THE SPOOKIE DETECTIVE AGENCY
"Frognapping is not a proper word, " I told Wanda. "It should be, " said Wanda, "because that's what's happened to Dad's frogs. " We were sitting on the back steps, keeping out of the way of Aunt Tabby, who was still annoyed, and also out of the way of Uncle Drac, who was being taken for a walk around the hall by the nurse.
Uncle Drac broke both his legs not long ago. They are all right now, but he has to learn to walk properly again, which he does not like, as he would rather sit and knit. But Aunt Tabby does not believe that anyone should sit down for long, especially if they are doing something they like, so she found a nurse to come and make him walk. I was thinking hard. "If something has been frognapped, " I said, "then there has to be a frognapper. And we will have to find him . . . Or her. " "But how?" asked Wanda. "Easy, " I told her. "We shall have to become detectives. " "Wow, " said Wanda, sounding excited. "How do we do that?" "I shall start up the Spookie Detective Agency. I shall be chief detective and you can be my sidekick.
That is how it usually works. " Wanda did not look as pleased as she should have been. "But I want to be chief detective, " she said. "Of the Wizzard Detective Agency. " "You can't have two detective agencies working on the same case, " I told her. "It just leads to trouble. Oh look, here's Uncle Drac. Hello, Uncle Drac!" I could see the sunlight shining on Uncle Drac's round, pale face as he slowly came toward us along the passageway that led out of the hall. I was really happy to see him. Of course I always am, but this time I was espe- cially happy because I could tell that Wanda was not finished talking about detective agen- cies. But as Uncle Drac shuffled nearer I could see that he did not look happy to see me. In fact, he did not look happy at all.
"Oh. Hello, Minty, " he mumbled. He tried to smile, but it didn't really work. Usually Uncle Drac has a really big smile and you can see his lovely long, pointy teeth at the far cor- ners of his mouth, but this was a no-teeth smile with his mouth turned down. But I did not take it personally because following right behind him I could see the reason for his no- teeth smile: Nurse Watkins. Nurse Watkins was big. It is not that I am not used to big–Brenda, who is Wanda's mom, is also big but in a soft and squashy kind of way. If you hug Brenda it feels like you have dived into a great big feather pillow smelling of lavender, which is nice.
It is in fact a lot nicer than hugging Aunt Tabby, who is okay and tries her best, but her elbows always get in the way and she smells of soap. You would not want to hug Nurse Watkins though. It would be dangerous because of all those mus- cles. Nurse Watkins has big muscled arms and legs, which Uncle Drac says is because she is really a wrestler. The previous morning when Nurse Watkins had arrived and Brenda was trying to find Uncle Drac, I had to sit and talk to her forever. I asked her all kinds of questions about wrestling, like what were the best head- locks she had ever made and did she have to train every day and stuff like that, and she just stared at me in a really weird way. Uncle Drac was pleased though, because by the time Brenda had found him (in his hedge hideaway) Nurse Watkins had gone. But today Nurse Watkins had not gone. She was there, muscles and all, right behind Uncle Drac. "Left foot up and lift and step. Right foot up and lift and step. Don't shuffle. Keep those knees straight. Knees, Drac, knees!" Nurse Watkins's voice boomed down the passage, bounced off the step, and hurt my ears. "Put a bit of effort in. Left foot up and lift and step. Right foot up and lift and step. One-two, one- two. One-two-one. Oh come on, Drac, any-one would think you were on your way to a funeral. "
"It'll be my own funeral at this rate, " I heard Uncle Drac growl, although I don't think Nurse Watkins did, as she just kept right on going. "Left foot up and lift and step. Right foot up and lift and step. Knees!" I decided Uncle Drac needed rescuing. What I find works really well as a general diversion is the help-me-I'm-choking face. Well, it's more than just a face really; for max- imum effect it is best to do the sound effects and the actions too. I will pass on the tip, as you never know when it might come in handy:
step 1: Grab your throat with one hand. I used to use two hands but have recently found that waving the other hand frantically in the air and making clawing shapes with your fingers is much more effective.
Step 2: Stare hard at your eyebrows so that your eyes roll up to the top of your head as far as they will go. Wanda says mine go a long way and you can see a lot of white. The more white of your eyes people can see, the better. I do not know why, but it bothers them.
Step 3: Stagger. The easiest way is to lean over to one side–the opposite side to the arm-waving one is best–and then run in zigzags. It is best to vary your speed, and you can also put in a couple of sudden stops to spice it up. If you do stop, try leaning forward and really going for the choking noises at the same time.It's probably best to leave this toward the end, though, for the best result.
Step 4: Sound effects. Choking noises (see above) are easy to do. I am quite good at doing them in the back of my throat now, although it can make your throat a bit sore afterward if you really go for it. Coughing is good too, and wheezing if you can manage it. The most success- ful method is to really get going on the sound effects and then, when you have got everyone's attention, you suddenly stop and continue with just the actions.
Step 5: The silent gasping stage (see above). Wait until you have acquired your full available audience, as this is very -25- effective. For best effect do the silent gasping while running around in small circles.
Step 6: Now exit before people get bored and/or suspicious. Stop dead and give a small, polite cough. Smile, say, "Ooh, that's better, " and walk away. It is best not to bow. I did that once and it gave the game away.
So now you know how I rescued Uncle Drac–or tried to, as it didn't quite work out that way. You see, I forgot that I was doing the choking act in front of a nurse. Anyway, I put Step 1 into action right away and headed for Uncle Drac. He looked a bit surprised as I ran toward him, but I rushed past (as I did not want to worry him), and as I squeezed by Nurse Watkins I got going on Steps 2 and 3 big-time.
Then I headed off toward the hall. I was really getting into it now, and I could hear Nurse Watkins's heavy boots thumping down the passageway after me. Good, I thought, it's worked–now Uncle Drac can escape. I was well into Step 4 and about to embark on Step 5 when I was grabbed from behind by Nurse Watkins. She wrapped her wrestler's forearms around my waist and gave a great heave. I thought I was going to explode. For once, Aunt Tabby came to my rescue. "What are you doing?" she yelled at Nurse Watkins. "Heimlich maneuver!" Nurse Watkins yelled back. Then Uncle Drac arrived.
"Minty, Minty!" he shouted. "Cough it up, Minty. " Needless to say, I did not get to Step 5. Aunt Tabby, who is stronger than you might think, wrestled me from Nurse Watkins's grasp. "She's fine, " Aunt Tabby told her very firmly. "There is no need for such a fuss; Araminta often does this. " "Well, you ought to get her checked out, " said Nurse Watkins, sounding annoyed at having had her prey dragged from her claws. Aunt Tabby made me sit down on the horrible monster chair by the hall clock, and I found myself surrounded by Aunt Tabby, Brenda, Barry, Uncle Drac, Wanda, and Nurse Watkins, all staring at me. I managed a weak smile and coughed a bit. "Are you all right, Minty?" asked Uncle Drac. "You look rather flushed. " Nurse Watkins seemed annoyed. I expect she had been looking forward to a ride in an ambulance with flashing lights and sirens. "Huh, " she said. "It was nothing more than a frog in her throat. " "A frog?" gasped Barry. "I knew it. I knew it. " Nurse Watkins gave Barry a withering look.
Then she turned her attention to Uncle Drac. "Well, Drac, " she said. "You can cer- tainly move when you want to. Let's do that again, shall we? Left foot up and lift and step.
Right foot up and lift and step. Knees!" Uncle Drac scuttled off with Nurse Watkins in hot pursuit. After that everyone except Wanda disap- peared. You would think they might have been a bit more caring about the state of my health, but no. Wanda was poking her shoe against the monster chair's great big claws. "What did you do that for?" she asked. "It was all part of my plan, " I croaked pathetically, and coughed a bit more. "What plan?" asked Wanda suspiciously. "To get Barry's frogs back.
Can't speak any more . . . Must have a drink. " Wanda sighed. "What do you want?" "I'll have a Coke. Oh, and two bags of cheese and onion chips. "