I couldn’t wait to see Lil today. I needed to get an update. She’d called on Monday evening to let me know that she had heard from the police.
‘What do you mean Lil, they think they’ve found him?’
‘The bugger who conned his way into my home. He was caught on CCTV going into another block and someone called the police,’ Lil answered. She sounded more like her old self.
‘What happens next?’ I asked.
‘Well he hasn’t admitted to all his crimes, but if I’m able to pick him out at an identity parade then he’ll get prosecuted for mine too.’
‘And how do you feel about that?’ I asked.
‘Sick. I don’t want to see his horrid violence-filled face again, but what choice do I have? I want him to pay for what he did to me as well as to others. From what the police said I think there are a number of identity parades. There are cases in Muswell Hill too,’ said Lil.
The line went silent for a few seconds.
‘Are you sure you’re OK Lil?’
‘A bit shaken and I feel sick but… I need to ask you a favour. Is there any chance you can come with me tomorrow?’
What was I going to say? I had to drive to Cardiff first thing Tuesday morning for work meetings and wouldn’t be back until late Wednesday evening. I didn’t want to let Lil down.
‘I wish I could Lil but I have to go to Cardiff tomorrow and won’t be back until Wednesday evening. Shall I see if Armando can go with you?’
There was more silence on the line which hung heavy with disappointment – on both sides.
‘I understand. And I am quite capable of asking him myself,’ said Lil.
‘Please don’t go on your own – even if you have to ask Mavis – just please don’t go on your own,’ I said. I had to remember that Lil was responsible for herself but I did feel guilty at not being able to support her. She wasn’t someone who found it easy to ask for help at the best of times.
‘Wayne, I have a number of options and I can assure you I won’t need any help from her.’
I told her I would be thinking of her, wished her luck, and confirmed that we would catch up on Thursday. I did call Armando from the car Tuesday morning to see if he’d spoken to Lil, which he had and was able to go with her. This eased my conscious a little.
I was tired.
It had been a long couple of days in Cardiff but I put on a jolly and encouraging attitude as I set off for the café and to my hopefully reviving Breakfast Club.
Lil and Armando were already at the table. I kissed them both on the cheek and sat down.
‘She was a brilliant,’ said Armando with pride bursting from his voice. He reached across and took Lil’s hand.
Lil looked tired.
The cups were dry and empty so I knew they’d not been there long. I poured the freshly brewed tea into the three waiting cups.
‘Are you OK Lil?’ I asked.
‘I am glad it’s over Wayne. It was him – the bastard… seeing his face there glaring at me through the wall was horrific… it took me straight back to the moments when I saw him in my bedroom… it’s weird, you see identity parades on the TV and I often wondered if they actually worked – they bloody do.’
Lil paused and picked up her cup. She did look frail or was that just my guilt at not being able to support her this week?
‘Apparently not all the old people turned up for the parades but enough to guarantee a longer sentence. Thieves should still have their bloody hands chopped off. That might make them stop and think before they cause so much pain.’
‘Well done for going Lil. It can’t have been easy.’ I wasn’t sure I agreed with such severe punishments but now was not the time to debate.
‘Armando was a rock. We came back to the café afterwards for tea with rhubarb crumble and custard – delicious.’
A few sips of tea was all it took, and Lil was starting to show signs of recovery.
‘It was my pleasure, and today I have freshly cooked kedgeree for all for breakfast. Time to move forward,’ said Armando.
Fantastic – I hadn’t had kedgeree for some time. I tried not to outwardly lick my lips. This wasn’t the time for obvious displays of greed.
‘Indeed Armando it is time to move forward. Any new dates arranged? You were trying your hardest in the police station yesterday, and don’t think I didn’t notice you gawping at every officer and detective who walked passed us. It kept my mind off the matter at hand,’ said Lil.
‘Not yet but I did start talking to a new guy online yesterday,’ said Armando.
‘Excellent. No time to waste,’ said Lil.
Reading between the lines I suspected that Armando had filled Lil in on his love life or lack thereof. I nodded my agreement to Armando.
The kedgeree arrived. The smell of smoked fish filled my lungs. The mixed white and yellow dish before me made my mouth water. This wasn’t going to be a diet day. I’d start tomorrow morning. I picked up my fork and shovelled a portion onto it. The taste was exquisite.
‘Thanks Armando, this is delightful,’ I said.
‘So Lil, dare I ask whether you’ve seen Bill?’ I added.
‘No. I was supposed to meet him for a friendly tea yesterday but I wasn’t up to going out. When I called him to cancel he acted as if we weren’t due to meet in the first place. I’d been through enough and didn’t have time for his nonsense.’
Armando and I nodded our agreement, our mouths too full of kedgeree to issue forth a wordy response.
I might have to go for a double length run this afternoon, I thought, as I was likely to accept any offer for second helpings.