Exclusive Wells & Wong Short Story by Robin Stevens

Exclusive Wells & Wong Short Story by Robin Stevens

Although The Case of the Murder of Miss Bell is the Detective Society’s first murder, it is not the first case we have had. Daisy wants me to point out that since the Society was created we have solved plenty of crimes. I am not sure that a death is quite the same sort of thing as a tuck box theft, but Daisy says that it is all good practice, and anyway, all criminals are dangerous and need to be brought to justice.

To prove this, Daisy says that I ought to share my case notes from some of our previous triumphs – and so here, from my old casebook, is The Case of Lavinia’s Missing Tie.

I

Tuesday 18th September, 1934

Lavinia came down to breakfast this morning five minutes late, and looking extremely cross. She thumped down in her seat, dark hair sticking up in a mop so stiff that I wondered whether the brush was still buried inside it. She snatched a piece of toast from the rack quite rudely, just as Sophie Croke-Finchley from the other dorm was reaching for it, and drew the butter dish towards her with a horrible clatter.

‘Rude!’ cried Sophie. ‘I was going to take that!’

‘Bother the butter,’ said Lavinia. ‘Someone’s taken my tie. My tie!’

Lavinia is much given to fibbing – and is also fearfully disorganized – so we all looked at each other disbelievingly.

‘Nonsense,’ said Kitty. ‘And anyway, haven’t you any others?’

‘One fell into my ink-pot last week and the other’s ripped,’ growled Lavinia.

 ‘Oh dear, how did you rip it?’ asked Beanie.

‘I bit it,’ said Lavinia. ‘I couldn’t make my sums add up properly.’

‘Oh,’ said Beanie. ‘You can borrow my spare one.’

‘No, she can’t,’ said Kitty. ‘Lavinia, I’ll bet you anything it’s under your bed, or in your games kit, or something.’

‘Well, it isn’t,’ said Lavinia. ‘Because the last time I saw it was last night, when it was hanging over the foot of my bed. I didn’t move it, and it didn’t walk away on its own, did it? So someone must have stolen it. Do you think I’m stupid?’

‘Yes,’ said Kitty.

‘No,’ said Beanie at the same time.

Clementine, who is in the other dorm with Sophie, snickered quite cruelly at that, and Lavinia glared at her.

‘You wouldn’t be laughing if it was your tie,’ she said.

‘Well, it isn’t,’ said Clementine. ‘Anyway, you’ve just mislaid it, I’ll bet you anything. Oh, won’t you get it from Matron!’

‘I haven’t!’ cried Lavinia. ‘I haven’t! Why won’t any of you believe me?’

‘Because you’re a liar, Lavinia Temple,’ said Clementine. ‘You lied about your family, and now you’re lying about this.’

‘DON’T YOU TALK ABOUT MY FAMILY!’ roared Lavinia, and she launched herself at Clementine, knocking Beanie sideways.

We all jumped on Lavinia – we are used to dealing with her tantrums by now – and the prefect on duty at the third form table leaped up and shouted for Matron. Lavinia was led away, still raging, and the loss of her tie became the least of her worries.

But Daisy nudged me, and winked, and I knew that meant one thing: the Detective Society had a new case.

II

We interviewed Lavinia at lunch time. Beanie had discovered that she could not find her spare tie after all, and so Daisy had donated hers – which I think may have been a clever ploy on Daisy’s part. Lavinia, as far as she could be, seemed grateful.

‘Thanks, I suppose,’ she said. ‘I still want my tie, though. I know one of you took it.’

‘It wasn’t me,’ said Daisy. ‘And it wasn’t Hazel. Hazel, tell her.’

I shook my head, and then nodded, and then felt confused. ‘It wasn’t me,’ I said. ‘Really.’

‘You know you can trust us,’ said Daisy silkily. ‘So, what happened? Tell us everything. Hazel, write it down.’

‘I went to sleep. It was there. I woke up. It was gone,’ said Lavinia, who was not turning out to be a natural witness.

‘And where was it, when it was there?’ asked Daisy, rolling her eyes. ‘You have to tell us where it disappeared from, otherwise we’ll never be able to get it back to you.’

‘It was on the end of my bed, obviously. Where else would it be? You’ve seen me put it there, Daisy, are you trying to be stupid?’

Daisy opened her mouth and then shut it again. I could tell she had been about to say something cutting about the Detective Society, but caught herself in time. The Detective Society is deadly secret, and no one knows that more than Daisy – she would never have forgiven herself if she had let information slip to Lavinia, who could be quite cruel when she wanted to be, and who could never be trusted with anything important as a result.

‘She just wanted to be sure,’ I put in.

‘So? Doesn’t excuse asking idiotic questions. You all saw me take it off when we put on pyjamas last night. I don’t know what happened after that, but I didn’t move it.’

That was all we could get out of her. The rest of the dorm were not much more helpful.

‘I didn’t see it,’ said Beanie, coming into the common room with Kitty. ‘And I didn’t take it, honestly I didn’t. Poor Lavinia!’

‘No one thinks you took it, Beanie,’ said Kitty. ‘And poor Lavinia nothing! She’s been a beast this term. Remember her punching Clementine during lacrosse? And just because Clementine said she came from a broken home, which is perfectly true. Honestly, that business with her father was last year. She ought to be over it by now.’

‘Yes, of course she ought,’ said Daisy. ‘Hazel, come with me. We’ve got things to do.’

III

‘Now, Watson,’ said Daisy, sitting down with a bounce on her bed. ‘I hereby call this meeting of the Detective Society to discuss the Case of Lavinia’s Missing Tie to order. Present are Daisy Wells (which is me), President of the Detective Society, and Hazel Wong (which is you), Secretary. Have you written that down?’

I nodded.

‘All right. Now, the facts in the case. What do we know?’

‘Lavinia’s tie was on the end of her bed on Monday evening, when she took it off,’ I said. ‘And on Tuesday morning it was gone.’

‘Exactly,’ said Daisy. ‘Now, as we must admit, Lavinia is a liar. But in this case, I happen to be able to confirm that she is telling the truth, at least about taking off the tie and hanging it on her bed. I saw it there as we came back from toothbrushes. Lavinia’s bed is just by the door, after all. Last night Beanie knocked into me, and I tripped and banged my shin on the bed-frame – and the tie was there then, I recall it distinctly. So someone must have moved it. But who, and how?’

‘Could Lavinia have done it?’ I asked.

‘To blame someone else, you mean? But she isn’t blaming anyone in particular, is she? She’s just saying that it’s gone. And anyway, Lavinia simply isn’t that intelligent. She’d never come up with a plan like that. No, Watson, we must think of another solution. Let’s see. We didn’t do it, that’s obvious. Beanie didn’t do it – if she had, she’d have confessed in an instant. She’s too nice for pranks. Kitty, now – she might play that sort of prank. She as good as told us, earlier, that she’s cross at Lavinia for being so unpleasant this term. She might have decided to teach her a lesson. What do you think?’

‘Um,’ I said. ‘But Kitty likes Lavinia, even if they do annoy each other.’

‘So? Oh, all right then, let’s think of some other suspects.’

‘What if Matron took it to mend?’

‘Last thing at night? When has she ever been so conscientious as to stay up darning? And anyway, that tie wasn’t the ripped one. Lavinia said so. It was her other tie that was ripped. Think now, Hazel. What did you observe? Was anything out of the ordinary?’

I thought back to last night. We had come back from toothbrushes, Daisy bumping against Lavinia’s bed on the way. We had climbed into bed, and the prefect on duty had clicked off the light and closed the door. I had shut my eyes and fallen asleep. It was the most ordinary bedtime imaginable.

I had even dreamed of dull things. In my sleep, we had climbed into bed, and the prefect on duty had closed the door, shutting off the light falling on Lavinia’s bed from the corridor outside. Again, I dream-thought. What a bore.

It had been so detailed, too, just like all the most ordinary dreams. Just as though – I sat up on Daisy’s bed – just as though it had really happened.

‘Daisy!’ I cried. ‘Daisy, I’ve remembered something! The door closed twice!’

IV

‘So,’ hissed Daisy, as we filed into Science, ‘we must hunt for our thief outside our dorm, someone who would have had to open the door to get at the tie. And the most likely place to find her is the rest of the third form! No one in the other dorm likes Lavinia at all. But which of them was it? Wait, don’t reply now. The Bell’s on the warpath again. We’ll discuss after school.’

I shut my lips and nodded. She was quite right. Our Science mistress, Miss Bell, was looking coldly furious, and I could tell that the smallest bit of disobedience would get the culprit Detention at once. Poor Miss Bell. She has good reason to be so cross – our new Music and Art master, Mr Reid, who she seemed to be so friendly with at the beginning of term, has just thrown her over for Miss Hopkins, our Games mistress. It is very shocking, and everyone is holding their breath to see what will happen next. But during the lesson, as Miss Bell scratched away at the chalkboard and got dust all over her immaculate white lab coat, I closed my ears and let my mind drift off to the mystery.

And as soon as I thought about it properly, I saw that there could only really be one answer. Which of the other dorm had the most reason to hate Lavinia and want to punish her with a prank? Clementine, of course. We had all seen Lavinia hit her in Games the week before, and Clementine is not one to let a slight like that go without getting her revenge. I had to tell Daisy – and as soon as we were out of the Science lab door, I turned to her to speak.

‘I know who it was,’ whispered Daisy. ‘It was Clementine.’

It is very difficult having a Detective Society with Daisy sometimes. Every time I think I have thought of something really clever, she turns out to have thought of it first. At least I know that she deserves to be President.

‘I think so too!’ I hissed back, looking over nervously as Clementine rushed past, shouldering her school bag and tying back her hair as she chattered to Sophie Croke-Finchley. ‘But how do we prove it was her? Everyone in her dorm will just stick up for her!’

‘Not necessarily,’ said Daisy. ‘You always believe people are too nice, Hazel, that’s the problem with you. Half of that dorm are fearfully jealous of her – they’ll crack if we give them the slightest opportunity. But that’s all irrelevant. I don’t mean to get one of the others to give her up. I want Clementine to confess herself.’

‘But how?’ I cried.

‘By setting a trap for her, of course,’ said Daisy.

V

‘Have you heard?’ said Daisy to Kitty and Beanie, on the way up to House that evening. ‘Clementine’s been sleepwalking.’

‘No!’ said Kitty, who can always be relied on to love gossip. ‘Really?’

‘Oh yes,’ said Daisy. ‘It’s true. Lots of people have seen her at it. Why, I heard Belinda Vance saying to Virginia Overton only last night that she’d seen Clementine wandering the corridors, hands out in front of her, entirely asleep.’

‘Did she wake her?’ gasped Beanie.

‘Of course not!’ said Daisy. ‘Everyone knows that you mustn’t wake a sleepwalker. If you do they’ll get a frightful shock. They might even die from it. Poor Clementine, though. Sleepwalking is the most dreadful illness. You do things that you have no memory of afterwards. It’s terribly dangerous for the sleepwalker – and for the people they live with.’

Beanie gasped, and Kitty squealed with excitement and dashed off ahead of us to where Sophie Croke-Finchley was walking with the twins, Rose and Jose Thompson. I could tell she was off to spread the gossip about Clementine’s condition – and that it would not be long before the whole house knew about it.

Sure enough, at dinner, the dining room was buzzing. ‘What is all this nonsense?’ snapped Clementine, banging down her plate onto the third-form table and looking very furious. ‘I’ve just been asked by a shrimp whether it was true that I was the one who ate all that cake that went missing last week. I said of course I wasn’t, and she said that I might not know, because I might have done it while I was asleep! What nonsense! What have you all been saying about me?’

‘But isn’t it true that you sleepwalk?’ asked Beanie, confused.

‘Of course I don’t sleepwalk!’ snarled Clementine. ‘I’ve never sleepwalked in my life!’

Next to me, Daisy twitched with excitement. I could practically feel the jaws of her trap snapping shut. ‘But if you don’t sleepwalk,’ she said innocently, ‘then why did Betsy North tell me that she saw you in the corridor last night holding a tie?’

‘What?’ cried Clementine. ‘But of course I wasn’t—’

‘Oh, so you weren’t in the corridor outside our dorm last night?’ asked Daisy.

‘Well – no – I mean, yes, I was, but—’

You took my tie?’ growled Lavinia, standing up with her fists bunched. ‘It was you?’

‘No,’ stammered Clementine. ‘No, I – I was sleepwalking!’

‘Odd,’ said Daisy. ‘I thought you’d never sleepwalked in your life?’

Clementine opened and closed her mouth like a landed fish. The whole of the table was staring at her. ‘You hit me!’ she shrieked at last. ‘You deserved it!’

Lavinia gave a low animal roar and surged forward at her, fists flailing, and then the scene dissolved into a really rather nasty argument.

But Daisy nudged me under the table. ‘Watson,’ she whispered, leaning close to my ear, ‘I do believe that the Detective Society has solved its finest case yet!’