Before going through the curiously inviting door to 'Lucy's Special Place', and all the possible treasures it might contain,
Finny had the little gang collect together everything they had scavenged so far. It was a lot.
Even without the pile of brightly coloured and exotic ladies' clothing Onetooth and Worms had put together it was still a lot for a bunch of seven and eight-year-olds to carry all the
way back to Badger Court. Finny sought a solution.
As best she could, because she didn't quite understand it herself, she tried to explain the concept of 'supply and demand' as taught by Joe's colourful vocabulary.
It was all very well for Onetooth and Worms to have all these clothes, but the girls at the orphanage only had so much stuff to trade,
even less cash and not all of them wanted frilly blouses and short skirts... Or a nurse uniform or... Finny noticed something strangely familiar in the pile and held it up.
It looked like one of the blue, shapeless dresses the girls got issued with on arrival at the orphanage, but grown-up sized.
Weird, but at least it was warmer than the sequined shorts glinting at her from the top of the heap.
Anyway, she did eventually manage to get it across to Onetooth and Worms that they would only maybe be able to sell or trade about half of what they had.
The two younger boys, although a bit disappointed, allowed Finny to go through the clothing and cull the more extreme and less practical items for them.
After all, she was a girl and knew about this kind of thing. When she had finished, the pile of clothing Finny approved of was much smaller and positively much less shiny than the original heap.
Even so, with the other stuff, too, it was still a heck of a lot for them to carry.
Once everything was sorted Finny finally led her eager troops over to the decorated doorway. They paused, looking at the decoration and the winking woman.
"So what's in there?" Asked Onetooth. Everyone turned to Finny.
"I dunno, do I? Special stuff I guess."
"Like what though?"
Instead of answering, Finny stepped forward and opened the door.
"Let's find out."
Beyond the door was a short passageway with red walls and a worn-out red carpet which ended at red painted steps going down to some kind of basement.
The four adventurers paused at the top of the stairs. It was pitch black down there.
Now, the kids weren't scared of the dark, well except for Casper of course but for him 'the dark' was just another item on a long list.
However, they had survived to their present ages because they were all very well aware that walking into a strange dark place was, more often than not, a bad idea.
They all clustered behind Finny.
Situations like this were what put the 'lead' in leader, so Finny knew she was going to have to go first.
"'Kay. Foller me." Finny slowly descended into the darkness step by step, as if scared each concrete stair might suddenly disintegrate beneath her booted foot.
It was a boost to her confidence that the others only waited for two steps before following instead of waiting at the top until she either made it safely or got eaten by one of the things
that live in the dark.
As the bottom of the steps slowly emerged from the blackness, it was Casper who spotted the bank of red-painted light switches on the wall.
Finny's heart gave a little leap as the prospect receded of having to blaze a trail into the narrow dark passageway that lay beyond.
Stepping off the last stair, she gratefully lifted a hand and swept it down the nine little switches.
It didn't have quite the effect she hoped. There was the crackle of electric sparks from above which made the whole lot of them jump.
More orange sparks exploded from other fittings further down the continuing red themed decor of the passage.
Only at the far end, some twenty yards away, did a single solitary fluorescent tube sputter into hesitant, flickering life.
The effect of this one source of strobe-like lighting, combined with the continuing erratic showers of sparks and the blood-red tunnel was somehow worse than the total blackness of before.
The little group huddled closer together. Anxious eyes turned in Finny's direction and Finny could feel them boring into the back of her head.
"It's okay. At least we can see more betterer." She pointed down the tunnel. "Look, there's all these doors to search."
The boys murmured cautious agreement, bravado winning out for the moment. Finny moved carefully forward, placing her feet deliberately to avoid standing on the broken fluorescent tubes.
They reached the first door.
Oddly, although a perfectly ordinary door, it had been painted to look like it was made from stout planks and had fake oldie-worldie hinges and latch.
The adventurers looked at each other and shrugged. Then Finny lifted the latch and pulled open the door.
It wasn't the huge candelabra with the fake flickering candles that caused the quartet of wide-eyed, jaw-dropping looks of horror that would haunt their nightmares for the next few weeks.
Nor was it the phoney brazier with the 'real flame' effect plastic coals. Or the sconces on the 'stone-effect' painted walls.
It wasn't even the weird, six feet tall 'X' shaped whatchamacallit with the handcuff things on the corners.
It probably wasn't even the chains hanging from the ceiling with big hooks on the ends. No, it was none of these, although they certainly co-starred in the nightmares yet to come.
It was the shiny rubber gimp suit, hanging from a hanger, all slashed to ribbons and with the blank black stare of the round glass lenses staring at them that did it.
Yup, definitely the gimp suit.
Finny slammed the door shut again and all four brave adventurers put their backs to it. Casper turned to the others.
"I don't think I like the special place."
"So, does anyone want anything from in there then?"
"Good. I don't think we could have..."
Casper grabbed her arm and whispered hoarsely.
"What was that?"
Breathing was temporarily suspended.
"What was what?" Finny whispered back.
From further down the tunnel came the unmistakeably definite, no questions asked, absolutely the sound of thin glass crunching under something heavy and probably boot-shaped.
As one, four heads, reluctantly but inevitably, turned to look.
In the hellishly painted red tunnel, somewhere between them and the sputtering fluorescent light at the far end, everyone saw the new and gimp shaped shadow.
The four brave adventurers turned and fled back the way they had come, back up the stairs and into the saloon. Finny slammed the door, holding it shut with both hands.
"Quick! Block the door with furniture an' stuff!"
Onetooth and Worms looked at each other and then quickly set to, pushing tables and chairs into a pile in front of the door.
Casper, who had come to a halt much closer to the office with the hole they originally entered through hesitated for, well, a little longer.
Long enough to calculate his chances of getting to the hole and safety before the monster, which would inevitably have long claws and flesh-tearingly sharp teeth,
burst through whatever barricade they built.
However, concluding that Finny would probably be all 'Finny' about it and attack the thing, Casper estimated his chances were good enough to go back and give the others a hand.
The barricade soon grew until the door and even the winking woman sign, were completely hidden behind a loosely-stacked mountain of tables and chairs.
Finny, hands-on-hips again, stepped back to check their handiwork.
"Okay," she panted. "That should hold him."
The rest joined her. Together getting their collective breath back while reassuring each other that an army couldn't get through all that in like, forever.
Even so, there was always a slim possibility... That it maybe, possibly, just might.
"Right!" said Finny, seeing the doubt starting to creep in. "Let's get our stuff an' get out." She checked her watch, lips silently moving as she calculated the numbers.
"It'll be four ock-lockers soon."
Four ock-lockers, (oddly usually around three-thirty) was the mid-afternoon snack for the orphanage inmates. Typically, a jam or cheese sandwich but on rare occasions some kind of slab cake.
But always with a plastic mug of tea. Tea because... Joe.
Not wasting any time about it and with many a suspicious glance to the furniture mountain, they gathered up all their loot and piled it into trash bags from the kitchen.
With everything, even down to the two-litre jar of bar-B-cue sauce, safely accounted for. They shuffled, under the sheer bulk of it all, into the office.
Onetooth and Worms climbed through the hole and out into the alley while Finny and Casper passed through the loot. Once all of it was safely outside, Casper scrambled through also.
Finny did one last check to make sure they hadn't left anything.
She noticed something in the sweep and frowned. Her drawing had moved. Other fingers, bigger fingers, had left their mark in the dust.
An uncomfortable feeling settled onto Finny's shoulders, along with an overwhelming desire not to be here anymore. She lost no time in pulling herself up and through the hole in the wall.
The bright sunshine warmed her face and melted away the unpleasant feeling.
The boys turned to look at her.
"We don't tell anyone about where we got all this, even if you're tortured. Okay?"
The four of them put their hands together and solemnly swore.
And so, the 'Secret' part of the, yet un-named, Adventurer's Club was established.