By the time they arrived back at the Square, Mrs Kneller had well and truly spread the happy news and everyone they met wanted to admire Rachel’s engagement ring when giving their congratulations. Well, nearly everyone they met. Edward Davenport-Hooper was sitting on the same bench that Lou’s daughters had occupied when his sons had started their attempted reign of terror. He stood up when he saw Mark and Rachel walking across the Square. He looked stern, but a little sad. “Hello Mark. My wife has been arrested apparently; attempting to pervert the course of justice regarding her lies about the date of birth of my sons, speeding, dangerous driving, and aiding and abetting an attempted assault. My boys have been sent back to school and put under a very strict curfew. My daughter looks like something out of a freak show and won’t leave the house. I have advised the police that any complaints made against you should be withdrawn. We are getting a psychiatric assessment for my wife because she doesn’t appear to be in her right mind – if she ever was. I don’t understand the situation, but I do feel that I need to apologise for the other members of my family.”
He held out his hand to Mark, who took it and shook it warmly. “I know that you have never been involved in this Sir. Is there any way we can help?”
“Now that my daughter is staying home, she has started learning to cook and do a little housework. Our housekeeper is giving her lessons, and as it’s estimated that it will take six months or more before the stuff in her face goes down, she has plenty of time to learn and practice. I think that the boys are safe where they are for now, but my wife may need to go away somewhere for a rest cure. Thank you for asking Mark, and I believe congratulations are in order.”
“Thank you, Sir. Can I introduce you to Rachel; my fiancée.”
Mr D-H took Rachel’s hand and kissed it. He looked up and she was sure that she saw a hint of a smile on his face. “I’ve read some of your work; Damaris and my wife showed the articles to me. I think that I was supposed to be cross but I couldn’t help chuckling. Well done on catching those drug smugglers too, Mark. I’d better be off. I need to sort out the shrink for Doris as soon as possible.”
With that, he doffed his hat and set off across the Square in an almost jaunty fashion. Lou had come out of the tea shop to see what was going on and grabbed Rachel’s hand to examine the ring. “It’s lovely! So very YOU as well. I know that I shouldn’t compare, Mark, but it’s far more beautiful than that chunky knuckle duster that Sorrel wore. I always worried that she’d take someone’s eye out with it.”
“Hmm.” said Rachel. “That would have been an arm, several legs and an eye, not to mention the compensation.”
Mark laughed and put his arms around her. “Rachel’s warped sense of humour is just one of the many things that I love about her. Can I treat us all to dinner tonight, Lou? I’d suggest going out but Pluto’s been home all day long and could do with some company. How about a takeaway to give you a rest from cooking?”
“That would go down well in all areas; you won’t be able to have a celebratory drink if you’re going out to get food though Mark.”
“I’ll drop the food off and take the car back home. Rachel and I should be safe walking back now that Damaris is off the road.”
“And her mother I hear?”
“That leaves Sam and Adele’s father as far as the complaints are concerned. To be honest, I am quite glad to have some time off. Rachel and I need to talk about the house and making a few changes.”
“Did Mrs K actually catch you at it?” said Lou, giggling.
“No, but it was a close thing, and I should have remembered that she comes in earlier on Mondays because of visiting the old people. I think we are forgiven though, and once she actually sees the ring; we will definitely have her blessing. Ben’s friend says he has another friend who does wedding jewellery, nothing like Sorrel’s hideous lump, just plain gold with a simple pattern that can echo the theme of Rachel’s engagement ring.”
“So that’s what you two were talking about.” said Rachel, unable to avoid admiring the ring again. “It was all very mysterious Lou.”
“Where are you off to now?”
“Back home.” said Mark. “I think we may need to rearrange some furniture, and look at how we can brighten the old place up a bit.”
Rachel frowned. “I love it as it is. It’s quirky.”
“Nothing major. You noticed that the wardrobes in my – our bedroom – are extremely dark and depressing. I’ve always felt that a dab of paint would improve them but never got around to it.”
Rachel squinted, trying hard to remember the state of the wardrobes but all that had happened since she first saw them had made the memory fail. “I shall look at them with fresh eyes now.”
Just as they were about to get in the car and go home, Mrs Kneller appeared, and departure was delayed whilst she admired the ring and administered maternal hugs. “I called the police and got them to take my copy of the birth announcements from the Evening Echo of Daw’s twins. That’s put that lie to bed anyway. I hear she’s been arrested?”
“We spoke to her husband; he was very apologetic and thinks that his wife has flipped.”
“Oh, there’ll be a nice little holiday away for her then. I took Pluto out in the garden before I left so he’s done his business. Might need a bit of fussing though.”
“The girls will come up to take him out for a walk in about an hour – so be warned.” said Lou. “I’ll let you break the news about your engagement and tonight’s takeaway though.”
Driving back home there were a couple of things that puzzled Rachel and needed sorting out. “Did Sorrel like the house?”
“Never saw it. She was long gone when I bought it. We lived in a very posh fully furnished rented apartment in the Marina complex when we moved down to help Lou. Mrs K did for most of the residents and we kind of took a shine to each other from the start. Sorrel didn’t. When she left, I was looking around for somewhere smaller and more homely that didn’t have any lingering memories, and Mrs K asked if I wanted to have a look at her next-door neighbour’s house. The owner had passed away in a hospice and his family were looking for a quick sale. I’d sold our flat in Edinburgh, so I had enough to be a cash buyer, and as soon as I set eyes on it, I knew that it was the bolt hole that I needed. Something about those funny little porthole windows at the front, and the sail loft. I bought new furniture. You can rest assured that you are the only other person to share my bed.”
Rachel blushed but at the same time felt immensely relieved that Sorrel’s ghost would not be haunting them. Once the London flat was sorted out and sold, Sam’s ghost could also be banished. She just hoped that her plan to get him and Adele’s father to drop their complaints against Mark had worked.
Pluto was indeed overjoyed to see them, and wandered around in a happy tail-wagging fashion as Mark and Rachel surveyed the bedroom with new eyes. The wardrobes were of a very old-fashioned dark mahogany, and there was distinct lack of a dressing table and drawer space.
“Could we move the dressing table in here Mark? I think Mrs K is right about keeping my clothes where they are. Your police stuff takes up a lot of room, doesn’t it?”
“Considering how rarely I wear it, but I have to be able to access some of it in a hurry. There’s plenty of room for the dressing table, and I had a thought about your old room.”
“Writers need their space, don’t they? If we’re rearranging furniture, how about buying a proper desk for you to work at, and a decent chair? You’d have a lovely view of the garden and it would be an improvement on using the kitchen table – although if you want to use the kitchen table, I’ve no objection to that either. You need to write in a place where you feel comfortable and inspired.”
Pluto started dancing around the room and barking as Rachel sealed her answer with a kiss.
“You’ll need to get used to this mate.” said Mark.