861 by pengtt

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									Chapter 1.

The only trouble with Lower Worter on the water was that it wasn‟t. Of course that isn‟t to say
that it never had. In fact, it was well documented that up until only a few years ago it most
definitely had been. Only now, sadly it wasn‟t any longer and if the current state off affairs
continued, it didn‟t look as if it was ever likely to be again.
On the other hand, Upper Worter on the water always had been and still was - a matter of great
pride to its small (some said incestuous) community and a source of great irritation and
consternation to the unhappy residents of Lower Worter.
Mind you, there were those in Lower Worter who said that it didn‟t matter any more, and what‟s
in a name anyway. They cited examples such as the nearby village of Little acres that with a
growing farming community that sprawled seemly unendingly from the river Worter to Acrid
lake could hardly be said to be; the market town of Gurby Hundred, that with a recent census of
over four thousand most certainly wasn‟t and even the hamlet of Nightime that only was for
around eight hours a day.
Then again, there were those die hards, traditionalists, stick in the muds and general boring old
farts who took great delight in advocating the fellow with horns, a black trident and a ruddy
complexion, who said that names were everything. You couldn‟t go around messing with names.
It just wasn‟t done and where would we all be if we did? Children would never find their way
home if they couldn‟t say with some degree of consistency where they lived, and still know with
a spark of certainty that their destination would match the address when they arrived, and
mayhem would break out at the sorting office when tomorrows post arrived and the recipients of
the mail weren‟t where the various envelopes claimed they should be. There would be justifiable
anarchy if Postie just cycled up to the village green and dumped the mail in a heap with the yelled
statement of “Help yourselves!”
Even old Granny Grayling was heard to say, “You mark my words. Trouble will come of it!”
Mind you Granny Grayling had been muttering the same epithet for the past forty years for every
event ranging from the Reverend Archibald Plug‟s first funeral service, (which actually turned
out to be one of the few occasions in which Granny Graylings remarks had found some small hint
of truth inasmuch as the deceased unfortunately wasn‟t, and was only saved from a very
unpleasant end when he summoned the strength to heave the lid from his casket at the moment it
was passing through the crematorium curtains. All hell broke loose, (no blasphemy intended)
when a white robed figure flapped its way through the slowly closing red velvet drapes, wailing
and moaning like a drunken Punch and Judy show.), to the time Doctor Finlee fell over little
Jimmy Blood‟s scooter, knocked himself unconscious and no one could find another doctor to
Today was no different as the village elders gathered once again to discuss the constantly
recurring subject and problem of Lower Worter on the water.
Just to give the tale some background, Lower Water was founded back in the mists of time as a
small „dropping off‟ point for local farmers and landowners. A little fleet of boats had been
bought by a certain Major Mynor (Retd.) who quickly amassed a fortune by paying the local
officials of the nearby and somewhat larger Upper Worter for all water rights on the small river.
At the time, everyone else thought he was mad as he sailed his little privately owned armada up
and down the Worter, ferrying people back and forth and delivering feed and supplies to the
surrounding landowners.
Opinions changed over the next few years however as the surrounding landowners spread their
farms and needed more supplies which could only be easily and quickly delivered by the Majors
Within five years Major Mynor was the richest man in that part of the country.
Things never last though, as they always say, (whoever „they‟ may be) and in this particular
instance it was true.
Nature, in her fickle and unpredictable way stuck in a rather unhelpful spoke, and after a
particularly violent and wet winter the locals found the river had been naturally diverted due to
the flooding of a nearby low lying field and the river no longer had any real depth at that point.
Width, yes.
Depth, no. Anyone of stout mind and body could wade across the 18” deep waters that now
spread almost as wide as a small lake.
The shipping company went out of business as the Majors boats sat aground like beached whales
and over a short time many of the surrounding farms shrank back to their former size.
Major Mynor sold his fleet of boats to an enterprising pig farmer who turned them into sheds and
stalls for his animals, and moved away to one of the larger cities and lived quite comfortably,
thank you very much, on his considerable amassed fortune.
After a time, the river reverted to it‟s old narrow but deeper route but the village of Lower Worter
stayed the same.
Small, quiet and secluded.
Then, about three and a half years ago, something happened.
The river vanished.

One chilly autumn evening, Granny Grayling sat at the back of the village hall listening to the
petty officials exalting themselves and telling each other what a wonderful job they all did, in
between vague mutterings from the rear stalls, containing assorted words such as „mark‟,
„trouble‟ and „come of it‟.
There were seven officials in all, led by Alderman Albert Quilt, a fairly tall but thin and
somewhat oily individual who was constantly wringing his hands together while standing with a
slight stoop and the left eye almost permanently closed (it hadn‟t worked properly since a small
accident some time ago anyway,) which gave him an even more untrustworthy appearance than
he really deserved anyway. He had dark straight and stringy hair that constantly fell forwards
over his forehead, giving him the appearance of someone who had been given a rapid haircut
using a mixing bowl as a template.
Things were going along just fine with some tasty veiled barbed insults being bandied about
among the elders when Quilt finally gave his ultimate summing up.
“Well, gentlemen. As it seems we only have the one item on our agenda today…”
“Agendum.” came Granny‟s voice from the back.
“Agendum. Only one item on it. Can‟t be an agenda.”
She coughed and spat on the floor and six and a half pairs of eyes stared at the black greasy glob
of tobacco stuck to the polished boards like a lumpy ink stain.
“Er, what?” Quilt said with a supremely condescending tone of utter confusion. He straightened
the front of his frock coat and made a rather obviously arrogant display of flaring his long
flowing over-cape.
Granny wasn‟t impressed.
“One items a agendum. Not agenda. That‟s more‟n one, see?
Quilt didn‟t. Well, fifty percent of his eyes didn‟t.
Granny spat again and continued to chew her wad of tobacco. Although it would be more
accurate to say she gummed her wad of tobacco as she hadn‟t had any teeth for nearly fifty years.
She did actually have a set of dentures for a short time, if they could be called such things, as they
had been fashioned out of half inch lengths of lolly stick ends, glued to a child‟s bicycle clip. The
false teeth had worked just fine up to a point, being kept in place by the force of the spring steel
gripping her gums and she had only lost them while attending a similar council meeting one
evening many years ago. During a particularly violent fit of hiccups the top set of her Raleigh
dentures decided to part company with her mouth after one exceedingly huge „hic‟. The springy
steel horseshoe of small saliva soaked wooden tombstones shot from the vicinity of her uvula
with a resounding „pyoingg‟ like a steel boomerang, did two and a half laps of the village hall and
finally caught councilor Quilt squarely in one eye….
The lower set of dentures were promptly returned to the now greasy-and-torn-trousered young
boy from whence the clips had been procured and no further attempts were made to counteract
the forces of dental nature.

Alderman Quilt was not known for his great store of patience. He sighed and tutted loudly, a
sound that was well known to his colleagues and as one they drew back in anticipation of the
barrage of abuse about to be hurled at Granny Grayling.
It never came.
Quilt wrung his hands as if they were wet and he was trying unsuccessfully to dry them and he
fawned in his well practiced and most obsequious manner.
“Ah, Granny. We are sure we all know what a great debt we have owed to you over the past
years, and I‟m sure nobody doubts the value of the enormous service you have provided us all…”
”Get to the point, Albert.” Granny spat again.
“Um. Ye-es. Well, the thing is, Lower Worter hasn‟t got a river any more. I‟m sure you don‟t
need me to tell you that…” he laughed nervously and his closed eye flickered black and white
several times. “We need to decide HOW to get it back again.”
“Can‟t get it back if you don‟t know where it‟s gone.” Granny pointed out. One of the other
councilors sniggered. He never had liked Alderman Quilt.
“Er, yes, I, er… What I mean is, we need to find the cause of the river‟s disappearance, and then
see if we can‟t do something about it.”
“Surely you don‟t want to NOT do anythin‟ „bout it?” Granny quizzed.
“You said see if you CAN‟T do summat „bout it. You mean see‟s if you CAN do summat, don‟t
Quilt was floundering and all those around him knew it. Granny may have been considerably
older, and her accent certainly left something to be desired, but as far as Alderman Quilt was
concerned, she was a master of the English language.
“Well of course, of course. See if we CAN do something. You see, Granny…” he purred in a tone
so oily it almost slithered from his tongue in a pool blacker than Granny‟s spit, “What we
REALLY need is… (and here he waited for dramatic effect) … a DIVINER!”
The other councilors gasped and closed their eyes to avoid looking at Granny who surely would
be crushed to a wordless pulp by such a hideous veiled insult.
However, that was not the case. Granny picked a smidgin of tobacco leaf from her teeth, stared at
it a moment and them sent it to join its‟ larger companions in the crook of her jawbones. She
chomped once and swallowed before looking with mild eyes at Quilt.
“Sorry I can‟t „elp you there. You know‟s I turned seventy five last March. Can‟t divine after
seventy four. Them‟s not rules. Just the way it is. F‟yew‟d aksed a couple years back, I could‟ve
SMELT that river for you. Saved you a lot of bother. Only then, nobody WANTED the river
back. You‟s all said it were a bloody nuisance, dividin‟ the village in‟alf. Never saw the problem
myself. Only needed a little bridge instead of a ferry boat. River was only ten foot wide. Used to
take ol‟ Tom more time to turn his boat round than it did to get across. Damn stupid it were.”
Quilt nodded sagely and said “If only there had been another Diviner. Someone who could carry
on your great works…”
“Don‟t arse-lick. Don‟t suit you.”
Quilt flushed scarlet but quickly recomposed himself. “Surely there must be another Water
Diviner somewhere? I mean, YOU did it all those years. How? Did you learn? Teach yourself?
Go to school? What? Is that it? Is there somewhere we could send someone to learn? Maybe,
maybe one of us?”
“Ain‟t like that. You should know by now. Only girls can be Diviners and you can‟t teach „em.
There ain‟t no College of Divinty or nothin‟ like that. Diviners is born with it.”
“You mean you‟re divine or you‟re not?” Quilt said with no small degree of sarcasm. Granny
refrained from answering that but stared with needle-like precision into Quilts one eye. He
flinched inwardly and quickly regretted the remark.
“Diviners can, I don‟t know…” Granny intoned in a serious voice, “Sort of, „EAR water. That‟s
the best way to „splain it. You sort of, „EAR it, an‟ can tell where it‟s comin‟ from. It‟s like a kind
of deep gurglin‟ sound, inside your „ead. You can‟t control it. If waters‟ nearby, or people needs
it, you can „EAR it. Even in the night. I could „ear water in the pipes, or if it was rainin‟ up the
Quilt took a deep breath and thought about it for a moment. (Granny‟s words, not the breath.)
“Well, what about a book?” He said hopefully.
“A BOOK? A BOOK?! You can‟t jus‟ go to the lib‟ry an get a BOOK on it! Wat? D‟you think
there‟s some kind of weekly magazine as well? Water diviners Gazette or summat? Or „ow to „ear
water in six weekly parts?”
“Alderman Quilt did have a magazine called Wet and wild…” One of the other councilors added
from behind Alderman Quilt with a snigger. Quilt spun round to be confronted by a row of stony
faced innocent expressions.
Granny smiled, coughed lightly and continued.
“Sometimes, bein‟ a diviner can be a real pain. „Taint all fun an‟ games.”
“What do you mean?” Quilt asked with a slightly sarcastic tone again, raising one eyebrow. “You
have the respect of the whole community, everyone asks your advice, you come and go as you
please, what more could you want?”
Granny screwed up her already screwed up face and said,
“What more could I want? Lissen‟ ere, Albert Quilt. „Ow would you like to be woken up at three
in the mornin‟ by ol‟ Jacob Crumble comin‟ „ome from the pub four parts to the wind and pissin‟
in YOUR lug‟ole at three „undred watts?”
“Nope. You‟ll just „ave to do it the „ard way. You‟ll „ave to find out where the river stops an‟ see
what‟s causin‟ it. Then maybe you can do summat „bout it.”
She was greeted by six and a half stares of genuine wide-eyed horror.
“But, but…” Councilor Rupert Drizzle stammered. (He was a mild man with little or no backbone
and found something to stammer nervously about in most things, but here the others felt he had
due cause.) “The Worter runs through THE WOOD!” He said the words almost as if the very
syllables would burn his tongue.
“We can‟t go in THERE!” added Jimmy Broadbean, a young councilor, with reputedly less
backbone than Rupert Drizzle.
Granny tutted and looked upwards.
“S‟only a wood. Trees, an that. Ain‟t nothin‟ there to be „fraid of. I‟ve been wandrin‟ those
woods for more years than I can count. Never done me no „arm.“
The possibility that whatever MIGHT have been wandering the woods would probably be more
terrified of Granny that she would be of it, was not lost on the assembled councilors, but no-one
dared say so.
“Well, surely then,” Quilt added hopefully, “You must have seen where the river goes to.”
Granny shook her head.
“I didn‟t say I‟ve been there recently. Prob‟ly a couple a years since I last went in. Nope. You‟ll
just „ave to go an‟ look.”
The councilors all stared with looks of dismay at Alderman Quilt for some kind of solution or
way out from what they could plainly see was the obvious and only course of action. He gulped
and did a quick mono-blink.
The Wood, as it had always been known actually deserved some of its‟ bad reputation as there
was no small number of unhappy incidents punctuating its‟ past. There was the tale of Gemima
Boodle, aged twenty nine, who went for a walk in there one Sunday some ten years before and
apparently saw something so utterly terrifying that when she emerged, filthy and bedraggled
some two days later she had aged by forty years and never spoke another word again for the rest
of her short life.
There was also George Peach, who swore that he saw the most enormous shaggy-haired man
possibly imaginable in there while „looking for deer‟, (poaching) and that he had only just
escaped with his life after discharging both barrels of his twelve bore at the beast and running
faster than any of his originally intended quarry could have done. Furthermore, he claimed that
his shots had done little more than startle the creature, giving him the seconds needed to make his
escape, and that the werewolf as it subsequently became known chased him with great vigour and
almost seemed to be laughing at him.
Stories such as these were commonplace in the local tavern and no amount of money would
persuade anyone of sound mind to enter the further reaches of the Wood under normal
“Well, what about the pond?” questioned Jimmy. “We all know the Worter feeds that. Couldn‟t
we, sort of, divert it back to the river somehow on the other side of the wood?”
“You knows the pond is only fed by a little stream off the main river somewhere on Reg Stote‟s
land. Not enough water there to float bog waste. An‟ even if it did „ave enough water in it,
divertin‟ it back to village would be nigh on impossible. Take years o‟ work an‟ miles o‟ diggin‟
through the Wood. Anyway, you‟d need to go „cross ol‟ Reg‟s place to find the source. You want
to do that?” Granny said, spitting on the floor once more without taking her eyes from the
Jimmy gulped and stared wide eyed in horror at the old woman as if she had just suggested
knitting him a pair of barbed wire underpants complete with a built in mains powered cattle prod
positioned strategically in the crotch.
Reg Stote was well known in the area and in fact was probably at least as well known as old
Granny Grayling herself. The difference was that most people liked Granny Grayling. (Well, at
least those people with more than one useable eye.)
Reg Stote was a recluse. In fact, he was virtually a hermit. In FACT he was all but non existent
these days. If it wasn‟t for the fact that his two pints of gold top were taken in from the box beside
the lane leading to his house each day, people might have said he was nothing more than a
mythical figure dreamed up to scare small children. (As well as their parents.)
Reg had been keeping himself to himself for the past twenty two years, ever since his wife Ethel
had died giving birth to their daughter Emerald. They also had a son, Gort, whose name did well
to describe him. He was two years older than Emerald, tall but hunched over, with shoulders that
could bear the door lintel of a medium sized cathedral, complete with building above. To say that
he was lacking in intelligence was to intellectually compliment him. He had been away on
holiday when brain cells were given out and although he worked hard at school it had done him
no good, as the teachers were so terrified of him they would only allow him to attend on
Saturdays and Sundays when there was no one else there, including the teachers.
It was generally agreed among the school staff that if he had two more brain cells he would be a
pot plant.
At weekends the janitor would leave the key on the porch step for Gort but he would seldom
remember to put it back when he left for home. The local locksmith Jack Fribb did very nicely
out of the whole affair and the other children were always delighted as it meant that they could
not get into school on a Monday morning until the lock had been picked by Mr. Fribb, a business
that usually took until mid morning break, as no-one would DARE suggest going to Reg Stote‟s
house to ask for the missing key back. It also meant a new key had to be cut from the master
which otherwise never left the janitors large iron key ring.
Gort rarely spoke to anyone other than the occasional grunt which some took to be his attempts at
saying his own name, while others thought that he had wind. The latter opinion was generally
held to be correct, partly due to the fact that Gort‟s face would usually contort into an expression
of serious straining as the unidentifiable sound emerged, to be followed by a not mildly
unpleasant odour in the form of a light green fog from the vicinity of his nether regions.
As Gort had grown older, he had also grown up to be more isolated and decidedly more
unfriendly. He was rarely seen, other than occasionally wandering through the Wood late in the
evening or at dawn. It was widely held that he did not actually sleep at all and was wandering
among the trees all night.
“Mad as moonshine!” was a comment often levelled at him, or “Fruitcake, tha‟s what „e is.
Most of the villagers were terrified of him and he had almost become another figure of local
legend, like his father. A huge, dark and sinister apparition that wandered the Wood on cold,
foggy nights, only waiting for poor unsuspecting travelers (of which there were virtually none) to
pounce upon, yelling (or possibly farting) the fateful sound, “GORT!”
Emerald was held to be little better. She too was hardly ever seen in the village and on the rare
occasions that she was, it would be late at night and she would be hooded and cloaked, hunched
over and usually half running, as if she were on some hurried errand, or simply did not want to be
When she had attended school up to the age of about eleven, she had shown herself to be the very
opposite of her brother and did very well in her lessons and tests. The teachers all said she was
very bright if not very forthcoming, as she never spoke to anyone except the teachers themselves,
and then only if she was directly questioned. Playtime and dinner break would find her sitting
alone on a rotted tree stump at the far end of the small playing field eating a home made packed
lunch, a task made difficult for her as she always without exception wore a brown paper bag over
her head.
This peculiarity had been with her since the very first day she had been seen at school and only
on one occasion was anyone foolish enough to ask her to remove the bag.
The tantrum Emerald threw that day would forever go into the annals of Lower Worter history.
She yelled, screamed, swung fists at anyone within a two yard radius, kicked more powerfully
than any centre forward could ever hope and levelled a devastating left hook that would virtually
decapitate anyone whose head was in the direct line of flight of her pudgy little mitt.
Furthermore, her notorious father Reg then arrived the following day to sort the matter out in one
of his extremely rare appearances. Mind you, to say that he arrived would be somewhat of an
understatement, tantamount to saying the eruption of Mount Vesuvius was just a bit of a cloudy
day over Pompeii.
The school doors bust asunder, tearing the oak frame from the surrounding masonry and causing
Mrs. Burkitt the secretary to flee in terror as Reg stomped through the clouds of dust and debris
still clutching the remnants of the crushed brass door knob in one hand. His voice could be heard
the entire length and breadth of the school, nay, village, as he yelled the words of doom and
retribution he was about to bring down upon the unfortunate teacher who had dared to ask
Emerald to remove her paper bag. The entire school, including all the children, teachers, dinner
ladies and even the caretaker fled. There was not a window or door in the building that did not
partake in the great escape that morning. No fire drill ever before or since, emptied the school as
quickly as Reg Stote did that fateful day.
The teacher concerned was never seen again. What happened to the poor woman was uncertain as
no one actually SAW Reg catch her. She was last seen running, screaming, across the school
field, over Farmer Divott‟s land and into The Wood.
Her screaming trailed off slowly but then ended suddenly with a peculiar sound, as if someone
had just passed wind.
She never returned home to collect any of her belongings and it was several years before the town
council finally auctioned off the contents of her small cottage and gave the proceeds to the school
Nobody ever dared even mention Emeralds paper bag after that and the occasional school visitor
was always warned well in advance regarding the peculiar sight of a classroom containing an
assortment of black, brown, blonde and ginger tousled heads, and one brown crumpled paper bag.
Thereafter it was whispered among the villagers that there was a pupil at the school who was SO
ugly, she had to cover her head in fear of her obviously Medusa-like powers that would turn any
unsuspecting soul to stone if they were unfortunate enough to see her hideous face. Whether she
actually had a scalp of Vipers was not certain, but there were those who laid claim to having seen
such things wriggling out around the lower edge of the paper bag. Of course, some also said it
was only her light brown hair in greasy unwashed rats‟ tails that they had seen, but the seeds were
sown, and thereafter it became common knowledge that the hideously ugly Emerald Stote had
snakes on her head. Besides, it was a more exciting story than a simple lack of Vo5.
Within a few short years Emerald joined her brother in the ranks of rarely seen and was shied
away from by all and sundry, which only left her father, the formidable Reg Stote.
Reg was not a particularly large man, in fact, some might even say he was fairly small. However,
where Reg was lacking in vertical proportions, the same could not be said of his width. He had a
waist that needed two leather belts looped together to circumnavigate it and a chest that was even
larger. His shoulders were not so much a pair of knobs on the top outer corners of his body, but
more of an apparent meeting place for every muscle he possessed.
Knotted, bulging, solid, huge even. These words did not come close to describing his upper arms
and neck area, although his neck was difficult to see unless you were close up, which most people
never were. His chin, well, the lower of the three at least, seemed at times to be sprouting out of
the forest of matted hair that erupted from his chest area in a tangle so dense, you could not
really be sure if Reg had an extremely hairy chest, or a particularly virulent beard. Maybe it was
both, and the join had been lost somewhere in the mists of time.
His face was craggy, in that weatherworn kind of Father Christmassy way, always assuming that
good old Chris Cringle had been chiseled from slate two thousand years before and had only
recently been dug up but not yet washed.
Then there were the eyes. Deep, dark gimlet holes bored into his face beneath a bushy overhang
of eyebrows and forehead. The depths of his eyes twinkled a shade of red that would turn a steely
blue if his „dander was up‟ as he would himself put it.
One thing Reg was actually quietly proud of himself though, was his hair. Thick and curly,
although a shade of yellowy grey, it showed no signs of thinning even though Reg was
approaching seventy. He never brushed or combed it, simply ruffling it himself several times a
day with one huge hand of outspread grubby sausage-like fingers.
Reg had in fact been a popular and well liked member of the village in his younger days, joining
in with village life and even being a member of the council for a short while. That was before his
wife Ethel had passed away. No one was really sure what had happened during the birth of
Emerald that had caused such tragic events to unfold, but the fact of the matter was Ethel had
Reg kept himself apart from everyone else in the village after that and quickly came to resent
people offering empty condolences and meaningless well-wishes. Within a matter of months the
now-legendary violent and bad tempered Reg Stote was being discussed in ale houses and taverns
from one village to another. No one dared go near the lane leading to his house for fear of a dose
of both barrels from his rusty but well oiled old twelve bore loaded with salt. Reg may have been
a complete terror to everyone, but he had never actually tried to kill anyone although there were
many who could attest to the pain caused by a teaspoonfull of gritty sodium chloride ripping
through the seat of their trousers at several hundred miles per hour.
There were quite a few who in later years laughed at „being peppered with salt‟ by old Reg.
So it transpired that through a series of events not entirely of their own making, the Stote family
achieved a certain notoriety not afforded to anyone else before or since, except perhaps Atilla the
Hun or Vlad the impaler.

In the village hall, Jimmy gulped once again.
“Surely, you‟re not SERIOUS?... Reg Stotes‟ place?... I wouldn‟t go there if the river NEVER
came back!” He said this last statement with such a quiver in his voice that he sounded as if he
were sitting on the corner of a half loaded twin tub on full spin.
Granny cocked one eyebrow in his direction just to check that he wasn‟t, but said nothing.
“Look, look….” Chimed Alderman Quilt. No one suggested that we DO have to go through the
Wood, or over the Stote‟s land. Granny was merely suggesting a, well, sort of… Last resort…
Weren‟t you Granny?” He turned to her with a single wide eyed expression of query mingled
with hope.
Granny looked from face to face before she spoke.
“Nope!. Way I see‟s it, you got no real choice. You either goes and finds out where the water‟s all
gone, or get used to the fact that Lower Worter on the water‟ll need to change iss name. „Ow
about summat like, „Lower Worter OFF the water‟?”
“Or „Waterless Worter‟?” Added Jimmy hopefully.
“Or „Once-ad-water‟?” Granny continued relentlessly.
“All right, all right. You‟ve made your point.” Quilt grumbled. “So who do you suggest should
embark on this jolly little jaunt in the woods?”
“As if I need ask….” Quilt mumbled quietly as an after-whinge.
Granny spat another ink blot onto the floor and clapped her hands together loudly.
“‟Ass what I likes to „ear! Volunteers! Folks as is keen to do their bit.”
Quilt groaned and looked up at the ceiling.
“Will you be going, Granny?” Jimmy asked tentatively. The crinkled old woman looked at the
earnest young man and grinned a semi-toothed grin.
“Only if you are.” she cackled.
Jimmy‟s face melted into a mask that looked as if it was made of yeastless bread dough.
“M.. MM…ME?!” he stammered.
Instantly, Quilt was upon him, pounding his back with an open palm and congratulating him on
his vast bravery, fortitude and determination. “A wise choice, Granny!” he cried mercilessly.
“Youth. An eager spirit. Strength. Courage. The best a man…”
“Alright, alright.” Granny interrupted. “Don‟t go mad. I was only joshin‟. Jimmy don‟t really
need to go. Ee‟s a bit young for the likes of Reg Stote.”
Quilt bit his lip in resentment but before he could voice any caustic comments he was
formulating, Jimmy spoke up. He had always felt himself to be considered just a make weight on
the village council, a number-filler in the voting ranks whenever anything minor needed
consideration. He was always somehow mysteriously „forgotten‟ when the agenda of the next
meetings were circulated, particularly if anything important was being discussed and he had
noticed it. And here again it was that one of the village elders, albeit the much respected Granny
Grayling, was once again pointing out in a round about fashion that he was not up to the task in
hand, or wasn‟t even required. A smidgin of courage flickered in the depths of his mind and as
much to his own surprise as anyone else‟s, he spoke up.
“I think I would like to go, actually…” he said in a firm but somewhat high pitched and wobbly
Granny raised one eyebrow and looked at the lad.
“Good for you, young Broadbean! Obviously you got more courage than these others gives you
credit for.” An assortment of councilors shuffled about in what looked like an embarrassing
imitation of a foxtrot, but said nothing. They also made a point of looking down and avoiding eye
contact with anyone just in case this was taken as a silent offer of assistance. Mind you, avoiding
eye contact with Alderman Quilt was at least fifty percent easier than with anyone else.
“Well, that‟s three of us.” Jimmy added proudly, stating the blatantly obvious once it had become
apparent that the chance of anyone else volunteering to come along was about as great as Quilt
buying a ticket to see a 3D movie.
“Anyone else?” the Alderman asked nervously, looking from scalp to scalp.
“We don‟t need anyone else!” Jimmy said with a note of defiance in his voice. He was relishing
the feeling that just for once, he was doing something more important than the other council
“‟Fraid we do.” Granny said through a mouthful of mushed tobacco. She spat again. “We needs
someone „as can remember where the old river ran to right through the woods.”
“Surely though, you know that?...” Quilt stammered.
Granny looked at the tall trembling man with piercing drill-bit eyes for a moment, spat again and
Jimmy‟s mouth opened and closed a few times but no sounds came out.
“I used to FIND water, not go traipsin‟ round where everybody already knew where it was…”
Quilt was amazed. “You mean, after all these years, you never followed the old river through the
“You think I was mad or summat?”
“But what you said about Reg Stote and all that a moment ago… I thought you weren‟t scared of
I might be old, but I „aint insane. „Es a nutcase. I wouldn‟t go near „im for nowt. „Es jus‟ as likely
to shoot my arse full o‟ salt as anybody else‟s. I said I been in the woods countless times over the
years. Tha‟s true. I „as. Don‟t follow I went near old Stote‟s place though. I been near enough to
get us close, but I never went up to „is fences. I „aven‟t any more clue than you „ave as to where
the old river went after it ran out o‟ the old smelly pond.”
“So how do we?...” Young Jimmy started.
“There‟s only one I knows of still livin‟ round „ere who‟s been right through the old woods, past
the pond…” Granny interrupted in a quiet, ominous tone.
All eyes were fixed on Granny in awed anticipation of the name of the saviour of the day and not
least, the village.
“Barry Simpson!” she said quietly.

There was silence for a moment as the name filtered through the combined thought processes of
the councilors, and then, almost as one, they yelled in stunned amazement,
“Barry Kimpkon?!!!!” Then they burst out into uproarious peals of laughter.
Even young Jimmy couldn‟t contain himself as most of his fellow council members screamed and
guffawed about him. Tears streamed openly from the combined odd number of eyes as one by
one, they collapsed onto their knees, dragging their associates down with them.
“Barry Kimpkon…” someone choked.
“Yek. That‟k what I Kaid…” Quilt added gaining another round of painful, stomach aching
“When you‟s all quite finished…” Granny said, looking down with a sad but understanding
expression at the mixed tangle of crying, laughing bodies.
“‟E might „ave a slight speech problem, but „Ee‟s the only one I knows who‟s ever been right
through the old woods.”
“BIT of a speech problem?” Quilt roared hilariously. “Ik that what you Kaid? A klight kpeech
problem? Oh! Well, that‟k all right then!”
The others roared with mirth once again at Quilts‟ excellent impersonation.
Rupert Drizzle stood and stared in confusion. He had only lived in the village a few years and
didn‟t know everyone by name, but he had always been sure he at least knew every face, and
would certainly have heard of Barry Simpson if indeed he were worthy of such hilarity.
“Sorry, but WHO is Barry Simpson?” he asked sincerely.
The damp eyed mirthful heap of councilors looked up at him in silence for a second, then
collapsed in a soggy, back pounding pile of laughter again.
Chapter 2.

Barry Simpson was in fact a well known figure in the village but he had tended to keep himself to
himself more and more over the past few years as his unique quirk of speech had become more
and more pronounced. It wasn‟t that Barry was ashamed or embarrassed by it. Indeed, he was
adamant that he didn‟t HAVE a speech problem and would get extremely annoyed with anyone
who claimed that he did.
Mind you, to put things into a bit of perspective, Barry didn‟t really have a speech defect as such.
It was really little more than a peculiar kind of lisp, or mannerism, concerning any „s‟ sound
which tended to come out with a hard edge to it, almost like a „k‟. Barry usually subconsciously
avoided words containing an „S‟ and this alleviated the problem by and large. However,
sometimes he didn‟t really think about it and the occasional lapse would occur. Worse still, his
odd little vocal „quirk‟ tended to be even more pronounced if Barry got agitated or heaven forbid,
if he got drunk.
Barry liked a drink.
Or two.
Or three…
Things had come to something of a head about three years previously when Barry had been in the
local inn, the Cock, one Friday evening. A new barkeeper by the name of George had been
engaged by the landlord but he had not been previously warned about Barry Simpson.
A major oversight on the part of the landlord that very nearly cost George his limbs.
The situation started off badly, and nose dived into catastrophe within minutes of Barry‟s arrival
at the bar for his usual pint of stout, which always had to be served in his own glass, kept on a
shelf behind the bar.

“Good evenin‟” Barry said in his usual friendly manner.
“Good evening sir” George replied without looking up as he polished the oak bar top with a soft
cloth. “And what can I get you?” he added, resting both hands spread wide on the bar in front of
him in time-honoured barmans‟ fashion.
He smiled broadly at Barry.
“A pint of ktout pleak.” Barry suggested.
George looked at Barry and blinked.
“A pint of ktout. In my own glakk pleake.”
Georges‟ smile dimmed a notch.
“Er, sorry. Didn‟t quite catch that.” He crooked his head sideways a little, aiming his left ear in
Barry‟s general direction. His right hand twitched.
Barry sighed loudly and gave the barman a withering look.
“I kaid, a pint of ktout pleake, and can I have it in my own glakk.
George continued to stare and said nothing, almost as if he was still waiting for Barry to speak.
His hand twitched a little more.
Barry leaned towards him and waved a hand in front of Georges glazed face.
“Hello… Can you hear me… I kaid, a pint of ktout pleake, and can I have it in my own glakk.
Georges eyes turned into dinner plates and he began to tremble. He looked quickly from customer
to customer, maybe hoping for some kind of support, or possibly translation of the gibberish this
apparent escapee was babbling in his direction. Then a thought occurred to him. The man was
clearly already drunk. He‟d obviously had too much to drink somewhere else already. He
regained his quavering composure and smiled again at Barry.
“I‟m sorry sir. Perhaps you‟ve had a drop too much already…. Would you like a nice cup of tea?”
“Tea?!” Barry cried in astonishment.
“Er…. How about a nice mug of cocoa then?” George added uncertainly.
“Cocoa? I didn‟t akk for cocoa! I want a pint of ktout! Did you get that? Ktout! Ktout!”
Georges composure crumbled again as the surrounding customers who obviously knew all about
Barry began to giggle. He wiggled a finger in his ear in the vague hope it might dislodge the
football of wax that could be causing his hearing to fail him.
“Er, once more sir, a pint of what was it? I got the pint part… No question there… It‟s just the
contents I‟m a little uncertain of…”
The inn was becoming noticeably quiet as everyone else tried to listen to the conversation without
“Ktout! I kaid ktout! What‟k the matter with you? Cloth eark? Are you ktupid or komething?”
One or two customers were openly chuckling now, to the annoyance of Barry who plowed on
“And while your at it, get me a whikkey. A double. And have you got any crikpk? I like cheeke
and onion, but a packet of kalt and vinegar will do. If you‟re out of cripk, a little packet of thoke
cheeky bikcuitk will be alright.”
George‟s face was a mask of mixed bewilderment and terror. Both hands were trembling now as
customers all about him choked on near silent peals of hilarity. His knees knocked like castanets.
“Um, a pint. And, and a packet of… of… er, kalt and, er, what?... Cheeky, errr?....”
Barry‟s temper was rising now and his speech impediment was accelerating into full throttle.
“I never kaid kalt! I kaid kalt! Kalt! Are you deaf? And I never kaid cheeky! I kaid CHEEKY!
Are you trying to be cheeky?...”
George was totally baffled, but half heartedly came to his own defence.
“Er, right. Kalt. Or, er, cheeky… Then kalt it is…”
Barry launched one arm over the bar and grabbed George by the shirt front, hauling him over the
polished oak until the terror stricken bar keepers‟ face was inches from his own.
“I didn‟t kay that. I never kaid that. I don‟t kpeak like that!”
Georges good sense crumbled along with his nerve.
“Er, korry, kir…” he inadvertently mumbled.
“Are you takin‟ the pikk out of me?” Barry snarled.
“I‟ll kmack you in the fake if you are! I‟ll punch you in the eyek! I‟ll flatten your noke! I‟ll rip
your armk off!” He almost threw the barkeeper back to his feet again behind the bar. All around,
the regulars were wiping their eyes and trying not to laugh as Barry grew more and more
annoyed, and George grew more and more confused and terrified. Then, to Georges relief, an old
gent with a tatty cloth cap and even tattier beard apparently took sympathy on the young
barkeeper and spoke up.
“I hear there‟s a group of singers comin‟ in later Barry.” he yelled. “Let me get you that drink….
George. A pint of stout for my friend here. He‟s got his own glass on the back shelf there…” The
old gent pointed to a polished glass tankard etched with the name „Barry‟, standing beside a row
of bottles near the till.
The penny dropped.
George fairly beamed as the realization hit him.
“OHHH!!!! A glass of STOUT!... YES!... I see!... right, coming up sir.”
Barry looked up at the ceiling.
“That‟k what I‟ve been kaying all along! A pint of ktout!”
George proudly presented Barry with his drink.
“Have this one on me, kir. I mean, SIR…” he added quickly.
Barry seemed not to notice the verbal slip as he was now far too interested in the added prospect
of some live entertainment.
“Did you kay there‟k kome mukic? I really like mukic!”
Georges mind was racing in overtime to try to keep up with the mental translation of Barry‟s
“Yes. A local crowd of lads. Their time night here, as it happens. Apprently they‟re supposed to
be very good…”
“OH, FANTAKTIC!” Barry yelled, banging his tankard onto the bar.
“A king kong! I love a king kong.”
George was beginning to get the flow of the new alien language that had been inflicted upon him
with such sudden violence.
“Are you a good singer then?” he asked politely, not realizing that Barry was in fact well known
as probably the worst vocalist in the entire western hemisphere.
“Oh yek!” he replied eagerly.
“I love kinging kongk. I uked to king kongk when I wok little.”
Even George couldn‟t help a mild giggle escaping from his quivering lower lip as George
rambled on relentlessly.
“I uked to king nurkery rhymek!” he proclaimed proudly.
Behind him and a little to his left, a crowd of regulars were reduced to a sobbing, trembling heap.
One of them contained his mirth for a moment and called, “Give us a sample of your old rhymes,
Barry took no second urging.
“Oh, well, if you inkikt.” he replied magnanimously.
“Thik onek called „King a kong of kikkpenke‟.
The gent who had requested a demonstration of Barry‟s vocal talents coughed loudly but
unsuccessfully into his cupped hands in a vain but hopeless attempt to hide his hilarity.
Eventually however, as Barry‟s stern gaze took in each of the customers in turn, quiet was
achieved throughout the bar, apart from the occasional cough, (choke, would be nearer the mark)
or the odd loud sniff as someone tried to recover from a chest aching bout of laughter that was
poised like a coiled adder, just waiting in the wings to sink its fangs into another victim at Barry‟s
next utterance.

“King a kong of kikkpenke,
A pocket full of rhye….”
(A few mild chuckles, but fairly safe so far….)
“Four and twenty blackbirdk baked in a pie….”
(A few sniggers at the „blackbirdk‟ bit, but not much else…)
“When the pie wok opened, the birdk began to king…”
(Some open giggling now, regardless of Barry‟s bristling eyebrows…)
Oh wokn‟t it a dainty dikk to ket before the king.”

It was no good. The laughter crept in gently from the corners of the room and infected everyone it
passed. Like a plague it grew, out of all proportion to the number of people in the tavern. Finally
it erupted like a volcano, covering everyone in it‟s‟ path with the ash and lava of hilarious,
unrestrained chest throbbing mirth. Bodies shuddered, tears streamed, throats hurt.
Barry raged.
“What‟k ko funny?!” he yelled, banging his glass on the bar.
“Noth… noth… nothing, hon.. hon.. honest,         Barry! Brilliant! Utterly brilliant!” one old gent
called out.
“Quick, get Barry another pint someone!” Then the old man dissolved under the table in a puddle
of tears as Barry beamed at the praise now being lavished on him from all sides, as well as the
prospect of a free pint.

Things could have ended there quite happily that very evening and gone no further if Barry had
only drunk his pint and gone home, as he had originally planned to do. However, the prospect of
an evening‟s musical entertainment had tempted him to do otherwise. His rendition of Sing a
song of sixpence had apparently gone well as far as he was concerned, so Barry decided to stay
and see if there was any chance of joining in with the band later on.
What followed that fateful evening would go down in the history of the entire district and would
have a major effect on the music world, and one hitherto unknown singer for many years to come.

At around seven thirty the band arrived. There were three musicians, a bright faced group of
youngsters, glowing with that youthful enthusiasm for their music that had not yet been tarnished
with the years of heaving and carting equipment and instruments to countless unresponsive and
disinterested audiences that would eventually coin for them the phrase „musical wallpaper‟.
A fourth chap, the leader of the group, was a fairly rotund and somewhat older fellow called
Tony. He sported a hideously bright orange shirt that he considered „trendy‟ but actually made
him look like a large satsuma. His face was of a similar complexion, even to the point of having
the same texture as the aforementioned fruit. He had long thin hair that was combed over his
prematurely balding lid in the vain attempt to hide the fact that he would obviously have no hair
at all well before he reached the age of thirty five.
The next thirty minutes were spent with Tony yelling orders and instructions to his three
associates as they attempted to arrange their gear in a manner that would best prove to the
assembled crowd that he was the lead singer and as such, the most important member of the
group. Drums were assembled, music stands erected, instruments unpacked, and lime lights
erected and lit at the front of the space that had been cleared for the bands‟ performance.
George had even had the foresight to arrange a layer of upturned empty beer crates covered in
boards to act as a kind of stage. As it turned out, the area so prepared was in no way large enough
to accommodate the four members of the group along with all their paraphernalia, so Tony took
centre front stage with the drummer behind, along with the lighting pointing solely at himself,
while the other two members arranged themselves as best as they could at each side of the raised
Eventually however, at around eight thirty, the audience was growing restless.
“You lot gonna do somethin‟ yet?” one old chap called from the back of the room.
Everyone else then took this as a signal to start heckling the band even though they hadn‟t as yet
played a note.
“F‟eye were you, I‟d git up there an‟ play summat.” another chap whispered in Tony‟s ear.
Tony however was beaming. In his ignorance, he was taking the cat calls and jibes as enthusiastic
banter from his eager fans rather than boredom verging on anarchy.
“Another few minutes.” he whispered to his well meaning confidant. “Let‟s get them really
worked up. You know, fever pitch, and all that….”
“Fever is close,” the man replied. “G.B.H‟ll be nearer the mark if you don‟t do summat soon.”
At that point however, George intervened and somewhat pointedly announced that the band
would be starting immediately. Still the thick-skinned singer took no hint and waved one hand
regally at his adoring public.
The other band members were not so dense though and immediately took their places at the sides
of the stage, gave their instruments one final tuning, and a few precursory whacks of the snare
“Oh well,” Tony said loudly. “My public calls….”
A loud and rather soggy raspberry erupted from somewhere in the midst of the audience, gaining
a raucous laugh, and the putrid smell that followed it a few moments later confirmed that it
almost certainly emanated from an area slightly below someone‟s waist line rather than their
Hands waved, people coughed exaggeratingly, and an area cleared rapidly around a grubby old
gentleman sitting on a stool, wriggling uncomfortably as he tried in vain to put some space
between his backside and his now wet and slippery underpants.
Quiet was eventually restored as Tony took his place on the stage and pulled his trouser front up
over his paunch, a motion he repeated frequently without thinking.
He clicked his fingers four times in time with the required beat and the band began playing.
The cat calls and heckling quickly stopped, as it became apparent after only a few bars
introduction that the musicians were actually very good. People at the back of the room stood up
to get a better view, and some even moved closer, into the vacated space beside the soggy-
bottomed old man. Tony beamed with pride and launched into his version of a popular old
traditional song, but in a modern rock and roll style (as yet generally unheard of) with added
words of his own.

“Well issa wun fur the munny…. A too fer th‟ sho‟…. A three da git a reddi, naa go gadz go…”
The audience gaped in disbelief as Tony bent one knee, leaned forward and proceeded to wave
one arm round and round like propeller at the side of his body as his hips gyrated in circles of the
opposing plane. His other hand disappeared inside his shirt to pull out a pair of wire framed
spectacles that he placed on his face.
“E‟s painted the lenses black!” Someone called in surprise.
“Wha‟s „e done that for?”
Tony continued to cavort around the stage and yell his almost indecipherable words at the crowd
while making a fist and pulling punches in towards his own stomach at the end of every verse.
No one had ever seen anything like it.
Mouths hung open and eyeballs stared. Tankards of ale gently tipped to one side and spill their
contents piddlingly onto the floor. People stretched up on tiptoe to look at other people in the
room to see if they could gauge the overall public opinion.
George began to panic as drinks were surreptitiously put down and some of the audience casually
started to sidle toward the exit.
Luckily however, the first song came to a sudden and unexpected end when Tony executed a
particularly vigorous leap and came down on the unsupported centre of one of the boards
covering Georges makeshift stage.
There was a loud „crack‟ and planks and crates flew everywhere. The front row of the audience
fled in all directions as sixteen stone of wailing, flailing tangerine descended upon them.
The band stopped playing and the double bass player lowered his instrument a few degrees and
quietly whispered to the guitarist, “Never seen him do that before.”
Old Toby lowered his pint of ale from the safety of over his head where he had raised it and took
a long swig.
“Long overdue then. Best bit of the song.” he muttered.
The surrounding assemblage laughed at the remark but nevertheless several came to Tony‟s aid.
He was obviously in some pain and couldn‟t stand up. He had wrung his left ankle as the crates
collapsed and was now wailing as he clutched his rapidly swelling foot, although several people
commented that it sounded as if he had commenced verse two.
“Well, that‟s the end of the evening I‟m afraid,” the guitarist said to the crowd. “Tony won‟t be
singing anymore tonight.”
There were a few cheers at this prospect but the overall consensus was one of disappointment.
Most of the crowd had just started to warm to the beat and some were even getting used to the
peculiar noise Tony was making under the pretext of singing. His gyrations and actions at least
had been highly amusing and entertaining.
“Can‟t one of you lads sing?” someone called.
The three remaining band members shook their heads in unison.
“What about someone else?” another member of the audience cried.
“Yes! Another singer!” people yelled, little realising what they were letting themselves in for.
Then a lone voice from beside the bar chimed in.
“I can king a kong!”
Silence fell over the entire assemblage.
Then someone said “Yes, let Barry sing.”
There were a few murmured negative remarks but even as some giggles crawled in amongst the
comments, a few others gave support to the suggestion.
“Yes, Barry! Come on lad. Give us a song!”
A chant of “BA-RRY… BA-RRY…” started up and grew in volume until it was being yelled in
time with a pounding of beer tankards on table tops.
Barry needed no more prompting. He was up from his stool in moments and helped re-assemble
the stage and put the lights back in place. The band members had never met Barry before and as
they weren‟t from around the area, they had never heard of him. The cheering that erupted from
the audience as Barry took to the stage told them not to object.
Mind you, they were still a little dubious at the prospect of playing unrehearsed with a different
singer, and they were fairly sure they wouldn‟t know any of his songs. Also, there was a fair to
middling chance that Barry wouldn‟t know any of their songs either.
There was a quick exchange of words among the musicians, a few nods, and they passed Barry a
sheet of paper listing their repertoire.
Barry scanned the page a moment and the audience looked on expectantly.
After a brief pause, he said, “No problem!”
Another cheer erupted from the crowd and Barry took his place at front centre stage.
He glanced once more at the list and said to the drummer, “Number four.”
The band members all knew the song list off by heart and instantly knew the song Barry meant. It
was an old traditional song from over the sea and was usually very popular.
“Announce it then.” the bass player prompted, nodding toward the awaiting crowd. Barry nodded
once and turned to his wide eyed and extremely silent audience.
“Alright. Get ready everyone. You‟ll probably know thik one…”
“What did he say?” the guitarist asked the bass player, but before he got an answer, the drummer
started a rhythm count-in of four on his sticks.
The musicians started in perfect time and the intro was played perfectly as a build up to Barry‟s
opening verse.

“There ik a houke in New Orleank, they call the Riking Kun….”
The audience stared, goggle eyed, trying to keep their mirth in check as the band members
flickered worried little wide-eyed glances at each other.

“And it‟k been the ruin of many a poor boy, and God, I know, I‟m one.”
The band smiled with relief. Obviously the first line had been a bit of nerves.
Then Barry launched enthusiastically into verse two.

“My mother wok a tailor, khe kewed my new blue jeank….”
The band members began to tremble and a few peculiar notes that weren‟t quite the right ones
crept in.

“My father wok a gambling man, down in New Orleank…”
A few chuckles could be heard that were quickly covered by coughs, and much back patting. The
band stared at the back of Barry‟s head, not quite sure if the words they could hear were coming
from him. The music accelerated slightly.

“Now the only thing a gambler needk, ik a kuitcake and a trunk,…..”
“Flamin‟ hell!” The drummer whispered.

“And the only thing that keepk him katikfied, ik when he‟k all a drunk…”
The crowd were having real problems now and several excused themselves and ran off to the
gents, only to be greeted by howls of laughter from within that was rapidly silenced again as the
opened door was closed. The band members looked frantically from one to another in the vain
hope that one of them could somehow save the situation. No salvation came and Barry‟s vocals
charged on.

“Oh mother, tell your children, not to do what I have done…”
The guitarist looked hopefully at the drummer at this string of apparently coherent words, but
even as his heart rate began to return to anywhere near normal, Barry exploded with a real „Tour
de force‟.

“To kpend their livek in the kin and mikkery, in the Houke of the Riking Kun…..”

Mayhem erupted.
The audience cheered until their lungs ached.
Glasses banged enthusiastically on tables.
Gales of laughter echoed from the rafters.
The band stood in a paralytic stupor and wept.

Barry glowed with pride and bowed.

The evening moved on at a resounding pace after that, and Barry was urged to sing more and
more songs which he did with gusto and mounting incomprehensibility as members of the
audience supplied him with an apparently neverending flow of stout.
As the night progressed even the band realised they were onto a good thing as Barry‟s peculiar
voice was obviously extremely popular, albeit slightly unusual (and totally indecipherable).
There was one person in the room however who was far from happy at the way the evening had
turned out.
He sat and glowered through the whole proceedings and finally gave up trying to insult and
ridicule Barry‟s decidedly strange vocal talents to anyone who would listen.
It seemed that no one CARED if Barry couldn‟t actually sing. That didn‟t seem to be a
requirement of popularity. All it needed was to be DIFFERENT.
This gave Tony something to ponder in the depths of his mind as he realised that leg wiggling and
pelvis thrusting was never going to be popular and if he ever wanted to succeed in modern
popular music he would need to re-invent himself.
However, the music world took on a whole new meaning that evening for the other members of
the band as well. Suddenly they had admirers. True, they were mostly being admired for the fact
that they managed to play for the rest of the evening without making too many mistakes, or that
they hadn‟t lost concentration THAT many times.
It didn‟t matter. They had been appreciated, and that was all that was important.
There were several requests made for George to re-book the group for another appearance in the
tavern at a later date, but as Tony smoothly hobbled in and tried to make the necessary financial
arrangements, it became clear that any future bookings depended entirely on the understanding
that Barry Simpson alone would be singing with the band.
Tony was obviously extremely annoyed about this, understandably so and he stated quite firmly
that if Barry was to sing with the band on ANY occasion, then he most certainly would not be
appearing with the band ever again.

Tony hadn‟t particularly liked the guitarist anyway, he thought to himself as he limped home.
All was not a complete disaster for him though, as a few less than well meaning suggestions
aimed in his direction in the bar earlier that evening had given him an idea for a future image that
had he known it, would cement his status in the music world for years to come. The jokes about
his orange-peel like complexion had been taken up by a few of the regulars and someone‟s rather
barbed insult caused Tony to coin a name for himhelf that he liked.
“Got a loaf like n‟oringe!” someone had said.
He spent the next year and a half developing his powerful vocal style, and if anything, he put on
even more weight and grew what little hair he had to below shoulder length.
When all was ready, a new force to be reckoned with burst onto the music scene one evening, as
dressed in a smart black suit, a long haired but very portly rocker filled the house and had the
ladies screaming for more as he belted forth his ballads, white hanky in hand.
A new name was on everyone‟s lips from that day onwards.

Barry however, continued to sing with his three piece backing band around the pubs, inns and
taverns of the locality, and although he never reached the heady heights of Fruitloaf, he made a
very good living from his music and his first night at The Cock singing „The Houke of the Riking
kun‟ would be remembered with hilarity for many years.
Chapter 3.

The sky was turning a greyish shade of streaky pink, somewhat reminiscent of a slice of two
week old bacon, and a smell to match wafted from the water works roughly a mile and a half
away down stream. (Had there been any water in it.)
Granny Grayling stumped along unevenly, leaning on an old long stick that was considerably
taller than herself and followed the dusty path leading from the town hall toward her small
cottage near the edge of the village. Alderman Quilt trailed a few steps behind, head down, with a
moody expression in his eye. He was muttering to himself, small, staccato words that sounded
like oaths and expletives. Jimmy Broadbean walked at his side, trying to catch the odd word but
with little or no success.
The council meeting had broken up a little earlier than usual after a few basic decisions had been
made regarding what should be done about trying to find the source of the problem with the river,
or in this case, the lack of it.
The various councilors had been glad to get away when they did without being roped in to the
forthcoming venture and there were more than a few mopped brows among them as they ran
Albert Quilt had not been altogether happy with the eventual democratic outcome however,
having somehow been railroaded into joining Granny in her quest to visit Barry Simpson after she
had volunteered to help search for the root of the problem with the river, but only if Quilt
accompanied her.
The other councilors immediately agreed that this was an excellent idea, partly because Granny
and the Alderman would make a formidable team, and partly because the suggestion immediately
precluded any of them from the horrendous prospect of going to see Barry, and from ultimately
going into the Old Wood or even beyond.
Surprisingly enough, young Jimmy had agreed to go along when Quilt slyly suggested he join
them „For experience…‟ as he put it.
The Alderman was more than a little surprised at Jimmy‟s response, as he had expected much
argument and more than a few feeble excuses as to why Jimmy felt he was not suitable to join
them on such an important (and perilous) quest.
“Good fer you, young Jimmy.” Granny had stated. “More umph about you than most.”
She said nothing more, but turned a sideways gaze at Quilt, who harrumphed and looked at one
shoe, as he would have found it impossible to look at both anyway.
“Where does this Barry Simpson live?” Jimmy asked brightly as they ambled along and he tried
in vain to skip a stone across the river. The stone bounced on the dry gravel twice, kicking up a
small flurry of light brown dust and came to rest in the dead scrub on the opposite bank some ten
feet away.
“‟E‟s got a nice little place up the lane a ways from me. Bought it with „is music money.” Granny
replied, waving ahead and to the left a little with her stick.
“The old rectory.” Quilt added sullenly.
The Alderman had taken a fancy to the sprawling red brick manse himself two years before when
the rector had moved into a smaller cottage near to the church, and the Rectory was put up for
sale to raise money for the much needed church roof renovation. This was an on-going appeal for
money, as it seemed that all churches constantly needed their roofs repairing anyway, akin to
certain rail bridges that always need painting.
Quilt had been out of luck though, as the figure asked for the Rectory had far exceeded his
expectations and his eyebrows seemed to be stuck in a position an inch higher than usual up his
forehead for the next few days after learning of the astronomical sum needed to purchase his
dream home.
To make matters worse, Barry Simpson had strolled casually into the church office and dumped a
case on the table containing the required sum a few days later, adding greatly to the already
numerous stories about the new local celebrity and his wealth.
“Lucky man.” some said.
“Good singer though.” others added.
“Nice chap.” someone commented.
“Flash bastard.” Quilt grumbled.
Thereafter, Quilt avoided Barry as much as he could, which was actually fairly easy, as Barry
kept himself to himself pretty much anyway when he wasn‟t out singing.
The house would have suited Quilt, he himself thought. It suited his status. (He himself thought.)
Just the kind of place the most important person in the community should live. (Absolutely no-
one else thought.)
Jealousy could be a terrible splinter in the nervous system, and Quilts splinter was the size of a
plank of 4” x 2”, complete with rusty nails.
“Don‟t you think it‟s a bit late to be going up to see him?” he said, somewhat grudgingly.
“Don‟t be an ole‟ arse.” Granny answered. “S‟only nine o‟clock.”
Quilt muttered some more.
“You needs to get over it.” Granny said after a moment.
Quilt‟s eyebrows raised a notch and Jimmy looked questioningly at the Alderman.
“You „eard. Get over it. T‟aint your „ouse an‟ never will be.”
Quilt stopped in his tracks and began protesting violently and vehemently in a highly animated
fashion at Granny‟s impertinence, and how she didn‟t know what she was talking about, and how
he had never liked that „ostentatious pile of bricks‟ anyway.
After a moment he paused for breath, and realised that he couldn‟t think of anything else to say.
“Finished?” Granny smiled.
Jimmy hadn‟t really understood the outburst, or what either of his elders had actually been on
“Did I miss something?” he asked more out of the need to fill the empty silence than to really
expect an answer.
“Never mind.” Quilt mumbled as he thrust his hands deep into his pockets and slouched sulkily
behind Granny.
Granny smirked and Jimmy shrugged.
“Is there any truth in the story about the house?” he added after a few moments.
“What story?”Granny replied, knowing full well what Jimmy was on about.
“You know… The STORY!...” he added in a quiet but dramatic tone that oozed pages and pages
of murder, mystery and intrigue.
Quilt replied before Granny could say anything else.
“COURSE there isn‟t” he stated flatly, fixing Jimmy with his most degrading and sarcastic gaze.
Well, fifty percent of one.
“Don‟t be too sure o‟ that.” Granny added in her most irritating „I-know-more-than-I‟m-letting-
on‟ kind of tone.
“What do you mean?” Quilt and Jimmy asked in unison as they both stopped dead in their tracks.
Granny kept walking and answered them in an offhand over-the-shoulder manner.
“S‟Ornted. Everyone knows that.”
“Rubbish!” Quilt said with a faintly unsure sound to his voice.
“H-h-h-HAUNTED?” Jimmy cried questioningly as the hairs on the back of his neck did
handstands. Mind you, his reaction was rather ridiculous, as he had heard it said countless times
already that the house was infested with spectral inhabitants, and indeed, confirmation of what he
already thought he knew was the whole purpose of his question anyway.
Granny didn‟t reply but continued her shambling plod toward the edifice in question.
Quilt however broke the silence with an obviously fake and equally obvious nervous laugh.
“Haunted? Do talk sense.”
Jimmy raised on trembling eyebrow.
“What on earth makes you think such rubbish!” Quilt continued, wringing his hands like a soggy
window leather.
Granny spat as they reached the wooden five bar gate that led to the hundred foot pathway
snaking up to the old rectory. The latch clicked loudly as she thumbed the catch.
“SHHHHH!” Quilt hissed, shaking his hands rapidly in an up and down motion.
“Why‟s you nervous?” Granny asked. “Thort you di‟nt b‟leive in ghosts an‟ such like.”
“Well, just don‟t make so much NOISE!” Quilt replied, almost spitting out the last word.
Granny looked skyward as she pushed the creaking gate open.
Quilt held his breath and closed his eye.
Jimmy stared wide-eyed up at the house but followed Granny nonetheless.
The path was neatly gravelled and the lawns at each side were immaculately trimmed. There was
a pond over to one side and the occasional „flip‟ flop‟ of water indicated that it was inhabited with
leaping fish. (Or possibly something more sinister….)
There were carp of various sizes all vying for the assorted night creatures skittering across the
dark surface of the pond, but in Jimmy‟s eyes, the water could well have been a repository for
relatives of the legendary zigzag shaped beast in a certain Scottish loch. He kept a wary eye on
the (imagined) bottomless pond as he walked past.
The house itself was actually a very ordinary looking traditional rectory. Larger than the average
house, but hardly qualifying as a mansion. It was built of red brick under a red tiled roof, with
small „wings‟ at each end of the main structure. The entrance was enclosed in a single story
protuberance in the centre of the front and the surrounding sash windows were of white painted
wood under dark timber eaves.
All in all, an attractive, ordinary large house.
The rumours of ghosts and hobgoblins occupying the beneath-the-stairs spaces, or slithering
hands outstretched from under the beds to grasp unsuspecting dangling feet of slumbering victims
had grown over the years for no other reason than the fact that the house WAS a rectory, which
by natural extension was part of the church, thereby attached to a graveyard which obviously
dealt in people of a somewhat stationary nature.
Therefore it was only common sense that the house must be haunted.
After all, where else would all the graveyard inhabitants go in the evenings or at weekends for
entertainment or when they were bored?
Quilt had never really believed any of the stories and had told himself so on numerous occasions
when the house first came up for sale and he had developed an interest in the place. That didn‟t
mean to say however that now that the house was occupied by someone else, Quilts‟ imagination
didn‟t run riot on odd occasions. This particular time being one of them.
He looked nervously at the large black painted door with its‟ curved Gothic arch top and shiny
brass centre knocker reflecting the rising blue moonlight in a faint flicker as the clouds overhead
quickly scudded by in the late evening breeze.
In his mind a sudden image came unbidden of a dagger blade being held high, the light glittering
on the sharp curved edge.
Quilt blinked and looked again at the door knocker. The image of the knife still came to mind and
he gulped, lowering his gaze to the pathway instead.
There was a warm orange glow coming from behind the curtains in one of the downstairs front
rooms which indicated to anyone passing that there was at least one person in residence on this
particular evening.
Anyone except Albert Quilt or Jimmy Broadbean.
To them, it indicated nothing less than the red skinned fellow with horns and wielding a trident
was at this precise moment lying in wait for them on the other side of the tomb-like door, stoking
the very fires of hell on the lounge carpet.
Granny looked at her two companions and chuckled almost as if she could read their minds. She
reached the door and without pausing, grasped the knocker and rapped sharply three times.
To Quilt and Jimmy, their death knell had just been rung through the portals of Valhalla and
beyond, and they both shuddered at the sound.
“Wha‟ss matter with you two?” Granny chuckled. “‟S‟only Barry‟s „ouse!”
Her companions nodded but were obviously not convinced by her words.
At that moment, there came from the other side of the door a rapid scraping and scratching sound,
punctuated by an equally rapid high pitched yelping.
“Ye Gods!” Quilt exclaimed, crossing himself and stepping back two paces.
“The hounds of Satan!”
Granny clicked her teeth. “Hounds of Satan! Wha‟s wrong with you? S‟only Barry‟s dog. T‟aint
much bigger‟n a rat. Right little ankle-snapper.”
Jimmy stepped back behind Quilt, who was busy trying to step behind Jimmy.
Granny looked at the pair side-stepping each other.
“You two finished dancin‟?”
Quilt froze in his tracks as he heard the slow, measured slip-slop of soft sounding feet
approaching the door from the inside.
Surely, they weren‟t human feet!
“Quiet, Ktan! Quiet boy!” came a muffled voice from beyond the woodwork.
The squeaky yapping stopped momentarily but immediately started up again as heavy iron bolts
were drawn back on the other side of the door.
Jimmy‟s hair was standing vertically rigid like a million little flagpoles.
Quilt was trembling and his one eye was twitching uncontrollably.
Granny shook her head.
The door gave a slight crack as the hinges moved, then it slowly creaked open to reveal a tall,
dark silhouette against the orange glow behind. The figure was stooped, holding onto the collar of
a very small white terrier that was staining up on its hind legs and yipping wildly to get at the
“I kaid be quiet, Ktan!”
The tall figure stood, lifting the dog and holding it in the crook of his arm.
“Hello Granny.” Barry said amiably. He peered into the gloom behind her, trying to make out the
two figures fighting for third place in the queue.
“Mikter Quilt? Ik that you?”
Quilt peered over Granny‟s shoulder.
“Er, hello, er, Barry.” he mumbled, proffering his hand, then drawing it back again suddenly as
the little white dog yipped again.
“And who elke ik it behind you?”
Jimmy had stopped trembling but stood wide eyed and staring with disbelief at what he was
“It‟s true!” he stammered. “They weren‟t making it up!... OOF!”
Jimmy doubled over as Quilts elbow jabbed him solidly in the ribs.
“Barry! This is Jimmy. Jimmy Broadbean.” Granny smoothly continued. “Can we come in?
There‟s a little problem I think you can „elp us with…”
Barry stepped sideways.
“Of courke. Come in. Make yourkelvek at home. It‟k nike to get vikitork kometimek.”
Jimmy swallowed and rapidly tried to mentally unravel the vocal hieroglyphics.
Granny smiled and stroked the now quiet dog as she walked past. The dog licked at her fingers.
Quilt followed and he too smiled at Barry as he walked past, also stroking the dog which
promptly yipped loudly and nipped his hand.
Quilt yanked his arm back and sucked at his miniscule wound as if his hand had just been
amputated with a rusty chisel.
“Ktanly! Ktop that!” Barry said, gently shaking the dog.
Quilt resisted the urge to question the dogs‟ parentage.
Jimmy passed Barry and the dog, with his back pressed firmly to the door frame, his hands drawn
back, well and truly beyond the dogs reach.
“You‟ve made some nice changes to the ol‟ place.” Granny noted appreciatively as she entered
the drawing room.
The décor was a mix of old antique furniture and rustic pine woodwork with rich highly coloured
drapes and soft furnishings. There was an overall look of elegance and opulence about the place
that somehow annoyed Quilt.
“Pleake, kit down, all of you.” Barry motioned a couple of sumptuous soft sofas near the roaring
Jimmy eyed the flames nervously, looking out the corner of his eye for someone hiding amidst
the coals wearing a red suit and wielding a tri-pointed stick.
Granny sank into the soft cushions and patted the empty seat beside her. Quilt looked at her with
a frown on his face, then sat down.
Barry sat on the other seat and nodded for Jimmy to sit beside him.
“Ko, how can I help you?” The dog yipped again as Jimmy gently lowered himself into the seat,
obviously expecting it to turn inside out at any moment and dump him amidst a pile of
dismembered corpses in the basement.
“I kaid ktop that, Ktan!”
“Um. Stan is a rather unusual name for a dog.” Quilt commented. He had obviously been thinking
about Barry‟s unusual speech problem, and had psyched himself up mentally to translate the more
simple words and phrases.
“Yek, I know.” Barry replied, settling the dog on the cushion between himself and Jimmy.
Jimmy moved sideways as if Barry had placed a crocodile on the sofa next to him.
He smiled nervously at Barry and tentatively stroked the dog which ignored him and promptly
fell asleep.
“Ktan wok the name of one of my relativek. He wok a fiery kort of perkon, ko I thought the name
wok appropriate.”
Jimmy tried not to giggle at Barry‟s peculiar manner of speech, so coughed instead and absently
lifted the name tag on the collar.
His eyes bulged from his head and he yanked his hand back as if he had just grasped a burning
coal. The name on the tag almost leaped off the disk at him in glowing letters.
“The.. The.. The… N.. N.. name… S… S… S…”
“What are rambling on about!” Quilt said sternly to his young associate, his eye following
Jimmy‟s wide eyed gaze to the dog tag.
He read the name, then re-read it again several times before he even realized what it said.
“AHHH!” he yelled, leaping up off the sofa.
“WHAT???!!!” Jimmy yelled back, also leaping from his seat.
Stan woke instantly at the fracas and began yelping and running around the room.
“What‟k the matter?” Barry cried, grabbing at his dog and trying to calm him.
The.. the… NAME!” Jimmy cried again.
“EH? What?” Barry queried before realizing young Jimmy was referring to the name engraved on
the identification disk around the dog‟s neck.
“Oh! That!” Barry laughed.
“Yek, I know. It‟k a miktake. The engraver put an „A‟ in the wrong plake when he wok kpelling
„Ktan‟. I thought it wok funny, ko I kaid leave it when he offered to do it again. Funny, eh?”
Both Jimmy and Quilt were staring at the dog, totally unconvinced by Barry‟s explanation. To
them, here sat the legendary dog from the very gates of Hades. The spawn of hell.
“What kind of dog did you say it was?” Jimmy asked with a noticeable tremor in his voice.
“He‟k a terrier.” Barry replied, patting the now calm dog.
“D…D…Did you say… A TERROR???....” Quilt cried, with a staring eye.
Barry frowned. “I kaid a TERRIER... Terrier.”
By now however, Granny had had enough.
“Look you‟s two. Let‟s get to the point. We‟s come here for Barry‟s „elp. Stop witterin‟ on about„
‟es dog.”
Quilt looked once more at the little animal, now snoozing again on Barry‟s knee and tried to calm
himself and think more rationally. Mind you, whenever Stan so much as wheezed, the Alderman
drew himself further and further back in to the confines of the sofa.
“How can I help?” Barry asked, his interest piqued. He rarely received visitors and the fact that
two of the village elders had turned up at the same time with a young assistant in tow was
definitely unusual to say the least.
“Well…” Granny began, sucking a mouthful of black sludge through her teeth.
Quilt closed his eye and mentally cried „No!‟ at the prospect of the thick sticky inkblot
discharging at a high velocity from the gunslit between Granny‟s gums onto Barry‟s immaculate
Granny paused, looked at Quilt as if reading his mind, smiled and swallowed.
“We needs to do summat about the Worter.”
“The water?” Barry queried. “What‟k wrong with it?”
“Not the WATER,” Quilt interjected. “The WORTER. The RIVER.”
“Oh, that worter! Why didn‟t you kay ko!”
Jimmy had fought down the impulse to flee for his life from the savage beast laying comatose on
Barry‟s knee and was now feeling slightly calmer, but now he had to stifle a giggle at their host‟s
last words.
Barry gave him a mildly frosty stare.
“Komething amuking?”
“Jimmy closed his eyes and rubbed at the rapidly forming tears.
“Er no. Just a bit of hay fever…” he lied.
“Look. You knows the Worter dried up a couple o‟ year back.” Granny continued.
“S‟ about time summat was done. We needs to know where iss gone, and see if we can do
summat about getting‟ it back.”
“But why?” Barry asked, leaning forwards with a look of growing interest on his face.
“All anyone ever did wok moan about the river, kplitting the village in two. Kurely, you don‟t
want it back again?”
“There‟s more to it than that, I‟m afraid.” Quilt cut in. “The farm lands on the western bank are
drying out. Crops have been really bad for the last season, and it only stands to reason that
without the Worter, things will only get worse.”
“Then there‟s the water works…” Jimmy added nervously, still eyeing the dog.
“I mukt admit it doek kometimek ktink a bit…” Barry muttered, rubbing his chin thoughtfully.
“Pardon?” Jimmy said without thinking. Quilt groaned inwardly.
“I kaid, It doek kometimek KTINK! You know… KMELLY!”
Jimmy blinked and tried to silently unleash Barry‟s last words. He failed but had the good sense
not to admit it.
Barry frowned in thought.
“I kuppoke we ought to do komething about it… But I ktill don‟t kee where I fit in…”
Granny leaned forwards and clasped her hands together on her knees.
“You used to know the Ole‟ Wood better‟n anyone. We knows the Worter used to run from the
Upper Worter, through the outskirts o‟ the Ole‟ Wood to the pond, into the Deeper Wood an
„cross ole Reg Stotes‟ land, an‟ out again on the uvver side „an then through the village… Only
now, it don‟t come out o‟ Reg‟s place anymore…”
Yekk, I kee…” Barry muttered. “Ko you think it‟k dikkapearing when it goek into Reg Ktotek
land? You think he might be the cauke? But what if the water ik jukt going, oh, I don‟t know,
down a hole or komething?”
“Down „ole? Down „ole?” Granny exclaimed. “You can‟t jus‟ go tippin‟ „alf million gallons „o
water down „ole everyday without someone „noticin‟ the overflow! Nope, what you was sayin‟
„bout Reg Stote bein‟ involved seems more likely. Mind you, to be sure, we needs to go into the
Wood and look see if the Worter still goes to the pond, and out into the ole culvert at Reg‟s fence.
There‟s always a chance the Worter‟s not even goin‟ into Reg‟s place either.”
“And we need you to show us the way through the wood.” Quilt added enthusiastically.
“Everyone knows you used to go through the Wood all the time. The monsters and things never
went after you.”
“There‟k no monkterk in the Old Wood.” Barry laughed. “That‟k jukt a load of old rubbikh. I‟ve
never ONKE keen a monkter, or anything even LIKE one!”
Jimmy stared wide eyed with surprise at Barry‟s words. He obviously understood the last
“You mean you ktill, sorry, I mean, still go into the Wood?!”
Barry grunted, but let the minor slip pass.
“Of courke! Why khouldn‟t I?”
“When‟s lass‟ time you went in?” Granny pressed.
Barry scratched at his ear.
“Oh, about kix weekk ago I kuppoke.”
“An‟ the Worter? Did you notice where iss goin‟?”
“Korry, Granny. I didn‟t go that way. I don‟t often walk in the Wood theke dayk, and when I do, I
prefer to take Ktan for a walk on the old path. It‟k much prettier that way.”
Granny nodded in understanding.
“Iss the Deeper Wood as is where the Worter used to run into Reg‟s place…” she murmured
thoughtfully. “D‟you ever used to go that way?”
Barry thought back over the past few years and shook his head negatively.
“No. I kuppoke not. I never actually KAW any monkterk, but I didn‟t go looking for them in the
Deeper Wood either.”
“But would you be able to find your way around in that part of the Wood?” Quilt asked
apprehensively. Part of him was hoping Barry would say yes, but the part of him that was
mentally preparing for the possible venture into the Old Wood and beyond was hoping he would
say no, and put an end to the whole ludicrous (and he thought, highly dangerous,) venture. His
hopes were dashed.
“Well, Yekk, I probably could, but really, we need Danny for thik.”
“Danny?” Jimmy asked. He had never heard the name mentioned before.
“Danny Dingle.” Granny answered. Barry nodded in agreement.
“I never thort about Danny. Ee‟d be mighty useful.”
“Sorry, but run that past me again?” Quilt said. “Whose Danny Dingle?”
Jimmy nodded at the question.
“Ee use to teach the school kids swimmin‟ in the pond. An‟ the pond runs straight into the Deeper
Wood an‟ then Reg‟s lands.” Granny explained.
“I remember!” Quilt exclaimed. “Yes” Danny Dingle! But he was drowned three or four years
ago, wasn‟t he?”
Granny shook her head.
“Nope. That was just a rumour. After the trouble with Reg at the school, there was only a „couple
more lessons at the pond. Things got a bit nasty though an‟ most parents wou‟nt let Danny take
their kids swimmin‟ at the pond no more. Lessons got smaller an‟ smaller, an‟ then summat
„appened at the pond one afternoon an‟ everyone thort Danny was drowned. Truth was, „ee was
jus‟ too embarrased to pop up again an‟ admit what „appened.”
Jimmy was intrigued.
“Well, what did happen? What was the story all about? I‟ve never even heard of Danny Dingle!”
Granny smiled, leaned back and began the tale…
Chapter 4.

Danny Dingle had been the swimming instructor for the school for many years. He was a
muscular, well built young man who was popular not only with the girls, but also with many of
the female school staff, and a fairly large contingent of the ladies around the village.
He wasn‟t a teacher, but had become something of a „part time‟ self-appointed helper at the
school and as such had become a familiar figure about the place.
Danny was, fortunately, fairly modest. He could have been insufferably arrogant and big headed
about the his chiselled good looks, but he tended to shrug off the many good natured comments
aimed at him, and even managed to largely ignore the sometimes more outrageous and direct
flirting that quite a few of the eligible (and some not so eligible) ladies of the area frequently
aimed in his direction.
That isn‟t to say Danny was ignorant of his popularity. Far from it.
Had Danny admitted it to anyone, which he didn‟t, he was in fact deeply affected by it, and often
felt he had to „act‟ in a particular way, as that was what was expected of him.
He would walk with a sedate, measured gait that resembled a certain star of cowboy films famed
for telling people to „get off their horse and drink their milk‟.
He rarely spoke directly to anyone just saying „good morning‟ to him, (particularly the women)
but would just level his slightly droopy-eyed gaze directly at them and gently nod.
An action usually guaranteed to make the ladies legs go weak at the knees.
He was also unerringly polite. He would quicken his step somewhat, (but never actually hurry) so
that he could get to door first, just to be able to hold it open for others. (Mainly the female
He strived for perfection in the eyes of others and this became something of a rod for his own
back. After several years of perfecting his technique at Greek God impersonation, he found he
had mentally painted himself into a psychological corner.
The prospect of doing anything that could cause embarrassment to himself was truly mortifying
for him.
There was no way, for example, that Danny could „join in with the lads‟ on a Friday night at the
Cock and get legless. The ladies knew „he wasn‟t like that‟.
He was always mindful of his „P‟s and „Q‟s. He was fanatically careful of how he spoke to others,
particularly women, and watched what he said all the time.
Eventually it all became more than a bit of a chore for Danny, being the kind of person people
had come to expect him to be, and not really being the person who was locked up inside his head.
There were times he fervently wanted to take up some of the women‟s suggestions, and romp
with complete abandon in large jars of honey, or bathe in vats of baby oil with three women at
once, as many of them often suggested.
He knew he could never step over that invisible line though, as to do so would undoubtedly
destroy the village opinion of him, and ruin his status and good standing among all in the locality
No, Danny Dingle was Danny Dingle. The handsome, statuesque but very proper, polite, young
school swimming instructor.

Things went a bit pear shaped for him one summer a few years later however.
The Worter was still running (albeit much slower than it used to) as it had for centuries before
and the pond was almost filled with sparkling cool water, with only a hint of green about it. The
green came from the reflection of overhanging trees rather than any serious algae content so the
pond was, to all intents and purposes, a haven in the village. A natural beauty spot frequented by
many at the weekends, as well as being used on a regular weekly basis by the school to teach their
young charges the finer points of the breast stroke.
Mind you, being within the confines of the Old Wood meant that people only ever went there in
reasonably safe-sized groups, such as when the school swimming party turned up once a week.
This also gave many of the village ladies an opportunity to flaunt their some times rather
unsavoury wares in swimsuits that were usually far too tight, resulting in the appearance of a
stack of different sized car tyres bobbling along in the shallows, or see-through (when wet)
bikini‟s that left virtually nothing to the imagination, all for the benefit (they thought) of Danny.
Danny hardly noticed however, as he was in his element when he was swimming. There wasn‟t a
stroke that he couldn‟t perform to perfection.
Breaststroke was second nature to him.
The crawl was accomplished with no thought.
Butterfly was passed off with a toss of his head and a disdaining sniff.
He was like a dolphin in the water, cutting through it cleanly with hardly a ripple or a bubble in
his wake. Folks marvelled and often commented about his uncanny abilities in the pond.
Now, it could be that constant exposure to the pond had an effect. It may be that the continual wet
and drying of his skin had some part to play, but the fact of the matter was, Danny developed a
small problem.
He had an itch.
The itch was always worse on warm sunny days and could usually be remedied by frequent
dosing with talcum powder.
No. The difficulty wasn‟t so much with the itch itself, but rather its‟ location.
Danny‟s itch was such that it was quite acutely localised. It only really occurred in one place.
The problem was, it was the one place that precluded any form of public scratching.
There had been ONE occasion when Danny couldn‟t make it home in time to rip off his clothing,
lay back, legs akimbo and scratch himself into insensibility. The itch that day was just too bad.
Too powerful.
He was walking in the „main lane‟, as the villagers called the small street than ran through the
centre of the village on the east side of the now dry river bed.
It was a bright, sunny day and there were plenty of folks abroad, nodding and passing the time of
Danny was becoming a little more than frantic as his itch bloomed from a slight irritation that
could be resolved with a wriggle of the nether regions, to a fully fledged attack that felt like a
thousand maggots wriggling a millimeter beneath the skin.
That day, Danny almost ran.
He noted the small avenue lined with a low privet hedge that led to the Cock inn which at this
time was closed, and made his way rapidly along it.
With a surreptitious glance around to make sure no one was about, Danny thrust his hand down
the front of his trousers and proceeded to scratch frantically up and down for fully half a minute,
before a voice from a nearby cottage window called quietly to him.
“Got itchy bollocks, Danny?”
Danny yanked his hand out as if his crotch was on fire. (In fact, it almost felt as if it was.) He
spun round to see old Toby Mortimer leaning out of his kitchen window a few yards back from
the hedge, drawing on an old briar. He puffed a plume of blue-grey smoke toward the heavens
and raised his eyebrows questioningly.
“I gets itchy bollocks at times too…” he added, then spat into his rose bushes.
“I finds a six inch length o‟ ole Briar hedge pretty good…”
Danny was pole axed. He stared. He mumbled. He stammered.
He ran.
Mind you, he mentally filed away the snippet about the Briar hedge…
That was when Danny finally decided it was time to do something about his embarrassing
problem. Surreptitious questioning at the local chemists about having mildly itchy patches on the
insides of his elbows elicited the suggestion he try talcum powder, as his skin could be getting
sensitive to the dampness caused either by his frequent dips in the pond, or just by natural
perspiration on a sunny day.
Danny bought the largest pot of talc in the establishment and as soon as he got home he stripped
off as he was running for his bedroom and proceeded to dose his inner thighs liberally with the
soft white powder.
He laid back on his bed, spread his legs to quarter-to-three, and rubbed the talc in with both hands
and emitted a deeply satisfied sigh.
It was heaven! No itching!
Thereafter, whenever the vaguest feeling of an itch or even a minor twinge was felt around
Danny‟s nether regions, he would excuse himself and find some quiet, unobserved spot so that he
could powder himself thoroughly with his trusty talc.

Things would have been fine thereafter, if everything in life always went according to plan.
However, as is generally known, there is a certain law relating to lumps of turf that applies itself
to almost every event that transpires to cause maximum embarrassment, difficulty, problem or bit
of trouble. This law usually waits for the most convenient (or more accurately, inconvenient)
moment to pop up. Without fail, anything that can go downhill, will go downhill from there.
Such was the case with Danny‟s favourite brand of talc. He chose it because it had no perfume
added, so it was to all intents and purposes undetectable by anyone else in close proximity to him.
Mind you, why anyone would be that close to Danny‟s lower regions is anybody‟s guess although
there were many ladies in the village who would liked to have been, and several who rather
untruthfully claimed to have been.
It was a particularly warm humid afternoon in June when Danny began to feel the familiar
tingling between his legs that was a precursor to the usual full blown horrendous skin-ripping itch
that was about to descend upon him.
He was walking towards the outer reach, as the very edge of the Wood was known, where the
pond was located. He had a class of bright eyed pupils that very afternoon who would be keen as
the proverbial mustard, and waiting by the waters edge for their very first swimming lesson with
Danny looked about to see if there were any potential observers, and noting that there were none,
he darted into the shrubbery at the side of the path and loosened his belt. He fumbled in his
pocket for a moment, and retrieved his small „pocket-pack‟ of talc he always carried with him. It
was actually a little glass pepper pot he used to decant talc into from his larger tub at home and he
always carried it with him wherever he went. In a matter of moments he stood, trousers around
his knees, shaking the pot down inside his pants.
The itch persisted.
He frowned and shook the pot again.
Nothing changed...
Danny yanked the small pepper pot up and in front of his eyes and stared.
“OH NOOOO!!!” he cried in utter despair.
It was empty!
Shaking and banging the pot on his outstretched palm made no difference. There was nothing in
Then Danny remembered.
He had run out of talc yesterday and had written himself a small reminder note to buy some more
Quickly he pulled up his trousers and tugged his half hunter watch from his breast pocket. He had
about fifteen minutes until the swimming lesson began.
Just enough time to sprint to the chemists and get some more talc.
He was off down the village lane like a whippet from a trap.
The door of the small village store banged loudly open, ringing the attached bell in a flurry of
jangling notes.
“Hello! Hello!” Danny yelled. “Anyone about?” For a short moment that seemed like an eternity
to Danny, no one replied.
The itching was growing at an escalating rate and Danny now stood with his right hand plunged
down inside his trousers, ripping frantically at his skin.
“Just coming love!” the quiet voice of Prudence Pringle called from the back of the little shop she
had run for over forty years.
She was a prim, grey haired little lady who although married had never had children, and was
quiet, unassuming and well liked by all the villagers.
Danny yanked his hand back out of his trousers as she appeared from behind the blue gingham
curtain at the back of the shop.
“Hello Danny. Can I help?” she asked amiably.
Danny stood wriggling and twitching his knees together.
“Er, is Mr. Pringle about?” he asked nervously.
Percy Pringle was the only other person in the village who had even the remotest idea about
Danny‟s little problem, as Danny finally had to tell him what he wanted the talc for, when Percy
started asking too many awkward questions about his continual un-perfumed purchases, and now
he certainly wasn‟t going to tell the shop-keepers‟ wife, Prudence what was the matter.
“Um, no. He‟s out all day. Can I help?”
Danny groaned inwardly.
He desperately wanted to massage his inner thighs with three feet of razor wire wrapped round a
wire brush.
“Er…. Can I use your toilet a moment?”
Prudence blinked at the odd change in conversation topic and had hardly uttered the words, “Oh,
yes…” before Danny had vaulted the counter in one bound and almost took the back curtain off
it‟s‟ brass rings as he literally flew to the toilet door.
With a bang he slammed it shut behind him, locked it and looked around like a wild thing for
something to ease the itching. With a quiet yell of triumph, his gaze fell upon the perfect
The loo brush.
He yanked it from its pot, jammed it down the front of his trousers and proceeded to pound it up
and down as if he were trying to clear a blockage in the „U‟ bend. Danny wriggled out of his
trousers, leaned back against the door, spread his knees and scratched frantically with all five
finger nails of one hand, whilst continuing to work wonders with the bog brush with the other.
Had it been physically possible, he would have used his toenails as well.
And his teeth.
Danny was in seventh heaven. He slid down the wall almost a foot and grinned stupidly, moaning
„Oooh, oooh, oooh…‟ with each scratch.
Fully for at least two minutes he stood, rubbing and tearing at his skin to ease the tortuous itching
until at last it began to subside at least to bearable proportions.
He would have to get a toilet brush!

“Are you all right in there?” Prudence asked quietly from the other side of the door.
“Er, um, er, yes. Fine.” Danny mumbled, easing his scratching down a gear from jet powered to
medium turbo-prop.
A few moments later, Danny emerged from the toilet smiling widely and walking almost
“Thanks.” he said as he passed Prudence on his way round the counter and back into the shop.
Prudence cocked one eyebrow at him as she noticed his peculiar waddling gait, and the loo brush
lying on the floor behind him, bereft of virtually all its bristles.
“I know what you need.” she said in a tone that yelled „You can‟t keep secrets from me!‟
Danny stopped dead in his tracks.
“Pardon?” he mumbled, a slow flush rising up his cheeks.
“I know what you need. Don‟t worry. Ain‟t nothin‟ to be embarrassed about.” Prudence smiled
and patted Danny‟s hand as he leaned on the shop counter for support. His eyes grew wide and he
turned from a light shade of rose pink to a very becoming deep scarlet.
“Er… You do?” he questioned. Thoughts of Prudence peeping through a crack in the toilet door
and watching his manic self-assault with the loo cleaning implement came to mind but he
dismissed it almost instantly.
Well, almost instantly.
“Toilet didn‟t flush.” she replied, as if that one statement answered everything.
“I heard.” She winked.
“Er… Sorry. I don‟t quite see….” Danny muttered in confusion.
“Blocked. Am I right?” Prudence stated confidently.
Danny blinked. Why should he have the faintest idea whether the toilet was blocked.
“Plumber?” he asked.
“Pardon? Prudence asked, raising one eye brow.
“Pardon?” Danny repeated, raising the opposite one.
“You‟re constipated!” Prudence pointed out with somewhat less conviction.
“You‟re blocked!”
The penny dropped in more ways than one.
“Oh! I see!” Danny exclaimed, suddenly understanding.
“The toilet… I didn‟t flush it…. So of course…. You think…. As I didn‟t go…”
Prudence nodded rapidly at Danny‟s words.
“Constipated! I have just the thing…” she said knowledgeably.
Danny shook his head negatively and replied, “Actually, I want talcum powder…”
Prudence would have none of it. She had worked in the chemists for many years and prided
herself in her shrewd insight into peoples more „intimate‟ problems.
“No, no. Don‟t you worry. I can sort you out. I‟ve got just the solution…”

Ten minutes later Danny left the shop still itching, with no talcum powder, and twenty eight days
supply of the human equivalent of drain free.

“Now what?” he muttered to himself. There was nowhere else in the village that sold talcum
powder and he knew there wasn‟t so much as a fragment left in his jar at home. His itch was
beginning to re surface once more.
Absently, he looked at a couple of small children on their way to the pond for the now imminent
swimming lesson. They were eating sweets. Or more precisely…
“Sherbet!” Danny exclaimed. “Yes! Of course!”
He sprinted up the lane to the little sweet shop on the corner and half a minute later came out
carrying a large bag of the soft white lemon flavoured sugary powder.
Within moments he was safely hidden back among the undergrowth near the wood and was
liberally dosing his loins with the sherbet and rubbing it in.
“OOOHHHHH!!!!” he murmured in relief as the itching subsided almost instantly.
Certainly it sparkled a bit and he noticed at once that he was now attracting copious quantities of
flies but he rubbed at his sugar encrusted parts once more, pulled his trousers back up and went
off toward the pond for the afternoons‟ lesson with a comforting smile on his face and a trail of
buzzing insects swarming around his rear end.
“OK all you kids!” he yelled. “Everyone in the shallows!”
Danny had stripped down to his dark blue skin-tight trunks and was standing knee-deep in the
water at the other end of the pond. Most of the flies were still in attendance, but the children and
waiting parents just put them down to the warm afternoon and the water.
Anyway, they were all too busy either watching or in some cases, admiring Danny.
“Now. Just watch my arms!” Danny called, expounding the finer points of the breast stroke by
waving his arms around about his chest.
His young charges stared intently at the demonstration. Assorted female (and some male) parents
stood around the pond looking on with relish at his every move.
Danny smiled with self-satisfaction, gracefully slid forwards into the water and proceeded to
swim towards his pupils with a practised, careful stroke. The pupils all nodded keenly, desperate
to hear the spoken instruction that would finally allow them to „have a go.‟
Danny turned through ninety degrees and swam across the width of the pond so that the pupils
would see his stroke from a side view.
One small voice piped up from among them.
“What‟s that funny white stuff?”
“Where?” another high pitched voice asked.
“Coming from Danny‟s bottom…”
Across the pond in a slowly spreading trail from Danny‟s trunks was a rapidly expanding layer of
white foam.
Danny was oblivious to his bubbling wake to begin with but soon the children were yelling,
“Danny… Look… Something is following you!”
Danny Turned to see the white trail of bubbles behind him and he panicked as he suddenly
realised the cause.
It was no man eating monster trailing the young man now swimming like a thing possessed.
It was far, far worse.
It was sherbet.
One of the parents standing at the ponds edge yelled, “Danny! It‟s catching you up!”
Danny stood up in the shallow water and thrashed about himself to clear the foam away.
Parents and children alike screamed as they thought Danny was fighting off some terrible unseen
creature trying to take his life. The pounding of Danny‟s legs beneath the surface of the pond only
served to increase the stirring action of the water and his trunk-trapped sherbet, thereby
maximising the amount of bubbles created.
Soon Danny was surrounded by a veritable island of greeny-white foam.
“It‟s comin‟ from „is arse!” one old Grandfather called out.
Danny began a rapid demonstration of the crawl to get away from the white trail exuding from his
rear end.
“Git out the water! an old man yelled in panic.
“Don‟t let it get you!” another cried.
Ee‟s bollocks is got rabies!” someone added.
The children began to scream and clamber out of the water, assisted by the parents who were by
now also yelling in panic.
The more Danny thrashed about, the more the ocean of foam expanded across the surface of the
It was at this point that the visual imagination of some of the children got the better of them.
“There‟s something in the water! A MONSTER!” one of the girls screamed. “I can see it!”
Within seconds, the entire throng were yelling, ”Danny! Mind out! It‟s huge!”
Soon other assorted helpful comments such as, “It‟s got massive teeth!” and “It‟s the beast of the
Wood!” and “‟E‟s got frothy nuts!” could soon be heard.
Suddenly everyone was talking and yelling about the apparently now legendary monster of the
Old Wood having gone for a dip in the pond.
Mind you, up until now there never had really been a „legendary monster‟. It was in this very
instant that the „years old‟ legend actually began.
Of course, Danny was completely unaware that his sherbet filled trunks were at this very moment
giving birth to a legend as well as spawning six cubic yards of lemon flavoured instant whip. All
he could think about was how on earth he was going to get out of his sparkling sherbet bubble
bath and still be able to hold his head up in public in future.
Then he realised.
He couldn‟t, and there was only one solution.
“AAARRRGGGHHH!!!” he yelled dramatically at the top of his voice.
The children screamed even louder and ran sobbing to hug their parents. Even the adults were
yelling useless advice. Some yelled for him to keep still, others shouted to get out of the pond and
one old voice was clearly heard calling “Save some fer yer jam roly-poly!”
Danny stood up and made a great show of pounding the imaginary huge beast he was apparently
holding just below the surface of the water.
“LOOK!” a group of children all yelled at once.
Danny looked down to see great swells of foam exuding from the legs of his trunks and around
the waistband. Instantly, he dipped back into the water again yelling, “AAAHHH! IT‟S GOT
Then with a final yell of “RUN!”, he dived below the surface leaving a great expanding foam ring
gently bubbling toward the edge of the pond.

Then there was silence.

The water settled to stillness, only a faint white creamy rippling near the banks of the pond giving
mute evidence of the turmoil that had just taken place.
“Ee‟s gone!” someone murmured in astonishment.
“It got „im!” someone else added.
“Tastes like lemon curd…” another voice mumbled.
Some of the children began to cry even louder until one of them yelled „THERE!‟ and pointed a
quavering finger at a trail of white bubbles rising to the ponds surface and traveling in a direct
line towards them across the still rippling face of the water.
As one, the crowd screamed and fled.
A few moments later, in the still silence that now surrounded the pond, Danny scrambled out of
the water, looked furtively about and trotted quietly away, leaving nothing but a trail of white
creamy footprints that gently bubbled and finally sank into the ground.

Danny was never seen in the village again and within a matter of only a few hours, the great
legend of the beast of the Old Wood pond was being told far and wide around the village and
outlying districts.
So it was that in the inns and pubs thereabouts, on cold winter evenings, many a gaffer could be
heard telling tales of the monster that he himself actually saw numerous times in the pond when
he was a lad.
Danny himself became a lost figure of heroic deeds in the next few years. Everyone knew the tale
of how single handedly he had battled the fearsome beast of the pond when it attacked a group of
children. There were still a few however whose eyebrows would twist and although unspoken,
would question the unexplained rings of shaving foam some had claimed to have seen growing at
a rapid rate around the tops of Danny‟s legs attracting whole droves of bluebottles, before his
final plunge to the murky depths of the lemon flavoured pond.
Chapter 5.

“So what actually happened to Danny?” Jimmy asked, entranced by the whole chain of events.
He had, of course heard the stories about the beast that lurked in the pond. Everybody in the
village knew those tales but he hadn‟t heard the part about Danny Dingle before.
Quilt looked at Granny, waiting to hear the answer. He, like most others had heard the almost
legendary recitals regarding young Danny‟s brave rescue attempt in the pond, and how he had
reputedly fought off single handed an entire shoal of giant Piranha to save nearly a dozen
Or was it a hundred children?
Danny had of course been completely devoured by the ravening fish and no one had been in the
pond since.
Granny snorted back a greasy glob and swallowed.
Quilt cringed.
“Well, those bubbles they all saw…” Granny said. “They was Danny swimmin‟ under the water.
„E jus‟ waited „till everyone „ad gone, then climbed out the pond an‟ ran away.”
“He couldn‟t stay under water that long!” Quilt scoffed.
“You forgets. „E was a fantastic swimmer.” Granny replied. “Besides. I „appens to know „e got
out the pond in one piece.”
Quilt raised his eyebrows and Jimmy looked questioningly at Granny. Even Barry stared
inquisitively at the old woman.
“I was out in the wood that day an‟ „eard the commotion. I was goin‟ toward the pond when
young Danny ran into me full tilt, drippin‟ wet an‟ wearin‟ nowt but a smile. Seems „e ripped „is
trunks off soon as „e got out „o the water, seein‟ as they was still manufacturin‟ bubbles faster‟n
„e could get rid of „em.
“E was all a fluster an‟ it took a couple a minutes „fore I got any sense out of „im.”
Granny gummed her „baccy wad in silence for a moment, as if lost in thought.
“Go on…” Quilt said expectantly.
“Well. I took „im back to my place with my ole shawl wrapped round „im. Gave „im a cup „o
warm sweet tea for shock…” Granny snorted again and swallowed once more.
“‟E sat there, shivverin‟ for a while, then I finally got some sense out of „im after e‟d „ad a
brandy or two an‟ e‟d emptied me bathroom cabinet o‟ talcum powder. Told me the whole tale, „e
“What, even about the sherbet?” Jimmy asked in amazement.
Granny nodded.
“Ko where did he dikkapear to after that? “Barry asked.
Jimmy mentally translated Barry‟s words, then nodded in agreement at the question.
“Moved over to Waycross.” Granny replied. “Gave up swimmin‟ an‟ got a job workin‟ in a
chemist shop. That way, „e was sure „e wouldn‟t run out o‟ talc ever again.”
“And he‟s still there?” Quilt asked.
Granny nodded affirmatively. “I pops over there every now an‟ then. I likes the milliners in
Tacket street. They „as some good bargains in the remnants. Sometimes I goes an‟ says „allo to
“And he knows the way around the Old Wood? Where the pond leads to and everything?” Jimmy
asked excitedly.
Nobody better.” Granny answered with a nod.
Quilt leaned back in his seat and stroked his chin.
“So between him and Barry, we could follow the original trail of the river right through from the
fields, all the way to Reg Stotes fences?”
Granny nodded. “An‟ beyond.”
“I ktill don‟t really kee what I can do to help though.” Barry added. “I mean, if thik Danny Dingle
knowk ak much about the wood and the river ak you kay, why do you need me?”
“Danny knows plenty about the pond, and where it came from, but „e never went far beyond the
outfall, the far end „o the pond, though there‟s some talk „e sometimes went right up to the
culvert. Maybe even onto Reg‟s land.” Granny replied. “Barry. You used to go for long walks
right along ol‟ Reg‟s fences at times. We needs both of you to be able to find where the ol‟ river
used to go. The river bed‟ll be dried up an‟ overgrown by now. Without you‟se two, we won‟t
„ave an „ope in „ell „o findin‟ the river now, or even where it ort to be!”
Barry, Quilt and Jimmy all looked at each other and nodded in understanding.
Jimmy leaned forwards and absently stroked Stan, who promptly yelped and nipped his finger.
Jimmy jerked his hand back as if he had been stung by a scorpion.
“So now we really need to go and see this Danny fellow…” he mumbled through a mouthful of
fingers. He glanced at the dog once, then looked across at Quilt who gave a little all-knowing
nod. Between the two of them, they had clearly decided that the name on the tag around the dogs‟
neck was in fact spelt correctly.
Even after all the explanations, Barry still had a look of mild confusion on his face which was
quickly noticed by Granny.
“Summat up?”
Barry frowned even more and said, “I‟m ktill not really kure what‟k going on. I mean, Even if
we can get Danny to come back here, what are we kuppoked to do?”
Quilt nodded furiously in agreement, picking up on a thread of Barry‟s comment.
“And not only that, If Danny was so embarrassed by what happened to him in the pond, surely
he‟s not likely to come back here again anyway. Everyone would be asking what had happened to
him and where had he been for the last couple of years and everything.”
“Yes.” Jimmy added. “He‟s not going to just pop up here again and shout „here I am‟ and go into
lengthy explanations with everyone about his frothy underpants, is he?”
Granny sucked on her „baccy.
“You‟se prob‟ly all right there.” She said. “We‟ll need to convince Danny „is „elp is needed. I
think when „e knows „ow much we need „im, „e‟ll be alright.”
“So what now?” Quilt asked. It seemed apparent to him at least that the conversation had gone
about as far as it could, and little else would be achieved sitting in Barry‟s front room for the rest
of the night. He was also none too keen to spend more time than was necessary in the company of
the hound from hell. He did a quick mono-blink at the dog. The dog blinked back.
Or was it a knowing wink?
Quilt shivered.
Is it far to Waycross?” Jimmy asked. He had never been to that particular small town although he
knew well enough in which general direction it lay.
“‟Bout three hours ride by „orse an‟ cart.” Granny replied.
“So when do we go?” the young man enquired.
“Tomorrer‟s good a time as any. Recon we‟s done about all the natterin‟ we needs tonight. „Ows
if we meet at around eleven, at the village gate?”
“Surely we don‟t all need to go?” Quilt whined. He had a nice leisurely afternoon of bowls
planned with a few of the other council members down by the village green and he didn‟t really
want to miss it.
“‟Fraid we do.” Granny answered in a tone that brooked no argument. “We‟s got to convince
Danny we means business. If any of us is missin‟ iss gonna look as if SOME of us is less
committed than others.” She cast a stern eye in Quilts direction as she emphasised the word
Jimmy was still glancing nervously at the dog. He too was fairly convinced that there was more
here than meets the eye; a phrase perhaps more suited to Quilt than anyone else.
He was also still considering the possibility that the house was infested with poltergeists, spirits,
ghosts, hobgoblins and all manner of other ill-intentioned beings from the „other side‟.
“Ah, yes!” he added enthusiastically. “Definitely time to go. No point hanging about. Ought to be
going... Um… Yes… Meet tomorrow…” and he was up from his seat as if someone had doused
the cushion stuffing with a quids worth of petrol and set fire to it with a blow lamp.
The other three stared at him as if his rear end actually WAS on fire.
“You skimmish or summat?” Granny asked.
Jimmy stood trembling near the lounge door looking for all the world like a bull that had just set
eyes on the farmer carrying a couple of bricks.
“Well, you know. We don‟t want to keep Barry up. It‟s getting late, and all that.”
“It‟k only ten pakt eight.” Barry intoned. “Why not ktay for a cup of tea and a bite?”
A poor choice of phrase.
He stood and made for the door and Stan leaped from his knee to follow. Unfortunately, as they
were both headed toward the exact spot where young Jimmy was standing, he mistook their
intentions, yelled “AAARRRGH!” at the top of his voice and bolted from the room, down the hall
and out the front door.
The others followed behind and stood in the porch watching him disappear back down the lane
the way they had come some fifteen minutes earlier, toward the village, arms waving above his
head and still yelling “AAARRRGH…..” at the top of his voice.
“Exkcitable fellow…” Barry muttered.
“Do you think he‟ll be any good?! Quilt asked to no one in particular.
“He‟s a solid young chap.” Granny replied. “Only he don‟t knows it yet.”
Quilt raised one eyebrow in her direction but said nothing. Granny caught the look and added,
“You mark my words. Afore all this is over, we‟ll „ave plenty cause to thank young Jimmy
Barry looked at Quilt but he too made no comment. He just shook his head.
“Well, I akked if you wanted a cup of tea. The offer ktill ktandk.”
Quilt wriggled a finger in one ear and did a rapid mental translation of Barry‟s utterances. He was
about to say a nervous „yes‟ in reply when he caught sight of Stan staring up at him. He didn‟t
seem to be smiling. Mind you, the fact that dogs‟ don‟t smile anyway escaped Quilt at this point
and he somewhat nervously declined the beverage, without taking his eye from the dog.
Granny chuckled inwardly and said, “Take no notice of „im. We‟d both LOVE a nice „ot cuppa!”
Quilt did a double take, which in his particular case actually still only amounted to a single one,
and was about to protest his need to leave with some important excuse such as „having to water
his pansies‟ or „draining the septic tank‟ when a stern glance from Granny silenced him.
Meekly, he followed Barry and Granny back into Dante‟s inferno.

“You‟se got to excuse ol‟ Albert „ere…” Granny called as they sat down again and Barry went
off into the kitchen.
“Why‟k that?” Barry yelled back, amidst the clanking of china tea pots and cups.
Quilt frantically motioned for Granny to keep quiet and not embarrass him but she ploughed on
“O‟l Albert „ere, an‟ young Jimmy, well, they both thinks this „ere „ouse of yourn is „ORNTED.
An‟ theys both scared as „ell to be „ere.”
Quilt groaned.
Granny smiled.
Quilt frowned.
Barry laughed.
Quilt sighed.
Stan growled.
Quilt gulped.
Barry came back through from the kitchen and placed a tray of fine china cups and saucers, a
small jug of milk and a small plate of expensive biscuits on a little round polished rosewood side
table. Next to the tray he stood a steaming silver tea pot on a little place-mat.
“ Tea will be a minute. You need to let it brew properly, my mother alwayk uked to kay. You
really kcared of ghoktk?” he added suddenly with a chuckle.
Quilt tried to bluff it out and put up a brave, jocular front.
“Ha! No! I was only pretending. You know how it is. Young Jimmy, well. He‟s scared all right.
Never seen anyone scareder! Just playing along. Never believed any of those stories myself… Ha
He didn‟t sound at all convincing and his eye was doing an extremely rapid mono-blink as it
scanned the room for tell-tale signs of poltergeist activity or ectoplasmic residue.
Granny looked at Barry and gave him a sideways wink that went unnoticed by Quilt.
“You‟se ever seen any ghosts, Barry?” she asked innocently.
Barry scratched dramatically at one ear and replied, “Well, no…”
Quilt almost exploded with a highly restrained sigh of relief.
“Mind you… there wak that one time…”
“What one time?” Quilt asked, trying not to scream the words any louder than someone
witnessing an own-goal at a World cup qualifier.
Barry looked at Quilt, apparently gathered his thoughts a moment, opened his mouth to reply,
then shut it again shaking his head negatively.
“No. Probably nothing…” he muttered.
Quilts eye went wide enough for two…
“WHAT?” he almost yelled, his voice not quite an octave higher than a front row member of the
under sixes school choir.
Barry looked back at him, opened his mouth again and raised one finger as if to point at
something, then closed his mouth again and lowered his hand.
“No….Nothing….” he repeated.
Quilt looked imploringly at Granny who was trying desperately to hold in a smile. She stared at
him as blandly as she could possibly manage.
Meanwhile, Stan had crept back into the room and had noticed the plate of biscuits on the table.
Sneakily, as dogs‟ are wont to do, he crept, belly flat to the floor, along the side of the sofa
toward the side table and his future supper.
Quilt didn‟t spot him, but both Granny and Barry did.
“Baarryy???….” Quilt grated whiningly through chattering teeth.
Barry had a sudden idea, no doubt identical to the one Granny had just thought up.
“Weeeellllll……” he said with a dramatic skill guaranteed to rival the greatest of Academy award
winners, “There wak one occakion…”
By now Quilts‟ nerves were as taught as a cistern chain in mid pull.
Meanwhile, unnoticed by the highly strung Alderman, Stan had crawled beneath the side table
and was sniffing through the wood at the biscuits an inch above his nose.
“Yes! Go on!....” Quilt demanded, almost beggingly as he absently reached for a ginger snap.
Barry turned his back, as if trying to remember some vague, half-thought from the past, when in
reality, he was desperately trying to prevent himself for bursting with laughter.
“Well, it wok probably nothing really…..” he droned on, with a tone that cemented beyond any
reasonable doubt that it really was something, and it was obviously something of truly horrendous
Quilt was mentally climbing every wall not only in the house but also those of every building
within a radius of five miles.
“Barry…. Pleeaassseee!…..” he moaned, pulling his hand back from the tray of biscuits and
without realising it, removing his digits from the target area of Stan‟s pearly white guillotines.
Somewhere outside, (next door, actually,) a church bell clanged ominously.
Quilt jumped and only just managed to control the muscles attached to his bladder in the nick of
Barry recovered his composure, and turned back to Quilt, mustering every bit of lime-light
commanding performance he could dig up from his audience holding career as a pub singer.
He stooped over, crooked his forefinger toward Quilt motioning him to come closer, as if what he
was about to say was the worlds greatest secret.
“There‟k thik POLTERGEIKT!” he said in a deep voice guaranteed to rattle the very tombs of the
Quilt stared wide eyed, took a sharp intake of breath, and drew his hands up to his chest. Why,
was anyone‟s guess, but he did, anyway.
“Yesssss?” he mumbled almost silently in a timid, tremulous and highly sibilant tone….
Barry‟s face contorted into an absolute mask of evil.
“It uked to take thingk!” and he said the word „take‟ so violently, that even Stan jumped and
banged his head on the side table.
Quilt almost joined the Earths nearest neighbour in lunar orbit.
Even Granny jumped.
Barry put his hand firmly on Quilts shoulder. Partly, it would seem to calm him, but also in
reality, partly to prevent him from turning and seeing the tears of mirth streaming down Granny‟s
By now Quilt was holding the corner of his frock coat and was chewing the hem. For once, he
almost had his other eye open. Barry‟s dramatic performance did not abate one bit. If anything, he
was encouraged to even greater thespian award winning heights.
Also, he was keeping a surreptitious eye on Stan who was creeping one paw over the edge of the
table, inch by inch, to sneak a biscuit.
“One minute, thingk were there, the nekxt, they were gone!”
Again, Quilt almost reached a sufficient altitude to see the sun rise at least half an hour before
anyone else in the locality.
Barry deliberately looked at the tea plate of dainties at the instant Stan filched a biscuit.
Quilts‟ eye followed.
“THE WEREWOLF!!!” Barry yelled, pointing at the clawed apparition vanishing beneath the
table clutching a custard cream.

It was about three months ago that Quilt had fallen into a very large puddle caused by a
particularly violent rain storm. He had had to go home then and change his trousers as his pants
were soaked through.
This time it was different.

He yelled in terror as the tea time morsel slid from the edge of the table in the grasp of a razor-
taloned appendage and vanished amidst the slurping and slavering of some unearthly creature
undoubtedly sent from the gates of Valhalla not only to savour the delights of mid-evening tea,
but also to procure the next unwary victim to join the ranks of eternal souls doomed to reside
amidst the almighty fire of damnation and brimstone for all eternity.
Quilt screamed, leaped in the air and sent the side table flying with one ill-aimed foot.
Stan, suddenly captured in his attempts at sneaky sleigh-of-paw and being covered in the
remaining contents of a hot pot of tea yelped and ran round and round chasing his own dripping
Darjeeling soaked tail.
Granny and Barry cried.
Not just the usual chest aching mirth of a really good joke, but real, stomach aching, face hurting
crying. They couldn‟t stop. They cried so much that eventually they fell silent, their faces wet,
pale and drawn as they desperately tried to draw breath.
“MY GOD!!!!” Quilt screamed.
Granny and Barry finally expended their combined outward breaths and drew in huge lungfulls‟
of air, leaning forwards, wide eyed as they did so.
Quilt yelled in terror at the suddenly re-animated living-dead zombies now coming toward him,
apparently resurrected from some ill-timed after life, and he bounded from the room in one leap,
ran screaming from the house and down the lane with Stan chasing behind, yapping frantically at
his heels.
It was at least ten o‟clock before Barry and Granny had both recovered sufficiently and had
stopped laughing to go and retrieve Stan who was to be found outside Quilts front door,
scratching and barking wildly at the still terror stricken man inside who was gibbering hymns and
babbling prayers incoherently and waving a bunch of three week old garlic on the end of a
kitchen fork through the letter box with one hand whilst shaking a silver bullet nesting in the
crook of a hastily constructed catapult with the other.

Meanwhile, back at the old rectory, no one saw the pale, vaguely see-through skeletal hand sneak
up through the floorboards of Barry‟s lounge and take the remaining biscuits from the table…
Chapter 6.

The following morning dawned bright and sunny, although somewhat crisp. Dew sparkled on the
grass of the village green and several of the elders were already abroad, leaning on respective
garden gates and fences, passing pleasantries and puffing on old briars carved by their own
knobbly careworn hands. It was difficult to tell the smoke of the pipes from the condensation of
their breath.
Granny Grayling tottered down the main lane toward the bakers shop, tapping her walking stick
on the ground in time with an old country tune she was humming to herself. It was a trip she
made religiously every morning for her fresh hot daily Cobb, before going home to enjoy a
breakfast of two thick slabs of the loaf, heavily plastered with a layer of best lightly salted.
Combined with two cups of tea and a fresh wodge of „baccy, Granny was set up for the day.
“Mornin‟ Rory.” she called to one old gent tapping the contents of his pipe out on the end of one
gate post before stuffing it full with a fresh black stringy mixture and igniting it with a match
while drawing in great lungfulls of fog, the aroma of which was reminiscent of a three foot length
of old tarred rope being burned in a fire of fresh bull dung.
Rory removed the burning compost pot from his blackened crooked maw and replied.
“Mornin, Granny. Looks like another nice warm „un today. You off fer yer loaf?”
Granny nodded. “You knows the answer to that.” She spat into the dust.
“Can‟t go without me Cobb. „Ad a fresh Cobb every day without fail these past thirty year, ever
since the ol‟ bakery opened up agin.”
“What you mean, opened up agin? Di‟nt knows it was ever closed.” Rory stated, somewhat
untruthfully, as everyone in the entire district knew the tale of the old bakery.
It was just that it was a fine sunny morning, Rory had a fresh pipe and he was in a mind to hear
the story once again.
Granny stopped and leaned across the gate beside Rory, so that the two of them stood each side,
like a staggered sentinel arch across the woodwork.
“Well, you knows about the ol‟ baker, don‟t you? Archie Squires? „Ad the place fer nigh on
twenny year afore young Betty took over.”
Young Betty was actually only about three months younger than Granny, but everyone knew her
as young Betty the baker.
Rory shook his head vacantly as if he had never heard the name.
Granny continued.
“Well, „ee used to make the best sour bread in the district. Everyone came for Archie‟s sour
bread. Even the Gentry from over the river.”
Rory nodded knowingly, even though he had only just been indicating that he knew nothing about
the old baker.
Rory smiled and wiggled his briar from one side to the other in his mouth.
“What was goin‟ on at ol‟ Quilts place lass night? Roight ol‟ rumpus. Sounded like „e was singin‟
„imms or summat.”
Granny chuckled to herself.
“I think „e „ad some kind of supernatural experience.”
Rory raised an eyebrow, awaiting a further explanation which Granny duly provided in full,
unedited detail.
Rory was left living up to his name as Granny continued on her way to the bakers, the sounds of
laughter and smoky chest heaving coughing ringing in her ears.

By noon of that very same day, the entire populace of the district as far as the Outer Wood and
the upper reaches of the Lower Worter knew the story of Quilts‟ Werewolf attack from the night
before. Indeed, he had hardly set one very cautious foot outside his door that morning when a
dozen or so younger children leaped out from the bushes and set up the most dreadful
caterwauling imitation of a pack of a dozen or so very large and ravening wolves.
The effect on Quilt was understandably fairly dramatic and within seconds the children scattered
in peals of laughter at the sight of the Alderman sitting in his own cast iron guttering. It was a
good half an hour before anyone could get near enough to him to offer assistance without being
pelted by lumps of roof tile, at the same time being verbally barraged with a mixture of prayers,
old wives incantations supposed to ward off evil spirits (or cure athlete‟s foot – whichever was
the easiest) and various stinging vituperations guaranteed to make even old Reg Stote raise an

The journey over to Waycross in the afternoon was uneventful and very quiet as the company
took in the scenery from the relative comfort of Barry‟s carriage.
“Giddap!” he would say occasionally, snapping the reins attached to his faithful old pony
Bramble. The pony didn‟t change its gait one jot, and continued on its leisurely way, almost as if
oblivious to the cart and contents behind.
Quilt was (understandably) sulking and both Granny and young Jimmy were (understandably)
Barry openly (understandably) chuckled every now and then, much to the annoyance of the silent

Waycross was a sprawling large village, or small town, depending on your point of view, that
nestled in a natural dip between two ranges of high rocky hills. The two major roads running
north-south and east-west crossed at this point and the town had grown from a small cluster of
tents and huts straddling the two great roads some years ago, when traders and sellers would
congregate there many times a year to ply their wares to unsuspecting travelers. Over a period of
about twenty years the temporary settlement had developed into a more permanent nest of abodes
and several shops had opened on the North road, now considered to be the „prime location‟ for
business. The name of the village was fairly logical, as were most village names in the region
with perhaps the exception now of Lower Worter….

The small company crested a long ridged hill about mid afternoon and gazed down on the small
town below. Young Jimmy had never been out of Lower Worter and Waycross seemed immense
to him as it now virtually filled the small hollow vale of the roads.
“My God! It‟s HUGE!” he breathed. “And look at all that traffic!”
The north-south and east-west roads stretched away into the distance between the hills and from
this distance they looked like constantly moving trails of ants. Hardly a space on the road itself
was visible as literally thousands of carts, wagons, horses and even pedestrians made their way
along the routes.
“‟S‟always like that.” Granny stated. She spat into the grass at the side of their wagon.
“Where are they all going?” Barry enquired, equally amazed at the amount of people traveling on
the roads.
“The only ways across the „ills. Up yonder is the main shippin‟ port o‟ Kingsnorth,” Granny
pointed to the horizon directly in front, “An‟ over there is all the ways to the big cities. Travelers
an‟ traders „as to go this way to git anywheres.”
“I wouldn‟t want to live in Waycross then!” Jimmy laughed. “It must be murder!”
“Not really,” Granny repied. “Lot to be said „bout Waycross. Folks livin‟ there can make a lot o‟
money, but yer right about not wantin‟ to live there. There‟s allus been talk about tryin‟ to find
another way the traffic can move without goin‟ through the town. They‟s victims o‟ their own
success really.”
“So by making the town a trading place, they created the main roads themselves.” Jimmy
summed up and Granny nodded.
“An‟ now the town „as grown into this big place.” she added.
“Not that big really.” Quilt answered. It was the first time he had spoken in the entire journey.
“Got the wasps out‟ yer arse now Albert?” Granny said, spitting another huge black glob into the
dust beside the track. Bramble snickered as if he too was laughing at Quilt, who chose to ignore
both Granny and the Pony.
“It just seems large, as we are high up looking down. If you saw Worter from this view, you
would think much the same.”
Granny nodded in agreement.
“Still, our place „aint quite as big as Waycross, but Albert‟s right. There‟s bigger places than this
about here, even if they don‟t „ave all the traffick.”
“Stotes‟ lands?” Jimmy added quietly.
Silence fell again over the small company and they continued down the hill between a small
grove of Spruce trees, forded a very shallow stream and joined the hubbub of travelers on the
Great East road into Waycross.

Being a weekday, the market town was fairly busy, but Granny noted almost immediately that it
was even busier than usual. The travelers weren‟t just passing through and she noticed that many
folks were paying to leave their carts and wagons in huge fields set aside for such purposes and
were climbing into special bright red wagons for a free ride into the town. A large hastily painted
sign stood at the entrance to one such field.
It read „Park and Ride‟.
“Lot „o people „ere.” She said, scanning the way ahead. Quilt did the same, taking in about fifty
percent of Granny‟s observations.
Jimmy leaned over the side of the carriage and spoke to a small passing group of children.
“Anything going on today? Looks to be pretty busy.”
One particularly grubby urchin stopped in his tracks, withdrew a very slippery dribbling lollypop
from his sticky pink gob and stared at Quilt.
“Why‟s you got yer eye shut?” he asked innocently.
“Mind your own blood….”
“AHEM!!!” Granny coughed loudly, cutting Quilt off in mid riposte.
“E‟s jus‟ got summat innit.” she said amiably at the child who had now taken three steps back.
“Anyways…” she continued. “IS there summat goin‟ on today?”
The grubby gaggle of brats looked at each other and shrugged. A tall skinny and spotty girl
stepped forward and pointed down the street.
“The Autumn fayre. Thought everyone knew about it!”
“OOHH! I LIKEK a FAYRE!” Barry cried, clapping his hands together.
He looked down expectantly at the kids.”Ik there MUKIKIANK? Ik there any mukik?
You know… kingerk?” He turned and looked at Quilt.
“I like kinging kongk!”
Quilt groaned.
“We know…” he muttered. Barry turned back to address the goggle-eyed children again.
“Well? Ik there any mukik, or kinging?”
A little boy of about four in the centre of the group grabbed at the older girls hand and bit his
trembling lip. The girl gripped his hand tightly and stared wide eyed at Barry who was still
grinning down at her like an idiot, awaiting an answer to what he thought, was a very simple
No answer was forthcoming.
Barry frowned.
“Komething wrong with your eark?” he said a little too sternly.
The four year old burst into tears and a large yellow puddle rapidly grew at his feet.
The lanky girl shrieked and fled. The lollypop spattered kid slunk away behind the carriage and
the remaining boys turned and ran into a side ally leaving the leaky infant sobbing in the gutter.
Barry‟s eyebrows cranked up a notch and he turned to Granny.
“What did I kay?”
Granny smiled, handed a shiny penny to the urchin, who stopped wailing and peeing
simultaneously, and said, “Never mind. Kids can be a bit funny at times…”
Barry nodded in agreement and twitched the reins. Bramble trotted on.
The lane they passed through was fairly broad with buildings of all shapes and sizes on either
side. Tall, short, narrow, squat, clean and pretty filthy. A typical mixture that could be found in
any busy market town. Young Jimmy was staring intently at the various shops and stalls
displaying all kinds of goods and was listening to the friendly banter among the traders and
„How much are they a pound‟, and „Git yer luvery termerters!‟ or yelled comments like „Move
that soddin‟ heap or I‟ll punch yer fippin‟ eyes out!‟
Brightly coloured bolts of fabric, (these did not escape Grannies‟ eye) glass and earthenware,
bottles and jars containing everything from jams to poisons, tools for use in the house and garden,
clothing, toys, the list was endless and Jimmy was dumbfounded. Never had he seen anything like
it and he made a quiet mental note to come back to Waycross in the near future for a good nose
round. Mind you, as it was about to shortly transpire, that would not actually happen…
Barry was also quite taken with what he could see, although he had actually been to the town
several times before when he was looking for furniture and ornaments to decorate his house a few
years ago but it had never been as busy as this.
Quilt was singularly unimpressed. He scowled at the ramshackle assortment of ill-constructed
buildings, eyeing everything with a town councilor‟s eye. (As it happened, something he was
ideally suited to.)
“Didn‟t these people ever have planning meetings?” he grumbled in a tone of voice not far
removed from that of a cat removing a furball from the depths of its innards.
“Are there NO regulations about building? Just look!” he added, pointing accusingly to another
narrow alleyway between two buildings at one side.
“Not even five feet wide! That would NEVER be…”
“Oh shut up you ol‟ fart.” Granny interrupted.
“You ain‟t Alderman „ere. Iss their town an‟ they runs it „ow they likes it. S‟worked well for „em
for the past twenty years so I reckon‟ they‟s doin‟ summat right, don‟t you?”
Quilt opened and closed his mouth a few times but nothing came out. Then he sank back into his
seat, folded his arms tightly across his chest and wound his neck back in four or five inches. He
still continued to scowl and every now and then and a faint muttering could be vaguely heard
coming from the confines of his scarf and coat collar for the next ten minutes.
“That look‟k like the Fayre up ahead!” Barry suddenly said in an excited tone.
Jimmy stood up in the little carriage causing it to rock somewhat precariously, and cried,
“Ooohhh yes! Let‟s go and see!”
Quilt grabbed at his shirt tail and yanked him back into his seat.
“We‟re not here for that rubbish!” he spat. Jimmy‟s eyebrows went up a few inches and he stared
in surprise at his superior.
“Wass‟ matter with you, Albert?” Granny said, looking sternly at Quilt who now sat openly
glowering in the cart.
“You‟se bin getting‟ grumpier an‟ grumpier all day. Surely you ain‟t still got the „ump over that
bit „o fun at Barry‟s lass‟ night?”
Quilt didn‟t answer.
Granny screwed her face up in concentration, although the physical change hardly noticed, and
then a thought suddenly came to her.
“Didn‟t you once apply to be Alderman „ere, a few year ago?”
Quilt didn‟t answer.
“If I remember right, it got down to two possible candidates. You and ol, er…, can‟t remember „is
Quilt didn‟t answer.
“Rupert Grimmsbottom!” Jimmy concluded brightly.
Quilt turned his beady eye on him.
“I just remember, that‟s all.” Jimmy said lamely in reply to Quilts unspoken comment.
Granny beamed. “Thass‟ right. Rupert Grimmsbottom. An‟ if I remember, there was some
dispute about the number o‟ council votes „ee actually got, and whether the fact that over „alf the
councilors worked for „im „ad anythin‟ to do with it.”
“He was a rotten cheat and a scoundrel!” Quilt hissed through gritted teeth.
“He didn‟t win fairly. Those councilors were afraid of him! They knew they‟d be sacked the next
morning if he didn‟t win!”
“But you couldn‟t prove it, could you?” Granny nodded.
“Of course I couldn‟t!” Quilt growled. “The councilors all sided with him!”
“An‟ you‟se bin seethin‟ over it all these past years.” Granny sympathised.
Then she did something very un-Granny like and she gently squeezed Quilts hand.
“Silly ol‟ git. Don‟t you knows Albert, „ow much everyone on our village respecks you? You
don‟t need to be Alderman o‟ this ol‟ cess pool.” Granny waved her hand expansively. “You‟se
got everythin‟ you wants at „ome.”
She smiled at the now very embarrassed Quilt who was half staring at her as he couldn‟t in all
truthfulness do anything else anyway. She looked at him for a few moments, then realized Both
Jimmy and Barry were sniggering.
She coughed, let go of Quilts hand and said, “An‟ wot are you two smirkin‟ at?”
Barry and Jimmy shook their heads simultaneously but said nothing.
“Albert „ere juss‟ needed a bit „o straight‟nin‟ out.”
Barry and Jimmy nodded simultaneously but said nothing. However, they both continued to grin
like idiots.
Granny coughed, spat in the dust at the side of the road and changed the subject.
“Albert‟s right though. We‟se not „ere to visit the fayre.”
Jimmy drooped disappointedly.
“Once we‟se „ad a word with Danny, we‟ll see if we‟se got some time to spare.” Jimmy
brightened instantly but Granny added, “ I said if we‟s got time!”
Jimmy nodded, smiling.
“Where aboutk ik the chemikt khop were looking for?” Barry enquired.
“Ik it very far from here?”
“No. We‟s nearly there.” Granny answered. “Juss at the end o‟ this road.”
Barry snapped the reins and clucked his teeth at Bramble, who didn‟t change his gait one bit.

The Chemists shop was on a corner of a cross road, not unlike a smaller version of the main
North South East West crossing a few hundred yards further ahead, but was far quieter.
The building was tall and quite narrow, with large ground floor windows and smaller ones on the
floors above. A somewhat rickety balcony ran around the front and side of the building at the
second floor level, terminating in a gated flight of wooden steps leading to the ground below.
Everything was painted white with red doors, window frames and eaves, in traditional chemist
shop style and the appearance was one of a clean, well run establishment.
Barry reined in Bramble, climbed down from his seat and draped the reins loosely once or twice
around a harnessing post outside the shop doorway.
“Are we all going in?” he asked, looking at Granny.
“We better „ad.” She replied. “Only let me do the talking as I knows young Danny. An‟ whatever
you do, do says nothin‟ about „is little swimmin‟ adventure. We don‟t wants to embarrass „im
straight away. That ain‟t the way to get any „elp from „im.”
They all nodded in mute agreement and followed Granny into the shop.

„Dingle-ingle-ing‟ went the shiny brass bell attached to the inside of the door via a spring. The
little company trooped inside and all apart from Granny stared in amazement at the huge amount
of stuff crammed into a shop so relatively small. Floor to ceiling was stacked with shelves,
cupboards and hooks, all laden to overflowing with bottles, boxes, jars and tubs containing items,
potions, powders and substances unimaginable. There was a kind of ordered neatness to the
clutter, indicating that the shop staff could instantly lay their hands on whatever was required.
Young Jimmy found he was harbouring a sudden urge to remove one of the lower boxes from a
tall and very insecure looking pile of boxes and had to physically jam his hands in his trouser
pockets so as not to be the cause of a major stocktaking catastrophe within the premises. Mind
you, he couldn‟t help his left foot twitching towards the lower box in the pile… His thoughts
were thankfully interrupted when an earnest tall and muscular young man entered the shop from
somewhere amidst the piles of goods on show.
“Good afternoon. Can I help…”
His eyes widened in surprise.
“Granny!” he cried, stepping forwards and hugging her warmly. “How nice to see you. Surely
you haven‟t come for the fayre? Not your kind of thing, I would have thought.”
Then he stepped back and looked at the three men in the shop behind her. Quilt he recognised, but
he had never seen the other two before. He guessed however that they were probably fairly
important people if they were in the company of Alderman Quilt and Granny Grayling.
Granny smiled at her young friend and said, “I likes the new beard. Makes you look more mature
an‟ well, different. I „ardly reconise you.”
Danny smiled and stroked at the perfectly trimmed growth on the lower regions of his face. There
was no mistaking the muscular chest and arms beneath Danny‟s shirt however and Jimmy stared
enviously at the man‟s physique. He gently stretched up an extra quarter of an inch to his full
height of five foot seven and slowly drew in a deep breath, trying in vain to expand the little
vertical bit between his armpits and his stomach, otherwise known as a chest.
“Let me introduce my friends.” Granny continued. “Albert „ere you know…”
Danny shook hands with Quilt and they both smiled and nodded politely, as folks do when being
“This young lad „ere is Jimmy. Jimmy Broadbean, a junior councilor, but no doubt one day, will
be one o‟ the village elders.”
Jimmy started at Granny‟s words and breathed out again. He had never thought much about his
future within the village council and was more than a little surprised, and somewhat greatly
gratified that none other than Granny Grayling thought him worthy of such a remark.
Again, the two men shook hands and nodded.
“An‟ this „ere is Barry Simpson. E‟s quite well…”
“Not the Barry Simpson?” Danny enquired excitedly. “WOW! I‟ve seen you loads of times!
You‟re brilliant!”
Barry almost exploded with pride and Quilt stared up at the ceiling and sighed deeply.
“You‟ve heard of me then?” Barry asked with genuine modesty and surprise.
“Heard of you?” Danny exclaimed. “Your joking! Everyone around here knows about you ever
since you sang at the Playhouse about three years ago.”
“Two, actually.” Barry added with pride. He well remembered the numerous letters of thanks and
praise he received after the gig but as with all of Barry‟s performances, he couldn‟t remember the
specifics of the particular night, as he was always three sheets to the wind by the time he started
singing, as everyone in the neighbourhood plied him with drinks first, knowing well the
inevitable outcome.
Indeed, Barry Simpson was something of a legend in his own lifetime.
“Well, all tha‟s very nice, an‟ all that, but less‟ get to the point.” Granny interrupted.
“Danny, we needs your „elp.”
Danny looked enquiringly from face to face. “Help? What do you mean? How can I be of help? Is
there something here you need?” He waved around at the shop‟s voluminous stock.
Jimmy‟s foot twitched again.
“T‟ain‟t nothin‟ like that..” Granny replied. We needs your „elp with the Worter.”
“Water?.. Oh, I see!.. Right.”
With that, he scuttled up a pile of stock boxes like a ferret up a trouser leg and came down an
instant later clutching a small packet of powder.
“Dissolve this in warm water and drink it all. You‟ll be able to go properly within a few hours…”
Granny clucked her teeth and looked upwards. “No, you twit. I means the Worter. You knows,
the river.”
Danny frowned, remembering his somewhat hasty and embarrassing departure from the village
some years previously and hoped that it was not this that Granny was referring to.
“What about the river?” he tentatively enquired.
“It‟s gone! Quilt put in bluntly.
“Gone, what do you mean, gone?” Danny said in surprise.
Quilt bit on his lip and thought. Then he repeated, “It‟s gone.”
“Gone? How? Gone?” was all Danny could say.
“Well, I‟m not sure how to put this…” Quilt said slowly. “It‟s gone. Not there. Disappeared.
Vanished. It is no more. Where it once was, now it isn‟t. You know, gone.”
“All right, all right…” Granny interrupted. “I think Danny gets the point.”
Danny stared uncomprehendingly.
“What do you mean, gone?”
At this point, Jimmy‟s foot decided to take full control of its‟ own actions for once, and not let
itself be dictated to by Jimmy‟s brain. With one faint flicker, it nudged the corner of the lowest
box in a particularly insecure looking heap, sufficiently displacing it to cause the upper forty five
storeys of containers to wobble ominously.
Both Quilt and Barry saw the pile tremble at the same time and their combined reactions only
served to make matters worse whereas had only one of them intervened, the situation would not
have developed along the lines it did.
Almost as one, they both grabbed at the same location on the teetering pile, thereby actually
doubling the force with which they hit it. The box in question disappeared out of the back of the
pile, momentarily leaving the boxes above suspended in space, not unlike the old magicians trick
of yanking a table cloth out from under the assembled display of crockery, without disturbing so
much as a tea cup.
The trouble was, the now displaced box was not a table cloth, and the pile of stock momentarily
suspended in space was not a display of crockery.
Mind you, with the catastrophe that was just about to wreak itself upon the little chemists shop, it
was just as well.
As the huge stack of boxes began its neat vertical descent, Barry intervened again to try to avert
the impending disaster. Had he done nothing at all, it is highly likely that the magicians trick with
the table cloth may actually have worked, and the pile of boxes just might have landed without
much ado in the space vacated by its prior occupant.
But it wasn‟t to be. Barry grabbed at the lower box in the momentarily suspended pile and
repeated the action from a split second before. That box also found itself suddenly ejected from
the bottom of the stack which now wobbled even more up above.
Here it was Quilts‟ turn to intervene. He too lunged forwards and grabbed at the latest in the line
of „the lowest box in the pile‟ and exactly replicated the two previous events. The box
disappeared like a missile out of the rear of the pile that was beginning to decrease in height
without actually falling over.
Had this state of affairs continued, then maybe the pile of boxes would indeed have been finally
reduced to naught, leaving no more than an untidy heap on the floor behind.
However, the previously mentioned law regarding falling toast landing butter side downwards
also decided at this point to step in and lend an unwelcome hand.
As the next box in line began its vertical descent to take up residency in the vacated space below,
both Albert and Barry grabbed at it at once. They actually succeeded in grasping the box quite
securely at each end, as if they were about to carry some heavy object between them. The stack of
boxes above dropped neatly onto the one they were holding and teetered over them like a tall
derelict building whose foundations had just been removed, courtesy the kind ministrations and
expertise of a major demolition contractor.
Granny, Jimmy and Danny all hovered around helplessly, looking up at the heap and holding
their breaths, waiting for the inevitable to happen but hoping that Barry and Quilt would
somehow be able to lower the remaining tower of Babel onto the solid foundations of the boxes
below. However, as one of the previously dislodged boxes had been ejected out of the back of the
pile, the contents of small bottles of oil had burst open, and one lone bottle had deposited its‟
slippery contents over the floor behind.
Danny saw this, and in his haste to mop up the small but steadily growing oily mess on the floor,
yanked his pocket handkerchief from within his jacket, forgetting about the little pouch of talcum
powder he now always carried with him.
The pouch sailed across the shop and landed neatly upside down on Quilts head, depositing the
contents in a fine white fog all over him.
Quilt shook his head and the boxes trembled.
The entire assemblage gasped and drew in their combined breaths. The boxes trembled.
“Achhh….mmmfffff…” Quilt gurgled, trying to stifle an epic sneeze as the boxes trembled even
“Aaahhhh… Uuurrrppphhhh….” Quilt mumbled through his talc encrusted nostrils.
“No, Albert! Don‟t!” Granny cried.
Too late.
With a sneeze that would have put Vesuvius to shame, the heap of boxes was launched into the
air to look down upon their horrified upturned faces from the location of the shop rafters.
Almost as if in slow motion, the company watched the boxes tumble and turn above their craning
heads as the lids burst open and the contents evacuated their homes.
Packets, bottles, cartons, loose powders and objects of all shapes, sizes and colours cascaded into
the air like some solidified firework display.
The little group below looked at the carnage above that was about to descend upon them and they
took a unified decision without uttering a word.
They ran for the door.
Young Danny was the last out and he pulled the door shut behind him with a bang as the event
taking place within the small shop rapidly climbed the upper reaches of the Richter scale.
As heavier items fell, they hit other piles of stock, bottles and objects, causing them to teeter and
fall, thereby adding to the ballooning domino effect within.
Passers by fled in terror as the tornado inside the building grew.
The first object actually through the plate glass window was the old cash register which burst
open on the pavement scattering its‟ contents of coins and notes far and wide.
However, such was the mayhem and confusion caused by the sudden chain of events, that no one
dared go near the scattered money anyway.
The next items to follow in a rapid flurry of explosions and clouds of vari-coloured dust were an
assortment of bottles and pots of linctus and foul smelling potions, all which unfortunately
shattered upon contact with the cobble stones, filling the locality with a dense green and eye-
stinging fog.
“Is there anyone else in there?” Jimmy cried in horror.
“No.” Danny yelled back. “Mr. Scrimshaw, the owner, is at the Fayre with Jenny.”
“Jenny? Whose Jenny?” Quilt called, cupping his hands to his mouth in megaphone fashion, so
that he might be heard over the commotion.
“Part time assistant…” Danny ducked as an earthenware bottle shot past his head from
somewhere within the doomed shop.
“I think we ought to move back a bit!” he shouted to the others as he nimbly took twenty five
steps backwards, joining Quilt who was somehow already there. The others hastily agreed and
everyone else for three streets around vacated the area within minutes.
“Oh God!” Danny cried suddenly, coughing and rubbing at his streaming eyes.
“What… cough, cough… what is it?” Quilt yelled, clutching at his throat.
“I just remembered… Some new stuff we had in yesterday. Some kind of funny metal that has to
stay in oil….”
“Well?” Quilt yelled, already half-fearing the reply.
“If the bottles break open, the metal will come in contact with the air!”
“And then they‟ll explode?” Quilt cried, backing rapidly even further up the street to join
Bramble who had already inexplicably escaped his bridle and reins.
Danny shook his head. “No, there‟s just this powerful blue flame, and then…”


Every head in the street turned to stare though the choking fog at the dark shape of the chemists
shop. Through the shattered window could be seen a vivid silver-blue glow, gaining in brilliance
with every passing second.

“RUN!” Danny yelled, grabbing at Barry‟s hand.
“But you kaid it won‟t explode!” Barry shouted through the noise.
“No, but there are things in the shop that…”


A searing wave of heat curled and scorched the eyebrows and fringes of anyone still looking in
the direction of the chemists shop. Those fortunate enough to be facing the other way were
treated to a free „short back and sides‟.
The blast, although not particularly powerful as it was mostly contained by the fabric of the
building, still threw most people in the vicinity to the ground.
Unfortunately however (or fortunately, depending on how you looked at it), as the building was
mainly of brick and stone construction with timberwork between levels, the majority of the blast
was funneled upwards, taking out the floors. As the room above the shop actually contained even
more stock, the contents instantly deposited itself upon the heaving inferno beneath.
A second explosion rocked the neighbourhood moments later and as the next level of flooring and
the suspended goods therein succumbed to the fiery elements below, there came a third.
The balcony surrounding the frontage of the shop parted company with the brickwork and fell
with a crash of splintered smoking timber to the street below, flattening Barry‟s carriage with a
juicy sounding crunch.
He groaned.
“That wok a brand new wagon! The bekt money can buy!” he moaned, staring at the flattened
shiny bodywork of his latest pride and joy.
“Sod the wagon!” Danny wailed. “Look at the shop! Mr. Scrimshaw will go barmy!”
By now, hundreds of onlookers were assembling at the end of the road but nothing could be seen
clearly due to the thick green choking fog.
“LOOK!” cried Jimmy, pointing back at the havoc he had rather inadvertently caused.
The explosions had obviously weakened the fabric of the building and seeing as the interior
dividing wall with the shop next door was also made of a timber construction, that too gave up
and departed this life, thereby allowing the next door premises to burn merrily as well.
“Oh my!” Danny whimpered. “Not the Bakers shop as well!”
“There wok no-one in there I hope!” Barry shouted over the noise of the yelling townsfolk and
the roar and crashing of the fires.
“No.” Danny called back, coughing and rubbing at his streaming eyes. Luckily, they are shut
today. Almost all the shops are, because of the Fayre.”
A few fire wagons had arrived and red uniformed men carrying hand pumps, buckets and
obviously inadequate hoses ran up and did their best against odds they hadn‟t a chance of
backing with any degree of success.
“Clear the area!” one large fireman with a gold helmet cried.
“The Bakers shop has set fire to the Chemists as well!”
Danny stepped forwards and began to shout, “No!, You‟ve got it wrong! It was the Chem…
One of Quilts‟ carefully aimed feet caught Danny squarely in the shin.
“If he says it was the Bakers shop that started it, it was the Bakers shop…” he hissed and coughed
simultaneously. “After, all, he‟s the Fire chief, and he should know…”
“I think we ORT to be on our way…” Granny added, pulling at Jimmy‟s sleeve.
“‟Fore they start lookin‟ fer answers as no one can give…” She stared ominously at the young
man who flushed beneath his layer of green grime.
“Don‟t worry. The others didn‟t see what you did. I won‟t tell „em. They thinks the pile o‟ boxes
juss‟ fell over.”
Jimmy was mortified. Not only had he not meant to cause such a catastrophe, he couldn‟t even
explain why his foot had acted on its‟ own volition without any instruction from himself.
“I didn‟t mean to do it…” he whispered to Granny. “ It just, well, sort of happened…”
“Don‟t worry „bout it. I‟m sure the shops are inshoored. Now, less‟ just get out of „ere.”
Barry had already retrieved Bramble and had fashioned a makeshift harness from a length of rope
recently ejected from the exploding shop. As his own wagon had been reduced to a not
inconsiderable pile of brightly coloured kindling some little while ago, he had „found‟ another
wagon that had been abandoned by the terrified owner as the fireworks had gotten into full swing.
“Everyone aboard!” he yelled almost humorously and the others took no time in complying with
his orders.
Once again, he snapped the reins and clucked his teeth at Bramble.
“Come on me old boy. Off we go!” he called.
If Bramble had indeed been affected or frightened by the pyrotechnic display all around him, he
did not show it. As usual, his plodding gait did not change one iota.
The little cart turned the corner of the street and behind them, as the bakers shop collapsed
sending burning wreckage flying into other premises and igniting them as well, the street sign fell
with a clatter to lay next to the already burning sign from above the Chemists shop door.
Barry led the little company back to the edge of Waycross where the Fayre was still in full fling,
oblivious to the mayhem spreading from the corner of Pudding lane.
Chapter 7.

The Fayre at the eastern side of Waycross carried on oblivious to the conflagration taking place in
the town centre.
True, one or two folks turned to look at the thick pall of black sooty smoke hovering and growing
over the buildings, but most of them turned back to their friends, tutted loudly and complained
about thoughtless people lighting bonfires, or buying stringy tobacco.
The fact that amidst the smoke, tongues of yellow and red flame licked and leaped over a hundred
feet in the air was neither here nor there. Most folks were having far too much of a good time to
worry about such trivialities as their homes and livelihoods being razed to the ground and
transformed into little mounds of sooty carbon.
So it was that Granny and her companions rode into the fringe of the Fayre, tied Bramble to a
tethering post and made their way to the nearest ale tent to try to wash away the acrid coating of
smoke and chemical fumes that lined their throats.
Barry was first to the bar, but to save any aggravation, Quilt smoothly moved in and offered to
buy the first round of drinks just as the bar keepers‟ eyes were growing rapidly in diameter at
Barry‟s every utterance.
“Two pints of stout, two ginger beers and a glass of best Porter for the Lady.” he said to the now
trembling young man on the other side of the bar.
“Why thank you.” Granny replied in an uncharacteristically girlish tone of voice.
Quilt smiled in response and handed her the glass of deep red-brown liquid when it was placed on
the makeshift bar.
Once again, Barry and Jimmy smirked but didn‟t speak. Danny was oblivious to the humorous
undercurrent and simply accepted everything at face value. All he was aware of was the simple
fact that Quilt had bought everyone, including Granny, a drink.
In all honesty, that was all Quilt was aware of too, and he just nodded as each person was handed
their drink, and said thank you.
“Now, perhaps someone will tell me what all this is actually about.” Danny ventured after rinsing
his tonsils in ginger beer for the third time. He definitely felt better after removing the first layers
of green dust from within the confines of his voice box.
The little company moved over to a recently vacated table and sat down.
“There‟s summat funny goin‟ on over in the town!” someone outside said, and the companions
looked sheepishly at each other and took another swig of booze.
“Old Scrimshaw‟s goin‟ to be looking for me shortly.” Danny ventured.
“Don‟t you worry „bout it.” Granny replied, taking another slow sip at her Porter.
“The firemen knows you weren‟t caught inside. They‟ll put „im straight if „ee asks.”
“That‟s not really what I meant…” Danny replied. “When old Scrimshaw sees his shop, he‟ll
wish I had been toasted!”
Barry laughed into his stout, sending a plume of bubbles and ale into the air.
“Never mind…” he said. “With all the problemk people are going to have with all that kmoke,
he‟ll make a fortune if he‟k got any throat linctuk anywhere!”
Everyone laughed at the prospect of Scrimshaw standing like an old village crier on the town
centre green, which by now was actually black, yelling and selling his magic „cure all‟ potion to a
crowd of mute but sooty townsfolk.
“Actually,” Danny added, wiping his eyes, “He has got a storehouse just at the edge of the town.
Knowing Scrimshaw, he‟ll be making another fat profit by the weekend.”
“As long as the storehouse doesn‟t go „poof‟ as well!” Quilt put in, raising another laugh.
“Now, now…” Granny finally said, taking another small sip of Porter and putting the glass down.
“We needs to get to the point.” She turned to Danny who was still sharing a joke with Jimmy
about his employers‟ misfortune.
“We‟s come from the village to get your „elp with the problem of the river. As we‟s already said,
the Worter dried up about three year ago, an‟ now the farmers around are „avin‟ problems with
their crops. No water means no growin‟ an‟ no growin‟ means no crops. They‟s goin‟ skint faster
th‟n a rabbit in a butchers shop. Soon there won‟t be no village at all.”
Quilt nodded sagely, trying to look important and all-knowing. In actual fact, he was feeling
rather bemused as the strong stout began to take effect on his smoke-muddled brain and all he
succeeded in doing was to mumble „yes, yes,‟ and „definitely‟ over and over again, irrespective of
what was being said.
Sometimes his remarks made him sound intelligent and caring. At others, he sounded like an
incoherent alcoholic.
The others all noticed Quilts‟ apparent lose of cognisance and reason and his rapidly growing
temporary dementia, and giggled.
“Want another drink, Albert?” Barry asked. It was the first time he had called the Alderman
Albert, but Quilt was far too plastered to notice.
“Thank you, Barry…” he mumbled dribblingly. “I‟ll have another ktout….”
Then he collapsed in a heap of soggy laughter.
“Anyways…‟ Granny continued as Barry pushed back his seat and went to the bar without
“I‟ll go and help Barry.” Jimmy interrupted, also wishing to avoid problems at the bar when his
friend tried to order the drinks.
“We needs you to take us into the Wood up to the „ole pond, an‟ then to the outfall leadin‟
through the Deeper Wood, an‟ on to ol‟ Reg Stotes land. Then at least we‟ll be able to see if the
Worter is still runnin‟ up to that point. Iffn‟ it stops somewhere before, we should at least be able
to see where iss‟ goin‟ an‟ maybe even see wha‟s goin‟ wrong…”
And if it IS still going into Reg Stotes land? Danny added nervously, leaving a deliberately
unanswered question.
Granny frowned at the young man who was determined not to back down but nevertheless felt
like a pigeon being viewed carefully down the sights of a loaded twelve bore.
“Well,” he added, “you do need to consider the possibility that it‟s Reg Stote that‟s causing the
Granny nodded. “You‟se right, of course. If the Worter does still run into „ol Reg‟s land, then we
needs to go in an‟ find out where it all goes wrong, an‟ why.”
“Lot of smoke over there..” someone outside the beer tent was heard to say.
“Looks like a big bonfire…” another voice added.
“Hope my washin‟ is alright.” A womans‟ voice chimed in.
“Alright.” Danny said after a silence that could be cut with a broken rake.
“I don‟t mind going into the wood to the pond. I‟ll even go up the river to the culvert at Reg‟s
fences. But I‟m not going onto his land. Not for anything!”
“But that‟s where we need you the most!” Quilt spluttered wetly.
“You know Reg‟s land. We don‟t! We need someone who can lead us over the fences and along
the river trail.” He hiccupped and laid his head on his folded arms. An unpleasant pong wafted up
from the vicinity of his chair.
Meanwhile, Barry and Jimmy had returned with another round of drinks.
“Come on, Albert!” Barry cried, slapping Quilt on the back. “Get it down your neck!”
Quilt started back to reality and took a large slug at the fresh glass of stout.
He hiccupped again and slumped lower in his seat.
“Alberts right there though.” Granny chimed in. “The Worter goes into ol‟ Reg‟s land, but for the
most part, iss‟ unnerground! Only comes up agin‟ near the far wall, then out over the small lock
gate an‟ into the village. Or at least, it yoost to!”
“Well what am I supposed to do?” Danny asked earnestly. “I know I used to go right up to Reg‟s
fences. Never bothered me, all those rubbishy tales about monsters and things, but I never went
over the fence. I haven‟t a clue where the river went inside Reg‟s land! Wherever did you get the
idea that I did? All I know is it goes underground somewhere, under his house. Everyone know
that much.”
Barry and Jimmy groaned. Actually, Quilt groaned too, but for quite a different reason. He
burped in a rather unpleasantly smelly way, lifted his left thigh a few inches and grimaced. The
resulting stench left no doubt as to what he had done.
Granny moved a few feet further round the table to escape the holocaust emanating from Quilts‟
damp underpants and cast a sly look in Danny‟s direction.
“You shoore you never been on ol‟ Reg‟s land?” she said in a tone dripping with foreknowledge.
Everyone (except Quilt, who was wriggling uncertainly in his seat,) turned to look questioningly
at Danny who‟s facial skin did an amazing imitation of overcooked beetroot.
“What do you mean?” he muttered like a rabbit caught by one leg in a rubber snare.
Granny stared at the young man and without saying a word, Danny knew she had the answers to
several unanswered questions in the village.
“Well, I heard you was getting‟ a bit friendly with young Emerald…” she said in a tone of
silicone carbide.
“That‟s not true!” Danny exclaimed in such a way, that anyone within the diameter of the planet
would have taken it as a confession of complete and utter guilt.
Jimmy turned and stared at the young man at his side as if he had just admitted to fathering half
the Western hemisphere.
Barry coughed.
Granny sniffed.
Quilt farted.
“Wellll….” Danny continued. “We were just friends. That‟s all!” he added quickly and
vehemently as he noticed Barry and Jimmy‟s knowing nods.
“It‟s just that, well, you know. Old Reg was a terror where Emerald was concerned. Even she
knew that. He was so protective! We used to meet sometimes after I had a swimming class. At
the fence by the culvert. All we ever did was talk! Honest!” he added, seeing Barry and Jimmy
grin again.
“So?” Granny said, leaving the statement open like the lid of a coffin.
“That was it!” Danny stated adamantly, climbing in. “We were friends! Nothing else!”
“But didn‟t you ever go onto Reg‟s property then?” Jimmy enquired, more out of a desire to hear
any nice, juicy descriptions of unauthorised groping on Danny‟s part, than any real desire to find
out about the lay of the land beyond the culvert.
Danny looked at Granny who looked sternly back at him.
“Well, I did go over the fence once. But only once!” he added meaningfully.
“It was Emeralds‟ birthday. I wanted to give her something”…
“I bet you did…” Quilt added from the depths of his folded arms. He began to snore.
Danny scowled at Quilts‟ comment but continued.
“I bought her some perfume from the village store. But Reg‟s fences were always so high it was
very difficult to talk properly. You know, face to face. I just wanted to give her the present in
Quilt began to sniffle.
“How sad…” he mumbled.
Danny continued his sorry tale in a heart rending manner that would rival anything written by a
certain Elizabethan poet with a pointed goatee and a penchant for writing sonnets.
After a few minutes Quilts‟ sniffle turned into a full blown wail of despair.
“True, unrequited love! How tragic!” he moaned between chest wracking sobs.
“Fer goodness sake, wrap up Albert!” Granny said, poking his shoulder.
“It was nothing like that.” Danny added. “We were just good friends. It was just that Mr. Stote
didn‟t like visitors, and he wouldn‟t let anyone near Emerald.”
“Did you ever… You know…” Jimmy started.
“Jimmy!” Granny cried in a surprised tone.
“Fancy askin‟ things like that!”
“Never!” Danny shouted defiantly, looking daggers at his young companion.
“Not even a bit?” Barry added sheepishly…
“Unrequited love…” Quilt droned on and continued sobbing into his stout.
“What do you lot think I am?” Danny cried in an offended tone.
“No, no…” Jimmy placated. “That isn‟t what I meant!”
“Well what did you mean?” Danny replied in a voice dripping more venom than a carpet bag full
of arrow frogs.
“What I meant was…”
“Yes?” Granny wheedled menacingly.
“Well, I mean,…” Jimmy whispered.
Danny stared at him with eyes as hard as six inch nails.
“Did you get „er drawers off?” Quilt gurgled.
Danny leaped to his feet.
“No! No!” Jimmy cried, leaning back in his seat and out of Danny‟s reach. “That‟s not what I
meant!..What I wanted to know is…”
Danny clenched his fists in readiness….
Jimmy gulped.
“What I was wondering…” he closed his eyes as the others all opened theirs even wider.
Jimmy took a deep breath, then asked the question that had been burning in his brain for the past
five minutes.
“Did you ever take the bag off her head?…”

“Well I‟m sure it‟s nothing we can‟t talk about at the next council meeting…” Alderman
Grimmsbottom whined for the hundredth time in the past half hour.
“But all these bonfires needs to be stopped!” a small weasely man with a scraggly moustache
droned in a surprisingly deep baritone for someone so miniature.
“Dead right!” a large fat woman intoned. Her body odour was faintly reminiscent of a five week
old steak and kidney pudding that had been in the sun for most of its time, and as such, she
permanently seemed to have plenty of manoeuvring space in an otherwise busy and cramped
“Moi washin‟ will be ROOINED agin‟!” she added.
A great babble of complaints and moans erupted around the Alderman who did his best to
promise that such things as daytime bonfires would be uppermost at the next town hall meeting
the following week.
At that very moment however, the council chambers were kindling nicely, and the eastern end of
the town hall building would currently mane a very good (if somewhat warm) charcoal factory.
The next meeting would in all probability have to be adjourned for a while until other premises
(which very shortly would be at a bit of a premium) could be found.
Grimmsbottom extricated himself ingratiatingly from the hubbub and grabbed his junior
councilor by the elbow, dragging him into the nearest ale tent.
“For goodness sake find out who is burning so much rubbish and lock him up!” he grated.
“But sir,” his assistant replied. “We can‟t really lock someone up for having a bonfire. There‟s no
law against it. No matter how big it is.”
“Idiot!” Grimmsbottom snapped. “He doesn‟t need locking up because of the bonfire! He needs
locking up so the townsfolk don‟t get their hands on him! We haven‟t had a lynching here for
over thirty years. I don‟t want one now!”
Mind you, if Rupert Grimmsbottom could see what was currently happening to his office and
private supply of „petty cash‟ locked in the third drawer down in his nice new expensive
mahogany desk, he would gladly be first in line with a rope.
However, at this point in time, the people of the Fayre were having too much of a good time to
pay any heed to the occasional fool who was running about shouting „Fire!” so the afternoon
carried on in a jolly fashion.
Grimmsbottom was a tallish thin fellow with a thin greasy comb-over completely failing to hide
the fact he was virtually bald. He had a rather unsavoury habit of picking his nose and studying
the items he retrieved. He pulled up a chair at a small table and sent his assistant to get him a cold
ale. The assistants name was Billy. Billy Noemaites. However he was usually simply referred to
as Alderman Grimmsbottom‟s assistant.
Rupert mopped his brow with his kerchief and noticed it was a bit grubby and soot-streaked after
wiping his face. He shrugged, stuffed the hanky back in his vest pocket and glanced around the
tent. His neck almost went through a full three hundred and sixty degrees before embarking on its
return journey the other way.
His expression suddenly changed from one of mild disinterest to a broad grin of expectant self
“Albert Quilt!” he called out in a voice so spiteful and slimy it would have been better placed on
the underside of a snail.
Quilt slowly lifted his head, and along with his companions turned to stare in the direction of the
“Oh God!” Quilt hiccupped and dropped his head to his arms again.
Granny was not so easily intimidated however.
“Rupert Grimesbottom, isn‟t it?” she asked, emphasising the „grime‟.
The Alderman looked at her haughtily.
“Grimmsbottom, actually.” he almost spat. Granny ignored his tone and went on.
“Still got everyone runnin‟ roun‟ like little mice after you?” she looked at Grimmsbottoms‟
assistant who was returning to the table with a glass of ale and a cup of tea for himself.
“Still payin‟ for „is drinks?” she added, looking at the fawning young man.
“I‟m sure I haven‟t the pleasure of…” the Alderman began in an oily tone of voice.
“Tain‟t no pleasure, I can assure you o‟ that! You migh „ave come up trumps against my friend
Albert „ere a few year ago, but you won‟t be so lucky with me, so don‟t try.”
Grimmsbottom stared in surprise at the old woman seated at the next table. Never had he been
spoken to in this way in all his time as Alderman.
“Madam, are you threatening me?” he said in the carefully rehearsed monotone he always used to
intimidate his fellow councilors into doing exactly what he wanted.
Granny laughed. A sound, which was more akin to starting a steam engine with no oil in the
“You‟se good, I‟ll give you that. Why, you might have even won the election fair an‟ square if
you‟d talked like that three year ago.”
Grimmsbottom spluttered with indignation.
“What… What do you mean by that!” he stormed.
Granny sipped at her Porter and strained it through the blob of „baccy between her teeth before
swallowing. Then she spat a thick black slug of glue into the grass a quarter of an inch from
Grimmsbottoms right foot. He deliberately made a point of not moving.
“Come on, Rupert…” Granny said smoothly. “Everyone knows how you paid people to vote for
you. Well, at least those who you didn‟t threaten with the sack.”
Grimmsbottom stood up and spluttered even more. His assistant closed his eyes but inwardly
“How dare you..”
“Oh, sit down Rupert!” Granny ordered. Surprisingly, Grimmsbottom did as he was told.
“You can deny anythin‟ you like, but everyone knows about it. They‟s jus‟ too scared to say or do
anythin‟. Anyways, that ain‟t why we‟re ere, so you jus‟ get on with your drink an‟ leave us to get
on with ourn.”
Alderman Grimmsbottom thought for a moment then replied, “Well, I suppose you do have to get
out of that grubby little hamlet sometimes and visit real civilization… Lower Worter, isn‟t it?
Mind you, Lower dustbowl might be a better name. Never mind. One day someone might find a
use for a dried up riverbed that splits a village in half. Perhaps you could plant sprouts in it.” He
said this last comment loudly enough so that many of the surrounding folk heard and joined in
with the Alderman‟s laughter.
Quilt glowered and stood uneasily, clenching his fists. Jimmy was about to stand as well but
Granny pulled Quilt back to his seat.
“That‟s right,” Grimmsbottom added spitefully. “Hide behind your cronies, you old failure. Being
Alderman of that pokey little hovel you all live in is about your limit!”
Suddenly, without warning, Barry stood, walked round the table and placed himself directly in
front of Grimmsbottom.
“Ktand up!” he ordered.
“You heard. I kaid Ktand up, unlekk you‟re too kcared!”
Rupert blinked at the babbling idiot in front of him and shook his head before looking at the glass
of ale in his hand.
“Strong stuff this..” he said, wiggling his little finger in his ear.
Barry took a deep breath.
“I won‟t kay it again. Either you ktand up, or I‟ll kmack your fake in where you are kitting!”
Rupert blinked again and began to stammer.
“I thought ak much. Nothing but a noiky coward!”
This was altogether too much for Grimmsbottom. He leaped to his feet.
“Now just you wait a minute!” he stormed. “To be called a coward is bad enough, but no one has
ever called me noiky before, and I won‟t have it now!”
Barry blinked in return.
“Pardon?” he said.
“Pardon?” Rupert replied.
“What?” Barry repeated, somewhat confused.
“You called me noiky!” Rupert said through grated teeth.
“I did not!” Barry retorted hotly.
“You did! I heard you!”
“What I kaid wok, you were a noiky coward! People like you make me kick! All you do ik khout
and yell at people, giving orderk and kaying what they khould or khouldn‟t do!”
Like most of the people first confronted with a barrage from Barry, his eyes could have been
awarded the order of the tennis ball. He trembled, then collapsed into his seat, turning his gaze
toward Granny.
“Ok, you win! Take him away. I give up. You win this time.” He took a long slow pull at his
glass of ale, downing half the glass in one go.
“Come on Barry,” Granny said. “Come an‟ sit down. „Ee ain‟t worth it.”
Then, a slow smile curled the corner of her mouth and she turned her most charming expression
(if that were at all possible with Granny) upon the Alderman.
“Still got those three thousand shares in the Worter ferry company? Good buy, that. Muss‟ be
worth, what, at least three bob. How much was it you paid?... Good price for a place to plant
The entire population of the beer tent erupted into gales of laughter and Alderman Grimmsbottom
turned a rich shade of red and stormed out in a towering rage, rapidly followed by his grinning
The laughter died down and young Jimmy wiped his eyes. He too had laughed until his sides
ached, but that had been due more to the infectious nature of a good bout of mirth, than to any
actual understanding of the joke.
“What was all that about?” he asked.
“Yek, tell uk more…” Barry added.
Granny sipped the last of her porter and put the glass down.
“Well, you knows about the ol‟ ferry company that used to run on the river, when the water was
still quite deep in both Upper an‟ Lower Worter…”
Jimmy and Barry both nodded. Quilt snored and burped.
“That was donkeys years ago, wasn‟t it?” Jimmy asked.
Granny nodded.
“Certainly was. Ol‟ Major Mynor made „is fortune ferrying people an‟ goods up an‟ down the
rivers. Only, it di‟nt last too long. Weather changed an‟ over a few years, the river changed
direction. Boat company went bust but o‟ course, the Major weren‟t daft. „Ee could see what was
goin‟ to „appen, so „ee floated „is company. Mind you, it was floatin‟ anyway.”
“What doek that mean?” Barry enquired.
“When someone wants to raise money in a business, they floats the company. Means they sells
shares in it to anyone who wants a part o‟ the profits. If all goes well, the new money expands the
business, and everyone makes a pile.”
“Is that what Major Mynor did?” Jimmy asked.
“Well, sort of. Only „ee knew that „is ferry company „ad „ad it. „Ee wanted out without loosin‟ all
„is money, so „ee sold shares to anyone foolish enough to believe that the river problem wouldn‟t
“And Rupert Grimmkbottom?” Barry said questioningly.
“E‟e was the biggest fool of all. Thort „ee was bein‟ clever, getting‟ in quick an‟ buyin‟ up loads
o‟ shares. They ain‟t worth fire lighters now. Major Mynor sold off everythin‟ „ee could and got
out quick. Ferry company went bust an‟ all the share „olders lost a packet.”
“How many shareholders were there?” Danny asked.
Granny smiled broadly.
“Only one!”

Rupert Grimmsbottom was not a man to be trifled with. He scowled deeply as he left the ale tent,
the laughter of the townsfolk ringing in his ears.
“You won‟t laugh much longer.” he spat, his temper subsiding.
“But sir,” his assistant whispered. “They know something. It‟s obvious. What do we do?” His
voice had an undisguised note of panic about it.
Grimmsbottom stopped in his tracks.
“What do you mean, they „know something‟. Of course they don‟t!”
“But sir. Surely it‟s too much of a coincidence. Meeting them here at the Fayre. The problems
with the river in their village. Those comments about your ferry shares linking you with the
Grimmsbottom stroked his pimply chin.
“Maybe…” he murmured. “ No. Just coincidence. Nothing else.”
“But what about the old lady‟s comment, you know, when she said something about „coming up
trumps‟, and „don‟t try to get the better of her‟. Sounded like a threat to me. I‟m sure they are on
to us.”
Grimmsbottom raised an eyebrow and stared at the young man.
“Sorry sir, You. I meant you.”
The Alderman moved off again into the throng of the very smoky and soot encrusted Fayre.
“You may be right. We might just have to deal with Quilt and his meddling friends… We‟re too
close now to let a couple of fools and some young upstarts spoil things at this stage.” He wiped a
large black smut from the end of his nose almost as soon as it landed.
“And remind me to do something about these blasted bonfires!”

“Things is getting‟ a bit tricky round „ere.” Granny pointed out as more and more of the local
townsfolk began pointing at the spreading fire and smoke, and comments began to change from
general complaints about bonfires, to „let‟s go and see who‟s stoking the bonfire‟.
“Maybe we ort to be on our way.”
“Are you going to help uk?” Barry enquired to Danny.
Danny was just beginning to get used to Barry‟s manner of speech, and short simple sentences
like this, he could cope with.
“Well I don‟t have a bedroom anymore.” he said with a small attempt at humour.
“So if anyone can put me up, I just might come along.”
They all smiled and Barry slapped him on the back.
“I‟ve got plenty of room in my houke. You‟re more than welcome to ktay there.”
Quilts‟ head snapped up instantly and both he and Jimmy cried in unison. “No!”
Barry raised a questioning brow and Danny looked somewhat confused.
“Er, that is to say,” Quilt spluttered, now sounding a little less plastered, “Um, I‟ve got room as
“Er, yes.. Me too…” Jimmy added.
“Don‟t be daft.” Granny interjected.
“Albert, your „ouse is so small you can‟t „ave a pee in comfort without splashin‟ someone in the
sittin‟ room, an‟ Jimmy, you lives at „ome with yer mum!”
Danny was grateful for the multiple offers nevertheless. He was unaware of the fear both Quilt
and Jimmy still harboured regarding Barry‟s house.
“It‟s very kind of you all, I must say. I mean, you hardly know me.” As he said this, he wriggled a
bit in his seat, and his right hand shot under the table almost involuntarily. Jimmy looked
sideways at Barry, who tried not to show any change of expression at all. Granny just continued
to chew her „baccy, but surreptitiously passed Danny a small packet of powder under the table.
She always traveled well prepared.
“Right. Barry‟s it is. Now, less‟ be off afore we can‟t get out o‟ town at all.”
“I feel sick.” Quilt groaned as he struggled to his feet.
“Serves you right, Albert Quilt. You knows what a pint „o stout does to you. Should‟ve thort
you‟d learned by now. No sympathy from me.”
Quilt groaned again and hung his head miserably.
“I‟m dying.” he moaned.
“Well do it quietly an‟ don‟t puke in my direction.” Granny replied without the slightest hint of
“I think we better put Albert in the back o‟ the wagon, face down over the tailboard!”
“But that‟k the bumpiekt plake in the cart!” Barry pointed out. “It will be a really rough ride
“Don‟t doubt that,” Granny said without looking at the dejected Alderman traipsing three paces
behind them. “Safest place for us though when Albert decides to part company with the contents
of „is innards.”
Quilt doubled over and retched noisily onto the grass.
“Diced carrots again, Albert?.. Well, maybe not the back o‟ the wagon after all.” Granny said
light-heartedly. “Don‟t look like there‟s much left now anyways.”
Jimmy, Danny and Barry all turned a light shade of green and looked away as they helped Quilt
to stand up straight, and almost carried him onto the cart and out of the Fayre.
“Do you have to hum so cheerfully?” Quilt complained as Granny hit the fourth verse of an old
local tune.
“Don‟t be such a misery, Albert. Serves you right anyway. Anyhow, you‟ll be fine nows you got
rid of all that stout.”
“Don‟t go on about it.” Quilt whimpered feeling more miserable than he since the New Year
council party some three years ago when someone had spiked his drinks with home brewed wood
alcohol. Never had anyone before or since had such a hangover, and Quilt swore he had lost two
weeks of his life, only really waking up on January the fifteenth.
“Well, you will get drunk.” Granny continued relentlessly. “Juss‟ look at that New Years
“I knew it!” Quilt moaned. “I was waiting for that…”
“You weren‟t complainin‟ then…” Granny pointed out.
“How could I? I couldn‟t speak for a month. It‟s the only time in my life I‟ve ever had to shave
my tongue! Anyway, can we change the subject? I don‟t feel well..”
“Yek!” Barry put in. “Let‟k talk about Komething elke. All thik talk about being kick, well, it
makek me feel kick.”
“How about some lunch?” Jimmy asked. They hadn‟t eaten since breakfast and it was now late
“OOOHHHH!” Quilt groaned.
“Bacon an‟ eggs?” Granny asked mildly.
“OOOHHHH!!!” Quilt moaned even louder.
“And mukhroomk!” Barry said excitedly. “I love mukhroomk, ekpecially when they are fried
nike and crikpy.”
“Grilled sausages.” Danny added.
“Oh, yek! Kaukagek!” Barry agreed, raising a bit of a giggle from Jimmy and Danny. Barry
didn‟t notice however, due to the noise Quilt was making as he hung over the back of the cart.
“Not as many carrots this time, Albert?…” Granny said without looking round.

The journey back to Lower Worter was uneventful, save for the odd bilious explosion from one
end of Quilt, or the intestinal explosion from the other. In any event, it was soon agreed that the
back of the wagon was indeed the best place to put the suffering Alderman.
“Did you mean it when you said you thought Barry was brilliant, this morning?” Jimmy asked
Danny quietly when Barry was engrossed in conversation with Granny a while later.
Danny looked surprised.
“Haven‟t you heard Barry sing? He‟s legendary. He‟s the funniest thing you‟ll ever hear!” Danny
replied earnestly.
“You mean he‟s brilliantly funny, not a brilliant singer?” Jimmy sought to clarify.
“Of course! His singing is TERRIBLE!” Danny exclaimed a little too loudly.
“Ssshhhh….” Jimmy hissed, clamping his eyes shut.
“You better keep that part of your opinion to yourself. I don‟t think it would go down too well
with Barry!”
Danny nodded sagely and chuckled.
“Smoke‟s getting thicker.” Quilt pointed out in one of his more lucid moments as he looked back
the way they had just come.
“Wonder if ol‟ Grimmsbottom „as been back to the town „orl yet?” Granny added.
The wagon bounced and bobbled its way along the track, and assorted wildlife at the side of the
road stopped and stared at the odd contraption full of laughing creatures (and one intermittently
groaning one) as it passed by.
Chapter 8.

Councilor Ralph Spottiswood sat on an upturned fruit box inside a small wooden hut. A quickly
painted sign nailed to the outside of the door stated quite clearly that this was for the time being at
least, the town hall. A misnomer if ever there was one, as the very name „Town hall‟ indicated
that at the very least there ought to be a town.
At the moment, there was little more than a charred and smoking patch of land with two main
roads intersecting in the middle. From the air it looked not unlike a very overcooked hot cross
bun. From the ground, it even smelled like one.
Local mail was piling up outside the door, as the postman wasn‟t too sure what to do with it and
Councilor Spottiswood had made the mistake of saying to him „leave it there.‟ when a few letters
had arrived for now non-existent addresses. Within a matter of days the pile was six feet high and
much the same width.
Ralph was a middle aged man of medium height and a portly circumference. That isn‟t to say he
was fat, it‟s just that as he put it himself, he was „big boned‟ Everyone else said he was fat. He
had an extremely bushy mop of thick black hair (most people thought it was altogether too
obviously from a bottle) which terminated in an equally thick beard and handlebar moustache
which face his face the appearance that he was peering out from the confines of a busted sofa.
He had been on the council for a bit less than three years, having joined when a vacant seat arose.
No one was ever voted in as councilor, as hardly anyone ever wanted the jobs anyway, as they
didn‟t carry the authority and standing of Alderman. Spottiswood suddenly appeared in Waycross
and offered his services only a matter of months after Grimmsbottom was „elected‟ Alderman,
and was immediately snapped up, especially when the new Alderman gave him a glowing
reference, claiming to have worked closely with him countless times over the years. In truth,
Grimmsbottom literally shoe-horned Spottiswood onto the council and everyone knew it.
Spottiswood rarely attended council meetings however, but no one could really complain, as his
work was always faultless, (mind you, nobody ever actually saw him doing anything anyway) and
Grimmsbottom always defended the man come what may.

“We need to find out what Quilt and his cronies know about all this.” the Councilor stated flatly
as he stood and paced the sooty floor.
“It seems as if they are definitely on to something.” A young fawning lackey replied through the
doorway, as he pushed another heap of unclaimed mail on top of the pile outside. It was Billy
“It‟s lucky you were there to hear the conversation.” Spottiswood said.
“Maybe they know something, maybe not.” he continued. “It could be nothing more than a
coincidence they were here the other day. No one‟s heard a word from them since, and there‟s
been no reports of any letters or anything being sent to the other council members from them.”
“Hardly know if there was…” the young man muttered, shovelling a landslide of envelopes away
from the hut door for the umpteenth time. He came in, pulled the door shut and mopped his brow.
“Anyway, what if the other councilors find out what you‟re up to?” he added.
Spottiswood scratched at his ear amidst the forest of fur and tugged a sheaf of very scorched
papers from his pocket.
“Then we‟ll just have to hope they don‟t. Anyway, you let me worry about old those slugs. We
still have all the letters and consent notices we need to proceed. I think it‟s time to get on with the
next stage of the plan. By the time Quilt and that old hag realise what‟s going on, it will be too
late for them to do anything anyway.” He sat back down on his fruit box.
“But what if they find out about the river? You know…” Billy asked nervously.
“How? Are you going to tell them? Is old Stote going to let them go digging up his dining room
floor? I hardly think so. Just you worry about what you have to do and let me worry about those
idiots in Lower Worter.”
“Sir,” the young man added nervously. “There are so many things I don‟t understand… If you‟d
only tell me a bit more about your plan… Tell me a bit more about Alderman Grimmsbottom‟s
part in it all and …”
Spottiswood silenced Billy with a glassy stare. He stood up again and at pushed the door to leave
the temporary Town hall but it wouldn‟t budge. Something was blocking it from the outside.
“For heavens sake tell that blasted postman to stop leaving the mail against the door!”
“Sorry sir,” Billy groveled. “The pile must have slipped again.”

“More tea?” Barry asked politely, pouring another cup of hot Darjeeling for Granny.
“Just a bit.” Danny answered, picking up another ginger snap. He was certainly getting used to
living in Barry‟s house. He had been there for four days now and Barry had treated him as if he
were an honoured guest in a hotel. No small request was unanswered and no small chore needed
doing. Danny even noticed a small pot of talcum powder in the bathroom, and wondered what
Granny may have told everyone, but he put the thought out of his mind as too embarrassing to
He did use the talc though.
Danny continually tried to tell Barry to stop running around him like a servant, but his host would
have none of it. Barry very rarely (in fact, never) had any guests and he was determined to make
the most of this one. Never let it be said that Barry Simpson was anything less than the perfect
Both Quilt and Jimmy were there but were still more than a little apprehensive about Barry‟s
house and his pet lycanthrope. They continually scoured the room and beyond the windows for
any psychic activity and even though the incident with Stan had been explained countless times,
neither of them were convinced that some other worldly apparition wasn‟t residing in the house.
Jimmy cautiously sipped at his second cup of tea while Quilt still hadn‟t touched a drop of his
“So when do we go and take a look at the river?” Danny got straight to the point; something Quilt
and young Jimmy had been avoiding all night.
Granny sipped at her tea and dunked a Viennese fancy. “Lovely cuppa.” she said appreciatively.
Barry simply nodded his thanks.
“Well, I „spose it‟s about time we „ad a look see wa‟ss goin‟ on. Shan‟t sort anythin‟ sittin‟ ere
avin‟ afternoon tea, „owever nice it is.”
She added this last comment in deference to Barry‟s impeccable preparations.
“We knows where we‟s got to go, so it don‟t make squat‟s worth o‟ difference when we goes.
Tonight‟s good as any.”
Jimmy rattled his cup in its saucer and Quilt almost leaped out of his seat in horror at the prospect
of the impending journey into the Old Wood.
“Tonight!” they cried in unison.
“ Don‟t you mean tomorrow, in the daytime?” Quilt added apprehensively, already knowing what
Granny was about to say, and hating to inwardly admit that he agreed with her as yet unspoken
“Too risky in the light.” she stated bluntly. “Don‟t wants to announce what we‟s doin‟ to all an‟
sundry. Nobody about at night. Less likely to git spotted.”
“But what about him?!” Jimmy said tremulously, his tea cup still rattling in the saucer. He
reached for a custard cream to steady his nerves but was mildly surprised to note it had gone.
Funny, he thought. He hadn‟t seen anyone take a biscuit…
“Who‟s him?” Danny enquired, not in the least perturbed at the prospect of going into the Old
Wood at night. Young Jimmy turned an incredulous gaze upon his new friend.
“You… You‟ve never heard of… of…”
“Of GORT!” Quilt finished the sentence dramatically.
“Oh, come on now!” Granny cried. “You ain‟t scared of „im?”
“Who?” Danny asked mildly.
“Why, „e ain‟t bin seen in the wood at all in the las‟ twelve month.” Granny pointed out. “Prob‟ly
moved away by now, or summat.”
“Who?” Danny repeated.
“Just because no ones seen him lately, don‟t mean he isn‟t there!” Quilt argued.
“He‟s probably to blame for all this trouble with the river!”
“Who?!” Danny said again somewhat exasperatedly.
“Wass‟ e‟ gonner „ave done with ten billion gallons o‟ water?” Granny scoffed. “Dug „ole an‟
buried it? „Is shovel would „ave to go like a bleedin‟ yo-yo.”
The party all chuckled at her words but more than one of them had a nervous tremor in their
“Probably drunk it!” Quilt said, with no little hint of seriousness.
“WHO?!!” Danny cried for the fifth time. “Who are we talking about? Who or what is this
Quilt jumped up and pulled the drapes closed, rattling the brass rings on the curtain pole, after
hastily peering about at the fields outside.
“Shhhhh!” he hissed. “Not so loud! He might hear!”
“Will someone please explain just who this Gort fellow is? I‟ve never heard of him!” Danny said
in a baffled tone of voice.
“You lived here all those years, and you never heard of Gort?” It was Jimmy‟s turn to be more
than slightly amazed.
“Emeralds brother!” Quilt added theatrically. “You were, well, you know, „Pally‟ with her all
that time, and you never spoke about Gort?”
“Maybe they had better things to do…” Jimmy whispered enthusiastically. He was young and
inexperienced with the ladies and any hint of unauthorised nookie gave the young lad a certain
tingle in the nether regions.
“Less „o that!” Granny admonished, frowning at her young companion.
Jimmy flushed, and fell silent.
Danny meanwhile had been shaking his head as if to answer any unresolved questions.
“You mean Graham!” he said in a matter of fact way, as if it explained everything, which it
“Who?” Quilt asked as he too reached for a biscuit. His fingertips groped on empty air for a few
seconds before he looked down at the diminishing plate of goodies.
“Odd?” he said to himself. “I‟m sure there was a custard cream there a second ago!”
“Graham. Emeralds brother.” Danny continued. “He just can‟t pronounce his own name properly.
Got dropped on his head when he was little, or something. He‟s harmless.” Danny shook his head
at the very idea that anyone could be scared of Graham.
“But he eats kittens!” Jimmy cried.
“And chases pensioners with a sharpened burning stake!” Quilt added.
Danny laughed. “Where ever did you hear all that rubbish?”
“Tain‟t all rubbish, I‟m afraid.” Granny said quietly, surprising everyone by coming to Jimmy
and Quilts‟ defence.
“Maybe „e don‟t devour peoples pet moggies, but there‟s lot‟s o‟ folks as can tell tales about Gort
an‟ the things e‟s done.”
“Well I don‟t believe any of it!” Danny replied adamantly.
“I never had any trouble with him!”
“But did you ever meet him?” Quilt asked.
The company all moved slightly closer to the table, as if some heinous secret were about to be
“Well, no…” Danny answered, gaining an all-knowing „A-haaa!‟ from his friends.
“But he knew I was friends with Emerald. She told me she‟d told him. He promised not to tell
Reg. He knew we used to meet by the fence. I never even saw him. Me and Emerald never really
mentioned him.”
“Tha‟s prob‟ly why you „ad no bother with „im.” Granny pointed out logically.
“You was friends with Emerald, so „e‟d leave you alone. Makes sense. „E prob‟ly saw you
though. Was prob‟ly watchin‟ all the time.”
Unfortunately, Danny could also now see the logic of this argument, and had to agree, even
though secretly shuddered at the thought of some hidden menace watching and listening to every
conversation he had with Emerald.
“You haven‟t seen Emerald for a long time, have you?” Quilt asked.
“Well, no. A good few years. Last time was a few days before I left.”
“An‟ did you ever get to explain to Emerald why you left so suddenly?” Granny pushed. Danny
shook his head negatively.
“I never got the chance!” he wailed miserably.
“So Emerald prob‟ly thort you jus‟ dumped „er!” Granny concluded.
“But it wasn‟t like that!” Danny moaned dejectedly.
“But she don‟t know that! Neither does Gort!” Quilt drove the emotional dagger home.
“She‟s probably run you into the ground with Gort by now. I expect they both hate your guts.
Wishes you were flayed alive… boiled in oil… impaled on a red hot skewer… toasting your
goolies in a …”
“Alright, Albert!” Granny interrupted.
“We gets the point.”
Quilt subsided, somewhat to the quiet dismay of Barry and Jimmy, who were silently enjoying
the mental imagery being conjured up by the Alderman and his vivid imagination.
“What it comes down to is the fact we‟s still got to be careful about Gort. Maybe even more so
now we knows a bit about Danny an‟ Emeralds‟ past. We can‟t push our luck, „owever much, or
little, truth there is in the tales about „im.”
The others, including a very reluctant Danny, all nodded in silent agreement.
Gort was an unknown quantity with which it was better not to tangle if at all possible.
Danny reached out to the plate to take a biscuit but noticed the one he had been eyeing only
seconds before, now seemed to have inexplicably disappeared.
“Got any more custard creams, Barry?” he enquired.

It was dark. That often is the case at around eleven thirty at night, particularly later in the year, so
that in itself was nothing unusual. This however was really dark. That rich, blue-black darkness
you only get on cloudy nights when there is no hint of a moon and the stars themselves seem to
have gone to bed early.
“Flippin‟ typical!” Quilt muttered, looking up at the sky.
The little party were all huddled just inside the hallway of Barry‟s house, wrapped warmly in
assorted coats, scarves and mufflers, ready to begin their preliminary search of the Old Wood.
They knew it would take more than one attempt, and the thought of entering the Wood, especially
in the dark, was terrifying enough. The prospect of pushing their luck more than once didn‟t bear
thinking about.
“Would you rather there was a full moon?” Granny queried, holding up a small oil lantern that
spat and guttered smokily, giving off precious little light.
Jimmy felt in his pocket and grasped a small silver cross. He gulped.
Danny held on to a small pot of Talcum powder. (Recently used.) and scowled determinedly.
Quilt was secretly tucking a spare pair of trousers inside his coat.
He thought about Granny‟s words for only the briefest of moments, considering all the ghostly
rumours and tales that were the inevitable hangers-on of that time of the month.
“Hmmph!” he grunted.
“Any ways…” Granny continued. “Better for us iffn‟ its‟ dark. Not so likely to be spotted.”
“By who?” Quilt asked apprehensively.
“Well,” Barry interrupted. “Any of the ghoktk and thingk that are out there…” He made a
wiggling motion with his fingers to indicate any of the multitudes of invisible and paranormal
beings that might be lurking beyond the doorstep, out of sight and perception.
“Don‟t forget,” he added dramatically. “We‟ve got to go through the graveyard next door before
we reach the Old Wood!”
Now it was Jimmy‟s turn to pipe up.
“What for?!” he exclaimed.
“Surely you don‟ „spect us to go traipsin‟ right back to the village an‟ roun‟ by the pub jus‟ to
miss the ol‟ churchyard?” Granny scoffed.
“Oh, I don‟t know about going through the graveyard!” Jimmy wailed, taking a few steps further
back up the hallway. Behind him, Stan growled quietly in the kitchen doorway.
“Prefer to stay here?” Granny asked mildly.
Jimmy looked at the small dog and noticed a flicker of light from Granny‟s lamp reflect from the
name tag hanging round his neck. He gulped.
“Well, I suppose it will be alright…” he said uncertainly.
“Well it‟k not ak if anyone ik going to climb out of the ground to get you…” Barry pointed out
“Don‟t talk like that!” Granny scolded. “‟Tain‟t respec‟ful.”
“I don‟t suppose they‟re going to complain.” Quilt said quietly, nudging Danny and giggling.
“‟Tain‟t what you was sayin‟ a minute ago.” Granny pointed out to the still chuckling Alderman.
“Granny‟s right.” Jimmy put in. “Let‟s not push our luck or anything…”
Barry tutted, shaking his head. “I don‟t know what‟k the matter with you lot. A load of cowardk.”
He tossed a small chocolate bean from his pocket in the direction of Stan, who seemed to catch
the proffered morsel without moving his head. A quick „snap‟ followed by a wet slavering noise
was the only indication that the sweet had even gone. He continued with another small growl.
“Does he always complain when you give him treats? Jimmy enquired, timidly looking at the
“It‟s becauke he think‟k there might be more, and perhapk you are going to take them off him.”
Barry explained, tossing his pooch another chocolate.
“Not me!” Jimmy spluttered. “Not a hope!”
“Look, are we goin‟ or what?” Granny stated bluntly. “Time‟s tickin‟ an‟ I fer one don‟ wanna be
outside all night. Too flamin‟ cold fer that.”
Barry and Danny both nodded in agreement.
“Come on then…” Danny said, taking the first step outside the door. “Last one past the
tombstones is a skeleton!” He trotted forward almost as if in anticipation of a race.
“See you in the boneyard then…” Quilt muttered, in absolutely no hurry whatever to enter the
church yard. Barry prodded him gently from behind.
“Come on Mikter Quilt.” he said reassuringly. “I won‟t let no kpook‟k get you.”
“That makes me feel better!” Quilt replied sardonically as he trudged up the garden path toward
the old ornate iron gates at the entrance to the graveyard, standing out ominously blacker even
than the inky sky behind them.
The little company looked very odd as they trooped toward the Old Wood, a peculiar mixture of
sizes and shapes, all dressed in dark woolen clothing of different styles and colours.
Quilt was wearing his usual black frock coat, and had a large floppy brimmed hat pulled firmly
down on his head. The remaining space between the brim and his chest was filled with a long
vari-coloured woolen scarf that looked as if it had been knitted by someone trying to use up the
last bit of a two-mile ball of wool. The scarf trailed a good three feet on the ground behind him,
which was evident every minute or so as someone trod on the end, suddenly constricting Quilts‟
neck, and eliciting an “Urk!” from the half-strangled Alderman. Not soon after the fifth „Urk‟, he
rolled up the offending woolen tail and tucked in down his coat front where it inadvertently
flopped out at the bottom again, in preparation of another bout of „Urk‟-ing as Quilt stood on the
dangling scarf himself.
Barry wore a thick expensive padded coat, normally only worn by gamekeepers and suchlike. He
often took a secret fancy to being „Squire‟ or „lord of the Manor‟ and so had bought the required
clothing accordingly. He also wore a natty tweed Deerstalker hat and marched regimentally,
spiking the ground authoritatively with a brass tipped oak walking stick at every step.
“He looks a bit funny…” Jimmy giggled to Danny.
“Jus‟ you leave „im alone!” Granny answered, overhearing the remark. “I think „e looks quite
dignified.” Jimmy pulled a face at Danny, who actually didn‟t see it anyway in the dark.
Both Jimmy and Danny were similarly dressed in heavy felt coats with long baggy sleeves. They
also both sported somewhat soggy bag-like hats made of a similar thick shapeless material.
Unfortunately, their garb made them look somewhat more like a couple of grave robbers than
night time adventurers.
Luckily for them, neither they nor the others had notice the rather creepy resemblance to a certain
Mr. Burke and his associate, Mr. Hare.
Granny didn‟t look much different to usual. She still wore her customary half a dozen layers of
crocheted shawls, a thick layer of dark cotton dresses and assorted undergarments and a scarf not
unlike the one worn (or more accurately, dragged,) by Quilt, except hers was all one shade of a
deep rose pink, and was a much more sensible length.
She was leading the little group, holding the lantern aloft as they made their way through the old
iron portals of the graveyard. Quilt tried hard not to notice the crooked, rusty gates as they hung
askew on their broken hinges, fearing that they could still swing shut with a creaking groan and a
clank, to trap them all within the confines of the playground of the quiet undead.
He stared about, taking in every detail of the dark, hilly little shapes, each bed sporting a jagged,
broken and crooked stone headboard at one end. He shivered and pulled himself deeper inside his
layer of clothes.
Granny chuckled silently to herself, almost as if she could read the Aldermans‟ morbid thoughts.
She resisted a sudden temptation to creep up behind the man and go „Boo!‟.
Danny looked about the graveyard as they padded damply though the dew soaked grass, making
virtually no sound.
“Quiet enough..” he observed.
“What did you expect?” Barry questioned. “A brakk band and a troop of acrobatk?”
Jimmy burst out laughing, an eerie sound that was completely out of place with their
surroundings, and the noise fell with an almost tangible thud, muffled, like a heavy stone hitting a
pile of soft earth. He didn‟t laugh again.
The company plodded on.
“How big is this blasted place?” Quilt whispered after a few minutes.
“‟Tain‟t that big really. You‟se jus‟ nervous, thass‟ all.” Granny replied, her voice trailing off as
she held the little lantern further ahead. Some short way ahead and to one side, she could vaguely
make out one or two darker shapes against the all encroaching blackness surrounding them.
“Wass‟ that?” she hissed to no-one in particular.
“What?” four nervous voices replied in unison. Without a word being passed between them, the
little company closed ranks.
“There‟k komeone over there…” Barry said slightly nervously, pointing at the dark shapes
apparently crouching ahead.
“Whe.. whe.. where…?” Quilt trembled.
“Oh God.” Jimmy whimpered.
“Nothin‟ to do with him…” Barry muttered, squeezing closer to Quilt.
“More likely his counterpart…” Jimmy moaned.
“Shut up!” Granny ordered, stepping slightly forward.
“‟Oose there!?” she demanded.
The silence was so thick, it could be sliced and toasted.
Then they all heard a faint but unmistakable sound. A slobbering, wheezing kind of sound.
“Somethin‟ moved!” Quilt whimpered, pointing to their immediate left.
“S‟only a rat, or summat!” Granny hissed. “Now shuttup!”
“Rats? Rats?” Quilt grated at Danny. “What are rats doing here?”
“Prob‟ly havin‟ lunch.” Jimmy whined, imagining a large shiny black rat creeping out of the
empty eye socket of a disused skull.
“I said will you‟se all shuttup!” Granny ordered, stepping forwards. Quilt grabbed at her sleeve,
pulling her back again.
Granny pulled herself free from the Aldermans‟ grasp and stepped forwards again.
“I said „oose there!?” she demanded a second time, in a slightly stronger tone of voice.
The shapes ahead moved and wheezed again.
“That one‟s got horns!” Quilt wailed, pointing a trembling finger at the apparition ahead. Indeed,
even in the all pervading darkness, they could clearly see the two curved, wicked looking horns
that seemed to be protruding from the head of the Managing Director of the dark side.
One of the apparitions moved toward them, emitting another slobbering wheeze as it came.
The company fled.
Quilt hadn‟t brought a spare pair of trousers this time so he had to put up with squelching as he
Granny tried to calm her companions down as they raced back between the tombstones towards
the gates, now not caring whose residence they were trampling over in their haste to exit the
boardroom of Hades.
“Will you lot slow down!” she yelled, trying in vain to halt the eight legged stampede.
It was no good.
Moments later Barry‟s door was slammed shut and bolted and furniture piled against it.
All the windows in the house were checked and double checked, and wherever there were
shutters, these were locked securely too. Every oil lamp and candle was lit and they huddled
round the fire in the lounge, breathing hard and whimpering.
Only Granny seemed unconcerned by what they had witnessed, convinced there was a „logical
“We know!” Quilt stammered.
“The Devil!”
“Don‟ be daft!” Granny chided. “E‟s got better things to do than go traipsin‟ roun‟ an ol‟ disused
churchyard in the back o‟ beyond at twelve fifteen.”
“Such as?” Quilt asked, unconvinced.
“Weekend shopping, maybe?” he added.
“Don‟t be sarky, Albert.” Granny chided.
“I jus‟ means it ain‟t very likely that what we saw was ol‟ goats feet „imself.”
“Don‟t say that!” Quilt wailed. “Don‟t call him names! He might be listening!”
He looked about the room, almost half expecting the door to slowly creak open.

The door slowly creaked open…

“Albert! Get off Barry‟s mantelpiece!” Granny demanded as Stan crept round the edge of the
“An jus‟ you mop up that puddle…”
Meanwhile, old Farmer Tom Cutting continued to try to whistle between his toothless gums
producing a peculiar, wet slavering sound, not unlike a low wet wheeze.
“C‟mon, Gertie!” he called, waving a handful of animal feed and scattering it on the grass at his
Eventually, Gertie plodded laconically forwards from behind a tombstone and chomped at the
food. Tom stroked at Gerties‟ head and he offered her another handful of feed which she
chomped noisily from his outstretched palm.
“Ow the „ell you gits outer your pen every noight beats me…” he muttered, leading his favourite
goat by the right horn, along the path, through the remains of the far gate and over the small
pasture toward his little smallholding.

“They‟ve all gone…”
“About time too…”
“Who were they?”
“Load of nutters…”
“Never get any peace round here…”
“Who‟s deal was it?”
“You dealt last time…”
“Never did, it was you!”
“Drop dead!”
The five mildly see-through midnight gamblers all laughed at the remark, a strange, bony rattling
“Got the supper ready?” one of them asked in a voice that sounded somewhat as if it were from
beyond the grave, which as it happened, was fairly understandable.
Green, skinless fingers rummaged in a ragged pocket and produced an old cloth bag that was
upended silently onto the ground.
“Custard creams!”

“I don‟t care if it‟s an extra ten miles!” Quilt exclaimed. “We go via the pub or I‟m not going!”
Jimmy nodded in agreement. He would have been happier if the journey actually was ten miles
longer. At that rate, it would be daylight before they reached the Wood.
“You‟se all jus‟ plain daft!” Granny said scornfully.
“First bit o‟ noise, a couple o‟ shadders, an‟ you all runs off. Fine lot „o use you‟ll be when we
gits to the Ol‟ Wood!”
“Now that you mention it…” Quilt added.
“Don‟ even think it, Albert!” Granny stated bluntly. “No one backin‟ out now, not after all this
trouble we‟s gone to!”
“You mukt admit though…” Barry chimed in. “It really wok kcary! There wok definitely
komething out there!”
Even Danny nodded in agreement. It took a lot to bother Danny Dingle, but the events of the last
half hour had definitely put the wind up him.
“It might not have been ghosts, but whatever it was, it was in the graveyard. You don‟t exactly
get ordinary folks hanging around in a place like that at midnight.”
“We were.” Barry said quietly.
“That‟s what he said.” Quilt pointed out. “Ordinary folks. We must be potty, going in there in the
middle of the night!”
“What we needs to decide, is are we goin‟ out agin tonight, an‟ if we are, what way is we goin‟?
If we‟s goin‟ past the pub, we needs to git goin‟ now. Iss gonner put another hour on the walk at
least. Starts getting‟ light „bout quarter to four. That means, allowin‟ time to git outer the Wood
an‟ „ome agin‟ we‟ll „ave about „our an‟ „alf searchin‟ time. Not a lot in a wood that size.”
Barry reluctantly agreed.
“I‟ve walked the Old Wood lotk of timek, ak you all know, and it takek at leakt fortyfive minutek
jukt to get pakt the outer edge.”
“By which time, we‟ll need to turn round and come out again.” Danny added. “And remember,
we‟re going in the dark. We probably won‟t make half the distance in that time.”
“An‟ we‟s supposed to be searchin‟ for the ol‟ river bed. “Won‟t make a quarter o‟ the distance.”
Granny pointed out finally.
The little company sat quiet for a while, thinking. The only sound that could be heard apart from
Stan‟s‟ quiet snoring, was a faint wet squelching every now and then.
“Danny, you got any spare trousers you kin lend Albert „ere?”

“This is a bad idea!” Quilt moaned for the tenth time as the rusty iron graveyard gates loomed in
front of them for the second time that night.
“Jus‟ stop moanin. We‟s got a job to do, an‟ we won‟t git anywhere unless we gits on with it.”
Granny said quietly in response.
Barry led the way this rime, at his own request. He secretly felt a little more safe and secure being
the one carrying the little lantern. Quilts point about him being the obvious target didn‟t go down
too well at first though.
They made slightly better time on their second foray between the humps and mounds of the
graveyard though, partly because they now had a slightly better idea of the direction they were
going in, and also because their feet were working somewhat faster than their brains required of
“Hello, what‟s this? Danny said suddenly, stooping and lifting a small shiny rectangle of
cardboard from the ground.
“Looks like a playing card…” he said, holding it up in the lamp light, then passing the object over
to Quilt.
Albert took the card and turned it over.
The whites of his eyes gleamed like a couple of comets in the night sky.
“The Ace of Spades!” he wailed, dropping the card as if it were a funnel web spider.
“The what?” Jimmy asked, half afraid of the answer.
“The card of.. of…” Quilt trembled
“The card of death!” Danny concluded in a hushed voice.

“Tha‟s another „alf „our wasted.” Granny muttered looking sideways at Quilt.
“Next time you goes shinnin‟ up a tree, pick one you can git out of again!”
“Look, over here!” Jimmy suddenly called in an excited voice.

“You can git off Alberts‟ chest now!” Granny called to Barry. “‟E won‟t be goin‟ up any more
trees, an‟ its only some funny crumbs an‟ things on top of a tomb.”
“What sort of crumbs?” Quilt said nervously as he stood and dusted himself down.
“Ectoplasmic residue? Poltergeist droppings?”
“Tea time assorted.” Granny said. “Funny place for a picnic…”
“I can see the far gate, I think!” Jimmy hissed to his companions. “About a hundred and fifty
yards, I would guess. By that large tree.”

Quilt sat on the broken graveyard wall and hummed noisily to himself, as if to distract his
thoughts away from other, more pressing matters.
“What kept you?” he hissed as the others made their way through the remains of the gateway.
“We‟s been lookin‟ for you!” Granny said harshly. “Must „ave scorched your bloody feet, runnin‟
that fast.”
“Come on.” Barry said. “I know the way from here, even in the dark.”
Quilt was up faster than a rabbit with its‟ willy in a snare.
“Come back here, Mikter Quilt!” Barry called into the blackness. “You don‟t know where you‟re
“Couldn‟t give a toss!” the Alderman yelled back from the shadows ahead. “You got three „sixes‟
on your head or something? Just hurry up and catch up!”
The small pasture was little more than a narrow fold in the land about a hundred feet across and
Quilt covered the distance in less time than it took for the brief exchange of words.
He waited patiently in the long wet grass for his companions to reach him. Barry was first to
arrive and he held the lantern close to Quilts‟ face, then lowered it to nearer the ground.
“Jukt ak well that I came prepared thik time.” he said, pulling another pair of trousers from inside
his jacket.
“You‟ll have to learn to control that, Albert.” Granny chuckled as Quilt went in search of a tree to
change behind.
“Shouldn‟t have drunk so much tea.” Danny added.
The Alderman re emerged wearing a pair of baggy jodhpurs which made him look rather like a
carriage with the doors left open. He pulled at the offending flappy sides.
“Is this all you could manage?” he whined ungratefully.
“You don‟t have to wear them.” Barry pointed out. “Anyway, they were all I could lay my handk
on in a hurry.” Quilt muttered under his breath and followed the others as they made their way
toward the outer fringe of the Old Wood.
“Stop moanin‟ Albert.” Granny said good humouredly. “You‟se done nothin‟ but whinge all
Albert continued to whinge under his breath.

The Old Wood didn‟t start with a sudden wall of trees. It was more like a small forest that crept
up on you. It started with a few scrubby bushes, a couple of trees dotted about and the grass
getting longer and rougher at the sides of a diminishing path. Before long, anyone of a mind to go
that way would notice that there were more trees and tighter bushes, becoming more like bramble
and hawthorn as the path grew less and less obvious. Eventually, the surrounding light would turn
a deeper shade of green as the canopy of leaves and branches overhead blocked out the sky
completely but at night, the little company didn‟t notice this anyway. It was only marginally
darker inside the Wood than it was outside.
“We must be barmy!” Quilt grumbled for the umpteenth time as he unhooked his frock coat yet
again from a hawthorn snag.
The little lantern Barry was carrying ahead cast a pitifully small amount of light and seemed to do
little more than highlight the ominous shapes of the gnarled, twisted trees around them as black
ominous silhouettes, seeming to stoop down over the light as if waiting to grab one of them.
Quilt had moved up from the rear and was unconsciously changing places with Jimmy every now
and then, who also had a creeping fear of being at the back.
“Will you two stop fidgitin‟!” Granny rasped. She spat into the bushes at the side of the trail.
“Er, “ Quilt said somewhat carefully. “Maybe the trees won‟t like it if you spit at them…”
Granny spat again. “Will you lot stop beein‟ such a load of babies!”
“We need to move more to the east to get to the pond.” Danny interrupted, ignoring the gentle
bickering among his friends.
“Oh great!” Quilt hissed. “Let‟s just get a bearing from the stars, shall we? Jimmy, Just shin up
that oak over there and tell us where east is! Or maybe someone thought to bring a compass with
a lamp inside it?”
“Jus‟ pack in the sarcasm, Albert. You‟se getting‟ to be real pain in the arse!”
“Well I‟m sorry!” Quilt answered hotly. “I just missed the street signs on the way in! Anyway, I
still think we must all be… “
“Ssshhhh!” Danny hissed suddenly. “Listen!”
The company came to a dead stop, although under their present circumstances, that would
probably not have been a phrase Quilt would have chosen.
“What is it?” he whispered.
They all stood still and strained their ears, trying to pick up any sounds that might be considered
Then, somewhere faint and quite far off to their left, they all heard it.
Quiet, and obviously a good way away, but unmistakable.
“Oh dear!” Danny said quietly.
“Oh my!” Barry added.
“Oh God!” Jimmy put in a little more meaningfully.
“Bring anymore trousers?” Granny whispered.
“Just you let go of my coat!” Quilt hissed, trying to set a new world record for cross country
“Stan‟ still!” Granny ordered. “E‟s a long way off, an‟ prob‟ly got nothin‟ to do with us. Can‟t
know we‟s „ere, anyway. Not unless some of us kicks up an „elluva noise an‟ tells „im!” She cast
a sideways glance in the dark at Quilt, who felt, rather than saw it. His legs stopped paddle-
wheeling in the wet mossy grass.
“What do we do if we meet up with him?” he whimpered, clamping his knees tightly together.
“We jus‟ makes sure we don‟t.” Granny answered matter of factly. “Barry, put that lamp out!”
Barry complied without question.
“What are you doing!” Quilt wailed. “How on earth can we see where we‟re going!”
“Don‟t worry, Mister Quilt,” Danny replied calmly. “I can find my way around here, even in the
dark. Just everyone follow me.” He made his way past Barry and began moving off down the
darkened trail, the others following behind holding on to an item of each others clothing.
“Urk!” Quilt gagged quietly from the middle of the little troop.
The little caravan of adventurers wound their way surprisingly quickly through the tangle of trees
and bushes even in the dark thanks to Danny‟s guidance. Even he was quietly pleased with
himself that he could remember the way so clearly, even in the impenetrable gloom that
surrounded them.
After about another twenty minutes he called for them to stop.
“Everyone ok?” he queried quietly.
Barry had scratched his face a few times on overhanging branches as he was somewhat taller than
the rest of them, but apart from that, everyone was fine. Even Quilt had calmed down
considerably and was feeling quite a bit less nervous.
“The pond is just ahead.” He whispered but even in the dark, they had all become aware that the
location of the pond was at hand.
“What a ktink!” Barry muttered.
“It‟s foul!” Jimmy cried, covering his nose and mouth with his hand.
“Waters‟ mos‟ly dried up.” Granny pointed out. “The pond is only fed by a small run off the river
itself from on Reg‟s land. Some‟ow, that feed „as bin stopped up too. Without the water goin‟ in,
the pond‟s been soakin‟ away into the surroundin‟ land.” She made her way to the front of the
line and whispered to Danny.
“Can you find the ol‟ feed stream at the back o‟ the pond in the dark?”
This was where the search would really begin and if they couldn‟t locate where the stream used to
run into the pond from Reg‟s land, through the deeper parts of the Wood, then their quest was
“I‟m afraid we‟ll need to go into the pond.” he replied.
Quilt heard the quiet comment.
“What?!” he gasped. “Into the pond? Whatever for?!”
“I used to swim the water, not walk round it!” Danny pointed out.
“But the pond‟s huge! We‟ll all be soaked!”
“I can‟t swim very well…” Jimmy whined.
“We won‟t needs to swim. We can walk. There‟s „ardly any water in there now.” Granny
reminded them.
“Exactly.” Danny agreed. “But if I‟m in the pond, I‟ll be able to find the outfall easily. I can
remember where I used to swim as if it were yesterday.”
The others nodded reluctantly in understanding.
“Anyway…” Danny went on. “The middle of the pond will be clear of all this undergrowth. At
least we‟ll be able to walk it easily and we‟ll make good time too.”

Quilt dragged his left leg upwards slowly as it sucked noisily out of the stinking black ooze.
“Easily…” he muttered. “Make good time…” he grumbled.
“Oh shut up Albert!” Granny replied. “You‟se gotter ec‟spect a bit o‟ mud.”
“Bit!” Quilt cried, heaving his other leg from the quagmire.
“It‟s like a cess pit!”
“Kmellk like one ak well!” Barry added, holding his nose.
“At least we can see a bit better.” Jimmy pointed out.
Above them, the deep blue-black sky was visible and here and there a few stars were now dotted
about giving a faint light.
The pond mud glistened in the dark, thousands of tiny sparkles glittering wherever small bubbles
of trapped gas erupted adding to the evil stench.
“How much further?” Quilt grated. He had had more than enough of the night‟s quest.
“Only a little way.” Danny repeated for the fifth time.
“Said that fifteen minutes ago.” Quilt complained.
“Gooorrrrttttt!!!” came a sound from the darkness.
“Oh hell! He‟s back!” Quilt hissed.
“Stan‟ still!” Granny ordered.
The company stopped in their tracks and listened.
“Um…” Quilt said after a moment.
“Ssshhh!” Granny cut him short.
I just thought…” Quilt began a few moments later.
“Be Quiet!” Granny spat.
Silence fell over the companions.
“Er, trees seem to be growing…” Jimmy whispered after a few minutes.
“Pillock!” Quilt hissed. “We‟re sinking! That‟s what I‟ve been trying to say!”
“Oh goodnekk!” Barry cried, trying to pull one submerged leg from the warm creeping gunge.
All he managed to do as he transferred his weight onto the other foot, was sink deeper on that
“I‟m ktuck!” he wailed.
“So am I!” Jimmy cried, now beyond caring whether Gort was abroad or not.
“Don‟t struggle!” Danny ordered. “You‟ll only push yourselves in deeper.”
“How do we get out?” Quilt moaned, wriggling in the bog as he slowly sank beyond his knees.
“Lay down!” Danny replied with a commanding tone in his voice.
“What?!” Quilt yelled. “Bugger off!”
“No, listen,” Danny went on. “It will spread the weight. You‟ll sink more slowly!”
“Oh, great!” Quilt answered sharply.
“We‟re all going to drown in poop, and you reckon we want to take our time about it!”
“No, you don‟t understand!” Danny replied. “There‟s a good foot of surface water in this part of
the pond. It should support us if we take deep breaths, and lift our legs out of the mud slowly.”
“You call this muck water?” Quilt said incredulously,
“It‟s our only chance!” Danny urged. “Just do as I do!”
He gently leaned forwards and slid his upper body into the black ooze. In the dim light, the others
stared wide eyed at what they were seeing. Granny looked up at the sky.
“‟S‟ getting‟ light.” she pointed out. “Muss be later‟n we thort. Be sun up in an „our or so.”
“Look at Danny!” Jimmy cried, pointing at his friend who was slowly, vitually crawling through
the slimy water toward the side of the pond.
Almost as one, the others gently lowered themselves into the muck and took deep breaths. One at
a time they slowly eased their trapped legs from the mud and began the short but time consuming
paddle to the slightly firmer shallows of the pond.
Quilt craned his head round and saw the huge hulking shape of a human-like creature stooped
over at the opposite side of the pond. It seemed to be straining to see across the mud.
“Oh God!” he cried. “He‟s found us, an we still have at least ten feet to go before we get out!”
“No, it‟s all right!” Danny called to his panicking companions. “He won‟t come in the pond. He
can‟t swim. He‟s afraid of water. Even water this shallow.”
“Come on you lot! Hurry up out of there!” Quilt yelled as he leaned against a tree and shook the
sloppy muck of the pond from his left shoe.
 He looked across the pond in the half light and waved at Gort.
“Ha, ha!” he yelled. “Bit scared, are we? Don‟t like the water, don‟t we?”
“Don‟t antagonise him!” Danny shouted back at his friend as he helped the others to safety from
the stinking mire of the pond.
“It‟s quite a long way round, but he can run faster than us!”
“Daaannnnyyyyy????!” Gorts voice wailed questioningly across the pond, in recognition of the
“Daaannnyyyy!!!” he cried again, a savage tone in his voice. Gort began to lope slowly along the
bank of the pond and in a moment, they were all amazed to see the creature break into a sprint
that would make mincemeat of the four minute mile.
“He obvioiukly rememberk how you dumped hik kikter.” Barry pointed out.
“I told you… I didn‟t dump her! Anyway,… run!” Danny yelled, pulling at Granny as he made
his way back to the path leading from the Wood.
“Won‟t you ever learn to button it?!” Granny yelled at Quilt as he overtook them all.

The Wood was thick and tangled, but Quilt somehow miraculously knew exactly where he was
going and the others did their utmost to keep up with him. Even so, the solid „thump-thump-
thump‟ of Gorts‟ lumbering gait seemed to be gaining on them.
“We‟re never going to make it!” Jimmy quailed, convinced that at any second a massive hairy
hand was going to grab his neck from behind, lift him bodily from the ground and then with
terrifying force, rend him into tiny pieces.
“I can see open space!” Danny yelled. He too had acquired a somewhat nervous tone to his voice
and the thought that Gort just might actually do some of the things Quilt had suggested niggled a
bit at his brain.
At that point however, he found he had something else to worry about.
His goolies began to itch.
“Oh, bollocks!” he silently cursed, somewhat accurately.
“What the hell are you doing?” Quilt yelled, looking back at Danny who was running as if he
were attempting to break the world record for hop-skip and jump.
Danny ignored him and continued as if he was running on a bed of fish hooks. He jammed his
right mitt down his trouser front and began to hop on one leg even more violently with every step
as he clawed at his scrotum. Attempting the marathon with a hand scraping wildly up and down
inside his underpants was not something Danny did every day but he performed the feat
“Fer Gods‟ sake, not now, Danny!” Granny yelled.
“Can‟t help it!” he wailed in reply, pounding his hand up and down as if he were pile driving for
“Didn‟t you bring any talc?!” Barry yelled from the rear.
“Run out!” Danny shouted abruptly.
“Gooorrrrtttt!!!...” came the unmistakable sound from even closer behind.
“Leave yer nuts alone „till we get „ome!” Quilt shouted, accelerating toward the Woods‟ fringe.
“Ain‟t far now!”
Danny grimaced and reluctantly heaved his hand out of his pants, leaving the nest of ants to
continue dancing a high speed waltz all over his testicles.
“Aaahhhh!!!!...” he wailed, suddenly running as if he had just invented the concept.
Even Quilt was left choking at the vapour trail Danny left in his wake. He crossed the clearing,
leaped over the churchyard wall, hurdled twenty-three headstones and cleared the iron fence at
the far side in a single bound.
Barry‟s front door was almost torn from the hinges as Danny thundered in and reached the top of
the stairs in two paces.
The bathroom door was slammed shut and by the time Quilt and the others arrived a few minutes
later, all that could be heard emanating from the smallest room in the house was a sound not
unlike a thousand mice scratching at the woodwork, and Danny purring in the throes of
unimaginable pleasure.

“We only jus‟ made it, then!” Granny spat as she closed the front door.
Barry bolted it securely, top and bottom but Granny added, “S‟all right… O‟l Gort won‟t come
out the Wood… Never „as done, since „e left school... Not fer anythin‟.”
“I‟m ktill not taking any chankek!” Barry stated adamantly. He had heard about the almost
legendary Gort many times in the past, but like most folk tales and pub stories, Barry had always
been convinced that most of what he had heard was exaggeration and „beefing-up‟ of otherwise
less interesting tales, not unlike the fishermen who have caught sharks and killer whales in the
smallest of streams since time began. Mind you, they always seemed to get away somehow or
This time however, it was the little company of intrepid adventurers who had only just escaped by
the skin of their teeth.
Gort was real, and now Barry and the others knew it.

“I said we must be barmy!” Quilt stated conclusively in that „I said so all along, and you
wouldn‟t listen‟ kind of voice, always saved up and produced at moments of near catastrophe by
the most irritating of people who to make matters worse, usually were right all along.
“Well, now what?” Barry asked.
“I suppose that‟s the end of that.” Jimmy added almost hopefully. His doubts were soon laid to
“Not a bit of it!” Granny stated flatly. “We needs to find the „ol river outfall, an‟ tha‟s what we‟re
goin‟ to do.”
“Are you mad?” Quilt exploded. “We only just got away alive from that, that, lunatic out there!
And you expect us to go back again? What next? Shall we all wear bells and carry signs stating,
„Packed lunch for gort! Come and get it!‟ How about if we all just yell „Here, Gorty Gorty!‟…
Or,.. I know,.. Let‟s save Gort the bother of searching! Why not just bang on Stote‟s front door
and offer ourselves as sacrifice? We could even lend him Barry‟s nice knives and forks! I expect
Jimmy would taste nice with a drop of horseraddish!” Quilt threw himself into an armchair,
folded his arms and wound his neck in three inches.
“Finished?” Granny asked mildly.
“He has got a bit of a point.” Danny said, coming down the stairs and into the front room. He was
wearing clean, dry clothes and smelled decidedly of violets. He was also smiling.
“Surely a doctor?...” Quilt began, looking at the young man.
“Albert!” Granny cut him off.
Danny ignored Quilts‟ remark and continued.
“No, what I mean is, we just got away that time. But what if it was just me?”
“What do you mean?” Jimmy queried.
“Well…” Danny said thoughtfully, stroking at his chin and leaving a streak of white powder on
his face. “Maybe it was just me that Gort was after. After all, it was my name he was shouting.”
“That‟s just because he didn‟t know who the rest of us were!” Quilt stated flatly. “He would have
had us all as chicken nibbles just the same if he‟d caught us.”
“Mikter Quilt ik probably right there…” Barry added.
“So what do we do?” Danny asked. “How do we get back in the Wood without Gort finding us?
We need to be psychic just to keep out of his way!”
The conversation degenerated into a babble of „yes buts‟ and „how abouts‟ for the next few
minutes, until Barry noticed a queer look on Granny‟s face.
“You feeling alright, Granny?” he asked, immediately halting the conversation.
Granny continued to look somewhat puzzled, almost as if she were weighing up the pro‟s and
con‟s of an idea.
“You‟ve thought of something?” Jimmy said almost questioningly.
“Oh hell!” Quilt moaned. “What now?”
“Nice cuppa tea, tha‟s what. Then I‟ll „splain.” She sat back on the sofa and looked pleased, like
the cat that has just had the Sunday roast.
Chapter 9.

The little company sat around the newly stoked fire and sipped at their cups of freshly brewed tea.
They were all clean and dry now, courtesy of Barry and his seemingly bottomless wardrobe.
Indeed, he had even managed to come up with several capes and large scarves that fitted granny
perfectly as shawls. Another plate of biscuits and chocolate dainties were set on the small side
table and Stan had been told off to the kitchen. They all felt a good deal warmer and considerably
calmer now.
“Albert… Does you remember the ol‟ bottlin‟ plant by the brewery?” Granny asked.
Quilt nodded an affirmative. Indeed, it would be difficult for anyone not to remember the place.
Lower Worter Ale had been well known for miles around in years gone by as one of the best
beers available at any price. Folks would come from far and wide to try „Quarter to three‟ as the
best bitter was known. A thick, dark ale with a creamy head, nutty overtones and an almost fruity
finish, it was also over seven percent proof, leaving many an inexperienced drinker with a
pounding head the following day after trying a few pints. It was brewed in secret at the „Worter
works‟ as the brewery was affectionately known locally, and no one knew quite what was in it.
However, when the river had started to dry up, water was carted in from the not-so-nearby Upper
Worter, so as to continue brewing the now famous beer.
It didn‟t last however. The beer didn‟t taste quite the same and rather than spoil the reputation of
„Quarter to three‟ the bottling plant closed down and only a very small amount of „draught‟ was
brewed using what little water still flowed in the local river. However, when that too ceased to
flow, the local brewery reluctantly shut up shop altogether.
The chief brewer retired to his little cottage at the back of the bottling plant and although many
ale companies and breweries for miles around thereafter tried to entice the old fellow with all
kinds of offers and rewards, he refused to impart the secret recipe for his renowned bitter.

“How‟s that place going to help us?” Quilt asked “You‟re not suggesting we try to get Gort
drunk, then sneak past him?”
Granny frowned at Quilt and he fell silent.
“I was thinkin‟ of somethin‟ else.” she said, staring into the coals of the fire and rubbing her
wrinkled hands. “Somethin‟ Danny said a while ago, „bout needin‟ to be psychic…”
“I didn‟t mean anything…” Danny began, thinking that Granny had taken offence at his words.
She waved him to silence.
“D‟you remember the old ale? „Quarter to three‟?”
Quilt nodded affirmatively again, almost tasting the ale in his mind. He would have given almost
anything for a pint or four right now.
“What about it?” he asked dubiously.
Granny thought for a moment, and the others looked on, thinking she was still vaguely
formulating some new plan, whereas in fact she was trying to work out the best way to suggest
her newest idea, without Quilt throwing up his arms and going home in hysterics.
“Well, I thinks there jus‟ might be someone who can „elp us.”
“You mean a kykic?” Barry asked.
“What?” Jimmy queried in amazement.
“A psychic!” Quilt said smoothly. “Now why didn‟t I think of that! We could have looked in
„Psychic‟s gazette‟, or „Fortune tellers weekly‟ and saved ourselves a lot of trouble!”
“You‟se getting‟ sarky again.” Granny said quietly but with an edge to her voice like a fish
gutting knife.
“There‟s someone as used to work at the brewery that might be useful.”
“What do you mean, „might‟?” Danny queried.
“Well,” Granny replied, “E‟s got a bit of a knack of seein‟ things we don‟t all see…”
“Sounds good…” Jimmy nodded keenly, unaware of what lay ahead.
Granny frowned a bit, and Quilt frowned even more, as if he was beginning to see where the
conversation was going.
“Trouble is,” Granny muttered, “Can‟t always tell what „e‟s on about…”
“Oh no!” Quilt spluttered, suddenly standing up and knocking the tray of biscuits over. The
penny had dropped.
“Not him!”
“Who?” the others all asked at once.
“Now, Albert…” Granny placated. “E‟s alright. Iss jus‟ that, well, „e‟s not quite all right in the
same way as the rest of us!”
“Who?” the others asked again.
“He‟s round the bend!” Quilt cried. “He babbles rubbish! Jibberish! No one has a clue what on
earth he‟s on about!”
“‟E ain‟t all that bad!” Granny tried to pacify Quilt. “I can gets the drift of some o‟ what „e says.”
“Some!.. Some!.. A lot of use that will be, when we ask him the quickest way out of the Wood
when Gort decides to invite us to lunch, and he spends the next twenty minutes telling us all
about how to measure the inside leg of a carpet fitter!”
“WHO?...” the others yelled.
Granny looked at Quilt a moment longer, then she turned to the others.
“The ol‟ chief brewer…” she said.
Quilt groaned quietly behind her.
“E was always thort to be a bit, well,…”
“Bloody nuts!” Quilt cut in.
“Albert!” Granny chided.
“He‟s off his loaf!” Quilt cried ignoring her.
“As I was sayin‟,” she looked sideways at Quilt. “‟E was thort to be a bit odd. Brilliant brewer,
but a bit odd. Talks to „imself, an suchlike.”
“But how can he help us?” Danny asked, intrigued by the sound of this peculiar old man.
“No one could roightly make sense of „im.” Granny said. “So most folks left „im alone.”
“Wouldn‟t go within three miles”, springs to mind…” Quilt muttered. Then he grumpily added,
“Sorry!…” seeing Granny‟s glassy scowl.
“I used to talk to „im, and sometimes „e made sense. But after I‟d known „im about ten year or so,
it suddenly „it me. „E weren‟t talking‟ rubbish. Leastways, not all the time. I cottoned on to it
after „e rambled on about me toast burnin‟ „cos I was talkin‟ too much, one afternoon. When I
asked „im what „e meant, „e seemed not to know „e‟d even said anythin‟. I put it out me mind as
more of „is gibberish, but next mornin‟ I was natterin‟ to ol‟ Postie when „e delivered the mail,
an‟ I forgot about me mornin‟ Cobb, toastin‟ by the fire. Burnt to a crisp, it was. That was when I
remembered what I‟d „eard the day afore.”
“He wasn‟t talking jibberish!...” Jimmy said excitedly.
“He wok looking into the future!” Barry finished.
“Exactly!” Granny nodded.
“And what about the rest of it?” Quilt asked mildly, doing a rapid mono blink and raising the
associated eyebrow.
“The rekt of it?” Barry queried.
Granny scowled irritably at Quilt but carried on.
“Trouble is, sometimes „e says things that is goin‟ to „appen, an‟ sometimes „e says things that
already „ave appened.”
“And sometimes he talks out of his ars….”
“Albert! Less „o that!” Granny cut in sternly.
“True, „tain‟t always clear wha‟s past an‟ wha‟s future, or even wha‟s no use at all. Sometimes „e
answers questions you „aint even asked yet, an‟ sometimes „e answers quite a bit later than when
you asks.”
“Not much good asking him where the loo is if you‟re caught short then.” Quilt muttered.
Granny ignored him and continued. “But „e could still be „elpful, an‟ even maybe warn us if
there‟s trouble ahead if we gives a careful mind to what „e‟s sayin‟.”
“Or he could be no use at all, or even worse, worse than no use!” Quilt added. “What if he tells us
something and we go along with it, only find out later that it was gibberish, and we‟re worse off
than before? What if he gets us into even worse trouble than we were in to start with?”
The others looked from Quilt to Granny to see what her answers to these reasonably logical
questions might be.
“I agrees, we don‟t necessarily takes all what „e says at face value. All I‟m sayin‟ is, „e might be
useful. We still decides for ourselves what to do if we „aint shoore about summat, but at least
we‟s got someone who might be able to see trouble „fore it arises.”
“Who is this fellow? I‟ve never heard of him?” Jimmy asked. “I‟ve lived here a long time, and
I‟ve been on the council a good few years. How come I‟ve never heard about this fortune teller
“Well, „e ain‟t „zacktly a fortune teller…” Granny said haltingly.
“Ever heard of Bembridge Scooter?” Quilt said scornfully.
“Him?” Jimmy, Danny and Barry exploded simultaneously.

“Now when you‟se lot „as finished laughin‟ we kin all git some sleep. We‟s got a lot to do
tomorrer.” Granny said stiffly.

Bembridge Scooter was in fact very well known by almost everyone in the village. In fact, he was
probably at least, if not even better known than Barry himself.
Bembridge had always been a little odd. Even from a young age he had baffled and confounded
everyone including his parents with his seemingly meaningless statements and pointless
He was branded a dunce at school, and he would fail every spelling test and maths exam with an
amazing degree of regularity. Never before or since had the local school had any pupil who
would fail every test with a 100% success rate.
Nobody had ever noticed though, that in fact Bembridge always got all the answers in the tests
correct. The trouble was, they were never in the right order. His answer to question four would
actually be the answer to question nine, and the answer to question nine, would be written in
place of the answer to question two, or whatever.
His verbal answers were even more confusing, as when asked a question like „name the capital of
a particular country‟, he would much to the hilarity and delight of his class mates, reply, „Ham
Only sometime later would someone ask him what he had for lunch, and be met by his inane grin.
His teachers and friends, nor anybody else for that matter, ever put his peculiarities together to
realise what was actually happening.
Mind you, in other ways there was no denying that Bembridge was brilliant. When left to his own
devices he would more often than not come up with the solution to the most complex of
He began his working career as a lowly assistant at the brewery but rapidly ascended the ladder of
authority due to his seemingly uncanny knack of knowing just when things were right or wrong
with a particular mix or brew. Many were the occasions that Bembridge saved an entire vat of ale
from being spoilt, when others hadn‟t even realised there was a problem looming.
His final triumph came when he had been experimenting with a strange mix of nuts, berries and
hops in the brewing of a new ale. Bembridge had decided to work late in his own time, and create
a „special‟ beer all on his own. He never mentioned his pet project, brewing quietly in a small test
vat at the back of an old shed for well over a year, until the famous day when he marched into the
Managing Directors office, handed him a pint of the now famous brew and stepped back. When
the Manager tasted the amazing ale and asked what it was, Bembridge proudly replied, “Quarter
to three.”
About two hours later, someone asked him the time…

“Come on you‟se lot.” Granny called, shaking Jimmy, Danny and Quilt from their respective
chairs in Barry‟s lounge. Granny had graciously accepted Danny‟s offer of his bed when they all
finally crawled away in the early hour just before dawn for a little sleep, after a long discussion as
to the merits of enlisting the help of Bembridge Scooter.
Barry was already up and was preparing a breakfast of toast, bacon, mushrooms, sausages and
fried eggs in the kitchen. The heavy hot greasy smell wafted throughout the house and young
Jimmy climbed up from the confines of his armchair and sniffed.
All thoughts of sleep were gone as he began licking his lips in anticipation.
Danny stretched and scratched at his nether regions once or twice before excusing himself and
making a hasty retreat to the bathroom.
Quilt yawned like an open barn and squinted at the mid morning light.
“Close those ruddy curtains!” he moaned, trying without success to get his head even further
under the cushions. He had taken the double sofa, being the eldest and Village Alderman. It
hadn‟t made much difference though as the sofa was five feet six inches long, and Quilt was
nearly six feet tall.
He had spent a somewhat crooked few hours trying to sleep and the kink in his neck made him
“C‟mon, Albert.” Granny called cheerily, yanking the drapes even wider, allowing the morning
sun to stream in.
Quilt groaned, sniffed the breakfast, and groaned again.
He generally disliked cooked food this early in the day and it brought back to him memories of
the stout he had drunk at Waycross Fayre the other afternoon, with a hot unpleasant rush to his
“Peasants.” he moaned and did his best to impersonate a mole beneath the sofa cushions.
“Come on, Mikter Quilt.” Barry called merrily from the kitchen. “How do you like your eggk?
Kcrambled, or kunny kide up?”
“Got any dry bread and water?” Quilt mumbled through a mouthful of chenille.
Barry hustled in backwards through the door bearing a massive silver tray laden with hot plates
and steaming food. He deposited the tray on a side table and went back to the kitchen. Jimmy
stared agape at the mountain of fare.
“How many are coming to breakfast?” he quipped, but at that moment Barry reversed in through
the door again bearing a second tray, as heavily laden as the first.
“Come on, tuck in!” he ordered.
“Good lord!” Danny laughed. “Wherever is it all going to go! There‟s enough here for an army.”
Quilt poked a long pointed nose an inch out from beneath his cushion and sniffed the food.
“Ooohhh!” he whined, withdrawing his snout from view.
“Come on then Barry!” Granny called. “You come and eat as well.”
“Jukt bringing the tea.” he called from the kitchen, and a few moments later he reappeared with
yet a third tray groaning beneath the weight of more fried goodies, two huge urns of tea, cups,
saucers, condiments and cutlery.
“I don‟t have people for breakfakt very often.” he pointed out.
“Not like Gort!” Danny said jokingly and they all laughed, the horrors of only a few hours ago
now seeming long in the past.
“You won‟t be laughing when you have to go back in the Woods.” Quilt mumbled from beneath
his barricade of soft furnishings.
A barrage of cushions hit him from all sides, accompanied by plenty of jeering and cat calls.
Mind you, he was right.
Breakfast was completely devoured within about half an hour, much to the amazement of Jimmy
who had been convinced it would be impossible for them to consume that much food. They all sat
groaning and puffing with contentment and sipping endless cups of tea. Quilt had finally surfaced
and after much persuading, had „reluctantly‟ eaten five fried egg sandwiches and four sausages
wrapped in bacon.
The breakfast things were cleared and Barry had to almost physically lock himself into the
kitchen, so insistent was he that he alone would do all the washing up, as the others were his
guests. They were instructed to sit by the fire and enjoy the morning.
“Well you can‟t fault his hospitality.” Danny said, absently admiring Barry‟s collection of books
almost filling one wall of polished shelves.
“‟E‟s got „eart „o gold.” Granny replied. “Trouble with mos‟ folks, is they can‟t see wass under
their noses most the time.” She looked slyly at Quilt. “Can‟t always judge a book by its cover.”
she added.
Danny looked at the title of the volume he was holding and he shivered.
„Embalming in four easy stages.‟
“Peculiar taste in reading.” he observed.
“What‟k that?” Barry asked, entering the lounge. He had finished clearing up in the kitchen.
“Your books. Some odd titles.” Danny pointed out.
“Oh, they were here when I bought the houke from the Vicar. He kaid I could keep them ak he
had read them all ko many timek anyway.” Barry replied.
“I‟ve never read mokt of them. I jukt keep them becauke they look good on the cupboard.”
“Well, what about this old Bent fridge Hoover, or whatever he‟s called.” Jimmy said, turning
back to the matter of the night before.
“Scooter.” Granny corrected. “Bembridge Scooter. An‟ your right. We‟s gonner ave to go an‟ see
“What if he won‟t help us?” Danny pointed out.
Granny smiled and nodded. “Oh, he will. Soon as „e finds out we‟s goin‟ to find out where all the
water in the river‟s gone, „e‟ll „elp all right. Stands to reason. We get the water back, Bembridge
gets „is brewery back.”
They all nodded their understanding and agreed it was a good plan, even if it was marginally
verging on insane subterfuge.
Granny looked out of the window at the sky.
“Getting‟ a bit overcast. We ort to make our way sooner rather‟n later. Don‟t wanner git caught in
the rain.”
Quilt had resigned himself to the fact that they were going to seek the assistance of the village
idiot so he made no further discouraging remarks, except for the occasional muttered „you wait
and see‟ and „don‟t say I never warned you‟.
These comments were usually followed by a four piece chorus of „Shuddup Albert!”
Well, actually it was a three piece chorus plus one saying “Khuddup Albert!”

Barry shut the front door, locked it and stuffed the large iron key into his coat pocket. Quilt stood
stamping his feet and blowing into his cupped hands while the others meandered slowly down the
garden path. Jimmy still eyed the little pond in Barry‟s garden somewhat suspiciously and made a
point of walking on the side of the path that was farthest from the water as they passed.
“Chilly „smornin‟.” Granny observed as the sky overhead began to cloud over.
“I exkpect it will get warmer.” Barry answered as they made their way back toward the village
 No one said anything about the night before, but no one looked in the direction of the church
yard either.
A few people were abroad and Granny nodded and said her usual „mornin‟ to many of them.
Quite a few spoke to Quilt who only gave a curt nod in reply.
“Won‟t endear yourself to folks if you be‟aves like that all the time.” Granny pointed out.
“I‟m cold!” Quilt replied, as if that explained everything.
“So‟s we all,” Granny said, “but we don‟t go round with our „ead up our backsides.”
Quilt looked rather sheepishly at his companions and grinned a smidgin.
“Sorry… I just still think this Scooter fellow is going to be a mistake.” Then before any of the
others could say anything, he carried on. “Barry, Jimmy, Danny. You don‟t know him. I agree,
you‟ve heard about him, and you just think he‟s some comical old eccentric. Granny knows him
better than any of us and she has confidence in him. Fine, I‟ll go along with it then. But don‟t
forget, I know him too and I still think he‟s not just odd, he‟s dangerous. We could end up in
serious trouble if we don‟t watch out. I just want to make sure you‟re all aware of it.” Quilt
looked at his friends who were looking back at him with serious expressions on their faces.
“It‟s not just a case of „Don‟t say I didn‟t warn you‟, but,… well,… Don‟t say I didn‟t warn you!”
“You really think thik Bembridge Kcooter could be bad newk?” Barry asked, moving up to walk
alongside Quilt. The Alderman just nodded in reply.
Granny tried to pacify them.
“Look. I knows „e‟s a bit odd, „an it‟s not always easy to make out what „e‟s on about. But I
knows I‟m. „E‟ won‟t do or say anythin‟ as is likely to get us into bother. „E‟ ain‟t like that.
You‟ll see. „E‟s a nice fellow, when you gets to know „im, an‟ if you gives „im a chance.”
“I‟m not saying he isn‟t,” Quilt responded. “I just want you all to listen carefully to what he says.
Don‟t just laugh at him, because he isn‟t trying to be funny.”
“I can‟t wait to meet him!” Jimmy said with a slightly excited tone in his voice. He clearly
already thought that this fellow was going to be a wonderful source of entertainment. Barry and
Danny nodded eagerly at Jimmy‟s words and Quilt sighed, realising that most of his voiced
concerns had fallen on deaf ears.
“Come on then!” he said, lowering his head against the fine drizzle beginning to fall around them.

The old brewery loomed ahead, outlined against the leaden grey sky of the now damp, misty
morning. It was a tall, rambling structure that sprouted assorted add-ons and extensions in
profusion, where the company had built on more and more workspace in the days when the
business had been doing well. Even though the brewery had only been closed down a short time it
had a decidedly creepy, deserted atmosphere about it.
Quilt shuddered as he looked at the imposing edifice sprawling alongside the dry riverbed.
“Where does this Scooter chap live?” Danny asked, looking at the brewery with trepidation.
“Over on the right there.” Granny pointed to a small cottage-like building at one end of the
brewery complex, standing about ten yards inside a tall perimeter fence.
“Great. How do we get in?” Danny queried, noticing the obstacle.
“Not a problem,” Granny answered. “Gate‟s jus‟ beside „is „ouse.”
The little company made their way up to the fence and followed it to a ramshackle old wooden
gate that stood askew on rusty hinges. It wasn‟t closed. Just inside, there stood a large but low
wooden hut with an open door. A thick but frayed rope was tied to a bent nail hammered into the
frame, and disappeared inside the dark structure.
“Don‟t like the look of that!” Jimmy observed. As they approached the hut, they could hear a
deep, wheezing snore coming from within. A few large and well gnawed bones lay on the ground
just inside the doorway.
“Oh, crikey!” Barry muttered.
The party tip-toed past the enormous kennel and headed for the cottage, still some ten yards
“Probably only a tiny thing anyway…” Danny chuckled nervously.
His laugh woke the slumbering resident of the hut and the wheezy snoring stopped.
The company stood stock still, hardly daring to breath.
Suddenly without warning, a black dog of rhinoceros proportions exploded from the kennel that
now seemed ludicrously small for the inhabitant.
The dog hardly seemed to touch the ground as it launched itself towards its new mid morning
snack. The rope tied to the monsters neck seemed pitifully feeble but it went taut with a satisfying
„twang‟, bringing the dog to heel about two feet from the cowering companions who were now
backed up tightly against the brewery fence. The creature didn‟t exactly bark, but rather it
shattered the morning stillness with a sound that would terrify Mars, the God of war himself.
They all had a very good view of their next port of call beyond the dog‟s uvula, flapping wildly
with the confines of the slimy, ear shattering wind tunnel.
The dog didn‟t exactly have teeth either. Not in the usual sense of the word anyway.
Enormous grey dagger-like protrusions sprouted from the canine‟s gums. A few were broken
down to short rotted stumps, no doubt caused by chewing on some poor victims‟ thigh bones. A
slippery, pinkish gunge dripped from the lethal fangs as the dog barked insanely and continued to
strain at the fragile rope restraining it.
“Bad breath.” Barry noted.
“We‟re dead!” Quilt wailed.
Barry however, looked more closely at the dog.
“Collark far too tigh.” he observed, casually moving closer toward the modern day equivalent of
Tyrannosaurus Rex.
“What are you doing?” Quilt yelled, grabbing at Barry‟s sleeve.
“Are you mad?” Jimmy cried, trying to sidle along the fence towards the gate.
“Now, now,” Barry intoned calmly as he smiled at the slavering hound.
“You‟re jukt a bit uncomfortable, aren‟t you?” he asked mildly, yanking his hand back
unconcernedly when the dog tried to remove it at the elbow.
Quilt and the others closed their eyes, not wishing to see their friend being shredded limb from
It was Quilt who opened his eye first when he realised the barking had stopped.
He stared, even one and a half eyed, at the dog licking Barry‟s outstretched hand. Barry was
feeding the dog from a bag of sweets he kept in his coat pocket while he loosened the rope round
the beast‟s neck.
“Don‟t untie it!” Jimmy quailed.
Even Granny was not quite as composed as usual and added, “Jimmy‟s right there. Better not
takes any chances…”
“I‟m not going to let it looke…” Barry said gently so as not to startle the dog. “I‟m jukt trying to
looken the rope round itk neck a bit. Itk far too tight.”
The dog was now standing up on its hind legs, front paws on Barry‟s shoulder.
“Good grief!” Quilt stammered. “Look at the size of it!”
The dog was slobbering all over Barry‟s face and was whining like a puppy.
“He likek toffeek!” Barry spluttered in between bouts of being pummelled with a twelve inch
length of slimy wet paving slab.
Just then, a small stooped crinkly old man appeared at the doorway of the cottage and yelled,
“Who the hell are you, and what are you doing to Tinkles?”
“TINKLES?” Quilt cried in astonishment.
“An‟ what are you doin‟ with his collar?” The gnome added harshly, seeing Barry fiddling with
the restraining rope.
“Itk a bit tight.” he replied, patting the dog once and giving it another toffee before stepping back
out of the dinosaurs reach.
Tinkles slobbered and licked at the ground, sniffing to see if it could locate anymore sweets.
“An‟ what are you feeding him?” the little man cried, snatching the offending bag from Barry‟s
hand. “Six year old bullock!” he suddenly yelled for no apparent reason.
Barry stepped back a pace and stared.
“Toffees! You should never give him sweets! Makes him go all pathetic and wimpy! Just look at
him! I won‟t be able to do a thing with him for the rest of the week!”
Barry crouched down and scratched the dog‟s stomach, who had rolled over playfully on his back
and was whining pathetically.
“He‟s meant to be a guard dog.” the strange little man added in an annoyed tone of voice. “And
the collar needs to be tight. Tinkles got off just last week and had one of Farmer Mumbles new
cattle for supper! There was hell to pay!”
“Newborn calf, was it?” Quilt asked timidly.
The old man looked scornfully at Quilt but didn‟t reply.
Quilt gulped.
Then the man stood up to his full four foot nine inches and looked at the group of newcomers.
“I know you Granny, and you Albert Quilt.” He stared long at the others but didn‟t recognise any
of them. “What are you doing here? And will you leave Tinkles alone!”
“Tinkles?” Quilt repeated quietly.
Granny smiled at the little man and said, “‟Allo Bembridge. Long time, eh?” She held out her
hand to shake his.
The old man took her hand and shook it limply. “Not on a Tuesday, and only red ones.” Then he
added, “Hello Granny. What you all doing up here at my place. And don‟t say you‟ve come for
any beer!”
The company chuckled nervously but sighed with relief as they moved away from the still
slobbering hound when Bembridge invited them into his cottage.
The little house was a mess. Not just untidy, or cluttered in the kind of way that some folks have,
when everything appears to be utter chaos to everybody else, but the owner knows exactly where
anything is at any one time. This was a mess. Even Bembridge couldn‟t find anything most of the
time. Tables, chairs, cupboards, shelves, everything was crammed and piled high with books,
papers and clutter. There was hardly a clear space to move.
“Just caught me having a tidy.” he said amiably.
Jimmy nudged Danny. “Tidy?” he mouthed silently. Danny shrugged in amazement.
“Anyway,” Scooter continued. “What are you doing here, and what do you want? They aren‟t
made of string anyway! And you! I knew you‟d get him in the end!”
Granny looked uncertainly at Quilt who just stared blankly at the old fellow.
“Well, we‟s „opin you can „elp us.” she said bluntly and getting straight to the point.
“Me?” Scooter queried. “How can I be of any help to you Granny?” Then for no apparent reason
he looked at the window and said more to himself, “Now what‟s that flamin‟ dog barkin‟ at?”
Barry looked baffled and Jimmy noticed his friend‟s expression. It was silent outside.
 “Sorry… Where are my manners…” Bembridge suddenly said. “Here, sit down all of you.”
With a quick sweep of one hand he cleared the settee, and piles of papers and books shot across
the floor in an untidy heap. It didn‟t notice.
Granny sat down and patted at the cushions for the others to do the same although the settee was
rather small and Barry had to scotch on one arm of the chair.
Over the space of the next hour and a half, Granny explained what she and her companions were
trying to do and how they had already made the first tentative foray into the Old Wood, and had
encountered Gort. Scooter listened attentively without speaking for the most part.
“Lucky you got out with your skin!” he observed dryly when Granny finally finished her account
of their adventures so far.
Quilt laughed and agreed.
“I‟ve been saying we‟re barmy for the last three days”
Scooter nodded and said, “So, let‟s get to the point. Don‟t get the strawberry ones. You want me
to come along, because you‟re hoping I might be able to help warn you about any troubles ahead?
And don‟t forget, they‟re shut on Wednesdays.”
Jimmy blinked.
Barry opened and closed his mouth but no sound came out.
Danny looked at Quilt and frowned. Quilt just stared back giving him the look that said all the
things he had said he wouldn‟t say.
“Nope. Can‟t do it!” Scooter answered bluntly. “In case any of you hadn‟t noticed, I‟m trying to
keep all that under control.”
Barry‟s eyebrows climbed three rungs up the ladder.
Scooter noticed the look and mistook it for the wrong kind of bewilderment.
“Have you any idea what it‟s like, seeing things before they happen? Yes, It can be helpful,
maybe prevent you letting the milk boil over, or stop a pigeon shittin‟ on your head. But how
about when you don‟t want to know what‟s going to happen? When someone‟s going to be hurt,
or worse, even die, and you can‟t get there in time to help? How do you think it makes me feel?”
Barry nodded sympathetically.
“No, not till tomorrow morning.” Bembridge added.
Granny frowned.
“But Bembridge, surely you wants the Worter to git back to normal? You‟d git your brewery
back, an‟ everythin‟!”
“I know all that. And I can see where you‟re coming from, if you‟ll pardon the expression. Two
lumps, please. Thing is, as I‟m sure you‟ve already discussed before coming here, I can‟t always
control what I say, and I just might say something to land you in even deeper trouble.” He looked
sideways at Quilt who flushed a nice cherry red.
“About ten minutes.” he added.
“You‟se right there, of course.” Granny replied. “Yes, we thort about that, but nevertheless, we
still think you‟d be a big „elp in findin‟ the river as is gone missin‟. We‟s prepared to take the
Scooter flushed angrily.
“Oh, so you‟ll take the risk! Big of you! What about me? What about what I think? I couldn‟t live
with the knowledge that I‟d said something that got someone hurt, or something. Half the time,
I‟m not even aware I‟ve said anything! Maybe as much as last Friday! What about the possibility
that I do actually end up making things worse? It‟s ME that has to live with that, not you!” He
scowled at the little group shifting nervously on the sofa, still trying to sift through the man‟s
words and make sense out of them.
Granny waved away his remarks with an unconcerned air.
“I din‟t mean that, an you knows it. Your jus‟ tryin‟ to make us feel guilty „cos your too feeble
an‟ scared to „elp.” She hoped her stinging remarks might just be what was needed.
Scooter stretched up another quarter of an inch. His eyebrows bristled and he clenched his fists.
Barry even thought for a moment that the old fellow was about to hit Granny.
“Cottage pie!” the angry old man yelled. Then, turning to Quilt he added, “ Told you so!”
“And don‟t you laugh!” he spat, turning to a grinning Barry.
“Anyway, me?! Scared?! I‟ve never been scared of anything except my own ability to see some
of the things that haven‟t happened yet! All right! I‟ll help, but on your own heads be it if things
go wrong!... Mind that tree!” he added almost as an afterthought.
“Er, what tree?” Quilt asked without thinking.
“What?” Scooter scowled.
“Um, the tree…” Quilt replied hesitantly.
“What bloody tree!” Scooter cried, waving his arms about expansively. “Stop talking rubbish.”
Quilt swallowed. “Er, you say you don‟t always know when you‟ve said something…” he
Scooter nodded. “That‟s right. And even when I do, I‟m not always sure what it means.”
“So how far into the future can you usually see?” Quilt asked.
Scooter didn‟t say anything, but just grinned annoyingly.
“I can see this is going to be a bit irritating.” Quilt muttered.
Scooter grinned knowingly even more.
Quilt turned to Granny and spoke to her, almost as if Scooter weren‟t even there.
“So how do we sort out what might be useful, what might be future events, or something that
happened as far back as last Fri…” His words trailed off at this last comment and he scowled.
“We jus‟ needs to pay attention to what our friend „ere is sayin‟” Granny replied.
“Anyway,” Scooter interrupted, “It‟s not as if I say anything much that‟s unusual anyway.”
Then almost as if an afterthought, he added, “Nice flavour, bit salty though.”
The little company just stared at him in amazement.
“Right. Less‟ get down to brass tacks.” Granny said in a business like tone.
“Scooter, we want to go back to the Wood tonight. Will you come with us?”
Scooter scowled, but nodded.
“Yes, I suppose so. But let‟s just be clear on one thing. I‟m not going to lead you. You‟ll still do
that, Granny. I‟ll come, and I‟ll help where I can, but don‟t depend on me for anything. If I say
anything, it‟s up to you lot to decide what to do, not me.”
“Great!” Quilt muttered but Danny, Jimmy and Barry all seemed quite prepared to take the little
man at face value and they ignored Quilts remark.
“What time are we going, and where do we meet?” Scooter enquired in his usual gruff tone. Then
he turned to Quilt.
“Stop shaking it, or you‟ll spill the lot!”
Quilt opened his eye wide, in a look of astonished query.
Granny smiled inwardly and ignored Scooters final remark. Her deliberately spiteful comments
aimed at Bembridge had done the trick.
“Be at my place „bout eight o‟ clock. We can go over to Barry‟s after that an‟ leave from there
„bout midnight. Make sure you wears summat warm an‟ as will keep you dry, an‟ a dark colour
would be better. Don‟t want to go advertisin‟ ourselves by wearin‟ bright clo‟se.”
Quilt groaned. “Not midnight again! Why is it always midnight? Traipsing through the graveyard,
and it‟s flamin‟ midnight! You know what happened last night. Why can‟t we go at some other
time, and not the blasted witching hour?”
Granny waived his comment aside. “Alright then. Jus‟ fer Albert.”
Quilt smiled and sighed with relief.
“We‟ll goes at five past.”
Chapter 10.

“All right, all right… Let‟s get this meeting to order…” Councilor Stephen Fforkingham-Fforkes
called in an as important tone as he could manage.
He was a short but fairly handsome man with a smooth complexion that belied his thirty five
years, who actually had little importance at all but had a suitably ostentatious family name that
had only come about due to a clerical error on his birth certificate. A somewhat over zealous clerk
had been in too much of a hurry when attending to the paperwork and had written the first letter
of the hyphenated name in capital letters, as well as small. It wasn‟t noticed until many years
later, when Stephen was eighteen and he applied to enter the Kingsnorth Academy of learning to
further his education. He did obtain a place in the much revered establishment, but this was
mostly due to everyone at the Academy being so impressed by his double-lettered and double-
barrelled name that they immediately assumed that he must have been related to Royalty or some
other powerful and noble family back in the depths of time. In actual fact his father was a fish
seller at the Port in Kingsnorth, a subject that Steven did well to avoid in conversation. When
asked about his family, he would sigh, cover his eyes and whimper pathetically, “I don‟t like to
talk about it…”
He was being totally honest of course, and his response always brought a wave of sympathy,
particularly from the female students who would embrace him and turn all slushy and motherly, a
consequence that Stephen took advantage of relentlessly.
Within his two year stay at the Academy, he had been through at least eighty percent of the girl
students, and no small number of the female lecturers. His exam results were an enigma though.
In subjects where the teacher was a woman, he passed with flying colours. Where he had a male
teacher, his reputation as a highly successful womaniser earned him more than his fair share of
envy, and he would receive dismal grades from the jealous teacher.
Fortunately for Stephen though, most of his subject tutors were female and he passed out with a
first class honours degree that in all honesty he probably didn‟t deserve.
He did contemplate going back for another year to earn a Masters, but this was more due to the
fact that there was going to be three new young and highly vivacious women tutors joining the
staff, as well as an entire new year group of students. He logically reasoned that around half of
these would be girls.
Stephen left however when he was offered a good position in the Waycross bank, a job having
many fringe benefits including a beautiful house on the edge of town, a company cart, and best of
all for Stephen, there were also fifteen female employees.
He had been elected onto the council when three lady councilors unanimously agreed to support
his application. All three were spinsters, but usually sported rosy cheeks and a glowing smile
after being in a „private meeting‟ with Stephen for an hour or so.
“Come on now… Quiet please…” he called again.
He banged a small gavel on a block of wood to indicate silence. A hush gradually settled over the
assembly, except for the sound of Stephen sucking a finger that had gotten the way of the
“We‟ve called this meeting to decide whether to rebuild the part of Waycross that was burned
down last week in the original place, or move it beyond the outfield and expand the town that
way, away from the main roads.”
Around two hundred people had gathered at the meeting to hear what words of wisdom were
about to be imparted from the town elders. The only place big enough left in the town that was
suitable to hold such a large number of people was Cribbins furniture warehouse, a large wooden
structure that had escaped the fire by virtue of being built in one of the three remaining quarters
of the town that had been spared a mild case of overheating due to the main roads crossing in the
centre of Waycross and effectively splitting the town into four isolated segments. Only one
segment had actually been destroyed.
A gnarled hand shot up from somewhere in the third row of the gathering and a tall skinny man
with lank, flat dark hair over-combed and failing to hide an all too obvious bald spot stood up.
“My fruit shop was on the main street. I‟ve owned that place for years and it was in a prime
location. I‟m not being moved out to the back of beyond!”
A muttering of agreement started all round. Stephen waved for silence again.
“Yes, yes, we appreciate that, but there are lots of people who lived in the East quarter who were
fed up with the noise and constant traffic on the road. We‟ve had literally hundreds of requests to
move that part of the town away from the highway, now that we have a chance.”
In actual fact, there had been five requests, three being from the councilors own mother and two
sisters, and a fourth from himself, so that one really didn‟t count anyway. The fifth request was
badly written with a leaky pen and was almost illegible due to several large and unfortunate ink
blots, and rambled on at some length about emptying the dustbins more frequently, but as the
letter mentioned an address that had once been in the East quarter, it was taken as another request
in support of moving the houses.
Immediately, a mixed outcry in favour of and against the move broke out. Voices were raised and
tempers grew heated. One or two scuffles were spotted at the rear of the hall but these were
quickly subdued.
Lady councilor Pamela Sweetlie (a spinster) seated on the podium beside Stephen leaned across
and whispered, “I knew this would happen. What do we do? Build two new parts to the town?
One for those who want to stay near the road, and another for those who don‟t?”
Stephen shook his head negatively. “For goodness sake don‟t suggest that! It would cost a huge
amount of extra money, two lots of building teams, two lots of equipment, two sets of plans,
raised taxes… Just think about it, we might not get voted for again if we raise the taxes!… The
prospect is horrifying.”
The arguments and shouts settled down once more and the fat councilor continued.
“It‟s all too clear to see that there is no easy solution. Of course, we don‟t want to jeopardise the
prospects of anyone‟s business and livelihood, but equally, we need to consider the fact that the
main roads are getting busier every year and it won‟t be long before Waycross won‟t be able to
handle the extra traffic and we are literally swamped.”
“What about a by-pass!” someone shouted from the middle of the hall. Again, a babble of
agreement grew among the crowd.
“We‟ve covered this before, in other town meetings.” Stephen said.
“There is no way through the Eastern escarpment except through Waycross. The other suitable
pieces of land are all privately owned, and not only that, there are two other villages in the way.
Even if we could buy the land, the villagers out that way would fight tooth and nail if they
thought a main road was going to go right over them.”
“What about a road going round the escarpment?” a woman yelled from the front row.
Babble of consent and agreement.
The councilor shook his head again.
“Miles out of the way. It would take years to build, and the entire budget of Waycross for the next
ten years still wouldn‟t be enough to pay for it.”
“Take it outer Grimmsbottoms pay!” someone yelled, much to the hilarity of the throng.
“Where is „e anyway?” somebody else yelled. “Surely „e ought to be „ere?”
Stephen leaned toward the lady councilor who said something to him. He nodded and added,
„After the meeting..‟ and winked. Pamela flushed scarlet as Stephen turned back to the crowd.
“Alderman Grimmsbottom is at another important meeting to see if there is any chance of raising
funds elsewhere. I can‟t go into that at present, as I‟m sure you can understand.” As it happened,
he hadn‟t a clue what these „plans‟ were anyway, so he couldn‟t have explained even if he had
been manacled to a cartwheel rolling over a cobbled street. No one had seen Grimmsbottom at all
that day but he had left clear written instructions that Councilor Spottiswood would be speaking
on his behalf at the meeting, and any votes required, should there be any, would be taken by
Ralph Spottiswood in his stead. There was a good deal of muttering and discontent about this
among the other members of the council, chiefly due to the fact that Spottiswood had only been a
councilor for just over two and a half years and was already regarded by many (including
himself) as Alderman Grimsbottom‟s right hand man and that seemed hardly fair.
It was at that very moment that the councilor in question chose to appear.
Spottiswood rolled jelly-like onto the temporary platform accompanied by Grimmsbottom‟s
lackey, Billy Noemaits.
The babbling among the assembled crowd died down and Spottiswood smiled broadly at
everyone, much in the same way as a grandparent smiles at a gurgling one year old.
He wasn‟t just patronising, he almost verged on blatantly insulting.
“I gather there are some of you who are a little unhappy with the various proposals put forward
by the council…”
He said this in a tone that clearly shouted „Put up with it or move to another village‟.
“Of course, the last thing we want is for anyone to be discontent…”
Again, this statement was said in the manner of „You‟re unhappy?... And you‟re telling me
“We always take fully into account everyone‟s opinion. After all, that‟s what we as councilors are
elected for…”
This comment was clearly absurd as everyone in the hall knew that Spottiswood hadn‟t been
elected, but had just been muscled onto the council by Alderman Grimmsbottom. Not only that,
but it was also clear by his tone that Spottiswood wasn‟t in the least bit interested in anyone‟s
opinion except his own.
Muttering and mumbling trembled around the hall, and not only from the assembly on the floor.
Spottiswood turned slowly and raised an eyebrow at Lady councilor Sweetlie whispering in a low
tone to Stephen beside her on the stage.
“Something to add?” he wheezed venomously. The lady councilor shook her head mutely and
turning a ripe shade of scarlet, imagining what the assemblage would say if they actually had
heard what she was suggesting to Stephen. It had very little to do with burned down houses
although a good deal of heat was going to be generated between the two of them sometime later
that evening if all went according to plan.
Spottiswood turned back to the assemblage.
“Now. I‟m sure you will all be pleased to know that Alderman Grimmsbottom is at this very
moment conducting enquiries into a scheme that will not only allow everyone to have their homes
and businesses rebuilt exactly where they were before, but will also divert the majority of
troublesome passing traffic, and raise some money for the town as well.”
An excited babble erupted in the hall accompanied by a few cheers and hand claps but the lady
councilor was not at all happy.
She leaned forward and tapped rather apprehensively on Spottiswood‟s elbow.
“Why haven‟t we been informed of this in council?” she asked indignantly but politely.
“Alderman Grimmsbottom can‟t just decide things over our heads without even discussing it!”
Spottiswood fixed her with a shotgun stare.
“My dear lady…” he said oily. “But you are being informed. I‟m informing you right now!”
At that moment a voice in the crowd called out, cutting off any further objection from the lady
“What is this plan? Is it going to cost us extra in taxes?”
A babbled „hear hear!‟, and „good question!‟ and suchlike wafted around the hall.
Spottiswood smiled even more broadly at his audience of infants.
“It won‟t cost you much at all. In fact, you all stand to do quite well out of it in the long run. As
to the details, I‟m afraid I can‟t go into that at the moment, as the whole venture is in the early
stages and a few problems need resolving first. I can assure you though that there is nothing that
can stop us now.”
The majority of the crowd seemed very happy with this, but a few people muttered to each other
about Spottiswoods last remark and some weren‟t entirely happy with the „much‟ part of what he
had just said.
“Don‟t like the sound of that.” one old gent said to his neighbour.
“What‟d he mean? „Can‟t stop us now‟? Who‟s „us‟?” his friend replied.
The meeting broke up shortly after that when it became apparent that no other information would
be forthcoming, but several of the councilors remained behind to discuss the implications of what
they had just heard and none of them seemed to be very impressed.
Councilor Fforkingham-Fforkes and Lady Sweetlie seemed to vanish even before anyone had
opened the exit door.
Spottiswood and Noemaites made a great show of leaving by a side exit, seemingly unconcerned
that the other councilors remained behind.
“We‟re just treated like lap dogs these days.” one of them said when the hall was finally empty of
“Spottiswood‟s really getting in thick there…” another added.
“Why isn‟t Grimmsbottom here?” questioned another, not at all satisfied that the Alderman was
missing from the meeting and seemed to have just handed over complete authority to
“All seems a bit fishy to me…” someone else put in.
There was a good deal of muttering and general agreement of discontent among them as they
drifted off a few at a time to make their own ways home.
The hall fell silent and a few minutes later, Billy Noemaites stepped out from behind a pile of
packing crates and rubbed his hands together.
“Very interesting…” he whispered to himself.
Chapter 11.

It had stopped raining. That at least was one good point. Quilt had done nothing but complain all
day about everything ranging from the weather to the cost of a packet of tea.
“Four pennies!” he whined. “Four flippin‟ pennies! How can they justify that!”
He waved the packet of tea in the air as he trudged back towards his house with Jimmy in tow.
The others had all gone back to their own homes to make further preparations for the excursion
later that night.
Mind you, had the packet of tea been on offer at „buy one get six free‟, Quilt would still have
complained. He was in a complaining mood.
Nothing about this entire business was going to plan, and what had started out seemingly as a
simple search for a river, had developed into nothing less than an expedition into uncharted
territories, filled with lurking dangers and hidden horrors.
“And while we‟re at it,” he droned on, “I still don‟t see that this Scooter is going to be any use.”
He was still somewhat irked at the annoying way Scooter grinned every time one of his inane and
indecipherable predictions came true.
“And if he says anything else about what‟s going to happen to me, or answers any more of my
questions, I swear, I‟ll... I‟ll, well, I‟ll do something!”
He banged his front door closed behind Jimmy as they both went inside and a large bunch of
garlic fell off a bent nail hammered in beneath the coat hook on the back of the door.
Jimmy bent and picked it up and Quilt snatched it from his hand and threw it onto a side
“But surely, you want people to answer your questions?” Jimmy carefully observed.
“Not before I‟ve bloody well asked them!” Quilt yelled, waving the packet of tea in Jimmy‟s
“You‟ll spill…”
Jimmy got no further.
The little cardboard packet in Quilt‟s hand suddenly gave up its valiant efforts to retain the
recently purchased and allegedly expensive contents, and a shower of tiny brown flakes cascaded
across the kitchen.
A vision of an inanely grinning Scooter crossed Quilts mind and he sank to his knees and
“I‟ll kill him… I know I will…”
Jimmy sniggered but helpfully began sweeping up the layer of Darjeeling dandruff that coated the
entire room.

Danny and Barry took the long way back to Barry‟s house after an invigorating walk round the
outskirts of the village, as it was quite mild and the air had that nice crisp fresh smell that always
comes after rain.
“How do you feel about being back here after three yeark or ko?” Barry asked his new friend.
Danny shrugged in an unconcerned manner.
“Dunno really. Nice to see the old place, but I expect it will get a bit tiresome when folks hear
that I‟m back. Questions, and all that.”
Barry wanted to ask lots of questions himself about the tale he had heard regarding Danny‟s
sudden disappearance from the village, but he resisted, instead relying on Danny to tell the story
in his own good time.
“Why exkplain anything at all?” Barry asked helpfully. Danny looked puzzled and Barry
“I mean, It‟k your bukinekk, nobody elkek. If you don‟t want to tell people anything, then don‟t.
They will koon get fed up akking quektionk if they don‟t get any ankwerk.”
Danny smiled at his new friend and patted his back.
“I wish everyone looked at the world as simply as you do Barry.” he said.
“You don‟t see anything as a problem, do you? It‟s all just another event in your day to be passed
by. You sort things out as you go and if it doesn‟t work out right, you just do something else.”
Barry shrugged in return.
“What‟k the point of inventing problemk? We all have enough of thoke.”
He stopped still and waved his arms expansively around him as if to explain.
“Jukt look about. Ik there anyone here at the moment akking you quektionk you don‟t want to
ankwer? Ik there anyone here who ik going to hurt you? Ik Gort about anywhere? Ik your old
guv‟nor at the chemikt khop after you?”
Danny wasn‟t sure he was getting the point and Barry sensed it.
“What I‟m kaying ik, at thik prekike moment in time, right now, everything ik alright. You‟re ok.
There‟k no problemk. Ko be happy. Enjoy the moment. It‟k all we any of uk really have. The
here and now. Make the mokt of it. One day, it won‟t matter a bit.”
Danny held back a little choke and impulsively grasped Barry and hugged him.
“Why can‟t we all see things like that?” he asked. “You‟re right, of course. Poor old Mister Quilt
who worries about everything, including things that probably won‟t even happen. You need to
talk to him, straighten him out a bit.”
Barry laughed and shook his head as they continued their leisurely afternoon stroll.
“You‟re joking. Haven‟t you kpotted it yet? Albert likek to worry! If you took away hik panic
attackk and all that fretting, he‟d have nothing left! Anyway, Granny will kort him out
Danny stopped in his tracks.
“Granny? You mean…?”
“Oh come on…” Barry replied. “Kurely you‟ve keen it coming?”
“Granny and Quilt?” Danny mumbled in amazement.
“Don‟t you kay anything!” Barry warned sternly.
“Granny and Quilt!” Danny mumbled again.
“Granny‟k got her eye on Albert, even though khe may not know it herkelf yet, but you wait and
kee. Even Bembridge got it right.”
Danny thought back to the jumbled conversations with Scooter that morning and mentally began
sifting all he could remember of the peculiar old mans ramblings.
Suddenly his eyes went wide.
“I knew you‟d get him in the end!” he blurted.
Barry nodded and smiled.
“Granny knew what he meant, even if khe won‟t admit it yet. Old Kcooter ik going to be very
ukefull, I can kee.”
The two companions continued on their way across the heath, laughing uproariously.

Granny sat in her little parlour and sipped a cup of camomile tea. She looked out of her cottage
window across the little neat country garden she always maintained to perfection but her mind
wasn‟t on flowers at the moment however.
Something was niggling at the back of her mind. It was like a puzzle, she knew that. There was
something very strange about the missing water and the surrounding events, and the peculiar little
things from the past that flitted in and out of the periphery of her vision, there but ungrasped, only
served to convince her there was „more „ere than meets the eye‟ as she would often say, but as
yet, she couldn‟t quite put her finger on any one thing.
Not only was it all like a jigsaw puzzle, but it wasn‟t just a case of missing bits. Granny was quite
sure there were enough parts present to sort out the puzzle, but at the moment, she couldn‟t seem
to find enough edge pieces to get started.
Worst of all, the picture on the box lid was missing.
She was certain that everything and everyone they had seen and spoken to in the past days had
some bearing on the matter, but as yet she couldn‟t see the connection. It infuriated her, knowing
that there was something staring her in the face, something she had seen or heard, or even worse,
something she had already said herself that was pointing clearly at the answer, but she couldn‟t
find it. Not yet.
„Mind you,‟ she said to herself, „I‟m sure Bembridge will „elp‟.

As the evening wore on and the sky grew darker, the rain returned. It wasn‟t a downpour or
anything like that, just more a case of big cold wet blobs that fell sparsely but still managed to
soak you to the skin.
A gentle but steady wind grew up from the west and it wailed quietly over the churchyard beside
Barry‟s house, driving the rain almost horizontally across the tombstones.
Even the card school stayed underground.

Barry drew the drapes closed and stoked the roaring fire in the hearth. Stan snored on the mat,
dreaming of cats, crunchy bones, biscuits and Quilts front door. Danny was browsing the library
of books again and absently pulled a volume from high up on the shelves. It was quite thin, with
large pages and was bound in brown leather.
“The others will be here soon.” he said as he leafed through the book.
“I‟d better get kupper ready.” Barry replied, scuttling off to the kitchen.
Danny smiled and thought about how much Barry obviously enjoyed entertaining his guests. He
went back to perusing the tome in his hands.
“I can‟t underktand where all my bikcuitk go.” Barry said almost to himself in the kitchen.
“Do you think the othrk would like cucumber kandwhichek?”
There was no reply.
“How about ham, or cheeke?” Barry suggested, taking the silence to mean no.
Again, there was no answer.
“Danny?” he called as he lit the stove and placed the kettle on it.
“How long have you had this book?” Danny said quietly, in close proximity to Barry‟s left ear.
Barry jumped and said “My goodnekk, you ktartled me! I didn‟t know you were…”
His words trailed off as he looked down at the pages of the open book Danny was holding.
“Well, well!” he exclaimed, almost snatching the book from Danny‟s hands.
With trembling fingers, Barry leafed his way quickly through the old crumbling pages. He looked
up at Danny.
“I think Granny may be interekted in thik!”
“Where did you get it?” Danny asked again.
Barry nodded toward the book shelves in the sitting room and said, “It‟k jukt one of the bookk
left here when I bought the houke. I told you that.”
“Haven‟t you ever looked at them before?” Danny asked incredulously.
“Of courke not. There are far too many. I don‟t really read much, and when I do I prefer good old
adventure ktoriek, or crime novelk.”
Danny went back into the sitting room and began taking down all the books on the shelves.
“What are you doing?” Barry asked as he came back into the room behind his friend.
“I think it‟s time you had a look at the rest of your books!” Danny replied earnestly.
Suddenly Stan awoke, jumped up, ran to the window and began barking.
“Koundk ak if the otherk are here.” Barry observed, putting the book on the arm of the sofa and
going to the front door.
Granny, Jimmy and Quilt stood in the porch shaking water from umbrellas and silhouetted behind
them, coming up the path was Bembridge Scooter.
“Come in, come in.” Barry greeted them, ushering them all inside to the warmth of the sitting
“What about our wet feet?” Granny asked considerately.
“Oh, don‟t worry about that. A bit of water will dry up.” Barry answered taking the umbrellas and
his visitors coats.
“I‟ll hang theke in the boiler room. They will koon dry out.” He disappeared into a dark doorway
beneath the stairs and the sound of his feet echoing on wooden steps could be heard in the
hallway. A little later, he re-emerged and said, “Well, go in, go in.” and he ushered them into the
sitting room.
Instantly Stan was all over Quilt who yelled and ran for the door again.
Barry grabbed at Stan‟s collar and dragged the dog off to the kitchen.
“He wouldn‟t hurt you, but we don‟t need the interruptionk.” he called from the other room.
Quilt nodded hastily in agreement.
“Don‟t really like dogs, do you?” Scooter said dryly.
“Is that a prediction or an observation?” Quilt replied.
Scooter laughed and sat by the fire, rubbing his hands in front of the flames.
“Is that cucumber sandwiches I can smell?” he called over his shoulder.
Quilt sniffed but could detect no such aroma.
“Prediction?” he asked again.
“Fact.” Danny replied. “Barry was just making them before you all arrived.”
Quilt nodded thankfully and in anticipation. He was rather partial to cucumber sandwiches,
especially with the crusts cut off.
Moments later Barry arrived with a huge silver tray of cucumber sandwiches.
They had no crusts.
“Admirable fellow!” Quilt beamed taking two from the tray even before it was set down on the
table. Barry went up in his estimation another notch.
“Fresh churned butter too! Splendid!”
Barry smiled with appreciation as his gusts all tucked into the sandwiches.
“Tea will be a few minutek.”
“Don‟t talk to me about tea.” Quilt muttered darkly, resisting the urge to look at Scooters grinning
“I think you ought to look at this!” Danny interrupted, passing the brown leather bound book to
Granny. She put her sandwich down on a small bone china tea plate and took the proffered book.
“What is it?” she asked, opening the pages. Then, as she leafed though the book more and more
quickly, she muttered, “Well I never!”
“What is it?” Quilt asked, moving closer to see the pages.
Granny held the book open on a double page spread, then folded out a further two pages to reveal
what looked like a large map, or plan.
The map seemed to show two structures, one large, one a bit smaller, but linked by several
meandering lines and dotted with many scribbled notes and markings.
Granny turned back to the front inside page of the book and looked at the neat hand written titles
and notes within.
“Written „bout „undred an‟ fifty years ago.” she pointed out.
“Who? What was?” Quilt asked, already demolishing his fifth sandwich.
Granny flicked through the pages and returned to the fold out plan.
“Seems to be record, or account o‟ this „ouse an‟ church yard, right from when it was built.”
“But what are the two buildings on the map? And what are these wobbly lines joining them up?”
Jimmy enquired as he peered over Granny‟s shoulder at the book.
Granny pointed to the smaller building illustrated on the plan.
“Iss‟ obvious by the layout „o this one, iss this „ouse. The rooms is all in the right place, and
look…” she pointed at one part of the plan. “This is where we‟re sittin‟ now, an‟ „ere is the
kitchen, the „all way, the front door…” She traced her finger along the route on the plan she had
just described.
“So what is the other building? The big one?” Jimmy asked.
Granny looked up from the plan.
“That‟s Reg Stote‟s place.”
There was silence for a moment while the information sank in.
“But why are both houses on the same map? Quilt asked.
“Must „ave been built about the same time, an‟ by the same person. This „ere book seems to be a
journal of some kind, about the „istory of the „ouses and what they „as in common, an‟ such like.
Only makes sense if they was both built by the same person.”
“But what‟s the connection? And what are the wavy lines between them?” Jimmy asked.
“Lookk like a pathway, or komething.” Barry said over Jimmy‟s shoulder.
“But there aren‟t any paths around here.” Quilt objected. “Leastways, not from here to Reg‟s
“Maybe not any more, but seems like there used to be.” Granny added.
“But whatever for?” Danny asked, taking his third sandwich. The pile of food was rapidly
diminishing under Quilts attention, and he didn‟t want to miss his supper.
Granny leafed back through the pages, scanning each one very rapidly.
“Seems that once, before ol‟ Reg‟s time, the vicar who lived „ere was related to the Stote‟s.”
“What?!” the others all cried in amazement.
“Now now, don‟t sound so surprised. Jus‟ „cause „ol Reg is a bit of a tartar, don‟t mean the whole
family was always like that. Anyways, that‟s what it says „ere. Makes sense that there was a path
from one „ouse to the other.”
“I don‟t see that it‟s of much use to us now.” Quilt said morosely, biting his seventh sandwich.
Danny grabbed his sixth, under Quilts watchful gaze.
“I mean,” he went on, “The Old Wood is so overgrown now, that any path would be long buried
and covered up. We‟d never find it.”
Granny nodded in agreement.
“You‟se right Albert, but jus‟ think. If we could find the path, it would take us right up to Reg‟s
place, an‟ no one would know about it. I doubt if Gort even knows it exists now.”
“You mean existed.” Quilt pointed out. “Surely we aren‟t going to go looking for this old path.
We started out looking for the river, now we‟re searching for a country trail that probably
disappeared over a century ago.”
“It would keep uk out of the eyek of Gort, or anyone elke, for that matter.” Barry pointed out.
“What does Mister Scooter think?” Jimmy asked, looking up at the little old man who had not as
yet moved away from the fire.
“Any of those sarnies left?” he enquired.
“Great!” Quilt muttered. “I knew he‟d be useless.”
Scooter ignored the remark and crammed three sandwiches into his mouth in one go. He
proceeded to speak through a mouthful of bread, cucumber and flying butter encrusted crumbs.
“Path could be useful. Hard to find after all these years, but it might still be there. And what
young Barry here says about it keeping us out of sight of anyone looking for you is true. And
make no mistake, if Gort saw you last night, traipsin‟ about in the dark, he will have told his dad,
Reg. Now, Reg is going to be wondering what you lot were doin‟ in the woods at that time of
night, and „ese also goin‟ to be thinkin‟ about Danny here being there.”
Scooter scooped up two more sandwiches and swallowed them in one gulp, like a Heron downing
a fish.
“Now. Thinkin‟ about all you‟ve told me, and thinkin‟ about what I knows of old Reg, he‟s going
to be thinking Danny here has come back for young Emerald. And to be fair, he‟s probably right.
He‟s going to be on the lookout even more than usual.”
All eyes turned to Danny who just stuttered and stammered.
“Prediction?” Quilt asked.
“Fact.” Scooter replied.
Danny flushed a deep shade of squashed beetroot.
“Well, alright. I admit it. Part of the reason I agreed to all this was because I thought I might just
see Emerald again.”
Quilt groaned. “We‟re doomed!” he said. “I knew all this was madness. Not only does he have an
itchy crotch, but it‟s active as well!”
“I only said part of the reason. I want to help just the same as before. Me and Emerald haven‟t
really got anything to do with our actual main business!”
“You burke!” Quilt groaned. “Of course it has! We should have realised as soon as you told us
about you and old bag-head, that there would be trouble if you were seen anywhere near Reg‟s
place. And now Gort‟s seen us all! He‟s probably got the tar pits bubbling already!”
Danny threw his sandwich to the floor and loomed over Quilt, fists clenched tightly.
“What did you call Emerald?” he grated.
At this point Barry interjected.
“Now, come on, let‟k not all get kteamed up. There‟s better thingk to think about than petty
Danny released his clenched fists and stepped back from Quilt who for once much to his credit,
was not cowering away from his adversary. But he too backed down and grinned sheepishly.
“Sorry. I didn‟t mean it.” he said. “It‟s just that as much as I hate to admit it, Scooter‟s probably
“What are you saying then?” Danny asked. “You think I ought to go back to Waycross and have
nothing more to do with this?”
Quilt didn‟t reply, and after a moments hesitant silence, Granny replied.
“No, „course we don‟t. We‟s just gotter‟ be aware that Reg will be lookin‟ out for you. An‟ if it‟s
any consolation to you, so will Emerald.”
“Emerald?” Danny asked in a surprised tone? “How do you mean?”
Granny smiled at the earnest young man who was now stuffing another sandwich in his mouth.
“Do you think Gort won‟t „ve told „er you‟re back? If you two knew each other like you claim
you did, then she‟s prob‟ly „opin to see you as much as you‟s „opin‟ to see „er.”
“But she hates me. She must do!” Danny moaned.
Granny shrugged. “Maybe she does, maybe she doesn‟t. Only one way you‟ll ever find out, but
that ain‟t now. We‟s got other things to attend to first.”
“Like finding thik path!” Barry said, placing another tray of sandwiches on the table.
“Ko if you lot will hurry up and finikh kupper, we ought to make a move!”

“Path used to go from the side of the „ouse „ere an‟ across just be‟ind the churchyard.” Granny
said, tracing the line on the map with her stubby crinkled finger.
“It‟s all bushes and brambles now!” Quilt complained. “How do we get through that lot?”
A loud „sip-snip‟ sound came from the hall doorway and they all turned to see Barry standing
there clutching several sets of shears and a large wicked looking scythe.
Quilt eyed the scythe dubiously and wondered which prior visitor to the house might have left it
“Well get pakt thoke bukhek with no problemk.” Barry chirped.
This particular sentence took a moment to untangle, even for his friends who were now quite used
to Barry‟s speech mannerisms now.
“Get your coatk on. They are all dry and I‟ve brought them up from the boiler room.”
With a degree of reluctance mixed with foreboding, most of the companions donned their coats
and took one of the gardening implements from Barry.
Only Granny and Scooter seemed unafraid.
“Well, this ought to be fun.” The little man said, slapping Granny playfully on the behind.
She turned and raised an eyebrow at Scooter, but didn‟t say anything.
A sudden hot rush of inexplicable anger overwhelmed Quilt for a second but he had no idea why.
“Problem?” Scooter asked without even looking at Quilt, who said nothing but was the first
outside with the scythe, and began hacking feverishly at any patch of undergrowth within the
radius of his implement.
Within two minutes, he was almost beyond view and a ragged path had been forged some ten
yards into the undergrowth.
“If he keeps goin‟ like that we‟ll be at Reg‟s front door in time for breakfast.” Granny observed.
“The thought did occur to me.” Scooter added dryly, winking at her.
“You‟se a wicked man, Bembridge!” Granny chortled.
“At times.” the little man replied simply. “At times.”
Then he turned to the rapidly disappearing form of Quilt and yelled, “Watch that cycle clip!”
In the depths of the undergrowth Quilt stopped swinging the scythe, clucked his teeth and called
back, “Thank‟s for warning me!”

Meanwhile, back inside the house, Barry was staring intently at the fold out plan in the book.
Occasionally he would turn to other pages and read various comments written neatly on the
parchment, or occasionally scrawled in the margins.
He frowned. Something didn‟t make sense, but he couldn‟t quite put his finger on it. Eventually
he sighed, closed the book and went outside with the others.
Quilt had forged quite a pathway through the thick undergrowth but his inexplicable irritation had
subsided somewhat and his efforts began to flag.
“Anymore sandwiches?” he called back over his shoulder as he mopped a trickle of sweat from
his brow.
Barry appeared moments later with several rather dry cucumber sandwiches and offered them to
his companion.
“Korry they‟re a bit curly,” he said, “but they were made quite a while ago now.”
Quilt shook his head in amusement. The request had not really been a serious one, but he took the
sandwiches and wolfed them down nonetheless.
“Want me to have a go now?” Danny asked from behind Barry.
Quilt gratefully passed the scythe to the younger man and trudged back through the cold drizzle
towards the others.
“Feelin‟ better now?” Granny said.
“Don‟t know what you‟re on about.” Quilt replied stiffly, ignoring her look and staring dagger-
like at Scooter.
Bembridge looked innocently back at Quilt and said. “On the table, but don‟t scratch anything.”
Quilt grated his teeth and had some highly imaginative ideas about where to position the scythe.
Granny however, was grinning like the proverbial cat that had got the cream, at the prospect of
Quilt feeling irate because of her. She was remembering feelings she had long since forgotten,
back in the days of her youth.
“Komething funny, Granny?” Barry asked from behind her.
Granny looked at Barry and knew instantly that here was a very astute young man who seemed to
know what was going on inside her head at that precise moment. She gave an embarrassed cough,
dropped the grin and stood up straight.
“Nothin‟ at all.” She said bluntly. Then, in a business like tone she added,
“Anyways. Where‟s you bin for the last ten minutes?”
Barry shrugged his shoulders and said, “I wok jukt looking at that book. Komething keemk a bit
odd about thik pathway.”
Ahead of them, chunks of undergrowth flew through the air under Danny‟s onslaught. He may
have been beaten by Quilt in the race to consume cucumber sandwiches, but he was determined
not to be outdone in the use of a scythe.
Granny dodged a length of airborne bramble and said, “What do you mean, funny?”
Again Barry shrugged. “I don‟t know, really.” he said. “It‟k jukt that it does keem a bit odd that
on the plan, the path ktartk outkide the kitchen window.”
“So?” Granny replied, hoping to extract more of Barry‟s thoughts and reasoning.
“Well, why not ktart at the front door, or even the back door? Why the window?”
Granny frowned, but before she could say anything, Jimmy said,
“You think the window is important?”
Barry shook his head negatively.
“I don‟t think ko.” he said. “I mean, what‟k ko kpecial about a window?”
“Perhaps it was a door once, and has been bricked up since.” Jimmy added in a well thought out
fashion. Granny nodded her approval at the idea but Barry shook his head negatively again.
“I checked a moment ago. The brickk all look the kame. There‟k no kign of anything ever being
changed, or added at any time. And I looked in that book. It hak alwayk been a window. That‟k
what makek it all ko odd.”
“Your point being?” Granny said, leaving her question hanging.
Barry sighed and dodged a flying clump of thicket.
“There‟k no point. I jukt think it doekn‟t add up.”
“Well, at the rate Danny and Mister Quilt are going, we‟ll find out soon enough.” Jimmy pointed
out. Quilt had removed his coat ignoring the rain, rolled up his sleeves and was asking Danny for
another turn at the scythe.
Over the wall in the churchyard, a soggy ace of spades was picked up by a bony set of fingers and
a thin eerie voice hissed, “They‟re all mad.”
“Pass the Garibaldi‟s and hold the „brolly over a bit.” another voice replied.

At around twelve thirty, Quilt suddenly dropped the scythe and mopped his brow with his sleeve.
“Want me to have another go?” Danny asked eagerly.
“No, I‟ll manage.” Quilt replied tersely. “I was just wondering how far we‟ve gone, that‟s all.”
Jimmy stretched up on tip-toe and peered over the undergrowth.
“We‟re well past the church yard, and about half way along the big clearing to our left. Another
half hour at this rate, and we‟ll be at the Old Wood.”
“I mukt kay I‟m mokt imprekked by you two.” Barry added. “I‟ve never keen a kcythe uked so
Granny nodded in agreement. “Amazin‟ Albert, I „ave to say. „Specially seein‟ as young Danny
muss‟ be thirty years younger than you.”
“Life in the old dog yet!” Quilt grunted as he hacked at another length of bramble blocking his
path that gave way under his relentless onslaught.
“Anyway,” he added looking round. “Where‟s Danny gone?”
A faint waft of violets permeated the cutting and no one said anything.
True to Jimmy‟s word, another half an hour later and the company stood at the end of a long dark
cutting leading from the chestnut trees at the outer edge of the Wood, all the way back to Barry‟s
kitchen window.
“Well, if nothing else, it will always come in handy if you want to collect conkers.” Jimmy said
Quilt silenced him with a withering mono-stare.
Barry was still frowning however.
“You „aint happy, are you?” Granny asked, noticing his unease.
“I ktill think there‟k komething adrift here.” he replied. “We‟re at the edge of the Wood and
there‟k ktill no kign that there ever uked to be a pathway here.”
“Would‟ve been grown over long ago now.” Danny put in, wiping his forehead and leaning on
the scythe.
Barry nodded in agreement but continued. “That‟k true, but kurely there would be kometing. I
mean, look at the treek in the Wood. There‟k not even a kign there wok ever a pathway here.” He
pointed through the moonlit haze at the dark shapes of the huge tees. It was plainly obvious they
had stood sentinel on this spot for far more than the past hundred years or so.
Scooter nodded in agreement.
“He‟s right, there. There‟s never been a path here. Those trees have been there for ever. Where
could the path have gone? It couldn‟t have gone through the trees. We‟ve gone wrong somewhere
Quilt was still panting from his exertions and was in no mood to hear that his efforts might have
been in vain.
“So what do you think? Come on, answer the riddle. That‟s why you‟re here, after all!”
Scooter looked at Quilt, slightly embarrassed.
“Pillock!” he spat, and stamped back down the trail toward the house.
“You juss‟ go an‟ „pologise, Albert!” Granny ordered. “Weren‟t no cause for that. Bembridge
di‟nt do nothin‟ to deserve it.”
Quilts‟ jaw moved up and down in protest but no words came out. He looked around at the others
for support, but saw plainly that they all agreed with Granny.
“Oh, all right!” he grumped, stamping back towards the small humped form of Scooter heading
toward the house.
Danny looked up at the dark trees ahead.
“Scooters right though.” he said somewhat reluctantly.
“There‟s never been a path here. These trees are far too old. They‟ve been here for donkeys years.
Those lines on the map can‟t be a pathway at all. They must mean something else.”
Barry screwed up his features and said “Well, if anyone hak any ideak, I think it‟k about time to
kay ko.”
Granny nodded in reluctant agreement and with more than a small hint of regret in her voice
added, “C‟mon. Le‟ss go „ome. We needs to think this through.”
Quilt‟s jaw wobbled up and down wordlessly for a moment then he sighed, turned and followed
the others back to the house.
Chapter 12.

“…And they were saying that they think something funny is going on….”
Billy Noemaites smirked unpleasantly. Whether it was because he had provided some sneaky
piece of information guaranteed to get his fellow councilors into trouble, or whether it was
because he was secretly delighting in the fact that Councilor Spottiswood seemed to be loosing
his grip on command of the situation was a bit unclear.
Ralph Spottiswood had his own ideas about that.
“So what now sir?” Billy said somewhat contemptuously.
Ralph looked at his underling and grinned the kind of grin that spelt trouble with the capitals „R‟
and „B‟.
Ruddy Big.
“Are you going to sack them all?” Billy rubbed his hands together and almost jumped up and
down at the prospect of all out war among the councilors.
“Billy, my young friend…” Ralph replied, as one might speak to the person who just bludgeoned
your entire family to death with a rusty lawnmower.
“One does not sack ones associates.” He draped an arm round Billy‟s shoulder and walked him
casually toward the old pot boiler stove in the corner of the hut serving as a temporary town hall.
“We might just need to teach them a lesson at some point, that‟s all. Not too severe, mind you,
but just enough so they know who‟s boss.”
At this point, Spottiswood grabbed Billy‟s left hand in an iron grip and slowly forced it down
toward the smoking stove.
Billy yelled in protest but Spottiswood was amazingly strong for someone of such apparently
portly stature. His grip, and slow steady pressure continued until Billy‟s hand was a mere skins
thickness away from the scalding stove.
“No. Once they learn that I mean business, they will do as they are told, or of course, they will
just have to suffer the consequences.”
Ralph grinned wickedly at Billy for a second then released his hand.
Billy took three rapid steps back from the stove, clutching his very warm hand to his breast.
“Anyway,” Ralph said cheerily, in a sudden change of tone, “Our good Alderman will be back
tomorrow, and when the others talk to him, which of course, we know they will, he will agree
with everything I‟ve said anyway. We can be assured of total support from our good friend
Billy was still staring at his almost barbecued hand. “But how can you be so sure the Alderman
will back you up?” Then, seeing the look of annoyance on Spottiswood‟s face, he quickly added,
“Not that he won‟t back you up, of course, but surely, isn‟t it a bit risky, you know, well,
provoking the others like that. They already object to just how much the Alderman seems to
favour you. After all sir, you do seem to have, well, a lot of power in the town…”
“And you think I don‟t deserve it?...” Spottiswood opened the stove door and stuffed in a few
extra small logs on top of the glowing pyre within.
“No, of course not… No, I mean, yes…”
Spottiswood raised an eyebrow at the sweating young man.
“I mean, yes, you do deserve it, but the others might not think so…”
“Billy, my young friend…” Spottiswood spoke to the trembling little man in a tone that indicated
that Billy had been very close to ending up with fingers that resembled the logs inside the stove.
“Stop worrying. Our friend the Alderman will support our venture. Have no fear. I know him
better than you think. There will be no trouble there. He‟ll be back tomorrow, as you said. Just
wait and see.”
Spottiswood strolled casually back to his makeshift desk in the town hut. Billy was still clutching
his hand to his breast and he silently cursed the cruel Spottiswood.
“Not too many nasty names now,…” the councilor said without even looking at his young
associate. He smiled unpleasantly, indicating that he knew very well what Billy Noemaites
thought of him. It didn‟t matter. None of the other fools on the council mattered either. Soon his
plan would come to fruition and then he would be gone.
Billy looked hard at the short dumpy jelly-mould of a man. As evil as he plainly was, there was
something about his cold, confident manner that inspired envy, even a degree of hero worship.
Billy couldn‟t help being impressed by him, and equally he couldn‟t help showing it.
“Do you really have that much control over the Alderman?” he asked enviously.
Spottiswood laughed, an ironic sounding cackle that sounded fairly similar to an old parrot
choking on a lump of rotten Cuttlefish.
“Control? You will never know, dear boy. You will never know. Now, I think it‟s time for a drink
and something to eat. The Old Cock at Lower Worter?”
Billy couldn‟t help smiling. Spottiswood was a man not to be trifled with, he knew, but he was
also a genuinely straightforward chap. What you saw was what you got, and Spottiswood was
generous to a fault with his supporters, few though they were.
“Yes, lovely, thank you.” he replied, his stomach yelling at him from within to fill it.
“Perhaps I‟ll try George‟s game pie with sautéed potatoes tonight, and a nice red wine. What
about you, Billy?” Spottiswood looked at his young lackey.
Billy simply nodded mutely.
Georges game pie at the Old Cock Inn in Lower Worter was renowned the district over, and
Billy‟s stomach yelled even louder at the prospect of it.
“After you, my young friend…”
Spottiswood held the hut door open for Billy and locked it securely behind them as they left for
the pleasant journey in his expensive Landau over to Lower Worter and the Cock inn.
Pleasant that is for Spottiswood. Billy felt about as relaxed in his superior‟s presence as a crab
being dangled over a pot of boiling water and for him, the trip lasted around two and a half
months, give or take the odd bank holiday weekend.

Earlier that morning, Alderman Grimmsbottom had spent a very productive hour with the owner
of a small homestead between Lower Worter and Waycross.
Contracts had been signed in triplicate, as was the norm in Waycross, and deeds had been
exchanged under the watchful eye of the local Magistrate. Again, a perfectly standard practice
when buying and selling land in this particular locality.
The owner of the land, or more correctly now, the previous owner, was given the standard thirty
days to move out, but Grimsbottom generously extended this time to sixty days. After all, he was
in no hurry. Furthermore, as an added almost impossible to refuse incentive, the occupant of the
land was to be offered a new house in the soon to be constructed Eastern quarter of Waycross at
an extremely favourable price upon completion of the deal. He would even be paid in cash, a
virtually unheard of practice.
Grimmsbottom smiled to himself and fairly skipped his way back to his horse to leave for
Waycross, clutching the all-important land ownership documents.
Everything had been perfectly proper and legal, all within the bounds of the law. A notice had
been posted on the fence bordering the land in question a few weeks previously, detailing the
intention of the new as yet unnamed owner to purchase, and no-one had commented or
complained within the twenty one day objections period.
Mind you, it wasn‟t generally known, (in fact, no-one but Grimsbottom knew) that „someone‟ had
been posted to act as sentry vigil for the entire twenty one days, and had been instructed
specifically to remove the notice and then replace it afterwards, should anyone except the current
land owner come by.
The councilor‟s somewhat thin, watery blood was spilt over the signatures, along with that of the
seller and the necessary cup of tea had been partaken by all present. Indeed, it was this last act
that cemented the transaction. Never could it be said that the people of Waycross or Lower
Worter did anything legal, in any way less than by following the very letter of the law.
No tea, no deal.
The upshot was that twenty two acres of relatively dry and infertile land would very soon be
under the ownership of the undisclosed purchaser.
Why the new owner had felt the need to purchase the land in the first place was at this point none
too clear, but it was about to become all too unpleasantly apparent in the very near future. As it
transpired, this wasn‟t the only piece of land being purchased by the Alderman.

Spottiswood and Noemaites, although sounding somewhat akin to a pair of dodgy used cart
salesmen, were actually greeted with a tepid warmness at the Cock. Spottiswood was well known
in the establishment, as he frequented the dining area several times a month, being more than a
little partial to the food served there. To say the portions were generous would be to do them a
Huge, enormous, gargantuan even, none of these descriptions came close to the table-groaning
plateful that was always offered up from the kitchens. Added to the fact that the cooking was first
class, this was the veritable icing on the cake. (Mind you, no-one would want icing on game pie
“Good evening George.” Spottiswood called as he entered the bar. George nodded and smiled in
“Usual?” was all he said.
Spottiswood nodded affirmatively and turned to Billy.
“What‟ll you have?
“Wouldn‟t mind a ginger beer please.” Noemaites replied as he too nodded a greeting to George.
“Pint of best ale and a ginger beer coming up.” George said, beginning to pour the drinks.
“Had your Alderman in here earlier today.” he added conversationally.
“Was up at the Peacock place on some business or other.”
Spottiswood looked innocently at the barman and said “Really?” in the most unobtrusive manner
he could manage.
George frowned jovially.
“There‟s more of you Waycross councilors here today than our own!” he laughed.
“What is it? A hostile take over?” He laughed again.
Spottiswood tried to maintain his innocent grin but he was actually more than a little narked by
Georges all too near-the-mark comment.
“Actually, we haven‟t seen the Alderman at all today.” he said blandly.
“If I‟d known he was coming over here, I would have invited him to eat with us.”
He turned on his greasiest, most obsequious smile. George could have fried half a dozen eggs and
four rashers of bacon on his oily expression.
“What‟s it to be today then?” George asked, loosing all interest in the previous topic of
“Game pie and some of those wonderful sautéed potatoes, I think. And how about you, Billy?”
Spottiswood looked at his subordinate, flashing him a look of „Don‟t even think about mentioning
Grimmsbottom, or anything.‟
“Er, um….” Billy was somewhat flustered. “Er, same as you sir, if that‟s all right?”
“Champion!” Spottiswood cried. “I hope you will excel yourself at the stove this evening
“Always do.” George answered as he made his way through the swinging half door to the kitchen.
“Always do.”
Meanwhile, over in the corner of the bar area, as yet unseen by Spottiswood and Noemaites, a
high-collared and floppy-hatted figure stooped forwards over his ale, looking distinctly like a
retracted tortoise sitting up in a chair, as if trying desperately not to be noticed by anyone. The
make-shift tortoise downed the rest of his drink, stood and muttered an almost unintelligible
„G‟day to you‟, as he sidled past the two newcomers with his back for the most part towards them
as he left.
Once outside, the figure straightened up, turned his collar down to a sensible level, peered out
from under the brim of his hat and sped off down the lane in the direction of Barry Simpson‟s
Old Toby was leaning on the garden gate outside his cottage as usual as the dark garbed figure
shot past.
“Hello there, Mister Quilt.” he called out after the rapidly receding figure.
“No dogs with you today?…”
Toby didn‟t hear Quilt mutter „Arsehole‟ to himself.
Back inside the bar, Billy was talking quietly to Spottiswood.
“Funny we didn‟t see Alderman Grimmsbottom on the way here. I mean, he would have taken the
same road as us on his way home…”
“Your point being?” Spottiswood questioned. Billy didn‟t detect the note of razor blades creeping
into the voice.
“Well, you know… Surely we must have passed somewhere, but we never saw each other.
Funny, don‟t you think?”
“Hilarious.” Spottiswood replied, changing the razor blades for a skinning-knife. Still Billy didn‟t
notice and he droned on relentlessly and even worse, suicidally.
“After all, there‟s only the one road, and he wasn‟t back in Waycross when we left, and he wasn‟t
here when we arrived. What do you think sir?”
“I try not to. Thinking can be dangerous for the mind.” The skinning knife became a pair of
rapiers and a brace of duelling pistols. Somewhere above Billy‟s head, a sword dangled on a
“It‟s almost as if, well…”
“Shut up, Billy.” Spottiswood grated sibilantly, sharpening the swords and loading lead balls into
both pistols.
Billy looked up noticing the dangerous tone just in time and checked himself as he teetered on the
verbal brink of throwing himself into bathtub full of blood suckers after slitting his wrists.
“Er, yes, well… I expect he just popped behind a tree for a pee when we passed…” he concluded
somewhat lamely.
“Good thinking…” Spottiswood said with a huge savage grin, his vocal arsenal easing down to
Def Con two.
“Drink up. Your round.”

Quilt arrived gasping at Barry‟s front door and almost hammered the wood in, such was the
ferocity of his assault on the door knocker. In his eager haste, he failed even to notice the card
school in session atop a particularly large tomb over the fence in the churchyard and the faint
waft of teatime assorted.
“Barry!. Hello? Anyone in?” he yelled as he continued his relentless pounding on the brass.
“Alright, alright!” Barry yelled from within. “Don‟t kick the door in!”
Suddenly the front door was flung open and Barry rushed out wielding a cricket bat.
He flung himself flat on the ground and peered intently into the distance through a pair of old
brass binoculars.
“Where are they?” he yelled, looking up and down the lane.
Quilt stared at the prostrate figure lying in the dirt and said “What the hell are you doing?”
“The people after you! Quick, get down!”
Quilts right eye went wide and the other remained clamped shut. He looked not unlike a padlock
with a large sideways keyhole. He was trembling at the knees.
“After me? Already? Where?”
“Your attackerk! How many of them? Where are they hiding?” Barry pressed urgently.
“Two, maybe three!” Quilt cried as he threw himself onto the ground beside Barry and snatched
the binoculars from him. “What direction?” he quaked as he scanned the surroundings.
“What do you mean, „What direction.‟ Why are you akking me? They‟re your attackerk!” Barry
hissed in a puzzled tone.
“But you saw them!” Quilt whispered, staring at nothing through the binoculars.
“ Me? I never did!” Barry replied, snatching the goggles back from Quilt.
“You did, you said so!”
“Just now!”
“Twist…” a thin wheezy voice said from somewhere over the fence.
“Is you two „avin‟ fun in the dirt?”
Both Quilt and Barry craned their necks round to see Granny standing in the doorway and almost
instantly Quilt was on his feet, tugging Barry up from his position among the moss and
“Inside, quick!” Quilt yelled, dragging his friend into the house behind him and almost yanking
Granny from her feet as he grabbed her by one arm and propelled her up the hallway, slamming
the front door behind him with one foot with all the dexterity of a rubber Ninja.
“Are the others here yet? There‟s something funny going on in the village!”
“Funny? What do you mean, funny?” Barry asked, brushing the dirt and grass from his chest.
“You mean „funny ha-ha‟ or „funny pecul…‟”
“Don‟t be smart!” Quilt snapped. “Are the others here yet?”
“Juss‟ calm down, Albert.” Granny soothed, manoeuvring the agitated Alderman into the sitting
room. “Bembridge, Jimmy an‟ Danny are „avin‟ a look over the meadow. They‟ll be back shortly,
Now, why‟nt you tell us wass the matter?”
Quilt collapsed into an armchair and immediately sprang to his feet again as a high pitched yelp
issued from the region of his posterior. Stan leaped from the chair and sulked off into the kitchen.
“Bloody pooch!” Albert muttered, sitting down again.
“Well how would you feel if komebody kat on your head?” Barry asked in defence of his pet.
“Here Ktan.. Come on boy!”
“Cat?... He‟s a dog!” Quilt whispered to Granny, who just stared blankly back.
“Don‟t make cheap jokes.” she replied a moment later. “Anyways, wass the fuss about. Yellin‟
an‟ bangin‟ enough to wake Barry‟s neighbours. Sounded like an ol‟ iron foundry on overtime.”
Suddenly Quilt was alert again.
“Spottiswood! He‟s here!” he breathed dramatically.
Granny blinked.
“Well, there‟s a startlin‟ revelation. Glad you told us all that. Better man the lifeboats. Barry, you
got provisions for a siege?”
She tutted once, looked upwards and added, “Spottiswood often comes „ere. „Ee likes the Old
“I thought he wok a bit ktrange…” Barry muttered.
“I means the pub!” Granny rolled her eyes upwards again and both Quilt and Barry giggled.
“You‟re probably right the first time…” Quilt whispered, nudging Barry‟s leg with his foot and
giggling some more.
“Do you two mind?” Granny complained. “Juss get to the point, Albert. Ain‟t nothin‟ strange
about ol‟ Spotty comin‟ „ere for a bit o‟ dinner. Well known fact that all the pubs in Waycross „as
lousy food.”
“Granny‟k right, mikter Quilt.” Barry added. “Even I‟ve keen Kpottikwood in the Cock. Nothing
very ktrange about that.”
Quilt looked at his two friends.
“What about Grimmsbottom being here as well? And that lackey of theirs, Billy Noemaites!
Hardly a coincidence. Almost a Waycross council meeting here in our village!”
Granny nodded, scratched at her bristly chin and resisted spitting a blob onto the carpet.
“You could be right there...” she murmured thoughtfully. “All three at once, eh? What‟r those
villains doin‟ „ere in Lower Worter? Bet your arse they‟s up to no good.”
Quilt nodded vigorously. “Exactly what I was thinking. I heard Spottiswood warning Noemaites
to keep quiet about something or other. There‟s definitely something going on among them, and
if it involves those three and this village, you can bet it means trouble.”
Again, the little niggling thought in the back of Granny‟s mind she had been harbouring these last
few days struggled to dig its way to the front, but still she couldn‟t quite get to grips with
whatever it was that was bothering her. Something she‟d heard, for sure, but what? She shook her
head to clear the muzziness.
“We‟ll juss‟ „ave to keep our ears to the floor as we goes about our own business, an‟ see if we
can pick up what they‟s up to. Can‟t see as it‟s got much to do with us at the moment anyway.”
Quilt gave a mental start at Granny‟s words, as something he too had recently heard began
gnawing at his thoughts.
Just then, they heard a gentle tapping at the window.
“‟S only Danny an‟ the others.” Granny said, going to the door.
“I told „em to knock on the window, so‟s we‟d know who it was.”
“You expecting someone else?” Quilt asked sardonically.
“Who knowk around here anymore…” Barry said somewhat gloomily. “Thik plake ik getting like
one of thoke new railway ktations.”
“I thought you enjoyed having guests?” Quilt replied cheerily, rubbing his hands in front of the
roaring fire.
Barry sighed. “I do, I do. I jukt can‟t keep up with the cokt of all the cuktard creamk I‟m getting
“Well I certainly haven‟t seen any.” Quilt laughed. “Mind you, a nice hot cuppa and a few
biscuits would go down very well, now that you mention it.”
“Someone mention tea and biscuits?” Danny piped up from the hallway.
“I like those little shortbreads you had earlier, Barry…” Jimmy‟s voice chimed in.
“Get your own soap!” Bembridge muttered.
Barry stumped off to the kitchen grumbling under his breath.
“Kodding café, thatk what thik ik. A kodding café…”
The new arrivals all filed into the sitting room and gathered round the fire, puffing and rubbing
various portions of their anatomy.
“Blasted chilly out there now.” Danny pointed out somewhat obviously.
“Let me near the fire a bit.” Scooter grumbled, nudging Jimmy to one side.
The young man reluctantly obliged.
“I think yous lot ought to say thank you a bit more to poor ol‟ Barry.” Granny observed. “I think
„es feelin‟ a bit put upon at the moment.”
“Why? We haven‟t done anything.” Quilt said matter-of-factly.
“‟Zackly.” Granny answered. “Nobody‟s done anything. Barry‟s been runnin‟ round after you lot
like a skivvy these past few days.”
“But he won‟t let anyone do anything.” Danny pointed out. “He keeps insisting that we take it
easy, as we‟re his guests.”
“That‟s right.” Jimmy added. “Even when we‟re outside, he carries all the lamps, umbrellas, even
spare trousers… Speaking of which, where‟s Danny suddenly shot off to?”
“Tha‟s as may be…” Granny said, ignoring the last question. “I‟m jus‟ sayin‟ I think we all needs
to show a bit more gratitude. We‟d all be up a ruddy gum tree if it weren‟t for Barry jus‟ lately.”
The others all nodded in sombre agreement. Perhaps they had been a little thoughtless recently.
A few seconds later Barry hustled backwards into the room struggling under a huge silver tray of
tea, biscuits, creamy dainties and little sandwiches with the crusts cut off. Danny came in behind
him, wriggling his lower regions inside his trousers.
“Stout fellow!” Bembridge cried, lifting three sandwiches, two cream cakes and a handful of
biscuits all in one go.
“I think we‟ll need more tea.” Quilt stated as he forced a second sandwich past his uvula before
Barry had even set the tray down.
“And more shortbread!” Jimmy gurgled through a mouthful of tea and biscuit sludge.
“Sandwiches won‟t last long…” Scooter put in.
“No tea time assorted?” Danny asked. “I like tea time assorted.”
“Not enough here to keep a flea alive.” Quilt chuckled as he demolished his sixth sandwich in as
many seconds.
“Make a fresh pot, there‟s a good fellow, then I‟ll tell the others about our new development.”
Granny sighed and muttered, “‟Opeless. Jus‟ „opeless.” as Barry sighed and returned to the
kitchen for fresh supplies without a word of complaint.
“What new development are we on about here then?” Danny asked, sucking the cream from the
centre of a little chocolate éclair.
“That‟s three of them you‟ve had!” Jimmy whined. “I never even got one!”
Then in a louder voice, he called out, “Barry! Anymore éclairs?”

Over the next ten minutes and two more pots of tea, Quilt related his story about the three
Waycross councilors being in the village on the same day and the others all agreed that indeed it
seemed extremely suspicious. They also agreed however that Granny was probably right in her
assumption that it very possibly had nothing to do with their own secretive business.
“I expect we ought to make a move if we‟re going to have another look along the river in the
Wood tonight.” Danny observed.
“Nice full moon. Good for seeing in the dark.” Jimmy added helpfully.
“Great for the Lycanthropes among us.” Quilt grumbled.
“Lico-what?” Jimmy asked.
“Lycanthrope… Werewolf!” Quilt replied testily.
“Where‟s the rope to tie up the boat?” Scooter obscurely added for good measure.
“What?” Quilt said, confused.
“What? Danny agreed.
“E‟s on about the ferry over the river.” Granny explained nibbling on a ginger snap.
“But that was years ago!” Quilt pointed out.
Granny shrugged and sipped the last of her tea.
“Prob‟ly taken that long to think o‟ the question.” she said finally.
“Boat would have drifted a bloody long way from the jetty by now.” Quilt sniggered.
“Hope the passengers are good at long jump.” Danny chuckled raising a laugh from the others.
“Leave „im alone.” Granny ordered, looking at the rather bemused Scooter. As usual, the odd
little man had no recollection of even making the comment, so he had absolutely no idea what the
joke was about, even less that it was on him.
“Anyway. Danny‟s right. If we‟re goin‟ to „ave another look for the riverbed, we ort to be movin‟
“Forgive me for making what might seem a bit of an obvious point here…” Scooter said, standing
up and brushing assorted crumbs from his clothes into the fire, “But why all the creeping about?
Surely if you are wondering where the water is going, and part of your dilemma seems to be Reg
Stote, why not just go and ask him if you can look over his land? Surely, this water issue must be
a problem to him as well?”
“Are you mad?” Quilt cried. “We may be desperate, but we aren‟t suicidal!”
Granny held up her hands to stem the flow of excitable cross-talk that erupted from the others.
“Wait a minute „ere you lot. Bembridge is right, o‟ course. Normally, it would be the obvious
thing to do. Trouble is, Reg is really anti-anybody these days, an‟ I think he‟d rather cut off „is
own foot rather‟n „elp anyone, even if it would „elp imself along the way. Not only that, we‟s now
got the added problem o‟ Danny an‟ Emerald. Reg will know Danny‟s with us now, so even if
jus‟ me an‟ Albert alone went to see „im..‟
“What!” Quilt exclaimed, leaping to his feet as if a chain saw had just erupted from the cushion
he was sitting on.
“‟Old on…” Granny continued, waving Quilt back into his seat. “I said IF. The point is, Reg must
know about Danny bein‟ „ere now, „cos Gort will „ave told „im, so I think there‟s a pretty good
chance we‟d be tarred an‟ feathered jus‟ the same.”
Scooter nodded regretfully, but in understanding.
“Anyways,” Granny went on, “The river loops around at the back o‟ Reg‟s place, „an the first bit
„o the loop is comin‟ direct from the Upper Worter, down from the escarpment. That bit still
flows jus‟ fine. It‟s where it comes back in to Reg‟s land there‟s a problem. Reg gets plenty „o
water. It‟s the village as don‟t get any.”
“Well why not try going round the back of the Wood and coming in from there.” Jimmy asked.
Danny nodded at what seemed a perfectly reasonable idea.
“It would save creeping through the thickest part of the Wood. After all, the Old Wood isn‟t very
wide at the western end, just behind Reg‟s land.”
“What, and go climbing up and down the escarpment to get there?” Quilt scoffed.
“That wall of rock must be four hundred feet high. It‟s no more than a natural barrier at the back
of the Wood.”
Then he lowered his voice and whispered, “And anyway, there‟s that old loony who lives up
there. I‟m not going anywhere near him!”
“Who?” Danny and Barry said in unison.
“Granny tutted and swallowed a glob of adhesive.
“Albert Quilt! I‟ve never known anyone who‟s so anti-everyone as you are!”
“Say what you like. The man‟s a menace. And look at that pet of his!” Quilt‟s eye did a rapid
“Who?!” Danny and Barry repeated.
“Oakus Pokus.” Granny answered. “‟E‟s just an old hermit who lives up on the western ridge.
Got a funny little „ouse, like a turret, stickin‟ out o‟ the cliff face. Been up there for years.
Anyways, I never „eard „e done any „arm to anybody?” she said looking at Quilt.
“Oh no?! What about all those explosions, and bright lights every new year?”
“I thought they wok jukt firework.” Barry said.
“Fireworks?” Ha! It‟s that nutter on the cliff!” Quilt cried.
“Who is this fellow, Oakus?” Danny asked. “I‟ve never heard of him.”
“Oakus Pokus. „E‟s an alchemist. Or leastways, likes to think „e is.” Granny explained. “‟E used
to live in the village, over at blackbottom.”
“But that‟s just a big burnt hole in the ground.” Danny pointed out.
“Exactly!” Quilt stated knowingly. “Wasn‟t before that madman moved in!”
“True, „e used to experiment, an‟ such like, what with sparks an‟ so on…” Granny began.
“Sparks!” Quilt exclaimed. “If you can call a ruddy holocaust „sparks‟, then Waycross had a little
house-warming party the other week! That madman blew up half the bloody district, and
shattered every window for three miles! I glowed in the dark for a month! He lives up on the
escarpment „cos everyone in the village chased him up there! And what about his flamin‟ pet?”
“Pet? Barry queried. “What about hik pet?”
Quilt laughed out loud. “Ruddy great monstrous bird! Vicious thing. It‟s huge. Would eat us all at
once for breakfast.!”
“Don‟ exaggerate, Albert. Iss‟ only a little bird in a cage.” Granny said reasonably.
“Little!” the Alderman exclaimed. “It‟s the size of a ruddy shed!”
“Lots of people keep birds in big cages.” Danny said. “They‟re called aviaries.”
“I was talking about the bird!” Quilt cried.
“He koundk like an interekting fellow…” Barry observed.”
“Not quite the word I‟d use to describe him!” Quilt snapped back.
“Surely we aren‟t going anywhere near him?” Jimmy asked nervously, not liking the sound of the
cliff-dwelling arsonist one little bit.
“‟Course not…” Granny answered. “We was talkin‟ about the ridge at the back o‟ the Wood, an
Oakus Pokus jus‟ came up, tha‟s all.”
“And look what happened the last time someone „just came up.‟” Quilt muttered to Barry, eyeing
Scooter out of the corner of his eye.
“Put that clock down.” Scooter commented, as if to confirm Quilts‟ hidden observation. And then
to everyone‟s surprise he added, “Old Oakus might „ave more to do with this than you think.”
Eleven staring eyes turned in the old fellows direction.
“And how did you come to that conclusion?” Quilt asked mildly. “And if you say, „Half past six‟,
or „Plenty more where that came from‟ or whatever, I‟ll brain you!”
Scooter sniffed disdainfully.
“You asked me along for my advice, but if you don‟t want it…”
“You see somethin‟ where Oakus is involved?” Granny asked carefully.
“Not really sure. But Oakus figures somewhere in it. Might be better to talk to him sometime,
rather than find out later that Reg Stote or old Grimmsbottom and his cronies have got to him
“So you think Grimy and his nerds are involved?” Quilt cried.
Seems a bit too much like a coincidence, whatever you others think. You needs to think about
how Waycross might benefit by our village‟s problem with the river.”
Granny nodded slowly, the little germs of her thoughts finally struggling to the surface.
“Your right. I remembers now, „ow ol‟ Grimmsbottom was laughin‟ about our dried up river, an‟
„ow „e said we ought to wait an‟ see „ow „e‟d get „is own back, an‟ everythin‟…”
“Quilt nodded enthusiastically.
“Yes! I remember!...”
“You?” Danny laughed. “I‟m surprised you could remember anything from that afternoon. You
were plastered!”
Quilt sniffed and turned his nose up.
“I may have drunk a dodgy drop of ale, and I may have been a bit ill because of it, but I was not
plastered! Anyway, I remember what that slimy so-and-so was saying, as clearly as if he had said
it only three minutes ago!”
The others looked at him expectantly and Quilt milked the moment for dramatic effect.
“Fer goodness sake git on with it!” Granny said after a long moments pause.
“Old Grimy was really put out when you laughed about the money he lost with his ferry shares,
you remember?”
Granny nodded, not quite sure where Quilt was going.
“He said something about who laughs last. Now, I think there may be something here between
old Grimy and his connection with the ferry, and the problem with the Worter! I mean, he must
still have his shares? No-one would want to buy them from him now.”
“But how on earth can he profit from no river at all?” Jimmy asked logically. “I mean, if he has
shares in a ferry company, or whatever, surely he would want the river to run properly.”
“Not if his shares give him some kind of rights over the river itself.” Danny said thoughtfully.
“Maybe he‟s hoping to benefit in some way by the fact that the river has dried up!”
“An‟ if that‟s the case, then maybe old Grimmsbottom „as got somethin‟ to do with it dryin‟ up in
the first place!” Granny added finally.
“A lot of „maybe‟k and if‟k, here…” Barry put in. “You have to admit, we‟ve jumped a long way
from Grimmkbottom and hik friendk being here, to them conkpiring in kome way to dry the river
Quilt slumped. “You‟re right. It‟s all a bit of a wild guess. It would just be nice for once to
actually catch that good for nothing Grimmsbottom out, doing something wrong!”
“Could You just sign those documents at the bottom please, Lady Murgatroyd…” Scooter
suddenly said, with a note of apprehension in his voice.
“What? Quilt said.
“What?” Barry and Jimmy added in unison.
“Pardon?” Scooter replied, looking at all the bemused faces staring at him.
“Who‟s Lady Murgatroyd?” Danny asked.
“Who?” Scooter said, not having the faintest idea what Danny was on about.
“You mentioned someone called Lady Murgatroyd.” he replied.
“Just now.”
“Did I?”
Granny interrupted the pointless conversation.
“ I remembers Lady Murgatroyd. She lived around „ere years an‟ years ago. I must admit, I don‟t
recall she ever signed any papers or anything though.”
“Who the hell‟s Lady Muddy toys?” Quilt asked, losing the drift of the rapidly direction-changing
“Murgatroyd.” Granny corrected. “She owned nine-tenths o‟ Lower Worter. Gave most of it away
in tenancy to local farmers an‟ so on, though if I recalls, she still actually kept ownership „o the
land for another twenty five years. Only went over to the farmers properly after that time was up,
if she didn‟t turn up an‟ re-claim the land, or if she signed it over to them fully in the mean time.
Documents was prepared, but never signed.”
“So what you‟re saying,” Quilt reasoned, “Is that the farmers round here don‟t actually own the
land they‟re on. This Lady Wotsit does. Or at least, she did until the twenty five years was past.
How long ago was all this?”
Granny frowned worriedly. “Just about twenty five years now, I reckons.”
Jimmy had been keeping quiet, but was listening intently to all he had heard.
“So what if Grimmsbottom somehow knows this twenty five years is now up, or soon will be?
He‟d have the rights to just step in and buy the land if he wanted to?”
“But why would he want to?” Barry asked. “The farmland around here ik all but ukelekk now,
what with the river having dried up.”
“Exactly!” Quilt suddenly cried, leaping up from his seat.
“ Don‟t you see?! Old Grimy does something to stop the river, causing it to dry up. Then the
surrounding farmland turns to dust, making it worthless. He steps in, buys it for peanuts, and then
turns the river back on again! Then he can sell the land for a big fat profit!”
The others all yelled and laughed in triumph at Quilts reasoning. It seemed all too obvious now
that the pieces of the puzzle had been put together.
Scooter spoiled the fun however.
“Nope. Don‟t make sense.” he said quietly.
“What do you mean, „Don‟t make sense?‟” Quilt said angrily. “It makes perfect sense!”
Scooter just shook his head negatively.
“Far too much bother to go to for too little profit.”
“Little profit?” Quilt cried incredulously. “The land would be worth double if the river was
running again! I hardly call a hundred percent profit „little‟!”
Granny shook her head in agreement with Scooter.
“No Albert, Bembridge is right, I‟m afraid. We might all love our little village, but truth o‟ the
matter is, even at full value, the land round „ere ain‟t worth dog‟s spit. If ol‟ Grimmsbottom is
behind this, then there‟s somethin‟ far bigger at stake.”
“Like what?” Jimmy asked.
Granny was frowning and replied, “Don‟t know jus‟ yet. We‟s got to find out what‟s the matter
with the river pretty quick. My ol‟ bones is tellin‟ me if we don‟t, then ol‟ Grimy is gonner do fer
us all, one way or another.”
“So what about this Lady Murgatroyd?” Danny asked. “Can‟t we just go and ask her how long
there‟s left, if anything at all, before those creeps from Waycross can buy the land up for
“Why don‟t we just buy it?” Jimmy asked hopefully. “Surely that would scupper old
“Yek! Brilliant idea!” Barry cried. “I‟ve probably got enough money! That would be one in the
eye for thoke folk from Waycrokk!” He looked sideways at Quilt. “Korry… no joke intended.” he
added quietly.
Quilt scowled but said nothing.
Granny shook her head negatively.
“Nice idea, Barry, but we ain‟t even sure if all this is what ol‟ Grimy is up to. An‟ even if it is, it
ain‟t gonna get the river back. We needs to keep quiet, an‟ wait an‟ see what „appens. An now
even more‟n ever, we needs to sort the river out. If ol‟ Grimy is up to no good, then that‟s what
will scupper „im most!”
“How about this Lady Murgatroyd then?” Danny asked. “Why don‟t we go and see her and find
out about this twenty five year thing?”
“Can‟t we just go and look in the council records?” Jimmy asked sensibly.
“Good idea!” Danny said, pounding the arm of his chair.
“No good…” Quilt put in gloomily.
“Council records only go back about eighteen years or so. Before that, everything to do with land
acquisition was done between parties and only sealed with wax at the courts in Upper Waycross.”
“ So who has the documents?” Danny asked.
 “Be at the courts in Waycross.” Granny answered. “That would be „ow ol‟ Grimmsbottom found
out about the twenty five year ownership clause on the land.”
“How on earth do we find her?” Jimmy asked, turning towards Granny.
“She left these parts nigh on twenny year ago.” she said. “Nobody knows where she went”.
“So we‟re stumped there.” Danny said.
“Maybe not, maybe not. Granny murmured mysteriously. “I actually knew „er quite well. I‟ll „ave
to give that some thort.”
“So what now?” Danny asked.
“Back out again to find the river!” Granny replied decisively.
“Knew it!” Quilt groaned.
“Across the meadow again?” Jimmy queried.
“We‟ll go by the ol‟ path again this time.” Granny replied.
“That‟s where we bumped into old Gort!” Quilt cried.
“Not likely to be out tonight.” Granny said. “Too wet fer that. Nobody in their right mind‟s be out
“Tell me about it.” Quilt muttered.
“Better take coatk… It‟k raining…” Barry added.
“Any more custard creams?” A thin wheezy voice whispered unheard from beneath the
Chapter 13.

“So now we‟ve got the land up to the edge of the Old Wood!” Noemaites giggled, rubbing his
hands together as if they were dipped in oil.
Grimmsbottom smiled the kind of crooked smile a mortician gives his next potential pay packet.
“Only after midnight in two days time.” he replied, having just told Billy a few more details of
the scheme he was hatching.
“What‟s two days?” Noemaites laughed. “We‟re going to be rich!”
Grimmsbottom arched one eyebrow and Billy saw the warning sign.
“Um, that is, you and councilor Spottiswood are going to be rich, sir.”
“Maybe, just maybe. There‟s still a good few things to attend to though. And I‟m still not happy
that Quilt and old Granny Grayling were in Waycross the other day. We‟ll have to keep an eye on
“What can they do?” Billy giggled nervously. “They have no idea what you‟re up to. It‟s a
brilliant plan. I can‟t see what can go wrong now!”
Grimmsbottom nodded in agreement but said, “That‟s as may be, but there‟s still two days to go.
Don‟t count you‟re chickens yet. I‟ve been planning this for the better part of two years and I
don‟t need trouble from those village idiots now…”
“By the way sir,” Billy said. “Where did Councilor Spottiswood go off to?”
Grimmsbottom shook his head.
“No idea. I think he said something earlier this evening about checking documents over in Upper
Worter. Maybe he‟s gone over there. Anyway, it‟s late, and I‟m going home to bed!”

It was raining alright. Not just a drizzle, but a hard, penetrating rain. The kind of rain that hurts
the top of your head even if you‟re wearing a tin hat and you‟re indoors. It was coming from the
north, almost horizontally across the churchyard and seemed to be picking up an extra few
degrees of cold from the inhabitants of the neighbourhood.
“Bloody marvellous!” Quilt moaned. “Another evening creeping about in wet weather, in wet
undergrowth, with wet clothes, getting wet!”
“You have got the brolly sir.” Jimmy pointed out as he turned up his collar and pulled his head
tighter into his greatcoat to help ward off the cold driving rain. Quilt grunted and lowered the
brolly at an angle into the weather even more until he could only see where he was going by
following the feet in front. In fact, he was so fed up he didn‟t even notice, or care, that they were
walking toward the meadow alongside the grave yard, something that would normally have him
wide-eyed with fear and alert to the slightest creak of dusty knuckle bones within five hundred
“Running flush!” a thin voice off to the left announced.
“Only ginger snaps tonight lads.” another equally stretched voice wheezed.
“Blasted rain. Catch your death out here…” a third chuckled.
“Hear something?” Danny asked, straining his ears into the wind.
Quilt grunted negatively.
“Told you to mind the roots!” Scooter called out from the rear and Quilt sighed, waiting for the
inevitable catastrophe that was now bound to befall him and him alone.
“Shall we just follow the path into the Wood you cut last night, or follow the old trail?” Scooter
called into the howl of the wind and rain, blissfully unaware of his comment a few seconds
“Let‟s go „ome!” Quilt moaned, in no mood for traipsing about in the cold and rain at midnight in
October. He was imagining another plate full of Barry‟s little cucumber sandwiches with the
crusts cut off, and a few of those tasty little fresh cream chocolate éclairs. Best of all though, he
was dreaming about a warm fire and a nice cup of Barry‟s best Darjeeling and a hot sausage roll
or five with mustard.
“Look out!” Danny‟s voice called suddenly, interrupting Quilts‟ reverie.
The Alderman stared at the grass and weeds an inch from his face. The ground was cold, wet and
uninviting. His left foot was still entangled in the protruding root of a huge oak that overhung the
wispy path the company were taking, but was still not dense enough to prevent the drowning rain
from getting through. A small puddle strained at the leash a few inches from Quilts face and as he
stared at it, it finally burst its little banks and a small rivulet of dirty icy water flowed between the
weeds and vanished up his left sleeve. A triplet of lightning flashes illuminated the surroundings
all too briefly in blue and white cardboard cut-outs, before a deep shudder of thunder penetrated
the ground he was lying on.
“I‟ll swing for him. I swear I will…” he muttered.

The little soggy troupe plodded along the rough cut path they had blazed the night before until
they reached the same spot at the edge of the pond where they had fled from Gort during their last
“I wonder if he‟s watching us.” Quilt whispered, his eye wide, white and staring, like the peeled
top of a bottle of semi-skimmed.
“Who?” whispered Scooter.
“Don‟t tell me you don‟t know?” Quilt sneered.
“He means Gort.” Danny replied looking nervously around. He still had visions of Quilt‟s
previous descriptions of his fate swirling around in his brain.
“I don‟t think he‟s about.” Scooter said as he too stared in all directions.
“Prophesy or hope?” Quilt asked more seriously than sarcastically.
“Bit of both. Mind you, I suppose he could well just pop out of the bushes at any time without us
realising…” Scooter answered honestly and not making Quilt feel much better.
There was a rustling in the undergrowth from behind them and they turned to see a large dark
shape with four legs emerging from the soggy overhanging greenery.
It was Barry, shielding Granny from the penetrating rain with his open coat.
“Where‟k mikter Quilt?” he asked looking around.
“You‟ll git stuck up one o‟ those tree‟s one day at the rate your goin!” Granny called up into the
branches of a large chestnut. “Stop actin‟ like a bloody squirrel with a Fox after its nuts.”
“Just looking at a little nest…” Quilt‟s lying voice drifted down from above their heads.
“Thinkin‟ of moving in?” Scooter chuckled.
“How did he get up there so quickly?” Jimmy marvelled.
“Spring up his bum.” Danny said with a straight face.
The councilor slid back down the trunk, straightened his coat and harrumphed in an embarrassed
way into his hand.
“Where to now?” he enquired somewhat officiously, trying to nonchalantly change the subject.
“If we follow the pond thataway…” Danny said pointing to their left, “We‟ll come to the outfall,
and the stream that leads back to Reg‟s fences.”
“You should know…” Quilt muttered somewhat spitefully, nudging Barry with his elbow.
“Don‟t be such a miserable git.” Granny admonished. “We‟s all getting‟ wet, but we ain‟t bein‟
arsy to each other.”
Quilt apologised, feeling slightly guilty but no less soggy.
“I still think we ought to just knock on Reg‟s front door, whatever Granny and old ejector-pants
over there might say…” Scooter said to Jimmy as they brought up the rear.
Jimmy burst out laughing at the name Scooter had given Quilt, then he silenced himself by
clamping a hand over his mouth as the sound of his laugh continued to echo among the trees.
“Sorry…” he whispered.
The rain was easing very slightly from downright drenching, to merely soaking, but as the night
grew even deeper, the temperature dropped making what rain was left feel far colder.
The company shivered and drew close to one another for security and comfort without realising
“You going to take the lead?” Jimmy asked Danny as they all stood waiting for the next move.
Danny sighed and lowered his head into the stinging water-filled wind and trudged off into the
black shapes of the Wood.
“Into the valley of death…” Quilt mumbled.
“Pardon?” Barry asked, only catching part of the words.
“Nothing…” the waterlogged Alderman replied as he followed the little caravan of explorers
along the path.
The vague trail just seemed to materialise beneath their feet as they moved. They had no real idea
where they going in the dark but still Danny led them and still the others followed.
“No sign of Gort tonight.” Jimmy observed, trembling inside his tightly wrapped coat and scarf.
“Don‟t you be so sure…” Granny warned.
“What… what do you mean?” Quilt stuttered as the rain trickled off his long nose. It made him
look like a mobile budgie water feeder.
“Jus‟ that „cos we ain‟t seen „im, don‟t mean „e ain‟t about.”
“You think he‟s watching us then?” Jimmy asked nervously, looking all ways into the dark.
“Di‟nt say that. Jus sayin‟ don‟t get too cocky. We needs our wits about us, tha‟s all.”
It took at least another hour to cover the three hundred yards to the end of the pond and there was
more than one occasion that one or other of the company nearly fell into the sludgy ooze at the
edge of the overgrown path.
The rain eventually eased off to a light but still penetrating drizzle, but the biting wind didn‟t
abate at all.
“How much further?” Jimmy asked trying to keep close to the others more for some protection
from the cold bluster than any other reason.
“Another quarter of a mile or so, if I remember.” Danny answered from the front of the little
“I feel like a sodding sponge.” Quilt bleated miserably.
Barry resisted the urge to say he looked like one.
However Danny didn‟t.
“You look like one.”
Quilt muttered a reply and Danny responded saying, “No need… Went before we left…”
“Goolies not itching yet?” Quilt spat.
Danny laughed but no one could see him filling his trouser front with a light, white powder and
pounding his hand up and down inside his drawers like a piston at full chat.
“Can you smell violets?” Jimmy asked quietly from the rear.
The valiant little group spoke little over the next half an hour or so and it was with no small
surprise when Danny eventually walked straight into a heavily grass and brush encrusted iron
“Either we‟re here, or the bushes have solidified.”
“‟Bout time.” Quilt moaned. “Freezin‟ my flamin‟ bollo…”
“Albert!” Granny interrupted, pushing her way to the front and grasping one of the vertical metal
spears making up part of the fence now barring their way.
“How on earth did you and Emerald ever talk through this lot?” Jimmy gasped as he peered at the
fence in the deep grey gloom that precedes the first light of dawn.
Danny shrugged his shoulders.
“If you can get your hand between the bars, there‟s plenty of room for other bits…” Quilt
observed somewhat snidely.
Danny ignored the jibe and said, “If you‟ll allow me…” and began pulling at the brush and weeds
growing through the fence. A few moments later he called for Barry to give him a hand and
between them, they heaved a section of fence to one side, leaving a gap of about eighteen inches.
“Voila!” he said proudly, stepping to one side.
“More like a ruddy string quartet!” Quilt said, twisting Danny‟s word deliberately in admiration.
“Mind you,” he added nervously, “now we have to go through…”
Scooter looked up at the sky.
“Be light soon. An hour or so, I‟d guess. You sure there‟s time, if you want to be back out of the
Wood before dawn?”
“Surely you should be telling us that.” Quilt pointed out.
“Do you think there‟k likely to be any trouble?” Barry asked, stepping through the gap and
turning to look back at the others.
“Fine time to ask!” Quilt muttered, looking at the gap in the fence in much the same way a ten
year old with toothache looks at a dentist.
“This fence reminds me of an old uncle who was killed when a castle he was living in collapsed.”
he added sullenly.
“How dreadful!” Barry gasped. “What happened?”
“He was chopped into little squares.” Quilt answered quietly.
“Wok it a war, or komething?” Barry whispered, eyes wide in horror.
“No. Old fool bolted through the archway to get out. Forgot the portcullis was still down and ran
straight into it.”
The others all doubled over in silent mirth, not sure whether Quilt was being serious or not.
“Isn‟t funny!” he snapped, answering their silent question. “I liked old Uncle Albert.”
“He was an Albert too?” Danny asked, wiping his eyes on the end of his already wet sleeve.
“I was named after him. Most of my relatives said I took after him in many ways.”
“Figures!” Danny whispered to Jimmy who tried not to laugh.
“Best keep away from portcullises then.” Scooter chuckled.
“Explains the square head.” Jimmy giggled.
“If you‟se lot „as finished, we‟s got a river to find.” Granny reminded them as she followed
Danny through the gap in the fence and onto Reg‟s land.
“Got a bad feeling about this.” Quilt grumbled as he clambered over the sodden tussocky grass
and between the iron railings.
A deepening gloom seemed to settle over the little party and maybe it was just a trick of the light,
but it seemed as if the night sky grew somewhat darker and cloudier this side of the fence. Little
of the moon could be seen through the murky canopy above and the rain came lashing down even
harder than before, sparkling with little bursts as the droplets hit the ground and exploded.
“Don‟ even comment!” Granny ordered as Quilt opened his mouth.
“Now where?” Jimmy asked, retreating even further within his coat to try to escape the watery
“This is madness!” Quilt cried, ignoring Granny‟s prior comment. “We can‟t keep wandering
about in this! We‟ll all catch our deaths!” Even his little umbrella was being flattened by the force
of the rain.
“I mukt admit, it ik a bit damp.” Barry said mildly, draping his open coat even further over
Granny‟s head.
“Your bonkers!” Quilt yelled. “A bit damp? I‟d hate to be out in your idea of a downpour!”
Danny ignored the bickering and complaining.
“I know the stream used to run that way.” he said, pointing along a dark narrow ditch running into
the darkness ahead.
“Ever go that way?” Jimmy asked, shivering.
Danny shook his head. “Nope. Just used to stand here with Emerald.” he added wistfully.
“Nice long grass.” Quilt observed.
Granny tutted. “Get yer mind out o‟ that ditch an‟ le‟ss see where it goes.”
“Be light in a while.” Scooter said looking up at the leaden sheet overhead.
“Glad we‟ve got a prophet with us to enlighten us with these little snippets.” Quilt said acidly.
“I‟m just saying that we‟re about at the point of no return. Go back now, and we‟ll just about get
home before dawn. If we go much further, we won‟t.”
“We‟s got this far. Ain‟t goin‟ back now.” Granny stated flatly cutting off any form of verbal
retreat from the one-eyed Alderman.
“Just keep your head down Albert and ignore the mud. You should be quite safe.” Scooter added
cryptically in his „haven‟t a clue I even spoke‟ kind of voice.
Quilt groaned inwardly, wondering what portent of doom had just been laid at his feet by their
portable oracle.
The company moved off with Danny leading and they threaded their way carefully along the side
of the dark narrow ditch. It meandered in a fairly straight line through a dense patch of trees that
took quite a bit of negotiating, and the explorers eventually found it easier to clamber into the
gully and move that way. There was virtually no water in the ditch, save the build up of rain and a
tiny flow from somewhere ahead.
Suddenly the trees gave way to a fairly broad expanse of scrubby grassland and the company
stood somewhat surprised at the sight.
“Well I never!” Granny exclaimed. “Always thort the Wood was solid trees right through.”
“What‟s that over there?” Jimmy asked timidly, pointing a bit left-ish over the clearing.
“Cripes!” Quilt spat. “Reg‟s house!”
Outlined clearly against the lower backdrop of trees beyond, they could all see the rooftops and
chimneys of the large old rambling pile that had been the family home of the Stotes‟ for years. An
almost tangible air of menace seemed to creep from the building and spread around and across the
clearing, even to where the little party stood.
“I think perhapk we ought to go back.” Barry said, retreating into the trees.
“We‟ve come this far. We ought to at least see if the pond stream is coming out from under Reg‟s
place, or if it‟s blocked or something just ahead.” Danny said quietly.
“But that means going right across the clearing!” Jimmy whined. “You can see the ditch runs
right across the middle. There‟s no cover at all!”
“Got no choice.” Granny stated flatly. “Danny‟s right. We‟d be stoopid to go „ome now.”
“I think I could probably crawl along in the ditch without being seen.” Danny offered valiantly.
“There‟s no need for us all to go.”
“Good idea. I‟ll hold your coat!” Quilt added quickly.
Granny shook her head. “Nice offer, but you‟se too big an‟ bulky. That trench is a skinny little
thing. We needs a skinny person.”
Scooters last words suddenly flooded back to everyone and ten eyes slowly turned to stare at
Quilt who stood with his hands over his forehead, trying in vain to hide inside his umbrella.
“I really hate that little git.” he mumbled.
“You should be alright, Albert,” Granny said reassuringly. “There‟s nobody about „cept us.”
“Um…” Jimmy said quietly. Everyone looked in his direction to see him pointing at a dim orange
glow coming from a window on the right hand side of the house across the clearing.
“Fer goo‟ness sake, Albert. Not birds nests again?” Granny complained.
“I‟m not going!” Quilt stated flatly, his voice drifting down from the branches overhead.
“C‟mon, Albert,” Granny cajoled. “We needs you fer this. None of us kin do it. Danny an‟ Jimmy
are too big, an‟ Barry‟s completely out o‟ the question. Ditch‟d need to be three times bigger for
„im. Me an‟ ol‟ Bembridge is too old an‟ slow.”
“Come on Albert…” Barry added. “I‟ll make you kome nike cucumber kandwichek when we get
back to my plake…”
“Bugger the sandwiches.” Albert‟s voice hissed.
“And éclairs… And sausage rolls…” Danny added hopefully.
“Sausage rolls?” Quilt questioned, then added quickly, “Nope. Forget it.”
“BIG sausage rolls. Hot ones!” Danny said relentlessly.
“With muktard!” Barry piled on.
“Wholegrain or farmhouse?”
Quilt dropped silently to the ground, much to the surprise of the others and handed his brolly to
“There better be.” he said almost venomously.
Without another word the thin Alderman dropped into the ditch and almost vanished as he
crawled on all-fours through the cold sticky sludge that was all that was left of the stream.
The rain continued to drop and Quilt muttered ceaselessly to himself as he groped along the mud
caked gully. The going was fairly easy however and it was only a matter of ten minutes or so
before Quilt poked his head up like a periscope above the edges of the cut and peered around. He
was shocked to see the sheer dark brick wall of the Farmhouse looming above him just a few
yards in front.
All was silent, save the splattering of the rain about him.
He was soaked to the skin, muddy, and his hands and knees were laced with cuts and bruises from
his groping trip through the ditch.
“Bloody sausage rolls better be good…” he grumbled, peering up with one bright eye glinting in
the dim orange light coming from the window not far enough away.

“What‟s he doing?” Jimmy questioned for the tenth time in as many minutes.
“He‟s not been gone long.” Danny replied. “It just seems like ages.”
“Thank goodness the rain has stopped.” Scooter muttered under his breath.
Jimmy looked at Danny as the stratospheric bucket of water continued to empty all over them and
Danny shook his head in mild resignation as a stream of icy rain dribbled from the end of his
“Why did Quilt bring this brolly? It‟s ruddy useless!” he said, throwing the wire and cotton
contraption into the bushes.
 About ten minutes later, or maybe it was twelve, as nobody was really counting, Quilts‟ head
emerged from the ditch at their feet. He looked rather like a large soggy mole, with his dark wet
hair clamped over his head and his muddy wet black greatcoat pulled up around his ears. The
little party gathered round as Barry helped him to his feet.
The Alderman stood and stretched his back, then bent and rubbed at his knees.
“Well?” Granny said after a moment‟s silence.
“Well what?” Quilt grumbled.
“Don‟t be flippin‟ awkward. What did you find?”
“Brick wall.”
“Brick wall.”
“What d‟you mean, „brick wall‟?”
“Little red clay blocks. Sort of glued together, piled up on top of…”
“You askin fer a smack in the ear‟ole?” Granny interrupted.
Quilt stopped rubbing his aching and bruised joints and stood up straight again.
“The ditch runs right up to the house wall and goes into an opening underneath. If the stream to
the pond used to come out from under there, it doesn‟t any more.”
“Didn‟t you go in and look?” Danny asked, frustrated at the apparent dead end to their search.
“Think I‟m a bloody ferret? You go and soddin‟ look!”
“Calm down.” Granny mollified. “At least we knows the stream ain‟t comin‟ out from the main
river any more. An‟ that points towards the fact that the river is definitely dry at least where the
pond stream splits off.”
“And where might that be?” Quilt asked, almost afraid of the answer.
Granny frowned and looked at the nine eyes staring at her hopefully but it was Danny who
“I know the pond better than anyone.” he said. “I know I‟ve never been to see it, but I know the
river runs down from the escarpment where the Upper Worter flows above, and it goes fairly
straight, down the Black cleft and right across Reg Stote‟s front lawn.”
“Then where?” Jimmy asked already knowing the answer.
Danny took a deep breath.
“Under the house.”
“And where does the pond stream break off? Somewhere on Reg‟s front lawn?” Quilt asked with
a humour so dry he could have mopped his streaming brow with it.
Danny shook his head. “Nope!” he stated flatly.
“Then where?...” Barry began.
“Somewhere under Reg‟s floor!” Granny stated before Danny could reply.
“But that means…” Jimmy began.
“It means, if the River is still runnin‟ properly the other side o‟ Reg‟s „ouse, then the water is
goin‟ somewhere it shouldn‟t, under the buildin‟!” Granny finished.
“How on earth do we find out? Peel up the ruddy floorboards?” Quilt cried.
Barry frowned and rubbed at his now somewhat stubbly chin. He hadn‟t shaved for two days and
it showed.
“Thinkin‟ about summat?” Granny asked as she noticed his expression.
“Jukt thinking about that book in my houke.” he answered.
There was a moments silence.
“And?” Quilt said in anticipation.
“I‟m ktill wondering about that path. You know, the one outkide my kitchen window…”
“But there isn‟t any path. I thought we agreed that.” Jimmy said. Barry nodded in agreement.
“I know, but there‟k ktill komething a bit odd about it. I mean, why put it in the book at all if it
wok never there to begin with.”
Jimmy nodded.
“There‟s something in that, I suppose.”
Granny‟s expression brightened into what could almost be considered a smile, if a corrugated iron
shed roof could smile.
“I think we‟s seen enough „ere.” she said. “We needs to get back to Barry‟s. I think I‟d like to
take another look at that book.”
“And I‟ve got a large plateful of sausage rolls and mustard to see about.” Quilt added through
chattering teeth.
The little company turned and trudged back through the trees with Danny once again taking the
lead. The others followed like a little trail of wet mice behind the piper. None of them were even
looking where they were going, simply trusting to follow the feet in front. That didn‟t apply to
Danny of course, as he had no feet in front to follow. If he had, then either someone unannounced
had joined the party, or they were walking in a tight little circle.
Just then, the rain began to ease off and before the company had reached Reg Stote‟s boundary
fence, it stopped altogether.
Danny looked up at the sky, then sideways at Scooter and grinned to himself. In a funny half-in-
front kind of way, the peculiar little old man was proving to be quite helpful, he thought.

It was quite light in a watery pinkish-grey kind of way when the little party finally arrived back at
Barry‟s house. The churchyard was quiet and there were no playing cards or biscuit crumbs to be
seen. Barry unlocked the front door and stood aside to allow his friends to enter first. Granny said
„thank you‟ as she passed into the hallway.
“I‟ll jukt put the kettle on” Barry said, disappearing into the kitchen. A sudden yelping erupted
from beyond the kitchen door, followed by Barry saying, “Hello boy. Mikk me? Want kome
Quilt called out in reply.
“Stuff the dog!... My sausage rolls would be better!”
The sound of Barry laughing drifted back from the kitchen.
“Dunno what he‟s laughing at. I ruddy well meant it.” Quilt muttered to Jimmy as they all made
their way into the warmth of the sitting room.
Layers of dripping clothing were peeled off and hung on hooks in the hallway, leaving little
growing brown puddles spreading across the polished floorboards.
Danny stood by the fire with his back to the flames and rubbed his hands behind him.
“So what did you want to see that‟s so special in that book?” he queried as Granny sat poring
over the tome in question.
“Not really sure…” she mumbled, thumbing back and forth through the pages.
The others shrugged and sat around talking quietly about the previous nights work as they dried
their hair and faces on towels generously provided by their host.
There seemed to have been little actually gained however, other than the confirmation that the
water in the river was probably being stopped somewhere beneath Reg Stote‟s house.
“Do you think Reg is behind all this?” Jimmy asked. He couldn‟t really see how the river could
be vanishing under his living room floor without him being aware of it.
“Must be.” Quilt stated adamantly with no further word of explanation.
“What‟s the point though?” Danny questioned. “I mean, what‟s he got to gain from it?”
“He‟s always hated everyone in the village.” Quilt replied. “Probably just getting us all back for
even living near him.”
Danny shook his head. “I can‟t see that.” he said. “He wasn‟t always an old misery. You‟ve all
said that already. And I don‟t know of anything that can have upset him so badly over the past
few years that would make him cause so much trouble to the farmers and everyone around here.”
“So how do you explain the water going under his house, but not coming out again?” Quilt asked.
Then he added in a louder voice, “Got those sausage roll…”
His words were cut off as Barry hustled in backwards through the sitting room door almost
staggering under a massive heavily laden silver tray. The aroma of hot pastry and meat that
swirled about him answered Quilts‟ unfinished question.
“Oh, you champion fellow!” he exclaimed as his gaze fell upon the pot of wholegrain mustard.
“Reg Stote can keep his underground river. These sausage rolls are far more important!” With
that, he scooped up three and set about demolishing them one after the other in rapid succession.
Granny frowned a moment.
“What did you say?” she queried slowly.
“I said these sausage rolls are more important than his flippin‟ house.” Quilt replied through a
mouthful of meat and pastry slop.
Granny shook her head. “No, you said „his underground river‟.”
Albert shrugged and took another mammoth bite of three quarters of a sausage roll.
“So?” he spluttered, showering everyone around him with fragments of flaky pastry and sausage
“What if you‟se right?” Granny asked.
Quilt raised one eyebrow.
“Yes, of course!” Danny yelled, leaping to his feet. “An underground river! Why didn‟t we think
of that before?”
Jimmy nodded as the thought sunk into his head too. “Maybe there‟s always been an underground
cave, or tunnel or something. Only now, the river has been diverted into it somehow.”
“So how do we find this tunnel, or cave or whatever?” Quilt asked, not pausing in his sausage roll
demolition for a split second.
Granny tapped the book in her hands.
“We‟s sittin‟ right on top of it.” she replied with a faint hint of smugness.
It was Barry‟s turn to leap up in excitement.
“Of courke!” he exclaimed suddenly, almost spilling his cup of Earl Grey.
“The pathway from here to the Ktote houke!”
“Mind your head.” Scooter put in, looking up absently.
They all stared at him but he returned their gaze with his usual look of complete
incomprehension. Barry continued with what he was saying.
“It‟k not a pathway. Don‟t you kee?” He stared wide eyed at his friends but only Granny seemed
to have any idea of what he was babbling on about.
Barry sighed dramatically and looked at Scooter.
“He jukt kaid it! He‟k right!”
“What the hell are you on about?” Quilt spat in exasperation. “He said what? „mind your head‟?”
“Yek!” Barry exclaimed. “Mind your head! A tunnel! We‟re going to be going through a tunnel,
and komeone here needk to mind their head!”
“Guess who!” Quilt muttered gloomily.
“Still not quite with you over all this…” Danny said, which was quite unusual, as Danny had so
far been one of the sharper ones, picking up on things fairly quickly.
Granny waved them all to sit down and be quiet while she explained.
“It‟s all in this „ere book. We couldn‟t work out where the pathway „ad gone leadin‟ from Barry‟s
„ouse to Reg‟s place. Tha‟s „cause it ain‟t gone nowhere. Don‟t you all see? I‟ss not a path. Never
“It‟s a ruddy tunnel!” Quilt exclaimed suddenly grasping the idea.
A sudden babble of conversation broke out among the party.
“So you think this tunnel from Barry‟s house to Reg‟s place is where the water is going?” Jimmy
Granny shook her head.
“Can‟t be. Not unless the tunnel goes somewhere else past this „ouse too.”
“Why? What do you mean?” Quilt asked through another mouthful of sausage roll, mustard and
tea. He had resumed his onslaught on the mountain of food.
“Water needs somewhere to go.” Granny reasoned. “If there‟s a tunnel leadin‟ from somewhere
under Barry‟s kitchen window, then the water couldn‟t go anywhere, not if the tunnel is a dead
end „ere.”
“So what are you saying?” Jimmy asked, beginning to loose the plot again.
“This tunnel prob‟ly goes to Reg‟s place underground some‟ow, an‟ it prob‟ly joins up with
another tunnel at that end. Or a cave, or summat. Tha‟s where the river must „ave gone.”
“How can you be so sure?” Danny asked.
“As I said, I‟ss all in this book.” She tapped the book again.
“I‟se been readin‟ about this place from years ago. I means lots o‟ years. Maybe „undred or more.
Seems the reverend who lived „ere „ad a little job on the side.”
“Job on the side?” Danny asked.
“E‟ weren‟t yer usual kind o‟ vicar.” Granny replied.
“Cross-dressing?” Quilt said.
Granny tutted. “Not that kind o‟ different. E was a bit crooked. A bit bent.”
“Cross-dresser!” Quilt repeated confidantly.
“E‟ was dealin‟ in shall we say, imported goods.” Granny explained.
“What?” Jimmy asked.
“What?” Barry repeated.
“Ladies knickers?” Quilt added.
“A smuggler!” Danny exclaimed.
Granny nodded.
“‟zackly! A smuggler. The tunnel led from an underground river right up to this „ouse. Reg‟s
ancestors was prob‟ly involved too.”
“So you mean there‟s likely to be an entrance to the tunnel in Reg‟s house as well?” Jimmy asked
“What‟s wrong with that?” Quilt asked somewhat thickly, not seeing his young assistants point.
“Anyone from Reg‟s house could turn up here without us even knowing it!” Jimmy trembled.
“Even Gort!” he added dramatically, as if to hammer home his terrifying point.
“Oh goodnekk!” Barry said.
“Oh dear!” Danny added.
“Ruddy „ell!” Quilt gulped.
“Now, now…” Granny said in her most mollifying tone, which actually cut no ice with Quilt.
“T‟aint very likely is it? I means, if Reg or even Gort knew there was a tunnel entrance
somewheres in their „ouse, they‟d prob‟ly „ave used it by now. You thinks that after all these
years, someone wouldn‟t „ave popped already?”
Quilt certainly wasn‟t convinced.
“Could just be biding their time.” he said darkly, cramming an eleventh sausage roll between his
teeth and hosing it down with a gobfull of tea.
Time for what?” Granny questioned reasonably.
“Who knows?” he shrugged. “Maybe they‟ve been waiting for Danny to turn up!” he stared
accusingly at the young man who suddenly became the focus of Quilts fears.
“Yes, that‟s it! Gort‟s going to creep in, in the dark one night, and do for us all in our sleep!” He
said this so convincingly that even Jimmy and Scooter looked sideways at Danny.
“Don‟ be so daft!” Granny said flatly. “‟Ow the „ell would they „ave known Danny was goin‟ to
come „ere in the first place? E‟ left the village years ago, never to come back as far as everyone
else is concerned. E‟s only „ere now „cos we asked „im to come an‟ „elp us.”
Jimmy and Scooter seemed satisfied by this trail of logic, but not Quilt. The Alderman glowered
at Danny then suddenly turned on Scooter.
“It‟s him! I see it all now! He‟s been working with the Stotes‟ all along!” he yelled hysterically.
“He told Reg that Danny was going to come back! He‟s in on the plot! No wonder he‟s always
making terrible things happen to me!”
Scooter actually laughed.
“The only reason thing happen to you is because you‟re such a burke! I‟ve got nothing to do with
it. You think I‟d make my own brewery go out of business just to help ol‟ Reg Stote get his own
back on his daughters ex?”
“Fer goo‟ness sake Albert, stop bein‟ such a ninny.” Granny added. “You‟se jus‟ getting‟ over
excited. Reg an‟ Gort can‟t know about the tunnel. Stands to reason. Now pack in all this
foolishness an‟ finish yer sausage rolls. We‟s got a tunnel to find, then git a bit o‟ sleep afore we
goes lookin‟ to see where it leads.”
Quilt looked from one face to another, somewhat abashed.
“Yes, yes, you‟re right. I‟m just being silly. There‟s no way anyone could know about the tunnel.
I mean, no one‟s ever come up out of it, have they?” He said this last bit slightly less
At that precise moment, Stan decided to come through from the kitchen to see if there was a
chance that there might be any unattended sausage rolls lying about and the sitting room door
creaked loudly as it swung slowly open, pushed by Stan‟s wet nose.
“Albert! You jus‟ git yourself off the top o‟Barry‟s book case right this minute!” Granny ordered.
Chapter 14.

Old Toby was the first to hear the news.
Within half an hour the entire village was out and about, talking about it.
Arguments broke out in favour of and against the plans.
“‟Bout time somethin‟ useful was done round „ere!”
“What‟r you on about you dick „ead! Ain‟t your front door it‟s goin‟ past!”
“Who you callin‟ a dick „ead? Fatso?”
Scuffles broke out pretty soon and by lunchtime the village was divided into those who thought
the idea was a good one, and those who thought it was terrible. Admittedly, the former were in
the vast minority and were obviously those who thought to profit in some way out of the deal.
The majority of the populace were horrified at the news and openly said so.
“How could it happen?”
“How did they get permission?”
“Can‟t we stop them?”
“Where‟s Alderman Quilt?”
“I bet it‟s all his fault!”
“Where‟s Granny? Surely she can do something about it?”
By 10.30 the Old Cock was open for business.
By 10.45 it was packed to the rafters as an impromptu meeting was hastily called for all to attend.
The fact that George took a lot of extra money over the bar that morning was neither here nor
A lump of broken brick was whacked on a table top to bring the meeting to order.
“Mind my flippin‟ table!” George yelled from behind the bar.
”Let‟s have a bit of order!” Major Turnstyle shouted above the din that showed no signs of
abating. He whacked his chunk of stone onto the woodwork once again.
“I said watch my table, or I‟ll belt you round the ear with that brick!”
Turnstyle harrumphed in a military kind of way and yelled for order again.
“Why isn‟t Quilt here?” a voice from the back called out.
At once, a babble of conversation broke out anew.
“He‟s not at his house.” the Major called in reply. “Anyway, we can‟t wait around for him. I‟ve
been on the council a good few years, and I think we can manage for now without our good
Alderman‟s words of wisdom.”
Turnstyle said this in such a way that it was altogether obvious just how highly he actually
regarded Quilt. He had always felt he was himself the better man for the job and here was his
chance to prove it. He wasn‟t going to waste it.
“Well what are you going to do?!” another voice called out, impatient to see the matter resolved
At that moment, old Toby ambled in through the open bar door and stared around at the gathering
with some amazement.
“What the „ell‟s goin‟ on „ere?” he said.
“Where you been this morning?” a little old lady who was leaning heavily on a stick asked.
Toby farted, somewhat soggily.
A large space of some ten feet radius suddenly appeared around him and he burped.
“Went to bed late. Had a few ales last night. Only jus‟ got up. What‟s all this about? What you all
doing here?”
The Major stepped forward and towered over old Toby.
“You haven‟t heard the news?”
Toby farted again and the Major took three rapid steps in reverse.
“What news?” Toby asked with no small degree of slurring in his voice.
The Major sighed and waved his arms expansively, partly to indicate the gathering of the
villagers and partly to clear the air.
“Look around you! We‟ve just heard about the main road!”
“Oh, that.” Toby said with a total lack of interest.
“I was first to „ear it. What‟s the big deal? It‟s only a road. „Bout time a decent path went through
this place. Too flippin‟ quiet by half, this village. Needed a rocket up its‟ arse fer years!”
The babbling confused conversation broke out all around again and the Major had to resort to his
brick once more.
“I don‟t think you understand the implications of what‟s about to happen!” he said haughtily.
Toby laughed.
“Course I does!” he cried. “Waycross council has bought up a strip o‟ land runnin‟ through our
village, an‟ they‟s goin‟ to shove a ruddy great road through the middle of us.”
“And you‟re not bothered?” the Major yelled incredulously. Toby shrugged his shoulders.
“Why should I be? Road won‟t bother me. My „ouse is at least five „undred yards from the
middle o‟ the village. An‟ as my „earin‟ is bad, I won‟t be bothered by any noise either. Besides,
It ought to bring a bit o‟ business our way. Might sell a few more „o me sprouts next year, instead
o‟ just eatin‟ „em all.”
Toby farted again, giving a clear indication that he had indeed been eating the aforementioned
vegetables fairly recently.
A large quantity of them if the green fog now emanating from his lower regions was anything to
go by.

“Well done Toby!” George grumbled through the kerchief knotted round his mouth as he stood
up yet another table and righted a few more chairs in the now empty bar.
“Another bitter, George, if you please...” Toby said, completely ignoring the effect he had had on
the now departed congregation. “Then I ‟spose I‟d better git on over to Barry‟s place an‟ tell
Albert what‟s goin‟ on.”
George raised an eyebrow as well as another chair.
“You know where Alderman Quilt is?”
Toby nodded and scratched an armpit. Something within the matted hair wriggled and Toby
squeezed it until it popped. He massaged the remains into the armpit.
“Him an‟ Granny an‟ a few others „as been up at Barry‟s place these past few days. Folks says
they‟s got a card school on the go.”
Granny? Gambling? Never!” George stated flatly. “As for Albert Quilt, he‟s far too tight, unless
they‟re playing for matchsticks.”
Toby wriggled his bushy eyebrows.
“Who knows? Come to that, who cares! I jus‟ know that Quilt‟s over there, an‟ I better get over
an‟ tell „im that his precious village is about to become a main road services area.”

Quilt yawned like a dustbin with the lid missing. He scratched at his own armpit but nothing
wriggled. Mind you, he did groan a bit and hold his stomach.
“Belly ache?” Granny asked with no hint of sympathy. Quilt groaned again.
“Yer own fault, gutsin‟ all those sausage rolls las‟ night. „Ow many did you eat anyway? Ten,
“Twenty six!” came Jimmy‟s somewhat amused voice from the doorway. He was bringing in a
small tray laden with cups, a milk jug and a steaming tea pot.
“Grand stuff!” Granny exclaimed as he set the tray down and poured three cups of Barry‟s best
“Run out of Earl Grey.” he apologised. “Barry says he‟ll get some more today.”
Quilt groaned again. “Don‟t anyone ever force me to eat sausage rolls or pastry again…” he
moaned theatrically.
“Force you?” Granny laughed. “We couldn‟t get the ruddy things away from you! I think the rest
of us „ad about two each! You went through „em like a flippin‟ flock o‟ vultures!”
“I only ate few…” Quilt muttered dejectedly. “They must have been off.”
“Off alright!” Granny stated. “Off the plate an‟ down your gullet!”
The conversation might have gone further but they were interrupted by an insistent hammering on
the front door knocker.
Quilt groaned again and buried his head beneath the settee cushions.
Barry opened the front door and peered outside. He too had somewhat delicate eyeballs this
morning, but his were due to a late night and little sleep, rather than any case of overeating.
Stan yapped noisily at his side and Barry held firmly onto his collar.
“Quiet, Ktan!” he said to the little ankle-snapper at his feet.
“Allo Barry.” old Toby greeted, doffing his tatty old brown check cap.
“Hello Toby.” Barry answered amiably. “What are you doing up here today?”
“Albert an‟ Granny here? Got some news they might like to „ear, if sayin‟ they might like it is the
right way to put it.”
Barry stepped sideways.
“Come in. They‟re in the front room. Would you like a cup of tea? We‟re jukt having one.”
Toby nodded and smiled. “Love one.”
The sitting room door creaked open and Granny looked up as Toby entered.
“Allo there.” she said, a little surprised by the old mans‟ visit. “What‟r you doin‟ up „ere this
Toby sat down in a thick padded chair and Stan at once leaped up into his lap, licking his face
“Well well!” Barry exclaimed. “You‟re the firkt perkon I‟ve ever keen him do that to!”
“Got a way with dogs. Always „ave.” Toby answered as he ruffled the little dog‟s ears.
“Jus‟ thought you lot ought to know what‟s goin‟ on this mornin‟ in the village.”
Granny leaned forwards and Quilt peered out rat-like from beneath his cushion.
“Going on?” he queried.
At that moment, Danny, Jimmy and Scooter came in the front door, laughing and joking. They
had been out for an early morning walk and had obviously found something amusing to giggle
over. The fact that they mentioned the words „Quilt‟, „birds nest‟ and book case‟ amidst the
giggling did not go down too well with the Alderman.
Mind you, the first thing Danny did before joining the others in the sitting room was to rush
upstairs to the bathroom. A few minutes later he reappeared, sporting a rather sheepish grin and
smelling of violets.
Toby decided to get straight to the point.
“Waycross is shovin‟ a main road through the village.”
Quilt mono-blinked.
“You mean, another one?”
“What?” Toby said, confused.
“Another road. They‟ve already got one. Two, actually.” Quilt explained.
“Not their village, ours!” Toby said as if explaining to an imbecile that one plus one equals a bit
less than three.
“OURS?” Granny, Quilt and Barry all exclaimed at once.
“‟Fraid so.” Toby replied nodding. “Postie told me about it on his way through this mornin‟. He‟d
just been to Waycross an saw lots o‟ signs up everywhere sayin‟ that a new road was goin‟ past
the town. Sort of a by-pass. S‟posed to make their lives a bit quieter.”
“How does that affect us though?” Quilt asked, edging his way further out from beneath the soft
“The new road goes right through Lower Worter.” Toby replied simply. “Apparently, it‟s the
quickest way past the escarpment an‟ on to the central lands.”
“But Waycross can‟t do that!” Jimmy exclaimed.
“They don‟t have any rights around here!” Danny added.
Granny scowled.
“Now we knows what Grimmsbottom an‟ his cronies was doin‟ round „ere the other day. They
were buyin‟ up bits o‟ land!”
“Surely we can stop them?” Jimmy cried.
Granny shook her head again.
“Not if they‟s bought the land legally, all above board an‟ such. An‟ knowin‟ Rupert
Grimmsbottom, the contracts will all be tighter than a chickens arse.”
“This wouldn‟t be happening if the river was still here.” Jimmy added vehemently.
It all clicked into place.
“Of course!” Granny stated, snapping her fingers. “They‟ve been behind all this all along! You all
reckoned they was to blame for divertin‟ the river, but we couldn‟t see no point. Land itself ain‟t
worth that much, an‟ Grimmsbottom‟s ferry shares is worthless…”
“But it is if they stick a ruddy great road through it!” Jimmy interrupted excitedly.
“Crafty buggers!” Quilt spat, now detesting Grimmsbottom even more.
“But what‟s the point?” Danny said, thinking about it all. “I mean, what‟s in it for Grimmsbottom
and Spottiswood and the others? It‟s not really as if Waycross needs a bypass, is it? Almost
everyone who lives there is happy with the main roads crossing in the centre of the town. It‟s the
main source of income, for goodness sake.”
Granny nodded in agreement.
“You‟re right there. Waycross council an‟ the townsfolk can‟t be in agreement with all this.
Grimmsbottom must be usin‟ his authority as Alderman to shoehorn it through. But what I can‟t
see is why?”
“Perhaps he‟s getting some kind of payment or income from the new road?” Danny asked
“Nope. Can‟t be.” Granny stated flatly.
“Why?” Barry asked. It seemed a reasonable conclusion as far as he was concerned.
“The Alderman of any town or village is completely forbidden by law to make any kind of money
from anything to do with council policy or decisions.” Quilt replied knowingly, almost quoting
word for word from the local council by-laws.
“Perhaps he‟s going to make a fortune, then quit.” Jimmy said gaining nods of approval from
Danny and Barry.
“Can‟t do it.” Quilt answered again, shaking his head. “When you take up office as Alderman you
sign a legal agreement that says you won‟t ever make money from council business, and that even
includes after you‟ve retired, or whatever.”
“Well what about this Lady Murgatroyd you were on about earlier?” Jimmy said hopefully. “You
said that she has the main holding rights or something on most of the land hereabouts. If we can
find her, surely she can stop whatever Grimmsbottom is up to?”
“Yes! Right!” Quilt yelled, leaping up from the sofa and pounding his fist into his hand. “Lady
Murgatroyd. She‟s the answer!”
“Only if the twenty five years isn‟t up yet!” Danny growled.
“I think I can go an‟ find that out.” Granny said looking at Quilt. “An‟ Albert „ere can come with
“Me?” Quilt asked. “Why me?”
“Co‟s we‟s goin‟ to need to see the contrac‟s an‟ papers in Waycross, an‟ you‟se got the
authority, bein‟ Alderman „ere.”
“Be a lot easier just to go and ask this Lady Whoozit.” Quilt grumbled.
“Only one little problem there…” Barry said quietly, bringing Quilt back down to earth. “Anyone
know where to find her?”
Scooter rubbed his chin and looked from one face to another. The company noticed his
expression and stared at him expectantly, waiting for him to divulge the missing Lady‟s current
“You‟ll feel sick in the mornin‟ if you keep on stuffin‟ all those sausage rolls.” he said
knowingly. “Anyway,” he added, “We‟d still need the contracts for „er Ladyship to take over
again, even if we did find „er.”
Toby stared wide eyed at Scooter and his mouth moved up and down a few times before any
words came out.
“Well, Seems as you folks „as already been lookin‟ into all this. Maybe my news was no great
news at all after all.”
He gently placed Stan on the floor and stood up.
“I‟ll be getting‟ back „ome, I think. Looks like you folk „as got things in „and. Iff‟n I „ears
anythin‟ else, I‟ll let you all know.”
Barry showed old Toby to the door and he left amidst many „thank you‟s‟ and „see you agains‟.
Barry came back into the sitting room and began clearing the cups and saucers while Granny
opened the windows to clear the faint green fog.
“So what now?” Danny said, getting straight to the point.
“Time to go diggin‟ round outside Barry‟s kitchen window.” Granny replied. “We needs to find
the way in to this „ere tunnel, or cave, or whatever it is now more than ever. If we can gits the
river back to rights, „ol‟ Grimy will be scuppered right an‟ proper before „e does anythin‟.”
Then a sudden thought occurred to the old woman.
“Barry, you said when you bought this place, the ol‟ vicar left loads o‟ books. Is that all of „em?”
She waved towards the book case that had previously carried not only a stack of dusty old leather
bound tomes, but one damp and trembling Alderman.
“Don‟t really seem to be all that many. Not if what you said is anythin‟ to go by.”
Barry shook his head and brushed a small handful of pastry crumbs into the fire.
“No. There‟k lotk more in the attic…” his voice trailed off as he realised the import of what he
was saying.
Granny beamed. “I thinks a little look up there might be worthwhile.”
“Told you to watch the ceiling.” Scooter said suddenly, looking blankly around.
Quilt groaned. “I think I‟ll stay downstairs!” he said dejectedly. “If anyone‟s going to fall through
Barry‟s plasterwork, it‟s bound to be me!”
“What makes you say that?” Danny asked.
Quilt gave a humourless laugh.
“Who else do these catastrophe‟s fall upon? I‟m flippin‟ convinced Scooter foretells them just for
“You‟se getting‟ paranoid, Albert.” Granny chuckled. “But if it makes you feel „appier, you can
stay downstairs while we go an‟ „ave a look.”

The attic was reached by a fold down ladder through a fairly large trap door in the second
bedroom. It was easy to get into, even for Granny and within minutes they were all peering into
the gloom of the dusty loft, except for Quilt who resolutely stood below, holding the ladder
Barry lit a small oil lantern and suddenly numerous orange and black shapes flickered and danced
across the roof joists.
“My goodness!” Jimmy exclaimed. “What a load of junk!”
There were piles of boxes, rolls of old carpet, bags, crates, broken chairs, lengths of filthy
fabric… the list was endless. Hardly a clear space on the floor was to be found and it was with
great care that the little group moved deeper into the attic, always mindful of Scooters words a
few minutes earlier.
Jimmy lifted up a mangy stuffed deer‟s head that had lost the left horn and the opposite eye and
put it down again with a grimace.
“Looks a bit like old Quilt.” he chuckled.
“What does?” Quilts voice called up from below.
“Sound echoes around in „ere.” Granny whispered. “Watch what yer sayin‟.”
She looked at the tatty stuffed animals head lying on top of a heap of dusty carpet scraps.
“Mind you, it does a bit.” she added.
Danny looked at the head and giggled then said, “Why does everyone keep old bits of carpet?”
Barry chuckled. “They wok here when I moved in. Nearly all thik ktuff wok here. I haven‟t got
round to clearing it all yet.”
“Where‟s these books?” Granny asked, getting back to the point.
Barry gingerly led the way forwards and the others followed behind in the shadows.
“Here we are.” he said, lowering the lantern to show several large piles of extremely dusty books
piled carefully on the ceiling joists at their feet.
“Mind „ow you picks em up.” Granny warned. “These piles would go right through the ceilin‟ if
you knocked „em over.
Carefully and one at a time, the books were lifted and quickly leafed through before being put
back gently on the rafters in a new pile.
“What are we looking for?” Jimmy asked.
“Anythin‟ else about this „ouse, or „ereabouts.” Granny answered as she skimmed through
another volume and added it to the wobbling pile.
They sorted the books methodically, bearing in mind the limited space and dark environment, and
also bearing in mind the dust.
Lots of dust.
Lots and lots of dust.
Scooter sniffled a bit.
“You say summat?” Granny mumbled as she thumbed her way through another book.
Scooter sniffed louder and rubbed at his itchy nose.
Granny looked up at him and he sniffed again. This time he rubbed his streaming eyes.
Not a good idea, as he had been handling very old and very dusty books, so his hands were
understandably a bit dusty themselves.
He sniffed again. A loud, sloshy, sticky, slurpy kind of sniff that made Danny gag.
“Ahhhh… Ahhhhh. Urrrrrrrr….” Scooter began.
“Ooohhh „eck!” Jimmy said, grabbing at a roof joist beside his head.
Scooters wheezing and sniffing subsided.
“Phew.” Danny breathed.
A moments silence passed before the loft space suddenly expanded outwards three inches all
round when Scooter sneezed.
It wasn‟t an ordinary sneeze either.
It was an award winner. It was the kind of cataclysmic sneeze that explodes unannounced with
eardrum piercing power.
If there was ever a two thousand watt sneeze, that was it.
The ceiling joists groaned as the combined contents of the loft raised itself in the air at least two
inches before coming to rest in almost the same place as it had started.
Almost being the operative word, as well as being the problem.
Ceiling joists are funny things. They tend to have gaps between them. Usually, pretty big gaps.
And people like to stick things in lofts. More often than not, the items in question whilst not
currently wanted, are mostly of such a size that the owners don‟t really want them stacked up
about the house.
Ergo, they end up in the loft.
Now we have clarified the fact that most things in lofts tend to be a bit bigger than the recent
postcard from Aunt Mable, we know they tend to weigh more as well.
So it was with Barry‟s loft, only more so.
There was a pile of stuff not only that Barry had secreted away over the past few years, but also a
mountain of twaddle from the previous owner. In fact, the rubbish was of such sufficient
magnitude, one might reasonably assume it had been there for several generations.
Back to the current problem…
The warehouse-like contents of the loft jumped upwards, but whether it was due to the rotation of
the planet, or whether it was some other peculiarity of physics, one cannot say for sure. The fact
remains though that when the piles of stuff came back down again, the rafters beneath were about
an inch to the left.
The piles landed, bounced, wobbled and teetered.
Even Granny, Barry, Jimmy and Danny teetered.
Outside, an entire hand of cards was dropped at the sound of the sneeze of nuclear holocaust
proportions, and the semi-opaque gamblers fled.
Within the attic Scooter blinked.
“What was that?” Quilts voice floated up through the hatchway.
He didn‟t say anything for a little while after that.
Probably because his head hurt a bit and his gob was full of plaster.
It began with one of the piles of books slowly toppling over. That pile hit another pile, then
another. A chair was next.
Then the deer‟s head on the top of the box.
The plaster cracked between the joists as the lath and horsehair struggled to stay in place amidst
the cataclysm taking place above.
Quilt looked up at the rapidly expanding crack in the ceiling.

He barely had time for a few well chosen words.
“Oh, bollocks!”

Once the dust had settled, Barry, Granny and Scooter peered down through the six foot by
eighteen inch hole in the ceiling. A large pile of books, dust, wooden strips, horsehair and plaster
was strewn across a ten foot space below.
The centre of the pile moved a bit.
Then a bit more.
The dusty heap groaned quietly.
“Scooter told you to mind the ceiling…” Jimmy sniggered.
The pile of wreckage groaned again.
Barry was the first back down from the loft. He took one white dust coated hand from the mixed
heap of ceiling, carpet remnants and books and tugged.
Quilt slowly emerged looking more than a bit like one of the card players from next door.
He was white from head to toe.
Bits of horsehair mingled with his own and lumps of wooden lath protruded from various
extremities. He coughed and spat and bits of ceiling shot across the room.
“He did it again…” he muttered darkly, his black pea like eye peering intently from a white
visage in the direction of Scooter.
Gingerly he staggered from the carnage, and kicked at a large thin book lying in his path.
The binding split and pages flew everywhere.
Quilt ignored the remnants of the now dismembered book and coughed as Danny thumped his
back to help clear the cloggage from his pipes.
However Granny stooped and picked up one errant page and stared at it.
“Well done Albert!” she said, beaming a large smile in his dust enclosed direction.
They all turned and looked at the page Granny was waving above her head.
“Now less‟ all pick up the rest o‟ the book.”
“You‟ve found something then?” Danny asked, handing her a pile of loose pages.
Granny nodded. “Looks like it.”
Jimmy blew a layer of plaster dust from one of the pages he had retrieved but failed to notice that
Quilt was in direct line of fire.
“Sorry…” he mumbled as the Alderman choked and spluttered yet again.
Danny thumped his back a bit harder this time.
“Mind me soddin‟ ribs!” Quilt complained.
Granny took the pages and tried to pile them in order but she quickly gave up as more and more
sheets were handed to her.
“Le‟ss go back downstairs an‟ „ave a look at this lot.”
“Stuff the book!” Quilt grumbled. “I‟m going home to get cleaned up and put some fresh clothes
“I‟ll come with you.” Jimmy said, grinning behind his superiors back.
“Me too.” Scooter added.
“Not ruddy likely!” Quilt spat at this last offer. “There‟ll be a flippin‟ earthquake in my path, or
even worse, if you‟re about.”
“Don‟t be so soft!” Granny chuckled. “Ol‟ Bembridge don‟t bring trouble. E‟e jus‟ sees it „afore
it „appens.”
“But it‟s always me!” Quilt cried. “I stayed down here on purpose, to avoid this disaster, and
what happens? It still all fell on my ruddy head!”
Danny and Barry let out a little inadvertent chuckle.
“I mukt admit, you do keem to be a bit unlucky.” Barry added.
“All the more reason to keep Bembridge at your side.” Danny added reasonably.
“How do you work that one out?” Quilt said scornfully. “It‟s not you that just had half the
municipal dump dropped on your head.”
“Well…” Danny explained. “Bembridge is hardly going to let things happen to himself, is he? I
mean, if there‟s trouble brewing, keep near him. It‟s probably the safest place to be.”
A slow and rather wicked grin spread across Quilts grimy face.
“I never thought of that! You walk in front!” he said to sternly Scooter. “And Jimmy, you walk
behind. If anything else happens, you two are getting it as well!”
“Don‟t worry about all the junk.” Barry said as the little party went back downstairs. “I‟ll clear it
up later on.”

As Granny, Danny and Barry sorted the pages of the rather loosely bound book into order on the
sitting room floor, Quilt, Jimmy and Scooter made their way back through the village in the
direction of the Alderman‟s house.
“You think we‟ll get to the bottom of all this?” Jimmy asked to no one in particular.
Scooter looked at the young man.
“Prefer strong cheese, myself.”
Quilt sighed and wondered not for the last time what he had gotten himself into.
“You lived here long?” Jimmy asked when they arrived at Quilts pretty little cottage.
The Alderman smiled with a no small degree of pride. The cottage was well kept and in a good
location in the village. The garden was neat and attractive and he was often to be found admiring
the surroundings, sitting on the solid wooden bench by the rose arbour, sipping his favourite tea
on a bright sunny Sunday morning.
“About fifteen years.” he replied. “Was given to me by my old Uncle Anatole. He had no direct
family of his own and I was the nearest relative he had. He was a miserable old git. Only gave me
the place cos‟ he couldn‟t sell it and spend the money where he was going.”
“Where was that?” Jimmy asked.
“Crematorium.” Quilt replied flatly.
Jimmy‟s eyes widened and he gulped.
Quilt unlocked the front door and stood to one side to allow his two companions to enter first but
Scooter decided to investigate the garden and was soon stooping even lower than usual as he
investigated the assorted flowers and shrubs.
“I‟ll only be a little while.” Quilt called as he disappeared up a narrow winding staircase that led
off from the little cottage kitchen to the bedroom within the mansard roof.
Jimmy peered about, lifting this and that, absently looking at things before putting them back as
the sound of Scooter whistling contentedly outside filtered through the sparkling glass window.
“Do you mind if I put the kettle on?” he called up to Quilt. “Just fancy a cup of tea.”
“Mind which urn you use.” Quilt called down from upstairs as Jimmy lifted one of two identical
tea caddies from the window cill. He opened the jar and peered inside at the fine grey contents,
then lifted the pot and sniffed.
“Earl Grey!” he stated confidently to himself in the manner of one knowing all about teas and
their various recipes and combinations. Then he lifted the other jar and peered inside that one.
The contents were a little darker and the leaves seemed slightly bigger. Again he sniffed and
screwed up his features in thought.
“Hmmm… Smells like Darjeeling.” he mumbled knowingly.
“Why do I need to watch which tea caddy I use?” he called out, taking a bit of a preference to the
one containing his idea of Darjeeling.
At that moment Quilt reappeared in the kitchen wearing a clean dark grey flannel suit. It was a bit
moth eaten in places, giving away the fact that it was rather old, but nevertheless well kept. The
smell of camphor confirmed the latter. He took the first urn from Jimmy and peered inside.
“Earl Grey.” he stated. Jimmy nodded, smiling at his own correct evaluation.
“That‟s what I thought.” he said rather smugly.
Quilt opened the other jar and peered inside.
“And this one?” he asked.
Jimmy grinned and said confidently, “ Darjeeling.”
Quilt shook his head and replaced the jar lid.
“‟Fraid not.” he replied.
Jimmy frowned and said “Ceylon?”
Quilt shook his head.
“Breakfast?” Jimmy tried in vain.
“Uncle Anatole.” Quilt replied blandly. “Put his ashes in there when I dropped the original pot.”
“Aaaarghhh!” Jimmy cried, taking three steps backwards and raising his hands to his chest.
“S‟ alright…” Quilt said calmly. “He „ain‟t exactly gonna‟ bite. Now… You asked for a
“Jimmy was shuddering violently and had turned a distinct shade of green.
“N.. No thanks… Gone off the idea…”
“Quilt laughed and put both jars back on the window cill. At that moment, Scooter came in from
the garden.
“Nice plants you got out there.” he said. “But I heard mention of tea. Is the kettle on?”
He crossed over to the window cill and lifted the tea caddy, then noticed there were two of them.
He opened both and looked inside each in turn.
“Which one you having?” he asked.
Jimmy started to reply but Quilt gave him a sharp kick in the shin.
“Um, we decided not to have any, but you help yourself.”
“You sure?” Scooter said, sniffing deeply at the toasted aroma of Uncle Anatole.
“I think I‟m going to be sick!” Jimmy said in a strangled tone as he fled from the room.
“Delicate stomach.” Quilt stated noting Scooters raised eyebrows, and patting his own tummy.
“Too much excitement these last few days.”
Scooter nodded sagely and turned his attention back to the matching tea caddies.
“So which one is best?” he asked, inhaling deeply from the crusty grey remnants of Quilt‟s dearly
departed once again.
“Bit of pot luck really…” Quilt answered with a faint quiver in his voice.
“What‟s the difference?” Scooter said, putting the Earl Grey back on the window cill and heaping
two spoonfuls of Uncle Anatole into the tea pot.
Quilt shrugged.
“That ones probably got a bit more body...”

Back at Barry‟s house, Granny sat with the assorted pages of the old book spread out on the
small table in front of her while Barry made another pot of tea.
Danny sat cross-legged on the floor opposite her and stared intently at the pages. He hadn‟t
actually got the foggiest idea what he was looking at, but he felt sure that inspiration would reach
him eventually.
Granny lifted one of the pages, shook some dust from it, stared intently at the writing then put the
page down again. She did this several times and each time, Danny held his breath expectantly,
awaiting the “Ahaaa!” that would surely signal the discovery of some vital piece of evidence. As
the expected „Ahaaa‟ didn‟t seem forthcoming at this moment, he stood and rubbed the backs of
his knees and went off to see if he could help Barry with the tea.
“Need any help?” he asked amiably as he walked into the kitchen.
It was a neat, ordered room, like everywhere else in the house, (excepting the attic, of course,)
and Barry stood humming quietly to himself as he finished neatly piling another mountain of
sandwiches on a plate.
“Mikter Quilt will be hungry when he getk back.” he said, putting a small plate of custard creams
on the tray as well.
Danny chuckled and filched a biscuit while Barry‟s back was turned.
“And you can leave thoke alone!” Barry said sternly without looking round. “Jukt put all thoke
cupk and kaucerk on that other tray and take it through.”
Danny obliged with a nod of the head and a mumbled „OK‟ through a mouthful of biscuit.
“You‟ll have nothing left in your cupboards if you go on feeding us all like this.” he said when
the biscuit was gone.
Barry smiled.
“Not likely. I hate khopping, ko I buy lotk in one go at the end of every month. There will be
plenty left when you lot leave. Now, hold that door for me, will you?”
Barry carried the tray of food into the sitting room and placed it on the sofa, as Granny still had
the table covered in papers.
Danny brought the tea pot and the cups and stood them in the hearth by the crackling fire to keep
“Found anything?” Barry enquired, looking over Granny‟s shoulder at the old tatty pages.
“Not yet.” Granny answered. “There‟s plenty here about the original Vicar, an‟ even the men who
built the „ouse, but there‟s nothin‟ so far about a tunnel joinin‟ this place to ol‟ Reg‟s „ouse.”
“You been at the cuktard creamk again?”
“Me?” Danny cried in surprise. “No, why?”
“I put a whole new packet of them out.” Barry pointed at the saucer of biscuits. There were only
six or seven left.
Danny shook his head rapidly.
“Honestly, I haven‟t touched them! Just the one in the kitchen.”
Barry turned and stared severely at Stan who lay snoozing not far from the fire, or the biscuits.
“Wok it you?!” he said in a stern tone of voice. Stan half opened one eye and snuffled. Then he
shut it again and continued wheezing as Barry and Danny both stared at him.
Another biscuit quietly slid between the floorboards.
At that moment Granny sighed loudly and stretched her arms.
“Can‟t make this out. Ort to be summat written down somewheres about the tunnel.”
“If there is such a tunnel.” Danny added morosely.
“What d‟you mean by that?” Barry said. Granny looked up at the young man.
“Well, it‟s just that we‟ve all just assumed there‟s a tunnel or something. I admit, it explains a lot
of things, but there‟s no real proof one exists. Just a load of old writings in that other book about
smugglers and so on years and years ago. How do we know it‟s true? I mean, it might just be the
ramblings of an imaginative old vicar who liked telling stories. You know, if there really was
such a tunnel, surely the entrance wouldn‟t be buried in the garden outside the kitchen window.
Why do that? Why not have the entrance somewhere inside, where nobody would see anyone
going in and out?”
Granny and Barry both stared wide eyed at Danny as he too realised what he was saying.
“Of course! Well done, my boy!” Granny cried, jumping up from her armchair.
“The tunnel doorway isn‟t in the garden!”
“It‟k in the houke!” Barry added excitedly.
Even Danny was nodding enthusiastically.
“Barry, what‟s under the kitchen? Does the cellar go that far?” he cried.
Barry was already in the hallway, lighting an oil lantern that hung behind the front door.
“Let‟k go and have a look!” he suggested as he flung the cellar door wide open and proceeded
down the stairs into the cold and damp space below with Granny and Danny hard on his heels, a
yellow halo of light around them as he held the lantern up in the dark.
Chapter 15.

Quilt hammered on the front door for a third time.
“Now where the heck are they?” he growled impatiently. It was getting late and a bitter wind was
blowing over the churchyard beside the house, finding every nook and cranny in their clothes to
get in and chill their bones.
Jimmy peered intently through the sitting room window but could only see Stan asleep by the
fire. Danny had closed the windows a while earlier as the evening drew in so there was no way to
get in there either.
“Nobody in the sitting room.” he said as he walked back to the front door.
“Round the back!” Scooter stated flatly, cocking his head in that direction.
“Suggestion or warning?” Quilt asked.
Scooter scowled and walked around the corner of the building. Quilt sighed and drew his head
tighter inside the folds of a thick scarf he had wrapped around his neck and followed the little
hunched figure.
“They must be inside somewhere!” Jimmy said to no one in particular. Then he glanced across
the grass to the foreboding silhouettes of the tombstones in the grey evening sky beyond the wall
and railings, shivered and scuttled round the side of the house.
He thought he heard a quiet voice whisper “Another card please…”
That, or something very like it.
Round at the back of the house, Scooter was peering in through darkened windows and banging
on each one in turn.
“Don‟t like it!” he stated. Somethin‟ odd.”
“Very astute.” Quilt said oily. “Took a real soothsayer to figure that one out.”
Jimmy quickly added a few nondescript comments about the dark and the cold, just to avoid any
bickering that was about to break out.
“We‟re all cold!” Quilt grumbled in reply. “Why on earth have they gone out? Why didn‟t they
wait for us?”
“What makes you think they‟re out?” Scooter asked.
“Are you nuts?!” Quilt laughed. “Why aren‟t they answering then?”
“Perhaps they can‟t….” Jimmy whispered dramatically, turning his gaze slowly to the
Quilt laughed, then chuckled, then coughed, then harrumphed. He stared uncertainly at the dark
round topped stone shapes in the deepening gloom.
“Well if they don‟t let us in soon, I‟m going back home! I‟m ruddy freezing!” He swung his arms
around his body and stamped his feet a few times, then blew into his cupped hands.
A slow, measured, deep „thump, thump, thump‟ echoed around them a few moments later.
Quilt stared so wildly he almost opened both eyes.
“What was that?” he whispered in tremulous tones.
Jimmy stamped his left foot hard, three times.
A few seconds passed, then there came another three slow thumps from the ground at their feet.
Scooter murmured, “Hear that?”
“‟Course we can bloody heard it!” Quilt hissed through grated teeth.
“Echo?” Jimmy whispered hopefully.
Then Scooter stamped his right foot in a well recognised measured pattern.
„Thump, thump, thump-thump, thump…‟
„THUMP, THUMP!‟ came the reply.
The three of them fled, yelling wildly.

“Oh my god!” Danny whimpered in the cellar as Barry hammered three measured beats out on
the brickwork with the side of his fist in reply to the knocking they had just heard.
“There‟s someone bricked up behind the wall!”
“Don‟t be daft!” Granny replied, none too certain of her words. “‟Ow could anyone survive bein‟
bricked up down „ere that long?”
Three deep thumps echoed around the cellar from beyond the room.
Barry frowned and thumped three times in reply on the stonework again. There was a pause, then
a pattern of thumps he recognised.
Thump, thump, thump-thump, thump…
With all his might he pounded out the time honoured response.
They all heard the strangled screams and wailing sounds that echoed thinly through the walls.
Danny stood in the hallway at the top of the cellar stairs, calling down to Granny and Barry
“There IS someone bricked up down there!”
A flash of yellow light later and Barry was standing behind Danny beside the front door,
clutching Granny‟s hand tightly. All three of them were sweating.
“Let‟k go outkide and have a look around…” Barry whispered nervously.
“You first.” Danny answered.
Barry took a deep breath, held the lamp up to chin level, and made ready to yank the front door

Outside, Quilt, Jimmy and Scooter were huddled in the porch, still trembling with fear. Quilt
strained an ear towards the front door and whispered, “Quiet! I can hear something!”
He stooped, and with trembling hands, wedged the letter box open with a little piece of stick to
peer inside.
Jimmy and Scooter stood behind, not daring to breath.
Suddenly, the door burst open and Barry yelled wildly into the night.
Quilt‟s head snapped up to see the dark form of a towering monster with the lower parts of his
features illuminated by the fires of hell he was wielding in one hand.
“SATAN!” he screamed, leaping back and knocking Jimmy and Scooter from their feet as he fled
into the graveyard next door.
“AAAARRRGGHHH!” Barry yelled, hearing his adversary proclaiming his arrival, and he
slammed the door shut again and fled back down into the cellar, pulling the door closed behind
Granny and Danny.
“What was it? What did you see?” Danny moaned in the dark confines of the cellar.

“What did you see? What was it?” Jimmy whimpered in the chill terror of the churchyard.

“There wok a horrible little thing…” Barry whispered in the cellar, “Climbing out of the ground,
and ready to jump at me…”

“It was hideous!” Quilt moaned as he hid behind a tomb stone. “At least ten feet tall, with fire
coming out of its nostrils!”

“I saw it too!” Danny hissed, eyes as wide as cup rims as he sat trembling on the cellar steps. “All
shrivelled, and grasping with long bony hands.”

“There was more than one!” Jimmy whimpered in agreement with Quilt. “I could see it had little
demons hiding behind it!”

 “It was going to come in through the letter box!” Danny added as he looked wildly at Granny.
“You know, like a black cloud or something!”
“We can‟t sit in „ere all night!” Granny said sternly although she herself was none to sure about
what might actually lay beyond the front door.

“We‟ll have to go back.” Scooter said to the cowering form of Quilt. “If there is something in the
house, then it might have taken the others.”

“Are you serious?” Danny replied.

“You round the twist?” Quilt yelled.

Granny shook her head. “If there‟s really anythin‟ out there, then „idin‟ in „ere won‟t do us a lot
o‟ good.”

“We can‟t just leave them in the house, like prisoners.” Scooter said, trying to calm Quilt down.

“Go on Barry, open the door a bit, an‟ „ave a peep outside…” Barry looked nervously at Granny
and eased his way back up the stairs towards the cellar door.
“Hope you‟re right…” he muttered, opening the door an inch and peering into the hallway.

“Come on Jimmy, even if old Albert here won‟t come.” Scooter said as cheerfully as he could
manage, trying to ease the tense situation.

Barry opened the cellar door another few inches and thrust the lantern through the gap. His wide-
eyed face followed behind.
“See anything?” Danny asked.

Scooter crept back up the garden path with Jimmy close behind.
“Wait for me…” Quilt whispered as he scuttled up behind his comrades.
“See anything?” Jimmy asked.

Barry inched his way tentatively toward the front door, almost bent double. Danny crept behind
with Granny bringing up the rear.
“You best put that lamp out.” she whispered. Barry dropped the wick and the hallway was
submerged in darkness, with only a faint light coming through the still wedged open letter box.

Scooter crept silently up to the front door of the house. There was a palpable silence that could be
cut with a sink plunger.
“Don‟t take any chances.” Jimmy whispered. Then he turned to Quilt and whispered, “Isn‟t he
Quilt bristled and pushed his way to the front.
“Here, move aside.” he hissed almost silently. “I saw the beast the first time, so I‟ll recognise him
if he‟s still about.”

Barry crouched behind the front door and took one last tentative look back at Granny and Danny.

Quilt inched up to the door and peered back at Scooter and Jimmy, his eye wide with obvious

Inch by inch, Barry‟s face moved toward the letter box until only his wide, staring eyes could be
seen from outside.
Quilt moved silently, gently, closer to the door until his one wide circular eye could be seen from

For a brief second the two men stared at each others eye‟s, trying to mentally adjust to what they
were seeing.
Then the penny dropped.
In actual fact, it was more like a sack of loose change hitting the bottom of an empty dustbin.

“AAAARRRGGGHHHH!” Quilt screamed, leaping backwards in terror.
“CYCLOPK!” Barry yelled, bounding back down the cellar steps three at a time.

Quilt sat trembling behind a tombstone, gnawing at the ends of his fingers.
“Bring any spare cacks? Scooter said gently, looking at the dark puddle slowly spreading around
the alderman.
Jimmy stood a little to one side, frowning slightly.
“Um, Mister Quilt…” he said.
“It was horrible! Horrible! It was a Cyclops! He even said it himself!...” Quilt muttered through a
mouthful of cuticles.
“Errr… Alderman…” Jimmy said gently.
“Two huge, pale eyes, like the tops of a pint of stout…” Quilt closed his eyes and shuddered at
the memory.
“He said „Cyclopk‟”
“I‟ll never forget those eyes…”
“Pardon?” Scooter said.
“He said „Cyclopk‟” Jimmy repeated.
“Be with me „till the end of me days…”
“Cyclopk?” Scooter said.
Jimmy nodded. “I heard him too. Plain as plain.”
Scooter looked down at the still Quaking and very soggy figure of Quilt and turned his nose up in
a sneer. He shook his head.
“How did you get to be Alderman?”
Quilt looked up, suddenly shaken from his waking nightmare by Scooters words.
“He said „Cyclopk!‟ you burke!”
Quilt did a rapid mono-blink.
“Pardon?” he said again.
“Cyclopk! Cyclopk! Didn‟t you hear?
Quilt blinked again, then he turned red with anger.
“Of course I ruddy well heard him! It was me he was announcing himself to!”
“So it was a Cyclops, was it?” Scooter said scornfully.
“Didn‟t I just say so? Didn‟t the monster shout it out at me?”
“With two huge pale eyes!” Scooter imitated Quilt‟s trembling voice of a few moments earlier,
and waved his arms about, monster-fashion.
Jimmy giggled.
Quilt stood up and waggled his finger in readiness to launch a stinging reply.
“A first, for all monsterkind!” Scooter proclaimed dramatically, waving his arms about again.
Quilt looked confused and ceased, mid-waggle.
“A Cyclops with two eyes?...”
Quilt still looked confused.
Then in a tone of triumph, Scooter announced, “I know!… It was a Bicyclops!”
Jimmy fell about laughing.
Quilt opened and closed his mouth rapidly several times but no sounds came out.
“He was talking about YOU, you lemon!” Scooter cried, pointing at Albert.
The light dawned slightly on Quilt, like someone opening a letterbox into a darkened hallway
ever so slightly.
“And he called you „Cyclopk!‟”
Quilts jaw did another quick silent yo-yo.
“And how many people do you know who talk like that?” Scooter questioned sarcastically.
Quilt looked from Scooter to Jimmy, and back again.
“Cyclopk?” Scooter repeated.
Jimmy slowly shook his head. “Barry!” he answered.
Quilt thought for a moment but he still wasn‟t convinced.
“What about the first time I saw the beast! Fire coming from his nostrils!” He said this so
forcefully that Jimmy backed away slightly.
“Er, actually, I know I only caught a quick glimpse, but I thought he was holding up a lantern.”
he said rather timidly.
“A lantern?” Quilt yelled in disbelief.
“What on earth would a ten foot demon breathing fire from his nose want a lantern for?”
“To light the wick up his hooter?” Scooter suggested.
Quilt turned his baleful gaze upon the now giggling Bembridge.
“It wasn‟t a lantern! It was a ball of fire! He shot it into his hand, straight from his nostrils!”
“Flammable snot!” Scooter announced.
“Perhaps he‟s got an inflamed nose…” Jimmy added, struggling to keep a straight face.
“Hope he never sneezes near me then…” Scooter said as the pair of them finally gave in to a fit of
Jimmy expanded his arms in an exaggerated gesture of explosion and said, „Whoooshhh!‟
They both doubled over.

“You say it was a Cyclops?” Danny asked nervously.
Barry nodded, still trembling from the fright of seeing such a hideous monstrosity peering
through his letterbox.
“It wok horrible! I never knew anything could be that ugly!”
Granny patted Barry‟s shoulder.
“Well, there‟s summat mighty odd „bout all this. Don‟t roightly „old with Cyclopses myself. Bit
rare in these parts, I reckons.”
Barry stared wide eyed at the old woman.
“But it WOK!. I really KAW it!”
Granny nodded sagely.
“‟Course you did! Or summat mighty Cyclops-like!”
Danny‟s expression slowly changed to a broad grin.
Granny saw him and nodded.
Barry frowned for a moment then he too began to see the light.
“That would explain the funny pong… You know, like a men‟s loo…” Danny added.
“Mikter Quilt!” Barry exclaimed, standing up and laughing at his own foolishness.
“Well it seems like he certainly got a fright too.” Danny said. “Did you hear him scream?”
“Sounded more like someone steppin‟ on ol‟ Missus Gumby‟s cats arse!” Granny laughed.
“Where do you recon they are now?” Barry said, still laughing at himself.
“Only place to „ide „round „ere is the graveyard.” Granny answered, cocking her head in the
general direction of the horizontal tenants of the land next door.
“He‟d have to be mighty scared to hide in that place!” Danny cried.
“We‟d better go an‟ get the ol‟ fool.” Granny said, brushing down the front of her dress and
making her way back up the cellar stairs.
“We‟d better go and see if they‟re alright.” Jimmy said at last, wiping the remaining vestiges of
his tears from his wet cheeks with a handkerchief.
“What do you mean, „see if they‟re alright?‟” Quilt asked. “What about us? They just about
scared me shitless!”
Scooter laughed and said, “Well, between us all, we‟ve made pretty good fools of ourselves.
Now, I don‟t know about you, but I can smell custard creams somewhere around here and it‟s
making me hungry!”
Quilt sniffed the air. Scooter was right.
“Wouldn‟t have thought you‟d smell custard creams this far from Barry‟s house.” he said.
“Windows are shut too.” Jimmy noted.
Scooter just shrugged and made his way back toward the house. “Hope Barry‟s made some more
of those nice little egg sandwiches. I‟m soddin‟ starved!”
The traumas of the evening were instantly forgotten by them all as they compared notes about
Barry‟s culinary expertise and made their way up the garden path.
The front door stood open and framed in the doorway, surrounded by a back-glow of light
towered a huge figure holding up what at first glance appeared to be a ball of fire.
The little trio paused for an instant, and then let out a muted sigh of relief when the apparition
“Come on then you three! I‟ve made another pot of tea and more kaukage rollk!”

Quilt sighed contentedly and actually refused another sausage roll. He had eaten about ten, along
with a sizeable amount of cucumber and egg sandwiches. He burped.
“Parm‟ me.” he mumbled sleepily.
“More tea?” Barry offered, holding up the pot.
Scooter shook his head and held his stomach.
“No, thanks. Gone off tea a bit for some reason jus‟ recently…”
Quilt kept his eye closed but smiled to himself.
“Anyone want anything elke?” Barry enquired of his guests.
Everyone shook their heads and sighed or gave mock groans of protest.
“You should open a restaurant.” Jimmy observed, rubbing his very full and somewhat expanded
“Roight!” Granny said suddenly, in a matter of fact way. “We‟s got a bit sidetracked today, and
ain‟t really achieved much. „Bout time we started actually doin‟ summat!”
“What do you suggest?” Danny asked.
“Forty winks?” Quilt mumbled hopefully.
Granny threw a cushion at Quilt and it hit him square in the chest. With a squawk, he sat up
straight and was instantly wide awake.
“As I was sayin‟…” Granny continued, “We needs to do summat, not just sit rabbitin‟ like lot of
old hens.”
“Hens can‟t rabbit…” Quilt said quietly.
“Wot?” Granny asked, turning on the Alderman who was somewhat recumbent again.
“Rabbits can rabbit. Not hens.” he muttered smugly.
Granny chose to ignore the comment.
“So what do we do next?” Danny asked, getting back to the point.
“We‟ve already said we need to find out where the river is going, under Mister Stote‟s house.”
Jimmy added.
“And we need to get word to old Lady Murgatroyd about what Grimkbottom ik up to.” Barry put
in. The others all nodded in agreement.
“You said that you could perhaps help with that one, Granny.” Danny said.
Granny nodded and resisted the urge to spit a wodge of four-day old „baccy into the fire. She
swallowed instead making the others cringe a bit.
“I might knows where to find „er.”
Quilt sat up immediately.
“You never said that before.” he said in surprise.
“I only said might.” Granny replied. “I knew „er a bit, years ago. Got an idea where she might be.
Dunno if it will „elp though, as we needs to find out if the twenty five years „as expired on „er
rights to the land first. If it „as, then there‟s nowt she, nor anyone else can do about
Grimmsbottom or Spottiswood buyin‟ up the land.”
“What if the twenty five years hasn‟t expired?” Jimmy asked. “I mean, what can she do?”
“The land was signed over to „er to maintain as long as she kept up renewin‟ the contract every
twenny five years, or until she signed it over to someone else. I knows at least she never did that.”
“But if it was all so important that she should renew the contract, why hasn‟t she come back and
done it? Do you think she‟s forgotten?”
Granny nodded her head.
“I‟d says you‟se „zackly right there. I remember what she was like. Land weren‟t important to „er.
As long as everyone was „appy, she never bothered anybody. I expec‟ she „as jus‟ forgotten about
the contract.”
“What if she‟s dead?” Jimmy ventured. “I mean, she must be pretty old by now. What do we do
The others all looked at Granny, expecting her to have an answer.
All she said was, “I‟m pretty sure she ain‟t dead. Think I‟d „ave „eard about it. Someone
would‟ve got word to me.”
“So what‟s first? Go to Waycross to see if the contracts have expired yet, and then pinch them, or
find old Lady Murga-wotnot.” Quilt asked, already knowing the answer.
Granny gave him a huge beaming grin.
“We goes to Waycross. Juss‟ you an‟ me.”
Jimmy shook his head apprehensively.
“But surely, the second you walk into the council offices and ask to see the old land deeds,
Grimmsbottom and Spottiswood will know that we‟re on to them.”
The others nodded in concern.
“Who said we was goin‟ to ask?” Granny replied mysteriously.
“But earlier, you said that Albert here has the authority to go and look…”
“Tha‟s right. But we ain‟t goin‟ to ask to see the deeds. We‟s goin‟ to burgle our ways in at
“What?!” Quilt exclaimed, leaping up out of his seat. Stan yelped at the sudden outburst and shot
into the hallway.
“Burgle the place? Are you mad?”
Granny motioned for Quilt to sit down again.
“Calm down, Albert. You knows the offices were all burnt down an‟ the town „all is just a shed
now. Be easy to get in.”
“Then why do you need Mikter Quilt?” Barry asked.
Quilt screwed his face up in realisation.
“So when we get found out, which we will, as soon as we produce our evidence, they can‟t say
it‟s not legal, because we broke the law getting the documents for Lady Whoozit to sign.” he said
“Run that by me again?” Danny asked, somewhat confused by the explanation.
It was Jimmy who answered.
“Of course! If Granny burgles the deeds from the Waycross town hall, and then we get Lady
Murgatroyd to sign them, Grimmsbottom will say the contracts aren‟t legal, as we stole them! We
will have wasted our time, and Grimmsbottom is home and dry!”
“And how doek that help?” Barry asked.
“Don‟t you see?” Jimmy exclaimed. “Mister Quilt is an Alderman of this county. He has as much
right to go into the Waycross town hall as Grimmsbottom or Spottiswood. Even if it is at night!”
“And he won‟t be breaking the law!” Danny finished with glee.
“And the best part is, as Alderman, he can witness, countersign and date Lady Murgatroyds new
signature!” Jimmy laughed.
Old Grimmsbottom is in for one helluva surprise!”
“Don‟t count your chickens.” Granny said, bringing them all back down to earth again. “We ain‟t
got the deeds yet, and there‟s still the problem of findin‟ out what Grimmsbottom and his cohorts
has done with the river.”
Danny stood up and looked at the others.
“Me and Barry will sort that out.”
“Dead right!” Barry exclaimed, leaping to his feet and clapping Jimmy on the shoulder. “And
don‟t think you‟re getting out of it either!” he added, much to Jimmy‟s delight.
He glanced at Scooter and noticed the old mans disappointment at not being included in any of
the plans.
“Well, Mister Scooter,” he said, speaking for Danny and Barry as well. “I hope that‟s all right
with you, and you‟ll let us three come with you on such an important mission?”
Scooter blinked, then fairly beamed.
“You mean?...”
“Of course!” Danny interrupted, catching Jimmy‟s thread.
“You‟re leading our part of the expedition. You didn‟t think any of us could do it, did you?”
Scooter laughed out loud and cried, “So that‟s where all the biscuits went!”
The others all looked somewhat baffled for a moment, then they too burst out laughing.
It was Jimmy who came back to one of the first problems.
“Did you have any luck with that old book?”
Granny wiped her eyes and swallowed a greasy splodge.
“Nope!” she stated flatly.
“Book was about as much use as sandpaper in a bog roll holder.”
“We wok looking around in the kellar when you arrived earlier.” Barry added.
“Find anything?” Quilt asked.
Granny shook her head. “We was lookin‟ at the walls an‟ things when we „eard this thumpin‟
noise from up above!”
Jimmy grinned.
“I told you to mind your eyes!” Scooter suddenly announced.
“Oh God!” Quilt moaned, covering his face with his hands.
“There wok komething a bit odd about the length of the kellar I hadn‟t noticed before…” Barry
said quietly, ignoring Scooters sudden outburst.
They all turned and looked at him, waiting for more.
“The floor. It jukt doekn‟t keem long enough…”
“How do you mean?” Danny asked.
Barry frowned and thought for a moment.
“Well, I‟ve lived here quite a while now, and I‟ve walked back and forth between thik room and
the kitchen countlekk timek…”
“So?...” Quilt said, somewhat exasperated.
“Well, it‟k jukt that the kellar‟k not long enough. It endk before it ought to…”
Danny‟s eyes went wide.
“So that means, the end of the cellar isn‟t under the end of the kitchen!”
“There‟s something behind the wall!” Jimmy exclaimed.
“Another room?” Scooter added.
“A doorway!” Granny said.
“A body!” Quilt moaned.
The others stared.
“Well?... There might be?!”
In a matter of seconds, the Alderman was buried in a barrage of cushions.

The distance between the hallway door into the cellar and the end of the kitchen was paced
several times by all of them before Barry triumphantly arrived with a tape measure.
“Eighteen feet seven inches!” Jimmy proclaimed from his end of the tape as he read off the
measurement against the kitchen wall. Danny wrote it down. A few moments later they all
crowded into the cellar, and as Barry held the lantern aloft they held their breath as Jimmy peered
closely at his end of the tape held against the far wall. Danny held the other end of the tape at the
opposite end of the cellar.
“Well?” Quilt hissed.
Jimmy strained his eyes a bit more and Barry brought the lantern closer.
“Can you kee now?”
Jimmy peered at the tape.
“Fifteen feet six.” he announced.
The others all „Ahhaaad!‟ knowingly, as if the measurement only confirmed what they alone
always knew.
“Bit small for another room…” Danny said doubtfully.
“Big enough for an entrance though.” Scooter said confidently.
“Or a corpse…” Quilt said gloomily.
“Got a sledge?” Danny asked, rolling up his sleeves and ignoring the Alderman.
“Why? Is it snowing?” Quilt whined.
“I meant a hammer!” Danny explained slowly.
“I know, I know. Only joking!” Quilt grated, quietly dismissing the idea of snow from his mind.
Barry handed the lantern to Granny and went upstairs again, only to return a few minutes later
with a substantial sledgehammer and a few six-pound club hammers. He kept one, passed the
other to Jimmy and gave the sledge to an eager Danny.
About twenty minutes later, the wall was reduced to a mound of rubble and they all helped clear
the debris away from the end of the cellar.
All except Quilt, who stood in one corner, trying to remove a tiny fragment of brick from the
inside of his lower eye lid.
“Bloody old coot….” he muttered to himself as he rubbed at his streaming eye.
“Bring the lamp over here!” Danny called to Granny as he clambered into the void beyond where
the wall had once stood.
The yellowy orange glow flickered and danced around the cellar as the light bobbed towards the
“What‟s inside? Quilt said nervously, still rubbing at his eye.
Danny took the lantern and inspected the newly uncovered space.
“There‟s nothing…” he said finally, to the disappointed groans of the others.
He climbed out of the recess and gave the lamp to Jimmy who clambered over the remaining
rubble to take a look.
“Now what?” Barry said, looking with some concern at the devastated wall of his cellar.
“Move on to plan „B‟” Danny replied.
“Which is?...” Scooter asked. Danny shrugged his shoulders.
“Take a look at this…” Jimmy said from behind them. They turned to peer at the newly exposed
end of the cellar.
“Look at what?” Quilt said irritably, hardly able to look at anything at that precise moment.
“The wall. It slopes.”
They all climbed forwards and took a look at the bare exposed brickwork. Indeed, although
Danny hadn‟t particularly noticed anything strange before, now upon closer inspection they could
all see that the wall was leaning in towards them at the top.
“What would be the point of that?” Barry asked, somewhat puzzled by the discovery.
“Not much of a slope.” Danny said, gauging the distance with his hands. “About a foot, or a bit
more, I‟d say.”
“Why would anyone build a sloping wall, when the rest of the house is so straight. Hardly an
accident.” Scooter said, scratching his head and sitting on the bottom step of the cellar stairs.
The others turned and looked at Scooter. More precisely, they looked at where he was sitting.
Jimmy looked at Danny.
“Be pretty steep.” he said.
“What would?” Quilt asked.
“But not impossible…” Danny replied.
“What isn‟t?” Quilt added irritably.
“Especially if you don‟t want anyone to know its there!” Jimmy concluded, slapping Danny on
the shoulder.
“What are you two prattling on about?” Quilt cried, rubbing the last vestiges of mortar from his
eye socket.
“A stairway!” Danny and Jimmy replied in unison.
“Barry! What‟s upstairs just above this wall?” Danny yelled, bounding past Scooter and up the
“Um… A larder… Why?” Barry yelled to the disappearing young man.
The others all clambered back up the stairs and went into the kitchen to find Danny on his hands
and knees in the larder, clearing shoes, brushes and assorted tins of polish and cleanser out of the
“What are you doing?” Barry cried, as Danny proceeded to lever up a floorboard with a kitchen
My bekt kilver!”
The board came out with a long creak, then a loud „crack!‟ Instantly Danny grabbed the adjoining
floorboards and yanked out two more.
“My floor!” Barry cried.
“The lamp! Quick!” Danny yelled as he swung his legs into the hole and then seemed to sink
beneath the kitchen floor.
The others stood and gaped as Danny took the lantern, and slowly, tentatively, step at a time,
made his way down the steep narrow brick stairway into the blackness below.
“My God!” Scooter murmured.
“The old smugglers stairs!” Granny whispered.
“The entrance to the tunnel!” Jimmy breathed.
“The gateway to hell!” Quilt groaned.
“My floor!” Barry repeated.
Once Danny had vanished beneath the larder, Jimmy stepped forwards and sat on the floor at the
edge of the hole, his feet dangling into the gloomy yellow light below.
“Got any more lamps Barry?” he said.
Barry scuttled away and after a bit of crashing about in the dark cellar, he returned clutching three
more oil lamps. One at a time they were lit and handed round to Jimmy and Scooter. Barry kept
one himself.
“If you think I‟m going down there without a lamp you‟ve got another think coming!” Quilt
exclaimed defiantly.
“Tha‟s „cos you ain‟t goin‟ down there!” Granny answered.
Quilt raised one eyebrow, surprised at the remark but equally relieved by it.
“What do you mean?” he said carefully, for fear of convincing Granny to change her mind.
“You ain‟t goin‟ down there. Neither am I.”
“But where are we…?”
He got no further.
“Waycross town hall…” Scooters voice drifted up from the void below the kitchen larder.
“Said we needed to get off our arses an‟ do summat.” Granny said, spitting a black splodge into
the sink and rinsing it away with cold water. The lump of clugg hung on resolutely to the enamel
for a few moments against the onslaught of water, then gave up its gooey hold on the porcelain
before disappearing down the plug hole with a slippery gurgle, leaving an oily slug-like trail in its
Quilt swallowed and almost wished he could follow the sticky blot on its escape from the kitchen.
Anything, to get out of the situation he was now so tightly bound up in.
“Can‟t we go tomorrow, or next week? Next week is good for me…” he whined.
“Can‟t do that.” Granny replied sternly. “They‟s goin‟ into the tunnel now. Who know‟s what
they might find? We can‟t wait. We needs to git those deeds tonight an‟ find Lady Murgatroyd. If
Grimmsbottom or Spottiswood, or one o‟ their lackeys finds out we‟s discovered the tunnel, we‟ll
never find those documents. Ol‟ Grimy would rather burn „em than let us get „old of „em!”
Quilt nodded in agreement. However much of a secret (he thought) coward he might actually be,
the thought that Rupert Grimmsbottom might get „one over on him‟ was more than he could bear.
A little spark of defiance flared inside him and it grew to a slightly bigger spark. (Well, what do
you expect? He was a coward…)
“Right! I think we‟d better take Slivver!” he barked.
Granny gaped at Quilt. Not only was she astounded by his change of heart, she was gobsmacked
at the suggestion they should take Barry‟s prize race horse.
“Barry‟ll go barmy!” she said.
“Can‟t be helped. That other old nag of a donkey, Bramble, will never get us there in time.”
“But can you ride?” Granny asked, almost in awe of what Quilt was suggesting.
“Hah!” Quilt exclaimed, throwing his scarf round his neck dramatically.
“Can I ride? What a question! Now you‟ll see something I really am good at!”

Slivver snickered and pranced as Quilt fixed the bridle and straps in place.
“What about the saddle?” Granny asked nervously as the huge Mare stepped back and forth under
Quilts seemingly confident hands.
“No time for that!” Quilt sneered, leading the horse from the stable.
“I think you‟d better.” Granny replied. “If you‟urts that‟orses back, Barry‟ll kill you!”
Quilt thought about it for the briefest of moments, then nodded.
“I suppose your right. Another few minutes won‟t hurt.”
Granny was spellbound. She could hardly believe her eyes as she watched Quilt expertly fasten
the blankets, saddle and stirrups in place on the horses back in a matter of moments. His hands
moved quickly yet gently, expertly and confidently, as if he had worked with horses for most of
his life.
He patted the horse‟s flanks once and led her outside. With one graceful and powerful step, he
slid one foot in the right stirrup, and heaved himself up onto the horses back.
There he sat, towering over granny, his long dark greatcoat flowing out behind him. His scarf
snapping out in the cold night air, the moonlight glistening off his black leather eye patch.
Now… Who did he remind Granny of?...
Then another thought occurred to her.
“Albert, shouldn‟t you be facin‟ the other way round?”
Quilt looked around to see Slivver chomping on the tail of his coat.
“Oh er, yes. Um… Bit enthusiastic there…”
He clambered round on the horses back causing the Mare to whinny and snicker but shortly he
was facing the right way.
“Give me your hand.” he said to Granny as he gently nudged the horse over to a low wall at the
side of the stable. Granny stepped up onto the wall, gave her hand to Quilt and he pulled her up
onto the Mare‟s back so that she was sitting in front of him.
Quilt took the reins either side of her waist with a curt, “‟scuse me, ma‟am.”
Granny giggled to herself. This was a side of Albert Quilt she had never seen and she definitely
liked it.
“High-ho Slivver!” Quilt cried enthusiastically, jabbing his heels into the horse‟s flanks so that it
whinnied loudly and reared up on hind legs, casting a dramatic shadow across the grass. Then
they shot off down the lane toward the road, through the sleeping village and on into the deep
inky-blue shadowed countryside toward Waycross. Anyone out in the dark foggy night just might
have heard an old woman‟s voice saying something like, „Grow up Albert…‟
Chapter 16.

Billy was perplexed. He was puzzled. Confused, baffled, stumped, foxed…
Why was Grimmsbottom so nervous? He had snapped his head off at least half a dozen times so
far, and it wasn‟t even time to go home yet.
“Didn‟t I ask you to tidy that pile of papers?” Grimmsbottom growled.
Billy sighed quietly to himself.
“I already have, sir.” he replied carefully.
Grimmsbottom looked up from the documents he was intently studying and peered at the stack of
papers on the side table. They were neatly piled in date order.
“Um… well, yes, alright.” Then as an afterthought, he said “What about yesterday‟s mail?”
“All sorted and passed round to the correct department‟s sir.”
Grimmsbottom grunted and turned back to his documents.
In actual fact, the different departments that Billy referred to were at this time a row of empty
boxes lined up against one wall of the hut. At around mid to late morning, someone would arrive
from one of the other smaller makeshift sheds that served at this time as the different Waycross
council offices to collect their post.
The mail had been sorted, collected and dealt with. The sheds were quiet and nobody had been in
to see the Alderman.
Even Councilor Spottiswood had been out all day on „important business elsewhere‟ according to
The Alderman‟s secret plan seemed to be proceeding nicely and there had been no trouble from
anyone in Lower Worter over the proposed land purchases.
So why was Grimmsbottom so edgy?
“Er, Sir?” Billy ventured after another berating for no apparent reason a few minutes later. “Is
something the matter?” He held his breath.
Grimmsbottom looked up from the papers he was holding and gazed icily at his young assistant.
“Billy…” he replied after a long pause.
“Everything is the matter. Or at least, it won‟t be „nothing‟ is the matter until this business is
“But I thought nothing could go wrong now?” Billy said carefully.
Grimmsbottom laughed a humourless laugh.
“It‟s precisely because you think like that, that you are an assistant, and I‟m an Alderman.”
Billy cocked his head sideways showing that he didn‟t quite understand.
“Never assume nothing can go wrong. That‟s when things do go wrong. When you drop your
guard, you‟re asking for trouble. Always assume the worst, and then assume it can get worse.
Always be prepared for the unexpected and the unknown.”
Billy nodded in vague understanding.
“Are you expecting trouble then? What kind of trouble?”
It was Grimmsbottom‟s turn to sigh.
“If I knew that, It wouldn‟t be unknown, would it?”
“Who from?” Billy asked.
“How the blazes do I know!” the Alderman snapped.
“We have a few days to go before the twenty five year lease is up on the land we need, and it
reverts to open ground. Who knows what could go wrong.”
“But you‟ve put in purchase bids on the pieces of land, and they were accepted. According to the
law, nobody can do anything about it. No one can put in a bigger bid, and the land owners can‟t
back out.”
“But the twenty five years isn‟t up yet.” Grimmsbottom repeated. “All we need is for someone
like the original landowner to turn up and re-assign the leases, and we‟re stuffed.”
Billy frowned.
“But no one has heard from that Lady Murgatroyd in getting on for twenty years. No one even
knows if she‟s still alive. She‟s not likely to turn up now, is she?”
Grimmsbottom cocked an eyebrow.
“Probably not, but I‟m still taking absolutely no chances.”
“What do you mean?” Billy queried.
“I‟m going to make sure the deeds remain „lost‟ for the next few days so that even if Lady
Murgatroyd, or anybody else for that matter, by some million-to-one chance does turn up, there
won‟t be any time left for anyone to do anything.”
“Can you do that? I mean, won‟t she be able to claim extra time if the documents are missing?”
Grimmsbottom laughed.
“Ha! I‟ll just give her a load of bull about the documents being lost in the fire, or something. If
she wants to cause a fuss or make trouble, it will be months, even years before it gets to the
courts. I‟ll make sure of that.”
Billy nodded eagerly.
“Right, sir…” He rubbed his hands together. “What do we do then?”
The Alderman smirked at the young man.
“We don‟t do anything. I will make sure nobody knows where these documents are for the next
few days. And that includes you! Now, I‟m going home and I‟ll see you in the morning.”
“And if Councilor Spottiswood comes back this evening?” Billy ventured.
Grimsbottom rolled the all important documents into a tube and slid them inside his coat pocket.
“He won‟t. Not tonight.”
“Um, can I go too then?” Billy looked hopefully at his superior, then quickly added “Please?”
Grimmsbottom shrugged.
“I suppose so. There‟s not much else to do here today, and nothing important for the next two
days. Then you‟ll have more work than you can cope with, transferring all those land parcels into
the new owners name.” He laughed, an unpleasant gurgling sound, not unlike a plug hole
swallowing a clump of scummy bath water.
“You‟ve never said who the new owner actually is…” Billy said, trying to sound casual about a
question that had been burning in his throat since the basic outlines of the plan had been
explained to him. He knew that according to the law, Alderman Grimmsbotton himself couldn‟t
buy the land, or even have anything to do with the new ownership.
The Alderman smiled meanly.
“You‟ll find out in a few days time.”
Grimmsbottom and Spottiswood had never fully explained the plan to anyone and had only
involved Billy Noemaits as they needed someone else on the Waycross council to counter-sign
the many letters and outline proposals for the plans. There were a few other minor people, little
more than workmen really, that had been employed to carry out various tasks, but they had
actually been told nothing, other than that it was a highly secret operation that must not under any
circumstances be discussed with anyone, on pain of losing their jobs. Billy had been told „just
enough‟ as and when necessary, though and he was more than willing to be an accomplice in
what he knew was a not-strictly-ethical-but-not-quite-illegal plan, when Grimmsbottom offered
him an extra years salary for his troubles, on the strict understanding that he never asked any
questions, and never mentioned anything to anybody else. Should questions be asked after the
whole business was over, Billy would simply say he was „following orders‟ from the Alderman,
and never had any reason to question what was happening.
Billy had asked how Grimmsbottom would distance himself from the explosion of trouble that
would surely occur when the news finally got out, and the plan was a done job. Surely, the
Alderman would be in very serious trouble, going ahead with such major plans without telling
anyone on the council what he was doing. Also, he couldn‟t understand how the Alderman was
going to get rich by all this, even though Grimmsbottom had assured him that he would.
Grimmsbottom had merely said that it was of no concern to Billy, and that he would be in no
trouble at all when it was all over and nobody but Billy would know that he had made a fortune
out of the deal. Someone else would be „carrying the can‟.
“Councilor Spottiswood?” Billy had asked, but Grimsbottom only laughed, and tapped the side of
his nose.
“You‟ll see.” he had replied rather cryptically.

Grimmsbottom lived in a rather nice old property near the main highway, but just far enough
away so that the constant busy traffic didn‟t cause him too much bother.
The house had once been a coaching inn and the old stables and courtyard were still there but
were now used as outhouses and store rooms. Grimmsbottom didn‟t have a carriage or even a
horse, mainly due to the fact that he could use any one of a number of council owned vehicles or
horses whenever he wished, and he didn‟t have the inconvenience of looking after them.
The Alderman wasn‟t married but there was a house keeper who came in every day to clean and
to cook the Alderman‟s evening meal when he told her he would be in at tea time.
Today however he hadn‟t made any such arrangement and when he arrived home at around nine
o‟clock, the house was empty. He hung his coat on the hook behind the kitchen door, poured
himself a large vintage Port, picked up yesterdays copy of the town broadsheet and settled into
his favourite large, red leather buttoned chair. It was very old and worn, and had that solid
„squashed‟ comfortable shape that only comes about after many years of the same person sitting
in it day after day.
Grimmsbottom scanned the news and sipped his Port, idly soaking up little snippets of
information for future use and discarding the rest. He nibbled at a few already shelled walnuts, a
job that his housekeeper was instructed most firmly to do every day so that the Alderman‟s „nut
pot‟ was always full. Grimmsbottom may have been an unethical, uncaring blackguard, but he
certainly knew a thing or two about Port and walnuts.
He chomped a few more nuts and took another slow sip of Port, savouring the combined smoky
flavours and woody texture. Then he remembered the deeds in his coat pocket. He put his glass
down and threw another walnut into his mouth for good measure before going into the kitchen
and retrieving the documents from his coat.
He tapped them on the side of his cheek for a moment in thought and grinned.
Rummaging in a dresser drawer, he found a length of string and a piece of waxed parchment and
proceeded to wrap the documents tightly in the waterproof skin. He tied it firmly with the string
and took the parcel upstairs where he proceeded to go into the bathroom, stand on the toilet and
remove the lid from the cistern.
The Packet was carefully tied to the ball valve lever and the cistern lid was replaced.
“Job done.” he muttered to himself, now feeling slightly easier, knowing that the all important
land deeds would not be found by anyone even if Lady Murgatroyd did turn up unexpectedly at
the Town hall offices.
Grimmsbottom went back downstairs to his Port and walnuts and spent the next hour and a half in
mild contemplation of how he was going to spend his forthcoming wealth in the future weeks,
months and years.
At precisely eleven o‟clock, he put his glass down, replaced the lid on his nut pot and went
upstairs to bed where he put on his light blue night shirt, cap and bed socks.
Within ten minutes he was snoring like a chain saw in that wholly unfair contented sleep that only
really nasty people ever seem to have.

Meanwhile, on the road between Lower Worter and Waycross, a large impressive mare carrying
two riders was galloping at a ferocious rate toward the charred remains of the town hall area, and
the little collection of sheds currently serving as the administrative headquarters of Waycross.
The larger of the two mounted figures was clinging on for dear life, with arms and legs flailing in
all directions while trying to hang on desperately to the smaller figure seated in front who had
taken over the reins. There was a lot of panic-filled cursing and yelling.
“Thort it was too good to be true!” Granny snorted. She turned her head to one side and spat.
“You‟se never been near a „orse in your life, Albert Quilt!”
Quilt groaned loudly.
“Not true…” he wailed as he bounced violently backwards and forward up and down the horse‟s
“I was a stable boy for ten years when I was a lad…”
“So tha‟s how you knew what to do with all them straps an‟ bits!” Granny commented. “‟Ow
many „orses „ave you actually ridden?”
“Cou.. cou.. counting this one?” Quilt stuttered as they bounced along the road at a high rate of
“Countin‟ this one!” Granny repeated.
“Er,.. one…” Quilt whined.
“One!” Granny exclaimed. “What on earth possessed you to suggest it then?”
“I.. I.. I didn‟t think it could be that difficult… I‟d seen my old masters ride countless times. They
made it look so easy…” he stammered.
“Course it looked easy, you burke!” Granny cried. “They‟d been ridin‟ for years. Do anythin‟
long enough, an‟ its easy. Even bein‟ a ruddy Alderman!”
Quilt was offended.
“Well I only wanted to get us to Waycross quickly…” he moaned in defence, almost sliding off
the rear end of Slivver for the hundredth time.
“I don‟t mind yer motives. They‟s quite admirable. I jus‟ wish you‟d said you di‟nt know „ow to
ride before we started. We could‟ve taken Barry‟s carriage. An exta „our or so wouldn‟t make any
Quilt groaned in agreement.
“I only wanted to be helpful.”
Granny laughed again.
“‟Ow d‟you mean, „elpful?”
Quilt gulped down the sausage roll collection that was in imminent danger of decorating Slivver‟s
mane at any second.
“I know what you all think of me. I‟m a coward. I admit it. I‟m always so ruddy scared! The
others all think I‟m useless! I wanted to be brave and take charge for once.”
Granny drew Slivver in quickly and trotted to a halt. She turned and looked at Quilt who was
holding one hand over his mouth to keep his sausage rolls in place.
“We don‟t think you‟re useless, Albert. Its jus‟ that you moan rather a lot, an‟ the others get a bit
fed up with it sometimes.”
“I can‟t help it!” Quilt wailed.
“My gob opens and the words just come out before I realise it. Sometimes, when I say things, it‟s
the first time I‟ve even heard it!”
“You‟s jus‟ got to keep these thought in.” Granny said gently. “There‟s nothin‟ wrong with bein‟
scared, and there‟s nothin‟ wrong with showin‟ it. You jus‟ needs to keep a lid on it sometimes,
„cos that‟s when everyone starts to think you‟s always scared and you ain‟t no use.”
“But that‟s whole the point!” Quilt moaned. “I am always scared.”
“Albert, Albert.” Granny soothed. “We‟s all scared. Anyone who‟se not scared sometimes is a
“Danny‟s not scared.” Quilt grumbled jealously. “Nor‟s Barry. They‟re so brave it makes me
“You‟re confusin‟ bravery with bravado.” Granny explained.
“What d‟you mean?” Albert asked.
“They‟s just as scared as you. They jus‟ covers it by facin‟ their fears and‟ refusin‟ to be ruled by
them. They makes use of their fears.”
“You mean…” Quilt began.
“Of course!” Granny interrupted, knowing what Quilt was going to say next.
“You always see‟s the gloomy side of things. That‟s not a fault. It‟s wisdom. Accept yer gloomy
thoughts an‟ weigh „em up with what‟s actually „appenin‟ at the time. You‟ll usually see things
ain‟t as bad as you think. After all, in all this escapade so far, „ow many gloomy thoughts „ave
you „ad?”
“Hundreds!” Quilt whined miserably.
“And „ow many of „em „ave actually „appened?”
“Most of them when Scooter‟s about!”
Granny waived the comment aside.
“I means apart from that!”
Quilt thought for a moment. “True…” he said slowly. “Not many…”
“Well there you are!” Granny said defiantly.
“Ave yer gloomy thoughts. Let yerself be scared. It‟s what you do with these feelin‟s that makes
the difference. You either lets „em rule you, an‟ you runs an‟ hides, or you makes use of „em, and
let these feelins „elp you make balanced decisions.”
Quilt blinked. He had never really analysed his thoughts and fears before, but now that it was
explained to him by Granny he could see that she was right.
He thought back over the past few days at some of the ridiculous things he had done, and some of
the absurd things he had been afraid of.
He hadn‟t been scared half the time at all. He had just let his sudden feelings and impulses the get
better of him. A surge of confidence welled up inside. A feeling that he hardly recognised and
never thought he would even have.
“Can I?” he said, taking the reins back from Granny.
“Thanks.” he said.
Whether he was thanking Granny for the reins or her helpful words, he didn‟t say.
“C‟mon, Slivver!” he yelled, digging his heels into the horses flanks and they were away, with
Albert urging the great mare forwards ever faster.
He wasn‟t wobbling in the saddle anymore, but that isn‟t to say he wasn‟t still wobbling just a bit
in his mind.

It took about another hour and a half for them to reach Waycross, by which time it was very dark
and quiet. A few dogs barked in the distance and somewhere not very far off a cat fight was in
progress, but as to the residents of the town, all was quiet.
True, there were a few inns and taverns that stayed open later than most, selling ale to those who
had already drunk too much but these were for the most part in the northern quarter, a district
where „nice‟ people tended not to go, and was also well away from the Town hall area.
Slivver was tied to a post near a row of cottages and some way from the Town hall sheds, so as
not to arouse undue suspicion and Granny and Quilt stole their way quietly along the lanes and
through progressively more and more burnt-out alleyways until the sheds in question came into
A torch was strapped loosely to a makeshift post and guttered waxily in the night breeze, casting
a dull sooty orange glow on the nearby ground. The sheds were little more than dark shapes
against the darker sky behind.
“Can you see anyone?” Quilt whispered.
He and Granny were crouching low behind a crumbling fragment of wall, peering wide-eyed
around the blackened and broken area.
“Nothin‟ round „ere by the looks of it.” Granny replied.
“I thought there might have been a few guards.” Quilt whispered.
“Don‟t be so melodramatic. Ain‟t an Army barracks. S‟only a village.”
Quilt stood and strained his eye into the gloom.
“Seems safe enough. You want to wait here while I go and have a rummage about?”
Granny looked surprised at Albert‟s words. He was actually offering to take the lead.
“Quicker if we both look.” she answered.
He nodded without a word and the two of then crept toward the largest shed some twenty yards
away, keeping low, but moving quickly all the same.
“Horrible smell.” Quilt observed as they approached the shed. Granny sniffed.
“Drains is blocked. Prob‟ly soot an‟ burnt wood an‟ stuff.”
They reached the shed and while Granny fiddled with the padlock for a moment, Quilt did a quick
reccy of the perimeter.
“All safe.” he whispered when he returned. “Any luck with the lock?”
“S‟only a cheap padlock…” Granny muttered as she twiddled a hair grip in the keyhole. A quiet
„snick‟ told Quilt she had succeeded in unlocking it.
Granny opened the clasp and slid the lock from the hasp and staple securing the shed door. The
old iron hinges creaked and squeaked alarmingly as they opened the door and the two of them
froze momentarily when a dog started barking somewhere off to their left.
The dog went quiet after a few minutes, and Quilt gently moved the door a few inches again.
Once more the door squeaked loudly.
“‟Ere, let me „ave a go.” Granny whispered.
She held the edge of the door and with a sudden yank, pulled it open about a foot. There was a
very short squeak.
“Clever.” Quilt muttered as he crept into the shed through the narrow gap. Granny followed.
Once inside, she rummaged through the folds of her shawl and drew out a little leather bag. She
opened it and took out a small candle, some tinder and a flint and steel.
Using the dim light coming in from the gap in the door, she sparked the flint and steel onto the
tinder until she had a tiny flickering flame. It was enough to light the little candle.
A dim yellow glow crept up the walls and cast solid black shadows around the shed.
Granny placed a small wooden candle holder on the table, wedged the candle in the top and Quilt
closed the shed door so that hopefully from outside, nobody outside would see the faint light
“Where does we start?” Granny asked, waving one arm expansively around the shed.
There were piles of papers and rows of boxes everywhere, each stacked to the brim with
cardboard folders, letters and documents.
Quilt rattled the desk drawer but it was locked.
“Here, jus‟ a minute…” Granny said twiddling her hair grip in the lock. Once again, the lock
clicked satisfyingly.
“You ever thought of taking up burglary?” Quilt whispered as he pulled the drawer open and
sifted through the contents.
“Nothing here.” he concluded a moment later, closing the drawer again.
“Then we‟d better start on that lot.” Granny said, moving over to the rows of boxes.
“It will take all night!” Quilt exclaimed. Then as an afterthought he added, “I‟m not moaning…
It‟s just an observation.”
Granny chuckled. “You start at that end, I‟ll start over here.”
Neither of them spoke and for over an hour they sat at each end of the row of boxes, quickly
scanning the contents. Eventually Quilt looked up and said “They aren‟t here.”
Granny looked at Albert and said “Why d‟you say that? There‟s still loads more boxes.”
“I‟m just thinking what I would do if I was in Grimmsbottom‟s place. Those deeds are far too
important to leave lying around in a grotty old shed. Besides, if he was that careless and they
were here, they‟d probably be on the top of a pile. You know, current papers or whatever.”
Granny frowned. “You‟s right. They wouldn‟t just be stuffed in a box o‟ folders an‟ things.”
She looked around the shed. Apart from the rows of boxes and Grimmsbottom‟s desk, there was
only a table with no drawers and two chairs.
“Can‟t see nowheres to hide things.” Granny observed.
“Not even any floorboards to put them under.” Quilt said, kicking his heel into the rock hard
scorched earth.
Granny looked around the shed at the floor. There was clearly no sign that anything had been
buried anywhere.
“They aren‟t here. They can‟t be.” Quilt said finally.
“Tha‟s a bit of a problem.” Granny said mildly.
“That‟s an understatement.” Quilt whispered.
“Now what?” Granny said, looking at Quilt. Whether she was actually expecting an answer, he
wasn‟t sure, but he rose to the challenge.
“Let me think a minute. If I was in ol‟ Grimy‟s poition, I‟d be pretty nervous about anything
going wrong at this stage with my plans. I‟d keep those deeds pretty close at all times…”
“Meanin‟?” Granny questioned.
Quilt smiled.
“Grimmsbottom‟s house! He‟s taken them home!” He turned and grinned wickedly at Granny.
“We‟ll have to go and look there.”
“You‟se enjoyin‟ this!” Granny exclaimed.
Quilt laughed and rubbed his hands together.
“More than anything in years!”

Can you see anything? Granny whispered.
They had made their way fairly easily to Grimmsbottom‟s house and had tied Slivver to a fence at
the end of the lane. Quilt knew where the Alderman lived as he had been to his house several
times on official business over the past few years which also gave him a reasonable working
knowledge of the layout inside.
“All quiet. Grimy‟s bedroom is that one.” He pointed to a window at the top left end of the
building, directly over the old stable.
“‟Ow do we get in?” Granny asked.
“The kitchen door will be safer. It‟s almost at the opposite end of the house. I doubt if the lock
will give you any trouble.”
Granny nodded and the pair made their way around the courtyard and up to the back door. There
was only the pale moonlight to work by, as in the open Granny didn‟t dare light her little candle.
Once again, after a few seconds there was a satisfying little click. Quilt gently turned the door
knob and pushed.
“Bugger‟s bolted the door inside!” he grated irritably.
“To be expected.” Granny replied. “Not all lost yet though.”
She moved over to the kitchen window and peered inside. It was as black as the insides of a goats
“See anything?” Quilt whispered. Granny didn‟t reply, but she began rummaging through her
little leather bag again and drew out what looked like a piece of glass about the size of her
thumbnail. Carefully, she used it to score a circular line on the window glass, then she returned it
to her bag.
“What was that?” Quilt hissed. “You can‟t cut glass with glass!”
“Jus‟ be quiet.” Granny ordered. She wriggled her tongue around inside her gums a moment, then
spat a thick greasy blob into her palm. Quilt squirmed.
She rolled the blob around in her hands a moment, then slapped it firmly in the centre of the circle
she had scored on the window glass.
“Give me yer shoe!” she said.
Give me yer shoe. Be quick about it!”
Quilt muttered to himself and removed his right shoe. He passed it to Granny, who proceeded to
smack the heel firmly in the centre of the black blob stuck to the window. Quilt was mystified.
Granny looked at him once, grinned, then with the side of her clenched fist, she rapped smartly on
the centre of Quilts shoe.
There was a sharp „crack‟, and the circle of glass broke free, remaining firmly stuck to the heel of
Quilt‟s shoe. With a bit of careful manoeuvring, the piece of glass was removed from the neat
hole in the window.
“How d‟you do that?” Quilt hissed in admiration. “What was that stone you used? The only thing
that cuts glass like that is…”
“Just be quiet.” Granny interrupted. “Don‟t matter what the stone is. It‟s more use as a glass
cutter than decoratin‟ some old trollop‟s finger.”
Quilt gave a strangled gurgle at the thought of the value of Granny‟s glass cutter but she ignored
him and placed the circle of glass on the ground and put her foot on it. With no small effort she
tugged Quilts shoe from the black sticky blot and passed it back to him. He stared at the sole of
his shoe a moment, rubbed it firmly on the cobble stones a few times, then put it back on.
Granny put her arm through the hole in the window and carefully unfastened the latch. Slowly
and silently she lifted the window.
“Said you should have been a burglar.” Quilt whispered.
“Hang on…” Granny said. “We‟ll need to put the glass back when we‟s finished, an‟ hope ol‟
Grimy don‟t spot it for a few days.”
Using a piece of stick, she scraped at the black blob on the piece of glass, but the lump was
reluctant to part company with the smooth surface without a fight. Eventually, the thick greasy
glob was eased away in a long stringy chunk and Granny looked around for somewhere to put it.
Then she suddenly sucked it back into her mouth with a slippery „slurp‟, saying, “Might come in
useful.” She propped the small circle of glass against the wall.
Quilt‟s eye went wide and he gagged but Granny ignored him and said “You first?”
Quilt choked and swallowed his lunch again a few times, then gently eased himself in through the
open window.
There was a small table under the window inside, ideally placed as a step allowing Quilt to enter
the kitchen with ease. He silently moved the table to one side and leaned back out of the window.
“Give me your hands…” he whispered. Granny took Quilt‟s hands and as he pulled her up, she
scrambled up the brickwork outside. Moments later she was standing in the dark kitchen beside
“So where on earth do we look?” she whispered.
Quilt thought for a moment then said, “The obvious place would be his bedroom.”
“But he‟ll be in there!” Granny replied in a shocked tone.
Quilt nodded and continued.
“I said that would be the obvious place, so old Grimy definitely won‟t have hidden the deeds
there. He‟s a slippery old sod, so they‟ll be somewhere no one would expect…”
“There‟s a million places like that.” Granny replied. “‟Ow on earth we gonner find anythin‟
without „avin‟ any idea where to look?”
Quilt had a sudden idea.
“You wait here. No need for us both to go creeping around in the dark. At least I‟ve been here
before and know roughly where to go.”
“Which is?” Granny whispered.
Quilt didn‟t reply and silently he disappeared through the kitchen door and into the sitting room.
Granny sighed and sat on the edge of the small window table and waited.

Quilt crept silently across the sitting room to where he remembered there was a door into a long
passageway. Somewhere down the passage the stairs led off on the left. Or was it the right?
Gently, he opened the passageway door and peered into the long narrow space beyond. It was
utterly dark and he had to move forward very slowly, purely feeling his way along with
outstretched hands in case he should bump into any furniture that might be in his path. After five
or six steps he began to feel for the walls at his sides with outstretched hands, searching for an
opening that would indicate the stairs. After what seemed an eternity his right hand fell upon a
void. There was nothing there.
Carefully feeling the floor with his feet, Quilt moved toward the space until his left foot came up
against a vertical surface. Carefully he bent forwards and groped with his outstretched fingers.
He could feel them even though they were invisible to him.
With extreme care and a goodly amount of fear that the stairs might creak, Quilt clambered up the
first few steps on his hands and knees. He remembered that the stairs turned to the right, and
when he came up to a landing space, he knew where he was and turned to move up the second
level of stairs.
Suddenly, from somewhere up ahead he heard a door creak, then the soft „flip flap‟ of bare feet
on floorboards. Someone yawned.
It was Grimmsbottom.
“Oh God…” Quilt whispered to himself. “Please... Just a pee and not a drink from the kitchen…”
He almost moulded himself to the stairs and held his breath.
The „flip flapping‟ passed by above and for a brief instant Quilt could see the outline of a door at
the top of the stairs as a small light moved along on the other side. A door handle turned and then
there came the sound of a long and weary yawn, followed by the time honoured sound of
continuous water splashing. A few moments later the light flickered its way back past the landing
door and was gone.
“Didn‟t even wash your hands, dirty git.” Quilt muttered.
He continued to lay prone on the stairs for a good ten minutes in the hopes that Grimmsbottom
would soon be asleep again, before he continued his silent cat-like creeping up the stairs. Once at
the top, Quilt felt for the door and located the door knob. Taking a deep breath, he gently turned
the knob. There was no sound.
“Please don‟t squeak…” he said to himself as he pulled the door towards himself. There was a
faint creak to begin with, and in the silence of the night it seemed horribly amplified. Quilt froze
again and listened, ready to turn tail and flee.
There was nothing.
Gently he eased the door open a little further and a dim blue light poured onto the top landing
where he stood, the faint glow coming in through a window at the end of the upstairs passage. It
was a soft pale grey kind of light, but after the inky blackness Quilt had endured for the past
twenty minutes, it seemed like daylight. He peeped round the corner of the doorway and looked
up and down the passage. At the left hand end he could make out the shape of a door and just
beyond, he could hear something that sounded like a pig snuffling in the mud. Grimmsbottom
was snoring again.
To the right, the passage led away and turned a corner. A small window was in the end wall
facing him. Quilt took another breath and stole out of the landing and crept along the passage.
“Why hasn‟t the old skinflint carpeted the blasted floor up here…” he grumbled to himself as he
took exaggerated short slow steps on the floorboards, so as not to make a sound. Quilt rounded
the corner at the end of the passage and felt slightly better for not having Grimmsbottom‟s
bedroom door at his back any longer.
The passageway ahead was short and terminated with two doors. One facing down the passage,
and one facing across. Quilt remembered that it was the facing door that led into the bathroom
and he gingerly opened it and stepped inside.
Once in the bathroom, he breathed a sigh of relief and peered around in the half light from a
window in the side wall. There was a long low white enamelled iron tub and one of those new
fangled china toilets.
“What‟s wrong with a hole in a plank like most of us…” he muttered.
A square wooden linen box stood under the window and the walls were half tiled in white. The
plasterwork above was painted a light colour that Quilt couldn‟t make out in the gloom and he
peered up at ceiling. Or rather, he didn‟t.
As the building had once been a coaching inn, the upper floors didn‟t have ceilings. There were
thick wooden beams running the width of the bathroom and the pitched roof above could just be
made out in the dark.
“At least you can‟t put a load of crap in your roof to fall on some poor sod‟s head.” he murmured.
“Right. To work.”
He stepped across to the toilet and carefully placed one foot on the lid. Gently, he transferred his
weight onto that foot and stepped up onto the toilet. He twitched his fingers, then cracked his
knuckles. The cistern lid was only placed on top of the actual tank, and removing it was an easy
job. He looked around for somewhere to put the lid without getting off the loo and decided to
clamp it between his knees. He fumbled around in the cistern for a moment, then his fingers
located the rolled up parchment. His heart began beating faster in the hopes his initial appraisal of
Grimmsbottom‟s mind had been correct. Without being able to see, it was fairly difficult to undo
the string holding the package to the ball valve lever, but eventually, after a bit of silent cursing
and swearing, the roll of parchment was in Quilts hands.
He tucked the roll into his pocket and replaced the lid then retrieved the package and began
untying the string. The light available was very poor but it was good enough for Quilt to be able
to see that the parchment wrap contained about a dozen sets of deeds and a few letters and other
“You predictable old fool.” he chuckled quickly scanning the contents. Then he frowned as he
noticed something odd on one of the deeds. One after the other he flicked through the pile of
papers, then read the other documents. He wrapped them up again and jammed them inside his
coat pocket. There was definitely something strange going on here.
Then there came a sound that chilled Quilt‟s blood.
A door creaked and the soft „flip flop‟ of bare feet could be heard in the passageway outside the
bathroom. It was clear that Grimmsbottom wanted the bog again.
Quilt stared frantically around the bathroom like a trapped animal.
“Oh hell!” he muttered.

Grimmsbottom yawned loudly and scratched his backside. “Shouldn‟t have drunk so many
Ports…” he mumbled, entering the bathroom for the second time that night, his eyes still half
closed. He yawned again, fumbled with the toilet lid and after a few moments the sound of
tinkling water filled the room again. Grimmsbottom scratched his rear end again and farted
loudly, a squishy raspberry of a fart that quickly filled the room with the acrid pong of digested
Quilt clung on tightly to the rafter just above Grimmsbottom and held back a choking cough. He
was lying astride the wooden beam, his arms and legs wrapped tightly around it and he was
silently praying Grimmsbottom wouldn‟t look up.
The piddling Alderman below scratched at his ear, then flicked at something that was irritating
the side of his head.
“Damn flies!” he muttered, waving his hand at the offending itch.
“My God!...” Quilt silently gulped, seeing that the piece of string he had removed from the
parchment and stuffed in his pocket was now dangling down beside Grimmsbottom‟s head.
The Alderman absently flicked at it again and Quilt rapidly grabbed the string and yanked it
Grimmsbottom yawned a third time and let out another trouser ripping fart before leaving the
“Damn walnuts…” Quilt heard him mumble as he closed the door behind him.
Quilt clung onto the beam for another few minutes, or at least until his aching lungs couldn‟t bear
the putrid stench in the bathroom any longer.
“Gawd, let me out…” he grated through clenched teeth, holding a handkerchief over him mouth
and nose. Silently, he lowered himself to the floor and slowly opened the bathroom door, resisting
an overpowering urge to just yank the door open and run for it.
Then a thought occurred to him. He changed his mind and turned back to the bath. There, draped
neatly over the edge was a small hand towel.
He picked it up, rolled it and wrapped it in the parchment and carefully tied the parcel back inside
the cistern. The actual deeds were carefully stowed inside his coat pocket.
The bathroom door was opened again and as silently as any sneak-thief, he crept back along the
landing and down the stairs.
By the time Quilt reached the lower passageway, he was gasping and drawing in deep lungfulls of
air to clear his system of the foul pong from the bathroom.
He closed the passageway door and crept across the sitting room, back into the kitchen.
Granny was already on her feet, hiding beside the larder in case the sounds she had heard meant
“Granny?” Quilt hissed in the gloom of the kitchen.
“Albert!” Granny replied quietly, but with obvious relief. “I thort you‟d walked all the way back
to Lower Worter!”
“Took longer than I thought!” Quilt replied as she crept over toward him.
“And?” was all she said.
Quilt held up the documents waved them triumphantly. Granny beamed, throwing her arms
impulsively round his neck and planting a big soggy kiss on his cheek.
“Albert, you‟s a flippin‟ marvel! O‟w the „eck did you know where to look?”
Quilt grinned. “He‟d hidden them in the loo. I know Grimmsbottom. Just the kind of place his
sewer mind would think of, knowing nobody else would look there. It was pretty obviously
Granny chuckled. “If anyone doubts „ow useful you are in future, they‟ll „ave me to answer to!”
“You need to see something.” he said earnestly, unwrapping the documents and leading Granny
over to the light by the window. He passed one of the deeds to her and she quickly read through
“Oh my!” she said.
“Exactly!” Quilt replied passing the other deeds to her.
“Every one signs the land over to Spottiswood.”
“But why Spottiswood?” she asked. “We thought it would be Waycross council.”
Waycross can‟t have anything to do with this!” Quilt hissed. “I bet they don‟t even know what‟s
going on.”
“But I can‟t see what Grimmsbottom is going to get out of any of it. Or even Spottiswood come
to that.” Granny mused. Then Quilt handed her the other papers which she quickly read through.
“It‟s a toll road! They‟re goin‟ to put a toll road in!”
Quilt nodded. “They‟ll make a fortune. Everyone traveling to the east will use that road. It will
cut hours off the journey through Waycross.”
“But Grimmsbottom isn‟t allowed to make any money out o‟ deals like this. Everybody knows
that on the Waycross council, so why is he doing it?” Granny questioned, scratching at her
stubbly chin.
“That‟s what‟s so odd.” Quilt replied. “There‟s nothing to stop Spottiswood profiting by it
though. It may not be ethical, but it isn‟t illegal. Trouble is, I know old Grimy. He wouldn‟t do
anything to help somebody else. Especially something like this. Spottiswood will come out of this
worth a fortune. And Grimmsbottom will get nothing? I don‟t think so!”
“This whole thing is startin‟ to smell even fishier!” Granny said.
“We need to get to the other councilors in Waycross to tell them what‟s going on.” Quilt said
urgently but Granny shook her head, waving one of the deeds.
“We ain‟t got time. Look at the dates. Day after tomorrer will be too late. The twenty five years is
nearly up. We‟s goin‟ to „ave to stop Grimmsbottom an‟ Spottiswood ourselves.”
“There must be some kind of connection between those two.” Quilt grunted. “Maybe Spottiswood
is blackmailing old Grimy or something…”
Granny smiled a sideways kind of grin. A thought had occurred to her, but as yet, she didn‟t want
to say anything about it.
“We needs to get back to the others an‟ tell „em what‟s goin‟ on.”
“What about Lady Murgatroyd?” Quilt asked. “If we‟ve only got just over a day surely we have
to get her help!”
“You let me worry about that.” Granny replied cryptically. “I knows jus‟ where to find „er.”
“Well let‟s get out of here before old Grimy decides to go to the loo again!” Quilt said, changing
the subject. Granny obviously didn‟t understand the remark so he added “I‟ll explain it later.”
Once outside, Granny carefully placed the piece of glass back in the hole in the window, and
secured it with a few blobs of greasy black spit. Quilt tried not to look.
The two of them stole across the courtyard and out of the gate, then turned right and literally flew
down the lane to where Slivver was tethered.
A few moments later several nearby dogs began to bark, disturbed by the clattering of galloping
hooves over the cobbled road.
Chapter 17.

As Albert had been putting the saddle on Slivver, Danny, Barry, Jimmy and Scooter were
gathered at the foot of the steep steps that led into the tunnel below the Kitchen Larder.
Danny moved his lamp around, casting the light into all the little nooks and crannies of the damp
musty passage.
“Look at it!” he murmured.
“No one has been down here in years!” Jimmy added.
The tunnel was a brick built affair with a low arched ceiling that Barry couldn‟t stand up straight
in. Danny‟s head was just brushing the brickwork above, although Jimmy and particularly
Scooter were not affected by the height of the passage.
“Typical!” Barry muttered, stooping forwards. “Well at leakt mikter Quilt wok wrong about that
Jimmy cocked his head sideways questioningly.
“Scooter said „Mind your head‟ a while ago.” Danny explained. Barry nodded and Scooter
blinked uncomprehendingly.
The tunnel was very damp and the walls were covered with a shiny slippery substance that was
probably water but no one was about to touch it to find out. A thick layer of dirty dust covered the
floor and pale almost white creepers clung to the walls everywhere. Thin wispy roots hung down
from cracks in the brickwork above, touching everyone‟s hair causing them to jump and start
“Charming place…” Scooter observed. “I wonder when it was last used?”
Barry held his lamp close to the floor.
“Fairly rekently…” he observed, pointing to the assorted footprints disappearing down the tunnel.
“Someone‟s been along here at some time.” Danny said.
“Enough to make you crawl.” Barry replied. “The thought of kome unknown ratbag under my
kitchen…” He shivered as if to emphasise his point.
“Well, there‟s no sound of water or anything.” Jimmy pointed out. “I wonder how far the tunnel
“One way to find out.” Scooter said bluntly.
Jimmy looked startled and said “But surely we aren‟t going down there now?”
He pointed into the black void ahead.
“Why not?” Barry replied.
“That‟s why we‟re down here.” Danny added.
Jimmy blinked like a mole suddenly aimed at a bright light. Then he sighed and said “Oh well,
let‟s go then.” and he strode off purposefully down the tunnel.
After about ten minutes, Danny broke the silence.
“I‟m surprised it‟s so far.”
“To where?” Jimmy asked.
“Reg Stotes place, of course.” Scooter answered.
“How will we know when we‟re there?” Jimmy asked. “I mean, does the tunnel keep going right
under his house, or what?”
“According to that book in Barry‟s house, the tunnels join the old Rectory with the Stote house,
so I expect there will be some steps going up again somewhere. But whether the tunnel keeps
going, who knows?” Danny said.
“Prekumably the tunnel will keep going until it meetk the underground river.” Barry added. “I
mean, the kmugglerk had to get their booty from the boatk, up into the rectory.”
Jimmy nodded in understanding. “If one of Reg‟s ancestors was involved in all this smuggling
and so on, I wonder if he knows about it?”
“We‟ve been down this road before.” Scooter replied. “It‟s not very likely. None of Reg‟s family
have been along the tunnels, or at least, if they have, they‟ve never made any use of them, or even
announced themselves to Barry. They probably don‟t know the tunnel exists.”
“What‟s that?” Danny suddenly asked as a dark void on the left loomed up ahead. He wriggled
slightly, to rearrange the contents of his underpants.
They approached the turn off cautiously and as they reached it, their lamp light sped down the
new passage.
“So now where?” Jimmy asked
“We ought to keep going the way we were.” Barry ventured.
“I agree…” Scooter put in. “After all, the map in the book showed a straight tunnel between the
rectory and the Stote place. It didn‟t show any turn-off tunnels or anything. I would guess this
was added after the original map was made.”
“But what for? Who made it?” Jimmy asked nervously.
“It isn‟t recent, that‟s for sure.” Danny said, pointing to the same vine and root encrusted walls
and roof, partly to draw attention the aged look of the surroundings, and partly to conceal the fact
he was scratching his goolies.
“We haven‟t got time to explore any side tunnels.” Scooter announced. “Let‟s just get on with
why we‟re here. We can always take a look down there at another time.”
The company moved on, all except Jimmy who felt strangely compelled to hang back and glance
once more down the strange tunnel. He stared into the black space and for a moment, thought he
saw something move. He flinched and shook his head and stared even harder. There was nothing.
A figment of the imagination?
Then he sniffed at a strange smell, a fleeting waft of some vague aroma. What was it?
“Custard creams!” Jimmy exclaimed to himself. At that moment, a wispy voice somewhere down
the darkened side tunnel said “Two more cards.”
Jimmy fled to catch up with the others.
“There‟s someone in that tunnel!” he cried when he caught up with them.
“What? Where?” Barry said in surprise.
“In that side tunnel. I heard them. And they‟re eating biscuits.”
Danny burst out laughing.
“I can think of better places for a picnic.” he cried.
“I‟m not joking!” Jimmy said, annoyed at the others for giggling.
“All right. All right.” Scooter said, trying to pacify the young man. “Let‟s go and take look.”
“What?!” Jimmy yelled. “Go down that tunnel?”
“How else do we find out if there‟s someone else down here?” Scooter replied.
“They could be armed.” Barry warned.
“That‟s true…” Scooter said in thought. “OK, We‟ll just go back and have a peep round the
corner for now. After all, if there is, then it might be Grimmsbottom, or one of his lackeys. We
need to check.”
“And if it is?” Danny asked, quickly scooping up a handful of dry dust and stuffing it down his
“Then we cross that bridge when we come to it.” Scooter answered. “Let‟s not go inventing
The party turned back and retraced their steps along the tunnel until after about a minute Danny
said “The other passageway was around here, wasn‟t it?”
There was no sign of any offshoot tunnel. Even the light from their lamps that was illuminating
the passage for quite a way showed no sign of any other exits.
“A bit further, maybe…” Barry said dubiously.
They walked another fifty or sixty feet and then stopped.
“This is daft!” Scooter exclaimed. “We should have passed that tunnel by now!”
“I don‟t like this…” Jimmy whined.
“Don‟t start!” Scooter commanded. “We must have passed it somehow.”
“Passed it?” Jimmy cried. “How?”
“I don‟t know!” Scooter yelled back. “We must have! Tunnels don‟t just vanish!”
“Alright, alright.” Barry soothed. “Calm down. Let‟k go forwardk again.”
The company turned and made their way back along the tunnel and after about five minutes they
concluded that they were further along the tunnel than they had been before, and that they hadn‟t
passed any other exits.
“This is utterly ridiculous!” Danny stated. “How can you loose a tunnel?”
Scooter brought them back to the present business.
“We can talk about that later. For now, we have a job to do and we‟re wasting time.”
The others reluctantly agreed and they put the other tunnel out of their minds and moved on.
Had they looked back, they might have spotted another tunnel leading off to the right only a
matter of yards behind them. They did notice the sudden faint but tangible waft of biscuits
“D‟you think it‟s much further? Jimmy asked a few moments later. “I mean, we seem to have
walked miles.”
“We haven‟t really gone that far.” Scooter replied. “It just seems it because we‟re walking
“Nine of diamonds.”
“What‟s that got to do with it?” Scooter asked.
“What?” Jimmy questioned.
“The nine of diamonds.” Scooter answered.
“The nine of what?” Jimmy said, not having a clue what Scooter was on about.
“You said, „nine of diamonds‟” Scooter replied.
Jimmy frowned questioningly at Danny and said, “I never did.”
“I never heard him.” Danny added in support.
“I did.” Barry said, surprising them both.
“King of Spades.”
“What are you on about?” Jimmy said, looking at Scooter.
Scooter blinked back but didn‟t say anything.
“You kaid King of kpadek.” Barry put in.
“You‟re all nuts!” Scooter cried. “Going on about cards and so on.”
“Eight of hearts.”
“Three of clubs.”
“Six of diamonds.”
The company fled down the tunnel, all four of them making a pretty good stab at the four minute
“Look up ahead!” Danny cried a moment later. There in front on the right, they could see another
tunnel junction looming.
“Oh my goodness…” Jimmy whined.
They slowed their pace and crept up to the side passageway. Barry was the first to peer round the
corner and he breathed a sigh of relief.
“It look‟k like we‟ve arrived.”
“Where?” both Jimmy and Danny said together.
“The steps to Reg‟s basement.” Scooter finished, speaking before Barry had a chance.
Danny looked at the little old man and was about to say something but Scooter continued, “No,
Not prophesy. I‟ve been counting our steps and according to the book Granny was reading there
was fifteen hundred and twenty paces between the houses. I counted about fourteen hundred and
ninety, so whoever did the measuring all those years ago, must have been even shorter than me.”
“How do you work that out?” Jimmy asked.
“Well, they had shorter steps than me, anyway.” Scooter replied.
“So now what then?” Danny asked. It was a pointless question really, as it was obvious what they
had to do next. They had to decide.
Do they venture up the steps, and see what was up there, or do they keep going and see if they
could locate the old smugglers landing and the underground river.
“Keep going? Scooter questioned although he knew what the others would say anyway.
“Too flippin‟ true!” Danny stated flatly, even now having waking nightmares about what Gort
might do if he ever laid hands on him.
“Can‟t see there‟s much of any real use up in Reg‟s house anyway.” Jimmy added, gaining a nod
from the others.
“Just a second though…” Danny said suddenly, scuttling round the corner and half way up the
steps a few yards down the passage. He stopped and seemed to be listening to the roof above his
head. The others waited with baited breath.
Could he hear Reg? Was Gort somewhere just above Danny‟s right ear?
The truth of the matter was, that Danny had his back to them for the sole purpose of pounding his
right hand up and down inside his trousers. His fingernails dug deeply into the skin of his crotch
and he sighed contentedly. Then he tipped the fine powdery contents of a small paper bag down
his pants and wriggled his hips.
“What have you found?” Barry called a moment later.
Danny yanked his hand guiltily from his trousers and turned to face the others.
“Ehhh?” he said innocently.
“What can you hear?” Barry said. “Ik there anyone there?”
“Ohhh… That…” Danny sighed. “No… All quiet here.” He strolled casually back to the others.
Scooter sniffed.
“Custard creams?” Danny asked.
“Violets.” Scooter replied blandly.
Jimmy sniggered.
“So, Smugglers cove?” Scooter said, getting back to the point.
No one replied but they all followed Scooter as he led them further down the tunnel and away
from the stairs leading to the Stote house.
Only Danny lingered a moment, wondering how far above his head Emerald might actually be,
but then he coughed once, and followed the others.
The passage wound on for another few hundred yards, which at the rate they were traveling
actually took quite a long time to cover. Eventually the tunnel curved gently to the left at first,
then turned quite sharply to the right. The company found themselves standing on the edge of a
sharp ledge with a fair drop in front of them.
“How do we get across here?” Danny asked, somewhat exasperated by this sudden hiccup in their
“We don‟t!” Scooter replied.
“What?” Jimmy asked, amazed at the seeming ease with which the old man was prepared to
abandon their quest.
Scooter chuckled and shook his head.
“Don‟t you see?” he asked. The other three just blinked, like six Albert Quilts.
“See what?” Danny said.
“We‟re here! This is it! The river!” Scooter explained.
“But there‟k no water!” Barry stated obviously.
“Of course there isn‟t!” Scooter spat. “If there was, we wouldn‟t be here!”
Barry nodded grudgingly in agreement.
“Now what then?” Danny asked.
They had all unspokenly agreed to let Scooter think he was the leader of the party, after Granny
had assigned tasks to each group and had left him out, feeling rather sorry for himself. However,
the truth of the matter was that now they had actually embarked on their part of the quest, they
were all continually asking the gnarled little old man what to do next.
Scooter was well up to the task. He looked once over the edge of the drop and jumped.
“Scooter!” Jimmy cried as if someone had just spread treacle on his vest and tipped tiger ants
down his shirt.
The little mans head appeared at the edge of the drop.
“Don‟t shout!” he whispered. “Well?... Are you coming?...”
With a good deal more care, the others hopped gingerly off the edge of the tunnel floor and
landed on the old dried up river bed some four feet below.
“Which way did the river flow?” Barry asked, after holding his lantern up and peering both ways
into the darkness.
“Does it matter?” Jimmy asked, not seeing what difference it made.
“Of course it does!” Scooter replied sternly. “We need to find where the river has stopped. And
that means going upstream!”
Jimmy nodded apologetically as Scooter bent and studied the banks and floor of the old river bed.
“Water used to go that way!” he stated after a few minutes study.
“Are you sure?” Danny asked, then seeing the old man‟s withering look of reply he added
“That way then!” Barry said cheerfully and he tramped off upstream waving his lantern in front.
Bats skittered and fled as the light cast shadows in places that hadn‟t seen such a thing in
countless years and mice and rats blinked at the blinding brightness, scuttling into countless
nooks and crannies.
“Don‟t like mice…” Jimmy muttered.
“Perhaps you‟d have preferred to wait by Reg‟s stairs?” Danny said innocently. Jimmy took the
point and didn‟t say anything else.
The old riverbed wound away into the darkness, winding and twisting this way and that, the roof
above rising and falling, sometimes as high as a great hall, sometimes so low the party had to
almost crawl on all fours.
“This is horrible!” Jimmy stated, feeling somewhat claustrophobic in the enclosed space. Nobody
replied, indicating that the others probably agreed.
“Oh drat!” Scooter suddenly announced a moment later. “Now where do we go?”
Barry was still leading the party, and as far as he could see the underground riverbed was still
snaking away in front of them.
“Problems then!” Danny concluded from the little old mans obscure words.
“Keemk like it…” Barry observed. “Let‟k keep going though…”
Scooter blinked a few times, looking at Danny and Barry, not having the faintest idea what they
were talking about.
“Sugared almonds are the best…” he suddenly added. “Only not on Wednesdays, when they‟re
Jimmy chuckled quietly and said “Pardon?”
Scooter blinked wildly and said “They get tangled up, you know, with the string, then they taste
of strawberries!”
Barry and Danny stopped and looked back at Scooter with concerned looks on their faces. The
funny little old man frequently came out with odd statements, but they hadn‟t heard him talking
rubbish like this before.
“There‟s something the matter…” Danny said.
“I think it‟k being in here that‟k doing it… You know, confined…” Barry replied.
“He‟s going potty!” Jimmy wailed somewhat dramatically. “We‟re all going to go potty!”
“Don‟t be daft!” Scooter suddenly stated with total clarity. “No one is going to go potty. Just keep
calm and we‟ll all be fine.”
Jimmy whined quietly, like frightened puppy.
“Let‟s keep going…” Danny said, urging Barry forwards again and adding in a quiet voice,
“We‟ll have to watch what Scooter says if he‟s going to start spouting rubbish. Well never know
what might be a real possible problem or just waffle.”
Barry nodded in agreement.
“Well, he mentioned not knowing where to go a moment ago.” Barry pointed out quietly.
“Then there‟s the possibility we‟re going to get lost or something. We‟d better not take any
chances.” Danny replied. Barry nodded in agreement.
They moved on for another ten minutes or so and eventually the cramped confining space around
them began to open out again.
“Thank goodness for that!” Jimmy murmured. “Maybe we can make a bit better speed now.”
“Don‟t count your chickenk.” Barry said firmly as he moved ahead slightly faster than the others,
holding his lantern out well in front.
“What is it?” Danny asked, moving up behind him.
“Look!” Barry motioned ahead with a quick nod.
The river bed stretched into the darkness before them but they could all clearly see that it divided
into three tunnels.
“Oh cripes!” Jimmy exclaimed.
“Oh dear.” Barry added.
“Cobblers!” Scooter grunted.
The party moved forwards again until they stood at the rocky junction.
“I see what Scooter meant now.” Jimmy said quietly to Barry, who simply nodded in reply.
“Which way then?” Danny enquired, waving his lantern at the tree new tunnel entrances.
“We‟ll be under the mountains at this rate.” Scooter said.
“At the moment, I‟d settle for that!” Jimmy said softly. He wasn‟t at all happy at being in the
cave as long as this.
“I thought we were just going to find where the river was blocked or something, then go.”
“What? You mean we‟d just pull out a plug or something and everything would be fine?” Scooter
said scornfully. Jimmy shrugged.
“Alright, alright. Lets not all get snippy.” Danny interrupted.
“We‟ll need to split up and look in each tunnel if we want to find out where the river‟s gone.” He
There was uproar from both Jimmy and Scooter who were violently opposed to such a thing and
even Barry had to admit that he agreed with them.
“We ought to ktick together.” he said. “It might take longer, but it will be a lot kafer.”
“Time is something we don‟t have a lot of.” Danny pointed out. “We‟ve been down here a good
few hours already. Apart from the fact that we don‟t know who else might be down here, or could
even turn up at any time, our oil isn‟t going to last much longer.” He waved his lantern as if to
prove his point.
“I agree there.” Scooter said. “At the very least we ought to turn out two of the lamps for now,
just in case.” He turned the wick down in his own until the lantern fell dark, then looked at the
other three, waiting for someone else to do the same.
Danny followed suit, leaving Barry and Jimmy still carrying their glowing lamps. There wasn‟t a
great deal of difference in the surrounding light as it happened but they found out straight away
that they could no longer see quite so far down the tunnels.
“Right then.” Danny said confidently. “Left tunnel first.” And he strode ahead with the others in
tow. In fact, they had hardly gone another twenty yards when Barry said “Oh dear!”
The tunnel curved gently to the left and forked again.
“Let‟s go back and try the middle tunnel.” Jimmy said hopefully.
“There‟s sense in that.” Scooter said. “Just look at the size of those tunnels. They‟re not big
enough to have carried all the water that used to flow in our river. The river can‟t be that way.”
“Good thinking.” Barry replied. “Our river will have to be a lot bigger than that.”
Danny and Jimmy mumbled their agreement and they turned back to ward the original fork in the
“Middle tunnel?” Danny ventured when they reached the junction. Nobody replied but they made
their way resolutely down the passage into the dark.
“A few moments later Danny piped up.
“Don‟t look now…”
Scooter strained his eyes into the gloom ahead and groaned at what he saw.
“Three more junctions!”
“Thik ik hopelekk!” Barry cried.
“Third time lucky?” Jimmy ventured as they turned back once again.
His words of good omen were unfounded however as they encountered another three
passageways down the third fork in the river.
Danny sat down on a large rock and mopped his brow.
“Now what?” he said.
A babble of suggestions and ideas started up but was interrupted suddenly by Danny calling for
“Can you hear anything?” he asked.” Jimmy‟s eyes went wide.
“Like what?” he said with a trembling voice.
“Shhh… Barry hissed. “I can hear it too…”
They all listened carefully for a few minutes, straining to hear a faint but unmistakable sound
somewhere in the distance.
“Water!” Danny cried, leaping up off his rocky seat.
“It‟k coming from down there!” Barry cried axcitedly, pointing down the right hand fork.
“No, listen…” Scooter corrected. “It‟s down here…” He pointed into the left hand tunnel.
Jimmy and Danny both strained their ears down the centre passageway.
“Sounds as if it‟s in here somewhere.” Danny said.
They each took turns listening intently at the faint rushing gurgle somewhere in the distance and
after a few moments they all concluded that there was no way to tell exactly where the sound was
coming from.
Just then, Barry‟s lantern spluttered and went dark.
“Oil‟s running out.” Scooter observed. “Mine will be next.”
“We need to make our way back.” Danny stated earnestly. “We‟ll be right in it if all our oil runs
out while we‟re still down here.”
“Don‟t light another lamp yet” Barry suggested. “We can kee with jukt one, to find our way
The others nodded in agreement and the company turned back the way they had come.
“Seems further going back.” Jimmy said after about twenty minutes. There was still no sign of the
actual passageway leading to Barry‟s kitchen at the edge of the river bed anywhere.
“Nearly there.” Danny said with a cheerfulness he didn‟t feel. At that moment, Scooters lamp
began to splutter.
“Another lamp! Quick!” he ordered. Jimmy yanked the glass up on his lamp and tilted it over
Scooters flickering light and he wound the wick up as far as it would go so that it dangled into the
flame. The wick flared suddenly into light and Jimmy wound it back in to a reasonable length
again and lowered his lamp glass. A few seconds later, Scooters lamp fluttered into blackness. He
swapped his dead lamp for Jimmy‟s and then held it aloft.
“Jukt in time.” Barry said.
“We‟d better be careful. If the lamp goek out kuddenly before we„re able to light the lakt one,
we‟re really in the khi…”
“We get the point!” Scooter interrupted. “We‟d better get a move on. I for one don‟t want to be
stuck down here in the dark. We‟ll never find our way out.”
Jimmy began to whimper a bit and he began to wonder why on earth he had volunteered to get
involved in this business in the first place. Danny sensed his young friends worry and tried to
reassure him.
“Don‟t worry. We‟ll get back to Barry‟s soon. No problems!” He sounded a good deal more
confident than he actually felt as he was really thinking „If we get out of here in one piece, I‟ll
suck Albert‟s armpit!‟
“C‟mon!” Scooter called to them as he strode forwards. “We haven‟t time to sod about.”
The company trotted after the funny little hunched figure as he led the way ahead.
It was at least another ten minutes of furtive searching before they finally spotted the brick tunnel
on their right at the edge of the dried up river bed.
Jimmy wasn‟t the only one to silently offer thanks to the Gods.
“You first.” Danny said to Scooter, offering him a leg up to the tunnel entrance a few feet above.
Scooter nodded, placed the lantern on the tunnel floor level with his chin and stepped into
Danny‟s cupped hands. The young man heaved Scooter easily up onto the tunnel floor. Jimmy
was next, finally followed by Barry and Danny who both scrambled up into the passageway with
absolutely no effort.
“Big „eads!” Scooter muttered light heartedly.
“Right.” Danny stated matter-of-factly. “We ought to be out of here in about twenty minutes if we
don‟t dawdle.”
“And as long as we don‟t wander down any tunnels that feel like coming and going…” Jimmy
muttered, reminding them all of peculiar exit off to one side they had already previously
They made a good pace for at least ten minutes but slowed considerably when they spotted the
side tunnel leading to the steps up into Reg Stotes house. Nobody said anything but somehow
they all felt fairly apprehensive, like a trout staring at a brightly coloured feather tied to the end of
a bit of catgut.
Hear that?” Barry hissed.
“What?” Scooter, Jimmy and Danny all said at once.
“That funny little noike…” Barry whispered.
“Funny noike?” Scooter said without thinking.
“I never kaid that!” Barry flared.
“No, no… Scooter wasn‟t listening…” Danny quickly said, calming things. “Anyway, what
They all strained their ears for a moment until at last they could all hear it.
A slow, rasping breathing kind of a noise… A bit like a slow rasping kind of breathing.
“Oh hell…” Jimmy whined.
 Then suddenly, a sound that froze the very marrow in their bones rent the air.
“Gort!” they all cried as one.
“Gawd! Now what?” Danny cried in alarm, clamping his knees tightly, still remembering the
vivid description of the likely fate that lay in store for him that Quilt had described a few days
“Look! Down that tunnel!” Jimmy yelled, pointing to a new passageway that had just appeared on
their right.
“That wakn‟t there a minute ago.” Barry shouted.
“Want to discuss it with Gort?” Scooter called, running down the new passage.
“I can smell biscuits!” Jimmy cried, quickly catching up with Scooter.
“Not what I can kmell!” Barry wailed, thinking about his underpants, and leaving a trail of dust as
he overtook the other two.
They ran like frightened rabbits for a good few minutes, fleeing heedlessly along the tunnel in the
light of Scooter‟s lamp until at last exhausted, they slowed and finally stopped. There they stood
for a moment, gasping and puffing, leaning forwards, hands on knees trying to recapture their
“I‟m knackered.” Scooter grunted.
“I don‟t think he followed uk.” Barry wheezed.
“I can‟t hear anything.” Scooter added between breaths.
Jimmy looked around for a brief second then cried “Where‟s Danny?”
Danny wasn‟t with them.
“Oh my!” Scooter said quietly.
“Gort‟s got him!” Jimmy wailed in panic.
Suddenly the lamp began to flicker and die.
“Awww… Not now!” Barry said in a frustrated tone.
“Quick!” Jimmy yelled. “The other lamp!”
The trio looked from one to another in hope but nobody held up the last lantern.
Danny had been carrying it.
Scooters eyes seemed to grow in the suddenly fading light and then they were plunged into total
impenetrable blackness.
“Flamin‟ „eck!” Barry said quietly.
“Stay exactly where you are!” Scooter commanded. “If we drift apart even a few yards, we‟ve
had it. Jimmy! Give me your hand!”
Jimmy stretched his hand forwards and searched the air with his fingers until he found Scooters
outstretched arm.
“Now you Barry!” the little old man ordered. Barry did as he was told and groped in the dark for
Scooters hand. Eventually the three of them stood like children about to play „ring-a-ring-a-roses‟
in the dark.
“Right. Barry, you take Jimmy‟s hand and I‟ll lead.” Scooter ordered.
“Which way?” Jimmy asked nervously. “We can‟t go back the way we‟ve just come. Gort‟s
down there.”
“And ko ik Danny!” Barry said determinedly, now rather ashamed that his sudden panic had
allowed him to run and not help their friend.
“We‟ve got to go back.” Scooter agreed. “If Gort has got Danny, we‟ll have to see if we can
“How?!” Jimmy cried. “Gort hates Danny with a vengeance! What can we do?”
“Not much.” Barry agreed. “But we can‟t jukt do nothing.”
They all nodded in muted agreement. A bit pointless really, as no one could see them in the dark
anyway. Scooter stretched out his free hand to feel in front and led the way back down the
“I can still smell bourbons or something…” Jimmy whispered nervously.
“Oh shut up!” Scooter said irritably. “We‟ve got enough to worry about without your phantom
“Two of spades…” a thin wheezy voice whispered.
“What?” Barry said.
“I never said anything.” Scooter replied.
“Neither did I.” Jimmy piped up.
“Queen of hearts…” another thin crispy voice intoned.
“Made some TARTS!!!...” a third creaky voice added, giving added emphasis to the last word.
Scooter, Jimmy and Barry yelled as one and fled blindly up the passage, the sound of wailing
cackling laughter following behind.
“I‟ll never buy kodding cuktard creamk again!” Barry cried as they ran.
“I‟ll buy them a wheelbarrow full if they leave us alone!” Jimmy added at full voice.
The laughter stopped instantly as if switched off at the mains.
“Really?” a dry, quiet crackly voice whispered in his ear.
“Aaaarrrggghhhh!!!” Jimmy screamed, letting go of Barry‟s hand and fleeing up the tunnel like a
greasy ferret up a trouser leg.
“Jimmy!” Barry shouted, but it was no good. Their young friend was gone.
“This is terrible!” Scooter wailed. “We‟re all getting separated.”
“Well, you keep hold of my hand then!” Barry stated flatly. He was brave enough under ordinary
circumstances, but he had no desire to get lost in a maze of fleeting tunnels among a host of
gambling, teatime assorted loving spectres.
“I‟m not going anywhere without you!” Scooter stated flatly, feeling much the same as Barry.
Then he added thoughtfully, “Didn‟t you ever wonder where all your biscuits were going?”
“I jukt thought it wok mikter Quilt pinching them.”
“But what about before we turned up?”
“I never uked to buy that many bikcuitk. And when I did, they would be in the cupboard for
week‟k anyway. I never really notiked.”
Scooter sighed. “Well, let‟s see if we can get back to Reg‟s stairs, at least.”
“And what then?” Barry asked. Scooter shrugged.
“Haven‟t a clue. I‟m making this up as we go along. Oh, and by the way…”
“Not on a Wednesday. Unless they‟re the strawberry ones.”
Barry blinked helplessly in the dark as they groped their way back up the tunnel, trying to decide
if this was yet another insane insight into what was yet to come, or whether it was just another
glimpse into Scooters peculiar past.
It was slow going and it took a full ten minutes for the pair to reach the junction in the
passageway. Scooter groped ahead, feeling the tunnel walls at his side until his hands fell on
empty air.
“We‟ve reached the main tunnel again.” he said.
Barry felt the space in front and said “The other tunnel leading to Gort ik oppokite, and a bit to
the left.”
“Well, let‟s go and see what‟s what.” Scooter stated flatly, leading Barry across the passage and
into the opposite tunnel. All was silent. Even the gambling school seemed to have gone away for
the time being.
“Jimmy?...” Scooter whispered hopefully. There was no reply.
“Danny?..” he tried, keeping his fingers crossed. No answer.
“There‟s nobody here.”
“The kteps up to Reg‟k houke are here.” Barry whispered, feeling the cold stone stairs to his
right. “Shall we go up?”
Scooter took a deep breath.
“I suppose so”…” he replied. “Haven‟t got anything better to do…”
Barry chuckled and led the way up the stairs which seemed to go up a good deal further than the
steps down from his own larder into the tunnel.
“Tunnel must slope down towards Reg‟s place.” Scooter observed.
“Or the ground goek up.” Barry suggested. “Door here!” he suddenly added.
“Should‟ve stuck to me beer!” Scooter scowled. “Well, give it a shove.”
“Wait a minute.” Barry cautioned. “We don‟t know what‟k on the other kide.”
“Yes we do. Gort!” Scooter spat. “Let‟s rush him. He might be big, but two of us should be able
to take him if we surprise him.”
Barry thought for a moment then said “Right. Let‟k get him!” He groped for a door handle, found
one and gave it a turn. With a sudden shove, Barry shouldered the door.
“Ouch!” he whined. The door didn‟t move. It was like trying to move an elephant that didn‟t
particularly want to go anywhere.
“It‟k locked.” he whispered.
“Too much to hope they‟d leave the welcome mat out.” Scooter said sarcastically. “Let me have a
The little man squeezed past Barry and felt the lock with his fingers.
“Hang on…” he said, fumbling in his pocket and drawing out a long piece of wire which he
inserted in the door key hole. A twiddle or two later and there was a satisfying „click‟.
“How d‟you do that?” Barry asked.
“Used to be a robber.” Scooter replied in a straight voice. There was no reply from Barry and
Scooter chuckled. “Just kidding.” Then he added. “Always got some useful bits and pieces in me
pockets. Got a few kippers and some pickled onions somewhere if you‟re peckish.”
“I‟ll wait.” Barry replied, giggling at Scooters sense of humour.
Scooter shrugged and put the kippers back inside his jacket but he rubbed the pocket fluff off a
pickled onion and popped it in his mouth.
“Who‟s first?” he asked.
Barry didn‟t answer but he gently turned the knob and pushed at the door. It gave an ominous
creak and moved an inch. They both froze for a moment and listened. There was no sound on the
other side of the door but they could now see a faint orange glow of light outlining the door.
Barry opened the door another few inches and peered through the gap. The room beyond looked
like an old cellar, piled high with boxes, crates, strangely shaped items draped with grimy sheets
and other assorted „cellary‟ objects. A small torch burned in a sconce on one wall but there was
no one in the room. Barry pushed the door open and stepped inside, followed by Scooter who was
still crunching a pickled onion.
“Someone‟s been down here, anyway.” Scooter said, nodding toward the burning torch.
“Gort mukt have come through here.” Barry pointed out.
“So at least he knows about the tunnel. That means Reg probably does too, so he might be
involved in all this business with Grimmsbottom and his minions after all.”
“That could mean big trouble.” Barry said. “You don‟t want Reg Ktote ak an enemy.”
“Let‟s see what‟s up there.” Scooter said, pointing to a flight of wooden stairs leading up to an
arched door high up in the wall.
They crept silently across the cellar and Barry was just about to take the first step up the stairs
when Scooter hissed “They‟re on the other side!”
“What?” Barry said, standing dead still.
“Pardon?” Scooter replied, not remembering that he had said anything.
Barry logged the little snippet of information a corner of his mind and continued up the steps. At
the top he pressed his ear against the door but could hear nothing. He was about to open the door
but warning bells rang in his mind as he thought about what Scooter had just said so he held back.
A few seconds later he heard muffled voices. He couldn‟t quite make out what they were saying,
but he was certain he heard the name „Danny‟ mentioned. A few moments later the voices trailed
off into the distance, then there was silence.
“Thank‟k Bembridge.” he said. Scooter blinked.
Barry gently opened the door and he prayed as it moved without creaking. Once the gap was big
enough, they both crept through and closed the door behind them.
The room they were in appeared to be some kind of maid‟s parlour, or kitchen side room. There
was another door at one end to their right, and an open arch to their left leading into the kitchen
proper. Scooter crept to the archway and peered round the corner. There was a flight of stairs
leading up to his immediate left and past them he could see a fairly large kitchen with cupboards
placed neatly against the walls on three sides and a large range cooker backing onto the stair wall.
There were windows in two other walls and directly oposite was a door that clearly led outside, as
he could see moonlight streaming through the leaded glass, casting a lattice pattern across the
“Nobody in here.” he whispered to Barry.
“Kitchen ikn‟t much bigger than mine…” Barry whispered in surprise. He had never been
particularly close to the Stote house before and it had always seemed huge to him. He was
slightly disappointed with the reality.
“Let‟s try the other way.” Scooter said, nodding towards the other door in the parlour.
They crossed the small room silently and listened against the door. Once again there was silence
so Scooter gingerly opened the door and they crept through.
Now they stood in a fairly long hallway with high panelled walls clad in a dark highly polished
wood. To their right there were two doors and ahead on the left, half way along the hall was a
large staircase leading up to a half landing, where the stairs turned back on themselves to go up
even higher. At the end of the hall beyond the stairs was yet another door on the right, and a large
leaded window filled the end wall. The window was heavily draped with dark coloured curtains
and a piano stood against the wall to the right. Scooter crept silently over to the piano.
“Don‟t play it!” Barry whispered urgently.
“Of course I‟m not going to play it! What d‟you think this is? Flamin‟ night club?”
On top of the piano was a neat collection of small pictures showing small children and one in
particular caught Scooters eye. He picked up the picture. Barry crept over and peered over
Scooters shoulder.
The image in the small painting showed a strikingly beautiful woman with long raven dark hair.
She was smiling and holding a baby in her arms.
“That‟ll be Reg‟s wife, carrying Gort.” Scooter whispered.
“She wok ko beautiful…” Barry gulped, holding back a sob. “No wonder Reg went mad when
khe died…”
Scooter put the picture down and picked up another of a very small girl.
“This must be Emerald! Nobody has ever seen her before. She doesn‟t look all that ugly to me.”
“Khe would be very young there though. Only two or three.” Barry pointed out. “I expect khe got
uglier when khe got older.”
“Poor kid.” Scooter whispered replacing the picture on the piano. “Let‟s try the other rooms.”
They moved quietly back down the hall and listened at one of the doors. Again there was silence
on the other side. Somewhere from up above, there came loud snort and a short bout of snoring
then it went silent again. Barry and Scooter both prepared to bolt back into the parlour, down to
the cellar and out into the tunnel but there were no more noises and they breathed a sigh of relief.
Barry gently turned the door knob, pushed the door and entered the room. Like the hall, the room
was panelled with a polished wood but this time it was of a lighter colour, like oak. A large
dining table occupied the centre of the room, surrounded by six chairs. A huge dresser occupied
the length of one wall and there was a cold open fire place in the wall near the door. The room
showed little signs of use. Scooter stole around the table and peered out of a large bay window
that overlooked a neat fenced side garden. A greenhouse stood nearby along with a potting shed
and an assortment of garden furniture.
“Perhaps there more to Reg than we thought. A piano? A little garden? Doesn‟t sound like the
Reg Stote everyone talks about.”
“Over here!” Barry interrupted urgently. Scooter turned to see Barry examining the wall beside
the dresser.
“What is it?” Scooter enquired.
“Look‟k like a hidden door. Look.”
Scooter studied the wall paneling and outlined in the dim moonlight he could just see what looked
like the outline of a door.
Barry gently twisted a torch sconce on the wall and with a gentle „click‟ the sconce moved to the
right and a large panel in the wall moved a fraction of an inch.
Instantly a voice from beyond cried “Who is it?”
“Danny!” both Scooter and Barry hissed at once, pushing the heavy door inwards and rushing
into the small room beyond.
Danny was inside, sitting on the floor and propped against the wall near a softly flickering oil
lamp. He looked up at them, shielding himself with his arms. He sported a particularly ugly black
eye but seemed otherwise unharmed.
Barry and Scooter rushed across to the bemused young man but once he had recognised them, he
stared wildly past them and cried “The door!”
Barry and Scooter turned round to see the door swinging closed on a spring hinge.
“What?” Barry said in confusion. Danny scrambled to his feet and literally flung himself at the
closing door, his fingers scrabbling wildly at the wood to gain a purchase on the edge.
It was no good. With a gentle „click‟ the door closed tight once again, trapping them all inside.
“Oh my goodness!” Danny moaned. “Now they‟ve got all three of us.” Then he looked beyond
his fiends. “Where‟s Jimmy?” he said.
Barry and Scooter proceeded to tell their friend the unlikely tale of Jimmy‟s disappearance as
Danny‟s expression grew more and more disbelieving.
“What a pickle!” he finally said.
“Want one?” Scooter asked, offering Danny a fluffy onion. Danny ignored the offer and rubbed at
his sore eye.
“Did Gort do that?” Barry asked.
“Reg, actually.” Danny replied.
“Did you see Emerald?” Scooter asked. Danny shook his head. “Nope!” he stated flatly. If she‟s
in the house, I didn‟t see her. Reg went potty though. I thought he was going to kill me there and
“But nothing ever happened between you and Emerald.” Barry pointed out.
“Try telling Reg that.” Danny complained. “He just hates anyone who even talks to her.”
“What happened after Reg thumped you?” Scooter asked.
“You mean before or after I woke up?” Danny replied sarcastically.
“Reg did a lot of shouting and arm waving and at one point actually stopped Gort going for me.
He said he‟d sort me out tomorrow, whatever that means. And now he‟s got you two as well.”
“But we never spoke to Emerald or anything.” Scooter replied. “Perhaps we can help stick up for
Danny laughed. “Oh, right. Reg will be OK. He won‟t mind you being here. You just break into
his house in the middle of the night. Quite normal. Everybody does it all the time.”
Scooter frowned. “Doesn‟t look too good, does it…” he muttered.
“How on earth are we going to get out of here?” Barry asked, groping at the edge of the hidden
“Well we can‟t depend on Jimmy” Scooter replied. “And Granny and Albert don‟t even know
where we are, so I‟d say it‟s down to us, otherwise, when Reg and Gort come in here tomorrow,
they‟re in for a surprise.”
“Three for the price of one.” Danny added grimly. “Do you have a preference of left or right?” he
“What do you mean?” Barry asked.
“Eyeballs!” Danny replied, sinking back to his spot against the wall.
Chapter 18.

“Well I‟ve put Slivver back in the stables.” Quilt called as he came in Barry‟s front door.
“Anyone here yet?” he asked, removing his scarf and hanging it on the peg behind the door. He
was still cold so he kept his coat on.
“Nope! Nobody.” Granny shouted back from the kitchen where she was making a pot of tea.
“There‟s still some sandwiches and things in the cold cupboard.” she added without looking
“Good. I‟m starved.” Quilt replied, coming into the kitchen and rummaging among the food in
the well stocked larder. He ate two cucumber sandwiches before he even brought the plate out
from the cupboard.
“What‟s the time?” he asked through a mouthful of bread and salad.
“‟Bout three.” Granny replied. “Be getting‟ light soon.”
“I‟m surprised they‟re not already here.” Quilt said. “After all, they only had to look down a
tunnel between here and Reg Stote‟s house. Granny frowned, making her face look like a wrinkly
old pink lettuce leaf.
“They must‟ve looked further. Goes without sayin‟ the tunnel goes past Reg‟s house an‟ leads to
the underground river. Otherwise smugglers wouldn‟t „ave used it. I recons they‟s gone to see if
they can find the river.”
“Well if they‟re successful, we‟ll have cracked this whole thing.” Quilt replied cheerily, eating a
rather limp stick of celery.
Granny was not so confident. “An‟ if they „aven‟t then where‟s they got to?”
“I‟m sure they‟ll be back shortly.” Quilt answered confidently.
“Well they „aven‟t got long.” Granny said.
Quilt raised his right eyebrow. “Why d‟you say that?”
“‟Cos the oil in their lamps won‟t last much longer. If they ain‟t back before about three thirty,
then there‟s definitely summat up.”
Quilt nodded in understanding but his new found feeling of confidence was so strong at the
moment, especially after their successful raid on Grimmsbottom‟s house, little could undermine
his feelings.
“They‟ll be back. You‟ll see.” He trotted off to the sitting room carrying the plate of sandwiches
and a packet of Ginger snaps tucked under his arm. “How‟s that tea going?” he called back over
his shoulder.

Granny was pacing the floor and even Quilt was beginning to feel a bit nervous. It was past four
o‟clock and the sky outside was that light pinky grey that foretold another sunny but chilly day
was looming.
“We‟s goin‟ to „ave to go an‟ see if we can find them.” Granny said finally.
“I‟m not too keen on going down that tunnel.” Quilt replied. “It‟s not a case of being scared or
anything, it‟s just, well, I don‟t like confined spaces a lot.”
Granny looked surprised.
“I never knew you was claustrophobic.” she said. Quilt shrugged his shoulders.
“Ever since I was little. The other kids at school used to pick on me a lot. We never had much,
my family. All the other boys and girls had nice clothes and shiny shoes. I used to stick out a bit,
wearing my dads cut down shirts and his old gum boots.”
Granny tried to look sympathetic.
“They used to grab me and shut me in an old suitcase that was in the school pottin‟ shed. One of
them had a knife, and he cut a hole in the case while I was in it.”
Granny put her hand up to her mouth in horror. “Did they stab you?” she cried.
“No. They just wanted to make a hole. Then they took turns sitting on the case after that and
farting through it. I don‟t think anyone alive can hold their breath as long as me, all the practice I
“What did you do? Didn‟t you try to keep out of their way?”
Quilt nodded affirmatively, cramming another sandwich in his mouth.
“I used to creep past the classroom window on the way home, keeping down low, so the others
wouldn‟t see me.”
“Did it work?” Granny asked.
“Oh yes, that was fine. Trouble was, they could hear dad‟s size eleven gum boots flapping around
on my size four feet. They always used to catch me.”
“Didn‟t you try to run?”
“In size elevens? My legs went round like ruddy windmills but I couldn‟t get up any speed. I had
to keep stopping to retrieve my boots where I‟d run out of them. The only time I ever got my own
back on any of the little blighters was when I ran so hard once, me legs were doing about two
hundred revs per minute. The left boot flew off when my foot was at quarter to ten. That boot
covered twenty yards in half a second. Caught Tommy Cringle smack on the end of his nose.
Broke it. Gawd, there was a lot of blood!”
“Old Tommy, down at the wood yard?” Granny enquired, trying not to chuckle.
“That‟s him. He still hates me for it. Had a wonky snout ever since. Mind you, the other kids left
me alone for a while after that. Tommy was the biggest and they reckoned if I could make him
cry, then anything could happen.”
“So you got out o‟ that one alright then.” Granny laughed but Quilt only grunted.
“No, not really. Tommy told the Headmaster what I‟d done, and I got a real leathering the next
day. Those little brats always got one over on me somehow. I‟ve never owned gum boots or a
suitcase since.”
“Well you showed „em in the end.” Granny said trying to cheer Quilt up a bit.
“How d‟you work that one out?” he asked.
“Well, you‟re Alderman now. Most important man in the village. What are that lot doin‟?”
Quilt thought about it for a moment then grinned.
“Charlie Turnip works at the sewage works, Archie Boggle helps on a farm and I‟m not sure
about some of the others.”
“Well there you are then!” Granny beamed. “Stop mopin‟ an‟ count yer blessin‟s. Yer better off
than any o‟ them ninnys.”
Quilt downed another sandwich and stood up.
“You‟re right! Let‟s get down that tunnel then. Those lads are hopeless without us around to look
after them!”
“I‟ll fetch another couple o‟ lamps. Barry‟s got lots of „em in the cellar.”
Quilt went into the kitchen and crouched down beside the hole in the larder floor.
“Danny!...” he called into the dark void. There was no reply.
“Anybody down there?...” he yelled even louder.
“I wouldn‟t do that if I were you.” Granny advised coming back into the room and setting two
glowing lanterns on the floor beside him.
“Why ever not?” he queried.
“Don‟t know who else might be down there. Summat‟s „appened to our lads. Only fair to assume
somebody‟s done summat to stop „em comin‟ back.”
Quilt nodded in agreement.
“You‟re right. Foolish of me. OK, I‟ll go first, then I can help you down.”
“Not ruddy likely!” Granny laughed in reply. “I‟ll go first. I ain‟t „avin‟ you down there lookin‟
up my skirt!” Quilt tutted and looked up at the ceiling.
“Well just you take care and at least hold on to me so I can lower you down a bit.”
“Fair „nough!” Granny answered.
Quilt was actually quite surprised at just how agile the old woman was. She sat on the edge of the
hole, turned herself round and scuttled down the steep stairway as quickly as Barry, Danny or
Jimmy had done. She didn‟t hold Quilt‟s hand either.
“Pass me down the lamps.” she called up when she reached the bottom.
Quilt leaned forwards into the tunnel entrance and lowered the lanterns one after the other down
to Granny, then he too clambered down the steps.
Granny passed a lamp to him and they both held them aloft and peered down the long tunnel
ahead. Several clear sets of footprints were dotted in the dusty floor showing that more than just
Danny, Barry and Jimmy had gone that way.
“Someone else has been down here after all.” Quilt said, pointing to the feetmarks.
“After you.” Granny replied, pointing ahead with her lamp. Quilt strode purposefully down the
tunnel, holding his lamp straight out in front with Granny following behind.
After about ten minutes, he noticed a dark void in the wall to his right out of the corner of his eye.
When he looked, there was nothing there although he was sure he had seen something move. He
shook his head and carried on. Again, some five minutes after that, the same thing happened only
this time he thought he glimpsed another tunnel off to his left. When he looked again there was
nothing there.
“Did you see that?” he asked this time.
“What?” Granny enquired.
“Another tunnel. Leading off to the left.”
“Where?” Granny said, turning round to look.
“I don‟t know…” Quilt replied a bit sheepishly. I just thought I saw one.”
“You‟re „avin nightmares about suitcases, I recon.” Granny said. “We „aven‟t passed any other
“My deal…” a scratchy voice said from somewhere behind. Quilt spun round to look and Granny
stared at him.
“Now what?” she asked.
“Didn‟t you hear it?”
“Someone playing cards.”
“Albert Quilt! Was you at Barry‟s wine rack?”
“No I wasn‟t! Well, leastways, not a lot. But that isn‟t the point. I‟m sure I heard someone
“Missin‟ tunnels an‟ casino‟s. What next?” Granny scoffed. “Next time you touches Barry‟s Port,
I‟ll chop yer fingers off. Now git a move on!”
Quilt was about to argue but Granny stared him into silence.
“You‟re not related to Tommy Cringle are you?” he mumbled.
They carried on in silence for another few minutes and then Quilt slowed his pace.
“Now what?” Granny stated. Quilt just pointed ahead.
“Tell me you can see that one!” he whispered, pointing to a tunnel entrance in the left wall about
twenty feet away.
“I sees it.” Granny answered. “I recon we‟s reached Reg Stote‟s place.”
Quilt wasn‟t sure which was worse. Another phantom tunnel or Reg Stote‟s basement. Cautiously
they crept up to the junction.
“Look over there!” Quilt said in alarm. Lying against the wall just inside the side tunnels entrance
was an oil lamp. Granny picked it up and shook it.
“Empty.” she said.
“They wouldn‟t just leave it though.” Quilt pointed out.
“Don‟t doubt that.” Granny replied, pointing at the floor. There were clear signs in the dust of a
scuffle, and something heavy being dragged down the tunnel toward Reg‟s basement.
“Well, I‟d say Gort or Reg has caught them. Either that, or at least they‟s involved with ol‟
“What makes you think that?” Quilt asked, looking nervously around in the gloom for fear that
the horrible shambling form of Gort might suddenly leap out on them.
“Well if it was ol‟ Grimy that‟s caught them, then he‟s taken them up into Reg‟s house. You can
see the marks go right up to those steps an‟ up.” Granny pointed at the stairs a bit further down
the tunnel. “In which case, Reg mus‟ be involved. An‟ if it weren‟t ol‟ Grimy, then it must be
Gort or Reg that caught them. In any case, they‟s in Reg‟s house an‟ we‟s got to get them out.”
“We could try getting in up there.” Quilt suggested bravely, pointing at the steps leading into
Reg‟s cellar. “Maybe we could creep in and find them.”
Granny shrugged.
“What‟s the point? If it‟s ol‟ Grimmsbottom that‟s caught them, then he‟ll know we‟re on to him
anyway. They‟ll be locked up somewhere well out o‟ the way at least until tomorrer. An‟ if it‟s
Reg that‟s got „em, an Grimmsbottom‟s got nothin‟ to do with it, then we needs to talk to „im, an‟
tell „im what‟s goin‟ on under „is floor.”
“Meaning?” Quilt asked, trying to make sense out of Granny‟s ideas.
“Meanin‟ whichever way you look at it, we might just as well go up to Reg‟s front door an‟

It was fully light by the time Granny and Quilt arrived at the Gate in Reg Stote‟s front fence.
Quilt was trembling and he didn‟t mind admitting that here at least, he was afraid.
“Look at the sign!” he whined, pointing to the wooden plaque nailed to a post beside the gate. It
read „Trespassers will be eaten‟. There was a rather bad painting of a dog beneath the words.
“Don‟t b‟leive that rubbish do you?” Granny scoffed, opening the gate and waddling through.
Quilt nodded that in deed he did. They walked quickly but nevertheless carefully up the long
driveway towards the house and Quilt noticed that near the gate, the grounds were very untidy
and choked with brambles and weeds. He became aware that he was looking for suitable trees to
climb and he pushed the thought aside. Further on however, the expanse of lawn was immaculate
and there were flowerbeds everywhere. Even the trees appeared to be neatly pruned.
“Someone looks after the garden at least.” he pointed out, staring wildly around for signs of a
large dog kennel. They approached the house without trouble and it seemed as if there might even
be no one at home.
“All out!” Quilt choked. “Right. Might as well go…”
“Jus‟ you „ang on.” Granny ordered, stepping up to the glossy dark blue painted front door and
banging loudly on the huge brass knocker.
“Shhhh!” Quilt hissed. “Someone might hear…”
For a few moments there was silence and Quilt actually began to think that there really was
nobody at home. Then a deep gravely voice called out from an opened window above.
“Who‟s that down there? Get off my property, or I‟ll set all my dogs on you!”
Quilt wailed and cringed behind Granny.
“Jus‟ you pack that nonsense in, Reg Stote!” she called back. “We both knows you „aven‟t got
any dogs. You‟s suffered with azma for years. Now get jus‟ down an‟ open this door. We‟re
freezin‟ our arses off out „ere!”
There was silence for a moment, then the same voice, only a bit more mild this time, called down
“Granny? That you?”
“You knows ruddy well who it is. „Urry up before we freezes to the spot!”
The window up above banged shut.
Quilt was gobsmacked. He stared wildly between Granny and the front door. Even his other eye
was marginally open.
“You… You know him?” he said in awe.
Granny sniffed. “Long time ago.” was her simple reply.
Suddenly there came the sound of heavy iron bolts being drawn back and Quilt gulped, fearing
his last moments had finally arrived. The door opened a smidgin and a great bushy beard and
eyebrow could be seen through the crack as the owner sized up the folks standing on the doorstep.
Then the door was flung wide and Reg Stote stood there, absolutely filling the door frame and
towering over Granny and Albert. His stare was terrifying as he scowled and cast his gaze
between them. Quilt wanted to turn and run, but his knees were shaking uncontrollably and the
bits down to his feet had turned to jelly. He gulped.
Granny stared implacably back at the hulking red faced figure and for a brief moment the very air
between them stopped moving. Quilt gulped another six times. Reg leaned forwards, almost
bending double to get his face down on a level with Granny‟s, then suddenly his scowl turned to a
huge grin and he swept the little old lady off the ground with one arm and gave her a bone
crushing hug.
“Granny!” he yelled, hurting Quilt‟s ears. “Come in, come in!”
“I‟d appreciate bein‟ allowed to breath!” Granny gasped.
Reg roared with laughter and put Granny down again. “Come through to the sitting room. It‟s
warm in there. Gort has just got the fire up. He‟s gone off into the woods with an axe!”
Quilt sucked in his breath in horror.
“To get some more logs!” Reg added. Quilt let out a long sigh. He was virtually mesmerized by
the sudden trail of events and he just stood gawping into the house.
“You too, Alderman Quilt!” Reg boomed. “You too! Come in!”
Quilt plodded forwards on uninstructed legs. He seemed to have little or no control over his body
at this point in time.
Reg led them into the hallway and down the passage. He opened a door to the left and ushered
them both inside. Quilt was half expecting the door to slam behind them as Reg cried out, “Ahaa!
I‟ve got you now!” but it didn‟t happen.
The room was large with oak panelled walls and a massive inglenook fireplace roared with
burning logs and coals. Granny sidled up to the fire and warmed her hands.
“Now, you two.” Reg yelled at only half hurricane level. “Tell me why you‟re here. I haven‟t had
any visitors in more years than I can remember!”
“That‟s „cos you scares „em all away!” Granny stated unafraid.
Reg laughed so that the windows shook and the flames in the fire seemed to bend in the draught.
“Don‟t like visitors! Nosy pests. Should just mind their own business!” he yelled.
“Anyway, sit down, sit down. What can I get you? Have you had any breakfast?”
Quilt suddenly started from his waking nightmare. “Er, breakfast, did you say?”
“Haven‟t you eaten?” Reg thundered. “I was just about to have my early morning snack too.
Come, join me. Emerald can cook a little extra!”
He led them out of the sitting room and opened the next door down the hall.
Granny and Quilt walked into the dining room behind him. The large table in the centre was
literally groaning under the onslaught of steaming bacon, sausages, fried eggs and toast that was
piled on serving plates.
“You expectin‟ guests?” Granny queried. Reg looked surprised.
“Not at all!” he erupted. “This is just a little nibble. My real breakfast is at about eleven!” Quilt
gawped and drooled over the sight before him.
“Pull up a chair mister Quilt. Fill your boots! Emerald!... Where are you?... More sausages and
bacon dear! We have guests!”
Quilt tucked in like a man freshly retrieved from a desert island where stinging nettles were the
only food but even he couldn‟t begin to make a dent in the monumental pile on the table. Granny
had a sausage, two rashers of bacon and an egg.
“Tea, mister Quilt?” a soft voice said in his right ear. He turned so suddenly and choked, that half
a sausage shot from between his teeth and landed on Granny‟s plate. She frowned and placed the
offending object back on Quilt‟s napkin. Then she too looked at the owner of the new voice.
A young woman of about twenty stood between them, dressed in a sober long brown woolen
dress. She wore plain black sandals and had a cream shawl draped about her shoulders. She had a
crisp new paper bag over her head.
“The Medusa!” Quilt cried, leaping suddenly to his feet. Then he remembered where he was and
sat down again, mumbling “Sorry… Thought it was someone else…”
“Emerald!” Reg boomed, seemingly oblivious of Quilt‟s sudden outburst, “This is Granny
Grayling, and Alderman Quilt. Mister Quilt, Granny, this is Emerald.”
Granny nodded and said “Charmed Emerald, I‟m sure.” She seemed almost oblivious to the fact
that the girl had a bag over her head.
Quilt stuttered and spluttered a bit before saying “Er.. Hello Emerald… Bag to meet… um, I
mean, glad to meet you…”
Emerald gave a little curtsy and poured some tea into the three cups on the table. Quilt wasn‟t
really paying attention to the tea as he put a little milk in it, stirred it and raised the cup to his lips.
He took a little sip and his eye went wide. He stared at the cup.
“East India! Southern plantation five!” he gasped and took a long slow sip at the tea. “Nectar!” he
“You know your tea, Mister Quilt!”
“I have to put up with the Darjeeling rubbish they get in the store.” he replied. “It‟s just dust
really. They can‟t get a decent tea around here. Where on earth do you get it?”
Reg thumped a closed fist on the table, shaking the entire house.
“A man after my own heart!” he boomed. “I get it imported especially. Allow me to give you a
caddy of it before you leave. I have a few others you might appreciate too!” Quilt blinked and
could hardly think what to say. He stuttered a feeble „thank you‟ and continued to stare into his
Granny however had picked up on Reg‟s words. It was time to get down to the reason they were
“You said you gets your tea imported. How?” Quilt was on the ball immediately and caught on at
once to what Granny was thinking.
“The import duty on tea like this must be huge.” he said innocently.
Granny and Quilt looked at each other, wondering what Reg‟s reaction might be.
In fact all he said was “Tell me about it! Those buggers at customs cane me every time. Doubles
the cost of the tea, but it‟s worth it, don‟t you think Mister Quilt?”
Quilt‟s mouth opened and closed a few times but nothing came out.
Finally Granny spoke up.
“Look Reg, you‟se prob‟ly realised this ain‟t no social visit. Prob‟ly „cos you don‟t get no social
visits.” Reg nodded, grinning. Quilt felt sure that Reg knew why they were there.
“We‟s been lookin‟ into this business with the river. I‟m sure you knows it runs into an
underground river at the front edge of your property about half a mile away. It used to come out
again just at the back o‟ your land in the Wood somewhere, but it don‟t no more. The whole
village „as been affected. Pond‟s dried up, Farms „ave gone broke, business‟s gone bust. Even the
brewery „as shut down.”
Reg nodded knowingly. “Yes I‟m aware of all that. Even my good old Quarter to three has gone.
What‟s it got to do with me, anyway?”
Granny drew in a deep breath. “That river were the lifeblood o‟ the village. Surely you can see
that? What we wants to know is, „ave you got any idea what‟s „appened to it?”
This was the moment of truth. The moment they had been waiting for and dreading at the same
time. Reg scowled deeply, rising from his seat. Quilt gulped and closed his eye.
“You think I‟ve got something to do with it?” he growled, his jowls turning red and his gimlet
eyes narrowing. “I make no secret of the fact I have no time for those interfering weasels in the
village! I don‟t interfere in their lives if they don‟t interfere in mine, but apart from that, I
couldn‟t care less what happens to them! I admit, I was almost glad when I heard the river had
stopped flowing through the village, but I didn‟t have anything to do with stopping it! So if
you‟ve finished your breakfast, I‟ll bid you a good morning!” Reg threw his napkin down on the
table and stormed to the dining room door, holding it open for Granny and Quilt.
They rose from their seats, nodded at Emerald who silently nodded back and made they made to
“Um, that tea?...” Quilt asked nervously.
Reg‟s eyes bulged and he began to splutter. The veins in his upper arms throbbed and he began to
flex his fingers.
Emerald stepped forwards and moved between her father and the visitors.
“Now just you stop that Daddy.” she said. “You can‟t blame them for asking. If I lived in the
village I‟d be wondering the same thing!”
Granny and Quilt stared in amazement at Emerald and Reg began to splutter even more.
“Yes, but… Now see here young girl…”
“Oh sit down you silly man!” Emerald stormed. “For the past five years you‟ve been saying more
and more that we never get visitors and the first time you get any, you send them away!”
Reg was now almost choking with indignation.
“Just you apologise to Granny and Mister Quilt! I don‟t know about you, but I like them and I
want them to stay!”
Quilt couldn‟t believe his ears and he actually wiggled a finger in the right one to see if there was
a piece of sausage roll or something wedged inside. Granny was grinning. For the first time she
could ever remember, someone was getting the better of Reg Stote, and it was a girl!
Reg reluctantly sat down again and told Granny and Quilt to do the same.
“Very well then, I‟ll admit you probably had good reason to come here and ask your questions,
but I don‟t apologise for my answers! Those maggots in the village have gotten everything they
deserve! I don‟t know anything about where the river has gone, but to be honest, I couldn‟t care
less either!”
Granny nodded. “Well at least tha‟s one question answered.” she said.
“You have others?” Reg stormed. His temper had notched down from cataclysmic to merely
catastrophic but was in danger of escalating to end-of-the-world again.
“You knows about the tunnel under your floor, and you knows it leads to Barry Simpson‟s
place?” Granny said calmly.
“Yes? What of it?” Reg boomed. Quilt gulped but sneaked another sausage from the table.
“We believes it goes right back to where the river runs underground. Somewheres along there it‟s
“And you want my help to unblock it? Forget it!”
“Nope! Nothin‟ like that.” Granny replied to Reg‟s surprise.
“Some friends of ours were down there last night, lookin‟ for the river. You might not want to
„elp the village, but they does. They never came back an‟ we think they‟re in this „ouse
Granny had laid their cards on the table at the risk of a raging outburst from Reg, but there had
been no other choice. As predicted, Reg leaped to his feet again.
“What? That, that MORON is a friend of yours?...” he began.
“Barry isn‟t a moron!” Quilt cried defensively.
Reg turned to Quilt. “Who‟s Barry?” he shouted back.
“I am!” a muffled voice called from somewhere behind the woodwork.
“Who the hell‟s that?” Reg roared, striding over to the hidden door and yanking the torch sconce
on the wall. There was a faint „click‟ and Reg pushed the door open. Inside, cowering like
frightened rabbits against the far wall was Barry, Scooter and Danny.
“Where did you two come from?” Reg shouted, pointing a thick finger at Barry and Scooter.
“Danny!” Emerald suddenly cried, pushing past her father and running into the small room.
Danny cowered behind Barry who tried to hide behind Scooter, who was doing his best to get
behind Danny…
“Emerald!” Reg yelled. “You get away from that, that… Trifler of affections… that
This proved to be too much for Danny. It was obvious that Emerald hadn‟t known he was locked
up behind the wall, and after receiving a black eye the previous night for just enquiring if
Emerald was alright, being called a Philanderer was the final straw.
He strode from the room and went straight up to Reg and waggled his finger in the towering
hulk‟s face.
“Now you listen here, Mister Stote! I‟ve been called a lot of things in the past, but I‟m not a
trifler, and I‟ve never been a philatelist! I hate stamps!”
Reg blinked in confusion.
“Daddy!” Emerald cried seeing Danny‟s black eye. “You didn‟t hit him?”
Reg spluttered even more. “Now just you wait a minute young lady…” he began.
At that moment Scooter came forwards and joined in the argument.
“You should never cut wet grass!” he yelled.
Reg blinked like an owl. “Pardon?” he said a bit nervously.
At that point Barry arrived and launched a vocal onslaught on the poor man that would be
remembered for years.
“It‟k jukt ak I alwayk thought!” he began.
Reg‟s lower lip began to tremble.
“You khout and kcream at everyone and kcare the witk out of people. What‟k poor Danny ever
done to you? You khould be akhamed of yourkelf!”
Reg began to whimper as he looked between Barry and Scooter.
“Leave my ruddy dustbins alone in future!” Bembridge yelled vehemently.
“Danny lovek your daughter!” Barry interrupted. “You haven‟t heard him talk like I have! He‟k
been almokt in teark kome timek, he mikkek her ko much!”
At that point Quilt piped up.
“If it‟s still alright with you, I‟d really like that caddy of tea…”
Reg fled, yelling “Alright, alright! You win! I‟ll help! Just get those imbeciles out of my house!”
Scooter ran after him calling “The clock‟s broken you know… And those roof tiles weren‟t any
“Aaaarrrgghhhh!....” was the last thing they heard from Reg Stote for the rest of the morning.

It was around noon when Reg finally reappeared. He looked like a broken man and he stooped as
he walked. He was clutching a picture in one great hand but so massive was his pudgy fist, it was
impossible to see who the picture was of.
Scooter could see the edges of the frame and he quietly left the dining room and crept into the
hall. When he returned he had a stern grin on his face.
“There‟s lots you don‟t know about what‟s been going on in the village Mister Stote.” he said.
Then Granny spoke.
“And there‟s even more that you three don‟t know yet!” she said, turning to Barry, Danny and
Reg sighed a deep sigh and sat down. “Emerald dear, go and make us all a nice pot of tea would
you.” Then noticing the hopeful look on Quilt‟s face he added “Mister Quilt‟s favourite.” Quilt
“It seems I‟ve been missing the news for a while. You had better start at the beginning and get me
up to date with events.”
To begin with, everyone tried to speak at once until Reg held his hands up.
“Sorry. One at a time. I‟m not as quick in the head as I used to be.”
Granny looked at the others for approval and began the story at the beginning. She told Reg about
when the river had first dried up, and the conversation with Grimmsbottom at the Waycross fayre.
Then she went on at length about Spottiswood and the underhand plans to buy up parts of the
village. Reg actually began to bristle again here, as he had met Grimmsbottom a few times in the
past many years ago and he had been singularly unimpressed with the mans arrogant attitude even
Then Granny told Reg about the deeds to the land, and how only Lady Murgatroyd could sort that
one out.
Finally she explained as much to Danny, Barry and Scooter, as to Reg himself, what she and
Albert had found out that very night when they had „retrieved‟ the land deeds from
Grimmsbottoms house.
“He‟s going to shove a ruddy great toll road right past my front gate?” Reg stormed. “Over my
dead body he will!”
At that moment the dining room door opened and a huge scruffy figure with sticks in his hair, and
smelling like a compost heap came in. He was carrying a fearsome looking axe.
He glanced around the room in a dazed, half confused kind of way, almost as if his brain was a
few seconds out of sych with his eyes. Then he noticed one particular person who seemed to be
trying to hide behind Emerald.
“Daannnyyy!...” he cried, raising the axe and stomping round the table leaving a little trail of
manure in his wake.
“Oh God!” Quilt wailed, almost falling backwards off his chair.
But it was Reg who intervened.
“Gort!” he commanded. The filthy monstrosity shopped in his shambling tracks and looked at his
“Gort! No! Danny is our friend. You mustn‟t hurt him!”
Gort looked a bit baffled but slowly his look of confusion turned to a smile. “Daaannnyyy…
Friennndddd!” he slurred.
Reg smiled at Danny who had tears standing in his eyes at being called a friend by Emeralds
“Mind you, if I ever find out…” Reg began ominously.
“Dad!” Emerald cut him short, her voice calling sharply from inside her paper bag.
Gort sat cross legged on the floor and Granny continued the story, filling Reg in with every piece
of information they could think of. She didn‟t mention any of the strange slightly spooky goings
on over the past few nights however, for fear of letting Reg think they were all slightly potty.
“So it seems that young Jimmy is still down there somewhere.” Reg concluded.
“With no lamp in the dark, he‟s probably just holed up in some corner, waiting for one of you to
find him.”
Barry and Danny looked at each other and didn‟t say what they actually thought had happened.
They had only just managed to convince Reg to help them, and Danny himself had a very tenuous
relationship with the man at present. To start telling him about biscuit stealing ghosts that played
poker probably wouldn‟t be the wisest thing to do.
“You goin‟ to let us see the picture you‟re „oldin?‟” Granny suddenly said, nodding toward Reg‟s
hand. Reg looked at Granny, then down at his hand still clutching the small gold frame. He shook
his head. It was Scooter who spoke next, much to the surprise of the others.
“It‟s Mrs. Stote, isn‟t it? She was a lovely lady.”
Reg‟s eyes filled with tears.
“How do you know?” he whispered. Scooter answered quietly.
“I saw the picture on the piano last night, before we got locked in with Danny.”
Reg stood up and stuffed the picture in his pocket.
“I don‟t want to talk about it.” he said gruffly. A tense atmosphere filled the air for a moment but
it was Quilt who broke it.
“Well, are we going to look for Jimmy and sort this river business out, or not?”
A babble of grateful conversation broke out and they all started to get up and go through to the
parlour, led by Barry who already knew the way.
“We‟ll need kome lampk!” he said to Reg who instantly looked panic stricken. He hadn‟t yet
quite grasped Barry‟s peculiar lisp and it still took a good few moments for him to translate the
apparent garble into anything intelligible.
“Oh. Right.” he boomed a moment later. “Lamps. Yes, I‟ve got plenty of those and a large can of
oil in the cellar so you can fill your own as well.”
“Leave the rabbits on the floor.” Scooter suddenly added, tugging Reg‟s coat sleeve.
“Er.. Oh… Right.” Reg muttered mindlessly.
“And mind that last step. Ladder‟s not too good!”
“Is he always like that?” Reg whispered to Quilt.
“It‟s usually aimed at me, so I wouldn‟t take too much notice of whatever he says.” Quilt
chuckled, this time being quite wrong.
They made their way down into the cellar and Reg lit the torch in the sconce on the wall with a
“Oh wow!” Quilt exclaimed. “Matches! Do you get those imported too?”
Reg chuckled and threw the little wooden box to Quilt.
“You can get most stuff if you want to pay enough. The trouble with these little villages is you‟re
all so behind the times.”
Quilt beamed at the little box of matches and put his new pride and joy in his pocket.
The lamps were all filled with fresh oil and then lit, and the little party followed Reg through the
door and down the steps into the tunnel below where they gathered around the huge hulking
figure who was finding it impossible to stand up straight in the low arched space.
“Do you know where the river originates?” Quilt asked. Reg shook his head.
“I‟ve been down here a couple of times, that‟s all. It was Gort who discovered the tunnel some
years ago. I just came to see what it was all about. A smugglers tunnel you say? Makes sense
now. Gort might now more about the river. He‟s often down here. That‟s how he caught Danny
last night.”
Gort held up his lantern.
“Daannnyyyy…” he moaned jovially.
Danny moved over to stand nearer to Gort. He gulped and held his breath. Partly out of a still
lingering sense of fear, and partly because he couldn‟t stand the pong.
“Gort…” he began. “Do you know where the river is blocked up? Can you take us there?”
It wasn‟t Gort who replied.
“Won‟t do you any good!”
The company turned to stare in amazement at the owner of the voice.
It was councilor Spottiswood. There were three heavy looking ruffians behind him and they were
carrying evil looking knives.
Granny stepped forwards, laying one hand on Reg‟s arm to calm him and stop him doing
anything rash.
“Got yer lackys I see, Spotty.”
“Going to murder us all you slimy fat slug?” Quilt spat, stepping up beside Granny.
Spottiswood laughed and spoke in his greasiest tone.
“Ladies, Gentlemen. I‟m not going to hurt anyone! These lads are only here in case you choose to
try to hurt me. Why should I want to hurt you? You can‟t stop my plans now, and seeing as I‟m
not doing anything illegal, as I‟m sure the inestimable Alderman Quilt has already explained to
you, there‟s no need for trouble. In about twelve hours the land through your village becomes
mine. I‟ll get the road put through by the Waycross council, as they will be only too happy to take
the revenue raised by all the tolls paid for using it. And make no mistake, people will use it. Lots
of people. It will cut the journey to the coast by nearly two hours.”
“So you‟ll let the Waycross council have a cut of the tolls paid?” Quilt grated. “How much? Two
per cent? Three?, you greedy bast…”
“Albert, Albert!” Spottiswood interrupted smoothly. “How you misunderstand me. I‟m not going
to give them a small cut, I‟m giving them all of it!”
The company stared in blank confusion, totally at a loss as to what Spottiswood was up to. He
laughed. A long, slow gurgling laugh.
“Let me get him.” Barry growled, moving forwards.
“No, wait.” Danny whispered. “We have to find out what he‟s up to!”
“So what‟s in it for you?” Quilt asked, trying to sound only casually interested.
“Let‟s say, I‟m not one for a slow profit.” Spottiswood replied. “I prefer the sudden chase. The
quick kill.”
“You‟re going to sell it out to the highest bidder.” Granny said, now understanding more than the
councilor realised.
“Well done madam!” Spottiswood cackled condescendingly. “I‟m going to see the planning stage
through to completion, which will be about another week or so, then I‟ll sell my land to the
highest bidder, as you say.”
“With the toll road running right through it, you‟ll get just about whatever you ask for it.” Quilt
spat. “You snake! You‟d ruin our village, peoples lives, just for money?”
The councilor looked truly baffled by Quilt‟s outburst.
“But of course. Why not? If Waycross don‟t want to pay enough, then I‟m sure your grubby little
pig sty of a village will, just to get rid of the road.”
“I still don‟t see how Grimmsbottom is involved.” Quilt said. “He can‟t make a penny out of this
and stay out of jail. Why‟s he doing it?”
Spottiswood‟s answer came as a total surprise to all of them.
“He isn‟t going to get a penny. He doesn‟t even really know what‟s going on, poor fool. He
thinks Waycross council is buying the land and your village will get a share of the tolls.”
“Liar!” Granny suddenly spat, stepping forwards. “Grimmsbottom is up to his stinking backside
in all this and I‟ll prove it! You‟re just coverin‟ up for him!”
Spottiswood laughed. “I think you‟ll find it hard to prove.”
“Then why did he have the deeds to the land and the letters to the builders about the road hidden
at his house?”
For the first time, Spottiswood looked a little unsure of himself.
“What makes you say that?” he said with a faint tremor in his voice.
“Because we found them!” Quilt yelled, pulling the documents triumphantly from his pocket.
Spottiswood stared at the bundle of documents in panic and confusion for a moment, then he
regained his composure.
“Very well done, Albert. Very well done. I suppose you called a magistrate to the scene when you
found them? Or an officer of the law?” He smirked at the look of uncertainty on Quilts face.
“No? You didn‟t? How remiss of you! So you have no proof that that‟s where you found them.
And there was us poor innocent little Waycross councilors, reporting a break in to the town hall
offices only a few hours ago. I should have guessed you might try Grimmsbottoms house, but no
matter. We have evidence you broke in at the town hall office. We‟ll claim you found them there.
You have no way to prove otherwise.”
“You‟re missing out one rather important bit of information.” Quilt crowed, trying not to laugh.
“You seem to measure everyone else by Grimmsbottom‟s standards. When he became an
Alderman, he sat on his backside and didn‟t try to be anything better.”
“What is better than the Alderman of Waycross?” Spottiswood spat. “The Alderman of this little
hole you call Lower Worter?” he laughed again at his own towering self confidence. Quilt smiled
back in such a mild way, that Spottiswood‟s self confidence began to crack and even his own
friends had no idea what he was up to.
Quilt breathed on his finger nails and polished them on his lapel.
“No, not Alderman of Lower Worter… Magistrate of Lower Worter!”
Spottiswood‟s chin almost hit the floor.”
“You mean…” Danny began. Quilt chuckled.
“I mean, we didn‟t need to get a magistrate to confirm our story. I am a magistrate! I‟ve been one
for more than three years. You can check with the courts in Upper Worter if you like.”
Barry laughed out loud and clapped Quilt on the shoulder. Even Granny touched his arm and said
“Well done, Albert!”
Spottiswood wasn‟t beaten yet though.
“Very well. You‟ve got the deeds, but they‟re still completely legal. If you‟re a magistrate, you‟ll
know that Quilt. By teatime tonight, I‟ll own all the land over our heads and beyond. There‟s still
nothing any of you can do about that.”
“You‟re wrong there, Spotty. There is someone here who can stop you!” Granny said quietly.
“Sorry about this gentlemen.” she added looking at her friends. “I was hopin‟ it wouldn‟t come to
Granny bent forwards and put her hands up her skirt and tugged. She wriggled her rear end a few
times and with a heave, she pulled a large bed bolster out from under her clothes. Immediately
her dresses hung on her like tents. She tugged on her waist band and drew the belt tight about her,
suddenly changing herself from a size eighteen to a size twelve. Scooter whistled in amazement.
“And for my nest trick…” he murmured. Granny wasn‟t finished yet though.
She raised her hands and began pulling several long hair pins from the tangled knot of hair she
always had piled tightly on her head. With a shake and a tussle of her hands, long silver curls
cascaded down over her shoulders. She turned her head sideways and spat her tobacco to the
ground. “Yuk. Awful stuff!” she exclaimed. Finally and to the utter amazement of them all she
put her fingers in her mouth and drew out a full set of rotten, black false teeth. Underneath were
her own gleaming white ones. She stood up straight, no longer stooping over as an old hunched
woman and they were all amazed to see she was almost as tall as Quilt. He blinked at her and
actually opened both eyes!
“Lady Murgatroyd!” Reg chuckled. I wondered if you‟d pop up.”
“You knew?” Quilt gasped.
Reg shrugged. “I‟d always suspected.”
“Hello Reg.” Granny replied in a clear well spoken tone. Gone was the voice of the cackling old
“Now, Alderman Quilt,” she added. “If you would be so good as to pass me the deeds to my
land?...” They all noted how she emphasised „my‟.
Quilt spluttered and stammered a moment then passed the documents to Lady Murgatroyd as the
others stood and gaped, still hardly believing what they had just witnessed.
“Does anyone have a pen?” she asked mildly.
“I have one, your Ladyship.” Emerald replied, passing a gold tipped quill to her. “Just take the
cap off. It‟s freshly inked.”
One at a time, with careful studied strokes, the deeds were signed in front of them all. Even
Spottiswood was too stunned to say anything or move.
“Would you like countersign them please. M‟lud?” she said to Quilt. He smirked and flushed. It
was the first time anyone had called him M‟lud.
“With pleasure, M‟lady.” he replied, taking the deeds and adding his signature to them. When he
had finished, he turned to Spottiswood.
“I don‟t think we‟ll be needing these anymore.” he said, tearing up the letters to the road builders
and dropping the small pieces on the tunnel floor. Danny, Barry, Scooter, Emerald and even Reg
let out a loud cheer.
Gort jumped up and down yelling “Alberrrtttt!...”
Scooter snarled like a caged animal and looked as if he were about to attack them. Then he
composed himself again and stood up straight.
“You may have won this part of the fight, but you still can‟t touch me for anything. I didn‟t break
the law. It‟s Grimmsbottom you want. With him out of the way, I‟ll be running Waycross within
six months. You may have got your land back, but you still don‟t have the river. Your village is
dead and there won‟t be a soul living here this time next year! And you‟ll never find
“Oh, I think we will you know…” Lady Murgatryoyd said gently, casually walking over toward
“May I?” she said to one of the armed henchmen at his side, who immediately gave up his knife
to her. They were little more than hired thugs and were way out of their league here.
Spottiswood stepped back a pace.
“You can‟t scare me with that. You won‟t hurt me, and anything I say under threat of torture
doesn‟t count in a court of law, right Quilt?” he looked over to Albert for agreement and Quilt
grudgingly nodded.
“Silly man. I‟m not going to hurt you.” Lady Murgatroyd said lightly. “We just want to find that
nasty man Grimmsbottom.”
Suddenly, she lunged at spottiswood, burying the dagger up to its hilt in the fat mans belly.
Everyone gasped, and Danny ran forwards but Lady Murgatroyd wasn‟t finished yet. With a deft
stroke she ripped the knife upwards, spilling the contents of Spottiswood‟s stomach onto the
tunnel floor.
“Urk!” Quilt gulped, almost afraid to look. Mind you, he looked anyway.
Spottiswood stared at the floor, as did everyone else.
Feathers. Lots of them. Lady Murgatroyd looked at the now suddenly thinner councilor and said
“I think we use the same soft furnisher.” Then she stretched forwards and ripped the thick black
wig and false beard and moustache from the man‟s head, revealing the deception she had
suspected for some time.
“Grimmsbottom!” Quilt yelled. Then he leaped forwards and planted an almighty punch on the
Aldermand nose. It landed with a satisfying crunch and „Grimy‟ collapsed to the floor.
“That‟s for the suitcase!” Albert grated, rubbing his knuckles while Lady Murgatroyd laughed.
Chapter 19.

“Thiiisss waaayyyy…” Gort moaned, waving down the tunnel ahead.
“We‟d better tie this slug up first.” Quilt stated, nudging Grimmsbottom‟s prone form on the
tunnel floor.
“I‟ll fix that.” Reg boomed, causing mortar to drop from between the bricks over their heads. He
climbed back up the steps and vanished into his cellar for a moment, to return carrying a length of
stout rope.
Danny took the rope, kneeled beside Grimmsbottom and began tying his hands securely behind
his back.
“You‟ll have to leave his feet!” Quilt said grudgingly. “The snake will need to walk.”
“So, back to our other problem then.” Lady Murgatroyd said. The company could still hardly
believe that this elegant and dignified woman was in fact their old friend Granny Grayling.
“We need to find the river, and see what‟s blocking it.” she concluded.
Barry slapped Grimmsbottom around the face none too gently a few times to bring him round.
“Come on you rat! Wake up!” he growled menacingly.
Grimmsbottom groaned and slowly opened his eyes. He stared from one face to another for a
moment then remembered where he was and what had happened.
“You hit me!” he wailed at Quilt! “I can‟t believe you did that!”
Quilt grinned and flexed his fingers. “Shut up and do as you‟re told or I‟ll hit you again.” he
“Of all the twisted, crooked conniving schemers I‟ve ever encountered you take the biscuit! Why
the double deception? Why pretend to be two different people?”
It was Scooter who answered.
“A brilliant plan actually Rupert. Or is it Ralph?”
Grimmsbottom smiled with pride.
“Was rather clever, wasn‟t it?”
“What? What?” Quilt pressed.
Scooter snorted. “Our little weasel here knew he couldn‟t make any money out of all this as
Alderman Grimmsbottom when he came up with his plan, so he had the brainwave of inventing
Spottiswood. Old Spotty would do all the real work and in the end, he‟d also take all the blame.
In addition he‟d make all the money. Then Grimmsbottom, as Spottiswood, could simple give
himself all the profits on the quiet and then Spottiswood would disappear.” Scooter looked at
Grimmsbottom admiringly. “A really clever idea. And no doubt, when Spottiswood was gone,
you‟d stand up in the council meetings and go on about how you never trusted him or whatever,
and you‟d be in the clear, still Alderman, and filthy rich. Your own way of getting back at Lower
Worter for all the money you lost in those ferry shares years ago.”
Grimmsbottom glowered.
“Everyone thought it was hilarious when that blasted company almost bankrupt me. I vowed then
that your grotty little hovel of a village would pay.”
“Didn‟t anyone ever wonder why Grimmsbottom and Spottiswood were never in the same place
at the same time?” Quilt asked. “I mean, what about at the council meetings?”
Grimmsbottom laughed.
“Your meetings may always be very proper and well attended, but in Waycross, you had to drag
councilors to the meetings. Nobody was ever there regularly and it was easy to make excuses for
both my characters.”
“But if you were so broke, where did you get all the money to pay for the land you were buying?
How would you have paid the road builders?”
Again Grimmsbottom laughed.
“Are you joking? The land was worth peanuts! Even you could have bought it. And as Alderman
and Spottiswood, I was drawing double wages every week! As for the builders, they were never
going to be paid. I promised the lowest bidder for the job a five percent share of road tolls for the
next ten years. I had builders begging me for the contract! I even earned a nice little back-hander
from that!”
“What a wakte of talent!” Barry sympathized. “You could have been a really good town leader.”
Quilt had no such feelings for the man.
“You really do give „two faced‟ a whole new meaning.” he concluded.
“Thiissss wayyyy…” Gort persisted, hopping up and down excitedly and pointing down the
tunnel again.
The company followed the excited young man although even without lamps, it would have been
hard to miss him due to the rather unsavoury trail of vaporous gas he exuded.
“Don‟t get near him with a lantern…” Quilt warned.
“Why?” Barry asked.
“He might explode.”
The party moved down the passage at a good pace, with Grimmsbottom bringing up the rear,
being dragged along by the hulking figure of Reg Stote. He wanted to complain about the tight
rope around his wrists, and the way that Reg kept deliberately yanking him along but he knew
better than to say anything. He just muttered under his breath. When Reg heard him he bellowed
“Say something, you little rat?”
Grimmsbottom shook his head rapidly in silence.
After about twenty minutes they reached the end of the tunnel and saw the dried river bed that
crossed their path.
“Thiisss wayyyy…” Gort droned excitedly, hopping off the ledge at the end of the path and
scuttling down the underground cave.
The others clambered down onto the dusty and stony river bed and Barry and Quilt offered to
help Lady Murgatroyd and Emerald although Danny quickly bustled in, insisting that Emerald
would be alright with him.
Barry stood at the head of the party, peering into the gloom to see Gort‟s lamp bobbling along
about thirty yards in front.
“Tell him to wait for uk.” he asked Reg, who nodded in understanding.
“Gort!” he thundered, causing the cave walls to drop assorted stones and dust all over them.
“Slow down a bit! We can‟t keep up!”
“Soorrrryyyy…” Gort‟s voice drifted back to them.
They moved off and followed Gort‟s light with Quilt and Lady Murgatroyd at the front. Quilt was
obviously ill at ease with the woman beside him.
“Anything the matter?” she asked politely. Quilt shrugged but said nothing.
“You‟re not really very happy, are you?” Lady Murgatroyd continued.
“It‟s just that, well, I‟m not really sure who you are now.” Quilt said sadly. “I thought I knew
you. I thought we were, well, friends…”
Lady Murgatroyd smiled and took his hand and squeezed it.
“You prefers it if I talks like this Albert?” Granny suddenly said at his side.
Quilt smiled.
“Yes… Well, no… Well, I‟m not sure really. It‟s just that I don‟t know you like this. I knew
Granny, and well, sort of…” his voice trailed off into silence.
“You preferred Granny.” Lady Murgatroyd said gently. “I understand.”
“Oh no, it‟s not that.” Quilt said quickly. “Don‟t get me wrong. I think your, your, well, really
dignified. You look amazing! I can‟t believe you really look like that.”
Lady Murgatroyd chuckled. “I‟ll take that as a compliment, but am I to understand you liked me
better as the old Granny?”
Quilt chose his words carefully.
“It‟s not that I prefer you as Granny, it‟s just that you were sort of, well, more cuddly.”
“Albert!” Lady Murgatroyd gasped, turning a rich shade of beetroot.
“I‟m sorry!” Quilt blurted. “I didn‟t mean to offend you!”
Lady Murgatroyd laughed and said “No offence taken. That‟s probably the nicest thing anyone‟s
ever said to me.” She squeezed his hand again and Quilt harrumphed, moving his hand away
“Why the secret though?” he said a moment later. “I mean, if you‟re this Lady Murgatroyd, and
you own all this land and so on, why did you give it all up and pretend to be the old lady? The
water diviner.”
“Oh, that was no pretence!” Lady Murgatroyd replied. “I really was a diviner, and I really did
lose the ability a few years ago. I tried to ignore it when I was younger, but in the end I realised it
was who I was. Nearly everyone in the village was nervous of Lady Murgatroyd, and I knew no
one would ever come to me for help while I held that position.”
“So you gave it all up and pretended to be an old Granny just to help other people?” Quilt was
truly astounded. “You really are amazing! I don‟t think I could have done anything like that.”
Lady Murgatroyd laughed and said “But Albert, you have! What have you been doing for the past
week? You‟ve put yourself in all kinds of danger, just to help the village.”
“That‟s different!” Quilt said gruffly.
“Of course it isn‟t. We are all good at certain things. You‟ve proved to everyone just recently that
you‟re a natural leader, and an excellent investigator. Where is the cowardly Alderman we all
knew even a few days ago? No. You will make a brilliant senior magistrate, or even a Judge one
“Me!” Quilt exclaimed. “I hardly think so! Anyway, how did you make Lady Murgatroyd
disappear, and then come back as Granny Grayling?”
“That was easy” the Lady replied. “I actually knew a little old lady just Like Granny when I was
young. She was the family Nanny. I based myself on her.”
“So you‟re not really anything like Granny.” Quilt concluded sadly.
“Of course I am!” she replied. “I‟ve been Granny Grayling for the best part of twenty years.
Whoever I was pretending to be at the beginning has long since vanished. Granny is really who I
always was, but without the privileged life of Lady Murgatroyd. I‟m still the same person.”
Quilt smiled at her, but he wasn‟t really convinced.
“I expect when all this is over, you‟ll go back to the big house in Upper Worter where you used to
“Not if you don‟t want me to.” the voice of Granny answered coyly.
Quilt took her hand and squeezed it. Behind them, Barry saw him and nudged Danny. They
smiled at each other.
“Junction ahead!” the voice of Reg boomed suddenly.
The company looked ahead and saw Gort bouncing up and down on a rocky outcrop, pointing to
the three tunnels branching in front of them.
“It‟s one of theeessseee.” he cried.
“Which tunnel?” Reg spat, yanking Grimmsbottom‟s rope.
The battered Alderman didn‟t answer.
“I said which tunnel?” Reg roared.
“Stop yelling in my ear. It hurts!” Grimmsbottom replied haughtily.
Reg spluttered and trembled like a volcano about to pop its cork.
“And stop spluttering on me. It‟s wet.”
“What?!” Reg yelled, bringing more loose stone and rubble down on them.
“Hold on Reg. I‟ll deal with this.” Quilt said calmly, strolling over to Grimmsbottom and rolling
back his right sleeve. Rupert cringed and stepped back a pace.
“I don‟t know! I don‟t know! Really! I never went right down the tunnels. I heard about the river
being blocked, and my assistant Billy said he‟d read about some underground tunnels around here
when he was sorting old district documents. Apparently an old vicar hereabouts got in trouble a
long time ago for smuggling. I guessed that there might be a connection between the tunnels and
the river stopping. I‟d also just been reading about the twenty five year leases on the land round
here. That‟s when I got the idea about the road and everything. It all just finally fell into place
“But you must have come down here to see what was stopping the river?” Danny said doubtfully.
“It might have started up again and ruined your plans.”
Grimmsbottom nodded frantically as Quilt flexed his fingers.
“Yes, of course, but I hate confined spaces. I hate the dark. I feel sick even now! I just waited in
the tunnel near the river bank. It was my assistant Billy who explored down here and told me the
water would never get through again.”
Their hearts sank at these words.
“But surely there would be some way to get the river flowing again?” Danny urged.
Grimmsbottom shook his head. “Not if Billy said there wasn‟t.”
A thought occurred to Quilt at that moment.
“How did you get down in these tunnels? The only way in is through Barry‟s house, or Reg‟s
Grimmsbottom gave a short laugh.
“There‟s another hidden shaft just near the river bank. It‟s behind a sharp ridge of rock and leads
straight up and into a small copse close to the edge of the Old Wood. Billy found out about it in
the old court reports about the dodgy vicar. It was an escape route, if the smugglers were ever
found out. Trouble is, it was so unused, that when the vicar did get caught down here, he scuttled
up the ladder and found the top completely overgrown with brambles. He was trapped. It took
three officers of the law an hour to get him free. They were pulling thorns out of his bum for a
“Ko what do we do now?” Barry said as they all approached Gort at the junction ahead.
“We looked down theke tunnelk lakt night and gave up.”
“There‟s loads more tunnels branching off down each one.” Danny added.
“Gort, don‟t you know?” he said, looking at the smelly scarecrow.
Gort shook his head sadly.
Grimmsbottom grinned wickedly.
“Told you you‟d never get your river back!”
He chuckled with glee until Albert punched him on the nose again.
Grimmsbottom sat down heavily on his backside and clutched his face.
“What did you do that for?” he wailed.
Even Reg said as much. “If he doesn‟t know where to go next, thumping him won‟t help.” he
Quilt flexed his fingers again and blew on his knuckles.
“I know, but it makes me feel better.”
“Well now were really stuck.” Danny said. “We‟ll never find the river in this maze, and it‟s far
too risky to split up and search the tunnels.”
Quilt looked sadly at Lady Murgatroyd and said “It‟s a shame you can‟t divine water any more.”
The Lady sighed and turned to Reg.
“It‟s time.” she said gently.
Reg blustered and coughed. “Don‟t know what you mean!” he stated unconvincingly.
“Time for the truth Reg.” Lady Murgatroyd said. The whole company turned and looked at Reg
“What are you all staring at? I can‟t help!”
“What happened to your wife, Reg? What happened to Ruby?” the voice of Granny asked gently.
Reg looked imploringly at Lady Murgatroyd.
“No, don‟t. Please.” he whimpered.
The eyes of Granny continued to stare at him and eventually Reg gave a little sob and drew the
small picture from his pocket. In the flickering orange lamp light they could all see the beautiful
young woman in the little painting.
“Mum.” Emerald choked through her paper bag, clutching at Danny‟s hand. He put an arm round
her shoulders and drew her close so that she rested her head on his shoulder. Well, the paper bag
Reg looked at Emerald and spoke directly to her.
“She was a lovely woman. Help anyone, she would. That was the trouble. When it came to it
though, no one helped her!” He said this last bit with real venom in his voice.
“What happened Dad?” Emerald asked.
“It was when she was giving birth to you. She wasn‟t well and had to stay in the cottage
“The old one? down by the river?” Quilt asked.
Reg nodded.
“Things were going fairly well, but there was a terrible storm that day. Rained solid for ten hours.
She was weak, Emerald had just been delivered. The nurses was off tending her. Ruby was
calling for help, telling them the river had burst it‟s banks upstream. The hospital was going to be
flooded. But no one paid her any heed. She tried to get up but she couldn‟t.”
Reg started to cry and Granny laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.
“Tell „em the rest.” she urged gently. There was a total silence among them all and even
Grimmsbottom was holding his breath.
“About eleven thirty, the water hit. A solid wall. Took the whole west wing of the building with
“And Ruby, your wife?” Danny asked tenderly. Reg nodded and sobbed, a great, deep wracking
sob that brought Danny‟s heart into his mouth.
“They found her two days later in the Wood. She drowned in the first rush of water they
reckoned. She didn‟t suffer much.”
The company stood in silence, chilled by Reg‟s tale and now understanding where the man‟s
great anger all these years had come from.
“Why didn‟t anyone listen when she warned them of the flood?” Quilt asked, but before Reg
could answer, Danny took the question that final step further.
“How did she know the water was coming in the first place?”
Reg looked at Granny and she nodded, already knowing the answer.
“She was a diviner!” Reg cried.
All of the company except Granny drew in their breath in surprise but the loudest cry came from
“Dad! Why didn‟t you ever tell me?”
“What for?” Reg cried. “What difference would it have made?”
“If she was a diviner, then why didn‟t the nurses take any notice of her?” Danny asked
“Nobody knew.” Reg replied. “She didn‟t want that knowledge, or power. Call it what you like.
She thought it was a curse. We were a quiet couple, and she was afraid that if anyone found out
she could hear water, we‟d never get any peace.”
“And because no one listened, or helped, she died and you blamed the villagers.” Granny said
finally. “No wonder you were so horrible to me to begin with when I met you all those years
ago.” she added.
“I‟m sorry now.” Reg replied. “You were a diviner and that just reminded me of what happened
to Ruby.”
“Well, it‟s time to lay Ruby to rest Reg.” Granny said.
“You mean?...” he began. Granny nodded.
“No!” he cried, standing up straight suddenly and banging his head on the cave roof.
“Never! You leave her alone!”
“Ik he talking about Ruby?” Barry whispered to Quilt.
“I‟m not sure…” he replied.
Granny turned to face Emerald.
“Emmy, my dear, come here.” It was the first time she had been called Emmy since she was a
little girl and she started at the name. Granny looked tenderly at her and said “It‟s time you took
that bag off your „ead.”
The company recoiled and drew in their breath.
“I can‟t!” Emerald cried. “I‟m so ugly you‟ll all run away, or turn to stone or something.”
“Now, now, Emmy,” Granny replied. “Just you trust your Aunty Lilly.”
Emerald sobbed and tilted her head. “Aunty Lilly? You can‟t be! I remember her. She used to
visit us sometimes when I was little. She went away when I was about seven… Where have you
Granny tugged at her long white tresses and pulled off a wig. Underneath, she had a neatly
trimmed light brown bobbed haircut, streaked here and there with touches of Gray. Although she
was in her late seventies, she didn‟t look a day over fifty.
Reg Stote stood frozen to the spot, eyes wide with amazement and brimming with tears.
“Lilly!” he breathed. Then he rushed to Granny and swept her off the ground in a huge hug. He
buried his huge bushy face in her neck and blubbed like a baby.
“I‟m losing the plot here…” Quilt said to Danny.
“Granny, Lady Murgatroyd, Aunt Lilly? Who on earth is she?”
Reg lifted his tear streaked face and beamed at Danny.
“This is Lilly. Lilly Prendergast, Ruby‟s sister!”

“Oh God!” Quilt moaned, collapsing to sit on the floor.
“Split personality, or what?!”
Reg put Granny back on the ground and wiped his eyes. “That‟s how you knew Ruby was a
diviner.” he said. The strange old woman now standing before them nodded.
“She was my blood. Divining sometimes runs in a family.” Then she turned to Emerald again.
“So now you see my dear, you needn‟t wear the paper bag any more.”
Emerald took another step back.
“Don‟t touch me!” she cried. “You can‟t take the bag off. I‟m still hideous. I‟ll scare everyone
This time it was Reg who spoke.
“No you won‟t my dear.” he said gently. “The paper bag was never there to hide your face.”
“Then why make her wear one?” Barry asked, surprised by the sudden turn of events.
“It‟s the only thing that stops the sounds of hidden water getting through.” Granny replied.
“Then, you mean,…” Emerald said falteringly.
“Yes my dear.” Granny replied. “You‟re a diviner too. I was never sure, but now I think I am.”
She reached forwards and pulled the bag from Emerald‟s head.
Everyone gasped in total awe. Danny gasped the loudest.
Long, luxuriant black locks spilled down over Emeralds shoulders and she gazed at them with
deep green smouldering eyes. Her soft full lips smiled.
She was beautiful. More than that, she was completely and utterly stunning.
“What‟s the matter?” she said nervously when nobody spoke. “Am I really that awful?” She
raised her hand to her cheek and touched her milk white skin.
Danny‟s jaw was hanging open like a cat flap.
“You‟re so lovely…” he whispered.
Emerald flushed and hung her head.
“Oh my Emmy!” Reg sobbed, hugging his daughter. “I‟m so sorry. I just didn‟t want you to go
through what your mother had to endure.”
“That‟s alright dad.” she replied, hugging Reg tightly. “But if I‟m a diviner, then Aunt Lilly here,
or Granny, had better tell me what to do.”
“That‟s the stuff my girl!” Granny cried, patting Emerald on the arm. “Let‟s find this river and
get things sorted!”
“You‟re so lovely…” Danny muttered again, in some kind of fixed trance. Barry snapped his
fingers in front of his eyes a few times. “Danny? Danny!” he said sternly.
Danny looked slowly at Barry and said “She‟s so lovely…”
Barry tutted and groaned.
“We won‟t be able to a thing with him while he‟k like thik.”
Granny talked to Emerald quietly for a few minutes away to one side, telling the others it was
„ladies talk‟ and that „they should keep out of the way‟. Emerald nodded several times, putting
one hand to the side of her head. Granny moved her hand a few times and said “That‟s better.”
A while later the two ladies came back to the others and Granny said “She‟s still got a lot to learn,
but I think she‟s got the „ang of it.”
Emerald was holding her right temple and seemed to be listening to the right hand tunnel fork
more than the other two.
“It‟s down here. Definitely!” she stated confidently a moment later.
“Great stuff!” Quilt cried.
“Brilliant!” Barry added.
“She‟s so lovely…” Danny muttered.
Then Reg suddenly boomed from behind them.
“Where‟s that rat Grimmsbottom?!”
They all turned to see Reg holding up the rope. The end was frayed and Grimmsbottom was no
longer attached to the end of it. Barry took the rope from Reg and studied it for a moment.
“The crafty ferret cut it on the rock‟k while weren‟t looking!”
“Well never catch him now!” Quilt growled. “I should have thumped him harder and left him
where he was.”
“Can‟t be helped.” Granny said. “We‟ve more important things to do, like findin‟ the river and
unblockin‟ it.”
“That could still be a problem though.” Quilt replied. “You all heard what old Grimy said. He
was convinced we‟d never clear the problem.”
“Just as we‟ll I‟m here then!” a strange voice from within the gloom of the tunnel announced.
They all turned to see a faint yellow light in the darkness getting closer and closer.
“Who is it?” Quilt yelled at the newcomer, stepping protectively in front of the ladies.
A medium height figure dressed in long grubby brown robes appeared out of the darkness. His
cloak was cowled about his neck and his robes were tied at the waist with a length of rope. Thin
wire framed spectacles were propped precariously on the end of his extremely long and pointed
nose. He was as bald as a coot.
“Oh no!” Quilt exclaimed.
“Oakus Pokus!”
“At your service.” the newcomer replied, nodding to each of them in turn.
“What‟r you doin‟ „ere?” Granny said in a sharp tone. Oakus shrugged.
“I came when Bembridge sent for me.” he replied. “Got your letter this morning, by the way.” he
added, looking at Scooter.
“Letter? What Letter?” Quilt said in an irritated tone.
Scooter spoke up.
“I said that Oakus would have something to do with all this. I had a feeling we‟d need his talents,
so I sent for him.”
“But how did he know where to come? How did you know where to direct him?..” Quilt‟s voice
grew more suspicious sounding as he spoke.
Scooter chuckled and tapped the side of his nose. “Seein‟ things in advance has its uses
sometimes.” he cackled.
“Well, have you seen this pyromaniac blowing the place to bits in your dreams?” Quilt said with
“Now, now, Albert…” Oakus said. “That was a simple miscalculation of ingredients. Just a little
error with fractions.”
“An error with fractions!” Quilt yelled. “You blew the bloody village to bits! My toenails still
give off sparks when I cut them!”
“What kind of little error?” Barry enquired, ignoring Quilt‟s outburst.
Oakus waved his hands theatrically. “I used four pounds of potassium in a potion instead of four
ounces.” he said simply.
Quilt groaned and held his head in his hands.
“I hope you lot know what you‟re doing.” he moaned.
Granny looked at her companions and thought for a bit. Then she said firmly “We‟ve gotten this
far, more by luck than judgement maybe. Well now we‟s got a chance to fix things once and fer
all, I think we ought to take whatever risks we need to.”
The others all nodded in agreement and Quilt finally said “Well, alright. But don‟t say you
weren‟t warned by me!”
“Righto! this way then!” Emerald said brightly, skipping down the tunnel beside Gort who held
his lamp aloft to light the way ahead.
“That‟s my little Emmy!” Reg was saying proudly to Oakus.
“She‟s so lovely…” Danny mumbled behind them.
Granny and Quilt continued a somewhat heated debate as to the merits of Oakus Pokus and Barry
brought up the rear with Scooter.
“We still never found Jimmy.” Bembridge was saying.
“No, I know.” Barry replied. “I‟ve been looking out for him all the time though.”
They both sighed sadly.
“Perhaps he found his way back to yours!” Scooter added optimistically.
“Let‟k hope ko.” Barry answered. “Let‟k hope ko.”

About twenty yards down the new tunnel the old river bed forked again. Emerald led them
confidently down the right hand path and then right again at the next fork.
A while tater, several tunnels crossed and she had to stand and concentrate a while as the others
stood in hopeful silence. Once again she seemed confident of the way and after another ten
minutes they were all brought up against a solid wall of rocks and rubble.
“This is it!” she said.
The company gathered round and held up their lanterns.
“Oh my goodness!” Quilt whispered. “We‟ll never shift that lot!”
“There must be tons and tons of rocks!” Reg added. “It will take for ever to dig it all away!”
“What on earth d‟you think caused this to „appen?” Granny asked in her old voice.
Oakus looked nervously at the blockage and thought back to some of his more recent
experiments. He remembered one particularly large explosion a while back where a great chunk
of the escarpment had broken away and had tumbled crashing into the fields below. „A bit too
much potassium‟ he had thought at the time. His tower had only just escaped total demolition but
it did occur to him at that point that the river was somewhere down below. He prudently thought
not to mention any of it right now.
“Some kind of natural ground shift? Build up of river bed stones? Who knows?” he said
Then he proceeded to rummage in a shoulder bag he was carrying and draw out a few bags of evil
smelling powders.
“What are they?” Quilt asked dubiously.
“Just a few ingredients.” Oakus replied.
“No potassium I hope!” Quilt said sternly.
“Never use the stuff!” Oakus proclaimed. “Now if you lot will just stand back a bit…”
Oakus looked round but the cave behind him was empty.
“I didn‟t mean that far back!”
Quilt peered round the last corner they had just turned.
“What are you doing?” he called.
“Just setting a little fuse.” Oakus called out to them.
“Fuse? What for? Why do you want a fuse?”
“Do you want to be here when the blast goes off?”
Quilt was beside Oakus in an instant.
“Blast? What blast?!”
Oakus looked up at Quilt and sighed.
“You want me to clear this blockage or what?”
“Nobody said anything about blasting!” Quilt cried.
“That means explosions, and with you, that means luminous teeth for a month!”
“Did you think I was going to dig this lot away with a spoon?” Oakus said sarcastically. “Don‟t
worry. I know what I‟m doing.”
Quilt laughed bitterly.
“The last time you said that, all the local builders were on bonus for a year and we ended up with
a ruddy coal quarry where your house used to be!”
“I‟ll set a good long fuse. Stop panicking. We‟ll have at least forty five minutes to get out.”
“Forty five minutek ik cutting it a bit fine.” Barry suddenly said. He too had come back from
round the corner to stand beside Quilt. “It took uk at leakt that amount of time to get here.”
“Forty five minutes is as long as I can manage. Haven‟t got any longer fuse. Anyway, no doubt
we‟ll be running, and when the explosion goes off, it will take another few minutes for the blast
and the water to reach us at the other end of the tunnel.”
Quilt groaned. “See what I mean?” he said feebly. “We‟re doomed. Doomed!”
Oakus patted his little packets of powders into a crevice in the pile of rocks and lay what looked
like a long piece of string along the ground, tucking one end under his heap of ingredients.
“That one looks a bit heavy.” Quilt ventured dubiously, pointing at one of the cloth bags wedged
in the rocks.
“Weigh‟k about four poundk I would reckon” Barry affirmed .
“Got any matches?” Oakus asked, ignoring the comments.
Quilt brightened and proudly drew his box from his coat pocket, opened it and took a long thin
match out. He held it up like child showing off a new toy.
“Can I?” he said excitedly.
“Be my guest.” Oakus replied, stepping to one side.
Quilt kneeled down and struck his little match against the side of the box. He looked proudly at
the incandescent flower of fire suddenly glowing on the end of the stick for a moment, then
touched it to the end of the fuse which spluttered briefly and flared brightly, the little ball of fire
moving slowly along the ground.
He sat back and looked at the still burning match in his hand and grinned like an idiot.
“They‟re wonderful really…” he said, turning to Barry and Oakus.
The tunnel was empty.
Quilt blinked, looked at his match, then at the fuse which was now an inch shorter.
“Bastards!” he yelled, flinging the match in the air and scuttling off back down the tunnel. He
overtook the others on the second bend.

The company had to stop a few times, particularly for the ladies who couldn‟t hope to keep up the
“We‟d better move on.” Barry said urgently after the third halt and looking at his pocket watch.
“We‟ve got about another fifteen minutek, and it‟k quite a way to go yet.”
“You better leave me here!” Granny wheezed, hardly able to catch her breath. “I‟m just slowing
you all down.”
Quilt grabbed her arm and yanked her to her feet.
“You aren‟t sitting here like a lemon just to get blown up!” he yelled. “If you think I‟m walking
down that church aisle on my own, you‟re off your head!”
Granny blinked a few times, not having a clue what Quilt was on about, then the light slowly
dawned when Barry and Reg began clapping Albert on the shoulder, and cheering.
Her eyes went wide and her lower lip trembled.
“You mean…” she began.
“Let‟s get one thing straight here and now though!” Quilt said commandingly. “I‟m not marrying
Lady Murgatroyd, or Lilly Prendergast! It‟s Jemima Grayling or nothing!”
“Jemima?!” the others all chorused at once. None of them had ever heard Granny‟s first name
before. In fact it was a common assumption in the village that she didn‟t even have one.
Granny wasn‟t listening to them.
She flung her arms round Quilt‟s neck and planted a huge kiss on his lips.
They all cheered as she said rather meekly “Whatever you says Albert!”
“One thing though…” he added sternly. Granny looked at him apprehensively. “No more
Everyone laughed but Oakus cut the jollity of the occasion by saying “Er, we‟ve got about ten
minutes, if you‟ve nothing better to do.”
“Flamin „eck!” Quilt yelled, almost lifting Granny off the ground and carrying her down the
“She‟s so lovely…” Danny muttered from behind.
“Oh shut up!” the others all cried at once.
About five minutes later Scooter shouted “I can see the tunnel! Look! Just ahead!”
Indeed, about twenty yards away to the right they could see the entrance to the brick tunnel
leading to Reg‟s basement and safety.
At that moment however, the ground trembled violently bringing them all to their knees. Dust and
bits of stone fell about them and Emerald screamed as a deep booming rumble echoed up the
river bed at their backs. They scrambled to their feet and started to run but a few seconds later a
wall of air hit them like a tornado and they were flung to the ground again.
“You used potassium!” Quilt yelled angrily.
“About four poundk of it!” Barry exclaimed.
“Well I had to. Just a bit! Anyway, it was only three and a half!” Oakus yelled back defensively.
“Forty five minutes, my ars…”
“Albert!” Granny cut him short. “We‟ll „ave none „o that either!”
“Let‟s stop rabbiting and get out of here!” Scooter yelled. “In about two minutes we‟ll all be
ruddy fish!”
“We‟ll be alright when we get out of this river bed though won‟t we?” Emerald said hopefully as
they ran for the tunnel leading to safety.
“Note a hope my girl!” Scooter called to her.
“There‟s millions of tons of water stuck behind that wall. When it comes through here, this cave
and the smugglers tunnel will be filled from floor to ceiling.”
“We‟re never going to make it to Reg‟s cellar!” Quilt yelled, pulling granny up from the river bed
into the brick tunnel. “It‟s at least another five minutes away, even if we run like the clappers!”
“The escape shaft!” Scooter suddenly shouted.
“What?” Quilt called back over the growing sound of thundering water and rocks.
“The escape shaft! Of course!” Reg shouted.
“Grimmsbottom said it was near the edge of the river bank!”
“Behind an outcrop of rock!” Barry ventured.
“Over here!” Oakus yelled. “I think I‟ve found it!”
They all clambered over to where Oakus was pointing into a narrow crevice beside the end of the
tunnel path. Just inside they could make out the faint light of blue sky in the cave roof above. An
old rickety wooden ladder led upwards.
“Ladies first!” Quilt ordered. “And no arguments!” he added as Granny was about to say
something. She planted a Quick kiss on his cheek and scrambled up the steps.
“Emerald next!” the Alderman spat.
The young girl was about to follow Granny, but she suddenly turned and kissed her father. Then
on an impulse she kissed Danny too.
Danny was galvanised awake. He took in the situation instantly and yelled “Get up those steps!
Now!” Emerald clambered up the rickety ladder as fast as she could.
One after the other, the little party climbed for their lives until only Quilt and Reg were left at the
bottom of the ladder.
“You next!” Quilt shouted over the thunderous din gathering around them. The killer wall of
water was mere moments away.
Reg shook his head.
“I‟m too heavy. I might bring the steps down. I‟ll have to go last!” he yelled over the racket. Quilt
felt a light spray of water touch his face.
He nodded reluctantly and scrambled up the ladder. When he was just above Reg‟s head, he
called back “Now you!”
Reg grabbed the side rails of the old steps and began to climb. He wasn‟t as fast as Quilt and he
was soon lagging behind.
Quilt reached the tangled mass of weeds and brambles at ground level and brushed them aside
without a thought. The others were all there, grabbing at him and pulling him to safety.
Once on solid ground he turned and peered back down the shaft. Reg had about another five feet
to go. They could all hear the thundering sound of the approaching tidal wave.
“Reg! Come on!” they all yelled for all they were worth, urging the huge man up the last few
rungs to safety.
Reg held up one hand and Quilt reached for it and for a brief instant their fingers touched. Then
one of the frail wooden steps gave way and Reg fell back. His weight and momentum carried him
crashing down through the other steps, back into the black shaft below and he was gone.
“Daddy!” Emerald screamed, burying her head in Danny‟s shoulder.
Quilt gaped dumbstruck into the shaft and the others all collapsed, utterly distraught onto the
The sound of rushing water was deafening now and the ground beneath them began to shake
Quilt leaned over the shaft and peered down but suddenly he leaped back from the opening.
“Crickey!” he yelled.
Without warning, a huge column of filthy water shot into the air with a thunderous roar and
perched on the top like a giant ping pong ball was Reg Stote.
The water fountained in all directions soaking them to the skin and with a long, loud wailing
„Aaarrggghhh!‟ Reg plummeted to the ground.
The surrounding landscape was a tangle of thorny bushes, brambles and nettles and after a few
minutes frantic searching, Barry heard a weak but defiant voice calling “Get these flippin‟ thorns
out of my arse!”

The following evening, the entire party including Reg and Emerald were celebrating in Barry‟s
house. He had laid on the biggest spread of food anyone had ever seen, completely outdoing
anything Reg Stote could offer and in the coming years, it became a bit of an unspoken
competition that whenever any of the friends were invited to dinner by Barry or Reg, each would
try to outdo the other.
Quilt sat close to Granny and they talked quietly together while Danny sat with Emerald. Reg had
nothing to say but good words for the young man now and was pleased that his daughter had
found such a fine young man. Danny still couldn‟t quite get over Emeralds amazing beauty and
he would still occasionally mumble „But she‟s so lovely.‟ Emerald didn‟t mind one bit.
Barry, Reg, Scooter and Oakus sat around the kitchen table pondering recent events over a glass
of Barry‟s best Port.
“What will happen about Billy Noemaits?” Scooter asked. Barry shrugged.
“He wok only a little pawn in a bigger game.”
“If he‟s got any sense, he‟ll come clean and tell the other councilors what Grimmsbottom was up
to.” Oakus replied. “He could even come out of it all quite well if he‟s careful.”
“Shame about Jimmy.” Scooter said quietly. Barry nodded in agreement and although Oakus had
never met the young man, he had heard enough to feel he had been a good friend. Reg nodded
silently and drained his glass.
“Fancy a breath of air?” Scooter said, trying to break the growing feeling of gloom. The others
quickly agreed and as they passed down the hall to get their coats, Scooter peeped into the sitting
room to see if the others wanted to come.
“Sloppy lot!” he said, quietly closing the door on Albert, Granny, Emerald and Danny.
They wrapped themselves warmly in scarves and coats as it was cold at this time of the year
although the sky was bright with stars and the weather was dry.
They made their way down Barry‟s path, blowing little white clouds into their hands and
laughing. As they reached the end of the path, a faint light and a quick movement over the church
yard wall caught Barry‟s eye.
He indicated for the others to be quiet and he crept across the grass and peered over the brick
work. His three friends quietly followed.
“Well I‟ll be!...” he whispered.
In a clearing in front of them they could clearly see five figures sitting cross legged on the ground
around a low flat tomb. Four of them were a pale greyish green and Barry and the others could
plainly see the churchyard through their bodies. The fifth figure was as solid as they were.
“My deal.” one of the ghostly figures rasped, shuffling a deck of cards.
“You dealt last time…” another of the spooky shapes whispered creakily.
Then a clear bright voice interrupted them.
“Look, you two either stop arguing, or I don‟t bring any teatime assorted next time.”
It was Jimmy.
The little card school broke into an incoherent babble of pleading and whining and finally Jimmy
held his hands up.
“Alright, alright! I‟ll get custard creams in future, now just deal!”
Barry stood up.
“Jimmy Broadbean!” he called.
Jimmy looked his way in surprise and the other four card players faded away.
“No, don‟t go!” he called after them. “It‟s OK, they‟re my friends.”
The card players tentatively flickered back into view.
“Come on over!” Jimmy called. Barry and the others looked nervously at Jimmy‟s companions.
“They won‟t hurt you!” Jimmy laughed. “They‟re no different to you and me. Well… Except
they‟re dead, but don‟t let that put you off!”

It was a cold but sunny day some six weeks later. The whole village had turned out for a very
special day. A new bridge had been built over the bubbling river and it was crowded with
villagers waiting to see the small boat pass underneath in an opening ceremony for the new
landing stage built beside the brewery. There had actually already been one boat down the river,
but not many people had seen it. It was on the day that the river first thundered back over its old
course through the centre of the village. The water had pounded through the underground caves
and somewhere on its way had collected a few tree trunks and other bits of flotsam. One such
piece of driftwood had been an old discarded door and as the newly returned Worter had rushed
back to its rightful place, the door was flung along on the crest of the leading wave. Perched on
top was a thin bald man with a ripped shirt, trailing a cloud of feathers and yelling for help as he
clung to his unexpected life raft.
He was never seen in Lower Worter, or anywhere else in the area for that matter, again.
“Pity…” some folks had said. “He was good on that surfboard.”

The brewery as already mentioned, was flourishing again and Quarter to three was back in
production. They couldn‟t keep up with the demand from ale houses, inns and stores for miles
around and it was rumoured there was a new, secret brew being developed by the chief brewer,
Bembridge Scooter. There were a few arguments among the high ups at the brewery of course.
They wanted to give it a pathetic, pansy sounding name like „New river‟ or some such nonsense.
Bembridge was adamant though. He insisted they call it „The blaster‟. When the management
tasted the first samples a little while later, they had to agree it was a good name. At least, they
agreed when they were sober again and their head-aches had worn off.
The day was actually a double celebration, or even a triple one.
There was a quiet wedding ceremony taking place at the village church. Only close friends and
relatives were allowed but that didn‟t stop the whole village turning up and hanging around
outside anyway.
Eventually, the church bells rang and the doors opened. Danny and Emerald came out arm in arm
to receive a rousing cheer and a shower of confetti. The cheer rose to a tumultuous roar however,
when Albert and Granny came out, also arm in arm behind them. They were literally buried in
little flakes of pink and white paper.

Later that evening at a reception in the Old Cock, Danny sat with his new bride Emerald.
She had completely captivated everyone in the village from the moment the news was out.
Emerald Stote had taken the paper bag off her head.
People had come far and wide to see the hideous creature that had resided all these years within a
paper covering and even though they had since been told she was actually quite pretty, they didn‟t
believe it. They were convinced the monster of the Wood had returned and they would have to
view her through pieces of thick dark glass for safety.
Nothing could prepare them for the shock they received when they first saw her walking out With
Danny Dingle though.
Who was this fabulously beautiful woman on his arm? Within a half a day, word had reached as
far as Waycross and young men arrived in droves hoping to gain her attention. It was all pointless
though. She only had those soft luminous green eyes for Danny Dingle. Men wept for weeks,
remembering the times they had been cruel to the little girl with the bag on her head when they
were at school. If only they had known…
Young ladies looked in their mirrors and cried themselves to sleep at the unfairness of the world.
How could one woman be endowed with so much radiant loveliness?
Within a few days though, everyone took her to their hearts.
Danny had never been happier and even his itch had gone away. He did tell Emerald about it a
few months later and even boldly suggested that if it should ever come back, she might scratch it
for him.
“Danny Dingle!” Emerald cried with shock. Then she giggled and said she‟d think about it.
Granny had surprised everyone when she gave Lady Murgatroyds large house and gardens in
Upper Worter to Danny and Emerald as a wedding present. Albert was in full agreement as he
insisted that they were going to live in his little cottage and Granny was delighted with the
prospect anyway. Reg was a bit unhappy to begin with as it meant his daughter would not be
living at home anymore but as Upper Worter was only a few miles away he soon got over it.
In fact, their new house was so impressive that within a few weeks of Danny and Emerald
moving in, the locals were touching their forelocks to them and calling them „Sir‟ and Ma‟am‟, a
practice that Emerald firmly said would stop.

Reg Stote and Gort were warmly welcomed back into the bar at the Old Cock when Reg poked a
nervous nose round the corner for the first time in nearly fifteen years, and within days he was
being urged to take up his old place on the village council once again. Of course he only said he
would think about it, but within a few weeks he back at the council meetings and shortly
afterwards, all the niggling little things that had needed doing in the village for so long were
attended to, under Reg‟s strict guidance. Albert didn‟t mind a bit either, as his duties as district
magistrate were taking up more and more of his time and he was studying law to become a Judge.
Nobody objected when he tentatively suggested that Reg Stote be consided next year as
Alderman of Lower Worter. They did insist however that Albert would remain as honorary

As the clock on the wall by the bar ticked up to nine fifteen, Albert was sitting, staring wide eyed
at his new bride. Both of his eyes were open.
“You never really explained about all this Lilly Prendergast and Lady Murgatroyd business you
know.” he said quietly. “Or Jemima Grayling come to that. Which one are you really?”
Granny grinned and sipped her wine. She had kept her Lilly Prendergast hairstyle, much to the
amazement (and some jealousy) of the older ladies in the village, and her speech wasn‟t quite as
rough around the edges that it used to be, but she was still Granny Grayling, although now she
was actually Granny Quilt.
“Do you really want to know?” she said.
Quilt chuckled.
“No. I suppose not.”
Just then, a loud cheer erupted from behind them and they turned to see George the barkeeper
setting a burning taper to four hastily constructed limelights in front of an equally hastily
constructed stage of beer crates and boards.
The three young musicians who had played there for the first time a few years ago stepped up
onto the stage to perform. They were a well known trio in the area now and were usually
guaranteed a good turnout wherever they played.
The crowd in the bar this evening was nothing short of colossal though. It seemed as if every
living soul from Lower Worter to Waycross had traveled in for the occasion.
And so they had.
Eventually, a quiet hush fell on the audience and George stepped up onto the boards.
“Laidees an‟ Gennermen!” he announced loudly. “It gives me the greatest of pleasure to welcome
back these three brilliant lads to the Old Cock!”
There was an enormous cheer and much banging of glasses. Even old Toby was there yelling and
shouting although he refrained from farting.
George waved for silence and continued. “But it gives me even greater pleasure to welcome back
from his retirement, for a once-only performance, our very own Barry Simpson!”
The roar of approval could be heard nearly two miles away, although there was nobody still
about, two miles away. Everyone was in the Old Cock.
The windows rattled, the rafters shook and the crowd stamped their feet as Barry stepped up onto
the stage wearing a sparkly silver suit Granny had made especially for him for the occasion. He
looked amazing in the bright green-yellow lights and he felt it. A row of young ladies sitting near
the bar sighed longingly as they looked at him, much to the annoyance of their young male
partners who coughed, and nudged the girls in the ribs.
Barry smiled affectionately at the crowd, especially at all his friends who were seated near the
The band started to play the opening bars of the number everyone wanted to hear and at the end
of the introduction, Barry launched into song.

“There ik a houke in New Orleank….”

Just outside the inn windows, four pale greeny-grey bony figures peered in through the glass.
Anyone inside looking out wouldn‟t have noticed them.
“Blimey! He gets paid for that?” one said in a wheezy cackling voice.
“Give me another card.” a second rather transparent figure said, wiggling a finger bone in one ear
“And pass the custard creams, will you?”


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