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epilogue
chapter 23
chapter 22
chapter 21
chapter 20
chapter 19
chapter 18
chapter 17
chapter 16
chapter 15
chapter 14
chapter 13
chapter 12
chapter 11
chapter 10
chapter 9
chapter 8
chapter 7
chapter 6
chapter 5
chapter 4
chapter 3
chapter 2
chapter 1

The Famous Five: The Final Adventure.
A Tribute to Enid Blyton.

Chapter 14.
The Strange Metal Room.

It was nine o'clock by the time the five left the Hotel. All were wrapped in warm, dark clothes as Julian had instructed. The rain was falling quite heavily, but the No. 14 bus came trundling along, thankfully, after only a few minutes wait.
   Anne was following behind George as they climbed the steps to the top deck. "Your shoulders look really huge with all that rope wrapped around you," she said, trying to hold back the laughter.
   "Now are you sure you want to go through with this?" said Julian, turning to George after they had taken their seats.
   "Listen," said George, getting slightly annoyed, "we have already discussed this. You and Dick are far too heavy to climb the drainpipe, so who else is going to do it?"
   "I know, George. But I feel kind of responsible."
   "Don't fuss so, Julian, everything will be fine."
   The bus drove through the heart of The West End. Piccadilly Circus was unusually void of pedestrians, probably due to the rain. The famous Coca-Cola sign flashed in the background: the blues, reds and yellows reflecting off of the wet pavement, road and car roofs.
   'The Tower of London' finally came into view. From the top of the bus the children could see 'The White Tower', and the surrounding walls, bathed in floodlights.
   "St. Katherine's Dock," called out the conductor, as the bus crossed Tower Bridge Road.
   Most of the shops were still open, hoping for late tourists shopping for souvenirs. The rain slowed to a light drizzle as the five made their way to the boathouse and stood in the shadows.
   Julian looked around, spotted a café and saw that it was still open. "We shouldn't all stand here drawing attention to ourselves. I would like Dick and Anne to take Timmy and go and sit in the café. Order a coffee and hamburger, or something. I will stay here until George is safely inside."
   As Dick and Anne led Timmy away, George took off her coat. "Would you please look after this for me, Julian. I think it might get in the way."
   She unwrapped the rope, coiled it up and hung it over her shoulder before shinning up the drainpipe like a monkey. Julian caught his breath once as she missed her footing halfway up, but she easily regained her balance. Transferring from the drainpipe to the window opening was a little tricky. George lent over, grasped the window ledge, swung her legs across and, by clawing for a grip with her feet and pulling hard with her arms, she was soon astride the sill.
   She sat there for a few moments to regain her breath.
   Feeling for her torch and shining it through the window, George found, to her surprise, she was looking into a very dusty loft. There was only a short drop to the floor and in the corner she could see a trap door. George jumped down and silently padded to the corner of the loft, lifted up the hinged door and lent it against the far wall. A ladder, fixed to the wall below, gave access to the boathouse beneath.
   "Bringing this rope was a waste of time." She grumbled to herself, and placed it on the floor by her feet. She was soon down the ladder and standing in the room below. By torchlight George picked out a table and four chairs in the centre of the room. Directly opposite was the door to the outside. Next to this, hanging on the wall, were coils of rope and a lifebuoy reminding George, as they always did, of a huge polo-mint.
   The wall to her left was bare, save for a large piece of sacking nailed at the top and hanging down almost to the floor.
   To her right, leaning against the wall, keel outermost, was an old rowing boat in a bad state of repair.
   George edged cautiously to the table. On top was a Tilley lamp and a large piece of paper, weighed down at each corner with pebbles. At first glance it was obvious to George that she was looking at a Photostat copy of a map. On studying closer, she could see that the original must have been very old indeed. At the top, written in old style English, was the heading 'Tower Hill'. In the centre was a drawing of a castle like building. Inside this, also in old style English, were the words 'Whyte Tower'. There were various hill contour lines and also, in hidden detail, what could only be underground tunnels. To the right of the 'Whyte Tower' was a small round circle. This had been added to the Photostat copy and filled in with a fluorescent yellow marker pen. One of the tunnels passed close by the yellow circle, and between the two was added a thick, red line. At the bottom of the map, where the hill contour lines finished, was a square coloured blue. From this to the nearest tunnel was another thick red line.
   George sat in a chair trying to make sense of this curious map but her concentration was broken by the sound of distant, muffled voices. Was it her imagination or were the voices getting closer.
   She looked up and to her horror a round patch of light appeared on the sacking that was hanging on the wall. Someone was about to enter the boathouse. George was filled with panic. She would soon be discovered. Where was she to hide? It was too late to climb back up the ladder to the loft. As quick as a flash George rushed over to the boat that was leaning against the wall and crawled behind on her hands and knees.
   She knelt there, her heart thumping. George had not been a moment too soon, for almost immediately the sacking was pulled back to reveal Sir Peter Brooke. Behind him a short ladder lead up to a large hole in the wall. Presently out popped Peregrine Turner followed by David West.
   "Light the lamp, David, there's a good chap," said Sir Peter. "It is time we finalised our plan."
   The room was soon bathed in the soft light of the Tilley lamp and the three men each took a seat.
   "Firstly," continued Sir Peter, "I would like to congratulate both of you on the success of the mission thus far. Everything seems to be ready for go. There is no point in hanging about longer than we have to. In my opinion we should either go for Friday or Saturday night. What do you say Peri.?"
   "My vote is for Friday, Sir Peter," said Turner. "I have an up to date weather report. This rain should clear by Friday morning and Friday night's prediction is clear skies. There is a quarter moon at the moment. That should give enough light going from here to the boat and from the boat to the van the other end. I have been also promised gusty winds, which should help scatter the silver foil."
   "I agree," said West. "There will be plenty of people about Friday night. If we set off the alarms at eleven o'clock, when the pubs and theatres turn out, the police should be kept pretty busy."
   The Home Secretary looked thoughtful for a few moments. "What about Johnson? Will he be available?"
   "Yes," confirmed West. "I have told him to keep the week totally free."
   "O.K. Friday night it is, then," agreed Sir Peter. "We will meet at the pre-arranged place: the south eastern lion of Trafalgar Square at 10.00 pm, and synchronise watches. Timing is the essence in an operation like this. We will then go to our various stations. Have you two had enough practice filling the sacks?"
   "Yes," said West, with a grin. "Johnson's spreaders work a treat. We can clear the shelves in two minutes flat."
   "Don't forget you must make Westminster Bridge within fifteen minutes of the alarms sounding," pointed out Sir Peter. "That is the earliest the police flotilla will arrive. In my opinion they will take at least twenty, but we had better work on the safe side."
   They all sat quietly for a few moments reflecting on their achievements to date. The excitement was growing for the finalé on Friday night.
   George, still crouching in her hiding place, had heard every word. She was hoping that they would not, in turn, hear the loud thumping of her heart.
   "I think that concludes the business for tonight, gentlemen," said Sir Peter, folding up the map and slipping it into his pocket. "Come to my office at four on Friday afternoon, Peri., to confirm the arrangements."
   The three men rose from the table, extinguished the lamp, cautiously opened the door to check that the coast was clear before melting off into the night.
   George waited a few minutes to make sure that the men had really gone, before slowly crawling out from behind the boat. She turned on her torch, made her way over to the sacking and pulled it aside. She found the short ladder leading up to the freshly dug hole in the wall.
   "I must investigate this," said George, to herself. "But first I will let the others know I am OK."
   She climbed the ladder to the loft, went to the window and signalled three-flashes with her torch.
   Meanwhile, the other three children had sat nervously drinking hot chocolate in the café, their eyes glued to the boathouse. Timmy lay under the table wondering where his mistress had gone. When the three men emerged from the building, each of the children let out a gasp. Had George been discovered?
   "I will wait a few minutes and then go and investigate," said a worried Julian.
   When the three flashes came from the window Julian was already halfway to the boathouse.
   "I'm OK." said George in a loud whisper, when Julian was under the window. "There is something I must investigate. I don't know how long I will be."
   "OK but be careful," whispered back Julian, and returned to the café.
   Pulling back the sacking once more George noticed that, down close to the floor, there was an electric socket. Plugged into this was an extension lead that ran up and disappeared into the hole in the wall.
   George now shone her torch into the hole and saw that it was more of a shaft, really, for it went in for some twenty feet before breaking into a tunnel running at right angles. Embedded into the bottom of the shaft were two parallel steel rails, slightly protruding upwards, that ran the full twenty foot length of the shaft.
   George climbed the ladder and entered the shaft. She was not able to stand upright, but had to stoop slightly. Edging her way forward she soon came to the tunnel and, seeing there was only a small drop, had no trouble stepping down. The white electric cable could easily be seen going off up the tunnel to her right.
   "Well, here goes," sighed George, and set off at a brisk pace. After about a quarter of a mile, the tunnel split into two. George took the left hand fork, still following the cable. Suddenly her torch picked out some dark, shadowy creatures scurrying ahead. A high-pitched, chattering noise reached George's ears. She stopped abruptly, a cold shiver running down her spine. Rats! Not one of her favourite animals, but George had come too far to turn back now and pressed on. The rats scattered before her.
   Eventually she came across two wheelbarrows lined up one behind the other. Beyond these was a pile of earth and sand banked up against the left hand wall of the tunnel. To her right was a freshly dug shaft similar to the one she had entered.
   George sensed she was close to her journey's end. She climbed up into this second shaft and made her way forward. This shaft was roughly twice the length of the previous one, but at the very end was a metal wall with a neat, four-foot diameter hole in the centre. George had only once seen anything like this before: At her father's seminar. "Laser cut!" she breathed.
   Beyond the hole was the strangest room George had ever set her eyes upon. Thirty-foot diameter, eight foot high with walls, floor and ceiling constructed of a solid, dull-grey metal. There were three twelve inch diameter shiny steel pillars equi-spaced around the room and in between these, fixed to the floor, facing upward, three objects that reminded George of buffers on the front of steam engines.
   When George jumped down into the room, her feet set up a quiet, dull, ringing sound. She touched the wall. Everything was covered in a fine film of oil. Curiouser and curiouser! What could all this mean? George could not even begin to guess.

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