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Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy

By Marjorie Palmer,2014-11-04 20:23
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Amazon.com ReviewBritish boy with catchy name and unusual powers, check. Wild hair, check. Students at boarding school, check. Owls and funny street names, check. Mysterious shape-shifting enemies out to get the affable boy protagonist, check. Jenny Nimmo's "Children of the Red King" series (starring Charlie Bone) has so many of the same trappings as the Harry Potter series that, unfortunately, comparison is unavoidable. Rowling's books clearly trump these simpler fantasies for younger readers--but the Charlie Bone books are finding their audience in those who need a boy-wizard fix and need it now.Charlie Bone and the Invisible Boy, the third book in the author's planned quintet, begins when the magically "endowed" Charlie and his friend Emma discover a mostly i Published by Orchard on 2004/01/01

     OLLIE SPARKS NEEDS THE HELP OF CHARLIE BONE!!

    A new semester is beginning at Bloor's Academy; and danger is lurking around every corner.First Charlie's beloved Uncle Paton disappears on a long and perilous journey. Then Charlie andhis friends make an astonishing discovery: an invisible boy; Ollie Sparks, has been imprisonedin the attic of the academy

    Charlie knows it's up to him to use his extraordinary gifts to help his uncle and Ollie. Butlately his powers have been changing— and not for the better. Nothing is what it seems, and

Charlie doesn't know if anyone can be trusted — including himself . . .

    THE ENDOWED CHILDREN

    The endowed are all descended from the ten children of the Red King, a magician-king who left Africa in the twelfth century, accompanied by three leopards.

    The Red King had already lived for several centuries, and he made a marvelous glass sphere,putting into it memories of his life and travels through the world. He used the sphere to twistthrough time, visiting the past and the future.

    In any other hands, the Time Twister is dangerous and unpredictable.

    THE CHILDREN OF THE RED KING, CALLED THE ENDOWED

    MANFRED BLOOR

    Head boy of Bloor's Academy A hypnotist. He is descended from Borlath, eldest son of the RedKing. Borlath was a brutal and sadistic tyrant.

    CHARLIE BONE

    Charlie can hear the voices of people in photographs and paintings. He is descended from theYewbeams, a family with many magical endowments.

    ZELDA DOBINSKI

    Descended from a long line of Polish magicians. Zelda is telekinetic. She can move objects withher mind.

    DORCAS LOOM

    An endowed girl whose gift is, as yet, undiscovered.

    ASA PIKE

    A were-beast. He is descended from a tribe who lived in the northern forests and kept strangebeasts. Asa can change shape at dusk.

    BILLY RAVEN

    Billy can communicate with animals. One of his ancestors conversed with ravens that sat on agibbet where dead men hung. For this talent he was banished from his village.

    LYSANDER SAGE

    Descended from an African wise man. He can call up his spirit ancestors.

    GABRIEL SILK

    Gabriel can feel scenes and emotions through the clothes of others. He comes from a line ofpsychics.

    EMMA TOLLY

    Emma can fly. Her surname derives from the Spanish swordsman from Toledo whose daughtermarried the Red King. He is therefore an ancestor of all the endowed children.

    TANCRED TORSSON

    A storm-bringer His Scandinavian ancestor was named after the thunder god, Thor. Tancred canbring wind, thunder, and lightning.

    PROLOGUE

    When the Red King left Africa , he took with him a rare snake, a boa, given to him by atraveling wise man. The boa's skin was black and silver and its eyes like beads of jet.Sometimes, the shining eyes would close, but this was a deception. In the king's presence theboa was eternally vigilant. No thief or assassin dared to pass it. The king, who could speakits language, regarded the boa as a friend, a guardian, and a wise counselor. He loved thecreature dearly

    One day while the king was absent on a hunting trip, his eldest son, Borlath, caught the boa ina net. Borlath had the crudest heart of any man living, and his greatest sport was to torture.Within a week he had turned the wise and gentle boa into a creature that lived only to kill. It

would squeeze its victims into oblivion within minutes.

    The king's daughter, Guanhamara, horrified by the boa's new and deadly nature, rescued thecreature and cast a spell, hoping to cure it. Alas, Guanhamara's spell came too late and merelyweakened the boa's fatal hug. Its victims did not die, but they became invisible.

    When Guanhamara died, the boa fell into a deep sleep. It shriveled into a thing that wasneither alive nor dead. Hoping one day to reawaken the creature, Guanhamara's seven daughters(every one of them a witch) sealed the boa in a jar of liquid made blue with herbs. They alsoput in a bird with delicate, shiny wings. But the embalmed creatures were stolen by Borlath andpassed down through his descendants, until Ezekiel Bloor, using a method recommended by hisgrandfather, managed to revive the boa, whose skin had become a silvery blue. He was lesssuccessful with the bird.

    Ezekiel was now a hundred years old. He had always longed to become invisible but, as far as heknew the boa's hug was permanent, and he didn't dare to let the creature hug him. The old manstill searched for a way to reverse invisibility while the boa lived in the shadowy attics ofBloor's Academy keeping its secret, until someone could bring it the comfort of understanding— and listen to its story

    SOMEONE DANGEROUS

    An owl swooped over the roof of number nine Filbert Street . It hovered above a running mouseand then perched on a branch beside Charlie Bone's window The owl hooted, but Charlie slept on.

    Across the road, at number twelve, Benjamin Brown was already awake. He opened his curtains tolook at the owl and saw three figures emerge from the door of number nine. In the palestreetlight their faces were a blur of shadows, but Benjamin would have known them anywhere.They were Charlie Bone's great-aunts, Lucretia, Eustacia, and Venetia Yewbeam. As the threewomen tiptoed furtively down the steps, one of them suddenly looked up at Benjamin. He shrankbehind the curtain and watched them hurry away up the road. They wore black hooded coats andtheir heads tilted toward one another like conspirators.

    It was half past four in the morning. Why were the Yewbeam sisters out so early? Had they beenin Charlie's house all night? They've been hatching some nasty plot, thought Benjamin.

    If only Charlie hadn't inherited such a strange talent. And if only his great-aunts hadn'tgotten to know about it, perhaps he'd have been safe. But when your ancestor is a magician anda king, your relations are bound to expect something of you. "Poor Charlie," Benjamin murmured.

    Benjamin's big yellow dog, Runner Bean, whined sympathetically from the bed. Benjamin wonderedif he'd guessed what was going to happen to him. Probably. Mr. and Mrs. Brown had spent thelast two days cleaning the house and packing. Dogs always know something is up when peoplestart packing.

    "Breakfast, Benjamin!" Mrs. Brown called from the kitchen.

    Mr. Brown could be heard singing in the shower.

    Benjamin and Runner Bean went downstairs. Three bowls of oatmeal sat on the kitchen table.Benjamin sat down. His mother was frying sausages and tomatoes and he was glad to see that shehadn't forgotten his dog. Runner Bean's bowl was already full of chopped sausage.

    Mr. Brown arrived still singing and still in his bathrobe. Mrs. Brown was already dressed. Shewore a neat gray suit and her straight straw-colored hair was cut very short. She wore nojewelry

    Benjamin's parents were private detectives and they tried to look as inconspicuous as possible.Sometimes, they wore a false mustache or a wig to disguise themselves. It was usually only Mr.Brown who wore the false mustaches, but on one occasion (an occasion Benjamin would like toforget) Mrs. Brown had also found it necessary to wear one.

    Benjamin's mother swapped his now empty bowl for a full plate and said, "You'd better takeRunner across to Charlie as soon as you've brushed your teeth. We'll be leaving in half anhour."

    "Yes, Mom." Benjamin gulped down the rest of his breakfast and ran back upstairs. He didn'ttell his mother that Charlie hadn't actually agreed to look after Runner Bean.

    The Browns' bathroom overlooked Filbert Street , and while Benjamin was brushing his teeth hesaw a tall man in a long black coat walk down the steps of number nine. Benjamin stoppedbrushing and stared. What on earth was going on in Charlie's house?

    The tall man was Paton Yewbeam, Charlie's great-uncle. He was wearing dark glasses and hecarried a white stick. Benjamin assumed the dark glasses had something to do with Paton'sunfortunate talent for exploding lights. Paton never appeared in daylight, if he could help it,but this was an extraordinary time to be going out, even for him. He walked up to a midnight-blue car, opened the trunk, and carefully placed the wand (for that's what it was) right at theback.

    Before Benjamin had even rinsed his toothbrush, Charlie's uncle had driven off He went in theopposite direction from his sisters, Benjamin noted. This wasn't surprising, since Paton andhis sisters were sworn enemies.

    "You'd better go over to Charlie's," Mrs. Brown called from the kitchen. Benjamin packed hispajamas and toothbrush and went downstairs.

    Runner Bean's tail hung dejectedly His ears were down and his eyes rolled piteously Benjaminfelt guilty "Come on, Runner." He spoke with an exaggerated cheerfulness that didn't fool hisdog for one minute.

    The boy and the dog left the house together. They were best friends and Runner Bean wouldn'thave dreamed of disobeying Benjamin, but today he dragged his paws very reluctantly up thesteps of number nine.

    Benjamin rang the bell and Runner Bean howled. It was the howl that woke Charlie. Everyone elsein the house woke briefly thought they'd had a nightmare, and went back to sleep.

    Charlie, recognizing the howl, staggered downstairs to open the door. "What's happened?" heasked, blinking at the streetlights. "It's still night, isn't it?"

    "Sort of," said Benjamin. "I've got some amazing news. I'm going to Hong Kong ."

    Charlie rubbed his eyes. "What, now?"

    "Yes."

    Charlie stared at his friend in bewilderment and then invited him in for a piece of toast.While the toast was browning, Charlie asked Benjamin if Runner Bean would be traveling to HongKong with him.

    "Er — no," said Benjamin. "He'd have to be quarantined and he'd hate that."

    "So where's he going?" Charlie glanced at Runner Bean and the big dog gave him a forlorn sortof smile.

    "That's just it," Benjamin said, with a slight cough. "There's no one else but you, Charlie."

    "Me? 1 can't keep a dog here," said Charlie. "Grandma Bone would kill it."

    "Don't say that." Benjamin looked anxiously at Runner Bean who was crawling under the table."Now look what you've done. He was upset already"

    As Charlie began to splutter his protests, Benjamin quickly explained that the Hong Kong visit had been a complete surprise. A Chinese billionaire had asked his parents to trace apriceless necklace that had been stolen from his Hong Kong apartment. The Browns couldn'tresist such a well-paid and challenging case, but, since it might take several months, they didnot want to leave Benjamin behind. Unfortunately this didn't apply to Runner Bean.

    Charlie slumped at the kitchen table and scratched his head. His bushy hair was even moretangled than usual. "Oh," was all he could say

    "Thanks, Charlie." Benjamin shoved a large piece of toast into his mouth. "I'll let myselfout." At the kitchen door he looked back guiltily "I'm sorry I hope you'll be all right,Charlie." And then he was gone.

    Benjamin was so excited that he had forgotten to tell Charlie about his uncle and the wand orthe visit of his three aunts.

    From the kitchen window, Charlie watched his friend dash across the street and jump into theBrowns' large green car. Charlie lifted his hand to wave, but the car drove off before Benjaminhad seen him.

    "Now what?" mumbled Charlie.

    As if in answer, Runner Bean growled from beneath the table. Benjamin hadn't thought to leaveany dog food for him, and Mr. and Mrs. Brown were obviously far too busy to think of suchmundane items.

    "Detectives!" he muttered.

    For five minutes Charlie struggled to think how he was going to keep Runner Bean a secret fromGrandma Bone. But thinking was exhausting so early in the day Charlie laid his head on thetable and fell asleep.

    As luck would have it, Grandma Bone was the first person downstairs that morning. "What'sthis?" Her shrill voice woke Charlie with a start. "Sleeping in the kitchen? You're lucky it'sSaturday You'd have missed the school bus."

    "Um." Charlie blinked up at the tall, stringy woman in her gray bathrobe. A snowy braid hungdown her back and it swung from side to side as she began to march around the kitchen, bangingon the kettle, slamming the fridge door, and plunking hard butter on the counter Suddenly sheswiveled around and stared at Charlie. "I smell dog," she said accusingly

    Charlie remembered Runner Bean. "D-dog?" he stammered. Luckily the heavy tablecloth hung almostto the ground and his grandmother couldn't see Runner Bean.

    "Has that friend of yours been here? He always smells of dog."

    "Benjamin? Er — yes," said Charlie. "He came to say good-bye. He's going to Hong Kong ."

    "Good riddance," she grunted.

    When Grandma Bone went into the pantry Charlie grabbed Runner Bean's collar and dragged himupstairs.

    "I don't know what I'm going to do with you," sighed Charlie. "I've got to go to school onMonday and I won't be back till Friday I have to sleep there, you know"

    Runner Bean jumped onto Charlie's bed, wagging his tail. He'd spent many happy hours inCharlie's bedroom.

    Charlie decided to ask his uncle Paton for help. Slipping out of his room, he crept along thelanding until he came to his uncle's door. A DO NOT DISTURB sign hung just above Charlie's eyelevel. He knocked.

    There was no reply

    Charlie cautiously opened the door and looked in. Paton wasn't there. It was unlike him toleave the house in the morning. Charlie went over to a big desk covered with books and scrapsof paper. On the tallest pile of books there was an envelope with Charlie's name on it.

    Charlie withdrew a sheet of paper from the envelope and read his uncle's large scrawlyhandwriting.

    Charlie, dear boy,

    My sisters are up to no good. Heard them plotting in the early hours. Have decided to go andput a stop to things . If I don't, someone very dangerous will arrive. No time to explain.Will be back in a few days — I hope!

Yours affectionately,

    Uncle P.

    P.S. Have taken wand.

    "Oh, no," Charlie groaned. "When are things going to stop going wrong today?"

    Unfortunately they had only just begun.

    With a long sigh, Charlie left his uncle's room and walked straight into a pile of towels.

    His other grandmother, Maisie Jones, who was carrying the towels, staggered backward and thensat down with a bang.

    "Watch out, Charlie!" she shouted.

    Charlie pulled his rather overweight grandmother to her feet and, while he helped gather up thetowels, he told Maisie about Paton's note and the problem of Runner Bean.

    "Don't worry Charlie," said Maisie. Her voice sank to a whisper as Grandma Bone came up thestairs. "I'll look after the poor pooch. As for Uncle P — I'm sure it'll all turn out for thebest."

    Charlie went back to his room, dressed quickly and told Runner Bean that food would be coming,if not directly then as soon as Grandma Bone went out.

    This could be any time of day or not at all, but Runner Bean wasn't bothered. He curled up onthe bed and closed his eyes. Charlie went downstairs.

    Maisie was filling the washing machine and Amy Bone, Charlie's mother, was gulping down hersecond cup of coffee. She told Charlie to have a good day pecked him on the cheek, and rushedoff to the market where she worked. Charlie thought she looked too chic for a day of weighingvegetables. Her golden-brown hair was tied back with a velvet ribbon, and she was wearing abrand-new corn-colored coat. Charlie wondered if she'd gotten a boyfriend. He hoped not, forhis vanished father's sake.

    Five minutes after his mother.had left, Grandma Bone came downstairs in a black coat, her whitehair now bundled up under a black hat. She told Charlie to brush his hair and then walked outwith an odd smile on her pinched face.

    As soon as she'd gone, Charlie ran to the fridge and pulled out a bowl of leftovers: lastnight's lamb stew Maisie grinned and shook her head, but she let Charlie take some of it toRunner Bean in a saucer. "That dog should be exercised before Grandma Bone comes back," shecalled.

    Charlie took her advice. When Runner Bean had wolfed down the stew, Charlie took him out intothe back garden, where they had a great game of hunt the slipper, a slipper that Charliedespised because it had his name embroidered in blue across the front.

    Runner Bean was just chewing up the last bit of slipper when Maisie flung open an upstairswindow and called, "Look out, Charlie. The Yewbeams are coming!"

    "Stay here, Runner," Charlie commanded. “And be quiet, if you can."

    He leaped up the steps to the back door and ran to the kitchen where he sat at the table andpicked up a magazine. The aunts' voices could be heard as they climbed the front steps. A keyturned in the lock and then they were in the hall: Grandma Bone and her three sisters, alltalking at once.

    The great-aunts marched into the kitchen in new spring outfits. Lucretia and Eustacia hadexchanged their usual black suits for charcoal gray but in Aunt Venetia's case it was purple.She also wore high-heeled purple shoes with golden tassels dangling from the laces. All threesisters had sinister smiles and threatening looks in their dark eyes.

    Aunt Lucretia said, "So, here you are, Charlie!" She was the eldest, apart from Grandma Bone,and a matron at Charlie's school.

    "Yes, here I am," said Charlie nervously

"Same hair, I see," said Aunt Eustacia, sitting opposite Charlie.

    "Yes, same hair," said Charlie. "Same hair for you too, 1 see."

    "Don't be smart." Eustacia patted her abundant gray hair. "Why haven't you brushed it today?"

    "Haven't had time," said Charlie.

    He became aware that Grandma Bone was still talking to someone in the hall.

    Aunt Venetia suddenly said, "Tah dah!" and opened the kitchen door very wide, as if she wereexpecting the Queen or a famous movie star to walk in. But it was Grandma Bone who appeared,followed by the prettiest girl Charlie had ever seen. She had golden curls, bright blue eyes,and lips like an angel.

    "Hello, Charlie!" The girl held out her hand in the manner of someone expecting a kiss on thefingers, preferably from a boy on bended knees. "I'm Belle."

    Charlie was too flustered to do anything.

    The girl smiled and sat beside him. "Oh, my" she said, "a ladies' magazine."

    Charlie realized, to his horror, that he was holding his mother's magazine. On the cover, awoman in pink underwear held a kitten. Charlie felt very hot. He knew his face must be brightred.

    "Make us some coffee, Charlie," Aunt Lucretia said sharply “And then we'll be off."

    Charlie flung down, the magazine and ran to the coffeemaker while Grandma Bone and the auntssat babbling at him. Belle would be going to Charlie's school, Bloor's Academy and Charlie musttell her all about it.

    Charlie sighed. He wanted to visit his friend, Fidelio. Why did the aunts always have to spoileverything? For half an hour he listened to the chattering and giggling over the coffee andbuns. Belle didn't behave like a child, thought Charlie. She looked about twelve, but sheseemed very comfortable with the aunts.

    When the last drop had been squeezed out of the coffeepot, the three Yewbeam sisters left thehouse, blowing kisses to Belle.

    "Take care of her, Charlie," Aunt Venetia called.

    Charlie wondered how he was supposed to do that.

    "Can I wash my hands, Grizel — er — Mrs. Bone?" Belle held up her sticky fingers.

    "There's the sink." Charlie nodded to the kitchen sink.

    "Upstairs, dear," said Grandma Bone, with a scowl in Charlie's direction. "Bathroom's firstleft. There's some nice lavender soap and a clean towel."

    "Thank you!" Belle skipped out.

    Charlie gaped. "What's wrong with the kitchen?" he asked his grandmother.

    "Belle has tender skin," said Grandma Bone. "She can't use kitchen soap. I want you to set thedining room table — for five. I presume Maisie will be joining us."

    "The dining room?" said Charlie in disbelief. "We only eat there on special occasions."

    "It's for Belle," snapped Grandma Bone.

    “A child?" Charlie was amazed.

    "Belle is not just any child."

    So it seems, thought Charlie. He went to set the dining room table while Grandma Bone shoutedinstructions up to Maisie. "We'd like a nice light soup today Maisie. And then some cold hamand salad. Followed by your lovely Bakewell tart."

    "Would we indeed, Your Highness?" Maisie shouted from somewhere upstairs. "Well, we'll have towait, I'm afraid. Oops! Who on earth are you?"

    She had obviously bumped into Belle.

    Charlie closed the dining room door and went to the window There was no sign of Runner Bean inthe garden. Charlie had visions of a dog's lifeless body lying in a gutter. He ran to the backdoor, but just as he was about to open it, a singsong voice called, "Charleee!"

    Belle was standing in the hall, staring at him. Charlie could have sworn that her eyes hadbeen blue. Now they were green.

    "Where are you going, Charlie?" she asked.

    "Oh, I was just going into the garden for a . . . a . . ."

    "Can I come with you?"

    "No. That is, I've changed my mind."

    "Good. Come and talk to me."

    Was it possible? Belle's eyes were now a grayish brown. Charlie followed her into the livingroom where she sat on the sofa, patting a cushion beside her. Charlie perched at the other end.

"Now, tell me all about Bloor's." Belle smiled invitingly

    Charlie cleared his throat. Where should he begin? "Well, there are three sort of departments.Music, art, and drama. I'm in music, so I have to wear a blue cape."

    "I shall be in art."

    "Then you'll wear green." Charlie glanced at the girl. "Haven't my aunts told you all this? Imean, are you staying with them, or what?"

    "I want to hear it from you," said Belle, ignoring Charlie's question.

    Charlie continued. "Bloor's is a big gray building on the other side of the city It's very veryold. There are three coatrooms, three assembly halls, and three cafeterias. You go up somesteps between two towers, across a courtyard, up more steps, and into the main hall. You haveto be silent in the hall or you'll get detention. The music students go through a door undercrossed trumpets; your door is under the sign of a pencil and paintbrush."

    "What's the sign for the drama students?"

    "Two masks, one sad and one happy" Why did Charlie get the impression that Belle knew all this?Her eyes were blue again. It was unnerving.

    "There's another thing," he said. “Are you — er — like me, one of the children of the RedKing? I mean, was he your ancestor, too?"

    Belle turned her bright blue gaze on him. "Oh, yes. And I'm endowed. But I prefer not to sayhow I'm told that you can hear voices from photographs and even paintings."

    'Yes." Charlie could do more than hear voices, but he wasn't going to give anything away tothis strange girl. "Endowed children have to do their homework in the King's room," he said."There are twelve of us. Someone from art will show you where it is: Emma Tolly She's a friendof mine, and she's endowed, too."

    "Emma? Ah, I've heard all about her." Belle inched her way up the sofa toward Charlie. "Nowtell me about you, Charlie. I believe that your father's dead."

    "He's not!" said Charlie fiercely "His car went off a cliff, but they never found his body He'sjust — lost."

    "Really? How did you find that out?"

    Without thinking, Charlie said, "My friend Gabriel's got an amazing gift. He can feel the truthin old clothes. I gave him my father's tie and Gabriel said that he wasn't dead."

    "Well, well." The girl gave Charlie a sweet, understanding smile, but the effect was spoiled bythe cold look in her eyes — now a dark gray And, was it a trick of the light, or did heglimpse a set of wrinkles just above her curved pink lips?

    Charlie slipped off the sofa. "I'd better help my other gran with lunch," he said.

    He found Maisie in the kitchen, throwing herbs into a saucepan. “All this fuss for a child,"she muttered. "I've never heard of such a thing."

    "Nor me," said Charlie. "She's a bit strange, isn't she?"

    "She's downright peculiar. Belle indeed!"

    "Belle means beautiful," said Charlie, remembering his French. "And she is very pretty"

    "Huh!" said Maisie.

    When the soup was ready Charlie helped Maisie carry it into the chilly dining room. GrandmaBone was already sitting at the head of the table with Belle on her right.

    "Where's Paton?" asked Grandma Bone.

    "He won't be coming," said Charlie.

    “And why not?"

    "He doesn't eat with us, does he?" Charlie reminded her.

    "Today I want him here," said Grandma Bone.

    "Well, you won't get him," said Maisie. "He's gone away"

    "Oh?" Grandma Bone stiffened. "And how do you know that?" She glared, first at Maisie and thenCharlie.

    Maisie looked at Charlie.

    Charlie said, "He left a note."

    “And what did it say?" demanded Grandma Bone.

    "I can't remember all of it," Charlie mumbled.

    "Let me see it!" She held out a bony hand.

    "I tore it up," said Charlie.

    Grandma Bone's eyebrows plummeted in a dark scowl. 'You shouldn't have done that. I want toknow what's going on. I must know what my brother said."

    "He said he'd gone to see my great-grandpa, your father, although you never go to see him."

    His grandmother's tiny black eyes almost disappeared into their wrinkled sockets. "That's noneof your business. Paton visited our father last week. He only goes once a month."

    Charlie only just stopped himself from mentioning his own visit to his great-grandfather.Because of the family feud it had to remain a secret. But Uncle Paton had never told him whatcaused the feud or why he mustn't talk about it. He'd have to tell another lie. "It was anemergency"

    This seemed to satisfy Grandma Bone, but Belle continued to stare at Charlie. Her eyes were nowdark green, and a chilling thought occurred to him. Uncle Paton had gone to stop someonedangerous from arriving. But perhaps that person was already here?

    THE INVISIBLE BOY

    T he rest of lunch was eaten in stony silence. Even Maisie seemed at a loss for words. But justas Charlie was clearing the plates, there was a series of loud barks from the garden, andRunner Bean's head appeared at the bottom of the window

    Grandma Bone, who had her back to the garden, swung around just as the dog bobbed out of sight.

"What was that?" she said.

    "Obviously a dog, Grizelda," said Maisie. "A stray has probably jumped into the garden."

    "I'll go and shoo it out," Charlie offered.

    As he left the room he noticed that Belle looked worried.

    Charlie ran to open the back door and Runner Bean came leaping in.

"Shhh!" said Charlie urgently "Not a sound!" He put a finger to his lips.

    Runner Bean appeared to understand this and obediently followed Charlie up to his room.

    "You've got to be quiet or it's curtains for you." Charlie drew a finger across his throat.

    Runner Bean grunted and curled up on the bed.

    "Did you catch it?" asked Belle when Charlie returned to the dining room.

    "No, I just shooed it away" said Charlie.

    Belle stood up. "I want to go home now,” she said to Grandma Bone.

    "Very well, dear." With surprising speed, Grandma Bone walked into the hall and put on her coatand hat.

    Charlie was amazed. His grandmother always had a nap after lunch, even if it was just a shortone. The golden-haired girl seemed to have some sort of power over her.

    "Where is home, exactly?" he asked Belle.

    "Don't you know where your great-aunts live?" she said.

    Charlie had to confess that he didn't. He'd never been invited to their home and never beentold where it was.

    "I expect you'll find out soon enough," said Belle mysteriously.

    "There's no need for him to know,” said Grandma Bone, helping her into an elegant greenjacket.

    " 'Bye, 'bye, then, Charlie!" said Belle. "I'll see you at Bloor's on Monday I'm going to be onthe green bus. Watch out for me."

    "I'll be on the blue bus. But I guess I'll see you some time."

    The strange girl smiled and tossed her golden curls. Her eyes were blue again.

    When Belle and Grandma Bone had gone, Charlie went to help Maisie with the dishes.

    "Where do the aunts live?" he asked Maisie.

    "Some big house at the end of one of those creepy alleys," said Maisie. "Darkly Wynd, I thinkthe road's called. Funny name. Maybe it's winding and twisty"

    "I've never been there."

    "Nor me," said Maisie. “And I certainly wouldn't want to." She handed him a bowl of leftovers."Here, take this to Runner. I don't know how long we're going to be able to keep this up.Grandma Bone's bound to smell a rat, you know"

    "As long as it's not a dog," said Charlie, trying to make light of the problem.

    Maisie just shook her head.

    On Sunday Charlie managed to sneak Runner Bean in and out of the house before Grandma Bone wokeup. They had a good race around the park, and then Charlie fried bacon and eggs for theirbreakfast. Apart from a brief run in the garden after dark, Runner Bean spent the rest of theday on Charlie's bed.

    On Monday morning, Charlie's mother promised to take the dog for a walk when she got back fromwork, and Maisie agreed to keep him fed. But as Charlie got ready for school he began to worry

    "You must keep quiet," he told Runner Bean. "No barking, understand? I'll see you on Friday"

    With mournful eyes the big dog watched Charlie close the door between them.

    As Charlie and his friend Fidelio walked up the steps to Bloor's Academy Fidelio said, "There'sa very pretty girl trying to get your attention."

    "Oh." Charlie turned to see Belle looking up at him from the bottom of the steps.

    "Hello, Belle. This is Fidelio," he said.

    Belle gave Fidelio a dazzling smile. "I see you're in music. Violin?" She nodded at the caseFidelio was carrying.

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