Philip pullman, book 2 – the subtle knife, chapter 4

FOUR

TREPANNING

As soon as Lyra had gone her way, Will found a pay phone and dialed the number of the lawyer’s office on the letter he held.
“Hello? I want to speak to Mr. Perkins.”
“Who’s calling, please?”
“It’s in connection with Mr. John Parry. I’m his son.”
“Just a moment, please…”
A minute went by, and then a man’s voice said, “Hello. This is Alan Perkins. Who am I speaking to?”
“William Parry. Excuse me for calling. It’s about my father, Mr. John Parry. You send money every three months from my father to my mother’s bank account.”
“Yes…”
“Well, I want to know where my father is, please. Is he alive or dead?”
“How old are you, William?”
“Twelve. I want to know about him.”
“Yes… Has your mother… is she… does

she know you’re phoning me?”
Will thought carefully.
“No,” he said. “But she’s not in very good health. She can’t tell me very much, and I want to know.”
“Yes, I see. Where are you now? Are you at home?”
“No, I’m… I’m in Oxford.”
“On your own?”
“Yes.”
“And your mother’s not well, you say?”
“No.”
“Is she in hospital or something?”
“Something like that. Look, can you tell me or not?”
“Well, I can tell you something, but not much and not right now, and I’d rather not do it over the phone. I’m seeing a client in five minutes. Can you find your way to my office at about half past two?”
“No,” Will said. It would be too risky; the lawyer might have heard by then that he was wanted by the police. He thought quickly and went on. “I’ve got to catch a bus to Nottingham, and I don’t want to miss it. But what I want to know, you can tell me over the phone, can’t you? All I want to know is, is my father alive, and if he is, where I can find him. You can tell me that, can’t you?”
“It’s not quite as simple as that. I can’t really give out private information about a client unless I’m sure the client would want me to. And I’d need some proof of who you were, anyway.”
“Yes, I understand, but can you just tell me whether he’s alive or dead?”
“Well… that wouldn’t be confidential. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you anyway, because I don’t know.”
“What?”
“The money comes from a family trust. He left instructions to pay it until he told me to stop. 1 haven’t heard from him from that day to this. What it boils down to is that he’s… well, I suppose he’s vanished. That’s why I can’t answer your question.”
“Vanished? Just… lost?”
“It’s a matter of public record, actually. Look, why don’t you come into the office and – “
“I can’t. I’m going to Nottingham.”
“Well, write to me, or get your mother to write, and I’ll let you know what I can. But you must understand, I can’t do very much over the phone.”
“Yes, I suppose so. All right. But can you tell me where he disappeared?”
“As I say, it’s a matter of public record. There were several newspaper stories at the time. You know he was an explorer?”
“My mother’s told me some things, yes.”
“Well, he was leading an expedition, and it just disappeared. About ten years ago. Maybe more.”
“Where?”
“The far north. Alaska, I think. You can look it up in the public library. Why don’t you – “
But at that point Will’s money ran out, and he didn’t have any more change. The dial tone purred in his ear. He put the phone down and looked around.
What he wanted above all was to speak to his mother. He had to stop himself from dialing Mrs. Cooper’s number, because if he heard his mother’s voice, it would be very hard not to go back to her, and that would put both of them in danger. But he could send her a postcard.



Philip pullman, book 2 – the subtle knife, chapter 4