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BlackEagle Girls

Chapter 11 - Henry to the rescue

'Good heavens, what's the matter with the pair of you?' exclaimed Granny Black at breakfast the following morning. 'You look as if you hadn't had a wink all night!'

'Neither of us could sleep,' answered Priscilla honestly.

'No, we were both very restless last night,' said Monique, idly staring at a freshly picked red rose in a little glass stem on the table. 'I think Priscilla is nearly as worried about my Mother and Father as I am,' she added, so as to gain sympathy

'Oh, of course she is, and so are we all,' replied Amelia, sliding fried eggs onto their plates. 'But that shouldn't keep you from getting a decent night's rest. I think that what you both need is some fresh air and exercise, there's certainly more to be done in the garden...'

The two girls exchanged glances. All they really wanted to do was find a sunny spot under a tree and doze. In truth they had been awake for several hours through the night, not daring to shut down the strange contraption they had managed to open with the peridot ring for fear they might not be able to re-open it. This proved true, because when at last they removed the chain the metal folded up and refused to budge again. Even so, the girls had covered several pages of an exercise book with diagrams, notes and copies of the symbols contained within the three dimensional surfaces. They also discovered that if they switched off their torches the open box-like object glowed with its own self-luminous property and was all the clearer for them to study.

Later that day, they did actually sit down together on a seat in one of the arbours where they had been cutting back invading ivy. They were both feeling weary, although the cool apple juice they were sipping refreshed them somewhat. 'I've been trying to make some sense out of that metal gizmo, but I can't even figger what the heck it's supposed to be, or what it's for,' Priscilla said, breathing in the faint fragrances of the overgrown garden in late afternoon.

Monique gently waved away a lazy bee humming around the brim of her straw hat. 'It reminded me of the interior of a miniature room with lots of little cabinets and doors, I mean they were actually filled with information of some sort...'

'If you could read it,' said Priscilla, 'all Greek to me. But I was thinking that the metal case, when it was open, was like a sort of computer, you know, where you can store stuff on files.'

'Perhaps after we both have a good night's sleep we will be better able to think?' suggested Monique, finishing her juice.

'Yeah, and there's still the letters that were in the bag with the loose photos. I'd like to read them too. Oh well back to it, dinner and early bed for me,' Priscilla mumbled, grasping at a pair of garden shears.

That late afternoon Mathew and Rachael arrived home within an hour of each other, looking forward to a night away from their work, but the evening meal turned out to be a general whinge-fest. They all ate together at a large, oval black-wood table in the dining room, which was now cleared of packing crates, (at last) and the conversation revolved around searching for television and video remote controls, missing shoes, things hidden in kitchen drawers, ironing that suddenly vanished, only to be discovered in a basket in the pantry, and a bag containing Rachael's rehearsal clothes, that had found its way to the rubbish bin.

'Really! I thought that my property could be regarded as sacred!' Rachael exclaimed, setting down her wine glass with a flourish.

'Irish Mollie wouldn't care what you thought,' said Amelia Black, and anyway, I suppose she saw that old brunch coat and slippers and all those other frumpish things and figured they were for the bin...'

'Frumpish things! For the bin!' Rachael spluttered, 'Why they're my...my...props...Mathew...'

'And what about my welcome banner for Monique?' said Henry, gnawing at a chicken leg, 'When I got Mum's things I had to fish that out of the rubbish too!'

At this Priscilla and Monique both winced.

'Couldn't find the game C.D,s either until just before,' managed Louis between mouthfuls of salad.

'Well at least they were in with the T.V. remote control,' Mathew said, attempting to diffuse the situation. 'Anyway, what's for desert Mum?'

Granny Black, sniffed. It was one of those long, long versions of a sniff that seemed to take in all and everything about it so that it completely encompassed her inner thoughts and dismissed anything that anyone in the vicinity might dare to say. After all, she was a staunch supporter of Irish Mollie, even if they couldn't be in the same room together, their personalities being so similar, because any cleaning help, albeit the cyclone variety of Mollie Bergen's was better than doing it yourself. 'Black Christmas pudding!' she exhaled.

'Have you found anything of interest, any clues yet?' asked Monique as she turned a yellowed page of an old letter and began reading on.

'I think so,' said Priscilla, scanning the lines of the letter she was studying.

It was Saturday morning and breakfast was over, the two boys were helping Mathew clear out one of the overgrown sheds hidden amongst the shrubs and bushes at the far end of the back garden and Grandma Black was busy in the kitchen sorting out lunch and dinner. Rachael was stationed at an ironing board doing something she absolutely loathed, whist savagely muttering lines and using the iron as a telephone from time to time.

'Listen to this,' said Priscilla, sitting up from her prone position on the bed and pulling a pillow around to support her shoulders, ' "...thankyou and Bella for all your efforts. Both of us have managed to secure positions as tutors, teaching at the university and we feel that this situation will avail us ample opportunity for our mutual goals to develop and flourish. We have also made contact with several others of our community and you will be pleased especially when I tell you that Na'ir al Saif is now working in a Children's Welfare Centre. It is also pleasing to know that our latest arrivals have docked without incident. The unfortunate events of a year ago, even though they were reported at some length, have been covered by our contingency strategy. We take note that you have seen fit to adjust your presence accordingly. Please excuse this cumbersome mode of communication however, as we are all aware, the programme must be adhered to. Until we meet again, may all our intentions avail. Do say hello to H." ' Priscilla paused and the look on her face showed mystification. She continued, 'Its signed, "Your Citizens." '

' Whatever does that mean?' said Monique.

'Whatever does this mean, you mean,' Priscilla was pointing to the bottom of the page, then she turned it round so that Monique could see, 'look at those symbols at the end, beneath "Your Citizens," they're like some of the gobbledegook we copied out of the silver envelope.'

Without a word Monique fetched the exercise book that they had used to copy down the symbols from the silver sheet and laid it out alongside the yellowed letter.

'There are six funny signs for each word,' Priscilla noted, 'I wonder...what about the two names on the photos? What were they?'

'Umm, I cannot remember, here though, I think they were in the first album. I'll get it out...' Monique stretched into the back of the wardrobe and extracted the book. 'O.K. Here is the one, let me see now...' she began to flip through the pages, 'Ah yes, this is the picture, and the caption says Aludra and Mirsam.'

'Right. Alright!' said Priscilla, scanning between the words and the symbols. 'The symbol at the beginning of the first word is the same as at the end, like in Aludra and this other first symbol in word two is the same as at the end, and the A symbol second from the end, see.'

'So we can guess one...two...five...altogether eight letters of the alphabet from these two...how you say...gobbledegook's?'

Priscilla laughed, 'Very good Monique, you catch on fast, but I suppose even having eight letters out of our twenty-six letter alphabet doesn't help much, especially if whoever these guys are speak a totally different language.'

'That is true...Hmm...unless the symbols from the silver box were just in code, but it will take us some time to compare what we have in order to see,' said Monique, doubtfully.

Priscilla nodded rather glumly. 'Well, what have we got so far? A fantastic out-of-body experience, two open doors and a vision of a little black dog. Then a chain and ring and two more funny visions of an eagle and pitch black...'

'But the ring is a peridot and our birth-stone and has some other strange coincidences...'

'And a broken house sign that turns out to be Roswell, and photos with Bella Roselli wearing the chain and ring and a little black dog often in the background, and dates on the pictures that just happen to coincide with something in Roswell New Mexico in Nineteen Forty-seven that never happened...' Priscilla shook her head, 'letters...this letter! Dated third of September, Nineteen Forty-eight. That's just over a year after...what do they say...um...yeah, "the unfortunate events of a year ago!"

'And what do they mean by "our latest arrivals have docked without incident?"

'And this, "you have seen fit to adjust your presence accordingly," and what about, "this cumbersome mode of communication?" Since when did they have emails or S.M.S. in the forties?'

Monique slipped the silver metal sheet out of the album's back cover. 'We also have this.'

'Fat lot of good that is, now it's clammed up on us.' Priscilla sighed, 'Guess we just have to go on looking for clues in the last of these letters and then try deciphering what we have in our notes...I wonder why they called the dog H?'

Late afternoon, lunch had come and gone, and the girls were still searching through letters, photos and the symbols that just wouldn't give up the hidden secrets that they held. Monique rolled over onto her back on the floor, staring up at the piece of paper she was holding, 'This one's only another electricity bill, along with all those other gas bills and water rates and...oh, I am getting a cramp!' She righted herself to gaze at Priscilla, who was sitting, cross-legged, looking vacantly at another letter. 'Nothing here, nothing much anywhe...'

'Girls! I want to speak to you right now!'

It was Mathew's voice, and he sounded annoyed.

'Yes Dad!' Priscilla answered, scrambling to her feet and hastily stuffing their ill-gotten finds into the wardrobe. In a matter of seconds both she and Monique had hidden everything and appeared outside their bedroom door.

Mathew, in company with Louis and Henry who were both looking none too happy, was standing at the bottom of the steps that led to the attic. 'O.K. girls. Come down here...Right, now I want an answer from you guys. Who went into the attic? Don't give me any guff. That broken step up there tells me that someone decided to ignore my warning.'

There was a bleak silence for a few seconds and Mathew said, 'It's only going to be harder on the guilty party or parties if you don't speak up now. I'll be forced to search your rooms for evidence and punishment will be forthcoming!'

Alarmed, Priscilla and Monique exchanged looks, then Priscilla sighed resignedly.

'It was me Dad,' Henry blurted out, 'I went up there, but I didn't take any of the junk...well except the broken name plate that's in Gizzard's cubby.'

'The what?' Mathew asked, puzzled.

'That's why me and Priscilla wanted to find out about the house Dad, we were curious about the name...' Henry lowered his head, his lip quivering.

Mathew's angry expression softened. It sort of melted away and he was left looking slightly nonplussed, the hint of a smile playing at the edges of his eyes. 'I see...I think.'

'Yeah, Mister Hildebrand told us the house name was Roswell...Like, we didn't beat it out of him or anything,' Henry mumbled, doodling his foot in the faint dust that had sifted down to the floor.

'You didn't beat...,' Mathew couldn't suppress a grin, 'and of course at the Real Estate office I suppose you also discovered our extra little surprise about the other block?'

Henry nodded without looking up.

Mathew put his hand on the boy's shoulder. 'C'mon, show me this name plate that Gizzard's hiding.'

'Wasn't his fault,' muttered Henry, 'he didn't do it, he's only using it for sitting on. Gee Dad, how bigga trouble am I in?'

'I'm considering that,' his father replied as they entered the boy's bedroom and he peered down at the little skink where it perched rather cheekily on one of the tarnished brass sections.

'Umm...Roswell you say, funny...there was a television programme...science fiction, aliens...' Mathew cleared his throat. 'Errm, anyway the name of our house is another thing. Is this all you brought down Henry?'

'Yes Dad.'

'And you didn't hurt yourself on the stairs?'

'No Dad. I was very careful, and when I came down I knew I'd get into trouble. I promise not to do it again... What's going to happen?' A single tear glistened on Henry's pale face.

Mathew folded his arms and pursed his lips. At almost the same moment Henry produced his own version of the pursed-lips look and both the relieved girls had to smother their giggles. Louis, who had been observing, simply shook his head with an expression on his face that read, 'he can't be getting away with this so easily?'

'Well, I suppose that since no real harm has been done and you're sorry about it...but if your Mum knew, she'd...umm...anyway, tomorrow your punishment is that you can help me start rebuilding that mess. Louis, you can have the day off, go on the internet, play games, take your bike and check out the neighbourhood. Henry, we'll start right after I take Priscilla and Monique over to Hedgeley Dene. We'll have to go and buy timber to replace the rotten treads, and some brackets and bracing for the handrail...'

'Mathew! Half an hour before dinner! Have you finished working outside? If so, it's time to clean up and make yourself presentable! Remember, Saturday? It's a roast tonight. I'm making an effort and so is Rachael. Your presence is required, and get those children moving!'

The rumble of Granny Black's voice subsided. In the fallout, Mathew suddenly seemed to regain his thoughts. 'Coming Mum!' he shouted, and in a lower voice muttered, 'I've been saying that since I was a kid. O.K. guys, better get ready for dinner, we'll do the measurements for the steps tomorrow Henry,' he added, heading off at a gallop.

Henry wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and then grinned mischievously, 'How'd I do? Saved your backsides with my confession I reckon. See I figured Dad might ground you both from tomorrow's excursion otherwise,' he said, looking directly at Priscilla and Monique.

'You knew that we also went up into the attic?' said Monique, surprised.

'A'course. I knew I didn't break the tread, and you two were here while Louis and me were at the dentist. Mollie was probably thundering around downstairs. You guys had a perfect chance to check out the attic. Get any good stuff, you know booty, me hearties?'

Priscilla shook her head, Henry's redoubtable ability to turn situations to his own advantage was amazing. 'We just...'

'Had a look around,' completed Monique, her mouth opening into a broad grin. 'But you are a very special boy for rescuing us.' She leaned forward and before Henry could dodge, kissed him on the cheek. He immediately went bright red.

'You dope!' said Louis, good-naturedly giving him a push to the shoulder that caught the smaller boy off balance and sent him sideways onto his bed.

'Geroff me Louis!' Henry cried, bouncing up, his face still glowing like a hot coal. 'I only did what any super younger brother would do. Better one of us gets into trouble than all three. Besides,' he added, rubbing his cheek vigorously in the vicinity of Monique's recent kiss, 'Dad's a pushover, and anyway he probably would have found Gizzard's gold eventually.'

'Brass, you mean Squirt,' said Louis in a superior tone. 'Boy, you never cease to amaze me; you can wriggle in and out of any situation, turn on the waterworks and end up winning: got into the attic, got the house name plate, got busted and got out of jail. I gotta hand it to ya.' The two boys slapped palms.

'Hang on, I'll be back in a second,' said Priscilla brightly, darting out towards the girl's bedroom. After a few moments she returned with a folded up magazine in her hand. 'Here's something I did claim as booty, I thought of you Henry and stuffed it into my shirt.' She opened the ancient Screen News and thrust it in front of Henry's beaming face.

'Wow!' he exclaimed, 'Betty Grable's Million Dollar Legs! Golly Louis, she looks...'

'Don't even think about Betty Grable's legs!' said Priscilla primly, 'there's an article in here on Errol Flynn and another about Roy Rogers' horse Trigger. You know, Roy Rogers, way back he was a singing cowboy in the movies.'

'Roy Rogers' horse Trigger,' Henry pursed his lips, 'Yeah...O.K...right. He's got good legs too.'

'And more of them,' said Monique, winking.


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