Read Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery Online

Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner,Charles Tang

Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery (2 page)

BOOK: Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery
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“What’s a false alarm?” asked Benny.

“It’s when someone calls and says there’s a fire, but there really isn’t one,” Christine explained. “It’s dangerous, because chasing after a false alarm might keep us from helping people who really need us.”

“Who would call in and say there was a fire if there wasn’t?” asked Violet.

“It’s a mystery to me,” Steve answered, his face grim. “I hope we find out before they cause a real problem.”

“We can help you find them,” said Benny. “We’re good at solving mysteries!”

“In the meantime, how about getting up into the fire engine?” suggested Christine.

The children’s faces glowed with delight as Christine helped them climb up into the front seat of the pumper.

“This is great!” said Jessie, holding the steering wheel and looking around.

“Yeah!” said Henry.

“I feel like I’m really going to a fire,” Violet said.

Benny was so excited, he didn’t even say a word.

“Sound the siren, Benny,” Christine said, showing him the button to press. Everyone heard a loud wail.

“You look just like real firefighters sitting up there,” said Grandfather.

“Come inside and we’ll show you the rest of the station,” Steve said.

The children climbed down from the truck and took off their gear. Then they followed Steve and Christine inside.

“This is our living room,” Steve said as they passed through a room with large comfortable chairs grouped around a television. A firefighter was sitting watching a basketball game. In the back was a kitchen area with a large dining table, where a couple of firefighters were having lunch. “We’re here around the clock, so when we’re not out at a fire or taking care of the trucks, we cook our meals and watch TV just as you do at home,” Steve explained.

“Looks like nothing’s changed since I was here years ago,” Grandfather said. The children noticed that he was probably right — it looked as if they hadn’t even repainted the walls in a long time. Everything seemed run-down and shabby.

“What are those?” Henry asked, pointing at some tarnished silver cups on a dusty bookcase in the corner.

“Those are trophies the fire department has won over the years. Some of them are over a hundred fifty years old,” Steve explained. Then he picked up a cone-shaped metal object. “Do you know what this is?”

The children shook their heads.

“It’s a very old nozzle for a hose — probably a hundred years old. It’s made of copper,” said Steve. “And these are called speaking trumpets.” He took a long silver horn from the shelf and dusted it off. “When we’re fighting a fire, things can get pretty noisy. Nowadays when the chief needs to tell the firefighters what to do, we use hand radios. But a long time ago, fire chiefs used these.” Steve demonstrated, talking through one end of the long silver horn. “Hello!” Steve’s voice echoed loudly through the tube.

“Look at all the beautiful designs engraved on the silver,” Violet said.

“Yes, these are real works of art,” Steve said, replacing the speaking trumpet on the shelf.

“We’ve seen your living room and your kitchen, but where do you sleep?” Benny piped up.

“Upstairs,” Christine said. “Come on up.”

The Aldens followed her up a narrow staircase. It creaked as they walked. At the top were two tiny rooms lined with beds. They looked very crowded. “On the night shift the men sleep in this room and the women in the other,” she explained. “And when the alarm rings, here’s how we get downstairs in a flash.” She led the Aldens to the end of the hallway, where a brass pole attached to the ceiling went down through the floor. A brass railing circled the pole. Christine lifted up the trapdoor around the pole, and the children peered down into the garage below.

“Want to slide down?” Christine asked.

The children nodded eagerly.

Christine showed them how to hold on to the pole with their hands and then wrap their legs around it. Then she, Jessie, and Violet slid down and waited at the bottom.

“I want to go next,” said Benny. Henry helped him onto the pole. “Wheeee! This is fun!” Benny cried as he slid down.

Finally, it was Henry’s turn. “Here I come!” he said.

“I’ll take the stairs!” Grandfather called down.

The pole led the children directly back to the garage.

Benny was just about to ask if they could climb up into the truck again when Mike Reynolds and Janet Lerner appeared.

“I’m sorry, but the only answer is to close this firehouse,” Ms. Lerner said angrily. She turned and walked briskly out.

Save the Firehouse!

he Aldens looked at each other in surprise when they heard what Ms. Lerner had said.

“What was that all about, Chief?” asked Christine.

Mike looked grim. “Ms. Lerner just told me that the town council is thinking of tearing down this building. They think it’s too old and outdated.”

“What do you mean, Mike?” asked Henry.

“Well, did you go upstairs?” Mike asked. Henry nodded.

“Then you saw how crowded it is,” Mike said. “A long time ago, not as many people lived in Greenfield, so there weren’t as many firefighters. But since the town has grown, we need more, and we just don’t have room to house them.”

“Is that the only problem?” asked Jessie.

“There’s also this old garage,” Mike went on. “It was the right size back when they used a horse-drawn pumper.”

“A horse-drawn pumper!” cried Benny.

“Yes,” Mike explained. “Before gas-powered engines were invented, the pumps were pulled by horses.”

“Prince and Duke,” said Steve, who had just joined them. “The horses’ names are painted on the wall over there. The pumper was on this side of the garage, and the horses were kept in a stable on that side. See the trapdoor in the ceiling?”

The Aldens looked up and nodded.

“The horses’ hay was kept up there,” Steve explained. “When the fire alarm rang, the firefighters backed the horses up to the pumpers. Then the harnesses were lowered from the ceiling. You can still see where the harnesses were kept up above.”

“The problem now is that these garages aren’t big enough for the huge modern fire trucks,” Mike said. “We have to have trucks specially designed to fit, and that’s expensive. The town council would rather tear this old garage down and build a new larger one.”

“Why can’t they keep this one and build another one somewhere else?” asked Henry.

“Well, we’ve thought of that, but it would cost too much — we’d have to buy a new piece of land,” said Mike.

“But this building has so much history!” Jessie exclaimed. “They can’t tear it down!”

“I’m afraid they will,” said Mike. “And if it goes, I’m going with it.”

“Mike!” said Grandfather. “After all your years on the force?”

“Maybe I’m getting too old, just like this building,” Mike said sadly.

“There must be some way we can change their minds,” said Henry.

“I don’t think so,” said Mike. “Ms. Lerner has already hired an architect to come up with plans for a new firehouse, and then the council will vote on it. She says this place is an eyesore, inside and out.”

“An eyesore!” cried Violet. Then she looked around at the peeling paint and dusty lockers. “You know, I bet we could do something. At least we could fix the place up a little.”

“Yeah. After all, we’ve fixed up an old library, an old motel, and even an old castle,” said Benny.

Jessie, who loved to make plans, was already thinking. “A little cleaning and some fresh paint would make a big difference.”

“I’m sure the firefighters would be glad to help,” said Mike.

“I bet a lot of people in this neighborhood would be sad to see this historic building torn down,” Henry pointed out. “We could pass around a petition to save the firehouse and get lots of people to sign it. That might change the town council’s mind.”

“We could even hold a Save the Firehouse Rally!” said Jessie excitedly.

“You know, it just might work,” said Mike.

“That’s my grandchildren” Mr. Alden said proudly.

The Aldens went with Mike into his office. In no time they had come up with several ideas to improve the way the firehouse looked. The rally was scheduled for the following weekend, out in front. The Aldens would make a big banner saying SAVE THE FIREHOUSE, and Mike would speak to the crowd. The children would work to fix up the firehouse as much as they could before the rally. The firefighters would help them.

As they left Mike’s office, Henry turned around. “How long do we have until the town council votes?” he asked.

“Only two weeks,” said Mike.

“Then we’d better get going!” said Jessie.

The next morning the children rode their bicycles to the firehouse, wearing their painting clothes. They had borrowed some of Grandfather’s old shirts to wear as smocks. They were going to start painting the inside of the firehouse and garage.

“Hello,” Mike greeted the Aldens, leading them to the garage, where several cans of white paint were lined up beside a couple of flat paint trays. “These were left from the last time the firehouse was painted,” he explained. “Obviously, that was much too long ago.”

Beside the paint cans were a bucket of paint rollers, a roll of masking tape, a ladder, and a stack of old newspapers. “Christine moved the trucks out so you can start in the garage. I’ll send some firefighters down to help. Let me know if you need anything else,” Mike said, going back into the firehouse.

“First we have to put down the newspapers,” Henry said, “so we don’t drip paint all over.” The children covered the floor with newspapers and then put masking tape around the doorknobs and light switches so they wouldn’t get paint on them. Then they started painting, rolling swaths of clean white paint over the dirty gray-tinged walls. Benny and Violet did the lowest sections of the wall and Jessie took care of the middle. Henry climbed up on the ladder to reach the top.

“It looks better already,” Jessie said, when the wall was halfway done.

“Trying to fix up this old place?” a voice behind her asked. “It’s going to take a lot more than paint.” Jessie turned around to see a short bald man carrying a small blue notebook with a gold symbol on the front. “Hi, I’m Ralph Frederick,” he said, putting out his hand to shake hers. “I’m writing a book about the historic buildings in Greenfield and I’ve come to take a look at this one,” he explained, a broad smile on his face. “Could you take me to the person in charge? Unless that’s you,” he added, a twinkle in his eye.

“No,” Jessie said with a laugh. “I’m just helping out, along with my sister and brothers.” Mr. Frederick smiled at each of the children. “I’ll take you to see the fire chief. His name is Mike Reynolds,” Jessie said.

She carefully put down her paint roller, then led the way inside. She stopped in front of Mike’s office door. “Here’s his office, Mr. Frederick.”

“Thank you,” he replied. “But please, call me Ralph.”

“Okay, um, Ralph,” Jessie said. “I’ll buy a copy of your book when it comes out.” She turned to go back to the garage.

“Thanks again,” Ralph called after her.

By noon the Aldens had almost finished painting one side of the garage. Steve, who had been working in his office, came outside. “Aren’t you kids getting hungry?” he asked.

“Yes,” Henry said. “How about if we take a break for lunch?”

“I thought you’d never say that,” said Benny, grabbing the big brown lunch bag they had brought with them.

“You can eat with me in the kitchen,” Steve suggested.

Inside, Mike was sitting at the large kitchen table sipping a cup of coffee, and Sparky lay at his feet. “How’s it going?” Mike asked as the children washed their paint-speckled hands carefully in the sink.

“We’re about halfway done,” Henry said, taking a seat at the table beside Steve.

Jessie set the lunch bag up on the table and pulled out four cream cheese and jelly sandwiches, which she passed around. Then she pulled out a thermos of juice and a stack of plastic cups. Violet poured four cups of juice and handed them around.

“Mike, what happened with Mr. Frederick?” Jessie asked.

“Who?” Mike asked.

“That man who was writing the book about historic buildings,” she said.

BOOK: Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery
11.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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