Copyright©March 2017 Suzy Stewart Dubot
Published at Shakespir
An Anglo/American who has been living in France for over 30 years, she began writing as soon as she retired. It is a passion discovered late in life, but lived to its fullest. With her daughters, she is a vegetarian and a supporter of animal rights. She uses words when she’s not protesting in the street.
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
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“Well, if we’re going to do this seriously, we need to invest,” said Conan.
“How much did you have in mind?” asked his friend Pete.
“I’ve been doing a bit of online research, you know, where people rate their purchases? I’ve found a couple of detectors that have four star ratings for under a hundred pounds.”
“A hundred quid between us is still a lot of money for a pastime. We’ve only got weekends and bank holidays. I shan’t be doing any detecting during my summer holidays. I’ll want to relax in the sun.”
“Just keep in mind, we may find valuable objects which will pay for the machine in the end,” Conan coaxed.
“Yeah, I hear ya,” Pete said with a glazed look in his eyes.
He was remembering the big find some man had made in Norfolk; a Viking hoard of silver and gold.
“Remember, too, it’s quite thrilling to be on a treasure hunt. You never know what you’re going to find…”
Both Pete and he loved raking through the charity shops in hope of finding a bargain others had overlooked. Finding any bit of buried metal in the ground with the detector would be tantamount to finding treasure for Conan.
His mother had once found a small picture frame in their garden while she’d been planting bulbs. An intricate plaiting of dark hair had been enclosed in the metal frame which still had its glass. In fact, the hair was done to look like some sort of bouquet. Upon seeing it, his grandmother had nodded knowingly, saying it was a Victorian trend to use hair to make pictures. She’d added that sometimes the hair was that of a dead person.
‘Of course, they’re dead,’ Conan remembered saying. ‘Anyone from the Victorian age would be dead now.’
‘That’s not what I meant,’ his grandmother had replied with a great deal of patience. ‘If a loved one in the family died, they’d take their hair and make a picture with it to keep as a souvenir of that person. Hair doesn’t deteriorate like other things.’
‘Not sure I like that much,’ Conan had commented with a grimace.
He wasn’t that keen on anyone else’s hair lying around in a hairbrush at the best of times. There was certainly something yukky about loose hair. He’d shuddered at the thought of finding one in a piece of bread.
“All right, I’m in!” agreed Pete, drawing Conan back from his reverie.
“Great,” said Conan, high-fiving Pete. “When can you get me your share of the money?”
“How much exactly?” Pete asked.
“Come with me now, and you can help me decide which apparatus we’ll get.”
Their ‘Fully Automatic Deep Target Metal Detector’ was even better than they had expected.
Not only did they have the benefit of a special discount bringing the price down to seventy-six pounds, but they were especially chuffed to see the ratings fixed at four point six stars out of five. Nearly a hundred people had given an evaluation, so they were pretty sure that they weren’t being conned.
The day it was delivered, Conan rang Pete at work.
“My mum says it’s arrived!”
He didn’t even have to say what.
“I’ll come over straight from work, if that’s okay with you?”
“See you then, mate,” Conan said before hanging up.
It was an impressive piece of technology. Long handled but not heavy, working on rechargeable batteries, able to detect large metal objects at a depth of two metres and also selective of metals, there wasn’t anything else Pete and Conan could have wished for. This was no toy. The young men felt they were starting on a professional level.
“We could try it out in my garden,” Conan suggested.
“Think there might be more Victorian junk out there?” Pete said with a laugh.
“Who knows? I’m sure the Victorians had gold and silver objects, too. And what about people who buried things in the garden for safe-keeping and then forgot where — or died without telling anyone.”
“Right, let’s try the garden,” said Pete, giving in to persuasion.
“Don’t you go digging up my lawn,” said Conan’s mother as they went through the kitchen.
Conan rolled his eyes for Pete’s benefit.
“We’re just going to get the hang of the machine,” he told her. “No digging.”
Once outside Pete spoke.
“We need to go to my Gran’s place in Yorkshire. She has an enormous field backing onto her garden. She lives in the country, and I reckon there’s more chance that Vikings having been in her area than here in London.”
“Could we go this weekend, do you think? I could drive us up there. I’m seriously dying to try this out,” Conan enthused, turning the detector in his hands.
“I’ll ring her and then let you know. She’s usually game for anything. Did I tell you she’s smoked ‘pot’?”
“No kidding! Was she a hippy?” Conan questioned.
“Yeah. She still is. Can be a bit embarrassing at times, but she’s good-hearted and generous.”
“This is going to be fun,” said Conan.
In his opinion, his grandparents were too straight-laced.
“I think it’s broken already,” said Pete. “We’re getting too many positives for just starting out, don’t you think? We can’t dig up all this? My grandma will have a fit!”
He waved his arm at all the little plant markers they’d stuck in the ground each time the detector had vibrated. It had been his grandmother’s idea to use them, but he was sure she hadn’t imagined this many littering her field.
“Maybe we should go and get her?” Conan suggested. “It’s her land, so it’s up to her to say where she’ll allow us to dig.”
“Yeah, you’re right.”
They headed back to Pete’s grandmother’s cottage through her garden.
“So, how’s that contraption working?” she asked as soon as they came into the utility room. She was in the middle of pouring washing liquid into the washing machine.
“We’ve got a bit of problem, Gran…”
“What’s that then?” she said as she switched the washer on. “Is your thing-a-ma jig mal-functioning?”
“I think you need to come out and see,” Pete suggested.
She changed her slippers for boots while they waited and then waved them out the door.
“Lead the way,” she told them.
“Oh my…” she said before either of the young men could comment. “I see what you mean.”
She thought a minute as she saw just how far the markers stretched to the back of her land.
“First of all, show me how that thing works.”
Conan showed her the control panel and explained how the detector indicated where there were metal things buried. To demonstrate, he turned it on where they stood. All was quiet, but as soon as he walked towards the open space, the detector began to vibrate near to the first plastic marker.
“So you see, nothing until here,” Conan told her. “It’s the same for each of the markers we’ve placed.”
“I suppose there’s only one way to find out,” said Pete’s grandmother. “Go to the shed and bring back shovels.”
A television crew had requested permission to film. Pete’s grandmother liked the stately gentleman who would be commentating, so she agreed to let them on her property without hesitation. In fact, she and the commentator got on fabulously well, as it turned out. The mature man had been a bit of a hippy in his day, too.
When the crew left in the late afternoon, Susan had invited him to stay for a couple of gins and tonic and then dinner.
The ‘Fully Automatic Deep Target Metal Detector’ had indeed done its job professionally. The machine had pinpointed buried treasure, but not the usual sort. It had revealed an Iron Age burial ground of about a hundred skeletons with valuable grave goods.
Grandma Susan’s field was going to be excavated for a couple of years while archaeologists studied the site to determine if the people were indigenous, what they ate, and what trauma or stress they’d faced in life. With a bit of luck, they would also be able to determine how the skeletons were related.
Pete had been apologetic when he realised the extent of the works and the disruption it would be causing his grandma. He and Conan had never imagined what their first go at treasure hunting would uncover. It frightened them a bit, so they decided to sell the detector to try and recoup their money.
The profit they’d made blew them away! More than three times what they’d paid.
People had been willing to pay a fortune for the detector which had uncovered the site the world would see in the documentary. They were probably hoping it would do the same job for them.
Pete’s cool grandmother had taken the extra activity on her property in her stride. In fact, she was enjoying the attention it was providing and the people she was meeting.
Her compensation was her newly-made friend, the commentator from the television documentary division. They would be enjoying gins and tonic and a quiet smoke in each other’s company for as long as the digs were taking place.
And then, who knew?