This is perhaps the most exciting blog post I have ever written, and definitely also the longest. I have been working on it for the last year, although in some ways it has been a work in progress for the last 30-odd years.
Ever since I was old enough to read, I wanted to be a writer. As a 13 year-old I was quite convinced I was going to be the ‘female, British R.L Stine’ and after reading every single Point Horror book that was available at the time, I wrote my own one called ‘Stepbrothers‘, which I was very proud of. Fast forward 10 years and I was just as convinced that I was actually going to be a ‘female, British Hunter S. Thompson’, although, in hindsight, I’m rather glad I didn’t end up going further down that route.
Like anyone with a dream, as the years wore on I always had excuses for myself as to why I wasn’t trying to write a book. Too busy working, too busy with the kids, too busy with life, and so it went on. And then around this time last year, for reasons I need not explain, I suddenly found myself with more free time than I’d had since I was a teenager and it seemed as if all the excuses for not writing a book had dried up.
And so I finally began. But of course I knew that I didn’t want to write just one book; I wanted to write a whole series of books, and so I decided to begin with the third book because this sort of thing makes perfect sense to my back-to-front mind. I finished it in exactly 4 weeks, waking up at 4 or 5 am every morning, and writing anything between 1,000-4,000 words a day and I quickly found that the world I was creating was providing the greatest escape from the miserable clusterfuck of the ‘real world’ I was living in.
The stories are set in the forests, woodlands and moors all around Rigg House B&B and incorporate some of the many myths and legends of the area. Events and locations within the stories are mostly based on experiences I have had and places I have found during my many solo adventures; of course the Chalk Memorial/Polskeoch Bothy is an important feature!
If I was to describe these books I would say that they are a modern version of the Famous Five, with inspiration from many, many things, including The Twilight Zone (my favourite TV show of all time), Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, The Goonies, Round the Twist, The Wizard of Oz and Return to Oz, Eerie Indiana (my second favourite TV show of all time), Lord of the Rings, Scooby-Doo and many more. I have tried to ensure that the books are written in a way which will achieve the magical goal of appealing to both kids and adults with lots of hidden little references to songs I love, including Don McLean’s American Pie, Townes Van Zandt’s Lungs, Harvey Andrews’ Requiem, as well as a hill and canyon named after the queen that is Dolly Parton.
Anyway, that’s more than enough of a preamble. Today I have decided to share the first 3 chapters of the third book which will hopefully whet your appetite and make you want to read more! My aim is by the end of the summer I will have the first 3 books of the series finished and ready to be printed, and if they don’t sell then at least I’ll have all my Christmas shopping sorted!!! Watch this space to find out more about The Library Moor Gang series!
The Nith Jewels
Chapter 1 – Hunted and Harried
The air was thick with black-as-night smoke, billowing up into the thunderous evening sky. The flames rose higher and the sounds of crackle-crash tore through the cottages as wooden beams fell, sending waves of sparks rushing up into the dancing curls of smoke.
Angry voices roared out – men on horseback shouting orders to each other, thrusting their gleaming swords into anything that moved; a wild unstoppable fury reigning. The screaming sounds from the villagers had given way to muffled sobs as the women and children edged towards the trees, away from the carnage, away from the horror of the slaughter of the menfolk and the destruction of their homes.
Atop the grassy knoll which overlooked the village a group of men watched in silence as the scene of chaos unfolded below them. The opportunity for intervention and retaliation had passed and now they could only watch in grim silence. Sharp stabs of guilt penetrated the men, some of them stifling moans of anguish as they witnessed the consequences to their deed. One man, overcome with the realisation of what was happening, fell to his knees clutching at his head, a low groan crawling out from deep inside his body.
“Get up Rab!”, another man ordered sharply, “What’s done is done. There is always a price to pay for freedom, and for justice. As well you know”.
A third man, smaller and younger than the others, stepped forwards, turned his back on the devastation in the village and faced the other men. “We all know that the King’s men won’t find what they are looking for down there. And what do you think will happen once they have killed every man and destroyed every dwelling in Glenaive?”. He gestured down towards the burning village behind him and looked from face to face, waiting for an answer which didn’t come.
“They will move on to the next village”, the boyish man continued grimly. “And when they don’t find the treasure in Pontmill, they’ll burn it down and move on to Gorseford and they will keep on killing and burning, searching and searching, and all the while with no chance of ever finding that which is more hidden than they could possibly know”.
“Aye, but what’s your point there, James?”, a gruff voice bellowed out, just as a crack of lightening flicked across the sky, followed by an ominous rumble of thunder and the first flecks of cold rain.
“I’m saying that Richard is right: what’s done is done”, James said with a confidence that seemed almost at odds with his small frame. “This is the way the dragoons do things, as right we knew before we began. And if they did find the jewels? Then what happens next? They find another reason for slaughter, and our land dies anyway, that is what”. He paused and looked steely-eyed at the men before him. “We have done an honourable deed for the protection of our valley, safe in the knowledge that the wicked curate will never see the casket again”.
“I still don’t see your point Renwick”, the gruff-voiced man said, “Are you saying we just have to sit back and watch those dogs on horseback murder our neighbours? And we just wait until they give up? Why not just let the Bishop’s man and the dragoons keep the jewels and end this madness once and for all?”
The man named Richard stepped forwards this time and turned to stand side-by-side with James. “Why do you think Tam?”, he asked fiercely. “The Nith jewels belong in our lands, they belong to our people. Treasures like these cause great harm when the wrong people attempt to claim them for their own – the evidence of which you can see before you with your own eyes. We cannot allow them to end up in the Bishop’s gilded lodgings. And besides -”. He paused and looked to James, who gave him a quick nod in encouragement. “And besides”, Richard repeated, “Those men care only about the sparkle and shine of the treasures, and of their monetary worth; they would try to gather up moonlight if they believed it had any value. Men like those could never even dare to imagine what powers are contained within the Nith Jewels and it is our God-given duty to keep it that way”.
Just as the gruff man, Tam, was about to speak again, another crack of lightening split the darkening sky in two and the rain spilt down as a deafening crack of thunder rolled over the hills. The band of murderous dragoons at the bottom of the hill began to disperse, their mission of devastation mercifully disrupted by the storm.
“No more time for talk”, Richard shouted over the sound of the rain. He hurried over to the copse of cedar trees and untied his horse, calling back over his shoulder to the other men: “Get to the arch!”
Chapter 2 – Lockdown
The clock ticked away all the hours as the days drifted by in a slow-motion blur.
Silence, save for the conversation between the ticking of the clock and the tap-tapping of the rain on the window.
Harris sighed, stood up from the leather couch and walked over to the mantelpiece. He picked up the sleek chrome clock and turned it over in his hands, a frown forming on his face.
No one had spoken for a while – all four of them had become used to bouts of silence on rainy days; boredom had begun to get the better of them after just two weeks of staying at home, going no further than the boundaries of their garden. The school term was cancelled, shops were boarded up and playgrounds were chained shut. The grown-ups called this time Lockdown. Of course, dry weather days were better than wet, when the hours were spent in their den in the small orchard up at the top end of the garden where they couldn’t hear the hushed, secretive conversations between the worried grown-ups.
But rainy days were dull days, days of monotony measured out by the ticking of the clock, although thankfully punctuated with long meal times. Since all the rules of life as they knew it were so back-to-front, sometimes the very best thing would happen at tea time and they would be allowed to eat their pudding before their main course! Of course, Harris and the others never questioned this sudden reversal of all the usual grown-up-imposed rules, but it certainly did seem as if the whole world had gone topsy-turvy.
“How do you stop this thing from ticking?”, Harris asked suddenly, still frowning at the clock.
“I don’t think you can”, replied his sister, Brodie, “I think it just always ticks”.
Harris grunted in response and set the clock back down. He paused to check his hair in the large silver framed mirror which hung above the fireplace before slumping back down on the sofa. Silence reigned again for a few more minutes, before Brodie rose from her position in the recliner by the window and clapped her hands sharply.
“Right everyone!”, she said, “We need a plan. Darwin – can we get a weather report please?”.
A dark-haired teenager sitting at the table, scrolling through his phone looked up lazily. He registered the order without comment and looked back down. His reply came a few seconds later.
“It’s going to stop raining within the next hour. Then it seems like it’s going to be full sun by two o’clock. Oh yeah, and don’t forget: there’s a reminder about the Supermoon in a couple of days”.
This information stirred Harris into action and he sprang up from the sofa. “Nice one Darwin”, he grinned, “that’s what we like to hear. And of course we’ve not forgotten about the Supermoon. How could we? But we do need to find a decent reason for a Supermoon mission and we’ve not got long to sort it”.
From behind the back of the long grey sofa a head popped up, a mass of red curls framing a little heart-shaped face. “Did I hear the words sun and Supermoon?!”, the girl, Thistle, asked, a doll in each hand and a dozen more lying at her feet.
“What’s the plan then?” asked Harris, directing the question mainly to his twin sister Brodie and ignoring the excitement of his little sister.
Before Brodie could answer, Darwin, still looking down at his phone, suddenly spoke again. “Hey, have you guys ever heard the names Douglas Castle, Stewart Newton and John Crawford?”
Brodie and Harris shook their heads, although Darwin barely raised his eyes to acknowledge their response.
“Listen to this. It says here that back in June nineteen ninety-five, Castle, Newton and Crawford were arrested on suspicion of breaking and entering into this very house we are sitting in! And although nothing was ever proven there were rumours that they had been looking for a secret passage way that lead to a stash of treasures, rumoured to have been hidden in sixteen eighty-five!”.
This time Thistle leapt up over the sofa, bouncing off the cushions and bounded over to the others. “SECRET PASSAGE WAY!” she squealed, “HIDDEN TREASURE!” Her eyes shone bright and she beamed with excitement at her siblings and her cousin.
The others remained silent.
“A real-life treasure hunt!”, Thistle implored. She had heard enough to know that this was an adventure that she would not be missing out on, even if the others were acting as if she wasn’t there.
Darwin continued scrolling down his phone, his thumb flicking between different web pages as he checked and verified the information across different sources. “Ah, so, here we go…” Darwin continued on, reading directly from an old newspaper article on the screen, “Crawford, age 27 and Castle and Newton, both aged 33, failed to show up in court today and were sentenced in their absence to six months in prison for the breaking and entering of a private residential property, Library House, on the night of June 13th. The charge of attempted theft was dropped due to insufficient evidence…” Darwin trailed off for a moment, frowning at his phone.
“Go on”, Harris encouraged.
“Well, that’s just it”, Darwin said, “There’s nothing more about those men anywhere after that – it’s like they just disappeared”.
“What do you mean?”, Harris asked, pulling up a chair and sitting beside Darwin. Brodie followed suit and Thistle copied Brodie, because that’s what she always did.
“I tried to find out where those guys are now but there isn’t a trace of them anywhere on the internet. I’ve got nothing on any of them. Like I said, it’s like after nineteen ninety-five, they just vanished. Even if they’d died together in some tragic accident then I’d at least be able to find an obituary or a police report or something. But I’ve got zilch. It doesn’t make sense. No one is usually this untraceable”.
Everyone contemplated this information for a moment or two before Thistle, the youngest member of the group summed up what they were all feeling with just one word: “Weird”.
Just at that moment the sun blazed through the rain clouds and cast a golden strip of light across the room. This was the signal they had been waiting for, the signal to leave the house and go up to the den. In a wordless united action, the four of them hurried to the back door, pulling on their wellies and grabbing their jackets from the coat stand. The discussion about the mysterious men, and the passage way of treasure, would be resumed later.
It was early April and the garden hadn’t quite come to life yet, although the recent heavy rain seemed to have perked up the lawn. The long wide strip of lush green grass stretched up a gentle incline, flanked by flower beds and alabaster statues, before it reached a cluster of fruit trees atop a steep drop down to a burn. From the vantage point of the orchard, the views across the valley, down over the villages of Bridekirk and Blackhouse, and beyond, were truly spectacular. Created by the rain and the sparkling sun, a striking bright rainbow arched across the sky, turning the scene into a picture from a colourful children’s book.
On the other side of the burn, directly opposite the orchard of Library House, was the garden of Library Moor Cottage, split down the middle with a path leading into the forest and to a clearing where the cottage itself stood. A muddy track led off to the left towards a field of noisy, contented pigs.
Thistle reached the orchard first, but she carried on past the den and scrambled down the bank to reach the burn.
“Morris!”, she called out, “Morris, get outside quick!”
A few moments later a small blonde boy appeared from the trees and came sprinting down the path. He leapt over the broken fence in an easy, well-rehearsed stride and hopped from stone to stone across the shallow water of the burn.
“Hey Thistle”, the blonde boy grinned. A pencil stuck out from his tight curls and smeared across his forehead was a thick smudge of charcoal. “What’s going on?”
The boy stayed back from his friend, just as all the grown-ups had told them to do. Of course, it made no sense as to why everyone had to stay two meters apart, but the children knew they had no choice but to obey these new rules, no matter how strange it all seemed.
“I think we might just have found the mystery we were hoping for!”, Thistle said excitedly, speaking loudly enough for her friend to hear.
“Awesome”, replied Morris, “Does this mean we can go on an adventure?”
“I’m not sure”, Thistle said, “I don’t know what the rules are right now and whenever I ask Mum and Dad, they just say they don’t know either. We haven’t even figured out an adventure plan yet anyway. But I guess you could come up to the den and sit outside – if we leave the door open, we can still all chat, but we’ll still be two meters apart. Surely that’s not against the rules, is it?”
“I dunno, but I’m coming up. I’ve not been further than the end of Papa’s garden or the pig fields in a fortnight and I need to at least hear about an adventure, even if I can’t actually go on one”.
The pair scrambled up the incline to the edge of the orchard and cut diagonally across towards a wall of wide pine tree branches, densely woven around a circle of apple trees. More branches, along with a thick layer of moss formed a roof across the structure, partially supported by half-rotten fence posts which formed the entrance to the den. When the gang weren’t there, an old wooden pallet and a carefully arranged curtain of moss concealed this crawl hole portal into their secret hide-out.
Thistle dropped to her knees, ducked her head and slipped into the den, leaving Morris sitting on a flat rock just in front of the doorway. Brodie, Harris and Darwin were already inside, all sitting cross-legged in a triangular formation around a large meal chest.
“Morris is here”, Thistle announced to the others. “He’s going to sit outside so we need to speak loudly enough for him to hear”.
“Hi Mo”, Brodie said, crawling across the space to peer out of the door.
“Hey Brodie, how’s it going?”, Morris said, instantly blushing. Morris adored Brodie, and even though Thistle was his best friend, he still often wished he was a few years older just so that he could be closer to Brodie.
“Darwin thinks he has uncovered a strange mystery to do with our house”, Brodie explained, “It might even involve your place so it’s a good job you’re here”.
Harris twisted his upper body to face the doorway. “Hey Mo, have you ever heard your Dad mention anything about a hidden passage way leading from Library House?”
Morris’ family owned the entire Library Moor estate, all 3,000 acres of it, along with all the properties within its boundaries. His family, going back six generations, had been the caretakers of this hidden, remote little universe; surely if anyone knew anything about a secret passage way anywhere on the estate, then it would be Morris’s Dad.
Morris frowned in thought for a moment. “I remember hearing my Mum and Dad talking to Papa not long before Mum died…I remember her saying something about wanting to check on the tunnel whilst she was still alive. At least, I think that’s what she said. I wanted to know what she meant but I never dared to ask.”
“Is a tunnel the same thing as a passage way?”, Thistle asked.
“I guess so”, replied Darwin, “And in this case, it would certainly seem so”.
“I’m so sorry about your Mum, Mo”, Brodie said softly, “I still miss her you know”.
Morris smiled sadly. “Me too”. Morris’s Mum had died just six months before lockdown had begun and he missed her every single day – even more so during these strange times, but it helped to know he had friends who cared and who had known and loved his mother, almost as much as he did.
“Yeah dude”, said Harris, crawling closer to the doorway, “Your Mum was a legend. What I wouldn’t give for one of her triple chocolate cookies right now”.
The group laughed knowingly. If Mrs. Knowe has still been alive, they all knew she would have happily spent this time of lockdown doing nothing but baking delicious treats; she would have tried out dozens of new recipes by now, with the kids being her very willing taste testers.
A shadow of bitter-sweet memories cast them all into silence before Thistle finally spoke. “So, if your Mum wanted to find this tunnel – or passage way, or whatever you want to call it – then maybe we need to do it for her. In honour of her memory. Isn’t that what they call doing this sort of thing?”
“I think you’re just looking for any justification for an adventure”, Harris laughed as he absent-mindedly stacked a pile of smooth pebbles into a mini cairn.
Before this strange period of lockdown had begun, the Library Moor Gang’s adventures had always been epic. Ever since they had moved to Scotland eight years previously, and as soon as they were old enough, life for the Rigg siblings had primarily been about exploring the hills and discovering the tumble-down ruins tucked away in the forest, often leaving the house at first light and returning well past tea time. And although their cousin, Darwin, didn’t live with the siblings during pre-lockdown life, he had spent every school holiday at the big house for nearly half his life and had played a part in the biggest and most exciting of the gang’s missions.
Darwin quickly filled Morris in on the story so far; about the three mysterious men and the legend of the hidden gold.
“My Dad is dealing with the pigs so we won’t bother him”, Morris said when Darwin had finished speaking, “But we could go up Sandy Hill and talk to Papa and see what he knows about it all”.
Morris’s Grandfather lived in a run-down shepherd’s cottage on the side of a gentle sloping hill, encircled with a semi-neglected vegetable garden. The quickest (although not necessarily the easiest) way to reach the cottage was to scramble straight up the burn which separated the gardens of Library House and Library Cottage. When the burn reached a flat section of the hill, it was possible to climb up the bank reaching the fence marking the boundary of Sandy Cottage. If they didn’t dawdle, they could reach it in less than fifteen minutes, easy.
“OK then”, said Brodie, “I’ll come with you. It’ll be good to go up the hill, just for a change of scenery if nothing else”. She turned to face her brother. “Are you coming Harris?”
Harris looked over to Darwin who shook his head.
“No. Me and Darwin will stay here”, Harris replied, “We’ll keep on seeing if we can find out anything else online while you guys talk to Papa Knowe. Try and get back here within the hour and we’ll share whatever info we find”.
Thistle crawled out of the den, followed by her older sister. Morris stood up from the rock and backed off a few paces to leave a wide space between himself and his two friends.
Brodie stood and brushed the dry mud and leaves from her jeans and smiled at Morris. “You know you’ve got a pencil sticking out of your hair, don’t you?”
Morris put his hand up to his head and laughed. “I was looking for that everywhere!”
The trio headed down to the burn, veering right as they began to scramble up the rocky bed. Despite the recent rainy days, the burn was still pretty dry making it easy to walk virtually its entire length without getting their feet wet. Halfway along they reached the steepest part, which in wetter months was the location of a cascading waterfall. But between March and October it was possible to climb up the dry waterfall, using the drooping overhead branches as support. If they had ever bothered trying, grown-ups would have found this to be a difficult mission, but for little feet and nimble limbs it was an easy exercise.
Morris was the first to the top, closely followed by Thistle. Brodie appeared a minute or two later, panting slightly; she had only just turned fourteen but it seemed as if the three year age difference between her and the other two was starting to show. They raced along the final stretch, with Brodie still bringing up the rear, as Sandy Cottage came into view up on their left. Morris lead the others to a small pebbled patch beside the burn and they scrambled up to reach flat ground once more.
“Papa!”, Morris shouted out over the fence, in the same way that Thistle had called for himself less than an hour earlier. “Papa! You there?”
An old man appeared from around the side of the cottage and stopped at the top of the slab-paved path which lead through the vegetable patches. “Who’s making all that noise?”, the man shouted in mock anger, “You’ll wake the forest ghosts with that racket!”
“Papa!”, Morris exclaimed excitedly at the sight of the old man. He managed to stop himself from running up the path to greet him properly as he would have done before lockdown. How strange it was that he couldn’t even hug his own flesh and blood!
The old man hobbled a little closer – he’d left his walking cane in the house and his knees were playing up worse than usual. “What’s brought you all the way up here then, eh little whippet?”. He smiled and nodded at the girls. “And hello there little Thistle, and hello to you too Mademoiselle Brodie”.
“Hey Papa Knowe”, Brodie and Thistle said in unison. They loved Morris’s grandfather as if he was their own and they too missed being able to feel his warm, reassuring hugs. They even missed going inside his strange, slightly creepy house; a classic example of a house-that-time-forgot.
“Do you need anything bringing up Papa?” Morris called, “You got enough food?”
“No lad, thank you, I’m grand. The community support volunteers from the village brought up a box of stuff for the freezer yesterday and your Dad was up here early this morning with milk and bread. And fresh bacon which was a welcome treat, I’ll tell you”.
“Okay, cool.”, Morris said, before hastily launching into the real reason for their visit. “Papa, we need to know about the tunnel leading from Library House. And we need to know about the three men who broke into the house back in -”. He stopped and looked over to Brodie for a prompt.
“Nineteen-ninety-five”, Brodie stated.
Old Alexander Knowe clucked loudly and leant against a tree stump. “Well, I suppose you found this out from that internet of yours, eh? Piff! Don’t believe everything you read on a screen”.
“So you’re saying there is no tunnel?”, Thistle asked, unable to hide the disappointment in her voice. “And you’re saying that three men didn’t break into our house in nineteen-ninety-five?”
“No lass, that’s not what I’m saying. But you’d do well to learn how facts become distorted over time and I very much doubt you’ll find much truth on that internet you youngsters are so obsessed with. If you want to know the truth about a story set around your own home, then that is the place you need to look, not on a computer”. Papa Knowe said the words ‘internet’ and ‘computer’ as if they were alien words which left a bad taste in his mouth by saying them.
“So now you’re saying that there is a tunnel?!”, Morris cried, “Oh Papa, don’t talk in riddles!”
Old man Knowe chuckled. “Riddles, eh? Ha! Life itself is a riddle. But anyway, those silly men got it all wrong from the off – they were looking in the wrong place entirely”.
“So, the tunnel isn’t in our house?” Thistle moaned, with more than a little exasperation creeping into her voice.
“Afraid not my little spiky one. I never did understand why that hapless trio thought the tunnel lead from Library House. They were a good few miles off the mark there, I dare say”.
“So where is it then?”, Brodie asked, aware that the time was ticking and they needed some solid information to report back at the den.
“I don’t know”, Papa Knowe answered, “I don’t even know for sure whether it really exists, but I know that it isn’t in the big house, that much I can at least be sure of, and I’m fair sure it isn’t in the cottage either. Could be in any one of the dwellings on the estate, or it could be nowhere at all”.
“Well, that doesn’t help us much”, Morris exclaimed in annoyance. He had hoped to return to the older boys with something more useful than the fact that the passage way might not even exist at all.
“I’m sorry boy. I don’t know what I can tell you when I don’t know anything about it. And I’m sorry to say, but I am quite sure the treasure is little more than a fairy story.”
“Oh, okay, never mind. But we’d better go Papa. Dad will be wondering where I am. You’ll give us a call if you need anything, won’t you?”.
The girls took their cue from Morris and turned to leave just as the old man spoke again.
“Brodie”, he said, “Ask your mother about the patchwork quilt that Winnie gave her when your family first moved to Library House. If you want answers, I have a feeling that that quilt is probably a good place to start”.
“OK”, Brodie said slowly, managing to hide the confused frown forming across her brow. She had never seen a patchwork quilt in their house, or anything handmade for that matter. Despite living in an old property, Mr and Mrs. Rigg had very modern tastes when it came to interior design; stark white walls and sleek, expensive furniture. Minimalist, the grown-ups called it. When visitors came round, in the days before lockdown, they would touch things and gasp and say things like ‘Oh it really shouldn’t work in a house like this, but it just does!’ And the kids would smile at each other and raise their eyes as if to say ‘Grown-ups are weird’. Brodie certainly couldn’t imagine any of her parent’s fancy city friends fawning all over an old patchwork quilt.
Brodie and Thistle returned to the den after bidding farewell to Morris at the bottom of his garden and promising to return if they found out any more information. Once inside the den they found Harris and Darwin hunched over a large map spread out over the floor.
Before either of the girls could say anything beyond ‘hello’, Darwin spoke at them rapidly, without looking up. “The passage way doesn’t lead from Library House after all. And get this – Castle, Newton and Crawford were declared legally dead in 2005 after being on the missing persons register for ten years”.
Thistle and Brodie looked to each other in surprise.
“But how did you – ”, Brodie began.
Darwin cut her off before she could finish speaking. “We’ve found loads more stuff about the legend of the hidden gold – there’s a lot of information when you start digging – and it seems that investigators ruled out Library House as being connected to any tunnel – or tunnel network – years before those men broke in”.
“Oh”, replied Brodie flatly, annoyed that it seemed their mission up Sandy Hill had been a waste of time. By this point she had all but forgotten what Papa Knowe had said about the patchwork quilt, and besides, she couldn’t possibly see what use an old quilt could be anyway. Perhaps it was one of those – what was the phrase people used to describe a misleading clue? – white herrings? Red herons? Brodie was never too sure about that one.
Thistle, lost in thought, scraped a twig across the dry ground, drawing triangle patterns and semi-circles in the dust. “So”, she said slowly, “If the men knew the tunnel wasn’t in the house, what were they really looking for?”
“Who knows”, replied Harris, “but I definitely think we have found the perfect mission for a Supermoon Adventure!”.
Chapter 3 – The Plan
The glasses clinked and the spotlights blinked. The crowd jeered as the band made their way onto the small stage at the back end of the pub. It was a typical Saturday night in the White Hart; people pressed together in the smoky haze at the bar, jostling for a space to lean their elbows and for an opportunity to catch the bartender’s eye.
The band started up, the lead singer belting out a cover of one of the year’s biggest hits, Cotton Eyed Joe, which elicited an equal mix of cheers and boos from the crowd as the fiddle player drew her bow and began to play. Half a dozen people closest to the stage started dancing, linking arms, laughing, swinging between each other in circles and tapping their heels in rhythm to the manic tune.
Noise, noise, so much noise. But it was a good-natured kind of noise; the laughter and the singing, happy greetings between friends and kisses between lovers. No matter what was going on outside in the real world, life for everyone inside the White Hart on a Saturday night was all about fun.
Except on this particular night there was an exception to the norm. Sitting around a circular table, tucked away in a small alcove away from the hustle-bustle of the main bar sat three men. This was not the usual drinking spot for these men, and the other people in the White Hart were certainly not their type of people. But here, a good one hundred miles from their own neighbourhood, they could be anonymous and go by relatively unnoticed in this noisy atmosphere. Or so they hoped.
The three men, Douglas, John and Stewart pulled their chairs closer to the table and averted their eyes as the barmaid set down three fresh pints of dark cloudy ale and collected the empty glasses from the table. The men grunted in dismissive thanks.
“So, we’re all set then”, the largest of the three, Douglas, said, “Tomorrow is the day. You two ain’t going to back out on me now are you?”
The man seated in the middle of the group took a gulp of his drink before slamming the glass down hard on the table, catching the corner of the crystal-cut ash tray and sending it clattering to the floor. “Back out on you?”, Stewart said through gritted teeth, “This ain’t just your plan Dougie. This is our plan. Yours, mine and John-Boys. Even stevens, three-way split. No games this time”.
Douglas grunted. “Yeah, yeah. But who figured out what it is that we are actually looking for, eh? You’d still be chasing your tail with no leads to follow without me”.
“Shut up, the pair of you”, the third man growled. John may well have been the smallest of the group physically, but what he lacked in stature, he made up for with his fierce character. “None of that matters. Who cares who figured it out? All I know is that tomorrow is the day when we’ll finally get our hands on that quilt!”