Percival fetched water and poured himself coffee, and wondered what this was all leading to. Tabatha did not look happy, and Percival tried to recall the details of his meeting with David Ferryman. This girl had been raped, apparently, but Percival had made his position quite clear to her father, so what the hell was she doing here, alone and at this late hour? He once again determined that he wanted no part in this, and he would tell her so. He sat opposite her at the dining table; he wished this interview to be over as quickly as possible. He would absolutely not allow himself to like this uninvited visitor, whatever came next.
'So, what are you doing here?'
'I need your help.'
'How do you know you need my help; you don't even know me, for Christ's sake.'
'My father told me something about you.'
'Yes, like where to find me, apparently.'
'Yes; stuff like that, approximately, anyway.'
'Well look, your father told me something of what happened to you, and I'm very sorry, really, but I honestly don't know what I can do to help, and I told your father as much when we met. I asked him not to contact me again, and your being here will have no bearing on the matter. I still have his telephone number, and I'll be calling him to tell him that you're here uninvited unless you very quickly give me a very good reason why I shouldn't do so.'
'My father is dead.'
That was a good enough reason, and that particular statement struck Percival in a very uncomfortable place; it took a moment for the shock - waves to subside and to be absorbed. He lit a cigarette while he waited; a question was needed but he was finding it hard to find the question, so he improvised, badly, and the question when it came died a meaningless death in the air between them, after its' short and meaningless life.
'What the hell are you talking about?'
Tabatha also took a moment; she was clearly fighting with her emotions, and for a moment she was losing, but again Percival waited, this time for her, and she recovered quickly enough.
'He, ummm...it was a road accident. Hit and run, and the police can't do a bloody thing, or aren't doing a bloody thing. They got to him, you see; we buried him two days ago.'
Percival closed his eyes for a moment and waited for the words to come, but he was struggling with this, and had as yet no idea what to do with it. At such times, when rational thought and coherent speech have yet to play their part, expletives may act as a poor substitute to fill the verbal and intellectual void, and although Percival was not given to swearing as a matter of course, at such times he could swear with the best of them, or the worst of them.
'Yes, that's rather what I thought.'
She reached over and took a cigarette.
'Do you mind; I don't smoke, usually, but you know...'
'Help yourself...Look, in the first place let me say that I warned your father.'
'I know; he told me.'
'And in the second place...In the second place this really changes nothing, do you understand me?'
'Sure, I understand you; trouble is I've really got nobody else to turn to; you're the end of the line, otherwise I wouldn't have come here. I can't stay in Headwater, you see; I think I might be in danger.'
'Yeah, you could say that, but there must be somebody else; what about your mother?'
'My mother's an alcoholic; she doesn't...she didn't live with us; it was just...it was just me and dad. So you see, I need somewhere to go.'
'Well you can't stay here; what about friends or distant relatives?'
'I don't really know any of my relatives; no brothers or sisters, you know, and I can't just turn up on somebody's doorstep; we all left school last summer; everyone's all over the place.'
'You just turned up on my doorstep, and I'm a complete stranger to you; Christ, I could be anybody.'
'But you're not though, are you. Anyway why can't I stay here; just until I think of what else to do, you know?'
'Because...well for a start because for all you know I could be a happily married man, with a wife who may not approve of your being here.'
'You're not though, are you. You're not wearing a ring and I can tell that there's no woman living here. You might be happy, I suppose, but you don't look like a happy person.'
'I was holding it together until you arrived. Look; you're a teen - aged girl and I'm a middle - aged man; I have my reputation to consider. What would the neighbours think?'
'You don't have any neighbours.'
'That's not the point.'
'And we wouldn't be doing anything.'
'That's not the point either.'
'Anyway you don't strike me as being the kind of person who would care about that sort of thing; you know, what people say about you.'
'You seem to think that you know a lot about me after such a short time.'
'I'm good at people.'
'In any case I'm not sure what you mean by your last supposition.'
'Then take it as a compliment.'
This was insane; some other than conventional things had happened to Percival during his lifetime, but this evening and this meeting rated high amongst the most bizarre, and he was having difficulty dealing with this particular turn of events. So what the hell to do? He could scarce turn her out on the street at this time of night, but he had been right; she couldn't stay here, at least not beyond tonight. He lit another cigarette and studied Tabatha Ferryman for a moment. She was genuine, he was certain of that, and he was also quite certain that under her quite confident exterior there lay a confused and frightened young woman. And she had been right about one thing at least; she may very well be in danger, and he had better at least find out all that he could, for his own sake if for no other reason. So, offer reassurance at least; she clearly needed that, although he still didn't like her; not very much, anyway.
'Okay, listen....I can make up the spare bed and you can stay here tonight; after that we'll have to find some other solution.'
'Thanks..Thanks very much; my father told me that you were a good man, despite the fact that you wouldn't help him, and I can tell anyway.'
She relaxed visibly, but that statement seemed to Percival to beg correction.
'Your father doesn't...didn't know me, and no, you can't; don't trust to first impressions; you of all people should know that. You claim to be good at assessing people but I find myself questioning that statement.'
'What do you mean?'
'Your father told me what happened to you; that you were raped, and that must have come from some false assumption or mistake on your part, since if my own assumption is correct you knew the assailant, or thought that you knew him.'
'I wasn't raped.'
Okay Percival, so let's turn the whole thing on its' head again shall we? Throw all previous information and assumption to the four winds and start again. This was likely to be a long night.