Zoza was woken by the sound of hoovering. Her head lolled from her pillow and when she pulled her hair from her face and opened her eyes she was greeted with the sight of the hoover guzzling a sock from the floor. Xoxox pulled it away from the playful appliance and greeted Zoza with a quick kiss on the cheek.
“I SAID GOOD-”
“Yeah. What time is it?” Zoza asked.
“About half seven.”
“I’m going to go back to sleep. Any response to the ad yet?”
Xoxox shook his head and looked anxiously at the hoover’s ‘on’ switch, itching to get going again and when Zoza grunted in disappointment and turned over in bed he took it as a sign to start back up.
“Oh Xoxox… XOXOX!”
“Perhaps we won’t hear the phone if you’re hoovering around all the time. Maybe you could…”
“I’ll go and do it outside.”
Xoxox had been busy doing the laundry but now he set the hoover down and went to answer the phone. Zoza got their first. As she picked up the phone she gave Xoxox a steely look, daring him to switch the hoover back on.
“Hello, The Hoovering Detective Agency, how can we help?”
“Well, my hoover is broken, I wondered if you could perhaps fix it.”
“We are Hoovering Detectives, not repairmen. We solve mysteries by using our hoover.”
“Well, I don’t know why it’s broken.”
Zoza slammed the phone down.
“Another caller who doesn’t understand what we do!” she exclaimed.
“I probably could have fixed it,” muttered Xoxox. “I was thinking – while we don’t have any cases to solve we could do some cleaning jobs.”
“I’m not a cleaner Xoxox, I’m a detective.”
“No but I am. I could clean and you could chat to people, try and find out if they have any mysteries that need solving.”
Zoza had been shaking her head but now she stopped and thought for a moment.
“That,” she said, “is not a bad idea.”
Old Mrs Groob answered the door to find a young woman with a shock of dark hair tied up into a pineapple and a young man leading a hoover behind him.
“Hello, we spoke on the phone. We are the Hoovering Detective Agen- I mean, we are the cleaners. I‘m Zoza and this is Xoxox.”
“Oh well, you had better come in dearies.” Mrs Groob ushered them into a small, immaculately kept flat, to Xoxox‘s evident disappointment. “It’s in a bit of a state but I just didn’t have time to clean before you came. Would you like a cup of tea.”
“I would love one, thank you. Xoxox will start with the cleaning if that’s ok.”
“Ooh yes, that would be wonderful.”
Xoxox located a plug socket and was soon hoovering away, using a variety of homemade nozzles to reach the really tricky places, finally finding some dirt. Mrs Groob made tea, sliced cake and settled down on the sofa next to Zoza.
“There you go Zoza… Zoza’s a pretty name. Is it real?”
“No, my real name is Lucy.”
“Oh and I suppose, how do you say it, Zokzok is made up to?”
“Xoxox. No, that is his real name. His parents were big ‘noughts and crosses’ players.”
“Well, you’ve got a good man who likes hoovering. You can’t get better than that. He seems to have an affinity with the hoover.”
“He was brought up by hoovers.”
“Well, no. He spent a lot of his childhood locked in the cleaning cupboard.”
“Oh, I see,” Mrs Groob said, though she didn’t.
Xoxox had started on the ceiling.
“Mrs Groob, is there anything you are worried about, anything mysterious, any odd puzzles, any dastardly deeds you’ve noticed – murders, robberies, missing cats, have you lost anything and not been able to find it, lost contact with any relatives… anything like that at all?”
“Oh no dearie. No no. And don’t you go worrying your pretty head about it.”
“Oh, anything. Ooh, is the hoovering finished.”
Xoxox was lying in the middle of the kitchen floor, out of breath and patting the hoover. “Good boy, good boy,” he panted.
It was Friday morning and Zoza and Xoxox were lying in bed and honing their detective skills by playing ‘Binmen or Roadsweeper.’
“It’s the roadsweeper, I’m telling you Xox. It’s a deeper sound than the bin lorry and there’s no men running about outside.”
“It’s just further away that’s all. Look out of the window.”
Zoza peered through the blinds.
“You’re right, it is the binmen. Did you put the bin out?”
Xoxox shook his head horizontally.
“Oh, Xox! The bin is full of hoovering too.”
They lay in silence for a moment.
“Any mysteries for us today,” Xoxox asked.
“Any cleaning jobs?”
“Might do some improvement and maintenance on the hoover. I want to fix magnets inside the cylinder so that any metal that gets sucked up will be separated from the fluff.”
“I might go out.”
Zoza and Xoxox were stood at the door of a flat in the upmarket end of town.
“Now remember Xox, we are professionals. This is a big day for us.”
They stood in silence.
“Our first case!” she squealed and gripped his arm. “Right, ok. I’m ringing the doorbell.”
A dapper man in his mid-twenties answered the door. He was dressed in a stylish suit and wore glasses and smart, short hair. His face was pale and he was shaking slightly.
“Oh, thank you for coming, thank you, thank you,” he ushered them into a flat which was decked out in IKEA but was something of a mess – papers everywhere, furniture upended and flung around the room as if in a frenzy.
“I’ve been looking everywhere but I haven’t seen it since yesterday evening.”
“Sorry,” said Zoza, taking out a notepad and a pen, “can we start at the beginning – what are you missing?”
“My blueberry muffin.”
“Blue… berry… muffin…” she wrote in her book, “Xoxox, do you want to start the hoovering, we’re looking for a blueberry muffin. Blueberry muffin, ok.”
“Ok!” Xoxox grinned with greedy hoovering eyes at the mess ahead of him and went to find a socket.
Zoza turned back to the dapper man. “So, this muffin. Blueberry, right? Roughly 3 inches tall, 4 inches?”
“About 3 inches yeah. This isn’t the first time I-”
“Found it!” Their conversation was cut short by a shout from the bathroom and they hurried through to find Xoxox holding a blueberry muffin triumphantly aloft.”
“Where in-” the man began.
“I was just beginning to hoover in your airing cupboard down the back of the boiler when I could feel that the hoover had attached onto something cakey. It’s sucked the top off the muffin too, sorry about that.”
“No no, don’t apologise. This is wonderful, thank you,” the man shook Xoxox’s hand and with the other took the muffin and crammed it into his mouth.
“There are more muffins down there too,” said Xoxox.
“Rmmllmy?” the man peered down behind the boiler.
“Let me see,” Zoza pushed him aside and shone a torch down on a pile of twenty or thirty muffins behind the boiler. “Hmm. Now we must find out how they got there and why they have been going missing.”
“Nmm mmm. Mmmat’s fmmine,” the dapper man mumbled. He chewed some more and swallowed. “Really, that’s fine. I’ve got my muffin back, that’s all I wanted.” He began to usher them towards the door.
“Please, we have to investigate and find out why this happened. I must look for clues,” pleaded Zoza.
“That won’t be necessary.”
“At least let me hoover the rest of your flat. There’s so much dirt here,” pleaded Xoxox.
“That won’t be necessary. Now how much do I owe?”
They left the house with a cheque for their services and sat in the car in silence. This should have been a joyous occasion and yet they were left feeling hollow.
“Well,” Xoxox ventured at last, “that’s a one hundred per cent success rate.”
“Yeah,” Zoza replied glumly. “Good hoovering today, well done.”
“Good detective work, we’re quite a team.”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “Come on, lets get home, there are more mysteries out there for us to solve.”
“More dust to bag!” Xoxox exclaimed and started the motor.
They trundled home having finally established themselves as the Hoovering Detective Agency.
TO BE CONTINUED…