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The Paradise Beach Mysteries: Whitehaven Beach

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Whitehaven Beach

 

Megan and Marcus can’t wait for the summer holidays to begin at Bexhill-on-Sea, where their own incredible beach hut, Parry, doubles as a high-powered rocket ship. Before long, they are heading for Australia on a thrilling mission. As secret agents, they must confront a dangerous gang to try and save a beautiful beach from certain environmental ruin. When they spot a massive crocodile mysteriously devouring all the famous white soft sand on Whitehaven Beach, things start to go seriously wrong. Marcus sees Megan being swallowed by the reptile and does not hesitate to plan a daring rescue operation. Skilfully, he helps her to escape, but as they are planning how to recover the stolen sand, the thieves return and the two young agents find themselves in great danger. Will Whitehaven Beach be lost forever?

 

Secret agents everywhere are invited to step inside the amazing Bexhill-On-Sea beach hut of The Paradise Beach Mysteries and join Marcus and Megan Morgan, as they travel at the speed of light to far-away top-rated world beaches, in a quest to save them from environmental ruin.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whitehaven

Beach

 

The Paradise Beach Mysteries

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cathy Maisano

 

 

 

 

Copyright © 2014 by Cathy Maisano

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Cathy Maisano has asserted the right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work

 

This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

 

 

 

 

ISBN 978-1503167353

 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Rosemary Bickle

www.writeforchildren.co.uk

 

 

Illustrations by Claire Fletcher

Copyright © 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

For Gabriel and Francesca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Contents

 

 

Chapter One 1

Chapter Two 10

Chapter Three 13

Chapter Four 20

Chapter Five 25

Chapter Six 29

Chapter Seven 33

Chapter Eight 35

Chapter Nine 43

Chapter Ten 51

Chapter Eleven 57

Chapter Twelve 61

Chapter Thirteen 66

Chapter Fourteen 73

Chapter Fifteen 76

Chapter Sixteen 80

Chapter Seventeen 83

Chapter Eighteen 87

Chapter Nineteen 92

Chapter One

 

‘QUICK! Run to Parry!’ Marcus shouted to his little sister.

The rain beat down hard into the rock pool, ending the best-ever crabbing this summer. Megan sprang up, grabbing the bucket of crabs and with her hot pink crocs on, bolted across the large pebbles to their grandparents’ beach hut, 502, Paradise – better known as Parry. She loved spending her school holidays in Bexhill-on-Sea in the south of England. It was the seaside, staying with her grandparents and being a secret agent for EP that all rolled into one ball of excitement in the pit of her stomach. Striding faster toward the beach hut, she kept saying in her head to the rhythm of each step, ‘E-P, E-P, E-P…’ She was so hoping that she and her brother would soon be sent on another mission.

As Marcus hurried over the rocks, he fell into a shallow rock pool and ripped the back of his swimming trunks. Luckily for him, his sister ran faster and the seaside had cleared, so no one was going to see his bare butt. The strong wind whipped at his blond hair, but his Spiderman cap kept the rain out of his eyes. Sure, he was nearly ten, but Spiderman was one of his biggest heroes and this was no ordinary cap. Solving mysteries for EP was so cool and having special gadgets came with the job – it was better than having any touchscreen MP3 player that so many of the guys at school had.

Entering into Parry, he shut the aqua-green door behind him. It almost sent the wooden paddles flying off the pale grey walls. Megan was already drying her long blonde curls.

‘Hot chocolate coming up,’ she said. Undoing the pink polka-dot flask, she poured two cups of warm, milky chocolate. She reached for Gran’s rain-time supplies, as she liked to call them. In a big, fat round custard-coloured tin on the top shelf next to Grandad’s playing cards, lived the marshmallows. She dropped one white and one pink marshmallow into each of their mugs. Marcus was getting out of his trunks beneath his towel, which was tightly wrapped around his waist. He saw his Grandad’s wet, hippy rainbow-striped board shorts hanging on a hook, but opted for his own dry red shorts and T-shirt, before Megan even turned to give him his drink. The rain kept beating down hard on the tin roof – they had to shout to hear each other.

‘Now would be a good time for EP to send us to some sunny place,’ Marcus said, sipping his drink and looking across at the alarm. The alarm mounted behind the door looked like any beach hut alarm, with its exit delay of 30 seconds and entry delay of 10 seconds and flashing light, but it was far from being ordinary: it was Parry’s voice-box. Marcus stared harder at it, in the hope that their extraordinary beach hut would call them for EP duties.

‘Last day of the school holidays and it rains again,’ Megan said. ‘EP hasn’t contacted us all summer, so it is unlikely to now – maybe in mid-term.’

‘Are there any messages, Parry?’ Marcus asked, staring up at the alarm.

Parry’s amber laser light scanned and replied, ‘Marcus Morgan,’ he replied. ‘The Morgan family children have been called to EP duty for generations and never once in my fifty years of service have I missed a call out. Thankfully we are not being called out to protect world-famous beaches from catastrophic crimes every day – consider it a good thing.’

Marcus hadn’t meant to upset Parry. ‘Sorry, Parry,’ he said. ‘You are amazing – even Grandad tells us of some of the great rescue missions you both went on.’

‘Does he now?’ Parry asked. ‘Nothing too confidential, I hope.’

‘No, but I wish he had told me more,’ Marcus answered. ‘Like the time he had to swim in shark-infested waters near Thailand and you sent a gale-force wind from your roof-top funnel to create a massive wave for him to body-surf to shore.’

Parry chuckled. ‘Ah, yes,’ he said. ‘I’d never seen him move that fast until then. Well, EP – Oh, I do like to use the correct names for our services please, but you have me even calling them EP now.’ He cleared his throat. ‘The Environmental Protection of World Beaches agency has mastered technologies to help us protect and fight beach crime. We are very fortunate, but it is important that we always remain secret about it.’

‘You can trust us, Parry,’ Megan said, finishing her cup of hot chocolate. ‘And the way you leave a replica shell of yourself behind when we take off flying – well, even the neighbours like the Cooks, in hut 501, don’t suspect a thing.’ She walked toward Parry’s voice-box. ‘But please, Parry,’ she asked. ‘Can you check in with EP for us? We want to be on our next mission and try to get to the highest EP ranking.’

Parry was quick to speak. ‘Oh, it’s not all about getting promotions, young lady,’ he said. ‘The White Swan ranking will take some work to get to, and it won’t be before you have the Secret Beach assignment – but enough of that for now. You are not to think about that. You are ranked as Nenes, as you know – it is the official state bird of Hawaii and is the world’s rarest type of goose. It means you are skilled to travel much farther distances, work on more dangerous missions and have lots of gadgetry to use. You are almost nine years old and will work for EP until retirement at 18 years of age. You are very lucky to have been selected to be an agent.’

Megan knew when she was getting a talking to, and now was that time. She didn’t mean to sound as if being noticed and awarded was more important to her than protecting the world’s most beautiful beaches. It was her naturally competitive personality shining through.

‘I know, Parry,’ she said. As she was about to explain her thoughts, Parry began to flash a green light and beep.

‘Look!’ Megan said. ‘EP must have heard us. What have you got for us, Parry? Is it the Secret Beach?’

Marcus leapt out of his candy-striped deck chair, knocking the shell wind-chime in the process and making an even louder racket than the rain on the roof. He went to press the green button, but Megan got there first. Although Marcus was one year older, his sister was definitely faster and a lot less clumsy.

Parry spat out a ticket, ‘No, not the Secret Beach, but Beach hut 502 must report at once for duty,’ Parry instructed. Megan tore it off and passed it to Marcus who read the contents aloud: ‘Sand thieves operating on Whitehaven Beach. Prepare for immediate departure as local authorities fail to capture criminals. Suspect large theft today. Good luck with the mission.’

Megan turned the red and navy lifebuoy that hung on the wall, clockwise, as if it were a steering wheel. It released a map from a hidden wall panel with the exact location of Whitehaven Beach. She gasped.

Marcus looked across at her. ‘Where is it?’ he asked.

‘In the Whitsundays,’ Megan replied. ‘Marcs, that’s in Australia.’

The map began to zoom in from the outline of Australia. It focused in on the top right hand part called Queensland and then it focused in again off the Queensland coast to a cluster of 74 islands.

‘Tell us about this place, Parry,’ Marcus said, looking at the map.

‘Certainly,’ Parry said. ‘Whitehaven Beach is on Whitsunday Island, which is uninhabited and the largest island in the Whitsunday group.’

The map now had an image of the very beach they were about to go to. Marcus and Megan both returned to their deck chairs and strapped the boat garland that was strung on white-washed twine, across their laps. These transformed into highly secure seat belts. Megan reached across and put on her denim cap; Marcus already had his Spidey hat on. They rubbed the peaks on both of them and the caps immediately transformed into hi-tech helmets that protected them from any turbulence and provided all sorts of special gadgets that could prove useful on a mission, such as oxygen, night vision goggles, a two-way radio and pocket knives.

Marcus took hold of the steering wheel and entered the destination: Whitehaven Beach. ‘Hold on, Megs,’ he said. ‘We might not make first day back at school. We’re heading to Australia. Okay, Parry,’ he ordered. ‘Take us to Whitehaven Beach.’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Two

 

 

Parry shot up like a rocket, then floated like a fast moving cloud and finally landed like a bird’s feather, as it came to gently rest on the white beach. Total travel time was five minutes and fifty seconds. It was the longest journey they had ever taken, but much faster than flying in a normal aeroplane.

‘Wow! Parry’s right!’ Megan said. ‘Being nene-ranked, we are going a lot further than we used to. It’s so cool to be in Australia.’

Marcus pulled a nearby spade handle toward him. It lowered a television screen that showed pictures of what was outside and around them. They could see a rocky, densely green mountainous island that must have separated from the mainland millions of years ago. Megan undid her belt and turned up the bionic hearing switch on her helmet to listen out for any outside noise. It could pick up sounds within a quarter of a mile. Megan reached across and took the ‘Gone to the beach’ arrow sign off the wall. She felt down the side of it for the on switch. The old wooden sign transformed into a mini-computer. Parry had organised all the information for her – as he always did for their beach missions.

‘Thanks, Parry,’ she said.

‘You are welcome, Megan,’ Parry replied.

Megan scrolled down the screen as she read out the information. ‘Facts about Whitehaven Beach’, she read on. ‘It is one of the World’s most spectacular beaches. It is uninhabited and reached only by boat. No accommodation. It allows day-trippers only. Current weather conditions: sunny, 25 degrees. The biggest fact about Whitehaven Beach,’ she read on, ‘is the sand. It is the whitest, finest and softest powdery sand in the world. The beach is made up of coral from the Great Barrier Reef. When the coral broke off during storms, it turned white as it died. Over millions of years, more dead coral piled up and rose above the sea, creating an island. The coral was crushed by the wind and the waves and turned into some of the purest white sand and that’s how Whitehaven beach got its name.’ She looked up at Marcus, who was rubbing SPF sun-cream over his body.

‘This part of the world can really burn, Megs, and given our rainy summer in Bexhill, we’ll need plenty of sun-cream,’ he said. Marcus had creamy white skin that would almost burn at the sound of the word sun. Megan applied the cream too, but her skin looked sun-tanned nearly all of the time and wasn’t about to burn easily.

Parry’s amber laser scanned the surrounds on the beach. ‘The coast is clear,’ he said.

‘Great. Let’s get out there then and see for ourselves why this sand is worth stealing,’ Marcus said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Three

 

 

Both children gasped when their feet touched the sand. They had never felt sand as soft and so cool. Parry had told them of the high levels of silica in the sand and how it never became hot. It looked like the flour in Grandma’s flour tin. It was whiter than white itself. They rolled around in its softness. Shutting Parry’s door and adjusting their glasses, they could see Parry. He was now invisible to the naked eye and was stationed at the northern end of the beach.

‘We must be at Hill Inlet,’ said Marcus. He had read that Hill Inlet was a cove, with the most amazing fusion of water and sand colours ever seen in the world. Before them was a twisting and turning stretch of calm aqua-blue water lapping into the powdery sand. Its pattern reminded Marcus of how the pale-blue icing swirled through the cream of his last birthday cake, which had depicted a fabulous underwater world. Whitehaven Beach felt so dream-like that he almost wanted to eat it. The children looked up as a sea-eagle flew overhead towards the water.

‘Did you see the sign, Megan?’ Marcus asked. ‘It says that no dogs are permitted on the beach.’ Megan didn’t mind most things, but she was scared of dogs.

‘Look, over there,’ Megan said, shifting Marcus’ gaze to the water’s edge. Day-trippers had arrived on a ferry-boat. Bikini-clad girls and boys in shorts were getting off and rolling in the sand – everyone seemed to be under the spell of the sand’s softness. A boy with orange and blue dolphin-printed shorts stepped away from the tourists and walked toward Marcus and Megan.

‘Hi,’ he said. He looked at Marcus’ white skin. ‘The snow is really getting thick.’

Marcus smiled. This was the secret password for EP agents this year and it sounded ridiculous on an exotic beach.

‘Yes, a snowstorm is on the way,’ Marcus replied, exchanging the remaining part of the password. The boys shook hands.

‘It’s great that you could make it so quickly.’ he said. ‘My name is Shane. I work for the Environmental Protection of World Beaches agency in this part of the world.’

‘I’m Marcus and this is my sister, Megan. What’s going on? This place is paradise – it’s hard to imagine that anything is wrong.’

Shane looked back at the day-trippers going in for a swim. ‘I know – but there is – and if we don’t get to the bottom of it, this place will soon have lost its beautiful sand for ever. Let’s sit in the shallows, so we don’t look out of place.’

The water was as warm as a bathtub and nothing like the rock pools they had been crabbing in earlier today. They sat down and waited for Shane to tell them more.

‘In the last week, the Environmental Protection of World Beaches has been contacted by the local council to say that sand on Whitehaven Beach is disappearing fast. The council have watched for changes in the weather and the tides, but it is not being caused by anything natural. So the council decided to camp out on Whitehaven Beach, which is not normally allowed, but they figured it was the only way to find out what is going on.’ Shane tilted his brown and yellow cap and focused his blue eyes on the two of them. ‘That’s when they saw something that they couldn’t believe.’

‘Go on,’ Megan said, bursting to know.

‘In the middle of the night,’ he said, ‘they saw a giant crocodile come out of the water, open its mouth and begin to eat up the sand.’

‘What?’ Marcus said too loud, making a couple of the grown-up day-trippers look over their way. ‘I’m sorry,’ he continued, ‘but I’ve never heard of crocodiles eating sand before.

‘Well, according to the local wildlife experts, neither have they, but the council stayed on and camped here for a few more nights. This thing always comes out of the water at the same time, eats and disappears. The council contacted the Environmental Protection of World Beaches, because if a story got out about this and people knew, there would be hysteria. People are scared enough of crocodiles in this part of Australia, without finding that they are now eating the land that we live on.’

Megan sat up from the water. ‘But not just any land, it is this sand. Why?’

‘That’s why we called you both,’ Shane said. ‘We know of your recent successes and knew you could crack it.’

Marcus cupped his hands under the water and lifted the sand to the surface. ‘But won’t the sand return to the beach from the tide?’ he asked. ‘I mean – what is the worst thing that can happen here? A freaky-looking croc is hungry and wants to eat sand rather than humans. Isn’t that a good way to look at it?’

Shane shook his blonde head. ‘It’s very serious, Marcus,’ he said. ‘For starters, this is the most precious sand in the world. If it goes, it runs out. Not only will it destroy this natural beauty, but there will be no beach, no fish and major flooding. This means no tourists and that means no money to protect this place. The beach, which has been here for hundreds of years, will no longer exist.’

Marcus was getting hot in the afternoon sun and wanted to go in for a swim. ‘I guess we have some time to solve this case?’ he asked.

Shane shook his blonde head again. ‘No,’ he said. ‘You have very little time. If there is more stealing of this sand, the beach will sink into the water within a matter of days. You have to do something now. The council know that we have our agents coming here. They will be arriving soon by boat and will set up camp tonight. You are invited to stay with them. Nadine Richards is heading for the camp. She will tell you everything you need to know. I am needed back at the agency, but will keep in touch with you. Good luck. Is there anything else?’

‘Yes,’ Megan asked. ‘Do you have any special gadgets, that EP – I mean, the Environmental Protection of World Beaches – want us to have on this assignment?’

Shane stood up. ‘Oh yes, almost forgot,’ he said, reaching into his shirt pocket. It had the same word Hawks written on it, as was on his cap. ‘This might be needed.’ He threw a bottle marked Rid to Megan. She caught it in one hand.

‘Rid? What’s that,’ she asked.

‘In this part of the world,’ Shane said as he walked slowly toward the boat. ‘It is an insect-repellent. Sand-flies can be a problem at sunset. The sand-flies are tiny insects about the size of a grain of pepper. If they pee on your skin, it’s like a sting, so be sure to put this on if you need it.’ He was waving now. ‘Goodbye.’

‘Pees on your skin?’ Marcus cried out, but Shane had gone. ‘Gross!’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Four

 

 

The beach was free from day-trippers for a little while, so Marcus and Megan decided to take a look around. The blue sky seemed bigger and brighter in Australia than in England. The beach was over two miles long, but they decided to stay around Hill Inlet for the time being. Lush green mountainous islands dotted the brilliant azure water and trees swayed gently in the soft breeze that drifted across the beach. It was so quiet that only the sound of their feet rubbing in the soft sand could be faintly heard. They walked away from the water’s edge and leant against a low-lying coastal she-oak tree in the shade.

‘What’s that?’ Megan said, pointing up into the tree. A piece of what looked like green cellophane was flapping in the gentle breeze.

Marcus stared at it. ‘It must have got caught up there,’ he said.

‘But where from,’ Megan said. ‘There’s no rubbish on this beach. Where has it come from?’

As they stared up at it, they heard the smooth powerful engine of a luxurious ferry approaching the shore. They walked toward it to meet Nadine Richards, whom Shane had said was heading for the camp. Instead, a big-bellied man with white hair poking out of his ears, wearing a skipper’s hat, came over.

‘G’day kids,’ the deep-voiced man said. ‘Barry Peterson’s the name,’ he said. ‘What’s your game? Miss the last boat back, did you?’

Marcus and Megan realised they must have looked a bit strange standing there all alone on the beach, but before they could speak up, a thin woman with long black straight hair tied behind, came over.

‘They are here to see me, Barry,’ she said not looking at him. ‘There’s no need to get all worried about them. I’m in charge here.’

Barry busied himself securing the anchor. ‘Of course, Ma’am, er… Ms Richards, I mean. I don’t mean to interfere,’ he said. ‘We don’t want to leave any passengers behind here. There’s no shelter and no food and no way of calling for help. I wanted to be sure.’

Ms Richards turned back to him. ‘See?’ She said. ‘You’re doing it again – worrying! Everything is all right. Now if you’ll excuse us.’ She signalled for the children to walk with her and away from Barry.

‘So you two are the agents?’ she began. ‘I thought they would send someone a bit older.’ She marched ahead of them, toward the low-lying tree that they had been leaning against earlier.

‘I suppose you have seen this?’ She pointed up into the tree at the green cellophane.

‘Yes, we did and we wondered how it got there.’ Megan spoke first.

‘How it got there?’ she said. ‘I put it there. That’s how it got there. This is our marker on the beach for the best vantage point to see what’s going on at night.’

Marcus cleared his throat. ‘And what do you see happening at night?’

She turned and stared hard at Marcus with her dark brown eyes. ‘Don’t waste my time, boy,’ she said. ‘You have been briefed about the crocodile. There’s no more to say. You’ll see it tonight if it comes again – but you’ll be seeing without me.’

Marcus and Megan looked at each other.

‘I and the team can’t be here tonight. A very important council dinner party is planned and since I’m the councillor, I must be there,’ she explained. ‘So we’ll set up a tent for you, leave you some food and we’ll be back in the morning. Hopefully, by then you’ll have solved the crime.’

Marcus tried to speak again. ‘But you’ll need to tell us a bit more about this crocodile,’ he said. ‘I mean, does it look dangerous?’

Ms Richards’ eyes flared. ‘It’s a crocodile, isn’t it? Of course it looks dangerous! And if it eats sand, what do you think it will do if it sees humans? So don’t get too close and do what clever agents are supposed to do: spy!’ She began to walk deeper into the trees to instruct the team where to set up the tent, but turned back to face them. ‘Oh, you won’t be completely alone,’ she said. ‘I’m leaving Jess with you – she knows this beach well. If you’ve got any questions, ask her. I’ll see you tomorrow and hopefully you’ll have some good news. Good luck,’ she said and walked off.

For a moment, Marcus and Megan were quite shocked at how unfriendly she was and how much luck they were going to need to try and solve this case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Five

 

The children looked through their sunglasses and saw Parry sitting further up the beach. They knew they had to get inside Parry and find out more information. Some more weapons and gadgets would also be good if they were going to camp out tonight. They began walking towards Parry.

‘Hey!’ a voice called from behind. They stopped and turned around.

‘Hi, I’m Jess. It’s nice to meet you both. Come into the tent and I’ll get us some cold drinks.’ She beamed a big smile, showing braces on her teeth and she wore a bright yellow headband in her red curly hair.

‘Sure, thanks,’ Marcus said. They followed her to the tent.

‘You are a lot more welcoming than your boss,’ Megan said.

‘Who…? Nadine Richards?’ Jess said. ‘She’s all bark and no bite. She doesn’t like strangers snooping around.’

‘But she wanted our help, didn’t she?’ Marcus said.

Jess handed them each a tall glass of cold lemonade. ‘Strictly speaking,’ Jess said, after swallowing and doing a very loud burp, ‘no – that would have been me. I persuaded her that if we were going to save this beach from vanishing altogether, we needed outside help. No, you are here because I need you. I am left in charge of the overnight operation on Whitehaven Beach and I am very pleased to have you here.’

Marcus burped louder than Jess and made her jump. The lemonade was icy cold.

‘Sorry,’ he said. ‘Perhaps you could tell us some more about the crocodile.’

She led them to a table and they sat on the folding chairs around it. On the table was a large map of Whitehaven Beach with red dots on it in different places.

‘The red dots,’ she began, ‘mark where the sand theft has taken place over the past month. The bigger blue dots show where it has happened on weekends only. As you can see, it is mainly where we are located and the thefts are bigger in Hill Inlet. The thing is, we have heard nothing at all, but we have seen the crocodile, partly submerged in the water, open its mouth and proceed to eat up the sand. It does this for at least half an hour and then crawls backwards into the water and is gone.’

‘Isn’t it strange that the bigger sand thefts have happened at weekends and not on weekdays?’ Megan said.

‘I agree,’ Jess said, ‘and that’s when our team aren’t normally working. It’s just me coming out on my boat. No one really knows that I’ve been here. Nadine was boiling mad when she heard I was doing that. That’s when she knew I needed better back-up to help.’

Marcus finished off his lemonade with a smaller burp. ‘We’ll sort this out, don’t worry,’ he said, ‘but for now, Megan and I are going to take a walk around. We’ll see you tonight when it’s dark.’

They left Jess sitting in the tent and headed down the beach, entering into Parry before anyone could see them disappear.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Six

 

 

They grabbed all of the weapons and gadgets that they thought they might need. Into their blue drawstring beach bags they threw extra torches and batteries, sleeping tranquilisers, rope, spare clothes, tape, radar devices, pocket knives and bubble gum. Megan got the beach sign down and turned on its computer screen again. She entered Whitehaven Beach sand and started to ask Parry why it might be worth stealing.

‘Marcus,’ she said. ‘Listen to this information from Parry.’

‘The sand on Whitehaven Beach is the purest of silica sand,’ Parry said. ‘Silica sand is used throughout the world for many purposes, from water filtration to glass-making and sand blasting. In fact, it is used in many parts of daily life. One of the major uses is as an ingredient in making concrete. It is a precious resource in the world.’

‘That’s all very interesting, Parry, but we don’t even know who is doing it and how, other than some crazy crocodile,’ Marcus said. ‘It’s getting dark. Let’s go.’

Parry remained invisible, but with their night vision goggles on they could see him clearly, as well as any other movement on the beach. Up ahead, they saw Jess, sitting low beneath a shaded tree marked with the green cellophane. Further in the distance they spotted a rock-wallaby, feeding on leaves and grasses. They were so pleased to have night goggles at times like this, but also loved to see the shy native animals without disturbing them. Jess was crouched down and waiting for something to happen. They went over to join her.

‘If my timings are right,’ Jess said, staring through her night binoculars, ‘that crocodile will come out very soon.’

Just as she said this, the water began to ripple and splash. Megan and Marcus used their night vision goggles to see it. It was massive – the biggest crocodile they had ever seen. Its eyes seemed to look left and right and when the water had stopped moving, it opened a gigantic jaw, lined with hundreds of razor-sharp sharp teeth.

‘Awesome!’ Marcus whispered. ‘I’m going closer.’ He got up, but got stung by something and tripped over.

‘I think I better go, Marcus,’ Megan said. ‘You rub some of that pee-cream on your foot and I’ll see what’s going on.’ She threw the Rid cream at his disgusted-looking face. Marcus couldn’t believe he had been peed on by an insect.

Megan crawled in the powdery white sand slowly and carefully, so as not to cause attention. She slowly took out her camera and took close-up photos of the massive crocodile. She was amazed at how robotic it looked and how its mouth stayed open, for so long. She wondered what it was actually doing. Bit by bit, she crawled closer and closer, until she was so close that she could almost touch it. As she was going to take another photo, the crocodile’s eyes turned toward her. Megan froze. She had been seen in the pitch darkness and it was too late to turn back. Within a second the crocodile pounced upon her, opened its jaw even wider, and Megan was gone.

‘Megan!’ Marcus shouted, as he looked on through his night vision goggles. ‘Megan!’ he shouted again. But it was no use. Megan had disappeared inside the crocodile without a sound and the crocodile had gone back in the water and vanished into darkness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seven

 

 

Marcus ran to the shore.

‘Megan! Megan!’ he cried out, scanning the beach with his night goggles and finding only the sand trail that the crocodile had left. Jess came running down the beach towards him.

‘Did you see it?’ she said. ‘Where’s Megan?’

‘Gone,’ Marcus began, ‘and it happened so quickly.’

‘I’ll go further down the beach to look,’ Jess spoke quickly.

But Marcus was already running in the dark in the opposite direction, leaving Jess searching the water’s edge. He ran straight back to Parry and shut the door. Inside he quickly switched on the beach sign computer screen and his radar device to detect any signals coming from nearby. Marcus was convinced that no ordinary crocodile had taken Megan. In fact, he didn’t believe for one minute that it was a real crocodile at all. What’s more, he was holding Megan’s digital camera and from the pictures taken seconds before she vanished, there was enough to suggest that she had been swallowed by a robot of some sort.

Parry worked fast to find a signal on the radar. Whitehaven Beach was definitely not being eaten up by real crocodiles.

‘I have detected activity, Marcus. Megan is not far away,’ Parry said. A red spot was flashing on his radar screen. Marcus studied it closely.

‘I’m coming after you, Megan,’ he said. Grabbing some extra supplies, he was about to leave when Parry said, ‘Trust me, Marcus. You and Megan will succeed in this case.’ Marcus closed the door behind him – he wasn’t so sure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eight

 

 

Megan had never been inside a crocodile before, but she would never have imagined it to look like a posh hotel! It didn’t smell of crocodile breath one bit. The teeth didn’t cut her to smithereens or even hurt to touch. It wasn’t even gurgling with noises. Instead, she was moving on a conveyer belt down a silent, sleek metal and silver corridor with crystal lights suspended on its walls. She passed through automatic white satin-studded sliding doors.

‘Welcome, Environmental Protection of World Beaches Agent,’ the voice said.

Megan kept her night vision goggles on and scanned the walls to find the voice. She looked through a museum-like painting hung on the wall and saw that there was a person talking into a microphone behind it. Whilst walking toward the painting with her arms crossed, she didn’t see the floor opening up – and suddenly she was falling on to a huge bean bag that soon wrapped belts around her, until she couldn’t free herself. Being trapped, she yelled up at the painting above her.

‘What do you want? And how do you know who I am?’

The voice laughed. ‘You will be made most comfortable here, as long as you do what you are told,’ it said.

Megan stopped wriggling. The belts were too tight around her.

‘Good decision,’ the voice said. ‘You will remain on board the Reptile until the mission is complete.’

‘You call this submarine a reptile?’ Megan shouted. ‘I think we both know who the reptile is here. You slithery thief! You and your clever mechanical devices are trying to steal the world’s best sand. But you won’t get away with it! We’ll stop you.’

Megan tried to tug one more time on the belts, but they only tightened more.

‘The Reptile will get away with it,’ the voice continued. ‘In the meantime you can be my guest. Eeejo, show this poor excuse for an agent to her room.

A tall woman dressed in black, with matching straight long black hair, walked toward Megan. She had a large yellow hibiscus flower in her hair. Megan recognised those same native flowers from the edge of the mangrove area and wondered whether that was where they were keeping her. The woman released her belts with the longest of bright green nails. She stared hard at Megan, making sure that Megan knew that she had to obey her and follow her through the sliding doors. They moved on to the conveyor belt. Down it went to the next level, passing dimly-lit walls on either side, but nothing else. Eeejo flashed her chunky bracelet at a code pad mounted on the wall. The door slid away and they entered a posh white room.

‘Nice prison cell,’ Megan said, half expecting Eeejo not to speak. She knew what these guards were like – they never talk and merely point to where they want you to go.

‘I thought the same when I first came here,’ Eeejo replied.

Megan stopped looking out of the vast window into the night sea and spun around to face Eeejo. She recognised her voice – she knew that voice, but not the face – or did she?

‘I know you,’ she said. ‘I mean I know your voice. Who are you?’

Eeejo moved toward the windows, pressing buttons to shut blinds; she switched on lamps on the bedside tables and the dressing table and put on the light in the ensuite bathroom. She straightened the plush white rug on the floor and made sure the mini-bar was well stocked.

Eeejo took out a bottle of milk. ‘Can I offer you a glass of milk before bed?’

‘A glass of milk…’ Megan began, ‘I don’t want a glass of… whoa! I know what you mean…’

But before Megan could finish, Eeejo placed her finger to her lips and said, ‘Shush.’ She pointed to the small mirror on the wall near the walk-in wardrobe. There must have been a hidden camera in the mirror and Eeejo was warning her about it, because she didn’t want ‘the voice’ to hear them. Megan couldn’t recognise Eeejo but she recognised the password about the glass of milk. It was used on the Costa Rica assignment, two assignments ago and was an EP password. It meant to do what you are told and await further instructions.

Megan shifted a curl of hair from her eyes. ‘Ah, yes,’ she said. ‘I’ll have one.’

Eeejo smiled slowly as she bent down and poured her a glass of milk.

Megan noticed that everything in the room was white – the bed, the floor, the walls, the clothes hanging in her wardrobe – hang on, her wardrobe? She wasn’t planning to stay, but clearly there were clothes for her size 8. She walked toward the wardrobe, out of view of the mirror.

‘I suppose these are my new clothes,’ she said.

Eeejo walked toward her with the milk and ushered her into the walk-in robe that was big enough for about five people to fit into. She slowly slid the door shut. This was one strange guard, but Megan had the feeling she was about to find out exactly what was going on. Megan sipped the milk. Eeejo motioned to her to sit on the soft furry white carpet.

‘Costa Rica?’ Megan asked. ‘You were our radio contact when we were in that storm. You got my brother and me out of there.’ Eeejo nodded slowly. ‘So now you are here and going to help us stop whatever is going on. I didn’t know EP already had an agent on the inside.’

Eeejo stopped nodding. ‘They don’t exactly.’ Eeejo whispered. ‘I’m not with the agency any more. I’m working alone these days. The agency was getting way out of hand with its requests – my work life was getting too stressed. I wanted to strike a balance between working as a spy and the rest of my life. I wanted to have a bit more me time.’ She took a long sip of her milk.

Megan had heard of this sort of thing before. The Environmental Protection of World Beaches agency had rules and regulations about not overworking the younger ones, but agents that were over sixteen years could sometimes have it hard, especially if they proved themselves to be excellent at their jobs. The better they did and succeeded, it seemed the more they worked for EP. Megan was glad she was only eight, nearing nine and had plenty of time to do normal things like go to parties, Brownies and have sleep-overs with friends.

‘I don’t expect this is an easy sort of job, though,’ Megan said. ‘How did you come to be here?’

Eeejo pushed her long black hair behind her. She was so tall and sleek – she reminded Megan of a black panther she had once seen when visiting London Zoo.

‘Long story, but being involved in radio operations for the agency I know a thing or two about tapping into radio signals and knowing where the jobs are. This job’s an interesting one. I decided to be captured by the Reptile. The Reptile was very pleased to have captured a senior agent from the Environmental Protection of World Beaches. It offered me the opportunity to step over to the other side and work for them. I accepted the job offer. The mission is almost complete and that’s why I’m so pleased to see you.’ Eeejo leant closer and then began to speak fast.

‘There really is no time to waste. The Reptile plans to take another two voyages to Whitehaven Beach and steal the best sand yet, in and around Hill Inlet. If it takes that, the beach will be destroyed forever, but the Reptile will sell the silica sand for millions of dollars to criminals. You have got to do what is asked of you if you want to stay alive, but help me overtake this submarine.’

As Eeejo was saying this, the room began to spin and Megan couldn’t see right. She suddenly felt very sleepy. Eeejo yawned too.

‘Oh no,’ Eeejo said. ‘The milk has sleeping powder in it. Quick – I’ll get you to your bed.’

But before Megan could reach the bed, she was fast asleep on the floor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nine

 

 

 

The morning sun came up, but Marcus had hardly slept at all on the soft white sand. The smooth, quiet rumbling sound of a cruise boat stirred him out of his half-asleep state and he stood up, hitting his head on a low-lying she-oak tree in the process. He could see and hear the newly arrived tourists pointing and shouting, ‘Turtles!’ If he wasn’t so worried about Megan being taken – he, too, would have jumped up to see the marine turtles. He knew that six of the World’s seven species could be found in the waters surrounding the islands. Around the corner of the bay appeared the luxury vessel heading toward them and none other than Nadine Richards was standing tall up at the front – she was no doubt waiting for answers. Marcus wasn’t looking forward to this meeting.

‘Here comes the boss,’ Jess said. She handed Marcus a chilled bottle of water; Marcus rubbed the cold bottle over his forehead – the coolness gave him instant relief, but he was also relieved to see Parry parked safely up on the beach and invisible to everyone else.

‘Well, well,’ Nadine said, walking straight up to the both of them. ‘You radioed this morning, Jess. There’s obviously been activity again overnight, but it’s time for answers.’ She turned and looked straight at Marcus. Her dark brown eyes drilled threats of violence into him that almost made him shudder.

‘Megan was taken last night by the crocodile,’ he began. ‘I was…’

She cut him off. ‘I know all that,’ she said. ‘But what have you learnt? What have you been able to do? Oh, don’t tell me you haven’t found out anything.’

‘We are still working on it,’ Jess said, in defence of Marcus. ‘I’m sure we’ll have answers for you today.’

‘Answers?’ she said. ‘I want this enquiry wrapped up. It’s costing the council a small fortune. Do your job you environmental agent – or everyone’s jobs and this place are over. Got that?’

Marcus nodded. Nadine Richards stormed off back to her cruise boat. Marcus knew he needed to get to Parry for feedback from EP. Parry would have told them about Megan disappearing into the crocodile.

‘Let’s go and look at the underwater activity readings in the tent,’ Jess said.

‘You go ahead,’ Marcus replied. ‘I need to check a few things out.’

They went their separate ways and with the cruise boat out of sight, Marcus entered Parry and shut the door. He got the beach sign down and switched on the computer. There was already a message from EP: ‘Danger is closer than expected.’

‘It appears EP was expecting something like this,’ Parry said. ‘Marcus, do you want me to change my location?’ Parry could automatically steer himself to other places when needed.

‘No,’ Marcus replied. ‘Stay here for the time being.’ He was interrupted by another message coming in from EP. It read: ‘Deadline looms, otherwise sand is gone forever. Complete mission as soon as possible.’ Marcus rubbed his tired eyes. There was nothing more he wanted than to complete his mission and get Megan back. He was going to have to work faster than ever before.

More of the tourist boats arrived. Marcus stepped out of Parry before being seen and headed toward the beach.

‘Well, if it isn’t the same lad I saw yesterday,’ Barry Peterson, the skipper said. ‘You look like a fella that needs a good sleep. Why the long face on the most beautiful beach in the world, hey?’

Marcus wondered if he could confide. The guy clearly knew these waters better than most and was a nosy sort of person to match.

‘You see anything strange lately, Barry?’ Marcus asked.

Barry laughed a deep, bellowing laugh from the depths of his big belly. ‘I see plenty, boy,’ he said. ‘Depends what you mean.’

‘Other vessels,’ Marcus began, ‘changing water levels, that sort of thing.’

Barry eyed him over for a long time. ‘Methinks you know something yourself, boy,’ he began. He let the last of the tourists off for their day of sand-drifting, before he spoke again.

‘Sure I do,’ he whispered. ‘But I keep my mouth shut, if I know what’s good for me.’

Marcus drew closer to him. ‘Something dangerous you mean?’

‘Kid, I don’t know what you’re getting at,’ he said. ‘But something ain’t right here at Whitehaven and that’s a fact. The council been busying themselves round here and not letting on nothing about it. But I seen something – with me own eyes – something that’s not right. I ain’t saying nothing more, but take my advice and don’t hang around here, no more.’

He began to move away, but Marcus got in his way.

‘Please, Barry,’ he said. ‘You know about that crocodile – don’t you?’

Barry’s face grew pale. ‘It’s a strange thing, that is,’ he said. ‘I see it come up near the mangroves of Hill Inlet a few times, but never long enough to get a real good look. It sure is a big beast – too big for an actual crocodile.’ He covered his mouth as if he shouldn’t have said what he did.

‘So you know it’s not a crocodile, then?’ Marcus asked.

‘Hill Inlet provides a safe place for all kinds of birds to travel to and bring up their young ones,’ he said. ‘I hope that nothing else is coming and going from Whitehaven Beach that shouldn’t be.’

‘You mean like sand?’ Marcus said.

Barry looked over his shoulder as if someone was watching him. ‘I think we talked enough, but if you want my help, I’ll give it to you – ’cause this is the most beautiful sand in the world. It keeps me doing what I do, because I love it so much and don’t want nothing taking it away from me.’ He sighed. ‘I’ll help you, kid, if I can.’

Marcus and Barry talked some more before taking Marcus on a small private cruise around the island. It wasn’t until they got up to the north of the island near Hill Inlet, that they saw something peculiar – something that shouldn’t have been there amongst the mangroves, at all. This was a highly restricted area of the island and no commercial vehicles were allowed – even Barry’s boat, for that matter.

‘We gotta be careful, boy,’ Barry whispered. ‘There are all sorts of spiritual connections with these islands, reefs and waters. Look over there toward the rock shelter for instance – there’s all sorts of ancient Aboriginal rock art and stone artefacts over there. This here is a sacred area to the Ngaro Aboriginal people and we can’t be disturbing it.’

Barry was right, but Marcus knew that he was also probably beginning to get a little scared. He saw the monstrous side of the crocodile machine quietly moored amongst the mangroves and well camouflaged.

‘We won’t disturb anything we’re not supposed to,’ Marcus said. With that, Marcus took a pair of binoculars out of his blue drawstring bag. He rummaged around for his dart tranquilisers, but they weren’t in there. At that moment, he felt a dart hit his leg. He was awake long enough to see Barry pointing the tranquiliser gun toward him. The next second, Marcus was fast asleep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Ten

 

 

Megan woke up next to Marcus who was still fast asleep.

‘What on earth…?’ She rubbed her eyes and remembered she was inside the crocodile submarine and in her posh prison cell room, but now Marcus was there, too. Then she remembered whispering with Eeejo, who was no longer there. Her milk drink had been dosed with sleeping powder, but luckily she was no longer sleepy. She pushed and prodded Marcus, who wouldn’t stir awake. She knew she had to do something if she was to save Whitehaven Beach from losing its precious silica sand – but what? She looked down at her legs and saw that she was now in white clothes as well. Eeejo must have changed her according to orders. Her own clothes hung in the walk-in robe. Megan went in there and found a note inside the pocket of her shorts. It read: ‘Meet me at the end of the corridor.’

Easily said, thought Megan, but how was she to leave the room? Suddenly she felt around in the same pocket of her shorts and found a key card. Eeejo must have placed it in there. Quietly and quickly, Megan tiptoed across the room. She draped a towel to conceal the camera that was hidden in the mirror on the wall. She flashed the card and silently sprinted to the end of the corridor. Megan realised that her room was approximately halfway down the corridor and she could have run the other way. She heard voices coming from a nearby room. Sneaking behind a pillar, she stood completely still and drew in her breath. She could hear loud voices behind the door, followed by a punching sound, then coughing and a loud thud on the floor. Whoever it was in there had just got a taste of the Reptile. The door opened and Megan stood motionless as Eeejo walked out, closing the door behind her. As she began to walk past, Megan stepped out and stopped her.

‘Good,’ Eeejo said. ‘You are finally awake. We don’t have much time.’

Megan walked fast behind her – but where she was going and what she was going to do? She was only seconds from finding out. The slow moans of someone in pain were now only a faint sound in the distance.

‘Who was that?’ Megan asked, still following Eeejo.

Eeejo kept walking and flicked her black hair as she did, not turning around. ‘A nuisance of a guy – he has come close to disrupting this mission on several occasions. One good thing he has done is help to deliver Marcus on board for us.’

Megan thought fast. Marcus must have caught a lift somehow. However it happened, it was a better thing that he was on board the Reptile than on the beach. If anything was going to happen – it had to happen on board this submarine. Megan started to run to try and keep up with Eeejo.

‘Where are we going?’ Megan tried to whisper.

‘You’ll see,’ Eeejo replied. She went down a small corridor and scanning her bracelet across a security panel, entered into what looked like a storage cupboard, but it was full of controls and computers.

‘This is the power brain of this vessel,’ Eeejo spoke fast. ‘This is where the device used to steal the sand, is programmed. It is also where we have a good radio signal to our friends, the Ngaro Aboriginal people. This landscape is very precious to them and they want to protect it as much as we do.’

‘Why do they care about it so much?’ Megan asked.

‘The Ngaro people have lived on the Whitsundays for thousands of years. Today, the descendants of the Ngaro people help the Australian Government to look after the national parks on the island. We need to let them know we are going to make our move.’

Megan scanned the controls for any obvious button to press to release the sand.

‘But who is behind all this, Eeejo?’ she asked. ‘Who is the mind behind all of this?’

Eeejo looked at her. ‘Sand pirates,’ she said. ‘They roam the best shorelines in the world and sell the sand on to the highest bidder. They have concentrated their efforts here for some time now. Whilst I haven’t even seen the person who talks through the PA system on board, I have an idea who it might be.’ She didn’t finish saying any more as she had made contact with the Ngaro people by radio and spoke as quickly and quietly as possible, about a plan to move in a couple of hours and back her up in the mission.

‘But why not now?’ Megan asked. ‘Why not make a move now?’

‘No,’ said Eeejo.‘It will be easier to seize them red-handed in the final act of stealing more sand and that is scheduled in two hours.’ She replaced the radio receiver on to the control panel and went to leave the room. As she did, the floor opened beneath her very feet and she was gone in a flash.

‘Eeejo…!’ Megan screamed. ‘Eeejo…!’ She stomped and kicked the floor hard, but it didn’t budge. Without a moment to lose, she jumped across the floor, left the room and bolted as fast as she could back down the corridor toward Marcus. It was hard to remember exactly which room it was, as they all looked so similar. She tried to remember and using her security card, went barging through a very similar-looking door – only to find herself in front of someone she was not expecting to see…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eleven

 

 

‘Barry?’ Megan said, feeling confused and staring at the skipper. ‘What are you doing here?’ Barry was sitting up against a wall, rubbing his arm and looking as if he’d been in a fight. When he looked toward her, she could see he had a big black eye. He had definitely been in a fight. She guessed it had been with Eeejo and realised now that she was still halfway up the corridor from where Marcus was most likely still sleeping. As Barry didn’t budge, she went over and knelt by his side.

‘Are you okay?’

‘Sure,’ he said. ‘But that lady sure can land a punch when a fella’s not lookin’.’

‘But what are you doing here and why?’ she asked.

‘Well, your brother wanted to take a look around the mangroves and we stumbled upon something that I didn’t think we get too close to. Your brother sure wanted to get involved, but it was too dangerous. I knew he had something more he wanted to find out about other than seabirds. I’ve known about this here crocodile, but been too scared meself to do any real investigating. I sneaked those tranquilisers out of his bag and used one on him to stop him from getting too close. What I wasn’t ready for, was being taken captive meself by a six-foot woman with the longest black hair and sharpest green nails, you ever did see or feel. Where is your brother now?’

‘He’s still sleeping in his prison cell. He will be fine for now,’ Megan said. ‘But listen, Barry, we’ve got to get you out of here. Something big is about to happen and if we don’t move fast, Whitehaven Beach will vanish. You must trust me – I know what is going on here.’

Barry looked at the young girl before him. Megan could see he had his doubts about what she could do, but as an EP agent she knew exactly what to do.

‘Okay,’ he began. ‘I do trust you. But what can I do?’

Megan helped him up slowly. ‘We have to get you back to your boat and around to Hill Inlet, where the final attempt will be made to steal more sand. You do know that the sand has been stolen these past weeks, don’t you?’

‘Yes, lass, I do,’ he said.

‘What you probably don’t know is that one last major theft is planned for tonight and the water levels will swallow the beach forever,’ she said. ‘I need you to raise the alarm back at the main beach about what’s going to happen, so we can get the local authorities here as fast as possible – but tell them they will need to creep in or else the Reptile may not make its move.’

‘Yes, I’ll do that, lass,’ he said. ‘I suspect Ms Richards will want to be the one to catch them in the act and raise her popularity ratings in council.’

Megan quietly slid the security card into the scanner and released the door open into the corridor. Quickly they walked to the rear of the submarine, Barry leading the way to where he remembered he had been ushered on board.

‘Remember, Barry, as fast as you can go. Be at Hill Inlet within the next two hours for the plan to work,’ she said. He nodded and left without another word. Megan turned and made her way as fast as possible back to the control panel room. It was time to call Parry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Twelve

 

 

Megan worked hard and fast on hacking into the Reptile’s computer system to gain access and communicate with Parry’s beach-hut computer. Having studied and memorised the land map of the region, Megan knew that if she and Marcus – if only he would wake up – were going to destroy the Reptile, they would need the best vantage point possible. She told Parry to transport himself in his invisible state up to Tongue Point – a place with the best view of Hill Inlet. It would be from this vantage point, that Megan and Marcus would be able to fire and blast the reptile out of the water. Once programming was complete, she had to get to Marcus and get off this Reptile. What’s more, if they were going to destroy it, they would need to find Eeejo as soon as possible.

Megan sprinted back down the corridor. This time she knew exactly where her room was and quickly scanned the security card for the door to open. Marcus had opened his eyes and was looking around the room in amazement.

‘Where am I?’ he said and then saw Megan. ‘Megs! You’re alive!’ He sat up, but banged his head on an overhanging shelf and knocked himself out cold again. He was fast asleep.

‘Oh, brother…!’ Megan gasped. Marcus did have such a habit of doing the clumsiest of things at times. She reached into his blue drawstring bag for some smelling salts and he came around very quickly, coughing and rubbed his head.

‘Now this time, stay awake and watch out for the shelf,’ she said. ‘Marcus, we’ve got less than two hours before this Reptile, as it is known, goes back to Hill Inlet and takes its last serving of pure white sand. It has been programmed and so I have instructed Parry to aim and fire at it when it emerges from the water at that precise moment. For that reason, we need to get off this submarine as quickly as possible and get back to Parry – but before we do, we must find Eeejo.’

‘Eeejo…?’ Marcus asked.

‘Yes,’ Megan replied. ‘It’s a long story but she’s gone it alone to try and conquer this mission and has got herself captured in the process. We must find her and get her off-board too.’

‘But Barry – where’s Barry?’ he asked.

‘Gone to get back-up for us,’ she said. ‘We’ll need to hand over whoever is at the helm of this evil operation, to the authorities.’

Marcus stood up and managed to get his bag and cap. Rubbing the peak of his cap, it transformed into a helmet. Immediately, he scanned the room for any hidden passageways. Bingo! There was one – behind the mirror that had a sheet hanging over it.

‘I think we take that passageway there,’ he said, pointing to the wall. Megan ran to the walk-in wardrobe and sure enough, Eeejo had left her clothes in a neat bundle. She quickly changed back into them and found her own cap in her pocket; as she rubbed its peak, it too, transformed into a helmet with many gadgets at her disposal, should she need them. They removed the sheet and mirror from the wall, revealing a button and camera lens. Quickly, they cut the camera leads and pressed the button. A door slid smoothly open to the side. They stepped down into the dark passageway. It required helmet lights to be switched on and scanner devices working overtime to detect any weaponry about to be used against them. The further they walked, the more they noticed they were heading down in a tunnel. The air was becoming hot and stuffy. They also noticed white sand beneath their feet. The further they ventured into the tunnel, the deeper the sand was becoming. It was nearly up to their ankles.

‘This must be where they store the sand,’ Marcus said to Megan, who was following behind.

‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘but why would you have a passageway from that room leading down to such a place?’

Before Marcus could answer, they found out why the passageway led from the room they had been placed in and the sand storage belt. Screams could be heard coming from the other side of another door at the end of the secret passageway. They had a good idea as to who it was and what was happening. They had no time to waste and ran toward the door.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Thirteen

 

 

‘It’s no use,’ Marcus said. ‘The door’s locked and probably has so much sand hard up against it – that even if it wanted to open – it couldn’t.’ The screams could still be heard. Megan and Marcus used their helmet lights and infra-red scanning devices for other entry points.

‘Look,’ Megan said. ‘Up there.’ She pointed to a small ventilation outlet to the right of the doorway. ‘If you hoist me up, Marcs,’ she said, ‘I think I could see through that vent into the other room.’

Marcus needed a couple of attempts at balancing Megan on his shoulders, as his big helmet kept getting in the way. Eventually she got up, and managed to see through the vent into the other room. What she saw sent shivers through her body. Within a matter of minutes there was going to be a grave death. Peering through the vent, she could see sand pouring through what looked like a giant tumble-dryer, which was spurting out large volumes of dry sand into a massive cauldron. The sand was the purest of white powder. It seemed that the process sifted out any unwanted segments, like broken shell or small twigs. The waste was being channelled into a large waste-bin and it was in here that Eeejo was tied up and the shell waste was already up to her chest. If Megan and Marcus didn’t get in and rescue Eeejo soon, she would suffocate beneath shell and slush.

Megan pulled on the ventilation louvres, but they were mounted firmly on to the brackets. She programmed her helmet to release her laser gun aim and by touching the controls on the side of her helmet, she was able to aim the gun at the louvres. It burnt through the bracket, leaving it to fall to the ground within seconds. Having no time to lose, she managed to hoist herself up and through the small opening and jumped down into the room next door. She quickly ran to the door and was able to grab a nearby shovel and shift some of the sand that had blockaded the sliding door. Within a minute, the entrance was clear and Megan managed to open the door for Marcus to enter.

‘Well done, Megs,’ he said. ‘Now quick, let’s get Eeejo.’

Eeejo had been watching them from the other side of the room, but despite pulling hard against the ropes that held her, she could do little to free herself. The shell waste was now edging up toward her neck. It was only seconds before she would suffocate. Marcus quickly aimed his laser gun by using the helmet controls on the side of his helmet and burnt through the ropes that tied her wrists. Her hands were released.

‘Quick, let’s pull you out!’ Marcus had to shout, as the sound of all the sand sifting was very loud.

But Eeejo shook her head. ‘I can’t!’ she said. ‘My waist has been tied up as well. Pass me a knife.’

Marcus reached into his blue drawstring bag and threw her his pocket knife. Eeejo felt down into the coarse shell until she reached her waist and felt for the rope. It was hard to cut through with so much shell all around her and with it mounting by the second – it was now up to her chin.

‘A bit more,’ she shouted. ‘Okay – pull me out!’

It took Marcus and Megan a lot of effort to try and move the slush away from Eeejo’s body, but as hard as they tried, they couldn’t release her.

‘We’ll need to use the parachute ejector,’ Marcus yelled. Once more, he reached into his drawstring bag and grabbed a compact blue device that once inflated, looked like a lifebuoy.

‘Put it around your waist, if you can get it underneath the slush,’ Marcus said. ‘Don’t worry, it won’t get pierced. It is incredibly durable and designed to withstand sharp particles or instruments.’

Eeejo did what he said and with the help of Marcus and Megan, pushed the parachute ejector over her head and down her body, beneath the slush.

‘Now, feel for the button at the side and hold it down to the count of three,’ Marcus instructed. ‘Be ready for being thrown up in the air…’

Marcus hadn’t finished speaking, when Eeejo flew up into the air out of the slush bin. A small white parachute expanded and within a couple of seconds, brought her safely down on to the sandy floor of the room.

‘Thank the agency for these cool devices,’ Eeejo said, removing the ejector ring. ‘I do miss having such devices at hand.’ She brushed some of the small shells that were stuck to her skin and used her long fingernails to flick them away.

‘Who put you in here?’ Megan asked.

Eeejo flicked her hair to get more of the shell flakes out of it. ‘Not sure,’ she said. ‘When I went down that dark tunnel, I was blindfolded and brought in here fairly soon after. I didn’t see anything, but I did smell something that was vaguely familiar.’

‘Smell…’ Marcus asked, ‘like what?’

‘I can’t be totally sure,’ Eeejo said, ‘some faint spice smell. It was familiar to me – but for some reason, I can’t tell you why.’

‘Well, we will have time to think about this soon enough,’ Megan said. ‘Parry is going to shoot target at this submarine in less than two hours, so we better get off it. Whoever is running this operation will explode along with it. So let’s get out of here.’

Eeejo followed behind Marcus and Megan saying, ‘Don’t be so sure that whoever is in control of this operation, is actually still on board the Reptile. Whoever it is, knows we are closing in on their plan.’

‘So you think this submarine is on autopilot?’ Megan asked.

They made a dash for the tunnel, back through the room they had been held prisoner in and down the corridor.

‘Quite possibly, otherwise it would have been unlikely that you could have come in and rescued me without being caught again yourselves.’ They kept on rushing down the corridor.

‘Wait,’ Eeejo said. ‘There’s something I need to do before leaving.’ Eeejo quickly re-entered the control room, making sure not to walk on the same area of floor that had previously released and made her fall. She pressed several of the controls and moved so quick it was plain to see that she was once one of the agency’s most valuable computer experts.

‘I’ve released a motorised boat at the surface of the Reptile for us to leave on,’ she said. ‘I’ve also partially opened the Reptile’s underbelly scales, to slowly let out some of the sand that it has stolen. Not too much or it would be noticed, but enough to start restoring the damage it is bringing to Whitehaven Beach.’

They left the control room and ran to the end of the corridor for the evacuation shelter. Rising to the surface, the motorised boat was small – but big enough for them to get away in. Once well away from the Reptile hiding in the mangroves, Eeejo increased the speed to full throttle, heading for Hill Inlet. They would need to get back to Parry as fast as possible. There was now less than an hour before a massive explosion was scheduled to take place.

 

 

 

Chapter Fourteen

 

 

The tide was still slowly going out in Hill Inlet and the beginning of the aqua swirling patterns were taking shape in the water. Marcus and Megan used their hi-tech helmets to scan Tongue Point and detect that Parry was now safely in place to take aim. They got off the boat and waded through the warm knee-high water, while Eeejo continued on the boat toward the Ngaro Aboriginal people, who were waiting for her further around the island.

‘Hey, guys!’ It was Jess. She was waving and running toward them. As pleased as they were to see her, they knew that there wasn’t a lot of time and had to get to Parry.

‘Thank goodness you are both all right,’ Jess said, hugging both of them. ‘I didn’t know whether I would see you again. Even Nadine Richards has been contacting me to see if you’d been found. Come with me back to the camp and I can get you a nice cold drink and something to eat.’

They thanked Jess and although they were very hungry and thirsty, they had no time to waste. They quickly told Jess what had happened and how the Reptile was going to return to Hill Inlet within the hour to take its final collection of sand – this was the time they would attack the Reptile and Jess must stay well back from the foreshore.

Jess understood and said that she would return to camp and inform Ms Richards over the two-way radio of what was about to happen.

Jess returned to camp, but didn’t get a chance to use the radio as it had been smashed to pieces. She stared at it, confused, how it had got broken? Starting to leave the tent to yell out to Megan and Marcus – she didn’t make it. Something or someone tripped her up, blindfolded her and tied her hands behind her back with rope. Her feet were also tied together. She was dragged back into the tent and left in the corner. Who could have done this and why would they smash her radio? This was becoming more dangerous by the minute – and there were only minutes left until they could capture the Reptile. Only Marcus and Megan and Parry could save Whitehaven Beach from sinking forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Fifteen

 

 

Marcus and Megan were back safely inside Parry. The cool and shade inside the beach hut was such a relief. They reached for their water flasks and gulping fast – emptied them within seconds. Megan grabbed the pack of Hobnob biscuits that Gran always left for them in the other custard-coloured tin and together they ate about ten biscuits each, they were so hungry.

‘Welcome back to the beach hut,’ Parry said. ‘We are in place to complete the mission. Well done to you both.’ ‘Thanks, Parry,’ Marcus said. ‘But it’s not over yet.’

Marcus shifted the spade handle and the TV screen slowly lowered on the wall in front of them. Megan released the red and navy lifebuoy that was hanging on the wall and pressed its button for a map of Hill Inlet.

‘It won’t be long now, Marcs,’ she said, ‘and we’ll be seeing the Reptile enter into the waters of Hill Inlet.’

Marcus double-checked the timings for Parry to shoot its missile and there was approximately 25 minutes to go. He looked up at the TV screen, which was showing them a clear close-up view of the foreshore and waters of Hill Inlet. As he hoped, Jess was well out of range. Eeejo would be back toward the Mangroves and out of danger also. The beach was clear of any tourists. Barry had made that possible, he knew. He would have suspended the cruise ships today. As he thought of Barry, he couldn’t believe his eyes…

‘Is that Barry down there?’ Megan stood up, staring at the TV screen. ‘What’s he doing there, now – of all times?’

Marcus got a close-up view on the TV screen and sure enough it was Barry right down there on the foreshore of Hill Inlet – the place Parry was soon to fire at. But that wasn’t all. Barry was not alone, there was someone else down there, but the person was out of view of Parry’s camera. Megan used her bionic ear, which could pick up sound within a quarter of a mile. She heard Barry yelling out, ‘If you kids can hear me, call this explosion off or I will be caught up in it too. I have been taken captive and must do as I am told. Please do the same – call off the explosion.’

Megan and Marcus could see on the TV screen that Barry had his hands up above his head and had been made to stand in the firing line of Parry’s missile, which was due to be fired in less than twenty minutes from now.

‘What’s going on?’ Megan gasped. ‘Quick, Marcs, let’s radio to Jess.’ Marcus tried, but the two-way radio wouldn’t respond.

‘It’s no use,’ Marcus said. ‘There’s no radio signal. Something must have happened to Jess. We can’t get in touch with her.’

‘What are we going to do?’ Megan said, pacing up and down inside the beach hut. ‘Barry has been taken captive and it looks like the camp and Jess, have been, too.’

‘One of us will need to get down there and find out what’s going on, before it’s too late,’ Marcus said. As he said it, Megan could make out on her steering wheel control panel the underwater activity of the Reptile, which was beginning to make its move and enter into the waters of Hill Inlet. The tide now was not too low that it couldn’t enter, but shallow enough to allow the Reptile to swallow vast amounts of pristine white sand.

‘I’ll go,’ Marcus continued. ‘If you stay here and contact EP and let them know what is about to happen and then be ready to complete this mission, we can solve this mystery before sunset.’

‘Okay, Marcs,’ Megan said. ‘But I’m not completing this mission without you. Get down there and get Barry – but please, be careful…’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Sixteen

 

 

Marcus ran fast across the soft sand. He had taken his helmet off inside Parry and in his quest to get down to the beach had forgotten to put it back on. There wasn’t enough time to go back and get it. He had his blue drawstring bag across his back, so a few of his gadgets could still help him out. As he got closer to the beach, he stayed back behind a low-lying tree to see who had taken Barry captive.

At that moment, he noticed a piece of green cellophane attached to the tree he was leaning against, exactly like the piece he had seen earlier, when they first arrived at Whitehaven Beach. He remembered Nadine Richards saying that it had marked a good vantage point for spying on the Reptile. It was strange that she had said that as he had sat beneath it and watched Megan taken by the Reptile. Now he crouched beneath another piece of it and watched Barry standing out there, waiting to be either taken by the Reptile, or by Parry’s missile.

This time, Marcus was not going to sit by and watch it all happen. He leapt up to run out there to Barry, but as he did, he grazed his head on the overhanging branch and made the cellophane paper crackle as he crashed into it – loudly enough for Barry to turn toward him.

‘Run, boy, run!’ Barry shouted at him. ‘It’s not safe.’

But it was too late. A thick and heavy net fell from the tree and caught Marcus. The cellophane was more than a marker on the beach – it was a lever for releasing traps. Marcus was trapped! He struggled, but the weight of the net was too great for him to lift it off. He looked at his wrist-watch. It was now less than five minutes before Parry took aim.

‘Get out of the way, Barry,’ Marcus shouted. ‘Run!’

At that moment, Marcus heard footsteps squeaking on the sand behind him.

‘Oh, he’s not running anywhere and neither are you.’

Marcus turned and couldn’t believe his eyes.

‘You!’ he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Seventeen

 

 

It was Nadine Richards. Standing with her long black hair tied behind her and wearing combat gear, she barely resembled the councillor that he had met before. She stood flanked by two big thugs of men that Marcus had never seen before, but guessed that they did a lot of her dirty work for her.

‘I suggest you call off that explosion, or Barry’s life will be seriously harmed,’ she ordered.

Marcus could barely hold the weight of the net, as he tried to get up on his knees.

‘So you are behind all this. You – the precious councillor, who wanted to protect the beach and be seen by all of the community as such a great person. You are nothing but a pirate, a thief, a…’

‘Silence!’ she yelled, kicking the sand into his face and stinging his eyes. ‘You will do as I say.’

But being stung in the eyes by the sand, gave Marcus the idea he needed to get out of this. He slumped down beneath the net and pretended defeat. Nadine Richards and the two thugs walked around the other side of Marcus, staring out at the beach with Marcus in front of them.

‘It depends how you look at it, kid,’ she said. ‘I am great and this sand is making me very powerful with some people around the world.’

She kept ranting about her own greatness and all the while, Marcus was secretly getting his high-forced fan out of his bag. He turned it to the highest level and aimed it at the feet of the three of them. Within a second, it caused a mammoth sandstorm that made them cover their eyes and cry out in pain, as the sand stung their eyes and whipped at their arms and legs. This gave Marcus enough time to reach for his pocket knife and cut a hole big enough through the net to escape and run to Barry. He left the fan aimed at the three helpless thieves. There was less than a minute before Parry would take aim. The Reptile had arrived and its mouth began to emerge from the water.

‘Quick, Barry, run!’ Marcus shouted.

Barry and Marcus bolted as far up the beach as possible and into the cover of the dense undergrowth. There they protected their heads and crouched down. Three seconds later, there was a massive explosion. Parry had fired and successfully obliterated the Reptile into nothing. It had completely disappeared. Within moments, the sand began pouring back into the beach and the shallow waters. The beach and all of the surrounds were safe from any harm. Marcus and Barry stood up.

‘Thanks, lad,’ Barry said. ‘You saved my life.’

As they headed back down the beach toward the thieves, a small motorboat turned the corner of the inlet. Eeejo and some of the Ngaro Aboriginal people were on board ready to lend a hand. Megan was also running down the beach from Parry, who was, of course, still invisible to anyone else. It looked like the mission was a wrap.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Eighteen

 

 

Back at the camp, they all gathered waiting for the police to arrive. Some of the Ngaro Aboriginal people surrounded the thieves, making sure they did not escape. Megan helped Jess out of the ropes and fetched a cold drink for her. Barry had returned to his cruise boat marooned at the other end of the beach and radioed to the port to restart cruises to Whitehaven Beach the following morning. Shane, from EP entered the tent with the police officers and approached Marcus.

‘Well done,’ he said. ‘You both solved this mystery in the nick of time.’

Marcus shook his hand. ‘We didn’t do this alone, Shane. We have had a lot of help.’ He looked for Eeejo amongst the small crowd of people in the tent. ‘In fact you might remember one person in particular?’

‘Eeejo…’ Shane said. ‘You were involved in this?’

Marcus interrupted. ‘She is on our side Shane,’ he said, ‘but perhaps, Eeejo, you can explain why you went out on your own to try and capture these thieves.’

Eeejo came forward, walking past Nadine Richards and scowling at her, as she did.

‘Well, it was partly true that I was tired from the long hours of working at the agency, but I do love my job,’ she began. ‘The real reason I went out on my own was that I had a suspicion that I knew who was behind this sand-thieving operation. I also knew the Environmental Protection of World Beaches’ rules, that if my family were involved, I couldn’t be included in the mission.’

‘Family…?’ Marcus, Megan and Shane all said at the same time.

‘Yes, that’s right,’ said Nadine Richards. They all turned around to face her.

‘Nadine and I are sisters,’ Eeejo said.

Everyone looked from one to the other. It was true that they did look a lot like each other – both had very long, dark hair and both were tall.

‘Yeah, and if you and these annoying kids hadn’t come along – that dunce, Barry Peterson hadn’t guessed a thing and had called me about my precious Reptile’s fate. I thought he would be good enough bait to call this all off. I was hoping to have made my last catch of sand and taken off for good from this horrible place!’ Nadine Richards spurted out.

‘Horrible place…?’ Megan spoke up. ‘It’s the best beach in the world and you wanted to ruin it for everyone.’

Marcus turned to Eeejo. ‘How did you suspect it was your sister?’

‘For starters my sister is not a warm climate, beach-loving sort of person. When she got this job at the council and then set Jess up out here to stand guard, I was suspicious that she was up to something not entirely right. When I heard about sand being stolen, I didn’t put it past my sister. She’s been a thief before and selling the world’s best sand was most likely too hard for her to resist. Then when I got on board the Reptile my suspicions grew, especially when I smelt that spicy perfume – only my sister would wear that hot and strong-smelling perfume, in such a warm tropical place.’

‘But why get me out here investigating it?’ Jess asked.

‘She had to be seen to be doing her job in the council,’ Marcus said, ‘but you did your job so well – and she wasn’t expecting that.’

‘You kids have ruined this for me!’ Nadine Richards yelled and tried lunging out at them with long nails that were almost as long as Eeejo’s. The police took her and the thieves away.

‘Thanks again, agents,’ Shane said. Before leaving the tent, he turned and said, ‘That includes you too, Eeejo. You are welcome back anytime you want. Your rank as Garuda will be reinstated.’ Megan and Marcus smiled. They knew the Garuda was the National and Royal symbol of Thailand and one rank short of The White Swan – the highest rank given by EP.

Shane turned back to them. ‘Speaking of ranks,’ he said, ‘your good work here will be noted. The agency will be in touch soon.’ Megan and Marcus smiled even more.

They walked outside on to the soft cooling sand of the end of the day. Barry called out, ‘Any of you folks need a lift back, now?’

Jess and Eeejo ran up to his boat and waved back at Marcus and Megan. The Ngaro Aboriginal people leaving by boat were also waving.

‘Bye and thanks again!’ they called out.

Marcus and Megan waved them off and began their walk up to the beach hut.

They went inside and together said, ‘Thanks to you, Parry’.

Parry’s green light flashed. ‘A team effort, but I did do my part, so thank you for thanking me,’ he said. ‘I have notified your grandparents, so it is time to leave this remarkable place and head home.’

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Nineteen

 

 

The journey home to Bexhill-On-Sea in the south of England was as short as going to Whitehaven Beach, Australia. It gave them enough time to open a small packet of Lamingtons that Jess had given them for their journey. The chocolate and coconut covered sponge cakes were delicious and made them think of how much they would like to return to Australia one day. The journey took five whole minutes and as soon as they landed they could feel the cooler air push under the beach hut door.

‘We have arrived,’ Parry said.

Megan and Marcus knew that they wouldn’t be seeing Parry for a while and already began to miss him. ‘See you soon, Parry,’ they said.

Opening the door to the familiar sight of a pebbly beach and sitting cosy amongst the other beach huts, Marcus and Megan were always pleased to be home. It was early morning here and the first day of school. Their grandparents were rushing across the pebbles, waving and smiling, towards Parry and the children, bringing their school uniforms and school bags. It was time to change and start an adventure of another sort – a new year at school.

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So maybe you want to go to Whitehaven Beach, Australia? Here are some facts…

 

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Whitehaven Beach is on Whitsunday Island, the largest of a 74-island chain in Australia

*
p<>{color:#000;}. It has been named the world’s most eco-friendly beach in the world by global news network CNN.com

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Its access is limited, but day trips are available making it unspoilt and precious

*
p<>{color:#000;}. It has some of the whitest sand in the world

*
p<>{color:#000;}. The water is incredibly blue

*
p<>{color:#000;}. The sand is powdery soft and cool to touch

*
p<>{color:#000;}. The sand is 98% pure silica, which gives it a bright colour

*
p<>{color:#000;}. It is thought that the sands came to the beach by means of sea currents over millions of years

*
p<>{color:#000;}. There are many different types of plant, bird and marine life

*
p<>{color:#000;}. The Whitsundays are the traditional home of the Ngaro Aboriginal People, who are also known as ‘Canoe People’

*
p<>{color:#000;}. Ngaro descendants help the Government look after the national parks of the Whitsunday

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

 

Cathy Maisano is a cultural researcher who spends her time learning about different places and people. As a child growing up in Australia, her back gate opened directly on to a beach lined with different coloured beach huts and she spent many happy hours playing among them and choosing her favourite one. Nowadays, having travelled to many beaches around the world on research projects, Cathy has an expert knowledge of their differences and the environmental problems facing so many of them.  Currently, she lives almost quite literally right on a beach in Sydney, Australia with her husband and children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out more of The Paradise Beach Mysteries on www.cathymaisano.com


The Paradise Beach Mysteries: Whitehaven Beach

Megan and Marcus can't wait for the summer holidays to begin at Bexhill-on-Sea, where their own incredible beach hut, Parry, doubles as a high-powered rocket ship. Before long, they are heading for Australia on a thrilling mission. As secret agents, they must confront a dangerous gang to try and save a beautiful beach from certain environmental ruin. When they spot a massive crocodile mysteriously devouring all the famous white soft sand on Whitehaven beach, things start to go seriously wrong. Marcus sees Megan being swallowed by the reptile and does not hesitate to plan a daring rescue operation. Skilfully, he helps her to escape, but as they are planning how to recover the stolen sand, the thieves return and the two young agents find themselves in great danger. Will Whitehaven Beach be lost forever?

  • ISBN: 9781370221318
  • Author: Cathy Maisano
  • Published: 2017-05-29 08:50:16
  • Words: 14887
The Paradise Beach Mysteries: Whitehaven Beach The Paradise Beach Mysteries: Whitehaven Beach