The trio met in the shed on one of the first days of August, when it was rapidly getting hotter than ever before. They sat outside because the shed was becoing too stuffy - the clouded plastic windows had condensed water on the inside and the spiders were beginning to move out of their corners. The floor became slightly damp and altogether the shed had become a most unpleasant place.
"I've ordered the new lock and three lovely new keys," Rosetta said. "My mum didn't ask what they were for. I gave her our key but she said if we wanted a new lock too then they didn't really need it."
"You gave her it? Does that mean we can't even open the shed door to let some fresh air in?" Carla said disgustedly.
"No. She gave it back."
Carla gave a nod.
"It's here in my pocket."
She took it out and waved it around, then put it down on the grass where they could all see it.
Rosetta continued. "Now the entire rest of our money, which is about £50, is in our tin in the shed. The shed is locked so it'll be safer there than in any of our houses where cupboards are virtually public property."
Jess nodded fervently.
"The new set could take several weeks to come," Rosetta cautioned. "We probably won't get them till September."
"But that's ages away!" cried Jessie in distress. "We'll be back to school by then."
"That's tough," Carla began.
"Ssh!" said Rosetta. Her quick ears had caught something.
A bird's beak emitted several sweet notes.
Carla raised an eyebrow. "I've heard that exact call at least three times since May," she said. "It must be a particular bird following me around. It hasn't just been here, either."
A twig snapped.
THe three were on their feet at once.
"It's just a rabbit," reassured Rosetta in a whisper.
"That's no rabbit," Carla denied grimly.
Toegther they ran away from the clearing and down onto the gravel near the exit to the lane. They were about to go when Rosetta exclaimed, "The key! I left it lying in the grass!"
They looked at each other.
"Vienna has been spying on us," said Carla unexpectedly.
"Why do you say that?" Jessie replied haughtily.
"I saw her. I know it was her because of her hair. I caught a flash of her eyes too. You can't mistake her eyes. They're so blue. She spies and tries to make no noise, but always makes that sound like a bird to show her presence. Not that it makes it less dishonest. She's been spying on me since May. And I've only just realised it. And now she's going to steal the key."
"Of course she's not!" said Rosetta. "She'll probably come in a minute and give it to us, like she gave David back to us when we lost him on that picnic."
Carla remembered the fluting trilll she had heard but the others hadn't, on the picnic. Vienna had been spying on them then, and she had told a lie. She had said that she'd only been there a few minutes; now Carla came to think about it, the time between the fluting trill and Vienna's appearance would've been at least fifty minutes. Carla had not believed it then. Now she knew the truth. Vienna had been there the whole time, watching them. How she had not been seen was a mystery.
They waited for ten minutes on the gravel, then when they were sure that Vienna must have gone, they made their way back to the clearing where the shed dominated the undergrowth.
"If we don't clear all this bracken, who will?" said Jessica briefly.
"That's not important right now!" Carla snapped.
The key was gone. They searched and searched and searched.
"She's taken it," Carla concluded almost triumphantly. "Now we really have something to hold against her."
"I can't believe it," said Rosetta. "After what she said at the party..."
Jessica's eyes met her friend's. "Yes, Carla, she said..."
"La-la-la-la-la-la-la-la!" cried Carla. "I don't care and I don't want to ehar what she said."
Rosetta gave up on Carla.
"Maybe it was someone else," Jess wondered hopefully.
"I saw her too, through the trees, on the way back here," Rosetta contradicted. "She stole the key alright."
"Let's tell someone!" Carla said excitedly, but to her intense surprise Rosetta caught her collar and looked fiercely into her eyes.
"NO! You, nor anyone else here, says anything, anything at all, about Vienna and the key, to any other person, until September. Give her a chance to return the key. I forbid you to say anything."
She let go of Carla, and that young woman adjusted her T-shirt.
"You can't stop me from doing what I want to do," she said in a small voice, but she knew she had lost. Carla was not angry with her friend. She knew that Rosetta had just concluded an argument in her usual way, but seeing that Carla would not be easy to move, had taken it a step further. It was not uncommon for this to happen. Carla remembered several other occasions when Rosetta had been drastic. And Rosetta's verdict had always been right, no matter how much she was disagreed with.
"Not one word will any of us say about this until I say we should," Rosetta said darkly. "She will give the key back; mark my words."
"Now stop being so dramatic and we ought to end our meeting," Jessica demanded. "Anyone would think you were in league with Vienna over this business."
"The meeting is ended," obliged Rosetta with a slight smile. They left the clearing and rode their bikes home.
Carla remembered the tune Vienna had whistled. She heard it very clearly in her head as she entered the front garden gate. It was poignant and disturbing, with a faint glimmer of hope and something very expressive that reached out to Carla's heart, pleading and appealing. What for?