The book opens with Louise and her cousin Robbie Higgins in Maldervale market. Louise is an orphan having lost her parents in a car crash three years ago when she was fourteen. Her parents were relatively prosperous, her father running his own plumbing business. On the demise of her parents Louise came to live with her guardian, her only surviving relative, her second cousin Sue Higgins, Robbie's mother. Louise being a well brought up and quite a snooty girl saw this as a big social come down and can't wait to get away to university next October. Moreover, Robbie's incendiary activities represent at best a severe embarrassment to Louise, at worst the destruction of her reputation.
Robbie dislikes Louise. Here's what happens in Maldervale market when Robbie winds Louise up firstly over her prospective boyfriend's father, a local doctor, and then more venomously the death of her parents.
Their progress was halted by a particularly large gathering before a clothes stall. There was news of a consignment of sodden jeans and flannelette pyjamas which had survived a warehouse inferno courtesy of a drenching by the fire brigade. The fat ruddy stallholder stood on a crate and presided over the huddle. Holding aloft a pair of blue jeans in their plastic bag, which still dripped dirty water, he bawled, ‘I’m not asking for five bob.’
‘What do you mean about Graham’s father?’ said Louise, tugging back Robbie, who was trying to move off again.
‘Not asking three bob,’ the raucous voice shouted from the stall.
‘Louise, only last week poor Mr Lynton died at his hands - yet another fishy death.’
‘But he was old.’
‘I’ll grant you that. But at fifty-eight he might have expected a few more years. Don’t you think?’
‘Mr Lynton had worked with toxic stuff all his life and smoked eighty a day. He was a fitter in Ledbetter’s - just like you are learning to be, Robbie - breaking open pipes full of poisonous chemicals, not to mention the noxious waste products. He died at home - do you hear me?’
‘If you say so.’
Louise furrowed her brow, ‘In the bargain he’d been shot in the war. His nerves were bad too. And, he liked to drink. Graham’s dad is a professional, just like my father was. Do you hear me Robbie?’
‘Your dad was a plumber.’
‘He had his own business - he didn’t have to get his hands dirty - we were well off.’
‘That so?’ said Robbie, a twisted smile coming to his wide mouth of small teeth. ‘Then why didn’t he pay for a taxi home from that New Year’s bash?’
The moment the words left him, he was sorry. Not for her, but for the cruel look she was giving him. He found her pale eyes truly terrible at times like these, wicked yet wise, other-worldly even. Right then, if he could have sunk through the tarmac floor to a burning hell he would have done so.
‘How dare you.’
Louise's dark side is hinted at here, and in another post later this week I will develop this.
Louise and Robbie become lovers on the second night of their mission to medieval Oakwood, and a further post will show the beginnings of this unlikely affair.
Regards and best wishes