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It was around half-past one when Lizzie, about to pick up her shawl for the journey back to the hospital, glanced out of the cottage window, then stopped and said, ‘Here’s John George; he must have heard onlinecasinoitaliani.com.’

By the time John George reached the door she had opened it and, looking at his white drawn face, said quietly, ‘Come in, lad. Come in.’

He came in. He stood in the middle of the room looking from one to the other; then as he was about to speak Ruth said softly, ‘You’ve heard then, John George?’ and he repeated ‘Heard?’

‘Aye, about Rory.’

‘Rory? I . . . I came up to find him.’

‘You don’t know then?’

He turned to Lizzie. ‘Know what, Lizzie? What . . . what’s happened him?’ He shook his head, then asked again. ‘What’s happened him?’

‘Oh lad!’ Lizzie now put her hand to her brow. ‘You mean to say you haven’t heard? Jimmy was going to tell Mr Kean at break time.’

‘Mr Kean?’

‘Aye, sit down, lad.’ Ruth now put her hand out and pressed John George into a chair, and he looked at her dumbly as he said, ‘Mr Kean’s not there. Miss Kean, she . . . she came for a while.’ He nodded his head slowly now, then asked stiffly, ‘Rory. Where is he?’

‘He’s down in the hospital, John George. He was beaten up, beaten unto death something terrible.’

When John George now slumped forward over the table and dropped his head into his hands both women came close to him and Lizzie murmured, ‘Aye, lad, aye, I know how you feel.’

After a while he raised his head and looked from one to the other and said dully, ‘He’s dead then?’

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