Kidnapped by Mistake | By: Pete Kimberley | | Category: Short Story - Children Bookmark and Share

Kidnapped by Mistake




A story by

Pete Kimberley


CHAPTER ONE Welcome to Paris

CHAPTER TWO Kidnapped!

CHAPTER THREE Tickle and Burke

CHAPTER FOUR Jess's Breakfast - The Return

CHAPTER FIVE Service Station


CHAPTER SEVEN The House in the Country

CHAPTER EIGHT Sticky Business

CHAPTER NINE Sticky Business II



CHAPTER TWELVE Jess's Breakfast II


CHAPTER FOURTEEN Mr. Armstrong's Offer


Welcome to Paris

Inspector Béranger wants me to write everything down just the way it happened. For the police report.
"Just start from the beginning," he said, "And tell the whole story."
So here we go.

This is the story of how I went to Paris for a holiday with my family, saw the sights, got kidnapped with my little sister Jessica, escaped, got recaptured, blew up a car, and finally helped the police arrest two international jewel thieves.
Next year, we're going to Cornwall.

My name's Jimmy Wren. I'm twelve and a half. Dad first mentioned Paris at the end of June, just before the school holidays.

He came into the kitchen with a handful of travel brochures.
"What are you building this time, Jimmy?" he said, looking at the bits of machinery spread on newspapers all over the kitchen table.
"It's a wind-thrust dynamo-controlled lighting system," I said. "For my bike. By the time I get up to cruising speed, the propeller should be generating enough electricity to power these car headlights and the red flasher."
Dad had another look at the bits.
"Where did you get the propeller?" he asked, looking impressed.
"It's off an old electric fan," I told him, soldering a wire to a small piece of copper.
"Your bike's going to look like the Space Shuttle," said Dad. "Who gave you the headlights?"
He hesitated.
"You haven't..." he began.
"Nope," I said. "I went down to the garage and saw Mr. Wilkins. He's going to try and find me a siren, too."
"A SIREN?!" said Dad. "Did you hear that, Liz?"
He turned to Mum, who smiled at him and rolled her eyes.
"His bedroom already looks like NASA Flight Control," he said. "He's got photo-electric light switches, automatic cupboard doors, planes that fly about on their own, banks of computers, voice-operated pencil sharpeners probably... and now his bike's going to start showing up on the NATO Early Warning System!"
He turned back to look at me.
"Well, anyway, try and test it before we go holiday, because if it flies, I won't have to buy you a plane ticket."
"We're going on a plane?" I said. "Great! Where are we going?"
"Paris," said Dad.
"I'm not going," said Jess, her mouth full of Smarties. "I'm going to St. Ives, like last year."
"Don't talk with your mouth full, Jess," said Mum. "And listen to what Dad's saying."
"Paris, Jess," said Dad. "Paris, City of Light they call it. It's true too, it's beautiful, there are lights everywhere."
"So what?" said Jess, swallowing. "We've got lights here too. I bet they haven't got orange lights, like on the main road."
"We're going on a PLANE, Jess," said Dad. "All the way to Paris."
Jess looked at him suspiciously.
"Where's Paris?" she asked, after a pause.
"It's in France, Jess," I told her. "It's the capital of France."
Jess looked at me coldly.
"I know that, clever clogs," she said. "I'm not stupid."
"Where's France?" she said.

Jessica is six years old, and she can sometimes be very funny. Sometimes, though, she can just about drive you round the bend.
She said she wasn't going to go unless she could watch the telly. So Dad promised her we'd find a hotel where they have a television in the room.
"That way," he explained patiently, "You can even watch telly in bed."
"Aaah," said Jess. That sounded all right.
"And guess what?" said Mum. "In Paris, they've got some of the best ice cream in the world."
"Aaah," said Jess. Better and better.
Then she found out that the French spoke a different language from us. Mega-Belly Baxter from down the road told her that. He's a real idiot. So she started moaning again because she'd worked out that the telly wouldn't be the same. Dad had to promise that we'd rent a video recorder, so that she could watch her favourite Walt Disney cartoons.
"You'll love Paris, Jess," he told her. "You'll see. This year, our holidays are going to be really different. It's going to be really exciting."
He was certainly right about that.

Two nights before we left, there was a big uproar on the national news. A famous jewellery store in the heart of London had been robbed by two men in broad daylight. They got clean away.
The crooks had escaped with half a million pounds' worth of precious stones - rings, necklaces, ear-rings, bracelets and brooches. The robbery caused quite a stir, everyone was on about it, they had special items on telly and everything.
The police didn't have a clue who the crooks were, although the shop-owner gave some sort of description on the nine o'clock news.
"They both wore plastic face-masks," he said. "The sort you can buy in any toy-shop. There was a big fat man and a little thin man, and they both wore bowler hats and Laurel and Hardy masks."
"They seem to have disappeared into thin air," said the policeman. "We're assuming that they've gone into hiding. We think it's possible that they may even try to leave the country."
Mum groaned when she heard that.
"That's means we'll be stuck for hours at the airport while they search everyone's luggage," she said.
Actually, we didn't really have to wait all that long.

It was the first time Jess and I had been in a plane. It was really exciting. When we got to Paris, we took a taxi from the airport to the hotel. Jess started shouting at the driver, telling him that he was driving on the wrong side of the road, but of course he didn't understand until Dad translated. The driver laughed, and I explained to Jess that everyone drives on the right over here.
Jess shook her head scornfully.
"They're all mad in France," she said. "The ice cream had better be good."

We spent a week visiting Paris.
We saw the Eiffel Tower, we went right to the top. I was glad the lift was working. I remember seeing a film on the telly about a man who invented some wings and tried to fly off the first floor. He obviously hadn't done enough home-work. The film was very old, so you couldn't tell how many times he bounced.
We saw Notre Dame cathedral, which is very impressive. Unfortunately, though, it was full of tourists who were wandering around chattering, so instead of a church it looked like a very fancy railway station.
We went to see the Rodin exhibition. We went to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa. We went to the Jardin de Luxembourg. We went out to Versailles and saw Louis the Sun King's palace. Jess was eager to see the famous Hall of Mirrors, and was very annoyed to discover that it wasn't the same kind of Hall of Mirrors that they have at the fair, with concave and convex mirrors that twist you all funny shapes. So the next day Mum and Dad took us to the fun-fair in the Jardin des Tuileries. That was all right. I had three goes on the big wheel. Jess spent most of the time eating ice cream.
Still, after a week of all this activity, I must admit that I was tired of running around. Jess too. So when Dad and Mum said they wanted to meet some of Dad's French friends and spend the morning talking, I told them that I didn't want to go. Dad finally agreed that Jess and I could stay at the hotel in the morning and then take a taxi to the Champs-Elysées, where we would all meet up at one o'clock for lunch in a café called the George V.
So that's what we did.
Except that we never met them for lunch.

We didn't see them for another four days.



Jess and I spent the morning in the hotel. After breakfast, Jess sat in bed and watched "Pinocchio" and "The Jungle Book" on the video recorder. She'd made a serious attempt to pressure Dad into renting "T2", but Mum put her foot right down on that one.
I went down to the reception desk and bought a dozen post-cards, stuck the stamps on them, then sat down and started writing to my friends. I wrote four or five cards, then read my book on ULM's until it was time to go. Then I asked René, the receptionist, to order a taxi for us, and went up to get Jess.
When we came back down, René called me. He handed me a small bag of marshmallows.
"For Miss Jessica," he said.
"Thanks, René," I said.
"And Monsieur Jimmy," he said. "Don't forget your book."
So I went over to the table, picked up the cards and my book, and put them in the pocket of my jacket.

We arrived about half an hour early at the George V, because I wasn't sure how long the taxi would take to get to the Champs-Elysées from our hotel at Beaugrenelle.
We sat down at a table in front of the café. At the table next to us there was a boy about my age sitting alone.
The waiter arrived and I ordered a lemonade - I'd learned to speak enough French for that, and for the taxi and so on - but this time Jess wanted a strawberry ice cream. She usually wanted a choc-ice, which I knew how to order, but this time she refused to eat anything except strawberry, and I couldn't think of the French for strawberry. I tried to persuade her to have a choc-ice, but there was no way. When Jess has her mind made up, there's nothing you can do about it. So I was trying to work out how to say strawberry, Jess was moaning, and the waiter was starting to get impatient.
Then the boy next to us spoke up.

Now that I think about it, I suppose he does look a bit like me. We're both about the same age, about the same size, and he has ginger hair too. He was very well dressed, his clothes were casual but obviously very expensive. He spoke to the waiter in French, and the waiter went away looking relieved. I looked at the boy at the next table.
"Merci," I said.
"You can speak English," he said. "I'm English. He's bringing you your lemonade and a strawberry ice cream. It's fraise, by the way."
"Fez." said Jess. "Good. He'd better be quick with it."
"Thanks," I said , pleased to have someone new to talk to. "Are you on holiday, too?"
"Yes, I suppose so," he said. My father and I arrived from Rome last night. Tomorrow we're going to Zurich for a day, and then we have to go to Brussels for a week. I hate Brussels."
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Jimmy," I said. "This is Jess."
"My name's Jimmy, too." he said. "Well, James, really."
"Where's my fez?" demanded Jess.
"It's coming," I said.
I turned back to James, and asked him, "Why do you travel around like that all the time instead of staying in one place?" It must be a tiring way of spending your holidays."
"Yes, it is," he replied. "But father's always busy somewhere. Usually I go on holiday with mother, but this time I wanted to spend some time with father. I still haven't seen him much. He says that after Brussels we'll have a rest, but he's said that before. He's always seeing some important businessman or other, going to meetings, doing overtime and arriving late. I'd rather have stayed with mother and gone to the Côte d'Azur."
He didn't sound too happy about his holidays.
"What does your Dad do?" I asked.
"I'm not supposed to say," he replied. "It's top secret."
"I bet he works for the government," I said.
"I'm not allowed to say," repeated James. "For security reasons."
The waiter arrived with the lemonade and Jess's ice cream. I paid him.
"You're supposed to leave a tip," said James.
"Yes, I know," I said, leaving the tip on the table.
"We're not stupid, you know," said Jess, her mouth full of ice cream.
"Shut up, Jess," I said.
James finished his drink and stood up.
"Well, I'm going to phone my father," he said. "I'm going to tell him he'd better not be late this time."
He walked into the café.
Jess and I sat for a moment, watching the people passing by, hoping that Dad and Mum wouldn't be too long. I was day-dreaming, I suppose, so the first thing I heard was a voice saying,
I looked up. Two men were standing in front of the table. One was very big and very fat. He was sweating. His clothes were a mess. The other man was short and skinny. He was very neat, very smartly dressed. I'd never seen them before. They didn't look very pleasant. Jess didn't seem to like them, either.
She looked at the fat one and said,
"You're fat."
He frowned.
"And you're all sweaty," she added.
"James," the short man said again.
"Yes?" I said.
"We're friends of your father," he said. Your father's been delayed and he asked us to come and pick you up."
"What's happened?" I asked.
"Oh, nothing," he said. "Nothing serious. He'll just be later than planned. You must come with us."
I didn't feel very good about all this. Dad was never late, and these two didn't look like people who'd be his friends.
"Come on James, hurry up," said the thin man. "Your father's waiting.
"What about Mum?" I said;
"Er..." He hesitated and looked confused. "Er... we'll be seeing her a bit later on. Come on."
His voice was harder now.
"I'm going to finish my ice cream first," said Jess.
"Who's this?" asked the fat man, staring at Jess.
"That's Jess," I said. "My sister Jess."
"Sister?" said the fat man, stupidly.
"Well both of you come along with us now," said the thin man sharply. He sounded angry. I was worried. I didn't want to go.
Suddenly the thin man moved very close to me and gripped me hard.
"Look here, James," he said in an ugly voice, and opened his jacket in front of my face.
There was a gun stuck in the belt of his trousers.
"Come along now, or there'll be trouble. Do you understand? Burke!" he said sharply to the fat man. "Get the girl! Let's go!"
And he pulled me from my chair, while Burke picked up Jess, who immediately began shouting, and then they marched us off down the street.
I was very scared.


Tickle and Burke

Jess made quite a lot of noise, shouting and kicking in Burke's fat embrace. He kept telling her to shut up, and she kept on shouting and struggling. People looked at us as we walked quickly down the Champs-Elysées, but nobody did or said anything to help us. They must have thought that we were just kids, playing up.
I didn't say anything, either. I was walking along, half pushed, half pulled by the thin man's bony hand on my shoulder. He was hurting me.
We turned left and went a few yards down this street and then turned into the entrance of a shopping gallery. The thin man led us to a door with a sign which said "Parking." He opened it, and we went down some dark stairs, through another door and into the car park/
Jess's cries echoed in the dim light.

They took us to a blue car, a BMW, and the thin man bleeped the doors open with his remote control.
Burke opened the back door, swearing as Jess kicked and struggled, and bundled her into the back seat. The thin man pushed me in after her and slammed the door.
They climbed into the front, the thin man in the driver's seat, and I heard the solid clunk of the doors locking as he pushed the switch. Then he turned round and looked at us. Jess was still crying.
"As long as you behave yourselves, everything will be all right," he said. "We're not going to hurt you. You're coming with us for a few days. A little holiday in the country. As soon as your father pays us the money we want, we'll give you back. I think it fair to say that your father's a reasonable man, is that right James?"
I nodded.
"Just think of this as a little adventure, don't make any trouble, and everything will be all right. OK?"
"Where's Mummy?" cried Jess.
"We're not interested in Mummy," said the thin man. "Daddy's the one who's got all that money, isn't he? That's enough, now. Get under the blanket."
"What blanket?" I said.
The thin man leaned over the seat and stared around the back of the car.
"Burke!" he said loudly. "You fat fool! Where's the blanket?"
"Oh, sorry, Tickle," said the fat man. "I must have left it in the boot. I'll get it."
"Well, hurry up, you idiot," said Tickle impatiently.
Burke tried to open the door, pushing and shoving.
"It's locked," he said stupidly.
"Oh blimey!" swore Tickle, and bleeped the doors open again. "Get on with it."
Burke climbed out of the car, went around to the boot, opened it and took out a blanket. Coming back round to the front of the car, he passed the blanket through. It smelled of petrol. As he passed it over the back of the passenger seat, something small and bright fell out onto the floor of the car. I put my foot on it.
"Right. Get onto the floor and get under the blanket," said Tickle.
I started to unfold the blanket as Burke began to struggle back into the car.
"Shut the boot, you idiot!" shouted Tickle, his voice echoing in the garage.
"Oh yeah," muttered Burke stupidly, and struggled back out. He went and shut the boot, came back, and heaved himself back into the car, breathing heavily; puffing and grunting.
"Why do I have to tell you everything?" snapped Tickle, locking the doors. "Tell me that. You great fat steaming idiot. Why do I have to tell you everything? Can't you think for yourself? Get under the blanket," he added sharply, half turning to Jess and I.
"Who, me?" said Burke.
"NOT YOU, THEM!" shouted Tickle. "Blimey, what an idiot!"

He started the car, then turned round in his seat, glaring. I quickly slid down onto the floor, pulled Jess after me, and threw the blanket over us both.
Then I put my arms around Jess. She was sobbing.
"This blanket smells," she sniffed.
"Don't worry, Jess, we'll be all right," I whispered. I must say that I didn't believe myself, really.
As the car started moving, I shifted my foot and picked up the bright thing that had fallen on the floor. As we drove out of the garage and into the sunlight, I lifted a corner of the blanket and looked at the shining object in my hand. Then I put it in my pocket.
It looked to me like a big diamond ear-ring.


Jess's Breakfast - The Return

I've always enjoyed travelling. Sometimes, Dad piles us all into the van and we go off for the weekend.
"A bit of road," he calls it. I like to sit up in the front seat between Mum and Dad and watch the countryside flying by. Jess always moans, because she wants to sit in the front, too.
"You'll have to wait until your older, Jess," Mum tells her.
"It's not fair," complains Jess.
And then she threatens "I think I'm going to be sick."
So then Mum opens the window and Dad puts on the music and we all start singing.
I think travelling is at least as much fun as arriving at the place you're going. Dad thinks so too. He puts on Beatles tapes and we all sing along, Dad tapping on the steering wheel while he drives.
I love it.
But smothered by a smelly blanket on the floor in the back of a car when you've just been kidnapped is another matter.
The first part of the ride was terrible, as we drove out of Paris. Tickle was a very nervous and bed-tempered driver. We could hear him swearing and cursing as he drove the car wildly, crashing the gears and driving much too fast for the streets of a city. Jess and I were thrown about, bouncing from side to side, and we could hear people shouting at him as we drove by, the noise of other cars. For a while I thought we might have an accident, I was almost hoping for that. I was going to make a lot of noise until the police came.
After a while, though, the drive got smoother, and i could tell we were on a motorway. Under the blanket it was dark and hot and smelly. Jess had calmed down by now, and cuddled up to me, saying nothing. I pulled one side of the blanket up a bit so that we could have some light and a little fresh air. Tickle and Burke were both smoking, so the air wasn't really fresh. I tried to find a comfortable position for us both, squatting on the floor of their rotten BMW.

And I was thinking why on earth would someone kidnap Jess and I? What had Tickle said?
"Your Dad's the one that's got all that money."
All what money? Dad's job as a school science teacher doesn't pay that much. I've heard him talking about that.
"I love the work," he says. "And the holidays are fine. But why on earth does the government think that teachers aren't worth anything? I'd like to see those politicians do my job."
And so on. When he starts talking like that, Mum starts grinning and teases him.
She goes to work, too, and between the two of them, they earn what we need. But RANSOM MONEY?
There had to be some mistake.

Tickle drove fast, he and big fat Burke silent in the front of the car, filling it with cigarette smoke. Who were they? I began thinking about what I'd like to do to them.
And as we drove along, getting further and further from Paris, I was wondering about that diamond ear-ring. I wanted to have a look in the boot. It had occurred to me...
"Jimmy," whispered Jess, in a tiny voice.
"What?" I whispered back. "Are you all right?"
"I think I'm going to be sick," she whispered.
"Oh no," I groaned. "Jess, please..."
Then I stopped.
What a great idea!
"I know," I whispered back encouragingly. "This horrible smelly blanket."
"Mmm," moaned Jess.
"All hot and sweaty," I whispered. "It absolutely stinks of petrol. And all this smoke. It's terrible."
"Ooooh," moaned Jess.
"On top of all that jam you had for breakfast," I whispered. "Two kinds of jam. The red wobbly jam and all that sweet runny yellow jam."
"All mixed up in your tummy."
Come on Jess!
"And what about those marshmallows that René gave you that you gobbled down in the taxi. A whole bag. Big fat squelchy pink marshmallows. Like baby pigs."
I was beginning to feel a bit queasy myself. Hurry up Jess!
"And then a plate full of freezing cold strawberry ice cream with all that runny red sauce..."
That did it.
Jess leaned forward and vomited noisily into her lap.
Three times.
I pulled the blanket from over our heads. I believe I was smiling.
"Mr. Tickle," I said.
So much for your rotten BMW.
"WHAT'S GOING ON?" shouted Tickle, trying to turn round.
"Oh no," he moaned. He'd found out.
"Look out, Tickle," said Burke, alarmed. Tickle turned back round to the steering wheel and pulled the car back into a straight line.
"YOU STUPID LITTLE..." he shouted. "How could you do this to my car? Oh blimey!"
"It smells a bit," said Burke.
Burke opened his window and cold air rushed into the car. Jess lay against me, white and shivering.
"We'll have to stop," I said. "Jess isn't well."
"DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!" shouted Tickle.
There was a silence, while I cuddled Jess and Burke looked at Tickle.
"We'll have to stop," said Burke. "He's right. It's horrible."
"YOU SHUT UP!!" shouted Tickle.
Another silence.
"We'll have to stop," said Tickle, as if he'd thought of it first. "I'm not driving all the way top St. Pierre with the car smelling like this."
I sat back against the seat, breathing in the cold air.
I was thinking: TICKLE AND BURKE. ST. PIERRE. Now all I need is the car number.


Service Station

We drove for at least another half and hour before we stopped. Jess and I climbed up onto the back seat, leaving the blanket on the floor. Tickle wasn't pleased about that, but I told him that if we stayed on the floor we'd only spread the mess around, so he agreed to let us stay on the seat.
"But only until we stop," he said. "As soon as Burke cleans the car, you're going back on the floor."
"Why do I always have to do the dirty jobs?" complained Burke.
"BECAUSE I'M THE BOSS, THAT'S WHY!" shouted Tickle. "YOU GREAT TWIT! Bosses don't do the dirty jobs, see? The dirty jobs are for the Burkes of this world. That's what Burkes are for. SEE?"
"Well it's not fair," grumbled Burke. The big fat baby.
They didn't seem to have a very good working relationship. Keep them arguing, I thought. It could be useful.
Tickle drove the car up to the motorway café. I looked out of the window, paying attention. First of all a tall sign that said "L'Arche." This must be name of the café. We drove past the restaurant, a square building with a pointed roof. It was surrounded by a strip of grass and long boxes full of flowers. Tickle drove past the petrol pumps and parked the car near a long garage building marked "ELF". It was a motorway service station, where they sell drinks, snacks, sweets, small toys and things.
Tickle turned round in his seat. He looked very cold and angry. He laid his gun on the back of the seat and stared at Jess and I.
"We'll be here for five minutes, no more," he said nastily. "Just enough time to clean the car. You two are going to come with me into the service station and clean the girl up. We'll go in and out. I'm sure that you understand that we don't want any trouble. Don't you James?"
I nodded. Tickle stared at me coldly. He was scary.
"Are you sure?" he snapped.
"Yes," I said.
"Right," he said. He turned to Burke. "Get all that mess cleaned up," he ordered sharply. "There must be a bucket of water and some sponges over by the pumps."
Burke started to struggle with the door.
"It's locked," he said.
Tickle pressed the button which unlocked the doors, shaking his head at Burke's stupidity. Burke began to squeeze out of the car, grumbling to himself.
"Try and do a good job for once," said Tickle sarcastically.
Burke waddled away towards the pumps. Tickle put the gun back into his belt and climbed out of the car.
"Come on," he said sharply. "Hurry up."
I climbed out and walked round the back of the car. I walked slowly and moved far enough away from the boot to be able to get a good look at the number as I went by.
K 436 TAB. Got it.
I went on and opened the door for Jess. She climbed out too, looking pale and scared.
"Don't worry, Jess," I told her. "Let's go and get cleaned up. You'll soon feel better."

Tickle walked quickly into the service station and we followed. I was hoping to see some English people, I could talk to them, shout for help, anything. But there were only two people in there, the attendant and a French lorry driver who was buying some magazines. As we walked in, I looked around as closely as I could, trying to see something that might help us. Cakes and biscuits behind the cash register, a stand full of magazines, small toys, chocolates, key-rings, chewing gum...
It might not be much, but it was something! Hanging on a small rack behind the magazine stand!
SUPER GLUE! There's an advert for Super Glue that I've seen on telly. Two men put a spot of glue on the soles of someone's shoes, and that's enough to stick him upside down on the ceiling. I'd used it before myself, when I made models and invented my machines. It's strong stuff. It will stick anything. I had to get some.
Tickle led us past the magazines, past the coffee machines and walked into the men's' toilets.
"I'm not going in there," said Jess suddenly.
Tickle stopped suddenly in the doorway.
"WHAT?" he said.
"I'm not going in there," repeated Jess stubbornly. "It's the men's' loo. Look, there's a man on the door. I'm a lady."
"You're a flaming nuisance is what you are," said Tickle angrily, and pulled her by her arm into the toilet. "Get in there and hurry up about it."
If he pulled my sister around like that again, I was going to kick him, gun or not.
"Right!" said Tickle. "You!" He pointed at Jess. "Get your skirt off and give it to him."
"No," said Jess.
"WHAT?" shouted Tickle.
"No," said Jess again. She had a look in her eye that I know very well.
"DO AS I SAY!" ordered Tickle.
"No," said Jess. When Jess looks like that, there's nothing anyone can do. Tickle could wait until Christmas.
"WHAT?" he blustered, his face turning red. "WHAT? WHY NOT?"
"Because I'm a lady, that's why," said Jess, looking him straight in the eye.
Tickle couldn't believe his ears.
"WHAT?" he said again. "WHAT?"
He sounded as stupid as Burke.
"I'll tell you what, Jess," I said. "You go into the loo and shut the door, then take off your skirt and pass it under the door to me. That way we can clean it for you."
Jess looked at me.
"Well, all right," she said. "But I'm going to lock the door so that you can't peep."
She went into the loo and we heard the door lock. Tickle was red and angry. After a moment, Jess's skirt appeared under the door.
It was now that I had to make my move.
My heart was beating very loudly. Quickly, I picked up Jess's skirt, handed it to Tickle, and walked into the loo next to Jess. As I closed the door, I looked at Tickle. He stood there holding Jess's skirt, his eyes wide and his mouth hanging open. Quickly, I closed and locked the door.
"I won't be a minute," I said.
I sat down and reached into my pocket.
"HEY!!" shouted Tickle. "COME OUT OF THERE!"
I took my book and the postcards out of the pocket of my jacket.
"HEY!!!" shouted Tickle, much louder.
My hands were trembling as I took my pen and began to write on the postcard.
It was hard to concentrate. I wrote as clearly as I could.
Suddenly, the door shuddered as Tickle banged on it.
"COME OUT!" he screamed. "OTHERWISE..."
Another voice cut in, speaking French. TIckle stopped his noise and I heard him move away from the door. Quickly, I wrote the address.
Tickle was trying to explain to someone, in a terrible mixture of English and French, that his children were being naughty, disobedient. I scrambled down onto the floor and whispered to Jess under the partition.
Her face appeared. She looked cross.
"I said no peeping," she whispered back. So I closed my eyes.
"Jess, this is very important," I whispered. "When we go back into the shop, you must ask Tickle to buy you something to eat. Make a fuss. Please. It's very important. Please."
"All right," she whispered. "I hate him though."
"So do I," I whispered back. I climbed back up. Tickle had finished talking. How was I going to post the card? I had to think quickly.
I heard Tickle come back to the door.
"Get out of there right now or there's going to be trouble," he said in a quiet and menacing voice. "I mean it."
I didn't know if there was a post box at the service station. And anyway, I couldn't take the risk of being seen posting the card. The only thing to do was to leave it and hope that someone would post it for me.
There was no other choice. I spoke to Tickle through the door.
"All right, I'm coming."
Quickly; I put the card on the ledge behind the loo, turned and opened the door.



Tickle grabbed me by the arm. He pushed Jess's skirt into my hand.
"Clean this up. Hurry up. We're leaving now. Get on with it!"

I washed the skirt in the wash basin, dried as well as I could under the dryer, and put it back under the door for Jess. In a moment she came out.
She looked at Tickle as if he were a small creepy insect.
"I'm hungry," she said.
"You'll have to wait," he said, turning away.
"I can't wait," she said. "My tummy's empty."
"We'll eat at the house ," he said, still moving. "Come on."
"I want something to eat NOW," she said. "Do you understand?"
There was something icy in her tone. Tickle stopped in his tracks.
"Right this minute," continued Jess implacably. "Or I'll scream."
I looked at her with admiration.
Tickle turned and eyed her cautiously.
There was a pause.
"I'll get you some biscuits," he said.
"Cakes," said Jess.
"All right, cakes," he said.
We walked out into the shop and Jess and Tickle went to the counter. I followed, moving slowly behind the magazine stand. Tickle asked the attendant, in terrible French, for some cakes. As the man turned to reach for the packet, I quickly pulled three packs of Super Glue off the rack and slipped them into the inside pocket of my jacket. Then I walked up and stood next to Jess while Tickle paid for the cakes.
We walked out of the shop and back to the car. The blanket was on the ground, and Burke's big behind was sticking out of the back door as we walked up.
"Well?" snapped Tickle.
Burke jumped and banged his head on the roof.
"OW!" he said, rubbing his head. "I've cleaned up what I can, but it still smells."
"Let me see," said Tickle, pushing him aside. He leaned into the car.
"It's disgusting," he said. "Keep an eye on these two. I'm going to get some air freshener."
He walked back to the shop.
Burke looked at Jess and I rather like a cow will look at two children swinging on a gate.
"Er..." he said.
"You," he said to me. "Go and throw that blanket in that bin over there."
"Tickle wouldn't like that," I said, thinking fast. "It's evidence. I'd better put it in the boot."
Burke thought about it.
"All right," he said.
I picked up the blanket and followed him round to the boot of the car. He opened it and I leaned over to put the blanket in.
On the floor of the boot was a large cardboard box with strong brown sticky tape all over it. There was a large hole torn in one end of the box, and on the floor next to this hole lay two glittering brooches and an ear-ring like the one I had in my pocket. Part of a beautiful necklace dripped from the hole.
They were obviously diamonds.
I stared at the jewels as I slowly folded the blanket into the boot.
Suddenly, close behind me, Tickle's voice shouted,
We both jumped, but only Burke banged his head.
"Putting the blanket in the boot," mumbled Burke ashamedly.
"Blimey!" groaned Tickle. "Oh blimey. I don't believe it! I don't... GET IN THE FLAMING CAR!"
We climbed back into the car, and Jess and I had to go back down on the floor. Tickle sprayed some air freshener around, and then he and Burke climbed into the car. The doors slammed shut, then clicked as Tickle locked them. He started the engine, and we drove off.
"Why didn't you throw that stupid blanket away?" said Tickle sharply.
"I didn't want to leave any evidence," said Burke proudly.
"EVIDENCE?" shouted Tickle. "What do you mean, evidence? A filthy old blanket?"
"Well that's what he said," grumbled Burke. "He said we'd better put it in the boot."
"Well, all right," grumbled Burke. He sounded like a small boy.

There was a moment or two of silence as Tickle drove along.
Then he sighed.
"Burke," he said.
"I'm going to try and explain something to you, so please concentrate. All right?" Tickle sounded tired. Exhausted in fact.
"All right," said Burke.
"First of all," said Tickle. "When you put half a million quid's worth of stolen jewellery in a cardboard box, it's VERY IMPORTANT not to tear the box. RIGHT?"
"That wasn't my fault, Tickle," said Burke, hurt. "The box caught on the hinge when I was..."
"SHUT UP!!" screamed Tickle. "Next. If, BY ACCIDENT, the box DOES get torn, and if you don't have time to repair it, and if the jewels fall out of the box, you still don't put them on display where everyone can see them. WHAT IF A COPPER SAW THEM WHEN THE BOOT WAS WIDE OPEN? YOU GREAT TWIT!! THEY'RE LOOKING FOR THOSE JEWELS EVERYWHERE!!"
Burke was silent.
Burke said nothing.
"Look," said Tickle, making a seething effort to calm down. "Listen. Look. We are not ordinary crooks. See? We're a new breed of crooks. You and me, Burkey. I've told you this before. We will go down in history, like Robin Hood. The world has never seen crooks like us before. Do you understand, Burkey old love? We are Euro-crooks. We're going to be more famous than the Great Train Robbers."
I couldn't believe my ears.
"What do you mean, Euro-crooks?" asked Burke.
"You've heard of Euro-dollars, haven't you?" said Tickle. "Dollars that are used all over Europe? And Euro-songs? Songs that come from all over Europe? Well, we're Euro-crooks."
"But we're not from all over Europe," said Burke in a puzzled tone. "We're both from Shepherd’s Bush."
"THAT'S NOT THE POINT!" shouted Tickle. "We're going to WORK all over Europe! We are going to be the only crooks in history to do a top-quality job in six major European capitals! I've planned it all. London, Paris, Brussels, Geneva, Rome and Stockholm. Do you understand? WE STEAL ALL OVER EUROPE!!"
"Oh," said Burke.
"We're going to make more money than Michael Jackson," said Tickle. "And then, Burkey old chum, it's off to Brazil for both of us. We'll spend the rest of our lives lazing about under the palm trees. We'll be the idols of every crook in the world. They'll come crawling to us for interviews. They'll write our life story. We'll be the pride of the profession."
"Oh," said Burke.
"So long as we play our cards right, of course," said Tickle.
"Oh," said Burke.
"Which means that there's one little thing that YOU have to do," said Tickle.
"Oh," said Burke.
"One little, very simple little thing," said Tickle.
"Oh," said Burke.
"Try and find an OUNCE of common sense somewhere in your BIG FAT MEATBALL HEAD!" screamed Tickle. "AND FLAMING USE IT!"

We drove on and on in silence. I couldn't believe it.
They didn't stand a chance.

Jess and I must have fallen asleep. I woke up suddenly as the car bumped over a rough piece of road. Looking up, I saw houses. I sat up straight and looked out of the window. We were driving through a small village. It was late afternoon. We drove through the village and out along a country road. About three miles further on, Tickle turned off the road and onto a dirt track. The track led into some woods and we bumped along through the trees for a moment. Then we came out of the woods and into a field. An old stone house stood in the middle of the field, which was surrounded on all sides by trees. As I watched, Tickle drove the car up to the side of the house and stopped under a tree in front of an old wooden barn. He switched off the engine. Burke got out of the car and went over to open the doors of the house.
There was silence.
Tickle turned round and looked at me. Jess was waking up.
"Here we are, Master James," he said with a nasty smile. "Your new country residence."
I didn't think he was funny at all.


The House in the Country

Nothing happened for the rest of that first day. We moved into the house. We ate a sandwich, drank some weak tea that Burke made, and then they made us go upstairs into our bedroom. Tickle locked the door behind us.
I hid the Super Glue and my postcards under the mattress of one of the beds, and then looked around for a few minutes. Jess was upset. She lay down on her bed, and I covered her with a blanket and sat next to her until she fell asleep. Then I went and sat on my own bed. I took the ear-ring out of my pocket and looked at it. It was beautiful, a big sapphire surrounded by diamonds. So these two were the ones who had stolen the jewels in London. Laurel and Hardy. Tickle and Burke. But why had they kidnapped us? It made no sense. Unless... But I was too tired to think.
So after a while, I slept.

I woke up early, with my mind running at full speed. Kidnapped! I lay in the uncomfortable bed and remembered everything that had happened yesterday. The hotel, the taxi, the café, Tickle and Burke, the car, the service station... the postcard!! I hoped that somebody had found it and posted it. I had to believe that it was on its way to Mum and Dad. They would already have told the police that we were missing. If the postcard reached them tomorrow, the police would be on their way to Saint Pierre by tomorrow afternoon.
In the meantime... I had to make sure that Tickle and Burke stayed here. I climbed out of bed and looked out of the window. I could see the dirt track that led across the field and into the trees. Just outside the window, a telegraph pole stood almost touching the wall of the house. I could see the telephone line running across to the next pole, then the next, and the next, five poles carrying the line into the woods. If they can't use their telephone, I thought, they'll have to drive into town. In their dark blue BMW. Number K 436 TAB. Somebody will notice it. And when the police come asking questions...
I tried the window. It opened! I leaned out and looked closely at the wire attached to the top of the pole. It led from the pole to a small box nailed to a wooden beam at the top of the wall above my window. I listened, but heard no sound. Only Jess breathing. I made up my mind there and then. Climbing onto the window sill, I turned and reached up, holding onto the top of the window with one hand. The little box was closed with a round screw. I took hold of the screw and tried to turn it. It wouldn't move. I tried harder. Nothing.
I climbed back down into the bedroom where Jess still slept. Moving quietly, I took my pen from my jacket and put it in the pocket of my jeans. Then I picked up one of my shoes and went back to the window. Holding my shoe, I climbed carefully back onto the sill, turned, and leaned out. Then I hit that screw hard, two quick knocks that echoed in the woods. Quickly, I stepped back down into the room and listened. Jess stirred and turned over. No other sound. I put down the shoe, climbed back up, and took hold of the screw again. It turned!
Quickly, my heart beating, I unscrewed it, took it off, and put it in my pocket. Then I pulled off the top of the box and put that in my pocket too. I looked up again, inside the box. It was all very simple. Inside the box, the wire from the pole separated into two wires, which were attached to two metal screws. I took my pen, reached up, and forced one of the wires free, away from the screw. Then the other.
At that moment, I heard movement from the room next door, the creak of a bed and a huge yawn. Burke.
As quickly and carefully as I could, I put the lid of the box back on. I could hear noises from the room next door. My hand was shaking as I reached into my pocket for the screw.
Don't let them look out of the window!
Trembling, I tried to get the screw back on. It seemed to take an hour. Finally, with Burke coughing next door and Tickle cursing at him, I got the screw back on and climbed back down into the room. Quickly, I shut the window and jumped back into bed as I heard a door open. Footsteps outside our room, and then the key turned in the door.
I closed my eyes and pretended to be asleep, although my heart was beating hard and fast. I heard the door open.
And close.
"Our two little money-birds are still asleep," I heard Tickle say. "Ah, the sleep of the innocent. How did you sleep, Burke?"
I heard him laugh harshly as he went downstairs. I heard Burke's heavy steps as he followed, snuffling and yawning.
They were bad men.

Another hour went by before Tickle came back upstairs to wake us. Coming into the room, he said,
"Rise and shine."
When Jess and I sat up, he looked at me.
"It's a big day for you today, Master James," he said. "Today we're going to phone your Daddy. Come downstairs and have breakfast."
He left. Jess and I got up and went downstairs.
Burke was sitting on a wooden chair with his elbows on the table, eating bread and butter and jam and drinking from a mug of tea. He made a lot of noise.
"You eat like a pig," Jess told him. "Where's your manners?"
Burke shut his mouth and looked hurt.
Tickle laughed nastily.
"I've told him that before," he said. "It makes no difference. He's a hopeless case. Aren't you, Burke?"
Burke scowled, still eating noisily.
"He was born without manners," said Tickle. "You have to be born rich, like you two, to have manners."
I looked at him.
"You've made a mistake," I said. "We're not who you think we are. You meant to kidnap somebody else."
"Oh, protecting Daddy, are we?" said Tickle. "He will be proud of you. You can tell him all about it. After he pays us one million pounds."
"You're mad," I said.
"DON'T TALK TO ME LIKE THAT!!" shouted Tickle. "You don't know who I am. I've planned all this. Nothing's going to go wrong. It's perfect. You'll see."
He turned on Burke.
"Make these two some breakfast," he ordered.
"I want some Corn Flakes," said Jess.
"YOU'LL EAT WHAT YOU'RE GIVEN!!" shouted Tickle.

Burke made bread and jam for Jess and I, and gave us both a cup of tea. While we ate, Tickle made Burke do the washing up. He made him wash the plates, and then line them up to dry. Then he took a rag and a tin of polish from the cupboard under the sink and told Burke to go and polish the car.
"I want it spotless," he told him. "And take the carpet out of the back and clean it again. I don't want my car smelling like that."
Burke went out, grumbling. Tickle turned to me.
"Come with me," he said.
I followed him to the door of another room. He took a key from his pocket and unlocked the door. Then he looked at me.
"You notice that I've locked the door with the telephone," he said. "So you can't phone anybody. See? I've got it all worked out. Nothing can go wrong."
We went into the room. The telephone stood on a small table. Looking at me, Tickle took a small notebook from his pocket, opened it, and looked at one of the pages.
"Daddy's Paris office," he said. "He will be pleased to hear from you. Just tell him you're well. Tell him to do as I say."
"All right," I said.
Still looking at me, Tickle picked up the receiver. He looked at his notebook and dialled. Then he held the receiver to his ear. He waited. He frowned. He shook the receiver, scowled, then began banging on the phone.
"What's the matter with it?" he snapped.
He banged on it some more.
"I don't believe it," he swore angrily. "What..."
Then he slammed the receiver down.
"Doesn't it work?" I asked innocently.
"YOU SHUT UP!!" snarled Tickle. He charged out of the room.
"BURKE!!" he shouted. "BURKE!!"
I followed.
Outside, Burke was pulling the carpet out of the car. Tickle burst out of the house shouting. Burke jumped, banging his head on the roof.
"OW!!" he said. "Don't you ever talk quietly? I'm fed up with banging my head..."
"SHUT UP!!" shouted Tickle. "THE PHONE'S OUT OF ORDER!"
"It's not my fault..." began Burke.
"I'm going to go into town and phone," snapped Tickle. "I'll have to leave my kids with you. I don't want anybody to see them. You make sure they don't make any trouble. Do you think you can manage that?"
"I wish you wouldn't talk to me like that," grumbled Burke. "I'm supposed to be your partner."
Tickle didn't reply. He climbed into the car and slammed his door.
"BURKE!" he shouted.
"What?" said Burke.
"Shut the back door, will you?" snapped Tickle. "Make yourself useful for once."
"Bring some Corn Flakes," shouted Jess from the doorway.
Burke slammed the back door. Tickle started the car and roared off. Burke watched him go, scowling.
"One of these days, I'll thump him," I heard him mutter.
Already halfway across the field, the car stopped suddenly, then reversed back fast to where Burke was standing. Burke looked shocked.
"He can't have heard me," he said to himself.
Tickle opened his window.
"Take the jewels out of the boot," he ordered. "While I'm in town, you can repair the box you ripped. Hurry up!"
Burke opened the boot and put the fallen jewels back into the box. Holding the box clumsily, he slammed the boot shut, and Tickle roared off again.
Burke stood there watching him go, the box under his arm.
"I wouldn't trust him if I were you," I said.
Burke looked at me.
"Get in the house," he said. "Both of you."

In the kitchen, Burke sat and repaired the box with a roll of tape. I watched him.
"Tickle's no friend of yours," I said.
Burke said nothing.
"The way he talks to you," I said. "Like a slave."
Burke wound tape around the box.
"He's always like that," he said. "Nervous. Always shouting. Everything's supposed to work according to his plans. As if he's the only one who knows anything. He can't stand dirt, he can't stand noise, he can't stand anything."
He sighed.
"One day," he said, "He left his cigarette lighter in a pub. When we got back to the car, he started looking for it. He went through all his pockets twice and couldn't find it. I told him he must have left it in the pub. He went spare. He accused me of stealing it. He made me turn out my pockets. We finally went back into the pub, and there was his lighter, still sitting on the table. He looked at me as if I'd done it on purpose. He's a maniac. He doesn't trust anybody."
"Terrible," I said. "Just terrible. Can I go upstairs to my room?"
"All right," said Burke, working on the box.
"I'll be right back," I said.

I was going to get the Super Glue.


Sticky Business

Tickle came back in a bad mood. "Daddy", as he called him, was not in his Paris office.
"The secretary said he's gone to Zurich," sneered Tickle. "I don't believe a word of it. He's playing for time. I'll call again this afternoon."
Zurich? ZURICH!!
I knew who he thought I was.
Well-dressed James, from the café in Paris. What had he said?
"Tomorrow we're going to Zurich for a day..."
His Dad was an important businessman, always travelling around. But he wouldn't talk about what his Dad did.
"I'm not supposed to talk about it," he'd said. "It's top secret."

We waited around outside. Tickle sat in a deck chair and watched Burke polish the car. Jess and I wandered around on the grass. I noticed a wasps' nest in the tree over by the barn, and spent some time watching the wasps flying around busily. Close to the door of the barn, I found a few rusty old nails lying in the grass. Tickle and Burke weren't looking, so I put them in my pocket. They could be useful.
For lunch, we ate a sandwich that Burke made. Sardines, onions, and processed cheese, all smothered in mayonnaise from a tube. It was terrible. Jess kicked up a fuss, I can tell you. They ignored her, like people ignore a deluge when they're caught out without an umbrella. I ate half of mine, then asked Tickle if I could go outside and sit in the sun.
"If you like," he said, chewing his sandwich. "But there's no point trying to run away. We've got your sister. All right?"
"All right," I said.
I wasn't going to run. I was going to do some sabotage.

The BMW stood over by the barn. I went over quickly, took one of the nails from my pocket and wedged it point-first up against one of the tyres. Then I went and sat in the deck chair.
Tickle came out a few minutes later.
"HEY!!" he shouted. "That's my deck-chair!"
I got up and went to sit on the grass. What a maniac. Tickle walked to the BMW, climbed in, and started the engine.
"BURKE!!" he shouted.
Burke came to the door.
"I'll be back in half an hour," said Tickle. "Why don't you tell the kids a fairy story while you're waiting?"
Laughing harshly, he drove away.

Burke did the washing up again, then came out to sit in the sun. Jess followed. She looked fed up. She went and sat on the grass. We didn't talk.

At least three hours went by.
It was late afternoon. Burke and I had done nothing. Nothing had happened. Jess and I wandered about a bit.
Burke didn't seem to be able to get comfortable sitting on the grass. Sop after a while, I had an idea.
"Burke?" I said. I was standing by the deck chair.
"What?" he said.
"There's no point you getting cramp from sitting on the grass," I said. "Rising damp, and all that. You might as well use Tickle's deck-chair until he gets back. You'll hear the car coming through the woods. You'll have plenty of time to get up before he sees you."
Burke's brow furrowed. He was thinking about it.
"Yeah, you're right," he said eventually.
As he struggled to his feet, I leaned over and squeezed some Super Glue onto the seat of the deck-chair.

Burke walked over and sat down with a sigh of relief.
"Aaaaah," he said. "That's better. That's much better. I could sit here all day."

I went into the house, went upstairs, and began waging psychological warfare. Drive them mad. I squeezed some Super Glue into the closed crack of their bedroom door. Play on their nerves. No point making it easy for them. I came back down into the kitchen, looking around. The plates were sitting on the draining board, dry now. Lifting each one quietly, I glued them all together. Then I went back outside and sat on the grass by the barn, watching the wasps buzzing around the tree.
About an hour later, I heard the sound of a car being driven fast through the woods. Burke heard it too, and began to struggle to his feet. A look of surprise came over his face, and he began pushing at the deck-chair and grunting. As the BMW shot out of the woods and across the field towards us, he grasped the seat of the deck-chair in both hands and began heaving frantically. The BMW roared to a halt under the tree a few feet from where Burke struggled with the deck-chair.
Tickle jumped from the car.
He was ANGRY.
"GET OUT OF MY CHAIR!!" he shouted.
"I'm trying to," panted Burke, sweating and shoving.
He pushed and heaved, working his legs madly.
"OUT!!" shouted Tickle. "OUT OF MY CHAIR!!"
Jess and watched them, fascinated.
Burke gave one last desperate heave, and the deck-chair collapsed beneath him. Burke fell heavily, and howled, his fingers caught in the folding chair.
Tickle stepped over and grabbed Burke's arm, put a foot on the deck-chair and tore the fat man to his feet. There was a sharp ripping sound. Burke stood up suddenly, leaving the seat of his trousers stuck to the deck chair.
"I can see your underpants," said Jess coldly.
"YOU FAT FOOL!" screamed Tickle. "WHAT ARE YOU PLAYING AT? That's all that flaming jam you eat, sticking to everything!"
Burke panted, winced, nursing his hand.
"We've got enough problems to worry about without you playing the fool," snapped Tickle.
"What took you so long?" asked Burke.
"Come inside," said Tickle. "You too," he added, looking at Jess and I.
We sat at the table in the kitchen, while Burke made some tea.
"I went to the Post Office and phoned Daddy's office again," said Tickle. "The secretary said he's still in Zurich. She wouldn't give me the number. I told her to phone him and say it was important. About young James here. She said she'll try and reach him this evening. Then she said he's going to Brussels tomorrow. I know they're playing for time. But they'll never find us here. I bet he'll talk to me tomorrow."
"So what are we going to do?" asked Burke, bringing the tea.
"First of all, "said Tickle, "You're going to polish the car."
"I just polished it this morning," said Burke, surprised.
"When I came out of the Post Office," said Tickle, "My BMW had a flat tyre. So I had to walk down to the garage and get someone to change it for me. A big greasy French mechanic with dirty greasy hands. He rubbed grease all over the car. And he had to take the flat tyre to be repaired. There was a nail stuck in it. I must have driven over it in town. So you're going to polish the car while we drink our tea. Then you're going to make dinner and we'll all go to bed. I'll be phoning young James's Daddy first thing tomorrow morning."
Burke sighed heavily, took the polish and the rag from the cupboard under the sink, and shuffled outside in his ruined trousers to polish the car again.

"Lay the table, Burke," said Tickle, an hour later. He was busy scooping beans from a tin into a saucepan. I had been waiting for this. Burke grabbed a plate by the edge and turned to put it on the table. The whole pile came with him. He dropped the lot. There was a huge crash, and pieces of crockery flew everywhere. Tickle jumped wildly, dropping the saucepan. Cold beans flew all over the room.
"I don't know," stuttered Burke, confused. "I don't know...."
"YOU GREAT FAT TWIT!!" shouted Tickle. "CAN'T YOU DO ANYTHING RIGHT? Throwing the plates around like that!! What do you think you are, a flaming juggler? There are no beans left now, either. We'll have to eat bread and jam again!!"

We ate bread and jam. Burke was sulking, obviously fed up. He got up finally.
"I'm going to bed," he said, and left. We heard him clumping heavily upstairs.
Tickle looked at me.
"You're Daddy's trying to be too clever," he said. "He thinks he can give the police enough time to find us. But he'll talk to me tomorrow, you'll see."
I was about to answer when we heard a heavy thumping from upstairs.
"NOW WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" shouted Tickle.
Burke answered from upstairs.
"The door's stuck, I can't get it open."
There was a short niggly pause, and then a huge crash from above. The house shuddered. Burke yelled. Tickle leaped to his feet and rushed upstairs.
"Come on, Jess," I said. We got up quickly and went upstairs. Their bedroom door was split from top to bottom and hanging from one hinge. Long splinters of wood stuck to the door jamb. Tickle was shouting at Burke, who was looking confused.
"I'm just going to the bathroom," I announced as I walked by. "Then we'll go to bed."
I went into the bathroom and closed the door. I washed quickly. Then I took the tiny tube of Super Glue from my pocket and left a ring of tiny droplets on the toilet seat. I couldn't resist it.
Jess and lay in bed listening to Tickle and Burke arguing.
After a few minutes, I heard Tickle say,
"I'm going to the bathroom. Maybe I'll be able to get some peace and quiet in there."
We heard him cross the corridor and close the bathroom door. There was silence for a long time.
Then, suddenly, we heard Tickle give a tremendous yell of pain. The toilet seat banged.
"AAAAAAH!!!" screamed Tickle. "BURKE!!"
I had to bury my face in my pillow. It was the first time I'd laughed for two days.
It felt great.


Sticky Business II

The next morning, Jess and I were woken by the sound of Tickle and Burke shouting at each other in the kitchen downstairs. We got up and found the door unlocked, so we went downstairs. As we came into the kitchen, Tickle quickly pulled his trousers back on. Burke stood holding a sopping wet wad of cotton wool. His left hand was bandaged. On the table was a bottle of antiseptic and a bowl of water.
"Anything wrong?" I asked.
They didn't answer.
Tickle finished doing up his trousers and put on his jacket.
"I'm going into town to phone," he said crossly. "I'll be back in half an hour."
He picked up a cushion from one of the chairs and went out. He walked slowly and painfully.
"What's he walking like that for?" asked Jess.
"Ssssh!!" said Burke, flapping his hand at her.
Jess took no notice. She went to the door and watched Tickle make his way to the car.
"You walk like a duck," she called after him.
He kept going.
"And bring some Corn Flakes!" she shouted. "I'm fed up with bread and jam! And bring some sweets!!"
Tickle glared at her as he opened the car door. He put the cushion on the seat and climbed in very carefully. He winced as he sat down. Then he slammed the door and drove off. Not as fast as yesterday.
"He got stuck to the toilet seat," explained Burke as we ate breakfast. "He tore all the skin off his behind. Must hurt. It looks terrible."
He paused.
"It serves him right," he said. "He thinks it's my fault, of course."

About an hour later, Tickle returned from town. He was looking angry again.
"Your rich Daddy's getting on my nerves," he said to me. "His secretary says he's left Zurich and is on his way to Brussels now. I told her to give me the phone number or else something nasty is going to happen to you. She gave me a phone number and said to call at about four o'clock. He'd better be there when I call, I can tell you that. I'm getting fed up with waiting."
Then he said he was going upstairs to lie down.
"You'll have to lie on your belly then, won't you?" Jess pointed out. "Otherwise you'll hurt your bum."
Burke did the washing up.
I went outside with my bread and jam and walked around. Wasps flew around me, attracted by the smell of the jam. I waved them away. They kept coming back.
They gave me an idea.
I walked over near to the BMW parked under the tree. The driver's window was open. Beautiful. I had a quick look around, no-one in sight. I moved closer and smeared some jam on the bonnet of the car and stood back. Sure enough, within a few moments, three or four wasps were eating the jam.
I smeared some more jam on top of the driver's door. More wasps came. So I leaned into the car and smeared some more jam on the back of the driver's seat. Then I threw what was left of my bread and jam onto the floor of the car behind the driver's seat.
I looked at the door of the house. I could hear Burke washing up. So I took another nail from my pocket and pushed it up against the back tyre, just like yesterday.
I thought that was a pretty good morning's work.

We lay around all morning, waiting. Burke wouldn't go near the deck chair again. He brought a chair out of the kitchen and sat by the doorway in the sun, holding his bandaged hand in his lap. After a while, he knotted a handkerchief over his head. He sat and dozed. He looked like one of those cartoon tourists off a greetings card.
I waited a while, then went past him into the kitchen to get a glass of water. His eyes were closed. I took the Super Glue from my pocket. As I came back out, I dribbled two or three drops of Glue onto the handkerchief. I was determined to drive them both mad.

A long time later, Tickle came downstairs.
"Burke!" he snapped.
"Er... what?" puffed Burke, waking up.
"Put the kettle on," ordered Tickle. "I want some tea before I go into town. And take that handkerchief off your fat head. You look ridiculous."
Obediently, Burke reached up and pulled the handkerchief. He howled, and let go. The handkerchief hung over his face, covered with hair. He pulled again.
"OOWWW!!" whined Burke, his eyes watering. "It's stuck to my hair."
Tickle reached up and yanked viciously on the handkerchief. Burke yelped as it tore free, and then began rubbing the new bald spot on top of his head. Tickle threw the hairy handkerchief to the ground in disgust.
"Now put the kettle on," he said. "I've had enough of you fooling around. Hurry up."

We drank tea. Jess complained loudly about the food.
"We'll starve to death," she said. "I want to go home."
"That depends on Daddy,' said Tickle coldly.
He waddled painfully out of the kitchen towards the car and opened the door. I hoped he wouldn't notice the wasps to soon. Suddenly he turned, and limped back to the kitchen, shouting at Burke.
"You make sure you throw that flaming jam away," I heard him say. I'm fed up with everything getting stuck. I'm fed up with bread and jam. As a matter of fact, I'm fed up with you!"
So I had time to squeeze a little Glue onto his cushion. When he came back out, I was over by the barn with my hands in my pockets.
"What are you grinning about?" he asked, staring at me.
"Oh," I said. "Nothing special."
He glared at me.
"I'll be back in half an hour," he snarled. "With news from Daddy."
He climbed painfully into the car, settled himself carefully on the cushion, slammed the door, and drove off.
I settled down to wait.

He didn't come back until nearly nine o'clock It was still light. When we heard the car in the woods, we all went out to watch. Burke was worried. The car drove into the field and came towards us.
Burke gasped.
The front of the car on the driver's side was badly bent. The headlight was smashed. The wing was buckled above the wheel. Paint was scraped off all along the side of the car.
I was delighted.
Tickle stopped the car in front of us, opened the door and stepped out.
Burke gasped again.
Tickle looked exhausted. There were several large lumps on his face. The lumps had been painted a bright pink. His nose was red and swollen.
"What happened?" asked Burke.
"Everything," said Tickle. He sounded very tired. "Everything happened. I've got to sit down."
He turned and shuffled towards the house. He was waddling, like a duck. There were tattered strips of cloth hanging from the back of his jacket. The seat of his trousers was torn wide open. Burke stared at him, his mouth open.
"I can see your underpants, too," announced Jess.
Tickle didn't even falter.
"You look like a scarecrow," said Jess, louder.
Tickle kept going. He limped into the kitchen. We followed eagerly, like kids going in to see a Punch and Judy show.



Tickle slumped at the table in a heap, exhausted.
"I was driving into town," he said, his voice weary. "All of a sudden there were wasps all over me. I hate wasps. I tried to wave them off. They ganged up on me, stung me on the face. I was waving at them, and I drove into a wall. I bashed my nose on the steering wheel. I got stung everywhere. I sprayed the wasps with some of that air freshener. That got rid of them. Then I drove into town. I parked the car in front of the Post Office. There's a café across the street. I climbed out of the car, and my cushion was stuck to my behind. It's all that flaming jam, Burke. I swear I'll never eat jam again as long as I live. All the people in the café were laughing at me. I couldn't get the cushion off. Finally, two men came out of the café and tore it off. They were laughing like drains. Everyone was watching. Then I went into the pharmacie to get something for the stings. All she'd got was this pink stuff. Eosine she called it. It hurts like hell. I came out of the pharmacie painted like a circus Indian. There were at least twenty people standing around the café, staring at the car and laughing. When they saw me coming, they laughed even more. I felt like Bozo the flaming clown."
He stopped, sighed heavily, and drank some tea, wincing as he moved on his seat. I was enjoying myself.
"Then I went into the Post Office and phoned Daddy in Brussels. I told him we've got young James. I told him we want a million pounds in ransom money. And do you know what he said?"
Burke waited.
"He said he didn't know what I was talking about. He said James is in Brussels with him. Can you believe it?"
"We must have the wrong kids," said Burke.
"THAT'S IMPOSSIBLE!" shouted Tickle. "I PLANNED THE WHOLE THING!! They can't be the wrong kids! Daddy's playing for time. He thinks the police are going to find us. He's lying."
"Oh," said Burke, not convinced.
"What I don't understand is why he's gone to Brussels," muttered Tickle. He sighed again.
"Then," he continued, "I came out of the Post Office and found another flat tyre on the car. Another flaming nail! That's a town full of farmers for you. They leave nails lying around. They sit around all day in cafés, laughing at people. So I had to walk all the way back down to the garage and get that greasy French mechanic to come and change my tyre. He went into the café first and had a beer with his mates. They were laughing, I can tell you. He put my spare tyre on, and I had to leave him the other one to be repaired. And while he was changing the tyre, I was standing around town with the seat out of my trousers. I've had enough."
There was a silence.
"No, no, nothing," I said. "I was yawning."
"Yeah, me too," said Burke, grinning widely.
"WELL STOP YAWNING THEN!!" shouted Tickle. "You can make some dinner, that ought to wake you up. Do you think you can make some dinner without smashing the house to pieces?"
"What are we going to do?" asked Burke.
"We're going to have dinner," said Tickle. "Then I'll rest for a while. You put the jewels and the suitcases in the BMW. We're leaving for Brussels tonight."
That shook me.
"Brussels?" I said.
"Brussels?" said Burke.
"'YES, BRUSSELS!!" shouted Tickle. We can't hang around here any longer anyway. Everyone in the area has seen the car. If ever the police DO start asking questions, they'll find us straight away. We're going to take these two to Brussels. Our next job's in Brussels anyway. I bet Daddy will talk differently once young James gets on the phone. Won't he,; James?"
"But..." I said. I didn't like this at all.
"We're going," said Tickle. "We'll leave early, before it gets light. That way we can travel without being noticed. Burke, you put the stuff in the car after dinner, then we'll rest for a while. And when you've finished with the packing, make sure that all the car windows are closed. I don't want any more wasps in with me."
He glared at Burke.
"Well," he said. "Are you going to make dinner or not?"

We ate. Immediately after dinner, Tickle limped upstairs to lie down. Burke went upstairs too, and then came down carrying two large suitcases, which he took outside and put in the boot of the BMW. Then he came back into the kitchen and picked up the box of jewels and took that out too. I heard him slam the boot. I followed him outside and went over to the car, pretending to be interested in the dents in the front wing. Burke checked all the windows and then walked back into the house.
"I'm going to do the washing up," he said. "Then you're going to bed."
He disappeared into the kitchen.
Quickly, I took out the last tube of Super Glue. I pushed the end of the tube into the locks of the car doors and squeezed. Four doors. And then the boot. I used the whole tube. It had better work.
I was not going to Brussels.

We went upstairs to bed. Burke locked the door behind Jess and I, and I heard him go into his room. Silence fell.
I went over to Jess.
"Jess," I whispered.
"What?" she whispered back.
"We've got to escape tonight," I said softly. "We'll have to go into town and get the police. If they take us to Brussels, this could go on for days. We'll wait until they're asleep, and then we'll escape."
"How?" she asked.
"We'll climb out of the window, down the telephone pole," I said. Then we'll have to walk into town. We'll be all right. We'll bring the police back with us. Tickle and Burke will go to prison."
"Serves them right," said Jess. "Shall we go now?"
"No," I said. "We'll have to wait and make sure they go to sleep. You can sleep, too, if you want. I'll wake you."

We waited. And waited. Jess slept. It was dark outside now. We couldn't afford to move too soon, but we couldn't wait too long.

Finally, I stood up, went over to Jess, and shook her gently.
"Come on, Jess," I whispered. "Time to go."
I opened the window and climbed out onto the roof. Round tiles, but solid. Two steps to the pole. Quietly.
"Come on, Jess," I whispered. "Give me your hand."
She climbed out, holding my hand. I gripped the pole, slid down a little, and hung on. Jess followed. Slowly, with Jess's feet on my shoulders, we slid down to the ground. I helped Jess down. We walked quietly away from the house, not daring to look back. Ten yards. Twenty.
Then we ran like mad.
Across the field. Into the woods. It was dark in the woods, a bit scary. We stumbled sometimes as we ran, Jess holding my hand. I could hear her panting. The woods seemed to go one for ever. There wasn't much light, but it was just enough. We ran.
Suddenly, we ran out of the woods onto a road. We stopped for a second; gasping for breath. Under an open sky. Then we turned right and started walking fast towards town.
It felt so good to be away from those bad and stupid men. Soon we would be in town. I began to think of how I would explain everything to the police.
We walked fast for a time. Then I saw a house. We started running again.
It was a small house by the side of the road. A small yellow care stood on the front yard. I knew this was a "deux chevaux", a 2CV, Dad had told me what it was. I ran past the car and began banging on the door of the house. A dog began barking furiously.
"HELP!!" I shouted. "HELP!!"
There was no answer. I banged and shouted and banged for minutes, with Jess crying beside me.
There was no answer.
The dog barked.
So after a while, we carried on walking into town. It seemed like a long way in the dark. We walked and walked. No company but the stars and the warm smell of the countryside. The sound of crickets.
We could see the distant lights of town in front of us, and from time to time we heard faint waves of music coming from over there. Maybe there was a carnival in town tonight. People. We walked. We were tired now.
And then, from behind us, I heard the sound of a car engine. For a moment I was afraid that Tickle and Burke had been able to open the BMW and were coming to get us. The sound grew louder. I turned, and could see the glow of headlights moving towards us. Yellow headlights. French headlights. The BMW had white lights.
I stopped in the middle of the road and began waving my arms above my head. The car slowed, came up to us, and stopped a few feet away.
I ran to the car, gasping with relief.
"Monsieur," I said. "Monsieur..."
The car door opened.

"Get in. Both of you," said Tickle.


Service Station II

"I told you we'd catch them," said Tickle. Burke was driving. He grunted at the wheel, turning the car round.
"Yeah, well it's a good job I stole the car and came back to get you," said Burke. "You were miles behind."
They were crammed into the front of the yellow car that we'd seen half an hour earlier in front of the house.
"I can't run like this," snapped Tickle. "My backside's like two hundredweight of raw meat wrapped in sandpaper."
The car lurched. Burke swore.
"This gear lever's ridiculous," he said. "It's bent."
"We'll go back and get my BMW," said Tickle. "We'll find a way of opening it."
Burke drove back to the house, bumping through the woods and across the field. He stopped in front of the BMW, bathing the blue car in the headlights.
"You stay in the car," said Tickle to Jess and I.
They climbed out of the car and went to the BMW.
Burke was looking at the lock of the driver's door.
"You broke the key in the lock," he said.
"I KNOW I DID!" said Tickle angrily. "You're the expert at stealing cars. Try one of your special keys."
Burke took a large bunch of keys from his pocket and started trying. He tried most of them in all the locks.
"It's not the keys," he said. "All the locks are frozen up."
"How can they be frozen, you fat fool?" snarled Tickle. "It's the middle of August. Try again."
Tickle was almost dancing with impatience. Burke tried. He broke three keys before he gave up.
"It's no use," Burke said finally. "We'll have to break a window."
"Well, what else can we do," said Burke defensively. "It's a shame about your car, but..."
"YOU CAN'T BREAK A WINDOW!!" shouted Tickle. "IT'S BULLET-PROOF GLASS!! It cost me a fortune. I had it put in specially."
Burke stared at him.
"Bullet-proof..." he said. "Blimey."
"I'm locked out of my car," wailed Tickle. "And the jewels are in the boot!"
"Blimey," said Burke again.
Burke stood with his brow furrowed while Tickle fidgeted impatiently.
"Well," said Burke finally. "We'll have to leave it."
"THE JEWELS!" shouted Tickle. "THE SUITCASES!! MY CAR!!"
"Maybe I can get the jewels," said Burke. "Hang on a bit."
He walked over and pulled open the barn door. He disappeared inside the barn, then came back. He was carrying a long metal bar and a sledge-hammer;
Tickle's eyes widened in alarm as Burke laid down the crowbar and hefted the big hammer.
"What are you going to do?" Tickle whispered, his voice trembling.
"I'm going to give it a couple of belts with this," replied Burke evenly. "You never know."
Tickle's mouth opened as Burke swung the sledge-hammer at the windscreen. He gave a little cry as the sledge-hammer crashed into the glass. There was a loud crack.
Burke peered at the small white mark on the windscreen.
"I hardly chipped it," he said, impressed. "Blimey. It is tough stuff."
He hefted the hammer again.
"I'll have another bash anyway," he announced in a business-like manner. "Shove over."
He swung the hammer.
Tickle trembled. Burke hammered at the windscreen at least a dozen times before he gave up. Once he stopped, wincing, and nursed his damaged hand, but that didn't stop him getting right back to work. I had the feeling his was enjoying himself.
"Oh well," he said, panting, "Let's have a go at the boot."
He went to the back of the car and swung the hammer again. There was a loud metallic clang. Burke beamed at the dent he'd made.
"Aaah," he said, pleased. "That's more like it."
"Burke," said Tickle in a tiny voice.
"What?" said Burke, looking busy. He was sweating.
"Don't hit it so hard," whispered Tickle.
"Don't be daft," said Burke impatiently. "Do you want the jewels or not?"
He swung the hammer back. Tickle whimpered.
Burke kept this up for five minutes. The boot looked like the surface of the moon. Tickle had moved. He was standing over by the house, looking at the wall. Burke stopped hammering, dropped the hammer, and spat on his hands.
"Right," he said, picking up the crowbar. He jammed the metal bar under one of the welts near the lock in the boot, and heaved. There was a loud screech of tearing metal, a clang, and the lid of the boot flew off and landed on the grass.
"YEAH!!" shouted Burke gleefully. "Look at that, Tickle! I took the lid right off! Not bad, eh?"
Tickle limped slowly over to the BMW. His face was grey. He leaned in and picked up the box of jewels. Then he limped wearily over to the 2CV.
"Get the cases," he said in a trembling voice. "We'd better go."
Burke grabbed the cases and stuffed them into the back of the 2CV.
"Will you drive?" asked Tickle politely. "I'd rather you drove."
Burke stared at him.
"I feel a bit poorly," said Tickle, and climbed in.
Burke squeezed into the small car, and we roared away.

Jess and I were very uncomfortable in the back of the 2CV. Even on smooth roads, the car bounced badly. After a while, Jess slept anyway, and I tried to doze.
Tickle woke me, leaning over the back of the seat and shaking me.
"Wake up!!" he snapped.
"I looked at him. Very soon, I thought, I'll never have to look at him again. I couldn't wait.
"You and the girl get down on the floor now," he said. "It's getting light. We'll be on the motorway soon. There are coppers on the motorway. I don't want them seeing you."
"Can't you leave Jess on the seat?" I said. "She's asleep."
"ON THE FLOOR!" he shouted. "BOTH OF YOU!!"
So we slid off the seat onto the floor. It was cramped. It was filthy. It was a farmer's car. There were stones on the floor, straw, sand and pebbles, pieces of newspaper and old biscuit and cigarette packets, a large piece of oily wood, a woollen sock, a lot of fat yellow cigarette ends. I was sitting on something lumpy. I thought it was a stone. I reached down, and found I was holding a cigarette lighter.
A cigarette lighter!
I put it in my pocket.
We drove on. Tickle and Burke lit cigarettes. The car filled with smoke.

"Can't you go any faster?" snapped Tickle.
"This isn't a Porsche, you know," grumbled Burke. "We're at top speed."
"Top speed?" sneered Tickle. "Four miles a fortnight? What does it run on, clockwork? It's useless. No suspension, no heating, no ash-trays. It's like driving around in a kettle. We won't get to Brussels before Christmas."
"I throw mine on the floor," said Burke.
"What?" said Tickle.
"Me fag ash," replied Burke.
"Who cares?" said Tickle nastily.
Burke drove.

"On the other hand," said Tickle thoughtfully, "If the coppers do have their eyes open for us, they'll never think of looking for us in this."
"Ah," said Burke.
"Here's the turn-off for the motorway," said Tickle.
The car swung to the right, and the ride became a little smoother.
"Come to think of it, it's perfect," continued Tickle. "The perfect disguise. They'd never dream we'd be driving about in a chamber pot. We'll keep it. I can't say that I like it, but I can put up with it until we get to Brussels. We'll steal something better there."
"Ah," said Burke.

We drove in silence for a long time. I tried to doze, but it was useless. At least the motorway was smoother.
An hour or two went by. It was light. Then Tickle said,
"Service station! Stop here. We'll get some tea."
He turned and grinned at Burke.
"We'd better buy some serious supplies, too," he said. "We'll be driving for a month at least."
They both started laughing as the car turned off the motorway and into the service station.
Burke parked the car. Jess and I climbed back onto the seat, stretching. It was still quite early, and there were very few cars parked. Tickle looked around.
"I can't see any coppers," he said. "I reckon we're all right."
He turned round.
"You two will have to come with us," he said. "We can't leave you alone. We won't be long. And I don't want any funny busy from either of you. Especially you,' he added, looking at Jess. "I'll buy you some biscuits, all right?"
"Cakes," said Jess.
"All right, cakes," said Tickle.
"Two packets," said Jess uncompromisingly.
Tickle blinked.
"Three packets," said Jess.
"Now look..." began Tickle.
"And some Smarties," said Jess.
Tickle and Jess looked at each other.
There was a pause, then Tickle looked away.
"All right," he sighed. "All right. Come on. We've got five minutes, no more."
He turned to Burke.
"Bring the jewels with you," he ordered. "This car doesn't lock. I'd hate to lose anything valuable. Come on."
He climbed out of the car and slammed the door behind him. Burke squeezed out and went round to the back seat to get the box of jewels.
I took out the cigarette lighter.
"Jess," I whispered quickly. I was putting the newspaper into a pile on the floor of the car.
She looked at me.
"Shut your door behind you when you get out," I whispered.
I gathered the bits of straw and biscuit packets together.
"Quick!" I whispered.
She looked at me, then climbed out and slammed the door. Tickle took her arm and began moving away. Burke finished at the back and slammed the boot. I crouched over, sparked the lighter, and put the small flame under the pile of paper. It caught.
Then I stepped out of the car and slammed the door quickly.
"Come on, Burke," I said. "Hurry up. I'm starving."

We walked into the service station. Tickle was already at the hot drinks machine. Jess was looking at the cakes on the counter. Burke and I walked up.
"Do you want teat or coffee?" Tickle asked Burke. He seemed to be in a good mood again.
"Tea," said Burke. "I'm hungry, too. Let's buy some sandwiches."
Tickle bought three teas and some orange pop for Jess. Burke went off to buy some sandwiches and the cakes.
"And the Smarties," Jess reminded him.
I took my tea and went over to the window. I looked carefully at the yellow 2CV. Nothing yet. I hoped the flame hadn't gone out. I watched for a minute or two, then...
A wisp of smoke! Slowly, as I watched; the car filled with smoke. There were flickers and flashes of yellow and orange. It looked beautiful to me. I stared, fascinated. Burke came up and gave me a sandwich. I opened it and took a bite, watching the car. Suddenly there was a yell from outside, and I saw some people running towards the car.
Tickle came over quickly, and he and Burke stared at the running man.
"Look at that!" said Burke, excited. "Some idiot's set his car on fire!"
He was like a kid on Bonfire Night.
"Look, Tickle!" he said. "The yellow car over there! Blimey! That's going to spoil somebody's breakfast!"
Tickle didn't say anything. I looked at him.
He was standing with his mouth wide open. His face was chalk white, and the painted pink lumps on his face stood out. His eyes were wide and staring. He looked as though he'd just been smitten with a magic disease by the evil witch in a Walt Disney cartoon.
"B..." he stuttered. "B... B... B..."
Burke looked at him curiously. Then, suddenly, the fat man turned white as well.
"O..." he stammered. "A... O..."
"B..." went Tickle. "B... B... B..."
"A... O..."
"B... B..."
I looked over at Jess, who was chewing a cake.
"That looks like the car we were in, doesn't it, Jess?" I said.
"That's the one," she said.

The car exploded.


Jess's Breakfast II

"OUT!!" screamed Tickle. "OUT!!"
He grabbed my arm and pulled me towards the door. Behind me, I heard Jess yelling at Burke.
"Stop pulling me, you fat pig!" she shouted furiously. "You've spilled my pop!"
They dragged us outside. Tickle hurried towards the car park, away from the burning 2CV. Four or five people were running around. I saw a garage attendant hurrying over with a bucket of water. More people were running over from the restaurant.
"Burke!" panted Tickle. "Get us a car! Quick!"
"Which one?" asked Burke, running.
"ANY ONE!!" shouted Tickle. "SOMETHING FAST!!"
He was dragging me towards a line of parked cars.
Burke pulled Jess towards Tickle. Tickle grabbed her arm and pulled us both along. Jess was still clutching her plastic bag full of cakes.
"I WANT MY POP!" she yelled.
Burke ran ahead fast, fumbling in his pockets.
He ran up to a small bright red sports car and began fiddling through his bunch of keys.
"BURKE!!" screamed Tickle.
Burke looked up as Tickle rushed us towards him.
"THAT'S A SPORTS CAR!" howled Tickle. "IT'S A TWO-SEATER!!"
"I know," called Burke, pleased. "Jaguar XK 120. Very rare these days. They're lovely and fast."
He opened the door like a salesman as Tickle hurtled towards him, dragging Jess and I.
"Look at that leather!" he said. "Very class indeed. It's got overdrive, too. Smashing!"
"YOU FAT TWIT!!" howled Tickle, running, gripping our arms. "THERE ARE FOUR OF US!!"
Burke stopped moving.
"Oh," he said.
Tickle ran into him. Jess and I bounced into Burke, one on either side of him.
Burke turned round and looked at the next car in line. His face twisted into a disapproving sneer.
"I'm not keen on these little modern jobs," he said. "They're all mouth and no trousers."
"B... B..." went Tickle, seething.
Burke looked at him.
"Blimey, you look awful," he said absently. He scratched his head, looking beyond Tickle at the line of parked cars.
"Ah!" he said with satisfaction. "Mercedes! There we are!"
He hurried over to the Mercedes and began trying keys.
Tickle dragged us over to the car.
"Hello," said Burke, pleased. "It's right-hand drive. Lovely! How about that! It must be our lucky day!"
At this, Tickle's whole body began trembling furiously, his jaw muscles chewing furiously as he glared at Burke in an absolute blood-red frenzy. From his throat came an ugly and desperate sound, like a small Japanese motor-cycle trapped in a jam jar.
Burke got the door open, reached in, and unlocked the back door. Tickle threw Jess and I into the back of the car and slammed the door. He scrambled into the driver's seat and slammed his door.
Burke turned and began walking back to the service station.
"AAAHH!!" screamed Tickle. He fumbled frantically with the window and wound it down.
"WHERE ARE YOU GOING?" he shouted.
Burke stopped and turned.
"Oh, I left the jewels on the counter," he called. "I'll be back in a minute."
He wandered off again.
Tickle collapsed over the steering wheel. He was whispering to himself.
Burke came back in a short while with the box of jewels. He climbed into the car.
"Blimey, they're going mad out there," he said conversationally. "That car's going like a bonfire. You should see it. There are people everywhere. A car full of coppers just arrived, too. They're trying to organise things."
Tickle suddenly sat bolt upright, staring through the windscreen.
"Start the car," he said urgently. "Quick."
Burke leaned over and pulled at the steering wheel. There was a loud crack.
"Right," said Burke. "That's the steering lock."
He leaned down again and pulled at some wires beneath the steering wheel. I couldn't see what he did.
The car started.
"There you go, chief," said Burke cheerfully.
Tickle took off like a maniac, the tyres screeching on, the tarmac. He pinned us all to the back of the seat.

Tickle kept the car in the fast lane. He drove hunched over the steering wheel, looking up nervously every few seconds at the rear-view mirror. The engine howled.
Burke looked at him curiously a few times.
"What are you whispering for?" he asked finally.
"SHUT UP!!!" screamed Tickle, breathing fire.
After that, there was silence for a long time.

Tickle drove on for ages. I dozed in the back of the car on the large comfortable seat. Beside me, Jess finished a box of chocolate sponge rolls, opened and ate a box of chocolate biscuits, and then a box of apricot jam tarts. She ate methodically, chewing with appreciation. After that, she turned and asked me if I wanted some Smarties.
"I've got five tubes," she said, pleased. "It was a bargain offer, like at the supermarket. What colour do you want?"
"No thanks, Jess," I said.
She ate some Smarties.
"I'm thirsty," she said. Another handful of Smarties.
"I'm thirsty," she said again, louder. "Fatty Burke spilled my pop."
Burke turned round in his seat.
"Stop calling me fatty," he said, scowling.
"You're a fat pig and you spilled my pop," said Jess loudly. "I'm dying of thirst."
"You'll have to wait until we stop again," said Burke, and turned back to the front.
"STOP SHOUTING!!" shouted Jess. "I WANT SOME POP!!"
"SHUT UP ABOUT YOUR POP!!" shouted Burke.
"FAT!!" screamed Jess. "SWEATY!! BIG PIG!!"
She was red with anger. She clenched her fists, screwed up her face in concentration, and hurled her worst insult at him.
"STINKY FEET!!" she screamed. She calmed down then.
"I'll get you, Burke," she said menacingly. "You wait."
It was a promise.

Tickle drove on, holding the steering wheel like a drowning man holds a life-buoy. He was muttering to himself.
"What?" said Burke.
"I said it's the last time I ever get involved in kidnapping," said Tickle. "That's enough for me. I'm sticking to armed robbery after this. It's safer."'
"You reckon?" said Burke. "I don't know..."
"LOOK AT YOU!" shouted Tickle. "Your hand's smashed and half your hair's gone! I've smashed my nose, been stung all over by wasps, and torn all the skin off my behind! My BMW's wrecked and the other car blew up! I'd rather fight the army!!"
There was silence for a while. Then Burke started chuckling.
"What?" said Tickle.
"I was just thinking," said Burke, grinning. "Suppose we did have the wrong kids after all? That'd be funny, wouldn't it?"
The car swerved as Tickle turned to glare at him.

We drove on.
Tickle and Burke smoked in the front of the car. They lit one cigarette after another. The car was full of smoke.
I noticed signs along the motorway that told me that we were getting closer and closer to Paris. 120 kilometres. 56 kilometres. 24 kilometres. 16 kilometres to Paris Notre Dame.
"We'll go round Paris," said Tickle. "Keep your eyes open for signs. We want the A1 motorway."
Jess stirred on the seat beside me.
"Jimmy," she said in a small voice.
I looked at her. She was very pale.
"Are you all right, Jess?" I asked. Hopefully.
"My tummy," said Jess.
The car roared on.

"We'll be at the turn-off any minute now," said Tickle. "Keep your eyes open, Burke."
"All this smoke is making me feel funny, too," I said quietly to Jess.
"What's all this?" said Burke. "There are too many signs."
"I'm lucky," I said to Jess. "All I had was some tea and a bit of sandwich. Not like you."
"It's a blue sign we want," said Tickle nervously.
"They're all blue," retorted Burke, annoyed. "Except the green ones."
"It's too smoky in here," I said. "I feel a bit sick myself."
"Mmmm," said Jess.
"Is that a motorway sign?" said Tickle.
"Where?" said Burke.
"Poor old Jess," I said. "All those cakes."
"Mmmmmm," said Jess.
"THERE!" shouted Tickle. "We've passed it now!"
"Well how do you expect me to see it if we've passed it?" said Burke. "Blimey!"
"Twelve big fat chocolate sponge rolls," I said. "Twenty chocolate biscuits."
"NOW WHICH WAY?" shouted Tickle.
"All mixed up with those sticky apricot tarts,"
"I CAN SPEAK IT!!" shouted Tickle. "I CAN'T READ IT!!"
I moved my face closer to Jess.
"And then," I said insistently.
Jess looked at me fearfully.
"Five," I said.
"Whole," I said.
"Tubes," I said.
"Of Smarties," I said.
Jess's eyes widened beseechingly.
"Blueredgreenyellowpinkorangebrown," I listed quickly. "And..."
Pause. Jess's eyes closed.
"Mauve," I said ruthlessly.
"THERE ARE TWO SIGNS!!" shouted Burke triumphantly. "PARIS EST AND PARIS OUEST!!"
"THAT'S EAST AND WEST!!" shouted Tickle.
"And all this smoke," I said.
Jess turned green.
"NEITHER OF THEM!!" screamed Tickle. "WE'RE GOING NORTH!!"
"WHAT?" shouted Burke.
Jess sat bolt upright, paper white, her eyes sticking out like Ping-Pong balls.
"STAND UP!!" I shouted.
"WHAT?" howled Burke.
"WHAT?" screamed Tickle.
I pulled Jess to her feet, and pushed her hard against the back of the seat in front, between Tickle and Burke. They both turned at the same moment.
It went all over the place.


Welcome to Paris II

The car roared into a long curving tunnel. Burke squirmed, pushing himself against the door, staring in horror at the seat beside him. Tickle was trying to drive standing up. The car swerved, scraping against the side of the tunnel, and he sat down again very quickly. The car shot out of the tunnel like a cannonball. Straight into the middle of a traffic jam.
Tickle hauled at the steering wheel in desperation and missed a bus by inches. The car swung wildly from side to side. There was a series of loud metallic bangs as the Mercedes bounced off one car after another. Car-horns blared. The engine howled. There was a tremendous crash as the Mercedes ricocheted off the front of a large truck. Glass smashed and showered over the car. Burke yelled.
"LOOK OUT!!" he shouted wildly. "THEY'RE RED!!"
"WHERE?" screamed Tickle, staring at the seat in terror.
"NO, THE LIGHTS!!" shouted Burke.
The car roared past another bus. White faces stared from the windows. Pedestrians scattered in panic on a crossing, shouting. A policeman gaped from the pavement. We shot by into the stream of traffic on the busy boulevard. Tickle yanked the wheel. There was another wrecker's crash as the Mercedes ripped the radiator out of a Mini. We bounced off at an angle, narrowly missing two more cars as we zoomed across the boulevard. We bounced up onto the pavement, speeding madly towards the door of a restaurant. A man in blue overalls dived into a doorway, leaving one of his boots behind. The car smashed through his stand full of oysters. Ice flew. Tickle yanked the wheel again, and the car swung to the left. We burst through the glass partition of a bus shelter and bumped back onto the street. A fat woman leaped wildly onto the bonnet of a parked car and knelt there, clutching a small barking dog. She shook her fist at us as we shot past.
"SLOW DOWN!" shouted Burke. "IT'S ALL OVER THE PLACE!"
He was on his feet, bent double pressed against the roof, his big behind squashed against the passenger window.
The car raced on down the street.
Tickle was driving madly, staring ahead.
"Where are we? Where are we?" he stammered.
"Paris," said Burke flatly, staring at the seat in disgust.
Tickle swerved suddenly to avoid a motor scooter. Burke lurched across the car, hitting Tickle in the ear with his elbow. Tickle's head bounced against the window. Flailing for balance, Burke grabbed the steering wheel with his bandaged hand. He yelped. The car swerved again, and Burke reeled back against the passenger window.
"CAN'T YOU DRIVE ANY BETTER THAN THAT?" he shouted, enraged.
A police car emerged suddenly from a street to the right, and Tickle wrenched the wheel to avoid it. The police car stopped dead as the Mercedes clipped its front wing. There was a shower of glass. A headlight bounced across the street. Burke was thrown to his knees on the front seat.
"OH NO!" he groaned, looking down. He looked at Tickle.
"SLOW DOWN!" he shouted angrily.
Tickle drove madly past another red light, and began swerving fast from left to right. Horns sounded, cars skidded. Burke was thrown from side to side, shouting.
A Volkswagen swerved backwards past the front of the car and rammed a bus. Another car shot by at an angle. The driver had his hands over his eyes. A large truck pulled sharply over to avoid the hurtling Mercedes and drove into the base of a statue in the middle of the square.
Tickle swerved again, then pointed the car at a wide street and accelerated. From behind us came the donkey sound of a Paris police car.
"COPPERS!" shouted Tickle.
He pushed the Mercedes even faster, racing down the street.
"SLOW DOWN!" shouted Burke, squirming, kneeling on the seat facing backwards, gripping the back of the seat desperately. "I'M COVERED IN IT!!"
We roared along past a park and across a busy junction, scattering pedestrians again. Ahead, a policeman standing by a set of traffic lights saw us coming and put up his hand, blowing his whistle. We zoomed by. Down the street, swerving wildly, and across another boulevard against the lights.
"SLOW DOWN!!" roared Burke.
There was a solid crunch as we banged into the back of a car, tearing off its back bumper. The force of the impact spun Burke round. He teetered, and then, off balance, sat down.
"NOW LOOK WHAT YOU'VE DONE!!" he shouted. "I'VE SAT IN IT!!"
Accelerating wildly, Tickle swung the car through the traffic and across another street, clipping a taxi.
"SLOW DOWN!" shouted Burke again.
We crossed a bridge at high speed, and roared past three police cars parked in front of an official-looking building with a high ornate fence. As we sped by, the policemen standing around jumped for their cars. Burke gaped at them.
"GORBLIMEY STREWTH!!" he shouted in shock. "IT'S THE BILL!!"
Sirens sounded. The car raced across another bridge, and swerved fast right and left, its tyres squealing.
"FASTER!!" shouted Burke.
"MAKE YOUR MIND UP!!" shouted Tickle crankily, pulling at the wheel.
The traffic lights ahead were green, but the street beyond was blocked with traffic.
"TURN RIGHT!" shouted Burke urgently.
"I CAN'T!!" screamed Tickle. "IT'S A ONE-WAY STREET!!"
"WELL WE ONLY WANT TO GO ONE WAY!" yelled Burke, then abruptly fell over sideways as Tickle hurled the car to the left.
"YOU DID THAT ON PURPOSE!!" roared Burke, sitting up, glaring at Tickle.
The car hammered down the street. The hee-haw of the sirens behind us sounded further away.
"We're losing them!!" said Tickle, as we raced on. I recognised the Louvre as we flashed by.
"I know where we are!!" said Tickle suddenly. We're coming up to the Concorde! Get ready!!"
"What for?" asked Burke.
"Look!!" said Tickle urgently. "Listen here! I'm going to stop up here on the corner! That one down there! When I pull up, you take these here and hide them down under there, then grab them there and shove them out over here! READY?"
"WHAT?" said Burke.
He yanked the Mercedes over to the curb and screamed to a halt with the engine still racing. Burke sat there.
"GET ON WITH IT!!" screamed Tickle.
Burke sighed weightily. Moving like a robot, he carefully wound down his window, then turned round and stared blankly at Jess and I. He looked like a sleep-walker.
"Quick!" he said slowly. "You two! Under the seat!"
Then he turned round mechanically and threw the jewels out of the window.
"AAAAGGHHH!!!" screamed Tickle. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
"I haven't got a clue," sighed Burke, rubbing his forehead. "What was it you said?"
"WELL WHY DIDN'T YOU SAY THAT IN THE FIRST PLACE?" shouted Burke angrily. He pushed his door open and climbed out onto the pavement.
He opened the back door and pulled me out onto the pavement. The sirens were coming closer. A small crowd was gathering, staring at us with interest. Across the street, two policemen with machine guns stared in our direction. Burke leaned into the car and pulled Jess out.
"QUICK!!" shouted Tickle from the car. "THROW THEM IN HERE!!"
"I JUST PULLED THEM OUT!!" shouted Burke, glaring.
"THE JEWELS!!" screamed Tickle. "THE JEWELS!!!"
The policemen across the street started moving in our direction. Burke bent to pick up the box of jewels.
The sound of sirens was growing louder.
"HELP!!!" I shouted, waving at the policemen across the street. "AU SECOURS!!"
They started running, crossing the street.
"THE JEWELS!!" howled Tickle.
Burke tossed the box of jewels into the back of the car, and took a step towards the open door.
Tickle drove away, the tyres smoking.
"HEY!!" shouted Burke. "WAIT FOR ME!!"

Two doors swinging wide open, the battered Mercedes screeched across the big square and disappeared.
"HELP!!" I shouted.

The policemen ran up, both shouting something.
Burke turned and ran, heading for the entrance to the park. I sprinted a few steps behind him, and then dived headlong at the back of his knees.
It was the rugby tackle I'd always dreamed about. Burke went down like a side of beef.

The two policemen ran up as Burke sprawled, and then crawled in panic towards the wall of the park. He turned and began to struggle to his feet. He saw the two armed men.
He gave up.

Burke sat on the pavement, panting, his back against the wall. His hands lay weakly on the pavement by his sides. The two policemen stood over the defeated fat man, pointing their guns at him as the police cars drove up.
And then Jess stalked slowly up to Burke's side. She was staring at him hard, her eyes like two more gun barrels. She stood for a moment looking down at him. Then she lifted her foot, and with all her strength, she stamped on Burke's bandaged hand.
Burke squealed. The two policemen raised their eyebrows and looked at Jess with respect.
Jess looked down at Burke with cold and terrible eyes.
"You spilled my pop," she said.


Mr. Armstrong's Offer

There were a lot of policemen. They handcuffed Burke and pushed him into the back of a police van. They put Jess and I in a car and we drove across the square and about two hundred yards up the Champs Elysées. As we turned left into the police station, I saw the Mercedes again. It was in the middle of the street, jammed into the side of a police car. There was a pool of oil, and glass everywhere. Both cars were wrecked. As we drove by, a policemen standing by the smashed cars waved at us and put his thumb up.
Tickle was sitting on a wooden bench, handcuffed. There was a large bruise on his forehead, and one of his eyes was swollen shut. Policemen milled around, chattering excitedly and laughing. Behind a desk, another policeman was using a knife to open the cardboard box of jewels. He lifted it and tipped the contents onto the desk. There was a gasp. Everyone stared as the pile of jewels flashed. Then everybody started talking and shouting and laughing again. One of the policemen spread the pile of jewels out across the desk, sorting them out. I walked over to the desk, took the missing ear-ring out of my pocket, and laid it on the table, completing the pair. They cheered. They shouted. They laughed. They slapped me on the back. It was like a Christmas party.

Tickle and Burke were taken to the cells. Inspector Béranger came and talked to Jess and I. He gave is both a cup of hot chocolate and then went back to fetch a Mars Bar for Jess.
"I talked to your parents at the hotel," he told us. "They are on their way. They will not be very long."
He paused.
"They came to see me on the first day," he said.
We waited, drinking the hot chocolate.
"Let me tell you about Mr. Armstrong," he said. "Of the Armstrong Aviation Company."
"James's father," I said. "The rich businessman."
"That is right," said Inspector Béranger, nodding.
"Is he still in Brussels?" I asked.
"No," replied the Inspector. "After Tickle phoned him in Brussels, he phoned us. We suspected what had happened, so we asked him to come back to Paris with James. To help us. He was very upset. We asked him to meet your mother and father. They talked, and we understood very quickly what had happened."
He sipped his coffee.
"We got your postcard yesterday," said Inspector Béranger. "Your parents brought it here. That was very clever. How did you post it?"
I explained about the card. Somebody must have picked it up and posted it for me.
"Very clever," said the Inspector again. "We called London immediately. Tickle and Burke are quite famous in London. Your police were very pleased. Scotland Yard are sending somebody to Paris. But the postcard. There was only one problem. There are many villages in France called Saint Pierre. But the card was posted near Limoges, so we started looking around there. We found the house and the BMW early this morning."
"You must have just missed us," I said.
"The BMW was a mess," said the Inspector. "Who did that?"
"They did," I said, grinning. "They couldn't get the doors open."
The Inspector didn't say anything.
"I had some Super Glue," I explained, still grinning.
"I see," he said, looking at me rather closely.
"Also," said Inspector Béranger, "I just had to telephone a very angry farmer from Saint Pierre. Tell me, Jimmy. Why did they burn that car?"
"Well..." I began.
Mum and Dad came in. Mum was crying. She gathered Jess and I into her arms and held us tight, crying and laughing at the same time. Jess clung to Mum, crying too. I noticed that my eyes seemed to be watering a bit. I had a quick look at Dad. He grinned at me and winked, but the grin was a bit wobbly. His eyes were red too.
When we all calmed down, Inspector Béranger suggested that we all go back to the hotel and rest.
"You can come back tomorrow," he said. "We will do the paperwork then."
Then Dad asked Inspector Béranger if he could see Tickle and Burke. The Inspector looked at him quickly.
"I just want to look at them," said Dad.
Inspector Béranger hesitated, then nodded. He took Dad and I down to the cells.
Tickle and Burke sat on a bench behind the solid bars of the cell. The were handcuffed. They both looked up as Dad and I arrived. Then they both put their heads down very quickly.
Dad stared at them for a long time.
It went very quiet.
Then Dad put his arm around my shoulder and said,
"Come on, Jimmy. Let's go and get some fresh air."
We went back upstairs to the office. Mum was talking to a smart grey-haired man. Then I saw James.
"This is my father," he told me excitedly. "Did you really get kidnapped?"
"I just told you that," said Jess crossly. "Are you deaf or daft?"
"Don't be rude, Jess," said Mum.
Mr. Armstrong went across to Dad.
"Thank God the children are safe and sound," he said. "The Inspector tells me that those two crooks will go to prison for years. Best place for them. They're wanted in London, too."
"Good riddance," agreed Dad. He turned to look at Mum and Jess and I.
"Well," he said. "What a holiday!"
"Actually," said Mr. Armstrong, "I had a word or two to say about that."
We all looked at him.
"I've been working too much just lately," he said.
We all looked at him.
"Running around," he went on. "Business meetings, airports, no time to see James."
He cleared his throat.
"So... erm..." he continued. "I was just wondering..."
He stopped, and cleared his throat again.
"... how would you all like to come with James and I to the Cote d'Azur for a couple of weeks?" he finished.
We were all staring at him.
"My wife and I have a rather large villa near Monaco," he went on hurriedly. "Much too big for three of us, really. And James getS terribly bored on his own. And... well... your holiday was rather spoiled, wasn't it?"
He grinned at us.
"Would you come?" he said. "We'd really be very happy if you would."
"Well..." began Dad.
"No, please," said Mr. Armstrong. "It would do Jimmy and I the world of good Really."
Then Mr. Armstrong looked at me. He was beaming.
"Have you ever been in a helicopter, Jimmy?" he said.
"Oh wow," I said.
"Do you like speedboats?" he said.
"Wow," I said.
"WATER-SKI!" shouted James excitedly. "WINDSURF!!"
"And Jess," said Mr. Armstrong. "Your Mum tells me that you like ice cream."
"Wow," said Jess.
"Well there's a shop in Monaco," said Mr. Armstrong, "That sells seventy-four different flavours of ice cream."
"Wow wow wow," said Jess.
She jumped from her seat and scampered over to the door.
She opened it, turned, and said,
"Well, come on then! What are you all waiting for?"

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