A masked man searches a ground floor flat,
After finding the door key under the mat.
He ransacks the place, making barely a sound
But the object he seeks cannot be found.
Outside, a car gives a warning hoot,
And the masked man leaves without any loot.
Soon after, a young policeman walks in.
Joe Kelly's first mystery is about to begin.
JOGGING JOE KELLY AND THE MISSING PROFESSOR. CHAPTER 1.
A tea-stained start
For young jogging Joe.
His mum is all heart
And the dog's far from slow.
It was raining hard against the double glazed bedroom window. Although the blue, flowery curtains were closed, a dull light began to spread into the room. The faint outlines of shelves could just be seen. They covered most of the wall space and were crammed with books of all colours and sizes. Novels and encyclopedias as well as piles of magazines were stacked on the shelves in no particular order. It was a librarian's nightmare.
Against one wall, where bookshelves did not rule completely, stood an occupied bed covered by a green speckled duvet. A faint snoring could just be heard coming from beneath it.
Suddenly, the bedroom door was flung open and a small, middle-aged woman in a purple dressing gown strode purposefully into the room. She seized the snoring duvet and pulled it back with a mighty tug. A vaguely human shape lay curled up on the bed, wearing only grey jogging pants and blue socks.
"Joe!," exclaimed the woman in her warm Irish accent , "I'm not going to call you again. If you don't get a move on , you'll be late for school." Without waiting for a response, she left the room, muttering to herself.
By now, the strange form on the bed had stopped snoring and began to appear more human as it uncurled itself. Joe Kelly was on the move. He pulled the duvet back over himself and gave a big yawn.
"Tea must be on the way up soon," he said to himself hoarsely.
Right on cue, Joe's mum, reappeared with a mug of tea in her hand.
"Now you gulp that down and get moving," she ordered. "I'm sending Oscar up to shift you in two minutes," she warned with a sly smile as she left the room.
"No problem!" Joe shouted after her." I can handle him," he said defiantly. He eased himself up in bed and sipped the tea gratefully.
"This tea has got to be, the best drink of the day for me," he declared to a poster of Liz McColgan, the famous runner, pinned to the back of his door. Just as he was dreaming about beating Liz in a race, his mother's voice drifted up the stairs.
"Joe, Oscar is on his way up to shift you, right now." There was suddenly the sound of paws scrambling on the landing. Too late, Joe tried to get out of bed. A brown and white Springer Spaniel shot into the room and, without hesitation, leapt directly onto Joe. He roared as hot tea splashed down his bare chest. Then, the cup went flying into the bookshelves. Oscar licked Joe's face lovingly.
"Good morning to you too," blubbered Joe as he tried to pull the dog away from his slippery, wet face. Oscar re-launched his assault and they both fell backwards off the bed. Joe's strangled voice could be heard from behind the bed.
"That's another cup of tea, that you owe me,
but you're one of a kind and I don't mind."
At the breakfast table, Joe slurped his cornflakes whilst reading from a thick pad of notes. He was blissfully unaware of the milk dripping off his spoon and onto his clean school trousers.
"Is it History today Joe?," his mother asked as she poured pink biscuits into Oscar's bowl.
"That's right Mum," he replied without looking up."Four questions in three hours. Another tough paper," he added with a slight frown. Mrs Kelly sat down at the table and poured herself a cup of tea."Well, you've certainly studied hard enough for it," she said encouragingly.
"I hope so Mum," said Joe, looking up at her with a smile on his freckled face."At least it's the last exam, then I just have to wait around and stew like everyone else until the results come out in August." Mrs Kelly nodded.
"At least you'll be able to take a rest son,"she said comfortingly." She sat quietly for a few minutes, sipping
her tea and watching her boy having a last read of his
"Have you given any more thought to what you're going to do after the results come out?"She asked quietly. Joe looked up at her from his notepad slowly.
"Like I said before Mum, I want to take some time off before I make any big decisions, no matter how my results turn out.
"His mother nodded thoughtfully.
"That's grand, that's grand...but don't leave things for too long son. I bring the only wage into this house and I need to know how things stand."Joe nodded knowingly.
"Whatever I decide, I'm not going to let you down Mum, you know that."
Mrs Kelly reached across and ruffled Joe's uncombed hair affectionately. "Sure but,I know that fine, you eejit," she said mockingly.
A plastic cuckoo suddenly shot out of the Kelly's kitchen clock, announcing the half hour. Oscar barked at the interruption. Mrs Kelly stood up stiffly and started to clear away the breakfast things.
"Time you were making a move," she suggested. Joe got up from the table and reached for his coat behind the chair.
"You'll need a brolly as well," his mother warned. Oscar crept alongside Joe and pushed his cold wet nose against Joe's leg, as though wishing him luck. Joe responded by stroking under the dog's chin. "Thanks boy," he whispered.
Mrs Kelly handed Joe a rolled up umbrella and gave him a kiss. "Just do your best son," she said with a smile.
A surprise lift to school
Helps Joe on his way.
Nurse Tina acts cool;
Joe's unsure what to say.
It was still raining heavily as Joe walked to school clutching his red umbrella. He was deep in thought about the forthcoming exam. He had studied hard for it, as his mother had said. To Joe, it was like training for a race which would make him wait a long time for the result. As a keen runner, he knew all about training for events. With his tall, lean build, Joe was one of those natural athletes, or so his P.E. teacher kept telling him.
Splash! A passing car hit a puddle, sending dirty droplets onto Joe's black school trousers. The car, a red Mini, pulled in just ahead of him and the passenger door flew open.
"You look as though you need a lift," shouted a voice from inside the car. Without hesitation, Joe lowered the umbrella and tumbled into the passenger seat, closing the door as he went. The driver, an attractive, dark-skinned girl, punched his arm playfully as he fumbled with the seat belt.
"Ouch," gasped Joe, pretending to be hurt, "that's my writing arm."
"Oh, you poor thing," the girl remarked mockingly. "May I give the exam wonder boy a lift to school?" she asked. Before Joe could answer, she accelerated the car away from the kerb at high speed causing him to fall back in his seat."Nice to see you too Tina," he said with a nervous grin.
"So what is it today Joe?"asked Tina as she swerved to avoid a yellow vested cyclist.
"History, if I can get to school in one piece," he said with a smirk. She punched him again on the arm.
"Cheeky boy," she said and hit the brakes as a traffic light changed to red."Are you feeling nervous?"she asked, giving him a quick glance.
"I'll be alright once I get out...ouch."He winced as Tina hit his arm yet again.
"I'm talking about your exam, you dummy, not my creative driving,"she said, pretending to feel insulted.
"Oh, you know how it is."Joe replied, still rubbing his arm."A touch of nerves keeps you on your toes."
"Just like before a race," observed Tina, for she too was quite a good runner.
"Exactly",agreed Joe,"except I don't usually get beaten up before my races".He suddenly fell back in his seat again as Tina accelerated the car away from a now green traffic light.
"I haven't seen you at the club lately,"remarked Joe. "How is hospital life for a student nurse these days?"
"Tough, stressful, tiring.." She would have continued but Joe cut in".O.K., I get the picture." He saw that she was no longer smiling."I just hope that it's not getting too much for you," he said in a more concerned voice.
"Nothing that I can't handle," she said, suddenly cheering up as she brought the car to a screeching halt outside the school. "There you are young sir, a perfect delivery". Joe decided not to contradict her as he needed his arm for writing.
"Thanks Tina," he said as he undid the seat belt. She leaned over and gave him a kiss on the cheek.
"That's for luck Joe," she said. Joe looked at her and blushed.
"I..I can't fail after that," he said in an unsteady voice, and gave her hand a squeeze."I'll call you soon," he said as he got out of the car.
"Don't forget your brolly,"she called after him. As he leaned in to take the umbrella, Tina kissed him full on the lips."Now you can't fail," she whispered. Joe, for the first time that day, was lost for words. Aware of a small crowd of first year boys watching him, Joe just smiled sheepishly and closed the car door. Tina hooted the horn twice as she pulled the car away from the wet kerb.
Joe sits his test
And thinks it's a race,
With no time to rest,
Keeping up a great pace.
The exam hall was divided into long rows of single desks. Joe entered with other pupils, all anxiously looking for the desks with their own numbers on them. Joe was one of the last to find his place. Several teachers began to distribute the exam papers. A heavy silence fell upon the hall. Only the patter of rain on the roof and the steady ticking of the hall clock could be heard. The teacher in charge, Mr Johnson, stood at the front of the desks."You have three hours,"he declared firmly. "Begin."
Joe began to read the questions carefully, just as his teachers had always advised. His race had started. Each question was a hurdle to be overcome. A long run up was needed for each one. Only three hours to tackle them all. Joe's concentration poured into each question. He sometimes glanced up at the clock but he gradually became less aware of anything else beyond his exam paper. His writing filled page after page with arguments and facts about Hitler, Stalin, Pearl Harbour and many other people and events. Joe checked the clock again. Only forty minutes to go. Paper. He needed more paper. His arm went up. A teacher quickly brought him some sheets. He continued to work. Ten minutes to go. The finish line was in sight but he was feeling very tired now. Answering each question was draining him .The final one was the hardest. Joe's mind began to wander. Tina's kiss, Oscar and the spilt tea. His mum looking at him over her tea cup. Stop it. He had to concentrate. Aching fingers gripping the pen. Almost there. Writing down bullet points to save time. Finished! He put down his pen and once more became aware of his surroundings and the sound of rain on the roof and the hall clock ticking.
"Stop writing please," Mr Johnson ordered.
It was only when Joe had stepped outside of the hall that he really felt the strain of his three hour effort. He strolled through the main exit with the other candidates. Outside, the mixture of raindrops and cool, fresh air began to clear his head. Joe chatted for a while with the others. The strained look began to leave their faces. After a few farewells, Joe headed for home and a much needed cup of tea.
Watch out for the one
Who runs into this man.
She can't be outrun
And succeeds in her plan.
Less than two miles from where Joe was leaving his school, a short, stocky man in a blue overcoat came out of a noisy pub. It had just stopped raining and he breathed in the cool air gratefully. He decided that the short walk to his flat would do him good. He slowly did up his coat, adjusted his grip on his black brief case and walked briskly but a little unsteadily down the street. He splashed through puddles recklessly, occasionally looking over his shoulder.
Ahead of him, a young woman in a green tracksuit appeared from around a corner. She had long golden hair which tumbled loosely around her shoulders as she jogged steadily towards him. Instinctively, the man moved towards the kerb to let her pass on the inside. At the same time, he felt uneasy at her approach. Silly, really, he thought.It was only a girl. The brandy that he had in the pub must have gone to his head. The girl was almost alongside of him. She looked up and smiled. He smiled back but his expression suddenly changed to one of pain as her fist slammed into his ample stomach. He slowly collapsed into a gasping heap on the damp pavement.
Somebody shouted. Calmly, the girl wrenched the briefcase from the groaning man's hand. Again there was a shout. She looked round and saw a policeman running towards her. She waved her arm in the air, as if in farewell. Instantly, a black saloon car pulled up alongside of her with the rear door flung open. She threw herself in and the car sped away. As the girl looked back, she saw the policeman kneeling by her victim who was still gasping for breath.
Joe's home and free
To arrange a night run.
Mr Smith drinks his tea
But his visitor's no fun.
It was just beginning to rain again as Joe arrived home. Both his mother and Oscar appeared in the hallway to greet him. "How did it go son?" asked Mrs Kelly. Oscar reached up to Joe on two legs as if asking the same thing. Joe patted the spaniel's head and sighed wearily.
"I think I did well enough for a good grade Mum, but that was definitely the hardest exam of the lot," he replied.
"And the last, son,"said Mrs Kelly as she took his coat and umbrella, "and the last."
Joe nodded in agreement. "Any tea on the go, Mum?" He asked with a tired smile.
"You betcha, son,"Mrs Kelly declared firmly, and strode off purposefully towards the kitchen. Joe went into the living room and eased himself into his favourite armchair. Oscar was content just to sit inside the door. Suddenly, the phone rang in the hallway. "Get that Joe," shouted his mother from the kitchen. He gave Oscar another pat on the head as he walked to the phone.
"Barry, you old sheepdog!", exclaimed Joe as he answered the phone."My exam? Yes,I think it went alright but I only just made it through the last question,"he said. "A run this evening? Sure, let's go for it", he answered decisively."I'll even tell you about my lift to school," he added.
An exhausted looking man lay on a spotless couch as a young, equally tired looking doctor finished his examination.
"No major injuries, Mr Smith,"said the doctor."Just some bruising to your abdomen and that nasty graze on your forehead when you hit the ground." The man, Smith, nodded briefly in response.
"When can I leave, Doctor?" he asked hoarsely.
"Oh, just as soon as the nurse has fixed you up a bit," answered the doctor with a weary smile."There's also a policeman waiting to ask you questions about the assault, but I'm sure he can hold on for a bit longer until you feel up to it.I told him to go and try a coffee from our machine downstairs." he added. Again Smith nodded. "Thanks doctor,"he said with a brief smile.The doctor pulled back one of the green curtains that surrounded Smith's couch and walked out. Smith could see and hear a lot of activity beyond the curtain. He looked around his couch and saw his jacket and shoes on a brown plastic chair. He tried to sit up but winced as the ache in his stomach increased. The blonde runner had done her work well, he thought.
A young , dark- skinned, nurse came in with a tray. He could suddenly smell antiseptic."I'm just going to clean that graze," she announced, and went quickly to work. He winced as the antiseptic stung his hot forehead."All done," declared the nurse."Now you just lie back and I'll bring you in a cup of tea." She went out and again, Smith looked at his things on the chair. The nurse returned shortly with the tea and helped him to sit up, propping a pillow behind his head."I'll leave you to it for a while," she said, about to leave."Oh, I nearly forgot. Your sister phoned about you."
Smith suddenly turned quite pale."Sister?" he said curiously. "But I have no.."He stopped himself from finishing the sentence.The cup and saucer began to rattle in his hand as he put them down on the tray.
"Yes, that's right," continued the nurse, overlooking his odd response."She said she'll be here as soon as possible".
Smith glanced at her name badge."Nurse Tina?," he said in an inquiring voice.
"Yes, patient Smith?,"she replied, copying his tone with a smile. He half grinned, apologetically.
"Sorry... Tina.I was going to ask if you could give me my jacket for a moment. As she handed him the jacket, he asked;"Do you know this town well?"
"I've only lived here for most of my short, sweet life ",she said, smiling curiously at his question. He beckoned her towards him, glancing at the curtain as he did so.
A few minutes later, Tina drew back the curtain and left Smith alone. She was in deep thought and nearly collided with a tall blonde woman in a smart grey suit. "I'm looking for Mr Smith," she said in a slightly foreign accent.
Tina pointed back towards the green curtained cubicle. "He's in there, but try not to over-
excite him. He's had a bit of a rough time."
"Oh, I wont keep him long," replied the woman with a hint of a smile.
"A real stunner of a sister," Tina said to herself as she walked away. The woman entered Smith's cubicle and pulled the curtain.
"I thought it might be you again," said Smith nervously. "I take it that you didn't find what you were looking for in my briefcase". He saw the woman produce a shiny metallic instrument from her jacket pocket and walk towards him.
"Where is it?"she asked menacingly. Smith began to ease himself off the couch. He pointed to his jacket, draped over the chair.
"No tricks," warned the woman as she lifted up the jacket. Smith sat on the edge of the couch with his head bowed as she searched the jacket pockets. Suddenly, he charged towards the cubicle curtain. As he shot past the woman he felt a sharp pain in his arm which made him cry out. He crashed into the curtain.
A run up the hill
With Barry,Joe's mate,
Gives them both a big thrill
And Mr Smith's in a state.
"Come on, Kelly, move yourself!" shouted Joe's friend, Barry. Joe struggled to take up the challenge, but he couldn't seem to close the gap on his speeding partner. The exam, earlier in the day had taken too much out of him, but Barry had no sympathy.
"Time out," gasped Joe .Ahead, he could just make out Barry under the orange street lamps , coming to a halt. He trotted casually back towards Joe, who was squatting on his heels taking deep breaths.
"I don't know," Barry declared."One little exam and a kiss from that nutty Tina and you're out of action."Joe muttered something under his breath which Barry was lucky enough not to hear. "Just give me a minute, sheepdog," pleaded Joe, breathing heavily. He stood up slowly and did some stretching exercises. His tall, lean figure looked odd alongside Barry's short but muscular frame. Barry pushed his thick red hair back from his shiny forehead but as usual, it fell down over his eyes again. This was how his school friends came to call him sheepdog. Seeing that Joe was recovering, he gave him a gentle pat on the back and ran slowly ahead .
"O.K.Joe, you can set the pace for the run back home," said Barry, generously.
"Right, and we'll go back by way of Hospital Hill," announced Joe, avoiding eye contact with Barry who was starting to grin knowingly.
"Tina wont be very impressed if she sees you running like that tonight," Barry commented. Joe suddenly shot past him with a burst of speed. "Come on sheepdog, move yourself!" he shouted.
As the two boys approached Hospital Hill a few minutes later, they slowed down and increased their arm movements to cope with the steep climb. The lights of the general hospital which stood on the summit grew brighter. Barry suddenly pointed ahead of them. In the distance, a group of figures were streaming out of the hospital driveway and heading towards them. The boys stopped to get a better view. "They certainly don't look dressed for running," commented Joe.
In the lead was a man running barefoot in shirt and trousers. Catching him up fast was a tall, blonde woman in a smart skirt and jacket, also barefoot.
"Now that's what I call a running partner," said Barry admiringly.
Behind the woman, they could now make out a uniformed policeman and what looked like several doctors and nurses.
"Must be some kind of charity event," said Joe."Let's press on and ignore them." Barry suddenly grabbed his arm.
"Wait a bit," he whispered."Look at him." Barry was referring to the state of the man leading the strange race. As he drew nearer, they could see him nursing his left arm, just above the wrist. A dark stain covered the sleeve. They saw a look of pain mixed with fear in his face as he ran towards them.
"This guy needs help," observed Joe as the man reached them.
"Don't let her get me," gasped the man, suddenly clutching at Joe for support. Then, he took a quick look behind and tore off down the hill. Before they could speak, the woman, with a fierce look in her eyes, was about to pass them, still in pursuit. Joe suddenly dropped to his knees in front of her. She hit him at full speed and flew straight over his crouched form, landing heavily on her hands and knees. "Whoops!"said Joe quietly.
"Way to go, Joe!"roared Barry. The laughter vanished from his face as the woman suddenly gave him an evil look and then transferred it to Joe.
"I'll remember you," she growled at Joe as she got to her feet. They could see that both her knees were bleeding through ripped tights but incredibly, she continued her pursuit of the man with no loss of speed.
"I reckon she fancies you Joe," Barry joked. Joe was about to give him a strong reply when a policeman ran up to them."I saw that," he gasped."You two stay here until I get back."He continued to run down the hill.
"I don't like the sound of that,"declared Barry.
"You're right," said Joe."Let's head for home, and you can set the pace." Barry gave a mock bow to his friend and they continued their uphill run. As they headed towards the hospital they noticed that the other pursuers had given up and were walking back to the driveway.
"You've no staying power," Barry shouted to a couple of breathless nurses. Wisely, he didn't wait to hear their replies.
Smith had reached the bottom of the hill but he knew that he couldn't run much further. His legs felt like jelly, he had a pain in his stomach and his arm ached from the cut the woman had given him at the hospital. As he turned a corner, a black saloon car pulled up alongside of him. The back passenger door swung open.
"Want a lift?" inquired a male voice from inside. Smith stopped uncertainly. Breathing heavily, he bent down to look in the car. Immediately, he felt some sort of spray sting his face. He cried out in agony, clutching his eyes. The woman suddenly appeared behind him, pushed him into the back of the car and got in herself."Drive", she ordered as she slammed the door. As the car accelerated, she looked back in time to see the figure of a policeman reach the bottom of the hill. "Too late again my friend," she said.
The Inspector finds out
That all is not well.
Smith's not about;
Things look bad for a spell.
Outside the hospital, two police cars were parked in the forecourt, their flashing lights making dancing patterns on the walls and windows. An old white Metro suddenly pulled up behind one of them. The driver, a lean faced man with eyes red rimmed from lack of sleep, wound down his window as a policeman approached.
"Hello young Michael," said the driver. "I hear that some strange people have been running around in the dark."
The policeman gave a trace of a smile as he answered.
"You could say that, sir, and we're still looking for some of them."
"Including Smith ?"queried the driver.
"I'm afraid so, sir," said the officer with a sigh. The man got slowly out of the car, stretched his arms and
"Is Hawkins around?" he asked casually.
"Interviewing witnesses sir. Shall I take you in?" offered the policeman. His superior nodded and they entered the busy hospital reception area.
"Good evening Inspector," called one of the receptionists as they passed the main desk."How's the back problem?"
"Still terrible, Sophie," he called back without stopping."I can't wait to retire," he added.
"That'll be the day," she responded cheerfully.
The young policeman led him to a small office next to the reception desk. The Inspector nodded his thanks and went in. A young man in a shabby anorak over his crumpled suit was taking notes from Tina, who sat perched on a small desk, twiddling her thumbs. The man looked up in surprise. "Hello Inspector Corrigan, I didn't know that you were coming down here."
"Just trying to help you sort out this little mess, Hawkins," answered the Inspector grimly. He nodded to
She smiled briefly."Can I get you a chair
Inspector?" she offered, noticing his tired face. He shook his head and leaned against a filing cabinet."Right Hawkins," he sighed,"Let's hear the bedtime story."
"I'm afraid that you're not going to like it much
sir," said Hawkins.
"Try me then," Corrigan replied.
Hawkins suddenly looked at Tina.
"Could you tell Mr Corrigan what you just told me?" he requested.
Tina gave a slight nod and sighed.She too was tired.
"Well, I directed a young woman claiming to be Mr Smith's sister to his cubicle. I went away to fetch some bedpans and there was this loud scream. I looked down the ward and saw Smith charging out of the cubicle, clutching his left arm. He paused to grab a cleaner's trolley and he rammed it straight into the woman as she tried to follow. Then, he took off out of the ward."
"And the woman?" prompted Corrigan.
"Oh, she pushed the trolley to one side, in a terrible temper, her face all scarlet and muttering something in a foreign language, then she ran off after Smith".
"Some of the staff tried to follow them, sir,"added Hawkins.
Corrigan nodded understandingly. "Thank you nurse," he said to Tina. "That'll be all for now. I'd also be grateful if we could use this office for a bit longer." She nodded and went out.
Corrigan looked at Hawkins sternly."You were supposed to keep an eye on Smith," he said sternly. "Especially after his flat was burgled yesterday."
"I sent P.C.Murray to the hospital as soon as I heard about the attack in the street,"Hawkins said defensively.
"So what happened to Murray?" demanded the Inspector.
"He went to get a coffee downstairs whilst waiting to interview Smith. Next thing he knew, Smith was running out the main door, followed by the woman." He hesitated nervously.
"Well?" roared Corrigan.
"Murray went after them down the hill. He saw two lads trip the woman for some reason and he told them to stay put. The woman kept on after Smith so Murray continued to follow. Unfortunately, at the bottom of the hill, a car picked them up and he lost them...sir," Hawkins finished nervously.
"Number plate?"asked Corrigan wearily.
"It all happened too fast sir."
"The two lads?"
"Disappeared sir," said Hawkins without looking up.
Corrigan sat on the edge of the desk and loosened his tie."See if you can find me a cup of tea, Hawkins," he sighed."It's going to be a long night."
Joe watches t.v.,
It's the X-Files show,
But Tina wont agree;
There's a mystery on the go.
Joe slumped into his favourite easy chair, fumbling with the t.v. remote control box.He was counting the seconds until the X-Files came on. This was to be his reward at the end of a tough day.Oscar came in and jumped up on his chest. Joe gave a pretend groan. Mrs Kelly also entered, carrying a tray with tea and freshly baked cakes.
"Here's a little treat to celebrate your last exam son,"she announced. Joe's hand was just reaching for the nearest cake when the door bell rang.
"Let's go and see who that is Oscar,"said Mrs Kelly, leaving the tray at Joe's mercy.He suddenly remembered his television appointment and pressed the remote button.The introduction was just finishing when his mother returned.
"You've got a visitor son,"she announced.
Joe twisted round to see Tina standing above him."Hello, exam boy,"she said, patting him on the head. She gave her coat to Mrs Kelly. Joe noticed that she was still wearing her nurse's uniform and that she looked very tired. Mrs Kelly guided her to the sofa. "Sit yourself down my dear",she said quietly."I'll go and fetch another cup."
"Good to see you again so soon," grinned Joe."Have a cake." She accepted his offer and leaned back on the sofa, munching the cake thoughtfully.
"How was your exam?,"she asked,looking vaguely at the X-Files episode on the television.
"It was a tough event,"said Joe with his mouth full of cake,"but I got through it....ow!" His mother was hitting him over the head with a cushion.
"Just you turn that telly off when we have a guest,Joe Kelly!"she ordered.The t.v. suddenly went off.
Mrs Kelly handed Tina a steaming mug of tea and another cake.
"That's wonderful Mrs K."said Tina gratefully.
"No more t.v.!"she hissed at Joe as she left the room, with Oscar following.
"So how was your day, nurse?"asked Joe as he slurped his tea.
"Very interesting", she replied, looking at him curiously.
"Were you and Barry out running near the hospital tonight?" she asked him suddenly.Joe squirmed uneasily in his chair.
"Yes, I think we did run near there," he replied without looking at her, inspecting the cakes. Tina leaned over and put her hand on his knee.
"Why don't you tell me what you got up to on the hill tonight," she whispered. Joe dropped his cake.
When Joe had finished telling his story, Tina put down her now empty mug and sat back again. "I think I'd have done the same to that woman," she said thoughtfully."I only saw Smith briefly but he seemed O.K.to me."
"Do the Police know what happened to him?" asked Joe.
"He was last seen being pushed into the back of a car," said Tina, repeating what Hawkins had told her.
"I wonder why she was so desperate to get at him," said Joe, frowning up at the ceiling. Tina was about to say something but changed her mind.
"Bad business," murmured Joe."That woman looked really mean.I hope they find the guy in time."
"You could help them," said Tina."Go down to the police station first thing in the morning."
Joe scowled uncertainly and rubbed his chin, thinking it over.
"Take that daft Barry with you," she suggested. There was no love lost between Tina and Barry.
"O.K."said Joe, grudgingly."But I can't tell them much."
"Just do it!"said Tina irritably.
Mrs Kelly walked in carrying the teapot."Who's shouting for more tea?" she asked cheerfully.
Joe saw Tina to the door and they kissed briefly. She suddenly took his hand and pushed a small card into it.
"When you've finished with the Police, you and Barry can do a bit of your own detective work on this card," she whispered into his ear. Puzzled, Joe looked down at the card that she had placed in his hand. It was pale green with one corner neatly sliced off. A few written lines were printed on one side.
Harriet's Health Food Parlour.
"I don't get it," murmured Joe.
"Find out the address, stupid," she suggested patiently.
"Where did it come from ?"inquired Joe.
"Mr Smith," she replied.
"You should be coming with us to the Police," he said ,pulling her arm gently. Tina shook her head.
"I can't. Not yet. Smith made me promise." She brushed off his hand and opened the front door." Besides, this could be our very own X-File mystery," she said with a parting smile.
The Police are told
Of Joe's run last night.
Tina strikes gold;
Her answers are in sight.
The following day, Joe and Barry went to the Police station, along with Mrs Kelly, who was far from pleased with Joe's part in the previous night's events on Hospital Hill.
After a mild telling off from a still weary Inspector Corrigan for running away from the scene, Joe and Barry gave statements to P.C.Murray. He was more sympathetic and gave them tea and biscuits in the interview room.
As they came out of the Police station, Mrs Kelly was shaking her head. "I'm just glad that your father is no longer with us to see you at this place," she muttered.Then, she glanced up at Joe with a sudden smile. "Make sure you take Oscar for his walk at lunchtime," she reminded him."I'm away to the shops." Joe nodded and walked off with Barry.
"And don't go chasing any blonde women," Mrs Kelly shouted back at them.
"Your mum's worse than you, Kelly," remarked Barry.
Joe just shrugged his shoulders."We'll go back to the house for a bite to eat if you like,"he suggested.Barry nodded his agreement."Then we've got to solve a mystery for Tina," he added.
Barry frowned."I thought she knew everything," he said mockingly. Joe dug him in the ribs, softly.
"I'll explain it on the way home, if you're a good boy."said Joe.
That evening, Tina parked her car in a narrow street on the outskirts of town. Joe sat next to her, folding away a map, whilst Barry, sitting in the back, regarded their surroundings.
"Looks a bit dead around here," he observed in a bored voice.
"You didn't have to come," said Tina moodily.
"Let's just get moving and see if the phone book address was right," suggested Joe, trying to keep the peace.
They got out and strolled casually up the poorly lit street. Television light flickered through closed curtains.
"No shops here," muttered Barry.
"Just keep looking for number twenty one," whispered Joe as a man walking his dog passed them without looking up.
"There!" Tina exclaimed, pointing suddenly."Next to that alleyway. I can see the name 'Harriet' on that window."
They walked rapidly towards a house at the end of the street. It looked like an old shop with a flat above it. Painted in yellow across the entire front window were the words: Harriet's Health Food Parlour.
Although the shop was obviously closed, they could see a light on upstairs. Tina pressed an illuminated doorbell, by the shop entrance. A girl's voice sang:
Chew your food,
Please munch away.
It will do you most good
Taken three times a day.
Joe and Barry jumped at the sudden sound, but Tina just laughed at them. "It's a doorbell chime, you dummies."
A light appeared inside the shop. The door was unlocked and it opened a fraction. "Yes, who is it?" inquired the same voice as the doorbell.
"We're friends of Mr Smith," answered Tina.
"So what?" replied the voice. "Why do you want me? Go away and eat proper food!" The door slammed shut.
"A nutcase," muttered Barry.
Tina fumbled in her bag, then turned to Joe. "Give me the card," she demanded. For a moment Joe looked puzzled. "Smith's card, you idiot," she hissed. Joe suddenly understood and produced the card from his pocket. She quickly pushed it through the letter box and rang the bell again. The bell chime ended and they waited in silence.
"Let's go home," suggested Barry.
Suddenly the door opened wide. A young woman in a red boiler suit and black beret stood in the light of the doorway. She returned the card to Tina. "He must be in trouble," she said. "I'm Harriet."
They were sitting in a cosy little room at the back of the shop. Against one wall, dozens of tin cans were stacked up in the form of a pyramid. Although Harriet had offered them a choice of twenty types of herbal tea, they had settled for instant coffee. Tina had just finished telling her of the events concerning Smith.
Tears welled up in Harriet's eyes. She pulled off her beret and took out a pink tissue, which she used to dab her eyes.
"No, I'll be alright in a minute," she sniffed as she noticed the concerned looks on the faces of the others.
"You see, he is my father," she explained.
Smith is shocked
Whilst tied to a chair.
His secret is unlocked
But the villains don't care.
Smith sat miserably, tied to a chair in the centre of what looked like an old garage. A dirty bandage had been put on his left forearm but a reddish stain was seeping through it. A light bulb flickered above his head. Beyond its circle of light, he could see only darkness. A door slammed and he heard footsteps approaching. The blonde woman, once again wearing her tracksuit, stepped into the light. "Time for another chat", she said as she walked behind his chair. He felt her strong fingers massaging his stiff shoulders. "Where is the rest of your formula, Professor?" she whispered into his ear. "We've already got some of it from your lab. Give me the rest and I 'll not only let you go free , but make sure that one million pounds is paid into your bank account."
Smith shook his head slowly. "A very generous offer, Miss, but it's too important to fall into your hands," he replied nervously. "Besides," he added, "there was very little of my formula work at the lab. You are just bluffing......aaah!"
He winced with pain as she buried her fingernails into his shoulders. Blood showed through his shirt.
"Still think I'm bluffing Professor?" she shouted into his ear. Smith just sagged against his ropes, moaning quietly. The woman stepped back from the chair.
"You have a try, Vince," she shouted. A powerfully built man in a leather jacket suddenly appeared under the light.
"That may not be necessary," said another voice. Vince and the woman suddenly looked round as a third figure, dressed in a shabby anorak stepped forward. Smith raised his head to look at the speaker and stiffened in surprise. "Detective Hawkins!" he exclaimed. "You're with these people?" he asked in disbelief.
"Your formula's worth more than my Police pension," Hawkins grinned. "Besides, there are other advantages in changing sides," he said as the blonde woman walked over and kissed him softly.
"What's your news?" she asked as she straightened his tie.
"Well," said Hawkins," there was no sign of the Professor's work at his flat, but I think I've found his other hiding place." He turned to look at Smith. "Our records show that he has a daughter. "Harriet, isn't it Professor?"
Smith suddenly struggled furiously against the rope knots and the chair creaked loudly. "You leave her alone, do you hear me?" he shouted.
"Gag him Vince, "ordered the woman.
Vince walked over and tied a dirty handkerchief over the Professor's mouth. The Professor continued to struggle.
"Is there an address?" asked the woman sharply.
Hawkins nodded. "I've even deleted it from the records. No one else knows.
"Let's get going," ordered the woman. "Vince, make sure his ropes are secure, then follow us. Good-bye for now Professor," she said as she walked away with Hawkins, leaving Smith gagged and still struggling in the rickety chair as Vince checked the knots.
As Harriet talks about her Dad,
Things start to look much clearer.
She's also feeling rather sad
And the villains are getting nearer.
Harriet was mopping coffee off the floor tiles with a grubby towel, thanks to Joe trying to demonstrate how he had tripped the woman chasing her father.
"I can't take you anywhere," Tina scowled at him.
Harriet smiled for the first time and sat down next to Barry on a battered couch.
"Dad is a professor of chemistry and food science," she began. Tina could see that she needed to talk about him in order to get over the news that they had brought her.
"His great dream is to feed the starving people of the world," she said proudly.
"Ambitious, isn't he?" muttered Barry. Tina gave him an angry look.
"I suppose some of his food ideas must have rubbed off on me," she continued, nodding her head towards the front of the shop.
"Dad helped me to set the shop up after Mum died," she said with a sigh.
"It's a bit out of the way though," Barry remarked, avoiding the hostile glances from both Tina and Joe.
"Yes, you're right," Harriet agreed, "but most of my sales are done through the Internet or mailorder. I don't expect many customers in person."
"About this card," queried Tina as she put it on the arm of her chair. Harriet glanced at it and frowned.
"I just put those in with the orders before I parcel them up," she explained. "That's why there's no address.
"Your one's a bit special though," she continued. "Torn at the edge. That's why I let you in really. It was a sort of signal from Dad."
Tina leaned forward. "So why did he give it to me?" she asked.
Harriet looked thoughtfully at the ceiling. "That woman is after one of Dad's projects. She stole his briefcase but it wasn't in there. His lab has already been broken into and searched. They may also have been to his flat by now. If nothing was found there, the woman probably decided to risk seeing him at the hospital".
"So he gave it to me to stop her from getting hold of it!", said Tina, excitedly.
Harriet nodded. "Otherwise I'd have been receiving a less pleasant visitor here."
"Probably more than one, "said Tina."I don't think she's working alone."
"So what happens now?" asked Joe anxiously.
Harriet got up and walked over to a small desk in the corner of the room. She rummaged through a transparent plastic folder and came back with a black disk. She handed it to Tina.
"It's a floppy," observed Barry."Any good games on it? "he asked with a grin.
Harriet shook her head. "It contains the whole of Dad's project formula."
"What was he working on?" asked Joe, sensing something special about the disk.
"Fertilisers," announced Harriet.
"Is that all! "exclaimed Barry." Come on guys, let's go home," he said moodily.
Harriet suddenly sat on his lap and waved the disk under his nose. "If this works, it will turn deserts into rich farmland and end world famine. Is that big enough for you?" she said harshly. Barry sat back and whistled.
"You've got lovely eyes when you're angry," he remarked.
Joe stood up, shaking his head. "If someone's trying to steal his formula, why didn't your Dad go to the Police?"
"He did," said Harriet, twisting round in Barry's lap. They put a watch on him after his lab was burgled but there was a limit to what they could do."
"That woman could even have tried to bribe one of the officers watching him," suggested Barry.
"That's going a bit far," Joe commented.
Barry looked at Tina. "Well, now that you've won the prize, what are you going to do with it," he asked.
Tina looked at the disk still in Harriet's hand. The doorbell suddenly sang.
Harriet got up from Barry's lap to answer it. "Wait!" Tina said abruptly. Harriet looked at her curiously.
"It could be the people who've taken your father. He may have been forced to tell them about you and the disk."
Harriet nodded and pushed the disk into her hand. She switched off the light. "Wait here," she whispered and crept out of the room. "What a girl," muttered Barry. She was back within two minutes. "There's a man and woman at the door, and I think that someone else is at the top of the alley smoking a cigarette," she whispered.
"I don't like it," muttered Tina.
"Are you in there Miss Smith? It's alright. We're the Police," called a man's voice, through the letterbox.
"I think that's sergeant Hawkins," said Tina with a sigh of relief. "Go ahead Harriet. He's genuine."
Joe switched the light back on. They sat down and waited. There was the sound of voices in the hallway. Footsteps approached. Harriet entered the room followed by Hawkins. "He's got some news about Dad," she said, smiling.
"Quite a crowd," remarked Hawkins as he looked round the room. "This is my colleague, P.C.Simmonds." The tall, blonde woman appeared behind him. "Hello again," she said, staring coldly at Joe.
There's trouble in the shop;
Our heroes are at risk.
Joe and Tina cannot stop;
They have to save the disk.
There was a moment of stunned silence at the appearance of the blonde woman. "They know who I am," she said calmly to Hawkins, trying not to alarm them. Hawkins nodded and seized Harriet's arm, twisting it painfully behind her back. She screamed but he clamped a gloved hand over her mouth. Barry and Joe stood up uncertainly. "Stay where you are," snapped the woman as she produced a small knife from her coat pocket.
"All we want is the Professor's complete formula," said Hawkins, excitedly. "We know he kept it here somewhere. Tell us or I'll break her arm," he warned.
"O.K.! You win," said Tina, taking the disk out of her bag. The blonde woman went over to her with a triumphant expression on her face. "At last," she said.
"Not yet though," said Tina. She suddenly threw the disk in Joe's direction. "Catch Joe!", she shouted.
Instantly, Joe reached out a long, skinny arm and caught the disk. At the same moment, Barry charged, head down into the side of Hawkins. Harriet used the opportunity to stamp repeatedly on Hawkins' foot with her wooden clogs. The three of them went crashing into the pyramid of silvery tin cans stacked against the wall which collapsed under the sudden impact.
Joe hesitated in the doorway. "Get the disk out!" shouted Tina. The blonde woman sprang at Joe, her knife at the ready, but before she could reach him, a silver can hit her on the side of the face and exploded, covering her in red liquid. She fell to the floor without a word.
"You've killed her, Harriet," exclaimed Barry. "She's covered in blood". Harriet knew better.
"Canned Mongolian strawberries," she explained. "They are all the rage."
Hawkins suddenly emerged from under the cans, also covered in liquid strawberry. "Vince! Vince! Get in here! "he shouted hysterically. Harriet pushed him back onto the mushy floor. "Stay there, you rotten brute!" she shouted at him.
"Oh dear," observed Tina as a large man appeared in the doorway holding what looked like a wooden club.
"Use the cans!" shouted Joe, grabbing one in each hand.
The others quickly did the same.
"Get the disk" burbled Hawkins through a mouthful of strawberry jam, pointing a crimson arm at Joe. He burbled even more as Harriet peeled the lid off a can and poured the contents over his head.
"Fire!" Joe shouted. A volley of cans showered onto Vince, exploding on impact and splattering him in red slime. He cringed, with his hands covering his shaven head.
"Reload" ordered Tina as she picked up more cans.
"Give it to him!" yelled Barry. A second wave hit Vince, this time mostly on his back, as he turned and ran. The conquerors gave a wild cheer. Roused by the noise, the now reddish blonde woman staggered to her feet, only to collapse, gasping, as Tina swung her bag into the woman's stomach."That one was for Smith," she declared as she removed a strawberry can from her bag.
"Quite a little party," said a voice from the doorway. Inspector Corrigan walked in, carefully avoiding the red puddles. He looked down at his semi-conscious sergeant covered in liquid strawberry. "Hawkins,"he said," you're nicked."
After a wash, there's tea and cakes
For our jammy young band.
There are plenty of answers, but Barry's heart aches,
As he's caught giving someone a hand.
The following evening, Mrs Kelly's living room was unusually crowded. Tina, Harriet and Barry sat on the sofa, while Inspector Corrigan and Professor Smith occupied the two big easy chairs. Joe and Michael, the young constable sat on two old dining chairs brought in by Mrs Kelly who, needless to say, was refilling everyone's cup from her special occasion shamrock patterned teapot. The Inspector was talking.
"So, when one of our patrol cars went to investigate a reported disturbance on the industrial estate, who should they find but the Professor, flat on his back, kicking the side out of an old garage."
"I..I.was so angry when I heard them mention going after Harriet, that I just had to get out and warn her." He explained shyly.
"Even though he was tied to a chair," added the Inspector.
"Good old Prof!" exclaimed Barry, instantly getting a shove from Harriet even though they were growing quite fond of each other.
"Once the Prof..er..Professor told us where you were, we headed straight for your shop," Corrigan explained to Harriet. "Although it didn't look as though you needed much help," he added with a slight grin.
"We were still glad to see you Inspector, "Tina commented.
"How is that arm of yours now my dear?" queried Mrs Kelly
as she refilled the Professor's cup. He raised his arm in response and pulled back his jacket sleeve to a reveal a clean dressing. "It's healing better than my shoulders, thank you," he answered politely as Mrs Kelly shoved another buttered scone onto his plate.
"Why were those people after the formula?" queried Joe, munching a freshly made sausage roll.
"Money," said the Professor harshly.
"They wanted to sell it to the highest bidder," explained the Inspector. "You see, there are lots of big businesses who would love to get hold of a formula that could make deserts fertile and put an end to famine. They wouldn't care about breaking the law to get it either."
"For their own profit, of course," added Tina bitterly.
Smith nodded slowly in agreement. "You are quite right my dear, but thanks to you, when I am satisfied it is ready, I shall give my formula to the whole world," he declared emotionally, almost knocking the plate and scone off his lap.
"So there's still some work to do on it then?" queried Barry.
"I'm afraid so," sighed the Professor. "I don't think Hawkins and his friends would have been as rich as they intended," he added.
"Well, he won't need any money in prison," observed the Inspector. "Nor will his girlfriend, Simmonds."
"Do you think she was using him?" asked Tina .
"Probably," answered the Inspector, as Mrs Kelly refilled his cup.
"Hawkins was supposed to have been watching over the Professor. He had access to all the necessary information to get the formula, and she knew it. She was even an ex-policewoman herself, from Poland of all places"
"So I take it that her real name isn't Simmonds, then" observed Tina.
Corrigan nodded as he sipped his tea. "We're still checking with Interpol on that," he confirmed.
"What about the other guy?" asked Joe. "Vince?"
"He was just hired muscle, but he decided to resign when you lot went for him. Luckily, young Michael here tackled him as he was leaving the shop."
Michael reddened as all eyes turned towards him.
Mrs Kelly suddenly appeared again with another pot of tea and a further tray of cakes. "Now who's first for a refill?" she asked.
Only Joe and Michael responded at first but she quickly persuaded the others.
"You're a lucky man to have a mum like that," declared the Professor.
"Don't I know it," agreed Joe. He suddenly glanced at Tina and winked before turning to Barry.
"Fancy a run tomorrow, Barry?" he asked casually.
Barry gave a cough as he released Harriet's hand. "Er not tomorrow, thanks, Joe," he spluttered.
"Why' s that then Barry?" inquired Tina with a mischievous look.
"I'm er..helping Harriet clean her place up...you know...all that strawberry jam,"he attempted to explain.
"Ah, love is blind," declared Mrs Kelly. "Isn't that right Joe?" she added slyly, turning the attention on her son.
It was Joe's turn to go red, but in a way, Oscar saved him by jumping up on his lap, spilling his tea and sending cakes tumbling to the floor. As the laughter subsided, Joe rubbed his tea-soaked hands through the dog's fur.
"Oscar, you're one of a kind," Joe announced as the spaniel finished off the cake crumbs on the carpet.As Oscar paused to look up at him, Joe got down on his hands and knees beside him. "But I don't mind," Joe whisperedinhisear.
Look out for the next story: Jogging Joe Kelly and the School Secret.
Raymond Harris. Copyright March 2013. All rights reserved.