Douglas was relieved for once that It’s a Shore Thing was empty of customers. It occurred to him to swivel the sign on the door from Open to Closed. But if he did that someone was bound to turn up, urgently needing a pencil with a shark rubber on the top.
He closed the order form screen and picked up the telephone. Granny Bloom had said the twins’ grandfather had worked in a tower at the school. Douglas had the number for the observatory right under his elbow on the desk.
“Oh, good morning,” Douglas said in his best telephone voice. “Am I by any chance speaking to someone who would be able to tell me about a teacher who worked at the school many years ago?”
“Yes?” said the wavering voice at the other end.
“Oh good. I got your number online. From the internet, I mean. My daughter goes to your school.” Douglas tried to explain himself quickly but realised he would have to say a lot more. He was not looking forward to asking some of the questions.
“Well, ah... I‘m looking for someone who might have known an Arthur Oldham. A long time ago.“ Douglas found himself stumbling through his words. He wished the man would say a little more.
“I‘m Arthur,” Arthur Oldham said in an inquisitive way, even though he was providing the information.
“Oh. Good. I think I want to speak to you about your father,” Douglas said, trying to work out how this man might be related to his daughters.
“I think you want to speak to me. I’m the only Arthur Oldham ever to be here.”
“Oh, really? Are you sure?” said Douglas, realising too late that he might have sounded patronising. “I’m sorry... um. I hope this isn’t going to be too much of a shock to you. Are you sitting down?” Douglas asked.
“I’m lying down, my dear.”
Douglas was sure he had called the telephone number for the observatory at the school and was surprised to be picturing an old man in bed there.
“I’m adjusting the telescope for tonight,” Arthur explained, as though that explained anything.
“Oh. Erm... well that’s good, then. Do you remember a woman called May Bloom?” Douglas asked, relieved to finally be getting to the awkward point.
“I knew a May Clayton. She became May Bloom. She married a fisherman, Jack.”
“You remembered that very well,” Douglas said, realising Arthur must be very old indeed.
“I remember everything,” Arthur said simply.
Douglas’ thoughts turned to Jinger’s amazing ability. He was sure he had the right man.
“They had one daughter,” Arthur continued, sounding pleased. “Julia.”
“It’s Julia I want to talk to you about,” Douglas said.
When he had finished telling the old man what he had found out, it turned out to be just as well Arthur was lying down.