Unforgettable, p.1

Unforgettable, page 1



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  Recent Titles by Gloria Cook from Severn House

  The Meryen Series






  The Harvey Family Series







  The Pengarron Series



  The Tresaile Saga




  Gloria Cook

  This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

  First world edition published 2011

  in Great Britain and in the USA by


  9–15 High Street, Sutton, Surrey, England, SM1 1DF.

  Copyright © 2011 by Gloria Cook.

  All rights reserved.

  The moral right of the author has been asserted.

  British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

  Cook, Gloria.


  1. Widows–Fiction. 2. Villages–Fiction.

  3. Dysfunctional families–Fiction. 4. Manors–

  Conservation and restoration–Fiction. 5. Great Britain–

  Social conditions–1945–Fiction.

  I. Title


  ISBN-13: 978-1-78010-131-6 (ePub)

  ISBN-13: 978-0-7278-8068-0 (cased)

  ISBN-13: 978-1-84751-369-4 (trade paper)

  Except where actual historical events and characters are being described for the storyline of this novel, all situations in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to living persons is purely coincidental.

  This ebook produced by

  Palimpsest Book Production Limited,

  Falkirk, Stirlingshire, Scotland.

  Dog lovers will understand this.

  To my gorgeous, adorable, black and tan King Charles puppy, Grady Max. My newest love and my utter delight, and I could go on and on . . .


  ‘Dorrie Resterick, now there’s an enigma for you.’

  Dorrie raised her neat ginger eyebrows at her brother, Gregory Barnicoat. ‘Must you be so boring, Greg, forever repeating old sayings? That saying didn’t even start with you. I’m merely putting on my walking shoes to take Corky along to Shady Lane for his walk. Then we’ll sit together by the stream and I’ll write some poetry.’ She patted the pocket of her hip-length, pre-war cardigan where her notebook and pencil were tucked down inside. ‘There’s nothing remotely unusual or strange in that.’

  Dorrie did not mind hearing widower Greg’s oft-repeated kindly or mocking maxims, but the enigma one about herself had been started by her beloved late husband. It had been a special thing between Piers and herself, and it had remained special to Dorrie throughout her seven years of widowhood. Special, for Dorrie was not the slightest bit enigmatic, but handsome, successful Piers, used to being surrounded by beautiful, wealthy city women, had seen Dorrie, everyday and unassuming, as fascinating and desirable. Her parents had always described her, the youngest child of their brood of five as, ‘Little Dorrie, she’s as ordinary as people come, and a good thing too.’ Her eldest sibling, at fifty-eight, Greg’s usual declaration about her was, ‘Good old Dor, you always know where you are with her.’ While Greg and her other two brothers and sister continued with old grudges, notwithstanding a feud or two, Dorrie, the peacemaker, got on with them all.

  After a lifetime of learning about and watching all manner of scandal unfold, and of being confided in – all too desperately at times due to her open, trusting face – with the secrets and fears of young and old, Dorrie was pleased she was not remotely puzzling or mysterious.

  I’m not an enigma at all, Dorrie thought, but they do rather seem to find me. During the war she had, or rather Corky had, sniffed out a scrap of evidence in a dreadful local crime. It turned out to be part of a poorly written blackmail note, which had led to a double murder. It had not been a straightforward case. The murderer, a young member of a small-time gangland operation, had been clumsy and was soon traced to his lair in Bristol, where he had died an ignoble death with his own gun rather than face the hangman’s noose. The torn-off part of the scribbled note Dorrie had handed to the police had stated ‘found out about Ch . . . bring money to Merryvale . . .’ Merryvale was the wrong spelling for Merrivale, a nearby property then empty, where the young murder victims, Neville Stevens and his girlfriend Mary Rawling, had been found. The authorities had decided the couple paid the price for foolishly trying to blackmail a black-market gang with a widespread operation. It seemed the most feasible explanation but Dorrie felt that wasn’t really the case. Neville Stevens had been a slow-witted petty thief who had never travelled far. The whole village had been questioned and no one had admitted to knowing anything, but a few people, Dorrie included, felt someone among them was keeping evil secrets. The murders were often mulled over but Dorrie felt too troubled to join in with the morbid speculation.

  Leaving the cosy, comfortable sitting room for the hall she now pulled her beloved floppy crocheted sun-hat over her naturally curly hair, which glowed as bright as polished copper but was now prettily stranded through with silver. The copper freckles on her face and arms were beginning to fade but rather than being worried about the signs of ageing, Dorrie was rather fascinated by them. The light wrinkles at the corners of her eyes and her mouth showed that she smiled a lot, was optimistic and caring. She was proud that her once fine hands were slightly roughened by all the years of digging for victory. Dorrie was wearing a pleated blouse and tweed skirt of twenty years service, but she had been happy to ‘make do and mend’ long before the war had started, and the two years of even tighter post-war rationing was not a particular bother to her. From the long row of coat hooks, she fetched the lead of lovable, mixed-breed Corky, who had a mainly short black coat, long thick body and squat legs.

  Corky was more than a pet to Dorrie. She had come across him as a puppy, lying on top of Piers’ grave just after his burial. Piers had been killed while answering the call, in his own little boat, to help with the evacuation of the retreating British troops at Dunkirk. He had been laid to rest next to his and Dorrie’s only child, Veronica, lost to them suddenly in infancy, from croup. Strangely, the villagers, who usually knew each other’s business, had no idea where the puppy had come from. The friendly little scuff had crawled up to Dorrie and dropped its tiny dirty head on Dorrie’s foot, and heartbroken Dorrie, believing Piers had sent the puppy to ease her loneliness, had immediately fallen in love with him. Corky had needed her too. He was deaf and virtually blind, with a slightly lame hind leg, and there had been little hope of him getting a home elsewhere. ‘You’re coming home with me, little fellow. I’ve got an evacuee brother and sister who will be delighted to have a little playmate.’

  ‘Hold fast there, Dor. Fetch me my panama, old girl. I’ll start off with you. It’s the meeting at the Olde Plough, remember? Johnny and Margaret Westlake are putting their snug at the disposal of interested parties in forming a committee to get the building of a village hall up and running. It’s time N
anviscoe had one.’ Greg’s mellow, slightly drawling voice was fired up with the new passion in his heart. ‘As you know, I’ve spoken to Jack Newton and he’s willing to donate a parcel of land where it verges on to the main road of the village. We need a playing field for the kiddies and a building for the Gardening Club and the like to meet. You women of the WVS did sterling work in that little hut next to the general stores and in each other’s houses for the war effort, but with a proper hall you could start up a Women’s Institute. It would have been just the ticket for the VE celebrations. It would get lonely people out of their houses. Mrs Sanders will probably be happy to donate a good sum of money towards a fund; she’s always very generous, in every way.’ Greg smoothed the ends of his neat David Niven moustache. ‘The villagers can build the hall themselves. I’m sure the Vercoes can be counted on for manual labour, along with Charlie Lawry when he’s not too busy at The Orchards. Hector Evans is eager to pitch in and is willing to be treasurer; he’s got a good head for figures. Mrs Mitchelmore, the battleaxe self-styled lady of the manor, will be bound to show up today. Nothing happens in the village without her staunch involvement – well more or less her say-so. I don’t care what the opposition says. They’re not important.’

  Still spry and lean, with a habitual twinkling expression, he was making mock sword thrusting movements, fighting off the unseen opposition, when Dorrie returned to the sitting room. Music sheets on top of the piano were sent scattering to the floor.

  ‘Greg, do mind the vase of lilac blossom.’ Dorrie was often required to take the part of the sensible one in their joint home, but she loved her brother’s lasting touch of boyishness, and he was always the best fun. ‘The vicar and the Newtons from the Stores are the main opponents to the idea. The Reverend Lytton wants a new church hall. You’d never think Soames Newton is a second cousin to Jack. Then there’s the question of Mr Evans. He’s an eminently pleasant Welshman, but his seven-year residence in Nanviscoe may not be long enough for most villagers to feel he has the right to a say,’ she reminded him. Dorrie could not be doing with the arguments that were always a part of planning meetings and committees. ‘I’m a willing soldier not an officer,’ she would say. ‘Just tell me where I’m needed and I’ll be happy to comply.’

  Then she asked pointedly, ‘Is Jack Newton likely to be at the pub today?’

  ‘Yes,’ Greg replied in an innocent tone but his light blue eyes were glinting.

  ‘Go easy on the ale. The Westlakes sell their own evil brew from under the counter. Don’t forget it’s potent.’ Dorrie passed Greg the hat and his walking stick. She was holding her own simple little cane, although neither in fact needed a walking aid. Since retiring as a major in the Grenadiers, Greg used his carved handled stick to march along on his regular long walks. Dorrie found her cane useful for prodding and poking about in the hedges and ditches if Corky suddenly pushed his head, sometimes frantically, in, under or through the herbage having sniffed out something of vital interest to him. A stiff-limbed plodder he might be, but Corky had a fearfully sharp sense of smell – a very useful thing. Corky’s avid investigations had led to the rescue of a number of injured birds, a squirrel and a trapped fox cub. He had ended the mystery of the sultry Honoria Sanders’ lost gold watch, flung off her wrist when she had been forced to fling herself out of the way of Jack Newton’s tractor – or at least that was their story. In was in the woods below Merrivale that Corky had sniffed out the piece of evidence in the double murder.

  ‘Fiddlesticks and fie to the opponents.’ Greg flicked aside her caution with his big competent hand. ‘That old creaking fossil in the vicarage hasn’t a clue or a care about the needs of the parish. It’s his fault the church hall fell into ruin, and besides it’s only the size of a postage stamp. Soames and Delia Newton oppose anything they fear will take their self-held importance away. And the origins of Hector Evans, and the length of his residence in Nanviscoe, are irrelevant. I was born and bred in this house, as you were and our brothers and sister. I’m the instigator and the leader of this notion. A village hall will be built before this year is out; you have my word on it! Worry not, old girl, leave it to me.’

  ‘Oh, I certainly will, dear,’ Dorrie said, as they and the eager, air sniffing Corky ambled down Sunny Corner’s front path which seemed to have a mind of its own, broad here, narrowing there, straight and then nonchalantly turning. They passed between the flower borders billowing with lilac, rhododendron, azalea, ‘bleeding heart’, pansies, violas and the like. Against the drystone walls were various blossom trees and a glorious spreading light purple magnolia. Sunny Corner’s splendid gardens were something of a legend, and it was not unknown to attract photographers from far-flung places. The rear of the property, once composed of finely cut lawns, and every manner of flowerbed and free-standing shrub and then a fenced acre of paddock before the war, had all been dug over for vital vegetable crops. Dorrie and Greg also kept hens and a couple of pigs. The war years had seen world-traveller great-grandfather Barnicoat’s miniature folly, a Chinese-inspired pagoda, moved near the back terrace. The evacuees Dorrie had taken in had thought it a marvellous lark to sleep out in it. The pagoda also did nicely as a summer house.

  At the very bottom of the vegetable plots came the stream, flanked in turn by a high long hedgerow swathed with bluebells, lacy cow parsley, clumps of white, pink and red campion and wild violets. On the other side of the hedgerow was one of Farmer Newton’s largest fields, growing wheat this year. The whole area had high quality, undulating farmland.

  The fame of Sunny Corner’s gardens was how Dorrie had first met Piers, he then reading English literature and history at Cambridge University. She had been cutting lilac blossom when a tall, striking man had appeared at the gateless entrance, at this very same time of the year, preparing to take a photo of the then-promising young magnolia tree. She had stared at him in wonder and awe, and as instinct had drawn his stunning dark eyes to her, he had smiled. Such a beautiful, heart-stopping smile, like the rise of the very first sun. Dorrie had drawn on that precious image every day since then.

  For a century and a half Sunny Corner had nestled at the edge of a crossroads, roughly a mile outside the village. It had been built in the manner of a small manor house by the Barnicoat family, one time mine speculators, who had moved from Bodmin town to a more peaceful rural setting.

  Once in the lane, Corky sniffed and aimed his solid head down the lane, known as Barnicoat Way. Dorrie was doubtful if his failing eyes and ears could see or hear much of the person he had scented hurrying their way. ‘Oh look, it’s the young man who recently moved into Merrivale with his mother. Templeton, I think their name is. I did call on them with a cake to welcome them to the neighbourhood but no one seemed to be at home. I’ve caught a glimpse of the boy a couple of times. It seems they like to keep themselves to themselves. I feel sorry for anyone living in that sorely neglected old cottage with its terrible history. They must be down on their luck. He’s smartly dressed. Perhaps he’s been to The Orchards looking for work. He must be the same age as Sam Lawry.’

  ‘Well, let’s say hello to the young chap then,’ Greg said.

  It became obvious the Templeton boy had slowed his steps and was keeping his head down.

  ‘He seems very down in the dumps and plainly doesn’t want to speak to us,’ Dorrie said, feeling sorry for the boy. Charlie Lawry had a full workforce on his premises that produced many kinds of fruit and vegetables. He took on jobless ex-servicemen who pleaded for even a few hours’ employment a week. It was unlikely the Templeton boy had been successful if he had been seeking work. ‘We’d better get on, don’t want to embarrass him.’

  The pair set off to their right at the crossroads on to Newton Road, the route to the village. Dorrie soon diverted off for tree-covered Shady Lane, a sheltered footpath. The stream meandered off underground from Sunny Corner to flow in dark seclusion under the crossroads and emerged to greet daylight several hundred yards along Shady Lane, just inside Newton
farmland. She would have preferred to go straight across up the slightly rising sun-dappled Meadow Hill for a change, the route the Templeton boy would take, but Corky did not fare well in the heat. Greg carried on briskly for the village.

  Twenty minutes after the sister and brother had separated a young woman arrived on their doorstep. Heaving a hefty sigh, she flung down her heavy suitcases and tried the door. The greeting she was about to propel inside was stalled rudely on her pink painted lips.

  ‘Oh, damn it!’ She kicked the nearest suitcase. To avoid the village nosy parkers she had alighted from the stuffy rattling coach that had brought her from Wadebridge, outside Nanviscoe’s boundary. She sensibly wore flat shoes but under the weight of her overstuffed luggage the walk had turned into a shoulder-aching trudge. The front door was locked and that never happened unless her aunt and uncle were going to be out for more than half an hour. Following a brutal double murder some years ago, they hid a spare key outside but changed the secret place once a month. It could be wedged in under an ornamental stone or one of the dozens of flowerpots, anywhere.

  Verity Barnicoat clenched her fists. ‘Oh, where are the pair of you when I really need you?’


  ‘Mum, I’m back,’ Finn Templeton shouted up the bare stairs in Merrivale cottage. ‘Where are you? Don’t tell me you’ve gone back to bed? You promised me you’d make the effort!’

  Finn met continuous silence, which hung ominously in the musty air. His mother’s lack of response was nothing new. She had been down and depressed for months, since his council official father’s conviction for fraud and prison sentence of four years. She was pining for the man who had left her pregnant. The unexpected event to Finn, after spending sixteen years as an only child, was a horrifying prospect that grew worse as the birth approached.

  ‘You’d do better to forget him, Mum. He’s turned his back on us. He’s forbidden you to visit him in prison and hasn’t even replied to your letters. He doesn’t care about anyone except himself.’ Finn’s frustrated viewpoints always fell on deaf ears.

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