The room was calm and a delicious smell of curry and fish wafted around the room. Light streamed in through the windows as Clare shovelled the last spoonful of rice and curry into her mouth.
‘Ah,’ she sighed with a content look on her face. ‘Now that’s what I call a meal.’
‘Hum,’ agreed Kevin, looking equally satisfied. ‘What’s for dessert?’
‘Well,’ said Clare getting up to wash her plate. ‘Just bananas and apples and an orange. In other words: nothing.’
‘What about that fruit and nut chocolate we bought today?’ asked Kevin looking as if he wanted to lick his plate.
‘Dad’s going to chop your head off if you have it. He said not to touch until three years were up,’ said Clare with a giggle.
‘He’s on the phone with our grandparents,’ remarked Kevin, sticking his head around the door. ‘And by the way; there’s another caramel chocolate that mama opened today before going to work.’
‘What was I doing?’ demanded Clare.
‘Sleeping of course. What else?’
Clare snorted but didn’t say anything because she knew that this was probably true.
‘Dad’s still on the phone,’ reported Kevin placing his dirty plate next to the sink. ‘Should we go search for the caramel chocolate?’
A wicked grin spread across Clare’s face, ‘Why not?’
Kevin pulled out a notebook from his jeans pocket and scribbled on it:
‘Operation Chocolate: The chocolate has been kidnapped and Inspector Kevin is on the case…’
‘Hey,’ cried Clare peering over his shoulder. ‘What about me?’
‘Let me finish will you?’ growled Kevin.
He continued, ‘…along with Junior PC Clare.’
‘Hummpphh,’ snorted Clare to herself. ‘Himself “Inspector” and me? Not even a member of the police force! Such impertinence!’
Kevin went on writing, oblivious to what Clare was muttering. By the time Clare had cooled down enough to look over his shoulder again, he was done and proudly admiring his work which looked something like this:
‘Operation Chocolate- The chocolate has been kidnapped and Inspector Kevin is on the case along with Junior PC Clare.
Name of suspected gang: 17 Windmill Creek.
Normal members’ names:
- Living room
Name of suspected gang leader: Daddy (or Mama)
Aim: To search in all the places that Daddy (or Mama) thought we would never think of. Example: The washing machine.
By the time Clare had finished reading this, the whole kitchen was nearly submerged in tears of pure mirth. Kevin grinned to see his sister looking so pleased and then said, ‘So Clare, where shall we begin the search?’
‘I think we should begin in the kitchen, Kevin,’ said Clare trying, in vain, to control her laughter.
‘Uh uh. You need to call me Inspector.’
Clare stopped laughing at once, ‘As if,’ she snapped.
‘So,’ said Kevin, changing the subject, an art he was really good at (especially when Clare flew into a temper). ‘The kitchen. Dad would think that we would search in the most obvious places. So he must have hidden it in a difficult hiding place. Clare, you’re tall. Please check on the tops of the cupboards.’
‘Yes, Your Highness,’ glowered Clare.
‘Oh, just call me Inspector,’ muttered Kevin.
Clare rolled her eyes and went to search the tops of the cupboards.
She pulled a chair out and shoved in next to the cupboards that were all in a row. With a bound and a leap, she was on the chair, inspecting the cupboard tops.
‘Not here,’ she sneezed. ‘There’s only a thick layer of dust.’
‘Not in the toaster or the rice cooker or the kettle or the washing machine or the microwave or the oven or the fruit basket or behind any of them either,’ called Kevin.
‘Man, you sure check fast. The cupboards, drawers and the fridge are too obvious. So Inspector let’s go to the Living room.’
‘No,’ said Kevin sharply. ‘Use your brains. If you have any that is. Daddy’s sitting there! Do you want him to see us and ask what we’re doing?’
‘No,’ sighed Clare. ‘I suppose not.’
At that minute they heard Daddy saying, ‘Goodbye Mum. Give my love to Dad. See you.’
And there was a click as he put the phone down. They heard him coming towards them and scooted back into the kitchen, trying to look as if everything was normal. Clare picked up an apple and Kevin began to wash his plate which he had left in the sink.
But as you most probably know, there is nothing as unnatural looking as someone trying to act normal. Their father walked into the kitchen and almost immediately sensed that his children were up to some mischief. Clare and the fruit basket were old rivals. Why was she holding an apple in her hand and looking at it as if it was a diamond? And Kevin was actually washing his plate! That was virtually impossible!
‘What did you two do now?’ demanded Daddy.
‘Why,’ spluttered Clare, looking anything but normal. ‘N…Nothing.’
‘Alright,’ said their father, still looking unsure. ‘I’ll leave you for now because I’m hungry. Your grandparents sure kept me talking for long.’
He sat down to his lunch and just before tucking in, he said, ‘Oh, Clare since you’re so fascinated by the apple, eat one now. And give your brother one too.’
Clare groaned but didn’t dare argue. She tossed Kevin an apple, washed hers and bit into it. Then Kevin went to the stairs after beckoning to Clare to follow him.
‘I’m sure,’ whispered Kevin. ‘I’m sure that Daddy hid the chocolate upstairs.’
‘So up we go then. After you.’
‘Oh Clare. Ladies first.’
‘Okay,’ scowled Clare. ‘I’ll go search the Master Bedroom.’
‘Master bedroom?’ asked Kevin in a bewildered voice. ‘I thought there were only three bedrooms. Mine, yours and Mama’s and Daddy’s.’
‘My dear loony, wonky-in-the-head, barmy old brother,’ began Clare sweetly. ‘The room which is the biggest, which is Dad’s and Mom’s, is called the Master Bedroom. Get it?’
‘Yes. Let’s go, you’re wasting time!’
Clare tiptoed up the stairs and Kevin followed as gracefully as a stampeding bison.
‘Kevin,’ yelled Dad through a mouthful of fish. ‘Stop thundering up the stairs will you? This house is made of wood and the last thing I want is an earthquake followed by a shower of timber in the middle of my meal.’
‘I heard you,’ called back Kevin. ‘No need to scream.’
Then he turned back to his work, ‘Clare, you stand here and watch the staircase. If Dad comes, warn me. I’ll go search the Mister Bedroom.’
‘Master Bedroom,’ spluttered Clare almost choking on her piece of apple.
‘But Mama and Daddy are married. So Daddy is a Mister not a Master. But then, I’m still a Master. Oh whatever…’ muttered Kevin disappearing into the bedroom.
Clare rolled her eyes and kept her gaze on the staircase longing to fly at her brother and shake him till all his teeth fell out. Then she gave up thinking about him. This apple, she thought, is actually quite nice. I had no idea I was missing out on so much.
There came a thud from the bedroom and Clare could no longer concentrate. She needed to find out what her brother was doing. Then she got the perfect excuse to go and see what he was up to. She slipped into the bedroom and found Kevin with his head buried halfway down a pillow case. She gave him a jab on the back and he yelped.
‘What do you want?’ he roared while rubbing the sore spot on his back.
‘How do I warn you if Daddy comes?’ asked Clare.
‘That’s a silly question. Just say, “Inspector Kevin, Daddy’s coming.” And I’ll be out of there in a shot.’
‘Okay,’ barked Clare at the mention of Inspector. ‘Anything more natural?’
‘Oh. Um…No, my brain’s battery is out of charge.’
‘Then eat your apple. It’s not that bad,’ groaned Clare, clearly frustrated now. ‘How about I say, “Have you found the laptop yet?” as an alarm. Daddy will think that natural and to show me that you have heard you can say, “Yes.” And then walk out of the room with the laptop under your arm.’
‘Splendid plan. I’ve taught you well I can see,’ said Kevin in delight. Then just as Clare looked as if she was about to strangle him, or shave his head or do some other demonic stuff to him he added, ‘You can go back to your job now.’
It was only the sheer craving for something sweet, other than the apple, that saved Kevin from the clutches of his sister that day and he was grateful for it. After a while, curiosity got the better of Clare again. She popped her head round the door to check what Kevin was doing.
He was running through the laundry and had turned each and every sock inside out. ‘Kevin, you know the chocolate bar isn’t small enough to fit inside an ankle length sock don’t you?’ asked Clare.
‘Of course I do,’ snapped Kevin. ‘But Daddy could have broken the chocolate into pieces and hidden each piece in a separate sock you loopy girl!’
‘I didn’t think of that,’ began Clare sarcastically. ‘Only you could think of that. Because you’re a turnip head! Why would Daddy hide some perfectly lovely chocolate in a collection of stinky, sweaty socks?’
‘Besides that,’ called Kevin, ignoring her completely. ‘I’ve also checked under the bed, in all of Daddy’s and Mama’s pockets and on the window ledge outside. Oh, not to forget that I’ve prised the mirror off the wall and emptied all the cream, aerosol and perfume bottles but haven’t found anything. One more thing…if your here, who’s watching the staircase?’
‘Me,’ said Clare, rolling her eyes. ‘And for your information, I think we should give up this so called “Operation Chocolate.”’
She walked out of the room and stopped short just at the doorway, causing Kevin to barrel into her.
‘What did you do that for?’ complained Kevin. ‘I was just taking a bite of the apple when I bumped into you. Now most of the apple is up my nose.’
‘Gross,’ said Clare making a face. ‘I’m going to ask Daddy where he has hidden the chocolate. And I’m betting it’s in the kitchen.’ She began to retreat down the stairs.
‘I’m going to tear my hair out if it is,’ muttered Kevin under his breath from the top of the staircase. He didn’t say it out loud in case it was hidden in the kitchen and Clare made him really rip his hair out. That would be just like her.
Just as he was thinking this, the front door opened. ‘Mama,’ yelled Clare. She leapt from the stairs and wrapped her mother in a bear hug.
‘Hello Clara,’ giggled her Mom. ‘Did my little bear eat an apple?’
Clare lifted her head and saw that the apple – which was now reduced to the core – was sticking into her Mom.
‘Oh, sorry Mom. Where did you hide the caramel chocolate that you opened today morning?’
‘Hi Mom,’ shouted Kevin, coming down the stairs.
‘Hi Kevin,’ said her Mom walking into the kitchen. ‘It’s in here dear. It’s in the…’
‘Oh,’ said Kevin, not daring to meet Clare’s gaze. ‘I think I can hear someone calling me…I had better go and see…’ He added, making as if to go out.
‘But we’re all here Kevin,’ said his sister in a sarcastically sweet voice.
‘Um…Must be the neighbours,’ suggested Kevin, trying to glare at Clare and smile at his parents at the same time. But this ended up in what looked the face you make when you’re getting a tummy gripe and his Mom jumped up in alarm.
‘Are you quite alright sweetie?’ she asked, going to him. ‘You look as if you’ve got a bad tummy ache. Go sit in the toilet.’
‘Mom!’ cried Kevin, his face going beetroot red and looking totally embarrassed as Clare snickered.
‘Maybe he should eat more fruit,’ recommended his Dad. ‘Clara, hand him another apple.’
‘By the way,’ remarked Clare while she went over to the fruit basket. ‘What happened to the previous apple?’
She got the answer pretty soon.
‘Kevin,’ called a voice. ‘KEVIN! Come here at once!’
It was the dreaded…Charlotte Aunty! She liked only Clare from the entire family. ‘Kevin!’ she screamed.
Kevin wasn’t sure what to do but when he saw Clare coming up to hand him the apple, he raced outside at top speed. ‘Yes, my dear Charlotte Aunty. What do you want? How can I help you?’ asked Kevin in a sickly, sugary voice.
‘Stop being sarcastic,’ said Charlotte Aunty sharply.
Kevin, who had actually meant to be helpful, looked hurt.
‘Look what I found in my backyard,’ she snapped. She held up a transparent plastic bag in which was a half eaten apple. ‘I saw someone fling this out of the window of your room Kevin.’
By now, Clare and her parents had joined the scene.
‘Now,’ said Charlotte Aunty, pretending to think. ‘I wonder who it was. Your mother was at work, your father wouldn’t do anything of the sort as he’s much too much of a gentleman,’ Kevin saw his Dad blush at this compliment. Charlotte Aunty must have seen it too because she hurriedly added ‘Most of the time.’
His Dad’s face fell and Kevin chuckled to himself. Charlotte Aunty went on, ‘Well, to continue. Clare is an angel all the time so it’s most definitely not her. That leaves only one possibility…you!’
‘I’m sorry Aunty I didn’t…’
‘Enough!’ thundered Charlotte Aunty. ‘Off with you. I hope your parents give a good telling off. And here, take this.’ She shoved the bag that contained the apple into Kevin’s arms and stalked off, nose in the air. But so much for a dignified retreat.
She slipped on a clump of grass and fell face first into the mud. Kevin and Clare hollered with laughter while their parents went to help poor Charlotte Aunty. While they were dusting her down, Clare and Kevin went into the house.
Clare went to the fridge and immediately a half eaten bar of caramel chocolate fell out.
‘Too obvious heh?’ she hissed at Kevin through clenched teeth.
Kevin could see that it was too dangerous to hang around much longer so he said, ‘Um…If Mam asks where I am just tell her I’m in the toilet with a tummy ache. Bye…’
He raced to the bathroom, stopping to grab only his notebook which was in the Master bedroom. After he double locked the bathroom door and checked that the window was secure, Kevin sat down and opened his notebook.
Right at the bottom he wrote: