Chapter 27

Dory had a headache when she returned home. The maid and the housekeeper were carted off by the police, and Mr. Jones was taken by ambulance to the Royal London Hospital. Breaking their way in through that door had opened a hornet's nest that Dory still couldn't wrap her head around.

The callousness was just beyond belief. To simply ignore that man's suffering for a chance to live in the comfort of his house and to spend his bank draft. It was unfathomable.

On a level, she could understand that staff were not always the greatest admirers of the people they worked for. Dory had herself struggled to admire any of the people at Wallisford Hall, but she would never standby when one of them was suffering. The truth was that she couldn't understand crime. DI Ridley seemed more accepting that it regularly happened, but it always took her by surprise. It was a curious trait for someone as driven to investigate as she was. Perhaps she wanted to prove to herself that there was an innocent explanation. How could she looked at any of the people around her and expect that one of them would be so heartless as to take another person's life—and for such trivial reasons. She couldn't.

Sadly, in her quest to believe there were innocent reasons behind the bad things that happened, she was proven wrong most of the time.

The other truth was that Mr. Jones was not the man who had been found in Pennyfield Street. He could most certainly be crossed off the list. This left a few more to confirm, but it also meant she had to return to Mr. Dellows, who simply couldn't be reached.

On the way home, she detoured to his street and knocked on his door. Yet again, there was no answer and the house was dark inside. That didn't necessarily mean anything suspicious. There was no sign that the bombings wouldn't come that night. He could have retreated to an air shelter, or he could simply be staying elsewhere. There was nothing overtly suspicious.

As she reached her own street, the air raid sirens started whining. Picking up speed, she ran the rest of the way. Their house didn't have a basement, where many people set up their own shelters. There was nothing to protect them if a bomb fell.

Neither Vera nor Betsy were at home. Betsy was likely with her mum. Vera was probably out dancing, particularly if her boyfriend, Kevin, had the night off. As rarely as they got time off, Kevin would likely try to swing a free night to join her.

The school down the road had a public shelter in its basement, and after last night, she didn't want to tempt fate by staying out in the open. Making herself a sandwich, she packed it away into her back and locked up the house.

Some people were running, while others calmly walked. The planes couldn't even be heard yet, so there wasn't the utmost urgency. The nearby railway arches were also shelters, but Dory walked to the school, which was closer.

'Air raid shelter' was painted on the wall with white paint, an arrow pointing to a set of stairs down the side of the building. Sandbag surrounded the entranceway and the side of the building. It was the first time Dory had been to this one. It had a musty smell. A single electric bulb hung in every room. The place was a series of small rooms.

By the look of it, it would likely have been some kind of storage place before, but now it was cleared out of everything but benches, mattresses and blankets.

"This way, to the back," a warden said, urging people to get out of the main thoroughfare. "Make room and settle down."

It took time to get through the main thoroughfare, which was a bottleneck for getting into the room. For a shelter, it didn't have the ideal design. Eventually Dory found herself in one of the rooms with about two dozen other people.

She spotted Mrs. Mellison, their neighbor, sitting on one of the benches, knitting something with yellow yarn.

Then the blasts started. People didn't even react. They were so used to it. There were blasts far away and ones closer. The close ones caused dust to dislodge from the beams above, but no one seemed to react to this either. They really should clean that dust off, so it didn't sprinkle on them every time there was a bomb close enough, but no one had bothered.

The walls were brick and the cold of the space soon warmed with the number of bodies in the room. The electric bulb flickered with one of the blasts and then extinguished leaving them utterly in the dark. Grumbles and groans spread through the gathered crowd until someone lit a lamp.

"Must have hit one of the transformers again," an elderly man said.

"Tea?" a woman said at the door, carrying four cups in her hands.

"Yes, please," a man said and reached a coin out to the woman, who gave him a cup in return.

"How much?" Dory asked.

"Sixpence," she replied and dory pulled out her small leather purse and rifled through her coins until she found a sixpence. A cup of tea sounded like a lovely idea. "Any buns?"

"I'll send Florrie over this way," the woman said and took Dory's coin. The enamel cup was warm, the tea steaming hot.

Dory pulled out her notebook and shifted off the bench to sit on the floor, where she could use the bench as a writing desk. Between sips of the tea, she started composing a letter to Lady Pettifer, to inform her of the day's strange events.

Another blast shook the structure and Dory quickly covered her teacup with her palm to stop the dust from floating down into it. A baby started crying in the room next door. A nearby man was already snoring.

When she was done, people were starting to arrange mattresses, getting ready to bed down for the night. It was strange bedding down with lots of people who Dory barely knew. Most of the people around here seemed to know each other, but she'd only come into this neighborhood a few months back.

Florrie never came with the buns, so Dory had to make due with her sandwich, before accepting a spot on a mattress next to a young girl who looked about sixteen. It took some time to get to sleep. The sounds of other people snoring and shifting were something Dory wasn't used to. Well, not since he'd lived at home with her brothers. It felt a lifetime ago, even if it was only three years back.

As she closed her eyes, Dory's thought returned to Mr. Jones, and hoped he was alright. Poor man had been trapped in his own body, knowing he had fallen prey to these women who cared nothing about his wellbeing. It was a scary thought, and it made her feel a little claustrophobic for a moment, before she told herself to get a grip on her panic.

Mr. Jones was free of his predicament and it was because of her. That was something to feel proud of in that. She'd made a monumental difference in someone's life. That had never happened to her before.

Now if she could just locate Mr. Dellow. He liked to spend time in the library, someone had said. Flipping over her notebook, she looked back at what she'd written. That would be her plan for tomorrow, to check for him in the library, perhaps talk to the staff if he wasn't there.

Another bomb shook the building. Seething anger rose in Dory. When was this going to stop? It was that anger that made them so stubborn that they refused to relent to it. They certainly weren't going to cower. Sadly, they heard so little about what was happening with the war. It felt a little like they weren't trusted with that knowledge. Hopefully that was because of spies rather than the idea that things weren't going well.

A dog barked somewhere in the shelter. Someone had brought their dog with them, which was perhaps understandable.

It was a heavy night of bombing that night and Dory was glad she had chosen to come here. It wasn't comfortable, but she wouldn't be sleeping much in her own bed that night either. Didn't seem to bother some, who snored uninterrupted all night, lying in the uncomfortable closeness of other sleeping bodies, and the faint smell of urine from the latrine. There wasn't much dignity in this, but they had to make do. They would make do—out of sheer spite.

Perhaps it was that same stubbornness with which she refused to give up on her investigation into the man found of Pennyfield Street. People who did horrible things had to be stood up to and defied.