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 What is the Lie?

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Anthony van

PostSubject: What is the Lie?   Fri Dec 15, 2017 5:08 pm

Chapter 22


            Tom was rushed into a city hospital by Burton, accompanied by two squad cars, sirens blaring. On the trip in Burton explained that they had arrested Trentham earlier that evening with him insisting that Tom had confessed to him and had then wandered into the forest, determined to end it all. When Tom started questioning him, Adrian Burton ordered him to remain silent and he would tell him the whole story.

            He described how they discovered the switch of safes which tied Trentham to the theft of the real jewels. They followed up the bank account number and it too pinpointed him as the blackmailer and the one with most to lose when Ashley’s existence came out into the open. The detective then told how they discovered that Rick Tanon had noticed that his gun had been emptied of its shells when packing up his things that Wednesday morning. He’d commented to Trentham that he thought he still had half a magazine left, but didn’t consider it again until he was asked directly by Burton if his ‘Uncle’ could have taken some shells from him. When the tail following Lori Miles called in with the progress of their pursuit they were told to pull her over and escort her away. Their instructions were to drive in to the turn off and then keep a distant surveillance on the access road.

            By the time Burton started on describing the capture of Trentham, Tom had surrendered to fatigue. Rolf nudged Burton to end the monologue, “He’s out to it Ade.” Burton glanced back and smiled.

“He’s had a pretty rough go of it hasn’t he Ro?”

“You can say that again; a regular TV mini series.”

Burton laughed, “So you looked it up?”

Rolf gestured open handed that it was a given. He looked pensive for a moment before starting the conversation again. “Do you think he would have been better off trusting the courts to prove his innocence?”

“Hard to say Ro … hard to say,” offered Burton abstractedly. “When we were about to arrest him I was thinking, ‘had means, had motive … the inheritance, and had opportunity’. I thought it was a cut and dried case.”



            After a few days in hospital with lots of visits from Holly and Lori—usually together, a couple of visits from his dad and Ashley—usually together, and single visits from Rick, Ed, various employees and William Grose who informed him he’d read about the turn of events in the newspaper. He also got a visit from Burton, who provided an update of the case. To Tom’s surprise, the fact that Gil was Ashley’s father was news to him. They spent a long time entertaining each other with their sleuthing tales.

His first night home was begun with a meal at the Miles’ home. Ed had invited Burton as well, and much to Tom’s delight, he turned up with Ally. There was a lot of story swapping, laughter and amusement at Burton’s stories of Lancaster’s bungled raids. Some subdued empathy as discussions related to plans in the near future. Harry announced he’d decided to move back to the farm and do ‘farming’ properly this time. Ashley was staying in the house for a while longer before travelling. He planned to resume his teaching in the coming year.

At the end of the meal Tom awkwardly asked Lori to step out back for a private conversation. The two strolled casually between two rows of grape vines flecked with green shoots. A yellow waning moon was just rising over the rooftops.

            “We’ve been through a lot over the last few weeks haven’t we?”

“More you than me,” she qualified softly.

“I just want to say thanks for everything … all your help. I mean, you took risks … and, well, you didn’t have to.” He was tying himself in knots. Tom tried again on a different tack.

“What would you say Lori, if I said that I like you very much and that I would like to get to know you better?”

Lori seemed to colour slightly before gathering her thoughts. She wiped her palms on the sides of her jeans and Tom hoped the action was not metaphorical. With a slightly set jaw and a quivering voice she responded, “I’d be very flattered if you said that, and I’m happy to be your friend.” With considerable effort she continued, “But that is about as far as it goes.”

Tom was crest-fallen. Did she have no feelings for him? Did she see him as unscrupulous? Had he hurt her in some way? His thoughts were in a tumult. Then he remembered his restraint of her when she tried to use the phone. “Listen, I’m sorry about hurting you when you tried to make that call. I’m not usually a violent man, but I was desperate. I just had to get away and work out what was happening.”

Lori looked up at him, a pained expression on her face. “It’s not that. I’m not judging you and I have no right to; it’s more complicated than that.” Lori was in emotional turmoil herself.

Suddenly the light dawned on Tom. “It’s this truth thing … you don’t want to compromise your faith.” He saw the moisture in Lori’s eyes and recognised that she was struggling to keep her composure.

He managed to smile warmly at her, realising that there was an emotional upheaval tearing her apart, and he was convinced that it was because she cared. They had formed emotional links that just couldn’t easily be thwarted by mere words.

“Okay, friends …” he put his hand out to shake. Robotically she reciprocated, believing that she had somehow cancelled something she secretly yearned to begin.

She paused and then looked up hopefully, “Maybe you could come to church with me and Dad and Mum sometime?”

Tom looked into her soft brown eyes and answered softly, “Maybe.”



Several weeks later, Holly contrived to deliver some paperwork to the Miles’ home. Lori invited her in for a drink of coffee and they chatted. Lynne Miles came in to say hello and then went back to her meal preparations.

“How are you managing now?” Lori asked.

“It’s all a bit weird; three lost souls in a big house. I’m trying to help out in the business and then cook for myself and two fairly distracted guys. They try and help out, but seriously it’s much easier if they stay out of the way; they’re not very domesticated.”

“I could come and help out if you need,” Lori suggested and then gave a guilty, toothy grin.

“Lori that would be lovely, though you understand you’re part of the problem?”

Lori tilted her head questioningly.

Holly focussed on Lori’s quizzical expression, “Tom is besotted with you. Every Sunday I think he drives up to a little church in the hills. Because, when I asked him where he goes, he told me about some people he met in a quaint country church. He also said he’s looking for a friend. Though, I’m not sure what he meant by that.”

Holly had warmed up now and wanted to fill her friend in on all the news. “Once he was talking about your family and he said he wanted to understand why Ed and Lori were so different.”

Lori looked down coyly, feeling a warm flush of pleasure wash over her.

Holly enthusiastically continued as the bearer of all the gossip. “And Ashley is head over heels for Erin.”


“Erin Tallis, an environmental scientist at Clariflo. If I can work it right I might get you two to alternate cooking duties,” she laughed.

After they had made arrangements for Lori to come over for dinner and bring some dessert, Holly made her way to the door.

Lori followed her and stood at the door as she stepped out. “You could have sent those papers with Tom for Dad couldn’t you?”

 Holly turned, smiled conspiratorially and winked.

“Bye,” Holly called as she almost skipped to her car unable to disguise her obvious high spirits.


It was a surprise to Tom when Lori turned up for dinner and, even though his heart flipped a little, he managed a half hearted reproving look at Holly. Of course she blithely ignored the look and the two girls worked in the kitchen while Ashley and Tom were in the informal lounge watching the news on television.

When an ad break came on Ashley began, “So have you asked her out?”

“Who?” Tom was being obtuse.

“Who? Lori of course.”

Tom tried hard to be disinterested. “It’s a bit complicated; we’re sort of just good friends,” he tailed off.

“Good friends!” Ashley scoffed. “I saw the way you looked at each other when Lori came in.”

“Don’t know what you’re talking about.” Tom tried to conceal a little grin sneaking onto his face.

“So, have you asked her out?”


Ashley looked at him. “You’re crazy. Are you going to ask her tonight?”

“News is back on,” evaded Tom.

During the meal talk ranged from company projects, university courses and how good Lori’s trifle dessert was to harking back to various episodes from Tom’s fugitive days. They also discussed how the two bachelors and Holly were managing housework, division of labour and when was Lori coming back to cook?

There was huge laughter at descriptions of Ashley’s first attempt at washing clothes, with some items of pastel stained whites brought out for display and a moment of poignant silence when Holly commented that everything used to be so ordered and correct and now it was a disaster zone. She felt terrible about the change in mood and in an effort to change the subject and rescue Holly from her faux pas, Lori suggested, “Why don’t you take me to this new church of yours Tom?”

His mouth dropped open; he looked squarely at Holly, who quickly avoided eye contact.

Unwilling to address the question, Tom asked, “Who wants coffee, tea … we even have hot chocolate?” He quietly took the orders and went to the kitchen. Holly’s eyes filled with tears and she looked down at her plate aware of Ashley and Lori’s gaze. “I’m sorry,” she whispered.

Lori got up and went into the kitchen.

“What was all that about?”

“It’s a private matter. Something I had to do. She shouldn’t share things like that.”

“Not even with a friend,” Lori touched his arm, “I really would love to go.”

Tom gazed at her. He couldn’t understand what was going on. Was he too proud? After all, in some ways her and Ed were responsible for this journey of discovery he had embarked upon.

“I’d love to take you,” he croaked. “Eight thirty Sunday morning.”

“Eight thirty!” exclaimed Lori.

“It’s a fair way,” he grinned.

That Sunday Tom arrived promptly at eight thirty. He knocked at the door and heard, “Coming,” and a shuffle of footsteps going past. He waited a few minutes for Lori to complete last minute adjustments to her appearance. She looked particularly attractive in a blousy, sparse floral print summer skirt and tee-shirt top and button up over shirt. When she saw him in neat blue jeans and loose over shirt she furrowed her brow.

“I’m not overdressed am I?”

“You’re beautiful,” he said candidly before adding tongue in cheek, “for a friend.”

She gave him a little nudge. The journey was through the now familiar picturesque hill country and the large patch of mountain forest he was beginning to know well. They spoke little to begin with, commenting about the country with some appreciative observations, until eventually Lori asked a bit about what the church was like. Because he lacked the knowledge of other churches he had little to compare it to, and he wasn’t sure what things she wanted described. Of course Lori was more interested in the people but Tom didn’t grasp that.

             He pulled into the small car park of the old stone, rural church a few minutes before nine thirty. With the engine off they were much more aware of the peaceful environment. The breeze was rustling the leaves on the tall trees. Bird song and calls sounded all around the forested dale. William Grose was there to welcome everyone as usual. Tom and Lori walked self-consciously from his Mercedes, aware of the inspection by the locals.

“Tom, good to see you again,” proclaimed William heartily, “And who is this gorgeous creature?”

There were some chuckles from regulars who knew William’s penchant for embarrassing all and sundry at every opportunity, in a good natured way of course.

“Ah, William this is Lori Miles.”

“Well hello Lori, welcome to this little fellowship. You are no doubt the one about whom Tom speaks when he talks of a friend who encouraged him to go to church.”

Lori looked up at Tom. Tom looked at William for rescue and he obliged quickly by ushering them in. The service was quite informal with a pianist playing favourites which the congregation, numbering about forty five, sang. Two teenage sisters, one playing a guitar, sang a gospel flavour song and then William preached.

            His message was simple: ‘Everyone has a choice about Jesus’. He explained that no-one can be forced to accept the truth. You can believe what you like—and many people do. At that point he gave some funny examples including superstitions, myths, religious sects and tenuous scientific theories. ‘What makes Jesus true?’ he asked. “Nothing—He is true in Himself, but see all the evidence. There are people who sincerely follow his way. There is His message of love, His example of giving and His promise of a purposeful, fulfilling life.” He finished with the choice offered the two thieves. One demanded proof—wanting God to respond to his command; the other offered faith and was rewarded with a promise.

“What is your choice?” William asked as a way of finishing off his sermon. They sang a hymn and then the meeting finished with a benediction.

“Wow, I enjoyed that,” breathed Lori looking up at Tom. “What did you think?”

Tom noted the joy in her expression, the sparkle in her eyes and responded, “I enjoyed it too.”

Lori was looking for more. “What did you think of the message?”

“It was good,” Tom teased.

            William, who had wandered over, overheard the discussion and intervened.

“Tom may not have told you Lori, but I’m sure he won’t mind me letting you know. He made a choice for Jesus last week.”

Lori gave Tom a huge hug. “Welcome to the family,” she said softly.

“I guess that means we’re still friends,” Tom chuckled.

“I guess it does.” She hugged him again.
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