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Authors: Linda J Singleton

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BOOK: Kelsey the Spy
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Becca's ponytail flops to one side as she tilts her head toward me. “How many people did you write about?”

I pause, counting on my fingers. “Over thirty.”

“An abundance of suspects.” Leo taps his chin thoughtfully. “We'll need to decrease the number of potential suspects so I can calculate who has the highest probability of guilt.”

“Tyla,” I repeat with no doubt.

“Other kids, teachers, and cafeteria workers saw the notebook too,” Becca says.

“I guess.” I shrug. “A lot of the secrets in my notebook are about friends and family who don't go to our school. That will shorten the list.”

“Kelsey, I hate to ask you this.” Becca looks me straight in the eyes. “But we need to know who you wrote about.”

“I can't tell you.” I shake my head so adamantly that my wobbly chair almost topples over.

“I'm not asking to know the secrets—just who they're about.” Becca softens her voice. “I already know one is about me.”

Leo snorts with disapproval. “Kelsey, why would you write about Becca?”

“It's not about her—someone she knows.” I gulp, then blurt out, “But there is one about you.”

“Me?” Leo's eyes darken like a stormy sea. “Impossible.”

I stare directly into his blue eyes and speak carefully, “I know
why
you don't like birthday parties.”

“How can anyone
not
like birthday parties?” Becca asks.

Leo doesn't answer, his shocked gaze fixed on me.

To prove I know his age, I hold up one finger on each hand.

His mouth falls open, but then he quickly says, “I make a motion that finding Kelsey's notebook is the CCSC's top priority.”

I second this motion. And Becca's third makes it unanimous.

For the next hour, we work on the list. It's hard to remember all the names, but I come up with a dozen “suspects” who go to our school, including two teachers and the groundskeeper, Mr. Thompson.

When I'm finished, I read from the list. “Suspect Number One: Tyla. There are also secrets about Sophia, Chloe, Ann Marie, Tori, and Leo—” I pause to look apologetically at him, then continue. “Erik Taylor, Trevor Auslin, and Vince Jackson. A few adults are on the list too: Mrs. Ross, Ms. Grande, and Mr. Thompson.”

“Mr. Thompson?” Becca swivels in her chair to stare at me. “He reminds me of Hagrid with his beard and gentle smile. He's too nice to have a dark secret.”

“Not all secrets are dark.” I think of the million dollars that Mr. Thompson won on a reality show several years ago. It's cool he keeps quiet about his wealth and works hard instead of living off his winnings.

“Twelve names.” Leo finishes typing onto his notebook. “But only eleven are suspects because obviously I'm not guilty.”

“Are you sure?” Becca teases.

“Absolutely,” Leo says in total seriousness.

Becca chuckles, then turns to me with a thoughtful expression. “Kelsey, if we're going to solve this mystery, Leo should know what you wrote about him.”

“I think he already does.” I raise my brows in question toward Leo.

“As George Orwell wrote in his book
1984
,” Leo says, not meeting my gaze. “
If you want to keep a secret, you must also hide it from yourself
.”

“So hidden it will stay,” I say with some relief.

We pack up our stuff and leave the clubhouse. Even though it's getting late, I don't want to go home without visiting my kitten. Leo comes along too, zooming ahead of our bikes on his gyro-board.

We ride down the steep hill and past animal outbuildings, hearing roars and screeches and birds calling to each other. I usually feel a thrill whenever I'm around all these amazing animals. All I can feel now is anxiety … but that shifts to curiosity when I see a large moving van parked in front of Becca's house.

“Mom didn't mention a delivery.” Becca picks up her pace.

“It must be something big—like furniture?” Leo guesses.

I grin. “Or an elephant.”

“The van's big enough for a dinosaur,” Becca jokes.

We reach the truck just as Becca's mother comes out the front door and approaches a man in a dark-brown delivery uniform.

Mrs. Morales frowns at the man. “I didn't order anything.”

“You got one anyway. Must be your lucky day.” The burly man checks his clipboard. “From a Mr. R. Sinclair to Becca, Kelsey, and Leo.”

“Becca?” Mrs. Morales narrows her gaze at her daughter. “What's this about?”

“Absolutely
no
idea.” Becca shakes her head so adamantly her ponytail flops. “I didn't order anything.”

“So you're Becca?” the deliveryman asks, tapping his pen against the clipboard impatiently.

She nods. “But I don't know a Mr. Sinclair.”

“Well, the dude knows you.” The deliveryman thrusts the clipboard and a pen at Becca, and then he strides around to the rear of the truck and calls out, “Where do you want your tortoise?”

- Chapter 12 -

Shell-Shocked

“Albert!” I exclaim, as a leathery head peeks out of snug blankets. He's mummy-wrapped in thick blankets inside a shallow, giant metal tub, like an industrial version of a kiddie pool.

“I can't take a tortoise—especially one so big,” Mrs. Morales protests, throwing up her arms. “My goodness, he must weigh over five hundred pounds.”

“Four hundred and seventy-three pounds,” the deliveryman says, checking some papers. “But I've hauled heavier cargo. No idea why you weren't informed of the delivery, but this letter might explain things.” He hands her a plain white envelope.

Mrs. Morales glances down. “It isn't addressed to me.”

Becca's ponytail flops as she leans to read over her mother's shoulder. “Who's it for?”

“You kids.” Mrs. Morales points to us.

“No way!” Becca's forehead creases in uncertainty as she accepts the letter. She skims it, then looks up at us.

“It's from Reggie.” She bites her lip. “Oh no. This is
not
good.”

“What's he say?” I ask.

“Read it out loud,” Leo urges.

Becca swallows nervously, then begins to read:

Hey, Kids,

Surprised to hear from me? Since our visit, a lot has happened!

I told you I was an actor, but mostly I'm an out-of-work actor. Living so far north of LA, I can't make many auditions. When I do audition, I have to hurry back to Albert.

My family is big on tradition so when my parents moved back to England, they left Albert in my care. Berty and I have had a smashing run together, but now I have the offer of a lifetime for a role in a major movie. I can't pass this up—even though it means moving to LA.

Wild Oaks Sanctuary will be a great home for Albert. I'll miss the old fellow terribly, but I just can't keep him now. He gets depressed when he's alone, so I couldn't leave him at my house. He needs to be around people, and he's great with other animals too. You kids got on brilliantly with Albert, and I trust you to care for him.

Attached is a list of Albert's favorite foods and care instructions.

I'll contact you once I'm settled in LA.

With sincere regards,
Reginald Alexander Sinclair

Paper rustles as Becca lowers her hand and looks up at her mother. “Uh, I guess we have a tortoise.”

Mrs. Morales is still arguing with the deliveryman as they walk around to the back of the truck.

“I'm just doing my job, ma'am.” The deliveryman shakes his head.

“I know, which adds to my frustration because I want to yell at someone and this isn't your fault.” Her gaze shifts to us, her shoulders rigid with anger. “The tortoise can stay in the Bird Island enclosure. I'll get one of my volunteers, Hank, to help move him.”

“I'll help,” Becca offers.

“You wait here. Hank and I will handle this.” Mrs. Morales rakes her fingers through her curly dark hair. “We'll talk once the tortoise is settled.”

“So Albert can stay?” Becca asks hopefully.

“Temporarily.” She glares daggers at Becca. “I let you keep two small kittens, but a giant tortoise is a huge responsibility. Call your actor friend and tell him to get back here because we can
not
keep a five-hundred-pound tortoise.”

“Four hundred and seventy-three pounds,” Leo corrects.

“You're not helping,” I whisper to Leo.

“I have enough to deal with without a giant reptile!” Mrs. Morales throws up her hands and mutters something in Spanish as she stomps over to the deliveryman.

“Your mom's really mad.” I shudder.

“Yeah.” Becca gnaws on the end of her ponytail. “She's stressed because the Humane Society fund-raiser is only five days away and she has to prepare the animals that will be on display. A bunch of volunteers will help out at the fund-raiser, but Hank's the only one here regularly and I can't help on school days.”

“We have to convince her to let Albert stay permanently,” Leo says, balancing his gyro-board on one end while he stares at the delivery van.

Becca sighs. “Mom doesn't change her mind easily. Reggie shouldn't have sent him here without asking. He didn't even say if he'll come back for Reggie or if he wants us to keep him for good. And why give him to us instead of someone in his family?”

“His grandmother can't keep Albert at a mobile home park, and his parents are in England,” I remind her.

“But why not his sister?” Leo taps his finger to his chin thoughtfully. “I suspect Reggie isn't telling us something.”

“Obviously there's a lot we don't know.” Becca frowns at the grinding sound of a hydraulic lift coming from Bird Island. “It would be coolness to keep Albert, and I might have been able to convince Mom if Reggie told me his plans first. When we talked about the sanctuary, I had no idea he'd give us his tortoise.”

“A rare and valuable reptile,” Leo adds. “According to my calculations, Albert is worth as much as $30,000 today on the private pet market.”

“Wow!” Becca gives a low whistle.

“We really have to talk to Reggie,” I say. “Did he leave a phone number?”

Becca checks the letter, then shakes her head. “No number. How do we get in touch with him?”

“I'll search online. I can search more efficiently on my home computer, so I'll go there now.” Leo jumps on his gyro-board. “I'll text when I find out Reggie's number.”

“Not so fast, Leo.” I move in front of his gyro-board, my hands on my hips. “What about
my
notebook? It's supposed to be CCSC top priority. You know how important it is to get it back.”

“Very important.” Leo nods solemnly. “I'll work on both things when I get home. I'll let you know tomorrow at school what I find out.”

“Tomorrow may be too late. The thief—or, as I like to refer to her, Tyla—will have spilled all the secrets online—if she hasn't already.”

Leo goes pale and I'm sure he's thinking about his secret.

“I'll check now,” Becca offers, taking her phone from her pocket. “I know Tyla's favorite sites.” After a few minutes of tap-tapping on her phone, Becca looks up at us. “I can't find any recent posts from Tyla. No news is good news.”

“Until the bad news hits the fan,” I say ominously. “Why hasn't Tyla blasted all the secrets yet?”

“Because she's innocent,” Becca insists.

“If she doesn't have my notebook, she knows who does.”

“Kelsey Case, you're the most stubborn person ever!” Becca flips her ponytail behind her shoulder. “Once you get an idea, it's stuck like superglue. But consider this for a moment: What if you're wrong about Tyla?”

“I'm not stubborn,” I say stubbornly. “I just know Tyla is guilty.”

“Then I'll have to prove she isn't.” Becca blows out a heavy sigh. “I was hoping I wouldn't have to do this.”

“What?” Leo and I both ask.

“Tyla asked me to come to her house after school tomorrow to practice face-painting designs.”

I frown. “You're going there instead of meeting us at the Skunk Shack?”

“I wasn't going to, but now I will so I can look in her room for the notebook. I know her hiding places. If she has the notebook, I'll find it.”

“You'll spy on a friend for me?” I ask, touched.

“I don't feel good about it.” Becca sighs. “But yeah, I'll do it.”

“Text me if you find anything. I'll see you tomorrow.” Leo clicks the remote to his gyro-board, then zooms away, gravel spitting from his wheels.

“I guess I should go too,” I say, standing up from the porch swing. “Unless you want me to stay for support. Your mom sounded really mad.”

“I can handle her,” Becca says with a smile. “Go on. I'll see you tomorrow.”

As I bike away, I feel guilty for leaving Becca. But she didn't seem worried, so I guess I shouldn't be either. Hopefully, Mrs. Morales will calm down once Becca explains that it's not her fault Reggie gave us the tortoise.

BOOK: Kelsey the Spy
5.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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