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A Diamond Dilemma

Chapter 2 – An unwelcome re-appearance

Gregory perched on the edge of the Gleeman’s desk, cleared his throat and said: “I am afraid you won’t like what I have to tell you. Sylvene has returned. Obviously we have been expecting her to come back but didn’t know when it would be. Now we do. She has chosen to re-appear in the nineteen fifties.”

            There was a combined gasp.

Jonathan glanced at Victoria and Ben and then asked: “Who saw her and where?”

            “I was the first to see her. I was visiting Canterbury at the time and there she was. I couldn’t believe it; but I’m afraid it’s true. Since then she’s been seen in both London and Canterbury a number of times.”

            “Just those two cities?”

            Gregory nodded. “As far as I know, Jonathan.”

“Weird… why them?”

Gregory shook his head. “Robert and I think it could have something to do with the Queen’s coronation.”

“That was sixty years ago, wasn’t it?”

“Over sixty years actually,” said the Gleeman. “It took place on the second of June, nineteen hundred and fifty-three to be precise. Sorry Gregory, I didn’t mean to interrupt… please continue.”

“There is not much more I can add. We’ve found her headquarters… a large house in one of the more expensive suburbs of Canterbury. And she appears to have got quite a large team with her.”

“Is there a Master Walker among them?”

Gregory frowned. “I haven’t seen him; but that doesn’t mean he’s not there.”

“If he is one of them then he’ll be up to his usual tricks,” Jonathan said bitterly.

11.

“That is true,” said the Gleeman. “Whenever those two get together trouble is bound to be brewing… usually serious trouble.”

Jonathan scowled. “Don’t remind me.”

“Is that everything, Gregory?” asked the Gleeman.

He nodded.

“Then I have some news as well…”

“I hope it’s better than Gregory’s,” muttered Ben.

The Gleeman shook his head. “I’m afraid not. We had a break-in here a few days ago.”

“Was anything stolen?” Victoria asked.

“Don’t say they took the Bishop’s ring?” Ben said quickly.

The Gleeman opened his mouth but before he could say anything Victoria jumped in. “It can’t have been that, Ben. There would have been something about it in the papers; it might even have been reported on the news if someone had stolen that.”

            “I’m afraid you’re wrong, Victoria,” the Gleeman said quietly. “Despite the fact that it hasn’t been reported, there was a break-in and the Bishop’s ring was the only thing taken.”

            Victoria stared at him, her eyes narrowing. “I don’t understand why you don’t sound more upset?”

            “Probably because I’ve been expecting it ever since Ben gave the ring to the museum,” he said.

            “Did you report the theft to the police?” said Ben.

The Gleeman shook his head. “No; I didn’t want them involved. Apart from the thief and now the three of you, Gregory and I are the only people who know it’s been stolen.”

            Seeing their puzzled faces he smiled wryly. “Let me explain. If we were standing in front of the cabinet right now none of you would know the Bishop’s ring had been taken.”

“I bet I know why.” Ben grinned at the Gleeman. “You’ve put a copy in there, haven’t

12.

you?”

            “You’re almost right. The one in the cabinet is a copy; but I didn’t put it there.”

Ben frowned. “I don’t understand. What do you mean?”

“The thief put it there.” The Gleeman smiled faintly. “What he didn’t realise is that he substituted one copy of the ring for another one. You see the original ring is in here.” He tapped the middle drawer of the desk.

            Victoria grinned. “Oh, that is clever,” she said admiringly.

            The Gleeman gave her a mock bow. “Thank you, Victoria. From the moment Ben put that ring in my hand I knew how important it was. The engraving inside the rim confirmed my suspicions. So I had three almost identical copies…”

“Why ‘almost’ identical? Why not identical?” interrupted Ben.

            “Because I had them numbered from one to three with figures so small you’d have to know they were there to be able to see them. The original ring has no number of course. Anyway, as I was saying, I decided to have these copies made and put ring number one on display. It was ring which was stolen taken.”

            “I assume you think Sylvene had it stolen,” said Jonathan.

            He nodded. “Who else would want it? I’ve been expecting something like this to happen ever since Gregory told me she’d been seen in Canterbury.”

            “But that doesn’t explain why she’d want the Bishop’s ring?” said Ben.

            “Simply because of its power… whatever she’s planning the ring will give her a significant advantage over us,” said Gregory.

            “In that case it’s a good thing she doesn’t have the real one. Mind you, I don’t suppose it will stop her doing whatever it is she is planning,” Ben said dryly.

            “No doubt you’re right,” Gregory said sombrely.

“Have either of you any idea what she’s up to?” Ben asked.

13.

            The Gleeman smiled wryly. “I’m very much afraid she could be planning some kind of accident involving the Queen.”

Ben blinked. “Do you mean an assassination?”

The Gleeman nodded. “Possibly… though it’s likely it would look more like an unfortunate accident.”

            “Are you serious?”

            “Wouldn’t that be impossible?”

            An explosion of questions bounced around the room. The Gleeman held up his hand.

“One at a time… I can only answer one question at a time. Victoria?”

            “Do you really believe Sylvene intends to assassinate the Queen?”

            “Yes!”

            “But why? Why would anyone want to do that?”

            “I’ve thought about that and I think it’s probably connected to the Commonwealth. Let me explain. Throughout the Second World War the countries of the British Empire fought alongside Great Britain. At the end of the war most of their citizens wanted independence.

However many of them didn’t want to sever their ties completely with Britain which is why the Commonwealth was formed.

            “In nineteen forty nine all of the member countries agreed King George VI should be elected Head of the Commonwealth as ‘…the symbol of the free association of the independent Member Nations…’. When her father died the Queen continued his work and that, I suspect, is why Sylvene wants to assassinate her.”

            “What do you think would have happened if the Queen had been assassinated in nineteen fifty-three?” Gregory asked the three children.

Ben shrugged.

Gregory turned to Jonathan and Victoria.

14.

Jonathan frowned. “Prince Charles would have become King,” he suggested at last.

“Exactly,” said the Gleeman. “The Prince would have become King despite being only four years old. And that would have meant creating a Regent. A Regent is someone who would rule in the King’s place until he was old enough to assume the role. Do you see where this is going?”

            “I think I might,” Victoria said slowly. “The leaders of the Commonwealth might not want to elect a Regent as the Head of the Commonwealth.”

            “You’re probably right. Which means the Commonwealth would most probably have been dissolved; thus preventing it from becoming the force for good that it has become today. Even though some of the countries have a President for their Head of State while others have maintained the Queen as their Sovereign, each one recognises the Queen as the symbolic Head of their Commonwealth… which is why it still has so much influence today.”

            “Robert is right. Because of the Queen’s dedication the Commonwealth has grown since she has been on the throne. Initially there were eight member countries. Today there are fifty two. Fifty two countries with a combined population of nearly one third of the world’s population,” explained Gregory.

“And you are saying that wouldn’t have happened without the Queen?” Jonathan asked.

            The Gleeman turned to him, his expression serious. “How could it? A Regent’s role is to act on behalf of the young Sovereign. The Prime Minister’s first concern is his country, particularly as Great Britain, in the nineteen fifties, was struggling to recover from the devastating effects of the Second World War.”

            “Now I understand why you were so worried when Gregory saw Sylvene in that decade,” said Ben.

            “Me too,” agreed Jonathan. “You’re saying that without the Commonwealth there would have been even more chaos in the world than there is at the moment, aren’t you?”

15.

            “I am and that is why I have decided to visit nineteen fifty-three,” said the Gleeman. “I’ve been offered a temporary position helping with the coronation arrangements by the Dean of Westminster. Of course, I have accepted it. Gregory is to return to Canterbury where he and his team will try and find out exactly what Sylvene is up to.”

            “How many people are working with her?” Victoria asked.

            The Gleeman shook his head. “We don’t exactly know. It’s one of the things Gregory needs to find out. Even though we don’t know where he is I am sure Master Walker will be involved somehow. We certainly cannot assume he isn’t involved. Our problem is that he is a master of disguise…”

            “As is Sylvene; although she doesn’t often change her appearance,” Gregory added.

            “What do you want us to do?” said Victoria.

            The Gleeman frowned, thoughtfully. “It’s a lot to ask; but I would like the three of you come with me.”

            “Of course we will,” they chorused.

            He smiled. “Without knowing more than you’ve been told?”

            They nodded.

            “What about questions?”

            “Well, of course there are some,” said Ben. “I’d like to know where we will be going?”

           “Probably to London. Most of my working will take place in Westminster Abbey.” The Gleeman shrugged. “Then again we could of course end up in Canterbury; but I think that’s unlikely. As usual we’ll just have to wait and see. What I do know is wherever we go, it will be where we’re most needed.”