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Authors: Mike Crowl,Celia Crowl

Mumbersons and The Blood Secret, The

BOOK: Mumbersons and The Blood Secret, The
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The Mumbersons
and

The Blood Secret

a sequel of sorts

 

by
Mike Crowl

 

with

Cherianne Parks

 

 

Cover illustration by Regan Nicholls

 

All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the copyright owner and the publisher of this book.

 

 

Frank Joseph Publishing – Dunedin – New Zealand

Copyright Mike Crowl November 2014

New Zealand ebook edition

ISBN 978-0-473-30543-7

 

 

 

To the real

William and Olivia

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

Chapter 1 - Strangers at the Door

Chapter 2 - The Strangers Make Themselves at Home

Chapter 3 - A phone call and a text

Chapter 4 - At the Factory

Chapter 5 - A handful of diamonds

Chapter 6 - A visit to the jeweller’s shop

Chapter 7 - The reconnaissance

Chapter 8 - Spying on a meeting

Chapter 9 - A visitor at the Factory

Chapter 10 - Arrested!

Chapter 11 - In the dungeon

Chapter 12 - The treasure

Chapter 13 - The door

Chapter 14 - Happy returns

About the Author

Acknowledgements

Publishing Details

 
Chapter 1 - Strangers at the Door

 

William Dylan Mumberson - usually known as Billy - worked out that he’d had forty-five haircuts in his relatively short life. They had all been uneventful. On this particular Thursday afternoon, however, his forty-sixth haircut was out of the ordinary.

 

This wasn’t because Mr Frizzer, the man who owned the barber’s shop, was away on holiday, ‘soaking up the sun.’ The notice on the door said he would be back in a couple of weeks.

 

And it wasn’t because his substitute failed to introduced himself - as other replacement barbers had done - or failed to make any sort of conversation. The man was tall and gaunt, and the barber’s coat he wore hung loosely from his skinny frame. He appeared to have learned his craft in a school that specialised in offbeat haircuts. Billy kept glancing in the mirror and wondering what his dad would say when he came home from work. ‘Had a fight with the lawnmower, Billy?’ he’d probably ask.

 

The lack of conversation and the curious haircut weren’t the things that Billy would remember most about his visit to the barber’s that day. What made it memorable was the nick he received on his ear when the barber cut him with the scissors, just as he was trimming the last few hairs.

 

Billy didn’t like the sight of blood. He liked it least of all if it was his own. After feeling the sharp pain on his earlobe, he looked at his reflection and saw his blood dripping, one fat drop at a time, onto the plastic cloth that covered him. His reflection went pale.

 

‘My apologies!’ said the barber. ‘How careless of me.’ But instead of putting anything on Billy’s ear to stop the blood flowing, he held a glass vial under it and caught some drops. He put a stopper in the top, and popped it in his upper pocket.

 

‘What are you doing?’ asked Billy, feeling dizzy.

 

The man said nothing at first, then muttered,. ‘Health and safety.’ It was only then that he took a hand towel from the bench, soaked it under the cold tap, and handed it to Billy. ‘Hold that on your ear. The cold will stop the bleeding shortly.’ He went to the First Aid box and took out some cotton wool and two Steri-Strips and proceeded to patch up Billy’s ear in a way that was even more inept than the haircut.

 

Billy was still trying to work out what the barber meant when his friend Olivia texted him,
Hurry up
. Billy rolled his eyes, but texted back
OK
. They’d only got to know each other recently, and now she texted him all the time.

 

‘There,’ said the barber, far more pleased with his repair job than Billy was. In the mirror he could see the large puff of cotton wool sticking out from under the two Steri-Strips
,
which had been stuck awkwardly onto his ear and were already coming loose.

 

The barber swooped the blood-spattered cover off Billy and tossed it in the flip-top rubbish bin. ‘I think we’re all finished.’ He threw the towel in there as well. ‘Time to close up for the day,’ he said, and began to usher Billy to the door.

 

‘Don’t you want me to pay you?’ asked Billy, still feeling wobbly.

 

‘Payment. Of course.’ He took Billy’s money - the correct amount - without any thanks, and popped it in the same pocket as the vial. Then he shuffled him out the door, locking it behind him. When Billy looked around, the
Closed
sign was already in place, and the lights were being flicked off.

 

That seemed odd, since normally the shop didn’t close until five. He stared at the window for a moment. The barber saw him, gave him something that seemed like an attempt at a smile, and vanished through a door in the back of the shop.

 

Another text arrived from Olivia.
Where R U?

 

Billy didn’t bother to reply. He felt a bit lightheaded, and his ear was throbbing. He shook his head, to clear it - it didn’t stop his ear hurting - and ran down the street, zipping between pedestrians and the occasional skateboarder.

 

Olivia was sitting in the afternoon sun, at a table outside The Broadway Cafe. Her dog, Stevedore, a black lab that looked fitter than he was, lay panting at her feet. Stevedore was never on a lead because he always went where Olivia went. Unless he decided to go somewhere else.

 

Olivia shouldn’t have been sitting at one of the tables since she had no intention of buying anything. So far none of the Cafe staff had told her off, in spite of the fact that she had a dog with her. Perhaps they thought, since she was obviously not very old, that she was with her parents, and had somehow strayed from their table, or chosen to sit apart from them so she could text in private. In fact, Olivia’s parents were both artists who worked at home, and often had no idea where Olivia was. From the time she was quite young they’d assumed she could look after herself, and now that she was almost ten, they considered her practically grown up. Both of them had been brought up in homes where people never knew where their children were, so they’d just carried on the family tradition.

 

Anyway, she had a cellphone and could always call them if she was in any sort of difficulty.

 

‘Nice haircut,’ said Olivia. ‘Messy ear.’

 

‘Yeah,’ said Billy, not at all interested in the hair still on his head. ‘The barber cut it.’

 

‘Mr Frizzer cut your ear?’

 

‘Not Mr Frizzer,’ said Billy, starting to walk home. Stevedore got up with a sigh as Olivia followed Billy. ‘It was some fill-in barber. Never seen him before.’

 

They turned up the alleyway between the shops. It was a shortcut to Billy’s house. ‘It’s getting late,’ said Billy. ‘I’ve got to go and get tea ready.’

 

‘I’ll help.’

 

‘No you won’t. You don’t have a clue when it comes to making tea.’ He didn’t say it unkindly. It was true, and Olivia knew it, though she would never admit it. ‘It’s a wonder you don’t starve at your house,’ Billy added, using the crooked white-washed handrail to climb up the forty-seven steps to his street, two at a time.

 

‘Somebody gets tea when they’re ready. We don’t have it at exactly five-thirty every night like you do.’ Olivia climbed equally as fast, though Stevedore rested at the seventeenth and thirty-second step.

 

‘Tell the truth. Half the time you pinch something from our cupboard. So you don’t go hungry. Good thing my Dad hasn’t noticed.’

 

They raced each other along Fivefold St. It was one of several streets in Skittleton that ran parallel to each other, meandering along the side of the hill overlooking the town. Billy swung the gate of number sixty-nine open with a crash. It whined at being treated so ungraciously, and whined again as it swung back towards the street.

 

Billy got his front door key out. ‘We don’t bother with keys at our house,’ said Olivia.

 

‘I know. You’ve got nothing to steal.’

 

‘Yes, we have. Mum and Dad’s paintings are worth thousands.’

 

‘Right. But someone has to want them first.’ He went through the hall into the room that was a combined kitchen and living area. Olivia headed straight for the pantry to see if there was anything she might snaffle. She found a single biscuit in a cake tin and sat herself down in one of the armchairs in the living area, munching.

 

Stevedore had poked his nose in the pantry too, but he forgot food temporarily when Billy put down a cracked saucer with some water in it. He lapped up the water as though he’d spent a week in the desert.

 

Potatoes, carrots and broccoli were lined up at one end of the kitchen table. The usual note from Billy’s father lay beside them. It was supposed to remind Billy that the meat was in the fridge, as well as giving him instructions on how to prepare it. It was an old note, one of several his father had written, and was covered in smudgy smears because it had been recycled so often. Half the time Billy didn’t bother to check the notes anyway because he knew by heart how to cook the meals they ate. ‘You’ll be a chef in a big hotel when you grow up, Billy,’ his father had said one day. ‘Probably earn more than I do.’

 

‘Why doesn’t your Dad get the meals when he comes home?’ Olivia asked, watching Stevedore search for biscuit crumbs.

 

‘I’ve told you. It’s
his
job to earn our keep. Mine’s to get the evening meal. It’s not much to ask.’ Billy washed the potatoes in the kitchen sink, and filled the saucepan with water.

 

‘So do you know when your Mum’s coming back yet?’

 

Billy threw salt in the pan. ‘I’ve told you a hundred times. I don’t know.’

 

‘Just asking.’

 

‘She kept having big arguments with Dad. Or he argued with her.’ He began to peel the potatoes. ‘I don’t know who started them.’

 

‘My Mum and Dad argue if one of them sneezes when they’re working. Then they flick paint at each other, then they throw brushes, then they shout at each other. When they’re finished shouting they go off to their room and I don’t see them for hours.’ She sighed. ‘Then I do have to find something to eat for myself.’

‘Mum just packed her suitcase. Walked out a year ago. Didn’t even take all her clothes. Said it was for my own good. I asked her what did she mean it was for my own good? Too dangerous to talk about. She said.’

 

‘Dangerous?’ Olivia’s face lit up. ‘Is she a spy or something? Does she work undercover, or what?’

 

‘Don’t be daft. She’s just a mum.’ He dropped a peeled potato in the pot. ‘Even Dad doesn’t know where she’s gone.’

 

‘That’ll be why he’s such a grump,’ said Olivia, picking at the carrots on the table with Billy’s pocketknife.

 

‘Don’t do that,’ said Billy, putting the knife in his pocket, where it usually stayed. ‘Anyway, who says he’s a grump?’

 

‘He
is
a grump. He always bangs the doors. Even when he’s not telling you off about something.’

 

‘Telling
you
off more like it.’

 

There was a knock at the back door. Stevedore automatically
followed Billy as he went out through the back porch and unlocked it. Mrs Khafoops, the large lady from next door, walked in. Her multi-coloured sari brightened up the room. ‘Just checking everything’s all right, my darling,’ she said to Billy. ‘You did not come and see me after school, so I’m making sure you are safe. I would not want your Dad thinking I am neglecting you.’

 

‘Thanks, Mrs Khafoops,’ said Billy. ‘All good.’

 

‘What did you do to your ear?’ she asked, taking his face in her hands and inspecting him in case there were further wounds.

 

‘Nothing much. Just cut it.’

 

Mrs Khafoops gave his face a pat, and tut-tutted. ‘Where is your first aid box, Billy? I will put a proper plaster on that ear. It is a total disaster!’

 

Olivia jumped up and got the box out of the cupboard. ‘Oh. So you are here too, Olivia.’ She beamed. ‘Again.’

 

‘I’m helping Billy get the tea ready,’ Olivia said, taking a knife to the broccoli.

 

‘I doubt if he needs it, my darling,’ Mrs Khafoops said, rescuing the vegetable.

 

After tidying Billy’s ear up, she headed back to the door. ‘Well, I must go and sort out my children. They’ll drive Mr Khafoops mad if I leave them too long. He must have peace and quiet before he goes to the evening shift.’ She was gone as fast as a light switching off.

 

Mr Khafoops worked at the Factory, the same as Billy’s Dad, but on a different shift which started late in the afternoon. The Factory stood on the crest of a hill at the north end of Skittleton. It employed hundreds of people, more than any other industry in Skittleton or the nearby towns. Everyone knew someone who worked in the Factory.

 

Billy’s Dad had taken him to the Factory a few times, but he couldn’t go on his own. The security guards wouldn’t let him in.

 

Not long ago, Olivia had encouraged Billy that he needed a cellphone, so he could contact his father easily in an emergency.

BOOK: Mumbersons and The Blood Secret, The
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