Together We Stand – Episode 49

Gwendolyn returned a few weeks later to sort out the tearooms before the promised reopening.

“It will be good to get back to normal,” she said to Tanni as they swept out the studio all ready for the following day. “It was good sea air out there on the pier, but I’m grateful to be back inside before the autumn beings.”

“Me, too,” Tanni said.

She was thankful to be back in the familiar studio, preparing it to open again. At least that way she could keep her mind occupied and push away the uneasy thoughts creeping in.

Inspector Williams was no nearer to finding the intruder, and she could see that, despite their happy preparations for Madeleine’s wedding to Evan in a few weeks’ time, she and Henry were still uneasy.

Mari was growing stronger, but still tearful at the prospect of never seeing her husband again. Tanni wished that the inspector would get the results of the coded piece of paper.

It seemed like an eternity since he had taken the precious capsule in person to the offices of the Secret Service in London.

He’d said it might take some time to break the code, but they had heard nothing since.

Maybe it was too old. Maybe it would never be broken, and the picture wagon would never give up its secrets. Maybe they would always live in fear.

She looked up as the bell to the front door jangled and several of the volunteers came in. At least the tearooms would soon be up and running again.

With a sigh, Tanni made her way to the office where Gwendolyn had just finished sorting out her papers.

“Excellent,” Gwendolyn said as Tanni arrived at the door. “We’ll be up and running in no time, and it appears for all Andrew’s shilly-shallying there is no obstacle to my standing for election to the council.”

“Except for the studio,” Tanni said.

“The studio? Good grief, child. No-one believes that to be lacking in propriety.”

“I don’t mean that,” Tanni said, biting her lip, her unease ever since she had returned to the tearooms hardening into a certainty.

“I can’t stay here, Mrs Humphries. You have been wonderful, and I can’t think of any better place to be, but supposing the intruder is never caught? I know it’s something to do with the picture wagon.

“Every moment I’m here I place you in danger. Who knows what might happen next?”

“Nonsense, my dear. We’ll face this together, whatever it is.”

Tanni shook her head.

“It could jeopardise your campaign for the council if things start happening at the tearooms. And supposing other houses are burned down?” Tanni sighed. “I’m putting the Gillinghams in danger, too.”

She straightened her shoulders.

“It was very kind of Mr Samuel to give me his beloved picture wagon, but the price is too high. I’m going to ask Mr Gillingham to destroy it.”

“And the cameras?” Gwendolyn asked gently. “They were also a gift to you from Mr Samuel, and there’s a new one waiting for you to replace the one that was stolen. As a gift from the tearooms.”

Tanni blushed.

“I’ve put them both in far too much danger as it is.” She swallowed. “I couldn’t bear it if something happened to them.”

There was a moment’s silence, broken by a knock on the door.

“Come in!” Gwendolyn called.

“I had better go,” Tanni murmured. “I’m sure you can find a replacement to use the studio, and the new camera.”

“Good grief!” Gwendolyn hadn’t heard a word.

Her eyes were on the door, which was opening slowly, with all the appearance of stealth.

Gwendolyn grasped the largest book to hand, motioning to Tanni to stand clear.

“Well, come in, whoever you are. But be warned, we are armed. And I don’t intend to take prisoners.”

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.