‘Watch out!’ Ella’s screech came a moment too late.
Hector Majones froze as his bottle of Irn Bru teetered on the edge of the table, then crashed to the floor of the canteen.
‘Now you’ve done it,’ she yelped as shards of glass and orange fizz trickled over the grey linoleum.
Hector felt the hairs on the back of his neck quiver into action and his head spun, but the expected roar failed to materialise. After a moment, his shoulders fell as he frowned at his sister on the other side of the table.
‘Weird,’ he said and turned again, his eyes scanning from the mouldy cheese sandwiches to the vending machine beside the door. ‘Where is he?’
‘I dunno,’ Ella was peering too and her voice sounded as puzzled as Hector felt.
The two of them had crossed the Sound every Monday and Friday since the dawn of time and if there was one thing as reliable as a juicy fart after beans on toast, it was that ‘Salty’ Ritz, Captain of the Skerry ferry, would be haunting the snack-bar, gurning at any of the pupils of Mainland Academy who dared step out of line.
‘Vaska isn’t here either,’ Ella wrinkled her nose. ‘It’s all very odd.’ But Hector was eying the mess on the floor.
‘We should go and look for Salty,’ he said.
Ella looked shocked. ‘Don’t you think we should wait here and… well, try to clean up?’ she said, but Hector shook his head.
‘I think it might be important,’ he said. ‘What if something has happened to him?’
‘Like what exactly?’ It was Ella’s turn to frown.
‘Well like… what if he was murdered…. or kidnapped… or has toothache… ‘
‘Toothache?’ Ella laughed. ‘If he had toothache, he’d be here and more crabbit than ever.’
Hector rolled his eyes. ‘Why do you have to focus on all the wrong things? This could be SERIOUS.’
Ella’s lips were tight, but Hector could tell he was almost there.
‘I could buy a munchy box after.’ His voice was wheedling. ‘Vaska will be back in a minute. She’ll clear this up and by the time we find Salty, you’ll be needing something…’
He could see the temptation in her face. Vaska’s munchy boxes were legendary.
‘Okay then.’ Ella stood up, carefully stepping around the orange pool on the floor. ‘But we’d better not be too long. It’s only an hour till we dock.’
‘Brilliant,’ said Hector.