As the car retraced its path back towards Ab Kettleby and Melton, Michal ‘phoned the Commander,
“Afternoon, sir, we are returning to Melton after identifying the dead young man found in the cellar”.
Philip de Lucy, the Commander, was pleased,
“Good progress, Kaczynski. It was good progress, wasn’t it?”
“Oh yes, sir, it was. After all, we had no means of identification; it just meant good old leg work”.
“Fine. Keep me informed”.
Michal assured him that he was keeping him informed, and rang off. He turned to speak to Andrew,
“I’m peckish. Should we try to get a sandwich or something?”
Andrew didn’t take his eyes off the road ahead, but answered,
“Good idea, but where do you suggest?”
“Is there a hotel as we enter Melton?”
“”Yes, the closest is the Quorn Lodge, on the Asfordby Road”.
“Quorn Lodge, then – they have a nice Lounge Bar, and as it is the closest”.
They parked at the rear of the hotel, nestling the car close to the covered walkway. Using the rear door, next to the kitchens, they walked through to the lounge and met the manager doing her books seated at a side table. She was warm in her greeting,
“Hello, Inspector, how lovely to see you again”.
“Thank you, my Sergeant and I are here for a sandwich and a drink”.
“I’ll call Steve, he can take your order”.
She scurried off towards the kitchen, but met Steve emerging. She advised him of the Inspector’s visit, so he grabbed a notepad at the reception desk and went to the lounge.
“Inspector Kaczynski, what may I order for you?”
Michal chose prawn on white, while Andrew chose cheese and pickle on brown. Steve withdrew. The manager asked what drinks they required, so Michal suggested a half of bitter and Andrew agreed.
As they tucked in, the Sergeant spoke about the new Police Headquarters being built in the town,
“The new building is beginning to look impressive, boss”.
“Yes, I think it is”.
“Do you know when it will be finished?”
“I think they want us in it by the end of January”, said Michal, mopping up the few prawns that had fallen from his sandwich to the plate.
The manager reappeared. She had been finishing her accounts in the little office at the rear of the reception desk. Now, she wanted a word with the Inspector,
“May I speak to you, Inspector?”
“Of course, Sue”.
“Perhaps we could go into the dining room – it is empty?”
Michal followed her along the corridor and they sat down at a table in the window that was bathed in winter light.
“How can I help you, Sue?”
“You’ve been talking to my cousin, June”.
“I’m sorry, who?”
“June Brough. She lives at Wartnaby and she hasn’t seen her boy Tony for a year”.
“Yes, we’ve not long left her house. So has she spoken to you?”
“Yes, about fifteen minutes ago”.
“Well, do you have any information about Tony that you think might be helpful to us?”
“I only know that June complained he’d got in with a rough crowd”.
“Do you know what she meant by ‘rough’?”
“Well, knowing Tony as I do, it wouldn’t surprise me if it meant ‘gay’”.
Michal wasn’t surprised or shocked, but he asked her if she was sure.
“He wasn’t effeminate, but he never went with girls. He was always with one, two or even three boys. Close with them, you know?”
“Do you have any names of these boys?”
“No, but the Nottingham club they used to hang out at was ‘The Stork’”.
“That’s very helpful, Sue, thanks”, said Michal as he stood up indicating his readiness or his need to leave. But he had one parting comment,
“Sue, have you told your cousin of your feelings about her boy?”
“Oh yes, I have – more than once”.
Michal retraced his steps back to the lounge, where Andrew was slipping on his coat. Within minutes, they were driving towards the ‘Bus Garage where they turned right and on towards the Wilton Bridge and the Leicester Road. Traffic was light, so they reached headquarters spot on ten minutes, door to door. Michal excused himself and went upstairs to his office. As he was sorting his post, Tessa Marmion tapped on his door and entered. She was wearing a red blouse and a dark, velvet business suit. Tessa was always perfectly attired and manicured. Michal was aware of the aroma of Coty’s ‘L’Aimant’ – his favourite, so he raised his head to look at her and drank in the heady mixture she presented.
“Excuse me, Inspector, but is there anything I can help you with?”
“Actually there is, Mrs Marmion. Could you please find out everything there is to know about The Stork Club in Nottingham?”
“Would you need membership lists or anything like that?”
“That would be entirely appropriate – thank you”.
“I’ll let you have the results of my enquiries in the morning”, said Tessa as she made her exit.
Michal finished sorting the post, making notes for the morning of ‘phone calls to make, and reports to make. One report he thought of writing during the evening concerned the progress so far in the killing of Tony Brough, the young man found in the cellar at Ab Kettleby. Before he could pick up the ‘phone it rang,
Inspector, it’s your wife”.
“Kasia, anything the matter?”
“No, darling, just hurry home”.
“I’ll soon be on my way, bye”, he hung up and punched in the extension number to the sergeants’ room.
“It’s Kaczynski. Is Andrew there, please?”
Michal heard someone calling Andrew to the ‘phone,
“Hi Guv. Time to go?”
“Please Andrew, shall we say ten minutes?”
“OK Guv – ten minutes”, he rang off.
Michal checked his briefcase, and found a report form to add to it. He made sure he had his notes to help him. Michal tapped his wallet in his breast pocket and checked his komorka was in his side pocket. With a last look round, he switched off the lights and left his office. He joined Andrew already at the car.
“Home James, and don’t spare the horses”, said Michal smiling as the vehicle left the car park and turned towards Melton. Turning right at the lights it sped up Dalby Road and in what seemed no time at all it parked outside 35 Warwick Road.
“Thanks Andrew. Have a good evening”.
“Thanks Guv – you too”.
Michal waved as the vehicle moved off, then turned to the house, warmly lit and inviting. The front door opened before he could use his key. It was Tomasz,
“dzien dobry, Tomasz”, said Michal.
“dzien dobry, ojciec”said Tomasz, as Krystyna appeared with Kasia.
Krystyna chimed in,
“dzien dobry, matka”, and then both children chorused, in unison,
“Hello Mother, Hello Father, and here we are at Camp Granada!”
All four fell about laughing and in high spirits. Kasia said she’d have dinner ready in about half an hour. Tomasz immediately said,
“Pop, can you help me with my homework?”
“But Tomasz, I’ve got my own homework”, Michal complained.
“It was my idea”.
“Oh, alright then, I can do mine after dinner”.
Krystyna went to help her mother in the kitchen while Tomasz and his father settled in the lounge, where Michal could still smell the cooking of pork with honey, and a strong odour of bubbling cucumber, perhaps in a soup. He smacked his lips with relish, and turned to Tomasz,
“Come on then, what subject?”
Before Tomasz could answer, the front door bell sounded. Michal got up to go and see whom it might be, as Kasia called out,
“That’s probably Babciu. She’s coming to dinner”.
Michal opened the front door to reveal Babcia standing there smiling broadly.
“Prosze! Prosze! Come in, come in. How lovely to see you”.
Krystyna Kaczynski stepped inside at her son’s invitation and was immediately engulfed in the familial warmth and exuberance of her grandchildren. The teenager, Krystyna was her namesake, and they hugged each other. Tomasz was more self conscious, but still gave his grandmother a peck on the cheek,
“Djien dobre, Kazdy”, she replied, giving her greeting to everyone.
Kasia took her mother-in-law’s coat and hung it in the closet. Returning, she said,
“Dinner is almost ready. Please begin to take your places in the dining room”.
Michal took his mother’s arm and with mock solemnity led her into dinner. He placed her on his right, so that she sat with Krystyna. Tomasz sat on his left, and the seat at the opposite end of the table was for Kasia. Kasia herself entered wheeling a trolley, and straightway served the cucumber soup. It was Zupa ogorkowa, and simply delicious. To follow, Kasia served the main course of pork ribs in honey – zeberka w miodzie. Kasia was pleased and encouraged as the family tucked in with gusto. The desert was a choice! One could choose galaretka or sernik, sweet jelly or a cheesecake. Michal and his mother chose sweet jelly, while the children and Kasia had cheesecake. Babcia said she would make herself useful and put the kettle on. She rose and went into the kitchen.
Kasia began to collect together the plates and she could hear her mother-in-law singing as she watched the tap water filling the kettle.
They were all settled down with their herbata – tea, and Tomasz was next to Babcia,
“Babciu – historia rodzina?”
Babcia looked at him, then looked at Michal. In English she spoke quietly,
“Do you want me to tell this boy about your family, Michale?”
“Of course, if you don’t mind”.
“Tomasz and Krystyna – your grandparents had the same names. I am Krystyna, as you know, and my dear husband was Tomasz. He was born in Poland in 1939 and I also in Poland in 1941. Our parents decided that it was important to carry us over to England because of the dangers of the German occupation. We came over separately, but I suppose you’d like to hear of the parents of Tomasz, my husband?”, she paused.
“Yes please”, said the children.
“They were Jozef and Magda who married in Zakopane in 1938 in caves in the mountains”. She paused again and pointed to the crystal crucifix set on a small shelf close to the front door,
“You see that crucifix? It was given to your great grandmother on the day of their wedding. It is made of crystal and it survived the crossing as dangerous it was”.
“Dangerous?” asked Tomasz.
Krystyna Senior looked at the clock, and patted Tomasz on the knee,
“If that’s the correct time, I shall have to be going. I will tell you of that dangerous escape from Poland another day”.
Michal immediately offered to give Babcia a lift home, and she accepted gratefully. Kasia brought her coat and helped her into it. Both the children embraced and kissed their grandmother. Kasia gave her a kiss on the cheek. Michal was ready, so grandmother moved towards the door. She paused a moment at the crystal crucifix and made the sign of the cross. Michal did the same and then opened the front door,
Come on, Mother. Let’s get you home”.
He didn’t have to drive far; his mother lived on Sandy Lane in the same house all her married life and also since losing his father - her beloved Tomasz. He again wished her ‘goodnight’ and returned home. He found Kasia still in the kitchen, though both children were now in bed, fast asleep.
“Hello, darling – still awake?”
“Do you want to read my letter from the hospital”, she said softly, pushing it towards him.
Michal took it automatically, his mind no longer racing with dread. He opened it, trying to show his business-like manner. Kasia moved round the table and embraced him,
“It was good news, darling”.
Michal read ‘lymph node blocked’ and the summary word ‘clear’. He rested his head on her shoulder,
“That’s good news!” he said, immersing himself in the warmth and comfort.
“I have just one more visit to the hospital for a local anaesthetic and they’ll just cut out the blockage”.
“When will that be?”
“Next Monday at nine-thirty in the morning at St Mary’s”.
“I’ll see if I can drive you there”, he said, raising his head and feeling much brighter. He didn’t let go of her. Like limpets they negotiated the kitchen and turned towards the stairs. Kasia was able to switch off the lights, but plunged into darkness she began to quake with mirth,
“Quiet!” shushed Michal as they began to stumble up the stairs, locked together.