The Bluebottle Boys: Edgbaston – Dares & Dispensation

The Bluebottle Boys – Chapter 9, Part 2 – Edgbaston, mid-March 1962: Dares & Dispensation, Part 2

[The featured picture is the school library where Reggie finds Ian (and where Reggie and Stan had earlier learned the identity of Bethany’s “Uncle Henry”).]

The Bluebottle BoysMum had the old ’38 Minx, and not the Anglia, when we took off for school the next morning; Dad would need the newer, more reliable, Anglia to make the run from the university to where we’d be meeting (I still didn’t know). Stan didn’t make eye contact and sat in the back with Paravati.

Rashmi piled in front with me.

“If you need to get a message to Bhai Sanjit, I’ll be in front of the school at lunch,” she whispered in my ear.

Mum settled into the driver’s seat and we all took off as I nodded and mouthed “thank you,” in reply. It was generous of her, and she was probably taking a risk to do it, but it also let me know that the situation with Stan had become dire. He took off the minute the car came to a stop, and I realized he wasn’t even allowed to be physically near Ian or me. In itself, this was upsetting enough, but I also had to find Ian quickly, before the terrible trio found out it was now three to two in their favor.

Luckily, I found him, in a secluded section of the school library (not far from where Stan and I’d found the herbalism text the preceding year, which had disclosed the true identity of Bethany’s “Uncle Henry”). Ian had decided the library would be the first place I’d look for him if I thought he was hiding; at the same time, it’d be the last place Rufus would look for anything.

I told him how we were both now off-limits to Stan and that I’d have to get any message to him through Rashmi.

He told me that the police had initially planned to have all three of us face the “victims,” but that D.S. Higgins had decided there was little chance of Stan’s getting a fair shake, and that all three of us would be better off if Stan were sent home with a caution. Ian also said his mum would have a limousine waiting in front after school that would take my mum, as well as his parents, and us to a church – St. Ita’s Catholic church – not far from the pub where Stan’s and my “attacks” had taken place.

Dad and I wouldn’t have cared, but Grammer was terribly anti-Catholic, and I didn’t know if Mum, under her gracious exterior, felt the same way, which didn’t bode well here if she did. Ian said his dad felt much the same way Grammer did; this was a comfort of sorts – at least Mum wouldn’t be alone if she felt that way, but Ian’s dad, from what Ian had told me of him, was a practical and pragmatic man. Mum, if she’d a true believer’s naiveté, might not be as flexible.

We made it through our morning courses without mishap, but I slipped up at lunch. Ian and I’d grabbed a quick bite in the cafeteria, after which I had to meet quickly with Rashmi, and I didn’t think the invitation extended to third parties, even Ian. So I deposited him by the fire in the common room before running outside, assuming I’d be in far more danger from the “Three Louseketeers,” still lurking outside, than Ian would have been, provided he stayed indoors.

I was wrong, as I’d find out all too soon.

I met with Rashmi, told her to assure Stan that his getting off was a boon to us all (without saying why), and gave her the latest developments in Ian’s and my dealings with the police. I also said for her and Paravati not to be late since a limo would be waiting to take them and Stan home, and Ian, his parents, Mum and me to our appointment at St. Ita’s. Rashmi confirmed what I’d already suspected: Stan had been grounded with no TV for the rest of the term, nor allowed to communicate with Ian and me for the next 30 days.

I tried to be as reassuring as I could, saying I’d no doubt that Stan’s situation would get better sooner than it appeared. But, in reality, I had neither any basis for saying that, nor any immediate idea of how matters might improve more quickly. Still, Rashmi gave me credit for effort, kissing me on the cheek before we returned to our respective schools.

It did not go unobserved.

© 2017, 2016, 2015 G. H. McCallum and Duvanian Press, all rights reserved.

It’s here! Here at last! The first edition of Volume 1 of “The Bluebottle Boys,” second novel of the Reggie Stone series, is now available from Amazon. If you’re in the Los Angeles area, I hope to meet you at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, happening at the USC campus, on April 22 and 23.

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G. H. McCallum

G. H. McCallum is author of the Reggie Stone series, the first of which, Walking Backwards for Christmas: A Tale of Woe from Soggyhall, was released on 12 December 2014; look for the second, The Bluebottle Boys, in late spring of 2016. He blogs principally on the 1960s, Victoriana and magic realism.