The Primrose Line – Episode 01

Illustration by Ged Fay

Jim Connaught swung round at the unexpected opening of his office door. His colleague, Julie Kemshaw, looked startled.

“Oh! Jim, I’m sorry, I thought you’d gone.”

The Detective Chief Inspector (Rtd) cleared his throat and jangled his car keys at her.

“I had. Shan’t get far without these!”

Julie smiled, understanding his need for one last look around the office that had been a big part of his life for so long.

“It must be a funny feeling after all these years. So, it’s the family in Switzerland tomorrow. All packed?”

“I’m an old hand at packing. Switzerland has been a second home since Laura married Martin and went into the hotel trade.”

“Never thought of joining your daughter and settling there with them?”

“Helen and I talked it over more than once when she was alive. Their place overlooks the lake. You can watch the yachts and paddle-steamers going back and forth between Lausanne and Geneva.”

“Sounds like five-star heaven. Most people would give their eye teeth for it!”

“I’m not most people.”

“That’s for sure. I’m going to miss you. Goodbye, Jim.”

“Goodbye, Julie.”

The two of them hugged.

He closed the door behind him, this time for good.

The February Midlands afternoon was murky as he drove home. He looked at his watch. He was running late. It was a good job he was more or less packed.

This day hadn’t come out of the blue. He was in good health, and hard work and forward planning had given him a modest income, enough to enjoy a new life without the constrictions of work.

He and Helen had been looking forward to this day. But life hadn’t worked out like that.

He opened the door. More post, most of it official. It was incredible how many government departments were interested in his departure from the workforce.

He didn’t have time to open them now.

He scooped up the letters and put them in a neat bundle.

He’d take them with him and deal with them over there. These days it didn’t matter where you were when it came to getting in touch.

He had one last look around. Switzerland would help him. Laura had her mother’s practicality and Martin, her husband, was as solid as a Swiss mountain. There would be no time for the questions that nagged him.

And certainly his grandchildren Emile and Adrienne would get him back on track.

He’d booked the last plane of the day and it was gone nine as he picked up his case and walked through Customs at Geneva airport.

He hadn’t expected the whole family to meet him. Laura was strict with her bedtime routine where the kids were concerned.

It was unusual and his policeman’s nose twitched.

“Grandpa! Happy retirement!” Emile and Adrienne shouted in unison as they hugged him.

“Thank you, although it’s only been a few hours and it doesn’t seem much different at the moment.”

Jim shook hands with Martin and hugged Laura.

When they’d first started coming to this country for holidays, they’d learned to ski together. Helen had never been very keen.

Each year they’d hired a chalet in the mountains and that was how Laura had eventually met Martin.

“Missed you, Dad.”

Jim’s nose twitched again. Was there a slight edge to those words?

“We’ll make up for that. I didn’t expect to see everyone here – it makes me feel even more special!”

“It’s not every day you retire. And it’s Saturday tomorrow, so no school.”

“Ah, of course.”

They began walking to the lift that would take them to the underground car park.

“Grandpa, we have news!”

“Adrienne, you’re not to say anything!” Her brother gave her a severe look as the lift stopped and they went to the car.

“Well, that makes me very intrigued,” Jim said. “I hope it’s good news.”

Adrienne reminded him so much of Laura. Aged six, she had an impulsiveness that was irresistible.

“Maman, is it a secret?” Adrienne was miffed with her big brother.

Jim saw Laura was disconcerted.

“No, it’s not a secret, darling, but . . .”

Jim blinked.

“Laura, you’re not . . .?”

She smiled.

“No, Dad. Now, children, help Grandpa with his luggage, please.”

Adrienne took the modest case he always used for his trips here.

“Grandpa, you haven’t got much,” she said with a worried look.

“It’s what I always have. How much more should I have brought?”

“Lots,” she replied, “especially if you’re coming to live with us!”

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.