Billy Briggs looked out of the window and saw his daddy disappearing down the lane in the Land Rover, towing the double-level trailer, filled with sheep. It was market day.
Sometimes, he was allowed to accompany Daddy. He enjoyed the long ride to the town, bouncing along in their old Landy. They sang songs together, which Billy enjoyed and when they arrived at the market, he was allowed to roam around on his own, as long as he never left the market. His favourite animals were the cattle, they were more active and inquisitive and they would let him stroke them. He liked the big bulls best but they weren’t often there, so he made do with the store cattle. At lunch times, all the farmers went to the pub and Billy was allowed lemonade and crisps and sometimes pork scratchings.
Daddy had said that he was going all the way to the big market at Malton today, as he’d heard that they were getting better prices. He said it would be too long a day for Billy. Normally, he would have been upset and spent the day moping about and moaning to his mummy. But today, being a school holiday, Billy had other plans.
“Billy?” he heard Mummy shouting from downstairs “Come and finish your breakfast. I’m going out in a moment and I need to speak to you.”
He had kept out of the way earlier, as he had heard Mummy and Daddy arguing. He didn’t know what they were arguing about but they seemed to be doing it more frequently recently.
“Right,” she said as he appeared at the bottom of the stairs. “I’ve got to go out for a few hours, in fact I probably won’t be back until after lunch. There’s plenty of ham and cheese in the larder and there’s some fresh rolls I made last night, you needn’t go hungry.”
“Where are you going, Mummy?”
“Oh, nowhere far, the Vicar has asked me to give him a hand with the planning for the village fete. I’ll just be over at the vicarage but don’t come around interfering as there’s some very important planning to be done. Time is very short and the Reverend Thomas hates being interrupted. If you really want to be helpful, you can tidy your bedroom and then do some studying. Now go and finish your porridge while I get ready.”
Billy went straight into the kitchen and hearing Mummy’s footsteps on the stairs, he fed the remainder of the porridge to Dotty and Dither their two sheepdogs. Then, going into the larder, he scarfed a piece of bread pudding and sat down with the dogs on the old sofa back in the kitchen. He heard her heels clattering down the stairs. With just a quick “Bye, be good!” he heard the door to their old farmhouse slam shut.
“Come on troops,” he said to the dogs, “into battle!”
Going out into the dark, oak panelled hallway, he glanced at the time on the old grandfather clock. ‘Only 9.30, I’ve got hours to go exploring with the troops.’ Looking out of the window he saw it had started raining hard and changed his mind. Billy hated getting wet and Dotty and Dither weren’t as eager as they once were either. In fact, he saw that they had already settled down in front of the Aga.
They’d only moved into the big old house earlier this year. He knew that their tiny, old cottage had got so dilapidated and damp, that the landowner had allowed them to rent this far bigger house that was next door to the church and the vicarage. Daddy said it was at least 500 years old with a great deal of history behind it. Billy had never had time to explore the house on his own before, so today offered exciting possibilities.
He started upstairs. They were only using two of the upstairs rooms and Billy poked around the others, still mostly dusty, fusty and unheated.
Billy couldn’t help noticing as he passed his parents room that there were lots of his mummy’s dresses and frilly underwear spread across their bed. Billy didn’t have a mirror in his own room, so he paused to look at himself in the full length one in the door of his parents’ wardrobe. A dark, tousled haired, thickset lad peered back at him from deep blue eyes. He scowled, pushed out his chest and tried to look tough. His grey woollen shirt, looked worn and comfortable rather than manly but the short, patched trousers destroyed any pretence at being grown up. Tall for his age (eight years and nearly ten months), he really needed to get some long trousers.
He knew the downstairs very well. The hall, dark lounge, dining room, kitchen, larder and pantry now held no surprises, nor did the tack room and the adjacent barn. And then he remembered…the ring in the floor in the tack room! He pushed aside the old carpet and there was the ring he had seen previously when searching for a sixpence he had dropped. He soon managed to lever up the large trapdoor set in the floor and found steps leading down into the darkness. Taking his torch and the wooden gun he kept for his war games with the dogs, he descended the stone steps.
He found himself in a cold, damp cellar; it was windowless with stone shelving running around the walls. Shining the torch around, he saw the thick dust on the floor had been disturbed and there were marks like footsteps, back and forth, across the room. He followed the marks and found they led around into a panelled recess. Pushing on the panelling, it opened like a door and he found himself in a long, tight corridor. With the torch in one hand and his gun in the other, his heart beating furiously, and imagining himself flushing out German spies, he crept quietly along the subterranean tunnel.
The passageway ended in a blank wall. But as he shone the torch around he saw that steps were cut into the stone on one side of the tunnel end. Shining the torch up he saw a wooden floor. He told himself it was clearly his duty to investigate further. So, tucking his gun into his belt and holding the torch between his teeth, he climbed the short distance to the wooden ceiling. He pushed with his head and found it opened quite easily, despite being covered with a rug, which he manged to push aside.
He found himself in a high, oak panelled cellar with more steps leading up to a small door near the ceiling. He moved quietly up the steps and found that the little door also opened easily onto a stone floor underneath a low shelf in a scullery. As the room was dimly lit by small windows, he tucked the torch in his belt and removed the gun. He could hear a groaning noise from somewhere above the room. He deduced that the Germans were torturing a British official.
Crawling forward he was able to stand and moved across to the door that was ajar on the opposite wall. All was quiet in the hallway except the noises were louder now and seemed more urgent. Removing his shoes so that he could move silently, he stealthily climbed the stairs. The groaning, panting sounds became louder and more urgent; he could tell that they were coming from a room near the head of the stairs, where the door was slightly ajar.
Moving quietly across the landing, he heard a woman shrieking
“Oh, yes. Oh, yes John! Come on, now, now NOW!”
Peering around the door, he saw his, mummy, on her knees, naked, boobies swinging about. Above her, red of face, strained the Reverend Thomas, large, white buttocks thrusting rapidly.