Chapter 1- Any Mystery?
‘Fuzzball fireworks? Whatever are those?’
Nicole and her cousin, Ethan, were sitting in the shed reading books. Ethan’s father, Kenneth, had just sent him a book from America which was about their wonderful creations. He came across something called ‘Fuzzball Fireworks’ and told Nicole about it.
She exclaimed saying ‘Fuzzball Fireworks? Whatever are those?’
‘Never heard of it before.’ said Ethan ‘Apparently they explode into the shape of a heart.’
‘Why are they called “Fuzzball” then? They should be called Fuzzheart!’
Ethan giggled. ‘You do think of such weird things.’
Just then Sophia burst in, her eyes red. Nicole and Ethan jumped up in surprise and went to her.
‘What’s up cousin?’ asked Ethan alarmed.
‘Mama’s decided that we’re…’ Sophia began to sob.
‘You’re what?’ asked Nicole, trying to be gentle though she was impatient.
‘We’re shifting!’ said Sophia, in a choked voice.
Nicole and Ethan were shocked.
‘That means that you and Sean shall not be able to solve mysteries anymore?’ asked Ethan.
‘What do you mean?’ Sophia looked surprise.
‘Sophia! You don’t mean to say that you’ve forgotten that the five of us including Rahul and Sean, who have gone out to play, and Duke our dog have made a group called the “Five Cousins and Dog” and we solve mysteries.’ cried Nicole.
‘Oh, yes. I was so upset.’ said Sophia looking dismayed.
‘Well, let’s go out and join your brother and mine. Just to take your mind of things.’ said Nicole. ‘When are you leaving by the way?’
‘In about a year’s time.’ replied Sophia, suddenly looking decidedly cheerful.
So they went to play and Ethan told Rahul the news. Sophia then begged them not to tell Sean anything because he was younger than them all and got upset more easily. They all agreed and then Nicole said ‘By the way, has anyone heard of a mystery this time?’
Chapter 2 – Let’s Investigate
Everyone except Sean shook their heads. Sean looked at Nicole and said ‘I read in today’s paper that there have been kidnappings going on around. Do you think we can help in that?’
‘No. Unless you want to be kidnapped yourself.’ said Rahul with a chuckle.
‘He’s only joking.’ said Ethan, seeing Sean’s alarmed face. ‘Yes we can have a hand in this mystery. Do you know whereabouts these kidnappings are going on?’
‘Yes. Around Eagle’s Eye Hillock. So far there’s only one kidnapping taken place. The victim’s name is John Johnson from Honeysuckle Cottage.’
Rahul, who was drinking some water, choked at this. ‘John form Honeysuckle Cottage? Why he’s one of my friends! I just wished him a Happy Diwali some days back!’
‘Does anyone we know live around Eagle’s Eye Hillock? It isn’t very far from here, is it?’ asked Nicole, interested.
‘Yes. I have two friends there. Peter and Tommy. Why?’ replied Ethan.
‘Well, we could bike down tomorrow and ask them if they saw anything suspicious going on around.’ said Nicole with a grin.
‘Right.’ said Ethan.
So the next day they all biked down to Peter’s. He was a boy who always loved to play basketball. He didn’t even know that there was kidnapping taking place round his house. The children left his house, exasperated.
Then they biked to Tommy’s. He at least knew that there was kidnapping going on around but could not help them more than that as his parents had forbidden him from even going out of the gate without an adult.
‘Well, I can keep an eye open for anything suspicious if you want.’ said Tommy.
‘Yes that would be a help.’ said Nicole, delighted.
Chapter 3 – A Night of Light
So the five biked back home. Duke was waiting for them and he barked with pleasure when they arrived.
‘Nicole, I do hope that Duke shall be able to help in this mystery. He hasn’t helped us in any for quite some time now.’ said Sophia anxiously.
‘Yes, he shall help us but why are you so worried?’ asked Nicole.
‘No. I just thought he was getting old and will soon die. I thought you were trying to hide this fact from us. Hence he wasn’t helping us.’ said Sophia, with a heavy sigh.
‘No, Sophie.’ said Nicole gently. ‘I’d never be able to hide such a painful thing from any of you.’ Then she added in a hurt and rather angry voice. ‘How can you suspect me of doing such a thing?’
Sophia changed the subject, a trick she was very good at. ‘So I guess that the mystery shall have to stay put for a few days.’
Nicole nodded. And stay put the mystery did. In fact even the newspapers said no more about the kidnapping. For Diwali was coming up! Nicole and her cousins did not celebrate Diwali. Not because they were Christians but because they didn’t really like to pollute the environment.
They all belonged to the Eco – Police group in their school. This group saved the environment by recycling and telling their families to compost instead of burn waste. So they decided to watch the other children burning their demons, fireworks and lighting lamps.
So they went to their neighbours to watch. It was great fun. It was about six in the evening at that time. Then a phone call came for Ethan. It was Tommy.
‘Hello Ethan.’ he said.
‘Can you and your cousins come down here to watch the fireworks? I know you don’t like to burn your own.’
‘Sure. Meet you outside your gate?’
So Ethan went and told the others what Tommy had said. Nicole went to ask permission from everyone’s mothers and was allowed, so long as they didn’t get too close to the fireworks.
So they cycled down to Tommy’s. Peter was also there along with some other children. In the middle of them was a paper demon. Sean at once asked what it was.
‘According to a Hindu story this demon once fought with their god. Their god defeated the demon and hence Diwali is celebrated. Every year they make a paper demon and burn it along with some firecrackers to celebrate and establish victory. In India they call this demon Narkasur.’ said Nicole.
‘Oh.’ said Sean.
Ethan and Rahul were talking to Tommy and Peter. Sophia was watching a rain spouter firecracker, fascinated. Sean went up to join her. Both of them looked hilarious standing and staring at a firecracker with such dippy looks in their faces.
Then a small gipsy–like girl ran up to Nicole and offered her a sparkler. Nicole shook her head. ‘Why?’ asked the girl.
Nicole gave her the full explanation and ended saying ‘It sort of makes you uncomfortable to fight against pollution at one side and then go and burn fireworks yourself. I still feel guilty to stand and watch you burning and not say anything. But I wanted to enjoy myself a bit.’
‘Oh.’ said the girl feelingly.
Ethan and Rahul walked up. ‘Apparently these kids are from the two broken down ware-houses nearby.’ said Ethan.
‘There’s one far to the front and the other’s far behind Tom’s house. About a mile’s difference between the two.’ continued Rahul.
‘They’re burning the demon. Let’s go watch.’ said Ethan, suddenly.
They went up to the burning demon and then the fireworks started. Out from the demon itself came the fireworks. The children watched enraptured. Sean began to name the types of fireworks he saw.
‘Spiral, circle, glittery, heart-shaped…’
‘Wait, heart-shaped?’ asked Ethan almost falling back in surprise.
‘Yeah, why?’ asked Sean.
‘The heart-shaped fireworks are found only in America. They haven’t been seen in India yet.’ cried Ethan.
‘We need to find out who brought them.’ added Rahul urgently.
So they asked Tom.
Chapter 4 – Fuzzball Fireworks
‘The gipsy children brought all the fireworks except those there.’ He said pointing to a bundle near his gate. ‘Peter and I bought those.’
‘Interesting.’ remarked Nicole.
She went up to the gipsy-girl she had spoken to first. ‘Where did you get those firecrackers from?’ she asked.
‘Them fireworks? Our pas collected money together and bought ‘em.’
‘Pas?’ repeated Nicole confused.
‘Father. We call them pa.’ replied the girl.
‘Oh. Thanks for the info.’ said Nicole.
The girl nodded to her and then turned to talk to someone else. Nicole walked to the others. She told them about the conversation and then Sophia said to Tommy. ‘You had better keep your eyes out for heart-shaped fireworks these days.’
Then they cycled home at top speed for it was late. Then they had a light dinner, bathed and fell asleep. The next morning soon after breakfast Ethan got a phone call. But as he was making his bed Sean went to answer it.
‘Hello. Tom speaking.’
‘Oh. Hello Tom. Ethan’s making his bed so I’ll take the message.’
‘Yeah. Tell him that I saw four heart-shaped fireworks yesterday. And at about midnight I heard the sound of a car.’
‘Right. Anything else?’
‘No only that.’
‘We’ll come to your house today. Tell us the details there.’
He clicked the receiver into place and raced to find Nicole. He bumped into Rahul who was rushing to find Ethan! Sean gasped. All the breath had been knocked out of him. Rahul recovered first and said.
‘Nicole and I found out that the kidnapping group’s name was “Cupcake”.’
Sean roared. ‘Gosh. A group of bandits named “Cupcake”. Ho ho ho.’
‘Oh. Listen to me. Apparently they not only kidnap but also smuggle goods from America, India and Australia.’
‘Oh. So that’s how the fireworks come into picture. How did you find out?’ said Sean.
‘We asked the Inspector.’ replied Rahul with a grin. ‘He also gave us the names of some people he suspected were in this group.’
Sean proceeded to tell Rahul his news. He was most delighted to have to go to Eagle’s Eye Hillock again. It had wonderful greenery and animals and birds all around it. So that morning all the cousins rode off together. They took Duke with them.
Tom was waiting outside for them. He wasn’t very pleased to see Duke but when he learned how friendly he was he was content. He then said to them.
‘The first firework was from that ware-house.’ he said pointing to the one in front of his house. ‘And the next three came from that one.’ He pointed to the ware-house behind his house.
‘Did you count the time gap between the three fireworks?’ asked Sean pulling out his notebook.
‘One minute after each one.’ said Tom confidently.
‘And what about the car?’ asked Sophia.
‘I heard it driving at about midnight towards the back of my house.’
‘So it came from the front and went to the back.’ said Nicole.
‘Yes, quite obvious that.’ replied Tommy.
‘So should we investigate?’ asked Ethan.
‘Yes. But not now in broad daylight.’ said Nicole.
‘So we’ll go tonight?’ asked Rahul.
‘You bet.’ said Nicole.
Chapter 5 – A Night Adventure
So that full day went planning what to take for the night and whether to take Duke or not. Their parents were not to know anything about it, of course.
At last night came. The children said goodnight to their parents and went up to bed. But as soon as the elders had gone to sleep to ropes fell from two different balconies. One from the room where Nicole and Rahul slept and the other from the room where the other three slept.
Five figures silently slid down the ropes. All children were dressed in complete black so they could blend in with the shadows if needed. They had rucksacks on their backs with rope, a torch, a blade, a digital camera, a pair of skates, a pair of spring shoes and some biscuits, apples and chocolate inside.
On their wrists they had watches with luminous hands. Nicole went to fetch Duke from his kennel. She whispered to him. ‘Duke, I want you to keep quiet and bark only if we tell you to. Understand?’
Duke gave a soft whine and licked Nicole’s hand. Then they all went out of the gate locking it after them. They didn’t take their cycles but changed into their skates. Then they skated off to Tom’s house.
Over there Nicole said ‘Sean and I will go to the first ware-house with Duke while the rest of you go to the one behind.’
They nodded and silently skated off to the assigned places. Duke was enjoying his moonlight run. He hadn’t had one for a long time. Nicole and Sean laughed to see his tongue lolling out and his ears flapping behind.
They reached ware-house one and went to the door. Nicole turned the handle and it opened with hardly a sound. That showed that it had been well oiled, thought Nicole. They went inside and what Nicole saw made her shriek.
The entire ceiling was hanging with cobwebs and spiders. ‘Nicole, do you want to wake the entire neighbourhood.’ asked Sean fiercely.
‘There is no neighbourhood. Only animals and birds.’ whispered Nicole angry with herself for shrieking.
Then she squealed when she saw some cockroaches running across the floor. ‘Nicole!’ said Sean.
Nicole was rather taken aback to hear her cousin so fierce so she said nothing but tried not to scream. Duke meanwhile was busy sniffing in the corner for rats. Sean was walking to him and as he went he bumped into a sack and fell over.
Chapter 6 – The Secret Trapdoor
The sack tilted a bit and the ground opened just where Nicole stood. She gasped. Stairs led down in a spiral. She went to help Sean up and then the three of them went down the stairs. At the bottom there were some funny machines.
Nicole recognized them at once. They were counterfeit money making machines! Surely they had come to the right place. But then they would have seen smuggled goods and not these machines.
Suddenly they heard footsteps. In a hurry Nicole pushed Duke and Sean behind one of the machines. They were now squeezed between the wall and the back of the machine. A socket was on the wall and a plug lay on the ground.
Nicole managed to peep round the machine and gave a gasp. Then she pulled out some papers from her rucksack and looked at it. Then she turned to Sean and said ‘Those two people are suspected by the Inspector.’
‘But how do you know? He just gave you the names right?’ Sean asked.
‘Yes, but Rahul had the bright idea of going on the Internet and finding their pictures.’
Then suddenly they got a shock. One of the two men was coming towards the back of the machine. ‘The plug isn’t connected is it? Well I guess I’ll have to.’
And as you can guess, when he picked up the plug he saw the two children crouching as far back as they could. He roughly dragged them out and said ‘What are you two doing here?’
Then he heard a growl. Sean yelled ‘Jump Duke.’
And Duke jumped out of his place and nipped the man on his ankles. Then, much to the dismay of the children, he rushed up the stairs that they had come by. The man gave a nasty laugh and said ‘See even your dog is scared of us. Now you shall have to spend a considerable time alone in the ware-house with only insects for company.’
He shoved them up the stairs and into the ware-house. He then locked the door, fastened the windows and tied their hands behind their necks. Then he went down the trapdoor and bolted it from his side.
As soon as he was gone the children brought their tied hands over their heads to the front. ‘It was rather silly of him to tie our hands behind our necks.’ said Sean.
Chapter 7 – The End of the Mystery
Then he went picked up a stone and threw it at a window. It smashed the glass and Sean went over to the pieces still on the window and rubbed the rope over it to and fro. He did this for quite some time and then the rope got cut.
Nicole did the same and soon they were both free. The windows were too small to escape from so they decided to wait till help came though Nicole didn’t enjoy her stay. So to distract her mind she made a poem called ‘A Cure for my Phobia’
She read it to Sean:
‘When I was small,
I played with all,
From a spider to a wasp…
When I was five,
I watched bees go to and from the hive,
But after watching the movie “Spider-man”…
I started to suffer from “Spider-Phobia”,
As I grew up things got tougher,
I got scared of cockroaches…
As the years flew by,
Like the birds in the sky,
I started to recover…
ONLY because my friend at school,
Showed me that I was a fool,
To get scared of a tiny spider…
And to keep myself calm,
I said “A tiny spider can’t do harm”,
And I actually took it on my finger…
Now my “Spider Phobia” has disappeared,
One phobia of mine cured,
But what about cockroaches..?
Well, my mother told me,
She had something I needed to see,
And I followed her into the room…
And on camera I saw,
I was a baby (then I looked in awe),
Playing with a cockroach…
Now I’m not afraid,
And fusses are never made,
To go and clean a cupboard…
Another phobia cured,
Another phobia disappeared,
And now I’m an insect lover…’
Sean grinned and said ‘A nice poem though not in the least true.’
Nicole merely grinned. Then she gave a yawn. Suddenly the trap door opened and five men came out. They didn’t say anything. The children hurriedly put their hands behind their neck so that they would appear tied.
The men went out of the house and started up car which the children had not spotted before. Sean went to the window and checked the number.
‘AMN 1212. Can you remember that? I wish I had a pen.’ He said.
When he turned he saw that Nicole was fast asleep. Great, now I can’t even use her poem notebook, he thought.
Just then the door opened and Ethan peeped in. Sean got such a shock that he fell on top of Nicole and she awoke.
‘Well, what were you doing here? Come on out.’ He said.
That night the children were too tired to even talk. They just skated home with Duke, who had gone to Ethan so that he could rescue the other two.
The next morning all of them woke up and remembered their adventurous night. Instead of going to breakfast they went straight and phoned the Inspector saying that they had solved the mystery.
He arrived just after they had finished their breakfast. They took him to the study where they could talk in peace.
‘So,’ said the Inspector ‘tell me your story.’
Ethan began. He told the inspector about the ‘Fuzzball Fireworks’ and how Rahul’s friend John had been kidnapped. He told him how Sean had spotted a Fuzzball firework and how Tom had spotted the signaling and the car in the night.
Sean told him how the skated off to the different houses and told him the whole adventure.
Rahul and Sophia told him their story ‘We went to the second ware-house but didn’t find anything. Then Duke burst in and pulled Ethan to the first ware-house. There we found the other two.
Sean said ‘I heard the men say this when they went out to the car “The boy we kidnapped was only because we were slightly short of money. When we gave one firework we were asking the other house whether it is safe to switch places in case the police arrived. Three fireworks means yes and two means no.”’
‘He must have been explaining this to a new man.’ said Nicole thoughtfully.
‘Did anyone notice the model and number of the car?’ asked the Inspector.
‘Yes. A blue Wagon R. AMN 1212.’ said Sean.
‘How did you remember that?’ wondered Sophia.
‘Simple. AMN stands for At Mid Night and 1212 stands for the time. It was exactly midnight at the time.’
The Inspector then said ‘Sophia I hear that you and Sean are going to shift to Australia? Well, I have already spoken to your mother and she agreed that she wouldn’t shift as you love India so much.’
Sophia was absolutely delighted. She almost knocked the Inspector down while giving him a bear hug. ‘I’m so happy. We’re not shifting and Duke helped us this mystery.’
The inspector took them out for some snacks and asked them what they wanted.
They all replied ‘Cupcakes of course!’
He laughed and asked Sean ‘Do you remember my car’s number?’
‘Yes,’ said Sean ‘AHD two zero one five. I remember it as “A Happy Diwali 2015”’