TWO SIMON GRANT MYSTERIES
Hiding the Elephant – Chapter 25
The marriage celebrant was called Hilda and was very pally with Bruno, wrapping her freckled arm around his narrow shoulders while they talked. She lived above the Marriage Shop and it had taken her a few minutes to open up. An abundance of white and pink nylon lace was squashed underneath a brown and green floral dressing gown.
Some more gaps in his memory. Simon recalls women’s voices, voices other than Pippa’s and Lisa’s, but not who they were or what they looked like. Stork had brought a bottle of rye along and was sharing it with everyone, Hilda included. Simon and Pippa were given a selection of marriage vows to chose from, but Pippa decided to write down the English service, as far as she could remember it, starting with ‘Dearly beloved’. Simon wasn’t much help. The paper in Hilda’s hands was shaking while she read the lines, incomplete, inaccurate and in a wrong order, but she put on her best English accent and Simon thought she must have watched a lot of Britcoms.
‘…to the exclusion of all others.’
Pippa smiled at him there, waiting.
He said ‘I do,’ at the appropriate time, Pippa said hers.
‘I proclaim you now a man and wife. You may kiss the bride.’
He kissed the bride and so did everybody else after him on a somewhat hurried way out. A woman Simon couldn’t remember ever seeing before the ceremony, suggested they all go to an all night lobster and champagne place no more than half an hour drive up the road, but no one seemed interested. The noise was still high, festive, everybody was warmly hugging everyone else. Schlitz shook Simon’s hand several times and reminded Pippa that he was always there for her. Lisa sat at the wheel with the newlyweds in the back seat. ‘I never drink,’ she explained unnecessarily, then drowned the silence with a four-speaker radio that soon changed from rock to country and western followed by a phone-in for the insomniacs. They’d probably snuggled closely to each other, but Simon’s recollection of the trip is hazy. Lisa’s parting instruction was to go forth and multiply. Only by the time she left them at a roadside motel boasting cable TV, private swimming pools and gambling machines in each chalet, there was a yellowish line spreading along the horizon and jetlag wasn’t helping.
Lock Up Your Daughters – Chapter 25
Even if he wasn’t blinded by the setting sun and the sweat that was running into his eyes, in his agitation he was unable to register the exact order of events. The oars were still splashing and there was a lot of screaming. Someone was shouting orders, then just shouting. Not all the screams sounded scared. A few kids must have thought it exciting and were calling to each other, looking for spectators and admiration as they jumped into the murky water before the boat completely overturned to its side. A single child’s voice rose above the din in a continuous, unnerving wail.
Dr. Bennett somehow remembered to slip off his shoes before stepping into the water. Before he was in up to his knees he grabbed one little body that floated towards him, lifted it up and deposited it onto the bank. The boy shook Dr. Bennett’s hands off with a ‘I was doing very well on my own, thank you’ look and headed straight back into the water. His second attempt met with more appreciation. Mrs. Warmisham pressed one of her muddy and dripping little girls to her silky floral outfit.
‘Thank you. Thank you. You’ve saved her life.’
The gratitude was a hugely exaggerated but pleasant.
For a moment the incident seemed to be little more than a scary mishap. The other Warmisham girl made her own way to the shore with a small group of spluttering but high-spirited children. A few were led out or even carried out by the trip attendants. The remaining two boats docked safely and their occupants were quickly frog marched into the marquee in spite of loud protests. Several parents packed their own offspring and those they’d brought along into their cars and drove off. Others, the more public-spirited ones, stayed on to look after the over-excited little crowd in the marquee until the appointed collection time.
Dr. Bennett kept wading around, pushing one or another straggling child in the right direction or passing it on to the next pair of helping hands. Occasionally, when he lost the footing, he had to keep himself afloat by paddling doglike in circles and twice he even dived under to inspect two large rocks that protruded a fair way into the stream.
Angel and Bella were among the last to be found. Angel had been hanging for dear life to the stern of one of the other boats and her fingers had to be prised off the edge before she could be moved.
Bella was carried out unconscious. One of the attendants stripped and dived around until he spotted her under a rock, possibly the same one that Dr. Bennett had examined before. Grace Warmisham had the wisdom and the foresight to run to the pub half a mile away and ring for an ambulance as soon as it was obvious that not all the children were immediately accounted for, and the white vehicle was screeching to a halt on the bank just as Bella and her rescuer emerged to the surface.
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