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Authors: Margaret Ryan

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Chapter Three

“What do you know about Miss King at number 57?” I asked Mr Maini, while I was waiting for Sara and Surinder to arrive.

“Not a lot.” Mr Maini shook his head. “She hasn't lived in the street very long, but she seems nice enough. She has a big, shaggy dog called Thor. He comes in here with her to buy dog food. And she orders loads of magazines. Which reminds me, I have another one for her today.” He took it from under the counter and popped it in my orange bag. But not before I'd seen the title:
Ancient Burial Grounds
.

I swallowed hard. What did she want to know about
them
for? Fortunately, at
that moment Sara and Surinder arrived, so I went outside to meet them.

“Let's go to number 57 first,” said Sara. “I can't wait to sneak a look at that foot.”

“OK,” I agreed. “I'll be glad to get it over with.”

We pedalled right up to the top of the hill to Miss King's house.

“You didn't tell us the garden was full of Vikings!” exclaimed Surinder.

“Did you know that, starting around the eighth century, the Vikings terrorised Europe for about 200 years?” said Sara.

I tried to ignore her. Sara can be a bit of a brainbox sometimes and likes to show off what she knows, but I'd been terrified enough by the sight of that foot! “I'll go and knock on the front door,” I said. “If Miss King's in, I'll apologise for ripping the magazine yesterday. If not, I'll wave and we can slip round to the shed and have a look.”

“Good plan,” breathed Sara.

Sara and Surinder waited while I hurried up the path. I took a deep breath and rapped on the door.

No reply.

I tried again.

Still no reply.

I pushed the paper through the letter box and leaned on the door. It didn't open. I leaned a bit harder. It still didn't move.

“Looks like she's out,” I said, and gave my friends a wave.

Sara and Surinder came running.

We sneaked round the path, past the Viking warrior and the Viking gods. They eyed us sternly.

“Don't tell anyone we were here,” I said.

“You're getting to be as weird as the people who live in this street,” muttered Surinder.

Single file, we crept up to the shed and peeked in.

The white-painted chair was there. The grey filing cabinet was there. The wooden table with the strange tools was there. But there was no foot sticking out of a lumpy, bulging sack. All the sacks were neatly folded … and empty.

Sara and Surinder sighed deeply. “Are you sure you saw a foot?” said Sara. “Maybe it was your imagination. You
can
be a bit dozy sometimes.”

“Or maybe it was a trick of the light,” said Surinder, when he saw me scowl. “Anyway, there's nothing there now, so there's no point in us sticking around.”

Then they both shrugged and headed for their bikes.

“OK,” I muttered. I didn't know whether to be disappointed or relieved. I was about to set off to deliver the rest of my papers, when I remembered the
Ancient Burial Grounds
magazine. It was still in my bag.
I went round to the front of the house and was just about to push it through the letter box when a voice behind me said.

“I'll take that. I don't want it torn, like yesterday's.”

It was Miss King!

She stood there, very tall and straight, with her fair hair scraped back in a long plait. In one hand she held a bag and, in the other, the lead of a large dog.

“I'm s-s-s-sorry about the magazine,” I stuttered. “I thought it would go through the letter box, but it didn't.”

“Just knock next time,” she said, putting down her bag while she fished in her pocket for her keys.

The dog slumped onto the ground and nosed open the bag.

“Leave, Thor!” commanded Miss King.

Thor took no notice. Instead, he pawed at the contents, scraping back a piece of white paper. Miss King pulled him away quickly, but not before I'd glimpsed what was underneath. To my horror, it was a large
bone
and it still had some flesh clinging to it. Could it possibly be human, I wondered?

Chapter Four

I did the rest of my paper round with my mind in a whirl. First I'd seen a foot, now a bone. What
was
Miss King up to?

I couldn't stop thinking about it all the way to school, and I wondered if I should tell Sara and Surinder. They hadn't really been convinced I'd seen a foot…

I decided to take the chance.

“A
bone
?” said Sara at break. “What kind of bone?”

“I don't know,” I muttered. “It was long.”

“Like an arm bone or a leg bone?” asked Surinder.

“I don't know,” I repeated. “It didn't exactly have a label on it.”

“Could it have belonged to the foot you
say
you saw the other day?” asked Sara. “Or is this just another one of your stories?”

“I
did
see a foot
and
a bone. You're as bad as Miss Dodds!”

I was cross. Cross because I knew what I'd seen, but no one seemed to believe me. Not even my friends. What was I to do? I thought about it for a while, then decided to put all ideas of feet and bones out of my mind for good.

But Gran wouldn't let me.

When I got home from school, she was there again. She handed me a library book.

“It's about Burke and Hare. I thought you might be interested. In case you've seen any more body parts…”

“Well…” I said, and then I told her about the bone.

Dad, who was reading his newspaper, got cross. “Stop this nonsense, both of you,” he said. “I checked with the station and there are no missing persons around here. Now, why don't you be sensible, Jonny, and concentrate on winning this football match on Saturday instead.”

“OK,” I said. I'd be happy to.

But it wasn't that easy. Next morning, Mr Maini had another thick magazine for Miss King.

“She certainly has some unusual interests,” he said, handing it to me.

I looked at the title and gulped.
The Muscles of the Human Body
. I daren't think what she wanted
that
for!

I stuck it in my bag, along with the rest of the papers, and set off on my round. Outside number 36, I met Dr Sphinx. He was putting a large bag into the back of a taxi.

BOOK: The Mystery of Miss King
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