Sins of the Father(8)

By: Hannah Howe

“Thank you,” I bowed, accepting the compliment.

“I like a lady who wears classy perfume,” Stan said while placing a foot on the rail. He was wearing flip-flops, salmon pink, which clashed violently with his Hawaiian shirt. Come to think of it, everything clashed violently with his Hawaiian shirt.

“The perfume was a gift, from my fiancé,” I explained.

“A classy fella.”

I nodded. “He is.”

“And you’re a classy bit of skirt, if you don’t mind me saying so; you can tell a lot from a lady’s perfume, and her jewellery.”

I glanced at my engagement ring, soon to be accompanied by a wedding band. “You like jewellery?” I asked.

Stan grinned, revealed a wicked side to his nature. “Too much, that’s my trouble. I suppose Gawain told you all about my past.”

I nodded then said, “Tell me about Gawain.”

“What do you want to know?” Stan asked.

“What was he like in his youth?”

Stan paused. He licked his ice cream. Then he ran a casual eye over a teenage girl, who was bouncing on a trampoline. “Gawain was a smart fella, upstairs and in his appearance. A bit of a babe magnet, in a roughhouse sort of way. He was a good draughtsman; by that, I mean he was good at planning and organizing robberies. He was tough too. If you got on the wrong side of ‘Madman’ Morgan, he’d deck you, no questions asked. A good boxer as a teenager. Could have gone all the way, but lacked the discipline; had no time for rules and regulations, for authority.”

The girl jumped off the trampoline and ran to greet her friends. Stan watched her go, though there was nothing lecherous about his gaze, just the look of a man who’d spent too much time alone, with his own thoughts. He turned to me and said, “Why do you ask?”

“Gawain hired me. I’m an enquiry agent. I like to get a feel for my clients.”

He nodded, decisively, accepting my word. Then with a grin, he bit the bottom from his ice-cream cone. After licking ice cream from his lips, he said, “I bet you’re wondering about my name.”

“Stanley Livingstone.”

“Yeah, you’ve twigged it,” he laughed. “My parents had a sense of humour.” Then he frowned, worried, in case I’d missed the joke. “You’ve heard of Stanley and Livingstone?”

“I read about them,” I said, “when I was younger.”

“I like reading, me,” Stan said. “But only on holiday.”

“Do you get away often?” I asked.

“Now and then.” His ice cream threatened to drip from the hole he’d made in the cone on to his Hawaiian shirt. So he tilted the cone and his neck, to preserve his shirt, and to enjoy his tasty comestible. “Just returned from the Costa del Sol,” he said. “Hence the tan.”

I smiled, “I thought you picked that up in Barry.”

“Leave it out,” he scoffed, his belly wobbling with laughter. “Though, when the sun’s out, it’s paradise.”

Stan turned the consumption of a Ninety-Nine into an art form as he tilted the cone slightly to the left, then to the right, licked the top, then the bottom, all without spilling a drop of ice cream. Meanwhile, I made my way down, through the flake, to the ice cream to the cone – Ms Conventional.

“Yeah,” Stan continued, “me and my bit of skirt just enjoyed a fortnight in sunny Spain.”

“You’re not married?” I asked.

“Divorced. Three kids. Grown up now.” He shrugged, philosophically, a gesture of weary acceptance from a habitual criminal. “In and out of prison doesn’t do a lot for a marriage.” He pulled his flake from the ice cream and savoured the chocolate. “I guess Gawain hired you to ask me about Frankie.”

I nodded. “Have you seen Frankie recently?”

“He’s in the long grass.”

Again, I nodded. “Gawain is worried that Frankie might finger him.”

Stan pursed his lips in pensive fashion. Absorbed in his thoughts, he allowed a drop of ice cream to splash on to the ground. “Frankie might finger me too, come to that,” he frowned.

“Any idea where he is?”