“When we were making our way down from Scotland, Rod got Bill talking about his family, and the things people call the twins came into the conversation.”
“Right then. Shitface and Dickhead it is. Do we know which is which?”
“Yes. Matt is Shitface and Cy is Dickhead.”
Patsy patted Anna’s hand.
“I dunno what’s to be ashamed of. Tuesday afternoon when they were really getting on my tits I called them a pair of ugly-minded little bastards. They didn’t like that, and came to heel quite quickly. So… Names do have power. Even over those two hellions. Love them though I do there are some days when I’d despair if it wasn’t for Jim’s Mam. She swears that Jim and Rod were worse, and that they had beaten up just about every kid in a ten-mile radius by the time they hit secondary school.”
“Now there’s a surprise,” Sam said mildly.
“And that’s not all,” Patsy carried on although Jim was trying to put his hand over her mouth. “Jim is one of six. All males. Two sets of twins. It took me a while, but I now understand why Ma Cracksman looks like she was carved out of granite. It’s the strain of motherhood – principally the strain of not laughing when the little shits do something as hilarious as it is forbidden. Which only happens about ten times a day.”
Jim looked at Sam for a long moment.
“It don’t bother you at all, does it? The prospect of filling your home with our offspring, who strike fear into the hearts of almost every middle-class person who sees them, holds no fear for you at all.”
He grinned, obviously much impressed.
“You wanna tell me why?”
“One: I don’t see you and Pats letting them actually burn the place down. Two: If you two are their parents they must have some redeeming features. Three: I might not be as big as you, Jim, but I ain’t exactly a seven-stone weakling, and I’m perfectly capable of handing down any justice I see fit. Also from what I have seen of your kids I like them quite a lot. I find myself deeply bored by well-behaved middle-class children, but your boys are fun.”
Anna nodded emphatically.
“They are fun. And if you treat them like people, not little kids, they tend to respond well. Though I do expect you will have to belt the twins.”
“If he do, he do,” Jim said philosophically. “He knows enough not to really hurt them, and it would do them no harm at all to meet someone who isn’t called Cracksman who won’t tolerate their idea of clever. Now. Pizza. It’s much too good to let it go cold.”
Later that afternoon a certain shiny red truck was progressing majestically along the M4.
“Why we going so slow uncle Rod?” It was William who plucked up the courage to ask.
“Many reasons. First because I don’t want a speeding ticket. Second because I’m teaching you lot patience. Mainly, however, because I want to talk to you.”
“About?” the twins spoke as one.
“As if you didn’t know. What did Gran say to you when she took you aside just before we left home?”
“Told us to bloody behave.”
“You taking any notice?”
Jamie spoke up.
“I am. I like Sam and so do the little men. But what the gruesome twosome here will chose to do…”
“That’s what I thought. Right you pair. Talk.”
For a moment the silence was all but deafening, then Matt spoke.
“We know the family owes him, and as far as we know he’s OK. But we don’t like the thought of his hands on Anna. And he’s middle class and seems a bit soft. So we reckon he needs winding up, and we’re gonna give it a go. It’s no good telling us not to.”
“Wasn’t going to, but I will pick the holes in your reasoning. Jamie, would you care to enlighten your brothers?”
“I doubt they will listen.”
“They will. There’s going to be a quiz afterwards,” Rod said flatly.
“Right. The basics. Samuel Henderson, orthopaedic surgeon. Bone doctor to you two ignorant eejits. Mends broken people. He’s also not so middle class as you might think. Plus. I did hear he kickboxes.”
“You sure bro?”
“That puts a bit of a different complexion on it,” his twin mused. “Wonder if he’s any good?”
He looked questioningly at his uncle.
“I’m not telling,” Rod rumbled. “But it’s a factor you two should keep in mind. If he belts you its liable to hurt. And there’s something else you all need to consider. You will remember last year when little Pete’s boy got knocked over by that hit and run driver. What you may not know is they thought the kid would lose a leg. But there was this surgeon – worked for five solid hours to piece him back together. He succeeded beyond little Pete’s wildest dreams, so much so that the kid is back playing football. I did hear that the surgeon is a genius, and a bloke what goes the extra mile to help his patients get well. And that surgeon is Sam.”
“Shit,” Matt said feelingly. “That means the family owes him again don’t it?”
“It does,” Jamie agreed feelingly, “I remember how mum and dad thought the kid would never walk again, and how surprised and thrilled they were when he got mended. I wonder if they know it was Sam.”
“Doubt it. I only know because I been seeing a nurse from where he works and he come up in the conversation. She said he’s the best there is, and mentioned little Pete’s kid as an example of how hard he works for his patients. I will tell your mum and dad as soon as I get a private opportunity. What you lot have to decide is how much the family honour means to you.”
Jamie spoke slowly.
“Means they got to behave don’t it?’
“As long as he is treating Anna right. Yes. Twins?”
“Can we swear?”
“Just this once if Charlie puts his fingers in his ears.”
“Okay. Fuck it. In fact. Double fuck it. We’ll behave. Mostly.”
Charlie took his fingers out of his ears.
“You never know, you might even get to like him.”
“Why’d we do that Chas?”
“Because me and Bill like him and we know him better than you.”
The twins snorted until Rod put out a huge hand to cuff their heads.
“Listen to your brother you pair of fecking eejits. He has a point.”
“He does,” Bill agreed. “Like usual.”
Cy frowned, then grinned.
“Wouldn’t that just be the way. Everybody worried about how we will behave towards Anna’s man, and we go and decide to like him.”
“Could even happen. Dad seems to like him. And he don’t like many people. What say we keep an open mind? And behave reasonable while we decide?”
“You do that,” Rod rumbled.