Secret - 'Everybody's Got To Die Sometime'

October 1962

The World hangs on the precipice of annihilation. Russian weapons on discovered on Cuban soil. The world holds it's breath as the United States squares up to Russia. It seems we are only seconds away from destruction.

Meanwhile in North Yorkshire, Tom and his Dad are facing life without Toms mother. Meanwhile the new early warning buildings are rising up from the moors above their home. Do they provide security or threat ? Threats seem to be both near and far and dark days roll across Tom's world. His world has been turned inside out leaving him a short step from disaster.

As Tom's Dad says "Everyones got to die sometime".

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9. Strange Goings On

“I’m just going to the loo,” I said as we made our way towards the waltzer.  

“Chicken,” Joyce said, “you’re just scared to go on.” 

I couldn’t argue, I hated those types of rides where you were pushed against the side of the cars and hurtled dizzily around in a circle. My guts always seemed to want to force the way up my throat and escape into the world in a ball of vomit. No way was I going to let Lily see me like that.  

I was also getting fatigue from all the rides. Since we’d arrived we’d been on the dodgems, hooked a duck, had a go at shooting and they’d even dragged me onto the big wheel. My vertigo came to the forefront in that one and I spent the entire ride with my hands welded to the metal pole in front of us, eyes scrunched tightly together. When it had stopped at the top, the swaying of the ride caused by the breeze had churned the stomach up and for what seemed like an hour, but probably had only been a minute, I’d muttered a silent prayer to the gods in my head. Well I say in my head as apparently it was out loud.  

I waved at them as I headed for the exit. Joyce said something which I couldn’t hear which made Lily laugh. Obviously, a comment about me being a wuss. The crowds thinned as I left the funfair to head to the toilets. They stood on the end of the harbour wall. A little dilapidated, the inside of the men's open to the elements and at the whim of every soaring seagull. The rumour was it drained directly into the harbour and judging by the all-pervading stench of stale urine that hung around the area. In summer the stench was unbearable. According to Joyce it wasn't much more salubrious in the ladies side, but at least that had a roof. It was the place you entered gingerly, even in the dry, as the floor swam with urine. The urinal trough was often clogged with dogends of cigarettes discarded by users causing a log jam of epic proportions. It was a place you went in, did the business and escaped quickly.  

As I was attending to the natural bodily functions I heard voices outside. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary but the voices I heard this time were in a foreign language. It wasn't French of German, as I knew these from school but another one. One of the voices was really familiar though and I strained to remember where I'd last heard it. A plummy precise voice that was masked by the accent of the foreign language.  

Lily's dad! 

I finished up as quick as I could and left. The voices had gone in the direction of the lighthouse. I skidded out of the toilet block into the fresher salty air. I edged to the side of the building and looked along the wall. As I suspected it was Lily's father and mother walking along with another man slowly towards the end of the wall by the lighthouse. There wasn't many people around and I'd stick out like a lump of coal in the snow if I attempted to follow them. The uniform was a real giveaway for a start.  

My inquisitive side came out, what my nan would call being a 'nosy bugger', and I wanted to know more. Why were they talking in this language? Who was the man with them? A couple of fishermen started walking down towards a trawler that was moored against the breakwater. I wandered behind them keeping as much out of the view of three in front of them whilst trying to keep them in my sight. It was no good though as I couldn't hear what they were saying over the fishermen. The three had reached the lighthouse and were looking out to sea. The fishermen slowed as they got to their trawler. Here were some crab creels stacked up. I ducked behind them and slowly edged my way towards the lighthouse, making sure the creels were between me and the trio.  

I came to rest crouched behind the final stack. I'd got to within ten feet of them, but the wind was blowing their voices the other way and I couldn't make out exactly what was being said. Actually it wouldn't have made a blind bit of distance though as they were still speaking in the language. I took a close look at the man with Lily's parents. He was about fifty, greying hair with a large bushy moustache. He carried himself with a military gait and looked as if he was used to being obeyed. Quite a contrast from Lilys dad who had started to spread around the waist and was full of his own self-importance. There was no getting away from the fact that Lily's dad was the subordinate here. He stood as 'bushy' told him things. Occasionally he'd nod. It went on for a few minutes before they turned and started to wander back towards the town.  

I crouched even lower behind my barricade and held my breath as they passed. 'Bushy was doing most of the talking still. I picked up a few words Whitby, Robin Hoods Bay and Fylingdales. Then they were past and out of range. I would have liked to have followed them, but there was no cover so I stayed under cover until they were at the town. As I walked back down the town I contemplated what I'd witnessed. It could be an innocent meeting, but there was something about the way they were speaking in another language that made me think otherwise. I racked my brains to work out what language it was. In a way it was more Germanic than Mediterranean maybe Polish. Polish or Russian. 

"Where've you been?" Joyce said as I made the end, "I thought you'd only gone to the loo, but you've been right down the pier." 

"Just checking something … I'll tell you later," I said moving my eyes towards Lily to indicate not in front of her. 

"Ah OK," she said smiling. 

"Can we get an ice cream and go to the castle?" Lily piped up hopping madly from one foot to the other. It was exhausting just to look at her. Where she got her energy from I didn't know.  

"All the way up there ?" I exclaimed pointing up the cliff. 

"Yeah, it'll be fun." 

"Oh come on Tom, it'll be a laugh" Lily said, "or are you too old, need your pipe and slippers?" 

I laughed. 

"But it's a ruin..."  

"Oh come on, we've got time before we've got to get the bus home." 

I sighed inwardly and looked up the hill. Scarborough was too hilly at times. I'd thought we'd have a wander along the bay to the Grand and then catch the cliff railway to the town. The 'Up Up Up and the Down Down Down' as I'd called it as a kid. Somehow the name had stuck in my head and I'd always thought of it as that. Joyce would pull my leg about these little foibles of mine.  

As I looked up I spotted Lily's mum and dad along with the man winding their way up to the castle. 

"Oh OK," I said, "lets go." 

"After an ice cream," Joyce said. 

"Ah from your friend..." I retorted still smarting from the attention she gave him. 

Joyce reddened up and avoided my eyes. 

"No we'll go to this one," she said pointing to a stall by the bottom of the castle path. 

"Lily, go and get us three cornets," Joyce said giving her money.  

Lily skipped off to the stall and Joyce turned to me. 

"So what's up? … on the pier?" She said quietly. 

I watched Lily waiting in the short queue whilst I talked quickly explaining what I'd seen and heard. 

"What do make of it all?" She asked. 

I shrugged. 

"It may be nothing, but why the foreign language?" I replied. 

"It'll be nothing," Joyce replied, "but you never know." 

"I think they've gone up to the castle," I said. 

"Ooooo we might find out a bit more then,' Joyce said. 

"Find out what?" Lily said. We hadn't noticed her come back. 

"About whether this wuss can manage going up the big tower without being scared." Joyce said without skipping a beat. 

Lily laughed. 

"You can hold my hand Tom, if you get scared." She said. 

“You’ll not get a better offer all day,” Joyce said unable to stop laughing. 

I reddened up.  

“You’ll have to watch yourself Tom, “ Joyce said, “you’re catching the sun, already turning red.” 

“SHUT UP” I said turning redder by the attention. 

We set off up the steep path that led to the top of the headland. Scarborough was built above two bays which were separated by a huge headland on which someone had built a castle. You could see why as well. The shattered tower of the keep dominated the view wherever you were in the area. Even the Germans during the First World War had taken pot shots at it from their ships. It was a stiff walk though to the top, passing the church where literary giant Anne Bronte was buried. One day in the third year our teacher had taken us to the graveyard and then to the Bronte’s hometown of Haworth. I’d been blown away seeing the places where Wuthering Heights was written. That book blew me away when I’d seen all that. 

“Do you want to see Anne Brontë’s grave?” I asked Lily. 

“Anne who?” Lily asked. 

“Why the hell would she want to do that?” Joyce asked rolling her eyes to the heavens. 

I shrugged and carried on walking. 

We walked past the guest houses and up to the entrance to the castle. As usual the curator was stood at his little shed ready to take a shilling off each of us. He was a nice old bloke and usually let children in for free, if he was in a good mood. 

“Shouldn’t you be at school?” he said eying our uniforms. 

“We’re on a trip showing these primary pupils around the town,” Joyce said thinking as usual on her feet. 

“Ah ok Miss, “he replied, “no charge then.”  

He let us through the gate and we walked out onto the huge grassy area within the walls. It was massive, a lot bigger than it appeared from the beach. The keep must have seemed even more imposing if it wasn’t for the huge split that virtually cut the tower in half. You could go so far up the spiral staircase if no one was watching. It ended at a metal bar hanging over the keep floor, about twenty feet up. It had scared the life out of me the one time I’d done it. I’d felt my head go dizzy and had to rush back down before I fainted.  

Heights and me were never good bed fellows. I was the one who was left clinging to the cliffs when we went abseiling with school. Even now, five years on, I remember the laughs of the other kids as I froze a few feet from the top. I hung to the rope for all my worth, muttering a silent prayer to the gods. Except it wasn’t silent, I’d been loud enough to be heard from miles around, according to Joyce. For days after everytime I saw one of the form, they’d all burst into fake tears yelling “Oh my god, let me live, Jesus let me live.” Billy had even embroidered his own bit of the legend where I’d shat myself. It hadn’t happened, but that bit had passed into the annals of history as my legacy. Tom Hukin, the boy who shat himself. Needless to say, I never went climbing again.  

I left Joyce and Lily in the base of the tower and wandered outside into the open. I didn’t want to go up the staircase and I was sure that Joyce would push me to if I stayed around. She may protect me but still pushed me to do things way outside my comfort zone.  

It was starting to grey over and a sea fret was building out to sea. I shuddered as a coolness had suddenly come to the air. It might turn into a real pea-souper before the end of the day. Even on the sunniest, hottest days in August, a fret could roll in engulfing the town in a thick cool fog when the rest of the coast was fine. In winter, it got so bad at times that you could barely see across the street. 

I scanned the grassy area. A group of primary aged kids played hide and seek among the ruins whilst their teachers watched on. An old couple slowly walked their dog towards the end of the headland. Towards the town viewpoint I caught a sight of Lilys mum and dad along with Bushy. They were sat on a bench. 

Suddenly I felt a hand hit me in the back. 

"That was fun Tom, won't you come up the staircase with me?" Lily said. 

"No, it's OK, been there done it" 

"Told you, Lily." Joyce said enjoying my discomfort. 

I looked at Joyce and inclined my head towards the town view. She followed my gaze and raised her eyebrows. 

"Hey Lily, your mum and dad are over there," Joyce said. 

"Oh yeah. I see they met Major Farquharson then … horrible little man" Lily said. 

"What's your dad do?" I asked. 

"Oh, he works in the Foreign Office doing something or other." She said absentmindedly gazing at them as she talked. 

"Who's the Major?" Joyce quizzed. 

"He's his boss." Lily replied. 

"That would explain it." I said without thinking. 

"Explain what?" She said turning to me. 

"Oh, nothing...why they were meeting him." 

"Yeah, he's been abroad," she said, "Moscow I think." 

"Speaks Russian?" Joyce put in. 

"Oh yes so, does dad. He studied it at university in Cambridge, he told me. Tried to teach me some words when I first went to live with them, but it was way too complicated. He soon gave up on me." She said with a mischievous grin. I could imagine if she stuck her feet in there was no moving her. 

"Oh no, they've seen me," Lily said, "lets run." 

I looked over and saw Lily's mum waving frantically. 

"LILY COME HERE" Lilys dad bellowed, his voice ringing around the keep behind us, an impressive set of pipes. 

"Damn," Lily said stamping her foot, "now I have to go back to them." 

She wandered over towards them slowly. Joyce and I followed on behind. 

"Ah Lily, say hello to Major Farquharson, will you?" 

Lily replied in a belligerent manner that left no doubt that although she was obeying her father, she didn't like this man.  

"Behave Lily, don't show yourself up in front of these people" Lily's dad barked, at Lily, as if she was a dog. 

I was watching them closely and saw him raise his hand slightly and Lily flinch anticipating it hitting her. 

"Bernard..." Her mother said as if to stop him looking at us. 

"I think it's time you're back with us now Lily," her mother said. 

"Mum..." Lily pouted. 

"Do what your mother says, petal," her father said now chattier, "say goodbye to your friends." 

The light went off inside Lily. It was as though all the happiness of this little girl had been extinguished. All that hyperactivity was gone. I felt really sorry for her, it seemed cruel that she was obviously so oppressed by her adoptive parents. I'd never seen someone have the fun sucked out of person so quickly and it depressed me to see it happen. I wanted to take her away from these people, they didn't deserve it. 

"When can I see you two again," Lily asked. 

I looked at Joyce who shrugged. 

"Well it's school tomorrow and Friday but we could meet up on Saturday?" Joyce said. 

"Is that Ok Father?" Lily asked. 

I could see her mother about to refuse, but the father perked up. 

"Yes, that would be OK, we'll be busy on Saturday with the Major and Lily would be bored."  

"Oh, that would be great," Lily said, the sparkle returning to her eyes. 

"Thank you, I'll drop Lily off at your house on Saturday at 9am if that's possible." Lily's dad said the words coming out clipped.  

He turned then, as if dismissing us and they walked off leaving us standing there. Lily kept turning and waving to us until her mother obviously said something to stop her.  

"I think you have an admirer there Hukin," Joyce said laughing. 

"Oh, shut up," I said reddening again.  

"Come on Tom, we'll have to rush or we'll miss the bus back home."

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