Mrs. Mutch had been running her sweetshop for the past ten years. It was in the middle of a little street, surrounded by houses. An un-assuming little shop that sold all sorts of sweets that most people loved, and newspapers, magazines, cigarettes.
Mrs Mutch had been a widow for almost four years now. Her beloved Henry had been taken by that dreadful consumption she used to tell people. Well, it was his own fault she used to complain. He was told often enough to give up smoking those awful cigarettes, but would his listen? No he wouldn’t. Forty a day man, if you could believe that. It was a wonder he never turned into a kipper if you ask me she used to say to her customers that either came in daily or pass through to catch one of the buses that would take them to wherever it was they were going as she used to say.
Not that she was nosey she insisted, but she just liked to pass the time of day with those people who popped into her shop.
Simple conversation like “And where are you off to this lovely sunny day Dearie? Or terrible weather to be going out in on a day like this”
Henry was buried in the local cemetery. He wouldn’t have approved of this war with the Germans. Man of peace was her Henry. He would have said find a way of sorting this out without marching into other countries and taking them over. That’s what he’d have said, but then he didn’t know what this Hitler man was going to turn out like did he? Getting up to all sorts.
Every Sunday afternoon, after she had closed the shop, she walked to the Cemetery, and stopped just before she got to the gates and bought a bunch of flowers to put on Henry’s grave. Then she sat on the seat facing it, got out her flask of tea, her sandwich, settled herself down and spent the time catching him up on the local news, until it was time for her to leave before any one came too close on their way to the people they were visiting and might have seen her silent tears.
Eventually she went home, read a book, went to bed, set her alarm clock for the next morning and slept soundly.
Suddenly she was woken up by the sound of the air raid sirens and jumped out of bed, grabbed her coat, put her bare feet in her shoes and ran to the bottom of her garden where she went down into the small Anderson shelter there. Just enough room for her and Mrs. Perkins her next door neighbour. She knew Mrs Perkins would join her in no time because she had a key to the shop and she would trust Mrs Perkins with her life and anyway there was no money in the shop at the end of the day. She had always told Mrs Perkins to reach out her hand as she was passing through and grab a few bars of whatever she put her hands on because they never knew how long that Mr Hitler bloke might keep them shut down that Anderson shelter so they might well get hungry whilst they waited and it wasn’t as though you could mess about making sandwichs while he was getting there was it?
It turned out they were down the shelter nearly five hours in the end. They had both made good progress on the socks they were knitting for the troops, eating their way through the sweets, nattering about this and that, wondering what they were going to find when they finally came out and prayed that there wasn’t going to be too much destruction and they both had homes to come out to.
When they both came out, walked into the street and tried to focus their eyes, all they could see was chaos, smoke, and panic.
“Oh my Lord no” whispered Mrs. Perkins.
“Out of the way quick as you can ladies” shouted an Air Raid Warden.
“Someone’s had a direct hit” whispered Mrs Mutch making the sign of the cross over her face and chest.
“Excuse me” shouted Mrs Perkins to a passing Policeman “Who is it. Who was the direct hit on?”
“Number Twelve” he shouted before he started running around. “Don’t go anywhere near it”
“Come inside Mrs Perkins. Nothing we can do. Don’t stand here gawping Come on”
“Mrs. Mutch. It’s Winne and Joe Collins, and their Grand-Children. Winnie will be on firewatch and the children’s Father Arthur is serving in the Navy” Mrs Perkins whispered.
“Come away love. I’ve got a drop of brandy in-doors. Try not to fret now”
The two ladies went inside and both were trembling because they realised how easy it could have been Mrs. Mutch’s house that could have taken the direct hit.
“Here you are love. Nice pot of tea and a few sherbert lemons for a sugar rush. Can’t get much sugar now it’s rashioned”
“What about the tea?” smiled Mrs Perkins still trembling.
“You have some of mine now and I’ll have some of yours next time around” winked the lovely Mrs. Mutch.
The next morning, despite everything, Mrs. Mutch was open for business as usual. She insisted that she owed it to her customers. Rations there might be but that didn’t mean that her shop would stay open for newspapers and whatever else she could manage to provide.
All her customers seemed so upset that morning, but then, who could blame them, as they all said, it could have been any of them last night and worst of all, how will Arthur find out? Will the Navy let him come home for the Funeral’s or is it a case in wartime of Well it’s just too bad. Go to their graves when you come home. Funny thing she thought to herself. You don’t think of anything like this until it happens.
She didn’t really concentrate on anything that was going on as she opened up her shop. Well Henry used to say she didn’t concentrate even on a good day! He used to say he was teasing her but then he always thought he was better than everyone else, but at the end of the day he was a good man. Two or three people came in for the morning paper and to see if they could get her to break the rules here and there but she always remained firm and smiled and said “Are you trying to get me arrested now?”
It was nearly 10am she thought to herself looking at the clock. Nearly time to put the notice in the door that said she would be closed for the next fifteen minutes. Nobody took any notice and she could always say that “Everybody has a right to pop out and use the toilet don’t they?” and wink.
Right on 10am her visitor arrived and she put up the closed sign.
“Hello love and how are you?” she smiled.
“Very well my Dear” he answered in his elegant tones as he smiled at her and kissed the back of her hand.
“Nice box of those fancy chocolates just waiting for you all done up with a beautiful red satin ribbon”
“As always you look after me so well my Dear” he visitor smiled and kissed her hand as he left.
Mrs Mutch closed the door behind him, turned the closed sign to open and went back to business as usual. She just didn’t see the Policeman on his beat watching her.
When he got back to the station, he reported what he had seen to his Sergeant who just laughed at him at first and said “What? Poor old Ma Mutch up to no good? At her age? You reckon she’s got a secret lover or something? Get out of it!”
The Policeman might have been sent away with a flea in his ear and humiliated in front of the rest of them, but there was something funny going on and he was going to prove it if it was the last thing he did.
He kept a close eye on Mrs Mutch’s shop every day for the next three weeks, but nothing. He started to think that maybe he had been wrong and it was just something innocent and maybe she had got herself a boyfriend. After all, why shouldn’t she. She was a nice looking lady, given her age and why shouldn’t she have a second chance to find love.
He was walking down the street, checking on all the bombed out buildings when he suddenly stopped and a thought came into his head.
Hang on though – if that man was courting Mrs Mutch – he was buying a box of chocolates. Wouldn’t he have been buying them for her instead of from her?
Suddenly, he pulled himself up by his coat tails.
“Behave yourself now” he thought. “What business is it of yours. You have got no proof. Like the Sergeant said. When you see something you can prove, that’s a different matter. For now leave it”
The same man visited the sweet shop for the same box of chocolates for the next month. Always at the same time, even to the minute. The Policeman watched carefully building a case against him and Mrs Mutch and when he was ready he would pounce on both her and the German Spy she was supplying with information.
The fact that he had no proof against either of him hadn’t occurred to him, but he was completely convinced of their guilt and that was all that mattered to him.
“Sir” he argued with the Sergeant early one morning. “I have all the proof I need that Mrs Mutch is supplying a German Agent with information”
“Seeing a man going into her shop and buying chocolates is not enough to raid the place. Have you heard him speak? Has he got a German accent? What makes you think he’s a German blasted Agent???” yelled the Sergeant. “We just can’t go around arresting people because you happen to have a feeling about them. Now will you go away and do something useful”
“I don’t know why I do Sergeant. I just do. I’ve got this feeling”
“Well go out there and put your feeling to better use” sighed the Sergeant. “I have heard enough!”
Two months had passed by now and still Mrs. Mutch was being called upon by her ‘strange’ visitor. No-one else had commented on him, because either no-one noticed or no-one cared. Not even Mrs Perkins bothered. She was more interested in whether or not they should make socks or gloves this time around to be sent out to the troops or maybe those bala…….bakalov……she soon got the hang of the word when Mrs Much told her it was pronounced Balaclava and that it didn’t make a jot of difference anyway. The love that it was made with was more important than the way you pronounced it.
One morning Mrs Mutch had her chocolates all ready and waiting but her visitor was late. She was quite calm and thought nothing much of it. It was probably the buses and he’d been caught up. She didn’t know whether or not to put the closed sign up though. Not to worry.
He arrived about an hour and a half later. She could see he was calm but there was also a thin veil of perspiration on his forehead.
“Hello” she said cheerfully. “How are you. Your’e late this morning. Problem with the buses were there? With all these air raids there must be jams everywhere”
“Yes my Dear. Yes” he said kissing her hand as always “Always a problem with the buses. I’m afraid I’m in a great rush this morning. Your chocolates are always so beautiful and I’m always so grateful for what you do for me”
“Think nothing of it” she smiled knowing he was worried.
As he turned around, he was face to face with the Policeman but this time he was pointing a gun straight at him.
“Stay right there Fritz. Your’e going nowhere. Your’e nothing but a German Spy, and you Mrs Mutch. Your’e both under arrest and your’e both going to hang for treason”.
Suddenly, the whole of the shop turned into chaos and Mrs Mutch didn’t see the bullet that hit her. She just fell to the floor. Three men from MI5 ran into the shop, grabbed the German Spy, who struggled to get away from them, but realised that he had no chance of escaping and gave up in the end while he just looked down at the dead body of the woman he had come to respect and in a strange kind of way even love.
“Call an Ambulance” screamed one of the MI5 opertives.
“Too late Sir” said another. “She’s gone”
“Which one of you shot her?” screamed the lead MI5 Officer
“I did” saluted the Policeman “She was a German Spy working with Fritz there”
“She was working for us, you bloody fool” shouted the lead MI5 Officer again looking at the Policeman as though he was a bad smell.
Suddenly the siren of a Police car sounded outside and an Inspector got out. When he found out what had happened and looked at Mrs. Mutch’s dead body and found out that she had been working for this country all along to expose a German Spy by passing ‘dummy’ papers to him, he looked at his Police Sergeant who had also arrived by now.
“Something of a mess I’d say. If you think I’m going to try to talk our way out of this one, your’e wrong. I’m not. A Policeman who took it upon himself to interfere in a case when he was told not to? You are going to face the consequences of your actions now. MI5 knew what they were doing and if it wasn’t for you interfering, a brave and lovely lady would still be alive”
Mrs Mutch was eventually buried with her beloved husband, and what had been her sweet shop was turned into a house at the end of the war where the people who lived there found happiness but the story of Mrs Mutch was never forgotten.
This is a short story, but it has brought me so much personal pleasure to write. I have woven a fictional story around a sweet shop. That shop was in a part of London where I grew up. Two streets away in fact. It existed as a sweet shop during World War Two and Mrs Mutch did exist and did run it. She sold sweets and newpapers to all the locals. She lived above the shop and there was an Anderson shelter in the garden. When she died, it was turned into a house which was more like a cottage and why I know it so well is that my Auntie Flo and Uncle George moved in there and lived there for many years. Auntie Flo was my Mother’s Sister.
Thank you for reading my story.