Ravens Gathering

Ravens Gathering by Graeme Cumming Read Free Book Online

Book: Ravens Gathering by Graeme Cumming Read Free Book Online
Authors: Graeme Cumming
said, unable to
completely suppress his bitterness.  He’d known Bob Lambert since they
were kids.  They’d gone to the same school.  But that hadn’t meant
anything to Bob.  Business was business, and his view was clear: machinery
was much more efficient than labour – it could do more for less money. 
Occasionally, Patrick was prepared to admit to himself that this was probably
true.  But it didn’t make it any easier to come to terms with when you
were far enough from retirement age to need a job, but close enough to it for
retraining to be an unrealistic investment of time or money.
    “I’m sorry.”  The words were spoken with feeling. 
For a moment, Patrick wondered if they were meant, then pushed the idea
aside.  He had to keep his guard up.
    “So have you been working as a builder for the last three
years?”
    “No.  Just the last year.”
    “It’s been tough then?”
    Patrick shrugged awkwardly.  He didn’t feel comfortable
talking about his financial situation at the best of times.  And certainly
not to someone who was a virtual stranger to him.  “We got by.”
    “Mum’s working,” Matt chipped in.  The next generation,
who didn’t have the same hang-ups about money.  “She’s got a job in
Westfield.  Same place as Janet.”  Patrick watched Martin carefully,
looking for any reaction to these references to his mother and sister. 
None were obvious.  “Of course, Janet and I contribute to the upkeep of the
house anyway.”
    Martin cocked his head quizzically.  “ D’you mean you’re still living at home?”
    Matt and Patrick looked at each other.  An
acknowledgement passed between them that they may have made their first
mistake.  But it was too late to take anything back.
    Shrugging, Matt gestured to the houses around them. 
“It’s not easy to get on the housing ladder here.  I’m guessing from your
tan that you’ve not been in the country for a while, so you’re probably not
aware of how things are here.  There’s been a housing boom in the last few
years.  Property’s got so expensive in the south, people are moving up
here, especially Londoners.  Westfield’s on a mainline to London, so they
can commute to work, and it doesn’t take them that much longer than when they lived
in the suburbs.  For their money, though, they can get a house that’s
three times as big as what they could get down there.  The only problem is
that’s pushed up house prices round here, and locals can’t afford to buy.”
    There was a lot of truth in everything Matt said. 
Patrick was relieved to see Martin nodding, accepting the explanation without
question.
    “Must be cramped,” he commented, but didn’t wait for any
elaboration.  “So why’d the Sullivans sell up?”
    Patrick answered.  “Paul had an accident back in
’83.  He was careless with a threshing machine, and lost a leg. 
Probably had too much to drink with his lunch.”
    Martin raised a questioning eyebrow.  “Did he have a
drink problem, then?”
    Relieved that his son was steering things away from the
family, Patrick was happy to talk about his past employers.  “Just a
bit.  Still, you can understand it.  When you find your dad’s killed
himself because he’s found out your mum and brother-in-law have been having an
affair, it can do strange things to you.”
    “I didn’t know about that,” Martin said gravely.
    “Why should you?  You were only a young lad when it
happened.  It was a real scandal at the time, but nobody talked openly
about it much in the village.  The Sullivans were good employers.  Good people, in fact.  It was a real shock to
us.  So you can only imagine the effect it had on the family.”  He
shook his head as he thought back to those times.  Twenty-five years had
passed, but he could remember so much of what had happened back then.  Too
much.
    “So Paul’s accident prompted them to sell up?”  Martin
brought them back from the sidetrack.
    “That’s

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