CHAPTER NINE – BEN VISITS HIS FATHER’S FLAT – ALICE GOES TO TRING
As Ben and Sam were getting up on Monday morning to go to Sam’s father’s flat, Alice Hanson was already up drinking her first cup of tea, wondering if she should telephone Clive Baker to enquire about Ben. She tried to forget about it and get on with her breakfast, but it was no good. Eventually, she pushed aside her breakfast toast and folded shut her newspaper. She was irritated with herself. It was less than three weeks, she told herself, since she had taken the lost Labrador dog, Ben, to the police station in Exeter. She knew that Clive Baker had collected him because the police had told her so when she enquired. But what had happened since?
It was no good – her curiosity was getting the better of her. She knew that she had not imagined it all. Well, she really couldn’t have done, could she – she thought. But every now and again she had begun to doubt herself. After all, dogs can’t talk – but then, Ben had talked to her.
She just had to know. The question was how to find out without making a fool of herself. However, she looked at it, the answer was always the same. Her only contact with Ben was through Clive Baker at Canine Partners, so somehow without looking plain silly, she would have to ‘phone him and ask after the dog.
She hesitated time and time again. She half read the morning paper – hesitated again, then pulled herself together. “Come on,” she thought. “Come on – it is going 9.30 am, so Clive Baker will be in his office. The number is still on my mobile ‘phone – I’ll give him a call.”
Moments later the ‘phone rang on Clive Baker’s desk.
“It’s the old lady,” Clive’s secretary, Jean, told him. “The one who rang about Ben. Do you remember?”
Clive groaned. “Not her – the one who said the police would ring. What does she want?”
“Just to ask if Ben is alright I think,” said Jean. “Shall I put her through?”
Clive took a deep breath. “Alright – I can’t really avoid talking to her, can I?”
In a moment Miss Hanson was through to him.
“Good morning Mr Baker. I’m sorry to trouble you, but I am the lady who took Ben into the police station at Exeter and I was just wondering how he has been getting on?”
“Yes, I remember,” replied Clive. “You told me he was a remarkable dog – and that was certainly right. I’ve never known a dog learn so much so quickly as he has. He is an absolute star, isn’t he?”
Alice realised that either Ben had not told Clive his secret – or if he had, Clive was not giving much away. Hasn’t Ben told him, she wondered, or is he fishing to find out what I know? She ignored Clive’s question and asked one of her own instead.
“Have you found him a home yet?”
“Yes, he is looking after a boy of 14. He broke his back in a car crash which killed his father, so he needed a good friend. I think they are both getting on very well.”
All Alice Hanson’s training and experience in the murky world of spies and intelligence work came to her aid. In a few minutes she had wormed out of Clive Baker, the boy’s name, where he lived, how he had been injured and his father killed, and where he went to school, before he realised she had told him absolutely nothing in return.
from "Ben's Story" by Norman Tebbit
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