Written and Read by Montgomery Thompson
“Shaley, slow down!” Maksey pedaled as hard as she could but she just couldn’t keep up. Regin stayed with her, partly because he was a true hero, the gang had given him special honors to prove it, but mostly because he was winded as well.
Breathing hard, they pulled up next to the gang outside the news station.
“Same plan. You guys distract, we’ll go in and find the film.” Chalo was all business.
“I got this one, boys.” Shaley sauntered up to the front doors.
At the reception desk, a secretary looked at her over her glasses, but Shaley wasn’t intimidated, she had the power of the tattle-rant.
“I’m here to tell the news about those soldiers who broke into my house, stole my mom, stole my brother and my sister, and ate all our food! They were even peeing on the bushes, and when I left they were gonna fry our grat on the outdoor grill. I have all the names of all the soldiers who are doing all of this…” she rambled on.
The whole gang snuck in the front doors, staying low as they crept behind Shaley and into the hallway behind the reception desk. They worked their way through the newsroom then fanned out to find the film.
Chalo paused before they split up. “Two minutes, meet back at the front. Failure is not an option.”
They nodded and split. Maksey entered the maze of news desks and cubicles. One by one she looked on every desk and even checked in the meeting rooms, but she couldn’t find the film. Just as she came out of one of the rooms, a news lady stopped her.
“Well hello, what’s your name?”
“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.” Maksey walked off and quickly turned and went through a door just to get away. As she entered the little room she froze. A man stood with his back to her, inches away. He was cutting film and the floor was littered with it.
“Shut the door,” he said without turning around. “I’m busy in here.”
Maksey stepped in and closed the door. She stood still as a statue while the man hummed to himself and worked away. Every time he turned, she turned with him, staying behind his back. The room was only as big as a small closet, and as he snipped, pieces of film dropped on her head.
Finally, he turned all the way around and Maksey shuffled behind him. He opened the door, turned the light off, and left. Maksey waited until the door closed then turned the light back on. There was film all over the floor she started looking for the lost footage. She decided to look at the longer strips first.
Suddenly the door opened.
“Maksey!” It was Ob.
“Get in!” She pulled him inside and closed the door. Together they started to go through as much of the film as they could.
The door opened again.
“Maksey? Ob!” It was Gern.
They dragged him inside. Soon they were shoulder to shoulder, looking at filmstrips.
“Hey, I think this is some of it!” Ob held up a piece of film.
“Where did you find it?”
“Here, in this pile.”
Maksey picked up the pile and stuffed it into her pockets as the door opened one more time.
“Hey, what are you kids doing in here?”
Maksey screamed and ran, followed by Ob and Gern. They sprinted through the halls and out the front door where Maksey ran smack into Chalo. She continued to jump up and down screaming.
“Maksey! Hey! Calm down!” Chalo had her by the shoulders. “Did you get it?” She nodded. “Then let’s ride.”
They piled onto their bikes and pedaled hard back to the clubhouse. Maksey had no problem keeping up this time. Once inside, they piled up the filmstrips and all gathered around, searching through them one by one.
Slowly the pieces of the cut scene took shape. Chalo sent Ob to get a roll of clear tape to stick them all together with. By the time they were done, the sun had gone down and scraps of tape and film covered the floor. Finally, they could play the cut scenes on the projector.
Even though it lasted only a couple of seconds, the footage clearly showed the boys in the frame, throwing rocks at Mortimer. Chalo was about to gather them together at the planning table when they heard a car pull up outside the house.
“Lights off, everybody hide!”
The side door opened and was blocked out by a tall figure in a large hat.
“Come out, kids,” the person boomed. “You’ll have no trouble from me, I’m here to help.”
Maksey came out of hiding. “Constable?”
The light came on. It wasn’t the constable. He reached out and picked Maksey up who screamed at the top of her lungs.
“Easy there, little one, I’m not going to hurt you. Calm down. I have a daughter just about your age. Her name is Paxy.”
Maksey stopped screaming and squirming.
“My name is Halkus Moore, I’m a Special Inquisitor, which means I make sure the army and the police are doing their jobs and treating people fairly. Are you okay?”
“Alright, I’m going to put you down but please don’t run away. If you do, I won’t be able to help you.” He set Maksey down on the floor. “The rest of you can come out too. I meant what I said, I’m a friend and no one here is in any trouble.”
Chalo came out first but stood back. “How do we know you’re telling the truth?”
“Well, let’s see. You’re probably trying to find out where these two girls’ mother is, right? And I would hazard a guess that you’d like to say a thing or two to the shik-brain who took over their house, wouldn’t you? Well, I would too. As a matter of fact, I know him pretty well, and I can tell you, he doesn’t like me very much. I’m the one who’s going to put him away once I gather enough evidence.
“That’s what I’m doing here. I’d like to know how you kids fit into the story. I need your part of it to fit the puzzle together and maybe get the good guys out of trouble and put the bad guys where they belong, in jail. I suspect, looking at your gear, that you are good guys. Am I right?”
The other boys had come out and stood behind Chalo. “We’re the Crescent Street bike…gang,” Chalo said.
“Club,” Ob offered.
“Superheroes,” Gern corrected.
Regin shrugged. “Whatever sounds better.”
Halkus looked at them with respect in his eyes. He knew heroes when he saw them.
“How about the Crescent Street Riders? I can file it in the system and make it official. You would be recognized by the government as a Legly neighborhood watch group.”
“Huddle,” Chalo called.
It took only three seconds for the boys to agree. Finally, they had a complete name. They all piled onto the couch and told Halkus their story from beginning to end, then showed him the footage. Halkus listened patiently, only asking questions to clear things up.
When they were finished, he asked, “So what’s your next move?”
“We were going to find the Constable and show him the missing footage. We figured if anybody could get it into the right hands, he could.”
“Well, you’re absolutely right. The Constable is a good man and he would have delivered the film to me. But, since you’ve taken it this far, I think you should finish it. I suggest we go down to the television station and, with a little persuasion, maybe you can get them to broadcast the correct footage. What do you think?”
“Do you want us to get into your car with you?” Maksey looked worried.
“No, definitely not. You should never get into cars with strangers and we only just met. You ride your bikes down and I’ll meet you there. How does that sound?”
“Then will you help me find my mom?”
“Yes, of course.” He looked up from Maksey to address the Crescent Street Riders, his voice resonating with sincerity. “Then we will find Maksey and Shaley’s mother.”
For the second time that day, the Crescent Street Riders saddled up on a mission. The Inquisitor made sure they passed through the military blockade with no hassles. As they whizzed past the soldiers and snaked their way through sandbagged emplacements, Maksey felt like she was a secret agent.
They met up with Inquisitor Moore at the TV station and all of them walked in the door with the imposing figure of Halkus standing behind them. The secretary looked up from her magazine, peered over the rim of her glasses, and froze.
Shaley smiled at her across the desk. “Hello again.”
“Special Inquisitor Moore.” He flashed his badge. “The news studio. Which way?”
“Oh, I’m…uh, not sure I can let you…” the secretary stammered.
The Inquisitor’s gaze narrowed, boring into the startled woman.
Her snippy façade crumbled. “Yes, sir, right this way.”
She led them through a maze of corridors and through a large metal door.
“But their broadcasting right now, sir! You can’t…”
Halkus burst into the studio like a storm. The kids were on his heels, delivering polite waves to the stunned crew. The Inquisitor didn’t stop; he strode onto the set, picked Maksey up and sat her on the edge of the desk right in front of the news anchor. He only turned briefly to say, “Excuse me.”
The anchorwoman got up and scurried away.
“Kindly continue broadcasting please,” Halkus instructed the crew, then faced the camera. “Good day. My name is Halkus Moore. I am a Special Inquisitor with the Fremian Counsel. Over the last several days we have been shown misinformation that has led us to disagreements, and finally to declare war with our Olred neighbors.
“I have been tracking the chain of events that have led up to this situation and there have been some links missing in the story. A short time ago I discovered a key link, one that I believe will cause us to reconsider our position and possibly affect our choices about the future.”
The children piled onto the desk around him. The studio was dead quiet and all cameras focused on Halkus.
“This information came to light solely because of the efforts of these brave children who, in my eyes, are not children at all, but true heroes of not only Fremia, but our entire world. I believe I will leave the telling of this tale to them. Have patience, they’re excited.”
Maksey started, then Chalo took over. With each of them adding bits and pieces, they told, in short, the story of how they’d made the footage. Then Halkus finished off for them.
“So, to recap, the boys tested the shield and made a film of it. Somebody saw to it that the footage clipped them out of the picture to make it seem like the whole operation was an Olred intelligence mission, which it wasn’t. What is still unclear, and I’m certain is a mystery to both Fremia and Olred, is what the shield is and why it is protecting this one, humble farmer. I leave you now with the footage. Look for the boys in the foreground. Thank you.”
Halkus walked off the set and handed the footage to the producer, who took it into the film booth. Halkus waited in the studio with the children.
“Are we done now?” Maksey looked up at him.
“Not quite, little one, we still have a rat to trap.” He smiled as a few minutes later, two large agents in the same long black coats and big hats that Halkus wore, dragged the producer back into the anchor room.
“We caught him trying to switch the film. Here’s the cut version, sir. The real one is playing right now.”
They looked at the monitor as the footage showed the boys throwing rocks at Mortimer’s back, over and over.
“He made me do it!” the producer wailed. “That army guy. He said he would take over the whole studio if I didn’t do it!” The producer fell to his knees, groveling.
Halkus knelt down until he was nose to nose with the man. “Name.”
“Deadry or Deggy or something. Don’t kill me, please!”
One of the agents stifled a laugh. Halkus looked at Maksey and Chalo, and tilted his head at the producer. Maksey stepped up to him while the cameras continued to roll.
“You’re a bad man!” She stuck her tongue out at him.
Chalo stood behind her. “And the Crescent Street Riders don’t like bad guys.”
Halkus took Maksey’s hand and they all strode out of the studio. “Play it on the hour, every hour,” he barked as they left.
© 2015 Copyright Montgomery Thompson
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