11 Ladysmile Lane – Episode 30

“Are you sure you’ll be able to pull this off?”

If Mel had asked him once, she’d asked him 20 times. And always Harrison said, “Yeah, yeah, it’s no big deal.”

But she’d seen the doubt on Alan’s face when she’d turned up, saying that, under the circumstances of Ewan’s stint at his company, Mel would like to do the work herself for a couple of days.

“With my team-mate here. He’s very experienced.”

The problem was, Harrison just didn’t look right with a duster!

Mel sighed as she watched him. Why was he prancing about with it? And polish! Half the office was coughing because of the liberal abandon with which he’d sprayed it over anything and everything!

She was just pleased that Alan had gone off out to a meeting. She acknowledged, though, that Harrison did need to visit the crime scene, as it were, if he was going to clear Ewan’s name.

She switched her vacuum cleaner back on to carry on with her own job, then switched it off again as a yell came from the kitchen.

Alan’s daughter was struggling to regain her balance after slipping, and behind her someone else was nearly falling flat.

“What on earth has he cleaned that floor with?” Mel muttered as she went to sort things out.

But, she reflected later, there were some aspects of the job about which Harrison was quite meticulous. When emptying the bins, he carefully separated the different types of paper.

“To see what should be recycled, which I’ll do later for you,” she heard him telling one of the staff. “I’m very into conservation.”

And everyone’s computer screen got cleaned.

“No, no need to switch them off, I won’t lose any of your work.”

He showed a flattering interest in the customer, too. When he was dusting the reception area he paused to read, with what looked like rapt attention, the firm’s history that was included in the brochures they had on the desk there.

The only criticism was that he was on his mobile phone a lot. Was he taking photographs with it? Of course he was! Mel realised Harrison was collecting information. She had no doubt he knew the kind of thing he needed. And he’d get it – she was sure of that, too.

With their shift nearly finished, she felt herself relax a little. But then her thoughts returned to the short phone call she’d received just before they left Ladysmile Lane. It wasn’t usual for her sister to telephone her – they saw each other nearly every day. And what had Carol meant by her cryptic words?

“Mel, we need to talk.”

*  *  *  *

Georgia looked at her watch. It didn’t look as though the woman who’d phoned the previous week to book some Spanish lessons was going to turn up. She was already an hour late.

“People change their mind,” she complained to herself, “which is fair enough. But I wish they’d phone and cancel so I know I’ve got that time free.”

She sighed. Not that there was exactly a queue forming for her services! As she’d said to her grandad, she might have to think of something else. But what?

Before she could come up with any ideas, the door to her office was flung open and Alex appeared. Wonderfully calm, helpful Alex was looking distinctly flustered. Mind you, he had spent the day with Eloise right next door to him!

She wondered if that was why he was here, to ask whether he was going to have her camping in his office annex tomorrow. But then she saw something else entirely in his face.

“What’s wrong?”

“There’s been a big pile-up; have you heard? I saw it on a local news page on my computer.”

Georgia reached out for her own laptop, but Alex was already telling her where it was – about 20 miles out of town on the road leading to a stately home.

“Amy’s history class at school are visiting it today. The accident seems to have happened at the time they would be coming back. I managed to get through to the police, but they can’t tell us any more yet. I’ve been trying to phone the school, too.” He indicated the mobile phone in his hand. “It’s always engaged. Eloise is trying the number now, too.”

At that moment Eloise came rushing in.

“Can’t get through,” she told Alex.

“I must go there,” he said.

“I’ll drive you,” Georgia said, grabbing her keys and getting to her feet.

Her legs felt like jelly. What must Alex’s be like, she wondered as they both dashed to the door. . .

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.