Happy Holiday Weekend! Here is chapter three of Trapped in the Tunnel for your pleasure reading. 🙂 When you see this post, I’ll probably be stumbling home from the hospital after a night of work.
But I refused to think about moving. There was bicycle jumping to do. Terry was the only one planning to do the jump. But both Larry and I had plenty of tasks to record his acrobatics.
Like I mentioned, Brady Street slopes down off busy Lexington Avenue. Terry wanted to start close to the top of Brady Street to get up speed. The wooden ramp sat on the bottom of the slope, where the road leveled out as it passed our house, then Number Ten, and finally Mrs. Tina’s house with the bronze owl.
Larry agreed to hold a yardstick so we could estimate Terry’s air height and how far the bicycle flew before touching down. I waited with graph paper and pen to write Larry’s numbers. I also held my stopwatch, the cord looped around my neck, ready to measure Terry’s air time as well. We were pretty sure if we did our measurements right, we could calculate his speed.
We were making final adjustments to the ramp, when a voice spoke behind us.
“Hello, boys! What a clever contraption. Did you make it?” We whirled around.
A man with red hair, red eyebrows, and a red mustache grinned at us. He carried a leather bag over one shoulder.
“I don’t mean to startle you.” His lips curled in a half smile. “My name’s Benjamin. Just doing a little research for my antique business.”
When he said the letter b, it seemed to burst out of his mouth like a minor explosion.
“You are an antique dealer?” Larry’s blue eyes lit up.
“Yes, indeed. I am. Interesting, isn’t it? But I need some help. I had a customer years ago who came to my shop and bought an old clock. He said he had a friend who lived by the river and might have one of the rare Braggit clocks. Now, I have a client who runs a museum. And he wants a Braggit clock. The problem is, I forgot to get the exact address. Do you boys know of anyone close by who likes antique clocks?”
We had all been staring at Benjamin’s brilliant red hair.
“I think Tina’s husband used to work at a clock company.” Larry looked at me, and then at Terry, for support. “What kind of clock did you say?”
“Braggit,” Benjamin said.
“How’s it spelled?” Larry asked. “Gary, write it in your book.” “Hmmm,” Benjamin said. “Let’s say B-R-A-G-G-I-T.”
“Tina’s husband is not living anymore,” I added after writing the word. “I doubt she knows anything about clocks, especially not a rare kind.”
“She’s just a grouchy old lady with a big Rottweiler dog who will bite the head off anyone who gets too close,” Terry added.
The man smiled. “Okay, no problemo.” He snapped open the leather bag and pulled out a sheet of paper. “Let me show you a copy of this map.” Under the lines the copy machine had made, we saw a crude drawing.
“Are those houses?” Terry pointed to boxes sketched on the paper alongside a squiggly line.
“I guess maybe so?” the dealer said. “This customer was fascinating, quite fascinating. He said the map was from a book about the Underground Railroad. And it was from this friend who owned the Braggit clock.”
“Oh!” Larry stared at the map. “That’s interesting. What did the Underground Railroad have to do with the clocks?”
“Oh, maybe nothing.” The red-haired man laughed. “But you know these history people. They love anything old. You’re one of those history people, aren’t you?” He poked Larry in the shoulder. Larry laughed and flushed red for the second time that day.
Since his hair is whitish-yellow, his face looks even redder. “Larry reads everything.” Terry rolled his eyes. “History, geography, stories, encyclopedias.”
“I can tell,” Benjamin chirped. “Well, I’ll continue on my search. Larry the historian, would you like a copy of this map?”
“Sure!” Larry beamed, taking the map. “Thanks.”
“All right then, I’ll be off.” The antique dealer waved. He headed up the street on foot toward Lexington Avenue, where cars zipped by above us.
We exchanged glances.
“That was interesting.” Larry carefully folded the map and put it in his pocket.
“And a little weird.” I glanced at the man’s fiery head fading away up the street.
“And an interruption.” Terry yanked his bike around to face the hill. “I vote we don’t tell Mom about him either. He was okay, but a little strange. And she doesn’t need to hear about any more strange people in our neighborhood.”
“I’m kind of glad he didn’t go talk to Tina,” Larry said. His thin fingers tightened around the yard stick. Everything about him is thin: his fingers, his yellow hair, and his intelligent voice.
Terry mounted his bicycle and rode up the hill, his curls like a forest of springs. By the time Terry turned his bicycle to face us, the red-haired man had disappeared behind the trees in the empty lot. Mom always said she liked those trees. If it weren’t for that little patch of woods, she said, she would feel like she lived in a busy town. But the trees shielded us from the sounds and smells of traffic.
I thought about the red-haired antique dealer. Perhaps I was just imagining things. But there were a few oddities.
- He had no vehicle.
- He apparently had come from that park, or Tina’s house, or Number Ten, or maybe from across the garden. We had been facing Lexington Avenue, so we knew he didn’t come that way.
- His hair was such a shocking red.
“Did that man dye his hair?” I asked Larry. “Didn’t it seem like a really odd red color?”
“Benjamin? I don’t know.” Larry clearly hadn’t thought of his hair, too busy being impressed by his job description. “Look, here comes Terry.”
Terry rose up on his bicycle, shoulders hunched forward. His curls shot out behind his head like rocket smoke. His shirt plastered to his body.
“Wa-aa-aa-aa-hooo!” Terry yelled as he rode up the ramp. As the bike left the ramp, I clicked “start” on my stopwatch. It rose into the air gloriously, crested, and fell. Terry expertly landed on his back wheel, and I clicked “stop.”
“That was 0.78 seconds of air time,” I hollered to Terry.
I wrote the figure in the first row on my graph paper and labeled the row “Jump.”
“Ten feet of distance,” Larry announced from his knees in the road. “I didn’t get a good estimate of height. Nice jump, though.”
“Going again!” Terry shouted, pedaling furiously up the street.
Terry made three successful jumps with no disasters. He sailed in for the fourth jump, crouched low, brown eyes locked on the target, hands lightly gripping the handlebars, face flushed and sweaty. I was sitting in the grass at the edge of the street. Behind Terry, I saw a police car turn off Lexington Avenue and onto Brady Street.
“Wa-aa-aa-aa-hooo!” Terry couldn’t see the police car com- ing up behind him.
We had to get the ramp off the road so the policeman could get to the bad people. I forgot to push start on the stopwatch. Instead, I jumped up and ran into the street.
I should have timed my movements better, because some- how I got Terry off-balance by running in so suddenly.
“Yaaaa-oooooowwwwlllll!” Terry yelled. He shot off the ramp, bicycle wobbling.
Since I reached down to grab the ramp, I missed seeing Terry landing on his front wheel and somersaulting—not on purpose—over his handlebars. Behind me, a bicycle clattered and a body thumped to the street.
I turned around in time to see Terry rolling over, so I knew he was alive.
“Terry, get off the street so the policeman can pass.” I grabbed the ramp as I yelled, dragging it to the curb.
Instead of passing, the officer pulled into the lane in front of our garage. He got out, nodded to me and strode over to Terry.
“Everything all right here?” he asked.
Terry shook himself and sat up, blood trailing down his right forearm.
“Yes, I’m fine,” Terry gasped.
“Are your parents home? I’m Officer Jackson.”
“Mom is.” I gaped at the officer, stopwatch still at the ready.
Was it a crime to fall off a bicycle?
Larry stood behind me, holding the yardstick.
Turns out, Terry, Larry, and I were the bad people the officer was after.
Officer Jackson walked down the cement path to our porch, between the rows of marigolds. He climbed the four steps and knocked on the door.
Mom opened it. Her eyes flew wide.
“No worries, ma’am.” He tipped his cap to her. “Did you know that your boys were playing in the middle of the street?”
“I did not know, officer.” A red flush colored her face up to her yellow hair.
“We had a concerned neighbor call in,” the police officer said. “It would be safest if they would play… another place. I believe one just had a spill as I drove up.”
I didn’t bother mentioning that Terry’s spill was the officer’s fault. If Officer Jackson hadn’t driven in, I wouldn’t have run to pull the ramp out of the middle of the road. If I hadn’t run up to the ramp, I wouldn’t have distracted Terry and got him off-balance. If he hadn’t gotten off-balance, he wouldn’t have landed on his front tire nor made the unfortunate somersault.
Thankfully, the bike appeared to be okay. Terry wheeled it off to the side. Even the chain turned normally on its sprockets.
Actually, I take back what I said. It wasn’t the officer’s fault. It was our grouchy old neighbor Tina’s fault. She’s our only neighbor, so she must have tattled on us.
“Don’t worry,” Mom assured the policeman. “It will certainly not happen again.”
Brady Street Boys – What is this Series?
With fruit of the Spirit themes, this Christian mystery series is expected to have 9 books. Trapped in the Tunnel is Book One. See the Brady Street Boys Page for more information.