Paul takes a long time to come down the stairs.
By the time he reaches the bottom, Mam is out in the garden and her anger has begun to die down.
'Come on Paul,' she says. 'What did you try to send to Henry? I'm pretty sure Henry had nothing to do with your plan and I KNOW Auntie Lorraine didn't. You can't be sending animals off around the globe in boxes, you know. It is both cruel and illegal.'
Paul looks down at his feet and doesn't reply. Mam's eyes follow his and she notices he has his walking boots and duffel coat on. She looks back up at his face just as a fat tear begins to drip down his cheek.
'Are you planning to take a trip, Paul? You weren't going to set off to Australia to find Henry, were you? He's already back in England.' says Mam. She is beginning to worry about what will happen if she doesn't get Paul to talk to her.
'No.' he whispers. 'He didn't get to Australia. Now he's lost and frightened and all by himself... and it's all my fault! I shouldn't have tried to help him. I have to go and find him.'
' Don't be silly, Paul. Henry has had a great holiday. He DID get to Australia and to New Zealand too, but is safely back home now.' Mam says. ' Come on, I'll switch on the lap top and you can see his blog showing his holiday photos.'
'It wasn't Henry I tried to help!' Paul is sobbing now. ' But he asked me to help and I thought he'd be my friend if I did. I just want to be special friends with somebody. I don't like the same things as the other boys. So I thought, with him being little, he wouldn't mind about me not being sporty and not liking rough games and stuff and he might play with me and I could be his special big brother.'
'Who, Paul? Who were you trying to help?' asks Mam.
'I promised I wouldn't tell....'
'WHO, Paul?' Mam demands.
After a loud hiccup, 'Connor!' Paul answers.
'YOU MAILED YOUR LITTLE...' Mam begins, but remembers that Paul is likely to clam up again if she is cross. ' I mean, did you really post your little brother off in a box?!'
'I was just putting the bike away at Mrs. Rowland's place after doing my Saturday morning bread delivery job for her and Connor was there.He said he wanted to go and see if the Merino sheep in Australia really look like our Ryeland sheep and he wanted to try going walkabout and to learn to throw a boomerang and to see if he could find a kiwi bird in New Zealand so he could see if it looked like a kiwi fruit and he wanted to learn how to do the Maori war chant thingy that they do before rugby matches and.... and, well, I said I'd help.'
By this time, Paul was babbling.
'So, we went on the baker's bike so he could lie down in the front carrier.'
'When we got to town, he got in the cardboard box and I wrote the address on it. But the post office lady said I hadn't written the address properly and I didn't have enough stamps anyway. She gave us a post card from Henry and Auntie Lorraine that had just arrived there and she told us to come straight home to bring it to you. Connor was holding it.
I got back on the bike and I thought Connor was sitting in the carrier with the card. But when I got home, he wasn't there and.... and.... and I was too scared to tell anybody!'
Paul's words tumble out of him in a rush before he sinks down onto the ground and begins to cry again.
Mam tries not to think about all the days of worrying over Connor or the interviews with policemen and social services that followed his disappearance.
It could be Connor that has been seen sneaking around Dee's house and garden, couldn't it? She really doesn't want to get her hopes up TOO much, but it is possible. At this moment, it is Paul who needs her attention, or she will have two missing boys to worry over but, after he is settled, she will phone the police to update them about Connor's attempted trip to Australia. Then she'll call the Customs and Excise Officers to find out more about the livestock they found in the parcel. But who, oh who, is the little red-haired boy at The Village? He seems to come and go and it is so hard to know, is he Connor? Is he Lucas? Does Lucas not live near Brighton? What is going on???
'Come on, Paul,' she says. 'We'll go and see Dada feeding the sheep. Oh, and there's a new lamb too. You can stay with Dada. The police will go on with the search for Connor with the new, and very useful information you've just given me. I know you didn't mean to cause all this bother. We'll talk later about finding somebody to play quieter games with you sometimes.'
Our lambs wear ugg boots - the Sashas are quite envious!