Together, Angela, Poco, and Georgina have investigated some peculiar happenings. They are just on the verge of a major magical breakthrough when Angela’s father moves to Mexico, taking Angela and breaking up the trio of friends. As consolation, Angela gives Poco her cat, Juliette, to care for and talk to while she’s gone. Talking to animals is Poco’s special skill, but no words can stop Juliette from running into the street in front of a car. Though she survives the accident, Juliette vanishes, and it will take a miracle to find her. With the help of Walter Kew, a secretive boy in her class, and his Ouija board, Poco scans the neighborhood. When all mystical signs point to Miss Bone, the strange old spinster who’s been taking care of Angela’s house, Poco is quick to face her fears. She’ll do anything for Angela—and for Juliette. This ebook features a personal history by Janet Taylor Lisle including rare images and never-before-seen documents from the author’s own collection.
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Looking for Juliette
Investigators of the Unknown
By Janet Taylor Lisle
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 1994 Janet Taylor Lisle
All rights reserved.
Georgina Rusk and Poco Lambert were shocked when their friend Angela Harrall told them the news. She had only just found out herself, from her mother at breakfast that very Saturday morning.
"You're moving!" Georgina screeched. They were all up in her room, sitting on the bed. "But Angela, how can you? What will you do without us!
"I suppose I'll think of something," Angela replied with a little sniff. "I won't just dry up and blow away, if that's what you mean."
"That is what I mean!" Georgina couldn't help saying. "We are the three best friends in the entire universe!"
It was true. All that fall they had been cosmic friends. They had spent afternoons doing their homework at one another's houses and Friday nights going to the movies. They had played slapjack in Poco's kitchen and practiced calligraphy in Angela's with her father's special pen.
They had pooled their money to buy a bottle of rather expensive blue nail polish and painted their fingernails and toes. Afterward, since he seemed to be looking on so eagerly from his cage, Poco had painted Edward's whiskers. He was Georgina's hamster.
"Edward has always secretly wished for blue whiskers," Poco explained. "You know, like Bluebeard the Pirate? Bluebeard is his hero. He told me."
"Bluebeard the Pirate! Edward?" cried Georgina, who did not believe in pets having conversations with people. She frowned at Poco. "Why is it that this hamster only speaks to you ? When there are so many other persons around he could speak to? Including me, his owner?"
"I'm sorry, George, but I have no control over these things," Poco had replied in an insulted voice. "I'll mention it to Edward the next time we talk."
Cosmic as they were, the friends did not always get along. They were separate people with separate views of the world, so what could one expect? About the main things, though, they tended to agree, and that fall, more than anything else, they had agreed on the existence of magic.
Magic. The word made their eyes darken and grow watchful. This was not the toy store variety sold in boxes. Real magic appeared where it was least expected, they knew, and then evaporated like mist before the hand could grasp it. It hid out in the ordinary and often managed to explain itself in ways that sounded completely reasonable. To catch magic at work, you had to be patient. You had to keep a sharp eye and a trusting mind. Only then would clues begin to show up—a puff of gold dust, strange lights in the hall—evidence that other powers, somewhere, were alive. Angela's gold dust letters had revealed many things. The friends had been on the verge of discovering more when ...
"Angela Harrall, I order you to stay!" Georgina yelled, stamping her foot so hard that Edward was rattled awake in his cage. He poked his blue whiskers out the front of his little house and stared at them with worried black eyes.
Poco said nothing. She dropped down on Georgina's bed and curled into a ball, like one of those furry caterpillars found along the roadside at that time of the year.
"Poco! For goodness' sake. Get up and do something!" Georgina cried. "Angela is going to South America."
"To Mexico," Angela said, looking a bit shaken herself. "My father needs to be near his business there. My brother, Martin, is going, too. We'll be back in a year."
"A year!" Georgina clenched her fists. "What about your mother?"
"Oh, she's decided to move to California for a while. She's thinking of going to law school."
Everyone knew that Angela's parents didn't live together anymore, though they weren't yet actually divorced.
"My mom will come and visit us a lot, and we'll fly up and visit her," Angela went on bravely. "It won't be so bad. I'll go to a school where I'll learn to speak Spanish."
This was too much for Georgina. With a wild leap, she hurled herself onto the bed beside Poco. "Spanish!" she shrieked. "But what about us?"
Poco had begun to uncurl by this time. She sat up and turned to Angela with a serious expression on her face.
"What is going to happen to Juliette?" she asked. Juliette, the Harrall family's big Siamese cat, was a special friend of hers.
"I don't know." Angela shrugged. "We haven't talked about it."
"She won't like Mexico," Poco said. "Too hot. And the mice have tropical diseases."
"Maybe she should stay here, then."
"I think she should." Poco raised her tiny eyebrows. "If she would like a place to stay, my house is available."
"I'll ask my mother," Angela answered. "It sounds like a good idea."
"No, it doesn't," screamed Georgina, who was not one to make changes without a great deal of fuss. "It sounds like the worst idea I've ever heard. Juliette will run away! Also, who will take care of your house? And you can't just drop out of school. The teachers will be furious after all the time they've already wasted on you."
Angela, who had been gazing fondly at Georgina during most of this tirade, narrowed her eyes when it came to the part about the teachers. A dark red flush appeared on her cheeks.
"Please don't worry, George," she replied through thin lips. "Everything will be taken care of. Miss Bone is going to look after our house."
"Miss Bone! Who is she? We've never even met her, have we?"
"She will be there whether you've met her or not," Angela said. "And I will be in Mexico, so that's the end of that!"
Impossible as it seemed, Angela and her family were gone less than a month later. Their clothes were packed, their suitcases were shipped off, and a black limousine came and rushed them away to the airport.
After a brief flurry of gardeners and cleaning people, the Harrall residence was deserted. The big house was closed up. Curtains were drawn. Lights burned in odd places, even during the day. Poco and Georgina couldn't help going by on their walks home from school.
As the days passed, a queer emptiness took hold of the yard. The trees looked barer, the bushes more forlorn. Even the little creatures that come and go so busily around a normal, lived-in house seemed, one by one, to disappear.
There were no squirrels in the trees, Poco noticed after the second week. Few birds came to roost on the house's broad roof. The mouse-sized moles that had tunneled so relentlessly into the front lawn and driven poor Mrs. Harrall to distraction went away. A family of rabbits nesting in one of the side hedges moved out.
The reasonable explanation for these disappearances was certainly that winter had come. It was November. Most birds had flown south. Many animals were digging down into the earth or building homes in more protected places. Poco knew this, and yet ...
"No dogs walk through the yard anymore," she pointed out to Georgina one day. "The fat groundhog is gone from under the apple tree. I have the strangest feeling that Angela's house is being avoided."
"I've noticed that somebody is living in the apartment over the garage," Georgina replied. "There are lights on up there every night, and a car is parked outside one of the doors sometimes."
"It's Miss Bone." Poco frowned. "She's living there while she looks after the house. My mother said she used to be a teacher at the high school. Now she's too old and does housesitting jobs."
"Miss Bone," Georgina mused. "That's a strange name."
"Sort of horrible when you think of it," Poco agreed.
The most important animal missing from the Harrall house and garden was, of course, Juliette. There was nothing odd about this, however. The big Siamese was staying with Poco while the Harralls were away, an arrangement that seemed to make everyone happy.
Angela had an excuse to call up from Mexico, so the friends, who were not great letter writers, could stay in touch. Meanwhile, Poco had a sleeping companion at last. Every night Juliette curled up on the foot of her bed, just as she had used to snuggle under the radiator in Angela's kitchen.
"Juliette is a person who likes order ... like me," Poco told Georgina proudly. "Now that she's settled, she doesn't mind moving at all. We are very good and don't talk long at night. We know we need to get our beauty sleep."
"Beauty sleep. Good grief!" Georgina rolled a desperate eye. She wondered how she would ever get through an entire year of being friends with Poco without Angela there to help her.
Luckily, the problem would soon be partly solved. A new person was about to appear on the scene. He was not someone the friends had ever expected to know. Though he had been in their school classes for years, they had never spoken to him. He lived quite close to Poco, however, and this was why he happened to be walking by on the sidewalk when, with a terrible squeal of tires and a sickening thud, Juliette was run down by a car in the street.CHAPTER 2
Poco ran to the window the moment she heard the tires screech. Some flash of intuition told her what had happened. It was late afternoon. The big cat had just gone out. A bleary-eyed sun hung low in the sky.
"Juliette! Where are you?" Poco screamed. She saw a dark sports car speeding away. With another shriek of tires, it reached the end of the block, turned right, and disappeared.
Poco grabbed her coat and ran outside into the road. She searched the sidewalks up and down. An oddly shaped gray mound was lying near a street drain not far off.
"Oh no!" She crept toward it, hardly daring to breathe. The mound became a tail bent, a head crushed, a body smashed on the cold pavement. Poco's stomach rose up. But when she stepped closer, the mound suddenly changed. It took on a brownish, brittle look, and she realized with a gasp that it was only a pile of leaves.
Poco stared weakly up the street. "Juliette? Please come. Are you hurt?"
Soft footsteps sounded behind her. A person wearing a baseball cap pulled far down over his eyes appeared at her side.
"If you are looking for your cat, it ran over there," the person said in a low voice. He pointed to a tangle of shrubs across the road and turned to leave.
"Wait!" Poco cried. "What happened? Did you see?"
The person turned back warily. He was a boy, short-legged and wiry, not much taller than Poco herself. There was something familiar about him, she thought.
"Your cat got hit," he said. "It flew up in the air like a football. I thought it came down on the Rollins' lawn, but it's not there now. Maybe it ran in the bushes."
"Which bushes?" Poco raced across the street. The boy in the baseball cap followed and pointed. She pushed some branches aside, but there was nothing underneath.
"Maybe it kept running." The boy began to edge away again. Beneath his cap, his eyes surfaced and met hers, then drew back into shadow.
"Walter Kew!" Poco exclaimed. "I know who you are."
"Well, don't go yelling it around," Walter said, glancing over his shoulder. "I like to keep a low profile out here."
"A low what?" Poco tried to see his eyes again. They were the palest blue, very nearly white when the light shone in them.
"Never mind." Walter Kew pulled his cap down. "If I were you, I would look in the Rollins' backyard. The cat is probably hiding out there."
"Do you think she's hurt?" Poco said, gazing fearfully down the driveway. "Could you help me find her? My mother's at work. No one's home except me."
"Oh, all right," Walter muttered, but he didn't look happy about it.
The Rollins were berry people. Strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries—every sort of berry bush was planted in their yard. By this time of year, the berries were gone, leaving a snarl of brambles. Poco and Walter Kew waded in on tiptoes.
"Juliette! Please come out. Or make a noise and I'll find you," Poco coaxed.
"Cat? Here, cat," Walter Kew called.
There was no answer.
They walked back to the street and went around the block to the yard Juliette would have come to if she had kept going through the Rollins' brambles. Nothing was moving there, either.
Walter glanced over his shoulder. He grasped his baseball cap and pulled it farther down.
"I guess I'd better get going," he said. "I don't like being out on the street for too long."
"Why not?" Poco asked.
"Spirits," he said mysteriously. But then he stood around and didn't leave.
"You are Poco, right?" he said, looking at her sideways.
They inspected the second street up and down and asked some people on the sidewalk if they had seen a large gray Siamese cat. They hadn't. There was no sign of Juliette. Poco began to feel sick again.
"Thanks for helping," she told Walter when they came back around to her house. "I guess I'll just sit on our porch steps for a while and see if she comes back."
"Time for me to disappear," he said. He slunk off down the sidewalk. About ten minutes later, though, Poco saw him coming back. He slipped into her yard like a spirit himself and scuttled up the path to the porch.
"I thought you might like some help waiting," he whispered, pulling up his cap a fraction of an inch. His pale eyes flashed out from under the brim. "I've had a few things disappear on me like that."
"Thanks." Poco moved to make room. "I guess the spirits are still watching you, right?"
"You never know," said Walter Kew. "It's a crazy world out there."
Poco called Georgina that night. "Juliette was run over?" Georgina bellowed into the phone. "And now she's lost? I knew this would happen! It's Angela's fault for going away."
Poco held the receiver away from her ear.
"Are you sure Walter Kew was the person who came out and helped you?" Georgina went on shouting.
"Yes. He couldn't find her, either. But he said not to worry. He doesn't think Juliette is dead. Yet."
"How would Walter Kew know that? He never knows anything," Georgina pointed out. "He never speaks to anyone and he usually doesn't answer if someone speaks to him. His parents got killed when he was little, you know. Now he lives with his grandmother and is thought to be a strange person."
"I know," Poco said. "He is strange. But nice. He believes in spirits. He said we could use his Ouija board if we wanted, to find out where Juliette has gone. I said I'd let him know."
"George, you don't have to yell every word you say," Poco said, holding the receiver out at arm's length. "My mother can hear you in the next room."
There was a rustling noise on Georgina's end of the line, as if she was changing position.
"Listen, Poco. Don't get mixed up with Walter Kew," she said in quieter but more earnest tones. "He has weird ideas. Anyway, Ouija boards are fake. Everybody knows it."
"I don't know it," Poco said stoutly.
"Yes, you do!" Georgina's voice rose again. "We used to do that stuff in second grade. It never told us anything we hadn't already figured out. Not only that but ..."
Poco lay the phone down on the living room couch, where she was sitting, and got up and walked across the room. Georgina's voice went on without pause in the distance. It sounded like a flock of ducks quacking across a pond. After a while, Poco walked back and picked up the receiver again.
"... quack, quack, quack, so I will come over to your house tomorrow, whether you like it or not, and help you look for Juliette," Georgina was saying. "She probably went under somebody's house. That's what cats always do—go under houses."
Poco hung up the phone completely when she heard this. She felt too worried to bother telling
Georgina that she was wrong, as usual. Cats do not "always do" anything. They are unpredictable, which is why humans, who are also unpredictable, love them so much. Furthermore, though a cat may go under a house, it usually will not stay there. This is because dust clogs up its sensitive nose and dirt falls onto its beautiful coat, and it is very shortly sneezing and miserable.
No, Juliette was not under a house at that moment. But in that case, where had she gone?
Poco took a telephone book out of a table drawer and looked up a number. She punched it into the telephone and waited through four rings.
"Hello! Speak up!" an elderly voice barked at the other end. Poco jumped. Old people made her nervous. They frequently looked angry or couldn't hear what she said.
"Hello?" she quavered. "May I speak to Walter Kew?"
Excerpted from Looking for Juliette by Janet Taylor Lisle. Copyright © 1994 Janet Taylor Lisle. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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