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The Case of the Missing Pound Note: A Daniella Coulstoun Short Story (part 5)

  28 Apr '22   |  Posted by: Birlinn

Next week 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. Expect shady expats, some fruity language, and of course, a mysterious missing pound note. This is the final part of the story – click here to read the first part. 

The Case of the Missing Pound Note

A Daniella Coulstoun Short Story

by Morgan Cry

‘Skid,’ I say, ‘you might be as daft as a box of frogs at times but even you knew that if you just pocketed the note instead of putting it up on the ceiling, as per Clyde’s request, you’d be the prime suspect when the theft was discovered. So you put it up but,’ another pause for effect, ‘later you took it down again.’

‘Did I hell,’ he growls.

‘Proof is in the pudding,’ I say. ‘Because there are three things you did this morning that I’ve never known you do, Skid.’

‘Like what?’

‘Well, firstly, why were you behind the bar?’

‘I was helping set up.’

‘Skid, I’ve never known you to help set up in all the time I’ve been here. Never. And Clyde said the same earlier. Isn’t that right, Clyde?’

Clyde nods.

‘You’ve not been in town long enough to know what I have and haven’t done,’ Skid throws back.

‘Long enough to wonder why you’d bother mixing up all the bottles in the fridge. I was on the bar last night and I stocked all the fridges before we closed. The fridge didn’t need any more stock so you deliberately messed them for some reason.’

‘Why would I do that?’

‘To distract Clyde and steal the note.’

‘But I didn’t steal it. I put it up on the ceiling.’

‘Only because you must have dropped it trying to get it down from above the till. The note had been up there twenty years. The odds of it falling down today are slim to none. I’m guessing you mucked up getting it off the wall and it fell. But now you have a problem. Clyde has seen the note so you can’t just take it. He’d remember. When Clyde asked you to put it up amongst all the other ones you had no choice. And, from that moment, the clock starts to tick, because you know something the others don’t. You know the value of the note and you also know that the newspaper that’s about to arrive has an article about it.’

‘Rubbish,’ he says. ‘I never knew any of that. I never read the papers.’

‘I know you don’t,’ I say. ‘And that’s the second thing you never do. You never touch the newspapers, so why did you try so hard to get hold of one this morning?’

‘Who said I did?’

‘You grabbed the newspaper when it was delivered,’ I point out, ‘before Saucy took it from you. And George told us that he took it from you when Saucy went to the toilet. You must have lifted it from Saucy’s table. That’s how I know you wanted the newspaper.’

‘Crap.’

I ignore that. ‘And then there’s the third thing you never do.’

‘What?’

‘You never take ice in your drink.’

‘Eh?’

‘When you spilled your drink on George you said you were at the bar asking for more ice. You never ask for ice. It hurts your teeth. You always moan about it. So why would you ask for more ice?’

‘It doesn’t always hurt.’

I blank that.

‘Skid,’ I say, ‘the real reason you spilled your drink was to stop George reading the newspaper. You couldn’t risk him seeing the article. If he did then the game was up. You dropped your drink over it to give you some breathing space to steal the note.’

‘And when did I take it, then?’ he asks.

I turn to Sheryl. ‘Sheryl, give me your phone and unlock it so I can read out your texts.’

She hands it to me.

‘Okay, Skid, let’s get this done and you can hand back the note.’

I turn to Saucy.

‘Saucy, you say that Sheryl yelped when Skid was putting the note up.’

‘Yip, she got a text and cried out. Skid was standing right next to me when it happened.’

‘Under the note?’

‘Yes.’

I hold the phone up. ‘Sheryl got two texts from Jordan. One at eleven-fifteen and one at eleven-thirty.’

Skid jumps in. ‘She shouted out when I put it up, I remember. So someone else took it back down after that.’

‘Let’s see.’ I read the phone. ‘The first text says: Hi sis, got my phone, see you soon. And the second one says: Sis, you know that pound note with white writing that sits above the till – it’s worth £250k – honestly, no joke – no one else knows. Grab it. Now.

‘And?’ Skid says.

‘We know that the first text came in at quarter-past eleven and the second at half-past – and we also know you were fiddling with the note on the ceiling when Sheryl yelped.’

I let the moment sink in. Wondering who will catch on first. As a smile appears on George’s lips, I jump in before he can speak.

‘Right, Skid,’ I say. ‘Which of those two texts would you think Sheryl yelped at? The one from her brother saying he’d got his phone back. Or the one that tells her that a pound note worth two-hundred-and-fifty-thousand grand – that no one knows about – is sitting yards from her for the picking? Eh? Which one?’

George can’t help but speak. ‘The second one, of course, I remember the cry. Which means Skid was reaching for the celling at eleven-thirty.’

‘Bingo, George. Skid put the note up at quarter-past eleven but he also reached up again at half-past, just as Mark and Zia rushed in, and just as Sheryl got the text. Saucy told us that Mark had to barge Skid out of the way to get to the bar. So Skid was near the door and therefore near the note. When Mark ran by, Skid was reaching up, and no doubt pocketed the note before Sheryl came over to look.’

‘Eh?’ says Saucy.

‘Too much vodka, Saucy?’ I say. ‘Skid reached up twice, not once.’

‘Did he? I missed that.’

‘Tripe,’ says Skid.

‘Skid,’ I say, turning back to him, ‘you’re the one who admitted you heard Sheryl yelp when you were reaching for the ceiling. And I’m betting that pound note is sitting right inside your jeans’ pocket at this moment.’

‘That’s all nonsense,’ says Skid. ‘Why would I take it? How could I have known about the note’s value, eh? How?’

I shift my weight a little, ‘You knew all right, and you were about as subtle as an elephant farting in a phone box about it. After all, look at what you did . . . You went behind the bar to steal it. Why do that if it had no value? You knew the story was in the paper. Why else did you try to get the paper twice and why would you deliberately spill your drink on it, other than to stop George reading it? And you’ve been the one throwing out most of the accusations for the last ten minutes. Let’s be clear – you grabbed the note when Mark came in because, if I’m right, you were the only person in this pub who knew its value, knew where it was and could get to it.’

‘How could I possibly know what it was worth,’ he cries. ‘I told you I never read the bloody paper.’

‘I agree, because you didn’t need to. You were messaged the information.’

‘You can’t pr–’

‘What can’t I do, Skid? Prove it? Give me your phone.’

‘What?’

‘Give me your phone,’ I repeat.

‘Why?’

‘To show everyone that you knew what the note was worth.’

‘Will I hell.’

‘What’s on his phone?’ Saucy asks.

‘My guess is,’ I say, ‘that a certain rock star who, by the way, certainly isn’t on his way to the police, has been, and is, in communication with our Skid.’

‘Mark and Skid?’ says Clyde.

‘One Blizzard White and one Peter “Skid” Solo are in cahoots.’

‘How?’ George asks.

‘Through WhatsApp,’ I say. ‘After all, Skid signed up to the app last night at the behest of Mark when they were in Zia’s car on the way back from the airport. Who else could be messaging Skid this morning? His phone has pinged twice since I got here. And, George, you said it went off earlier.’

‘It did that.’

‘Well, that has to be Mark. Or, Skid, do you have other WhatsApp friends?’

Silence.

I continue: ‘Zia said Mark was on the phone up at Mum’s flat this morning, just before he started shouting the odds about getting down here. I think you messaged him, Skid, probably just to ask your rock star friend when he was coming down but that message panicked Mark because he now knew the pub was already open. That’s why he asked Zia when the pub really opened. And he panicked even more when Zia told him we get the Sunday papers delivered first thing. He knew someone might read the article and lift the note, so he messaged Skid to steal it. Didn’t he, Skid?’

Skid is now studying the floor.

‘Only you screwed up and dropped the note behind the bar in front of Clyde. When Clyde told you to pin it up you messaged Mark to tell him what had happened and that’s when he came racing down here.’

‘That’s all crap, Daniella,’ shouts Skid.

‘If it is, hand over your phone and turn out your pockets. If there are no messages from Mark and no pound note in your jeans then I’ll apologise and stand you free drinks for a year.’

Skid doesn’t move.

‘But when Mark arrived he had a problem. Skid had already messaged him what had happened – that the note was now on the ceiling – but Skid couldn’t get to it without raising suspicion. Mark’s appearance was a distraction to give Skid a chance to grab the note. And when Skid showed Mark the note was gone he must have tipped Mark the wink. And Mark stormed out pretending to go for the police. But he knew Skid had the note.’

‘Pretending to go to the police?’ says Clyde.

‘Of course he was pretending,’ I reply. ‘Mark knew Skid had the pound note so why would he call in the police? And, even if Skid didn’t have the note and someone else in here had stolen it, calling in the police would have been a waste of time.’

‘Why?’ asks Sheryl.

‘The pound isn’t Mark’s property any more. He gifted it to Mum twenty years ago when he pinned it on the wall. And now that we all own the pub, we all own the note. Mark knew that. Okay, he might have been able to argue in court that it was his property – but that would have been costly and taken time. And I don’t think he has the cash or the time to do that. I think he’s desperate. And if this guy Eyeball is half the swine you say, then it’s no surprise that Mark flew here at the drop of hat to steal the note. But his chance to get it last night vanished, because of the puncture, so when he discovered that the pub was already open this morning he messaged Skid to do his dirty work for him. No doubt in return for a share of the spoils. I’ll give you odds that the messages Skid has received since I got here is Mark checking he really has the pound note. He’ll also be wondering why Skid hasn’t left the pub to meet him.’

I swing back to look at Skid.

‘But you couldn’t leave, Skid, could you? Not right away, because even you knew that would have looked suspicious. So you planned to wait a short while and then slip out to meet Mark. Unfortunately for you, I arrived just as you were trying to leave.’

Skid doesn’t look up.

‘And, so,’ I say, as I finish off my wine, ‘if you all want rock-solid proof that Skid and Mark are in this together, I’ll bet you another pound note to a million that Mark MacFarlane walks back in here very, very soon – not a police officer in sight – because right at this moment he is scared shitless that Skid is turning him over.’

As I place my empty glass down on the bar, the pub door opens and we all turn around. In walks Mark MacFarlane.

And not a police officer in sight.

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