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Illingworth House: 51 - An Unsolved Mystery

...Rumours reached Helen during her teens that she was the illegitimate daughter of a mill-master and his mistress. Whoever her parents were, they must have been rich for they paid the Greenwoods well enough to send her a prep school and not the local council school. And there was enough money later to pay for her through grammar school and the commercial college...

Helen Greenwood's urge to find her parents never leaves her.

This is the concluding chapter of John Waddington-Feather's novel concerning the fortunes and misfortunes of a Yorkshire mill-owning dynasty. The story continues in two further books: Chance-Child Part 1 and Chance-Child Part 2. Both of these will be serialised in Open Writing.

Helen Greenwood hated Grayson's Garage from the day she began work there. It stood at the bottom of Garlic Lane, a stone's throw from her home, opposite the rugby league and cricket fields. It had been part of the urban sprawl twenty years before, thrown up alongside the mill Helen's sister, Mary, worked in. Up the lane from the mill was a scrap-iron yard and beyond that a small engineering shop, then a few cottages, left-overs from the lane's rural past, and finally Trinity Church, the focal point of the neighbourhood.

So there was a wide variety of smells always hanging over the area: mill grease, hot metal, rusting iron, garage oil and the soot from countless house chimneys where fires were kept going even in summer. There was endless clamour during the day: the clatter of looms, the smashing of iron, the clumping of steel presses and the roar of car engines. Not to mention the bawling and shouting of the workers as they went about their daily tasks. Only the church stood locked in its oasis of silence.

Helen worked in a poky little office at the back of the garage. She booked in cars for repair and had to go into the garage to sign them in and out. Every time she went there the garage hands whistled or made crude comments. She complained to old Grayson and it stopped a while, but before long the hands were back to their old ways. They realised she was angry and made more fun of her till she was sickened by the whole place.

She became depressed and more determined than ever to get out, trawling through the ads each night in the evening paper, but there were no openings in Keighworth, not that she wanted to stay there anyway. She looked further afield to the big city, Bradford, and the more she read, the more she dreamed of having her own pad there, of being completely independent and well away from Keighworth.

Old Grayson didn't do much to help her at work, but he did in another respect. She'd become obsessed as she grew older with discovering her real parents. She'd asked Joe and Mary, but they knew nothing, only that the Greenwoods had suddenly turned up with her as a baby one day, not long after Joe and Mary had married.

Why they'd adopted her wasn't at all clear. They were well into middle age, but rumour had it Sam Greenwood had been very well paid by someone to take the baby on. He was never a popular man at work for he sucked up to the bosses and was anti-union. He kept himself to himself and thought he was a cut above his fellow workers at the mill, which was owned by the Illingworths.

Sam Greenwood must have known who Helen's parents were if anyone did, but he'd been well paid to keep his mouth shut. His secret died with him when he and his wife died in the flu epidemic. On their deaths, Joe and Mary took in Helen and brought her up as their own daughter.

Rumours reached Helen during her teens that she was the illegitimate daughter of a mill-master and his mistress. Whoever her parents were, they must have been rich for they paid the Greenwoods well enough to send her a prep school and not the local council school. And there was enough money later to pay for her through grammar school and the commercial college.

Grayson had lived down Garlic Lane all his life and had know the Greenwoods ever since they'd come to live there after they were wed, so Helen asked him if he knew anything. He'd run a one-man taxi business before he opened his garage, and when he mentioned he'd driven Helen as a baby from a clinic in Harrogate to the Greenwoods' home, she'd quizzed him more closely.

"A clinic?" she said.

"Aye," he replied. "One o' them where women have kids."

"A maternity clinic?"

"Aye, One o' them. An it must ha cost 'em a pretty penny who had their bairns there. It were top notch."

She asked him who'd sent him there, and he said it had been one of the Leach brothers, the solicitors. He'd arranged everything including the payments and through the clinic window, he'd seen the lawyer and Sam Greenwood signing some papers, while he waited for them in his taxi outside. He'd driven the lawyer more than once to the clinic and the last time he'd been there, he'd taken the Greenwoods and they'd brought back Helen.

"And you've no idea who are my parents?" asked Helen.

The garage owner looked across at her sharply. "Yer never ask questions when yer driving a taxi, young miss. Yer just go where yer told an' do what yer paid to do. Yer keeps yer ears an eyes to yerself. All Ah know is that Sam Greenwood were well paid to bring you up. Everybody knows that. But there should ha' been summat on your birth certificate to say who yer parents were." Old Grayson was also curious who were Helen's parents.

"Nothing," said Helen. "Only the name I'd been given at birth by one of the nurses. There's no mention of any parents."

And that's as far was she ever got. But the urge to find her parents never left her. The clinic where she'd been born had gone and the only person who might have helped her was Leach, the lawyer. And she daren't ask him. By the time she'd screwed up enough courage to ask anyone, he'd died and Grimstone had taken over the practice. No way would she ask him.

When she was eighteen, she spent most of her time looking for a new job away from the town, but not too far away. She wasn't really ready to leave the area entirely and she never did. But one day she struck lucky. An advert for a post at Illingworth's office in Bradford appeared one night. She answered it, and right out of the blue she was called up for interview by Mary Calow, the same day that Simon Grimstone was there with Harry Clemence and John Illingworth.

**

The story will continue.

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