Wilma Tenderfoot and the Case of the Putrid Poison

BOOK: Wilma Tenderfoot and the Case of the Putrid Poison
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Table of Contents
 
 
 
DIAL BOOKS FORYOUNG READERS
A division of Penguin Young Readers Group
Published by The Penguin Group
Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014, U.S.A. Penguin Group (Canada), 90 Eglinton Avenue East, Suite 700, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4P 2Y3 (a division of Pearson Penguin Canada Inc.) • Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England • Penguin Ireland, 25 St. Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland (a division of Penguin Books Ltd) • Penguin Group (Australia), 250 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, Victoria 3124, Australia (a division of Pearson Australia Group Pty Ltd) Penguin Books India Pvt Ltd, 11 Community Centre, Panchsheel Park, New Delhi - 110 017, India • Penguin Group (NZ), 67 Apollo Drive, Rosedale, Auckland 0632, New Zealand (a division of Pearson New Zealand Ltd) • Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty) Ltd, 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa • Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England
 
First published in the United States 2011 by Dial Books for Young Readers Published in the United Kingdom 2010 by Macmillan Children's Books UK
Text copyright © 2010 by Emma Kennedy • All rights reserved
The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
 
 
 
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Kennedy, Emma.
The case of the putrid poison / by Emma Kennedy.
p. cm.—(Wilma Tenderfoot ; 2)
Summary: As apprentice detective to Theodore Goodman, Wilma, a ten-year-old orphan of Cooper Island's Lowside Institute for Woeful Children, helps investigate who is poisoning actors at the Valiant Vaudeville Theatre, but when Theodore disappears, she must take action on her own.
ISBN : 978-1-101-52946-1
[1. Actors and actresses—Fiction. 2. Theaters—Fiction. 3. Poisons—Fiction. 4. Missing persons—Fiction. 5. Orphans—Fiction. 6. England—Fiction. 7. Mystery and detective stories.] I. Title. PZ7.K3776Cap 2011 [Fic]—dc22 2011001165

http://us.penguingroup.com

FOR ITSY AND SYDNEY
THANK YOU
As ever, I'd like to wave overenthusiastically in the direction of my brilliant agent, Camilla Hornby, without whom I would be a bag of dust. Not only that, but thanks of a massive nature must be hurled down a steep hillside toward my amazing editor, Ruth Alltimes, who makes everything better, and Samantha Swinnerton, who has been simply fabulous.
1

O
f course I realize now,” said Wilma, consulting her Clue Ring, “that we have made a terrible error, Pickle. In the Case of the Decoy Duck, Mr. Goodman
also
set out to rescue a cat that seemed to be trapped up a tree, but, unlike us, he soon deducted that cats can jump from trees quite happily. Which we cannot. Well, that's that. We're stuck.”
Pickle, who was hanging on to a branch by his teeth for dear life, was in no doubt about it. This was his most embarrassing moment to date. Here he was, swinging precariously from a tree and being stared at by the cat that had, only moments before, seemed in the gravest peril but was now happily sitting in the garden of Clarissa Cottage with not a care in the world. Like most dogs, Pickle had a natural suspicion of cats, so being stared at by one while in slightly shaming circumstances was more than any dog could bear. The cat shot Pickle a look of complete disdain and sauntered off with an arrogant twitch of its tail. Oh! This was AWFUL!
Wilma, whose hair was peppered with broken twigs, looked down at her embarrassed beagle. “How long do you think you can hang on, Pickle?” she asked, trying to edge her way toward him along a particularly creaky bough. “I hope Mr. Goodman doesn't see us. Now that I'm his apprentice I should be trying to detect things properly. But, remembering Mr. Goodman's top tips for detectives, I don't think I contemplated or deducted. It's a schoolgirl error, Pickle. And now I'm going to catch it.”
Wilma Tenderfoot was a small but determined girl. Brought up as an orphan at the revolting Lowside Institute for Woeful Children, she had spent all of her life longing to get away and be like her hero Theodore P. Goodman, Cooper Island's most famous and serious detective. He had a very impressive mustache and a woeful weakness for corn crumble biscuits and peppermint tea. But don't let that bother you now. This is the background bit. Pickle was Wilma's beagle. He had one tatty ear and a reckless love of tidbits. They had met in a dusty basement in unfortunate circumstances and, as anyone knows, encounters in dark places with dirty dogs and raggedy children always lead to immediate friendships. Those are the rules.
Due to a series of alarming events involving a stolen stone and a lot of frozen hearts, Wilma, who had been sent away by the Institute's ghastly matron, Madam Skratch, to work for an equally ghastly mistress called Mrs. Waldock, had found herself unexpectedly taken on as Mr. Goodman's apprentice. It was a dream come true and she was single-minded in her resolve to be the best apprentice on Cooper. For those of you wondering where Cooper is, all that can be revealed is that it's somewhere between England and France and that if you look hard enough you'll find it. Having said that, Cooper is yet to be discovered by the outside world. There was once a close encounter with a ship captained by Horatio Nelson (the famous columnist), but it was a foggy day, so let's cut the man some slack. He only had one eye. He can't be expected to see everything.
The other thing you need to know is that at the precise moment that Wilma became Theodore's apprentice, there was what we in the trade call a “massive revelation.” This is something that induces sharp intakes of breath and causes ladies of a certain disposition to say “Ooooooh!” and indulge in a lot of sudden nudging. In Wilma's case, the massive revelation was that somewhere, perhaps on Cooper itself, she had a relative who was still alive. Imagine that! But let's not get distracted. For now, Wilma and Pickle are stuck up a tree and neither of them knows what to do about it.
This was a bad business. Wilma had only been with Mr. Goodman for a week and hadn't had much to do in the way of detecting. So the small ginger cat stuck in the old pear tree at the bottom of Clarissa Cottage garden seemed the perfect opportunity to get her new job up and running, but instead here she was in another small but sticky mess.
“Wilma!” came the voice of Mrs. Speckle, Theodore's not-to-be-messed-with housekeeper. “Where are you? A letter's arrived. Got your name on it!”
“A letter?” mumbled Wilma, trying to get her leg around a particularly fulsome patch of blossom. “Who would have sent me a letter? Oh dear, Pickle. Matters are taking an urgent turn and here we are stuck in sticks.”
Pickle said nothing. But then he couldn't. His mouth was currently occupied and very much unavailable.
As Mrs. Speckle's calls boomed from the kitchen, Wilma realized that being caught in the upper branches of an increasingly unstable pear tree with one small dog hanging by his teeth was not the sort of First Week Best Start that any apprentice should hope for. It wouldn't do at all for her to call for help or set in motion a chain of events that some might later be able to refer to as a minor emergency. No. Wilma would have to solve this scrape herself. From extensive and frequent readings of her Clue Ring, the collection of newspaper and magazine articles about Theodore's exploits that she carried everywhere on a metal hoop on her pinafore, Wilma knew that the answer to drawing any slight crisis to a close was invariably to be found within reaching distance.
Pushing an unwieldy and dangerously bouncy branch out of her face, Wilma squinted downward. “Ooooh,” she said, wobbling. “I wish I hadn't done that. We're actually quite high up, Pickle. Let's try not to think about that.”
Keeping one arm firmly around the pear tree's trunk, which was now emitting worrying and alarming groans, Wilma used the other to clear a peephole through some leaves. Just above her, at the top of the tree, she could see the tail end of a piece of rope. “That must be the climbing rope for bringing down the pears,” she said, jumping a little to reach it. The tree gave out another shuddering moan. “There's something very wrong with this tree,” she exclaimed. “If I was a proper detective, which I'm not yet, but I will be one day, then I would deduce that this is an old tree that may or may not be in grave danger of coming down. Not to worry you or anything.”
Dogs don't have eyebrows, which is a terrible shame, but, if they did, then Pickle's would have been as far up his forehead as they were physically capable of being.
As Wilma pulled the rope toward her, she gave it a tug to check it was tethered good and tight. Satisfied that the rope was secure, she looped it once around her left wrist and then, using it to steady herself, made her way toward Pickle. “Get ready, Pickle,” she said. “I'm going to use this rope to jump down and I'm going to grab you as I go. We'll be out of this tree in no time.”
The branch Wilma was tiptoeing along began to tremble and judder. Wilma gulped. She'd clearly have to ignore that. It is a general truth that when in a tree that appears to be falling down, it's often best to get on with things and try not to think about the worst that could happen.
Pickle was now in reach, so Wilma, clinging to the rope, heaved herself off the shuddering branch. Swinging by her wrist, she scooped Pickle up in her spare arm, closed her eyes, and hoped for the best. But what Wilma had failed to do was tell Pickle to let go, so as they careened down toward the ground, the upper part of the tree, pulled by the branch that Pickle was still biting, came with them.
There was a loud, splintering crack and as the old pear tree split at its base, it cleaved sideways and sent Wilma and Pickle splattering to the lawn.
“Well,” panted Wilma, shoving a leafy mass out of her face. “Technically, we're still in the tree. But at least we're on the ground. You can let go now,” she added, noting that a traumatized Pickle was still clenched to his branch.
“Wilma!” shouted Mrs. Speckle again, peering from the kitchen window. “Where are you?”
“Coming, Mrs. Speckle!” yelled Wilma, crawling out from under the mass of broken branches. “Don't say a word about the pear tree,” she added, giving Pickle a conspiratorial nod. “If anyone's suspicious, we'll just blame the wind.”
 
The letter that had arrived was addressed to:
Wilma Tenderfoot c/o Theodore P. Goodman,
Cooper Island's Most Serious and Famous Detective
BOOK: Wilma Tenderfoot and the Case of the Putrid Poison
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