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