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Author & creator of Arnie


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On that fateful day...

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The boathouse had been left open which Dirk found surprising.  His father always insisted on locking everything but, whether by accident or design, the padlock hung loose through the rusty clasp. He could only guess who had got here before him.


Urgently, he wasted no time in looking for what he wanted.  He shoved benches and chairs out of the way and scoured high and low but came out into the blazing sunshine empty handed. He now knew for sure who had taken them.   He slammed the doors in frustration, storming away from the water's edge and back from where he had come, across the lawn and through the rose garden and towards the parched drive that enclosed the main entrance to Shabbington Hall.  He strode on past, ignoring the cries of his mother from a window reminding him that she was soon to leave to visit his aunt Muriel and that she would be away for the night.


'Shall I send her your love, darling?' she called out, as he paced hard into the long avenue of trees that directed him towards the main road.  He didn't reply and his mother soon lost sight of him. 'Well I'll pass it on good until I get back.  I've baked you something special,' she continued - her duty discharged.


Lady Martlesham's voice waned as Dirk dismissed her from his mind, coming to a stop and moving to lean on the fence and gaze across to the ridge that rose high up and away across the estate.  He decided to make for the river.


As he expected, two fishing rods were set up close together on a stretch of water that nestled quietly in the summer haze.  Alongside was a picnic rug and a hamper open, displaying a bountiful hoard  - ham, cheese and home baked bread, a bowl of trifle, grapes and figs and several bottles of ginger beer with corks stuffed in their necks.  An ice bucket held one bottle by the throat and two glasses waited to be filled.


Dirk stared with mild annoyance as a voice drifted out from somewhere among the reeds.


'Coming in?  It's lovely - just the way to cool off from this vile heat.  What do you think?'  The boy, who could only have been about fourteen, stepped out from the shallows still fully clothed in shorts and a ripped t-shirt and checked one of the rods perched nearby.   Dirk squinted at them suspiciously.  'Nothing yet,' said the younger boy.  ' I think the fish are asleep  - probably better luck later.'


Dirk faked a brief smile and advanced. 'I doubt it.  Especially now that I've arrived.'


'Don't be down about it - it's just a matter of waiting...You'll see - bit of patience - and you'll land a six pounder!  You just watch...'


'Yes - let's see,' said Dirk sarcastically. The other boy didn't seem to notice his tone.


'Ginger beer?' said the younger boy.


'Why not, said Dirk unenthusiastically. 'As you say, we might as well wait.  There can be no harm in that.  Can there?'  He shielded his eyes as the sun beat harder and - watching the shadows dance and leap - he settled down to eat.

Dirk Clifton