THE CASE OF THE CURSED CLOCK! 1 "Johnson Wee, Private D." That's what my card will say. The D, in case you don't know, stands for Detective. I'm going to be the best private detective in town. Sure, I'm only twelve now, but you've got to have a plan in life, right? I haven't told Mum and Dad yet. Dad wants me to be a doctor or an executive or something and drive Mercedes. My kid brother, Aloysius, reckons the D stands for Dummy. But what can you expect from a jerk like him? I figure I'll have a real cool office, with a big desk I can put my feet on. And Samantha Leong from Secondary One will be my secretary. Now she is v-e-r-y cool. So what else would she want to be? A dumb receptionist for some dumb dentist? Truth is, in detective work, you can never start too early learning the job. Like me. I'm always snooping around, watching, taking notes. The things I could tell you about our estate would make your hair curl. I could put the finger on the dame who steals flowers, and the old man who dumps his rubbish by the lift. But that's chickenfeed. The real action is down at the market. The things that go on down there, wow! Things the cops ought to be in on. Maybe they're too busy. Maybe I'll do them a favour, give them a break one day. Anyhow, I'm down there every morning of the school holidays, checking things out, just routine. I usually sit at the bus interchange, just across the road from the chicken rice stall. I can see them, they can't see me. One day I'm there, this old man came out of the stall. Had a face that could have been chopped out of wood, all nobbly and rutted, really tough. And he couldn't have squeezed another tattoo onto his arm, believe me. I had him figured as suspicious. So he came out from behind the chickens, carrying this parcel, looking around to see if anyone's watching. He went along to the big basket where they dump all the rotten fruit. And he buried the parcel in it, up to his elbows. Then he slipped away, looking this way and that, figuring he's in the clear. Johnson Wee, I told myself, you can talk the walk. Now let's see if you can walk the walk! I eased off the seat, real slow, no sudden moves. I just crossed over, taking my time, kind of casual, and stood by the basket. The fruit stank. I don't know what they had in there. I checked the street. The old man had gone. I pretended to drop my pencil into the basket. Anybody watching would think the poor kid lost his pencil, right? Then I reached down to get it, shoving my hands really deep into this mass of slimy lettuce leaves and durian skins. Yuk! Somebody ought to talk to these hawkers! Then I felt it! The old man's parcel. All wet and sticky. So I hauled it out, shoved it under my arm and walked away. Real smart, right? Wrong. Real dumb. I'd forgotten my stupid pencil. And that's not all. If only I'd been paying more attention. I might have seen them. Seen who? I didn't know it, but they were watching me. They were watching every move I made!