Authors: Alexander McCall Smith
The Chocolate Money Mystery
Alexander McCall Smith
Another great young readers’ series from the creator of Mma Ramotswe, Isabel Dalhousie, Harriet Bean and Akimbo!
Max and Maddy Twist have a flair for solving crimes. You might even say it’s in their blood. That’s because their parents once ran a thriving detective agency—until their nemesis, the notorious Professor Claude Sardine, shut them down.
But now Max and Maddy are ready to pick up where their parents left off. In Max & Maddy and the Chocolate Money Mystery, a Swiss businessman asks for their help in catching a bank robber. But little do the brother-and-sister detectives expect to find themselves hot on the trail of a gang of…St. Bernard dogs. Who can be the dastardly mind behind this evil and cunning plot? The daring duo don their disguises and fly to Switzerland to find out!
Maz and Maddy—Private Detectives
On the very edge of the town in which Max and Maddy Twist lived there was an icecream parlour. It was not a large ice-cream parlour—in fact it was quite small—but it was very popular with people who liked really good ice cream, in lots of different flavours (there were thirty-seven, to be exact).
Behind the parlour there was a house, and this is where Max and Maddy lived with their parents. Mr and Mrs Twist had not been making ice cream for long. They used to be private detectives, and had been the owners of the best private detective agency in the country. They had even won prizes for their detective work—the Best Disguise Award (which they won two years running), and the Most Difficult Clue Solved Award. Then, quite without warning, something terrible happened and they had been forced out of business.
What happened was not their fault, but was the work of an extremely cunning man called Professor Claude Sardine. This man had been wicked since birth. When he was a baby, he had hidden other babies’ rattles, and made them cry. Then, when he was a little bit older and was at school, he had cheated in the egg and spoon race, secretly sticking the egg to his spoon so that it would not fall off. A little later he had soaked all the school chalk in water, so that it would not write when the teacher tried to use it. And then, when he was much bigger—about eighteen—he had ruined the world’s most famous cycle, race, the Tour de France, by scattering drawing pins on the roads by night. That was a particularly mean and nasty thing to do, but then Professor Sardine was a very nasty man.
Mr and Mrs Twist had once managed to thwart one of Professor Sardine’s evil schemes and he had never forgiven them for it. The professor had got hold of two thousand pairs of underpants and had treated them all with…itching powder! He was on the point of selling them at bargain prices to the public, when Mr and Mrs Twist stepped in and put a stop to it.
They had just been investigating the strange loss of two thousand pairs of underpants from a knicker factory on the edge of town. The only lead they had was a sardine, left at the scene of the crime.
For a while, Mr and Mrs Twist were stumped. But not for long. Because soon after that there was another burglary—this time at a joke factory. Two thousand bags of itching powder had been stolen, and once again the mysterious sardine left behind. But here the professor had made his fatal mistake. Little did he know that he was dealing with two real professionals.
The Twists, with the sardines as evidence, questioned the town’s fishmonger, deducing, quite rightly, that anyone dastardly enough to steal two thousand pairs of underpants and two thousand bags of itching powder would not be likely to pay honest money for a couple of sardines. And sure enough, the fishmonger was able to give a very good description of a man who had entered his shop, stolen the sardines and run off, laughing in a chilling manner.
An Identikit picture of the professor was soon drawn up by the Twists and pasted all over town with the words
Do Not Buy Underpants from This Man
written underneath it. This spoiled Professor Sardine’s fun, and he swore to drive the Twists out of business.
His revenge had come in the shape of a simple, but very wicked plan. He had gone to every newspaper in the country and paid for the publication of a large notice. This notice simply said that Mr and Mrs Twist, the famous detectives, had been arrested and sent to prison for thirty-three years and three months! Of course this was not true, but everybody believed it and Mr and Mrs Twist’s business was ruined. There was nothing for Mr and Mrs Twist to do but give up being detectives and open an ice-cream parlour.
Listening to their parents’ stories, Max and Maddy soon found out a great deal about how to be a private detective. They also learned a lot from the books which lined the walls of their parents’ study. There was a very interesting book called
Two Hundred Simple Disguises
. This book could itself be disguised! If you turned it upside down it looked exactly like a cheese sandwich, and if you laid it on its side it looked like an old hairbrush! But their favourite one of all was called
How to Follow People without Being Seen—Ever
. This book had been written by Mr and Mrs Twist themselves, and there was a large photograph on the back cover just to prove it.
In their spare time, when they were not reading books about private detection, the two children liked to play a game called Cluedo. This was tremendous fun, as it involved trying to find out who had committed a crime just by asking questions and writing down the answers. Max and Maddy were soon so good at it that they won every time they played with other people. And when the local newspaper announced that there would be a grand Cluedo competition to find the champion player of the year, it was no surprise that Max and Maddy both entered.
It was not all that easy. They found themselves up against very stiff competition, but at last, after a grand final filled with nail-biting suspense, the judges announced that the first prize had been won jointly by the two of them.
Mr and Mrs Twist were extremely proud.
“This proves it!” crowed Mrs Twist. “Detective talent runs in the blood. I’ve always said that!”
It was wonderful to have won the competition, but what happened next was even more exciting. Just a few days later, when the postman brought the mail, there was a letter for them with an unusual stamp on it.
“Look,” said their mother, handing Maddy the letter. “A letter from Switzerland. Do you know anybody there?”
Maddy shook her head, and started to open the letter. As she read it through, her jaw dropped with surprise.
“What does it say?” asked Max, in a very excited voice. “Read it out. It’s addressed to me as well.”
Maddy read the letter and now it was Max’s turn to be astonished. For the letter from Switzerland was a very exciting one indeed. The person who wrote it, Mr Conrad Huffendorf, a well-known and very rich Swiss banker, had read about their success in the Cluedo competition and asked them whether they could possibly solve a mystery for him.
“If you can play Cluedo so well,” he wrote, “then I’m sure you’ll be able to solve a mystery for us here in Switzerland. I am a banker, as you may know, and I am very worried about what has been happening. There have been some very large bank robberies, and the police just cannot seem to solve the crime. Do you think you could help? After all, you’re terribly good at Cluedo.”
Max and Maddy looked at their mother.
“Do you think we could?” they asked. “Poor Mr Huffendorf sounds terribly worried.”
Mrs Twist thought for a moment. Most parents would say no, of course, but then most parents don’t run ice-cream parlours with thirty-seven flavours.
So Mrs Twist said, “Yes, of course you can go—”
She had been a private detective, you see, and she knew that you could never turn down a real mystery. Never.
Suddenly Maddy noticed a tiny P. S. to the letter, and she read it out carefully. This is what it said:
P. S. Of course we’ll reward you handsomely for your help. We can either pay in money (we’ve still got a bit left) or, if you prefer, in bars of chocolate. Switzerland, as you know, makes the best chocolate in the world. So you just decide. Money or chocolate, but not both!
Which would you have chosen, I wonder?
Really! Is that your answer? Well, well!
And which do you think Max and Maddy chose? Read on, please. You’ll find out later.
Wanted for Bank Robbery!
“Welcome to Switzerland!” said Mr Huffendorf, taking off his hat and giving a small bow.
Max and Maddy, fresh from their journey by plane and train, saw a small, rather round man standing in front of them. He was wearing a black coat with a velvet collar, and tiny pebble-like spectacles. He was very polite, and insisted on carrying their suitcase for them. And when they were sitting in his car, which was waiting outside, he put a thick rug over their knees, just to make sure that they were warm enough. As they sped along the streets on the way to Mr Huffendoifs house, they saw snow everywhere—on the roofs of the houses, on the branches of the trees, and even on people’s hats. And behind the town, climbing up towards the sky, there were mountains, and these too were covered with snow, rather like white icing on a cake.
Mr Huffendorf said nothing for a while, but then he suddenly turned to Max and asked him a question.
“Where do you keep your money?” he enquired, peering at Max through his tiny round spectacles.
“I don’t have very much,” said Max, thinking of how he had spent his savings, every last coin of them, on two large bars of chocolate to eat on the journey.
“But you must get pocket money,” said Mr Huffendorf. “Where do you put that?”
“In my pocket, I suppose,” answered Max. “Or, if I decide to save it up, I put it in my pencil case, or maybe in the drawer where I keep my socks.”
Mr Huffendorf shook his head sadly. “Oh, dear!” he said. “Oh, dear! Oh, dear! The best place for pocket money is a Swiss bank! Everybody knows that. Now, if you gave me your pocket money, I would put it in my bank and then it would be as safe as can be, all tucked away in the Huffendorf Bank!”
Max thought for a moment. “But what about all these bank robberies?” he asked. “No robber would think to look in my sock drawer…”
Mr Huffendorf suddenly looked taken aback. “I suppose I’d forgotten about that,” he said sadly. “You’re quite right. Swiss banks aren’t as safe as they used to be, I’m sorry to say. And all because of these dreadful robberies.”
The banker paused and looked at the children.
“I have a photograph of one of the robbers, you know. Would you like to see it?”
“Well,” said Maddy, “if we’re going to help you find the robbers, I think we should know what they look like.”
Mr Huffendorf fished into the inner pocket of his jacket and took out a small, folded poster. On the top, printed in very large letters, it said:
WANTED FOR BANK ROBBERY
“Here,” he said. “This is one of them. It was taken by a secret camera in the bank at the very moment of the robbery.”
He handed the poster over to the children, who studied it carefully. Then they looked at one another in puzzlement.
“But it’s a dog!” said Max. “You said it was a photograph of a bank robber.”
Mr Huffendorf smiled. “Exactly,” he said. “It’s a photograph of one of our famous Swiss mountain dogs, a St Bernard. They are usually used to rescue people who have got lost in the snow. They have wonderful noses, you see. But now, I’m ashamed to say, they seem to have taken up bank robbery. Every single one of these robberies has been carried out by a dog!”
As the car made its way along the winding mountain roads that led to Mr Huffendorfs house, the two children listened in astonishment to the story of the extraordinary robberies.
“The first time it happened,” said Mr Huffendorf, “people could hardly believe it. The dog came into the bank, jumped over the counter, and immediately started to collect piles of bank notes in its mouth. St Bernards have very large mouths, you know, and he managed to fit an awful lot in. Then he gave a growl—he couldn’t bark, because his mouth was full up—and he ran out of the door. Everybody was too astonished to give chase, and it was all over in minutes.”
That was the first bank robbery. Mr Huffendorf went on to explain that the next one, which took place a few weeks later, was much the same, although this time it was a different dog. At this bank, the dog slipped in unseen, and then managed to run up to the manager’s desk and start growling at him in a most unfriendly way. By growling and barking it had pushed the manager back towards the safe, and it had threatened to bite him until he had opened the safe door. Then the dog had shot inside, grabbed a large bag of gold coins in its jaws, and dashed out again.
Several more banks had been robbed in exactly the same way, and the dogs, which were different ones on each occasion, had got away with it every time. Somebody had tried once to give chase, but the dog had been too cunning. It is easy for a dog to get away from a human being, as they can squeeze through spaces which humans cannot get through. It’s not all that easy for a person to crawl under a car and emerge the other side in no more than a second or two. Nor are people very good at wiggling through smelly storm-water pipes, full of mud and old leaves. But dogs love that, and so it was easy for him to get away.
When Mr Huffendorf had finished telling his story, he looked hopefully at Max and Maddy.
“Please do something about this,” he said. “We really need your help.”
Later that day, while Mr Huffendorf went off to attend to some business, the two children stood in front of the great window of his sitting room, looking out at the snow-covered valley below.
“This is a very strange story,” said Max. “I’ve never heard of anything like it. Dogs who rob banks!”
“I can’t see how we can help,” said Maddy. “If the police can’t find these dogs, then are we going to do any better?”
Max was silent. He was staring out of the window, and Maddy knew when he did that he was thinking very hard.