The day after the Lushers Girls Rowing Regatta, Peter and Marty visited their rowing coach. They asked if it would be possible for a couple of girls, who were not members of their club, to use one of the pairs for training.
“I don’t think so,” Steve the coach had replied. “This is a serious club boys. Listen, it might be better if you entertain your friends somewhere else.”
“No you’ve got it all wrong Steve,” Marty responded with an embarrassed laugh. “They’re not our girlfriends or anything.”
“It’s Ruth Goldsmith,” Peter added by way of an explanation. “Their school has banned them from training for the State Championships.”
This news caused a sudden change of attitude on Steve’s part. Since Ruth’s first appearance at a friendly regatta five years earlier, Steve had followed her progress with interest and was seriously impressed. Like most members of the rowing fraternity, he was sure that one day Ruth would be wearing the green and gold in a single scull at the Olympics and was surprised when she suddenly switched to the pairs with an unknown partner.
Two weeks of early morning training at the boys’ rowing shed had gone well. With expert guidance from Steve, Jane had managed to sort out most of her technical difficulties, including a tendency to over-arch her left wrist which had caused problems with her feathering. With hindsight, Jane now realised this was probably the reason why the boat had flipped a few months earlier; an incident they now laughed about but which so nearly ended in tragedy.
Jane and Ruth were now working effectively as a team and the encouragement from Marty and Peter, Steve’s constant companions in the coach’s tinny, had not gone unnoticed or unappreciated by the two girls. There was still the uncertainty of how Jane would perform under race pressure. She had never raced, never rowed in anger, so Steve decided it was time to put the heat on the girls. He asked Marty and Peter to arrange a few special early morning training sessions for the following week.
Jane hurried home from school that day. Her father, with a blank, almost robotic expression, had been the backdrop for the previous night’s television news story about the falling man at Regal Mortgage. Jane was worried. A few phone calls and text exchanges with her mother during the day had done little to allay her concerns.
Madge was sitting alone at the kitchen table with a half finished cup of tea in front of her when Jane burst into the small kitchen behind the family shop.
“How’s Dad?” Jane asked as she dropped her school bag on the floor.
“Oh, not too bad,” her mother replied with an attempted smile. “The doctor gave him something for the shock. It’s better if he stays in bed.”
“Can I go up and see him?”
“Sure, maybe you can cheer him up,” Madge Thomas said hopefully. “He blames himself for losing our savings, you know.”
“It wasn’t his fault!” Jane snapped back, and then quietly added. “Those people at Regal Mortgage, they’re the ones.”
“Not just them. We should have never listened to that Ray Purvis. He must have known what was going on,” Madge said with a confidence that belied the facts.
Upstairs, Dean Thomas was lying in bed with his head propped up by several pillows, when Jane entered the room. She gave her father hug and sat down on the bed next to him. Unlike his wife, Dean firmly believed that Sir Murray St Clair and his young acolytes, with smart suits and fixed smiles, were solely to blame for the predicament now facing the family, and in particular his daughter.
“I am afraid we won’t be able to pay the fees for Lusher’s next year,” Dean said, looking to his daughter with an expression of extreme regret. “Your mum and I both know it hasn’t been easy for you settling in. I hate to ask you to change schools again.”
“I don’t mind Dad, really.” Jane smiled the smile of relief for she certainly didn’t share her father’s regret about not returning to Lusher’s College for Ladies. One year was more than enough with Annabelle Purvis, Jane thought to herself. The only things she’d miss were rowing and Ruth Goldsmith, but she felt sure she and Ruth would still remain friends and may even continue to row together, depending on how the went in the State Championships.
Madge Thomas put down her cup of tea, tore the corner off the newspaper lying on the kitchen table and picked up a pen.
“Ray Purvis,” Madge said very deliberately as she printed the name in large capital letters on to the paper. For the second time, Ray Purvis visited the freezer compartment of the Thomas kitchen fridge. Would it bring results? Was it a coincidence his last spell in the freezer was followed by the fiasco at the opening of the Purvis Equestrian Centre?
In the next episode, “Frozen Accounts”, Ray Purvis receives some bad news, but perhaps a surprise letter from the Kaytee Corporation of Japan might offer a way out.