Hand Over - Episode Three - The Richest Tree

And here, I did leave, but surely, it couldn’t be that simple… Who was, surely, waiting for me…?

Everything sounded louder.

Creaks of nature sounded like thunderclaps.

The whistle of the owl sounded like an alarm, sounding me out.

The smile on the moon’s face was now sardonic.

I made my way back to the sleeping body of Robert Kynaston, whom I had now framed, and I whipped off the hat, placing it back on its true owner’s head.

I felt quite exposed without it, like it was my only protection, a hat, of all things. I tried to reason with myself, as I felt the weight, all the lovely weight of the pouch, but it was so hard.

I had committed a crime, a crime for which they could – and assuredly would – hang me. They had hanged people for less.

So right now, I needed to try and relax, and understand that my thoughts that someone was watching, or waiting, for me was, quite literally, just a thought.

I walked on, with two contriving things happening to me, for while the smile on my face was growing – because I was now rich, well, better off than I had ever been – the cold was setting back into bones.

The adrenaline was wearing off; the heat was dissipating and I was reminded that money, although wonderful, was not going to keep me warm.

I pulled myself in tight and was considering how I would spend the cash, when I saw a small shack on my way.

Come on now, I thought. How obvious would it look? A stranger coming into town, dressed as I was, in bedraggled clothing that would tell tales of deceit, if I started flashing about lots of money.

I needed to stash the cash, safely – because it would a crying shame to have lost it – and then head into Andover, find lodgings, get a good drink inside me, and some well-needed rest.

The thought of a drink made me reach for the whiskey, for now seemed as good a time as any to have a celebratory drink.

It burned again, but it wasn’t about flavour. I didn’t care for the flavour of this cheap whiskey at all, but its tingling sensation was another pleasant detachment from the cold.

I looked at the shack and ruminated if it would be safe for me take shelter in there tonight. More to the point, was it as underused as it looked, or would people come knocking?

Because that would be no good.

I decided that I would keep an eye out on this place; see if it was a used premises or not…

But first I decided to have a peep inside, because there was no point in just keeping an eye out if the inside told a completely different story to the outside. I could save myself weeks of inspection.

I put my hand to the door and opened it.

Only darkness greeted me.

But there was every chance of someone coming along.

Keeping the money here, no matter how small the pouch, wouldn’t keep it safe from the peering of intent eyes.

I crept out into the light of the moon, shutting the door to the dark.

I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, as a safe place for the loot I was now carrying, but I assured myself that a stranger in a robbery-befallen town would not be given any leeway.

I needed to find a safe place.

I started walking down the road on my way to Andover when, merely ten feet forwards, and about five feet back from the treeline, I saw a fallen tree.

Though it wasn’t the fallen tree I was necessarily interested in, it was the little owl hole, a hollow, at a slight tilt from the centre…

And it was perfect.

My urge was to scramble into the brambles like a madman; get it safe and quick! … but, I stopped myself and carefully picked my way into trees. I stepped upon the ice-cracking ground, before finally reaching the felled tree.

I knelt, put my hand into the hollow and had a good feel.

Empty.

In haste, I reached for the pouch, placed it inside and then took the pistol, and the bits to go with it, which I also placed inside.

At that moment, I felt ready to head to Andover, but had a second consideration.

I agreed with myself that it would have been stupid to wield a pouch of money, especially as the new man about town, but I considered that there would nothing suspicious about any man carrying a couple of shillings, new or regular.

Half-expecting to have been cheated somehow, I finally opened the pouch to see what contents had been granted me.

Truly, the Lord had been smiling on me, for inside was money, lots of money. I would have guessed about 10 pounds, but all I cared about was taking a couple of shillings worth, which I took in the form of one shilling, sixpence, threpence, tuppence and a penny.

I didn’t do anything with the tree – probably, the richest tree in the world – for placing dead foliage over it seemed somewhat obvious. I did, however, pull up the bent-back brambles I’d moved, having gone through them.

All I had to do was get to town…

Polly has almost 20 years in the media industry. As Editor of Andover and Villages, she strives to bring the latest and greatest news with a minutes notice. Polly can be contacted via editor@andoverandvillages.co.uk or alternatively called at