At 11:30 I called Heidi. There was no answer, so I went back to my room. My front window was open a crack, so I let up the shade enough to see down to the street and to get some fresh air.
I knelt on the floor at the window and just stared out. It was a regular Saturday on our street. At least it was if you watched only the kids. But then I began to notice the adults, or the lack of them. There was a quietness on the street that I wouldn’t call tranquil. It was more like the hush I’d expect if everyone had learned this morning that we’d just declared war on Canada.
As I was kneeling there and was slipping into a stupor, a dark blue sedan rolled to a stop at our curb and then turned into our driveway. I could tell by its black-walled tires and lack of other markings that it was an unmarked police car. Sure enough, a uniformed officer stepped out, put on his strange saucer hat, and walked slowly toward the front door.
He had the look I’d expect on a guy about to tell a soldier’s mother that her son was killed.
I crept along the floor so I could keep him in sight. I quickly concluded that here might be my best escape. Either he was here to get the lowdown on the Reuhausens, or else I’d bungled things so badly that I was about to be placed under arrest. Whichever was the case, I was convincing myself that I could let him take me downtown until my father could come get me, when around the rear corner of his car two seventy-pound rats suddenly appeared. I watched, fascinated to learn what would happen next.
“‘Mornin’, Mouseketeers,” said the policeman.
“We’re rats,” said one of the rats.
“Live here, do you?” said the officer.
“Nope,” answered a rat. It had to be Harvey.
“I’m just staying with him,” said Broccoli Rat.
These two eight-year-olds were too slick for regular police investigators.
“Is this the McLogue residence?”
“I guess so,” said a rat.
“Doesn’t seem like it,” Harvey answered, raising his mask to reveal a dust-and-sweat-streaked face. At my distance I’d have taken him for an Gypsy child.
“We’ve been around here all morning,” Brocc added, leaving his mask on, “and we haven’t seen anyone come or go. I think the owners are away.”
“Mind if I check?”
The rats were whispering and nudging each other.
“Is that a real gun?” Rat Harvey asked as he restored his mask to his face.
“Do you carry bullets?” Brocc started in. “Are there some in it now? What are you going to do if you find a McLogue? Do you want us to help you? We could watch this house for you all the way to dark.”
“Is there going to be trouble?”
“Yeah. Is there going to be a gun battle? If there is you’d better let me and H. D. get out of the way first . . . ”
The officer more o’er less ignored him. He stepped up to the door and rang the bell. When I didn’t answer he started around to the back of the house. I knew he wouldn’t get in because I had it all locked. And I knew he’d need a search warrant in order to break in and that there had to be something to search for in order for him to get one, so I felt secure.
Except for the chair propped against the back door!
If he peeked inside he’d see it for certain, and who ever goes away for a trip with chairs propped under their doorknobs!?
I started to dash for the kitchen but stopped. I’d never make it before he could try the door, and my banging around inside would only tip him off that I was home. Better that he wonder about the chair. I returned to my window and watched the officer get back into his car, wave to the Ratketeers, and back out of the driveway.
After he’d gone I went downstairs to greet the Sleuth Brothers, but they didn’t appear, at least not right away. About ten minutes later they jiggled the back doorknob. I let them in.
“Guess where the policeman went,” Brocc dared me as he stripped his mask off with a motion that made it clear he was intent on keeping it off. He sauntered to the refrigerator and poked around inside.
“He’s at the Roo-houses’s,” Harvey answered for me.
My skin crawled up my back.
“There’s bologna and tuna salad,” Broccoli told Harvey.
“Okay,” Harvey said. He turned to Brocc, who was looking back at Harvey under his own arm. They stared at each other for a moment, and then Harvey said: “Both. Together.”
Brocc proceeded to make them both a lunch.
They said the officer hadn’t even tried the back door. He’d simply walked around the house and then driven off.
“Anything else?” I asked, at their mercy.
(Broccoli seemed to sense that I was, indeed, at their mercy, for information and for help. He acted appropriately chauvinistic and I chose to be meek, knowing that that would be the best way to win his instant cooperation.)
Harvey and Broccoli look at each other. Brocc turned back to his lunch-making.
Harvey spoke: “My mom says Mister Roo-house is going to have you arrested.”
“Me!!? Why me??”
“Missus Roo-house called her. Someone told her B.M. was staying with me…”
“B.M.?” I looked at Brocc, and he only shrugged back at me sheepishly. It was clear that the bathroom implication of the nickname had never occurred to Harvey, and my dear brother loved his friend too much to embarrass him over it.
Harvey missed our exchange. “Anyhow, they’ve seen The Clover Street News, she told my mom, and you’re in big trouble.”
I didn’t get it. I slumped in a kitchen chair and fought back the tears. I was beginning to burn with anger again, the same anger that I’d felt when I had been in their garage.
“Sandwich?” Brocc asked, shoving it in front of me.
“Last chance before I give it to Harvey.”
I shoved it away. The doorbell rang before I could organize another thought. The de-masked rats and I just stared at each other. Then they both began eating.
I started to cry. By the time Mister Glueck and Heidi came through the back door I was sobbing hysterically. I ran to Heidi’s father and just hugged him long and hard while I cried.
The rats kept eating.
I hugged longer than I really needed to, but I knew that as soon as I’d calmed down he would really light into me. He wiped my cheeks with the palms of his hands and walked me to the living room. There he pressed me into a big chair and sat on the couch, facing me.
“I think I have most of the story,” he said. He looked at Heidi and then motioned for her to sit beside him. Then, as an afterthought, he stood and opened the living room curtains. Once he’d sat back down he leaned far toward me and said: “Now, we wait.”
“For what?” I peeped.
Still leaning toward me he seemed to search my face. “Suzanne, you were in my care last night. I thought you felt sufficiently like family that you’d trust us to protect you if there was any threat. You scared us this morning, by leaving and by making us believe that you also weren’t home. Once we forced your loyal friend here to tell us the details we became frightened. Even I was frightened. So we’ve been looking for you.”
“Did the rats tell you I was here?”
“No, although we were looking for the rats, too. Fortunately, Harvey’s mother had seen them off and on.”
“I’m right, you know,” I blurted. I lost control of myself for a minute and began to sob again, but soon stopped. “Mister Reuhausen has a garage full of my father’s stuff and I don’t think I’m the one who should be arrested.”
“Heidi, call your mom,” interjected Mister Glueck. “Tell her we’re here and we have Suzanne.” Turning back to me, he continued: “I believe you. Sincerely I do. I think we all do. But that’s not the point. The Reuhausens want you and your parents to answer for this. Right now, I’m your parent. But I’m not going to turn us in. So we’ll wait. Maybe the police will come back — the Lewdens saw them here.” Mister Glueck stopped for a moment and looked beyond me toward the kitchen. “Maybe your parents will get here first.”
Instinctively I turned to look at the clock in the kitchen, but my dad was in the way, holding a suitcase and staring at the interesting scene in his own living room.
I know I should have run to him and should have hugged him and sobbed at him, but Heidi’s dad had let me get that out of my system already, so I just crumpled from the chair to the floor and said: “Oh, Dad, don’t make me talk about it again.”
The Clover Street News – Chapter 1 – Chapter 2 – Chapter 3 – Chapter 4 – Chapter 5 – Chapter 6 – Chapter 7 – Chapter 8 – Chapter 9 – Chapter 10 – Chapter 11 – Chapter 12 – Chapter 13 – Chapter 14 – Chapter 15 – Chapter 16 – Chapter 17