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Authors: Robert Muchamore

Secret Army

BOOK: Secret Army
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BY ROBERT MUCHAMORE

The Henderson’s Boys series:

1.

The Escape

2.

Eagle Day

3.

Secret Army

4.

Grey Wolves

5.

The Prisoner

... and coming soon:

6.

One Shot Kill

The CHERUB series:


1.

The Recruit


2.

Class A


3.

Maximum Security


4.

The Killing


5.

Divine Madness


6.

Man vs Beast


7.

The Fall


8.

Mad Dogs


9.

The Sleepwalker

10.

The General

11.

Brigands M. C.

12.

Shadow Wave

CHERUB series 2:

1.

People’s Republic

... and coming soon:

2.

Guardian Angel

Copyright © 2010 Robert Muchamore

First published in Great Britain in 2010

by Hodder Children’s Books

This eBook edition published in 2012

The right of Robert Muchamore to be identified as the Author of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. Apart from any use permitted under UK copyright law, this publication may only be reproduced, stored or transmitted, in any form, or by any means with prior permission in writing from the publishers or in the case of reprographic production in accordance with the terms of licences issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency and may not be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

A Catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

ISBN 978 1 444 91043 8

Hodder Children’s Books

A Division of Hachette Children’s Books

338 Euston Road

London NW1 3BH

An Hachette UK company

www.hachette.co.uk

www.hodderchildrens.co.uk

Part One
January 1941

As 1941 dawned Nazi Germany dominated Western Europe. Britain was under siege. Bombers blitzed cities from the air, while U-boat packs preyed on merchant ships bringing vital supplies across the Atlantic.

The previous year, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill had given the order to ‘set Europe ablaze’, by creating the Special Operations Executive (SOE). The job of this secret army was to gather intelligence and plan sabotage operations inside Nazi-occupied Europe.

Besides a large headquarters staff based in London’s Baker Street, SOE set up secret training campuses throughout the country. The most controversial of these was situated at the edge of an artillery firing range deep in the English countryside. It was home to Espionage Research Unit B, under the operational command of Charles Henderson.

Henderson had already worked undercover in Nazi-occupied France. To complete his mission he had enlisted the help of four youngsters, and came to realise that children were valuable in undercover operations because adults didn’t suspect them.

Henderson’s original team comprised twelve-year-old French orphan Marc Kilgour, Paul Clarke, aged twelve, Paul’s thirteen-year-old sister Rosie and fifteen-year-old American fugitive PT Bivott.

When Henderson returned to Britain, he came under the command of SOE and began to recruit and train more boys for undercover operations in France.

CHAPTER ONE

‘Stand by yer beds!’ Evan Williams shouted. ‘Lights out in
seven
minutes.’

He was a small Welshman with one big eyebrow. Twenty-four boys lived in his dorm. They hurried barefoot over the cold lino, putting toothbrushes in foot lockers and draping towels over radiators before standing at the end of their metal-framed beds ready for inspection.

Each bed was immaculately made. Belongings had to be packed neatly inside a foot locker, with boots or plimsolls cleaned and resting on top in a ten-past-ten position.

‘Attention!’

Each boy snapped into a rigid position. Ankles together, eyes forward, shoulders back. Williams would have liked the boys to wear matching pyjamas, but clothing was short and newer arrivals wore whatever they’d brought with them.

‘Not bad,’ Williams said grudgingly as he passed the first pair of facing beds. At the next he reached under the mattress and dug two fingers between the rusted bed frame and mattress.

‘In the name of our
lord
!’ Williams gasped. His giant eyebrow fired upwards as he jabbed a rusty finger under the nose of a thirteen-year-old with curly brown hair and deep-set eyes.

Troy LeConte knew he was being fitted up: the beds were old and you could reach under any of them if you wanted rust stuck on your finger. It was Williams’ way of showing that he could get you, even if you stuck to all of his petty rules.

‘Well, LeConte?’ Williams demanded. ‘Cat got your tongue? What is this?’

Troy didn’t know the English word for rust, but reckoned a quick answer beat none at all. ‘It’s your finger, sir,’ he said, with a heavy French accent.

This raised cautious laughter from the other boys and Williams looked irritated.

‘I know it’s my finger, you stupid frog,’ he roared. ‘I’m asking you what’s
on
my finger.’

Troy went cross-eyed as Williams dabbed his chunky finger against the bridge of his nose.

‘I don’t know the word,’ Troy explained.

‘You little retard!’ Williams shouted, as he grabbed the neck hole of Troy’s string vest, yanked the lad forwards and cuffed him around the head. ‘Cold shower, five a.m.,’ he barked, before letting go and moving up to the next bed.

Troy rubbed his head before standing crisply back to attention. He hated Williams, but had seen plenty of lads come off worse during inspection. He turned his head as far as he dared, watching the relief on each boy’s face when Williams passed them by.

‘Mason LeConte,’ Williams said, when he was almost at the opposite end of the room. ‘Well, well, it seems stupidity runs in the family.’

Troy’s brother Mason was only eight, but that didn’t stop Williams from twisting his ear and yanking it up until he dangled on tiptoes.

‘The blankets are crooked, you
stupid
boy,’ Williams shouted, as Mason gave a howl that turned his older brother’s stomach.

Troy felt guilty as Williams ripped off his little brother’s sheets and blanket. Mason was the youngest in the dorm and Troy usually helped him before inspection, but he’d been sent upstairs to fetch candles by the night matron and had barely had time to make his own bed.

‘I’ve never seen such a shambles,’ Williams roared, as he took the metal lid from Mason’s foot locker and threw its contents across the floor. ‘Are you feeble-minded, boy?’

‘No, sir,’ the boy sobbed, as Williams upended Mason’s metal locker, then shook him violently by the shoulders.

‘This shoe-cleaning kit is filthy.
Nothing
is folded properly. Why is there mud on the sole of your plimsoll?’

After each sentence Williams jammed two fingers under Mason’s ribs, sending his body into a spasm.

‘Report to my office first thing,’ Williams yelled. ‘And cold showers for a week.’

‘No!’ Mason wailed, as he tried to wriggle away. ‘Leave me alone.’

Troy knew he’d come off badly if he interfered, but what kind of person stood and watched their little brother get bullied?

‘Unacceptable!’ Troy shouted, using the only appropriate English word he could think of as he stepped away from his bed and strode purposefully down the narrow room towards Williams. A couple of boys whispered cautions, and one even stepped into his path.

‘He’ll murder you,’ the boy warned.

‘Keep your head down, mate,’ another begged, but Troy marched on.

Troy imagined an heroic gesture: knocking Williams out with a punch to the jaw or slicing his head off with a sword. But reality found a thirteen-year-old dressed in baggy shorts and vest facing a grown man with fiery eyes and hobnail boots.

‘It seems I have a visitor,’ Williams said, cracking a demented smile as he shoved Mason back over the end of his bed. ‘What can we do for you?’

Troy was quaking, but couldn’t walk meekly back to his bed with all the other lads looking on.

‘He’s eight years old,’ Troy said. ‘Why not help, instead of hurting him?’

‘Or you’ll do what, big man?’ Williams taunted. ‘This is my dormitory. I make the rules.’

BOOK: Secret Army
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