what did you do?’
‘Nothing. Because of this.’ He gave me a letter and I read it.
El Paso, 14th June
I’m leaving you and going to Mexico. I’m going to marry Chris Lavery. Good luck and goodbye. Crystal.
‘I wasn’t very unhappy about that,’ Kingsley said. ‘She can have him, and he can have her. Then two weeks later I heard from the Prescott Hotel in San Bernardino. Crystal’s car was there and they wanted money for it. But yesterday I met Lavery, here in town. He didn’t know anything about Crystal, and he last saw her two months ago. So where is she? What happened to her?’
I thought about it for a minute or two, and then I asked him some questions. We talked for about half an hour. Kingsley gave me a photo of his wife with Chris Lavery – it was a good picture of Lavery, but not very good of the lady.
I finished my drink and stood up. ‘OK, Mr Kingsley, I’m going to talk to Lavery, and then go up to your house in the mountains.’
‘My house is at Little Fawn Lake,’ he told me. ‘A man works for me up there – Bill Chess is his name. And the girl at the telephone desk outside can help you. She knows a lot of my wife’s friends. Talk to her. And you can phone me any time – day or night.’ Outside Kingsley’s office I looked at the girl at the telephone desk. She was small and pretty, with short red hair and blue eyes. I like redheads. I gave her my best smile.
‘Hi, blue eyes,’ I said. ‘Your boss says you know a lot of people. Tell me about Chris Lavery.’
‘Chris Lavery? What do you want to know?’
‘Anything. Do you like him?’
‘Well,’ she said, ‘he has a beautiful body.’
‘And all the girls like a man with a beautiful body, eh?’
She laughed. ‘Perhaps. But I know nicer men than Chris Lavery. He knows too many women.’
We talked for about ten minutes. Kingsley was right. Redhead knew a lot of people and she liked talking. Perhaps her job wasn’t very interesting. I sat on her desk and listened, and smiled into her blue eyes. She smiled back.
Then I stood up. ‘Well, I must go. See you again, blue eyes.’ Redhead laughed happily. ‘Any time, Mr Marlowe.’
I started with Lavery. He was at home, at 623 Altair Street, down in Bay City. He didn’t want to talk to me, but nobody wants to talk to private detectives.
‘No,’ he told me angrily. ‘I didn’t go to El Paso with Crystal Kingsley. OK, so we sleep together. But I don’t want to marry her. She’s very rich, and money is nice, but Crystal’s a difficult lady. I last saw her about two months ago.’
I sat and watched him. ‘So why did she write that letter from El Paso?’
‘Don’t know. She likes playing games – stupid games.’
It wasn’t a very good story, and he knew it. I asked him some more questions, but his story stayed the same. I went out and sat in my car outside his house. I thought about Lavery. Perhaps he went away with Mrs Kingsley, and then they had a fight. But where did Mrs Kingsley go after that?
A big black Cadillac drove up and stopped at the house across the street. A thin man with a black doctor’s bag got out and went into the house. I looked at the name on the door – Dr Albert S. Almore. Doctors know a lot about people. Perhaps this one knew Lavery. I saw Dr Almore at the window. He watched me carefully, and his face was angry and afraid. Then he sat down and made a telephone call, but he watched me all the time.
Five minutes later a green car came along and stopped at the doctor’s house. The driver walked across the road to my car.
‘Waiting for somebody?’ he asked.
‘I don’t know,’ I said. ‘Am I?’
‘Don’t get clever with me,’ he said coldly. ‘I’m Detective Degarmo, Bay City Police. Why are you watching Dr Almore’s house?
I looked out of my car window at him. He was a big man with a square face and very blue eyes.
‘What’s all this about?’ I asked. ‘I don’t know Dr Almore, and I’m not interested in him. I’m visiting a friend. What’s the doctor afraid of?’
‘I ask the questions, not you,’ he said. ‘Go on – get out of here. Move!’ He walked away and went into Dr Almore’s house.
Back in Los Angeles, I phoned Mr Kingsley and asked him about Dr Albert S. Almore.
‘I don’t know him, but he was Crystals doctor for a time,’ he told me. ‘His wife died a year and a half ago – she killed herself. It was very sad.’
I got into my car again and started for the mountains. Dr Almore was afraid of something, but what?
The Lady in the Lake
I drove through the hot afternoon to San Bernardino, then up into the mountains. Past the village of Puma Point I took the road up to Little Fawn Lake. The road was slow and difficult through the mountains, and soon there were no more houses or people.
When I got to the lake, I stopped at the nearest house and got out. A man came out and walked across to me. He was a heavy man, not very tall, and he had a hard, city face.
‘Bill Chess?’ I asked.
‘I want to look at Mr Kingsley’s house,’ I said. ‘I have a letter for you from him.’
He read the letter carefully, and then I asked him some questions about the house. He was happy to talk to me.
‘I don’t see many people up here,’ he said. He looked at the blue sky and the mountains, and his eyes were sad. ‘No friends. No wife. Nothing.’
I got a bottle of whisky from my car, and we sat together in the evening sun and drank. I’m a good listener.
‘No wife,’ Bill Chess said again. He looked into his glass of whisky. ‘She left me. She left me a month ago. The 12th of June.’
I gave him some more whisky and sat quietly. June 12th – the day when Mrs Kingsley didn’t go back to Los Angeles for the dinner.
‘Tell me about it,’ I said quietly.
He drank his whisky quickly. It was not his first drink that day. ‘I met Muriel a year and three months ago,’ he said slowly. ‘We married three weeks later. I loved her a lot, but… well, I was stupid. Here I am – I’ve got a good job, a pretty little wife, so what do I do?’ He looked across the lake at the Kingsleys’ house. ‘I get into bed with that Kingsley cat over there. OK, she’s as pretty as Muriel – the same long yellow hair, same eyes, same nice little body – but she’s nothing to me. But Muriel knows all about it. So we had a fight, and that night she left me. I went out, and when I got home, there was a letter on the table. “Goodbye, Bill,” she says, “I don’t want to live with you after this.”‘
He finished his whisky. ‘I didn’t see the Kingsley woman again. She went down the mountain that same night. And not a word from Muriel now for a month.’ He turned and looked at me. ‘It’s an old story,’ he said, ‘but thanks for listening.’
I put the whisky bottle back in the car, and together we walked round the lake to the Kingsleys’ house. I looked round the house, but there was nothing interesting for me there.
‘Perhaps Mrs Kingsley went away with your wife,’ I said to Bill Chess.
He thought about it for a minute. ‘No,’ he said. ‘Muriel never liked that Kingsley cat.’
We walked on round the lake. There were only two other houses and there was nobody in them. It was quiet and clean and beautiful by that lake, away from the hot, dirty city. We stopped by an old boat and looked down into the water at the fish.
Suddenly Bill Chess caught my arm. ‘Look!’ he said. ‘Look down there!’ His hand was heavy on my arm, and his face was white.
I looked, and about ten feet below the water I saw something yellow. Something long and yellow. It moved slowly through the water. A woman’s hair.
I started to say something, but Bill Chess jumped into the lake and swam down under the water. He pulled and pushed, and quickly came up again through the water. The body followed him slowly. A body in red trousers and a black jacket. A body with a grey-white face, without eyes, without mouth, just long yellow hair. It was not a pretty thing – after a month in the water.
‘Muriel!’ said Bill Chess. Suddenly he was an old, old man. He sat there by the lake with his head in his hands. ‘It’s Muriel!’ he said, again and again.
Down in Puma Point village, the police station was just a one-room little house. The name on the door said, ‘JIM PATTON – POLICE.’ I went in.
Jim Patton was a big slow man, with a big round face and a big slow smile. He spoke slowly and he thought slowly, but his eyes weren’t stupid. I liked everything about him.
I lit a cigarette and told him about the dead woman in Little Fawn Lake.
‘Bill Chess’s wife – Muriel,’ I said. ‘She and Bill had a fight a month ago, then she left him. She wrote him a letter – a goodbye letter, or a suicide letter. I don’t know.’
Jim Patton looked at me. ‘OK,’ he said slowly. ‘Let’s go and talk to Bill. And who are you, son?’
‘Marlowe. I’m a private detective from LA. I’m working for Mr Kingsley. He wants me to find his wife.’
We drove up to the lake with the doctor and the police boys in the back of the car.
Bill Chess was a very unhappy man. ‘You think that I murdered Muriel?’ he said angrily to Patton.
‘Perhaps you did, and perhaps you didn’t,’ said Patton sadly. ‘But I must take you down to the police station, Bill. There’s going to be a lot of questions.’
Al to Mildred
I had dinner at the hotel in Puma Point. When I finished, a girl came up to my table. I didn’t know her.
She smiled at me. ‘Can I sit with you for a minute, Mr Marlowe?’ she asked.
I got out my cigarettes. ‘Word gets round fast in small villages,’ I said. ‘What do you want to talk about?’
She smiled again. ‘About Bill Chess. Do you think he murdered Muriel?’
‘I don’t know. Perhaps. But I’m not interested in Bill or Muriel Chess.’
‘No?’ The girl put out her cigarette. ‘Listen to this, then. There was a Los Angeles policeman – De Soto – up here about six weeks ago. Big man with a square face. Said he wanted to find a woman with the name Mildred Haviland. He had a photograph with him. We thought the photo was Muriel Chess. OK, the hair was red-brown, but a woman can easily change the colour of her hair. Nobody here liked this De Soto, so we didn’t tell him anything. What do you think about that?’
I lit another cigarette. ‘But I don’t know a Mildred Haviland. And I never heard of Muriel Chess before today.’
‘Bill Chess isn’t a bad man,’ she said quietly. ‘We like him, and we don’t think he’s a murderer.’
When she left, I found a telephone and called Derace Kingsley. His answers to my questions didn’t help. No, he didn’t know Muriel Chess very well. Yes, his wife was friendly with Muriel. No, he didn’t know a woman called Mildred Haviland.
It was dark when I got back to Bill Chess’s house by Little Fawn Lake. I went in quietly through a back window, and looked round the house very carefully. Why was I interested in Bill Chess’s wife? I didn’t know, but she knew Mrs Kingsley, she lived in the same place, and she ‘went away’ on the same day. Perhaps that was important, and perhaps it wasn’t.
In the kitchen I looked in all the cupboards and through the tins of food. And in the tin of sugar I found a small, very pretty watch inside some paper. On the back of the watch there were some words: Al to Mildred. With all my love.
Al to Mildred. Al somebody to Mildred Haviland. Mildred Haviland was Muriel Chess. Muriel Chess was dead – two weeks after a policeman called De Soto came to Puma Point with her photograph. I stood there and thought about it. Mrs Kingsley didn’t come in to this story.
I drove back down to Puma Point and went in to Jim Patton’s office. I put the little watch on his desk.
‘I looked round Bill Chess’s house,’ I said, ‘and I found this in a tin of sugar.’
Jim Patton looked at me sadly. ‘Are you going to give me trouble, son? I looked round the house and didn’t find anything. But your eyes are younger than mine.’ He looked carefully at the little watch. ‘So what do you think about this?’ he asked me.
‘I don’t think Bill Chess murdered his wife. I don’t think he knew she had another name. But somebody from her past looked for her and found her. With a new name and a new husband. He didn’t like that, and so he murdered her.’
Jim Patton thought about it. ‘Mmm,’ he said slowly. ‘I like it. The story begins well, but how does it finish?’
‘Ask me tomorrow,’ I said.
Jim Patton laughed. ‘You city detectives are too fast for us slow mountain people. Goodnight, son.’
At about eleven that night I drove into San Bernardino and found the Prescott Hotel. The garage boy was happy to talk to me – when he had some of my dollars in his dirty hand. He looked at the photo of Crystal Kingsley and Chris Lavery.
‘Yeah, I remember the man,’ he said. ‘He came up to the woman at the hotel desk. But this photo’s not very good of the woman. A woman with the name Mrs Kingsley left her car here on the evening of June the 12th, and took a taxi to the station that night, with the man. She wore a black-and-white dress, with a black-and-white hat, and she was small and pretty with long yellow hair. Perhaps she was the woman in this photo, but I don’t know.’
I thanked him and gave him two more dollars for luck.
It was too hot in San Bernardino, so I got back in my car and drove home to Hollywood. I got in at a quarter to three in the morning. I had a bath, went to bed and slept well.
A Pretty Lady’s Gun
In the morning I drank a lot of black coffee and made some phone calls. A good friend of mine worked in the city police offices. There was no detective with the name of De Soto in the city of Los Angeles, he told me. I phoned Kingsley’s office, said hello to Redhead, and then told Kingsley about Lavery and the Prescott Hotel.
‘What are you going to do now?’ he asked me.
‘Go and talk to Lavery again,’ I said. ‘He met your wife in San Bernardino on June 12th, so I want a better story from him today.’
I drove down to Bay City and stopped the car up the street from Lavery’s house. I smoked a cigarette and though about Lavery. Then I saw a woman at Lavery’s front door. She came out, closed the door quietly behind her and walked away down the street. She wore dark glasses, a brown coat and a light-blue hat. I didn’t see her face, but her hair was dark brown and she had very nice legs. I like legs. I watched them all down the street.
Lavery’s front door was shut, but I gave it a little push with my finger, and it opened. I went in and called his name, but there was no answer. I walked round the house and had a look in his bedroom. There was a very big bed in there, but Lavery wasn’t in it. I looked into some of the cupboards – shoes, jackets, shirts, trousers… and a woman’s dress. An expensive black-and-white dress, with a nice little black-and-white hat. I closed the cupboard quietly, and opened another door at the back of the room. Inside was a bathroom, and Lavery was at home.
He was in the bath, and he was very, very dead. There was a gun on the floor – a small, pretty lady’s gun, but it can kill as well as any other gun. I looked round the bathroom. There wasn’t a fight – Lavery knew his killer. She opened the door, came in and shot him three or four times. Not Lavery’s lucky day.
I took the little gun with me and went out to my car. The street was quiet and sunny, no police cars, no policemen. Only Marlowe, finding another dead body. Murder-a-day Marlowe, they call him. I got into my car and drove away from there fast.
In his quiet, expensive office Derace Kingsley listened to me with a white face.
‘Did your wife have a gun?’ I asked.
‘Is this it?’ I showed him the gun from the floor in Lavery’s bathroom.
He looked at it, and then at me. ‘I don’t know. Perhaps. But Crystal isn’t a murderer – she didn’t kill Lavery!’
‘Why not? The police are going to think she did. She was with Lavery in San Bernardino. They didn’t go to Mexico. Then perhaps one day she sees him with another woman. So she gets angry, and goes round to his house. She leaves the gun on the floor, her dress in the cupboard… The police are going to love it.’ I stood up and looked down at him. ‘I must take the gun back now and call the police. I can’t cover up a murder.’
Kingsley said nothing and put his head in his hands. Then he looked up at me. ‘Listen, Marlowe,’ he said quietly. ‘You’re working for me, right? I know Crystal didn’t kill Lavery! What about that woman in the blue hat? Who was she? Lavery knew a lot of women. Go and find the murderer. Show the police that Crystal didn’t kill Lavery. Do that, and there’s five hundred dollars for you.’
‘OK, Mr Kingsley,’ I said. ‘But the job gets more difficult every day.’
When I went out, the redhead at the telephone desk called to me. ‘Mr Marlowe,’ she said quickly, ‘yesterday you wanted to know about Dr Almore. Mr Kingsley told me. Well, I talked to some friends last night.’
I went over and sat on her desk. ‘OK, blue eyes, tell me.’
‘Some rich women drink a lot, and take drugs. They think it’s exciting,’ she began. ‘Sometimes they take too much and get ill. Well, people say that Dr Almore helps these women. He gives them different drugs, they get better… and Dr Almore gets a lot of money. Florence Almore, his wife, took drugs, too. She wasn’t a very nice woman. One night, a year and a half ago, she came home ill. Dr Almore’s office nurse put her to bed, but later that night Mrs Almore walked down to the garage. Chris Lavery found the body. When he came home, he heard the sound of a car in the Almore’s garage. He opened the door and found her dead on the floor. Dr Almore was out. The police say it was suicide. But some people say it was murder. Florence Almore’s parents thought it was murder.’
She looked up at me with her big blue eyes. ‘Does that help you, Mr Marlowe?’
‘Yes,’ I said slowly, ‘I think it does.’ I gave her a big smile. ‘You and I must have dinner together some time, blue eyes.’
I drove back to Altair Street, Bay City. I put the gun back on Lavery’s bathroom floor and called the police. They came fast, hard men with hard, cold eyes. I knew one of them – Detective Degarmo, the big man with a square face and very blue eyes. His boss was an angry little man called Webber. I sat in one of Lavery’s chairs and answered their questions. I told them all about Kingsley, his wife, Bill Chess and Muriel, the black-and-white dress. All the time Degarmo watched me with cold eyes.
Then the police doctor arrived. Webber turned to Degarmo. ‘OK, Al, you stay here with Marlowe. I’m going to look at the body with the doctor.’
He went out. I looked at Degarmo.
‘How’s Dr Almore this morning?’ I said. ‘What’s he afraid of today?’
‘You said you didn’t know Almore.’ Degarmo’s eyes were angry.
‘I didn’t yesterday. But today I know a lot of things. Chris Lavery knew Mrs Almore, and he found her dead body. Perhaps he knew it wasn’t suicide. Perhaps he knew that Dr Almore was the murderer, and that there was a police cover-up.’
Degarmo stood up and walked over to me. ‘Say that again,’ he said angrily.
I said it again.
He hit me very hard across the face with his open hand. He didn’t break my nose, but that was because I have a very strong nose. I looked at him and said nothing.
He spoke through his teeth at me. ‘I don’t like private detectives. Get out of here, fast! And don’t make trouble!’
A Little Dance
When I got back to my flat, it was early evening. I washed my face and had a drink. Webber thought that Crystal Kingsley killed Lavery. I thought that was too easy. I phoned Redhead. ‘Where do Florence Almore’s parents live?’ I asked her. She told me, and I went out to my car again.
Mr and Mrs Grayson were old and grey. They had tired grey faces and grey smiles. Very sad people. They listened to me quietly.
‘I’m interested in Dr Almore because his house is across the road from Chris Lavery’s,’ I said. ‘You see, somebody shot Lavery this morning in his bathroom. Perhaps it was Dr Almore. You think he murdered your daughter a year and a half ago, right?’
‘Yes,’ said Mr Grayson. ‘We know he killed her.’
‘Why do you think that? And how do you know?’ I asked quietly.
‘Florence wasn’t a very good wife, or daughter,’ Mr Grayson said sadly. ‘But she found Almore and his office nurse in bed together, and she wanted to make trouble for Almore. He didn’t like that. Difficult for his job. So one night he killed her with drugs. He always had a lot of dangerous drugs in the house. It was easy for him. There was a police cover-up about it, we know that, too.’
‘I heard that Almore’s nurse put Mrs Almore to bed that night,’ I said. ‘Was that the same nurse?’
‘Yes, it was,’ said Mrs Grayson. ‘We never saw the girl. But she had a pretty name. What was it, now? Just give me a minute.’
We gave her a minute. ‘Mildred something,’ she said.
I didn’t move. ‘Mildred Haviland, perhaps?’ I said quietly.
Mrs Grayson smiled. ‘Yes, that’s right. Mildred Haviland.’
At Bay City police station I asked at the desk for Webber. He didn’t want to see me, but I said it was important. He took me into his office and we sat down.
‘I want to talk about the Florence Almore suicide,’ I said.
‘Why?’ asked Webber. ‘That happened a year and a half ago. I’m working on the Lavery murder now. That happened today.’
‘But I think Lavery is the key to the story,’ I said. ‘Listen, One: Muriel Chess’s dead body came up in Little Fawn Lake yesterday. Two: I think Muriel Chess was Mildred Haviland. Three: Mildred Haviland was Dr Almore’s office nurse a year and a half ago. Four: Mildred Haviland put Mrs Almore to bed on the night when she died. Was it suicide or murder? But Mildred Haviland left town soon after. Why was that? Five: Mildred Haviland then married and lived with Bill Chess at Little Fawn Lake Six: Bill Chess worked for Mr Kingsley up at the lake. Seven: Kingsley’s wife sometimes slept in the same bed as Chris Lavery. Eight: Chris Lavery found Mrs Almore’s dead body a year and a half ago.’
‘I don’t understand,’ said Webber slowly.
‘I don’t understand all the story,’ I said. ‘I don’t understand why, or how. But it’s the same story. The same names go round and round in a little dance.’ I lit a cigarette and looked at Webber. ‘And Detective Degarmo doesn’t like any questions about the Almores. He gets very angry. Why? Was there something… wrong about Mrs Almores suicide?’
‘OK,’ said Webber. ‘I wasn’t in this office at the time of the Almore suicide. But there was something… not right. Perhaps somebody did murder Mrs Almore.’
‘And Degarmo worked on the Almore suicide.’
‘And his name is Al. And the writing on Mildred Haviland’s watch says, “Al to Mildred. With all my love.” And a big man with a square face was up at Puma Point six weeks ago with a photo of Mildred Haviland.’
‘OK, Marlowe,’ Webber said tiredly. ‘What do you want?’
‘I want to show that Mrs Kingsley did not murder Lavery. I think Lavery died because he knew something about Dr Almore or Mildred Haviland. And when I show that Mrs Kingsley is not a murderer, I get five hundred dollars from Mr Kingsley.’
Webber smiled. ‘OK,’ he said.
Webber’s face was sad. ‘She was his wife at one time. Six or seven years ago. She gave him a very hard time.’
I sat very, very quietly and looked at him. ‘Mildred Haviland was Degarmo’s wife?’
‘Yes. She’s dangerous, that lady. She eats men for breakfast, but they love it. One smile from her, and men jump out of windows for her. Degarmo loved her then, and he loves her now.’
I got back to my flat at about midnight. When I opened the door, I heard the phone. I walked across the room and answered it. It was Derace Kingsley.
‘I heard from Crystal this evening. I’m coming round to your flat now. Be ready to move.’ The phone went dead.
Kingsley arrived five minutes later. He didn’t want to sit down and he didn’t want a drink. He pulled out a brown envelope and gave it to me.
‘Take this to Crystal,’ he said. ‘She’s waiting for you now, in the Black Cat bar down in Bay City. There’s five hundred dollars in that envelope. She’s in trouble. She knows the police are looking for her. She must get out of town tonight, but she wants money.’
I put the envelope on the table. ‘Not so fast,’ I said. ‘How does she know the police are looking for her? And did she kill Lavery? I’m not going to help a murderer.’
Kingsley’s eyes were very unhappy. ‘I know that’s difficult for you,’ he said quietly. ‘But what can I do? Perhaps she killed Lavery, perhaps she didn’t. I didn’t speak to her on the phone. The girl in my office took the call. Crystal didn’t want to talk to me, and I didn’t want to talk to her. I don’t want to see her again. But she is my wife.’
I walked across to the window and thought for a minute. ‘OK,’ I said. ‘I’m going. I want to hear her story. But I give murderers to the police, OK? Now, how is she going to know me?’
Kingsley smiled for the first time. ‘Thanks, Marlowe,’ he said. ‘Crystal says her hair’s light brown now, and short – not long and yellow. And you can wear my scarf. She knows that.’ He took it off and gave it to me. It was green and yellow and red. The colours hit me in the eye.
At one-fifteen in the morning the Black Cat bar was quiet – only five or six people were at the tables. By the door was a small woman with light-brown hair. She wore a yellow dress and a short grey coat. She saw my scarf first, and then me. We walked out into the street together and stopped by a shop window.
‘Give me the money,’ she said.
‘I want to hear your story.’
‘No story, no money.’
She turned her head away and said nothing for a minute. Then, ‘OK. Come to the Granada Hotel. Room 618. It’s in the next street. Come in ten minutes.’ She walked away down the street. I stood by the window and followed her with my eyes.
Room 618 was a big sitting-room. There was a half-open door at the back, perhaps to the bedroom and bathroom. I sat down and looked at Mrs Kingsley very carefully. I had one, not very good photo of her, but I had a good picture in my head. Crystal Kingsley was young and pretty and not very clever. The woman in front of me was young and pretty – and very, very clever. She gave me a quick, little-girl smile, and I watched her quiet eyes carefully.
‘Give me the money, please,’ she said.
‘The story first,’ I said. ‘You left your car in San Bernardino and you met Lavery there. You sent Kingsley a letter from El Paso. What did you do then?’
‘Why do you want to know?’
‘Do you want the money?’
She looked at me for a minute, then she told me her story. She left Lavery in El Paso, and he went home to Bay City. She didn’t want to stay with him. After that, she moved about. She stayed in hotels, here and there. She wanted to be quiet, to think, she said.
I listened. It was a good story and she told it well. Clever Mrs Kingsley.
‘Before you left Little Fawn Lake,’ I said, ‘did you have a fight with Muriel Chess? About Bill.’
‘Bill Chess? What are you talking about?’
‘Bill says you went to bed with him.’
‘Don’t be stupid! That dirty little man!’
‘Perhaps he is. The police think he’s a murderer, too. Of his wife. We found Muriel’s dead body in the lake. After a month.’
She put a finger between her teeth and watched me carefully. ‘What a sad story,’ she said slowly.
‘But Muriel Chess was Mildred Haviland. And Mildred Haviland was Dr Almore’s office nurse. And Lavery lives across the road from Dr Almore. So you understand that I wanted to talk to you.’
‘I can’t help you about Muriel.’
‘No,’ I said. ‘Oh well, here’s the money from Kingsley.’ I gave her the envelope and sat down again. I watched her eyes and said quietly, ‘That was a very pretty blue hat. Your hair was a darker brown this morning, but those nice legs are the same. I always remember a woman’s legs. I don’t think you saw me in my car outside Lavery’s house this morning.’
She went very quiet. ‘So you think I shot Chris Lavery?’ she said slowly.
‘I don’t think it. I know it.’
‘What are you going to do now?’
‘Give you to the police.’
Suddenly, there was a gun in her hand, and she laughed. Not a nice laugh.
‘Stand up,’ she said.
I stood up, and gave her a weak smile. ‘Detective meets murderer, and murderer shoots detective. Is that it?’ I asked. ‘But you’re not very good with guns. You’re standing too near me.’
She didn’t like that, and her eyes moved angrily. I hit her gun hand hard and kicked her feet at the same time. The gun hit the floor, and I caught her arms behind her back. She was strong, and fought and kicked. Suddenly I heard a new sound, but I had no time to look. I knew that there was a man behind me and that he was a big man. Then something hit me on the back of the head and everything went black.
Little Fawn Lake
When I opened my eyes, I was on my back on the floor. I sat up slowly, and my head went round and round. I closed my eyes again and waited. After two or three minutes I opened them, and began to stand up. It took me a long time. Suddenly I was an old man of ninety-five.
And where was I? I remembered a girl, a girl with light-brown hair and quiet eyes. I looked round the room. She was on the floor by the door to the bedroom. Her eyes were open, but she didn’t see me. She didn’t see anything, and she didn’t say anything. There was a long kitchen knife in her throat, and the light-brown hair and the yellow dress were all red.
Murder-a-day Marlowe, I thought. This was my third dead body, and I wasn’t happy about it. You can find one murdered body, or perhaps two, and walk away. But when you find three bodies in two days, the police start to get very interested in you.
The hotel was very quiet, but suddenly I heard sounds of cars in the street. I went to the window and looked out carefully. Police cars. A lot of them. They stopped outside the hotel.
Quickly I found my coat, Kingsley’s scarf and the envelope of money. I left the room fast and went down at the back of the building. I found the door to the garage under the hotel, opened it quietly and went through. I began to run to my car – but a big hand came out of the dark and caught my arm. And somebody said quietly into my ear, ‘Let’s take a walk, Marlowe.’
I looked round, into the very blue eyes of Detective Degarmo.
We drove away from the hotel and then stopped and talked in my car. Degarmo was in trouble with his boss, Webber, and he didn’t want Webber to find me.
‘What happened, Marlowe? There’s a dead woman up in Room 618. Somebody called the police ten minutes ago.’
I lit a cigarette and told him my story – about the call to Kingsley, my meeting with Mrs Kingsley, the man in the room, the hit on my head.
He looked at me carefully. ‘Did you see this man?’
‘No. He was a big man, but I didn’t see his face. This yellow-and-green scarf was on the floor.’ I showed it to Degarmo. ‘I saw it on Kingsley earlier this evening. Perhaps Kingsley killed her. She made a lot of trouble for him.’ I watched his face.
He thought about it for a minute. ‘OK, I’m interested,’ he said.
He looked at me. ‘I want to find this murderer before Webber finds him. And then perhaps I can get out of trouble. Let’s go and talk to Kingsley, eh? Where does he live?’
But Kingsley was not at home. We found a phone and I called Redhead, but she didn’t know. Then I phoned Policeman Jim Patton up at Puma Point. It was now half past four in the morning. Half an hour later Jim Patton called me back. Yes, he said, there was a light on in Kingsley’s house at Little Fawn Lake and his car was outside.
We drove up into the mountains, stopped, ate some breakfast and drove again. After a long time Degarmo spoke: ‘That dead girl in the lake up there. That was my girl. Mildred. Webber told me last night. I’d like to get my hands on that Bill Chess.’
‘Don’t make more trouble,’ I said. ‘You covered up for Mildred a year and a half ago. When she murdered Dr Almore’s wife.’
He turned his head and looked at me. He laughed, but his eyes were hard and angry.
‘A dangerous lady,’ I said, ‘but you loved her. She put Florence Almore to bed, and gave her a killer drug. When Almore came home, his wife was dead. But you and he covered up for Mildred – Almore, because he was afraid, and you, because you loved her. Am I right?’ The big man didn’t say a word.
‘Then you sent Mildred away. So she went away, and married Bill Chess. But Little Fawn Lake isn’t a very exciting place, and after about a year Mildred wanted to leave. She didn’t have any money, so she wrote to Almore. No address, just send money to Mildred at Puma Point. But that’s a dangerous game. The first time it’s fifty dollars. The next time it’s five hundred dollars. Almore didn’t like that, so he sent you up to Puma Point with a photograph. I think Mildred was a little afraid of you, Degarmo. But you didn’t find her. Right?’
Degarmo looked out of the window. After a minute or two he said, ‘OK. Let’s forget it. It’s all finished now.’
We drove on to Little Fawn Lake. The sun was up now, and the mountains were very beautiful in the early-morning light.
Every Man Jumped
Jim Patton met us on the road near Kingsley’s house. He had a young policeman with him, a boy called Andy. We got out of the car.
‘Hi, Jim,’ I said.
Jim Patton gave me his big friendly smile. ‘How are you, son?’ he said. He looked at Degarmo.
‘This is Detective Degarmo of the Bay City Police,’ I said.
‘Somebody murdered Kingsley’s wife in Bay City last night,’ said Degarmo. ‘I want to talk to him about it.’
‘You think Mr Kingsley killed her?’ Jim Patton asked.
We told him the story, and then the three of us moved up to Kingsley’s house. Degarmo had a gun under his jacket. Patton had a gun, too, but I don’t like carrying guns. They can get you into trouble.
We pushed open the door and went in. Kingsley was in a chair, his eyes closed and a whisky bottle on the table next to him. His face was tired and grey.
Degarmo spoke first. ‘Your wife’s dead, Kingsley. And you left your scarf behind in Room 618. That was stupid.’ He turned to me. ‘Show him the scarf,’ he said.
I got out the yellow, green and red scarf, and put it on a table. Kingsley looked at it, then at me, then at Degarmo.
‘I don’t understand,’ he said. ‘That’s my scarf, but Marlowe wore it when he went down to Bay City. My wife didn’t know him, and-‘
Degarmo made an angry sound and turned to me. ‘You didn’t tell me that,’ he said quickly.
‘You didn’t want to know,’ I said. ‘You wanted Kingsley to be the murderer. That was a nice, easy answer.’ I looked at Kingsley. ‘I only saw your wife in a photograph. But I did see her before last night. She was the woman in the blue hat outside Lavery’s house yesterday morning. I told you. Remember?’
‘I didn’t hear about a woman in a blue hat,’ said Degarmo angrily. ‘So Mrs Kingsley did murder Lavery, then.’
‘No,’ I said. ‘She didn’t murder Lavery. And you know that better than anybody. She didn’t shoot Lavery yesterday morning, because she died a month ago. Crystal Kingsley was the dead woman in Little Fawn Lake. And the woman in the Granada Hotel last night was Mildred Haviland, and Mildred Haviland was Muriel Chess. So Mildred Haviland murdered Chris Lavery yesterday morning, and somebody murdered Mildred last night.’
For a long time nobody spoke. Then Jim Patton said slowly, ‘But Bill Chess thought the woman in the lake was his wife.’
‘After a month in the water?’ I said. ‘The body wore his wife’s clothes and had the same long yellow hair. Everybody thought it was Muriel. Why not?’
‘Finish the story, son,’ Jim Patton said. He watched Degarmo all the time. He didn’t look at Kingsley.
So I told them. They all listened to me very carefully. Degarmo’s face was white and his eyes were hard and cold. I told them about Florence Almore’s murder a year and a half ago, and about the police cover-up. ‘Mildred was a very dangerous lady,’ I said. ‘After the first murder, the next murder is easy. She wanted to leave Little Fawn Lake, and she wanted money. Almore didn’t give her any money. But Crystal Kingsley was rich, and Mildred found her in bed with her man, Bill. Mildred didn’t like that. So she murdered Mrs Kingsley and put her body in the lake. Then she pretended to be Mrs Kingsley. She took her money, her clothes and her car, and went down to San Bernardino. There she met trouble – Chris Lavery. Lavery knew that she was Muriel Chess, and not Crystal Kingsley. But Mildred was a clever girl. When she said “jump”, every man jumped for her. So she took Lavery away with her, and wrote to Kingsley from El Paso.’
I stopped. Nobody said anything. Nobody moved. Kingsley looked at the floor, Patton looked at Degarmo, and Degarmo looked at nothing. I lit a cigarette. ‘But then Lavery went home to Bay City. She stayed near him, because he was dangerous to her. He knew that she wasn’t Crystal Kingsley. Then I began to ask questions about Mrs Kingsley, and that was the finish for Lavery. Mildred went down to his house and shot him in the bathroom.’
I stopped again, and Patton said slowly, ‘So who killed Mildred, son? Do we know that, too?’
The room was very quiet. ‘Let’s say that it was a very unhappy man. He loved Mildred, he helped her many times, but it wasn’t easy for him. He wanted to stop the murders – three were too many. But he didn’t want everybody to know her story. Let’s say it was Degarmo.’
Degarmo moved away from the window, and his gun was in his hand. ‘That’s a very interesting story, Marlowe.’ He smiled, but not with his eyes. ‘How did I find her, then?’
‘I think Almore saw her outside Lavery’s house one day. He told you, then you followed her to the Granada Hotel. Easy for a detective.’ ‘Yeah,’ Degarmo said. He began to move to the door. ‘Well, I’m leaving now. And no fat old policeman is going stop me.’
‘Don’t do it, son,’ Jim Patton said to him quietly.
Degarmo laughed, and looked at the gun in his right hand. Patton didn’t move. But his gun spoke for him, and Degarmo’s gun flew out of his hand and hit the floor. Degarmo turned, and ran to the door.
We went to the window and watched. ‘I can’t shoot a man in the back,’ Patton said sadly. ‘He’s going to take Andy’s car. But he can’t get out of these mountains. We can stop all the roads.’
Degarmo ran to Andy’s car, got in and drove away fast. I turned and looked at Kingsley. He stood up, got a new bottle of whisky from the cupboard, went into the bedroom and closed the door. Patton and I went quietly out of the house.
We drove down to Puma Point. On the road outside the village there were some cars and a lot of people. We stopped and got out. A man came over to us.
‘There’s a car down there, Jim,’ he said. ‘The man drove too fast and went off the road down the mountain. They’re pulling him out now.’
We went and looked. A hundred feet down the mountain was Andy’s little red car. The men down there carefully pulled something big and heavy out of the car.
It was the dead body of a man.
– THE END –
Hope you have enjoyed the reading!
Where am I?
I don’t know. I’m in a beautiful room in an old house. There’s a bed, an expensive chair, and a beautiful table. I can’t see anything from the window, only a green field. The sun is shining on the field. I can hear music, quiet music. It’s Mozart.
Why am I here?
I don’t know. My head is hurting. I can’t open the door, and I can’t open the window. I’m wearing grey trousers and a grey shirt. I’m not wearing any shoes. I’m hungry and I’m thirsty. There isn’t any food in the room. There isn’t a drink either. There’s a pen and some paper on the table. There isn’t anything on the paper.
Who am I?
I can’t remember. I can’t remember my name. I can’t remember anything. My head hurts a lot. I’m very tired. I’m going to sleep.
It’s morning. I’m on the bed. I’m wearing the grey clothes. I’m very hungry and very thirsty. I can hear music again, it’s the Mozart again. My head doesn’t hurt now, but I can’t remember my name. I can’t remember anything. I can hear someone. There’s someone outside the room. The door’s opening …
He’s in the room. He’s wearing black trousers and a black shirt. I don’t know him.
Man: Hello. How’s your head?
Me: My head? It’s OK. It doesn’t hurt now.
Me: Where am I?
Man: You don’t know?
Man: Are you thirsty?
Me: Yes, I’m hungry and thirsty.
Man: Drink this.
He’s got a glass in his hand. I drink from the glass… I’m very tired again. I’m going to sleep… What time is it?
My head’s hurting again. I’m on the bed, and the room is dark. I can’t hear music now. I’m going to turn on the light.
Now I can see. There’s a glass on the table. I’m thirsty again… I’m going to drink from the glass… Sleep! I’m going to sl…
Man: Wake up!
Me: What? My head …
Man: I’m going to ask you some questions. Who are you?
Me: I don’t know.
Man: What’s your name?
Me: I don’t know.
Man: I’m going to ask you again. What’s your name?
Me: I can’t tell you. I don’t know.
Man: Where are you from?
Me: I don’t know…
Man: Drink this.
Me: No, I can’t, there’s…
Man: You are going to drink it. Do you understand?
There’s a gun in his hand. I drink from the glass… The room is dark…
I’m awake again. It’s quiet outside. The sun is shining outside the window. There’s food and water on the table. I’m not tired now, and my head’s OK.
Someone’s coming. The door opens. It’s the man in black clothes.
Man: Do you want to talk now?
Me: What about?
Man: OK, who are you?
Me: Who are you?
Man: I’m asking the questions. Why are you here?
Me: You tell me.
Then he hits me. He hits me across the face.
Man: We’re going to start again. Who are you?
Me: I can’t remember. Don’t hit me…
But he does. Then he opens the door, and he goes. There’s a bump on the back of my head. It doesn’t hurt now, but my face hurts. A bump … I can remember something.
I can remember. I’m in a field. I’m lying under a tree. I’ve got some binoculars in my hand. I’m watching a house. It’s a beautiful old house. Then there’s a noise behind me. It’s a man with a dog, a big dog. The man’s holding a gun. Then the man’s hitting me. He’s hitting me on the head with the gun. Then everything’s going dark. I’ve got a bump on my head now.
Why? Why am I in that field? Who am I? Am I a policeman? Am I a spy? And who is the man? Is he a policeman? Is he a spy? Or is he a criminal? I don’t know. But now I can remember something. Tomorrow. Tomorrow I’m going to remember some more.
No more time
The next day. The man with black clothes is in room again.
Man: Well, how are you today?
Me: I’m OK.
Man: Can you remember anything?
Me: Yes, a little.
Man: Who are you working for?
Me: I don’t know.
Man: Why are you watching us?
Me: I don’t know. Who are you? Tell me. Then… maybe I can remember.
Man: Very clever. I can’t tell you anything.
He goes out.
I remember again… I’m watching the house. It’s evening. I’m wearing a blue coat. There are lights in the house. A car’s going to the house. It’s a white Jaguar. I’m watching carefully. I can see two people. They’ve got a box. Then… then there’s the noise behind me and the bump on the head.
It’s dark. I can hear voices outside the room.
Woman: Well, is he going to talk?
Man: Maybe. He can’t remember anything, because of the bump on his head.
Woman: What about the drinks?
Man: No. The drinks aren’t helping us.
Woman: OK. Two clays more. Then… that’s it. We haven’t got any more time. How much does he know? That’s the important thing.
Out of the locked room
I hear a key. They’re putting a key into the lock.
They’re turning the key. They’re locking the door. They’re walking away. But the key is in the lock! Two days more… and that’s it! What are they going to do? I can’t stay here. The key’s in the lock.
I’ve got some paper from the table. Now… put the paper on the floor. Push the paper under the door. The paper’s under the door. Now… take the pen. Push the pen into the lock. Yes, there’s the key. It is in the lock. Push the key with the pen. Yes! The key is falling from the lock! Is it on the paper? I don’t know. Pull the paper under the door. Pull it slowly and carefully. Very slowly and very carefully. It’s coming under the door, and there’s the key. It’s on the paper! I’ve got the key. I can open the door. It’s quiet outside. I’m opening the door very quietly and carefully. There’s a corridor. It’s empty.
I’m going out. Now, I’m going to lock the door again, and take the key.
I’m walking along the corridor. It’s a beautiful house. I can hear the music again, the Mozart. There are a lot of doors. At the end I can see stairs. I can hear people downstairs. I can’t go down. I open some doors. There are bedrooms. I open four or five doors, then I open another door. The room is full of paintings! Famous paintings, Picassos, Rembrandts, Van Goghs. They’re beautiful. They’re on the floor. There are millions of pounds in this room! Millions! I look at a Picasso. It’s the famous stolen Picasso from the London Art Gallery. Who are they? They’re art thieves. But who am I? I close the door. How can I get out of this house? They have got guns. I remember! One of the bedrooms! There’s a telephone. I can telephone the police. I walk quickly along the corridor and open the door. The telephone is next to the bed. The number is on the telephone, Bradstreet 35972. I take the telephone carefully. 999… I’m waiting.
Operator: Police, fire or ambulance?
Me: Police… quickly.
Police: Police. What’s your number?
Me: Bradstreet 35972… Quickly! I’m a prisoner here. I can’t get out. The house is full of stolen paintings. Come quickly!
Police: What’s your name?
Me: Come quickly. This is Bradstreet 35972. I can’t…
Then I hear people in the corridor. I put down the phone. I can hear them outside the locked room.
Woman: Well, open the door, then.
Man: I can’t find the key.
Woman: Come on…
Man: I can’t find it.
Woman: There’s another key in the kitchen. Get it.
Who am I?
Five minutes later. I can hear him again. He’s coming with the key. He’s opening the door.
Man: What? He isn’t here! Where… but the door’s locked.
Woman: Find him… and take your gun. And this time, finish him. Do you understand?
Man: OK, I’m going …
I can hear him. He’s opening doors. Are the police going to come or not? He’s in the next room. Then I hear them! Police cars, a lot of police cars. They’re outside the house.
Woman: It’s the police! What do they want? Don’t take the gun with you!
They’re going downstairs. I can hear voices.
Woman: Good evening, Inspector. What can I do for you?
Inspector: We want to look round the house. We’re looking for some paintings.
Woman: But there’s nothing here. Nothing.
Inspector: We can look, then.
Woman: But why?
Inspector: A telephone call. A telephone call about some paintings.
Woman: Who from?
Inspector: We don’t know.
Woman: You don’t know? Well…
Me: From me, Inspector. The paintings are up here. I can show you. Follow me…
It’s ten minutes later. The man and the woman are in the police cars.
Inspector: Well, Eddie, this is a surprise.
Me: Eddie? Is that my name?
Inspector: Eddie! Come on!
Me: No, I can’t remember.
Inspector You can’t remember me!
Me: I can’t remember my name. Eddie … Eddie what?
Inspector Eddie Hampton. What are you doing here, Eddie?
I tell him. I tell him about the field and the binoculars, I tell him about the bump on my head, and the room. I tell him about the paper and the key. He’s laughing at me.
Me: OK, I’m Eddie Hampton. But who’s Eddie Hampton?
He’s laughing again.
Me: You know me. Am I a policeman?
Inspector No, Eddie, you aren’t a policeman.
Me: Then who am I? And what am I doing here?
Inspector I don’t know, but I can tell you something.
Inspector: Eddie Hampton’s a criminal… a thief. Not a big thief. Those two people are big thieves, with their famous paintings. No, you’re a small thief, Eddie. You steal from houses. Televisions, radios, videos, hi-fi’s, a little money sometimes. You’re a small thief. But thank you for your help.
– THE END –
Hope you have enjoyed the reading!
A goodbye party
Is somebody listening to this? If there is, hello.
There’s a party going on. There are four of us doing our Year of Sharing this year – four of us who are twelve years old. The party is for all their family and friends.
I keep touching my nose. That’s where they put the recorder. I can’t feel it in my nose, but it’s there. It will record all my words when I speak, and any other sounds which are near me. The recorder will go on working for one year.
Can you hear the sounds of the party? Music, talking, laughing, dancing. Is everybody happy?
The answer is no. Everybody has their Year of Sharing when they’re twelve, and half of them don’t come back. They die. This is a goodbye party.
Perhaps you think I’m afraid. Well, I’m not. I’m the only person here who has no friends or family at the party. I didn’t ask any friends to come. My mother’s too busy (as usual). I specially asked my father not to come – he would cry. I don’t want people to see him crying.
I’m going outside. I don’t want to talk to anybody.
I can’t count all the bicycles by the wall here – half the village is at this party! I didn’t bring my bicycle because I’m not going home after the party.
I would really like a car, not a bicycle, because I love to go fast. I’ve seen cars in old films, but there are no cars in the world now – no cars, no roads, no factories, no big towns, just little villages like this one. In the old days, they say, the world was a bad and dirty place and animals were dying because of all those cars and factories. Was that really true? I don’t know.
Now the world is very boring. We live quietly in our villages, we don’t eat meat, and we make everything ourselves with our hands.
I’m sitting outside alone. I’ve always been alone and that’s OK. I’m clever, fast and strong and I’m not going to die in this Year of Sharing. I’ve always been best at everything in the village school. Now I’m going to be best among the animals. Here’s the doctor.
‘Hello, Richard. Alone?’
‘What do you want, doctor?’
‘I want to look at your nose and make sure the recorder’s OK. Look up. Look down. Good. After one year we will write down every word from your recorder and make a wonderful book for you. Richard’s Year of Sharing.’
‘Doctor, I don’t want a stupid animal like a cow or a sheep. I want something big, strong and fast, an animal which is not afraid. A clever animal like me.’
‘You’ll get the animal which is best for you. Does your nose hurt when I touch it here?’
‘What can you smell when I open these bottles?’
‘I can smell… leaves. Milk. Blood.’
‘OK, your nose is fine. Richard… life is easy when you live with people, you know. You will find it harder with animals. I don’t know if you’re ready. Remember, it’s life or death.’
The doctor’s gone. The sky is beginning to get dark. When it’s full night, they’ll take us – the four of us – to four different animal families. Good. I don’t belong in this village. I don’t think I belong with people. Not people in today’s world.
In the old days people were everywhere in the world. Millions of them. They were free to go where they wanted and to do what they wanted. Now there are walls round our villages and we can’t go out, and only animals are free. Oh no!
‘Let me just shake hands and say goodbye, Richard.’
‘Dad, you said you wouldn’t come.’
‘I’m sorry your mother couldn’t come. She had to meet some very important people from all over the world to talk about animals in danger. It was very important business. She wanted to come and say goodbye to you but…’
‘Don’t try and explain. She’s always the same. OK, shake hands and go.’
Dad’s gone. It’s dark. There’s no moon tonight. The stars are very bright.
Soon a doctor will give us something to put us into a deep sleep. When we wake up, we will be with an animal family. The doctor will give me a special smell; I’ll smell like a baby in that animal family.
Isn’t that terrible? Perhaps the animal family don’t want another baby… but they will smell me and they’ll love me. Is love just a special smell, for animals? It’s all wrong. I don’t like doctors.
Everybody is crying now. Can you hear them? There’s no laughing or dancing any more. Here’s the doctor coming. In a few minutes I’ll be asleep. Goodbye, village. When I see you again, I won’t be a child any more.
I can’t wait!
Where am I? Where is everybody? Where’s the village? Oh! I remember.
I’ve just woken up. I think it’s early morning. It’s still a little dark because there are trees all around me.
I don’t want to sit up and look yet. When I sit up, I will see my animal family. I think I can smell them. I feel a little ill. People don’t smell like that.
The trouble is, I’ve never been near an animal before. We don’t have animals in the village, of course. We have to leave animals alone, so we always stay behind our village wall. In the old days people kept cats or dogs in the house; today you would go to prison for keeping an animal.
I’m going to sit up and look at my animal family now.
They’re deer. I didn’t want deer. I wanted a strong animal which can fight, not an animal which runs away like deer. Well, I’m not going to run away.
One of the deer is looking at me because I’m moving. I’m trying to stand up but it’s difficult. My body is cold; I’ve never been so cold in my life. I was lying on the wet ground and of course they didn’t give me any clothes to wear. I have to move very slowly until I get warm.
There are three deer – no, four. I didn’t see the fourth at first because it’s very small. I think it’s a baby. It’s lying beside the deer which is looking at me – I think that’s its mother.
The mother is watching me carefully – she thinks I’m her baby too. Poor mother! I’m a strange baby for her to have. There’s another deer which looks young – perhaps one year old. The last deer is the biggest – I think he’s the father of the two young deer.
There’s more light now. The deer are moving around, taking leaves from the trees and eating them. I’m hungry too. I want my breakfast.
What’s for breakfast, mother? Don’t answer that. I don’t think I can eat your food. I know how to find fruit which is good for me and to look in the ground for roots to eat; I learnt all that in the village school. Everybody learns because everybody does the Year of Sharing.
I’ll just take a walk and find some food.
Hey, get off! Stop that! What are you doing?
That was the big deer which is the father, I think. He didn’t let me take a walk. He ran and pushed me back next to mother. This is terrible. Because of my smell, he thinks I’m a baby. Listen, father – I want to find something to eat!
Deer don’t talk much, do they?
Sorry I haven’t said anything for a long time. There’s nothing to say. I’m very, very hungry. I’ve missed breakfast and I’ve missed lunch and soon I’m going to miss dinner. It’s late afternoon. This deer family likes to move around a lot.
Mother and Baby and I stay together – Father makes sure of that. Brother – the other young deer – sometimes stays with us, but is often alone. Father doesn’t like it if Brother follows him.
I’ve looked for roots in the ground but I haven’t found anything. I saw a tree with good fruit on it. I tried to climb the tree but Father knocked me off with his antlers. He was angry. Deer don’t climb trees!
So I am HUNGRY.
I’m not cold now. That’s because we move around a lot. My arms and legs have a lot of little cuts on them. Well, I’m not wearing clothes and so I keep cutting myself on trees and other things. And my feet hurt.
I didn’t think that life with animals would be like this. I thought my new life would be fast, dangerous and exciting.
It isn’t. We just walk through the trees. The deer eat while I watch and feel hungry. Then we walk on a little more.
The deer don’t talk, they don’t make any sounds. Well, sometimes Mother makes a little noise to Baby (and to me because I’m a ‘baby’ too). And Baby answers with another little noise. But it’s nothing special. Mother is saying, ‘Where are you?’ and Baby is answering, ‘I’m here.’ That’s all.
When Mother asked me, ‘Where are you?’
I didn’t answer at first. But she went on asking and asking and asking, and I felt sorry for her. I’m her baby, or she thinks I am. So then I answered, ‘I’m here,’ like Baby – I tried to make the same sound as Baby. I’m sure it’s right because Mother asks only once now.
Father never talks to Mother. Brother sometimes makes the noise for, ‘I’m here,’ but nobody listens.
I like Baby. She’s sweet. Yes, she’s a girl deer. She’s soft to touch, she’s funny and she’s always jumping up and down. She smells of milk.
Because I have nothing to do, I play with Baby. I try to catch her. We run round and round Mother. Then she goes under Mother and I follow, which is funny because I’m nearly as big as Mother. Mother stops moving because she doesn’t want to put her foot down on one of us. When I catch Baby, she suddenly jumps out of my arms. She’s like a ball – she uses her four legs to push hard and she jumps high up.
One day of this life is interesting. Not comfortable, but interesting. Two days will be a little boring, I think. After three days I’ll want to scream. And I’ve got a year of this life…
It’s evening now. It suddenly got dark. And cold. I haven’t eaten a single thing all day. We swam across a river in the afternoon, so I drank a lot of water then.
These deer are really good at swimming. Baby can swim too – but Mother and Father helped Baby and me.
The deer family is going to spend the night here. All right. I would like to go and look for something to put over myself, to keep myself warm. I don’t think Father will let me. Let’s see.
I was right. Father didn’t let me. I’ll just have to be cold.
It’s spring – the Year of Sharing usually begins in spring. I don’t know what a winter night will be like. Perhaps I will learn to keep warm by then.
Brother is asleep. Baby is lying beside Mother. Father is walking in a slow circle around us. He’s listening and smelling the wind. He’ll make sure we’re not in danger.
I’m sitting on the ground, with my arms round my body, trying to keep warm, but I’m shaking with cold.
Baby is drinking Mother’s milk.
For the first time today I feel lonely. I don’t often feel lonely. I don’t need people. I think it’s the dark and the cold and being hungry and feeling sorry for myself and listening to Baby drinking Mother’s warm milk and knowing that I can’t do that.
Mother just said, ‘Where are you?’ to me.
I made the sound which means, ‘I’m here.’
I’m falling asleep while I speak. I drank Mother’s milk. I’m lying with Baby next to Mother and it’s very warm. I don’t feel lonely. Good night.
I’ve just lived through the worst two weeks of my life. I feel a lot better now; that’s why I’m speaking again. I didn’t want to say anything when there wasn’t anything good to say.
It rained most of the time. When it wasn’t raining, the water was still falling off the leaves of the trees. I was wet, cold, tired and hungry all the time. I was ill. My head hurt, my stomach hurt, my feet and legs hurt and I was always getting little cuts on my body. Worst of all I missed home; I wanted to be back in the village.
That’s still true. I don’t want to be here. Deer are not people. I said I didn’t need people, but I think I was wrong. It’s hard to think when you can’t talk to anybody.
I’m friends with Baby and Brother. I like both of them. Baby is sweet and Brother is afraid of nothing. The two older deer are afraid of everything-afraid of birds singing, birds not singing, a cloud going over the sun, a leaf falling. When they’re afraid, they jump. They’re always jumping!
When Mother thinks we’re in danger, she pushes me and Baby with her nose. She takes us to dark places in the forest where the trees are crowded together. We move quickly and quietly, in and out of the trees. I’m beginning to feel afraid of everything now. It’s stupid. I’ve not seen anything to be afraid of.
I’m getting thin because I don’t eat very much. I find a few wild vegetables and a little fruit every day and I drink Mother’s milk before I sleep. That’s all.
These deer eat all the time. They like eating from some trees, not others. Mother has to help Baby to get leaves and fruit. She tries to help me too, but deer food is not my food. I can’t eat it.
Mother is unhappy because I’m not eating well. Poor Mother! I’m angry with her all day, but I sleep with her like a baby at night. It’s strange. My feelings for Mother are very strong – stronger than my feelings for my real mother – both good and bad feelings.
Father doesn’t come near us very often. He keeps walking around, up and down. He stands tall and looks through the trees. He puts his nose high up and smells carefully. He gets the best things to eat and he pushes the rest of the family away if they try to eat near him.
I didn’t wear clothes for the first week and that was terrible because we’re in the forest all the time, and I couldn’t stop getting cuts. So I made some clothes out of leaves. They’re not very good clothes and I have to keep making new ones, but they stop most of the cuts and also keep me warm – well, not very warm, but I’m not as cold as before.
So I’m feeling better. A little warmer, a little more food in my stomach and my body doesn’t hurt now.
And I’m stronger and quicker and I can hear and see better too. If you can’t talk to anybody, you look and listen and smell.
Brother and I are always trying to see who can jump higher. I lose – most of the time. But I’m getting better. We both enjoy it.
There’s no rain this morning, which is really wonderful. Up above there’s only blue sky between the trees. Down here it’s not warm, but it’s not cold and wet any more. Ow!
Something happened! Father ran up and knocked me over with his antlers. He wants me to be quiet. Now I’m speaking very softly. All the deer have stopped eating. Only Father is moving now, walking very slowly, putting one foot down carefully before moving the next foot.
It’s very, very quiet. Not a sound anywhere. Why is it so quiet? Why are there no birds singing?
Oh! Now I can see it. It’s an animal coming through the trees, not quickly, not slowly. It’s a wolf!
There’s only one wolf. Oops! Mother just pushed me because she wants me to move. Now she’s pushing Baby. The family is moving away, going deeper into the forest. Brother doesn’t want to run away, and he’s looking at me. Will I run away?
No, I’m not going to run. It’s stupid. There are four deer and me against just one wolf. We can fight and the wolf will run away.
I’m staying. I’ve got a big stick and some stones and I can fight this wolf alone if I have to.
Father has gone. Mother’s coming back for me – no, she isn’t. She’s stopped, she can’t leave Baby.
Brother’s coming to stand with me. Mother and Baby have gone. There’s only Brother, me and the wolf now. I’m not afraid. Let’s see how the wolf likes getting a stone on its nose. Take that!
I missed him! I’m good at throwing stones, but the wolf jumped to one side very fast. Now I’m throwing each stone as hard as I can. The wolf’s jumping all over the place, but he’s not running away. Well, I’ve still got my stick. Brother can use his feet to fight with. We’ll be all right.
Two more wolves are coming, and they’re coming fast. Brother, go! Get out of here! That’s right.
Now I’m alone. There’s only one thing to do.
I nearly died. I made a very big mistake when I decided to stand and fight. That’s what a person does, not a deer. I’m a deer. I smell like a deer and so wolves think I’m a deer too.
I feel bad. I feel small, and unimportant. I’m not a person. I’m just an animal. If another animal is stronger than me, it can kill me. I didn’t understand that before.
I saved Brother; I’m happy about that. The first wolf ran at me, very fast; I suddenly jumped right over him. I’m wonderful at jumping. After two weeks with deer, anybody would be wonderful.
The wolf didn’t turn very quickly. I looked around for the other two wolves and saw that they weren’t coming for me, they were following Brother. This was bad.
I screamed, because I wanted the wolves to think I was afraid; then they would follow me, not Brother. But when I screamed, I knew I really was afraid, and the wolves knew it too. That was terrible. All three wolves stopped and ran straight at me.
Yes, I was afraid! I dropped the stick and ran like a… like a deer. There was a big tree in front of me and in seconds I was at the top of it.
And here I am. The wolves sat under my tree for hours with a hungry look in their eyes. They left not long ago, just before it got dark.
And this is where I’m staying. I can’t find the deer in the dark. I can’t lie down with Mother and drink her milk. I don’t think I can sleep in a tree… but I’ll try. And I’m sorry Brother nearly died because of me.
Will I see my deer family again?
Killing a wolf
It’s morning and I’m still up in the tree. I didn’t sleep all night. I’m hungry, tired, cold and angry. I’m going to climb down the tree and look for some food.
That’s better. I can’t think when I’m hungry.
When I remember how I ran away from those wolves, I feel angry and my face gets hot. Why did I run away? I wasn’t afraid!
I screamed and ran away to save Brother, of course. That’s why. I don’t want to go back to the deer family. If I’m not living with deer, I don’t have to run away from anything. I can live alone for my Year of Sharing. I can find food, water, places to sleep and leaves to make clothes with. I don’t need the deer; life is more difficult with them.
I have decided not to follow the deer and I feel happier now. I won’t get lonely or bored; I’m better alone.
If a wolf comes, I’ll kill it. I can fight wolves if I have sticks and stones. When I find the dead body of an animal, I will cut it up and use it to make something for killing wolves – a catapult which will shoot stones.
I feel much better.
Things have changed again. I’m back with the deer.
I was sitting on the ground, cutting a stick with a stone, when I heard Mother calling. She was far away. I only heard her because it was very quiet all around.
She was calling, ‘Where are you? Where are you?’ and I knew she was calling me.
It was terrible. I began crying. She’s only a deer. I smell like a baby deer to her, but I’m not really.
I answered, ‘I’m here!’
Mother heard me and ran to me. She was calling all the time. She came through the trees with Baby behind her and I stood up, still crying, and I…
I don’t want to talk about it anymore. Sometimes I don’t understand myself. I never put my arms round my real mother like that, and Mother is only a deer.
What could I do? I walked with Mother and Baby through the forest for a long time until we found Father and Brother. Father stopped eating and hit Mother with his antlers. He was angry; he wanted her to be near him all the time.
When Father came up to me, I thought he would hit me too, but he didn’t. He smelt me carefully, then touched me softly with his head. To him, I’m just a baby.
Brother jumped straight up and down; he was so happy to see me again. I was surprised how happy I was to see him too.
In the last few days we have walked and walked. When the others want to stop and eat, Father keeps us moving. We have swum across rivers, pushed through trees, run across open ground and moved back into trees again. I know why – we all know.
There’s a wolf, or wolves, following us. It calls – a long, hungry howling, often at night. It’s following our smell. That’s why Father tries to go through water as often as possible – smells are lost in water.
I’m busy with my special answer to this danger – I’m making weapons. I break up stones into little pieces. Some pieces of stone are really sharp and will cut like a knife. I’ve put them on long sticks to make spears.
I found a dead animal and cut off its skin, then I cut the skin into long, thin pieces. Now I have a good catapult; I can kill wolves.
Brother’s teaching Baby to jump as high as she can. That’s his job. Mother teaches Baby about eating and smelling things and cleaning herself. Father doesn’t have time to teach Baby. He’s always walking round. He’s smelling, listening, watching the trees, waiting for something bad to happen. He always knows the best place to go next, because he never stops thinking about it.
Brother, Baby and I often jump together, moving in sudden, high jumps across the ground. I’m beginning to understand why deer jump so much. A jump catches the eye of a wolf. When a wolf runs after a deer, another deer will jump and the wolf will turn to look at it. Then a third deer will jump. The wolf turns again. Each jump takes the deer away from the wolf and the wolf can’t decide which deer to follow. It’s clever.
Yesterday something bad happened. Baby did a good, high jump but when she came down, she gave a little scream.
She tried to walk and screamed again, a little, high scream. Mother ran to her and Father stood not far away and watched.
I couldn’t see what was wrong at first; Mother didn’t want anyone to come near. In the end I lay down next to Baby and saw what it was – a stick from a tree was deep inside Baby’s leg and Mother’s teeth couldn’t pull it out. Mother didn’t let me touch it.
Baby could only walk on three legs and she got tired very quickly. Father tried to move on again, away from the wolf, but Mother wanted to stay with Baby. Father pushed Mother and she followed him… but then went back to Baby. Father went back and pushed Mother again.
In the end Father took Baby to a dark place where she could hide under leaves. It was near a river and the ground was wet. That would hide Baby’s smell from the wolf.”
Then Father pushed us all away. But when we left, we could hear Baby calling after us. She didn’t understand. Her calls said, ‘I’m here! I’m here!’
Father didn’t let Mother go back. We walked on. The howl of a wolf came through the trees from far away. I thought of a wolf finding Baby.
I just couldn’t leave her.
I stopped. Mother called me but Father was pushing her to go on. I stayed still and they went into the trees and I couldn’t see them anymore. There are no goodbyes with deer.
I ran back to Baby and she stopped calling. She was happy.
I put my weapons on the ground – my catapult and spears. When I touched Baby’s leg, she didn’t like it; it hurt a lot. She didn’t let me touch it again.
So I lay down heavily on top of her. I held the stick in her leg and moved it slowly and carefully. I pulled and turned it until it came out, all of it. Then I went and carried water in my hand from the river to wash the place on her leg. That was all I could do.
I brought leaves for Baby to eat, and water for her to drink. When it got dark, I lay down with her and we slept, keeping warm together.
I’ve just looked at her leg and I think it’s getting better. But she can’t walk on it yet. We have to stay here for a few days. Then we will follow the deer family. I think I can find them. I can smell where they have been, I can see where they have walked and I understand how Father thinks.
With luck I can find them.
The wolves found us two days later. It was evening, just before dark. Two wolves walked out of the trees and saw me carrying food to Baby. They were thin and hungry wolves. I don’t think they have eaten for a long time.
My weapons were under the leaves with Baby. I dropped the food and ran and quickly got a catapult and a few stones. Of course, the wolves thought I was running away and they came to get me.
I turned, holding the catapult, and looked at them, and they stopped in surprise. Why wasn’t I running away?
I felt cold inside, but not afraid. ‘Which one of you shall I kill?’ I asked them. ‘Which one of you will die first?’
The wolves heard my cold voice. They knew I was dangerous, but they were hungry. They came slowly and they didn’t make a sound. I shot a stone from the catapult and it hit one wolf on the eye. The wolf screamed. I followed that with more stones until a very big one cut its head open. The wolf fell over on its side and didn’t move.
The other wolf jumped, turned and ran back into the trees. I looked at the dead wolf on the ground and felt sorry.
From the trees came a long, lonely howl.
I waited until it was dark and then Baby and I began walking. Baby walked for a while and then rested. I couldn’t follow the deer family in the dark because I couldn’t see anything and the smells were cold. But I thought I knew where Father would go.
There was a moon. I decided we had to walk all night because the other wolf was still out there somewhere.
Baby’s leg was doing well; I was happy about that. An hour later, we were far from the dark hiding place under the leaves. The wolf wouldn’t find us now.
There was a howl in the night. Then another howl, and another. Three, four, five, six howls – from different sides. The wolves were far, away, but there were lots of them. Too many.
And so I learnt something new. Wolves have families too – big families. If you kill one wolf, the family wants to find the killer. We were in trouble.
The wolves are coming
I don’t like danger, but if you live through it, you feel good.
Just now we’re resting on the other side of a large lake. The wolves sound very far away and I think we’re OK. I’ve done everything possible to make sure they can’t follow us.
When I heard all those wolves howling in the dark, I touched Baby and said, ‘Stand very quietly and listen.’
Of course Baby didn’t understand, but she stopped and didn’t move. I was listening for water – a river or anything. I couldn’t hear water, just the wind in the trees and a wolf singing to the moon.
So I tried smelling for water. My nose is wonderful at smelling now and, yes, I could smell something wet. When I turned round, I knew where the wet smell was coming from.
‘We’ll be fine, Baby,’ I said. I put my hand on her head. ‘But we can’t stop any more until we get to the water.
‘Can you run with that leg?’
Baby’s leg was hurting, but she ran when I ran. She was afraid of losing me. I was all she had.
The wolves howled, not all the time but sometimes. I didn’t know how near they were. Each howl went on for nearly a minute. Sometimes I didn’t know if they were behind or in front of us.
I saw light through the trees. I hurried and Baby came after me. Soon we came to open ground, and there it was – moonlight on water! Not a river, but a big lake.
‘It’s a long swim, Baby,’ I told her, ‘but if we stay here, we’ll die.’
Baby wasn’t afraid of water. She followed me in and swam easily beside me. It was easier for her to swim than run with her bad leg.
How far was it to the other side? I don’t know, but it took us a long, long time. It was more difficult for me than Baby in the end. I’m a walking, climbing animal; deer are running, jumping, swimming animals. My arms and legs hurt, my body felt heavy and I swam more and more slowly. But Baby was always there beside me, touching me all the time, her legs moving quickly in the water. She was warm, while I was cold, and that helped me.
The moon went behind clouds and we swam in the dark.
I was happy about that because I was afraid the wolves would see us. When my feet hit stones underneath me,
I knew the water wasn’t deep any more. I stood up. A minute later Baby was walking too. We walked out of the water. My legs couldn’t hold me up. I half fell and lay on the ground and felt very happy. Baby lay beside me, wet but warm. I slept for a little while.
I’ve just woken up. We have to begin moving soon. It’s still night, but we must be far away from here by morning. Some of the ground is soft. Soft ground is dangerous because the wolves can see where we have gone. We must go on the hard, stony places.
It’s wonderful! We’re back with Mother, Father and Brother. I wasn’t really sure that I could find them.
When the deer family left us three days ago, I saw some hills to the north. Father always hides in the trees when there’s danger, and up there on the hills there are a lot of big, dark trees. Just right for Father.
I had good luck. When we got to the hills, we didn’t have to look very far. I could hear the deer eating before I smelt them.
Baby went in a funny, jumping run up to Mother. She kept one foot off the ground; it was still hurting. Mother and Baby touched heads and made noises. Father came and smelt me while Brother watched. Father doesn’t usually get too near anyone in the family, but he stood nearly touching me. I think he was saying thank you, and my eyes were wet.
I spoke to Father. ‘We must go deeper into the trees. There are wolves behind us trying to follow us.’
Father didn’t like me talking. He moved away and began eating again. Then Brother came. He wanted to play.
‘I’m too tired,’ I explained. ‘I want to get deeper into the trees, then I want to sleep.’
Nobody did what I wanted. They didn’t understand about the wolves, and the leaves were sweet. Baby drank Mother’s milk and Brother and Father went on eating. So I slept where I was.
It’s afternoon now. We’re still here. It’s warm and bright and there’s a blue sky. I’m not afraid any more. I was just tired. The wolves have lost us and we’re OK.
I was wrong. The wolves followed us. I could hear many wolves howling. They were far away, but coming.
I was angry with myself. How did the wolves find us? Baby and I tried so hard – we ran, we swam across water, and we stayed away from soft ground, but it didn’t help.
Then I saw something which explained it. There were flies walking around a drop of blood on the ground. The cut on Baby’s leg was open again, and the wolves were following the strong smell of blood.
It was too late to go deep into the trees now. The wolves would find us. I looked at the four deer – my family – and I knew I couldn’t let them die. There was an answer. It was dangerous, but I had to do it.
First I cleaned Baby’s cut again and put leaves on it to stop the blood. Then I cut myself – a small cut on the leg, with a sharp stone.
‘You go up there,’ I said to Father, ‘up into the trees and I’ll go along open ground, over there. The wolves will follow my blood. If the wolves don’t catch me, I’ll wait for a few days and then I’ll find you again. Do you understand?’
Of course he didn’t, but he understood the danger that was coming. Brother wanted to come with me. This time Father got angry with him and pushed him up the hill. No goodbyes, of course.
I began running down the hill where there were no trees. I looked back and I couldn’t see the deer.
I was stronger after my sleep and I ran fast. I knew where I was going. There was a high, rocky hill about two miles away – I could climb it, but wolves couldn’t. But could I get there before the wolves found me?
I ran and didn’t look back. After ten minutes I wanted to stop and rest, but then I heard the howls. I looked back and the wolves were running behind me.
So I didn’t rest. I ran and they ran. I was afraid, really afraid. I couldn’t feel my legs. ‘Don’t fall, keep going,’ I said to myself.
I ran to save my life. When I came to the rocks, I didn’t stop; I climbed up faster than a wild cat. One wolf hit another wolf just below me and fell over. Their angry howls rang in my ears. I went up and up until I came to a place where I could rest. I sat with my back to the rock and looked down. Wolves everywhere…
I’m here and they can’t get me now. When I’ve rested, I’ll climb up to the top and I’ll be OK.
No, wait – perhaps I’ll stay here until morning. I need to sleep. I’ll feel better after a good sleep. I don’t feel very well. I can’t remember the last time I ate something. Listen to those wolves! They’re hungry too, of course. I’m an animal just like them.
RICHARD’S FATHER SPEAKS:
What happened? We don’t know.
When Richard’s Year of Sharing finished, I went to bring him home. I followed the radio call of his recorder. I found the recorder at the bottom of the hill where he tried to escape from the wolves. The recorder was there, but not Richard.
Did he fall while he was sleeping? Did the accident happen next morning while he was climbing to the top? I don’t know.
I am very unhappy. The village says we can now have another child. But I don’t want one. I cannot say more.
RICHARD’S MOTHER SPEAKS:
Richard was a difficult boy. He was angry and he wanted to bring back the old world, the world where people took everything and animals had nothing. But in the end he learnt to share. He learnt that people are animals too, and that the world belongs not just to people, but to all animals. It is a hard lesson to learn, but we must all learn it. Now my son is dead. But the people of this village, and their children, and their children’s children, will never forget him.
– THE END –
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