A Most Eventful Birthdayby Julie Heginbotham
One particular scene in this story is dedicated to Eddie. Thanks, Eddie, for suggesting it! —Julie
"I'll just pop in the hotel, Fatty, and make sure they've got our booking for this evening's meal," said Bets, opening the gate into the garden of the Tally-Ho Hotel. "I won't be long, if you want to sit outside in the sunshine."
"Okay, my dear," said Fatty, with a nod, walking over to a vacant seat, an eager Buster pulling on his lead, still full of energy, despite the walk he'd just had along the banks of the river.
The winter sun was shining out from a cloudless blue sky, and a few people were sitting at the outside tables, enjoying the morning sunshine, even though it was late December.
Four people were sitting at the table next to Fatty, enjoying a pot of tea and biscuits, being watched very closely by Buster, who was edging his way further towards the group, hoping for a biscuit himself. One of the gentleman, turned and bent to pat Buster on the head, breaking a biscuit in half, and turning to look at Fatty, said. "Okay to give him a bit?"
Fatty smiled. "Yes, but I'm afraid he'll keep bothering you for more."
"I don't mind, I like dogs," said the gentleman, with a smile. He gave Buster a biscuit and fondled the dog's ears. The others at the table smiled at Buster's eagerness for another biscuit and more attention.
"Looks like you've a friend for life, now," said Fatty, with a grin. "Have you all been staying here at the hotel over Christmas?"
The little group shook their heads. "No, we came yesterday afternoon," said a young woman, who Fatty thought was very pretty, with her fair hair framing her face. She reminded him very much of when Bets was younger. "We're here just for a couple of nights. We're all from the Enid Blyton Society and are doing a sort of Enid Blyton trail. Visiting Beaconsfield, where she lived, and some of the places she mentioned in her books."
"Tony, here, is the organizer," said another gentleman, with greying hair and a wide smile, "he's our great leader. We even have an Enid Blyton Day once a year."
"It all sounds very nostalgic," said Fatty, rather impressed with the small group. "Is there an internet site, I can look at?"
"Of yes," said the young fair haired woman, "just google Enid Blyton Society, and it should take you straight to the site."
"Anita is one of the administrators," said Tony, (who had given Buster the biscuit,) smiling at the fair haired young woman, "and has written about Enid Blyton on one of the sections named Author of Adventure, apart from many fine reviews."
Fatty smiled, very impressed, and made a mental note to check out the website when he got home. "My name's Frederick Trotteville, by the way. My wife Bets, has just gone to check on a table booking for this evening."
Tony introduced the others. Anita Bensoussane, Eddie Muir and his lovely wife Chick. They all shook hands and exchanged pleasantries, just as Bets came over to join them and was introduced to everyone. Fatty quickly explained about their interest.
"I've got many books by Enid Blyton in our loft," said Bets. "I must make a point of getting them down and reading them once more."
Fatty grinned at everyone. "What Bets means is that she'll ask me to get them down from the loft?"
Bets gave him a gentle punch, and turning to the group smiled. "We'll leave you all in peace to enjoy your morning tea."
They all said goodbye, and the small group at the table, watched the elderly couple walking away, hand in hand, with Buster leading the way. "What a lovely couple," said Eddie, to the others. Who all nodded their agreement?
* * *
Fatty looked again at all the cards sitting along the top of the fireplace. Bets came up beside him and started to pick up each one and read what was inside. "You've got such a lot of lovely cards," she said, with a smile at Fatty. "How does it feel to be eighty?"
Fatty looked at her with a grin and sat down on the settee beside the sleeping Buster. "I don't feel any different from when I was twenty one," he said, indicating for Bets to sit beside him. "In my head I feel just as I did when younger. It must be the only thing we possess that doesn't age. Pity my reflection in the mirror has changed since I was twenty one."
Bets looked at him with a smile. "Funny when we can remember years gone by, as clearly as if it were yesterday and yet sometimes I can't remember what I did just hours before."
Fatty put his arm around Bets. "We've been lucky though, my dear. We both have good health, good friends, and a lovely family. Speaking of our family, I expect you've invited them all over for the meal this evening?"
"You'll have to wait and see," said Bets, with a mysterious twinkle in her eye. "I've told you about the meal and that's all I'm saying." She rose from the settee, saying she'll put the kettle on, leaving Fatty to pick up the paper by his side. He opened the pages but wasn't really reading the printed words. His mind swept back just a few hours before, when his closest friends, Larry, Pip and Daisy had called in with his birthday presents. A lovely watch from Pip and Mary, which he'd proudly put on immediately. A couple of hard backed books, and a bottle of celebration champagne from Larry and Helen, and from Daisy and Paul, tickets for a London Show, which was dated for early January. Such good friends, thought Fatty, and he'd no doubt be embarrassed with further gifts from his two sons and grandchildren, who he was sure would be at the meal Bets had booked for that evening at the Tally-Ho Hotel. At the thought of his beloved wife, Bets, he smiled and proudly looked at the gold and diamond studded ring on his finger that Bets had presented him with, first thing that morning. Engraved along the inside were the words, 'I love you.' For the first time in many years words couldn't express how he felt at such a gift, and he'd hugged and kissed her and held her closely to him, thanking God that they still had each other.
He was just about to fold up the newspaper when an article caught his eye. Good gracious, he thought to himself, shaking his head. What is the world coming to, when a criminal is escorted out for the day, and then gives their escort the slip? They shouldn't be allowed to go out on a shopping trip in the first place.
* * *
At 7.00pm that evening, Fatty and Bets walked into the Tally-Ho Hotel, and as Fatty walked towards the glass dining room door, Bets pulled him back saying. "We're having a private meal, in one of the other rooms."
Fatty looked at Bets in surprise. "Oh right, lead the way then, my dear."
Bets led Fatty over to a door in the far corner and as they both walked through a loud roar of, "Happy Birthday," came to their ears. Fatty looked at Bets with a teasing frown. "I thought I'd said no fuss," he scolded, in gentle tones, planting a kiss on her forehead.
Bets grinned and hugged his arm. "What you say and what you get are two different things," she said, lightly, with raised brows.
Fatty looked around at all the familiar faces in the room and smiled happily as he approached everyone. All his family and friends were there, and a very special person in the centre of the group, sitting in his wheelchair, his face one big smile, his God-daughter at one side of him and Lisa the other.
"How lovely to see you," said Fatty, shaking the Superintendent's hand, and lightly kissing Hilary and Lisa.
"This is one birthday party I wasn't about to miss, Frederick," said Superintendent Jenks, with a smile, his aging eyes still showing a bright sparkle. "And I intend to enjoy myself. I may not be able to join in the dancing, Frederick, but I'm more than happy to enjoy the treats of the buffet and the bar. So, first things first, Frederick, lead me to the bar."
Fatty grinned at Hilary's raised brow, and Lisa's wicked sense of humour as she said, "Don't forget to save some drink for the rest of us, Uncle."
The birthday party was thoroughly enjoyable, and even though Fatty had told Bets weeks before that he didn't want any fuss, he was glad that a 'fuss' had been made. Ern had made an appearance half way through the evening, apologising he couldn't get there any earlier as his train had been delayed, and he wanted to call in and see Bernice before coming along.
Fatty had once more found his dancing feet, as he spun Bets around the dance floor. Hilary, Lisa and Daisy were all promised a dance too, and finally Fatty enjoyed a playful jig with his grandchildren. Food and drink were plentiful and halfway through the evening just before the buffet was served, Fatty gave a lovely speech thanking all his family and friends for coming, with a very special thank you to Bets for surprising him with such a lovely party.
As midnight grew closer many of the guests came up to Fatty and Bets to say their goodbyes, and how much they'd enjoyed the party. A taxi had arrived earlier to take Superintendent Jenks back to his nursing home whilst Ern, and the rest of Fatty and Bets' family were staying the night in the hotel.
Not long after midnight, when all the final goodbyes had been said, the Find-Outers and their partners, made their way from the Hotel, chatting happily about the party and what a great success it had all been. Hilary and Lisa were getting a taxi back to Hilary's and so they were left at the hotel car park entrance awaiting their transport.
Whilst the others were walking slowly along the pavement, bright headlights were shone onto their backs, the glow shining ahead of them all. Fatty turned slightly waiting for the all clear before they all started to cross the road. Then it all happened as suddenly as they all took a breath. The car swept by and knocked Fatty off his feet with a loud bump, and the others witnessed his small flight into the air before landing onto the road way.
He lay there motionless, as the car swept by and didn't stop. Bets and the others looked on in horror, shock freezing them in their steps as they couldn't believe what had happened. A strangled scream from Bets invaded the silent dark night, and she rushed forward crying until she reached Fatty and knelt by his side. Hilary and Lisa having heard the bump and Bets screaming dashed over to the small group, Lisa was instantly at Bets side, helping Bets as she leant over the unconscious Fatty, her arms cradling him protectively.
Larry was instantly on his mobile phone calling for an ambulance and Daisy asked Pip to hurry back to the hotel and inform the family.
"What on earth happened?" asked Hilary, in shocked tones, looking at the scene before her.
"A car just came out of nowhere, knocking Fatty down, and didn't even stop," said Daisy, in a strangled voice. "Larry's phoned for an ambulance and Pip's gone back to get their sons."
Bets was still crying uncontrollably and being comforted by Lisa, who was trying to keep her calm. A distant sound of the approaching ambulance had everyone breathing a sigh of relief, just as Thomas and Edward – Bets and Fatty's sons – arrived on the scene and knelt by their father, and comforted their mother.
"Did anyone notice the car or it's registration?" asked Thomas, looking at everyone, concern covering his face.
"I caught the last three numbers," said Daisy's husband, Paul, giving them to Thomas.
Thomas looked at his brother, Edward; both knew in their hearts that this was a deliberate attempt on their father's life.
* * *
"I can't believe this has happened," said Daisy, weeping gently into Paul's arms. "Who on earth would want to knock down an elderly gentleman like Fatty? What is the world coming too?"
Larry and Pip looked at each other and shook their heads. Everyone was stunned and still shocked, and kept looking towards a closed door of the hospital room where Fatty was being assessed, Bets was with him and wouldn't leave his side. Their sons were pacing the floor of the hospital, waiting for news that they could convey to the rest of the family, waiting back at the hotel. The police had also been informed and both the sons and the other Find-Outers had given as much information to them as they could. But as everything had happened so quickly, they all felt they hadn't been much help.
"Sit down, boys," said Daisy, looking up at them both. "Your father will be well taken care of I'm sure."
Just then the door opened and a nurse quietly called the two sons in, and sent a small reassuring smile over to Larry, Pip, Daisy and Paul. Larry could see no reason for his wife and Pip's to follow the ambulance to the hospital and so they had gone home to wait for some news.
Fatty had been made comfortable, and a cut on his head had been cleaned and stitched. The doctor informed them that he was just waiting to go for an x-ray to check for any broken bones, and possibly a head scan due to the head injury. But thankfully his condition was stable, and apart from bad concussion, he should make a full recovery.
Bets looked at her sons, tears gently falling from her eyes. "I can't believe this has happened. It was deliberate wasn't it?" she questioned them. "You have to find out who did this."
"We will Mum, I promise you that," said Thomas, with a reassuring look, that so reminded Bets of a young Fatty. "We've already spoken with the police, and I'll make sure this is given priority at work tomorrow."
Bets nodded, she knew with both her sons in the police force that this matter wouldn't rest until the culprit was found and dealt with.
Fatty moaned gently, and Bets leaned closer to him, taking his hand and squeezing it reassuringly to tell him she was there.
"It's all right, Fatty," she whispered, "I'm here and you'll soon be feeling a lot better."
Fatty's eyes flickered open for a few seconds and looked at Bets, then very slowly they closed.
"He'll be feeling extremely sleepy for a while yet," the doctor told them, "due to the concussion, so there's nothing to worry about." With that he left the room and the nurse continued to take Fatty's blood pressure.
Bets looked at the boys and said, "Go and let the others know. And tell them if they want to go home they can do, but I'll wait here with Fatty for a while longer."
"Okay, Mum," said Edward. "Thomas will take you home when you're ready and stay with you tonight. I'll go back to the hotel and stay with the rest of the family, and we'll all come over tomorrow when Dad will probably be feeling much better."
Bets nodded, and told Thomas she'd like to sit with Fatty for a while on her own before going home.
Thomas and Edward nodded and both kissed their mother before leaving the room.
Once the nurse had left them alone for a while, Bets sat a little closer to Fatty's bed and gripped his hand whilst he slept. "I don't know what I would have done, if I'd lost you, Fatty," she whispered at him. "I was only thinking today about our engagement party. That was a while ago now, Fatty, remember?"
* * *
"What time is it, Pip," said Bets, grabbing hold of her brother's arm so she could see the watch on his wrist. The time showed 7pm, and Bets shook her head in annoyance. "I told Fatty not to be late. How could he do this to me at our engagement party?"
"Stop worrying," said Larry, picking up his pint glass and downing half of it. "You know Fatty better than any of us, and if he said he wouldn't be late, then he won't be. He didn't finish his shift until six."
"Knowing Fatty he's probably taken on some overtime," said Pip, with a grin. "Let's face it; he is a conscientious young constable."
"Stop teasing Bets," said Daisy, with a frown. "He'll probably come through that door any minute now."
They all looked over at the double doors of the village hall, which had been hired especially for the engagement party. The record playing was blaring out an Elvis Presley hit and a few of their friends were already doing the jive on the dance floor. Just then the double doors flew open and three Teddy boys stood in the doorway, looking around the room.
"Gate-crashers," said Pip, crossly. "Let's hope Fatty and his constable friends arrive soon and throw them out. We don't want any trouble."
The Teddy boys pushed their way across the dance floor, and glancing towards, Pip, Larry, Daisy and Bets, made their way over. The boy in the centre looked very menacing, with his greased quiff standing really high, and his brothel creepers seeming higher than those of the other two. He grinned wickedly as he approached the Find-Outers with a confident sway, his teeth looking too big for his mouth.
He looked at Bets with a menacing smile. "Fancy a dance doll?" he drawled.
"No, I don't," Bets snapped at him, "and this is a private party so you'd better leave before my fiancé and his friends get here, and they happen to be police constables."
The others looked at Bets, thinking how brave she was to stand up to these three menacing looking boys.
"We don't want any trouble," said Larry, "so push off before we all get very angry."
The three Teddy boys looked at each other with a grin and a confident shrug, before they turned back to look at the Find-Outers. "You're really scaring us," said the middle one, who appeared to be the leader. He took hold of Bets arm and pulled her towards him. "Let's dance."
Feeling annoyed, Bets pulled back with an angry glare and with her other arm raised it high and with the flat of her hand slapped the boy across his cheek.
Stunned he touched his cheek, saying in Fatty's voice. "It's me, Bets. I thought I'd surprise you with my disguise."
The two other Teddy boys started to laugh as did the other Find-Outers, and Bets looked in horror at Fatty in his disguise standing before her.
"Oh Fatty!" she snapped, a smile beginning to make itself show. "You really had me going then. I could have done you some serious damage."
"Could have!" said Fatty, with a good natured smile, and touching his face where Bets had slapped him. "I think you already have. Good job these teeth aren't my own, you could have dislodged one." He pulled out the false teeth that fitted over his own, looking more like the Fatty that everyone knew.
"Good disguise," said Pip, looking quite impressed. "I suppose it was your idea to all dress up." He grinned, looking at Fatty.
"It was yes," Fatty said, with a smile at everyone. "These other two sports are my friends from work, Roger and Simon."
Everyone was introduced and Fatty pulled Bets once more towards him, only this time she fell into his arms willingly. "And this is my delightful fiancée," he said, planting a kiss on her lips.
Bets blushed and couldn't help the smile that spread across her face. Roger asked Daisy if she wanted to dance, and after accepting they too followed Fatty and Bets onto the dance floor.
At the end of a fantastic celebration, Fatty surprised the Find-Outers by informing them that he was going to take his sergeants exam.
* * *
"How's Fatty? Asked Larry, walking into the lounge of the White House, along with Pip and Daisy.
"He had a comfortable night," said Bets, looking a little pale, after having a sleepless night. At least Thomas staying the night with his mum had been a comfort. "The boys and their families are there at the moment," Bets carried on saying, "and I'll pop over in another couple of hours. Fatty's had a head scan which showed there's no damage and he's no broken bones, just bruising."
"Well that's good news," said Daisy, with a grateful smile, sitting next to Bets and giving her a comfort hug. "I guess you didn't sleep very well though."
Bets gave a weak smile and shook her head. "No. I got up about three and made a drink for me and Thomas. Then I went back to bed for a few hours, but couldn't really sleep. Buster was so good; he never once left my side." Bets fondled the dog's ears as he sat closely by her.
"I don't expect the police have any information about the car?" asked Pip, vaguely.
"Nothing at the moment," returned Bets, shaking her head. "When the boys go back to work later today, they said they'd make some more enquiries."
"Trouble is it's not their patch," said Larry, matter-of-factly.
"That won't stop the boys," said Daisy, throwing her brother a fierce glare. "I'm sure they'll stop at nothing until the culprit is found."
"At least Fatty's not as seriously injured as we first thought," said Pip.
"No, it's just concussion and very bad bruising when he landed into the road," said Bets. In her mind's eye she could still see Fatty being knocked off his feet when the car hit. Tears sprung once more in her eyes at the memory.
Daisy put a protectively arm around Bets, and told Larry to go and pop the kettle on for some tea.
"It's only the shock, Bets," said Daisy. "Once you see Fatty looking a little better today, you'll feel a whole lot better."
Bets looked at her friend with a grateful smile. "Yes, I know."
"I'll go and take Buster out for his work," said Pip, calling the dog off the settee. "Then we can take you over to the hospital for a few hours and see how old Fatty is feeling."
"Thanks, Pip," said Bets, with a watery smile.
* * *
As they entered the hospital, they bumped into a couple of paramedics just leaving to get into their ambulance. Daisy smiled at them both, recognising them from when they came to the Little Theatre during the summer when William Orr had taken his tumble down the stairs.
The tall gentleman smiled at them all apologising for their gentle collision.
"Looks like we're all in a hurry, Nigel," said Daisy, with a small grin.
Nigel looked at Daisy and the others, recognition suddenly lighting up his eyes. He smiled saying it was nice to see them all again, before he left with his partner.
Fatty had been moved onto a ward, and didn't look as pale when they all saw him. Bets kissed his head, and sat down on the chair by his bed, holding tightly onto his hand. He smiled weakly around at everyone.
"How are you feeling now?" asked Bets, with concern.
"Like I've just been hit by a bus," said Fatty, with a weak smile. "But I'll live, and that's the main thing. The boys and grandchildren have just left."
Bets smiled with a nod. "Yes, Thomas rang just before we left, and so have Ern, Hilary and Lisa. They all want to come and see you and send their best wishes."
Fatty smiled, with a slight nod.
"Can you remember what happened," said Larry, accepting a seat from Pip, who'd just been on the hunt for a couple more chairs.
Fatty nodded. "It seemed to happen all so quickly, and yet when I was hit and falling it was like in slow motion, the time seemed to just go on and on."
"We were all very shocked," said Daisy, with a shake of her head. "Fortunately the ambulance came almost immediately as they were close by."
"There's no news about the car yet, though," said Pip. "Some drunken driver I expect. To cowardly to stop after he'd realized what he'd done."
"Or deliberate," said Fatty, in serious tones.
"But who?" said Larry, with a frown. "You've been retired from the force for ages. You've even moved from the county where you worked. Surely no one would hold a grudge from years ago?"
"I don't think it is someone from that far back," said Fatty, in surprised tones.
The others looked at him vacantly. "What do you mean?" asked Bets.
"I was reading the paper yesterday, about an escaped prisoner who was on a day out with a couple of escorts and he managed to give them the slip. He was from a prison which housed mentally disturbed prisoners."
"And you think that he was somehow connected with your accident?" said Pip, vaguely.
Fatty nodded. "Only because I read the name of the escaped prisoner, William Goon."
The other Find-Outers looked at Fatty for a silent moment. Daisy was the first to break the silence. "I really can't see William Goon going to all the trouble of giving his escorts the slip, and coming over here to Peterswood. Then having to watch your movements, Fatty, before finally stealing a car to knock you over."
Larry spoke with a strong conviction to his voice. "I don't agree, Daisy. William Goon was quite a disturbed man, when he held us hostage last year. And he does blame Fatty for the way his father treated him."
"That's true," said Bets, with a nod, looking around at the others, "according to what William said. Especially how his father was always comparing him to Fatty, and kept saying he wished he was more like him."
"I still find that sort of strange," said Pip, with a shake of his head. "All the years Goon hated us all, especially Fatty, as he was always solving the mysteries before Goon had a chance, and then for him to completely do a turn around with his own son..." Pip left the words in the air, looking at the others with raised brows.
"Well put like that, I suppose you could all be right," said Daisy, in agreement. "Had you better inform Thomas, Bets?"
"I think I should." She turned to look at Fatty. "What do you think, Fatty?"
"Might be an idea," he said, lightly. "But he could be long gone by now."
"Well the sooner he's caught, the better I'll feel," said Bets, with conviction. "I don't want you to be in any kind of danger once you leave the hospital, Fatty."
"I'm sure I'll be safe enough, my dear," said Fatty, with a weak smile, patting Bets' hand. "And I certainly don't want you to worry either."
"Is Thomas and Edward and the rest of the family going back home this afternoon," said Daisy, looking a little concerned at Bets.
"Yes," said Bets, with a nod, wondering at Daisy's expression. "I'll be okay, Daisy. I admit it was a comfort having Thomas staying last night, but he does have his work to get back to."
Larry and Pip looked at Daisy, who still looked rather concerned at Bets being by herself. "I think it would be a good idea, Pip, if you stayed with Bets this evening. If William Goon is still on the loose, I think Bets should be protected."
Fatty looked at Daisy with a grateful smile. "I agree. Pip if you could stay tonight with Bets, I'd feel a lot better. With someone as disturbed as William Goon, he may try and get at me through Bets."
A cold shiver ran through Bets and the others.
"Don't worry, Fatty," said Pip, in serious tones. "I'll stay with Bets until you're discharged from here.
"The police will soon catch up with Goon, I'm sure," said Larry, in confident tones, looking around at the others reassuringly.
The Find-Outers chatted away with Fatty for another hour, until they could see he was starting to look drowsy.
Bets leaned over to him and kissed his head, telling him to get some sleep, and she'd pop back later that day with Pip. Everyone said goodbye to Fatty, and he smiled sleepily, giving way to the sleep that engulfed him, and started to dream of his beloved Bets.
* * *
"Hurry up, Fatty," said Pip, looking at the clock on the wall of the White House. "You'll be late for your own wedding at this rate, and Bets will never forgive you."
"Our wedding day," said Fatty, with a delightful smile, "I can hardly believe it. Who'd have thought that your sister would say yes?"
"Well let's face it. It was inevitable. Bets has always worshipped you, Fatty, though goodness knows why," said Pip, with a mischievous frown.
"Hey, remember you'll be my brother-in-law soon, so less of the lip," said Fatty, with a grin, looking at himself in the mirror and trying for the third time to get the knot in his tie perfect. Finally, he stood back and turned to Pip. "How does that look?"
"Fine," said Pip, brushing down his own grey suit. "How do I look?"
"You'll do," said Fatty, with a teasing shrug. "I don't want my best man upstaging me, do I?"
"I don't think there's any chance of that," said Pip, looking at Fatty's new silver grey suit and fashionable shoes. "You'll have to put a reign on the spending now that you're going to be a married man, Fatty. You'll need all your money for the mortgage."
"Yes, thank you, Pip," said Fatty, with a raised knowing brow. "I think I can work out our own finances. And remember, I've got my promotion to sergeant after the honeymoon."
Pip looked at Fatty with a sad look in his eyes. "How does Bets feel about moving away from Peterswood? Cheshire is a long way away."
Fatty looked at Pip, a serious look spreading across his face, knowing full well that the sad look wasn't only for Pip's consideration for his sister, but all the other Find-Outers who would miss Fatty and Bets greatly. "Yes, I realize that I'm taking Bets away from you all, but I can't let sentiment stand in the way of my career, Pip. Bets knows that too and is keen about the move. And I'm sure she'll be happy working in the hospital over in Macclesfield, she won't have too far to travel from the village where we'll be living."
Pip smiled, with a nod of his head. It had been discussed amongst himself, Daisy and Larry, and they all understood that life had to move on, and opportunities had to be grabbed with both hands when they showed themselves. "Even Larry, is thinking of going into London with the new firm of solicitors he works for," said Pip, on a sad note. "It feels like everything we've ever known is slowly coming to an end."
Fatty gulped back the lump that suddenly came to his throat. After a deep sigh he said. "Come on Pip, don't get downhearted, this is my wedding day and as the best man you're supposed to be giving me heaps of encouragement of what I'm about to face."
Pip grinned. "You're only getting married; you're not facing Judge Jefferies." He started to put on his own new shoes, saying. "Anyway, I've no intention of getting married yet. Neither can I afford it."
Fatty looked at Pip with a raised brow. "Money doesn't come into it when you love someone. You've just not found the right girl yet. Though how you expect to find her stuck in every evening and marking exercise books, I'll never know."
"I take my school teaching very seriously," said Pip, matter-of-factly. "Education is important if you want to get on in life. You of all people should know that."
Fatty grinned, good-naturedly. "True, but you still have to have some fun, Pip. I'll introduce you to Mary, Bets chief bridesmaid at the reception party. She's unattached too."
Pip looked up at Fatty horrified. "No thanks, Fatty. I'll choose my own friends, thanks, in my own good time."
"Suit yourself," said Fatty, with a shrug, making a mental note to make sure he and Bets got Pip paired up before they left for their honeymoon.
"Frederick, it's almost one thirty. Are you and Pip ever coming down here?" Came the raised voice of Mrs. Trotteville, as she stood as the bottom of the stairs, looking up.
Fatty grinned at Pip, with a shake of his head. "We're coming, Mother," Fatty called, then to Pip said. "Well, this is it, Pip. I'm about to make one of the major commitments of my life to your sister. I hope I won't let her down."
Pip banged Fatty on the back as they both walked from the bedroom. "You won't, Fatty, you won't."
* * *
"You've had us all worried, Fatty," said Ern, with a light smile, as he came to sit by the bedside. "How are you feeling now?"
"Not too bad," said Fatty, softly, wriggling slightly to make himself more comfortable. "I ache all over, but then it's only to be expected I guess at my age being so badly bruised."
Bets gave him a smile and Ern carried on saying. "Well you did always bruise well as a kid." He turned to grin at Bets. "He was always bragging about his bruises, wasn't he Bets?"
"Always," she said, with a grin. "The doctor says you can come home tomorrow, Fatty. Buster will be delighted to see you again. He's been roaming around the house looking for you."
Fatty smiled brightly. "Good old Buster. I feel as if I've been away from him for weeks, not just a couple of days."
"Pip will be bringing me tomorrow morning, and will take us both home," said Bets. "He's out now with Buster taking him on his evening walk."
"That's good of him," said Fatty. "And it does put my mind at rest knowing he'll be staying tonight too."
"Have you heard anything on the William Goon front?" said Ern, feeling rather concerned, especially as he was a relation. "Bets has been telling me of your suspicions that he could have been responsible."
"Thomas and Edward popped in a while ago, just before they all had to leave for home, and said there was no news as yet, but the police have stepped up their search for him, and they're even going to watch our house, just in case he turns up again."
"Yes, the family called in and told me more or less the same," said Bets, in serious tones. "At least I'll feel safer now, knowing we're protected."
"Gosh, all the excitement takes me back to some of the secret cases I used to work on, along with Paul," said Ern, his eyes wide with excitement. "It certainly makes the blood rush through your veins!"
Bets shook her head at Ern. "Well I'd prefer a much quieter life for Fatty and me, Ern. So as far as I'm concerned the sooner he's caught, the better I'll feel."
Ern and Fatty exchanged sly glances and Fatty took hold of Bets hand. "You'll be fine my dear. We both will be. And I can't wait to get back home instead of being stuck in here."
"When you get home you'll be taking it easy for a while at least, Frederick Trotteville," said Bets, sternly. "This has been a great shock for both of us. It's not just a case of your bruises healing..." Bets left the words in the air, with raised knowing brows.
Fatty squeezed her hand and smiled understandingly. "I know my dear." Changing the subject he turned to Ern and said. "So, Ern. When do you have to get back to Cornwall?"
"I'll be travelling back tomorrow, and staying for a few days, then I'll be returning to live a little nearer to Bernice."
Fatty's brows rose enquiringly. "That's news. Bernice will be pleased. But isn't that a bit tricky, seeing as your family think you've passed away?"
"We'll get round it," said Ern, with a slight shrug.
Bets wanted to ask more, but sensed that Ern wanted to leave it there. It must be awful she thought for Ern and his wife, Bernice, having to keep up this pretence of Ern's demise, all due to the secret work he was involved with.
The atmosphere was lightened with the arrival of Daisy, Larry and Pip, who all smiled happily to see Fatty sitting up and looking a lot better. "I expect you'll be boasting soon and showing us all the different shapes of bruises you've got," said Larry, with a mischievous grin, after all the pleasantries and updates had been said.
"I think we should all take a bet on Fatty's bruises to see if any turn into the shapes of church bells, or snakes heads'," said Pip, with a grin.
Fatty laughed, good-naturedly and joined in with the banter, all of them totally oblivious to the other patients and visitors on the ward looking over at them all with amused glances.
When it was time for everyone to leave for the evening, Fatty kissed Bets, and went to sleep that evening feeling happy, knowing that he'd be home the following morning.
* * *
Fatty entered through the front door, glad that his night shift had finished, and that he had a nice long weekend to look forward too. Going into the kitchen he put the kettle on to boil, and glanced as his watch, six o'clock. Bets should be just about getting up, he thought, ready for her morning shift at the hospital. As he made his way into the lounge he stopped in surprise, to see Bets, sitting forward on the settee and looking pale.
"Whatever is the matter, Bets," he asked, concerned.
"I'll be okay in a minute, Fatty, she said, weakly.
"Are you sick?" He asked, sitting next to her, and placing an arm around her shoulders. "You look so pale. I hope you're not thinking of going to work."
"I'll be fine, after a cup of tea and a dry piece of toast."
The whistling of the boiling kettle had Fatty leaving her side to finish off his task of making the tea. He also popped two slices of bread into the toaster before walking back into the lounge carrying two cups of hot tea.
"Thanks, Fatty," said Bets, with a weak smile, accepting the cup from him and taking a long sip.
"You've probably picked something up from the hospital," said Fatty. "Hospitals are always full of germs."
Bets had to grin at his serious expression, and glanced at the clock on the wall. "I'll have to hurry with this tea, or I'll be late for my shift."
"Bets, don't be stupid, you can't go in work if you feel ill," said Fatty, sternly. The sound of the toast popping up from the toaster had him walking into the kitchen, and Bets took another sip of her tea. She didn't want to have to tell Fatty her news this way, she so much wanted to tell him over a lovely candlelight dinner during the weekend, and make the moment a special one.
Fatty came back into the lounge with a plate of toast for himself and Bets, she looked at it, and had to make a quick dash to the downstairs toilet. Fatty looked at her swiftly retreating back, making up his mind that he wasn't going to let Bets out of the house if she felt that bad.
Minutes later, she came back into the room, and flopped exhaustedly onto the settee.
"Don't even think about going to work, Bets," Fatty began, firmly. "You should go straight back to bed."
Bets drank the rest of her tea and placing the cup back on the saucer, turned to a concerned looking Fatty, saying. "I didn't want to have to tell you this way, Fatty. I so much wanted to tell you over a romantic meal. I'm not ill I'm just expecting our first child."
Bets couldn't help but grin at the stunned expression on Fatty's face that struck him dumb for a few seconds. Then his expression changed to one of sparkling excitement and he took her in his arms and hugged her tightly, before planting a kiss on her lips, and asking all the questions that suddenly filled his head, such as, when, and how long had she known?
"Oh, Bets. I'm so pleased. I can't wait to tell everyone the good news."
"We could ring everyone this evening," said Bets, with a smile. "I'll be home for about six."
Fatty hugged her closely again and said. "We'll do better than that, Bets. I'll ring Mum later this morning and tell her we're coming over this evening to stay for a long week-end, and then we can see everyone and tell them personally."
Bets face lit up with excitement. "That would be lovely, Fatty. I can see Mum and Dad and Pip, and Daisy and Larry. The Find-Outers could all get together again and we can tell everyone our news over a lovely meal."
"We certainly will, Bets," said Fatty, his face glowing with pleasure. "I can't wait to tell everyone the good news."
After Bets had left for work, Fatty walked up the stairs to bed, calling to Buster. He felt so excited and happy he almost floated up the stairs, knowing that the last thing he'd be able to manage to do was to get a few hours sleep. Already his fingers were itching to dial the number to his parents' home, and give them the good news that he was going to be a DAD...
* * *
Once home from the hospital, Bets was pleased that Daisy had decided to join her and Pip for a bit of supper before going home to Paul. Over supper they all started to chat and reminisce about old times. Bets started to talk about her wedding day, not really knowing why she should suddenly have such a desire.
"Yes, it was a lovely day," said Daisy. "You looked lovely, Bets. And of course that's where Pip met Mary."
Pip nodded with a smile. "I suspect that Fatty and Bets had a hand in that."
Bets laughed. "Let's just say you needed a little push in that direction." She looked at Daisy. "Can you remember us getting ready in my bedroom at home? I was so nervous."
Daisy looked at Bets with a smile. "Yes, we were almost falling over each other, you, me, and Mary. Her being your chief bridesmaid, and me being Matron of Honour, even though I was only engaged."
"I didn't really matter," began Bets. "Then there was the two little ones."
Daisy nodded. "Yes, they were quite a handful if I recall."
"I remember Fatty and I getting ready that morning too," said Pip, with a sigh. "I felt a bit sad really, especially knowing that after your honeymoon you'd be going straight to your new home in Cheshire."
Daisy looked at Bets with a raised brow. "Yes, Bets was a bit apprehensive too, if I remember..."
* * *
"I don't know whether I want to move now, Daisy," began Bets, turning to look at her, a slight tear threatening to fall onto her cheek. "I'll miss everyone. You, Pip, Larry, Mum and Dad..."
Daisy left the bed where she was sitting and came to put an arm around Bets' shoulders. She picked up a tissue from the box on the dressing table and dabbed Bets eyes slightly, being careful not to spoil her make-up.
"Now we don't want any of that talk," she said quietly, but firmly. "You're just feeling a little nervous, that's all. You've both got a lovely new house to go to after your honeymoon, and a job at the hospital and Fatty has got his new promotion. You're only a train journey away from us all here in Peterswood."
Bets looked at Daisy with a watery smile. "I know. It's just the thought of a new place, new job, having to make new friends. It's a whole new life for me and Fatty."
"And what an adventure," said Daisy, with a smile. "You're both very lucky. Opportunities don't come along often and you have to grab them when you can."
"I'll let Fatty down," said Bets, "I know I will. He'd be heartbroken if he thought I'd changed my mind."
"You've not changed your mind," said Daisy, "you're just feeling a little nervous, and stupid thoughts are racing around in your head." She turned to look at a concerned Mary. "Go and ask Mrs. Hilton if she could do us all a nice pot of tea, and tell her to put a bit of brandy in it."
Mary nodded with smile at Bets and went downstairs. "I can't have any brandy," began Bets, looking alarmed. "I need a clear head."
"No arguing and no more stupid talk," said Daisy, firmly. "Anyway, it's only medicinal."
* * *
Bets arrived at the hospital with Pip, just before lunch to take Fatty back home. He was already waiting in the discharge lounge, his face one big smile as they entered the room.
"You're looking much better today, Fatty," said Bets, kissing him lightly.
"That's because I'm finally going home," said Fatty, rising from the lounging chair. "Let's get out before they change their minds."
"Is it okay to just leave?" said Pip, looking around the room for a nurse.
"Of course," said Fatty, "I was officially discharged an hour ago, and brought down here to await your arrival."
It wasn't long before they were in Pip's car and being driven back to the White House. As they entered, a wildly and excited Buster flung himself at Fatty almost knocking him off his feet. "Steady on, Buster," said Fatty, with a grin, and bending to fondle his dog's ears. "It's lovely to see you too, old chap."
Daisy and Larry were at the house to greet Fatty on his arrival, and after giving Fatty a big hug, Daisy said she'd go and pop the kettle on and make everyone a much needed cup of tea. "See if there's any cake too," Fatty called after her, feeling just as excited as Buster to be home.
"Now you sit right down there, Frederick Trotteville," said Bets, firmly, indicating his favourite chair, "and I'll go and help Daisy with the tea." She put the hand held phone next to him. "Just in case anyone rings, and it saves you getting up," she quickly explained, before disappearing into the kitchen.
"I hope you're not going to start fussing around me," Fatty called after her, good naturedly.
"I'm sure she will," said Pip, with a grin. Then said, seriously. "It's been quite a shock for her, Fatty."
Fatty looked at Pip soberly and nodded. "Yes, I know. But I'm home now and I'll soon be back to rushing around."
"Not too quickly though eh, Fatty," said Larry, with a mischievous grin. "Take advantage of all the fuss Bets will lavish on you."
Fatty grinned. He knew very well that Bets would be fussing around him for the next few days or so, but he secretly intended to get up and about as soon as he could, despite the fact that he still ached from all his bruises.
Daisy and Bets came in carrying two trays and put them down on the long low table in front of the settee. Daisy started to pour out the teas and Bets started to cut the cake. The ringing of the phone had them all looking towards the hand held besides Fatty, and Bets said to him that would probably be one of the boys welcoming him back home. Larry and Pip grinned, as they usually did when Bets or Daisy referred to Bets and Fatty's sons as 'the boys', despite the fact that they were both in their forties.
Fatty answered the phone with a smile on his face waiting to hear one of the familiar voices of his sons. But the voice he heard sent a cold shiver down his spine and he turned to face the others wide eyed and shocked.
Bets stopped cutting the cake, and Daisy pouring the tea, both frozen as they saw Fatty's expression change and his face pale. Larry and Pip faced Fatty, looking anxious, wondering who had suddenly changed the atmosphere. They soon knew when Fatty spoke.
"Why are you ringing me, William? I have to warn you the house is being watched, so why don't you just give yourself up and stop this persecution." Fatty pressed down the loud speaker phone button on the handset, so the others could hear.
"I just wanted to let you know, that I was wrong by trying to knock you down," came William's voice into the room. "It's like everything I do. I always get things wrong. It should have been me under the car, not you. But I intend to remedy that and put myself out of this misery that's engulfed me all my life."
The Find-Outers listened to his words, hardly daring to breathe, Pip, Larry, Bets and Daisy's eyes fixed on Fatty. He looked at the others anxiously, but remained calm and controlled as he spoke into the phone. "William, just take a deep breath and try and keep calm. Tell me where you are, and I can get some help to you."
"No one can help me now. Not even the great Frederick Trotteville. I just wanted you to see what you and my own Father have driven me too."
The Find-Outers looked at each other in silent concern, hardly daring to breathe loudly in case William Goon heard them. Daisy had her hand over her mouth, shaking her head slightly at the realization of what William Goon was intending to do. Larry was making spinning signals with one hand, and showing the mobile in the other, trying to convey to Fatty to keep William talking whilst he rang the police. Fatty understood and nodded, watching Larry quietly leave the room.
"There's no need to take such a drastic step, William," Fatty carried on to say, trying to keep his voice calm, so that he wouldn't panic William in any way. "Things are really never as bad as they seem. You just need help, that's all. Where are you?"
William's voice could be heard laughing slightly before he said. "This is where I've been extremely clever, taking a leaf out of Frederick Trottevillle's book. I'm sitting on a bench, almost opposite to where you are, and I'm in a disguise so no one can recognise me. Why don't you all pop out and take a look?"
The phone went dead, and Fatty switched off the handset, looking at the others in complete bewilderment. Larry came back into the room and informed them all the police were on their way.
"Let's go outside and see if William is where he says he is," said Pip, looking at everyone.
"I don't like the sound of this at all," said Bets, looking frightened. "Stay where you are, Fatty, I don't trust him, he's a mentally sick man."
"He can't harm all of us, Bets," said Fatty, rising from his chair. "Who's coming?"
They all went outside with Fatty, down the driveway and out through the front gate. As they looked across the roadway, at the bench further down, they saw an elderly man rising from his sitting position when he noticed them. He stood still, just watching them for a few moments, until the distant police sirens came to their ears. Then everything happened so quickly, as the traffic flowed freely along, William stepped out just under the wheels of a coach, unknown to the watching Find-Outers, as the coach passed them first, obstructing their view. But the screeching of the brakes and the coach coming to a grinding stop, told them all what they needed to know.
A cold shock raced through their veins as the traffic came to a grinding halt, and they crossed the road to the accident scene. The bus driver was kneeling by William's side, shaking with the shock of what had happened. He was speaking to the passengers who had already alighted saying, he couldn't do anything – the man just stepped out in front of the coach.
Someone had put their coat over William to keep him warm, others were muttering, "Is he okay? Is he dead?"
The police arrived and so did an ambulance. Everyone was pushed back from the scene by the police, and the Find-Outers could only stand and watch with the rest. They saw the paramedic was Nigel again, who bent down to exam his patient. It was obvious to everyone that William Goon had been killed instantly, when Nigel went to speak to the police, before getting back into the ambulance and driving off.
Everyone was moved away by the police and so the Find-Outers made their way back to the White House. Once inside, Larry said, "I think we all need something a little stronger than the tea."
"Great idea," said Fatty, soberly. "Do the honours, Larry. I feel exhausted with all that's just happened."
Bets looked at Fatty with concern. "I hope you've not been discharged too soon, Fatty."
Fatty grinned. "Of course I haven't. It's just what's happened that's all. And I expect the police will be around soon after Larry's phone call."
Larry passed everyone a brandy and downed his drink in one. "I needed that," he said, with a sigh. "I'm glad it's not every day you see someone walk in front of a coach."
The others all nodded. "Poor man," said Daisy, in soft tones. "He was so troubled in his mind, wasn't he?"
Everyone agreed. "He's at peace now," said Bets. "Let's just hope that he and his father sort out their differences where ever they are."
Pip looked at his sister. "Well they're either up there or down there," he said, in dry tones.
Bets scowled. "Have a bit of respect, Pip."
"It still amazes me how Goon's opinion of me changed," began Fatty, referring back to last year when William had told them all of how his father had always 'sung the praises of Frederick Algernon Trotteville.' "When we were children, solving all the mysteries he had a very different opinion of us all, especially me."
"That's what made the mystery solving more exciting," said Larry, with a grin. "Always trying to keep one step ahead of Goon, and solving the mystery before him. And we always did."
They all nodded. "Yes, we certainly kept Goon on his toes," said Fatty, finishing off his brandy. "I don't think the mysteries would have been as exciting if Good hadn't been on the scene. He certainly made everything more enjoyable."
"Let's have a top up," said Larry, pouring out everyone another drink, and toast Fatty's birthday now that he's back home with us all."
"Good idea," said Pip, with a smile. They all raised their glasses. "To Fatty," said Pip, "and his eventful birthday."
"Fatty!" chorused everyone, causing him to blush with pleasure.
"Thanks, everyone," he said, with a smile. "And if I manage to live to see another birthday, let's hope it won't be as eventful."
"Of course you'll see another birthday," said Bets, firmly. "You're Frederick Algernon Trotteville, and he's immortal."