Echoes From The Past – Episode 41

Holly looked round for the young woman with the buggy to back up her story, but she was receding into the distance, having done her civic duty.

Holly gave her own version of events to the police officer, and so did Bert Macintosh, though he had actually seen very little. Surprise had robbed him of his normal powers of observation.

“Would you know them again, Bert?” the policewoman asked, flicking over her notebook.

Bert was distinctly woolly about that, as he sat down again a bit shakily on his stool. Boxer was still barking, though less violently.

“One had dark eyebrows, I think,” Bert said. “And he wore one of these grey things kids wear – woodies.”

“Hoodies,” Holly and the constable said at the same time.

The policewoman turned to Holly.

“Would you recognise any of them, miss?”

Holly thought for a moment.

“I’d know the one who actually didn’t do anything. He was plainly horrified at what the others had done. Then he seemed to realise that he would be in trouble anyway, and ran off after the rest. I would know him. He had red hair and freckles. But I didn’t see the others.”

“OK. That’s a help. I’d like your details, please, if you don’t mind, just in case we need to contact you. Bert, can you quieten Boxer down a bit? Honest to goodness, he could bark for Europe, so he could.”

The old man put his arm round the animal, who was trembling with excitement.

“He’s had a shock, too, you know.”

The policewoman smiled.

“Aye, I know he has. You’re a right pair. I’ll get hold of the doctor and he’ll give you both the once-over.”

“I’m fine, so I am,” the old man said in slightly firmer tones.

“Of course you are,” the policewoman agreed. “But I’ll get him just the same.” She turned to Holly again, with a calming smile. Holly wondered how near she was to retirement herself. It was as if she had seen everything, and nothing surprised her any more, which, instead of turning her into a cynic, had made her unflappable.

The same policewoman, whose name was Officer Grogan, phoned later in the day, when Holly was back home and Angela had just left.

Officer Grogan’s voice was strangely cheerful.

“I thought you’d like to know, we got the boys. All four of them.”

Holly’s brows shot up. That was an unexpected development. She had no idea there were so many good runners in Stirling.

“We got two, and they clyped on the others. So we rounded them up. They’re all singing like canaries, but you said one of them was just a bystander. Is that right?”

Holly nodded into the phone.

“That’s right, officer. I don’t know anything about his history – he could be a master criminal for all I know – but on this occasion he was an innocent. I’d swear to that.”

“Well, we’ve taken all their photos, and if you could possibly come in and identify the one you’re talking about, you would be doing us all a favour. We’ve had your statement typed up, so we’d like you to check it and sign it. Can you manage in some time today?”

“I can spare half an hour, if that’s enough.”

“Certainly. I’ll see you whenever you can get here. We’ll hang on to the boys in the meantime.”

Thus it was that, making Bea promise she would stay resting on top of her bed and not move, Holly set off for the police station. She did not see the boys, but she did see the photographs. The boys looked far too young to have a police mug shot, but they were already well known to the authorities for lesser offences. There was a sadness about such young people having so little in their lives that they thought it was a good idea to knock over an old man for the change in his cap.

However, Holly was not there to make judgements. She read through the statement, and nodded her agreement before signing. The photographs were unnamed, but she had no trouble in pointing out the boy she had seen on the sidelines.

“That’s him,” she said firmly. “He really did nothing, and he seemed genuinely aghast at what the others did. So where do I sign?”

Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!