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Authors: Mike Crowl,Celia Crowl

Mumbersons and The Blood Secret, The (5 page)

BOOK: Mumbersons and The Blood Secret, The
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They began running again. It was hard to talk at the pace they were going, but Billy managed to say, ‘The police?’

 

‘Of course. People can’t take blood off other people without their consent.’

 

Billy slowed down a fraction. ‘And people can’t throw bricks through other people’s skylights without consent either.’

 

Olivia stared at him, and began to run even faster.

 

 

Chapter 5 - A handful of diamonds

 

Billy burst into his house with Olivia close behind him. Stevedore, who had obviously changed his mind about going home, was lying on the floor. Apparently Mrs Mumberson had given him some scraps when he’d found his way back again.

 

Before Billy could explain what had happened, Olivia told the Mumbersons everything in far too much detail and all out of order.

 

‘Sit down, have a biscuit, and start from the beginning,’ said Mrs Mumberson.

 

They did. Their stories interrupted and tumbled over each other. There were bits that Olivia hadn’t seen and bits Billy didn’t know about. Just when it seemed they were finished Olivia would remember something, and
that
had to be added in.

 

Finally Mr Mumberson had had enough. ‘Stop!’ he said, more loudly than he meant. ‘What happened to your father? Where’s he?’

 

The two children stopped talking, and shook their heads. ‘We don’t know.’

 

‘Call him on your phone, then,’ he said, with an exasperated sigh. ‘That might solve something.’

 

Billy found his father’s number on his mobile. He put the mobile on speakerphone. After a few rings his father answered. ‘What do you want, Billy?’

 

Mrs Mumberson muttered, ‘So rude.’

 

‘Dad, something really weird’s happened here.’

 

‘What have your grandparents done now?’

 

Mrs Mumberson seethed.

 

‘Tell him, Billy,’ said Mr Mumberson. ‘Get on with it.’

 

Billy explained how he’d got the text. ‘I didn’t send you a text,’ his father said. ‘Why would I be in Skittleton when I told you I was driving 300 kilometres north to meet your mother?’

 

Billy told him what else had happened. His father became more and more agitated and angry. Worst of all, he didn’t seem to believe him. ‘What on earth were they thinking of, letting you go down to the Factory?’ Jerry demanded.

 

‘Now he’s going to blame us,’ said Mrs Mumberson. ‘As you’d expect.’ She took the phone off Billy, even though she didn’t need to. ‘Now don’t interrupt, Gerard. Billy’s had a terrible fright, and so has Olivia...’

 

‘Olivia!’ shouted Jerry.

 

‘Yes, Olivia, and thankfully she kept her head. If it wasn’t for her there’s no knowing what would have happened to Billy. He might have been kept a prisoner!’ Jerry tried to say something, but his mother carried on as though she was talking to a teenager. ‘Get yourself home right now, and go down to that Factory. Give them a piece of your mind.’ Jerry tried to speak again, but his mother cut him off. ‘No excuses, Gerard Mumberson. We should call the police.’

 

‘Get them to arrest those people,’ added Mr Mumberson.

 

His wife would have carried on lecturing Jerry for some time (she had plenty of unused lecturing to catch up on after twenty years) but he finally got a word in. ‘Listen to me! I can’t come now.
I’ve only just found Madeleine. She’s in a terrible state. I can’t understand what she’s on about. Sounds like the same old fairy tale stuff she used to spout. I’ll try and work out what she’s on about then head home. It won’t be until the early hours of the morning, though.’ He cut the call, giving the others no chance to add anything further.

 

‘Did I mention how rude he was?’ Mrs Mumberson said to no one in particular.

 

Her husband replied, all the same. ‘If he was any younger I’d give him a good clip round the ear.’ He poured himself another cup of tea; he was grateful to be able to have tea whenever he felt like it.

 

‘Olivia, aren’t you supposed to be at home?’ Mrs Mumberson had almost forgotten that Olivia didn’t live in the house.

 

Olivia glanced at the kitchen clock. It was already eight. ‘Mum and Dad won’t have noticed I’m not there yet. They often work half the night.’

 

‘That’s all very well, Olivia, but you need to be with your family,’ said Mrs Mumberson. ‘You don’t need to tell them everything that’s happened tonight, if you don’t want, but I think you should be at home all the same.’

 

‘They wouldn’t notice me talking to them anyway.’

 

She would have gone straight out the door and walked home without a second thought if Mrs Mumberson hadn’t stopped her. ‘You can’t go by yourself!’ she said, horrified. ‘Mr Mumberson will take you.’

 

‘I’m drinking my tea!’

 

‘Billy, you’d better go too, so he doesn’t get lost.’ She gave Mr Mumberson a ‘don’t-argue-with-me’ look.

 

‘I’ve lived in this town since I was a boy, Brenda,’ said Mr Mumberson, standing up and finishing his tea more rapidly than he’d intended. ‘I can find my way around without Billy’s help, thank you. He’ll be safer here.’

 

‘Granddad...’ Billy suddenly realised what he’d called Mr Mumberson. His grandparents’ raised their eyebrows. ‘I’ll come. I’ll be safe with you.’

 

‘That’s a moot point,’ said his grandmother. ‘More likely
he’ll
be safer with you.’

 

‘Get a move on then,’ said his grandfather. ‘Have you got an overcoat I can borrow?’

 

They sorted out a coat and a scarf belonging to Jerry. ‘We’ll have to get some new clothes,’ said Mrs Mumberson, casting an eye over his apparel. ‘We can’t keep wearing other people’s all the time. Though where we’re going to get money from I don’t know.’

 

‘Dad’ll lend you some, Grandma,’ said Billy, hardly aware that he’d found a name for her as well.

 


You’re
an optimist, Billy Mumberson.’

 

The three walked up the slope of Fivefold street, accompanied by Stevedore, who thought he was going out for a stroll, and was surprised at the pace the humans set. Even though they were heading in the opposite direction to the Factory, they kept looking over their shoulders in case anyone was following them. Mr Mumberson complained more than once that his feet were practically worn out after all the walking he’d done recently, but he kept up all the same. He was fitter than he let on. And he didn’t seem to mind that Olivia held his hand most of the time.

 

At the end of Fivefold street they went down a narrow lane that wound round and round until it came to a
steep set of cracked steps. These led into the back of the mostly deserted car park of a recently-built shopping mall. Several youths, including Liam, were noisily banging around on their skateboards. Loud chocks and clonks echoed across the park.

 

‘Olivia!’ shouted Liam, skating towards them. ‘Who’s the old bloke?’ Stevedore barked at him, and then raced amongst the skateboarders, who greeted him like an old friend.

 

‘Blooming cheek,’ said Mr Mumberson.

 

‘He’s Billy’s granddad,’ said Olivia. Liam skated along behind them as they crossed the car park and went into an alleyway with narrow shops on one side and brightly-painted murals on the other. He raced ahead of them, demonstrating his skating skills, and narrowly missed running over Stevedore.

 

‘Young show off,’ said Mr Mumberson, under his breath.

 

Two more short streets brought them to Olivia’s house, a rambling villa in need of a good deal of repair, with an overgrown garden. Purple wisteria bloomed everywhere, climbing up the walls of the house towards the roof, and even managing to attach itself to a nearby power pole. Through the front windows they could see a wall covered in bright and striking paintings.

 

Stevedore, who’d managed to avoid being run down by Liam, had beaten them home by a good five minutes, and was scratching at the front door. ‘Let the dog in!’ a man shouted from inside. ‘I’m working,’ a woman’s voice shouted back.

 

Olivia didn’t invite Billy and Mr Mumberson in - Billy had never been inside, in fact - but she did give Mr Mumberson a hug before leaving them. As she opened the door, the man called out, ‘Finally home, Olivia?’ She banged the door shut behind her.

 

‘I wonder if she’ll tell her parents anything,’ said Mr Mumberson, as they made their way back home.

‘Granddad, who do you think those people at the Factory were? They wouldn’t work there, would they?’

 

‘Don’t know. Your father didn’t seem suspicious about them. Trouble is, he doesn’t think anything out of the ordinary ever happens. He was like that as a boy. Dumped the Tooth Fairy when he was five. Santa Claus when he was six.’ He sighed. ‘We can’t convince him we were kidnapped by a witch, and imprisoned in a diamond mine for twenty years. But...’ and here he chuckled for the first time since Billy had met him, ‘...I have some proof in my pocket. I have a few of the diamonds from the mine.’

 

‘Diamonds? Real diamonds?’

 

‘As real as they come.’ He lowered his voice. ‘Don’t tell your grandmother. She wouldn’t approve. Tomorrow I’m going to find a jeweller to take them off my hands. Then we’ll have some money to come and go on. Maybe she’ll approve of that!’

 

‘There’s a jeweller’s shop in the Arcade, Granddad.’ They’d reached the shopping mall again, and Billy pointed it out.

 

Adiblo’s Jewellers was closed, like most of the shops around it. It was all the more strange, then, that there was a shadowy figure of a large person moving around inside in the half-lit shop.

 

‘See that?’ said Mr Mumberson, stopping. ‘I hope that’s the owner, not a thief.’

 

‘They
should
be safe from burglars,’ said Billy, looking at a sign on the window that stated the shop was protected by
Imperdible Security Systems.
It had a picture of a short man in a large nappy with a huge safety-pin holding it together. Mr Mumberson humphed. But if
Imperdible
didn’t inspire confidence, the large metal grill covering the whole of the window, and the very solid padlocks at either end should have helped.

 

Meanwhile, the figure inside the shop had vanished from sight.

 

Mr Mumberson, who appeared to have already forgotten about the figure, rubbed his beard, which he still hadn’t cut since he’d got home. ‘I wonder if those jewellers can be trusted.’ He stared at the sign as if it would tell him how dependable they were. ‘I’ll check in the morning. If Mrs Mumberson will let me out of the house.’

 

Billy didn’t want to admit it, but seeing the figure in the shop had made him nervous. He stayed close to his grandfather. Surely he could count on him. He was family, after all. Billy usually took people at face value, but that security guard at the Factory - what did the woman call him? Lattice? Laddige? No,
Lavitch
. The security guard turned out to be not at all trustworthy.

 

It was dark by the time they got home. Billy was ready for bed, though he didn’t think he’d sleep easily. His mind kept going round and round, trying to make sense of everything. What would happen about the broken skylight? The people at the Factory knew who he was; would they send the police to arrest him? Or would they be more worried about being arrested themselves for trying to take some of his blood? But how could he prove they’d done that?

 

Much later he fell asleep. And much later still he was woken again. His cellphone said it was 2 am. There was an argument going on in the kitchen. At first he thought the police must have arrived, but then he realised it was probably too late for the police. He recognised his father’s voice. Jerry was trying to speak quietly, but wasn’t managing very well. And neither were Billy’s grandparents. Billy couldn’t hear exactly what was being said.

 

Worse, he couldn’t hear his mother’s voice at all.

 

He thought about getting up, to see if she was there but wasn’t saying anything. But it would probably make his father angry if he did that.

 

After a while, he went back to sleep, the voices in the kitchen still arguing.

 

Sometime later he dreamt that his father tiptoed into his bedroom. He seemed to stand looking down at Billy for a few minutes, as though he was going to say something important. Then he leant down and kissed him gently on the head. ‘’Night, Billy. Love you.’

 

Maybe it wasn’t a dream.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 6 - A visit to the jeweller’s shop

 

On Saturday morning, Billy was wide awake by seven a.m. Normally he’d lie in bed reading, while his father slept in. Saturdays in the Mumberson household were almost as busy as weekdays, but at least they started later. There was a week’s worth of housework to do: cleaning, washing the clothes, changing the sheets. There was supermarket shopping. Often Jerry wanted to do maintenance on the house, and he needed Billy’s help. If Olivia arrived on a Saturday, Jerry usually sent her home with a flea in her ear. ‘And take your smelly dog with you!’

 

Billy crept to his father’s bedroom door, but all he could hear were loud snores. He wanted to find out what had happened with his mother, but knew his Dad wouldn’t appreciate being woken up after the long drive. He went to get himself some breakfast, and found that his grandparents were already up, and halfway through theirs.

 

‘Probably woke you last night,’ said his grandfather, chomping at some toast covered in butter and marmalade.

 

‘I told your father to keep his voice down’ said Mrs Mumberson, standing up to make some more toast for her husband. ‘Would you like some breakfast?’

BOOK: Mumbersons and The Blood Secret, The
11.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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