Authors: Karen King
Tags: #Interactive & activity books, #Juvenile Fiction, #Children's Fiction, #Crime Fiction, #Podcasts
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I knew that dog was going to be trouble as soon as I saw her. When we walked in, she bounded out of her basket, and then sat glaring at Gran’s arm wrapped around my shoulder. I wasn’t too pleased about that either, but hey, she was my Gran and hadn’t seen me since I was nine. Sitting in front of me, the dog started barking angrily. She was a Bichon Frisé and looked real cute with her curly white fur and bright eyes, but her pink jewelled collar, the pink velvet cushion in her basket and assortment of doggy toys scattered around the floor told me she was one spoilt pooch. And judging by the way she was yapping at me, she didn’t like sharing Gran with anyone.
‘Hello, Fluffy darling,’ Gran cooed softly, scooping the little dog up into her arms. ‘This is Amy, my granddaughter from America. She’s going to be living with us for a while.’
Fluffy snarled at me and snuggled up to Gran.
‘Poor darling, I think she’s a teeny-weeny bit jealous,’ Gran said. ‘Give her a cuddle, Amy.’
As I reluctantly reached out to stroke her, Fluffy growled menacingly deep down in her throat, the way dogs do when they want you to stay right away from them.
I quickly withdrew my hand. ‘I don’t think she likes me.’
‘Nonsense, she just needs to get used to you,’ Gran replied. ‘She’s got a very sensitive nature, you know. Did I tell you she was a show champion?’
‘Yes, Gran.’ Gran had talked non-stop about Fluffy as we’d driven from the railway station – how clever she was, all the shows she’d won, how she was favourite to win the Rivington Show next week. And if Gran hadn’t told me, the display cabinet full of trophies in the corner of the lounge shouted it out. On the top of the cabinet stood a big colour photo of Fluffy with the words ‘Princess Fluffball – Best of Breed 2007’ underneath it. Princess Fluffball was her pedigree name, and that’s what Fluffy was to Gran, a little princess.
When my parents offered me the chance to stay with Gran in England, I jumped at it. Now I was thirteen, I didn’t fancy tagging along with them on the European tour of the musical show they star in, staying in crummy hotel rooms and watching their cringe-worthy dancing and singing act night after night. Gran had a bed and breakfast in Cornwall, so I thought there’d be lots of mysteries for a crime-buster like me to solve, what with suspicious guests at the B&B and smugglers’ caves on the beach.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Beachview, Gran’s terraced guest house, was a lot smaller than I’d imagined, and the guests didn’t look in the least bit suspicious. There was Mr Winkleberry – or David as Gran gushingly called him – who’d been staying at Beachview every summer for ten years. Goodness knows why; he spent most of the time reading the newspaper in the lounge. Then there were Mr and Mrs McFarlane, a Scottish couple who collected postcards and liked going for long walks, and Emily Williams, a really quiet young woman who was a vegetarian and screwed up her nose in disapproval whenever she smelt Gran cooking meat. Mr Winkleberry had a really irritating twitch in his left eye and Mrs McFarlane had a hairy moustache. Honestly, they were enough to make you yawn.
I’d brought my laptop with me, but Gran didn’t even have a computer, never mind internet access, so I couldn’t go online and speak to my friends back home. Not that I’d have much to tell them. I’d been here three days already and hadn’t had the chance to look around the town or hit the beach yet. I was too busy helping Gran look after the guests and, of course, Fluffy. By now, the dog had realised I was here to stay, so was very reluctantly tolerating my presence while ensuring I didn’t threaten her position as Gran’s favourite. I also spent a lot of time trying to avoid Max, the nosy kid next door. Did I really have to endure an entire summer of this?
Max was leaning over the wall right now, watching me as I brushed Fluffy in the back yard.
‘You’re brushing her too hard. Want me to show you how to do it?’ he offered. ‘Auntie Sue lets me brush her sometimes.’
That’s what he called Gran, Auntie Sue. It bugged me a bit that he was closer to my Gran than I was.
‘No, I don’t!’ I snapped. ‘Just clear off and play with your Duplo!’
I moved the brush swiftly over Fluffy’s back and snagged a tangle near her tail. Fluffy yelped like mad and snapped at my fingers. I lost my balance and fell back into the mud.
‘You stupid dog, now I’ve messed up my pants!’ I yelled, getting back up.
Max fell about laughing.
‘What’s so funny?’ I glared, pointing to my muddy clothes. ‘Look at the state of these.’
‘They’re trousers,’ he told me between giggles. ‘Pants are what you wear underneath.’
I felt my cheeks go hot and turned away quickly as I realised what Max was laughing at. Gran was always correcting the things I said. Fridge not ice box, biscuits not cookies, postman not mailman – it drove me insane!
The door opened and Gran scooped up Fluffy, who was yelping like she’d been tortured.
‘What have you done to her, Amy?’ she demanded.
‘Nothing. The brush got caught in a couple of tangles,’ I explained, defensively.
‘Really, Amy, I told you to ease the brush through the tangles, not yank them,’ Gran snapped. ‘It’s important that Fluffy isn’t upset before the show next week. A calm temperament is one of the things the judges look for.’
‘You’ve done it now,’ Max told me, leaning back over the fence, a big grin on his freckled face. ‘She’ll be mad at you all day.’
That boy drove me crazy. He was always there, watching me, asking questions, trying to get me to be friends with him. As if I wanted to hang around with a nine-year-old boy! He was right, though. Gran would be mad at me for the rest of the day. The way this holiday was going, I was beginning to wish I’d joined my parents on their European tour. I sighed and went indoors to make Gran a frothy coffee. I made one for Mom whenever she was mad at me, and it usually worked a treat, so I decided it was worth a try on Gran too.
I guess it was only natural that Gran was so fond of Fluffy, I thought, as I topped the coffee with a squirt of cream, then sprinkled chocolate powder over it. The little dog was the only ‘family’ Gran had, what with her one and only child (my dad) living on the other side of the world. (He went to America to follow his dream of becoming an actor, then met my mom, got married and stayed.) My grandad ran off with the local barmaid when he went through a midlife crisis a few years ago. The barmaid had soon dumped him, but Gran refused to take him back, so Grandad was now travelling the world, looking for the ‘meaning of life’. He’d come to stay with us for a while last summer. It was seriously weird. I mean, lots of my friends had parents who’d split up, but you didn’t expect your grandparents to do it.
The frothy coffee worked its magic, and Gran had forgiven me by the time she went out later that afternoon to meet her friends.
‘I’m off now, Amy. You will look after Fluffy, won’t you?’ she asked as she came through the kitchen all dressed up. Gran liked to ‘make an effort’ as she called it, but she often pencilled in one of her eyebrows higher than the other one. It made her face look a bit odd, but I didn’t dare mention it to her.
‘Don’t worry, Gran, she’ll be fine with me,’ I promised, stirring some strawberry milkshake powder into a glass of milk. ‘I’ll be in all afternoon. There’s a film I want to watch; it starts in a minute.’ I opened the cupboard and took out a packet of cookies.
‘Remember to let her out to do her business when she wakes … and clean up after her,’ Gran added. ‘There’s a pooper-scooper and some plastic bags in the cupboard under the sink.’
I grimaced as I tucked the packet of cookies under my arm and picked up the milkshake. Cleaning up doggy poop was not one of my favourite jobs, but with a bit of luck, Fluffy might wait until Gran came back! ‘Will do. Now go, have a good time and don’t worry. Fluffy will be fine.’
Thankfully, after poking her head into the guest lounge to say goodbye to Mr Winkleberry, Gran finally left.
Fluffy was still sleeping soundly in her basket, so I switched on the TV and settled down to watch the film. It was a detective film featuring my favourite FBI agent, Vince Bronson. Vince was on the trail of a notorious jewel thief, and the plot was full of twists and turns. I was gripped, though I had to turn up the volume to drown out Fluffy’s snores. Then, just as it got to a seriously exciting bit, the dog started barking.
‘Yap! Yap! Yap!’
I tore my gaze from the screen and saw that Fluffy was standing at the door. She turned to me, barked again, then turned back to the door. Trust her to want to go out now, just whenVince was about to catch the thief.
‘Hang on a minute,’ I told her, looking back at the screen.
Fluffy yapped louder and scratched at the door. I groaned and got up. Gran would go totally loco if I let Fluffy mark the door. ‘Okay, okay.’
As I let her out into the back yard, Fluffy gave me a disdainful look and sauntered leisurely around, sniffing every bush and plant. I swear she was deliberately taking her time.
‘Come on, Fluffy!’ I hissed.
Fluffy ignored me and trotted off up the path. The film would be finished at this rate. I looked over at Fluffy sniffing happily around. The gate was shut and the yard was enclosed by a high fence. There was no way she could get out. I’d just leave her for a minute while I watched the end of the film. Leaving the back door open so Fluffy could come in when she wanted, I hurried back into the lounge. Vince was now hot on the tail of the jewel thief, who was about to snatch some precious diamonds. I sat down, engrossed, as Vince caught the thief red-handed, then proceeded to tell his sidekick, Mac, exactly how he’d solved the crime. One day, I’ll be a top FBI agent like Vince, I vowed as I switched off the TV. People would come to me from all over the world to investigate for them; famous people, kings, queens, pop stars …
Then I remembered that Fluffy was still outside and, what’s more, was suspiciously quiet.
I hurried out through the kitchen and into the yard. ‘Fluffy!’ I shouted, looking around for the troublesome bundle of curly white fur.
There was no sign of her. At the top of the yard, the open gate swung in the breeze.