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Authors: Linda J Singleton

Kelsey the Spy

BOOK: Kelsey the Spy
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The Curious Cat Spy Club

Book Three: Kelsey the Spy

Linda Joy Singleton

Albert Whitman & Company

Chicago, Illinois

To Nikoli, Patrick, and Breonna and Mom-Dad

With thanks to tortoise expert Abigail DeSesa from the California Turtle & Tortoise Club

And in memory of Louise Fitzhugh, the author of
Harriet the Spy
, who inspired me as a child to write journals and spy with my best friend.

Contents

Chapter 1: Follow That Suspect!

Chapter 2: Suspicions

Chapter 3: The Long Secret

Chapter 4: Mystery Solved

Chapter 5: Albert

Chapter 6: Notebook of Secrets

Chapter 7: Fit-Pic

Chapter 8: What I Found

Chapter 9: Secret's Out

Chapter 10: Keep Away

Chapter 11: A New Mystery

Chapter 12: Shell-Shocked

Chapter 13: Donut Danger

Chapter 14: Puzzling

Chapter 15: The Corning Comic

Chapter 16: Blocked

Chapter 17: Dino Tales

Chapter 18: Tortoise Trouble

Chapter 19: Cryptic Clue

Chapter 20: Sweet Celebration

Chapter 21: ChipTastic

Chapter 22: Accusations

Chapter 23: Follow That Smell!

Chapter 24: Cliffhanger

Chapter 25: Tortoise Tom

Chapter 26: Unmasked

About the Author

- Chapter 1 -

Follow That Suspect!

My brother gets a phone call during breakfast. A guilty look crosses his face, and I know he has a secret.

“Got to go!” Kyle shoves his phone into his pocket as he jumps up from the table.

“But I'm making you another crepe Benedict.” Dad frowns at Kyle. Chef Dad takes his cooking very seriously.

“Give it to Kelsey.” My brother is already dumping his dirty plate and silverware in the sink. “A friend needs my help.”

I study my brother, suspicious. Since we lost our house and moved into this apartment, all Kyle does is apply for college scholarships and study, study, study. He has zero social life.

“What friend?” I ask him.

“My buddy Jake really needs my help with, um, some heavy lifting. You remember him from our old neighborhood?”

Oh, I remember him all right. I also remember the distinctive ringtone Kyle assigned to Jake's number—a blaring disaster alert. But the ringtone I just heard was music. Either Kyle changed the ringtone or he's lying. I sense a big whopper of a lie. I don't know who called Kyle, but it wasn't his buddy Jake.

So I do what any spy would do.

I follow him.

Unfortunately I only take a few steps before Dad's voice stops me.

“Kelsey, are you leaving too?” He sounds hurt. “Aren't you going to finish your crepe?”

Drats. I've insulted Dad's culinary pride. Before Café Belmond closed, he was known as the best baker in Sun Flower. Now he can't find a job and is home way too much.

“The crepe was delicious,” I say. “It's just that I have to—”

My brain goes blank.
I have to …

Seriously, a good spy needs to create a believable story in a split-second. And Dad is staring at me the same way I just stared at Kyle: full-on suspicious. I can't use school as an excuse because it's Saturday. I can't say I'm full because I didn't finish eating my crepe. The only reason Kyle got away so easily was because he'd already devoured four crepes.

“I'm late for a meeting at Becca's house.” This isn't a lie. Leo sent a message saying he solved a mystery. (What mystery? I have no idea—it's a mystery to me!) He asked Becca and me to meet him at noon at the Skunk Shack. That's more than two hours from now, but a half-truth is more believable than a total lie.

“What sort of meeting?” Dad asks.

This is where belonging to a top-secret club gets tricky because I can't tell Dad about the Curious Cat Spy Club. Becca, Leo, and I started the CCSC to care for three rescued kittens. While our families know we're friends, they don't know we help animals by finding lost pets and solving mysteries.

But I can talk about the Sparklers, a school volunteer group that Becca belongs to. I touch the silver crescent-moon necklace that the Sparklers loaned me since I'm helping them plan a booth for the Humane Society fund-raiser.

“Becca and I are meeting to discuss ideas for the Sparkler booth,” I tell Dad.

“She can wait until you finish your breakfast.” He gestures to my plate. “Another ten minutes won't matter.”

But in ten minutes Kyle could be gone.

When all else fails, resort to bodily functions.

“I have to go …” I shift anxiously and glance down. “You know …
go
.”

“Oh.” He nods, understanding. “Well, don't let me keep you.”

Before he can say any more, I'm out of the kitchen.

I don't go farther than my brother's room, where I hear hurried footsteps and banging drawers. When the footsteps move my way, I dash across the hall and duck into the bathroom.

Cracking the door open, I spy on Kyle. Slowly, his door opens. He looks furtively up and down the hall, then steps out holding a large, white rectangular box.

What's in the box?
It can't be very heavy or breakable since he tucks it under one arm before hurrying down the hall.

He's definitely up to something sneaky, and I'm going to find out what it is.

I wait until he's out of sight then rush into my room. I push a stool to the closet and climb up to grab the hidden green backpack. Slipping my spy pack over my shoulders, I race out of the apartment in pursuit of my brother.

A chilly wind, much too cold for early April in California, slaps my face and tosses my long hair into tangles. Should I go back for my jacket? No time. A glance over the second-floor railing shows Kyle at the bike rack strapping the large box onto his bike.

He jumps on his bike and rides off.

I run downstairs and hop on my bike to follow my brother.

My suspicions are confirmed when he doesn't make a right toward our old neighborhood where Jake lives, but a left toward downtown Sun Flower.

It's easy keeping up with Kyle, especially after he pulls over to adjust the straps holding the box to his bike. Also, he's big on obeying rules so he stops at every intersection, even when there's no stop sign.

Kyle is such a Percy
, I think, remembering the sleepover when I played a game matching family members to Harry Potter characters with friends from my old neighborhood. My twin sisters are obviously the Patel twins. Dad with his cooking passion and high emotions is Mrs. Weasley. I couldn't decide on Mom since she's an animal lover like Hagrid and obsessed with gardening like Professor Sprout. But Kyle is definitely arrogant overachiever Percy.

I chose Luna for myself, but as I bike past familiar homes and businesses, I feel more like a character from my favorite book,
Harriet the Spy
.

I love the scenes when Harriet bikes on her spy route, jotting down what her neighbors are doing in her notebook. I keep a notebook too, not about what people are doing, but the secrets they hide. Becca knows I collect secrets, but I've never shown my notebook of secrets to her or anyone. Like Harriet's, my notebook is for my eyes only.

At a stop sign, my brother glances over his shoulder. Quickly, I duck behind a parked truck.
Whew!
He almost saw me. To be safe, I stay about a block behind him, keeping him in sight but not close enough to be noticed.

We're pedaling now through downtown Sun Flower, which isn't very big, just a few blocks of businesses. Kyle makes a left into a U-shaped mini mall. I pick up my speed, but when I roll into the parking lot, Kyle is gone.

Where did he go?

Straddling my bike seat, I peer up and down the mini mall. The entrance and exit open on this street, so Kyle has to be here. But I don't see him or his bike. Did he go into one of the businesses? Paul's Pawn Shop, Legal Eagle Associates, Friendly's Café and Prehistoric Pizza are dark with closed signs. The only business open this early on a weekend is the sheriff's office.

I met Sheriff Fischer when the CCSC rescued stolen pets and helped a lost zorse. Sheriff Fischer is cool and doesn't talk down to kids. He's also a friend of Becca's mother. I don't see his official car in the parking lot, so he's probably out on patrol. There's no reason for Kyle to go into the sheriff's office. But the other businesses are closed, so where did he go?

Biting my lip, I can't decide what to do—until I spot a shadowed alley hidden between the pawnshop and the pizza place. Pedaling over, I stare into the dank-smelling tunnel of darkness. It's empty except for scattered trash and garbage cans. I unzip my spy pack and take out my flash cap. The tiny but powerful beam lights my way as I ride through the alley to a street behind the mall. There's no sign of my brother, only a few parked semis and vacant lots on a dead-end street.

Did Kyle know I was following him and purposely lose me?

He's long gone by now—and I didn't discover his secret.

It's too early to meet the club at the Skunk Shack, but I don't want to bike all the way back home. I'm close to Leo's house, and if I go there, we can ride to Becca's together. He might show me his latest robotic inventions. Leo's mechanical dragon drone and key spider are amazing. Also, I'm curious about the mystery he says he solved.

Coasting my bike into Leo's driveway is like leaving spring for winter. Everything is snowy white: the house, rocks decorating the yard, and lacy window curtains. His mother is obsessed with cleanliness, requiring guests to take off their shoes and use a sanitizer dispenser by the door. I wipe my sweaty hands on my jeans, smooth back my tangled honey-brown curls, and push the doorbell.

No one answers. But I know Mrs. Polanski is home because her car, a white Sorento is parked in the driveway. I press the doorbell again.

And I wait.

A career as a spy requires a lot of waiting. Surveillance is just another word for waiting, and it takes a lot of patience. Piecing together clues and gathering evidence takes time too. But sometimes I get impatient.

If I had a cell phone, I could text Leo to find out where he is. But my parents can't afford phones for all four kids—and the youngest (me) is last in line.

As I try the doorbell again, I press my ear against the door to make sure the bell works. Yup, the muffled
ding-dong
echoes through the house. Yet no one shows up.

Sighing, I head back to my bike.

I'm grabbing my handlebars when the wind carries the sound of voices. Curious, I look around but don't see anyone. I cup my ear, listening. The voices come from the backyard.

Decorative flower-shaped pavers wind toward the backyard gate. Crouching down, I peek through a gap in the gate. Leo's mother is sipping tea with another woman at a white wicker table. The other woman has blond hair piled high on her head and wide blue eyes set in an oval face like Leo's mother. I suspect they're sisters.

“So tell me about the surprise,” the other woman says, lifting her porcelain teacup to her frosted red lips.

Surprise?
The word draws my curiosity like a magnet, and of course, I listen. It's what I do best.

“Leo has no idea.” Mrs. Polanski chuckles.

“It'll be hard to keep anything from my clever nephew.” My suspicion was right. She's Leo's aunt.

“Not this time,” Mrs. Polanski says confidently. “Although Leo usually figures out my plans before I've made them. Like last summer when I tried to surprise him with a weekend at the beach, but somehow he knew and had covered himself with sunscreen. And when I told him we were going to Lake Tahoe a few months ago, he already had his ski clothes packed. It's hard to surprise a smart kid like Leo. But he'll never guess what I'm planning for his birthday.”

BOOK: Kelsey the Spy
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