Mr Brown wasn’t a particularly striking person, in fact most people who lived in his street in Hackney rarely noticed him. He was however a busy individual in the underground world. It had all started some twenty years ago when he found the piece of paper under the bedroom floorboard he was fifty three back then and was busy putting in a spur for a new socket next to the bed, the reason for the need for the additional electricity supply is not important. What is important is what he found under the floorboards. The house was Victorian like all of the two storey terrace houses in the area, the last time the floor boards had been lifted was probably in the 1920’s when plumbing and the original electric supply were installed. Back then he learned a couple called Martha Reid and Ed Turmell were living in the house, which incidentally was 27 Treeline Street. Reading the piece of paper it appeared that Ed had died some years before the author had written it, the author seemingly was Martha. The piece of paper had all the makings of some kind of deathbed declaration it read;
To whoever finds this, I wish to declare that my only regret was not marrying my partner Ed, indeed he was taken from this world so abruptly ten years ago I hardly had a chance to know everything about him, but what I did know was that he was the kindest, dearest man in the whole world, at least that is what I still believe to this day, what seemingly is my dying day. In regard to this I wish to declare that was indeed Ed and his gang who robbed the bank in Ernleigh Street in October of 1908. They never spent the six hundred and forty three thousand pounds and if you are reading this in 27 Treeline House you will be pleased to know it is buried under this very house.
Mr Brown gulped and reread the last sentence, he looked around the dusty bedroom and ran his dirty fingers through his thinning hair. Jesus, how much, six hundred and forty-three thousand under this house, Jesus, he carried on reading;
As for the location of the money, all I can tell you is that Ed dug a tunnel under the house for three months, not just for the money but to store other things he had stolen, I am sorry to say that in the last ten years this tunnel has collapsed I bricked up the entrance myself for fear that the police would come round. You may remember the subsidence under nos. 3-7 Turnball Road well that was thanks to Ed’s tunnel though no-one knows that but you now.
At this point the letter ended, Mr Brown sat back on his bed with the letter in his hand, he could not decide whether it was a fake or real, but he sat there thinking to himself, it could be true he had lived there for the last ten years, no-one would have had access to the bedroom floorboards in that time, he decided that he would go down to the records office straight away and look up the census records about who occupied 27 Tree Line Road in the 1920’s. When he got there it took him several minutes to find the appropriate document, his hands shook as he turned to the correct pages and to his absolute astonishment there it was that the occupants were indeed Martha Reid and Ed Turmell, he closed the book and wandered home in a dream.
The next day he went down to his basement and looked around, with him he brought a pickaxe and shovel, he cleared spaces in front of the basement wall and inspected the brickwork, this would have been a lot easier if the wall hadn’t have been whitewashed, but he persevered. Then he found it, an area of brickwork that seemed different, the cement was harder and it was tunnel entrance size, he got to work with his pickaxe. After a few hours he had made a man size opening, a moved the bricks over to the corner and looked at the wall of earth, it was difficult to say whether this was what was left of the tunnel but the earth did look disturbed, he started on the earth and within a few hours it became clear he would need a means of disposing of the earth, then he remembered the coal bags he had stored in the basement, he started filling them up and taking the earth into the back garden, he started by dumping the earth at the bottom, his garden which fell away towards the end and there was a high brick walls surrounding the garden, he knew he could dispose of a lot of earth before it became a problem. Patting it down with his shovel he went back to the basement.
This went on, on and off months, in that time he found two cars and a boat, but no money. He gave up digging for a year while he tried to dismantle one of the cars but he couldn’t get it out of the tunnel so gave up in year seven, over the next twelve years Mr Brown dug tunnels that amounted to one hundred and ninety metres in all directions but with no joy, he didn’t find any money. He was now in his late seventies and lay on his bed at 27 Tree Line Road, he felt exhausted, he had spent all morning digging and was now on his last legs. His house cracked and rocked above the labyrinth of tunnels that emanated from his basement. In his hand was a letter like the one he had found 20 years earlier, the housed lurched disturbing as Mr Brown squinted at the piece of paper, “My only regret…”he read with his fading eyesight and then the house collapsed around him.
It took two days for the emergency services to recover Mr Brown’s body in his hand was a piece of paper, it read;
My only regret is to have found a piece of paper twenty years ago which buried me in a grave of my own making.