If I was expecting a bit of peace and quiet after the wedding, then I was sorely mistaken.
Two days later I was in the middle of collecting eggs from the hens when I heard a car coming up the drive.
I stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the car and its occupants.
“What on earth are you two doing here?” I said as Holly and William got out of his Land Rover.
“Shouldn’t you be on some tropical island in the sun by now?”
Holly looked lovingly at her new husband.
“We are on our Honeymoon. We are renting a cottage on the coast near Haverfordwest. It has some lovely views over to Skomer Island.”
“That’s not what I was talking about.”
“We both wanted to say thank you for the cake and well… everything you did with the wedding. You sort of disappeared after the cutting of the cake and before we could find you.”
“Well, I was a bit of a sore thumb really and besides I’m not at my best on the dance floor especially when I didn’t have anyone to dance with.”
“Well, here we are now,” said Holly.
“Well, lets’ go inside, I was just about done here. I’ll put the kettle on.”
As we went inside my home, William said,
“I want to apologise for my Mother. She had no right changing your seat at the reception.”
“Did she? I didn’t know?” I said feigning ignorance.
“Don’t give me that rubbish, I know when you are lying,” said Holly.
“Yes, she wanted one of her cronies on our table. By the time we got there it was too late. That’s why we came up with the plan to announce you as the co-maker of the cake.”
“Thanks for that but you really shouldn’t. I’m just happy that the both of you are happy.”
Holly looked lovingly at William.
“We are but there is something else that you need to know.”
“You aren’t pregnant already are you?”
“No and we aren’t trying at the moment,” said Holly.
Then it was William who spoke.
“You saw what my Mother thinks of Holly outside the Registry Office. It is clear to both of us that she and my Sisters are not going to leave us alone. We simply live too close to them for that to happen. So…”
He looked at his new wife.
“So, we are going to look for a new farm. That’s why we are going to look for properties in Pembrokeshire. That should be far enough away from them for them to not keep on ‘dropping in’ on us almost every other day.”
“We hope you don’t mind?” asked Holly.
“Mind? Why should I mind?”
“Nonsense. I’d love to have the two of you living just down the road. I am concerned a bit about what your family will say and do when they find out? A ‘For Sale’ sign is a pretty good indicator that something is happening, isn’t it?”
“See! I told you that Monica would have some good ideas.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence. However, it will all be a bit moot if you can’t find a place. Why don’t you two lovebirds go and enjoy your honeymoon and let Auntie Monica will think about things while you are gallivanting around the place looking at properties?”
They both laughed and left in a more jovial mood than in which they’d arrived.
My pleasant mood was short-lived by the arrival of the Postman. He brought the bill for the reception. It included a £500 surcharge for damage caused by some drunken fools. I could guess who they were. Some of William’s
Sisters so called friends were already half-cut before the wedding had even started.
I shrugged my shoulders and after a sigh, I wrote a cheque for the full amount less the surcharge plus a covering letter explaining who to send the bill for the damages to and put the letter in my Handbag for posting the next time I went out. I had agreed to pay for the reception but I wasn’t prepared for the surcharge. I told the hotel who was responsible and that because I wasn’t there when the so-called damage took place, the I could not be held responsible. I’d told them to send the bill to William’s Mother.
What money she’d saved on not having to pay for the cake would be more than taken up with that little present from me. The thought of her going apoplectic when she received the Hotel bill made me happy. One up for me.
Then I stopped dead in my tracks. Was I in danger of becoming a bitter ‘Mother in Law’. I thought for all of a nanosecond before laughing. With her, I’ll be the Mother in Law from hell if needed. That would make a change from my normal ‘Miss goody two shoes’ persona. That thought set me up nicely for the day.
I tried to return to normality but I wasn’t prepared for the feelings of loss that I was experiencing. Sure, Holly wasn’t really my daughter but somehow, I was feeling that I’d lost her now that she was married. That made me both happy and sad.
I was happy because she was starting life with a really nice man but sad because she was not my pseudo daughter any longer. I did afford myself a bit of a smile because they might well have been the thoughts and feelings a real mother would go through in situations like this. Those were feelings that I’d never expected to have.
The chorus of an old Pop song kept repeating itself in my mind.
“Life is a roller coaster that we all ride”
It got so bad that I had to find out what song it was. It turned out that it was called ‘Iceberg’ by 10cc. I smiled as I remembered that it was always played towards the end of the Disco’s that were regularly held at the Miners Social Club when I was a child.
Holly and William dropped by on their slightly out of the way journey home at the end of their honeymoon. Both of them looked extremely happy. I could tell that married life would suit Holly perfectly. The only downside was that they’d not had much luck finding a suitable farm but they weren’t going to give up just yet.
Life returned to pretty much normal apart from a little episode where a Fox tried to raid my Hen House one night. I chased the little beast off with a few well-aimed shots from my Catapult. Sadly, the poor birds were so scared after the event that they didn’t lay any eggs for several days. I gave them a bit extra feed to ‘egg’ them along a bit.
Thankfully they started laying again before the weekend and Bi-Monthly W.I. Produce Sale. I couldn’t sell my eggs because I don’t have the equipment to check for Salmonella or label each egg in the manner demanded by Trading Standards and the Government. I covered my costs by ‘donating’ my eggs and customers would put their put donations in a tin in return for taking a box of eggs.
It didn’t take long for my slightly reduced stock of eggs to be snapped up by the villagers. Well at 75p for half a dozen they were far cheaper than any shop bought ones. That allowed me to browse the other stalls. I was pleased that Ruby was doing brisk business with her buns and cup cakes. I got there just in time to buy the last two of her Double Chocolate buns. These were a particular favourite of mine.
The weather plays a big part in my life. When it is bad, it can be bad for a long time. The Scots have a good word for wet, grey days. They call it Dreech! That is to my mind the most perfect description for such weather.
I’d taken the advantage of a bright sunny August morning to go for a ride on my 1961 Manx Norton. I’d gone down the coast to Fishguard where I had a nice breakfast before taking a pretty route home via some small country roads. I’d only been held up once by a flock of sheep being moved from one field to another. This was just one of the benefits of living in this delightful part of the world.
Before arriving home, I stopped at the nearest Bakery and bought a small cake. It was my birthday the following day. Thirty Five! I was getting old. I would have liked to share the day with someone but that wasn’t to be. I wasn’t in the right mind to bake myself a cake and ice it and everything so a shop bought one would have to do for now.
I’d probably head down to the ‘Raglan Arms’ for a beer or two later. That would allow me to practice my Welsh on the locals. After a few ales, they were a forgiving lot especially if I stumped up for a round or two.
Once home I got out of my one-piece leather suit and took a shower, got dressed and prepared some lunch from a few vegetables I’d grown myself together with some fresh laid eggs and my own bread.
With my plate in my hand, I went outside to the front of the house and sat down in the sun to enjoy the food.
The warmth of the sun combined with the food; made me a tad drowsy and I did nod off for a while. The ringing of my phone woke me from my slumbers.
I debated letting it ring. It was really nice out there in the sun. There was just an occasional bit of wind otherwise it was a perfect day. Those are really rare in this part of the world where it is not uncommon to see all four seasons in the space of half an hour.
The phone didn’t stop. Whoever was trying to get hold of me weren’t giving up. With a sigh, I got up from my chair and ambled into the house half hoping that the caller would give up. They didn’t so in the end, I picked up the handset.
“Oh, hello Holly. I was out the front of the house doing some weeding,” I said lying through my back teeth.
“What can I do for you on this lovely day?”
As I listened to Holly’s explanation, the smile dropped from my face. No wonder she didn’t hang up.
“Hold on there. Are you saying that your friend from the road hasn’t arrived at your place as she said she would?”
“You know from your time on the road, that days just go by and you lose track of time.”
“She was? Well that puts a different light on things. From Birmingham you say? That should only take a few hours at the most. Have you called the Police? Don’t answer that. I know what they’d say. What do you want to do?”
I listened again as Holly talked over the options. As she did so, I looked up at the clock on the wall.
When Holly had finished outlining her plan, I replied.
“If I leave here by half past two, I can probably be with you around six thirty at the latest. You know my decidedly ancient Land Rover is not exactly the most rapid vehicle on the road.”
“Sooner? The only way to get there sooner will be to come by bike.”
“Yes. I do have one that works! I was out on one of them earlier today,” I replied slightly angrily.
“I’ll see you as soon as I can but have the kettle on for when I get there.”
I put the phone down and thought for a minute. What was I getting into? Then panic took over and I dashed around the house packing a holdall with enough ‘stuff’ for 3-4 days. I’d wear my leathers for the ride but I’d need a complete change for whatever we were going to do when I got to Holly’s home in Gloucestershire.
Despite all my haste nearly 40 minutes had elapsed by the time I wheeled my Triumph Trophy SE out of my garage and fired it up. The 1215cc Triple burst into life. This was a beautiful machine to ride especially for long distances. As it warmed up, I loaded the panniers with two bags and strapped the holdall and my waterproofs onto the pillion seat.
I straddled the bike and zipped up my leathers. I’d had them especially made out of blue and silver leathers. The Bike was in a colour called ‘Pacific Blue’ so things matched. After donning my matching coloured helmet and gloves, I flipped down the visor and eased the big machine out of the yard and down my drive.
I’d gotten to the end of the drive when I remembered the Chickens. I quickly headed for Ruby’s home.
Thankfully, she was in and after explaining that Holly needed me urgently, she agreed to feed the hens in return for all the eggs they laid while I was away. I left her thinking that ‘barter’ is a wonderful thing.
I soon reached Carmarthen and picked up the dual carriageway and after filling up with Petrol, I headed east and opened up the throttle. Any decision about using the M4 or the ‘Heads of the Valleys’ road was made for me as I passed the turning for Swansea, a large sign said, ‘M4 Closed at Cardiff West’. I swung north and pushed the bike as fast as I legally go could given the amount of traffic, the speed limits, seemingly endless road-works and the inevitable speed cameras.
Despite the cameras and everything, I managed to make good time and topped off the tank at Ross-on-Wye. It was just before 4:45pm. I crossed over into England and headed along the M50 and then the M5 only to run into heavy traffic north of Gloucester. Thankfully the bike allowed me to filter through the sometimes almost stationary traffic and past the accident that was causing at least a 5-mile queue of almost stationary traffic. A lot of the drivers would be late home for tea that was for sure.
Luck was with me from then on and I arrived at Holly and Williams Farm at exactly 6pm.
Holly appeared at the doorway as soon as I pulled up and ran down the steps to greet me. Before I knew it, she’d wrapped her arms around me and was giving me a huge hug.
“Hey, let me get my helmet off first,” I gasped.
With a smile, she let me go.
“I’m glad you came.”
“You knew that I would come if you asked.”
A small tear formed in her eyes as she nodded her head.
“I need a wee so…”
“Trust you to ruin the moment,” she said laughing.
She led me inside her home. William was just pouring a very welcome cup of tea.
Once I’d used the facilities and freshened up, I joined them in the kitchen. William passed me a mug of tea and some fresh baked scones. There was homemade jam on the table. As I reached for the Raspberry Jam, I thought to myself that Holly had really matured in the past six months. She was a very different person from the one that I’d found cold and wet that stormy night all those months ago. That was a small pleasure given the problem at hand.
“These are very good,” I said through a mouthful of my second scone.
Holly smiled back at me. She’d really matured since she came to live with William.
When I’d finished the scone, and was on my second mug of tea, I sat back and asked,
“Now that I’m fed and watered, I’d appreciate being filled in on the problem.”
Holly looked at William before starting to speak.
“When I was on the road, I got to know a few others like me. One of them was an older woman named Diana. I think I mentioned her to you once. Anyway, like me she’d had to leave home only with the clothes on her back. Her husband was violent and abusive. Even when she’d divorced him, he’d force himself on her shouting ‘You are my property and will be forever’. In the end, she just left home and moved to Cambridge. A few months later she came home from work to find him her flat wrecking the place. She fought him and managed to escape.”
Holly swallowed hard.
“Diana soon realised that wherever she went, he’d find her, he was that crazy. So, she just walked away from her old life and went on the road. We met on a cold day under a railway bridge near Hereford. We spent most of the winter together. Some of that time was actually spent here. As a result of us living and travelling together I got to know her very well.”
Then Holly looked down at the table.
“When I left you the first time, I was missing her. Diana the first person who I could talk to even though she was a fair bit older than me. Then I met you and I got confused.”
I reached over the table and gently gripped her hand.
“What happened this time?”
“Diana called me a four days ago and said that she’d had enough of being on the road and wanted my help. She said that she was in Stafford. Foolishly, I said that I’d send her some money for a train ticket by Western Union. The next thing I heard was that she was waiting for a train at Birmingham New St. After that nothing. I tried to call her on the mobile I’d given her the last time I saw her. It was answered by a man who basically told me to never call that number again and that she was back where she belonged.”
“Why didn’t you call the Police?”
Holly looked at William again.
This time William answered.
“The problem is that her former husband is a Sergeant in the Transport Police and based in Coventry.”
With those few words, my heart and hopes sunk to uncharted depths.
We all sat silently for several minutes.
In the end, I asked,
“Where do you think she is?”
“Probably at their former home in Coventry. Apparently, her husband had held her there before she left him and got a divorce. No one believed her when she said that she’d been held against her will due to her former husbands job.”
“So…? how do we rescue her? And then what do we do?”
They looked at each other again before William spoke,
“We were wondering if she could come and stay with you? Holly never stops talking about how you helped her so much… and…”
“I get it. You know that I’ll help in any way I can besides, I could do with someone around,” I said trying to put a brave face on it.
William stood up.
“Let’s make a move. Are you ok on the Bike? We’ll take my old 4WD. It will draw far less attention than a new Discovery.”
“What’s the plan?”
“Recce the area first to get the lie of the land and stuff and then plan where we go from there.”
I held up my hand to say ‘Ok’.
Then I looked at my watch.
“It’s going to be just about dark when I get to Coventry. Can you book us a couple of rooms somewhere? Close but not too close? I’ll ride past the house a couple of times and then meet up with you”
“We’ll do that on the way north,” said William.
William handed me the address and GPS location of Diana’s former home.
“Great. Text me where we’ll meet up.”
Before leaving I transferred my luggage to their car and left them to get ready and follow me. Despite some traffic, I made pretty good time and reached Coventry just before it got truly dark. I rode slowly down the road scanning the houses until I saw my target, a detached house that seemed to be around 10 years old but the garden such as it was at the front needed a good deal of attention. It stood out because of that. The other houses looked far neater and well cared for.
As I scanned the property, I could see that the house was in darkness but I could see the shadow of someone in a room downstairs outlined against the last of the daylight. As I was moving, it was just a fleeting glance but it told me enough. The driveway at the front was empty. I had to conclude that the shadow was of Diana as there was no car parked outside or any other evidence of her husband being at home, or at least that was what I hoped.
I found a large Tesco’s near the Ricoh Stadium and filled the Bike’s tank for the third time. Once I’d paid for the Petrol, I checked my phone. There were two texts waiting for me. They were both from Holly.
“Rooms 12 and 14 Warwick Arms Hotel Warwick”.
The second one contained the postcode. I sensed that William was behind the second text.
Twenty-five minutes later I pulled into the car park alongside Williams car. I shut off the engine and sat on the bike for a few seconds. I’d been riding for most of the last six hours and to be honest, I was knackered. A beer, a steak, a shower and then bed was all I wanted at that moment. My moments contemplation was shattered as Holly came bounding out of the Hotel.
Somewhat wearily, I kicked down the prop-stand and got off the bike. The expectant taste of a pint was starting to disappear down a drain when I saw the expression on Holly’s face.
“Well? Did you see anything?”
“Holly, I need a beer, something to eat and some sleep. Let me get out of these leathers and I’ll join you in the bar or do you plan on a rescue mission tonight?”
She looked disappointed but eventually agreed to my requests. This was Holly all over. Everything must happen now even if it didn’t matter if it happened now or later.
Half an hour later and somewhat feeling refreshed, I walked into the Hotel Bar. I’d showered, put a little makeup on and changed into a pair of leggings and a tunic top. My long hair fell well below my shoulders. Every day as I brushed it out, I said a word of thanks to whoever it was that blessed me with a full and not a receding head of hair like so many men these days.
I ordered a pint of beer and some food then I went and sat down with my companions. Holly started to speak but William put a hand on her arm to stop her.
“Let the poor woman at least wet her whistle first.”
She smiled back.
Once my drink had been delivered and I’d taken a hefty swig from the glass, put the glass down and wiped the foam from my top lip, I said,
“I needed that.”
They both smiled.
“Right, down to business.”
“Well, what did you find?” asked a very impatient Holly.
“As I rode past the house very slowly I think I saw the shadow of someone moving. There wasn’t a car or any other vehicle in the driveway so there is someone in the house. At this point in time, we have no idea who it is. It might be Diana but there again, it might not, we simply don’t know.”
We spent the next half hour quietly discussing our plans and options for the following day over some food and another round of drinks.
With three empty glasses sitting on the table in front of us, we decided to turn in for the night.
We all had a good breakfast and left the hotel before 9:30am and headed towards Coventry. I headed for the Supermarket where I’d filled up the evening before while William and Holly took a drive past the house where we think Diana was staying.
I eagerly waited for their report. They had good news for me when they joined me in the car park.
“We parked up the street and watched. We were in luck because a few minutes later we saw a man in what we assume was Police Officers uniform leaving the house about half an hour ago,” reported William.
“He drove away in a Police Car with ‘British Transport Police’ on the side. That must be Henry going off to work.”
I smiled and opened the newspaper that I’d bought for something to read while I was waiting for them. I pointed at the list of football fixtures. It was the first weekend of the new season.
“He’ll be away for the rest of the day. Chelsea are playing Villa at 1:30 and Man City are also in town. They’re playing West Brom at 5:30pm. What do we do now?”
William looked at his watch.
“We get another coffee and wait. Someone else will be joining us shortly.”
“Who’s that?” I asked urgently.
“Someone from my old Army days. He’ll get us into the house,” replied William touching the side of his nose.
I was beginning to get a bit anxious when a small wiry man slid into the chair next to me.
“Morning Sir, Ma’am, Ma’am” said the man.
“Holly, Monica, meet Guy,” said a smiling William.
“Hello Guy,” I said.
“Well sir what’s the job?”
“We need to get into a house. We think that a friend of Holly’s in inside. Naturally, we’ll try knocking on the door first but… well, you know the score.”
“Ok, so what do we do until its Dark?”
“No, we are doing it this lunchtime.”
Guy thought for what seemed an eternity.
“Ok, I open the door and I’m out of there. Ok?”
“That’s fine by us isn’t it team?” asked William.
We didn’t offer any objections.
We soon made our way out of the Cafe and to our vehicles. I took the opportunity to ask William about Guy.
“He’s very cool. He won’t betray me. I saved his neck in Kandahar so he owes me his life.”
“But you were an Officer?”
“Yes, and he was one of my men. I couldn’t let the bad guys get one of my men.”
“When did you call him?”
“Late last night. He lives over in Derby, so not that far away really. Guy is the sort of person you want on your side if you get my meaning,” said William.
I went on ahead of the others and rode past the house once more. No signs of movement inside. I pulled into the entrance to a Cul-de-sac about 50yds further along the road from the house and waited.
William’s Car pulled up into the driveway. He and Guy got out and knocked on the front door. They waited but there was no answer. At this point I got my phone out of the pocket in my Leathers and pretended to make a call. If I saw a Police Car, I’d call Holly with a warning.
Holly got out of the car and went up to the front door. She bent down and pushed open the letterbox flap. I guessed that she called out but she was too far away for me to hear. She obviously heard something because Guy ‘leapt’ into action and within a second or so, he had the door open and they were inside. The door closed behind them and I breathed a sigh of relief.
I pretended to fiddle with something on my phone while keeping half an eye open for unexpected visitors.
I almost jumped out of my skin when the phone rang. It was Holly.
“Yes. No sign of anyone.”
“She is? That's good isn't it?”
“Yes, I can get some. I’ll be back as soon as possible. Bye”
I put the phone away but quickly pulled it out again and after going online, I searched for a local DIY Store. They should have what I wanted. I soon found one a few miles away. I got myself ready and then started the bike and set off to the shop. As quickly as I could, I found the item I needed before heading to the tills. There was a queue of people ahead of me taking what seemed an age to pay for their goods. Well, it was the weekend after all.
Once I’d paid for my shopping, I headed back to my bike. Thankfully, I had a couple of bungee straps on the bike so I was able to secure my shopping to the back seat after wrapping it in my waterproof over-trousers. I didn’t want to advertise what I was carrying. That done, I set off back to the house.
When I arrived back, I pulled up in front of the house and went inside the house with the package.
“Did you get them?” asked William.
“Yes, here they are,” I replied as I pulled a pair of brand new bolt cutters out from one leg of my over-trousers.
“Will these do?” William asked Guy
“Perfect Guv,” he replied as he took them from me.
He disappeared into another downstairs room. I heard voices and then a crack.
A few seconds later, the door opened and Guy, Holly and another woman emerged. She looked like she’d been dragged through a hedge backwards, side-wards and backwards again. She was a mess. Her clothes such as they were, were torn and dishevelled.
“We’ll go upstairs and get Diana decent. We won’t be long.”
“Sir, I’d like to get out of here if you don’t mind. Can you take me to the station?”
William thought for a moment and called upstairs.
“I’m taking Guy to the station. Call me when you are ready and I’ll come back and pick you two up. Ok?”
Holly called back,
“Well, get on with then…”
I followed William and Guy out of the house. When we were outside, I said,
“Shall I hang around?”
He thought for a few moments.
“No, you head off home. The less attention we draw to ourselves the better ok?”
“Ok. Give me a call when you get home?”
I followed William away from the house and into the middle of Coventry. Guy leapt out of William’s car and disappeared. I pulled up alongside him where I retrieved my ‘stuff’ from his car.
After a quick goodbye, I got on my bike and headed home glad that I’d played my part in whatever was going to happen, but I was sure things weren’t over yet, not by a long chalk.
[To be continued]
 This was originally written when Aston Villa were in the Premiership.
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