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Title: The Shadow of the Eagle
Series: The Eagle Chronicles.
Word Count 5382
Summary Steven's adopted son Jamie can't escape his father's shadow
Notes: The majority of this series was written over 20 years ago and I like to think that my style has improved since then. I've been told that I should probably edit them before I post like this but I can't edit myself. To me it looks fine. If you see a section that needs work, please tell me!






29. In the Shadow of the Eagle


"Stuart, let me see what you've written."

"Yes, sir. The boy handed the piece of paper to the master. He watched nervously as the professor's eyes perused the article.

"You can do better than this, boy. Certainly, you've experienced something that can give you more insight to both sides. I want you to start this from scratch." He ripped it to shreds. "Start with a new topic, if you wish, but do your research and include details."

"But, sir, the deadline is tomorrow."

"You had better start, then."

"Sir." James Stuart walked out into the quad and found a quiet spot. He was angry with the teacher. It was a good article. It considered all the facts. As he thought more about it, he realized that maybe he could have made it more interesting, but what could he come up with in one night? Surely nothing that would excite the old man. Maybe his father knew of things going on in London? Then he remembered his father was in the States.

"Hey, Jamie, you okay?" asked a boy Jamie's age.

"Harker just tore apart my article. He says I can do better. He then told me I should get a new topic and still make the deadline."

"You really do have a problem. Nothing goes on around here."

"You're a great help, Kevin."

"I aim to please," he laughed. "C'mon, maybe we can find something going on in town."

"Okay. Let's walk it. I'm in the mood for fresh air."

"Sure."

The two boys walked across the fields instead of taking the road. Kevin Cambridge watched the young lord's face as it changed from depression and anger to wide-eyed amazement of nature. He wondered what it would be like to live the life Jamie did. He hardly saw his father and spent holidays being followed by the press. "Jamie?"

"Yeah?"

"What's it like, living like you do?"

"It's okay, I guess."

"You don't sound so thrilled about it."

"It's kind of hard to say. I mean, there are good things and bad things. Can we drop this conversation?"

"Sorry, I didn't mean--"

"I know you didn't. I'm just a little upset, that's all."

"If you ever want to talk, I'll--"

"Sshh, I think someone is spying over there."

"Where?"

"Behind those bushes over there."

"Jamie, I think you're just looking for something to write about. He's probably just bird-watching or something. What could he be spying on out here?"

"You're right. C'mon, maybe we can make the matinee."

***********************************************

The two boys came out of the theatre laughing. "I definitely needed that. I'm feeling much better now," said Jamie.

"Let's get a paper. Maybe you can find something for your article."

"I'd almost forgotten about that." They walked to a vendor and bought both the local paper and the Times. Kevin took the local while Jamie searched through the London paper. "There's nothing here."

"I think I've found something. Listen to this. Some old coins were stolen from the exchange yesterday. They've been estimated at £10,000."

"Is the exchange here in town?"

"Yes, right down the street. I think it closes in an hour."

"Good. That gives us time to ask questions."

"Are you sure you know what you're doing?"

"I've seen my dad do it lots of times. Let's go."

The boys ran down the street and walked into the exchange. "What can I do for you, boys?" asked a young clerk."

"We'd like to talk to the manager."

"He's quite busy at the moment. May I be of any help?"

"It's to do with the robbery."

"What can you do about it?"

"We want to find them and we have to ask the manager questions."

"Why don't you go off and play 'Detective' somewhere else?"

Kevin spoke up. "This is Lord James Stuart. He has experience in such matters."

"You boys stay here. I'll get the manager." The clerk went into a backroom.

"Why did you have to say that?"

"You wanted to talk to the manager, didn't you?"

"Yes, but I didn't want to say who I was."

"Were you planning on investigating incognito? He'll take you seriously now."

The manager came out. He was an older man with hair greying at the temples. "I'm Mr. Sinclair, the manager. How may I help you?"

"I am a writer for our school paper and I read that you experienced a robbery. I'd like to interview you, if I may."

"Certainly. Come in back. We can talk more freely there." The boys followed nervously. "Please sit down and make yourselves comfortable. Can I get you anything to eat? Drink?"

"No, thank you, sir. We'd better get straight to the questions. Could you give us, in as much detail as you can, the lead-up to the robbery?"

"The coins themselves are very rare, from the Cromwellian outings in Ireland. Their estimated worth is close to £100,000."

"I must have read it wrong," Kevin whispered.

"As for the robbery, the coins had just arrived yesterday morning on their way to London. They were locked in the safe when we closed. When I came in this morning, the safe was open, but only those coins were missing."

"That means that whoever broke in knew exactly where the coins were. How many people know the combination?"

"Just myself and the head clerk."

"How long has he been here?"

"Close to five years. You can't think he did it?"

" 'I suspect everyone and no one.' Is he here now?"

"Yes. Would you like to talk to him in here?"

"If we may."

"I'll get him." Sinclair left.

"Laying it on thick, aren't you?" asked Kevin.

"I thought I'd better seem professional since you opened your big mouth. Just back me up on this."

"Sure thing, Sherlock." Jamie glared at him as Kevin smiled.

Sinclair entered followed by a clerk that was a few years younger than himself. He seemed nervous at the prospect of being questioned, but looked relieved when he saw the boys. "What's going on?"

"This young boy," Sinclair said, pointing at Jamie, "wants to do an article for his school paper on the robbery. He knows what he's asking."

"We won't be long, sir. Am I correct in understanding that, other than Mr. Sinclair, you are the only one who knows the combination to the safe?"

"Yeah. So?"

"Nothing. I'm just gathering information. You don't want to be misquoted or libeled, do you?"

"Course not. I went home before Mr. Sinclair and came back this morning after him."

"That could have given you time to prepare for the crime," said Kevin.

"I had to go to Edinburgh to visit my sister."

"Do you have proof?"

"She'll give me an alibi."

"Don't be so defensive, Mr. . . ."

"Eliot. Charles Eliot."

"Thank you, Mr. Eliot. We'll be in touch. We have to take owe leave now. We've been gone since noon. Thank you very much for the interview, Mr. Sinclair." Jamie and Kevin stepped into the twilight. "We'd better move quickly or we'll be caught on the fields in the dark."

"Fields? You want to cut across the fields at night? You're crazy, Jamie."

"I'd rather take a short walk in the twilight then a long one in the dark."

"Okay, but if anything happens, you take the full blame."

"Sure."

The boys quickly walked across the fields as the night grew dark. They had to cut through a small copse of trees, Jamie in front. Just at the edge, a shadow appeared from nowhere, blocking their path. It strode towards them and became a man. They tried to run but he grabbed them each by the collar. "Where are ye off tae?" he asked in a gruff voice.

"Ah, we're going back to school," said Jamie.

"Oh, little rich boys, eh?" He noticed Jamie's pad on the ground. "What's this?" he asked as he put them down.

Kevin moved to run but stopped when he saw Jamie standing still. "It's my notebook. I write for the paper."

The man picked it up and flipped through it. "Yer writin' 'bout the robb'ry. Ye'dd be amazed at who c'n do robb'ries."

Jamie looked inquisitively at the man, but he said nothing more. "We'd better get going now." He walked to Kevin.

"Don't tell on me, lads!" called the man. The boys nodded and ran back to school.

********************************************

When they reached the school, they were too late for dinner so they went to Jamie's room. Jamie immediately sat at his desk and began writing. "If Harker doesn't like this, I'll be ready to kill."

"After meeting that nut on the field, all you can think about is your article? Weren't you scared?"

"Yeah, but he didn't do anything, right? The last thing he said got me thinking. After I finish this, we're going to do some investigating."

"Mean it? I don't know if I should trust you."

"What have I ever done to make you feel that way?"

"There was that time in history when you and Dobson. . ."

"Sorry I asked. When I'm done, do you want to read it?"

"If you want me to."

"Would I have asked if I didn't?"

Kevin got up and walked to the bookshelf. :What did we have to read for history?"

"Cromwell and the Commonwealth." He paused. "It's ironic that the missing coins are from that period."

"Right." Kevin stretched out on the bed. There was a knock on the door. "Come in."

The door opened and two boys the same age as Jamie and Kevin walked in. "Cunningham and I thought you'd be hungry so we talked the cooks into letting us bring something up." They pushed a trolley forward. On it was a covered tray.

"What now, Dobson?"

"Dinner, you lordship." He removed the lid to reveal baked ham, potatoes, and two glasses of milk.

Kevin sat up and licked his lips. "Smells great. Thanks." He moved forward to take a plate."

"Wait. One thing you have to tell us first."

"What's that?"

"Where were you and why did you miss dinner?"

"Old Harker didn't like one of Jamie's articles so we went into town to get his mind off it."

"That took five hours?"

Jamie took over. "We cut across the fields so that's two hours, and a movie was another two."

"What about the fifth?"

"We found a topic for my article and did some research."

"Okay, you can eat now."

"You're such gentlemen."

Cunningham sat down beside Kevin and Dobson pulled up a chair. Cunningham asked, "What's the article about?"

"I don't know if I want to say. Maybe I'll let you read it when I'm done."

"What was happening in town?"

"There was a robbery of these rare coins worth over £100,000," answered Kevin.

"£100,000? Lord, what a fortune!"

"When we were coming across the fields, this man nearly scared us to death. He said something that's got Jamie thinking he's Sherlock Holmes."

"Tryin' to be like your dad?" asked Dobson.

"No, just trying to figure out this case."

"Is that what you're writing about?" asked Cunningham.

"Yeah. If Harker says there aren't enough details, I'm gonna throttle him."

"Then we'd be investigating you," Kevin said, laughing.

Cunningham seriously asked, "Can I help?"

"Sure. I'm not exactly sure what I'm doing, but I'd appreciate your help."

"You can't be serious, Cunningham," said Dobson. "What can you possibly do?"

"I don't know, but at least I'm offering to help."

Dobson got angry. "How dare you. . ."

"Calm down, Dobson. If you don't want to help, you don't have to. I just want to satisfy my curiosity."

"I'll join you, but I don't want to be doing anything stupid."

"You can't expect us to change your personality."

"You're gonna get it, Cambridge."

"I won't ask you to do anything I wouldn't do." Jamie looked at Dobson. "In?"

"In." They shook hands.

Jamie and Kevin told the others everything they had learned that afternoon. "That's what we have to work with." Jamie sat on the bed. "I don't know about the rest of you, but I can't think of anything at the moment."

"Why don't we all sleep on it and talk in the morning," suggested Cunningham.

"That's a good idea. Tomorrow at breakfast, then. Thanks for the dinner."

"Don't worry about it. It was nothing." The three boys left and Jamie returned to his article.

**********************************************

The next morning Cambridge, Dobson, and Cunningham waited for Jamie at breakfast, but he never showed. "Maybe he's still sleeping," said Cunningham.

"If he is, we'd better wake him. He's got Harker this morning," said Dobson.

"I'll go get him. We don't want Harker mad at him so he'll refuse to read the article."

"Okay. See you later." Cunningham and Dobson left for class.

Kevin knocked on Jamie's door but there was no answer. "Jamie, it's Kevin. You've got to get up for Harker this morning." No answer. He opened the door and saw the bed stripped. "Oh, no!" He went to the desk and found Jamie's article in pieces. He ran out of the room and to the housemaster. "Stuart's missing, sir."

"What was that, Cambridge?"

"Lord Stuart is missing, sir. He was supposed to meet me at breakfast but he never showed. I went to his room and found it a mess, something he'd never do."

"Are you sure you aren't jumping to conclusions?"

"Yes, sir. That's why I came to you. Have you seen him or know where he is?"

"No, I haven't. The two of you missed dinner last night, didn't you?"

"Yes, sir."

"Why?"

"Jamie had to find a topic to write on for the paper before today's deadline. He was upset so I suggested that we go into town to take his mind off it. We read that there had been a robbery of rare coins so we went to check it out. That's what he was writing on."

"Let me check his room. He may have gone off by himself to finish." The housemaster stood and went to Jamie's room. As he walked up the stairs, he heard Kevin's footsteps behind him. "Don't you have class, Cambridge?"

"If you please, sir, I'd rather find out what happened to Jamie."

"I admire your friendship, but you must go to class."

"Yes, sir."

Kevin made it to class just before Harker entered. He shrugged his shoulders at Dobson and Cunningham. Harker noticed Jamie's absence. "Cambridge, where's Stuart?"

"I don't know, sir. I haven't seen him since last night."

Harker nodded and commenced teaching.

Afterwards, Dobson and Cunningham came over to Cambridge. "What happened?"

"I went to his room and it was a total mess. The bed was stripped and the sheets were tied together outside the window. His article was ripped to shreds."

"What did you do?"

"I went to Douglass and told him. He went to the room but sent me away."

"We should check with him to see if he found anything," said Cunningham.

"And if he doesn't want to see us?" remarked Dobson.

"Then we'll try to find Jamie ourselves."

The three boys went to visit the housemaster. "Excuse me, sir," said Kevin.

"Yes, Cambridge?"

"Did you find out anything about Jamie?"

"He must have done it himself."

"But why would he climb out the window?" asked Cunningham.

"Instead of going downstairs and breaking curfew? I don't think he'd risk it," said Master Douglass.

"Don't you find it strange that Jamie, of all people, would go off in the middle of the night through the window?" asked Dobson.

"Cambridge told me that Stuart had much on his mind and maybe he went off to relieve it."

"Maybe," Kevin emphasized.

"I've no more time for such questions," said Douglass. "That's all I have to say. The police have been notified and will keep an eye out for him." The boys accepted his dismissal and walked out.

"I can't believe he didn't do anything," said Cunningham.

"How can he do anything when he doesn't think anything's wrong?" said Kevin.

"I told you it was a waste of time," remarked Dobson.

"Now what do we do?" Cunningham asked. "We've got to find out what happened to Jamie.

Kevin walked up to Jamie's room. "And I know what."

"What are you doing?"

"Investigating the scene of the crime."

"Oh, you're just as bad as Jamie," said Dobson.

"You never saw the man in the woods. I bet he had something to do with it."

"Oh, brother."

"Don't just stand there, help."

*************************************************************

Jamie looked at the article. "This isn't right. It sounds to. . .blah. I need to liven it up a bit. But how?" He sat at his desk and thought. A gleam came into his eye. He climbed into bed and set his alarm for earlier than usual.

When the alarm went off, all he did was put on his shoes (he had slept in his clothes). He stripped the bed and tied the sheets together and fastened the makeshift rope to the windowsill. As he prepared to climb out, the article caught his eye. He imagined it was Master Harker and tore it into little pieces. He climbed down hand-over- hand and prayed his knots would hold. He felt that the end of the rope was near, so he looked over his shoulder. He'd have to jump the rest of the way. He braced himself and let go. He picked himself up off the ground and headed for the security shed to "borrow" a torch. He then headed across the fields to find that man.

**************************************************************

Kevin looked at the ground underneath Jamie's window. "He definitely jumped here. You can still see the footprints." He pointed toward the woods. "He went that way, I think."

"What do you expect us to do?" asked Dobson. "We still have classes."

"Would you rather go to class, or find out what happened to Jamie?"

"Guess you're right. Let's go."

The boys raced across the fields and into the wood. "This is where we met that man. He sounded pretty gruff, yet he said something that got Jamie thinking. Maybe that's why he left."

Cunningham picked up a piece of cloth. "It's a school tie. Must be Jamie's."

"That proves he was here then," said Dobson, giving in to the excitement. "Where could he have gone from here?"

Kevin had been studying the ground for footprints. "I think that man took him. Their footprints go off together."

"What reason would a bum have for taking a young lord?" asked Cunningham.

"He saw Jamie's notebook and read the parts about the robbery. Maybe he thought Jamie had something on him," said Kevin.

"If that's the case, we'd better hurry. We don't know what he plans to do."

******************************************************

Jamie stood at the edge of the clearing, trying to gather up courage to move forward. He had turned off the torch because he didn't want the man to see him until he was ready. He could see the fire but not the man.

"C'm in, lad. I've bin waitin' fer ye."

"You knew I'd be back?"

"Could tell by lookin' that ye need tae know th'answers. C'm sit down. I wunt put a hand tae ye."

Jamie knew by his voice that he was trustworthy, but he wanted to make sure. "Let me see you first."

A shadow rose and stood in front of the fire. Jamie noticed by his stature that he was younger than he thought. "Aye, yer a cautious one. Ye dunt see much o' that in a lad yer age." He motioned with his hand. "C'm 'round and have a bit tae eat. I'm unarmed and wunt harm ye."

Jamie moved forward. "What did you mean by 'Ye'd be amazed at who do robb'ries'?"

The man laughed. "I thought it straightforward." He gave Jamie a cup of tea. "Warm yerself by the fire. Ye look tired."

"I am, a bit." Jamie sat by the fire and stared at the flames. He could barely keep his eyes open and fell asleep.

The man wrapped him in a blanket carefully as not to wake him. He then went over to a rock and pulled a small tin box from behind it. A jingling noise came from within. "What a job. Can't believe I did it." He looked at the boy. "'Nd ye'd better no' ruin it." The man took another blanket, wrapped himself up, and settled down for the night.

Jamie opened one eye and looked at him. He seemed different from yesterday. Then he saw the box. He must have stolen the coins! He crept over to the box and cautiously lifted the catch. He looked around to find something in which to put the coins. He finally settled on tearing a corner of the blanket and tying it with his tie. He realized the man would see his tie was missing, so he took a bit of string out of his pocket and used that instead. He buried the bundle and placed pebbles inside the box to make noise. He then went back to sleep.

*******************************************************

The three boys searched the area trying to find out in which direction the two went. "Over here!" called Cunningham. "Footprints go this way!"

The others came over. "Looks like they're heading for town," said Dobson.

"Maybe he's meeting up with his partner and took Jamie with him so he wouldn't talk."

"Sometimes your imagination goes too far, Cambridge."

"He's been pretty right so far," said Cunningham. "It couldn't hurt to try and find him in town."

"Oh, all right."

"Okay, we're off!" said Cambridge as he bounded through the brush.

*********************************************************

The man shook Jamie awake. "Time tae go, lad. We'll be headin' fer town so we dunt need food."

Jamie stretched and yawned. "Why are you taking me with you?"

"Dunt want ye ruinin' m'plan. 'Sides, it'll give ye somethin' tae write 'bout."

"You'll let me write it? It wouldn't bother you?"

"Not a mite. C'mon, time tae go."

Jamie noticed that the man had packed everything into an easy-to-carry bundle. Had he noticed the switch? He didn't seem to. "Sure. I'm ready."

Once in town they went to a small cafe for breakfast. The man ordered eggs for the two of them. "Do I have yer waird that ye wunt run 'way till I cum back?"

Jamie drank his orange juice. "Yes, but can't I go with you? I mean, if I'm gonna write about it?"

The man smiled. "I admire yer spunk, lad, but I cunt let ye risk it. The man I'm goin' tae meet might have a gun. I'm not sayin dunt cum, but if ye do, stay hid."

Jamie looked at the man in a new light. "You're not a regular thief, are you? If you were, you wouldn't be so nice to me."

"Let's just say I have a weakness fer kids." He smiled. "Now eat up. I've got tae go soon."

The man paid then headed for his rendezvous with the buyer of his merchandise. Jamie ran across the street and followed him to an empty building. He crossed his fingers and hoped the buyer had already seen the coins. Otherwise, he wouldn't see that man again.

********************************************************

The young trio made it into town. "I'm thirsty," remarked Cambridge. "Let's get something to drink. We can look some more afterwards."

"Kevin, you're the one who said we had to hurry!"

"Just testing. They had to eat this morning, right? Maybe someone in the caff saw them."

"Sure you were just testing," said Dobson sarcastically.

"We can't just go in and ask questions, we have to order something." He smiled and went inside. "Excuse me, sir," he said to the man behind the counter. "We're looking for a friend of ours who might have been in earlier."

"Aye, there was a young lad in here with a man this mornin'. Could've been his father. Left about two hours ago." He wiped the counter purposefully. "Can I get you something?"

Kevin looked smugly at the others. "Three glasses of milk, please."

The boys drank their milk and congratulated Kevin on his idea. "You actually did something right," said Dobson as he patted him on the back. "All we have to do now is find out where they went."

"Wherever they went, it was two hours ago. That doesn't mean they're still there," said Cunningham.

"If we find out where they went after here, we can find out where they went after that,"

"Your logic confuses me sometimes, Kevin," said Cunningham.

"Sometimes? It confuses me all the time," Dobson remarked. "And it scares me that I understand it."

The man behind the counter mentioned that he had seen them go across the street to an abandoned building. "Thank you very much," said Kevin as he paid him. "You just may have saved a life." He ran out.

The man looked puzzled. "Don't worry about him," said Cunningham. "He's getting carried away." He followed Kevin.

Dobson looked after them. "Excellent milk, my good man. Keep up the good work," he said with dignity before he ran after them.

They reached the building. "This is it," said Dobson. He stood at the door. "Kevin, you do the honors. After all, it was your idea."

"Thank you so much, Dobson. I won't forget you for this." He slowly pushed open the door. The room was dark except for the light coming from behind him. "Okay, we've looked. They're not here now. We can go." Kevin turned abruptly. Dobson and Cunningham each took an arm and brought him forward into the room.

While Dobson held onto Kevin, Cunningham found and turned on the light switch. "It doesn't look like anyone's been here in ages," he remarked as he blew dust off a tabletop.

Once the lights came on, Kevin shook off Dobson's hand. "Look, footprints!"

"Dust is good for something after all," said Dobson.

They ended at the wall. "There's got to be a trigger to open the panel," Cunningham said.

The three boys felt, knocked, and pulled everything available in the hopes of finding their friend before it was too late.

********************************************************************

Jamie watched the man walk through the dusty room. There was no one else there. He crept closer. He watched as the man walked to the wall, touched something, and a secret panel opened. As the door began to close, Jamie ran quickly and slipped through. He hid in a dark corner and saw the man walk to a table and place the box on top. A man in a suit (Jamie could only see the sleeves) prepared to open it. Jamie couldn't let the man dies, so he knocked over the box he was hiding behind.

"Who's there?" called Mr. X. Jamie came out from his hiding place. "It's you," he said as if he were expecting him. "He turned to Jamie's "friend". "Did you know he was here?"

"No, sir. I didn't." He looked at Jamie. "What're ye doin' here?"

"There are no coins in that box. I took 'em out and buried 'em in the clearing."

"Ye what?"

Mr. X noticed the disagreement and came over. "What's wrong?"

The man knew he had to tell. "The lad took the coins out an' buried 'em."

"Where, boy?" He grabbed Jamie's arm.

"In the clearing where we stayed last night. I buried 'em under the spot where the box was."

Mr. X turned to the man. "Go to this clearing and bring the coins back. I'll keep his Lordship here as insurance that you'll come back. If you don't, or if you bring back the police, he dies." He held Jamie's arm tighter and pulled him close.

"I made a deal tae get ye the coins, but I dunt want tae be involved wi' murder."

"All the more reason to bring me those coins."

The man walked over to Jamie. "If I dunt make it, I want ye tae have this," he whispered as he pressed a cloth-wrapped object into his hands.

"What about. . ?"

"He wunt kill ye. Open it when I go. It'll clear this up." He left.

Jamie looked at the object in his hand. It was small and he didn't want Mr. X to see it, so he put it in his pocket. Mr. X forced him to sit in the chair then left, sealing Jamie in the room. Jamie took the item out of his pocket and unwrapped it, revealing his father's signet ring with the family crest. "Dad?" Looking back at what he had done, Jamie wished he hadn't meddled. His father probably had everything going perfectly until he messed it up. Now he felt more helpless than ever.

Close to an hour and a half later, the door opened again and both men walked in. The Scot smiled at Jamie and he'd a finger to his lips to keep him quiet. "Now, let me see those coins," Mr. X said. The man handed over the bundle. "At last, some of the rarest coins in the world." His eyes literally glowed with excitement. He put them in the strongbox. "Now, if you'll excuse me." He headed for the door.

"What're ye doin'? This was nae part of our deal!"

"I don't keep deals with thieves. Good-bye to you both!"

Jamie cried out in horror. "No!" The door slid shut and locked. Jamie's father, the duke of Edinburgh a.k.a. Steven Taylor, former thief, laughed. "What are you laughing at?"

He lifted his lapel to his mouth. "Did you get everything, Sergeant?"

"Every word, your Grace. We'll be waiting for him."

Jamie looked at him. "Why did you take the coins?"

"I took them for safe-keeping. The manager knew all along. The CID has been trying to catch this man red-handed and asked for my help once I got back from the States. The manager spread the story of the theft so our man wouldn't be suspicious."

"But--" He was shushed by his father's raised hand. He heard something.

*******************************************************

While searching by a stack of crates near the wall, Kevin suddenly stopped. "Do you guys hear something?"

"Like what? Heavy breathing or footsteps?" teased Dobson.

"Oh, be serious." Kevin put his ear to the wall and heard what sounded like voices. "Now listen and tell me you don't hear anything."

Cunningham placed his ear against the wall and listened. "He's right, there is someone in there."

Kevin pounded on the wall. "Jamie! Are you in there?"

There was a return knock. "Kevin, glad to hear you!" There was a pause and Kevin heard murmuring. "Pull down on the sconce and press the knot by the seam. That should open it."

Dobson held the sconce while Kevin pressed the knot. The panel slid open and Jamie and his father came out. "We thought you were a goner," said Kevin. He stopped and stared at Steven. "What're you. . . ?"

"It's okay, Kevin. He saved my life. I'll explain everything back at school."

"But what about the coins?" asked Cunningham.

"The polis have 'em, lad," said Steven in his burr, wishing to keep his identity secret.

When they reached the school, they were told to report directly to the headmaster as the "mystery man" took his leave. Jamie went in first, followed by Kevin, Cunningham, and Dobson. "Where have you boys been? It doesn't lend credibility to our school when four boys go off wandering alone."

"It's my fault, sir," said Jamie. "I was so desperate to finish my article I left without telling anyone. They thought I was in trouble and came looking for me."

"I don't know what to do with you, Stuart."

"I'll handle it." All five faces turned to see who had spoken. Steven had washed and shaved, looking very different from the man the boys had left earlier.

"Certainly, your Grace," said the headmaster, "but I must take care of the others."

"I think it was just a case of devoted friendship. They went to help a friend they thought in trouble. Now what's the harm in that?" The headmaster said nothing. "As for you," he said to Jamie, "we need to have a little talk."

"Yes, Dad."

Ah, the joys of parenthood.

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