Together We Stand – Episode 26

“There are scores of husbands and fathers who disapprove of the tearooms, but I doubt any would damage the place. And why the photographic studio?”

The inspector coughed and stared at the ceiling.

“Whatever anyone in Llandudno might think of me or the suffrage movement,” Gwendolyn began, drawing herself to her full height, “exploiting young girls is the last thing we can be suspected of.”

“Anyway,” Evan said, heading off his mother’s outrage, “there are no shutters to the tearooms. If anyone was to break in, or indeed out, surely that would be the place to try?”

Twm was back at the window again.

“The advantage of the shutters, of course, is that no-one might notice the window was open until they were opened. If it hadn’t been for the wind blowing up last night, perhaps not even then, if the window had been pushed shut.

“I take it you were busy with the tearooms today, and the studio might not have been opened up until later?” He met Gwendolyn’s frown. “I thought as much. You see, if I were the thief, and I’d been bold enough to hide while there were so many of you in the building, there might be two things I’d want to achieve by taking such a risk.”

“You mean stealing the camera,” Gwendolyn said impatiently.

“More than that. If you hadn’t come back and seen the window was open, Miss Phillips might have been the only witness. Or she might not have noticed for several hours.”

“You mean,” Evan said, “that the robbery might not have been taken seriously?”

The inspector coughed.

“It might have been seen as a case of no robbery at all. Just a volunteer not being as honest as they should. My constable could have dismissed it, and you could be left doubting your volunteers.”

“So it might have been someone out to cause trouble in the ranks?”

The inspector put down his notebook.

“It’s possible. Except for the young lady, of course.”

Evan stared at him.

“What do you mean?”

“If Miss Phillips had found that the window was unlocked, she might have known that it was about the camera, after all. If she’s her father’s daughter, she’ll be bright enough to put two and two together.”

“And be frightened out of her wits,” Gwendolyn said, frowning. “With none of us taking her seriously.

“It’s a possibility.” He looked apologetic again. “There are some devious minds out there.”

“I’m aware of the fact,” Gwendolyn retorted. “Why else do you think I’m promoting young women’s education and knowledge of the world?

“It’s no good worshipping innocence when what you really mean is ignorance, so that any devious creature can take advantage of a woman.”

She scowled defiantly at the inspector, bracing herself for a look of scorn.

Something that could have been adoration appeared in his eyes instead, surprising her.

“I will defend your right to open the tearooms with my dying breath,” he said earnestly. “As I would anyone bold enough to address a perceived wrong,” he added, returning to his professional stance.

“Thank you,” Gwendolyn replied, just managing to avoid a blush, and aware of Evan, grinning as if he found something amusing in the midst of such seriousness.

“The picture wagon,” Twm went on thoughtfully. He gazed down at his notes. “This isn’t the first time there’s been trouble. Crimean War, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” Evan agreed. “But that was so long ago.”

“Wars, or at least their effects, take a long time to end.” Twm tapped the end of his pencil against his teeth. “There’s still trouble with the Tsar. There’s talk of a treaty now, but you never know.”

He pulled himself together, placing his notebook and pencil back in his jacket pocket.

“Perhaps as well not to mention it,” he said briskly. “I’ll ask around to see what I can find out. And I’ll talk to Miss Phillips once things have settled down again.” He looked around. “Pity. Llandudno could do with a photographic studio that wasn’t just for the rich.”

“Miss Phillips still has a camera,” Gwendolyn said. “It’s lucky she didn’t bring them all.”

“Perhaps as well not to leave them here overnight?” Twm suggested.

She nodded.

“Don’t worry, Inspector. Any camera will now be kept under lock and key.”

“Good. Hopefully this will be the end of the matter.”

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.