Are they accidentsor part of a conspiracy?
Even famous detectives need help. When Sherlock Holmes is stumped by Londons greatest crimes, he turns to the Baker Street Brigadeorphans Danny Wiggins, P.T. Peachy Carnehan, and Duff Bernard. Then its a race through danger and heart-stopping adventure to solve the mystery.
Unexpected explosions and mysterious deaths delay the construction of Londons Underground Railway. In their search for clues, the Baker Street Brigade plunges into an explosive situation. Will they discover the truth in time?
Read an Excerpt
The Thundering Underground
By JAKE THOENE LUKE THOENE
TYNDALE HOUSE PUBLISHERS, INC.Copyright © 2006 Jake Thoene and Luke Thoene
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe stained-glass windows of the Whitefield Tabernacle Methodist Church on Tottenham Court Road shook with each blast that resounded through the floor. Dark-haired Danny Wiggins sat in the third pew from the front and jumped each time the boards rattled.
Reverend Mitchell Henry was having a difficult time with his sermon, hardly able to compete with the loud noises coming from the underground railroad construction site. "'O God,'" Henry quoted from Psalms. "'The nations have come into your inheritance; your holy temple they have defiled; They have laid Jerusalem in heaps.'"
Another blast interrupted him, covering his words.
Danny's friends Peachy Carnehan and Clair Avery sat to the boy's right. They were flanked on the opposite end by Clair's father, Inspector Jonathan Avery of Scotland Yard. Everyone listened as best they could to Pastor Henry's message, but the noise was too great to catch it all.
Danny saw Peachy hang his carrot-topped head and stare at his dangling feet. Duff Bernard, their big, slightly older friend, sat in the front row watching Reverend Henry with intensity. It seemed to Danny that Duff could hear what was being said, though no one else could.
All at once the blasts stopped, only to be replaced bya low rumble that rose gradually and went on for several minutes. The windowpanes shook again, and the wooden cross on the wall behind the platform rocked and fell. It bounced once, rested upright briefly, then spun around and clattered to the floor. Finally, the vibration stopped.
Pastor Henry stormed behind the altar and picked up the cross, holding it reverently in his hands. He laid it carefully against a chair and returned to the pulpit. "Ladies and gentlemen," he raged, "I do not know if Jerusalem is in danger of becoming rubble at this time. However, if we do not take some sort of action soon, this church will! I'm afraid we shall have to conclude today's service early because of the difficulty I have talking over all the noise. Thursday next we shall host a protest meeting at seven o'clock. All are welcome to come and express their concerns about the digging, so if you have friends who want-" He stared out the window.
Danny saw what had caught the pastor's attention. Black smoke spiraled into the winter sky. Fire alarms clanged. Shouts resounded.
Soon everyone in the building was straining to see out the window as the fire brigade's wagon drove hurriedly by.
"Let us pray," Henry said.
* * *
"Accidents plague overbudget tunnel!" Danny yelled in his loudest newspaper-hawking voice. "Sunday sees second setback in seven days!" Duff stood beside him near the long line of covered market stalls, holding a supply of papers.
Across the cobblestones of Covent Garden's open square, Peachy competed with them. "Protesters rally to stop construction!" Peachy belted louder than Danny had. He cracked a competitive smile at them. It was a friendly rivalry but often fought with intense pride.
"I'll bet you a trip to the Marquis of Anglesey for lunch that I can sell off the lot before you," Danny called, pitching the idea to Peachy.
Peachy looked around at the mostly vacant scene. At a quarter of two in the afternoon the space between the broad roof of St. Paul's Church, Covent Garden, and the vegetable vendors was empty of shoppers. Still, anything to get out of the cold would be worth the work, even if it meant yelling one's voice out. "How about whoever first sells four papers wins? Loser stays and sells for both?"
"You're on," Danny replied.
Peachy scanned both directions and nodded confidently. "Right," he called, stepping away from the stalls and hopping up on the stone block of a horse-mounting step. The boy held up high a copy of the Daily Telegraph. "Get your paaaapers here!"
Danny tilted his head back to open his throat for another go. "Sunday fire follows earlier death! Second tunnel collapse this week!"
Peachy began to chuckle as an idea struck him. Perhaps the way to move papers was to make the news seem even more personal. He cupped his hands around his mouth. "Save your shop from rattling, cracking, and collapsing! Join the move to stop the digging!"
Just as he announced that, two dozen people seemed to come out of nowhere, rounding the corner of King Street into the square. "I'll take one of those, lad," a tall man with bushy side whiskers said. The neatly dressed fellow pitched two pennies into a tin plate on the ground below the mounting block.
"Thank you kindly, sir," Peachy replied, tipping his checkered cloth cap.
An older woman dressed all in black approached Danny and requested two papers. Danny snickered and waved at Peachy, but in the middle of his celebration the woman discovered she had misplaced her coin purse. She walked away, muttering to herself and digging through her handbag. Halfway across the plaza she found the small leather pouch and pulled it out. Since she was now closer to Peachy than Danny, she bought two papers from him.
Needing to sell only one more paper, Peachy laughed aloud, then turned to continue his pitch. "Filthy underground disrupts business!"
This particular statement got the attention of a curly-haired boy who appeared to be a few years older than twelve-year-old Peachy. The thin-faced newcomer with the sharp-pointed nose had just walked out of James Street, directly behind Peachy. He scowled at Peachy and walked toward him.
Peachy saw the angry look but never thought it was meant for him. He turned the other way to continue his pitch. "A protest today may save your shop tomorrow! Get the facts before it's too late."
"Hey!" The taller boy shoved Peachy from behind. "What do you mean yelling that kind of thing out?"
Peachy held his ground. "What's eating you, mate? I only sell the news, see?" He held up a copy to the angry-eyed boy.
"'Leave tunneling to moles,'" the boy read. He stared at it for a minute, then dropped the paper on the ground at Peachy's feet. "I'd find another line to read if I was you. Sure as my name is Billy Kelly, I know people that'd break your fingers for shouting that muck."
Peachy felt the hair on his neck stand up, the way it always did whenever this sort of confrontation happened. But the bully seemed not to notice.
Peachy caught Danny's eye, across the square. Danny nudged Duff and pointed. Peachy might need their help. Danny took a step toward his friend.
"So you don't like the news, then?" Peachy tried to make light of the incident. "Right, how about this one?" Peachy scanned the smaller stories for a substitute. "East Africa Company founded. One million pounds ..."
"On second thought," the bully said, crossing his arms, "I think I would like one ... gratis, see?"
"It's my last one." Peachy bent over to pick it up. "Seeing how it got soiled, take it."
Billy snatched it out of Peachy's hand and stalked off.
"Thanks for your business; come again," Peachy called out. But under his breath he mumbled, "And I'll drop a brick on your thick head."
By that time, Danny and Duff had made their way over to Peachy. "Was that bloke giving you a hard time, Peachy?" Duff asked in a gentle voice. Duff, though bulky in size, was soft-spoken and slow to get riled.
Peachy shook his head. "Naw, he just said he didn't have any friends, and when he asked me if I wanted to be one, I told him I don't even like dogs."
Duff giggled. "That's funny, Peachy! You thought he was a dog?"
Danny and Peachy both broke into laughter.
"Well, at least I'm done," Peachy asserted. "I win."
"Hold on there," Danny argued.
"No doubt about it," Peachy insisted. "The customer is always right."
Danny had opened his mouth to argue when Duff plucked his elbow. "I'm hungry," he complained. "Can Peachy go now and buy our lunch?"
Sighing, Danny gave in. "I'll get you next time." He dug into his jacket pocket. "Here's a shilling."
"Shall I make it three steaming-hot meat pies, then?" Peachy offered, closing his cold hand around the coin.
"Bring 'em back as fast as you can." Danny smiled.
"Yes, please," Duff agreed.
"Half a tick," Peachy assured them, and he darted off.
* * *
Peachy hurried along Great Russell Street, past the booth of the Punch and Judy puppet show. Punch hung forlornly out from the curtain, and Judy was nowhere in sight. There was no audience of young children on the wintry day. Out to Wellington Street he walked, where a left turn took him to the Marquis of Anglesey pub. Situated on a long triangular corner, the pub was easy to identify by its rounded brass doors, which matched the curve of the building.
It was always a treat to be the one to pick up lunch-to leave the work behind and stand, if only for a few minutes, in the warm pub. Peachy pulled the brass handle, and hot air rushed out to meet him. Once inside he pushed his way through the crowd of business-suited store clerks from the surrounding shops and overalled porters from the vegetable market. "Three of those meat pies, please," Peachy said to the host.
"Sure thing, mate," the man agreed. "You plannin' on eatin' 'em all at once?" he joked. "Need a gallon o' cider to wash 'em down."
"Eat them?" Peachy acted surprised. "Why would I want to do that? I'm gonna put them in me pockets so's I can keep me 'ands warm," he replied, in imitation of the server's Cockney accent.
The man laughed. "'Ow are you, then, Peachy? Keeping well, I 'ope?"
"Just fine," Peachy agreed. "I kept out of a fight, sold all my papers, and won a bet, just so I can come down here for the grub."
"Very well, indeed. George," the host called, leaning halfway into the kitchen through the serving window. "Three meat pies, double-quick, for Master Peachy Carnehan. Pick out the biggest ones."
Despite all the cigar smoke floating about, Peachy half hoped that the food would take a long time to fix. His ears had grown hot and itchy the longer he waited, but he was feeling pleasantly warm and drowsy.
All too soon a pair of hands slipped a sack up on the pass-through. The host picked it up and, holding both of the top corners, spun the bag around itself. The bag wound up tightly, so the food would stay warm.
"Thanks," Peachy said, placing the coin on the counter and receiving his change.
"Always a pleasure," Peachy's friend answered. "See you next time."
Outside, the cold met Peachy like a brutal sock in the face. There was not even any snow, but the weather in London was so chilling it seemed as if it went straight to the bone.
Peachy retraced his steps down Wellington. At the corner of Russell he continued to the left, hoping that a different route back to Covent Garden would keep him longer out of the howling wind.
He was almost to Southampton Street on the outskirts of Covent Garden when he did a double take while passing an alleyway and spotted the kid who had tried to bully him earlier. Billy something, his name was. Peachy quickly jumped back out of sight and hid behind some wooden crates at the top of the alley.
Peering through the slats and around crates of discarded cabbage and rotting turnips, Peachy could see the boy standing outside a rusty metal door. The curly-haired youth looked impatiently around, as if he was waiting for something. Peachy ducked to avoid being seen.
A creak from seldom-used hinges echoed through the moist air, and Peachy heard a man's voice say, "Here now, don't lose these. They are extremely important plans."
"Don't worry," the tall boy remarked snidely. "It'd be my neck, too."
Peachy could see the front of the building from where he was hiding. London Surveyors' Office, the sign above the door said. Peachy wondered what was up that they would be meeting in an alley. Peeking again between slats and cabbages, Peachy saw a short, nervous-looking man.
"Tell him to give me better notice next time. And tell him it's going to cost him more," the man said.
"Sure," Billy replied. "Here," he continued, handing over a small roll of cash. "It's all there."
"I don't need to count it, then." The man nodded, took a step back, and shut the door. Billy turned away from Peachy and walked in the opposite direction, making a left turn at the end of the alley.
Instinctively Peachy jumped up to follow. Maybe it would turn out to be a mystery worth investigating. He had forgotten the Baker Street Brigade's lunches, even though he still clutched the bag.
Peachy ran down to the end of the alley, checking to see if it was clear for him to go farther. The curly-haired boy was already across the street and nearly to Chandos Place. As Peachy waited to see where he went next, Billy scooted into another alley and down toward Charing Cross Road.
Peachy knew exactly how to cut him off without taking the same route. But when Peachy arrived at the intersection of Charing Cross and St. Martin's Lane, Billy was nowhere in sight. Peachy worried that his quarry might have turned off a different way, but then he spotted him coming out of an alley.
Billy was casually carrying the rolled-up tube of paper under his right arm. The boy stopped at the edge of the busy street, waited for a four-horse team pulling a coal wagon to pass, then headed toward Peachy.
Peachy's heart sank. All he could do was pull his cap down across his eyes and face a shopwindow as if he were looking at something.
It worked. The boy passed right by Peachy without even a glance.
A moment later Peachy was on the other side of the street, following him about half a block behind.
At the next corner the road branched off in five directions. Billy took the second left, then a quick right. Peachy continued to follow, but in his haste to not lose his quarry, he was almost run over by a carriage. The team of horses reared and plunged, and the driver yelled at him. More concerned with the boy seeing him than being run over, Peachy ducked back behind the carriage.
"You mangy filth!" the driver shouted. "Why don't you watch out?"
Peachy stood on tiptoe to try to see over the crowd and through a double line of backed-up wagons and cabs. "Blast!" Peachy moaned. "Lost him already."
He raced out into the street, into the first gap in traffic he could find. Jogging down the lane where he had seen his target heading, Peachy came to the corner where Charing Cross Road joined Tottenham Court Road. Or rather, where Tottenham Court Road would have been if the street had not been barricaded with a wooden fence. Milling around outside the barrier were a couple hundred protesters and, it seemed, a million other people angry at the congestion and the turmoil. After the emptiness of Covent Garden, it now seemed that all of London was crushed into Tottenham Court Road.
Then he got an unexpected break. "Aha!" he exclaimed. Peachy spotted the tall boy entering a gate that led into the construction yard of the underground railroad.
Peachy fought his way through the mass of protesters and onto the grounds of the construction site. He was only ten yards behind the boy now.
Then he was grabbed by the back of the collar.
A security guard demanded, "Where do you think you're goin', mate? Waltzin' in so breezy an' all?"
"I'm with my friend there," Peachy scrambled to answer. "I was just-"
"You were just leavin', I think," the guard replied, dragging Peachy by the arm out to the street.
Peachy yanked his elbow away from the man and stumbled clumsily into the horde of chanting protesters. He was angry, frustrated, and now, he noticed, tired and hungry. Spotting a fire in a barrel where a sidewalk vendor roasted chestnuts, he moved closer.
"Right nice to warm yer hands on a cold day, ain't it?" the chestnut man said in a gruff voice. "Warm chestnuts treat yer innards the same way, miss."
Miss? Peachy had thought the chestnut seller was talking to him. Guess not. He peered closer to see the person the man addressed.
The girl was bundled up in a woolly coat and scarf. And she was cute, too, Peachy noticed. Then he realized ... "Clair!" Peachy greeted Inspector Avery's daughter happily. "I'm surprised to see you here."
"And I thought you and Danny and Duff had to sell papers today." She smiled.
"We did, but I met this bully who was picking on me. And then I saw him again down this alley, and he looked like he was up to something dodgy, so I followed him. He went in there." Peachy pointed at the gates with the bag of meat pies. "Oh no!" he said, looking at the now-squashed bag. "They're gonna be so mad."
"What?" Clair asked.
"Danny and Duff," Peachy said, swatting his head with his free hand. "I was supposed to take them this lunch, but I completely forgot." He began to hustle back toward Covent Garden. "Clair," he called over his shoulder, "do you want to come with me?"
"To see the chums? Sure!" Clair hurried to catch up with him. "And I want to hear about this mysterious bully!"
"Come on, then." Peachy motioned with his head. "I'll tell you all about it on the way."
Excerpted from The Thundering Underground by JAKE THOENE LUKE THOENE Copyright © 2006 by Jake Thoene and Luke Thoene. Excerpted by permission.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
A decent mystery for the Junior section of the church library. I'm not fond of the way these authors portrayed Holmes. Making him almost dull compared to the kids in the book. Ugh. The information about the subway building in London was interesting.