Mystery of the Invisible Thief

BOOK: Mystery of the Invisible Thief
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One Hot Summer’s Day

 

“Do you know,” said Pip, “this is the fourth week of the summer holidays - the fourth week, mind - and we haven’t even heard of a mystery!”

“Haven’t even smelt one,” agreed Fatty. “Gosh, this sun is hot. Buster, don’t pant so violently - you’re making me feel even hotter!”

Buster crawled into a patch of shade, and lay down with a thump. His tongue hung out as he panted. Bets patted him.

“Poor old Buster! It must be frightful to have to wear a fur coat in this weather - one you can’t even unbutton and have hanging open!”

“Don’t suggest such a thing to Buster,” said Fatty. “He’d look awful.”

“Oh dear - it’s too hot even to laugh,” said Daisy, picturing Buster trying to undo his coat to leave it open.

“Here we are - all the Five Find-Outers - and Dog,” said Larry, “with nothing to find out, nothing to solve, and eight weeks to do it in! Fatty, it’s a waste of the hols. Though even if we had a mystery I think I’d be too hot to think about Clues and Suspects and what-nots.”

The five children lay on their backs on the grass. The sun poured down on them. They all wore as little as possible, but even so they were hot. Nobody could bear poor Buster near them for more than two seconds, because he absolutely radiated heat.

“Whose turn is it to fetch the iced lemonade?” said Larry.

“You know jolly well it’s yours,” said Daisy. “You always ask that question when it’s your turn, hoping somebody will get it out of turn. Go and get it, you lazy thing.”

Larry didn’t move. Fatty pushed him with his foot. “Go on,” he said. “You’ve made us all feel thirsty now. Go and get it.”

A voice came up the garden. “Bets! Have you got your sun-hat on? And what about Pip?”

Bets answered hastily. “Yes, Mother - it’s quite all right. I’ve got mine on.”

Pip was frowning at her to warn her to say nothing about him. He had, as usual, forgotten his hat. But his mother was not to be put off.

“What about Pip? Pip, come and get your sunhat. Do you want sunstroke again?”

“Blow!” said Pip, and got up. Larry immediately said what everybody knew he would say.

“Well, you might as well bring back the iced lemonade with you, old chap.”

“You’re jolly good at getting out of your turn,” grumbled Pip, going off. “If I’d been quick enough I’d have told you to get my hat when you got the lemonade. All right, Mother. I’m COMING!”

The iced lemonade revived everyone at once. For one thing they all had to sit up, which made them feel much more lively. And for another thing Pip brought them back a bit of news.

“I say - do you know what Mother just told me?” he said. “Inspector Jenks is coming to Peterswood this afternoon!”

“Is he?” said everyone, intensely interested. Inspector Jenks was a great friend of theirs. He admired the Five Find-Outers very much, because of the many curious mysteries they had solved. “What’s he coming for?” asked Fatty. “I say - there’s not a mystery on, is there?”

“No, I’m afraid not,” said Pip. “Apparently his little goddaughter is riding in that gymkhana in Petter’s Field this afternoon, and he’s promised to come and see her.”

“Oh - what a disappointment,” said Daisy. “I thought he might be on the track of some exciting case or other.”

“I vote we go and say how do you do to him,” said Fatty. Everyone agreed at once. They all liked the burly, good-looking Inspector, with his shrewd twinkling eyes and teasing ways. Bets especially liked him. Next to Fatty, she thought he was the cleverest person she knew.

They began to talk of the mysteries they had solved, and how Inspector Jenks had always helped them and encouraged them.

“Do you remember the Missing Necklace and how we found it?” said Larry. “And that hidden house mystery - that was super!”

“The most exciting one was the mystery of the Secret Room, I think,” said Pip. “Gosh - I shall never forget how I felt when I climbed that tree by the big empty house - looked into a room at the top and found it all furnished!”

“We’ve had some fun,” said Fatty. “I only hope we’ll have some more. We’ve never been so long in any holidays without a mystery to solve. The old brains will get rusty.”

“Yours could never get rusty, Fatty,” said Bets admiringly. “The things you’ve thought of! And your disguises! You haven’t done any disguising at all these hols. You aren’t tired of it, are you?”

“Gosh, no,” said Fatty. “But for one thing it’s been too hot - and for another old Goon’s been away, and the other bobby in his place is such a stodge. He never looks surprised at anything. I’ll be quite glad when Goon comes back and we hear his familiar yell of ‘You clear-orf!’ Old Buster’ll be pleased too - you miss your ankle-hunt, don’t you, Buster?”

Bets giggled. “Oh dear - the times Buster has danced round Mr Goon’s ankles and been yelled at. Buster really is wicked with him.”

“Quite right too,” said Fatty. “I hope Goon comes back soon, then Buster can have a bit of exercise, capering round him.”

Buster looked up at his name and wagged his tail. He was still panting. He moved near to Fatty.

“Keep off, Buster,” said Fatty. “You scorch us when you come near. I never knew such a hot dog in my life. We ought to fix an electric fan round his neck or something.”

“Don’t make jokes,” begged Daisy. “It’s honestly too hot to laugh. I don’t even know how I’m going to walk to Petter’s Field this afternoon to see the Inspector.”

“We could take our tea, and ask the Inspector, plus goddaughter, to share it,” said Fatty.

“Brilliant idea!” said Daisy. “We could really talk to him then. He might have a bit of news. You never know. After all, if there’s any case on, or any mystery in the air, he’s the one to know about it first.”

“We’ll ask him,” said Fatty. “Get away, Buster. Your tongue is dripping down my neck.”

“What we want, for a bit of excitement,” said Pip, “is a nice juicy mystery, and Goon to come back and make a mess of it as usual, while we do all the solving.”

“One of these days Goon will do all the solving and we’ll make a mess of it,” said Daisy.

“Oh no,” said Bets. “We couldn’t possibly make a mess of it if Fatty’s in charge.” The others looked at her in disgust - except for Fatty, of course, who looked superior.

“Don’t set Fatty off, for goodness sake,” said Pip. “You’re always hero-worshipping him. He’ll be telling us of something wonderful he did last term, now.”

“Well, as a matter of fact, I forgot to tell you, but something rather extraordinary did happen last term,” said Fatty. “It was like this…”

“I don’t know the beginning of this story but I’m sure I know the end,” said Larry, gloomily.

Fatty was surprised. “How can you know the end if you don’t know the beginning?” he asked.

“Easily, if it’s to do with you,” said Larry. “I’m sure the end would be that you solved the extraordinary happening in two minutes, you caught the culprit, you were cheered and clapped to the echo and you had ‘As brilliant as ever’ on your report. Easy!”

Fatty fell on Larry and soon they were rolling over and over on the grass with Buster joining in excitedly.

“Oh shut up, you two,” said Pip, rolling out of the way. “It’s too hot for that. Let’s decide about this afternoon. Are we going to take our tea or not? If we are I’ll have to go and ask my mother now. She doesn’t like having it sprung on her at the last minute.”

Larry and Fatty stopped wrestling, and lay panting on their backs, trying to push Buster off.

“Yes, of course we’re going to take our tea,” said Fatty. “I thought we’d decided that. There’ll be tea in the marquee in Petter’s Field, of course, but it’ll be stewing hot in there, and you know what marquee teas are like. We’ll take ours and find the Inspector. He won’t like marquee teas any more than we do, I’m sure.”

“There’s a dog show as well as the gymkhana,” said Bets. “Couldn’t we enter Buster - or is it too late?”

“The only prize he’d win today is for the hottest dog,” said Fatty. “He’d win that all right. Buster, keep away from me. You’re like an electric fire.”

“We’d better go,” said Larry, getting up with a groan. “It takes twice as long to get back home in this hot weather - we simply crawl along! Come on, Daisy, stir yourself!”

Daisy and Larry went down the drive and up the lane to their home. Pip and Bets didn’t have to move because they were already at home! Fatty found his bicycle and put his foot on the pedal.

“Buster!” he called. “Come on. I’ll put you in my bike-basket. You’ll be a grease-spot if you have to run all the way home.”

Buster came slowly up, his tongue out as usual. He saw the cook’s cat in the hedge nearby, but he felt quite unable to chase it. It was just as well, because the cat felt quite unable to run away.

Fatty lifted Buster up and put him in his basket. Buster was quite used to this. He had travelled miles in this way with Fatty and the others.

“You’ll have to take some of your fat off, Buster,” said Fatty, as he cycled down the drive. “You’re getting too heavy for words. Next time you see Goon you won’t be able to dance round him, you’ll only waddle!”

A bell rang in Pip’s house. “Lunch,” said Pip sitting up slowly. “Come on - I hope it’s salad and jelly - that’s about all I want. Don’t let’s forget to ask Mother about a picnic tea for this afternoon. She’ll probably be glad to get rid of us.”

She was! “That’s a good idea!” she said. “Tell Cook what you want - and if you take drinks please leave some ice in the fridge. You took it all last time. Yes - certainly a picnic is a very good idea - I shall have a lovely peaceful afternoon!”

 

At the Gymkhana

 

The five children, and Buster of course, met in Petter’s Field at about three o’clock. The gymkhana had already begun, and horses were dashing about all over the place. Buster kept close to Fatty. He didn’t mind passing the time of day with one or two horses in a field, but thirty or forty galloping about were too much.

“Anyone seen the Inspector?” asked Daisy, coming up with a big basket of food and drink.

“No, not yet,” said Fatty, getting out of the way of a colossal horse ridden by a very small boy. “Is there any place in this field where there aren’t horses tearing about? Buster will have a heart attack soon.”

“Look over there,” said Bets, with a giggle. “See the woman who’s in charge of that hoopla stall, or whatever it is? She might be Fatty dressed up!”

They all looked. They saw what Bets meant at once. The stall-woman had on a big hat with all kinds of flowers round it, a voluminous skirt, very large feet and a silk shawl pinned round her shoulders.

“Fatty could disguise himself like that beautifully!” said Daisy. “Is she real - or somebody in disguise?”

“Inspector Jenks in disguise!” said Bets, with a giggle, and then jumped as somebody touched her on the shoulder.

“What’s that you’re saying about me?” said a familiar voice. All five of them swung round at once, their faces one big smile. They knew that voice!

“Inspector Jenks!” said Bets, and swung on his broad arm. “We knew you were coming!”

“Good afternoon, sir,” said Fatty, beaming. “I say, before anyone else gets hold of you - would you care to have a picnic tea with us - and bring your goddaughter too, of course. We’ve brought plenty of food.”

“So it seems,” said Inspector Jenks, looking at the three big baskets. “Well, I wondered if I should see you here. Yes, I’d love to have tea with you - and so would Hilary - that’s my small goddaughter. Well, Find-Outers - any more mysteries to report? What exactly are you working on now?”

Fatty grinned. “Nothing, sir. Not a mystery to be seen or heard in Peterswood just now. Four weeks of the hols gone and nothing to show. Awful waste of time.”

“And Goon is away, isn’t he?” said the Inspector. “So you can’t bait him either - life must indeed be dull for you. You wait till he comes back though - he’ll be full of beans. He’s been taking some kind of refresher course, I believe.”

“What’s a refresher course?” asked Bets.

“Oh - rubbing up his police knowledge, refreshing his memory, learning a few new dodges,” said the Inspector. “He’ll be a smart fellow when he comes back - bursting to try out all he’s learnt. You look put out, Frederick!”

“It does sound funny when you call Fatty by his right name,” said Bets. “Oooh, Fatty - let’s hope we don’t have a mystery after all, in case Mr Goon solves it instead of us.”

“Don’t be silly,” said Pip. “We can always get the better of Mr Goon. It’s a pity something hasn’t happened while he’s been away - we could have solved it before he came back, without any interruptions from him.”

“Here’s my small goddaughter,” said the Inspector, turning round to smile at a small girl in jodhpurs and riding jacket. “Hallo, Hilary. Won any prizes yet?”

Hilary sat on a fat little pony that didn’t seem able to stand still. Buster kept well out of the way.

“Hallo, Uncle,” said Hilary. “I’m going to ride now. I haven’t won anything yet. Do you want to come and watch?”

“Of course,” said the Inspector. “Let me introduce you to five friends of mine - who have helped me in many a difficult case. They want you and me to have a picnic tea with them. What about it?”

BOOK: Mystery of the Invisible Thief
10.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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