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Authors: Karen King


BOOK: Sabotage
8.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

Written by Karen King

Published by Top That! Publishing plc,
Tide Mill Way, Woodbridge, Suffolk, IP12 1AP, UK
Copyright © 2010 Top That! Publishing plc.
All rights reserved

Copyright and Credits

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Chapter 1
Old Joe

‘Where are you going?’ Max’s mop of red hair and freckled face appeared over the fence as I wheeled Grandad’s old bike out of Gran’s backyard.

I sighed. Just after I arrived from America to spend the summer with Gran in Cornwall, Max had helped me find out who kidnapped Gran’s dog, Fluffy. Since then, he thought he was my best buddy. I couldn’t go anywhere without him.

‘I’m tailing Mr Smythe if you must know,’ I told him, mounting the bike. ‘And if I don’t get a move on, I’ll lose him.’ I cycled off, hoping Max would take the hint.

He didn’t. Before I reached the end of the block, he was beside me on his racer.

‘Why are we following Mr Smythe?’ he asked.

not following him.
am,’ I told him, cycling as fast as I could.

‘You can’t just ditch me now, we’re a team,’ Max said, catching up with me. ‘Besides, you need me for cover. If Mr Smythe sees you and gets suspicious, we can pretend I’m showing you around
Little Cragg. He knows you haven’t been here long.’

He had a point. Max was a few years younger than me and could be very irritating, but he was handy to have around sometimes. ‘Okay. But you do as I say, right?’

Drat! Mr Smythe was taking the road out of town. Grandad’s old bike creaked and groaned as I pedalled up the hill after the maroon hatchback. Luckily, the traffic lights at the top of the hill turned to red, holding up Mr Smythe long enough for us to catch up with him. Then he turned left at the roundabout, but we were blocked in by some traffic. When we finally managed to turn left, he’d disappeared. We cycled down the road as fast as we could, but there was no sign of him.

‘We’ve lost him!’ I groaned. I was really annoyed, but how was I supposed to keep up with a car on this old crank of a bike? I bet even Vince Bronson, my favourite FBI agent, would struggle.

‘Why are you so interested in Mr Smythe?’ Max repeated. ‘What do you think he’s up to? He’s only been staying at
a few days, hasn’t he?’
is the name of Gran’s B&B.

‘I’m not sure.’ It was hard to put my finger on it, but my super-sleuth instincts told me that there was definitely something strange about Mr Smythe. And it wasn’t just his squint and dodgy taste in clothes – today he’d gone out in a yellow sweater and brown checked trousers, would you believe? ‘He’s sort of secretive … he never speaks to Gran or the other guests if he can help it, and he goes out early every morning and doesn’t get back until late at night.’

‘Er … lots of holidaymakers do that. It’s called sightseeing,’ Max said sarcastically.

I gave him a withering look. ‘That’s the trouble, I don’t think he
sightseeing. He takes a big bag with him every time he goes out, and when he comes back his boots are always muddy. I’ve been trying to sneak into his room to look at what’s in his bag, but once he comes home, he stays there, so I haven’t had a chance.’

‘Let’s have a ride around. You never know, we might bump into him,’ Max suggested.

‘Ok,’ I agreed. It was worth a try. And it was better than going back to
where Gran and Mr Winkleberry – who was staying for the whole summer – would only find jobs for me to do.

We cycled around the outskirts of the town, where we came upon some woods.

‘Shall we go through here?’ Max asked.

‘Yeah, why not,’ I agreed. The woods were light and airy, with a narrow path running through just wide enough for us to cycle side by side. It was hardly a scene from a horror film, but for some reason I couldn’t shake off the feeling that we were being watched. I noticed Max looking nervously over his shoulder, so he must have felt it too.

Just then, my heart started racing as three lads, a couple of years older than me, came charging out of the bushes ahead, almost knocking us off our bikes.

‘Hey, watch where you’re going!’ I yelled after them as they ran off in the opposite direction.

One of them, a skinhead wearing a studded denim waistcoat with a ring through his eyebrow, stopped and turned back towards us. Why did I open my big mouth? He moved closer and closer, staring straight at me with a look of pure evil in his piggy eyes. It was then that I noticed he was dripping wet.

‘What’s your problem, Yankee Doodle?’ he demanded.

I glared at him, but before I could say anything, an old man burst through the bushes after them. ‘I’ll get the police on to you, you young hooligans!’ he shouted, waving his clenched fist in anger.

‘Careful you don’t have a heart attack, Grandad!’ Skinhead jeered. He pointed a finger at me. ‘I’ll remember you, Yankee, so watch yourself.’ Then he ran after his friends.

The old man paused to gather his breath. He was tall and almost bald with a long, grey handlebar moustache. He reminded me of an army colonel.

‘What’s going on, Joe?’ Max asked.

‘I caught those young hooligans trying to start a fire in the woods,’ the man replied. ‘Luckily I managed to stop them in time.’

‘Looks like you threw a bucket of water over them,’ I said, amused. He seemed a tough old guy.

‘I did, lass. And I’ll be telling PC Lambard about them when I see him. Starting fires is stupid and dangerous.’ He looked over at Max and smiled broadly. ‘And how are you, young Max? It’s been a while since I saw you passing this way.’

‘I’m fine, Joe.’ Max smiled at him. ‘This is Amy, she’s from America. She’s Auntie Sue’s granddaughter.’

‘Hi,’ I held up my hand. ‘Nice to meet you.’ I still found it strange that Max called my gran ‘Auntie Sue’, but he’d grown up next door to Gran, so I suppose she was a bit like family to him.

‘You too, lass. Now, do you kids fancy coming back to mine for a glass of homemade lemonade and piece of fresh crusty bread with strawberry jam? All that chasing around has given me a bit of an appetite – and I’d like to catch up on the news with young Max here.’

‘Oh yes, please!’ Max looked delighted. He obviously knew the man well. I was feeling pretty hungry too, so was glad to accept the offer.

‘Is he a friend of your family?’ I asked as we followed Joe through the woods.

‘He was my mum’s music teacher,’ Max replied. ‘Mum said he’s taught nearly everyone in the town at one time or another. She visits him every now and again and doesn’t mind me popping in to see him. He’s nice. Everyone likes Old Joe.’

Old Joe lived in a cottage just at the edge of the woods. It was real pretty with honeysuckle growing all around the door and hanging baskets of flowers everywhere. There was a vegetable garden and some chickens clucking around.
English. My mom would have loved it.

‘Come in,’ said Joe, taking a key out of his pocket and unlocking the back door. ‘There was a time when I never had to lock my doors,’ he said, leading the way into a tiny galley kitchen with pots, pans and nets of onions and vegetables hanging from the beams, ‘but times change.’ He waved his hand at a door leading to another room. ‘Take a seat in there and I’ll bring your drinks in.’

We walked into the lounge, which was surprisingly big; there was a piano along one wall and a big bay window at the front, overlooking the fields. I went over to it to get a better look and saw a man walking slowly across the field. He had his back to us, but I’d have recognised those checked trousers anywhere. It was Mr Smythe! What on earth was he doing in that field?

Max joined me just as Mr Smythe turned around, and I saw that he was holding a metal detector. ‘So that’s what he keeps in his bag.’

‘Who keeps what in his bag?’ asked Old Joe, walking into the lounge carrying a tray with three glasses of lemonade and a plate of freshly-baked bread and jam. It smelt delicious!

‘One of Gran’s guests,’ I told him. ‘He goes out every day and always takes a big bag with him. I wondered what was in it, but now I see it’s a metal detector. He’s using it in the field by your cottage.’

Old Joe put the tray down on the coffee table and came over to look. ‘Oh him, he’s been there all weekend. I don’t know what he’s expecting to find there. Buried treasure maybe!’

‘My stepdad’s got a metal detector,’ Max said. ‘He used it once, found a handful of screws and an old tap and never used it again!’

‘I’ll never understand some people,’ Old Joe said, turning away from the window. ‘Now, how about that snack.’

I watched Mr Smythe for a moment longer. He seemed really engrossed in what he was doing, as if he was searching for something specific, not just metal detecting for fun. What was he hoping to find in an empty field in Cornwall?

‘Is he allowed to search there?’ I asked Joe. ‘Surely that field belongs to someone?’

‘If it does, they haven’t bothered with it for years,’ Old Joe said. ‘I remember it used to belong to Farmer Wilson when I was a nipper, but he sold off some of his land, that field included. It got sold on again after that, so I’ve no idea who owns it now.’

We had just finished our snack, with Old Joe entertaining us with stories of what some of the adults in the village had got up to when they were kids, when the back door opened.

‘You in, Joe?’ someone shouted. ‘I’ve got some post for you.’

‘In here, Dave,’ Joe called. ‘Have you got time for a quick brew?’

The mailman poked his head around the door and smiled. ‘Not today, thanks Joe. I’ve got a few parcels to deliver.’ He handed Old Joe a couple of letters and a large packet.

‘Oh good, that’ll be my vegetable seeds,’ Joe said. ‘I’ve been waiting for them.’

‘Be seeing you then.’ The mailman nodded at us as he walked out through the kitchen.

‘Now where are my glasses?’ Old Joe muttered.

‘Here they are.’ Max went over to the fireplace, picked up a pair of glasses and handed them to Joe.

‘He always leaves his glasses there and then forgets where he’s put them,’ he whispered to me.

Old Joe opened one of his letters. ‘Another bill,’ he said, tossing it down on the table. Then he opened the other letter and frowned. ‘This is peculiar,’ he muttered. ‘Most peculiar.’

‘What is?’ asked Max.

‘I’ve received a letter from someone who wants to buy my cottage. He’s offering me a ridiculous amount of money.’ He frowned and peered over his glasses. ‘Why would anyone want my cottage that much? It must be some kind of joke.’

‘Well, it’s a quaint old place with lots of character and it’s in a lovely location,’ I told him. ‘I could imagine lots of people wanting to buy it.’

‘Yes, but not many of them would offer me this sort of price.’ Old Joe stared hard at the letter. ‘It’s from a Mr Dawson. Says he’s only keeping the offer open for seven days. He wants a quick decision.’

‘You going to take him up on it?’ Max asked.

Old Joe shook his head. ‘Money’s no use to me. I’m too old to uproot,’ he said. He screwed up the letter and put it in the bin by the fireplace. ‘This Mr Dawson will just have to look for a cottage somewhere else.’

BOOK: Sabotage
8.34Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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