chapter 1
chapter 2
chapter 3
chapter 4
chapter 5
chapter 6
chapter 7
chapter 8
chapter 9
chapter 10
chapter 11
chapter 12
chapter 13
chapter 14
chapter 15
chapter 16
chapter 17
chapter 18
chapter 19
chapter 20
chapter 21
chapter 22
chapter 23
chapter 24
chapter 25
Chapter 1
The Channel Crossing.

Please note: Elké is pronounced Elkee.

Elké clung to the chain link fence that separated her from the port of Saint Malo, in France, and gazed up at the large floodlit Brittany Ferry Ship that would, hopefully, carry her to the coast of England. But how to stow aboard?
    Her bright green eyes studied the now inactive crane that had been loading cargo late into the night. High up, a thick cable from the outermost rigging had been pulled back and tethered to the criss-crossed steel upright.
    "It might be just possible," thought Elké.
    The darkened dockyard was now void of human activity for the Dockers had finished their work ready for the early morning sailing.
    Inside the compound, two large Alsatian dogs skirted the concrete bonded warehouse to the left, and sniffed the air. Elké's scent had carried to them on the warm, evening breeze. The dogs broke into a run towards the young girl at the perimeter fence, barking fiercely.
    Elké seemed unworried at the fast approaching danger. She was born and raised in a circus and had become the star pupil of Rossano, the famous tiger trainer.
    At last, the young girl turned her attention to the snarling dogs that were now only 20 metres distant. She casually put her tongue to the roof of her mouth and produced a piercing whistle too high for the human ear to detect. The effect on the two fierce animals, however, was startling. They immediately dropped to the ground, whimpering quietly.
    Elké smiled to herself and glanced at her watch. Eleven thirty. She tightened the small pack strapped to her back and easily scaled the fence, dropping lightly on the other side. The two large dogs continued to hug the tarmac as she approached. Kneeling down, Elké vigorously ruffled the thick fur at the base of their necks.
    "My! You're a couple of beauties," she purred. "Come on, let's go for a little walk."
    The two wolf like creatures obediently followed Elké to the base of the giant crane.
    She turned and gave them each a final pat. "This is where I must take my leave."
    The young teenager began to climb the huge crane. Pulling herself up by the massive girders, and using the numerous hexagon bolt heads as footholds, she soon found herself high above the ground and on a level with the top deck of the magnificent commodore class ferry in the distance.
    "That cable should be somewhere about here," muttered Elké. She glanced up and could just make out, in the darkness, a mass of cargo netting neatly wrapped into a bundle and hooked to the upright of the crane. A few moments later, the plucky youngster was astride the netting clutching the steel cable that disappeared off up into the night.
     Elké looked across to the great ship and suddenly felt dizzy. Only three weeks had passed since her mother had been killed attempting a spectacular acrobatic feat on the high trapeze.
    She wiped the tears from her eyes. "Papa, will you ever realize how hard I am trying to reach you."
    Elké unhooked the cable from its mooring and began the long swing towards the ferry ship. The wind tore at her face and eyes. Excitement mounted in her chest. Down, down, down to the nadir. Then up, up, up. The topmost deck rushed towards her.
    Excitement changed to fear as she realized the bundle beneath her feet would not clear the railing. Elké's grip on the cable was torn free by the impact. She flew over the railing and landed with a sickening thud on the deck.
    The daring girl lay still, winded but conscious. Slowly she moved each limb in turn. Only a dull pain throbbed in her hip. She gingerly got to her feet and limped along the deserted deck.
    "Now to find somewhere to hide until the morning."
     A number of large lifeboats, slung over the side, caught her attention. Elké grimaced from the pain in her side as she clambered on top of the nearest lifeboat, lifted up the tarpaulin cover, and scrambled in. She slipped off her backpack and searched for the torch.
    Inside, the lifeboat was amazingly spacious. Wooden benches ran along each side and at the back where she now stood. Underneath these were cupboards clearly labelled: emergency food, lifebelts, water, warm clothing, etc…
    Above Elké's head the tarpaulin was stretched tight to form a perfect, slanting roof.
    She quickly unrolled her sleeping bag and laid it on the nearest wooden bench. After slipping off her shoes Elké crawled, fully clothed, inside the fleecy lining. Soon she was fast asleep. The journey from her native Austria had taken four long, arduous days.

Elké was woken by the much beeping of horns, shrill whistles and shouting. She lifted the tarpaulin. The sky was that peculiar early morning leaden grey, and down below the dockyard gates had been flung open and four lines of traffic were converging towards the giant ramp that led into the ship's belly.
    On a higher-level, foot-passengers jostled on an elevated walkway eager to get aboard.
    "Time for me to make a move," said Elké, gathering up her things.
    She made her way along the still deserted deck and found a heavy steel door that opened onto a small landing, and steps leading down to the lower decks.
    Elké began to explore the magnificent ship: Bars, coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques in abundance.
    The boat quickly filled with passengers and the young stowaway mingled in without difficulty, eventually finding herself in the games room watching two boys, both dressed in blue school uniform, play a noisy game of pool.
    "You just touched my ball," shouted one, "you're a cheat."
     "Don't call me a cheat," replied the other, "just because you are losing." He turned to Elké and gave her a big grin and a wink. "Do you wanna play the winner?"
     Elké grinned back. "Sure."
    "That's certain to be me," he said, chalking the end of his cue. "Only the black ball to go. Come on Roger, out of the way, let the dog see the rabbit."
    He whacked the white ball with tremendous force up the table, smashing it into the black. The black ball, in turn, rebounded off two cushions and amazingly disappeared down the corner pocket under his left elbow.
    The boy let out a roar and lifted up his arms in a victory salute. "What a shot," he boasted. "Set 'em up Rog. Let's see how this girl can play." He turned to Elké, his brown eyes sparkling. "My names Trevor, what's yours?"
    Elké looked at his curly ginger hair and grinning, freckle spattered face. In spite of his bragging she found him entertaining.
    She told him her name, adding, "I've only ever played pool twice in my life."
    They played four games and Elké even managed to win one after a bit of coaching from Trevor.
    "Hey! You did all right for a girl," he admitted. "What do you say to some breakfast?"
     Elké suddenly realized she had not eaten since yesterday afternoon.
    "I could murder some food. I am absolutely ravenous." She announced, with enthusiasm. "But I only have French Francs and Austrian Schillings."
    "Don't worry," said Trevor, "they accept French Francs on board, but you had better change to pounds before we reach England."
    The two made their way to the dining area. Elké's eyes bulged in awe as Trevor filled his plate with eggs, bacon, mushrooms, tomatoes, fried bread and some strange looking black sausage.
    "Is this the famous meal the English have for breakfast?" She asked, in amazement.
    "It sure is," answered Trevor, grinning proudly. "This is what is known as 'The Full Monty'."
    He looked down at Elké's plate and pulled a face. "Bread and Jam! I thought you were hungry."
    Elké looked indignant. "This is what us continentals have for breakfast. French bread, croissants and apricot jam."
    Trevor glanced around the room. "Let's go and join Roger and Helen at that table over there."
    Roger was the boy who had been playing pool with Trevor earlier.
    Helen was a big girl in every way, complete with a big smile and big brown eyes.
    Elké looked at her pleated blue skirt, white blouse and blue and red striped tie.
    "Do you all go to the same school?" She asked.
    "Yes," replied Helen, taking a huge bite from a thick slice of buttered toast dripping with sticky, golden honey. "Lordship Lane Comprehensive in North London. In fact we are all in the same French language class. The others are scattered about the boat somewhere. We have been on a two-week tour of Brittany and Normandy visiting all the sights and practicing our French. And what a great time we've had, haven't we guys?"
    "Not 'arf," agreed Roger. "The weather's bin absolutely fantastic. Hardly a cloud in the sky, and we've seen the Bayeux Tapestry and Mont St. Michel."
    "And what about that chateau we stayed at," chimed in Trevor, "with it's own vineyard and wine cellars. We all went out into the fields to help with the grape picking and later we trod the grapes with our bare feet…"
    At this point the two boys fell about in fits of giggles.
    Helen narrowed her eyes in a threatening manner. "Don't you dare mention that," she warned.
    Elké was puzzled. "What's going on?" she asked. "Why are you laughing?"
    Trevor finally recovered enough to explain. "We were all busy treading grapes in a vast tub. They were dark red, the worst type for staining. Helen was being her usual over enthusiastic self. Her legs were simply going up and down like pistons. The inevitable happened of course. She finally slipped over and sat down on her behind right in the middle of all this gooey, sticky mess. You should have seen the surprised look on her face."
    The two boys, once again, broke out into uncontrolled laughter.
    Helen blushed a distinct shade of burgundy. "O.K. lads. You've had your fun." She quickly changed the subject. "Shall we all go and have a swim?"
    Trevor led the way to the upper deck and into the glorious sunshine.
    They changed into swimsuits and dived into the clear, blue water of the large swimming pool. The four were all strong swimmers, but Elké was by far the best diver. The others watched as she climbed to the very highest board and performed a spectacular dive, containing many twists and somersaults, before cleanly entering the water, leaving hardly a ripple.
    Trevor beamed at her in admiration. "Great Scott! Where did you ever learn to dive like that?"
    Elké shrugged dismissively. "Acrobatics run in my family."
    Other children from Trevor's school joined them in the pool for an energetic game of water polo and later, further along the sundeck, volleyball.
    The morning drifted into early afternoon. Trevor grasped Elké by the arm and led her to the railings.
    "Look!" he announced. "Your first glimpse of England. There is the Isle of Wight and those spiky white rocks leading into the sea are known as the needles. The lighthouse at the very end warns ships of the dangerous rocks. We will be sailing around the needles and into Portsmouth harbour."
     He turned to the girl standing next to him and was surprised to see a worried expression on her face. "Hey, what's the matter Elké?"
    She looked up into his concerned brown eyes. "Nothing for you to worry about Trevor. My problems belong to me."
    "A problem shared is a problem halved," replied Trevor, breaking into a grin.
    Elké turned back to the fast approaching coastline. "I have no passport," she murmured, almost to herself. "The customs men will surely send me straight back to Austria."
    Trevor frowned in thought. Then smiled, grabbing Elké by the shoulder. "Why don't you become a pupil of Lordship Lane for an hour. We all go through customs in a group. Mr. Turnill, our French teacher, has our passports, but nobody ever looks at them."
     Elké stared at Trevor, her eyes wide. "Do you think it will work?"
    "Of course. No sweat." Confirmed Trevor.
    Soon the two children, together with all the other pupils, watched as the ship entered Portsmouth Harbour. The captain expertly manoeuvred the vessel close to the docking area. A violent shuddering could be felt underfoot as the massive engines switched into reverse, bringing the ship to a halt. Ropes were thrown to waiting Dockers who quickly tied them to capstans fore and aft, firmly securing the ship in position.
    Helen dashed up to Elké and gave her a hug. "Trevor has told me about you having no passport," she whispered. "All the class know and are willing to help. We are going to make sure there is always a crowd around to hide you. Just stick close to Trevor and me. Is that clear?"
    "How can I thank you enough?" said Elké.
    "There is no need for thanks. Here, borrow my school hat, that should help with the disguise. The only person to worry about is old Turnip-head."
    "Yes, Mr. Turnill, our teacher. Look-out, here he comes now."
    A short, slight man with spiky hair and a thin nose strode up, full of his own importance.
    "Now children," he said. "I want you all to get your things and meet me at muster point three ready for disembarkation."
    Elké stuck close to Trevor and Helen and always found four or five other children surrounding them. Down two flights of stairs to muster point three, across the elevated walkway and into the immigration lobby. Her heart stood still as Mr. Turnill held up the bundle of passports for inspection. But the group was immediately waved through.
    Elké could not believe she was in England. Another part of her journey complete.
    She thanked all the children around her, especially Helen and Trevor.
    "Thanks for the loan of the hat, Helen."
    "Good-bye Elké. And good luck."

chapter 2