A Reluctant Attendee
Frankie slammed the door and sauntered down the rickety front stairs.
‘Have fun at the science fair,’ his mum called, leaning out the window, her red feather gown flapping as she waved. Frankie often wondered how many chickens had died for the cause. His mum insisted the gown was synthetic! Much to his surprise, when he finally got around to testing a feather, it happened to be true. After his last case he’d learned that it often paid to read the labels. He vowed that one day he might actually do that.
‘Sure thing, Mum.’ Frankie fixed his fedora and secured the belt of his trench coat. ‘Just me and all the brainiacs demonstrating their latest riveting inventions.’
The front door opened with a squeak. ‘Chin up, sport.’ His dad appeared on the top step, dressed in a black tuxedo. ‘And keep your eyes peeled. Your mum and I are gonna be outta town till late tonight, so I’m leaving you in charge. You never know when you’re gonna catch a case.’ Mr Dupont winked.
‘Will do, Dad.’ Frankie’s face lit up. He enjoyed the idea of being in charge of Dupont’s Detective Agency while his dad was busy at the awards ceremony. After all, he was the only almost eleven-year-old in the city of Maizon to hold a private-investigator-in-training certificate.
‘And make sure you eat what Aunty Rach serves you for dinner, no complaints,’ his mum chided, arriving at the top step. She had swapped her red feather attire for a shimmering silver dress.
‘Yes, Mum,’ Frankie grumbled as Sherlock came bounding from the side of the house. He carried a leash in his mouth, which he dropped at his owner’s feet. ‘Yap, yap, yap,’ the dog protested.
‘What am I gonna do with you?’ Frankie bent to rub Sherlock’s ears. ‘I’m sure they don’t let dogs into an event like this.’ He clipped the leash to the little dog’s collar.
The phone rang inside the house and Frankie crossed the garden bed, retrieving his scooter in haste.
‘You know who that’s gonna be,’ his mum called.
‘Tell her I’m on my way,’ Frankie bellowed, securing the leash to the handlebars, ‘and have a great time at the Private Investigators’ Awards.’ He pushed off, eager to get to his destination with Sherlock trotting beside him.
Mr Dupont whistled as he went inside while Mrs Dupont shook her head. She lingered a moment, watching Frankie disappear up the street, before joining her husband.
Sherlock kept yapping and Frankie heard the distant sound of the phone still ringing, as he scootered along the well-worn path towards Enderby Manor.
One hundred foot pushes later, the pocket of his trench coat buzzed. Reaching in, he retrieved his smartphone, glancing at the caller ID. All right, all right, Kat. I’m coming. He touched the screen to reject the call.
A further two hundred foot pushes later, his pocket buzzed again. Arriving at the tall wrought-iron gates he knew all too well, he checked the ID of his latest call.
Amy Appleby ... Honestly ... you two couldn’t survive for ten minutes in the wild. He rejected the call, hurrying through the gates and down the path with the creepy hedge either side. Moments later, he skidded to a halt on the asphalt of the car park. Frankie paused, taking in the scene.
There it stood. Enderby Manor with its sandpaper walls and pitch-black windows that always seemed to be staring at him.
The large ebony front doors sprang open, and Kat and Amy burst through them, both appearing as though they had sucked on a lemon. Frankie’s gastro-intuitive system fluttered. He knew something was up. Sherlock seemed to agree, darting in and out of his owner’s legs, yapping his discontent.
‘We’ve been trying to call you, Frankie!’
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