The mystery apparently solved, the crowd began to melt away, not wishing to get involved further, but Cally and Tim lingered, chatting to Imogen and Sheila. It was Sheila who seemed to know more about Mr Meldrum.
“Remember he complained about us chatting in the library, Cally? I didn’t think anything of it then, but . . .”
“It fits, doesn’t it?” Cally agreed. Again they came back to Tim’s question of what they should do about it, if anything.
“It’s not like he’s caused any real harm,” he said, his tone soft with sympathy. “I feel sorry for him. Some of our guys were like that, super sensitive to noise after bomb blasts and the like.”
“I heard that’s what caused the deafness in the first place. He’s a former soldier,” Sheila put in. “I’ve never really asked him about it.”
That fact increased Tim’s sympathy factor ten-fold.
“Really? I’d like to talk to him about that. But I wonder where he got the hearing aid?” he said. “If it was from a proper clinic, surely they could adjust it for him? Maybe it just needs a bit of fine tuning.”
Imogen was nodding.
“You’re right. I could have a word with him. I’ll try to bump into him at his door some time when I’m taking Chap out for a walk.”
“And if he needs a lift to this clinic, just give me a ring. I’ll be happy to drive him.”
“And we’re not taking this any further?” Cally looked around the other three faces.
All shook their heads.
“Good,” Sheila agreed. “You can’t blame someone for wanting a bit of peace and quiet,” she said with evident feeling born of a domestic life with a husband whose passion was cars and motorbikes, and two rumbustious children.
Tim and Cally were lounging on the sofa watching TV in Cally’s living-room, which, Tim had commented slightly enviously, was much cosier than his.
It was, with comfortable furnishings that created a warm, welcoming room.
“That’s because yours is still a bit of a building site,” she pointed out reasonably.
“True,” he agreed.
“You’ve put more effort into making your dogs comfortable than you have yourself,” she added.
“Also true,” he agreed. He sounded unconcerned, and she laughed up at him.
“We have that in common, at least. Our animals come first – even if those animals are the opposite of each other.”
“You mean cats and dogs?”
She nodded, nestling closer to him as he settled his arm more comfortably across her shoulders.
“A bit like us. Total opposites.”
“Do you think? And what did you mean, we have that in common ‘at least’,” he murmured close to her ear. “Don’t you think we have much in common?”
She tilted her head from side to side, considering.
“I’m not sure. Do you think we could come up with ten things?”
“Definitely,” he said, his voice ringing with confidence. He held up the thumb of one hand.
“Toast. We both love toast. With butter.”
“Quizzes,” she added, and he straightened out his forefinger.
“That’s two. How about that cookery programme where they get voted off?”
She squinted up at him, incredulous.
“You can’t include that when you don’t even know what it’s called!”
“Of course I can. We both like it. It’s in,” he said, straightening out his next finger. “That makes three.”
The silence stretched from a minute to two, to three.