amlin awoke to the sound of thundering feet and the shrill whistle of Coach Ken. Thatwas his P.E. class. He could hear Max and Buck taunting Jake Jacobs, the second smallest,weakest kid in class. He guessed, in Hamlin’s absence, that the Rigley Boys moved onto a newvictim. For the faintest moment Hamlin felt a pang of nostalgia for P.E.. Hamlin thought aboutthe smell of the mildewed gymnasium, the crisp military lines Coach Ken demanded, gettingtripped and falling headfirst into a mud puddle.
What stupid thoughts you think when you’realone. Not having to go to P.E. and get embarrassed is a holiday.
Standing up Hamlin felt dizzy and had to rest on one knee to keep from falling down facefirst. His last meal at the hospital consisted of only a concoction of string cut potatoes and a fewdehydrated sticks of carrots.
No matter what the risk I have to eat tonight.
His stomach growled like a hungry tiger and threatened to turn on him at any moment. He knew that his school had been notified of hisdisappearance. If he showed himself there he would be turned over to Mayor Rigley. Hamlindidn’t want to think about what would happen to him if that happened. Maybe he would be sentto an orphanage.
Little orphan Hamlin
, he joked to himself. Hamlin tried to envision himself trying to act cute so he would be adopted. At thirteen, his cute and vulnerable years were far behind him. At least his cute years were behind him.
What family would want to take in athirteen year old? Stop!
Hamlin hated thinking about what the future held in store for him.
I haveto focus on the present, and what’s behind this wall.
Curiosity had always been Hamlin’s best asset and so he turned his attention to the mysterious brick wall. It was at least a diversion from the growling in his stomach. Where the one brick had been removed Hamlin could see small cracks in the surrounding bricks, and decided to pull withall of his might. Suddenly the brick came loose. Hamlin threw it far back. It echoed off the walls.Hamlin froze. Listened for a reaction. Luckily, from the gym above, he could hear his classmatesdribbling like mad men. Still he was fearful of them hearing his work and suspended hisdemolition of the wall. From now on he would work only at night and on weekends. The larger opening allowed Hamlin to see more. It was a large room with a tremendously high ceiling.There looked to be rows of chairs. Hundreds of chairs. An old auditorium nearly the same size asthe gym above. Hamlin saw what looked like red velvet draperies along the walls. He was evenmore curious than before.
I need two things
, Hamlin thought.
Patience and tools.
Hamlin settled down with his back against the wall. It would be almost twelve hours