The Kirrins and the Mystery
of the Sandy-haired Dwarf

by Robin Gordon



Auksford crest: a great auk displaying an open book with the words "Ex ovo sapientia"
-  Auksford, 2001  -

Chapter 2:
Dick's story: The Lively Five

©  Copyright Robin Gordon, 2001

Well - said Dick - I blame Mrs Blyton really. She wrote up our adventures and exaggerated them, you know how she does. So Anne's kids always wanted to have adventures of their own, especially when they got that dog of theirs and started calling themselves the Lively Five. When I was staying with them they weren't interested in my fascinating career as a film director, and when I mentioned friends like Jean-Luc, Bernardo and Luchino they didn't even seem to heard of them. All they wanted was more details of our adventures when we were young. Jonathan seemed to fancy himself as another Julian, and Nick thought he was like me (though of course he's nowhere near as handsome). Harry is actually very like George. She can climb a tree faster than any of the others, and when she had a scrap with Nick she pretty soon had him at her mercy.

Harry and Nick fighting

Little Fran's a poppet, a real sweetie. If she wasn't my niece I'd be in danger of making a fool of myself like Roman did.

Anyway, I told them some of our adventures - and when the girls weren't there I put in one or two of the bits Mrs Blyton left out - and that made them even keener on looking out for adventures of their own.

Now, there's a man who had only recently moved into their street, rum looking customer: very short, big head, pale face and sort of sandy coloured hair, like ginger that had faded. Not married, lived alone, and didn't seem to have any regular sort of job. The kids asked me to take a look at him and see if he could be a villain. Well, as soon as I clapped eyes on him I thought about my plans for East by South East, and I thought that's just the sort of poisonous-looking dwarf that I need. So of course I said, "I've never seen such a villainous creature in all my life". Uglier than Hunchy - remember Hunchy? - Like a sort of Rumpelstiltskin out of a fairy tale. Note 3

Anyway, soon after the summer hols had started there was a bit of a crime wave round that part of town. Harry and little Fran were out shopping one day when suddenly they heard police sirens. When they came out of Debenhams they saw police at the bank opposite and realised there had been a robbery. And then, slinking about through the onlookers, they saw the sandy-haired dwarf, looking pretty pleased with himself they said. He had a few words with one or two people in the crowd, and then he hurried off.

A few days later there was a big fire -- house burned down, half a dozen Pakistani immigrants burned to death. The papers said it was arson. Jonathan was passing by on his bike. He stopped to watch the fire engines and the flames, and there in the crowd was that same sandy-haired dwarf, moving around, talking to people, trying to look subdued and sad, but inwardly, Jonathan said, looking like the cat that's got the cream.

And a few days later Nick saw him outside a house where a little girl had disappeared, peeping and prying, trying to overhear what was being said, then when he was satisfied, hurrying away.

The dwarf confronts the children

Of course I had to agree with them that that sandy-haired dwarf should be watched, and I suppose that's how the trouble started. The five of them (including Mycock the dog) began to follow the fellow round, and, naturally when you're being followed round by four teenagers and a big hairy dog, you begin to notice. So the sandy-haired dwarf would glare at them, and when he glared he looked twice as ugly, which only made them suspect him all the more. He started giving them the slip, too. Sometimes he would have a confederate waiting in a car. He'd saunter round the corner, and they'd stroll after him, only to see him shaking his fist at them out of a car as it sped away. At other times he'd duck into a shop and be out at another entrance before they realised which way he had gone.

But there was a pattern to his wanderings, as they soon realised. Whenever something happened that shouldn't have happened, the sandy-haired dwarf was sure to be somewhere in the vicinity. If they lost him and then heard police sirens, they were certain to find him again at the scene of the crime, never very prominent, just somewhere among the spectators, watching, talking to a few people, and then, when he was satisfied, sneaking off without anyone but them noticing. They began to wonder if some of the tragic accidents they saw were really so accidental as they seemed. The dwarf seemed to know all about them, and all about all the crimes, though he never seemed to be directly involved in them himself. He was obviously the puppet-master, the man who pulled all the strings, the mastermind. They began to call him "Mr Big."

Despite Harry's protests Jonathan insisted that following the Dwarf was a job for boys and that the girls shouldn't venture beyond their own suburb and the town centre.

"Who knows what dangerous accomplices Mr Big has?" he said. "Mother and Daddy would never forgive us if we got you girls into trouble."

-- Cripes! yelled George. Don't tell me Anne's brood take after you Dick? What's your slogan again?

-- If it moves pursue it, when it stops screw it.

-- Even if it's your own sister," George guffawed. Not even dogs do that, do they Timmy?

--Wuff! said Timmy. Whuuff, grr-Wwuff!"

--Just let Dick get on with the story, George, said Julian.

Well, of course, George with her dirty mind has completely misunderstood, as usual, Dick continued. Jonathan was doing his preux chevalier act. There's probably not another boy in Britain behaves like you did in the old days Ju, apart from young Jonathan. Most of them would stay at home and send their sisters out if they thought there was danger.

-- Did you hear about that feminist that went to the Lebanon, said Julian. She found all the wives walking ten respectful paces behind their husbands, and she was furious. She went back again recently after the last civil war and found the men walking ten paces behind their wives.

--Good! cheered George. That's how it should be!

--So, continued Julian, she asked what had brought about this change in attitudes, this sudden, surprising improvement in the status of women. And the woman just shrugged and said one word - "Landmines."

Dick guffawed. George punched Julian on the arm.

Landmines! she gurgled. I bet you use that in your next sermon, Ju.

If you attended church regularly, George, said the rector, you'd know that I used it last week. Carry on Dick.

So that's why Jonathan and Nick took to following Mr Big by themselves when he disappeared into the mean streets of the east end of town. They usually took their bicycles so that if he made off in a car or leapt onto a passing bus they could follow him some of the way and get an idea where he was off to. Of course if he shot into a shop they were stymied. One would have to stay with the bikes while the other tried to follow.

On one particular day the sandy-haired dwarf set off determinedly on foot towards Brunton. The boys weren't entirely sure they should follow, given what they knew about Brunton.

--Bit of a dump? George asked.

Absolutely a dump. Home of vandals and joyriders. Place you drive through as fast as you can or try to avoid if you don't want a brick through your windscreen. A couple of public schoolboys in jackets and ties and riding expensive bicycles would stick out like sore thumbs.

Federico and Bernardo would have loved it - as a setting for a film I mean - and so would Vittorio. Grainy black and white. Close-up of chip-wrappings in the gutter. Dog comes and pisses on it. Pull back to long shot of street and zoom in towards broken window. Move towards corner, lingering on tattered housewife filthy child playing with an old tin. Pan towards corner and zoom in on the Dwarf. Move past him to two clean-cut and athletic youths wheeling shiny new bicycles and looking ill at ease. Get the picture?

Close-up on Jonathan. "Should we go back?"

Pan to Nick. "Perhaps"

Pan round behind them. View over their shoulders. Dwarf looking round suspiciously.

Zoom in on Dwarf. Furtive expression. Cut to Jonathan and Nick.

Jonathan says, "He's definitely up to something."

Nick says "Looking to make sure he's not being followed."

Jonathan says, "Let's go on."

Cut to Dwarf. Jonathan and Nick are visible in the distance over his shoulder. Dwarf looks cunning and cruel. Close-up: Dwarf laughs into the camera.

--I suppose, said George, that something nasty is going to happen to my beloved nephews, and you're going to make a film about it. Exploitation!

They survived, said Dick, not much damage. I thought I'd call it "Bike thieves".

--Hasn't your good friend Vittorio already done that one? Julian asked.

--Ha! snorted George.

--Woof! said Timmy.

Well perhaps he has used a similar sort of title, said Dick, but mine will be a completely different kind of film - as you'll see.

Jonathan and Nick pressed on after the sandy-haired dwarf, but they grew more and more uneasy as he led them into a warren of twisting back streets and alleys. The dwarf seemed to know exactly where he was going, but the two boys, who had never been in Brunton before, were soon hopelessly lost. Often they were on the point of abandoning the chase, but Mr Big would look round and seem so anxious not to be followed that they felt compelled to keep after him.

After a while they noticed that he began peering along every alley as if he expected to meet someone, and they hurried after him, determined not to lose sight of him or his accomplice.

"You don't suppose he knows we're following, do you?" said Nick.

"He'd have shaken us off if he did," replied Jonathan.

"I suppose so," said Nick.

Just then Mr Big seemed to signal to someone down one of the alleys. The boys paused and watched. Was this the crony he had come to meet? Apparently not, for the dwarf, walked on down the narrow street, and the boys followed.

Again he raised his hand as he passed an alleyway, but he didn't stop. The two boys strolled on, trying to look as if they were just out for a walk, but ahead of them a little knot of shabby looking teenagers spilled out of the alley and spread across the street. Jonathan and Nick stopped.

They began to turn, ready to ride away, but a second line was spread across the street close behind them.

Jonathan nodded at the lot ahead. They mounted their bikes, and with a yell of "Charge!" hurled themselves at the line.

Camera shot over Jonathan and Nick's heads. Line closing in front of them. The Dwarf's trap is sprung and there's no escape. Expert strategy -- but inexpert tactics. View of Jonathan and Nick from the front as they cycle forward. Behind them the second gang breaks into a run and starts hurling stones and other missiles. Cut to view from behind Jonathan and Nick: stones bounce around them. Ahead the first gang breaks up in confusion as they come under friendly fire. This gives the boys the chance they need. They hurtle through the gaps. A scrawny kid grabs a Nick, but is kicked out of the way. The boys cycle off down the street. The two gangs meet in a confusion of recrimination, then pursue them.

So Jonathan and Nick escaped, but now they were hopelessly lost and wandering round aimlessly trying to avoid the hunting gang. Lots of good pursuit scenes here: cutting down back alleys, cycling along an endless curving street. The gang had the advantage: they knew their way round and several times popped out unexpectedly. The boys were caught again, escaped in the melée -- but without their bikes. Tried to get them back. Got separated in the struggle. Now they've lost their way, lost their bikes, lost each other, going round in circles, find each other, try to outrun the gangs, both pretty athletic, whereas the gang members are underfed, out-of-condition smokers. That's what saved them. Pursuers dropped out one by one, apart from two on the boys' bikes. Hurled themselves at Jonathan and Nick, who quickly and efficiently felled them, grabbed the bikes and skedaddled. As luck would have it they found themselves on a main road and got back to town.

Told me all about it and took my advice: no more jackets and ties. Wore jeans and jerseys instead, and kept out of Brunton.

-- Well, said Julian, I'm glad they got out of it without too much damage. That must have been as bad as any of the scrapes we got into.

-- Rubbish! said George. Just a gang of kids! We faced men with guns. If it weren't for good old Timmy we'd probably not be here to tell the tale. Do you remember how he went for those men down in the tunnels. Leapt at the mad smuggler's arm and held on in spite of the gunshots.

-- Rwoof! said Timmy. He really felt very proud of himself, though, of course, the trouble with being a dog was that you didn't remember things as well as humans. Fancy him, Timmy, saving his mistress from a mad smuggler with a gun down in an underground tunnel. That would be something to brag about to the bitches. There'd be no more "not today Timmy, I've got a bit of a headache," no more "not today Timmy I've just been with Caspar or Tyson". Oh no, it would be "Me next, Timmy! Don't forget me, Timmy! I'm hot for you, Timmy!" A mad smuggler with a gun,, eh. Brave old Timmy. Timmy the Lionheart. Rwoof!

Sweet little bitch begs Timmy

Timmy VI emerged from his daydream to hear Dick talking again.

It wasn't all that easy to piece together what happened next, said Dick . Kids who've made fools of themselves don't always like to talk about it, but I picked up clues and asked casual questions and I think I've pretty well got the whole picture.

It wasn't by any means the last our nephews saw of that gang, and our nieces made their acquaintance too. The eager sleuths kept hard on the trail of the sandy-haired dwarf, only to find that they too were being stalked - by the boys from Brunton. They'd follow the dwarf unobtrusively, picture the scene, and suddenly they'd find Brunton kids jeering at them. The dwarf, alerted by the kerfuffle, skedaddled. leaving our heroes and heroines to face the slings and arrows of outrageous mockery. If they were wearing their flannels and sportscoats the boys were called posh, and the Brunton kids minced round them calling out in mock lah-di-dah accents. When it was warm and they wore shorts they were called boy-scouts, and once the kids even called, "Look out, chaps, here come the Famous Five!"

"The bounders!" yelled George. "We were the idols of our generation. How dare they?!"

"Grrr! Woof! Woof! Rrrrgh!" said Timmy.

"Easy, old thing," murmured Julian. "Times change, you know. Go on Dick."

Right-ho, said Dick. Well, Jonathan and Nick were pretty fed up and pretty furious, and if they could have laid their hands on the Brunton boys there'd have been quite a to-do. Actually it's probably just as well they didn't manage it, because I'm quite sure that once the fracas had started, boys would have poured in from all directions and Jonathan and Nick would have been comprehensively scragged.

Harry and Fran came in for a lot of cheek too, especially Harry, because they thought she was another boy. She really began to think of bringing Mycock into town, but, of course she couldn't. He's such a silly dog. Not half as clever as old Timmy. No idea how to behave in traffic. Seems to confuse cars with sheep and cyclists with rabbits and goes chasing after them.

"Cyclists," thought Timmy VI, "rabbits, cyclists-rabbits, rabbit-cyclists, rabbits on cycles, I'm lost."

"Good old Timmy," said George.

"Yes, I'm good old Timmy," thought Timmy, "even if I don't quite know what's going on," and he waved his tail lazily.

Harry was even more furious when the Brunton kids brought along some scraggy little mongrels that barked at her. She's good with dogs, you know, as good as George, but these dogs wouldn't make friends. So she marched off with Fran, who was terrified she might be bitten, giving free vent to her feelings.

"Think they're so great," she bellowed. "Well they'd be grovelling for mercy if they saw Mycock. Mycock's much bigger than their silly little things. Mycock would have them for breakfast any time."

Anyway the upshot of all this was that they had to stop following the sandy-haired dwarf quite so closely, though they did discover that he had started going up to London regularly and that he always came back by the same train, so Jonathan and Nick decided to wait for him on the platform and follow him from there, hoping that the Brunton kids would have given up and gone home by then.


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NOTES

NOTE 3

Hunchy was an evil-tempered hunchbacked servant to the smoothly villainous Mr Perton, the owner of Owl's Dene. Enid Blyton recounts the Five's adventures with Hunchy in Five get into trouble (1949).

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