The Five Find-Outers Strike Againby Julie Heginbotham
A sequel to Julie's last story, Returning to Peterswood, that takes place a month later. Has the Invisible Thief returned to haunt the Find-Outers? As the gang solve this case, it becomes apparent that all those mysteries they solved as kids actually have consequences.
"Bets, what are you doing?" questioned Fatty, looking up from his morning newspaper, as Bets hurried by for the third time, now carrying a large linen basket filled to the top.
"Can't stop, Fatty," came the flustered reply, "heaps to do." She was pulled to a sudden gentle halt by Fatty grabbing her arm, and rising from his arm chair, sat his wife down in the chair opposite.
"Is there something you've not told me?" He raised a questioning brow. "Or are we working on the guessing game?" He gazed down at her flushed face, a knowing gleam entering his bright eyes. "Are we expecting one of the grand children for the week-end?"
Bets knew she couldn't put anything past Fatty. He'd always been able to read her like a book. Just as well they'd had no secrets in their fifty two years of marriage. "Not one of the grandchildren," she smiled, "just Larry."
"I told you about Helen having to fly out to Australia today, didn't I?"
"Yeees," came Fatty's long questioning drawl.
"Well, as you know, Larry's not one for visiting sick relatives, so their daughter Sarah is going with her and that means Larry being by himself for three weeks."
"So you've invited him here," Fatty finished for her, raising that knowing brow he often used, reminding Bets of just how handsome he still was and how much she loved his authorative air that kept her safe and secure.
"Well, you know how hopeless he is by himself," Bets returned, strengthening her reason. "He'd never cope without Helen. She's his rock, as was Daisy when they were kids."
Fatty smiled. "You don't need to convince me, Bets dear. Just stop rushing around. Larry's not going to notice whether the bedroom has been cleaned or not."
"Maybe he won't," said Bets firmly, standing to her feet. "But I will, so you can either bring up that basket of linen and help me, Frederick Trotteville, or find the vacuum cleaner and bring that instead."
Fatty stepped aside gracefully. No rest for him whilst they had an expected guest. "I'll bring the vacuum," he said, with light exasperation.
* * *
"Did Helen and Sarah fly out on time, Larry?" Bets asked, as she poured his tea.
"Only a slight delay, nothing major." Larry took the cup from Bets. "Thanks. It's really good of you both to let me stay here. I would have stayed with Daisy if you hadn't asked, Bets, but I'd rather be here. Daisy's cottage is a little cramped, really."
"Well, you won't feel cramped here, Larry," said Fatty, "we've heaps of room. It's a little too big really for the two of us, but I didn't want to sell it, being the family home. I just hope the family want to keep it when Bets and I are no longer here." A tinge of sadness had entered his tone. Fatty and Bets loved The White House, and if truth be known, didn't like to think of it being sold outside the family.
"Of course they will," said Bets firmly, handing Fatty his tea. "I don't want to hear any sort of morbid talk." She sat herself down, and looking at Larry, said, "So, is it a serious operation Helen's sister is having?"
"I thought we weren't talking morbid?" came Fatty's indignant retort.
"I'm showing concern, Fatty, that's different."
Larry grinned, as a defeated Fatty sat back with a huge sigh.
"No, it's not serious, Bets," Larry continued, "but Helen wanted to be with her sister and, rather than her fly out alone, Sarah said she'd go too. Her husband's quite capable of looking after himself and their children live close by." He left the words in the air.
A tapping at the window had three heads turning towards the sound, and Buster, who'd been sleeping by his master's feet, suddenly raced to the bay window. He stood on his hind legs, his front paws balanced on the low sill, happily barking at the face peering in.
Bets smiled and beckoned the visitor inside.
"I wondered how long it would take my sister to show her face," grinned Larry. "She doesn't miss a trick."
Daisy walked into the room, smiling round at everyone, with Buster dancing around her feet in excitement.
"Buster's wondering what's inside the cake tin you're carrying," Fatty mused. "As we all are, Daisy."
Bets threw Fatty a cheery grin. He continually loved to rib Daisy, and Bets knew that Daisy secretly loved it.
"Macaroons," Daisy informed everyone. "I couldn't come empty-handed now, could I? Especially with my brother, about to eat you out of house and home for the next three weeks."
She threw Larry a wicked grin. It hadn't surprised her at all that he wouldn't choose to stay at home alone. He'd been an excellent solicitor, and very well known in the city, but when it came to fending for himself, her brother came near the end of the list.
"Sit yourself down, Daisy." Bets rose and poured her some tea. "All we need now is my darling brother to turn up and the Find-Outers are complete."
"Speak of the devil," said Fatty, with a laugh, turning towards the window as the sound of a car could be heard coming up the driveway. "Better go and fetch another cup, Bets!"
* * *
"So what's new, Find-Outers?" mused Pip, glancing round at everyone, accepting his second cuppa from Bets.
"Have you read the local paper?" Fatty put forward, opening the paper by his side until he came to the page required.
"No," came a chorus of replies. "Should we have, Fatty?" finished Daisy.
"Well, it appears our invisible thief has reared his head once more."
Fatty handed Larry the paper on his request. Whilst he read, Daisy said, "Mrs Williams was robbed on the day we all came to see your refurbishments, Fatty, if you remember, but nothing more was heard about it, and nobody else has been burgled as far as I know."
"Well, according to the local paper, the thief seems to have struck again. In broad daylight, and only a deep-throated cough was heard."
Everyone looked at Fatty, puzzlement on their faces. "I can't believe that the thief is the same one from years ago," Bets said, voicing what everyone else was thinking.
"I shouldn't think for one minute that he is," Fatty replied, looking at everyone, "but let's face it, someone wants us to think he is."
"That mystery was back in 1950," Larry commented. "Fifty-eight years ago! Twit could even be dead by now, who knows?" He shrugged. "It's a wonder anyone can remember the details of that mystery."
"Well, someone obviously does," Bets put forward. She looked at Fatty. "Do you think we should investigate this further, Fatty? After all, we did solve it years ago, and by what you've just said, it seems to be directed at us!"
Four eager faces looked at Fatty. It was one thing to solve mysteries all those years ago, but to think that someone may be singling them all out was another matter, and one that was obviously worrying Fatty by the strange look on his face.
"I've just got this strange feeling," he began, "that this is directed personally at me. In all my years with the police and the many people who I've had put away, no one has made me personally responsible, but this is a bit worrying. My first priority is Bets, of course." He looked across at his wife, who looked back at him, concern lighting up her eyes.
"But that's ridiculous, Fatty," she tried to convince herself, as much as her husband. "Don't let's get this out of proportion. It is only a little burglary, after all," she finished lightly.
"Bets is right, Fatty," Pip spoke up, "it's only a harmless village burglary, probably kids."
"Think back," began Fatty seriously. "We first heard about this so called 'invisible thief' when we visited the refurbishments, which was when," he raised a brow, "four weeks ago? Nothing since had been reported, and Bets and I moved in here two weeks after that." Everyone remained silent, listening attentively to Fatty's words. "We've been here now for just over a week, and now the thief has struck again." He looked around at everyone. "Now can you see what I'm getting at?"
Everyone nodded, and Pip said, "Well, I suppose it's possible, but there again it could just be a coincidence," he finished on a lighter note, glancing around at the serious faces before him.
"I don't think we should take this personally," said Daisy firmly. "But there's no harm in doing a little quiet investigation ourselves." She smiled. "I mean, who on earth is going to suspect that we're doing a spot of investigative work, at our age?"
Everyone seemed to brighten up a little. "Daisy's right," Larry agreed. "Let's just do our own investigating, and see what we uncover."
"The Find-Outers strike again," grinned Bets, feeling a lot more cheerful now.
Fatty glanced round at four eager faces. He couldn't help but laugh, which disturbed Buster from his sleep. He sat upright and rested his head on Fatty's lap. Fatty stroked the dogs head, saying. "Okay, Find-Outers, let's give it a go then. What have we got to lose?"
* * *
The following morning, Fatty, Larry and Buster, tugging at his lead, walked towards a group of cottages by the river. The newspaper article had said that old Mr Grundy had been visited by the 'invisible thief' and so Fatty had suggested this would be their first port of call. Pip had been sent along to the library, to investigate old newspapers of 1950, trying to find out more about Twit the baker who'd been arrested back then for his crimes. Daisy and Bets had gone over to call on Mrs Williams and they were all to meet up after their investigations at the pub by the river.
As they neared the cottages, Fatty slipped Buster off his lead, knowing that he'd chase the cat that had run up a tree in Mr Grundy's garden.
On cue came the old man from his cottage on hearing Buster's barking, as the dog gazed up at one of the branches on which the cat had safely perched itself.
Full of apologies, Fatty and Larry entered the garden and Fatty put Buster back on the lead.
Mr Grundy didn't seem too worried, as he could see the cat was safe, and accepted Fatty's apologies.
"I'm just a little jittery at the moment," the elderly gentleman went on to explain. "Had a visit from an unwanted visitor, in the middle of the day too. Fortunately he didn't get away with anything, and went as quietly as he came."
"Really," said Fatty in surprise. "I thought the papers had reported you'd been robbed?"
"I think I must have disturbed the thief," shrugged Mr Grundy. "I heard his cough, and shouted out, but when I got to the kitchen no one was there, but the garden gate was open, so I presumed he'd raced off."
"Did anyone see him?" Larry asked.
"No, no one was about," began Mr Grundy. "I did go to the gate, and look around, but couldn't see a soul."
"Did you see any large footprints?" Larry asked, thinking back to the same mystery of fifty-eight years ago.
"No," Mr Grundy shook his head, looking quite bemused, "why should there be large footprints? Have the police caught the culprit then?"
"No, I was just wondering, that's all," Larry said hurriedly, covering his mistake.
"Besides," continued Mr Grundy, "the ground is so hard with all this dry weather, I doubt whether the intruder would leave any footprints."
Fatty was quiet as he took in all that the elderly gentleman said. "Well, sorry about my dog," he finally said. "Come along, Buster." He pulled gently at the dog's lead, as he and Larry made their way from the garden.
"Seems the papers have made quite a meal of this, Fatty," Larry said as they walked along by the river. "But there again they would. It helps to sell papers."
"So it seems," Fatty returned. "We may as well make our way to the Water's Edge and have a pint until the others join us."
Fatty and Larry were soon sitting in a quiet spot in the garden of the Water's Edge, a pint in their hands, watching the boats as they sailed slowly along the river. It was a glorious day, and thankfully the sun umbrella was helping to keep them shaded. Buster, happy after his walk, was lying under the table, dozing.
Pip was the first to arrive, and Larry went back inside to buy him a pint and to top up his and Fatty's. No sooner had he got back to the table when Bets and Daisy entered the pub's garden, and, spotting the three, came over.
"What are you having, Bets?" asked Daisy, looking around as she sat herself down. "Well, isn't this pleasant."
"A white wine, I think," returned Bets. "What about you, Daisy?"
"Sweet sherry." Daisy looked at her brother. "Well, are you going to get our drinks, Larry?"
Larry almost choked on his drink, and said in surprise, "I've only just been to the bar."
"Good, so you'll know the way then, won't you?"
Larry got up, grumbling under his breath, muttering something about sisters. The other four watched him go in utter amusement. It was quite strange how, as children, Larry had always taken charge over his sister. Now Daisy was the stronger of the two. Living alone as she had for many years, Daisy was now a strong-minded, strong-willed woman, who was quite a match for anyone who dared to cross her.
"So what have we learnt?" said Fatty sitting forward and taking charge of the meeting.
"Well, Bets and I haven't learnt all that much, really," Daisy began. "Mrs Williams only remembered hearing a deep-throated cough, and when she went into the kitchen to investigate, no one was there."
"That's right," confirmed Bets, "and the only thing that was stolen was a cake she had just baked, which was sitting cooling on the table."
"What an odd thing to steal," said Pip. "Could it have been a hungry tramp?"
"Most unlikely." Fatty paused to finish his drink. "Unless the thief wanted us to associate the theft with a baker." He raised his brows questioningly. "What did you discover at the library, Pip?"
"I had quite an interesting morning." Pip looked pleased, and ready to tell all that he had learnt, knowing his news would be the most surprising to the anticipating audience.
"Twit, as he was known locally, was only a nickname. His real name was Thomas William Ian Thornton." Pip looked round at everyone, waiting for them to make the connection.
"He was named after his initials," Larry smiled. "I always thought what an unusual name he had."
Everyone nodded their agreement. "And here's something else we didn't know," continued Pip. "He had a baby daughter, who was born in 1949, so she was just one when Twit was arrested. She'd be fifty-nine now."
Fatty smiled his pleasure. "Good work, Pip. I suppose it's too much to assume you know where this daughter is now?"
"As a matter of fact I do." Pip filled out with pride. "The librarian knows her very well. She lives in Sheepsale, and I've got the address."
* * *
Everyone looked at Pip. He'd certainly had a productive morning. Pip proudly handed Fatty a piece of paper with the address on. Fatty glanced at the paper before putting it into his pocket. "Well done, Pip. I'll pop along tomorrow and make some enquiries. But right now, we all deserve a quiet afternoon, so how about ordering some lunch while we're here, and then having a walk along the river."
"Sounds good to me." Larry stood up. "I'll go and get a few menus before my dear sister starts ordering me about."
Lunch was a quiet affair, with general natter. They didn't want to discuss their morning's work anymore, as the garden was getting rather busy, and the last thing they wanted was to be overheard.
After lunch they walked along the river, Buster running ahead, stopping now and then to make sure everyone was still in sight. The afternoon was hot, and after a while they found a nice picnic area, with tables and benches to sit around, and started to unpack the sandwiches and drink they'd bought from the pub for an afternoon's picnic. Buster retreated under the table to await any tit-bits that came his way.
"This reminds me of when we were kids," smiled Bets happily. "We used to come by the river and picnic many times, when we weren't solving mysteries."
"Remember when we went to Frinton Lea, and you disguised yourself as a fisherman, Fatty?" Larry grinned. "We were on the case of the invisible thief then."
"Oh yes," remembered Daisy, "and we spotted Mr Goon and thought he was the thief." Everyone laughed. "Gosh, where have those days gone?" finished Daisy on a sombre note. "Time goes by so quickly these days, but when you're kids, they just go on forever."
"I think back to Inspector Jenks, many a time with fond memories," Fatty began soberly. He grinned. "He always used to say, 'Hurry up, Frederick, and grow up. I could do with a good right hand man.'"
Everyone nodded, remembering their friend, as they referred to him, in those days.
"I used to hang on to his every word," admitted Fatty, "thinking all I had to do was join the police and then work besides him." He shook his head sadly. "Innocence of childhood. Why can't we keep it forever?"
"Because nothing lasts forever, Fatty." Bets smiled at him. "That's why we have to make the most of every day, especially at our age."
"Let's not get tied down with sentiments," Daisy said sternly. "The sun's shining, so let's make the most of it. Now, who's having which sandwich?"
Fatty looked at Daisy, throwing her a quick wink. Daisy could always be relied upon. When you were down, she perked you up. When you were happy she shared your joy. She was a tower of strength to everyone, and he knew that everyone around the table loved her dearly.
The rest of the afternoon went by lazily. The Find-Outers chattered about old times, and watched the boats go sailing by. Bets looked very happy as she laughed and smiled with the friends around her. Fatty watched her now and then, silently. He was so glad they'd returned to Peterswood, especially for Bets' sake. She'd missed her home town so much over the years but had never complained. Now she looked happy and content, and as beautiful as ever, he thought proudly. What more could anyone want but to be surrounded by such good friends on a lovely hot July afternoon.
* * *
The following morning Fatty and Bets took a trip out to Sheepsale. Fatty brought the car to a halt on the opposite side of the address they were after. Switching off the car's engine, he turned to Bets.
"There's the house. I'll give it a minute, and then go across with the pretext of looking up an old friend."
Bets nodded. For a brief instant a shiver of excitement ran down her spine, and she shivered. Fatty, missing nothing, said, "Don't worry, Bets, I won't be long, and you can clearly see everything from here."
"I know," she smiled. "It's just that now we're here..." She stopped suddenly, as they both noticed the front door had opened. Out stepped a young man, who then turned to plant a kiss on the young woman standing in the doorway. He then proceeded to collect a moped which he pushed out onto the roadway before starting up its engine and moving slowly away.
Fatty and Bets both looked at each other in surprise. "Isn't that young John Goon, Fatty?" Bets started. "You remember. We met him the day we inspected the refurbishments. He's the apprentice that works for Mr. Greenwood."
"Yes, you're right." Fatty unclasped his seat belt. "Time I did a little investigation."
Bets watched as Fatty crossed the road, and made his way up the front path, before knocking on the door. It was answered by the same young woman, who smiled at her unexpected visitor.
Fatty returned the smile, and said apologetically, "Sorry to trouble you, but have I got the right address for Margaret Daykin. I've just returned to the area, and was told it could be this address."
The young woman shook her head. "Sorry, you've been misinformed, there's no one called Daykin lives here. It's just Mum and me, and her surname's Thornton."
Fatty smiled. So Twit's daughter did live here, and for some reason her surname was the same. Could be she never married, or if she was divorced she could have reverted to her maiden name. "I'm so sorry to have disturbed you." Then, on a sudden impulse, he said, "Forgive me, but the young man I saw who just left – he looked very much like the apprentice who works for Greenwood." He watched the young woman closely, an innocent smile still lighting up his face.
"Yes, he is. That's John Goon. He's my fiancé." A proud smile lit up her face, and a slight colour of pink flushed her cheeks.
"Congratulations," Fatty returned. "He seems a nice young man. My wife and I were chatting to him only a few of weeks ago. I think he mentioned he lived here in Sheepsale."
"He lives here," was the surprising reply. "We have a one bedroom flat at the top of the house, which John rents. That's how we met."
Fatty nodded silently. "Well, sorry to have disturbed you, I'll try a few more addresses further along."
As the door closed Fatty walked slowly away. When he was sure he wasn't being observed he crossed over the road, back to his waiting car.
"Well?" was Bets' eager question, with a raised brow.
"Pip's lead was correct. Twit's daughter lives there along with her own daughter, and John Goon has a flat under their roof, and he's engaged to the latter."
"So what will you do now? Try and talk with Twit's daughter?" Bets didn't think she'd be too willing to talk about her father, especially if she knew who Fatty was.
"I don't think that will be necessary," Fatty shook his head. "So the next step is to go home, I'll make a couple of phone calls, and then we'll invite the rest of the Find-Outers over for afternoon tea."
"Okay," smiled Bets, as Fatty started up the car's engine, ready for the drive back to Peterswood.
* * *
Bets couldn't hear all that Fatty was saying down the telephone in the hallway. He'd been quite secretive about the call he was going to make. Then she heard him replacing the receiver before he lifted it again and started to dial.
Minutes later he was back in the lounge. He picked up the morning paper before sitting back in his favourite arm chair.
"Well, you obviously made your important call?" Bets quizzed, watching him closely.
"Yes," he looked up from the paper with a smile. "I also rang the others and they'll be over around 3.30pm."
"Right, well, I'll go and make a few sandwiches then," she returned, making her way slowly towards the door in case Fatty had something else to say.
"Lovely," was all Fatty said, turning back to the paper in his hands.
* * *
Just after 3.30pm all the Find-Outers were in the lounge enjoying tea, sandwiches and a sponge cake brought in by Daisy.
"So come on, Fatty," Pip enquired. "What have you learnt from this morning's trip to Sheepsale?"
"Well, I called at the address you'd given, Pip, and it turns out that Twit's daughter does live there, along with her own daughter, and a sitting tenant in the flat upstairs, who is none other than John Goon himself." Fatty looked around at their eager faces.
"Goon! Isn't he Ern's grandson, who was here the day we came to look around The White House?" said Larry.
"Yes," Fatty nodded, "he'll be here soon, as I've rung his boss, Greenwood, to see if he can do a little touch up on the paint in the kitchen."
"There's nothing wrong with the kitchen," Bets put forward, rather puzzled.
"It's only a small job, Bets." Fatty smiled at her. "You've probably not noticed."
"Obviously," was Bets puzzled retort. She'd not noticed anything that needed a touch up, but wasn't about to make a fuss in front of the others.
The ringing of the door bell brought her from her thoughts, and she stood to leave the room. "Excuse me, everyone, that's probably him now."
Everyone looked around as Bets returned with John Goon.
"Hello, young man," Fatty greeted him. "I think you've met everyone."
John Good nodded shyly, as a chorus of hellos came his way. He remembered seeing them all the day they came to see the house but names weren't his strong point. He bent down to stroke an active Buster, who started to jump up for attention, until Fatty stopped the dog's pleasure and told him to go sit by the door. As good as gold, Buster went to lie down by the lounge door, releasing a huge sigh as he did so.
"Sit yourself down for a minute, and help yourself to a cool drink," came Fatty's invitation, nodding to the tray on the low table. "I don't expect you'll want a tea, but there's fresh juice in the jug."
"Thanks," came the quiet rely. Everyone watched silently as he poured himself a glass.
"Help yourself to a sandwich," said Bets, "there's plenty."
"Thanks," John smiled, starting to relax as he ate.
"We all knew your grandfather," Daisy said, watching him eat. "If I recall, didn't you say he'd died only a few years ago?"
"Mmm," nodded John, finishing his sandwich. "He'd been ill for a number of years. Smoking was the cause, unfortunately."
"That's bad luck," Pip sympathized. "He wasn't all that old."
"No. His brothers are still living though, Sid and Perce.
"We didn't know them as well as your grandfather," smiled Larry.
"I was over at your place this morning," Fatty informed John, watching his reaction closely. "Speaking to your fiancée actually. She seems a nice young lady."
"Yes, she is. We get married next year," he informed everyone proudly.
"Shame to put that into jeopardy." Fatty spoke suddenly, surprising everyone greatly. They all looked at him, bewildered, and John looked nervous.
"I don't understand, Mr Trotteville."
"I'm sure you do, John. What I don't understand is why?" Fatty raised a menacing brow.
Everyone listened in utter disbelief. Larry was the first to speak. "Surely John isn't our 'invisible thief'?"
"I'm afraid he is," Fatty said seriously, "and it all depends on what explanation he gives before we involve the police."
"The police!" John looked around at everyone in horror. "Mr Trotteville, please don't involve the police, I didn't mean any harm, honestly. I did it for Emily, that's Miss Thornton senior. She's such a lovely lady, and has suffered such a great deal when her father was taken into prison."
John had such regret and sincerity in his voice that Bets, felt a little sorry for him. Seeing the position he had got himself into she rushed to his aid, saying, "We could all hear what John has to say, if he's prepared to tell us the truth."
John threw her an appreciative look. Nodding his head, he said, "If you'll allow me to explain."
"I suppose we could hear his explanation," said Daisy, nodding, as she looked around at everyone.
"Yes, I'd certainly like to hear it," agreed Larry
"Okay, John, let's hear it." Came Fatty authoritative tone.
* * *
The Find-Outers sat back comfortably, eagerly awaiting the explanation from John as to why he would want them to think that the 'invisible thief' had struck again after all these years.
"Emily was a one-year-old when Mr Thornton was taken to prison," began John quietly. "He wasn't really a bad man, according to Emily. He'd suffered quite badly from depression and nerves after the war, so Emily's mother had told her," he added, thinking he wasn't really telling this story to its best advantage and giving enough justice to his reasoning.
"Everyone suffered during the second world war, in some way or another, John," said Fatty, understandingly. "But they didn't all turn to crime."
John nodded. "I know. I'm just trying to explain to the best of my ability, what Sarah, my fiancée, has told me. Emily and her mother had to keep moving because of the shame put upon them, so eventually Emily's mother moved back to live with her own mother, until Mr Thornton was released from prison. When he was released he couldn't get a job; apparently his depression was worse than ever. He did odd jobs, gardening, cleaning windows. That's all he could without proper references, and by this time they'd moved to Sheepsale. Emily remembers her childhood as an unhappy one. Her father turned to drink. He and his wife were always rowing, then one day when he was drunk he killed himself by walking in front of a steam train."
Everyone listened quietly, hearing the sadness in his voice. "Emily's been good to me, Mr Trotteville. She's a lovely lady, and at times isn't well herself. She had Sarah out of wedlock when she was almost forty, and that wasn't easy bringing up a child by herself. When I told Sarah you were moving back here, we were frightened that if her mother found out, it would bring back all the heartache she'd had over the years."
"Wait a minute," interrupted Larry, "why should Mr Trotteville's return to Peterswood interfere with the Thornton's over at Sheepsale?"
"Yes, good point," agreed Daisy. "Also, young man, we solved the mystery of the 'Invisible Thief' fifty eight years ago. We were all young teenagers ourselves. We weren't a threat then, or even now, to anyone."
John nodded. "I know that now. Granddad used to love talking about you all, and relating the mysteries you'd solved. I can't remember all of them of course, but when I got involved with Sarah, and found out who her grandfather was, well, they seemed more real somehow, and I knew you wouldn't know the outcome of how that family had suffered."
Fatty leaned forward and looked straight at the young man before him. "I'm not responsible for what happened to the Thornton family, John. Twit, as he was known in those days, was wholly responsible for every action he took. The outcome would have been the same for him, with or without our help in that particular mystery."
"What I don't understand," Pip began, sounding rather vague, "is why you wanted us to think the thief had set up again? Was it some sort of vendetta?"
John Goon looked rather ashamed. "I thought that if I replicated what Mr Thornton had done, it would get you all thinking back to his crimes, and then I was going to send you a note that said, 'Trottevilles next', same as he'd done." John looked straight at Fatty. "The plan was to get you so worried about it all, you'd leave Peterswood, and Emily need never know you'd returned."
"I thought I was a target," Fatty said, nodding.
"Seems a rather stupid, feeble plan to me," said Pip. "A child could have worked out something more feasible than that."
"I should have known you were too clever to take it really seriously," John groaned, lowering his eyes. "I didn't give it a lot of thought really. It just came to me suddenly when I realized who you were, the day we met you at the gate."
"I remember," said Fatty. "I guess once I said I'd be back later, you dashed over to Mrs Williams house, stole her cake as a clue for me to think of a baker, made sure she heard your cough, then crept away."
John nodded silently.
"You didn't remember the large footprints," Larry said to John.
"Twit carried large boots around in his baker's basket," said Daisy.
"I didn't know that," John confessed. "I guess that proves I don't really know all the facts."
"I've rung my old contacts in the Police Force, John, and know you haven't got a police record," Fatty informed him. "That's the last thing you want. It'll stop you getting on in life, so if you'll agree not to do anything like this again, I'll not contact the police."
John looked gratefully at Fatty. He was speechless for a few moments, and then said, "Thanks, Mr Trotteville. I wasn't thinking straight. Nothing like this will happen again."
"Well, I think that's more than you deserve, young man," said Larry firmly. "But I think we all understand your reason even though you did wrong. Just continue to look after your fiancée and Mother-in-law to be, and you won't go far wrong."
"Remember, John, no one is to blame for the actions of Mr. Thornton," said Fatty. "Everything about him would have been discussed at his trial, and I'm sure his depressive illness would have been taken into consideration, and helped, throughout his time inside. So don't take any guilt on your shoulders, for the family's misfortunes. It was well before your time."
John nodded gratefully. "Does Mr Greenwood have to know all about this?" he asked.
"He already knows," Fatty replied. "But don't worry; you've still got a job, providing you stay on the straight and narrow."
It was a rather grateful but forlorn John Goon who left the White House that afternoon, to head off back to work. His plan had been stupid, he knew that now, and Mr. Trotteville had done nothing but treat him fairly. No wonder his grandfather Ern had always spoken so highly of Frederick Algernon Trotteville.
* * *
Everyone was silent for a moment after John Goon left, contemplating what had just occurred.
"Well, who would have thought it?" Pip was the first to break the silence. "What on earth was he thinking of, to try and pull such a stupid stunt?"
"You have to give him credit for his loyalty to his new family," said Bets, always seeing the good in everyone.
"Well, if you think back, Pip, the Goons have never really been blessed with much intelligence," said Fatty knowingly. "These days I doubt whether Theophilus Goon would even make it into the Force. He was only a village bobby after all, and never climbed the ladder of success."
"Nevertheless, you were very lenient on him, Fatty. You must be mellowing in your old age!" Larry grinned.
"Maybe," contemplated Fatty.
"It makes you think, though," began Daisy on a serious note. "Everyone hears about the crimes of today, or yesteryear, but no one ever thinks about the consequences that the families have to face, once the perpetrator is imprisoned. We all think that he's got what he deserves, end of story."
"That's true, Daisy," said Fatty. "If you think back to Twit's crimes, they were actually petty, compared to the drug related crimes of today. I don't think he'd have spent too long behind bars. But as we've now learnt, he was disturbed mentally, and that had a huge impact on what the family had to face later."
"If I remember rightly," began Larry thoughtfully, "he was a small banter of a man. We didn't much like him. But of course he was covering up a lot of mixed feelings deep inside his head and maybe that was his way of coping."
"If only we'd known that at the time," Bets said compassionately.
"We were young, Bets," said Fatty gently. "We were the Find-Outers. We wanted to solve village mysteries. The reasons behind why the crimes were committed didn't enter our heads. Maybe it did our parents, who knows? The papers would have been full of the news after the event, but I never read them."
A chorus of "No, neither did I!" followed Fatty's observation.
"Well, it was rather sad to learn what happed to Twit and his family," said Bets thoughtfully. "So I do understand why you didn't want to say anymore about it, Fatty."
Fatty smiled at his wife. Sometimes words weren't needed between the two of them. Each of them knew and understood the other well enough.
"Well, I don't know about anyone else, but I'm in need of a pint," Larry began on a lighter note.
"Well said, Larry." Pip rose from his chair. "Anyone else?"
"Need you ask?" grinned Fatty rising, a happy Buster bounding up to him, wagging his tail. He wasn't about to be left out. "And a nice walk for you, Buster," Fatty said, fondling the dog's ears.
Before long the five of them, and a happy bouncing dog, were entering the garden of the 'Waters Edge', and choosing a table which overlooked the river, where the boats meandered slowly on the hot sunny afternoon.
"Now, you'll remember where the bar is, won't you, Larry?" Daisy ribbed in amused tones to her brother.
"Funny," returned Larry, in good humour.
"I'll help you, Larry," said Pip, following him into the pub.
"You are wicked to that brother of yours," Bets said to Daisy with a laugh. "Good job he takes it in the humour intended."
"Course he does," Daisy confirmed. "He gets so spoilt by Helen at home, that I like to keep him on his toes when he comes here."
"Drinks at last," said Fatty, raising from his chair to help set the glasses on the table, and putting a small bowl of water underneath for Buster.
Once everyone was seated and enjoying their drinks, Pip said, "So can you reiterate, Fatty, what on earth John Goon was trying to do?"
"Basically his idea was to try and scare me out of Peterswood, by imitating Twit the baker. A ludicrous idea, but then John Goon isn't very smart. As I previously mentioned, the Goons are not that intelligent. He acted on impulse the day he learnt who I was, and took Mrs Williams' cake so I would associate a baker! He'd also learnt about how Twit always gave a deep-throated cough, and made sure he did the same, loud enough to be heard."
"But nobody saw him either," said Larry. "I wonder how he managed that?"
"Just luck, I guess," replied Fatty. "He's not a bad person, and I don't think he intended to take anything from anyone. He just wanted me to think back to the crimes of Twit, basically. I think he was trying to refresh my memory. After all, it was fifty eight years ago."
"How did you make the connection, then, Fatty?" Daisy asked, eager to know the secret of Fatty's great detective powers.
"Once I saw John Goon coming from the Thorntons, and learnt that he lived there, I was suspicious, and years of police instinct took over. So I called his boss, Greenwood, and asked him to think back to the day we spoke at the gate. I asked whether John had popped out on an errand before we called much later, and he confirmed he had. So I put my suspicions to him, and got John over on a pretext of doing a job. I took a big chance." He smiled at their surprised expressions. "I've met many a guilty man, but proving it is the hardest part. And there's one thing you can't go to court with, and that's an instinct. You have to have proof."
"Good old Fatty and his instinct," said Pip. "You were betting on John giving himself away almost immediately."
"Of course, I took a chance and threw the accusation at him, and it worked." Fatty smiled around at everyone, filling out with pride, and years of police experience.
"I've worked something else out too," smiled Bets, looking around at everyone. "A really big clue, or should I say glue!" Everyone laughed, and a few inquisitive customers looked their way with smiles before Bets continued. "You told John to pour out his own drink, Fatty. Therefore leaving his fingerprints on the glass and possible DNA around the rim?" Her brows raised in question.
"Well done, my dear," smiled Fatty. "That was just in case I didn't get a confession. I had to have proof. I'm sure I could have pulled a few strings with the forensic team and had the scene of crime brushed for his prints. I'm pretty certain something would have turned up."
"Well, I'm glad you cleverly nipped it all in the bud before John could have had time to really work something out instead of working on sudden impulses," sighed Daisy in relief. "He said his next step would have been to send you a note, like Twit had once done, and who knows what his intentions could have been? Why, he could have even harmed Buster, to get at you, Fatty. Personally I think he'd have tried anything to make life uncomfortable for you, with his intentions of getting you out of Peterswood."
Everyone nodded seriously, quietly thankful that John Good hadn't been given the chance for any preconceived ideas.
"Well, it's all over now, thankfully," said Larry gratefully, "with no serious harm done to anyone." Everyone agreed with Larry, and said so.
"Well, here's to a happy retirement in Peterswood, Fatty." Pip raised his glass.
"Hear, hear," chorused Daisy and Larry.
"That is, of course, unless something juicy turns up that whets our appetite." Fatty smiled around at everyone, his brows raised in anticipation.
Bets had the last word, of course: "Fatty, you're incorrigible."