Chapter 1: An interesting find
‘That was a simply splendid swim!’ declared Timmy, hauling himself out of the river.
The four others were already out and drying themselves but Timmy had stayed in a few extra minutes to prove he was stronger and had more tolerance to the cold. He looked awfully chilly now but he bounced around a while longer to show that he was absolutely fine.
‘I say!’ Annie pointed over to a group downstream. ‘Who are they?’
‘More swimmers!’ Sarah said. ‘How wonderful!’
Annie scowled. ‘It’s not wonderful! It’s our river. Just because it’s sunny and the water’s getting warmer, they think they can turn up and swim in it.’
‘The river belongs to everyone, Annie,’ said Mandy. ‘Of course they can be here.’
Annie pouted. ‘Well, they weren’t here in January so it’s more our river than theirs.’
The ground around the five swimmers was littered with lovely kit.
‘How were the new booties, Annie?’ Mandy asked.
‘Rather good, actually,’ Annie replied. She recounted again how she had seen a review of them and they were normally jolly expensive but that she had managed to buy them for a bargain price. ‘Although I think I’ll need some new fins that fit with them.’
‘You should try these,’ Caroline said and she waved her fins in the air. ‘There was an article about them on that new outdoor swimming site. They’re the best for what we do.’
‘You were right about these goggles,’ Sarah said to Mandy. Sarah had bought the same ones that Mandy used because they were supposed not to steam up. They were also a very attractive colour. Buying new swim kit was always such good fun.
‘I say, Annie,’ said Sarah, chasing round and round on the spot, trying to reach her zip. ‘Be a brick and tug down the zip on my wetsuit, would you?’
‘Oh, you are a wimp!’ Annie exclaimed. ‘Fancy wearing a wetsuit when it’s so sunny.’
‘Don’t tease her, Annie,’ Mandy instructed. ‘You know how she feels the cold.’
‘Do you remember when her lips went blue?’ Caroline laughed.
‘And how she shakes so much when she gets the drop that she spills her coffee?’ Timmy added and he rattled around like he was shivering. ‘Even though she never stays in for as long as I do!’
‘Stop it!’ Sarah cried. ‘Stop it! Stop it!’ She stomped her foot, threw down her tow float. ‘You’re all so mean!’
‘It’s not a competition, Timmy,’ Mandy told him. But she couldn’t help smiling at Sarah’s little tantrum.
Caroline gave up battling with her bra under her towel and took herself off to a corner to tackle the problem without covering up. A man walked past with his dog and they pretended not to notice each other. Caroline had just managed to pull on her T-shirt when she spotted something in the nettles.
‘Mandy! MANDY! Come and see this!’ she called.
Timmy bounded over first. He was still wrapped only in his towel.
‘What is it? What have you seen?’
‘Look!’ Caroline pointed to a box that was hidden in the undergrowth.
‘What do you think it is?’
‘It’s just an old box, silly!’ said Timmy.
‘It wasn’t there last week,’ said Caroline. ‘And someone has obviously tried to hide it.’
She flapped a neoprene glove at it to dust off the leaves and branches.
‘Oh, gosh! Imagine if it was treasure!’ said Timmy.
‘More likely it’s money from a bank robbery!’ said Caroline.
‘That would be super!’ Sarah said. ‘I could buy one of those robe thingies for after winter swims.’
‘Oh, they’re a waste of money,’ said Timmy.
‘Not when it’s really cold,’ Sarah protested.
‘Well, I’d get a swim-run suit,’ said Caroline. ‘I’ve always wanted to do one of those events!’
‘You’ve never mentioned that before,’ Annie said. ‘And, anyway, you don’t have to have a fancy suit to do a short swim-run and that’s all you’d manage.’
‘Oh, do be quiet, all of you,’ Mandy said. ‘If it is treasure, and it probably isn’t, it wouldn’t be ours to spend.’
‘Isn’t one of you going to open it up to see?’ Caroline asked anxiously.
‘All right,’ said Mandy, and she used one of Caroline’s new fins to bat back the nettles so she could reach across to open the box. ‘Golly gosh!’ she exclaimed.
‘What is it? What is it, Mandy?’ The others peered over her shoulders to try to get a glimpse.
‘I’d say we’d better get dressed and hand this in,’ she said.
Chapter 2: A happy ending
‘Well, I never,’ said Mr Lock the Lock-keeper when they passed him the box.
‘Do you know what this is?’
‘No,’ said Mandy. ‘The first page says “Top secret” so we didn’t look. It must be awfully important.’
‘It really is,’ said Mr Lock. ‘And I’m very grateful to you for finding it. Let me tell you all about it. But first, let me make a phone call to a friend and we’ll have a cup of tea.’
They sat together in Mr Lock’s garden and had cups of tea and cakes and sandwiches.
Mandy bit into a cinnamon bun. ‘I feel like we found treasure after all,’ she said.
‘I’ll say!’ Timmy spluttered through a mouthful of chocolate cake.
‘Oh, please, do tell us what we found,’ said Caroline, nibbling on a slice of fruit cake and feeling terribly important because it was her who had discovered the box.
‘Yes, do spill the beans!’ cried Sarah.
Just then, a grumpy looking man with a terribly red face burst through the gate and into Mr Lock’s garden. ‘Where is it?’ he demanded. ‘Is it all there?’
‘Well, you’ll be the best judge of that,’ said Mr Lock. He stood up and passed the grumpy looking man the box. The man tore off the lid, lifted out the pile of papers and carefully turned over the ‘Top secret’ page. He flicked through all the pages one-by-one then at last, sat back and mopped his red face with a handkerchief.
‘Thank goodness for that,’ he said.
‘What is it?’ asked Timmy.
‘It’s the manuscript for my novel,’ said the man.
‘Haven’t you got a back-up?’ Annie asked.
‘I’m not terribly good with computers,’ the man said.
‘Why was it in the woods?’ Sarah asked.
‘It was stolen from my houseboat,’ said the man. ‘I hardly use the boat. Just that once in the last six months for some quiet space to check my manuscript and some pesky thieves broke in when I went for a walk, bother them. They’re welcome to the other bits and pieces they took, but this is important. I don’t know how I can ever thank you.’
Sarah took a sip of tea. ‘Did you say you have a houseboat?’ she asked.
The man nodded.
‘Ripping idea, Sarah!’ Annie whispered.
‘Something to eat?’ Mandy suggested, reluctantly offering him the man the last cinnamon bun.
Timmy jumped up. ‘Can I get you a cup of tea?’ he asked.
Once the man was happily munching on a bun, Sarah asked, ‘Would you mind awfully letting us borrow your boat when we come swimming?’
‘Well, I wouldn’t mind the old boat seeing a bit of use,’ the man said. ‘I’d be jolly happy to have some good people like yourselves visiting it!’
‘Hoorah!’ cried Sarah.
‘Hoorah! Hoorah! Hoorah!’ the others echoed through mouthfuls of flapjack and strawberry shortbread.
‘Well,’ Caroline as they headed back home. ‘I think that a houseboat might be even better than a robe thingy.’
‘Hm, yes,’ agreed Sarah. ‘Although I’d still quite like a swim-run wetsuit.’
A delighted Timmy scampered around and around the other swimmers. ‘I can’t believe it!’ he yapped. ‘A houseboat! A houseboat!’
‘Oh, do calm down, Timmy!’ the others laughed, although really, they were just as excited as he was.
© Fiona Undrill