Book · Kidnapping · Spring

Harriet is free

Me: You did it! She is free!

Nell: When she came running along the beach towards me my heart stopped. It was wonderful. My darling Harriet. Where is she now?

Me: She’s with Dave and the others in the kitchen. She is quite safe. She has a soft blanket and Dave to cuddle. You sit down and I’ll get you some tea. You look exhausted.

Nell: I am, but a cup of Earl Grey and one of Poppy’s scones will soon sort me out.

Me: Poppy says she will bring a tray in. She is just making Harriet some warm milk. Dave drank the first bowl by mistake.

Nell: It’s been a long week. Is Charlie still here?

Me: He and the head Doberman have a few things to sort out. He said he will be in touch.

Nell: Yes. John is a charming Doberman. Very polite and softly spoken.

Me: Are you able to tell me what happened?

Nell: I hardly know how to put it into words. The shock. The awful shock when he came towards me with Harriet.

Me: Start at the beginning.

Nell: James dropped me off and I walked down to the beach. I could make out some figures at the other end and so I started walking towards them. The sea mist was quite thick so I couldn’t see them properly. I was holding the cufflink as agreed.

Me: You must have been terrified.

Nell: I was. As I drew nearer I saw Harriet. She had a rope around her neck and he was holding it in his teeth.

Me: Who?

Nell: Richard Price! It was Richard Price!

Me: No!

Nell: He was surrounded by hissing cats. I could hardly breathe but I kept on walking.

Me: So brave.

Nell: Suddenly there was the sound of barking and Charlie leapt out of the sea followed by a whole army of Dobermans. They had been hiding behind the rocks.

Me: Good for Charlie!

Nell: The cats fled when they saw the Dobermans and Richard Price dropped the rope. That’s when Harriet broke free and ran towards me.

Me: Oh my goodness. Did he chase her?

Nell: No. He didn’t get the chance. Charlie pinned him to the ground and the Dobermans formed a circle around them. Richard Price wasn’t going anywhere.

Me: The villain!

Nell: Yes, Charlie tied him up and he and the Dobermans took him away. Harriet and I just clung to each other.

Me: I bet you did.

Nell: We were watching them go when there was a triumphant bark behind us and David came rushing over the sand dunes wearing his hat.

Me: Bless him.

Nell: Closely followed by Poppy with her sword.

Me: Of course.

Nell: And Mutley in his DJ carrying a picnic basket. It was a wonderful sight. Harriet burst into tears and so did I. David knocked her over with kisses as usual but she didn’t care.

Me: What a relief.

Nell: Fortunately Poppy had a flask of sweet tea in the basket and the birthday cake she made yesterday. Harriet wolfed it all down with David’s help. The poor little thing was starving.

Me: I bet she was.

Nell: I could only manage some tea. Mutley fortified mine with a little brandy and drank his straight from the bottle.

Me: I’m not surprised.

Nell: We all just sat on the beach together looking at the sun over the sea and holding Harriet close. A special moment.

Me: I can imagine.

Nell: But what were they all doing there? I told them not to come.

Me: We were never going to let you go alone, Nell. Charlie told us what to do.

Nell: You just don’t listen, do you?

Me: Not this time and No, I’m not sorry.

Book · Kidnapping · Spring

Come alone

Nell: Charlie says I am to expect a phone call. Things are starting to move and he thinks they will be in touch.

Me: I am dreadfully worried about this, Nell. Are you sure we shouldn’t tell the police?

Nell: No police.

Me: Oh my goodness, Nell. Your phone is ringing.

Nell: Give it to me. “Yes. Nell speaking. I want to talk to Harriet first. No, I need to talk to her.”

Me: Is it them?

Nell: Yes. They are getting her.

Me: I can’t bear this.

Nell: Quiet! “Harriet, it’s me, Auntie Nell. Are you ok? We are going to get you out of there. We promise. We love you too. Yes. Of course you can. Anything you want. I will. He’s fine it was just a black eye. Who? Yes. Be brave. Not long now. Harriet!”

Me: What happened?

Nell: She’s gone.

Me: What did she say? Is she ok?

Nell: Hush! It’s them again. “Yes. I’m still here. Where? What time? Completely alone? Yes. Ok. I will be there.”

Me: Tell me.

Nell: Harriet sounded tired but determined. She says she is ok and asked if she can still have a birthday cake when she comes home. Bless her. She sends her love to us all. She says to tell David she is thinking of him all the time and they will celebrate their birthday together. She was worried about Mutley and sent special love to Jim. Who on earth is Jim?

Me: The floppy haired farm dog. He tried to save her. Remember?

Nell: Oh yes.

Me: What did they say?

Nell: They told me to meet them on Bantham beach at 5am tomorrow. I have to bring the cufflink and I must be alone. They will bring Harriet. I am to walk towards them along the beach.

Me: You can’t go alone, Nell.

Nell: I can and I will. James can drop me at the car park and wait for me there.

Me: But Nell…

Nell: I am bringing Harriet home tomorrow and I am going alone. No arguments. It’s something I have to do.

Me: Ok. Sorry.

Book · Kidnapping · Spring

Charlie explains

Me: Has Charlie gone?

Nell: Yes, for now.

Me: Dave was so pleased to see him and he seems to have calmed down.

Nell: Yes. Charlie promised him that his sister will be home soon. Now, you are going to have to sit down. I know what you are like, so take a deep breath and don’t fuss, just listen.

Me: Does he know where Harriet is?

Nell: No, he doesn’t but he is sure she is nearby and we will find her soon.

Me: How can he know that?

Nell: Charlie is not a journalist. He works for the British Secret Service.

Me: Do you mean MI5? Is Charlie a spy?

Nell: Yes. Apparently it all started at the Royal Wedding. A Russian double agent was supposed to exchange classified material. The exchange went wrong and he ended up putting it in my handbag.

Me: A Russian double agent? Your handbag?

Nell: Yes. Strange little man. I remember him now. I dropped my handbag and he picked it up.

Me: It’s the cufflink!

Nell: Yes. He managed to get a message to MI5 telling them what he had done and describing me and the handbag. They checked the security camera footage of the wedding and tracked me down.

Me: What happened then?

Nell: Charlie was sent in to get it.

Me: Why didn’t he take it? He had plenty of opportunities when he was pretending to be Siegfried.

Nell: While he was here he received information that there was a Mole in MI5 so he decided to leave the cufflink with me to see if the Mole would try and get it.

Me: We are talking double agents now aren’t we? Informants, not animals?

Nell: Good grief!

Me: And that’s why you still have the cufflink? I don’t want it here. Get rid of it.

Nell: No. It has forced them to show their hand. The cufflink contains a list of double agents. It will lead Charlie to the Mole.

Me: But what about Harriet? It’s terrible that she is being used in all this.

Nell: I know. Charlie apologised. He and the Dobermans were monitoring us but they hadn’t counted on the cats moving so quickly.

Me: So the Dobermans are part of MI5?

Nell: Yes, Charlie wasn’t sure at first if one of the Dobermans was the Mole which is why he warned me to keep away from them.

Me: And the Cat?

Nell: The Cat is innocent. It tried to warn us.

Me: Does he have an idea who the Mole is?

Nell: I think he does. He has asked me to trust him and wait for them to get in touch. He has promised me that we will get Harriet back very soon. I don’t know why, but I believe him.

Me: So all we can do is wait?

Nell: Yes. He needs to unmask the Mole and Harriet is the key.

Me: So Charlie is like James Bond? Ruthless but charming. Breaking hearts and risking innocent lives.

Nell: James Bond is a fictional character, Miss Moneypenny. We are close to rescuing Harriet. Focus on that.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

Book · Kidnapping · Spring

Tell nobody

Me: Nell, what is it?

Nell: They’ve just sent me a photo of Harriet. It’s heartbreaking. They must have my number. How did they get it? My poor little Harriet. She must be so afraid and it is her birthday today.

Me: This is dreadful but at least we know she is alive. Was there a message?

Nell: No. Just the photo. I better show the police I suppose. I don’t want David to see it. He hasn’t stopped crying since Harriet was taken.

Me: Wait. Nell, your phone is ringing!

Nell: No Caller ID. It might be them. “Yes. This is Nell. Where is she? What do you want? But I don’t have anything. Yes, I will. Please don’t hurt Harriet!”

Me: What did they say?

Nell: They said: “You have something of ours and now we have something of yours. Await further instructions. Tell nobody.”

Me: What do they mean? What do we have?

Nell: I don’t know. What could they want from us? We don’t have any money but we can raise some if we have to. They said we have something of theirs. What can it be?

Me: Should we tell the police?

Nell: Too risky. We are going to have to do this alone.

Me: Nell, your phone is ringing again!

Nell: “Yes, it’s Nell. Where are you? They’ve taken Harriet. You knew? Alright. I’ll see you then.”

Me: Who was that?

Nell: It was Charlie. He knew about Harriet. He wants to see me. He’s coming over now.

Me: Oh my goodness. What if he is dangerous?

Nell: We have to get Harriet back. Charlie knows something and I am going to find out what it is.

Me: Be careful.

Nell: Ask Poppy and Mutley to join me. They need to know Charlie is on his way. David can stay watching the football and you must keep an eye on him. Tell Poppy to bring her sword.

Me: I’m not sure that’s wise.

Nell: We have gone beyond wise. Just look at that photo.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

Book · Kidnapping · Spring

Waiting for news

Me: Tell me again what happened.

Nell: I’ve been through it so many times now. With the police. With Richard Price on the phone. He didn’t have to come straight over, by the way.

Me: He was worried, Nell, and he brought you flowers.

Nell: What good are flowers when Harriet is still missing? I know he means well but I can’t see anyone at the moment. Did you explain?

Me: Yes. He understood. He said contact him any time if you need him.

Nell: I will.

Me: Let’s go through it again in case we’ve missed a vital clue.

Nell: David and Harriet were playing badminton over the fence with the farm dogs when a huge gang of cats appeared and leapt on Harriet. David rushed at them but there were too many. They were crawling all over him, biting and scratching.

Me: Poor Dave is in a bad way. He can’t forgive himself for not stopping them.

Nell: He was overpowered. The farm dogs jumped over the fence and tried to help but the cats’ claws were sharp and there were so many of them. That young farm dog with the floppy hair was hurt in the process.

Me: His name is Jim. He called round this morning asking for news. He was very upset. How did they capture Harriet?

Nell: The cats had a rope and a sack. Some of them held her down while the others tied her up and pushed her into the sack.

Me: And Mutley?

Nell: Mutley has a black eye. He fell out of the hammock when he heard the noise and rushed straight in to the fight with no thought for his own safety. He did some damage from what I hear.

Me: He’s such a brave old boy.

Nell: By the time Poppy and I realised what was happening Harriet had gone.

Me: Dave is distraught, Nell. He won’t stop crying. I don’t know how to comfort him.

Nell: It’s the puppies’ birthday tomorrow. They will be a year old. I was planning a party. It’s too much thinking of Harriet out there alone. She will be so frightened.

Me: She is stronger than we think. We will have a huge party when she comes home.

Nell: Yes. We have to think positively.

Me: Did you notice the Doberman?

Nell: Yes. It appears to be guarding our gate. I never thought I would say this, but it’s strangely comforting.

Me: I agree. We will find Harriet soon. There are so many people looking for her. Everyone is pulling together.

Nell: Yes. I just wish I knew why she has been taken.

Me: Have you heard anything from Charlie? Dave keeps asking for him.

Nell: Nothing since that phone call. It’s strange because I thought I saw him in the field.

Me: Surely he would tell you if he was here.

Nell: Yes. I was probably mistaken. We will just have to wait and hope the kidnappers get in touch. Stop crying. You are not helping. Harriet is a labrador and labradors don’t give in.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

Book · Kidnapping · Spring

Just another Sunday?

Me: It was nice of the Cat to call round this morning.

Nell: I suppose so. Although I was in the middle of breakfast and I like to read the Sunday papers in peace.

Me: The Cat wasn’t to know.

Nell: I don’t know why it thinks I would care whether there are new cats in the area.

Me: It seemed agitated.

Nell: I know. Cats are funny creatures. It kept telling me to watch my back.

Me: I think it was angling for a cup of tea.

Nell: It was angling for my scrambled egg and smoked salmon.

Me: Where is everyone?

Nell: Dave and Harriet are out in the garden playing badminton with the farm dogs. Poppy is cooking a roast and Mutley is asleep in the sun. He does like a snooze in the hammock.

Me: Sounds like the perfect Sunday to me.

Nell: Except for those Dobermans on the hill.

Me: They are probably just out for a walk.

Nell: I saw one of them at the farm shop yesterday buying clotted cream. It waved at me.

Me: It was just being friendly.

Nell: You know they wanted Poppy’s family recipe for scones. The cheek of it. They asked her when she went to Starbarks for her regular Americano.

Me: I hope she refused.

Nell: Of course. Wait. What was that?

Me: I can hear barking. A lot of barking. Are Dave and Harriet arguing with the farm dogs again? Why is Poppy running?

Nell: Those are frightened barks and I can hear hissing and screaming. The puppies are in trouble. They need me now.

Me: Wait! Nell, be careful. I’m coming! Oh no! Let me help you. What’s happened? Why are you looking like that?

Nell: It’s too late. They have taken her.

Me: What?

Nell: Call the police. There have been injuries. Harriet has been kidnapped.

Me: No. Not little Harriet.

Nell: Stop wailing and call them now. There is no time to waste.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

Book · Spring

Tony is on board

Nell: I feel better now Tony is on board.

Me: Yes. He can keep a lookout when he is doing his rounds.

Nell: It was good to see him.

Me: He is a kind man.

Nell: Yes. Tony is to be trusted.

Me: I like sunny Sundays.

Nell: Yes. I’ve asked Poppy for boiled eggs for breakfast. David overindulged at the barbecue yesterday so a light breakfast is called for.

Me: He was helping me with the clearing up.

Nell: He was stealing sausages.

Me: Poppy’s sword dance worried me.

Nell: It worried everyone, especially when Mutley joined in. Did you notice that young farm dog trying to get Harriet’s attention over the fence?

Me: No.

Nell: When I asked her about him. She giggled.

Me: She is adorable.

Nell: She is too young and I am not having her seeing a farm dog. By the way, I’m sure the Doberman was behind me in the queue at the delicatessen yesterday morning. I had popped in to get Mutley’s Cornish Yarg. He loves that cheese.

Me: Are you sure?

Nell: Yes. It’s his favourite.

Me: I mean are you sure it was the Doberman?

Nell: Yes. It was in the cooked food section but when I looked around it had gone.

Me: I wonder what it was buying.

Nell: What’s that got to do with it?

Me: It might have revealed something about its situation. A large pork pie would imply there were more of them. A small one that it is working alone.

Nell: I worry about you sometimes.

Me: I wonder what it wants, though. Do you think it’s from the Daily Growl?

Nell: Charlie says it isn’t. He says he has put a stop to it and told them to leave me alone. He was ridiculously concerned when I told him about the Doberman.

Me: I wish you wouldn’t contact him.

Nell: It was just a quick message on Woof’s App. Stop fussing. Soldiers, or triangles with your egg?

Me: Soldiers, please. But Nell…

Nell: Enough. I will be fine.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

Book · Siegfried · Spring


Nell: Well, at least I know it all now.

Me: Tell me everything. I have been so worried.

Nell: I arrived at the hotel and Siegfried was waiting for me. I had called from the car to let him know I was coming. When I saw his face I could see the guilt in his eyes.

Me: Oh no.

Nell: I told him it was best to be honest with me and he agreed.

Me: You were brave.

Nell: It turns out that Siegfried Schaeferhund isn’t his real name.

Me: Oh dear.

Nell: He isn’t even German. It was all a lie. All part of the deception.

Me: No? The bounder!

Nell: He is working as an undercover reporter for the Daily Growl. The farm dogs led him to me. He was trying to get a story on the royal family.

Me: What is his real name?

Nell: Charlie Shepherd and he is from London. He started out as an actor but moved into journalism as it paid more. With his charm and acting skills he managed to get a number of inside stories and became one of the Daily Growl’s lead reporters. I was his next target.

Me: What a cad and as for those farm dogs!

Nell: Yes, indeed. No scones for them.

Me: It must have been such a shock.

Nell: To be honest it was an even bigger shock when Poppy appeared in reception waving her sword, followed by David in his hat and Mutley in his dinner jacket.

Me: Gosh! How did they get there?

Nell: Harriet organised a taxi as soon as she heard I was going alone. She knew where he was staying and put two and two together. Clever little thing. David and Poppy insisted she stayed behind as she is still recovering. They were about to leave when Mutley arrived dressed to kill and got into the car. There is no arguing with him when he is determined, even if he could hear.

Me: I wish I had been there. What did Charlie do when they arrived?

Nell: He apologised and told them the truth. He said he had never meant to hurt anyone, especially the lovely Nelly who had stolen his heart. His words.

Me: He called you Nelly?

Nell: Yes. Outrageous.  It’s Miss Eleanor Martin to him.

Me: Quite. What happened then?

Nell: Mutley told him to get on his bike. He can be quite forceful when riled.

Me: And did he?

Nell: Actually, he did. The Mercedes was rented so he rode off on his motorbike blowing me a farewell kiss.

Me: Gosh. The cheek of it.

Nell: Well, after that I suggested they all join me in the bar for a stiff G and T to settle the nerves before James drove us home. David was a little squiffy when we got back so I sent him upstairs for a lie down.

Me: Has Charlie gone back to London?

Nell: I don’t know. I’m refusing to read his texts.

Me: You can’t stay in contact with him, Nell. He’s a scoundrel.

Nell: I shall do as I please and what I please right now is to be left alone. I have a lot to think about.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

Book · Siegfried · Spring

Herr Schaeferhund

Me: Did you have a nice lunch with Herr Schaeferhund? He is impossibly handsome I must say.

Nell: Yes. Siegfried and I had a lovely time. Lobster and champagne. He does spoil me. He has royal connections too, you know.

Me: Really?

Nell: Yes. European royalty. He was fascinated by my account of the wedding.

Me: I’m not sure you should be confiding in him, Nell.

Nell: I don’t know what you have against him.

Me: Dave doesn’t like him.

Nell: He’s just jealous and he doesn’t like studying. The Well Done rosette has gone to his head.

Me: He confiscated Dave’s hat.

Nell: He shouldn’t be wearing a hat during lessons.

Me: I didn’t want to tell you this but Harriet saw him chatting to the farm dogs.

Nell: Poppy goes to the pub with the farm dogs.

Me: Yes, but that’s Poppy. She’s always up for a pint of cider.

Nell: Enough of this nonsense. Siegfried makes polite conversation with our neighbours and you start fussing.

Me: The farm dogs don’t do polite conversation. How can a German tutor afford a Mercedes anyway?

Nell: He comes from a wealthy family. The tutoring is for fun while he is over here.

Me: So he is going back to Germany?

Nell: Yes. His family own a castle in Bavaria.

Me: You can’t leave us, Nell. What if he kidnaps you and imprisons you in his castle like in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?

Nell: What are you talking about? I’m not going anywhere. I am simply enjoying the company of a handsome German Shepherd.

Me: Ok.

Nell: I suppose I might visit if he asked me.

Me: No. Don’t go.

Nell: Enough. You have an overactive imagination. A cup of Earl Grey and the Sunday papers are required and less of your nonsense.

Me: Yes. Sorry.

Book · Spring

St. George’s Day

Me: Why is Dave shut in the back garden?

Nell: It’s St. George’s Day.

Me: What’s that got to do with it?

Nell: We are re-enacting the slaying of the dragon as part of the puppies’ history lesson and Dave is waiting for his entrance.

Me: Is Dave playing St. George, then?

Nell: Don’t be silly. David is the dragon. We can’t give him the sword.

Me: There’s a sword?

Nell: Of course.

Me: I’m not sure that’s a good idea, Nell. Someone could get hurt.

Nell: It’s all perfectly safe. Poppy has been fencing for years.

Me: What? Is Poppy playing St. George?

Nell: Yes, she insisted. Mutley is the king, of course, and Harriet is his daughter, the princess. That silly circlet of flowers you made me has actually come in useful. Harriet loves it.

Me: There’s a big difference in size between Poppy and Dave.

Nell: Of course there is. Don’t you know the story? It wouldn’t be very believable if a huge St. George slayed a tiny little dragon now would it?

Me: I suppose not. Dave won’t be breathing fire, will he?

Nell: Don’t be silly. He is a labrador.

Me: Yes. Well, Happy St. George’s Day, Nell.

Nell: Happy St. George’s Day. Now, can we get on with rehearsals, please? The performance is at 3pm and I haven’t finished David’s costume.

Me: Yes, sorry.