BOIL IN THE BAG
"It's obvious when you think about it, " I told Wanda after I had drunk the Coke and started on my second bag of chips. "Can I have a chip?" asked Wanda. "Okay, but don't eat them all, " I told her. "Not much chance of that, " Wanda mut- tered as she took the biggest chip out of the packet. Have you ever had a packet of chips where there was one enormous chip in it and just a few really tiny ones–as if a cannibal chip had eaten up all the others while it was hanging around on the shelf waiting to be bought?
Well, the crisp that Wanda took was one of those, so all I had left were the few scared baby chips. I tipped the rest of those into my mouth and then I said, "In fact it is so obvious I am amazed I did not think of it before. " "Whaaarsobvious?" asked Wanda, spraying me with chip bits. "Yuck, Wanda. When did Barry's frogs dis- appear?" Wanda swallowed and the cannibal chip met its doom. "Dad hasn't seen them for three whole days now. " "And how long has Nurse Watkins been coming to shout at Uncle Drac?"
Wanda counted up on her fingers. "Three days?" she asked. Wanda is not as good at math as I am. "Precisely, my dear Wanda, " I said, smiling like one of those detectives who has just tripped up a particularly difficult suspect with a clever ploy. "Why are you looking like that?" asked Wanda. "Stop it, Araminta. It's scary. " I sighed. It is tough having a dim-witted sidekick, but I guess it is good practice–in case I ever get to be a real detective, which is one of the career options I have recently been considering. "Barry's frogs have been missing for three days, " I told her. "Nurse Watkins has been coming here for three days. Two and two make four. Obvious, isn't it?" Wanda looked puzzled. "But it's three, " she said.
"And that makes six. " "No, Wanda, listen. Frogs gone: three days. Nurse Watkins here: three days. Get it?" Finally Wanda got it. Her eyes opened really wide and so did her mouth. Which was not nice as I could see bits of chip stuck on her tongue. "You mean Nurse Watkins has Dad's frogs?" she said. "Shh!" I pointed frantically behind her. "Oh, " said Wanda. "Er, good morning, Nurse Watkins. " "Good morning, dear. " Nurse Watkins strode up to the monster chair and hauled her great big black nurse's bag out from under- neath it. "I'll let myself out, " she said. Then she zoomed across the hall and slammed the front door behind her. "Shoot!" I said. "I wanted to look in her bag. "
Wanda looked shocked. "You can't go looking in other people's bags, " she said. "You can if you are searching for evidence . . . Or frogs. " Wanda gasped. "Frogs! You don't think she's got Dad's frogs in her bag!" "She might. It is a possibility. We will just have to find out, won't we? Come on, Wanda. " Wanda can be quite quick when she wants to be. She jumped up and grabbed hold of my arm and in a moment we were outside on the front path. "If we hurry we could catch up with her, " she said. "Then we could grab her bag and rescue Dad's frogs. " I followed her down the winding path to the rusty old gate, which had fallen off its hinges and was propped up by the hedge as usual.
Something else was propped up by the hedge, too–Uncle Drac. Actually Uncle Drac was in the hedge. Spookie House is sur- rounded by tall, thick hedges that are great for hiding in. Uncle Drac has a really good hideout by the front gate where he can keep an eye on things–and do his knitting in the dim green light. "Minty, " he hissed, "has she gone?" I could see the square figure of Nurse Watkins perched on top of her big black bicy- cle wobbling up the road. We would have to hurry. "Yes, she has. We've got to go, Uncle Drac. See you later!" Uncle Drac waved his knitting at me. It was a very weird red and black stripy thing with lots of tendrils hanging off it. "Do you like your hat, Minty?" he asked.
"My hat?" "Yes. I think it will really suit you. " "Oh. Uh, it's um . . . Beautiful, Uncle Drac. " "Why don't you try it on?" "No! I mean, no thank you, Uncle Drac. We've got to go. Byeeee!" But by the time we had escaped from Uncle Drac, Nurse Watkins had disappeared. "She's gone, " said Wanda, staring at the bend at the end of the road. But I knew that even if a suspect is out of sight, you don't give up. All detectives lose their suspects at least once. You just have to find them again–and fast. "Just around the bend, " I said. "Come on, Wanda. If we hurry we can catch her. " Wanda looked worried.
"It's out of sight of the house. We ought to tell Mom where we're going, " she said. "She won't mind, " I said. "She will if I don't tell her first. " I sighed. Most detectives do not have to put up with their dim-witted sidekick having to tell her mother where she is going. "Well, go and do it then, but get your skates on, otherwise we'll never find those frogs. " Sometimes Wanda surprises me and I real- ize she is not totally dumb. This was one of those times. Wanda was really quick, and when she came back she really did have her skates on–and she was carrying mine. Wanda is quite good at skating. She jumped down the crumbly old steps by the front door, glided along the path, and handed me my skates. "Now you get your skates on. " She grinned.
I didn't need telling twice. I really love my skates. I am so glad that Brenda and Barry gave us both roller skates for Christmas, even though Aunt Tabby disapproved. The road from Spookie House is a great road to skate along. It is very smooth and no cars come down there because of the notice Aunt Tabby has put up that says: danger, unexploded mines. Wanda and I whizzed along at top speed, and very soon we had rounded the bend at the end and were zooming down the hill toward a small cottage by a stream. Suddenly Wanda did a show-off stop–the kind where you turn at the same time and end up facing the other way. I bumped straight into her and fell into the ditch. It was not funny and I do not know why Wanda would not stop laughing. I got out of the ditch–which luckily was not very full of water–and told her to be quiet or she would alert the suspect; then we would never find the frogs and it would be all her fault. My dim- witted sidekick stopped laughing and said, "There's her bike!" Wanda was learning fast. Sure enough, there was Nurse Watkins's bike, propped up outside the cottage. "Aha, " I said. "We will have to stake out the cottage. " "What?" I sighed. "We'll have to wait outside until she comes out, " I said, which somehow sounded much less exciting. So Wanda and I skated down to the cottage very quietly and hid behind the fence.
Wanda found a small hole and peered through. "As I am chief detective I should do that, " I told her. But Wanda would not budge. "I found the hole, " she said, "and they are my dad's frogs. " She kept looking through the hole as though she was watching something extremely inter- esting, which I knew she wasn't as she was fidgeting a lot. After a while Wanda got bored and then the chief detective took over–just in time. The cottage door creaked open and I saw a sweet-looking old lady with a bandage around her neck showing Nurse Watkins out. "I'll see you tomorrow, " Nurse Watkins's voice boomed. "Will you?"The old lady sounded worried. "Yes, " Nurse Watkins told her very firmly. "I can fit you in at the same time as today.
After Mr. Spookie and before the mushroom farm. " The old lady slammed the door and Nurse Watkins clomped off down the path. She put her bag into her bicycle basket and then stopped for a moment. She opened the bag and rummaged inside. "Shoot!" I heard her say. "I'll forget my head next. " The next moment she was banging on the cottage door and the bag was just sitting there, all alone in the sunshine. A good detec- tive does not waste an opportunity like that; I shot out from behind the fence and hurtled over to the bike. Unfortunately I forgot I was wearing my skates. It is not a good idea to grab onto a bicycle when your feet already have eight wheels underneath them–in my opinion it just adds extra wheels to the prob- lem. But that is what I did. Nurse Watkins's bike fell on top of me–and so did the contents of the bag. Yuck. You do not want to know what was in that bag.