Gently and in complete darkness, Julian pushed open the door; it swung open on well-greased hinges. Darrell felt like her heart was going to explode, and David was sure that he was breathing too loudly.
Julian stepped through the door and the others had no choice but to follow him. Even though Julian was sure that there was no one else in the tower with them, he didn’t say word until he was sure that the little room was clear.
“I’m going to turn my torch on for a few seconds, everyone check to see if there is a door anywhere? I think we’re in the cellar of the tower,” he said quietly.
He turned on his torch and pointed it at the ceiling so light flooded the whole room. Three sets of eyes scanned around the room but it was Darrell who spotted a door.
“To your right Julian,” she said, pointing. Julian swung around, spotted the door and then clicked his torch off again.
“Well done,” he said warmly, squeezing her hand before leading them over to the door. He touched it gently. This one was a little stiffer than the other one.
“David, can you help me with this one?” he asked, turning to his friend. “It needs a shove.”
“Let me untie myself and I’ll get out of the way,” Darrell said, picking at the rope about her wrist. She managed to untie herself just as the boys lined up to give the door a shove with their shoulders, in Julian’s case the good one.
“On three,” Julian said, “When I’ve lifted the latch. One…”
“…Three! Push!” Julian hissed as he lifted the latch on the door. He and David pushed at the same moment and nothing happened. Darrell sniggered a little. The boys, red in the face turned to glare at her unison.
“Oh you two are silly, if anything this door is going to open inwards because I bet you that there are stairs on the other side,” Darrell said, brushing past Julian lightly and putting her hand on the door. She lifted the latch and gave a hearty tug. The door opened.
“I hate it when that happens,” David said, shaking his head.
Julian smiled ruefully at Darrell as he rubbed his shoulder.
“Thank you,” Darrell said, giving a mock curtsey.
“Shouldn’t we get moving?” she added, her worry about Sally impinging on her triumphant moment. Julian nodded and moved past her, up the stairs. David gave Darrell’s arm a quick squeeze before motioning her forward.
The next door did require the boys putting their shoulders against it and shoving, it was a heavy oak door disguised on the other side by grey stone that had been stuck to the door to make it blend in with the rest of the narrow room. Still there was nobody around.
The room at ground level lead to the beginnings of an old wooden staircase, heading upwards to the top of the tower. Julian switched on his torch and pointed it upwards at the staircase.
Darrell tapped softly, and then ran her hand over the wood.
“I think it’s oak,” she whispered looking at the boys. “She’s got to be up there,” she added. Julian shone his light down at her and saw her trying to blink away the tears.
“Lets give it a try,” David said, firmly having also spotted Darrell’s tears. He went over to her and gave her a shoulder hug. “If we’re right this staircase has had a lot of foot traffic in the last few weeks, a few more footfalls shouldn’t hurt it!”
“Yes, you’re right,” Julian said, craning his neck up to look at the massive structure again. He flashed his torch upwards and sighed. “Before we go however, I think we should be tied together again, just in case. I don’t want to take any chances. And it’s odd, but there almost seems to be some sort of light shining in somewhere up there!”
“Well the tower does have windows. Also I think that is a good idea indeed,” David said, as Darrell sniffed. “Come on, the sooner the better. Poor Sally is probably wondering what’s keeping us,” he said with a teasing note, trying to make Darrell smile.
Darrell blew her nose and smiled weakly at David, acknowledging his joke.
They tied themselves together with the rope again and started up the stairs, Julian first like before. He led them steadily up the stair case, one hand against the wall while the other held on to his torch. All three had their torches out now as the staircase dictated that each needed to keep an eye on their own feet and what was ahead of them.
As they climbed higher, Julian stopped, causing David and Darrell to barge into him. “What gives?” David grumbled from the back.
“I don’t think we’re in St Rules tower,” Julian said. “Look, this hole is too big for a window! We’re in one of the other towers, next door to St Rules. We must be in the old bell towers where the chapel used to stand.”
“Then what was Sally’s handkerchief doing next to St Rules?” David asked as Darrell’s teeth began to chatter with the wind.
“That’s fairly simple, come on David, you’re not slow! The wind must have blown her handkerchief over to St Rules tower where you found it, but Sally must have let it go from here!” Julian said excitedly. “Whatever happened, I think we can guarantee that we’re the only people apart from the spies to know about this way up! What a good hiding spot!”
“Terrific,” Darrell groaned. “Now can we get going? I’m freezing just standing here, so I hate to think what its doing to poor Sally!”
After about ten minutes on continuous climbing, without a stair giving way, the wooden staircase leveled out into a platform.
“This is it, this is the top,” Julian said as he reached it. He swung his torch around the small room and spotted signs of life. There were heavy duty torches, the sort you found down mines, a piece of mirror, a set of oilskins, a small ladder and a small spirit stove with a kettle and coffee.
The picture was all clear in his mind now. Ainsworth and possibly a few others climbed up here in all weathers to wait for signals or send them. It was all rather ingenious!
By now all three of them were standing in the small room, looking at the items that had been left by the traitors.
“This is all well and good, but where’s Sally?” Darrell asked, shining her torch around her. As the beam swung upwards Julian’s eyes followed it and saw, embedded snugly in the ceiling, a trapdoor.
“Look up Darrell,” Julian said, gripping her arm excitedly. Darrell looked up and smiled.
“Do you really think she’s there?” David asked.
“I do, and I think it’s even worse if she is,” Julian said grimly. “Down here she would have had shelter from the wind. Up there with those windows…” he let the words hang in the air. Suddenly it seemed that they had taken far too long to get here.
“Give me a hand both of you,” Julian said, reaching up, feeling along the edges of the trap door for bolts. “David, help me push this up and Darrell fetch that ladder will you?”
Darrell scurried to the ladder as the boys reached up and pushed the heavy trap door up, out of its snug hole. There was a startled cry from over their heads as Darrell set the ladder below the trap door.