The top secret diary of davina dupree (page 4)

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Eventually we arrived somewhere – at first I didn’t have a clue where – in the dark. Croaka’s car clock said it was half eleven at night. They told us to get out, took Arabella’s iPhone out of her pocket and made sure I didn’t have one, then frog-marched us towards a large, modern looking building. (They didn’t find you, Diary, as no one thought of looking behind my shawl.) Most of its walls seemed to be made from shimmery glass and it was very wide.

Anyway, with Croaka holding on to me and Pike clutching Arabella, we climbed up an enormous flight of steps at the front of the building towards a large, glassy door, lurching from side to side like a group of drunk old men.

‘I know what this place is,’ I whispered across to Arabella as I stared through the door. ‘I recognise it now, I’ve seen it in one of Carrie’s art books. It’s the National Gallery of Art and Design. They’ve got a painting of a field by Claude Monet, Carrie’s favourite artist, hanging in the entrance hall. Look.’

‘Well done, Detective Davina,’ Croaka sneered, grabbing my arm even tighter. ‘Thisisthe National Gallery of Art and Design and for one night only, it belongs to me and Jacinta. It was easy to get the director, Mr Cerise, to move the date of the Annual Egmont Art Show. I just phoned him up and explained that Mrs Fairchild, the head at Egmont, was desperately ill with only a few weeks to live and really wanted to see one last art show before she died. Jacinta phoned him up separately, pretendin’ to be Mrs Fairchild’s doctor and confirmin’ everything I’d told him. He said, “Oh poor Mrs Fairchild, she’s always been such a great supporter of the arts,” and agreed at once. Easy as pie, when you know how.’

‘You’re not nice,’ Arabella said. ‘Fancy saying something like that about Mrs Fairchild. I hope she goes on living for one hundred more years at least.’

‘Quiet, you little worm,’ Pike snapped.

‘You do realise,’ I said. ‘That when Mrs Honeysuckle our housemistress comes round to check we’re all in bed, she’ll realise we’re not there and call the police.’

‘You do realise,’ mimicked Croaka. ‘That we’ve already told Mrs Fairchild you were both very keen to help us put up the art display at the National Gallery, bein’ such incredibly arty pupils. They’re not expectin’ you back at Egmont until late tomorrow evenin’ and by then it’ll be too late.’ I swear she let out a real cackle at that point.

‘Too late for what?’ Arabella asked.

‘Oh, you’ll find out.’ Pike jeered.

By then we were all soaked by the splattering rain. Croaka took a pearly white card with numbers all over it out of her pocket and slipped it through a device on the glassy door. Something inside the door clicked and it slid open.

‘Kind Mr Cerise gave it to me earlier,’ she said boastfully, flicking a load of light switches then pushing me forwards. ‘We had to drive all the bloomin’ rubbish over this morning that you kids have been painting – Mrs Fairchild was watchin’ us load it all in to my car or we wouldn’t ‘ave bothered – and he gave it to me then. Said all the gallery staff would be out of our way by this evening so we could get on with the time honoured tradition of putting up the Egmont Show. As if.’ Croaka and Pike looked at each other and sniggered.

They marched us through the entrance hall, past the golden field of poppies by Monet, then down corridor after corridor, past a few famous paintings I recognised and loads that I didn’t, until we got to a door that had a yellow and blue sign on it.

‘Cleaning cupboard,’ Arabella whispered.

Croaka used her pearly white magic card to unlock the cupboard door. Then they pushed us inside, a little bit harder than necessary in my opinion, then slammed the door shut. We heard their horrible laughter fade in to the distance as they went off to steal paintings.

It was pitch black.

‘Right. Let’s get out of here,’ came Arabella’s strong voice. I could feel her stand up and stumble around.

‘Aha, I’ve found the light switch,’ she said, flicking it on. I looked around.

We were squashed amongst vacuum cleaners, bottles of cleaning stuff and brooms. There were lots of shelves above our heads, piled with spray cans and dusters. There was an inside door handle and I tried it with all my strength, but as expected, it was firmly locked.

‘Now what are we supposed to do?’ Arabella said crossly. She kicked a pile of crumpled boxes that were in front of her and they tumbled over. Things spilled out everywhere and soon I was surrounded by old sponges, cloths and dusters. I noticed something shimmering under a cloth and leaned forward to pick it up.

‘Arabella, look!’ I said. ‘It’s a pearly white card, exactly like the one Croaka used to open all the doors.’

‘Good find, Davina.’ She said, leaning over to have a closer look at it. ‘Hmm, it’s a bit chipped round the edges.’

‘Yes,’ I said. ‘It must have belonged to the cleaners. They probably need to open all the doors in the building so they can clean everywhere. Maybe they chucked it in that box and forgot about it when they were given a newer one.’

‘The question is, will it open this door, or is it too broken?’ Arabella asked.

‘Only one way to find out,’ I said. I turned back to the door. It had the same device on this side as it did on the other, a little box with a narrow gap down one side of it. I took a deep breath, then whooshed the card through the gap. There was a pause. Then a click!

‘Nice one,’ Arabella grinned, carefully picking her way over the floor. I turned the handle as quietly as possible, just in case. and in a minute we were standing in a dark corridor full of enormous shadowy paintings. We looked at each other.

‘Now what?’ I whispered.

‘Now we find a telephone and call Carrie. The sooner the police get here the better.’ Arabella whispered back.

I nodded. My heart was hammering loudly as we stood in the corridor, with no idea which way to go. It was dreadfully important that we found a phone before Croaka and Pike found us. I knew that at some point they’d come back and check on us and find an empty cupboard. And who knew what would happen

Anyway Diary, that’s where we are now, still in the corridor. I had a chance to write in you while Arabella looked for a phone in every room that’s off this corridor. She’s coming back from the last one now, shaking her head, so I must go. I can hear some muffled tapping noises and I think we should find out what they are. Wish us luck…

Some time in the middle of the night between Monday 30thSeptember and Tuesday 1st October…

So we now know the tapping noises were Croaka and Pike trying to chip a large gold frame off the wall in the Orange Room because we saw them. (All the rooms in the gallery are named after different colours – very imaginative.)

We crept along the corridors, past the Pink and Green Rooms, through the Purple Hall and up to the door of the Orange Room. This was where the noise was coming from. The door was open a bit and we stared through the crack to see the AWFUL sight of Croaka standing on a ladder, being supported by Pike, hammering a sharp spike behind one corner of an enormous gold frame then trying to pull it off the wall. They mustn’t have been able to steal the paintings without getting the frames down first and I was glad to see they were finding it very difficult. And do you know what painting they were trying to steal first? “Starry Night” by Vincent Van Gogh. MY FAVOURITE PAINTING BY MY FAVOURITE ARTIST!

‘I think I saw a phone back there in an office we just passed,’ Arabella whispered. ‘Come on.’

So we tiptoed back and found she was right. In an office marked ‘Events Organiser’ there was a phone sitting on the corner of the desk. I rushed over, picked up the receiver, tapped the only phone number in the world that I knew off by heart (I don’t know my parents mobile numbers as they don’t tend to answer them, being on secret missions in far off countries), and waited, biting my nails, listening to Carries phone ringing and ringing.

‘Please pick up. Pleae pick up,’ I whispered over and over again.

Just as I was about to put the receiver down again, feeling very depressed…

‘Hello?’ Came Carrie’s crackly, tired voice.

‘Carrie!’ I shouted in relief. Arabella put her finger to her lips.

‘Davina, is that you?’ Carrie said, yawning. ‘What on earth are you ringing for at this time of night?’

‘Sorry Carrie, but please listen. I’m going to try and explain everything but we don’t have much time. You see, earlier on today, Pike and Croaka kidnapped us and locked us in a cupboard in the National Gallery of Art and Design.’

‘They did what?’ Carrie shrieked, suddenly sounding very awake. ‘Are you alright, Davina?’

‘Yes fine, we escaped. After they found out we were on to them they convinced the director at the National Gallery to move the starting date of the Egmont Art Show to tomorrow, by saying Mrs Fairchild was desperately ill and wanted to see one last art show before she died.’

‘The absolute rotters, that’s outrageous!’ Carrie sounded very angry. ‘Where are they now?’

‘Erm, at the moment they’re trying to knock Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” painting off the wall so they can steal it,’ I said.

‘Absolutely disgraceful behaviour,’ Carrie spat. ‘Right Davina, here’s what we’ll do. Mrs Peverell from the grocery shop told me that Hugh Broderick and his wife Marjorie flew back from Italy yesterday – they came back a bit earlier than expected because Marjorie got food poisoning and wanted to go home - which is bad news for her but good news for us. I’m going to go round there now, I don’t care if itisthe middle of the night – this is an emergency – and tell him everything. He’s a good man, he’ll jump in to action. Meanwhile, I want you two to find areallygood hiding place – somewhere those two scoundrels won’t find you - and stay there until they’ve been arrested and it’s safe to come out. Is that understood?’

‘Yes Carrie,’ I whispered, feeling relieved. ‘Good luck with Hugh.’

‘Good luck yourself,’ she said. ‘Now go and find that hiding place.’

‘What did she say?’ Arabella whispered as I placed the receiver back ever so quietly.

‘She said we’ve got to- ’ I turned and stopped. Pike was standing in the doorway looking madder than a cat in a catnip factory.

‘Chris!’ She yelled. ‘The little worms have escaped.’

‘Run!’ Arabella yelled. I didn’t need telling twice. We joined hands and ran towards Pike in unspoken agreement, bashing her out of the way as we pelted through the doorway. She tried to grab us but fell sideways as we ran on. A deep roar and pounding footsteps that sounded worryingly close came from the Orange Room. Croaka was obviously not a happy bunny.

We sprinted down corridor after corridor, past priceless paintings from around the world. A terrible stitch started in my side but somehow I kept going. We didn’t know where we were going, we just ran and ran. But Pike was gaining on us and from the growly insults being yelled, Croaka wasn’t far behind. What with all the coughing and spluttering, neither of them sounded very fit.

Suddenly, we hit a dead end. The corridor we were on just ended with a wall. We flattened ourselves against it, as Pike and Croaka wheezed and spluttered to a standstill.

‘I’ve had just about enough of you two.’ Croaka’s eyebrows were knitted together with anger. ‘Jacinta, grab them. Their luck just ran out.’

Pike stepped forward and took Arabella and I roughly by the arm. But just as she started to drag us towards Croaka, a familiar voice echoed down the corridor.

‘Unhand them this minute, Miss Pike.’ I looked up and saw the most welcome but unexpected sight of Mrs Fairchild. This time, the tiny old lady wasn’t dancing, twirling or doing yoga. She looked deadly serious – rather cross in fact - as she walked towards us, eyes flashing. Pike loosened her grip on us, but Croaka laughed.

‘How exactly are you going to stop us doing exactly what we want, old lady?’ She jeered. ‘Hit us over the head with your handkerchief?’ Croaka tuned to grin at Pike. That was her big mistake because while her head was tuned, Mrs Fairchild, who’d arrived next to the art thieves, hitched her skirt up, crouched down, twisted, then whopped Croaka in the stomach with her foot – VERY HARD. And she was wearing high heels – ouch!

‘No, but if you paid attention to anyone but yourself you would have noticed me taking kick boxing lessons every Tuesday. Do keep up.’ She said calmly. In a split second she’d repeated the process on Pike. Both art thieves were now rolling around on the floor, clutching their stomachs. Arabella turned towards Mrs Fairchild, who was pulling a roll of thick string from her handbag.

‘But how come you’re here? I thought you didn’t believe us?’ she asked.

‘I didn’t at first,’ Using the heel of her shoe, Mrs Fairchild pushed Croaka flat on to her stomach. ‘Do grab her arms and pull them behind her back, there’s a good child,’ she said to me. ‘I’m going to tie her up. You, don’t even think about moving.’ She said sharply to Pike, who was looking scared. I dropped to the floor and did what she asked straight away. Mrs Fairchild bent down and in a trice had bound Croaka’s hands together behind her back in a knot a sailor would be proud of. ‘Yes, to start with, I thought you were playing a game with me, exercising your active imaginations.’ She went on. ‘But then little things began to catch my eye.’ She pushed Pike to the floor and Arabella grabbed her arms without being asked. Mrs Fairchild produced another expert knot. ‘Now do sit on their backs, dear children. It’ll stop them escaping until the police get here. I phoned them when my worst fears were confirmed, just before I came and found you two. I saw the Van Gogh painting hanging off the wall with tools under it. Shocking. And I’m sorry I didn’t believe you earlier.’ She looked at us sadly.

‘You just saved our lives, Mrs Fairchild,’ I said. ‘So please don’t apologise.’

Screechy police sirens suddenly filled the air outside. Croaka, who I was squashing as much as I could, began to wriggle and squirm when she heard them, but a quick, (rather hard) tap from Mrs Fairchild’s shoe soon sorted her out.

In a minute, our corridor became VERY busy. One minute there was just the five of us there in the dark and the next, lights were switched on and literally HUNDREDS of police officers wearing bullet proof vests swarmed in, followed closely by Carrie, who was arm in arm with a white haired man who I recognised as Hugh Broderick.

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