They came at 9am in the morning.
We were all still in our pajamas, Alice was still asleep, and dad hadn't even left for the pub yet. I sat weary eyed at the table, sipping my apple juice and watching Flo cook the porridge in mothers place, since she was the only one who knew how. Dad was opposite me, sipping his cider, mumbling curses under his breath. Then there was a ring of the doorbell. Our family wasn't the eager sort at this time of day, so we ignored it. But when another followed, and after that persistent knocking, I heard Dianne get up in the other room and walk to the door.
"Is your father in?" I recognized inspector Paul's voice.
"You have a badge?" She questioned him.
"Do you ave' a badge, one of the ones every police guy has?" She repeated. I smiled slightly, a bed-haired, tired Dianne was no easy conservationist.
"Why do you want to see my badge?" His voice was stiff.
"So I know you're a real policeman and not some random weirdo" she spoke in her best 'duh' tone.
"We've already met Dianne" he reminded her.
"It was late that night, and it's early this morning, how can I be sure?" She pointed out. Flo stopped her cooking to let out a chuckle, she too had been listening in.
"Here" I heard a ruffle of his coat as he got his badge out.
"Is it plastic?" She asked.
"No!" He snapped, "now can I come in?" There was a long pause, Dianne was enjoying the silence.
"Right this way officer, ma'am" she addressed both Inspector Paul and DI Harrison. A few seconds later they entered the kitchen.
"Good morning" Flo greeted them, "are you here about the murder? Have there been any more developments?" She got to the point quickly. The police officers shared a guilty look, both lowering their hats.
"We're actually here on a different matter" DI Harrison announced, "Mr Peters has been in touch".
Drew. He'd taken my advice, he was taking legal action.
"What's that bugger gone and done now?" I hadn't heard George enter the kitchen.
"He wants Alice to be released into his care, and as her only alive parent, he has a strong right to her" Inspector Paul explained.
"We have a right too, dad is the widower of the mother" I pointed out, not staying out of this one.
"Well, there is something else that strengthens his claim" DI Harrison grimaced.
"What?" George was quick to snap a reply.
"As your father here is a suspect in a murder trial, there is evidence to suggest this household is unsafe. If this goes badly for you, then Alice will be raised by Mr Peters, and you will all be sent into care." The room fell silent again. No one knew how to re-act. We may argue, annoy each over, and dysfunction a lot, but we were a family, and we all wanted it to stay that way.
"He's innocent" was all Dianne said.
"Maybe. Until we know for sure, I suggest you get a restraining order on Mr Peters and his son, they're...persistent." DI Harrison advised us.
"So you're not here to take her away?" Flo checked.
"No, not at all. This is a warning of sorts, so it didn't come as a shock later." She assured us.
"We'll show ourselves out" Inspector Paul informed us, leaving us alone to finish off our morning. Dad slid out of the kitchen, back to bed. Flo went to check on Alice along with Dianne. Which left just me and George.
George had been bugging me for days now, I couldn't shake off what I had overheard Dianne say to him. I know you're secret too , what could that mean? George was many things, but he wasn't smart. Too keep a secret would be near impossible for my brother, yet he had managed to do so, except from Dianne. Why her? She isolated herself from the family more than any of us? And what secret could she possibly use as blackmail against George? He was off to university in a few months, soon he'd be out of her hair. I didn't mean to stare at him whilst he ate, but I did, and it freaked him out.
"What's up with you Mike?" His brow creased, as he got up to wash his bowl, "you're away with the fairies."
"Nothing, it's nothing" I too stood up, making as if too leave.
"Come on, you can tell me. I'm your big bro." He ruffled my hair, I automatically put it back in place. Now it was his turn to stare. And he did, until I couldn't take it any more.
"It's just, you seem a little secretive at the moment George, the whole family too of course, but you especially." Something flashed across his face, but was wiped away. He began to chuckle.
"Tell me about it Mikey, don't know who you can trust" he rolled his eyes. I gave up on getting my answers from him, and went to find Dianne.
She had given up on Alice by the time I had gotten there, and I could hardly blame her. That baby may have been cute, but she was deadly. I shuddered at the memory of the time when I had to babysit her.
"Hey" I smiled at her, she ignored me, clearly in a bad mood. I thought for a moment, deliberating how to get her to talk.
"I had a very interesting chat with George a minute ago" I started, wondering if this was a good idea. I paused, letting out a fake sigh, "why didn't you tell me Dianne?" She turned around to face me, judging my expression.
"George didn't want anyone to know, he was afraid you'd all be disappointed in him. He actually thinks we look up to him." She shrugged.
"Still, we are family. Families shouldn't keep secrets, we should trust." I was getting frustrated.
"Yeah, and families should stay together. You should be happy he's not going off to university." University? That was it. He wasn't leaving? My shocked expression made Dianne give me a weird look, but I quickly regained myself.
"I suppose so, anyway, I have to go" I blurted, running back down the stairs.
"Why the hell aren't you going to University?" I shouted at George when I got downstairs. He froze, intimidated, and rightfully so.
"Mikey... A part of me wants to, but I want a sports apprenticeship instead..." He stammered.
"And when were you going to get that sorted? Face it George, you have no plans for your future." I stressed, not knowing where my anger had come from.
"It's a lot harder than you think! Do you know what you want to be, eh?" He raised his voice at me.
"I'm 14! I know what area I want to go into, and for now that's enough. You're 18 George! You're a legal adult." I was gasping for air, wasting my breath on this argument. We had attracted a crowd with our cries, and soon Dianne and Flo carrying a bawling Alice also appeared in the kitchen. The first thing George did when he saw them was attack Dianne.
"You told him! How could you have told him?" He spat at her, pushing her against the wall.
"I didn't, he tricked me George. He's more smart than you know" she whimpered.
"It's true George, I did fool her" I defended Dianne. He let her go, and she backed away towards Flo.
"Okay" Flo intervened, "I think we should all calm down and get the facts sorted out, hm?" Dianne nodded quickly, I nodded after, and soon George followed. She put the kettle on, and we all sat down.
"It was the night she died that I binned the applications" George announced, "I sneaked out to bin them round the corner to the pub. It was dark out, but I could still hear people on the streets. Then I heard mum. She was talking to someone, she sounded drunk, she was probably harassing a stranger. I knew she'd be mad if she knew what I was doing, so I quickly chucked them and took the side entrance into the pub. I was in such a hurry that I ran into some black floppy haired dude"
"Zach" I guessed, George nodded.
"Zach texted me" Dianne explained the rest, "and I pieced it together myself. When George got home again, I wanted to confront him, but we were all so worried about mum. After a few days this seemed less important, so we both agreed to keep it quite." Everyone looked to Flo for what to do next.
"Well, I think we all know what to do now. George, you're going to make some calls, say the post office lost your letter or something. We are all going to support you to an extent where we can advise, but not do it all for you." She decided. George nodded, seeming tired.
"What a morning" I muttered.
"Yeah" George shook his head, "I think I'll head back to bed."