This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 825 words.
Millicent took the bait. Roger went to the counter and ordered more tea and some fancy cakes.
“Well, as you have taken so much trouble…She was the talk of the school for a while. Anyone involved in teaching her kept using words like genius when they talked about her. She had the educational level of someone much older, apparently. There was even talk of entering her for IQ tests, and maybe getting some publicity for the school. But the Richter woman would have none of it, and tried to pass it off as Emily having very intelligent parents who had worked hard with her before they died”.
She accepted the French Slice with real cream from Roger, and took a large bite of it.
“During her last year, it was presumed that she would attend the local Senior School. They get options of where they want to go, and apply. But of course you know that, silly me. Anyway, we were told that she would not be staying in Maida Vale. In fact she would be moving to the South London suburbs and attending a Secondary School there. That is obviously your school, and her records would have been sent on for you to examine, I’m sure”.
Delia waited until she had finished her cake and her second cup of tea. “Milly, could you show us the house where she lived? I understand it is close by.” Milly smiled, and turned to point out of the window. “You can see it from here. That side of the canal, number four. That’s why I suggested we meet here”.
They thanked her for the information, and for agreeing to see them. On a paper napkin, Milly wrote down a phone number. “Please let me know what you find out”.
Waving her goodbye as she walked to a nearby bus stop, Roger looked down the street. Outside the house there was a car parked. It was a new model Rolls-Royce, identical to the one he had seen through the fence at Emily’s address.
Delia was more confident than him about just ringing the doorbell and seeing who answered. “We have come this far, my darling. I for one need to know why they moved from this area”. She marched up the front steps and pressed the bell. Roger hung back at the bottom, still wondering what they would say to whoever answered. Just when they thought nobody was home and they were about to leave, the door opened.
Standing in the doorway was a man who looked Oriental. When he spoke, his accent was American. “Can I help you, folks?”
Completely unfazed, Delia smiled. “Hello, Mr Yamada. We were just vsiting some friends nearby, and I thought it would be interesting to see where Emily used to live. I see you still live here. So who is at the lakeside house with Emily?” Roger was sure all this would cause trouble. What reason could they have to be there? What if Yamada made a complaint to the school?
He was equally as composed. “Oh, Emily is at home studying today. I just came to visit a friend who still lives here, catching up on old times. Why don’t you come in and meet her?” Inside the large reception room overlooking the street, he offered them a seat and left the room. A few moments later, he returned with a serious-looking woman. Her short grey hair made her look severe, and her dress seemed to be more like a uniform of some kind. Yamada made the introduction. This is Erika, Erika Richter. We go back a long way”.
With no hesitation, Delia gave hers and Roger’s names, adding that Roger was Emily’s form teacher, and very interested in her because she was so bright. Mrs Richter replied in a German accent so strong, it reminded Roger of those German Officers in old war films. “Emily voz alveys a clivver girl. She does vell at your school, yes? Riku looks after her now. I voz getting too alt”.
Roger desperately wanted to launch into questions about why Emily’s parents were supposed to have died in Germany when she was eight, but drowned in America when she was eleven. But that would mean implicating Millicent Pugh. It was enough of a shock to find both of her guardians at the same address, and he felt that if he pushed it, they would either tell a web of lies, or be in the school on Monday to lodge a formal complaint.
Before Delia could dig them in any deeper, he stood up, thanked them for their time, and wished them a pleasant weekend. A surprised-looking Delia stood up too, and walked out with him. As they went out of the front door, Yamada smiled and waved. “Thanks for your interest. Emily is in good hands”.
As they walked to where the car was parked, Delia raised her eyebrows. “Well, I wasn’t expecting that!”