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  -

Chapter 15:
Mycock rises to the occasion

©  Copyright Robin Gordon, 2001

The following day the children asked George if they could picnic on Kirrin Island.

"Of course you can," she replied.

"Can I take Mycock," asked Harry.

"Yes," said George, who was feeling far to pleased with life to deny her anything. "Just don't let him go chasing my birds."

"He won't," Harry promised.

"Oh yes he will," thought George, but she said nothing.

Andrew and Gavin rowed them out to the island and through the needle-sharp rocks that guarded the little bay where the landing stage was.

Mycock leapt ashore, saw a rabbit and took off after it.

"Mycock!" yelled Harry.

"Well, after all," said Andrew, "Aunt George didn't say anything about chasing rabbits."

"She loves her rabbits," Fran objected. "It says in all the books. She would never allow Timmy to chase them."

"Not now she doesn't," said Gavin. "She's worried that their tunnels will bring the whole castle tumbling down and even weaken the island so much that it'll be washed away in a storm."

"It's hard to believe there can be such awful storms," said Jonathan.

"The weather's very different in winter," Andrew told him. "There have been many fishing boats swamped and their crews drowned. Sometimes even lifeboats have gone down."

"Don't let's think about that," said little Fran. "It's such a lovely summer's day. Where shall we have our picnic."

In the castle ruins," said Gavin. "There's a nice open sunny space where we can sit. And there are shady places we can leave the basket till we're ready to eat."

"I'm ready to eat now," said Nick.

"Oh no you're not," said Harry.

"Yes I am," said Nick. "I'd like a drink at least. It's frightfully thirsty work being in a boat."

"Perhaps we'll make you row back," said Andrew.

"Yes, you lazy hound," said Harry. "You've just been lounging about like a gentleman of leisure while Andrew and Gavin did all the work. Anyway, Fran is in charge of provisions, so we don't eat or drink anything until she says so."

"I think we could have a sip of lemonade each," said Fran, "but it's nowhere near lunchtime."

"Morning tea!" Nick objected.

"You'll get fat as a pig," said Gavin.

"There's not an ounce of fat on me," said Nick. "I just need more stoking than the rest of you because I have a higher metabolic rate."

"All right, one biscuit each," said Fran, but no more. Then we'll explore the island again."

"Let's go down to the dungeons," suggested Jonathan. "It'll be interesting to see how much of the IRA tunnel is still there."

Little Fran wasn't to keen on the creepy old dungeons, and neither was Mycock. He didn't like tunnels and underground caverns at all, and he couldn't help thinking of Timmy's boasting about smugglers with guns in underground passages. Of course it wasn't really Timmy but another dog with the same name, so it could have been centuries ago. Human masters and mistresses lived for ever, or nearly forever. He had heard of people dying, of course, but he'd come to Harry when he was a puppy, and there he was, a full grown young dog in the prime of life, and Mistress Harry was still a puppy. There she was, scuttling about these tunnels and investigating everything, just as he used to do himself. Still, it didn't really matter to Mycock as long as he had his mistress he was happy. Other dogs might have been afraid of these dank, dark places, but as long has Harry was there Mycock was ready for anything.

Then, suddenly, a voice spoke from the darkness.

"St'and quoite still. Oi've got a gun, and Oi'll shoot anyone who moves. Roight! Thurn around, slowly, and no tricks. What the ...? You! How did you get here? And dhe bhoys from Hadbury! Ye're in it together. Ye've tricked me! Well, Oi want an explanation, and when Oi've got it, Oi'm going to kill you. Tell me what Oi want to know, and you'll go quickly, make me angry and I'll put so many bullets into non-vital places youse'll be begging me to finish you off! Roight! How did you two froggies get out of the haunted bedroom?"

"Secret passage, of course," said Andrew scornfully.

"So you're not French!"

"Ah, mais bien sûr que nous sommes des Français," said Andrew, "but we're British as well, and proud of it."

Behind his back he was waggling his hands, signalling to the others to move back quietly and try to get out of sight. Gavin moved up beside his brother and stared insolently at the Irish dwarf, one hand tucked nonchalantly in his trouser pocket.

"Oi shall take great delight in murdhering you, moi bucko," snarled O'Shaughnessy. "And what about Dick Kirrin? Are you tellin me he wasn't really a film-maker?"

"He's a film-maker, all right," said Andrew, "and a darned good one at that - but he never made the sort of films you like. He's not a pervert like you. What's more he's our uncle - and he's in the British secret service."

O'Shaughnessy swore.

Back in the garden of the Rectory Dick heard the alarm in his jacket pocket. He swiftly put the earpiece in his ear, and heard O'Shaughnessy threatening to kill the children.

"Damn!" he said. "We assumed he was dead, but we should have searched the island as well. Julian! JULIAN!"

Quickly Dick explained the situtation.

"We need a fast boat," he said.

Julian went to the phone.

"Alf will meet us at the quay," he said. "You remember him? The fisherboy who looked after Timmy for George. He's a grandfather now, and since the fishing industry collapsed he runs trips for tourists in his motorboat."

"And dhese two? "snarled O'Shaughnessy. "The little spoys from Hadbury?"

"Our cousins," said Andrew. "As it happens we're the family your grandfather stole the field from where your gang built their so-called leisure centre. Well, Old Shitpants, you may have won the first battle, but we've won the war. Your arsenal is destroyed, and your friend McNally's been murdered by your own gang."

"He shouldn't be taunting him!" said Dick. "He'll start shooting. Where'sAlf."

"There, by the quay," said Julian.

"Come on!" said Dick and ran towards the burly fisherman.

"Won, is it?" shouted O'Shaughnessy. "How'll you have won when ye're all dead? Oi'll kill dhe lot of ye, so Oi will! Hoy! Stop dhat! Come back here! Oi want yes all together here where Oi can watch yez. Troying to trick me! T'inking I wouldn't be noticing dhe little girl slipping away. Well. oi'll put a bullet in dhe first one of yes dhat moves. Understand?

"You're only making things worse for yourself," said Andrew. "There's no real evidence against you, but if you kill children, you'll be up for murder."

"Dhey'll have to catch me first," said O'Shaughnessy."

"You can't get off the island," said Andrew.

"T'ink Oi'll fall fer dhat? You're here, so your boat's here. Oi t'ink Oi'll shoot you first. Oi'll put a bullet in yer belly, and whoi'll ye're lying in agony, yez can watch me kill dhe odhers. Dhen Oi'll finish you off, perhaps wid' a knoife, noice and slowly. You've cheated me out of me fillum! Oi was going to watch one of yez kill dhe odher, and dhen get murdhered himself. Over and over again Oi could've watched it. But at last dhis way Oi'll have dhe pleasure of torturing you meself. Oi'll have dhe exquisite pleasure of killing you!"

"Oh, please don't hurt us," wailed little Fran. "We'll help you to escape if you let us go."

"Oi'll not fall for dhat, needher," said O'Shaughnessy. "You all t'ought ye were so clever, you and dhat uncle of yours. Well, dhe boot's on dhe odher foot now. Oi'm dhe one wid dhe gun, and yous are all dead!"

Mycock had made himself as small as he could, pressed up against Harry. He could feel her trembling. Who was this nasty stranger? Why were they so afraid of him? Why didn't they rush him and knock him down? Andrew was full grown. Jonathan and Gavin were almost as big. Yet the man seemed to terrify them.

Then, at the word "gun" he understood. A smuggler - in a tunnel - with a gun!

Mycock sprang at O'Shaughnessy

Mycock sprang forward. Up he shot like a rocket. The gun cracked and spat. Then all was darkness. The dog's teeth snapped shut, there was blood in his mouth, and the gun cracked again.

"We're too late," groaned Dick. Can't this boat go any faster?"

"She be going as fast as she'm able," said Alf in his slow West Country accent, "but 'tis a tidy way to Kirrin Island from the quay. Still, there bain't no better boat in all of Kirrin or miles around than my Lady of Kirrin.


As Mycock sprang forward Andrew shouted "Lights out!" The six cousins turned off their torches and flung themselves sideways into the darkness. Fran screamed, and Harry yelled, "Mycock!"

The dog was at O'Shaughnessy's throat. He heard the two cracks and felt a sharp searing pain. Hot liquid spurted, again, and again, another flash and crack, then all was dark and silent.

Mycock lay quivering and shrinking, covered in a warm sticky fluid that congealed as it cooled. O'Shaughnessy jerked again and the gun sounded a fourth time. Little Fran screamed again.

"Four shots!" groaned Dick. "Faster! Faster."

"I can't go any faster through these rocks," said Alf calmly, and then the Lady of Kirrin came to rest on the beach. Before she stopped moving Dick and Julian were out of her and tearing up towards the castle, while Alf pulled the Lady up on to the sand.

"Damn!" ejaculated Dick. "No torch! How can we find our way down through the dungeons?"

"I have a torch, Mr Dick," said Alf calmly, and handed it over. "The Lady of Kirrin is fully equipped for all emergencies."

"Good man!" said Dick, and the three of them hurried down into the dungeons of Kirrin castle.

"Follow the chalk marks," said Julian.

"No need," said Dick. "You can see the trail in the dust."

They followed it, to the deepest dungeons where the Irishmen had built their tunnel.

There was something on the ground, a body, two bodies. Dick recognised O'Shaughnessy and Mycock. The gun was still in O'Shaughnessy's outstretched hand. Dick put his foot on the dwarf's wrist, then bent to wrench the gun free. Then he looked at O'Shaughnessy. "Dead!" he said.

"Where are the children?" said Julian anxiously. "Andrew! Gavin!"

"Harry!" called Dick.

Torches flicked on in the darkness - one, two, three, four, five.

"Who's missing?" called Dick.

"My torch is bust," came came Nick's voice, and the six children appeared.

Harry went straight to Mycock and embraced him. The dog raised his head and licked her arm feebly.

"He's dying," she sobbed.

Dick knelt beside her.

"Let me see," he said. "Hold the torch steady."

Dick ran his hands gently over Mycock, then he lifted him and tried to make him stand. The dog stood trembling while Dick examined him.

"He's got a wound in his shoulder," he said at last, but it should heal. The bullet must just have grazed him."

"But all this blood?" said Harry.

"Most of it is O'Shaugnessy's," said Dick. "Mycock has torn his throat out. Don't look, kids. He's not a pretty sight."

Harry let out a wail.

"What's the matter?" asked Dick, putting his arm around her.

"If Mycock has killed a man," said Harry in great distress, "won't the police take him away and ... and ... and put him down?"

"Not a chance!" said Dick. "Mycock's a hero. He saved all your lives - and besides, as far as the authorities are concerned O'Shaughnessy was already dead: killed in the explosion that he set off himself. Don't worry, Harry. I'll have someone from the Boat Squadron take this carcass away during the night and dispose of it out at sea. No-one need ever know what happened, apart from us - and the Duke, of course. Now, what say we head back to the mainland and ask Laurence to rustle us up a nice lunch? I dare say you could do with a snack. I know I could."

"Gosh! So could I!" said Nick. "You've no idea how mean girls are with the food. They don't seem to realise we boys need constant stoking."

As they walked back to the boat, Dick said quietly to Andrew, "I heard you taunting O'Shaughnessy to give the others a chance to escape."

Andrew blushed.

"You have a brave heart," said Dick," but that was foolish."

"No," said Andrew, "it was neither brave nor foolish. I had to do it. Some us might have survived."

"Just like your father," said Dick. Ju would have done exactly the same."

"So would you."

"Me?" said Dick. "Old Tricky Dicky, the wicked uncle?  Well, who knows?"

The next day the Duke himself put in an appearance. A Range Rover drew up outside the rectory, and when Stubbs answered the door he found a tall, balding, hawk-faced man, who asked for Dick.

Stubbs recognised him at one.

"Yessir!" he said and snapped a salute. "Come in, Sir! Mr Kirrin is in the garden. Would you care to wait in the study, Sir? Whisky, Sir?"

"Whisky, yes," said the Duke. "Study, no. I'll stroll out into the garden."

"Yessir! This way, Sir. Mr Kirrin, sir, the Duke!"

Dick rose from his chair and bowed.

"Nice little place," said the Duke.

"My brother is Rector here, Sir," said Dick.

"Ah, yes," said the Duke. "And your family have connections here?"

"Yes," said Dick, "in fact we've discovered that we are the rightful owners of the land that the IRA were using for their project. O'Shaughnessy's ancestor swindled my wife's great grandparents out of it when their sons were killed in the First World War. It'll be difficult to prove in court, even though we have the original deeds."

"I'll see to it," said the Duke, "and there'll be a gong in this for you, Kirrin."

Dick made a deprecating movement with his hands.

"Oh, yes, yes, yes," said the Duke.

"For services to pornography?" laughed Dick.

The Duke laughed. "We'll find something," he said, "even if it's only for helping to train the Royal polo ponies."

Stubbs slid a whisky onto the table by his elbow and vanished as quietly as he had come.

"Cheers!" said the Duke.

The land was returned to the Kirrin family, and, after consulting the others, George decided to build some small shops and a tea-room on part of it and make the rest into a public park for the people of Kirrin and the sort of tourists who come because they love the scenery and the wildlife and want a quiet holiday away from the hurly-burly of town.

George and Dick renewed their marriage vows in the church at Kirrin, with Julian officiating, and Harry went to live with them at Kirrin Cottage. Great Aunt Fanny and Great Uncle Quentin went back to Auksford, where the fellows of his college remarked on how remarkably cheerful Professor Kirrin had grown and how much good his holiday seemed to have done him. Anne and her own children went back to Hadbury, and what a tale they had to tell Christopher when he returned from Berlin. In the autumn Andrew went up to Oxford, and the others back to their schools. Mycock settled into his new home with Timmy VI, and the two of them took frequent walks along Cuckoo Lane boasting about their heroic deeds, real or imaginary.

Oh yes, and one other thing happened: when the New Year's Honours list came out, Mr Richard Kirrin received the OBE for services to the British film industry. It was the sort of award that had Guardian readers choking over their toast: an honour for an old has-been like that who only ever made one film! But that's nothing to what they would have said if he had got his gong for training polo ponies.

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Appendix I: The Kirrin family

Appendix II: Geography

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