The Beast of Blackslope

The Sherlock Files (Volume 2)

Tracy Barrett

Henry Holt and Co.

Beast of Blackslope
CHAPTER 1
Owoo-oo-ooo! The sound drifted through the air to the park where Xena and Xander Holmes were lying on their stomachs in the grass.
"What was that?" Xena sat up and pushed back her long dark hair. The eerie wailing sound had come from way off in the distance. It interrupted the Game she and Xander were playing and made her skin prickle.
Xander stared toward the woods. "Um, a siren?" He didn't really believe it though. That had been a weird noise. It gave him goose bumps.
"I guess." Xena wasn't convinced either. "A wolf, maybe? Do they have wolves here in England?" She knew Xander had been reading up on natural history for school. Xander had a photographic memory. He would remember any mention of wolves--especially because he had a phobia about wild animals.
"Nope." Xander shook his head. "No wild ones, anyway. The English killed them all by the eighteenth century. And there can't be a wolf sanctuary or anything like that near here or Mom and Dad would have definitely mentioned it. And I would have convinced them to pick someplace else for vacation."
"Well, maybe a dog, then." But Xena still felt uncomfortable. She'd never heard a dog make such a spooky sound. And now she felt that there was something creepy about the quiet town square in this little village. She shivered and decided to change the subject. If Xander thought there were wolves, or even something like them, nearby, he'd refuse to do any of the outdoor activities their parents had planned. "Let's play some more," Xena said. "It's still two-one, your favor."
Their father had taught them the Game, and his father had taught him, and his father had taught him, all the way back to the inventor of the Game: their great-great-great-grandfather Sherlock Holmes. They had found out only a few weeks ago that they were descended from the famous detective, and they had already solved one of the cases in his notebook of unsolved mysteries.
The Game was a good way to sharpen their detecting skills. The rules were simple: figure out something about passersby--like their job, where they come from, or what kind of mood they're in--just by observing them.
"I wonder where everyone went," Xander said. "It's not dark yet, and there were lots of people around until a few minutes ago. How can we play the Game?"
"Here comes somebody." Xena narrowed her eyes at the figure walking down the side of the road next to the park. Xander was getting too good at the Game, maybe even better than she had been at his age. But she was two years older, and she was determined to win this round.
"Hmmm," Xander muttered. It was a kid about twelve years old, like Xena. How can I figure him out? he wondered. There's nothing unusual about him.
The boy smiled as he passed. He had freckles, an upturned nose, and curly light brown hair. Xander saw a grin of triumph on Xena's face. Oh no--what had she seen?
"City kid!" she said, and Xander looked at the boy again. The boy stumbled over something and almost fell. He disappeared around a corner.
Xander groaned, because in that last secondhe too had spotted the monthly Tube pass sticking out of the boy's back pocket. It looked just like the transit passes the two of them used to get to school and around London.
"Ha!" Xena said. "Two each! And the second one you got didn't really count."
"Did too," Xander said.
"Oh, okay." Xena could afford to be generous, because she had caught up. She stretched out on the grass and waited for another person to go by. This village seemed like a good place for their vacation, and she was excited about being somewhere other than London. Not that London wasn't a great city. She was really glad their dad had taken a one-year job there. She still missed her friends back home in the States, but she and Xander were attending a really cool school with kids from all over the world, and most of them were nice. She had even started liking Andrew Watson, whose great-great-great-grandfather had been Sherlock Holmes's best friend, and who went to their school.
Thinking of Sherlock reminded Xena of something. "Xander, you did remember to pack the notebook, didn't you?"
"Of course! You think I'd forget Sherlock's cold-case files? It's our best treasure."
A week after they had arrived in London, Xena and Xander found the secret meeting place for the Society for the Preservation of Famous Detectives--or the SPFD. The members of the SPFD believed that because Xena and Xander were descendants of Sherlock Holmes, they had the potential to be great detectives. The SPFD gave them Sherlock's notebook of unsolved cases, and Xander and Xena realized that some of those cases could still be cracked.
"We never would have found the lost painting without the clues in the notebook," Xena said. She and Xander had solved the case of a painting that had been missing for more than a hundred years.
"It would be so cool to solve another mystery," Xander said. "Not much chance of that on vacation though. Do you think--"
Ooo-ooo-OOOOOOO! They both froze as the howl drifted down from the forest. It started long and low, rose to a higher pitch, then dropped again before dying out.
"No way that was a siren!" Xena said. "Let's find out what it was!" She leaped up and ran in the direction of the eerie sound. When Xander didn't answer she glanced over her shoulder.
Xander had disappeared.
Copyright © 2009 by Parachute Publishing, LLC