Echoes From The Past – Episode 40

Now that she had the go-ahead for the Dunskillen patchwork, Holly took stock of her resources. Between what she had brought with her from home, and what she had bought since she arrived in Stirling, she had enough to stack up on quite a few of the dining-room chairs. But there were still bits and pieces she was short of.

A session online would secure her plenty of material, the kind of colours and patterns she could envisage being useful for various other projects, some of them possible for the austere plan she had in mind for Mrs Brenda Harris. But another session in the sewing-machine shop would help a lot.

Aunt Bea was coming along very well, and had managed to look after herself for short spells, but Holly was taking no risks. Bea was happy to be left, but Holly was very aware of being responsible.

She decided to wait until Angela was due to return, and spent the time in between working on the design for Mrs Harris. So it was a couple of days later that she found herself in the pedestrian precinct in Stirling, with a list of shopping.

It was a lovely day, with a warmth in the air that matched the short cotton sleeves and hanging baskets. The pedestrian precinct was busy with people. Some sat on the benches and turned their faces to the sun, while others hurried through their shopping, as if anxious to get home to their gardens as soon as they could.

There was an air of bustling goodwill, when strangers smiled as they held doors open for each other. There was even a street musician, an elderly man with an accordion, accompanied by a dog on a lead. The man sat on a stool against the wall of a bank, his cap in front of him, with a gratifying amount of change in it.

The whole atmosphere in the precinct was one of cheerful pleasure, which made what happened next so unexpected.

Holly hadn’t really noticed the boys as she rounded the corner, but in what was an unusually quiet moment, there they were. There were four of them, all wearing hoodies in a selection of grey and dull blue. Three of them had their hoods up, in spite of the heat, and it was these three that suddenly took action.

Before anyone had time to think, the first one had snatched the cap and the loose change falling from it. Then the three of them ran for their lives, leaving the fourth open-mouthed and horrified. It took only a nano-second for him to realise that he was in danger of being implicated, at which point he, too, took to his heels and vanished.

Several things happened at once then. Holly’s first instinct was to rush towards the elderly man, to check that he was none the worse for the encounter. As she did so, she was aware of a young woman standing with a pushchair in a shop entrance, speaking crisply into her mobile phone.

“Police, please. In the precinct. Four boys have taken money off old Bert Macintosh and made a run for it. They were going at some speed, so they’ll be heading towards either the station or the sheriff court. Four boys, all in hoodies. They should be in the school, so they should. Not out here knocking over old men for their change.”

The only other person Holly was aware of was a young lad in a post office uniform, who set off after the offenders. An older man joined in, and ran almost as fast, so that between them they had a fair chance of catching at least a couple of the boys.

The man with the accordion had been knocked off his stool, and was now slumped on the ground, half dazed with shock.

“Are you all right?” Holly asked anxiously.

She righted the stool, and put her hand under his elbow, while the accordion swung forward on his chest. The dog, by now straining at the leash and barking loudly enough to be heard in Glasgow, pranced on his hind legs, wild with outrage.

“Quiet, boy,” the old man said, scrabbling to his feet. “You’re all right, Boxer. No harm done.”

“How about you?” Holly asked. “That was a proper assault. I’ll be your witness to that.”

“I’m fine, thanks, lass. I’m fine.”

He puffed a bit, his breathing far faster than normal, as he tried to convince Holly, and indeed himself, that he was in perfect health. It could only have been three or four minutes before a female police officer appeared on the scene, and started asking them both questions.


Lucy Crichton

Fiction Editor Lucy is always on the look-out for the very best short stories, poems and pocket novels. As well as sourcing enjoyable content, she enjoys working with our established contributors, encouraging new talent, and celebrating 155 years of 'Friend' fiction!