Chapter 1-Hello Jessel.
It was the summer holidays once again and our friends the ‘Five cousins and dog’ were sitting along with their newest and youngest cousin, Zack, and watching cricket.
Nicole the oldest was sitting on the floor along with the dog. Rahul, Ethan and Sophia were sitting on the sofa. Sean and Zack the youngest were sitting on a small chair looking squashed.
Nicole and Rahul were siblings. Sophia and Sean were siblings and Ethan and Zack were siblings. Zack didn’t belong to the group as he was barely a year old. Duke was their black Labrador that had helped them in many adventures. All the children were waiting for Jessel, Rahul’s mother’s cousin to arrive. They were all very fond of him. He was from England and had come to India for some work. He was supposed to arrive at seven in the morning but was already ten at he hadn’t come.
Suddenly they heard someone saying ‘Sorry I’m late.’ They all shot to their feet saying ‘Jessel!’ They totally forgot about Zack and went running to meet Jessel. ‘You’re so late.’ said Nicole and Rahul rather sternly.
‘Sorry. Did you want me for anything?’ asked Jessel. ‘Well… we know you don’t like cricket much…’ began Sophia. ‘We know you don’t like cricket at all but will you watch yesterday night’s match with us?’ continued Ethan.
‘They play so late in the night that we children can’t watch. Yesterday SRH played against RCB. SRH has already finished batting. We want to watch AB de Villiers from RCB batting.’ said Rahul.
‘AB sounds like baby.’ said Nicole with a giggle. ‘And baby reminds me… where’s Zack?’ Ethan and Rahul raced to the T.V. room hoping that Zack hadn’t hurt himself. They heaved a huge sigh of relief when they saw him ridding piggy-back on Duke.
The others followed and laughed at the sight they saw. Betty (Nicole’s mother) took Jessel to his room and Ethan took Zack to wash his hands. Then they all sat down to watch cricket. ‘Jessel, if you don’t like cricket why did you readily agree to watch with us.’ asked Sean.
Chapter 2-cricket, cricket and more cricket.
‘I love cricket.’ answered Jessel. The ads were going on.
‘You’ve changed quite a bit since last time you came.’ observed Nicole. ‘You love cricket, you’ve grown slimmer and taller, you’ve grown more hair on your head, your voice is deeper and your lenses are bluer than they were before.’
‘Yeah.’ said Jessel rather awkwardly. ‘Oh yes. And you’re less talkative than you were.’ said Sophia. Just then Duke walked over to Jessel and growled. ‘Duke! Don’t you remember Jessel? He brought you a new collar last time he came.’ exclaimed Rahul.
Duke whined and then licked Jessel. ‘That’s okay old boy.’ said Jessel patting Duke. Then the match began. The first wicket of Gayle fell soon and then AB came out to bat. And he made a century much to the delight of Nicole and Sophia.
‘Century!’ they all (including Jessel) yelled jumping out of their seats. Zack clapped his hands and Duke wagged his tail. ‘Last time you came you didn’t know what wicket meant and now you know what century means.’ said Sean amazed.
Jessel looked offended and so Ethan came and said ‘Are you coming to play cricket with us in the field outside?’
‘Sure!’ said Jessel lighting up. When they reached the field Nicole and Sophia were the batsman, Rahul was the first bowler Ethan and Sean were fielders and Jessel was the wicket-keeper.
Jessel stumped Nicole first ball and then ran out Sophia the second. He bowled Sean out for 12 and Ethan out for 10. Rahul naturally made 162. Then he was caught and bowled by Jessel. Then Jessel came to bat. And astonishingly, he that had hated cricket, made 300 against Goa’s most talented cricketers!
He remained not out and the children got bored. After an hour Betty called them in to have some soup. Nicole’s father was there too. ‘Hey Danny.’ said Jessel shaking hands with him. They were soon eating the delicious broth.
When they finished Betty said ‘Nicole, could you stay and help me with the cooking while Rahul takes them to play some board games?’ Nicole reluctantly agreed. The others had the time of their lives playing chess and monopoly.
Jessel was hilarious and suddenly he asked Rahul. ‘Who is your favorite cricket player?’ Rahul replied ‘Do you know Francois du Plessis from South Africa? I like him the best.’
Jessel replied ‘I know him very well. I like AB de Villiers from South Africa. Who do you like Ethan, Sean, Sophia…and what about Nicole?’
Ethan said. ‘I like Dale Steyn. So does Sean.’
‘I like AB de Villiers too. So does Nicole.’ said Sophia.
‘So you’re a South African squad. I thought you all would like players from India better.’
‘Oh, but Nicole’s not just any usual fan you’ll find out here.’ Said Sean cutting Jessel short. I think she’s AB’s most energetic fan that ever lived. At the very mention of his name she starts dancing.’ Nicole had come in that very moment and heard what Sean said.
‘What did you say?’ she said threateningly. Sean repeated what he said. Nicole immediately started chasing Sean around the house. Just then Sean nearly fell over the piano. Nicole caught him and gave him a thump on the back. Then she let him go.
Chapter 3-The missing cricketer.
‘That reminds me. Jessel you play the piano don’t you? Why don’t you play us a song?’ asked Nicole. ‘Oh I play the guitar too. I’ll play one guitar, Rahul and Ethan will play the others two Nicole and Sophia can play a duet on the piano and Sean can sing.’
‘Hey yeah.’ said Ethan. We can form a band.’ Then Sean timidly said ‘I think I’ll need a mike in order to be heard. Do you think we could all sing together?’
‘Why not?’ And so they all sang together till lunch time. Then Betty came in ‘That’s nice music. Ethan, Sean, Sophia will you stay for lunch?’ They went to ask their mothers and came back saying ‘If it would be no trouble to you we will come for lunch.’
‘The food tastes really nice Nicole!’ said Danny. ‘Nicole didn’t make the food- Mama did. Nicole just helped in cutting the vegetables.’
Jessel winked at Danny and said ‘In that case, I like the shape of the vegetables.’ Danny grinned.
Nicole sighed. Rahul always picked on her. After lunch Danny and Betty went to rest, Jessel settled down with his newspaper while the children played board games. Then Nicole asked Jessel.
‘I should have asked you before. How’s Ciona?’ Jessel wasn’t paying much attention. ‘Who’s Ciona?’ The children were shocked. ‘Your wife.’ exclaimed Nicole. Jessel was still buried in his newspaper. ‘But my wife’s mane is Danielle.’ Then he realized what he said.
‘Sorry. I was just concentrated in my newspaper. My wife’s second name is Danielle. Ciona’s fine.’ Then he went back to his newspaper. For the rest of the evening the children played with their neighbour. Then they had dinner and went to sleep.
The next day was Sunday. For breakfast they all had cornflakes. Nicole had made a habit of reading the newspaper starting with the sports news. She read the top headline and got a shock. It was such a shock that she flung the newspaper up in the air.
‘Nicole!’ said Betty. She nodded to Jessel. Nicole looked at him and saw the newspaper on his head. ‘Sorry.’ She said. Then she gulped down her breakfast and ran to her grandparents’ house where her cousins were staying.
On the way she bumped into a running figure. It was Sophia. ‘I came to show you the sports headlines.’ said Nicole. ‘AB de Villiers is missing.’ ‘I was coming to show you the same thing.’ said Sophia. ‘Well since you know I’ll go. See you in church.
They all went to church. Grandma, grandpa and they children went to sit in front while the grown-ups sat at the back. All the children prayed that De Villiers would be found. Then they said their regular prayers.
After church, the children and Jessel went to play cricket again. Nicole was bowling. Rahul hit the bowl high in the air. Sean was under it and he took the catch. Then he fell down with a cramp. Jessel ran to him and eased his foot.
Chapter 4- Sean gets suspicious.
‘I thought you were a police inspector,’ said Sean. ‘Do they teach you how to ease cramps too?’ Jessel laughed ‘No. I’ve learnt from cricket. You know Du Plessis often gets cramps right? I’ve seen AB ease them for him.’
Sean’s cramp disappeared. They played for the rest of the afternoon and then went to have lunch with their grandparents for the day.
Sean and Ethan were having a very heated conversation in the attic. Sean was saying ‘No one can change so much in a year. Jessel’s a football guy not the cricket type.’
Ethan argued ‘Things can change within seconds. You could fall of the roof and become lame for the rest of your life within seconds.’ ‘But this is different.’ said Sean.
‘Ethan, Sean? Are you in the attic? You’re supposed to be doing your studies.’ called Yasmin. ‘Yes mom’ replied Ethan. Then both of them went to the shed where the others were studying. Jessel was there too to help them in English and French.
Studies were soon over with Jessel’s help here and there. ‘Jessel we’re going to play badminton. You coming too?’ called Rahul. ‘No.’ said Jessel. ‘I’ll stay here and read my newspaper.’ Sean said. ‘I think I’ll stay too. I’m a bit tired.’
Sean took up the group laptop and went on the internet. He typed ‘Danielle.’ And then he said ‘Aha. Got it.’ Then he went to Jessel and said ‘I know it’s a bit silly but I have got into the hobby of collecting signatures of different people.’
Jessel laughed and without putting his newspaper down he signed the page that Sean was holding. Sean looked at the paper and checked something else on the internet. ‘Bingo.’ He said. Then he went out to the others to play.
It began to drizzle a bit so they all came in. Jessel had put down his newspaper. ‘Jessel when you were in UK I sent you some of my stories. The Mystery of the Missing Diamonds, The Mystery of the Broken Alarm, The Mystery of the Secret Treasure Room and The Mystery of the Strange Happenings. Did you like them?’
‘I didn’t read all of them Nicole.’ said Jessel. ‘Anyway aren’t you going to start a new story soon?’ ‘Well, I want to… But I don’t have any ideas.’ said Nicole reproachfully. ‘I hope I soon get one, a really good one.’
Chapter 4- I know where he is!
All the children went down to the shed on Sean’s request. ‘What’s the matter little brother.’ asked Sophia. ‘Well, it’s like this.’ said Sean. ‘I was telling Ethan that no one could get so good at cricket within a year.’
‘You’re talking about Jessel?’ asked Rahul.
‘Yes I am. I have a feeling he’s not Jessel.’ said Sean much to everyone’s surprise.
‘Sean you’re younger than us so you’re imagination is more vivid than yours is. Of course that’s Jessel. Why won’t it be Jessel?’ said Nicole rather indignantly.
‘Okay if that is Jessel you tell me- Why did Duke growl at him? How did he know to bowl so well? How did he know to ease a cramp? Why did he say that his wife’s name was Danielle? No one can forget their wives names like that. And most of all why did his handwriting change so much?’ Sean asked showing them the signed page.
‘There are probably simple explanations to your questions Sean. All except the last question. No one’s handwriting changes so drastically in the middle of his life!’ said Rahul ‘A person’s handwriting is as unique as his fingerprint.’
‘I scanned the handwriting and on the computer showed this.’ Everyone looked at the computer. It said ‘This handwriting belongs to the famous cricketer AB de Villiers!’ Everyone (except Sean) almost had heart attacks.
‘You mean to say that this man is not Jessel but De Villiers?!’ asked Nicole shocked. ‘Yes.’ said Sean ‘I also found out that his wife’s name is Danielle.’ Now all that’s left to do is confront him and ask him why he did it.’
Chapter 5-The truth is revealed.
‘Jessel’ was back in his newspaper. The children crowded around him and said ‘Hello AB de Villiers.’ ‘Hello’ he said. Then he slapped his mouth. ‘We heard it.’ They all cried grinning.
They took AB to their shed and he said ‘How did you know it was me?’ they explained their theory to him. ‘And that also that explains how you‘ve become slimmer and taller, have grown more hair on your head, why your voice is deeper and how you’re eyes are bluer.’ said Nicole trying not to show her excitement.
‘Now let me tell my part of the story.’ said AB. ‘I made a centaury the night before I came here. I was fed up of the same old things. Just then my old friend Jessel called up to congratulate me. I told him my problems.
‘He agreed to help me. He told me he was supposed to come to India for some work but he had already completed it in UK. So he told me your address and about you’ll. But he didn’t warn me about how smart you all are.’
‘Is that supposed to be a compliment?’ asked Ethan rather sheepishly. AB laughed. Then Nicole said ‘AB the IPL finals are today. Your team is in. You need to go and win for RCB.’ AB nodded.
So they told their parents who could hardly believe what was happening and then they sent him off to the finals wishing him all the best and telling him how much his fans must be missing him.
As he was about to leave he called out ‘By the way Nicole. Do you really dance at the mention of my name?’ Nicole called back ‘No. But I do dance when you hit those big sixes.’ Then they all waved goodbye.
Chapter 6- The Final.
All the children were ready to watch the finals. Their parents had given them permission to watch till the match got over at 12 at night. The group watched in dismay as the wicket of Gayle fell early. Then they watched in delight as their hero De Villiers made a fifty.
Nicole heaved a sigh of relief as he was dropped on 99. Then he went on to make a 150 showering the crowd with sixes. The children indeed did dance. He then went on to make the highest score in T20 matches. A double hundred!
They won the match by a 146 runs. AB was adjudged the man of the match. He said ‘I dedicate my 200 to my friends “The Five Cousins and Dog.” They showed me how important it is to be me. Nicole shall be my most energetic fan. And Nicole… I think I know what you’re next story might be…’
Nicole said ‘Well AB if you’re thinking “The Mystery of the Missing Cricketer” You’re right.’