Written and Read by Montgomery Thompson
Chalo watched the patrolling army helicopter disappear over the ridge of trees through his binoculars. “Okay, it’s gone,” he said.
The boys all huddled in the garage looking nervous.
“You all look like a bunch of scared dapes. The army has Maksey and Shaley and it’s our duty to get them back. After all, they’re part of the club…gang…whatever. This is what we’ve been waiting for, a real adventure!”
Chalo cleared the comics off the top of an old travel trunk that served as a coffee table, and reached inside. He handed out colored bed sheets, one color for each member.
“It’s time to be what you were meant to be.” He held up a pair of scissors. “Real heroes.”
One by one they went. Bemis watched helplessly as his donuts disappeared. The soldiers just grinned at him as they wiped the glaze from their faces. Tember leaned against the wall as the soldiers milled about the room, going through drawers, cabinets, and shelves. Halkus had been right; it was a full takeover.
As Sergeant Bemis watched the last of his donuts go down a soldier’s throat, he decided he’d had enough. He got Tember’s attention and discreetly motioned for the man to call his desk phone. It took Tember a second to figure out the Sergeant’s sign language but eventually he got it.
Tember inched over to his own desk and unhooked the phone from the receiver just slightly. Then he quickly dialed the single digit to ring Bemis’ desk. A soldier reached for the ringing phone but Bemis lunged and got it first.
“Legly Police desk. Oh, hello, Mrs. Jenkins. What’s that? Again? It’s not really a good day for this, Mrs. Jenkins, did you try your neighbor? Too afraid of the soldiers to go outside you say?”
Tember gave him an exasperated look.
“Oh, okay, we’ll be right over.” Bemis hung up the phone. “Tember, Mrs. Jenkins’ grat is up the tree again. Let’s go.” They both grabbed their gear and headed for the door.
“Wait a minute you two.” They froze as a large soldier barred their way. “No weapons.” Before they could comply, a couple of soldiers removed their pistols for them. “Okay, you can go.”
They quickly stepped out the door and climbed into Tember’s police cruiser.
“Jenkins’ grat? Is that the best you could come up with?”
“Well, I thought grats like fish and fish stink, and something stinks around here.”
“Where did you get your cop license, a pet store? So, where are we going?”
Bemis cranked the old cruiser to life. “Your girlfriend’s house.”
“Mim? She’s not my—”
“Whatever, her kids have something to do with all of this, so we start there.” Tember wasn’t going to argue, it was where he wanted to go anyway.
It was a short ride up the street. They stashed their bikes in a hedge behind someone’s house, then worked their way through the row of back gardens until they were on the other side of Mim’s garden fence. The soldiers had quickly installed the huge canvas that covered the house, and the scaffolding was still in place.
“Now what?” Inder asked.
“Issue three.” Chalo smiled.
“What? What is he talking about?” Regin was sweating profusely.
A grin grew on Inder’s face. “Issue three of DynaMan, you dape. He’s not in his suit, but he rescues Natamie from her penthouse using the sheets from the clothes line.”
Regin frowned. “But we don’t have a clothes line full of sheet—” Chalo reached over the boy’s shoulder and held the cape Regin was wearing to his face. “Oh.”
Chalo volunteered to go up the scaffold because, he argued, he was the only one who was in black and he would be camouflaged against the olive green tarp. In truth, the other boys were glad they weren’t picked to do the climbing and happily took up the duty of causing a distraction.
The climb was quick and easy up the scaffold to the roof. Chalo scrambled up the tiles to the peak. Down on the street, Ob, Gern, and Inder climbed all over the tank. The soldiers rushed to try and get the boys down, but they were too fast to get caught. By then, Chalo had crept down the front of the roof and lowered himself to the scaffold outside the girl’s window.
He quietly slipped behind the canvas and was about to tap on the glass when he heard the sound of adults talking. Peering over the edge of the window, he saw Debry interrogating Mim. He ducked back down, his heart racing. Where were the girls?
Down in the street, the soldiers had caught Ob and Gern, but Inder was still giving them a chase.
Chalo went to the next window; Mim’s empty bedroom. He couldn’t believe his luck, the window was open. He slid in and went to the door.
He could still hear the interrogation going on in the next room but no sound in the hall. He risked a peek out the door—all clear. He opened the door a little more and looked around. The door to Spence’s room was open at the end of the hall. Just inside, Chalo could see a small closet that used to be part of the main hall before being remodeled, now on the far side of Spence’s room.
Suddenly, the closet door bumped open to reveal a laundry chute and a pair of upside-down feet kicking in the air. Chalo sprinted quietly down the hall. It was Shaley, trying to go head first down the chute. As he grabbed her legs, she started to scream.
“No, shh! Shaley, it’s me, Chalo! I’m here to rescue you!”
Shaley looked up at him through the chute. “Chalo? Are you crazy? What are you doing here?”
Chalo heard Debry call for a soldier and knew that someone was going to come out of that door soon. “No time! Sorry.” He pushed Shaley down the chute and followed after. They landed in a pile of laundry in the basement.
“Are you okay?” Chalo helped her up. Shaley lunged at him with a hug.
“Nice outfit.” Shaley admired his superhero costume.
“Can we go now, you two?” said Maksey, who had already gone down the chute ahead of her sister.
“How do we get out of here?” Chalo looked around.
Shaley went over to a small window up high in the back wall. “Ta da.”
Chalo went first, because he was dressed in black, and gave the all clear for the girls. They were up and over the fence before anyone was the wiser.
Out front, the soldiers had given up chasing Inder and now surrounded the tank. Inder stood on the turret, flexing his skinny arms.
“I am the tank king! It’s my tank, ha ha!”
Behind him, the hatch lid slowly opened and a soldier climbed out. Ob and Gern shouted a warning, but it was too late. The tank commander grabbed Inder and lowered him to the waiting soldiers.
Regin, whose job had been to guard the bikes, watched from the hedge. That was it. He was the last of the Crescent Street bike club, gang, whatever…the last superhero. He looked down at his green superhero gloves. He had even drawn his lightning bolt logo on his matching green shoes. But here he was, hiding in the bushes while his teammates, his best friends were going down in a blaze of glory. Some kind of superhero he was. The fat kid, the slow kid…he felt completely helpless.
As he looked down at his shoes, the sun sparkled on a tear as it rolled off the lightning bolt. Not today. He clenched his teeth and mounted his bike.
Maksey, Shaley, and Chalo crept around the side of the house at the end of the street and behind the hedge, when they heard Regin give a mighty yell. They looked over the hedge and saw Regin fly down the street and straight at the soldiers. Sunlight flashed off of the tin foil shield on the front of his bike and the men had to shield their eyes from the blinding glare. Regin was larger than the other kids and the soldiers dived out of his way, letting him blaze through their ranks.
“Like a bolt of lightning.” Chalo shook his head as he watched incredulously. “Come on!” He hopped onto his bike and pedaled into the fray with Maksey and Shaley on his tail.
As the soldiers were diving for cover, Ob, Gern, and Inder had broken free. Now they ran as hard as they could. Regin skidded to a stop in front of Inder.
“Get on!” he yelled at Inder. The boy climbed on just as Chalo, Maksey, and Shaley pulled up.
Ob and Gern hitched a ride with Shaley and Chalo while Maksey kept flashing her shield at the soldiers. It was a matter of seconds until the solders recovered, but by then, the bikes had been retrieved and the Crescent Street club, gang, whatever…was gone.
They swept into Chalo’s driveway and pulled all of the bikes into the garage. Once they were safely inside the clubhouse it was cheers and high fives all around. They all felt like real heroes, and Regin got special honors.
“So, what do we do now?” Regin asked.
Inder nodded. “Yeah the soldiers will be looking for us now that we’ve humiliated them.” A small cheer went up.
“We’re not their main objective. It’s the girls they’re really after, and let’s not forget that they still have their mother.” Chalo looked at Maksey and Shaley who were getting more worried by the minute.
“Wait, I know.” Shaley jumped up. “Constable Tember.”
“The cops again?” Chalo paled. “I don’t know, Shaley…”
“No, you don’t understand, he and our mom, they’re kind of seeing each other.”
The boys were shocked.
“Okay, take it easy, people, settle down,” Chalo broke in. “This is actually a good thing. It means the cops are on our side.”
“Finally!” Ob and Gern cheered.
“You’re not getting the point!” Maksey spoke up, frustrated with them all. “They showed the film on the news, but they took out you guys.”
“What is she talking about?”
“They showed the film?”
“Who took us out?”
“They showed the film! I’m a famous film maker!”
“Settle down, Inder,” Chalo scolded.
“The film on the news didn’t show you guy throwing the rocks, just the rocks hitting Mr. Townes,” Maksey explained. “They were making like it was the Olred army who was attacking him.”
“Oh shik! That’s why the army is here, they’re trying to start a war with Olred.”
Maksey nodded. “Exactly! That why we have to get the film and give it to the Constable. He’ll know what to do!”
The soldiers kept Spence firmly in the little chair by pressing down on his shoulders.
“I can see you. That light isn’t bright enough, just like you.”
“That’s enough out of you, young man! Where are your sisters?”
“Go stick your head in a hole.”
“Now, that isn’t the way a nice boy talks, especially to a man who might throw his mother in the slammer!”
“You’re throwing your mother in the slammer? Why, for having you?”
“No! I mean…all right, kid, you think you’re funny?”
The soldiers all left the room, leaving Spence alone, then Debry locked the door from the outside. “There, laugh if off for a while, funny boy!”
“Hey!” Spence got up and pounded the door, then quietly laughed to himself. “Fine.” He put on the act of being irritated. “I’m not saying another word! I’m on a silence strike!” He opened his closet door and, using a technique he’d perfected years before, quietly slid down the laundry chute and escaped through the basement window. It was a regular passage for him.
He stayed behind the hedge next to the house as two soldiers walked past. When he was in the clear, he leapt over the fence and started through the maze of backyards and gardens, following a route that only he knew.
He had been the only kid in the neighborhood for many years and had needed to learn ways to get to his friends’ houses across town. Now he made his way along the secret path that would eventually take him to the farm. There wasn’t a street or alley Spence didn’t know; the woods around Mortimer’s farm had been his stomping grounds for years.
He even knew how to cross Namarin Road without being spotted: he used the culvert that ran under the road at the tree tunnel. He had to scramble on all fours through the shallow water, but he passed unseen to the fields beyond. After that, he followed the hedgerow into the trees. Once he was in the woods he could make his plans. Woe be to anyone who thought they could out-fox him in there.
“Whoa!” Bemis exclaimed as the cruiser pulled onto Mim’s street.
“A tank? This is going too far.” Tember made a visible effort to keep his anger at bay.
“Easy, Pal, remember, there’s more than one way to un-tree a grat.” The sergeant gave him a sly smile.
Their cruiser slowly eased by the tank then pulled into the neighbor’s driveway.
“Ready for this?” Bemis gave his partner a wink.
“Lead the way, Sarge.”
They got out and went to the neighbor’s door. Two soldiers eyed them suspiciously, but Bemis just tipped his hat to them and rang the bell.
The door opened. “Yes?”
“Mrs. Merfy, could Constable Tember and I come in for a moment? We have some police business to talk to you about.”
The woman was clearly shaken by the Army’s presence in the neighborhood. They sat on the couch opposite Mrs. Merfy’s husband while she brought hot drinks.
“Mr. Merfy, what do—”
“Call me Keern, Keern Merfy—that’s me name.”
“Right, Keern, we have had some, uh, reports of unusual…um, things going on.”
“Yer telling me! Fer frip sake! Half the bleemin army is crawling up me ards!”
“Um, yes, well, there is that…” Bemis stammered, and looked at Tember who cleared his throat.
“Um…I was wondering if I could use your bathroom,” Tember said.
Mrs. Merfy had just set down the tray of drinks. “Of course, it’s—”
“No, that’s fine.” Tember got up and moved to the stairway. “I know where it is, these houses all have the same layout. Thanks.” He disappeared up the stairs.
Mrs. Merfy looked at Bemis. “But there’s a loo down here.”
“Oh, never mind him. He’s just got a thing for…um, heights? Anyway, as I was saying…” Sergeant Bemis stammered, trying to distract her as Tember went upstairs and searched for the door to the attic.
He found it in the hallway ceiling. Using a chair from one of the bedrooms, he pulled himself up into the roof space. Dust swirled in front of his face, making him choke, but he pulled out his flashlight and crawled in the direction of Mim’s house. In the wall of the attic, a small door connected the two houses.
He squirmed through and into Mim’s attic. The rafters in there had a wide, dusty board nailed across them and led to a hatch that was similar to Mrs. Merfy’s. Just as he’d said, the layout of the houses was practically the same.
Tember checked to see if the hallway was clear before dropping down. He opened the door to the girls’ room with no problem, and did the same with Spence’s. When he tried Mim’s room, however, it was locked. He listened for anyone coming. When he was sure that the coast was clear, he used a special police prying tool on the lock. The tool did the job it was built for and the lock came off with little effort.
“Pal? How did you…?” He swept her up and kissed her. “Wow…” she sighed.
“Let’s go.” He checked the hallway, then boosted her into the attic.
He could hear boots climbing the stairs.
There was no chair this time, and Tember struggled to pull himself up into the space. Mim reached down and pulled with all her might, but he only managed to get up to his elbows. The soldiers’ voices grew louder as they climbed the stairs.
“Pretty good coffee.”
“Yeah, but mine needs sugar.”
“Well, she’s got sugar.”
“Yeah, it’s right next to the… Oh, for cryin out loud, it’s like looking after a raw recruit. Come on.”
The steps went back down the stairs. Tember gave another mighty heave with Mim pulling under his arms and finally got himself into the attic. She slipped the hatch lid into place and they both froze. The soldiers had returned.
“Much better… Hey, what’s all this dust?” The voices were right underneath them.
“I dunno. Maybe that’s how the girls escaped.”
One of the soldiers poked at the hatch with his rifle. Mim slid out of the way and silently landed in Tember’s arms.
What the heck, Tember thought, if we’re gonna get caught, it might as well be fun. He planted a long kiss on her.
“They’d never get up there. We’ll find ‘em,” the other soldier grunted.
“Yeah, they’ll turn up. How long can a little girl stay away from home anyway? It’ll get dark soon, then we’ll have them.” The soldiers walked off.
Mim came up for air. “We should go.”
“…and then I found the Constable at his desk the next morning, covered in donut crumbs! I knew then what had happened. It was all a matter of good detective work.”
The Merfy’s were getting tired of Bemis’ rambling.
“So, why exactly are you here, Sergeant?” Mr. Merfy interrupted. “And where is that Constable of yours? I better go make sure he’s okay.”
“No! I mean, no, he’s fine. He’s been, um, having difficulty lately with his…um…”
“Say no more, I know what that’s like. When I wake up in the morning it takes me fifteen minutes to even get a decent stream going.”
“Keern, please, I don’t think the Sergeant was talking about that.”
“Well, I’m goin’ ta check on him anyway. Maybe he wants some of my pills.” Before Bemis could do anything, Mr. Merfy was on his way up the stairs. Bemis leapt to his feet and followed, but Merfy stopped halfway up and shouted, “What the blazes?”
Bemis put his head in his hand; they’d been found out.
As Merfy backed down the stairs, Bemis heard Tember say, “Sorry, excuse me…coming through. Stand back now, he’s dangerous!”
Bemis, now at the bottom of the stairs, looked up to see Tember carrying a rolled up rug with a pair of feet sticking out of it. “I caught the burglar, folks. He was just where we thought he would be. We didn’t want to alarm you but we’ve been looking for this one for quite some time. Oh, he’s a rascal this one. We’d better get him down to the station as quick as possible. Excuse me.” He pushed towards the door. Mrs. Merfy had to sit to keep from feinting.
Bemis picked up where Tember left off. “You see, this whole visit was just an excuse to find the burglar in your attic. We knew he was there—”
“He’s a woman!” Mr. Merfy pointed at a foot that hung out of the carpet.
“Oh no, he’s just got, um…dainty feet. That’s what they call him; The Dainty Foot Burglar.”
“Why is he wrapped up in our rug?” Mr. Merfy eyed the bundle skeptically.
“Oh, we don’t want you to see his face.”
Bemis shrugged at Tember, and he took over again. “That’s right, if you saw him you would be, uh…exposed, at risk from his criminal gang.”
Mrs. Merfy sat up. “There’s a criminal gang in Legly?”
“What? Oh, yes, ma’am, all around us.”
Mrs. Merfy feinted again.
“But don’t worry, Constable Tember and I are on the job.”
“Bye now!” Tember trotted out to the cruiser with Mim who was trying hard to keep from laughing in the rolled up rug.
Bemis fired up the cruiser and they zoomed away, leaving Mr. Merfy standing in the door, scratching his head.
“Fer frip sake,” he cussed, “crim’nals in the bleemin loft. Wadder you lookin’ at, ya army knuckleheads!”
© 2015 Copyright Montgomery Thompson
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