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Illingworth House: Chance Child, Part Two - 52

Grimstone, Harry Clemence, Rodney Clemence...it's a time for come-uppances in John Waddington-Feather's brilliant saga about a Yorkshire mill-owning family.

After that disastrous meeting when she took him home, John met Miriam in Brighton, where she'd joined a practice. Following an almighty row with her parents, things became so stressful at home she decided to rent a flat in Brighton. John went with her to the estate agents, where quite by chance Grimstone's name cropped up.

As well as local property, the agents dealt with houses abroad, catering for the nouveau riche who were after a spot in the sun. Italy and the south of France had long been popular locations, but now cheaper property was coming on the market in Spain, where fast-rise development raked the coast.

The saleswoman was sharp and slick. She tried the hard sell as soon as they walked in, picking up John's Yorkshire accent and mentioning they had a branch in Leeds. "You see, we're part of a nationwide network," she explained, "sole agents for many properties in Spain and elsewhere." She'd sized up the couple and decided they might have a bob or two. "You may like to know we're selling units in a new complex at.. .what do they call the place? Ah, yes, here it is - Benidorme."

She thrust a glossy brochure at them and Miriam was about to hand it back when John, who was looking over her shoulder, noticed the small print at the foot of the page. "Sunshine Holiday Homes Ltd," it said. It was one of the companies on the brass plates outside Grimstone's offices in Leeds.

"Do you do much business with Sunshine Homes?" he asked.

"Yes. Do you know them?" she replied.

"Sort of," he said. "I've met Mr Grimstone, one of the directors."

She smiled. "He's our contract in Spain," she said. Then began giving them more smooth-talk, loading them with pamphlets. "As a matter of fact, I'm going to join him in Benidorme next week to have a look at the place. We want to extend our market there. Mr Grimstone's going to show me the ropes." She was a big, busty girl; easy on the eye and easy elsewhere, John thought. She'd have been shown many ropes in Spain by Grimstone by the time she returned.

"He's ever so nice," she simpered. "He's a lawyer so he knows what's what. Very experienced in property deals. You'll have nothing to worry about with him, I assure you." Once the girl got going, nothing could stop her. "He lives permanently out there now and always believes in the personal touch with clients at every level. If you wish to visit our Spanish properties with a view to purchasing, we have courtesy flats in Benidorme." She looked up at John and smiled encouragingly. He smiled back. She wouldn't have been so pushy if she knew what he was smiling about.

They left clutching a handful of brochures she insisted they take. Miriam never did find her flat in Brighton there, and as soon as they round the corner they dumped the brochures in the nearest bin and went elswhere.

Grimstone had salted away his money in Spain from the failed insurance business. Clemence should have joined him but he was too greedy and too late. Moreover, he salted his money in the wrong place. He got his come-uppance later when the Fraud Squad finished their investigations. He was arrested, tried and sent down for two years. Keighworth hummed with the news, relishing the trial. Many in the town had lost their life savings and were howling for his blood. Grimstone's, too, but he was never seen in Keighworth again.

Long before the Fraud Squad moved in, they'd siphoned off thousands from the firm. Grimstone invested his loot in the property market abroad, while Clemence bought a string of fashion boutiques across the North in Millie Gainsford's name. But she did the dirty on him while he was inside. She took up with a toy-boy much younger than herself and abandoned Harry. He left prison penniless and homeless. She'd collared the lot.
He pleaded with Grimstone to help him start again in Spain, but Grimstone was never one for helping lame ducks and never replied. Eventually, Harry tried touching Rosemary for a hand-out, but that was a non-starter.

Rodney and Vicky kept him even further at bay, for Rodney was building up his own business by then with his father-in-law. Harry Clemence finished up alone in a bed-sit in Blackpool, working as a clerk in a casino and died there after he had a heart attack in his sixties.

As for Grimstone, he lived a merry old life in Spain showing young girls the ropes. He did very well for himself arriving in Spain just at the right time. He got into a fast set there, crooks like himself who'd fled Britain. It was rumoured in Keighworth he'd was into drug-smuggling and certainly he died in mysterious circumstances, found on the beach near his villa with bullet in his head and a look of terror on his face.

Meanwhile, John continued his training and was commissioned into the Intelligence Corps. By chance he met up again with Rodney, who was coming to the end of his army service, when he was sent on a signals course at Catterick in North Yorkshire. It was at the time Harry Clemence was being tried and his case was splashed all across the dailies.

The tabloids had a field day and the spotlight was well truly put on Rodney. There were rumours he'd been mixed up in his father's business and he was called as a witness. He was in the clear, but the mud stuck and he was no longer the hale and hearty fellow any more in Keighworth. He didn't return there for years, not till he'd made his pile elsewhere and the old upper-crustian order had gone. By that time Keighworth was a different place altogether.

He was snubbed in the officers' mess at Catterick, because he was a bore. John met him there the night of his arrival when he was having a pre-dinner drink with a friend in the bar. Clemence didn't see him at first when, as mess secretary, he strolled in to look over the names of newcomers on the notice-board. He saw John's name and turned to see John.

"John Greenwood! I've been looking out for you," he exclaimed, holding out his hand. "I was told you were coming."

His hand was hot and sticky and his uniform tight. He'd put on much weight since John had last seen him. True to form he'd worked a cushy number as mess secretary and wangled free samples of booze and other perks. He looked more like his father than ever.

"Let me get you a drink, John, lad," he said familiarly, nodding at John's
glass. He insisted on buying a drink for John's friend, too saying, "Y' know, John and me are sort of related, aren't we? Well, well, well, fancy meeting here, John, after all this time! I'd never have believed it." John also could hardly believe what he was hearing, Clemence spoke so familiarly and so brashly. Nothing might have happened in the past.

He went gabbling on about this and that till more officers trickled in and he was able to take John on one side. "I say, John, I'd like to have a quick word with you while we've chance." He stared at his beer glass swilling it round. "I think we ought to let bygones be bygones, eh? I realise I treated you pretty rotten at Aldershot an' I'm sorry. Well an' truly sorry." He thrust out his hand again and John shook it. There was no point in harbouring wrongs against such a pitiful specimen as Clemence, who added, "After all, we're brother officers now, eh?"

"And gentlemen?" said John, but the heavy irony was lost on Clemence.

He looked up brightly and said, "Aye, gentlemen...as far as we Keighworth folk can be!" He affected a broad Yorkshire accent and laughed. He was running true to form, but it was as well he was so thick-skinned. Not every officer had a dad tucked away in gaol. He needed all the friends he could get.

He clung to John all night and wangled a place next to him at dinner. The backlash from his dad was having its effect. He'd been snubbed in the mess for weeks and his neighbour the other side barely spoke to him. But as he became maudlin the drink loosened his tongue. He started wallowing in self-pity, telling John over and over again that blood was thicker than water, and that the past was past as far as he was concerned, and that he hoped John had forgiven him. The last few weeks had opened his eyes and he realised it was all his dad's fault he'd been so against John. Then he got on to Ann.

"Y 'know, John, I'm very worried about our Ann," he said. "She doesn't seem to be picking up as she ought. My Vicky thinks there's more to it than anaemia an' I think she'd right. Our Ann's gone right down these past months."

Full of whisky he stared pop-eyed at John, who kept his eyes on the table, but something in his face registered with Clemence. "You're still keen on our Ann, aren't you? I can tell that. " He took a great swig of whisky and asked the mess steward to fill him up again. "I always thought you an' her were well matched...in spite of all that daftness with Clough. He wasn't her sort at all. She'd more about her. More your sort. Our Ann had all the brains in our family."

"How's Clough doing?" asked John, trying to change the subject. "The last I heard his firm wasn't doing too good."

"Cloughie?" snorted Clemence. "How should I know? Haven't heard from him in months. Dropped me like a brick once all this business with dad started. I tell you, John, you find out who your true friends are when summat like this happens." He stared blankly through a film of booze, swigged his drink, then drifted back to Clough.

"Cloughie! He was the first to go. An' after all I did for him! But you sorted the bugger out good an' proper. By God, you did! I've never seen anybody handle Cloughie like you did that night outside our house. He were never the same after that, y' know. Any road, Cloughs went bust an' the last I heard owt about him he'd gone to Canada. Feel like it myself at times the way things are going."

He ordered another drink and John excused himself. By the end of the night, Clemence was so tight he had to be helped to his room. For the next week he button-holed John at every turn, so that John was glad to return to Mareton.

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