Chapter 16 The Health-giving properties of fish suppers

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Chapter 16 The Health-giving properties of fish suppers

'It isn't a real fish supper,' said Christopher. 'It's a bag of money. Lots of it. Silly money. Monopoly money.'

Very bravely or very foolishly, still brandishing the parcel of money, Christopher moved backwards, towards, he hoped, the mineshaft. He was relying on the fact that Simon and Feroze wouldn't want the money to go over the edge; they would have to stop him before he got there if they wanted it the parcel. Feroze moved in the same direction, but gingerly, as if he wasn't sure where solid ground finished and the top of the mineshaft started.

Several things happened in such quick succession that it was only because Christopher was running on adrenalin that he was able to understand and react to them.

He felt the ground start to give way under his left foot; Feroze rushed towards him and grabbed for the parcel; Christopher flung himself forwards, resisting the momentum that threatened to propel him backwards, and let the parcel fly out of his hand just as Feroze came at him from the side; Feroze got hold of the parcel, but in doing so, lost his footing and disappeared with it into the big hole that opened up in the ground beneath him. Christopher didn't see him disappear; it was just that when he struggled to his feet and looked round, Feroze wasn't there. Simon was still there, but now he was at the wrong end of the gun he had been holding. Somehow Amaryllis had reached him, disarmed him and had him at gunpoint in the time it had taken Christopher to go headlong on to the springy wet turf and Feroze to fall into the shaft.

Big Dave arrived on the scene, puffing and panting.

'What the hell's going on?' he demanded. 'Where did that other guy go?'

Christopher, shaking like a leaf now, pointed towards the hole in the ground.

'We'd better call an ambulance,' he said.

'I don't think it'll do any good,' said Big Dave, shaking his head. 'When I was a young kid one of my pals was messing about and fell into one of those things. Not here, across in West Lothian, it was, near Polkemmet. There's a country park about there now. The shafts go down a long long way. They thought they would never get him out. Only the parents insisted on it... It was filled in after that.'

Christopher shivered - or had he never stopped shivering the last time? He felt as if he had always been as cold as this, and would never get warm again.

'Dave, can you call the police and tell them where we are?' said Amaryllis calmly. 'And maybe an ambulance for Christopher? We could do with getting him checked out.'

'I'm fine,' said Christopher through chattering teeth. He was irritated to see that Simon Fairfax still regarded him with the same contemptuous smile, even though Simon was now at an obvious disadvantage.

'I think you'd better go and sit in the car with Dave,' said Amaryllis.

'No, I can't leave you here with him,' said Christopher stubbornly.

'Well, if you're going to stay here, make sure you keep out from under my feet and don't do anything to distract me,' she said with an air of authority. 'Go and sit there, under that bush.'

So Christopher's big adventure came to an end with him sitting damply and, he felt, ignominiously under a wild rose bush which gave little if any shelter from the rain, still shivering in spasms, waiting to be taken home.

Just after Dave returned from the car and reported that all the emergency services were on their way, the tall American arrived.

'I guess I'd better take my money back now,' he said, after hearing most of the story from Amaryllis as Christopher sat shivering. 'It's the property of the US government.'

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