Wandering off

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Chapter 24 continues from Tuesday:

Mum smiled.  “Looking good.  Do you want some furniture?  I’ve got a couple of deck chairs and a coffee table you can have.”

“Yeah, maybe,” said Luke, smiling, “thanks Mum.”

“I’ve got some old curtains as well, if you want privacy,” she offered.

“Why? You can’t see in the shed window from the house can you?”

“No, of course not.”

“Okay, good.”

“So you do want privacy.  Top secret stuff is it?”

“No, course not, well …. we just don’t wanna be watched, that’s all.”

“I quite understand,” said Mum, trying to suppress a smile. “Do you want lunch?  I could bring some sandwiches down here if you like.”

Luke shook his head.  “Thanks, yeah, but no, we’ll come up to the house for ’em.”

******

FRIDAY 13 JUNE

When Luke got home from school there was no one else there.  The house was silent.

“Dudley? D’you want to go outside?” he asked when he stepped into the kitchen.  The clang of an upended stainless steel water bowl was preceded by the sound of four clawed paws hitting the floor.  Dudley was at the back door in seconds.

As they walked to the allotments Luke and his oldest friend talked everything over.  Well, Luke talked, Dudley couldn’t get a word in edgeways.  Luke had always been grateful for good listeners.  The best, he’d found, were those who didn’t try to push their own opinions into the discussion; those who let him get out all his jumbled thoughts and feelings without comment or judgement; those who just listened.  That left Mum out.  And Dad.  At one time Luke’s first port of call when he needed to clear his head or puzzle a dilemma was the damson patch.  The rabbits’ listening skills were second to none.  Sadly Ash and Rusty had grown old and passed away in recent months.  Scratcher was still around but she’d moved into the house for company and was often so busy rearranging soft furnishings that it was hard to get her undivided attention.  That very morning she’d spent half an hour dragging the back doormat into the dining room.  She seemed to prefer it there, no one knew why.  Thankfully Dudley was always ready to lend an ear.

“Tomorrow’s C-Day,” said Luke, as if Dudley didn’t already know.  “Mum an’ Dad are goin’ to London to help Aunt Clara move so that’s perfect timing.  We should be able to get the chickens all tucked in before they get back.  As long as Tania’s dad gets ’em here in time.  She told him to go early but he said it was a long drive so he doesn’t know how long it’ll take.”

Tania had told her dad a white lie.  She didn’t want to but Luke reminded her the chickens would be killed if she didn’t.  She told him that Luke’s mum had an ingrowing toenail and his dad had to take her to hospital to have it removed so they wouldn’t be able to pick up the chickens they were adopting.  She asked him if he’d mind doing it instead and he kindly agreed. Tania’s dad had never met Luke’s parents and with any luck he never would.
Luke arrived with Dudley at the allotments, unlocked the gate and walked between the immaculate plots en route to his own.  The weird thing was, some of them didn’t look quite as immaculate as usual. What was yesterday a neat row of cabbages, now looked as though it had been trampled by a football team.  Some were strewn across the path and a couple of them had rolled under someone else’s bean poles.  The carrots on an adjacent plot had also been rudely and prematurely unearthed.  Dudley attempted to investigate but Luke wouldn’t let him.

“Dudley no!”  Luke wound the lead more tightly around his hand.  “If anyone sees you doin’ that they’ll think you made this mess.  An’ they’ll blame me!”

In fact the blame was fast approaching Luke’s position, as he soon realised.  The trail of destruction led all the way back to his own plot, at which the gate was swinging open.  There was no sign of Curly and Squirt.

“Curly! Squirt!” he called frantically.  He rushed to the shed and looked inside; he looked behind it and under the bushes.  They were gone.  Dudley started sniffing eagerly.  He seemed to be onto something.  “Where are they boy?” Luke let go of the lead.  “Find them boy, find Curly and Squirt!”  Dudley followed his nose across the grass to the open gate, out of the gate and along the path until he arrived back at the scattered carrots.  He loved carrots.

“No!  Stop it Dudley!  We’ve got to find Curly and Squirt!”

“Young man,” Luke was startled by the deep voice behind him.  He turned to face Allotment Committee Man, otherwise known as Mr Fred Tipton.  “I believe these belong to you.”  Mr Tipton offered Luke one end of a long piece of rope.  At its other end stood a very curly haired ewe, accompanied by her son.

“Thank you!” said Luke, “where have you been?” he asked them, “you had me worried sick!”

“Where they’ve been,” said Mr Tipton, “is all over these garden plots.  They’ve done a heck of a lot of damage.”

“I’m really sorry about that,” said Luke, “I’ll put ’em back now.  It won’t happen again.”

“No it won’t because you won’t be keeping them here any more.”

“What?  That’s not fair, it wasn’t my fault!”

“Whose fault was it then?”

“I don’t know.  Whoever opened the gate!”

“Who checked on them this morning?”

“Me.  But I bolted the gate!  I know I did!  I always bolt the gate!”

“You must have forgotten today.”

“I didn’t!” Luke insisted. “Somebody else must have let ’em out!  On purpose to get me in trouble!”

“They’re your responsib…”

“Somebody who wants an allotment!  Whoever’s next on your waitin’ list – they’ve got motive!”

Mr Tipton shook his head.  “I can’t run the risk of this happening again.”

“It won’t,” said Luke pleadingly, “I’ll get a lock, so no one else can open it!  Please don’t make us leave!”

“I’m sorry, the decision’s been made.  No more animals are to be kept on these allotments.”

Luke, Curly, Little Squirt and Dudley walked slowly home.  They cut through the park and Luke racked his brains for inspiration.  Would Mum and Dad let him keep the sheep at home?  After all, the garden was big enough.  And there was nowhere else they could go.  Plus, it wasn’t his fault.  He’d bolted the gate that morning, he knew he had. Someone else had let them out, whatever Mr Tipton said.

Half way across the playing field his cogitation was interrupted by someone calling his name.

“Walker!  Nice sheep!”

A group of boys by the swings laughed but Luke ignored them. He had more important things to worry about.

“Got kicked off the allotments did ya?”  They all laughed again, even louder.  Luke kept walking.

“You should’ve kept the gate shut!”

This voice he recognised.  Luke stopped and looked across at the laughing boys.  At that moment he knew.  Butler did it!

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Story continues on Monday but if you don’t want to wait you can read it here now 😀

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Getting ready

For all the Luke Walker: animal stick up for-er chapters, click here 😀

Chapter 24 continues from yesterday:

Joe changed the subject.  “How do we tell them we want to adopt some. Is there an email address?”

“Er, … oh no, it says we have to phone this number.  We’ve got to talk to them.”

“The farmer?”

“No, Wixham Animal Action.”  Isabel was concerned.  “They’re not going to let us adopt without parental consent are they?”

“You do it,” said Luke.

“Me?”  Tania was apprehensive.

“Yeah, you’re good at soundin’ grown up.  Like when you did that impression of Mrs Tyler.  You sounded just like her.”

Tania smiled.  “Okay,” she said, picking up her phone, “what’s the number?”

While she waited for the call to be answered her heart beat hard and fast.  She turned away from the others so they wouldn’t make her laugh.

“Hello?” said the woman who eventually picked up.

“Oh, hello,” said Tania in her best Mrs Tyler voice.  “I would like to adopt some rescued chickens please.”

“Oh great, hang on a minute, let me get a pen. ….. Right, how many can you take?”

“Erm,” Tania looked at the others and mouthed ‘how many?’ but they didn’t understand her.  She put the phone on speaker.

“We like people to take at least three,” the woman advised, “because they’re sociable creatures.  Wouldn’t be happy on their own.”

“Oh yes of course,” said Tania, looking at the others for a sign.

“Shall I put you down for three?” the woman suggested, “or have you got room for more?”

Luke held up his open right hand.

“Five?” said Tania uncertainly.

Luke nodded.

“Five?” asked the woman.

“Yes,” Tania smiled, “five please.”

“Good.  Okay, now do you have a garden and a house for them?”

“A house?”

“A chicken house for them to sleep in.”

“Oh yes, a shed.”

“It’ll need nesting boxes and perches.  And it’ll need to be fox-proof,” the woman explained.

Luke nodded at Tania.

“Yes,” she said, “it will be.”

“Okay then, I’ll just take your name, address and phone number and then we’ll get back to you on the thirteenth to give you a pick up location and time.”

“Pick them up?”

“Yes. Is that a problem?”

“No no, that’ll be fine,” said Tania with feigned confidence.  “Absolutely fine.”

******

SATURDAY 7 JUNE

When the doorbell rang Luke rushed to answer it.

“Expecting someone?” asked Mum.

“Joe and the others.”

“Oh.  Will you be going out?” she called after him.  She’d been hoping to have the house to herself so she could give it a good spring clean.

Luke returned from the front door with his friends in tow.  “We’ll be in the garden,” he told his mother as they headed for the back door, “where’s Dad?”

“Working in the garage.”

“Okay, thanks.”

Mum was relieved until she remembered, “oh but you can’t go in there!” she shouted after him as he approached the garage door.  Luke stopped and looked back as Mum rushed down the garden path in her slippers.  “What do you want Dad for?” she asked, “he’s busy, doesn’t want to be disturbed.”

“Just wanted to borrow a screwdriver.”

“Okay, I’ll get it.  Flathead?”

“Phillips.”

“Okay.”  She entered the garage and closed the door behind her.

“Dad’s a bit grumpy,” Luke explained to his friends.  They nodded.  Moments later Mum emerged with the screwdriver and the Society resumed course for the damson patch.  They entered the shed.

“Not bad,” said Isabel.  “It’s solid.  Bit dusty but we can sweep it out no problem.  This’ll make a good chicken house.”

“Let’s put this on,” said Tania, “where do you want it?”

Luke showed her the hole he’d hammered in the wall years ago to make a door for the rabbits.  “Down here,” he said, moving the boxes that were blocking it.

“Perfect, that’s just the right size,” said Tania, holding the new cat flap up against it.  “Once we’ve got this on, the chickens can go in and out during the day and at night you can lock it closed to keep them safe.”

“Great,” said Luke, smiling, “thanks.”  He handed Tania the screwdriver and she got to work.

The others swept the floor, dusted off the cobwebs and cleaned the window.  In less than an hour, the shed was almost fit for purpose.

“What are you going to do about bedding?” asked Isabel.

“I’ll get straw from the bale in Curly and Squirt’s shed.”

“I thought it was better to use shavings.”

“Straw’s all I’ve got, it’ll have to do.”

“That’ll be fine,” said Tania. “What about nesting boxes?”

“Ahh,” said Luke, smiling.  He opened the door and went outside for a moment.  When he came back he was dragging an old rabbit hutch.  “This was what Butler kept Scratcher in before I rescued her,” he explained.  “When he left it out for the dustmen I went and got it.”  It was in good clean condition.  Luke opened the doors.  “I’ll take the doors off and make a straw bed on both sides.  They can lay their eggs in there if they want to.”

“There’s only room for two though,” said Isabel.

“Three,” said Luke, “I’m sure three of ’em could fit comfortably in there, and they’re not likely to all wanna lay an egg at the same time are they?”

“Actually,” said Joe, “don’t take the doors off.  If you open them wide and fix them open, the chicks can perch on them.”

“Good thinking!” Luke agreed, “What can we fix ’em with?”

At that moment Mum put her head round the door.  “Ready for lunch?” she asked. “Ooh, this looks tidy.  You have been busy.”

“Muuum!  This is a private meeting!” Luke escorted her back outside.

“What are you up to in there?” she asked, “is it going to be your HQ?”

“Er, yeah, that’s right,” it was as good a cover as any.

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Story continues tomorrow 😀

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Emergency Meeting

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Chapter 24 continues:

SUNDAY 1 JUNE

An emergency meeting of the Secret Society was held in Luke’s bedroom.

“Did anybody’s parents say yes?” asked Luke. Everyone shook their heads.

“My dad said they’d ruin the garden,” said Tania.

“Yeah, that’s what my mum said,” agreed Isabel.

“Joe?  What did yours say?”

“Didn’t ask them.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea.”

“Why not?” Luke was more than a little affronted.

“To keep ’em at mine I mean, I don’t know what my lot would do to ’em.”

Luke nodded.  “There’s on’y one thing we can do then.”

“What?”

“Keep ’em at mine.”

“I thought your mum said no,” said Tania.

“Yeah but the way I see it, I’ve got the perfect place for ’em: the damson patch.  It’s fenced, it’s got a shed, and the rabbits don’t live there any more.”

“But if your mum said no …”

“It’s really overgrown now so I don’t think they’d notice.”

“They’re bound to tidy it up one day,” warned Joe, “they’ll see ’em eventually.”

“Yeah but not straight away.”

“But when they do – what will you do then?”

“By then I’ll have proved that I’m lookin’ after ’em properly, and still gettin’ all my homework done, and lookin’ after the other animals.  I’ll have proved her wrong so she’ll have to let me keep ’em.”

The others shook their heads again.

“You’ll never get away with it,” said Isabel, “even if you do at first you’ll be in a heck of a lot of trouble when they do find out.”

Luke shrugged.  “I’ve been in trouble before.”

“Ookaay.  It’s your funeral.”  Isabel opened her laptop.  “What’s that address again?”

When they reached Wixham Animal Action’s website, the chicken re-homing appeal was on the front page.

“It says here there’s nine thousand!”

“Nine thousand?  That’s a big farm!  Is it closing down?” asked Tania.

“Erm …. no.  They’re just getting new hens.”

“Why?”

“Says here it’s the law.  Hens can’t be more than seventy two weeks old because after that their eggs aren’t good enough for supermarkets.”

“So they replace them with new ones?”

“Yeah.  Look, it says they would normally go to slaughter at seventy two weeks but this farmer doesn’t want them to be killed.”

“Why is he a farmer then?” asked Luke.  Isabel continued to read silently.  “Why is he a farmer if he don’t like killin’ animals?” Luke asked again.

“She.  Well, they.  It’s a family farm,” explained Isabel.  “Look at this picture – it’s an organic free-range farm.  The chickens look happy don’t they?”

“Yeah but they’re still gonna be killed.”

“Well she’s trying to get them re-homed so they won’t be killed.”

“Let me get this straight,” Luke’s hackles were up.  “These are nice farmers who don’t want their chickens to be killed so every seventy two weeks – what’s that, a year and a half? – they’ve got to find homes for nine thousand birds?”

“Yes.”

“But if they can’t find enough homes they go to slaughter anyway?”

“Yes but that’s why …”

“And then they breed another nine thousand new chickens who are gonna need homes the next year otherwise they’ll go to slaughter as well.”

“Yes.”

“So this’ll happen every other year.”

“Erm, I guess so – yeah, it says here they’ve done it eight times before.”

“And in all that time it never occurred to ’em that the best way to make sure your birds don’t get slaughtered is to stop bein’ chicken farmers!”

Isabel did her best to zone him out while she continued to read.  “Well, the farmer says that most people won’t go vegan so if she closed down her high welfare, organic, free range farm, people would just buy their eggs from low-welfare factory farms and that would be much worse for the chickens.”

“That’s a rather defeatist attitude,” said Tania.

“She says you should blame the consumer not the farmer,” added Isabel, “if consumers didn’t buy them the farmers wouldn’t produce them.”

“Of course,” said Tania, “the farmers are blameless!” and she winked at Luke.  Luke sighed.

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Story continues tomorrow 😀

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Luke Walker Chapter 24 starts here!

For all the Luke Walker: animal stick up for-er chapters, click here 😀

Chapter Twenty Four:
Rescue

SATURDAY 31 MAY

“Can I wait for you at the park?”

“No.”

“Can I wait at the library?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Because I’m not going to be long.”

“I won’t be long either.”

“Luke.  I’ve just got a couple of things to get in here and then we’re going straight home.  I haven’t got time to run around after you.”

Luke hated shopping.  It was so boring.  “I’m waitin’ outside then.”

“Fine.  But don’t go anywhere.”

The health food shop was small and crowded so he was glad that at least he didn’t have to follow Mum in.  However, time never passed quickly for a person waiting.  After standing there for a couple of minutes he decided to read the posters on the window.  One in particular interested him very much.

As soon as Mum came out of the shop Luke rushed to help her.  “I’ll carry that for you.”

“Oh. Thank you.”  They walked back to the car.  “I got a big peanut butter this time.  You boys get through it so quickly.”

“Great.”

“And I found some mushroom and leek pies that look good.  They’re organic and gluten-free.”

“Great.”

“The shop lady says they’re lovely.”

“I bet they are.”

Mrs Walker was pleased that Luke seemed in a better mood than he was ten minutes earlier but there was something odd about him.  “You alright Luke?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he said absent-mindedly, “jus’ thinkin’ about … the pies.”

“Really?”

“Mmm?  Yeah. ….. Er, Mum?”

“Yes?”

“Can we rescue some chickens?”

“No.”

“I’d look after ’em – you wouldn’t have to do anything.”

“Don’t you think you’ve got enough on your plate?”  He shook his head but she continued.  “You’ve already got Curly and Squirt to look after, and Scratcher, and Dudley.”

“I could do it!”

“Plus you get a lot more homework than you used to.”  She started the car.

“Please!”

“No.”

“They’ll kill ’em if we don’t take ’em!”

“I said no!”

When her son dropped the argument Mrs Walker assumed the matter was settled.  But really, she should have known better.

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Story continues tomorrow 😀

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Luke Walker chapter 23 starts here!

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Chapter Twenty Three:
Activists

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.  Good luck with it.  I’m glad someone’s finally taking them to task for this,” the old lady smiled and continued on her way.

“How many does that make?” asked Luke.

“Seven hundred and eighty one.”

“That’s pretty good.”

“Yeah but I’d rather have a thousand.”

“When we’ve got a thousand we should send it to ’em.”

“Yeah.  Then they’ll have to listen.”  Tania put the petition clipboard into her bag and the Society made their way back along the pedestrianised precinct.

“Sponsor us to do the fun run?”  Two small boys dressed in Cubs uniforms sat at a table behind a pile of sponsor forms.

Isabel smiled.  “What are you raising money for?”

“Hearts Foundation,” answered one of them.

“The British Heart Foundation,” their Akela corrected him.

Isabel looked at her list.  “Oh, I’m sorry,” she told them, “the British Heart Foundation is on the red list.  We can’t support them.”

“What’s the red list?” asked the other boy.

Isabel showed him.  “Charities on the red list do experiments on animals.”

“What kind of experiments?”

“They poison ’em, give ’em diseases, cut ’em up and then kill ’em,” Luke explained.

The boys looked shocked.

“Why’d they do that?” asked one of them.

“They say they do it because they’re trying to find cures for human diseases,” said Tania, “but it’s pointless because human bodies are not the same as other animals so they don’t react the same to diseases or medicines.”

“I’m not doing it!” said one of the Cubs firmly.

“Nor am I,” agreed the other one.

“Are you sure?” asked the Akela, “The British Heart Foundation?  Surely they already know what causes heart disease, and how to prevent it.”

Isabel showed her the list.

“My goodness, there’s a lot of them on here,” she said, making a mental note to cancel her standing order to the Wellcome Trust.

“Shall we pack up?” asked a Cub.

“There’s a list of good charities on the other side,” said Isabel, “you could support one of them instead.”

The woman turned the leaflet over and looked at the green list.  “Oh yes, there’s a lot to choose from .…… Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research …… ooh there’s a heart one – Heart UK, the Cholesterol Charity.”

“Let’s do that one!”

The Akela picked up the sponsor forms and thought for a moment.  “Okay,” she said, “this is actually an easy fix. We’ll get some new sponsor forms printed at the library with Heart UK on them instead of British Heart Foundation and then we can come back here and pick up where we left off!”

The boys were slightly disappointed, having reasoned that the abandonment of BHF would mean they could pack up for the day, but they were very pleased that at least they wouldn’t be supporting animal cruelty.

“Where can I get one of those by the way?”

Isabel looked at the small print at the bottom of the list, “Animal Aid makes them,” she said, “animal aid dot org dot UK.”

“Right.  Thank you for telling me.”  The Akela smiled and escorted her Cubs to the library.

****

“That’s the third time that’s happened to me,” said Isabel.

“Cubs asking you for money?” asked Joe.

“No, someone thanking me for telling them about a charity that’s experimenting on animals.  And they all said they won’t support them again.”

“It just goes to show,” said Tania, “most people don’t want their money spent on animal torture.”

“Yeah!  So it should be the law that when charities ask for money they have to tell people exactly what it’ll be used for.”

“Yeah,” said Joe, “they should put it on their posters.”

“And on their shop windows and their collectin’ tins and their adverts,” added Luke.

“Yeah!” said Tania, “let’s have some real transparency!”

“If only!” said Isabel.

“If wishes were horses,” said Luke, without really knowing what that meant, “we could make a horse of a different colour!”

“What?”

“We should do it!”

“Do what?”

“Put the truth on their posters.”

“You mean stickers,” said Joe, the only person who could follow Luke’s train of thought.

“I do.”

Isabel and Tania looked at each other and smiled.

“On’y thing is,” said Luke, “where do we get the stickers?”

 

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Story continues tomorrow 😀

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Luke read the letter

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Story continues from yesterday:

Luke read the letter.

“Explain,” said Dad, “and the truth this time.  What did you send that caused alarm to the receivers?”

Luke explained.  “They’re s’posed to be lookin’ after animals, not killin’ em!  They’re pretendin’ it’s not cruel to kill ’em for meat so I found a picture on the internet of a bull bein’ killed in a slaughterhouse an’ I printed it out to show ’em how cruel it is.  To show ’em so they wun’t keep doin’ it!”

Mum and Dad looked at each other without saying anything.  Luke couldn’t tell whether they were still mad.  He was about to make another attempt at convincing them he was right when Dad spoke up.

“And you sent this to their homes?”  Luke nodded.  “Well of course they were upset! You shouldn’t be writing to people’s home addresses Luke, that’s out of order!  If you’ve got a problem with a company, you write to the company!”

“I did!  We did!  We wrote loadsa times to the sanctuary and they ignored us!  For months!  Then Tania’s mum said it was trustees who decided things at charities and they’re s’posed to run the charity for the reasons it was set up which is to prevent unnecessary sufferin’.  So Maybury’s payin’ for unnecessary sufferin’ – coz it’s not necessary for people to eat animals – instead of preventin’ it.  So Tania said they had no right to ignore us coz they should be countable for their actions and they’re breakin’ charity law so someone’s got to hold them to count for that!  So one of us found their addresses from, erm, a website and we started writin’ to them at home.”

“One of us?”

“Don’t matter who.  It’s not illegal.”

“And did that make them answer you?”

“No.”

“If you were hoping for a response you must have put our address on your letters,” said Mum.

“No. I didn’t,”  Luke insisted.  “We give ’em an email address to reply to.”

Dad took a deep breath.  “These are good people Luke, they donate their time and their expertise to help an animal sanctuary.  You’ve made your feelings clear and they’ve heard you.  There’s nothing more you can do.  You can’t force them to change.  Sending them grisly pictures of slaughtered animals is going too far.  No wonder they were upset.”

Luke was incensed.  “They’re upset?!  They’re the ones who did it!  D’you think I liked lookin’ at that picture?  No – I didn’t.  Nobody wants to look at that, but people who pay for it to happen have no right to complain!”

“Luke,” Dad began.

“No, he’s right,”  interrupted Mum.  “It’s these people’s responsibility to run the charity by the principles it was started on.  And if they go astray they have to be answerable.  They should have answered the children’s very reasonable request in the first place.  Ignoring them left the children with no other recourse than to write to them at home.  They brought it on themselves.”

Luke was relieved that he’d finally got through to somebody.  He nodded and looked at Dad who was harder to read.

“But you mustn’t be abusive in these letters,”  Mum added.

“I’m not.”

“Or threatening, or use any foul language.”

“I don’t.  I wouldn’t.  I never have.  I jus’ tell the truth.  We all just tell the truth and ask ’em to stop.  To save all the animals like they’re s’posed to.”

Dad still didn’t say anything.

Mum nodded.  “Good, okay.”

Perceiving that the inquest was over, Luke left the room.

“Weird though,” Mrs Walker commented, “how did the police get our address?  That creeps me out.”

Her husband shrugged. “I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation.”

****

Luke opened his bedroom door and grinned at his friend.

“What?” asked Joe.

“We’ve had a reply from Maybury!”

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“I didn’t do it!”

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Story continues from Friday:

When he entered the kitchen Mum had her back to him but she knew he was there.

“I got a letter from the police,” she told him.

“About what?” asked Luke, trying to sound casual.  Mum turned to face him.

“Luuuke!”

“Whaaat?”

“Your face!”

Luke rubbed his face and smeared the tattoo.  “It’s alright, it’ll come off.”

“Is that my eye liner?”

Dad stepped out of the pantry and suppressed a smile.  “Sit down please Luke, we need to talk to you.”

Luke sat down.

“The police seem to think I’ve been harassing the Maybury trustees,” said Mum.

Luke raised his eyebrows.  “Why would they think that?”

“I can’t imagine,” said Mum, “unless someone else has been writing letters and signing my name on them.”  She clearly thought it was him but it wasn’t.  He wouldn’t do that.  Why would he?  That would be a very stupid thing to do.  Anything that led back to her led back to him.  He never signed his letters and he certainly didn’t put a return address on them.  So how had the police got her name and address?  Was he being watched?  Was he under police surveillance?  What else did they know?  This was very troubling indeed.

There was, in fact, a very simple explanation.  For over two years the Secret Society of animal stick up for-ers had been writing to Maybury Centre for Animal Welfare, asking them to make their cafe vegan.  At first Luke wrote once a week, sometimes twice.  But when the Society realised the charity trustees were the decision-makers they decided to write directly to them.  There were six trustees so that meant writing six letters a week and stamps became prohibitively expensive.  But Luke wasn’t going to let a little thing like insufficient funds prevent him from doing something this important.  So, he continued to write and when he didn’t have enough money for the stamps he scavenged them from his mother’s purse.  He was sure she wouldn’t mind.  After all, it was Mum who suggested he write to them in the first place.  A couple of times, when there were no stamps to be found in her purse, he had hidden his letters in a pile on the kitchen counter.  Mum was quite a devoted correspondent herself.  She wrote to her friend Margaret in Wales; to Uncle Max and Auntie Beatrice who lived in Torquay; and to a couple of old school friends, Kath and Myrtle, who had moved to Stoke-on-Trent and Edinburgh respectively.  Sometimes there wasn’t much to tell them so she’d just write a brief note on a postcard but she always put whatever she was sending in a plain white envelope from the box in the sideboard.  Luke was getting all his envelopes from the same box so it was easy to slip his letters into her pile without her noticing and then she would put stamps on them at the post office by lifting the top right hand corner of each envelope just enough to add the stamp.  He’d seen her do it.  She never reviewed the names and addresses once she’d sealed the envelopes.  What Luke didn’t know was that she also put one of her return address labels on the top left hand corner of each envelope in the same way.

Mum was staring at him, waiting for an answer.

“I didn’t do it,” he said truthfully.  “I didn’t!  Why would I?”

“Did you write offensive letters to these people?” asked Dad coldly.

“I just ask ’em to make the cafe vegan.  Maybe that does offend ’em, I don’t know.”

“Nothing else?  You’re not threatening or abusive?”

“No!” said Luke, annoyed at the accusation.  “I jus’ tell ’em, like you said.  I tell ’em I don’t like ’em sellin’ meat an’ fish an’ everything that’s cruel to animals, and I tell ’em they should know better.  Stuff like that.”

Mum handed him the letter.  “So how do you explain this?”

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Story continues tomorrow 😀

but if you don’t want to wait you can click here to read it now!

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