He produced a jug from under the table with a quick look to make sure no-one was looking. Timonthy finished the water in his stoneware tankard and pushed it forwards next to Gerard’s. Koa poured out four tankards with a furtive air and pushed two of them back.
He lifted his own mug and clinked it against Gerard’s in the air. They had done this before, Timonthy realised, and had lied about not drinking.
“So when Peter took you to England before, how…” Timonthy began to ask but broke off as Stolid came back. He realised this last piece of news had worried him.
It had tarnished his dreams of a hasty, respectable marriage but also it made him realise that he didn’t understand Stolid at all.
Why would he be involved in smuggling people into the country?
How had he even found time to be involved given he was supposed to have spent the last three months engrossed in creating a garden?
If it had not been for Koa sitting there and appearing to find none of the story a surprise he might have assumed that Stolid was being extra helpful to get Gerard out of the picture so that he wouldn’t spoil whatever was going on with Koa.
Stolid wasn’t really like that, not full of plotting and clever stratagems but what other solution could there be?
“All safely stowed,” Stolid said as he sat down and reached for his tankard. He looked around him as if sensing the atmosphere. “What’s up?” he asked generally.
“Gerard was just explaining how he can’t live in England until you find out who he is,” Timonthy said accusingly.
“I thought I explained it, Gerard. That’s all sorted now. You’ve got a passport. Do you remember we took the photos and you signed the form?”
Stolid sounded baffled and frustrated. “I didn’t know it was all sorted,” Gerard shrugged.
“If Gerard does come and live in England he will need someone to help him with all the administration there is these days. He will need to get a driving licence, get a bank account – all the other bloody million things a person needs to live in the modern world,” Stolid said.
He was asking for help, Timonthy realised, in the only way he knew how. Timonthy was as willing to help for Stolid sake as for Gerard now. Stolid rarely asked for help so he knew this meant a lot to him.
“I can help with that,” Timonthy said. “Be happy to do it.” Stolid smiled gratefully and took a sip from his tankard for the first time since he picked it up.
“Now I know we’re in trouble,” he looked at Koa. “This is the good stuff.” He received a blank look in reply. Timonthy was not warming to Koa.
He seemed too reserved, too full of self importance to be deserving of Stolid’s regard but there was too much to think about to worry about Stolid’s wellbeing on top of everything else. Timonthy had already let himself in for a massive task in sorting out Gerard’s life. He wasn’t lying when he said he’d be happy to do it but he was aware it could be a mammoth task especially if Gerard carried on being as vague as he was at the moment.
Also he wasn’t sure about Stolid’s taste buds in calling this the ‘good stuff.’ It was noticeably inferior to the beer they had tried in the country pub a few nights ago. Still in a land with an emotional blackmail enforced prohibition perhaps this was the best available.
“What is going on here, Stolid? Is this some sort of operation to bring in people into the country illegally and if so how the hell did you get involved?”
“It’s not an operation,” Stolid said patiently. “This is just about helping one man who’s fallen down the cracks in a system and needs a hand to get back on the level. That’s all it is and I truly appreciate your help because I’ve got a garden to finish here.”
Koa skilfully directed the conversation round to their journey which kept Timonthy in areas he was more comfortable with. They strayed from that into Stolid’s journey and his life for the last three months.
Timonthy could see from Stolid’s recollection of his early months that Gerard’s description of him as being not all there was probably accurate.
He was also vague as to where Koa came into the story but in a way that didn’t matter. He was here. That was undeniable. And Stolid was there properly in mind as well as body so some transformation had taken place for him.
Timonthy found himself describing his last few months: Lizzie’s emigration and Paris’s increasingly sombre mood.
“I’d noticed she wasn’t her normal self,” Stolid commented. “She might tell you what the matter is now she is here, once she has relaxed. This place seems to have that effect on people – being so quiet and with little else to do but contemplation.”
Koa suddenly got up and the movement was so sudden everyone looked up for an explanation. Once he was standing Koa walked slowly to the table where the food had been served from and brought back another large jug. On the way back to the table he seemed to notice Peter walking slowly across the room.
“Hello,” he said composedly. “Are you coming to join us?”
“I will,” Peter said and grabbed an empty tankard.