Chapter 1-Another Mystery
‘Oh, not again!’ groaned Nicole.
She was trying to think of a story to write for her writing club but something or the other kept disturbing her. This time it was the doorbell. Her cousins, Ethan, Sophia, Sean and even two year old Zack laughed at her. They were alone at home. Their parents and grandparents had gone shopping.
Nicole’s brother Rahul ran to get the door.
Then he exclaimed ‘Why! Jack? What are you doing here?’
Jack Smith who was a friend of his replied ‘I’ll come in and explain everything. If you’ll allow me that is…’
‘Of course.’ interrupted Rahul. ‘Come right in. This way.’
He led them to where his cousins were sitting playing cards. Nicole growled, not looking up from the laptop she was writing on.
‘What are you doing here? Go and talk somewhere else.’ She said.
Rahul ignored her. He then spoke to Jack.
‘Why have you come here? Who dropped you?’
Jack said ‘I biked down. Well… there’s a bit of a problem back home so I came here to ask for your help.’
Nicole looked astonished. ‘What makes you think we could help?’
‘I’ve heard that you’ll solve mysteries.’ said Jack. ‘So it’s like this. For about a week my grandparents have been missing. They are terribly old and hence use wheelchairs. But a week back when my parents, brothers and I visited them, the house was a mess and their wheel chairs were just lying there near the front door.’
Jack stopped for a breath. Sophia continued ‘So let me get this straight. You want us to come with you and search for clues in your grandparents house and hopefully they will be able to lead us to where you’re grandparents are? Right?’
‘Yes’ said Jack ‘the police have already been there but haven’t touched anything or found any clues. In fact they were clumsy enough to drop some coffee around. So…when can you come?’
‘Tomorrow, if it’s okay with everybody. At about eleven. We’ll bike down to your place and you can take us to your grandparents’. said Ethan.
They all said goodbye and the cousins went back to the room to talk. It was the Ganesh holidays and the children had solved many a mystery together known throughout Goa as the ‘Five cousins and dog.’ The dog of course was Nicole and Rahul’s Labrador , called Duke.
Nicole spoke ‘I remember reading something about the missing Smith couple in last week’s newspaper.’ She frowned as she tried to remember ‘Ah! I recall it. It said “Missing couple by the name Smith. Police officers have gone through their house but found nothing. House was ransacked. Their family worried sick.”
It also said something like this “Mr. Smith or Ronald and his wife Mrs. Smith or Grace were both married twice. Ronald was married to a lady called Mary and they had a child called Janet. Grace was married to a man called Timmy and they had a child called Colin.
Mary died in a bus accident while Timmy was bitten by a dog and died of rabies. Then Ronald and Grace met, fell in love and got married. Colin and Janet were both seventeen when this took place. After two years Mr. and Mrs. Smith had a baby called Donald. Twelve years back Donald got married to someone and Janet and Colin tied the knot recently.”’
Nicole paused to breathe. Sophia looked at her in amusement. How on earth did she remember all that? She thought to herself.
Then she said ‘Okay, so this man Donald is Jack’s father?’
‘Precisely’ said Rahul.
Chapter 2- Searching for Clues
So the next day all of them along with Duke, cycled to Jack’s house. His parents were out and his brothers were playing in the backyard. He signaled the cousins to keep quiet and follow him. They all cycled to his grandparents’ house.
The door was still wide open and the rooms were turned upside down. The wheelchairs were right near the front door and Sean almost fell over them as he rushed in. Jack pulled him up smiling.
Then they looked for clues. Sophia looked under the bed while Ethan looked behind the curtains. Then Sean found something. It was quite by mistake (a usual thing with Sean). He slipped on a banana peel and landed with a thud on something pointy. He was up in record time.
He then looked down to see what had poked him. It was a staple pin sticking out of a small notepad. He exclaimed loudly.
‘Hey. I think I’ve found a clue.’
Everybody crowded up to him. On the first page was scribbled ‘S & SD’
Jack cried ‘That’s grandma’s handwriting. I’m sure it is.’
‘Well. What does it mean?’ demanded Nicole as if Jack would know.
‘I don’t know.’ said Jack backing away from Nicole’s stare.
Suddenly Duke barked. Rahul rushed to see why. It was a police constable. He spoke in a commanding voice.
‘What are you kids doing here?’ he demanded. Jack was quick to reply.
‘We are relatives of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. We have come here to pay our respects.’
The constable looked baffled. ‘Pay your respects? We’ll you know they’re not dead just missing. Anyway it’s a nice thought. Now you must go while I carry out an investigation.’ With that he walked in, nose in the air, looking very important.
Suddenly Duke trotted to the shed. The children called him back but he just pawed the shed door instead. So children went and opened the door. Inside were all sacks piled on top of one another.
Chapter 3- Scritch Scratch.
Duke went right to the back and scratched the sack there. The children followed him. Sophia was about to suggest that he was after some silly little bone when she heard a faint scratching noise and then a groan.
She looked at the others alarmed. ‘Do you think…’ she began her face pale.
The others cut her off. ‘There’s no time to think. This could be serious.’ said Ethan. ‘Let’s go fetch the constable.
So while the boys and Duke heaved and scratched at the sacks, the girls ran to fetch the constable. They managed to persuade him that it was no joke and there really might be someone under those sacks; presumably Jack’s grandparents.
So he came to the shed where the boys had already pulled off about six sacks. The groans were much clearer now. The constable and the girls helped and soon all the sacks were pulled off. Underneath, much to the disappointment of the children, was just a pile of dirt.
The constable was hot and tired after all that heaving and was very angry to see it was all for nothing. Then he burst ‘I knew this was all a joke. And I’m telling the truth or my name’s not PC Lawrence.’
He walked back to his motorcycle and drove off, looking offended. All the children looked down in the dumps.
‘What do we do now?’ asked Sean.
John said ‘You know when I was younger my grandmother used to tell me stories about a secret passage in the house. She never told me where it was but she gave me this.’
He fished out a piece of dirty paper from his jeans pocket that read ‘I really love my old Husband And Son.’
‘Why are the initials of Husband, And, and Son in capitals?’ asked Rahul at once. ‘They spell HAS.’
‘Well… that doesn’t make any sense.’ said Jack desperately.
‘How about we put the husband’s and son’s names in place of the words themselves?’ said Nicole brightly.
‘That would make “I really love my old Timmy And Colin” right?’ exclaimed Sophia.
‘And when we take the initials they make TAC.’ said Ethan.
‘That doesn’t make sense either.’ said Jack frantically.
‘How about we arrange the letters… to spell CAT!’ suggested Sean.
‘Do your grandparents have a cat in their house Jack?’ enquired Nicole.
‘No. Grandpa’s allergic to them.’ was the reply.
This was a terrible blow to all the children. Then had spent so much time deciphering the message and now it was apparently all wrong.
‘Did they have a statue cat at least?’ asked Rahul not ready to give up.
‘Yes.’ replied Jack ‘they still have one. Come I’ll show you.’
Chapter 4- The old Tunnel
He led them in to the bedroom and there was a china cat on a showcase. They saw that the couple were lovers of art for there were tapestries hanging all over the walls.
They walked over to the cat, lifted it up and looked all over it. Then Ethan went over to the showcase and smiled.
‘You guys are looking all over the cat but the answer is actually where the cat was sitting.’ He said.
They came up and he showed them a button. Jack pressed it and there was a scraping noise. Duke ran up to one of the tapestries. Rahul followed and pulled it aside. Behind it was a wooden panel that had moved aside at the push of the button.
Then he saw a tunnel. The others came over and saw what he saw. Then Nicole said
‘Anyone have a torch?’
Jack had one and there was another one lying on the bed. So they all headed down the tunnel. At the end it opened to a cave. The sight that met their eyes made Sophia shriek. In the corner were two elderly people.
‘Grandpa, Grandma.’ cried Jack in a mixture of shock and delight. Delight because he had found them of course. Rahul and Nicole ran to them and checked their pulse. It was faint.
‘Sophia, call the hospital.’ said Nicole in a low voice. ‘The rest of us will try and carry these two out.’
Sophia raced to phone the hospital and was bright enough to bring a wheel chair back. The children had managed to carry the grandparents to the end of the tunnel and loaded the grandmother onto the wheel chair. Sophia wheeled her to the door so she could get some air and got the second wheel chair back.
They did the same thing to the grandfather. In about five minutes the ambulance appeared some nurses came along with two stretchers. The couple was loaded into the ambulance and taken to the ambulance. The driver advised the children to call the police to investigate the scene.
So Sophia walked to the telephone but Nicole stopped her.
‘We’ll investigate first and then call the police.’
So down the tunnel they went again and when they reached the cave Sean exclaimed.
‘Hey look. What’s that barrel there in the other corner?’
The children walked up to it and saw that it was a water canister that was almost empty.
‘The kidnappers must have kept it there for my grandparents.’ said Jack who was near tears.
Chapter 5 – Is the Mystery over?
‘So I expect this mystery is over?’ said Sophia to Nicole.
‘Definitely not! We still need to find out who is responsible for the kidnapping of the couple. We could have asked the grandparents themselves but they’re so weak they can’t speak.’ said Nicole.
So the children went looking around the house one more time. Then Jack spotted on old photo frame on the floor. He looked at it. There was Daddy (Donald) still a young child, Colin and Janet in their twenties and the old couple looking as if they were great-grandparents already.
The cousins had crowded around Jack by that time. Then he giggled. He pointed to Colin’s spectacles and said ‘Ten years have passed and still Colin wears the same glasses.’
Just then two surly looking people entered the house. The children recognized them from the picture. They were Colin and Janet.
Well the only difference was that Colin had new glasses. They saw the children and scowled.
‘Colin, Janet. Do come in. We were just talking about you.’ said Jack as if he owned the house.
‘We came to see our parents.’ said Janet. ‘Where are they? And nice mess you all have created here.’
‘Didn’t you know that they were kidnapped and placed in an underground cave? But we found them. They’re in Apollo hospital right now.’ said Sophia in surprise.
Janet went pale. ‘We were in America. We didn’t know anything. Are they okay? Which ward are they in?’ She fired the questions at them.
‘Yes they’re okay but we don’t know which ward they’re in.’ said Nicole. ‘We’re just clearing around here a bit. So you might as well go now.’
Chapter 6 – A Shock.
So the couple went out reluctantly. The children kept searching for anything they had missed. Jack broke the silence by saying ‘Did you know that those two are famous actors? They are often called to America to do acting there.’
‘Oh,’ said Nicole not interested. ‘I don’t know but I don’t trust them. They somehow didn’t seem genuinely worried about their parents.’
‘Come on Nicole. They’re fine. I quite liked them. In fact I ouucchh…’ cried Sean.
As usual Sean had found a clue (quite by mistake of course) this time by stepping on it.
‘What’s the matter?’ asked Ethan in concern. ‘How many times do I have to tell you not to walk around barefoot when there’s a mess and you don’t know where you’re stepping?’
Sean’s foot was bleeding. Rahul checked to see what he had stepped on. It was some broken glass. Sophia had wrapped Sean’s foot with her hanky. They went to see what he had stepped on.
Then Rahul exclaimed ‘Hey. Sean hadn’t stepped on just any glass! It’s the glass from these spectacles! And your grandparents don’t wear spectacles do they Jack?’
Jack shook his head. ‘But I have seen these glasses somewhere else recently.’
Nicole looked at her brother’s friend and said ‘Looks like the only thing that’s left to do now is to lie in wait in the night for the kidnappers. I’m sure they’ll come back for something or the other.’
So they agreed that they girls should go back and tell their mothers that the boys were staying the night with Jack. The boys would come to the grandparents’ house at about 8:00 pm and stay there till goodness knows when.
So that night at eight the boys went to house armed with torches and biscuits. They were soon bored and started chatting. Then they heard a foot step. They stiffened. Again it came. And again.
And then Ethan dropped the bombshell. ‘I’m going to sneeze.’ He whispered screwing up his nose. Rahul whipped out his hanky and tied it around his face as if to gag him. But it didn’t work. Ethan sneezed. It was an enormous sneeze. Jack hearing it for the first time thought that the house would be blown away!
The intruder heard them and came up to where they were hiding. He was a strong man and pulled them all out. He took them to the tunnel which was still open and put them in the cave. He tied up their hands over there and then went out and shut the entrance of the tunnel.
They heard some voices and that was it. For the next few hours they only had themselves to speak to.
‘I didn’t recognize our captor. Did you?’ asked Rahul.
‘No. In the moonlight I saw that he was masked.’ said Sean.
‘He didn’t even say anything, so we couldn’t recognize his voice.’ said Jack.
Ethan was feeling rather guilty and didn’t say anything. The others tried to console him but they didn’t succeed. Just then they heard the opening to the tunnel open. They all huddled up in the corner. Then they saw something that nearly made their eyes pop out.
Chapter 7 – A Happy Ending
The people who had just entered the cave were none other than Sophia and Nicole. They laughed at the boys’ astonishment as they untied them. Then Rahul said ‘Jolly good work girls. Now let’s get out of here.’
So they got out of there. The next morning Rahul called the police. Not only PC Lawrence but also the inspector.
They arrived at the house and said ‘Ah we were waiting for you Inspector.’
And then they told their whole story in short. How the constable had not believed them and how they found the grandparents and everything. When they reached to the part they were kidnapped PC Lawrence’s mouth fell open. The inspector glanced at him and he shut it again.
Then the inspector said ‘So you called us here just to tell us this or you have more to tell?’
All the children looked expectantly at Rahul. Then they heard the gate sound. Rahul looked at the Inspector and said ‘The culprits are coming in just about now.’
As soon as he said ‘now’ two people entered the room. Janet and Colin. Jack gasped. What did Rahul mean. The sergeants blocked the door way so that they couldn’t escape. Then Rahul began to explain.
‘First clue: They said they were in America about a week back, and it sounded as if they told the truth. But it wasn’t because then Jack told us that they were actors.
Second clue: Nicole said she didn’t trust them and she’s always right
Third clue: The glasses. Colin had got new ones but what happened to the old ones? Sean stepped on them and hurt his foot. They were here in the house. How, when he had said he was in America.
Fourth clue: We found a notepad in which Jack’s Grandma had written S and SD. This stood for Son and Step daughter.
I knew they would come here in the morning to decide what to do with us. They thought we were still prisoners. But what I don’t understand is why they did it. Perhaps you could throw some light on this.’
He nodded to Colin and Janet. Colin looked sulky but Janet burst into tears and said ‘We wanted the money. We knew that Donald would inherit what was theirs will we inherit what was left on our real father and mother.’
‘So you put them down in the cave to die and you thought that you would inherit the money.’ said Nicole coldly.
‘Not only for that.’ said Colin suddenly. ‘We were angry with them for marrying each other. We were already teenagers at that time and we loved our parents. They should have thought that it would be too late for us to adjust to someone new so late in our lives.’
Sophia turned away. The spite was too much for her to bear. How could anyone be cruel enough to want to kill their parents for some stupid money?
Anyway, the couple was arrested and taken to the police station. Soon everyone was happy. Jack’s grandparents were much better. Even Nicole was happy. She had something new to write about.