Echoes From The Past – Episode 11

“Quiet!” Andrew hissed. “Make a noise now, and you’ll spoil everything!”

“Was this why we had to climb?” she whispered. “If we’d been stranded down there, would it have stopped the smugglers from landing?”


“Who exactly are you?”

In the dark beside her, she sensed a smile.

“Not who, or what, you think I am.”

Waiting in silence behind the bushes, they saw the dim, dark shape of a ship’s lifeboat slide across the faint white rollers. Soundlessly, it disappeared below the cliff edge, almost directly at the opening where the cave would be.

Andrew wriggled forward and, after a moment’s hesitation, Helen followed. Figures of men were hauling the boat up on to the wet sand, clear of the receding tide. She watched them unload it, settling bundles and crates on their shoulders just as it had always been done in the past. A dozen men, she counted, setting off in a line towards the cave below.

Andrew lay immobile for what seemed an eternity. Then he reached into his jacket pocket to draw out a torch. He held this over the edge of the cliff, and flicked it on and off. An answering light sparked out from behind some distant rocks. More dark figures, at least 20, hurried across the beach. One last flick of light from their torch, then they were gone, following the smugglers into the cave.

Andrew hauled Helen to her feet.

“Come on,” he said. “Run as you have never run before . . . we must get back into town within five minutes.”

He was off like the wind, leaving Helen stumbling after him.

They reached the edge of the town and ran, panting, along the gaslit street, back to Helen’s boarding house. Andrew slowed down, and she saw another group of dark figures, waiting at the gable end of the row of terraced houses. One of these came forward to meet them.

“Ready, sir? Has the cargo come in from the sea?”

“Just as expected.” Andrew gasped. He pulled Helen back. “Wait here,” he ordered.

“The businessmen?” she asked. “What about the smugglers in the passageway?”

“Bottled in by our men. Stand here. These men are foreign and dangerous.”

He led his own men and she watched him signal them to spread between the front door and the back of the boarding house at the top of the street the house nearest the bay. But why wait here, when it was her job to report on the arrest? Without hesitation, Helen followed on the heels of Andrew and the policemen.

“Open up! Police!” he shouted.

For a few moments, there was no response. Then the door exploded open and two dark figures came rushing out. The first was drowned in a scrum of policemen’s bodies, but the second leaped over this, knocking Andrew to the side before sprinting directly towards Helen.

She stepped in front of him determinedly. Somehow, she must stop the fleeing figure, or at least delay him until the police converged from behind.

The man saw her at the last minute, and veered to swing past. Then a flying figure came in from the side and brought the fugitive tumbling to the ground.

“Thought I told you to stay clear?” Andrew growled.

“Rats!” she replied with spirit.

Two more policemen hurled themselves on to the struggling men. Gradually, the battle stopped, when it became clear that fighting would do no good. Andrew stood up, a long tear across the knee of his trousers.

“Congratulations,” he said. “That’s you got your scoop.”

Helen was about to head back to Beth, when a thought struck her. The frightened woman in the boarding house. Was she still there and safe? The front door was gaping open from the arrests.

Helen went through to the kitchen, and opened the door to find the landlady in the centre of the room, her hands holding a crumpled pinny to her mouth.

The two women stared at each other.

“How much did you know of this?” Helen asked.

The woman shook her head.

“Were you part of it?”

The woman’s face crumpled and she slumped on to a chair.

“I married a German before the war,” she whispered, tears running down her face. “Hans went home to avoid imprisonment. He was killed on the Western Front. I was left on my own, with a child, at my sister’s house in London. These men came for me after the war. They told me that I’d lost my British nationality, that I was now an enemy alien, and that my son and I would be shipped back to Germany if I didn’t help. What choice did I have?”

“The war’s over,” Helen said. “My guess is that was a load of lies.”

“Lots of German immigrants were put into prison here.”

“That was during the war. Not now.” Helen studied the woman. “Pack your bag and go,” she encouraged. “Get back to London, before the police come here to find you.”

The woman fled up the stairs.


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