Chapter 1 – England!
‘Boy am I glad I didn’t get air-sick.’
Sean was unboarding a private jet that had just landed in London along with his cousins, his grandparents, their dog Duke and Inspector Christopher of India.
‘You sure look hilarious, walking on solid earth with an air-sickness bag in your hand.’ replied his cousin, Rahul, with a chuckle.
‘I say isn’t it nice that the Queen called us on a Royal Visit to UK?’ said Sophia, who was having a hard time hauling her suitcase after her.
‘Here, let me take that.’ said Sean to his sister. ‘Yes, it is very nice of her. Seeing that we were appointed the main detectives of Goa and that England and India are close trading partners.’
‘I only hope that no mystery crops up now.’ said Nicole, her cheeks pink in the cold wind. ‘I want to enjoy the weather, the sheep…’
‘The meadows, the flowers, the country sides, and all the rest.’ rattled off Ethan. ‘There comes the other plane with our parents and Zack in it.’
One plane couldn’t carry the large family so the parents along with Ethan’s baby brother were in a separate plane. They soon reached outside the airport and to their delight there was a limousine waiting.
‘Surely it’s not for us?’ asked Sophia with anticipation.
Inspector Christopher smiled at her and nodded. ‘It is for us.’
The children raced in though Nicole and Rahul were a bit more sedate, being older and remembering their manners. And it was a really good thing they did, for inside was the Queen!
Sophia raced in first and almost knocked the Queen over. Then she saw what she had done and went down on her knees for mercy. Then to her relief (and astonishment) the Queen began to chortle. Her laughter was infectious and soon all the others were laughing too.
Then the Queen gave a short speech and the car began to move. Sophia edged close to Nicole, who was looking out of the window with an overawed expression on her face, and whispered ‘I was so relieved when the Queen began to giggle. I thought she would yell “Off with your head” or something.’
Nicole began to giggle helplessly at this and when she at last stopped she was very cross for she had missed quite a few sights. Sophia kept well out of her way.
Chapter 2 – How Grand!
And then at last they reached the palace. It was really grand and Nicole began to take pictures with her camera. Then she spotted something.
‘Your Highness, what’s going on in that half of the building?’ she asked.
‘That half is being renovated and painted, darling.’ said the Queen. ‘The biggest Sapphire in the world is kept there and I need more protection for it. So sophisticated alarms are being installed and gold paint is being applied all over the room with blue.’
‘Oh, I thought red and gold would look grander.’ said Sean.
‘Yes, but I can’t bear red. If you haven’t noticed even my cloak isn’t red.’ said the Queen, with a rather disgusted tone.
Then she took them to the front door and it opened without her having to knock. A butler came took her cloak and the jackets of the others.
Then twelve more butlers appeared and the Queen ordered them to take everyone to their rooms. The girls shared one room and the boys shared another with Duke. The rest had separate rooms.
That afternoon they all joined the Queen and her family for tea. The children were more overwhelmed to see the spread then to meet all the Princes and Princesses. There were twenty types of blancmanges, twelve types of pastries and buns and a score of other things they hadn’t seen before.
When they finished, they felt so full that they thought they wouldn’t want any supper. After a rest they went for a walk round town looking at the wonders and Danny, Rahul’s father, took them to a fountain just opposite the palace.
It was a wishing fountain, where you had to toss in a coin and make a wish. At the bottom they could spot many coins, some with growth on them! Sean wished for a mystery to crop up while Nicole wished just the contrary.
It was late when they reached the palace again. They all had a quick wash and went down for supper. The children had regained their appetites now and demolished a lot of food.
The Queen was in a merry mood and enjoyed everything immensely. Then they all went to sleep. The girls’ bedroom was just next to the Sapphire Space. It was a cold night and soon snow began to fall.
Nicole was tossing and turning in her bed. She was used to cold weather but in their room the heater was on full blast and she was perspiring. Then she saw it was snowing and went to the window.
She opened it and a gust of cold wind blew in. Then she heard a noise! It came from the next room where the Sapphire was kept! It was a soft grating noise.
Chapter 3 – Noises in the Night
Then she stiffened as the sound of voices came to her ears. She looked around helplessly and then caught sight of the glass on her bedside table. With a sudden brainwave she picked it up and placed the rim against the dividing wall. Then she glued her ear to the bottom of the glass.
All of a sudden the voices became clearer. She still couldn’t hear the words but the voices could plainly be heard. She then heard a click. More voices. Then another click and then the grating sound.
Nothing more could be heard. At this point Nicole began to feel drowsy. So she shut the window and fell into bed.
Then next morning the girls were awakened by a soft knocking at their door. Sophia yawned and sat up. She shook Nicole awake and then said ‘Come in.’
In came two maids, each carrying a tray each. Both girls looked on in wonder.
‘Is this all for us?’ asked Nicole, finding her tongue.
The maids smiled and nodded. One of them drew open the curtains and said
‘Today the Queen shall accompany you to see the Sapphire.’
Nicole smiled as they went out of the room and then whispered. ‘Sophia, I doubt we shall be able to see the Sapphire today.’
She then told her what she had heard the previous night. Sophia was indignant. ‘Why didn’t you wake me up too?’
‘If you made a noise while getting up the people would hear and might have come to harm us.’ said Nicole, beginning to dress.
Soon there came a knock on the door and Rahul called, ‘Are you girls done? We’re going down.’
‘Yes, we’re coming.’ said Sophia.
Then all of them went downstairs to meet the Queen who was in the Throne room. In the room Inspector Chris was present along with their family. Then Sean saw someone else.
The Queen stood up and said ‘Good morning. Let me introduce you to Mr. Mervin. He is a qualified sergeant from the Police Force and is staying here for a few days, for he has some work with my Chief Butler.’
Meanwhile Nicole had been whispering the last night’s happenings into the Inspector’s ear. He seemed startled and said they must investigate if the Sapphire was indeed missing.
So they all trooped into the Sapphire Space with the Queen leading the way. The Queen’s room was on the other side of the Space. And there right in front of them, was the Sapphire.
It was in a bullet-proof glass case. The Queen went near and peered at it over her glasses. Then suddenly, she shrieked and fainted! Luckily Rahul was nearby and she fell on him and didn’t hurt herself.
Chapter 4 – The Sapphire is Gone
Everyone rushed to her and Nicole called for the butler. He helped her to her room. When she was in bed she called for Inspector Chris and whispered weakly ‘That sapphire. It’s a fake! The real one has been stolen. Please alert the Scotland Yard immediately.’
Chris nodded and rushed out of the room. He called up the British Police and informed them about it. Then he put down the receiver and turned to the children who were behind him. ‘Nicole, you were right. The Sapphire has been stolen.’
They all trooped upstairs into the Sapphire Space.
‘It’s a wonder that the Queen didn’t hear anything.’ said Rahul, rubbing himself where the Queen had fallen on him. ‘I asked her a few minutes back.’
‘Oh, so she’s up and about again.’ said Nicole, relieved.
Just then a maid popped up. ‘Hello Inspector. I just wanted to say that last night I got up to go to drink water when I heard a grating noise outside one of the rooms. I was sleepy and didn’t realize which room it was though.’
Chris and the children drank in all this. The maid left and Ethan whispered. ‘A grating noise! Probably similar to the one Nicole heard last night.’
‘Okay, let’s work this out.’ said Christopher. ‘The first click was probably the key of the glass case being turned. The Sapphire was then exchanged with this fake one and the other click was the key turning again, to lock it.’
‘But what about the grating noise? How did the burglar get in? There is only one window and that’s too small for even me to fit through!’ asked Sophia, in bewilderment.
‘It’s a real proper mystery!’ cried Ethan in delight.
Nicole groaned. ‘Just as I wanted to go sight-seeing.’ she grumbled.
At that moment the Queen entered the room and said ‘I believe that you shall find my Sapphire with the help of Mr. Mervin?’
Nicole who was nearest to her had to nod feverishly and say. ‘We shall.’
The Queen then swept out of the room and Nicole groaned again.
‘Pull yourself together Nick. You’re a detective.’ said Sophia.
‘We’ll solve this mystery and get sight-seeing in no time.’ said Rahul.
‘Then let’s search for clues!’ cried Sean.
Chapter 5 – Searching for Clues
‘Oh, the impatience of youth.’ thought Chris, with a grin.
So they started searching for clues. The window as too small, as Sophia had pointed out.
Nicole and Rahul were checking around the case. At that moment Duke whined and pawed the carpet underneath the table on which the case was kept. Ethan at once looked and saw a patch of red paint.
‘Guys, Duke found a clue. A drop of paint! The painters haven’t started painting this room yet!’ called Ethan.
Everyone took turns to look at it. Then Sophia said. ‘Inspector and I came up with an idea. Why don’t we check this fake Sapphire for fingerprints? And the case as well?’
‘Great idea.’ said Rahul. ‘I only hope the burglar wasn’t wearing gloves.’
So the Inspector produced a packet of powder and using a brush, lightly dusted it over the case and Sapphire. And to their disappointment, no fingerprints turned up.
‘Whoever stole that Sapphire was a jolly smart person.’ said Chris.
‘What about the key?’ asked Nicole, suddenly. ‘I’ll go ask the Queen. Coming Rahul?’
So the siblings trotted downstairs to find the Queen. She was in the Throne room with dozens of interviewers around her, all from different news channels.
‘Goodness knows how they got to know. I thought the British Police worked secretly.’ whispered Nicole.
Then the Queen caught sight of them and beckoned them towards her. ‘And these two are the Detectives on the case.’ she said to the reporters. ‘Where are the others?’ she asked Rahul.
‘They’re still investigating.’ replied Rahul. ‘May we have a word with you? In private.’
‘Sure.’ said the Queen. ‘Excuse me for a moment.’ she called to the reporters.
‘Yes, what is it?’ she asked Rahul when they were in another room.
‘Your highness, we actually wanted to know about the key to the Sapphire’s case. Where is it kept and how many of the type exist.’ said Rahul.
‘There is only one of the type and I have that. I keep it with me during daytime and on my bedside table at night.’ replied the Queen.
‘May we see it?’ asked Rahul.
‘Yes.’ said the Queen.
Rahul put on gloves before taking it and the Queen also wore gloves, day in and day out, so if there were fingerprints, they would belong to the burglar.
With that they raced back to their cousins. Mr. Mervin had joined them. He seemed quite a success with the children for they were all giggling at the jokes he cracked.
The siblings smiled at him politely and then went to Chris.
‘We got the key.’ said Nicole. ‘There’s only one of its kind and no one has touched it with bear hands. So if there are fingerprints they will belong to the burglar.’
Rahul gave Chris the key and went to Sean.
‘Found anything more?’ he asked.
‘No.’ said Sean. ‘Mr. Mervin said that the paint-evidence points to the painters. So we should go arrest them. But we refused as we had no more proof. He seemed furious then. But after that he was quite nice.’
‘I’ve seen the head-painter. Nice guy by the name of Brushwood.’ said Rahul. ‘He’s tiny though. And I believe he could fit through the window! But he seemed too nice to do anything of that sort.’
This startled Sean. ‘Gracious. It could be him then! We should turn our attention to his actions.’
Then Mr. Mervin announced. ‘Tomorrow I am leaving, for my work with the Chief Butler is finished. If you want to ask me about anything related to this case, today is your last day.’
With that he bowed and walked out of the Space.
As soon as he left Nicole said ‘Is it just me or is that man creepy?’
‘He gave me goose-bumps.’ said Ethan.
But the others trusted him.
‘He’s fine.’ said Chris. ‘It’s just a feeling.’
Chapter 6 – Midnight Adventure
Nicole and Ethan went off in a huff.
‘I don’t care what they say.’ said Nicole obstinately. ‘Tonight, I am going to creep outside that Mervin’s door and gather what I can.’
‘Alright. I’ll wait outside your door with Duke and just before midnight. Duke will keep us safe.’
So that night when the whole palace was still, three figures could be seen creeping just outside Mr. Mervin’s bedroom door. Suddenly Nicole clutched Ethan and the two of them stood with bated breath.
They could hear voices! They came from inside Mervin’s room. Nicole had had a bright idea of bringing along a glass with her. She used the same technique she had used the night before and at once the voices became clearer though the words couldn’t be heard.
Nicole’s eyes gleamed in the darkness. These voices were the same as those in the Sapphire Space last night. She signaled this to Ethan. She had told him not to whisper in case the men heard.
She signaled using a signs they had learnt when they went for a scuba diving course during the Ganesh holidays. Suddenly Ethan jumped. Duke had suddenly jumped at Nicole and knocked the glass out off her hand!
It fell to the floor and smashed to a million pieces. Ethan heard the men coming to the door. The key was on his side of the door. As quick as lightning he turned it, therefore locking it, and pocketed it.
The men tried to turn the handle but found it was locked. They banged on the door but didn’t say anything.
‘Probably so that we don’t recognize their voices. Well we jolly well won’t give away our identity either. Just stay put and don’t make a sound.’ signaled Ethan.
Nicole nodded and sank down to the ground. Then she sat up straight in alarm. So did Ethan and Duke. They could hear the soft grating noise again. It came from inside the room. They pressed their ears to the door. Nothing could be heard.
‘I think we can speak now.’ whispered Nicole.
Ethan opened his mouth to say something when there came the same grating sound again. Only, it was much softer this time. Ethan shut his mouth in a hurry and glued his ear to the door.
Then quite suddenly things began to happen. A sack fell over them, a Duke began to bark. A nasty voice that Nicole had heard in the room said ‘So you thought you were clever enough to lock us in and capture us. You were wrong! We are going to capture you and lock you in a box-room with only bread and water. And we shall leave a message for your parents to come and rescue you as soon as we get away.’
Then he dragged them, still in the sack, to the box-room and flung them in. Then he closed the door and turned the key. They were locked in.
‘What do we do now?’ groaned Ethan.
‘Don’t worry.’ said Nicole, trying to get the sack off her. ‘Rahul and I carry pagers and so does the Inspector. I’ll contact them and tell them not to come and look for us but to stop those crooks.’
‘Not to find us? And who are the crooks? One must be Mr. Mervin. But the other one?’ Ethan was totally bemused.
‘Listen. They’ve put us in a box-room where no one can find. So if they waste time hunting for us, the crooks will get away. But we can easily find our way out with Duke.’ said Nicole. ‘And I know a trick that will get us out of here.’
So she contacted Rahul, who woke up as soon as he heard his pager tinkling. He read the message and dragged Sean out of bed, telling him what happened while they dressed. Just as they finished dressing, there came a knock on the door and Rahul opened it to find the Inspector outside.
He showed Rahul his message and Rahul said ‘I got one too. Sean, go wake Sophia up. Inspector you go search for the thieves. I’ll send Nicole a message to say we’re on the job and join you soon after that.’
Meanwhile Nicole had tried an old Enid Blyton trick. She slid some newspaper out from underneath the door, keeping a corner on her side. Then she put a wire through the keyhole to try and wriggle the key onto the paper outside.
Ethan who was watching her suddenly said ‘What’s the use of that when he took the key? Didn’t you hear him taking it?’
Nicole abruptly stopped and glared and Ethan ‘You’re telling me that NOW?’
Ethan meekly nodded.
‘Never mind.’ said Nicole. ‘I have something that might do the job. Where’s the key of Mervin’s room?’
Ethan handed it over and Nicole inserted it in the keyhole and turned it.
‘I’ve read that in old English homes many doors can be locked using one key. We’re free.’ cheered Nicole. ‘Duke, take us to the throne room.’
Duke ran down some stairs and then to the left. There were the others. But there was no sign of the crooks.
‘To the main entrance.’ called Sophia.
Chapter 7 – We did it Again
They rushed there and saw two burly figures run out of the door. Nicole’s scarf began to unwind from around her neck. This gave her an idea. She picked up a rock and tied it to the end of her scarf. Then she flung it over to one man holding the other end tightly.
Somehow the man managed to get his legs entangled in the scarf and over he went falling heavily on the other man. Then Chris called to some guards and together they hauled the men into the Throne room.
‘Call the Queen, please.’ said Sean, to a maid that had come to check what the commotion was.
‘It may take a few minutes.’ She said and disappeared.
‘Great.’ said Nicole.
Then she too disappeared. After sometime Nicole and the Queen appeared together. Nicole had a thick book under her arm. She began ‘Let’s unmask the crooks.’
Chris pulled off the monkey-caps. One was Mr. Mervin as suspected and the other was…the Chief Butler! The Queen nearly fainted.
‘It was a feeling that something was cooking as soon as I heard that Mervin had come to meet the Butler. When we tried the case and key for fingerprints and nothing turned up I knew he had something to do with it as he worked with police for many years.’ said Nicole.
‘One clue,’ said Rahul. ‘Was that you didn’t hear anything the night of the theft. And also the key was missing.’
‘Only the butler entered your room in the night to bring you milk.’ said Ethan, trying to stifle his laughter.
‘He must have mixed a drug in your milk so that you wouldn’t hear anything.’ continued Sophia, with a smirk ‘Little did he know we were on the other side of the Space.’
‘But the biggest clue of all was the paint.’ cried Sean. ‘You said that you hated red and yet there was a patch of red paint there planted by these scoundrels of course.’
‘And that grating noise.’ said Nicole, exultantly. ‘I looked it up in this book. It said that there were hidden passages in between a few rooms. The room where Mervin had lodged was quite unfortunately belonged to your great-grandfather, O Queen.
The passage from there leads directly to the Space. Also Mervin was furious when we didn’t agree the Head-Painter could be the robber. ’
‘But how did he know about the passages?’ asked Grandpa, for now the whole family was in the room.
‘Belonging to the Police Force it was his business to know.’ said Nicole.
‘Unfortunately, the Butler is also my scribe. Who can word it better than him, enough to get it into history books?’ wailed the Queen.
‘Oh, I know someone.’ said Danny, winking at his daughter.
‘Who?’ asked the Queen, expectantly.
Nicole winked back at her father and said ‘Oh, you have no idea…’