Justice of the Peace

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Used in past times to overcome poverty, in modern times to ease recession.

Submitted: November 11, 2012

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Submitted: November 11, 2012




‘The Crusader’s Plumes’ was rather full on that night in mid-January. It was not a night to be out, nevertheless the ancient inn saw a good turnout. The Cornish coast in winter is not a place to be found in, unless you are Cornish or one of the new inhabitants. It is lonely, wild and windy, the sea rough and dangerous. On the nights when the moon is reluctant to appear is the time to be careful. Centuries before it had been easy to waylay a passing ship whose captain had no knowledge of the hidden rocks and currents, and forced it to crash. The local villagers would rush down to the beach to lay their hands on goods that were prohibited by the customs and excise men. The bounty was taken through a series of caves that finally arrived under ‘The Crusader’s Plumes’. Then they were shared out, and this created new rich families, with no way of explaining how they had come by so much wealth. No material proof was ever found and the goods underneath ‘The Crusader’s Plumes’ stayed intact until the hunt and the heat cooled off.

The storm blowing up outside the inn was noisy enough for a boat crashing on the rocks to be unheard. The inn now had double glazing, which helped to keep out the roaring winds and pelting rain from disturbing the warmth and cosiness inside.
Myles Knevitt was the Justice of the Peace for the coastal and inland villages nearby. He had arrived at this public service by a round-about route. Having started out as an Estate Agent, he had made himself known as a fair-minded businessman. His aim in life was to keep both the sellers and the buyers happy. Over the years he had avoided any arguments about money. When things got a bit rough round the edges he gave both parties a present, nothing cheap or vulgar, but with class. Where did he get the money from? The tall, dark, and still handsome man now nearing sixty-five was nothing more than two-faced. A public face and a private one. The private face was that of the head of a smuggling ring. Myles and his cohorts were in the inn on that stormy night.
“Is everything ready, everyone in place?” asked Lennard Powell, the most important meat distributor for the area.
“As far as I know, all is well,” replied Myles.
Sebastian Moore and Henry Hopper, the other businessmen in the group of profiteers, were gazing at the main door to the inn. Every time a new person entered, those inside were treated to a rapid vision of black wetness. Was it possible to get any business done that night? The innkeeper made a gesture with his thumb to tell them that all was well.

Down at the beach there was a group of young men waving large torches in their hands. Barely visible was a container ship, on its way from Europe. The Captain had been approached by the Justice of the Peace some time before Christmas when on holiday. They had met up in a bar on the Dutch coast. The Captain had wavered at first about being in on the scam, but then seeing the financial situation of the European markets thought, ‘why not.’ Myles had gone over to Holland with John Seed, the innkeeper, and they had shown the Captain an outline of the Cornish coast and where the plan could be carried out successfully. It had to take place on a stormy night when the county police and any others who might blow the whistle on their activities would be safely indoors in the warmth of their homes or pubs. The Captain had been handed a list of the containers that were wanted. The sum the Captain had asked for his help had been agreed upon, and the three were very happy collaborators. In total there would be about five containers to be loosely fastened, and as the vessel was nearing the Cornish coast the ferocity of the storm and the buffeting winds would tilt the vessel.

The torch wavers sighted the ship before it rounded Lands End on its way to Bristol, the Captain on seeing the signal, brusquely turned the boat to break into the heavy waves side on. It began to reel and sway in the inky sea. It was rather like a drunken sea monster. Then, what the young men had been waiting for, happened. There was a sudden loud noise when several containers snapped their anchoring strap and rolled off the ship and into the sea. At this point, the ship managed to right itself and move away from the rocks. From their hideouts a group of men ran out and grabbed at the unwieldy containers floating on the water, attached ropes, and dragged them up to caves that would shelter them until they were emptied of their goods. One of the young men made a call on his mobile phone. More containers were taken into the deep, dark caves that had been used for such business since time immemorial.
Myles left his companions and went into the barrel cellar where the beer was kept. Under an enormous false barrel was the entrance to a passage that led down into the caves. Centuries before, the ancestors of John Seed and Myles Knevitt had run a similar operation. The activities of those men had at times been called off when it was too difficult to keep away from the authorities. Now, in a difficult time of crisis, the imaginations that had thought up such activities had been reawakened in their descendants.
“What have we got this time, Myles?” John asked.
“Spare parts for motor cycles and a selection of electrical goods, and a refrigerated container full of meat for Lennard. Let’s go and take a look, shall we?” Myles walked ahead of his associate along the tunnel where in the dim light men could be seen breaking open the containers. To one side the contents were being organized, by type and destination. John was making calculations as they checked the haul. The sale of those goods would bring in enough money to maintain the village throughout the rest of the year without falling into the desperate plight of other English villages due to the bleak economic scene. The villagers also would not have to do without their daily ration of meat. The customers were already being informed by Lennard and Henry that lorries with their orders would be at their doors at four o’clock in the morning or thereabouts, and to be waiting ready to unload.

“Have the ‘authorities’ been advised of this, we don’t want any hiccups?” Henry asked Lennard.
“What do you think Myles spends his time doing? Everyone is in on this up to their necks. No one gets out of this. That’s how we survive in this area. People up in London and the other cities take advantage of us and our know-how, they are our customers and we are their suppliers. If they had to pay the official prices for our ‘merchandise’ there wouldn’t be many small businesses left. We are a positive element in today’s society.”
“Yes, you’re right. The county police will get here only to see broken containers on the beach. Do you think it’s possible to move the lorries in this storm?” Henry asked.
“It’s been done before. According to the weather forecast it isn’t raining in London or its suburbs. In the Midlands it’s only damp. So don’t worry, everything’s OK,” Lennard said to his friend and colleague, as much to convince himself as to help Henry.

Sebastian went into the barrel cellar and locked the door behind him. This was no time for unwelcome visitors. He looked down into the gloominess underneath his feet. He saw his part of the booty. From his mobile phone he made a call, “ Get the boys and the lorry here immediately. At the back of the inn and make it quick. We don’t have a lot of time.”
Sebastian put his mobile back in his pocket. He saw Myles and John as they began to leave the tunnel. “How’s it going down there? The storm must have made it difficult. Have we got the information from the Captain?”
“Yes, it’s right here. The goods over there floating on the water will be due to the container that was already prepared to open on impact, so that the county police see the result of the ‘accident’ on the beach. One of the containers is full of paintings. I don’t know what we are supposed to do with them. The Captain has supplied the information about where they are to be delivered.” Myles replied.
“That’s rather dodgy. They can be easily recognized, whereas a fridge is common place and the number on a motor cycle can be altered. Have you got in touch with him?” Sebastian asked.
“We’ve got through to him and he has a second list of people who are after the paintings. They will pick up the paintings after leaving the village. For safety’s sake none of us will see the paintings or the customers.” John said. “Apparently, everything has been planned. Personally, I’ll be glad when tonight is over.”
“So will everyone else,” Myles answered.
“Where has the ship gone to?” Sebastian asked.
“It’s on its way to Bristol away from danger,” John said.

In the main bars things were still flourishing. The customers were knocking back as much as they could without falling down. Later on they would need their energy to take their orders home. The electrical goods were not to be used till a couple of months had gone by just in case an over zealous county policeman started being nosey. Those who had shops that were supplied from this modern day smuggling, were always discreet about the numbers of articles they sold. There was the constant fear that a stranger might turn up on holiday and make a remark about how modern the shops were in such a desolate spot. It would only take one visitor to put the bubble in, and they would all be reduced to being poor.

Thanks to the storm’s being so strong, neither of the county policemen had been keen to get wet, better to be ensconced inside a warm car.
At three o’clock the police that had been on duty all night went off, to be replaced by a couple of local police in their car. “Anything happen?” asked the new arrivals.
“No, there’s been a noisy storm. Nothing happens on nights like this,” said one of those going off duty, driving off.
The sky and sea were all one in the darkness. The two new policemen settled down in their car for a quiet turn. Of course, they were in the know.

The ship’s Captain radioed the Coast Guard declaring an incident in the last moment of darkness before the sky lightened into a mass of grey and white. The sea was still rough. He was party to an insurance scam, and had to invent a plausible story to convince the Coast Guard and the insurance inspectors - if he played things well. There was always a risk of being caught out, but the extra money made it worth it.

The lorry carrying the paintings started out when it was still dark. By the time the winter dawn made its feeble appearance, the paintings were passing through the West Midlands. A car shot down a hill at a blind spot and went into the lorry causing it to lose its balance and go over. The driver abandoned the stolen car and shot off as soon as he had checked that everybody was OK. The stolen lorry could not be put upright. The driver rang his boss. “Hello. It’s me, Brian. The car hit us perfectly and the lorry is now on its side. Are you ready to pick the paintings up?”
His boss answered with a few impolite words, and then, “You get away from it quickly. The boys are ready and waiting. The police will turn up soon and you don’t want to be caught with that load near you, do you? So get going. See you back at the office.” The boss rang off. And the driver disappeared.

The same dawn was conveniently slow that morning when the lorry with the smuggled motor cycles and parts got to its destination. In a dreary part of London a scruffy man opened the back door of his yard and the lorry went through. The owner inspected the merchandise and gave the driver money. “Nice to do business with you lot. I’ve only got to call those anxious customers and this lot will be sold before the day is out. The spare parts will be more than useful during the next months. The tax on these is terrible. Thanks a lot, Mate.” He called to two men as scruffy as himself, and the three started unloading the lorry, being extra careful not to damage anything. The driver left the yard and drove to a café he frequented when on the London run, where he could get an enormous English breakfast with large mugs of boiling hot tea, to which he added four spoons of sugar.

Certain villagers opened their back doors to husbands with their arms full of small electrical goods while others were the receivers of the latest line in fridges, cookers, log fires, central heating appliances and under-floor heating. No words were spoken. Everyone was tired. It had been a long night.

The Justice of the Peace and his three accomplices took the money, ready to be put into their off-shore accounts, to ensure a golden retirement in a warmer place. Myles was the last to leave the inn and make his way home. He had a hot shower to warm himself up, in spite of the late hour, and slipped into bed beside his warm, sleeping wife. Myles was soon fast asleep and the night forgotten about.

The beach was a hive of activity as the county police and insurance inspectors tried to work out what had really taken place in the night. Pieces of the containers were taken away to be examined, and the local police were asked to make house to house calls later on in the morning, when the children were at school. Of course, they found nothing suspicious. How could they? They were part of the story.

The atmosphere was cold and wet, the sea was now a dark grey and the sky white with cloud threatening more rain later in the day.

‘The Crusader’s Plumes’ once again had been the discreet witness to the centuries old custom of smuggling.

© Copyright 2018 Georgina V Solly. All rights reserved.

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