Chapter 1: Dr Snoot's Mystery Box
Joshua first met Denise, late one night, outside of Wicklepeck Town-hall. He was adding Hitler moustaches to the posters of some politicians with a black felt marker when a couple of brawny lads in the small crowd that gathered to watch, began heckling him. ' Oi didn't yer mum give yer any colouring-in books em? '
A small voice called out from behind, ' He's making a political statement about them being Nazi's, dingbats !' An argument quickly erupted but this thin wisp of a girl was too sharp for the lads and soon shut them up.
Joshua had never seen her before. She had braces, freckles and long brown wavy hair and he went over to thank her and they got talking. She was only sixteen and half his weight but had twice the guts of him at eighteen. It was great to meet someone who got what he was on about and even had a few ideas to add. They just made sense to one another. Over the following weeks Joshua surprised himself by falling in love and soon, whenever they met he'd softly whisper in her ear, 'I love you.'
She'd whisper the same back but never said it first. And sometimes, there was a second of hesitation before she said it. That hesitation killed him. Didn't she know how she felt. Why did she need to think about it?
Perhaps if she knew him better she would be more certain of her feelings. He decided to invite her to his eccentric uncle Snoot's, so she could get to know his family. Denise agreed and brought a plate of home-made cookies topped with chocolate and a slice of walnut. They met outside uncle Snoot's home, a plain brick house that looked like every other except one of its windows was boarded- over.
'Today's his Birthday,' said Joshua banging the lion-faced knocker. ' Not that he likes Birthdays.'
'So he's a Doctor then, a Doctor of what? '
'Er... Cosmology. Did a ten week course on-line for his Doctorate. '
'I thought Doctorates took five to seven years? So what exactly is it he studied?'
'Not sure but he says it taught him just enough to fully appreciate how ignorant he is.'
'Really.' Joshua was hoping Dr Snoot's many mechanical inventions would appeal to Denise as she was a bit of a geek like him. He went to knock again but the door opened, revealing Mrs Grimsby, Dr Snoot's housekeeper.
'Heard you well enough the first time.' She had a hard face and was wearing a red striped apron. Her thick arms clasped a broom. 'Well, what d'yer want? Haven't all day.' Her sharp eyes studied them.
'We're here to see Dr Snoot.' Mrs Grimsby and Dr Snoot must have had another of their 'divergence of views,' as the Doctor liked to call them.
'He's expecting you is he?'
'Invited us actually , thank you! ' Was it too late to leave and save Denise from the Doctor's and Mrs Grimsby's arguing?
Mrs Grimsby moved aside and gave a nod towards the stairs. 'Locked in his den as usual. Straight up and first on right.'
They went up and Joshua knocked.
'Enter,' boomed a voice.
Joshua led the way into what had once been a lounge but was now over-run with tools, equipment and electrical gadgets. His uncle was tall with swept back frizzy white hair and a long droopy moustache.
'Hello you must be Denise, I'm Dr Stan Snoot. You may have heard of me?'
' No sorry. Cookies.' Denise held out her plate.
'Oh I say.' Dr Snoot beamed. 'What scrumptious looking tooth rotters! And with delectable chocolate toppings too. They're my favourites !'
'I know,' Denise murmured.
'Come see my newly fr