Chapter Twelve


    Uncle Drac was part of the Last Chance Plan as well. I could see that Edmund was probably not up to the job. It would be just like him to float off at the wrong moment, or not be scary enough. So I needed Uncle Drac, too, because I knew he would be on my side. I was just about to open the little door to the bat turret when it flew open and Uncle Drac fell out onto the landing.

    "Oh, Minty, Minty, " he said, "something terrible has happened. All my bats have gone. " "No they haven't, " I told him. "Yes they have. They've--" "Uncle Drac, " I said sternly, "while you've just been hanging up there asleep doing noth- ing but snore, Aunt Tabby has gone and sold our house!" Uncle Drac looked confused. He doesn't like being awake during the day. "Wha-at?" he mumbled. "There are three weird people here, Uncle Drac--and one of them is really yucky, you wouldn't believe it, she's so stupid--and Aunt Tabby is selling them our house!" "Eh?" Uncle Drac can be really slow at times.

    I just grabbed hold of him and pulled him along with me. "You can come out now!" I yelled to Edmund, who had been sulking in the secret passage. He floated out. "Who's that, Minty?" Uncle Drac asked me when he saw Edmund. "That's Edmund, Uncle Drac. And if you can't get Aunt Tabby to change her mind about selling our house, he's going to scare those people away. "  Uncle Drac kept looking behind him as Edmund followed us down the stairs. "He doesn't look very well, Minty. What's wrong with him?" he whispered. "He's dead, Uncle Drac. " "Dead?" Uncle Drac suddenly looked as pale as Edmund. "He's a ghost, " I told him very patiently. "Now come on quick before Aunt Tabby sells the house and you have to start packing up all the bats. " "My bats. Where did you say my bats were, Minty?" "I didn't, Uncle Drac. Just hurry up, please. Both of you. "

    How I got Edmund and Uncle Drac down to the third-kitchen-on-the-right-just-around--118- the-corner-past-the-boiler-room I don't know. But I did. Everyone was sitting around the table, and Aunt Tabby was pouring some tea. "Ah, Drac, " said Aunt Tabby, looking up from the teapot. "I'm glad you're here. And Araminta. And, er--who's your friend, Q Araminta? He looks very pale. Would he like a hot drink?" "This is Edmund, " I told her. "And he wouldn't like anything, thank you. He's a ghost. " I looked around to see what effect that would have on the weird people, but they just gazed at Edmund and looked even more excited. "Oh how wonderful, " cooed the sunglasses woman. "A little boy ghost. He's so sweet.

    Hello, Edmund dear. " "Hello, " whispered Edmund. "Listen, Edmund, " I hissed, "`Hello' is just not good enough. Can't you manage a blood- curdling howl or something?" But Edmund didn't do anything. He just hovered by the door in a very boring and unscary way with a silly smile on his face. Being a ghost was wasted on Edmund, I thought. If I was a ghost, I'd have been howl- ing around the kitchen, screeching and hurl- ing all the things off the table--and that would have been just for starters. The small Wizzard person was grinning at Edmund, so I made my wide-mouth frog face at her. But she just giggled. And then something really weird happened. She picked up the glass of orange juice that Aunt Tabby -120- had just poured for her and suddenly it fizzed up over the glass and turned blue. For a moment I hoped that perhaps Aunt Tabby had had a change of heart and was trying to poi- son her, but the Wizzard man said, "Stop play- ing with your drink, Wanda. " Wanda clicked her fingers and changed it back to orange orange juice again. Show-off. Then she took four pet mice out of her pocket and put them on the table in front of her. The mice started doing handstands and cartwheels around her glass. Double show-off. Uncle Drac shuffled in past Edmund, and Aunt Tabby made him sit down next to her. "Drac dear, " said Aunt Tabby, "this is Brenda, Barry, and Wanda Wizzard, and they are going to buy our house. Isn't that lovely?" Uncle Drac didn't say anything. He was looking at me--in fact everyone was looking at me--so I turned my wide-mouth frog face into my cross-eyed wide-mouth frog face. Aunt Tabby sighed. "But as you can tell, Drac, Araminta's being a bit . . . Difficult. " "Wait a minute, Tabby, " mumbled Uncle Drac, blinking a bit. Uncle Drac has trouble seeing in the light, and sometimes I think he is like a great big bat himself. "Do we really have to sell the house?" he said.

    "Minty is very upset, and my bats are behaving very strangely. " "And so, "Aunt Tabby told him, "is the boiler. As usual. And I am not putting up with that boiler anymore, Drac. I mean it. " "Oh, dear, " mumbled Uncle Drac. I could see that Uncle Drac was going to let Aunt Tabby win--as usual--so I said, "Uncle Drac, you have to do something. Please. " "Do I?" he said, looking worried. "Yes, " I told him. "You do. " I sat down opposite him and looked at him. I didn't do a wide-mouth frog face or even a Fiendish Stare. I just looked at him like it was really important. Which it was. Uncle Drac coughed a bit and then he said, "Tabby dear, I am sorry about the boiler. I do realize I have neglected it recently and left you to do all the work. I know it wasn't fair, and I promise that from now on I will share the boiler cleaning--" "And the kindling chopping and the coal fetching, " put in Aunt Tabby. "Er, yes, and that too. " "And the emptying and the lighting and the--" "Yes, yes, I'll do that as well. " "Promise?" "Promise, " said good old Uncle Drac.

    Aunt Tabby sat down rather suddenly. "Well, " she said, "I've had some shocks today, Drac, but having you offer to share all the boiler work is the biggest one so far. " "Does that mean you're not going to sell the house?" I asked Aunt Tabby. "Yes, all right then, Araminta. " Aunt Tabby sighed. "I'm not going to sell the house. " "Ya-ay!" I yelled. "Oh, " mumbled the Wizzard people. "I'm very sorry, " Aunt Tabby told them, "but the house is not for sale anymore. Would you like another cup of tea?" "No, thank you, " said the Wizzard woman, sighing. "We had better be going. " About time, too, I thought--but she didn't get up. Instead she said, "Er, I couldn't help noticing that you had a model three with double ash bins and a reverse riddler.

    It is in fact one of the very rare B Series. " "A serious what?" asked Aunt Tabby. "Your boiler. I wondered if I could take a little peek at it before I go. They are very unusual nowadays, you know. " Aunt Tabby looked at the Wizzard woman like she was crazy, but she took her off to the boiler room even so. When they'd gone, Uncle Drac heaved himself out of his chair. "Must go and find all my bats, " he said. "Need any help?" asked the Wizzard man. "They can be difficult to catch on your own. " "Thanks, " said Uncle Drac, and he and the Wizzard man went off to find the bats. "I too must take my leave, " said Edmund, and he floated off through the kitchen wall.

    "'Bye Edmund, " said the show-off Wizzard girl. "Farewell, Wanda, " said Edmund's voice from somewhere inside the wall. That left me and the Wanda Wizzard girl together. "I could show you how to turn your orange juice blue if you like, " she offered. I thought she might as well. After all, you never know when a trick like that might come in handy, do you? So I said, "Okay. "

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