It’s time for another Granny Battle instalment – hold on to your hats! If you want to catch up with the story so far, click here… (I’ve added this latest chapter to the end).
Ellis and Granny stood panting on a narrow platform, lit by a solitary lamp which cast a weak, flickery orangey glow around them. Ian was struggling under Granny’s arm, and a few stray crisps twirled around the ground in the backdraft from the train, which had made just the briefest of stops, giving them barely enough time to jump clear before it gathered speed amidst a cacophony of painful clanking and disappeared into the night.
‘Where are we?’ asked Ellis, shaking crisp crumbs out his hair and looking round for a signpost.
‘Here.’ said Granny. ‘Come in, let’s plonk ourselves on that bench for a few minutes before we head off, there’s a few things we need to do first.’
She dutifully plonked onto the bench closely followed by Ellis, and Ian jumped straight into his lap and went to sleep again. Ellis tickled him behind one scaley ear, and the orange dragon gave a gentle creak. More of a dragonette, really, thought Ellis as he smiled down at him. He was getting rather attached to the strange creature.
‘Ooft!’ said Granny, as she leaned back and dug her phone out her pocket, ‘Right, pass it over here for a mo.’
Ellis held out his own phone and Granny looked at it blankly, then up at Ellis. ‘Not that!’ she said.
‘What then?’ asked Ellis, confused.
‘Oh. I hadn’t got quite that far explaining, had I?’ She huffed on the screen of her own phone and polished it on her trouser leg. ‘I noticed that thing you’ve got,’ she continued, ‘well, when I say notice, I don’t mean notice – it’s rather obvious so probably anyone would notice it. I mean more like, when I got close, I could feel it. And that’s what I need to borrow for a moment.’
Ellis was still confused. ‘Nope, still not a clue,’ he said, fiddling with the old leather bracelet on his wrist. He stopped fiddling suddenly and looked up at Granny, who cast her eyes down at the bracket, then back to his face and nodded. ‘That’s the bunny!’ she said encouragingly.
‘This?’ asked Ellis, ‘It’s just an old leather thing I found at home – mum said I could have it. I guess it was something from her hippie days.’ He fiddled with it again, spinning the chunky silver bead around, and found that he felt rather reluctant to take it off.
Granny gave a faint smile. ‘You’re sort of right,’ she said, ‘but it wasn’t your mum’s – she has hers on a necklace. That one’s your dad’s’
Ellis felt his stomach give a little lurch and he looked down at the bracelet, then back at Granny.
‘This – really? This was dad’s?’
‘Is your dad’s,’ said Granny, ‘which is why I need to borrow it for a mo. Come on, chop chop!’
Ellis hesitated for a moment longer, then carefully squeezed the bracelet over his hand and held it out for Granny, who took it gently and laid it on the bench in between them.
‘The thing about leather,’ Granny said, as she flicked open a tiny, sharp-looking penknife she’d produced from a pocket, ‘is it’s absorbent, see.’ She held down the bracelet with one hand and brought the knife towards it with the other.
‘Wait!’ yelled Ellis, horrified, ‘you can’t cut it! What are you doing?!’
Granny’s knife hand paused. ‘I’m not cutting,’ she said, ‘more like taking a little shaving. Don’t worry.’ She very gently sliced off a tiny sliver of leather from the inside of the bracelet, whilst Ellis held his breath. ‘Your mum and dad made two of these silver beads when they first met at some festival or other – you mum put hers on a necklace, and your dad put his on this. It’s odd he wasn’t wearing it when he disappeared – ‘ she paused and pondered thoughtfully for a second or two. ‘Unless of course he left if behind on purpose. Yes, I suppose that’s possible. And rather interesting.’ She picked up the sliver of leather on the tip of her knife and squinted at it. ‘That should do, you can put it back on now.’
‘How do you know all this stuff?’ asked Ellis, squeezing the bracelet back on.
‘Oh, you know…’ said Granny, who’d picked up her phone in her free hand and was holding it up, as if focussing it on the tip if the knife to take a photo. ‘It’s complicated…’ She grunted. ‘Give me a hand here – just hold this really steady for a sec.’
She passed Ellis the penknife and he took it carefully, making sure he didn’t dislodge the tiny shaving of leather on its tip.
Granny aimed the phone again, gave a satisfied ‘Hmph,’ and tapped the screen.
There was very quick, sharp whistling buzz in Ellis’s ears, and a bright blue flash from the back of Granny’s phone. It was so blue it hurt. He blinked, trying to clear his vision, and saw that the sliver of leather had disappeared from the tip of the knife.
‘Oh. Sorry…’ he began, and looked down at the bench trying to find it.
‘It’s okay,’ said Granny, ‘I got it. Now then, do you want to see something clever?’ She twisted round on the bench so that Ellis could see the phone’s screen. It contained an extremely high resolution image of the piece of leather, which appeared to be floating against a black background, turning gently.
‘Hey,’ exclaimed Ellis, ‘You have a 3D camera on your phone?! That’s awesome!’
‘It’s not exactly a camera,’ said Granny, trying and failing to hide her smugness. She shook the phone gently, causing the piece of leather to drift up and down the screen. ‘It didn’t take a picture of it, it took it.’
Ellis looked incredulous.
‘Well I did say I’d modified the phone a bit,’ said Granny, turning it over and showing him what looked like a tiny hole in the back. He’d noticed it before in her kitchen, but had forgotten about it. ‘Now, cross your fingers – let’s see if the leather still had a bit of your dad left in it.’
Something in Ellis’s brain clicked into place. He suddenly felt very excited, and held his breath as Granny typed a very complicated-looking formula into a pop-up window on the screen and pressed ‘OK‘.