A Maxwell Misled by Gwen Kirkwood by Gwen Kirkwood - Read Online



When Della found a stray dog living wild with her thirteen puppies on a beach in Rhodes she was determined not to get involved. But fate had other ideas and Della brought Lindy back to England. Lindy had already proved herself to be a true survivor, but she was more of a survivor than Della had ever dreamed. Over the next eight years she survived a series of events, any one of which might have finished off a lesser dog than Lindy. They included: being stampeded by a herd of angry cows; a rare life threatening form of anaemia; being swept down the river after chasing ducks; falling out of a car travelling at speed, and getting lost for a night in a forest. The Dog with Nine Lives is both poignant and humorous. Dog lovers will love it. It is the true story of a very special dog.
Published: Accent Press on
ISBN: 9781681467849
List price: $3.99
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A Maxwell Misled - Gwen Kirkwood

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Chapter One

Nick returned to Rullion Glen the following morning before Lucy had even started to eat her porridge.

‘I know there’s no sign of snow here yet, Lucy, but it’s been a hard frost and Bridie thinks there could be snow up by Cumnock. I’ve a spare set of wheel chains here so I’ll pop them in the boot if that’s all right with you? Do you know how to fit them?’

‘I-I think so,’ Lucy frowned. She hadn’t had time to listen to the weather forecast and it was still dark outside, but she guessed it was going to be one of those bleak February days when it never seemed to be proper daylight. She felt her stomach begin to churn. Perhaps she shouldn’t have come to visit at this time of year after all. Then she remembered the shock she’d felt at the sight of her grandfather and knew she was glad she’d made the effort. He had been touchingly pleased to see her and Ryan, his first great-grandson. She thanked Nick for his trouble and summoned a wavering smile. ‘You’re very thoughtful, Nick. I do appreciate it.’

‘A pleasure, it is, Lucy,’ Nick said gruffly. ‘We wouldn’t like the car to skid with the baby and you. There’s too precious, you are.’

‘We’ll hope the chains aren’t needed,’ Conan said, ‘but they’re a big help if the roads are bad. I’ll put a shovel in too. I see you’ve already got a spare travelling rug. If you’re prepared, you’ll not need anything.’ He grinned. ‘I think I’m beginning to sound like my mother. Remember how she worried about us, Nick, when we were home on leave from the RAF?’

‘Indeed I do. Kind she was too. Packing up food for the journey, in spite of the rationing.’

Lucy hastily swallowed her own breakfast, feeling a sudden urgency to be safely home again with Don. She wasted no time in preparing Ryan for the journey, tucking him warmly into his carrycot as soon as he’d been fed and changed. He had slept most of the way down, as he usually did when the car was moving, but today he seemed to sense her own tension and whimpered fretfully. Conan insisted on securing the cot to the back of the rear seat with two raincoat belts, in case the car should skid. Fiona had filled a large flask of hot coffee and packed sandwiches.

‘Just in case you get delayed,’ she smiled wanly, wishing Lucy didn’t have to make the journey on her own.

‘We know you’re a careful driver, Lucy,’ Conan assured her, ‘but you can never be sure what sort of problems other drivers might cause. Best to be prepared, and if you’ve any doubts turn round and come back here. I’m sure Don would prefer that, rather than have an accident.’

‘Yes.’ Lucy nodded, swallowing the lump in her throat with difficulty. She hugged them both warmly and climbed into her car, blinking back tears. How blessed she was to have two people who loved her so much, when they could both have resented her. In spite of the bitterly cold morning she felt an inner warmth, kindled by the love of her friends and family.

The house telephone rang at Rullion Glen Garage. Fiona answered and gave the number, feeling a strange quiver in her stomach.

‘Hello, it’s Don Greig here.’ The line crackled abominably. ‘Can I speak to Lucy, please?’ he shouted.

‘Hello, Don. Lucy left here about an hour ago …’

‘Oh, hell! I didn’t expect her to leave so early. Straight after lunch, she said yesterday … Should’ve phoned sooner. Hello …? Can you hear me?’

‘Yes. Is everything all right?’

‘Weather’s terrible here … I wanted Lucy to wait with you …’ A loud crackle drowned the rest of his words.

‘Phone us when she gets home!’ Fiona called quickly, but she didn’t know whether he’d heard her or not. The phone in her hand was burring but there was no connection. She tried to call him back, but without success.

She pulled on her coat and boots and made her way down the icy path to the bottom of the garden, oblivious for once of the snowdrops peeping through beneath the sheltering rhododendrons which she and Conan had planted together. As she made her way to the garage to find Conan, the sky glowered ominously overhead. She shivered. There would certainly be snow before night. How quickly the weather could change at this time of year. She wondered what instinct had urged Lucy to drive down to see her grandfather at this time of year now he seemed to be recovering at last. Yet it had been like spring yesterday and the day before. Who could blame her for wanting him to see her son?

Gerda was irritable and short-tempered. She had no excuse to go to the drama club until preparations started for the next play. Some of the players had been given parts, but so far the costumiers and stagehands had not met to discuss their plans for the production. She couldn’t wait for the next meeting. Hubert, the new stage manager, thought she’d made some good suggestions towards the last production. Although she had been one of the poorest students in the music group at college, her basic training was proving an advantage now and she’d discovered a hidden talent for devising dance steps to suit the music. Gerda glowed when he expressed his appreciation so openly.

Hubert Boyd-Hill was relatively new to the area, as she was, and this forged an additional bond between them. She basked in his admiration. More than once he’d offered to drive her home. She had been forced to decline because she had her own car, but she knew from his expression that he was disappointed by her refusal. If he asked again, she would explain that she was only refusing because she didn’t want to leave her car in town. She shuddered at the thought. Her car was the one thing which made life at the farm bearable. She would feel like a prisoner without it. Besides, what explanation could she give to Ewan? He’d been furious with her for begging a lift into town with Peter when there was nothing wrong with her own car. She couldn’t use that feeble excuse again.

Even so, she resolved to find some reason for getting better acquainted with Hubert. He was at least five years older than Ewan – maybe more – and had lived in London, so was clearly a man of the world. He told her he’d come back to Dumfries when his elderly mother was ill. She had since died, leaving him her house. He’d decided to stay in the north for a while until he had sorted out her affairs. Dick Bone, one of the main actors, hinted that was not true. He said Hubert had lost his job and come to stay with his mother because he was short of money. He said she’d been frail for years and Hubert had never been near when she needed him. Gerda preferred to think Dick was jealous. She had seen Hubert driving away in a sleek black Jaguar so that proved he wasn’t short of money, didn’t it? Most of the women in the little company hung around him, including Dick’s girlfriend, so she guessed he resented Hubert’s charisma and good looks.

Paul had been playing on the rug in front of the fire, but he began to demand attention, and then to cry. Gerda frowned and swore under her breath.

‘What’s wrong with you now!’ she snapped, exasperatedly. ‘You’ve had your dinner. You can’t possibly need changing again, you sodden little pee-bag!’

‘Gan-gan … want Gan-gan.’ The little boy began to cry in earnest. Gerda glared at him, then her eyes narrowed thoughtfully. She glanced out of the windows. Big flakes of snow were still swirling from the leaden sky but they were melting almost as soon as they landed. Why shouldn’t she drive into town? If the snow did settle, she might be a prisoner here for days. Why shouldn’t she grab a little time to herself, while she could? That’s what she needed to cheer her up: a little jaunt into town. She hated winter and the short dark days. The idea had no sooner entered her head than she was bundling Paul into his coat and leggings. She would drop him off with his grandmother then she could smarten herself up in peace before she set off for town.

Rachel had stopped asking where Gerda was going or when she would be back, only to have her head snapped off. But today she looked anxiously at the lowering clouds and ventured her opinion.

‘The snow’s falling faster now. I think we’ll have a fair covering before dark,’ she said anxiously.

‘I need to go into town to get stuff for him,’ Gerda muttered, glaring towards her small son, whose chubby arms were clasped around Rachel’s neck as though he would never let her go. ‘I’ll be back before the roads get bad. Send him home with Ewan after he’s finished milking his bloody cows.’ She turned on her heel and hurried back to the car without waiting for Rachel to agree.

Rachel pursed her lips. She hated to hear Gerda swear, especially now Paul was picking up words and trying them out for himself. She sighed. It never occurred to her daughter-in-law to ask if it was convenient to leave the child for the afternoon. She hugged him tightly. She loved him, of course she did, and she knew he loved being with her, but today it was too cold and wet to take him outside with her to gather up the eggs. She would have to leave him with his grandfather while she hurried round the hen houses on her own. She frowned briefly. Ross tired so easily still, although his chest was much improved. When he was tired, he was easily irritated – even with Paul, much as he loved his small grandson.

Gerda donned the fur coat which had caused such anger and dismay when she’d been threatened with the bailiffs. She snuggled into the soft fur and preened herself before the mirror. She had regained her slender figure and felt elegant in her high-heeled, thigh-length boots. She paused a moment, frowning angrily as she remembered Alicia remarking that she looked like Dick Whittington in the pantomime at Carlisle. It was bad enough when the twins dissolved into giggles, but she caught the look which Nick and Conan had exchanged and the suppressed smiles on their faces. She’d been furious, but now she twirled before the mirror and admired her own reflection. What could they know about fashion? Nothing! She looked good. She felt good. They could snigger as much as they wanted. She arranged the matching fur hat on her blonde head and fixed it at an attractive angle.

The roads were still clear, although the snow was coating the fields and hedgerows with white and the windscreen wipers were kept busy clearing snowflakes. The town was quiet but the shops were well-lit and Gerda’s spirits rose. She’d keep away from Barbour’s today. Her account was already overdrawn and she had a feeling some of the staff had been warned. Having opened accounts at two of the shops in Carlisle recently, she determined to go down there to view the new spring fashions when the weather cleared. Meanwhile, she’d have a browse around Binns and perhaps buy herself a new perfume. It was warm and bright inside the department store and her spirits rose. She still couldn’t get used to Dumfries being such a small country town after being used to such a wide choice of department stores in Glasgow. Not for the first time, she wondered whatever had possessed her to tie herself down to a life in the country. Ewan’s adoration had cooled and she couldn’t twist him around her little finger with the promise of sex any more. There was no excitement in her life …

She dabbed perfume on the inside of her wrist from the sample which the smiling assistant offered.

‘Let me buy that for you,’ a deep voice said behind her left ear. Gerda spun around, looking up into the dark, handsome face, with a shadowy outline of stubble around his jaw.

‘Why, Hubert! I didn’t expect to see you today.’ Her pleasure was evident in her shining eyes and parted lips. If she’d been a cat she would have purred loudly, Hubert thought cynically. ‘I can’t decide which of these two perfumes to buy.’ She dabbed a more expensive perfume on her other wrist and held them out for him. He bent his head and she was surprised to see a faint sprinkling of silver at his temples. It added maturity and increased his desirability, she decided. If he was going to buy the perfume she would choose the most expensive one. He said he preferred the first one, being wise to the ways of women, and well-versed in the price of such fripperies. Gerda was not so kittenish underneath and she insisted she would really prefer the second. She made a good pretence at displaying shock when the assistant stated the price.

‘Let me take you for a cup of tea in the restaurant,’ she smiled winningly. ‘That’s the least I can do, since you have been so generous.’ She linked her arm through his as he tucked his wallet firmly back into the inside pocket of his jacket and buttoned up his overcoat. She drew him unresisting towards the lift.

They lingered a long time over tea and cream cakes. The restaurant was quiet with few shoppers willing to linger more than necessary in such uncertain weather. The waitress hovered in exasperation. She wanted to clear the table and be ready to leave as soon as the manager gave permission. She glanced anxiously out of the tall windows which overlooked the street. The snow was beginning to lie now and the road below was white, even where the car tyres had left tracks. At last, she breathed a sigh of relief as the couple rose to go.

Gerda smiled with satisfaction. It had been a profitable afternoon. She’d made all her explanations to Hubert Boyd-Hill and he’d offered to collect her at home and drive her to the drama club meetings so that he could see her home afterwards.

‘Indeed, why wait until the meetings start officially,’ he said softly, looking directly into Gerda’s pale blue eyes. ‘We could start our own discussions as soon as the weather clears. It sounds as though your husband is too busy to ask questions.’