By dinner time the farming diary was back on track, the potatoes all sprayed, Mac had even had the time to run across the fields to retrieve the handheld from its deposit under the thick tree root and rock back at the cuttings edge.

Walt and Margaret, sat patiently to the kitchen table, he had seen them and knocked on the window on passing, had no more idea about the mid day fiasco than the beast out to pasture, one of which was waiting for her new friend by the boundary wall with the yard. Mac obliged her with a pat on the head, a word or two and some longer grass from her unreachable side of the divide.

“Sorry to keep ya,” he shouted from the one hallway clothes peg at the outside doorway, hanging up a newish wax jacket bought recently from his most visited store, “Debra was at the wall wanting to see me, I gave her some of her favourite.”

Margaret was the first to reply. “She’s really taken a shine to ya Mac. She was at that wall as soon as I’d let em all out the parlour.”

“That lad’s a way wi animals,” Walt was admitting as Mac took his place at the window end of the place settings.

He truly had been accepted as part of the household, and indeed the farm itself. Feet under the table, jeans hanging over the creel to air above the heat given out by the range, a nourishing meal considerately prepared by someone who loved him very much, he was aware of the impact his arrival had on the farmstead, and scared of the unfortunate consequences his disappearance would herald.

Margaret kissed him on the lips to welcome him home “You hungry love?” she asked.

“I am, what we having?”

“Corned beef ash.” She lifted the lid.

Steam rising from the terracotta casserole pot gave off such an aroma, reminding him, and all of a sudden, that he had not actually taken any lunch. In the turmoil that had been noon the opportunity had passed by, and afterwards he had quite simply forgotten to eat. Now a stomach devoid of satisfaction rolled a couple of times as Margaret shared up the meal. Mac picked up the last knife and fork from off the table and began to tuck in. They all did, quietly at first, all effort going to satisfying appetite and not discourse.

A broad affectionate smile rested with the cook for long enough as she watched her lover devour the fruit of her labour, not one dish passed his lips, but two. He was not the only one however, all three of them had very good appetites, the combination of healthy eating and plenty of exercise though no recipe for weight gain, for the two youngsters at least.

Margaret as usual looked her beautiful self, that raven black hair dispersed about a face untouched by the sun, her come to bed eyes glinting with promise and anticipation, and the manner in which she carried her tall thin frame, always straight back and shoulders, never a slouch, giving her a graceful gait, prim and proper some would say, elegant others. If only her father knew. Perhaps he did.

Mac if anything had lost a few pounds, nothing to do with the cuisine, more the turmoil and argument ever running on a loop in the far back reaches of his mind. Emotional, mental energy, continually on the boil needs feeding, and in being satisfied had taken a little from his waist and face. He was comfortable with the difference and thought, if anything, that it made him look better, younger, and anyway there was no one with any true reference point to compare so a pound or two here and there would not be missed and could be easily replenished when finally home.

Walt, if any of them was the one beneficiary in poundage. Gone was that malnourished sunken look below his cheek bones and around his forearms a slight tightening of his always pale skin that before had hung from elbow to wrist. A man now at one with his lot and thankful of a reduced working day he had began to recapture some age dissipated over the years since his wife’s death. Still a long road to travel he was taking the correct route now and enjoying himself again, a fact made obvious in both body and soul. It showed the most in his less troubled facial expression, crows feet at the corner of each eye less pronounced now, as were the furrows on his brow.

The evening conversation as usual took the course of Walt’s enquiries on the day. The lambs, the piglets, the milk yield and such. After the reporting it was tonight to be Margaret who steered the talk off subject.

“I wonder why we don’t have a May pole and festival dad, we really enjoyed it yesterday didn’t we Mac?”

Mac nodded in approval.

“They used ta, me an ya nan went most years,” the elder revealed to his only daughter, slightly misty eyed at the memory his answer evoked. A few grey hairs stood up on the back of his arms.

Margaret enjoyed the emotion in him. “Did you dance then dad?” she asked.

“I’m not afraid t’ say I did. We all did.” Walt took another ladle of food and added his favourite condiment to it, brown sauce, and plenty of it.

The sauce bottles had been a permanent feature of the kitchen table ever since the three of them had started back eating next to the warm black range. Red and brown as well as mint, plus vinegar, mustard and horseradish, Walt could not manage a meal without some accompaniment or other added to his plate. He even put vinegar in his mash some days and to cap it all off was not adverse to scooping any left over gravy from his plate into rice pudding if that was on the menu. Mac had laughed inwardly on first seeing the strange bowl but by now had become used to this elders endearing antics.

“It would be good for the town I reckon, to get one going again,” Margaret went on.

“I really enjoyed it,” Mac added, “but if you remember, there weren’t many teenagers and our age there. Mainly families with children and the older end, but it’s youth which keeps tradition afloat and if their not interested….”

“Their ta busy playin yon tinternet games or hung oer from sat’day to be bothered bowt owt such as that.” Walt was now on his second favourite subject, and one which took the three of them into the lounge accompanied by a bottle of red wine to share in more comfortable surroundings. Couch potatoes were mentioned along the next sixty minutes, as well as fat waistlines, lazy good for nothing’s, hoodies, riots and benefit cheats. Mac kept up very well, it was not the first time the topics had been broached.

The taste of the red grape loosened tongues even further but as evening turned to night the fireplace attracted more attention than any spoken word. The only source of illumination once daylight fled, the rainbow of flames dancing about the black fire back cast subtle shades of warmth all about the room.

Mac and Margaret, cuddled together on the sheepskin rug by the hearth, and Walt in his chair with both feet up resting on his red leather pouffe, all had their eyes fixed to the glow. Like rabbits caught in headlights the spectacle weaved a spell of ancient times, hypnotising on occasions, exciting at others, as every so often two or three spurs coalesced to form one long tongue licking at the soot on the bricks of the chimney, filling the lounge with a hazy, lazy glow, there for a second, gone the next, not bright enough to see the contents within clearly, but enough to bestow them with a misty hue of presence.

“Love you Mac Hammerton,” Margaret whispered in his ear.

“And me you,” he replied squeezing at her waist and fitting his body to hers. The closeness brought a flash of an image of Sal within the flames.

What in all that was good was he doing, laid down on this pelt with someone not his wife? The dilemma did not flow, mixed up somewhat with the wine it did not own the usual viscosity of late doubts and just melted back into the surface from where it sprang.

Walt fell to sleep leaving the two lovers to their courtship, seripticously played out, a silent kiss here, a subtle touch there, Margaret’s teasing ways matched by Mac”s flirtatious movements. He had grown quite amorous in the past few weeks, the fresh air and liberty the farm had offered a foil for the entwining of his emotions with those of Margaret.

They played on one another’s appetite, quietly teasing the other until an ember spit onto the red brick hearth threatened to rekindle in the draw of the fire. Margaret, now facing away from the heat jumped slightly at the noise, but Mac leaning over her to grasp the brass tongues on the companion introduced a distraction of another kind by his closeness. It was time to take themselves to bed.

No sooner had Margaret left for the dawn milk than Mac was out and down at the bridge. Realising a need to visit at odd times now for fear of being caught again, even this hour had proved useless. If he was not careful the bridge would be the undoing of him but what alternative was there, a way must present where necessity commands.

The bottom field kept him occupied after breakfast, dry stone walling an excellent therapy for a troubled mind. It takes a certain kind of eye to build a dry stone wall and Mac had it. He had had it since the first few times his Gramps had taken him along to build or repair there own or even neighbours boundaries in the warm summer months of school vacations,

“You have the knack few have,” Gramps told him, of looking at a stone and knowing straight away whether it is the correct one. It is no good asking what kind of stone is available, the stone wanted is the one that is going to fit and it is always there, rarely in need of adjustment, ready to take its rightful place.

Gramps? how he missed him. The patriarch of their family he was so supportive and learned that the whole clan looked to him for advice and instruction, but above all to Mac he was his Gramps and that title could not wander outside.

“We’ll mend this stretch for Mr Perkins eh Mac Arthur?” The memory had joined him in the field. “He asked me last week, He has half a beast to put our way. I’ll watch while you build, I know you can do it.”

Mac was twelve at the time and revelled in the trust and confidence placed upon him. It took him but half that day to restore his first rebuild and when he had finished and stood back to observe, well words could not describe to a twelve year old the satisfaction and pride at his achievement.

Every dry stone wall is actually two separate but interlocking walls, tied at regular intervals by longer through or tie stones, and a middle filled with a mass of smaller rocks and pebbles. While caught up in the pleasure of building Mac had imagined an analogy of his developing work to the two universes he could now occupy, each and both dependent on the other, bonded together with craft and care, interlinked and present for all time unless broken by some external force of nature. In the case of this wall it was the cattle in the field, goodness knows what it was that was playing with the membranes of the universes.

The tool he used was Walt’s, a well smoothed, well worn wooden handle and steel hammer head it was now too much of an instrument and an occupation for the elder to undertake. Mac had, unbeknowingly to begin with, become its owner, the job of wall repairer now bestowed on the much younger, stronger man.

If it was not for the sudden downpour he may even have placed the last metre of coping stones, but as had been the norm of late the sky turned leaden without warning and forced him indoors for dry clothes and a break. Pondering on the bridge, while laid on the bed and listening to the pitter patter on the slates, he knew somehow that there would be a way back, and before this fourteen days were up. That was his comfort, one which he was enjoying until a knock came on his door.

It could not be Margaret, she had no need whatsoever to announce her arrival of late. It would not be Walt. He did not like to negotiate the stone steps after rain, betraying as they were when wet. So who was it.

Opening the door, not only let in a breeze carrying more rain on its back, but also bitter disappointment. Greybeard, his captor from yesterday, stood, helmet in hand, at the top of the steps, police business in mind and further hassle no doubt.

“Mr Hammerton,” he began, “there’s a few irregularities with your statement that need clarification. I’d be grateful if you’d accompany me back to the station.” Again the sentence left no room for manoeuvre, no availability of decline, put as it was, every word, thoughtfully chosen stood its ground, no exchange of significance possible.

“What ya up ta wi my new farmhand young Simpson?” Walt’s voice was not amused, he was calling from the yard as he made way across the divide.

“Police business Mr Helliwell,” young Simpson replied, not so young actually, but compared to Walt the title was well placed.

“Well y’all not be needing him then, he’s not bin ere but a week or two, get ye sen some proper policing dun an catch some thieves an the like.” Walt was working up a sweat and frenzy in defence of his daughters new found partner.

“I’m afraid that’s not going to happen Mr Helliwell, Mr Hammerton’s needed at the station,” police officer Simpson explained in a most respectful tone of voice.

“He’s bahn nowhere till ya tell me wat he’s dun”

Mac interrupted, before Walt burst a blood vessel, besides it would strengthen his own case too. “It’s ok Walt. I’ve done a stupid thing, crossing the railway tracks at the cemetery bridge, it’s quicker than going over. It’s all got to be cleared up that’s all.”

Walt calmed a little. “Well see as ya not ta long wi him. There’s work a plenty needs attending, an Margaret ‘ll be nun too happy I can tell ya.”

“I’ll be as quick as is possible rest assured,” the officer informed this elder who he quite obviously knew and by his own attitude did look up to and care for what opinion he held.

“I’ll not be long Walt,” Mac added, following step after greybeard Simpson to a waiting police Land Rover evident in the lane adjoining the farm.

“So you’re telling me Mr Hammerton that you’ve made the address up because you don’t know who you are?” Murphy had met Simpson at the duty desk and taken over the proceedings. “You’ve lost your memory and not being too concerned about it are simply waiting around here for it to return.”

The interview room was the same, even down to the attendance of Miss Peters, now showing a thoughtful concern for her charge. Audio recorder operational, cardboard cups of coffee, times three this time, and the same stark clinical atmosphere of a room you would rather not be within.

“Has it happened before?” the dutiful legal representative enquired.

“Possibly,” Mac answered, trying to make light of the situation, “I honestly can’t remember.”

“Of course, I’m sorry.” Miss Peters had swallowed hook line and sinker, which was more than could be said for Murphy.

He was having none of it and it showed on his face. Screwing up his nose, a protruberence exaggerated even more by the lack of any substantial jaw and chin underneath, he appeared even more shrew like, wincing his whole visage in disbelief. As he walked purposefully about the table, his fine pin stripe suit flapped about him. The material gave the appearance of being borrowed from someone a couple of sizes larger than its wearer. A child in grown up cloth was all this man portrayed to Mac. Quite frankly he could neither stomach him or for that matter take him seriously, an emotion which he was not used to employing.

“You have no i.d., driving licence, bank cards, don’t know a national insurance number and the address you gave in Whitby does not exist.”
Murphy’s squeaky voice went into overtime. “For all we know you could be a terrorist Mr Hammerton, travelling through, here to do some damage?”

Miss Peters came to Macs defence. “That’s outrageous and you know it.”

“No identification, a made up story of amnesia….”

“But it’s not made up,” Mac jumped in, both feet first. “The first thing I remember about this town is that bridge you caught me at. Why do you think I’ve been seen there so often, I’ve been looking for clues, retracing my steps.”

Murphy had a satisfied, supercilious grin stuck to his face now. He sang out with his high pitched tone. “Aghh! so you lied as well then about that Mr Hammerton, and in a statement, you have been on the railway more than the once.”

Miss Peters closed up her tablet device, stood up and straightened her back out, the stripes of her own blue suit befitting a better tailor.

“Clearly my client does not need this Inspector Murphy,” she said after a cough to clear her throat and the atmosphere, a stifling warmth within the interview suite, “and in view of this recent information I believe medical rather than legal representation would be the most appropriate avenue to proceed down don’t you?”

“Interview concluded at eleven thirty two.” Murphy hit the stop button of the recording equipment and turned to open the door, walked out the first and left them to sit. “I’ll go send for the duty doctor,” he called back into the room, “but until we get this cleared up Mr Hammerton’s not going anywhere.”

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