The Storyteller









To say it has been an interesting few weeks would be the understatement of the century.  On the one hand, I have felt as if I was on top of the world and nothing could bring me down to earth again.  And then it did.


I guess it started when Colin took me to his school disco.  Cassie had gone off to spend the night at a friend’s house after her pool party - and wouldn’t you know it, she somehow managed to get herself involved in another robbery.  Mind you, as it turned out she was a real hero that night, and we were all so proud of her when we heard what had happened.  But I only got the full story of that after Mum and Dad - after all, I was having my own great adventure at the time.


Where was I - oh yeah.  Colin - he picked me up at six and his father drove us to his school.  I’d never been to St Swithin’s Public School, but it turned out to be a big concrete and glass place on the far side of town.


His dad dropped us off, we went in - and I had a great time.  Colin looked after me, introduced me to some of his friends, and Bobby was there as well.  I didn’t really notice him, however - it was Colin that took my attention.


I have to admit, despite the fact I knew him as Bobby’s friend, he still took me by surprise when he asked me if I wanted to come - and as the night wore on, I got the feeling he liked me a little more than I had realised.


I also realised something else - I liked him a bit more than I had thought I would as well.  By the end of the evening, I was beginning to fall for him big time - and the kiss he gave me when his dad brought me home just seemed to seal the deal.  It was the first time I’d been kissed by anyone other than Dad or the rest of the family, and it felt - nice.


Oh who am I kidding - it felt wonderful.  As I walked up the path and turned to wave to him, the first thing on my mind was when we were going to do that again.


Then there was the project we had to do - interview someone who was a local celebrity and find something out about their life.  When we heard that in our PHSE class, the three of us just turned and looked at Angela, who at least had the grace to say to us “All right - I could see this one coming.  I’ll ask Grandfather and see what he says.”


And while all this was going on, there were new babies arriving right, left and centre.  First there was Alicia’s new baby brother Andrew - totally out of the blue on Mother’s Day.  Then when Cassie was given her award for what she did during the sleepover, Aunt Connie gave birth to Daniel.


Alicia got an agreement with her grandfather that we could talk to him on the Saturday, in return for Alicia showing him what we had done with what he told us on the Sunday.  That suited us fine, as the assignment had to be in on Monday morning - she told us this on the Monday morning before, which was the day that Aunt Jessica and Patty moved in a few streets away from us. 


Now, I love my sister, but she can be a bit of a trouble maker at times.  Compared to Patty, however, Cassie has already proved herself to be a saint in waiting.  She wants to know everything we get up to, and I’ve already had to take steps a few tines to keep her out of my way.


The thing is, she loves every second of being tied up - and after the weekend up at the Manor House, where she met up with Suzie, Pippa and the twins, she seems to have developed a love for being tied up and gagged that is almost as great as Cassie’s.


Mind you, the shock of that was nothing compared to coming down one morning, and finding out that your family had just doubled in size!  When Dad showed us the photographs at the breakfast table, my jaw almost hit the floor, I was so surprised.


Surprised to find out I had been right when I heard two sets of heartbeats in Mum’s tummy that day.  Still, when we saw David and June later that day, I knew only one thing - that I wanted to look after them no matter what.


So there we were - I suddenly had a new cousin, baby brother and baby sister, another cousin that was almost as annoying as Cassie, and a big assignment.  I was almost looking forward to a nice quiet Saturday after that.


Almost - after all, a group of like minded girls at the Manor House?  We were there as well, trying to keep out of the way of them as we did our interview with Lord Holderness, but once that was out of the way we felt as if we needed a break - so Alicia got Mrs Bridges to tie us all up and gag us.


That, of course, is how they found us as Angela showed them round, much to their enjoyment and our embarrassment  Mind you, when Cassie, told me later what else had happened that weekend - how Patty had tricked them all, and then the picnic on the island.


I’ve never been on the island in the lake, so I felt kind of jealous, but it sounded like a wonderful place.  Maybe one day I can persuade Alicia to take me over - in the sunset it looked breathtaking...


Ach - getting ahead of myself again.  Cassie came back on the Sunday - and on the Monday Colin called me to ask if I was free the following Saturday.  He said he and Bobby wanted to spend the day with me and Cassie, so of course I agreed.


Now, I probably need to confess something here - I had seen for some time the way that Robert Desmond Holderness had looked at my sister, and I had guessed he liked her, but I never for one moment thought her would ask her to spend some time with him, never mind ask her out.  She’s only eleven after all - but then when Cassie said Bobby had asked her over that weekend, and Dad agreed, I wondered just what the boys had cooked up.


Well, it turned out to be a day to remember - from the moment they picked us up, then put those handcuffs on and blindfolded us, to the trip home with the ponchos over our upper bodies and the tight gags over our mouths, it was a non-stop rollercoaster ride.  The most unexpected part was when we stopped at the cinema, and they both kissed us before gagging us and smoothing clear tape over our mouths.


Colin had kissed me before, so I welcomed it, but I could see the wide eyed look on Cassie’s face when Bobby kissed her - I think for the first time as well.  That look stayed in her eyes all day until the dance on the walkway - a dance I was not expecting, nor the look in Alicia’s eyes when she stood there watching us.


But still - the dinner, the ride in the barrows to the clearing and then just sitting by the lakeside as the sun went down, and talking.  All right - the boys talking and us listening. But still - there was something magical about it which I wanted to experience again and again.  Even when Bobby started talking about Alicia.


Ah yes, Alicia - and Martin.  There’s something I only recently understood about Alicia - she is one of the most outgoing girls I know when she is with her friends, but put her in the same room as a bunch of boys and she becomes the quietest little church mouse I had ever seen.


So when Bobby told us about what he had seen, it took me a while to put things together, and remember who Martin was.  Tall lad, short brown hair, freckles, sings Tenor in the school choir.  I wouldn’t say I knew him that well, but I talked to him from time to time.


In many ways I guess he is the sort of lad Alicia would be attracted to - but I decided not to say anything to her the next day.  She was more interested in Cassie and Bobby anyway - but I didn’t say anything.


Except, that is, to say congratulations to all of us for the A we got on the project.


Anyway, last Saturday was Granny’s 65th birthday, and she dropped in on us Saturday morning to say hello.  We knew she, Mum and Aunts Connie and Cassie were joining up with Lady Holderness, Alicia’s mum and sister and Bobby’s mum that afternoon, so if we were going to give her any presents it had to be that morning.


Which is why we held a little birthday party for her when she arrived.  Dad had been out early, and brought some smoked salmon and eggs, which he scrambled up and served to Granny with fresh croissants.  We had scrambled egg on toast, and drank orange juice and lemonade with Mum while Dad and Granny had champagne.


Then we gave her our presents - Cassie and I had bought her (with the help of Mum and Dad) a new silver locket, while they had got her a matching brooch with a big blue stone in the middle.  She thanked us and hugged us and kissed us, and then had to go - she had to pick up Aunt Cassie, while Aunt Connie was brining Daniel round to spend the night here with Dad and Uncle Dave.


As for us - we were going to Aunt Jessie’s to spend the night with Patty.  We got there about six, and we had a fun night - especially when after we had a surprise visitor, and Aunt Jessie found out about Patty’s new passion, she agreed to play robbers with Patty.  They were the mum and daughter who walked in on their house been robbed, and Cassie and I had to be the ones that stopped them raising the alarm.


That whole evening led to an - interesting conversation between the four of us, where we found out what happened when Mum first told Aunt Jessie about what had happened to us last year, and how it brought back a few memories for her.  The upshot was that she said she did not mind us playing the games, so long as a responsible adult was nearby - and she included herself in that.  She especially said she could see - and I remember this clearly - how playing the games had helped us cope with some very frightening things that had happened to us.



Which, given what else was happening that night, turned out to be a very good thing indeed.


The first we knew that something had happened was the next morning, when we came down to breakfast to see Aunt Jessie on the telephone.  When she put it down, she looked away from us for a few minutes, then turned round and said we would be staying for the day with her and Patty, and going to church with them.


Nothing very unusual in that - but when I asked if Mum and Granny would be joining us, Aunt Jessie just shook her head and turned away again for a minute.  Cassie and I looked at each other, and wondered what was going on.


We went to church, had Sunday lunch with Aunt Jessie and Patty, then we walked back home to find Dad sitting with Uncle Dave and April.  We had not seen April for some time - she had been away at college - so she gave us a great big hug and told us that she had agreed to come and keep an eye on all of us for the rest of the day and the night.


That was when Cassie asked the killer question - “Dad, where’s Mum?”


I could see Dad looking at Uncle Dave, and then he began to tell us that the night before, there had been a robbery at Holderness Manor.  Mum, Granny, all of the women had been there, and they had been bound and gagged and held hostage by a group of bad men.


“Sounds like it was fun,” Cassie said, but there was something in Dad’s eye that told me we were not getting the full story.  He smiled and ruffled Cassie’s head, then said that it had been a very scary time for all of them, and they had been to hospital to check nothing was wrong.


“I’m going with Uncle Dave to get them in a few minutes,” he said as he stood up.  “Listen Girls - they are going to be a little bit upset for a while, so you’ll need to be patient and give them time to think over what happened.   I’ll tell you all more later, but for now just be patient and if they start crying, leave them alone and come and tell me or Uncle Dave, all right?”


We all nodded, and a few hours later they all came back to the house.  I could see Mum and Granny were very tired - the first thing Mum did when she came in was to take the babies from April and just sit there, cuddling them and holding them on her lap, crying softly as she kissed them, and then us as we sat with our heads on her lap.


Granny sat with Aunt Cassie, while Uncle Dave had Aunt Connie and Daniel.  We wanted to ask what had happened, but we also knew Dad had said to wait, so we did.


Next day at school, I asked Alicia what she had been told.  She knew a little more - that our side of the family and hers had been separated, and they had been threatened with guns.


“Mum and Angela are still shaking,” she told me at morning break, “Whatever it was that happened affected them deeply - I had to take a letter to the headmaster today, asking him to let me take tomorrow off.”


When I got home that night, Dad told me that Cassie and I were taking the day off school tomorrow, and going to the manor house.  We didn’t ask why, but the next morning we all drove there.


When we got out, we were told to go the playroom by Mrs Bridges, who looked tired as well.  We found Suzie, Bobby and Alicia up there as well, and we all looked at each other.  Bobby and Suzie said their mother had not stopped crying since Sunday, but beyond that they knew as much as we did.


We knew a bit more a few minutes later, when Lord Holderness came in and sat down.  Very gently, very carefully, he told us a little more about what had happened - enough for me to know this was more serious than the time we were held hostage at Aunt Cassie’s house.


He did not tell us exactly what happened, but Alicia and I looked at each other, and we knew it was a good thing we were not present.  Lord Holderness also said that the robbers had been interrupted by a couple of special people, and they would be visiting today,


It was at lunchtime that Alicia came up and said she had just met Anne Duncombe, a friend of Heidi’s in the library, and we were all to go down to lunch.  When we went in, we saw her and a red haired girl called Chloe - and other friend of Heidi’s who said hello in her French accent as we came in.


There were two other people there - a tall, thin, blonde haired woman in a grey jacket and skirt and a pink blouse, and next to her a tall, big man.  They were introduced to us as Sara and Brian, but they did not say too much.


After lunch, we went back up to the playroom - and being us, we started to play the usual games when Suzie brought Chloe in.  We asked her why she was here, but all she said was she was visiting with a friend.


Here’s the thing that caught the attention of both me and Alicia, however - we knew what Anne did for a living, so why was an FBI agent just visiting?


Anyway, that was Tuesday.  On Friday we were asked by Dad if we would go to Aunt Jessie’s for the evening, as he had to take Mum somewhere and April was watching the twins.


When we got round there, we found that Alicia had also come round, with Bobby and Suzie.


“I think our mums are meeting with your mum,” Alicia said as we took our coats off and hung them up, “so we’re all meeting up here for some reason.”


“Has she said anything more to you,” I asked Alicia as we went into Aunt Jessie’s front room.


“Only that she and Angela were scared out of their wits, and that the Shadow appeared more clearly than before.”


“The Holderness Shadow?”


Alicia nodded as we came in to see Patty and Suzie talking, and Bobby on his mobile phone.


“My friend Colin is going to be dropped off by his dad,” he said to Aunt Jessie.  “But why are we all here?”


“I am responsible for that,” we heard a voice say in a familiar French accent; “There is someone I want you to meet.”


We turned and looked to the doorway, four of us smiling as Bobby said “It’s Chloe, isn’t it?  You were at our grandparent’s house the other day.”


Chloe smiled as she came in and sat down.  The young French girl was dressed in the way we remembered seeing her last year - a blue v-necked jumper with a red and black tartan scarf around her neck, a faded blue denim skirt over a pair of black leggings, striped socks and high Doc Marten boots.


“I was, and it is a pleasure to see you all again,” she said as she looked at us.  “My friend was most intrigued by the tales I told her of the children of the Holderness family and their friends, and she asked if it would be possible to meet with you before we return to the United States.  As you parents are busy tonight, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity for that to happen, and with the kind help of Madame Pickering she will be here shortly.”


Patty nudged me and said “Why is she talking in such a funny way - and who is Madame Pickering?”


“She is French,” I said quietly, “and that is her accent.  As to Madame Pickering, that is what she is very politely calling your mother.”


“So why doesn’t she call her Jessica or Aunt Jessie like you do?”


I rolled my eyes and said “Because...”


“Because, little one, I was brought up to be respectful and formal with people I do not know well.”  Chloe said with a smile as she looked at Patty.  My little cousin was wearing a pair of light blue leggings with a little daisy on the bottom of the legs on the outside, white sandals and a white sun dress.  “I know you like to play their games as well, do you not?”


Patty nodded eagerly, which was just the excuse Cassie needed to pull her hands behind her back and cross her wrists, binding them tightly together with some rope that she took from a bag we had brought with us, before she wrapped some rope around her waist to fix her arms to her back.


“I can get out of this,” Patty said very confidently before she felt her fingers being taped together.  “Or maybe not,” she continued as I crossed her ankles and tied them tightly together, then her legs below her knees, making sure I cinched the rope coils between her legs.


“I see you have lost none of your skill,” Chloe said as Cassie tied Patty’s arms to her side, and I folded up a small square of silk.  “Open wide,” I said, and Patty nodded as I pushed the cloth in, and then covered her mouth with the special white tape, wrapping it round her head as I did so.


Aunt Jessie chose this moment to look in, saying “Playing robbers again,” as she saw Patty sitting there.  “I see you have come across this before, Miss Badelaine.”


“Please, call me Chloe,” our friend said with a smile, “And yes, I have seen the girls play these games before.  Be assured I will make sure no harm comes to them.”


Aunt Jessie nodded as the bell rang.  “I’ll see who that is,” she said as Alicia motioned with her finger to Suzie.  “Yes,” she said with an innocent and trusting face, with the biggest of grins plastered over it.


“You’re next,” Alicia said as she stood up, walked to the bag and pulled out a length of rope.  Suzie was wearing a pair of green shorts and a Hello Kitty grey t-shirt, so she took a pair of socks from the bag and pulled them over her hands, then crossed her wrists behind her back as Colin came in.


He smiled when he looked at me, and I felt my cheeks getting redder as he said “Hey girls - I’ve got some news for you.”


“Hey Colin,” Alicia said as she lashed her cousin’s crossed wrists tightly together, and then looked at Chloe.  “So how come you’re visiting here with Anne, Chloe.”


“Ah - I had to return home for a week, and Anne offered to accompany me, as did Sara and her boyfriend.  She mentioned that her family had some connection with this beautiful town, and I had the pleasure of meeting Lady Holderness last year, so we arranged to visit before heading for home.”


“Did you hear what happened last Saturday Grandma and the others,” Suzie said as she stood there, allowing Alicia to bind her arms tightly to her sides with a longer length of rope.


“I did, and I am very sorry,” Chloe said, and for just a moment I thought there was a flash of sadness in her eyes.  It must have been my imagination, though, as she turned and said “I do not believe I have had the pleasure?”


“Oh sorry,” Bobby said as he stood up.  “Chloe, this is Colin Hampton.  Colin’s dad heads up the detectives at the local police station.”


“Ah,” Chloe said as she shook Colin’s hand, “It is a great pleasure to see you.  I have not met your father, but I have heard many good things about him.”


Colin looked at Chloe as she shook his hand.  “Thanks,” he said, “He’s not saying much about what happened this week, but apparently he spent most of Tuesday in the Chief Constable’s office, and he’s getting promoted.”


“Well, say congratulations for me,” Alicia said as she sat Suzie down and tied her ankles together, Patty poking me in the sides with her body as she sidled over to me.


“Patty,” I muttered under my breath as I looked at Suzie and Alicia, “Don’t do that or I’ll make sure you can’t move.”


“Prmsss prmsss” she muttered under her breath, so I said to Cassie “Bring me a dining chair, will you?”  She ran off and brought one in, while I picked up Patty and placed her on the seat, before wrapping some rope around her waist to hold her against the chair.


“Hey Bobby,” Cassie said as I was tying the rope off, “What would happen if I was to try and come over and tickle you?”


“You could try,” Bobby said as he looked at my sister, “but I guarantee you would not get very far.”


I smiled to myself, and I could see Colin had seen me smiling, as Cassie got up and walked slowly over, her long white tiered skirt rustling as the hem went round her white sock covered ankles.  Bobby was quicker, jumping up and hand gagging her as he held her with his arm over her white blouse.


“Ltmggufnd,” Cassie mumbled under her breath, making Chloe laugh as Bobby said to Colin “Pass me a length of rope will you?”


“Tell me,” Chloe said as Alicia wound the tape round her cousin’s head, “How are your mothers and grandmothers?”


“Sad,” Alicia said as she checked Suzie, then turned towards our French friend.  “They don’t want to talk too much about what happened last Saturday - Mum doesn’t want to seem to let go of Andrew.”


“Same with the twins,” I said as I watched Bobby pull Cassie’s wrists behind her back, and I presume cross them before he started to tie them together, “and Aunt Cassie has had a really strange look in her eyes all week.”


Suzie nodded to confirm that.  “She teaches Suzie’s class at school,” I said as Chloe looked at her, and I saw her nod.


“So who else is coming,” Alicia said as she walked over to join us.  Bobby had started to wrap some rope around Cassie’s arms and tummy, and as I glanced over I could see him whisper something in her ear, making her giggle and blush.


Chloe had heard the giggle as well, and raised an eyebrow in response.  I rubbed my hands up the sleeves of my grey top, and said “Sorry, Bobby does seem to get under Cassie’s skin.”


“Indeed,” Alicia said as she raised an eyebrow at me.  Alicia was wearing a brown checked blouse and a pair of skinny jeans, with her feet in blue socks, while I had a black t-shirt and skirt on with my grey top, and a pair of light brown tights.


“It is all right,” Chloe said as Bobby stuffed a piece of cloth into Cassie’s mouth, “I understand.”


As we stood there talking, Colin walked behind me, and I let out a little sigh as I felt him pulling my wrists behind my own back.  “I guess we’re all going to be tied up,” Alicia said with a sigh, “But who is going to take care of me?”


“Perhaps I can take care of that - if you will let me?”


We all turned and looked at the door, to see a tall, thin, blonde haired woman standing there.  She was wearing a grey tracksuit with a pink trim, and a pink t-shirt visible under the sip of the top.  A pair of trainers was on her feet, and she smiled as she said “Hi - I’m Sara.  I met you the other day at Holderness Manor with Anne - it’s Alicia, isn’t it?”


“Yeah,” Alicia said with a smile.  “I remember you.  How are you?”


“I’m very well, thank you,” Sara said as she came in, and I saw the watch on her wrists with the glowing green dial at the same time as I felt the ropes pulling my arms into my sides.


“Do me a favour, Colin,” I said as I looked over my shoulder, “Don’t gag me just yet.  I’d like to talk to Sara for a while if that’s all right.”


“Anything for you,” Colin whispered into my ear as he pulled the rope tighter and tied it off, then helped me to sit down.


“So, why don’t you introduce me to everyone, Alicia,” Sara said as she looked round the room.  “I recognise your cousin, but none of the others.”


“Well, you know Suzie,” Alicia said as she turned and waved at her, Suzie nodding back as she bounced on the couch.  “That’s her brother Bobby taking care of Jenny’s sister Cassie, and the little tornado trying to free herself from her chair is their cousin Patty.”


“Hlltthr,” Patty said as Bobby walked over and started to tickle her ribs, making her squeal and twist round in the chair, making Suzie giggle through the tape that had been wrapped round her mouth and swing her legs up and down, the hem of her skirt rising and falling as she did so.


“Time for you to sit down,” Colin said as he helped me to sit on the couch, while Alicia said “So why did you come to Holderness, Sara?”


“Well, my ancestors moved to America from here a long time ago, and when I got the chance to come with Chloe to visit the UK I asked if I could come here.”


“So where do you know Chloe from,” I asked as Colin put my ankles together and wrapped the rope around my tights.


“We have a mutual friend,” Chloe said with a smile, “Someone a little older than Heidi, whom I am - how do you say - dating.”


“Ooooo,” Alicia said, “I’m glad you have someone.  So, Sara, do you want to do the honours for me?”


“I would be delighted to,” Sara said as I watched Alicia turn and cross her wrists behind her back, watching as she wrapped some rope around them and pull them together.


“Oh - that’s tight,” Alicia said as she watched.


“Is that a problem?”


“Not at all - I like it tight.  So your family came from Holderness?”


“Originally, yes - but as I say, they emigrated to America a long time ago.  And you know us Americans - we always like to find out where we came from in the mother country.”


“Is this an American thing?” Alicia said as Sara tried some rope around her waist,.


“I don’t know - but then, I’m an American,” Sara said with a smile.  “Comfortable?”


“Very much so,” Alicia said as she twirled round.  “So why did you want to come and be with us instead of Grandma and the others?”


“Well,” Sara said as she helped Alicia sit next to me, “I was told that you had seen me around, and had asked who I was, so I felt it was better if I came over and answered your questions - well, the ones that you older ones are going to be able to ask.”


“Yeah,” I said as I looked at the gagged Suzie, Cassie and Patty, “that might be a little difficult for them.  So what do you think of our town?”


“I like it,” Sara said as she sat back, “a nice, quiet little place.  For some reason, I really feel at home here.”


As she knelt down and crossed Alicia’s ankles, Alicia asked “So what’s your second name?”


“It’s Sara Sidle,” Sara said without looking up while tying Alicia’s ankles together.


“What - like that character on the TV show?”


Chloe nodded and said “It is amazing, oui?  Except of course Jorja Fox is smaller and has dark hair...”


I laughed at that, as Alicia said “You’re very good at this - do you play these games as well?”


“From time to time,” Sara said as she tied Alicia’s legs together.


“Grandpa said two special people were coming the other day - I think Anne was one of them, but was the man the other?”


Chloe looked at Alicia and said “You mean Brian?  He is a very special man to Sara, but how do you mean special?”


“He said it about Saturday - two special people helped out, and they were going to visit on Tuesday.”


“ah,” Sara said as she sat down, “Well, I may have been one of them.  You see, I had a dream about something happening at the house, and I called the police.”


“So that’s how Dad knew to go there on Saturday,” Colin said as he looked properly at Sara for the first time.  “What sort of dream was it?”


“Well,” Sara said as she looked at us, “My family has a history of having dreams that say if someone is in trouble, and doing something about it.”


“Wow,” Alicia said as she sat forward, “Can you tell us about one of them?”


Sara smiled and said “All right - let me tell you a story about my great grandmother.”


Before she got a chance to begin, I saw the door opening and Aunt Jessica backing in, carrying a tray of drinks and cakes in her hands.


“I thought you girls might like a snack while you talk to...”  She stopped as she saw Patty sitting in the chair, swinging her legs and saying “Hmmm” through her gag.


“That’s not going to hurt her hair is it,” Aunt Jessica said as she looked at me, and I saw there was a real look of concern in her eyes.


“It’s all right,” I said quietly, “that tape does not stick to hair.  Cassie and Suzie are already wearing it around their heads as well.”


She shook her head and looked at Chloe, saying “I suppose this is all new to you as well?”


“Actually, Madame Pickering,” Chloe said quietly, “I have seen this quite a few times.  Alicia’s friend, Heidi, is also a friend of mine, and there have been several occasions when I have seen her and all her friends bound and gagged as well.  It has done them no harm - in fact, it has helped them to cope with some of the same sort of situations these girls have faced.”


This time I knew I had seen it - there was a real look of worry in my aunt’s eyes, and I was beginning to wonder if she knew more than we did about last Saturday.


“Don’t worry, Mrs Pickering,” Sara eventually said, “I will keep an eye on them and make sure they come to no harm.  Although, they may have to wait a little while before they have a drink.”


Cassie looked at me, and Suzie at Alicia, but Bobby just said “Well, you should have waited a little while, or told us not to put the tape around your heads right?”  Cassie glared at Bobby, but then nodded and turned to look at Sara.


“You were going to tell us about your ancestor, Sara?”


She nodded, and put her hands together, the green glow from her watch shining as she began.


“My great grandmother was a nurse for a shipping line, and she regularly travelled across the Atlantic. This is how she met my great grandfather Jeremy Smith, who was a British seaman. They soon fell in love and they planned to marry in Southampton in a civil wedding ceremony and have a honeymoon of a week in England. It was on Saturday 6th April when they were wed and they were hoping to spend the week together in Portsmouth, but fate was to intervene.

“On the 8th of April, a seaman and a nurse had fallen ill with flu, and they needed Sara and her husband to make up the numbers, and in return they could have two weeks off in New York. Sara and Andrew dutifully obeyed and left their lodgings to board the ship, and the vessel left Southampton on Wednesday, the tenth of May.”


“That sounds so romantic,” Alicia said with her eyes half closed, as Bobby put a glass of squash to her lips.  After she took a drink, she said “It must have been so special, to sail across rather than fly.”


“A different era,” Sara said quietly.  “Anyway, after a stopover at France and another in Ireland, the boat started to make its way over the Atlantic Ocean.

“It was a pleasant journey, and the nurses found themselves with very little to do, so they decided to enjoy the journey as well. For some reason though, Sara seemed to be a little seasick on this journey, which was unusual as she had never been ill before on any sea voyage, no matter how rough the crossing. She did feel a little tired on the Sunday, so she decided to retire early.

“It was then that my grandmother had the most horrific dream of her life, and she awoke with a scream at eleven thirty five in the evening, which woke up all of the other nurses. Sara was already getting dressed into her nurses’ uniform as the other girls rose from their slumber. They asked her what was wrong, and she told them that the ship was going to hit an iceberg and sink. They laughed at her, until a minute or later there was a heavy thud and grinding sound from the starboard side of the ship.”


When she said this, I almost spat out the piece of sponge cake that Colin had been helping me to eat.


“Oh my goodness,” I said quietly, “Her dream came true?  The ship was hit by something?”

Sara nodded and continued “From then on they took her seriously, especially when she told them that the ship was going to sink in two and a half hours, so they made their way to the lifeboat decks. The nurses were shocked when nobody else had turned up, and it was explained that the passengers didn’t take the threat of the ship sinking seriously.

“Sara decided on a plan which she quickly explained to the nurses. They were to go to cabins, and see if there was a small child in there. If so, the nurse was to grab the child and run for the lifeboat decks, in the hope that the others would chase after them. If other people see these running for the lifeboats, other people might follow them, and be saved.

“This plan proved to be successful, mainly because of the hue and cry when the nurses abducted the children, and soon there were groups of people at the lifeboats.”


“I can imagine,” Colin said as he put the glass of juice I had been drinking from down.  “What I don’t understand is why they thought the ship would not sink in the first place - unless...”


Colin looked at Bobby, and I looked at Alicia.  Patty, Cassie and Suzie were all looking at Chloe, who was making funny shapes with her hands, which was probably just as well.


I had figured out what boat they were on.


Sara sat back and continued “Sara’s husband was working on lowering the boats, and soon most of the boats had left the ship.

“’You must go in one of the boats,’ her husband said as she shivered in the cold April air.

“’Nonsense, my love. My place is with you, even until death.’ Sara replied.

“’Sara, how many times have you been sick this week?’ Jeremy asked.

“’Every morning since we set out on this voyage. Why do you ask, it is only seasickness.’ Sara answered.

“’Seasickness doesn’t work like that, and there is only one type of sickness that does work like that. As a nurse, you should know. Plus we were close long before we wed.’ Jeremy said, as Sara looked up at him.”


“Oh my goodness,” Alicia said, and if she had been able to she would have put her hands to her mouth, “You mean she was...”

Sara nodded and continued with her story.


“’Your responsibility isn’t to me, it’s for our baby. You first duty is to the protection of the child.’ Jeremy answered.

“Sara shook her head, and exclaimed ‘I can’t ask anyone to give up their space for me on this lifeboat. That is as good as murder.’”

“’Then you will take my place, young lady.’  Sara watched as an elderly woman, dressed in black silk gown with a high collar and full skirt that came to the deck floor, stood up and left the lifeboat.  She looked at Sara and said ‘I am old, frail, very ill and not likely to survive the night anyway. You will take my place as the others need a nurse to take care of them.’


“As the lady left the lifeboat, she handed Sara a small jewellery case saying ‘Make sure that my husband receives this in New York, as he will have to take it back to England with him.  When you see him, tell him I am only sleeping, and will see him soon.’

“Sara looked up unable to speak. ‘Now go, lady, and raise your child well,’ the woman said as Jeremy helped her into the lifeboat.

“Sara looked up and said ‘Thank you, you have our gratitude,’ as the already overloaded boat was lowered down to the ocean.  She sobbed as she knew that she would never see her husband again, or the lady that had given up her life for her and her unborn child.”


I looked at Alicia as Sara stopped for a moment, and I could feel the tear running down my cheek.  That a dream could have come true, and on that boat - but there was something else I could see in her face, a strange expression, and as I glanced at Bobby I could see it in his eyes too.


Looking over at Suzie, I could see she had seen the expression too, as she mumbled “bbbwrullrt?”


Bobby shook his head and said “Yeah - yeah sorry.  What happened, Sara?”

“The lifeboat was rowed away from the doomed vessel which eventually sank at twenty past two in the morning. She knew that the people who were in the water would only have a short time to live, and that the lifeboat would probably capsize if they tried to rescue anyone, so she concentrated on saving the living, and keeping them as warm as possible.

“It was around half past three when the lights of a ship were spotted, and Sara knew that they would be rescued. She told everyone to huddle together closely, so that their body heat would be more effective. They were picked up at 6 o’clock in the morning, and she organised the nurses in taking care of the survivors.

“It was three days later when the rescue ship sailed into New York and the nurses were exhausted from their efforts, as they had taken very little time to rest. As they disembarked, one of the ladies who had been in the same boat as Sara, spoke to a fine gentleman who then looked very sad.

“He walked up to Sara and said. ‘My friend tells me that you kept hold of a jewellery box that belonged to my wife.’”

“Sara opened the bag that had been handed to her, took out the small green jewellery box, and handed it to the gentleman. ‘Your wife saved my life, and that of my unborn child, and I and eternally grateful.  She said to tell you she is only sleeping, and she will see you soon.’”

“The man smiled at Sara, even as his eyes misted over, and said ‘That is the kind of person that my wife was, always kind and generous.  I wish to excuse myself from your presence, as I have some grieving to do.’  She watched as he turned and walked away with the other lady, and then made her way to temporary accommodation.  Seven months later she gave birth to my grandmother - but that’s another story”


Sara stopped and looked round the room, and at the faces staring back at her.


“My god,” Bobby finally said as he looked at Alicia.  “You don’t think...”


“Don’t think what?”  I was really worried now as I looked at both him and Alicia.


She swallowed and then looked at me.  “A lot of families lost relatives on the Titanic - including our own.  Alicia, the wife of the Third Baron Holderness, was travelling on the boat to meet her husband, but was not one of the survivors.”


She turned and looked directly at Sara and Chloe.  “The only thing of hers that was ever recovered was a green jewellery case - I saw it a few weeks ago at the Manor house.”


This time I saw Chloe and Sara exchange a look, before Chloe said “It must be a coincidence, no?  Life is strange that way sometimes.” 


I nodded, but I could not help noticing Sara was swallowing a little as she sat back.  It was almost as if she was realising something for the first time as well.


“Sara,” Alicia said quietly.


“Hmmm?  Oh sorry, what is it my dear?”


“The dream you had about the house last weekend - what was it like?”


“Very real and very vivid,” Sara said quietly.  “Forgive me, I will be back in a moment.”  She stood up and walked quickly out, as Chloe said “So, my friends, what would you like to do until she comes back?”


“You could tell us what is happening with Heidi and the others,” Alicia said as she sat back, “I haven’t spoken to her for a couple of weeks.”


“Ah - I saw her a short while ago,” Chloe said with a smile, “We spent a weekend at the farm that is owned by Natalie’s aunt outside of the town.  It was a most - interesting experience, I can assure you.  She is well, as are Cindy and the others.”


“What about their mothers,” I said as I sat next to Colin, with his arm round my shoulders, “I’d heard they had become somewhat closer.”


“That is true - does that bother you?”


“Should it?  One of our best friends has two mums.”


“Then, my dear Jenny, you are wiser and more mature than some parents I have had the pleasure of meeting recently.”  Chloe took a good look at me, and then said “But it would appear I am not the only one who is bringing news.  When I next see the girls, am I allowed to tell them that you have a boyfriend as well?”


“Well,” Colin stammered, and I could feel I was blushing as well - so I was glad when Patty said “Ntleeejneee - csssndbibee.”


“Is that so,” Chloe said as she looked at Bobby.  “The young Lord Holderness is already seeking out his future lady?”


Now I could really see Cassie blushing, and I almost felt sorry for her.  The thing that stopped me was Suzie looking over at Bobby, and the deep red colour that was appearing in his cheeks as well.


“Nah - he’s too young,” Alicia said as she looked at her cousin, who turned and said “Oh yeah - shall we talk about a certain freckled faced boy in your class?”


“You wouldn’t dare,” Alicia said, and then she looked at Chloe, who was sitting quietly watching.


“Ah to be young and to be in love,” she said quietly, and I could see the blush in her cheeks as well.


“Oh yeah - and what’s his name Chloe?”


“He is called James, and he is a student at the university.  We are - how do you say - seriously dating.”


“Something like that,” I said with a laugh, and I sat back, looking at the door as Sara was talking to Aunt Jessie.  I could not hear much of their conversation, but one bit did make me wonder what was going on.


Aunt Jessie said “No, she didn’t tell me too much, apart from the connection.  Are you going to tell them?”


Sara just shook her head, and said “No - not unless they figure it out.”  She then glanced over and looked at me, before coming back in and sitting down.


“That’s better,” she said eventually, “I needed a moment to myself.  Now where was I?”


Alicia looked at her and said “You told us your grandmother was born in New York - what happened to her?  Did she have a dream as well?”


Sara nodded and sat forward.  “Well, she grew up in New York, and then...”


“Hang on,” Alicia said, “Before you start, Sara, I just realised something.  The boys are free, and I don’t think that’s very fair, do you Jenny?”


“I’m not bothered,” I said as I leaned my head against Colin’s shoulder, but there was a chorus of muffled calls from the other three and a nodding of heads, especially from Cassie and Suzie.


“All right, all right,” Bobby said as he shrugged his shoulders, “I guess this once we can allow ourselves to be treated the same way as the girls.  Have you got any objections Colin?”


Colin looked at me for a moment, before saying “Nope - not if the girls don’t”  I really wanted him to keep holding me, but I just said “All right - we can try to free each other later then.  Chloe, would you do the honours for them please?”


“It would be my pleasure,” our French friend said as she picked up two lengths of rope, and stood behind Bobby and Colin as they stood facing us.  I watched Colin’s face, which was a mixture of resignation and determination in the same look, while Sara said “So do you all play these games all the time?”


“To different degrees,” Alicia said, “Let’s just say when Heidi was here last year, there were a few experiences we all shared, and we all coped with them in different ways.”


“I have heard her speak of them,” Chloe said as she tied some rope around Colin’s waist to secure his wrists against his back, and then turned him round so that I could see his crossed wrists.  “She tells me you were a most willing pupil, Alicia - and you cousin an equally willing victim.”


I looked over at Alicia, who was nodding before she said “I know, I was so scared that time - but they all taught me not to be afraid.”


“You come from a very proud and brave family,” Sara said, and as I looked at her I could have sworn there was a tear in her eye.  I watched the boys as their ankles and legs were secured, before Chloe checked the other three to see if they were all right.  They all nodded as we sat back to listen to Sara’s next story.


“Eventually, my grandmother trained as a nurse, and was serving in the US army when the war broke out in Europe.  At the time this story took place, she was being transferred to the small Island of Wahia in the Pacific by naval ship, along with other nurses.


“They arrived late on a Saturday night in December. It had been a rough crossing and the ladies were thankful to be back on dry land, knowing that they would be spending Saturday night on beds that didn’t feel as if they were swaying. As the ladies disembarked, they were told that they would be split up on Monday and sent to new locations around the islands.

“They were to be taken to temporary barracks at Wheeler Army Airfield, and they could sleep in late on Sunday morning so that they could be ready for working on Monday. The ladies travelled by truck up to the Airfield and they were then driven to their barracks, which were some distance from the other buildings. The reason was that it would be easier to make sure that the men wouldn’t bother them.”


“That’s rather old fashioned, isn’t it?”  Alicia looked at Chloe and said “Would you have allowed that to happen if you were in their position?”


“I was not,” Chloe said quietly, “but I have a brother in the French army, and the thing he always says is you follow an order, no matter what you may think of it.”

Sara nodded in response.  “It was the same with them - at that time in the forces you went where you were told.  Anyway, the nurses piled out of the trucks, taking their bags with them.  By this time it was nearly midnight, so they didn’t even unpack - instead they lay down on the beds in their uniforms, wanting to get a good night’s sleep as they were so tired.

“All of them managed to get a good night’s sleep, except for Sara...”


“Sara?”  I looked at Sara with great interest.  “Your grandmother was called Sara as well?”


“Well yes - I should have said that the first born woman in my family has always being called Sara.  Anyway, Sara was tossing and turning all night, and she awoke with a scream at seven thirty in the morning. Her cry was enough to awake every nurse in the barrack, and they weren’t at all pleased with being woken up this early.

“’We’re going to be bombed! Blown to pieces!’ Sara screamed, but the other women just laughed.

“’Who’s going to bomb us? We’re not even at war with anyone.’ One nurse said, and she laughed at Sara’s white face.

“’We are at war, and if we do not leave this building, we are going to die!’ Sara said. ‘Grab your bags and get out of here.’

“The other ladies just laughed, so Sara decided that she had to do something drastic. One of the trucks had been left outside the building, and she noticed that a fuel can was by the vehicle. She knew of her mother’s story, so she picked up the can and poured it to the side of the building that was opposite to the door.

“She then lit a match, threw it onto the fuel and it almost felt as if the liquid exploded in front of her. It only took a few seconds for the building to catch fire, and she ran to the front screaming ‘Fire!’ It only took a few seconds for the women to grab their bags and exit the burning building, with Sara checking to make sure that everybody was safe.

“When she was satisfied everyone was safe, she walked to the head nurse and calmly said. ‘You’d better move these ladies to other barracks, and take me to the base commander.  After all, I have just burnt one of his barracks down.’”


“Why do I get the feeling the base commander was not going to be a happy man?”  I laughed as I heard Colin’s comment, and Sara also smiled before she continued.

“Trucks quickly arrived to take the ladies away and the firemen decided that the safest thing to do was stay away and let the fire run its course. Sara stepped into a jeep that was being driven by a military policeman and she was taken to the office of the base commander.

“As she walked in and stood to attention, the commander turned and exploded into her face ‘Have you gone insane?’ he shouted into her face. ‘“You have set fire to a building on my base! Why!’

“’As it’s about to be bombed, I cannot see a problem with that. I just wanted to make sure that the nurses are safe. We are going to need all of them soon.’

“’You idiot, we’re not going to be bombed! We’re not even at war with anyone.’” The commander screamed at Sara, who remained at attention and stared straight ahead.

“’We are at war, you just don’t know it yet.’” Sara looked up at the clock which showed the time as seven fifty five in the morning. “’They should be here right about now.’

“At this point a soldier ran into the room. ‘Sir! We can see planes approaching the Airfield. What shall we do?’

“The commander stared at Sara for a moment and then back at the soldier.  ‘Start the air raid sirens, apparently we are at war. Nurse Smith, come with me to the air raid shelter. You’ll probably be very busy after the attack is over.’  He walked quickly out of his office, Sara following behind him.

“As they hurried to the nearest shelter, they saw the dive bombers release their bombs and one of the first targets was the barrack that the nurses had been sleeping in. As they made their way inside, the commander said ‘How did you know this was going to happen?’

“’I’ll tell you a tale about my mother, and you might be in a position to believe it...’”


As Sara had been speaking, Bobby had been thinking something over in his mind, as he sat next to Cassie with her leaning against him.  Suddenly he looked up and said “Hang on - December in the Pacific.  You don’t mean...”


Sara nodded before continuing “It was a busy day, and the nurses performed admirably, helping to tend the wounded and save lives.  Eventually, as the attack ceased and the smoke cleared, the commander was approached by the head nurse.

“’What’s the casualty numbers?’

“’Thirty three dead, seventy five wounded,’ said the nurse as she looked at my grandmother.  ‘“If it hadn’t been for Sara setting fire to the barrack, we would have lost every nurse as well.’

The commander turned to Sara with a bemused look and said ‘Do you have any suggestions as to how I explain this? How do I tell my superiors that the nurses are alive because of a bad dream?’

“’You could always use something easier to believe.’” Sara said “Tell them that the place was infested with rats, and as the girls fled a naked flame set fire to the building. History will just put it down to good luck.’

“He thought for a moment as he was handed a telegram and looked at it.  ‘That is much better than the truth, they’ll actually believe it.  At any rate, Nurse Smith, you’re being transferred to Honolulu for the time being, so that you can work there.  You are dismissed.’


“My grandmother saluted the commander and the head nurse, before leaving to collect her belongings.”


We sat in stunned silence for a few moments, before Chloe said “Mon Dieu - that was a most fortunate dream.”


“It wasn’t the only one she had during the war however - would you like to hear of the other time?”


“Ysplsss,” Patty, Suzie and Cassie said in unison.


“Very well then - by 1944 my grandmother had been attached to a M*A*S*H unit that followed the troops over to Normandy and was stationed a few years back from the front line.  One Wednesday morning, she awoke from a nightmare in which she saw an RAF pilot lying in a ditch somewhere, and he was bleeding to death from a wound. She had noticed a familiar looking church in her dream, and she thought that she could work out where the officer was.

“She got dressed, rushed downstairs and ‘borrowed’ a jeep before anyone could stop her. She knew from the local maps where she would probably find him, but the greatest danger was from any enemy snipers that were operating in the area. It didn’t take long to find him, drag him out of the ditch and dress his wounds to stop any further bleeding.”


This time I looked over at Bobby, Alicia and Suzie, who were all staring at Sara with their mouths open - well, in Suzie’s case her eyes wide open.  She didn’t seem to notice as she continued.

“The hardest part was actually getting him into the jeep, as it was like trying to lift a sack of potatoes, but she eventually managed to succeed in putting him into the passenger’s seat. It was a quick drive to the hospital, and the pilot was rushed into surgery.

“Once she had him settled, Sara walked into the commander’s office, expecting to be punished for her actions, but she was surprised by what happened.”


“What happened,” I asked, as I saw that Cassie was also staring at Sara.  There was something going on that I was not part of, and Colin seemed just as mystified, but when I looked at Patty I was shocked to see that she seemed to understand what was going on.


“The commander already knew about her ‘talent’ from another nurse who had been at Wheeler Army Airfield, and as she had rescued an officer, no action was to be taken.

“She helped nurse the officer back to a point where he could be sent back to England but she became very close to him in the process. With wartime romances and hospital romances being the way they are, situations like this happened, but he eventually had to go home to England.  Sara continued to tend other officers until...”


Sara stopped as she suddenly realised everyone was staring at her.  “Alicia,” Chloe said, “Is something the matter?”


“It’s not possible...”


“Csseeee,” Patty mumbled, “tpngngntwll.”  Cassie was slowly nodding as well, as Bobby said “I’m sorry, Sara, it’s just - well, my great grandfather was shot down behind enemy lines in 1944, and he was rescued by a nurse...”

I saw that Sara was staring straight ahead, before she got up suddenly and left again, Chloe following her.  “Stay here, young ones,” she said as she looked at us, and closed the door to behind her.


“What the hell is going on here,” Colin said as he looked at Bobby, “are we seriously saying that her ancestors saved your ancestors - twice?”


“God’s honest truth, Colin, I have no idea what is going on - Alicia?”


Alicia shook her head, so I said “Wait here,” and wriggled forward, making myself stand up and jump over as the others watched.  Standing next to the door, I listened to the conversation outside.


“Sara, if what you are saying is true...”


“Chloe, I don’t know any more - all I know is my grandmother left the Normandy field when she found out she was pregnant, and returned home.  She never told us who the father was - we did not even know the tale until after my grandfather had died.  They married just after she returned, and moved to Maine where nobody knew them.  No questions were asked at the time.”


“But if it is true - then you are...”


“Let’s not talk about it now - they’ll be wondering what is going on.”


I hopped back to the couch and sat back next to Colin as the door opened and they both came back in.  “I think we should give these three a drink,” Sara said, “Chloe, will you take the gags off them and then let them have some cake and a drink?”


“Of course,” Chloe said as she stood behind Patty and removed her gag first, then gave her a drink of squash before ungagging Cassie and Suzie.


“Your stories are amazing, Sara,” Cassie said when she was able to speak, “It looks as if our families have met each other a few times in the past.  Do you think that is why you had the dream about last weekend?”


“I wish I knew, Suzie,” Sara said as she sat down, “I have a book - a family record if you like that tells these stories, but until today I had not realised that my ancestor’s dreams had impacted on your family before - once, never mind twice.  Quite a coincidience.”


“My mum says there’s no such thing as coincidence - everything happens for a reason.”


“Well, your mum may be right, but I know of at least one dream that could have had nothing to do with your family,” Sara said quietly. 


“Before you tell it,” Cassie said as she looked at me, “I think it’s only fair the older kids get a taste of cloth and tape.  After all, we’ve been silenced for over an hour now.”


“What did you hear,” Colin whispered into my ear.  “I can’t tell you now,” I whispered back as Chloe picked up a cloth and some tape, and stood behind Alicia.


“All right - but you three mind your manners,” she said before opening her mouth and allowing Chloe to push the cloth in, then wrap the tape around her head.  Bobby was next, then Colin, and finally me, as we sat back and waited for Sara to begin.


“In the year 1860, my great grandmother’s mother Sara was living in Chicago.”


“Were all your family - oh, sorry,” Cassie said as she looked at Bobby.  “You did say earlier they were all called Sara.”


“I did - anyway, Sara was working as a maid for a family in Chicago, helping to keep the house cleaned and organised.  One night she woke up in a cold sweat, and lit the candle by her bed.


“She had dreamed of a young, blonde haired girl, dressed in a long white nightgown, who was being carried over the shoulder of  a man.  Sara had clearly seen that her hands were behind her back, and tied together with rough twine, as well as the white rag that had been tied between her lips as she struggled.


“The girl could only have been about fifteen by her reckoning, as she was taken into a bare room and literally dropped onto a bed.  The man had then grabbed her ankles and tied them together with more twine, which he then secured to the iron bedstead, before he wrapped more twine around the skirt of her nightdress to hold her legs together.”


“Wow - a real life damsel in distress,” Patty said as she twisted in her chair.  “What else happened?”


“Sara saw the girl look at her captor, who just laughed and left her there, as the moonlight came through the small opening high in the ceiling.  She lay there, crying as the peal of a set of church bells could clearly be heard in the distance.


“As Sara looked round the room, she also heard the sound of carts outside, and in her dream she climbed onto a box and looked through the window.  She could see onto a street, and on the other side what looked like a cart being pulled by two large dray horses, with milk churns on them.”


“Oh wow - that sounds so old,” Suzie said as we sat listening.  “What did she do?”


“Well, she tried to put it behind her, but when she rose a few hours later one of her first duties was to open the kitchen door to collect the milk delivery for that day.  She rose, dressed in her black dress and white apron, and opened the door just as the drayman was stopping outside the house.


“’Morning Sara,’ he said as he let down the side of the cart and lifted a churn off.   ‘Are you all right - you look as if you have seen a ghost?’”


“Sara was staring at the two horses pulling the cart, and as she slowly walked over to them she knew she was right - it was the two horses she had seen in her dream.  The markings on their heads were unmistakable.”


We looked at each other on the couch, amazed at what we were hearing.


“So,” Cassie said carefully, “she recognised the horses from her dream?  She must have seen them every day.”


“True - and I am sure my grandmother recognised the church every day in Normandy.  There was something different about this, however, so she said to the drayman ‘Tom - where is your home stable?’


“’Back in North End,’ he said - the house where Sara worked was situated in Beacon Hill - ‘Why?’


“’Tom,’ Sara said quietly, ‘Can you take me back there?  Right now?’


“’Well, you’re my last delivery, but your employers...’


“Tom did not get a chance to answer, as Sara hopped onto his cart and said ‘Hurry - it’s important.’”


“Wow,” Patty said as she looked at me, “What happened next?”


“Tom drove Sara to the dairy, and as he stopped she jumped off and stood in front of the gateway, looking intensely across the street.


“’What are you looking for,’ Tom said as Sara slowly walked across the street, towards a block of residential houses.


“’I’ll tell you in a minute,’ was all Sara would say as she heard a peal of bells, and looking to one side she saw a chapel.”



“The bells she had heard in her dream?”


Sara nodded at Suzie before saying “Tom watched as she walked over to the houses, and then looked through the narrow windows which were at street level.  She suddenly motioned over to Tom and said ‘Look in here, what do you see?’


“Tom looked in the  window, then back at Sara as a rough voice said ‘What the hell are you doing looking in my cellar?’


“’I don’t know,’ Tom said as she looked at the man who was standing behind Sara, ‘what are you doing with a young girl tied up and gagged in the cellar of your house?’


“The man turned and started to run off, but was stopped by some of Tom’s fellow workers, while Tom broke down the front door and ran in, carrying out a few minutes later a very scared blonde haired young girl.


“’Someone go and fetch a lawman,’ he called out as he carried the girl to the yard, Sara walking behind.”


“Wow,” Suzie said, “Who was the girl?”


“It turned out she was the daughter of a local shipping magnate, and had been snatched from her bed the previous night.  The local police had been informed, but they were looking in the wrong area - her family lived in the Back Bay.  Sara met her mother and father when the police brought them to the yard to collect Alicia.”


“lshe,” Alicia said as she looked at Sara.


“Yes - that was her name.  Alicia Strong, the daughter of Harold Strong.  Sara never saw her again after...” 


I saw that Alicia, Bobby and Suzie were looking at each other again, and Chloe also had a strange look in her eyes.


“Oh no,” Sara said as a thought suddenly struck her, “You have got to be kidding me...”


“Sara,” Suzie said, “Alicia Strong married Alexander Holderness, and became the wife of the Third Baron.  Didn’t you say your family moved from this area to the United States?”


I looked at Alicia, who was nodding, but then she caught the look in Chloe’s eye as well. 


“Chloe,” Sara said quietly, “Would you please fetch my bag?  There is a book in there I need to look at.”


“Of course,” Chloe said as she left the room for a moment, while Aunt Jessie came in and removed the glasses.  “Is everyone all right,” she said as she looked at us, “You all look as if you have seen a ghost.”


“We’re fine Mum,” Patty said as she swung her legs to and fro, “We’re just listening to the stories.”


As Aunt Jessie left, Chloe brought in an old brown leather bound book, which Sara opened near the front.  She looked at the page for a moment, before saying “Oh my,” quietly to herself, and then looking at Alicia.


“caneskqsshin,” she said through her gag, but Suzie said “You had your chance earlier - I want to hear some more of your family.”


“Yeah,” Cassie said, “Did your mother have those dreams as well?”


Sara looked at us, and for the first time ever I could see a tear in her eye.  “Oh yes,” she finally said, “My mother had a dream as well - but...  Well, I don’t like to talk too much about it...”


I looked at Cassie and shook my head, as I had the feeling this was one tale that Sara did not want to tell.  “Perhaps, Sara, we should take a break,” Chloe said quietly.


“No - no, it’s fine.  We’ve had so many shocks today that perhaps this will clear some things up,” Sara said with a sad smile.  “Besides, I’ve been running from thinking about this anyway.


“It was the morning of Friday, March 23rd 2007, and I was getting ready for work at my new job at a research facility, when the telephone rang. I answered the call, and it was from my sixty two year old mother, calling from Maine.

“’How are you, Sara?’ She asked.

“’Fine, mum.’ I answered ‘There’s a lot to do at the new research centre. How are things with you?’

“’I’m okay, I’m just off to the bank this lunchtime.’ There was a pause and then ‘I love you, Sara.’

‘I love you too,’ I replied ‘Is something wrong?’

“‘Nothing’s wrong, I just wanted to speak to you and hear your voice. Anyway, I’ll talk to you once you finish work.’

“’Okay mum, I have to hurry to work now. I’ll speak to you tonight, hugs and love.’

“’Thank you Sara, please know that I have always loved you. I’ll speak to you soon.’

“The call ended and I made my way to work. It was a busy morning, and although the call had seemed a little strange I put it behind me until I returned from lunch.  About an hour later I heard a soft cough from the side of my cubicle, and I saw our Human Resources supervisor standing there.

“’Sara, could you come with me please?’ she said, and the way she said it made my heart sink.”

We all looked at each other as she said that, while Chloe looked at us.


“Sara,” she said quietly, “if this is something that is painful for you, then you do not need to share it.”


“That’s right,” Cassie said as she looked at our storyteller, “You do not need to do so...”


“Yes she does,” Patty said out loud, “I want to hear the story.”


“Patty,” Cassie mumbled out of the side of her mouth, “Be quiet or I’ll ask Chloe to make you quiet.”


“Not unless you are made to be quiet first.”


Suzie rolled her eyes as she watched Patty kicking her legs up and down.  “All right - Chloe, gag the three of us.  Sara, only carry on if you want to.”


Chloe nodded as she picked up three clean cloths and stuffed them into the mouths of the younger girls, and then wrapped more tape around their heads.  As she walked back over, I saw her place her hand on Sara’s shoulder.


As I looked over, I could see Alicia had seen this too.  We looked at each other, and it was as if the same thought was going through our minds - what were they not telling us?


“Srre,” Alicia said quietly, “Imstrrlleskuachesthn.”


“Perhaps once Sara has finished,” Chloe said as she pulled up a chair and sat next to Sara, her hand on her lap.  Sara nodded and started to speak again.


“Well, as I said, there was the HR contact standing there, her face a mixture of concern and sadness.


“’I’m not going to be dismissed, am I?’ I asked.

“’No, it’s not anything like that. Please follow me.’

“I could tell that something was wrong by the touch of sadness in her voice, but I was afraid to ask what it was about, so I followed her to her office. A female police officer was standing there, and she had a sad look upon her face, which just increased my feeling of fear as the supervisor left the room, closing the door behind her.

“’Is your name Sara Sidle?’ She asked.

“’Yes.’ I answered ‘What is going on?’

“’And your mother is Sara Sidle, who works at the Maine Municipal Bank?’”


I could see a tear starting to form in the corner of Sara’s eye as she took a deep breath before continuing.

“’Yes.’   My heart was pounding by this time, and I sat on a chair. ‘What has happened to my mother!’

“The police officer took a deep breath and said ‘I’m afraid that there has been an incident at the bank where she works.’  A security guard walked into the bank after his lunchtime break, and pulled his firearm out from his holster and he was bringing it up to aim the weapon at the two law enforcement officers in front of him. He never got the chance to shoot them though, as your mother threw herself on top of him though and forced him to the ground, pinning him down.’

“’There was the sound of a firearm being discharged once, which alerted the officers, and they immediately sprang into action, restraining the criminal while your mother was on top of him. They turned your mother over to see if she needed any medical assistance, but the single round had penetrated her heart, killing her instantly.’

“Well, I was numb from shock at this point, and anything the officer said after that was mere words.  I barely heard her as I tried to take the news in.

“’When he was questioned, he said that he wanted to get revenge as a cousin had been executed the previous week, for murder. He know the officers go to the bank every Friday at lunchtime, and he decided to murder them first and everybody else afterward.’

“’Your mother saved everyone else in the bank today, and the unusual thing was that it was her day off and she had no reason to be there. So she is a true hero.’”


Sara stopped for a moment and started to cry.  We looked at each other in stunned silence - I really wanted to stand up and give her a hug, but I was - well, restrained.  As it was Chloe stood up and did it for all of us, as Sara slowly calmed down.


“’I know this is not an easy thing to hear, but I will say it again - she died saving others.’  The officer opened the door and the supervisor walked in.

“’Sara, if you need to take any time off, it’s okay.’ she said as the officer left.

“’No,’ I said as I suddenly stood up, ‘I just need to work.  Anything to take my mind off the news.’  I walked back to my desk and continued with my work, and over the next few weeks I buried myself in my job, using that as a drug to keep my mind off the pain.

“I couldn’t bring myself to go to the funeral that was organised by a friend of hers, and I am ashamed to say that I’ve never been to her grave. It was a week after the funeral that I received a package. It was a large book with the title ‘Journal of Dreams’ on the front. Also in the package was a letter from my mother’s friend, explaining that on the morning of that fateful day, my mother gave the book to her for safekeeping, just in case anything happened to her. There was also a cutting from a newspaper that was printed on the Saturday morning, which I placed in the book, and I still haven’t read it.”


As Sara sad this, she patted the book that was on her lap, and I saw clearly the gold writing on the front. 


“I stared at the book for hours, and then on instinct I turned to the last written page.  At the bottom was written this message.”

As she opened the book at a page towards the back, a newspaper cutting fell out, which landed on the floor next to Chloe’s feet.  She picked it up and started to read it as Sara continued.

“It was written in my mother’s handwriting, and this is what she said.


“If my guess is correct, I am dead and this book is yours to take care of. Do not think that I threw my life away in a useless gesture, as helping others is never useless. Sara, please know that you will always be in my heart, and I will see you again someday.”

As I watched, Sara turned back a page and began to read.


“23 March 2007. I had a most horrendous nightmare this morning, and it concerns the place where I work. It is one o’clock, and the bank is relatively quiet, when two law enforcement officers walk in. A minute later, Christopher Andrews who is a guard at the bank walks in and pulls out his gun. He quickly shoots the two female officers in the back and calmly starts to shoot the others. Huddled in one corner are a terrified mother and young daughter, with the mother attempting futilely to protect her child.

“Two final shots ring out, and the mother and child lie dead on the floor of the bank. I know that I must stop this, and I can stop it, but trying to contact the authorities will prove futile as always. I must take action myself, but I fear that as there is always a cost along the line, I may have to pay the price for changing fate.”

Sara looked at us, and said “So you see, this power of dream does run in my family, but sometimes there is a cost to bear.”


She placed the book back in her bag as we looked at each other, and Alicia bowed her head.  In the silence, I could hear Aunt Jessie in the kitchen, but something else was catching my eye.


Chloe had been reading the cutting that had dropped out of the book, looking at Sara and then at us as she did so.  Shaking her head, she looked at me in particular, before saying “Sara, my friend, your mother was probably one of the bravest women I have ever heard of.”


“Perhaps, but I still miss her,” Sara said with a smile.  “What have you got there?”


“This?  Just an article.  I think young Patricia here must have been cutting stories from a paper for a school project, no?”


Now I knew that was a lie, but just as Patty was about to say something I shook my head in her direction, and mumbled, “Cldwhvnfredrnkpls?”


“Of course,” Chloe said as she stood up.  “If you will excuse me, I will go and see if I can help Madame Pickering to prepare some more refreshments.”  As she started to walk to the door, she said “Perhaps you will look after this for me, Jennifer,” and laid the cutting on my lap.


I turned my head and watched her walk out of the door, and then looked at Sara, the green glow of her watch face still there.  As Cassie and Suzie tried to ask her questions, I looked down and started to read the cutting.  It was dated 24 March 2007, and was from a paper I recognised from our trip last October.

Sixty Two Year Old Woman Saves Bank from Massacre!

Local resident Sara Smite gave her life yesterday in a heroic act of self-sacrifice, protecting a massacre at the branch of the First National Bank on Maine Street.  The incident took place at one in the afternoon, when the bank was full of families conducting their business.


The sixty two year old woman threw herself at the murderer, Christopher Andrews as he drew his pistol in preparation for shooting the two female Federal Agents in front of him. He only managed to get off one shot, which killed the woman instantly, but her momentum was enough to crash into him and pin him to the floor.

“We heard the shot and turned around instantly and saw this lady lying on top of this very angry man.” Said FBI agent Anne Duncombe, who was one of the two agents targeted by Andrews. “My sister and I immediately restrained the criminal, but there was nothing that we could do for the heroic lady.”

Apparently, the murderer’s motive was revenge for the execution of a cousin.

In a tragic twist, it seems that Sara was not supposed to be at work that day, but she had turned up at the bank just ten minutes before the guard did. “I watched her walk into the bank and talk to one of the tellers.” Said Amy Strong, who saw what happened. “I was looking at something else, when my daughter Heidi tugged at my sleeve and said. “Why does that old lady keep looking at the clock and the door? Does she have to go somewhere?”

“I watched her from then on and about thirty seconds later, the guard walked into the bank. I know that this sounds crazy, but she was running towards him just before he reached for his gun, as if she knew what was going to happen. If I didn’t know better, it would seem that she was here just to stop him.”

Sara Smite has one surviving relative, a daughter of the same name.

As I read the article, Colin nudged me and said “Whstwrng” through his gag.  I just did not know what I could say to explain the feelings that were running through me, as I glanced over at Alicia.  She tilted her head and looked at me, but this was something that had to be kept for later.


For one thing, I was wondering why she had called her mother Sara Sidle, when the article talked about Sara Smite.


For another, I was shocked at the realisation that the two agents she had saved the lives of were known to us.


But the biggest shock of all was the picture on the clipping, of a young girl with short blonde hair holding the hand of her mother.  I had recognised them both - after all, I had met and stayed with them in Maine.


The picture was of Heidi Strong and her mother Amy, and the caption read Amy and Heidi, just two of the people saved by a heroic woman.


I had listened to revelation upon revelation, as it had become clear that this woman’s family and Alicia’s family had crossed paths many times, but this - I had no way of explaining this.


So, in a funny sort of way, the young lad who burst into the room, with a woollen scarf wrapped round his face and carrying a large kitchen knife, was the distraction I needed to take my mind off what I was thinking.  We all turned and looked at him, as he said “Well, well - family game night?”


Sara stood up, and as she did so I could see the glow on her face watch fade from green to a sort of amber colour.


“Whoever you are,” she said calmly, “I suggest you leave now, before you do something you will regret.”


“Very funny,” the man said as he walked in, flashing the knife in front of him, “but what are you and a bunch of tied up and very quiet kids going to do to me?”


He then looked at us, as we started to giggle under our gags.  Even Colin and Bobby, who had never faced to the best of my knowledge the same sort of situations we had, were moving their shoulders up and down and mumbling something under the tape and cloth.


“Hey - big scary guy with a knife here,” he shouted at us, and that was it - we all started laughing, even Patty as she tried to wriggle round in the chair she was secured to.


“Oh yes, really scary man,” Sara said, and I could see the corner of her mouth twitching as she did so.  “So scary that a bunch of kids are laughing at you.  Now, last warning - turn round and walk out, before any harm is done.”


“I’m warning you - I’ve already got the other two tied up in the kitchen, and...”


“RLLELEE!”  Cassie and Suzie jumped up onto their feet and hopped past the astonished man, making their way out and down towards the kitchen.  I could see Patty really wanted to follow them, but she was too well tied to the chair.


Now a scarf may have been covering the lower part of his face, but the way his eyebrows shot up as they hopped past him was a truly remarkable thing.  I could see Alicia thinking the same thing, as she shook her head and leaned against Bobby, laughing under her gag.


“Call them back,” the man shouted at Sara as he walked towards her, “Call them back now.”


“DNTTSHHR,” Colin shouted as he tried to sit up, but before he could get onto his feet the man had grabbed Sara’s wrist and was looking into her eyes.


For a moment, I thought the dial of her watch blinked red, but when I looked again it was glowing yellow, but that was not what the boys and Alicia were looking at, or what Patty was describing as she said “Shhlrrt?”


The masked man was staring into Sara’s eyes, his eyes wide as he opened his hand and the knife dropped onto the carpeted floor.  “What the f...” he said to himself before to my surprise he slowly backed away from Sara, who was standing there smiling.


“I told you you should have just walked away,” she said as she stood there, while the man turned and ran for the door - straight into a white, ghost like figure that was standing there, blocking his way.  “No, no,” he said as he backed off, “I don’t want to be eaten - let me out of here!”


“Wthhll,” Colin said as Alicia and I looked at each other.  We knew what - or rather who - this was, but it wasn’t as if we were in any danger from a scared young man.


Who was even more scared now, as he shrieked and turned back round - only to run straight into Sara, and scream again.


“Hsfneee,” Patty said as she giggled in the chair, but I hate to admit it - we were all laughing by now, as the boy tried to get away from both Sara and the Shadow.  I had no idea what the heck was going no by this point, or even why he was so scared of our new friend.


“Please,” he finally said, “Let me out of this horror show.  I don’t want to be eaten.”  I swear, I saw Sara look over to the Shadow and smile, before she looked back the frightened young man, who had fallen on to his knees and was actually starting to cry.


“Oh shut up,” Sara finally said as she planted a right cross my dad would have admired on his chin, sending him crumpling to the ground.  “Urrruttt!” Patty shouted out, as Chloe came running into the room.


“Mon Dieu,” she said as she looked at the young man, “Sara, tell me he did not...”


“No,” Sara said quietly, “Something else seemed to spook him.”  She looked at us as she said this, and we realised that the Shadow had faded into the air as we had watched her.  Something had happened when he touched her, however.


“Do I need to call Brian to come here?”


“No - I’m fine,” she said as she showed Chloe her watch, which had once again started to glow green.  “Where’s Patty’s mother?”


“The girls are freeing her now - this young idiot had only tied our hands behind our backs and put tape over our mouths.  Allow me to call the police, and then we can continue our conversation.”


“Actually,” Sara said as she looked at us, “Perhaps the girls would like the chance to tell us some stories - provided we can sit as quietly as them?”


“I think that would be a very good idea,” Chloe said as she stood behind Patty and started to untie her, “If you would call the police instead, I will start to release them.”


I nodded at this idea - there was so much I wanted to ask, but also so much I could see Alicia was dying to ask as well.






“And that is how Cassandra Paulette Craig became the hero of the hour!”


Sara and Chloe nodded and tried to congratulate Cassie as she finished her tale of what had happened a few weeks ago, but it was rather difficult for them to say much.


After we had had a break, and the police had taken a very scared young man away, we had eaten some pizza that Aunt Jessie had ordered and then made Chloe and Sara very comfortable.   They were sitting in two of Aunt Jessie’s dining chairs, with their arms over the chair back.  Cassie and Suzie had pulled a pair of socks over their hands, and then crossed and tied their wrist tightly together, before securing them down to the chair back.


They had then wrapped some rope around their waists to hold them to the chair back, before tying a second length around their tummy and the chair.  Their ankles were tied together, as were their legs below their knees, and then their ankles pulled back and secured to the back of the chair as well.


Finally, they had treated our two guests to their favourite gags - a cloth stuffed into their mouths, a strip of ribbon tied between their lips to keep it in place, tape around their heads, and a scarf covering that.


Aunt Jessie had been a little concerned about this, but Angela and I told her it was safe, and anyway we knew Chloe was very experienced at this type of binding.  Something told us Sara was as well.


Chloe had heard from Cindy and Heidi about the adventures before Christmas, so Cassie had taken great pleasure in telling them all about her recent tales.  As they had done that, Bobby and Colin had gone to help Aunt Jessie with the dishes, and Patty had been listening, asking questions as they had gone on.


Alicia and me?  We were sat in the corner, talking quietly between ourselves as she looked at the cutting I had already read.


“Her family history is amazing - almost as amazing as yours,” I said as she read the story.  “Do you think Heidi could possibly be related to you great great grandmother?”


“I honestly have no idea,” Alicia finally said.  “I mean, her name was drawn out of a hat for me to be a pen pal with.  I know her aunt Veronica has some money, and they own their house, but I would not exactly call them wealthy, would you?”


“No - but it would be amazing if she was, wouldn’t it?”


“Yeah - amazing.”  Alicia suddenly fell  silent as she looked again at the story, and at the picture.  “Smite - I’ve heard that name before.”




“Later,” Alicia said as the door opened and Aunt Jessie came in.


“Suzanne, Robert - your father is here to take you home.”


I looked up to see Alexander Holderness walk in.  “Good evening,” he said as he looked at Sara and Chloe.  “Well, well - I see they have being showing you some of their skills.  Are you two ladies comfortable?”


They both nodded as Suzie went up and hugged her father.  “How’s Mummy,” she said as she looked into his face.


“Tired, sweetheart,” he said as he rubbed her hair.  “Alicia, your father says he will be here for you in an hour or so, if that’s all right.”  Alicia nodded as Suzie hugged Chloe and Sara.  “Thanks for a great day,” she said as Bobby gave Cassie a hug, and then followed them out.


“Patty, would you and Suzie come and help me for a few minutes,” Aunt Jessie said, and they left with her.  Colin looked at his watch and said “I need to get going too - I can catch the bus into town from the bottom of the road, right?”


“Yeah - the number 62,” I said as she turned and looked at our two captives.  “Your story is amazing, Sara - I’m glad we got the chance to meet you.”  Sara nodded as Colin gave me a kiss on the cheek, and then went out, closing the door behind him.


“Sara, Chloe,” I said as the door closed, “We have some questions - can we remove the gags?”


“Fcrssucn,” Chloe mumbled as we carefully removed the layers, and then gave them each a drink of water.


“Look, I know this is a stupid question,” I said to Sara, “but is that big man we saw the other day your husband?”


“My husband?  Why do you ask?”


“Well,” I said as I picked the cutting up, “this fell out of the book and I read it.  It said your mother’s name was Sara Smite, and I thought...”


Sara looked at both of us, and then said quietly “Yeah - Sidle is my married name.  I married Brian recently.”  Chloe nodded as she said this, but there was something nagging at the back of my mind.


“Oh,” Alicia finally said, and as she did so she looked at both Sara and Chloe.  “Now I remember where I have heard that name before.”


“Oh,” Chloe said as she looked at Alicia, “and where was that?”


“A few weeks ago, I found an old green jewellery case, and Grandma told me the story of a woman who had been taken in by our family a long time ago - a woman who through no fault of her own had fallen on incredibly hard times.  She died giving birth, and her daughter was raised as a Holderness until she fled to avoid scandal - the woman’s husband had killed one of my family.”


As Alicia was talking, I noticed that Sara was rubbing a funny scar on her hand.


“It sounds like a tragic story,” she eventually said, “but...”


“Forgive me Sara, but you said your family had emigrated to the States from around here.  You told us the story of your great grandmother, who was asked to give a green jewellery case to my great great grandfather.  Your grandmother rescued my great grandfather, and your mother somehow rescued a very dear friend of mine - a friend with a name linked to my family by this record.”


“A remarkable coincidence, I agree, but...”


“A woman who was called Sara Smite.  The name of your mother.  And then today something happened when that young idiot touched you, and the Holderness Shadow appeared.  Jenny and I have seen him many times, when we have found ourselves in danger.”


“Alicia,” Chloe said quietly, “I am sure this is all just a remarkable coincidence.  After all...”


“It’s all right, Chloe,” Sara said calmly as she looked at us.  “Girls, I hate to tell you this, but Sara Smite is dead.  I may never have truly accepted deep down what she did, but now I can.  She died saving others, but if she was somehow alive, and somehow felt the need to come and intervene to save others, then I am sure she would have done so without hesitation and without fear.”


Alicia and I looked at each other.  “Then your dream...”


“Allowed me to warn the police - that was all.  Anything else that happened last Saturday - your parents will tell you if they think you need to know.  Remember, they are looking out for your best interests - and you should thank them for that.”


We looked at both of them, before walking behind the chair and starting to untie them.  “Will you come back and visit us again,” Alicia finally said as Sara stood up and rubbed her wrists.


“You know, I’m not sure - but I would love to come back some day,” she said with a smile.  “I really feel as if I belong here, somehow.”


“I think you do as well,” Alicia said with a smile, and then to my surprise she hugged Sara, saying “Thank you” as she began to cry.


“It’s all right,” Sara said as she held my friend, “They’ll get better.  I know they will.”


The door opened and I saw a tall, well built man walk in, casually dressed as he smiled at us.  “Ready to go,” he said in an Australian accent.


“Of course I am, darling,” Sara said as she picked up the clipping, put it in her book and then the book in her bag.  “This is Alicia and Jenny, Lucinda and Miranda’s granddaughters.  Girls, this is Brian Sidle, my husband.”


I saw him shoot a quick glance at Sara and Chloe, before saying “A real pleasure girls - but I must take Sara to the hotel now.  We have an early flight in the morning.”


“Alicia?”  Her father appeared in the doorway, before saying “Oh - I see you’re still here.  I hope the youngsters weren’t a problem?”


“No problem at all,” Sara said as she smiled at us, “I think your family has a great future.”  She left the room, Brian and Chloe following her with Mr Bowden, as I looked at Alicia.


“Do you believe her?”


“I don’t know - but I have some questions for Grandma.  You?”


“I believe she helped your family - once again.  More than that - hey, I saw the Shadow too.”


Alicia smiled, and then said “I forgot to ask her - why was that man so scared of her after he touched her?”


“Maybe she just stared him out - ask her if you ever see her again.  I’m more intrigued at how her mother saved Heidi - I’ll have to ask her about that.”






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