The Kirrins and the Mystery
of the Sandy-haired Dwarf
by Robin Gordon
Twelve are together again
© Copyright Robin Gordon 2001
"Well," said Dick. "I don't know about you, Ju, but I feel in need of a stiff drink. Whisky please, Stubbs, and have one yourself. And if you kids want to hear the whole thrilling tale of what happened to your cousins and how their brave Uncle Dick rescued them from a fate worse than death, I suggest you make a start on setting the table. I'm so hungry I could eat half a dozen horses, and if I know boys, Andrew and Gavin will want at least another dozen each."
"What has been going on, Dick," Julian asked.
"I'm saying nothing till we're all here," said Dick.
Jonathan, Nick, and Harry bustled round setting the table under Stubb's direction, while little Fran sat quietly with her mother. From time to time Anne cast puzzled glances in Dick's direction. Everything seemed to have turned out right, but she couldn't forget those disgusting pictures.
The children were chattering among themselves in low voices.
"I told you Uncle Dick would sort it out," said Harry triumphantly. "Fran nearly messed up his whole plan."
"What is his plan then Miss Clever-Clogs?" demanded Nick.
"How should I know what his plan is. He's probably a very high-up policeman ..."
"No he's not. He's jolly good fun, but he's only a rather rotten film director."
"He's not rotten. We laughed like anything at The eccentricities of William IV."
"Only because it was so awful."
"That's not true and you know it. We laughed because it was funny - and it was meant to be funny. It's a brilliant film."
"Why don't you go and live with Uncle Dick then if you're so fond of him."
"I wish I could. I wish I could live at Kirrin Cottage with Uncle Dick and Aunt George and Timmy and Mycock and have lots of adventures."
"Oh stop squabbling, you two," Jonathan interrupted. "You're always at it. It's very wearing!"
They stopped then, and looked at Uncle Dick who had started pacing up and down the room like a caged tiger.
From time to time he glanced at his watch.
"If we don't hear in five more minutes, Julian," he said, "we'd better go up to the cottage and see if they need help. That tunnel was in a pretty ropey state when we came through it thirty years ago. It could have collapsed completely by now."
"I'll get the spades ready," said Julian, but before he could get up the phone rang. Dick dived for it.
"George here. All's well. The boys ..."
"Fine," said Dick. "Over their colds are they? Splendid. Bye George." And he put the phone down.
"All's well," he said.
The children gave an exultant cheer.
"You cut George off pretty sharp," said Julian.
"These aren't just ordinary smugglers," said Dick. "Phone tapping's well within their capabilities. Best not to speak too freely.
"Perhaps they've bugged this house," suggested Nick.
"Possible, but unlikely," said Dick. "They've had no reason to suspect the saintly Rector of Kirrin, but they might want to keep tabs on poor old Dickie. They know I'm staying here, so they could have put a bug on the phone line."
"Who are they?" Jonathan asked.
"All will be revealed," said Dick, "when the principal characters are all gathered together in one room. We can't start without our heroes, and heroes they are, even if they didn't realise at first just what they were getting themselves into. In the meantime pass the whisky, Julian, I can relax at last."
"I took the precaution of removing the bottle, Sir," said Stubbs, who had come quietly into the room with a tray of wineglasses. There'll be wine at lunch, and there are still things to arrange..."
"Right as usual, Stubbs," said Dick.
"I hear the car," said Julian.
A moment later in came George and Laurence with Andrew and Gavin. The boys were muddy from head to foot from scrabbling their way through the fallen earth in the tunnel, so Laurence sent them to wash and change their clothes.
"I hope you chaps know me well enough now to know I'm not after a quick peep while you change," he said. "There are just a couple of things to attend to. Have you got the knife and the torch? Let me see them!"
Dick checked them over then handed them back.
"Good!" he said. "Bring them down to lunch when you come. Exhibits. Now, there are some things I need to know as quickly as possible: What did you find in the cellars?"
"Guns," said Andrew. "Guns, ammunition, explosives, rocket-launchers, weapons of all kinds."
"And counterfeit money," added Gavin.
"And printing presses, too," said Andrew.
"And stolen goods of all kinds," said Gavin.
"And drugs," said Andrew. "Millions of pounds worth of drugs."
"Who do you think the gang are?" Dick asked.
"The IRA!" the boys answered together.
"Quite right," said Dick. "I'll tell you more over lunch, and you can fill in the details than too. In the meantime there's a phone-call I've got to make."
The others heard him in the hall.
"Hallo! Dickie Kirrin here. I need to speak to Jean-Luc, at once please."
"What's he doing?" squawked Anne?
"Hallo, Jean-Luc," said Dick. "Dickie Kirrin. I've got the cast all assembled, we just need to get the camera crew down here and then we can start filming. Excellent. Bye."
"Dick!" said Anne crossly. "What is going on. Why are you getting a French film director to send a camera crew? You can't possibly be planning to make a film about all this?"
Dick grinned. Suddenly it was the same cheeky grin he used to have when he was fifteen. "Just wait and see," he said.
"Anne," said Julian, "it was a code. "Jean-Luc isn't the man's real name, and he's not a cinéaste. You heard what Dick said about being careful what we say on the phone."
"You know far too much for a simple country parson, Ju," grinned Dick. "Here's Laurence to call us for lunch. Now that we're all together, all will be revealed."
Although Laurence kept apologising that lunch was ruined and everything overcooked, gone cold and reheated, everyone else thought the meal was excellent. Andrew and Gavin were so hungry they would have found the meanest fare delicious, and what their mother offered was far from mean. The French pride themselves on their culinary skills, sometimes unjustly so, but Laurence was a first-class cook, and, even overcooked and reheated, her Sunday lunch was more than good.
As they ate they talked.
"Now," said Dick. "I think I'm the only one who knows the whole story. It begins, I'm afraid, with embarrassment for Jonathan and Nick, which the grown-ups have all heard about already."
"So have we," put in Andrew, "so there's really no need to make them blush by telling it all again.
"What a pity," said Dick, with a wolfish grin. "It's the funniest part of the whole story. Well, we won't mention it again, except to say that that little episode introduced the villain of the piece, Liam O'Shaughnessy, a journalist, resident in Hadbury, who did not take kindly to being followed by amateur sleuths.
Now, this fellow Liam O'Shaughnessy wasn't just a journalist. The Lively Five suspected he had advance knowledge of many of the crimes he reported, and they were right. Not that fire that killed those poor Pakistani immigrants. That was started by some neo-nazi thugs unconnected with Old Shitpants, but he did know in advance about the bomb in the shopping centre, and the one in Birmingham a few months ago. You see, being a journalist was the perfect cover for a courier for a certain terrorist organisation."
"The IRA!" said Gavin.
"Yes, the IRA," Dick ageed. I was going to save that for later. Yes, O'Shaughnessy worked for the IRA. He started as a messenger, a courier, a carrier of drugs to the main urban centres, a smuggler of guns and explosives, and he gradually worked his way up through the ranks until he's now quite a big-wig. He doesn't seem to be the overall chief of this operation, though, as he told me several times he'd have to consult his superior before handing over our two heroes."
"Here Dick raised his glass in a toast: "Andrew and Gavin! Heroes of the hour!"
"Andrew and Gavin!" chorused the others.
"Thanks," said Andrew, blushing, but we would have been dead ducks without Uncle Dick."
"True," said Dick. "I've always been the one to save people's bacon. Many a time and oft in the old days the Famous Five would have been dead ducks but for me."
"But for Timmy, you mean," bellowed George. "Good old Timmy."
"I stand corrected, George," said Dick, raising his glass again. "Good old Timmy!"
"Good old Timmy!" they roared.
"Woof!" said Timmy VI. "There you are," he added quietly to Mycock. "They still remember how I saved them from that mad smuggler in the tunnel. I sprang at him, grabbed his arm in my teeth and forced him to drop his gun. It was very brave of me. Guns kill, you know. Did I ever tell you about it?"
"Every day since I've been here," growled Mycock. "You don't want that piece of meat do you?"
"Yes I do," growled Timmy. "Heroes have to keep their strength up. You never know I might have to save the all from another smuggler."
"Yeah, I'd like to see it," growled Mycock.
"Listen to those dogs," said Anne. "Anyone would think they were having a conversation."
"Of course they are," said George. "If you spoke Canine you'd be able to understand them."
"Never mind the dogs," said Julian. "Let's hear more of Dick's story."
"I had just introduced the villain," said Dick. "O'Shaughnessy, or Old Shitpants as the Brunton kids call him. We all know what he did to Jonathan and Nick, but what none of you knew was that I already had my eye on Old Shitpants. I suppose it's time to come clean about my own part in the story."
"Yes," said Anne.
"You all know me as an artistic film-director, and not a very successful one," said Dick. I talk a lot about my supposed friends Jean-Luc, Luchino, Vittorio and company, and I don't suppose it'll come as all that much of a surprise to you to know that I've never met Godard or Visconti, or De Sica or Wenders, or Pasolini, Kieslowski or any of the others, and if I turned up on Dirk Bogarde's doorstep, far from tellling me he'd come out of retirement to star in Plague in Verona, he'd have said, Who the hell are you? and had me thrown off the premises.
"I'm not completely without talent. The eccentricities of William IV got some quite good reviews in the provinces, and Alan Bennet told me it had given him an idea for a play, but that's about the only artistic film I've ever made.
"However people like O'Shaughnessy know quite a different side to my creative character. Old Shitpants, as I think that charming girl who leads the Brunton gang told Harry, is a paedophile. In fact what really turns him on is watching boys suffer humiliation, torture and death. And that's where my films come in. O'Shaughnessy knows me as a very successful director of snuff movies: titles like Childprey and Prey for us sinners."
"I knew it!" said Anne. "I told you all along Dick was a paedophile."
"I didn't say I was a paedophile, Anne," said Dick."
"I've seen the pictures you keep in your trunk," stormed Anne. "I didn't mean to. The secret drawer came open when I was picking up your washing. Those pictures are disgusting. I've kept quiet about them until now, but I've been through so much today, what with Fran being kidnapped ...
"She wasn't kidnapped," said Dick.
"I don't care," Anne continued. "I'm going to have to go to the police. You'll agree, Julian when you see the pictures. Look, I've still got this packet that Nick took out of Stubbs's pocket."
"I said," said Dick slowly and loudly, "that O'Shaughnessy knows me as a director of snuff movies, and I'm sorry to have to tell you that those films are all real. But I didn't make them. As I said, I'm going to come clean. I'm not Dickie Kirrin, arty-farty film director, and I'm certainly not Dick the Snuff, torturer of teenagers -- Major Richard Kirrin, Her Majesty's Secret Service."
"Didn't I say so all along," crowed Harry. "I always knew you were a secret agent, Uncle Dick."
"Thanks, Harry," said Dick. "I hoped I'd kept it rather better hidden."
"Oh you fooled all the rest of them," said Harry. "My brothers thought you were jolly good fun but just a film-maker, and Andrew and Gavin thought you were ... well ..."
"Un espèce de vieux salaud qui ne voudrait que leur peloter les couilles," said Dick.
"Deeck," said Laurence. "Mais ou as-tu entendu des mots grossiers comme ceux-là?"
"Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings," said Dick mildly. "Oh yes, they have the grace to looked abashed. Anyway, as I was saying, I'd had my eye on O'Shaughnessy for a while, suspecting him to be an IRA courrier, and I thought it wouldn't do any harm to spook him a little by getting the kids to follow him round. It was only when I heard what the Brunton kids knew about him and realised how closely he was associated with Padraig O'Connor that I realised his particular weakness. Padraig O'Connor is quite well-known among paedophiles for his photographs, and I expect some of his camera angles when he was snapping Jonathan and Nick would have produced some pretty embarrassing shots.
"That's when I decided to use my cover as a porno-director specialising in paedophile snuff films. It wasn't just chance that brought me to Kirrin. It's here that the IRA have chosen to set up a headquarters to provide arms and explosives for their murderous campaigns in Britain, as well as a counterfeiting operation designed to undermine our economy and a drug-smuggling organisation aimed at rotting the minds of as many of our young people as possible and encouraging the increase in crime that always follows addiction. Kirrin, in fact, is intended by the IRA to be the downfall of Britain, and it would have been but for our young heroes, who seem to have suspected that something illegal was going on. Andrew?"
"Well," said Andrew, "Gavin and I realised that the one place you could see right into the building site was the top of the church tower. So we went up, and we thought it was very suspicious that the new hotel had such amazingly deep cellars."
"We brought up our binoculars for a closer look," said Gavin, "and we were sure there was a tunnel leading out towards Kirrin Island ..."
"To MY island?!" thundered George.
"Woof!" said Timmy fiercely.
"Why don't you shut up?" growled Mycock.
"Mistress George is angry," snarled Timmy, "so I'm angry too! Woof! WOOF!"
"Timmy is furious too," said George. "I've done all I can to keep day-trippers off my island ..."
"Our island, George," said Julian.
"All right: off our island - and now it's being used by terrorists."
"Well, we've defeated smugglers and kidnappers and mad scientists who tried to use Kirrin Island," said Julian, "and we'll defeat these terrorists too."
"Carry on," said Dick to the boys.
"Well, the next thing that happened was that the Surveyor from the County Council said the tower was dangerous and had it closed," said Andrew.
"Mr Murphy," said Julian.
"Dad forbade us to up," said Gavin.
"So we didn't go up again until the others came and told us about Old ... O'Shaughnessy," said Andrew. "and when we did we found a pair of binoculars up there, really top-class ones."
"So we knew the gang had been using the church tower as a look-out," said Gavin.
"While we were up there," put in Jonathan, "we saw Mr Stubbs drop an envelope, and O'Shaughnessy picked it up."
"But I think Mr Stubbs meant O'Shaughnessy to pick it up," said Fran. "I think they're in it together. That's why I was so frightened when Mr Stubbs took me away in the car."
"You were right, Fran," said Dick. Stubbsy did mean O'Shaughnessy to pick up the envelope, but they're not in the same gang. The envelope was bait, and O'Shaughnessy took it. As for the binoculars, they didn't belong to the gang either. They're mine. Stubbsy tipped me off about the cellars and the closure of the tower, which is why I came down here."
"And it was the Padre that tipped me off," said Stubbs. "I hope you don't mind, Sir," he added, turning to Dick. "But I couldn't keep it from the Padre that I was working for someone-else as well, though I didn't mention your name."
"No need," grinned Julian, with you two as thick as thieves every time Dick visited, it didn't take a massive intelligence to realise."
"Blast!" Dick swore.
"Well, Dick, I know you better than anyone. We shared a bedroom for seventeen years and we shared umpteen adventures. I realised you had a secret, and I knew you well enough to understand that it couldn't be anything crooked, even if Anne was taken in. Besides, I work for Someone from Whom nothing is hidden."
"Ah well, said Dick, "hints from the Almighty excepted, I think I kept my secrets pretty well."
"You certainly did, Deeck," said Laurence. "Oh, to think I thought you were some sort of pervert ... I'm so sorry."
"So am I," said Anne. "I'll know better next time."
"There ain't gonna be no next time," said Dick. "I'm retiring. Secret service men don't go on much longer than footballers, unless they get a desk job in London. I couldn't stand that. I'm going to retire to the country and probably keep bees."
"Why bees?" demanded George in astonishment.
"Why not?" said Dick. "What could be nicer than to sit in the garden of a country cottage surrounded by sweet smelling flowers, a glass of whisky on the table beside you, a dog lying at your feet, and the gentle humming of your own bees as they buzz around busily, working hard for you while you just take your ease and wait until the combs are full of honey."
"Lazy hound!" George laughed, "but at least you didn't forget the dog!"
"Let's get back to the story," said Dick. "The children took a good look from the tower and then Andrew and Gavin went over to the island and through the tunnel to the cellars ..."
" ... and found them stacked full of weapons and ammunition and explosives," said Andrew.
"And printing presses and counterfeit notes," added Gavin.
"Then we were captured, and O'Shaughnessy had us taken off to Kirrin Farmhouse, though we didn't know it," said Andrew.
"And soon after that," said Dick, "their wicked uncle arrived on the scene and got Old Shitpants so worked up at the thought of the exciting things he would see on a new snuff film starring these delightful youths, that he didn't see what happened next."
"Our wicked uncle knelt down beside me," said Gavin, "and pawed me like ... like ..."
"Comme un espèce de sale enculé," said Dick.
"Deeck! Please!" cried Laurence.
"Well, luckily these brave lads had enough sense not to insult me in English," said Dick, "not even when my lubricious fingers wandered into Gavin's trousers."
"Oh!" said Laurence.
"Into my pocket!" said Gavin, blushing. "He put a torch in it, and he gave Andrew a knife."
"So with one bound our heroes were free," said Dick, and they swiftly puzzled out the clue I gave them about the wardrobe."
"Always winter and never Christmas," said Andrew. "It's what Narnia was like in The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe."
"At which point," knowing they were safely underground, I arrived here," Dick concluded.
"Um, ..." said Andrew, "I don't see how you could know we were safely underground."
"Produce the exhibits!" commanded Dick, "the knife and the torch."
The boys handed them over.
"This knife," said Dick, "is a perfectly ordinary miniature Swiss Army knife. Its purpose was to cut the ropes. It's done its duty. Here you are, Andrew, souvenir! This torch, on the other hand, is powered, not by the battery you can see but by one of the very latest miniature cells. This apparent battery contains a micro-transmitter. Every word you said was picked up by this micro-receiver in my pocket. I turned it off when I asked to see it upstairs, just in case. Look, press this little button here to turn on the transmitter, and this to turn it off. Press both and you send an alarm signal to the receiver even if it's switched off. Keep it for now, Gavin. From now on until I give the all clear, I want you kids to stick together. If there's the slightest sign of danger, press the two buttons simultaneously. I'll be alerted to turn on my receiver and I should be able to hear what's happening.
"Now that seems to be then end of the story, except for my phone call. I asked for Jean-Luc. That's a signal that the call is from me. I told them the cast is assembled and we only need the crew to start filming. That told them to send a squad of agents to round up the suspects. That will happen late tonight when the village is asleep. In the meantime we just pray that O'Shaughnessy doesn't discover that his prisoners have escaped. We keep everything as normal as possible on the surface, but no-one goes out alone. Julian, you will have to take Evensong. Laurence can go too if she wants, and Anne as well, but the children should all stay here. As for Andrew and Gavin, they must stay absolutely hidden. Don't go outside at all! Don't even look out of a window."
"I'd like to go to church," said Anne. "I've got some things on my mind that I'd like to think about."
"I'll go too," said Laurence, "if you will stay at home with the children, Dick."
"That goes without saying," said Dick.
"As for me," said George, "I think I'll take Timmy for a walk on the moor."
"When it comes to church-going," said Julian, "I sometimes think George is a dyslexic sort of Christian: she worships her dog and takes her god for walks. Not this time, Old Thing. Didn't you hear Dick say that no-one goes out alone."
"I shan't be alone," objected George. "I shall have Timmy with me."
"Timmy's a very nice dog," said Julian, "but even you have to admit, George, that he's not a patch on Timmy the First when it comes to dealing with suspicious characters. I know Timmy I saved our bacon several times by disarming men with guns, but Timmy VI would just wag his tail and lick a gunman's hand."
"This is serious, George," snapped Dick. "No-one goes out alone. If Julian wasn't the Rector here I wouldn't even let any of you go to church. Timmy will have to be content with a waddle and a widdle in the garden."
"Not you at all," muttered Mycock to Timmy. "Hah, that's good! All that boasting and it wasn't you at all."
"You must have misheard," protested Timmy. "I'm a friendly sort of dog now, but in my youth I was a real terror."
"In your youth," jeered Mycock. "In your dreams, you mean."
"SHUT UP!" barked Timmy.
"Timmy isn't happy," said George. "You heard that, he said he wants a proper walk."
"No!" said Julian and Dick together.
"Oh, all right," said George.
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