TB1'S LAUNCHPAD TB2'S HANGAR TB3'S SILO TB4'S POD TB5'S COMCENTER BRAINS' LAB MANSION NTBS NEWSROOM CONTACT
 
 
HIGHLAND SPIRITS
by EJB
RATED FRT

This story was written in response to the 2007 Tracy Island Writers Forum Halloween Story Challenge.

Author's Notes: The characters in Thunderbirds and those mentioned in Supercar were all created by Gerry & Sylvia Anderson. I acknowledge I have no rights and sadly will probably never ever have them to these shows.

I am forever grateful to my betas, Penny and Lynn for suggestions made and for checking it over.

This story was inspired by the Supercar Episode "The Phantom Piper."


The scream of the woman pierced the late evening air as she desperately ran to the safety of her home. She looked briefly behind her as she ran, they were still there, still following. Her breathing was getting more painful now, piercing her lungs with each new gasp. Only a few more steps and she would be inside and Frank, her husband, would be there, she would be safe. She had to reach that door, it was within her reach, a quick turn of the handle and she was inside her home.

Everything seemed perfectly normal inside the familiar rooms where she had lived for the past ten years. She slammed the door shut, pressing her back against it as she looked around the elegantly furnished room, frantically calling for her husband, who happened to be upstairs.

"Frank!" she screamed, "Frank, they're here again, they're coming now!"

He came downstairs practically three at a time. "Get in the kitchen, Judy. I've got the rifle this time, they won't hurt us, go on, go!"

"It's no use," she answered practically sobbing with fear. "That won't work, nothing works. Oh, Frank, what are we going to do, who will save us now?"

"We will," said the voice from in the darkness. "Just send for International Rescue. I'm sure Brains will have something to save you from man-eating zombies."

"Quiet, Virg, you're spoiling the movie," Gordon Tracy told his elder brother, as he glared at him with annoyance.

"Spoil it?" he replied. "That thing got spoilt as soon as the script was written. Im not sitting here watching this trash. I don't know where you bought that from, Gords, but it was a waste of money."

Gordon and Alan watched him leave the private cinema to go back up to the lounge.

"Good, he's gone. Take it back to the bit we missed before he interrupted," Alan told his red-haired brother as he settled back down in his seat to continue watching the movie in peace.

Virgil got back to the lounge where he found his father in the middle of a conversation with his secretary at Tracy Enterprises headquarters in New York. Scott was sitting reading a newspaper and looked up when he saw his brother come into the room.

"Hi, Virg, thought you were going to watch Gordon's new movie," he said.

"It's for kids, so I've left the kids watching it," Virgil told him. "I'd rather be in here."

"Let Alan have some relaxation before he goes up to relieve John," Ruth Tracy told her grandson, looking up from the sewing she was doing while she sat on her favourite seat overlooking the ocean. "He's been busy all morning working with Tin Tin doing safety checks."

Virgil winked at Scott and said, "Yeah, I bet that was hard work for him."

"I can't understand how those two could watch those horror movies," Scott said. "They sure got scared easy when they were young. I hope he's got everything packed up and ready to leave when that movie's finished."

"Well I think even they've realized that there are no such things as man-eating zombies to worry about, at least not on this island," Virgil laughed. "Not many to be found on Five either."

An hour and a half later Scott and Alan were on the sofa that would begin the journey to the launch bay of Thunderbird Three. Alan gripped the handle tightly on the small case that contained his clothes as Jeff prepared to send the sofa down through the floor.

"Goodbye, boys, have a safe trip," he told them.

"So long, Alan, see you in a month and watch out for any ghosts, ghouls and man-eating zombies," Virgil added. "You'll have to deal with them all by yourself up there."

"Very funny, Virgil, see you soon," Alan replied.

After the farewells were dealt with Jeff pressed the button and the floor opened up to begin the sofa's descent and the brothers were on route to Thunderbird Three.

The small village of Inverlachan in the highlands of Scotland had only one major source of employment apart from the farms around about it and that was the huge whiskey distillery. Standing on the banks of Loch Lachan where the water, fed by mountain springs, was pure and fresh and used in its production of the whiskey that had been established over one hundred years. Its exports were now world famous as the Inverlachan Castle brand name. So famous in fact that it had been decided to close the site to expand it and work had begun that week to do so. The last lot of bottles had been crated up and put in the warehouse ready for the truck drivers to take them to the exporters in the morning.

In the castle itself, Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward was enjoying her stay at the highland home with her friend, Susannah who had married Duncan McCrail, Laird of Inverlachan. They had been out horse riding and had just returned to the stables.

"Scottish scenery is so lovely at this time of the year. It's nice to be able to go out riding in all of this fresh air. I'm having a wonderful time and as I've been so busy lately it's so good to be able to relax for a few days," she told her hosts.

"We're glad you were able to come this year, Penny, as we've been inviting you to our home often enough but you've always been off somewhere else on your travels," Duncan replied.

"The estate staff and their families enjoy our weekend evening parties, so you'll find out what you've been missing," Susannah added.

"I'm sure I will, but I'm not into dressing in black much, it's not my style. That's why I did not want to come to your Halloween party last week. I'm afraid I wouldn't make a very good witch," Lady Penelope told them.

"Of course you wouldn't, my dear, far too pretty for that," Lord Duncan said. Then he added in a teasing tone of voice. "Not a wart in sight on your nose or chin yet, and you still have all of your teeth."

"I hope things stay that way too, Duncan dear," she replied. "I would look a frightful mess at the palace garden parties."

"Come on, let's go and have some morning coffee now." Susannah told both of them. "I need some after all that riding. I haven't been that far for such a long time. You are still a very good rider, Penelope."

"Thank you, I try to go out as often as I can with the horses I have on my estate," she replied. Then they left the stable block after handing the horses over to the staff to be taken care of and began the short walk to the main entrance of the castle.

Soon they were all sitting in front of a roaring log fire in one of the elegant sitting rooms of the castle drinking coffee. "So what exactly happens at these Halloween parties of yours?" Lady Penelope asked.

"We like to do all the traditional things like bobbing for apples and eating treacle scones tied on strings," Susannah told her. "The children go guising and entertain the adults with music and dancing. Then after they go to bed we have our celebrations with ghost stories and dancing afterwards, it's all good fun. We dress up in replica costumes of those seen in the portraits of past owners of the castle."

"It sounds like you had fun. I hope the stories were not too frightening," Lady Penelope replied.

"No they are more fun, everybody tries to outdo each other," Duncan answered. "Some of the older staff are very superstitious though and do believe certain things. They believe the castle is haunted but I've never seen anything all of the time I've lived here."

"We could cash in on it and get visitors to the place, ghosts are big business now, but we don't bother," Susannah told her. "The only ghost that we've heard about the most often is the Phantom Piper and he is only supposed to be seen and heard when doom and gloom is supposed to fall on the area or the family."

"I've never heard or seen him," Duncan stated. "He was last heard of during my Great-Grandfather's time. Old Angus McCrail got himself worried into a right state and some specialist people were brought in to investigate. Found out it was not a ghost at all but a gang trying to steal something valuable from the castle by scaring everybody and distracting them. The so called ghost was a very human being playing the pipes on the battlements."

"My goodness, did they succeed in catching them?" Lady Penelope asked.

"Yes, a pair of well known petty crooks they were," Lord Duncan replied. "So as I say I've never heard or seen him and it is a good thing really as we don't want any doom or gloom around here to mar your visit, Penelope, since it has taken long enough to get you to visit us."

"I hope so too," Lady Penelope agreed with a smile. "I think I may enjoy myself here."

Later that evening on Tracy Island, Scott, John and Virgil were busy playing cards in the lounge. Gordon was playing chess with Brains who was not happy with the moves Gordon was making.

"You are n'not playing er n'normally, Gordon. In fact you are er p'playing very irrationally," he told him.

"Yeah, well it is the only way to beat you at the game," Gordon smiled. "I play this way with my computer and it confuses the works. It doesn't expect you to leave all your pieces and start moving your king around. Seeing as you are almost a computer too I thought I would try it. See, I can sneak up on your knight and take it."

"Sounds like a crazy idea to me," Virgil commented.

"Well he is a little crazy, remember?" John added as he studied the cards in his hand.

Scott made no comment. He was just happy that Gordon was not up to his usual pranks for a change that he and his brothers so often fell victim to.

Brains watched as Gordon removed his knight from the board. Gordon's king was still well protected by his other pieces. Brains started to plan a different strategy to win the game which he soon did, leaving most of the pieces on the board as he called

"Checkmate."

"Looks like that was a waste of time, Gordon," Virgil said. "Quickest game of chess I've seen played."

"Well it lasts longer on my computer," Gordon said as he stood up. "I feel like going for a walk anyway, see you guys later."

"Watch out for man-eating zombies down on the beach. You never know, this island could have been used for voodoo or something in the past." Virgil said with a laugh. "I just don't know how you could sit and watch that movie all the way through, it was such trash."

"Since when have you been a movie critic?" Gordon said leaving the room as he did so.

Later, Virgil went into his bathroom and turned the shower on before going to bed. Closing his eyes he let the hot water run all over him to help him relax before he added the soap. When he opened them again he was horrified to find he was standing in blood red water and what was worse his skin had turned red too where the water had hit it. He rubbed his arm for a while but the dye was strong and it did not move it.

"Gordon Tracy, so help me one of these days I'll kill you and if this doesn't wash off, your skin will be blood red for real tomorrow," he said as he turned the shower off. He knew his younger brother would have put the dye in the water tank and the shower would have to run for a while until it cleared. He put his robe on and decided to use Scott's shower next door, hoping the dye would wash off with some soap and clean water. He caught a glimpse of himself in his mirror and was horrified to see his hair was bright red too.

Grabbing his soap and towel he went out of his room to go to Scott's. There he found his brother just going through his door into his bedroom. Scott was amazed to see a very red Virgil appear before him.

"Looks like Gordon got to you then," he said as he tried hard not to upset Virgil even more by laughing at his predicament.

"Yeah, and this doesn't wash off in your shower, we will be an aquanaut short on the team tomorrow," Virgil said angrily.

"I hope that stuff washes off okay. If there's a call out, you are going to look a little weird," Scott told him.

"I hope your shower's okay too," Virgil replied as he made his way into Scott's bathroom.

Scott and Virgil were relieved to find the dye did wash off when Virgil eventually emerged from the bathroom.

"I'm okay for now but my shower will need to run clear again before I can use it and it will need a good cleaning if the shower unit is stained," Virgil said. "Gordon of course will be doing that tomorrow morning if he values his life."

"So he should and he's used to it now," Scott replied. "I guess we should get some sleep now. It's late and you never know what might be about to happen in other parts of the world."

"Yeah, too true," Virgil agreed as he left the room. "Goodnight, Scott, see you in the morning."

The Great Hall in the castle at Inverlachan had become the scene for the weekend evening party and Lady Penelope was enjoying herself tremendously. Dressed as Lady Margaret McCrail, an ancestor of her host, she wore a pale pink silk gown with matching slippers. All of the adults had dressed in costumes from the past history of the estate. Duncan and Susannah were also dressed in replica clothes of what previous occupants of the castle could be seen wearing in portraits around the walls and the estate workers wore old highland dress.

After the buffet supper, the lights were dimmed and continuing on from the Halloween party of the previous week, more old legends and ghost tales were told as midnight approached.

"You don't really believe in such things as headless horses riding around pulling carriages with headless riders, do you?" Lady Penelope asked one of the guests, who was Duncan's cousin and had just told his tale. "How can they see where they are supposed to be going to haunt?"

"You can pour scorn on these tales if you like, Lady Penelope, but there is some truth in them," he told her. "Too many people have seen and heard many strange things in these parts."

"Oh I'm sure they have but I believe there is a logical explanation for some of them if they took the time to investigate." Lady Penelope replied. "Just like the story you told me about your great-grandfather, Duncan, and the Phantom Piper."

"Well the Phantom Piper is one of our most enduring legends and has been known to surface for real at certain times. Isn't that true, Grant, you believe in the stories about him, don't you?"

His question was asked to one of the older servants who came to hand out more drinks for the guests and overheard the conversation.

"Aye, it's true enough, though he's no' been seen or heard for mony's the yee'ar," the butler replied. "But every time he was, it was bad forebodings aroond here. Last time he was hearrd the stable block had caught fire and a young stable lad was burned to death, aye and some o' the horses too. They say his ghost can be seen around the estate noo an then."

"Really? How sad," Lady Penelope answered. "You will have to tell me more about him."

After a few more tales and a few more drinks the party was over and the remaining estate workers left for their homes, leaving the castle inmates to go to their rooms for the night.

"Goodnight and I do hope you sleep well, Penelope my dear, and not let those tales scare you too much," Duncan told her as she rose to go to her room.

"I'm sure I will," she replied with a smile. "I'll leave the ghosts to do their haunting in peace. After all of this highland air and the dancing tonight I'm much too tired to worry about them. Goodnight everybody, I don't usually stay up as late as this."

She went to her room and was still thinking about some of the tales she'd been told. "Of course it is all nonsense and just part of the Halloween celebrations that they probably told last week," she told herself.

A maid helped her out of the costume she'd been wearing and after a quick shower she was soon fast asleep in bed. She'd been determined that no ghosts would dare interrupt her dreams.

In the early hours of the morning she was woken up by a strange sound. It took a while for her sleep-numbed brain to register what it was, the sound of bagpipes from outside her window. The music was distant at first but then gradually got closer. She became a little annoyed and thought to herself, Duncan, I'm really too tired to be scared by your silly game. I'm not going to rush out of here screaming if that is what you want me to do.' With that she pulled the covers over her head in an attempt to ignore the sound and go back to sleep. Soon the noise became quieter as it became distant again and she heard it no more.

Next morning at breakfast Lady Penelope noticed that her hosts and the rest of the guests at the castle were in a sombre mood. Thinking they were just tired after the festivities of the evening she tried to lighten up the atmosphere.

"Really, Duncan, I was surprised that you thought I would have fallen for your little joke last night." She smiled as she poured herself some fresh orange juice. "That was a good attempt though, having somebody playing the bagpipes outside on the castle parapet. I was much too tired to taken in by your Phantom Piper and soon fell asleep again."

Lord Duncan's face went pale as he heard her words, "So you heard him too, then?"

Jamie McKenzie whistled quietly as he climbed into the truck containing a load of whiskey from the distillery in Inverlachan. There had been a heavy frost overnight but that was to be expected as it was November now and winter was setting in soon in these parts. The morning was bright and sunny though and he did not have far to travel that day which was why he felt cheerful. Once he got off the narrow twisting highland roads he would soon be on the main route to Aberdeen where he would unload his truck and soon be home again with his wife and young family by nightfall.

He'd just driven away from the distillery and over the bridge that crossed the River Lachan when he heard a huge explosion and saw in his mirror the distillery light up in a ball of fire.

"What the hell's happened?" he asked out loud. He thought of the men he'd just left in the warehouse there and knew they were in danger. Stopping his vehicle, he reached for his radio link and relayed his emergency call to local police and fire stations to get help.

Alan Tracy also heard the emergency message that came over the radio on Thunderbird Five. "Help needed urgently, the whiskey distillery at Inverlachan has just exploded and is on fire. Men are working in the warehoose there."

Alan responded to the emergency call. "This is International Rescue. I heard your message and we will send help. Give me the details and your location."

Jamie was momentarily surprised. "International Rescue? I just expected yon local police or fire brigade to reply but you are even better."

He gave Alan the details and the location of Inverlachan. Soon these were being relayed to Tracy Island.

"Inverlachan!" exclaimed Jeff Tracy as soon as Alan had given the message to him. "Why that is where Penny has gone for a few days. Okay, Alan we'll get help there as soon as possible."

Breakfast had just finished at the castle when the noise of the explosion was heard and Duncan ran to a window to see what was wrong. "The distillery's gone up!" he exclaimed. "We've got to get help there, it's on fire."

Susannah and the other guests went to the window too and had a look. "We'd better go and see what we can do to help," she said.

Duncan went to call the emergency services on the telephone and while he did so Grant and two other servants came to clear the dishes from the table. He looked at Lady Penelope and said. "Ah kent summat bad wis gan tae happen. We arl heard the sounds o' the Phantom Piper las' night."

"I'm going up to my room to get my coat to join the others to see if I can help," she replied and left the room. She did not want to get into a debate with elderly superstitious servants about the issue.

A few minutes later Jeff had a call from Lady Penelope via her video link.

"Go ahead, Penny," he said to her.

"Jeff, you are going to have to send the boys out here to Inverlachan. There has been a terrible explosion at the whiskey distillery in the village. I'm in my room at the castle and I can see the fire now from my window. The local fire brigade are attending but I think they need better equipment than they have. I haven't told my hosts I was contacting you, they've gone to see what they can do to assist."

"We've already had one call about that, Penny. We're on our way now," Jeff told her.

"Alright, Jeff, I'll leave things with you and see what I can find out about the situation, there seems to be people everywhere." Lady Penelope told him as she closed her make-up case and continued to watch the event from the window for a few more minutes.

"Well you heard what she said, boys, it looks like we have a serious situation to deal with," Jeff told his four sons who were present in the room. "All of you had better go out on this one. Take all the fire fighting equipment and the anything else you think is necessary. Alan has the co-ordinates from the truck driver so they will be in the same area as the fire. Get them from him as soon as you are launched."

"FAB," the brothers all said in unison as they left to board Thunderbird's One and Two to begin the flight to Scotland.

Scott Tracy landed Thunderbird One down as close as he could to the distillery without endangering his craft. The building was well alight and the work of the local fire fighters seemed to be proving ineffective. He was soon approached by a surprised rescue co-ordinator after he left the cockpit.

"I dinna ken wha sent for ye but thank heaven somebudy did and ye managed te get here," he told Scott. "There are some men trapped in yon warehoose and wi' that stuff in there it's likely to go up ony minute."

"My buddies are on their way with equipment to deal with the situation. They shouldn't be too long now." Scott gestured towards the Mobile Control unit in Thunderbird One. "Give me a hand to get my gear out please and nearer to the fire while we are waiting and you can tell me how many men you think are trapped in there."

"Aye, sure I'll do that for ye, lad," he said as he helped Scott carry the unit down onto the ground and carry it with him closer to the burning distillery.

"The place was being closed down for expansion work to begin so Ar've been told. There's naebody inside the main building, it must have bin an electrical fault or sommet that started the blaze," he explained to Scott after they reached their destination. "It's the twenty warehoose lads gettin the last remaining stock oot to shift it to the exporters that we're worried aboot. The explosion caused damage to walls and jammed the doors. If the fire gets to there they'll all gang up sky high. The local brigade are deeing ar'l they can to keep the fire from spreading to the warehoose."

As soon as the Mobile Control Unit was set up, Scott contacted Virgil in Thunderbird Two.

"Mobile Control to Thunderbird Two," he began. "I'm at the danger zone now, Virgil, and here's the situation. There's around twenty men trapped in the warehouse, the walls are damaged and the doors are jammed. The main building is empty but is burning severely and the danger is if the flames get to the whiskey being stored in the warehouse. Get John to drive the Firefly and Gordon to drive the Fire Truck. There should be enough dicetylene on board those to put out the flames. You follow behind in the Fire Tender with some more as an emergency back up but bring the oxyhydnite equipment with you to work on those doors."

"FAB, Mobile Control," Virgil replied. "I estimate I'll be there in eighteen and a half minutes."

"Well try and make it sooner, it looks bad here." Scott replied as he closed down the radio link and contacted his father on Tracy Island to convey the situation to him.

Virgil arrived on schedule with John and Gordon in Thunderbird Two. He set the huge craft down near Thunderbird One and quickly opened the pod door to let John and Gordon drive the rescue vehicles out. Virgil soon followed in the Fire Tender and parked it close to the other two fire fighting vehicles so John and Gordon could use it if it was needed while he took the oxyhydnite equipment to try and free the trapped men.

Scott had put on his hazard suit and helped Virgil to cut through the buckled steel doors of the warehouse.

"Okay, Virgil, we're through, let's get in there," he told his brother.

Both of them were followed in by fire fighters in an attempt to get the men found and removed as quickly as possible. Paramedics and ambulances waited on standby outside to ferry the casualties to the nearest hospital.

It didn't take them long to find the trapped men. They had tried to get out of the building using the emergency doors, but because the building had been damaged in the explosion, these too had become jammed and that is where they were all found. Before they had lost consciousness due to smoke inhalation and other injuries caused by the explosion, some men had attempted to move as many of the remaining crates of whiskey as they could to the far wall away from the main building.

After several hours the combination of dicetylene from International Rescue and water from the local fire fighters trucks soon had the blaze under control and eventually extinguished. It was getting dark now and everyone was relieved that the work was almost finished. There had been no fatalities but some of the trapped men were in a serious condition and were now in the hospital in Aberdeen.

Susannah and some of the other women from the estate had set up a canteen to supply tea, coffee and sandwiches to the local rescue workers who had worked tirelessly on the blaze before International Rescue arrived and afterwards too. Lady Penelope had joined her friend as there was little she could do back in her room at the castle and she felt more useful here; besides she had never really seen International Rescue carry out an emergency so she grabbed the chance, even if she had to feign lack of recognition between herself and the Tracy brothers.

She watched as the rescue vehicles were being driven back into the pod of Thunderbird Two by Virgil, John and Gordon. Scott had not yet packed the Mobile Control Unit away in Thunderbird One as he was busy talking to the rescue co-ordinator about something. Behind them stood the burnt out shell of the building now looking eerie in the darkness fast approaching behind the arc lights that had been set up at the latter stage of the rescue. Smoke still filled the night air that was turning cold and frosty again and she was glad she had put on her thick tweed coat when she left the castle.

"It looks like everything is just about over now," Susannah said. "I wonder if the men from International Rescue would like a hot cup of tea or coffee. There's plenty left for them. I hope they do so I can say I've met them."

"I'll go and ask that one," Lady Penelope replied nodding her head in Scott's direction.

She soon reached Scott's side as he finished his conversation with the Rescue Co-ordinator. She smiled at him and said, "Would you and your colleagues care to come for a cup of tea or coffee before you leave here?"

Scott smiled back at her. "Yes, thank you very much. We'll be over as soon as we put our gear away."

"Good, I'll go and arrange that for you then," Lady Penelope replied.

Virgil had re-emerged from Thunderbird Two and helped Scott put away the Mobile Control Unit, by which time the other two brothers had come to join them.

"We've been invited for some coffee before we go," Scott told his brothers. "It'll be okay seeing as Penny's in charge of it."

"Great, I would much prefer what she makes rather than Virgil's version of coffee in Thunderbird Two," Gordon replied.

"You're treading on dangerous ground, Gordon," Virgil said in a low tone. "Don't forget you've got a small job to fix in my shower when we get home."

Susannah was all of a flutter at serving her famous guests their drinks. Lady Penelope joined in by offering Highland Shortcake biscuits to eat with their coffee.

"Would you care for one of these? This is so exciting meeting you men from International Rescue."

Gordon readily took one. "Thanks, this is exciting too, being here and meeting you. You look as if you live in that castle there. I've never met anybody who lived in a castle."

"Well I'm only a visiting guest here, this is Lady Susannah McCrail, she lives in the castle," Lady Penelope smiled back at him.

Susannah introduced her guest to Gordon, "This is my friend Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward from Foxleyheath Manor in the south of England. She has been staying with us for a few days."

"Pleased to meet you, Ma'am," Gordon said. "I guess a Manor House is not as big as a castle. I sure would love to see it one day so I could tell for certain."

John wanted to hastily change the subject so he asked about the distillery. "Was that part of the castle estate too?" he asked Susannah.

"Yes, sadly, the Inverlachan Castle Whiskey distillery was started over a hundred years ago. It was going to be extended and refurbished, but now it has to be completely rebuilt," She told him. "So many local people were employed there. It looks like it will be quite a while before we get the business up and running again."

Darkness was falling now and only a few of the local fireman were still at the scene. The Tracy brothers finished their coffee and then people from the village helped Susannah and Lady Penelope remove the refreshment stall back down into the village hall which was some distance from the gates of the distillery.

Lady Penelope took the opportunity to have a quiet word with the brothers by herself. "This has been a terrible day for the people around here. I'm glad I was able to contact you to get you here quickly. I'll have to go now as it is getting cold and dark and I'm sure that dinner will soon be ready. I'll speak to you later when you get home. Goodbye boys, it was such a thrill watching you on a rescue."

"Better than that first one in Australia, huh, Penny?" Virgil smiled. "Nothing to scare you around here like there was there."

Lady Penelope gave Virgil a withering look, "From what I've heard there is. Just make sure it doesn't scare you too, Virgil, dear."

After she had left them the four brothers made their way back to their rescue vehicles. They had parked them quite close to Loch Lachan and John looked up into the night sky. "Look, the Aurora Borealis," he said "It's so clear here without any city lights spoiling the view. I want to watch this for a while."

Gordon looked at Scott. "Looks like we are going to be here longer than we thought," he said.

"Just give him fifteen minutes or so to gaze up there. If he's not ready to leave by then, I'm going home without him," Virgil said.

"I'll go and report to base while he's sky gazing," Scott announced as he made his way to Thunderbird One.

"Let's go down to the water's edge," Gordon suggested to Virgil. "That'll pass some time."

"Okay, we can collect John on the way back," Virgil replied. "He should have seen enough by then."

The two brothers made their way down to the edge of Loch Lachan which was only a short distance away from the Thunderbirds. The reflection of the lights in the sky on the water made a beautiful sight.

"I wish I had my camera with me, that looks so good to see," Virgil said.

"Yeah, it does," Gordon agreed. "I wonder what that water's like for swimming in or if it has any monsters in like Loch Ness."

"I hope you are not eager to find out now, Gordon. I want to get back home." Virgil told him anxiously.

"No, it's too cold now and I want to get back home too," Gordon replied.

After his brothers had deserted him, John continued to gaze skywards to take in the amazing display of nature's free light show. He did not notice the young man that came and stood beside him until he began to speak.

"It's a bonny sight right enough, yon lights in the sky," he said to John. "I often watch them."

"You're lucky to live around here to see them," John replied. "I can't see them at all where I live, too much light from the streets of the city."

He glanced down at the young man beside him. He couldn't see him much in the dim light but by his height he looked to be about seventeen or eighteen years old.

"Which city de ye come from?" the young man asked.

"New York is where I go to now," John replied not wanting to go into too much detail about the whereabouts of his real home.

"I had some relations that went to bide there, a lang time ago," he informed John. "They had to gang, they got thrown off their land, everybody did in those days. It was lucky my family managed to gee' a job on this estate or they wad have had to gang there too."

"What do they call your relations?" John asked. "They or their descendants may still be in the city."

"Andrew Douglas was his name and I was named after him. Everybody calls me Andy though," the young man informed John. "I'd better be away now as I've things tae de afore the morning. Whit's your name, by the way."

"Just call me John," John replied. "I'd better be going home soon too."

"'Bye, John," Andy said as he walked away into the darkness.

"''bye, Andy, and I'll see if I can find your relations in New York," John shouted after him.

Gordon and Virgil walked up from the side of the Loch to meet John. Gordon spoke out first.

"I hope you're ready to go home now, John. We want to, it's getting cold and we're all tired and hungry," he said.

"Yeah, I'm ready, let's go and tell Scott," John replied as he looked up at the sky for one final glance of the display of lights above him.

The day after they returned home, Lady Penelope contacted the island base by her video link while she was in her room in the castle. Jeff answered her call.

"Hi, Penny, how's things going over there after the fire?" he asked her.

"Well, Jeff, everybody is full of praise for International Rescue and the splendid job they did. The rescued men from the warehouse are doing well in hospital and plans are already being made to re-build the site."

"That's good news then," Jeff replied and smiled at his four sons who were in the lounge with him. "Well done, boys, I take it you heard what Penny said."

"There is something very strange about all of this though, Jeff," Lady Penelope continued. "I'm not one to believe in old superstitions and ghost stories but I do find it odd that the fire did start after everybody, including myself, heard the sounds of bagpipes from the castle walls the night before. There is a legend of a Phantom Piper who walks the parapet walls of the castle before disaster hits the estate."

"What are you getting at, Penny?" Jeff asked. "You're not telling me that you are beginning to believe in all of that stuff, are you?"

"I said I find it strange, Jeff, and I want to try and find a more logical reason first," Lady Penelope replied. "I have one or two theories I want to check over tomorrow."

"Good, I thought for a minute you were going to start believing in that sort of rubbish," Jeff replied.

"I've heard some stories about the estate during my stay here, Jeff, and a lot of superstitious people believe them. Even the one about the young stable boy called Andy Douglas who was burned to death some years ago. His ghost is said to roam the estate too."

John face went as white as his hair and he dropped the magazine he'd been reading on the floor. After picking it up he decided to go to the kitchen for a drink and then a walk down to the beach for some fresh air.

Knowing nobody around here would believe him if he mentioned his conversation with Andy the previous day, John had to keep his thoughts to himself. He got down to the edge of the sea and sat looking out and thought about the events of yesterday and what Andy had spoken to him about. "Of course, the Highland Clearances of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries! That is why his relatives would have gone to New York," he thought to himself. He looked up at the sky and said out loud. "I'll keep my promise, Andy and next time I'm in New York I'll look your relations up and see what happened to them."

 
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