Unfinished Business, Doctor Who, Dr. Who, Chris Eccleston, Christopher Eccleston, Doctor who Fiction

Brenda Campbell looked at the paintings on the classroom wall. It was easy to tell which had been done by her two sons. They were the ones with an understanding of perspective and scale that most nine year olds didn’t have. Sebastian’s detailed water colour of a racing car with an uncanny sense of being captured in motion was very different from other depictions of cars on the wall. Marco’s charcoal pencil drawing of Tower Bridge was perfectly accurate down to the last rivet.

“Your sons are very talented,” said Mrs Applegarth, their teacher. “Not just art. All their academic subjects are excellent. Especially history. Most children struggle with understanding the flow of history. The Battle of Hastings seems no further back in time than the Dalek invasion, that kind of thing. But your boys have a wonderful grasp of historical perspective.”

“I’m glad to hear that,” Brenda said with a soft smile. She was almost certain Davie took the boys to see the actual Battle of Hastings happening. It was meant to be from a safe distance, but Sebastian had a collection of arrows and Marco had bagged a Norman helmet. “So…. Everything is all right with their education?”

“With their education… yes,” Mrs Applegarth answered warily. “Though… I am a little concerned about their social interaction this term. They used to have a lot of friends… but now… they spend all their time with one boy and….”

“Which boy?” Brenda asked. She moved to the window to see the children in the playground waiting for parents to be done with teacher conferences. Most of the youngsters were in groups, the girls favouring the hopscotch grids, the boys kicking balls into a goal painted on a side wall. Brenda recalled going to school in the early twenty-first century when people had been trying to break down gender stereotypes like that. Two hundred years later they still had some work to do.

Sebastian and Marco were sitting on a low wall with a third boy. He had very black hair in untidy curls and a rather pale complexion as if he didn’t spend enough time in the sunshine. His clothes were clean, but Brenda suspected they weren’t especially new. The boys had got new uniforms at the start of term. Looking around the playground she thought that was true of most of the children. This boy looked like his uniform had always been second hand.

But why should that matter? A uniform was a uniform.

Except it wasn’t. Children could always tell, and children could be cruel.

“Are you saying that my children are being shunned by the others because they have made friends with that boy?”

“Well….” Mrs Applegarth hesitated. Brenda turned to look at her. She wished Davie was here, too. He had inherited that Prince of the Universe - Lord of Time look in his eyes that The Doctor had always had. Davie could make greater people than a primary school teacher quail with one glance.

Brenda was only Time Lord by marriage, but she must have picked up a little of the gift, because Mrs Applegarth’s expression was suddenly uncertain and even without trying to use telepathy she saw the confusion in the woman’s mind.

“I don’t think the problem here is with MY children,” Brenda said coolly. “I won’t take up any more of your time. You obviously have a lot of other parents to talk to. I’ll leave you to it.”

She opened the door that led directly out into the playground and stepped towards her twins and their friend.

Sebastian introduced the boy to her as Alexander Dowling.

“Could he come to tea with us?” Marco asked.

“Of course he can, if it’s all right with his parents,” Brenda immediately agreed.

“Alex lives with his grandmother,” Sebastian explained hurriedly. “She couldn’t come to the Parent’s Afternoon.”

“I can call her,” Alex said, holding up an old but functional mobile phone. Later, it occurred to Brenda that she ought to have got the number and spoken to the grandmother herself, but she was thinking about something else.

She had noticed that several of the children, boys and girls, were watching their little group from a nervous distance. She recognised most of them by name. There was often a small crowd at the house after school or at weekends. The miniature cart track in the garden was very popular and there had been several successful birthday parties.

But nobody wanted to join the tea party tonight – not while Alex was invited.

“Gran says it’s all right,” Alex said putting the phone away. “I can stay until ten.”

“He can have supper as well as tea,” Marco suggested triumphantly. “And tons of play time inbetween.”

“It’ll be getting dark by then,” Brenda noted, letting the bad sentence structure of ‘tons of play time’ pass, this once. “My husband will drive you home, Alex.”

Oddly, that gave the boy some hesitation, but he was carried away by the enthusiasm of the twins making plans for the evening.

She saw the three boys all safely into the back of the six seater people carrier and took the wheel. As she checked the rear view mirror, she was aware that they were being watched by small groups of both children and their parents. Again, she knew most of the adults through the PTA and various school fundraising activities.

But now she thought some of the faces were actually hostile.

“What is the matter with this child that they all behave like that?” Brenda wondered. Surely it wasn’t just that he was poor. That really was too low and mean-spirited.

She put the thought aside and decided to make sure their guest had a good evening.

That wasn’t difficult. The twins were enthusiastic to share their activities with their friend. While they had the early evening sunlight, the cart track was used to the full. Later they fell back to the immersive race simulator that Davie had installed in the old smoking room. Tea and supper were both noisy and boisterous.

When Davie drove Alex home the house felt strangely quiet.

“He seems a nice boy,” Brenda said to her sons as they got ready for a bedtime that had been extended just this once. “What is going on at your school? Why are the others against him? Even the parents….”

“He’s a gipsy,” Sebastian answered.

“Roma,” Marco added. “He lives on a camp site by the London Orbital Motorway.”

“Is THAT all?” Brenda asked. “That’s why nobody will be friends with him… or with you two while you stick with him? But… your last birthday you had loads of friends. And now….”

“We like Alex,” Seb answered. Marco nodded in agreement. “If the others are so….”

“Prejudiced,” Marco continued as the twins shared their single thought with their mother.

“….that they won’t even pretend to be friends with us for the cart track and the simulator and the fact that we’re the richest kids in class… then….”

“….we don’t need them. But Alex needs a friend.”

Brenda looked at her boys and smiled a bittersweet smile. She remembered her own difficult childhood – though for very different reasons - and how hard it had been making friends until The Doctor had relieved her of her burden and allowed her to live a normal life.

“You both carry on doing what you’re doing. Alex can come play here any time. And… if he feels he’d like to invite you to the camp…”

“He doesn’t really talk about it,” Seb admitted. “I think he does feel a bit….”

The two boys looked at each other as if trying to decide how to continue.

“Ashamed,” they said together. “He feels ashamed of being poor, living in a camp.”

“He shouldn’t,” Brenda said. “This is the twenty-third century. People shouldn’t be made to feel that way. After all… we’re different, too. I’m not even from Earth. It won’t do. It really won’t.”

Sebastian and Marco looked at their mother. They couldn’t recall her this emotional except when their father was racing.

“You two just be the best friends you can be to him,” Brenda added. “That’s all anyone can do.”

It bothered her, though. She was still thinking about Alex and his problems even after the boys were in bed and Davie had returned from taking their visitor home.

“I’m a bit concerned, too,” he admitted. “I figured he wouldn’t want me to drive right up to the camp. I know Travellers value their privacy. But he asked me to drop him off on the opposite side of the Orbital.”

“He crossed that road on his own… in the dark?”

“There’s a footbridge. I expect he took that. But I would have rather brought him a bit closer to his home, really, just to be sure he was all right in the dark, on his own.”

“You don’t suppose….” Brenda began, then stopped because she really wasn’t sure what was in her mind, just a vague idea that something wasn’t quite right.

Davie looked at her and smiled.

“If you were to ask my mum, she would tell you that a long chain of events began when two of her teachers got curious about her home life.”

“I know. I’ve heard the story,” Brenda admitted. “Are we like that? Curious about Alex’s home life?”

“Yes, we are. And I think, just like Miss Wright and Mr Chesterton, we’re not going to be satisfied until we find out the truth. But we can’t do much tonight. So don’t let it keep you awake all night.”

It didn’t keep her awake, but once the boys had gone off to school on their bicycles and Davie had gone off to Brands Hatch for a preparation day for one of his races, she made up her mind what she was going to do next.

There was a PTA lunch. She hadn’t intended to go. These things were dull, just a bland ham salad and gossip. But it meant she would be talking to the parents who had acted so oddly yesterday afternoon. She might get some sense out of them.

Davie had ideas of his own, so although he had planned a full day trying out a new car in anticipation of his next race he decided he could afford a short diversion.

He parked his car well away from the Traveller camp and walked the rest of the way. He was challenged, as he expected to be, just inside the fence that surrounded the permanent halting site. The two men in rough outdoor clothes and heavy boots demanded to know his business.

“I’m looking for the grandmother of Alex Dowling… he’s a little boy…. My sons are friends with him. Alex left a book behind at our house when they were playing last night….”

He held up a maths textbook as proof of his good faith. The two men looked at it with expressions best described as contemptuous. Davie wondered if the contempt was for school mathematics from men who came from a free-spirited tradition that rejected formal education.

Or were they disparaging his frankly lame excuse for coming into their community.

“If you know the Dowling witch or her spawn you have no welcome here,” said one of the men roughly. The other took a step nearer, just a step, but in a manner that was distinctly threatening.

“What’s the trouble here, Martin, Jeth?” asked a third man who came closer. He was at least a generation older than the first two. If they were in their mid-thirties, he was past seventy. He might have been their father or grandfather, or perhaps no close relation at all.

But they deferred to him in their body language, their facial expressions and the tone of their voices.

Davie waved the maths book and repeated his excuse expecting even less belief the second time around.

“I know you, don’t I?” said the older man, looking at Davie closely.

“I don’t think so, sir,” Davie answered. “Unless, of course, you’re a motorsports fan. I have been in a couple of televised races.”

“No… it’s not that,” the old man said. “But I know your face….”

The PTA lunch was as dull as Brenda had expected. But there was something else, besides. There was a curious awkwardness about it all, as if everyone was trying too hard to keep the conversation casual.

When the meal was over and tea and coffee distributed, Janice Eccles, chairwoman of the PTA, stood up and began the usual agenda, fundraising for new computers, repainting the swings in the infant playground….

Then Sarah Burton, sitting three seats away from Brenda stood up abruptly. Janice looked at her in astonishment and stopped speaking mid-sentence.

“Sorry, Jan, but this is all just prevarication and procrastination,” Sarah declared. “Surely, the only thing to discuss here is how to get those dreadful gipsy children removed from the school.”

Brenda jerked upright and opened her mouth to speak when another parent got in before her.

“It’s not ALL the gipsy children,” said Charles Edwards, Treasurer. “There have been children from the camp attending the school ever since the area was established as an official halting site. The problem is that ONE child.”

“The Dowling child…..”

Somebody, Brenda wasn’t sure who, murmured the word ‘demon’ and there was another whisper from down the table.

“You mean Alex?” she demanded. “He’s not…. He’s just a boy…. Just an ordinary little boy.”

“I should have expected that kind of comment from you,” Sarah Burton rounded on her. “The way your kids have been chumming up with that brat…. You even had him at your house…. Actually IN your home.”

Nobody physically moved their chair, but Brenda had a sense that those sitting closest to her were leaning ever so slightly away as if trying to distance themselves from a source of contamination.

“Surely even you, Brenda, must have noticed something,” Janice said to her. “That feeling when you’re breathing the same air… the feeling of something… something….”

“Evil… outright evil,” Sarah finished. “And if you… if you….”

“If you sup with the devil…..”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Brenda answered. “He’s a child, and whatever bit of salacious gossip you’ve all been sharing, you ought to be ashamed of yourselves. Making a little boy into your scapegoat.”

“What happened after that?” Davie asked when his wife described the scene later that day. Mark and Sebastian were in the garden. So was Alex who came to tea with them again.

“They took a vote… an actual vote… about demanding the exclusion of Alex from the school. I… was the only dissenter. And then… then they proposed excluding me from the PTA. They didn’t need to vote on that. I resigned.”

“Good,” Davie told her and kissed her on the cheek. “Do you want to know what I found out?”

“Yes,” Brenda told him. “Yes, please tell me.”

“I wasn’t making much impression with the Travellers until the old man… Mr Sullivan… thought he recognised me.”

“Did he… recognise you?”

“No, not exactly,” Davie answered.

“No,” Connor Sullivan, elder of the Traveller community said after a moment’s thought. “No, it couldn’t have been you. It was near sixty years ago…. But I’m sure I knew your face.”

“In the Dalek war?” Davie asked. “I think… you knew my father. Everyone tells me how much I look like him.”

“That would be it,” Sullivan admitted. “A brave man. And a kind one. I’ll never forget him. And that being said… his son is welcome here any time.”

Connor Sullivan shook Davie’s hand vigorously. He had made a friend without even trying, it seemed.

“But… da… he’s asking about the witch and her spawn,” protested Martin.

“I’m just trying to find out what the problem is,” Davie explained. “Do you REALLY think the boy’s grandmother is a witch?”

“No, we don’t,” Connor Sullivan insisted, flashing a look at his son. “The truth is much darker than that. Come with me. I’ll tell you what I know.”

Mr Sullivan brought Davie to his caravan, a large, modern vehicle that was cleanly painted on the outside and neat and tidy on the inside, contrary to all popular expectations about Travellers. Davie was offered coffee and asked if he’d like a ‘drop’ in it. The ‘drop’ offered was a good brand of what Mr Sullivan called uisce-beatha and his father pronounced uisge-beatha. Either way, he passed it up.

“My dad appreciates a good single malt, but I’ve never really acquired the taste. He blames that on my English education.”

Mr Sullivan laughed and handed him a mug of strong but unadulterated coffee and they sat together quietly for a few moments before Davie broached the question that was puzzling him since he encountered the younger men of the Sullivan clan.

“Sir… why is it… that people like yourselves… who know about prejudice, about being shunned and excluded by society... should be doing the same to an innocent woman and a child?”

“You started that question with ‘sir’, so I’ll not take it the wrong way. You’ve said it right enough. We have shunned Mrs Dowling and the boy. But we had no choice. The Ceann Mhallaithe would have infected us all.”

“The… what?” Brenda asked as Davie related the conversation to her.

“Ceann Mallaithe…. Or Ceann Mallaichte, I should probably pronounce it with my Scots heritage. Mr Sullivan comes from a long line of Irish Travellers. Either way, it literally means ‘cursed head’. The way Mr Sullivan explained it, it’s a sort of ghost or revenant, some sort of incorporeal element, that fixes on a victim and casts a kind of negative glamour around them, so that everyone they come into contact with is struck by fear or revulsion.”

“And that’s what’s happening to Alex?” Brenda was astonished and appalled. “Oh… that’s… it’s….”

It was too much like the trouble that had afflicted her when she was a child, the creature that had lodged in her mind and caused her all sorts of misery until The Doctor drove it out.

The idea that Alex was going through something like that….

Davie knew what she was thinking without even trying to read her mind. It was etched on her face.

“I think I need to see Mrs Dowling,” Davie had said. “Would you take me to her?”

Mr Sullivan looked frightened. Davie found that the most astonishing thing. This was a leader of a Traveller community. He would have had to do a fair bit of facing down rivals, hiding any fear he might have and fighting, physically and psychologically, to be the man other men looked up to.

But he was actually frightened of Alex’s grandmother.

“That’s what the Ceann Mallaichte does,” Mr Sullivan admitted. “It makes a man feel fear in the pit of his stomach. Yes, even a man who remembers the Daleks and the terror they inflicted on us all. But I’m no coward. I’ll come with you. When you talk to your father again… you’ll not have to tell him that I gave in to my fears.”

They walked through the camp. It was a large one, maybe two hundred caravans. Washing lines stretched between the caravans. Women sat in chairs gossiping with each other while performing ‘domestic’ tasks like preparing vegetables, knitting or sewing. Men tinkered with cars or worked with wood or metal under corrugated iron awnings. Children, dogs, hens and horses added to the impression of a busy way of life that was little changed for centuries except that most of the caravan roofs were crowned with micro-solar panels - his own patented invention, Davie noted with secret pride – to provide electricity.

But Mrs Dowling didn’t live as part of that community. Her caravan was in another field, accessed by a rickety stile and a rough wooden crossing over a stream. She had no solar panels, no access to the clean water supply that the local council had provided to the camp.

“Do you feel it?” Mr Sullivan asked as they approached the door of the shabby dwelling.

“The Ceann Mallaichte?” Davie asked. Mr Sullivan nodded, his face drawn, his eyes wild as he tried to contain his emotions. Davie looked around slowly, letting the human part of his DNA do the feeling and thinking.

Yes, there WAS something. It was like….

“It was like the worst smell you could imagine,” he explained to Brenda. “A smell of death and decay and corruption, like a fifteenth century plague pit crossed with an open latrine. But it wasn’t a physical smell. It was as if it was directly fed to my brain without the usual senses. And something in that ‘smell’ screamed ‘beware, be afraid. Don’t come close.”

“The PTA… that must be what they felt,” Brenda guessed. “But I didn’t….”

“I think it only affects Humans. You’re completely immune. I was until I actively suppressed my Time Lord DNA and let my Human side experience it.” He looked towards the window. “I’ve never actually looked at their DNA, but I guess the boys are even more mixed than I am, so they don’t feel it either. Which is a good thing, because what I experienced as we came up to the caravan was awful. Mr Sullivan must have been struggling. He had it full on, but he did his best not to let it pull him down.”

The door opened before they could knock. Davie had been expecting an elderly woman. The word ‘grandmother’ suggested it. But if Mrs Dowling had married very young and her own offspring had done the same, then even in her mid-forties she could certainly be a grandmother without being especially old.

She must have been beautiful in her youth. She might still be called attractive now if her face wasn’t clearly ravaged by a mental agony almost beyond endurance. Davie recognised that with his Time Lord DNA which he had allowed, out of self-preservation, to reassert itself.

“Jenny,” said Mr Sullivan. “This man… you can trust him. I think he might be able to help, I don’t know why I think that. But I feel in my soul that we should all trust him.”

“Please, do trust me,” Davie said with a certainty that came from his alien heritage. “I think I can help… If you will let me. Will you tell me first, how you were afflicted?”

Jenny Dowling sat on the caravan step and motioned to Davie to sit on an old wicker chair by the door. Mr Sullivan made do with an old oil drum.

“It began with my daughter-in-law, Hannah. A fine girl. She and my Gerry were a good match. They both loved Alex when he came along. They were happy. But then… Hannah fell ill, or so it seemed. She wilted like a flower without water under the hot sun. But it wasn’t an illness anyone could make out, anything that could be treated, not by any of our folk medicine nor by your doctors. And… Gerry started to say that there was an evil around her. He couldn’t even go near her bedside without feeling the revulsion… the fear. Then I felt it, too. And after a while, everyone we knew was keeping from us. They were afraid… afraid that the evil would fix on them. too.”

She paused, her eyes glistening. This was a painful memory, but until she spoke again Davie didn’t realise just HOW painful.

“Gerry….” She swallowed hard and tried again. “My son… he killed his wife… then himself. He said he’d drawn the evil from her, and that when he was dead, it would die with him. I thought that, at least, might be so. I thought I could move on with Alex and we’d both be free of it. But….”

“But it’s found you again? Or it was only ever dormant somehow.”

“Either way, it won’t let go until we’re both dead, me and the child. Even then… some other soul might still come to its notice and be destroyed the same way.”

“No,” Davie said. “This ends here and now.”

He looked closely at Jenny Dowling, then he looked around at the dusty, scrubby land around the caravan.

“Mr Sullivan, I need a fire burning and a tub of cold water. I need you to set them my arm’s length either side. Can you help me do that?”

Mr Sullivan nodded and set to work gathering brushwood from the hedges and beneath the trees. Davie dragged a copper tub into position and filled it with water from the stream.

“It’s a kind of magic?” Mrs Dowling asked as she watched the preparations probably not realising that was one of Davie’s favourite twentieth century rock songs. He smiled widely.

“Yes, exactly,” he answered. ‘A kind of magic, a kind of science, too. The two things aren’t exclusive. Sometimes they meet and merge and nobody can tell where one ends and the other begins.”

He wasn’t sure whether his own psychic abilities counted as science or magic. They were a natural part of his being, springing from his Time Lord biology.

And biology was a science, after all.

The fire crackled, filling the air with a pleasant scent of woodsmoke. The water reflected a still blue sky. Davie placed the wicker chair not quite between those two of the four ancient elements and sat Jenny Dowling on it.

He put his hands either side of her face and closed his eyes. As soon as he began to see with his inner eye he realised that this gesture was superfluous.

The Ceann Mallaichte wasn’t a parasite sitting inside any part of Jenny’s mind or body. Rather, she was at the centre of an entity like an invisible cloud spreading itself out and creating the terrible effects on anyone who came into contact with Jenny and her grandson. He wasn’t sure if it had reached its effective limits or could it keep expanding until it could turn a whole county against Jenny and the Traveller people? He had a stray image of an angry and fearful mob who weren’t going to listen to reason.

But was that a glimpse of the future or the past? Surely angry mobs didn’t carry flaming torches in the twenty-third century?”

“Oh!” Davie cried out much to the surprise of Jenny and Mr Sullivan. “Yes… I see a history… long ago… the Ceann Mallaichte was a man… an ordinary human. He fell for a pretty young woman of a Traveller clan… but she rejected him. His desire and jealousy twisted him… Oh hell. He killed her… and the clan… hunted him down and lynched him. He cursed them and swore he’d find the girl he loved… on Earth or in Hell. He became a thing of anger and hatred, breathing corruption. He found Hannah and wanted her, but of course he couldn’t…. All his negative emotions destroyed her and the man she truly loved. Her death kept him at bay for a while. But then he found Jenny… and it has all begun again, this time affecting the boy as well, making him a scapegoat, too.”

Connor Sullivan uttered a word from his celtic heritage that was offensive in both Scots and Irish and would have made a Welshman pause, at least.

“Can you help them?” he asked.

“I can, I think. I can help them ALL,” Davie answered. “Keep that fire hot and don’t worry about anything I might say or do.”

He reached out mentally, calling to the revenant spirit at the centre of it all. It didn’t even know its human name. Hate and anger were so overwhelming. That was why Davie felt very little compassion even when he knew the story. Any grief or sorrow, any little remorse there might have been once had burned away in the heat of the hatred and anger.

And he was drawing the hate and anger towards himself, pulling in the entity from its field of baleful influence, forcing it into a smaller and smaller area.

After a while he thought he could actually see it as a dark cloud, a cloud getting smaller and denser. It was trying to fill him with its negative emotions, and a part of him, his human part, was having a bad time. But he was thinking as a Time Lord, a race known for their stoicism, even though it never manifested itself in his family.

He dragged the Mallaichte closer until he felt as if it was all over his body like a firesuit. He wondered if Jenny and Mr Sullivan could see that. If so, it would be rather terrifying, but there was no help for that.

Smaller, denser, he pressed it. Now it was a tight solid like a rugby ball, now smaller, a tennis ball, a hard, small, densely packed golf ball.

He still wasn’t sure if it was real, but when he closed his hand around it there was a sensation of something solid. He turned quickly and thrust his hand into the fire. He heard Jenny scream and Mr Sullivan utter another celtic swearword as he felt the skin on his hand blister. But inside his palm he felt the hard ball of hatred, anger, fear and revulsion burn away like a wax candle.

When he was sure it was gone he pulled his hand back and plunged it into the cold water. He gritted his teeth, sweat pouring from his forehead, pain almost overwhelming him for several minutes until he got it under his control.

“Let me see!” Brenda demanded, grabbing his hands and looking them over closely. “Time Lord healing, of course. You’re all right.”

“I’m fine. Jenny does soothing plant ointments and I accepted a coffee with just a little of Mr Sullivan’s uisge-beatha in it. Not much. I still had a practice run at Brands to get to.”

“And the… the thing that did it to them….”

“It’s gone. Forever, I hope. At least, Jenny and Alex are free of it. They can live in peace. Mr Sullivan’s sons are moving their caravan onto the site properly. I said I’d fit solar panels on it. They still don’t know I invented them. It’s wonderful to see the benefit that bring to their community.”

Brenda stood and went to the window. She watched Alex playing with her two sons. Was it her imagination or did he look happier, less pale, more lively?

“I don’t think it had got enough of a grip on Alex,” Davie assured her. “He was affected because he lived with Jenny. People unconsciously felt the negativity around him. But it hadn’t managed to hurt him.”

“Good. Poor boy. He’s gone through enough, already. His parents dead. Is there anything other than solar panels we can do for them? They live in poverty. We have such luxury.”

“They don’t live in poverty,” Davie told her. “They live the way they choose to live, without the trappings of consumerism, and all they need is friendship.”

A car parked outside. Connor Sullivan and Jenny Dowling came to the garden where the boys were playing.

“I invited them to supper,” Davie said. “You can talk mum’s stuff with Jenny. I want to hear the full story of when Mr Sullivan and my dad fought Daleks together.”

Brenda was about to protest that she and Jenny were quite capable of talking about more than just ‘mum’s stuff’ when the phone rang. She answered it while Davie greeted their guests.

“Was that anything important?” Davie asked as he went to make coffee for their guests.

‘It was Mr Edwards from the PTA,” she answered. “Apparently everyone has suddenly forgotten what they were arguing about, and they want me to reconsider my resignation.”

“It worked that fast?” Davie was surprised but pleased. The traces of the Ceann Mallaichte influence that had affected the PTA must have dissipated almost immediately. “What did you say?”

“I said I’d think about it, but only if they would bring in a parent from the Traveller’s Camp to represent their views. I was thinking of Jenny, if she feels up to it.”

“So you do have more than ‘mum’s stuff’ to talk about, then?”

“You’d better believe it,” Brenda countered.