Extract from Chapter 1
Chief Superintendent Rupert Trevelyan removed his hat and slotted it under his left arm, exposing a pin-sharp side parting in his greying brown hair.
‘Thank you, Miss Lambourne. My apologies for the dramatic entrance, Miss Stubbs,’ he began, turning towards her, ‘but I have come here to specifically see and talk to you about a very important matter.’
Katie could only respond with a puzzled, ‘Me?’ and, ‘Why?’
‘Yes, I have come here today to see you and only you, since the Navy, who I believe have thoroughly investigated your experience and credentials, say that you are precisely who they need. It seems—’
Katie interrupted, unable to help herself. ‘The Navy… Our Royal Navy?’ she said, with complete surprise.
The Chief Superintendent took a breath, before saying, ‘Yes, Miss Stubbs, our Navy says your presence is urgently required at a site near the Isle of Wight; it seems they have pinpointed a shipwreck from the Second World War full of bombs, which could be a massive danger to shipping if—’
Before he could finish, Katie interrupted once more. ‘I’m sorry, Chief Superintendent, please excuse me for stopping you, but I never deal with explosives and that type or age of ship; I’m sure you have come to the wrong person for help.’
‘On the contrary, Miss Stubbs. If you would allow me to finish, you will understand only too well that you are precisely the person the Navy needs for this operation.’
Katie’s eyebrows rose. The Chief Superintendent unclipped his leather case and pulled out a grainy black and white photo which he presented to her. ‘This is the ship – a large Norwegian merchant ship which was hit by a German torpedo in…’ he delved into his briefcase and found one A4 sheet; he read from it, ‘Yes, I believe… it was 1944… and the bombs it was carrying didn’t explode when it sank in Poole Bay, opposite Bournemouth.’ He cleared his throat. ‘I’ve been told that it managed to land smack on top of another wreck, but it hasn’t caused any problems until last week, when a large fishing boat snagged the wreck and brought up a very large bomb, which has been made safe and detonated by the Navy.’ Katie listened with confused intrigue. ‘They also made all the remaining bombs safe on the wreck. However – and this is the reason why I have come to see you, Miss Stubbs – the divers didn’t bring up any Second World War objects, but they surfaced with old, crustacean-encrusted artefacts.’ He saw Katie’s eyes light up with surprise. ‘Yes, Miss Stubbs, crustacean-encrusted artefacts.’
Katie couldn’t remain silent. ‘What type of artefacts, and where are they?’
‘I have been informed they have been provisionally identified by the Southampton Marine Museum, Miss Stubbs, and the people there have suggested they may be Spanish in origin, however, they aren’t absolutely sure. This is why the Navy needs your expert help as soon as possible before they do any more work to the merchant shipwreck and the bombs. Will you help them?’
‘Those finds sound very exciting since the artefacts might be from a Spanish Armada galleon, which I’m sure will be the San Salvador. Presumably, you would like me to come straight away, since there seems to be an apparent urgency, arriving the way you did?’
The Chief Superintendent nodded a curt thank-you to her. ‘If you could, Miss Stubbs; the Navy was very insistent that I leave with you. They cannot do anything to the bombs until the other vessel has been surveyed and any artefacts removed. After that, they can...
do their job. So, Miss Stubbs – could I have your firm answer? Will you help them?’
Everyone stared at Katie, waiting for her speak. She turned and dropped her head to one side.
‘Miss Stubbs, I need an answer from you as soon as possible,’ the Chief Superintendent asked with polite impatience.
Katie slowly raised her head with a smile on her face, looking directly into the Chief Superintendent’s green eyes, and firmly declared, ‘Yes, I will help you… but with one condition.’
‘And what is that condition?’
‘With your permission, I would like to tell the students about this operation; I think they would be fascinated by it, especially since it involves a ship from the period of history I was describing to them. It won’t take long. Would that be acceptable to you… and,’ turning to the Headmistress, ‘of course, to you, Miss Lambourne?’ She nearly forgot to involve her.
Miss Lambourne showed irritation at the question, wanting to stop wasting time on this Miss Stubbs and to return to her meeting. ‘Well. Umm… yes, I suppose you can, if the Chief Superintendent is in agreement. Chief Superintendent?’
‘I see no reason why they shouldn’t. Yes, I am quite happy for you to do that, Miss Stubbs, as long as you are quick,’ he agreed with a positive smile.