Monday, 14 April 2008

The Locked Door

There were three robbers once; during the 1920s they were pretty infamous. The three Henrys they were called. Henry Dubois, Henry Delancy and Miss Henrietta 'Henry' Ruby. It turns out, according to the paper that Miss Henry was a mistress of disguise... up to a point. After the last great robbery the three pulled off, the two male Henrys were caught and sent up the river to the Big House. But Miss Henry not only got away, but had help from the police too!

Now she could have stayed in America and hidden out, but sooner or later she'd have been caught too and she knew it. So she disguised herself as a little old lady taking a large amount of luggage in a fine Roadster and drove down to the airport. It worked all over again even tho' the police had cordoned off the airport to make sure she didn't leave the country. Her Roadster was put on the plane, she was helped to her seat and her strong luggage was safely put aboard the aircraft.

When she reached England, she didn't stay at one of the fancy hotels, she took a small house in the suburbs with a garage and a long back garden. In fact, she bought it outright and moved in. Her furniture was simple and unfussy - nothing showed off and neither did she. She kept the Roadster in the garage and at night she moved the luggage to the garden shed. There she buried the luggage under the shed and even replaced the floor afterwards. She was pretty handy and most things was Miss Henry. However, as handy and slippy as she might be at evading the law, she could not evade Old Age or Death. Both soon caught up with her and she was taken off during the day while snoozing in her armchair.

So, time marched on and the house came into the ownership of a Juliet Delancy and Mike Dubois. Yes, they were the son and daughter of the two male Henrys. They had left America too and bought the house from the old lady's executors. They moved in with their daughter Marietta who was pretty handy at most things, tho' still only a teenager. Marietta thought the British were all mad and she was probably right. But she soon got used to them and settled in. She was, like her mother very interested in history and she soon found out about the old lady who'd had the house before them. Almost instantly she wrote to the archivist in the City in America where the three Henrys had pulled off their biggest robbery. The archivist told her that the treasure was never found but the reward, he was pleased to say, was still available for whoever found the loot.

You can be sure that Marietta instantly turned the house upside down looking for the loot. She checked the Roadster too, which had come with the house and which her dad was renovating. Nothing did she find, not even a red (or a blue) cent. She sat struggling to think when her mother came in from the garden and asked her,

"Darling can you ask dad for a screwdriver? The garden shed's all locked up and I want to get in there. "

Marietta sighed and got up to get the screwdriver, when suddenly she squeaked! The shed was the one place she hadn't searched. She ran to get her dad and from him she got the screwdriver and then to the shed. The locks were old, Miss Henry had put them on herself when she'd got to England in the 1920s. They soon came off with the screwdriver. Marietta dashed in and stopped. There were a couple of shelves below the window and an old lawnmower in the corner. There were cobwebs everywhere. There was no loot. Her mother got the vacuum cleaner and told Marietta to clean the shed. She also gave her jam jars and card so she could put any spiders out of the shed.

"Put them into the Laurel bush, they'll be fine there," her mother told her.

Marietta hoovered the shed crossly. She evicted several spiders who all sighed and began to make webs again from scratch. Once free of cobwebs the little shed looked quite empty... but for the lawnmower.

"Drat!" said Marietta, "the loot's got to be here somewhere. It's got to be in this shed!"

As she said it, she stamped her foot hard and there was a hollow sound. Marietta stopped for a moment. Then she stomped again. This time she was sure of what she'd heard. She ran back to her dad and half an hour later some very old, grubby luggage was pulled from the hole where it had lain for almost 80 years.

"It's the loot from the Three Henrys robbery!" Marietta said.

There was, alas not a lot left, for Miss Henry had need of the loot to keep her during her life. But what there was won Marietta her university fund and the FBI put the case to rest. The museum gathered all Marietta's research and made an exhibition of it with the old luggage and a photo of the Roadster. There was also a photo of Miss Henry herself... without her disguise. Marietta almost decided she wanted to work in museums at that, but changed her mind when she found out how much a curator earns. It was not a lot.


madameshawshank said...

am imagining Marietta and Griffin chatting about curatorial work ~ actual and imagined...'n love the care of the spiders..card and jam jars..sweet detail Mr G...

Griffin said...

There is something about history that drags you in to itself. I know it only too well. And when that history is connected to you then the pull is much stronger.

Oh yes, must take care of spiders, they are a help in keeping the real pests down. And they create such beautiful webs too.

Rosemary in Utah said...

The careful relocation of the spiders struck me too--I figured maybe they don't have dangerous insects in England--it certainly isn't the tropics. So I googled up a bug question and surprise--
"Climate change brings poisonous spiders to the UK" ...
There has been a dramatic increase over the last seven to ten years; no doubt due to global warming. They survive winters to mate." Yikes!
It also struck me that "jam jar" would be "jelly glass" in an American tale.
And about the 1920s bad guys being "sent up the river to the Big House"-- late night TV (old gangster movies) is fun for the slang in the dialogue. I've heard that film writers *made up* that speech, and the real-life toughs learned it from the movies, not the other way around!

Griffin said...

"I've heard that film writers *made up* that speech, and the real-life toughs learned it from the movies, not the other way around!"

Ah yes... art imitating life imitating art! Wonderful. The thought of real gangsters saying 'Youse guys' and the like after seeing it on the telly is terrific. Raymond Chandler, a writer of tough guys wrote that the scariest thing he'd heard a gangster say to someone was, 'Be missing.'