“I didn’t know we were having a party,” said Sophie as she walked from her room into the lounge. She saw her mother sitting on the sofa and was about to launch herself into a long tirade but she stopped short when she noticed the others.
“Oh, hi Matt, hi Cass, where’s Maxine?” Jonathan wagged a come hither finger at his daughter. He spoke to her in a clumsy stage whisper.
“There’s been an accident Sophie. Maxine is in hospital. She’s been knocked down. She’s in bad shape, in intensive care.” Sophie’s expression changed from cocky to horrified in seconds.
“Oh, my God. What can we do? Matt, Cass, are you okay? Can I get you something?” She put her hand on Cass’s shoulder.
“No, no we’re okay. Just a bit tired, that’s all, “ said Matt, “and worried about Max. The hospital people advised us to go home. They said they’d call us if anything happened. But I suspect, because we’re not relatives, they won’t. Max’s parents are on their way to be with her. It’s such a shock.” Sophie gave them a sympathetic nod. Then she looked at her mother.
“What’s your involvement in all this?” she barked. Angie shuffled uncomfortably.
“No need to be so abrupt in front of company, dear. I just wanted to return her phone. I found it on the stairs. I knew it was hers when her father rang to speak to her. I just happened to be there when these poor people arrived back home.” Angie tried very hard to look innocent but Sophie detected something about her mother’s body language that didn’t stack up.
“You were banging the door and shouting,” said Matt, “is there something wrong?” Angie squirmed visibly.
“Oh, that’s just the way I am. I thought your doorbell was faulty and I thought if anyone was in they would hear me shouting.”
“And banging the door,” said Sophie softly. Angie stood up.
“Anyway, I’ll leave the phone with you two. I’ve got one or two things to do. Bye. I’ll hear from you tomorrow, Jonathan.” Angie blew a kiss and left. Jonathan winced. Sophie gaped at him. Matt and Cass sat holding hands in a trance.
“There is another thing you should know,” said Matt. “The driver of the car that hit Maxine was Tom from downstairs.”
Sophie let out a yelp. It startled everyone else. She coughed and tried to look untroubled.
“Are you alright, Sophie?” asked Jonathan. “Your face has gone bright red.”
“Ahmm, it’s just the shock of all of this. Maple Court used to be such a boring place but it’s becoming like a soap opera. You just don’t know what’s going to happen next.” Sophie was embarrassed by her reaction but she had it in her head that Tom could have been a romantic prospect, on the rebound from his wife’s leaving, and his Sir Galahad action of catching her when she stumbled was a signal that he just might be interested too - and those bedroom eyes, of course. She shook her head slightly to get back to reality.
“Some soap opera,” whispered Cass, the first words she had spoken since returning from the hospital. Matt squeezed her hand tighter.
“I didn’t mean to trivialise anything,” said Sophie, stroking Cass’s shoulder.
“What’s the news on Tom?” asked Jonathan. Sophie sat up straight.
“We think he’s been arrested or at least is helping the police,” answered Matt.
“Had he been drinking? Drugs? Did he fall asleep?” asked Jonathan. Sophie pinched her lips and gave her father the look of a pissed off headmistress.
“Dad,” she said, “we mustn’t jump to conclusions.”
“These questions have to be asked by someone at some point,” he responded.
“Shouldn’t someone be there?” asked Sophie. Matt and Cass looked at her.
“Yes, you’re right. Someone should be there,” said Matt. “Maybe we could draw up a rota so that one of us is with Max round the clock, even if it’s only to get the coffees for her parents.” Sophie looked confused.
“No, I meant someone should be with Tom.” Everyone in the room looked at Sophie, taking a few seconds to unravel the confusion of what she had just said.
“I mean, it’s a great idea about being there for Maxine too,” continued Sophie. “I just think that until we know more about Tom’s involvement, someone should be there for him. What do you think? I mean we don’t know how to get in touch with his wife, do we?”
“I suppose you’re right, Sophie. It’s wrong to condemn a person before we’ve heard all the facts.” Jonathan smiled at her. Cass jumped up suddenly.
“Well,” she said impatiently, “you can be all neighbourly if you want, but we’re concerned only with Max. Whatever Tom’s story is, we’ll deal with that when the time comes. Come on, Matt. Thanks for looking after us Mr Montague. See you Sophie. Don’t give our regards to Tom.” Sophie looked aghast. She was about to respond when her father sensed it and cut across her.
“Can I give you my phone number, if there are any developments or if there is anything I can do?” he asked. Cass and Matt nodded.
“Write it down on one of those newspaper cuttings, Sophie please,” instructed her father. Sophie went over to the pile and picked a cutting at random. On her way to the table drawer for a pen, she read the headline: “HOW TO MOVE YOUR KIDS OUT OF YOUR HOUSE AND INTO THEIR OWN LIVES”. She gave her father a withering glance. He shrugged his shoulders.
“Here’s the number,” she said, handing Matt the scrap of paper. After Matt and Cass had left the flat, Jonathan beckoned for Sophie to sit with him. They had a lot to discuss. He patted a sofa cushion and tried to project a sincere expression.
“Sorry, Pops,” she said, heading to her room, “I’ve got things to do.” Minutes later she emerged with her coat and bag.
“Where are you going? We need to talk.” Sophie opened the front door.
“You know I love you, but I’m off to the police station.” She puckered her lips, made a kissing smack noise and was gone. Jonathan watched the door close, sat back and raised his arms in a plea for some higher power to give him strength.
“What else can happen?” he asked no one in particular. He pressed the DVD remote control.
“This is Jim Rockford, at the tone leave your name and message, I’ll get back to you. Beeeppp.” James Garner’s voice was as comforting as a teddy bear to a child. Jonathan stretched out on the sofa.
“Well Jim,” he said, after a long, therapeutic yawn, “I think I might be your toughest case yet.”