Authors: Tamsyn Murray
‘I don’t know about you, Harriet, but I’ll be glad when the show is over tonight,’ the make-up lady said, as she put the finishing touches to my hair and whiskers. ‘What with all the problems today and that awful singing, I’m looking forward to a nice rest.’
A pained look crossed her face and I knew she meant Doodle, who we could hear warming up somewhere backstage. For an opera-singing poodle, some of those notes sounded a bit wobbly. But, now I came to think about it, I was looking forward to going home after the show too. My hutch was cosy’, but at least I didn’t have to listen to EE snoring all night.
Susie and EE had gone to collect Mrs Wilson and Lily from the train station, so once I’d finished in make-up I had nothing to do but wait for them to get back. Most of the other pets were in their dressing rooms, so it was all quiet in the area behind the stage. As I sat there, snacking on some hay, I heard a sharp whisper behind the dark backstage curtains. I stopped chewing to listen.
‘Pssst! Are you ’ere?’
I frowned. That funny accent was familiar. Where had I heard it before?
A snooty female voice whispered back, ‘Of course I am. Did you bring the lookalike?’
My frown got deeper. I’d know that toffee-nosed tone anywhere. But who earth was Miranda whispering to?
‘I ’ave,’ the other voice replied. ‘’Ave you given Arriet ze sleeping potion?’
Eyes wide, I shuffled to the front of my basket and peered out, but there was no one to be seen.
‘It’s in the water bottle. Her stupid owners didn’t suspect a thing.’
I stared at the bottle, hanging from my door. So that was why it had gone missing – Miranda must have taken it!
‘Good. Once she is asleeps, I will swap er for ze – ’ow you say – look-ze-samey.’
‘It’s called a lookalike, you idiot,’ Miranda said. ‘Just make sure you take the right rabbit away. When Gloria sees her precious Stunt Bunny has forgotten how to backflip, she’ll kick her off
and beg Doodle to take her place!’
So that was it! Miranda wanted Doodle to be the star of
and she didn’t care what it took. But who was her partner in crime?
Wriggling to the back of my basket, I considered my options. What I needed was a way out of the basket so I could get help, but the basket that EE had bought made sure I had little chance of escaping. I could only hope that Susie and EE came back before Miranda and the mystery man could put their dastardly plan into practice.
The backstage curtains twitched and a dark figure came towards me. Quick as a flash, I lay flat on the floor of the basket and narrowed my eyes to slits. If the man thought I was asleep I might be able to catch him by surprise and hop away to safety when he opened the door. But the mystery man didn’t open the basket. Instead, he bent down to look inside.
‘Allo ’Arriet,’ he said. ‘We meet again.’ I peered out and was shocked to find myself face to face with the only person that could possibly spell more trouble for me than Doodle’s owner…
‘Don’t worry, Miranda.’ He called, ‘Zis time, I, ze Great Maldini, will not fail. I must ’ave zis rabbit!’
I don’t mind telling you that my heart was pounding. The last time I’d seen the Great Maldini, he’d tried to steal me away to star in his magic show. Only a super bunny backflip had saved me and now it looked as though he was trying again. But how had he got past the security guards and into the stadium?
As I looked more closely at Maldini, suddenly it became clear how he had managed to get backstage. Gone was the dark hair he’d had when I’d last seen him. Instead, on his head was a red wig, covered by a familiar lime-green baseball cap. The Great Maldini and the kidnapping roadie were the same person!
He lifted his hand and I saw he held a travel basket identical to mine. Sitting in the middle was a grey rabbit. It looked exactly like me!
‘’Arriet ’Oudini, meet ’Arriet ’Oudini,’ the Great Maldini said and started to giggle. ‘By ze time everyone works out what as ’appened, we will be far away.’
Still laughing, he raised my basket up in the air and swung the other basket into its place. Then, with a flourish, he shook out a black cloth and draped it over my basket. Everything went dark.
My main worry was that he would whisk me away immediately, but I could still hear Doodle’s awful singing when he put me down again, so I knew we hadn’t gone far.
‘Wait ’ere, my little Stunt Bunny,’ he said, whipping away the cloth and grinning evilly. ‘When I return, we escapes!’
He tugged something over the front of my basket and I was in the dark again. Gnashing my teeth together, I thought hard. From the sounds of things, he’d hidden me away somewhere backstage. But when Susie and EE came back, they would see the lookalike rabbit and think it was me!
By the time they realised their mistake The Great Maldini would be long gone, taking me with him. I needed to hatch a getaway plan, and fast. But what could I do? The basket was escape-proof. Or was it?
I nibbled at the plastic wall beside me, but it was tough and hurt my teeth. The door of the basket was no better. It looked like plastic, until I clamped my trusty teeth on it and discovered it was made of metal coated with plastic.
Then I heard something which made me want to cry. Susie had come back and she’d gone straight to the lookalike bunny’s basket.
‘Sorry we were gone so long, Harriet,’ I heard her say. ‘Dad got lost.’
‘I did not,’ EE sounded snappy. ‘Your mother gave me the wrong directions.’
The backstage speaker crackled and a voice said, ‘Ten minutes to curtain up. All pets to the stage.’
‘You’d better get Harriet dressed,’ EE said. ‘She’s on in a minute.’
I peered frantically around my dark prison, searching for a way out. There wasn’t one and with all the noise from the other pets heading towards the stage, no-one could hear my squeaking.
‘Has Harriet lost weight?’ Susie said slowly. ‘Only this sparkly suit fitted her yesterday and now it’s too big.’
I froze, hoping Susie would realise that the rabbit she held wasn’t me, but EE growled impatiently, ‘Just put it on and let’s get on stage. The curtain will go up in a minute and Gloria won’t be pleased if we’re not there.’
Seconds later, they were gone. In desperation, I kicked out at the wall of the basket, but it was designed to stand up to bigger bunnies than me and didn’t budge. Defeated, I stared up at the roof. And then it hit me. There was a hatch in the roof big enough for Susie to slide her hand through. It had a latch to hold it closed, but maybe if I could hit it with my back feet I could get it open! The question was, how was I going to reach the roof?