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‘Meet my new parrot,’ says Tilly, when she arrives. She holds up a white ball of feathers in a cage ‘Actually, it’s really a cockatoo. It’s called Giggles – the previous owners got rid of it because it couldn’t shut up.’
‘Where’s it going to live?’ asks Eric, poking his finger through the bars.
The cockatoo stares, disdainfully. ‘Ladies underwear,’ it says and picks at something on the bottom of the cage. ‘What-ev-a.’
‘It’s going to live in Tom’s room.’ Tilly smiles at me, her face almost cracked with smugness. ‘It’ll get him out of bed in the morning.’
The girls have set up camp on the other side of the fire pit and they’re dancing around arranging things. Mr Worthy seems delighted. I don’t understand why things need arranging – things at Field Craft have always been random. That’s the way we like it.
They’ve arranged the food, some leaves, and now they’re arranging a play with music. Mr Worthy suggested that they might like to write a script. Luckily, Tilly’s not doing that bit. Although, she’s brought her violin, and Milly’s brought hers, so they’re practicing the “overture”.
I think, if they don’t shut up soon, I’m going to ask Jacob to do something about it. A firebolt perhaps.
It’s almost dark, and I wander over to where Eric set up the telescope. Mrs Worthy’s pointing out constellations to a group of girls. ‘Can you see the Unicorn?’ she says. ‘Or the Hot Air Balloon – apparently it only appears in July.’
I slip past and line the telescope up with the sliver of moon hanging over the bay.
‘Psst,’ says a voice behind me. I don’t need to look; I can feel the heat. It’s Jacob. ‘Don’t look through there! Let the girls go first; I’ve put ink on the eyepiece. Quick,’ he says, handing me an armful of random objects, including a pair of trainers and some crunchy paper bags. ‘Hide these in their things.’
I look at what he’s given me. It’s his “I’m a genius” sweatshirt and a load of Fizz Pop suckers, fused together by the heat. ‘Why?’
‘Whateva! Whateva!’ yells the cockatoo from the girl’s camp.
‘They’re mine,’ says Jacob, ignoring the bird.
‘Yes – and?’
‘I’ll get you!’ yells the cockatoo.
‘I’m going to say they’ve been stolen and then Mr Worthy will search the camp and they’ll be found in the girl’s stuff. They’ll get into trouble and Mr Worthy’ll ban the girls. I’m going to hide my game console and my phone in with them.’
‘Happy birthday to you, squashed bananas and stew...’ yells the cockatoo.
‘That bird’s going to drive me mad.’ Eric appears like a damp shadow at my elbow. ‘Is this the fiendish masterplan?’ he asks poking at the sweatshirt.
‘If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands...’
‘Might be,’ says Jacob. ‘Anyway – let’s get on with it, quickly, while they’re singing.’
‘Uh – no,’ says Eric. ‘I don’t think so.’
“If you’re happy and you know it and you really want to show it...”
‘Come on Snot Face – it’s our only chance.’
Eric sighs. ‘It’s not only wrong – it’s not going to work. Mr Worthy won’t believe it. Don’t Jacob. It’ll backfire.’
‘Money, money – any money for me!’ the cockatoo’s getting louder.
I nod, sagely, and hand the sweatshirt back to Jacob, balancing the bag of sweets on top.
‘So does that mean you won’t back me if I put frogs in our tent and blame it on them?’
‘You’re right; we won’t,’ says Eric.
‘Or leave a paw print outside their tent and pretend it was a grizzly?’
Eric coughs. ‘Really?’ he says. ‘You were seriously thinking of doing that?’
‘Look behind you!’ screeches the cockatoo. ‘There’s an alien.’
Eric is, of course, right, although the thought of getting Milly and Tilly and their violins thrown out of Field Craft is profoundly tempting.
‘Oh honestly – you two, you’re such a pair of losers. Right, stand back and prepare to be amazed.’ Jacob sets off, leaving behind him a pair of smouldering footprints and the stink of burning grass.
We watch him slip behind the girls, disappearing into the shadows, stopping by the girl’s tents, rummaging in their bags. Every now and again a shower of sparks spins off from his head, like he’s a giant sparkler, just about to get going.
‘Whateva! Whateva!’ The cockatoo’s leaping around in the cage. Jacob picks it up and carries it over towards the woods.
‘Should we stop him?’ I ask.
‘I –’ But Eric pauses. We’re both watching a silhouette crossing in front of the fire. ‘Who’s that?’ he asks.
I stare at the figure. ‘I think it’s the girl from the castle,’ I say.
We watch as she follows Jacob towards the girl’s camp. She’s caught in the wafts of steam that rise from his footprints in the dewy grass. She bends down exactly where Jacob bent down and pulls something out, bringing it back towards the fire, and then on, towards us. ‘Your friend seems to have lost his sweets in my overnight bag,’ she says quietly.
I open my mouth but no sound comes out.
Eric springs to his feet and sticks out his hand. ‘Eric, Threepwood. Nice to meet you.’
She tilts her head and surveys him. In the gloom I can’t see her properly, but she looks older than Tilly, and definitely more grown up. She’s still wearing the red scarf. ‘I’m Lily – Lily Lee. So you’re not part of the plan – with your steaming friend?’
I shake my head and realise that she probably can’t see me. ‘No – he’s...’
‘Alone...’ says Eric.
‘Really? Does he know that he’s...?’
‘He doesn’t,’ says Eric.
‘And we’d rather he didn’t,’ I say. ‘If you don’t mind.’
‘How interesting,’ she says.
‘I know a secret about you! I know a secret about you! Murder! Murder!’ screams the cockatoo. ‘Murder most foul – Murder-!!!!’
We all stare as tiny sparks seem to leap from the ends of Jacob’s fingers showering down around the cockatoo’s cage. For a moment it’s just pretty, like someone with a load of sparklers, but then the sparks fall through the cage and catch on the tents – and within a second, the flames lick over the pile of bags, and the entire girl’s camp goes up in multicoloured flames, fireballs shooting up against the sky, Jacob, silhouetted against the blaze tears towards us, holding something flaming in his hands.
‘Fail! Fail! Fai – Epic Fail!’ yells the cockatoo, flapping its wings and sending the sparks in wilder and wilder circles.
Eric runs towards the tents grabbing the bird, arcs of water already hitting random objects around him.
‘No!’ shouts Jacob a huge column of flame bursting out from the top of his head, his eyes glowing red. ‘NO! NO! My Game Cube – my phone! NO!!!’
All the questions from previous chapters are still open to answer as well.