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The 1250
by Harry Downey




It was a Tuesday and it was Ian’s birthday. Like any other day in his carefully planned life it began at 7.45 when the alarm went off and his elderly Teasmade hissed into action. The radio - preset for Radio 4 - came to life and another day began. Predictable, everything in its own accustomed place, at a time of his choosing, his life was routine, dull, uneventful - just as he liked it. Then he opened his laptop, clicked on the BBC website and everything changed.


There it was in the snippets among the breaking news. ‘Human bones found in WW2 shelter.’ The couple of lines that followed were brief, but enough. ‘Merseyside Police are investigating the discovery of human bones found in a wartime air-raid shelter during its demolition. A forensic examination will take place this morning.’


He sat back and reread the item. Like so many others used to spending time alone Ian talked to himself.


‘OK. Let’s assume for a moment that they’ve found her. After all, there can’t be that many old shelters still left up there by now, and a second one with a body in it – No way. It’s got to be the same one. There might be another body from years ago – maybe a man – not Amy. No, that’s just too unlikely. If there’s a body – it must be her.’ He tried to work out what would happen next.


‘First, they’d have to identify her. If they can’t, then I’m OK. If they do, then they’d dig out their files, see my name, track me down and then the questions would start all over again. Be sensible, Ian. Do nothing. Just keep an eye on the news updates and - who knows? Just wait and see.’ He looked at his watch – it was 10.15 - and lit the first cigarette of the three he allowed himself each day.


a line, (a short blue one)


Amy, his first real girlfriend, in a relationship so innocent, so old fashioned almost, that today’s youngsters wouldn’t understand. They’d been together for about six months when Ian was called up for National Service. They put him in the RAF for his two years, but with a UK posting the two carried on seeing each other regularly. Everything seemed fine between them – perhaps they were even ‘in love’ if they’d thought about it. That is as far as a couple of teenagers back in the ‘fifties understood what the words really meant.


a line, (a short blue one)


When Amy’s mother reported her missing all those years ago, he’d been the first to be questioned. As far as the police knew Ian was the last person to have seen her, so that’s where they started. Fair enough – he’d have done the same in their place.


His answers to all the questions were simple enough and never changed. ‘Yes, he had been with Amy that evening, and the last he had seen of her was as he left her on the corner of the main road within sight of her front door. This was what they always did and this time was no different. No, he hadn’t actually seen Amy go into the house as a No 8 trolley ‘bus was coming and he had run to catch it.’ He stuck to his story, so without more to go on they couldn’t do anything other than release him. They continued the search but Amy was never seen again.


a line, (a short blue one)


He didn’t clearly recall what the first quarrel had been about. Some silly something happened, and they’d had a tiff that deepened into an argument. He’d gone back to camp as usual on the Sunday thinking they’d finished. A couple of days later he’d received a letter and didn’t recognise the handwriting. He remembered sitting on his bed in the hut and opening it. Amy’s mother, a woman he’d never met, had written to him. She’d told him how upset Amy was, and asking if there was anything he could or would do to get the two of them together again. As Ian was already missing Amy more than he’d expected to, he wangled a 48-hour pass, they met, made up, and carried on as if nothing had ever gone wrong. A couple of weeks later, they’d been having a long chat, something was said that Ian didn’t like, he’d picked up a loose half-brick, hit Amy, knocked her to the ground, then beat her to death. He covered her as thoroughly as he could with rubble and went home.


That was in 1952. Back then there were still air raid shelters left from the war. The one he’d hidden Amy in was on a patch of scrubland at the edge of a steep bank near a stream. its position was probably why, sixty years later, it still hadn’t been knocked down.       


a line, (a short blue one)


Now that he was nearly 80 would they accept him as an old man who was going gaga? Doubtful. Too many people see him around and know he’s not. And as for suddenly developing amnesia or something – the medics wouldn’t wear that. No, it’s just a matter of sitting tight, waiting and hoping. So long as they didn’t find the 1250.


Any serving member of the Royal Air Force has a 1250 identity card. It is – or certainly was back then – blue, about the same size as a credit card, with a photograph of the individual and his ID details. It was a chargeable offence not to have one if asked to produce it. Ian’s 1250 went missing on the evening he killed Amy. It would have been the act of an idiot to go back to the shelter and look for it so he simply reported it missing when he went back to camp after the weekend. He wasn’t put on a charge but had a severe reprimand from the C.O. It also cost him a 48-hour pass.


a line, (a short blue one)


If they did come looking, they shouldn’t have any trouble finding him. He was still Ian Maynard, now living in Yeovil, but all of that was above board and on record. He hadn’t behaved like a man with a secret to hide. Just that one house move when he went to work for Westland Helicopters and he and Elaine had moved south. That was forty odd years back. He’d done all the correct things in the correct way – mortgage (long paid off by now) – no fiddling of his taxes, proper council tax payments – the lot. He’d been particularly careful when Elaine went, making sure about tax allowances and things. Just keep a low profile and merge with the crowd had been his policy.


a line, (a short blue one)


As Elaine came into his thoughts he glanced across his lawn –he might give it another cut later today – and confirmed that everything was as it should be. Especially where it had to be, in the corner where the compost heap was. Bit of an eyesore, but an essential one. It did its job.  A biggish garden, lawns back and front, flower beds - just too much for a man who didn’t actually like gardening. And what did a man of 79 living alone need a three-bedroom detached for anyway? He didn’t, of course, but how could he move with that compost corner as it is?


a line, (a short blue one)


Paddy’s “Any jobs you want doing, Sir?” had been like manna from Heaven to Ian. With the Fletcher’s from next door away on the first day of their caravan holiday the timing couldn’t have been better. The hole was dug that morning exactly as Ian stipulated and he didn’t quibble over the payment the man asked for. Just some discreet tidying up and sorting later after dark and the job was done. Another day or two later the smell could have been a real problem.


Elaine. Yes, it could get really difficult if the police started asking questions about her. To his neighbours and acquaintances Ian was the innocent party – a man whose wife had chosen to walk out of his life for good – leaving no address, nothing. Ian’s story was that he now assumed there was another man in it somewhere but he hadn’t known at the time. The same comment was made several times when he told his story: ‘Well, Ian, it’s probably a blessing there are no children involved.’ It might have been accepted locally, but that old bat of her sister up in Edinburgh had never believed it.  Still, she must be turned 90 by now, so with a bit of luck she might have popped her clogs. – or, at least, gone gaga. Ian glanced again at the compost corner. No, somebody finding Amy was enough for now. The last thing he needed was for somebody to start digging around into the matter of where his wife had been for the last thirty years.



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