My Name is Eva

‘Oh, whatever! It’s all yours, I tell you. So, I’m betting the guns belong to you as well.’ Pat purses her lips and frowns.

Evelyn shakes her head, then says, ‘Well, I’m very sorry, dear, but I don’t remember any of this. Maybe it wasn’t me who put all these things away in the cases.’

‘Maybe you didn’t. But all these papers, the gun licence, letters and so on are addressed to you. This is all your stuff, yet you’re telling me you had no idea what was in the suitcases.’

Evelyn looks at Pat with a smile, then says, ‘I really do wish I could help you, dear, but my memory isn’t what it was.’

She looks down at the tray. ‘You haven’t drunk your coffee, dear. Don’t let it go cold.’ Then she takes another biscuit, looks at it, wrinkles her nose and says, ‘I don’t know why Mary’s given me Jammie Dodgers. She knows I don’t like them. I want chocolate digestives.’





14





27 January 1944



Dearest darling one,

I know if you were here, you would tell me I am far too flighty and impatient and I should wait a bit, but I am seriously thinking of giving up my chauffeuring with the ATS and following in your footsteps.

I feel sure I can do something much more useful than just sit around waiting for high and mighty officers. It looks at last as if we might soon finish this blessed war and we’ve heard that the poor people of Leningrad are finally free, now that blasted siege has ended.

It was all right for a bit, getting used to my lovely Humber and so on, but on New Year’s Eve, when I would much rather have been letting my hair down, I had to drive a pair of officers to Portsmouth again. I knew the route quite well by then, but would you believe, they let me sit there all night without a word and what’s more, without anything to eat or drink to celebrate the New Year? And when they finally came back to the car in the morning, all they said was, ‘Oh, driver, we forgot all about you,’ and then I had to drive them all the way back to London, feeling wretchedly tired and annoyed. I feel so taken for granted and badly misused that I am quite fed up and feel like a change, as well as being frustrated that I have come no nearer to taking your nemesis to task.

What kind of a change could there be? You might well ask. Well, today, on our company noticeboard, I saw a poster asking for volunteers with secretarial skills and languages, so I am going to offer my services and see where that gets me. My French is pretty good, though I think my German is much better. Driving has been fun and at least I am now a far better driver than I was, but waiting around for inconsiderate, selfish officers isn’t enjoyable or worthwhile and I do so want to do something useful, just as you did, my darling. And if that means I end up taking risks just like you, then I know I shall be in good company. Who knows, I may meet you again sooner than I’d thought and then we’d have such fun. I miss you so much, my darling.

All my love, Your Evie xxxx Ps I love you





15





Mrs T-C, 9 November 2016





Ask Nicely





‘You can’t pretend you don’t know anything about the guns,’ hisses Pat. ‘I’ve looked all through those cases. They’re full of your stuff. There’s clothes, documents and passports. You’ve got to tell the police where the guns came from.’

‘Well, dear, I would if I could remember.’

Pat’s hair is damp and she is wearing a tracksuit. She looks as if she’s just come back from a sports club. What is it they do these days? In Evelyn’s day golf and gardening, maybe a seasonal game of tennis were considered to be adequate exercise, but now, people seem to think they have to run everywhere and go to gyms to keep fit.

‘You jolly well try and remember! I had no idea there was going to be such a palaver when I took them down to the station. Honestly, you’d think I was a criminal. You should have seen their faces when I went up to the front desk. They said I should never have taken the guns down there in the car. They said I should have left them right where I found them. Could have gone off at any time, they said.’

Evelyn tries not to smile, but the corners of her mouth are twitching. ‘I hardly think so, Pat. Papa taught us never to leave guns loaded, especially in the house. He was most particular about that.’

‘I’m sure he was, but the police weren’t to know that, were they? Anyway, there was an awful lot of fuss down there at the station and then they even wanted to take my fingerprints. Can you believe that? Said they had to do that to eliminate me. See what a lot of trouble you’re causing?’

‘Well, why would they want your fingerprints? You haven’t done anything wrong, have you, Pat?’

‘Of course I haven’t. They’ll be wanting yours next, I expect.’

Evelyn inspects her spotted veiny hands with their neat oval nails. Mary had applied two coats of No7 Dusky Rose varnish the previous day. So important to maintain appearances and well-manicured nails are a mark of one’s standards. Evelyn glances at Pat’s hands. The nails are unpolished and uneven; the skin looks dry and rough. ‘I’ve never had my fingerprints taken before. What fun! Just like on television.’

‘No, it isn’t fun, Aunt. They have to do it, to check against their records. It was because I’d handled the guns and the other stuff. And they said they not only had to make the guns safe, but they had to check the serial numbers in case the guns have ever been used for criminal purposes, as they put it.’

‘Well, they haven’t, have they? Oh, I do hope you’ve been careful to lock up properly at Kingsley, Pat. Nobody’s been able to borrow any of our guns, have they? We only kept guns for the pheasants and sometimes Papa and Charles went duck shooting, but nothing else…’ Evelyn pauses and frowns. ‘Oh, I might have put down the odd deer a couple of times. Do you think that’s what they’re worried about?’

‘No, I don’t, Aunt. They wanted to know all about you and the family and said they will have to check their records.’ She gives a great gust of a sigh. ‘Honestly, I could do without all this. I’m meant to be sorting out bric-a-brac for the church Christmas fair. But, oh no, I have to stay here with you, because you’re a vulnerable adult, apparently.’ She adds these last words with a roll of her eyes and Evelyn coughs to disguise her laughter.

‘A policeman is coming here today.’ Pat looks at her watch. ‘They should be here very soon. I said I’d meet him in the home.’

But it isn’t a him, it’s a her. A petite uniformed officer, WPC Thomas, with dark hair neatly tied into a tight bun at the nape of her neck, is ushered into the morning room by Mary, whose offer of coffee is declined, much to Evelyn’s evident disappointment.

‘Can you please explain to my aunt why you have to do this,’ Pat says. ‘She really hasn’t grasped why it’s necessary.’

WPC Thomas smiles and shakes hands with Evelyn. ‘Hello, Mrs Taylor-Clarke, I just need to ask you a few questions. It shouldn’t take too long.’

‘Oh good, because I’m going out soon for a hair appointment later this morning.’ Pat catches the policewoman’s eye and shakes her head from side to side, mouthing, ‘No, she isn’t really.’

WPC Thomas smiles at this, but only says, ‘If you don’t mind, I just need to take your fingerprints first.’ She sets out her inkpad and forms and Evelyn holds out first her left, then her right hand, then sits staring at her inky fingertips, palms uppermost.

When the WPC has finished filling in her paperwork, she says, ‘Can you remember the two locked suitcases that were kept in one of the bedrooms at Kingsley Manor?’ She sits with notepad poised, eyes alert, watching Evelyn. ‘And can you tell me anything about the guns that were found in the cases?’

Evelyn is quiet for a moment, then says, ‘We always kept guns in the gun cupboard. That was the rule. Guns were never kept anywhere else.’

‘I see.’ WPC Thomas makes a note. ‘We’ve taken a look at the firearms in the gun cupboard. Their licences have expired, but those aren’t the guns we’re interested in.’

‘Oh, but you should be. Papa only ever bought very good guns for the shoots. And he always made sure they were safe. And he insisted they were kept locked up, out of harm’s way.’

‘I’m sure he did. But that must have been a very long time ago. Do you ever remember seeing any other guns at Kingsley Manor?’

‘Of course I do. In the shooting season we had at least a dozen or more guns on the estate on several occasions.’

‘More than a dozen? You mean you acquired extra guns?’

‘No, dear. We invited friends over to shoot the pheasants. It was such fun. Very jolly going out on a frosty day with all the dogs. Papa had a dear working spaniel – Milo, he called him. And Mrs Glazier would send out a hamper with delicious consommé. I think she used to add a dash of sherry. It makes all the difference, you know. So, some years we had several brace hanging in the cellar. Do you like pheasant?’

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