Returning to Peterswoodby Julie Heginbotham
Julie Heginbotham wrote the following whimsical tale about the Five Find-Outers and Dog reuniting in Peterswood after many, many years. She says, "I'm reading all this series again from the beginning, now up to book four. I'm really enjoying reliving the Find-Outers and Dog once more."
The elderly gentleman stopped by the sign 'Peterswood'. He looked down at the dog by his feet.
"Well, Buster old chap," he smiled. "The name is the same even though the original sign that used to be here has been replaced." He glanced around him with quiet contemplation, and started to walk towards the village where he once lived. Familiarity came flooding back with every step he took, happy childhood memories bringing a smile to his lips. At the age of seventy-seven, he held himself proudly as he walked, with an authorative air, his strides long with the strong determination he'd carried through his life and career with the Police Force.
His little black Scottie walked proudly by his side, glancing up at his master now and then. There was nothing this faithful little dog wouldn't do for his master and mistress, and in return he got the love and devotion from his two owners who lavished him with love, care, and the same consideration they'd given to all their previous Scottie dogs, as well as their two sons, who'd proudly followed in their father's footsteps and joined him in the Police Force.
He stopped outside the gate of a large red house, aptly name because of the deep red bricks and red tiled roof. In his mind's eye he saw a boy running down the driveway to greet him. "Fatty," yelled the boy. "You're back. Hello Buster, have you missed us all?" A young girl ran behind the boy, screaming out his name, "Fatty! We're so glad you're back. Any mysteries for us to solve yet?"
The elderly gentleman couldn't help but smile. It seemed only yesterday. How time had flown by so quickly, and so much water gone under the bridge since those days of the Five Find-Outers and Dog. At least he was one of the lucky ones. His dream of joining the police had come true, as with his longing to be the best detective since Sherlock Holmes. Well, he felt he'd done okay. At his retirement he'd been the Police Commander of the Cheshire Police. He'd been happily married to his lifelong friend Bets, and they'd got two lovely boys, who they were immensely proud of. Both his boys had joined their father in the Police Force and were happily settled with the Metropolitan Police.
Walking on he came to another house, where his friends Larry and Daisy had lived. Larry had done well for himself; he was a retired solicitor living in London, and had a lovely family of two girls. Daisy, his sister, had never left Peterswood and had been the mistress of the village post office, until she finally retired at seventy years old and took up residence in a quaint cottage a few doors down from the place she'd worked for most of her life. Daisy had never married, but had continually kept in touch with Larry and his wife Bets. Pip, his brother-in-law, was a retired school teacher and lived not far from Burnham Beeches, with his wife Mary.
On he walked and stopped outside quite a large, white, impressive house. He leaned on the gate, remembering the times he'd been up and down the pathway – sometimes as Fatty, sometimes in disguise. He remembered making Gladys jump almost out of her skin, as he loomed out of the darkness to take from her some letters that she'd come to hand over. The Mystery of the Spiteful Letters, they'd called that mystery, he remembered. Gladys had taken them from the village policeman, Mr Goon, without his knowledge, and once he'd read them, Fatty had taken them back dressed in his telegraph boy outfit. As it so happened, luck had been on his side, and he'd not had to enter Goon's house at all, but had bumped into him in the darkness and, feigning surprise, had asked the policeman if he had 'dropped these letters from his pocket'.
"We were incorrigible, Buster," Fatty said, looking down at his dog. "Poor Mr Goon, we did lead him a dance sometimes. I guess he's long since left us now. I wonder if he ever married?"
Looking up from his dog, Fatty saw two people walking down the pathway. A middle-aged man, wearing paint stained white overalls, and a spotty teenage boy, wearing the same.
"Hello to you, Mr Trotteville, sir," the man said. "We've almost finished now, just about to start tidying up and making everywhere ship-shape. Are you coming inside?"
"Not just now," Fatty returned. "I'm just off to collect Elizabeth, and then we'll both pop over later on today. Will you still be here?"
"Oh, yes, sir. We won't be leaving until around 6pm, so we'll see you then." He turned to the teenager. "Come on, John, back to work."
Fatty smiled at their retreating backs, and started off. He would have been amused at the conversation between the two painters, as they went back inside the house:
"Is that the owner, then?" John asked his boss.
"Yes," came the reply, "that's Mr. Frederick Algernon Trotteville, retired Commander of the Police, and coming back to Peterswood, where he grew up as a child. And he'll be back to check your work, so I want everything ship-shape, young Goon. Do you hear?"
"I'm not deaf," said John, racking his brains to try and think where he'd heard the name of Trotteville before. Of course! A light dawned. His granddad Ern used to tell him about a boy called Fatty, and he was sure he'd mentioned the name of Trotteville.
Fatty enjoyed his leisurely stroll with Buster through the village, and before he realized it, he came to the high street. He stopped outside what was once in his childhood the local police house. Here Mr Goon had lived, and who had been run ragged by the Five Find-Outers and Dog. A tinge of sadness and guilt ran through Fatty as he thought back to the poor police officer, who had only been trying to keep law and order in his small patch of the community.
Fatty remembered the day when he had been dressed as a messenger boy. Mr Goon had grabbed him and pulled him upstairs to a spare bedroom in this house, where he locked the door, wanting to keep him in one place whilst he made a telephone call before questioning the red-headed boy about some spiteful letters. Fatty remembered how he had escaped through the locked door, using the newspaper-under-the-door trick, and crept quietly out through the kitchen, getting Larry to retrieve his bicycle a little later on. He'd have loved to have seen the face of Mr Goon when he'd discovered the red-headed boy's escape!
Now the house was a private residence, aptly named The Old Police House. Fatty smiled to himself before making his way back to the centre of the village.
He soon reached the gate of a small quaint cottage, and walked up the garden path to the rear of the house, Buster now running on ahead, off his lead.
"Buster!" came a delighted cry. "Hello boy, where's your master then?" Fatty appeared in the garden and smiled at the two elderly women enjoying afternoon tea, sat at a large round wrought-iron table filled with sandwiches, cakes, biscuits and two pots of tea. One of the women was his wife, Bets. The other was a very dear friend.
"Hello, Daisy." Fatty kissed her cheeks and gave the delighted lady a hug.
"Bets said you were on your way round," said Daisy. She smiled. "Had a good look round the village, then? It's not really changed that much, apart from the cars. These days nearly every house has two." She threw Bets a surprised look, as much to say, how can you drive two cars at one time?
"We have to move with the times, as much as we try to resist, Daisy," Fatty remarked, throwing his wife a mischievous wink as he sat himself next to her, watching whilst she poured him a cup of hot tea. "Where there's a family living in one house, it's not unusual for there to be three or even four cars on the driveway." Poor Daisy, he thought. She'd never taken up driving a car. Relied all her life on buses, trains and the odd lift that came her way. "Cake looks delicious Daisy," he said, changing the subject. "Made it yourself?"
"Of course. Don't think I'm going to pay shop prices, do you, when I can make a perfect Victoria sandwich myself?"
"Stop winding Daisy up," scolded Bets, giving her husband a small punch on the arm. "You know Daisy is the best cook in the village. The prizes she's won in the fete competitions for her baking!"
Fatty smiled affectionately at the scolding from Bets.
"I've learned to take a lot more ribbing from Fatty than that, over the years," Daisy said, throwing Fatty a wicked look. "His visits aren't anything without his teasing." Daisy loved Fatty as much as her brother Larry. She loved seeing them and their family. It was almost as if she belonged to the family herself.
"Is Larry coming along this afternoon, Daisy?" Bets asked. "It would be lovely if he could come and see The White House with us all. Pip should be here soon." She glanced quickly at the watch on her wrist.
"Oh, yes," Daisy said. "He should be here himself shortly. Said he didn't want to miss the grand tour of the house, now that it's been completely refurbished. He won't be able to bring Helen though; she's feeling under the weather and didn't fancy travelling."
"That's okay," replied Fatty. "The old gang back together again, for the afternoon." He smiled. It seemed ages since they'd had a reunion of just the Find-Outers alone. Normally when they got together, all of their families joined them too.
"It'll seem quite strange moving back into The White House, I expect," said Daisy, watching Fatty finishing off his cake. "And in a couple of weeks time too, so Bets mentioned."
"Yes, we're looking forward to it, aren't we, Bets?" He threw his wife a bright smile. "I didn't really want to move in whilst Mother was in the nursing home. It didn't seem right somehow, even though I know she wouldn't have minded if I'd had the refurbishments started."
"She had a good long life," Daisy remarked. "Getting her telegram from the Queen. There's not many of us will reach the grand old age of 101 when we die."
"That's true," agreed Fatty, with a small nod. "She outlived Father by thirty years."
"It'll be lovely moving into The White House at last, though," said Bets. "After all these years of waiting. It'll be nice for us to be nearer the boys and grandchildren, won't it, Fatty?" She smiled lovingly at him, then turning back to Daisy and said, "Cheshire is lovely and beautiful countryside, Daisy, but at last we'll be returning home to where we belong."
"It'll be lovely having you back here at last." Daisy smiled. "As Bets says, where you both belong."
The front gate closing had the three of them turning towards the sound, and Buster raced off to greet the visitors. He could be heard barking for joy, before two elderly men came into the rear garden.
"So here you all are," said Larry, walking towards them. "I told you they'd be stuffing their faces, Pip. I hope you've left plenty for us?"
"As if we'd dare to leave you out," his sister scoffed. Larry and Pip came over to the table. They kissed Daisy and Bets fondly, giving them a loving squeeze, and pumping Fatty's arm vigorously up and down whilst slapping his back. "Well, I never thought I'd see the day, Fatty. You and Bets here, finally moving back to Peterswood," said Larry with a shake of his head. "About time, if you ask me. It'll be great for Daisy."
"Have you thought about it yourself, Larry?" Bets asked. "It's not far away from the girls and their families. Just a train journey, really."
"Well, Helen and I have discussed it, Bets," Larry said, filling his face with his sister's Victoria Sandwich. "So it may be on the cards."
"And I'm not that far away," put in Pip, "so we could think about starting up the Find-Outers again, and with your detective skills, Fatty, there'd be no stopping us."
Bets raised her brows in amusement. "Oh yes, I can just see both your wife and Larry's agreeing to that!"
"Don't spoil it, Bets," her brother scolded. "We have to dream."
The next couple of hours were spent reminiscing old times and past mysteries, over numerous cups of tea. The years had taken their toll as memories were not quite as sharp as they'd have liked, and friendly banter pursued as they struggled to remember the finer details. The afternoon was glorious for June. Sunshine and good company – what more could the Find-Outers wish for?
"Well, I don't know about anybody else, but I'm just about ready to see how our refurbishments have turned out," said Bets, rising to her feet. "Come on, if you're all coming to join us."
"What's the rush, Bets?" grumbled her brother. "I'm relaxing and enjoying this glorious afternoon sunshine."
"Well, you stay here and enjoy it, then." Bets pulled Fatty to his feet. "We're off to view our new house, aren't we, Fatty?"
"She who must be obeyed," Pip mused. "You deserve a medal, Fatty old chap, staying married to my sister for all these years."
Fatty smiled his amusement but remained silent. He knew that it was Bets who deserved the medal; being married to the Police Force was not always easy.
"Behave, Pip." Daisy slapped his arm. "They're the perfect couple, as well you know. Come on, we're all going." She rose from her chair, glaring down at her brother and Pip.
"Lead the way." Larry stretched out his arm. "Give us the grand tour."
The Five and Buster, tugging at his lead, walked leisurely down towards The White House. They passed the post office on the way, and almost collided with a middle-aged woman rushing out the door.
"Hello, Miss Daykin." She smiled at Daisy. "You'll never guess what has happened?" She was almost breathless, and the five looked at her, wondering what on earth had happened.
"It's Old Mrs Williams, who lives near Norton House. She's been robbed, and in broad daylight too!"
"Robbed?" Daisy exclaimed.
"Yes," the lady replied, enjoying her surprised audience. "The police have already been called. The only sound Mrs Williams heard was a deep-throated cough. No sign of anyone at all. It was as if the thief was invisible. What do you make of that?"
She rushed off, ready to spread the news.
The five looked at one another, amused grins spreading across their faces, as familiarity came flooding back.
"Well, I think we're experienced enough to deal with that little mystery, don't you, Fatty?" smiled Bets, squeezing her husband's arm. "So what's the next step, Find-Outers? A tour of The White House – or a trip to the other side of the village to talk to Mrs Williams?"
Everyone looked at Fatty, the leader of the Five Find-Outers and Dog. He glanced round at everyone, remembering how they'd all looked sixty years ago, and how they'd hung onto his every word. Now he saw the lines of life and age showing on their faces, their eyes still the same, shining brightly as they smiled at him. He looked at Bets, the tower of strength who had supported him all their married life without a word of complaint. He pulled her closer to him and planted a kiss on her upturned face.
"I've brought my beloved Bets back to the village where we both belong," he began. "Her and my family are my first priority. So, Find-Outers, it's on with the tour of our new home. After that, well, who knows...?"
"Well said, Fatty," Daisy said approvingly.
So the Find-Outers crossed the street and headed towards The White House, chatting excitedly about the coming fortnight, when Bets and Fatty would once again return to their village of Peterswood.