Chapter 2 Steve's Ultimatum

2K 59 5

Chapter 2 Steve's Ultimatum

It was raining again the following Tuesday, although the threatening thunder had made a tactical withdrawal for the time being, and the light wasn't good, especially under the ornamental cherry trees that seemed to close in at the sides of the road further down the hill, making the pavement slippery with their carelessly discarded blossoms. There were a few houses here, large Victorian villas with big gardens, probably built for merchants who had done unspeakable things in the East or West Indies, and now occupied by the secretive bankers and lawyers who were only glimpsed in the village if they accidentally left their car windows down when driving to or from work in Edinburgh. Christopher had never really questioned the lack of community spirit in the little town, but thinking about it now as they headed towards the old higgledy-piggledy fishermen's houses down by the river, he realised the place was divided into two or three sections, with the riverside dwellers resenting the people in the newer estates up the hill, and both resenting the inhabitants of the Victorian villas. He had a sudden twinge of guilt about not being able to bring the factions together into a coalition under the umbrella of the Forum, but as always he brushed the guilt aside, telling himself he had done all he could, and it wasn't his fault if the people around here were born awkward.

He felt self-conscious now in the scruffy old leather jacket, as if he were guilty of attempting to appear younger and more cool than he really was, although he realised it probably had the opposite effect. Nothing more embarrassing than an ageing rocker, after all. He wondered briefly whether to put on his scruffy brown tweed one instead, but decided against it. The brown tweed jacket was definitely the jacket of an archivist, and now that he was no longer a member of that profession he felt as if he wasn't entitled to wear it. Christopher had resolved a long time ago not to try to be something he wasn't - if only he could instead be proud of what he was, but that was out of the question these days. Anyway, if Amaryllis mistook him for someone young and cool that was her problem.

'It's just down here on the left,' called Amaryllis from the back of the group. 'Turn along Merchantman Wynd.'

The street was a cul de sac once notorious for its ladies of the night plying their trade in the shadows but now more famous for its award-winning mews-style town houses. This was all new to Christopher; he couldn't remember when he had last come along here, and now he stared in puzzlement at the twee balconies and incongruous Mediterranean white washed walls and brightly coloured creeping plants. How sad that some people weren't satisfied with the Scottish grey stone, off-white net curtains and statutory patch of grass that distinguished the houses in most towns along the coast.

'So tell me, ' said Steve Paxman in a pleasant tone that very nearly concealed the hint of the KGB-style interrogation techniques that were undoubtedly at his disposal. 'I'm guessing you have all the paperwork for PLIF in place - written constitution, accounts, policies. I'm sure you're the kind of person who would be meticulous about it all.'

In other areas of his life Christopher was indeed a very meticulous man, but he had considered the Forum as a red-tape-free zone, a haven where he could relax in the knowledge that nobody would ever come looking for paperwork.

'I am quite meticulous,' he admitted, playing for time and wondering all over again why exactly Steve Paxman was so interested in this small local organisation. 'But I'm not sure that I can lay my hands on every last document... not off the top of my head....'

'Turn into the yard here,' called Amaryllis, unexpectedly coming to his rescue. 'On the right - look for the orange door.'

Amaryllis's 'yard' was a wilderness surrounding a tumbledown structure - it would surely have been an exaggeration to call it a building. The faded orange door was attached to its frame by one hinge. A beech tree in the centre of the wilderness had been allowed to run wild and one of its branches now extended through a gap in a window. The tree probably supported its own eco-system. Curiously, though, Christopher noticed that even before any of them had set foot in the place the tall grass had been flattened in places and that a very rough path led through it towards the back of the structure. Vandals, he thought dismissively, or school kids. Same thing really. He immediately felt cross with himself for spending too much time with Jock McLean and absorbing his attitudes.

Crime in the CommunityWhere stories live. Discover now