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Authors: Winston Graham

The Green Flash

BOOK: The Green Flash
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Contents
Winston Graham
The Green Flash

Winston Mawdsley Graham OBE was an English novelist, best known for the series of historical novels about the Poldarks. Graham was born in Manchester in 1908, but moved to Perranporth, Cornwall when he was seventeen. His first novel,
The House with the Stained Glass Windows
was published in 1933. His first ‘Poldark' novel,
Ross Poldark
, was published in 1945, and was followed by eleven further titles, the last of which,
Bella Poldark
, came out in 2002. The novels were set in Cornwall, especially in and around Perranporth, where Graham spent much of his life, and were made into a BBC television series in the 1970s. It was so successful that vicars moved or cancelled church services rather than try to hold them when Poldark was showing.

Aside from the Poldark series, Graham's most successful work was
Marnie
, a thriller which was filmed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1964. Hitchcock had originally hoped that Grace Kelly would return to films to play the lead and she had agreed in principle, but the plan failed when the principality of Monaco realised that the heroine was a thief and sexually repressed. The leads were eventually taken by Tippi Hedren and Sean Connery. Five of Graham's other books were filmed, including
The Walking Stick
,
Night Without Stars
and
Take My Life
. Graham wrote a history of the Spanish Armadas and an historical novel,
The Grove of Eagles
, based in that period. He was also an accomplished writer of suspense novels. His autobiography,
Memoirs of a Private Man
, was published by Macmillan in 2003. He had completed work on it just weeks before he died. Graham was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and in 1983 was honoured with the OBE.

Dedication

To
My friend
Desmond Brand

I

When he killed his father they sent him to a psychiatrist called Meiss in Wimpole Street. Meiss was a Swiss of late middle age who sometimes did work for the Home Office.

The boy came in that first afternoon in a grey flannel suit, with a scarlet and azure school tie, a small faded carnation in his buttonhole. Hair matted and needing a clip and a brush. He had a Renaissance look. You could see him among the frescoes in some dark Italian church. He looked Dr Meiss in the eye.

‘David,' said Dr Meiss. ‘David, please sit down. No, over there, it will be more comfortable. Did your mother bring you?'

‘We came together, sir,' the boy said.

‘Just so. She is in the waiting-room? I will see her later.'

The boy sat down, pulled at the knees of his trousers as if unaccustomed to their being long.

‘I will see her later,' said Dr Meiss. ‘So far we have only spoken on the telephone. The arrangements, you will understand, were made by her solicitors.'

‘Yes.'

Meiss had a hawklike, sad face, as if rivers of other people's troubles had run down his cheeks and left them furrowed and worn. His greying hair, thin on top, curled over elfin ears; his suit was shiny at the elbows.

‘How old are you, David?'

The boy bit the skin round his thumb. ‘Don't you … won't they have told you?'

‘I like to hear it from yourself.'

‘Eleven.'

‘When were you eleven?'

‘Last May.'

‘And you are at school at …?'

‘Hartford Grammar School, sir.'

‘Is that a day school or boarding?'

‘Day school in Leeds.'

‘So you live at home.'

‘Yes, sir.'

‘I understand you are entered for Loretto when you are thirteen.'

‘Well, yes. I suppose so.'

‘How d'you mean, you suppose so?'

‘Well, it will depend if I pass my Common Entrance, won't it. I shouldn't think I've much chance of that now.'

‘Who knows? In two years much may have changed.'

Meiss began to reread the report on his desk. For this he put on half-moon spectacles.

‘What I wish to do, just to begin, is to have a friendly talk.'

David had been looking round the room. ‘Are those ivory, those elephants, sir?'

Meiss glanced at the two ornaments on the mantelpiece. ‘They're ebony, with ivory tusks.'

‘Are they yours, sir?'

‘Yes, I brought them back from Nigeria.'

‘Ah.' The boy thrust his hands into his trouser pockets, feeling for the bit of cord, the stone, the handkerchief, the four pennies.

‘Talking,' said Meiss presently, ‘you may think it is all talking. But sometimes, I assure you, it does help. If nothing else it will enable us to get to know each other. And that is the most necessary preliminary if I am able to help you.' When there was no reply Meiss said: ‘What do you think?'

‘I don't know, do I, sir?'

‘You don't know and neither do I. We can only try together. And first perhaps before we go any further, you should stop calling me ‘‘ sir''.'

‘Should I, sir? All right.'

There was another silence. ‘ I know how tired you must be of answering questions.' Although his English was very good he pronounced it ‘kervesrions'. ‘Many, many times you will have been asked about the night your father met with his accident and I am sure that many, many times you have tried to answer. So I don't think there is any need to pursue that further at present. I'd like you first to tell me about your life before all this happened.'

There was a long pause. ‘I don't know what you want me to say.'

‘I don't
want
you to say anything. I'd like you to volunteer any information you would like to tell me.'

After a few minutes the boy said: ‘Did you live in Nigeria?'

‘My brother does. I have visited him there.'

‘What's it like, sir?'

‘Pleasant for a holiday, David. I will tell you about it when we get to know each other better. Would you like to travel?'

‘Yes, I think so.'

‘Do you like your school?'

‘My school? … Oh, so-so. Not much.'

‘What is wrong with it?'

The boy shrugged.

‘Are you bullied?'

‘No. Not much anyway.'

‘You're tall for your age, so that's a good thing. Do you bully others?'

‘No. Not much.'

‘Do you dislike the masters?'

‘Oh … more or less. They're not bad. I don't like being – pushed around.'

‘You mean doing what you're told or
really
pushed around?'

‘I don't like pettifogging rules – that sort of thing.'

‘Discipline?'

‘Maybe.'

‘Are you good at games?'

‘Average.'

‘What do you like playing?'

‘Oh … swimming, fencing, boxing.'

‘Football? Cricket?'

‘No.'

‘Perhaps not team sports, eh?'

‘I don't know.'

‘And as to your lessons? You have been good at them?'

‘No.'

‘Yet you do not seem like a dull boy, David. I would have thought you had a high intelligence.'

The boy looked out of the window. It was just beginning to rain. A taxi with its light on went past. He said: ‘Is your brother a doctor in Nigeria?'

‘No, a sort of chemist. I will tell you about that sometime too … Are you – er – slow to learn?'

‘I don't know.'

‘Don't you?'

‘Well, sometimes I'm not interested.'

‘But when you
are
interested?'

‘Yes. OK, I suppose.'

‘The purpose of discipline is to be able to work at things which do
not
appeal to you. Do you have many friends?'

After thinking, David shook his head.

‘At home? At school? Not one?'

‘Oh yes. A few. Some are all right.'

‘Do you like coming to London?'

‘Yes … But not –'

‘Not coming here, eh? That is understandable. Yet you have nothing to fear from me. If I send an unfavourable report it will be more a reflection on me than on you.'

‘Why?'

‘Why? Because it will mean I have been unable to help you. And that would be a pity, wouldn't it?'

Dr Meiss was wearing old-fashioned gold cufflinks. Like Cartwright, the headmaster. Only Cart's cuffs were not so clean. Cart's fingers were stained with chalk. Cart's moustache was yellow under the nose but grey at the sides.

‘My wish is to help you, David, if I can. You may not feel that you need it. You may not feel that I can help you, even if you should need it. But one thing is clear – quite certain: I cannot be of the least assistance to you or to your mother or to Mr Kingsley if you are not willing to co-operate with me. You do see that, don't you?'

‘Yes.'

‘And you are willing to co-operate?'

A hesitation. ‘I haven't much choice, have I?'

‘You have every choice. If I find I am unable to obtain your co-operation I shall quickly give the case up. I do not wish to waste my time.'

‘What'll happen then?'

‘Nothing very much, I should think. Probably nothing at all. So far as the law is concerned, the matter is closed. But I think I can say that if you co-operate it will be a help and comfort to your mother. That at least is not in doubt. And I presume you would wish that.'

BOOK: The Green Flash
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