Chapter 1-The engagement.
Nicole and Rahul were feeling happy. Their neighbour Mrs. White, who had changed her name back to Ms. Rachel after leaving her old husband who had turned out to be a thief, was now getting married! She had asked her cousin Susan to find somebody who she could marry. And Susan found somebody. She had a college friend who was searching for someone to marry.
When Susan arranged for them to meet they liked each other. So their engagement was planned to be held at the end of the week. And after that, the wedding, within a month. They were so anxious to be man and wife, that they planned everything in a hurry.
Since all Rachel’s nephews and nieces were out of station, she had chosen Nicole, Rahul and their cousins to be the flower girls and page boys. They were so excited. ‘It’s been ages since I last was a flower girl.’ said Nicole ‘It was for Sally’s wedding.’
The rings were bought and made ready. A beautiful dress was also bought. Soon the day came. Ronald, the groom, put a ring on Rachel’s finger and she put one on Ronald’s. Then a dinner was held in their honor.
Chapter 2-Preparations for the wedding.
The next day the children went to Rachel’s house to help her in making the wedding cards. They were lovely pearl coloured ones with purple swirls all over. Rahul picked up one that was addressed to Kenneth and Yasmin, Ethan’s parents, and read it out loud.
‘We, Ronald and Rachel, along with our parents invite you Mr. and Mrs. Travasso to witness the most memorable moment of our lives as we pledge our love at St. Sebastian’s church and thereafter at Maidens valley to share our happiness at dinner.’
‘Ouch’ cried Sophia suddenly. ‘I think I stapled my finger.’
‘Whatever were you thinking of Sophie?’ asked Nicole gently.
‘Rachel’s honeymoon.’ said Sophia blushing.
Everyone burst out laughing. Ronald, who was training to be a doctor, tended to Sophia’s wound. It wasn’t very bad. ‘There, that’s the last one.’ said Rahul, with a sigh of relief. ‘How long did we take?’
‘It took us an hour and a half to make more than two hundred cards. Not bad guys.’ exclaimed Ethan. ‘Thanks a ton kids.’ said Rachel. ‘I have one more job for you.’
The children groaned. ‘Well, I thought you would enjoy trying on your outfits for the ceremony.’ said Ronald. The children were up on their feet at once. Rachel led the girls to a room where they could change, while Ronald took the boys to another.
All children went in looking untidy and tired and came out with a totally different appearance. The girls had purple dresses with white swags here and there. They also had pearl necklaces and bracelets. The boys had black suits with pearl white and purple swirl ties. They also had super-shiny black shoes and the girls had white ones.
Chapter 3-Where are the cards?
The next day, the children and the couple were supposed to go to deliver the cards. The boys went with Ronald and the girls with Rachel. They had already delivered half the cards by 10 am and came back for more. Ronald went to the table where he had kept the cards. Almost immediately he came back with a queer look in his eyes.
‘You left the cards on the table right Rachel?’ he asked.
Rachel nodded. ‘Well… they aren’t there right now!’
‘What?’ asked Rachel.
‘That’s okay we’ll help you search for them. Maybe the cat picked them up and kept them somewhere else.’ said Sean.
‘My dear brother, a cat can’t pick up a huge bundle of cards.’ replied Sophia.
‘Stop talking and start searching.’ said Rahul. The others had already dispersed to search for the missing cards. Rahul had been searching the room in which his cousins stood.
‘Nothing here,’ he said. ‘Let’s try outside.’
So they went outside. Sean went to the shed, Sophia to the front garden and Rahul to the backyard. After a few minutes of searching, Rahul heard a yell. He ran to the shed where Sean had been and said: ‘Why did you yell?’
Sean was about to respond when they heard Sophia calling to them. ‘Sean, Rahul come here at once!’ They ran to the front garden and saw Sophia standing in the corner.
She beckoned them over. And the sight they saw made their hearts skip a few beats. Nicole and Ethan came walking over to them. ‘Hey, what’s the matter with you…?’ Nicole stopped in horror.
Chapter 4-Save the cards!
For on the corner there was a puddle in which the wedding cards lay, soaked and muddy. ‘Who could have done this?’ asked Sean, finding his voice.
‘We don’t know little brother, but we’ll soon find out.’ said Ethan. Although they were cousins they addressed each other like siblings.
‘Anyway, I guess we should tell Rachel and Ronald.’ said Nicole with a sigh. So while Sophia and Sean went to call the couple the others removed the cards from the puddle.
The couple raced out to see what could be done. ‘It’s no use,’ said Ronald. ‘Only a few in the centre of the pack can be saved as they aren’t dirty.’
The girls separated the dirty cards from the clean and the boys made new ones in a hurry. ‘Wait a minute,’ said Rahul ‘How do we know what names to write on the cards? If we write names of any of the guests on the cards, then we might end up writing names same as those on cards we’ve already delivered or the cards that are saved.’
Rahul paused for breath. Everyone looked at him puzzled. The girls had just walked into the room. ‘Did you understand anything?’ asked Nicole. Everybody shook their heads-except Rahul of course.
‘Well, let me explain with examples,’ said Nicole. ‘Suppose we make a card for Sally to whom we have already delivered the card or for Kenneth whose card has been saved from the mud?’
‘Oh. Now I get the point. Well, what do we do?’ asked Ronald.
‘That’s why we’ve brought along the dirty cards. Sean is too young to mess around with staples and write neatly so let him read the names from the dirty cards while we write.’ answered Sophia.
‘Okay, but we have to finish quickly.’ said Rachel. They finished with an hour and a half. The kids went off to have their lunch. The couple too had a very quick lunch and went different directions to deliver the cards.
The children couldn’t come to help them as they had to study. By the time they finished studying it was too dark to do anything but have a meeting.
Chapter 5- Who could it be?
Nicole picked up the key to the shed from under a loose tile nearby. She opened the door. The sight she saw almost made her cry while the others looked on in dismay. Someone had turned the shed upside down.
The seats of the chairs were torn up, their books were in shreds and their emergency supply of eatables (which consisted of chocolate and almond biscuits, mango juice and some cake and buns) were thrown on the floor.
The children couldn’t do anything about the damage but look on.
‘What shall we do now?’ asked Sean. Nicole replied at once-‘We keep mum till we find the wrongdoer. We are the “Five cousins and dog” remember? Though I doubt Duke will be to do anything to help this time. He didn’t help last time either.’
‘Well,’ said Rahul, who was always for his dog. ‘Last time was a game of thinking. There weren’t any thieves or villains to deal with. Just a map and some treasure inside the house. You know that Duke isn’t allowed in the…’
‘Alright, alright you two stop arguing…’ said Sophia. ‘Let’s go find some clues.’ They trooped into the shed and examined everything with a fine toothed comb, and two magnifying glasses.
Chapter 6-Discussing clues.
Then they gathered outside the shed. ‘Well, how did we do? Anything to report detectives?’ asked Nicole after some thorough searching. ‘Nothing.’ Everyone chorused.
‘Well… Nothing but a pair of muddy footprints.’ said Sean casually.
‘A pair of footprints? Where? Take me to them. Now!’ yelled Sophia before anyone could really grasp what Sean had said. She pulled Sean into the shed. Then Sean pointed to the floor just at the side of the door.
‘Well? Why didn’t you get all excited and tell us that you had spotted a clue?’ asked Nicole who had got into the shed just then, Rahul and Ethan behind her.
‘I thought that the footprints were the maid’s.’ he said. Then Rahul spoke-‘the maid’s feet are much smaller than these…’
Ethan continued-‘And also she removes her slippers when she cleans the shed.’ But Sean had a question. ‘How come there is only a pair of footprints when the person has raided the whole shed?’
‘The person must have removed his shoes and raided the shed. He must have even been armed with a pen knife or a sharp tool.’ said Nicole.
‘Why do you say that?’ enquired Sophia. ‘He has torn up the seats of our chairs. No one can do that with their bare hands.’ said Nicole. Then she began giving orders ‘Rahul sketch the footprints on your notebook. Ethan you take the measurements.’
After everything was done, it was almost 7:30 pm. Nicole and Rahul went to Travasso Chambers (their house) and the other three went to Domus Delfina (their grandparents’ house where they would be staying for the holidays) only to meet the next morning.
Chapter 7-Cooking time.
‘I say,’ said Sophia, jumping on top of a half-asleep Nicole. ‘Why are you still asleep? It’s 7:00 sharp. I came to tell you…’
‘Why are you waking me up so early in the morning? Is 7:00 any time to get up during the holidays…?’ groaned Nicole, and then she sat up with a start. ‘How did you get in the house? You were supposed to sleep at Domus Delfina right?’
‘Your door was unlocked as your father had gone out to buy milk.’
‘Oh. And may I know the reason behind you coming to wake me up so early?’ Sophia explained- ‘Ms. Rachel has asked grandma if she can prepare the food for the wedding feast…’
‘Grandma being an ex- chef agreed and she wants us to help right? Well, count me in. Just let me have my breakfast and all that stuff and I’ll come along to help you out.’
Nicole came along with Rahul to the kitchen of Grandma’s house. Then grandma gave the instructions. ‘The boys are to carry all the heavy things and wash the utensils. Girls are to fetch the ingredients and help in the cooking. Is that clear?’
‘Yes chef.’ said all her grandchildren and saluted her. About three hours later the entrée and the main course were done. ‘For dessert we have mango jelly and ice-cream and homemade wedding cake. Nicole is the expert at desserts so she shall tell us what to do.’
It took them three days to finish making the cake. Soon everything except the icing on the wedding cake was complete. The boys were also needed for a little help in this part. Nicole showed them how to do it. With all the help it just took half an hour to finish the three tier cake.
They put it in the fridge to chill. Then they went to watch T.V. A little later Sean said-‘Did you a sound coming from the kitchen? Like the sound of the fridge door opening.’
‘Must have been Grandma.’ said Rahul and Ethan. They heard the fridge door closing and exactly two seconds later the heard the dogs barking. They made so much noise that they could have brought the dead back to life.
Nicole and Rahul shot out their chairs as they heard a loud crack. ‘Duke.’ said Rahul faintly. They all rushed outside and saw a stranger running out of their compound. ‘Duke, chase.’ said Sophia thinking quickly.
Duke gave chase till the main road and then he came trotting back. ‘He has something in his mouth. It’s a rag.’ It was indeed a black and white rag. ‘I think I’ll go check on my cake while you’ll go check what that cracking sound was.’ said Nicole.
They separated. The sound was just made to scare the dogs off it seemed. Just then they heard another sound. It was Nicole screaming! The all ran inside and saw Nicole crying. Then they saw why. The wedding cake was smashed!
‘It must be the same person.’ said Rahul. Sophia went to console Nicole. ‘There are just two days to the wedding. We can’t even order a cake…they’ll take too long to make it.’ said Sean.
‘Well, I know what we’ll do.’ said Nicole suddenly lighting up. ‘We’ll tell grandma first, then crumble the cake and coat it with some icing and wait for it to set. Then we’ll decorate it better than before.’
‘Alright!’ said Sean. ‘I’ll tell grandma, you’ll start working…Okay?’ they started their work. It took them hardly three hours as this time they didn’t have to wait for anything to bake. And indeed it did look more beautiful than the previous cake!
‘Well, that’s done. Now let’s go see Ms. Rachel.’ It was 5:00 pm when they left. ‘I forgot to tell you that I found footprints like those in the shed behind the fridge.’ said Nicole.
Chapter 8-The wedding dress.
Rachel had a beautiful wedding dress. It looked very much like the design on the cake… the little group reached outside the door and were about to knock when they heard shrieks. They rushed inside and saw Rachel sitting on the couch looking shaken.
‘What’s the matter.’ asked Sophia. Rachel replied ‘I saw someone staring at me through the French windows. He was wearing black and white and his shirt had a hole at the back.’ She giggled.
The children at once told Rachel about the damage the man had done before. ‘You’d better check if there’s anything missing in your house.’ pointed out Ethan. Rachel at once went to her bedroom. Then she screamed. ‘My dress is ruined!’
The children ran to the room and saw that the ribbons and sashes and roses were absolutely torn away from the dress. ‘What do I do now? I can’t send this to the tailors shop for they won’t repair it. And I can’t fix all by myself in just two days with all this other work around.’
‘Maybe we can help.’ said Ethan. ‘We’ll ask mama, Betty and Sally to stitch it.’ ‘Hey yeah.’ said Rahul. ‘But Yasmin and Sally will have to do most of it. Mama’s not at home in the mornings.’
So the kids took the dress home and explained to their mothers what was to be done. They agreed. Then the children went to the attic to discuss a few things.
Chapter 9- A meeting.
‘Okay, so we know that the man was wearing a black and white striped shirt and pant. His size of shoes is seven or eight according to my calculations.’ assumed Nicole.
Ethan was sketching what he thought the man looked like. Rahul looked at the picture and whispered to Sophia. ‘That man looks like a prisoner.’
Sophia sat up with a start ‘What if he really is? Nicole have you been reading the newspaper lately?’ Nicole replied ‘Why no. Why do you ask?’
‘Look at this picture’ she said showing Ethan’s picture to Nicole. ‘Rahul said it looks like a prisoner. I wanted to know if there has been a prisoner escape anywhere in Goa. I’ll go check the newspapers since last week.’
A little later she came back screaming. ‘There has been a prison break through and guess who’s the criminal? It’s Mr. White.’
Chapter 10-Where could he be?
Sean was shocked. ‘Mr. White? Like…Rachel’s old husband?’ Sophia said ‘Yes. Here’s the picture.’ she showed them. ‘I have a feeling that he’s going to come to the wedding and try to spoil it too.’
‘We’ll have to keep a look out for him at the wedding then.’ sighed Rahul. Sophia then said ‘Our mothers have finished the wedding dress pretty fast by the way. Let’s go collect it.’
Soon they were back at Rachel’s house. ‘That was quick.’ She said in amazement. ‘Now only the last few things are left to be done.’ Then Nicole told Rachel about what she suspected. ‘Could we keep Duke with us just in case White Comes along?’
‘Yes you may, as long as Duke does not scare any of my guests.’ The next two days went like a flash and soon it was the wedding day. The mass went on without any mishaps. The children kept a sharp eye on anyone suspicious.
Chapter 11-The wedding.
Duke was patrolling outside the church door. Then was the wedding reception at Maidens Valley. The celebration began at seven ‘o’clock and was to go on till midnight. Nicole had the rag in her pocket. At about half past eight there was an announcement.
It turned out that Rachel’s purple purse was missing. Soon there were more announcements regarding some missing jewelry. The children were standing at the entrance. Nicole gave Duke a sniff at the rag and Rahul walked around with him.
Duke pulled him over to a gentleman who was helping himself to some jelly. Ethan at once went over to Rachel and asked her. ‘Do you know that man?’ Rachel and Ronald both shook their heads.
‘I think that’s our man’ said Sophia, to Sean and Nicole, who were well aware about what was happening. The man suddenly realized that he was being sniffed and put his bowl down. He walked to the entrance and Nicole noticed his beard peeling off.
‘He’s wearing a false beard.’ Nicole stopped him as he was about to go out. ‘Where are you going sir? You cannot leave without having dinner.’
‘Oh. I just want to visit the washroom.’ He said.
‘He’s eaten too much jelly.’ giggled Sean to Sophia.
Chapter 12-The Capture.
The man heard what Sean said and pushed him away saying ‘Get out of my way Sean.’ Immediately Sophia and Nicole were on top of him. ‘Get Duke. How do you know his name?’ yelled Sophia. Duke came bounding up at the sound of his name dragging Ethan and Rahul behind him.
Duke growled and the man stopped struggling. The girls got off the man and Duke jumped on snarling. ‘How nice to see you again White.’ said Sophia ripping of his beard. Nicole ripped of his mask. ‘We’re going to hand you over to the police who will put you in a more secure area.’
The police were called and the purse and jewelry were retrieved. ‘Well done… Five cousins and dog.’ said the police and the happy couple. ‘Well done Sophia.’ said Nicole. ‘Oh… it was all group work.’ replied Sophia.
‘Duke helped too this time.’ said Sean looking at Rahul. He blushed. ‘Well, all’s well that ends well.’ said Ethan. ‘Woof woof.’ said Duke.