“I’ve got some good news. We’re going on holiday,” said Mum, “We leave in two days.”
There was one moment of absolute silence before the twins, Jem and Clem, who were far more intelligent than any twelve year old deserved to be, burst into chatter.
“Ooh, where to?” Clem imagined riding a camel in Egypt and looking for hidden treasure in the tombs of the great pyramids. Jem, on the other hand, was daydreaming about the Caribbean, sailing a pirate ship, searching for lost treasures.
“Northumberland,” said Mum.
“Huh?” Clem was still lost in her vision of golden desert sands.
“Where’s that?” asked Jem.
“It’s as far north as you can get in England.”
“But what is there to do?” Clem’s face fell, her dream-bubble bursting as she poured milk on her favourite cereal, chocolate Wheaty-Bits.
Jem had his ear to his cereal bowl, listening to the crackling pops of his Chocco-Poppers, dreams of pirate plunder fading.
“It’s a very interesting place,” said Mum. “We’ll be staying near Hadrian’s Wall.”
The twins thought it sounded rather dull.
“Mr Connolly is in the lounge; he’s brought Very Special Agent Penfold who will be going on holiday with us.”
The children groaned. They called Mr Connolly ‘Mr Grumpy-Socks’. They’d discovered recently that their father, who’d died before they were born, had been an agent in a division of the British Secret Service. They’d been in witness protection their whole lives and hadn’t known it. Mr Connolly was an agent too and had moved in next door to keep an eye on them. How could they enjoy themselves if they had a secret agent watching them?
They headed into the lounge to be met with a very nice surprise.
“Jem, Clem,” said Mr Connolly, “I’d like you to meet Very Special Agent Penfold.”
Both children fell to their knees, stroking the silky ears of the Belgian Malinois dog who sat obediently in front of them.
“Can we keep him?”
Clem exclaimed, “This is the best news ever. I don’t think I’ll ever call you Mr Grumpy-Socks again.”
Even Mr Connolly laughed.