Chapter 1: bellona the spy
something is fishy in this here town
(i feel it in my bones)
“I want to know everything, everything,” screeched Harriet suddenly, lying back and bouncing up and down on the bed.
“Everything in the world, everything, everything. I will be a spy and know everything."
- Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (1964)
Belle hates Mondays. She didn’t used to hate Mondays. It used to be that Mondays meant school, which meant learning and books and art and friends. Mondays held the promise of an entire week to explore something she had never seen or known before. She had loved Mondays. So much so that in grade four, Nicole had taken to calling her Monday Monkey because she jumped and hollered and climbed on the furniture all the while chattering about her day.
And toward the end of grade five, Nicole had smiled and Waverly had smiled and both of them told her how happy they were that she was so happy at school, that they were proud of her for doing so well, and could she please sit down at the table for a minute so they could talk?
“Please, Monday Monkey?”
She wasn’t in trouble, they told her right away. They just wanted to know how she liked her teacher and the new principal, Mrs. Blake. They just wanted to know if she felt like she was being challenged enough.
“Mr. Thomas lets me read whatever I want for book time. And he gave Mateo and me a separate math workbook that has algebra . Mr. Thomas says I’m gifted.”
“Mr. Thomas is right, Belle.” Her moms beamed at her with pride in their eyes and she preened under the attention. They cared and that still amazed her some days. That they wanted to know about her day, her life when they weren’t around to witness it.
“We had a meeting with Mrs. Blake and Mr. Thomas this morning, monkey,” her mom started.
A flash of panic stormed through Belle’s stomach and made her queasy until she recalled that they said she wasn’t in trouble.
“All of us agreed that it might be best for you to start with the grade sevens in the fall instead of the grade sixes. If that’s something you’re open to doing. Only if you want to.”
Belle had to work that through her head for a quick second. It would mean leaving behind Mateo but it also meant that she might have a class with Alice because it was junior high and sometimes they did that. It would mean that she would only be a year behind in school than her best friend instead of two. And maybe it would mean that her subjects would be a little harder and progress a little faster. As Belle worked it through her head, she came to the conclusion that skipping over grade six seemed pretty all right to her.
So she told her moms yes and they said they would talk to Mrs. Blake in the morning.
She spent all summer asking Alice questions. What was it like? Did she have a favorite teacher? Was it easy to move from classroom to classroom without getting lost? Were kids in junior high more interested in learning than in primary school? How easy was it to make friends?
Alice had rolled her eyes at Belle but she still tried to answer them seriously. It was school, she said. She liked her French teacher, and no, she never got lost or was late to class on accident on account of getting turned around. It was school and mileage may vary in dedication and interest—
“Not everybody is a nerdy bookroom like you Belle,” she teased. And Belle knew she said it in jest because Alice walks with her to the library after school every Friday. And Alice always tries to remember something interesting that she learned that week to share with Belle. And Alice always, always shares her books.
“As for friends,” she said with a shrug. “I guess you meet people. Vanessa takes French with me and I met Greg in my social studies class in grade six. You’ve got me, too. Best friends, yeah?”
So when Belle wasn’t with Alice during the summer, she was reading and studying and making sure that she would be on the same level as the grade sevens. The content wasn’t hard; she just hadn’t learned it yet. More often than not, she went to work with her mama and Jeremy helped her with math and science and then she retreated to her mom’s office to read.
By the time the first day of school rolled around, Belle was anxious and excited. Because it was Monday and she was starting junior high and—
“All the things I get to learn, mom!”
But now… now, Belle hates Mondays.
And Tuesdays and Wednesdays and any day that she has to go to school. Because her classmates stare at her. They stare and whisper and call her weird and none of them want to be her friend. They call her a baby and ignore her in class. One boy named Ricky Jones steals her pencils.
Suffice to say, Belle no longer looks forward to Mondays or going to school at all, and it’s only the second week.
“If it doesn’t get better, baby, we’ll figure something out,” Waverly promises her one evening. “We’ll talk to your mom and the school and we will figure something out.”
It starts to get better the day after next.
On Wednesday, Alice finds her sitting alone at lunch in the corner of the cafeteria. Greg and Vanessa trail behind her and the three of them sit down at the empty table.
“Guys, you remember my cousin?”
Both of them nod and each offers a hi, Belle and hello, Belle. And Alice bobs her head approvingly and slides something across the table.
“I found this in mom’s things,” she says. “She gave it to me but everybody in the family knows you’re the reader.”
It’s a book, Belle sees. An old hardcover with yellowed pages that doesn’t even have a cracked spine, as if Wynonna had barely read beyond the first few lines. It’s possible and probable, knowing her aunt.
“ Harriet the Spy ,” she reads the title aloud.
“Like that really old movie?” Vanessa asks and she’s leaning forward over her tray of meatloaf and mixed vegetables — because school lunches never change — to get a better look at the cover.
Belle opens it to a random page.
”Harriet headed toward the Dei Santis’ grocery, the first stop on her regular spy route. The grocery was on York Avenue, and there was a little alleyway beside it that provided three vantage points from which Harriet could watch."
She looks up. “I think it might be,” she tells them. She thumbs through it to another page, green eyes quickly skimming over the text with practiced ease. “Yeah. I think it is.”
Greg bites into his peanut butter and banana sandwich and talks around the food in his mouth. “What’s a ‘vantage point’?”
Belle wrinkles her nose at his manners. “You could choke if you talk with your mouth full, you know.”
“Plus,” Vanessa adds on. “It’s kind of gross.”
Greg objects by opening his mouth wide and revealing a mess of half-masticated sandwich. Alice and Vanessa shove him at the same time and he finishes chewing before grinning toothily at them.
“Gross, dude,” Alice grumbles, shoving him once more for good measure.
Belle shakes her head like her mama does when her mom does something silly. Like eat a bowl of Maltesers for dinner. Or start a snowball fight with Wynonna. Or watch Saturday morning cartoons with Belle.
(Sometimes she thinks her mom is really a big kid at heart. At least when she’s with them. With family.)
“What does ‘vantage point’ mean?” Greg tries again, this time without a show of his lunch.
Belle chews on her lower lip for a moment, thinking how she would explain it. “Like a place where you can see things better. Like a good view. The alleyway has three places with a good view for spying,” she answers, bringing it back to the passage she read.
“You should talk to Greg’s little sister,” Vanessa tells her. “She likes to read, too, and she’s in your grade.”
“What’s her name?”
“Michelle,” Alice supplies. “She usually goes to the library during lunch.”
They continue to pick at their lunches and they talk about some new movie about space that’s supposed to come out soon. It’s nice, Belle thinks, sitting with people at lunch. It feels good and—
“Hey, are you gonna eat your other apple?” Vanessa asks, already reaching for the piece of fruit still sitting on the table in front of Belle. She had added the second apple on her way out the door this morning, grabbing it from her snack basket on the counter. It’s meant for later, for her walk to the station.
(She doesn’t explain that the extra weight in her lunchbox is like a security blanket. She doesn’t know how, not without talking about before.
Before Nicole and Waverly. Before family and love and Maltesers.)
Alice intercepts Vanessa’s hand by rolling her own red delicious across the table. “You can have mine,” she says. And then she kicks her foot out underneath the table, gently prodding at Belle and pairing the nudge with a concerned look.
Belle returns her spare apple to her lunchbox and shakes her head. I’m okay , the motion says even though her stomach had twisted uncomfortably for a second. I’m okay.
When the bell rings and it’s time to return to class, Alice waves her friends away. “I’m gonna walk with Belle. Mr. Butler’s class is close to Mrs. Parker’s anyways.”
It isn’t. Not really. Alice won’t be late if she runs after seeing her cousin to Mrs. Parker’s English class. And Belle wants to push her in the direction of her friends, but then Alice is looping an arm through hers and tugging her in the direction of the language arts wing.
“We’re still on for walking to the cop shop after school today?”
It isn’t the question that Belle expects but it’s a roundabout way to get at the same answer.
“Yeah. I’ll meet you near the flagpole out front.”
Alice nods and opens the door to Mrs.Parker’s room, holding it open for Belle. “Awesome,” she grins. “Now go learn something.”
Belle smiles back and she can hear Alice’s sneakers squeak on the tiled floor, running down the hallway, until the door shuts all the way behind her.
Chapter 2: to catch a doughnut thief
When Alice and Belle catch wind of a new doughnut thief in the sheriff's station, they decide to try their hand at being spies. Of course, things are never quite what they expect them to be.
This chapter is for pdsalerno, who suggested Alice and Belle in middle school, staking out a teacher or someone running for student council in order to expose them. While this isn't exactly that... I hope you enjoy it just the same.
Thank you to all of you that have been keeping up with this series and leaving kudos and comments. I haven't been able to keep up with them all! But thank you so, so much. It means a lot to me when you take the time to leave a little note.
Any and all mistakes are my own.
to catch a doughnut thief
"Remember that writing is to put love in the world, not to use against your friends.
But to yourself you must always tell the truth."
- Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh (1964)
“Seriously, guys?” Wynonna whines. She’s staring at the box of donuts on the kitchenette counter in the sheriff’s station. Her lips are pursed and her eyes are narrowed and her brow is scrunched up like when she’s trying to figure out how to help Alice with a math problem. “Who keeps taking my powdered jelly doughnuts again?” The question is loud enough that anybody in the municipal building probably heard her, and Belle can see the grimace on her mom’s face at the volume of the outburst.
(The outbursts themselves are something that Nicole has long ago come to accept. Because Wynonna is still Wynonna and at least she still keeps everybody on their toes.)
Alice looks at Belle from the other end of the couch in the sheriff’s office. Belle looks right back.
“Not me,” she says to the unasked question.
She’s got Harriet the Spy in her hands and she’s already more than halfway through it. She read it in Mrs. Parker’s class and then under her desk in Mr. Pratt’s science lab. She read it as they walked from the junior high school to the cop shop and she’s been reading it for the last hour that they’ve been sequestered away in her mom’s office.
She hasn’t had the opportunity or even the desire to help herself to one of the doughnuts. Not today or the last three times that Wynonna has cried thief.
“We should do a stakeout,” Alice suggests, her eyes growing wide with excitement.
“Like cops?” Belle asks.
Nicole looks up from her paperwork at that, listening to her daughter’s conversation even though she really does try not to eavesdrop normally.
But Alice shakes her head and points to the book in the hands of her best friend. “Like spies. You can use your digital camera. And I can take notes and we can figure out who’s been taking mom’s doughnuts.”
Belle hums thoughtfully because she should use her digital camera more. It’s a million times nicer than her film SLR but there’s something about the analog mechanics that help her slow down and breathe and see in a way that digital doesn’t. Even if she has even more control over f-stops and shutter speeds and ISO.
(Her moms had bought it for her birthday. They said at the rate that she was going through film, they could have already bought it for her. And since they were henceforth imposing a “two rolls of film a month” limit, they thought to get her a camera she could use when she hit that limit or just wanted to experiment without using up film.
She isn’t complaining. It makes her feel professional and it is nice to see instantly how everything changes a potential photograph. Still… artistic merit and all that.)
A spy stakeout, though? That’s the perfect opportunity to really test it out.
“Okay,” she breathes. “Let’s catch a doughnut thief.”
The next day, Nicole presents them each with spiral bound memo notebooks from the drugstore. “I can’t give you official field interview notebooks, but these will serve your purpose,” she tells them. “And don’t worry; my lips are sealed about your secret mission.”
She had told Waverly, of course. Her wife thought it adorable and hilarious and she couldn’t wait to see what the kids figure out and how they present their findings to Wynonna. Nicole had sworn her to secrecy and the night had ended in laughing promises.
Alice scribbles her name on the inside cover of the notepad, and Belle snatches it from her hands. “You shouldn’t write your name on this if you’re a spy!” she exclaims, scratching over it with her blue ballpoint pen the name is no longer legible.
“But what if I lose it?” she mumbles with a frown.
“Then you’ve lost intelligence to an unknown actor and you could be hanged for treason.”
Nicole hides her snort of laughter with a hand over her face. She goes back to the never-ending pile of paperwork on her desk and attempts to stifle her desire to listen in on her daughter’s and niece’s plans.
The girls creep over to the window and lift up one of the blind blades, each peering out into the bullpen. “Seen anything suspicious today?” Belle asks.
She sees Officer Stag wander over to the doughnut box only to scurry away as soon as Wynonna gives him a dour look. Belle jots down her observation.
OFFICER STAG AFRAID OF NONNA
Alice casts a sidelong glance to see what she’s written. She sniggers when she sees the note.
“Do you have your camera here?”
Belle blinks owlishly at her cousin. “Have I been without a camera since moms got me one for my birthday last year?” she says dryly. She digs into her knapsack beside the sofa and comes away with the used, entry-level dSLR that was her birthday gift this year. She’s quick to snap a photo of Wynonna still scowling in the kitchenette before she stalks off back toward the Black Badge office.
Belle pulls her face away from the viewfinder and checks the exposure of the last frame. It’s good enough, especially since the lighting in the station sucks.
“I haven’t seen anything suspicious today. Not yet, anyways,” Alice finally answers.”How about you, Aunt Nic?”
“Hmm,” Nicole thinks. She taps her pen against her chin before shaking her head. “Nothing out of the ordinary, agents. Unless you count catching Officer Stuckley reading fanfiction on his work computer, though unfortunately that’s probably more ordinary than the extraordinary you girls are looking for.”
Alice’s mouth twists into something resembling a frown and a scowl. “We should make a list of all the potential suspects.”
The younger girl crosses her arms, camera in one hand and notepad and pen in the other. “You sound like a cop.”
“I’m a spy .”
“Well, so am I!”
Nicole watches the exchange with mirth in her eyes before shaking her head — like Waverly does when Nicole eats Maltesers for dinner or starts snowball fights with Wynonna or plops herself onto the floor to watch Saturday morning cartoons with their daughter. It’s a shake of the head that says, I love you, especially when you’re being you.
She could watch this banter all day but she’s the sheriff and paperwork is a necessary evil. So she interrupts them before they can continue. “Girls, do you think you could take your spying out into the bullpen? Or into the BBD office?”
“Sorry, mom,” Belle apologizes with a sheepish look on her face.
“Sorry, Aunt Nic.”
“Love you, monkey. Love you, Alice,” Nicole says to their retreating forms, smiling when Alice remembers to close the door behind her.
Deputy Sheriff Price allows them to commandeer her desk for reconnaissance. To her credit, she doesn’t ask why they’re doing recon. She just picks up her baseball cap and tells David she’s going on patrol.
Belle scratches another note to herself.
PRICE TOO SMART TO MAKE NONNA MAD
Beneath it, she begins to write:
PRESENT 12 SEPT 2030
She doesn’t know the new guy’s name yet, but he’s her prime suspect. Being new and all, he probably doesn’t know that powdered jelly doughnuts are off limits. That’s a logical explanation.
Her face scrunches up as she looks at the date in her heading.
“Isn’t it your mom’s birthday?” she asks Alice.
Alice who is drawing a doughnut with a cowboy hat on it. “Yeah,” she mumbles without looking up from her drawing. “She said she doesn’t want to be reminded of it because she’s old now. Dad said something last week about how she’s not old until she’s lived in a well for the majority of her life.” She shrugs. “He’s been sleepin’ on the couch this week.”
Belle scribbles down the information.
DOC IN TROUBLE W NONNA. COUCHED.
She adds Doc’s name to her suspect list, even though she thinks he also knows better than to incur the wrath of an Earp.
And speak of the devil and he shall appear.
“Hey, dad.” Alice beams at her father as he walks into the station.
“My darling girls,” he greets them with a slight doff of his hat. “Miss Alice and Miss Belle, how are you two doing today? How was school?”
Alice starts to tell him about her math test and getting in trouble during reading time again and did he know Canada has the longest coastline in the world?
Belle’s attention, however, is not on Alice’s retelling of this September Thursday. Her attention is drawn to the white substance left on Doc’s jeans where he brushed his hand when entering the cop shop.
WHITE POWDER ON DOC’S JEANS. SUGAR?
Why would Doc steal Wynonna’s doughnuts?
She lifts her camera and snaps a photo of Doc, making sure the potentially incriminating substance is visible in the picture. She’s trying to work through the best way to figure out if it is indeed sugar when Jeremy enters the bullpen from the BBD office.
“Doc! There you are!”
He’s only a little oblivious to the fact that he interrupted Alice mid-sentence, but she’s unperturbed and happy to see him.
“Hi, Jeremy,” both she and Belle greet in unison.
“Hi, Pod. Hi, Wayhaught child.”
The nicknames make them laugh, though Doc most definitely rolls his eyes. But it isn’t as if he calls them by those every time he sees them. And he says as much to Doc’s frowning face before his gaze dip and quickly return to the gunslinger’s eyes.
“You’ve, uh, got something on your pants,” he says. “Is that sugar?” He takes several steps forward to try to examine it closer and Doc takes just as many steps backward.
“I made a mess when it came to adding that confectionary sugar to my coffee this morning,” he explains quickly.
“Confectioner’s sugar,” Jeremy corrects without a second thought. “Wait, don’t you drink your coffee black?”
Doc scowls. “I was trying to expand my horizons, Jeremy. And if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got somewhere else to be.”
He tips his hat to the girls once more before he turns back around and exits the station.
DOC HAS ‘SOMEWHERE TO BE’.
“Suspicious,” Belle mutters under her breath.
Alice shoots her a look. “What is?”
Belle doesn’t want to accuse her uncle without more proof but she and Alice are spies together. So she shares her theory, whispering so Jeremy won’t overhear. “I think Doc might be taking Wynonna’s doughnuts. I can’t understand why, though.”
It’s a mystery, indeed, and Belle realizes that they are more like cops than spies today. Spies gather intelligence. Detectives gather evidence.
So maybe she isn’t a spy like Harriet. Today, she gets to be a cop like her mom.
She smiles at the thought.
Jeremy looks at the two of them. “Huh,” is all he says. “I just wanted to see if there were any doughnuts left.” He meanders into the kitchenette and his face falls when he looks into the box. “Nothing but vanilla dip left.”
“Those are mama’s favorite,” Belle tells him.
“I’ll have to take her one, then.” And he does, wrapping one up in a paper towel before disappearing back into the rear office.
They spend the next hour reimagining their family as different doughnuts, drawing rough sketches of them in their notepads.
Nicole is a vanilla dip with a Stetson and a duty belt. Waverly is a honey dip wearing a cheetah print coat. Dolls is a Boston Cream with dog tags. Doc is an old fashioned glazed with a black cowboy hat and a mustache. Jeremy is a double chocolate in a lab coat. And Wynonna is, of course, a powdered jelly doughnut with Peacemaker on her ‘hip’.
It’s ridiculous and silly and neither of them are especially skilled at drawing.
(Belle is getting better. She’s practicing. She loves photography but she also loves all art. She thinks she might want to be an artist one day. Or maybe a photojournalist.
She wants to see and create. Learn about people. Share their stories. Remind them that everybody matters.)
It’s when they’re adding the finishing touches to doughnut Doc that the real Doc Holliday returns to the sheriff’s station with a rather large box in his hands. It’s wrapped like a present, papered in baby blue wrapping with illustrations of different doughnuts on it.
“Baby girls, come on back to the BBD office. Fetch your mother first, Belle,” he instructs them, and Alice is rushing to help her father with the door to the back office and Belle is knocking on her mother’s door.
She thinks the mystery is about to be solved.
“Come in,” she hears her mom’s voice call out.
Belle opens the door and sticks her head through the doorway. “Doc wants us all in the BBD office. He’s got a giant present!”
She doesn’t offer any more information — not that she has any — and grabs her notepad and camera off of Price’s desk before darting after her cousin and uncle. She finds Wynonna with a cross look on her face and her hands on her hips. Her right hand is dangerously close to the Colt Buntline that sits comfortably in the holster at her side.
“Doc, what did I say about my birthday this year?” she near growls.
The box is on a cleared off desk, and Doc hovers close beside it with his hands held up as if he means no harm. “Now I know you aren’t keen to be getting a year older, Wynonna, but I, for one, am rather happy to celebrate the day you were born. I wouldn’t be standing here without you nor would I know what it means to be a father. I wouldn’t know what it’s like to live again.”
Wynonna sighs, and her posture slackens just a little. It’s a tired and resigned Wynonna that stands before them, who says, “Seriously, Doc, I’m not in the mood. All I wanted for today was to eat my jelly doughnut and play Angry Birds.”
“To be fair,” Jeremy says. “You have been playing Angry Birds all day.”
Dolls nudges him with his elbow and shakes his head at the same time that Wynonna snaps, “Can it, Jeremy.”
Nicole enters the office at that moment, sidling toward her wife and slipping an arm around her waist. “What’s going on?” she whispers.
“Doc got Wynonna a present for her birthday and ‘Nonna is pissed,” Waverly whispers back, snuggling into Nicole’s side.
“Please just open the damn present, Wynonna?” Doc near pleads. “Or I’ll open it for you and you can yell at me some more afterward.”
Wynonna narrows her eyes. “Only if I can yell at you more anyways.” She starts tugging at the paper, tearing it away from the box without her usual fervor when it comes to presents.
“Jesus, Wynonna, just open it,” Waverly grumbles.
Belle casts a glance at her moms. Her mama rolls her eyes at her older sister and her mom laughs softly and kisses her mama’s temple. She shuffles the distance between them and settles against Nicole’s other side, and her mom’s hand rests heavy and comforting around her shoulders.
“What is it?” Alice asks once her mother has pulled enough wrapping paper away to reveal a logo. “What’s it from?”
Doc smiles tenderly at the mother of his child and grins as she looks from the box to him and back to the box.
“This is… this is from Jelly Modern Doughnuts,” she whispers excitedly, her hands ripping at the paper more fervently. Doc helps her to open the box, which has a special design so as not to squish the contents inside. As they pull away the cardboard, Wynonna’s eyes grow wide as she takes in the pyramid of doughnuts before her.
“There’s forty-one of them,” he says. “For each year that this earth has been blessed enough to have you walk it. I had them make special bacon bourbon doughnuts and there’s powdered jellies, too.”
Wynonna turns to him and jabs him in the chest with her index finger. “You!” she shouts. “You’re the one that kept stealing my doughnuts this week!”
He holds up his hands again. “I didn’t want you to be too tired of jelly doughnuts before I could present you with this,” Doc says softly, and though the words are meant for Wynonna — the undercurrent of an apology there beneath them — it’s just loud enough for Belle to hear them.
It makes sense now. The missing powdered jelly doughnuts. The white, sugar-like substance on Doc’s jeans. His leaving again after only just returning. He was working on Wynonna’s birthday doughnut pyramid. He drove to Calgary to get special order doughnuts just for her. It’s romantic in a way that even somebody who doesn’t love doughnuts as much as Wynonna would appreciate.
“So, um, are any of those for us?” Jeremy risks his life to ask.
And it’s Wynonna’s turn to roll her eyes, but there’s a softness to them when she looks back at Doc and then Alice. “Yeah, I think I can share,” she says. She helps herself to a bacon bourbon and a jelly, hopping onto the desk to sit gleefully as she trades bites between the two confections. There’s a smile on her face when she mumbles around a mouthful of sugar, “I guess we can celebrate my birthday this year.”
Jeremy launches into the birthday song. “Happy birthday to y—” he croons and he doesn’t make it past the first line before Wynonna sends him a glare that could freeze the soul. “Right.” He coughs and clears his throat.
It isn’t a traditional birthday party at all. Not like last year at Moose Lake when they danced on the beach and listened to music and went back to the homestead to sing and dance some more. But everybody is here, their little oddball family that makes Belle laugh and cheer.
Her family. Together
She wraps her hands around her camera and captures the memory of it all.
(She’ll steal a doughnut later.)