Rumours Gather Pace

3 March (cont)

I call Derek that afternoon about the ‘pamphlet’.

He is quite circumspect on the phone but, in common with everyone I have spoken to in New Mills, friendly and approachable.

Derek tells me he has read the pamphlet in question and informs me it is “practically libellous”. I ask if he will elaborate but he is not keen to do so. He tells me that it is libellous, not apropos Fred but someone else. I ask if that someone else is a woman. He says yes but does not know her name (or isn’t keen to repeat it to me).

I take it he is referring to Janet and that whoever wrote the pamphlet is accusing Janet of something pretty awful.  “Yes,” confirms Derek and then says that ‘wills and money’ were mentioned.

I ask him if he knows who wrote it. He pauses and shouts the question out to his wife. Then he asks if I know New Mills.

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“Yes, I’ve been there,” I say.
“Then you might know Binns’ newsagents, next to the chemist.”

I don’t unfortunately, but I say yes since there is only one main street in the village and I’m sure I could find it if I had to.

“Well, Mr Binns used to own the newsagents and it was his wife’s mother who wrote and distributed the pamphlet.”

I take this in and then ask who she was. He calls again to his wife and I hear her say that the author is now dead but she was in fact, Fred’s sister. (I later discover that Mags, Fred’s 93-year-old sister, is very much alive.)

I also gather from Derek that the rumour going round the village was that Janet had killed Fred. I think about this for a moment, wondering how on earth Janet has lived with this rumour for over 30 years but then, aware that I shouldn’t assume anything, I ask Derek if he could tell me when the pamphlet was written.

“Oh, just a couple of years ago,” he says, which I find quite shocking.

“Yes,” he adds, picking up on my surprise. “Bad feelings have been festering for years.”

I then ask him – with fingers crossed – if he still has his copy.

He says he may have lent it out to a friend but is pretty sure he can get hold of one for me.

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