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 22
The Invasion.

When they got back to Kenilworth Drive the four children tried to get some sleep, but found it almost impossible.
    "I'm too excited," said Rebecca, lying on her mattress.
    The only light in the girls' bedroom came from a solitary candle on the windowsill.
    "So am I," said Elké. "But even if I wasn't, Aitch would keep me awake. Look at him tugging at my sleeve. He can't understand why we have all gone to bed so early."
    "What are you going to do with him tonight?"
    "I got Karen at The Buccaneer to make him a take-away dinner. It's absolutely huge, but I know Aitch won't be able to resist eating the lot. I'll bring him up here after, put him on the mattress and close the door. He'll sleep for ages after that big meal."
    At eleven o'clock, Skin's alarm went off. They all got up, showered and met in the kitchen. Skin had made a pot of tea and there was a Buccaneer Bar on the table for each of them. Elké had never tasted one before.
    "Mmmm, these are really delicious." She said.
    "While I was lying in bed," said Skin, fiddling with a length of rope. "I had this great idea on how to tie people up really quickly." He formed one end of the rope into a loop and fixed it with a knot. "If I put the other end through the loop it becomes a noose that can be easily slipped over the hands or feet. Any volunteers to be a victim?"
    "I know I am going to regret this," said Rebecca. "But go on then. I'll be your first victim."
    Skin picked up an oil lamp and headed for the front room. "You'll have to come in here, Rebecca, 'cos I need you to be lying on the floor."
    Skin returned alone, less than two minutes later. "Yep," he said. "That idea works a treat."
    "Skin!" Came a voice from the front room. "Haven't you forgotten something?"
    "No, I don't think so. Why?"
    "Skin, if you don't untie me immediately," screamed Rebecca "I shall damn well murder you!"
    Everyone burst out laughing.
    Captain Friddle arrived at dead on midnight. "Is everyone fit and raring to go?" he asked. "Good. Let's be getting our wellies on, shall we."
    Rebecca tucked her jeans into her socks, slipped into the Wellingtons and waddled around the kitchen like a duck.
    "Don't forget your shoes." Said Captain Friddle. "Tie the laces together in a bow and hang them around your neck. We will be putting them back on again after we get inside Impala Lodge. Contrary to what the dear old Duke thought, wellies are useless for fighting in. Now line up and let's have a look at you."
    Skin told Captain Friddle about his idea for the ropes.
    "That's excellent, Skin. You'd make a terrific soldier. Right, I want you all to tuck these special ropes into your belts, grab a torch and lets be off."
    Captain Friddle had a sleek Lanchester Leda. It was old, but in immaculate condition. Skin was impressed.
    It was a brilliantly clear night. The moon was high and almost as full as the night before. The Avenue was totally deserted. All that could be heard as they cruised towards Impala Lodge was the swish of the Lanchester's tyres on the road. Captain Friddle switched off his headlights, swung a left into Hollyoak Lane and glided down to the bottom, using only sidelights. He performed a three-point turn, parked close to the curb and killed the engine.
    "Let's sit here quietly for a few minutes," he said. "And make sure there is no one moving about Impala Lodge."
    Hollyoak Lane was bathed in soft, silvery moonlight. A solitary tomcat stole along the pathway close to the wall patrolling his territory. The sudden screech of a barn owl, from the wood behind, caused the cat to break into a run and Rebecca to clutch Elké by the arm.
    "Is that the manhole?" whispered Skin, pointing at a dark, oblong patch in the middle of the lane a few metres ahead.
    "Yes." Said Captain Friddle and turned in his seat to face everyone. "It is time to make a move," he said. "We will all get out of the front nearside door and wait close to the car. Biffer and I will go across to the manhole and take off the cover. When we have both disappeared down the hole I want you all to come across one at a time. Walk smoothly and quickly, but do not run. Got that?"
    Everyone nodded.
    Captain Friddle and Biffer stood each side of the manhole, put their fingers into the slots provided and yanked upwards. The cover came off quite easily and was placed to one side. Captain Friddle dropped to his knees, thrust a torch down the hole and switched it on. He gave a grunt of satisfaction. An iron runged ladder led down to within a metre of the bottom of the sewer.
    Soon, all five of them were down there standing in a few centimetres of muck and slime. Skin, who had brought up the rear, dragged the cover back over the hole.
    "Pooh!" said Rebecca, wrinkling up her nose. "What a stink."
    Biffer led the way and the sewage grew decidedly deeper the closer they got to The Avenue. They came to another sewer leading in from the right. Biffer shone his torch up it.
    "This comes from the house on the other side of Hollyoak Lane," he said. "Ours should be just up here on the left."
    And so it was.
    Biffer turned off and waded towards Impala Lodge. He was now pointing his torch at the ceiling looking for the manhole that led up into the scullery.
    "Ah! Here it is. And good, there is another iron ladder." He waited for the others to catch up.
    "Which side is the washing machine?" whispered Captain Friddle to Elké.
    "Directly in front of you."
    Captain Friddle climbed the ladder, lifted up the cover and slid it to his left.
    It was not long before they were all standing in the scullery. Rebecca could feel her heart pounding in her chest.
    "Boots off, shoes on." Whispered Captain Friddle.
    Elké led the way across the kitchen.
    Now everyone was feeling extremely tense. The moment of truth was very close. The five gathered in a circle at the centre of the entrance hall.
    "O.K.," whispered Captain Friddle. "You take The Rat Squad's door and I'll deal with Mr. Fugg. And remember, feel for the key first."
    But the simple solution was not to be, for just then an ear shattering siren broke the silence. 'VHOOM, VHOOM, VHOOM'. And every light was switched on to maximum intensity.
    "We've been rumbled," shouted Captain Friddle. "Go, go, go!"
    Skin was the first to reach The Rat Squad's door and try the handle. "Drat! It's locked."
    "Stand back." Shouted Biffer, lifting his leg.
    He whacked the door close to the lock with the bottom of his boot. The door splintered but held. He lifted his leg once more. Whack! This time the door sprung open with tremendous force and smashed against the wall on the inside. Biffer flew into the room, followed by Skin and Rebecca.
    Gobbie was standing in his pyjamas looking dazed. He had no chance against the fired up Biffer. Biffer fainted with his left and caught Gobbie smack on the nose with a straight right. "BIFF!" Gobbie dropped to the floor like a sack of farmer Jones' turnips. Pole axed.
    Kenny Monkaster was dancing round and round in circles, reminiscent of a clockwork mouse, squeaking out "don't come near me. I'm extremely dangerous. Me Kung Fu black belt."
    Rebecca lashed out with her foot and caught him directly on the right knee. Monkaster immediately toppled over, but was evidently under the impression that he was still upright, for his fists continued to punch the air and his left leg jerked backwards and forwards.
    The two thugs were quickly and expertly trussed up, using Skin's patented rope trick.
    Fatty Bates was found still in his bed, under the blankets, shaking with fear.
    'What are you? Cold or shy?" called out Biffer. "Don't worry, whichever it is, we can help."
    He and Skin proceeded to roll Bates in the very same blankets, while Rebecca tied the whole bundle up tightly with plenty of rope.
    The three children stood back and laughed out loud as Fatty Bates wriggled around on his bed like some giant chrysalis.
    Suddenly Rebecca looked about her, puzzled. "Where's Elké?" she asked.
    The two boys shrugged, "dunno."
    Captain Friddle was not having quite the same success, or luck, as the other three. When the warning siren went off, Mr. Fugg had just come out of the toilet and was consequently very quick to open the door that led to the entrance hall. And what a surprise he got when a strange man fell through the open doorway and landed at his feet.
    Mr. Fugg bellowed out in anger and roughly picked up Captain Friddle and threw him bodily back out into the hall. "Don't you know it is rude to enter a room without knocking?" he bawled, and thundered after his victim.
    Captain Friddle managed to get to his feet and took a massive swing at the oncoming monster's stomach. It was here that the brave captain was sure that the game was up, for not only did making contact with that stomach cause immense pain to his fist, but Mr. Fugg simply guffawed with laughter.
    Captain Friddle felt himself being lifted high into the air, spun round three times before crashing down to the floor again, forcing all the wind to be expelled from his lungs.
    The brutal Mr. Fugg was just about to stamp on Captain Friddle's neck, when he was stopped in mid-stride by a mighty roar. But this roar did not come from any human throat. Mr. Fugg turned and, to his horror, saw a snarling black panther straining at the leash, not two metres distant.
    "Don't make any sudden moves, Mr. Fugg," warned Elké. "I am having great trouble holding Sheba back as it is. Will you please slowly get down on the floor, lay on your front and put your hands behind your back."
    Mr. Fugg's mouth opened and his eyes bulged with fear. Slowly, very slowly, Mr. Fugg did as he was instructed.
    Elké looked up and saw Biffer, Skin and Rebecca standing motionless and wide-eyed in the doorway of The Rat Squad's room. Everything seemed strangely quiet. Ah! The siren had been turned off.
    "Biffer, Skin," called out Elké, quietly. "Would you please tie up Mr. Fugg. But please, please, don't make any sudden moves. It will make Sheba nervous."
    Afterwards, Elké was able to laugh at the way Skin and Biffer crossed the hall to the prostrate Mr. Fugg, as if in a slow motion movie.
    Rebecca walked slowly over to Captain Friddle, still lying on the floor. She knelt down beside him. He was O.K., only badly winded.
    Captain Friddle slowly sat up and saw Sheba for the first time. "I do believe my life has been saved by a panther." He said, smiling weakly. "Rebecca, would you please take me to the telephone in the workshop. I think it is time for me to phone for the police."
    Rebecca helped Captain Friddle to his feet and they both headed off down the corridor.
    "I've just spotted someone looking out of the kitchen door, Biff." Said Skin. "Will you finish tying our friend up while I go and check to see who it is."
    Skin was back after a few minutes. "It's just the old couple and Lucy the maid," he said. "They are scared out of their wits, but they did manage to tell me Mr. Woodhead, the butler, is upstairs with Fat Cat. "And you were right, Elké. There is a flight of stairs and also a lift in Fat Cat's den."
    "Great news," said Biffer. "Four down, two to go. Lead the way to Fat Cat's den, Elké. I don't fancy walking in front of Sheba."

chapter 23