Ellis gets a late night caller.
Chapter 23A few days passed and Gloria remained depressed, having been looking forward to her engagement only to have it all ruined. She had returned from her shift at the surgery and was sitting at the kitchen table staring blankly at a box of tissues, conveniently placed in front of her. Her sister walked in, looked over at her and shook her head. "For Pete's sake, how long are you gonna keep it up?"
"I'm all right."
"Yeah, you are, aren't you? Doom and gloom, doom and gloom. At least when you had rows with Simon you used to get angry and throw things about."
Gloria returned her stare to the box of tissues.
"Why don't you just go and see him, talk to him?"
Why should I? I've done nothing wrong. It's up to him to come and see me. It's him that should be round here apologising."
"Tell you what, I'll go round and see him if you like?"
"Don't you dare, Evelyn. If you want to do something then you can help me to get in touch with everyone. I've got to tell them all that the engagement is off."
"Oh, don't say that."
Gloria took out the crumpled list of names from her handbag. She opened it up and flattened it out on the table. "Look, all these people, all my friends and family. I bet some of them have even been out and bought our presents. I feel so embarrassed, he's gonna make me look a right fool."
"Just go and talk to him. I bet he's as upset as you are."
"I bet he's not. He'll be out with Gordy and his weird friends. He'll probably be going up to the swimming pool at Carver's Hollow for an orgy or something tonight."
"You know he's not like that."
"Oh no he's not like that is he, mister nice guy. Six days before our engagement and he walks away from me. He knows how I feel about him, how the hell can he do that to me, the stinking rotten bastard?"
Evelyn was surprised to hear such language from her sister again, but then she sat next to her and put her arm around her. "Please don't get upset, Sis. I hate seeing you like this." Both girls reached forward and each took a tissue from the box. Gloria wiped her eyes, Evelyn blew her nose, and they both started to laugh.
"Who cares about that uncaring, selfish prat anyway?" Gloria said.
"Yeah, the spotty, skinny, coal shovelling goon."
"The Derbyshire 'all right me duck' long-necked cretin."
"The fat, bald-headed, lecherous, geriatric."
Gloria stared at her sister. "I'm not sure about that one."
"Give it time, girl, give it time."
* * * * *
The goods train squeaked and rumbled as it snaked its way out of the sidings at Stoke-on-Trent. Ellis sat on the fireman's seat feeling thoroughly miserable knowing that he had over re-acted about Gloria's meeting with the soldier and he realised that their break up was his own fault. He was missing Gloria terribly and he had called at The Coffee Bar hoping to see her in there, or even seeing her sister so that he could ask how Gloria was, but neither of them had called in. He had thought of going to the surgery, but remembered how hostile she had been towards him the last time. Perhaps it would be best if he went to her house and gave her a chance to explain about meeting the soldier. Or perhaps he should forget all about an explanation and just plead with her to start going out with him again. How he wished he had listened to her at the party instead of storming off full of anger. He had to change his thoughts; he had to stop the despair that was filling his heart and the wetness that was filling his eyes.
He looked at his watch. It was almost nine p.m., he was already on overtime and they were just setting off on the return journey. He stood up and opened the firebox doors. The engine was a class five and they were only pulling some empty oil tanks. He wouldn't be busy, there was plenty of coal on the fire and his driver was very light handed. He half filled the lid of the billycan with freshly brewed tea and sat back down. He knew that by the time he had finished his brew the fire would need attention and he may forget about his row with Gloria for a while. It didn't work, after he had attended to the fire and the boiler his thoughts immediately returned to her.
They had picked up speed and he looked down for a while from the cab window, staring as if in a trance, at the sleepers whizzing past. The engine jolted to the side slightly and cracked its way across a set of points. Ellis looked ahead and saw the bright green light just ahead of the tunnel entrance. "Right away mate," he called across to the driver. Just before the train entered the tunnel, he put his foot on the fire door and shoved it. The two doors were linked and they slapped shut with a loud crack. Into the tunnel and a flame shot out from the bottom of the doors like a dragon's breath, but it was gone in a second. The darkness was total, but there was a light showing at the far end and he hoped that there would soon be a light at the end of his tunnel of personal gloom.
Some hours later, the engine was standing on one of the shed roads, a small heap of coal burning slowly under the lip-plate where one of the shed firemen had left it when he had disposed of the fire. The train of tanks was sitting in the sidings waiting for its journey onward. Ellis was tired from his twelve-hour shift, but he was lying in bed unable to sleep, thinking of Gloria and full of regret and depression. It was one o'clock in the morning and he decided to make himself a hot drink. He got dressed and made his way quietly down the stairs, not wishing to wake his parents. As he reached the bottom of the stairs, there was a knock on the front door. He walked down the passage wondering who would want to call at this hour of the morning. A thought flashed into his mind that it could be Gloria, and he thought that perhaps she could not sleep either and had made the trip round to see him. It had to be her he thought as he hurried to the door; it could not be anyone else at this hour. He was ready and eager to throw himself into her arms and offer her a thousand apologies for his stupidity.
As he opened the door, he was surprised to see a lone, young, policewoman. "Are you, Ellis?" she said.
"Yes, what's the matter? What's happened?"
"I'm Policewoman Carver. A young girl’s been found in the swimming pool at Carver's Hollow. It looks like she's tried to commit suicide. There was a note in her bag with your name and address on it and we'd like you to go down there and see if you can identify her."
"Don't say you think it's Gloria. Please don't say that."
"I don't know who it is."
"What does she look like?"
"Late teens, slim with short auburn hair, quite attractive really."
"Please, don't let it be her." Ellis was in a panic as he rushed to the coat hooks under the stairs. "Just hold on while I'll get my jacket."
"No, you'll have to go on that," she said, pointing to his motorcycle. "I've got somewhere else to go. Be quick though, they were still trying to bring her round when I left."
Ellis got his coat and started his motorcycle without even noticing the sudden disappearance of both the policewoman and her police car. He sped off on his motorcycle towards the other side of town. He was panicking, speeding and almost in tears, hoping it was not Gloria, praying it was not Gloria. He overtook an unmarked police car at high speed before slowing down and swerving into Carver's lane. He pulled up at the gates and put his motorcycle on its stand, but left the engine running and the headlight shining across the pool. He looked in, but the place was empty. They must have gone, he thought. Maybe they had taken her to the hospital, but then he looked round at the approaching headlights, perhaps it was the ambulance and the rescuers were waiting with Gloria in one of the huts. He looked back inside and thought that he saw someone's arm thrusting up out of the pool.
"Help, Ellis, help me, I'm drowning."
He was confused, but felt sure that it was Gloria's voice. "Hold on," he shouted. "I'm coming to get you." He started to climb the gate, but someone grabbed him and hauled him back down.
"And what the hell are you up to?" Two policemen had hold of him and they didn't look too friendly after he had just cut them up.
"My girlfriend, she's in the pool, she's drowning. I've got to get in; I've got to save her. Help me, please help me."
"Hold on, calm down, there's nobody in there. They've got problems with the pool and the waters been drained."
"But I saw her, she called me."
They were all startled when they heard a loud screeching cry from inside.
"There is someone in there." They looked at Ellis. "You stay here, we'll take a look." The two officers clambered over the gate. As soon as they were clear, Ellis followed them over. The officers were searching the bushes, but Ellis hurried over to the pool. It was as they had said, completely drained.
Rosie was annoyed that her plan had not worked; ruined by the interfering police officers. She whizzed into Ellis's body in an attempt to have her way. She lifted his arms and took a step forward as if about to dive, but she was ejected. She whizzed in again using all the power she could summon, but as she tried to dive, she was forced out again. "Shit," she yelled.
"Who's that?" Ellis said. "Who's there?" He started to look about, but then heard a scream and one of the officers staggered out from the bushes. "The bastard's hit me with something," he shouted. Blood was pouring from a large gash in his head. They helped the injured officer back over the gates and set off for the hospital, Ellis following behind on his motorcycle.
Ellis was making a statement to one of the officers while his friend was being attended to in the casualty department. The police had mixed views, at one time mentioning attempted murder, but then suggesting that he may have been up to no good himself. "I don't know any police woman named Carver. Didn't you think it funny that her name was Carver and she sent you to Carver's Hollow instead of sending you to the hospital," the officer said.
"No, I just rushed over. How was I to know that she was a nutcase?"
"It all seems very strange. If what you said about the bogus officer is true."
"Of course it's true. You heard someone yourself and they attacked your mate."
"Could have just been intruders. Anyway, you're lucky we were there to stop you. If you had run over and dived in the pool, you'd have broken your bloody neck."