The Round Loaf
Chapter One. Monday July 22, 1940
Jack skidded his bike to a stop, leaned it against the hedge that ran along the front of the farm’s yard and ran to the kitchen door. He knocked and waited until Mrs. Forester, one floury hand holding a towel, opened it.
“Hello Jack. Come to see Bob? He’s collecting the eggs. Shouldn’t be long. You can help him if you like.”
“Okay, thanks. I’ll do that.”
He ran along the path that crossed the back garden to a gate that led into a field. Two hen houses were to the right of the gate; Bob was shutting the hatch to one of the nest boxes. Four trays holding eggs lay on the ground beside him.
“Hi Bob. Tide’s out right now. It’s time to have another look.”
“Oh, hello Jack. Okay. We’ll go as soon as I’ve taken these in. Can you take two of the trays?”
Once inside the kitchen Mrs. Forester said, “Put them on the side table Jack. I’ll check them when the bread’s in the pans. Now, Bob, don’t be late home. You’ve got to help your dad with the pigs after lunch.”
“I know, mum.”
“And keep together. Don’t want anything happening to either of you.”
“Okay mum. ‘Bye.”
They walked across the yard to the far side of the barn and followed the hedge that separated two fields heading towards a small wood that lay between Mr. Forester’s farm and the sea.
“What did your mum mean when she said she doesn’t want anything to happen to us Bob?”
“Ah, she’s afraid that the Jerry pilot will be hanging around here. I told her he’d be far away by now. He was downed three days ago.”
“Where would he go?”
“To a collaborator somewhere or he might have pinched a boat and rowed out to sea. Any letters from your dad?”
“No, not for three weeks. We don’t know where he is, somewhere in Europe. When he writes home he’s not allowed to say anything about what he’s doing or where he is.”
“Yes, of course. I guess all the letters home are censored anyway. Did you get new batteries for the torch?”
They climbed the barbed wire fence that separated the field from wood, carefully avoiding its sharp spikes. A narrow track led them through the trees towards the coast. As they neared the far side Jack said, “Climb the lookout tree Bob. I’ll get the spade.”
The lookout tree was a tall, easily-climbed beech that stood close to the edge of the wood. Half way up one could overlook most of the other trees and see if anyone was coming along the Coastal Trail that ran along the top of the cliffs separating the farms from the sea. Going to the shore was forbidden these days and the boys didn’t want to be seen. The path to the beach was guarded by a partly-buried pill box located close to the top of the path. The only time the box was manned was when the Home Guard had an exercise and that was usually at night.
As Bob made his way to the lookout tree Jack climbed the branches to the treehouse that he, Bob and Bob’s father had made two years ago. The house had a trapdoor, a window and a roof of corrugated iron. It was their own special hide out, roomy, about eight by six, and there was an old cupboard, two chairs and a small table inside. Ever since the war begun last September they had not been allowed to go to the beach so they often ate their picnic lunches there. Now, in late July, they were less worried about being seen and frequently sneaked down to the cove. They went there because Mrs. Grant, their English teacher, had told them to read Treasure Island then write an essay about looking for treasure. Jack loved the story and became a dedicated treasure hunter. This part of the Cornish coastline was an excellent place for that kind of thing for everyone knew that smugglers used to hide goods in the caves. Jack didn’t expect to find gold or silver there but he thought there might be a few barrels of brandy buried under the sand at the back of a cave. Bob didn’t think they’d find anything, but, if Jack wanted to search, so did he.
Jack reached the trap door and swung it back. It landed on the floor with its usual bang and he poked his head into the room. Sitting on an old tarpaulin was a man pointing a gun at Jack’s head.
“Get in,” the man said. “Sit there,” and he pointed to the opposite corner of the room.
Jack pulled himself in then sat down, staring at the man.
“Who were you talking to?” the man asked.
“Bob, my friend. You’re the Jerry pilot aren’t you?”
“I’m the pilot of the Messerschmitt that was shot down, yes.”
“You speak English very well.”
“I went to school in England when I was young. What is your friend doing?”
“He’s climbed the look-out tree. We’re going to the beach but can’t do that if anyone sees us.”
“Why are you going there? Isn’t the shore mined?”
“Not around here. We’re exploring the caves. Are you going to shoot us?”
“I hope not. What time do you have to be home?”
“For lunch. Bob has to be home around twelve thirty.”
“Well, we can’t stay here then, they’ll come looking for you and find me.”
“They’ll find you sooner or later, won’t they? You’re bound to be caught.”
“I don’t think so. I’m being collected. But I can’t let you go home you’ll tell them about me. We’ll have to hide somewhere together until I leave.”
Jack, thinking hard, said, “We could hide in one of the caves. They won’t think of looking there. If we did that, you wouldn’t shoot us?”
“No, I wouldn’t. That’s a good idea. Okay, that’s what we’ll do. We’ll get Bob and do that.”
Jack began to get up. “No, wait,” the man said. He took a knife from his jacket pocket and cut one of the ropes the boys had hidden in the cupboard into lengths.
“I can’t climb down if you tie me up,” said Jack.
“I know. I’ll do that when we’re down. You’re very helpful, aren’t you.”
“I don’t want to be shot, that’s why.”
The man climbed down to the ground and Jack followed, carrying the spade.
“Why did you bring that?” asked the man.
“Sand blocks the cave entrance sometimes. Depends on how rough the sea has been.”
“I see. Okay, let’s get Bob.”
Jack led the way to the look-out tree then called, “Come down, Bob. Is there anyone on the path?”
“No. Who’s that with you?”
“Come down and I’ll tell you.”
Once down Jack told Bob what had happened and said they must co-operate or they’ll be shot.
“All right. What’s your name, mister?” asked Bob.
“Hans,” said the man. “What’s yours,” he said, pointing to Jack.
“Okay, Jack. Lead the way.”
They walked quickly out of the wood, crossed the trail and went down the path that led to the beach.
“We’d best go to that one,” Jack said, and pointed to the mouth of the third cave of the several that lay at the base of the cliffs surrounding the bay. “It’s the biggest.”
“Okay. Walk on the rocks wherever you can and try not to leave footprints,” said Hans.
“I know why you’ve chosen that one,” whispered Bob in Jack’s ear. “It connects to the next one. You think we can get away?”
“Don’t know. Perhaps, but he’ll probably tie our legs when we’re inside so it might not work.”
“There’s no need to talk,” Hans said. “Just do as I ask and you’ll be all right.”
Once inside the cave Hans did as Jack predicted, he told the boys to lie down near the back of the cave and then he tied their legs and hands together. He then went back to the path, cut a branch from one of the bushes and returned, walking backwards and brushing sand over their footprints.
Time passed slowly. Around two o’clock and again a couple of hours later they heard men calling for Bob and Jack but no one came down to the shore. As it darkened Hans gave the boys some bread and cheese. There was nothing to drink. Afterwards he undid the rope around Jack’s hands and legs and let him go outside to pee, standing by the cave entrance where he could watch that he didn’t try to run away. He re-roped Jack then let Bob outside.
Another hour passed and Jack told Hans they were both very uncomfortable and would like to shape hollows to lie in. Once Jack’s hands had been untied he used the spade to cut mostly through one of the ropes wound around his legs then scooped shallow hollows. Hans collected the spade, retied Jack’s hands, then made a more comfortable spot for himself, just inside the doorway. “Not much longer,” he told the boys. “They should be here about twelve. Before I leave I’ll untie the rope around your hands Jack then you can release Bob.”
“Thank you,” said Jack.
Once everything was quiet Jack carefully reached down and pulled each side of the cut he had made in the rope. It took him ten minutes to break it apart. He then slowly pushed his way backwards towards and around the out-cropping boulder and into a narrow hole. It was hard to squeeze himself around the rock then towards the gap without being able to use his hands. He pushed and shoved his way through the hole and into the small cave that lay on the other side. Once there he rested then, crouching to avoid hitting his head on the roof, then eased his way to the mouth of the cave.
There was no sound except for the waves dashing against the rocks. Jack stood up then walked as quietly as he could towards the path. It was cloudy but a half-moon lit his way. He was about half way up the slope when Hans shouted, “Stop,” and ran towards him.
“No you don’t,” he said, as he grabbed Jack’s elbow. “A good try, but a waste of time. The U-boat’s here. They’ve answered my flashes. They’ll be here very soon. Come back to the cave.”
Jack was told to lie down with Bob and wait. Twenty minutes later Hans said, “I’ll undo your hands now, Jack. Wait here for ten minutes then you can leave. Good bye. Maybe we’ll meet after the war. I’ll visit this place then, if I survive.”
“Goodbye Hans,” said Jack and Bob.
As soon as Hans had left the cave Jack hurriedly untied Bob’s hands and feet. They stood at the cave’s mouth watching a rubber boat being rowed towards a dark mound two or three hundred feet out at sea. “I should have left earlier,” said Jack. “I didn’t know it was so late. Come, let’s go home.”
Two men were in the kitchen with Bob’s mother and father when they arrived. “Oh, thank God, you’re safe,” cried Mrs. Forester. “What happened to you? Where have you been?”
Bob explained how the Jerry pilot had captured them and that they had hid in one of the caves.
“What’s happened to the man?” One of the strangers asked.
“He’s on a submarine now, a U-boat,” answered Jack. “Can I go home now? My mother will be very worried.”
“Just a moment. Did he have a camera?”
“Yes, quite a big one.”
“I told you,” said the man to his colleague. “He was on a reconnaissance flight, seeing what they’d done in Newport. I bet they’ll bomb Bristol next. Thanks, boys.”
“I’ll take you home, Jack,” said the second man. “My car’s outside.”
“Thanks, mister. I’ll see you tomorrow morning Bob.”
Chapter Four. Tuesday, July 23
Walking back to the cave the next morning Jack brought up what had happened yesterday.
“Did you notice the bread and cheese we ate Bob?”
“Yes. It wasn’t much but very nice. I’m glad Hans gave us some.”
“Did you notice it was a round loaf and very fresh? I bet it wasn’t more than a day or two old. So, where did he get it? He couldn’t have just gone into a shop and bought it. He must have been given it and that means there’s a collaborator nearby, someone who could have radioed Germany and arranged for a U-boat to come.”
“You think so? He could have stolen the bread and he could have radioed before crashing or there might be an arrangement that a U-boat always comes here if planes are shot down in this vicinity.”
“I don’t think he’d have time to radio when he was fighting and he’d have to jump out as soon as he knew the plane was likely to crash,” said Bob, “and I bet a U-boat wouldn’t come every time a plane was shot down.”
“No, I suppose not. The U-boat probably came this time because he had some important information. Nevertheless, the freshness of the bread makes me wonder. Do you think we should go to the police and tell them about this or ask them if anyone has been broken into?”
“They probably wouldn’t tell you about break-ins nor have time to check who eats round loaves of bread.”
“Then we’ll do it ourselves.”
“How? Go around asking everybody what kind of bread they eat? We’d look silly.”
“No, I don’t mean that. I’ll ask Mr. Stevens if any bread has been stolen. Better, I’ll look over the grocery orders tomorrow and find out who orders the same kind of bread Hans gave us. Most people eat long loaves, and the cheese was old cheddar.”
“That doesn’t mean much, most people eat cheddar. You still think he got the bread from a collaborator and didn’t steal it?”
“Don’t know, but this would be a good way to narrow the field down. Just where did he get the bread.”
“Check the orders today then, don’t wait until tomorrow.”
“Can’t, we don’t get them until Wednesday.” Jack knew this because he was the main delivery boy for Mr. Stevens’ shop and had been bicycling bags of groceries around Mansworth since his dad had joined the army. There was not much money coming into Jack’s house. His mom received half of what his father was paid and Jack gave his mom all the money he earned, all but sixpence, which was enough to buy a few sweets. There wasn’t much to spend money on anyway these days.
“I’ll ask Mr. Stevens this afternoon if anything had been stolen from his shop.”
They collected the spade and returned it to the treehouse. While they were there they searched the corner where Hans had been sitting, hoping to find more clues about how he had got the bread but found nothing.
“Hello Jack,” said Mr. Stevens that afternoon. “Come to buy sweets? I got some liquorice this morning.”
“Oh, good. I’ll take twopence worth. Everything been okay here this week?”
“Yes, of course. Why do you ask?”
“Oh, I read about the robberies in Falmouth and wondered if they ever came here.”
“Nah, nothing worth stealing here. They were after jewellery, you must have read that.”
“Yes, I know. Just wondered. Did you hear about what happened to Bob Forester and me yesterday?”
“No. what happened?”
“We were captured by a German pilot,” and Jack told Mr. Stevens what had happened.
“My goodness. That was an adventure. So the man got away then.”
“Yes. Well, I have to go now. See you tomorrow.”
“Yes, ‘Bye, Jack.”
“‘Bye, Mr. Stevens.”
‘So Hans didn’t steal the bread from the shop,’ thought Jack, ‘but maybe he stole the bread and cheese from somebody’s kitchen and there isn’t a collaborator. I wonder how I could investigate that?’
Biking home, Jack thought about the bread. ‘If it had been stolen or even if it had been given away the house it came from would be short of bread and they might order extra. I’ll check the orders for round loaves and look for increases. Hmm, even if I find any I can’t ask why they were ordered. Collaborators wouldn’t tell me or they’d say it was for visitors or a party, something like that.’
Chapter Five, Wednesday, July 24
At nine o’clock Wednesday morning a young man knocked on Mrs. Jones’ door and asked if he could speak to Jack. He was a reporter for the local weekend paper, the Falmouth Post.
Over a cup of tea Jack told him what had happened and said he should also talk to Bob since he was also there. “Will this be in the weekend’s Post?” Jack asked.
“Oh, yes. Nothing like this has happened around here before. It’s very interesting. I should take your photo too?
“No, you can’t take just me. You’ll have to take both of us.?
“Okay. Can we see him now, do you think?”
“I should think so, he’ll be helping his dad on the farm right now. Do you have a car?”
“No, just a bike.”
“Okay, let’s go.”
Saying goodbye to his mother, Jack and Jim, the reporter, climbed onto their bikes and cycled to the farm.
After some discussion it was decided to take the photo where both the caves’ entrance and the stretch of sea where the U-boat had been. Bob and Jack wouldn’t let Jim photograph the treehouse for they didn’t want other boys to discover it but things didn’t work out that way.
Wednesday afternoon Jack arrived half-an-hour early at Mr. Stevens’ shop and began bagging up his grocery orders. By being early he could see Len’s and Charles’ orders. He found that seventeen families bought a round loaf. Seven of them were on his delivery route, six on Charles’ and four on Len’s. Two of his deliveries had ordered an extra round loaf but he couldn’t tell if any of the other orders were for more than usual. He hadn’t been able to think of a way to ask people if their bread orders had increased so he would check again next Wednesday, or on Saturday, if they needed another delivery. He’d start by investigating his two customers immediately.
He thought about the two families as he bicycled around the town. ‘It can’t be the Deans, both their sons are in the army; they must be patriotic. It could be the Smiths. I think they came here three or four years ago. They’re old enough to have children who could be fighting. I’ll ask them that and see what they say.’
That wasn’t possible for when he knocked on their kitchen door there was no answer. This often happened for people could be at work or shopping or visiting friends. Jack left the two paper bags inside their back porch. ‘I wonder who would know about them. Perhaps they go to the same church that mom goes to. I’ll ask her when I get home.’
Jack didn’t go to church although his mother wanted him to go with her. Jack’s dad didn’t believe ‘in that kind of nonsense’ and wouldn’t let Jack go.
It took Jack over four hours to finish the deliveries so it was nearly six when he arrived home. His mother was sitting in a chair at the kitchen table holding her head in her hands and staring at the wall.
“Hi, mom. Hey, what’s the matter? Are you all right?”
“Yes I’m all right, Jack, but please sit down. I’ve got some bad news. Dad’s dead. A boy with a telegram came shortly after I got home this afternoon. It doesn’t say what happened, just that they’re sorry and that he’s dead.”
“Oh, mom.” Jack sat down next to her and put his arms around her shoulders and hugged.
They sat for a while, close together. Neither cried nor felt like crying, for this hadn’t been a very happy family when Jack’s dad was around. His father drank away most of the money he earned and was mean to Mary, his wife, telling her the food wasn’t good enough, the house needed cleaning and generally ordering her around though he didn’t hit her. He did hit Jack now and then, when the garden needed digging and Jack hadn’t done it or if Jack didn’t do things quite the way he wanted.
After ten minutes or so Jack asked his mother how they would manage now that money from his dad wouldn’t be coming in.
“We’ll be alright,” she said. “I’ll get something from the army, I expect. It’ll be hard for a while and I’d better explain why. The rent’s nine shillings a week and I only get ten shillings and six pence from your dad’s pay. I don’t know if we’ll get that much in the future. We’ve been living on the money I’ve saved from the time when your dad was working for the telephone company, money from the sale of my parents’ house after they died and the shilling you give me from Mr. Stevens. I’ll have to find a job now.” This hadn’t been possible before because she wasn’t allowed to. “It looks as if I can’t afford to support a family,” his dad said every time she raised the topic.
“What kind of job mom? What can you do?”
“I can type. I worked as a typist before I married your dad. There’ll be jobs for typists, I expect. I’ll look in last weekend’s Post tomorrow, it lists jobs.”
It was a quiet supper that night as each thought about all the changes that Mr. Jones’ death would incur. Just before going to bed Jack remembered about asking his mother about the Smiths but immediately dismissed the idea; he couldn’t think about anything other than the problems his dad’s death would incur. ‘There’ll be less money but it’ll make our lives a little easier,’ he thought. But his dad was still his dad and he’d miss him even though he didn’t like him very much. He didn’t know what it would be like to live without a father in the house but people did. His last thoughts that night were that he should look for a full-time summer job and earn more money.
Chapter Six. Thursday, July 25 and Friday, July 26.
Jack told Mrs. Forester and Bob the next day about his dad’s death. They were very sorry and before Jack left Mrs. Forester gave him one of her loaves and a sponge cake. He didn’t stop to talk or explore any of the caves with Bob, telling both of them that he was going to look for a full-time summer job. “Mom’s looking for a job too. She can type and maybe do other things. If you hear about any let me know, please.”
During lunch Jack told his mom he was going to find a job.
“You can’t Jack. You can’t leave school until you’re fifteen.”
“I know that mom. Just for the summer. Something that’ll pay more than delivering groceries once a week.”
“You don’t have to do that Jack. We’ll get by. Anyway there won’t be many jobs an eleven-year old boy could take. Don’t worry about money, just do your best at school. That’s all I want.”
“Were there any jobs in the Post?”
“Not for just a typist. There was one for someone who could do shorthand and type but I don’t know shorthand. I could work in the ammunition factory but that would be very difficult; it’d mean catching two buses to the other side of Falmouth. I’d have to leave early and I’d get home late. I don’t want to do that, it’d not be good for either of us. Perhaps there will be something in next weekend’s paper.”
Jack cycled to Mr. Stephens’ shop after lunch and told him what had happened. After Mr. Stephens had said how sorry he was Jack said, “I’m going to look for a full-time job, I hope you don’t mind if I get one.”
“No, of course not. I’ll help, I’ll spread the word and maybe someone will know of one.”
Jack spent the rest of the afternoon hoeing the vegetable patch in the back garden. Mr. Symonds, who rented the other half of the semi-detached was a good gardener, growing many vegetables in his garden. He often advised Jack and his mother, suggesting what to grow and where they should be planted. Jack did the hard work in their garden, digging and hoeing, his mother did most of the rest. She also preserved many of the vegetables or stored them in the cellar and made jam from the berries they collected in the summer and fall.
Just before it grew dark Bob arrived. “Dad knows where you might find a job, at Mr. Lindsey’s. His helper was called up and he needs someone. Dad said you should be there at eight tomorrow morning. Do you know Mr. Lindsey? His farm’s the second one past ours, on the same side of the road.”
“Oh, thanks, Bob. I’ll be there. He’s the one that grows vegetables, right? I hope he won’t want me to hoe! I’ve already got sore hands from doing it this afternoon. But, whatever he wants I’ll take it.”
Jack was at Mr. Lindsey’s farm at seven fifty the next morning and caught him just as he was emerging from his back door.
“Mr. Lindsey?” Jack asked, “I’m Jack Jones. Bob Forester told me that you needed help. Can I work for you?”
“Hello Jack. How old are you? I need someone who can do a man’s job.”
“I’m eleven, Mr. Lindsey. I work in our own garden so I think I can help you with your vegetables.”
“Only eleven? You’re quite big for your age. Hmm, tell you what, I’ll take you on for today and see what you can do. If you can handle it then you can stay until school starts.”
“Oh, thank you Mr. Lindsey. Tell me what you’ll pay, please, we need the money.”
“I’ve heard you dad’s just died. That right?”
“Yes, we heard yesterday.”
“I’m sorry about that. Well, all I can pay is two and six a day. That is, if you’re good. I’ll pay you that for today. That’s for eight hours work. Did you bring a lunch?”
“Yes. It’s on my bike rack.”
“Put your bike in the shade then and come with me. There’s lettuces, cucumbers and onions to cut and pack before one. I take them to my Mansworth grocers this afternoon. I’ll tell you what to do while I’m away later.”
The morning passed very quickly. They pulled, washed and put the onions in five large boxes first. Stopped and had a drink of cold tea at ten, then Jack cut the cucumbers, rinsed them and put them in five more boxes while Mr. Lindsey worked with the lettuce.
They finished close to twelve thirty and Jack joined Mr. And Mrs. Lindsey in their kitchen to eat his sandwiches, eat a slice of apple pie that Mrs. Lindsey gave him and drink a mug of tea, hot this time.
“You did well this morning, Jack. I’d like you to hoe and hill the potatoes this afternoon. You know how to do that, I suppose?”
“Okay, I’ll show you the rows now. Be back about three, Sue. I’ll see what you’ve done when I get back, Jack.”
“Thanks, Mr. Lindsey. And thank you for the pie and tea, Mrs. Lindsey.”
“I’m glad you’re here, Jack. We need help these days.”
Jack borrowed some gloves from Mrs. Lindsey half-an-hour after Mr. Lindsey had left, for blisters were starting to form on his hands. She gave him an old pair of her own and they fitted fairly well. They helped a lot and he had just finished the potatoes when Mr. Lindsey returned.
“You’ve done a good job there Jack. Ah, I’m glad you got some gloves. Your hands, are they okay?”
“Not too bad. Hoeing is always hard on them.”
“I know. It gets better as you go on. Okay, we’ll transplant some broccoli now.”
At four-thirty Mr. Lindsey told Jack it was time he stopped working and took him to the kitchen.
“Here’s your pay. Two shillings and sixpence, and I’d like you to work for me, Monday to Friday. Do you think you can manage that, the work might be hard sometimes but not always.”
“Yes. Thank you, Mr. Lindsey. I’ll be here at eight on Monday.”
He gave Mrs. Lindsey her gloves and rode home with his earnings carefully stowed in his trouser pocket.
“Hi, mom,” he cried, as he burst into the kitchen. “Here’s what I earned today,” and he plonked the money on the table. “And Mr. Lindsey wants me to work. Monday to Friday, two shillings and sixpence a day. Twelve shillings and sixpence a week. Isn’t that good?”
“It’s wonderful, Jack. We’ll be in luxury if I get a job too. Let’s celebrate. We’ll have fish and chips tonight. Wash up then get some from Bittern’s.”
“We could have them every Friday from now on, couldn’t we mom?”
“Yes, thanks to you son,” and she gave Jack a big kiss.
Chapter Seven. Saturday. July 27.
Jack stayed in bed until nine, finishing a Biggles story, one of the four library books he took out every two weeks. He loved reading and thought it must be nice to write books for a living but he felt no urge to write, although he enjoyed writing essays for Mrs. Grant.
After breakfast he called on Bob and helped him around the farm, moving the chicken hutches and feeding the pigs, whilst telling him about Mr. Lindsay’s farm and what he did there.
“He pays me two and six a day, Bob! I give it all to mom and we had fish and chips last night.”
“Lucky you. The last time I had them was after the big storm and there was no electricity for two days. Want to go to the caves this afternoon?”
“No, can’t. I’ve still got my job with Mr. Stevens. You know, I collect some of the money and ration coupons and might have to deliver groceries.”
“Ah, yes. Forgot. Then tomorrow, how about we have lunch in the treehouse and talk about finding the collaborator.”
“Okay. See you at twelve thirty?”
Jack told Mr. Stevens about his job as soon as he entered the grocery Saturday afternoon.
“Oh, well that’s good, Jack, though I’ll have to get another boy to deliver on Wednesdays. Can you still work on Saturdays? I hope so, you know what to do and where people live.”
“Yes, I’d like to do that.”
“Good. Well, here’s the lists for the coupons and money still to be collected this week and there are nine orders to deliver. I’ll help you make them up.”
Mr. Stevens gave Jack a shilling for his afternoon’s work and Jack bought some liquorice and a bar of MacIntosh Toffee for his mother then walked to the newsagent and bought a copy of the Falmouth Post. There was a picture of Bob and him on the front page with the story of how they’d been captured by the Nazi pilot on Monday and how he had got away. He showed his mother the picture and read the story to her as soon as he got in.
“That’s something to write about in your next English class, Jack,” she said. “Everybody will be interested.”
“I hope my English teacher will be as good as Mrs. Grant.”
“I expect he will be Jack.”
“Ah, yes. All the teachers at the grammar school are men, aren’t they.”
“Yes, that’s right. Let me look at the classified section, Jack. I want to see if there are any jobs I could apply for,” and she held out her hand for the paper. Two minutes later she said, “Nobody wanted typists this week. Just work in the factories or the Land Army. We’ll have to live on what you bring in and savings, Jack. Maybe there’ll be something I could do next week.”
They listened to the news during supper, talked about the bombing, glad they were far away from Southampton where many bombs were being dropped, then sat in easy chairs to listen to the Children’s Hour and two other programs until Jack went to bed.
Sunday morning he read Swallows and Amazons, a book the librarian recommended and was hooked. “I’m going to read all his other stories, mom. They’re great!”
“What’s it about?”
“Children sailing and having adventures. It’d be nice to have a boat.”
“A bit rough along this coast, Jack.”
“They were sailing on a lake, mom. Oh, can you make me a sandwich for lunch. I’ll have it with Bob in the treehouse.”
“Okay. I hope there are no Jerrys there this time.”
After lunch Bob asked Jack if he had any luck finding out if there was a collaborator.
“No. I know who ordered extra round loaves and I’ll have to ask mom if she knows anything about the Smiths who live on Beach road. There’s a chance they go to the same church as she does. I meant to do that Thursday but forgot. Hey, who’s that?” Someone was climbing the branches towards the trapdoor.
Bob, who was sitting closest to the rope handle pulled it up and let it fall back onto the floor. A boy’s head appeared and a voice said, “Can I come in?”
“Who are you?” Bob asked.
“Nigel. Nigel Thorne. I read what happened to you in the paper and looked for the treehouse. I guessed it must be around here because it said where the farm was. Can I come in, please?”
“Yes, I suppose so,” said Jack, and he moved over to make more room. “Why did you come here?”
“Because I want to build a treehouse. We have a good tree at the bottom of our garden and I’ve always wanted a house in it. I though that if I could see how this one was made I could describe it to dad and we could make one.”
“Oh. Well, look around. We made this one, at least we helped Bob’s dad make it two years ago. Where’s your house?”
“At the end of Hook’s Road. Do you know the place?”
“Not me,” said Bob.
“Nor me,” echoed Jack.
“Well, it’s on the east side of Mansworth. Oh, you’ve got a window and a metal roof here. I don’t think we could get corrugated iron now. We’d have to make ours out of wood, I suppose.”
“It’d leak if you did that.”
“Yes. Could you show me the cave where you hid? I’d like to see that.”
“All right. Think we need the spade, Bob?”
“Probably not. Hope the tide’s out. I’ll climb the look-out tree.” He left the house and Jack and Nigel followed.
As they walked towards the look-out tree Jack explained why they had one and reminded Nigel that the beach was out-of-bounds. “But we go there sometimes.”
“Looking for barrels of brandy. Not found any yet.”
“I see. Where do you go to school?”
“We’re going to Mansworth Grammar school in September. Where do you go?”
“To Wamister. It’s near Higher Treluswell. Dad went there.”
“That’s a public school, isn’t it?”
“Yes. I board there.”
“You’re home for the summer holiday then?”
“Yes, that’s right. I’m thirteen. You must be eleven if this will be your first year in a grammar school.”
“Yes, we’re both eleven.”
“We can go now,” said Bob, as he climbed down. “There’s no one on the trail.”
“Okay. Follow us, Nigel.”
They showed Nigel the cave and the hole through which Jack had worked his way into the next cave and they pointed to where the U-boat had been.
“How do you think they knew he was here?” asked Nigel.
“Don’t know, but we think he found a collaborator who radioed to Germany,” said Bob, and explained about the fresh bread they had eaten.
“My word! We should look for him. Maybe I can help. I can make wireless sets. I made one last year and I listen to the BBC in my bedroom with it.”
“Wow! That’s just what we want,” exclaimed Jack.
Chapter Eight. Sunday. July 28.
As they walked back to the treehouse they discussed wireless sets. Nigel said he belonged to the school’s radio club and his dad had given him valves, variable capacitors and resistors for birthday and Christmas presents. “Of course, my wireless won’t pick up any signals sent to Germany. He’d be using a short wave wireless and I haven’t made one of those.”
“Is it difficult to make a short wave wireless?” asked Bob.
“I shouldn’t think so. I’ve got books that give circuits and explain how to wind the coils. Trouble is, I don’t know what frequency the collaborator uses so I’ll have to wind several coils and try them. That’ll take the most time.”
“How can we help?” asked Jack.
“Find out where he lives if you can. The best place would be at the top of a hill or in a place where he faces the continent. He’d need an aerial, larger the better, but he wouldn’t put it where it could be seen. Maybe it’d be somehow fixed to a tree, though he’d take it down when he wasn’t using it, I bet.”
“We could cycle around and look for likely places once we know who buys round loaves.”
“We can’t find all of those, Jack,” said Nigel. “Lots of places sell round loaves in Mansworth.”
“Well I know that, but I work for one of them and I’m starting with him.”
“There’s another way to find him, trace where he’s signalling from.”
“How would you do that?” asked Bob.
“First, find the signal, second, move the wireless from place to place to find where the signal fades out or is strong. To do that I’d have to make a crystal set, one that doesn’t use valves or electricity.”
“Would a crystal set work for short waves?” asked Bob.
“Don’t see why not. I’ll look it up. If not, I’ll use valves. I’ll go home and start right now.”
“How did you get here?” asked Jack. “By bike?”
“Yes. It’s leaning against the fence near the path leading to the treehouse. Didn’t you see it?”
“No, busy talking I guess. Well, let’s fetch it and show you where we live. It’s easier to get here if you use the road, the Coastal Trail can’t be easy to ride along.” They helped Nigel lift his bike over the fences and led him to Bob’s gate.
“Meet here next Sunday, Nigel,” said Bob.
“What do you think, Jack? In the morning?”
“Yes. We shouldn’t waste time. At nine thirty. Is that okay, Nigel?”
“Okay,” said Bob. “I’ll have finished the chores by then.”
“I’ll show you where I live, Nigel. Follow me,” and they cycled to Bob’s home where they said goodbye.
The week passed quickly for Jack. Up early, working all day, wearing an old pair of his gloves when needed. Mr. Lindsey often gave him vegetables to take home and once he gave him a rabbit that had caught in one of the snares that Mr. Lindsey put in the paths that led to their burrows. His mom cut it into pieces then fried them and made a rich-tasting pie that lasted four nights. Three evenings Jack cycled around the Coastal side of Mansworth, looking for houses a collaborator might have bought if he wanted to signal to Germany. There were many; none had any aerial he could see but about forty had trees that an aerial could be attached to. He drew a map and marked where they were, writing their addresses as well. ‘Now, if any of these buy round loaves,’ he thought, ‘maybe we’ll have our spy.’
Chapter Nine. Saturday. August 3rd.
Jack left early Saturday afternoon because he wanted to return his library books before going to Mr. Lindsey’s. They were due and he didn’t want to pay any late fees. He only borrowed one book this time, another Arthur Ransom story, because he knew he would be busy working or looking for the collaborator.
Mr. Lindsey gave him the two lists and they bagged groceries for twelve families. “You’ll have to make two trips this time,” Jack, “four of the loads are big ones.” “That’s okay, Mr. Lindsey,” he replied.
He was paid one and sixpence for that afternoon’s work and found two more people who ordered round loaves. He made a note of their names and added them to the list of names he made last weekend, but, thinking about what Nigel had said he wondered if he was wasting his time. He’d never discover all the round-loaf buyers there were in Mansworth because there must be four or five more shops that sold them.
They had pork chops for supper, listening to the news. Jack read for an hour then went to bed. It had been a hard week and he was feeling tired.
The boys met at Bob’s place Sunday morning. Nigel had a cardboard box in his bicycle basket and they took it to the treehouse. Once there, Nigel put the radio and several coils of wire on the table.
“Look, this is the radio I made. To get any signal we’d need a long aerial and a good ground connection. We don’t have those here so we wouldn’t receive any signal. I brought it so you could see what I’ve made. I’ll explain how it works if you like.”
“Yes,” said Jack. “Tell us. It doesn’t look very complicated. Our wireless is made of much more than you’ve got here.”
“Yes, that’s right. Crystal sets are simple, but they work. Let me explain how; you connect the aerial to this knob. Wireless waves are oscillating electric and magnetic fields and when the magnetic field moves through the aerial it generates electricity and that goes through this coil” and he pointed to the coil, “and out to the ground through the ground wire. As they go through the coil it generates a varying magnetic field and that is picked up by this coil here,” and he pointed to a larger coil that lay next to the first. “That’s the secondary coil. It has more turns of wire and it magnifies the signal. The signal from it goes through the crystal and the earphones. The other parts, this variable capacitor and the fixed capacitors, alter the frequency the coils are tuned to and that’s how you can receive different wireless stations.”
“What’s the crystal for?” asked Bob.
“If you look at it you can see there’s two parts, the shiny crystal and a fine wire. The wire has to touch the crystal where it’s sensitive and when it does it cuts off half of the amplitude of the signal so it doesn’t cancel out the other half. The half that’s left makes the earphones work.”
“You can’t use a loud speaker?” asked Jack.
“There’s not enough strength to do that. At home I connect the earphone wires to an amplifier and that works a loud speaker. I say, why don’t you come to my house? The set works there; I’ve got a good aerial and ground connection.”
“Yes,” said Jack. “Let’s do that.”
“Shall we get sandwiches first?” asked Bob.
“No. I’ll make some,” replied Nigel.
He packed the crystal set and the coils in the box. They climbed down from the treehouse and walked to the farm where Bob introduced Nigel to his mom and said he was having lunch at Nigel’s place. Then they cycled to Jack’s to tell his mother what they were going to do.
Nigel’s home was a large, detached, four bedroom house with a big garden. Mr. Thorne was working in the garage, doing something to the car when they arrived.
“Hello, dad. Here are two new friends, Jack and Bob. We’re going to set up the crystal set I’ve just made in my bedroom.”
“Hello Jack, Bob. Are you interested in making wirelesses too?”
“Not me, Mr. Thorne,” said Jack. “It’s a short wave set and I want to find out what it can receive. Did Nigel tell why he made it?”
“No. I just thought it was another project.”
“No,” said Jack. “I think that there’s a spy or collaborator around here,” and he briefly summarised his reasons.
“My, my, that’s interesting. Keep me informed about what you’re doing and don’t do anything dangerous. Let me know if you’re actually on to something. By the way, I read about you two in last weeks Post. It’s a pity you couldn’t have escaped earlier, Jack. We might have sunk the submarine as well as captured the pilot.”
“Dad, I’ve invited them for lunch too. We’ve got something for sandwiches?”
“I’ll find something.”
One of the bedrooms had been turned into a study room for Nigel. Two easy chairs, were by the fireplace, a large table was next to the window and shelves covered with electrical equipment and books stood on either side. Nigel cleared the table and placed the crystal set on it. He connected a wire to the aerial terminal and another wire to the ground terminal. That done, he connected the headphone terminals to his amplifier and pushed its plug into a wall receptacle.
“There’s a loud speaker on the side of the amplifier so we can all hear. Now I’ll try this pair of coils and see if anyone’s transmitting on this range of frequencies.” Nigel twisted four wires together then moved the fine wire that touched a shiny crystal into various positions while moving the tuning dial.
“There, did you hear that? That’s a good spot on the crystal. Now, I’ll move the tuner more carefully. There, hear that? There’s a wireless station transmitting on that frequency.” Music faded in and out as they listened.
“Where’s it coming from?” asked Bob.
“I don’t know. Somewhere on the continent, I think. At night time I sometimes receive signals that are coming from Australia and America. They bounce off an ionised layer in the sky. That’s why they can travel long distances.”
“Then how will we know if someone’s transmitting from here?”
“Just by listening from several places so we can triangulate it’s position. I’ll find out if I can make a directional antenna. That should help a lot Also, if we’re close to the transmitting aerial the signal strength will be pretty strong. I’ll change the aerial coils now and try another frequency range.” Nigel disconnected the first coil set and connected another one. “Do you want to try Bob?”
“Yes. Do I have to move the fine wire like you did?”
“No, don’t move the wire. It’s called the cat’s whisker. It should still work where it is.”
Bob was able to find three signals, one playing some popular music and two transmitting in code.
“That’s Morse code,” said Nigel. “I don’t know what they’re saying, it’s too fast for me to understand.”
“This is not going to be as easy as I thought,” said Jack. “First, we don’t know what frequency he’ll be transmitting on. Second, we don’t know when he’ll transmit and third, we don’t know where he’s living. It’d be easier if we found an antenna and could watch the house.”
“You’re right,” said Nigel. “It’s not going to be easy. How about talking to my dad? He has lots of good ideas. He’s a lawyer and has to think through difficulties and find solutions all the time.”
“I’d be happier if we could,” said Bob. “if we walked around looking for aerials it could be dangerous.”
“And he might take the aerial down when it’s not being used. Or it might be hidden in his attic.”
“Right. Then let’s find my dad.”
Chapter Ten. Sunday. August 4th.
Mr. Thorne was in the lounge reading the Falmouth Post in front of a log fire when they found him.
“Dad, we’ve got a problem. Can you help us?”
“I’ll do my best. What’s the problem?”
Nigel explained what they were trying to do and Jack summarised. “So we don’t know what frequency to check, when to check it and how, exactly, to triangulate where it’s coming from.”
“Well, I think I could manage the triangulation,” said Nigel. “That’s if he transmitted for long enough.”
“All right,” said Mr. Thorne. “Let’s separate the problems and look at them one at a time. The first concern; what frequency does he use. You said that to change frequencies you connect different pairs of aerial and tuning coils, right?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“How do you do that?”
“Simple, I disconnect the old coils then connect the new ones. Why do you ask?”
“Well, it must take time to do that.”
“A bit, but all I have to do is untwist then re-twist four wires.”
“Is there any way you can do that faster?”
“Err, yes,” said Nigel. “I could use a multi-contact switch and wire all the coils to it. Then I could change frequencies quickly.”
“Good. That’s one problem partly solved I think,” said Mr. Thorne.
“Two, dad. If I used a switch I could solder the wires to the terminals instead of just twisting them together. That’d remove some of the crackles and the signal would be clearer and easier to hear.”
“Good. Let me think about the other problems for a bit. We’re having lunch together, right?”
“Then let’s go to the kitchen and make it while I think.”
A salad of lettuce, carrots, radishes, spring onions, spring peas and a dressing of olive oil and balsamic vinegar was the main dish. It was followed by slices of bread and plum jam. All the vegetables came from the garden and Jack made a note to himself to have a look at it before he left.
“Right now you’ve made one short wave set, Nigel?”
“Do you have enough equipment to make more, two or three more? If so, we can all have one and help with the searching.”
“I’ve got several tuning capacitors, plenty of wire and extra crystals. I’d need more multi-contact switches and a few fixed capacitors. Oh, and another pair of headphones, that is, if I make two more sets. Are you going to listen too, dad?”
“Yes, I am, Nigel. This is an important matter. Anything I can do, I will. Buy what you need. I’ll give you the money for it. Oh,” he said, as the telephone rang, “That’s Grandpa, I bet, and I can guess what he wants. Excuse me for a minute.” Mr. Thorne left the kitchen where they were eating and went to the living room to answer the phone.
“Where’s your mom, Nigel. Is she on holiday?” asked Bob.
“No. She was killed with a friend about four years ago in a car accident. We’re all alone now.
“Oh, I’m sorry,” said Bob and Jack.
“We’re managing,” said Nigel, “but I miss her. Dad does, too.”
“Grandpa and Grandma send their love, Nigel,” said Mr. Thorne, as he came back into the kitchen.
“Is that all they called for?” Nigel asked.
“No, he asked if I had the typing and was upset that it wasn’t ready. We’re too busy at the office right now.”
“Does he want a typist?” asked Jack. “My mom types and she’s looking for a job.”
“Is she? Well she might have one. I’ll ask my father to think about hiring someone, that’d be a lot easier on me and the office. Now, back to our problem. Three of us could listen and cover several frequency bands if we had two more sets. He’d probably transmit at night too, that could make it easier to spot him.”
“I’ll wire in the multi-switch and start listening tonight, dad.”
“And I’ll listen for a while after you’ve gone to bed.”
“You’ll make the wirelesses for us next week Nigel?” asked Jack.
“I’ll have them ready for you on Sunday if I can get all the parts. I might have to go to Falmouth to get them, dad.”
“Okay. I might be able to take you, I’ve a client I should see in Falmouth. Right, let me call Grandpa and find out what he thinks about hiring his own typist.” He went to the lounge, phoned then called out to Jack, “Is your mother free right now? Can I take her to see my father?”
“Oh, yes, she’d be free.”
“Do you have a telephone?”
“Okay. Once we’ve finished here you cycle home and let her know and I’ll collect her half-an-hour later. What’s your address?”
Jack told him then suggested they leave now and let Nigel begin making the sets. Bob agreed and they set off after agreeing to meet at nine thirty next Sunday at Mr. Thorne’s house.
Chapter Eleven. Sunday. August 4th.
Mr. Thorne arrived fifteen minutes after Jack arrived home and Mrs. Jones got in the car, telling Jack to cut the grass before doing anything else.
While sharpening the blades on the mower Jack wondered how he could fasten a long aerial. There were no trees in the front or back garden. He could let a wire drop from his bedroom window but it would be better if he could fasten it to the chimney. He could borrow the long ladder from Mr. Symonds, the neighbour but his mum wouldn’t let him climb onto the roof, he was sure of that. He’d just have to try hanging the wire from the window. As for an earth wire he could fasten the end to the fork and push that into the ground. ‘I’ll get the wire from Nigel on Sunday when I get the wireless,’ he thought.
Mrs. Jones arrived back just as he was putting the mower in the garden shed and she waved a ‘Goodbye’ to Mr. Thorne as he drove away.
“Mr. Thorne, Gerry’s father, hired me Jack,” she called as she walked towards him. “Three mornings a week, nine to one, and he’ll pay me fifteen shillings a week. Isn’t that grand,” she said as she hugged him. “We’ll be earning as much as your dad gave me when he was a linesman before the war.”
“Is that all he gave you, mom?”
“Well, he paid the rent, electricity, rates and things like that. And for meals when we went out.”
“We didn’t do that very often,” muttered Jack.
Monday evening, after the supper dishes had been washed and put away, Mrs. Jones told Jack a little about what she had done that morning. “Mr. Thorne, Ernest, he asked me to call him, told me to read the first three chapters of the autobiography he’s writing. That way, he said, I’d know what happened to him before I started typing chapter four. He was born in 1875 and went to the same school that Nigel is going to now. He became a lawyer, married, joined a firm of solicitors, had a son, Gerard, that’s Nigel’s dad, and a daughter, Edith. I sat with him and read chapter four during the rest of the morning. I had to do that because his writing is hard to read, although it became easier as I got used to it, and he told me what the words I had difficulty with, were. I’ll type it on Wednesday.”
“Did he fight in the first war?”
“No, he was thirty nine and too old. He spent some weeks in some kind of Cavalry unit, training, but didn’t fight and kept doing his regular job.”
“Does Edith live around here?”
“She’s a nurse and works in Southampton. They’re very worried about her because of all the bombing.”
“So you met Mrs. Thorne?”
“Oh, yes. We stopped at ten thirty, when she brought coffee and biscuits in, and chatted for a while. They’re nice people. I’m going to enjoy my time there.”
The week sped by. Jack worked each day, inside the greenhouse on Tuesday, when it rained most of the time and Thursday he was given another rabbit, plus a few potatoes that were too badly cut by the spade and some small carrots that were pulled by mistake when thinning the rows. Wednesday, after supper, he cycled to Bob’s house and they quickly decided that the aerial wire could run from Bob’s bedroom window to a corner of the barn. While searching the pile of discarded machinery for a long rod to bang into the ground Mr. Forester came by and asked them what they were doing. Bob told him about their search for a spy and that he would be listening for signals using a wireless set that Nigel was making. “Oh, you think there’s someone around here?” Asked Mr. Forester. “That’s very interesting. Several of us in the Home Guard were wondering the same thing, that someone might be telling the Germans about the convoys and ships that move around here and Land’s End. U-boats seem to know when and where to look, we think. A spy might explain what was happening. You know that anyone from Germany and Italy living in England have been questioned but I bet there’s some we don’t know about. You’re probably right that there’s a spy living near here. Let me know if you pick up any signals.”
“Okay, dad,” said Bob. “Can you help me put up the aerial? I want it to run from my bedroom to the corner of the barn.”
“You want to do that now?”
“No, not now, I don’t have the wire yet. Nigel will give me some on Sunday.”
A bunch of flowers were in a vase on the sideboard when Jack arrived home on Friday.
“These are nice, mom. Did you buy them?”
“No, Mrs. Thorne gave them to me when I left. She picked them from her garden. That was kind of her. I think she’s happy I’m typing her husband’s book. Are you glad the week’s over?”
“I’m glad I’ll have two days without bending or digging or hoeing. That’s hard on my back. Here’s the money, mom. Are we going to have fish and chips again tonight?”
“Yes, if you like. Take some money from the pot and fetch them after washing your hands and face. We’ll have an easy evening; I think there’s a new story on the Home Service.”
Saturday afternoon Jack collected the owed ration coupons and money and delivered several bags of groceries for Mr. Stevens. Not one of the people who ordered round loaves seemed likely to be a collaborator and, with so many other bread suppliers, Jack gradually gave up hope of finding him that way. ‘We’ll have to rely on listening for his signals,’ he concluded.
Chapter Twelve. Sunday. August 11th.
Bob collected Jack at nine fifteen on Sunday and they arrived at Nigel’s home fifteen minutes later. Nigel and his dad were in the lounge waiting for them.
“Come in,” shouted Mr. Thorne, as they knocked on the front door. “We’re in here.”
“Hello, Mr. Thorne,” said Jack. “Hi Nigel.”
“Hi” said Mr. Thorne. “Sit down while we tell you what’s happened this week. You first, Nigel.”
“I’ve made two more wirelesses. Got the missing parts from Falmouth with dad on Wednesday. They work as well as the one you heard last weekend, we tried all of them Friday and Saturday evenings.”
“Did you hear any signals?” asked Bob.
“Yes, lots, every night, though only one was loud enough that it might have been sent from somewhere around here. You tell them about that dad, you heard it.”
“Okay. Nigel goes to bed between nine and ten each night and I’ve been listening most nights until around twelve. What I heard happened last night, at twelve o’clock. A burst of code came through. It was very short, probably only lasted ten or twenty seconds,. It was very strong and it spread a bit across several adjacent frequencies. It was very lucky I heard it although I was checking three different frequency bands at the time. Nigel had connected all three wirelesses to the same aerial and I had three headphones arranged on my head.”
“We did that Friday night too,” said Nigel.
“You knew which set received the signal?” asked Jack.
“Oh yes. It was in my right ear and I stopped moving the dial as soon as I heard it.”
“We’ve tuned all the sets to that frequency,” added Nigel. “It was so strong it must have been the spy’s signal. Dad said it could only have come from somewhere near by.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Thorne. “I think we should concentrate on that signal and try and find out where it was sent from. What do you think Jack, Bob? Does that make sense?”
“Yes, that must be the one to listen for,” said Jack.
“Yes, I agree,” said Bob.
“The problem for us now,” said Mr. Thorne, “is to detect the signals and locate their source. I suspect they will always be transmitted at midnight but we’ll have to listen at other times, just in case he signals at other times. Last night he could be telling them about the convoy that passed in the evening.”
“So we’ll listen on the one frequency. Perhaps he only signals on the hour.”
“It could be but don’t rely on that. Just be specially alert on the hour, especially at twelve o’clock.”
“I’ll have to get my alarm clock out,” said Bob.
“Me too,” said Jack.
“Dad will wake me,” said Nigel, “won’t you?”
“Yes, I will. Now, how about some biscuits and lemonade before we look at a map and decide how we’re going to find where the signal comes from.”
Ten minutes later they were huddled around a map of Mansworth, one that Mr. Thorne used when working at home. His house was already marked on the map with a red dot and they added two more dots, one at Jack’s house and one at Bob’s.
“It’s a pity we’re all more or less in line with each other. It’s harder to triangulate that way, I suppose,” said Mr. Thorne.
“There’s another way to do that, dad. The BBC finds people who don’t pay their wireless licence fee by using big coils of wire on top of vans for aerials. Loop aerials are directional. Maybe we could do the same.”
“Use a big coil?”
“Yes, that’s right. I could find out how big it should be to receive short wave signals, though it might not work, it wouldn’t be as sensitive as the long aerial I have now. I’ll do a bit of research. Perhaps the librarian can find books on direction finding.”
“I suppose we could put it on top of the car and drive around,” said Mr. Thorne.
“I don’t think we should do that,” said Jack. “If it was seen it would alert the spy and he wouldn’t signal.”
“Yes, that is, if he saw it.”
“Let me try making one,” said Nigel. “If it works we’ll decide how to use it.”
“I’ll have to go now,” said Bob. “Dad’s going to be busy this afternoon and I want him to help me put up my aerial. Do you have some wire I could use Nigel?”
“Yes, lots, and for you, Jack.”
“I don’t think I’ll get a good reception,” said Jack. “I don’t have a tree to fasten the wire to. I’ll have to borrow Mr. Symonds ladder and fasten it to the chimney, that is, if mom lets me do that. I’m not sure she will.
’Perhaps I could do it, said Mr. Thorne. “Put your wireless sets and the wire in my car and I’ll take them to your homes.”
Jack and Bob did that and then cycled home. Mr. Thorne went to Bob’s home first and met Mr. And Mrs. Forester. They already knew what Bob planned to do and were pleased to meet Nigel’s father. A few minutes later he drove Jack’s home and was welcomed by Mrs. Jones.
“Jack’s told me what he wants to do. I don’t think it’s safe climbing up to the chimney and don’t think he or you should do it. Can’t he just hang the aerial out of his bedroom window?”
“I don’t think it would receive much if he did that. Which is your window, Jack?”
“That one, there,” said Jack, pointing to the window next to Mr. and Mrs. Symonds house.
“I see. How long is Mr. Symonds’ ladder?”
“It just a little bit longer than the eavestrough’s height. He used to use the ladder to clean the troughs but he doesn’t do that now.”
“He’s seventy two,” said Mrs. Jones.
“Hmm, that’s an awkward length. It would be hard to climb from it onto the roof. I don’t think I should try to do that. Just a minute, I have an idea. I have some fishing rods. I think I could use one to put a loop of the aerial wire around one of the chimney pots. I’ll try that, if he’ll lend us the ladder.”
“I’m sure he will. I’ll go and ask him. You’d better come with me, Mr. Thorne.”
They knocked on Mr. Symonds’ door and after a minute or so Mrs. Symonds opened it.
“Why, hello Mary. I haven’t seen you since you started working. Would you like to come in?”
“No, Nancy. We’d like to borrow Tom’s ladder. This is Mr. Thorne. It’s his dad I work for.”
“Hello Mr. Thorne. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Hello Mrs. Symonds.”
“Tom,” she cried, “Tom, come here. Someone to see you.” She turned her head and said, “He’s pretty deaf now. You’ll have to shout.”
It took a while to let Mr. Symonds know why they wanted to borrow the ladder but, once he understood, he said he’d help them fetch it.
“He’ll show you where it is,” said Mrs. Symonds. “You’ll have to carry it. He’d only fall down.”
Mr. Thorne and Jack carried the ladder to the front of the house and leaned it against the eavestrough.
“That should work. All right, I’ll go and get the fishing rods now. Take the wireless set and wire first, Jack. I won’t be long.”
An hour later a circle of wire hung around one of the chimney pots with one arm running down into Jack’s bedroom. Another wire, tightly attached to the tines of a metal fork pushed far into the ground, led into the same window and Jack was ready to listen.
He heard nothing on the frequency the tuning dial was set at.
“That’s what we expected,” said Mr. Thorne. “I don’t hear anything during the day. They’ll start in the evening. I hope this location works as well as ours does. I’ll see you next Sunday then.”
“Wont you stay for lunch, Mr. Thorne?”
“Oh, I’d like to but I’ll have to make Nigel’s lunch. Another time, if I may.”
Chapter Thirteen. Wednesday, August 14th.
Sunday evening, headphones tightly in place, Jack sat in his bedroom reading his Arthur Ransom’s story. He heard nothing. He guessed that he would have heard some signals if he turned the tuning dial but he dare not; it was only the local, strong transmission he sought. He told his mother about this when she tapped him on the shoulder at ten o’clock on her way to bed.
“There’s nothing, mom. Nothing. I’ll go to bed too, but I’ve set the alarm for eleven fifty. I don’t think you’ll hear it because I’ll keep it under the pillow.”
“Don’t stay up long when you wake up.”
“No, I won’t.”
“I’ve missed our evening together, Jack. Childrens’ Hour was very interesting.”
“Me too, mom. I hope all this listening pays off.”
Jack woke as soon as the alarm sounded and he let it ring down as it was muffled under the pillow. Climbing out of bed he wrapped his dressing gown around him and put on the headphones. He listened, not bothering to read this time and went back to bed at twelve fifteen, having heard nothing.
It rained Monday morning and Jack worked in the greenhouse again, moving out to the gardens to cut and pack cauliflowers with Mr. Lindsey in the afternoon. He heard nothing that night, nor on Tuesday night. Wednesday afternoon, cycling home, he stopped at Bob’s place.
“Have you heard anything, Bob?”
“A few, faint signals, that’s all. Not a strong one.”
“When did you hear those? I haven’t heard anything.”
“On and off every evening. I suppose they’re coming from Europe.”
“Did you change frequencies?”
“No, they were just in the background and faded in and out.”
“If you could hear something and I can’t I think it’s because my aerial’s no good. I wonder how Nigel’s doing. I’d like to talk to him.”
“We could go after supper. I don’t start hearing things until nine or later.”
“Okay. Collect me when you’re ready.”
Nigel had heard the same faint sounds that Bob had heard. Mr. Thorne, listening from ten until after twelve had heard nothing besides the same faint signals.
“My wireless is no good without a better aerial,” said Jack. “What shall we do with it?”
“I suggest we give it to my dad,” said Mr. Thorne. “I’ve told him what we’re doing and he’s very interested. I think he’d like to help. I’ll call him and see what he says.”
Five minutes later Mr. Thorne announced that his dad was eager to help. “He’s a night bird,” he added, “and I expect he’ll stay up until one or later.”
“Good,” said Jack. “It’d be a shame not to use the set.”
“Better than good,” said Nigel. “Look where he lives,” and he fetched the map and pointed to a house near the coast. “With Grandpa listening we make a triangle that covers much of Mansworth. Oh, I’ve ordered a book about wireless directional finding. I hope it tells me how to make the right kind of aerial. With Grandpa and a loop aerial we’ll easily find him.”
“All right,” said Mr. Thorne. “I’ll collect your wireless and aerial tomorrow evening Jack. After six, if that’s okay.”
Jack thought they’d have to set up the ladder again when Mr. Thorne arrived but that was unnecessary. When putting it up he had fastened its end to form a circle and had hung that around the chimney pot; a careful pull from Jack’s bedroom brought the whole thing down.
“Oh, that’s good,” said Mrs. Jones. “I don’t like you climbing up there Mr. Thorne. It looked dangerous when you put it up.”
“Why don’t you call me Gerard, or Gerry, which is what my friends call me, Mrs. Jones. We’ll probably be seeing a lot of each other while this is going on.”
“I will, if you call me Mary,” she replied.
“All right, Mary.”
“Stay for a cup of tea, Gerry?”
“Okay, thanks.” He stayed, drinking two cups and eating a slice of blackberry and apple pie that Mrs. Jones had made the day before.
“I’ll take the wireless to my dad after supper tomorrow, Jack, would you like to come along and help?”
“Come to my place at six thirty and we’ll take it over and fix up the aerial. There’s a good tree that Nigel has climbed may times that’ll hold it.”
Nigel fastened the end of a long aerial wire to a short rope, climbed his grandfather’s tree and tied the rope near to the end of a branch. His father, leaning out of a bedroom window, then pulled the other end of the aerial until it was taunt and fixed it into place by wrapping it around the upright of a wooden floor lamp. Jack and Nigel ran across the lawn and entered the house through the conservatory.
“This way,” Nigel said, and headed up the stairs to the room where his dad and grandfather were. “Let’s see if the wireless works.”
He fastened the wire he had previously connected to a post buried into the ground next to the conservatory to the earth terminal of the wireless and the aerial wire then put on the headphones. “I can hear faint signals already,” he exclaimed. “It must be because you’re near the coast Grandpa. Here, you listen,” and he eased the headphones onto his grandfather’s head. “Can you hear them?”
“I can hear something, just faint dots and dashes. Morse code, I suppose. Is that how the spy sounds?”
“Not quite. His signal is much louder, the dots and dashes are very close together, too fast for anyone to decode them I think, and the signal only lasts for a little while. That’s how dad described them, right dad?”
“Yes, that’s right.”
“And you heard them at midnight?”
“So I don’t have to listen until then?”
“I don’t know, Grandpa. He might signal at other times. Can you listen while you read?”
“I suppose so. Well, in that case, bring one of the easy chairs from my study and put it here,” he pointed to the floor, next to table that held the wireless set.
That they did then moved to the kitchen for a mug of hot chocolate and a couple of biscuits.
“Your mother is very helpful Jack,” said Nigel’s grandfather, “more than Gerry’s secretary,” and he looked at his son. “She can read my writing easily now and her typing is good, very few mistakes.”
“I’m sure Rosemary didn’t make any mistakes, dad, she finds your handwriting difficult to read. It must have been hard for Joyce when she was your secretary.”
“She never complained.”
“Dad,” said Mr. Thorne,. “We’ve been meeting at my house on Sunday mornings to compare notes. At nine thirty. Can you come?”
“Why not come here and you mother will make lunch for you and the boys, but don’t come until ten.”
“All right dad. And Jack, bring your mother. I bet she’s as interested as everyone else in what we’re doing.”
“She is, and I tell her about it. She’d love to come but I don’t know what times the buses run on Sundays.”
“I’ll fetch her. Do you still eat at twelve thirty on Sunday’s dad?”
“Yes, we do.”
“Then tell your mother I’ll fetch her at twelve fifteen Jack.”
Chapter Fourteen. Sunday. August 19th.
Jack was eager to hear what signals had been heard so he cycled to Bob’s house at nine on Sunday morning. He found him feeding the pigs and they talked while watching them snort away the warm mash.
“Yes, I heard him last night. At twelve. It was just as Nigel’s dad described, a strong, short burst of fast code. I don’t know how he can transmit that fast. Nor how anyone could decode what he says.”
“I bet the others heard him too,” said Jack.
“Any luck on finding people who buy round loaves?”
“No. I’ve given up trying to find them, there’s too many that don’t order from Mr. Stevens. Tracking down the signal will be a much faster way to find the spy. Oh, we’re meeting at Nigel’s grandfather’s place today, at ten.”
“Did you tell your mom and dad you won’t be home for lunch?”
“Yes, and I also told them I heard a strong signal at twelve. They’ll be interested in finding out what the others heard.”
“I bet everybody that knows about what we’re doing will be interested but we’ll have to keep quiet and not tell anyone else. If the spy learns what we’re doing he’ll stop.”
“Yes. I’ll remind them to keep quiet about it. I’ll clean the buckets now. You can help if you like.”
Both Mr. Thorne’s had heard the signal. They tried to compare strengths but it was impossible. What was loud for one person might not be exactly as loud for the others.
“I wish I had the book on how to make a directional finder,” said Nigel.
“When do you think the library will get it?” asked his dad.
“Hopefully this week,” Nigel replied. “But, come to think of it, there’s another way we could find out approximately where the signal’s coming from. We could put up another aerial at each location but put it at right angles to the first one. The aerial that points more directly towards the transmitter will collect more energy and the signal from it will be louder. We could add an extra one here, Grandpa. There’s several trees we could use to do that.”
“You couldn’t put another one at our house, Nigel. There’s only the one tree and you’ve used it.”
“I could have another one,” said Bob. “Though it would be more like seventy degrees from the first one.”
“Doesn’t matter that much,” said Nigel. “Where would it go?”
“To the other end of the barn.”
“How are you going to hear two signals at the same time?” asked Jack.
“Hmm. I know,” said Nigel. “I’ll connect both aerials to a two-way switch. That way we can easily switch from one to the other. Yes, that’ll work,” he exclaimed. “Okay, I’ll go home and get the wire now.”
“I’ll need some too,” said Bob.
“Okay. Won’t be long,” and Nigel dashed off.
“He’s going to be a scientist when he grows up,” said his grandfather.
“Pity,” said his dad. “I was hoping he’d become a solicitor, like you and me. I had hoped he’d take over my partnership.”
“Where’s Nigel rushing to?” asked Mrs. Thorne, as she walked in with biscuits, coffee and lemonade.
Gerry told his mother what they were planning to do and added, “We’ll help him put it up. Don’t worry about him climbing, he’ll be all right.”
“Bob or I could climb it, I expect,” said Nigel. “We’re used to climbing trees.”
“We’ll see how difficult it is before deciding,” Gerry said.
“Biscuits, anyone?” Mrs. Thorne said, and she passed the plate around.
All three boys climbed the tree for it was not difficult and the second aerial was fastened to it the same way as the first aerial. The end at the house was tied to a wooden block that Nigel screwed into the window shutter.
“Let’s see if it works,” said Nigel.
They heard only one signal, but it was enough to demonstrate that the two aerials received it at different intensities.
“It’s going to help,” said Nigel, “but probably won’t be accurate enough to pin down one house.”
“It’ll help a lot if it narrows it down enough to one area,” said Jack.
“It’s time to collect your mother, Jack. I won’t be long,” said Mr. Thorne.
They arrived back just as the lunch gong sounded. The others came down from upstairs and they all went into the dining room.
Over lunch Nigel said he hoped they’d find the spy before he had to go to school which reminded Mrs. Jones that Jack would need to buy the school uniform.
“Does anyone know who sells the grammar school uniform?”
“It’s Mr. Pott’s shop, on Millington Street,” said Bob. “I got mine from them last week. Trousers, long and short, white shirts, a blazer, school tie and a cap. Cost a lot and dad wondered if it would be worth it!”
“Oh dear,” said Mrs. Jones. “Well, we’ll manage. I’ve still got quite a bit from the sale of mom’s house. Just don’t grow out of them too quickly, Jack.”
Nigel gave Bob the wire for his second aerial when he left after lunch.
“When should I come round to add the aerial switch?” Nigel asked.
“I’m at the farm most of the time now that Jack’s working. How about tomorrow at ten?”
“All right, and Grandpa, I’ll come tomorrow afternoon and put your switch in. Will that be all right?”
“Come for lunch, Nigel,” said his grandmother. “How about you, Gerry.”
“If you’re feeding Nigel then, yes, I’ll come too.”
“How about you, Mary? You’ll be here so you might as well have lunch with us.”
“Yes, that’d be nice,” added Gerry. “I can drive you home afterwards.”
“Well, thank you. That would be very nice,” said Mary Jones. “I’ll look forward to it.”
Chapter Fifteen. Monday, August 19th.
Mrs. Jones seemed very happy when Jack arrived home Monday night. He was wondering if the lunch had been especially good and then she told him that Gerry was taking her to the pictures Tuesday evening.
“Did he invite me too?” he asked.
“Err, no, he didn’t. I hope you don’t mind.”
“No, of course not mom. I’m glad you’re going.”
“We’ll go together sometime, Jack, but we haven’t the money to spend that way these days.”
“I don’t mind mom. I hope you have a good time.”
As he lay in bed that night he thought about his mother and Gerry Thorne. ‘I wonder if they like each other enough to get married? Then Nigel and I would be step brothers. It’d be fun to have a brother, though I’d still like Bob best. Nigel’s all right but, ah, it’s silly to think about this, they’re only going to the pictures. But,’ and he drifted off to sleep.
Nigel checked the library every afternoon that week and the book was waiting for him on Thursday. He sat at the table and looked through it immediately. The history of direction finding, it’s use, the development of various kinds of direction finding aerials and some complicated diagrams of loops and wireless circuits filled the book’s pages. There was an early, simple loop he could make and a formula that explained how it’s size should compliment the frequency it would be tuned to. ‘Something between two and three feet should be good enough,’ he guessed, and cycled home thinking about how he would hold the coil vertically and rotate it at the same time.
He spent most of Friday making the aerial. Four pieces of thin wood, cut from one of his grandfather’s trees formed a square. He had read that the loop didn’t need to be a circle, a square shape would also work, and that was easy to make. A thicker length of wood, nailed vertically onto a foot-square board, held the square vertically. ‘I’ll use it tomorrow night. I’m sure dad won’t mind me staying up late.’
As they were washing the supper dishes Friday evening, Mrs. Jones told Jack that she saw Gerry at lunch time. “He came to Harry’s house and drove me home when I had finished and asked if he could take me out to dinner tonight. I said yes, I hope you don’t mind. You can still have fish and chips if you like.”
“Oh, mom, you’ve got a boy friend!”
“Well I like him. He’s a nice, considerate man. Do you like him?”
“Yes, of course. Have you kissed him?”
“Jack, you shouldn’t ask your mother that kind of thing, but yes, I did, when he brought me home after the pictures on Tuesday.”
“Well, I’m glad. As long as he makes you happy, I’m happy.” His mother gave him a hug.
“Hey, mom. I’ve been thinking about the spy. Do you mind if I sleep at Bob’s place Saturday night? I’m missing all the fun since I don’t have a wireless set.”
“You can, if Mrs. Forester will let you.”
“Thanks, I’ll go and ask her.”
It wasn’t the first time Jack had slept at Bob’s house. They used to do that several times a year, mostly at the end of a school term or on a birthday. The Foresters had a camp bed that they put in Bob’s room.
Jack asked Bob what he thought about him sleeping over on Saturday then, once Bob had agreed, asked Mrs. Forester if he could.
“Yes, of course, Jack,” she said, laughing, “though I remember that the last time you did that you said the bed wasn’t very comfortable.”
Saturday morning Jack and his mother caught the bus to the centre of Mansworth and walked to Mr. Pott’s haberdashery. Fifty minutes later they walked out with two large paper-wrapped packages and four weeks of Jack and his mother’s earnings less.
“Never mind the cost, Jack. You look very smart in the school uniform. I wish my mother could see you wearing them, she’d be very happy.”
Mr. Forester joined the boys in Bob’s bedroom Saturday night just before twelve o’clock as they listened for the signal. Several times earlier Bob had heard faint signals and he used them to practice switching from one aerial to another and comparing strengths. There was a distinct difference between using each aerial, the signal received from one was almost always stronger than the signal received from the other.
At midnight Bob and Jack, for they had removed the headphones from the head strap and held it to their ears, heard the spy’s burst of transmission. It was long enough for Bob to quickly switch between aerials five times. “It’s the new aerial that’s stronger, dad. The sound is always stronger on that aerial.”
“Yes. That’s right,” said Jack, “then the new aerial must be pointed more directly towards the transmitter than the old one.”
“Ah,” said Mr. Forester. “Let’s find out what the others have heard. I’ll phone them.”
They went down to the kitchen and listened as he talked, first to Gerry Thorne then to Gerry’s father.
“We’ve got him,” said Jack. “With their results we should be able to find where the spy lives.”
Gerry and the boys met at Nigel’s grandfather’s house at ten Sunday morning and gathered around the map which Gerry had spread on the dining room table. First Nigel drew a pencil line through Bob’s house in the direction the new, strong-signal-receiving aerial was pointing.
“The signal could have come from either direction along that line but I bet his house is near the sea so I’m going to ignore the direction pointing inland.” Then he added another line on each side of the pencilled line, starting at the aerial but angled out a few degrees. “The signal could be coming from anywhere within this triangular area, we just don’t know exactly where,” Nigel said.
Next he did the same for the direction the strong-signal antenna was pointing at from his grandfather’s house and added widening lines on each side.
“These areas overlap,” said Nigel. “Just what I expected,” and he drew a circle around the area which both pencilled triangles covered. “He’ll live within that area. Now let’s see what the loop signal tells us. He added a similar but narrower triangle emanating from his house. It, also, pointed to an area within the circle. Nigel made a somewhat smaller circle where all signal areas overlapped. “He’ll live somewhere within that circle.”
The small circle enclosed a portion of the Coastal Trail, a road that ran from the parking lot that lay besides the trail to Mansworth and a short dead-end road that joined the Mansworth road. Five houses lay along the side road.
“He must live in one of those,” cried Jack.
Chapter Sixteen. Sunday. August 25th.
“Okay,” said Gerry. “Let’s sit down and talk about what we should do next.”
After they had all found a place on the chesterfield or on a chair in the lounge Gerry said, “I know the name of the road that runs to the parking lot, it’s Tuft’s Lane, and I can easily find out who owns each house. I’ll do that tomorrow. Once we know who lives there we can investigate their backgrounds.”
“The police can do that for us,” said Jack.
“I don’t think they would,” said Nigel’s grandfather, “not until we have more evidence that someone there is a spy.”
“Well, someone must be,” said Nigel. “The signal definitely comes from one of those houses.”
“If only we knew which one,” said his grandfather. “I’m sure they’d investigate one person, but five? I don’t think they’d work on five. They’re short-staffed, like everyone else. Many of the policemen have joined the forces.”
“We can narrow it down,” said Nigel. “I could make two more loop aerials and since they’re crystal sets they don’t need electricity; we can use them near to the houses and find out which one he’s transmitting from.”
“Hmm, that’s a good idea,” said his dad, “provided we wouldn’t be seen. We’d have to find out if there’s any place nearby where we could hide.”
“One of us would have to be with each lad,” said Nigel’s grandfather. “I wouldn’t like them to go alone. I can go and you can, Gerry. Who’d be the third?”
“My dad,” said Bob.
“Oh, yes. I talked to him last night. All right.”
“Nigel and I can look around the area tomorrow,” said Bob.
“You’d have to be careful. What would you say if anyone asked you why you were there?”
“We’ll take some baskets and tell them we’re looking for blackberries.”
“Yes, that should work. Don’t make any notes while you’re there.”
“No,” said Nigel, “we’ll just look for places where we can hide and monitor the houses.”
“All right,” said Gerry. “Let’s meet here tomorrow night, I should know who owns those houses by then.”
“I’ve got a meeting tomorrow evening,” said his dad. “Meet at your place, Gerry. Phone me after ten and tell me what you’ve found out.”
It rained all morning on Monday and, sensibly, Bob never turned up at Nigel’s place. It wasn’t enough rain to stop Nigel from cutting more branches from the tree and making two more loop aerials. This time he made them about two feet across; his first aerial was three feet wide but it was awkward to hold still and turn. A two foot aerial would be much easier. Also, they would be very close to the transmitter so they would pick up plenty of signal and a smaller aerial would be good enough.
Bob and Jack cycled to Nigel’s home that evening, arriving at seven, eager to learn who lived in the houses. They sat down in the lounge and Gerry began to talk.
“I learned their names and when they bought the properties. I think we can rule out three of them right away. First, Ray Watsonby, he owns the largest farm around Mansworth, inherited from his father. He’s lived here all his life and I meet him now and again. Next, Ken Knowleton. He’s the police inspector, so I’m sure we don’t have to worry about him. Lastly, Ted Launder. He’s one of the doctors at the hospital. Bought his place in 1935, I often see him at the club. I don’t know anything about the other two, a Mr. Walter Peansbury and a Mr. Michael Sylvester. They bought their houses in 1938. They’re both married, their wives names are on the property deeds.”
“Do you know which houses they live in,” said Jack.
“Yes. Here, you can see where each one lives, I written every owner’s name against their house.” He opened the map which was on the side table next to his chair, folded it and passed it to Bob who was sitting next to him.
“Nigel tells me you didn’t go picking blackberries today, Bob.”
“No. It rained this morning and it would have been too wet. It would look silly if anyone saw us. Dad wants me to help him tomorrow so I can’t go with you then, Nigel. Do you want to go alone?”
“No, don’t do that,” said Nigel’s father. “How about Wednesday, can you go then, Bob?”
“Yes, I can. I could be here at ten, would that be okay with you Nigel?”
“Yes, that’d be fine. The blackberry bushes will be quite dry then. Bring two baskets when you come. I don’t think we have any.”
“Okay. We’ve got lots.”
“I made two loop aerials today,” said Nigel. “Next time we meet I’ll show you and Jack how to use them.”
“How about meeting Wednesday evening?” said Gerry. “I’ll come and collect you and your dad, Bob, and your mom, Jack. Everybody will want an update on what we know and you wouldn’t have to carry the wirelesses on your bikes that way. We’ll meet at my father’s place, I know he’s in that night.”
“It’ll be a bit of a squeeze in the car, dad,” said Nigel.
“Oh, I’ve had five of us in there before. It’ll be all right.”
“Then we’ll practice using the loop aerials afterwards,” said Nigel.
Chapter Seventeen. Wednesday. August 28th.
Nigel and Bob cycled to the parking lot at the end of Tuft’s Lane Wednesday morning and left their bicycles propped against the fence separating the lot from the Coastal Trail.
“There should be plenty of places to hide,” whispered Bob, “it’s all rolling ground, bushes and small trees. I think it must have been a field that the owner couldn’t farm.”
“Yes,” said Nigel, quietly. “We’ll circle the place but we shouldn’t whisper any more, it’s suspicious. We’ll just talk about blackberries or about school.”
“Okay,” said Bob. “Let’s look around here, Nigel. Should be some berries somewhere.”
They began exploring the area on the eastern side, walking behind the doctor’s house first. There were two small bramble patches but they found enough to cover the bottom of their baskets. The next house was the police inspector’s house where they found many more berries. The farmer’s house at the end of the side road was next. It was rough and had many small bushes behind it but no blackberries. The last two houses lay on the other side of Tuft’s Lane. By this time they had enough berries they wouldn’t have to worry about being seen, it was clear what they were doing.
That was fortunate, for as soon as they got close to the first house a voice said “Hello. What are you two doing?”
“Oh, hello,” said Nigel. “We’re looking for blackberries. Do you mind?”
“Not at all. There are still quite a lot. We picked all we need earlier this month. I’m Mrs. Sylvester. Do you live around here? I haven’t seen you before.”
“No, I live in Mansworth and Bob lives on the other side. I’m Nigel.”
“The berries are for your mother’s?” she asked.
“We, err, sell them,” said Nigel, not wanting to explain that his mother was dead. “To the shopkeepers.”
“I see. Next year I might buy them, it’s a prickly job. I like blackberry jam and pies but I don’t like picking them. You’ll be in school soon, won’t you. Secondary school?”
“I’m going to the grammar school,” said Bob.
“Oh, good. I used to teach in the High School for Girls at Basingstoke. My husband taught in the grammar school. Our friends, Mr. and Mrs. Peansbury, they live next door taught in the same schools. We’re all retired now and glad to be away from Basingstoke. I’m sure they’ll bomb the railway. It’s the main line between London and Southampton.”
“Yes,” said Bob. “They probably will. Well, we must get on. Goodbye Mrs. Sylvester.”
“There’s quite a few blackberry bushes behind the Peansbury’s house,” she said. “Goodbye for now. I’m sure we’ll meet again.”
They slowly walked away, looking from left to right, thinking about what they’d heard but not saying anything.
They nearly filled their baskets behind the Peansbury’s house and fastened them carefully to their bikes before setting off. They stopped at the crossroads where Tuft’s Lane joined the main road to Mansworth and talked.
“I don’t know,” said Nigel. “She didn’t seem like a spy. She was very nice.”
“Yes, I think the same. But we can’t be sure. I bet they’re trained to be nice otherwise they’d be more easily caught.”
“I suppose so. I want to sketch the area. There’s a seat just along here, we passed it when we came.”
That afternoon Nigel copied the sketch and drew a large diagram of the houses and surroundings. It was lying on his grandparent’s dining room table when Gerry returned with everyone else Wednesday evening. As they were getting settled around the table Felicity placed a big pot of coffee, a full teapot, a pitcher of lemonade and a large plate of assorted biscuits on the sideboard with a tray of mugs, some cream and milk. “Help yourself, it might be a long evening. Do you want to stay and listen Mary?”
“Yes, I do. I want to know what everyone’s planning to do. I hope it’s not dangerous.”
“No. Mary,” said Gerry. “All we want to do now is find out which house the signal’s coming from. We’re not going to do anything else.”
“Bob and I will tell you what we saw this morning,” said Nigel. “This is where the houses are, Mrs. Jones,” and he pointed to the end of Tuft’s Lane. “Here.”
“We left our bikes in the parking lot by the Coastal Trail,” continued Bob, “and walked into the brush, behind Dr. Ladner’s home, which is this one on the east side of Tuft’s Lane.”
They continued describing their berry-picking journey around the back of the houses and Nigel drew their attention to spots where they could hide.
“There are lots of places but I think these would be best. One on the coast side just behind the police inspector’s house.”
“Mr. Knowleton,” interjected Gerry.
“Yes,” said Nigel. “The next place is between Mr. Watsonby’s house and the lane, and the last here,” and he pointed to a spot in between the teachers’ houses. “If we were in these places and heard the signal then we’d know exactly which house it was coming from. There’d be no doubt at all.”
“That last place is very close to the teachers’ houses,” said Mary. “Didn’t you say they were the main suspects? Is it safe to hide there? Are you sure you wouldn’t be seen?”
“Bob and I talked about that when we drew the first sketch, Mrs. Jones. There is a big patch of old blackberry bushes there and they’re taller than us. No one would see anybody behind them.”
“Who’d hide there?” she asked.
“We could,” said Gerry. “Nigel and I.”
“I’d prefer to be behind the inspector’s house,” said his father. “I don’t want to walk too far in the dark. I’d be there with Jack.”
“Then Bob and I will hide behind Ray Watsonby’s place,” said Mr. Forester. “Too bad I couldn’t just call in and say hello. We’ve known each other since I was a kid.”
“Maybe another time, dad, when this is all over. There’ll be a lot to talk about then.”
“Aye, there will.”
They next planned how and when they’d take up positions. Since the signals had always been at midnight Harry Thorne thought there was no point in arriving much before eleven forty-five, “I don’t want a long stand in the cold.”
“I don’t think it’ll be too cold dad,” said Gerry. “Wrap up warmly and carry a cushion to sit on. I think we should be in place by eleven thirty. Don’t forget, we need time to find a good spot on the crystals and make sure the wirelesses are working. And the loop aerials have to be set up too.”
“Oh, all right. I hadn’t thought about all that.”
“I’ll collect Jack, Bob and you, Len, at eleven. No, let’s make it ten thirty, in case anything goes wrong. We’ll meet here, dad. I’ll bring you here, Nigel, before I collect the others.”
“You don’t have to collect Bob and me, Gerry,” said Len. “I’ll use the van. You could squeeze into it too, Jack.”
“What about me?” asked Mary. “I don’t want to be left at home, worrying.”
“Then I’ll pick you and Jack up at ten thirty,” said Gerry. “How does that sound?”
“I’ll have some sandwiches for you,” said Felicity. “How about taking a break now? As you can see there’s plenty of biscuits and drinks waiting for you.”
They chatted, talked about what routes to take to get into place without being seen and how to use the loop aerials. After a while Nigel said he’d like Jack and Bob to practice using the loops and took them to his bedroom. The other’s moved into the lounge where Harry pointed to the cabinet where he kept some drinks. “Anyone interested?”
“I’ll have a scotch, dad. Do you have any Grant’s?”
“Yes, I do. How about you, Mary? A sherry, port, gin and tonic?”
“A port, please, Harry.”
“Grant’s would be fine. Haven’t had one of those for a long time.”
“And another port for you, Felicity?”
Chapter Eighteen. Saturday, August 31st
Thursday and Friday were Jack’s last two days working at the farm as school began next Tuesday. He wished he could talk to Mr. Lindsey about their search for a spy for it filled his mind and was so exciting. He stopped at Bob’s place on his way home Thursday, just to say hello and talked mostly about their new school, there wasn’t much to say about Saturday.
Friday, Mr. Lindsey added a ten shilling note to Jack’s wages.
“I’m sorry you’re leaving Jack. When Bert, my helper, left to join the army I thought I would never be able to get everything done this summer. You have made all the difference. Can you come back next summer?”
“I’d like to, Mr. Lindsey. We need the money and I enjoy the work, all except hoeing, that is,” he said with a laugh.
“Well, maybe the war will be over by then and Bert will come back and do the hoeing but I’d still like you to help.”
“Thanks, and goodbye Mrs. Lindsey. Thanks for all the lunches and drinks. They were very nice.”
“Goodbye Jack. And good luck at school. I hope you enjoy it.”
When Jack arrived home his mother had a surprise. “We’re not having fish and chips tonight, Jack. Gerry’s invited us to his house for dinner. He’ll pick us up at six. Have a bath and put on a clean shirt.”
“Why, that’s nice mom. Will it just be him and Nigel or is anyone else coming?”
“No, just the four of us, Jack.”
They had fish that night after all, cod, which Gerry had baked with a sauce in the oven. There were no chips, but mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.
“You’re a great cook, Gerry,” said Mary. “It was delicious.”
“Thanks. I had to learn after Tina died. I wasn’t very good at first, was I Nigel?”
“It was all right, dad. What’s for dessert?”
“Blackberries and custard, I thought we should eat some of the ones you picked. There are too many for us to use, can I give the others to Mary and Jack?”
“Of course. Oh, after supper I’d like you to practice using the wireless, Jack. You haven’t used it for two weeks.”
Gerry drove them home about nine o’clock. He kissed Mary when they said good bye. She was rather quiet when they went in and went to bed at the same time as Jack.
Saturday afternoon Jack worked for two hours collecting and delivering for Mr. Stevens spending much of the time thinking about the evening’s activities.
They had a quiet supper, each thinking and hoping nothing would go wrong. They watched the news and Childrens’ Hour and a documentary about workers in a factory but didn’t pay much attention to it.
Gerry collected them at ten thirty and drove to Harry’s home. Bob and his father arrived shortly afterwards and they sat in the kitchen eating a few sandwiches until eleven when the boys collected the wireless sets and aerials.
“We’ll park on the main road and walk on the foot path to the Coastal Trail,” said Gerry. “That way nobody will see us. Then we’ll walk along the trail to the parking lot and move to our hiding spots.”
“Here’s your cushion, Harry,” said Felicity. “Does anyone want a thermos of coffee or hot chocolate.”
“No, mum, thanks,” said Gerry. “We won’t be long. We’ll be back by twelve thirty, if everything goes okay. We’ll probably like some then.”
Len and Bob drove off first. Gerry, Harry, Nigel and Jack followed closely behind. They didn’t hurry and saw no one on their way. Three torches showed them the way along the footpath. There was a half moon, and, although clouds often covered it, it gave enough light so they didn’t have to use their torches along the trail to the parking lot. They split up there and walked as quietly as they could to their places behind the houses.
It was several minutes before everyone had found a good spot for the cat’s whisker on the crystal. The boys wore the headphones and the adults held the aerials, turning them one way or the other as various signals were heard. No one used their torches, the boys and Harry sat, Gerry and Len stood.
At twelve o’clock the signal came, sharp and loud. It was clearly coming from one of the houses. It lasted enough time for the house it came from to be distinguished. Everyone was shocked when the boys pointed to it. It was Mr. Knowleton’s, the police inspector’s, house!
Without saying a word everyone packed up and crept quietly away, back to the parking lot, along the trail and footpath to where they had parked the car and van. There they huddled together.
“I don’t believe it,” said Gerry. “It can’t be him.”
“It is, dad,” said Nigel. “My aerial pointed directly to his house.”
“So did mine,” said Jack.
“And mine,” said Bob. “Who’d have thought it would be him.”
“Let’s go,” said Harry. “We’ll talk about it when we get to my place. Don’t want anyone to see us here.”
They sat in the kitchen once they arrived, telling Felicity and Mary what they had found.
“Unbelievable,” said Felicity. “Are you positive it’s him?”
“Yes,” said Nigel. “There’s no doubt.”
“What do we do now?” asked Mary. “We can’t go to the police if he’s the spy.”
“No, we can’t,” said Gerry.
“Maybe we can,” said Harry. “I know one or two people in London I could talk to about what we’ve discovered.”
“Can you trust them?” asked Jack, shocked that the police force was involved.
“I think so. I’ve known them since we were at school together and they’re quite high in the system. I can’t phone them now, it’s much too late. I’ll phone tomorrow if I can find their home telephone numbers.”
“Today, you mean, Harry. It’s Sunday now,” said Felicity. “And drink up your hot chocolate. I don’t want you to catch a cold.”
“Call me when you’ve talked to someone and we’ll meet again,” said Gerry.
“All right. Meanwhile, no one talks to anyone about this. It’s too dangerous.”
“Right,” said Mary.
Chapter Nineteen. Sunday, September 1st
Sunday morning Nigel began packing his trunk, filling it with shoes and clothes for rugby and squash, a spare uniform, books he had been told to read during the summer, clothes for the weekends, all the things he’d need until Christmas. A squash racket was strapped in its holder to the outside and he and Gerry manhandled it down the stairs and into the back of the car. Outdoor clothes and a suitcase would be added before they left after lunch.
“I’ll tell the headmaster that I’ll be collecting you for a weekend at home soon. As soon as we know more about what they’re going to do with the spy I’ll come and fetch you. We might know by next weekend.”
“Good. I want to know what happens. Are we having lunch with Grandpa and Grandma before we go?”
“Yes. At twelve thirty. Are you looking forward to school?”
“Yes. Be good to see my friends again and catch up on what they did this summer.”
“You won’t tell anybody about what we’ve been doing will you Nigel.”
“No, not until it’s public knowledge. I bet they’ll be surprised when they find out.”
Two men arrived at Harry’s house at ten o’clock on Tuesday morning. Harry learned, several years later, that they were from M15. They listened to what he told them, looked at, then borrowed, the sketch that Nigel had drawn of the five houses and the directions the signals had been coming from, saw his crystal set and the loop aerial and borrowed them as well. They left at twelve, telling Mr. Thorne to talk to nobody about their visit.
Jack and Bob dressed in their new school uniforms and cycled to the grammar school Wednesday morning, parking their bicycles amongst fifty or more others in the school’s racks and were sent to join Form One. At nine o’clock their home teacher arrived, a Mr. Burnes, who took attendance then lead the way to join some four hundred other boys in the main hall. Prayers, a welcome speech directed to all the boys, new and old, was given by the headmaster who then read out the names of past members of Mansworth Grammar School who had been killed in the war. They returned to their seats in the classroom and their weekly timetable was copied from the blackboard. They were told to choose a locker from the row along the wall outside their classroom and put their unneeded books there.
A milk-and-buns, fifteen-minute break was followed by a mathematics class, whose teacher arrived two minutes late, stuffing a pipe in his jacket pocket. French followed by lunch, eaten from tables and benches placed in the hall by those who had just finished gym. Stew, boiled potatoes, over-cooked cabbage, steamed pudding and custard, not unpleasant, was welcomed by Jack although Bob left most of his cabbage.
They walked along the school corridors during the rest of the lunch break, discovering the three science laboratories, the art room and a woodworking shop, meeting four other boys from their school who had also passed the eleven plus and entered the grammar school.
Biology, in one of the laboratories, geography and a history class filled the afternoon and they cycled home at four thirty, to be quizzed by their parents on how the day had been. There was no news from either of the Mr. Thornes.
The rest of the week followed the same routine. Homework was set and completed, gym and football practice were very enjoyable. Jack and Bob enjoyed climbing the ropes and parallel bars as much as kicking the football. Luke warm showers afterwards followed sports and gym.
Classes continued Saturday morning and Jack arrived half-an-hour late at Mr. Stevens’ shop, explaining that he’d been at school that morning.
“I’d forgotten you were going to the grammar school, Jack. How was your week?”
“Very interesting, Mr. Stevens. I think I’m going to enjoy all of it. Except Latin, I don’t like that. French is okay but Latin? I don’t see the point of learning that.”
“I’m told it’ll help you learn other languages and improved your English. Err, do you still want to work on Saturday afternoons? You must need a break.”
“I’d like one but we need the money. I’ll continue, if you don’t mind.”
“Oh, I’m glad, Jack. Well, here’s the lists and I’ll have the groceries ready for you when you return.”
Chapter Twenty. Sunday, September 8th
Sunday afternoon around two o’clock Gerry arrived at the Jones’ house. Mary answered the door for Jack was in his bedroom working on his homework.
“Come in, Gerry. Would you like a cup of tea?”
“Yes please. I’ve a bit of news, the police inspector and his wife have been arrested. Dad told me, his London connection phoned him.”
“So what you and the boys found out was correct, he was sending signals.”
“Apparently so. Is Jack here? He should know about this.”
“He’s upstairs, doing his homework. Jack,” she shouted. “Can you come here for a moment?”
“Oh, hello Mr. Thorne. I heard you drive up.”
“Hi Jack. I’ve a bit of news. The police inspector and his wife have been arrested. Some men came from London last night with a special wireless receiver and heard his signals. I don’t know anything more. Dad says he’ll find out and let us know.”
“Can I tell my friends at school about this now?”
“No, I don’t think so. There’ll be more investigations to make and I don’t expect they’ll want the journalists doing their own investigations while they’re doing theirs, though we should tell Bob. Mary, it’s such a nice day, would you like to walk along to their place with me? We’ll leave Jack to do his homework unless you’d like to come?”
“No, you two go. I’ve a lot to do and, if that’s all you have to tell him, there’s no need for me to come.”
Gerry and Mary didn’t return until five thirty, having walked along the trail once they’d left the Foresters to have a drink in the pub in the neighbouring village.
“Gerry’s staying for supper Jack,” Mary called up the stairs as soon as she came in. “Do you need much more time?”
“Half-an-hour should be enough, mom.”
Toast and marmite with a tiny bit of butter was all they ate but there was plenty of it; food rationing, of course, limited what anyone could provide for a meal.
“I hope we hear more soon,” said Jack, as he and Bob cycled to school Monday morning, “Mr. Thorne said his dad would try to find out what they’d discovered. We’re still not to talk about it to anyone, I suppose.”
“No, we’re not,” said Bob. “I wonder if it will always be kept a secret and no one will ever find out what we and Nigel discovered.”
The week passed much as their first week at school. Wednesday afternoon, when they played soccer, was the best day. Saturday, when they attended school in the morning was the hardest, especially for Jack with his afternoon job. Bob, although going to school, was not relieved of his chores around the farm and he, too, was glad when Sunday came around.
Chapter Twenty One. Sunday, September 15th
Sunday morning Jack cycled to Bob’s house and suggested they visit Nigel’s dad and find out what had happened. He was out when they arrived so they then went to Nigel’s grandparents house. They were also out.
“Perhaps they’re all at church,” said Bob.
“Yes, I didn’t think of that. Well I don’t suppose anything’s happened. They let us know if it had.”
Something had happened, as they learnt in the afternoon when Gerry drove up.
“It’s a long story,” he said. “I’d like Bob and his parents to know about it as well so can I bring them here before telling you about it?”
“Yes, of course.”
He arrived back fifteen minutes later with Bob and his parents in the car. Everybody squeezed into the front room and listened while Gerry spoke.
“This is what my father learned this morning. His friend in London phoned and told him what he had discovered.
“Saturday September 7th a team from London came down and parked where we did and, in fact, did what we did the previous Saturday. They moved their equipment near to the inspector’s house and listened. As soon as the transmission stopped they forced their way into his house and found him climbing down the attic ladder. They arrested him and his wife and found a wireless set in the attic. They took them and the wireless and other things of interest to London.
“The inspector and his wife didn’t mind explaining why they became spies, for they had begun to regret what they were doing. All the bombing and what Hitler had been doing was beginning to worry them. This is what they said: the wife, Mrs. Ursula Knowleton, was born in Hamburg, Germany, where her sister lives today. Mr. Knowleton met Ursula in London in 1912. She was studying English and he had just joined the police force. They married in 1913, in Hamburg, and lived in Battersea, London. He worked hard and was very dedicated and rose through the ranks. They visited Hamburg five times during the twenties and thirties and he was struck by Hitler’s speeches and his leadership qualities and they both thought that a similar approach should be followed in England. In 1938 he agreed to be a spy.
“When England joined the war last September he asked if he could be transferred to somewhere away from London, saying his wife was afraid of being bombed. By chance he was sent to Mansworth.
“The German pilot’s name is Hans Schiffer. He is Ursula’s sister’s son and he knew where his aunt and uncle lived. When he was shot down on his way back from Bristol he flew as far as he could towards their home before parachuting. He stayed with them the first night and learned where the sea was deep enough for a U-boat to approach the land. He had important information that the Luftwaffe wanted and they arranged for a U-boat to collect him as soon as the inspector had signalled that he was safe and with them. The boat was to collect him at midnight in two days time.
“Schiffer stayed with them but, during the night he explored the coast where the U-boat would come, looking for a place to hide. He spotted the path into the woods and your treehouse and hid there the night before you found him in the morning. The rest you know.”
“He spoke English very well,” said Jack, “and said he went to school in England. How did he do that if he lived in Hamburg?”
“Well, his mother spoke English and both English and German was used in their home when he was growing up. Hans stayed with his aunt and uncle in London during 1926-27 and again in 1928-29 when mother was seriously ill. That’s when he went to school.”
“Oh, I see,” said Jack. “Does Nigel know all this?”
“Yes, I phoned him immediately after my dad told me what had happened. I thought about fetching him home to celebrate but I’d have to take him back immediately afterwards so it’s better if we celebrate next weekend. I’ll arrange with the headmaster to bring him home next Saturday. Dad suggests we all have dinner with him Saturday night. Are you all free?”
“Yes, we are,” said Mary.
“We are too,” said Mrs. Forester.
“I’ll come for you at six o’clock,” said Gerry to Mary and Jack.
“I’ll drive us there,” said Mr. Forester. “Be there about six fifteen, right?”
“Yes,” said Gerry.
“We can bring a rabbit pie,” said Mrs. Forester.
“I’ve got an apple pie,” said Mary.
“Then I’m sure we’ll have plenty to eat,” said Gerry. “I’ll bring a couple of bottles of wine.”
It was a very warm and beautiful Wednesday evening and Gerry drove up at six thirty and asked Mary if she would like to walk along the trail again to the pub. Jack had gone to bed when they arrived home about nine thirty, laughing and happy. He fell asleep shortly afterwards and didn’t know when Gerry left. Thursday, after supper, Mary told Jack that Gerry had asked her to marry him and that she’d accepted.
“Do you mind, Jack? Gerry won’t replace your dad, you’ll always have him.”
“I’m glad, mom. I like Gerry and I’m sure you’ll be very happy. I’ll have a step-brother then, Nigel. It’ll be nice to have a brother.”
“Give me a hug, Jack. I do want you to be happy about it too.”
“I am, mom. Can I tell Bob?”
“No, please don’t do that yet We want to tell Harry, Felicity and Nigel first. We decided to tell them all on Saturday when Nigel will be there. Bob and his parents will learn about it then.”
“When will you get married, mom?”
“We haven’t decided that but, afterwards, we’ll live in Gerry’s house.”
“Oh, I’d like that.”
Chapter Twenty Two. Saturday, September 21st
Jack went to Mr. Stevens’ shop half an hour early Saturday afternoon, for his mother had told him Gerry would be collecting them at five thirty, to take them to his parents’ place. “We want to tell them about our engagement before the Foresters get there. It’s a family thing, of course, that’s why.”
They were ready and waiting when Gerry arrived. Mary was wearing her best dress and Jack his nicest clothes with hair carefully brushed into place. Nigel, who had been sitting in the back of the car, jumped out, beaming, when he saw Jack.
“Hi,” he said. “We’re going to be brothers soon. I’ll like that!”
“I said the same thing, Nigel. it’ll be fun, won’t it. I’ve always wished I had a brother.”
“Step-brothers really,” said Gerry, “but it’s about the same thing.”
“We’ll live together won’t we dad?” asked Nigel.
“Oh, I won’t have to live at home once you get married will I? I don’t want to stop going to Wamister.”
“Oh no, I’d like you to finish school there.”
Harry and Felicity were not expecting them for another half-an-hour when they arrived and were still getting dressed.
“No hurry, mom, dad,” Gerry called. “Take your time. We’ve something to tell you, that’s why we’re early.”
They stood together in the lounge looking out of the window, Nigel and Jack on either side of their parent who were holding hands. Everyone turned when Gerry’s parents arrived then Gerry said, “Mom, dad, I’ve something important to tell you. Mary’s agreed to marry me.”
“I knew it,” said Felicity, “I thought something was going on. Didn’t I say so?” and she looked at Harry. “Well, congratulations Gerry and welcome, Mary. I’m very happy.”
“Yes, that’s grand,” said Harry. He moved to Mary and gave her a big hug. “Welcome to the family, Mary. I must get a couple of bottles of champagne to celebrate. Get out the flutes, Gerry. They’re in the glass cabinet.”
Three minutes later, everyone, including Nigel and Jack, had a full glass. “To Mary and Gerry, may they long be happy together,” said Harry.
“I’d rather have Tizer,” said Jack, quietly, to Nigel. “Do you like champagne?”
“It’s okay, gets better as you drink it. Makes you a bit giddy though, like sherry but quicker.”
“You’ve drunk sherry?”
“At school, don’t say anything to dad.”
The Foresters’ van arrived and Felicity went to the door to welcome them. “Here’s the rabbit pie,” said Mrs., Forester. “Shall I put it in the kitchen.”
“Yes, let’s do that then we’ll go to the lounge.”
Once there they were given half-filled flutes of champagne and Harry told them that Gerry and Mary were engaged. “So raise your glasses everybody,” said Harry again. “To Gerry and Mary. May they live happily ever after.”
A little later Bob joined Jack and Nigel.
“So you’ll be step brothers then. That’s great, but you’ll still be friends with me Jack?”
“You bet. We’ll form a gang, like the Three Musketeers.”
“Will you move to Nigel’s home, Jack?”
“I think so, once mom’s married to your dad, Nigel.”
“Then you’ll be living on the other side of the town.”
“Yes, but we’ll always be in the same form at school.”
“And the treehouse is in your woods,” said Nigel. “You know, I could make some wireless transmitters and we could talk to each other at night.”
“Is that allowed?” asked Jack.
“Ah, yes, perhaps not. I’ll find out,” Nigel said.
“We should also drink to our success in capturing the spies,” said Harry. “We’ll finish the champagne by celebrating that now.” He passed the bottle that was still half-full to Felicity. “Pass it around, but I don’t think the boys should take any this time.”
“Here’s to our success,” he called, when the grown ups had taken what was left. “Bottoms up!”
“I’ve got some more news,” said Harry. “Sit down everybody, Gerry, Nigel, get a couple more chairs from the dining room, please.”
“Well,” said Harry Thorne, after everybody had found a seat, “it’s two things, really. First, they’ve analysed the wireless transmitter and found out how he was able to transmit lots of information in a very short time. He first recorded the message, in code, on a wire recorder and, at midnight, Saturdays, ran the recording very fast to his transmitter. It’s not a new idea, wire recorders have been around for several years, but they found ways to use them without adding a lot of distortion.”
“Very clever,” said Mr. Forester.
“But the inspector was also very stupid,” said Nigel. “He always transmitted at the same time and on the same day. Why did he do that? It’s silly.”
“Yes, I agree,” said Gerry. “If he hadn’t done that I bet we would never have caught him.”
“I suppose he thought that the transmission would never be caught because it was so short,” said Jack.
“Yes, I suppose so,” said Harry. “There’s something else to tell you.” He picked up an envelope that was on a side table. “This was sent to me last week.” He opened the envelope and pulled out a letter and a photograph.
“When they were searching the house they took several photographs. Now, the Knowletons don’t have any children yet this photograph shows Ursula Knowleton with her arm around a young man. They think they know who this man is and they’ve asked me to ask you, Jack and Bob, if you recognise him,” and he passed the photo to Jack.
“Its Hans,” Jack said. “Look Bob. What do you think?”
“Yes, it’s him.”
“That’s what they thought. In fact, it’s Ursula’s nephew. It says ‘Hamburg, 1938’ on the back so it would have been taken on their last visit to Germany.”
“I wonder if we’ll ever see him again,” said Jack. “He said he’d come and see us after the war if he survived.”
“Even if he did he might not come here, I don’t think his aunt and uncle will be here then,” said Gerry.
“No, I suppose not,” said Jack.
“Can we tell everybody about what happened?” asked Bob.
“Yes, you can now,” said Harry. “There’ll be lots of reporters around once word gets out that the police inspector’s been arrested. You three will be heroes I expect.”
“For a week or two, perhaps,” said Mary. “I hope they don’t upset your schooling.”
“Do you have to return the photo, Mr. Thorne?” asked Bob.
“No, one of you could keep it, if you like. I just had to tell them if you recognised the man.”
“You can have it if you like, Bob,” said Jack. “There’s only one thing I’d like; to know if the Knowleton’s bought round loaves!”
A short novel about three boys seeking a spy in Britain in 1940. Set in Cornwall, two boys are held by a German pilot until he escapes by U-boat. Guessing that he was helped by a collaborator they use various methods to search for him.