Authors: T.M. Alexander
T. M. Alexander likes writing in the morning and sleeping in the afternoon. She does all her plotting while she swims up and down the lake. Her favourite pudding is chocolate anything and her worst pudding is fruit.
Find out more at
Get to know the Tribers at
Other Tribe books:
The Day the Ear Fell Off
A Thousand Water Bombs
Labradoodle on the Loose
For trusty Bod
First published in Great Britain in 2011
by Piccadilly Press Ltd,
5 Castle Road, London NW1 8PR
Text copyright © T. M. Alexander, 2011
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,
stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any
means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise,
without the prior permission of the copyright owner.
The right of T. M. Alexander to be identified as Author
of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with
the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN: 978 1 84812 158 4 (paperback)
eISBN: 978 1 84812 201 7
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Printed in the UK by CPI Bookmarque, Croydon, CR0 4TD
Cover design by Patrick Knowles
Cover illustration by Sue Hellard
It was sausage and mash for school lunch – result! I turned round to start off a Tribe handshake (only really meant for great triumphs) but after I slapped down my hand, only three others followed . . . when there should have been four. I stopped my other hand in mid-flight.
‘Where’s Copper Pie?’
Bee’s head, Fifty’s head and Jonno’s head all turned to look behind. There was Alice, and behind her Marco and Ed. But no Copper Pie.
here. He’s not exactly going to miss lunch, is he?’ said Bee.
‘Same,’ said Fifty.
They were right. Copper Pie
skips a meal. In fact he has extra snacks in between to ensure his stomach is never less than half full.
‘Maybe he snuck in early,’ said Jonno.
On Tuesdays we have to wait until last to go in for dinner. It’s a killer. I scanned the tables to see if our redheaded friend was already munching . . . No.
The thump took me by surprise. It was right in the middle of my back. I lurched forwards and nearly crushed a Year 3 (easily done).
‘Sorry,’ I said to the Year 3, before I turned round to face my out-of-breath friend, ‘What did you do that for?’
‘Sorry, Keener. Couldn’t stop in time,’ said Copper Pie. ‘I smelt the sausages.’ (Pant. Pant.) ‘Didn’t want to miss out.’
‘Where were you?’ said Fifty.
Copper Pie didn’t answer, because someone else did.
‘He was somewhere he shouldn’t have been,’ said Callum. He walked towards us with a knowing look on his face.
We don’t like Callum, and he doesn’t like us. We helped him once, not because we wanted to but because we had to. It didn’t change a thing. If Tribe was a ruling pary, Callum and Jamie would be the opposition. No question.
‘Go away, Hog,’ said Copper Pie.
‘Why? Got something to hide?’ said Callum.
‘No,’ said Copper Pie. He stepped so close to Callum, he was nearly treading on the toes of his trainers. ‘I just don’t like you.’
It looked like trouble, but thankfully Alice – the most irritating girl in the class, except on this one occasion -decided to get involved.
‘You’ve jumped the queue, Callum. Get to the back or I’ll tell . . .’ She looked around for a teacher.’ I’ll tell Mr Morris.’
‘Go ahead. I’ll tell him Copper Pie pushed in too, and we can carry on with our little chat at the back, on our own.’ Callum was definitely up for a fight.
‘You’re wrong there,’ said Bee. ‘Copper Pie was here all the time. Wasn’t he, Tribers?’
There was general nodding. I don’t really like lying but . . . Callum looked at Alice. Behind her, I could see Mr Morris walking our way.
‘But he wasn’t, was he, Alice?’
Alice stared straight back at him . . . and nodded, slowly.
She’s not a Triber (and never could be), but she’d stood up for us.
We could try to be a bit nicer to her,
Except that she’s the most annoying girl, times a million – so maybe not.
Callum curled his lip, like a villain in an old film, said, ‘I’ll be watching you,’ and disappeared to the back of the line.
‘What was that all about?’ said Jonno.
We all looked at Copper Pie.
‘Is it all right if I get my sausages first?’ he said.
We sat at our favourite table in the corner.
‘Go on then, spill the beans,’ said Bee.
‘I think Callum saw me coming through the gates.’
No big deal,
I thought. Copper Pie must have wellied the ball right out of the school grounds. It happens regularly. We’re not allowed to set a foot outside the perimeter without permission, but no one ever asks. They just dash out, and dash back in.
‘He won’t tell on you,’ said Bee. ‘It’s not worth it.’
‘Same,’ said Fifty.
‘Depends how much he saw,’ said Copper Pie.
Jonno laughed. ‘Why? Did you do a quick raid on the café while you were there? Did you nick a hot chocolate?’
I laughed too. But Copper Pie stayed deadly serious.
‘What is it?’ said Bee, flicking her black fringe out of her eyes to give him her best stare.
‘Callum was outside the gates too, getting his ball.’ Copper Pie paused.
‘And?’ said Bee.
And he might have seen me coming from the alley.’ Copper Pie winced.
It was very confusing. Why would Copper Pie be coming out of the alley between end of morning school and last sitting when he should have been in the playground? I hadn’t seen him, but I’d assumed he was practising in goal. He often does.
you been?’ said Fifty.
‘I bunked off,’ said Copper Pie. I gasped. This was bad. In fact, worse than bad. He carried on. ‘There was something I had to do. And the trouble is, I’ve got to do it again tomorrow, and the next day . . .’
I had no idea what the ‘something’ was but I could see what was coming. It was going to be another problem for Tribe to sort out. Why we couldn’t have a few normal days being normal children, I didn’t know. But one of the Tribers was in a fix, and that meant we were all in a fix. I waited, with a bit of a worry growing inside, to hear the details.
All sausage eating stopped. All eight eyes were trained on Copper Pie. He took a breath.
‘I kicked my football over the fence last night.’ He paused. We all willed him to hurry up but no one said anything out loud. He started again.
‘Usually Big Jim shouts at me from his kitchen when I go and get it. He sits by the window a lot, watching the birds. He has lots of birds because he puts up those feeders and fills them with peanuts. I sometimes steal a couple.’ Copper Pie paused again. This story was going to take a lot of telling.
‘He usually says things like, “Get out of my garden, you redheaded layabout”. Or he calls me Tomato-head, or Robin . . . but it’s a joke.’
He does, and it is. I can remember the first time I heard Copper Pie’s neighbour shouting. I was waiting in the garden, with Copper Pie’s brother Charlie, for the ball to be chucked back over. I don’t know exactly what Big Jim said, because I was too shocked by how loud his voice was, but I know that Copper Pie shouted back, ‘Shut up, you grumpy old man’, and then there was loads of laughing. I still don’t get the joke but Copper Pie and Big Jim are rude to each other all the time and that’s how it is.
‘I got my ball from over by the hedge, and on the way back I went right by his window. His car was out the front, so I knew Big Jim must be in. He’s too old to walk very far.’ There was a big pause. So big that Fifty started eating his sausage. So big that Copper Pie had to be nudged into action.
‘What did you see?’ said Bee. ‘What did you see through the window?’
I leant forward in my chair. Jonno pushed his glasses right up to the top of his nose. Fifty took another bite.
‘I saw Big Jim,’ said Copper Pie. ‘He was on the floor.’
Bee made an I’m-shocked noise and put her hand over her mouth. All I could think was blood. Fifty swallowed and spoke for all of us.
‘Copper Pie, please, please could you tell the story without all the gaps because we’d like to know whether your neighbour was dead, and if not, what your neighbour lying on the floor has to do with you bunking off. And if possible we’d like to know before the afternoon bell goes.’ Fifty used a posh voice and a pleading face and pressed his hands together to make pleading hands.
‘I’ll try,’ said Copper Pie. ‘The back door wasn’t locked -never is – so I went in. I thought he was unconscious, you know, in a coma, but he spoke as soon I got in. He said, “Can you give me a hand, Pumpkin-head?”’ (Copper Pie rolled his eyes.) ‘I asked him if I should get Mum but he said “NO”-and he really meant it. So I helped him up, which was like lifting a . . . yeti.’