“Careful!” whisper-shouted Kate, “They might hear us!”
“Sorry,” her little brother answered sheepishly, “But it all went fine right? I mean, we can practically rule them out.”
Laura shook her head, “They could’ve done it together. And called from the forest. And put the knife before going to shop but pretended they had been in this room.”
“Right. They could’ve also climbed the wall to steal the keys or tamed a bird to bring them to them. Or maybe the bird just stole the keys on his own accord and that’s why they seemed so surprised when we told them Uncle John had lost them,” countered Edward.
“Alright, you don’t have to be so sarcastic! It’s just a possibility,” said Laura.
Kate ushered her siblings out of the corridor.
“Let’s continue to argue somewhere else. As I said, we’re too close to Mum and Dad’s room right now.”
“Very true. As you said,” mimicked Edward.
Still rolling her eyes at her brother Kate ran into the garden to her den. Her netball practice had made her quite a fast runner and combined with her long legs, she arrived first to her den and sat down to stare at the pinboard. Ideas forming in her head, she barely acknowledged her siblings as they came in, one at a time, panting, nearly exactly in order of age. Edward had only come right after her since he had tripped Laura up, sending her sprawling into the mud. He was still laughing maniacally when she entered the den, mud and wet grass dripping from her front. She practically launched herself at him, splattering him too with mud. Kate jumped back to earth to separate her siblings.
“What are you doing? Why are you turning my den into an arena for mud-fighting?”
“Had you been there,” said Laura, not even daring to look away from Edward in case he had another trick up his sleeve, “Had you been there you would also…”
“Have laughed with me,” cut in Edward, giggling, nearly in hysterics, “You should have seen her face! It was hilarious! Nothing in my whole existence could have beaten that look of shock that was plastered on her face when she fell face first into a puddle!”
“Shut up you hyena! You find it funny do you?”
“As a matter of fact I do,” he smirked at her as though he’d won a battle.
Laura groaned and flopped down on a cushion. Kate jerked towards her but it was too late. The cushion lay ruined underneath a layer of incrusted mud. Their little brother laughed at both of their faces.
“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry Kate I forgot!” whispered Laura, a hand over her mouth.
Kate sighed but looked away, “It’s fine. It can be our ‘Muddy Cushion’.”
“The ‘Muddy Cushion’?” asked Edward gesturing quotation marks in the air, “What sort of name is that?”
“It’s just a name! Why do you have to comment on everything?”
“I’m pretty sure Albert Einstein said something about how questions and curiosity makes you intelligent,” he countered.
Ivy, who had sat there and got tired of this endless and unnecessary argument, snapped, “Well he has never met you right? He must have been thinking of someone else!”
Edward let go of all the jokes to lash back with a bitter retort, “As if you’re any better.”
His sister stiffened up and narrowed her eyes, sensitive to that kind of remark. The day which had started so well was turning into a real nightmare. The siblings, all a scowl on their face except Michael who didn’t understand what was happening, faced away from each other. This was a lot like the kind of situations they used to have before Dandelion Estate. Maybe the lockdown was having an effect on them???
“Right! Are we going to do this or are you going to continue trying to stare each other down?” piped up Michael from the side of the den. “I think we have something to do.”
“You’re right,” said Kate slowly detaching her glare from Edward to settle down as far from him as was possible. Laura too made it painfully obvious that she didn’t want to be in near proximity from her brother and stood up and plonked her cushion down on the other side of the room. Edward just snickered.
“Edward? What has gotten into you? You were fine yesterday, right?” demanded Ivy.
Her brother just smiled broadly and exclaimed:
“Well yesterday wasn’t as close to my birthday as today, wasn’t it?”
The rest of the Llandys all groaned inwardly and threw sidelong glances of despair to each other. They all knew how Edward behaved on his birthday and if this was his behaviour three days before it, none of them wanted to witness what it would be like on the day. It was also widely known that the best thing to do in these types of situations when it came to their brother was to ignore it and hope he will get bored of it soon.
“So,” started Kate as though nothing had happened, “Whilst I waited for you to arrive, I was thinking about the case and I was getting very confused with all the facts we had collected. This is why I’m suggesting we start to organise our work. Especially using timelines and trying to find finer pieces of evidence like timings and locations.”
The idea seemed to please Ivy for she jumped up and begged if they could start now and if she could please use her new pens she had gotten before lockdown that she had not been able to use yet. Laura laughed and, together, they set off to find all the necessary bits of equipment. The rest of them took the pinboard off the wall and set about finding the post-it notes, pens and pencils they had previously brought in here. Edward had considerably calmed down and started to help so Kate deigned to talk to him again if not in a quite patronising tone. This tone usually squashed her siblings into trying to meet her expectations and again, it worked.
“Found them!”cried Ivy, in her room after rummaging for a while inside her suitcase. She pulled out her box of pens which contained an extensive range of shades and colours. She was met with silence as she remembered that Laura had gone down to ask for a large sheet of paper, tired of waiting for her. The girl piled the notepad, pens and another set of post-it notes she’d found and set off to find her sister downstairs.
“Laura?” called Ivy as she poked her head into Aunt Brunhilde’s office.
A muffled voice replied, “Here.”
Laura was digging inside one of the large cupboards, completely covered with pieces of paper of all sizes. Ivy giggled as she made her way in and layed down her pile on the desk to help her sister.
“It seems like you can’t find what you’re looking for.”
“The pieces of paper? Oh, I’ve got them,” she pointed at a neatly formed stack of paper deposited next to the doorway.
“Then what are you doing?” Ivy cried, “What if Aunt Brunhilde catches you?”
Laura laughed, “Relax, Ivy. It was Brunhilde who told me I could find paper here and I thought it would be a good excuse to do a bit of research.”
“So you’re spying?” the girl whispered the last word as though it could get them caught.
“Not exactly. Anyway, I haven’t found anything. We’d better go now.”
Ivy folded her arms, “Look around and tell me what would be worse: Brunhilde finding another note or coming back here to find this,” she gestured to the state of the room, “I vote for the latter.”
Laura shoved her sister playfully and immediately started stacking paper into piles and returning to their rightful place in the cupboard. As soon as that was done, she jumped up and got ready to join her sister at the doorway to leave. Ivy looked up from her watch, seeming disdainful.
“I timed you,” she said in a matter of fact tone, “You took seven minutes and thirty-six seconds. You’d better improve.”
“Ha ha. Let’s get going.”
Ivy grabbed her stack and Laura her paper and both of them hurried back to the den where the others were waiting if not a little impatiently.
“Finally!” shouted Michael, springing up to meet the newcomers, “You took ages!”
“Well we’re here now right?” smiled Laura. She handed everything to Kate who as she laid them down replied with a smile of her own.
“Right! Let’s get down to business!” cried Michael excitedly.
“Laura, you’re scribing. Get ready. It seems like we’re going to have an interesting conversation.”
The Llandy’s got settled to debate the times and any evidence and as ideas fused this way and that, Laura reached for the pieces of paper one at a time, finishing them quicker than the last and attempting to jot down the points made by her siblings without getting a word out herself by fear of missing something out. Kate, seeing the distress creeping into her sister’s face, paused the conversation to let her breathe.
“You know you don’t have to write everything down,” she said.
“We have to make sure we don’t miss anything.”
As the pile of paper continued to diminish and Laura snatched yet another sheet, something caught Edward’s attention. He snatched it up from somewhere in the middle of the stack.
“Look!” he gasped.
It was another note.
“Oh no,” whispered Ivy. They stared at it in silence for a short instance until Michael broke the stillness.
“Who wants to open it?”