Cathcart The Intrepid Part 20 by John Linney

Harold lowered his gun and turned to walk back into the kitchen. I put out my hand and held it across his chest to stop him.

“It had to be done lad. Your father had his suspicions about Digby. He told me to protect you at all times and not trust your brother. He was just one bad apple in the family barrel Cathcart. And before you swallow any of those insinuations Digby trotted out, think again” he said taking hold of my hand firmly and removing it from his chest.

I was speechless and numb. I stood for a few moments before walking up to my brothers corpse. His faced looked contorted and ill at rest. I closed his eyelids and straightened his body out. I could not comprehend Digby’s involvement in this whole strange affair.

The farmyard was still and quiet. I suspected the sound of gunfire would raise interest from neighboring properties or even the town. Templeton approached me as I stood over Digby’s body.

“Cathcart. I am fully aware this is not a fight you ever wished to get involved in. You have been a victim of circumstance and a captive to events” he said in a measured tone.

“What happens next Templeton? How many more are there coming for us? When will it end?” I replied irritated now.

“These are questions to which I have no precise answers. We carry on until the fight is won. This organisation is very powerful, has many friends in high places and is extremely wealthy. Opium is increasingly becoming a scourge to our society. It preys on the curious, the poor and the desperate. While there is money to be made from its sale and distribution, they will continue to supply it. That is why we must act to defeat them.

I guess we will have a few hours breathing space to regroup and formulate a strategy. We must go on the offensive now. We must stop running and fight back. Dalgleish is gone and several others in the gang are dead. We must return to London. The drugs are coming into East India Docks and being distributed from the warehouse above the private members club.

First though, we burn the corpses and clear up after ourselves”.

I nodded and along with Templeton, dragged my dead brother to lay next to the other bodies. Hetty returned from a barn with some paraffin. She poured it over the corpses before lighting a match.

Digby’s fuel soaked waistcoat immediately burst into flames which leaped from his corpse to the adjoining bodies. I stepped back quickly to avoid the fumes and flames.  Harold dragged out a bale of straw which he tore into and sprinkled over the bodies. The heat intensified and the smell of burning flesh clung in the farmyard air. We stood quietly watching the funeral pyre rage. The bodies twitched and shifted in the heat. I went back into the farmhouse.

Suddenly I heard a shout and then….

 

 

 

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Cathcart The Intrepid – Part 19 by John Linney.

The Werewolf sprang into the kitchen leaping straight at the table.  A loud crack of a pistol firing was followed by an ear bursting scream from the beast. It slumped over the table, its huge hairy forearms flopping over the edges.

More gunfire continued and I shot blindly into the smoke and chaos, gradually backing towards the door to the hallway. The noise  of gunfire was almost deafening and further disorientated me.

The shooting then ceased and gradually the smoke and confusion dissipated. The werewolf body had transformed to its naked human state.

The large muscular man had bled all over the table depositing a large puddle of dark red sticky liquid which crept steadily across floor.

“Cover the windows and shut the kitchen door. Cathcart, Hetty, move those two bodies out into the yard. We will give you covering fire if needed ” Templeton said.

Hetty and I crept out into the farmyard guns drawn anticipating a trap.

The two men were lying near each other, still and bloodied. We worked together to drag each man back into the kitchen before shutting the door behind us. Templeton was at the kitchen window scanning  the yard with his rifle.

We laid the bodies in the dining room before returning to the kitchen.

“So what do we do with him or this or whatever it was” I said gesturing towards the dead werewolf.

“He needs to be disposed of. I suggest we burn the body in the garden incinerator. We can take him out of the front of the farmhouse and the garden outbuildings are around to the right of the house. Hetty can chop him up can’t you ?” Templeton said with some relish.

Just as we were covering the werewolf to take him out, a voice called out from the farmyard.

“Cathcart! Ask yourself who might be behind all this mess. Uncle Harold? No he’s just a bumbling old fool. How about Templeton?  He is too busy being in charge. What about Henrietta then? Interesting idea but the battleaxe is too honest. Who then dear brother, who might it be?”

I listened as my mind raced through the possibilities.

“Your greed and jealousy Digby. That’s what is behind your involvement. I never asked or expected any of this. My future lay in India representing the family’s business interests. I trust those that have led me here.  All except my brother and I suspect father too!” I shouted back.

“Clever boy young Cat. Daddy is the greediest of all and will jump into  bed with any disreputable so and so if there’s money to be made. He asked me instead of you Cathcart”.

I could see Digby walking around in circles smiling to himself as though some moral victory had been achieved.

I didn’t initially notice Uncle Harold carefully but deliberately open the kitchen door. He stood in the doorway facing outwards and shot Digby through the head with two shots from his rifle.

Digby fell backwards onto the dirt and then…

 

 

Cathcart the Intrepid Part 18 by John Linney

A large ruddy faced woman strode out into the yard and took hold of the horses harness.

‘Harold it’s good to see you. I assume your companion is young Cathcart? She said shaking Harold’s hand vigourously. 
‘Well bless my soul! If it isn’t Hetty Myers. Cathcart, allow me to introduce Henrietta Myers. Our family have business contracts with Myers Dye works in Calderside. Hetty was a tear away in her youth before being sent to finishing school in Paris. She was recruited thanks to a perceptive tutor at that school and set to work in the intelligence service. She now has risen to lofty heights in the organisation and is not without influence!’ Harold said getting down from the carriage.
‘You flatter me Harold. I merely coordinate operations and ensure outcomes are met. It is a pleasure to meet you young Cathcart. You have fallen into a world of gangs, drug smuggling and organised crime. I cannot pretend it isn’t a dangerous and life threatening path you have set forth on. Cho Lin Lee is a cruel and powerful man. His empire is vast, efficient and wealthy. He will not let our operation hamper his without blood being shed. You are very much a marked man Mr Travers. We must see this through however as we really have no choice. It’s kill or be killed’. 
They walked inside to the kitchen where a fresh pot of tea and some scones awaited the new guests. I took my overcoat off and hung it on the back of a chair next to the table. The kitchen was warm but cluttered. Maps, bundles of paper and notebooks we’re strewn across the table. I took a plate and a scone.
‘I know you didn’t ask for all of this. You have been thrust into a world of danger, violence and mistrust. Your aptitude for survival and effective decision making skills have not gone unnoticed’ she said pouring the tea into large earthenware mugs. 
‘Aptitude for what exactly? I was virtually press ganged into being involved. Every step along the way, someone is anticipating my next move. How do you all know me so well!?”
Hetty smiled and passed a mug of tea to me.
‘Its our job to anticipate. The oriental triad gangs are ruthless and determined. They will watch our every move and also anticipate. We must ensure we’re one step ahead’ she replied. 
As the last words were spoken, the farmhouse door burst open . We all jumped to our feet. A voice called out from the yard. A familiar voice. But why would he be here? 
‘Theyre coming for you. Give the figurine to me and I will ensure that there is no bloodshed. You have very little time!’ 
‘We haven’t got it here. It’s in London, at the ministry. Digby, you are in grave danger. If Mr Lee’s companions don’t shoot you, the werewolf will rip you to shreds. Honour your family and walk away now’ Harold shouted. 
There was a loud CRACK, a bright flash in the open doorway of the farmhouse and then…
 

Cathcart the Intrepid Part 17 by John Linney

Shots pinged off the cabin roof. they appeared to come from down the main street as two figures walked slowly and confidently towards the boat. the few locals ran for cover in the adjoining buildings. 
We instinctively ducked on the seaward side of the cabin and crawled along out of sight. 
” I may be able to buy you some time Cathcart. When I throw this grenade, you and Harold run around the cabin and down onto the dockside. There is a horse and cart at the far end outside the grain merchants. be quick and make haste. Your lives are at stake!” Templeton said whilst scrabbling around in a bag at his side.  
” Ready. Three Two One Go!”
He threw the device towards the approaching men who stood confused at a small canister rolling to their feet.
Suddenly an enormous flash and bang erupted, tossing the lead assailant into the water to his left. The other man was blown backwards and his head hit a steel mooring. The man in the water floated face down, arms spread out whilst the other man lay slumped in a pool of blood at the mooring base. 
Uncle Harold and I quickly jumped ashore and ran to the cart tied up. The horse was whinnying and stamping the ground following the explosion but Harold managed to calm it sufficiently. I jumped up and took the reins whilst Harold untied the horse. I pulled  back on the reins to restrain the beast. Harold jumped up along side me and took the reins off me without asking. 
We lurched off down and turning right out of the right out of the main street towards open country. The carriage thundered along the road scattering some children playing in the street in front. We left the last of the houses behind us soon enough and slowed the carriage to a trot. The landscape was flat and featureless. The odd copse was dotted amongst wet marshes and fields. 
As we moved along the winding country lane, we were aware of the sound of a galloping horse from behind. 
A man was waving frantically whilst steering a large black stallion inexpertly towards them.
Harold pulled on the reins and slowed the carriage to a halt. 
“I know Templeton gave you a pistol. Draw it but keep it hidden. I will do the talking” said Harold.
A gangly tall man wearing a bowler and tweed suit pulled the stallion up beside us. 
“Mr Travers I assume?” the man said slightly out of breath. 
We both acknowledged the man then I answered.
“And who might you be sir?”
“The man you were supposed to meet in the public house this evening. However gentleman you seem to have announced your arrival rather louder than planned. Let me introduce myself. I am Algernon Templeton. My elder brother always had a flare for theatrics. My job is to take you to safety. Time is of the essence and you need to turn off this road soon. Follow me and quietly this time”.
The family resemblance was unmistakable. We agreed and followed in Templeton’s wake. Soon we turned off the lane to a farm track. We drove into a small wooded area half a mile or so down the track. The track veered suddenly to the right revealing a large weather boarded farmhouse and yard. Templeton unmounted then opened the gate for the carriage. As we moved into the yard the back door of the farmhouse swung open and then…..

Cathcart The Intrepid Part 16 by John Linney

I awoke after what felt like several hours of deep satisfying sleep. I was wrapped in a warm blanket still sat near the stove. I removed the blanket and went up in deck. The morning light was creeping reluctantly over the horizon. It was a misty cold morning that showed little promise of improvement. I checked my pocket and was astounded to see that it was only a quarter past five o’clock. The captain stood at the tiller silently. The land to the starboard side was flat marshland. There were isolated farm buildings and the occasional windmill. It was a mysterious, haunting landscape that looked not in the least bit inviting. However given the events of last night, this would be the perfect hideout.
“On our way to Queenborough harbour. Beyond the harbour is Deadmans Island. They used to bury the dead french prisoners from the hulks on there. Its a god forsaken place and that’s for sure” The captain said not once turning to look towards me.
Templeton emerged from the lower deck and stood next to me looking out.

“I trust you are rested. That was a close thing last night Travers. We are found out and now are fugitives from the lawless. They will not cease till we are disposed of. You showed great fortitude Travers. Your uncle is sleeping down below deck. We shall be mooring at Queenborough. There is a public house near the harbour. We shall go there this evening after the cargo has been unloaded. My contact will meet with us and take us to more spacious quarters from there. It would be advisable if you were to stay out of site below deck today. Try and catch up on some more sleep” Templeton said with the air of one who was giving an order rather than a suggestion.
We rounded the headland and Sheerness was to our port side. The town of Queenborough and the harbour came into view beyond. The garrison on the mouth of the harbour stood watch over the mouths of the rivers Medway and Swale. The barge slowly and steadily manoeuvred  to the quayside. The town was a quiet unimposing settlement. There was little movement on the street adjacent to the quay. I noticed a brick built public house some fifty yards from our mooring. A cart trundled slowly up the street with its driver staring vacantly into the distance.
I retired to below decks where a freshly made mug of tea and a much welcome bacon sandwich awaited me.   Templeton moved around the galley with consummate ease, cleaning up and tidying away.
After my meal, I settled down and pulled the blanket around me again. I put my feet up on the bench and lay back. Sleep came easily again.
I woke some hours later with Templeton anxiously stood over me.
“Quick! we must move now” he said. I gathered my coat and followed him and Uncle Harold up on deck and then

Cathcart the Intrepid part 15 by John Linney

The vaulted chamber was illuminated with flashes of bright light as shells pinged off the roof and barrels. I could make the faces of the mob baying for our blood. Templeton returned fire and floored one of the doorman from the club. He grabbed Harold and I and threw us against the end wall of the chamber. In an instant, we were flung backwards and down a wide slope into some canvas covered bales. It appeared we were in a Thames barge moored at the quayside. The barge rumbled and swung out away from the quayside towards the open gates and out onto the river. I felt bruised, winded and my head was spinning. Uncle Harold sat upright and dusted himself off, whilst I remained laying flat on my back. The cold air bit at my face with flecks of snow wafting across my visage. The riverside was dark, only lit up by taverns, houses and factories. The buildings jostled for frontage even as we drifted down stream towards the open estuary.
“You two! Get down here and warm up, now!” said the now familiar tones of Templeton.
He was standing at the hatch, in front of the wheel. We made our way towards Templeton, passing two crewmen who were setting the sails. The vast dark canvas billowed as it unfurled and the barge lurched forward in response. We passed other vessels moored along the embankments next to other wharfs and quays.
Templeton led us down a few steps into a small galley and dining area lit by hurricane lamps. We sat at the table as Templeton produced a bottle of whisky from a cupboard behind him. There was a small but glowing pot bellied stove in the corner of the room radiating much need heat to the cabin.
“So where to Templeton? I assume we have a plan. I have been dragged along in a state of perpetual bewilderment ever since that fateful morning at home all those weeks ago. You have recruited me, lied to me, nearly had me killed not to mention half frozen and hidden like a common criminal. I cannot fathom the logic as to why me?”
Templeton sat back and took a long drink of his whisky.
“Contrary to your belief of your father, he sees great promise in you. We have been friends for many years and he has always highlighted your potential and innate bravery. He recounted the tale of you rescuing Digby from an icy river. He spoke of your selfless assistance to the estate workers in all weathers, to help save livestock and crops. He is very proud of you Cathcart” Templeton said. Harold nodded fervently showing family solidarity.
“As to your question, we are headed out towards Kent and the Isle of Sheppey. We have friends there who can hide us very well” he continued.
The heat of the stove and the whisky had a soporific effect. My eyelids suddenly felt heavy, my limbs became leaden and then

Cathcart the Intrepid Part 14 by John Linney

‘Quick in here!’ Uncle Harold said as he forced me off and ran towards an open doorway in the warehouse. I turned briefly to see Lee Ho, Cobain and two other oriental gentlemen were running with guns in hand. As I  jumped through the doorway, bullets pinged against the warehouse door. Thankfully the pursuants determination was not matched by their accuracy of shot. Templeton led myself and Harold through the warehouse to the rear of the building. He reached into a small crevice in the brickwork and fumbled. Suddenly a trapdoor opened in front of us with a steep staircase leading into a gloomy underworld.
‘Follow me, I will light a lamp at the bottom of the staircase’ Templeton said.
We descended into the darkness as the trapdoor closed behind us. A hurricane lamp flickered into life casting yellow shafts of light into what looked like a vaulted cellar. There were wine barrels stacked neatly along the far wall as far as I could make out. Evidently the warehouse owners were keen to not divulge its contents to the customs men. Templeton lit several lamps to further illuminate the full extent of the cellar space. There was a very large wooden table in the middle of the floor with a map spread out over much of the table top. On closer inspection it showed Bengal and the port of Calcutta. The synapses started to fire. Mr Desai the merchant. My original destination. This was all too much of a coincidence.
‘I should imagine there is a lot of money in your little store down here Templeton. On the side venture is it?’ goading Templeton into a reply.
‘This store is owned by Nappers of London. Some of these sherry casks have been here since the Crimea. Nappers happens to be part owned by your father Cathcart. He did not make his millions by weaving wool oh no. His first job for the company was uncovering a financial scam run out of the Iberian peninsula. He did very well out that little operation’ Templeton replied.
‘Do you mean he has worked for the secret service as well? Is nothing as it seems?’ I said.
‘There’s money in textiles but not as much your parents have spent over the years. There’s much you don’t know about Arthur’ Uncle Harold replied.
‘The opium is coming through the Indian subcontinent and we have tracked it down to an export company in the port of Calcutta. Mr Desai, our contact, has been keeping tabs on the operation for some time but needed reinforcements to arrest the gang. They are tricky customers this lot. You have met Messrs Cobain and his lycanthropic colleague Dalglish. They work with Mr..’
Suddenly the trapdoor was peppered with what sounded like gunfire. I retreated to the shadows instinctively with Harold following rapidly. Templeton gestured to us intently.
We fled along the cellar plunging into darkness again. I could hear the trapdoors crash open and then…