It has been thirteen years since the elderly residents of Magnolia Court were scammed out of a comfortable retirement by an unscrupulous developer who took their money and ran.
A twist of fate leads Gabby, Uncle Max and Aunt Hetty’s niece to uncover the developer’s whereabouts.
Pointed in the right direction by Gabby, the residents draw on their life skills to overcome one obstacle after another in order to recover what is theirs by right.
No one should underestimate the tenacity and ingenuity of this charming and endearing bunch of senior citizens. Age and infirmity are set aside as they set out on their quest to seek retribution.
In Uncle Max’s own words: “I believe that our little ruse could well go down in history as an example of what can be achieved when people, irrespective of their age, pool their skills and work together as a team. Regrettably, we cannot write the story – none of us would like to spend the rest of our days at Her Majesty’s pleasure – but maybe someday someone will write it for us…”
Extract from Chapter 24
… Gabby stood up. It surprised her that she felt so calm and collected about sharing her plan. Anything was possible with Greg at her side and Uncle Max and Aunt Hetty batting for her.
“I think you all know that I was never more shocked and horrified when I first came to Magnolia Court to see the state of the place, notwithstanding all your hard work. I promised myself then and there that if ever I was in a position to do anything about it then I would not hesitate to do so. Needless to say, I did not for one minute think that the opportunity would present itself, but it has. My aim is to take three million pounds off Harry Trumper to use to restore Magnolia Court and then – and only then – let the police deal with him. If we go to the police now I don’t believe that you’ll see a penny of your money again. Don’t forget that Annabel, his ex-wife, holds the purse strings now”, Gabby said.
“If I had a pound for every hare-brained scheme and badly worked business plan that crossed my desk when I was in banking and finance I would be a millionaire myself now and not sitting here listening to some whippersnapper of a girl, however lovely she may be, telling me that she has a plan to get God knows how many millions out of a man like Harry Trumper,” Peter whispered loudly to Henry.
Henry raised his eyebrows. Gabby had aroused his curiosity. “We lose nothing by hearing her out,” he whispered quietly.
Gabby put her hands together and concentrated hard on her words. “For the plan to work we have to play to his weaknesses … My plan is premised on his passion for paintings by Lowry.” Gabby explained what she had in mind. The more she listened to herself, the more it sounded like sheer madness – doomed to failure – a non-starter.
“…And it is my firm belief that working as a team, we can pull it off!” Gabby sat down and congratulated herself that she had explained her idea as clearly as possible. There had been no interruptions and no questions asked. Wide-eyed the residents had listened and hung on her every word, and she could see from their faces that they had understood the gist of it. It was now up to them.
“Gabby,” Uncle Max stood up and took a deep breath, “I know you want to help but I’d be much happier if you let the whole thing drop and we went to the police. He’s dangerous. What you are suggesting is, how can I put it, totally beyond our capabilities. And, as you quite rightly point out, there are a few rather major snags! You have to remember that we are not so young anymore, and neither are we that adventurous. I am sorry, my dear.”
“Hold on, Max. Speak for yourself,” Duncan interrupted abruptly, wheeling himself to the front of the room. “Less of this ‘we’re not so young anymore’ and ‘not so adventurous’. There’s life in this old dog yet! None of us are in our graves yet, and as for our brains, they’re as sharp as they ever were, especially if we put them all together. I say we explore Gabby’s plan a bit more before we dismiss it out of hand. When have we ever been negative about anything?”
“Forgive me if I am being a little slow, Gabby,” Peter interrupted, “but didn’t you say that the two of you live on a meagre income in a rented cottage? Where’s this three million or so coming from, I’d like to know?”
“It’s hanging on the walls of his ex-wife’s house. His one passion in life has been art. He has bought well. I’ve seen the valuation of his collection and it’s worth a lot more than three million. He has got the money,” Gabby replied calmly.
“Really?” Peter raised his eyebrows. Maybe she wasn’t quite so stupid after all.
Greg kept his counsel and said nothing. This was between Gabby and the residents of Magnolia Court. If she succeeded in persuading them, then he would be with her all the way. If they didn’t agree he would take her home – to his apartment.
Gerald counted the tea leaves in his cup and turned it all over in his mind. Yes, the plan was pure Le Carré but was it so impossible? It irked him that this man had not only taken them all for a ride but had now done the same to Gabby. And now they knew who and where he was. They would gain nothing by going to the police – he would plead poverty. They might get a few thousand pounds out of him but it was a drop in the ocean compared to what he owed them.
Dennis watched with a thoroughly puzzled expression on his face as Gerald took a coin out of his pocket and tossed it in the air. “Heads, I do! Tails I don’t!” he said out loud. “It’s heads!”
“Darlings!” Gerald stood up. “If I could have your attention for one minute?”
All heads turned towards Gerald. “Now you all know what I did all my life before I bought my lovely cottage at Magnolia Court. If not, let me remind you that I was an art dealer and Lowry was one of my favourite artists too.” Gerald waited to give them time to recall some of the stories that he had told them. “Well, I am ashamed to admit that not everything I did was entirely legal or above board. I hasten to add that I was only caught out the once and I learned my lesson the hard way. Nothing too serious, but it cost me a pretty penny to buy my way out of it. To this day all of my clients remain happy with the work I did for them.” Gerald smiled – he was not in the least bit ashamed of anything he had done in the past. He viewed the services he had provided with pride.
“I know precisely how to deal with acquiring ‘the necessary’ to make this plan stand a very good chance of succeeding.” Already he had a list of names in his head, some could be discounted straight away, and others might have passed on by now, but there were still others who he thought would be ready to do business with him again. “I can acquire the painting, Gabby, so that’s the main ‘snag’ out of the way. Isn’t the rest of it just a case of stage managing and delivering our own little production? Let me explain what I have in mind…” Gerald sat down with a self-satisfied grin on his face – this was going to be fun!
“And just how much do you think this little lot might cost Gerald?” Peter asked, flabbergasted at what he had just heard.
“To acquire the painting you’ll get little change from fifty ‘k’,” Gerald said nonchalantly. “And then there’s the cost of luring the fish to the bait. The key to success is meticulous planning and authenticity in everything we do – none of which comes cheap. My guess would be around the hundred ‘k’ mark. And, mark my words, it won’t happen overnight. We will have to be patient if we are to pull it off.”
“And how do you think we’re going to come up with that sort of money?” Peter demanded, rapidly losing patience with what still appeared to him a hare-brained scheme.
A deadly silence descended on the nineteenth hole. The answer was obvious but who was going to be the first to say it?
“I’ve already spent thirty pounds but there’s still fourteen thousand nine hundred and seventy pounds in my bank account and I really don’t know how I am going to spend it, so I say let’s do it and here’s my cheque.” Jennifer fished her chequebook out of her handbag, tore a cheque out of it and waved it around the room for everybody to see.
“Come on, everybody,” she continued. “This is probably the last chance we will ever have to do something entirely reckless and, you never know, it might just work! I haven’t felt so excited for a long time. In fact, I feel like a twenty-one-year-old all over again!” It was the answer to her prayers – her last production, her last performance.
“I didn’t really want to go on a cruise anyway,” Dennis whispered to his wife. “And besides, we’ve got loads of buckets. We don’t need to buy any more.”
“Well, Charmaine, what do you think, my dear?” Henry said to himself. “Are we in? I guess I could manage without the Bose for another year or so.”
“There will always be Nortons waiting for someone like me,” Andy reflected.
Duncan put his hand up. “I say we go for it! Let’s show them what a bunch of old codgers can do! You might need to shell out a few bob for a new computer for me. I’d have my work cut out with the old girl I’ve got now. My fifteen thousand is still intact and needs to work for me.”
“I think that I might be able to do my bit to help make it work too,” Amy said quietly. “Did I ever tell any of you what I used to do during the war in my spare time? My hands may be a little arthritic and stiff but I haven’t lost the art of it, believe me! I can do all the counterfeiting of documents that we may require. Count me and my fifteen thousand in. My sister will just have to come over from Australia to see me if it all goes wrong. But if it works then I shall buy myself a first-class ticket there and back!”…
Thank you, Angela Dandy and Random Things Tours.
About the author
Angela Dandy is the author of thriller Lakeside and several
published short stories. A retired project manager, Angela has
travelled widely and enjoys spending time with people of all ages
and walks of life. Angela’s aim in writing thrillers is to aspire
and capture the imagination of her readers by weaving colourful
and resourceful characters into her carefully crafted plots. Most
importantly she aims to entertain!