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 14
Training To Be A Criminal.

Later that evening, Elké and Rebecca were leaning out of their living room window and looking down onto the row of cages fixed to the back of the house, way over to their left.
     Suddenly Rebecca turned to Elké, her eyes shining with excitement. "Elké," she said. "Are we being daft or what? There are four cages down there. We know Aitch is in one, but what about the rest? If there is an animal in each of them surely that means there must be at least three other prisoners being held here."
     "Of course," said Elké. "Why didn't we think of that before? And the other two dogs that were playing with Aitch this afternoon, I bet they are locked up in those cages, too. But where are their owners kept?"
    "My guess is somewhere in these back rooms. Probably on this level." "Why in the back rooms?"
    "Because anyone imprisoned in the front would be able to call out for help."
     Elké looked up and down the back of the house. "What about the sticky out bits at each end with the spires on top?" she suggested. "What do you English call them? Turrets?"
    Rebecca laughed. "Yes, we sometimes call them turrets."
     Elké now examined the upper turret rooms with added interest. "The room next door seems pretty deserted," she said, at last. "But the one at the far end looks promising."

impala lodge

Just at that moment a light was switched on in that very room and a boy's face appeared at the window: a round, youngish face, wearing small, round glasses. He gazed out of the window for a moment before a Venetian blind dropped down and was closed.
     Elké and Rebecca looked at each other in amazement.
     "That settles it," said Elké, determinedly. "I'm breaking out of this room tomorrow night to have a good snoop around, and maybe have a chat with that boy in the turret room while I'm about it."
    "Oh, yeh! And how are you going to manage that?" asked Rebecca, in disbelief.
    Elké laughed. "Easy."
     But seeing Rebecca was still unconvinced, Elké explained. "Take a look along here," she said, pointing. "The next window along is our bedroom window, O.K. and the frosted one after that is the toilet and shower." Elké turned to Rebecca. "And what about the next one?"
    Rebecca thought for a second. "Mmm, it's a short passageway leading to the landing."
    "Exactly," agreed Elké. "So all I have to do is climb out of the bedroom window, step across two window sills and climb in again."
    "Hang on a minute," protested Rebecca. "The passageway window is closed."
    "Yes, I realise that, but that is where you come in."
    "Yes you," laughed Elké. "But don't worry. I only want you to do a bit of acting."
     Rebecca sighed, resignedly. "O.K., hit me with it."
    "Fat Cat said that if we work hard tomorrow we could go and see Aitch. Well, on the way back, just before we reach the passageway, you cry out in pain and fall down clutching your ankle. And while whoever is with us turns back to see what is wrong, I nips down the passageway and opens the top window."
    "Are you sure it will work?" asked Rebecca, doubtfully.
    "Of course it will," returned Elké. She slapped Rebecca on the knee. "Come on, let's get to bed. We have a busy day tomorrow."

Rebecca and Elké had already showered and dressed before Mr. Woodhead arrived with the breakfast trolley. He expertly laid the table with his usual panache while Rebecca stood watching, fascinated.
    There were cereals to start, a large jug of chilled milk, fresh fruit salad, a bowl of plain yoghurt, hot toast with butter and marmalade and a large pot of tea.
    "Is there anything else you require, miss?" asked the butler, addressing Rebecca.
    "No, no, everything is just fine. Thank you very much."
     Mr. Woodhead bowed, lower this time, and left the room.
    "That guy creases me up," said Rebecca, laughing. "He really does. This is what it must be like to stay in a top class hotel."
    After breakfast the girls found that they had some time on their hands.
    Rebecca discovered a bookcase in the corner and sat down with a world atlas. She had always had a deep longing to travel and now studied the map of Egypt imagining herself exploring underground tombs, looking up at pyramids and wondering if there really were girls, just like her, that lived there.
    Elké gazed out of the window watching Aitch play with his newfound friends and hoped that she would be holding him later on in the day. A flash of reflected sunlight caused her to blink momentarily. It had come from the very top of a tall oak tree in the wood beyond the boundary wall. She did ask herself what would such a shiny object be doing up a tree, but that was all.
    Mr. Fugg eventually arrived and the two girls followed him, once again, down the stairway to the very end of the same corridor, but this time entered a room directly opposite 'Fat Cat's Den'. This room was known as 'the workshop'.
    Inside, Fatty Bates was lounging on a swivel chair with his feet up on a desk. When he spotted Mr. Fugg, he immediately dropped his feet to the floor, snatched up a book, and pretended to be reading.
    The workshop was quite spacious and had an echoey feel about it. There was a workbench under the window with a tool rack screwed to a wall close by. Over to one side were two metal box-like objects sitting on a sturdy wooden bench. But the strangest item of all was situated right in the centre of the workshop. A free standing brick wall some one and a half metres high by five metres long.
    Mr. Fugg steered the girls over to the wooden bench and laid his hands on one of the metal boxes. "These are what we call 'cash machines'," he began. "On Friday night you two girls will be attaching these machines to the walls of two specially selected banks in Birmingham City Centre. That means we have five days to knock you into shape and make you appear and act like real workmen." He pointed across the room. "There are two overalls on some pegs over there. Put them on and lets see how you look."
     The overalls were bright yellow with the words 'National Bank Services' printed on the back in large, red lettering. Rebecca and Elké had fun dressing up.
    "Mmmm, yellow really suits you, Rebecca, " said Elké, laughing.
    "Do you really think so?" said Rebecca, and began to stomp around the workshop with her arms outstretched like some moronic robot.
    But Mr. Fugg was not amused. "Come on, this is not some sort of game. Here, put these hats on and try and hide some of that hair."
    Elké was given a flat, checked, working mans cap and found it quite easy to tuck her hair up inside.
    Rebecca put on a brightly coloured, woolly, Rastafarian hat that brought a smile to Elké's face, but she managed to keep quiet.
    Mr. Fugg seemed pleased enough. "Yes, you both look fine. I have some special make-up that will wrinkle your skin and give it a leathery feel making you both seem a lot older."
    He clapped his hands together and strode over to the freestanding wall in the centre of the workshop. "This is our make-believe bank," he said, displaying a rare smile. "It is only necessary to drill two holes to fix a cash machine but by the end of the week this wall will be covered in holes, both back and front, because you are going to practice, practice and practice again."
    Mr. Fugg spent over an hour teaching the girls how, by using numerous tools such as a drilling template, spirit level, punch, hammer and an electric drill, to fix two shoulder pins into the wall in the correct positions.
    "Now bring one of those cash machines over here," he ordered.
    Elké and Rebecca found the big metal box surprisingly light, but it needed both of them to carry it because of its size.
    "There are two slots in the back of the cash machine," said Mr. Fugg. "Slide it down the wall until the shoulder pins engage in the slots and you will find it will lock into place."
    The two girls did this and were pleased to see how snug the cash machine fitted against the wall.
    "Now all you need to know," said Mr. Fugg, picking up a steel bar from off of the tool trolley. "Is how to get the shoulder pins from out of the wall. This is a crowbar with a custom-made fork end. Simply put the fork under the shoulder of the pin and lean on the bar, so. And out comes the pin."
    Mr. Fugg strode over to get his jacket that was lying on the bench. "I have got to go out for a couple of hours," he said, slipping the jacket on. "When I get back, I expect to see at least twenty holes in that wall and all of them in the correct position. Our friend over there will keep an eye on you while I'm away, won't you Bates?"
    "Sure fing Mr. Fugg. It will be my pleasure," said Fatty Bates, with a nasty sneer.
    For the next hour the two girls worked really hard. Sometimes Elké would position the holes with the template and metal punch and Rebecca would do the drilling. And at other times the roles would be reversed.
    They became quite worn out and thirsty and were glad when a young girl came in carrying a tray of cold drinks and cakes. It was Lucy, the maid. She gave Rebecca and Elké a queer look and thought how strange it was to see two girls dressed up in brightly coloured overalls drilling holes in an apparently useless wall. But said nothing. There were many peculiar things going on at Impala Lodge and she was under strict instructions to keep her nose out and make no comments.
    Elké and Rebecca helped themselves to a drink and some cakes and went and sat at the desk, opposite Fatty Bates.
    Rebecca tried to engage him in conversation. "Where are your two friends today?" she asked.
    Fatty Bates eyed her with suspicion. "They are out on a secret mission," he said.
    "Oh, really? The Rat Squad seems to be an important part of Impala Lodge."
    "Yeh, we're important alright," agreed Bates. "Without us nuffin would ever get done."
    "What puzzles me," said Elké, joining in, "is why you need us two. I mean, why isn't The Rat Squad fixing these cash machines to the bank walls?"
    Fatty Bates thought that that idea was really funny and laughed out loud. "You must be joking," he said at last. "Us lads are really well known around these parts. We only have to walk past a bank for the alarms to go off." He chuckled some more and took a large swig of his drink. "But we'll be involved, don't you worry. Two of us will be keeping a close eye on the local cop shops. If loadsa fuzz come piling out we'll know we've been rumbled and radio Mr. Fugg to let him know the games up. Mr. Fugg will be driving the van, see."
    Rebecca stood up. "Come on, Elké. We've got ten more holes to drill before he gets back."
    Elké looked out of the window. It had been quite a time since she had seen Aitch or the other dogs, but maybe they were resting down by the pond. The ground dipped down just before the pond and it was impossible to see it from where she was standing.
    When Mr. Fugg returned the girls were just finishing off hole number twenty-two. He stood and watched Elké bang in the two shoulder pins and then the two of them slide the cash machine into position.
    "O.K.," said Mr. Fugg. "Let's call it a day, shall we? You can do the same thing tomorrow and then on Wednesday I will teach you how to act like proper workmen."
     Rebecca looked at Elké and made a face. But Elké had something else on her mind.
    "Please, Mr. Fugg," she said. "Fat Cat said that if we worked hard today we would be allowed out in the garden to see Aitch."
    Mr. Fugg thought for a moment and then turned to Fatty Bates. "Take them outside and allow them to see their dog for an hour or so. But keep a close eye on them and don't allow them anywhere near the front of the house."

chapter 15