Chascot and the Body Snatchers


  Alexander Wightman


 Excepting the famous characters from history all others in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental.



Chap 1


Down the close and up the stair

In the house with Burke and Hare

Burke's the butcher, Hare's the thief

Knox the boy who buys the beef.


It was a dirty grey cheerless day and I pulled the collar of my fleece further up around my neck. A raggy old pigeon walked across the cobbles, hunched up his feathers and gave us his most pathetic look. It would have made a fortune for a beggar in the back streets of Rabat. Roxie, face almost lost under her woolly red hat, threw him one of her sweets. He pecked at it then turned away in disgust.

            Racing pigeons are different of course, as different as a Formula One Ferrari from the postman's van and my mate Billy is planning on getting some. Old Mrs Coxon says he can have her henhouse for a ducket now that the fox has got her last two hens. And what with her having the pains when it is cold and wet she doesn't want to go outside to look after any new ones. All we have to do now is figure out how to get the henhouse back to Billy's place and convert it into a posh ducket. It is called ducket in Northumberland, doocot in Scotland and dovecot in England. In other words pigeon-house. Granny says in the olden days each estate had a high circular stone building where they kept the ancestors of today's racing pigeons. These pigeons were for the poor people to eat on special occasions and that is where the name came from. You didn't know that?

            Some of the poor people preferred the taste of pheasant and salmon but if they were caught they got hanged or even deported to Australia.

            An old woman in a long brown coat and a scarf around her head hobbled past.

            "Not a bad day Mrs Scott."

            "Very canny Mrs Ainsley," Granny replied.

            "We'll pay for it mind," warned Mrs Ainsley in a voice loaded with threat and she disappeared into the narrow passageway under the town hall.   

            "A lot of funny things have happened at the top of those steps," said Granny turning back to us.

            We peered up at the dirty old sandstone steps with the dirty old black iron rail at the side which lead to the dirty old brown wooden door of the town hall. It was opened every Saturday morning to sell tea and cakes and out-door clothing.

            We were standing in the little market square, loaded down with plastic bags full of shopping from the supermarket. We were waiting for Tom in his dirty old Land Rover to take us home. Since the government had banned buses in villages we were dependent on Tom and his rackety old transport or we would have starved to death.

            "What sort of things Granny?"

            Roxie is my nosy ten year old kid sister.

            "Well for one thing they used to read the Riot Act from there," Granny replied.

            "Why did they have a riot Granny?"

            "Oh they had plenty riots Pet," Granny answered. "Of course it was only about very serious things like the Toon getting beat by Sunderland at football. The point is they couldn't shoot anyone until they'd read the Riot Act. Then they could let them have it."

            We nodded in understanding at the gravity of such a situation.

            "My grandfather said his grandfather saw Helen McDougall standing on those very steps when she passed through on her way to Newcastle," said Granny sinisterly.

            "Who was Helen McDougall?" chirped Nosy.

            "She was William Burke's girlfriend," said Granny. "And before you ask he was one half of Burke and Hare."

            "Who were Burke and Hare?"

            I wish Roxie hadn't asked. I wish to God I had never heard of them.



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