Drawing the Line

Drawing the Line by Judith Cutler Read Free Book Online

Book: Drawing the Line by Judith Cutler Read Free Book Online
Authors: Judith Cutler
was having difficulty with his Dentufix, or whatever held his plate in place. So I just said, ‘Hmm.’
    ‘Poor dear man. I was reading about this wonderful herbal cure – solves the problem without the need for an operation, they say. Or has it got too serious for that?’
    I pinched my nose hard. I knew it was really a cure for nosebleeds, but it might work for the giggles. ‘He doesn’t tell me the details,’ I managed.
    ‘Of course not. No, indeed. I’d quite forgotten you weren’t his real granddaughter. Now, the reason I rang was that there were a couple of very unsavoury-looking characters hanging round the village yesterday. Two men. They spent hours in the shop. I thought you should know. My finger was poised over the panic button. Absolutely poised.’
    ‘What were they looking for?’
    ‘You never know with these types, do you?’
    What types? ‘What did they look like?’
    She dropped her voice as if she was going to say something rude. ‘Foreign, my dear. It wouldn’t surprise me if they were bogus asylum seekers.’
    I tried not to bristle. Having come unpleasantly close to being down and out myself, if I’d had a spare coat I’d have gone and given it to someone really homeless. It wouldn’t have mattered a jot if they were foreign or English – after all, the English system hadn’t done me too many favours. So I took a deep breath.
    ‘What did they pick up and look at? Or ask to see?’ Tony would have been proud of me.
    ‘They didn’t touch, Lina. You know how I feel about people touching. But they hung around and peered.’ She got about three separate sounds out of ‘peered’, one of them definitely ‘ah’.
    ‘What at?’ Hell: I should have said, ‘At what?’
    ‘My dear, at everything!’
    Really helpful, that. No wonder cops faked evidence, if they had witnesses like Mrs Hatch.
    I ploughed on. ‘When did they come in?’
    ‘Oh, let me think. About midday. And then they drove off in a little car. Filthy dirty.’
    No, she didn’t know what colour or have a clue about a registration number. Forget about its make: I doubt if she’d be able to identify anything smaller than a Rolls Royce.
    She promised to be on her guard all day and rang off, sending her best wishes to Griff in a voice that sounded as if he were on his death bed with this mysterious unmentionable problem.
    ‘Silly old bat,’ Griff dismissed her when I told him.
    This time I didn’t wince at his double-checking of locks and alarms. I helped him.
    ‘She’s always carried a torch for me, poor creature,’ he continued, as I drove down the village street. ‘Thankgoodness times have changed, Lina. Fifty years ago a man like me might have been grateful to a woman like that as a beard.’
    ‘A beard?’ Mrs Hatch didn’t have a problem with facial hair.
    ‘Camouflage.’
    A hand gripped my stomach. I swallowed hard.
    ‘But don’t for a moment, dear heart, think that that’s why I invited you into my life! Please, please believe me! I asked you because I could see that
au fond
– that’s French for
at bottom
, another phrase for you to remember – you were a sweet child and because Iris had this absurd idea that I needed looking after as much as you did. And you do look after me, beautifully.’
    I shook my head miserably. What was the difference between being a beard and being a carer?
    He turned towards me, tugging against the seatbelt. ‘More than that – I do wish you’d stop this confounded van and look at me, Lina – you’ve become my friend.’
    I pulled over. Usually I park well. This time I didn’t.
    Griff put a paw on mine. ‘Lina, you are my best friend and I’m honoured by your friendship. I’m proud of you. I wish you were my blood daughter – or granddaughter or whatever. But no matter how closely we were related, I couldn’t love you more than I do.’
    I squeezed his hand. He flourished his handkerchief, pressing it into my spare hand.
    ‘I don’t know why Iris thinks I look

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