Ruby Pepper
Chapter One- Camp Warrano
Ruby Pepper was always one for a good mystery, but her league was more murder books, and maybe the occasional poison pen plot. Solving mysteries was not her thing.
It wasn’t that Ruby was bad at solving mysteries- she could always analyse a clue before the detective in whatever story she was reading- but murder mysteries had led her to be scared of cracking cases and putting criminals behind bars.
Ruby was from a large Spanish family. She had three brothers and five sisters, all older than her. The majority of them had already turned twenty and left home.
Ruby was sitting on her bed, in her pyjamas, reading The Body Under the Bush, her favourite murder mystery, when she was yelled at to come downstairs.
Sliding down the banister, Ruby went into the kitchen to find her three remaining underage siblings, Jake, Chantilly and Sophie, and her mum and dad, crowded around a stack of mail. Ruby squeezed into the huddle. On top of the stack was a letter addressed to her.
Ruby picked it up and slid her pointer finger under the seal to reveal a sheet of parchment and a thin book.
No-one writes letters in parchment these days, she thought.
Then she noticed the crest on the envelope.
It was a magnifying glass, and there was some sort of company name-
Mysteries And Puzzles Solving Association. You got it, we solve it.
Ruby wondered what they meant by it.
‘Read it,’ urged Chantilly.
‘I think I’ll read it in my room,’ said Ruby, excusing herself.
Settling back down on her bed, Ruby shoved the book aside and began reading the letter. It made no sense.
Efbs Svcz,
Xfmdpnf up NBQTB! Zpv bsf pvs ofx sfdsvju. Jg zpv dbo sfbe uijt, nffu Bhfou Svttfu bu Dbnq Xbssbop’t cpbuipvtf, tjy cfmmt jo uif bn ojoui pg Nbz.
(Bhfou Fmbjof, tfdsfubsz)
Ruby frowned.
‘Okay, let’s decode this,’ she muttered, ‘I’m guessing that NBQTB stands for something, so what would be the be the obvious choice here? Probably Mysteries And Puzzles Solving Association, but that would be MAPSA. However, the fact that the letter B occurs in the same places as the A leads me to believe that the letter B stands for the letter A. That means that this letter is written in Augustus’s Code.’
When Ruby was finished decoding, the letter read:
Dear Ruby
Welcome to MAPSA! You are our new recruit. If you can read this, meet Agent Russet at Camp Warrano’s boathouse, six bells in the am ninth of May.
(Agent Elaine, secretary)
This left Ruby with one puzzle-
What does six bells mean?
Ruby and her family were eating dinner. Ruby was thinking about the note.
‘Dad,’ she said, ‘What does six bells mean?’
Mr Pepper thought for a moment.
‘All I know is that it’s a sailor’s term.’
Ruby excused herself and ran upstairs. There was the book she had gotten in the mail- The Sailor’s Emeralds.
Ruby flicked back the cover and began reading. For the first few chapter everything was normal- but then she came across the six bells phrase. Underneath it, in red pen, was written, Eleven o’clock.
Ruby marked the days until the ninth of May off in her calendar- it was on a Wednesday. She would have school. She spent the weekend trying to figure out away to skip it without attracting attention- but it seemed though someone else had other ideas.
Ruby’s mobile began buzzing. Ruby cursed it- she was reading the rest of The Sailor’s Emeralds.
‘Hello, Ruby?’
It was Ruby’s school principal.
‘Listen, I know you’re in Japan right now, but I need to know when you’ll be back.’
Ruby was not in Japan, but she saw it as a scheme to get out of school on Wednesday.
‘I’ll be back on Thursday,’ said Ruby.
On the other end of the line, Agent Dawson nodded, satisfied.
‘Good day, Miss Pepper.’
That was when Ruby knew something was fishy. At the end of their phone call, Miss Ellyson had spoken with a thick southern accent. Miss Ellyson had a french accent. Also, Miss Ellyson never called Ruby, ‘Miss Pepper.’ Miss Ellyson just called Ruby, ‘Ruby.’
Ruby decided that on Thursday, her first stop was the principal’s office.
Ruby was up before the sun on Wednesday. She was ready to meet Agent Russet at the boathouse.
Ruby had worked out that MAPSA used first names as agaent names, so Agent Russet must be a boy.
She trekked through the woods and through the small canyon that ran through the town of Auscity. Perched on the edge of the sea was the small, insignificant Warrano Camp.
Ruby arrived late to camp, hurried her way past the boathouse, and gasped. He wasn’t alone.
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