Sally let Julian walk her back to the entrance of her halls. She stood on the step in front of the door and looked at him. She smiled wanly.
“I would ask you up for a cup of tea or cocoa but Darrell’s probably hard at work and we would probably just disturb her,” she said carefully.
“It’s all right,” Julian said with a smile. “I should hate to interrupt Darrell while she’s working. I should probably go and do some prep anyway.”
He handed Sally her jacket back, and gave her hand a squeeze when she reached for it. Sally shrugged off Julian’s jacket and passed it back to him.
“Thank you for the loan, it really did keep me nice and toasty warm,” she said softly. She pulled her own coat back on and smiled at him again.
“As long as it kept you warm,” Julian said with a smile. He pulled his coat back on and leant forward to give her a kiss on the cheek.
“See you tomorrow, after lectures?” he asked her.
“Of course,” Sally said, resting a hand on his shoulder as she gave him a kiss on the cheek back. “How about we all meet in café about one?”
“Sounds like a good idea,” Julian said softly. He gave her shoulder a squeeze before heading back the way he had come. He raised his arm a little way down the street to wave back at Sally.
Sally waited until he was out of site before she moved away from the door to her halls and headed down the other pathway to the main town.
She moved quickly through the town until she reached their favourite café. She ducked inside and ordered a hot chocolate and sat down in a corner of the café until it came. She looked around the small room and noticed that Pilkington, the man that they were supposed to be watching for the stolen papers, was sitting was alone in front of one of the window’s scribbling in a little notebook.
Sally didn’t feel like paying him much attention at the moment however, her mind was still whirling from her conversation with Julian. She felt so deflated given that she thought that he was only interested in being friends. Truthfully, she had hoped that they might become quite close.
When her hot chocolate arrived, Sally grasped it with both hands, feeling the warmth stealing up her fingers. She looked at the hot chocolate, watching the patterns of the mixture swirling around the glass.
She didn’t look up when she heard the bell on the door go, and a familiar voice asking the lady behind the counter for a coffee. She kept her eyes firmly down on the table, considering how foolish she felt to think that Julian did like her as more than just a friend. She didn’t even really look up when someone stopped at the chair opposite.
“Sally?” the person asked, the one with the familiar voice. Sally looked up at the face of Thomas Ainsworth, radiating concern.
“Hello,” she said, trying to sound fairly carefree. “How are you?”
“I’m fine,” Ainsworth said, in a gentler manner than he used when he was around anyone else. “How are you? You look like you’ve had some pretty bad news!”
He put his hand on the chair and looked around.
“Do you mind if I sit here?” he added, nodding at the chair. Sally waved her hand to indicate that he was more than welcome to sit. However she knew she wasn’t going to be very talkative; she wasn’t in the mood for company.
“You and Darrell haven’t had a falling out have you?” Ainsworth asked, seemingly genuinely concerned for her wellbeing.
Sally shook her head, her blonde hair falling across her face.
“No, nothing like that,” she said, tracing her finger around the rim of her hot chocolate. She didn’t say anything else as Ainsworth’s coffee arrived.
“I’ve just had a bit of a strange day that’s all,” she admitted with a wan smile.
Ainsworth looked at her suspiciously as he stirred his coffee. “Tell me about it, if you think it will help,” he offered with a shrug.
Given that Sally was upset about her situation with Julian and feeling rather stupid for looking for the missing papers, she didn’t find it very hard to keep what she should have done buried and secret. She didn’t go into depth about her problems with Julian as she was very flattered by Ainsworth’s attention; he could be nice, as he was proving and she felt that if she stood a chance with anyone now that she knew how Julian was feeling, Ainsworth would be a good bet.
She skimmed lightly over the issues she was having with Julian, making it sound as though they were not just getting on very well, before launching into the whole sorry story about trying to find the papers.
The café didn’t have many people in it, and Sally wasn’t paying attention well enough to notice Pilkington suddenly taking an interest in her and what she was saying. She didn’t even register the look on Ainsworth’s face as she spoke.
“I don’t think you should be talking about that here,” Ainsworth said quietly as Sally reached a lull in her story telling, reaching across the table and touching her hand. Sally looked down at his hand on hers and stretched out her fingers under his warm touch, but she frowned when he said that she shouldn’t be talking about the missing papers.
“Why don’t we go for a walk and you can tell me all about it?” Ainsworth added as Sally looked annoyed at his words. She nodded and finished the rest of her hot chocolate as he swallowed his last mouthful of coffee.
The got up, pulled their coats on and headed out of the door, and into the gathering gloom. A moment later, Pilkington followed them, pausing at the door to turn the collar of his coat up and glance up and down the street to see which way they had gone, then he headed off to the left, down the high street after them.
Ten minutes after he had left Sally standing on the steps to her halls, Julian arrived back at St Salvator’s. After he had deposited his coat in his room and fetched some of his books, he slipped down to the common room, to find David sitting on a table near one of the two fires in the room, working on his own prep.
“You’ve been a fair time,” David said to Julian when he sat down.
“Did you get caught in the rain? I noticed that it was rather heavy at one point,” David added as Julian rearranged his books on the table and drew out his writing pad from underneath the pile.
“Yes, I did get caught in the rain, but I didn’t get too wet. Sally and I hid in that rock with the hole through the middle, you know that one we found at the beginning of term when we were down on the beach by the Witches pool?” Julian said in a very disinterested voice, suggesting that he really didn’t want to talk about it.
“You were with Sally?” David asked curiously. “I didn’t know you went for a walk with Sally, I thought you just wanted to mull things over for a while!”
David knew that Julian wasn’t over Sally’s comments from a few days ago so was surprised that the two of them had been out for a walk together, even if everything was fine now. David thought he knew how Julian felt about Sally, and wondered if the two of them had met for a walk, if it was to discuss the clear attraction they had to each other. David didn’t know too much about girls, but Darrell had told him that she had noticed Sally’s interest in Julian.
“She just appeared while I was on the beach. I didn’t plan to meet her,” Julian said. He gave David an icy glance to warn him that the matter was well and truly closed. David gave up; if Julian didn’t want to talk about it, then he wasn’t going to talk about it.
“Very well,” David said with a sigh. He looked down at the question he had been working on and then back at Julian.
“Have you had a chance to look at this equation yet?” he asked his friend.
An hour later, after some hard work and little discussion between the boys, David and Julian had finished the set of equations that Professor Doaty had managed to set them through his confusion.
“Do you fancy walking over to campus and trying to get Old Dotty to pay attention long enough to check these?” David asked as Julian stretched his good arm. He was getting frustrated with only having the use of one arm.
“I wish that I had that luxury, old chap,” Julian said with a sigh. “But when I went to see him a few days ago he pretty much told me that I wasn’t to make a habit of going to see him.”
David rolled his eyes. “Sounds about right for Old Dotty, I suppose, although he hasn’t told me any such thing,” he added with a smile, leaning back in his chair and putting his hands behind his head.
“Anyway, haven’t you got rugby practice tonight?” Julian asked, a little sour tone in his voice, showing his displeasure at not being able to play rugby. He certainly couldn’t play with his arm strapped to his body, and the sister had warned him that he wouldn’t be doing any sports until next semester at the earliest so he was feeling particularly frustrated at that.
David chuckled a little at Julian’s sour tone and slapped him lightly on his good shoulder.
“You should come along and watch, get you away from mysteries and work for a few hours,” David said jovially, clearly getting used to handling Julian’s moods.
At David’s suggestion, Julian had an idea. After what Sally had said about Ainsworth and his friend James, Julian was itching to do something, just to double check that there were no flies on Thomas Ainsworth and that they were heading in the right direction. If only he could get a chance to search Ainsworth’s bag, then he might have more of an idea where he was heading. He didn’t relish the idea of searching through someone’s bag, but if he helped them solve this mystery then he would have to find a way.
Julian sighed and looked out of the closest window, his mind turning over the ways in which he could get to check through Ainsworth and Pilkington’s bags without it being illegal to do so.
“So are you going to come and watch practice or not?” David asked, beginning to pack up his stuff.
Julian snapped back to reality, and looked at David in a bemused fashion for a moment.
“Yes, yes I will,” he said vaguely, after a moment.
David rolled his eyes. “No Ju, I will not help you with whatever plan you are cooking up right now,” he said, with a grin.
Julian looked offended. “Who said I had any ideas?” he asked, standing up and collecting his books.
“Are you pulling my leg, Kirrin? You always have ideas,” David said. “I’d give up old chap, there is no point having ideas this evening. Give it a rest will you and just come and get some fresh air. It’ll do you good!”
Julian relented with good grace, admitting to himself that there was no way of going through Ainsworth’s bag without breaking the law. Even the idea of it had left a sour taste in his mouth; searching through people’s bags was something that only dishonest people seemed to do.
“All right, Morton, you win,” Julian said, relenting as he gathered his books together and slipped them into his backpack.
“Meet you downstairs in five minutes?” David asked as they excited the common room.
“Are you sure that it will only take you five minutes to find your kit in that mess that you call your room?” Julian said with a grin.
“Certainly,” David said, as they took the stairs to their rooms. “See you in a few moments.”
“David,” Julian said as they walked back to campus and towards the rugby pitch. “What would you say if I said I needed your help to do something that is… shall we say, not right?”
David considered this. He and Julian were fast friends by now and he knew that Julian probably wouldn’t be asking him this if he didn’t think it was very important.
“I should probably ask you if you were sure that it was worth it, argue, give in and agree to do it,” David said, with a mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
Julian smiled widely at his friend and began to tell him of his plan in hushed tones.
“I see,” David said slowly, a few moments later. “I’ll skip the arguing, but I will ask you if you’re crazy before I agree to this.”
“Not crazy,” Julian said. “Just curious.”
“Jolly good. I’m potentially in for a few well placed punches because you’re curious,” David said rolling his eyes to the sky. He glanced sideways at Julian and sighed.
“All right, I’ll do it,” he said. “On one condition, mind you!”
“Smashing, and that would be?”
“After this, we do not go after him again alright? You can’t afford another dislocated shoulder and I don’t want a succession of black eyes, thank you very much.”
“Understood, however, what if we find something?”
“If we do, then we hand it over to the police and let them deal with it all, like we should have done in the first place,” David said firmly. He was all for a bit of fun, but this was all far too complicated for four of them to deal with.
“Agreed,” Julian said, a shade reluctantly.
David smiled as they reached the changing rooms. “Come on, let’s get this all sorted then,” he said with a chuckle as they disappeared into the changing rooms.
A couple of hours later, the boys who had been on the rugby pitch trailed in, covered in mud. Julian was sitting next to where David had put his kit, smirking a little.
“I do believe that it was a foul,” Julian said to David with a twinkle in his eye, making reference to a move that David had tried during practice.
“No, it wasn’t a foul,” David said, pulling off his boots and running a hand through his mud soaked hair. “Plus I couldn’t see what I was doing, so that didn’t help!”
Julian laughed a little, leaning back against the support of the clothes pegs.
“Well if you have finished critiquing my rugby playing, I’m off to shower,” David told Julian, deliberately shaking his muddy hair towards his friend. Julian fended him off with his one good arm, pushing David backwards straight into Thomas Ainsworth who had already changed and was heading out, bag over his shoulder.
Ainsworth’s rucksack burst open when he dropped it, as he tried to jump out of the way of David.
“Be careful will you Morton!” Ainsworth snapped as his stuff went flying everywhere, papers fluttering over the tiled floor.
“Sorry Ainsworth!” David said, grinning at Julian who was trying to not to laugh. “Here, let me help you,” he added, getting on his knees and reaching for some of the stray pieces of paper. He saw Julian get up to help as well out of the corner of his eye and try to help gather some of Ainsworth’s papers.
The older boy was muttering at Julian and David under his breath and rudely snatched some of the papers out of David’s hands. David and Ainsworth stood up in unison, eye for eye. Over Ainsworth’s shoulder, David saw Julian put something in his pocket before handing the rest of the papers over to him.
“I’ll thank you not to play the fool next time,” Ainsworth snapped at them, before stuffing the papers in his bag and hurrying out.
David and Julian shared a glance as the rest of their team mates sniggered. Several walked past David and clapped him on the back. A lot of the boys at St Andrews were not keen on the high and mighty Ainsworth.
David smiled at Julian as he headed for the showers, knowing that his friend had found something. He took his time, knowing that Julian wouldn’t talk about it until they were alone, and the longer he took in the shower meant the more likely that the others would have left by the time he was finished.
When a sparkling clean David stepped out of the shower, the boys were alone in the changing room bar one boy, Ewan, who was in their physics course and talking to Julian about their current homework. He smiled at David and included him in the conversation as David dressed.
Finally after, what David considered a long, five minutes Ewan left, leaving Julian and David alone in the changing rooms. David turned to look at Julian as he shrugged on his blazer and lent down to tie his shoe laces.
“Now, what did you find?” David hissed at his friend. “I saw you put something in your pocket when you were collecting Ainsworth’s papers.”
Julian looked around quickly and drew the paper out of his pocket and shook it out. He handed it to David with a smug smile on his face.
David looked at the paper and his face broke into a big smile.
“Oh Golly! Julian you’ve done it!” David said. “You were right all along!”
David’s cheeks flushed red as he remembered how he had voted against Julian when they had been discussing who to follow.
“I feel an awful fool for choosing to follow Pilkington now,” he said apologetically.
“Consider it forgotten David, old chap,” Julian said with a smile. He took the paper from David’s fingers. “So we now know that it is most certainly Ainsworth. All we have to do now is go to the police and tell them.”
“Well well, this is a turn out for the books,” David said, as he finished tying his shoe laces. He stood up and reached for his kit bag.
Julian smiled and got to his feet while putting the paper safely in the inside pocket of his blazer.
“Let’s get going shall we?” Julian asked with a chuckle as David picked up his rugby boots. David nodded in agreement, suddenly feeling that things were almost coming to an end.