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Authors: Karen King

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BOOK: Sabotage
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Chapter 2
Buried Treasure

Glancing out of the window I saw that Mr Smythe was still metal detecting in the field, combing it inch by inch as if he was scared of missing a patch. Suddenly, he stopped and bent down, peering at the ground. He ran off to grab the spade he’d left leaning against the fence, returned with it and started digging frantically.

‘It looks like he’s found some treasure,’ I said.

‘More like rusty nails,’ Max grinned.

Mr Smythe bent down, reached inside the hole he’d just dug and pulled something out. He rubbed the soil off, looked at it, then threw it back down.

‘Told you!’ Max said. ‘Dad said you’ve got more chance of winning the lottery than finding buried treasure with a metal detector.’

Well at least I’d found out what Mr Smythe was doing every day. I wondered if he was looking for anything in particular or whether he was just some metal detecting fanatic.

We helped Old Joe feed the chickens, then he gave us each a bag of fresh vegetables to take home.

‘I couldn’t imagine Old Joe living anywhere else,’ Max told me as we cycled back. ‘He was born in that cottage. It’s the only home he knows.’

Gran was delighted with the vegetables. ‘So you’ve met Old Joe then?’ she asked. ‘I haven’t seen him for a while. How is he keeping?’

‘He looks well, and his cottage is lovely. No wonder he doesn’t want to sell,’ I told her, bending down to stroke Fluffy who had come to greet me as I came in. The dog had hated me when I first arrived, but since she’d been dognapped and I’d helped find her, she’d somehow come to accept me.

‘What do you mean? He’s not thinking of selling, is he?’ Gran asked as she put the vegetables away.

I told her about the letter. ‘Old Joe said it was a really good offer, but he’s not accepting it. He doesn’t want to leave the cottage.’

‘I should hope not. He’s lived there all his life, as did his father and grandfather before him. He wouldn’t be happy anywhere else now,’ Gran said. ‘I expect someone from the city wants his cottage for a holiday home. Well, they’ll just have to find somewhere else. Money can’t buy everything, and if I know Old Joe he wouldn’t sell up if you offered him all the tea in China.’

Just then the back door opened and Max burst in. ‘Amy, something terrible’s happened,’ he gulped. ‘I’ve lost my lucky coin! I must have dropped it when we were out this morning.’

‘What?’ I stared at him incredulously. Max was usually pretty tough, yet here he was almost in tears over some stupid coin he thought was lucky?

‘Oh that’s a shame!’ Gran walked over and put her arm around his shoulder. ‘Well, don’t worry, I’m sure Amy will help you find it. Won’t you, Amy?’

‘You want me to go looking for a coin?’

‘It’s a very special coin. Max’s dad gave it to him when he was a baby. It’s his lucky coin,’ Gran said, giving me a look that said she’d give me a pretty hard time if I didn’t help.

Max had told me his dad died when he was three and he could hardly remember him. His mum had remarried a couple of years ago. I guess if my dad had died when I was little and all I had left of him was a lucky coin, I’d be upset if I lost it too. ‘Course I’ll look for it,’ I said. ‘Where did you keep it?’

‘In the pocket of my jeans,’ Max sniffed. ‘I thought it would be safe there.’

I rolled my eyes. ‘But you’ve always got your hands in your pockets. You could have pulled it out pretty much anywhere.’

‘I’ve never lost it before!’ he retorted.

‘Okay, okay, let’s try and think. It wouldn’t have dropped out when we were cycling around, and we didn’t really stop anywhere long, except for Old Joe’s. I reckon you must have dropped it there. Maybe in the garden when we were feeding the chickens?’

‘I don’t want to put a dampener on things, but it will be like trying to find a needle in a haystack, searching for a coin in Old Joe’s garden,’ Gran said.

‘I’ve got a plan though, Auntie Sue,’ said Max. ‘I’ll borrow my stepdad’s metal detector. We should find it in no time!’

Max’s mum was out doing someone’s hair and his scary Goth sister mumbled, ‘Fine, whatever,’ when Max asked if he could borrow the metal detector, so we went to the shed to root it out. Max’s stepdad’s shed was pretty much like my dad’s: full of old tools and gadgets that he’d probably used only once and would never use again (but wouldn’t throw away in case, one day, they might come in useful). We eventually found the metal detector buried under a pile of old pots in the corner of the shed, put it in the basket on the back of Grandad’s bike and set off for Old Joe’s.

‘Back again?’ Joe asked when he saw us.

‘I lost my lucky coin. Is it okay if we look for it with this metal detector?’ Max asked.

‘Of course. But mind, if you find any buried treasure, I want half!’ the old man smiled.

‘You’re on!’ I told him.

‘Hang on a minute.’ Old Joe walked over to the shed and disappeared inside. ‘You’re going to need these,’ he said, reappearing with two spades.

I felt a surge of excitement the first time the metal detector bleeped. What if we
did
find some buried treasure in Old Joe’s garden? It wasn’t impossible. I’d heard stories of people finding old coins worth thousands of pounds. Each time the detector bleeped and there was nothing lying on the surface of the soil (where Max’s coin would have been), we dug a hole anyway, to look for whatever metal was buried there. But, by the time we’d found a pile of rusty nails and other junk, the excitement had worn off and I was finding the whole thing a bit tedious. Mind you, I let Max do most of the digging. After all, it was his coin.

‘Maybe your coin isn’t here,’ I said when we’d been searching for over an hour. ‘You could have dropped it somewhere else.’

‘Let’s look for a bit longer,’ he said. ‘We’ve nearly covered it all now.’

A few minutes later the metal detector bleeped again. ‘I really hope this is your coin,’ I said, leaning forward to look at what I’d found.

It wasn’t. It was a broken old bracelet, coated in dirt. I rubbed at it with the bottom of my tee shirt but couldn’t get any of the dirt off.

‘Found something interesting?’ Old Joe asked.

‘Just a broken bracelet and some bits of rubbish,’ I told him.

‘We haven’t found my lucky coin yet,’ Max said, sadly. ‘I think I’ve lost it for good.’

‘No, you haven’t.’ Old Joe held up a coin. ‘I found it in the hen hut when I was cleaning it out.’

Max beamed. ‘Oh thank you!’ He took the coin from Joe and slipped it into his pocket.

‘Maybe you should find a safer place to keep that,’ I told him. ‘Perhaps your stepdad could drill a hole in it for you to make it into a key ring.’

‘Hey, that’s a good idea,’ Max agreed.

No one was in when I got back home, so I decided to try and clean up the bracelet a bit. I washed it and wiped off most of the dirt then polished it dry. I could see now that there was a strange pattern on it. I was so busy studying it that I didn’t notice Mr Smythe come in.

‘What have you got there?’ he asked.

‘A broken bracelet I found at Old Joe’s.’ I showed him the bracelet. ‘Max lost his lucky coin, so we used a metal detector to try and find it, but we found this instead. It looks really old.’

Mr Smythe snatched the bracelet from me and studied it. He seemed very distracted, and I thought I saw a spark of interest in his eyes, but then he shook his head. ‘Looks like a bit of old junk that someone won at the fair,’ he said. ‘Where did you say you found it?’

‘In Old Joe’s yard. It’s next to that field where you were metal detecting this morning.’

He looked shocked. ‘Were you following me?’ he accused, glaring right at me.

I quickly dropped my gaze. When he stared like that without blinking, I found him a little unnerving and, quite frankly, his rudeness was beginning to make me angry. ‘Of course not. We were visiting Old Joe. He’s a friend. That’s when we saw you,’ I said curtly.

He seemed to calm down a little. ‘I see. Well, metal detecting is a hobby of mine, but, like you, I mostly find junk.’ He handed the bracelet back to me. ‘You might as well bin it.’

I guessed he was right. What did I want with a broken bracelet? Jewellery had never been my thing anyway. I threw it in the bin and went up to my room to check my email and to see if any of my buddies were on messenger. Gran didn’t have a computer or internet, but Max’s folks had kindly given me the password to their wireless router so I could go through that using my laptop. Two of my buddies were online, so we had a chat for a while. I told them about the bracelet. Rory, my best friend back home, asked to see it. ‘You should have kept it,’ he said. ‘It might be an antique. You should at least check before you throw it away.’

‘It’s in the trash. I’ll go and get it out, take a picture of it and send it to you,’ I wrote back.

I went down to the kitchen and started rummaging in the bin. I’d only thrown the bracelet away an hour ago so it should be just on the top, but I couldn’t find it. Frustrated, I emptied the entire contents of the trash can onto the floor. Fluffy saw what I was doing and scampered over to join in the fun. She sniffed through the leftovers and started gobbling up the bacon rind.

‘Amy!’ Gran screeched, rushing over to grab Fluffy. ‘What on earth are you doing?’

‘Sorry, Gran, but I threw away a bracelet I found today and I need it.’

I got down on my knees and continued to search through all the rubbish – not pleasant I can tell you. Think potato peelings, used tea bags and cold bacon rind and you’ll get some idea of the gunge I had to wade through. But the bracelet wasn’t there.

‘It’s gone!’ I couldn’t believe it. Someone had actually taken it out of the bin.

‘Amy! Clear that mess up at once!’ Gran looked as if she was about to have a fit.

‘Sorry, Gran,’ I gathered up all the gunk and put it back in the bin.

Gran handed me a packet of antibacterial floor wipes. ‘Why did you throw the bracelet away in the first place?’ she asked.

‘Because it was dirty and broken and I thought it was junk, but now I wish I’d kept it. Someone must have taken it out.’

‘Really, Amy, that’s quite absurd. Why would anyone want to go through the bin for a broken bracelet?’ Gran said. ‘Now go and wash your hands. Goodness knows how many germs you have crawling over them.’

It was Mr Smythe! It had to be. He was the only one I’d shown the bracelet to. Maybe it really was an antique and Mr Smythe had just pretended it was rubbish so that he could steal it for himself.

Chapter 3
Flooded Out!

‘I can’t believe you threw that bracelet in the bin!’ Max grumbled when I told him what had happened the next morning. ‘You could have asked me if I wanted it.’

‘I thought it was rubbish,’ I said defensively. ‘Mr Smythe tricked me into throwing it away so that he could steal it.’

‘It might not have been him, you know. Someone else could have seen it in the bin and taken it out.’

I thought about it. Gran only had two guests at the moment, Mr Smythe and Miss Flimpton. There was Mr Winkleberry too, of course, but he’d been out all day visiting a friend in Land’s End. Miss Flimpton was an artist and spent her days painting or visiting art galleries. She’d popped back just after lunch, but somehow I couldn’t see her rummaging through the bin for a broken old bracelet.

‘No chance,’ I told him. ‘It has to be Mr Smythe, and I’m going to get it back. Trust me.’

‘I hope you do,’ Max replied. ‘Anyway, I’m going to see Old Joe again. Mum’s baked a pie for him to thank him for the vegetables. Do you want to come?’

‘Okay.’ I wanted to speak to Joe about the bracelet. If it was valuable, then by rights it was his, so I felt bad about throwing it away.

There was no sign of Old Joe in the garden, so Max knocked on the door. No answer. I tried the handle. It opened, so we stepped inside.

‘Joe!’ Max shouted. ‘Are you in, Joe? It’s Max and Amy.’

‘I’m here!’ Joe’s face appeared over the banister. He looked really agitated. ‘My roof’s leaking and it has flooded my bedroom,’ he said. ‘One of the tiles must be loose.’

‘Do you need any help clearing up?’ I asked.

‘Thanks, Amy, but I’ve done what I can for now.’ He came down the stairs. ‘Thank goodness it didn’t rain heavily last night or it might have brought my ceiling down. I’ll have to get the roof fixed before it rains again, though. You youngsters hang on a minute while I phone Jack Mason. He’ll take a look at it for me. Then you can tell me what brings you here.’ He went into the lounge, picked up the phone and dialled a number. From what I could hear of the conversation, Jack was coming to look at the roof later that day.

‘Well, that’s sorted. Let’s hope it doesn’t cost me too much,’ Joe said, coming back into the kitchen. ‘Now what can I do for you two?’

I told him about Mr Smythe taking the bracelet. ‘It must be valuable for him to take it, so I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have thrown it away. It might have belonged to one of your ancestors or something.’

‘It’s okay, lass,’ Joe told me, ‘but it’s interesting that it disappeared from the bin. You’ll need to keep a close eye on that Mr Smythe.’

That’s exactly what I thought.

Mr Smythe had still been at the B&B when I left, which was unusual. I’d expected him to show up in the field next to Old Joe’s to look for more treasure. However, there was no sign of him yet.

‘Maybe he’s metal detecting somewhere else today,’ Max said.

‘No, I’m sure that bracelet had something to do with what he was searching for,’ I sighed. ‘I wish I’d taken a photo of it so I could do some research.’

‘There might be books in the library, or information on the internet about antique jewellery,’ Max suggested. ‘Do you think you would recognise the bracelet if you saw a picture of it?’

‘I reckon so,’ I told him. ‘Let’s go to the library and see what we can find out.’

We were padlocking our bikes to the cycle rail at the side of the library when Mr Smythe walked out and hurried off down the steps. He was looking straight ahead, so hadn’t noticed us. As he reached the bottom step, his cellphone rang. I put a finger over my lips to warn Max to be quiet. Then I crept over to the wall and bent down to listen in on the phone conversation.

PODCAST 1

Go to
www.amycartermysteries.com/sabotage-1

Mr Smythe snapped his phone shut and walked off. I remained where I was for a moment, digesting what I’d overheard. Then I went back to Max, who was waiting impatiently by the bikes.

‘Well?’ he asked.

I relayed the phone call to him. ‘I was right, my bracelet
has
got something to do with what Mr Smythe was looking for in that field. Whoever he was talking to seems to think that if Old Joe was persuaded to sell up, they’d make big money out of his land. Maybe that’s why Joe was offered so much money for his cottage.’

Max frowned. ‘But Joe got that letter yesterday morning, so it must have been written
before
we found the bracelet,’ he pointed out.

‘Yes, but judging by that phone call, there’s at least one other person involved in this search — one of them could be Mr Dawson, the man who sent the letter offering to buy the cottage. Maybe he and Mr Smythe are in this together.

‘I think we should warn Old Joe that those people want to buy his cottage so that they can dig for treasure,’ I told Max, as we headed home.

‘So do I, but I can’t go over again today,’ he said. ‘I have to go out with Mum this afternoon. How about we both go and see him in the morning?’

‘That’s fine by me. I’ve got plenty of stuff to do as well,’ I told him.

I spent the evening surfing the net, but didn’t find anything remotely like the broken bracelet. Maybe it wasn’t an antique after all; maybe it was just junk.

However, if it was junk, then why did Mr Smythe take it out of the bin? And why did he tell the person on the phone that they were on to something big?

It looked like I had another mystery to solve.

BOOK: Sabotage
2.12Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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