Undercover angel strikes.., p.5

Undercover Angel Strikes Again, page 5

 

Undercover Angel Strikes Again
 


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I looked over just in time to see Mark and Eddie carrying him through the door. He was sound asleep in his striped pyjamas.

  There are times in life when you simply don’t know what the right thing to do is. And then there are other times in life when you do know what the right thing to do is, but you also know that you’re not going to do it.

  The door clicked shut and I sighed. I knew what the right thing to do would be. The right thing to do would be to charge after them like the Lone Ranger and stop Mark and Eddie immediately. But I also knew that I definitely wasn’t going to do the right thing. It would have been all right for someone like the Lone Ranger – the Lone Ranger wouldn’t have to share a room with Eddie and Mark for the next five days. The Lone Ranger would stop them and then gallop off in a cloud of dust to sort out someone else. No, I wasn’t going to come close to doing the right thing; stopping them was getting involved with a capital I.

  I pushed back the covers and sat up. As long as I was awake, I reckoned I might as well go to the toilet. That wasn’t getting involved; that was a call of nature.

  Kuba Bamber’s voice was still floating through my mind as I pulled on my trainers. What if it was you…? What if it was you…?

  It wasn’t me, though, I kept telling myself; it was someone else. I opened the door and tiptoed into the silent dark.

  The toilet was in the middle of the first-floor hallway. There was no light showing through the crack. I put my ear to the door. They weren’t in there.

  What if it was you…? Kuba’s voice kept yammering in my head. What if it was you … was you…?

  I decided that the toilet could wait. I wanted to see where Eddie and Mark had gone with Archie.

  I suppose I thought they’d leave him in the main room where the whole lodge would be sure to see him in the morning, but as I got to the top of the stairs I heard the front door shut very softly.

  They can’t leave him outside, I told myself. The cold will wake him up.

  Barely breathing, I crept down the stairs and slid through the front door. I crouched down on the porch behind the railing. The night was dark and cool and full of strange sounds. My blood tingled and my nerves were sharp. I didn’t feel like me. I felt like someone much braver and wilder. Someone who wasn’t afraid of anything.

  I could just make out Mark and Eddie, Archie swinging gently between them. Archie might have trouble with the English language and the English sense of humour, but he had no trouble sleeping, I’ll say that for him. They were heading for the girls’ lodge.

  You almost had to admire Eddie and Mark. Leaving Archie where Mr Palfry, Mr Bombay and the rest of the boys would find him was bad enough; but leaving him where Mrs Smiley, Ms Kaye and all the girls would find him was diabolically clever.

  I pictured myself in my Womble slippers, waking up in the girls’ lodge. It was enough to make you wish you’d been born a frog instead of a person. And that’s when I realized that I was probably going to do something after all. Not much, perhaps, but something. I’d see where Eddie and Mark left Archie, and then as soon as they’d gone I’d wake him up. Anonymously, like the Lone Ranger. Who woke me up? Archie would wonder groggily. Who was that masked man? If Mark or Eddie got back to the room before I did, I’d tell them the truth, that I’d gone to the toilet.

  A shadow darkened the entrance to the opposite lodge. Still feeling like someone more confident and brave, I crept down the steps.

  There was nothing between the two lodges but the open space of the car park. I took another deep breath and, staying as low to the ground as I could, I hurled myself forward.

  I was halfway to the girls’ lodge when I heard the scream. The hair stood up on the back of my neck, just like people say it does when you’re terrified out of your mind. I threw myself flat on the ground and froze as though I’d been zapped by lightning.

  I recognized that scream. It was Ariel Moordock. I couldn’t see her face, but I could see a figure in one of the bedroom windows on the first floor. I willed her to go back to bed.

  Ariel paid no attention to my thought waves. She screamed again, and then she started shouting as if she was in a disaster film. Because there isn’t any traffic or anything like that in the middle of nowhere, every bat, owl and wildcat in the area could hear her loud and clear.

  “Mrs Smiley! Mrs Smiley!” Ariel was shouting. “Mrs Smiley! Come quick! There’s a ghost in the car park!”

  Not only could the wildlife hear her, every human in the area heard her too. Lights went on in both the lodges.

  I didn’t know what to do. I could hear footsteps thundering down the stairs of the boys’ lodge. I reckoned it was Mr Palfry. If I didn’t get out of the way, he’d probably trip over me as he charged to the rescue. What would a soldier do in this situation? I asked myself. My mother severely monitors my video viewing, but I’d seen enough war films to be able to answer my question. A soldier would crawl backwards until he got to the safety of the shrubs that bordered the boys’ lodge. I started crawling backwards. I reckoned soldiers must have special training in this sort of thing, because crawling backwards wasn’t as easy as it looked in films. The ground was soft and uneven, and my knees kept getting in the way.

  I was still several metres from the safety of the shrubs when the porch light went on behind me and the door to the boys’ lodge was flung open.

  I stopped breathing and closed my eyes, waiting for Mr Palfry to start shouting at me. My only consolation was that I wasn’t wearing my Womble slippers. If you’re going to be caught flat on your stomach in the middle of a car park after lights out, you should definitely be wearing state-of-the-art Reebok trainers.

  I was in such a panic that it was a few seconds before I realized that, although someone was shouting, it wasn’t Mr Palfry. It was Kuba Bamber. Lord knows how she got out of the girls’ lodge and across the car park, but she was up on the porch of the boys’ lodge. Mr Palfry was trying to get past her, but Kuba was hanging on to him and begging him to come and help Mrs Smiley, while at the same time blocking the door and making it impossible for him to move.

  “Ariel saw a ghost!” Kuba was gibbering excitedly. “It’s true, Mr Palfry. A real ghost. Two ghosts, in fact.” Her voice got even louder. “One was just a blob of ectoplasm, glowing and sort of floating along the ground. And the other was a Roman soldier.”

  Mr Palfry had to struggle to get a word in. “Calm down, Kuba,” he kept shouting. “Just calm down.”

  In the main room of the girls’ lodge, Mrs Smiley was having a similar conversation with Ariel.

  “They’re in the car park!” howled Ariel. “Ghosts, Mrs Smiley. I saw them with my own eyes!”

  Mrs Smiley wasn’t as mellow as Mr Palfry. “For heaven’s sake, be quiet, Ariel!” she ordered. “I can’t hear myself think!”

  Since I was still in the car park, I knew there weren’t any ghosts, but I did see something. There were two figures hovering round the corner of the girls’ lodge. Eddie and Mark had managed to escape after depositing Archie, but because they were at the side of the building, they couldn’t make a run for it without being seen by Mr Palfry.

  Unlike me. Kuba was nearly as tall as Mr Palfry and, standing in front of him as she was, she totally kept me from his sight.

  “Kuba!” Mr Palfry shouted wearily. “Kuba, if you’d just get out of my way…”

  It was my only chance. As I turned and ran, Mrs Smiley’s voice rang through the night once more.

  “Good grief, Archie!” it said. “What on earth are you doing there?”

  Like a soldier with only two minutes left to find and defuse the bomb, I raced round the lodge and in through the kitchen window. I was streaking up the stairs as Mr Palfry, Kuba still clinging to him, finally made it off the porch. I scrambled into bed and had just pulled the covers over me when the door opened and Mark and Eddie hurled themselves into the room and into their beds.

  The door opened again and Mark and Eddie started snoring.

  Mr Bombay counted softly. “One
two … three…”

  There were a few minutes of silence after Mr Bombay shut our door and moved on down the hall and then Eddie and Mark both sat up.

  “Foiled again,” said Eddie. “I can’t believe it. It was a perfect plan. The way Spongo sleeps he wouldn’t have woken up until they all came down for breakfast.” He sounded pretty disgruntled.

  Mark sighed. “Boy, was that close,” he whispered. “What was Ariel doing up, anyway? It would’ve worked if she hadn’t gone off like a car alarm.”

  “Well, she won’t be there on the walk tomorrow,” answered Eddie. “She’s in Mr Palfry’s group and we’re with Ms Kaye.”

  “That’s right,” said Mark. “We’ll have Archie all to ourselves.”

  Eddie gave an evil chuckle. “In space, no one can hear a Spongo scream…”

  THE EDUCATIONAL PART OF OUR TRIP BEGINS

  Eddie and Mark, of course, were full of shock, amazement and surprise the next morning when Archie told them what had happened to him during the night.

  “Mrs Smiley wouldn’t believe that I didn’t know how I got into the girls’ lodge,” Archie finished. “She was really angry.” His eyes darted to the door of our room as though he expected one of the teachers to burst in, shouting at him. It was ironic that Archie was the only one of us who hadn’t actually done anything, and he was the only one to get into trouble. “Mr Palfry too,” he continued glumly. “I think Mr Palfry is thinking I’m strange.”

  Eddie laughed good-naturedly. “You are strange.” He punched Archie in the arm, so he’d know this was just a joke between mates. “But you’re still our friend.”

  “Yep,” agreed Mark. “You’re still our friend.”

  “I imagine I was walking in my sleep,” said Archie. He looked from Eddie to Mark, and then to me. “But none of you heard me get up?”

  Eddie shook his head regretfully. “I was so tired, I didn’t hear a thing.”

  “Me neither,” said Mark.

  I said I’d slept through it all too. “Must be the mountain air,” I said. “It knocked me out.”

  You may think this was me being a jelly again, but it wasn’t. I knew I was lucky that Ariel and Kuba had distracted Mr Palfry and Mrs Smiley. I also knew I was lucky to have made it back to the room without Mark and Eddie seeing me. But since both those things had happened and everybody believed I really had slept through the whole thing, I was going to let them go on believing it. I reckoned it was what a shrewd businessman like Bill Gates would do. It gave me an advantage – and I needed an advantage if I was going to help Archie. Which was what I was going to do. I didn’t feel I had a choice any more.

  Eddie put a hand on Archie’s shoulder. “Don’t worry about Mr Palfry,” said Eddie. “You stick with us, and you’ll be fine.”

  “Yeah,” said Mark. “You stick with us.”

  I didn’t say anything. I reckoned I had my work cut out for me.

  After breakfast, Mr Palfry discussed what we’d be doing for the next few days. Our official reason for the trip was to explore the woods and mountains and see how many different plants, animals, insects and birds we could find. We’d been divided into four groups (A, B, C and D), each with its own trail and a teacher to make sure no one fell over a cliff. Mr Palfry emphasized the importance of getting on with the members of our group.

  “You’re a team,” said Mr Palfry. “You work together, and each of you is responsible for the others.”

  Archie and I were in group C with Eddie and Mark and two other boys. Eddie and Mark were deliriously happy about being with Ms Kaye. Ms Kaye was a pushover. The only thing that would have fitted in better with their plans would have been to have no teacher along at all. I looked over at Archie. He was smiling away, as though being put with a teacher who couldn’t control a blade of grass, never mind Eddie Kilgour and Mark Crother, was the best news he’d had in his life. I stifled a sigh. It was my mother’s fault. Being brought up by a woman with so many principles wasn’t easy. She would never forgive me if anything happened to Archie, and neither would I.

  Mr Palfry must suddenly have realized that Ms Kaye was a pushover too. He looked at his clipboard, and then he looked at the four of us, and then he looked at Ms Kaye. He chewed on his lower lip in a thoughtful way.

  “I think we’ll make a slight change in group C,” said Mr Palfry. “I think Archie, Elmo, Mark and Eddie had better come with me.” He looked down at the angelic face of Kuba Bamber, who was sitting directly in front of him, apparently mesmerized by his words. “You and Ariel will stay in my group,” he told her. “You’ll be a calming influence on the boys.”

  I looked over at Kuba. She was smiling serenely at Mr Palfry, but she must have felt my eyes on her because she turned her head and gave me a wink.

  And that’s when I finally realized that luck had had nothing to do with Ariel’s ghosts any more than luck had put her and Kuba in Mr Palfry’s group.

  So much for the promises of angels.

  Eddie and Mark were the most athletic of our group, so they took the lead.

  “Don’t get too far ahead,” warned Mr Palfry.

  “We won’t,” Eddie promised.

  “We’ve got our maps,” said Mark.

  It was difficult to tell whether or not Mr Palfry found this reassuring. He pointed to his own map. “This is where we’ll stop for lunch.” He drew a cross by the squiggle of lines that marked a large pile of rocks. “It’s called the Sentry Stones. You can’t miss it.”

  “Don’t worry,” said Eddie. “If we do get ahead, we’ll wait for you there.”

  They set off at a brisk pace, Archie trotting behind them with their water and lunches in his rucksack.

  The rest of us fell into step behind them.

  I knew I should try to keep up, but I was hoping for a chance to talk to Kuba alone. I had another piece of my mind to give her.

  It wasn’t long before I had my chance. Eddie, Mark and Archie got well ahead because they never stopped to take any notes, and Mr Palfry and Ariel fell well behind because Ariel’s new pink hiking boots turned out to be smaller than they’d been in the shop and were slowing her down.

  As soon as I was sure no one else could hear us, I said, “I thought you weren’t going to interfere any more. I thought you promised.”

  Kuba looked offended. “Is that all the thanks I get for sounding the alarm last night?” she demanded. “Eddie and Mark were already climbing out of the kitchen window of our lodge by the time you were halfway across the car park. If Ariel hadn’t screamed they would have seen you.” She stopped to watch Archie follow Mark and Eddie over the nearest hill. “I couldn’t let that happen, could I?”

  I decided to change the subject.

  “And what was all that stuff about ectoplasm? I can understand making up the Roman soldier, but the ectoplasm was a bit much.”

  Kuba’s eyes were focused on the distance. “I didn’t make anything up,” she informed me. “The ectoplasm was a glowing blob on the ground.” She turned and pointed at my feet. “About that high, and shining.”

  If you think that angels can’t sneer, let me tell you now that you’re wrong.

  Without even glancing at my new trainers I could see the glow-in-the-dark trim and inset; and I could see myself creeping through the dark, thinking I was invisible when I was actually shining like a torch.

  “And what about the Roman soldier? Are you saying you didn’t make him up either?”

  “Of course I didn’t,” said Kuba, as though this was a ridiculous question. “Mrs Smiley doesn’t believe it, but Ariel definitely saw a Roman soldier.”

  “In the car park?”

  “That’s right.” She was ahead of me again, but she looked over her shoulder. Her smile flickered like a candle flame. “He was following the ectoplasm.”

  “Excuse me,” I said, scrambling after her. “But he wasn’t following me. I think I would have noticed.”

  “Maybe.” Kuba shrugged. “But I know for certain that Ariel wasn’t h
alf asleep, because I woke her up.”

  “You did?”

  Kuba skipped on ahead of me. She obviously considered my question beneath even me, because she didn’t bother to answer it. “So what are you planning to do about Eddie and Mark?” she asked over her shoulder.

  I scrabbled up after her. “I don’t know. Just keep an eye on them, I suppose.”

  “Oh, look!” Kuba stopped to peer down at a small plant growing between the rocks. “A Calipher’s Star. That’s really rare.”

  I was still cross. “You know, it’s difficult for me to keep an eye on the others when you keep stopping all the time.”

  “It doesn’t matter,” said Kuba. “Let them get ahead. You’re going to need the element of surprise.”

  “I am?” I huffed and puffed my way up beside her. “And am I allowed to ask why?”

  In answer, Kuba plopped herself down on the nearest large rock. “We’d better wait for Mr Palfry and Ariel here. This is where we’re meant to stop for lunch.”

  I looked over. To our left was a pile of rocks that hung over the valley as if they were watching what was going on. The Sentry Stones.

  “Hang on a second,” I protested. “What about Eddie, Archie and Mark?”

  “They’ve gone,” said Kuba.

  I stood there, waiting for some more information. None came. Kuba took her notebook from her pocket and started sketching the Calipher’s Star.

  “Excuse me,” I said, “but I’m waiting for an explanation. What do you mean they’ve gone? Gone from Wales? Gone from the planet?”

  “Gone from the trail. They’re getting Archie lost.”

  Kuba glanced behind her. Mr Palfry and Ariel had stopped far below us. Ariel had taken her shoes off and was rubbing her feet. Mr Palfry was wiping his forehead with the sleeve of his shirt.

  I sank down beside her. “Lost?”

  “In space, no one can hear you scream,” mimicked Kuba. She handed me her notebook.

  “What’s this?’

  “Look,” she ordered.

  I looked. At first all I saw was her sketch, but then an image began to appear over it, faintly at first, and then stronger and stronger.

 
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