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Jack Hunter The French Connection

Chapter One

Jack lay awake… there was something important he needed to remember. A nagging thought erupted into realisation. Suddenly remembering, he sat bolt upright. Today was the beginning of the best week, ever.

Normally, he would hit the snooze button at least three times until his mum finally came and banged on his bedroom door. Not this morning! Cheering loudly, he leapt from the security of his bed with a grin of excitement beaming across his face.

“JAAACK!” his mum yelled from downstairs as he opened the bedroom door.

Jack was determined nothing would ruin his day –  even a run-in with The Stoneman could not dampen his spirits. David Pullen, nicknamed ‘The Stoneman’, was the top of Jack’s most hated person list. In fact, he was the only person Jack did not like. The Stonemans’ favourite pastime seemed to consist of making his life a misery and Jack did not have a clue why.

Jack was determined nothing would ruin his day –  even a run-in with The Stoneman could not dampen his spirits. David Pullen, nicknamed ‘The Stoneman’, was the top of Jack’s most hated person list. In fact, he was the only person Jack did not like. The Stonemans’ favourite pastime seemed to consist of making his life a misery and Jack did not have a clue why.

“Make sure you get some breakfast,” his mum called.

“Al-mmm-right,” he replied with a mouth full of foaming white toothpaste. As he waved his fancy new electric toothbrush around, toothpaste splattered the bathroom, covering the mirror. The toothpaste went everywhere, except where it was supposed to.

“Jack, are you cleaning your teeth?” his mum asked outside the bathroom door. Caught by surprise, Jack dropped his toothbrush into the basin. The battery-powered bristles continued to whirl, splashing the gooey, pearly white substance all over his face and dark navy school sweatshirt.

If his mum could hear him cleaning his teeth then what

was the point of asking the question? It was obvious he would not be able to reply. Jack argued his case to the person staring back at him from the streaky mirror. The boy with white foaming lips and snow-covered top stared back. After skilfully preparing his defence, “Yeah,” was all Jack could muster.

“Why are you cleaning them

now? You’re supposed to clean them after your breakfast,” his mum continued. “Otherwise there’s no point in cleaning them at all.”

Jack could not believe what he was hearing. His parents were always telling him to make sure he brushed his teeth. The very morning he actually did clean them, somehow, he was still scolded.

A loud knock at the front door interrupted the victory speech he was now preparing. Jack was certain he would come home triumphant. He hastily sponged the splash marks off his school top guessing his friend had arrived. Holly was sort of Jack’s best friend – sort of, because that privilege was shared with three others.

A little over eight months ago

Jack was cruelly ripped from everything he knew and dragged to Barnoldswick, a sleepy town in Lancashire. It seemed at that moment his life was at an end. According to all the statistics, data, and percentages, Jack’s life should have been duller than a big, fat, RUBBISH!

That is until he met Holly (real name Shaun), Martin and Jules

Brown – who lived next door – and BT. If you could somehow squash the four of them together, then Jack would have the perfect best friend all rolled into one.

The events of those school holidays would never be forgotten! Just a few weeks after moving to Northern England Jack became something of a local celebrity. Every newspaper

wanted to have his picture on the front page. It meant those first few weeks at his new school, which would normally have been a living nightmare, were in fact, brilliant. Everyone wanted to be his friend.

That was nearly nine months ago. Next week was the Easter holidays. Jack was going on holiday to Disneyland in Paris with his best friends. It was

going to be his best holiday ever.

Jack had never been abroad before. The furthest he had ever travelled was Anglesey, a small island off the coast of Wales. Two fantastic weeks stretched before him, starting that afternoon with a trip to Burnley.

Today, out of his four best friends, only Holly would be walking with him on the one-and-a-quarter mile trek to

school. Jules and Martin were both staying home with a case of the chickenpox, and BT would not be eleven for another six months, he still went to Coates Lane Primary School. A smile briefly spread across Jack’s face at the thought of Martin missing the BIG day, if only because Martin could be so annoying at times with his childish pranks.

 

Jack rushed down stairs to the front door.

“Have you got everything, mate?” the super-organised Holly asked, casually leaning against the doorframe and swinging his foot at an imaginary football, while holding his school bag in one hand and the remains of a chocolate-coated Pop Tart in the other.

Jack frowned.

“And, do you have your money for the trip?” reminded Holly, before polishing off the last piece of his breakfast. Holly eagerly licked his fingers clean removing all traces of crumbs.

“Make sure you’ve got everything, Jack,” his mum’s voice was still ringing loudly in his ears as he was about to step out of the house.

“And don’t forget to take some bananas, darling. They’re good for giving you energy.” Jack was beginning to feel dizzier than a spinning top. If only everyone would just stop talking all at once.

MONEY! The word struck an immediate chord with him.

“Murrrm,” said Jack, stepping back into the house and throwing her one of his famous

puppy-dog-eyed looks. “Can I have a tenner? I need it for the school trip.” Before his mum had chance to reply, he added, “plerr-ease,” just for good measure.

“I’m sorry, love. I spent it all on shopping yesterday. I needed to get provisions for our holiday. You’d better check with your dad. I’m sure he’ll have some money in his wallet.”

wallet.”

That was all Jack needed. His dad’s wallet was more secure than Fort Knox with Scrooge in charge of the keys. Not holding out much hope he entered the kitchen. At that time in the morning, it was the lair of his ferocious dad. He dragged a reluctant Holly along, reasoning; “It’ll be more difficult for my dad to refuse giving me the money if you’re with me. Besides, he’s always saying how much I should be more like you.”

money if you’re with me. Besides, he’s always saying how much I should be more like you.”

His dad sat at the table with a mug of tea and a plate of toast. Roger Hunter enjoyed reading the paper, but most of all he enjoyed circling all the errors he found with a red felt marker. “Hello Jacky,” he greeted his son without looking

up. “Shouldn’t you be on your way to school by now?” he asked in his usual annoying manner. “Oh, hello there, Shaun,” momentarily glancing up, he greeted Holly as he circled another mistake in the paper. “Did you know that on average there are one hundred and thirty seven grammatical errors in every newspaper?”

Holly shook his head.

“Now there’s a saying; if a job’s worth doing, then do it well! Wouldn’t you agree?”

Holly nodded in agreement.

“Anyway, you make sure our Jacky doesn’t lead you astray.” Roger Hunter laughed at his own quip. His dad’s efforts to impress Holly were somewhat curtailed by a blob of strawberry jam rolling down his chin.

Jack wanted to shout at his dad. A vision of red Indians tying his dad to the chair while the chief wrote JACK on his father’s forehead in buffalo poo to remind him his son’s name was Jack, quickly vanished as he remembered the mission. “Dad… I was wondering if I could have, erm, a tenner for my school trip…it’s today? Please…” he asked shuffling his feet on the spot. “It’s really

important.”

Lifting his head out of the newspaper; “They call me Sam Dilly, not Damn Silly,” his dad laughed.

Slamming the front door as he left the house Jack jumped outside with one giant leap. He hated the way his dad showed off in front of his friends. His dad’s stupid expression was still rattling around in his head.

The glorious, crystal blue skies of the previous days were somewhat tainted by a mugginess that told him a storm loomed. Torrential rain would completely spoil the big day.

The two boys were no more than five minutes into their hike to school when Jack heard a faint voice cry,

“Jack! Holly!” Jack spun around. There was no one to be seen.

“Did you hear someone call us?” Jack asked Holly.

“Look, is that… BT?” Holly pointed to someone who looked more like a one-foot-tall garden gnome, since they were so far away. BT was not particularly short; he just appeared smaller than his friends because he was only ten years old.

Jack waved and turned back

around. There was no time to waste. Old Crumble had made it perfectly clear that anyone late that week, even once, would be dropped from the team – and he was not going to allow anything to stop him. Jack had not even placed one foot in front of the other when he felt a whooshing sensation by his side. Before he knew what was happening, someone had snatched his school bag.

Jack looked up just in time to see BT whizzing past, red and orange sparks spewing out from his heels. “Turbo shoes!” BT cheered with a huge grin, victoriously waving Jack’s bag in the air.

Speechless, Jack turned to Holly for some kind of explanation. Holly just returned Jack’s blank expression.

“Look out!” shouted Jack. BT was too busy looking at them and not in the direction he was heading. Before he could slow down, he hit a low wall. Everything happened so fast. Jack and Holly remained rooted to the spot. BT tumbled backwards over the wall, disappearing out of sight, still clutching Jack’s school bag. SPLASH! BT had fallen into the canal!