The sprawling campus of the Grand Oak International School in Panchgani was bathed in a sublime incandescent orange from the withdrawing rays of the sun that had pierced through the grey cloud cover. Inside a dingy classroom tucked away in a corner of the Science Block, a plump boy sat slumped in the front row with his head cradled in one hand. He remained oblivious to the wind that was playing with his neatly combed hair even as a tiny snore escaped his half-open mouth.
A slender girl tiptoed into the classroom with a mobile. She held it in front of his unsuspecting face and steadied her hand. “And there it is,” she mumbled in between muted giggles, tapping the screen gently. The click was followed by a bright flash.
The elbow slipped and the boy spluttered, banging his chin hard on the wooden desk. A sharp hiss escaped his lips, but he refused to open his eyes. His other hand reached out for something frantically. “No, no, no,” he cried, pressing his forehead to the desk. “I was this close.”
“Well, not all is lost,” the girl replied, admiring her work. “We now have ample proof that you drool. And I don’t use the word ample lightly.”
“Ugh,” the boy moaned, wiping his mouth with his sleeve. He twisted his head up and glowered at her. “You could have waited a few more moments Rhea,” he grumbled, moving his jaw around until the pain had subsided.
“And missed out on my brother’s drool fest?” Rhea grinned, sliding into the chair next to his. She narrowed her eyes. “Are you still trying to find the stolen dagger Rishi?”
“What do you think?”
“Why don’t you just give up on that silly dream?”
But Rishi turned his head away and closed his eyes. “Go away,” he yawned with a wave of his hand. “Perhaps I can still solve this mystery.”
Rhea slid the mobile over nonchalantly and clicked again.
Rishi shot up like a spring and blinked his eyes. “Why me?” he groaned, raising his hands. “Why?”
“Don’t be so dramatic,” Rhea teased, tousling his hair.
“Not the hair. It took me almost an hour to get my detective look.”
Rhea framed his face with her fingers. “Detective? No way. You could pass off as a vampire though.”
Rishi glanced at his reflection in the window pane. “I give up,” he sniffed.
“Rishi Agarwal, you should be ashamed of yourself,” Rhea fumed, thumping her fist hard on the desk. “You ate my head the entire summer about starting a detective club. So what’s the matter now? I didn’t leave my Environment Club signup drive for this whine fest. You’d better fire on all cylinders and get this thing started.”
“Huh?” Rishi was suddenly wide awake.
“Inspiring, right?” Rhea grinned.
“Hardly. You sounded like you were possessed.”
She wrapped her hands around his neck playfully and continued, “So what’s the status of the club?”
Rishi swept his arm around the empty room. “You can see for yourself. But it just doesn’t make any sense. A detective club’s such an awesome idea. And yet…”
“Did you do any canvassing at all?”
“What about posters?”
“Then, my idiotic brother,” Rhea said, reaching for his hair again, “how do you expect anyone to know about your club? I’ve been toiling away for the past two days. That’s why we’ve managed to get twenty members.”
Rishi managed to duck in time. “But we’re talking about the detective club here,” he said indignantly. “I mean, it’s the detective club, right? Do I even need to say anything more?”
Rhea dug her fingers through her short hair. “Fine, I’m just going to drop this,” she winced. “Uh…so why do you want to be a detective? I mean, I know you love detective stories and all that. But real life’s very different.”
Publisher’s website: https://www.booksthakam.com/
The newly formed Panchgani Detective Club comprising siblings Rhea and Rishi Agarwal and the Srivastava twins Anoushka and Ishaan decide to investigate the recent kidnapping of an archaeologist. They struggle to find clues until a pen drive mysteriously turns up at their school campus. The prime accused also happens to be the very same person who had earlier given evidence against the twin’s father, a former archaeologist. Things are further complicated by a couple of school bullies, a strict vice principal, and a campus break-in. And just as they’re on the verge of a breakthrough, things start going horribly wrong. The children must now use all their deductive powers to solve the case!