Archive for the ‘Titch’s Secret Society’ Category

Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 23

July 14, 2012

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

Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 22

July 7, 2012

CHAPTER 22

Wrecking the boats

    “What?” asked Gogs anxiously.

“Well, as I told you, when I was hiding behind those packing cases I almost cut through the strings on some of the parcels. When they started towing them out to sea the strings might have broken. It might have upset their plans a bit.”

“Good old Titch!” exclaimed Miff.

“Of course,” said Titch, “it might be someone else, but if those men are coming back we must prepare a reception for them.”

“What do you mean?” asked Gogs, his spirit reviving.

“Well, we can’t just let them come in and get away. Somehow or other we’ve got to wreck their boat and throw them into the water. Then we’ll keep them there until they tell us how to open that door.”

“But how can we do that?” queried Smudgie.

“Come here, quick,” said Titch in his most confidential voice. “They’ll be several minutes coming up the tunnel.”

“That won’t give us much time,” said Bunny anxiously.

“Enough to put my plan into action,” replied Titch. “Notice that this ledge goes right around the cave and ends on each side of the tunnel. Now, if some of us stand on each side, we can make  two chutes out of the corners of those packing cases and roll some of these heavy rocks down onto the boat. That should wreck it and throw them into the water. Then, if we keep a few of these long pieces of wood off the packing cases handy we can push the men back into the water if they try to get out.”

“Cool plan!” Miff exclaimed.

Titch rapped out his orders as the popping of the boat increased. “Bunny and Smudgie, go round to the left of the tunnel. We three will go to the right. Now, let’s break a few of these packing cases up to get some wood. Where’s your little axe Bunny?”

They each gathered some wide corner strips of wood and ran round to the entrance of the tunnel. Soon they were assembled on each side of the dark opening.

“Now put the pieces of wood end to end so that they slope down towards the opening,” said Titch.

By using some large stones which were lying about, the two chutes were soon arranged in place.

“I’ve got an idea too,” said Bunny. “Let’s wedge one of those thick logs just below the water where the entrance narrows. When they hit it that’s certain to give them a bit of a jolt.”

“Excellent idea!” cried Titch. “Come on Gogs, there’s a log near us.”

They left Miff holding the chute in place while they lifted the log and threw it into the water with a splash. By pushing and banging with the heavier strips of wood the log was finally wedged just below the water line.

By this time the noise of the boat was quite loud. “They can’t be far away now,” exclaimed Titch. “Let’s hold those rocks on the chutes.” They puffed and panted as they hauled the heavy rocks into place ready to roll. “You hold it in position,” he said to Miff and Gogs. Then shouting to Smudgie and Bunny, “You O.K. over there?”

They were. “Good. Now I’ll lean down a bit to get a good look down the tunnel. As soon as I see the boat, I’ll give the signal. Then you let them have it.”

The noise of the boat grew really loud and echoed as it neared the end of the tunnel. “Can’t be far now,” whispered Titch. Then he saw the shadowy shape of the boat some ten metres down the tunnel. Titch, from his point of vantage, could see the faces of the three men.

As the boat started to emerge from the tunnel it hit the submerged log. It bounced upwards and sideways. There was a loud crack as the timber splintered on the rock.

“Now!” yelled Titch, and before the boat could settle on the water again the two rocks crashed into it. The larger one tore a hole in the side of the boat right down to the water line. The boss of the gang and Lefty were thrown into the water by the impact. Mason, seeing the water gushing into the boat, stood up to try to jump onto the ledge, but a timely push in the small of his back by Bunny’s strip of wood sent him, with a cry of pain, to join his companions.

On surfacing, the three men swam to the side of the pool. Lefty put his hands on the ledge to haul himself out but withdrew them with an anguished cry as Titch brought down his strip of wood, with considerable force, right across his outstretched hands.

Mason, realising that the boys intended to prevent them getting out of the water, started swimming in desperation towards the other side of the pool. Noticing the move Miff shouted, “Gogs! Look! Run round and stop him” Gogs’ lanky legs took him to the other side in great bounds, his long hair flapping wildly as he went. Mason, on the other hand, was greatly hampered by the weight of his wet clothes.

When Gogs arrived, the man had started to haul himself onto the ledge, but, with great presence of mind for one normally slow on the uptake, he placed the sole of his very large foot on Mason’s forehead and pushed hard. He shot back so quickly that it was only by a few centimetres that Gogs avoided joining him in the cold water.

The men threatened and shouted as they thrashed abut in the water. Several times they swam to different parts of the ledge but each time a boy was there to prod them back in. Soon the three gathered in the centre of the pool hanging onto the log which, having been moved by the impact of the boat, now floated about.

Because of the shouts and the great noise of the splashing, the second boat, carrying ‘Fungus’ and his companions, was a considerable way up the tunnel before it was heard by Miff who was nearest to the tunnel entrance.

“Titch! Titch! The other boat is coming up now,” he cried.

Titch went running back to the tunnel entrance shouting an order as he went. “You three see they don’t get out. We’ll deal with the other three when they arrive.”

He panted up to Miff. “Come on, help me to get another rock ready on this chute. We’ll have to throw the other three into the water as well.” A good sized rock was heaved ready and waiting onto the end of the planks.

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.”

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.”

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.

Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 16

May 26, 2012

CHAPTER 16

Exploring the tunnel

 
 “Old Louis the artist!”

“Eh? What’s he doing down here at this time of night? He can’t be painting.”

“That’s for sure,” Titch replied. “Well, he’s shown us that there are two doors in the walls of the cellar. We’d better not follow him, but we can have a look at the one he came out of.”

Realising that there was no one else in the cellar, Titch shone his torch on the wall to his left. He noticed that there was some upright moulding on that wall also. “Start pressing on this moulding Miff. It might open the door, same as the other side.” Both boys ran their hands up and down pressing as they went. Suddenly Miff felt the stone give but nothing happened.

“I think this is it Titch.” he whispered. They both pressed heavily in the same spot and were rewarded by a steady slow rumble as a stone door opened inwards before them.

“Wow!” breathed Titch in amazement. “Look Miff. A secret passageway.” They both shone their torches inside and could see a narrow stone-lined tunnel beyond. Slowly they entered.

“Shall we see where it goes?” asked Miff.

“Good idea,” returned Titch. “But we’d better see if we can shut the door first then, if those men come they won’t know we’re in here.” He shone his torch all around the edge of the doorway. One of the stones was painted red. He pressed hard on it and the door rumbled shut.

“Why is that stone painted red?” asked Miff.

“I suppose they realise that only people who know about the passageway would use it. They couldn’t paint the one outside could they?”

Because of the narrowness of the passageway the boys had to walk in single file. Titch led the way flashing his torch ahead as he went. To begin with the walls on each side were quite dry but as they made their way further along, they noticed trickles of water running down the stonework. After they’d walked a hundred metres or so the twisting passage became wider so that they could walk side by side. They also noticed that the top of the passage was higher. Then they walked around a sharp corner and were amazed that right in front of them was a flight of stone steps leading steeply upwards. They started climbing and when they reached the top a curved landing led them in another direction towards another flight of steps.

“Wonder where this place leads to?” queried Titch.

“Dunno! We’ve turned so many corners I don’t know where we are.”

“Let’s have a look at my compass,” replied Titch. He shone his torch on it. “That flight of steps in front of us is pointing due North Miff,” he said. “That means we are climbing up inside the hill. I wonder what’s on top of us?”

“If we carry on climbing we’ll be able to find out,” Miff replied.

At the top of the steps they emerged onto another curved landing which was quite wet under their feet. They rounded two more corners in quick succession and were met by another flight of steps. This time when they reached the top there were no further steps in sight but the passage sloped upwards. After what seemed ages it flattened out again and narrowed.

“We must have walked a quarter of a mile from the entrance by now,” announced Titch in a breathless voice. “Let’s see what’s around that corner.”

As they rounded the corner they noticed that the roof sloped steeply up above them and they emerged onto a flat area of rock about the size of a boxing ring. On the far side they could see a short flight of stone steps with iron railings on the sides.

The boys walked over and stood on the bottom step shining their torch all around. “Strange!” exclaimed Titch. “The top step ends at a blank wall.” They mounted the steps but discovered that, when they stood on the top step, the roof was so low that they were unable to stand up.

“This is weird Titch! Really weird!” exclaimed Miff. “There doesn’t seem to be a way out of this place.”

“There must be one somewhere,” stated Titch. “If old Louis got into this tunnel he must have come through a door somewhere.”

“Can’t see any moulding on this rock like there was down below,” remarked Miff.

“No,” agreed Titch. “But let’s push it and bang on it to see what happens.”

Crouching low to avoid hitting their heads they both pushed and knocked the blank wall all over but nothing happened. Frustrated by their lack of success, the pair sat down on the top step to think about their next move.

“Best turn our torches off,” suggested Titch. “The batteries must be getting low by now.” Instantly they were plunged into darkness.

“What d’you think happened to Bunny, Gogs and Smudgie?” asked Miff.

“I think it’s pretty obvious now that those men must have captured them and taken them somewhere. My guess would be down that other passage we saw Louis go down. They certainly don’t seem to have come this way.”

“What I don’t understand is why old Louis would be in this passage if it doesn”t lead anywhere.”

“I think there must be a door somewhere quite near to us. Otherwise why make these steps?”

“But we pressed all over this blank rock and nothing happened,” returned Miff.

“That’s what puzzles me,” groaned Titch.  He looked towards Miff. “If only . . .” he stopped in mid sentence.

“What’s wrong?”

“Miff, I can faintly see your face.”

“Yeah! I can see yours too.”

“But it should be totally dark in here. There must be light getting in somewhere,” Titch exclaimed. He instinctively looked above his head. “Look! Look, Miff!! Up there!” He pointed to the roof less than a metre above their heads. They could both see a distinct but very faint circle of light about the size of a football.

“That might be the way out Titch!” exclaimed Miff excitedly. “Let’s have a look.” He put his hand on the railing near him and tried to haul himself up. But the railing seemed to give way and move towards him. At the same time there was a hollow rumble above their heads as the circle was suddenly uncovered and admitted a beam of light.

Titch was first on his feet and put his head and shoulders up through the hole. “Wow!” He ducked back down to look at his companion. “You’ll never guess where we are.”

Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 15

May 19, 2012

CHAPTER 15

Smudgie Vanishes

Just before six o’clock that evening the boys were gathered in great excitement in their underground headquarters. Titch, in a very business-like manner, was checking on the equipment.

“Now, have we all got our torches?” A chorus of yeses assured him that they had, and a series of flashes assured him that they were all in good working order. Bunny had a torch that fixed around his head with a strap thus leaving his hands free.

“Have you got your axe, Bunny?”

“Yes, Titch.”

“Good! That might come in handy. How many penknives do we have?” All except Miff showed that they were the proud owners of penknives.

“Mmmm . . . good. And I’ve brought my rope,” said Titch. After other items, such as mobile phones, were checked Titch looked at the others with a smile of satisfaction. “We’ve collected a handy lot of equipment. We might need it or we might not, but it’s best to be on the safe side. It’s starting to get dark so we’d better get moving.”

On the way to the ruins Titch outlined his plan. “This time Miff and I will climb up on the wall where we were last time. We’ll be able to keep a sharp watch all around from there. You other three go down into the cellar and have a good look round for a secret passage. Tap and push the walls all over to see if you can find one. If we see that car coming we’ll run down and warn you so that you can come out again before the men arrive.”

Bunny, Smudgie and Gogs waited by the ruined church wall until Titch and Miff had climbed above their heads. It was by then almost dark. Titch scanned the Straight Mile as far as he could but there was no car in sight. “Nothing about!” he shouted to the others. “You can go down now.”

Gogs hesitated. “W . . . W . . . Would you like me to stay and help you Titch?” he asked hopefully.

“Don’t be a cissy,” broke in Bunny before Titch could answer.

“But what if those men come again?” asked Gogs.

“Don’t worry Gogs,” reassured Titch. “We’ll be down to give you plenty of warning if they come.”

“Come on Gogs,” ordered Bunny. “We don’t have any time to lose.” The three boys were watched by Titch and Miff as they disappeared into the gloom.

When they reached the entrance to the passage which led to the cellar, the three boys halted.

“I’ll go first,” announced Bunny. “You come next Gogs, and Smudgie can come last.” He shone his torch down the passage and the boys advanced cautiously examining the wall as they went. They saw nothing.

There was a clatter of footsteps as they went down the worn stone steps. At the bottom Bunny looked around the corner into the dark depths of the cellar. He swept the beam of his torch around to examine their surroundings.

Bunny looked around the corner into the dark depths of the cellar

    “Now we’ve got to search quickly,” he said in an urgent whisper. “I’ll try that far wall. Gogs, you search this one and Smudgie, you . . . Smudgie!” Bunny whirled around and shone his torch. Their companion was nowhere to be seen. Both boys ran to the foot of the steps but the beam of Bunny’s torch revealed nothing. Smudgie had completely disappeared.

“That’s funny Gogs!”

“Wh . . . Wh . . .  What’s happened?” quivered Gogs clinging on to Bunny. “Wh . . . Wh . . . Where’s he gone?”

“No idea,” returned Bunny flashing his torch in every direction in the vain hope of finding their lost friend. “Perhaps he went back out for something, Gogs.”

“He might have. But I know he was behind me when we were at the top of the steps. Let’s go and look for him.”

“We’ll have to,” replied Bunny. “He must be about somewhere. Come on!”

They went back up the steps and along the passage. They looked around outside but could see nothing. Bunny flashed his torch around in the darkness in the hope of finding Smudgie. Meanwhile, up on the wall, Titch and Miff had been keeping watch. They saw no approaching car and heard and saw nothing of their friends until, suddenly, the darkness near the cellar was illuminated by Bunny’s flashing torch.

This puzzled Titch who immediately called out, “What’s the matter? Found anything?”

“No!” came Bunny’s reply through the darkness. “Smudgie’s disappeared. We can’t find him anywhere. Have you seen him?”

“No,” Titch replied. “We haven’t seen anything.”

“We can’t find him anywhere Titch,” put in Gogs.    “He’s just gone.”

Titch frowned at Miff, then looked in the direction of the cellar once more.

“When did you last see him?” he shouted. There was no reply.

“Hi! Bunny!” Still no reply. Titch looked distinctly worried.” Something odd is going on over there Miff. I don’t like it. Let’s go over to the cellar and see what’s happened.” Using Titch’s rope the pair were soon down the side of the wall and making their way silently through the grass. When they reached the entrance to the passage they stopped and listened. Titch whispered to Miff.

“We’d better not use our torches. Try not to make any noise.” They went down the steps on their toes to avoid making any sound and felt their way along the wall. Eventually Titch’s hand reached the end of the wall and he knew they were at the bottom of the steps. He slowly peered around the corner but all he could see was inky blackness.

“Ssssh!” whispered Titch. “Listen!” They heard a slight tapping sound from the wall around the corner to their left. “What’s that noise?” They stood riveted to the spot. Suddenly a faint ray of light swept across the floor of the cellar. Titch cautiously peered around the corner to see where it was coming from and was amazed at what he saw. A man with a torch was emerging from a stone doorway. There was a rumble as the door was closed, then the man started to cross to the other side of the cellar. When he reached the wall Titch watched as, in the torchlight, he saw the man’s hand press on a section of stone moulding. A door swung inwards and the man went through it. He turned to close the door and the light of his torch momentarily lit up his face. Titch let out a gasp as he recognised it. The door closed with a thud.

Titch turned to whisper to Miff. “Did you see who that was?”

“No. You were in the way,” replied Miff. “Who was it?”

Titch’s Secret Society Chapter 14

May 12, 2012

 CHAPTER 14

 Old Benny’s Story

Excitement and wonder were high in the boys’ secret underground headquarters the following morning. Gogs, Bunny, Miff and Smudgie were already in the room discussing what they had seen the previous evening, when, suddenly Titch arrived. He gave the secret knock followed by the password and was duly admitted by Gogs.

Titch sat on the camp stool and got down to business immediately. “First of all we must record all the evidence. Are you ready Bunny?” He was.

“Put down the place where you three were hiding and then write what you saw,” said Titch. Bunny wrote as fast as he could go. When he’d finished, Titch and Smudgie once more told the other three what they had seen. The written evidence was then handed to Titch who, as Chief, read it out to the meeting. He closed the book, handed it back to Bunny and then looked around at his companions.


Titch read out the evidence and then handed the book back to Bunny

    “It’s still mighty mysterious but we seem to be getting somewhere at last.”

“Yes,” agreed Bunny. “I was reading all the other evidence in bed last night. On Thursday five men arrived, went down into the cellar, and one went away again. Last night one man arrived, went down the cellar and five went away.”

“You’’e thinking the same as I am I expect,” hastily added Titch. “Those four men must have stayed  in the abbey all Thursday night and all day yesterday and left last night.”

“Cor! Fancy staying all night in an old ruin,” exclaimed Miff.

“D’you really think that’s what happened?” asked Gogs in amazement, gaping at Titch and Bunny in turn.

“Well, I know it might sound a bit odd,” admitted Bunny, “and I can’t think where they could have stayed but it is some sort of an explanation.”

“And, if your explanation is true, I think I know how they managed it,” added Titch.

“How?” chorused the other four.

“Well, as you know, Gogs and I saw the five men go down into the cellar. Only one came out, so, if my arithmetic is correct that left four in the cellar, but when I went down to look there was no one there. That can only mean one thing: there must be a secret passage leading out from the cellar.”

“Cool idea! A secret passage!” burst out Miff.

“But how is it you didn’t notice it?” asked Bunny.

“Well, I was looking for four men at the time. The thought of a secret passage didn’t occur to me then.”

“You’re right though Chief,” said Gogs. “That’s the only way they could have disappeared like that.”

“Anyway there’s always one way to find out,” resumed Titch. “We’ll all go and have a look at the cellar when those men aren’t there.”

At this Gogs stood up and flapped his hands in great excitement. “Now Titch? Now?” he cried.

“Sit down!” yelled Smudgie and Miff in unison.

“We’ve got things to do first,” stated Titch calmly. I’m wondering whether those ghostly shapes we saw on the sea, and those flashing lights, are connected with those men.”

“Don’t forget they said they were investigating the ghost,” said Smudgie.

“I certainly don’t believe that story now,” said Bunny in a contemptuous voice. “Do you think they might be pretending to be ghosts to keep people away?” he asked Titch.

‘Mmmm . . . Shouldn’t think so. Not many people would have seen anything last night. We wouldn’t have if we hadn’t been perched right up on the wall near the sea end of the ruins.”

“Yes, that’s right” agreed Bunny. “I hadn’t thought of . . .”

“I’ve got an idea,” interrupted Titch. “There is one person who might have seen something.”

“Who?” asked Gogs.

“Old Benny at the coastguard station.”

“Of course,” agreed Smudgie. “He always a keeps a sharp lookout.”

Old Benny, one of the coastguard team, was a friend of the boys. The coastguard station was situated on a short peninsular which jutted into the sea near the coast road. This overlooked the sea in every direction and the boys often waved their greetings to Benny as they bathed in the sea immediately below the station.

“He’s often down there late at night,” stated Gogs. “My father sometimes goes down to have a chat with him about boats and things.”

“Well, I think we ought to go and have a chat now,” said Titch. “There’s nothing much we can do here. We’ve written down all the evidence we’ve collected. Come on, let’s go and see if he’s at the station.”

The five boys blinked as their eyes, accustomed to the darkness of their underground room, now met the bright morning sunlight. They walked quickly along the coast road in the direction of the coastguard station.

“He’s there boys!” shouted Gogs, seeing the portly figure of their jovial friend moving about just outside the door to the station. Old Benny pushed back his peaked cap and scratched his very thin crop of hair as he regarded his approching visitors.

“Ahoy there!” he shouted. The boys chorused their greetings and were soon standing with their friend who beamed around at them.

“And to what do I owe the honour of this visit by you five young gentlemen?” he asked.

Titch, true to character, came straight to the point. “Well,” he began, “you believe in the story of the old abbey being haunted don’t you?”

“Haunted?” replied Benny. “Perhaps I do . . . I don’t really know that I’ve made up my mind about it. But one thing I’m certain of . . . there’s queer happenings takes place there.”

“Have you ever seen anything?” asked Titch.

“Seen anything?” echoed Benny. “I should just think I have. Many’s the time I’ve seen flashing lights. Why, only last night . . .”

“Last night!” gasped Gogs.

“Did you see anything last night?” asked Titch as the others gazed expectantly at the old coastguard.

“I certainly did. Not long after it got dark I saw a flash over by the cliff, just below the abbey there. Then I saw another one out at sea. Later on there were several flashes all in one place.”

“What did you think it was, Benny?” asked Smudgie.

The old man rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “That’s a very difficult question you know. There was a time, a year or so ago, when I’d have said they were smugglers’ signals. Now . . . well, I’m just not sure. I’m just not sure.”

“Why do you say there was a time when you would have said they were smugglers’ signals?” pursued Titch.

Benny chuckled at this. “You really are interested in all this business I must say. I suppose I might as well tell you. You see, about a year ago I noticed some lights out on the water one night. At first I took no notice thinking they might possibly have been fishermen, but, after three or four times, I began to get suspicious. I informed the customs men, and for some nights they kept watch. They saw lights too, so one night they decided to investigate. They went out in a launch and found a yacht anchored right out the other side of the sandbank. They searched it but found nothing on board except a French man and his wife. About a month later they waited longer and intercepted a small launch. Another search was made, but once again nothing was found. The men told them that they had had engine trouble and only succeeded in getting the motor going after they’d drifted round the headland. The customs men were suspicious so they searched further out to sea and came upon the same yacht occupied by the same two French people. Again their search was in vain. As they could prove nothing they’ve since let the matter rest.”

Benny sighed and looked wistfully out towards the sea. “Myself . . . I’m still a bit suspicious. Whenever I see those lights they set me wondering. I often put my telescope on them, but I haven’t seen anything.”

“We saw those lights last night. Benny,” said Titch. “We . . . er . . . we just happened to be walking along the top of the cliff and we saw the flashes out at sea. The moon was shining at the time and we could see some silvery shapes kind of shining.”

“Oh!” said Benny. “Silvery shapes eh? Can’t say I’ve seen anything like that myself. What were they like?”

Titch and Smudgie looked at each other. “Er . . . well, it’s difficult to say,” Titch said hesitantly not knowing quite how to describe them.

“Do you think they were ghosts?” burst our Gogs.

Benny chuckled. “I very much doubt it young sir. Ghosts don’t usually carry lights with them. Could have been the moon shining on a few breakers I suppose.”

Titch looked doubtful. “Mmmm . . . I suppose it could have been. Anyway, we won’t waste any more of your time Benny. Thanks for telling us about the lights and so on. Cheerio!”

They all wished Benny goodbye and made their way back in the direction of the coast road. “What do you make of all that, Titch?” asked Smudgie.

Titch was deep in thought. “I don’t know exactly. But we definitely saw those shapes. They certainly weren’t breakers. We might find out more tonight. We’ll all grab some early tea and go straight down to the cellar. Now, we might need some equipment. Let’s go back to our headquarters and plan our search properly.