42. Blood Pudding

I THOUGHT THEY SEEMED a lovely couple. They really loved each other, you could see it. Yes, they resembled each other, there’s no denying it, but many couples do. I suppose it’s a common kind of narcissism. They were both blonde and thin and attractive. Around these parts that isn’t such an unusual thing. Look at Richard and me, for instance. We’ve been married more than thirty years and if he wasn’t bald you could swear we were related. Other couples come to resemble each other over time. I suppose there must be some evolutionary logic to it all. They made each other laugh, an attractive trait in a couple, I’m sure you’ll agree. They hosted a cocktail party for the neighbours soon after they moved in and told us they were from Norwich. They’d moved here for his job – he was a chef in a local seafood restaurant. A local businessman had recently bought it and had invested some huge amount of money into it and he was the chef that was going to turn it all around. He’d been in a TV show but it hadn’t rated very well. The finger food was very good, of course – you’d expect that given his job. They lived in a California bungalow on Reardon Street and renovated it without a council permit. We all knew it at the time but we didn’t say anything because we thought they were a lovely couple, as I said. And they did it tastefully. She was a kindergarten teacher, I think. The kids loved her. Actually there was a whisper going around that they were unable to have children. I think at one point they were in the process of adopting a child from Thailand or some such place. Of course , the thought that she was put in charge of some of the neighbourhood children fills us with horror now, but that’s all in retrospect, isn’t it? In fact, I had a grandchild in her care, little Anastasia. I got to know her because I picked her up three days a week while her mother, our daughter Helen, worked as a solicitor in the city. Her name was Nelly. It was obvious she was besotted by the kids. His name was Mick. Davis was the last name. They wore newish rings – they’d been recently married in Norwich, she told me. Nelly promised to show me photographs – she never did. Richard picked up on it straight away. In the car on the way home from the cocktail party he said, “I could swear they’re brother and sister.” I told him not to be ridiculous, but he’s like a dog with a bone when he gets an idea – he wouldn’t let it rest. He’s a semi-retired policeman, and he gets very bored. When I say semi-retired, I mean these days he works part-time as a security officer. He finds the work a little dull. I think at times he fancies himself as a kind of suburban Colombo, although of course we don’t get many murders in this neighbourhood, as you can well imagine. So, unbeknownst to me, Richard begins ferreting around, and before you know it he’s found no record of a marriage between a Mick and Nelly Davis, or even of a Michael and Penelope, but he has found record of a Michael and Penelope Davison having attended the same school three years apart in Skegness, a depressing seaside town an hour or two from Norfolk. When he told he wanted to visit Skegness to find out more, I told him to let it go. By the following weekend he’d decided he’d go on his own if he had to. I hate the thought of him driving long distances on country roads with his eyesight so I had to go along for the ride – on the condition we stayed in a nice place, perhaps a bed and breakfast. So on the way we stopped at a tourist information office and made a booking at a place called The Mermaid in Hedenham. It was very comfortable and there was a restaurant attached – Richard enjoyed his blood pudding very much, although these days I am a strict vegetarian and there wasn’t much in the way of vegetarian options. It turns out he was right too, they were brother and sister. Of course, the entire neighbourhood was outraged and it didn’t take long for tempers to reach boiling point. They were hounded out of town in disgrace. I’ll spare you the details other than to say of course they put up a devil of a fight. Of course it breaks the heart to see two young people so evidently in love with each other suffer the way they did, but it just goes to show.