“Come And See”: Part Thirteen

This is the thirteenth part of a fiction serial, in 732 words.

Patrick Killane sent Jimmy a letter about the power of attorney. He had to take it into the bank and show it to them. Lesley arranged for him to have an afternoon off, and the bank manager saw him privately, in a small office at the back of the branch. “You will be able to draw on your mother’s account should you need to, Mister Walker. Also access her deposit savings account”.

The man slid a sheet of paper across the desk. It showed that Jimmy’s mum had almost one thousand pounds in her current account, and close to eleven thousand pounds in her deposit account. Jimmy caught his breath. He could buy a small house for that much, and it intrigued him how his mum had managed to save it. He asked the bank manager if his absent father could access that money.

He smiled, and shook his head. “As I understand it, your parents are divorced. In that case, he has no claim on any money whatsoever. Please bear in mind that should your mother recover, it will be up to you and your lawyer to explain to her why you have gone ahead with the power of attorney. I trust you will not be taking out much more than you need to pay your bills and live normally?” Jimmy was rather annoyed at the man’s tone, so he thanked him for his time, and left.

After a late night and a long day, Joanne Drummond was briefing her team before they went home that evening. She had already been in to see the Chief Inspector, and he had told her to carry on with the usual routine for now.

“Okay, so we have a victim, George Greaves. His real name was George Gardiner, born in Bristol, in ninteen-nineteen. He was fity-one years old, and recently moved to the town from Birmingham, after being released from prison. He had served three years for fraud. George was well known to us, it seems. He was originally arrested as long ago as forty-two, during the war. He had been selling Army rations to black marketeers. He served time for that in military prison, before being dishonourably discharged at the end of the war”.

Jo moved away, signalling Sergeant Bernie Cohen to come up and speak. Bernie held up some papers. “Fraud, Deception, Theft, Burglary. George was a busy boy. Three more spells inside before the last one, and just occasional cash-in-hand jobs in between. According to Mandy, his regular pro, he was running a nice little scam being some sort of Evangelist. She says he used to pay her with cash from his collection box every Sunday. She also tells me he boasted about a few of the old women leaving him money or property in their wills. Derek has already looked into that, and one of the worshippers gave him a list of five women who agreed to make him a benficiary”.

Walking over to stop him continuing, Jo waved her arm. “Okay you lot, off home for now. Thanks for all your hard work so far. We will get onto that list tomorrow”.

Jimmy had something to do before Lesley got home that evening. He made a few notes in his book, then placed that in the carrier bag with the knife he had used on George. Taking the bag out to the garden shed, he lifted the grass box on the front of the lawn mower, and hid the bag underneath. No chance Lesley would find it there.

While he was waiting for her to come home and cook the dinner, Jimmy settled down with a new book he had bought in a second-hand shop. It was about the history of biological warfare, and he was fascinated to discover that the idea went back to ancient times, when rotting carcasses were used to pollute water supplies, and the tips of arrows were coated in human faeces to infect wounds. He was still reading it when she came in. “How did you get on, love? Everything okay at the bank? Dinner won’t be long, just sausages, egg, and chips tonight”.

He nodded a yes to each thing she had said, as he had got to a good bit about how Roman soldiers would place their swords into decomposed bodies, so that anyone wounded by them later would die of Tetanus.

A Biblical Association

Readers of my fiction serials will be aware that my current story has a religious theme. The header graphic accompanying each post is a quotation from The Bible, The Book Of Revelation.

Those of you who have read up to the most recent episode will be aware that the direction of the story is taking a darker turn. And that it has little or nothing to do with religion.

However, many of my most recent ‘followers’ do not seem to have read past the first episode.

In the last ten days, I have ‘welcomed’ at least fifteen new followers whose blogs are packed with religious quotations, ‘fire and brimstone’ preaching, or just a lot of basic ‘God Stuff’.

Once again, I conclude that many ‘followers’ do not actually read the post, and only follow because of a few words or tags that they spot as they trawl WordPress looking for recruits or converts to their own brand of religion.

Sorry, you lot. I haven’t followed you back.

Not a single one of you. Maybe you should give up on me?

But then you would have had to actually read something to come to that conclusion.

“Come And See”: Part Eleven

This is the eleventh part of a fiction serial, in 822 words.

Jimmy soon discovered that Lesley liked to watch a lot of television. She had many favourite programmes, which she also liked to talk about all the way through them. He didn’t mind too much, as every so often he would get a familiar message from the screen. One of the soap opera characters might be spouting the lines that Lesley expected to hear, but Jimmy would hear them saying “Make A Difference”, in that same voice he had heard in bed that night.

Reverend George wasn’t in the phone book. That meant Jimmy would have to go out on Sunday. He told Lesley he was going to visit his mum in the new unit. He would do that too, just so he was seen there by staff. Lesley was looking forward to cooking them a Sunday dinner. “I got a nice half leg of lamb, and I make my own mint sauce. Yourkshire puddings too, if you want. Try to be back by two, so I can time it all”.

Finding a place across the road from the hall where the prayer group met, he managed to wait out of sight on the corner. Knowing what time they usually finished, he only had to be there for a few minutes, so was unlikely to attract any attention. The scary old lady was out first, after unbolting the door, then a dozen or so followed her before George Greaves appeared and waved them goodbye. Then he locked the outside padlock, and took the key into the social club before walking away at a brisk pace.

Following at a reasonable distance, Jimmy had to be careful not to be spotted. The streets were quiet on that Sunday morning, and it would have been easy for Greaves to suddenly turn and spot him. Fortunately, he didn’t turn, keeping up his fast pace until he got to a row of shabby-looking shops that were all shuttered up. Between two of them, George stopped and let himself in with a key. Presumably, he lived in a flat above one of them, Jimmy concluded. Checking the time on his watch, he wondered if he should get on with things now, or come back another time.

In his head, he heard one of his mum’s favourite sayings. “No time like the present”.

There were two doorbells. One had a faded paper name-plate with ‘Strickland’ on it, so Jimmy pressed the other one. It took some time for George to answer, and he seemed very surprised, almost startled to see Jimmy. “What can I do for you, young James?” Jimmy explained about his mum being in the long-stay unit, and that he had hoped to talk to George about the special work that the Lord had for him. Checking his own watch, he stood back from the door. “Come on up, but I don’t have long I’m afraid”. He didn’t ask Jimmy how he knew where he lived.

Inside, the pokey flat looked nothing like a residence you might associate with a man of God. Piles of clothes covered most surfaces, and a glipmse into the kitchen as they walked past had showed that no washing up had been done for a very long time. George sat down on a greasy-looking armchair, and pointed at the one opposite. Jimmy didn’t sit. Instead, he asked George if he could use the toilet, and the man nodded. “Just by the front door, opposite the kitchen”.

In the small bathroom, Jimmy removed a plastic carrier bag from his coat pocket. It contained a knife he had brought from home, with a blade about eight inches long. He inverted the bag until it covered his hand and sleeve, then grabbed the knife through the plastic.

George was pouring himself a whisky when Jimmy returned, his right hand behind his back. Before he could offer a drink to the young man, Jimmy stabbed him once in the side of the neck, turning the blade flat as he withdrew it. As George dropped the bottle and glass, a mystifed look on his face, Jimmy stepped smartly to one side, carefully avoiding the jet of blood that spurted from the neck wound. George tried to stand, but fell forward onto his knees, the colour draining from his skin.

Leaving the reverend face down on the floor making a strange gurgling noise, Jimmy turned and went back into the bathroom. Running the plastic bag and knife under the tap, he waited until there was no chance of any blood drips, then turned the bag inside out, and put the knife back inside. Before leaving, he went to check that George was dead, waiting a full two minutes to be certain his chest wasn’t moving. Then using his sleeve on the catch, he opened the door and let himself out.

On the way to the hospital unit, the thought of that roast lamb was making his mouth water.

“Come And See”: Part Ten

This is the tenth part of a fiction serial, in 743 words.

“You know I will help you, Jimmy. I would do anything for you, you must realise that. What help do you need? Just tell me”. Lesley sounded desperate. She had been surprised by Jimmy turning down her offer of moving in permanently, and that showed in her quivering voice. He explained that he would need someone to look after him, but to ask no questions about where he went, and what he did. And if anyone came to the house asking about his movements, she was to say they were together at the time mentioned.

That sounded easy enough to Lesley, and she nodded vigorously. “I can do that, Jimmy. I will look after you, and tell anyone anything you ask me to tell them”. To seal the bargain, Jimmy led her upstairs to mum’s bedroom, and rewarded her with what he knew she liked best.

He got the afternoon off the next day, to go and see the doctor at the hospital. Lesley said she would get more things from her flat, including the television, then bring them over by taxi that evening. It was a different doctor who Jimmy was shown in to see. A young man who had already lost most of his hair, and seemed stressed during the conversation. “Well, Mister Walker. I think you are aware that there is little more that we can do for your mother at the moment. Our plan is to move her to the Edith Cavell unit, where long-stay coma patients are cared for. I would caution you to not expect to see any improvement, even in the long term”. Jimmy took the leaflet he was offered, explaining visiting times and procedures at the unit. Then he thanked the doctor and left.

On the way home, he called into Killane’s Solicitors, taking the man by surprise. “Mister Walker, I wan’t expecting you, but it just so happens I have some papers for you to sign. By the end of the month you should be able to control your mother’s money, both her current account, and deposit account too”. Jimmy told him about his mum moving to the long-stay unit, signed two documents at the bottom of the page, and then looked Killane in the eye. He said he was trusting him with all this, and sincerely hoped that it was all above board. Something in the young man’s gaze made the solicitor decidedly uneasy. “I assure you, it is all legal and straightforward”.

Lesley was flushed and excited when she turned up in the taxi. Jimmy helped her carry the portable television in, then paid the taxi fare as she dragged another large suitcase into the house. She produced a bottle of wine from her shoulder bag, and stood a carrier bag on the table. “I got us two nice steaks for tonight, and I will make some chips to have with them. I have sent my landlord a a letter giving notice on the flat, so by the end of next month it will just be you and me, living here”.

She headed off into the kitchen to peel potatoes and start preparing the meal. Calling to him from there, she sounded happy and upbeat. “I am going to have to change my address and phone number with work of course. That might cause a stir, so I thought we should say that you are renting me a room here, you know, just as a lodger. We can explain that you need the money to pay the rent once your mum’s sick pay stops. What do you think, Jimmy?”

When he didn’t reply, she carried on peeling the potatoes. Jimmy was writing down names in his notebook. George Greaves was already in there, and now he added the surname Killane, with a question mark next to it.

Over dinner, Jimmy said that the idea of her being a lodger was a good one, and they should stick to that story for now. Later on, they could start to let people know they were a couple, and it would seem like a natural progression of their relationship. Lesley loved the sound of that, imagining that she might even get an engagement ring to wear. If she had to buy it herself, she didn’t mind. With dinner over, it was still a little early to suggest going upstairs, so she had another idea.

“Why don’t we set up the telly, Jimmy? See what’s on”.

“Come And See”: Part Nine

This is the ninth part of a fiction serial, in 762 words.

Lesley wasn’t at all sure what Jimmy was on about. “Come and see. See what? What are you talking about, Jimmy?” He smiled at her, making her feel even more uneasy. Then he told her that it was just a thought he had. Something he needed to do. His mum wanted him to make a difference, and he had worked out what that meant. Lesley was relieved, presuming he was talking about charity work or something, so she went upstairs to have a bath.

Jimmy took out an old notebook, and started to jot things down.

Swords were not really an option. You didn’t exactly see many swords, and trying to buy one might be noticed. Still, big knives were like swords, and you could buy a big knife anywhere. Hunger was a possiblilty, and he would look into that. The third option was Death. That was easy enough, as it encompassed any form of death. Definitely the most flexible option. Beasts of The earth. That was a tricky one. No locusts in England to cause starvation, only one kind of poisonous snake, and no man-eating beasts outside of a zoo. But he thought of a couple of possibilities, even so.

A Fourth Of The Earth was a big ask. Even a fourth of that town was over ten thousand people. He wouldn’t have time for that, and it would sure to attract attention. He concluded that he would have to settle for what was practical. Even a few would be making a difference, and sending a warning to people to fear God into the bargain.

When Lesley came back down, she had made an effort. Hair washed, make-up on, and a nightdress that was almost transparent. She had decided that if she was to keep Jimmy’s affections, she had to make sure she looked her best. Convinced his mum was never coming out of hospital, she saw her chance to move in and be a couple. The fact he was ten years younger didn’t seem to bother him, and it certainly didn’t bother her.

He was writing in a small notebook. “What you writing about, Jimmy, is it work stuff?” She was hoping he would turn around and look at her, notice how sexy she was. But he carried on scribbling, and shook his head. He told her it was just a few ideas for a project, and if she wanted to, she could help. She was more interested in her own current project though. That of keeping Jimmy attracted to her. “Why don’t we go upstairs? We could have some fun, before an early night”.

Closing the notebook he nodded, then followed her up to his mum’s bedroom.

She was sleeping soundly when the voice woke him up, and she didn’t seem to have heard it. It was a man’s voice, in what was best described as a loud whisper. “Make A Difference”. Jimmy wasn’t remotely afraid. He knew what it was. God was finally talking to him directly, and confirming what he needed to do. He turned over and went back to sleep, a wide smile on his contented face.

There was a good library at work. Lots of books about chemicals, poisons, contaminants, and bacteria. It wasn’t permitted to take them home, but they could be read at anytime, and as a new employee, he was expected to study. Whenever he had a spare moment, he would be in the small library, making notes and flicking thorough large textbooks until he found the sort of things that interested him. The head of department even mentioned to Lesley that Jimmy was an excellent employee. Hard working, keen to learn, and no clock-watcher.

Sounding proud about that, Lesley told him what the boss had said, as they were on the bus home from work that evening.

After cooking a nice chicken dinner, Lesley cuddled close to him on the sofa. “Why don’t I bring my television from the flat? We could watch it in the evenings, maybe a film, or a nice play? I could bring it over in a taxi, it’s not very big.” Jimmy shrugged and told her she could if she wanted to, but he was going to be busy with notes on his project. Lesley pressed her advantage. “Maybe I should think about giving up my flat, and moving in here full time? It doesn’t look like your mum will be coming back to live here”. He shook his head, and told her that wasn’t going to happen.

Unless she really wanted to help him.

“Come And See”: Part Eight

This is the eighth part of a fiction serial, in 720 words.

All Jimmy knew about women was what he had learned from his one copy of Men Only magazine. In other words, he knew nothing at all about women. After thirty minutes with Lesley, he decided that the real thing was far preferable to a photo in a magazine, and she had also taught him more in that time than he had ever imagined. Following a short pause to finish the bottle of wine, she grabbed his hand and led him back upstairs.

“Your mum’s room this time, for the double bed. That tiny bed of yours will give me cramp otherwise”. Jimmy was tired long before his usual bedtime, and as Lesley curled her body around him and stroked his hair, he could feel his eyes closing. “Don’t worry, Jimmy. I am on the pill, so no little Jimmys to worry about. Not that I’m easy, you should know. There was only one before you, and he was a complete bastard”.

If she said anything else he didn’t hear it, as he was already asleep.

The next day at work, he felt awkward around her. She hadn’t bothered to make herself look nice that morning, so it was unlikely anyone suspected anything. Though on the way in, she had mentioned about packing a case again, and reminded him to get the key back from the neighbour. “And you really should ring the hospital today, and ask how your mum is”. He had almost forgotten about mum, so agreed he should do just that.

Mrs Wilby in the general office let him use the phone, and when someone was finally free to talk to him, he was told there was no change. That didn’t tell him much, but at least he had made the effort. Back in the laboratory, he told Lesley what the nurse had said. She seemed happy about that. “Oh good, I can come round tonight as planned then. I might just pick up fish and chips for dinner though, is that okay?” Jimmy was studying a slide under a microscope, so simply nodded.

Because Lesley had to go to her flat and pack, then queue for the fish and chips before she got to his house, Jimmy had plenty of time for reading when he got in from work. He was on the last chapter of the whole bible, The Book Of Revelation. Once he had finished that, he would have managed something few people have ever done. Read the whole of The Bible, Old Testament and New Testament too. Less the Minor Prophets of course, but they were probably best skipped.

He found a passage that really interested him, and read it twice.

‘And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.’

Now that was his kind of God. No messing about, take out a whole quarter of the human race, because he could. That was so much more interesting than parables, miracles, and all the ‘do unto others’ stuff he had put up with for years. A different reader might have interpreted that as a warning. Be God-fearing, or the fourth seal will be opened and Death will appear on a pale horse to punish mankind. But Jimmy wasn’t that sort of reader.

For him, it was a suggestion. Perhaps even an instruction.

When Lesley got back with her case and the fish and chips her hair was greasy, and she had no make-up on. Jimmy was hungry, and ate the food straight from the paper. She was a bit flustered, and looking at him with a worried expression. “What’s up with you, Jimmy? Sorry I’m not dressed up, but I’ve been busy. You didn’t even help with my suitcase, and I paid the taxi myself too. You have to learn to be a gentleman, to be kind. I’ve been very nice to you”. She didn’t like the strange look he gave her, when he turned round and said.

“Come and See”.

Free Book Just for Today

Hurry! Get your free copy of Stevie’s book. One day only! And please don’t forget to give it a fair review after reading.

Stevie Turner

My family drama ‘Barren‘ is free just for today. It was published in October 2020 and so far has one 5 star rating:

Esme Jones and husband Aron have completed their family and have twin sons Jared and James. Esme’s older sister Eden Reece is desperate for a child, but a hysterectomy has put paid to any chance of her becoming a parent. When Esme offers herself as a surrogate, Eden and husband Billy are delighted. However, when Esme notices the first fluttering of life inside her and a scan reveals that she is carrying a girl, both sisters are not prepared for the outcome which threatens to tear the fabric of the whole extended family apart.

As always, if you enjoy reading it, please consider leaving a review.

Apart from the usual blog hop on Monday, I’ll be winding down on writing blogs next week. We’ll be…

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“Come And See”: Part Seven

This is the seventh part of a fiction serial, in 735 words.

Lesley was beginning to get on his nerves. As he tried to concentrate on learning the new job, all she wanted to talk about was what he liked to eat, and what his house was like. She told him not to worry if his mum never came home, as she would look after him for as long as he needed her. He had to actually ask her to talk about work instead, and he noticed that she was rather miffed at that comment.

By the time he got to Killane’s that evening, the staff had gone home, and the solicitor was waiting for him in the outer office. He treated Jimmy with respect, ignoring his age, and the fact he had no experience with legal matters. “Your mother recently changed her instructions to me. I know she is still alive of course, but given her condition, we may be looking at trying to get you a power of attorney, so you can access any finances should you need to. Are you happy for me to do this on your behalf?” Jimmy nodded, and had to sign three different pieces of paper on the line marked with an ‘X’ in pencil.

Killane was looking at him seriously. “Are you aware of your mother’s instructions in the event of her death?” Jimmy shook his head. “Well you should probably be aware that she has left everything to someone called George Greaves. She added a note that he should use the funds to continue to spread the word of God. In all honesty Mr Walker, you are in a far better situation if she remains alive, that’s the truth of it”. Jimmy didn’t find that very surprising. Though his mum had never mentioned leaving her savings to anyone else, it was just the sort of thing he would have expected.

The solicitor told him he would be in touch about the paperwork, and mentioned his own fee of course. Then he shook Jimmy’s hand and wished a speedy recovery for his mum.

It was past seven by the time Jimmy got home. Lesley opened the door for him, suggesting she had been looking out for his arrival. He would have to get mum’s key back from Mrs Faraday, he reminded himself. She had cooked a spaghetti bolognese with some garlic bread, and had a bottle of red wine open too. Jimmy had never eaten garlic bread before, nor drunk red wine, but he tried both, just to be polite. And as they ate, he noticed something different about Lesley. Her hair looked nice, she seemed to have a lot of make-up on, and her skirt was much shorter than she usually wore them at work.

He decided he should probably say something, so he thanked her for doing the cooking, and said she looked pretty. That was all he could think of.

“Well I had a wash and blow-dry on the way home from work, and bought a new outfit to wear. I’m glad you noticed, Jimmy. I can go to my flat after work tomorrow and pack a bag, presuming you would like me to stay and look after you of course”. Jimmy shrugged, and with his mouth full of pasta, settled for a nod. When they had finished eating, Lesley cleared away and went into the kitchen to do the washing up. When she went back into the living room, she was surprised to find he wasn’t there.

She found him in his bedroom, reading a huge Bible.

“That’s not very nice, leaving a girl sitting on her own downstairs. Why didn’t you tell me you were coming up to your room to read?” It hadn’t even occured to him that she had expected him to stay downstairs, so he apologised and told her he was close to the end of the New Testament, and hoping to finish it that week. “Are you Bible-crazy then, like your mum?” She seemed unhappy. Jimmy told her that he was used to being alone, and he only had The Bible to read. He wanted to see what all the fuss was about, and why his mum and her friends were so obsessed with it.

She reached over and closed the book. Slipping off her shoes, she knelt on the edge of the bed and began unbuttoning her blouse.

“Oh I think we can do better than reading that old thing, Jimmy”.

“Come And See”: Part Six

This is the sixth part of a fiction serial, in 690 words.

Jimmy checked that his mum was actually breathing. Then he rang 999 and asked for an ambulance, telling the dispatcher that his mum seemed to be unconscious. After that he ran along the street to Mrs Faraday, gave her his mum’s keys, and asked her to wait in his house for the ambulance. He told her he had to go to work, and couldn’t possibly be late. Giving her no time to argue, he headed off to the bus stop.

At the eleven o’clock tea-break, he mentioned to Lesley about his mum, and she was shocked to hear that he had still come into work. She went to tell the head of department, and he insisted that Jimmy leave work immediately, and go to the hospital. Jimmy was reluctant to go, telling his boss that he would call into the hospital after work, and see if she was still there. But with Lesley joining in, he had no alternative but to go and get the bus to The Royal Victoria.

Casualty reception was quiet that morning, and a kind older woman said she would get one of the nurses to come and speak to him. Ten minutes later, a crisp and efficient Nursing Sister appeared. She took Jimmy into an unoccupied cubicle and told him that his mum had suffered a serious stroke. She used the word ‘catastrophic’ in fact. Although she was still alive, and likely to stay alive, she would probably be unable to speak or move. She asked Jimmy about family who could help, and he told her he was it. Then she took him to see his mum in a side room.

Norah Walker looked like she was sleeping soundly. In fact, she was snoring. Jimmy looked at her, thinking she looked a lot older than she did yesterday. Behind him, the nurse talked about long-term care, possibly in a residential facility. She was sure Jimmy could never cope alone, and said the doctor would come to speak to him soon. She left Jimmy siting by the bedside, without a clue what to say or do.

The doctor looked tired. He said his name was Doctor Singh, and he was wearing a turban. But his accent was the same as Jimmy’s. He repeated what the nurse had said. Mum might never recover, but she could possibly live for many years yet, maybe as long as twenty years.

When he concluded by asking if Jimmy wanted him to try to get her into long-term care, Jimmy was nodding before he had finished speaking.

That night at home, Jimmy did something he had never done before. He went through all of his mum’s papers, which were stored neatly in a drawer in her bedroom. There was a life insurance policy, but as she was still alive, he ignored that. Then he found some papers from a solicitor in town. Patrick Killane Solicitors seemed to have dealt with all of his mum’s business, and he thought he had better contact them.

He phoned the number on the headed notepaper, and he was eventually put through to Patrick himself. He didn’t have the expected Irish accent, and spoke softly in a very cultured way. “Mister Walker, I think you should come in and see me. I have things to discuss now Norah is in this condition. Will tomorrow at six be suitable?” Jimmy confirmed that appointment, and hung up.

That night, he carried on reading the New Testament, and got as far as 1 Peter before falling asleep.

Lesley was all over him the next morning. She wasn’t talking about work at all, just telling him she would cook him dinner, even come to his house to do it if he wanted. She said he shouldn’t worry about work, as she had spoken to the boss. He was happy to give Jimmy as much time off as he needed. Norah was a long-term employee, and much valued. Lesley said that if he wanted, she could stay in a spare room at his house, and look after him.

Preoccupied with the meeting with Killane later, Jimmy just nodded, and gave her his door key.

“Come And See” : Part Five

This is the fifth part of a fiction serial, in 746 words.

For Jimmy, the best thing about the new year of 1970 was that he would soon be eighteen years old, leaving school, and starting work. He had got the good pass grades he expected, and should be starting at Hopgood Pharmaceuticals just after Easter. For his mum, the best thing for her was that it was no longer the ‘Swinging Sixties’. She had hated all that pop music, free love, mini-skirts, and girls being on the pill. She was hoping for a better decade, a more God-fearing time to come.

Jimmy hadn’t had any of that free love, and since mum had sold the telly and thrown away the transistor radio, he hadn’t had any pop music either.

Mum’s prayer group had expanded a little. His mum said they now had twenty-six members, and Reverend George was better than ever with his fiery rhetoric. Jimmy had never been inside after that first time, and he had eventually got used to his mum always being out. He had also read a fair bit of the New Testament, though he had found it rather disappointing.

Jesus had started out well, throwing out the money-lenders and stuff, but Jimmy had found it hard to tolerate all those miracles. They seemed too far-fetched for his liking.

With the end of his schooling coming up, and a new job to prepare for, he had closed his Bible for now, reading up on his chemistry books instead. He was determined to make a good impression, and carve out a genuine career for himself in the Testing Department at Hopgood’s. As well as testing the efficacy of any new drugs, they also had contracts for blood tests, and bacterial testing. They would get samples sent in from hospitals, local councils, and even the police.

He had read up on that forensic side; establishing blood groups, identifying possible suspects, detecting poisons in tissue samples. It was all still rather new, but he hoped to get involved in that area, as it interested him.

The first day at work was rather embarrassing. Jimmy’s mum insisted they travel in together, then she walked him up to the head of his department, and introduced him as if he were a child on his first day at school. He could see his new colleagues eyeing her, and raising their eyebrows. She was not averse to expounding her salvation theories during the lunch break, something she had already told her son. Jimmy resolved to take the latest break allowed, as his mum sitting with him would tar him with the same brush.

That first week was something of a blur. He met a couple of dozen people whose names he was sure he would never remember, and was shown around the whole complex of buildings, even parts he would never be required to work in.

Then he was assigned a mentor. Lesley was a woman in her late twenties, and she had been working at Hopgood’s since leaving university. Jimmy got the impression she was unpopular, but his experience with women was no experience, so he didn’t notice the fact that she was overweight, wore thick-lens glasses, and had greasy hair. He treated her with great respect, and was keen to learn from her.

Very soon, Lesley liked Jimmy. She liked him a lot.

Once Lesley was on his side, Jimmy got to finally do some science. She mentioned extending his mentorship past the first week, just to be certain he was comfortable. He was happy to accept that, and she was soon showing him lots of the different aspects of the job, including the forensic analysis, which was her speciality. Because of her age, Jimmy naturally assumed she was married. But during a conversation when she mentioned living alone, he found out that wasn’t the case.

On Thursday, Lesley asked him outright if he was as crazy about religion as his mum. He explained about his dad leaving, having no television, and only having The Bible to read. But he was quick to critisize the prayer group and Reverend George, telling her he thought it was just a way for George to get money. Lesley looked very pleased by his answer.

On the way home that night, Jimmy’s mum complained of a blinding headache that she couldn’t shift. Back in the house, she prayed for The Lord to take away her headache, and went to bed early, unable to eat any dinner.

The next morning, Jimmy couldn’t wake her up.