Under The Elm Tree – Episode 47

ELLA wandered from room to room, inspecting the cottage. Everything that needed to be collected had been, and the rooms were almost bare. She shivered as she listened to the wind spattering raindrops against the dark window-panes, and zipped up her fleece. With the furniture gone, it didn’t feel like her grandmother’s cottage any more.

It had annoyed her at first when the house clearance people had put back the collection date, but then she’d been glad, for it had given her extra breathing space. She’d been able to complete her design portfolio, too.

Mr Pagget’s been very good about everything, she reflected. He must be itching to get the cottage back and let it out with proper rent.

She turned off the light in the box room and made her way downstairs.

In fact, Mr Pagget had been kindness itself. What was it he’d said? Oh, yes.

“I might be in charge of the farm on a daily basis,” he had told her the other day, “but it’s my old dad who still makes the important decisions, make no mistake about that. Even from his armchair in the next village!

“He told me to make sure you stay as long as you need to, and that’s what I intend doing.”

But then he’d added something rather intriguing.

“He says he owes it to your grandad,” he’d said.

Ella frowned as she remembered his words. She turned to go downstairs, running her hand down the banister rail. What exactly had Grandad done to put Harry into his debt, she wondered. Perhaps she’d find out more when she returned old Mr Pagget’s letters to him.

I know, I’ll ask Margaret if she’d like to come with me, she thought. They’re old friends, after all, and I’m sure they’d both like that.

As she reached the hall, there was a knock at the door. It was Joe.

“Hello,” she began. “Just finished work?” As soon as she’d spoken the words, the spattering rain suddenly became a torrent and she beckoned him into the hall. He stepped, dripping, on to the mat and held out his hand.

“Wow!” She stared at the gold bracelet which lay across his palm. Green stones nestled in gold star shapes linked together in a delicate chain. “Where did you get that?”

“I found it up at Wembury House.”

“Are they real? I mean, are they emeralds?” she asked. How beautiful the bracelet was, and how richly the stones glowed in the light.

He laughed.

“I have no idea. I just thought I’d show it to you before I take it to the police station in Farchester.” He placed it in her hand. It was heavy and cold. “It’s unusual, isn’t it?”

She nodded, turning it over then back again.

“Very,” she said, a memory stirring vaguely in the back of her mind before disappearing again. “Where did you find it?”

“In one of the old bedrooms. It’s now apartment four,” he informed her with a grin. “I was taking off the old skirting board so that I could replace it and I saw something glinting in the dust.”

Ella’s memory returned, grew and took shape. She was sure her mum had mentioned a bracelet going missing when she was a teenager. Could it possibly be the same one? She frowned, trying to remember the details, then shook her head. She was probably putting two and two together and making five.

But coincidences did sometimes happen, didn’t they? That’s why they were called that, after all. I’ll ask Mum tonight when I phone her, she decided. Though whether she would talk about it would be another matter. Susan always avoided the subject of Wembury House if she could.

“Have you got time for a coffee?” she asked, handing the bracelet back to Joe.

He shook his head, avoiding her eyes as he ran his hand through his short brown curls.

“I ought to get this down to the station. I have a feeling it could be worth quite a bit,” he said.

“Oh, yes, of course,” she said, trying to ignore a feeling of disappointment. Ever since their weekend up in Norfolk, he’d been different. Friendly, but distant somehow.

“The sooner I’ve handed it in, the better I’ll feel,” he explained. “I don’t want it getting lost again.”

“It’s all right, Joe,” she said. “Another time, maybe.”

He nodded and turned to go.

“Oh, by the way . . .” he added, turning back.

Ella had started to close the door. Now she opened it again.


“Leanna asked me to give you a message. Apparently it’s good news about your painting.”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process, which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one tip to new writers is “write from your imagination”.