Read Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery Online

Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner,Charles Tang

Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery (5 page)

BOOK: Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery
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“Isn’t it exciting?” said Rebecca. “A brand-new building!”

“But lots of people like the old building,” said Jessie. “Just look.” She pulled the petition out of her knapsack and put it on Rebecca’s drafting table.

“Yes, I see,” said Rebecca, looking at the page. “But why are you telling me this?”

“We were hoping you could change Ms. Lerner’s mind about tearing the firehouse down,” Henry said.

Rebecca shook her head. “You don’t understand. I’m just starting out as an architect. This is a really big break for me.” She picked up her sketch pad and put it on her drafting table. “Look at my sketches for the new firehouse. It’s going to be wonderful.”

The children crowded around as Rebecca flipped one page after another. “Here’s the new entry hall,” she said. “And here’s the kitchen area.” Her drawings were beautiful, and the children could see there was much more space and plenty of windows. But still, her plans meant that the old firehouse would be destroyed.

“Wait a minute. Aren’t those the trophies?” asked Benny, pointing to one of the drawings. It showed several of the trophies, drawn in great detail.

“Yes,” said Rebecca as the children looked more closely. “I’m going to design a special case for those.”

“This drawing has much more detail than the others. It must have taken you a long time,” said Violet.

“You told Ms. Lerner that you thought the trophies were just a bunch of old junk,” Henry said, recalling what Rebecca had said while he was showing her around the fire-house.

“I’ve just begun to learn that old things can be valuable,” said Rebecca. “And beautiful,” she added. Quickly she tucked the drawing of the trophies under the rest of the plans. “Listen, if that’s all you came for, you might as well go. As I said, this is my first big break. I’ll do anything to hang on to this project.
Anything
.”She looked very serious.

“All right,” said Jessie. “I’m sorry we couldn’t change your mind.”

“And I’m sorry I couldn’t change yours,” Rebecca said.

The Aldens went from Rebecca’s studio to the nursery to pick up more evergreens. The woman behind the counter was surprised to see them again. “Weren’t you just in here buying some of these yesterday?” she asked.

“Yes,” said Henry. “But there was a little . . . um, problem. We need more.”

The grocery store was right next to the nursery. The Aldens went inside, and Jessie picked up a basket.

“We’ll need some ground beef,” said Henry

“While you’re getting that, I’ll get some canned tomatoes, beans, and some spices,” said Jessie.

“I’ll pick out an onion and a green pepper,” Violet said.

“What can I do?” asked Benny.

“Why don’t you go get a box of rice and some cheddar cheese to serve with the chili,” Henry suggested.

In no time, the children had collected everything they needed for the chili and were back on their bicycles, heading back to the firehouse. As they rode, they talked about their visit to Rebecca’s studio.

“Remember what she was saying on the phone when we came in?” asked Henry. “Something about money.”

“Yes. I wonder what she was talking about,” Jessie said.

“I’ve been thinking about the drawing of the trophies,” said Violet. “It was so carefully done, and yet she didn’t seem to want to talk about it.”

“I noticed that, too,” Jessie agreed. “And she made some comment about old things being valuable. . . . I had the feeling that she meant more than she was saying.”

Soon the children arrived at the firehouse. Christine and Shawn were there, putting on their gear. They weren’t moving as quickly as usual.

“Is there a fire?” asked Benny.

“No,” said Christine with a smile. “Today’s job is a little unusual. If you want to come watch, we’ll be on Oak Lane.” A moment later, she and Shawn drove off in the truck.

“That sounds mysterious!” said Violet. “What do you think they’re doing?”

“Only one way to find out,” said Henry. And so after quickly putting away their groceries, the Aldens got back on their bicycles. Oak Lane wasn’t too far away. A few minutes later they were coasting down the road, parking their bikes near the fire truck.

Shawn was getting some tools out of the back of the truck. Christine was standing in the road, next to a sewer. She was talking to an attractive woman with brown curly hair. Christine motioned to the children to join her. “This is Mrs. Berg. She’ll tell you what’s going on.”

Mrs. Berg took up the story. “This morning I heard some little noises down in the sewer. At first I thought I was imagining things. But when I went closer and peered down inside, I realized what it was. A kitten has fallen into the sewer.”

“Oh, no!” said Jessie. “How sad.”

“Luckily, there’s a dry ledge on the side of the sewer, so he’ll be okay for a while,” said Mrs. Berg.

“Don’t worry,” said Christine. “We’ll get the little guy out.”

Shawn had taken the tools over to the sewer and was prying the grating off. As Mrs. Berg and the Aldens watched, he and Christine slowly lifted the heavy piece of metal. Then Christine reached in and pulled out the tiny kitten.

“How sweet,” Violet said, as Christine held up the kitten for Mrs. Berg and the children to see.

“He doesn’t seem to be hurt,” said Christine. “We’ll call the animal shelter to see if anyone has lost a kitten.”

“I’ve heard of firefighters rescuing cats stuck up in trees, but not in sewers!” said Benny, surprised.

“People call us whenever they need something done and don’t know who else to call,” said Shawn.

The Aldens rode their bikes back to the firehouse and arranged the new evergreens in the window boxes. “I hope nothing happens to these,” said Violet. Then they joined Steve for lunch. The Aldens all sat around the kitchen table, eating the tuna fish sandwiches Mrs. McGregor had made for them.

When they were finished with lunch, the children started making the chili, since it would need several hours to simmer before dinnertime. With Steve supervising, Henry carefully turned on the stove. Then he put the ground beef in a large pot and put it on the stove. Soon it began to sizzle, and Henry stirred it with a long wooden spoon.

Meanwhile, Jessie got out a cutting board. She chopped up the onion and green pepper, being extra careful with the knife. When she was done, she slid the vegetable pieces off the cutting board and into the pot with the browned meat. Soon a wonderful smell filled the room.

When the onions and peppers were cooked, Violet opened the cans of tomatoes and beans and dumped them into the pot. Then Benny carefully measured out the spices — cumin, garlic, and chili powder — with measuring spoons. Standing up on a chair so that he could reach, he dropped each spoonful into the pot and stirred it with the wooden spoon.

Jessie turned down the heat under the pot. “Now that just needs to simmer for a few hours, and it will be ready for dinner.”

“It smells delicious,” said Steve. “I can’t wait!”

While the chili simmered, the Aldens began to paint the inside of the firehouse. Some of the firefighters had prepared the rooms while the Aldens were away. They had moved the furniture away from the walls and draped it with big white sheets. They had also covered the floor with newspapers and put tape around all the doorknobs, windows, and light switches.

The Aldens spent the rest of the afternoon painting. With the help of the firefighters, the downstairs was almost completed by dinnertime.

“We’ll finish up here tomorrow morning and then move on to the upstairs,” said Jessie as they packed up their things. “We’ll finish just in time for the rally Saturday!”

“Now it’s time to finish preparing dinner,” said Henry.

The Aldens washed their hands carefully in the kitchen. Then Henry put a large pot of water on the stove to boil, before pouring in some rice. Benny grated the sharp cheddar cheese and put it in a bowl. Meanwhile, Jessie and Violet were setting the table. Besides Steve, there were six firefighters who would be joining them for dinner.

“It’s a good thing we made a big pot of chili,” said Violet as she and Jessie laid plates around the kitchen table. Beside each plate they put a knife, fork, and spoon, and a paper napkin. Then they filled glasses with water or milk and put them around the table, too.

“The rice is ready,” said Henry finally.

Jessie peered into the chili pot and stirred the mixture with the wooden spoon. “The chili looks just right,” she said.

“Dinnertime!” Benny called out.

Steve came out of his office. “Smelling that wonderful smell all afternoon has been making me hungry,” he said as he wheeled up to the table.

One by one, the other firefighters came and sat down. A couple of them had been watching TV in the living room, and one had been reading a book upstairs. The others had been working on one of the trucks in the garage.

Henry served rice into each bowl and handed it to Jessie. She spooned the steaming hot chili over the rice. Then Benny sprinkled the top of each bowl with grated cheese. Violet carried the bowls to the table and handed one to each firefighter.

Soon all the bowls had been filled and the Aldens sat down at the table with the others.

“Mmmm!” said Tom, tasting his first spoonful. “This is delicious!”

“Sure is,” Shawn agreed. “Even better than the chili I make.”

Jessie took a taste. “Not bad,” she admitted, turning to her sister and brothers. “But Mrs. McGregor still makes it the best.”

Several of the firefighters had seconds, and Steve even had a third bowl.

When everyone had eaten his or her fill of the delicious chili, the Aldens cleared the dishes away. Then Steve got a large container of mint chip ice cream out of the freezer and served everyone a large scoop.

“This is the perfect way to finish off the meal!” said Violet, putting a spoonful of the green speckled ice cream in her mouth.

At last even Benny was full. Jessie and Henry washed the dishes, while Benny and Violet and a couple of the firefighters dried them and put them away.

When the kitchen was neat and clean, Benny tried to stifle a yawn, but Jessie spotted it. “I think it’s time we went home. It’s been a busy day.”

“Thank you so much for making dinner,” Tom said, and the other firefighters chimed in with their thanks, too.

“Yes,” said Steve. “You kids are great cooks!”

The next morning, the Aldens were happy to see the evergreens still decorating the window boxes.

“The place looks great, so far,” Mike told them as they started painting. “Keep up the good work.”

“Thanks,” said Henry.

A couple of firefighters helped finish painting the downstairs. As they were all taking a break for lunch, one of the men turned to Jessie. “Hey, I hear you kids have a petition to save the firehouse. I’d like to sign.”

“Great, I’ll get it,” said Jessie, running to fetch her knapsack from the garage. But when she opened it and looked inside, the petition was gone!

CHAPTER 7
Lost — and Found!

I
t’s got to be here some where,” Jessie muttered to herself. She took everything out of her knapsack. But the petition wasn’t there. “How can this be?” she said to herself. “I never lose things.”

Jessie searched everywhere in the garage. Maybe the petition had fallen out somehow. But it was nowhere to be found.

Jessie ran back into the firehouse to tell the others.

“What do you mean the petition’s missing?” asked Henry. “Didn’t you have it in your knapsack?”

“Yes,” said Jessie. “But now I can’t find it.”

The Aldens could see how upset their sister was. “Let’s go out to the garage and take another look,” said Violet. “Maybe you just misplaced it somehow.”

But, back in the garage, the others had no better luck than Jessie.

“Where was the knapsack?” Henry asked.

“Right here,” said Jessie, pointing to the floor at her feet.

Henry looked at the wide-open garage doors. “So your knapsack was sitting out in the garage all morning while we were inside painting?”

“Yes,” Jessie said.

“I hate to say this,” Henry began. “But . . . I wonder if someone took the petition.”

“You think someone stole it?” asked Benny.

“I can’t think of any other explanation,” Henry said as they went back inside the firehouse.

“But who do you think would have taken it?” asked Jessie.

“I don’t know,” said Henry. “But probably the same person who’s been doing the other things to harm the firehouse. Without that petition, the town council won’t know how many people want to save this place.”

“Well, there’s just one thing to do,” said Jessie. “Tomorrow I’ll go out and get all those signatures again. The petition was my responsibility, and so it’s my fault it’s gone.”

“We’ll all help get signatures,” said Henry. “Whoever’s trying to stop us from saving the firehouse doesn’t know one important thing about the Aldens.”

“What’s that?” asked Violet.

“We don’t give up!” said Henry.

Just then they heard Sparky barking and the door opened. It was Rebecca Wright, carrying her sketch pad and a big bag.

After greeting the Aldens, she turned to Steve, who had come to help them paint. “Mind if I take another look around?” she asked.

BOOK: Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery
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