A/N: This little fic is the lovechild of six bottles of beer and a bad mood. The activities of the Swallows and Amazons would now get them taken into care and their parents arrested. I'm so glad we live in a better country now…
I don't own the characters etc etc etc.
Roger, aged seven, and no longer the youngest of the family, ran in wide zigzags, to and fro, across the steep field that sloped up from the lake to Holly Howe…
When he came near his mother, he saw that she had in her hand her iPhone. He knew at once why.
"Is it the answer?" he panted, out of breath after all that beating up against the wind, "Does he say Yes?"
Mother smiled, and read the text message aloud:
BETTER DROWNED THAN DUFFERS IF NOT DUFFERS WONT DROWN
"Does that mean Yes?" asked Roger.
"I think so."
After they had finished the eggs and the rice pudding and the brown bread and butter and the seed cake and the pot noodles, the mate and the able seaman did some washing up. They were interrupted by the soft throb of an outboard motor and the crunch of a boat running up on the landing place. Susan looked up and saw a native motor launch, packed with people, grounded on the little beach.
Two police marksmen jumped ashore and dropped to one knee, covering the campsite with their MP5 carbines. Another policeman, in the boat, looked from his smartphone to the explorers and back again, then called out, "Susan Walker?"
Susan nodded. "Yes officer, I am."
"Susan, we know you have a knife. For your own safety please take it out of your pocket, place it on the ground then take five steps backwards."
Susan stared in disbelief at the policeman for a moment, then obeyed: she took her scout knife from the pocket of her skirt, laid it beside the fire and stepped carefully backwards, making sure not to walk into a tent by accident.
"Thank you Susan," said the policeman, "Now, where is your brother John?"
"He's at the lookout tree with Roger," Susan said, pointing. "But what's the matter? I do hope we're not trespassing."
The policeman gestured to one of the marksmen, who stood and began to move towards the lookout point. "Does John have any other weapons apart from his knife?" he asked.
"Weapons?" Susan cried. "None of us have any weapons! We're just camping!"
A woman stood up in the stern of the motor boat and spoke to the policeman: "It's OK, Inspector, I'll take care of Ms Walker now." She climbed gingerly over the bows of the boat and walked towards Susan and Titty. "It's OK, Susan," she said, "We know what's been happening and we've sorted it all out. You don't have to stay out here; we'll take you all to a nice place in Kendal and then we'll find you lovely new homes in no time at all."
"What?" gasped Susan, "What do you mean, what's been happening?"
The woman smiled. She had a nice smile, Susan saw, even though she was scruffily dressed and wore a buoyancy vest. Who needed one of those, especially when you were only travelling in a stupid motor boat? "It's going to be all right now, Susan," she said, "All of you are going to be properly looked after from now on."
At that moment John emerged from the trees, his hands Plasticuffed behind him and a trickle of blood running from the corner of his mouth. Roger followed immediately behind him, then the marksman, with his MP5 now slung across his chest and a pistol in his hand. He called out to the Inspector, "Target Alfa didn't want to hand over the knife, Sir, so I had to restrain him. No issues with Target Delta."
The Inspector nodded, but the woman rushed forward to John. "John, I'm really sorry about this," she said, "but the police can't take any risks where weapons are involved. Your mother should have known better than to encourage you to go around armed."
John glared at her. "What do you mean, "go around armed?" he asked. "I'm camping and I'm carrying a knife to cut things. It's also essential equipment in a boat."
The woman nodded comfortingly. "Nobody's blaming you, John, and I'm sorry that the policeman had to do that to you; if you think he used excessive force just tell me and I'll demand an investigation. But we all know it's not your fault. Sending you out here was criminally irresponsible - I mean, paedophiles could have found you or something, I've never seen such bad parenting - and we'll make sure your mother learns her lesson. She's already in custody."
Titty stared in disbelief at the woman; most of the disbelief was nothing to do with her stupid words, but at the fact that she obviously believed the nonsense she was saying. "But Daddy said we could!" she said, "And he trusts us to take care of ourselves!"
The woman smiled reassuringly at Titty. "Don't worry, the Naval Police have already taken your father off his ship and we'll make sure he faces the consequences of what he's done." She stepped forward and took Titty's hand. "Take care of yourselves! What a monster. It's our job to take care of you, and Mavis, we'll never let your parents harm you again."
Titty choked back a sudden sob. Three miles away, in a small Lakeland churchyard, the bones of Arthur Ransome turned in his grave.