Read Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery Online

Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner,Charles Tang

Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery (6 page)

BOOK: Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery
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“Of course not,” Steve replied. “You can leave your things here on the couch if you’d like.”

The Aldens watched as Rebecca put down her bag. Then, sketch pad in hand, she began to walk around. She paused in front of the antique silver pieces for several minutes, a thoughtful look on her face.

“Is anything wrong?” Henry asked, seeing how closely she was studying them.

Rebecca didn’t answer.

“Rebecca?” Jessie said.

She jumped. “What — oh, I’m sorry, I was just thinking. Did you ask me something?”

“I just wondered if anything was wrong,” Henry said.

Rebecca didn’t answer for a moment. She looked again at the silver pieces. “No, no, I guess not,” she said at last.

Rebecca headed upstairs just as the Aldens had finished packing up the supplies to bring up there.

“I don’t know about you guys, but I’m tired of painting,” said Benny, putting down his brush and sitting down on the couch. “I wanted to learn about firefighting, not painting.”

“I wouldn’t mind taking a break myself,” said Violet.

“That’s fine,” said Jessie. “Henry and I will take the supplies upstairs and start getting ready to paint.”

Steve rolled up beside Benny and Violet. “Well, if you’re going to be firefighters, then you need to know the five most important safety rules,” he said. “What do you think the most important rule is?”

“Never play with matches?” asked Violet.

“That’s right. Lots of fires start that way,” Steve told them. “Stay away from open flames, like barbecue grills. Last night, when you were making the chili, I was glad that you asked me for help before you turned on the stove. You should never use the stove without an adult’s help.”

“We always ask Grandfather or Mrs. McGregor or Aunt Jane to help us,” said Violet.

“Now for the next rule. What should you do if you think there’s a fire in the house?” asked Steve.

“Call the fire department?” asked Benny.

“Even before that,” said Steve.

“Get out?” Violet asked.

“Yes,” Steve said. “Get out quickly. If it’s smoky crawl low on the ground. Don’t go back in even if you’ve forgotten something. Wait until an adult tells you it’s safe.”

“Why do you crawl?” Benny wanted to know.

“Because it’s very dangerous to breathe smoke,” Steve explained. “Since smoke rises, the clearest air is near the ground.”

“I get it,” said Benny.

Steve went on, “Make sure you know at least two ways out. You should even have some practice fire drills with your family.”

“Then do you call the fire department?” asked Benny.

“Yes, that’s the next rule. As soon as you’re safe, call the fire department right away,” said Steve. “In many towns you can just dial 9-1-1 for any kind of emergency. Make sure the emergency numbers are taped to the phone.”

“What about ‘stop, drop, and roll’?” asked Violet.

“What’s that?” asked Benny. “Sounds like a new dance!”

Steve laughed. “That’s rule number four, and it’s what you do if your clothes catch on fire. You should never run, because that will only make the fire burn more. Violet, why don’t you show Benny?” Violet stood up.

“First you stop,” said Steve. Violet stood very still.

“Then you drop,” he said. Violet dropped to the floor and lay down.

“Then you roll,” he finished, as Violet rolled on the floor. “Rolling on the ground will put out the flames. Be sure to cover your face with your hands.”

“Now I get it,” said Benny, as he rolled on the floor next to Violet.

“And the last rule is, make sure your Grandfather changes the batteries in your smoke alarms every year,” said Steve. “Now, can you kids repeat those rules back to me?”

One by one, Violet and Benny recited each rule.

“You’re good students. Now how about a cup of hot cocoa?” Steve asked.

“That sounds great,” said Benny, going with Steve into the kitchen. “I’ll get one for you, Violet.”

A few minutes later, Benny returned with two steaming mugs of cocoa.

“Benny,” Violet whispered, her voice tense. “Come here, quick.”

Benny looked at his sister. She was sitting on the couch staring at Rebecca Wright’s bag. “What is it?” Benny asked, hurrying over to her. “Why are you acting so strange?”

“Look what’s sticking out of Rebecca’s bag,” said Violet.

“What do you mean?” Benny asked.

“Just look,” said Violet. “Quick, before she comes back downstairs.

Benny looked, and his eyes grew big and round. He saw immediately why his sister was behaving so oddly. Sticking up out of Rebecca’s bag was a folded piece of paper. On the paper he could see Violet’s handwriting at the top and a long column of signatures underneath. It was the petition! “What’s that doing in there?” he asked.

“Shhhh! She’ll hear you,” Violet said, her voice hushed.

“What’s that doing in there?” Benny repeated in a whisper.

“That’s just what I was wondering,” Violet whispered back.

“Rebecca must have taken it,” said Benny. “But why?”

“That doesn’t matter right now,” said Violet. “What matters is, how are we going to get it back?”

“I think we should just ask her for it,” said Benny. “After all, it’s ours, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but — ” Violet started to say. But it was too late. Rebecca had come down the stairs, and she was heading right for them.

CHAPTER 8
A Broken Lock

S
ee you all later,” Rebecca said, picking up her bag and slinging it over her shoulder.

Benny looked at Violet. Rebecca was about to leave, and she still had their petition!

Before Violet could stop him, Benny blurted out, “Rebecca, isn’t that our petition in your bag?”

Rebecca turned around, her face pink. “Oh, my goodness, that’s right.” She laughed uncomfortably. “I feel so silly! I forgot I had brought it to give back to you.” She put down her bag, pulled out the petition, and handed it to Benny.

“Why do you have it?” asked Benny.

“Why? Well, I just found it — ” Rebecca started to say, when Jessie came down the stairs and interrupted her.

“Is that our petition?” Jessie said. “Oh, I’m so glad it’s not gone!” She smiled gratefully at Rebecca. “That would be a lot of signatures to get all over again.”

“Yes, I’m glad you have it back,” said Rebecca. But she didn’t look happy at all. “I’ve got to run.” A moment later she was gone.

“Can you believe Rebecca had our petition?” said Violet.

“Do you believe that she really just ‘found it’ like she said?” asked Benny.

“Why would she lie?” asked Jessie. “Anyway, she gave it back to us.”

“But she wasn’t going to,” Benny said. “She wouldn’t have if Violet hadn’t seen it in her bag.”

“And you hadn’t asked her for it,” added Violet

“You think she meant to keep it?” asked Jessie.

“I don’t know, but when Benny asked her about it, she had a funny expression on her face. I think she looked kind of . . . guilty,” Violet said.

When Henry came downstairs, they told him all about what had happened. “Do you think Rebecca could be the one who’s done all the harmful things to the firehouse?” he asked.

“Maybe,” said Jessie. “After all, she has a good reason. If we fix this place up, and convince the town council not to build a new building, then she’s lost a big project.”

“Remember she said this would be a big break for her,” said Henry.

“She also said she’d do anything to hold on to it,” Violet added.

“Even call in false alarms and spill the paint cans and trample the evergreens — and steal our petition?” asked Benny.

And no one said anything, because no one knew the answer.

The Aldens spent the rest of the day painting the upstairs. They were working on the narrow hallway when Steve called up from below. “Have any of you seen Sparky’s blanket?”

“You mean that old blanket he sleeps on?” Jessie called down.

“Yes. I’m doing some laundry — sheets and stuff — and I’d like to wash it,” Steve answered.

“It’s not in his basket?” Jessie asked.

“No,” Steve said. “Oh, well, don’t worry about it. I’m sure it’ll turn up.”

“Unless a burglar took it!” Benny said, and everyone laughed.

Not long afterward, the Aldens were done painting. “What a difference a little fresh paint makes,” Violet said, looking around to admire their work.

“I just hope all this work will change the town council’s mind,” said Benny.

The children packed up their supplies and carried them downstairs. They were getting ready to go home when they heard a voice coming from the back of the firehouse.

“What happened here?” It was Steve, and he sounded upset.

The Aldens hurried to the back and found Steve by the back door. He was carefully examining the lock.

“What’s wrong?” Jessie asked.

“The lock is broken,” Steve said. “I was going out back to get some fresh air when I noticed it.”

“How did that happen?” Violet asked.

“It looks as if somebody intentionally broke it,” said Steve. “This is a strong lock. It couldn’t have just broken by accident.”

“You mean someone broke into the firehouse?” asked Benny. “I was only kidding about a burglar stealing the dog blanket.”

“When do you think this happened?” Henry asked. “Last night?”

“It must have,” said Steve. “I left this way yesterday after we had dinner, and the lock was fine then.”

“But the front door is always open. Why wouldn’t someone just come in that way?” asked Violet.

“Well, if you want to make sure no one sees you, the back door would be better,” Jessie pointed out.

“We keep the back door locked for just that reason,” Steve said.

“So you’re saying someone broke in, and nobody heard it?” asked Henry.

“There were a couple of calls last night, so for several hours the place was almost empty. And the calls were false alarms,” Steve said.

“The person who broke in might have called in the false alarms. That way whoever it was could make sure no one would be around,” Jessie pointed out.

“I think you’re right,” Steve said.

“That’s terrible!” Violet said. “Why would someone do something so awful?”

“Is there anything missing?” Henry asked.

“Other than Sparky’s blanket, I haven’t noticed anything,” Steve said. “There isn’t much here of value anyway — except the television, and it’s so old that no one would steal it.”

“That’s it!” Jessie said all of a sudden. “Maybe the thief
was
after something old.”

“The antique silver pieces!” Henry cried.

Steve and the Aldens hurried over to the shelves where the trophies and speaking trumpets were stored. The bottom shelf was bare!

CHAPTER 9
The Final Clue

A
t first Steve and the Aldens just stared at the empty shelf. “I can’t believe we didn’t notice this before,” said Steve, at last.

“It’s so dark back here in this corner that you wouldn’t notice unless you came and stood right in front,” said Jessie.

“The old copper hose nozzle is gone,” said Violet.

“And that really tall speaking trumpet,” added Henry.

“I’m going to go tell Mike and call the police,” Steve said, his voice angry. “It’s getting late, and you kids should be getting home. After all, the rally’s tomorrow, and you need to get a good night’s sleep. I’ll call you if the police discover any clues.”

“Are you sure there’s nothing we can do?” Jessie asked.

“Thanks, but I don’t think so,” Steve said.

That night after dinner, the Aldens gathered in the boxcar to talk about the burglary.

“I’ve been thinking. Do you suppose the burglary has anything to do with all the other stuff that’s been going on?” asked Benny.

“I’ve been wondering that, too,” said Henry.

“It certainly explains all the false alarms. Someone must have been trying to get the firefighters out of the firehouse so he or she could come in and steal the antiques,” said Jessie.

“But what about the spilled paint and the trampled evergreens?” asked Violet. “How could those be connected?”

The children all thought for a moment.

Suddenly Henry gasped. “I know! Maybe the person has been trying to sneak in here all week. He or she might have tried the garage door first. Remember we left our paint cans right in the doorway?”

BOOK: Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery
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