Powderfinger by Keller Yeats

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Chapter 25

Martha Waite, unannounced, calmly walked into his office with a Cheshire Cat grin on her face and punched the air in triumph.

“You’re looking happy Martha, what’s up?” asked Alan, quite intrigued, because in his experience she was never happy on this, or any other Monday morning.

“You’re not going to believe this one Alan, I’ve just opened a correspondence from the chaps at Rowanoak Place and.........” She stood there, with her arm silently stuck out with a letter in her hand. When it became apparent, that her feeble attempt at building the tension of the moment appeared to be wasted on her boss, she waved the piece of paper at him again and added, “It’s from the English Heritage people and it’s about your proposed dig down on the canal, at Gildabrooke,” she almost breathlessly spluttered. “They’ve O.K’d the proposal and a Mr. Jones will be contacting you A.S.A.P.”

Alan just sat there dumbfounded. “Christ, I only submitted that one, less than a month ago and I expected to wait a darn sight longer than this, before they got back to me. You’re sure it’s the Quaker dig, that they are talking about?”

Martha, nodded her head excitedly and confirmed it with a rapid, “Yes, yes. Read it for yourself if you don’t believe me.” With that, she placed the letter, with its Oak Tree moniker, on the desk before him. “National Trust, English Heritage, or Amnesty International, who cares. The dig, is going ahead.” She grinned at him again and coquettishly departed his office, closing the door behind her with a flourish.

“It’s like working with Betty Boop.” he chuckled, as he picked up the letter she had left for him to peruse. Alan liked working with Martha, she brought a little ray of light, to even the darkest of days and he smiled warmly again, as he looked at the letter, open on his desk. He’d read the letter twice but was still having some amount of difficulty, taking it in. He didn’t quite understand. 'Why has this proposal been acted upon so fast. There’s still some time before the redevelopment starts and these things often run concurrent anyway?' A slight frown appeared on his brow, as he mused over the possibilities of ulterior motives and the like. However, upon consideration, he concluded that conjecture was pointless at this time. So, he resigned himself to waiting for Mr. Jones to contact him before any of these questions may be answered. Any dates, or times could be settled then. 'Wow, this is really quite exciting,' he thought, 'I wonder if it’s got anything to do with us' and by “us,” he meant The Local History Society, 'getting the bridges listed?'

It did indeed have something to do with that achievement but mostly, it was related to the small matter of the Quaker Meeting House itself.

“You have mail,” said the annoying voice, that lived inside his computer and as usual, it made him jump.

“Shit, I hate that bloody thing,” he snarled, as the computer was finishing its programmed duty of informing him, that he had indeed received a letter, via e- mail. His heart, was just about returning to something that resembled normality, when the phone rang and startled him all over again. Alan, in his eagerness to answer it, almost leapt for the receiver but caught himself just in time.

“Whoa, steady does it, we don’t want to seem too eager do we?” So, he let it ring, twice more and then slowly picked up the telephone. He didn’t get much beyond,

“Good morn.....” before the voice on the other end of the line, intervened with a hearty,

“Yes indeed, fair set and it’s a very good morning to you, also.” Alan, was struck dumb, by the language that the caller used. It was just so old fashioned. Nobody talked like that any more. Who the fuck is this, his confused mind screamed.

“Is that you, Nicks,” asked Alan, demandingly.

“No Sir, please excuse my manners, I failed to introduce myself, it’s Nathaniel Jones here. I haven’t disturbed you, have I?” Then, unperturbed, the caller continued, “Could I please speak, to Mr. Alan Turnbull, if that would not be too much trouble.”

At this point, Alan, was wondering, if this guy on the phone was actually a Quaker, or not? However, that really didn’t matter right now because the Mr. Jones, who was on the line, sounded awfully authentic. So, Alan responded with equal civility,

“Yes Mr. Jones, Alan Turnbull here.” He left a polite gap before he carried on. “I’ve been eagerly awaiting your call this morning,” he lied. “It’s good, to hear from you.”

From that humble and somewhat confusing beginning, there ensued a flow of information, which Alan wished he could have recorded, for future reference. This apparently humble Quaker Meeting House by the canal, it seemed, was a very important site, for both The Quakers and The Shakers. It turned out that it was the oldest such meeting hall in England and had connections to Ann Smith and the origins of The Shaker Movement. This would hopefully, guarantee a prompt response from The Elders of both movements. So far, only Mr. Jones, of The Quakers, had contacted him and arranged a meeting, but he was internally throbbing with excitement, at the idea of possibly meeting a real honest to God, Shaker, in the flesh.

Alan, felt strangely smug, when he sat back and considered the full ramifications of this once hopeful enterprise, to get the four bridges listed by The English Heritage bods. The news, about the age and significance of the Quaker Meeting Hall complex, was truly amazing. Not only did this relate to The Quakers but there was a connection by way of the carpentry business, to the foundation of the more radical Shakers. Alan, had known little about the movement and he thought he recalled hearing something about, The Shakers, that these days were limited to a few remaining members, who lived somewhere in the bible belt of the United States. Be that the case, or not, they were all interested now and this could only mean, that the old complex, had a bright future............

Or, did it? What was it, that Nicks had said about disruption to the area around the bridges and the consequences, that had accrued throughout history, when the ground along the towpath was disturbed? Alan rationalised, that he would just have to wait and see if anything untoward happened once the work started. Then his mind shifted back to Sheila, the Black Crane Barge still anchored opposite the Ravens Gate Basin and he made a mental note to find out when that work would be resuming. It had already been considerably delayed by the present day string of murders.

“Hmm, it never rains but it pours, eh,” said Alan, “Must remember to tell Nicks though, or he’ll think that he’s being cut out of the story, if the work begins and he’s just watching it from the hostel window.”

At that precise moment, Nick was coming towards the end of another overnight shift and was trying to prepare himself for a second day in the company of Arch Deacon. Yesterday, had seemed a touch awkward but due to their previous meetings, the ice had already been broken. Many of the natural doubts and prejudices, that both Nick and Arch had of each other, had been somewhat overcome already. However, right now, Nick’s immediate interest lay in preparing for today’s handover of responsibilities at the hostel.

As the time had moved along, without any signs of a new appointment in the offing, the strain on the remaining members of staff, had really started to show itself. There were more ‘sick’ days being taken and the occurrence of having to pull a double shift, was becoming more and more, common. Thankfully, the residents, knowing that the wardens were under tremendous and ever increasing strain, conducted any illegalities far away from the grounds of St. Joseph’s. What that created, was a distinct escalation in the scale of the offenses but the increased clandestine quality of the perpetrators, kept attention away from the Hostel.

Nick found the day he’d spent at Peel Park, though long, was tremendously rewarding. Apart from his own searches of the detailed Police archives for references to the canal bridges and incidents appertaining to them, he found that he’d run across many and various incidents that were rendered hilarious by the passage of time and changing sensibilities. Nick, took copies of the best of them and placed them, surreptitiously, in a separate folder, for his later secret perusal. Many of the missing details he was seeking, were hidden away in the old Police records and most of them, had languished in dark cupboards for decades, before being transferred to the new location only to be scanned, logged and then simply packed away again.

Nick, knew he had his job cut out when it came to tying up all these potential clues. Thankfully, he had been enormously aided by Arch, who had been invaluable when he had requested access to the old case files, from so far back in time. Arch had explained to the incredulous officer, whilst handing over the relevant authorisation papers, that he needed to see them, “so that a Probation survey on the patterns of crime through the ages, could be completed on time” and grinning to his colleague, added “And this is the poor sap, who is going to do all the work.”

The Duty Sergeant, had just laughed and looking straight at Nick, sarcastically wished him “the best of luck,” and muttered something about, “you’ll need it,” while handing him the special key card and issuing Nick with a visitor code. With a “be sure everything was secure,” He turned away disinterestedly and carried on with his filing. As he processed along the row of anonymous boxes, that contained the details of recent cases, he stopped and called back to Nick, “Don’t forget to hand back that key card, or I’ll get shot.”

With all the relevant clearances were complete, Arch had shown Nick, the way to a small warm office in the lower basement, with 3 computers and a wooden table that almost filled the room. Arch, gave him a cursory lesson on how to most efficiently use the search engine and box filing system, then promptly excused himself under the pretences of “duties to complete and people to interrogate.” Then, as he was leaving, “I’ll be back as soon as things permit, if you need anything just bell me.”

Nick soon realised that the older records were only indexed with a brief summary on the computer. They gave a box file number for the full report. “Ah, now I see the need for the large table” he said out loud.

This trawl through the old records, had been delayed slightly by the date of Briscombe Sykes retirement. Alex Findlay, had suggested, it might be prudent, to wait until after that joyous event. He knew, that if The Commander got wind of something going on behind his back, he would surely put a stop to it. Now, the waiting was over and the research was underway. Today, Nick was fully prepared. He knew the dates he wished to look into and now he had got the hang of this new fangled set up, he was laughing.

Nick, quickly opened his briefcase, took out his report in paper form and laid it out on the table. What he discovered in the records, did not surprise him one bit. Report after report, over many decades, told of circumstances, that closely resembled the present day murders of Debra Foxx and Eleanor Ross. Occasionally, there would be a note from a long dead investigator, which said something to the effect, that “This had to be considered to be, another killing by The Phantom.”

This was truly fascinating stuff. Nick checked wether the dates were concurrent, or not. He also, looked for some form of indication of the date regarding ‘The Phantom’ report and found it in the top left hand corner of the item. July 17th 1755. 'Fucking stupid place to put it,' he thought, while eagerly looking to see if there was some connection, with the dates in his files. Once he had nailed the date, Nick quickly turned to his own notes. There it was, seven years after Florence Wilkinson and her ’Gin Genie,’ along came something that Watchman, Tommy Holder referred to as ’The Phantom’ and it appears, just as The Ravens Gate bridge is completed.

However, look as he might, there appeared to be nothing more mentioned about this incident. It seemed, that this observation had been simply thrown into the file and the case had then been closed.

“So, they had Briscombe Sykes characters back then as well,” he said as he smiled ironically to himself, then brought up another relevant case file and opened it.

Lying on the desk, before his eyes, was another report, submitted this time, by a junior Watchman and this one, told of the discovery of Henrietta Battersby’s body, floating under the new bridge, “with her throat brutally slashed and her body stabbed many times in some kind of bestial frenzy.” Out of curiosity, Nick entered the words, “The Phantom” into the search engine and clicked “go.” whilst he continued reading the Henrietta report.

“Ninety seven?” Nicolas, just looked at the screen, incredulity was written all over his face. “What the fuck?” he squeaked and then repeated his first statement. “Ninety fucking seven.” He looked down the list of possible hits. This could take quite a while he mused, as he cast his vision over the headings.

Two of the results instantly caught his eye. The Gildabrooke Watchmen Archive and a little further down the list, he came across the equally intriguing D.C Harrison “The Dead Water.” It was a novel, written by one of the Watchmen.

“Well, Nick, there’s no better place to start than the beginning,” he said and clicked on The Watchman Archive and waited for it to completely download before he began his search, for more information appertaining to The Ravens Gate and the other four bridges. Thankfully, for some unknown reason, the archive was fully digitised. Nick then began, a roller coaster ride, through the dark past of The Gildabrooke Watchmen. The archive was indeed a mine of information and told the reader, many stories about the daily duties of The Watchmen themselves. It carried a suggestion from the collator, that if the reader wished to delve deeper and discover more, they should obtain and read his novel “The Dark Water.” Nick chuckled, as he realised, that the Police “Person,” who had uploaded all this information, had just scanned it in verbatim, page after page, never actually reading any of it. They had missed Harrison’s own book plug.

D.C Harrison it seemed, was a retired Watchman, who had written his stories, post retirement in 1744 drawing on his insider knowledge of the Gildabrooke Watchman Units. In addition to his novel, “The Dark Water”, there were several short stories, about the exploits of “The Ragamuffin Vigilante” and various other tales of daring do by the heroic Gildabrooke Watchmen, which he didn’t doubt were often greatly embellished, by the author. Mr. David McCleavor Harrison, it appeared, was a vastly popular story teller of his day and Nick thought, this would prove to be endlessly fascinating stuff once you stripped out the drama. This chap D.C Harrison, was indeed, quite a prolific scribbler. As before, Nick patiently cast his eyes over the output of this man, chose what appeared to be the first of his tales and began reading.

He had barely scratched the surface, when his mobile phone began to vibrate in his pocket. 'Now, that could prove, to be a touch embarrassing,' he thought 'And distracting. Typical Alan, I should have suspected something would turn up, that was........How should I put it...... Distracting.' Nick, couldn’t quite remember, what he was doing, just prior to the gizzmo, going off in his trousers. Then suddenly, the damn thing, burst life again with its newly applied alert, that Hugo had downloaded for him, after he had praised him for his computer help. It had become obvious from the look on his face, that Hugo, was not going to be deflected, from offering his smart phone skills to Nick, so he had just left him to it.

The result was, “I, am Locutus of Borg, resistance is futile,” said in this other worldly voice, on his mobile phone. Initially, the message had seemed a touch pretentious, but the favourable responses he received from those who heard his new ringtone, prompted him to keep it. Between Locutus and the vibrator, Nicolas, had become quite a popular little Researcher.

He never realised that Hugo had paid him a huge compliment on his diligence and dedication to a task, with the Ringtone he’d chosen. Hugo, never told him he considered,

“That it may have been seen, by others, as a little crass.” “Typical Hugo,” thought Nick as he fumbled around in his pants, looking for the insistent, disembodied, vibrating voice in his pocket. “Gotcha,” stated Nick triumphantly, as he retrieved his mobile from it’s dark depths and answered it.

“Swann at your service,” he pronounced facetiously, as he clicked to the next page of the document and studied it.

“Nicks, it’s me, Alan.” He waited for a polite moment, before he continued. “I was notified, by letter, this morning, that the Heritage bods are going to undertake, that archaeological dig we talked about, in the unconsecrated graveyard by Quaker Crossing.” He paused before adding excitedly, “They’re going to dig up the old cemetery and within the next few weeks.”

Nick breathed out slowly and mouthed the words, “That means, the unconsecrated graves. ”

The concept filled him with a child like thrill, a mysterious tingling excitement ran up his back born of anticipation. “Wow, perfect timing, or what?” he exclaimed. “I’m just reading about the curious history of the area, that this guy D.C Harrison, based a whole novel on.” Nick, was already envisioning the two dead friends, who were fused together and buried as one single body, in an extra large coffin, that he knew were interned somewhere in the unconsecrated area of The Quaker Cemetery. Obviously, similar thoughts were running through both of their minds and in unison they said,

“The two dead girls.”

There was a silence as they both considered the possibilities but it was Alan who broke the silence, “Well, hopefully, there’s one thing this excavation will clarify and that’s the validity, or otherwise, of those old reports we found in the History Societies archives.”

Nick peered quizzically at the wall of The Computer Room and his brow crinkled into a curious frown. “I thought you said, you’d read and verified those documents?” He was not too pleased, or surprised by Alan’s reply.

“Well, not personally. It may have been in somebody else’s report but it’s a voluntary organisation and we’re required to have a certain amount of trust in each other, or it would all fall apart.” Nick, could see the logic in that, so he couldn’t justify expressing any recriminations to ‘altorro,’ right now.

“At least, we’ll get some clarification, on the validity of the local folk law and that, will be no bad thing,” he said, attempting to mollify this first point of contention, that had sprung up, between the two old friends. “Listen Man, this guy Harrison looked even further back than I did and I’m just trying to make some kind of sense of it right now.”

Alan, was both intrigued and puzzled. Why hadn’t he come across this stuff? “What does Harrison say about the bridges then. Anything earth shattering?” Alan asked worriedly, hoping against hope, that there was nothing harmful to the Four Bridges project’s reputation.

Nick, picked up on his colleagues disquiet. “There’s nothing that I’ve run across yet, to concern yourself with. Most of this stuff, comes from before they were even built, as far as I can make out but if we are looking for a starting point to the troubles, we are going to have to look even further back, than we initially thought.”

Alan, was growing ever more curious by the minute. “Further back than the Archives currently held by The Library?“ He asked. “Just exactly, how far back are we, or should I say you, looking at right now?” enquired Alan. He got a distinct sense of anticipation, as he waited for Nick to reply.

After a short but suspense filled pause Nick answered, “Right now, I’m looking at some sketchy reports of ‘disturbances’ in the area of Jenkins’ Field, dating back as far, as 1621, when they first started to extract Bitumen from the site.” Uninterrupted, he continued “and these sort of things, keep on happening, according to this, until 1705, when due to the exhaustion of the surface material, they began to dig deeper into the earth and the real trouble started.”

A sudden, un-natural silence fell between the two of them, until Alan broke the spell. “Tell you what, Man, how do you fancy calling round to my place again, in a couple of days and we’ll collate all of this stuff, over another get together. If that’s O.K. with you?”

Nick, smiled. “Friday evening again and I’ll do the cooking how does that sound?” With Nick’s confirmation, Alan bade him goodbye, accompanied by all the usual irreverences, then cut the call whilst Nick turned his attention back to his research.

He had barely re-established the essential ambience of ‘the research moment,’ when there was a gentle knock on the office door and the sound of someone, almost silently opening it behind him. Nick calmly turned to see who had entering the room so considerately and was pleasantly surprised to see Arch Deacons face, peering around the wooden doorframe.

“Sorry to disturb you but would you care for a drink and a bite to eat?” Nick looked around, hoping to locate a clock or something similar, to discover the time but Arch appeared to read his mind and added, “It’s five past one and the clock is on the wall directly above your head.”

Nick, just looked at the computer screen and exclaimed, “bloody hell, where did the time go?” He attempted to raise himself from the deceptively uncomfortable chair, that he had been sitting in for nearly three hours. His legs protested their case, as he stood upright. “Oooh, Jesus,” he moaned, as the pain in his muscles, cried out. “You’re not quite the man you used to be Nicolas,” he grunted, as he took the first hesitant steps towards the door.

Arch, as if to rub in his co-conspirators apparent decrepitude, blatantly held the door open for him, as if he were some kind of elderly maiden aunt. “Ha, ha, very funny,” said Nick smiling, as he stretched his back and pushed his arms upward, as if reaching for the sky.

“I thought so,” chuckled Arch, as he released the door handle and headed towards the station’s canteen, with the invitation, “Follow me, you won’t regret it.”

Once Nick stepped out of the small enclosed basement room, the smell of sustenance assaulted his nostrils and his stomach protested loudly, almost pleadingly.

“You know,” commented Arch, “I was expecting you to emerge from the cellar hours ago. In the end, I had to come down and get you. Either, those files are mesmeric, or you flaked out for a few hours.”

Nick, just grunted a little, as he recognised the smells, that were emanating from The Canteen. “I think, that I’ll have one of those,” he muttered absentmindedly as he pushed the swing doors open and entered the station’s ultra modern dining area. He sniffed the air, attempting to identify the source of the incredibly appetizing aroma.

Arch, instantly knew what he was doing. “Bacon and Tomato Toasted Muffins,” he offered and Nick simply nodded in agreement and salivating in anticipation, ordered two. “I’ll get the drinks, what do you want?” enquired Arch, as he diligently selected a Strawberry Cream Tart and placed it on his tray.

“Is the coffee brown and hot?” Nick replied. “If it is, I’ll have some of that, thanks.” The orders complete, they made their way to one of the quieter tables, to allow them enough privacy to talk without being overheard by every Tom, Dick, or Harry, that happened to be passing.

It was Arch who spoke first. “You seemed lost in that file, when I walked into the computer room. It must have been fascinating.” It was only an opening gambit, deployed in an attempt to stimulate conversation and Nick saw it for what it was, so made a sterling effort, to play along.

“Well, DS. Deacon, your two hundred and fifty, or so, year old spooky troubles, just got a little older.” He said, whilst looking for some reaction from Arch but found nothing, as his Lunch partner, appeared to be totally ensnared in the intricacies of sorting out the food.

“And?” mumbled Arch, as he reached over to retrieve the salt and pepper pots, from Nick’s tray who failed to respond quickly enough, so Arch asked again.

“And?” He repeated more insistently this time and emphasized the point, by waving his arms about as though he was encouraging Nick to hurry a little. “What did you come up with?”

Nick, on the second occasion, was ready for the D.S’s forthright style of interrogation. 'Right, now what was it I was saying?' Nick asked himself, as he reordered his thoughts. “Oh yeah,” he said and continued. “I found a document, that was written in, or around 1744 by a chap called D.C. Harrison, who was once The Chief of The Gildabrooke Watchmen. Believe it or not, he was doing roughly the same thing we’re attempting to do. He traced evidence of ‘disturbances’ in that area, back even before the canal was constructed, when only some minor surface activity at Jenkins Hollow, had been undertaken.”

With this new information, Arch’s head popped up and he slowly asked, “Just how much older are we talking about?”

Nick, was now starting to enjoy this moment in the sun, he held sway and DC. Deacon, was once again, intrigued. “How does a ballpark estimate, of let’s say, around 400 years sound?”

Arch, stopped chewing his Muffin and with a full mouth, spit out the words, “Fuffin’ hell, fats nundreds of years more,” he spluttered and then, failing to find a tissue, used his sleeve to wipe away any crumbs he’d sprayed onto the table top. He took a swig of his Tea and swallowed hard before continuing. “So, how much further does this thing go back?” he enquired and then sat back waiting for the next answer from Nick.

“I’m not absolutely sure just yet, I’ve got some more things to read up on but I would think, that it all begins, when the first sod was turned at Jenkins’ Hollow.”

Arch, appeared to be fascinated and seemed to be eager to hear more, of this tale. However, before Nick could continue, Arch waved his hand at someone behind his back, then made his excuses and hurriedly departed.

“Can’t hang around, too much work to do.” Then, as he was leaving, he turned and called out, “Nicky, I’ll call into your ‘cell’ later and you can tell me what you’ve found out.”

Nick, for his part, simply stared down at his empty plate and considered, what he had just heard. “Nicky,” he fumed internally, as all his long held animosities resurfaced. Only Hugo called him Nicky. “The nerve of the man. Who does he think he is?” His voice came out as little more than a whisper.

“He must like you,” interjected a female voice. “Usually, all I get is Westie but what can you do, this is Her Majesty’s Male Police Force after all?” Nick, stopped his private moment of indignation and looked up. There before him, was this seemingly gigantic woman, with short Mousey hair and an infectious smile. At first, he was a little thrown by her presence but he quickly gathered himself back together and asked, rather limply,

“So you know him then?”

He did not expect the answer, that she gave. “Yes, you could say that.” said Kayleigh, as she concentrated on unfastening the greaseproof paper bag, that contained her chosen lunch. She continued, “In fact, I suppose you could say, that we know each other, quite well.” With that, she smiled at Nick again and then confidently sat herself down, in the place that Arch had vacated minutes before and started to eat her own Bacon and Tomato Muffin. 'Maybe, this is the way things are in a Police Station,’ he mused as he took another mouthful of his cooling Coffee. Familiarity, it seemed was the order of the day, here at Peel Park. First, it was Arch, with his over ‘intimate’ use of “Nicky” and now this Amazon Warrior of a woman, had just parked herself opposite him and was simply sitting there devouring her lunch......Silently.

“You’re Nicolas Swann, aren’t you?” Surprised, by her knowledge, he raised his eyes and looked at her quizzically, over his glasses.

“Do we know each other because I’m sure that I’d remember you,” he emphasised the final word, before he finished the sentence, “if we’d met previously.” He thought, that she blushed slightly at his words. Once more, he perceived that his Irish Great Uncles advice, about how to deal with 'The Peeler’s when they come a knockin’, had paid off. “If you flatter the girlies and pretend to respect the men, then you won’t go far wrong in this world,” he used to say, as he stood by the front window, watching the world go by. As Nick grew older, Great Uncle Horace, used to come out with these sayings more and more often, whenever the young Nicolas would go round to his house, at the behest of his mother. She used to say it was to make sure that Horace was still alive.

However, right now musing about his old and very dead relative, was going to have to take a back seat. He was going to have to talk to this rather impressive Policewoman, who had inserted herself into this small piece of his life. Luckily for him, Kayleigh Western introduced herself before he had a chance to speak. He took her offered hand shook it firmly,

“Nice to meet you” he said politely.

Kayleigh smiled and continued “Arch mentioned, that a Probation guy, was coming in for a few days and I guessed it was you he was talking about.” The particular pair of spectacles he was wearing today, served many purposes. Nick considered they made him look more intelligent and somewhat aloof. That distance they gave him from others, could be a great comfort and sometimes, that space was essential, to allow for a moments consideration, before opening his mouth and potentially putting his foot in it.

“Yep, that’s me. The Geek from St. Joe’s.” He smiled at her, then in the same instant, finished off his drink and made the first motions to get up from the table.

Kayleigh caught his eye, “The glasses suit you, they make you look intelligent but if you hang around this place too long, nothing will save you.” With that, she rose from the table first and with a swift “See you around,” followed the same route as Arch had used to exit the canteen.

'Wow, she was a big un,' thought Nick, as he watched her disappear through the swing doors. Then, it was time to regather his thoughts again, as he tried to remember how to get back to The Computer Room to continue with his research, in peace.

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