• Author: Operator, PostPosted: Wed Apr 06, 2005 5:00 pm

The boys face lit up at Charlie?s display of generosity. ?Yes, sir. Thank you si-, er... Charlie?? He seemed hesitant to use a paying customers given name. It went against manners that must have been trained into him for a while now. ?Thanks, Charlie. If you need anythin? else, I?ll be around. Just whistle.? He took the proffered case and made his way to the front steps of the house.

Aside from the maps and diagrams, there was precious little to go on. A few pages in German with notes detailing the writer?s search for a ?map? and a ?key?. There was a list of various London churches and a shorter list of churches and cathedrals in France. Most of the locations had a line drawn through them. St. Dunstan?s had been circled. There were also circles around two of the Paris locations.

There were some older pages that were barely legible. These mentioned a ?Messenger returned from the Sea? and his ?interception at the Palace? and flight ?to the Lea?... none of it made much sense as it was written in a variant dialect that Charlie had not encountered before.

Two crisp white type-written sheets seemed to be in the best shape, but these simply bore several lines of characters typed out in an order that made no sense.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Apr 07, 2005 7:01 pm

His inspection of the folder?s contents provided more questions than answers, and he found himself thoroughly confused by what he read. His earlier fantasies of German spies and wartime intrigue now seemed to be wide of the mark, as the writer seemed to have more of an interest in churches than army barracks. It was all most peculiar, and Charlie had little aptitude for puzzles and riddles.

Charlie?s brow furrowed and his eyes lost focus as memories of this morning?s events came flooding back. On the back of the carriage in Green Park, his rescuer had mentioned a map and key. What had he said? Charlie found that he could remember word for word: ?He has assured me that he has the perfect means to get the map over to Eastern lands. Then we will sail with the key for Sir Bram's outpost up north.?

Now, how could he recall those words so vividly if it were just a dream? And yet, he had awoken on the bus, with no recollection of how he had got there.

?Deep breaths, Charlie? he whispered under his breath, ?let?s try to rationalise this. ?

Perhaps, he thought, he had panicked, fled the park with his head in a tizz, then jumped on the first bus that came along. Maybe he had half-noticed the references to the map and key during his first quick read, and then fallen asleep on the bus and the references had manifested themselves in his dreams.

Well, that all seems rational enough, so let?s just work with that until things are a little clearer, he thought to himself. Even so, no matter how hard he tried to convince himself of this version of events, he could not hide the disquiet that he felt inside. I don?t panic that easily. I don?t lose control. That Italian chap in the costume? He was there, he did speak to me, the baton, the horse and cart. It was so real?too real?it did happen, I?m sure of it!

A car passing along the street woke him from his thoughts, and his eyes snapped back into focus. His caf頡u lait, he realised, was cold, and a glance behind him revealed that some patrons had left, and new ones arrived, without him noticing. The file lay open in front of him, and he folded it closed and thrust it back into his jacket.

?Tobes!? he called, with a wave of his hand to attract attention, ?I?m off for a while to walk off breakfast. Could you tell Madame Layton that I will return later??

Too much delaying, Charlie, you know you are dying to investigate this church, so lets get going shall we. He stood, flicked a few errant crumbs off his pants, and seeing the church spire across the rooftops, set out to have a look. Let?s see what mysteries St Dunstan?s holds?.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Thu Apr 14, 2005 8:11 pm

Morning went on as usual for the folk breaking fast on the little street. Some came, some went. Most spared not a glance for the confused looking gent hunched protectively about his folder. Charlie did catch some wisps of conversation. A young man was reciting a sonnet to his table companion. Two odd little old ladies were carrying on an animated conversation in Italian. A rather exhausted looking laborer had stopped by for a cup and a rest. He was regaling Tobes with the story of a hidden tomb that had been turned up somewhere nearby...

The lad pulled himself away from the tale to answer Charlie's call. "Yes, sir! I'll let her know. Enjoy your walk."

The spire of St. Dunstan's rose tall and proud, intact in defiance of the destruction that had rained down upon the little parish. As Charlie drew near, he could see that the rest of the building had not faired as well. The main structure was in ruins, although much of the outer walls remained intact. The focus of attention was the walk in front of the building. Fallen rubble had been removed to reveal a great crack in the flagstones. Men had roped off an area around the danger and were clearing bits of rock away onto the bed of a nearby truck. Some official looking men in suits were conferring at the front of the crowd that had gathered for a look at the curiosity. The voices of two lads, both about eight or nine, carried from a shed that had been erected on one side of another ruined building nearby.

"We should give it those men. Maybe there's a reward."

"I found it! I want to keep it. Uncle Perry might know what it is."

As Charlie passed near them, the argument turned into a physical tugging match.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2005 12:49 am

Charlie had been hoping that the church grounds would be so quiet that he could amble around in his own good time, and have a good snoop. Clearly, the crowd that had gathered around the crack made that more difficult, and interesting though the find undoubtedly was, with so many workmen around it might be hard to see what they had discovered.

Fortunately, the overheard conversation caught Charlie?s ear, and sounded equally as interesting. Taking care to walk quietly, he ambled over to the shed and observed as the conversation turned into a squabble. A wry smile crossed his face as he recalled the numerous battles and disagreements he always had with his younger brother, Edward.

Now, what had these two urchins uncovered?

He leaned against the doorpost of the fence, and took a coin from his pocket (bribing young boys often seemed to work). He held up his hand, and manipulated the coin between his fingers, making it dance around and across his knuckles, up and down the fingers.

?There may well be a reward young man, depending on what you have uncovered?, he said loudly enough to disturb the quarrelling boys. Catching their attention, he turned his head to face them, letting his coin dance for a few more seconds where it could clearly be seen.

?Let?s see what you?ve found, and I?ll tell you if it?s worth anything,? he said with a wink and a friendly smile on his face.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2005 11:53 am

One of the vehicles parked nearby was an ambulance, although there did not seem to be anyone in need of medical attention. However, the spirited argument pulled Charlie's attention from such observations. the two boys might have been brothers, both had curly waxen blond hair. One was a few inches taller. And both looked as if they?d perhaps been digging ditches , covered with dirt and dust.

The lads seemed too wrapped up in their argument to notice the man until he moved closer and produced a suitable distraction. The shiny coin drew their eyes almost immediately. Charlie's attempt at making it dance, however gracefully it had started out, resulted in the coin falling to the ground.

The older boy pounced on the coin with glee. He held it up for both Charlie and the other boy to see. ?Ha! Look what I found. ?n? I didn? even have to dig it up outta some coffin.?

The shorter lad was concealing something in a closed fist held behind his back. He managed to look quite put out that he hadn?t seized the opportunity. ?No fair, Sandy, it?s my reward. You canna just take it like that.?

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Wed Apr 20, 2005 4:47 pm

Damn, he?d have to practice his coin-twirling some more! Nevermind, it was only money...

The lad, Sandy, seemed to have excessive levels of pluck. If he had spoken to an adult like that when he was nine, his father would no doubt have had something to say with his belt. Still, he had to admire the youngster. In Charlie?s experience, insolence could get a young man into all sorts of trouble, but confidence was often enough to escape the trouble later.

Charlie shook his head slowly, an amused look on his face. ?Pretty quick reactions you have there, son. Keep it.?

He pulled another coin out of his pocket and held it up. The younger boy seemed a little more inhibited by the presence of a strange adult, so Charlie addressed his second remark to him.

?And here?s a second coin just for you, but only if you show me what you have found, and tell me exactly where you found it.? Charlie waved with his other hand, gesturing the boy towards him.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2005 5:05 pm

Sandy accepted the compliment with what would have been an indifferent shrug - had he not been beaming gleefully. "Yessir."

The other boy was clearly tempted by Charlie's offer. Yet he held back for a bit. Sandy whispered a few words into his ear. His eyes widened. "Promise you willna tell anyone what I found?"

"Just show 'im, Neddie. He'll be in as much trouble as us."

A reluctant Neddie stepped closer and held out his hand. There was a little metal object in his palm. It was shaped like a shield and painted white. Three red rosettes were the only decoration on the badge.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Tue Apr 26, 2005 10:10 pm

Charlie crouched down on his haunches, to bring himself down to Neddie?s level, intending to make himself less threatening to the still wary lad.

?May I....?? he asked, making eye contact with the boy, and gently reaching out to pick up the object.

He held it up to the light and studied it as closely as he could, turning it back and forth eager to notice the smallest detail in the design, to gauge the possible age of the object, and what material it might be made from.

?And where did you find this, Neddie? In the grave was it? Where all those men are digging? Jeez, you boys are pretty brave to be digging around in there. It?s lucky you didn?t disturb a goblin or a troll, or maybe the ghost of Jack the Ripper. He was from around these parts you know?? Charlie said this last with a faint smile, not wanting to scare the lads, but happy to pull their legs.

A thought occurred to Charlie ? an alarming thought at that. He remembered seeing the ambulance outside, and it suddenly dawned on him that he had seen another ambulance this morning in similar unusual circumstances.

?How long?s that ambulance been here, boys? Did you see it arrive??

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Sun May 01, 2005 10:18 pm

Whether Neddie trusted Charlie or was simply too frightened to hold on to the treasure, he relinquished it to the adult. The little badge was brittle. The painted was scraped in places. The design seemed familiar somehow.

Quickly, Signor, we must get you to the Abbey. The voice echoed strongly in Charlie's memory as he handled the shield. There were no obvious inscriptions and the material was an indeterminate alloy of some sort.

The boys actually laughed at the threats of a goblin or ghost. "Mister, none of those things'd be welcome on Holy Ground. Don? you know anything. And what makes you think it was a grave. Looked to me more like a cellar. Didna see any coffins." Neddie's confidence in his "knowledge" and eagerness to prove himself as brave as had been mentioned overcame his fear of the stranger.

Sandy looked across the street to the parked ambulance. " 'Bout a quarter hour... maybe. Makes no sense - there wasna anyone injured. And no nurses in the truck, just those men in suits."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu May 05, 2005 10:36 pm

Quickly, Signor, we must get you to the Abbey A tingle passed down Charlie?s spine, as he remembered that the gentleman in the park had been wearing a sash, decorated with the shield and three red rosettes. Now there could be no doubt in Charlie?s mind ? the trip on the cart really had happened! It still made no sense, but he could no longer pretend that it had all been a dream. Something most peculiar was happening here?and Charlie had somehow got himself caught up in the middle of it.

The arrival of the ambulance was rather disturbing, but thinking back, Charlie was pretty sure that the occupants could not have seen him in Green Park earlier that day. The mist had been too thick, and he had set off from the body before the ambulance had arrived. They might have caught a glimpse of his back disappearing into the trees, but surely nothing more.

The badge was still sitting on Charlie?s palm, and his instincts told him that what he was holding somehow held the key to unravelling this mystery. His fingers snapped shut, trapping the badge inside, while his other hand held out the second coin to Neddie.

?Neddie, I?m going to hold onto this, and find out what it is. And when I find out, I?ll come back here and tell you all about it. Now, here?s your reward Neddie, you boys run along, buy yourself some sweets.?

Charlie lifted himself back onto his feet, and moved to the shed doorway. Looking out, he surveyed the crowd that had gathered to see whether he recognised any of the ambulance staff from the park. Judging himself to be safe amongst the gathered onlookers, he wandered out, and casually approached the crowd to see what was so interesting.

He nudged a fellow in the crowd, and asked in a friendly tone ?What?s going on here then? Dug something up have they??

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Thu May 19, 2005 11:09 am

The children, having earned what they considered quite a reward, seemed happy to let Charlie go with the prize.

Out in front of the old church, Charlie became part of the crowd. The hole in the ground was being guarded by four men in military uniform. Surrounding them was a small crowd of suspicious locals and a band of workmen who were removing two large bundles from the pit and loading a nearby truck. Two men in expensive suits (who looked vaguely familiar to Charlie) were arguing with a couple of the guards.

Across from the crowd, on church grounds, was a rather worried looking priest. He was trying to reassure a couple of aged parishioners and still keep an eye on what was happening.

The young man whom Charlie addressed was all to eager to speak. "It looks to be quite a mess here. They were clearing some fallen stones when that bit of earth caved in and opened up part of the church cellar. Only instead of repairing the damage, these soldiers showed up to rope it off and demand the workmen wait until the government man got here to take a look at it. And it looks like they've disturbed some sort of burial... only it wasn't a grave so they said it was some kind of foul play. Now they're cartin' everything off as 'evidence'. The old church marms are furious, and Father Ambrose over there is quite upset."

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Wed May 25, 2005 9:59 pm

The mention of Father, or Padre, Ambrose triggered his memory, and for the second time in the last ten minutes he was forcibly reminded of his peculiar memories of earlier that day.

?Upset is he?? he said, his voice calm, ?I?m not surprised with all this kerfuffle. So what did they find ? bodies is it? I don?t see why that would cause such a stir, this is a graveyard after all.?

Spotting the two familiar looking men, Charlie continued to listen to the gentleman, nodding encouragement as he told his story. Where had he seen those two before ? in the ambulance perhaps? And why were they arguing with the guards.

Charlie decided that a little subtle eavesdropping might be in order, and with the crowd of locals milling about, he wandered through the onlookers, angling to get closer to the arguing men. He kept his eyes on the activity at the hole in the ground, appearing to a casual onlooker as though he were just manoeuvring for a better view of the proceedings.

He tried to get within earshot of the familiar looking men to overhear their conversation with the guards, aware that with his head down and his eyes on the hole, the brim of his hat ought to shield his face should the men look his way?.

  • Author: Operator, PostPosted: Sat Jun 11, 2005 5:31 pm

Charlie tried to get closer to the two odd men without being noticed. It was difficult, but he managed to get within a few yards of them. Apparently the argument was about what was being done with the things recovered from the underground chamber. The workmen had been loading them onto a truck fro transport, but the two men in suits were presenting some sort of documents saying that the recovered artefacts should be handed over to them.

Looking up at just the right angle caused Charlie to have yet another unsettling memory overlap. The two men had been in the ambulance. And one of them had definitely been carrying an automatic pistol.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Jun 13, 2005 8:43 pm

Clearly there was great danger for Charlie here. He was fairly certain that he would not be recognised from the events in the park, but with pistols involved it was better to be safe than sorry. What else could he do here? Excuse me Sir, would you be looking for these documents by any chance? No, a ridiculous idea, he had no intention of meddling with these men unless he had no choice.

Casting his eyes around the site, they settled on Father Ambrose, still trying to calm his parishioners. There was something lost odd happening today, and Charlie reflected that on his own he had little chance of solving the mystery that he had become caught up in. Perhaps the Father could help.

Charlie moved off through the crowd, again keeping his back to the gentlemen from the ambulance. He approached Father Ambrose and waited patiently while the parishioners continued to express their concerns. He stood conspicuously to one side, hoping to catch the Father?s eye and grab a quiet word with him.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2005 3:24 pm

Fortunately for Charlie, the once-armed German paramedics with expensive suits were preoccupied with their heated discussion with the London police and didn't notice his movements. As he arrived he heard what the perishers were saying.

"They can't take him, Father. . ."

"What if they find out..."

The comments were hushed as Charlie arrived. Father Ambrose greeted him with a weak smile.

"Yes, my son, you are curious of the police I am sure. You needn't fear, this church will still be preserved in all of its glory. Is there something I can do for you?"

A voice peeked out from deep in Charlie's consciousness. As if a memory, but being triggered forcefully from below. The trigger was the statement "find out".

. . . keep it hidden . . .

It was a distant woman's voice and delicately Italian. The moment fleeted as quickly as it came.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Thu Jun 16, 2005 11:57 pm

Charlie faltered momentarily, confused as to where the memory had come from. A jumbled fragment of the morning?s events, or perhaps something more concrete?

Either way, the Father was clearly expecting a response, and he had not the time to arrange his thoughts more clearly. ?Act first, think later? was how his father described him, and the observation was true enough. The consequences of approaching Father Ambrose would resolve themselves, and his mouth was moving before his mind had a chance to halt it.

?Yes, Father Ambrose. I wonder whether I could have a quiet word with you?? he took an obvious glance left and right at the parishioners, and continued with emphasis in his voice, ??in private.?

?Excuse me ladies, terribly sorry to interrupt? he said apologetically and sincerely, and raised his eyebrows to them, hoping they would take the hint and leave.

?Father, if not now then perhaps as soon as you can manage. It is terribly important??

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2005 3:21 pm

The earnest response earned Charlie a great deal. The nuns quickly took their leave and a curious expression on Ambrose's face held no veil on his concern. Gently leading the young man away from the site toward a more private location nestled beneath the precarious awnings of the bombed church, he said quietly.

"What is it, child? Do you know something of what is happening here today."

After a pause and further consideration he added, "Have we met before?"

Indeed the face of the priest was rather familiar, as if related to someone famous or a passing meeting from years prior. Far enough away from the strange Germanic ambulance crew, they were secluded enough to proceed candidly.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2005 4:39 pm

?Have we met? Uh, I don?t think?uh, maybe?not sure actually?

The plan to discuss matters with Father Ambrose had been decided and acted upon so quickly that Charlie had not had time to decide exactly what he was going to say. He would probably say something he regretted later, but there was no time to worry about that. The words came out quickly and Charlie could do little to contain the excitement in his voice.

?Father, I have already had one rather unnerving run-in with those gentlemen today. I have no idea who they are or what they want, but they are dangerous, and I really need you to tell me what was discovered in your church yard??

Charlie?s mind raced. ??and what this means?. His fingers fumbling around in his pocket came across the small metal shield, and before he knew what he was doing, he had drawn it out and held it up for the Father to see.

?And if the name Sir Bram means anything to you, I would really like to know who he is.?

?And there I go blurting everything out, and you?ll probably think I?m crazy and call those government men over but that would be a really bad idea, so if you can help me then please say so, otherwise forget you ever saw me and I?ll be on my way.? Charlie drew a deep breath and a smile and chuckle broke out on his face. ?I am having a very, very unusual morning Father. I cannot begin to tell you so strange this day has been??

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2005 5:29 pm

The priest's face decolored from a Welsh drab to a dead man's ivory. Unblinking wide eyes stared at Charlie as he spoke and in a moment a stumbled back. Collapsing completely onto his knees, Ambrose inhaled slowly and muttered beneath his breath, ". . . it can't be. . ."

Catching his breath and what little color he had to begin with returned. He stood and with hands far more firm than a simple abbot would apply, he grabbed Charlie by the forearm and dragged him several meters away and ducked into the remains of a dislodged and bombed-out basement. Going down a few steps they were completely hidden behind nearby debris and the collapsed walls of the lower chambers.

"I haven't heard the name Bram in many, many years. Knowledge of him died a very long time ago. You have uncovered a very ancient secret. You hold what those Germans are looking for.

"I must return it to its proper owner. May I?"

Ambrose cupped his hand as a gesture to receive the shield.

  • Author: Orbost, Location: Melbourne, Australia PostPosted: Sun Jun 26, 2005 7:54 pm

Charlie had been expecting a few words of advice, and perhaps a guarded explanation of the churchyard excavations. Instead, he was greatly taken aback by the priest?s extraordinary reaction, and for a moment rather unsure of how to proceed. The surprise though was quickly overtaken by a feeling of intense satisfaction ? there were answers to be had here, and for the first time today he was the one in control!

His fingers wrapped tightly around the shield and he withdrew his hand. ?I?m sorry Father, but no. If this is really so important then I will not hand it over until you tell me exactly what is going on here.?

Charlie peeked quickly over his shoulder to ensure they were alone, and then lowering his voice, he caught and held Ambrose?s gaze and said firmly:

?I want to know why, two years after the war finished, there are armed Germans charging around London, searching churchyards.?

?I want to know who you had arranged to meet here at noon?. Charlie had the handwritten note in the file in his pocket, and knew it to be true.

?I want you to tell me all about Sir Bram, and what this shield is the key to, why the Germans want it, and why you are so desperate to keep it from them.

?Most of all, I want to know how I got caught up in this, and why the hell these memories keep popping up in my head!?

Another glance over his shoulder, and Charlie took a deep breath and continued.

?We need to go somewhere we can talk in private. Your parishioners are no doubt wondering what has happened to you. Where can I meet you, and when??

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 1:01 pm

Ambrose stared at him with no expression, save an open mouth. His eyes narrowed and the evidence of sweat began permeating the skin above his temples.

Barely above a whisper he said, "I see."

Glancing for the briefest of moments behind Charlie's shoulder, instinct took over the young man and without realizing he turned to look and see what Ambrose was looking at.

The dreaded words only then hit Charlie's ears.

"Forgive me, Father."

There was a painful thud on the back of his neck and then darkness.

  • Author: Laveaux, PostPosted: Mon Jun 27, 2005 12:59 pm

"... Signor.... Signor... you must wake.... please..."

The world faded in around him as the smell of an open-air campfire illuminated his nostrils. The pain in his head was a distant throb, quickly subsiding to consciousness.

"... they found us... Signor!"

It was night, or at least early morning. A smoldering campfire brought an Italian man into view. He wore cassocks of the kind that hadn't seen the Catholic Church in hundreds of years. A trimmed goatee decorated his wide-eyed face and his black hair was pulled tightly back into a tail.

Charlie's own clothes were, once again, not his own. A wool tunic covered leather leggings. Brisk and humid air overcame him and before he knew it, he was pulled up by the unknown priest.

A rolling hillside, surely belonging to the Scottish highlands stretched before him. Two hills over was a single well-built medieval tower. Firelight from the awnings suggested there were people residing in it.

The danger the priest warned about manifested itself as a Calvary of charging knights crashed down a hillside behind them wearing full plate armor, a royal crest, and torches.

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