Sins of the Father(9)By: Hannah Howe
Stan shrugged. He bit his flake then replied through a mouthful of chocolate, “Like I told Gawain, I ain’t seen him.”
“Has anyone seen him lately?”
The girl returned to the trampoline, this time with two boyfriends. Bouncing away, she sought to impress her friends with her aerobic and athletic skills. Meanwhile, Stan turned away and gazed out to sea. Maybe the sunlight, shimmering on the water, captivated his thoughts, or maybe those thoughts centred on his first robbery, the moment when he’d wandered into the dark alley of criminality. From the rueful expression on his face, I would have placed money on the latter.
“I could give you a name,” he said, his voice low, conspiratorial.
“Go on then,” I said.
He hesitated, looked away, stared down at the ground.
“Whisper it,” I said, “if you like.”
“Not sure I want to,” he said, his gaze fixed on his flip-flops.
“You fear reprisals?”
“A bit of that,” he confessed. “And you’re a classy lady. I don’t want to see you get hurt.”
“I was brought up in the backstreets of Cardiff,” I said. “In fact, I brought myself up. I can look after myself.”
The jovial smirk returned to Stan’s face. He licked a morsel of chocolate from his lips then said, “Like in the song, ‘Where Do You Go To, My Lovely’.”
“Sort of,” I said. Then I leaned towards him and whispered, “A name...”
“Not sure I want to,” he frowned.
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“Because he’s a violent bastard, a right sadist.”
I nodded then explained, “Another thing about being brought up in the backstreets of Cardiff; it gives you a nose for danger, keeps you light on your toes.”
Stan turned away from the sea and the beach. He narrowed his eyes and stared at me. He ignored the sweat, which trickled down his brow, glistened on his pot belly, and said, “Okay; Naz.”
“Yeah. Short for Nazi. You’ll find him at the Taff Green warehouse. But don’t tell him Stanley sent you, okay.” He jerked a thumb over his shoulder, to his ice-cream van. “I got a nice little business going here; I don’t want the Nazi to upset it, okay.”
“Mum’s the word,” I said, tapping an index finger against the side of my nose.
We turned our backs on the beach, strolled along the promenade, towards Stan’s ice-cream van. As Stan climbed into the van, he glanced at me and said, “Sam?”
I nodded. “Yeah, that’s my name.”
“Sam and Stan,” he mused, caressing his double chin. “It sort of goes, don’t it.”
“Sort of,” I said.
Stan smiled again and I sensed that regardless of life’s woes, he’d always find time for humour. He sniffed and said, “Shit, you smell nice.” I laughed, and with a chuckle he added, “Well, you do.”
That evening, I drove to the docks, to the Taff Green warehouse, but Naz wasn’t there. So, I phoned my friend Mac, an ‘odd-job’ man who’d turn his hand to just about anything, and arranged a meeting; we’d get together at 9 a.m., at the Museum of Welsh Life, by the Celtic Village.
Situated in St Fagans, the Museum of Welsh Life was a delight. Spread over fifty acres, the open-air museum contained dozens of original buildings from various corners of Wales, all skilfully re-erected to demonstrate how our ancestors lived. In addition, traditional livestock roamed the grounds while craftsmen displayed centuries-old skills. St Fagans Castle – a sixteenth century mansion house – formal gardens and fishponds also attracted thousands of visitors each year.
The Celtic Village, a collection of Iron Age roundhouses reconstructed from the remains of actual buildings, was situated to the north of the museum, near the tannery. And there I found Mac, his bald head glinting in the sunlight, his huge ginger moustache bristling, the upper half of his muscular body daubed in woad. In his left hand, he held a spear, which he tilted towards me.
He said, “You laugh, Missy, and I’ll drop you in the lake.”
I grinned then laughed, unable to contain myself. “You look very fetching, Mac.” I laughed again. “You planning on wearing that to the wedding?”