Archibald Delaney was always a very snappily dressed person. Today he is wearing an expensive grey suit, white shirt and blue tie with one white diagonal stripe. Highly polished black Church’s shoes with heels clicking on the slabs as he manoeuvres his way along the congested pavement. An upright six foot two and a commanding figure. In his early forties but his face showing no signs of wear. Handsome, confident and always smiling. He spoke with a smile in a very appealing way. The smile extending to his dark eyes adding to an overall impression of trust and dependability that people immediately felt when meeting Archibald Delaney for the first time.
It was eleven o’clock so he went into the coffee shop on the corner by the traffic lights. Most days he stopped around this time at Gino’s place. Gino’s sold the best coffee in town and was always busy. Today was no exception. The place was buzzing. The air echoey. A clattering of cups, shuffling of chairs, endless intermingling conversations. A murmuring background. Coffee machines snorting and hissing. That squealing, squirting of the milk frother. Haphazard movement, napkins, sugars, cutlery being collected. The menu list long and complicated. Flat white this and Espresso con panna that in fact coffee a million different ways making it generally mysterious. He ordered a straight black and was immediately corrected “do you mean an Americano Archie?” The same reply every time. He leant back a fraction and playfully pointed at Gino slightly wagging his finger. Archie liked doughnuts and here they were made by Gino’s wife. Round, hot, sugar coated and had an injected strawberry syrup in the centre. Picked up the straight black Americano and doughnut and searched for a place to sit. There were no free tables but one in the corner set for four had only a lady seated reading a thin paperback. Just finishing what might have been a flat white.
“Mind if I sit here?”
“Not at all. Help yourself.”
Mia Nightingale was a striking looker. Long shiny black hair and skin slightly tanned from a recent trip to a far away hot spot. Not necessarily attractive but had a kind of sultry, sexy way of looking at people, men in particular, that made an instant unforgettable impression. Tall, slim wearing a plain cream blouse with frills and tight-fitting mid length dark grey skirt that emphasised her best attributes. Sort of pink red lipstick, subtle and adding a refined look. The bit of individuality. Bright red shoes with silver medium heels.
After a brief pause “Archie. I’m Archie.”
“Seen you in here a few times.”
“Yes I pop in now and again. I like the coffee here.”
“What are you reading?”
“Oh just a book on jewellery for investment.”
“Trying to beat the crap interest rates eh?”
“Hope to. Nothing to lose really. Anyway got to rush. Nice to meet you.”
She got up and left leaving Archie’s eyes to follow her swaying hips and trim figure out the door, do a left turn and disappear into the crowds.
Archie sighed, finished his coffee and doughnut and left continuing the way he had been going turning into a small alleyway, a shortcut that led to the narrow lane where Ezra Dimes’ shop was located. Archie was a conman. Small time but successful. Took full advantage of his natural charm and ability to be believed. It was the authoritative way he spoke. People simply trusted he was right. He could sell anything to anybody at twice, no at least three times its value. He was thinking about Mia. He liked her, what man would not with that look of hers. But he could not resist an opportunity.
Ezra Dimes was a fence, a pawnbroker and definitely a dubious character. About seventy with Albert Einstein hair but trimmed a bit. Small round glasses that sat on a squashed nose stuck on the front of his flabby face. His chin, a double and a shaved with a blunt blade look. Always wore black trousers, black frock coat, frilly white shirt and red slipper like shoes. Heavy, liked food and it showed. Eric his minder. A massive man just short of seven feet who always wore chalk stripe black trousers with turn-ups, steel toecap boots, loose fitting light blue shirt, a wide belt and clip on braces. Bulky with a smashed in face.
Archie pushed open the opaque glass door, listened to the loud ping of the old fashioned brass catch type bell attached to the freshly painted architrave and smiled at the indiscrete camera pointing from the ceiling knowing Eric would be watching in the rear room. Ezra was sat at the back drinking coffee from a large red mug and munching on a sugar coated cake. He put the mug down amongst the ring stains on an American white oak table that was covered in the crumbs from his daily cake consumption. His normal spot while he let his two nieces serve the few customers that came to admire his overpriced jewellery.
“Archie so nice to see you. Been a while hasn’t it. Thought you had forgotten me.”
“Nothing to sell Ezra. Been dealing in other things.”
“I see the smart new schmutter. Nice cloth, quality, must be doing well. What can I do you for this fine day?”
“Need some jewels Ezra. Fake but authentic looking.”
“Fortuitous Archie. I have a very nice collection bought from a young well to do down on their luck. Had them made to replace the real thing then more misfortune and I end up with them all. Hannah can you fetch the box for Archie?”
“These are perfect. How much?”
“To you Archie a special price three thousand five hundred.”
“Bit steep Ezra how about two and a half?”
“Three’s a deal Archie. Three is the lowest.”
Archie pulls out the bundle of fifties that he always carries.
Ezra knows Archie’s money is good. If it wasn’t a conversation with Eric would solve the problem. Archie leaves happy, knowing that the jewellery is only worth two thousand pounds but not really caring as the loss will be absorbed into the profit he will make.
Archie spends the next few days calling at Gino’s between ten thirty and twelve for his normal coffee hoping to meet Mia. Tuesday she is there when he arrives at ten forty five. The place is as busy as usual and she is again at a table on her own reading the same book.
“Hi there. Mind if I sit?”
She nods her head. He pulls out a chair puts his Americano and doughnut down and sits.
“Still reading it then? Any progress?”
“Yes and nearly finished. I think I’ll start to look for something to buy.”
“Might be able to help you. My mother passed away last year and left me all her jewellery. There’s a pair of diamond earrings, a diamond bracelet and neckless set and a couple of individual rings. The probate on them was twelve thousand pounds though. I don’t know how much you have to invest but I could let you have them for ten thousand if you were interested. I was going to sell them at auction. The auctioneer wants twenty percent commission so I would be no worse off and it would save all the hassle.”
“I’m not sure. It’s not too much I actually have more than that to invest but I know nothing about diamonds.”
“Neither do I. All I know is that they were my mothers and they were expertly valued for probate. I can show you the probate forms. You would gain twenty percent straight away. What about if I showed them to you then you can decide. Would have to be soon though as the next jewellery sale is in two weeks and I will be putting them in that if you don’t want them.”
“Well I see no harm in that.”
“What about Thursday evening. I could bring them to your place if you want.”
“That sounds good. Come round about six and we can go from there.”
Mia gives him her address.
Thursday and he turns down the second side road on the left walked on about one hundred yards then stopped, struck the brass lion’s head knocker two swift blows on the black painted door and waited. It was exactly six o’clock. She answered and was immediately besieged by Archie’s handsome grinning face as he said “Found you alright. You are quite tucked away down here.”
“Come in. A drink?”
“Wine would be good please. Anything will do.”
“So what’ve you got?”
“This is all of it. The bits I mentioned and this is the probate document that shows it’s value last year.”
“This looks really good. You sure it’s alright.”
“Sure. It was my mother’s, bought for her by my father so it’s definitely the real thing.”
“Can I think about it?”
“Not really as I said the next jewellery sale is soon and I need the money for a new car. You won’t find this quality at this price anywhere.”
“Ok I’ll do it. I have to get the cash so can I meet you tomorrow?”
“That would be nice. What if we meet at twelve at that fish restaurant in the High Street and I will buy you lunch.”
The fish was excellent. The restaurant expensive. Archie gives Mia the jewellery and she gives him a brown holdall full of fifty pound notes neatly bundled. He pays for lunch with two fifties from the bag and they leave with Mia heading home. Archie strolls off down the High Street very pleased and thinking that it is about time he changed location. He had been in this town too long now.
Saturday and Archie is in the supermarket at the checkout flirting with the till lady as she scans the few bits from his basket. He pays with a fifty and she feeds it into the note checker. It’s rejected.
“Sorry sir this note’s a dud. I can’t accept it.”
“Ok try this.”
“Sorry same thing.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yup there’s no doubt. Both notes are bad.”
Archie heads home and pulls all the notes out of the holdall. He carefully scrutinises them. They are good. Very good, but fake. All fake. He thinks “why did I not check them before. Because she was so, just so incredibly believable that’s why. Oh she was good in fact better than good. She was magnificent.”
When Mia got home on Friday she quickly packed. Leaves the air B&B she had rented and heads for the station. She is satisfied with her few weeks work. Her surveillance of Archie. Had unloaded the ten grand dodgy money she had fleeced from the counterfeiter. Picked up the cash from Ezra Dimes for the genuine jewellery and the paste that she had previously extracted from that unfortunate lady so keen to be nice. Ezra falling over to help a damsel in distress. His weakness. The tears, the misery, her acting superb. Ezra paying more than he wanted. Scammed the costume jewellery back to use another day. And got one over on one of the better operators in the business. Yes she was most certainly very, very pleased.