Authors: Ken Roberts
THUMB AND THE
THE BAD GUYS
GROUNDWOOD BOOKS / HOUSE OF ANANSI PRESS
Text copyright Â© 2001 by Ken
Illustrations copyright Â© 2001 by Leanne Franson
Canada and the USA in 2011 by Groundwood Books
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LIBRARY AND ARCHIVES CANADA CATALOGUING IN
Thumb and the bad guys / Ken Roberts;
Leanne II. Title.
2009Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â jC813'.54Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â C2009-900286-8
We acknowledge for their financial support of our publishing
program the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the
Government of Canada through the Canada Book Fund.
GOOD AND EVIL
TAKE A DEEP
This story starts with a bang.
Here we go.
“I did it,” said a blonde woman dressed in a tight red gown. She held
a smoking gun in one hand. Her long hair lay perfectly draped across her shoulders.
Jake Danger, a private detective dressed in a tuxedo that showed no wrinkles, was
lying on the ï¬oor on the other side of the room. His own blond hair wasn't quite as
long, but it was just as perfect. His green eyes were riveted on the gun.
The deep blue eyes of the body next to him weren't riveted on
anything. Not any more.
“You're next, Jake Danger,” said the woman calmly. She cocked the
trigger and held it with both hands, ready to ï¬re.
Every eye in the gym was staring at the screen, so I reached over and
stole a handful of popcorn from Susan's paper bag.
She didn't notice. I know because she didn't hit me.
“You set me up, Velma,” said Jake Danger, casually wiping blood from
“I'll tell the police that I saw the two of you struggling,” said
Velma calmly. “I'll cry huge tears â âboo hoo' â and say that I grabbed the gun in a
panic, closed my eyes and kept pulling the trigger. I killed the burglar.
Unfortunately I killed you, too. There will be tears. Lots of tears. I'm good at
“I know,” said Jake. “But you're forgetting one thing, Velma. I'm good
at stuff, too. I'm wired, Velma. The police are listening to every word we say and
you've just confessed to murder.”
“Nice try, Jake,” said Velma while I quietly snagged another handful
of popcorn from Susan. “If you were wired the police would be kicking down the front
“They don't need to kick down doors,” said Jake. “They're at the
When Velma glanced toward the living-room window, Jake Danger pulled
on the runner carpet that led to the doorway where Velma stood. She started to fall,
her arms waving wildly.
Jake Danger rolled behind the sofa as a shot tore through the
material beside him. He pulled out his own gun, lined up the barrel with the bullet
hole in the sofa and ï¬red. He heard Velma fall.
Jake slowly stood up, his gun ready.
As soon as he saw her, Jake Danger knew that Velma Woodington, the
shampoo heiress who wanted even more money than the millions she had, would be
leaving her fortune to some distant relative she'd never even met.
“Greed,” said Jake, slowly shaking his head. “I guess it keeps me in
THE END ï¬ashed across the screen and the credits began to roll.
Somebody turned on the gym lights and somebody else stopped the
projector. People in the bleachers began to stand and stretch.
“Who picked that stinker?” I asked, leaning toward Susan.
“I think it was your dad,” said Susan.
Exactly 143 people lived in our ï¬shing village up the coast from
Vancouver but below Prince Rupert. There were no roads to New Auckland, so every
Thursday the seaplane pilot, Max, ï¬ew in three ï¬lms along with the groceries people
had ordered for the coming week.
There was a small cooler in the plane just big enough for four tubs of
ice cream. Max always brought one tub of chocolate, one vanilla, one cherry, and one
milk-free sorbet. None of the village refrigerators could keep ice cream cold
enough, so all four tubs were devoured Thursday night just as the movie started. We
also ate about ten pounds of popcorn.
“So, you knew it was Velma?” I asked as Susan and I walked out the
door. It was spring and starting to stay light later. I could still see traces of
pink in the clouds above the mountains.
“Of course I knew, silly,” said Susan as we ambled along the wooden
Susan shrugged. “I am a woman,” she replied softly. “Women can always
tell when another woman is evil.”
Susan was the same age as me, twelve. It seemed to me that she wasn't
quite a woman yet but I didn't say that.
Instead I said, “You know what I don't understand?”
“I know many things you don't understand, Thumb. I probably know more
about what you don't understand than you will ever understand.”
“Hey, why the insult?”
Susan sighed and shook her head. “It wasn't an insult. It was a fact.
Just tell me what you don't understand this time and maybe I can help.”
“Okay, here's the thing. Every week at least two of the movies we
watch have characters who are deï¬nitely bad guys, right?”
“What do you mean by bad guys?”
“You know, people who break the law and try to get away and don't
really care if other people get hurt. Men â women â who are not very nice.”
“Sure. Movies have bad guys in them.”
“And none of those movies would be very interesting if there weren't
bad guys, right?”
Susan thought for a moment. “Some movies aren't very interesting even
with bad guys.”
“Yeah, but without bad guys they'd just be movies about people taking
plane rides and going to work and mowing their lawns and hugging their kids. None of
us would go see them, even if there was free ice cream and popcorn and nothing much
else to do most nights except count stars.”
Susan laughed. “Movies aren't about real life, Thumb. They exaggerate
“I know. But movie bad guys are sort of good because without them we'd
all be bored. I guess I'm wondering if real life can be more exciting when there are
bad guys around. I mean, without bad guys, Harry Potter books would just be stories
Susan stopped so I stopped, too. She folded her arms and stared at
“Have you always been this strange, Thumb?”
“I think so,” I said seriously.
“But here's the really strange part.”
“You're starting to make sense.”
I nodded. “Have you ever seen a bad person, Susan?”
“Of course not. We live in a village with mountains behind us and the
ocean in front of us. We live on a beach with no roads and no bad guys.”
“But good people do bad things,” I said quickly. “Little Liam broke
Annie's kitchen window with a rock last year.”
“Yeah, but he didn't mean to. He was throwing a rock to me because he
thought it was the perfect skipping rock. It was a good skipping rock, too. It was
so good that it sort of curved when he threw it and broke Annie's window. But Little
Liam didn't run away like a bad guy. He ran to Annie's house and knocked on the door
to make sure she was all right.”
“But what if there is a bad guy living here? What if some really bad
person has decided that New Auckland is the perfect hiding place? What if somebody
we know and trust only lives here so that nobody from his hidden past will see him
walking down a city street and turn him into the police for a huge reward?”
Susan sighed. “First,” she said, holding up two ï¬ngers, “bad guys can
be girls. Second,” she said, holding up one ï¬nger, “wasn't hiding out in a small
town the plot of one of last week's movies?”
Susan always held up the wrong number of ï¬ngers when she said a
number. She started doing it as a joke, just to see if anybody would notice, but
after everyone had noticed she kept doing it anyway.
We started walking again but slowly so we wouldn't reach my house
before we'd ï¬nished our little argument.
“So what? It could happen. And nobody here would even think to
“Thumb? When was the last time the police set foot in our
“Yeah. Because two policemen on vacation were ï¬shing offshore and
needed a place to stay when a storm came up.”
“But they were here.”
“I mean, when was the last time a policeman came here to look for
evidence of some crime? I will tell you. Never.”
“But don't you see? That's what would make New Auckland such a great
hiding place. We don't even get television so we can't watch the news and compare
pictures of wanted criminals with new people in our village.”
“Thumb, almost everyone in our village was born here.”
“Some people weren't born here. Like Mr. Entwhistle.”
“A world-famous writer of children's books can't really hide, you
know? What about your dad? He's only been here about four years.”
“You're right,” I said excitedly. “Maybe I'm the son of a bad guy and
when I discover the secret of Dad's hidden past I will have to ï¬ght an inner
struggle between loyalty to family and knowledge of my father's past cruelty.”
Susan stopped and looked at me. She rolled her eyes.
“Wasn't that the plot of a movie we saw last month?”
“Susan, I just think that maybe we should make sure our village really
is safe from evil.”
“Because nothing ever happens here, Thumb!”