Chapter 1 – The Mona Lisa’s Coming
‘You must be kidding me.’
Rahul had just told his cousin that the Mona Lisa was coming to India and Ethan wouldn’t believe it. And for my readers who don’t know what the Mona Lisa is- it is one of the most famous and beautiful paintings in the world.
‘But I’m telling the truth. I read it in the newspaper.’ cried Rahul earnestly.
‘Fibber.’ said Ethan.
‘I’m not fibbing.’ yelled Rahul.
This went on for quite some time and to save paper and therefore the trees and therefore the forests and therefore the environment and therefore the earth, I’ve tried to keep it short.
Rahul’s sister Nicole walked in and said. ‘Stop squabbling you too. Ethan, the Mona Lisa is coming to India just for two weeks. I thought you would have been happy seeing that you are a patron of art.’
‘I was so mad with joy that I guess I couldn’t believe it.’ said Ethan hardly knowing what he was saying.
Nicole laughed and walked out of the room saying ‘Rahul you have guitar class in 15 minutes.’
So Rahul handed Ethan the piece of newspaper to read and then headed off to get ready. Ethan settled himself down on a sofa and read. This is what it said:
‘The world famous Mona Lisa painted by Leonardo da Vinci is coming to India! It will be kept in each of the states for two weeks before continuing it’s journey around the globe. It will be coming to Goa on the 15th of October 2015 to Bombay two weeks later…’
And then came the rest of the states. Ethan said to himself ‘15th October! Why that’s today!’ he went back to the newspaper. There was a part that he had missed.
‘The painting will be guarded by police all the time and will be open for public from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm The rest of the time will be given to artists who want to try and paint it.’
Then Sophia and Sean walked into the room. Ethan told them the bit of news and they were very excited too.
‘I wonder whether we’ll be allowed to go see the painting.’ said Ethan suddenly, the idea coming to him that his parents might not be free to take him there.
‘Don’t worry. If your parents aren’t free then our parents or Rahul’s can take us. If not then we’ll bike down ourselves.’
Rahul had come back from his guitar class and Nicole walked in with him. She had been to piano class. That day they all researched where the painting would be kept. It turned out that it would be kept in the Town Square Hall.
Then Rahul told them about his guitar sir whose name was Vijay. He told them that his sir had such thick and bushy hair that an eagle could nest in it. He had lived in Australia for half his life and often went there on visits. Hence he had an Australian accent. He was rather chubby too. But he was terribly funny.
He had a tiny car in which four people could usually sit. But when sir was in the car he occupied the place of two people. Today he had surprised Rahul by carrying his guitar in an oversized, absolutely humungous picnic basket!
The children roared when they heard all this. Then they went out to play with their neighbours. Soon the day was up and they went to wash and have dinner. That night Sophia, Sean, Ethan, his baby brother Zack, their parents and grandparents would be sleeping in the grandparents’ house.
Nicole, Rahul and their parents who lived in the same compound in a smaller house would be sleeping there.
The children were put to bed and were asleep. All except Rahul and Ethan. Then the grownups went to bed. By this time Rahul had fallen asleep but not Ethan. He lay tossing and turning thinking about the beautiful Mona Lisa.
Chapter 2 – A Midnight Ride
At last he could bear it no more. He got out of bed, dressed and slipped out of the house. He went up to the window where he knew Rahul was sleeping in the other house. Then he picked up a stone and aimed it at the window frame.
It hit first shot. Rahul came to the window. Ethan said to him in a loud whisper.
‘Dress up and come down. Let’s bike down to see the Mona Lisa.’
At first Rahul was hesitant but then his spirit for adventure overtook him and he was soon climbing down the tree that grew outside his window.
They mounted their bikes and unlocked the gate hoping that Duke their dog wouldn’t hear them and race out of his kennel barking.
They were soon riding down to the Town Square Hall enjoying the cool breeze and the soft moonlight. As soon as they reached they kept their bicycles in a small shed nearby and slunk in through the door which was open for artists. There were police officers all around but most of them were dozing off.
And then they saw it! The beautiful Mona Lisa! They both walked towards it enchanted. Then they tripped over something. Well, at least they thought it was a something. But it was someone!
They got up as quickly as they could and saw in the dim light that there was an artist sitting there quietly painting. All the police were wide awake now and glared at them. As for the artist… he was simply furious.
‘Look what you’ve done.’ he said in a furious whisper. He showed them what they had done. Apparently he had been painting the blue hills behind Mona Lisa when the boys had fallen over him. Now there was a big streak of blue running down her face.
‘Sorry.’ replied Rahul finding no reason to whisper. Then he looked closely at the artist and exclaimed ‘Hey! You’re my guitar sir, Vijay right?’
Then the artist looked closely at Rahul and patted him on the back and drawled ‘I was wondering where I heard that voice before.’
Then Ethan broke in ‘If you’re a guitar teacher how can you be an artist?’
‘Just part-time child.’ came the answer.
Ethan who hated being called ‘child’ by anyone unfamiliar walked on to see the Mona Lisa. Rahul chatted with his sir for a little while and then followed Ethan.
Rahul giggled and said ‘Apparently sir didn’t find it anything out of the ordinary to come to admire a painting at midnight.’
Ethan replied ‘I’d be surprised if he did. Seeing that he’s painting the same picture while wearing bathing shorts.’
Rahul looked back and saw that indeed his sir was wearing bathing shorts. He snorted with laughter and then said ‘We’d better get going back. It’s past midnight,’ then knowing his cousin’s haphazard ways added ‘and you didn’t lock the front door when you came out did you?’
‘Golly! No I didn’t! We’d better rush back to see if anything is taken.’ cried Ethan.
So off they went into the moonlight pedaling for all they were worth. They were relieved to find out that nothing was wrong. They went back to their rooms and tumbled into bed forgetting to undress.
Chapter 3 – A Day of Fun
The next day Nicole tried to wake Rahul up. First she shook him. Then she squeezed ice cold water on his face. When that didn’t wake him up she checked his pulse to see if he was alive or not!
He was, of course, as she found out. So she went on trying to wake him up. She tucked him up really tight in the bed clothes and switched of the fan hoping that the heat would wake him.
Then she put the fan and AC on and pulled off his bedclothes. Then she saw in surprise that he was still in his day clothes and not in his pajamas. Finally she gave up and left him to sleep.
After breakfast she went to the other side to see her cousins. There she found that Sophia and Sean had tried the same techniques to try and rouse Ethan from his slumber.
And they had found him dressed too. So at ten in the morning the two boys finally woke up. Their parents had also tried to wake them up earlier by with no avail. The other three were doing some outdoor sketching when the two deigned to wake up.
They brushed their teeth gulped down some milk and received a good talking to from their parents. Then the boys told them why they had been so sleepy. Big mistake! They got a huge scolding from their parents and then were finally allowed to go out.
They gloomy duo met the others outside and cheered up when they heard that they were doing painting for they both loved that. It was soon lunch time. They all had lunch at Travasso Chambers-Rahul’s home.
The other house was Domus Delfina. That evening grandpa said that he would take the children and grandma to see the painting. Yasmin, Ethan’s mother said ‘We’ll all come.’
So in three separate cars they went to where the painting was kept. The hall was crammed with people when they arrived. The children eventually managed to push their way to the front and stood in awe when they saw the Mona Lisa.
Even Rahul and Ethan were awestruck, as they had not been able to see the painting in such dim light the previous night. Soon the crowd thinned out and the childrens’ parents and grandparents were able to see the picture.
Kenneth and Danny (Ethan and Nicole’s fathers respectively) began taking photos from every angle. Ethan and Rahul drank in every detail of the painting. Where her eyes were, the exact shade of the mountains, where her dress was smooth and where it was wrinkled, simply everything.
Then it was closing time. They all went home.
Then Ethan declared ‘I’m going there again tomorrow. Anyone coming?’
All the children agreed to go.
Chapter 4 – Where’s the Painting
So the next day the children went to see the picture again. But to their astonishment it wasn’t hanging where it was supposed to be. Also there was not a single person in the hall.
‘How queer!’ said Nicole in amazement. ‘It’s hardly been two days and they said the painting would be here for two weeks. Right?’
‘Right. said Sophia. ‘is there…’
She was just about to ask if there was a constable they could ask when a bobby strolled into the room and stopped in surprise when he saw them.
‘What are you doing here? Don’t you know that this place is under police supervision? The Mona Lisa has been stolen!’
There was a started silence at this. Then Nicole broke the silence by saying ‘Don’t you know us? We’re the “Five cousins and dog.” Only, the dog’s at home now.’
The five cousins were known throughout Goa for solving mysteries and the police constable was relieved to hear their name.
‘So you kids can help?’ he asked. The children nodded.
Sean said in a rather scornful voice ‘If I were you I would first shut the door and put a “Closed” sign on the door.’
‘Oh…right.’ The constable went red ‘I thought of that.’ And he hurried to shut the door. Then to the enormous astonishment and amusement of the children he came back screaming.
‘What’s the matter?’ asked the fearless Sophia ‘Did you see a lizard? Or maybe a spider?’
The constable was speechless with fear and so Nicole and Ethan went to check what had petrified him. When they saw what it was they began to laugh. It was Duke! He had followed them to the Hall.
They went in and told the others and they all hooted in laughter. Then Nicole said in a business like voice ‘Okay detectives back to work. Search for clues.’ So they all went searching.
Then Rahul remembered that there was a shed outside and suggested this to Nicole. She approved and said ‘You take Ethan and Duke and go search there.’
The rest of them went on searching in the hall. Rahul, Ethan and Duke went to the shed where they had parked the cycles the night they had come out. Duke went about sniffing and when he reached the corner of the shed, he saw a rat and barked.
The rat went behind a mountain of sacks and Duke followed. He brought down the sacks in an avalanche and then Rahul exclaimed ‘Ethan Look! There’s a piece of gold sticking out from under that sack!’
Chapter 5 – A Meeting in the Attic
They rushed to the piece of gold and then saw that it was a corner of a gold frame! They pulled the full frame out and saw that the Mona Lisa! But what was it doing there in the dusty old shed?
‘Let’s carry it indoors and try to get the dust off.’ said Ethan.
So they took it into the hall where the others were still searching. They exclaimed when they saw the painting and bombarded the two boys with questions.
So the boys told them what had happened. Then they turned to the officer and said ‘You had better inform the inspector on what has happened and ask him whether he can cancel the agreement in which artists are allowed to come and paint in the night-seeing that the robbery took place at that time.’
The officer nodded blankly and went out. Soon the place was flocking with crowds again. The children cycled home and Nicole called a meeting in the attic after lunch. So after a scrumptious lunch they all went to the attic.
‘So,’ said Nicole, opening the meeting ‘the nearly successful robbery took place when the artists were supposed to come and paint? How come this happened when there are so many policemen around?’
She looked enquiringly at Ethan and her brother.
‘Well the night we went there all the policemen were asleep. We woke them up by tripping over my guitar sir as I told you.’ said Rahul.
‘The same thing must have happened last night.’ cried Sophia. ‘Only…there weren’t any “adventurous boys tripping over artists” alarm clocks to wake them up.’
Sean chuckled. His sister could be hilarious if she really wanted to. Then Nicole said ‘Tonight, I guess the thieves were going to collect the painting which they had hidden. They’ll be furious when they find it’s not there. So I think they’re going to try to steal it again today. We need to keep a watch. We’ll all go tonight. Okay?’
But Sean had a question ‘But how will the thieves get in if that silly constable told the inspector to lock the gates and not allow anyone to enter the halls?’
Sophia read Nicole’s mind and said ‘Nicole doesn’t trust that silly constable to get to the police station let alone remember to tell the inspector. Right Nicole?’
Nicole grinned at her cousin and nodded. ‘So tonight when our parents go to sleep, slip out and meet where we keep our bicycles. We’ll take Duke too.’
Ethan had another idea too ‘It’s better we go to bed without undressing. We’ll keep our day clothes on so that there won’t be any delay.’
Sean slapped him on the back and said ‘Good thinking cousin. So that’s planned then. Let’s go to play now.’
Chapter 6 – Here We Go Again
They went to play some cricket in which Rahul’s team won as usual. Then they bathed, ate some dinner, said their prayers and went to bed. They lay there for what seemed like eternity and then at last heard their parents go up to their rooms.
They tiptoed out of the houses and met near the bicycle shed. From there they fetched Duke and sneaked out of the compound. They were soon cycling furiously towards the hall enjoying the cool breeze that whipped past them.
When they reached the hall they put their bikes where the boys had kept theirs the other day. Then they slunk into the hall. As expected the officer had forgotten to ask the inspector to close the door.
This time all the policemen were asleep. And then the children got the shock of their lives. The Mona Lisa was missing again! They stumbled through the dark to see if their eyes were tricking them but no, the painting wasn’t there.
Sean whispered urgently to Nicole ‘Should we wake the police up and get a search party?’
Nicole nodded and said ‘Pass the message on to the others.’
She walked over to one of the officers and saw that he was the same one they had seen in the morning. She read the name on his badge which said ‘PC Thompson’
She shook him and he jumped up in a fright. Then he recognized her and said ‘What are you doing here?’
The other police were all awake by now. Sophia came up and between the two of them they explained what they had told Thompson to do and how the picture was stolen now.
Then they all went to search. The boys had gone to search in the garden while Nicole made the officers search in the hall. Then the girls went to search in the shed. Duke was there and he greeted them in great joy nearly knocking Sophia over.
Nicole called to Sophia ‘Go check in the corner where the boys had found the painting yesterday. Not that I think it will be there but it’s better to check.’
So Sophia walked over to the mountain of sacks and pulled some aside. Then she exclaimed out loud ‘Nick. There is something here.’
With combined strength the pulled it out and then saw that indeed it was the Mona Lisa. On top of it was a coil of metal but in the bad light Nicole couldn’t make out what it was. She pocketed it thinking that it might be some sort of clue.
They carried it into the hall and when the police officers saw them their eyes almost dropped out of their heads. They helped the girls mount it back onto the wall and went to call the boys.
The boys just popped their heads around the door and saw that it was safely there. Then Sean spoke to PC Thompson in an icy voice that his cousins had never heard before ‘I really think you might have locked the door of the hall. You’d better do so now or you’ll get into trouble for being so careless.’
Then they mounted their bicycles and rode off home Duke really enjoying his moonlight run. The children reached home and collapsed into bed. It was midnight when they all fell asleep.
They next day they somehow managed to get up on time. Nicole had to be given a terrible shaking but even she was up in time for the breakfast bell. That day was a sunny one and the heat was unbearable.
Duke lay down beside them on the lawn and Rahul said for the fiftieth time that day ‘I don’t know why but on a hot day like this Duke absolutely radiates heat.’
At eleven the heat got so unbearable that the children had to go inside. Grandpa was there inside and he was actually generous enough to offer them some money and go to buy ice-creams.
But they had to cycle through the heat of course. They decided to race each other because ‘The hotter you felt the more delicious an ice cream tasted’ quoted Nicole. After their ices the children decided to take another look at the Mona Lisa.
They went off, this time more slowly. They reached the hall and to their delight saw that the inspector was there looking at the painting. They knew him well and rushed up to him at once.
‘Hello, hello, hello.’ He said when he saw his favorite detectives. ‘What do we have here? I’ve heard that you’ve found the painting twice when it disappeared. Now is this true?’
‘Yes. Very true.’ cried Sophia.
Then suddenly Ethan went all funny. Funny as in how a cat reacts when it sees a dog. He walked over to the painting and said. ‘It’s a fake.’
Chapter 7 – The Mystery is Solved
The others were astonished. Ethan said ‘Look. There’s a faint blue line across Mona Lisa’s face. Similar to the one that we saw on your sir’s painting when we tripped over him Rahul.’
This was new to the inspector. The children hurriedly explained to him and then he called a police squad up and told them to search Goa for Rahul’s guitar sir. They couldn’t find him and then suddenly Rahul said ‘Sir. He often visits Australia. Do you think…?’
‘Yes, I’ll delay all the flights to Australia.’ interrupted the Inspector.
They were all soon driven to the airport at super extra fast speed. The inspector received a message on his walkie-talkie telling him that Vijay was caught. But the painting was not with him.
They all entered the airport and saw Vijay there with some policemen. Vijay had his supersized basket with him. ‘What’s in the basket?’ asked Ethan sharply.
‘Just some food.’ replied Vijay meekly. Nicole and Sean went to take a look. They nodded. Indeed there was a lot of food in the basket. Suddenly Vijay saw Rahul and went pale.
Ethan caught this look and asked Rahul if he knew why. Rahul’s face suddenly lit up. He walked up to the basket and to everyone’s amazement emptied the food on the ground.
Then he said ‘This basket has a false bottom that sir used to keep music books.’ He opened the flap and behold, there was the real Mona Lisa.
Then Ethan explained ‘The first time we found the painting in the shed it was the real one. He second time he stole it again and planted the false one in the same place. When you found it you thought it was original. But I didn’t see it clearly and hence didn’t realize it was a fake.’
Nicole remembered the coil of metal and pulled it out of her pocket ‘We found this with the painting. It’s a guitar string isn’t it Rahul.’
He nodded. Then the inspector said grimly ‘You’ll have to spend a lot of time behind bars.’
Then he turned to the children and said ‘And you’re going to get a treat. How about some ice-cream?’
What do you think the children said to that? Why ‘Cool’ of course.