Decamot of the month

28 Feb 2019-What Tangled Webs We Weave

Decamot inspired by the following items: winkle picker, house, weeping willow, mobile phone, Nuclear Reactor, bicycle, The Cairngorms, lighthouse, teddy bear, carpenter

Sue Parkinson picked up the post card from her front door mat and glanced at the picture of Smeaton lighthouse in Plymouth before turning it over to read. Her house on St Margaret’s Crescent was one of the first on Roy Barnes regular round; it was a splendid four-bedroom cottage with a distinctive weeping willow dominating the rear garden which overlooked an expanse of open farm land.

Roy the Post, as he was universally known, had lived and worked in Leiston for over 40 years. He was a regular sight riding his standard issue red GPO bicycle from the Royal Mail sorting offices on Sizewell Road. He would rarely alter his route which took him up Park Hill and on to Waterloo Avenue before taking a right turn into the western end of St Margaret’s Crescent. Occasionally, his return journey would take him via William Hill’s on the High Street to place a bet, but most shop keepers en route would regularly wave greetings as he pedalled along.

It was his slavish adherence to fifties fashion, complete with drain pipe trousers and winkle pickers, incongruous even by Suffolk countryside standards, which made him stand out but added to his natural charm. He had enjoyed a modestly successful career as a striker for Leiston FC. He was a member of the team which achieved local immortality by reaching the first-round proper of the FA Cup in 2008/2009 when 1250 fans crammed into Victory Road to force a replay against Fleetwood Town of the Conference which was subsequently lost.

So, it was almost inevitable that he should be one of the first people the police interviewed when it emerged that someone was attempting to frighten a group of local inhabitants by sending anonymous messages through the post.

“YOU HAVE BEEN RUMBLED YOU HYPOCRIT” was the note scrawled on the back of the postcard.

Sue Parkinson scratched her head, turning it over again to see if the post mark gave any clues as to its origin. It appeared to have been posted at Grantown On Spey in the Cairngorms. She decided to put it to one side to show her husband James when he returned from work in the evening. He was a nuclear physicist based at Sizewell. Right now, her priority was getting their reluctant rebellious daughter Fiona to school on time.

In three other households on Roy Barnes round, similar post cards were delivered with the same note on the reverse. One of them was to Barry Sissons who grabbed it from the post box in his porch together with a clutch of utility bills before leaping into his van.

He was the go-to carpenter of Leiston whose order book was always full to overflowing. He was running late and had to stock up at Jewson’s on the Abbey Road before heading out to the village of Sizewell where he was in the process of fitting out a new house for Jack Burkett, a local builder.

Barry had always admired Jack Burkett’s business nous. He knew the house would sell for a premium price, despite being on the coast with a clear view of the white dome of the Sizewell B nuclear power station from the master bedroom. He was just grateful that his old school chum always turned to him for the final fittings.

Jack Burkett had inherited Burkett Builders from his father who had died suddenly from pancreatic cancer at the age of 52. Jack Burkett, like his father before him, knew that people were used to living within sight of a nuclear reactor and business was booming. Not really surprising as Sizewell employed well over 500 people, many of them highly skilled engineers and scientists; all of them needing decent middle-class housing. They even had a Visitor Centre where Jackie Sissons worked.

Barry Sissons first read his post card over a coffee and bacon sandwich at his favourite café, The Bake ‘N Butty on King George Avenue. He was mildly curious to see it was addressed to his wife Jackie but why would anybody send a picture of Smeaton lighthouse to her with such a bizarre message? He popped it on the dashboard of his van to show her later in the day although he was tempted to put it in the nearest waste paper bin thinking it was probably just junk mail.

Penny Matthews picked up her post card and popped it into her bag without giving it a second glance. She had to be at Alde Valley Academy where she taught Computer Science by 8.00 pm. She had agreed to cover for a colleague who would normally have overseen the breakfast club at that time but who had called the previous evening for help.

“I completely forgot that Freddie has to be in Aldeburgh for an audition in the morning – could you sit in for me at the BC?”

Freddie was Josie Flanagan’s 8-year-old son who was a gifted violinist

“Not a problem Josie” she had replied “My first lesson isn’t until 10.30 – leave it to me – I will square it with AP for you”

“You are an angel Penny. You seem to be the only one who can get AP to moderate his views these days”

“Think nothing of it, Josie; believe me, AP’s bark is worse than his bite”

In truth Penny Matthews had found AP unusually grumpy when she had called him at 9.00 pm. She had clearly caught him off guard.

“Okay” he had said “But make sure that that Fiona Parkinson girl turns up on time; preferably minus one or two of those ridiculous studs she insists on pushing through her nose and tongue. Some semblance of school uniform would also help her cause”

Fiona Parkinson was actually Penny Matthews brightest pupil by a country mile but lacked the usual social graces and was never happiest than when glued to a computer screen. She dressed in typical punk attire; all studs and chains on black PVC, topped off with spiky green hair.

AP was Andrew Palmer, the Head Master. He had been parachuted in by Bright Side Trust to turn around the school which had been failing. In under eighteen months he had transformed Alde Valley Academy. He was a dynamic disciplinarian with a fearsome reputation for punctuality. He made the wearing of school uniform mandatory and banned the use of mobile phones in the school.

Not all of the teachers approved of his style, but there was no denying the transformation he had brought about. For the first time in years, applications for admissions from new parents were up 25%.

Andrew Palmer lived in a modern five bedroom detached house on the outskirts of Saxmundham with his wife Sonia who had her own hairdressing salon on the market square. Their only son Daniel attended Ipswich High School in Woolverstone, a fee-paying boarding school. This did not endear his father to those teachers at AVA who were active members of the NUT.

AP had banned union literature from the staff common room, replacing it with a statement of the core values of Alde Valley Academy.

AP had also picked up a lighthouse post card earlier and wondered what it all meant, if anything; but he was definitely not his usual ebullient self when he got into his new BMW 5 series for the 20-minute journey from Saxmundham to Leiston.

A week later, another round of post cards arrived with another cryptic message which read


Jackie Sissons decided that two mysterious postcards addressed to her was worth reporting to the police, so she called in to the Police station on Kings Road which was sandwiched between an Asian run supermarket and a launderette.

The front desk was manned by a uniformed officer who smiled as she approached

“Yes, ma’am what can I do for you?”

“Well” she began hesitantly “My name is Jackie Sissons – I live at Waterloo Mews; I feel a bit foolish now that I am here, but I have received two postcards in the last couple of weeks which are a bit worrying – take a look” She handed them over to the officer.

“Thank you” he said, “By the way Jackie, are you related to the chippy by any chance?”

“That’s right – I’m his wife but Barry would kill me if he thought I was bothering you with trivia when you have real crimes to investigate”

“Do you recognise the handwriting?” he said, waving aside her reservations.

“No” replied Jackie. “And what’s more I have never been to Plymouth or to the Cairngorms or know anybody who is there now.”

Detective Sergeant Dennis Sullivan – known to his mates DSDS or DS Squared – held the two cards up to the light, turned them over a couple of times and looked thoughtful.

There were at least 10 potential non-urgent crimes that members of the public were encouraged to report but it was difficult to see which category this one fitted into; the closest match might be a potential hate crime but that would involve a mountain of paperwork, so he opted for a more pragmatic approach.

“If you could let me have a note of your name and address plus a contact number and leave these cards with me” he said “I will make a few enquiries at the sorting office and see if I can throw any light on it. Should you receive any more please feel free to call me”

DS Sullivan smiled at Jackie Sissons who was genuinely relieved to have off loaded the problem.

“Here are my details Sergeant” she said, handing over a card “Thank you for taking me seriously. I work at the Sizewell Visitor Reception Centre but do use my mobile if you turn up something of interest”

“Will do” replied DS Sullivan “And don’t hesitate to come back again if you receive another post card. Give my regards to Barry – he did a great job on my conservatory!”


That afternoon Dennis Sullivan met Roy Barnes for a coffee at the Bake ‘N Butty.

“Long time no speak, Dennis” said Roy cheerfully “Don’t tell me, you’ve come to arrest me for not paying my TV license!”

“If only life were that simple” replied Sullivan taking a seat and handing over the two post cards. “Do you happen to remember delivering these?”

Roy Barnes took a look and smiled.

“Well, as a matter of fact I do although I wouldn’t want you to think I make a habit of reading my customers’ intimate secrets. It is rare to see the same card chosen for several households unless it is some sort of mass mailing.”

“Were there others then, apart from Jackie Sissons?”

Roy thought for a moment and said “I might struggle to remember which actual households to be honest, but I am pretty certain I delivered to more than one – possibly as many as three. Pictures of Smeaton lighthouse aren’t exactly freely available in local Leiston shops are they?”

“About as rare as a Leiston FC victory these days” said Sullivan “Could do with you back leading the line again Roy!”

“No chance!” laughed Roy “Mind you, I wouldn’t say no to half what they are paid these days. Just think what my hero Frank Worthington would be worth today”

“True Roy.… I did hear he has succumbed to Alzheimer’s these days, but he was the ultimate playboy footballer. Elvis was his hero, you know.”

“Tell me something I don’t know!” laughed Roy looking down at his shoes before shouting “Parkinson’s!”

“Sorry Roy I’m sure the paper said Alzheimer’s”

“No No, I remember delivering one of the post cards to the Parkinsons on St Margaret’s Crescent! He is scientist at Sizewell – their kid goes to Alde Valley Academy”

“Ok Roy that’s great – I will follow up when I get a spare moment, although its hard to see what I’m investigating until a crime is either threatened or takes place – thanks for your help”

A third card in the series arrived five days later stating



The red phone rang on DS Sullivan’s desk which he immediately picked up.

“Sizewell security here - we are on level 1 alert – please follow standing orders. An unidentified object has appeared on the roof of the dome overnight. It is probably nothing but please activate stage one of standing orders. Cordon off entrance roads to the plant and notify potential holding stations. This is not a trial run.”

DS Sullivan took out his emergency contact numbers and made two calls – one to police traffic control and one to Alde Valley Academy, one of the holding stations. Within minutes twenty police cars had arrived in the vicinity of the Sizewell B plant setting up the cordon through which only authorised persons would be allowed. An orderly evacuation of non-essential staff would follow as soon as security staff at Sizewell had assessed the situation.

“Mr Andrew Palmer?” said DS Sullivan


“Leiston Constabulary here – I’m DS Sullivan. We have a level 1 alert at Sizewell – details are not yet known but, in accordance with standing orders, keep to your timetable but hold students on the premises until we give you the all clear to allow them home”

Andrew Palmer knew the procedures well and called a meeting of his senior team to tell them not to panic but to be aware that they may have to keep students in the school beyond normal times. Most were familiar with these drills which had been in force since the famous Greenpeace incident in 2003 when an activist climbed on the roof of the dome.

BBC Radio Suffolk, who had reported on the previous day that 5 fire engines had been sent to recover a cat lodged in a tree, ran a brief item explaining that police had cordoned off the approaches to Sizewell B as a precaution while security services investigated a mysterious object which had appeared on the roof of the dome overnight.

The reporter added whilst trying to stifle a giggle “unconfirmed sources say it looks like a teddy bear”

Jackie Sissons heard the bulletin but was not amused. She immediately called DS Sullivan with the news of her latest post card delivery. Sullivan, to his credit, did not try to play down the potential seriousness of the situation.

“Thanks for your call, Jackie. I am currently dealing with the security team at Sizewell so I will pass the information on immediately. Please keep your mobile open as I may need to call you in for a consultation. OK?”

“OK” she replied nervously “But there is precious little I can contribute that I haven’t told you already”

DS Sullivan picked up his red phone and dialled the Operational Policing Unit at Sizewell. It was answered instantly.

“Look” he said “This may seem ridiculous but if the object is confirmed as a Teddy Bear please don’t touch it under any circumstances. Alert the bomb squad and send a member of the counter-terrorism unit to interview four people here as soon as possible.”

DS Sullivan gave a brief summary of the post cards story to his colleague the other end

“We’ve already taken a picture of the object from a helicopter and, yes, it appears to be a Teddy Bear, but we are at a loss to see how it got there. I will do as you suggest and send Ralph Baxter over to interview your card holders. Can you get them together within the hour? This might all be a Greenpeace hoax, but we can’t afford to take any chances”

Roy the Post had called Sullivan that morning to say he had spotted another postcard run and had the names of the three households to whom he had delivered them. Sullivan organised colleagues to pickup Sue Parkinson, Jackie Sissons and Penny Matthews.

He then made another call to Alde Valley Academy

“Andrew Palmer? It’s DS Sullivan here with an update”

“Palmer speaking. Are we off level 1?”

“No not yet but I wanted to fill you in so that you can decide what to tell staff if anything following the report on BBC Radio Suffolk this morning” “Sorry sergeant, I tend to give local radio a miss, what did they say?”

“That the object on the roof of the Dome might be a Teddy Bear”

There was a silence at the Academy end … which DS Sullivan was the first to break …

“Are you still there, Mr Palmer?”

“Yes … yes … yes … I’m sorry officer … let me explain … I have just received a post card saying that there is a bomb in the Teddy Bear …”

Sullivan quickly told Palmer about the others and he immediately agreed to join the meeting telling his deputy to hold the fort saying he would be back within the hour with an update.


The meeting room at Leiston Police Station was too small to accommodate the group involved, so they found themselves instead, in a large airy room at the Quaker Meeting House on the corner of Main Street and Park Hill. The main key holder had quickly organised refreshments and told DS Sullivan that they would not be disturbed.

It was DS Sullivan who got the meeting underway

“Many thanks for coming in at such short notice for what might turn out to be a false alarm, but we have a duty to take all threats involving Sizewell seriously as you can imagine. In a moment I will invite Colonel Ralph Baxter to take over but let me introduce each of you to each other, although some of you must know each other anyway.

DS Sullivan then went around the room naming in turn Sue Parkinson, Jackie Sissons, Penny Matthews, Andrew Palmer and lastly, Roy Barnes the postman.

Colonel Ralph Baxter then took over by stressing that his counter-terrorism unit investigated more hoaxes than actual threats every week so they mustn’t be unduly alarmed. On the other hand, it was in everybody’s interest to get to the bottom of the post cards as quickly as possible.

There was general nodding of approval around the room.

“If I appear to be a little brusque at times, please forgive me, but let me start with an obvious question. Does any one of you have any idea who might be sending these cards?”

There was a silence as they all looked at each other sheepishly but all ended up shaking their heads. They clearly had no answer. Roy the Post was the only one to say anything

“Please don’t think I am in the habit of reading your postcards – I was alerted to them by D.S. Sullivan - but it seems odd that Plymouth postcards should be sent from the Cairngorms”

They all quickly confirmed they knew no one currently in either place.

Colonel Ralph Baxter picked up the questioning

“How many of you have a connection to Sizewell?”

“I do” said Sue Parkinson immediately putting up her hand “My husband James is a scientist working for EDF Energy – he is head of research – in fact he should be there right now”

Jackie Sissons looking anxiously around but quickly volunteered her situation

“I work in the Visitor Reception Centre – today is my day off – two of us effectively job share but I am due in tomorrow”

Penny Matthews said that she often organised educational visits for her students to Sizewell but did not have any direct connection. In that capacity she had met Jackie Sissons once before. Jackie nodded her head in agreement.

Colonel Ralph Baxter took up the point … “Have you all met each other before today?”

Andrew Palmer seized the initiative …..

“I have met Sue Parkinson before – her daughter Fiona is a student at AVA. Penny Matthews is one of my teaching staff, and a very conscientious one if I may say without embarrassing her. I believe Jackie’s husband is Barry Sissons who I have met – he did some work for me on my house in Saxmundham as well as at the school – but I don’t think I have had the pleasure of meeting Jackie before”

Penny Matthews and Jackie Sissons both blushed at mention of their names.

The awkward mood that followed was interrupted by a knock on the door. A police officer clad in motor cycle gear presented a brown folder to Colonel Baxter. It contained several hi resolution images of the object on the roof of the dome, taken from different angles.

Colonel Baxter handed copies around the group.

“It’s a long shot I know, but do any of you recognise the Teddy Bear in this picture? I know it’s unlikely. Frankly, I wouldn’t know one bear from another. All toy bears look the same to me!”

They all peered intently at the images in front of them trying all sorts of angles to get a better look.

It was Andrew Palmer who broke the silence ….

“Oh my God!” he said, the colour draining from his face. “Could I have a glass of water please?” Penny Matthews leapt to her feet and filled a glass for him, concern etched on her youthful face.

Colonel Baxter again took control of the situation knowing from experience that he was on the brink of a breakthrough. The next ten minutes were crucial.

“Take your time Andrew. Tell me what concerns you, but don’t rush. Collect your thoughts together and present them in a calm logical order”

Taking a sip of water, Andrew Palmer nodded appreciatively and quietly explained what had caused his outburst

“Unless I am much mistaken,” he said “that bear is made of gold mohair. It is an antique British Chad Valley early pre-button and pre-label design teddy bear, dating from 1915-1923. It has been in Sonia’s family for years. It is about 24 inches high and well worn as you can imagine. The last time I saw it was at the weekend, sitting on a shelf in our son Daniel’s bedroom.”

“If you are right Andrew, how do you think it got there?”

“I’ve absolutely no idea” he replied. “Daniel is a boarder at Ipswich and went back yesterday after half term. I haven’t seen him to speak to for some time, AVA takes up all my time and Sonia has her own business in Saxmundham.”

“Do you have any other children Andrew?”

“No, we don’t” he replied shaking his head “Daniel is Sonia’s pride and joy”

At that moment the air was briefly filled by the sound of DS Sullivan’s mobile ring tone which he held to his ear.

“OK thanks!” he said, holding his hand over the phone, “I will put Colonel Baxter on”

“Baxter!” he said listening intently whilst the caller put him in the picture.

“OK I will be there in 10 minutes. Usual procedure, keep him talking, don’t threaten him unless others are in immediate danger”

Baxter turned to the group, clearly not wanting to cause unnecessary alarm.

“That was Sizewell, they think they may have cornered a suspect on the third floor. They have an armed response unit in place. He can’t escape but they are conducting a holding operation which is standard procedure in these circumstances. Could I ask you to wait here with DS Sullivan for the time being – thank you for your cooperation thus far”

Andrew Palmer, who had recovered his composure, made a heartfelt request.

“Let me come with you Colonel. I promise not to interfere but if this has anything to do with my family, I might be an additional resource for you”

“Agreed!” said Colonel Baxter. Within minutes they were on their way in a high-powered Vauxhall Astra police car, blue lights flashing, with a motorcycle outrider to navigate potential hold ups en route.


The room in which the suspect has holed up was part of the research departments suite of facilities but was used for storing equipment, none of which was really secret or dangerous, including a row of filing cabinets. A security guard had heard a noise which he couldn’t account for and challenged the person inside the room to identify himself. He had heard the door being locked from the inside and decided to call one of his colleagues for back up when the general alert had gone out with the discovery of the Teddy Bear on the roof of the Dome.

When Colonel Baxter arrived, there were five armed officers from his counter terrorism group with guns trained on the door. They were satisfied that the only way out was through the door. Although there was a window to the outside, they knew it would be impossible to climb up and exit from there. However, as an extra precaution, Baxter had a marksman outside with a gun trained on the window from the ground, some 150 feet below.

Colonel Baxter leaned against the wall and knocked on the door using a long-handled broom and announced his presence.

“This is Colonel Ralph Baxter. I am head of counter terrorism for the Suffolk constabulary. I have six colleagues with high velocity rifles trained on the door and another outside covering the window. There is no way out for you, but I am here to listen to you. To understand why you put a Teddy Bear on the roof of the Dome. I don’t care how long it takes but please let me know why you did it? And how? It has us all perplexed this side of the door!”

After a two-minute silence Baxter tried again.

“It was you who put the antique British Chad Valley Teddy Bear up there wasn’t it? It must have taken a fantastic amount of planning. It is clear that you are a very bright individual. To have circumnavigated the security alarms here is nigh on impossible. How did you do that? Did you have inside help? Am I missing something obvious? It wouldn’t be the first time frankly.

“I didn’t need inside help just nerve and imagination” came the voice from within which was beginning to crack. “How did you know it was an antique British Chad Valley bear?”

Colonel Baxter looked up to the heavens, crossed his fingers, indicated to Andrew Palmer that he should stay absolutely silent, and said, firmly but cautiously, kindly.

“Your Dad told me”

There was another agonising three minutes of silence until the door opened and Daniel Palmer emerged with his hands held up, his face streaming with tears.

Colonel Baxter slid in behind him, satisfied himself that he was unarmed and presented no danger. He nodded to his men to lower their weapons, where upon Daniel rushed to his father who embraced him for the first time in two years.

Both were sobbing and said almost the same words at the same time.

“I’m so sorry I have failed you. It won’t happen again”


Andrew and Sonia Palmer sat in the interview room at Leiston police station with their son Daniel. DS Sullivan and Colonel Baxter sat opposite them and switched on the recording equipment to indicate that this was a formal interrogation. Outside meanwhile, the security alert had been lifted and events returned to normal, although BBC Radio Suffolk had a reporter sniffing around the town looking for follow up material.

Colonel Baxter led the questioning.

“Daniel” he said quietly “There are a number of offences I could charge you with ranging from wasting police time, causing a public nuisance, breaking and entering government property, sending threatening literature through the post designed to stir up racial hatred etc. etc. any one of which could result in a minimal custodial order or community service or a fine; but I am more interested in National Security which, if it is shown that you have crossed the line and put the country at risk, it might result in a long prison sentence for you and your co-conspirators. Do you understand the severity of your situation?”

Colonel Baxter’s tone had shifted from friendly understanding to aggressive accusative in a single sentence which was too much for Sonia Baxter.

“You are surely not suggesting my Daniel is a threat to national security! This was a prank by a teenager who let his imagination get the better of him. Come on Colonel Baxter, boys will be boys!”

Colonel Baxter’s response was short and to the point.

“Daniel has said he had no inside help. If this is true, he could not have been achieved what he did without considerable computer expertise, Mrs Palmer. I suggest we ask Daniel to answer the question. With the best will in the world, I do not believe IT is his speciality”

Andrew Palmer overcame an urge to guffaw but kept his thoughts to himself. Instead he encouraged his son to unburden himself.

“Son just tell us the truth in your own words in your own time. You have nothing to fear from me or your mother believe me”

Daniel took a deep breath and began at the beginning …

“You never seemed interested in me – either of you – Mum building her hairdressing business, Dad turning around Alde Valley Academy to great acclaim – me packed off to boarding school …. I stumbled across a friend on Facebook who was at AVA and we exchanged some secrets via messenger. She wasn’t happy with you Dad. I hatched a plan which I thought might cause a few ripples. She told me how to clone your SIM card which I did when you were in the shower one day. I sent it to her, and she hacked into Vodafone’s system and sent me the names and addresses of all the contacts you had sent messages to over the last two years. I picked a few with local connections and send the post cards to them not expecting a response one way or the other.”

“Tell me about Sizewell and the Teddy Bear” said Colonel Baxter reverting to his friendly confessional tone.

Daniel laughed out loud and went on with obvious admiration for his anonymous Facebook friend ….

“I floated the idea to her, but I wasn’t sure how to execute it. She said that she could probably hack into the Sizewell security shield and disable it for an hour without anybody noticing, which is what she did. I used a drone to drop the Teddy Bear on the roof undetected. I was keen to be inside when the balloon went up, but it took you lot 24 hours longer to discover it, so I had no choice but to hide. My plan was to leave when you organised an evacuation of the building”

Sonia Palmer could not believe what her son was saying, she was so ashamed. Andrew Palmer was full of admiration but kept his thoughts to himself. He had never given his son any credit for creative thought. He knew he wasn’t the sharpest knife in the draw, which is why he had insisted on sending him to boarding school in the first place.

Colonel Baxter took up the narrative again by reminding them all why they were there.

“I am grateful to you Daniel for your explanation, but I must to remind you that there has been a serious breach of National Security here and you must tell me the name of your Facebook friend who helped you. I cannot give you any guarantees, but she has definitely committed a serious cyber-crime for which the penalty could be a lengthy prison sentence. My sense tells me that she has not been acting with malice aforethought or ill intent but that will be for others to decide.”

With a heavy heart and fresh tears in his eyes, Daniel Palmer whispered the name of Fiona Parkinson at which point Andrew Palmer also fought back the tears.


BBC Radio Suffolk covered the story next morning with lurid headlines about AP’s disgrace at his son’s behaviour amid speculation as to the future leadership of Aide Valley Academy.

Jack Burkett had a flood of enquiries for his new house with a view of the Dome from the master bedroom. It would seem that any publicity was good publicity when it came to property sales.

Roy Barnes set off from the sorting office with a fresh load of mail to deliver hoping it would not contain post cards of any description. He had spotted a horse running in the 3 o’clock at Wincanton called My Teddy Bear and planned to stop at William Hill’s for a modest investment

Jackie Sissons called James Parkinson on his mobile and both agreed that they should stop seeing each other for the time being. They had had a narrow escape.