So here we are, Chapter 23, the last proper chapter before the epilogue, so I hope you enjoy the penultimate part of The Missing Papers.
The next day the four of them were sitting in the san around Sally’s bed. She was tucked up under thick blankets with two water bottles by her sides and one under her feet. Sister had let them in for a short while to discuss the happenings of last night.
“I feel such an idiot for falling asleep,” Sally said quietly.
“No one blames you,” David said, giving Sally’s hand a little squeeze. “I found it more amusing that you fell asleep on Julian so he couldn’t see what was going on!”
Sally blushed a bright pink as Julian gave David a shove between the shoulder blades.
“It wasn’t a problem,” Julian said, glaring at David.
“All that matters was that we got him,” David said with a laugh, sitting back on the bed next to Sally’s.
“We did,” Sally agreed.
“Well technically, armed police officers caught him,” Darrell pointed out as Julian laughed at David.
“Shame that he’s not telling them where the rest of the papers are though,” David said with a sigh. “I wonder if Professor Doaty will ever get his precious papers back.”
“I suspect he will, Ainsworth won’t last long under interrogation will he?” Sally asked, giving a little cough. “Beats me how Ainsworth got into all of this to begin with.”
“Apparently it was to do with reading Karl Marx quite early in life and taking an interest when Russia took to communism. Ainsworth must have decided that he preferred communism to democracy,” Julian said with a shrug.
“And how did he know about the Professor’s experiment? And I’m guessing it was him who tried to steal your uncle’s papers?” Sally asked. She felt bad that she had fallen asleep last night, she had missed all the explanations.
“His father is the minister of science,” Darrell told Sally. “The police think that Ainsworth may have overheard something to do with the project and informed the Russians, who wanted Project Sahara for themselves.”
“So he must have tried to get into Kirrin cottage before he got up here then?” Sally asked.
“Yes, he did, but it was only picked up by the papers five days later, when we were here,” Julian said with a smile. “I asked my aunt.”
“It all seems so strange,” Darrell said. “I mean he had no clues. He was just creepy!”
“I was wondering where would be a good place to hide papers last night,” Julian admitted. “I just couldn’t think where he might have put them.”
“My bet would be somewhere that’s in plain view,” Darrell said. “Somewhere that you would think was really obvious when you were told but unless you knew where it was, you just wouldn’t have a clue.”
“Such as, hiding something in a book cover?” Sally asked.
“That’s right,” Darrell said with a smile as Julian grinned.
Everyone looked startled when David slapped his hand on his forehead.
“What’s the matter? What have I said?” Darrell asked in alarm.
“That’s it!” David said getting to his feet. “Don’t you see?!” he asked the girls, as he started out of the san.
“I’ll be back in a moment,” David called over his shoulder, hurrying out the san, almost bumping into the sister.
Julian looked over his shoulder and then back at the girls.
“I’d better…” he started, pointing after David,
“…go after him,” Darrell finished for him. She flashed him a smile. “We’ll be here when you get back,” she added as Julian smiled at her and started after David.
Julian ran after David, catching him up at the bottom of the stairs out of the san. He grabbed his arm to stop him rushing off.
“Are you going to tell me what this hunch of yours is?” Julian asked him.
David shook his head. “Not yet, I want to check first,” he said, over his shoulder to Julian, before he set off again, heading out of the building.
“Well where are we going?” Julian asked, following his friend.
“The library,” David said over his shoulder before running off through the campus. Julian rolled his eyes and followed him.
David reached the library and tumbled through the door creating a lot of noise that caused the librarian to look up from her work and shush him. David scrambled up with a helping hand from Julian and pulled his jacket straight, while mumbling his apologies.
Julian watched his friend in amazement as David slipped off through the shelves towards the four’s favourite study place.
Julian followed him, intrigued. He followed David as he ignored the study area and went for a shelf of books that Julian hadn’t taken much notice of in his time in the library as it was the section on foreign history. Julian leant against the end of the bookshelf as David positioned himself in front of the shelves and ran his finger up and down the spines, muttering to himself until he slapped the shelf jubilantly and pulled a book down.
Julian looked at the book in David’s hand and raised an eyebrow.
“It’s a book on Russian history,” Julian said as David opened the book and traced his fingers down the binding of the front of the book.
Julian watched while his friend found nothing and flipped to the back of the book, and let out a yell of triumph as his fingers found what he was searching for. There was a persistent shush from the librarian.
Julian moved to stand by David’s shoulder and watched as David took out his penknife, flicked open the blade and lifted an almost unnoticeable slit in the end paper.
“Can you hold the book please, Julian?” David whispered.
Julian took the book and held it steady as David lifted the end paper with the knife and slid a finger under it to pull out a sheaf of note papers. Julian took the book from him as David closed his penknife back up and opened the note papers with a rustle. David grabbed Julian’s arm as he read what was on the papers.
“It’s them Julian! It’s Old Dotty’s papers!”
Julian pulled the papers from David’s hands and scanned them himself.
“Wow David, you found them!” Julian said with a smile. He clapped his friend on the back.
“You might want to get those to the police before they get lost again,” said a voice behind the boys. They turned on the spot and saw Anthony Pilkington leaning against the bookcase.
“What’s it to you Pilkington?” David asked, pocketing the papers.
Pilkington shrugged at them and smiled.
“Shall we take a walk and I will explain?” he asked, motioning them out of the library. “I do not think the librarian likes you very much at the moment, Morton. You have been making too much noise already!”
The boys looked at each other, before nodding in sync at Pilkington and followed him out of the library.
As they left the library Pilkington started talking.
“You might as well know straight off that my real name is Anatoly Petrov, and I am from Russia, but my family and I escaped before the revolution,” he began, being unusually candid. For some reason he felt he could trust Kirrin and Morton. “We were living in England when the war started and since the Berlin Wall was built, I have been working for Britain, unmasking spies,” he continued quietly. “When we were informed of the break in at your uncle’s house, Kirrin, I was enrolled on the physics course here to keep an eye on one of our top suspects, Thomas Ainsworth. A colleague of mine was keeping an eye on his father in London. I was also sent to keep an eye on you, Julian.”
“Why were you keeping an eye on me?” Julian asked, shocked as David sniggered.
“Well we were told that if anyone could find trouble you were the chap to watch,” Petrov said with a chuckle. “Your reputation precedes you!”
Julian chuckled. “Yes I’m beginning to find that out for myself!” he said as David laughed.
“So I began following Ainsworth while trying to keep an eye on you, and I must admit that I know Ainsworth spotted me the moment I bumped into him. My only saving grace however was that he would not know who you were,” Petrov continued. “I could not prevent the papers from being stolen, but once they were, I stuck as close to him as possible. I failed where you succeeded I am afraid.”
“But we saw you on the beach having an argument with him,” David said. “We were sure that he was confronting you about stealing the papers.”
“He was,” Petrov said with a wry smile. “And I confronted him back. I almost gave the game away but what I did not realise was that he had the papers on him at that time. He must have dropped one somewhere and it ended up back on the beach, where you later found it.”
“And you followed him when he kidnapped Sally,” Julian said, his voice hard. “You didn’t think to stop him from doing that? She might have died!”
“I could not be sure of what he was doing with Sally. I heard her talking in the café, yes and followed them out, but when they disappeared in the ruins, I was lost. I had no idea where the entrance to the tower was. All I had been doing up until then was watching the signalling from the tower from down below. If I had known that he was going to leave her exposed up in the tower, I would have intervened sooner.”
Considering all of this the three walked in silence for a few minutes, as they made their way to the police station to hand over the missing papers.
“How did you know where to find us when I found the papers?” David asked after a moment.
“I would not have done if you had not have burst out of the sanatorium just as I was coming to give you all an explanation,” Petrov said with a smile. “I followed you because I had a hunch you were on to something.”
They all grinned at each other as they reached the police station.
“In you go,” Petrov said to them, nodding at the door. “I want to see those papers handed over and under lock and key.”
“So do we,” Julian said with a chuckle. “David, would you care to walk through this door and hand the papers over?”
David raised an eyebrow at Julian before pushing open the door and strolling up to the desk flanked by Julian and Petrov. All three were grinning.
“So you’re a British agent?” Darrell asked, leaning forward when Julian, David, and Anatoly returned to the san after handing the papers over to the police and then further over to Professor Doaty.
He laughed at her. “A bit louder, I do not think they heard you in St Salvator’s,” he said.
Both the girls smiled at each other. “But yes, I am.”
“I still can’t believe you found the papers and handed them over without us!” Sally said, slapping her hands against her bed. She should have been resting but they had all protested until Sister had covered her ears and told them they could have another half an hour.
“What did you expect us to do? We couldn’t wait until you were up and out of bed, Sally dear,” Julian said with a chuckle. He steadfastly ignored the sudden snigger from David. Sally laughed a little.
“Well we ought to be going,” Petrov said, getting to his feet. “Sister will be out in a minute to chase us from here with a broom in a moment if we are not careful!” He smiled at Sally.
“Do you think you can forgive me for not rescuing you last night? I was rather slow I am afraid,” he asked her.
“Of course,” Sally said, blushing a little. “Ainsworth knew what he was doing long before you had a clue!”
“You are an astonishing woman Sally Hope,” Petrov said with a smile.
“She knows,” Darrell said with a smirk. She gave Sally’s arm a squeeze as her friend made to protest.
“I’ll come and see you after dinner,” Darrell told her, before linking her arm through Anatoly’s and heading towards the door, chatting with him much to his surprise.
Sally, David and Julian shared a smile. David leant over and pressed a kiss to Sally’s cheek and said;
“I think Darrell’s fond of someone all of a sudden.”
“It’s amazing but I think having confirmed him as one of the good guys, I think can change a person’s perception. And he’s much nicer now,” Sally said with a smile, giving David’s arm a squeeze. “See you tomorrow?” she asked him.
“Of course,” David said. He turned and looked at Julian and then back at Sally. He cleared his throat.
“I’ll just see if I can catch Darrell and Petrov up.”
Julian watched his friend dash out of the san and then turned back to Sally who was laughing.
“Our subtle friends,” Julian said, perching on the side of Sally’s bed.
“Well no one said they were perfect,” Sally said, reaching out for Julian’s hand. Julian took hers and squeezed it hard.
“Thank you for rescuing me,” Sally said quietly, looking at their joined hands. “I’m glad it was you and not David or Petrov or even Darrell.”
“Don’t worry about it,” Julian said, finding his throat tight. “Just don’t make a habit of getting kidnapped,” he teased.
Sally laughed. She could feel something in the air, things that needed to be said. She was still looking down at their joined hands when she felt Julian move off her bed and press a kiss to her forehead.
“Although, I don’t think I could ever get bored of rescuing you, Sally Hope,” he told her with a smile. “Get better quickly you hear me? Someone needs to remind me not to make atom bombs in class every day!”
Sally swatted him with her free hand on his sore shoulder.
Julian winced. “And you better make it a quick recovery or I’ll find another adventure!” he teased, pulling back.
“No Julian. No more adventures!” Sally begged, making him laugh.
“Maybe not this term,” Julian said. He pressed another kiss to her forehead and then stood up, letting go of her hand and moving to the end of her bed. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“See you tomorrow,” Sally said softly watching him walk away.
“And Sally?” Julian asked, turning around on the spot half way towards the door.
“Yes, Julian?” Sally asked.
“We did the impossible. We solved the mystery!”