Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 23

CHAPTER 23

The story ends with an unexpected visitor

    “We’ll roll this one down as soon as the boat comes through the tunnel,” panted Titch. The boat came nearer and nearer as the boys waited tensely.

Suddenly a voice shouted out, “All right, you men, the game’s up!” At the sound of the voice both boys grabbed the rock and stared at each other with open mouths.

“That sounds like old ‘Fungus!” gasped Titch as they hesitated to release their missile. Hardly had he spoken the words when the boat carrying ‘Fungus’ in person and his companions emerged from the tunnel. The boat was quickly steered into the centre of the pool where the three bedraggled men were taken dripping out of the water. When the boat reached a slightly lower part of the ledge it ran partly onto it as by now the water at that point was just lapping the top.

As they got out of the boat ‘Fungus’ beamed at the boys who could hardly believe their eyes. “I gather you five are responsible for ducking these characters,” he said indicating the three soaked and shivering men.

“Yes sir,” grinned Titch.

‘Fungus’ turned and looked in the direction of the tunnel. “I rather fancy it was a good thing I shouted,” he said, stroking his long moustache. “Otherwise we might have been rather damp by now eh?”

Everyone, except the three men, laughed at this. “We thought it was the other three men returning sir,” explained Bunny.

“Yes, I gathered as much,” laughed ‘Fungus’. “We just used their boat. I expect they are safely in a police cell at Pontyrabad by now.”

“How did you boys get in here and how do we get out?” asked old Benny.

“There’s a door behind those packing cases,” explained Titch. “He closed it,” he said pointing an accusing finger at the boss of the gang.

When they reached the closed rock door ‘Fungus’ turned and noticed the thin streams of wter now running onto the ledge. “So it was the intention of these men to leave you boys here to drown,” he said.

“Yes sir,” replied Gogs emphatically giving Mason a withering look, but noticing with considerable satisfaction the large red mark down the middle of his forehead.

‘Fungus’ seemed really annoyed at this. “That’ll make interesting evidence at the trial,” he snapped. Then grabbing the boss of the gang by the arm, he pushed him unceremoniously in the direction of the door. “Open it!” he yelled.

Without a word the man took hold of part of the moulding at the side of the arch. He pulled it sideways and instantly the door rumbled back.

“Oh no!” muttered Titch. “And we dimwits were pushing and hammering for all we were worth.”

When they were out in the ruins again the police sergeant and several constables were waiting. They all walked over to the Straight Mile where there were two cars and a van waiting.

Mr Leyshon told the boys to get into his car. “It’s getting late. I’ll drive you boys home. Your parents might be getting a bit worried. But er . . . I’ll be seeing you later.”

*     *     *     *     *

   The following Monday evening the boys met again in their secret headquarters. Bunny, who had spent well over an hour the previous day writing in their book of evidence, had just finished reading it to the others.

“Cool Bunny!” exclaimed Miff, “No wonder you came third last term.”

“Have I missed anything out?” asked Bunny modestly.

“I don’t think so,” replied Titch. “I think you’ve made a really good job of that.”

“Me too Chief!” agreed Gogs heartily.

“Well, that’s completed our evidence all right,” stated Titch, “but I don’t think the mystery is quite solved yet.”

“That’s what I’ve been thinking,” chimed in Bunny. “What was in those parcels for instance?”

“And how did ‘Fungus’ get mixed up in it?” asked Smudgie.

“That’s as much a mystery as anything,” said Miff. “He said he’d see us later, but he wasn’t in school today.”

“What really puzzles me more than anything,” said Titch thoughtfully, “is why would anyone want to make a tunnel from the Abbey up to the old shell house and from the shell house up to the tower. What’s the point? It would be quicker to walk up the pathway to both those places.”

Bunny opened his mouth to speak and then closed it again as he heard footsteps on the concrete path at the side of the shed. “I can hear someone coming,” he said. “Perhaps my Dad wants me.”

The footsteps stopped and, for a moment, there was silence. Then, to the utter astonishment of the boys, someone gave their secret knock on the trapdoor above. They all stared at each other open-mouthed and remained motionless. The knock, their secret knock without any doubt, was repeated.

“That’s funny,” whispered Titch, “We’re the only ones who know our secret knock. I wonder who it can be?”

Gogs moved into his job as the duly appointed doorkeeper. “Wh. . .Wh . . .Who’s there?” he cried tremulously, and, to the great astonishment of all five, a squeaky voice replied, “Cavalier.”

“Gosh!” gasped Titch. “Our password.”

“Who can it be?” asked Bunny.

“Well, it’s someone who knows our secret knock and password,” stated Titch. “We’d better find out.” The boys crowded to the edge of the passage as Gogs let down the trapdoor. A figure walked down into their room and the boys had a third shock.

“Fung . . . er . . . I mean Mr Leyshon!” Gogs stammered. The others just stared.

“I hope you young gentlemen don’t mind me barging into your secret headquarters like this,” he said as he ducked down to avoid hitting his head on the shed floor above, finally sitting down on one of the old boxes.

“N. . .N. . . No, of course not,” replied Bunny in as natural a voice as he could muster under the circumstances.

“I expect you’re a bit surprised to see me drop in on you like this eh?”

“Well, we . .er . . .” began Titch.

“Yes, I thought you would be,” broke in ‘Fungus’, with a broad grin showing beneath his dark moustache. “But I’ve been to see all your parents and I’ve just had a chat with your father, Bernard, so I’m not tresspassing. The truth of the matter is I thought you might have one or two little questions you’d like to ask me.” He had a twinkle in his eye which showed them he knew they were absolutely bursting with questions.

“First of all,” he continued when the boys were all seated around him, “perhaps I should tell you that I am really detective-inspector Leyshon. It’s true that I’ve taught at your school for some little while now. As a matter of fact I was a history teacher at a school in London before I joined the police force, so when I was asked to investigate this case at Pontyrabad, I thought the best way to come into a small town of this sort without arousing suspicion, was to get a job here. As it happens, your headmaster and I used to teach at the same school in London. Jolly good sort, you know, and when I told him my story in confidence he said he’d see what he could do for me. As they were short staffed at the school it was agreed that I could help out.”

“In preparation for taking on this investigation I studied the history of Pontyrabad and some of the town’s historic buildings, and I really suspected the old abbey ruins from the moment I had my first look around the town. That’s why I rented the flat on Common Crescent so that I could keep a good lookout in that direction. I’ve been working very closely with Benny the coastguard, and when I saw you going into the ruins on Saturday evening and then later receiving his phone call I was a bit worried about your whereabouts.”

“But it was fortunate for you that Benny saw those parcels bobbing about on the water, otherwise we might never have found you. That’s a bit of a mystery you know. Somehow or other a few of the strings on some of the parcels had almost been severed by some sharp instrument with the result that the weights dropped off. Possibly a piece of sharp rock or . . .”

Here the boys laughed as Titch proudly held up the sharp instrument – his penknife. “I was the culprit who cut the strings sir,” he said smiling broadly. It was now ‘Fungus’s’ turn to look surprised.

“By Jove! Was it really?” And after Titch had related his whole story, ‘Fungus’ was full of congratulations for his smart deductions. “Well done Roger!” he said. “My word, we could do with a chap like you in the Force.”

“What were those men doing at the ruins, sir?” asked Titch.

“And what was in the parcels please?” asked Gogs.

“Oh yes,” ‘Fungus’ continued. “They were drug producers and smugglers. I often refer to them as ‘kid killers’. They wrapped the packets of drugs in old barrage balloon material which is tough and waterproof and then towed them out to a French yacht waiting a little way off the coast. If they were stopped and searched, as they were on a few occasions, nothing was found on either of the boats. But unfortunately for the gang the floating packets shone in the moonlight. Benny saw them and immediately phoned me.”

Titch smiled at this and then asked,”What I can’t understand Mr Leyshon, is why would anybody want to make a tunnel to walk up to the old shell house and from there up to the old tower? And who made the tunnel?”

“Ah, now that’s something that your discovery of the secret tunnel helped us to solve,” said ‘Fungus’. “They didn’t use the tunnel to go up to the old tower, they used it to go down from the tower to the abbey.”

“But why?” queried Titch.

“I believe you are slightly acquainted with the French artist, Louis, who lives on Common Crescent.”

“Yes, we often see him around with his bag and easel.”

“Quite! But the bag had nothing to do with painting. It was stuffed with packets of drugs – cannabis. To try to put anyone watching him off the scent he used to carry the drugs up to the tower and then use the secret tunnel to carry them down to the shell house where he stored them inside the hollow trees which support the roof. They knew no-one would find them there, and when their hiding place was full the gang would carry them down the tunnel to the abbey and out to the waiting yacht.”

“Crafty devils!” observed Bunny. “But where did Louis get the drugs from?”

“Well, as you know he lives with his wife in a house on Common Crescent. After we arrested him we raided their house and discovered that they had converted two of the rooms and the whole of the loft into a cannabis growing factory. These drug gangs often do this. They choose a large house in a respectable area of a small town which is not often visited by the police and convert it for their use.”

“And did the smugglers build the tunnels?” asked Titch.

“Not these smugglers,” answered ‘Fungus’. “They were built many years ago by rum smugglers who used them to carry the rum from the coast up to the top of the hill where it was safer to sell it. When the customs men kept watch on the coast they found nothing stored in the caves. All the contraband had been taken up into the tunnels.”

“I see,” said Titch. “Now I get the whole picture.”

‘Fungus’ looked at his watch. “Well, if there’s nothing else you want to ask, I must be off. I have a long report to write out for my chief.”

“Would you like to borrow our book of evidence sir?” asked Bunny. “All our side of the story is in there.”

‘Fungus’ paused. “Oh, so you’ve been investigating those crooks properly have you? I’d be very much obliged if I could borrow your book. It might help me with my report.” Bunny handed him the book which he slipped into his pocket.

“You boys will be needed to give evidence of course,” he said. “But, somehow, I don’t think you’ll mind – it will mean time off from school.”

“Cool!” exclaimed Smudgie and Miff in unison.

‘Fungus’ laughed as he rose to his feet and made his way towards the passage leading up to the trap door. Titch also got to his feet. “Oh, there’s just one extra question I’d like to ask sir before you go. How did you know our secret knock and password?”

“Ah, yes,” ‘Fungus’ replied, half turning to face the boys. “You know you really shouldn’t leave top secret documents like this lying about in history exercise books. Cheerio!” As he went he dropped a piece of paper which floated down onto Titch’s desk. He grabbed it and unfolded it. The other four looked over his shoulder. On the paper were their secret knock, password and all their rules. On top of the paper was the name “Gordon Palfrey”. Immediately the others turned to Gogs.

“Gogs! You idiot!” they chorused. Then they pounced on him as poor Gogs tried to stammer out some sort of an explanation. They rolled on the floor on top of him and pandemonium reigned in the secret headquarters of the Pontyrabad Secret Society.


The boys pounced on Gogs

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