was startled by the alarm clock; he wasn't used to getting up before
noon."Bugger," he exclaimed as his eyes began to focus.
hastily pulled a sweater over his head and sped into his brother's
up, Simon!" he hollered. "It's half past five already
and we need to be at the worksite by six. We've finally got ourselves
a proper job... and we don't want to bloody lose it on the first
and Tom Baxter were brothers separated by less than eleven months.
In the several years since leaving school they had never had a proper
job before. They had managed to get by from exploiting as many Government
training programs as possible. And by still living at home.
fact, at twenty-three and twenty-two years old respectively their
Mum still made their beds, did their laundry and purchased
the food. But finally every avenue of avoiding work had been exhausted
and the job centre had vehemently insisted on their taking this
ten minutes the brothers were in their battered 1986 Mini and speeding
down the lane racing towards Aysgarth. It was an eleven-mile journey
to that quaint ancient town, and the little red car traveled swiftly
down the narrow country lanes.
6:05 on they pulled into the parking lot and screeched to a halt.
About half a dozen other young men nonchalantly looked up at them.
A man, whom they recognized from their interview, walked up to them
shaking his head in disgust.
are flippin' late!" he yelled. "If this happens once more
you are out. Now move it. Go and get kitted up and join the rest
of the team."
few moments later Simon and Tom were lined up with the others and
dressed in blue overalls as the foreman began to explain precisely
what they were going to do.
gentlemen take a look at this beautiful building directly
behind you. It is the historic Palmer Flatt hotel."
young men glanced up half-heartedly.
we have been brought in to reinforce the foundations, which date
back over seven hundred years."
few of the lads yawned.
time is a fleeting, and time is money... Follow me, lads."
motley procession reluctantly picked up their allotted tools and
began marching behind the foreman over the green front lawn towards
the rear of the building. Then they entered the hotel through a
door adjacent to the parlor and were led a little farther to an
old staircase at the rear of the building.
at the bottom of the stairway is the cellar where we need to go,
lads," the foreman said as the team nervously peered into the
looks bloody creepy down there," Simon whined as he stared
down into the menacing shadows.
later there were a few hushed murmurs as the team gradually, and
with the utmost caution, clambered down the well worn steps.
finally reached the cellar floor. The foreman pulled on a chain
and surprisingly an old sixty watt electric light flashed on to
expose the air to be thick with dust. A few dilapidated pieces of
furniture were scattered about as was a collection of old cardboard
boxes which now barely concealed their contents.
bet there are some brilliant old treasures down here that would
do well at an antique auction," quipped Tom as he eyed the
nodded, understanding precisely what his brother was thinking.
the back of the cellar the lads were directed to move some of the
boxes, which soon revealed yet another door in the floorboards.
here is where the suspected foundation slippage is," the foreman
said as he studied the door."Right first I need to cut off
this rusted padlock. It is a shame; it looks like it's centuries
lock easily broke and clattered to the ground. The foreman tried
to pull the door open. "Here, give me a hand with this, somebody.
It's bloody heavy."
couple of the young men grudgingly assisted him, obviously not used
to having to do any work. After a few attempts, the door opened
to reveal yet another set of stairs heading downward.
let's take a bloody look!" The foreman grunted.
team once more traveled downward. This time there was no luxury
of an electric light overhead and the intense darkness was only
feebly illuminated by a few battery torches.
a tunnel," the foreman cried. "A bloody long tunnel. I
wonder where it goes."
walked a few feet farther along the curious passage when the foreman
suddenly stopped them. "This just doesn't feel right with me,"
he proclaimed. "Ireckon we should head up to fresh air again.
I think I need to make a phone call."
minutes later the young men happily filed back out of the back door
and out into the fresh cool morning air. Soon there was much hushed
chattering amongst them as theories about what they had just uncovered
were exchanged back and forth.
foreman dialed his mobile phone. As he talked, the workmen could
see he was becoming more and more agitated. After a few moments
he hung up the phone and solemnly addressed his workers.
a bit of bad news, I'm afraid," he groaned. "I have just
spoken to the Wensleydale preservation society." He paused
and took a deep breath. "And until they come and investigate
the tunnel, we are not permitted to do any bloody work down there
whatsoever. You'll get paid a full day's pay for today, of course,
and I'll call you when we hear anything, but I know that these chaps
can take weeks or even months. You are now all free to go home.
I am sorry about this lads, but hopefully something else will turn
collection of young men put the equipment back in the van, slipped
out of their overalls, put on their jackets, and left.
night Simon and Tom found themselves, as usual, in the local pub,
the Kings Arms, supping their customary pint of bitter. Their
talk quickly gravitated towards the morning's unusual events.
strange, innit," Simon said as he shook his head, "kicking
us out like that and all."
Tom said, taking another sip, "I reckon there's something important
and valuable down in that flippin' tunnel and they're trying to
hide it from us."
three more pints Simon suddenly got a look on his face. "I
have got a grand idea," he announced as his eyes twinkled,
"and this one is going to keep us in beer for a long time,
that moment the dreaded cry came, the cry that makes all beer drinkers
shake in their boots. "Time, gentlemen, please!"
two brothers, along with several others, were hastily herded out
onto the street.
in the car, Tom," Simon said, rubbing his hands together. "We
have got work to do!"
* * *
few minutes later they once more were outside of the Palmer Flatt
hotel, only this time a heavy darkness enveloped them. In daylight
the hotel looked quaint and charming but now in the moonlight it
appeared far different.
bloody well looks like a horror movie set," Tom whined. "Maybe
we should just forget it."
be a chicken, bruv, this place is completely..." But before
Simon could finish his thought a deep pounding bell rang out echoing
into the night. They flinched for a moment. Then they chuckled at
their edginess, realizing it was the old church clock across the
lane next to the graveyard.
I suppose we should get on with it then," Tom said, the shaking
tone in his voice contradicting the bravery of his words.
they crept towards the back door of the hotel and peered up at the
no lights are on," Simon whispered. "I am sure that no-one
would be foolish enough to want to stay here in the middle of winter.
We should have the place to ourselves."
approached a downstairs window.
must be to the Parlor," Simon remarked. "Yes, it is. I
recognize that lovely old piano we saw this morning."
Tom expertly slipped the blade of his pocket-knife into the crack
the window clicked open. "A cinch," he said, winking at
couple of minutes later they once more found themselves within the
old-fashioned parlor. Wasting no time, they quietly continued out
into the hallway and directly to where the first cellar door awaited
them. After some effort, the door was opened and they shone their
torches downward and peered in.
it looks even scarier now," Tom remarked.
first," muttered Simon not willing to admit he was just as
scared as his brother.
took a deep breath and slowly began his descent into the darkness.
seemed such a brilliant idea an hour ago in the pub," he lamented
as he crept warily downward.
Tom made it to the cellar, he called up to Simon, who reluctantly
followed him, and they continued amongst the shadows caused by their
lights until the second, even more ominous door.
stood there for several moments as they examined it. The remains
of the large old padlock still laid on the floor.
obviously wanted to keep people out of here," quipped Tom.
stop something from getting out," replied Simon as his face
contorted in fear.
took all their might to pull the large solid oak door open and they
needed to catch their breath afterwards.
we've come this far," exclaimed Simon, "come on, let's
get this over with."
shined their flashlights down into the depths. Simon and Tom stared
at each other and once again downwards they climbed. The air was
stale and musky, and they both had some difficulty breathing.
smells like death down here," Tom whispered. "I hope this
is going to be worth it."
they went through the cobwebs.
can't be much farther in. The foreman wasn't gone for long,"
said Simon with his trembling voice showing evidence of his growing
hadn't traveled but a few yards along the tunnel when they saw it:
a wooden chest.
bet you a hundred pints of Yorkshire's finest that this is what
the foreman didn't want us to see this morning," Tom whispered
as his natural greed rapidly overcame his trepidation. "Come
on, let's get it back to the house."
minutes later, the chest was clumsily bound on top of the mini and
they were once more speeding along the dark narrow roads.
got to be valuable!" Simon said with excitement.
reckon that we have hit the bloody jackpot," replied Tom as
he rubbed his hands together.
1:30 they screeched back up their driveway and jumped out of the
car. The two shivered in unison.
let's get this inside and into the warmth," said Simon as he
unbuckled the straps binding the chest. As silently as they could,
they carefully carried their prize into the house and up the creaking
stairs. Finally they made it into Simon's back bedroom.
careful, Mom will kill us if she wakes up and sees what we have
done," said Simon in a hushed tone.
carefully placed the chest onto Simon's bed, closed the door, turned
on the light and examined their prize with more detail. There was
a faded plaque upon the top. After a little cleaning with Tom's
handkerchief, it revealed writing which they could not understand.
However, a date caught their attention. It was faded yet still readable:
chest was fastened with a padlock, which looked like a smaller version
of the one that had locked the cellar door. Simon pulled his tool
chest from under the bed, and pulled out a chisel and hammer. Their
enthusiasm grew even further as the chisel was positioned on the
lock, and Tom hit it with the hammer. After a few sharp taps, it
tumbled free to the carpet.
lads looked at each other and gulped.
of truth time," proclaimed Simon.
Tom slowly, yet purposefully, opened the chest and peered in.
he cried with dismay."It's full of bloody blankets!"
previous excitement evaporated, which left them sullen and disheartened.
Perhaps there is something wrapped up inside of them," Tom
chirped, feeling a moment of optimism again.
that, the brothers pulled the blankets out one by one, but the cloth
fell apart beneath their clumsy touch.
this really does smell like death," Tom observed, unavoidably
breathing in the ancient dust...
* * *
following morning they were awakened with a sharp knock on the bedroom
up, lazy bones," their mother yelled. "There are mugs
of tea and lovely bacon and egg sandwiches waiting for you on the
kitchen table. Hurry up downstairs, as I am going to need your help
and I was listening to the news this morning. It was lucky you two
got called off that building job yesterday. Some bloody idiots broke
in there last night and stole one of several old chests locked up
in a tunnel. The tunnel led all the way to the graveyard across
used to transport plague victims in the tunnel to keep others from
getting affected. Inside that chest was some old blankets they used
for the poor buggers, and the plague has become a new strain. No
known cure! I tell you, there ain't half some daft uns in the world!"