Chapter 1

The slightly battered silver Toyota Camry drove through the sombre country roads of Barchester and Barset. The car twisted along the narrow lane, past a paddock full of graffitied sheep and a burnt out barn before it turned up a gravel drive and through the gates of an old, unkempt cemetery

The driver parked the car and sat for a time deep in thought as if internally debating whether to vacate the vehicle. After snapping out of his reprieve and taking a couple of deep, steadying breaths, he worked up the courage step outside into the brisk wind. His dark, curly mess of hair was promptly blown out of its carefully slicked-down style and his cherished fedora had to be quickly snapped down onto his head before it was swept away.

The slick hair-doo wasn't the only effort the man had put into his appearance that bleak summer morning; he also wore a long black trench coat over his usual attire in an attempt to look respectable in his current surroundings. The coat also served to protect him from the harsh elements which had already almost succeeded in separating him from his hat. His outfit was completed by a large bouquet of red and white roses which he held gingerly to avoid being pricked by their sharp thorns.

He meandered through the mossy tombstones in a purposeful arc that led him to one of the more extravagant monuments. He stood before the marble plaque and pulled off his hat in respect as he silently read the slightly worn and weathered words:

"1925 – 2001

Henry Cuthbert 'Flash Harry' Edwards

Cherished Husband of Alice Margaret Hackett

Loved Father and Grandfather

Guardian of St Trinian's"

He pulled from his bunch of fresh flowers a single white rose and placed it reverently upon the grave.

"Hey Granddad." he addressed the plot, almost inaudibly, as he straightened back up.

"It's been a while but I've been busy; been helping them what at St Trinians aint I. Just like what you used to do. They even call me Flash Harry now too, well just 'Flash' really."

He stopped talking and stood solemnly for a few moments before he took a deep breath and continued.

"I see you have flowers already. Gran probably; I should probably visit her"

He nodded to a large bunch of wilting flowers that were also leaned against the headstone to accentuate his point.

He paused again, lost in thought, before he managed to pull himself together again.

"Well I'm gonna go over and see mum now." He said in finality, with no new words seeming to come to mind for his dearly departed grandfather.

He turned away and began walking over to another, slightly danker part of the graveyard. The headstone he now stood before was in stark contrast to his grandfather's, as it was much smaller and was made from moulded concrete rather than expensive marble. The words inscribed on the stone had weathered more and the letters were filled with a dark green moss. Despite this, the words were still legible and the young man scanned over them as a lump seemed to grow in his throat. The gravestone read:

"1960 – 1992

Anamarie 'Annie' Lisa Johnson

Loved Mother of Henry George Hackett

Courageous student of St Trinian's"

"Hey mum" He whispered. "It's me." I bought you some roses, see.

His shaking hands slowly moved to place the rest of the roses on the grave.

"I missed you mum. This' the first time I have visited since granddad died. I've been busy though, working for St Trinians; been selling their Trinski for 'em. I Don't trust the stuff though; it's bloody poison."

He rambled on about how the twins had been producing near on toxic alcohol for him to try and sell and how the school had needed to repay their many debts so they had gone and stolen the Girl with the Pearl Earring.

"I had my bit to do of course, and I looked like a total nonce too. Had to pretend to be this poncy, gay German so we could flog it off. Well a copy of it anyway. The girls got their revenge on Milla's brother and still managed to claim the reward for the painting."

He perched awkwardly on a nearby tombstone and continued his one sided conversation.

"There is a girl too. She's the Head Girl at the school and she aint wanted to go out with me whenever I asked her because she "Don't mix business with pleasure". She was the one what convinced me into my role in the heist. I couldn't say no mum!"

He exclaimed to last bit with a wild, uncertain gesture of his arms which swept up in a sort of exaggerated shrug.

"She finishes at St Trinians this year and that's not far off. Maybe she'll go out with me then. Or maybe I should learn from dad and knock off before it turns all sour. But I think she'll be right mum, like Gran and Granddad were."

He stared wistfully at the tombstone.

"Goodbye mum" He whispered at last, cutting short his long, one-sided ramblings.

He then turned swiftly on his heel and walked back to his waiting car and drove off back through the winding, country lanes of Barchester and Barset.