The Missing Papers: A St Andrews Adventure, chapter 15

Chapter 15

As the boys headed down to their lecture, hoping that their plan would work, the girls settled down on their beds once more for a quick chat.

“I suppose we don’t need to do anything major,” Darrell said, after a moment. “But maybe we should do as Julian says and go and walk along the coast to see if there’s a place anyone can signal from?”

Sally agreed and soon the girls were walking briskly towards the coast with their big winter coats and scarves wrapped around them to keep the chill out. The wind was cold and bracing, with none of the warmth that they were used to down in Cornwall at this time of year. Cornwall seemed such a different world up in the Scottish highlands.  They talked about Malory Towers and their beloved coast as they walked to the rugged, less forgiving coast looking out into the North Sea.

“Let’s start from behind the golf club, shall we? That’s a good place to send a signal,” Sally suggested as they walked through the town. “Then we can work our way down the coast, though mind you, I don’t fancy walking on all those slippery rocks in this wind.”

The wind was very strong, buffeting around the girls, making their hair whip around their faces as they walked. Darrell had already had to stop her scarf from flying away.

They reached the golf club and headed around the back of the building, and stopped there for a moment to take in the view. Up this end of the coast, behind the golf club and just after the coast curved inland was beautiful white sand, soft and fine like they girls were used to seeing on a beach. Then further down the coast, the town built on the cliff top, the soft sand gave way to rock, some huge formations rising out of the eroding coastline, others smaller and more worn away by the sea. From where Sally and Darrell stood, they could see the coast curve behind a cliff slightly, but could see down the rocky beach until a large cliff cut off their view.

Sally turned on the spot on the edge of the cliff, her hands kept trying to smooth down her hair in the wind.

“Well I don’t see a likely spot,” Sally said after a moment. She fixed her eyes on Darrell who was staring at the golf club house and hotel in frustration.

“What is it?” Sally asked, almost shouting due to the roar of the waves and the wind. Darrell pointed at the building in front of her.

“We were idiots to start here,” she called back. “No one could signal out here without someone noticing from the golf club! Someone would have been bound to have noticed something like that! Also, unless you’re signalling up the coast then there’s nowhere to signal to, the ground isn’t high enough and the proximity of the club house could easily mean that you get spotted.”

Darrell turned away from Sally to look up and down the coast from the point they were standing. She bit her lip in thought as she considered the geography.  From where they stood she could see that the golf course was far too inland for any signalling. Her eyes followed the line of the coast, she could see that the rocks where they usually ended up, extended out more into the sea. She pointed at them to Sally.

“I think we need to try further down the coast,” Darrell called above the wind. “I don’t think there’s anything up the coast that could work.”

All Sally could do in reply was nod as the wind buffeted around them so violently that they struggled to stand.

They made their way towards the rocky part of the coast. Progress was slow because of the rain.

“I think we’re crackers,” Sally muttered to Darrell as they reached the steps down to the rocks. “Absolutely crackers,” she confirmed as the watched the sea swirl and send up spray.

“Why couldn’t we have just looked at a map?” Sally added as she followed Darrell down on to the damp sand. “At least that way we could have saved ourselves a journey up to the golf course.”

Darrell turned to Sally, her eyes wide and her mouth open.

“What an ass I’ve been,” Darrell said despondently.  “Oh Sally!”

Sally laughed at Darrell affectionately and took her arm, pulling her back up the steps.

“No need to be so downcast, Darrell, I didn’t think of it either until just this minute. Why don’t we go to that little bookshop in the town, next to the café, and get a map then we can go and dry off in the café and look over the map?”

Darrell was only too happy to agree to this plan and the girls hurried off to the bookshop next to their favourite café.

It took the girls ten minutes to get a map from the old man in the bookshop and then find themselves seats in the café. It was quite crowded; people seemed to be taking shelter from the wind and the rain outside.

Darrell then ordered tea and hot buns, while Sally unfurled the one-inch map they had brought from the gentleman in the shop next door. Sally did wonder if they should have waited for the boys and asked if they had a map, but she hadn’t voiced these thoughts to Darrell as her friend seemed to feel the need to do something with their time instead of just wait around for the boys. Also, Sally felt that it would have looked a little pathetic for them if they had waited for the boys on the off chance that one of them had a map.

Sally was studying the map closely when Darrell came back to the table with a tray in her hands with the tea and buns.

“Are there any likely places?” Darrell asked, as Sally cleared the map off the table long enough for her to put the tray down.

“There are a few possibilities that I can see,” Sally said, as Darrell poured her a cup of tea. “The cliff top that the cathedral ruins are perched on, East Sands, seems to extend the furthest out into the sea, but the problem seems to be that the whole of St Andrews is in a curve in the coast, there’s no proper vantage point that goes far enough out into sea to make, what you could probably call, a good signalling point. There’s not even a lighthouse around here. Here, you have a look and see what you think,” Sally added, passing Darrell the map as she shook the tea cup off her friend with the other hand.

Darrell took the map with a muffled, “thanks” as the map crackled and the noise in the café rose as a few more people entered. Darrell studied the map in detail for a couple of minutes, her eyes darting about the page. Finally Darrell folded the map so the section of St Andrews was small enough to sit on their small table. She looked at Sally as she put the map on the table.

“I think you’re right,” she said slowly. “If there is any signalling going on, then that’s where it is,” she added in a quiet voice. The fact that the café was quite loud was proving to be a good thing for the girls as it meant that no one could really hear what they were saying.

“Have you got a pencil and a ruler with you?” Darrell asked, after a quiet moment where both girls munched on their hot buns and butter and drank their tea.

“I have a pencil in my pocket, but I’m not in the habit of carrying a ruler around with me, old thing,” Sally said, with a smile as she produced the pencil from her pocket. “Why do you want a ruler anyway?” she asked, tilting her head to one side as she observed Darrell making a dot next to the most prominent area of cliff above East Sands.

“I wanted something with a straight edge really,” Darrell said, rubbing her nose. Sally looked around them to find something that could be substituted as a ruler for the time being.  Her eyes fell on the knife they had been using to spread the butter over their buns. She picked it up and cleaned the butter off the blade with her napkin and smiled at Darrell.

“Why don’t you use the handle of the knife, it’s fairly straight after all, and you can always go over the lines later with a ruler,” she suggested.

Darrell could have hugged her. She smiled back at Sally as she took the knife and laid it on the map. Then carefully she lined it up so the tip of the knife rested above the map reference for the cathedral ruins and then carefully drew a line from the point above East Sands down the coast to see if there was another outward point near enough for a light to be seen. The line that she drew on the map reached an outcrop further down the coast at a place called Kinkell Ness.

“Well that certainly is a possibility,” Sally said, looking at the line. Darrell bit her lip, but nodded.

“Of course the other possibility is that there is a boat out there somewhere that waits for signals,” she added, after a moment’s thought. She sighed and looked at the map again. “Then again the worst case scenario is that there isn’t any signalling at all and this is all a waste of time.”

“What might be a waste of time?” asked a smooth voice by Darrell’s elbow. Both girls had been so engrossed in their map work that they hadn’t noticed Thomas Ainsworth heading towards them. He stood by Darrell’s elbow with a cool smile on his face.

He laughed at their faces

“Oh I am sorry; I do believe I made you jump! Please forgive me.”

Ainsworth gave a little bow of apology and smiled charmingly at the girls once more. It was such a charming smile that it almost drove their previous suspicions of him out of their minds; not enough however for Darrell to leave the map in plain view.

“You certainly did make us jump,” Darrell said, recovering first from her shock. She was clever enough to know that moving the map on their table from sight while Ainsworth was still there would just draw attention to it, suggesting that they had something to hide.

“I just thought I’d wander over and say hello,” Ainsworth said, simply. He grinned at the girls. “I noticed you two from over in the corner,” he added, by way of an explanation.

“So where are you usual escorts?” he added snidely, meaning Julian and David.

“Oh, our friends are in lectures right now,” Darrell said, calmly. “I’m sure they’ll be sorry to have missed you.”

Sally had to fake a cough to smother the snort of laughter that she suddenly found that she couldn’t hold back.

Ainsworth chose to ignore this remark.

“However, I just thought I would say hello as it seems such a long time since I had the pleasure of your pleasant company! Maybe we should meet for afternoon tea sometime soon,” he said, in his most charming voice, his eyes locked on Sally’s face. Sally felt the blush start and rise to a bright red colour on her cheeks.

Seemingly satisfied with making Sally blush, Ainsworth nodded his goodbyes to the girls and sauntered back to his friends on the other side of the café.

“I thought it was only Julian who could make you blush that shade of red,” Darrell teased her friend. Sally sat back in her chair and sniffed her disapproval at Darrell’s comment.

“Never mind that,” Sally said, folding her arms across her chest and looking back at the map.

“What are we going to do with his wonderful new discovery? Are we going to chase it up or shall we wait for the boys?”

“Let’s go on our own. The boys aren’t due out of their lecture for another hour yet, and I don’t think I can wait that long to find out if there is anything up on those rocks,” Darrell said, with a grin. “Also, Julian can’t go climbing rocks can he, not with that shoulder of his,” she added with a twinkle in her eye.

Sally grinned.

“Of course he shouldn’t do any actual climbing. Sister would be most shocked at the amount of running around that he has done since his accident.”

“Of course she would be shocked,” Darrell said, taking up the joke. “We shouldn’t like our dear friend straining himself any more than he is already. Let’s go shall we?” she added reaching for the map as she lifted her cup to her lips to finish her tea.

“You took the words right out of my mouth, Darrell,” Sally said, grinning and reaching for her coat that was hanging on the back of her chair.

The girls grinned at each other as the pulled on their coats and dashed out of the shop once more into the howling winds and grey sky.

They headed down the street towards St Salvator’s and the ruins of the cathedral. The wind was not nearly as strong as it had been down by the sea earlier but as Sally pointed out the buildings probably gave them some shelter from the full force of the wind. It was a short walk from their favourite café to the ruins, and when they had reached the cathedral ruins, they looked up at the old stones, both wondering what it had looked like when the building had been new. It must have been magnificent

They followed the road to the left of the ruins which lead to the cliff side and the full force of the wind almost blew their breath away.

Darrell took the folded map from her pocket and looked for the spot they were aiming for. She pointed ahead of them, towards the back of the cathedral ruins. Sally nodded and started forward. They followed the pathway beside the cathedral down to the point where they suspected the outcrop of rock to be.

There was a man made walk way out to the head of the rock, the out most point of St Andrews that the map offered them. It was almost a little fisherman’s dock; the boats up on the shore line suggested that.

“Should we walk down to the end?” Sally asked Darrell, eyeing up the length of the walkway. It was possible that in a storm that anyone or anything could be swept off there and up against the rocks or out to sea. Sally somehow didn’t feel inclined to walk to the end of the concrete pier in this wind.

Darrell was clearly thinking the same thing because she hesitated in her reply. She was having an internal argument with herself about walking along the concrete pier. She looked at Sally and shrugged a little.

“I think it would be pointless to have come all this way and not checked down at the end there in case there was evidence of someone signalling,” Darrell said eventually. She didn’t add that she thought that boys might consider them rather foolish if they didn’t check everything out.

“Let’s go and have a look,” Darrell said, suddenly deciding that this was the best option. She didn’t want to return to the boys completely empty handed; even the knowledge that there was no sign of signalling would at least be something to tell the boys, rather than appearing to have backed out at the last moment.

Darrell was used to doing things on her own initiative and recently, with the boys around, she had found herself taking more orders and suggestion than she had ever done. She was a straight thinking woman with her own mind and she knew this and right now this was something she and Sally could do on their own, just as well as the boys.

Darrell strode off down the concrete pier, with Sally following her. Sally grinned to herself as she followed her friend; this was more like the Darrell she knew, the decisive one.

The girls made it to the end of the strip of concrete in next to no time and stood at the end, leaning on the wall and looking out to sea and down the coast where Darrell believed someone could wait to receive a signal.

They stared in silence and looked sideways at each other.

“Now we’re here,” Darrell said slowly, as if thinking carefully about every word she was saying. “Now we’re here it’s rather too low down to send a proper signal, and the cliffs on the other side of the bay are awfully high up. Unless they were signalling to a boat, no signal would get out of here.”

Sally agreed with Darrell. She began looking around from their vantage point, along the East Sands beach, taking in the loneliness of the area and then she squinted back up the way they had come. She pursed her lips a little and frowned. Then she nudged Darrell and nodded back the way they had come, before pointing.

“I don’t suppose that someone could signal from up there could they? I mean it’s a bit further inland, but there’s the height to consider,” Sally ventured, as Darrell turned to look at where Sally’s finger was pointing: the protruding ruined towers of the Cathedral, the Rules Tower. She considered Sally’s suggestion for a moment.

“I suppose it might be possible,” Darrell said quietly, after a moment of thought. “I do have one concern however,” she as she looked bashfully at Sally.

“Oh blow, and I thought I had it sussed,” Sally said, with a laugh as a fresh blast of cold wind whipped at them. “Go on, old thing, what is it?”

“Well the height is certainly a good point, but I don’t think the ground would be high enough up, but the towers probably would be the best height to signal from, the direction of them and everything appears to match up,” here Darrell paused for breath. “My one concern is how could anyone get up those towers? They’re ruins; we’ve seen them for ourselves. There is certainly no way up those towers.”

Sally nodded at her friends point but something was pulling at her thoughts, begging to be listened to.

“Fair point, old thing, but I have a point against your theory, to suggest if I may?” Sally ventured. She smiled apologetically at Darrell.

“Of course, Sally, raise away,” Darrell said, with her sudden smile. She linked her arm through Sally’s and before her friend could speak added;

“Shall we start walking back somewhere warm? This wind is quite ferocious, I really am longing for a nice big fire and another pot of tea.”

Sally nodded in agreement and they two girls started walking back inland as Sally made her point to Darrell.

Sally’s point was quite straight forward.

“I know you say that it would be impossible to get to the top of those towers, but I can’t help wondering if they wouldn’t still have a way up them. When we went exploring with the boys back at the beginning of term, there was that small tower in the cathedral wall, which was said to be haunted. Now for a tower to be in that wall and it is barely visible apart from the hole in the wall, the wall must have been built with two layers of stone, leaving a passage between the two walls. It might even be possible that the big towers are the same; if this is possible then, well they might have staircases up to the top of the tower, while the ones for public use have fallen into ruin with the rest of the place. It is something to consider.”

Sally looked at Darrell when she’d finished speaking. The girls were away from the sea now, and standing by the ruins of the cathedral, looking up at the towers. Darrell had a grin on her face.

“Oh Sally, if I didn’t know you better I would say that you’re quite mad,” she said, with a laugh. She gave Sally’s arm a squeeze.

“Do you think it is possible though?” Sally insisted. She wanted to know whether Darrell thought she was barking up the wrong.

“Anything’s possible,” Darrell said, beginning to head off back to the centre of town. She looked over her shoulder at Sally who hadn’t moved from her spot.

“Sally?” she called.

Sally looked around guiltily. She had been staring at the towers, willing them to have some sign that she was right; she was almost certain that Darrell was laughing at her.  She started after her friend but was deep in thought as Darrell slipped her arm through Sally’s.

As they walked around the cathedral ruins Darrell glanced at Sally. She could see her friend was still mulling over the idea that there might be some way up the cathedral’s towers. Darrell smiled to herself and kept walking. However much her friend might protest at the idea of following up a mystery, Darrell could see that Sally as just about as intrigued as Julian was.

The girls wandered back to their favourite café and ordered a pot of tea. They sat down in the seat nearest the lit fire as they could and pulled off their heavy coats.

“We didn’t say where we would meet the boys once they got out of their lecture did we?” Sally asked, after the girls had poured themselves a cup of steaming hot tea each.
Darrell sipped her drink before she replied.

“We didn’t. I suppose we could always go and wait outside their halls in an hour or so. They will probably be finished in an hour or so.”

Sally nodded and took a drink of tea. As she put her cup down she looked carefully at Darrell.

“We didn’t get very far with our investigations,” Sally said regretfully.

“Not really, but at least we have a few suggestions for the boys,” Darrell said, with a smile. “For example that the East Sands pier would not be a good place to signal unless you were signalling to a boat because of the harbour and easy boat access, and it’s certainly deserted enough for signalling not to be noticed.”

Sally nodded in agreement as Darrell continued.

“I think you should tell Julian your theory about the tower. It’s the sort of thing I think he’ll be interested in.”

“You make it sound like you don’t believe me!” Sally said, slightly indignantly.

“It isn’t that I don’t believe you, Sally, just that it is a little farfetched,” Darrell said, with a sigh. “I cannot see how anyone could even get up to the towers to signal.”

Sally sighed and rested her head on her hand in despair. She didn’t want to fight with Darrell but she was convinced that the cathedral and the towers were playing a large part in this mystery, whether anyone believed her or not.

This entry was posted in Fan fiction and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Missing Papers: A St Andrews Adventure, chapter 15

  1. Francis says:

    So well written, Stef – you make me jealous!


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