Authors: Margaret Ryan
I delivered my papers as fast as I could. When I got to Miss King's, the house was silent. There was no sign of Miss King or her dog, and I wasn't going anywhere near the shed! But one thing
different â there was a large hole in the middle of the front lawn.
“That's odd,” I muttered. “Everything's usually so neat and tidy. Perhaps she's rearranging the gardenâ¦ Or burying something,” I added.
But I was supposed to be being sensible, so I pushed that thought away.
The team had a great time going round all the classes, holding the cup above our heads and listening to the cheers. It was ages before we got back to our desks.
“There you are at last,” said Miss Dodds. “I'm very pleased you won the inter-schools' football championship, but now the contest is over, maybe we can get some proper work done around here.”
We tried, but it wasn't easy. Everyone was too excited. A reporter came round to interview the team and we had our photo in the local paper. Mr McGregor cut it out and pinned it up on the school notice board.
Things were quieter after that. Quite flat, really, with no football practice and nothing else to look forward to. Miss Dodds made us work really hard and we were getting a bit fed up.
“We could do with some of your fantastic stories to cheer us up, Jonny,” said Surinder. “What's been happening in Weird Street?”
I took a deep breath. Did I want to bring it up all over again? Should I say something, or not?
“Nothing much has been going onâ¦” I began. “Dr Sphinx has gone to help excavate an Egyptian tomb, Captain Cross-eyed is busy painting the pirate ship in the park, and Mr Tipp is inventing something that produces lots of purple smoke. So I haven't seen much of them.” Actually, it would have been good to find out what they knew about the mysterious Miss King.
“So it's all quite normal then,” Surinder sounded disappointed.
?” Sara's eyes gleamed.
“Unless you count the
I saw in Miss King's sitting room and the large holes that have started appearing in her front garden. First there was only one, but now they're all over the place.”
“Skull?” said Sara. “Why didn't you tell us before?”
I shrugged. “I was fed up of no one believing me.”
“Maybe the holes are for new flower beds,” said Surinder.
“Maybe,” I said.
“Some workmen may be putting in a pipe, or something,” said Sara.
“Possibly. It's justâ¦”
“It's such a mess. Miss King is so neat and tidy. I don't think anyone would dare leave her garden in that state.”
“Maybe something is going on,” said Sara, thoughtfully. “Maybe you
see a mysterious foot and a strange bone and a skull, after allâ¦”
“Maybe it needs to be investigated,” said Surinder. “Maybe the holes are to bury some body partsâ¦”
“Oh no,” I said. “I'm not starting that again. I got a telling-off from my dad the last time I mentioned it. And I haven't seen any more bits of body.”
“Probably because you haven't looked,” said Sara.
“Too scared, I bet,” said Surinder.
That made me cross, so the next morning when I got to number 57, I took a deep breath and had a quick look in the holes.
They were all empty.
I breathed a sigh of relief and started to push the paper into Miss King's letter box. But some post was stuck in there already. I bent down to poke through a large envelope and saw into the hall. It was empty, but something strange caught my eye. I gasped. My throat went dry and my knees turned to jelly. I didn't see any body parts, but hanging on the end of the banister was something long, grey and straggly. It looked to me very much like human hairâ¦
I got such a fright, I wobbled and fell backwards onto the path. I was just getting up when the door opened. Miss King was standing there with Thor.
“What about my paper?” she asked.
Oh no, I was still holding it! I scrambled to my feet and, with a shaking hand, held out the paper.
“Can you come a bit nearer,” said Miss King. “I don't bite.”
I inched closer, then I noticed she was leaning heavily on crutches. “You've got the same plaster as my dad!” I exclaimed.
She looked down and sighed. “I was tackled too hard playing American football. Fell and broke my leg.”
Miss King nodded and gestured to the hall table. I didn't go any closer, but I could see that beside the pot plant sat a football helmet with the word “Vikings” written on it. “That's my team. But I love anything to do with Vikings. Probably because of my name, Vi King,” she laughed. “But the team will have to do without me for a while. So will the museum, though at least I can continue with some work at home.”
“You work at the museum?” I asked, my curiosity getting the better of me.
“Yes. There's to be a Viking exhibition soon and I'm making the life-sized models for it. There are bits of them all over the house and the shed at the moment. That's Freya's hair on the end of the banister. It will go on a real Viking skull as soon as the clay I've used to model the features dries out. I've already finished her body.”
“Oh,” I said, trying to take everything in. “I saw a bone in your bag the other day.”
Miss King laughed again. “That was for Thor. I collected it from the butcher's on our early-morning walk. Trouble is, Thor's not getting his regular walks now, and he's really bored. He's learned how to open the front door and, a week ago, he nosed open the latch and took off.
“I finally caught up with him in Dr Sphinx's garden. Thor likes Dr Sphinx's cats, but they're not so keen on him! And now he's making a real mess digging around in my garden. Unfortunately, there's nothing I can do about it till my leg mends.”
Suddenly everything became clear. The foot, the bone, the skull and the holes in the garden. Even the kind of magazines Miss King had ordered.
I felt a bit silly about my suspicions and was really glad she didn't know what
I'd been thinking. Then I had one of my brilliant ideas. That happens to me sometimes. I think I may be an undiscovered genius.
“I play football, too,” I said.
“I know,” smiled Miss King. “I saw your photo in the paper. Your team won the inter-schools' championship. Well done.”
“Thank you. But now, after all the excitement, things are a bit dull. We've never played American football at school. Do you think, if I walked your dog for you, you could come and teach us?”
“Hmm,” Miss King was thoughtful. “That's a good idea, and I certainly know where we could borrow the necessary equipment. I'd like that, and Thor would love the walks.”
“I'll have to speak to Mr McGregor, our coach, but I'm sure he'll agree. He loves any kind of sport.”
At school, I went to see Mr McGregor right away. As I thought, he was really keen.
“Great idea,” he said. “Ask Miss King to call me and I'll see what we can arrange. Perhaps we could start lunchtime practices again.” Then he went off, whistling.
I went off to my classroom, late again.
Miss Dodds' eyes narrowed when I arrived. “Well,” she said. “What kept you today? And I don't want one of your usual silly stories.”
“OK,” I said, and missed out the âI thought Miss King might be a body snatcher' bit, and went straight to the âI went to see Mr McGregor to tell him one of the people on my paper round was interested in teaching us American football' bit.
Then I waited for the explosion.
Too much football and not enough work! How do you expect to pass exams
? Etc, etc.
But the explosion didn't come. Instead, Miss Dodds actually smiled. “American football? Now there's an exciting game. I wouldn't mind having a go at it myself. Well done, Jonny. That's a great idea.”