Tali stepped off her bike and pushed the kickstand down with the toe of her tennis shoe. She had worked hard babysitting and cleaning homes to pay for that bike and didn’t like dropping it to the ground. It was a girl’s version of Ben’s bike with the same knobby tires and a front shock. She liked riding the back country too.
She reached for the coffee stained envelope squeezed between the goliath hangar doors. Pulling and wiggling gently, Tali managed to get it out in one piece. Scribbled on the front was one word, Ben. She turned it toward Ben, so he could see the name, then slid her finger under the flap and opened it. Inside was a crinkled yellow sheet of paper torn from a note pad and folded in half. She read it out loud.
“Sorry Ben, had emergency. Here next Saturday, promise. Bring friends, Grandpa Jimmy.”
“Awesome,” said Ben with a sigh of relief.
Slow poke Jold finally coasted up on his bike with Bandit. “So, where’s the old guy?”
“He had an emergency,” said Tali. “He left Ben this note, says he’ll be here next Saturday.”
“You mean I peddled all this way for nuthin.”
“You’ll live,” said Willy.
“Hey guys,” said Kate. “I have to go to the store. Dad told me I had to dust furniture.”
“I’ll go with ya and help,” said Tali.
“Me too,” said Ben.
Willy nodded, “sure,” and Jold just sighed.
Douglas Home Furnishings is the store owned by Kate’s mom and dad. Her parents believe that everyone in the family should help in the business. This Saturday morning was Kate’s turn to help with cleaning. Her two older brothers did the heavy work, like loading furniture into the delivery truck.
Her parents didn’t seem to mind if the gang came by as long as Kate finished her work. A little sign next to the front door read, Please leave animals outside. But, for some reason, Bandit was the exception. Jold was sure that was because of Bandit’s telepathic abilities. It was obvious to Jold that he had subconsciously influenced Mr. Douglas.
While Kate and Tali dusted, Bandit wandered the store on the lookout for vermin. Jold said Bandit considered the store his territory, no other animals allowed. Ben, Willy and Jold pursued their own plan.
“Mr. Douglas, would it be okay if we check out the dumpster?”
“Sure, but I don’t think there’s much there. The truck came a couple of days ago to pick up the full one. Let me know if the door on dumpster is locked.”
The dumpster was an awesome place to find cardboard boxes for lining the walls in the treehouse. Might even be some big sheets of plastic wrap to cover the roof. It leaks a lot. This was an extraordinarily large container, about 25 feet long and 8 feet high on the sides. A regular trash truck couldn’t dump it. It was the kind you would find on a construction sight. Every couple of weeks a truck comes by, drops of an empty container and hauls the full one to the dump.
The heavy steel door was usually swung wide open for easy loading, but today it was latched and locked. A bunch of old broken pallets were stacked behind the store. The good ones were used to lift crates and furniture onto high shelves in the warehouse with a forklift.
Ben didn’t hesitate. He climbed on the pile, leaned against the side of the building for leverage and pushed with his feet until the one on top was teetering. Then, with one last shove it crashed to the ground.
“Great, still in one piece,” Said Willy as Ben climbed down. They dragged it to the dumpster then leaned it up against the side at an angle. Jold watched, giving advice, needed or not. The boards on the pallet worked like a ladder. “Can you at least hold it steady?” said Ben. “Sure, no problem,” said Jold as Ben and Willy climbed to the top and looked in.
“I think I see something,” said Willy.
With little thought, he swung one leg over, then the other. Holding on to the side rail with both hands, he let himself down. Arms fully extended, he was still two feet from the bottom. He released his grip and dropped. Ben quickly followed. What they found under a flattened box was nothing more than flimsy tin strapping.
“Nothing we can use for the tree house here,” said Ben. He looked around. “Uh, Willy,”
“We have a little problem.”
“Don’t think we can get out of here.”
Willy looked around. “I think we can stack everything in the corner and reach the top,” he said. The clanging and banging stopped after a couple of minutes. “Nope, still can’t reach the top.”
“Willy, I’ll try given ya a boost.” Ben cupped his hands interlocking his fingers. Willy stepped up and Ben pushed with all his might. He was just able to reach the edge of the dumpster, pulling himself up and over.
“So how we gettin you out Ben?” said Willy. “Should a thought of that before ya jumped in, bonehead,” said Jold. “I’ll get Mr. D.”
“No, don’t do that. See if Kate can help.”
Within minutes, Jold, Kate, Tali and Mr. Douglas were all standing next to the dumpster.
“Hey Ben, I’m unlocking the door,” said Mr. Douglas. Thought I asked you guys to let me know if the door wasn’t open.”
Ben stepped out of the dumpster, lowered his head and looked down at the ground, “sorry Mr. Douglas.”
“Well, you didn’t get hurt, but don’t be climbing over the side anymore, okay?
“Boys!” said Kate to Tali. They giggled as they skipped back into the store. When they finished dusting, Kate headed for the storage room with dust rags and vacuum in tow. Her dad always said the job was never finished until everything was back in its proper place. She reached for the doorknob, that’s when she noticed it was missing.
She grabbed her left wrist with her right hand, then turned and scanned the store. Where could it be, she thought. This wasn’t any ordinary bracelet, it was her grandmothers. It was given to her grandmother by her grandfather when she was just eighteen. She had been saving it for Kate’s twelfth birthday. It was genuine silver with beautiful charms from the 1950’s and 60’s, and priceless in Kate’s mind.
Tali could see the worried look on Kate’s face. “What’s wrong,” she asked.
“I lost my bracelet,” she said with a crack in her voice while trying to hold back the tears.
Tali understood its significance. “Don’t worry, we’ll find it. Are you sure you had it when you got to the store?”
“Hey Ben, Jold, Willy, come here.” Said Tali. “Kate lost her bracelet somewhere in the store, it’s the one her Grandma gave her. Start looking around.”
“We’ll find it Kate,” said Ben.
They scattered and started looking. It was a big store and Kate had covered most all of it while dusting. Thirty minutes passed, then an hour. By then Kate was sitting on a sofa sobbing, tears dripping from her chin. Her dad came over and put his arm around her.
“What’s wrong, sweetie,” he asked.
“I lost the bracelet grandma gave me. We’ve looked everywhere in the store and can’t find it. It must have been stolen.”
“I don’t think anyone would take your bracelet, honey. Let’s keep looking.”
Mr. D called the gang together and assigned an area of the store for each of them to search. “Take your time,” he said. “look under, around and behind everything.”
Everyone headed to their assignment except Jold. Bandit seemed to have gone missing. “Bandit, come.” No response. “Now where did that dog go?”
Jold wondered the store calling for Bandit. When he came to the section of the store with the bedroom furniture, there was Bandit, laying on the floor next to a night stand. “Bandit, come.” He sat up, wagged his tail, but stayed where he was. “Stubborn dog,” Ben muttered. He walked over to grab him by the collar. Bandit pulled away. He reached again for Bandit’s collar when he saw something sparkly out the corner of his eye. Behind the night stand was a bracelet, it had to be Kates.
“Hey Kate,” yelled Jold. “Got your bracelet.”
Kate and the gang came running. “Is this it?” said Jold. “Yea,” she said with teary eyes as she placed it back on her wrist. “Where did you find it?”
“I didn’t, it was Bandit. I think he’s been here watching over it for ya. I told you he was telepathic.” He wasn’t quite sure what that had to do with finding the bracelet, but it seemed like a good explanation to him.
Kate dropped to her knees and gave Bandit a big hug. “Good dog,” she said as Bandit licked the tears from her cheeks.
“Mystery solved,” said Jold, “What are we doing this afternoon?”
“I have an idea,” said Willy.
“What’s that?” asked Tali.
“Ben's Great Idea” Ben’s Dad lived up to his word. Every day after school that week Ben was stuck doing chores. Cleaning the garage wasn’t so bad or even washing the cars. But tilling the garden was real work. The ground had been hard packed from the winter...read more
“A New Friend to the Rescue” It was nearly dark, and the lights on the top of Deputy Johnson’s squad car could be seen for blocks. Something serious had happened in the neighborhood. “Perfect, Dad won’t notice I’m late.” Or so Ben thought until he realized the...read more
“A Sneak Peek” On his way home from school, Ben pedaled around the old hangar, something he did most every day. It was the only hangar at the small city airport that hadn’t been fenced off from the public. There was a time when that hangar was the hub of a...read more