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Cherringham - Thick as Thieves

Contents

  1. Cover
  2. Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series
  3. The Authors
  4. Main Characters
  5. Thick as Thieves
  6. Copyright
  7. 1. The End of the Rainbow
  8. 2. Finders Keepers
  9. 3. By the Book
  10. 4. Party at The Ploughman
  11. 5. A Surprise at the Professor’s
  12. 6. Mayhem in the Morning
  13. 7. Tea for Two
  14. 8. A Visit with the Professor
  15. 9. Drill Down
  16. 10. Down on the Farm
  17. 11. A Visit with the Family
  18. 12. A Conflicting Opinion
  19. 13. Jerry Clueless
  20. 14. A Desperate Lady
  21. 15. No Headway
  22. 16. Undercover
  23. 17. A Cunning Plan
  24. 18. Lovely Boating Weather
  25. 19. Money in the Bank
  26. 20. A Drop-In on the Goose
  27. Next episode

Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series

“Cherringham — A Cosy Crime Series” is a series made up of self-contained stories. A new episode is released each month. The series is published in English as well as in German, and is only available in e-book form.

The Authors

Matthew Costello (US-based) is the author of a number of successful novels, including Vacation (2011), Home (2014) and Beneath Still Waters (1989), which was adapted by Lionsgate as a major motion picture. He has written for The Disney Channel, BBC, SyFy and has also designed dozens of bestselling games including the critically acclaimed The 7th Guest, Doom 3, Rage and Pirates of the Caribbean.

Neil Richards has worked as a producer and writer in TV and film, creating scripts for BBC, Disney, and Channel 4, and earning numerous Bafta nominations along the way. He’s also written script and story for over 20 video games including The Da Vinci Code and Starship Titanic, co-written with Douglas Adams, and consults around the world on digital storytelling.
His writing partnership with NYC-based Matt Costello goes back to the late 90’s and the two have written many hours of TV together. Cherringham is their first crime fiction as co-writers.

Main Characters

Jack Brennan is a former NYPD homicide detective who lost his wife a year ago. Being retired, all he wants is peace and quiet. Which is what he hopes to find in the quiet town of Cherringham, UK. Living on a canal boat, he enjoys his solitude. But soon enough he discovers that something is missing — the challenge of solving crimes. Surprisingly, Cherringham can help him with that.

Sarah Edwards is a web designer who was living in London with her husband and two kids. Two years ago, he ran off with his sexy American boss, and Sarah’s world fell apart. With her children she moved back to her home town, laid-back Cherringham. But the small town atmosphere is killing her all over again — nothing ever happens. At least, that’s what she thinks until Jack enters her life and changes it for good or worse …

1. The End of the Rainbow

Jerry Pratt gunned the engine of the old Land Rover and gripped the steering wheel hard as the wheels struggled against the steep muddy slope of Winsham Hill.

“Come on, you beauty!” he shouted as the engine raced and the old wreck slipped and slewed dangerously to one side.

The vehicle lurched forward, tyres at last clawing into the dirt of the old farm track as Jerry regained control.

“Jeez, I thought you’d lost it,” said Baz, who was sitting in the passenger seat next to him, his hands gripped tightly on the old metal dashboard.

Jerry looked at his old mate and punched him on the arm, laughing.

“Ha! You was well frit Baz, you fat bastard. Mind you don’t wet yourself on my front seat!”

He swung the Land Rover round on the gravel strip in front of the long copse of trees which edged the hill, then stopped and turned off the engine.

“Don’t know why you don’t just use the track off the cricket pitch like any normal bloke,” said Baz grumpily.

“Coz I ain’t normal, now am I?”

“Too bloody right, you ain’t.”

Jerry laughed again, pulled out his cigarettes and offered one to Baz, who shook his head.

“Given up, haven’t I?” he said glumly. “Abby doesn’t like it. What with the baby here.”

Jerry rolled his eyes.

“You want to watch it, mate. You’re well under her thumb.”

“Yeah well, it’ll happen to you one day, Jerry. You just wait.”

“No chance. I’m a free spirit me!”

Jerry grinned.

Yep, that’s me. Free as a bird, he thought.

Poor as a friggin’ peasant too.

He lit a cigarette, grabbed his jacket and climbed out of the Land Rover, looking around as he did. From up here they said you could see five counties — though he never believed it. Just crap made up by the tourist authority, he thought — and anyway so what? What was the point of seeing five counties? They all looked the same. Just fields.

Still — he had to admit. This time of day, it was a nice enough view. Maybe he should make a habit of getting up before eleven …

He turned back to look at the tree line.

Behind the copse (which he knew was stuffed full of nice plump pheasants at the right time of year) was Cherringham cricket pitch. And behind that was Cherringham itself.

Baz was right — that was the best way to get onto Winsham Hill. But it wasn’t any fun. And also it was a bit … public for Jerry’s liking. Didn’t matter what you did round Cherringham, always some busybody ready to stick a nose in, complain, find fault.

So he preferred the back way, the quiet way, the less normal way round the village.

Anyway — where was a young, red-blooded, good-looking bloke like him supposed to find his thrills these days? Certainly not up at the chicken factory turning roosters inside out for six quid an hour.

One day he’d be rich and famous and he’d build a big mansion up here looking out over the five stupid counties and he’d sit on the deck at the back smoking dope and having beers with his mates and the people of Cherringham could stuff it.

“I charged the batteries Jerry, because I knew you’d forget,” said Baz from the back of the Land Rover, interrupting Jerry’s dreams of a golden future.

“And I didn’t bother charging them my old mucker, because I knew you would do just that,” said Jerry.

Baz held open the back door of the vehicle and offered up the two metal detectors.

“Choose your weapon,” he said, climbing out.

Jerry considered. The Mark IV was heavier — but it gave off less background noise. The Expro-Navigator was lighter, but fiddly.

“Give us the Expro, Baz, got a dodgy shoulder this morning,” he said.

“Lifting too many pints I s’pose,” said Baz. “All right for some.”

Baz handed it over and Jerry rested it on one side while he reached in for his boots. He watched as Baz picked up a spade and the other detector and went over to the crest of the hill and stood, hands on hips, staring out across the valley.

“What shall we do — begin at the bottom and work our way up?”

Boots on, Jerry grabbed his equipment, locked up the Land Rover and joined him.

“Nah, we’ll start about halfway, I reckon, then work down.”

The top of Winsham Hill was rough meadow — and to one side was the track they’d driven up from the valley. Halfway down, the gradient softened and the land was split into fields of differing crops that went all the way down to the Avon Brooke — a meandering stream that curved around Cherringham and fed into the Thames.

“You see Low Copse Farm?” said Jerry, pointing down into the valley beyond the stream.

Baz nodded: “Butterworth’s place, yeah?”

“That’s the one. He reckons this strip of land has been farmed for a couple of thousand years.”

“So there might have been old buildings down there?”

“Correct. And tracks, roads. Places where people sit. Have a nap. Drop stuff. Lose stuff. Bury stuff. Hide stuff.”

“Treasure!” said Baz.

“Yeah, well, maybe,” said Jerry. “If we’re lucky.”

“You haven’t been lucky yet, though have you?”

“No Baz, I haven’t. Which is exactly why you’re here. You’re going to bring me luck, old son.”

“And do half the bloody work for you too,” said Baz.

Jerry slapped him on the shoulder. Baz was born grumpy and needed constant encouragement, he thought.

“Well, yes. This is true. But in return — you will get half the bloody treasure when we find it.”

If we find it,” said Baz. “And even then we have to split it with Butterworth.”

“It’s his farm, Baz. His land.”

“Don’t seem fair to me — he just sits at home having his tea and we do all the work.”

“Well them’s the rules.”

“Hmm, if you say so,” said Baz. “But this is the third Saturday I been out helping you and I’m getting a bit fed up to be honest.”

“Three Saturdays and no treasure yet? What is the world coming to?”

“No need to take the piss Jerry, I’m just saying, that’s all.”

“I know mate,” said Jerry, softening. “So let’s get started shall we? Sooner we start detecting, sooner we get lucky.”

And so Jerry hoisted his spade onto his shoulder, lifted his detector and set off down the hill to find his fortune.

2. Finders Keepers

Baz wiped the sweat out of his eyes and straightened up.

Gawd, my back hurts, he thought.

He checked his watch. Five o’clock. Nearly seven hours they’d been working this field. Back and forth they’d gone across the mud, swinging their detectors slowly from side to side, listening out for the tell-tale ping of a find.

They’d started off walking side by side but then Jerry said they should split up and work different sections of the field. Somehow that was supposed to increase their chances, though Baz wasn’t quite sure why.

The furrows went up and down the slope and Jerry’s logic was that they should go from one side to the other, working against the furrows. He said they’d been lucky it was just ploughed. It was late for Butterworth to be planting maize, but with all the rain they’d had he’d had to wait till the last minute.

Trouble was — all that rain meant the newly ploughed field had turned to mud when they walked it. Baz’s boots were clogged and heavy. So from his point of view, it didn’t feel lucky at all.

His back hurt. His legs hurt. And his arms hurt from holding the big damn detector that hadn’t detected a thing.

Jerry had picked the lightweight detector: no surprise there. Baz knew he was a sneaky bastard, but he never went up against him. You didn’t want to fight Jerry — he fought mean and dirty. He was thin as a length of spit and all wiry. He never seemed to eat, all he did was drink, but in a fight Jerry was all muscle.

Like one of those horrible dogs that sink their teeth into you then get all locked and won’t let go.

If Jerry was thin — Baz felt fat and slow. He always had been — right the way through school. Obese, they called it now. Same damn difference. Anyway, Abby was just the same as him and she didn’t care so why should he?

He leaned on his shovel and looked across the field for Jerry.

At first he couldn’t see him — then he spotted him sitting resting against a fence post, smoking. Jerry gave him a wave.

Baz waved back.

Lazy bastard.

He reached into his pocket, pulled out his energy drink and drained it. Last one — empty. Some fine day this was turning out to be. He’d spent seven quid on drinks and snacks, and what had he found so far?

He scraped inside his trouser pocket and pulled out his treasure. One metal button. Two bits of scrap metal. And three shotgun cartridges.

Still, it was nearly over. Just one last square in the corner to do, then they could head home.

He slung his shovel over one shoulder, put his headphones back on, and adjusted the dials on his detector. Then he held it out so the coil was just above the ground, and set off to finish the field.

Not going to do this again. Waste of bleedin’ time, he thought.

Jerry watched Baz going backwards and forwards like a zombie in the far corner of the field, and he felt anxious. It was getting close to six o’clock and at this rate they wouldn’t get to the pub till seven. Way too late for him!

And what was it with Baz? Why was he so slow?

Maybe I should get someone else to help, he thought. Tell Baz he’s not up to it …

Truth was — he had a soft spot for Baz. His wife was a right bully — and Jerry knew that if he didn’t get him out of the house for a few hours now and then Baz would just top himself one day.

And — you had to hand it to Baz — he was thorough. Never walked away from a job till it was done.

Jerry ground his cigarette into the mud and headed over to tell Baz to stop.

But he didn’t need to. Baz did stop.

Jerry watched as Baz bent down and dug at the ground, then passed the coil over the mud and dug again. Then he got down on his knees and started scrabbling at the dirt with his hands.

Jerry quickened his step.

Baz sat up, took his headphones off and waved to him frantically, suddenly moving fast.

“Jerry! Jerry!”

Jerry didn’t need the invitation. He started running and when he reached Baz, the big man was still scraping hard at the topsoil with his spade, flinging great chunks of soil everywhere.

“Whoa, Baz! Stop! Gently, gently, mate!” said Jerry, kneeling down beside him. “You got somethin’? What is it?”

“Got a giant reading, Jerry. Immense!”

“Well calm down, calm down now. Could be anything. Bit of old plough. Buried car. Second World War bomb–”

“Bomb? Jeez!”

Baz stood up fast and backed away, dropping his shovel.

“Or … it could be something valuable — in which case, we don’t want to scratch it, do we?”

He smiled up at Baz who blinked and nodded.

“Yeah, right. Could be valuable …”

Carefully Jerry scraped more soil to one side and felt with his fingers. There was something there all right, something flat, maybe embossed. He tried to lift it — but it was too big, held down by the thick, solid mud and clay which seemed reluctant to release the prize.

Baz kneeled down next to him.

“Like this, Baz,” said Jerry, showing him how to push the soil away a handful at a time. “Nice and gentle.”

It only took a minute — and then finally the shape of the mysterious object was revealed.

It was circular — a good couple of feet across with a raised edge. And heavy. Jerry tried to lift it up.

“Gawd — have a go at that! It’s bleedin’ heavy!”

Baz took the other edge and lifted. His eyes widened in surprise.

“Blimey. It’s metal. But what is it, Jerry? Is it treasure?”

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