Jack Hardwick was the youngest of four children. His childhood in Acle, Norfolk was less than ideal. His father had run off shortly before his third birthday, and his mother relied on a series of part time jobs in order to make ends meet.
The family had moved in with his grandmother who became the principal adult in the children’s lives. Susan, Jack’s eldest sister was constantly at odds with their “Nan,” as she could not make any sense of her “outdated” rules. It was 1971 after all.
One rule in particular irked her. No girl in the family was allowed to go out after dark on a new moon evening unless accompanied by a male of the family. This seemed totally arbitrary.
“Nan, we can go out any other evening, so why not tonight?” she challenged on the night of a dance at the school. “I am fifteen, not a baby.”
“It is the way we do things in this family,” her grandmother said bluntly. “Your mother didn’t go out on ‘dark night,’ nor did Great Nan, or I.”
“It’s just stupid,” Susan screamed and went to her room and slammed the door.
Most of this didn’t went over Jack’s head.
A month later he was surprised when Susan came into his room a little before the then four-year-old’s bedtime.
“Jackie, put your shoes on she said.”
“Why?” he asked with a puzzled expression.
“Because you are going to go with me into town,” she said.
Jack put on his shoes, and was led out the back door by his sister. She held his hand, they went to the corner in the centre of the small town where Susan met three other teenaged girls.
“Why did you bring the baby?” Jenny said lighting a cigarette, and handing it to Susan.
“I’m not a baby, I am nearly five,” Jack objected.
“It’s a stupid family rule,” she replied. “Girls can’t be out without a “man” with them on moonless nights.” She took a long drag on the cigarette, then said, “No one ever said how old the man has to be.”
“Genius,” Cristina and Jenny said together.
The girls hung out on the corner for another half an hour or so when Jack became impatient.
“Can we go home now?” he kept saying to his sister.
“Five more minutes,” she said.
It was just about then that Steve Miller passed by. All four girls smiled as he altered his course to come stand with them.
He reached out and put his arm around Susan’s shoulder and gave her a kiss on the cheek.
“I thought we were leaving,” Jack said and gave Susan a shove.
“Damn it, Jack,” she said stamping out her third cigarette.
“Sorry everybody,” she said. “I have to take the baby home.”
“Where in the hell have you been?” their grandmother bellowed as they came back in the kitchen door.
“In town,” Susan said in an assured tone.
“You know the rules,” her Nan scolded.
“Yes, and I followed them. I had a male with me!” she said smugly.
“Don’t you know that new moons are dangerous?” Nan stressed. “You have no idea what could happen!”
Though Jack didn’t fully understand what the fuss was about, he knew that it was wrong for Susan it be out in the dark without a “grown up man.”
Susan never tried the stunt again, but as soon as she turned sixteen she announced that she was leaving Norfolk for London.
Jack never saw his sister again. He wasn’t sure if she just didn’t want to talk to any of them again, or if something bad had happened to her. Maybe something bad happened on a moonless night. Whatever the case, he set his mind on becoming a policeman. He was going to keep people safe.