It was July 29th, 1965.
England’s pop music charts were topped by The Beatles and the Animals, Peter and Gordon and Dusty Springfield. In the trendy boutiques of Carnaby Street and Kings Road, miniskirts and velvet suits were all the rage, and paisley ties, and patterned tights. The fashion pages were dominated by Jean Shrimpton and Twiggy, photographed by David Bailey and Terence Donovan, hair by Vidal Sassoon, clothing by Mary Quant, John Stephen and Biba.
Four days earlier, Bob Dylan had been booed at the Newark Folk Festival for daring to perform with electric guitars. In three months’ time, the Beatles would be awarded MBE’s. Several previous honourees would return their decorations in disgust, protesting the fact that rock and roll music had been recognized as a force worthy of royal acknowledgement.
On this night—July 29th—the Beatles were premiering their second film, Help!, at the London Pavilion in Piccadilly Circus.
And on this morning, Seasound Radio, one of Britain’s most listened-to pop pirates, was broadcasting from the Cilla Rose, an old World War Two minesweeper anchored four miles outside UK territorial limits near Frinton-on-Sea.
Tony Quinn. a pair of headsets clipped over his ears, was in the broadcast booth. He shared his airtime with boxes of records, a couple of speakers, two cart machines (for ads and jingles), a control panel, a reel-to-reel tape recorder and two turntables, their pickup arms helpfully weighted with big English pennies to keep them from jumping out of the groove during rough seas. A microphone was suspended from the ceiling, isolating it from the vibrations and the constant rumble of the ship’s generator.
Tony plugged a cart into each of the machines, cueing them up.
“Shakin’ All Over,” he said, animatedly, into the mike, as the twanging guitars on the spinning record faded out. “Number One on the UK Singles Chart in 1960 for Johnny Kidd and the Pirates—that version’s by a Canadian band with a mysterious name—the Guess Who…Huge huge hit across the water and you heard it first over here on Seasound—and if you can guess who the Guess Who really are, send your answers on a postcard to the Seasound London office in Romilly Square, London W1 and I’ll draw three entries next week to win a collection of fabulous Seasound Beatle badges.“
Tony hit the top button on the first cart machine and Seasound’s jingle cut in. At the end of the jingle he punched the button on the second cart machine and the ad music segued into a catchy ad for cigarettes. While the ad played he smoothly replaced the cart in the first machine with another.
“There’s some good advice for you,” he said, flicking the button, which sent his show’s theme tune, The Rise and Fall of Flingel Bunt by the Shadows, out over the airwaves.
“I’m Tony Quinn,” he said, talking over the music as his colleague, Chris Thomas, entered the broadcast booth. “Thank you so much for listening this morning…it’s just coming up to nine o’clock and this is Seasound, the sensational sound of free radio, broadcasting 24 hours a day at 308 meters in the medium waveband. Up next and for the next three hours, Chris Thomas with the Spectacular Seasound Top 40 Countdown. Be good to one another and I’ll see you all again tomorrow, bright and early at six a.m..”
Tony vacated the DJ’s chair and Chris took over the headsets.
The broadcast booth was housed in the ship’s hold at the stern, which made it particularly vulnerable to swaying and pitching when the seas were rough and the Cilla Rose was riding around on her anchor.
Tony was used to it. He’d been working on board since Seasound’s launch. He didn’t suffer from seasickness like some of the others; in fact, he quite enjoyed it when the winds came up and the waves started to pound the sides of the Cilla Rose’s steel hull. He walked forward, moving with the ship, through a door that had been cut into the bulkhead into the record library, and from there, through another door in another bulkhead to the lounge—a large room with a TV set, and portholes that opened, and cushioned benches and chairs, and a large table, bolted to the floor, where the ship’s on-air staff, engineers and marine crew shared their meals.
Beyond the lounge was the ship’s galley, where Seasound’s food was prepared by a Dutch cook, and where there was a fridge filled with beer (rationed to one a day) and beyond the galley the steps leading up to the bridge and the captain’s cabin, and down to the next deck where the DJ’s and crew lived.
The cabins were tiny and windowless. Some were shared, but the senior DJ’s—Tony and Chris and a handful of others—had been granted private occupancy. Tony’s cabin had room for a narrow single bunk, a bedside table with an electric fan, a tiny chest of drawers and a cupboard for his clothes and his lifejacket. There was also a sink, with hot and cold running water, although the toilet and shower facilities were communal, and were located further along the corridor.
Checking the corridor—he was alone—Tony pulled a small picklock out of his jeans’ pocket and made quick work out of breaking into Chris Thomas’s cabin, next door to his own. Once inside he went straight to Chris’s dressing table and pulled the top drawer completely out of its frame. Sellotaped to the outside back of the drawer was a wad of paper, which Tony carefully removed and unfolded and placed on Chris’s bunk.
The four paper pages were filled with pencilled notes in Chris’s careful handwriting. Tony removed a tiny aluminum Minox camera from his pocket and took four quick photos of each of the pages, then, just as quickly, folded them back into their original wad and returned them to the drawer, ensuring that the sellotape—which he’d left in place—was exactly the way he’d found it.
He closed the drawer and left, making sure he relocked the door.
Safely inside his own cabin, Tony popped the film cartridge out of the Minox. On his table he assembled what he would next need: a small daylight developing tank and thermometer, and tiny bottles of developer, fixer and wetting agent, all extracted from the false bottom of a cardboard box helpfully labelled—and overflowing with—Fan Mail. Switching off his cabin light, he attached the cartridge to the top of the film drum and wound the microfilm out, then inverted the drum and slid it down into tank, securing it. Switching the lights on again, he poured developer into the tank from a small glass bottle, gave the tank a couple of taps on the side of the table, and sat back to wait with his wristwatch.
Half an hour later, having washed, fixed and washed the film again, he rinsed it in the wetting agent solution and pegged it up to dry from a line strung beneath the table, between the legs. It wasn’t recommended, but blowing the fan over the film accelerated the drying time, and it was quickly done.
Once the film was dry, Tony removed. from the same fan mail box, a tiny device which he used to punch out microdots from the four photographed pages. A Seasound Beatles badge from their current promotion was standing by—featuring headshots of John, Paul, George and Ringo—its plastic laminate peeled back. He placed a microdot onto the left eyes of each of the Beatles, then smoothed the laminate back into place and glued it down.
Washing out and drying the developing tank, he put everything back into the false bottom of the fan mail box and tucked it under his bed. He changed into a dark maroon silk suit he’d brought aboard for special occasions, along with a black shirt and a black, maroon and gold patterned brocade tie. He collected his wallet and his passport, and popped the Beatles badge into his jacket pocket. And then, after locking his cabin door behind him, he went up on deck.
It was literally a leap of faith, jumping over the chasm of water that separated the Cilla Rose from the Lady Fernlea, the motorized tender that delivered supplies, new records, letters, pre-recorded jingles and ads out to Seasound on a daily basis.
When the seas were calm, the tender could easily come alongside and, after the boxes and sacks were handed over, DJ’s starting or ending their two week shifts could jump on and off with little more than a helping hand.
But when the waves were rough—as they were on this particular morning—it took several passes before the captain of the Lady Fernlea could line her up with the Cilla Rose. Three boxes of supplies and two sacks of mail were gingerly tossed across to a couple of waiting crewmembers, and then it was Tony’s turn. He waited, watching the waves, timing it so that he could leap when the decks of the two ships were approximately level.
One, two…three. He launched himself over the spuming gap and landed neatly on the Lady Fernlea’s wooden deck, where he was caught and steadied by her two crewmen.
The captain turned his boat north, and Tony was on his way to Harwich.
The journey took two hours and it was early afternoon by the time Tony cleared Customs and Immigration. His passport was required: he was arriving from a Panamanian-registered vessel that was anchored outside the three mile UK territorial limit. Often, when the other DJs came ashore, they were subjected to strip-searches, ostensibly because they might have been smuggling contraband or drugs into the country. Tony was of the considered opinion it had more to do with the government’s long-running battle against pirate radio stations and its concerted efforts to make life difficult for those who had chosen to work aboard the outlawed ships. Nevertheless, once he’d presented his passport to the authorities, he was never searched—much to the annoyance of his colleagues.
“It’s my honest face,” he used to tell them. And, once again, his honest face had granted him unhindered entry to the United Kingdom.
He’d arranged for a hired car to collect him, specifically requesting one of their most trusted drivers.
He climbed into the back seat of the Rover.
“Hello Gerry. How’s the family?”
“All right, guv. The wife’s got a bit of sciatica. The kids have been listening to you. Give ‘em what for at Downing Street. We love the pirates. Caroline, Radio London, Seasound. It was bloody dire on the airwaves before you lot came along. I’ve got a request for you, from Deirdre, that’s my eldest. She says can you please play more of the Dave Clark Five and less of the Rolling Stones. She fancies Mike Smith. She reckons Mick Jagger’s a tosspot.”
“I’ll see what I can do,” Tony said.
“What’s on the cards for this evening, then, guv?”
“The premiere of Help! The new Beatles film.”
“Deirdre’s going to be chuffed to bits when I tell her. Say hello to Ringo for us.”
“I will,” Tony promised, settling in for the 80 mile journey to London.
Central London in the middle of the afternoon on Thursday, July 29, was bustling. Tony, who had been born in 1940, at the height of the Blitz, and who had grown up observing the austerity and rationing of post-war Britain, never ceased to be amazed at the transformation that was happening before his eyes. The change had begun a couple of years earlier, in 1962, and now it was in full swing—an explosion of dazzling light and colour, of fashion and rebellion and an optimistic attitude that anything was possible, regardless of what class you were born into and what your parents did—or didn’t do—for a living.
Tony had a one-bedroom flat in Swan Court, Chelsea, the red brick Art Deco building where Agatha Christie had once lived, steps from the King’s Road, which was rapidly beginning to vie with Carnaby Street as the “in” place to be seen and to buy one’s clothes.
It was not an inexpensive residence to maintain. The story Tony told anyone who cared to inquire—including the boffins at Seasound’s office in Romilly Square—was that there was money in his family, and he wasn’t going to give up the lifestyle he’d been born into simply because he’d chosen to work as a pirate on the high seas. Anyone who cared to inquire further was likely to discover that Tony Quinn’s father, Archie, had married the only daughter of a brewing magnate, and that Tony had grown up surrounded by wealth.
Gerry dropped Tony off in front of the flat’s imposing archway entrance on Chelsea Manor Street.
“Still a few hours ‘til the premiere,” he said. “Do you want a lift to the theatre?”
“I think I’ll make my own way over,” Tony replied. “I’ve got a few errands to run.”
“Straight back to Harwich after the film, then, or on to an after-party?”
“Straight back after the film,” Tony confirmed. “I’m on the air tomorrow morning at six.”
“You won’t get much kip.”
“Welcome to breakfast radio,” Tony grinned. “See you outside the London Pavilion at half past ten.”
Upstairs, in his fifth floor flat, Tony checked the road below from his bedroom window. The two cars that had followed him all the way from Harwich, spelling each other off in timed shifts, were still there. One was sitting up the street, facing in the opposite direction. The other was in a paved car park across the road. He couldn’t see if the drivers were still inside. He also didn’t know if there were any passengers.
Well, he’d soon find out.
He made himself a cup of tea and a fish paste sandwich, and had the last two chocolate digestives from the packet in the cupboard. He took his time, getting used to being on solid land again, trying to ignore the ever-present sensation of gentle rocking and swaying that persisted even after he’d come ashore.
When he was ready, he took the lift down to the courtyard and turned right and walked up to King’s Road, where he could get a better handle on how many there were, and whether or not he was going to be able to lose them and, as an added bonus—which side they happened to be reporting to.
Tony’s tradecraft took him along King’s Road, past Mary Quant’s Bazaar, past Rolls-Royces painted orange, purple and pink, past gorgeous women in cotton mini-dresses and male followers-of-fashion in the brightest silks. The two cars were still with him, taking turns, detouring around corners and emerging ahead of him, sometimes behind. But there were also four followers on foot, and they were very very good.
After employing some evasive countermeasures—which included ducking into a coffee bar and a television rental shop—he finally decided to go underground at Sloane Square. Which wasn’t so much underground as just under the road, since the District and Circle lines were cut-and-cover, and nowhere as deep as the tube lines that were buried beneath the city.
Still, the Underground afforded Tony the opportunity to isolate his followers. Since they couldn’t second guess where he was going, they’d have to get aboard his train if they didn’t want to lose him.
Engaging a touch of deviousness, he went back in the direction he’d come, getting off the train one stop to the west at South Kensington, and switching to the much deeper Piccadilly Line.
The platform wasn’t crowded. Tony could count the people waiting for the next train. Two of his followers were still intact. The other two might have been lurking in a connecting passage. He’d take the risk. The train arrived and he stepped aboard, watching out of the corner of his eye as his two friends did the same, two carriages down. He waited until the very last second, and then stepped off as the doors rumbled shut. One of them was quick enough, the other wasn’t. The train pulled out of the station.
Tony waited for the next train, and, when it arrived, went aboard and stayed put. There was radio silence down here—another advantage, if you happened to be on the evasive end of the pursuit. Your followers couldn’t communicate with their colleagues to give them a heads up.
Tony rode the train into Central London and got off at Piccadilly Circus, his favourite for playing hide and seek. Under the road, the station was constructed in a circle, with half a dozen ways in and out. He led his solitary follower a merry chase and succeeded in finally losing him when he sprinted into a passageway that led to Regent Street, but instead of running up the short, curving stairs he detoured straight ahead into the basement of Swan and Edgar, purveyors of fine quality merchandise, and that was the end of that.
Tony was fairly certain he was now alone, but it never paid to be complacent. Still alert, he made his way north into Soho, ducking at last into a short, narrow lane that ran along the backs of several buildings at the north end of Carnaby Street. Stopping in front of one very nondescript door, he used a key to gain entry, and then went down a short flight of wooden steps which ended in a cellar storeroom.
He checked the storeroom door. The walls were constructed of brick which had been painted black. The stone floor was also black with bright spatters of colour, as if someone had dipped a paintbrush into a myriad of pots and flung the results willy-nilly in all directions. The lighting was subdued, with ceiling spots shining on racks of clothing and on tables displaying scarves and ties and hats. The walls were decorated with arty calendars and framed posters, gilt-edged mirrors, African masks and Australian boomerangs and tinkly glass wind chimes, all of it tagged for sale.
The basement was unoccupied. Tony made a bee-line for the loo beside the storeroom, then, some minutes later, climbed the trendy spiral staircase that led up to the main floor of Marianne’s Memory.
Marianne Dutton was the boutique’s owner. She’d come from money as well, but unlike Tony, had run away from her parents’ overbearing pre-war attitudes and had taken up a rebellious residence in the middle of what would shortly pick up the definitive nickname of Swinging London.
Marianne knew people. She was engaged to Giles Jessop, who had a band called Brighton Peer, and whose father was an Earl and whose mother was Gwendolyn Boswell-Thorpe, of the Boswell-Thorpes, who owned at least three stately homes in England, a house in Eaton Square, and numerous properties abroad. Giles and his twin sister Arabella were part of The Scene. They attended the trendy night spots and all of the important parties. They threw important parties of their own, on a regular basis. They wore the latest fashions, drove the fastest cars, and were on first-name terms with everyone who was anyone. If you wanted to meet a pop star, or a photographer, a model, a gangster, an actor or an artist, they could arrange it.
Marianne knew Tony, and as he came upstairs she greeted him with a kiss.
“Darling,” she said. “Are you coming with us?”
“I thought I might,” Tony replied.
“I’ll just chuck this lot out then. Giles will be along in a few minutes. I like that suit. Hung on You?”
“Major Hayward,” Tony said. “And the shirt’s from Turnbull and Asser.”
“Very nice. Bespoke tailors. They dressed Sir Winston Churchill.”
“And 007,” Tony replied, humorously.
He checked his watch. It was well past midnight. Gerry would be wondering what had happened to him. But Gerry had an understanding with Tony. If arrangements were made, and he failed to appear, Gerry was to abandon the assignment. He’d be well paid for his time, in return for which Gerry could be relied upon for absolute discretion.
There was a taxi. Tony flagged it down.
“Where to, guv?”
“Harwich,” Tony said. “The seaport. Triple the tariff. You all right with that?”
“Absolutely,” said the driver. “The motor’s just been serviced.”
“And you didn’t see me.”
“Mum’s the word, mate.”
The Captain of the Lady Fernlea was waiting for him alongside the pier with his two crewmen, all of whom had been paid in advance for their services.
“We was wondering what happened. You’re two hours late.”
“Sorry about that,” Tony said. “Unforeseen circumstances. Ready to go?”
The wind and the seas had calmed, and it was a considerably more comfortable journey back to the Cilla Rose than the outbound leg had been. Tony made the jump onto Seasound’s deck easily and with little fuss. He watched the Lady Fernlea’s running lights disappear into the night, and then went inside and downstairs, to his cabin.
As he was unlocking the door, he heard footsteps in the corridor behind him.
He looked up and to his left.
“Oh!” he said, surprised. “Hello!”
“Mayday! Mayday! Mayday! This is Mark Braden at Seasound Radio from the Cilla Rose at exactly 51°49'05.3"N 1°20'14.8"E, four miles from the coast off Frinton-on-Sea. We have a large fire on board involving two cabins below deck. The cause of the fire is unknown but we’re unable to fight it and may have to abandon ship soon. This is the Cilla Rose on fire. We need help immediately. Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!”
Louise was not there.
It wasn’t as if Stoneford Village Museum’s office manager hadn’t given Charlie enough notice. She had. She’d been rattling on for weeks about her trip to Bora Bora with the love of her life, who worked for a travel place in London that specialized in exotic honeymoons abroad. Not that George had any intention of marrying her—in fact, Charlie suspected he was already married, and if not married, then very definitely otherwise spoken for, as their dating arrangements were always made with utmost secrecy and Louise had yet to introduce him to anyone she knew in Stoneford.
Charlie wasn’t even certain George was his real name.
In any case, Louise had jetted off to a posh resort in Bora Bora which featured thatched-roof bungalows in the middle of a lagoon with water the colour of blue Curacao. She wasn’t expected back for a week, leaving Charlie in charge of opening up the museum in the morning and locking it up at night and dealing with all of the office jobs that Louise usually did. Like unjamming the photocopier. And answering the phone. And booking sightseeing tours in Mr. Deeley’s horse-drawn wagon, which finished up with a picnic lunch halfway up Manor Rise, on the hill overlooking the village.
It was five o’clock and the last of a special Tuesday daytrip for seniors had been ushered out, each participant issued a special badge commemorating their visit and a little shopping bag filled with postcards and souvenir bookmarks—Louise’s brilliant PR idea.
Louise, Charlie thought, would go far.
As far as Bora Bora, anyway.
Charlie swung the lattice gate across the little alcove in the museum’s front hall where the gift shop was, and made sure it was locked, and then locked the front door.
Her mum was arriving tomorrow, and everything needed to be perfect.
Jackie Duran had spent much of the past decade living in Portugal with Charlie’s dad, Justin. It had been their retirement dream—a little villa overlooking the sea, a ten minute stroll to the sunny sandy beach, excellent weather, excellent golfing.
And it had been truly excellent for most of those ten years, until her dad had dropped dead of a massive heart attack in the middle of the 13th green. That was six months ago, and once the shock had passed and the grief had taken hold, Charlie had begun to worry quite a lot about her mum’s state of mind, as well as the state of her physical health. She was seventy-four years old, she was a Type Two diabetic, and she ought not to be living on her own so far away.
It was therefore decided that Jackie would move back to England, to be close to her sister, Wendy, and to her children—Charlie in Stoneford, and Simon and Abigail and their families in London.
The process had already begun. Charlie’s mum had sold the little villa in Albufeira and most of her furniture, had packed up her memories and everything of sentimental value, and had relocated herself to Auntie Wendy’s spare bedroom in Croydon—a temporary arrangement until somewhere more suitable could be found.
And tomorrow she was coming to stay with Charlie and Mr. Deeley for a week.
Stoneford Village Museum was housed in what had once been the home of the vicar attached to nearby St. Eligius Church. The Old Vicarage was Grade II listed. Charlie had seen to that after Reg Ferryman, the owner of The Dog’s Watch Inn, had threatened to buy it and turn it into Stoneford’s version of The London Dungeon.
Since Charlie had taken over as the museum’s curator, she’d overseen the installation of a number of displays, each housed in one of the vicarage’s ample and numerous rooms. She toured them all now, making sure everything was in its place before switching off the lights.
The Travellers Room, which told the story of the Gypsies who’d once populated the nearby New Forest.
The Blitz Display, where she’d recreated a bedroom and a kitchen from the 1940s.
Upstairs, the Smugglers and Pirates Den, paying tribute to Stoneford’s seafaring past.
And beside the Den, Charlie’s current project: The Swinging Sixties.
Charlie hoped her mum would like it. She and Auntie Wendy were just the right ages to have been caught up in the burst of fresh British bestness that had turned the world on its head in 1965. And just the right ages to have squirreled things away in attics and old suitcases and dusty hat boxes, rediscovered fifty years later and marvelled over and then sent to Charlie, to be lovingly included in her display.
She went downstairs again.
Charlie’s office was at the back of the house, in the vicarage’s old kitchen. Her desk was an ancient table that had been salvaged from the vicar’s dining room. She wrote out a note to Mrs. Kaminski, the cleaner, who was coming in early tomorrow to run the Hoover over the floor, in case her mum decided to mount an inspection. She tacked the note to her computer screen, where she knew Mrs. Kaminski would look.
On Charlie’s desk was a collection of round metal Beatle badges that she was in the process of itemizing and cataloguing. They’d been loaned to the museum by her mum, who’d discovered them in a chocolate box at the back of a drawer. There were official fan club buttons and buttons proclaiming undying adoration. There were group badges and individual badges, one each for John, Paul, George and Ringo, with black and white photos on bright red backgrounds. Charlie thought they must have been worth something to someone—diehard Beatle fans if no one else—and made a mental note to ask Mr. Deeley to look online to see if they were valuable. Perhaps her mum was sitting on a little goldmine.
Goldmine or not, her mum was now sending her a text, confirming her arrival tomorrow morning.
See you at Middlehurst Station at half past nine, Charlie messaged back.
She glanced out through the big kitchen window to the Old Vicarage’s back garden.
The garden had an Anderson shelter, part of the museum’s World War Two display, with a lovely collection of vegetables growing on its roof. And at the bottom of the garden was an old coach house which had been converted into a stable for Marie-Claire, the patient bay and white Clydesdale who drew Mr. Deeley’s sightseeing wagon around the village.
Charlie smiled as she saw Mr. Deeley exiting the coach house. He’d mucked out Marie-Claire’s stall, given her a bath, groomed her and fed her and tucked her up for the night…and it looked like he’d changed out of his historical cart-driving togs and into something altogether more comfortable: jeans and an old white shirt he’d worn so often, its buttons were hanging by threads.
“Mrs. Collins,” he said, opening the kitchen door and poking his head inside, “I’ve got something I’d like you to see.”
He called her Mrs. Collins by habit. It was the name she’d used when she’d first met him in 1825, and it had stuck.
Mr. Deeley’s first name was Shaun, but he’d introduced himself to Charlie as Mr. Deeley, and that name had stuck too.
Curiously, she got up from her desk, and followed him outside.
The old coach house was built of brick, with a wooden stall for Marie-Claire, and more wooden fittings along the walls. It smelled of history and fresh hay, and horse, although it was, of course, spotless, because Mr. Deeley had, in 1825, been employed as the head groom at the manor on the hill, and after he’d arrived in Charlie’s time, he’d continued the role faultlessly.
“How is Marie-Claire?” Charlie asked.
“She is muddling along,” he replied. “I have no idea why she is out-of-sorts…I have consulted books and my own knowledge and experience…and still the source of her discomfort eludes me.”
“Perhaps you ought to have a word with the vet,” Charlie suggested.
She stroked Marie-Claire’s long broad nose, and gave her a lump of sugar from her pocket.
“You wanted to show me something…?”
Mr. Deeley responded with a kiss. A very passionate kiss, in fact, of the sort that they had shared several times a day since the discovery, the year before, that they were not, in fact, related, and therefore they could, in fact, enjoy what Mr. Deeley had rather euphemistically referred to as “mutual disrespectability”.
“What was that for?” Charlie mused.
“Did you not enjoy it?”
“I did. Very much.”
He smelled quite lovely. He’d obviously had a shower while he was changing his clothes, and had used the lemony-lime stuff she’d bought for him at Boots.
“We have never shared a kiss in the stable before.”
“We haven’t,” Charlie agreed.
“Then I must do it again. To ensure a lasting impression.”
This kiss was longer, and lingering, and it was a question, more than a statement.
And the question began to meander down her neck. And, as his fingers quickly unbuttoned her shirt, and slipped around to her back to unhook what she was wearing beneath, Mr. Deeley continued the inquiry, engaging her breasts, and her nipples, with his lips and his tongue.
“Here…?” Charlie whispered.
“There is no one about. Only Marie-Claire, and she has assured me she will avert her eyes.”
He led Charlie to a stack of fresh, clean hay in the corner, beside Marie-Claire’s stall. He pulled off her shirt and her bra, and then her skirt and her knickers, so that she was lying naked in front of him. And then he stripped off his shirt and his jeans and his briefs, and his socks and his boots, so that he was naked too.
“I’ve never made love in a stable,” Charlie said, as he kissed her again, and nibbled on both of her nipples in the way that she adored, that made her crave him inside her. “Have you?”
“Frequently,” Mr. Deeley replied, humorously.
In the time that he had come from—1825—stables were indispensable. And, Charlie supposed, also indispensable as one of the few places where privacy might be afforded an amorous couple.
“Is there a…protocol…?” she inquired.
“Yes,” he said, silencing her with another kiss, and then, beginning again…touching her neck with his tongue—causing her to shiver with anticipation—and then her breasts, and her nipples…her tummy…and then down, between her legs, where he licked and sucked and made the most satisfied little noises.
“Please…explain the protocol,” Charlie whispered, breathlessly. “Quickly.”
“I shall,” Mr. Deeley replied. He slid inside her, and silenced her with yet another kiss, that sought out her tongue and held it captive, and then captured her nipples with his fingers as he rose and fell.
The protocol was thus reviewed for several minutes, at the end of which was a culmination of all that had been learned…and both Charlie and Mr. Deeley fell back beside one another in the hay, exhausted, and satisfied.
“Charlotte,” he said.
“Shaun,” she replied, smiling, with her eyes closed.
“One day,” she answered, lazily. He’d asked her so many times, it had become as much of a habit as calling each other Mrs. Collins and Mr. Deeley.
“Soon,” she promised, tickling the little nest of hair that grew on his chest.
“And what of your father?”
Charlie locked the museum’s front door, and joined Mr. Deeley on the path that led past St. Eligius Cemetery to the High Street, which would take them home to Charlie’s cottage.
“What of him?” she asked.
“You speak of him so little. When my own father died, I was overcome by grief. It was as if a part of me had been wrenched away. I miss his presence in my life, even to this day.”
Charlie didn’t say anything.
“I recall the moment your mother rang to tell you of his passing. You were silent then, as well.”
“I was stunned. I thought he’d live forever. And I did cry,” she added, as if it was something that needed to be reconfirmed.
“Yes. I remember.”
“Thank you for looking after me, Mr. Deeley. I’m not sure how I would have coped, otherwise.” She paused. “He used to call me a juvenile delinquent.”
Mr. Deeley stopped walking.
“This is a term I am unfamiliar with.”
He searched his mobile for the definition.
“But this cannot be you. A child beyond parental control who commits vandalism and violence and other acts of criminality.”
He hurried to catch up with Charlie.