The sirens screaming in his bleeding ears. His mother rushing him onto the station platform, with nothing but a hug to compensate for his departure. A lady office in a green uniform directing him off the train. Now the quiet countryside, and nothing but his memories to haunt him.
“Patrick Smith?” A lanky yet timid boy stepped forward. The lady in green explained to the woman at the door, “He came from Manchester. Scrap of a lad. No possessions, left in a hurry. Routine protocol that you take him in I’m afraid. Good night.” The lady nudged him towards the woman before leaving. He was led into the main room, and stared in the fire which matched the woman’s warm smile. “Hello Patrick, and welcome to Edgworth. My name is Edith Renolds; I’ll be taking care of you while you’re here. The boys and Mabel are asleep upstairs, but you’ll meet them tomorrow. Now up you go.” The smile didn’t reach her eyes.
The next morning Patrick awoke bright and feverishly early. The boys were boisterous, strapping young lads of thirteen, who both clapped him on the shoulder before rocketing out the door. Mabel was eleven. She simply cut Patrick a poisonous glare and muttered something to her mother. Edith paled and shooed her outside.
The daily musings of the children of Edgworth were not particularly exciting. The boys played in the quarry and the girls trailed along after their mothers. Patrick fit nowhere. Even school was out of the picture for a while, as there was a shortage of places and he had only just arrived. Instead he used his time to explore the Renolds’ poky house and talk to the neighbours. Until the day he met Louie.
Her full name was Louella Clayton-Jones, and he met her four days after he arrived: on the 21st March 1944. Edith and Mabel had dragged him along to a house-keeping job of theirs at a house central to village life, called the Barlow Institute. It was magnificent. Other children frolicked on the football pitches, the tennis courts, but Patrick was drawn to the park. The spectacular park, complete with a crystal lake and an enormous decorative maze. He could only imagine the cavernous interior that Edith and Mabel had to clean. Edith then began to speak: “House belongs to Sir Thomas Barlow, who resides nearby with his mother Alice and son Sir Alan Barlow whom is now married to Nora Darwin. His other son died in the first great war, alongside my husband Matthew. His name was P-P-Patrick Barlow.”
Patrick felt unnerved to share his name with such a man, and so hastily walked towards the Barlow park. The park was coated in the rumour of spring, the translucent waters of the lake serenely still. Another reflection joined his in the shallow pool. A girl’s. A brown-haired, scruffy-clothed girl’s. She made his dirty crop of blond hair and shabby overcoat look smart in comparison. She held a hand out to him. “I’m Louella Clayton-Jones, but you can call me Louie.” Patrick stumbled back before answering her, “Isn’t that a boys name?” She scowled. He decided not to push it. “I’m Patrick Smith. I live in Manchester but the lady in green brought me here.” Louie’s eyes widened. “Manchester?” And so the great friendship of the Edgworth detectives began.
Louie and Patrick strolled through the beautiful gardens every day, running in circles through the maze, chattering cheerfully together, and questioning everything that fell into their path. Louie was witty, brave and smart. She had also taken to calling him Rick, as it was less ghostly after what happened to Patrick Barlow. Later that day, Rick and Louie came across an elderly lady seated on a bench. The lady introduced herself as Alice Barlow, mother of Sir Thomas Barlow. “It is lovely to see the younger generation in the park these days. I should adore to tell you all about it. Shall we walk together?” For that day and many after eighty-six-year-old Alice walked through the gardens with Rick and Louie, enlightening them with the history of her family and the Barlow. She was kind, and Sunday arrived faster than ever before.
The smoke clung to the air, rubble encasing the streets. His mother’s last kiss. Bombs raining down from the black sky… Rick awoke to Edith’s shouts. Apparently, he was to attend a service at a church. Churches had never been a part of his city life, yet he had heard of their Sunday Services. He was soon ushered out of the house by Edith, and towards the chimes of the bells.
St. Anne’s was a towering feat of architecture, majestic yet solemn, loud yet equally silent. Rick clung to every word of the service, and prayed for his home back in Manchester. This almighty God really loved him, and he was truly not alone? His weeks were now filled with glorified happiness, and he soon offered to become the church bell-ringer; consuming his Sundays with the hopeful chimes of God’s love.
It was a Wednesday, three weeks after Rick had arrived, and he and Louie were waiting at the bench for Alice. She was fifteen minutes late. Suddenly, a gunshot rang in the distance, and Louie and Rick turned and sprinted for the Barlow. They ran straight through the unlocked doors, into the hallway, and then through to a large room holding six people, all whom were clustered around something. A body. Alice Barlow’s body.
Alice lay crumpled on the floor, her wrinkled nose broken upon impact. Her son, Sir Thomas Barlow, was examining the body. Alan and Nora Barlow were weeping quietly, and Mabel and Edith were also there, looking completely horror-stricken. The sixth person Rick did not recognise: a tall man in a dark suit. Sir Thomas turned round and announced, “The bullet wound in her side is not fatal. It was the impact of falling from the balcony that finished her. It is most likely that she merely fell, and the bullet was a stray one. The only gun here is in my study. Poor old mother.” Louie narrowed her eyes and asked, “When was the body found? “Sir Thomas replied, “And who might you two be?”
Louie explained, “I am Louella and this is Patrick the evacuee. We were friends of Alice’s.” His face relaxed and he told them that the body was found fifteen minutes ago by Edith. Rick couldn’t help but be drawn into the situation, saying, “I don’t think her death was an accident, sir. In fact, I offer mine and Louella’s services. As detectives, free of charge.” Sir Thomas laughed. “What would two twelve-year-old kids know about being detectives? But I shall give you a chance, even if I think the death requires no further scrutinization. I allow you access to the witnesses and the estate starting from next week. If it comes to something, then I’ll know I did my best for mother.” It all seemed a joke too him, but Rick sensed there was more to the situation than meets the eye. He could be standing in a room with a murderer. He and Louie agreed to Sir Thomas’ plan.
That Sunday, at Church, Rick prayed for Alice’s safe passage into heaven, and her seat at God’s table, where food is aplenty.
To be continued…
Author: Freya (age 12)