Authors: Wilkie Martin
Tags: #romance, #something completely different, #cotswolds, #Mrs Goodfellow, #funny, #cozy detective, #treasure, #Andy Caplet, #vampire, #skeleton, #humorous mystery, #comedy crime fantasy, #book with a dog, #fantastic characters, #light funny holiday read, #new fantasy series, #Wilkie Martin, #unhuman, #Inspector Hobbes, #british, #new writer
and the Gold Diggers
The Witcherley Book Company
Published in the United Kingdom
by The Witcherley Book Company
Copyright 2014 Martin J Wilkinson and Julia How.
The right of Martin J Wilkinson (Wilkie Martin) to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission in writing of the copyright owner, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
Names, characters, places and events in this book are fictitious, and except in the case of historical fact, any resemblance to any actual events or locales, or persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN 9780957635142 (paperback)
ISBN 9780957635159 (ebook)
ISBN 9780957635180 (ebook)
Book cover jacket designed by Cathy Helms (www.avalongraphics.org)
‘This evening,’ said the newsreader, just as my head was starting to nod, ‘the quiet Cotswold town of Sorenchester was rocked by an explosion and small arms fire when a gang attempted to snatch gold with an estimated value in excess of one million pounds. Jeremy Pratt reports from the scene.’
I sat up agog as the familiar buildings of The Shambles appeared on television, with Jeremy Pratt, tall, thin and solemn, standing with a microphone in his hand. He was outside Grossman’s Bank, which was enwrapped in police tape. In the background a van was smoking, while a fireman coiled up a hose as thick as an anaconda.
‘Good evening,’ said Jeremy, smiling with maximum condescension and minimum humour. ‘At nine-thirty this evening, a gang, who were armed and wearing balaclavas, made a daring raid on the armoured security van behind me, which, a spokesman has confirmed, was being used to transfer a large consignment of gold sovereigns to the vault of Grossman’s Bank. I have with me Mr Percival Longfellow, the driver.’
Jeremy turned to a tubby, balding man at his side, a man who looked utterly bewildered. ‘Tell me, Mr Longfellow: is it true the robbers used explosives to break into the van?’
‘Eh?’ said Mr Longfellow, cupping his already prominent ears in his hands.
‘Did the robbers use explosives to break into the van?’
‘I can’t hear very well since they blew the bloody doors off.’
‘I see. Was anybody injured?’
‘Did the explosion hurt anybody?’ asked Jeremy, articulating every syllable.
‘You need to learn not to mumble so much, mate. I’m a little deaf since the explosion. They blew the doors off, you know.’
Jeremy raised his voice. ‘And then what happened?’
‘What happened after they blew the doors off?’ Jeremy shouted, red faced and exasperated.
‘No. What happened was they blew the bloody doors off and stole the money.’
‘Amazing,’ said Jeremy, looking baffled. ‘Thank you very much, Mr Longfellow.’ He shoved him out of shot.
‘Anyway,’ Jeremy continued, ‘it would seem that, after the gang had blown the van’s doors off, they threatened a guard with firearms and there are unconfirmed reports of several shots having been fired. Then, having overpowered the guard, they seized the contents of the van, which, I have been led to believe, included a substantial quantity of gold sovereigns. They loaded them into the back of a get-away vehicle and made off with their ill-gotten gains. However, it appears they were thwarted by the local police, who have arrested three members of the gang and retrieved all of the gold.
‘A police spokesman has, however, confirmed that two of the gang managed to escape and that the police are now looking for a white van with a large hole in its roof.’
The picture returned to the studio. ‘Thank you, Jeremy,’ said the newsreader. ‘We’ll come back to that story as soon as further details emerge. Now, over to Penny for the latest weather forecast.’
Once I was over the initial surprise, I was disappointed that I was missing all the excitement, for, much to my amazement, I’d become something of an adrenalin junkie since coming to know Inspector Hobbes of the Sorenchester Police. Anyone spending time with him needed to adjust, and quickly, to living with high intensity excitement: and fear. It had struck me just how often I’d been terrified since our first meeting and, although sometimes I wished I’d never set eyes on his huge, ugly frame, I’d survived and come to realise I wouldn’t have wished to miss any of it. Life with Hobbes in it was interesting.
As I lounged in my chair, a number of thoughts kept resurfacing in my head. The first was why would anyone be taking gold to a bank at night? The second was how did the robbers know it was going to be there? The third was that if the robbers had been inside the getaway van, then how had the police retrieved the gold and arrested three of them? It all sounded weird to me, and since that was the case, I suspected Hobbes had been on the scene.
I was frustrated I wasn’t there. A case of extreme bad timing had meant that I happened to be overnighting at my parents. Trying to get a good night’s sleep on their ancient camp bed – uncomfortable, unstable and creaking with every breath – had proved a colossal failure and, giving up, I’d crept back into their lounge, switched on the television and slumped into an armchair, hoping the twenty-four hour news would be showing the usual boring stuff, and that I’d soon be lulled to sleep. Instead, I ended up sitting in front of the news for another two or three hours before, getting cold and there being no further developments, I returned to bed, where I supposed I must have dozed in between long intervals of tortured wakefulness.
I’d finally dropped into a deep slumber when there was a knock on the door and Mother walked in with a mug of tea.
‘Good morning,’ she said in a loud, cheerful voice. ‘Rise and shine!’
She meant well, so, suppressing a groan, forcing a smile, I sat up and reached for the mug, muttering my thanks.
I should have taken more care, should have remembered how unstable the camp bed was. I didn’t and it collapsed in a sequence of awkward stages, propelling my head backwards, flinging my feet upwards and resulting in a wave of hot tea breaking over my face as the mug caught me a mighty wallop on the bridge of the nose. As I thrashed about in the wreckage trying to break free, my big toe struck a bookcase at my side, but I had no time to fully appreciate that particularly exquisite agony, because I’d dislodged an old-fashioned alarm clock that dropped, with a merry jingle, into my right eye socket. Groaning, one hand reaching for my toe, the other clutching my face, I curled up, believing the worst was over. A foolish mistake. A deluge of books, all of them hardbacks, rained down, heavy wooden shelves battered me, and finally everything went dark. The bookcase had crashed down, like a coffin lid.
As I lay there, stunned and in pain, I heard the muffled voice of my father: ‘What on earth is the idiot doing this time?’
‘He’s had an accident,’ said Mother.
‘He is an accident.’
‘It wasn’t his fault, really. It was the camp bed.’
‘Pah! The boy’s a fool. He takes after your brother.’
‘You leave Harold out of this. He can’t help it.’
I was unable to move, and interesting though my parents’ discussion was, I wanted air. ‘Help me,’ I cried.
‘Help me, what?’ said Father.
‘Help me, please.’
‘That’s better.’ With a grunt, he lifted the bookcase, allowing me to roll free.
‘Well, what do you say?’ asked Father, as I got to my feet, shedding books like a moulting dog sheds hair.
‘Bah!’ Turning, he walked away, shaking his head and muttering.
Mother handed me a wad of tissues to staunch my bloodied nose and fetched a cold flannel for my eye, which was already swelling. Then Father insisted that I cleared up the mess I’d made, which took a surprising time, since all the books had to be replaced in alphabetical order.
Some good came of the accident, for my nose was so stuffed with blood clots I could barely taste the breakfast kippers. I’m not keen on them at the best of times, but the blackened, chewy relics Mother favoured were appalling. As a guest at Hobbes’s, where I was fed daily by Mrs Goodfellow, his housekeeper, I now recognised and appreciated excellent food and knew just how terrible a cook Mother was. I could barely believe that, once upon a time, I’d thought she wasn’t too bad.
Yet it was, indirectly, her cooking that had brought me to stay with them. The previous afternoon, she’d phoned in a panic, telling me Father was ill; dying, she’d suggested. Although we’d never got on, mostly because he’d always treated me as an imbecile, I’d felt compelled to do my filial duty. Arriving after a forty minute bus ride from Sorenchester and a long walk, and fearing the worst, I’d pressed the doorbell of
their new bungalow.
I’d been astonished when Father opened the door. He was not dying, but had merely been suffering extreme indigestion after overindulging on Mother’s lasagne. Since it was late, I’d had little choice other than to pass the evening with them and to spend the night. Mother was, as ever, too clingy, while Father’s sarcastic streak had broadened since he’d retired from dentistry and had no one to torture. Besides, now he ate all his meals at home, his chronic dyspepsia had not improved his temper.
Despite a slight nausea, fatigue, and being well battered, I volunteered to wash up after breakfast. I should have known better. It turned out that a kipper had exploded in the microwave and it took me over an hour before I was able to chip off the last few chunks. At least it gave me time to think about the robbery, though having no more information than I’d had last night, I had no idea what had really happened.
Eventually, having finished my chores and eager for further news, I went through to the lounge, where Mother was ironing socks, while Father read the newspaper, providing a running commentary on whatsoever caught his attention. Having learned in my youth not to disturb them when they were thus engrossed, I sat down, kept quiet and fretted. I thought of ringing Mrs Goodfellow and finding out what was happening but, having bought a bus ticket, I was short of cash and feared Father’s acerbic comments should I not drop a substantial donation into the tin they kept by the hall phone. I wished I had a mobile. I’d had one once, when I, Andy Caplet, had been the worst-paid reporter on the
Sorenchester and District Bugle,
as it was affectionately known, but it had perished with the rest of my belongings when my flat had burnt down. Since then, having lost my job, I’d never had the money to buy a new one, or, to be honest, much need of one.