Sunday, 3 May 2015

Tales of Fekenham Swarberry - UNPUBLISHED WORK - Book Four - The Politics of Turnips - Part Two 'Departures' - Chapters Twenty Three and Twenty Four


The Catching of a Monkey by its Tail

Parminter Fullcock’s office lay unlocked. It was the normal state of affairs. The managing director of the company was far too trusting. Jarvis felt a momentary pang of guilt as the entered the room.

There were no lights on. The only light that gave him the ability to see was coming from the corridor. Parminter’s desk stood before him. The chair, a large leather bound piece of furniture with a high back, was turned so it faced away from Jarvis at the opposing wall. On the desk was a folder. There were no marks upon it, nothing to say it was the one that Regus Nasaltwist had instructed him to steal but Jarvis followed his own instincts.

He looked down now at the folder. Another wave of shame washed over him. He shook his head, leant forward to pick it up. As he did so the chair span round. Sitting in it was Parminter Fullcock.

“Looking for something Jarvis?”

The lights to the office burst into life. Jarvis turned round to see who had turned them on. Deidre Corncob scowled at him.

“Sit down Jarvis, sit down and explain why you are trying to steal from me.”

The sentence, softly spoken, sounded less like an accusation and more an anguished expression of hurt. Initially Jarvis felt like a schoolboy caught in the act of some childish prank. This was no prank though, this amounted to industrial espionage. Guilt turned to shame which in turn gave vent to anger.

“Don’t patronise me Parminter.”

The usually placid face of Parminter Fullcock clouded over with fury.

“Patronise you? After you have abused my trust you dare to speak of me patronising you?”

Now it was Jarvis Crunch who looked shamefaced. He flushed crimson then stammered a softly uttered reply.

“It wasn’t like that. I was simply doing what I believe to be the right thing.”

“Right for whom? Not for me or this company that’s for certain. That folders content has nothing to do with this business whatsoever. I don’t know what it is that you have become caught up in Jarvis but it has come to a sad end for all of us.”

Jarvis’s head shot up as though startled. He looked at Parminter with an intense gaze.

“What’s that supposed to mean? You can’t sack me, not just like that.”

Parminter laughed. It was a laugh without humour.

“I think you’ll find I can if I so choose but I shall spare you that indignity. I am very hurt by your actions. The thought of you or anyone of my trusted staff stealing personal information from me is hard to bear. I shall not sack you as such. I will not bring that shame on your head. What I will do is this.”

Parminter slid a small envelope across the desk to Jarvis who took the packet with trembling hand.

“What is it?” asked Jarvis a little shakily.

Parminter coughed. It was the sound of embarrassment.

“It is notification of acceptance of your desire to leave my employ effective immediately. You will receive one year’s full salary as befitting a company director plus your holiday rights. You will clear your desk as soon as possible, say your farewells to friends and colleagues, tell them whatever it is you want them to believe, then go.”

Jarvis blinked in disbelief. He looked stunned to the point of tears.

“But I’m a director. You made me your fellow director. What do I say to everyone?”

Parminter coughed again. He was finding the whole business rather distressing.

“Tell them anything you like. I shall say nothing that contradicts you. Yes, I made you a director as I saw your worth and because I trusted you. You betrayed me and your fellow board members. I will not betray you unless you make things uglier than you already have. Please just clear your desk and leave.”

Without uttering a word, Jarvis got up from his seat. He looked briefly at his old boss without recrimination then turned and walked away. As he got to the door, passing Deidre, he turned to face Parminter one final time then whispered a solitary word.

“Sorry.”

Then he left. He didn’t go to his desk. He didn’t go to say his goodbyes. He left with as little fuss as possible. Watching him go Parminter spoke so softly that Deidre could barely hear him.

“So am I Jarvis, so am I.”

Deidre watched the back of the man she had never liked walk out of the offices of Fullcock Farm Implements and Accessories. Even though there was little love lost between the two, still Deidre felt sad to see Jarvis depart. She turned to say as much to Parminter but as she did she saw her boss with head bowed. He was slumped forward in his chair. At first she thought him unwell then she realised he was weeping.

Not knowing quite what to do she coughed. The sound made Parminter lift his shoulders then settle back in his seat. As he did, he surreptitiously ran a hand over his face.

“Are you okay sir?” enquired Deidre trying to sound breezy.

“No, not really,” replied Parminter. ”I shall miss Jarvis. I had no other choice but to dismiss him but even so...”

The words trailed off. Parminter sighed. It was a mournful sound. Deidre did what she did best and burst into a fever of activity.

“You are not to blame sir. You handled the situation with dignity. Jarvis knew he was in the wrong. I wonder what possessed him? He’s been here so long too. Anyway, no sense dwelling on it; as my Mum used to say, there is no point crying over spilt milk.”

With a flourish she produced her notepad and pen.

“You will need a letter drafting sir, just to cover the business end as it were.”

“Business end of what?” said a puzzled Parminter.

“An announcement is required sir, to all members of staff informing them of Jarvis Crunch’s decision to resign. Of how sad you are to see him go. How we all wish him well; perhaps one or two praiseworthy comments about his time here, recounting how he performed such an integral role both as a union representative and also as a member of the board of directors. Shall I compose it for you sir?”

Parminter smiled.

“Thank you.” He said. “How would I cope without you? Would you please ask both Fraser and Toby to come and see me?”

Deidre nodded then left with a whoosh of her skirt. Parminter settled back. He rubbed his ear as he always did when either thinking or concerned. With Jarvis’s dismissal he was both. He never enjoyed the process of redundancy as it seemed so remote somehow. Sacking someone was still unpleasant but usually occurred with good reason.  Undeniably Jarvis has transgressed. He had sought to betray Parminter for reasons unclear. It was that lack of clarity that puzzled Parminter. What perplexed him more was why? Why would Jarvis Crunch seek to steal classified information? Did he intend to sell it to someone, if so who? Did he hope to make political mischief of the detail contained within the file but again, why? What had Jarvis hoped to have gained from this episode?

Just then there came a knock on the frame of Parminter’s door. Standing together were Fraser Futreman and Toby Foxglove; fellow board directors. Parminter ushered them in with a wave of his hand.

“Take a seat, gentlemen as I have some unpleasant news to give to you both.”
 
***
 
 
Like Sacks of Spuds
 
The smell from the Hessian sack was awful. In fact awful is not the word, offal is. Billy could detect the rancid odour of dead meat. As if having a sack pulled over your head wasn’t bad enough they had used one that had contained dead animals.
The vehicle he was in was a noisy old diesel that rattled as they drove along. The suspension was dreadful. He could feel each bump they went over. The engine roared. It sounded as if the gears were stuck in third.
Both his hands and feet were tied. The only movement he could make was if he jerked his legs up to his chest but even that was minimal. Next to him he could sense Sally. At least he thought it was her for she had been with him when then men had kidnapped them both. He tried rolling onto his side but found it difficult to do. He tried again with more success. Then Sally spoke confirming he had been right..
“Billy, is that you?”
Her voice was muffled due no doubt to the sack placed over her head.
“Yes, it’s me. Are you alright?”
She replied with a tremulous voice.
“I’m so scared Billy. What are they going to do with us?”
Billy, now on his side, shuffled closer to his girlfriend.
“I don’t know and I don’t mean to find out. We are getting out of here.”
For a second all he could hear was the rattle of the van then Sally’s voice, muffled but still audible said, “How?”
For answer Billy shuffled some more until his bottom touched Sally’s hand.
“Right,” he said, “I am next to you. I now want you to roll over until we are lying back-to-back on our sides. You got that?”
“Then what?”
“Just roll over and I’ll explain.”
It seemed to take Sally ages before she was able to manoeuvre herself onto her side but eventually she did.
“’I’ve done it.”
“Good, now wiggle toward me so our backs are touching.”
Again she did as instructed. Billy felt her hands against his.
“Excellent! Now then I am going to try and undo the knots on your wrists. Keep still though and don’t fidget.”
Sally was unaccustomed to Billy being authoritative. Usually it was she who took control with Billy being only too glad she did. She found this new aspect of her boyfriend’s character rather exciting. .
“It’s bloody difficult but I think I’m getting there,” he said
Sally could feel Billy’s fingers tugging and pulling at the strings that bound her. Finally her hands feel as the string slipped from her wrists.
“I’m free Billy, well done!”
“Now do the same to your ankles then undo me.”
First though Sally tugged the sack off her head then she set about untying her legs. When this was done she turned to Billy, pulling the sack from his head and then undoing the knots that bound his hands. Within a short time both were free.
Their arms and legs ached having been bound so long in such restrictive postures. The rubbed their hands up and down their legs and along their arms to get the circulation pumping.
The inside of the van was dark. The vehicle still bucked as it passed over bumps in the road. Billy went down on all fours, telling Sally to follow suit.
“What are we going to do now?” she enquired.
“Follow me over to the doors. I don’t think they locked them. They probably thought by tying us up we wouldn’t be able to get near the doors to open them.”
A frightening thought occurred to Sally as she crawled forward.
“You don’t intend for us to jump out the back do you Billy?”
“How else are we going to escape?”
“Not by jumping out of a moving vehicle, ‘specially when it’s going so fast.”
“It’s not going that fast silly.”
“Then you jump and leave me here. P’rhaps you can get back to Fekenham and warn the village.”
“I am not going without you, Sally.”
“Then we will have to wait until the vehicle stops.”
“Don’t be daft. If it stops it’ll be stopping because we have arrived. The men will be getting out too. We have to get off before then otherwise they’ll just tie us up again.”
Sally could see Billy’s point but the thought of leaping out from a moving vehicle into the dark night scared her.
“We will wait until it slows a bit then, holding hands, we’ll jump. Remember to roll when we hit the floor. All the action heroes do that so as not to break their ankles.”
“Action heroes exist in the films. You are not exactly filling me with confidence here, Billy.”
“Better to jump than them kill us.”
“Kill us? You think they will kill us?”
“’Course, it stands to reason don’t it. We saw them robbing the bank. We know who they are. We saw their faces when they took the masks off.”
It was all the encouragement Sally needed. Together she and Billy edged closer to the doors. Billy fumbled around in the dark until he found what felt like the door release. Then, holding hands as Billy had suggested, they jumped as the vehicle slowed to take a corner. The doors flapped behind them as they leaped onto the tarmac their legs pumping furiously in an attempt to remain upright. They looked vaguely comic with their legs and feet moving slower than their bodies. Unable to perform the impossible the two tumbled forward grazing their knees and hands as they fell.
Billy was the first to get up. He looked exhilarated. His nostrils flared and his cheeks flushed. Adrenaline coursed through him killing any feelings of pain in his hands or knees. He looked down to Sally who still lay on the road. She was moaning and cursing.
“Sally, are you okay?”
“No I’m not. I think I have twisted my ankle.” She sat with her right leg resting on the left massaging her ankle with her hand.
“You can’t stay there, not in the middle of the road. A car or a lorry might come round that bend and drive over you.”
“Help me up then.”
“You think you can stand?”
“I don’t have much choice do I? I don’t intend to escape only to get run over for my troubles.”
She took hold of Billy’s hand managing to pull herself up onto one leg with the other hooked beneath her. Gingerly she placed the damaged ankle to the floor then let her weight gradually rest on it.
“How’s it feel?” asked Billy.
“Sore but bearable, I think it might only be a sprain.”
“You have to know how to roll when you land. Paratroopers always roll after coming out of an aeroplane of airship.”
“Billy Twist, I am not a paratrooper and that van was not an airship. We didn’t land; we fell like a couple of cartoon characters with our legs turning like Catherine wheels.”
Billy sniggered then Sally started to giggle.”
“What?” she laughed. “It’s true I simply couldn’t get my legs to move fast enough. I bet I didn’t look as dumb as you did.”
“I didn’t look dumb.”
“Did too. You stuck your bum out and twirled your arms about like a windmill.”
The pair of them laughed as they made their way with Sally hobbling toward a set of trees that stood to one side of the road. It was dark still and they had just entered the woods when the van containing the bank robbers flew past going back the way they had come.
“We’d best not stay here just in case,” said Billy.
“They’re bound to come back this way aren’t they, I mean they will only go back so far to see if they can spot us. Do you reckon the police are out looking for them?”
Billy answered as he helped her rise from behind the tree where she had hidden.
“’Course. Our Mum’s ‘n Dad’s will be havin’ fifty fits too once they know we have gone missing.”
“Your Mum is bound to blame me, she always does.”
“No she don’t, she likes you. She’s always tellin’ me to mind after you.”
“Really? I didn’t know that.”
“She likes you Sal, likes you a lot. It’s not her you gotta worry about, it’s your Dad. He’ll go ballistic!”
“No he won’t. It’s hardly your fault we saw those men robbing the Muckleford bank.”
“Whose idea was it to go to town in the first place?”
“Yours.”
“There you are then. When he gets hold of me I am gonna cop it.”
They walked on until they came to the other side of the woods. To their left a stream flowed. The waters had risen during the recent rain and were now near the top of the bank.  A carrier bag floated on the top. The name Voxco was clearly visible. In front of them and to the right fields of farmers’ land undulated presenting a dull, damp landscape. Above the panorama the night sky lacked stars, most probably hidden by the mass of clouds that filled the heavens.
Sally’s twisted ankle seemed to have righted itself for she now walked without limping. She was cold though. She wrapped her arms about herself in an attempt to keep warm. When she and Billy had left home, even though it had been chilly, it had been warmer than now. The jacket she wore was insufficient for being out at night during late autumn. Billy walked beside her deep in thought. He didn’t fancy being out at this time. It was cold and might rain again at any moment.
The sound of a train rushing over the tracks came from somewhere distant. Albion’s railways were the pride of the four nations and the envy of the world. Their bullet-shaped engines flew at speeds of up to one hundred and twenty miles an hour. It was the wheels upon the iron track that made the sound for the trains themselves were virtually silent.
 The cold was beginning to get to Sally.
“We can’t keep walking all night Billy. I’m tired and hungry and flipping chilly. We need to find somewhere safe and warm to rest.”
There was no escaping the fact that she was right. Having no idea where they were didn’t help. Nor did the fact that they couldn’t be certain the gang wouldn’t keep looking for them. A place of refuge, if just for the night, would be ideal. The trouble was where would they find one?
Another train rushed by, this time going in the opposite direction. Where there were trains there were stations and they had waiting rooms. Billy pointed his finger in the vague direction from which the sound of the engines had come.
“Let’s make our way over that way. If we can find the rail track then follow it we will eventually come to a station.”
Sally nodding her head in agreement was lost in the dark but she liked the idea. At least they had a plan. The trouble now was how far would they have to walk before they found a station? It didn’t matter. Billy’s plan was good and the fear of being recaptured drove them both on.
Sally wondered how her Mum and Dad must be. They would be sick with worry not knowing where she was. Her dad would be going mental. She also wondered if the village had called for the police. She hoped they had though she didn’t fancy meeting old frog face again, that Inspector Simpering. He was one freaky dog’s breath.
The walk toward the railway line was hard going for Billy led them over the fields which were sodden with mud. Each step was hard to take as the wet soil clung to their shoes, sucking at them, making progress difficult.
Eventually they reached a point where the line ran straight in either direction. A steep bank led down to the track. Keeping the line to the right and below them they walked along the edge going in whatever direction the line took. Then it started to rain again.
At first it came down in a slight drizzle but soon built up to a torrential downpour. Then the sound of thunder rumbled.
“Great,” said Billy.
Sally shivered. Her hair clung in wet lumps to her head. She constantly had to keep running her hand over her forehead to brush away the drips that gathered there. It was hard to estimate how far they had gone. Sally thought about four miles but knew how deceptive distance can be when tired. Then Billy spoke.
“Up ahead, can you see it?”
Fearing the worst Sally responded.
“What is it, not those men again?”
“It’s a railway station. Can’t you see the lights?”
Then, through the gauze of rain Sally could see yellow globes suspended in he near distance.
“How far is it do you think Billy?” she enquired.
“’Bout half-a-mile I reckon.”
Invigorated by the thought of somewhere warm and dry to rest they picked up speed and began walking faster. Within minutes they were outside the furthest edge of the platform. Then Billy stopped holding a finger to his lips.
“Is it them?”
“I think so. There’s a van just like the one we were in.”
The couple hunkered down low so as not to be seen. Billy craned his neck to observe what was going on.
“It is them. Can you hear that voice?”
“Yes, it’s the ugly one with the bent nose and cauliflower ears. He was the one who tied me up. He kept touching my bum and boobs then making out like it was an accident. What do we do?”
“Stay here. They’re talking to the Station Master. He said he’s about to go off for the night but he hasn’t seen any two kids.”
“Do you think they believe him?”
“Looks like it. He thanked him and is walking back to the van. Once they’ve driven off and the Station Master has gone home we’ll sneak into the waiting room and dry off. There might even be a bench we can sleep on.”
The van drove off, then the man locked the front office and walked off across the road to his home, Stealthily, they made their way over, walking down the platform until they found the waiting room. The door, as was customary, was open. They crept in only to find, with some disappointment, that the heating had been turned off. It was dry but cold.
“Oh well, I guess it’s better than being out in the rain,” said a dripping Sally.
Billy was crouching down looking at the fire. It was an electric one.
“Hey! I think I can turn this on. The bloke who works here must have turned it off earlier. Look, it turns on here.”
Within half an hour the room had warmed up. Billy and Sally stood huddled together around the fire, steam rising from their wet clothes. Although still wet, both Sally and Billy felt dog tired. The events of the day had seen them kidnapped, tied up then bundled into the back of a van, driven for miles from their homes only to manage an escape followed by a trek across arduous terrain. They slept now from sheer exhaustion.
Outside, the black night grew even darker as thick clouds continued to roll across the skies showering down a deluge of rain that hard started streams, now rivers to overflow.  Before falling asleep Billy had turned the light in the waiting room off He had thought it would help them sleep. In reality it wouldn’t have mattered a wit for the young couple could have slept beneath stadium lights and not been disturbed.
The following morning, bright and early at a little before five Angus Bittus, the Station Master, was surprised to find the light in the waiting room was turned off but the heating was still on. He could have sworn he had left one on and the other off. Still, it hardly mattered. He had done a quick appraisal of the room and, apart from some wet patches on the floor, all was in good order.
Some miles distant, still following the railway line, Sally and Billy had set off as soon as they had woken. Both of them had made a mental note of the name of the station they had spent the night at. Paulsgrove Halt was not a name either of them knew. There had followed some discussion as to which county they were in and how far they had travelled but as neither of them knew where they were it was impossible to judge. Sally seemed to recollect her dad speaking of Paulsgrove once and thought it might be in Hampshire.
Deciding it best not to make haphazard guesses, the pair walked on beside the railway line ensuring they kept well back from the line. The speed that trains ran at left a strong gravitational pull in their wake that could easily have sucked either of them under its wheels. Within the hour Sally and Billy arrived at Porchester.
“You were right, Sally, we are in Hampshire. I reckon we are about thirty miles from home.”
Sally disagreed.
“I think we are further on than that. It’s about thirty miles from Winchester to Portsmouth and Fekenham is about twenty miles on from there.”
Billy let out soft whistle.
“Blimey! How are we going to get home then? It’s bloody miles to walk.”
Sally laughed then in that soft, fruity ways she always did, the way that Billy loved.
“You are daft sometimes Billy Twist,” she scoffed. “We don’t need to walk, we just need to find a telephone box and call my Dad, then he can come and pick us up.”
“It might be best if we phoned my Mum. At least if she picks us up I know I won’t get skinned alive.”
Sally knew it was pointless correcting Billy. She knew her Dad wasn’t that bad but Billy was convinced otherwise.
Above them the sky remained overcast. The threat of rain was a constant concern. Low on the horizon the first flush of dawn was creeping ever higher but the dark of night hung on. The telephone kiosk outside the station had been vandalised and wasn’t working, Billy cursed softly under his breath. They left the station behind and walked toward the town. Surely there they would find a telephone box?
:
:
Although Ruth had volunteered to help with the search there were enough hands already so at the same time as Sally and Billy were walking toward the empty railway waiting room she had opened the door to David. It was obvious from his face that something was amiss.
“Where did you go the other night? My estranged husband turned up, then my friend Neil, and when I came into the living room you had vanished.”
The suave, elegant Frenchman rubbed his hand across the stubble on his chin.
“You seemed to have your hands full without my making matters worse.”
Ruth sighed. Inwardly she still felt his magnetism. It was an irresistible pull. She found him impossibly attractive.
“Your turning up out of the blue unannounced sort of threw me.”
“So which one was your husband? The first or second caller?”
“The second.”
“And who was the first, your lover?”
“No, of course not,” lied Ruth not knowing quite why she did.  “That was Neil Beefshanks the butcher.”
“And do butchers in Fekenham make such late night calls?”
“For goodness sakes David, he is a friend. What is this, an interrogation?”
In answer, David stepped forward, placing his hands around Ruth’s waist, pulling her close to him. Then he kissed her.
“I have missed you so much Ruth.”
She pushed him away angrily.
“That was two years ago. You can’t just turn up and walk back into my life expecting me to drop everything. Who the hell do you think you are?”
David stepped away from Ruth. His eyes remained firmly on her though. He had this ability to not so much look at you but into you. Ruth felt this gaze penetrate her being. It made her feel as if she were naked, as though all her thoughts, al her feelings were on show and exposed. His response what not what she had expected..
“It has been one year, two months and fifteen days. I know, I have counted each one as they passed. Each day I have missed you more and more until finally I could not stand it anymore. I had to come. I had to see you again even if it meant you not wanting to see me. I had to know for myself, see for myself what life you were leading since our affair. I have missed you Ruth more than perhaps I am allowed but miss you I have.”
His accent alone had the power to defrost her stern attitude but his words had the power to melt her heart. Her eyes must have revealed some sign of what she felt for he moved toward her taking her hand in his.
“I love you Ruth. I should never have let you go.”
The look on his face, mirrored by his eyes said more than anything even his words could. She threw her arms about his neck then kissed him on the mouth. He lifted her up in his arms propelling her first toward the sofa then, after they both had collected themselves, to the bedroom.
:
:
After Verity, Ralph, Arthur and the vicar had departed so Ernie, now accompanied again by Codpiece and Scrubs, made his way toward the Brigadier’s home. It was from there that Ernie had decided to make his base rather than stay at Verity and Ralph’s cottage.. He should have asked the Brigadier first but knew full well that the old gent would only be too glad to help. Humphrey Largepiece had huge amounts of respect for Billy, recognising the young lad’s footballing skills. A small part of him, guilt perhaps, saw signs of how he would have liked his own son to have been had not Nature proven what a cold hearted creature she was.
As Ernie approached Trimpton House, seeing the large gates closed before him, he was a little surprised to see Lord Urpington Crust supporting a man who appeared to be injured. The man was limping. Around his thigh was a bandage acting as a tourniquet. Ernie was confident that this was the same man he had seen earlier being helped along by the Brigadier and Lord Crust. Why they both were out here now and without Largepiece struck Ernie as odd.. There was no time, even if Ernie had wanted to, to hide away. Urpington Crust spotted Ernie and waved at him.
“Ernie,” the errant Lord of the Manor stage whispered, “can you give me a hand? This chap is a mate of mine and has run into a spot of bother.”
Ernie was no fool and could recognise a bullet wound when he saw one.
“That bloke’s been shot. How the hell did that happen?”
Crust blew out a long huff as if slightly exasperated.
“It’s a long story I’m afraid, one that will have to wait for a more convenient time and place. Now then, can you help or not?”
Crust hadn’t realised it but his question was rhetorical. Ernie could no more see another human being struggle, not one he knew and liked anyway, whilst he stood by watching. Together the two men supported the stranger and walked with him toward the gates. Suddenly and from behind them there came the sound of footsteps running.
“Quick, get him behind the wall then close the gates. Be careful though as the men chasing us are armed.”
Us? Armed?
The words made little sense but Ernie did has requested. The sounds of boots running grew closer. The three men hurried along staying close to the wall. The door to the house had opened and Brigadier Largepiece was at the entrance.
“Aren’t we going the wrong way? asked Ernie.
“No,” hissed Crust, “we need to get to my home. The two properties are connected by an old underground tunnel. It’s just a little way further.”
“What about the Brigadier? Will he be alright with those heavies?”
Crust grunted as the man he was supporting stumbled. He stopped and spoke to the man.
“Tommy, how’s the leg?”
“Painful but okay,” he said then turned to Ernie “My name’s Tommy Tickleshaft. The old man should be alright. They are after me, not some retired military man.”
Ernie felt his curiosity piqued.
“Who the hell are they?”
“S.E.O operatives,” said Crust, gritting his teeth as Tickleshaft put his weight onto him. Ernie was none the wiser.
“What the hell is the S.E.O when it’s at home?”
Tommy answered. “Special Executive Office, a covert division of the East India trading Company.”
Ernie felt his head spin.
“But East India Trading is a multi-national business, what have they to do with armed thugs”
“Everything,” said Urpington Crust, “and they are not thugs. We both happen to be working for them. For now though, just accept our word. Humphrey is perfectly okay as long as neither Tommy nor I are anywhere near him. The two men will make-up some cock and bull story before taking a shufti around Humphrey’s home. If you’d like to help me carry Tommy for just another hundred yards then once out of sight I will explain more”
In front of them a huge tree stood. It was an old Yew, a Taxus Baccata. It wasn’t that tall, standing some forty feet high, but its diameter was about six to seven feet. As the three men approached it Crust turned sideways.
“You will have to hop I’m afraid Tommy. Can you do that?”
Tommy nodded that he could. First Crust then Tickleshaft disappeared around the side of the tree then Ernie followed. It was very dark behind the tree but Ernie could just make out what appeared to be a thick wall of ivy. It hung like a heavy curtain which seemingly clung to the wall. On closer inspection he could see that the ivy was hanging over a brick wall that was craftily built and set at an odd angle so that two sections overlapped each other creating a narrow passage through which a man could pass. The ivy had obviously been encouraged to grow so as to hide the brickwork and wall from prying eyes. Brushing aside the growth of ivy, Ernie followed the other two.
It was very dark now, even darker than before. Crust spoke in a hushed voice.
“In a moment or two I will light a torch but now, for safety’s sake put your hand out until it touches the wall on your left. Keep touching it then move slowly forward for about ten paces. We will then turn a sharp bend. When we do the light will be hidden from view and I will turn it on.”
Ernie did precisely as instructed and sure enough, after nervously walking blind for ten steps, a light came on.
“Right,” said Urpington Crust, “we will wait here for half an hour then we will go back to Trimpton House.”
“I thought we were going to your gaff?” queried Ernie.
“Best not old chap as those beastly blighters will only be waiting for us. Once the coast is clear it will be safer to rest a bit with old Largepiece. We should be comparatively safe there.”
“Once we get inside the house with your mate here then will you tell me what the hell is going on, I mean, you are the heir to the manor not some undercover industrial agent?” asked Ernie.
Crust laughed mirthlessly.
“Nothing is quite what it seems I’m afraid to say but yes, once inside I will explain all.”


 

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Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

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