Here’s how it happened.
Mom and Dad had gone to Cincinnati for a tools convention. Broccoli they had left to stay for two nights with Harvey Drexel’s family, and I stayed with Heidi’s family. Heidi and I were allowed to go to my own house only to work on the next issue of the CSN.
We were right on schedule: Thursday night we had just printed out the master sheets for the front and back pages. On Friday, after school, we would walk the two blocks to RENTandRUN, go into my father’s office, and run sixty copies. We always dated it for Saturday, but with luck, which had seemed to be with us this particular week, we’d get them distributed on Friday evening.
As Heidi and I left our house to go back to hers, Broccoli and Harvey, the Sleuth Brothers, popped out of the bushes in the dark and made us both scream. They ignored our irritation, which I emphasized by saying: “Brocc-head, don’t you and your pencil-neck friend have somewhere else to be — like in bed already?”
Broccoli had fallen in step beside me, Harvey on the other side of Heidi. We walked four abreast.
Broccoli said, very casually, (he’d have taken a drag from a cigarette first, if he’d had one): “We know where Dad’s missing tools are.”
I glanced at Heidi, and we held each other’s gaze for a couple of seconds as we kept walking. Then I stopped, and we all stopped.
“Where?” I demanded.
“Mister Reuhausen stole them,” he answered.
I looked at Harvey, and he nodded sincerely. We were two doors away from their house at that moment.
“I suppose you can prove it?” I challenged, but hoping (I guess) that they couldn’t.
“What about your friend, here?” Brocc asked, giving me his best eight-year-old sneer.
“Yeah, what about your friend?” Harvey echoed.
“What about your friend, Dumb-dumb?” I threw at him.
“We’ll show you,” he answered, and, in the shadowy camouflage of dusk, the boys led us between two houses and behind some gardens and bushes until we were behind the Reuhausens’s garage, which was attached behind their house.
The Reuhausens were home, as anyone could tell by the lights on both upstairs and down. They are an old couple, maybe in their sixties, with no kids that I ever knew of. They pretty much keep to themselves when they’re in the neighborhood, which is only about half the time because they’re gone so often. They took our newspaper, though, which I sometimes had the opportunity to deliver and collect for.
I jerked Brocc’s shoulder when we were still a few paces from the back of the garage. “You’re not going in there!” I shouted in a whisper.
“Not if you don’t want to. But look through the window, then,” he said, leading the way onward.
Harvey pressed a flashlight against the glass of the only window in the back of the Reuhausens’s garage.
Carefully, I peered through the pane above his light.
It was a neat garage, but crowded. Rakes and other long-handled hand tools stood by the dozen against the left wall. A small cement mixer was in the near corner to the left. Two lawn mowers and another push-type machine stood in front of the cement mixer. To my right were several gas cans, a chain saw, a fertilizer spreader, and a work bench covered with electric hand tools. The Reuhausens’s small car was nestled in the midst of all this and other junk I haven’t mentioned because it isn’t important (like bundles of newspapers).
Slowly, I turned toward the detectives. Heidi took her turn to peek. “So?” I asked. “Everybody has all that stuff. Why do you think it’s Dad’s?”
“Look at what color it is,” Broccoli advised.
I took the light and looked again. Both mowers were painted silver on the bottom and dark green on top, just like the ones at RENTandRUN. Dad had adopted those colors right at the start, to help people remember that the stuff wasn’t their own. He painted everything he possibly could that way when it was brand new. He did a good job of keeping things touched up and nice looking, too, after they began to look used.
Several of the rake handles had the same color scheme, and so did the gas cans and at least a couple of the electric hand tools. Other things, like the cement mixer, I couldn’t tell about.
I turned back to the Sleuth Brothers, who both looked up at me with deeply serious expressions. All at once I was swept with a motherly love for the silly pair. And with the welling up of the love came a simultaneous surge of hatred for the miserly old Mister Reuhausen.
I stood there feeling true rage for the first time in my life. Oh, I thought I’d known rage before. But the idea that this man had the nerve to steal from my father made me want to see blood.
“Have you been inside?” I asked the boys.
“Sure,” they both piped at once.
“Heidi, you didn’t know about this,” I told her, and then I explained the situation briefly, as best I knew it, starting with the day before the big picnic.
“Brocc, Harvey, you guys deserve a reward,” I beamed at them.
“Will Mister Roo-house go to jail?” Harvey asked, his eyes wide.
“I surely hope so! But we have to decide how to handle this. Dad is gone until tomorrow afternoon. It could wait until he gets back.” I thought for a moment. Then I looked at the folder Heidi was carrying containing our latest edition of the CSN. A jolt of inspiration shot through my body.
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