Rick and Louie strolled through the park, racking their brains for any possible answer. Why were the Germans hiding in a secret cave? Why were they even here? After an entire morning of contemplation, they had still not reached a conclusion. Louie sighed, “Maybe we could ask? But Sir Thomas was clearly fooled if he thought the tall man was his friend… unless he’s an undercover German too?” Rick shook his head. “No, that couldn’t be possible. There are too many loose ends here. We need to tie some of them up.” Louie nodded slowly and muttered to herself under her breath. After a couple of minutes, she announced: “We need to investigate the crime scene. It seems obvious who has done it, but that is just too easy; this mystery cuts way deeper than the murder of an old woman. Sir Thomas gave us access to the Barlow, remember?”
The Barlow wasn’t quiet. People rushed around within its walls, using it as it should be used- as a public facility for sport and entertainment. Sir Thomas had promised to keep the large gathering hall- the one that was overlooked by the balcony- roped off until the two budding detectives had removed all the evidence they needed. Firstly, Rick and Louie ran up to the balcony. The doorway out onto it was on the right side as you walked in, whilst the balcony itself was slim and rectangular, with rows of fixed benches and sturdy-looking wooden posts lining the overhanging edge. The posts came up way too far for Alice to have fallen over casually. Rick and Louie stalked up and down the rows of benches, but there was nothing to be seen. They skirted the overhanging edge. Rick’s foot hit a hard, metal object. Bullets. Hidden in one of the balcony-posts. Louie’s face lit up. “We were right! It must have been a murder. Why would you stash bullets here unless you wanted to kill someone?” Rick smiled eagerly. A brass button also was found shoved beneath a loose post. It was engraved with an L. “Wasn’t Alice’s middle name Louise? It was probably hers and pinged off when she fell over,” Louie said. Rick puzzled over the button. Alice was a wealthy woman, thanks to her son’s work as a physician, and would have buttons made of more valuable metals… Rick shook the suspicion off. Louie lifted her nose to the air. “Something smells. Is there anything on the banister?” Rick looked: there was old cleaning polish residue on the wooden surface. Mabel had been dusting the balcony, so that made sense. Alice fell over the part of the balcony it was on. There were no further clues, and therefore they retreated back down to the large hall.
After being granted special access, Rick and Louie proceeded to scrutinize every surface of the hall. Alice had fallen-or was pushed- down there, and so blood was crusted to the wooden floor planks. No-one had been in here since she died, or so Sir Thomas had told them. The blood painted an outline of where Alice’s body had landed, which they needed, as the body had been removed for the funeral that Sunday. A piece of paper was stuck to the floor by the dried blood. It simply read: ‘They are here. Ring the bells from Robert’s Tower. Warning.’ Then there was some sort of equation. HMFR-MTB-GC= ZA! The initial message made sense: someone was here, and the bells must be rung from Robert’s tower to warn people. Who was here that people could need warning about? The note was in Alice’s handwriting. What did she know? And what on Earth did the equation mean? Louie looked at him worriedly. Alice must have been holding the note as she died. Another L button (like the one they had found on the balcony) was stained red by Alice’s blood. But there were footsteps leading towards the body. Ones that left through the door leading to the cellar. Sir Thomas had said that nobody had been in here, but clearly he was mistaken. The footsteps were fresh, only a few days old, and abnormally big. Rick remembered a pair of Edith’s shoes; they were oddly big just like the footprints suggested. And she worked here, so would have refuge in the cellar. Louie called over to him. “Look what I found!” it was a deflated beach ball, hidden beneath a loose floorboard near the cellar door. Rick recalled Edith mentioning Alice looking at a beachball in her interview. The clues were stacking up. Yet there was still plenty of puzzles to solve.
Ricks’ brain cells screamed in protest at their interrogation. Louie was continuously pacing up and down, stamping her feet in frustration. They simply could not make a deduction at all. And with the German cave up past Crowthorn School… anything could happen within seconds. No chances could afford to be taken. They walked past the Barlow’s vegetable plot. Alice had loved the plot. She had told them all about it: the patch of earth was dug up at the beginning of the second war, to compensate for the rationed food and the villagers’ growing food needs. The plot became a community project as part of the ‘Dog for Victory’ campaign, which was launched by the Ministry of Agriculture in 1939, and used propaganda to encourage people to grow their own food. It helped provide for the local families when the trade routes from foreign countries were blocked due to conflict. The Barlow was a second source of fresh produce, aside from the meagre rations the villagers received from the Post Office each week. Alice had described the enormous morale boost the campaign had bought the country. The plot had fallen into decay a few months ago, when Patrick Barlow died and the Barlow family abandoned the plot in favour of mourning their dead loved one.
Suddenly, Rick had an idea. “Everyone has to sleep sometime, right?” Louie just stared at him. “We need to sneak into the cave at night, when the Germans are asleep.” Louie’s eyes widened. Even with the obvious danger, the nostalgia of a possible breakthrough intoxicated them both.
The cave was dark. Uniforms hung from hooks on the stone walls, and the confusing-looking equipment was shut off. Radios, signal detectors, even plans for some kind of aircraft were on display. The Germans clearly were not expecting discovery. But what were they planning? “Rick?” Louie’s voice shook. A large piece of paper was pinned to the wall. The scrawled plans were indistinctly written, but their meaning was clear. The Germans were planning an attack. One that would leave Edgworth in dust.
To be continued…
Tune in next week for part four…
Author: Freya (age 12)