Read Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery Online

Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner,Charles Tang

Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery (3 page)

BOOK: Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery
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Mike’s face looked blank. “I don’t know who you’re talking about,” he said.

“I brought him to your office this morning,” Jessie said. “He wanted to speak with you because he’s writing a book about historic buildings.”

“I never spoke to him,” Mike said. “Never even saw him.”

“Weren’t you in your office?” Jessie asked, confused.

“Yes, all morning. But no one came by,” said Mike.

“I don’t understand,” said Jessie. “I left him right outside your door.”

“I wonder why he didn’t go in,” said Henry. “You know, something about him did seem a little strange.”

“Is this a mystery?” Benny asked hopefully.

“No, Benny.” Jessie gave Henry a look. “I thought Mr. Frederick seemed very nice and polite.”

“You know,” Mike said, “I was on the phone for a while. He probably knocked and I just didn’t hear him.”

“Yes, I’m sure that’s it,” Jessie agreed.

“Aw, nuts,” said Benny. “I was hoping it was a mystery!”

“Well, Benny. There is one mystery. We still haven’t figured out who’s been calling in the false alarms,” said Steve. “And there was another one last night!”

CHAPTER 4
Not Just a Bunch of Old Junk

A
s the children were finishing up their lunch, Sparky began barking. A moment later, the door opened and Ms. Lerner walked in. With her was a smaller, young woman who had short blond hair and a cheerful smile. She was carrying a large sketch pad and pencil.

“Hello, Mike,” Ms. Lerner said. “This is Rebecca Wright, the architect I told you about yesterday. Do you have a minute to show her around?”

Mike sighed. He didn’t seem happy to see Ms. Lerner again.

“I could show them around, if you’re too busy,” Henry suggested.

“That’s very nice of you,” Mike said. He introduced the Aldens to the two women. “Let me know if you need me.”

While Jessie, Violet, and Benny went back to the garage to continue painting, Henry gave the two women the same tour he’d had the day before.

“See what awful condition this place is in, Rebecca?” Ms. Lerner said to the architect.

“Oh, yes,” she agreed. Every now and then she would pause and make some quick notes on her pad.

“It really just needs some fresh paint and a little tidying up,” Henry said. “Don’t you think so, Ms. Wright?”

“You can call me Rebecca,” she said, smiling. “That would help, I guess — ”

“But we’d still need a new firehouse,” insisted Ms. Lerner, frowning at Henry.

As they passed the shelves that held the silver trophies, Ms. Lerner stopped abruptly. “Look at these,” she said, carefully picking up a dusty silver trophy. She read the engraved inscription on the front. “This one is from 1865! These must be very valuable.”

“Really? It just looks like a bunch of old junk.” Rebecca picked up one of the old speaking trumpets and turned it over in her hands. She frowned a little and then stared at the speaking trumpet for a long time.

“I know a lot about antiques,” Ms. Lerner said, studying the shelf of trophies. “Well, shall we go upstairs?”

Rebecca was still holding the speaking trumpet. “Oh, uh, yes,” she said, startled out of her thoughts. She gently set the dusty trumpet back on the shelf.

When the tour was over, Henry went back to the garage. He was pleased at how clean and white the walls looked.

“We’re almost done,” Jessie called. She had taken Henry’s place on top of the ladder while he was gone. “How was the tour?”

“It was okay, I guess,” Henry said.

“What’s wrong?” asked Violet.

“I just wonder if we’ll be able to save this old place. Ms. Lerner seems determined to have it torn down,” Henry said.

“That just means we’ll have to work twice as hard,” said Benny.

“Is there something else bothering you?” Violet asked her older brother.

“It’s probably nothing,” Henry began. “But when I showed them the silver trophies, Rebecca and Ms. Lerner just stood there and stared at them for a very long time.”

“So? Those trophies are really neat,” said Jessie. “They probably just wanted to look at them. I think you and Benny are both looking for a mystery where there isn’t one. Like Mr. Frederick — you kept saying there was something strange about him, but I thought he was nice.”

“Maybe you’re right,” Henry said, picking up a paint roller.

Soon, with the help of a few firefighters, the Aldens had painted the whole garage. Everyone was worn out.

“It looks great!” Jessie said, sitting down to survey their work.

“Don’t sit down yet,” said Henry. “I noticed the sign by the door needs to be repainted.”

The rest of the Aldens followed him around to the front, where they all helped to touch up the sign that read GREENFIELD FIRE DEPARTMENT. In no time it sparkled with fresh paint.

“I’m going to repaint those old window boxes,” said Violet, heading over to the large windows on the side of the firehouse. The paint there was cracked and peeling. The boxes looked much better when Violet had finished with them, but still she wasn’t satisfied. “I wish it weren’t so cold out. These window boxes would be cheerier if they had flowers in them.”

“How about if we get some evergreen boughs like the ones we had in the house during the holidays?” suggested Jessie. “We could put them in the window boxes. That would brighten things up out here. Remember how nice they made the town square look for the Winter Festival?”

“Yes! What a good idea,” Henry agreed. “We’ll get some tomorrow.”

The children returned to the garage to clean up. Violet cleaned the rollers and Henry put the newspapers in the recycling bin. Jessie folded up the ladder. Then she helped put the cans of leftover paint beside the door that led into the firehouse. They’d continue painting inside the next day.

Steve came out to see how the children were doing. “The garage looks like new,” he said.

Benny was just putting the lids on the leftover cans of paint when the fire alarm rang. Several firefighters ran out and started pulling on their gear.

“A kitchen fire on Chester Road,” Christine told the children as she pulled on her coat.

“I wish we could go help,” said Benny.

Steve smiled. “Maybe when you’re older.”

The children watched the firefighters getting into the trucks, which had been parked on the street while the garage was being painted.

“Why not now?” Benny asked.

“Fires are dangerous, Benny. It wouldn’t be safe and we might be in the way,” Jessie explained gently.

“Couldn’t we just watch?” Benny said, refusing to give up.

Steve looked thoughtful for a moment. “You know, I think you could. I’ll take you there in my car. We’ll stay out of the way. Come on!”

The children ran to Steve’s car, which was parked just behind the fire trucks. They were amazed at how quickly he was able to move himself from his wheelchair to the car, fold up the wheelchair, and put it in the backseat. The Aldens were ready to help, but Steve obviously didn’t need it. The children climbed into the car just as the fire trucks were roaring off.

As Steve and the Aldens took off after them, Henry, who was sitting in the front seat, noticed something unusual about the car. “There are no pedals!” he said.

“Since I can’t use my feet, I control the speed of the car and the brakes with my hands,” Steve said.

“That’s really neat,” said Jessie from the backseat.

Chester Road was only a few blocks away from the firehouse. Steve stopped the car some distance from the fire trucks, which had pulled up in front of a small yellow house. On the lawn were a man, a woman, and a small child. The Aldens realized this must be the family that lived there.

“I don’t see any smoke or fire,” said Benny.

“That’s good,” Steve said. “It may already be under control.”

Mike ran over and spoke briefly to the man and woman on the lawn. Then he directed a couple of the firefighters into the house.

“Shawn and Tom are going inside to check how bad the fire is,” Steve told the children.

Meanwhile, Christine climbed up into the back of the pumper. “She’ll control how much water goes through the hoses by using the knobs and dials up there,” Steve explained.

A firefighter was hooking up two hoses to the pumper. Another firefighter attached the loose end of one of the hoses to a nearby hydrant.

A few minutes later Shawn and Tom emerged from the house and stopped to speak to Mike and the family. The man and woman looked relieved.

Then the firefighters went back to the trucks, and Mike began calling directions out to them. “The fire’s out. There’s just a lot of smoke inside. Christine, you and Stuart can go on back to the station. Shawn and Tom, get the fans.”

“What are the fans for?” asked Violet.

“They’re to blow the smoke out of the house,” Steve answered.

The Aldens watched as Christine and Stuart disconnected the hoses and put them away inside the truck. Meanwhile, Shawn and Tom got a large fan out of the ladder truck and carried it inside.

“They didn’t get to use all the hoses and everything,” Benny said as Steve headed the car back to the firehouse.

“We never know how bad a fire is going to be, so we have to be prepared,” said Steve. “Fortunately, today it wasn’t too bad.”

When the Aldens arrived back at the firehouse, they got their bicycles and got ready to go home.

“This has been a long day!” said Violet.

“Yeah, and I’m starving,” added Benny. “Remember Mrs. McGregor said she was making chili for dinner tonight?”

“I’d hurry home, then, if I were you,” said Steve with a laugh. “Chili is one of my favorite dinners, and I haven’t had any in a long time.”

“Really?” asked Jessie. “We’re pretty good at making it, too — Mrs. McGregor showed us how. Maybe tomorrow we could make some for you and the other firefighters.”

“I’m off duty tomorrow, but how about the next night?” suggested Steve. “If it isn’t too much trouble.”

“It would be our pleasure,” said Henry.

And with that the children hurried home. They couldn’t wait to tell Grandfather and Mrs. McGregor, Grandfather’s housekeeper, about their exciting day.

The next morning the Aldens rode back to the firehouse, eager to get to work. When they got there, Mike was out in front with Sparky. Mike looked very unhappy.

“What’s wrong?” Jessie asked.

“Come take a look,” he said, leading the way into the garage.

As soon as the Aldens entered the garage, they saw what was bothering Mike. Beside the door to the firehouse, all over the floor, was a huge, messy puddle of white paint!

CHAPTER 5
“Just Give Up Now!”

W
hat happened?” Jessie cried. “We cleaned everything up so neatly before we went home yesterday.”

“I know,” Mike said. “I came in here after you left, and I was very impressed. Not only did the walls look much better, but you’d put everything away so nicely. Someone must have made this mess late last night, after I left. I’ll go get some rags to clean it up.”

As Mike walked off, Jessie turned to her little brother. “You put the lids on the paint cans tightly, didn’t you, Benny?”

“Uh — I think so,” said Benny.

“Well, someone took them off again,” said Henry grimly.

“Who would have done such a thing?” Violet wanted to know. “And why?”

“I don’t know
who
,but I can think of a reason
why
,”said Henry. “It must be someone who doesn’t want us to fix this place up.

“Could the person who knocked over the paint cans be the same person who’s been calling in the false alarms?” asked Jessie.

“Maybe,” said Henry thoughtfully. “Both are bad for the station.”

“Well, whoever it is, we’re not going to let them stop us, are we?” asked Benny.

“No!” Jessie answered firmly. Then she saw Mike and Christine returning with a bucket of cleaning supplies. “Come on, let’s all pitch in and clean this up.”

It took Mike, Christine, and the Aldens quite a while to clean up the mess. When they were finished, they realized that there wasn’t enough paint left to finish the project.

“I wonder if whoever made this mess wanted to make sure we couldn’t keep painting,” said Henry.

“I’ll give you some money from the repairs fund to buy some more,” Mike said.

“While we’re in town, we can get paper and paints for our rally banner and posters,” Jessie said.

“And evergreens to put in the window boxes,” added Violet.

“That’s a nice idea,” said Mike.

“You know what else we can do while we’re downtown?” Henry said. “We can start getting signatures on our petition.”

“First we have to write it,” said Jessie.

Mike lent the children a clipboard and some paper and a pen. Then he and Christine went back inside while the children talked about what the petition should say. Once they had decided, Violet carefully printed the three sentences at the top of the page in her neat handwriting:

We believe that the town council should
not
tear down the Greenfield Firehouse! It is a beautiful historic building and an important part of our town.
Greenfield can find another answer!

Underneath, Violet drew several straight lines for people to write their names. The top four lines were filled immediately, as each Alden signed his or her own name:

BOOK: Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery
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