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The Case of the Missing Pound Note: A Daniella Coulstoun Short Story (part 2)

  07 Apr '22   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Next month we are publishing Six Wounds by Morgan Cry, a high-octane crime thriller set in the sun-drenched Costa Blanca and the second novel featuring Daniella Coulstoun. To give readers a flavour of what to expect, Morgan has written a fantastic short story following another of Daniella’s exploits, The Case of the Missing Pound Note. This is Part 2 of the story – click here to read the first part. We will be releasing this short story in sections each week until the publication of Six Wounds so check back next Friday for the next part!

The Case of the Missing Pound Note

A Daniella Coulstoun Short Story

by Morgan Cry

Zia cracks his knuckles. ‘Some rock ’n’ roll nutter heard that the pound note signed by Sticks might still exist and has offered two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand pounds to whoever has it. Anything with Sticks’ signature on it is worth a mint. He’s a legend, hardly signed a thing and died young.’

‘That’s what the article in this paper says,’ George adds, flapping the soaking pages.

‘And this pound note has gone missing?’

‘Stolen,’ says Saucy.

‘When?’

‘It was here when we opened at eleven this morning,’ says Clyde.

‘And now it’s gone?’

‘Yip.’

I look at the clock over the bar. It’s just past eleven fifty.

‘And who’s been in here since we opened up?’

George opens his arms wide. ‘At some point, everyone you see here plus that idiot rock star brother of Zia’s.’

‘No one else?’ I ask.

‘Nope.’

‘Okay, so let me get this straight,’ I say. ‘At eleven o’clock there was a pound note above our till that might be worth a quarter-of-a-million pounds.’

Zia nods.

‘And when was it last seen?’

‘Mark came in at eleven-thirty and it was gone. And he was, to put it mildly,’ adds Zia, ‘raging.’

‘Why would he want the note back?’

George laughs. ‘Why else? Because he’s skint.’

‘Blizzard White is broke?’ I whistle.

‘Spends it quicker than a kid in a sweetie shop,’ says Saucy. ‘So I’ve heard from Zia.’

I look at my partner.

‘It’s true. Mark owes money left, right and centre and back to left again. And . . .’

‘And what?’ I say.

‘And,’ says George, ‘rumour goes he owes Eyeball Madson a serious wedge.’

I sigh, a deep and familiar sigh. ‘Eyeball who?’

‘Meanest loan shark in south London. Pat Ratte knows him well,’ says George.

Pat is a ‘retired’ gangster living in El Descaro who knew my mum. Retired being the wrong word.

‘And this note can dig Mark out of that hole?’

‘You don’t get a second chance to pay up with Eyeball.’

I sigh again. ‘I know I shouldn’t ask but why is this guy called Eyeball?’

‘If you don’t pay up it’ll cost you an eyeball.’

I should be surprised at that. But I’m not. Not around here.

‘And now the note is missing and Mark thinks one of you took it?’

There’s some nodding and grunting.

‘And let me take a wild guess . . .  none of you know anything about the missing note?’

More nodding and grunting.

‘And the note was definitely here when you opened up, Clyde?’

‘Yes.’

‘And now it’s vanished?’

‘Yes.’

‘And Mark has gone to fetch the police?’

George nods.

‘Bloody hell, the last thing we need is the local police in here, and if Capitán Lozano catches wind of a missing quarter-of-a-million pound note he’ll be here before Saucy can finish his drink.’

Lozano is an officer of note with whom I’ve had more than a few run-ins. At the mention of his name, Saucy’s eyes open wide and he downs his vodka at speed. Saucy always drinks as if someone is planning to steal it.

‘Okay,’ I say. ‘If this pound note went missing this morning and you lot were the only ones here, and assuming Zia’s brother isn’t stupid enough to call the police if he stole it himself – then one of you has it.’

Everyone tries to talk at once and I hold my hand high. ‘All of you – be quiet. There’s no time for this. No time at all. I’ll make this simple. Do you want the police to solve this or me? I’m more than happy to go back to my bath and let things run their course.’

That’s not true. The last thing I want is the authorities in here. I need to solve this, and quick. I spent years working as a claims assistant in an insurance firm back in the UK, helping the genuine through their problems and spotting the scammers. I thought that aspect of my life had been left behind – but I’d been wrong. Out here, spotting the deceitful is a full-time job.

‘Clyde, when did anyone first notice the note was gone?’

‘When Mark came in twenty minutes ago.’

I look at my watch. ‘So Mark was here at eleven-thirty?’

‘Yes.’

That must have been the ruckus I heard.

‘So, to be clear,’ I say, ‘the note went missing between eleven and eleven-thirty.’

‘Yes,’ says Clyde.

I shrug. ‘Well, is anyone going to own up to taking it?’

No one says a word.

‘And the first anyone knew of its worth was when Mark came in?’ I add. ‘Is that right?’

‘Or if they read the article in the newspaper this morning,’ points out George.

‘Saucy read the paper first,’ blurts out Skid. ‘He would have known its value before any of us.’

‘I didn’t know the value,’ Saucy fires back.

‘Did too,’ Skid says. ‘You grabbed the paper when it was delivered.’

‘When was that?’ I ask.

‘Not long before Mark and Zia appeared,’ says George. ‘Jenny Lomond’s lad always drops it off on his way to football practice.’

‘Aye,’ says Saucy. ‘And Skid grabbed it. I don’t know why, he never reads the newspapers. I had to wrestle it from him – and, for your information, all I read was the horoscope. All I ever read is the horoscope. That was it. Full stop. I never saw anything about any sodding pound note.’

Skid sniffs. ‘So you say.’

‘George,’ I say, ‘you’re the one who reads the Sunday paper every week.’

George stirs his coffee. ‘I read the papers every day, Daniella, but I knew nothing about the note. Mark rolled in here and when he found out it was missing, he went all Radio Rental on us and pointed out the article.’

‘Was it a big story?’

‘Page three.’

‘Mark knew the paper was running a story?’ I ask.

Zia chips in: ‘He said it was a newspaper reporter who put him onto the value of thing.’

‘When?’

‘He was in London and got a call yesterday morning. Obviously the reporter must have been asking if he knew where the note might be.’

‘And that was why he flew in?’

‘I guess.’

‘And he told you he was here for the note?’

‘No. Not a word until we got to the pub this morning. Although when he phoned from the UK yesterday, to tell me he was coming out, he did ask if the note was still in the bar. But I didn’t think anything about it. I told him it was and, on the drive back from the airport, I heard him also ask Skid if the note was still above the till. Skid told him it was.’

‘What was Mark’s excuse for suddenly arriving in Spain, if he didn’t mention the note?’

‘Said he needed a break,’ replies Zia.

‘He got here quickly?’

‘He blagged a private jet from a rock star friend to get him here.’

‘Nice way to fly. But, Zia,’ I add, ‘you never made it back to the pub last night and we were open gone two in the morning?’

Zia and I live together upstairs but last night he had texted late to say he was going to stay up at my mum’s old flat in the pueblo with Mark.

‘I picked Mark up from the airport at Valencia at eleven last night. Skid came with me,’ Zia says. ‘But we had a puncture, and by the time we got back I knew the pub would be shut. I dropped Skid off and took Mark to your mum’s flat in the old town – but when Mark realised we weren’t going to the pub he kicked off. Wanted me to drive right down here and open up. I told him there was drink in the flat but he kept asking to go to the pub. I was knackered, what with driving to Valencia and the puncture, so I lied and told him I didn’t have a key. He changed tack and wanted me to fetch your key. I said you weren’t feeling well and I wasn’t going to wake you up. We argued for an hour before he gave in, crashed on the bed and I fell asleep on the sofa.’

‘And why did Skid go to the airport with you?’

‘Mark and him have history,’ Zia says.

‘History?’

‘Mark was going to back a racing team, with Skid as a driver, at one point. It never happened but they’ve been internet buddies ever since, watching stuff like the F1 together online. They were thick as thieves on the way back from the airport. Skid is starstruck when it comes to my brother.’

Skid grins. A dumb grin.

‘Zia,’ I say, ‘if I knew there was a note worth a quarter-of-a-million pounds sitting in this pub, and I couldn’t get at it last night, I’d have been here at cock crow. Why did everyone else get here before Mark?’

‘I lied and told Mark we didn’t open until twelve. I know we open at eleven but I was pissed off at him last night and wanted a lie in.’

‘Did Mark happen to ask you if the pub had any newspapers delivered on a Sunday?’

Zia’s face screws up a little. ‘Funnily enough he did. I was making coffee for both of us, not long after eleven this morning, when his phone started to ping and he asked about the newspapers. He also asked when the pub really opened on a Sunday. I told him twelve and he called me a liar. When I finally told him the truth about the opening time and that we got the Sunday paper delivered first thing, he got all agitated. Then his phone lit up again and next thing I know he’s sprinting out to my car telling me to get a move on. He was fizzing when he got here.’

‘And that’s when he discovered the pound wasn’t behind the till?’ I ask.

‘Only because Skid had moved the note before he got here,’ George says. ‘He stuck it on the ceiling.’

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