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Authors: Bryce Clark

Red Shirt Kids (8 page)

BOOK: Red Shirt Kids
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rode their bikes down Main Street, passing the town hall, a post office, and a church. As they passed a line of stores, Sam pointed up.

“Look at that! They took the Hardy’s sign!”

Amy and Mike glanced up and saw that the neon sign for Hardy’s Hardware was indeed gone. In its place was a mess of shredded wiring and a moldy support.

They pedaled faster, their bikes carrying them to the end of Main Street, where they hung a right onto Shayler Lane.

The kids biked past a line of bushes, riding down the very same stretch that Mike walked on his way to Ben’s house that other night. Mike tried to remain calm as they rode past Ben’s ramshackle home.

As they came to the end of the street, Sam pulled off to the side. Mike and Amy followed. Sam rested on his heels and stared at a two-story home across the street.

“That’s it,” said Sam.

“Okay, Mike, do your thing,” said Amy.

“I still don’t get what I’m supposed to do,” complained Mike.

“Just look for clues, you know,” replied Sam.

“Clues? Like what?” asked Mike.

“We talked about this.” Amy rolled her eyes. “You’re just scared.”

“I am not scared,” retorted Mike, rising to Amy’s bait.

“Oh, I guess I was wrong. You’re the bravest little boy I’ve ever seen,” said Amy.

“Shut up,” replied Mike. “I’m not a little boy, and I’m not scared. I just don’t see how this is going to do anything. The police must have searched here already.”

“Look, we’ve got to try and find Darren and Diane. And this is where they lived. It’s worth a shot,” Amy insisted.

“Yeah, okay. You’re right,” Mike reluctantly agreed.

“Then meet us at the library.” Amy put a hand on his shoulder. “You can do this,” she said.

Mike nodded halfheartedly and slid off his sweatshirt. It floated and rested on Mike’s handlebars as Mike disappeared.

Sam smiled broadly. “I still think that’s wicked.”

Amy had to admit it was pretty cool. “Yeah, it’s amazing.”

Sam and Amy stood watching, waiting. “What’s he doing?” asked Sam.

“Look,” said Amy.

Sam looked toward the house and saw the front door slowly open, seemingly on its own.

“Okay, he’s in,” said Amy. “Let’s go.”

Sam and Amy turned their bikes around and headed for the library.

The lights were off inside the house. Mike tiptoed inside, easing the door closed behind him. He looked around. To his left was a small mirror, and Mike didn’t see his reflection in it. He smiled. Mike heard voices and crept towards them.

In the living room, a man and a woman sat close to each other on a leather couch.

Frank and Sarah Miller were crying. Mike stood quietly and watched Darren and Diane’s parents mourning their children’s disappearance.

“I don’t know what to say, Sarah,” said Frank, a trim man about forty years old with early signs of baldness.

Sarah was younger and pretty, though dark circles rested underneath her eyes, making her look much older than thirty-five. Her hair and clothes had been put together absentmindedly. “I know. I’m so sorry, Frank, I am. I know you’re hurting too. I, I don’t know. I just don’t know what to do,” she said.

Frank looked down at his shoes, unable to conjure up the words that would console his wife.

“I miss them so much,” Sarah said as she burst into shuddering sobs. Frank took her in his arms and rocked her gently.

Mike turned away, embarrassed at having watched this private moment. He quietly snuck out of the living room and into a hallway that led to some stairs. He climbed the stairs slowly.

On the second floor were three bedrooms. Mike picked the first one and could tell by the Red Sox posters and boy’s clothing neatly folded on top of a hamper that this was Darren’s room. Mike moved quickly, searching through dresser drawers, under the bed, through the small bookshelf, and in the closet. He sighed. He couldn’t see anything that might be a clue and wished for a split second that Amy had the invisibility powers, instead. She seemed so sure they could find something.

Mike headed out of the room to find Diane’s bedroom. He took two steps into the hallway and stopped abruptly. A cord dangled from a door in the ceiling.

Mike tiptoed to the top of the stairs and listened. He could hear the parents in the living room, so he thought he had a few minutes to explore the attic. Mike turned back to the hallway and reached up for the cord. The stairs creaked as they unfolded accordion style. Mike froze with the stairs partially open, but it didn’t appear that anyone heard the creaking. Mike muttered to himself as he eased the stairs open the rest of the way and climbed into the attic.

As he reached the top, Mike peeked his head into a room that was more of a crawl space than an attic. Mike pulled himself up and into the room; he had to remain bent over so as not to hit his head. There were sheets covering stuff, just like in Mike’s attic. Mike began pulling sheets back, one at a time.

When Mike pulled back the fourth sheet, his heart skipped a beat. “Holy crap!” he yelled—then quickly put his hand over his mouth, hoping the Millers hadn’t heard him from downstairs. Mike stared at a wooden chest just like the one in his attic. The chest had the same heavy, golden lion’s head lock on it.

Mike scampered to the fold-down stairs and slid down. He heard footsteps coming from the main staircase down the hall. He wouldn’t have time to close the stairs. He looked up as Frank stepped into the hallway. Frank stood at the foot of the stairs, confused. “Sarah?”

Sarah reached the hallway and looked at Frank. “What?” she asked, her voice tired.

Mike leaned back against the wall and tried to breathe as quietly as possible as Sarah and Frank spoke to each other. His heart was ready to burst from his chest.

“Did you leave the stairs open?” Frank asked Sarah.

“No. I don’t think so,” she said slowly.

Sarah took a step forward and stood only a few inches from Mike. Mike held his breath, and Sarah turned and stared right at him. Mike was frozen with fear. Could she see him?

Sarah scrunched her eyebrows and turned away from Mike. “I don’t know. I’m, I’m not thinking clearly. Maybe,” she said to Frank. She stepped around the attic stairs to examine them more closely, and Mike exhaled slowly. He half tiptoed, half ran down the second-floor stairs and out of the house. He threw on his sweatshirt, got on his bike, and sped away.

Mike’s heart was still racing as he rode past Ben’s house. Ben stood in the front yard, eyeing Mike as he rode past. Mike nodded at Ben, but Ben did not nod back. He just walked inside and closed his door.


a table in the library, reading a Superman comic.

“Check this out,” Amy said from behind him and dropped a heavy book on the table with a thud. Amy opened the book entitled,
Falton Town Plans,
and began flipping through the pages. Sam put down his Superman comic and scooted his chair closer.

“Okay,” Sam said, “I found out more about my family from Mom. My mom’s family started this whole town, so they pretty much know everything about everyone. When my dad and Frank—I mean Francis—moved out of your home where they grew up, they built two houses for themselves.”

Amy slowed her page turning down and stopped at page 207. She pointed at the picture there.

Sam peered down at the picture—a hand-drawn map. “Falton Family Land,” read the title of the map. The map was of a thick forest and three houses: one larger home and two smaller ones.

“That’s your house. Here’s mine,” said Sam as he pointed to the larger house and then one of the smaller ones. “And here’s Francis’s.”

“Wait. Look,” said Amy. She pointed to Francis’s house and then traced her finger over the map, making a line between the house and the town green. “That’s where the carnival was.”

Amy looked up at Sam but was met with a blank stare.

“Where Diane and Darren went missing?” Amy prompted.

Sam’s eyes filled with recognition. “Oh,” he said.

Amy looked up and saw Mike standing in the front of the library, looking around. Amy waved him over.

“You’re not going to believe this,” Mike and Amy both said at the same time.

Sam laughed. “Jinx.”

“Okay, Mike,” Amy laughed. “You’re practically jumping up and down. You go first.”

Mike leaned in close and whispered, “I found a chest just like ours in their attic. It had the same lock.”

“I don’t believe it!” exclaimed Sam.

“Told you!” said Mike.

“Do you think they have red shirts, like ours?” asked Sam.

Mike shrugged. “I don’t know, but this can’t be a coincidence.”

“It’s not,” Amy said. She looked around. “Come on, we need to make a plan.” She stood and headed for the front door of the library. Mike and Sam quickly followed, leaving
Falton Town Plans
open on the table.

Ben peeked from behind a stack of books to make sure the three left the building. He congratulated himself for following Mike as he slid into the chair in front of the open book. “Let’s see what these three are up to,” he muttered to himself. Ben turned the page and started to read.


any more food,” said Amy, leaning against the doorframe of Mike’s bedroom. “Mom is getting really suspicious. She also found that doll I drew. I had to make up a story to cover, but I don’t think she really believed it.”

“It wasn’t even that much food. I can’t believe Mom made a big deal about it,” said Mike, leaning back on two legs of his desk chair.

“You go invisible to get it, don’t you?” asked Amy.

Mike hesitated. “Yeah.”

“Maybe that’s why she noticed—I mean, if she thought there was no way someone could have gotten the food, it would stand out more. You need to be careful.” Amy raised her voice just enough to accentuate her point. “We don’t want them to get suspicious and start wondering how you’re able to do it. I don’t want to have to lie to Mom about it.”

“You lied about the doll,” said Mike.

Amy sighed as guilt washed over her. She had been doing too much lying lately. “I know, I didn’t know what else to do. It was stupid of me to not crumple that drawing.”

“All right,” replied Mike. “I’ll be more careful.”

“Me too. Plus we have a lot of important stuff to do. We need to protect our secret. Are you ready for tomorrow?” asked Amy.

Mike shrugged. “Sure,” Mike said, preoccupied.

“What is it?” Amy asked.

“Nothing,” said Mike.

“What’s wrong?” Amy prodded.

“It’s just—remember when you thought you didn’t have any powers?”

“Yeah,” said Amy.

“Well, I mean being invisible is cool and everything, but—”

“Wait, you’re jealous?” Amy interrupted.

Mike shrugged. “You know, Sam’s wicked strong and you can draw whatever you want …”

Amy crossed the room and sat next to Mike. “Mike. Think about what you can do. Nobody can do what you can.”

“I was just thinking, like, what if I wore Sam’s shirt? Just for a little bit,” Mike added quickly.

Amy stood up. “That sounds like a bad idea.”

“How do you know?” asked Mike.

“Remember when we opened the chest? When we tried to grab Sam’s shirt, it shocked us,” said Amy. “And you got shocked twice when you tried to grab that other shirt.”

Mike nodded, remembering.

“Each of us has a gift. But no gift is better than the others. If we use them for good, like Sam’s grandma said, if we work together, we can really do amazing things. I’ve been thinking about it, and I think we’re supposed to work together to get the best results,” Amy said. “I think that’s why we have different gifts—so we can complement each other when we have something important to do.”

“Like finding Darren and Diane?” asked Mike.

Amy nodded.

“Do you really think we can find out what happened to them?” Mike wondered.

Amy paused for a moment. “Yeah, Mike, I really do. We’ll find out tomorrow.”


off his bed. He moved quickly but quietly as he put his shoes on and took off his pajama top, rendering him invisible. The red shirt was glowing brightly underneath. He grabbed the voice distortion toy and crept down the stairs. There was something he needed to do.

Mike ran to the front of Ben’s house. He peered inside the front window and could see Ben’s father sitting in his recliner, drinking and watching TV. Mike tried the doorknob, and it turned in his hand.

Ben’s father laughed loudly at the sitcom. He took a sip of the vodka in his glass and then frowned as the TV shut off, casting the room in dark shadows.

“What the—?” Ben’s father asked out loud.

Ben’s father flicked the TV back on with the remote. The sitcom came back on, and Ben’s father leaned back against the recliner.

The TV turned off again.

“Stupid thing,” said Ben’s father. He clicked the TV back on with the remote again.

The TV once again turned off immediately.

Ben’s father stood up angrily. He clicked the TV back on with the remote, but this time the TV’s plug flew out of the outlet in the wall. Ben’s father gasped and fell back against the recliner.

Ben’s father stared at the wall. “Who’s there?” he asked, failing to mask the fear in his voice.

“Listen,” said a metallic, robotic voice.

Ben’s father jumped on top of the chair, wild-eyed.

“I know what you do,” said the distorted voice.

Ben’s father turned franticly, arms spread, as if waiting for an attack. “What? What?” He slowly got down from the chair and edged his way to the entryway. He looked out the window and then flung open the door. But the door slammed itself shut.

“Sit down,” said the robotic voice.

Ben’s father’s voice cracked. “Who—who’s there?”

“Sit down,” the voice repeated. “I won’t hurt you if you sit down.”

Ben’s father’s eyes were wide. “You’re not real!” He shook his head and banged his palm against his forehead.

“Sit down!” the distorted voice echoed in the room. Mike added a theatrical “Muah, muah, muah!” for good measure.

Ben’s father sat down quickly in the recliner. “I’m sitting! I’m sitting!”

“You’re mean to your son,” said the robotic voice.

“No, no …” said Ben’s father.

“Yes, you are. I’ve seen you. You’re mean to him and yell at him,” replied the distorted voice.

Ben’s father was shaking. “I’m just teaching him to be, to be a man,” he said.

“No!” thundered the metallic voice. “You are cruel to him. And if you do not stop it, then I will come back. And I will not be nice!”

Tears fell from Ben’s father’s eyes. “This isn’t possible!”

“I am right here!” exclaimed the voice.

“What do you want?” cried Ben’s father. “Don’t hurt me.”

“Then you must be nice to Ben,” said the voice.

“Yes, yes, of course. He’s my son,” said Ben’s father.

“Say it,” said the voice with a hint of a laugh. “Say, ‘I will be nice to Ben.’”

Through clenched teeth, Ben’s father said, “I will be nice to Ben.”

“Good. Now say it louder,” said the voice.

“I will be nice to Ben!” shouted Ben’s father.

“That’s better,” said the voice. “Stand up.”

Ben’s father stood up. Suddenly, the recliner he was sitting on crashed onto its side. Ben’s father recoiled in fear and slunk against the wall. “Don’t hurt me,” he whined.

“Obey your promise. Be nice to Ben,” said the voice.

“I will, I will, I promise,” squeaked Ben’s father.

“Good,” said the voice.

Ben’s father cowered against the wall.

Mike stared down at Ben’s father. Was it enough?

“And buy him some new clothes,” said the distorted voice as it moved toward the door.

Ben’s father nodded as he heard the front door open and close. His legs buckled, and he sat down with his back propped against the wall.

A moment passed, and then Ben, sleepy-eyed, stumbled into the room. “Dad?” He looked at his father. “Did you drink too much again?”

His father looked at Ben with a softness that Ben hadn’t seen in a long time. “It’s, it’s okay, Ben. Don’t worry. Just go back to sleep.”

Ben shrugged and headed back toward the hallway. He paused as something on the floor near the front door caught his eye. He leaned down and picked up the voice distortion toy. Ben eyed the toy with suspicion. He knew exactly where he had seen it before.

Mike slid, invisible, into his bedroom. He kicked off his shoes and slid his pajama top back on. He reached into the pocket of his pajama bottoms to get the voice distorter, but it wasn’t there. He felt his other pocket. “Must have dropped it on the way home,” he mumbled. He shrugged it off and climbed into bed. He began to drift off to sleep but was startled awake by a voice hovering above his head.

“Where were you?” Amy asked.

“Is that a question or an accusation?” Mike huffed.

“I don’t know,” Amy retorted. “Which one should it be?”

“Don’t worry about it. I just couldn’t sleep,” said Mike.

“Are you nervous?” asked Amy, her voice softening.

Mike hadn’t really thought about tomorrow’s plan—but now that Ben’s father was taken care of, he was nervous.

“You really think we can do this?” Mike asked.

Amy stood up and walked over to the door. She looked out into the hallway and then shut the door before heading back to her seat. “Mike, I’ve already told you that. Yes, I think we can do it. I mean, we can at least see what’s there,” said Amy.

“Are you scared?” Mike asked.

Amy paused. “Yeah, a little, I guess.”

“I guess I’m a little scared too,” Mike admitted.

Amy smiled. “I know. Look, if you can’t sleep, I’ll draw you a plasma screen for your PlayStation, but you have to promise to crumple before you go to bed.”

Mike’s eyes lit up. “I definitely can’t sleep!”

Thirty minutes later, Mike was working the controls of his new PlayStation 3 as he stared into a gigantic, fifty-inch plasma screen TV. He hadn’t thought about anything but FIFA soccer for a glorious half hour.

Outside, dark clouds blotted out the moon as the man in the cloak stood on the front porch of Amy and Mike’s house. He reached for one of the porch lights.

BOOK: Red Shirt Kids
10.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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