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Authors: Karen King

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BOOK: Sabotage
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Chapter 6
Dirty Tricks

‘You know, some of that stuff could be really valuable,’ I told Joe, as we clambered down from the attic. ‘Gran watches these programmes on TV where people take things they’ve found in their attic to be valued, and sometimes they’re worth thousands.’

‘I don’t think my family’s old junk will be worth that kind of money,’ Joe said. ‘But I think I ought to sort it out and get rid of some of it. It’s been there for years, gathering dust.’

‘I’ll help you,’ Max offered.

‘Me too, I said. ‘My folk’s tour has been extended, so I might be here some time.’ My parents were touring Europe with the musical show they star in. It was turning out to be a big success – which is beyond me because I thought it was utterly cringe-worthy.

‘Thank you, I’d appreciate that,’ Joe said. ‘How about starting tomorrow? Might as well get cracking while you’re both on school holidays.’

As Joe pushed open the kitchen door, we couldn’t believe our eyes as a huge torrent of water came pouring out, swishing around our ankles.

‘What the ...’ he exclaimed.

The kitchen was swimming in water. The big wooden door must have kept it back a bit, but now the water was spilling out into the hall.

‘Did you leave the tap on?’ I asked.

‘No. I think it must be a burst pipe.’ Old Joe rolled up his trousers to his knees. ‘Can you kids go and get the broom and mop and bring them round to the back door. You’ll ruin your shoes if you go through the kitchen.’

Our trainers were already pretty wet, but we ran out of the front door, leaving Joe to wade through the kitchen. Outside, something in the distance caught my eye. I glanced over at the woods and glimpsed someone running between the trees. Whoever it was, they were wearing something that sparkled in the sunlight. Puzzled, I stared after them, but the figure quickly disappeared from view.

‘Come on, there’s the broom, and there’s a mop and bucket too!’ Max shouted.

I seized the broom and ran to the back of the cottage with it. The back door was wide open now and water was flooding out over the step and into the garden. Inside the kitchen, Joe was on his knees, wrapping something around a pipe.

‘We’ve got the mop and broom,’ I said. I slipped off my trainers and waded across the kitchen to him – thank goodness I’d worn shorts that morning instead of my usual jeans. ‘Want me to start sweeping out the water?’ I asked.

‘No thanks, Amy, I’ll do it.’ Joe straightened up. ‘Looks like I’ve got a burst pipe. I’ve turned off the stopcock to halt the water flow. Now, let’s clear this mess up so that I can see what damage has been done.’ He took the broom from me and started sweeping the water out of the kitchen.

Max and I helped the best we could, using the mop and another broom we found, but it took ages to clear up. Then Joe phoned the plumber, who said he wouldn’t be able to come out until later that day.

‘Best not to turn the water on until then,’ Joe said. ‘I think I’ve bandaged the hole in the pipe, but there could be another hole somewhere else.’

‘Don’t pipes usually burst in the winter?’ I asked. ‘Something to do with freezing and expanding?’ Summers were real hot back home, but the winters were freezing and my folks were always worrying about the pipes bursting.

Joe nodded. ‘So they do. I’m not sure how it happened. Old pipes I suppose.’

It all seemed rather suspicious to me. Had someone sabotaged Joe’s pipe deliberately? They could have got into the cottage while we were up in the attic. We must have been there for at least two hours, and we wouldn’t have heard anything up there. I suddenly remembered the figure running into the woods.

I mentioned my suspicions to Max as we were cycling home.

‘But why would anyone want to sneak into Joe’s cottage and burst his pipe?’ he asked. ‘It doesn’t make sense.’

‘Think about it,’ I told him. ‘Joe gets offered big bucks for his house. He refuses to sell, then things start going wrong; his roof leaks, his pipe bursts ...’

‘And those yobs let his chickens out ...’

I’d forgotten all about those troublemakers. Had they got something to do with this? Were they sabotaging the cottage because Old Joe reported them to the police? The more I thought about it, the more I was sure that someone was targeting Joe. Well, I wasn’t going to stand by and see the old guy bullied. I was determined to find the culprit and put a stop to it.

Back in my room at Gran’s, I thought about how to tackle the problem. It wasn’t the same sort of case as finding out who’d taken Fluffy – but it was a bit like finding out who’d been sabotaging our baseball games back home in the US. I’d solved that one. I just had to approach it logically.

The first thing to do, I decided, was find out who Mr Dawson was and if he had any connection with Mr Smythe. I could do a search on his name, of course, but I’d need his full name and would only get results if Mr Dawson had a web ‘presence’ like a website, a business or had been in a newspaper or something else that a search engine could pick up. If he was a rich holidaymaker who’d taken a fancy to Joe’s cottage and wanted it for a holiday home, then I wasn’t likely to find out anything interesting. I’d have to ask Old Joe for the man’s initials and address, then I might be able to do some research.

Another important thing to do was to keep notes. My favourite TV detective, Vince Bronson, was always telling Mac, his sidekick, to make a note of everything, no matter how unimportant it seemed ‘because you never knew where a clue might be hiding’. I took out my notepad and lucky green pen, turned to a clean page and started to write:

My gut instinct told me that this wasn’t a coincidence, and, as Vince says, when you’ve got no proof, go with your gut instinct. I put the notepad and pen away then went downstairs to see if Gran was around. She might know something more about this Mr Dawson character.

Chapter 7
The Mystery Woman

Mr Winkleberry was back. He was in the private lounge, sitting on the sofa real close to Gran, telling her all about his visit to see his friend.

‘He lives in this remote cottage near the cliff edge,’ he was saying. He stopped and greeted me with an icy glare when I came in, as if I was the lodger here, not him. Well, okay, I was a lodger too, I guess, but at least I was family. I had more right to be in the private lounge than he did.

‘Did you want something, Amy?’ he asked, his left eye twitching as usual.

‘No,’ I said, sitting down on the chair right opposite them. I picked up the newspaper – Mr Winkleberry’s favourite broadsheet – and idly flicked through it. I was annoying them, but I didn’t care. I was going to wait here until Mr Winkleberry left the room so that I could talk to Gran.

It was a bit of a highbrow paper, all about financial news, company mergers and stocks and shares. Just the sort of boring stuff I’d expect Mr Winkleberry to read.

Then something caught my eye …

PODCAST 2

Go to
www.amycartermysteries.com/sabotage-2

Robert Dawson. Could that be the same Mr Dawson who offered to buy Old Joe’s land? The question was, did he want the land badly enough to try and drive the old man out?

I thought about how much money Mr Dawson would make if he built a few houses on Old Joe’s land and the field next to it. Dad was always saying how expensive house prices were in the UK, especially in tourist areas like Cornwall. But then, according to the websites I’d looked at, ancient Roman jewellery and other stuff could fetch huge amounts of money too. So, both Mr Dawson and Mr Smythe could make a lot of money from getting their hands on Old Joe’s cottage and the land surrounding it.

‘You look miles away, Amy. Have you found something interesting in that paper?’ Gran asked.

‘Er … no.’ I hastily folded up the paper and put it back on the sofa. ‘I was just thinking, that’s all. I’m hungry. Is it okay if I make a sandwich?’

‘Well, I expect it will be peanut butter and jelly as usual?’

‘You got it.’ Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with a glass of strawberry milkshake was my most favourite meal ever, much to Gran’s disgust. She was always trying to persuade me to eat something healthy, like salad. Healthy it might be, but tasty it definitely wasn’t.

I’d just finished lunch when Max turned up. I filled him in about the newspaper article. ‘We’ll have to keep an eye on Old Joe’s cottage,’ I told him. ‘Then we might catch one of them in action.’ It should be easy to do now that we’re helping Old Joe to sort out his attic. I was looking forward to that. Old stuff fascinated me. It was mind-blowing to think that zillions of years before I was even born, people lived without TVs, computers, cars, or even indoor bathrooms. Incredible!

We decided to go back that afternoon and tell Old Joe what we’d found out about Mr Dawson. When we got there, Jack the builder was looking at Old Joe’s roof.

‘It’s an expensive job, I’m afraid,’ he said when he came back down the ladder. ‘Even if I cut costs to the minimum it’s going to be a couple of grand. There are quite a number of tiles missing on your roof, you know. I’m surprised you haven’t had any trouble with it before now. When did you last have it looked at?’

‘Not for some years,’ Old Joe admitted. He looked quite worried. ‘I haven’t got that kind of money, Jack.’

‘I know, Joe.’ Jack patted his shoulder. ‘Look, I’ll replace the missing tiles and patch up the rest as best I can, which will keep the cost down for you. But I have to warn you that the roof won’t stand up to a bad winter.’ He picked up his tool bag. ‘I’m really sorry, Joe. I’ll do it as cheap as I can for you, you know that, but I have a living to make. I won’t be offended if you want to get other quotes, mind. It’s always a good idea to scout around for the best price.’

Joe shook his head. ‘No, Jack, I only deal with people I know and trust. Your price is good enough for me. If you could just send me the bill for patching it up in the meantime, and I’ll sort out my finances to get the rest done before the winter sets in.’

‘Will do,’ Jack nodded.

‘First the roof, then the pipe,’ Old Joe sighed as Jack drove off. ‘If anything else goes wrong with this house, I might have to sell up.’

‘Maybe that’s what they want,’ I told him. ‘Don’t you think it’s a bit strange that things are going wrong just after someone offers you big money for your cottage?’

Joe stared at me. ‘Are you suggesting this Mr Dawson is damaging my cottage so that I’m forced to sell up?’

‘He could be. He’s a property developer, you know.’ I told him about the article I’d seen in Mr Winkleberry’s newspaper. ‘He could stand to lose a lot of money if he wants to build some houses here and you won’t sell up.’

‘Or there’s Mr Smythe,’ Max piped up. ‘He could be trying to force you out so that he can look for Roman treasure on your land.’

Joe looked stunned for a moment, then he shook his head. ‘Those are quite serious accusations, kids,’ he said. ‘My cottage is old and, like I said to Jack, I haven’t had the roof looked at for years; haven’t had the pipes looked at either. I always said if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. So it’s not that surprising they both need repairing, is it? I just hope nothing else goes wrong. That really would wipe me out.’

‘Do you really think Mr Dawson or Mr Smythe could be messing around with Old Joe’s cottage to make him sell?’ Max asked as we got on our bikes to go home. ‘That’s a really nasty thing to do.’

I thought about it. I was sure I’d seen someone running into the woods when Joe’s pipe had burst. Was it someone working for Mr Dawson? I doubted that a big property developer would do his own dirty work. Perhaps it was Mr Smythe then, or could it be those yobs playing a prank to get their revenge on poor Old Joe?

Just then, something caught my eye. I looked around and saw a flash. A dark blue car was parked by the far fence of the field and a woman was taking photos. Of what, I wondered? The field? The cottage? Maybe she was an accomplice of Mr Dawson or Mr Smythe. I focused on the car but it was too far away for me to make out the license plate. I couldn’t make out the woman’s face clearly either. I took out my cellphone, selected memos and made a note of the colour of the car and a brief description of the woman, just in case I bumped into her again. She was wearing a long blue skirt and white tee shirt. She had long curly brown hair.

‘Who’s that woman?’ Max asked.

‘No idea, but I’m just making a note about her. I might need to refer to it later.’

‘I wish I had a phone like yours, so that I could take photos and make notes and stuff,’ Max said wistfully. He had one of his step-sisters’ old phones, which was a bit basic, and he was always moaning about it. ‘Do you think she’s up to something?’ he added.

‘No idea. But it’s a bit strange that she’s taking photos of Joe’s cottage, and Vince always says you should never overlook any detail, no matter how small.’

Max rolled his eyes. ‘Oh, you and that Vince Bronson guy!’

‘One day I’m going to be a top FBI agent like him,’ I said. ‘You’ll see!’

‘And I’m going to be a top astronaut like Zach Taylor,’ Max said. ‘I’m going to travel in space and discover unknown planets.’

‘Yeah, right!’ I laughed.

Max glared at me. ‘I am!’ he said. ‘I’ve got as much chance of being an astronaut as you have of being an FBI agent.’

He was right. Everyone started out as a little kid, even the Prime Minister. Who was I to say he wouldn’t be an astronaut?

‘Okay, chill. I was only teasing,’ I told him.

Just then my cellphone rang. I glanced at the screen and saw that it was Gran. I bet she wanted me to run an errand. I was tempted to ignore it but knew she would only send me back out again when I got home. I flicked the phone open to answer the call. , Gran, I’m on my way home now.’

‘Good, can you stop off at the chemist and get me some headache tablets, please? My head is thudding and I’ve got a WI meeting tonight.’ Gran belonged to the local Women’s Institute. I’m not sure what they did at their meetings, but they got together every Thursday evening and Gran seemed to enjoy it.

The chemist was in the middle of the town, but Gran was real grumpy when she got one of her headaches so I figured the extra journey was worth it.

‘I’ve got to go to the chemist for Gran,’ I told Max. ‘You can go straight home if you want.’

‘I’ll come with you,’ he replied. ‘I’m not in a rush.’

We’d almost reached the high street when a dark blue car shot past us. It pulled up at
The Windward Hotel
on the corner and a woman with curly brown hair stepped out. She was wearing a white tee shirt and long denim skirt.

‘I’m sure that’s the same woman who was taking photos earlier,’ I said to Max. ‘She must be staying at that hotel.’

I pulled up by the pavement and watched as the woman walked into the hotel. ‘Come on, let’s follow her and find out what she’s up to,’ I told Max. ‘I want to know why she’s so interested in Joe’s cottage.’

‘We can’t just walk into a hotel. Someone will stop and ask what room we’re in,’ he pointed out. ‘Anyway, I live here, someone might recognise me.’

‘I’ll go in then,’ I told him. ‘You stay and look after the bikes.’

We cycled over to the hotel car park, and I left Max sitting on the grass verge looking after the bikes. I took a five pound note out of my purse – the last of my allowance – and walked through the main entrance. I glanced around. There was no sign of the curly-haired woman. Smiling brightly I walked over to the reception desk.

‘Hello, a lady dropped five pounds outside,’ I held up the note, ‘and I saw her walk in here. A curly-haired lady wearing a blue skirt and white tee shirt …’ I trailed off and looked around. ‘She seems to have gone.’

‘Oh, you mean Mrs Langham? She’s in Room 5. How kind of you to return the money.’ The lady on reception was positively beaming. ‘Would you like me to give it to her?’

‘It’s okay, I can see her, she’s just about to go up the stairs.’ I ran out into the hall before the lady could say anything to stop me. It was a lie, of course, I had no idea where the woman had gone, but at least I was in the hotel. I hurried up the stairs and along the landing. Room 5 was the third door along. What should I do now?

I had no time to think of a plan of action because the door to number 5 suddenly opened and out stepped Mrs Langham.

BOOK: Sabotage
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