Geoffrey who played his violin under the Telfer Bypass in Fountainbridge, rain or shine, was clearly a virtuoso, and it was said that he had once been a leader of the Scottish National Orchestra. Unsurprisingly for a violinist, he was highly strung, and he walked out of a rehearsal once and disappeared from view, to re-emerge years later as a tramp or busker.
It was universally believed that the violin he used was his own much-treasured Stradivarius, which would have been worth a fortune.
Jules and Jonathan, second year students, were reputed to be the top mathematicians of their year, but they could be found most evenings at The World’s End, where they met and were befriended by a number of dubious characters. They got talking to Auld Greg who boasted having done serious time, and to know everybody who mattered, that he could sell anything, no question asked, for the best of prices.
Inevitably the two students began to wonder whether the tramp’s violin might not go a long way towards solving their chronic cash flow problems. They checked that a Stradivarius could fetch up to 3 or 4 million dollars, or at the very least half a million. It would be no great problem for two well-built young men to neutralise a frail tramp on a lonely winter night and get away with his million pound treasure. They consulted Auld Greg who assured them that he would get them the best price for the article, and he asked for no more than a couple of pints. He was happy to do a favour to mates.
A golden opportunity presented itself within a week. It was a bitterly cold night, and Geoffrey, ignoring his frozen fingers was giving a perfect rendition of Méditation to the ears of the walls of the underpass, with not a soul in sight, when the pair appeared. They stopped a few metres away from the artist, enchanted by the strains of Massenet, but he did not acknowledge them and kept playing. The moment he gave his final flourish of the bow, the students saw tears streaming down his sallow cheeks. But that did not stop them. Jules seized him by the scruff whilst Jonathan snatched his instrument. Geoffrey offered no resistance.
Next day they met Auld Greg at a pre-arranged location in The Meadows, and he examined the looted article and pronounced it the genuine article. Should fetch a couple of mills, he said with a shrug. He’d already arranged to meet his man, and would confirm everything in a day.
When they met at The Word’s End a day later, he shook his head. It was a good copy, but a Strad, it wasn’t, he said. You can buy that sort of thing for fifty quid.
The boys shrugged. You win some, you lose some, they said.
But for years they would wonder why Auld Greg had disappeared the same night.