Come Home, Charlie, and Face Them

Come Home, Charlie, and Face Them

Come Home, Charlie, and Face Them (also published as "Come Home, Charlie") is a 1969 novel by R.F. Delderfield.

Plot summary

Charlie Pritchard arrives in the fictitious North Wales seaside town of Permadoc on April 1, 1929. After seven years working for Cadwallader’s Mercantile Bank, the 23-year-old is discontented as he takes up his job in the local branch, especially because he is to lodge with the branch manager, Ewan Rhys-Jones. Ewan and his wife, Gladys, immediately start throwing their daughter, 27-year-old Ida, at Charlie. Both Charlie and Ida are perfectly well aware of this, and have a frank conversation on the subject. Without any romance involved, they have sex.

But Charlie’s romantic inclinations are cast in another direction, at the woman who works at the Rainbow Café, two doors down from the bank. The beautiful Delphine is the prime attraction of the Café, and Charlie learns that she runs the place with her brother, Beppo. Charlie comes to the attention of the two when he stops a factory worker’s advances on Delphine, long enough for Beppo to notice what is going on and intervene. Ida is quite aware that Charlie has taken to spending his evenings at the café.

Things deteriorate at Charlie’s lodgings when Ida runs off to London. Gladys and Ewan assume it has something to do with Charlie, and things at the bank, never too good, become even more miserable for Charlie. There is no respite when he reaches his lodgings. Charlie is all too ready to listen when Delphine makes a proposal to him—the three should rob the bank, tunneling to the bank basement, where the vault is, and obtaining or forging keys to the locks. At first Charlie is dismissive, but then he decides that he has “damn all to lose”.

The planning for the bank break in continues, and Charlie is teased along by Delphine’s body. But when the Rhys-Joneses decide there may be some chance of salvaging the hoped-for marriage, and Ewan approaches Charlie, Charlie tells him, falsely, that they had considered marriage, but that given the bank’s slow promotion pace, there seemed no point. Feeling that this, at least, is within his control, Ewan reassures Charlie, and makes another bank employee miserable, hoping to force him to leave and to get Charlie his job. Charlie writes Ida a letter, and calls the bank heist off.

However, it does not stay off, as Beppo blackmails Charlie back into the scheme with some preparatory drawings made by Charlie, threatening to send them to the bank’s home office. Charlie reenters the plot, believing not only a portion of the money, but also Delphine, will be his. He is shocked when he eavesdrops on the two apparent siblings and learns they are lovers. Angered and disgusted, he decides to go his own way after the heist.

Another threat to the heist is Ida, who sends a letter saying she is coming home on the very day set for the heist. Charlie sends a letter falsely claiming he will be away at his father’s retirement ceremony and asking her to come the following week. The day of the heist arrives, a Saturday, and the only obstacle is a thin wall in the tunnel, and Charlie’s ability to secure a final key from the possession of Ewan. He does so by drugging Ewan and his wife, in their bedtime cocoa. While waiting for Delphine, he notices a half-burned envelope in the fireplace. It is a passport envelope, addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Giuseppe Beppolini”. He rifles the two’s travel bags. He finds a passport for a married couple, and train tickets to a destination different from the port Charlie had been told would be the escape route. It is all clear now. The two are married (had she been known to be married, fewer people would have come to the café), and Charlie is to be discarded with little or no money. Charlie slips the passport and tickets into his pocket.

Charlie and Beppo break through the wall, enter the vault, and take about twenty thousand pounds. On their return to the café, they find that Delphine has discovered what Charlie took, and has turned on the lights and music in the café to cover any altercation. Beppo takes out a gun to intimidate Charlie, who rushes him, knocking Beppo down a flight of stairs as the gun goes off. Beppo dies of a broken neck—and Charlie finds the bullet hit Delphine, killing her.

In a state of shock, Charlie answers a knock on the café door. It is Ida, freshly returned, who saw through Charlie's lies and somehow sensed Charlie was here when she saw the lights on and music going in the café. She pries the story out of Charlie, and though stunned herself, assists him in disposing of the bodies. They are placed in an area in which fill is being placed to level an area for a park. They bury the bodies and the money, and return to the Rhys-Jones house. Charlie asks Ida to marry him, and she agrees, though without much enthusiasm, revealing that the reason she ran off to London was because she was pregnant with Charlie’s child, which was then given up for adoption. Ironically, it will be the only child they will ever have.

Once Gladys and Ewan awaken from their drugged sleep (the key being returned), they are delighted. That Sunday will be the last happy day in Ewan’s life, as the bank manager and son in law elect walk into a tornado on Monday morning at the bank. The investigation drags on for weeks. At the end, the head of the bank announces that Ewan will be more or less forced to retire. Ewan, previously obsequious to bank directors, defies this one, making it clear that it is not him, but the head office in Cardiff, which is responsible for the heist, since they gave him inadequate security. He stalks off, gets drunk, catches pneumonia, and dies only days later. After the funeral, one of the police inspectors makes it clear he suspects Charlie, but there is no evidence of involvement, and Charlie and Ida go on to be wed.

Charlie rises to become a bank manager himself, and the two live to old age. When Ida dies first, Charlie returns to Penmadoc, seeking to get rid of the ghosts of the past, and rents a room in what had been the Rhys-Jones house. To his shock, he sees that the park where the Beppolinis lie buried is being dug up for a parking lot. He watches every day, until they are found, and the money with them. But there is no one still alive after over forty years to connect Charlie with the skeletons and the money, though the two are identified.

Charlie learns that he is dying. He begins to write his story (this book), intending it to be lodged with a solicitor and released after his death.

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