Dinner talk that evening was centred around the news article Nigel Tyas was to write, though the lamb hotpot held more attention for Mac than the subject matter to begin with. Also with just over a week to go until the membranes touched the agony of preparing Margaret for his imminent disappearance still weighed heavy around his shoulders, a millstone about his neck, and the nearer the date came the heavier it was becoming. What could he do or say to make her understand? Or should he just go and never return? The dilemma, returned again, raising its ugly presence, bothering him beyond belief, beyond relief. It had been at the back of his mind the last few days with all the excitement of the chase, the news coverage and all. But here it was again. What was he to do? So much needed his attention it was becoming more and more of a strain to keep up all the plates.

“He’s definitely after the love angle,” Margaret went on, reiterating her point made earlier.

“Don’t ya let on at all, d’yer hear me the pair n ya?”

The stew was slipping down a treat, and the conversation too, though Mac kept wandering out of the moment and into another.

The bracelet Aunt Bessie spoke about, was that an actual fact or just part of his dream? If it was a certainty then he would be back, of that there was no question, or at least that was the way his mind was heading for the present.

Margaret, sat just across the table from him, her back to the range, sat looking over at him with those come to bed eyes, a mouth which always seemed to be pouting, open slightly, her two full lips quivering with the invitation they held. She was so beautiful a woman, his own wife in differing form, and needed to be treated as such. She deserved more than being left high and dry.

Suddenly Walt choked on a piece of gristle, coughed it up and removed it carefully with his fork. His pale complexion coloured up under the effort.

“That were a bit polite for you pops,” Margaret said jokingly. “Times gone by you’d’ve spit that on ya plate.”

Walt’s face of thin skin wrinkled up as he raised both corners of his mouth in a smile. “Times gone by I would lass, yeh.”

Margaret extended her smile to Mac. He knew its meaning.

The brown earthenware pot taking pride of place at the centre of the table rattled an empty tone. Walt was after the final remnants he thought it held. Mac had beaten him to it at the last ladleful removed a minute ago.

“So when ya gonna ask yon reporter back then?” The elder went on. He had shifted his attention on to the larger bowl of rice pudding, determined to be the first into the steaming desert. His spoon cut through the brown milk skin with a crack as he took a large portion into his same bowl, the one used for his main course. A wry expression of ‘could not care less’ visited his face. Actually, neither of the youngsters did, care anything about his antics. Even Mac was used to the elders idiosyncrasies by now. “I’ll even keep me mouth shut this time,” he went on. “Not complicate matters like t’last time he came.” Whether there was any truth in that sentence would remain to be seen.

“We’ll have him over tomorrow sometime if you like, I’ll finish the potatoes off then meet him back here if that’s ok.”

Margaret swallowed a spoonful of hot pudding quickly and interrupted before Walt could pass judgement on the lack of a full days farming. “Of course it is.” She looked to her father for his approval.

She need not have worried. He passed a hand across the kitchen table, tapped the back of Mac’s hand a couple of times and nodded in agreement. “Ya do what ya thinks best lad, tha does a fine job and deserves all t’gud fortune tha can get.”

The pink handset, in Mac’s shirt pocket, it was vibrating. It stopped him in mid spoonful. Margaret and Walt was here with him. The only other person with his number was Nigel Tyas. Fumbling around to take the handheld out it dropped into his own bowl of milk pudding, much to the amusement of the two Helliwell’s. Margaret lost a little of her desert in laughing, leaving a tell tale trace running down to her chin which she wiped off unceremoniously.

The contents of the crockery burnt his fingers a little as he rescued the phone, but the handset had stopped vibrating in the meantime. Wiping it clean Mac looked to the identity of the caller. Sure enough it was who he had thought. The phone started up once again.

“It’s Nigel Tyas.”

“Go on then Mac, take it,” Margaret exclaimed excitedly, “it’ll not answer itself.”

“Hello! Nigel?” Mac listened for the reply then more than that, much more than that. Listening intently to what Nigel Tyas had to say he stayed quiet for quite a while, nodding and murmuring every now and then, a ‘yeh’ here and an ‘ok’ there, all the time the wrinkles on his brow deepening with concern. “Right, well I can’t explain it either,” he finally said, interrupting the journalists flow, “I don’t have an explanation.”

More seconds passed, all the time him listening some more, nodding his head as he did so, and pursing his lips now, then biting at the lower one slightly, all the time a fixed stare off into the corner of the kitchen towards the zinc bucket of a coal scuttle, a stare of disbelief into nowhere as whatever the journalist had to say was being understood.

Margaret held onto his free hand. His face had lost some colour, quite a feat in the warming heat of the farmhouse kitchen. Something was upsetting him. Finally he agreed on tomorrow’s meeting, bid an exasperated farewell and closed the lid of the phone firmly shut with a snap of its hinge.

Margaret asked the obvious. “What’s up love?” He thought quietly for a moment and made no attempt at an answer. “No one come forward?” she continued.

“No, it’s not that.” He paused a moment. “Nigel says he’s had a contact with the lab doing my tests.” Silence again.

“And, what can be done?”

“Nothing, it’s not that. Somebody’s been in touch with him. Telling him what a strange dna makeup I have.”

“We knew that already, so did the journalists, so what does he mean exactly?” Margaret squeezed his hand.

“They keep saying that my dna is unusual, in fact it’s quite alien, out of this world. Those are Nigel Tyas’ words not mine.”

“But the lab can’t release that sort of information.” Margaret looked perplexed now and tapped her spoon on the table in annoyance.

“I know that but it looks like they have. Someone from inside the lab, not the doctors, but someone from inside the lab has.” Mac went quiet again, took a deep intake of breath then put his case forward. “It could be that Nigel Tyas has had wind of this for some time and as been leading me on. He’s found out before he even approached me and all his dealings towards us have been a ruse.”

Walt interrupted. “What does tha mean by that lad?”

Mac retraced his thoughts quickly. “I don’t know what I mean really Walt. Maybe he’s after a bigger story. With my apparent genetic makeup I should be the easiest person on the planet to track down, but yet there’s no record of me anywhere. Even I think that’s strange don’t you?”

“So what’s Nigel Tyas suggesting?” Margaret asked.

“He’s suggesting that according to this leak from inside the lab…….the source explained to him….that I am a very, very strange individual.”

“And what’s he going to do with that information?”

“He wants my slant on it first he says. He’s coming over tomorrow.”

The two farmers looked sympathetically at him, each showing the care they felt for his predicament. True care, friendly support in time of need. Would this be the time? To come clean. Tell them what he was, who he was. Was it time? He was just about to take the plunge when Margaret came to his rescue and made the decision for him.

“They’ll be a perfectly good explanation for it,” she said, finishing off her bowl of rice with a scrape of her spoon around what was already an empty bowl. “You wait n see, it’ll all come out in the wash, you’ll see.”

Walt nodded in agreement. “Let em think what they want lad. Sod the lot of em that’s what I say.”

With that Walt stood up. As far as he was concerned there was no need for any further worry on the matter. He left the kitchen to take up his place in the lounge for his evening entertainment, television.

Margaret said she needed to finish up in the milking parlour. So with a promising kiss on her lovers lips she left him to ponder, reassuring him again that everything was bound to turn out alright in the end. If only she knew. He watched her make for the hallway door. When there she turned around and blew him another kiss.

After tidying the pots Mac found himself back across in the annexe, with a chance to update his diary. It was the first one for some days. Margaret was in attendance somewhere most of the time, and not wanting her to see the handheld of his own it was always hidden safe in its secret place. Lying on the bed with a weather eye on the gap at the bottom of the outside door he began, slowly at first. He knew he was safe to record for the moment. When Margaret came up the outside stairs the spot light would come on.

“I think they’re onto me Sal.”

For a few minutes he reported on the dinner time revelation of Nigel Tyas being careful to keep his voice down to a whisper, not that anyone would here but still he did so.

“I can’t wait to get back Sal, and it may be just in the nick of time. There’s some other things to say too that’ve got to be added, stories about this place. Where to begin there’s so much.” He stared at the bottom of the door again, no one was outside.

“There are schools here Sal…….which are classed as in special measures……” He had to think for a moment. “This means that the level of teaching and education students get is not satisfactory within that school. How sad is that Sal? …….. And hospitals that are said to be failing in the level of care they give…….Level of care Sal, level! How can hospital care be measured by a level?……… Certain hospitals have a lot of patients die under treatment when in there…… and some now even disguise this figure by claiming the deaths to be caused by septicaemia……… which needs no reporting as a cause for these criteria…… How can a world function like this Sal? It’s ridiculous.”

He paused to take a well earned breath then continued. “Something else, less serious but still shameful…. Ben, a friends of mine here.” Better not mention Margaret being his friend. “Well he travelled into town the other day, and his car went over a huge pot hole in the road……because the road has not been maintained properly by the council. The impact bursts both his tyres on the passenger side of his car and broke some of the suspension and driving mechanism too. He had to change one tyre then drive a mile on the other flat one to the nearest garage to get two new ones put on……..Ben’s now claiming against the local council for £500! How stupid is that Sal. Why not just keep the roads in good condition.”

Another breath. He was on a roll now. “There is corruption and sleaze throughout this country let me tell ya Sal……with politicians accused of sexual harassment towards woman…… well known entertainers who have been molesting children for decades and decades, yes molesting children sexually. It was a shock to me when I read about it. I have access to the source of a kind now here Sal, so can keep up with news items. Not that it makes good reading let me tell ya. And get this Sal, clergy have been doing the same, molesting children, the clergy. Priests, bishops, cardinals as they’re called. It’s not our deity Sal I told you before, but there’s no excuse for what’s been happening …….and no one seems to have been bothered. It’s been going on for years.”

Footsteps outside in the yard, slow ones though. Mac took a look out the window and waved to Walt making his way across the lamplit yard to the woodpile. He jumped back onto the bed.

“Energy prices,” he went on, “wow! that’s something else Sal……… The electricity and gas companies make huge profits. And get this, they then charge the consumers more on their payments for the infrastructure the companies need to upgrade. It does not come out of their own profits, they charge the consumers more to allow the company to renew the infrastructure and services. With every aspect of life Sal everyone blames someone else for everything let me tell ya…….nobody, but nobody will stand up and be counted…..no one will say enough is enough, it’s ridiculous…..Rant over.”

Just in time too. Margaret was talking to her dad as she passed him on her way to their bedroom. Quickly Mac returned the handheld and pretended to be asleep on the bed.

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