11 Ladysmile Lane – Episode 51

“The windows aren’t very big, are they? But leave it to me – I’ll be able to get through one, me being younger and fitter than you.”

Harrison shot Ewan a look, but it was nearly midnight and pitch-dark round the garage, so Ewan wouldn’t have seen it.

“All we’re after is a look inside,” he said, making sure Ewan got the message. “We’re not in the business of breaking and entering. Do you want us arrested? Anyway, we would set off the burglar alarms.”

“I haven’t seen any alarms.”

“I have. And cameras.” He pointed. “Keep right behind me . . .”

Taking a roundabout route to stay out of the cameras’ range, they ended up at the very back of the large main building.

“No windows here,” Ewan said, “so how are we going to see in?”

“There’s always something you can get a peep through.” Harrison’s eyes, which were now more used to the dark, scanned the wall. “There we are!”

He indicated a ventilation fan near the top that was damaged and half hanging off.

“It’s a long way up!”

“It is,” Harrison agreed, “but see that drainpipe? And you being, as you said, young and fit . . .”

* * * *

“Brett told me he was nearly the victim of a similar scam himself,” Alex said to Georgia and Mel a few days later, in the kitchen of Number 11.

“What they were doing was buying cheap plonk and putting labels on for Premier Grand Cru – the really good wine.”

Although she’d actually already heard the story from Brett himself earlier, Georgia was happy to listen to Alex, just pleased that they were easy with each other again and could chat in this way. And from his face, she reckoned he felt the same.

“Of course,” he continued, “Brett realised there was something wrong as soon as he took his first sip. Even before – when he sampled its nose, he told me. I think that means he had a sniff at it.”

Alex was smiling as he spoke about Number 11’s self-professed food and wine expert.

But it was a kind smile, from a kind man, Georgia acknowledged. She could see that he was trying to make Mel laugh, too, for certainly it had been a stressful time for her and her sister and brother-in-law.

“You’re right,” Mel said, and she was indeed laughing. “Harrison and Ewan discovered this was essentially the same thing. This lot were acquiring cheap clothes and putting designer labels in them. So the garage was perfect, because vans could come and go without causing interest – people would think it was still Des in there. And it’s in a fairly secluded position anyway, not overlooked.”

She broke off as Alex’s part-time assistant, Ann, appeared at the door, telling him a client he’d been trying to get hold of was on the phone. Picking up his mug, he hurried off after her.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.