Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 18

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.

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