The po­lice were en route to the Ship af­ter the break-in . . .

The People's Friend - - Contents - by Glenda Young

RYEMOUTH po­lice sta­tion as­sured Jim that they’d send some­one to the Ship just as soon as they could. Jim re­turned his phone to his pocket and sur­veyed the dev­as­ta­tion.

The pub had never been bur­gled be­fore, and the sense of de­struc­tion and in­tru­sion into his world was too much to bear.

With the shock of the events that had greeted him that morn­ing, Jim had al­most for­got­ten about some­thing very pre­cious. It came to him with a start, and he yelled out at the top of his voice. “Buster!”

There was noth­ing. No scam­per­ing of the dog’s feet; no bark in re­ply to his name be­ing called. Jim’s heart pounded and he ran up the stairs.

“Sam! Get up, lad,” he shouted from the land­ing. “I need you down­stairs.”

Sam’s bed­room door opened and he stood, bleary-eyed, in his dress­ing-gown.

“What?” he said, rub­bing the sleep from his eyes.

“We’ve been bur­gled,” Jim told him. “The alarm wasn’t set, Sam. I asked you to set it last night be­fore I came up to bed.”

Sam stared blankly ahead.

“Get dressed,” Jim said. “Me and you are go­ing to sit down and have a talk be­fore the cop­pers ar­rive.”

“I set it, Un­cle Jim. I know I did be­cause it did those eight beeps to con­firm that it’s been set, just the way you showed me.”

Jim sighed heav­ily.

“If you’re telling the truth . . .”

“I am.” Sam nod­ded.

“. . . then it means the bur­glars cut the wires. We’ll have to tell the po­lice what we know. And you’re sure you locked up prop­erly?”

Sam nod­ded again, but Jim wasn’t con­vinced.

“You don’t be­lieve me, do you?” Sam asked, wounded.

He pointed to­wards the bar, splat­tered with white paint that had been flung over it in the raid the night be­fore.

“You think all this is my fault, don’t you?”

Jim shook his head. “No. It’s just that . . .” He paused.

Jim had al­ways been care­ful to phrase his words as sub­tly as he could with Sam. But to get his point across this time, he knew he had to be blunt.

“It’s just that you seem like you’re on an­other planet half the time. You never con­cen­trate on what’s go­ing on. Is it pos­si­ble you for­got to lock up last night? For­got to set the alarm?”

Sam hung his head, look­ing down at the paint-splat­tered floor.

“You’re just like him, aren’t you?” he said qui­etly. “Like who?” Jim asked. Sam lifted his gaze. “Roger.” The lad spat out the name.

“Your step­dad?” Jim asked, shocked.

“He never be­lieved a word I said, ei­ther. Al­ways go­ing on at me, he was. He’s the rea­son I didn’t want to move with Mum when she left Ryemouth.”

“But you told us it was be­cause you didn’t want to change col­lege,” Jim said, con­fused.

“I didn’t want to up­set Mum,” Sam cried. “But it was all to do with Roger. He was al­ways on my case.

“I de­cided the best thing to do was to stay out of his way. Then I moved in here with you and I car­ried on that way, keep­ing my head down, keep­ing quiet.”

Jim blew air out of his mouth. This was a lot to take in on a morn­ing when he al­ready had so much on his mind.

“Come here,” he said, pulling his nephew to­wards him. He wrapped his arms around Sam in a bear hug.

“We’ll talk later. The po­lice should be here soon and I’ve got to find Buster.

“He must have got out when the bur­glars came in, al­though I can’t think why he didn’t bark. He al­ways barks at strange noises.”

“Buster’s not miss­ing,” Sam said, smil­ing. “He fol­lowed me up­stairs last night and slept un­der my bed. He’s still there.

“What are you go­ing to do?” Sam added. “About the pub?”

Jim looked around. “I haven’t thought that far ahead. All I know is that we’ll have to close for a few days to get it cleaned up. What a mess, eh?”

“I could . . . I mean, we could . . .” Sam be­gan.

Jim raised his eye­brows, wait­ing to hear what was on his nephew’s mind.

“What I mean is that I’ve got some ideas. If we’re go­ing to re­dec­o­rate, why not make a few changes?”

Jim’s eye­brows rose fur­ther. Change was some­thing he wasn’t par­tic­u­larly fond of.

“For a start, we need to pro­vide more in­ter­est­ing snacks than pies and sand­wiches. And I could set the pub up on so­cial me­dia, de­sign a web­site, get the word out on­line.

“Now we’ve got the darts team started, we could have more ac­tiv­i­ties.

“And we need to get Wi-fi in­stalled so cus­tomers can use their phones.”

As the lad’s en­thu­si­asm grew, Jim knew his words made sense, how­ever un­com­fort­able it was for him to hear them. For too long he had let the Ship float aim­lessly, not know­ing how, or in which di­rec­tion, to suc­cess­fully steer the pub into the fu­ture.

“I’ve got more ideas, too,” Sam said.

Jim leaned over to his nephew.

“OK, Cap­tain. I’m all ears. Tell me more.”

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