Together We Stand – Episode 45

“There has to be something here,” Tanni said, peering up at the looming shadow of the picture wagon.

“Agreed,” Madeleine replied, joining her.

“Maybe we should just get rid of it.” Tanni sighed.

“And give in to threats?” Henry said. “It seems our mysterious intruder has concluded there is nothing more of value here.”

He looked at the wagon.

“It has to be worth one more try. The inspector seems to have little idea about who this might be, and why they are interested in Uncle Samuel’s wagon.”

“One last try,” Madeleine agreed.

They stepped inside. For the remainder of the afternoon and long into the evening, the three of them searched.

“It can’t be here,” Henry said at last, as dusk began to fall, and he and Madeleine emerged into the fresh air, while Tanni tidied up a few last items.

“But that means it might never be found. And we don’t even know what we are looking for.” Madeleine shuddered. “I’m not sure I want to stay here, never knowing what might happen next.”

“Nor do I,” Henry replied thoughtfully.

He forced himself to be cheerful as Tanni emerged from the picture wagon, a canister of film in her hand.

“A cup of tea to chase all those chemicals away, I think,” he suggested.

“That sounds like a good idea.” Tanni glanced at the canister. “This had rolled under one of the cabinets. It must be film inside.”

She shook it.

“What?” Madeleine demanded as Tanni came to an abrupt halt.

“That’s not film,” Tanni said slowly. “That sounds like paper.”

She prised it open and shook out a carefully rolled sheet of paper.

“That doesn’t look like writing,” Henry said. “And it doesn’t look like any kind of journalist’s shorthand, with those marks and numbers.”

“It could be some kind of code,” Madeleine said.

“The kind of code used by spies?” Tanni asked.

Madeleine nodded.

They looked at each other. Darkness was now falling rapidly, and a breeze had stirred.

Tanni shivered.

“This could be the very thing our intruder has been looking for.”

“And was prepared to kill for,” Madeleine added, glancing round uneasily.

“That settles it.” Henry straightened. “I suggest we take this down to Inspector Williams. The sooner this is out of our hands, the better.”

“I’ll telephone now and let him know we are on our way,” Madeleine said.

Tanni followed them back towards the house, carefully rolling up the paper and resealing it in its canister, which she thrust as deep as she could into her pocket.

“Inspector Williams will meet us at the station,” Madeleine said, emerging breathlessly from the house. She handed a coat to Tanni. “This will keep you warm. The air is cold tonight. It almost feels like autumn.”

Tanni paused, her hand on the coat. Madeleine was right. There was an edge of chill in the air, laced with the scent of distant bonfires.

“Oh!” she whispered, letting the coat fall.

“What is it?” Madeleine exclaimed.

“Have you seen?” Henry called, racing back from the road. “I saw it as I was starting the automobile. It’s high up on the Orme. It looks like the flames took hold almost instantly.”

“Tanni.” Madeleine grasped her hand. “Tanni, it isn’t . . .”

“No,” Tanni said in a strangled voice. “It’s not Mam’s house.”

“It must be the Jones’s cottage,” Henry said.

“Mari’s there alone with the baby,” Tanni cried.

“Come on!” Henry cried. “It will take ages for anyone to reach them from the town, and we are only a few minutes away.”

The next minute they were roaring up the hill, towards the flames etched against the sky.

Abigail Phillips

Abbie is the newest member of the fiction team at the "Friend." She loves how varied the role is - every day is different and there is always a new story to read. She is keen to work closely with established writers and discover new writers, too.