Last Updated on November 1, 2022 by ADMIN-TOM
Walking Away from Midnight
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The Man in Black
The lane running alongside the Fordham house, close to Roc la Tour, led south to Tournavaux or west to Monthermé in the Ardennes Forest. It fell to Jessie, as she had always done since her early teens, to cycle to the town of Naux. It had a scattering of farms and most importantly a boulangerie and boucherie, where she would buy the daily requirement of bread and meat. Both the butcher and baker’s family had got to know Jessie well over the years and Jessie spent longer buying food than any other pastime while on holiday.
On her way back from her morning trip, Jessie revelled in freewheeling down the hill with pine trees lining both sides of the small lane. The early morning scent of pine mixed with the warming dappled sunlight made her grateful to be alive.
As she approached the narrow entrance to the family home, the driveway partially hidden by the pine trees, Jessie could see a small red Simca Cinq car parked on the right side, it’s rear-end toward her and two men stood with their backs to her at the front of the vehicle. The two men had not noticed Jessie’s silent approach and Jessie was almost at the entrance to the driveway when she realised one of the men was her uncle. The other was dress head to foot in black. A black fedora pulled low down on his head, a black gabardine mac, collar up, pulled tight around his neck and black trousers and shoes.
Jessie considered his dress sense was more for dramatic and menacing effect than that of a disguise.
Jessie steered the bicycle left and the wheels crunched on the driveway gravel.
The two men turned and for a fleeting moment, Jessie saw the man in black’s face. A pinched nose, thin black moustache and dark, swarthy eyes that flitted left and right, seemingly looking for danger.
Her uncle’s expression was telling. Shock and realisation he had been caught doing something he would have preferred to keep quiet.
Jessie stopped the bicycle and put a foot down. “Uncle? Are you okay?”
Her uncle waved a hand to Jessie, said something to the man in black, and then walked over to join her.
“He was lost,” her uncle said, “and wanted directions to Monthermé.”
“Oh,” Jessie said, her brow furrowed. She stood next to her uncle while the pair watching the man get in his car, start the engine, and drive off. “He didn’t pay much attention to your directions, he’s going the wrong way, he’s on his way to Tournavaux.”
Nev Fordham looked over his shoulder at the receding car and shrugged his shoulders. He smiled at Jessie. “Never mind, he was foreign and I’ve no doubt he will find his way eventually.”
Jessie watched her uncle walk slowly down the drive to the house. She mused on the odd turn of events based on an uncle who never left the house except to drive somewhere in his beloved Bentley. And the odd turn of events in that she was certain she heard the two men speak German, not a language she felt her uncle was either fluent in or knew enough to make himself understood.
Jessie fully dismounted the bicycle and pushed it down the drive, quickly catching up to her uncle.
The pair walked in silence towards the house, Jessie’s mind slightly confused by what she had just witnessed.
Copyright © Tom Kane 2022
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