Frognapped (Araminta Spook #3)

Chapter 13



    Nosy Nora had got there before us. We found her trying to push the safe off the trapdoor. She looked up when we came in and said, "Oh, it's you, Wanda Wizzard, and your weirdo friend. I see you fell in, ha-ha. What have you done with my dad?" "We haven't done anything with him, " said Wanda. Nosy Nora snorted.

    "Well, he didn't get down there all on his own, " she said. "Yes he did, " I told her. "And then we put the safe there. It is for his own good. In fact it is probably better if he stays there forever. " "Why?" asked Nora suspiciously. "There's a very angry ghost who is after him. You dad has stolen his treasure and he wants it back. " "Oh, ha-ha. " Nora snorted again. It was not a nice snort. Wanda's snorts sound like quite a sweet little pig, but Nora's was more like an evil-minded camel. "Yes, ghost. The one that was in the haunted shark suit. Remember?" Nora did not reply. "He's really, really mad, " said Wanda. "In fact he will be here in a few minutes and if your dad doesn't give him back his treasure chest he will be even more angry. He has a very sharp sword, you know. "

    Nora looked pale. "Does he?" she said. "Yes. And he is really good at using it, " I told her. I could see that Nora did not like the sound of this. I was right. "If Dad gave him back his treasure, would he go away?" she asked. "Probably. You can never tell with ghosts, but I expect he would. I mean, why would he want to stay in this dump?" Nora nodded. I could tell that she thought Water Wonderland was a bit of a dump too. "Okay, " she said. "You help me get Dad out and we'll give the treasure back. " "It's a deal, " I said. "Shake on it, " said Nora. So we did.

    The three of us pushed the safe off the trapdoor and Old Morris was up the ladder like a rat up a drainpipe. He was not in a good mood. "Right, you pesky, kids, " he snarled. "You can make yourself useful and help me up with this chest. Then you can scram–got that?" Wanda and I nodded. We were humoring him. Sometimes detectives have to do that. Also we needed his help to get the chest up. Old Morris shoved the chest through the trapdoor and then sat on it, looking puffed. "Right," he said. "You two with the ridiculous hats can get lost. And don't come back. " Then he stood up and groaned while he held his back and said to Nosy Nora, "You wait here. I shall go and get a crowbar. We'll have this thing open in no time. Who knows, it may make our fortune. "

    He chuckled as though he  had made a clever joke–which he had not.  "But it's not yours, Dad, " said Nora. "It belongs to a fierce ghost. " "A really horrible ghost, " put in Wanda, which I did not think was very fair to Sir Horace. Old Morris snorted like a whole flock of evil-minded camels and said, "You kids heard what I said–scram, " and then stomped off to get his crowbar. "uick, " said Nora. "Take the chest before he gets back. And those slimy frogs too, then we won't have to do those stupid shows any- more. " The three of us managed to carry the chest outside, and just as we got out the door Aunt Tabby, Brenda, and Uncle Drac turned up in Barry's van. It was perfect timing. We heaved the chest into the back.

    Aunt Tabby poked her head out the window and asked, "Where did you get that, Araminta?" "It belongs to Sir Horace, " I said. "We are rescuing it for him. And we have Barry's frogs. " Aunt Tabby did not look as thrilled as I thought she might. "Hmm, " she said. "Beryl says that they should probably stay here for a while. " "Beryl? Who's Beryl?" I asked. "Beryl Watkins, dear. She was sitting next to us at the show. " "Nurse Watkins? But she stole them in the first place. Of course she thinks they should stay here. " Aunt Tabby tutted impatiently. "Really, Araminta, you do say the most ridiculous things.

    Beryl didn't steal the frogs. They jumped into her bag when she wasn't looking. She had a terrible shock when she arrived on her emergency call to Old Morris's turtle bite and she opened her bag. Beryl doesn't like frogs. Anyway, they all jumped out and headed straight for the pond. She says they were prob- ably tadpoles in that pond and wanted to come back to spawn. " I would have liked to question Nurse Watkins myself, since I was not sure that Aunt Tabby was a reliable witness. But there was no time for that–I could see Old Morris com- ing out of one of his sheds with a huge crow- bar in his hand. It was time to go. I pushed Wanda and the frog bucket into the back of the van and slammed the door, but as we drove out of Water Wonderland Wanda said, "What about Sir Horace?"  Wanda has a knack of reminding you of things when it is just a bit too late.

    I was about to bang on the little driver's window that looks into the back of the van and get Aunt Tabby to stop when I saw the weirdest thing. Sir Horace–the suit of armor Sir Horace– was hitchhiking with his foot! Lying beside the ditch was the empty shark suit. The van screeched to a halt and Aunt Tabby got out. A moment later the back doors opened and Aunt Tabby helped Sir Horace climb in. He looked really grumpy–you could tell by the way he plonked himself down right on top of his treasure chest and didn't say anything at all. Aunt Tabby dropped Sir Horace's arms into the van with a clang and said, "Araminta, -181- I don't know how Sir Horace got into the ditch, or how his arms fell off, and I don't think I want to know either. But why do I think it has something to do with you? And as for how the shark suit got here. . . . " Aunt Tabby shook her head and slammed the doors shut. I felt like saying that I didn't know why she thought it had anything to do with me either. But I didn't. Sometimes it is better not to argue with Aunt Tabby about things like that. Especially when she is almost right. Sir Horace stayed grumpy all the way home. He sat on the treasure chest without even noticing it and did nothing but complain.

    He grumbled about his arms being on the wrong way, even though we put them back really carefully; he moaned about the mud and the leaves inside him; and he went on and on about rust. But at last I got my chance. "Sir Horace, " I said. "What are you sitting on?" "Something rusty, I expect, " he said gloomily. "Just my luck. Rust is catching, you know. " "We know, " said Wanda grumpily. And then Sir Horace's head drooped and he started snoring. And when Sir Horace snores, there is no way you can wake him up. You just have to stuff your fingers in your ears and sing very loudly to drown out the noise. Which is what Wanda and I did. All the way home.

    "That was nice singing, dear, " said Brenda as she let us out of the van.

    Brenda thinks every- thing that Wanda does is nice, unlike Aunt Tabby, who thinks nothing I do is nice at all. Aunt Tabby was not pleased about having to lift Sir Horace out of the van as well as his treasure chest, even though I told her how important it was. We propped Sir Horace up beside the big clock in the hall, and he suddenly woke up. The first thing he saw was the chest. "My treasure!" he said, and his voice had a really happy sound to it. "Miss Spookie, Miss Wizzard, you have been as good as your word. How could I ever have doubted you?" "The Spookie Detective Agency always keeps its word, Sir Horace, " I said. "You mean the Wizzard Detective agency, " Wanda butted in. "No I do not, " I told her. "Yes you do, " said Wanda. "Who found the -184- frogs? Who solved the mystery of the shark? Who got Nosy Nora to let us have the treas- ure chest?" "I did, " I said. "No you didn't–I did. " "May I suggest, " boomed Sir Horace, who sounded much better now that he was back inside his armor, "may I suggest a compromise. The Spookie-Wizzard Detective Agency has a very good sound to it. " "Okay. " I sighed an Aunt Tabby sigh. "The Spookie-Wizzard Detective Agency it is. " "Wizzard-Spookie Detective Agency sounds better, " said Wanda. "Sometimes, " Sir Horace told her, "it is best to stop while you are ahead. I would advise that at this particular moment, Miss Wizzard. " "All right, Sir Horace. " Wanda smiled.

    "Are you going to open your treasure chest now?" Sir Horace bent down with a horrible grinding noise, unscrewed his right foot, and took out a big brass key. Sir Horace keeps all his keys in his feet. It's an odd place to keep keys, but I suppose he always knows where to find them. The key turned easily and Sir Horace lifted up the lid. Wanda and I peered in; we were both really excited at the thought of seeing real buried treasure. It was a big disappointment. It was nothing but moldy old papers, a battered whistle, and some funny little leather bags. It was very boring.  "Pooh, " said Wanda, holding her nose. "It smells horrible. " It did. It smelled like a mixture of Brenda's gherkin soup and the cat's litter box. Not nice. "Where's the treasure?" asked Wanda, who does not mind asking nosy questions, which I suppose will come in useful in the Spookie- Wizzard Detective Agency. "This is my treasure, " boomed Sir Horace. "All my precious letters and keepsakes. Even my lucky rabbit's foot. " He bent down and lifted out a disgusting lump of fur. "Eurgh, " said Wanda. "That's what smells so horrible. " "What about the coins?" I asked. "And the precious jewels?" said Wanda. "And the silver plates?"

    "And the doubloons?"  "The what, Wanda?" "Doubloons. Old gold coins. " Sir Horace shook his head. "Never had much in the way of that, " he said, rummaging in the chest. "Oh look, here's my old knight school report. . . . " We left him to it and went to find Barry. We still had a bucket of frogs to deliver. We passed Uncle Drac on our way out. He was sitting in the broom cupboard in his favorite armchair with his feet up. He had already started on one of Mabel's–or was it Vera's?–hats. "Hello, Minty, hello, Wanda, " he said. "It's nice to see you back. Oh, my feet are killing me but it was worth it. Ho-ho. " "What was worth it, Uncle Drac?" I asked him.

    Uncle Drac chuckled. "I bet old Watkins  that I could walk all the way to Old Morris's mushroom farm. She said she'd eat her hat if I could. But I did it. Ho-ho. " "Wow. How long did it take her, Uncle Drac?" "How long did what take her, Minty?" "To eat her hat. " Uncle Drac laughed. "I told her that I'd let her off if she told Tabby that I didn't need her anymore. Which she did. Spookie House is now a Nurse Watkinsfree zone. " We left Uncle Drac knitting happily and went to find Barry.

    Barry was wandering around the garden, poking under rocks with a stick in a miserable kind of way.

    He looked up and saw us, and guess what he said? Yes, you're right. He said, "Araminta, where have you put my frogs?" This was the moment I had been waiting for. "In the bucket, " I said, and I handed him the red frog bucket. Barry lifted off the lid a little suspiciously. I don't know what he expected to find in there. But when he saw his frogs he smiled a huge smile. And then do you know what he said? He said, "I knew you had them. " Well. That was all the thanks I got. Wanda winked at me. "Come on, Araminta, " she said, "they're only boring old frogs. Let's go and do something fun. " Sometimes Wanda can be really nice, like a real best friend.

    Later that night, when we had used up all of Wanda's bike oil on Sir Horace getting him moving again, put his arms on properly, and cleaned off all the leaves and mud from the ditch, we were talking in bed in our Tuesday bedroom. We were deciding what would be the next job for the Spookie-Wizzard Detective Agency, although now that I am going to run fish shows I must admit I was not quite so interested in the agency as I might have been. I was feeling tired and I leaned back on my pillow. There was something hard underneath it. I put my hand under the pillow to see what it was and pulled out a small leather pouch. It smelled of Brenda's pumpkin soup and the cat's litter box.

    "Look what I've found!" I showed it to Wanda. Wanda lifted up her pillow too. I really hoped there was something there for her as well. And there was–another little leather pouch that looked just the same. "What do you think it is?" she whispered. "I don't know–open it and see, " I said. "No, you open yours and see. " "We'll both open them together, okay? One . . . Two . . . Three!" We tipped the pouches on top of our pillows. "Wow, " breathed Wanda. "Look. " She held up a thick gold disc threaded onto a leather cord. It was just like mine. "There's writing on it, " I said. "Oh yes. " Wanda screwed her eyes up and squinted at the words.

    "It's Sir Horace's funny spelling again, " I told her. "He must have climbed all the way up the attic stairs and given us these. You did a good job with your bike oil, Wanda. " "For a . . . True and . . . Faithefull . . . Frende, " said Wanda very slowly. "That's what it says. " And it did. It said that on mine, too. Which is not such a bad description of Wanda Wizzard, when you come to think of it. Or Sir Horace. Or me, I think.


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