The telephone peals eventually penetrated Rachel's sleep. For a moment she could not identify the sound, until she pushed the duvet away from her ears and sat up in bed. Seeing daylight outlining the window drapes, she promptly glanced at the clock. It was after ten. She moved rapidly, slinging her robe around her shoulders and sprinting like a startled rabbit towards the door.
The chiming persisted and as she galloped bare foot down the stairs she wondered why the caller didn't ring off and try again later. As she put out a hand to lift the receiver, the ringing stopped. ‘Damn it!’ she exclaimed, but there wasn't time for an inquest into who it might have been. Yanking up the bulk of her robe, she raced to the kitchen and seized the kettle. There was no time to eat but no matter how late she was she couldn't set foot outside the house without a drink.
Everything was done in a hurry. Expressing regret for the lack of walking time, she fed Rex and sent him into the garden for pickle duty. She swallowed a mug of tea in one go, choked on a chocolate biscuit, and telephoned Cynthia before her mouth was totally free of crumbs.
After letting Rex back in, she scurried upstairs to wash and don the navy-blue dress she wore to visit her father. At that point, she allowed her thoughts to dwell on his worry over Amy, who was still attending stupid séances and who, last weekend, had stayed out all night.
Satisfied she looked okay, Rachel went downstairs and sat on the chair to put on her shoes. As she eased her feet into comfortable navy-blue flats, the telephone rang again.
‘Am I speaking to Rachel Ellison?’
The male voice was unfamiliar. Rachel's imagination ran through scenarios of death and destruction, endeavouring to decide if he was police, fire or ambulance. Her voice when she answered was barely audible; it almost disappeared when she found out who the caller was.
‘Terry, Terry Marshall. I'm ringing on the off-chance that
As far as Rachel was aware, Terry was assisting
Wishing she could ask what the hell was going on, Rachel informed Terry that he might catch
‘I won't be around, Rachel - I hope you don't mind me being informal. I'm going to
‘When do you leave?’
‘My flight's in two hours.’
‘Can I tell
‘It could be a month, or longer. I'm standing in for a chap who had a heart attack.’
Rachel peered at her watch, conscious that time was flying. Ben Collins would be in a state of unhinged fury. ‘I'll give
Courteously, Terry apologised for holding her up, thanked her for her time, and rang off, leaving Rachel in a real turmoil over
RACHEL sprinted across the shop floor, ignoring the barbs from the blur of men behind the machines, though their utterances registered.
Alf's ‘Mornin', Rachel,’ and Bert's ‘You mean afternoon, you daft whatsit,’ were followed by an outburst from Sid, who yelled, ‘It must have been a bloody good lay, Rach, to make you so late.’
‘The gang of three'll be the death of me,’ she panted as she shot like a bullet through the office door. ‘And Sid gets cruder by the minute.’ Rachel paused at Cynthia's desk and eyed the boss's door. ‘What sort of a mood's he in?’
Speaking through a billow of smoke, Cynthia acquainted Rachel with the news that Ben Collins was driving his family to Llandudno and would be away for a whole day. ‘So that lets you off the hook.’
‘Fantastic. God, that's a relief because I really need to talk to you.’ Stripping off her raincoat, she pulled up a chair and sat facing Cynthia. With her arms folded under her chest she began her tale, reporting virtually verbatim the conversation with Terry.
Occasionally shaking her head in disbelief, Cynthia listened intently to Rachel's detailed account of her conversations with both Gary and
‘Yes. I told you.’
‘Are you positive they were going to Terry's relatives?’
The rapid fire questions went on, and Rachel began to have her doubts. ‘I don't know any more, Cynth. You don't think I dreamt it?’
Cynthia wiped ash from her fingers. ‘I don't know, do I, but it sounds daft to me. Why would
WAS her memory playing tricks? Had she misheard or misconstrued
(to be continued)