The Spoon of Doom (2 page)

BOOK: The Spoon of Doom
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‘I'm looking for Timmy Piddler,' he said.

It sounded like a wind-up.

‘You've got the wrong address,' I said crossly, about to close the door.

He looked at his notebook. ‘Are you sure?'

‘Yes. Absolutely. We're the Grubs,' I said. ‘Which, I'm sure you'll agree, sounds absolutely nothing like Piddler.'

I'm not normally that rude, and certainly not to strangers. But I was too busy worrying about the future of my family to mind my manners.

The bloke peered at his paper again. ‘This
is
33 Cuthbert Close,' he said, looking past me into the hall. ‘Perhaps I could speak to your mum or dad?'

‘OK, but they'll tell you the same thing,' I said. Couldn't he see we were in the middle of a crisis?

Obviously not, because he stepped past me and found my parents, still holding hands, still blubbing.

‘Dad,' I snapped. ‘Tell this man there's no one called Timmy Piddler living here.'

But Dad didn't tell him. Instead he made a very strange face. His Adam's apple bobbed three times in quick succession. He gulped for air and then a shadow seemed to pass over him. His face went dark, and then pure white, and I thought for a moment he was about to have a heart attack, which really would have finished me off.

But he didn't. He looked at Mum, who had stopped blubbing, and then, in an ‘I'm Spartacus' gesture, Dad stood up, shoulders back, shaggy head held high, and in a strange, deep commanding voice, he said, ‘That's me. I'm Timmy Piddler.'

And then I felt
I
was having a heart attack. The blood began pumping very loudly in my ears. A thousand questions burbled up from my belly and got stuck in my throat, and I struggled to breathe.

What
? What was he on about? His name was Gordon Grub.

And then suddenly I realised what he was doing. Dad was obviously so desperate to solve our family finances, he was about to break the law and commit identity theft. Whatever this bloke wanted with Timmy Piddler, Dad was ready to accept, good or bad.

It was quite brave, in the circumstances. After all, the bloke might have been about to steal our stereo to settle a debt. Or arrest him for some unpaid parking misdemeanour. Or punch him on the nose for some long-standing insult committed years ago by Mrs Piddler. Or, alternatively, and this was obviously what Dad was banking on, he could have been about to give him a suitcase full of lottery cash. Whatever it was, I couldn't let him do it.

‘No, you're not!' I said firmly. ‘You're Gordon Grub.'

But no one was listening to me. I was drowned out by the clicking open of the flicky clips on the stranger's briefcase.

‘Excellent, then I have some rather good news for you, Mr Piddler,' he said.

Chapter Four

Ten minutes later, Cyril Saltman of Saltman & Bone, Solicitors was sitting comfortably on our sofa, a cup of tea in one hand and a slice of carrot cake in the other. At his feet was his open briefcase (no cash, alas) and a bucket collecting drips from our leaky ceiling.

‘So, just for the record, Mr Piddler,' he said, looking dubiously at the cake. ‘When did you actually change your name to Grub?'

I leant forward. I wanted to know, too.

Dad looked sheepish. ‘When I was 20,' he mumbled, scuffing the carpet with his slipper.

My brain suddenly started doing somersaults. Why had he changed it? Was he a spy on the run? Or witness to a really grisly murder – maybe a mafia hit or something. Maybe we were living under witness protection and his past had finally caught up with him and we'd have to move house and change names again. Maybe I'd finally get to
say goodbye to Grub.

But no. Dad cleared his throat. ‘I just fancied a change. I didn't really like being Timmy Piddler. Grub seemed to fit me better.'

What
? Surely no one would
voluntarily
choose the name Grub. I had ten years of teasing as proof. What was wrong with Smith, or Jones, or Brown…

Dad grinned at me. ‘I was a punk rocker back then, you know,' he said. ‘As well as an entomology student, of course. Somehow Timmy Piddler just didn't work – not for a punk-rocking bug man.'

He had a point.

‘Well, I have some rather good news, Mr Piddler,' said the solicitor. ‘But first I must offer my sincere condolences to you and your family because I'm afraid I'm also the bearer of some rather bad news. Your great uncle Percival has passed away.'

The solicitor made a grim yet sympathetic face. One I reckoned he probably practised in front of the mirror.

Dad looked at his feet and shuffled uncomfortably.

‘I do hope he didn't suffer,' said Mum gently.

‘Oh no,' said the solicitor cheering up. ‘He was 98, and passed away on holiday.'

If you had to go, that sounded like a good way to do it.

After a respectful pause, the solicitor started rummaging in his case. ‘Now – to the matter of his estate…'

Suddenly, I felt a bubble of excitement. I know it was selfish of me. After all, we'd just heard that some poor old fella had passed away, but I couldn't help myself. You see we've never had much money. Nearly everything we own is second or third or fourth hand. And nothing works very well. The telly is older than Dad and my parents' idea of a games console is a travel scrabble set. Most of the time I don't mind, but sometimes, just sometimes, I long to be like everyone else.

The solicitor cleared his throat. ‘I'm pleased to inform you that you are Mr Piddler's only living relative. And therefore his entire estate will pass to you.'

I gasped.

Mum gaped.

Dad looked at his feet again. Then suddenly he jerked his head up. ‘Wait a minute,' he said desperately. ‘I'm sure I have several aunts and uncles – and some cousins even. They must come before me – surely?'

I gave Dad a long hard look. I had the distinct feeling that there was something odd going on here.
It was as if he didn't want whatever it was that he was about to get, and he'd be pretty glad to offload it onto some unsuspecting relative somewhere.

‘Alas, not any more,' said Mr Saltman. ‘They're all sadly deceased. A series of unfortunate accidents means you are the last of the Piddler family.'

Dad looked decidedly uncomfortable.

Mr Saltman pulled out a pile of papers. ‘I'm afraid there's no actual cash in the estate. And there's no residential property, either – your great uncle sold his house and furnishings years ago.' He scanned the paperwork. ‘But there
is
his factory.'

What
?

‘He owned the Piddler's Porridge factory, and now it belongs to you.'

A tingle of excitement crackled through my bones.

But Dad wasn't smiling. ‘I don't like porridge,' he said grimly. ‘I've never liked porridge.'

I wasn't too keen on porridge, either, but that didn't stop me from dancing on the spot. We'd inherited a business. Maybe we were millionaires! Images of corporate jets and long limos fluttered into my brain. I pictured my parents swapping their scraggy jeans for nice suits and matching briefcases. No more slithery slimy stuff. No more embarrassing
incidents at the dinner table when my friends came round. Hey, maybe we could even go on holiday!

I had a million billion questions bubbling inside my head, and as soon as Mr Saltman had gone (carrot cake wisely left untouched on the plate), I went on the attack…

Why hadn't they told me we were really Piddlers?
Had Dad known about the factory?
And what was wrong with porridge anyway?

But Dad just shrugged and sighed and then escaped to the garden to see to his snails.

Mum was unusually quiet, too, and after clearing away the cups, she bustled off to check on her ladybirds. (Three hundred of them currently live behind our bathroom mirror. Don't ask.)

So I was left to mull it over by myself. Why weren't my parents leaping around at our good fortune? After all, it isn't every day you inherit a factory.

It was a mystery. And my parents aren't generally mysterious people; they leave their letters lying around. (Always dull stuff about creepy crawlies.) They don't hide their bank books. (There's never much in the bank anyway.) And they always involve me in major decisions, stuff like:
shall we have fish fingers for tea tonight? Or baked beans on toast?

Now, here we were, suddenly the owners of a secret cereal factory, and yet neither of them seemed the least bit excited at all.

Chapter Five

Piddler's Porridge. The name rolled off the tongue nicely. But I'll admit it also left a bit of an aftertaste. It made me think of someone caught short at the breakfast table, and having to ‘go' in their cereal bowl.

It was Saturday. The day after it all happened, and me and my parents were standing peering through the gates, gazing at Dad's inheritance.

The factory stood high on a hill above our town, in an industrial park where loads of old factories lay sprawled like dead dragons. Many were empty. Most were crumbling. And by far the crumbliest of all was Piddler's Porridge.

It was at this point I realised we probably weren't millionaires.

The factory was big and dark and ever so slightly scary looking. I think it might have originally been red brick. But now it was soot black. A high wall surrounded it, with an ancient old metal
gate at the front. There were no lights on. And the only evidence that something might actually be happening inside was a finger of pale smoke that rose from the chimney.

This wasn't quite what I'd imagined. But I tried not to show my disappointment because Dad wasn't looking happy, either.

He sighed deeply. ‘I suppose we'd better show our faces.'

‘Try not to worry, Gordon,' said Mum, taking his hand. ‘I know it'll be all right.'

But Dad didn't smile. His fists were clenched. And he was grinding his teeth.

I should explain at this point that my dad's not normally so sulky. He hasn't got a temper. And he never shouts. I know there are dads like that. I've seen them at school concerts. They're the ones who look like someone's superglued their feet to the floor to prevent them legging it.

My dad's a bit like a clever collie – generally amazed by the world, and interested in everything. He's tall and skinny with shaggy hair, and he often forgets to shave so he looks a bit of a scruff. He wears baggy cords and holey jumpers, not because he doesn't have a few nice ones, but because he prefers stuff that's been ‘worn in', as he puts it.

Mum adores him, which is odd. Because if I was a girl, I'm not sure he'd be adorable. His nails are dirty and his hands are always covered in slug slime. He can't dance. He can't cook. And when he's not out bothering bugs he likes to play guitar very badly. But he does smile a lot. So maybe that's something.

Today he wasn't smiling. He was glowering. Thankfully, it was not for long…

‘Timmy?' said a gravely voice. ‘Is that really you?'

I'd been so busy peering at my dad, I hadn't noticed the small, round-faced bloke who'd suddenly appeared on the other side of the gate.

‘Ernie!' gasped Dad, a grin exploding onto his face. ‘I didn't know you were still here.'

Ernie beamed back. And, after a brief fumbling of keys, the gate squeaked open and the two men embraced warmly.

‘Look how you've grown,' said the old bloke, looking up into my dad's shaggy face.

‘Well, I am 45,' mumbled Dad shyly.

‘Blimey,' said the man. ‘That means I must be 309.'

They both laughed. And then Dad remembered me and Mum.

‘Ernie, this is my wife, Lottie, and my lad, Albert.'

Ernie grinned at Mum, and then turned to me. He swept up my hand in a manly shake, and for a moment I thought he'd crush it to dust, because his forearms were like elephants' thighs. (A consequence of a lifetime of porridge pounding, as Ernie later explained.)

BOOK: The Spoon of Doom
12.2Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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