Read Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery Online

Authors: Gertrude Chandler Warner,Charles Tang

Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery (7 page)

BOOK: Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery
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“You think someone tried to sneak in at night, didn’t see the cans in the dark, and accidently knocked them over?” Jessie said.

“Exactly,” said Henry.

“But the paint couldn’t have just spilled out,” Violet pointed out. “Benny had put on the lids. Right?” She turned to her little brother.

Benny squirmed uncomfortably. “Well, um . . . I started to. But then there was that fire alarm, and Steve said we could come with him to watch and . . .”

“Benny,” Jessie said, “are you saying you didn’t put all the tops on securely?”

“I’m not really sure,” Benny said uncertainly.

Jessie sighed. “Try to be more careful next time. Anyway, we’ve got a bigger problem now.”

“I’ve been thinking about the evergreens,” said Violet. “Those window boxes are in the side windows, and the ground was all scuffed up below them.”

“That’s right!” Henry cried. “The person wasn’t after our evergreens — he was trying to get in through those windows. The window boxes just got in the way!”

“That still doesn’t explain why Rebecca had our petition,” Jessie noted.

“No, it doesn’t,” Henry agreed. “And speaking of Rebecca, remember how interested she was in the antiques? She kept looking at them whenever she was here — even today.”

“And remember she made that detailed drawing of them, and then seemed embarrassed to talk about it,” Violet added.

“She also said something about old things being valuable,” Jessie remembered.

“I just thought of something else,” Benny said. “When we first came in to her studio, she was talking on the phone about making a lot of money.”

“That’s right,” said Henry. “Maybe she was planning to steal the trophies and sell them.”

“Henry, when you showed Ms. Lerner and Rebecca around, didn’t you say Ms. Lerner was interested in the antiques, too?” Jessie asked.

“She was,” Henry recalled. “In fact, she was the one who told Rebecca that they were valuable in the first place.”

“I think there’s someone else we’re forgetting,” said Violet. “Mr. Frederick.”

“That’s right,” said Jessie. “He keeps showing up here, and it doesn’t seem that he’s telling the truth about writing a book on Greenfield’s historic buildings. He doesn’t know anything about our town’s buildings. Maybe he was really after the antiques.”

The children heard the cuckoo clock striking in the house and knew that it was getting late.

“Maybe tomorrow we’ll find some more clues,” Henry told the others as he led the way back to the house.

The Aldens were happy to wake up to a bright winter morning that really wasn’t very cold. “This will be a perfect day for the rally,” said Jessie.

After lunch, Grandfather drove them to the firehouse. Steve and Sparky greeted them inside.

“Any news about the burglary?” Henry asked.

“No, but the police are working on the case,” Steve answered.

Grandfather and Mike helped the children hang their banner on the front of the building. As they were putting it up, Ms. Lerner appeared.

“I hear you’ve had a burglary,” she said to Mike.

“Yes, I’m afraid so,” he replied.

“If there’d been a proper display case — with a lock — maybe those pieces would still be here,” she said angrily. Then she walked away to join the small crowd that was gathering.

“Did you hear that?” Jessie whispered to Henry.

“Yes,” her brother answered. “Do you think Ms. Lerner would have taken the pieces herself, just to create one more strike against the firehouse?”

“Maybe,” said Jessie.

As more and more people showed up for the rally, Henry passed the petition around. More and more signatures were added to the already full page.

“Look, there’s Rebecca,” said Violet.

A woman right next to Rebecca was speaking loudly. “I think it’s just terrible they’re planning to tear down this beautiful old building.”

“I know. They’ll probably put up something big and modern that will look just awful,” said the man next to her.

Violet knew that Rebecca must have heard what they were saying. She saw Rebecca sigh heavily, but she couldn’t tell if Rebecca was angry or sad.

Then Mike stood up on a chair and began speaking. “I want to thank you all for coming today. I especially want to thank James Alden’s grandchildren, Henry Jessie, Violet, and Benny, who came up with the idea for this rally. They did all the wonderful posters you’ve seen around town, as well as this banner.”

A murmur went through the crowd, and someone shouted, “Great job, kids!”

Mike went on, “As you know, the town council is thinking of tearing down our firehouse and putting up a new one. I’ve worked here a long time, and I know this place has some problems. But it’s also got a lot of history, and it belongs here.”

“That’s right!” someone called out.

Mike continued speaking. “The Aldens have been helping us fix up the building, and I think it looks pretty good. I invite all of you to go inside and take a look. I hope that with your help, we can convince the town council that this building should stay.”

Mike went on to tell a little bit about the history of the firehouse, back to the days when the pumpers were pulled by horses. Then he asked everyone to please sign the petition. When he finished, everyone cheered.

“Nice speech,” Grandfather said, patting Mike on the back. The Aldens watched as Ms. Lerner and Rebecca walked away. They did not look happy.

When the crowd of people had gone home, Steve came over to the Aldens. “The rally was a real success,” he told them. “You all have been working so hard — how about taking a break this afternoon?”

“Sounds good to me,” said Jessie.

“How does a game of basketball sound?” Steve suggested. “Benny and me against Violet, Jessie, and Henry.”

“Can you play basketball in your wheelchair?” Benny asked.

“You bet,” Steve answered. “I even have a special sports wheelchair that’s more flexible. Come on!”

As Grandfather left to go home, the children followed Steve eagerly out to the basketball court in back of the firehouse. In no time, Steve and Benny were winning, 10 to 4.

Just as Benny was running to the basket to take another shot, Violet pointed over his shoulder. “Hey, what’s that over there?” she called out.

Benny was so startled that he lost control of the ball. It bounced away and rolled onto the grass. “Violet!” Benny said angrily. “Are you trying to make us lose?”

“No, really,” Violet said, running over to the side. She reached down below a bush and picked up a small blue notebook.

“That looks familiar,” said Jessie. “Didn’t we see someone carrying that recently?”

“Yes, but I can’t remember who. . . .” said Henry.

“Maybe there’s a name on the inside.” Violet opened the cover. “Oh, my goodness. . . .” she said as she read what was on the first page.

“What is it?” asked Benny.

“I think it’s a clue to the burglary,” said Violet.

“What’s in there?” Jessie asked.

Violet took a deep breath, “Listen to this,” she said, and began to read aloud: “
Silver speaking trumpet, 1890; copper hose nozzle, 1900; looks valuable — call Lenny to arrange a deal.

“That must have been written by the burglar,” said Henry.

“If only we could remember who we saw carrying that notebook,” said Jessie.

“I remember!” Benny cried.

CHAPTER 10
To Catch a Thief

W
ell, who was it?” Jessie demanded.

“It was Mr. Frederick!
He
had a notebook with that gold design on the front,” said Benny. “He must be the thief!”

“Wait a minute,” said Steve. “We can’t just accuse someone unless we’re sure. I’m going to call the police. They should see that notebook.”

Steve called, and two police officers arrived a few minutes later. They looked at the notebook and immediately agreed with the children. “It certainly seems that the man who owns this book had something to do with the burglary,” said one of the officers. “We need to ask him some questions.”

“But if he
is
the thief, we don’t want to scare him off,” the other officer pointed out.

“I could call him and just say that we’ve found the notebook and that he should come pick it up,” said Jessie.

“Good idea,” said the first officer. “We’ll handle things when he gets here.”

Henry looked up Ralph Frederick’s number in the phone book and Jessie called him.

“I’ve been looking all over for that notebook,” Ralph said when she told him what they’d found. “I must have dropped it when I was out in back the other day. I’ll be right over to pick it up. Oh, and please don’t look inside. It’s some . . . uh, notes for my book, and I’d like to keep them private.”

The police officers parked their car around the corner so Ralph wouldn’t see it when he arrived. Then they waited in Mike’s office, while Steve and the Aldens stayed in the living room. Not long afterward, they saw an old station wagon pull up in front. Mr. Frederick got out, looking nervous.

“Here’s your notebook,” Jessie said when he’d entered the firehouse.

“Thanks,” said Mr. Frederick, turning to leave. “Gotta run.”

“Mind if we ask you some questions first?” asked one of the police officers, stepping out into the living room.

Just then there was the sound of a dog barking excitedly out in front.

“That sounds like Sparky,” said Jessie, running outside to see what was the matter.

The others followed her. They found Sparky standing by Mr. Frederick’s car, his paws up on the back door. The back window was open and Sparky was looking inside.

“What is it, boy?” Jessie called. When she and the others looked into the car, they saw why Sparky was so upset. An old blanket was spread out across the back seat of the car.

“That’s Sparky’s blanket!” said Benny. “He must have been able to smell it.”

“No, no, that’s just an old — ” Mr. Frederick began.

But it was too late. Everyone had already spotted what he had been trying to hide under the blanket. Peeking out from beneath it were a couple of silver trophies.

“The missing antiques!” cried Violet.

“Just as we thought,” said one of the police officers. “We’ve been looking for a pair of thieves who specialize in valuable antiques. Their names are Ralph and Lenny. And I think we’ve just found Ralph.”

“You weren’t writing a book about historic buildings, were you?” asked Jessie.

Ralph shook his head. He knew he’d been beaten.

“But why did you take Sparky’s blanket?” Violet wanted to know.

“I needed something to hide the antiques when I sneaked them out of the building. It was handy, so I grabbed it,” Ralph explained.

“Did you knock over the paint cans and trample the evergreens?” asked Benny.

“I didn’t mean to. I was just trying to find a way to get inside,” said Ralph. “I tried the garage, but in the dark, I didn’t see those paint cans. I was afraid the sound of them clattering gave me away. And I had paint all over my shoes, so I had to go home and change. The next night, when I tried to come in through the side windows, those window boxes got in my way.”

“And you called in the false alarms, too, didn’t you?” asked Henry.

Ralph nodded.

As the police officers walked off with Ralph, Benny said, “We’ve solved another mystery.”

“With a little help from Sparky,” Violet added, rubbing the dog’s head.

Just then, an alarm began ringing and several firefighters ran out to the trucks.

“What is it?” Steve called to Christine.

“Fire in an abandoned building down by the river,” she called back.

“Can we go watch?” asked Benny.

“I’ll take you in my car,” said Steve. “But we’ll stay far away from the fire and out of the way of the firefighters.”

As Steve’s car approached the burning building, the Aldens began to smell smoke. Large flames were coming from the windows of the two-story building. Several firefighters with hoses stood around the outside, shooting streams of water up at the building. A couple of firefighters were standing up on ladders, spraying water into the top of the building.

Two firefighters came running out of the building, their oxygen masks over their faces. “They must have gone in to make sure there wasn’t anyone inside,” Steve explained.

BOOK: Boxcar Children 56 - Firehouse Mystery
5.86Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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