With, finally, a lead to follow and a moral boost, the children set about trying to uncover clues with even more enthusiasm than before. With the coming of the morning, also arrived a sense of hope which burst forwards and blossomed like the spring roses that climbed the walls outside. The children jumped off the floor, barely acknowledging the fact that they had been sleeping there, fresh and early in time to see the dew settle on the grass outside. They tugged on their clothes with a speed rarely used when just out of bed and raced downstairs to gobble their toast. Without stopping, they ran into the garden and into Kate’s den. If they wanted to hide to focus on their theories, then it was there that they were meant to go.
“Right,” declared Kate, “We need to discuss this thoroughly. Since we have slept and just eaten, our brains should be able to function now. Has anybody thought of something?”
“Well Helen is a strong suspect but we haven’t discussed Mum and Dad,” said Laura, “We have to investigate more on them.”
“It really seems as if you want them to be the culprits! Just leave them alone for now!” replied Edward.
“For goodness sakes! Don’t you see I’m trying to clear their name?” Laura snapped hotly, “The longer we leave them in the dark, the longer we’ll be worrying about the possibility of them being the culprits!”
“You’re right Laura,” cut in Kate before this turned into a heated argument, “We should figure out what they were doing but don’t snap at your brother, we’re all worried.”
Laura grumbled, “You’re sounding more and more like Mum.”
“I’m trying to be responsible.”
“By dragging us into a case that could and probably will end very badly,” countered the 16 year old then, after seeing the way her sibling’s teeth unclenched and her whole face crumble, added hastily, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean that. I was being stupid. I didn’t mean it.”
Kate sighed, “No. I’m the stupid one. I shouldn’t have dragged you into this, it's too dangerous.”
The younger siblings, who had been watching - mouth agape - their sisters argue, shook their heads. It was very rare to see the eldest siblings fight, it was usually the younger Llandys who squabbled together.
“You didn’t drag us into this,” piped up Michael, “We chose to do this ourselves.”
“Yeah,” agreed Edward, “If you want to blame someone, blame us!”
Ivy leaned over to give Kate a hug. She whispered in her ear:
“Remember, you didn’t even want to investigate at first. When we heard our aunt scream, you didn’t want to leave the game we were trying to play.”
Kate smiled at the clinging 11 year old. Leave it to Ivy to remember those details.
“Thanks. I’m sorry everyone. Let’s get to work.”
It was decided that interviewing their parents was the priority and, if possible, they were going to try to do it separately as, although they had been seen setting off together for their walk, they could have split off at one point. So, creeping back into the house, they repeated the questions and excuses they had chosen during that short meeting in their heads, not wanting to forget their role at the wrong moment and spoil everything. Kate glanced over Laura’s shoulder to get a better view of the notes.
“Remember everyone. We’re interested in which plants they were considering planting when they talked with Finlay and then we wondered where they were after that because we wanted to show them something. That something is that new ball we found in the shed. That should give us an excuse and hopefully Dad wont react the same way as he did before and..”
“Yes, yes. We know,” cut Edward, “We can also ask them about how their trip to go shopping was. And we’ll have to throw in some questions but don’t mention our “poster” on Dandelion Estate or show that Laura is writing so we’ll have to record it on your phone,” he stopped and took an exaggerated deep breath. He grinned at his sister, “Anything else I’ve missed?”
Kate ignored him and turned to the others, “Have you got this?”
They nodded but Edward spoke up, “Why are you so worried about this? We’re literally just going to ask our parents a few questions. If you view it like that it will help a lot.”
“With that point of view, yes but have you considered that these answers could change our lives for the better or for the worse?” demanded Laura, “Leave us to panic and hope that the day will end with us looking back and laughing at our dread. Now stop talking: we’re nearing their room.”
The soon-to-be fourteen year old shut his mouth to drag his feet up the last set of stairs.
At first glance, the hallway was like any other hallway at Dandelion Estate to a visitor or stranger: a glossy, wooden floorboard, sumptuous walls, lavishly decorated ceilings and the whole ensemble of it old fashioned with a tinge of modern air. However, this corridor, to the insiders, was the only one which floorboard didn’t creek, this was the only place the dogs weren’t allowed (although they seemed to love sneaking there and always had to be pulled back out by the children before Aunt Brunhilde noticed) and this was the only place which was cleaned twice a week. More importantly, this was where the guests slept and that, at Dandelion Estate, was an essential detail to the Estate’s pride. The children’s parents had a room in this corridor although they weren’t really guests as, when their dad and aunt weren’t bickering, they were regular occupants of Dandelion Estate.
Finally, they reached the door to their parent’s room. This door too was decorated with beautiful carvings of plants, animals and, of course, dandelions. If you squinted closely at the door, you would find a pattern that linked every door. A small scratch made on the right side of the frame. All different but similar enough to figure out there was some kind of connection between them.
Kate was about to knock on the door when their dad stepped out of his room.
“Good morning Kate! Good morning kids! Let me guess. You want to go into the village today?”
“No, not quite. We would like to speak to you and mum,” declared Michael in a very matter-of-fact tone. Kate bit her lip to refrain from kicking him for his indiscretion.
“You sound very business-like now. Are you thinking about starting a career in an office? That will suit you a lot, you know.”
“Aren’t I too young!” said the little boy, puzzled.
“He’s just messing with you,” sighed Laura, then turned to her father, “Can we talk then?”
The dad backed away, hands held up in a gesture meant to be appeasing.
“Ok! Seems I’ve been overpowered and outnumbered. Come on in then!”
They stepped inside and their mum, who had been sitting at her computer, getting ready for a meeting, greeted them with a hug.
“Hello! How is your day?”
“Great! And the flowers have been blossoming again!” said Ivy, sneaking in the lines she was meant to start the conversation with.
“Yes indeed! They are fantastic! I said so to Finlay not so long ago,” declared their mother.
The siblings exchanged glances. She had unknowingly set the conversation back to the date which the children had been hoping to talk about.
“Oh yes! We saw you talking with him! What else did you say?”
“Well, we listened to his plans for the garden and made a few suggestions. Do you have any?” asked the father.
“Not really…” started the children but the mother interrupted.
“Remember, you have to plant a new flower or plant this year. It will have to be done soon so think really carefully.”
Laura was about to ask them where they had been after that when she saw an opportunity even more discreet than anything they could make up.
“Um… Have you seen any nice plants anywhere? In the forest maybe?”
Her brothers and sisters looked at her in awe: how did her mind react so quickly?
“In the forest? Why, yes! And beautiful ones. We can show you some if you’ll go with us again!” replied the mother, who, being a conservationist and naturalist, was very excited about the forests that grew around the Estate.
“You’ve been there already?” asked Edward, catching on to what Laura had meant.
“Yes, with your dad. We had a lovely walk along that old path. It’s rather overgrown now but I have seen some wonderful new species which I want to investigate. One of them I think is probably a Lonicera periclymenum,” she said, lost in her world of plants, then she added as she faced her children’s confused stare, “Or honeysuckle. There are also so many snowdrops! Those flowers may be my favourite. They are so delicate and so like snow! And foxglove! They are beginning to sprout too!”
None of the children, except perhaps Ivy and Michael, shared much enthusiasm towards plants the way their mother did and all nodded through the full-length speech the naturalist gave them. They were used to them by now and knew that asking questions about her subject would make them waste time they were not ready to lose.
“So you and Dad were together for the whole time or did you go exploring on your own?” wondered Ivy innocently.
Their dad finally looked up from an email from his boss.
“Nope! I was dragged along for over an hour and had to sit - or rather walk - through your mothers endless chatter about vegetables.”
“They are not vegetables!” cried their mother, pretending to be cross.
“Then what do you think I eat every day? Soil?”
The children sighed. Their father had officially been converted to the world of not-so-funny jokes. Dandelion was changing them a bit too much to the children’s taste sometimes.
“You will if you don’t stop.”
The father looked offended.
“You would really do that?”
Their mother looked so grim that it was easy to imagine her pouring earth into her husband’s meal but the effect was rather spoiled when they both laughed.
It was hard to get them to be serious again so that the children could speak to them normally. It was when Edward threatened them to fetch a pail of water from the kitchen and throw it at them that they sobered up. But it was Ivy who started laughing again when she saw her older brother desperately trying to imitate his mother’s stern look and everyone joined in and this time, there was no one to stop them so they stayed there giggling, snorting and chortling like they hadn’t done in a long time.
Kate was the first to regain her composure and nudged Laura into stopping. Together, and with tremendous effort, they managed to invite calmness back into the room. Ivy was still hiccuping, lying on the bed, but the rest of the group were ready for a conversation again. It was time to introduce the subject of the Day of the Knife as the Llandy children called it.
“You talked about going to the village. What did you do there? We wanted to know but we always forgot to ask you.”
That was partly true as they had kept delaying the day of their ‘interview’ for fear of what could happen.
“Nothing much really. We went to Shopping Rush to get some food and Blake went to do some shopping somewhere else. Oh and we also met Sally. We had a very nice meeting.”
Sally was an old friend of John and Brunhilde’s. She adored the Llandys as much as they adored her and was always planning her ‘meetings’ which always consisted of delicious cakes and drinks. Her appearance was rather striking: she had thick auburn hair which she braided into intricate hairdos or let down in long soft waves. Her eyes too were lovely. They were a deep blue almost purple colour which was as beautiful as startling. Her complexion was lovely with pretty features and though not many people knew her well, she was friendly to anyone who crossed her path.
“Great! Did you tell her we missed her?” asked Ivy.
“No, but next time you can come with us to the village and we might meet her.”
“What did you do before going there? We were looking for you,” declared Michael suddenly in a plaintive tone he had mastered and perfected over the years.
“In this very room,” replied his father, “Working tirelessly to feed you.”
“Both of you?”
“Yes,” interrupted his mum, “I couldn’t stand him though so I said I was going shopping and your dad tagged along as always like a lost kitten.”
“Great!” exclaimed Kate. She turned to her sibling, “Should we go and play?”
“Yes!” they cried.
They were about to leave when Laura turned
around as she remembered something.
“Wait! Have you seen Uncle John’s keys? He’s looking for them.”
“John’s lost his keys? He’s usually a careful man,” said their father, “No I haven’t but tell him I’ll keep an eye out for them!” he turned to his wife, “Have you seen them?”
She shook her head.
“Oh well,” said Kate, “It doesn’t matter.”
She closed the door and followed her sibling into the corridor where, before his sister could stop him, Edward cried out:
“There! That wasn’t that bad was it?”