It was a cold, wet night and the wind was howling through the tall trees which surrounded the school and almost hid it from view. Containers had been placed throughout the tired old school to catch dripping water which came in through holes in the 150 year old roof. The Christmas Fair in Oldstone Primary School had come to an end, and some of the pupils had been asked to stay behind to help tidy the school for classes next day.
Tim, Peter and Sophie had volunteered because they were not really eager to go home. However now being alone in this huge dark building, they did not feel as comfortable with their decision anymore. Honestly, they were quite scared but so gracious to have their courageous protector around. Sophie`s dog Fritz had often rescued these three from various dangerous situations. Besides them there were only their strict, impatient teacher, Mr. Spiderleg and the good-hearted, old gardener, Mrs. Mary Sunshine.
However, Mary had for some unknown reason an enormous fear of Mr. Spiderleg and always kept her distance. She was nowhere to be seen now. Maybe she had retreated into her small hut on the school grounds, where she lived all by herself. Only few visitors had found their way into her modest home in the past year. The children were still not able to find out what this dark secret between the two was. It was sort of a taboo topic at the Oldstone Primary School. Peter was determined to clean up today, not only in a literal way. Together with Tim he was closely watching Mr. Spiderleg, out of the corner of his eye because he was really not someone you wanted to mess with.
However, at the moment the three children had other concerns. Sophie had noticed that some things were missing. She was looking for toys and books that were nowhere to be found. Who had moved them? Peter and Tim had noticed that the windows in the assembly hall were suddenly open, even though they had all been closed just minutes ago because outside there was a cold, icy wind blowing. Now, a dark mist entered through the open windows into the assembly hall. The previous storm had passed by just during the Christmas fair. You could still hear the sound of raindrops falling into the containers. The drops echoed eerily through the halls of the school. In the distance, the children heard the church bells of the neighbouring cemetery ringing.
Who was still in the school building besides them?
Peter, Sophie and Tim immediately hid themselves behind one of the tables which was still left over from the fair. The three children were so scared that they couldn’t speak. Suddenly voices could be heard. Gradually the voices were recognized to be those of Mrs. Sunshine and Mr. Spiderleg. Mrs. Sunshine must have returned from her hut. They were completely unaware that they were being watched. The children were soon to find out what the dark secret is between her and Mr. Spiderleg.
As Tim moved deeper under the table his foot hits a bolt. The bolt jammed a little. As he tries to grasp in the dark what it is, he feels the bolt moving. It is actually a trap door. They quickly disappeared into the opening. From the inside, they heard the two adults. Mr. Spiderleg says: “We will soon have it our way, darling. Mary and Geffrey Spiderleg will be rich.” Sophie gasped. Her eyes widened. “Mrs. Sunshine is actually Mrs. Spiderleg?” They are married! But why would they pretend they could not stand each other?
In the following conversation the children overhear Mr. Spiderleg bragging about his great grand-parents. They owned the entire site including the Oldstone school building. His grandfather granted the right of community use of the school building to the local authorities for as long as they wanted.
Mr. Spiderlegs voice gets really angry: “We need to get rid of the kids so that we can finally live in our own home. Tonight, we might have the ideal opportunity to get everything underway.” Just then, Peter sneezes.
What can the children do now? They need to think quickly as the two grown-ups make their way across the hall towards the trap door, where they are hiding.
Peter recognizes in the dark a long underground corridor. Very carefully and quietly, the children follow this dark and dusty underground hallway. A few minutes later, they reach an old door. They can open it and do not believe their eyes. Before them lies a treasure. Gold glitters in the dark. Diamonds are shining out of a small chest. Sophie takes a necklace since she can`t believe it.
Tim freezes and is very pale. He is barely able to speak. Stuttering, he tells of a book in which the history of the Vikings was described. It said that by 1066 AD, a Viking fleet was lost. The ship was owned by a wealthy merchant lady from Novgorod. Everything we still know about this strong Viking lady refers to a piece of jewelry. This piece of jewelry is clearly depicted in the book and if Tim had not lost all his senses, then Sophie held this special necklace in her hands.
The children remembered that Mr. and Mrs. Spiderleg were making their way across the hall, where they would realize that the trapdoor was open, and that someone may have found their treasure. As they frantically felt their way around in the dark underground room, they suddenly found a wardrobe. They stepped inside and froze with fear. They could hear the footsteps of the two nasty adults coming closer and closer. The footsteps stopped when they came to the open trapdoor.
Tim, Peter and Sophie remained silent in the wardrobe, not even daring to breathe. Meanwhile Mr. and Mrs. Spiderleg had started their descent of the stairs into the underground room. It would only be a matter of time until they found whoever had invaded their secret space. In their eagerness to find the intruders they walked right past the wardrobe, not thinking that someone could be hiding in it. The three children could hear the footsteps disappear into the distance. (Where could they be going? Where does the corridor lead to?) This was going to be the best chance the children would have to escape. Peter gave the signal and all three suddenly burst out of the wardrobe and raced for the stairs which would hopefully lead them to the safety of the assembly hall. They had to make it up the stairs, close the trapdoor and bolt it before the Spiderlegs could catch them. As they reached for the trapdoor and were about to slam it shut, Mr. Spiderleg appeared at the bottom of the stairs. They managed to secure the bolt but not before Mr. Spiderleg had got a good look at their faces. He knew who they were!
The three friends stared at each other in shock, and then Sophie held up her hand which was still gripping the necklace.
The children were shocked. Under them Mr. Spiderleg rattled at the trapdoor. „ We are trapped“, said Mrs. Spiderleg. The children ran out of the school building. „ Where can we hide?“, asked Sophie. „Let’s run to my house“, answered Peter. That was the best idea. „We will take the short cut through the woods“, Peter said. All three started to run because some steps could be heard. Sophie stumbled over a root and hit her head. Unconsciously, she fell.
When Peter and Tim reached the house they noticed that Sophie wasn’t behind them. With torches they looked for Sophie. Only a small rag of her jacket gave the hint that she had to be in the school house again. Maybe Mr and Mrs Spiderleg took her hostage! The boys decided to call the police. The policemen arrested the Spiderlegs for stealing a treasure years ago. For finding the thieves the school got a lot of money and a new roof.
After 25 years Sophie and Peter were a couple and married. Their children, Holly and Jack, attended the school in the village. One day they came home and told their parents: „Mum, dad. We’ve got a new caretaker. His name is Mr. Spiderleg.“ Sophie and Peter looked at each other with wide eyes: ”Could it be that….?”