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 15
Keith Doyle.

Elké crouched down on the grass and cupped her hands to her mouth. "Aitch." She called out and did not have long to wait, for a few seconds later a black and white bundle of fur came racing over the grassy rise heading straight for her.
    Aitch leaped into her arms and the two of them rolled together around the lawn, Aitch trying to lick any piece of bare skin and Elké giggling uncontrollably. Aitch did break off for a second, to give Rebecca a quick lick, but immediately jumped on Elké again. Fatty Bates was standing up by the house keeping guard, and even he had to smile. Elké got up and raced around the garden with Aitch following close on her heels.
    Rebecca sauntered over to the far side of the pond and sat down close to the waters edge. She was soon joined by the two other dogs. Both were puppies but somewhat older than Aitch.
    "Hello," said Rebecca, making a fuss of them. She looked back at the house and saw a girl watching from an upstairs window. "I wonder if that is the owner of one of you two."
    Elké came running up and plonked herself down, gasping for breath. "Oh, it's so lovely to be out in the fresh air again," she said, lying back in the grass. "I know we have only been locked up for a day but it seems much, much longer than that to me."
     Aitch flopped down beside her panting deeply, his tongue hanging out from the side of his mouth. But he was not allowed to rest for long. The other puppies jumped on top of him and eventually the three of them tore off into the trees.
    Rebecca told Elké about the girl in the window and then asked. "What are your plans for tonight?"
    "I thought we would wait until about 11 o'clock, when all is quiet, and then we would go along to the far Turret room and speak with that boy."
    "Ahem, excuse me!" said Rebecca, wide eyed. "What do you mean by 'we'? You're not expecting me to climb out of windows and leap across windowsills are you? I mean if I am lucky enough to survive the thirty foot drop, there is also the small thing of a panther waiting to gobble me up to consider."
    Elké laughed. "No, silly," she said. "When we came back from seeing Fat Cat yesterday, didn't you notice that the key to our door was hanging on a hook outside. I'll just unlock the door and let you out."
     Rebecca looked relieved. "I seem to remember seeing keys hanging on hooks outside some of the other doors along our landing," she said. "Maybe that is where the other prisoners are being held."
    "Yes, I think you are probably right," agreed Elké.
    They both sat quietly looking around the garden. It certainly was very pleasant.
    "I can see Sheba prowling up and down her cage," said Rebecca, pointing. "I would have expected you to go over and see her, Elké."
    Elké shook her head. "No, big cats don't like being kept in cages, as you can well imagine. I don't want her to associate me with being locked up in a cage." Elké turned to Rebecca and grinned. "Don't worry, I have a few plans to get Sheba on our side."
    The three puppies had had a wonderful time playing together but now lay in an entangled pile, dozing in the warm sunshine.
    "Come on," said Elké. "Let's make a move before Aitch wakes up."
    They found Fatty Bates and followed him inside and up the stairs. The two girls exchanged knowing glances and Elké manoeuvred herself alongside Bates and close to the wall as they walked along the landing.
    Suddenly, Rebecca cried out in pain and there was a loud bump as she fell to the floor. "Ouch! I think I've twisted my ankle."
    Fatty Bates turned to see what was wrong, and in a twinkle of an eye Elké had nipped down the short passageway to the window… and was back.
    "It doesn't look too bad to me," she said, kneeling down at Rebecca's side. "Come on, give us your hand and we'll try and help you to our room."
    Rebecca half hobbled and was half carried to their room where the two girls had great difficulty in convincing Fatty Bates that she was all right. Elké had almost to shove him out of the room and onto the landing before she could close the door.
    "Did you do it?" whispered Rebecca.
Elké nodded.
    "But you were so quick."
    "And you were so damned loud," countered Elké. "You nearly scared the living daylights out of me. I thought your leg was broken."
    The afternoon dragged on. The only highlight being the arrival of Mr. Woodhead to serve the evening meal. He was in a very chatty mood and appeared to spin out the laying of the table to give himself more time to talk to Rebecca.
    Darkness had fallen, the meal had been eaten and cleared away and the general household noises were gradually diminishing.
    "What time is it?" asked Rebecca, again.
    "Only half past ten, but I'm going to chance it now."
Elké opened the bedroom window and looked out. Everything was quiet. The only lights came from the downstairs rooms. She climbed through the window and stood on the sill outside, holding on by thrusting her hand through the open window at the top. Rebecca watched her confidently step from sill to sill, open the passageway window and disappear inside. Less than ten seconds later she was standing in the open doorway, grinning triumphantly.
    The two girls silently padded along the landing, Rebecca stopping to peer over the banisters into the entrance hall below. The lights were on but there was nobody about. The sound of loud music and gunfire drifted up the stairs. The Rat Squad was watching a movie. Good.
    Elké reached the end door and was pleased to see a key hanging from a hook at the side. She knocked three times sharply with her knuckles and waited.
    Presently, a voice on the other side could be heard to say, "Yes, who is it?"
    "It is two fellow prisoners," replied Elké. "Can we come in?"
    "Yes, of course."
    Elké unlocked the door and the two girls stepped inside and came face to face with a bewildered young boy. He had obviously just stepped out of bed and thrown on a dressing gown for he was bleary eyed and his glasses were slightly skew-whiff. "Would you like to sit down?" he asked, pulling a chair out from under a table. "I believe I saw you in the garden this afternoon."
    "Yes, and we saw you looking out of the window last night."
    The boy smiled. "But how did you manage to escape from your room?"
Elké explained and the boy seemed suitably impressed. And then, as if suddenly remembering his manners, he stood up and shook each of them by the hand. "My name is Keith Doyle," he announced, solemnly.
    The two girls nodded and told him their names.
    Rebecca leaned forward, putting her elbows on the table. "Keith," she said, seriously. "What we would like to know is this: what on earth is going on around here?"
    Keith straightened his glasses and blinked. "I was brought here especially to hack into the computers of all the major world banks and gather every bit of information that concerns both their customers and the electronic transfer of money." He stopped for a second to gauge the girls' reactions, before continuing. "My work is almost complete now. In just over a week Fat Cat will be the richest and the most powerful man in the whole world."
    "Wow!" exclaimed Elké. "This is much bigger than we could have ever imagined. And how many other people are being held prisoner?"
    "Three," replied Keith. "Amanda, Maria and Paul. They are what you might call 'my helpers'. I design and write the software and they feed it out to all the various sights and collate the information as it comes flooding back. It is quite a job. I have been here almost four months already."
    "Four months!" exclaimed Rebecca. "Won't your parents be worried?"
    "Yes, of course they are worried," said Keith. "But not as much as you might think. We e-mail each other quite regularly, so they know that I am well."
    Elké looked puzzled. "If they know where you are why don't they send the police to the rescue?"
    "No, no, you don't understand. They know how I am not where I am. If the police ever called at Impala Lodge Mr. Fugg would kill Einstein."
    Keith laughed and pointed to a birdcage, covered with a dark blue cloth, hanging from the ceiling in the corner of the room. "Einstein, my Cockatoo. We are all being blackmailed, aren't we? You have a dog and so have Amanda and Paul. Maria has a cat."
    Suddenly everything was beginning to make sense. "And what about us?" asked Elké. "Where do we fit in?"
    Keith shook his head. "I have no idea. It was just as big a surprise to me as to anyone when you arrived. Perhaps you should tell me what you know."
    Rebecca and Elké told him of their capture, their meeting with fat cat and the training.
    "Fat Cat! You've actually met Fat Cat?" It was Keith's turn to be astonished. "I don't know of anyone, apart from Mr. Woodhead, who's actually met Fat Cat. We talk every day, of course, but he comes up on my computer screen and that is only in the shape of an animated cat's head."
    "But what about our training?" insisted Rebecca.
    "That one has got me stumped," he admitted. "I know cash machines give out money, but why Fat Cat should be getting you to fix them to bank walls is anyone's guess. But you can be certain of one thing: there will be a good reason behind it. Fat Cat is a very, very clever person. Never underestimate Fat Cat. He knows a lot more of what goes on in Impala Lodge than anyone gives him credit for. He probably even knows that you two are in here talking to me now."
     Elké and Rebecca looked startled. "How can that be?"
    "Hidden cameras and microphones," said Keith, simply. "There are none in this room, 'cos I've checked, but I'm sure I've spotted tiny cameras in other parts of the house."
    "And how many other people work at Impala Lodge?" Rebecca wanted to know. "We have met Mr. Fugg, The Rat Squad and Mr. Woodhead. Are there any more?"
    "Yes, there is Mr. and Mrs. Applebee. He is the gardener and she is the cook." At this moment Keith's eyes lit up. "And what a great cook she is. To experience the pleasure of sampling one of Mrs. Applebee's meat pies is almost worth being kidnapped for."
    The girls laughed. "Yes, that's what we think."
    "The only other person is Lucy the maid," continued Keith. "But Mr. Woodhead is the odd man out. I understand he used to be Fat Cat's family butler, so presumably he is the only person who knows who Fat Cat really is. And also Mr. Woodhead is the only member of staff allowed to go up into Fat Cat's private rooms. They are situated on the top two floors at the front of the house."
    "How do we get up to Fat Cat's rooms?" asked Elké. "The only stairs I've seen are the ones that lead up to this floor from the entrance hall."
    "I don't know," said Keith. "But my guess is there's a way up from 'Fat Cat's Den'."
    "Crikey! Look at the time," exclaimed Elké. "It's half past twelve already. Time we were heading down to the kitchen."
    "The kitchen!" said Rebecca. "Why on earth do you want to go to the kitchen? You can't be hungry, surely."
    "No, not I. But that big, black cat in the garden is," said Elké, grinning. "And I desperately want to become a friend of Sheba and the best way I know of doing that is to feed her lovely juicy steaks of red meat."

chapter 16