Tuesday 3 April 2018

The Dunce at the back of the Class (Chapter One)

It was December 1947 the west-midlands of England where it had received a bad snow fall leaving the drifts piling up to the window ledges. In a small cottage on the side of a main London road a child was born, but only because it was the will of god. The will of the father was a lot more sinister who had made it known throughout the young woman’s pregnancy that this child was unplanned and unwanted by him.

The couple were three years into a marriage with one boy already. The father was a survivor of the Second World War which left him with an attitude, and what would be viewed by others as a twisted and sadistic mind. He had told his wife a short time into the pregnancy that she had to abort the baby by any means. Whether she agreed or not the husband plied her with all the gin he could afford on his meagre wages. Yes it was an old wives tale but in those days it was taken as fact.

The boy was given the name of William by his mother whose name was Dora and even though her husband Kit disapproved, she gave him her love. The father in his ignorance wanted nothing to do with the boy but kept it a secret from all including his wife. To him the boy would always be unplanned and unwanted.

  William’s older brother Bobby would be the one his farther would nurture into his ways all through Bobby’s life. Bobby was older by fifteen months and was planned and wanted by his father, William was a mistake. At this time the anger that William's father had for his wife would not show for many years. However, by then his fathers’ anger would be for another mistake by his mother. In the fathers eyes she would have to be punished for conceiving a baby without his permission, and an idea festered in his twisted mind.

There could have been a deeper reason for Kit being the arrogant and aggressive person he was. It might have been because of Kit’s own past why he turned out to be the image of his own father.

 William was born in a bungalow that had a cold stone floor, three windows, one door, and three rooms. It was a basic house of the time, and the same house in 2012 would be condemned as not even fit for keeping animals. The cottage was loaned to his father while he worked for the farm owner. By today’s standard it was small and very basic, with no electricity or running water. It consisted of three large rooms with the living room in the centre the biggest. It was no more than thirty feet long and most probably only twelve to fifteen feet in depth. The whole building was of red brick with a porch, the floors inside were made from cold Forest of Dean stone.

The centre of the house was the living room because there was no kitchen as such. There was a large black fireplace that sat opposite the door in a large alcove. It had a grate for the fire in the middle with a small oven either side. There was plenty of room behind and to the side of the fire. There was a large pine table in the centre of the room with four chairs. All the cooking and preparing was done in that room, as was the socialising. Either side of the living room was a bedroom that had no heat or light during the night. 

There was a small triangle of grass in front of the house that ended at the porch of the house. There was a path that led from the gate to the porch and once again carved from that beautiful pink stone. If you walked into the garden through the gate his father had planted vegetables, but they were hidden from view by the border of flowers that bloomed in the summer. There was a large rose bush in front of the door.

William was now four years old living the life of all children at that age with innocent minds. His father by this time was set in his ways and distanced himself from showing any love for William. He showed his separation by always saying, “Your child,” or “Your boy,” when speaking about him to Dora.

It was also during those four years as an infant when his mother gave birth to two girls, but unbeknown to William because one of those girls was also unplanned he would take the lion’s share of the punishment for her.

 William was almost four years old when he looked out of the open door and saw this coloured prism in the blue sky. His mother looked out the door seeing that it had stopped raining and the sun was now shining. She said, “Look, William, that’s a rain bow in the sky. Wherever the end is there is a pot of gold left by the little people.” She then went about hanging her washing on the line. A short while later his mother walked inside the house leaving William in the garden to play.

It was mid day when he looked up from where he was sitting in the garden with his little spade. His father was walking down the garden path towards him and the only door in the house. His father always came home at that time of day to have his dinner. He walked the short way from the farm and back six times a day for his meals. On reaching where William was sitting he asked, “What the hell are you doing, boy?”

“I’m looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, Dad.” He answered innocently.

“Dora, that boy of yours has dug the roses up looking for a pot of gold.” William was never his boy, and although he never realised it at the time, it would remain that way all of his life.

His mother walked out and walked William inside to clean him up. As he sat waiting for his dinner, his father replanted the rose bush and walked back through the door. He looked at William sitting at the table in the living room and asked him, “Why did you think the pot of gold was there?”

“Because, the rainbow ended on top of the rose”

It was sad really because he didn’t know what a pot of gold would look like if he had found one. However, his father’s reply was even sadder. “You are a, stupid boy.”

At that time children went to primary school at the age of four and a half. William was being taught at home how to count and write his alphabet by his mother. He told his father one day that he could do these things, before watching his father ignore his achievements. William’s brother that was now almost six gave him a sneer as if it was unimportant, and it would be a look that only his father could equal.

It was the summer before going to school when all of the bad things in William’s life started to take place. He and his brother slept in left hand bedroom of the house as you looked at it from outside. It was a big double bed that they both shared with William sleeping the side of the bed near the door. At that age they were both in bed before five in the evening, and before their father returned from work at six. Like all children of that age they would play on the bed or talk and laugh.

The day William’s world started to go wrong was one night in the winter. He and his brother had returned home from school and were now in bed talking. “Be quiet you boys,” their mother shouted through the thin wall of the bedroom. “Your father will be home from work soon.” Neither boy had ever seen their father angry but that didn’t mean he never was.

The two boys had not listened to the warning from their mother, and were still playing and giggling when their father got home from work. As soon as he walked in the door his voice could be heard, “You two boys had better go to sleep and give me rest.” The boys were in bed under the thick Eider-duck-down quilt laughing quietly thinking they could not be heard.

There was a loud noise of a door slamming against the wall as it opened which made both boys in the darkness lift their heads above the quilt. The door was wide open, and silhouetted in the lamplight of the living room was the dark figure of their father. His contorted face was partially hidden by the long shadows of his features. The white staring eyes could be seen as if they were alight as he shouted, “I told you boys to be quiet and you never listened. You had to be naughty and disobey me.”

Neither of the boys had seen their father like this before, and they were in fear not knowing that worse was to come. Their father walked over to the bed and threw back the covers aggressively to show intent. He grabbed at William's wrist pulling him roughly from the bed. Once his feet touched the floor his father bent him over the side of the bed. Taking hold of his wrists his he held them together in the small of his back. The pyjama trousers were pulled down moments before he violently beat his buttocks for several minutes.

William was screaming, “Please, Dad,” between the tears and cries of pain. “Mum, help me,” more cries of pain. “Where are you, mum?” His mother was in the living room crying while listening to her youngest boy getting thrashed by her brute of a husband. She knew the reason why it was taking place at that time, and there was nothing she could do to help him. Kit was head of the family that placed food on the table, and her vow in church was to obey her husband. Whether she feared his aggressive nature would never be known as it remained a secret until she died.

His father had deaf ears to William's cries, but eventually stopped as his anger subsided. He roughly threw William on the bed to get dressed once more. He then took Bobby by the wrist and gave him a few smacks on his buttocks before throwing him on the bed. “Let that be a lesson to you both.” It had not gone unnoticed by William that the little amount of smacks his brother had received never brought a tear to his eye.

This was the first of many thrashings William would receive from his father, who would walk through the bedroom door on any minor pretext to administer his cruel and barbaric justice. There would be many nights his screams of pain would be heard from that day forward. They would be heard between the abnormal sounds of a hand smacking soft flesh, or the crack of a leather belt on the same flesh. His father had only just stated his revenge trip and it would take a reality check before he stopped.

William's father had become a sadistic uncontrolled force of brutality that would go through life thinking because he was the head of the family he was the judge, jury and enforcer of justice. This bedroom was not a child’s bedroom any longer but it was now a place of cruelty where a grown man with a twisted mind would almost destroy the soul of an innocent child.

Kit hated the thought of any woman getting beat by a man, and took oath on his own soul that he would never strike a woman. Dora had given birth to two children that he had never wanted or asked for, but it was up to him now to feed and clothe them. He would never bring himself to the point of striking Dora his wife, but that was not to say he would not punish her for defying his wishes. In Kit’s twisted mind he was not punishing William, but punishing his wife for giving birth to William and his youngest sister. It had taken almost five years for this macho Scotsman to vent his anger. The birth of his second but unplanned daughter a few months previous had pushed his warped anger to the limit of endurance.

It was for that reason when smacking Bobby he realised this was the chosen one that was in his grasp. The smacks became lighter and few, because this was the boy that would make him proud. When he had released the grip and threw Bobby on the bed once more Kit knew there were very few tears. William also noticed, he might have been four and a half years old but he had counted his smacks and those of his brother. Bobby had not come close to having half as many as William.

At the breakfast table the following morning both boys were sitting waiting to eat when Bobby said, “William wet the bed last night.” Their mother never said anything but looked at their father who was listening intently. The two boys had their breakfast silently and went to school. It was that same night when both boys were in bed awake, but silent with the thoughts of the previous evening of punishment in their minds.

The door was once more thrown open and both boys looked at the silhouetted person standing in the door. This time it was even more sinister, because the two inch wide leather belt that Ian’s father wore about his waist was hanging from his hand. William was thinking that he was just checking that they were both asleep, but that wasn’t the case.

All through the day while the children’s father had been working on his own he had been thinking about the things that had taken place in his life that he had no control over. He had two unplanned children, and his wife had to be punished for her defiance. The thoughts that were going through his head were giving him hot flushes of anger that he found hard to control. He had thought through his dilemma and the answer to his discomfort was now in sight. The boy was his property and his to punish, and the law of the land was for the father to discipline his children.

He walked over to the bed and looked down at the two boys, and there was no mistaking the blind anger in his eyes as he stared at William. William started to tremble a little as fear of the unknown passed through his body. “So, boy, you wet the bed last night like a baby. Well I am going to teach you never to wet it again. I don’t like babies that wet the bed and tonight I will give you something to think about if you do so again.”

He bent over the two boys to pull back the cover so that he could pull William out of the bed once more. Again he was bent over the edge of the bed with his wrists held firmly in the centre of his back. This time the trousers were left on Ian's lower body while his father’s other hand thrashed him with the belt. Once again Ian was screaming and crying while calling for his mother to help him. He then heard his mother plead through the sound of his own screams, “Kit,” then after a short pause, “Please?”

The thrashing stopped, whether because his father’s twisted anger had subsided or because of his mother’s intervention was unclear. Once again the sobbing William was thrown back on the bed, where he cried himself to sleep another night. Before his father walked out of the room he threw the covers over the boys once more. There was a silence of sorts in the room that was broken only by the sobbing of Ian as he slept.

At the breakfast table Bobby said, “My pyjamas are wet, mum, Ian wet the bed again,” as he gave his father a smile. Whether bobby was just showing off to his father, or trying to get William into trouble was also unclear, but in later life William would realise that bobby was just as twisted as his mentor.

At the same time as this was said, William who had a spoon in his hand to eat his porridge placed it back on the table. He sat with his hands gripping the edge of the table while looking at his father with fear in his face. He could not mistake the wide staring eyes of his father looking back at him with expressionless eyes. His mother broke the silence by saying, “Pick up your spoon, William, and eat your breakfast.”

William picked up the spoon with shaking hands while still looking at his father’s face. As his eyes dropped to the spoon in his hand near the dish he tried to stop the uncontrollable shaking. The spoon touched the side of the dish to tap in rhythm with the nervous tremble in his hand. His mother stepped over to the table to place her hand on top of his. He looked up at her with a tear in the corner of his eye only to see her smile and say, “Eat your breakfast, William, nothing is going to happen.”

William and his brother walked off to school to return in the evening and once they had eaten their meal they were sent to bed. That night William knowing that his father had heard about him wetting the bed again tried to keep his eyes open while looking at the door. He was waiting for it to be thrown open once more, but tiredness got the better of him and he fell asleep.

A few days went by, and while they were in bed one night Michael gave William a playful tickle under the arms. He burst out laughing and stopped almost as soon as it started, but it was not quite fast enough. The door burst open and their father was once again silhouetted by the light. “So you had to disturb my rest with your playing.”

“It was William, Dad, he was laughing.” Yes that was true but what his father did not want to know was the fact that Bobby forced the laugh. Bobby had already turned into the coward and nasty vile creature he would be for the rest of his life. He would always tell tales on others so that no blame rested on his head.

In his temper and lust to punish Dora, his wife, the unwanted would have to take the hiding. Whether there was a smile or any kind of emotion on the face of their father was hidden by the darkness of the room. Before he walked into the room he glanced over his shoulder into the living room with piercing eyes. He then stepped to the bed and pulled William out who was already shouting. “Bobby caused me to laugh Dad, No, please no. Mum, help me.”

“You will get extra for trying to get your brother into trouble, because I only heard one laugh.” The cries of William once again falling on deaf ears, because the man in the room was now thriving on the power he held over his family.

His mother however was closing her mind and ears to the pitiful pleading of her youngest son while crying quietly. Once again his wrists were held by his father’s grasp pushing them into the small of his back. His buttocks were being thrashed with the flat of his father’s hand, but his screams of pain were falling on deaf ears. Ian's father had once more turned into the uncontrollable monster that was oblivious to the pain of others.

It was a long time before his anger was controlled enough to stop the beating before he threw William on the bed. He looked at Bobby cowering under the quilt, but the chosen one was not guilty of any crime. “Go to sleep Bobby you have school in the morning.” Once his father had walked through the doorway closing the door, in the darkness William pulled the quilt over his body and cried himself to sleep another night.

The inevitable took place, and the bed was wet in the morning once more, William's mother noticed when helping him dress for school but said nothing. It was Bobby that mentioned it once more at the breakfast table. It seemed as though Bobby realised that all the time his father was concentrating on his brother he was safe from abuse. His father looked towards his mother asking, “Is that right?” she never answered, but her expression said it all.

That night William was in bed with his eyes focused on the door while straining his ears listening for the sound of his father walking down the path. Bobby was already asleep when William heard the gate slam shut in the wind before the front door opened. He then heard his mother talking to his father before it went quiet while his father was eating the hot meal his mother had prepared for him.

Somewhere during that time of silence William had fallen asleep, but was rudely awakened by the dramatic entrance of his father once more. The monster pulled him from the bed roughly like all the previous nights. “I thought I told you I would teach you not to wet the bed again, but it seems as though you want to defy me. Well this time you had better learn because if I have to come in here tomorrow you will get a harder hiding than you are getting tonight.” William was being thrashed with the leather belt once more.

Even in his half sleep he was pleading for mercy from the pain which was falling on deaf ears.  Crying for his mother to come and save him from the hell his father was putting him through. Before he had been bent over the bed William had noticed the leather belt in his father’s hand. The thrashing seemed as though it would go on forever, until as suddenly as the thrashing started it stopped. “Get into bed you, bad boy.”

William watched as his older brother pulled the quilt up and closed his eyes once more. Without looking he heard his father close the door behind him leaving him in his silent world of darkness. He slipped his body off the quilt so that his knees were on the floor kneeling at the side of the bed. After resting his arms on the side of the bed while the tears slipped down his cheeks like rivers he cried himself to sleep.

How long it was he had no idea, but he felt himself being lifted up and placed on the bed. He opened his eyes and saw his mother looking down at him.”Why didn’t you get into bed, William?”
“I don’t want to wet the bed again.”

With a tear in her eye she replied, “Don’t ever be afraid of getting into bed, William.”  She then pulled the quilt over him before walking out of the room. It would be a long time in the future before William understood the reason why his mother never came. It would also be at the same time he would realise a lot more of the family secrets. When he did find out the truth he would never have to forgive his mother because she had done nothing wrong for him to forgive her for. The bond that William had with his mother would never be broken all the time she was alive. His father had just cut the first of many lonely notches in his coffin, but neither he nor William had no idea.

Several days went by before William was caught laughing again and suffered another thrashing. Once again Bobby told them all about the bed wetting during the night. William went to school all of that day thinking about what would take place when he got home. It was that same day while he was at school he collapsed while in the classroom. The doctor was called and he was diagnosed. His documentation stated that he had suffered a traumatic experience which had given him a nervous breakdown.
This story is in e-book form and also in paperback on Amazon    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Dunce-At-Back-Class-ebook/dp/B00GO7V6SS/ref=sr_1_18?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1522788930&sr=1-18&keywords=ian+johnstone

The conclusion to this first story is in the second book called Soldier on (The Dunce at the back of the Class)   https://www.amazon.co.uk/Soldier-Dunce-Back-Class-Book-ebook/dp/B00M4RPUY8/ref=sr_1_44?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1522789357&sr=1-44&keywords=ian+johnstone

Monday 2 April 2018

The Guardian Angel 4 [Chapter One]

Andrew had eaten and was off to the library as there was a lot to be done, the theory that Kevin had come up with had blown his own to pieces. The only thing he could salvage was his theory about the skeleton because the identity was written in the diary. However he was not going to knock the idea that the extensions were to do with the Jacobite Risings. Because the English armies were there fighting along with the Scottish the arms would be more lightweight.

He had taken the messengers pouch with him with the two letters in and scanned them and copied. Once it was done he folded them up and put them in the pouch once more. He laid the copies on the desk in front of him and looked at the mass of jumbled words. It is in code he thought and wondered if it was French, Latin or English. Right at the top was a single line of letters.

Andrew was just about to try and decipher the code but stopped and put his pen down when a thought struck him. If what Kevin had said was true? and he had no reason to doubt the authenticity? Who was the skeleton and how did he die? Surely whoever in the Jacobite times made the extension would have removed it if it been there on their entry.

Andrew put all the copies of the letters into his folder and into the briefcase then walked over to the cabinet and opened the secret drawer. He removed the diary and looked for the place where the death of Donald Macleod was mentioned. He turned over the pages until he saw the name mentioned once more and stopped. He spent over an hour translating until he had the full story.

“February 12th 1570”
“My younger brother Andrew arrived today after receiving my message, and he has brought with him two men servants to help with what I requested. On his arrival I found that the men where cousins of poor Donald Macleod, this was to ensure secrecy. I picked this time because I returned to the Campbell croft and the body of poor Donald has now deteriorated but frozen. It will be far easier to cover up and move tonight once we have all eaten.”

“I have just returned from Campbell’s croft where we removed the body of Donald. It is now on its way to the clan graveyard of the Macleod’s. There is now a body of a man that died about the same time in the prison where my brother is the governor. On my death my brother will take over the rank of Lord Stuart but the house will remain on my side of the family for generations to come. The secret will be safe with him in any further troubles.”

“It was important that we left the other body in the same position that we found Donald so that it looks as though he died there in the croft. We left the Macleod broach along with a claymore and dagger, with the armour piled in the corner. The replacement body is doing a more noble part in serving Queen Mary and Scotland in death, than ever he had done throughout his miserable life. I could not help myself from saying rest in peace as we left him in his locked tomb.

Andrew gave a sigh of relief knowing the puzzle had been solved partially. It was obvious that Lord Stuart’s brother was also up for a bit of skulduggery. He looked at the clock on the wall and printed the pace on the screen, it was late but he knew Douglas would still be in the lounge. He put the diary away in its safe drawer before picking up his briefcase and paper and leaving the room.
He knocked on the lounge door, and heard Douglas say enter before he pushed open the door. Douglas looked up and said, “Andrew, you look as though you have found something. Come and sit down and tell me all about it.”

He sat down opposite Douglas and said, “Did you know that the first Lord Ahearn Stuart had a younger brother called Andrew that was a prison governor. By looking at this entry in the diary, he was as secretive and in the conspiracies along with Lord Stuart.”
“What made you look at the diary tonight, because I thought I heard you say you were going to decipher those letters?”

“I was, Sir, but Kevin messed up a big theory and I needed answers to the dead body in the Campbell croft.” He passed the paper to Douglas and said, “When David Hamilton told Lord Stuart that he had found Donald Macleod dead from being stabbed. It never made sense when the pathologist we use could not find any sign of stabbing or being bludgeoned.”

The reason was it was not the body that should have been there. It has in a way cleared up one mystery, but opened another. The whiskey was laced with enough belladonna to kill a horse, what was it going to be used for? The other thing is did the secret room get emptied before it was filled with weapons for the Jacobite rebellion and when?”

“I have some questions I need to ask Kevin in the morning about the Campbell croft weapons.”

“You treat Kevin as an equal, Andrew, is there a reason because he has nowhere near the qualifications you have?”

“I know a great deal about the history of Scotland and the people. Kevin is a real authority on weapons and is constantly surprising Lady Lindsay and me because he is not blinkered. Just because we have given something a theory at a later date if he finds new evidence he is not afraid to admit he was wrong on a point and throw us all into despair.”

“He remembers all I tell him and he is constantly telling me things I don’t know. Today he really messed up three months of theories by taking us from the Queen Mary era into the Jacobite era. It was like he pulled down a shutter and said we are now in a different Scotland to the one you knew, wake up people. I like working with him because he has the same energy as me, and he is like me always looking for the obscure answer that others had overlooked.”

“There is something that I would like to ask you, my Lord, and if you say no I will leave it at that. It concerns the Campbell croft and this admittance of a conspiracy to fraud for obvious reasons. I need Kevin to think about what we found and what I know about the change. There are many questions that have been placed in front of me now that he might be able to help me with, but only if he has the same knowledge as me. I would like to show him this page out of the diary, and I know he will not tell a soul if I asked him not to.”

 “Andrew, I knew at some time you will have to make public that diary, or rather the contents. I would rather it be much later when we have scanned through it for more answers to my own family. I will agree to your request, but I would like to talk to Kevin tomorrow and give him this information personally. I have a very good reason for doing it this way that you will see tomorrow.”
“Have Kevin come here at nine in the morning and we can all talk.”

“Thank you, my Lord, but please don’t feel obligated in any way I can get around the problem if you do not feel comfortable.”

“Andrew, I thank you for those thoughts, but Scottish history is for all and not just the few. It will be fine, if you and Lady Lindsay trust Kevin then I will too.”

Andrew had just walked down the stairs into the kitchen and sat down drinking coffee. “Andrew, can you hear me, are we going to Eagles Flight this morning?”

“Send Dave and the crew up there to get the covers up so that we can remove whatever is in the secret room. I want you to come here because Lord Stuart would like to have a word with you at nine a.m.”

“Hello, Andrew, I will come to Eagles flight with you, so that you can bring me up to speed on developments. I will be there in fifteen minutes.”

He then heard Kevin telling Dave what was needed as he was sipping his coffee.

He was glancing through his notes when the front door bell went and Drummond walked out. On his return he said, “Lady Lindsay has arrived and in the lounge talking with Lord Stuart.”

“Good morning, Douglas, I am meeting Andrew and Kevin here to go with them up to Eagles Flight. From what I heard Andrew saying over the radio you are going to speak with Kevin. He is not in trouble with you is he?”

“Good heavens no, I would like him to do something for me.”

There was a knock and Drummond entered and said, “Andrew and Kevin are outside, my Lord, wishing to see you.”

“Bring them in, Drummond.”

Moments later the two young men were just inside the door and both gave a morning greeting to Lord Stuart and Lady Lindsay. “Kevin, Lady Lindsay has told me all about you and the way you have turned your life about. I am very impressed, and you should be very proud of what you have achieved. Come over to the fire with me I want to show you something.”

They both walked over and Douglas pointed to the sword and dagger. “Take a look at those and give me your opinion, and you may take them down for closer examination.”

Kevin lifted the sword out of its resting place and walked towards the window and gave it a thorough examination. There was no mistaking the look of excitement on his face as he scrutinised the weapon.  He then looked at them all staring at him and said, “You might not believe me, but I believe this is a sword belonging to a king. It has the royal armourers mark just below the hilt on the blade.”

“This sword has been made from the finest steel without any kind of blemish on the blade. There are no intricate designs on the blade that might make it weak, just the glass like polished steel.” He gave a slow swing with the sword and smiled. “It is perfectly balanced unlike many other swords of its type.”

“If what I say is correct and I don’t for one second think I am wrong. This is the sword that belonged to James the forth of Scotland, because I know where all the others are. My father told me that he had seen the one the English had and it was not a Scottish sword. He also told me of what his ancestors passed down through the generations, and that was the Kings sword was stolen from the battlefield at Flodden before the English captured it.”

“That is ridicules, Kevin, you must have got your facts muddled up.” Lady Lindsay said.

“No he is right on the button, Lady Lindsay.” He watched Kevin place the sword back in its resting place with shaking hands before he turned to face them once more. Douglas handed Kevin the translated letter Mary Tudor gave the first Lord Stuart.

Kevin read it and smiled before he said, “I am right, but that is not what has made me happy. The fact that I have had the chance to handle and swing the sword of state belonging to King James can never be matched. I had my hands on the hilt of the sword that King James held so many times in battle.”

He handed the paper back to Douglas and said, “I can understand why you have kept this secret, my Lord, and the secret is still safe with me.”

“Thank you, Kevin, but now I will show you a bigger secret. Andrew has been translating some letters belonging to the first Lord Ahearn Stuart. They will be made public at some point, but not before we have checked them all for secrets that need to stay secret.”

Douglas handed him the translation from the previous evening and said Andrew translated this last night. They watched him read the entry and start laughing.”So Andrew my revelation got to your brain as it did mine last night. I sat thinking about that find and the others. I think the only two secret rooms that the first Lord Stuart had anything to do with was the one at Steeple crag and the Campbell croft.”

“I believe that it is for that reason why the secret keys to the room are the same in both of those crofters, lodges. In the other two they are different from each other which are strange, but maybe it is not. We can now explain why there were Jacobite weapons in the one on the western boundary and the Campbell estate and I believe we will find the same at Eagles Flight. Laggan will also be a Jacobite find if there is a secret room there.”

“I think those five crofts and the one at Laggan were built at the same time, but the three that Lord Stuart never armed the extensions were not built until just before the Jacobite uprising. It is for that reason the stone is dressed and not natural. The back walls of the croft houses had been pulled down and rebuilt to place the secret doors in, and that is why they are different in design.”

“I cannot be sure but while you are delving into the first Lord Stuarts papers, Andrew. I would think he will have a plan of his two crofter’s houses, and that is why they are identical even down to the hidden door key. If there is a secret room in that crofter’s house in Laggan, I will bet my wages it should have something to do with the fire.”

“Say that all that you have said is true, Kevin, how do you work out about the fact the skeleton was left in the building while the arms were being changed?”

“I don’t think they were being changed, Andrew. I think the Jacobite conspirators took out what they thought was of no use like the cannon that we never found and replaced them with muskets and pistols. However, as for your question why the skeleton was not moved? Andrew who was Lord Stuart by that time knew all about it, and left it in its place of rest. It was by that time of no consequence to what was taking place. He locked the door and left the skeleton to its silent secret of guarding the past. We have to remember that the new Lord Stuart would most probably be a Jacobite because he was a Stuart and would conspire against the government forces.”

“I can see where you are coming from, Kevin, but why was the whiskey laced with belladonna.”

“Now look here, Andrew, I have taught you as much as I can, but you really must find some theories of your own.” Then Kevin burst out laughing that started Andrew and the rest laughing.

Andrew said “If that is all, my Lord. I will take Kevin to the kitchen for a coffee before we leave.”

“Yes do so Andrew, and while you are there could you ask Victoria to bring some coffee in for Lady Lindsay Morag and me.”

When they had left the room Lady Lindsay said, “Now you have seen firsthand how they complement each other. There was no argument just friendly banter. Every time either of them opens his mouth they have me riveted to the floor.”

“It appears by what he was saying, Kevin uses his brain in the evening as well. Just by reading that one piece of paper Kevin worked out in an instance what might have taken place. I see what you mean when saying they never argue or pull each other’s theories to pieces. They store what is said until they find something to prove or disprove what they say and think. He was also to the point with that sword, and although I already knew its authenticity he told me things I never knew. His face on realising it was the Kings sword will stay with me for a long time.”

It was two hours later when they all arrived near the croft at Eagles Flight. “We are about to check your theory out, Kevin, and I think it is going to be an interesting morning.”

Kevin just sat with his normal smile on his face drinking the coffee while waiting for Dave and the crew to finish. “I wonder how much Lord Andrew Stuart was involved with the Jacobite rebellion, Andrew.”

“Now that is a coincidence, because I was sitting here thinking on that same question. You are very clever, Kevin, and I am not saying that lightly. I really am glad that you are part of the team because your theories very seldom differ to mine except when you blow mine all to hell.” They both laughed this time just as Lady Lindsay pulled up beside them on the hard standing.

She left her own vehicle and got in the rear seat of theirs, “That wind out there is so strong, and cuts through you like a knife.”

Kevin passed the flask and cup to her as he said, “Dave was late getting here because of an accident on the road, he will be another three quarters of an hour before he is finished.”

“Andrew, why do you think the weapons were never used because they would have aided their cause? I am also in no doubt that the crown armies would have been this far north.”

“I have only one thought, and that is the people that knew where the weapons where was either dead or unavailable. There might not have been any conspirators in the area to inform the Jacobite army of the weapons existence. Either way these weapons were a great loss to those fighting in the skirmishes with the crown armies.”

“That is a good thought but what about the agents that looked after the crofts, they would have known of the existence. Lord Andrew Stuart would have left them in place or did something happen to change the way things were done? It would have had to be dramatic to take away the messenger trail.”

“I will take another look through the papers tonight and see what else I can find.”

“I don’t think we will find many weapons in this crofter’s house if we find any at all,
my Lady.”

“Whatever made you think like that, Kevin?”

“It is a new ball game we are playing. Last night I was reading about the Jacobite rebellion up here in the highlands. To be precise the battle at Killiecrankie in 1689 and where it is compared to the location of the croft on the western edge of Lord Stuarts estate and the one on the Campbell estate.”

Andrew looked deep in thought and said, “Yes but what does that have to do with your new theory?”

“Well the clans were rushing to get to Blair Atholl but would be arriving from all directions which would put the western boundary and Campbell hill out of reach. The closest stockpile of weapons is Eagles Flight and Laggan when travelling from the north. Because the Jacobite clans had been formed once and dispersed when they missed Mackay the first time they would have been in the right place to get the weapons to fight with.”

“You do have a very good point Kevin and we will soon know if you are correct, because it looks like Dave is ready, so we had better get to work.”

Outside the cold wind was blowing once more and it was cutting through their warm clothes. All three were glad to step inside the building. Andrew took the big metal key and opened the oven, and after inserting it in the hole he turned and heard a click. The whole of the fire place gave a jerk, and Kevin with the help of Andrew pushed it forward to expose the room behind.

There were weapons in the room but only a few and mostly swords. There was an empty barrel of gun powder and a scattering of lead balls on the floor. “It looks like they took the muskets and lead balls, before they filled their powder pouches and left. They left the swords because I would think that being highlanders they would already have one each.”

No one commented on what Andrew had said, because the room told them the same story. The remaining swords were in a tangled heap in the corner showing the weapons had been taken in haste. Andrew took pictures of everything and told Dave to put the few weapons in the trailer and take them back to the lock up in the yard.

Once the room was empty Dave helped Andrew push the fire place back in position and heard the click. “Once you are back at the yard, Dave, tag them for location before you lock them up and then have an early day.”

Once Dave had left, Kevin gave Andrew the big key to put in the motor. He locked the door when they left and then locked the security gate.

Andrew said, “I think we will leave the croft at Laggan until the New Year when hopefully the snow will have disappeared. I like that theory of Kevin’s and I think there is a very good chance after seeing the inside of this secret room the one at Laggan will be no different. Even if there was a secret room full of weapons we would not be able to transport them away if we cannot get the vehicle and trailer close.”

“I will see you two later when you get back to Stuart House and well done the pair of you. In fact I will meet you both back at the lab with Sarah, as I have news for you all.

“I will treat Kevin to breakfast in the restaurant on the way back so we will be a short time after you, my Lady.”

Lady Lindsay was let in through the door by Drummond that opened the door to the lounge for her. “That is bitter cold outside now, Douglas,” she said on seeing him seated with Morag. “I hope I am not disturbing you two.”

“You could never do that, Lady Lindsay, come and sit down you look frozen near to death.”

Once she was seated he asked, “How did things go this morning?”

“Things went well, but not as Andrew or me had expected. Kevin went home last night to read about the Jacobite Risings because he told us this morning. He refreshed our minds about the Battle at Killiecrankie and told us why there might only be very few weapons if any in the buildings on Eagles Flight and the same in the croft at Laggan.”

She then told them all that had taken place and Andrew’s response on the find.

“So, Andrew never argued the point about Laggan.”

“No, he took what Kevin said as fact because if you think about where these two places are in conjunction with the battle of Killiecrankie it would tie in. I am pleased that Andrew is my understudy, and I am even more pleased that because of Andrew, Kevin has turned his life about. Kevin has been waking up parts of my brain that had I think shut down. I will say it again; I have the best investigative team in the whole of the National Trust UK.”

It had taken two hours for Kevin and Andrew to return to the village where they parked outside the Trust lab and walked inside. Sarah was sitting near a bench looking through a microscope, and on seeing them she looked up and said, “This must be important for both of you to be here at the same time.”

“Lady Lindsay said we had to meet her here as she had something to say to all three of us.” It was as Andrew was speaking when Lady Lindsay walked through the door.

“Kevin looked at what she was doing and asked, “What are you looking at, my Lady?”
“It is a sample of that soil you swept up off the ground at the Campbell croft house; do you want to take a look?”

Kevin walked over and stood where she had been and looked through the lenses. “Dear God, “he exclaimed as he jumped back a few feet. “Andrew, can you see anything moving on my knees.” He asked.

Andrew looked down and said, “No, why are you asking?”

“Because I can see some damn great worms in this soil and I was kneeling in it.”

Andrew and Sarah and Lady Lindsay burst out laughing before Sarah explained and said, “There are microscopic insects on all things.”

He replied, “Is that right? Then maybe I should have washed my hands after touching that fish before eating. Now that I have that information it will put a new perspective on how I fish for trout and eat.” Once again Sarah and Andrew burst out laughing.

“Do you eat a lot of trout, Kevin?”

“I eat a fair amount but I like salmon as well, my Lady.”

“Salmon is not cheap though, Kevin.”

“You are so right, my Lady, and I am glad I get mine free.”

“You do, where from?” Lady Lindsay asked.”

“I have my own river and ponds, I also have my own breeding tanks, that            are very crude but they work for me.” 

“I think we will have a Trust outing tomorrow and you can show us your estate, Kevin. I have often wondered where and how you live.”

“Okay I will meet everyone here and we can go in the crew vehicle, I will give mine to Dave for the day. One thing you must remember, my house is tidy but don’t expect it to look like the lounge in Stuart House.”

“Right then, we will all be here at ten a.m. now I have something to tell you all. The new village hall will soon be finished, and I have been told the village curator will be moving to the new hall in three weeks. The trust has bought the old property and is going to turn it into a museum. You might have seen all the vans next door from time to time doing work. They have been replacing the security, window catches, and locks because of the contents that will be inside.”

“There will be two offices at the rear one each for Kevin and Andrew. You have no need of one, Sarah, as you are here right next door. It is because the museum will generate a lot of revenue for the trust and because of the contents why there will be security both day and night inside the building.”

“You three are its curators during the tourist season, so you had better get yourself up to date on your history.”

“Well I am trying my hardest, my Lady.”

“I was not referring to you, Kevin. I was talking to Lady Armstrong.”

First there was a look of shock on her face before Sarah looked at the grins and said, “I dare anyone to laugh.”

Saturday 24 March 2018

Guardian Angel (Three)

Morag had walked the short way down the lane to visit her mother. Douglas had just eaten breakfast and was having coffee when Drummond entered. “Sir, there is a call for you from Brown and Peters solicitors. There is a Mr Brown speaking.”

“Thank you, Drummond, I will take it in here.” He picked up the receiver and said, “Lord Stuart speaking”

“If it is convenient, my Lord, Peter Sanders and Mrs. Rogers will meet us at mid day at Stuart house regarding the forests. However if your diary is full I can schedule another day and time.”

“No mid day will be fine, Mr. Brown.”

“Then we will be leaving now so that we are ready for when they arrive.”

 “There is movement in the Clan Douglas, Ahearn, but it is not by those you would expect. There are those poisoned with hate that is hell bent on revenge for their lost battles. There are only ripples in still waters, but your enemies are seeking help from foreign powers to build up a storm.”

“So, Marie, what you are saying is the Douglas’s are getting help from other families.”

“No, I don’t think I said that, Ahearn. I was telling you to be on your guard against -people trying to make a mountain from a molehill. Not all your enemies have the name Douglas.”

“Why are you so confusing and hard to understand, Marie?”

“I am not hard to understand, it is because you always try and put faces to my warnings.  All that I sense is the vibrations of their marching feet.”

Andrew had received a call from Lady Lindsay and was told to meet her near the croft where Douglas was having the forest removed. He pulled his vehicle to a halt just before she arrived. Her motor pulled up beside his and he left his and after walking around her motor he sat in her passenger seat. “Is there a problem, my Lady?”

“I would like you to take a look at this crofter’s cottage, Andrew. This one like the one on Steeple Crag has been made too well to be just an ordinary cottage.”

This was the first time Andrew had seen this crofter’s house because of the shooting and all of the trouble that he had up on Steeple Crag. Willie had pulled all the roots out and levelled the ground a little, but it was the wrong end of the year for the grass to grow. Willie was now working up near the boundary and on seeing them he walked over and spoke.

“Good day, my Lady.” He looked at Andrews badge and said, “You must be Andrew that was with Lord Stuart that fatal day. “ He put out his hand and they shook. “I have no idea how long you will be here but we have two explosions scheduled today. There is mostly bed rock under these trees some way down. But the tap roots find a crack and follow it. I will let you know when they are taking place so that you can get clear.”

“So that you don’t have to walk through the mud I have left a small walkway over on the other side. If you are going to need more people there at any time I have some rolls of aluminium roadway I can put down for you, my Lady. I can send one of the crew back to get one if needed. As you are the trust there will be no charge, to be honest it will be the first time I have used it.”

“Thank you, Mr. MacNab; it would be helpful if you could.” They walked along the side of where the forest had once been standing and stopped where there was a semi grass and needle track just wide enough to walk along.

There was a heavy oak door still hanging in a frame but the hinges were seized. There was a lock on the inside but no key, because a key was too much to expect after all the amount of years. There were three rooms in the small building. There was one long one in the front with a fire in the centre. On the right hand side of the fire there was a doorway into a smaller room. There was another small room on the left that also had its own doorway.

Andrew looked at the roof and it was built with the same giant thin slabs of stone sitting on oak beams. He was shining his torch onto the ceiling in the back room no different than he did in the other small room. He knelt on one knee and removed the needles that had been blown in and the stone floor was there once more.

 Andrew stepped back into the main room and looked about and Lady Lindsay just watched as he concentrated on all he saw. There was a window on the north wall that was no more than a spy hole, but the one on the south wall was a foot square. In the stone top and bottom of the slit window on the north side there were grooves, and Andrew went down on his knee. He removed some of the needles and found a chip of wood that had seen better days. He carefully put the chip back down on top of the needles and spoke his first words. “That is very clever.”

He looked at the fire place that was an exact replica of the one on Steeple Crag. This one also had its own stone chimney in the rear wall between the two rooms. Willie came over and said, “I think you will be okay here because we are one-hundred and fifty paces away, but it might be safer if you step outside while the explosion takes place.”

They both walked out and walked about the building until they were the other side, or at the back to be more precise. “Without measuring the building, my Lady, I would say there is a bit missing. I think there is another room between the two smaller rooms. I have a theory about the two buildings, but until I have done a little more research I would rather not say too much.”

“It might be a good idea to put a high wire fence about it for security from large animals. I don’t think any of the two legged type will venture this way, and whatever is in that centre room will be safe until we need to explore it. I need a small sieve the same as Jean had on that first building and a vacuum cleaner. Those needles will have to be checked much the same as the other cottage. I also need the oldest map of Scotland the trust has.”

“I am sorry, my Lady, but I was presuming you wanted me to look into this for you, and this might be your project.”

“They are our projects, Andrew, and the senior people in the trust are impressed with your work and knowledge. I have been told to inform you that confirmation of your appointment will be made in a few weeks making you permanent staff with more money. You have to realise that I will now be taking a back seat on these projects as I am being promoted to the board of directors soon. I will still head the investigation department but less work.”

“I offer my congratulations, my Lady.”

“I am still on the end of the phone if you need me, as I have a lot of contacts I can call on. I will get Kevin out here with a hut and the tools that you need. He can put the wire security fence up while he is here.”

“Because of the work I am doing for Lord Stuart he has allowed me a room at the back of the house to use as an office. I think it was an office of some sort at one time because of the desk and the book case. As soon as Peter gets the hang of everything I will go and live with my mother. Although Lord. Stuart has told me there is no rush for me to do so. I just feel that I am imposing on his generosity but I do appreciate what you have both done for me, my Lady.”

“You have earned your place working with me, Andrew, and we have done nothing except find you work suitable for your qualifications.”

Douglas was talking to Mr. Brown when Drummond announced the arrival of Peter Sanders and Mrs Rogers. Drummond held the door open while they walked through.

Douglas and Mr. Brown stood up and they all shook hands and introduced each other. “Would you please sit down,” He pointed to the sofa before he said, “Would you ask Victoria to bring a pot of tea and china for four, Drummond.” Miss. Rogers was older than Douglas imagined and looked the same age as his adopted mother.

It was after they had finished their tea when Sanders opened his mouth. “Before we start, my Lord, I would like to say that if you have ideas of cutting those trees down as your own you have misunderstood our reason for meeting you. Just because they have been planted on your land by mistake does not make them your property, if that is what is on your mind then we might as well leave.”

“Who are you representing, Mr.Sanders? Is it Miss, Rogers, or the people that are leaning on Sir William while he is in custody?”

“I am not sure what you are talking about, My Lord.”

“Oh I think you do, Mr Sanders, because you are a criminal lawyer and only work with the criminal fraternity. I will give you a little bit of advice that might clear your uninformed mind. Sitting next to me is Mr. Brown, and he has worked with litigation cases many times. If I was in Miss. Rogers position I would listen very carefully to what I have to say. You as a representative of Douglas Forestry have no legal claim to the land or the trees. However I have a way that is I think the only way to solve Sir William’s money shortfall.”

“If you interrupt me before I have finished then I will send you out of this meeting. I don’t think Miss. Rogers cares any more about those trees on my land than I do. She is making the transition of the money that you receive look like a legal transaction. However, your real clients would like some return for the money they invested even if it is only fifty percent.”

Miss Rogers was smiling at his remarks and the way he had placed Sanders on the back foot. “What do you propose, my Lord?” She asked.

“You and I would like those trees not to be there, but you do not have the finance to get them cut. If you had the Finance Willie MacNab would not do the job because of all the bad blood between Douglas Forestry. I on the other hand have the finances and the services of Willie MacNab.”

“I have heard enough our meeting is at an end and we are leaving, you are not touching those trees Stuart.”

“I told you once before Mr Sanders to respect my title or stay out of my house. I do not really care if you want to leave or not, but if it comes to a court case the judge would be asking Miss Rogers what firm of idiots was instructing her. Now shut up because the only person leaving here will be the person that should be staying. So unless you would like those same people leaning on you that are leaning on Sir William, then stay seated and listen.”

“If you listen to your legal brief Miss Rogers then you will be in court for a great many years. I will cut the trees down....”

“I told you Lord Stuart, you will do that over my dead body. I am going and taking with me my client.” He stood up to make his point.

As he was doing so Douglas had pressed a bell, and moments later Drummond walked through the door. “Drummond my guests are leaving, would you please show them out.”

“Come, Miss. Rogers we will go.”

“I am not going anywhere, Mr. Sanders. I never came here to walk out before I hear what proposal Lord. Stuart is suggesting.”

“I said we are going, Miss Rogers now come with me.”

She stood up in a flash and slapped him across the face, “Who the hell do you think you are talking to? Get out to your damn motor and wait for me there and Vlad will be hearing of your conduct. I was told to deal with this problem, and you are only here to assist. You will be assisting me by getting out of my sight. Start finding a way to minimise William’s sentence.”

The welt across his face with shock, and fear at the name Vlad was unmistakable. He scurried away out of the room, and Douglas waited for her to be seated once more and hear the front door close.

She laughed and said, “That was very un-lady like, my Lord. I would like to hear what you propose, and it will be me that will say yes or no. I am a qualified barrister and know all about litigation. I am bad with money management but not with the law.”

“I know that you are pre-empting my actions which was a very shrewd move, my Lord, which tells me you are no fool not that I ever thought you was.”

“Miss Rogers, you need those trees cut and out of the way, and so do I. I believe that the real partners of Sir William are seeking financial retribution for all the plants that were destroyed. There is eight hundred hectors of your trees on my land and I want them gone A.S.P. they have been on my land for over twenty years, but I will say twenty years for arguments sake.”

“I have ten tenants that have lost a lot of money over the last twenty years because of those forests. So I am going to charge you ten pounds per hector for the last twenty years. The money will be split between my tenants in compensation. I will have Willie MacNab cut the forests and put the land back into grazing. After the forest has been cut down you will receive the money for the timber. However, that will be after Willie MacNab’s wages are paid along with the rent for that forest.”

“There is a very good chance that if you go into litigation you will lose, but you will be fighting for the same thing as I have just offered you.”

“That is a very good offer, Lord Stuart, and I would be a fool not to take it. I just want to see the back of the forests and start living my life again. The other forests are mine and are on my land, when I bought this place thirty-five years ago those trees on my land were only a foot high.”

She saw the expression on his face and said, “Yes, Lord. Stuart, the house and all the land with it are mine. William married me for my money and land, but even though he was a bad man at times to others he always looked after me. Your mother was shrewd and very fierce. You might not believe it, but I was here the morning she took William by the throat and shook him like a rag doll.”

She started to laugh and said, “I shouldn’t laugh really, but I keep thinking of the look of shock on his face. The men that came with him jumped in their car and left him to fight her.”

“What were you doing here, Miss Rogers?”

“That really is the best part because I rode down to warn her that William was not pleased and would be down mid morning. We were in the lounge having coffee when he arrived.”

“Did you go home with him afterwards?”

“Good heavens no, Rowena and I was half way through a conversation and I had not finished my coffee. During the time she was shaking William about by the neck, I was at the top of the steps laughing. That night William went into a huff and wouldn’t talk to me except call me a Jezebel every time he looked at me.” She was laughing as she was talking.

“He could be so childish at times. He is not bad but easily led, and when he met Vlad his silent partner he went submissive to all Vlad said. Vlad really is bad and I think he is Russian mafia, but I would not say that to his face.”

“Are you not worried that Vlad might not come after you, Miss Rogers?”

“That will never happen and he is leaning on William so that he does not lose face, because at the end of the day Vlad and William were very good friends. He will look after him while he does his time and he will see him okay on his release. Vlad told me on the phone this morning that if he gets twenty-five pence in the pound it will be good.”

“The man is filthy rich and if I opened my arms he would be in them, but I will stick by good old faithful William. Someone has to look after him in his old age. He wouldn’t let them grow that shit in my forests on my land, but I promise you, my Lord, I had no idea at all about the plants.”

“The good thing about all of William’s troubles was he was only the chairman, and the book keeper was the dealer and director in charge of the company. William is looking at five to ten years, and he might return to me as a better person. I will not hold my breath though.”

“If you phone me when you have drawn up some papers I will ride down and sign them.”

Andrew had waited for Kevin to arrive with the things he had asked for. On arrival he said, “After Lady Lindsay told me where you where and what you were going to do I put the generator and lighting from Steeple Crag on the trailer. Dave has the truck and is taking down the hut and he should be here soon and we will get this fenced off.”

“Well done, Kevin, you are a very important part of my team now that Lady Lindsay has been promoted. How are you getting on with my mother and your English lessons?

“I have done the test and passed, but your mother told me not to get cocky as there was a long way to go before I was at GCSE standard whatever that is. She said it will take a few months of nights and weekends before I will be ready to pass. I am enjoying doing the work she sets me. I get a little ribbing from Dave and the crew, but it is not nasty and what do they know?”

“Good for you, Kevin, I am glad you are seeing the benefit of education. Once you have set the lights and generator up I will go in and take a proper look. At the moment I would rather everyone stay outside until Mr. MacNab lays the aluminium matting on the ground. I don’t want a lot of new mud mixed with the pine needles.”

“As soon as Dave gets here with the other two crew members we will get the fence posts in. The wire fence is on the truck as well. The cottage at Steeple Crag has a twelve foot wire security fence about it at the moment. Scottish electric laid a ground cable and there are now soft security lights on top of the fence. I don’t think anyone would go there this time of year, because it is a very cold place. Lady Lindsay said you asked for a map, and I picked that up at the depot when I went there, it is on the front seat along with the sieve.”

It was during the time Andrew was in the front of Kevin’s motor when Willie arrived with a truck with a big roll of aluminium arrived. A JCB arrived with it and unloaded it onto the ground. Willie went to the crofter’s house and stepped out fifty long paces that brought him to the end of the soil. He showed the driver where to drop the roll before he got three of his men and Kevin to push the roll forward. It stopped rolling two foot from the wall he turned to face Andrew and put his thumb up.

Andrew stepped from the vehicle and walked over, “Thank you, Mr MacNab. That will save me a lot of mess to clean up.”

“I will leave it there over the winter, Kevin, as I have more than enough rolls left in the yard.” 

He walked off and Andrew walked to where the crew was setting up the generator and lighting. Half an hour later Kevin switched on the generator and put his thumb up. Andrew looked about the room and started on the pine needles putting them through the sieve onto a sheet. He like Jean had done had started at the door and worked his way inside.

He had cleaned half of the room across to the north window where the chip of wood was still on the floor. He had found nothing but it was as he stood up off his knees when he spotted an abnormality. The inside of the walls were flat even though they were made of small stones with some not a lot bigger than a house brick and some a lot smaller.

The walls although made up with odd size stones were flush and flat but there was one stone near the slit window that stuck out like a sore thumb. Andrew touched it and felt the movement and pulled as he wiggled it about, and it slipped out of the wall. He looked at the stone and could see that it had been snapped in half at the rear.

He had to go and get his brief case that he had foolishly left in the motor and pushed the stone back into place. It was a short time before he returned to the cottage where he picked up the sieve once more and started on the floor the other side of the door. Like the first half of the room he cleaned it down to the stone floor. When he was standing looking about the room he felt pleased with only the two back rooms to clean, and they were nowhere near so heavy in needles.

He had not found anything, but he had not expected there to be anything to find. The men that had been looking after the marijuana plants had been using it to eat in. He had put his brief case on the small fire place and now he opened it and took out his pencil beam torch. He spent twenty minutes looking about the outside edge of the floor but the wall was tight to the floor.

He then remembered the stone in the wall and because he had put it back in place correctly it took him a while to find it again. On pulling it out he took it close to the light and looked at it better. There were markings at the edge where it had been struck by something hard on one side. It was no accident why the stone was broken and Andrew walked it back to the hole it was removed from. 

Out of curiosity he shone the torch into the recess expecting to see the other half of the stone. It was not there, instead there was a tiny leather purse but as he went to remove it he stopped and placed the stone back in its hole but left it sticking out like he had first found it. Grabbing his camera he took pictures of the stone from all angles, then after taking it out of the hole he took more pictures of the stone and the marks about the broken edge.

He placed the stone in a plastic bag before putting it in his brief case. After returning to look at the hole left by the stone he took more pictures before slipping his fingers in and gently lifting the purse out. For its age the leather was in very good condition but it was also dry and looked very delicate. He decided he would take it and show Jean when he had returned to the house and put it in a plastic sample bag as well. 

Andrew stepped out of the cottage for some fresh air and looked to the west of the building. There was a pile of stones in between the tree stumps near the house that because they were so close Willie had declined to move. He walked over to where Willie was standing near a machine that was being repaired. “Mr. MacNab, what is that pile of stones over there near the cottage?”

“The pile was there long before we started cutting the trees, and as the pile appeared to be shaped we avoided them when felling the trees. We just cut the trees and lifted them out of the way leaving the stones untouched. I am not an expert but it looks like it was a building at some time, but by looking at the way the earth has covered most it was not in the last hundred years”

“Thank you, Mr. MacNab, I will go and take a look.” As he walked over he could see that Kevin had most of the fence posts up, and he walked over to him.

“Kevin, do you think there is a chance that you could leave what you are doing. I believe the weather is supposed change again this week for rain followed by snow. While the trees were there the cottage was protected from the harsh weather, but now I think things might change. We don’t need anything as big as the cover on Steeple Crag, but a type of scaffold porch erected in front of the door and a wooden post either side of the south window with a board nailed to them to stop animals and snow getting inside. I think to be on the safe side sheets could cover the roof but the roof I think is no different than the one at Steeple Crag.  If you need to check with Lady Lindsay then do so.”

“There is no need, Andrew. She told me that you had the same authority as her and to help you as if I was helping her. Should I really be calling you Andrew if that is the case?”

“Kevin, you are my senior foreman and stop being daft. Don’t you ever wonder about these buildings we are working on?”

“Well its funny you asked that because your mother asked the same thing and when I said I knew a lot about the history of Scotland she started asking me a lot of questions. I must have been correct on a few because she never told me different, instead she started to teach me history while reading and writing. The books I read now are history books, and if I get stuck on a word she tells me what it means.”

“Now that is interesting, Kevin. How soon can you do all I ask?”

“I will leave Dave in charge and go to the yard and pick up the things we need on the truck, I think we could have everything done by tomorrow night.”

At the same time Kevin left for the yard, Andrew walked over to the piles of stones. He walked about them for several minutes before he took out his note book and started writing. The camera was still about his neck and he took pictures from all angles and directions before he returned to inside the cottage and removed the pine needles in the other two rooms.

Once he had finished he stepped back to look about the floors and felt satisfied with what he had done. It was late afternoon and the nights were drawing in, and when Kevin returned it was almost dark. “Just unload the Scaffold, Kevin and call it a day. I have to go and see my mother before I go back to the house and I will see you in the morning when you and I will talk more.”

He walked into his mother’s house and sat down at the table. “You look tired, Andrew, you are not working too hard are you?”

“No, Mother, I was just on my way home, but Kevin told me that you are teaching him Scottish history as well as English.”

“Well that is not exactly true, but I am letting him read Scottish history because as you know reading helps you to learn how to write and spell. Kevin is a lot like you in the way he learns fast and is hungry to learn more. As for his history, well I think working with Lady Lindsay has taught him a great deal.”

“He also learned a lot of history from his parents but only in conversation. I am expanding his knowledge and I would like to see where it takes me, because I see a great potential in him. I am writing a paper on teaching the illiterate and my experiences, but at no time will I mention his name or who my subject is. It will not be published for a great many years and by then Kevin will be well educated. He has told me more about Steeple Crag than you have, and he even gave me a theory as to why it was there. To my surprise it had nothing to do with the weapons that you found, it was far more practical.”

“Why are you asking me these questions about Kevin, has he done something wrong?”

“No, Mother. I will not ask what his theory is, but I will let him tell you tomorrow what I have decided. I must go because I need to change and eat.” He gave her a kiss on the cheek and went out to his vehicle.