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A Diamond Dilemma

Chapter 1 – The Summons

Halfway down the flight of stairs leading to the entrance hall a quiet, but insistent voice broke through the Gleeman’s reflections. He stopped. His secretary was standing by the bottom step, a folder in one hand.

            She smiled as he ran down the last few steps and held out the folder. “You asked for this.” Seeing his blank expression she added: “Next week’s diary, Robert!”

            “Oh, yes… of course, now I remember. Thank you Sara.” He smiled back. “Will you come to my office in, say, five minutes? I find I need to make a few changes to next week’s appointments.”

            She nodded.

As she walked over to the reception desk in the middle of the foyer the Gleeman made his way to a somewhat insignificant door. Pushing it open he entered the narrow corridor and walked briskly to the door with his name on it. Unlocking it he went inside and sat down at his desk. Placing the folder on his desk he stared at its covers for a few minutes and then opened it.

            He was still studying the list of appointments when there was a tap on the door. He looked up and called: “Come in.”

            Sara entered, pencil and pad in her hands. The Gleeman waved her to the chair on the other side of his desk and glanced at the contents of the folder again. “I’m afraid we’re going to have to move all of Monday’s appointments. I’d be grateful if you’d get in touch with the relevant secretaries and reschedule? Make my apologies, you know the sort of thing.”

“Of course!”

            “Thank you. After you’ve done that I’d like you to purchase two return tickets from Bristol Temple Meads to Paddington for Monday. Bring them to me. They will need to be posted today.”

2.

* * * * *

Jonathan picked up the envelope. Opposite him his father put his knife and fork on his plate and watched him open it. He frowned when Jonathan took out a single sheet of paper. As he unfolded it a ticket fluttered on to his bacon and eggs.

            “Who’s it from?”

            Jonathan looked up. “The Gleeman… would you like to read it?” He handed his father the letter.

“Hmm… I wonder what he wants.” David Williams read the letter and then passed it to his wife. “Well, are you going?” he asked curtly.

            “I think I have to; don’t you?”

            His father grimaced before nodding reluctantly. “I suppose you do; but it’s not good timing. This is a busy time on the farm. How long will you be away?”

            Jonathan retrieved the ticket. “One day… this is a day return for next Monday.”

            “Hmm… I suppose it could be worse.” David Williams pushed back his chair and stood up. “Well, I’m off. As I said, there’s a lot to do and sitting here won’t get it done.”

            “David, you haven’t finished your breakfast,” protested Mrs Williams, looking up from the letter.

            Her husband leaned over and kissed the top of her head. “I’m sorry my dear; but I’ve suddenly lost my appetite. Don’t be too long, Jonathan. We’re cutting silage in Longbarrow today and I’d like to get it finished before you go to London.”

            “I’ll bring the other tractor and trailer up when I’ve finished my breakfast.”

            “Good!” David Williams turned abruptly and left, slamming the door behind him.

Mrs Williams shook her head unhappily. “Oh dear, oh dear, why did this have to happen?”

            “I’m sorry, Mum,” said Jonathan trying hard not to smile. “But honestly, it’s not my fault.

3.

I didn’t ask the Gleeman to send for me.”

“I know you didn’t and it’s not that… If only he’d sent for your father just once during the time he was one of the Guardians it would have made life much easier.” She sighed and stood up. “Well he didn’t and there’s nothing we can do about it. Now hurry up and finish your breakfast. You don’t want to keep your father waiting.”

“Ben; I’m back. How was your day?”

            “It was good, Dad,” said Ben appearing in the doorway of his bedroom. He watched Professor Straker flip through the pile of letters on the hall table and then put them back down.

“There’s nothing of any interest in that lot,” his father said hanging up his jacket.

“I got a letter today.”

“Really? Who’s writing to you? I thought all you young people emailed each other nowadays.”

            “You can have a look if you like while I put the kettle on.” Ben grinned as he took out a crumpled sheet of paper from his pocket and handed it to the Professor.

            The kettle was almost boiling before his father joined him in the kitchen. “I presume you’re going?” he said waving the letter still in his hand.

            “Of course. How can I refuse?”

            “You can’t…” the Professor glanced at it again. “Except… I’m more than a little concerned about your revision.”

            Ben pursed his lips. “You don’t need to be, Dad… I’m on top of it.”

            “I’m glad to hear it. In that case I suppose you’d better go.”

            “Thanks! I knew you’d understand.”

            “Oh, I understand… only too well.” Leaning against the door jamb he watched Ben drop a teabag in each of the two mugs on the worktop. “That’s why I worry when the four of you get together,” he added with a grimace.

           

4.

Ben poured the boiling water into the mugs. “You don’t need to. What could happen to me in London?”

“I don’t agree. There’s every need to worry,” Professor Straker said bitterly. “Even if you’ve forgotten what I said the last time the three of you were with Robert, I most certainly haven’t.”

            “Er… wasn’t it something along the lines of ‘close calls’.” Ben grinned and removed the teabags from the mugs. Having added milk he handed a mug to his father.

“It was; and I’d rather you didn’t have any more.” His father sipped the steaming liquid cautiously then looked up. “When does he want you to go?”

            “Monday.” Ben opened the envelope he’d left on the worktop and took out the train ticket. “It’s a day return. Jonathan will be on the same train.”

            His father glanced at the letter again. “Mmm… so I see. Apparently he’s reserved two seats and Victoria will meet you at Paddington. Here, you’d better keep this with your ticket.” He gave Ben the letter.

“Thanks Dad.”

The Professor smiled wryly. “Tell Robert that I’ll visit him the next time I am in London. It would be good to see him again. Do you realise the last time we met was the day when you and I took Jonathan and Victoria to the museum to show them the Bishop’s ring?”

Mrs Taylor laid her newspaper on the table and glanced at Victoria. “What did you say you were doing today?”

            Victoria swallowed her mouthful of toast quickly. “I’m meeting Jonathan and Ben at Paddington this morning. They’re coming to London. We thought we’d spend the day together, shopping, sight-seeing, that sort of thing.”

            Mrs Taylor put down her cup and stared at Victoria. “Jonathan? Ben?” She sounded and

5.

looked puzzled.

“Yes Mum; Jonathan and Ben. They’re the two boys I met on that camping trip in the New Forest… remember?”

            “Camping trip? Oh… the one that Sylvene organized? My word… that’s a name from the past. I wonder what’s happened to her. You know, it’s very odd… she never comes to the painting group these days.”

            “Doesn’t she, Mum? Perhaps she got bored with painting.” Victoria tilted her head. “Isn’t that Dad shouting? I’ll go and see what he wants. Leave the table; I’ll clear it when I get back.” She almost ran from the room. Closing the door behind her she leaned against the wall of the passage for a couple of seconds; eyes closed and breathing heavily. Then she gave herself a shake and walked to the front door. Opening it she stepped outside and breathed in the fresh air.

            “What are you doing, Victoria?”

            She jumped.

“Sorry, did I startle you?” asked her father as he struggled to fasten his trouser leg with a cycle clip.

“Er sort of… I thought you’d already left. I’m afraid I had to escape from Mum. She brought up Sylvene again…”

            Mr Taylor straightened up. “Oh dear. Don’t let it upset you.”

            “I can’t help it. It makes me feel bad… you know what I mean… keeping such a big secret from Mum.”

            “Ah… now that does make sense. Walk me to my bike.” Mr Taylor closed the front door and led Victoria down the drive. When he reached the bike he turned to her. “Victoria, I love your mother dearly; but you know and I know that if she found out that you can travel through time she would be unable to keep it a secret. She’d swear one or two of her dearest friends to secrecy and tell them. Before you knew it, everyone would know… and I mean everyone.”

6.

            She sighed. “I know Dad; but it doesn’t help.”

            “My dear, your mother is the kindest person alive. She would be horrified if she thought you were unhappy. And I’m afraid she does still miss Sylvene a little. I wish we could explain just how wicked her erstwhile friend is… but we can’t. At least today she’s got something positive to look forward to. Did she tell you that she’s heard from a cousin who lives in Australia? She’s visiting England and is coming here today.”

            Victoria shook her head. “I didn’t even know she had a cousin in Australia.”

            “Neither did we until this Rose,” he frowned, “this Rose Trevelyan emailed her. She explained she’d been researching her family tree, came across your mother’s name and googled it. It turns out she’s a second cousin once removed… or something like that… I can’t remember the actual details, not that it matters. She flew into London a few days ago and has been spending some time looking up old family haunts. She told your mother that she’d already met some of their relations and has promised to let her have more details when she arrives.”

            “I bet Mum was thrilled,” Victoria said with a chuckle.

            Her father smiled. “She was… very excited. She wanted me to stay and meet her; but today’s impossible. I’ve got a meeting I have to attend. It’s a shame. I’d have liked to have met Rose.”

            “What about tomorrow? Why doesn’t she come then? If she did I’d be able to meet her as well.”

            He shook his head. “I gather she’s off to the Lake District in the morning.”

            “Why the Lake District?”

            “Apparently that is where your Great Grandfather was born. She’s going to see the house where he lived when he was a child.”

            “I never knew that. Oh it’s such a shame… I would like to meet her. I can’t remember the last time I met any of Mum’s relations.”

7.

            “That’s because she hasn’t got any that we knew about. Mum’s looking forward to learning who these relations are that Rose says she’s met.” He smiled at Victoria. “Poor Victoria… that’s the trouble with being an only child of two only children. There aren’t any convenient aunts and uncles or cousins around. I’m not exactly sure where this Rose Trevelyan figures on the family tree but I’m glad her visit has perked up your mother. Why don’t you suggest she asks Rose to come again when she gets back from the Lake District? Now, did I hear you say something about Jonathan and Ben coming to London?”

            She nodded. “I did… but I thought you’d already left when I told her that.”

            “Unfortunately I had to come back. I’d forgotten my briefcase. That’s when I overheard you telling your mother about having to meet their train. Why are they coming?”

            She shrugged. “They said they wanted a day in London before starting their exams. I offered to show them ar…” her voice tailed away when she saw his quizzical expression.

            “Victoria; I am not a fool.”

            She blushed. “I don’t know what you mean; I know you’re not.”

            “Then don’t treat me like one. If I’m sure of anything I am sure those two boys are not coming to London to do some sightseeing. When the three of you get together there’s usually a very good reason. I’ll ask the question again and this time please tell me the truth. Why are Jonathan and Ben coming to London?”

            “The Gleeman’s asked us to meet him at the museum.”

            Mr Taylor drew in his breath. “I was afraid that was what you were going to say. Did he tell you why?”

            She bit her lip. “No, and that is the truth, honestly. He sent me a text a couple of days ago asking me to meet Jonathan and Ben at Paddington today. Don’t look like that, Dad. There’s nothing to worry about.”

            “Nothing to worry about… Victoria! When the three of you get together anything can

8.

happen and usually does. Do you have to go? Couldn’t you use this visit of Rose as an…?”

            “Dad; don’t!”

            It was Mr Taylor’s turn to blush. “Sorry, I don’t know what came over me. All I ask is that you promise to take care?”

            She hugged him. “I promise, Dad.”

            He sighed. “Good… I suppose I can’t ask for more. I’ll be back on time tonight. You can tell me about your day then.” He mounted the bike and set off for the second time that morning to the station.

“Thank you for coming today. Before I tell you why I asked you to come there’s someone

I’d like you to meet.” The Gleeman opened his office door and ushered his three visitors inside.

            A man was standing by the filing cabinet. His hair was wavy and he was quite a bit younger than the Gleeman, as well as being slightly shorter. He smiled at the new arrivals.

            “This is Gregory, one of my assistants. We often work together. Gregory, I’d like you to meet Jonathan, Victoria and Ben, the three Guardians of the talismans.”

            Gregory nodded. “I’ve heard a lot about the work you’ve done in the past.”

            “I hope it didn’t cause any of you a problem when you got my message,” the Gleeman continued.

            Ben grinned. “It was rather short notice but Dad didn’t mind once I’d convinced him I was up-to-date with my revision. He sent you his best wishes by the way; and said he will let you know when he’s next in London.”

            “Good… I’ll look forward to seeing him.” The Gleeman turned to Victoria and raised his eyebrows, questioningly.

She wrinkled her nose. “I can’t say Dad was particularly pleased. He warned me to be careful.”

           

9.

            “Don’t look so embarrassed. Your father is a wise man, Victoria,” the Gleeman said quietly. “What about your mother? What did she have to say?”

Victoria blushed. “Nothing… you see Dad and I have never told her about me being a Guardian, nor the time-travel thing.” She stared at her feet. “I’m… er… afraid she’s not very… er… very good at keeping secrets.”

            The Gleeman frowned. “What does she think you’re doing today?”

            “She didn’t ask. I told her Jonathan and Ben were coming to London; but she was far more interested in telling me about some long lost Australian cousin whom she’s invited to lunch today.”

            He smiled. “Good! Jonathan, what about you? What did your parents have to say?”

            “Dad didn’t say much. Just went off without finishing his breakfast. Mum says it’s because you never had to ask him for help when he was the Guardian.”

            “Oh dear! That is unfortunate. I am sorry…”

            “Don’t be; it’s not your fault. It’s just… he’d probably have found it easier when you asked for our help if he had been. Don’t worry. Mum will sort him out. She’s good at doing that.”

            The Gleeman frowned slightly. “Please tell them how grateful I am that they let you come today. That goes for you as well, Ben and Victoria.”

            “They couldn’t have stopped us,” Victoria said quickly.

            “Besides, I bet they want to know what’s it’s all about as much as us,” said Ben.

            “Ah… I’d rather you didn’t tell anyone,” said the Gleeman. Then seeing their faces added quickly: “Well, not too many details. Now Gregory, would you like to explain to the Guardians what you have discovered?”