Authors: Carl Leckey
Still laughing to myself about Hilda’s revelations about her clients and co workers I leave the pub. It’s funny that her nick name is the Avenging Angel considering my past experiences with Angels. As I walk to the hotel I realise how much I have missed these Merseysiders and their quirky sense of humour. On arrival at the hotel I read the papers in the lounge then up to my room. I am in bed about ten o’clock.
After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast Norman arrives right on time in his taxi.
The first stop in my search for my Mother is the detective agency. The office of the agency is discretely tucked away up a side street with very little indication of its purpose. A highly polished brass plate at the head of four sandstone steps announces Pinketon’s International Detective agency. The name makes me smile, someone has visions of grandeur. The chosen name implies they are a branch of the famous American Pinkerton’s agency I have read about. Not a bad move. At the reception desk I am informed by a frosty faced woman when I give her my details. “We do not disclose information about our clients.”
I patiently explain. “My Mother employed this agency to locate me. I am here, where is my Mother?” She replies as if talking to a stupid child. “I am sorry sir if you find the Lady in question and I am not implying she did hire us. If she gives her permission we would then consider giving you the information you request.” I glare at her and reply. “Are you mad? If I find my Mother why would? Oh! Never mind.”
I am about to leave when a door leading to another room opens. A middle aged man emerges and gestures with a crooked finger. “Please come into my office young man.” When I follow him into the room he directs me to a chair. He takes up a position facing me seated behind the desk. “Take no notice of Miss Cringle she is my first line of defence. Now young man have I heard you correctly? Did you mention Lady Angelique’s name?”
“Yes I certainly did. Lady Angelique is my Mother. I have travelled from France to meet her at her home in St Margaret’s only to find she has travelled north to Birkenhead seeking me.”
In a puzzled voice he asks. “How did you know about the involvement of my little enterprise pray tell me?”
I hand him the business card Toot found in the car.
He replies. “Hmmm that explains everything. Now my boy, how may I help you?”
“Mr? You haven’t introduced yourself.”
“Forgive me Sir. Graham Pinketon I am at your service.”
Ah, so Pinketon is his real name, my conclusion about the detective agency is wrong He moves around the desk and formally shakes my hand. “I don’t wish to doubt your identity my dear sir, but have you any documentation I could possibly examine?” I produce my passport.
He observes. “This was issued in France it really doesn’t give me the details I require.”
I produce my army pay book. He scans the pages. “Ah! That’s better this is what I was looking for. There is however a discrepancy regarding your date of birth. Can you explain this?”
I reveal. “Oh I knew that would cause me trouble sometime. I lied about my age to enlist in the army take two years off and it will put things right.” He replies triumphantly. “Ha! That confirms my facts.”
Puzzled I question. “Who told you about me?” He smiles and replies. “From various sources my dear Sir. A Mrs Jones, she is the Lady owner of your step Mothers house.
The chap in the chip shop located across the street from where you lived with your step parents was very helpful.
Your cousin Peggy she was also most obliging. That young Lady holds you in great esteem.”
I correct him. “Peggy is not my real cousin. To my knowledge I have no cousins.
Mr Pinketon you have been very thorough. Did you check with my former employer?”
He advises seriously without a smile. “Indeed I did Sir. Tut, tut.
You were dismissed from the service of the council for a poor attendance record.
By the by I am aware Peggy is not a true blood relative. Now that is out of the way how shall I address you? Lord Carstairs? Or shall it be Mr Bailey?”
Slightly irritated I snap. “Let’s not jump the gun shall we? Plain Mr Bailey or Adam will suffice thank you. Now where is Lady Angelique?” He makes a request. “If you will permit me I will give you a report on what I have discovered about you if you will verify the facts for me?”
I agree. “You may as well, will it take long, time is a-wasting?”
He begins while consulting a written report. “You were born at St Catherine’s work house Tranmere. There was a policy at that time regarding unwed females. Of course you would not know about things like that. Her companion, your step Mother Peggy Bailey received information many years later about your existence. There is no need to go into that except to say that she found out you were alive and kicking in the orphanage. The rest is history she adopted you and brought you up as her own. I was contacted by a colleague of mine, a fellow investigator on behalf of a solicitor a Mr Wilkes. They are based in Dover your Mother approached him to investigate you and your motives. That is why I am involved handling the Birkenhead connection.”
I inform him. “I have met Mr Wilkes on another matter and was very impressed with his professionalism.” My remark appear to please Mr Pinkerton, he informs me with pride.
“The Pinkerton Agency only has dealings with the best my Dear Sir.” He exclaims. “As you remarked earlier, times a-wasting, now back to the business in hand. It’s been a long time since we had dealings with your family.”
Surprised I ask. “Hmm so you have had dealings with my family before? When was that then?” He reveals. “Well it wasn’t exactly me. It was in my Father’s time then about twenty odd years ago. I was just a junior at that time but recalled the name when I was contacted by my Dover associate.” This fact intrigues me and I ask. “And what were you or should I say your Father engaged for on that occasion?”
“I am sorry sir there are no details in the file just the name date and address in St Margaret’s.”
I congratulate him. “Pity that but I must say on this occasion Mr Pinketon you have done an excellent job so where is my Mother?”
“Hmmm! Not good news I am afraid. Until you informed me she is in Birkenhead I had no knowledge of her whereabouts. I can assure you she gave me no hint of her intentions to travel up here. As far as I was concerned my engagement ceased when I sent her the facts. If you require my services I will endeavour to locate her for you?”
I hurriedly decline his offer. “Thank you Mr Pinketon you have been most helpful. I will try a few ideas of my own first. If I have no joy I will be back.” I shake his hand and am about to leave when something Toot mentioned makes me ask him. “Has Mother settled her account for your services?” The poor man goes bright red and replies. “Unfortunately not, I er there is no pressure. I am sure it is an oversight.” To save him further embarrassment I agree. “I am sure it is.”
I enquire. “Does the fearsome Miss Pringle handle your accounts?”
He replies hesitantly. “Er yes Sir. There is no need.”
“Right I will settle up with her on behalf of my Mother.
When Mother’s cheque arrives, just tear it up there’s a good chap.”
On receipt of the Pinketon bill I pay immediately much to the delight of Miss Pringle whose attitude to me completely changed.
“Where do you want to go now Adam?” Norman enquires when I settle back in his Taxi. “Flaybrick cemetery Norm and stop at a flower shop will you please.
I want something for Mum’s grave.”
With a huge bunch of flowers I head for the grave. I expected it to be as I left it but no. The grave is completely covered in flowers. There is a beautiful headstone bearing the details of my step parents with an inscription etched across the lower part.
I will never forget you my dearest Millie.
After placing my floral contribution amongst the mass of others I am having a smoke leaning against a gravestone topped by a winged Angel when a stone mason arrives. He begins unloading a head stone from a push cart.
He remarks. “It’s a bloody cold one today and no mistake eh, winters setting in.”
“I don’t fancy your job in winter mate?” I remark as he lands the headstone.
“It’s not so bad while I am working indoors making the stones, its bringing them up here I hate doing, it’s a right miserable place in the winter.” He adds glumly.
“Especially when I don’t get paid for the job, take that one for instance.” He points at Mum’s grave. “A posh woman came to my shop and had me work day and night to get it ready in a hurry. That’s about over a week ago. I am still waiting for her to pay me.”
Trying to remain calm I enquire. “Did she have a foreign accent and black hair?”
He looks puzzled before replying. “Yes that’s her. I normally ask for an advance payment but she appeared so upset I couldn’t bring myself to insist. I will in future though, tears or no tears.” He complains. “I have a Wife and kids to feed. Sympathy doesn’t fill their bellies I can tell you?” I dowse my cigarette and approach him pulling out my money purse, I lie. “Well it’s your lucky day. I was on my way to your shop to square the account. Meeting you here will save me a trip. How much does she owe you?” Astounded he consults a dog eared note book he pulls from his apron front pocket. He tells me the price. I count out the money and give him a handsome tip.
I enquire. “Oh! By the way where did you send the bill, I reckon it must have gone astray?” Again he consults his notebook surprisingly he gives me an address I am familiar with. It is the home of Mrs Jones, my parent’s Landlord.
She is the kind Lady responsible for giving me the first clues to my real identity on my visit after I was demobbed.
He explains. “She didn’t give me an address I got it from the cemetery records. This is the address of the person that paid for the funeral so I sent the bill there.” I thank him and head for Norman’s Taxi parked at the cemetery gates leaving behind a much happier stone mason struggling with a head stone. Mother appears to be leaving a trail of unpaid bills. Toot is right it looks as if the Ladies indeed have financial problems. Norman enquires. “Where are we off to now Adam?”
“Take me to Vine street Norman our old house. I have a feeling we are getting close.”
When I arrive I have the same reception from the ignorant bugger as on my last visit. My knock on the door is answered by the same man I believe in the identical clothes as before. I am surprised he remembers me after nearly two years. “You again soldier boy?” He snarls. “Go on piss off.” I make him an offer. “Wait a minute mate it could be to your advantage to answer my question. I’ll make it worth your while. I just want to know if a Lady called here asking questions.” Before I go any further he snarls. “I know your game matey you are trying to get back in here. I told you to piss off now git or I’ll sort you out.” He slams the door in my face.
“That was a waste of time.” I inform Norman when I climb back into the cab. He moans. “Do you fancy some fish and chips Adam? I’m bloody starving the smells from the chippy over the road are making my guts roll?”
Shocked by how quickly time is passing I reply. “Bloody hell Norman I never realised it was this time. What do you want? I’ll get the chuck.” I take his order and head for Malloy’s chippy. Fred the proprietor is not behind the counter his assistant Gladys informs me he is at a family funeral. Norman and I are sitting enjoying our lunch out of the newspaper wrapper when a scruffy woman appears at the cab and enquires.
“Mister did you say you wanted information, and you will pay money for it?”
I enquire. “Who are you love?”
She replies with a grimace. “I live with that pig O’Grady in your old house.” She adds hurriedly. “I had nothing to do with moving in there he made me do it.” I reassure her. “I’m not worried about the house love. What can you tell me?” She informs me. “A lovely Lady did come and call about a while ago. She was dressed in beautiful clothes and spoke ever so nice. She was asking questions about someone that lived in the house. I think it was Millie, something?”
I prompt her. “Millie Bailey?” Her face lights up and she confirms the name. “That’s it Millie Bailey. Do you know she gave my fella a guinea? The mean sod wouldn’t share it with me; he was pissed for a week the rotten bugger.”
Excited I ask. “Do you know where she went when she left?”
“No idea.” She replies. Norman intercedes. “How did she get here?” She groans. “I don’t know where she went but she was in one of these Taxi things. Does that mean I get no dosh? I have never been in one of these taxis myself. Nice ain’t they?” She strokes the cab door longingly. “Was it the same as this one?” Norman asks her. She replies positively without hesitation. “Zackly the same. That was the first taxi that has ever been down our street. I should bloody remember. Every one talked about it for ages after. Do I get any money Mister the kids is real ‘ungry you see?” I give her a hand full of change and thank her. She scuttles off to the pub. Norman observes disgustedly. “Kids are hungry? Look at her go she will be into the gin in a flash that one.” He adds. “It will be one of our cabs she saw. There is only our company that has this model around here. Let’s go back to the stand at Woodside. I’ll ask around the lads. Your Mother sounds like a Lady they will remember.”
When the controller learned I had hired the taxi for the day he is most helpful. He lets me remain in his warm office to interview the drivers as they report in. I am about to give up when a driver introduced as Tom enters the office.
He is only a relief driver and reports every day in case one of the regulars is off work. When I question him thankfully he remembers my Mother well, she has been an excellent passenger. She hired him for a complete day and tipped him very well. He informs me. “I picked her up at Woodside station, from there I took her to a place by the hay market, she was in there for a while then we went on to Vine street. That’s a funny place to take a cab? I got surrounded by scruffy kids down there. I remember saying when she gave me the address. Are you sure you want to go there Misses?”