Authors: Michele Torrey
Tags: #Ages 9 & Up
ctually, they didn’t peer
the cupboard. Because it was not really a cupboard at all. It was a laundry chute. The chute went all the way from the bedroom to the laundry room, two stories below.
Down, down, down it went. And halfway down, they saw something strange.
It was a pair of tennis shoes. Perhaps a pair of tennis shoes wouldn’t be too strange a thing to find in a laundry chute, except that attached to these tennis shoes was a pair of
“Sloane?” Drake hollered down the chute, his voice echoing. “Sloane? Is that you?”
“Who else would it be?” a voice screeched. “The mayor? Or maybe the president of the United
States? Yeah. That’s right. The president. I’m going to give a speech to my dirty underwear.”
Drake closed the cupboard doors and looked at Nell. “It’s her, all right.”
“How did she call you if she’s stuck in the laundry chute?” asked Nell.
“That’s just it,” explained Drake. “She was cleaning her room and accidentally threw her cell phone down the chute along with some dirty clothes. When she lunged after the phone, she fell in. The good news is, she caught her cell phone. The bad news is, she’s been stuck upside down ever since her mom went to work this afternoon.”
“Why didn’t Sloane call 911?”
“She told me she’d be grounded and lose her allowance,” answered Drake. (He decided not to mention that Sloane had also told him to stop asking her so many questions, and that she had called him a pencil-pocket, geek-breath scientist with a brain no bigger than an atom.)
“So, what’s the plan?” asked Nell.
Drake scratched his head, baffled. “We must return to the lab for analysis.”
Wanting to avoid further insults, they hurried to the lab before giving Sloane a quick phone call to tell her they had left. “Uh, you call her,” said Drake, handing the phone to Nell.
She dialed the number. As soon as Sloane answered, Nell said as fast as she could, “We’ll-be-back-in-half-an-hour-bye,” and hung up. “Okay,” she said to Drake, “down to business.”
Drake pulled a book off the shelf. Together they thumbed through to find the right section: “Laundry Chute Extraction: What to Do When Someone Is Stuck, and They’re Being Quite Rude.” Nell read the section aloud, and Drake took notes.
A little later, Drake’s mom opened the attic door and peeked in. “Hot chocolate, anyone? Juice? Muffins?” Whenever Kate Doyle offered muffins, it was best to say yes, because her muffins were delicious. In fact, Mrs. Doyle owned a catering company and was a fine person to have nearby, especially if you became hungry or thirsty.
“Muffins, if you please,” said Drake politely.
“Affirmative,” replied Mrs. Doyle.
“Coffee,” said Nell. “Decaf. Black.” (Real scientists don’t drink hot chocolate. They prefer coffee. Decaf. Black.)
“Check,” said Mrs. Doyle, returning just fifteen and a half seconds later with their order. (She must have known they were in the middle of a laundry-chute-extraction emergency, and had the muffins and coffee standing by, ready to go.)
Nell took a sip of coffee and then phoned her mother. “Won’t be home until later,” Nell told her. “Much later. Laundry-chute-extraction emergency, you know.”
Nell wasn’t a bit surprised when Professor Fossey replied, “I understand, my dear. Do what you think is best.”
You see, Nell was a lucky scientist because her mother was also a scientist. Ann Fossey taught wildlife biology at Mossy Lake University. So she understood perfectly about scientific emergencies and not being home until later.
Twenty minutes after that, Drake and Nell stood outside on the sidewalk, ready. Their bikes were loaded with the necessary supplies.
Just then, Drake’s dad, Sam Doyle, drove into the driveway. Like Mrs. Doyle, Mr. Doyle was pretty handy to have around. He was great for giving rides and good conversation. Not only that, but he owned his own company, too: Doyle’s Science Equipment and Supply Company. He provided everything Drake and Nell needed for a well-equipped lab: pencils, test tubes, computers, glassware, and, of course, lab coats with their names on them. “Going somewhere?” asked Mr. Doyle.
“We’re on a case,” said Drake and Nell together.
“Need a ride?”
“Thanks just the same, Mr. Doyle, but we’ve got it covered,” Nell replied.
Then Mr. Doyle took a long look at the items on their bikes and said, “Whatever you do, don’t blow up anything.”
Drake and Nell looked at each other, because, you see,
that’s exactly what they planned to do!
(All in the name of science, of course.)
“Thanks for the advice, Mr. Doyle,” said Nell quickly, “but our client is waiting.”
“Bye, Dad!” called Drake over his shoulder. And off they went, riding like the wind.
When they arrived at Sloane’s house, they immediately got to work.
Drake lugged all the supplies upstairs to Sloane’s room while Nell went down the dusty basement steps to prepare the laundry room. Nell gathered the dirty clothes into a huge pile. She added a bunch of pillows and sofa cushions just to be on the safe side.
Meanwhile, Sloane’s voice blasted through the laundry chute. “What’s going on out there? I demand you tell me! If you don’t get me out of here in two seconds, I’m calling my lawyer!” Pause . . . “Okay, that’s it! I’ve had it with you people! I’m dialing!”
BEEP! beep! boop! boop! bop! beep! BUP!
“Did you hear that?” Sloane screeched. “Huh? Did you hear that? I dialed! And it’s ringing!”
Their preparations completed, Drake and Nell stood together next to the laundry chute in Sloane’s room. “Ready?” Drake asked.
Nell nodded. “All set in the laundry room. The pile is eight feet high, with a diameter of twelve feet.”
“Good work, Scientist Nell. Let us begin.”
“Agreed, Detective Doyle. Before she sues our socks off.”
“Check,” replied Drake. First, he poured five boxes of baking soda he’d found in his mom’s kitchen pantry down the laundry chute.
“Hey!” screamed Sloane. “I felt that!”
Drake hollered down the chute. “Ahoy down there! Squeezing your eyes shut is highly recommended!”
And while Sloane told Drake what he could do with his high recommendations, Drake held a large bucket full of vinegar over the opening. “As soon as I finish pouring it in,” he said to Nell, “you slam the cupboard doors shut.”
Drake poured the vinegar down the chute.
“Hey!” shrieked Sloane. “You’re getting me all wet!”
“Now!” cried Drake.
“Check!” exclaimed Nell.
Then they raced down two flights of stairs to the laundry room. And then, from inside the chute came a moan . . .
“Just try to relax, Ms. Westcott!” cried Drake. “This won’t hurt a bit!”
. . . and a groan . . .
“Prepare for blastoff!” he hollered. “Ten, nine, eight—”
. . . and a mumble . . .
. . . and a rumble . . .
. . . plus a grumble . . .
“Three, two, one—”
Then the house heaved like a hiccup!
“Blast off!” screamed Nell.
. . . suddenly, in an explosion of bubbles and fizz, out flew Sloane!
Zoom! Plop! Splat!
Sloane landed headfirst in the enormous pile of clothes. Dirty laundry flew everywhere.
“Incredible!” exclaimed Drake.
“Remarkable!” cried Nell.
It was quite spectacular, really. Better than the Fourth of July. Both Drake and Nell enjoyed it thoroughly.
When Sloane could finally speak, she moaned, “Ohhhhh. Am I alive?”
“Quite so,” replied Drake.
“What—what day is it? Who am I? Where are we? What happened? What’s two plus two?”
“Allow my partner to explain,” said Drake, tossing Sloane a clean towel. “Ms. Fossey?”
Nell cleared her throat and paced the laundry room. “After we observed that you were stuck in the laundry chute, we knew we needed something to blast you out of there.”
“Quite so,” added Drake.
“By adding baking soda—” continued Nell.
“—and vinegar—” said Drake.
“—we caused a strong chemical reaction. We no longer had baking soda and vinegar—”
“Indeed no,” added Drake.
“Instead we created an entirely new substance.” Nell stopped pacing and looked quite serious, as good scientists often do. “The baking soda and vinegar reacted to form carbon-dioxide gas. The pressure of the gas was so great—”
“—that it blew you completely out of the laundry chute,” finished Drake.
“Oooh,” moaned Sloane, holding her head. “Thanks . . . I think.”
Nell climbed the mountain of laundry. She handed her business card to Sloane. “Take a shower. Then go straight to bed. Call us first thing in the morning.”
That evening, back at the lab, Drake wrote in his lab notebook:
Laundry chute extraction complete.
Sloane friendly for first time.
(A scientific phenomenon to be
Received one month of free
cellular phone service.
Paid in full.
t was a gray, gloomy, damp Saturday morning, the perfect sort of weather for testing the sogginess of breakfast cereals. Drake took a bite of sample #27. He chewed this way and that way, and then swallowed just so.
“Hmm,” he mused. Taking a pencil out from behind his ear, he recorded his conclusions in his lab notebook.
SAMPLE #27: Not terribly soggy,
but certainly not highly crunchy.
SF = 4
(In scientific circles, the sog measuring scale is known as the Sog Factor (SF), where 1=terribly soggy and 10=highly crunchy.)
After rinsing out his mouth with water, Drake took a bite of sample #28.
Just then, the phone rang.
“Doyle and Fossey,” he answered. (Actually, it sounded more like “Dooyyye-nnn-Fffffofffyy.”)
“Detective Doyle,” said the caller in a trembly voice, “I daresay I have a highly irregular situation.”
Drake spat his cereal into the sink. SF determinations would have to wait. After all, this was a highly irregular situation. “Who’s calling?”
“It’s Mary. Mary Elizabeth Pendleton.” Mary was in Drake and Nell’s class at school. Mary was, very simply, a proper young lady. She never slouched in her chair or yelled at recess. She always wore dresses and used her lace handkerchief whenever she sneezed. Lastly, but most enjoyably, she threw charming garden parties where she served tea and crumpets while saying such witty things as “If you would be so kind” and “Jolly good weather, isn’t it?” and “More tea?” while every now and then reciting a lovely poem. Mary was the exact opposite of rude Sloane Westcott, and Drake felt more than a little relieved. (After all, there is a limit to the number of insults a top-notch scientist can bear.) “What can I do for you, Ms. Pendleton?” Drake asked.
“I’m here at the Budding Botanists Junior Rose Club. It would be ever so splendid if you could hurry over. Of course, I’ll explain everything when you arrive.”
“Ten minutes and counting. You have my word.”
“Cheerio, ol’ chap,” she replied, and hung up.
Drake called Nell. “Highly irregular situation at the Budding Botanists Junior Rose Club,” he told her. “Nine minutes fifty-three seconds, and counting.”
Fortunately, Drake felt quite fortified after eating so much cereal. He pedaled his bike like fury, slowing down only once when he fell—
—into a muddy pothole. (He was wearing his helmet and rain gear, and wasn’t hurt a bit.)
“Ready, Detective Doyle?” Nell asked, once he’d screeched to a stop at the Junior Rose Club.
“Ready, Scientist Nell,” he replied.
Nell helped him lock up his bike. Together they entered the double doors, dripping as they went.
“So kind of you to come,” said Mary, shaking their hands daintily.
“What seems to be the trouble, Ms. Pendleton?” asked Nell as they hung up their raincoats.
Mary dabbed her eyes with a hankie. “Perhaps it would be easier if you’d just come with me. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.”