Book 3: Free Chapters!

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1. A Great Day Out

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky, and Peter Black was sitting on a sun lounger watching the birds and squirrels hopping and running about the garden.  It was late June but it was so hot that it was like the south of France in August.  Peter had recently turned thirteen, in the middle of May, and he was thinking about how generous everyone had been on his birthday – he’d never received so many cards and presents before.  The fact that he’d now helped to defeat two major crime rings and become quite famous was probably something to do with that, but even so he was very grateful to everyone who’d thought about him.

“Hey, Peter!” came a familiar voice.

Peter glanced up towards the house and saw a mass of ginger hair reflecting the sun’s light.  James hadn’t had a haircut for months.  “Hello James” he replied.  “Aren’t you getting hot under all that hair?”

“Oh, not really” answered James.  “I think it’s looking pretty good.”

“It’s looking scruffy” said Peter.  “And you’re getting spotty, too.”

Peter was right.  James was twelve now and even though many kids would get spots at that age, the fact that his hair was long wasn’t helping.

“I don’t really care” said James.  “Hannah likes it, and that’s all that matters.”

Peter grinned at his brother, wondering how he’d become so confident.  “Well, good for you then” he said.  “I hope you’re very happy together.”

“We’re not together!” protested James.  “We’re just good friends.”

“Hmmm.  It doesn’t quite sound that way to me” said Peter.  “She seems like a very good friend.”

“Alright, so I like her a lot” said James.  “Now leave me alone!  There’s more to life than reading books and solving crimes, you know.”  Although he was so scruffy, he wandered off down the garden with a ridiculous sense of pride.

Peter just laughed – James had a way of making everything funny.

The next moment, Peter’s youngest brother Rowan and his little sister Lucy both appeared at the bottom of the garden.  They’d been out all morning at the park – their mum had recently decided they were old enough to go there without her so long as they stayed together.

“Hi Peter!” called Lucy, running across the lawn to him; but Rowan was distracted because he’d seen someone he knew who happened to be walking by.

“Leave me alone” replied Peter, knowing what Lucy was going to say.  She’d been complaining all the previous day that she wasn’t being involved enough in the criminal investigations which Peter and his brothers had been working on.

“Why should I leave you alone?” asked Lucy.  “I’m your sister!  Aren’t you going to tell me what you’re thinking about?  Is there some new crime which you’re trying to solve that you haven’t mentioned yet?”

“No” replied Peter, in the most boring voice possible.  “The school holidays have just begun, it’s a lovely sunny day and there’s no reason why we should be thinking about solving crime.  It’s time to relax and do nothing for a while – alright?”

Lucy sighed and turned back to see Rowan who was walking towards her.  “Rowan!” she called.  “What are you doing today?”

Rowan glanced up, but he didn’t look very happy at all.  “I was hoping to go round to Ian’s house today” he said.  “He’s got a new computer game which I’ve got to play!”

“So what’s happened?” asked Lucy, who wanted to know everything in great detail.

“It’s not fair” sighed Rowan.  “I’ve just seen Ian’s brother.  Their sister had an accident this morning – she was washing up, she smashed a glass and cut her hand.  Ian had to go to the doctor with her.”

“Oh well!” chirped Lucy.  “It’s such a nice day – why would you want to be stuck indoors on a stupid computer?  Besides, I thought after all that stuff with…”  She stopped as she remembered Ernest Foley and his horrible gang of criminals, then shivered with fear.

“You mean Mr. Foley?” asked Rowan, and Lucy nodded slowly.  “Don’t worry about him” continued Rowan.  “He’s been locked up in prison now.”

“I suppose so” said Lucy, but she was obviously still quite upset by everything that had happened all those months ago.

James wandered up to join them, and Rowan laughed when he saw him.

“What’s so funny?” asked James.

“Oh, come on!” said Rowan.  “You look like you’ve got a dead guinea pig on your head.”  Rowan used to have a pet guinea pig, so he knew what he was talking about.

“Why is everyone intent on ridiculing my hair?” asked James.  “It’s my choice if I want to let it grow a bit.”

“Of course, of course” said Rowan, but then Lucy started to giggle.

“I’ve had enough of this!” snorted James.  He turned away from them and headed towards the house, wondering what to do next.  As James disappeared into the kitchen, Rowan looked back down at Peter who had shut his eyes.

“So are you just staying out here all day?” asked Rowan.

“I think I will” said Peter.  “It’s great to do absolutely nothing for a change.”

“You’ll get bored” said Rowan, and Peter opened one eye.

“What makes you say that?” he asked.

“Oh, come on!” said Rowan, again.  It was his new catchphrase, which sometimes got quite irritating.  “I know you well, Peter.  Your mind never stops working.  How can you do nothing?!”

“Well… Just watch me” said Peter, intent on sticking to his plan.

“Alright, whatever you say” agreed Rowan, finally.  He turned to his little sister.  “Come on, Lucy” he said.  “Let’s get something to eat.”

As Lucy nodded and followed Rowan towards the kitchen, Peter became restless on his sun lounger.  He knew that Rowan was right – there was no chance he could sit there all day.  When he was sure that they’d gone, he opened his eyes and stared across at the garden.  He looked at the conservatory and remembered back to the dark night when Ernest Foley, the ruthless computer criminal, had visited them and left a threatening letter.  In the sunlight now it seemed incredible that it was the same place.  Then he thought ahead, to the holiday which his family had planned.  He’d been to Cornwall once before and he remembered the pasties and enormous seagulls which he’d encountered.  Herring gulls, they were called – and they seemed to like pasties themselves.  They would swoop down and steal a pasty from you before you had a chance to start it.  What was more interesting, of course, was the thought of the place they were planning to visit – Dragon’s Bay.  It was known to be the most popular resort in the country, but nobody knew why.  Something was drawing people to this place, and Peter wondered if it was just the exciting name it had that could do this or if there was something else going on.  Soon after his last investigation was concluded, somebody had left a brochure with an advertisement for Dragon’s Bay on their doorstep.  Was it possible that it was simply a very good advertising campaign that was making the place so popular?

“Peter!” called Mrs. Black, and Peter looked up from his sun lounger to see her heading towards him.  “I’ve never seen anything like it!” she continued.  “You’ve been sitting there all morning.”

“Yes” said Peter.  “How are you, mum?”

“I’m fine, thanks” replied Mrs. Black.  “In fact, this sunshine’s really helping.  I haven’t felt this happy for a long time.”

“I thought you seemed quite stressed recently.”  Peter was right – Mrs. Black had been working hard to make money and bringing up her family at the same time; she’d been feeling quite exhausted and under the weather.

“I must admit” said Mrs. Black, “it’s been a difficult few months.”  She sat down on a chair next to Peter.

“It’s good to see you relaxing for a change” said Peter.

“I could say the same to you!” she answered.  “You’re not very good at relaxing, either.”

Peter grinned to show that he knew she was right.

“So what’s been going through your mind?” asked Mrs. Black, always curious to know what was going on.

“I was thinking about our holiday” replied Peter.

“Ahh… Dragon’s Bay” said Mrs. Black.  “It should be good.”

“Yes” agreed Peter.  “I think it’ll be a little crowded, though.”

“True – but we’ve already got the hotel booked.  We should be able to find some space for ourselves.”  Mrs. Black was quite good at making plans – she always looked into the details very thoroughly, which might have been where Peter had got his investigative skills from.

“I hope we do find some peace and quiet” commented Peter.  “It’s been such a busy couple of years I feel like I could just have a relaxing, fun holiday for a change.”

Mrs. Black looked down at her eldest son with a puzzled expression.  “Peter, what has happened to you?” she asked, amazed at how he was talking.  “It’s almost as if…”  Then she stopped, thinking back over the past few months.  “It’s Louise Walsh that’s done it, isn’t it?” she asked.

Peter remained silent and shut his eyes, but he was smiling.

“Of course!” cried his mum.  “You’ve been taking her out to the cinema and for walks in the country.  You’ve been helping her with homework, and she’s been cooking meals for you.  No wonder you look more relaxed – you’ve been having a great time!”

“Well…” began Peter.  “I must admit, she’s a lovely girl.  In fact, we talk about everything.  She wanted to know all about our adventures with Mr. Craven, and then all the things she didn’t know about my investigation of the computer club and Ernest Foley.”

“It’s good to hear that” said Mrs. Black, smiling down at him.  “We all need to talk about things with someone who understands.”

“Peter!” called James, running out of the kitchen and towards them.

“Oh well” said Peter.  “It looks as if my peace is about to be properly disturbed.”  But the truth was that he was hoping James would have something interesting to say – he was already a little bored with having nothing to do.

“I’ll leave you boys to it” said Mrs. Black, standing up.  “It was good to chat with you, Peter.”  She headed back towards the house and was nearly sent flying by James as he rushed past.  “Watch where you’re going!” she shouted after him, but he hardly seemed to notice.

“Peter!” repeated James.  “I had to come straight out here when I found out.  Sorry to disturb you…”  He glanced back over his shoulder to see Mrs. Black disappearing into the house.

“Alright, no problem!” said Peter, amused to see James’s mass of ginger hair flapping around as he approached.  “Tell me what on earth’s got into you.”

“It’s something I saw on television” continued James.  “It’s about Dragon’s Bay…”

Peter fell silent and watched James’s troubled expression, waiting for something interesting.

“Well… there was a news report about Cornwall.  It seems that people are being warned not to travel down there unless absolutely necessary.”

“Why?” asked Peter.  “What’s happening?”

“There have been lots of stories about random attacks… People have been robbed of their money, and even cars have been stolen.”

“But things like that are always happening” replied Peter, wondering what was so unusual about it.

“No, Peter.  This is different.”  James looked quite worried.  “The police in Cornwall can’t cope any more.  There have been more robberies in the past week than there were in the past year, and it’s getting worse all the time.  Also, they said that Dragon’s Bay was the worst hit place of all.”

“Well, that would make sense” said Peter, thoughtfully.  “Dragon’s Bay is extremely popular at the moment.  Thieves would be drawn there because there are so many people.”

As the boys sat in the late morning sun, an unfortunate thought was crossing Peter’s mind.  “You know what this means” he said at last, after trying not to.

“No” said James.  “What does it mean?”

“It means that we might end up with a bit more than a holiday down in Dragon’s Bay.  There’s a reason we’re going there – and this dreadful crime wave may well be something to do with it.”

“Oh, great” sighed James, then he grinned across at Peter.  “We just can’t seem to give up, can we?”

2. An Accident in the Park

“Peter, just look at this mess!” cried Mrs. Black as she walked into the living-room.

Peter was sitting at the table, surrounded by books and maps, scraps of paper and notebooks.

“Sorry mum” said Peter.  “I’ll tidy up soon, it’s important that I find something…”  His voice trailed off as his attention returned to the books.

“Well, well…” said his mum, shaking her head.  “It doesn’t surprise me to see you back at work.  What are you looking for?”

“I’ll let you know later” said Peter, which might have meant that he wasn’t going to tell her.

“Hmmm… Make sure this place does get tidied up soon” she said.  “We’ve got some guests coming over for dinner.”

“Really?” asked Peter, looking up.  “Who’s coming?”

“Some friends from work” she answered.  “I thought it was time we had a social event – life’s been getting so stressful recently.”  Mrs. Black had been working part time at a local supermarket.  She’d always moved in and out of different jobs, never quite finding anything she liked.  Her priority had always been the family, so as long as she could pay the bills she didn’t worry too much about her work – but the last few months had been really testing.

“Can you tell me what’s been going on at work?” asked Peter, suddenly.

Mrs. Black paused for a moment, and then looked down at him.  “I’ll tell you later, when my friends are here” she said with a smile.  “I think you’ll be interested.”

“Then why not tell me now?” he asked, but she was already leaving the room.  He got back to his books, scribbling down notes about Dragon’s Bay – the people, the economy, the landmarks.  Also he was looking for information about the crime rate in Cornwall and how efficient the police force had been at dealing with it.  The more information he had before arriving there, the happier he would feel.  He had a feeling that there was something very important happening at Dragon’s Bay which he needed to discover, and although he’d said earlier that he was simply wanting to rest, he could now think of nothing other than what might be going on there.

“Peter” called James, and when Peter looked up he saw his brother standing in the doorway to the hall.

“What’s up, James?”

“I just wanted to know what you’ve found out so far.”  James was looking awkward again, something he seemed to do naturally.

“James, you never seem to relax very much” said Peter.  “You’re funny at times, but you always seem a little on edge.  What’s the matter?”

“Oh, it’s only that I’ve got so much going around my head” explained James, but Peter wasn’t convinced.

“James, you’re not serious!” he argued.  “There’s never much going on in there.”

“Well, thanks very much” said James.  “If you’ll give your assistant a little more respect, I’ll tell you something.”

“Alright, James” said Peter.  “I’m very sorry.  Go on.”

“I’ve learned a little bit more about Dragon’s Bay” continued James.  “I checked on the internet, and it seems that people are being charged a lot of money for going there.  There’s a group of people who are organising parties on the beach, and water sports.”

“That doesn’t sound very unusual for a holiday resort” said Peter, dismissively.

“Maybe not” admitted James, “but there’s something else.  When people decide they’ve had enough of all the usual activities, they can pay more money for something a bit more exciting…”

“What do you mean?  Do they have some kind of theme park attraction?”

“It’s not quite that.  I couldn’t see much information about it, but it’s something called ‘ghost watch’.  People pay money and go along to see if they can find the ghost.”

“Go along where?” asked Peter.  “Is there a haunted house at Dragon’s Bay?”

“That’s the part it wouldn’t explain” continued James.  “It gave details about some of the things people claimed to have experienced on this ‘ghost watch’, and you can even book yourself into the place using the website – but it doesn’t say where they take you.  There’s a coach which takes the ghost hunters off to the ‘secret location’.”

“Wow” said Peter, staring across at James and trying not to be distracted by his mass of hair.  “It sounds very interesting.  Do you think it’s simply a con that people have set up to make money, or is there more to it?”

“You mean is there really a haunted house?  How should I know?”  James looked disappointed that Peter expected so much of him.

“Alright,” agreed Peter, “it’s up to us to find out when we get there.  I’m beginning to think it’s going to be the most interesting holiday of our lives.”

James was about to say ‘that wouldn’t take much’, because they hadn’t had many interesting holidays, but Rowan appeared at the door.

“What are you two talking about?” asked Rowan, and James glanced down to see what Rowan was carrying – a book about computer programming.

“Rowan, why are you reading about computers?” asked James.  “Seriously, have you not had enough of them after that stupid ‘computer club’ and all those crazy people who were mixed up in it?”

“No” said Rowan.  “I still like computers.  They can be very useful – besides, I saw you on the internet this morning.”

“Ahh” said James.  “You’re right, yes.  That’s what Peter and I were talking about.”

“The internet?”

“No, Dragon’s Bay.  I was finding some more information about it.”

Rowan looked excited to hear more, but as he stood there James decided not to say anything yet.  “Go on then!” urged Rowan.  “What have you found out?”

“Nothing much” said James.  “I’ll let you know when I find something interesting.”

“Oh” said Rowan, looking disappointed.  Although he was clever at understanding things, he couldn’t tell when people were lying.  He simply couldn’t imagine why people would lie, because he didn’t have time for that.

“Rowan, let’s go out somewhere” said Peter, suddenly changing the subject.  “I think we should make the most of this day whilst we still can.  I’ve already wasted too much time lounging around in the garden.  What about Evergreen Park – that one on the way to town?  We could feed the ducks, visit the maze and have a ride on the miniature train.”

The Black family were quite lucky to have a really good park just a few miles away.

“This isn’t like you – but why not?” agreed Rowan.  “Mum will probably take us.  Are you coming, James?”

“No thanks” said James.  “I’ve got to send some e-mails now.”

“Ahh” said Rowan, “so you’re going back on the computer!”

“I know, they’re hard to escape aren’t they?”

“Yes – but I know who you’re e-mailing…”

“No, it’s not just Hannah” said James, a bit annoyed by everyone going on about it.

“But you are e-mailing her, aren’t you?”

“Yes, of course I am – but not just Hannah.  I’m also e-mailing some people at…”  He stopped in mid-sentence.

“At where?” asked Rowan, immediately.

Peter knew what had happened – James was going to mention Dragon’s Bay again, forgetting that he didn’t want to tell Rowan too much about it yet.  “He means some other people at school” said Peter, quickly.

“Oh” said Rowan, who looked confused for a moment then smiled and nodded.  “I’ll go and get my shoes on.”

“I’ll meet you in the kitchen in ten minutes” said Peter.  “We can’t leave it too late – I’ll need to get back here.”

“So will I” said Rowan.  “I live here too.”

“I mean I’ll need to get back here in time to do things!” explained Peter.  “You’re almost as bad as James at times, with comments like that.”

“Hey!” cried James.  “I’m not that silly anymore.  I’m growing up, remember?”

“James, just because you’ve got a girlfriend and all that hair it doesn’t mean you’re…”

“Hannah is not my girlfriend!” exploded James.  “Just go to the park, both of you!  I’ve had enough of this.”

Peter and Rowan were shocked to see James so angry, and they both moved towards the door.

“Let me know what you find” said Peter, leaving the room.

“I might do” called out James, in a bad mood now.

“Just remember” called back Peter, “I’m counting on you to help me with this…”

Mrs. Black had agreed to take the boys to the park, and they were soon ready to go.

“Peter” began Rowan, as they waited for their mum by the car.

Peter knew what he was going to say.  “Yes, Rowan?”

“What did you mean when you said to James about…”

“Needing his help?” finished Peter.

“Yes.”

“Let’s just say, Rowan, that Dragon’s Bay sounds very interesting.  We might have to be on our guard…”

On our guard?!” repeated Rowan.  “But it’s our holiday!”

“I know, I’ll explain later” said Peter as their mum approached.  “Don’t say anything to mum, but it might be a bit more than a holiday…”

“Come on, then!” called Mrs. Black, getting into the car.  “What’s the matter, Rowan?”

Rowan was standing there looking lost, because he was wondering what Peter had meant.

“Oh… Nothing, sorry…”  He got into the car, and within a few minutes they had arrived at the park.

The sky was still a clear blue, and there were lots of people around.

“Now you two stick together” ordered their mum.  “I’ll meet you back here in two hours.”

“Thanks mum” said the brothers, climbing out of the car, and Rowan followed Peter towards a beautifully painted wooden train.  It was bright yellow and blue, with smoke coming out from a large funnel on top of the engine.

“All aboard!” shouted a fat man with a bald head and a white beard, although the train was already nearly full.  He was the train driver, and he was there every day in the summer – they remembered him from the last time they’d been here.

Peter and Rowan climbed onto the little train, which was quite comfortable.  It usually travelled through the entire park and although it was quite fast the entire journey lasted for a full twenty minutes.  The train track weaved through trees and around the duck pond – it was worth having a go, for it didn’t even cost anything.  Once Peter and Rowan were on board, the train set off almost immediately and quickly gained speed.

“This is great!” shouted Rowan, straight into Peter’s ear.  It seemed to be going faster than usual and although it was good fun, Peter became quite concerned.

“Hey, Rowan” he shouted.  “Is it normally this fast?”

“No way!” replied Rowan, as the wind rushed past their faces.  “It’s better than ever.”

Other people on the train were laughing and screaming loudly, then suddenly there was another sound – a grating sound of metal.

Peter looked up to see the driver, and then it all made sense – the driver had fallen asleep!  The train was still speeding up and it was getting dangerously fast.  When Peter looked ahead to see where they were going, he could see that not far ahead lay the duck pond but also a very sharp bend in the track – there was no way that the train could stay on the track at this speed!

Nobody else seemed to realise what was happening except Peter, so he started telling people – “Somebody wake up the driver!” he shouted.  “Look – he’s fast asleep!”  But everyone he tried to tell would just laugh and look away again.  They seemed to think he was simply enjoying the ride.  “Listen, everyone!” he shouted, but nobody could hear, and he was too far away from the driver to reach him.

Then Rowan seemed to realise that something was wrong.  He looked at Peter in alarm.  “What’s the matter?” he asked.  “What are you shouting about?”

“Look – the driver!” shouted Peter, and then Rowan worked it out.

“He’s fast asleep!” cried Rowan.

“YES!!  On the count of three, jump off the train” said Peter.  “I’ll jump off immediately after you.”

“Jump off?” questioned Rowan.  “It’s going so fast!”

“That’s why we need to get off – there’s no way the train will stay on the rails at that bend up ahead…”

There was no more time, and Peter began to count.  Rowan jumped off as Peter had told him to, and Peter followed.  They landed in a heap by the side of the duck pond whilst everyone else on the train watched them in horror – they thought that they’d fallen off by accident.

Then came the real accident, for the train hit the bend in the track.  The driver woke up, but it was too late.  The train went crashing off the rails and the scene was one of complete chaos.  People went flying and the noise was terrible – screaming, shouting, children crying.  Peter had his mobile phone in his pocket, and as he watched the train accident he was already calling for an ambulance.  It looked like there would be some bad injuries to sort out.

A few minutes later, the event was over.  The beautiful but broken train lay motionless on the grass, and the people were in a daze.  There were some with cuts and grazes and some who thought they’d broken an arm or a leg.  There was smoke rising into the air and Peter had a terrible thought – what if the train was at risk of exploding?  He ran over to the people and urged them to move away from the train.

“He’s right!” shouted the driver, suddenly.  He jumped up from where he was sitting on the grass.  “It could be dangerous to stay here – quick, everyone move towards the duck pond.  Follow me as best you can.”

Everyone did so, and just in time – for very soon the train did explode.  A great flash of light came from the engine and the train was on fire.  The driver was distraught to see what was happening, but he looked down at Peter to thank him.

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am” said the driver, hoarsely and through thick whiskers.

“That’s alright” said Peter.  “But what happened?  I saw you’d fallen asleep – how could you not have realised how tired you were?”

“It’s a long story” muttered the driver, gently rubbing his arm which he’d bashed in the accident.  “I’ve not been myself recently, there have been some very strange things going on.”

“Really?” asked Peter, interested.  “What do you mean?”

Rowan looked up, wondering what they were going to learn.

“I can’t tell you much” said the driver, “but…  Hold on a moment, I know your face.”

Peter nodded, for he was getting used to being recognised.  “I’m Peter Black” he informed the driver.  “I…”

“You’re a great young detective” said the driver.  “I’ve read the newspaper reports, and seen your photo there.”

“Yes” said Peter.  “Don’t believe all of it, whatever you do.”

“Very well” said the driver.  “Well now, since it’s you that I’m talking to, you might be able to help.”

“Help?  What with?”  Peter stared up at the driver and could see that he still looked very tired.  “You should get more sleep” he said.

“I know” agreed the driver, “but I’ve been totally obsessed with something recently.  It’s a place which I went to visit about two weeks ago.  It was only a holiday but I can’t stop thinking about it.  There were so many strange things going on…”

“Tell me” interrupted Peter, “exactly where you were.”

“It was Cornwall” said the driver.  “A place called…”

“Dragon’s Bay?” asked Peter.

“Yes – Dragon’s Bay.”  The driver was impressed and amazed.  “But how did you…?”

“Let me tell you” said Peter, “that once I find a trail of interest, I never leave it until the right conclusion is reached.  You’re going to be very helpful to us.  The ambulance is on its way for these people.  Once you’ve seen the paramedics, how about a cup of tea in the café over there?”

“Sounds like a good idea” agreed the driver, staring in wonder at Peter.  “I’m beginning to see what makes you so successful.”

3. A Garden Party Disaster

 

The table was set in the back garden and Mrs. Black was getting quite excited at the thought of her friends coming over.  She’d already opened two bottles of wine and prepared lots of food for the guests.  At one o’clock, the doorbell rang.  “Daisy!” cried Mrs. Black as she opened the door.  “It’s lovely to see you.  And Paul, how nice you could make it.  I’m glad to see they let you out of the office for a change, and that’s quite a nice tie, I must say…”  There were six other people whom she greeted before they all filed into her hallway and then wondered where to go next.  “This way!” she called out, leading them through to the kitchen then out to the back garden.  “The table’s all ready.  There’s fruit to start, let’s get straight on with it…”

As the meal got underway, everyone was chatting happily.  They all knew each other well and Mrs. Black was grateful to have so much company for a change.  It was one of those days which makes you wonder why people ever worry about anything at all – it felt great just to be alive.

“I must say” began Mrs. Black, addressing the whole table, “I really appreciate you all coming over here.  I…”  But she stopped suddenly as she noticed her daughter appearing at the kitchen door.  “Lucy!” she called out.  “Come and join us.”

The problem was that Lucy didn’t look happy at all.  She was frowning, and seemed quite angry about something.

“Whatever’s the matter?” asked Mrs. Black, trying to keep everything perfect.

“I’m bored” said Lucy, sulkily.  “Peter and Rowan have disappeared to the park, James is in a horrible mood, and you’re out here with your friends.  I’ve got nothing to do!”

“Well, you can join us if you like” said Mrs. Black.  “I didn’t think…”

“No, thank you” said Lucy, politely.  “I’ll be alright.  Perhaps I’ll watch television or read something…”  But then it was Lucy’s turn to be stopped mid-sentence, for she suddenly had a terrible feeling.  “Mum, do you think Peter and Rowan are okay?” she asked, looking worried.

“Of course!” replied Mrs. Black.  “That reminds me, I’ll have to pick them up after the main course.  I can’t drink any wine until they’re back here, but such sacrifices I make for my family!  Don’t worry – it’s all under control…”

“But you don’t think anything bad’s happened to them?”

“Lucy!” cried her mum.  “Why are you talking like this?  What’s the matter?”

“I don’t know” said Lucy.  “It’s just…”  Her face screwed up as she thought about it.  “I just had a bad feeling that something had happened.”

“You, Lucy Black, are just as bad as your brothers.  You’ve got an over-active imagination!  Now if you’re not staying with us, off you go.”

Lucy frowned again but nodded, and the dinner party guests were amused to see her there.

“What a lovely daughter you have” said Daisy.  “She seems very bright.”

“They all seem bright” said Mrs. Black, “except perhaps James; but I’m never sure what to believe with some of the things they come out with!  I do love them, though…”  She smiled as she thought of them, and then decided it was time to get on with the meal.  “I’ll bring the main course” she said.

“Let me help you” insisted Daisy.  “You can’t be expected to do all this on your own!”

The meal continued very pleasantly until one of the guests asked a very strange question.  It was Roger, who worked in the supermarket warehouse and lived a very solitary life.

“Say, Mrs. Black” began Roger, who was usually very quiet.

“Yes, Roger?”  She smiled across at him, glad to hear his voice for a change.

“I was just wondering about your holiday” he said.  “Are you aware that Dragon’s Bay is a very dangerous place to be at this time?”

Mrs. Black was shocked – she hadn’t even told him that they were going there.  “What?” she said.  “How did you…?”

“Ahh, you’re wondering how I know about your plans.”  His face was twitching strangely, as if he had a problem with his nerves.

“Yes” agreed Mrs. Black.  “How could you know?”

“Well” he began.  He glanced around at the other guests, who had fallen completely silent.  “I saw the brochure was open on your kitchen table.  Someone had made notes on the page.”

“Oh, I see” said Mrs. Black.  “That will have been Peter.  So what’s dangerous about Dragon’s Bay, then?  We’ve already booked the holiday, so I can’t imagine that what you’re going to say could stop us going there.”

“Well, I don’t want to scare you” said Roger, aware that he’d completely killed the positive atmosphere of the afternoon.  “I didn’t want to say anything, but I feel that I must.  It’s about the people who live there.  They have some very strange habits – they’re not like most of us.  They have unusual rituals, and…”

“I really don’t know what you mean!” interrupted Mrs. Black, deciding that she didn’t want to hear what Roger was telling her.  Although she usually wanted to know everything that was going on, there were times when it seemed better not to!  “I think I should get the dessert” she continued, completely changing the subject.  “Thanks for your concern, Roger.  I’m sure we’ll be fine.”

In the kitchen, Mrs. Black found a trifle which she’d prepared that morning.  She also took some ice cream from the freezer and then headed back out to the garden.  She was feeling a little strange after what Roger had been saying, but was determined to get back to enjoying her day.  Yet when she looked across at the table of guests, she was horrified.  Her friends were all arguing with each other, shouting and looking   upset.  Their perfect day was turning into a disaster!

“What’s going on out here?” cried Mrs. Black.  “Whatever’s got into you all?”

James was watching the chaotic scene from his bedroom window, with an uncomfortable feeling that all was not well…

Peter and Rowan were staring across a café table at the train driver.  He was taking up the whole of his bench, for he was very large.

“I know you’re upset about your train” said Peter, “but if you don’t mind, I’d really like to hear about Dragon’s Bay.  What’s your name, by the way?”

“I’m Jack” answered the train driver.  “Well now, what can I tell you…?”

A waitress brought some drinks to the table, and all three of them nodded and smiled at her.

“Thank you” said Peter.  “Now Jack, tell us everything you can.”

“Well, it was more of a feeling about the place that I had” began Jack.  “I don’t know exactly what was going on there, but everyone seemed to have an odd glazed expression on their faces.  The locals, I mean.  The tourists were simply going along with all the rip-off cons that were going on.”

“Cons?” asked Peter, interested.  “Do you mean the ‘ghost watch’?”

“Hey, how did you know about…?”

“We’ve already begun some research” said Peter.

“I didn’t bother with all that ghost stuff myself” explained Jack.  “It was obviously just people making money from the tourists.”

“Alright, I can see why you think it looks that way” said Peter, making some notes.

Rowan was drinking tea and saying nothing else.  It was obvious that Peter didn’t want him interrupting, and he’d learnt from experience that there was no point trying to say anything when Peter was like this.

“Well, of course it was a big rip-off!” insisted Jack.  “Ghost watch, for goodness’ sake.  How ridiculous…”

“So tell us about the locals” said Peter, feeling certain that Jack could tell them something useful.

“Well, I spoke to some of them” continued Jack.  “They were friendly enough, but I always had the impression that they knew something they weren’t telling me.”

“Like what?” asked Peter.

“I don’t know” said Jack.  “They didn’t tell me.”          Rowan couldn’t help laughing into his tea, and Peter glanced at him disapprovingly.

“Alright” said Peter.  “Is there nothing more you can tell us yet?”

“I don’t think so” said Jack, thoughtfully.

“Here’s our phone number” said Peter, writing it down on a serviette.  “Call us if you think of anything.”

“Very well” agreed Jack.  “I’ll need to go now.  My family will want to know I’m alright.”

“See you later” said Peter.

“Goodbye, Peter and Rowan Black.  I’m glad to have met you!”  Jack grinned at them before he left, seeming quite excited about what was happening.

“It doesn’t look very professional” said Rowan, once Jack had left.  “Scribbling down our number on a serviette?  We need some business cards.”

“You know, that’s quite a good idea” said Peter.  “I’ll leave that to you.  Let’s go and meet mum now, the timing’s perfect.”

Having paid the bill and left the café, Peter and Rowan went back towards the park, but there was no sign of their mum.  They waited for fifteen minutes but she still wasn’t there.  Peter took out his mobile phone but could see that the battery had completely run out.  Eventually they decided to catch a bus, hoping that everything was alright back home.

Peter and Rowan arrived home about half an hour later.  It was nearly four o’clock and still very sunny.  They went through the side gate and towards the back garden, but as they approached they had a bad feeling about what they saw.  The table was there, in a complete mess.  Mrs. Black was sitting with her head in her hands.  She seemed to be crying.

“Mum!” shouted Peter, running towards her.  “What’s happened?  Has everyone been and gone?”

“Oh, Peter!” she replied, looking up.  “Rowan!  I’m so sorry, I forgot all about you.  How did you get home?  This is terrible.”

“Don’t worry, mum” said Peter.  “We caught a bus.”  Peter could see that she had been crying, but she smiled to see him.

“I am sorry” she repeated.

“I was asking about your friends” continued Peter.

“Yes you were right, they’ve all gone now.  It was a disaster.”

“Why?”  Peter was concerned.

“It started off really well, but then my friend Roger started asking about Dragon’s Bay.”

“Oh, I don’t believe this” said Rowan, as he arrived at the table.  “Everyone seems to know something about that place, and it seems to create havoc whenever it’s mentioned!”

“You know what?” said Peter.  “I think you’re absolutely right.  We’re either very brave or very stupid to be going there with all this going on, but I think we’ll have to reach the end of it and hopefully live to tell the tale!”

“I just don’t understand it” said Mrs. Black, bewildered.

“Don’t worry, mum” said Peter.  “We’ll help you tidy up now.  Before we do that, though, can you tell me what’s been going on at work?”

“Oh, I did promise I’d tell you” she remembered.  “It’s been so stressful at the supermarket over the last few weeks.  I had to reorganise all the stock, staff have been on holiday and off sick… It’s been one thing after the other…”

“But you said there was something I’d be interested in” said Peter.  “What did you mean?”

Mrs. Black looked at Peter sympathetically.  She realised how much like her he was – needing to know everything that was happening.

“It’s all the technology that they’re bringing into the place” she said.  “People are getting really confused about it.  Every week it seems that there’s something new, and people simply can’t cope!  The last thing they brought in was a new security device…”

“Oh no” said Peter, thinking back to his times with Ernest Foley and the computer gang.  “It’s not like a golf ball, with a flashing light by any chance…?”

“Yes – very much like that” she said, surprised by him.  “Except that it’s silver.  It moves around the supermarket, taking pictures of people.  It’s really quite haunting for some people.”

“Haunting?” asked Peter, thoughtfully.

“Well… It always seems to be there.  You turn around and it makes you feel like it’s staring at you.”

“I know what you mean” said Peter.  “So it’s like a CCTV camera but it has a life of its own.  I don’t suppose…”  Then he stopped.

“Don’t suppose what?” asked Mrs. Black, but Peter had decided not to ask his question – it was a bit silly.

“I don’t suppose it’ll cause any harm” he said, for what he was really thinking about was Ernest Foley’s device which could shoot a laser beam out at people.  Of course the supermarket cameras wouldn’t have done that!  “I think the stress of trying to understand it all has got to people” concluded Peter.  “Things are moving too fast for them.”

“Yes” agreed his mum.  “I think you’re right.”

“Well…  I’m sorry about today” said Peter.  “It’s time we concentrated on work and school.  If I hear anything more about Dragon’s Bay, I might be put off going there!”

“I don’t believe you” said Rowan, and Peter grinned down at him.

“You can believe what you like” said Peter.  “But I’m telling you – we need a break from thinking about that place.  Too much is happening too soon!”

The three of them tidied up the garden and as they were carrying the table back into the house, James appeared in the kitchen.

“James!” announced Peter.  “How are you feeling?”

“Really tired” said James.  “I don’t know what’s wrong with me.  Sorry I was in a bad mood earlier on.”

“You need some early nights” said Peter.  “We have school tomorrow – don’t sit up watching television tonight whatever you do.  I know you’ve been getting addicted to that new crime drama.”

“You mean The Grill?  Yeah, it’s great.  They’ve got another suspect in tonight… It looks like he’s going to tell them who did it.  In fact, I think it was him…”

“You’ll have to go straight to bed afterwards, then.  You don’t want to get into any more trouble at school.”

“True” admitted James.  “But there’s something else I have to tell you.”

“What’s that?”  Peter was getting tired himself after everything that had happened.

“It’s something else I found out about Dragon’s Bay…” began James, but Peter shook his head and walked back into the house.  “What…?” asked James.

“Don’t worry” said Rowan.  “He’s heard too much about it already.”

Too much?” asked James, amazed.  “Rowan, I’ve been on the internet again.  I’ve found out the address of the haunted location…”

Rowan grinned at James, waiting for him to burst out laughing and tell him it was all a big joke, but James stared seriously back at him.  “You’re telling the truth, aren’t you?” asked Rowan.

“Of course I am” answered James.  “Why should I lie about it?  We have a few more weeks left of school, and then we’ll be heading for Cornwall.  I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling a bit nervous about it.”

Rowan laughed out loud, but James was still serious.

“I can’t wait” said Rowan at last, settling down a little.  “It’s exciting!  We’ll get to find out the mysterious truth about Dragon’s Bay.”

Click HERE to find the Peter Black series at Amazon

(C) Simon J Halliday 2006.  All rights reserved.  No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the prior written permission of the publisher. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages.

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