The man sitting on the train as it pulled into Aidensfield Station was not particularly distinctive. He was wearing a mac, trilby hat and smart trousers. He was middle aged, very much average. The voice when he spoke to the Guard checking tickets was the only thing that marked him out. Broad Cockney.
"On holiday are yer sir?" the Guard asked him
"You could say that guv'nor. Well, bit of business really." The man looked out of the window as the train began to slow down. "This Aidensfield?"
"Aye it is sir. I hope you enjoy your stay. Visiting are you? Family?"
"Somethin' like that, mate."
The Guard moved on, thinking cocky so and so. He wondered what he was up to.
The man was travelling light. He just had one small bag. He left the station and stood in the lane looking up and down. Then he saw a car parked up with a Taxi sign on the roof. Standing next it was a simple looking young man in overalls twisting a peaked cap in his hands. The cockney hailed him.
"Want a fare, sonny?"
The man beamed. "I've just dropped off Mrs Smith. Going to her auntie's she is for a holiday. So I can take you to wherever you want to go."
"Right." The Cockney eyed up the youth thinking, village simpleton. "So – what's your name?"
"David, David Stockwell."
"Well David. Two things, one, you can drive me into the village and two, can you tell me where I can find somewhere to stay."
"Oh, right, well that's easy. The Aidensfield Arms will put you up." David held open the car door. "I'll take you there now."
The man got in sitting in the back of the car resting his bag on his knee. David set off driving carefully.
"So are on you holiday Mr –"
"Sorry, me name's Jonny. Jonny Carter. Yeah. On holiday." The man looked out of the window. "You've always lived round here right?"
"Oh aye, yeah." David smiled proudly.
"Right. So you'll know round here pretty well David?"
"Well. Not quite as well as some. Not like Mr Greengrass. I mean he knows every blade of grass round here he does."
"I see. David, I think Mr Greengrass could be of use to me. And there'd be money in it for him. Do you think he'd be interested in helping me? For payment?"
David smiled broadly. "I'm sure he would Mr Carter."
Later that evening Gina was serving on the bar and her Cockney visitor was sitting at the end of the bar having a post dinner drink. During a lull in proceedings Gina tried to make a bit of conversation with him.
"So Mr Carter, what brings you to Aidensfield?" she asked.
"Its Jonny," he said. "Tell you the truth, love, I had family who used to live round here, used to go on about the place. That's why I thought I'd come and check it out for myself."
"Right. So, like a holiday then?"
"That's it. I'm off to Newcastle you see. Got a job so thought I'd stop off here for a bit of a holiday first like." He sipped his pint. "David Stockwell who drove the taxi. He told me there's a bloke here – name of Greengrass. Knows the place like the back of his hand?"
"Speak of the devil," Gina nodded at the door as Claude came in with David.
"That's him Mr Greengrass," David said excitedly. "Mr Carter this is Mr Greengrass."
Claude nodded at Carter. "Young David here says you've got a proposition for me?"
Jonny said to Gina, "Another for me and whatever Mr Greengrass and young David are having."
"Oh that's very kind of you," David said with a beam.
Claude slid a sly look at Carter as Gina got the drinks in. "So, come on, what do you want?" he asked.
Carter nodded at a table in the far corner. "Over there. Just you and me – not you, young David."
Gina raised an eyebrow at David as the two men sidled off.
"Ten to one they're up to no good," she said. "Keep out of it David."
The next morning Nick Rowan was on his rounds and started his day with calling in at the pub. He was making a point of doing this at the moment as following her Uncle's retirement Gina was running the pub on her own and she was glad of any support that was on offer.
Gina was in the kitchen and he went to find her in there.
"Everything all right?" he asked her.
"Yeah pretty quiet really," she said. "Just got a couple of guests in." She looked up as the kitchen door opened.
It was Jonny Carter bringing his breakfast plate in. Nick was behind the door and Jonny did not see him.
"Thanks for the breakfast love. Smashing."
"No problem Mr Carter. Can I bring you anything else?"
"No thanks. Heading off out for the day. Claude Greengrass' place – its just out the village isn't it?"
"Yes up the road about half a mile first right and you can't miss it." Gina seemed as if she was going to bring Jonny's attention to Nick's presence when, to her surprise Nick shook his head. She concentrated her attention back on Carter. "Enjoy your day Mr Carter."
The man left without noticing Nick. Gina looked at Nick. "You know him!" she exclaimed.
"Yeah. But not as Carter. He's Tommy Gilligan and last time I saw him he was going down for four years. He's got a record as long as your arm! What the hell is he doing here?"
Gina looked shocked. "I don't know. He came up from London yesterday. Reckoned he was heading for a job in Newcastle but stopped off here for a holiday first as he used to have family here. Nick are you sure you've got the right person?"
"Oh yeah," Nick said. "No mistake." He frowned. "What's he going to see Claude Greengrass about?"
"He got talking to Claude last night in the bar. Had a proposition for him apparently. I don't know what. They were talking together most of the night." Gina looked anxious. "Nick, should I get rid of him?"
"No. Look, I'm sure you'll be safe with him although you might want to lock the silver away! But I want a bit of time Gina, I want to know what he's up to and what he's come here for. And what Greengrass' involvement is. But I'll have more chance of doing that the longer I have before Gilligan works out who the local village bobby is."
Gina sighed. "All right. I'll go along with the Mr Carter bit then. But get to the bottom of it Nick. I want him out of here as soon as!"
Carter/Gilligan sat in Greengrass' dirty kitchen at the table. Claude sat opposite him. Between them lay a crudely handdrawn map.
"Aye, I reckon I know where this is," Greengrass said.
Carter watched him. "How do I know you're not going to run to the bobbies?" he asked.
Claude gave a laugh which turned into a wheeze. "I'd rather get one over on the bobbies than go running ter them!" he snorted. His eyes narrowed. "And how do I know you're not going ter get me ter help yer then run off without givin' me what I'm owed?"
"You're going to have to trust me Boss." Carter grinned cockily. "As I'm going to have to trust you."
Claude leaned back in his chair blinking furiously as he thought this over.
"And if this money's there, if its buried where this map says – "
"You'll split it?"
"Yep. Its all unmarked untraced notes. Just waiting for us to come along and dig it up." Carter shrugged. "Me only problem was I couldn't work out the map. Needed someone with a bit of local clout for that."
"Fifty fifty split."
"Well eighty –twenty."
"And the rest."
"Okay. Well, seventy-thirty. Final offer."
"Course, I could just go and get the money couldn't I? Seeing as I think I know where it is and you don't have the foggiest."
"You could." Carter stood up leaning menacingly over the table. "And then I could go and get some friends of mine to come up from London and they could have a little chat with you about that."
Claude's miserable looking lurcher growled in the corner. Claude swallowed.
"Well, I mean, no need for that is there?" He smiled nervously at Carter who sat back down.
"Seventy-thirty?" he repeated.
Claude nodded spat on his hand and they shook on the deal.