Leeford Village episode 102: Which George?
Catch up with the latest episode of the online serial by authors Michael Braccia and Jon Markes.
Previously in Leeford Village: Zak and Simon discover they have bought £350 worth of stolen jewellery. Sherry phones Carlos and discovers he is no longer engaged. Violet persuades Ken to speak to Frank Watson. Pippa has some gossip she is keen to share. Justin Wilkins hands Cody a letter addressed to Jasmine.
Zack and Simon are sitting on a bench in Gas Street Basin. They have walked from the Jewellery Quarter for the past half an hour in silence, each secretly blaming the other for the predicament they are in. It’s Simon who breaks the tension.
‘What do we do now? All our stall money is in that stolen jewellery.’
Zack nods, sullenly. ‘And we have to get rid of it.’
‘Get rid of it?’ says Simon. ‘We have to take it to the police, surely.’
There are a few minutes silence before Zak asks, ‘How well do you know John Spraggs?’
‘He was my scout leader,’ replies Simon. ‘Other than that, I don’t know him that well. Why?’
‘Could he be lying?’
‘Lying? Why would he do that?’
‘To get a better price from us.’
Simon frowns his best frown.
‘He didn’t want to take it from us at all, mate. That’s the problem.’
Zack ponders this for a moment.
‘If it really was stolen, he’d have called the police, wouldn’t he?’
‘No,’ says Simon, becoming weary of Zack’s line of thought, ‘he wouldn’t want to drop me in it. I guess he thinks we’re honest enough to take it to the cops.’
‘How does he know it’s stolen? We didn’t bring it in a bag marked ‘swag’. I think he just wanted to get rid of us.’
‘They have lists from the police of what to look out for, don’t they?’ says Simon, without conviction.
Zack stands up suddenly. ‘Well, I don’t believe him. Give me the bag. We might not be able to sell this stuff as it is, but it will have a value for its weight in gold.’
‘And?’ asks Simon, holding on to the bag.
Zack is suddenly animated. ‘We’ll take it back to another dealer, one that looks like they are not doing too well and just get the gold value for it. Once they melt it all down, no one will trace it, whether it was stolen or not.’
The ladies in the café lean in to hear more from Pippa.
‘SS officer?’ Ethel whispers, loudly.
‘Yes, SS,’ says Pippa, excitedly, ‘SS as in, er, Secret Seven.’
Agnes bursts out laughing.
‘It’s no laughing matter, Agnes. He could be highly dangerous.’
‘Who is the he we’re talking about here?’ asks Jasmine, adding, ‘not that I know more than a handful of people in Leeford.’
Pippa folds her hands together and places them in front of her on the table.
‘Cody came into the post office yesterday…’
‘My Cody? He’s not a SS officer. He’s more Famous Five than Secret Seven anyway – he does love a ginger beer every now and then…’ laughs Agnes.
‘No, it’s not Cody. But Cody was talking to Steve Adams. I didn’t hear all the conversation, because it’s not my style to listen to what other people are saying.’
Ethel and Ages roll their eyes.
‘But I did hear Cody say the words, “George”, “SS Officer” and “photograph”.’
‘And that’s it?’ exclaims Ethel.
‘He could have been talking about anything, Pippa,’ says Agnes.
‘That’s the thing. Steve then said, “what you have to do is report him to the police who would then investigate”.’
The three ladies look at each other.
‘It’s a bit of a strange conversation, I must admit,’ says Jasmine. ‘Who is this George, anyway?’
‘Must be George Owens,’ says Ethel. ‘He has a stall on the market. I can’t imagine him being an SS Officer. He’s a Black Country lad through and through.’
‘And he has a brother, Jason,’ says Agnes. ‘They’d both have to be involved.’
Jasmine raises a finger. ‘How old is George?’
Agnes thinks for a while. ‘He’s about the same age as Cody. In fact, they were in the same year at school.’
‘There we go, then. It can’t be that George, can it? He’s too young to have been an SS Officer,’ says Jasmine, leaning back in her chair.
‘Oh, Pippa,’ says Agnes, ‘you certainly know how to put two and two together and make five, don’t you?’
‘Four, don’t you mean,’ says Pippa, eliciting roars of laughter from Agnes and Jasmine. Ethel is sitting quietly and looking pale.
‘You okay, Ethel?’ asks Agnes.
Ethel bites her bottom lip. ‘There is another George, of course.’
‘Oh my God, Ethel. Yes. George Dennis.’
Jasmine looks at Agnes, quizzically.
‘How old is he?’ she asks.
‘Older than me,’ says Ethel, ‘he must be in his 70s,’
Jasmine smiles. ‘So, let’s say he’s 79. The SS finished at the end of the war in 1945. He’d still be a child then.’
Ethel sighs. ‘Thank goodness for that.’
‘Well,’ says Pippa, ‘one of them is a SS Officer. Maybe there are other SSs.’
Agnes stands. ‘There’s only one way to find out. I’m going to ask Cody.’
Zack and Simon are wandering around the Jewellery Quarter.
‘How about this one?’ says Simon, stopping outside a doorway of a rather dilapidated building.
Zack looks up at a couple of boarded-up windows on the first floor.
‘Could be. Let’s try.’ He pushes the door and the boys step inside the dark shop. The shopkeeper is barely visible behind the counter and startles them when he says, in a gruff voice, ‘can I help you?’
‘We have some gold to sell. For melting.’
The man behind the counter switches on a lamp that casts an eerie glow across his face.
‘Melting, eh? Let me see what you’ve got.’
Simon places the bag of jewellery on the counter. The man inspects each piece carefully.
‘I need to take this into the back to weigh it. I’ll be about fifteen minutes.’
‘That’s fine. We have all day,’ says Zack.
The man looks at both boys for what seems to Simon to be a very long time. He puts the jewellery back into the bag and goes through a door into the back of the shop.
‘Bingo!’ says Zack once he and Simon have been alone for a couple of minutes. ‘We might not get back what we paid, but at least we’ll have some money to buy stuff for the stall.’
Simon has to admit that Zack’s idea was a good one, despite his initial reservations.
‘I feel like I’m in a Dickens novel,’ says Simon, looking around the dingy room.
‘I know what you mean,’ says Zack, ‘but this guy isn’t going to ask any questions.’
Fifteen minutes go by and the man has not appeared.
‘How long does it take to weigh gold?’ asks Simon.
‘Maybe he has to do something with spectrometers,’ says Zack.
‘What do you know about spectrometers?’ asks Simon.
‘Nothing,’ laughs Zack, ‘I don’t even know what they do. I know as much about spectrometers as you do about buying jewellery.’
Simon punches Zack on the arm. ‘Cheeky git.’
They are both laughing when the door opens behind them, and two police officers enter.
The shopkeeper emerges from the back of the shop.
‘These two?’ asks one of the officers.
‘Yes,’ says the man, placing the bag of jewellery on the counter.
‘Right, lads. You are both under arrest for being in possession of stolen goods.’
Cody sits at the kitchen table staring at the letter handed to him by Justin Wilkins to give to Jasmine. He stands and paces around the kitchen a few times. Finally, curiosity gets the better of him and he switches on the kettle. When there is a good head of steam, he waves the envelope over it until the glue begins to soften. Eventually the flap is released, and he can extract the letter. He is about to read its contents when Agnes bursts into the kitchen.
‘What’s that?’ she asks, pointing to the letter in Cody’s hand.
‘This? Oh, junk mail. I was just about to put it in the bin.’
‘Go on then. I have something to ask you.’
Cody turns to the bin, lifts the lid and places the letter carefully on the top for later retrieval.
‘What have you got to ask me?’ he says.
‘Which George is an SS officer?’
‘You were talking to Steve Adams in the post office, apparently.’
Cody clicks his fingers. ‘Pippa?’
‘I don’t normally give away my sources, but, yes, Pippa,’ says Agnes.
‘I’m writing a story about an SS officer that is discovered living in a village and I was telling Steve about Jason thinking George Dennis was involved. I was a bit stuck on the plot and asked Steve what he would do if he discovered someone he knew was an SS officer.’
‘I knew Pippa had heard it all wrong. She can be very dangerous. We thought it was George Owens at first.’
‘George Owens. That’s brilliant,’ laughs Cody.
‘That’s that sorted. We can all sleep securely in our beds. Can you empty the fryers ready for tonight? I’ll get us some tea. We can have that chilli left from last night with a jacket potato.’
‘Okay,’ says Cody. He leaves the kitchen and goes downstairs.
Agnes opens the fridge and takes out a saucepanful of leftover chilli.
‘Hmm, less than I thought,’ she says to herself. ‘Egg and chips it is.’
She takes the cling film off the top of the pan and scrapes the contents into the bin, covering Jasmine’s letter with a slimy mixture of minced beef and carrots