I thank my LadyCibelle and Techsan for their patience, proof reading, editing skills and of course encouragement. As always I must also add, that I can't leave a story alone. I could well have added some cock-ups after they have seen it and before it gets posted. This story is set many years ago
It was a lovely warm summer afternoon. I was sitting outside the Fox & Hounds pub. What passed locally as the centre of entertainment. I was downing my third pint of HSD (Hicks Special Draft), when Malcolm, one of my drinking buddies, suddenly took a deep intake of breath. Which drew my attention to the car that just pulled into the car park. Well, to be honest, it was what had just got out of the car that Malcolm had got all worked up about.
There were two quite beautiful young ladies, obviously twins and maybe eighteen or nineteen years of age, who were escorted by two much older man.
"Lucky bastards, how did a couple of old farts like that get hooked up with those two darlings?" Malcolm commented. "They're old enough to be their fathers!"
As the four crossed the car park, we tried not to make it obvious that we were watching them. The two girls were obviously twins, about five-five maybe five-six tall, with long blonde hair and bodies to die for. I would say one guy was about my age in his mid-forties but was carrying a lot more weight than I am. The other guy was much older, sixties or maybe even seventies.
As they came closer there was something about the two girls that made me feel uncomfortable; you know that déjà vu feeling. I couldn't put my finger on what caused it, but it's a feeling I don't like.
Mary, the barmaid, who was outside collecting the empty glasses, said, "Good afternoon" to them.
The big guy returned her greeting in an accent that told me he came from inner east London. Not a Cockney but not far off. He had a confident swagger about the way he walked that hinted he could handle himself. I thought he might be a bodyguard or could even be a copper.
The two girls said "Hi," to Mary, Their accent instantly informed everyone within earshot that they came from across the pond. Where about's in the States I didn't know and I doubted anyone else who heard them could tell either. We don't see that many Yanks down here in Cornwall.
The big guy stood by the side of the door and gestured with his arm for the old man and the girls to go inside, then he entered after them.
Mary turned to look at me, then said, "Christ Dave, I thought that was your sister at first glance."
"You flatter my family Mary. My sister was never as lovely as that, even on a good day."
Mary smiled then followed the new arrivals inside, to serve them.
I sat and thought, Mary must have seen in their faces the same thing that had made me feel uncomfortable. But I was sure I couldn't see my sister in them. I became aware of Malcolm staring at me.
"She's right you know Dave they do bear a resemblance. Perhaps you're related."
"No bloody chance, Mal, they're Yanks. Now if they were Australian, there could be a chance. I know quite a lot of the family went out there, if you go back far enough. Not exactly of their own volition, either."
Malcolm laughed, as I downed the rest of my pint. As I said the new arrivals had somehow made me feel uncomfortable. So I figured it would be a good time to go home and finish repairing my car.
As I walked up the lane to my cottage the two girls kept returning to my mind. I couldn't put a finger on just what it was about them that made feel so damned uncomfortable.
Once I was home however they were soon forgotten, as I returned to the task of reattaching the gearbox to my LandRover. I had spent the morning replacing the clutch; the struggle I'd had getting the drive-shaft spline engaged is what had driven me down to the pub in the first place.
I was lying under the vehicle on my crawler board, tightening the bolts on the prop-shaft, when I saw the boots approaching. Although from my position I couldn't see to whom they were attached, I somehow knew it was going to be the big guy from down the pub.
"Hello, there." he said. "May I disturb you for a minute or two?"
A kick with my legs sent my head out from under the car and I looked up at him.
"Depends on who you are and what you want?" I replied. "As you can see, I'm a little bit busy down here."
He squatted down so that he was no longer towering over me.
"I'm sorry. My name is Nicholas Bruce and I'm a private enquiry agent. I just would like to ask you a couple of questions. If you don't mind?"
"I'd have put you down as ex-job personally; MET was it?"
"You're observant sir. Yes, twenty-two years on the force. I retired six years ago."
"Go ahead then. Shoot but I'm going to keep on working if you don't mind, and if I don't like your questions, I'll tell you were to go."
"That's fine with me, sir. I'm just doing what I'm paid for. Now would I be correct in assuming I'm talking to David Law?"
"That's correct but I'm normally known as Dave."
"And would you be the same David... sorry... Dave Law that was once known as David Laurence and at one time lived in Kingsbury north London?"
"I could be. Why are you asking?
"I've been employed to find a David Laurence who lived in Kingsbury during the late sixties. I'm hoping that you're the man I'm looking for."
"I'd be silly to either confirm or deny if I'm the man whom you're looking for, when I have no idea what this is all about."
"Aye, now, there we both have a problem. You see I don't know what this is about either. I was just employed to try and find, well, you actually. My clients want me to find the answers to three questions. First whether you are alive?"
"What do you think?"
"OK, second whether you are married or have any romantic ties at this time?"
"I don't think I like the way this is going."
"Now hold on a minute, Dave, I can assure you this has no connections to either of your wives or your lottery win. From what I have found out about both your wives, I don't blame you for being cautious."
"You haven't ruled out my first wife's children?"
"You proved they weren't yours at the divorce so you've got nothing to worry about from them."
"Done your bleeding homework, haven't you?"
"Well, I had to. You did do a bloody good job of disappearing. I was running around Spain for nearly two months like a tit in a trance."
"What brought you to Cornwall then?"
"The flowers you have put on your parents grave every year and the fact your sister spends so much time in Padstow."
"She rarely comes near me."
"I know, but I put the two together and that made look down here for you."
"OK. I'm celibate at the moment. I think I've been burnt enough over the years."
"Lastly would you mind meeting my clients, as they wish to talk to you?"
"Tell me, am I right in assuming your clients are the two young ladies, you arrived at the Fox & Hounds with?"
I'd caught him on the back hoof. He obviously had not noticed me sitting outside the Fox and Hounds. Whoever had told him where I lived had not mentioned I'd been there when they arrived.
"This time you're one up on me. Yes, they are my clients. Will you speak to them?"
"What do they want? Do you know?"
"I do but I'm not supposed to. I'd breach my contract if I told you. I do think you would be making a mistake if you do not talk to them. But they insist that if you say no, they will never try to contact you again. Ah, in case you're wondering, I can assure you, they're not after money or anything like that. Now shall I call them and tell them they can come up?"
"No, not yet. If you don't mind I'll get myself cleaned up a little first. You can tell them to come up at five o-clock. I should be able to make myself look civilised by then."
"Okay, Mr. Laurence, I'll bring them here at five."
He began to walk away, then he stopped and turned back to me.
"You made the right choice, sir. I'm sure you won't be sorry."
With that he was through the gate and gone.
I replaced the floor panels in the LR then went into the cottage to get cleaned up.
Five o'clock on the dot, I saw the car pull up in the lane. The two American girls got out and started walking up my drive. They walked slowly, almost hesitantly, talking with each other.
I opened the door as they got near, and they both stopped and stared at me. Then one turned to the other and said, "I told you it was him." She looked at me, "You were outside the pub when we arrived, weren't you?"
"I told Kerry it was you. You look a lot older than you do in our photos. But I knew it was you I saw at the pub."
"Well, ladies this is getting us nowhere. Do you want to come inside and talk or shall we sit in the garden.
"Wherever suits you will do us fine."
"In that case we'll sit outside. Go make yourselves comfortable and I'll bring out some tea."
I could feel them staring at me as I poured the tea. Then I sat back and fixed the two of them with my eyes.
"Okay, girls, what's this all about then?"
"Mr. Laurence, I'm Kerry Parkins and this is my sister Holly."
I must have reacted to the name Holly. Both the girls saw me start.
"Ah, I think you know what I'm going to say next."
"I assume that your mother is one Holly Harbinger," I replied.
That was why these girls looked familiar, the likeness to their mother was obvious once she was brought to mind. Even if it wasn't pronounced.
"Mrs. Holly Parkins, or at least she was. She's divorced now."
"Oh I'm sorry to hear that but I've had a couple of marriages go wrong myself. Can I ask what went wrong with your mother's marriage?"
Holly laughed out loud, then through a grin said.
"Well, if you must know. You did!"
I must have looked confused because Kerry said, "Our father or should I say Mr Parkins suddenly realised that Holly and me looked nothing like him. He was clearing out a cupboard one day and he found some old photographs of mother's. He and mother had a big argument, he was packed and out of the house by the evening."
"Kerry and me were ten at the time and didn't understand what was going on. It was some years after the divorce that we found the photographs. They were of mum and you in London back in the sixties."
"Why would your father leave Holly over some old photographs taken years before? That doesn't make any sense.
"Oh, it does. Mother told us the whole story. Do you remember your time with our mother."
"Of course I do. I was crazy about her."
"Yeah, and from what she tells us, she was crazy about you, as well."
"I don't really think she was; she left me and went back to the States, remember. One of her friends told me she got married soon after she got there. That cut me up pretty badly, I'll tell you."
"Things aren't always as they appear, Dave." A man's voice came from behind me and I turned in my chair to see the old gentleman standing on the edge of my lawn.
"Granddad, you said we could do this," Kerry said with a disappointed tone in her voice.
"Mr. Harbinger, I assume," I said.
"Come on, Dave, it was always Reg to you."
"That was a long time ago, sir. A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then."
"Come on, Dave. You know that Holly going back to the States was her mother's doing. I told you that at the time."
"As I remember, you did, sir."
"And you can cut out this sir shit."
"Okay, Reg. But to what do I owe this sudden reappearance of the Harbinger clan."
"Your daughters, of course. Can't you see the likeness?"
I looked back at the girls. I could see Holly in them, but no resemblance to me. Then I stared at them. Maybe I could see my fathers nose just creeping through.
"Honestly, Mr Laurence, you're our father," young Holly said.
I looked back at Reg.
"She's telling the truth, Dave. Holly was pregnant when she went home. That's why she got married so quickly."
"Are you trying to tell me that I made Holly pregnant."
"If that's so. Why did she go running off to the States and marry some guy over there? It shows you what she thought of me then, doesn't it. See, I told you girls, and I'm not likely to accept the responsibility of being your father in a hurry."
"Now, hang on a minute, Dave, things weren't that simple for Holly. Look, girls can you take a walk? I'm gonna have to give Dave the full story and I think it will be better if I told him alone."
The twins didn't want to leave. But after a little more prompting from their grandfather they took a walk.
"Okay, Dave, back in 1970 things weren't easy for Holly. Her Mum and me were breaking up, as you know. Well, her mum had been carrying on with this guy for a year or so. He had a son and Holly's mum had been trying to push the two of them together. She could use them as cover for meeting the guy. Well, Holly and the guy got on all right and used to go out together. That was, until you came on the scene. Holly's mother was furious at Holly for going out with you."
"As I remember, I wasn't her favourite person."
"Yeah, I owe you an apology there. I used to invite you into the house and give you Bourbon just to wind Holly's mother up. It worked fine as well."