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Authors: Ken Roberts

Thumb and the Bad Guys

BOOK: Thumb and the Bad Guys
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Ken Roberts



Leanne Franson


Text copyright © 2001 by Ken
Illustrations copyright © 2001 by Leanne Franson
Published in
Canada and the USA in 2011 by Groundwood Books

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced
or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopying, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without
permission in writing from the publisher.

Distribution of this electronic edition via the Internet or any
other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal. Please do not
participate in electronic piracy of copyrighted material; purchase only authorized
electronic editions. We appreciate your support of the author's rights.

This edition published in 2011 by
Groundwood Books / House of
Anansi Press Inc.
110 Spadina Avenue, Suite 801
Fax 416-363-1017
or c/o Publishers Group West
Fourth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

Roberts, Ken
Thumb and the bad guys / Ken Roberts;
illustrated by
Leanne Franson.
eISBN 978-1-55498-164-9
I. Franson,
Leanne II. Title.
2009        jC813'.54        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.


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 floor 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 fire.

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
his lip.

“I'll tell the police that I saw the two of you struggling,” said
Velma calmly. “I'll cry huge tears – ‘boo hoo' – 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 fired. 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 flashed 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 fishing village up the coast from
Vancouver but below Prince Rupert. There were no roads to New Auckland, so every
Thursday the seaplane pilot, Max, flew in three films 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 definitely 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 – women – 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
about school.”

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 fingers, “bad guys can
be girls. Second,” she said, holding up one finger, “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 fingers 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 finished 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

“Last year.”

“Yeah. Because two policemen on vacation were fishing 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 fight 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.”


“Why not?”

“Because nothing ever happens here, Thumb!”

BOOK: Thumb and the Bad Guys
4.44Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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