Excerpt for Diary of a 6th Grade Spy - Book 1 - Zero to Hero by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Diary of a 6th Grade SPY

Book 1 - Zero to Hero

Katrina Kahler

Copyright 2014 by KC Global Enterprises

Smashwords Edition

Chapter 1 - The Library...

The doors of the library slide open with a gentle swish. There is a hushed silence as I walk inside. If I stand still I can feel there are soft whispers of secrets being told. I walk in slowly hoping no one will notice me. My plan is to tiptoe past the library counter and hand in my books. Then I want to disappear into the peace and quiet of the book shelves. Story books, travel books, tales of ancient civilizations - all amazing places to escape to. This is the best place for a ‘latch- key kid’ to spend the afternoon. Mom and dad work hard to send me to Bedford View Primary but then they are so busy that I hardly ever see them. Today mom is working late again! The library is the spot for me, Samuel Greene, to spend the afternoon.

I draw in a deep breath and walk up to the librarian’s desk. I hope Miss Sorrel is in a good mood today. I wonder why our previous librarian left so suddenly. She just disappeared one afternoon. Nobody knows where she went. I miss her; she was really nice and so kind.

Miss Sorrel doesn’t like me! She makes fun of my rather long name. My full name had to include my grandfather’s and great grandfather’s names. It is a mouthful. Five names to remember – Samuel, Peter, Rupert, Orpen-Greene. Miss Sorrel looked at my library card on her first day as the new librarian, leaned over the counter, and said, “Your initials spell S.P.R.O-G - Sprog…just the right name for YOU - little boy!”

I remember that day well. I heard some giggling in the background and then Abigail came to my rescue. She told Miss Sorrel that my real name is Sam, Sam Greene. Miss Sorrel looked down her nose at me and glared into my eyes. I remember feeling very small at that very moment. Miss Sorrel makes me feel nervous.

I always try to ease quietly into the library now and go unnoticed. But Miss Sorrel just appears from nowhere and grins at me.

She delights in taking my card and mutters my name under her breath.

When I look up I see a long hair on her chin and a rather large Adam’s apple. Today, Miss Sorrel takes my library cards and gives me a library browsing stick to keep a record of where I have taken a book. She has a firm grip on the end of the stick and I see that her nails are very dirty. I wonder if she remembers to wash her hands before reading a book! One of the rules of the library!

Relieved to be past the front desk I set off into the book shelves. On the way I take a quick look at the ‘Reader-thon’ results. I have been doing well as I am a good reader and like books, but what a disappointment! I see my marker is down to zero again. I wonder how that can be. Last time I challenged Miss Sorrel she said in a deep voice,“The wind blew your name down! Sorry for you - you’re back to zero again!”

Again! That is so unfair, but I am too nervous to remind her that I was at the top of the class list. I can’t tell Miss Sorrel that she is wrong. Who knows how she may react.

It is going to be a long afternoon but I have a small snack pack in my pocket. Some sweets left over from the movie we went to last night. Jungle book in 3D - it was amazing. One of my favorite stories! I wonder for a moment what it would be like to be raised by wolves. Then I remember what I am really looking for. The plant section of the library, I wish I had paid more attention to the system used to number the books. Well I know plants are part of botanical books so that’s where I shall start. Right in the middle of the library.

My Mom has started a cooking course and needs fresh herbs. If I can grow them in the back yard that will be a great help. There must be a book about herbs and how to grow them.

Not many children come to this part of the library and I have a sense that I am being followed. Each time I turn around to see who it could be…the passage is empty. A very uneasy feeling comes over me. I hurry along now to the shelves where all the books about plants are. I hope I can find just the right book and make my way back to the front of the library as soon as possible.

Aahhh, here are the books about plants. I can see not many children have been down to this part of the library. The books about herbs seem to be on the top shelf so with the help of a little stool, I stand up to reach for a book called ‘How to grow your own Herbs’. I am just putting my browsing stick up to mark the spot when I lose my balance. The stool wobbles under me and I tumble down to the ground. Before I can get up another book falls down from the top together with my browser stick. They fall on my head and I feel dizzy. Then the space around me starts to twist and turn and I loose sight of where I am. I seem to be going round and round, as if I am on a roundabout. Finally the roundabout stops and I rub my eyes and my head. I feel strange. I can’t see any books near me but I am still a little dazed and can’t see clearly. Perhaps some dust is in my eyes from the dusty bookshelves. I rub my eyes again but the picture I see is still not clear.

Suddenly, I have a brain wave. I wonder if my mom packed the 3D glasses from the movies. They were part of the kiddie’s combo I had for my snack. Bingo! There they are still wrapped in plastic. Slowly and carefully I put them on! WOW, it is just like being at a 3D movie. The whole picture in front of me comes alive – like magic! I just stare around at the scene and my mouth opens wide. I gasp! There is not a book in sight. How can that be, what has happened to me.

I am sitting on the grass looking at a beautiful garden and a long path leading to a castle.

If I am not in the library right now then where am I?

Chapter 2 – Gardinia...

Questions are buzzing through my mind about where I am and how did I get here? What has happened to the library? The only thing I have with me from the library is the browser stick and my 3D glasses. Another look round the scene tells me I am definitely not in the library.

Wait a minute, something is walking down the path and it is coming towards me! I squint through the glasses again and see that the creature coming towards me is a wolf.

For real! A large, white, wolf.

A flash-back image to the movie I saw reminds me that animals bow down to more important or stronger animals - the leader of a wolf pack is no exception.

I bow down really low and wait holding my breath. After what seems like hours (well maybe minutes) I feel the hot breath of an animal on my back and hear the sounds of the wolf sniffing. He sniffs me from top to toe. I wait trembling and not sure of what will happen to me.

Finally I hear a low growl and a voice says, “Welcome to Gardinia, I can tell that you are a friend. You smell good.”

Oh no, how crazy is this I think to myself. There is a wolf, a huge white wolf, talking to me!

Curiosity gets the better of me and I lift my head up slowly and respectfully. I see I am looking up into the face of a wolf. It has a kindly expression and beautiful eyes, but it talks!! How can that be? I must be dreaming. I take the 3D glasses on and off a couple of times but without them I can only see a few blurry outlines. The 3D glasses allow me to see this place the wolf calls Gardinia.

Gardinia looks rather neglected but must have been beautiful once. What a lovely name.

Now what! I think to myself. How do I answer a wolf? I clear my throat and say.

“Err it is nice to meet you, Mr Wolf. My name is Sam, Sam Greene and I got here by accident.”

Wow, how weird is that! Me - talking to a wolf. Maybe these 3D glasses are more powerful than I thought. Thank goodness mom forgot to take them out of my movie treat box.

“My name is Cannis Lupis Arctos,” says the wolf. “You can call me Lupa. I am chief of the home-guard in Gardinia. Why are you here?”

“Well actually I was looking for some information on growing herbs,” I answered quietly. “I want to help my mom have fresh herbs in her garden and I was in the library at school and suddenly I found myself here in your beautiful land.” I think saying nice things is a good idea even if this wolf looks friendly and kind, he is still a wolf!

“You have actually come at a bad time,” says Lupa. “Our beautiful land is feeling the sorrow of the King and Queen of Gardinia. There is a dark shadow creeping over the land and we do not know how to control it.” “Grrrrrr...” he growls under his breath.

“The worst sadness of all is Princess Gazania, the King and Queen’s only daughter, has been missing for several days. No one knows where she could be. Princess Gazania just disappeared without a trace.”

Oh no, disappearing, that sounds familiar. I wonder if there is a connection between our missing librarian and the lost Princess. Oh and my disappearing read-athon points I should be at the top of the chart by now.

I want to talk to Lupa a bit more but he beckons with his head for me to follow him along the road towards the castle. Walking slowly next to him I feel safe and look around at the gardens and the path leading to the castle. There is something missing from the sounds of the garden and the feeling of deep sorrow surrounds everything. There are a few flowers but their heads are bowed down and their color seems rather dull.

“What season it is in Gardinia right now? “ I ask Lupa.

“It should be summer” he tells me. “but we are not getting the sunshine we need. Clouds are coming over from the dark side. Then for some reason the bees that used to pollinate our flowers are not coming to the gardens. Summer was always filled with buzzing bees and bright colors. We were so grateful for summertime. Many bees have left their hives and their honey and pollen has gone too.”

The castle steps are in front of us and we are walking up them before I get a chance to discuss the importance of bees. There are two rows of white wolves standing on either side of the steps and as we walk up they bow down with respect to their leader Lupa. I walk with Lupa up the steps and have an uneasy sense of being watched and checked by the wolf guard. Lupa growls under his breath and I presume he is telling the wolves that I am good person, not to be feared.

At the top of the stairs we are met by an old man with a very long beard.

He bangs on the floor and all the wolves lie down. Wow that was so cool...but I am glad I am with Lupa and considered to be a friend.

The man with the beard says, “Who goes there?”

“Sam Greene, a visitor to see the King,” says Lupa with confidence.

“On what business?” asks the old man.

“He comes to seek advice on growing herbs,” says Lupa. “I have brought him to meet the King.”

“Hummmmm,” the old man looks up at the sky and down to the ground and towards the castle and finally he says, “That may be a good diversion for the King, he loves to talk about his gardens.”

The old man bangs on the floor again and the door opens to reveal the large entrance hall and opening into the castle. Lupa leads the way and we walk into the King’s castle...the castle of Gardinia. We are on our way to meet the King and I can hardly take all this in. Is it all for real? I pinch my arm and confirm that this is really happening to me. Soon we will meet the King of Gardinia.

Lupa indicates with a nod of his head again that I should bow my head when I meet the King.

Lupa introduces me and we wait for the King to look up and acknowledge us. Slowly the King does so but he looks tired and very, very sad.

I feel really sorry for him. He must be terribly worried about his daughter, Gazania. I am sure the last thing he wants to talk about is herbs.

“Welcome,” says the King and with a wave of his royal arm he invites us to sit by his throne. The conversation is difficult as the King keeps trailing off and forgetting what he is saying. Lupa gets up and I follow his lead. It is time to leave.

We make our way out of the castle and follow the path outside into the gardens.

I feel the dark clouds gathering in the sky and there is an air of gloom over the land. I am very nervous.

It is time to go but how do I get back to the library? Oh and there’s Uncle Bert! My mom’s brother was coming for dinner and he will be waiting to get into the flat. Reality check!

Lupa seems to read my mind.

“I can sense you need to get home,” he says with a sigh. “You are a brave boy, I wish you could stay and help us solve our problems. We need someone like you from the outside world who is clever and courageous.”

I am honored a large white artic wolf is calling me brave. Ha, I wish Miss Sorrel could see me now!

Suddenly a large winged creature flies by and just misses my head! The sun is going down and the light is getting dimmer. What was that creature? A bat? No it wasn’t quite big enough...maybe a night owl. No, too early for owls.

Lupa looks worried and pulls his ears back. The sound comes back again and this time there are two of them. Winged creatures making a terrible whirring sound with their wings, I am sure I even heard one squeak.

“What was that Lupa?” I ask with a tremble in my voice.

“We think they are giant moths that have come from the dark side but no one is sure. They are very scary as they dive at your head and squeak like bats but we know they are not bats. Everyone goes inside at night, the people of Gardinia are afraid.”

Giant moths that squeak like bats! Suddenly I am afraid too. It really is time to go!

We have reached the place where I landed several hours ago. So much has happened and my head is buzzing with stories of giant moths and the dark side of Gardinia. Lupa is anxious to return to the castle too.

“Do you have the stick you arrived with?” he asks.

The browsing stick from the library is tucked into my belt a bit like a sword. I take it out to show Lupa and as I hold it up in the air everything turns upside down again and I spin round and round. I feel the falling sensation. I gasp for breath and find myself sitting on the library floor again.

Back where I started.

I pick myself up feeling a bit dazed but no broken bones. The sound of the home-time bell rings in the background. A quick dash takes me to the front of the library. Careful not to draw any attention to myself I leave the library silently. I’m anxious to get home and think about the afternoon I spent in Gardinia.

I hope Uncle Bert hasn’t been waiting too long. Mom’s brother was a forensic entomologist. He helped the police detectives find clues to crimes through the bugs and beetles that were on the crime scene. What a cool job. He doesn’t like to talk much about the work he did. Kind of secret police work but sometimes he has something interesting to say. Mom says he’s too clever for one he should have been twins!

Perhaps Uncle Bert may have something to say about giant moths.

Chapter 3 - Decisions Decisions...

I arrive breathless at the door. Uncle Bert is there waiting on the patio. Apologizing, I let him into the house to have his cup of tea and some telly before Mom and Dad arrive. He seems to be in a good mood and I am glad that I can scoot off to my room and take in all that happened today.

Wow what an amazing experience! I am still in shock from the idea of being able travel into a different place through the pages of a book in the library! And, how about meeting a wolf, an enormous white wolf that talks to me. The memory of walking to the castle door through an avenue of wolves, the castle guard, is just the best.

But some memories are not so good. I shudder when I think of the distraught King who has lost his only daughter. I never met the Queen – she is too sad to leave her room. There seems to be unrest in the land. A force of evil that is part of the darkness and shadows that are creeping closer towards the castle. Shadows lurk there and are not explained. The plants are dying and what has happened to the bees. A garden cannot function without bees! The wolf was clearly afraid of the giant moths that dived out of the evening sky. People don’t want to come out after dark. Something is not right, but without knowing the full story what can I do? There is a lot to think about.

“Sam, supper time,” calls Mom.

Oh good. I am starving! This could be my chance to see what Uncle Bert knows about giant moths.

I rush downstairs and sit next to Uncle Bert. I am waiting for the right moment to ask him about moths. Just before pudding I think. Uncle Bert likes to get on with his first course without interruptions. He is very particular about his food.

“Err-um,” I clear my throat and ask politely, “excuse me Uncle Bert, do you know anything about giant moths, I mean really big ones?”

Uncle Bert looks up from his bowl of ice-cream and says, “Yes, young Sam, I do. There are a number of really large moths. The largest in the world is the Atlas moth and then there are Lunar moths. They are very beautiful. The American dagger moth is an interesting one.”

Uncle Bert pauses for a moment and continues with a more serious voice.

“But I think the most fascinating is the Death’s Head Hawk moth. I remember a case I had with a dark side to the investigation and….

“Thanks Uncle Bert,” Mom interrupts and says, “I think we will leave out the details of that one. It might be a little bit too scary for Sam just before bedtime!”

Mom changes the conversation to ask about the Read-athon and school and a few other things that I answer easily while still thinking about giant moths. I will do my own investigation, I tell myself. In the library tomorrow I will look under butterflies and moths, biology I guess.

I say goodnight to everyone and go to my room knowing that I will not be going off to sleep easily. I have to decide if I will help Lupa and go back to Gardinia. It seems like a big task for one person but I am the only one involved right now.

Morning time arrives and the alarm goes off as normal.

Getting ready for school is part of a daily routine and I am actually glad that Mom wants me to stay late again. When I woke up this morning I knew that I had to try and get back to Gardinia and at least try and understand the full story of what is happening there. I pack my bag and make sure that I have my 3D glasses so that if I do find the way into the book I will be able to see my way around and connect with Lupa. Maybe I will meet some other Gardinians and together we can understand why the land is being taken over by some dark force and what has happened to Princess Gazania.

The school morning is very boring. There isn’t a single lesson that really makes me feel excited about learning. The library is the place I want to be right now, but I have to wait for the afternoon. The library opens for studying and homework from 2pm. That’s when I will have to go in and try to get past Miss Sorrel and into the Botany section of the library. I hope I can find the right book again to get me back to Gardinia.

My friend Abs keeps waving at me from across the room. I try to avoid her gaze and arms waving. She is reminding me about chess this afternoon. I wave back and say silently that I am sorry I am not able to play. She wants to know why but I just shake my head and say sorry. I like Abs but she is a bit nosey!

The bell rings, time to leave and set off to the library. I am feeling good about my decision and excited to be going back to Gardinia. I need to get past Miss Sorrel as quickly as I can and collect my book browser stick. Then I will be set. I am not even going to check the Read-athon results as I have more important things to do now.

I walk into the library with ‘walking feet’ as our previous librarian had told us. Rather a babyish expression but it did work. I took my ‘walking feet’ to the counter and waited quietly for Miss Sorrel. She leaned over the counter in her usual abrupt fashion and said,

“Oh it’s SPRO-G again. The tiny little boy from Grade 6. Let me have a better look at you.”

She leaned over the counter and once again I saw her a hair on her chin and big Adams’apple. Her gruff voice began to say something when her glasses fell off her nose. I bent to help her pick them up. She did so at the same time. Our faces met around the side of the library counter. Getting up close to Miss Sorrel was a scary experience. Her eyes were dark and looked right into me as if she knew everything about me. Her fingers were so boney and long as she reached out for her glasses. Then as she was leaning forward her scarf fell from round her neck. Before she could put it back I saw a tattoo on her neck. A real tattoo, not that licky- sticky kind you get at some kid’s parties. A tattoo for real and it looked like a skull. The sign of evil or bad omen. I am pretty sure Miss Sorrel is not who we think she is. I am busy wondering who she is when she straightens up and puts her scarf where it should be. She is hiding the tattoo and who knows what else. A job for Uncle Bert maybe, he is good at solving mysteries. I have no time for guessing games so I grab my browser stick and disappear as quickly as possible.

Down the aisles I go to get back to the herb section. I need ’How to grow your own Herbs’. I am in such a hurry. Someone is following me but there is no time to turn and see who it is. There is definitely someone else close by. Maybe in the same aisle with me. I brush off the uneasy feeling that I have because I need to concentrate right now to get back to Gardinia. I try to repeat the actions from yesterday in my mind. Firstly I found the book I wanted, then I tried to reach it with a stool, I used my browser stick to reach for the space where the book was. I try to repeat those actions. Yes! I am on the right track.

I start to spin and fall off the stool. Round and round I go and suddenly the spinning stops and I land on the ground in Gardinia. I catch my breath and look around.

This is Gardinia. I put my 3D glasses on and deliberately put my browser into my belt like a sword. Now I know it has a special function. I am looking around hoping Lupa will be close by. I see him walking down the road in the same way that he did before. A kind of lope and sadly with his head hanging low. He is worried about many things and the happiness of this land. It should be a wonderful place enjoying the mid-summer days. I bow down low as Lupa arrives and he greets me, “Welcome Sam Greene, Gardinia is so glad to see you back again”

“Thank you Lupa,” I reply. “I am glad I managed to get back to see you again. I have so many questions to ask you.”

Together we walk towards the castle and as we go along the path I think of all the things I need to ask Lupa about this land called Gardinia.

Lupa leads me to a bench in the garden and indicates with his head that I should sit. I sit and he sits by me on the grass. Lupa nods his head and says, “Ask your questions and I hope I can answer. There are many mysterious things happening that no one can understand.”

I decide to start with the King and his family. The King must be the key to so many things surrounding the history of Gardinia.

“Tell me about the King,” I ask Lupa.

“Perhaps I should tell you a story,” says Lupa. I nod and start to listen.

“Once there was a King who lived in a castle with his brother. The King was a man of peace and loved his garden. His name was Rhizome and his brother was called Rumex. The two brothers had a good life in the castle and were raised to love plants. Rumex loved herbs and unusual plants and Rhizome loved garden flowers and exotic bulbs. The boys grew up and married. Rhizome had a son, Costus. When King Rhizome he died his son, now King Costus, became the new King of Gardinia. Rumex or Uncle Ru as he was known became very jealous. His wife was jealous too as they had no children. They decided to build their own castle on the other side of the river and they moved away. The land of Gardinia became divided. King Costus Of Gardinia has a beautiful daughter he called Gazania meaning treasure. She is his treasure. Uncle Ru became more jealous and furious. He has no children and he will never be King. The sad thing about this story is there is no Princess left to live happily ever after and no King to reign happily ever after.”

“I am so sorry Lupa, the story is very sad. There are a lot of other confusing things beside the story though. Can you answer some questions for me?”

Lupa bows his head, “I’ll try my best.”

“I need to know something about the dark side over the river. The shadows and whispers that come from the forest. The castle that is barely visible on the far hill. Then on this side of Gardinia why are there so few plants and bees? Why are the people so afraid? And the biggest question of all, where do the giant moths come from?” I asked, questions quickly flowing from my mouth.

Lupa’s eyes looked sad. “Yes we have many problems. We need help before our land dies and the dark side takes over. We need to restore love, kindness and goodness. While the King’s daughter is missing he has no love to share with his people. Without love there is no goodness and kindness. Will you help us? Help us find the King’s daughter and restore this land of Gardinia to it real beauty and glory?” Lupa asked.

I cannot resist the plea from the wolf. I am sure I see a tear escape from his eyes.

“Yes Lupa, I will help you,” I say, but I wonder if I can do this alone. It is a huge challenge!

I need to go home and come up with a plan. Look at some clues and see what resources I have. I decide to come back and start to trace the steps Gazania took before she was kidnapped.

“I must go Lupa, but I will return and plan what to do. We will find the King’s daughter,” I say confidently.

I say farewell and with a wave of my browser stick and a whizzing sound I whirl back to the library. I land with a bump at the bottom of the bookcase where I left from. At that moment I realize that I am not alone, someone is sitting on the stool that I had used to reach the top shelf. Someone is staring at me!

Chapter 4 - Little Miss Nosey Parker...

I landed with a thump and looked straight into the big blue eyes of Abigail Hartley.

She gasped and her eyes bulged with a look of great disbelief.

I was shocked to see her there and wondered if she had any idea of what I was involved in.

“Abs,” I say, trying not to sound too nervous. “What are you doing in this part of the library?”

“I want to ask you the same question!” says Abs. “I’ve been following you for the last two days and something weird is going on.” And she blurts out, “You never miss a chess game. I want to know what you are up to Sam Greene!”

“Well it’s private,” I answer quickly as I don’t want to give out any information. It is all too weird even for me and how will I explain it all to Abs?

Abs gets all offended and pouts there and then.

“Well if you won’t tell me...then I am going to tell on you!” she says crossly.

I think to myself that she is using bribery and being very childish! But what can I do, she has caught me in the middle of something I can’t explain unless I include her in the secret. I don’t want to cause a scene in the library, so I say quietly, “Okay Abs I will tell you what is happening. It is exciting and scary all at the same time. You have to promise not to say a word. You also have to leave the library right now and meet me at my house this afternoon. Pretend that we are going to study together and we are working on a project. I can’t tell you anything here. I need you to leave right now and let me follow separately, so that no one sees us leaving together.”

Abs nods, I can see she is super excited about being part of the secret that I am going to share with her.

Abigail is very bright, top of the class and a very good chess player. It is difficult to fool Abs. I will have to think very carefully about how I tell her about Gardina and the mysterious disappearance of Gazania. Perhaps it will be a good idea to have another pair of eyes and ears on the case.

I sound a bit like Uncle Bert now, referring to the problem as a case, but then this is an investigation! If Abs joins forces with me perhaps we will have a better chance of finding Gazania. We need to find her soon and we need to find who is trying to harm the land of Gardina and why.

I try to get out of the library unnoticed but Miss Sorrel is waiting for me. She glares down her nose at me as I try to pass by the desk. Her nostrils flare and I feel very uncomfortable.

She makes a loud sniff and then a sneeze and then a sniff again.

“You smell musty, dusty like a dirty garden.” She sniffs again. “Like a dry pathway in a dry garden.”

I shudder a bit and try not to look stressed. How does she know so much? It is as if she has a second sense and I don’t like the way she is sniffing me. Surely that’s not normal for a grown woman!

“’Sorry Miss Sorrel, it’s nothing,” I say quickly. “Must be some dust on my shoes.”

I dash out of the library without a backward glance and rush home so I can get there before Abigail. I want to tidy my room before she gets here, it is a mess!

A knock on the front door tells me Abs has arrived. Mom and Dad are not home yet so I run downstairs. “Hi Abs, thanks for coming over and not making a fuss today.” Abs smirks.

Our home is small but comfortable. It is not as grand as some of the other homes that the Bedford View children come from, but it is just right for our family.

I take Abs upstairs to my room where I study and have my desk.

“This is where I do my work so when my mom comes home she will be glad we are studying together and getting our homework done. I think we should tell her we are working on a project together.

Abs nods her head but I can see she just wants to hear what I have discovered in the library. “Okay Sam, spit it out, what are you up to?”

“Abs,” I say very quietly and seriously. “’What I am about to tell you has to stay between us. It is confidential. LIVES ARE AT STAKE!”

Abigail nods ever so seriously, raises her eyebrows and waits to hear more.

“You may not believe this, but I promise you, it is all true and really happened to me. There are some scary things going on and I can’t explain anything yet. I think our library is in DANGER too!”

When I see I have her undivided attention...I tell Abs about going to the land of Gardinia, through a passage of time, in a book. That’s the best way to explain what happened. Then I tell her about the wolf, the King and his castle and everything else I can remember. Suddenly it feels good to talk to someone else.

Abigail is a good listener and her eyes look sad when I say how distraught the King and Queen are at losing their daughter. “That is such a sad story Sam, we have to help!”

Finally when I tell her about the giant moths she shivers and wrinkles up her nose in disbelief.

Finally I finsih telling her everything and let out a sigh of relief. I think she is going to laugh or call me a liar or a story-teller. She does nothing like that. She looks me square in the eyes and says, “Oh Sam, this is urgent, we have to help find Princess Gazania. We need to look at all the clues and try to trace her last steps to see how she disappeared.”

“Abs I’m so relieved you believe me, I was worried you might think I had gone totally bonkers! I couldn’t have a better friend as an investigator on my team.”

“What about the library Sam?” she asks. “You said the library was in danger too. What did you mean by that?”

Abs amazes me, she doesn’t miss much. I had not told her about the library but she remembered that it was part of the problem. I explain that I am very unsure of my suspicions but they revolve around Miss Sorrel and the fact that our real librarian left without a word. I don’t like Miss Sorrel and she does not like me. I feel I have to warn Abs that I have my suspicions. If we are going to be partners in this crime investigation then we need to be honest with each other.

“’Okay Abs, it’s time to think how we can start to solve this case.”

I feel very important when I call it a crime investigation. A bit like Uncle Bert and his stories of crime scene investigations. How did he organize his team? I try to remember and to think of the hundreds of TV shows I have watched while waiting for mom and dad to come home.

“’First we need to have a board up with all the characters involved and anything we know about them. One we can add to as we get more information. Uncle Bert says every little detail is important.” I can see Abs nodding and taking all this in carefully.

“A bit like a storyboard,” she says. “We did one in class the other day before we wrote our stories. It helps with the planning.”

I can see Abs is really trying to be helpful. I have a board in my room to pin-up my favorite posters. Mom doesn’t want me to stick things on the wall or the cupboards. It will be perfect for planning and writing as we get our information. We decide to use a code for the names so if my Mom comes in and reads what we have written, she won’t know what it is about. We decide on a picture storyboard with a flower representing Gazania in the middle.

The rest of the afternoon went by in a flash as we put up all the names and picture clues of every other person or animal that is part of the investigation. I had to tell Abs the persons, animals and places that were important. She carefully made picture clues for each part of the investigation. In the end we had a board full of all sorts of characters that were from Gardinia. We knew there was a connection to the library but that connection was not clear yet.

Just as Abs was about to speak, the doorbell rang and I knew it was Uncle Bert. He comes over three times a week for a bit of supper.

“Time to go Abs,” I say. “I will let you out and see you at school tomorrow. Remember not a word about this to anyone. We need to continue this investigation on our own.”

Abigail nods and I show her out of the house. I walk back inside and see Uncle Bert sitting quietly in the lounge. His favorite TV show has not started yet.

I walk over to him and ask a quick question about investigating a crime. “Hi Uncle Bert,” I say cheerfully. “I am doing a project on being a detective and I want to ask you a few questions. Is that okay?”

“Sure,” says Uncle Bert. “As long as your mother is not here, she gets very angry if I talk about my time as a detective. She prefers to hear about the entomology in the jungle!”

Uncle Bert chuckles and I see that I have a chance to ask something that will help Abs and I, the two detectives. I tell Uncle Bert about a project we are doing together and ask him what the most important part of the investigation is.”

Uncle Bert thinks for a moment and says, “The crime scene investigation! You must go back to the scene of the crime as soon as possible and gather all the evidence that you can. Then interview anyone who had anything to do with the crime. Even if you think they are innocent – suspect everyone and dig deep for your information. Leave no stone unturned,” he says in a very serious voice.

I have a little chuckle to myself as the investigation is taking place in a garden and there will be many stones to turn and look at. What will creep out from under the stones and rocks? We will have to go back to Gardinia once more but this time with a purpose.

Crime scene investigators ready, willing and able.

Chapter 5 - Crime Scene Investigation...

The school bell rings and everyone lines up ready to go into their classes. “Psst..” whispers Abigail. She is dying to talk to me but I silence her with a stare and she nods and turns away looking very innocent. We cannot be seen talking to each other and from now on we must act like under-cover cops.

I pass Abigail in the passage and slip her a note.

Next time I see Abs she gives me a thumbs-up and so I know she has got the message. We will meet in the library and sneak down to the Botany section. I am not sure if we will both get into Gardinia but I have to hope that what worked for me will work for Abs. Otherwise I am on the crime scene by myself.

The library doors are open for afternoon study groups and avid readers who want to change their books. I look at the Read-athon chart as I go in. My name tag has not moved up and I know I returned all my books last week. I am still at zero!

Miss Sorrel is waiting at the librarian’s counter but she is not really focused on the children wanting to change their books. Her attention is taken up by gazing at a strange creature she has on the counter. She gazes at a glass jar that is upside down and full of leaves. A large and brightly colored caterpillar is munching the leaves. Miss Sorrel clucks and tuts like a mother hen over the rather ugly, creepy caterpillar. It’s bright shades of green, blue and yellow are beautiful, but it has an ugly horn at the end of its body and an ugly sort of mouth to chomp at the leaves. It reminds me in a way of Beauty and the Beast.

Most of the girls are making strange noises like “eeewe” and “gross” and they keep their distance from the library counter. Boys on the other hand are fascinated by this brightly colored creature and are getting close to the glass jar. I decide to join the boys and get closer to the jar to catch a glimpse of Miss Sorrels ‘pet’. As I look over someone’s shoulder in-front of me, the caterpillar stands up on its back legs and tries to gnash at the jar with what looks like kind of pincers. Abs tells me after wards they are mandibles and can bite if you get close enough.

Miss Sorrel continues to be totally in awe of the caterpillar and so I signal to Abs to pick out her browser stick and follow me to the Botany section of the library. I am hoping that what worked for me will work for Abs and we can both travel to Gardinia together. I feel excited and nervous at the same time. I am busy concentrating on my plan for the investigation when I bump into Abs who is waiting round the corner of the Botany aisle. We both get a fright and gasp but manage to keep in control of our mutual excitement.

“Okay Abs,” I whisper, “We need to find the book called ‘How to grow your own Herbs’. That’s the book I was trying to get out of the library. Then we must put out our browsers as if we are going to take that book off the shelf.”

Abigail nods with a serious look on her face. I can see she is concentrating very hard and I’m actually glad that she is coming with me this time.

“I think if we stand on the stool together and you put your arms round my waist we should be taken up to Gardinia together. Have you brought your 3D glasses?”

I can feel Abs nod behind me as she wraps her arms around my waist. Clearly this is not a time to be thinking about a girl having her arms round my waist!

“Hold on tight, close your eyes and away we go!”

Suddenly the library whirls round and round and with a mighty whoosh we are lifted up and land with a bump in Gardinia.

“Abs,” I call out, “Are you here? Are you okay?”

I am so relieved when I hear a rather shaky voice reply.

“Yes, I am fine. Just a bit dizzy and I can’t seem to focus on anything,” says Abs.

“Put your 3D glasses on and see what happens.”

Suddenly I hear a gasp of surprise from behind me and I know it is Abigail. She has put on the 3D glasses and Gardinia has come to life in front of her.

Abs crawls over to sit next to me and together we look up the path leading to the castle.

This is our crime scene and we need to have a plan of action. Abs has her notebook out, “Sam, I’ve listed all the people and animals we need to talk to.” I am impressed.

The list starts with Lupa and as I am looking at his name I see that he is walking down the path towards us. “Abs, Lupa is the leader of the guard and we need to greet him with respect.”

I bow down and Abs copies me. We wait for Lupa to acknowledge us.

I did not have time to prepare Abs for the sniffing process but she is very brave and keeps still while Lupa makes sure she is a friend.

“Welcome friends,” says Lupa. “I see you have brought someone with you, Sam. An addition to your pack. Always a good idea to have some help, what is your friend’s name?”

“Her name is Abigail, Abs for short.” They bow to each other and I know Lupa has accepted Abs as a fellow helper and friend.

“Lupa, we are here as crime scene investigators. We need to be able to talk to anyone who knew Princess Gazania and can remember anything important before she disappeared,” I say in a serious tone.

Abs reads out some of the names on her list. Lupa is shocked to hear his name! “Why is my name on that list Sam? Surely you don’t think I would ever harm the Princess!” said Lupa.

“Trust us Lupa, this is how crimes are solved. We must investigate thoroughly. Just remember that everyone is innocent before proven guilty.” This is a useful expression that I had picked up from Uncle Bert.

Lupa fur lowered on his spine, he seemed to understand that we were not picking on him. “Come follow me,” says Lupa.

Together we follow Lupa and I can see Abs staring in wonder at everything. “Isn’t it beautiful Abs,” I say to her, but she hardly hears me, her eyes looked glazed as she takes in the beautiful surroundings.

When we walk up the steps of the castle through the line of white wolves she stares in amazement. Finally we reach the castle door and the old door man lets us into the castle. “Welcome back Samuel, I see you have a friend with you,” and he smiles at Abs. Then he announces, “Unfortunately, the King and Queen are not able to see you today.”

“That’s okay Lupa, today we need to visit all the places where Princess Gazania used to spend her time. You can help us to look for clues and any unusual changes to the scene of the crime. If we meet anyone connected with the Princess...then we’d like to talk to them and add them to our suspect list.”

“I think we should start with the Princess’ bedroom,” says Abs. That’s where we will find out about her daily life. There will be lots of clues in her bedroom, maybe some secret letters or even a diary. Princesses always have diaries!” Lupa and I agree and so we set off into the castle to Princess Gazania’s bedroom.

What a beautiful room she has. All decorated in pink and white with flowers everywhere. It is obvious that Princess Gazania loves flowers.

She is named after a beautiful flower and her flower name means treasure. I am sure that is exactly what she is to her parents. Looking round the room we see photos of her parents and pets and friends. All the typical things you would see in a twelve year old’s bedroom...that belongs to a princess!

“We need to see if she had a diary,” says Abs. “Let’s look under her pillow and see if it is there.”

Sure enough there was the diary. Lupa and I looked very impressed. “How did you know that the Princess would have a diary under her pillow?” Lupa asked.

“Boys surely you know that every girl hides her diary under her pillow.” She laughs, “Oops, I forgot, you two are not girls so how would you know that!”

We take the diary and put it in a bag as evidence.

“Where else did Princess Gazanis spend her time?” I ask Lupa.

“Our Princess loved the herb garden and she spent a lot of time there learning how to grow herbs and how to use them to help the animal kingdom.”

“’Well let’s go to the herb garden then. Please lead the way Lupa.”

Off we went, following Lupa, down a long passage in the castle. On the walls are pictures of the royal family, past Kings and Queens. A row of family portraits. I stop and stare at some of them. Most of the Kings have kind faces and look handsome but one picture looks kind of mean and has very small and dark staring eyes. His eyes seem to look at you as you walk by. I shudder and have a quick look at the name under the portrait – Rumex, son of King Rhizome the second it says.

The long passage comes to an end with a side door that leads out to the herb garden.

Abs shudders, “What a relief to be outside and away from the icy stare of Rumex!” And I totally agree!

The herb garden is behind the castle in a sheltered courtyard with a hedge all around it. Lupa takes us round to the gate leading into the herb garden. I feel a funny sort of shiver go down my spine as I realize this is what I was looking for when I first landed in Gardinia. Herbs, and how to grow them. There should be some powerful clues here I think.

The gate to the herb garden is impressive and as we get close to it we hear some funny sounds. I whisper to Abs, “Can you hear that, it sounds like giggling.” Abs nods her head, her eyes glance around us.

Someone is watching us and they seem to be amuzed. I wonder who they are. Lupa does not seem at all worried. He opens the gate and we walk into the herb garden.

We are greeted by a rush of little people all wanting to give us hugs! Every little person only comes up to our waists and they are dressed in very funny old-fashioned clothes. I smile and wave at Abs and try to ask who are these little people when Lupa comes to the rescue.

“Ahem, aaargh um,” he clears his throat and gives everyone a chance to calm down.

“Allow me to introduce you all to...The Gnomes of Gazania’s Herb Garden.”

There is a general sound of laughter and chuckling about the introduction.

Lupa continues, “Gnomes are very modest and as you can see, sometimes they can be a little over-friendly!” They are passionate about gardening and keeping gardens in just the right way to make sure plant, animal and insects are living as they should. Alive and free.”

Abs and I squeeze past Lupa into the herb garden. The gnomes are so excited to see us. We look at their garden and can see how great they are at gardening. All the plants are in neat rows. Little signs tell us what each herb is in the garden. At the end of the garden is a greenhouse and sign up that says ‘Do Not Disturb’.

I am left wondering how so many gnomes came to be here in Gazania. I turn to ask Lupa and he tells me, “A few years before this day, the gnomes were released from their urban garden duties. People all over the world felt that gnomes should not have to stay in gardens and so they were sent back to the forests and woodlands that they came from. This family of gnomes specially loved growing herbs and using them for medicinal purposes to help woodland animals. When they were released from their country gardens they choose to come to Gardinia to help with growing herbs.”

I saw Abs look sideways at Lupa but he nodded his head and said, “You can check for yourself, but it is true and we love having our gnomes. They are a real help with our gardens.”

Lupa calls us over, “Samuel and Abs, this is our head gardener, Herbie.” He is an old and wise gnome gardener with a very long beard. We feel very privileged to meet him.

“Welcome to Princess Gazania’s herb garden and center for the protection of wounded and hurting animals,” says Herbie. “We are her humble servants and are deeply stressed that our beautiful Princess is not here with us today.”

I felt sorry for the gnomes, they all looked so sad. “Don’t worry Herbie, we will find her. We will need your help to work out where the Princess is and who kidnapped her. Can we talk to the gnomes and find out if they have any clues to the disappearance of Princess Gazania.”

The gnomes nod their heads and their little red hats bob up and down. The mutter among themselves and shake their heads.

Herbie explains, “The Princess was working with one of the most talented gnomes called Basil. He was in charge of the Greenhouse and the development of medicines and healing potions for the birds and animals in Gardinia.”

Herbie signals us to follow him to the Greenhouse.

“The Princess and her gnome assistant, Basil were busy with top secret work,” says Herbie.

“On the day that our Princess disappeared, her assistant, Basil, did not come to work either. Now all our experiments have had to stop. They were close to finding a special potion to help with night blindness in some of our nocturnal animals.”

Abs and I go into the Greenhouse. We are followed by a crowd of eager gnomes but they stop at the door. They are not allowed into the secret lab where meds and potions are being made. Abigail is taking notes as we walk around. She is particularly interested in a plant has beautiful purple flowers on it and is labelled ‘Deadly Night Shade’.

She nudges me to look at the plant but doesn’t question the gnome. On her notepad she jotts: Need to research this plant! I nod and agree.

It’s actually time for us to leave as we have to get back to the library before it closes. There is just time for one more question. I bend down and look into the gnome’s eyes and ask, “Have you noticed anything else that is unusual?”

He nods his little head and tells us, “The bees seem to have disappeared in the garden and we need them to pollinate the herbs. The bees have abandoned their hives and as summer is nearly at an end, there is not enough honey to feed the bees in winter.”

This is very worrying news and I don’t know what to say. Could this be connected to the disappearance of the Princess?

We thank the gnomes and explain we will be back again to investigate further. We leave with Lupa to walk down the path back to the library. It is always a bit scary walking along the path as the dark side of Gardinia stretches to the left of us. Every time I leave this land I feel the shadows growing larger. I am hoping the giant moths don’t appear as I am sure Abs will be terrified.

I take a closer look at the spikey plants to the left of me. It looks as if they are covered in orange flowers.

I am just about to say something to Lupa about this curious crop when he says,“Our potato crop this year has been taken over by a plague of huge caterpillars. They have devoured all the leaves and left the plants unable to produce any fruit. They seem to have arrived from nowhere and within a few days have destroyed our crop that we need for winter food. The plants have totally changed, they no longer even look like potato plants.”

I take a closer look at the creepy caterpillars!

A shiver runs down my spine. I nudge Abs, “Look Abs, it is the same caterpillar as the one Miss Sorrel has in the library!” This is another clue to add to the crime scene.

Is Miss Sorrel connected to Gardinia and the missing Princess?

There is no time to speculate as the sun is setting. “Hurry Abs! We have to get back now.” We wave farewell to Lupa and suddenly find ourselves sitting in a heap beneath the Botany shelf.

I motion to Abs to say I will call her. We leave in different ways and I rush home as fast as I can to put as much data on the crime scene board as I can.

Chapter 6 - Forensic Entomology at Work...

Abs and I dash out of the library. We are in a hurry to get home and review the information we gathered during our visit to Gardinia. I rush straight up to my bedroom to enter the clues I remember onto the storyboard. Abs has the Princess’ diary and I am anxious to know if there is any vital information written on the pages of Gazania’s personal diary.

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