Archive for June, 2012

Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 21

June 30, 2012

CHAPTER 21

The Plans Go Wrong

After leaving the boys tied up in the underground cavern, the six men had made the long journey down the tunnel. Immediately on coming out onto the open sea, the boss of the gang, travelling in the second boat, took out a torch and flashed it several times straight out to sea. Instantly there were some answering flashes from the darkness way out on the water.

“They’re there!” he shouted to the men in the first boat. “Cut right around the sandbank. We don’t want to run aground with this lot of cargo.”

The two small boats chugged away to the right. The man sitting in the stern of each boat then threw the weighted packages overboard. Immediately they sank below the water and were towed slowly along behind out of sight. The journey was very slow and very cold. The men turned up their collars and shivered.

“Let’s have some of that tea, Mason,” said the boss.

“Right! I could do with something good and warm myself. Here, Lefty, take the tiller while I get us something to drink.”

After his drink, the boss seemed in a better humour. He handed cigarettes to his companions and lay back taking his ease. A few minutes later, Mason again took the tiller. “Think we’ve passed the end of the sandbank now, boss?”

“Just about I should think. I’ll get a bearing from the shore.” He turned around to look for the silhouette of the old abbey on the common. “I think we’re almost . . . good grief! You lot of stupid oafs! Look behind!”

“What wrong boss?” asked Mason.

“Cut the engine you fool, quick!  Lefty, shout to the others. Tell them to stop.”

As they slowed down and stopped they could see several silvery packages bobbing about in the wake of the boats on top of the water. Lefty quickly hauled the packages aboard for examination. The boss grabbed them impatiently. He saw that the weights were missing and his fury was obvious.

“Imbeciles!” he yelled. “Can’t I trust you even to do a simple job like that without you bungling it?”

“B . . .B . . . But boss,” stammered the amazed Lefty.

“Shut up! Get these packages without the weights off the rope and under the seats. Mason, tell Gus to do the same with theirs. Of all the idiots I’ve ever known! It’s just as well there are no customs launches about tonight, that’s all I can say.”

After a delay of some five minute or so, the job was completed and the remaining packages were once more thrown out behind the boats.

“All right Gus!” shouted Mason. “Get going.”

The two boats continued their journey around the sandbank as the boss sat moodily in the boat shivering and grumbling at the inefficiency of his men. He looked at his watch. “Francois will think we’re never going to get there. It’s just as . . . what was that?” A roar from the direction of the jetty made him spin around in his seat.

“Sounded like a launch over at the jetty,” said Mason, half turning. They all looked in the direction of the noise and their worst fears were confirmed. Silhouetted against the coastal lights in the town they could see a heavy launch making straight out to sea.

“It looks as though they’re going straight out boss,” cried Mason. “I don’t think they’re headed our way.”

“I hope you’re right. Hand me those packages Lefty,” the boss snapped. “If they come this way we mustn’t be caught with those on board.” He balanced the packages on the seat ready at an instant’s notice to throw them over the side.

The launch roared on its way out to sea. Soon it was further out than the two small boats. It had reached the outer limits of the sandbank when it suddenly rounded and headed straight across at a right angle to the course of the other two boats. The men in them immediately panicked and threw the loose packages overboard. Suddenly the men in the first boat were blinded as they were caught in the beam of a powerful searchlight.

“Turn around Mason! Quick!” roared the boss. “Head back to the tunnel before the searchlight gets us. We can get back up into the cave and make a getaway across the common to the car. That launch is too big to follow us up the tunnel.”

As the little boat made a wide arc and sped back towards the cliff, Lefty hacked desperately at the rope which towed the parcels and helped to slow down the boat. “Hurry!” the boss roared at him. “Open her right up Mason, we don’t have a second to lose.”

“It’s flat out now boss. We’ll stand a chance of getting a good lead while they deal with the other boat.”

“They’ll probably take the other boat in tow,” put in Lefty. “That’ll slow ’em down a bit.” They heard the roar of the launch lessen as it slowed to come alongside the first boat.

The men sat shielding their eyes helplessly in the glare of the searchlight. Old Benny pulled the boat alongside with the aid of a boathook. “There we are sir,” he said to Mr Leyshon pointing to the silvery bundles under the seat. “That’s what I must have seen on the sea.”

The men sat shielding their eyes in the glare of the searchlight

    “Take the packages on board, Benny,” said Mr Leyshon. Benny and the other coastguard jumped into the small boat and threw the packages onto the launch. Then he went to the stern and cut away the rope towing the other packages.

“Just as I thought sir. There are some more here.”

The three men were put aboard the launch while Benny and Mr Leyshon got into the other boat. It was taken in tow by the launch and, slowly at first, they pursued the other three men who were now well on their way back to the tunnel.

After a while the searchlight beam picked up the little boat. “That’s funny!” said Benny. “They seem to be heading straight at the cliff. Surely they’re not thinking of climbing that.”

“We’ll follow anyway and go wherever they go,” returned Mr Leyshon.

The launch gained on the small boat and was only a couple of hundred metres away when it reached a large rock just a short way from the cliff. Here it almost stopped as it moved gently behind the rock and into the tunnel. There was the flash of a torch as it entered.

As the launch swung around the rock and slowed, the entrance showed clearly in the searchlight beam. “There’s a tunnel there right into the rock!” exclaimed Benny.

“The launch will never go itno that narrow tunnel sir,” shouted one of the customs men.

Mr Leyshon realised that he would have to act fast if he was to prevent the men escaping. He spoke to one of the customs men. “You come with me James. We’ll get up there in this boat. You come too constable.”

The police sergeant in the launch turned to Mr Leyshon. “We’ll get back to the jetty with the launch sir. Then we’ll get to the ruins as fast as we can. My guess is that that old tunnel comes up inside the abbey ruins somewhere. We might be in time to cut them off.

“Good idea sergeant!” shouted Mr Leyshon. “See you later.”

The small boat entered the tunnel and, with the aid of the policeman’s torch, they made their way after the three men.

Back inside the cavern the five boys sat gloomily on a few of the packing cases. Titch sat with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his cupped hands. His freckled face was screwed up in a series of lines as he glared hard at the closed archway door before him. Slowly he sat upright and shook his head.

“I don’t know. I just can’t think how it works. We’ve pressed and pushed and kicked every square inch around the door.”

“It’s a mystery all right,” agreed Bunny gloomily.

Titch was sitting with his head back looking at the rocky roof above them. “Hey! I’ve just realised something,” he yelled excitedly. “Those men left the lights on. Look they are inside two hollows in the roof.”

“That’s right,” agreed Miff. “At least it means we can still see everything in here.”

“But it means more than that,” yelled Titch. “It means the water doesn’t get as high as those bulbs, otherwise it would short-circuit the electric supply. That means that if we can float up when the tide rises we might be able to put our heads inside those hollow domes and still have some air to breathe.”

Gogs, all his usual excitement gone completely, was nervously twitching his fingers as he lookd at the large slowly rising rectangle of water just below the ledge. “It’s only about half a metre from the top,” he said thinking aloud, and not speaking to anyone in particular.

“Cheer up Gogs,” said Miff encouragingly putting an arm around his shoulders. “It’s getting pretty late now. Some of our parents might start looking for us when we don’t arrive home.”

“Yes,” joined in Titch. “The only thing is they don’t know we’re here. Still, it’s a chance and we’ve . . . ssssh! What’s that?”

The five boys listened intently. Very faintly they could hear coming from the direction of the tunnel the quiet pop-popping of a boat. They got to their feet and stared, firstly at the dark tunnel and then at each other.

“It’s a boat coming up the tunnel,” stated Bunny in utter astonishment.

“Those men must be coming back,” added Titch.

“I thought they were going to leave us here to drown,” said Smudgie. “That’s what they said.”

“Perhaps they’re coming back to let us go,” suggested Gogs.

“Shouldn’t think so,” replied Titch.

“Why?” asked Gogs simply.

“Look at the level of the water,” said Titch pointing down at it. “Those boats will only just about get along that tunnel. They’re taking a big risk trying to come back now. They wouldn’t do that for us. No, I think something must have gone wrong with their plans.”

Aerial photographs of Pontypool

June 25, 2012

A SELECTION OF PONTYPOOL PHOTOGRAPHS

Many visitors might have heard on the TV news today about the large number of aerial views of the UK which has been put on line. When I opened my emails about an hour later I saw that Craig Smith was really on the ball and had found some interesting photographs of West Mon School and some general shots of Pontypool. Craig sent some comments together with the URLs for accessing the photographs. I am most grateful to him for doing this; you will find his comments on the post about West Mon.

The people who are constructing the website concerned would like to know the dates of the photographs and details about them, so below you will find a selection of the photographs. I have mostly given each one a number. If any eagle-eyed visitors can email me with dates and any other details I shall edit this post with the details published below the photographs. (My email is:   david.hughes43@ntlworld.com)

Photograph 1

Photograph 2

Photograph 3

Photograph 4

Photograph 5
This is a photograph of West Mon School taken from the rear.
It shows a cricket match in progress on the school cricket pitch.

Photograph 6
In the top half of this photograph is a distant view of West Mon.

Photograph 7
Another shot of West Mon. This time from the front.

Photograph 8
This is Pilkington’s Glassworks.

 Photograph 9

Photograph 10

Titch’s Secret Society Chapter20

June 23, 2012

CHAPTER 20

Trapped in the cave

    The boss looked at his watch. “Come on! Francois may be waiting with the yacht by now. We’ve got to move.”

“Everything’s ready boss,” said Mason eagerly trying to pacify him. “I’ve got a few flasks of tea in case we have to wait for the yacht. It’ll be cold tonight.”

“Good!” snapped the boss. “Let’s test those parcels before we go. I want to be sure.”

Titch held his breath as the men grabbed the ropes laden with parcels and tied them to the stern of each boat. Then they threw the parcels into the water where they immediately sank.

“They’re OK boss,” said Lefty beginning to haul one of the strings of parcels back into the boat. Mason, in the other boat, did the same.

“Don’t forget, throw them out just after we leave the mouth of the cave,” snapped the boss. “Now, before we go I’m going to go up and close the archway door. We’ve got to make sure of these kids.” He walked up the slope behind the pile of packing cases.

There was a rumble and a thud. “That should keep them here,” he said grimly as he walked back towards the boats. He jumped into the second one, the engines roared and they began to move in the direction of the tunnel. Slowly they disappeared into the darkness and all the boys could hear was the low murmuring echo of the engines.

The other four boys looked at Titch. Whenever an idea was needed he was usually the one to supply it, and they certainly needed a good one at the moment.

“What do we do now Titch?” asked Bunny.

“Well, for a start we’ll get out of these ropes. That shouldn’t be very difficult. Put your hand in my pocket Gogs and get out my penknife.” Gogs struggled around until his back touched Titch. Then he forced his hand into Titch’s pocket until he felt the knife. He quickly drew it out.

“Good!” said Titch. “Now cut my hands free and be careful not to cut my fingers.” Gogs, with many grunts, as last cut through one of the ropes which tied Titch’s hands. With a few jerks Titch freed them. A couple of slashes and his feet were free. Then he went around the others cutting their ropes as fast as he could go. In a few minutes they were all free.

“That’s better!” exclaimed Smudgie. “I was getting quite stiff sitting there.”

Bunny took out his mobile phone. “Let’s try to contact the police.”

“I doubt whether we’ll get any signal down here,” said Titch with a sigh. “You can try, but there are probably 50 metres of rock above us.”

“No chance!” sighed Gogs sinking down onto a large wooden crate.

“I’ll try with my mobile,” volunteered Miff, but he couldn’t get any signal either. “There’s no way of letting anybody know where we are.”

“Let’s see if we can open that door,” said Titch walking up in the direction of the archway. “That looks like our only chance.” The door seemed to be made of smooth solid rock.

“Miff and I noticed that the doors to the other passages had a red painted stone that opened the door when it was pushed. Can’t see any red stone here.” All five tried banging and pushing but to no avail. The door remained shut.

“We seem to be out of luck!” exclaimed Titch with a sigh of resignation. “But unless we can get this door open and run back up the tunnel we’ll all be drowned. That man said the sea water would get to the roof in four hours.”

“It’s about a metre below the ledge now,” said Bunny, “and it’s rising fast.”

“How about using the tunnel those men used. There’s a lot of wood around. We could hang on to that,” suggested Smudgie.

“I think it’s pretty long,” said Titch. “You can still faintly hear those boats. We’d be too slow. We might even have to swim for it and in another hour or so the tunnel will be full of water. It’ll take much longer to fill this place.  I don’t fancy the tunnel much. Even if we get through it we’d end up floating on the sea. Nobody will think of looking for us there. If we stay here we might get out through that door if we can only find a way to open it.”

Gogs grabbed Titch’s arm nervously. “What about when the water comes up over the ledge and keeps rising?”

“These planks and bits of wood will float on it,” replied Bunny. “We’ll have to cling on to those. Luckily we’re all pretty good swimmers.”

“W . . .W . . .What about when the water reaches the roof?” asked Gogs now looking really scared.

They all looked grimly at their Chief. Titch, for once, was lost for an idea. “We’ve got to get out before then. If only somebody knew we were here. But nobody does, not a soul!”

*     *     *     *     *

   Meanwhile, out in the coastguard station sat old Benny looking out to sea. He was leisurely smoking his pipe and dusting the lens of his ancient telescope. Suddenly a flash of light near the foot of the abbey cliff attracted his attention. He sighed. “Hm! There they are again.” In leisurely fashion he put his telescope to his eye but could see nothing else.

Several more flashes further out to sea attracted his eye, but again he could see nothing. He gazed at the flashes and drummed his fingers impatiently on the table before him. Then he saw something which made him lean quickly forward and stare hard. He put his telescope to his eye. Yes, he could distinctly see some silvery objects bobbing up and down on the water.

Instantly he remembered what Titch and his friends had told him about seeing silvery shapes on the sea. Quickly he lifted the telephone receiver on the table before him and made an urgent phone call

Mr Leyshon, the new history teacher at Pontyrabad school, commonly known as ‘Fungus’ by the children, hurried into the hall as his phone bell rang. He seemed almost to be expecting it. As he replied to the caller his voice rang with urgency.

“You what? So that’s it! Yes, good. Right! I’ll phone the station and organise the launch. We’ll pick you up at the jetty. Yes, they were there earlier tonight. See you in a few minutes.”

Shortly after, a police car picked up Mr Leyshon on the Straight Mile. It stopped only a few seconds before tearing on around onto the coast road. When they arrived above the jetty they got out and ran down the steps and into a powerful launch in which were old Benny with another coastguard and two customs men. The engine roared into life as the launch swung out to sea.

One of the customs men spoke to Mr Leyshon. “We’ll cut out across the back of the sandbank sir. They’ll have to go right around it so we’ll stand a chance of heading them off.”

“Good show!” shouted Mr Leyshon above the roar of the engine. Then, turning to the other man he said, `”Get the searchlight ready.” The launch sped rapidly out to sea.

The launch sped rapidly out to sea

Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 19

June 16, 2012

CHAPTER 19 

In a jam

The boss of the gang came along the passage hauling the struggling and protesting Miff by one arm. As he came through the archway the man looked at Titch with great surprise. Titch grabbed his opportunity and made a dash for it past the man who immediately cried out. “Mason! Lefty! Quick, grab these kids! They’ve been spying!”

Both men came running towards their boss. “One’s gone up the passage. Get him Mason!” he bellowed.

Titch flicked on his torch and ran as fast as he could. The light bounced around and reflected off the wet shining walls. He could hear Mason’s feet pounding on the damp gravel some way behind him as he gradually got nearer. Titch’s feet slithered about as he rounded a sharp corner. He went down on one knee but regained his feet in an instant and continued to run. On the straight stretch of the tunnel he realised that Mason could actually see him. “You won’t get away!” he bellowed.

Titch ran harder than ever and his thighs began to ache with the effort. He slithered around corner after corner. He realized that, as his pursuer was bigger, he was bound to catch up with him.

Then he suddenly remembered one of the tricks his father had taught him when he was a new boy at his school and some cowardly bullies started to throw their weight about. Titch’s father had served in the SAS and had taught him some effective ways of dealing with bullies even if they were bigger.

Now he remembered his father telling him about dealing with someone who was chasing him. He put his plan into action as soon as he rounded the next corner.  He flung himself down to the ground and stuck out his left leg. As Mason rounded the corner he didn’t notice what Titch had done until it was too late. Both his feet hit Titch’s outstretched leg and he went flying along the wet gritty tunnel crashing into the wall. As Titch got to his feet and continued his escape he could hear Mason’s loud and angry swearing behind him.

He was slightly encouraged when he saw the end of the tunnel. He shone his torch beam on the door. It was shut and he could actually see the red stone that he knew would open it. He knew Mason was only about twenty paces behind him. He almost crashed into the wall. He saw the red stone and banged it hard. The door started to open but it moved towards him so he had to step back to try to get through. As he rounded the door he felt a rough hand on his shoulders as Mason grabbed him.

Titch felt a rough hand on his shoulder as Mason grabbed him

    “Got you, you little wretch! I told you you wouldn’t get away.” He grabbed the panting Titch roughly by the scruff of his neck. “Come on ! You can come and join your pals.”

“Let me go you thug!” yelled Titch giving the man a hearty kick on the shins. Mason gave a cry of pain. He responded with a powerful cuff to Titch’s head that made him feel dizzy. He was half carried and half dragged down the passageway and along to the rock cavern.

“I’ve got him boss!” panted Mason pulling his captive over to the group of men. One of them was tying up Miff. When Titch was also securely tied the boss turned to the five men.

“Now, what do you fools think you’ve been doing? What did you want to bring these kids down here for?”

“They were snoopin’ round boss,” said Mason. “We thought they might have known too much, so we thought it best to grab ’em.”

“Blithering idiots!” stormed the boss. “What could they have possibly found out there? They could have serached for a month without finding anything.”

“But boss . . .” protested Lefty.

“Quiet!” returned the other. “Now you’ve brought them down here they’ve seen everything. Luckily this little fool ran into me on the common. As it was dark he didn’t recognise me. He blurted out what had happened and said he was running for help, so I grabbed him.”

There was silence for a moment, then the boss spoke again, quietly and in a determined voice. “Well, there’s only one thing to do. We’ll have to get rid of them. We’ll leave them tied up here when we go out in the boats. In about four hours this place will be full of sea water right up to the roof.”

“Great idea boss,” said Lefty with a cruel grin on his scarred face. “Nobody’ll ever find ’em in here. They’ll just be missing and nobody’ll ever know why.”

Pontypool thuggery in past times

June 10, 2012

DIABOLICAL OUTRAGES

I dare say that all of us who have lived in Pontypool came across people we regarded as “head cases” from time to time. I remember my mother telling me that she remembered some of the people living in what was known as “the Irish Row” who had quarrels which ended up in them throwing lighted lanterns at each other.

A newspaper cutting I was sent records the behaviour of some similar characters in times past. The headline is “Diabolical Outrages”; unfortunately I do not have the date of these incidents.

Forty-three year old Nathaniel Rosser was dealt with on a Saturday at Pontypool Police court. He was charged with throwing hot lime in the eyes of Morgan Evans, a farmer of Coed-y-David, with intent to do him serious harm. The two men happened to be at the Royal Oak pub in Freehold Land when they had an argument about the spelling of a Welsh word. Rosser got up and went outside. He returned with a handful of lime which, without saying a word, he threw into the eyes of Morgan Evans. He was blind for four days but at the trial he had regained some eyesight although it was weak and misty. The defence attributed the act to “a taint of insanity”. Rosser was committed for trial at the next Monmouth Assizes but was granted bail.

A man named Walters was tried for brutality at the same sessions. Following a family dispute he burst open the door of a neighbour named Hayward where his son had taken refuge and set about him with a lump of lead tied to a length of rope. He also grabbed one of Mrs Hayward’s little girls and threw her on the fire causing severe injuries to her thighs. Fortunately she was lifted off the fire by her sister. Mrs Hayward, seizing the poker, knocked Walters to the ground with it. He was held down until further assistance arrived. Walters was abetted by his wife. In court they both behaved in an indecent and blasphemous way using the most revolting expressions. Mr Walters was fined 30 shillings and his wife 20 shillings.

Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 18

June 9, 2012

CHAPTER 18 

Titch finds the cave

“Titch! You won’t believe this! We’re inside the old tower!” Both boys scrambled up into the tower that they knew so well.

“Now this makes even less sense,” cried Titch. “Why would anyone want to climb up into this tower through  a messy, dark passage when it’s easier to walk up the pathway from the shell house?”

“Well, at least we now know where the passage ends,” said Miff.

“Yes,” agreed Titch. “And now we’ve got to tell somebody. It’s obvious those men are up to no good and we don’t know what they’ve done with the other three. They might be in danger.”

“Shall we tell the police?” asked Miff.

“Yes, we’d better do that, but we should let our parents know as well. Miff, your house is nearer than mine so you run home and tell your parents everything that’s happened and suggest they contact the police. I’ll run back to the old cellar and try to find out what’s happened to the other three.”

They both ran down the hill faster than they’d ever done before. They reached the common out of breath. “You go home Miff and I’ll head for the cellar. See you later.”

Titch approached the entrance to the old cellar with great caution. He now knew that two tunnels led into the cellar. As he’d been up to the end of the tunnel going uphill he was now keen to see where the other tunnel led. When he arrived at the foot of the steps there was no sign of anyone in the cellar. He tiptoed to the entrance he saw old Louis use and opened the stone door. Titch wondered whether Bunny and the others had found this door and that it was the reason for them not answering when he shouted to them. Or, he wondered, did it mean that someone had come through the door and captured his friends. In any case he decided to go down the tunnel to investigate. Miff should be well on his way across the common to get help by now and when they arrived Miff would be able to tell them where the door was and how to open it.

The passage led gradually down. Suddenly he heard voices and switched off his torch. He stood absolutely still, listening and hardly daring to breathe. The voices echoed so much he couldn’t tell the direction they were coming from. It was evident, however, that he was getting nearer to them. He decided that it was best not to use his torch but, by feeling the sides of the passageway he made his way slowly down. At the bottom of the slope he found himself  in a long straight passage leading round to his right. He felt his way along the damp rocky wall as it bent slowly around to the left. Suddenly there was a sharp left turn and as he peered around the corner he could see an archway through which a dim light shone. The voices seemed to be coming from the other side of it.

When he arrived at the archway, Titch’s view was obstructed by some very large wooden packing cases stacked in a pile. He made his way inside the archway and crouched behind the pile. Having satisfied himself that he was well hidden, he crawled to his left and peered around the packing cases. He noticed one very large packing case on its own. It was on its side and there was a small hole in the bottom. Titch crept inside the packing case and peered through the hole.

Titch peers through the hole in the packing case 

He gasped with astonishment at what he saw. He found he was in a huge rock-walled cavern lit by a single large lamp hanging from the rock ceiling. A wide ledge ran around the three walls he was able to see and about two metres below the ledge water lapped and splashed. Titch realised that it must be the sea. To his left was a round dark tunnel through which the water came. The ledge ended at the top of the tunnel on each side.

Titch crept back to his right to peer around the other side of the packing cases and this time he was even more astonished. The same ledge continued along the wall and, seated at the far end in the corner, tied hand and foot, were Gogs, Bunny and Smudgie looking very scared indeed.

Less than a metre below the ledge some iron rings were let into the rock and to these rings were moored two small motor boats in which were five men. One of these Titch recognised as Mason, the man they’d seen on the evening they’d lost Bunny’s ball, another was Louis. They were bending down in the boats and working hurriedly. Suddenly there was a series of thuds as they threw onto the ledge near the packing cases a number of lead weights. The men then mounted the ledge and came towards the packing cases behind which Titch was hiding. He crouched motionless in his hiding place wondering whether it would be best to make a dash for it or not.

Mason rapped out an order to the others. “Come on, get these weighted quick! The boss’ll be here any minute now and if we’re not ready to move off he’s not going to be pleased.”

The men reached inside the packing cases and took out about twenty bundles. Titch heard these fall on the rock not a metre away and listened as the men did something to them.

Mason spoke again. “Right, Gus and Sam, you check the engines. Lefty, you come with me. We’d better get some eats ready. It’s gonna be cold out there tonight. We’ll make some good hot tea.”

While Gus, Sam and Louis were busy in the boat and Mason and Lefty were lighting a paraffin stove at the far end of the ledge, Titch took his opportunity to look out from his hiding place. Just in front of the packing cases he saw a rope. He could also see three small parcels wrapped in a silvery material. These were tied at intervals along the rope and to each parcel was attached a heavy weight.

Titch thought hard. That silvery material seemed to ring a bell. Where had he seen it before? Yes, that was it, old ‘Stinks’ the chemistry teacher had shown them some. It was the cloth used to make barrage balloons in World War II. It was very tough, hard wearing and waterproof. So that was what they had seen shining in the moonlight. But why the weights? Were they going to sink them in the sea? Titch could see no point in that.

Suddenly he had an idea. Whatever their plan was, those weights were essential to it. He put his hand in his pocket and felt for his penknife. He pulled it out and opened the big blade. Now, if he could only cut those weights off it might upset their plans. He peered out again. Yes, the five men were still busy. He lay flat and stretched out his arm to grab the end of the rope. This he pulled slowly towards him until three parcels were behind the packing cases. The parcels felt heavy but soft, possibly packing he thought. They were tied with thin tough cord and it was to this that the weights were tied.

Titch thought again. If he cut the weights off the parcels the men might notice they were missing. No, he would make a delayed action move. With his knife he slowly cut at the cord binding the parcels. In several places on each parcel he cut almost through the cord. Then slowly and carefully he replaced the parcels and rope in front of his hiding place.

He crawled along to his left. There were more parcels protruding. These he pulled in towards him and got to work once more with his penkife. He replaced these parcels and put away his knife.

He looked at his watch. How long would it be, he wondered, before Miff arrived with help? He must be on his way back by now. Would it be best to stay and watch or to go back and meet Miff? Suddenly something that Mason had said occurred to him. “The boss will be back any minute,” he had said. Would that mean that the man in the car would arrive and come down the steps of the secret passage? If so, he would be caught. He made up his mind quickly. He must get back up the steps and join Miff. He prepared to creep quietly back through the archway when he heard voices from the passage outside. They came gradually nearer. One was a man’s voice and the other was Miff’s. He’d been caught. Now they were all trapped and no one knew where they were. He’d have to wait and try to make a dash for it.

Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 17

June 2, 2012

CHAPTER 17

The Secret of the Pillars

    “Where?” asked Miff eagerly.

“Right underneath the old shell house.” Titch once more put his head and shoulders through the opening and hauled himself up. Miff followed in quick succession.

Strong moonlight shone through the windows of the shell house but the boys’ torches were soon in operation. “We’ve often been in here,” said Titch, “but never through that entrance.”

“This is how old Louis got into the passage,” stated Miff.

“But he’d have to have a key to this place to do that,” added Titch. “I wonder how he managed that.”

Miff shone his torch on the hole near their feet. “Look Titch! What’s that?” He pointed at the floor. They both crouched down and noticed a thin trail of white powder. Miff touched it with his finger.

“It’s in a line. Where does it go?” asked Titch. They stood up and flashed their torches on the powder. It was in a straight line leading to one of the six pillars on which the tree house was built.

 “This line of powder stops at the bottom of this pillar.” said Titch

    “D’you remember Titch, when we came here for a school visit, the guide told us that these pillars were old trees that had been covered with shells, just like the ceiling?”

“Yes,” Titch replied as he followed the white line. “This line of powder stops at the bottom of this pillar.” He knelt down. “This bottom shell is broken. There’s just a dark patch by the side of it.” He rubbed it with his finger and immediately a narrow section of the pillar swung open revealing a number of narrow shelves. It looked like some sort of secret cupboard.

“There’s white powder on some of these shelves too,” observed Miff. “Wonder what it is.”

“I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s drugs of some sort,” suggested Titch. “Let’s have a look at the other pillars.” By the light of their torches they discovered that every one of the pillars could be opened in the same way. But every one was completely empty.

“We’d better close these doors and get back down the tunnel,” advised Miff.

Titch looked puzzled. “If those men are drug smugglers, why would they bring their drugs half way up the hill and store them in this shell house? I don’t get it.”

“Strange thing to do,” added Miff.

As he started to close the last door he hesitated. “Just a minute Titch,” he said, “there’s something different in this one. There’s a bit of metal sticking up out of the bottom.”

Titch, full of curiosity went over to have a look. In the beam of Miff’s torch he could clearly see a piece of dark metal rather like a short cricket stump. He knelt down and put his hand around it. “It feels like iron or steel or something,” he said. He tried pulling to see if it would come out, but all it did was to move towards him. Then they heard a low rumble near the wall of the shell house the other side of the pillar. They both flashed their torches and looked around the pillar to see what had caused the noise.

“Look!” cried Titch. “Underneath that old chair. There’s another hole like to one we came through.”

They dashed over to take a closer look and shone their torches down the hole. The beams revealed a flight of steel steps leading down into the darkness. These too had railings down both sides.

“Perhaps it’s another way into the tunnel,” suggested Miff. “Let’s have a look.”

Titch sat on the edge of the hole and placed one foot on the top step. “That doesn’t make much sense having two entrances to the same passage.” Slowly he made his way down the steps and shone his torch all around. Miff followed close behind him. They appeared to be in a small dark cellar with a dark entrance on the far side.

“There doesn’t seem to be any connection with the other tunnel,” observed Miff. “That small hole over there seems to be the only way out. They moved towards it. Because it was so narrow they had to walk in single file. The passage was low with a flat base and carried on for well over fifty metres before it started to rise.

“We must still be under the hill,” said Titch and now we’re going higher up. I still can’t see any sense in having these tunnels but let’s see where it goes.” They doggedly carried on, using just one torch to preserve their batteries. The tunnel continued to be narrow and they had to continue for hundreds of metres with their climb until, quite suddenly, they emerged into another small cellar-like room with a flight of iron steps just like the one they’d come down and, again, there were iron railings each side. They clambered up the steps and, once again encountered a low ceiling. But this time they knew what to do. Miff grabbed to top rail and pulled and pushed it. They heard the rumble as before and were not at all surprised to see another round hole appear above them. Miff stuck his head and shoulders through the hole and shone his torch around.