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Authors: Martin Chatterton

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BOOK: Chew Bee or Not Chew Bee
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The Undiscovered Warehouse

It was clear that the dog
liked honey.

Willy could tell because it licked every trace of it from his head before thoroughly checking the rest of him. Only when Willy was completely free of honey, and almost completely coated in doggy drool, did the dog let him stand up. It sat back on its haunches and looked up at him expectantly. More honey or more ballthrowing, it seemed to say. But preferably honey.

Willy glanced at the nightwatchman.

Still snoring soundly.

Willy bent down and ruffled the dog's neck.
Its name—Old Feller—was embroidered around its collar in gold thread.

‘Good dog,' said Willy, patting Old Feller softly. The dog nuzzled his hand.

Sure that Old Feller was no danger, Willy walked back to the room he'd tumbled into from the street. Now that his eyes had adjusted to the dark, he saw it was a kind of storeroom. He had stepped backwards through the double doors that led onto the street above, and fallen headlong down an open trapdoor into a waiting stack of honey pots. It was these that had clonked him on the head. And one had broken and spread its contents all over him.

Willy picked up a fresh pot and pulled out the cork. Old Feller's nose twitched. Willy scooped out a gob of honey and held it out. The dog licked up the honey as greedily as Skellington had done at the theatre. Willy put the pot on the floor and Old Feller jammed his snout inside, snorting and snuffling happily.
Willy opened a second jar and placed it on the floor to keep Old Feller occupied for a while.

Then he went back into the warehouse.

The floor was taken up with stacked crates of honey ready for shipping. Long benches, littered with empty pots and loose corks, stood along one wall. In the centre of the warehouse was a huge wooden vat, taller than Willy. A ladder on one side led up to the rim. Willy climbed up the ladder and steadied himself at the top. He lifted up a lid that was cut into the main cover and peered inside. It was full, almost to the brim, with honey.

Willy dipped in an exploratory finger and raised it to his mouth.

It was sensational honey, the very best Willy had ever tasted.

Suddenly Old Feller barked. Not loudly, but loud enough for the nightwatchman to mumble and shift position in his sleep.

In his hurry to silence the dog, Willy forgot

to replace the lid on the vat. He climbed down, trotted back to Old Feller and opened another pot of honey. The nightwatchman settled down again. It looked as if he was busy dreaming about whatever it was that nightwatchmen dreamed about.

The warehouse was quiet once more. Willy considered his next move. What he really wanted to do was to go straight back to the theatre and forget all about Skellington and the Devil's Dock warehouse.

He was about to try and find a way to climb back out of the trapdoor when he heard it.

A faint hum coming from somewhere above. The noise had been there all along, but Willy just hadn't noticed it. Now he listened more closely.

He'd heard that sound before—but where?

In a back corner of the warehouse, a set of rickety stairs led up to a door in the wall. With
a glance back at the nightwatchman, Willy began to climb the stairs. The higher he climbed, the louder the humming grew.

He opened the door at the top of the stairs. The sound grew louder still. There was a second door about five paces along a short corridor. Willy crept closer, took hold of the handle and carefully turned it. The hum increased to a deafening buzz.

The room was filled with bees.

Hives spaced a couple of feet apart and six rows across ran the length of the upper level of one side of the warehouse. Each hive was thick with bees. Bees droned lazily in the air and around Willy's head. At the far end of the room, almost hidden by a canvas curtain, was a hive twice as tall as the rest.

The other side of the room opened onto an enormous glasshouse filled with flowers.

Willy was not uncomfortable around bees. Back in Stratford, in the summer, there were
bees everywhere. Willy knew if you left them alone, they'd leave you alone. Still, in such an enclosed space, who knew what would happen?

Willy made his way through the bees for a closer look at the big hive. As he pulled back the canvas, Willy saw it was more like a bee tower than a hive. A small golden crown was painted at the top.

Willy took a closer look. There was something peculiar about the stripes of the bees belonging to this hive. Instead of going
their bodies, their stripes ran

He fumbled in his breeches pocket and drew out the dead bee that The Ghost had given him.

‘All the bees at this hive look exactly the same!' murmured Willy.

It looked like Skellington really might be connected to Uncle Aaron's death. One of these unusual-looking bees from his warehouse had been found in Uncle Aaron's ear. Willy sighed
with relief. His trip across London hadn't been a wild-goose chase. Maybe he wasn't so crazy after all.

‘I need to show one of these new bees to The Ghost,' Willy muttered to himself. ‘He'll know what to do.'

Willy found some empty honey pots lying on the floor and walked over to the hive.

There were hundreds of bees swarming all over the hive's entrance. Willy picked up a bee and stuffed it into an empty pot with ease.

Suddenly, a very large bee flew straight for Willy's face and stung him on his nose.

To say that it hurt would be like calling the River Thames a bit of a trickle.

Willy bravely ignored the pain and headed for the door. Then he had a thought.

‘I need another bee,' he muttered. ‘I don't want to have to come back here if I lose the one I've already got.'

Willy picked up another empty pot and
walked back to the hive. As soon as he had the second bee inside the pot, he jammed the cork on top. Then he stuffed the two pots inside his tunic pocket and sprinted for the exit.

Willy made his way back down to the main floor of the warehouse.

Old Feller greeted him like a long-lost friend. His snout and ears were flecked with little gobs of honey. He jumped up and licked Willy's face with a sweet-smelling tongue.

‘Quiet, boy,' Willy hissed, pushing the slobbering dog away. ‘Sit! Stay! Good boy!'

Old Feller looked at him happily.

Willy backed away from the dog and headed for the room beneath the trapdoor. Old Feller stood up and trotted after him.

This was going to be a problem. The last thing Willy needed was to have Skellington's very own guard dog following him around. It wouldn't take Skellington two seconds to work out where Willy had been.

‘No,' said Willy. ‘Stay!'

Old Feller happily sniffed Willy's bum.

Willy pushed him away and wagged a stern finger at his nose. ‘Bad dog! Stay!'

Old Feller sat down, looking puzzled. Why, he seemed to be thinking, would I ever leave The Boy Who Gives Me Honey? Old Feller's plan was simple: to stay with Willy for the rest of his doggy life. Or until the honey ran out, whichever came first.

Willy backed slowly into the storeroom. Through the open trapdoor, a pre-dawn glow was casting a little more light into the room. Willy made out the shape of empty crates in the corner. Grabbing two at a time, he hastily built a pyramid of crates beneath the trapdoor, and began scrambling up it. Old Feller watched him, his head cocked to one side.

‘Stay,' said Willy. ‘Stay. Stay.'

Old Feller gave a joyful bark and lolloped towards Willy.

‘Quiet!' hissed Willy.

said Old Feller, delighted with this new game from The Boy Who Gave Him Honey.
‘Woofety woof woof!'

He launched himself at Willy who was, by now, halfway up the stack of crates. In a tangle of legs and fur, Willy and Old Feller tumbled down, landing with a deafening clatter in another pile of honey pots.

‘Oi! Who goes there?' called the nightwatchman. His bleary-eyed face appeared at the door. ‘Blimey!' he said. ‘A bloomin' hintruder!' He looked at Old Feller and frowned. ‘Some bloomin' watchdog you are!'

barked Old Feller and wagged his tail. Tonight was turning out to be the best fun he'd had in ages!

The nightwatchman produced a fearfullooking knotted club and charged at Willy.
he yelled.

yelled Willy.

howled Old Feller.

Willy scrambled back up the pile of crates, just inches ahead of the heavy thwack of the nightwatchman's club.

‘C'mere, you!' growled the nightwatchman.

Willy pulled himself through the trapdoor. He could see the dawn sky through the broken doors that led to the street. He was almost there!

Just then the nightwatchman grabbed him firmly by the ankle. He had a grip like iron.

‘Gotcha!' the nightwatchman yelled. He heaved on Willy's leg. Willy, clinging tightly to the frame of the door, could feel his fingers beginning to lose their grip.

‘Let go, you little thief!' snarled the nightwatchman. He pulled on Willy's ankle and grinned. ‘I'm goin' ter marmalise yer!'

Just when Willy's fingers couldn't hold on any longer, Old Feller bounced up the stack of
crates and knocked the nightwatchman's legs out from beneath him.

The nightwatchman gave a shout of alarm and let go of Willy.

Like a cork from a bottle, Willy popped up onto the greasy cobbles.

The nightwatchman toppled backwards with a wheezy scream, knocking crates everywhere as he fell.

As Willy lay dazed, Old Feller leapt out of the trapdoor and began licking Willy's face. The Boy Who Might Give Him Some More Honey wasn't going to get rid of Old Feller

Willy hauled himself upright and pushed Old Feller's face away. The nightwatchman was hastily reconstructing the pyramid of crates, shouting loudly about exactly what he was going to do to Willy once he got his hands on him. He went into a lot of detail and none of it was pleasant.

Willy didn't waste another second worrying about having Anstruther Skellington's dog in tow. He raced away from Devil's Dock, with Old Feller at his heels. As he ran, he ignored the pickpockets, rapscallions, ragamuffins, hooligans and scallywags who seemed to be on every corner. He kept running until he found the bridge, and he didn't stop running until he got back to Mrs McScottish's boarding house.

Willy sneaked inside, found his straw pallet under the eaves of the attic and dropped into a deep, exhausted sleep.

Old Feller draped himself across Willy's legs and then, like all dogs, fell asleep instantly and dreamed of rabbits.

Willy Shuffles Off

‘I've told ye before, ye great galumphin' galoot! Nay dogs allowed!'

Mrs McScottish threw a stale haggis at Yorick from behind the bar where she was making a fresh batch of lobscouse. The haggis bounced off Yorick's head and fell to the floor. Old Feller scarfed it up in an eyeblink.

‘Pay no attention to the hag, Old Feller,' said Yorick. ‘She's Scottish. All that rain makes 'em sour.'

Mrs McScottish's face turned purple. She stirred the lobscouse with rather more force than was necessary.

Normally Willy would have enjoyed watching Yorick teasing their miserable old landlady, but this morning he couldn't concentrate. He was kicking himself for letting Old Feller follow him home. The dog connected him to the Devil's Dock warehouse.

He chewed his lip anxiously. If Skellington ever got wind that Willy had been inside his warehouse—let alone found out what he'd taken—then Willy would be lucky to get back to Stratford with his life. And the Black Skulls would be toast.

‘Toast?' said Yorick.

‘What?' squeaked Willy and jumped about a foot off his seat. Had Yorick become a mindreader?

‘Steady, Waggledagger!' said Yorick. ‘Jist arskin' if you'd like some toast, that's all!' He held up a plate of hot buttered toast. ‘You look like you could do wiv a feed. You looks a bit pasty, if you arsks me.'

Willy chewed slowly and kept his eyes down. He would have to find a way to return Old Feller to the warehouse, and then get himself back to the theatre as soon as possible. He had to be there in case The Ghost showed up again.

For the thousandth time, he slipped his hand into his tunic pocket, and fingered the lids of the honey pots. He wished he could open the pots to check the two bees were okay, but the risk that they would escape was too great.

‘Wot did you get up to last night?' asked Yorick.

From the far end of the long wooden table, Willy felt the eyes of the other Skulls swivel in his direction. The appearance of Old Feller at Mrs McScottish's hadn't been properly explained.

‘Oh, nothing much,' mumbled Willy. ‘This and that.'

Charlie Ginnell picked up a leg of mutton. ‘The theatre's no place for a dog, Waggledagger!' he said. ‘You should know better by now. And you heard Mrs McScottish. She's very clear about the “no pets” thing. Very clear indeed.'

‘Dogs and theatres don't mix,' said Olly, wrinkling his nose. ‘They're always barking at the wrong time, or pooping all over the props, or

‘It just followed me from Skellington's warehouse,' said Willy. ‘I didn't ask it to come!'

‘Whose warehouse?' said Elbows.

‘Did you say
warehouse?' said Charlie.

Yorick rolled his eyes. ‘Oh, bruvver,' he groaned. ‘'Ere we go.'

Willy hesitated. ‘Um, did I say Skellington's warehouse?' he said, his voice trailing off. There was a silence around the table. All eyes rested on Willy.

‘Blimey O'Riley, Waggledagger!' said Yorick.

Charlie almost choked on his mutton. ‘That's Sir Anstruther Skellington's dog?'

‘Yes,' Willy whispered.

‘The same Sir Anstruther Skellington who'd like nothing better than to shut us down, ban us from London, and use you for axesharpening practice?' said Charlie.

Willy nodded.

‘I've lost my appetite,' groaned Charlie. He pushed his plate away.

‘Oh, Waggledagger,' said Walden. ‘What
you done?'

‘Outstanding,' chuckled Minimac. ‘Priceless!'

Yorick shook his shaggy head.

‘I never asked him to come here!' said Willy. ‘He just followed me!'

‘Well, he can follow you straight back there this instant!' Charlie was fluttering his hand over his heart. ‘Are you a total nutcase? What on earth were you doing at Skellington's
warehouse? No, wait, I don't want to know! Yorick, take Waggledagger and the dog back to the warehouse and leave them both there. Frankly, I don't care if I never set eyes on the little trouble-causer ever again.' Charlie scowled and turned to the other Skulls. ‘Olly, Elbows, Minty, you get down to the theatre with Walden and start rehearsals. Mrs McScottish, get me a new flagon of ale.'

‘Can't we keep Willy, Charlie?' said Yorick. ‘I'm sure 'e never meant any 'arm.'

‘No! He's loony. Get him out of here right now!' Charlie's face had gone very red. ‘Skellington could drop in on rehearsals again at any time. We don't want to give him a bigger excuse to shut us down than he already has! We'll be performing at children's parties till we die! That's if he doesn't just chop our heads off.'

‘Surely he won't do that to me!' wailed Olly. ‘I'm an artiste!'

‘Oh, stow it, Olly!' snarled Yorick. He grabbed Willy and Old Feller and dragged them to the door.

‘Good riddance!' screeched Mrs McScottish.

‘And make it snappy, Yorick,' said Charlie. ‘We need you back at the theatre as soon as possible!'

At the doorway Willy shook free of Yorick's grasp. He took one look back at his friends and sighed. His plan to discover the truth behind his uncle's death had failed. Now he'd never have a chance to tell The Ghost what he knew. And he'd lost his place in the Skulls, to boot. It was the end of the road.

BOOK: Chew Bee or Not Chew Bee
12.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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