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But when they got there, the tree was bare. Not a single ribbon was dangling from the branches above their heads. Athena’s eyes began to fill with tears.

‘Look, grandad, someone’s pinched all of our ribbons.’

‘I can see that, poppet. What a mean thing to do.’

Her grandad pulled her to him. She pushed her face against the bottom of his T-shirt, feeling the reassuring rolls of fat beneath. He smelled, as he always did, of antiseptic cream and lemons.

‘Unless, of course, it’s the dragon.’

Athena shook her head. She knew the dragon wouldn’t have done such a thing.

‘Don’t be silly. Dragons like ribbons. That’s why we hang them from the tree. No, a horrible person has done this.’

Her grandad stroked the top of her head.

‘If you say so. But who?’

Athena could only think of the Fleming brothers from the Thorpe but she hadn’t seen them at all this holiday.

‘I don’t know. I can’t think of anybody.’

At that moment, the rolls of fat wobbled away from her and she found herself once more blinking at the tall, eggcup figure of her grandad. There was an eager expression on his crimson face and he was pointing at her as if an idea had suddenly occurred to him.

‘I know. Why don’t we ask Mrs. Wilson at the shop? She might have seen something.’

Athena supposed it was worth a try. After all, the shop was only a two-minute walk from the park. And nosy Mrs. Wilson was always looking out of the window. The woman missed nothing.


But before she had time to turn, the palm of her grandad’s hand had stopped her in her tracks.

‘Aren’t we forgetting something?’

Her grandad was pointing at the bag of ribbons at the foot of the tree.

‘This dragon of yours needs looking after. We don’t want her getting a fit of the grumps. Come on, up on my shoulders. It will only take a minute.’

Athena knew that he was right. The last thing you wanted to meet in the dark corner of a village park was an angry, fire-spitting dragon.

When they finally arrived at the shop, Mrs. Wilson looked over her glasses at them. She was a bent old woman with grey, frizzy hair and grey teeth. She always reminded Athena of a soggy old dish cloth. Mrs. Wilson coughed to clear her throat and rasped,

‘Now, who do we have here, Batman and Robin? What can I get you? Some energy drinks?’

She cackled to herself and coughed again. Athena shuffled behind her grandad.

‘Not today, Mrs. Wilson. No, we were hoping you might be able to help us. We’re after some information.’

Mrs. Wilson’s eyes lit up as her mouth cracked into a thin smile.

‘What is it that you want to know?’

‘Well, it’s Athena really. Somebody’s been pinching the ribbons from her tree. She wanted to know whether you’ve seen anything unusual in the park over the last few days.’

‘Depends what you mean by unusual. You see some funny goings on out of my window, I can tell you. But why doesn’t she ask me herself? Cat got your tongue, young lady?’

As Mrs. Wilson leaned to get a better view of her, Athena shuffled even closer behind her grandad so that her nose was now inches from the frayed bottom of his T-shirt.

‘She’s a bit shy.’

‘So I can see.’

Mrs. Wilson cackled again. It was a bit like listening to a vulture. Her grandad scratched his neck and did one of those breathy laughs of his.

‘So, nothing out of the ordinary?’

‘Nothing comes to mind. Unless, of course, it was the boggarts. When I was a little girl, we always blamed the boggarts if anything went missing.’

Her grandad laughed again, nervously this time.


‘Oh, yes. In fact, people always said that there was a particularly nasty one who lived at the bottom of the park. We were too scared to go there when I was a little girl.’

‘Yes, well, we don’t believe in those sorts of things now, do we?’

‘I’m not so sure.’

‘But weren’t they just used to make children behave?’

‘Nothing wrong with that.’

‘No, of course not.’

Athena could feel her grandad’s sausage fingers brushing against her ear and tapping at her neck. It was a signal that he was getting ready to go.

‘Well, thank you for that, Mrs. Wilson. We must be on our way. Say goodbye to Mrs. Wilson, Athena.’

Athena poked out her head and looked at the floor in front of the counter.


‘Ah, there you are. You do have a face. Goodbye, dear. Let me know if you see any of them boggarts.’

They had only just got past the shop window when Athena tugged her grandad to a stop.

‘Are the boggarts like the Flemings?’

‘No, boggarts aren’t people.’

‘What are they then?’

‘Well, they’re like goblins.’

‘Do they live up Cob Hill?’

‘They don’t live anywhere. Boggarts don’t exist.’

‘But why did Mrs. Wilson ask us to look out for them then?’

‘She was joking and probably trying to scare you.’

‘So why did she say that there was definitely a boggart in the park?’

‘That was a long time ago.’

Athena stamped her foot. It was clear that her grandad knew nothing. If it was the boggarts who were pinching her ribbons, then she would need to find out as much as possible about them. Know your enemy. That’s what her granny said. So, where to start? Google, of course.

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