“The Not-so-famous Five and the Mystery of Tinkle Cottage,” Louise Thomson

Sep 20th, 2009 | By | Category: Prose

‘Wait please!’ puffed Bertie, ‘Please wait chaps!’

‘Come on Berthilda, cycle just a little faster. If we don’t hurry we shall be caught in the rain.’

‘Don’t call, puff….me…puff, Berthilda!’

‘Poor old Bertie’, said Susan, ‘Can’t we rest a little? We could have the excellent picnic cook prepared us. Look Victor,’ she said pointing to a gate, ‘we could rest over there on the grass.’

‘Aye! Aye!’ puffed Sam, who being the youngest of the children was often ignored, – ‘I vote for Susan!’

‘Okay chaps. Be careful with the picnic hamper Susan. Don’t drop it!’ Victor warned as Susan heaved the groaning wicker basket from her bicycle. Soon the four children were replenished and rested, savouring the homemade ginger pop and cook’s special fruitcake.

‘Mmm’, Bertie said, brushing the crumbs from her mouth, ‘perhaps we should take Barker for a stroll – after all the poor dog has been shut in his basket for hours!’

‘Good thinking,’ exclaimed Victor, ‘Fetch him from your pannier. I say!’ expostulated Victor, pointing beyond the gate, ‘there’s an old house beyond those bushes. I vote we three explore the ruins with Barker. That would be jolly fun. Look, there’s a sign that says ‘Tinkle Cottage’ – How strange! Susan, you can stay and clear up like a good girl!’

Victor, Bertie, and Sam leapt off with Barker bounding gleefully behind.

‘Rotters,’ muttered Susan. ‘They’re always doing this. Leaving me to clear up while they have all the fun.’ Thoughtfully she folded up the chequered tablecloth, carefully replacing the cutlery and crockery in the wicker hamper.

‘Gosh! – isn’t this jolly fun,’ beamed Sam as Barker leapt around.

‘Yes – though we ought to be careful we aren’t trespassing. The last thing we want is plod reporting to Aunt Araminta we’ve been disrespectful of the law. Oh no! – Barker – come here boy.’

But Barker had shot off up the weedy gravel drive, ignoring Victor’s pleas and jumped in through the broken casement window. The children pressed their faces against the grimy window – Victor being careful not to get a smut on his nose. Large cobwebs draped the ancient fireplace, and on the far wall hung an enormous brooding portrait, blackened with age and dust.

‘Can anyone see Barker?’ asked Sam as he tried to wipe the window with the sleeve of his sweater.

‘Sam – don’t do that!’ shouted Victor, ‘Nanny will be furious if you return Uncle Tarquin’s sweater soiled. Don’t worry old chap. I’m sure Mother will buy you some decent clothes when they return from India next year.’

Sam bowed his head. He hated to be reminded of Mother and Father. Staring down into the overgrown flower border, Sam noticed a small shiny object.

‘Victor, Bertie! – see what I’ve found!’ he whooped.

‘Never mind that Sam. We’re going to explore.’ Victor and Bertie ran off to the back of the old cottage. As Sam bent down to get a closer look at the mysterious object; a tinkling bell sounded from above. Frightened, he hastily pocketed the object and ran off to find the others.

‘Victor, Bertie – I heard a bell ringing!’ he panted.

‘Shush! Don’t be silly. We’re going inside to see if Barker has been trapped beneath the rotten floorboards….’

‘….or perhaps he’s found the kitchens and eaten some rat poison!’ Bertie added her eyes wide with fear.

‘Sam – you stay here and be the look-out.’ Victor ordered, ‘If anyone sinister approaches, just shout for Susan.’

‘…But…but…Victor – listen! Can’t you hear it? The ringing!’ he wailed.

‘Not now Sam! Look old boy – I’m sure Mother and Father do care you know. Just because Father asked your name last time they visited is no real reason to go to pieces again. And don’t let those bullies at school get to you.’ Victor patted Sam’s shorn head; carefully avoiding the small scab left over from a nasty bout of ringworm earlier that spring.

Sam obediently lowered his eyes, while Victor cautiously lifted the rusted iron door latch. A loud scraping noise echoed through the house as the rotting hinges sprang back. Tentatively, the children crept across the ancient flagstones straining their ears for Barker’s whimper.

‘Someone’s been here!’ whispered Bertie pointing to the floor. Two sets of small dusty footprints led to a door on the far side of the kitchen. ‘This is all rather strange,’ she murmured opening the other door. Before them loomed a large ornate staircase, leering gargoyles sneered down at them. Numerous doors led off the dark foreboding hall. Suddenly, a fork of light ripped across the ceiling, illuminating the dark wooded panelling and the frightened faces of the two children, followed by a distant rumble. Rain pattered against the dusty stained glass portico.

‘We’ll have to shelter here until the storm passes,’ advised Victor.

‘But what about Sam and Susan?’

‘Oh Sam will find an outhouse to shelter in and Susan can creep under the hedgerow. She can’t ramble around ancient houses wearing a skirt, can she?’

Bertie smiled down at her camel lederhosen and sensible shoes. She always wore boy’s clothes. Aunt Araminta thought she was a boy, and luckily she had plenty of stuff to choose from since Uncle Tarquin had mysteriously disappeared last spring.

‘Look!’ pointed Victor, ‘the footprints lead over there towards yonder door. Let’s investigate!’

Behind them another eerie flash of electricity etched the hall. Bertie’s heart was hammering tightly beneath her tweed waistcoat. Victor is so brave, she sighed as she watched his broad shoulders heave the heavy dresser that blocked the doorway.


Outside, Sam looked for somewhere to shelter as a large drop of rain splattered against his tear stained cheek. Spying a rickety shed he dived for cover as lightening flashed overhead. The shed was dark and musty but as he backed away from the door, escaping the terrifying rumble of thunder, his legs bumped against a cold solid object. Sam’s mouth dropped open in terror at the sight of the shiny yellow automobile.

‘Oh no!’ he wailed, ‘I must warn the others!’ Ignoring the roar of the storm he blindly crashed through the undergrowth, thorns scratching his thin arms. Running wildly towards the house he could hear the faint menacing tinkle of the bell. He plunged his fingers in his ears trying to drown out the maddening ringing when his plastic sandal caught in the bushes and he tumbled forward, crashing into the cellar grating. With a rusty creak the grating gave way and Sam fell headlong down into the deep dark cellar. He lay still on the floor, his small grubby fingers clenching a gold ring as a large black rat scratched against his face, sniffing at the impromptu visitor.


Tucking her skirt neatly into her knicker elastic Susan stealthily crept across the lawn. Approaching the house she could hear a faint whimpering.

‘Barker, oh Barker is that you? Are you hurt?’

She carefully pulled back the bushes and peered down the dark hole, rain splattering against her back, as she strained to see the source of the whimpering.

‘Oh. It’s only you,’ she sighed, ‘I thought it was Barker.’

‘Help me Susan! – I think I’ve split my head open.’

Susan deftly clambered down to where Sam lay, the rat pattered off leaving bloody footprints.

‘Oh Sam! What have you done? Uncle Tarquin’s sweater is covered in blood!’

Her hands fumbled against Sam’s head, fingers wet and sticky with blood oozing from a large gash on his forehead.

‘Listen – I’m going to get Barker, you stay here.’

‘Don’t….leave…me,’ Sam gasped as Susan’s face swam before him, ‘…there’s a car, a yell…!’ but his eyes fluttered and closed before he could finish.

‘What?’ Susan shook him, ‘what did you say?’

But it was no use. She dropped his shoulders and he slumped with a thud on the blood-splattered floor.


‘Victor – hurry! There’s someone coming!’ Bertie squealed as Victor heaved and pushed the solid oak dresser. Quickly, they dived behind the musty hangings. Footsteps approached. Voices. A tinkling bell.

‘Oh Victor!’ Bertie squeezed his hand tightly.

‘Let go! Let go! Don’t TOUCH me!’ Victor hissed as he recoiled backwards tripping on the ragged curtain hem. With a crash and splinter the hangings fell, trapping them helpless beneath the heavy tapestry.

‘Well, what have we here?’ chuckled the first voice, prodding the squirming heap.

‘Nasty children,’ nodded the second, his hat tinkling wildly.

Victor and Bertie struggled to get up. A sharp pain shot through Bertie’s leg. A large wooden stake was embedded in her knee. Victor frantically shook the dust from his hair and tried to focus on their two captors. He screamed. Bertie tried to see what had frightened Victor, her boots slipping on the blood streaming from her leg.

 ‘Oh no. It can’t be!’ she tried to scream but her throat constricted with fear. The cold metal barrel of a pistol pressed against her forehead.

‘Move one inch and you’re dead.’ the voiced hissed.

Bertie’s head swam. Where was Barker? Why wasn’t Victor doing something?

But Victor lay hysterical on the floor screaming, ‘Noddy! Oh my God it’s Noddy! Every child’s worst nightmare!’


A warm wet nose muzzled into him, dropping what appeared to be a stick by his face. ‘Oh Barker,’ bleated Sam, ‘you’re safe! – But what’s this?’ He picked up the stick except it wasn’t a stick; it was a human arm bone complete with hand and fingers. Sam rattled the bones at Barker. ‘Show me; show me where you found this!’

A wave of nausea swept over him as he struggled to his feet. Tearing off the sweater he tightly wound it around his head, staunching the flow of blood that trickled down his face. Sam followed Barker to the cellar stairs, panting they reached the dark passageway where the dog stopped at a large wooden chest. Sam levered the lid open and recoiled in horror. There lying in its makeshift coffin were the remains of a skeletal body. The stench was overpowering as he slammed the lid shut. He swallowed hard, fighting the rising nausea and limped across to where Barker was scratching at a door.

‘No Barker. Wait!’ but it was too late. The dog bounded into the hall, spitting and snarling as he launched himself towards Victor’s assailant. Barker’s sharp fangs sunk into the villain’s large ears.

‘Ow! Ow! Me ears! Noddy help me! The cur’s got me ears!’ screamed Big Ears. With an almighty wrench, Barker ripped off the mangled flesh, shot across the room and dived through the casement window. A long shard of broken glass stabbed Noddy in the shoulder and he dropped the pistol. In a flash, Bertie picked up the pistol and with trembling fingers pulled the trigger.

‘This’ll teach you to give us all nightmares you bell-ringing punk!’ she snarled as the bullet smashed into Noddy’s chest. Blood splayed everywhere as Big Ears lumbered towards Bertie grabbing wildly for the pistol. Another shot rang out as both bodies slumped to the floor.

‘Bertie! Save me!’ screamed Victor.

‘Too late for that I think!’ as a fourth figure stood in the doorway – lightening flashed against the silver blade.

‘Susan! Thank goodness it’s you!’

‘Don’t thank me, you bastard!’ she screamed as she flicked her wrist. The silver picnic knife whizzed through the air pinning Victor’s shorts to the floor. ‘I’m tired of being left out of adventures. You’ve never been the same since you permed your hair!’

‘Susan darling – I’m sure we can talk this through with Nanny – but tell me, why is your dress tucked in your knickers. Ow! My leg hurts!’

‘Not as much as this will my dear!’ leered Susan as she whipped another knife from her liberty bodice. With blinding accuracy the blade spun across the room, plunging into Victor’s chest. He sank to his knees as bubbles of gore frothed from his mouth. Sam stood transfixed. ‘You killed Victor!’ he whispered.

‘Oh, hello Sam. Yes ‘fraid so. The bastard got on my nerves. Bertie’s a goner too. Look – her head’s been shot off.’

‘Big Ears is still alive,’ he said turning over the dying gnome. ‘We want an explanation!’ demanded Sam, ‘Why did you kill Uncle Tarquin?’

‘Is Uncle Tarquin dead!’ squealed Susan.

‘Yes. His body is in that oaken chest. I found his ring in the flower border.’

Sam held out his hand and showed her the gold ring embossed with an A.

‘But Uncle’s name was Tarquin!’ questioned Susan.

‘I know,’ sighed Sam. ‘The ring belonged to my real father. His name was Akimbo, the village policeman. Uncle Tarquin stole it when he murdered him. I saw him do it.’

Susan knelt beside Sam’s trembling body.

‘Oh Sam, how awful – having a villager for a father!’

Sam wiped his tear stained face with a bloodied sleeve. ‘Last year, I heard Aunt Araminta and Mother talking in the library – about how different I was….’

‘Mmm, I suppose you are, with your black skin!’ Susan agreed.

‘….and my real name’s not Sam – it’s Sambuka! After that I used to spy on my father and follow him around. One day I followed him through the woods. He was on the trail of the international diamond smugglers, and found them plotting in an abandoned shack. Unfortunately Big Ears heard him and shouted the warning. Imagine how shocked I was to discover the other perpetrators were the infamous Noddy and Uncle Tarquin! When they discovered they’d been caught red-handed, they forced my father deep into the woods, where they flung him into one of the man-traps…’

‘….so everyone would think it an accident! But what about the diamonds?’

‘Ask him’ he pointed to Big Ears.

‘Where are the diamonds and we’ll save your neck – and why did you kill Uncle Tarquin?’ demanded Susan.

‘He tried to double-cross us.’ Big Ears gasped, pointing towards the wooden desk under the window. Sam limped over and opened the drawer.

‘Gosh, there’s enough here to buy you a really good lawyer Susan!’ exclaimed Sam turning his head just as Susan was squeezing the last breath out of Big Ears.

‘He was bleeding to death anyway,’ she sighed wiping her hands on her cardigan and removing the skirt from her knicker elastic. ‘Come on. The storm has stopped – we can go now.’

Picking up the bags of diamonds the two children walked out into the sunshine, where a gleeful Barker met them.

‘There’s bound to be some money left over Sam, so you can get your scurvy properly treated by a medical professional. It is rather unsightly,’ mused Susan as she slung the diamonds onto her bicycle….’and you’ll be able to keep all Uncle Tarquin’s clothes now that he’s definitely dead!’

‘Thank you Susan. What a jolly adventure this has been,’ smiled Sam.

‘Yes – a ripping jolly adventure!’

And they both laughed and Barker yelped as they cycled down the lane.


Louise says: “I realised I didn’t have a biography, but luckily found one on e-bay at a very reasonable price – I hope you accept them second-hand. I love Banoffee Pie, long-tailed monkeys and being on a boat. I live in Scotland near lots of sheep and grass.


“(I know it’s not much – but it was cheap!)”

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