This is the following ‘chapter’ which I wrote last night. Again any feedback is much appreciated.
Arthur and miss Sevenpenny left the briefing room in silence, Arthur still somewhat bemused by his newly assigned partner whom for some reason was wearing a wry smile.
“Oh no?” Miss Sevenpenny queried half amused and partially wondering why she wasn’t offended or at least outraged , or something other then amused.
“Would you have preferred good grief?” Arthur asked back trying to skate around answering her query.
The shop was still devoid of any customers and the store assistant reset the back wall and then proceeded to the scales with a brown jar and carefully measured out a number of multi coloured sweets.
“Sorry miss, forgot what you asked for,” the assistant smiled as he was bagging up Arthur’s sweet order in a plain paper bag.
“It’s ok I didn’t say,” Miss Sevenpenny said and quickly browsed the shelves. “I think I will have some Lemon Drops, I’m in the mood for something bitter.” She rolled her eyes mischievously at Arthur who winced. Sevenpenny was about to add something else but as she did so the shop door opened and a pair of adolescents wandered in and started browsing through the various displays.
“All sorted are we gov?” he asked cheerfully. “Remember these are gob stoppers not Aniseed balls, had a kid forget to do that last week and he ended up having his tooth capped. That is £2.59 in total.”
“Thank you,” replied Arthur handing over the money and collecting the two bags of sweets. “Remember to brush your teeth afterwards,” he said to Sevenpenny as he handed her the bag of Lemon drops as they left the store.
Sevenpenny strolled over the car and gestured Arthur inside, once inside she produced the envelopes from ‘his nibs’ and handed them to Arthur. “What are they?”
“Looks like they are the days movements for our MP friends on the days before they left for the Pennines,” said Arthur.
“Anything of note?” queried Sevenpenny.
“Doesn’t seem to be, all seems routine to me.”
“Can I have a look?”
“By all means,” answered Arthur handing her the files.
“Perhaps we should short circuit it,” said Sevenpenny after browsing the documents.
“How do you mean?” asked Arthur.
“We are looking for an abnormality, so why not do the opposite and go to the least abnormal places.” Sevenpenny explained and scanned the documents. “Two seem pretty dull: Mistletoe’s Outfitters and Gorrie’s Tea Emporium.”
Arthur paused for a moment and looked at Miss Sevenpenny’s attire, black trousers, a target T-Shirt and a slightly discoloured jacket, “Well Miss Sevenpenny I would say that if you are to join me on this case you might wish to update your wardrobe.”
“How do you mean?”
“Well I am sure you want to look your best for your prom.”
“Prom?” Queried Sevenpenny.
Arthur just smiled in reply,
Mistletoe’s was from the outside a rather modest looking frontage with a bay window depicting four dummies, two male and two female showing formal and informal outfits aimed at those with moderate means to appear a lot more beyond their means. Silk drapes complemented the window frames and the hand painted signage gave the place more then a hint of a shop straight out of Dickens but the verisimilitude was ruined by the rather bulbs electric lights. Arthur strolled up to the shop and quickly used his reflection in the window to fix his tie, a minute later Miss Sevenpenny joined his at the window.
“I see what you mean now,” said Sevenpenny. “So what’s the plan? You ask them to measure me for a dress while you sneak a look in the books?”
“Something like that,” answered Arthur and guided her into the shop. Sevenpenny was a little amazed by the interior, she wasn’t sure what to expect aside from it being like the inside of the Old Curiosity Shop. The store was filled with a wide variety of outfits, wooden clothes horses a few display cabinets and at the back were a series of dress making dummies with tape measures draped over them. A moment later a balding grey haired man emerged from around the back polishing his pince-nez.
“Good afternoon sir, how can I help you?” he asked. “I may be loosing trade here but I think your ensemble far out classes anything my humble shop could offer.”
Arthur laughed, “that is very kind of you but I am not here about myself.”
“No, for the young lady.” Answered Arthur indicating Sevenpenny.
The shopkeeper looked Sevenpenny’s outfit and raised his eyebrows, “I see what you mean. She is definitely in need of my services.”
“Aren’t you a charmer?” replied Sevenpenny sarcastically.
“Oh don’t mind her, she’s just in that rebellious stage where one wants to feel like a regressive.” Answered Arthur, “what with the posture and the bargain basket outfits.”
“Ey up Arthur, I want to get dressed in the morning, not all morning.”
Arthur waved a hand to silence her, “then of course there’s that accent and those colloquialisms.”
“Trying hard not too take it personally now,” said Sevenpenny sternly.
“Oh shush child,” the shopkeeper began, “now lets have a look at you.” He crossed to Sevenpenny and whipped out his tape measure and began various measurements.
“What is the occasion if you don’t mind me asking?” asked the shopkeeper.
“Are you asking me or Arthur?” replied Sevenpenny.
“Arthur or I?” corrected the shopkeeper, “I was addressing you.”
“Oh its a ball, my uncle here has very graciously offered to take me to a black tie event commemorating the relief of mafekin. I believe he is one of the speakers.”
“Well what look are you going for mister…?”
“Fransure. I am looking for something more Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s then the high school prom which most young ladies attain to these days.”
“I see sir,” the shopkeeper turn to miss Sevenpenny. “Well miss if would like to have a look at our off the peg selection for now.”
“Okay,” said Sevenpenny and disappeared into the store.
“While the ‘lady’ is looking I wonder if you would like some tea or coffee to occupy yourself.”
“That would be great,” said Arthur. “Oh there is something you can do for me.”
“I am planning a walking break in Wales and was wondering if you had some respectable but practical togs for the event,” mused Arthur flicking through a few tweed jackets.
“I shall look out the back for you, but I’ll get the Tea on first,” with that the Shopkeeper went into the back of the store. A moment later Sevenpenny joined Arthur again with a black and white dress on her arm, she smiled at the jacket Arthur has now taken off the rack.
“Suits you sir,” she smiled. “Can’t say I like Mr Marley there, I heard those inverted commas around lady.”
“Well you know how these old boys minds work,” said Arthur. “He hasn’t risen to any bait yet, I might need to step up my assault.”
“Well what do you think?” asked Sevenpenny pressing the dress against her.
“Pretty but you can’t really tell until you put it on,” answered Arthur who hadn’t really looked.
“Plus is he some kind of deviant as he was measuring me up before we even talked about clothes and then directs me to ‘off-the-peg’,”
“Off-the-peg usually results in alterations, these types are like it with all the customers.” Arthur mimed a shush notion to Sevenpenny as the shopkeeper emerged with a fully loaded tea tray.
“Tea miss?” he asked.
“Please, with lemon.”
“Ah so we aren’t fighting a lost cause after all,” laughed Arthur. He coughed “I wonder if the young lady could try the dress on.”
“Certainly sir, come with me miss.” The keeper lead her to a screen at the back of the shop. “It’s a bit old fashioned I know but it does allow for myself or one of my staff to aid in adjustments if necessary.
“Changing rooms do tend to be very cramped,” agreed Sevenpenny as she disappeared behind the screen. The shopkeeper noisily walked away and a moment later Sevenpenny’s jacket and T-shirt appeared on the top of the screen.
“What was it you were asking sir?” the Shopkeeper asked as he returned to Arthur.
“Oh I inquiring about rambling attire for my walking holiday,” said Arthur. “I so don’t wish to look like a gnome which appears to be the default look for ramblers.”
“Hmm not really my area,” began the Shopkeeper. “I suppose I could adapt some of the shooters jackets and trousers.”
“Oh I was under the impression you did,” mused Arthur. “I am sure Garner said he’d got his stuff from you.”
“Yes, Joseph Garner. Dark haired man with horn rimmed glasses.”
“Oh him, no he just comes into have his dinner jacket taken in. Haven’t seen you at the club before.”
“Oh that is because I am not a member, I’m merely a work acquaintance.”
“Very good sir,” concluded the Shopkeeper. He turned to see Sevenpenny emerge in her dress, his tailored eye casting its duties over her. “It could work be we need to work on it, what do you think?”
“I think she looks amazing, just a little uncomfortable it.” Said Arthur.
“Postures all wrong, the dress is hanging wrong and not seating her div.”
“I am here you know,” said Sevenpenny. “what do you mean?”
“You need proper support underneath, pop by tomorrow when Gladys is in.”
“I can hardly measure up a young lady for proper underwear now can I?” the Shopkeeper answered.
“I guess not,” Sevenpenny nodded and disappeared behind the screen.
Arthur went across to the counter and produced his wallet, “well I will set up an account if you don’t mind.”
“Not a problem sir,” answered the Shopkeeper and crossed over and took his details, a minute later Sevenpenny appeared in her regular clothes.
“Well we shall see you tomorrow,” said Sevenpenny as they began to leave.
“Oh if you do come across anything for me, phone me on that number.” Said Arthur as a parting shot.
“Very good sir,” said the Shopkeeper looking over Arthur’s details. “I most certainly will.”
“That didn’t go so well did it?” said Sevenpenny as they walked down the street. “Pompous old fart and what is wrong with my underwear?”
“I really have no idea,” answered Arthur. “Does seem to be a dead end, but at least he is aware of Garner.”
“Also we know they are both members of the same club,” added Sevenpenny.
“Very good.” Beamed Arthur.
“Don’t patronise me,” answered Sevenpenny. “I suggest we have afternoon tea next.”
“A good idea miss Sevenpenny,” agreed Arthur.
‘His Nibs’ was in the middle of his afternoon spa session when his valet, Martin, delivered him the news.
“Martin how many times do I have to tell you that during the hour of 2-3 I am off duty,” he snapped.
“I’m sorry sir but it is urgent,” said Martin with his head down.
“Very well what is it?” asked ‘his nibs’.
“It’s the minister Wilson, the Liberal MP who disappeared-”
“I know who you mean, out with it.”
“He’s been found.”
“Excellent news, surely that could wait.”
“Not really sir, he’s been found in a tin bath. Strangled with his own bootlaces.”