The Kirrins and the Mystery
of the Sandy-haired Dwarf
by Robin Gordon
Quite a lot happens
© Copyright Robin Gordon 2001
Fran was sure that they ought to tell Mummy. Mummy always knew what to do, and she couldn't understand why Uncle Dick wanted to keep everything secret from her and Aunt Laurence. In her heart of hearts Fran knew that the only person a child could really depend on was Mummy. Whether it was a scratched knee, toothache or a bad dream. Mummy was the one who brought comfort. Mothers loved their children more than anyone else possibly could, and if anything happened to those children, or if those children were involved in an adventure, their mothers ought to know. Aunt Laurence should be told that her sons were in danger, and she and her brothers and sister should be telling their own mother everything that was happening.
She knew that Andrew and Gavin didn't trust Uncle Dick, and she herself certainly didn't trust Stubbs. There was, she felt, something creepy about him, something feline, and although she adored feline qualities in a cat she felt that they were wrong in a man. Besides she was quite sure that when Stubbs dropped the envelope that O'Shaughnessy had picked up it hadn't been an accident. Stubbs had deliberately pulled out the letter with his handkerchief to make it look like an accident, but she was almost certain that he had glanced back to make sure that O'Shaughnessy had stopped to pick it up. If Stubbs was working for O'Shaughnessy, mightn't he betray whatever plans uncle Dick had? Or could it be that Stubbs, Uncle Dick and the Dwarf were all in league together?
Fran knew that Harry wouldn't hear anything against Uncle Dick. It almost seemed that she loved him more than anyone else in the family except her dog, Mycock. She admired him more than Uncle Julian, more even than her own father, who was the most loveable and generous man ever to walk the face of the earth. Harry thought there was something adventurous about Uncle Dick, something glamorous and mysterious, but Fran, like her mother, preferred things to be safe and predictable. That was another thing: Mummy had something against Uncle Dick. It wasn't just that she blamed him for the boys losing their trousers in that ridiculous way and embarrassing the family. There was something else that Mummy knew, and that was another reason for telling her as soon as possible what was going on. So while the others had been clamouring around Uncle Dick and asking him for news, Fran had seized her chance and slipped away. She was a little afraid being out on her own in the circumstances, but she told herself firmly that O'Shaughnessy, who was the only person who might hurt her, was on his way down to the cellars of the new hotel to deal with Andrew and Gavin.
So Fran ran along Moor Lane as fast as she could, but - perhaps it was the excitement and nervousness - she soon got a stitch and had to stop and walk. She was almost at the end of the lane, and she could see Kirrin cottage ahead of her, when she heard a car coming. That was odd. Moor Lane was very narrow, too narrow for motor traffic, and it was rutted and pot-holed in places. Signs at each end warned drivers not to use it, and no-one ever did, for all the local people knew that if they met a farm tractor or a herd of cattle they would have to reverse all the way back, and tourists took one look at it and retreated.
She glanced back in terror. Could it be O'Shaughnessy? Then she sighed with relief. It was Aunt Laurence's Renault Five. It couldn't be anyone else. That strikingly bright green colour was very unusual, in fact she had only once seen another the same.
Fran moved on to the grass verge and stopped to let Aunt Laurence pass her. But it wasn't Aunt Laurence, it was Uncle Julian's servant, Stubbs, and he didn't pass. He stopped and opened the door.
"Get in, Fran!" he said.
Fran began to tremble.
"No!" she said. "I'm going home to tell mother ..."
"No you're not!" Stubbs snapped. "You're not to tell your mother anything! Get into the car. Your Uncle Dick sent me to fetch you. He's worried about you."
"I'm quite safe!" said Fran, sulkily. "I'm nearly home. Look, you can see Kirrin cottage over the hedge. Just leave me alone, Mr Stubbs."
"Get in the car when I tell you," Stubbs shouted, beginning to get out.
Fran screamed and ran. She ran as hard as she could for the end of the lane. Behind her she heard Stubbs clash the gears and rev the engine, then the Renault Five was coming after her. She had to get on to the grass. She was afraid Stubbs would run her down. The car passed her, Stubbs slewed it across the lane and leapt out. Fran skidded and tried to turn away, but he was too quick for her. He grabbed her arm, opened the door, tipped the front seat forward, and threw her roughly into the car. Then, before she could regain her balance, he jumped back into the driving seat and moved off.
"I'm sorry, Fran," he said, sounding absurdly like Miss Benson at Gaylands School. "I hope I didn't hurt you, but your Uncle Dick wants you back at the Rectory."
"Let me go, Stubbs, you beast," Fran sobbed. She noticed that he had turned inland at the end of the road, away from Kirrin Cottage and thought it was because he didn't want her mother to see her.
She was right. Stubbs didn't want to pass Kirrin Cottage with a tearful Fran in his car, and he didn't want to take the road down to the quay and past the new leisure centre. Almost without thinking he had turned left to follow the road across the moor, past Kirrin Farmhouse, towards the station
"Why can't I tell Mummy?" said Fran, crossly.
Stubbs didn't answer.
"Why can't I?"
"Your uncle will tell you. Ladies don't understand. They get worried if their children are in danger. They could make things worse."
They drove on in silence.
Anne was upstairs, sorting the washing when she heard Fran scream. She knew at once that it was Fran. She dropped the bundle of socks, ran to the window and peered out. She thought she could see Fran's red dress in Moor Lane, but her view was obstructed. Then Laurence's green Renault 5 shot out of the end of the lane and slewed across the road. Anne was relieved, but then a man got out, and Fran screamed again. Anne banged on the window, but she was too far away for them to hear.
Surely the man was Mr Stubbs. But then why was Fran screaming. Anne saw Stubbs, if it was Stubbs, drag the little girl into the car, thrust her into the back seat, push the driver's seat back into place, slam the door and drive off. She ran downstairs and out into the road. She ran towards Moor Lane, but the car had gone, off across the moor on the road that led past Kirrin Farmhouse, the turning to the quarry, the station and the main road east.
Anne stopped, trembling. Then she raced back into the house, snatched up the phone and dialled the Rectory.
"Come on! Come on!" she muttered.
Harry answered the phone.
"Where's Julian?" Anne shouted.
"Out," said Harry. "Is that you, Mummy?"
"Yes, of course it is!" Anne snapped. "Where's Laurence?"
"In the kitchen, I think," said Harry. "Is something wrong?"
"Wrong! Wrong! Is something wrong! Fran's been kidnapped. Stubbs. In Laurence's car. Get Laurence quick."
"Oh, that's all right," said Harry. "She's not kidnapped Mummy ..."
"He threw her into the car and drove off Heaven knows where!"
"Mr Stubbs is working for Uncle Dick," said Harry patiently. "Fran will be perfectly safe."
"For Uncle Dick!!" Anne screamed. "No! He'll murder her! Get Laurence!"
"For Heaven's sake, Mummy, pull yourself together," said Harry. "Uncle Dick sent Mr Stubbs to get Fran and bring her back here..."
"Where's Dick? Let me speak to him!"
"He's not here."
"Where is he?"
"At the Kirrin Arms."
"LET ME SPEAK TO LAURENCE, AT ONCE!"
"Listen Mummy, it's quite all right really. Uncle Dick just didn't want you and Laurence to worry so he's looking after everything himself. Fran is with Mr Stubbs and he's bringing her back for Uncle Dick."
"LET ME SPEAK TO LAURENCE!"
"Uncle Dick doesn't want her worried. He says ..."
Anne slammed down the phone and ran out of the house. Then she ran back in again to get her car keys and lock the door.
Which way? No point in following Stubbs. He would be miles away. To the Rectory then. She was afraid to take her big Volvo down Moor Lane, so she slammed it into gear and set off on the road down to the quay, narrowly missing one of the vans from the building site as she screeched round the corner.
After that she drove more carefully and arrived at the Rectory without mishap despite her jangled nerves. She raced up to the front door and rang the bell. Jonathan opened the door and she pushed past him into the hall and began to shout for Laurence.
"Oh, Anne, how lovely to see you," said Laurence, coming out of the kitchen. "And all your children here too. You'll all stay for lunch I hope." Inwardly Laurence was calculating how far the joint would go. If she had none, and Julian and the boys had smaller portions there would be enough to go round.
But Anne was rattling away at her in such rapid English that Laurence, despite her nineteen years of marriage to Julian, most of them spent in English-speaking countries, found almost impossible to follow.
Then Harry was there too, crossly telling her mother that Dick was in charge of everything and that Fran was perfectly safe because Stubbs was working for Dick.
"Laurence! You must listen!" howled Anne. "Dick is a paederast! He's a member of one of those dreadful paedophile rings that you read about in the papers. I found filthy pictures in his trunk. Vile pictures! Pictures of children being tortured and killed!"
"But 'e can't be," murmured Laurence. "E is Julien's bruzzair. Such things. And yet, he is not ... normal."
"He's got Fran!" sobbed Anne.
"Fran's with Mr Stubbs!" yelled Harry. "She's safe. Uncle Dick won't let anything happen to her."
"He had pictures!" gasped Anne.
"How dare you go through Uncle Dick's things?" roared Harry. "You've misunderstood!"
"I... I... don't think she has," said Nick.
"You're always against Uncle Dick!" yelled Harry.
"I found more pictures in Stubbs's pocket," said Nick. "In an envelope like the one he dropped for O'Shaughnessy."
He brought the envelope out. Anne snatched it and showed the pictures to Laurence.
"Oh! Mais ou est Julien? Where is 'e when we need 'im."
"The police!" said Anne. "Call the police."
"Where are Andrew and Gavin?" Laurence demanded.
The children didn't answer.
"Where are they. Where are my boys?" Laurence insisted. "Jonathan! You must tell me!"
"Well, said Jonathan evasively, "it's like this. We thought there were smugglers on Kirrin Island and Andrew and Gavin went to investigate ..."
"Oh, zey are keednapped!" wailed Laurence. "It is so? Yes?"
"Well, yes," said Jonathan, "but Uncle Dick is trying to get them back."
Laurence looked at the photos and brandished them in front of Jonathan. He saw a boy of about his own age, tied to a chair, with a look of terror on his face, while a man held a knife to his throat. The boy was naked. His body was marked by cuts, and the man, with a horrible leer on his face, seemed about to kill him.
"Thees is what 'e weel do to my boys!" Laurence screamed.
Anne screamed too, and Harry shouted at her, and Nick shouted at Harry. Hysterics and pandemonium, and into the row walked Julian.
Laurence flew to him and began to speak in rapid and voluble French. Anne clung to his arm and began to speak in rapid and voluble English. Harry clung to Anne's arm and informed the world as a whole that Anne was talking rubbish.
"Il va les tuer!"
"He's going to rape her!"
"Uncle Dick's in charge, he'll sort it out!"
"Please! Please!" said Julian, but the din only redoubled.
Julian waited for a pause. When it came briefly, he said, loudly but without shouting, "Please be quiet, everyone be quiet. Now, Laurence, tell me, quietly and in English, what has happened.
"Deek 'as keednapped Andrew and Gavin and 'e ...
"No he hasn't!" roared Harry.
"He's a paedophile ," screamed Anne. "He tortures children for pleasure!"
"Rubbish! Lies!" howled Harry.
"Quiet!" said Julian. "Why do you say Dick has kidnapped the boys, Laurence."
"They are on the island and the smugglers have capture them," said Laurence, "and 'e is in league ..."
"No he's not," shouted Harry.
"That's enough, Harry!" snapped Anne.
"Stop, all of you!" said Julian. "Now I want one of you to tell me exactly what has happened, and I don't want anyone else to interrupt at all. Do you understand? Now, Jonathan, you tell me."
"Well, said Jonathan, "we were on the island, and Andrew and Gavin discovered that people had been there. Later on they heard O'Shaughnessy and another Irishman talking about using the island for smuggling, and we thought they might have dug a tunnel from the building site out to the island ..."
Jonathan told the story as concisely as he could, though with plenty of interruptions from Harry and Nick, and many lamentations from Laurence and Anne. Then Anne told Julian about the photos she had discovered in the secret drawer in Dick's trunk, and they showed him the pictures that Nick had found in Stubb's pocket. They told him that Dick had sent Stubbs after little Fran, who had gone to tell her mother about the capture of Andrew and Gavin, and Anne told him how she had seen Stubbs bundle Fran into a car and drive off with her across the moor.
"If he were just going to drive round by the station, he'd have been here long ago," she said helplessly. "He's taken her up on the moor somewhere, probably to the old quarry. He's raped her and murdered her. He's thrown her body down a pot-hole, and I'll never see her again."
Anne was no longer agitated and hysterical. She was resigned to Fran's death. There was no life left in her. She was bereaved, and she had no reason left to live.
"Stubbs has not raped her," said Julian. "I know that. He is quite incapable of such a thing"
"Oh, you say that, Julian, you say that because 'e 'as served you as batman in the army, 'e is your friend and you will 'ave nothing said against him," said Laurence. "But I know 'e listens at ze key'oles. Whey 'as 'e never married? Why 'as e' never walked out with any of ze girls? Where 'as 'e always ze money from zat we do not pay 'im?"
Stubbs is incapable of such a thing," said Julian. "Trust me. I know. Fran is safe with him. I'm more concerned about the boys ..."
Anne began to wail. Laurence comforted her and berated Julian. The children retreated.
"Very well," said Julian, "I didn't want to tell you this, and I'm breaking my word, but it seems you must know it. Do you remember that time in Kenya, when Stubbs was attacked by the Mau-Mau?"
"Yes, yes!" said Laurence. "You saved 'is life, and now you think 'e is so grateful he can do no wrong! What of it."
"He wasn't grateful at all at the time," said Julian. He said I should have let him die."
Julian took off his glasses and rubbed his hand across his eyes.
"Patriotism is a strange thing," he said. It inspires men to deeds of great heroism, and at the same time it seems to justify acts of great wickedness. Evil men exploit it for their own ends, and good men are persuaded to commit crimes in its name that they would never dream of otherwise."
"Leave ze sermon!" Laurence almost screamed.
"Perhaps the Mau-Mau thought that killing women and children because they were white was a patriotic action," said Julian. "Stubbs rushed out because he heard a woman cry out. I carried on with the service, till I heard Stubbs scream and realised something serious was happening. Then I led the men out and drove them away. I was in time to save Stubbs's life, but not his manhood. He lay bleeding from wounds in the groin. They had castrated him and left him to bleed to death. Now you see why I say he is incapable of rape. Now you see why he has never married or even looked for a wife. As for the money: the war office granted him a disability pension - not enough to live on, but enough to get by on with the little we can give him. That's why he has stayed with me. Where else could he go?"
There was silence.
Julian walked into his study and looked towards the print of Holman Hunt's The Light of the World that he kept as both an inspiration and a memento of Keble.
"Well, Lord," he said, "I hope I did not do wrong in revealing poor Stubbsy's secret."
"You did not do wrong?"
"Can it be true what they say about Dick? These photographs?"
"Do you believe Dick could really find pleasure in torturing children?"
"Do you remember your first adventure? You were imprisoned in the dungeons on Kirrin island. Who was it who climbed down the well in darkness to save you? If he had missed his footing, wouldn't he have plunged to his death? If one of the footholds had rusted through and given way under his weight, wouldn't he have fallen? Do you think Dick didn't know that? Yet he came to rescue you. Hasn't he always been your faithful companion in every danger? Didn't Mrs Blyton herself say he was the most daring of all of you?"
"Julian, have you changed? Has George changed? Has Anne changed?"
"Anne believes he's a paedophile."
"Appearances can be deceptive. Ask George. She's coming up the path now, and Dick will be here in five minutes."
Julian returned to the others.
"George is coming," he said, and I think Dick will be here soon."
The door banged, and George burst in with Timmy and Mycock.
"What's going on?" she shouted. "Why so glum? Listen, you'll never guess what I saw about three quarters of an hour ago: Dick went off in a car with that nasty little dwarf of an Irishman who's been hanging round the village."
"AAAGH!" wailed Laurence. You see. They are in it togezzer. He weel keel my boys!"
The hubbub broke out anew. Laurence and Anne told George that Dick and O'Shaughnessy had kidnapped Andrew and Gavin and that Stubbs had disappeared with Fran. Harry roared that Dick was busy rescuing the boys, and George gave it as her opinion that Dick would set everything to rights. Julian turned away and covered his face with his hands. Then he turned back.
"Quiet, everyone! he ordered. "Dick is just coming to the door. Let him tell us."
Dick came in a moment later.
"Dick," said Julian, where are Andrew and Gavin?"
Before Dick could speak the hubbub had broken out again. He spoke as loudly as he could, but his words were drowned.
Laurence, however, heard the words she dreaded.
"Safe ..." said Dick "... underground."
Oh," she gasped. "He 'as murdered zem. Il a tué mes fils!" And she fainted.
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