Jewels of the Pastby Julie Heginbotham
The good old (and I really mean old) Five Find-Outers return once more in this splendid new Christmas installment by Julie Heginbotham. Enjoy!
"Fatty!" shouted Bets, standing on the landing and looking up towards the opened loft door, whilst holding onto the drop down ladder, "how long does it take to find some Christmas decorations, you only put up there six months ago?"
Fatty's face suddenly appeared as he gazed down at her from the loft. "You'll never guess what I've found, Bets?"
"Surprise me," said Bets sarcastically.
"Don't be like that, Bets." Fatty sounded hurt, but his eyes still shone with excitement. "Remember when Mother had my old shed at the bottom of the garden taken down years ago?"
"It was almost falling down, Fatty," Bets grinned. "Why?"
"Well I thought Mother had destroyed all my possessions from the shed, but she had actually had them all boxed up and stored up here." He smiled brightly like a child looking into a toy shop window. "They're over in a dark corner, that's why I've never noticed them when I was putting some stuff up here when we moved in. I've had a quick rummage inside, but thought if I brought it down, we could have a good look."
"But what about the Christmas decorations, Fatty? We're supposed to be putting them up this week-end." Bets sighed in exasperation, not wanting to put the job off any longer.
"I can do that later," said Fatty, suddenly disappearing from view.
Bets sighed once more, still looking up at the empty space where Fatty had been. Shuffling and dragging suddenly came to her ears, and Fatty appeared once again.
"Stand clear M'dear," he yelled, "I'm dropping this box down."
Almost immediately a large square box fell from the trap door, and poor Buster who had been sitting just beneath the ladder, shot off along the landing and dived under the first bed he came across in the guest bedroom.
Fortunately Bets had stood clear just in time and was now looking up as Fatty descended the ladder. Once on the landing he faced Bets.
"What a find, Bets, I can't wait to see what else is inside."
Fatty picked up the box and carried it down the stairs, Bets following silently behind, wondering exactly the same thing.
Once in the lounge, Fatty knelt by the box and opened the flaps. Noises of sheer delight and exclamation came forth each time he bought something from the box. Bets sat on the settee in full view, pulling a face now and then, as something which looked like the cat had brought in, was discovered by Fatty.
"One of my red wigs!" he exclaimed, in delight, holding it up for Bets to view.
"Oh, Fatty, it could be full of all sorts of crawly things," Bets shrieked, pulling a face. "Throw it away before you infest my carpets."
"Mother kept nearly all my outfits too, Bets," Fatty exclaimed, pulling from the box, an old coat and a telegraph boy outfit. "What a find." He stood up holding the old coat, which spelt damp and was full of creases. "Remember this Bets?" he smiled at her. "We got it off a scarecrow, and you gave it a wash for me. Wasn't it when we solved the 'Missing Necklace' mystery?"
Bets had to smile at Fatty, he looked happier than Buster did, accepting a new bone. "Yes," she nodded, "it was the 'Missing Necklace' mystery, Fatty, but the coat was from Larry's garage. We found some corduroy trousers on a scarecrow, and I gave those a wash for you."
Fatty smiled and said, "Oh yes, that's right."
"Please put it back in the box though, goodness knows what's growing on it."
Fatty folded up the coat and placed it back in the box and started to rummage around at more of the treasures. The sound of the back door opening and a voice calling. "Hello, anyone in?" had them both turning round.
Buster ran into the hallway to greet the visitor, barking in excitement. "Hello, Buster," said Daisy, "where is everyone?"
"In here, Daisy," called Bets.
Daisy walked into the lounge. "Hello you two," then looking at the box, said. "What on earth have you got there, Fatty?"
"His old disguises his Mother kept, when the shed almost fell down," Bets informed her.
Daisy walked over to where Fatty knelt and sat down on the chair, peering into the box. "Where did you find it?"
"In the loft." Fatty looked up at her. "I intended to bring down the Christmas decorations, but found this instead."
"I would have thought most of them would have disintegrated with age by now," Daisy grinned. "Can I have a rummage?"
"Course." Fatty pushed the box nearer to Daisy.
"I'm off to put the kettle on," Bets informed them, leaving the room.
"Look at these!" Daisy pulled out what looked like some moth eaten sponges.
"My cheek pads!" Fatty exclaimed, holding out his hand, "these certainly have seen better days. I guess I could throw them away."
"What's this?" said Daisy, pulling out what appeared to be a discoloured looking envelope. She turned it over, and saw Fatty's name printed on the front, the ink faded with age. "It's not been opened," she commented handing it over.
Fatty inspected the envelope looking up at Daisy in surprise. "You're right, it's never been opened."
Bets walked in just then carrying a tray of tea, and putting it down on the low table said. "What have you there, Fatty?"
He handed the letter to Bets. "Daisy's just found this in the box."
Bets took the discoloured envelope from Fatty and turned it over, looking at the name printed on the front. "Well it's addressed to you, Fatty. You'd better open it and see what's inside."
Fatty opened the envelope and pulled out the discoloured folded paper within and silently read the letter, watched closely by Daisy and Bets. Once read he looked up at Bets, stunned disbelief paling his cheeks, his silence speaking volumes. He raised himself from his knees and sat down in his favourite chair, the letter still in his hands.
Bets grew concerned at Fatty's silence, and glanced across at Daisy, who looked just as concerned as she watched Fatty's reaction in silence.
"Fatty!" exclaimed Bets, beginning to feel panicked, "whatever does it say?"
Fatty leaned forward and handed Bets the letter. Once read she looked at Fatty, and then at Daisy, who already had her hand outstretched for the letter. "May I?" she asked, softly.
"Of course," Fatty spoke for Bets.
Daisy read the letter:-
Daisy read the letter twice, speechless herself as she handed the letter back to Fatty.
"It's unbelievable," Fatty spoke softly, pulling at his chin in contemplation. "The years this letter has remained undetected. I never knew it was in the shed. Mother never said anything about Ern leaving it there, as I recall."
Bets had tears in her eyes that slowly began to run down her cheeks. Fatty was immediately at her side on the settee, his arm going around her shoulders, whilst she buried her head on his shoulder. Buster sensing something wrong, came and put his head on Bets knee, and received his head stroked for his doggy consideration.
"Don't cry, Bets, my dear," he spoke softly.
Bets wiped her eyes, and lifted her head. "I can't help it, Fatty. Poor Ern, he's no longer with us. The last time we saw him was at our wedding."
"That's right, Bets," Daisy said, nodding her head. "That was a long time ago."
"Yes, thank you for reminding us, Daisy." Fatty grinned, looking at her, and trying to inject humour to his voice, wanting to cheer up Bets.
"Sorry, I didn't mean it to come out like that," Daisy apologized. "I think we're all a bit thrown with the discovery of that letter."
"I wonder what the shinning stones could be," Bets said, wiping her eyes, and blowing her nose, trying to compose herself.
"Whatever they are, I doubt whether we'll be able to find them now," Fatty said, shaking his head. "Ern never mentioned any of this during the times we met up with him."
"He never mentioned it to me, and if he'd mentioned it to Larry, he would have said something," said Daisy.
"All those years, that letter's been hidden," said Bets, sadly. "A childhood long since gone. That's the saddest part really; you can't get any of those days back again, no matter how much you want to. Time is rushing by at such a speed, and we've less time before us, than behind us."
Fatty gave Bets a hug. "Come on my dear. Don't think like that. We all feel just the same inside as we did when we were the Find-Outers. No one can take that from us."
"Fatty's right, Bets," Daisy said, with a smile. "I don't feel any different now, than I did when I was in my teens. We've all got memories, some good, some bad. It's all part of the great scheme of life, I guess," Daisy let out a long sigh.
Bets looked across at Daisy. "Oh, Daisy, I'm sorry. You must think of Roger at times too."
"Yes, many times," Daisy smiled, nodding her head gently. "Forty seven years since he was killed in the road accident and I can still remember word for word how they told me at the hospital."
"Trouble was, Daisy, in those days, we didn't wear seat belts," said Fatty, seriously.
"As the saying goes, Daisy, it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." Bets reassured her.
Daisy nodded. "So they say, Bets, but it would have been nice not to have lost him only a couple of weeks after our engagement."
"That was devastating, Daisy," Fatty said, sympathetically. "He was such a nice bloke too, you were very well matched."
Daisy nodded in silence. Since Roger had been killed there was no one who could ever take his place, and so she'd thrown herself into work and never regretted doing so.
"So what do we do now about this letter?" Bets looked at Fatty with a raised brow.
"Ignore it I suppose," shrugged Fatty, looking at Bets.
"I don't think so," Daisy said sternly. "The day you give up on a mystery, there'll be snowball fights at the equator! Frederick Trotteville, giving up before he's even tried, unthinkable."
Later that afternoon, the Find-Outers all met up at the 'Water's Edge', choosing a table in a quiet corner of the lounge bar, opposite a large brick fireplace where a lovely burning fire sent its comforting blaze around the room. Buster sitting under the table, waited for the odd tit bit that came his way from the plate of sandwiches the Five had ordered.
"It's looking very festive in here," remarked Daisy, admiring the Christmas decorations, "I'd better hunt mine out and make a start on them tomorrow."
"That's what I was hoping Fatty would be doing this week-end," said Bets, throwing Fatty a sly grin.
"All in good time, Bets," smiled Fatty, "there's still a fortnight till the big day. Plenty of time!"
"I expect it's been a bit hectic for you, Larry, moving into your new house just before Christmas," said Pip.
"Helen and the girls have got it all under control," returned Larry, "I just leave them to it."
"So we've noticed," said Daisy, throwing her brother a wicked grin, which caused a chuckle of laughter from the others.
"Well you know what they say about too many cooks," returned Larry, good humouredly.
"So let's get down to business," said Pip, looking across to Fatty. "I've been intrigued about this letter since you rang."
Fatty felt around the inside of his coat pocket and pulled out the letter handing it over to Pip. Larry watched just as anxiously, he too had received the same phone call from Fatty about the find, and a meeting had been arranged at three o'clock that afternoon.
Pip handed the letter to Larry and said. "Gosh, it's a bit of a shocker isn't it? The date was Friday 2nd September, so Ern must have hidden it that very day in your shed, Fatty. I think he meant for you to find it that day, and he wanted you to go over to the camp the following day, Saturday."
"Pip's got a point there," nodded Bets. "He must have been leaving the camp then, and was preparing to hide the stones somewhere in the camp for you to find."
"Well there's one thing for sure, Ern's poetry had improved," Larry pointed out with a grin, "can't say the same for his spelling though. Anyway, if Ern had buried them somewhere in the camp, they could have been found years ago."
Fatty contemplated all this is silence, his brain working over-time as he tried to remember back to the time when they'd rescued the Prince.
"We're still unclear exactly what these shinning stones are," said Daisy, looking around at everyone. "They could have been jewels, if they were from the Prince himself."
Everyone nodded in agreement with Daisy. "That thought had occurred to me when I first read the letter," confessed Fatty. "Knowing poor Ern as we did, he probably wouldn't have taken too much notice."
"Well we can't just leave it like this," said Larry, "surely we can at least try and solve it if we can, Fatty?"
Again everyone nodded in agreement, looking at Fatty's serious expression. "There are no clues we could follow now," Fatty reminded everyone, "we'd be just fumbling around in the dark."
"Let's start with the camp then," suggested Bets, "wasn't it a couple of schools camping in one field, and Ern with his twin brothers in the next field?"
"I think Bets is right," said Daisy, excitement showing in her eyes. "Their tents were near the hedge and Ern's poem does mention the edge of the field."
"Couldn't that be construed as protecting the camp?" Pip put forward, "hedging around the field. Ern could have buried the stones, just underneath the hedge where his tent was."
"Pip's got a point there, Fatty," said Larry, looking at him hopefully.
"It's a point to be considered," Fatty agreed. "We've nothing else we can really go on."
"We rescued the Prince from Raylingham Marshes," Pip began, thoughtfully, "could that be anything to do with the clue? He does mention dawn. Didn't we set off for the marshes, relatively early?"
Fatty thought about it for a few moments before answering. "My instinct tells me no. Ern wrote the Prince had called the day before the letter date, which would have been a Thursday. If that was the case, then Ern would have had to go over to Raylingham Marshes first, before hiding the letter in my shed."
"It could still be possible that he did exactly that," said Daisy. "The Prince met Ern on the Thursday and gave him the gift. Ern wanted to create a puzzle for you to solve, Fatty, so Friday morning he went back to Raylingham Marshes, hid the stones, wrote the note and dropped it off at your shed, hoping you'd find it, and go and hunt around the following day."
Fatty contemplated Daisy's words thoughtfully, before saying. "But why write protect camp?"
"Wouldn't there still be police guarding the scene?" Bets said in sudden excitement. "They'd be protecting any evidence they'd yet to go through, surely?"
"Of course!" said Larry in excitement, "I think that's what Ern meant."
Fatty watched the other four all nodding their agreement, their hopes building with the possibility that the stones could be somewhere over in Raylingham Marshes. Buster sensing this sudden excitement, came from under the table wagging his tail, he wasn't about to be left out of anything.
Fatty fondled the dog's ears, and gave him the meat from the last sandwich left on the plate.
"Okay, I guess it won't hurt to check up on a few ideas," said Fatty taking charge. "Pip do you fancy the drive over to Raylingham Marshes tomorrow and do a bit of investigating?"
"No problem," said Pip. "Do you fancy coming, Larry?"
"Yes, we'll go tomorrow afternoon, if that's okay. I've got to put up the name plaque of the house tomorrow morning, Helen's orders," he confessed with a raised brow.
"That's fine," said Fatty, "Bets and I will go and take a walk over to where Ern camped with his brothers. If I remember rightly, it was between Marlow and the Peterswood hills."
"I think it was," said Daisy, with a nod. "Anything I can do, Fatty?"
"I don't think there is really, Daisy, unless you want to go with Larry and Pip."
"I may be of use, another pair of eyes, so to speak," said Daisy, with a smile. "Can you pick me up on the way, Pip?"
"Of course," he nodded.
"That's all settled then," said Fatty. "I'll phone you tomorrow evening, Pip, and you can update me. Now, who's for another drink?
Whilst Fatty was at the bar giving his order, Bets asked Larry what the name of his new house was going to be.
"New Thatch." Larry said proudly. "The name plaque I ordered came through the post this morning."
"That's a lovely name," said Bets. "The cottage is thatch and is newly built."
"There's an Old Thatch, at the other end of the village near the river," said Daisy. "Apparently very old, it used to be an inn at one time. Dick Turpin is said to have stayed there."
"Yes, we've passed it many a time," said Bets. "It has the most beautiful garden."
The next half hour was spent idly chatting, until Daisy stood up and said, "Well, it's time I was away back to my cottage. I'm going to get the log fire going, close the curtains and lose myself in a new mystery I've bought."
"Sounds lovely, Daisy," smiled Bets. "Who's the book by?"
"A new author, he's got some good reviews, name of Keith Robinson. You can borrow it when I've finished, Bets."
Everyone rose also and made their way out of the cosy warm pub into the cold icy December air. The daylight had gone, and the surrounding homes had Christmas lights shining brightly from their windows and some displaying Christmas lights in their gardens.
Larry linked his sister's arm, saying "I'll walk you home, Daisy." Then turned to the others saying a cheery,"Bye."
Pip gave a wave before setting off, and Bet's pulling her coat collar up, linked Fatty's arm tightly, as they set off with Buster back to the warmth of The White House.
The following Sunday morning brought a fine powdering of snow covering the ground as Fatty and Bets, with Buster on his lead, set off towards the river. Bets linked Fatty as they walked, glad of his support as the ground was a little slippery underfoot even with her thick warm crepe soled boots. Everywhere looked like a Christmas card, covered in snow, sending out its magical glow and the sound of the Church bells completed the picture.
"Doesn't everywhere look lovely, Fatty?" commented Bets, as they walked along. "Reminds me of when we were children. Christmas was so much nicer in the snow."
Fatty looked down at Bets with a smile. "Always the romantic one," he smiled.
Reaching the river they had to cross by the bridge, a longer way round but they had no choice as the passenger ferry wasn't running. Once on the other side of the river, they walked up towards open countryside with the hills in their sites.
"It can't be too far away now," said Fatty, as they followed the river footpath. "The field where they camped has got to be somewhere just beyond that hedgerow."
Walking further along, they came to a sudden standstill and looked at each other in surprise. "Oh no!" Fatty exclaimed, "that's the last thing I expected we'd see."
Fatty and Bets looked over the hedge, and before them lay a group of newly built mews houses. The back gardens of some of them just the other side of the hedge. "I think there's a footpath just ahead on the right," noticed Bets, "we may as well go and explore around whilst we're here."
They followed the footpath around to the right, which lead them to a pathway where rear gardens ended. They walked along, passing the high fencing of the gardens, and then took a path to the left, that lead them onto the small cul-de-sac on which the new houses were built.
"So much for finding the field," sighed Fatty.
"Well, we had to come and see if we could find the field again," said Bets, looking around her at the new houses. "They look really nice actually, Fatty, and have got a lovely view of the hills in front."
"It puts an end to our investigation though, Bets," said Fatty, feeling rather deflated at the discovery.
"Yes," sighed Bets, "I suppose it was a bit of a long shot, after so many years have elapsed. I'm beginning to think you were right, Fatty, we're never going to find these stones that Ern left for you."
"May as well start back," said Fatty.
Buster was keen to continue with his walk anyway, not understanding why they wanted to stand and look around at some houses. They walked back to the pathway that led by the rear gardens and saw an elderly lady walking towards them, stopping at her rear garden gate. Before entering she looked at them both with an inquisitive look growing on her face, which caused Bets to feel a little uncomfortable. Then her expression turned to complete surprise. "I don't believe it. Frederick Trotteville?" she said in amazement.
Fatty was taken back, and glanced quickly at Bets, before turning back to her saying. "I'm sorry," he left the words in the air, an inquisitive look shining in his eyes, hoping the woman before him would identify herself.
"Hilary," she said, excitedly, "Hilary Jenks, don't you remember, I'm Superintendant Jenks, God-Daughter."
Fatty wasn't often at a loss for words, but he was now, completely taken back. Bets gazed silently at the woman before them, trying to remember the one and only time she'd met with Hilary, at the gymkhana, then later at her home Norton House, after it had been robbed whilst Fatty was looking for clues.
Fatty found his voice at last, "I don't believe it, Hilary, after all these years." He hugged her like a long lost friend, before turning to Bets, and saying to Hilary. "This is Bets, Hilary. You remember young Bets Hilton, now Trotteville?"
"Of course," Hilary smiled at Bets giving her a gentle hug. "Listen you must both come inside for a hot cup of tea and I won't take no for an answer."
Hilary was really overjoyed at meeting Fatty and Bets once more. She talked almost non-stop and showed them around her mews cottage which she was most proud of. She gave Buster a bowl of water and some dog biscuits she kept in her cupboard for when her friend's dog, Barney, came around. She excused herself whilst she made some tea and invited them to sit in the lounge and make themselves at home.
"I'd have recognised you anywhere, Frederick," smiled Hilary, as she laid a tray of tea and biscuits on the low table in front of Fatty and Bets. "Help yourself to sugar."
She sat on the easy chair by a large white fireplace, after picking up her own mug of tea. "It must be what," she raised her brows skywards, "over 50 years since we last met."
Fatty nodded, sitting back into the soft beige leather settee, a mug of tea in his hand. "More than I care to remember," he grinned. "How long have you lived here?"
"Just two years," answered Hilary, "so much easier for me to manage than Norton House, which is the family home I inherited. I heard they were about to build these few mews houses, so thought, why not. Let my daughter and her family take on Norton House."
"It's lovely," smiled Bets, taking in the light coloured decor and plush furnishings. "Have you just got the one daughter?"
Hilary's reply was hesitant for a second, before she smiled nodding her head, saying, "Yes, Sarah. I'm afraid my husband and I were more into horses and riding, than having a large family." Bets noticed a moment of sadness, before she said. "We divorced many years ago."
"Sorry to hear that," sympathized Fatty. "You have grand-children though?"
"Oh yes," said Hilary, proudly. "Four of them, I think my daughter was making up for being an only child," she smiled at them both. "What about yourselves, any family?"
"Two sons," said Bets, "Thomas the eldest and Edward. Thomas has a boy and girl, and Edward two girls."
Hilary smiled at them both, and said. "I remember you liked to do a bit of mystery solving, Frederick."
Fatty nodded. "Yes, that's why I ended up in the Police Force. Retired now, of course."
Hilary looked impressed. "I knew you'd follow in my Uncle's footsteps," she mused. "He was very fond of you, Uncle David Jenks, still is too."
Her words stunned both Fatty and Bets as they exchanged a surprised look. Superintendant Jenks – still living, what fantastic news. The Super came to their wedding, but over the years, Frederick and Bets had lost touch with their great friend.
"That's great news!" said Fatty, in surprise. "We lost touch many years ago, didn't we Bets?" he glanced quickly at Bets sitting by his side. "Where's he living now?"
"Just outside Cookham," said Hilary, "he's in a nursing home, but still got all his faculties even though he is ninety-five."
"Ninety-five," said Bets. "What a great age. It would be wonderful to see him again, wouldn't it Fatty?" She smiled, looking at him.
"Most definitely," Fatty nodded.
"I'll give you the address before you go," said Hilary helpfully. "I'll be seeing him next week, just before Christmas. So I can tell him if you like."
"We could probably go over after the New Year," said Bets, thinking aloud.
"Good idea, Bets," smiled Fatty, "get the Christmas festivities over, and that will really give us something to look forward to."
"How are the other Find-Outers?" asked Hilary, stroking Buster's head, who'd come to sit by her, just in front of the warm fire.
"All fine, with grown children and grand-children," said Fatty.
"I used to love hearing you telling me of the latest mystery you were working on, when I visited you in the school holidays," said Hilary, a reminiscent look shining from her eyes.
This was news to Bets, and glanced quickly at him, but he was smiling at Hilary, nodding his head.
"We had such fun solving the odd mystery, didn't we Bets?" Fatty turned to smile at her.
"Yes," she answered almost curtly, wanting to know just how well Fatty had known Hilary. She was always under the impression they'd only ever met the once. Curiosity got the better of her, as she found herself asking. "I didn't realize you knew Fatty that well, Hilary. I remember when we first met over at your house, the day it was robbed."
"That's right," confirmed Hilary, with a nod. "When the thief had been caught, I asked my Uncle David where Frederick lived, so I could go over and thank him for his help. We just became friends from then on really, didn't we Frederick?" she looked at him for acknowledgement. "When I was home from school in the holidays, I used to call on Frederick, so he could tell me all about the latest mystery the Find-Outers were working on," she glanced at Fatty and laughed. "I always used to beg him to let me join in, and help, but he was most adamant, that it was just the Five Find-Outers and Dog."
Fatty laughed nodding his head. "Yes, I remember, Hilary. You'd never just take no for an answer."
"That's why I knew Frederick would join the force," Hilary looked at Bets, "such a strong, determined young man. Even Uncle David knew he'd get on and said so many times."
For some unknown reason, Bets felt niggled that she'd never realized Fatty had become friends with Hilary, after the 'Invisible Thief' mystery. As a child, she always thought that Fatty's friends were just the Find-Outers, and the boys at his school, but he must have had other friends. She remembered back to the first time they'd been introduced to Hilary, by Inspector Jenks, as he was then and the fuss Fatty had made about wanting to walk Hilary home, but then again, that was just a ploy so he could take a look at the crime scene. She remembered how she'd felt when Fatty was fussing over Hilary and so had suggested she go with them, not wanting Hilary to have Fatty all to herself.
On the walk home, Fatty was chatting away about the disappointment of not being able to throw any light on the clue Ern had left, and some of the mystery's they'd solved and Bets listened quietly as they walked. He didn't need to be the great detective that he was, to know exactly what was troubling Bets, and realized he'd have a little explaining to do once home.
After a late lunch of soup and bread rolls, in their large kitchen, Fatty helped Bets clear the table of crockery, which she commenced to wash in the butler sink. If Fatty was to approach the subject he knew he had to do it now.
"You're rather quiet, Bets?" he began, nonchalantly picking up a tea towel and drying the dishes as Bets place them on the drainer. "It's meeting Hilary, isn't it?"
"Partly, I suppose," said Bets, with a shrug, "and partly because you never ever mentioned Hilary, or her visits."
"It wasn't really all that important, Bets. As she said, she used to call over in the school holidays, eager to learn what mystery we were solving and always asking if she could join in," he paused thinking back, before carrying on, saying sadly. "I felt sorry for her in a way. I don't think she had many friends, being so mad on horses, I guess."
"When was the last time you met?" asked Bets, draining away the water, and pulling off her rubber gloves, before turning to look at Fatty.
"Gosh, my memories not that good, Bets," said Fatty, wrinkling his brow, trying to remember. "I think whilst we were in the middle of 'Missing Man', I never saw her after that, if I recall, though she did write to me a few times, whilst I was away at boarding school, but even that dwindled off."
Bets looked at Fatty, and smiled. He was so handsome still, the way he held himself so proudly, his thick silver grey shining hair the same as when he was in his teens, apart from the colour, and his blue shining eyes that lit up the whole of his face. The way he smiled, the way he pulled her leg in fun, and the protection he gave, reminded her just what she loved and had always loved about Frederick Algernon Trotteville.
"I guess I was feeling a little jealous," she admitted, lowering her eyes for a split second, before looking back at Fatty.
"I don't know why," Fatty shook his head, and gently pulled her into his arms for hug. "All the years we've been married, and to the force, and not once have you ever complained or felt threatened in any way, Bets, and the force is responsible for many a marriage break up. Then someone from the past looms up and hey! – my little Bets, gets all het up for no reason at all."
"I know," admitted Bets, clinging onto Fatty, not wanting to let him go. She looked up at him, and he smiled down at her, kissing her upturned face. "Hilary is very attractive though, Fatty, she must be about my age, and doesn't look it."
"So now you're fishing for compliments?" he raised a questioning brow. Bets gave a slight laugh, she couldn't hide anything from Fatty, he could always read her like a book.
"Why not?" she said, firmly, "don't I deserve one?"
"Of course," he squeezed her tightly. "You're still as attractive as ever my dear, and don't look your age. How's that?" he finished with a grin.
"Oh, Fatty," Bets slapped his arm. "You're incorrigible."
The back door opening had them both turning, still locked in each other's arms.
"Hello, you two," smiled Daisy, looking at the hugging pair. "Interrupting something am I?" she raised a questioning brow.
Bets grinned moving from Fatty's secure arms, to put the kettle on to boil. "No, Fatty's just had his passion re-kindled by an old flame."
"An old flame!" exclaimed Daisy, in surprise. "The length of time you two have known each other, it must be way back to the garden of Eden."
Bets laughed, and Fatty threw Daisy a feigned look of horror. "Margaret Daykin," he scolded, "you give the word cheek a whole new dimension."
Daisy grinned wickedly. "So, who's this old flame?"
"Remember Hilary Jenks, we met at the gymkhana? Her home Norton House was the first to be robbed by Twit the baker," said Bets, placing the tea onto the tray, and beckoning Fatty to bring it into the lounge for them.
"Oh yes," said Daisy, following Bets into the lounge, and sitting on the settee in front of a roaring fire of logs. "So, I suppose you must have bumped into her today, whilst doing a spot of investigating?"
Fatty lay the tray on the low table, before picking up a cup and sitting back into his favourite chair by the fireplace. "It was quite a surprise," he began, and proceeded to tell Daisy about their morning's investigation, ending up with having a tea with Hilary in her cottage.
"They're really lovely little houses, Daisy," said Bets, "but it's such a shame that the field we were looking for has been built on."
Daisy agreed. "It seems memories of our childhood are slowly disappearing in the time of change," she shook her slowly.
"It also means that the chances of finding the stones that Ern left is now further away," Fatty reminded them both. "Anyway, how did you get on, Daisy, visiting Raylingham Marshes?"
"I didn't go. Pip and Larry called to pick me up, just after lunch, but I've been busy all morning, sorting out my Christmas decorations, and I didn't want to interrupt putting them up, so they went without me."
"Fatty can give Larry a call this evening," began Bets, "but I'm beginning to think like Fatty, I don't think there's much chance of finding them now after all these years."
"It's looking that way," agreed Daisy. "More importantly tell me about Hilary." Daisy looked at them both, sounding very intrigued.
"There's nothing much to tell," began Bets, throwing Fatty a smile, "Fatty here used to get the odd visit from Hilary, during school holidays, wanting to know all about the latest mystery we were working on."
"Oh," Daisy nodded, pursing her lips, "secret admirer. You kept that quiet, Fatty."
Fatty grinned, looking very modest. "Well I can't help being such an attractive fellow, Daisy; I just ooze charisma, even in those days, as well as brains, of course."
"Oh, of course," mocked Daisy.
"Much more interesting though, Daisy," began Bets. "We discovered from Hilary that Superintendent Jenks is still living, and is in a nursing home just outside Cookham. We're going to go and see him after the New Year."
Daisy's eyes widened at the news. "How marvellous. It would be great if we could all go, the Find-Outers meeting up with the Super once more."
"We must try and arrange something," said Fatty, eagerly, "I'm sure he'd love to see us all. But I'll check with Hilary first, just in case he's not allowed seeing so many of us at once."
Daisy's brows rose mischievously, and she threw Bets a sly wink. "Check with Hilary now is it?" she said to Fatty. "Just an excuse to see her again if you ask me!"
Fatty gave a good humoured exasperated sigh, and threw a well aimed cushion at the surprised Daisy.
It was decided, that the Find-Outers would meet that evening around eight, in the 'Water's Edge'. There was nothing of interest on the T.V. Pip's wife Mary, had gone to visit a sick friend and Larry's wife Helen, wanted to put up the Christmas decorations without any 'hindrance' from Larry. Buster was left sitting snoozing before a safely guarded log fire.
"You must put up our decorations soon, Fatty," commented Bets.
"I will," said Fatty, knowing that was coming, as he watched Bets, taking in the decorations around her and the fact that Helen was doing theirs at that precise moment according to Larry.
"Trouble is," began Daisy, "everyone gets panicked into putting them up earlier each year. The shops were decorated at the end of October."
"I remember when our Mother used to decorate the tree on Christmas Eve," said Larry, looking at Daisy.
"Yes, it seems to get earlier every year," said Pip. "I've not put up ours yet and won't do until the week before. It only matters when you've got children, I think."
"Will you see Lucy and her family over Christmas, Pip?" Bets asked her brother.
"I think they're coming over Christmas afternoon. I'm sure they'll pop over to see their Auntie Bets," smiled Pip.
"That's good," said Bets, she was very fond of Lucy, Pip's only child and was pleased she'd got two of her own, having experience being an only one.
"So how did you both get on this afternoon?" Fatty changed the subject, looking at Pip and Larry.
"Well it's not a derelict farm anymore," said Larry, "it's quite a nice complex of holiday cottages."
"Really," came Fatty's surprised tone.
"We spoke to the couple who own the farmhouse," said Pip. "They told us they'd bought it back in the 70's, did up the farmhouse and turned the out-builders into holiday cottages."
"They gave us a brochure," said Larry, "as we said we were just browsing around for a holiday let for the family."
Pip nodded. "We did ask them if they'd heard the story that a Prince was once held captive there, but they'd not heard anything about it," he gave a short laugh, "Larry even asked if they'd found anything of interest whilst doing up the place, but they said no, unfortunately they hadn't."
"It was worth asking though," smiled Larry.
"Seems this mystery is much too old to be solved," said Fatty, more or less voicing what the others had already guessed. "I suppose we can't be successful every time."
"Well there was no harm in trying," commented Daisy. "Anyway, Fatty, tell Larry and Pip about Superintendant Jenks."
They both looked at Fatty wide-eyed. "Superintendant Jenks," repeated Larry, "is he still alive?"
"He certainly is," began Fatty, "at the grand old age of ninety-five too." He then went on to tell them of the meeting with Hilary, and how she'd told him and Bets of her God-Father, living in a nursing home.
"It would be great to see him again," said Pip, and Larry nodded his agreement. "We must all go over there after Christmas and see him."
"We'll probably go in the New Year," put in Bets. "We'll make arrangements and let you know."
The music that was playing softly in the back-ground made Fatty suddenly smile at Bets, as he said softly. "They're playing our song my dear." The others stopped chatting and listened to the sounds of Cilla Black, singing 'You're My World."
Silence remained at the table for a few minutes whilst they listened, and Fatty picked up Bets left hand and kissed her wedding ring. "Oh Fatty," blushed Bets with pride, "everyone will look."
"Let then," he smiled, "I'm entitled to show my wife a bit of affection."
"So what's the significance?" asked Larry, looking quite vague.
"Oh, Larry," whispered Daisy, sternly. "You're hopeless sometimes."
"I'm in the dark as much as Larry," admitted Pip. "It wasn't played at your wedding."
"I bought Bets this record on 10th June1964, when she gave birth to our first son, Thomas. She made me the proudest man in the world that day."
"Oh," said Larry, rather nonchalantly.
"I don't suppose you've done anything like that for my sister-in-law, have you?" said Daisy, with a raised brow. "Poor Helen, she didn't know what she was getting herself into."
The other four chuckled at poor Larry. He was so laid back since retiring he was almost horizontal. "Helen loves fussing over me," he said defensively. "I've always looked after her in my own way. Given her whatever she wanted. Car, holidays. She likes to think she's in control, and I let her believe it."
"Anyway, on the subject of records," began Pip, getting the conversation back on topic, and looking at Fatty and Bets, "at your wedding reception, you both danced the first one to 'True Love' by Bing Crosby and Grace Kelly."
"We did," smiled Bets, "that's where you met Mary, my chief bridesmaid. You could hardly take your eyes off her."
"She looked stunning," grinned Pip, "apart from the bride of course," he quickly added.
"What about you, Daisy?" Bets asked. "Is there a record that brings back any memories?"
Daisy nodded with a small smile. "Cliff Richard – 'When The Girl In Your Arms Is The Girl In Your Heart.' Roger bought me that when we got engaged. I still like to play it from time to time, when I think of him."
Larry looked at his sister and affectionately patted her hand. No words were needed and Daisy couldn't cry any more tears for Roger, they'd all dried up.
"What about you Pip?" asked Fatty.
"Nothing in particular, probably 'True Love' as we had our first dance to that."
"That's the trouble with Christmas," Larry suddenly spoke up, "everyone gets so sentimental, yet the rest of the year, no one gives a damn." He rose to go to the bar. "Anyone for another?"
"I'll give you a hand." Pip went with Larry.
Daisy watched her brother's departing back. "Trouble with Larry is, he's sentimental himself, but just won't admit it."
Fatty and Bets nodded silently.
********** Over the next few days the snow fell, and Peterswood resembled a 'winter wonderland'. The Church proudly displayed a very large fir tree, in its grounds, completely covered in lights that shone around piercing the darkness.
True to his word, Fatty brought down the decorations from the loft, and he and Bets set about decorating The White House. When they'd finished they both sat back and admired what they accomplished. They'd really gone to town over the decorations, this being their first Christmas in their 'new home.' Garlands entwined the staircase banister rail, and balustrade. The large square hall had a tall welcoming well lit tree, in one corner, and a Christmas centre piece was displayed in the centre of the three dog leg, round table. Lights framed all the front windows, and the cherry tree in the centre of the front lawn, shone with its outdoor lights.
The lounge resembled a Christmas photo from a glossy magazine and Bets was especially pleased with the way she'd decorated the large fireplace. "I want everything to be just right," she said to Fatty. Our first Christmas in The White House, and I want the children and grandchildren to remember every single minute of Christmas Day."
"They will my dear," Fatty smiled at her. He stood by the lounge bay window and watched the snow falling, remembering the days of his childhood, in this very house. Christmas was always a happy time, home from school and holidays to look forward to with his four friends. For a while now he'd contemplated writing his memoirs, and standing watching the snow fall, had made up his mind, he was going to start and today.
Making his way to the study, Buster as his heels, he called to Bets his intention and sat himself down at the large, leather insert desk, and set up the lap top. Buster went and curled himself up by the coal flamed gas fire. Bets popped into the room to say she'd just put the kettle on to boil.
"Oh, Fatty, you've still not got rid of that box of disguises," she said, noticing it under the window. "The bin men come tomorrow. Shall I put it out?"
Fatty looked almost horrified. "Certainly not, Bets! I've not had time to go through the contents yet. I'll leave it there till after Christmas, and then sort it out, I promise." He added reassuringly.
Bets knew he had no such intention of getting rid of the contents of the box, and left the study to make the tea. Glancing at the box, Fatty thought again of Ern's letter and on the note pad before him starting to write, protect camp, Sat ok. He leant back on the leather swivel chair and contemplated the words. Bets came in whilst he was thinking carrying a mug of tea, which she placed on the desk.
"You look deep in thought," she said, lightly.
Fatty looked at her and said. "Bets, where's Erns letter?"
"Probably in your coat pocket," she smiled, "I'll have a look."
Fatty moved back to the desk, and doodling with his pen wrote 'coat pocket.' When Bets walked back into the study, Fatty was crossing off letters, which she thought was rather strange.
"Looks interesting," she said puzzled.
Fatty looked at Bets, his eyes starting to shine in excitement. "I don't know why I didn't think of this before," he glanced up at her, "it's got to be an anagram."
"What has?" she questioned.
"Ern's letter. He wrote a poem, then, at the end, the sentence, 'protect camp, Sat ok. When you said, 'coat pocket' I could see those letters in that sentence. If you take out 'coat pocket, from the sentence, you're left with- rmpsat –."
Fatty moved the page towards Bets, who'd come to stand beside him. "So we've got to work out now, what that last word could be," she said thoughtfully. They both studied the word for a few moments, when Bets said. "Tramps. The word is tramps."
"Of course," Fatty looked up at Bets, his eyes shining excitedly. "Tramp's coat pocket." He picked up the letter that Bets had placed on the desk. "Bets, look at the poem, read it carefully, and you can see that the poem was only written to include those words."
Bets read the poem silently, then turned to Fatty in amazement. "You're right," she read out the associated words. "Go 'trampsing, take off the ing. Take your – coat, and – pocket – the stones. The poem says – tramps coat pocket. Fatty that's it, that's where the stones are. He's spelt home-wood bound wrong though," she finished with a smile.
"I think not," said Fatty, thoughtfully, "that was another clue. Home of wood, that's what Ern meant, he was meaning the shed."
Bets felt a chill running down her spine and she sat down on the high backed leather chair not far from the desk. "Oh, Fatty," she said, softy, "the shed was pulled down years ago."
Fatty laughed softy, shaking his head. "Bets, my dear, that doesn't matter. We don't need the shed, I just need my disguises, and they're there," he indicated the box under the window.
Bets looked at Fatty's excited face for a few silent moments. Mixed emotions started to race through her. Her heart started to pound in sheer excitement, and those cold chills still ran down her spine. If Fatty was right and she was sure he was, those shinning stones that Ern described in his letter where right there, in the study, hidden inside the pocket of that dirty old damp coat.
As Fatty left his chair and brought the box over to where Bets was sitting, she started to shake with anticipation.
"Oh, Fatty," she said, as he looked at her with the same anticipation, "I think I need to get my cup of tea from the kitchen."
"I'll fetch it," he smiled, patting her hand, "only I think we both need something just a little stronger than tea."
Fatty was soon back with two glasses of brandy and gave one to Bets, the other he downed instantly.
"Uh! I hate brandy," said Bets pulling a face and shaking her head once she'd drunk.
"Think of it as medicinal my dear," Fatty grinned, feeling a little more confident now of opening the box before him.
He lifted the flaps, and stopped suddenly, as Bets squealed, "Fatty, do you think we should get the others over first?"
Fatty turned to look at her and said. "May as well see if my hunch is correct Bets, I don't want to drag the others out and find there's nothing here after all."
That made sense to Bets and she nodded in agreement, and watched as Fatty pulled the coat from the box. He put his hand into one of the pockets and Bets found herself holding her breath, cupping her hands over her mouth. Fatty glanced at her as he fumbled in the pocket. "There's nothing here, only a hole." He turned the coat around, and felt inside the other pocket. He shook his head. "Nothing in this pocket either." He lay the coat flat on the floor, lining upwards. "If there's a possible chance the stones have fallen through the hole, then they'll be inside the lining."
Fatty knelt down and felt along the bottom edging of the lining. Bets still watched in anticipation. He suddenly faced her with a nervous smile. "There's something here, Bets. Will you pass me the scissors from the top left hand desk drawer."
Bets found the scissors and passed them to Fatty, watching him closely as he cut into the coat lining. He put his hand inside, and pulled out what looked like a black leather pouch. Fatty looked at Bets eager face. "We'd best open it and have a look inside," he said, rising from his knees and walking over to the desk. Bets joined him and he pushing the lap top over to one side.
Fatty pulled open the leather draw string along the top of the leather pouch and emptied the contents onto the desk. Out fell five items wrapped in discoloured tissue paper. Carefully Fatty opened each little parcel, until they were both looking down at five coloured stones, the size of a penny piece.
"What do you think they are?" asked Bets, taking in the dull looking odd shaped stones.
"At a guess, I'd say we're in possession of an uncut diamond in its raw state, a ruby, a sapphire, an opal, and possible an amethyst," said Fatty, picking up each stone in turn, as he spoke.
Bets looked on amazed, and picked up each stone herself, having a closer look. "What do you think they're worth, Fatty?"
"I really wouldn't know, Bets. I guess it depends on the carat. I would imagine the diamond is the most expensive stone." He looked at them closely again, as Bets placed each one back on the table. "We could have around fifty or sixty thousand pounds worth here, but that's only a guess."
"So what do we do now, Fatty?" Bets asked, looking at him for guidance.
Fatty sat himself back down at the desk, before saying. "I guess we have the stones valued, Bets." He started to wrap each stone up carefully in its tissue paper. "Doesn't Edward have a friend in the jewellery business, over in Kensington?"
Bets thought for a moment, then nodded. "Yes, I think he does. Should we ask Edward, Fatty?"
Fatty put all the stones back into the little leather pouch. "Yes, I'll give him a ring this evening and get his advice."
Bets sat herself down again feeling as if she'd just run a mile race. Fatty glanced at her expression and grinned. "Talk about a shock, eh my dear."
"I still can hardly believe it. Finding the stones after all these years of knowing nothing about their existence. I wonder why Ern never mentioned them?"
Fatty was just as puzzled as Bets. "I've no idea. He probably never gave it another thought. We certainly can't ask him."
"No," said Bets sadly, shaking her head. "Anyway, what about the others, when shall we tell them?"
"Can you ring them Bets, and get them over this evening. Don't say anything about the stones; just say we've got some news, or some other pretext."
"Okay," said Bets, then after a thoughtful pause said. "Fatty, do you think we'll be able to keep the stones?"
Fatty looked at her slightly confused. "They were given to us, Bets. I'm not quite sure what you mean?"
"Will we have to give them back to the Prince, or his country?"
"I wouldn't have thought so. We were given the stones as a gift. We've a letter to prove that Bets, that's a good as any covenant. But if it makes you feel better I'll get advice." Bets nodded feeling satisfied. "Won't the others be thrilled," she said, excitedly. "I'll just go and ring them now."
"Just before you go, Bets," said Fatty, stopping her as she walked towards the door. "I think it only fair when we do sell the stones to split the money five ways."
Bets smiled her pleasure at Fatty's generosity. "So do I, it should be equal amounts for the five of us."
Fatty nodded, then said innocently, "Oh and Bets, when you've done that, can you make another mug of tea, this one's gone cold," he lifted the mug on his desk.
Bets threw him an exasperated look. "Honestly Fatty!"
Bets could hear Fatty's teasing laughter as she walked from the study to the hall telephone, reminding her of just one of the many reasons why she loved, and had always loved Frederick Algernon Trotteville.
"The call sounded very anonymous, Bets," said Pip to his sister as he sat himself down on the settee in the lounge. "Is one of the family expecting again?"
Bets grinned good-naturedly. "You'll have to wait until Larry and Daisy get here."
Fatty walked in carrying a tray of drinks and glasses, putting them down on the sideboard. Pip's eyes followed Fatty, now he was really intrigued. Before he had time to comment, he heard the sound of Larry and Daisy walking in and smiling at everyone.
"The lounge is looking lovely and festive, Bets," said Daisy, smiling her pleasure, "and the outside is so welcoming with all the festive lights. You've both done a lovely job."
Fatty and Bets smiled proudly. "I want it to look really special, our first Christmas in The White House," said Bets. "The family will love it."
"They certainly will," said Daisy, sitting next to Pip on the settee.
Fatty started to pour some drinks and handed them round, then sitting back in his favourite high back leather chair, he smiled around at everyone. "Cheers," he said, raising his sherry glass.
A chorus of cheers went round, until Larry said. "Well, what is this good news we've to hear?" he raised a brow, looking at Fatty and Bets, smiling faces. "You both look like the 'cat that's got the cream'," he finished.
Bets couldn't hold back a small sound of laughter. "You tell them, Fatty," she said, looking at him.
Fatty put his drink down, on the table by his chair, and pulled Ern's letter from his pocket. He placed it down on the low table that was sitting in front of the two settees where the others sat.
"If you want to read it again, but paying more attention to just the words," he began, "you may just see where the jewels actually are."
The other three looked at Fatty solemnly, and each of them picked up the letter in turn. Eventually they looked at Fatty shaking their heads.
"I can't see anything," said Pip, puzzled.
"There are some spelling mistakes," Daisy put forward, with a shrug.
"As I said before," began Larry, "Ern's poem has improved, but nothing else." Larry looked at Fatty inquisitively. "You said jewels, Fatty; don't tell us you've found them?"
Pip and Daisy looked at Fatty in amazement, their eyes shining with excitement.
"You have, haven't you?" Daisy almost screamed. "Bets can hardly keep the excitement from her face," she finished off, looking over at Bets.
Fatty had to laugh, he felt just as exhilarated as the others who waited in anticipation for him to tell them.
"Yes," he nodded. Pulling the leather pouch from his pocket, and opening the string along the top, he gently emptied the contents of five neatly wrapped little packages onto the table. Fatty started to open each one in turn, handing them round for Larry, Pip and Daisy to see.
"They're not a bit like I thought they'd look," commented Larry. "They look quit dull and uninteresting in their raw state."
Fatty grinned. "They're still worth a pretty packet though, Larry."
"It's hard to take in," said Daisy in amazement, "these jewels have been hidden for all these years. Where were they, Fatty?"
Fatty picked up Ern's letter. "We made the mistake of reading this and trying to work out where on the camping field, Ern could have hidden them. But all the time the hiding place was already written down."
Everyone was listening intently to Fatty, intrigued to know the answer.
Fatty read from the letter.
"Go trampsing around the edge of the field. If you take the ing off trampsing, you're left with tramps. On the third line, Ern writes. Take your coat to keep you warm. The other clue is coat. Line four says, pocket the stones."
"Pocket," suddenly shouted Pip. "How ingenious of Ern. So we've got tramps coat pocket."
"Correct," confirmed Fatty. "The last line of the poem, which we thought was spelt incorrectly, for homeward bound, means home of wood, my shed. The jewels were in the tramps coat pocket in my shed."
"Amazing," said Larry, softly. "Can I see the letter, Fatty?" He took the letter passed to him. Silently he read it, and then looked up. "But what about the last clue? Protect camp, Sat ok."
"An anagram," smiled Bets.
"Which Bets, helped solve," said Fatty, looking across at her.
"I'm amazed," Larry shook his head. "How on earth did Ern work all this out?"
"My guess is his twin brothers helped," said Daisy.
"I had that very thought," agreed Fatty with a nod. "They must have worked it out between them, after the Prince had left. They could have been working on it most of Thursday. The following day Ern then came to my shed, hid the jewels in the coat pocket that was hanging up, then hid the note, hoping I'd find it. But to make sure I knew, he must have mentioned his visit to Mother."
"What puzzles me," began Pip, thoughtfully, "is how on earth did Ern know of the tramps coat in your shed, Fatty?"
"That's easily answered, Pip," said Bets, "we were all in Fatty's shed dressing up when Ern called on us, with his twin brothers. He must have noticed the coat hanging up."
"That's right, we were," said Pip, thinking back to that day many years ago. "You dressed as the princess, Bets." Pip shook his head, with a small smile. "Such a long time ago," he finished on a sad note.
"I was your cousin, Bets," smiled Daisy, "and your lady in waiting."
"That's right," said Bets, "Pip and Larry were dressed up too, but I can't remember as what."
"We all went walking through the village," grinned Larry, joining in. "Fatty didn't you give Ern your Mother's golf umbrella for a state one?"
Fatty laughed. "Yes, I don't know how we dared when I think back."
"You'd been on a cruise with your parents, Fatty, remember? You brought back some gaily coloured disguises from Morocco. That's what we were trying on when Ern and his twin brothers called," said Bets.
"Of course," nodded Fatty, with a smile, "little did we know then that prank would lead us onto a mystery."
"Many of our pranks led us into a mystery, Fatty," said Larry. He leaned forward to place his empty glass onto the table, and being a good host, Fatty rose to refill everyone's glass. "There was the Holly Lane mystery," carried on Larry, nodding his thanks, "I had to clean some windows and that threw us into a mystery."
"Don't forget Missing Necklace," said Pip, "if Fatty hadn't dressed up as the old man who sat on the bench, we'd never have solved that mystery."
The five started to reminisce, never happier than when they were remembering the days of the young Find-Outers. Now and then Buster would look up from where he lay by the roaring log fire when he heard them laughing, then settle back down again.
Fatty felt a mixture of happiness and sadness, as they reflected of the days gone by. When young the days stretched out before you endless, full of fun and adventure, but when the golden years suddenly crept up on you, they became just a memory.
"Anyway, going back to these jewels," said Pip, "what are you and Bets going to do, Fatty, sell them?"
"Yes, I'll be ringing Edward later for some advice. He has a friend in the jewellery business. We'll take a trip down to London to see him, and take it from there."
"Isn't it exciting, Bets," smiled Daisy. "You and Fatty could soon be very rich."
Bets looked at Fatty and grinned, sending him a secret look that meant she wanted him to tell the others of their proposed plan.
Fatty understood Bets' look, and nodded his head slightly, then turning to the others said. "Both Bets and myself have decided that these jewels will be split into five equal shares."
Three stunned and surprised faces looked from Bets to Fatty. "But Ern meant you to have them, Fatty," said Daisy. "It's only fair you and Bets have the benefits."
Pip and Larry also voiced the same and Pip started to wrap up the jewels putting them back into the pouch. "I couldn't possible let you do that, Fatty." He said.
"Our minds are made up," said Bets, firmly, "both Fatty and I are adamant you each have a share, and that's that."
"Remember," began Fatty, "we all solved the mystery of the Vanished Prince, and not only that, we were the Find-Outers, a team."
The others were really thrilled at Fatty's and Bets decision and a lively discussion pursued. "We probably won't see any benefits this side of Christmas though," Fatty reminded everyone, as he started to fill up their glasses, "but hopefully the New Year will see us slightly wealthier."
"I'll drink to that," grinned Larry, raising his glass, "how about a toast to a prosperous New Year?"
"A prosperous New Year," came the chorus.
"We've also got the visit to our friend, Superintendent Jenks, to look forward to," Bets reminded everyone.
"A toast then, to Superintendant Jenks," said Pip.
"Superintendent Jenks," came another chorus.
"I think the last toast should go to our good friend Ern," said Fatty solemnly, "who's generosity and true loyal friendship, has made all this possible."
Everyone soberly raised their glasses to their good and loyal friend Ern.
"To Ern," everyone chorused seriously.
"Rest in peace my good friend," said Fatty, softly, with a tear in his eye that fell gently onto his cheek.
A Note From Julie:-
For those readers who are too young to know Fatty and Bets' special song by Cilla Black, here are those beautiful words:
You're my world you're every breath, I take
You're my world you're every move, I make
Other eyes see the stars, up in the skies
But for me, they shine, within your eyes
As the trees reach for the sun, above
So my arms reach out to you, for love
With your hand, resting in mine
I feel a power, so divine
You're my world you are my night and day
You're my world you're every prayer I pray
If our love, ceases to be
Then it's the end of my world, for me