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BOTHERSOME BOBBY AND THE TRAVEL KIDS By Sandy Sessler
CHAPTER 1 -- THE MATINEE
“BOBBY! Cut it out!” Amanda was yelling at her brother. He was such a pain in the neck. Just because he was 10 years old didn’t mean he had to be a brat, but as far as his sister was concerned, he most certainly was. Amanda was almost twelve now and so much more grown-up than her brother. After all, he still did things like put yucky worms in a jar of dirt and kept them next to his bed. How gross! And the more Amanda complained, the more he annoyed her. “Amanda, if you just ignore him, he’ll stop,” her mother would say. But her mother was wrong. He never stopped. And he probably never would. He would just continue to torture her for the rest of her life (or at least until she grew up and moved out). Or better
yet, when he grew up and moved out! “Manda, Panda motor pie,” he taunted her with the knick-name she hated. “Oh, go soak your head,” she snapped back. “Oh boo-hoo. I’m so sad that your mad,” Bobby laughed. Amanda left the breakfast table in a huff and stormed off to her room. At least there she could get away from him. It was time to get ready for school anyway. After she pulled on her jeans and sweatshirt, she brushed her hair and pulled it back into a clip that had pink sparkling butterflies on it. She loved butterflies ever since she was a little girl. She would draw them and paint them and collect anything that had a picture of a butterfly on it. Amanda had a beautiful silver butterfly necklace that her mom and dad gave her for her eleventh birthday and she wore it all the time. She even had a little white jewelry box with pink butterflies on the cover. Bobby thought it was lame. “I like to pull the wings off butterflies,” he would say to her, just to make her cry. He didn’t ever really do it. He just wanted to see her cry. Amanda put her books in her book bag and headed out for school. “Come on, Bobby. We’ll miss the bus,” she said as he dawdled putting on his sneakers. “There’s time,” he quipped. “Well, I’m leaving. You can miss it if you want to,” she said back. “Don’t leave without your brother,” she heard her mother call from the kitchen. Mom always heard everything. “Well, hurry up then,” Amanda said to him. Bobby purposely moved slower and slower and Amanda’s face got redder and redder as she got madder and madder.
Finally he figured he had tormented her enough, so he jumped up, grabbed his jacket and book bag, and raced her to the bus stop just as the bus pulled up. Amanda was out of breath as she took her usual seat next to Julie Rivers, her very best friend. They had been best friends since they were five and Julie moved into the old Wilson house on the next street. Julie was so lucky. She didn’t have a younger brother. She didn’t have a brother at all. She did have a big sister, but they were really good friends and now, she was away at college. Amanda wished she had a sister to talk to about things and go shopping with, but all she had was crummy Bobby. Hey, wanna go to the movies tomorrow,” Julie asked Amanda. “There’s the new Travel Kids movie. I loved the last one, where Henry and Eva went to the planet Vartran, to fight those cool aliens.” “That’s where I’d like to send Bobby,” Amanda said, still mad at him. “Yeah, he can be a pain,” Julie sympathized. “I’ll have to ask my mom, but I’d love to go. Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to twist a ring on your finger and go anywhere in the world you wanted… anytime, like the Travel Kids? “Yeah. I think I’d go to Japan or China when they used to wear those really neat kimonos we studied about in geography,” Julie said. “I think I’d go back to the Old West and ride in a stagecoach,” Amanda said. “And I’d make sure I left Bobby home. Or maybe I’d take him and give him to some sheriff to lock up,” she laughed. “Well, at least I can get away from him when we go to the movies.” Bobby was shooting spit balls at the back of her head, as the bus pulled into the school parking lot to let them out. Julie rolled her eyes at Amanda and they got off and went to
into Mrs. Proctor’s classroom. They both liked their teacher, Mrs. Proctor. She had been a teacher for a very long time and had gray curly hair like Julie’s grandma. Even though on the outside she looked like a kindly old grandmother, she was pretty tough. She never let anyone talk back to her and if you didn’t listen, she made sure you were very sorry…and you didn’t do it again. Amanda hoped that Bobby would end up in Mrs. Proctor’s class next year. Maybe she could straighten him out. Amanda had choir practice after school, so she would have a little peace when she took the late bus home. Amanda loved to sing and she was told she had a very pretty voice. And it wasn’t just her parents and grandparents that said it; because they had to say it so they didn’t hurt your feelings. Mr. Jenkins, the music teacher heard her singing in class one day and said she should try out for choir. So she did and now she was going to be singing soprano in the Spring concert. Beside from butterflies, singing was her next favorite thing. Someday she might even sing on TV and become famous and she would never even give Bobby one of her CD’s. She’d show him! “Hi Mom, I’m home,” Amanda called out as she came through the front door. “Hi honey, how was school?” her mom asked, as Amanda went into the kitchen for a snack. “Great. I got an A- on my math test and Mr. Jenkins wants me to sing a solo for the concert!” Amanda said excitedly. “Wow! That’s terrific, Amanda. I’m so proud of you!” she said as she gave Amanda a hug. “How about some chocolate chip cookies to celebrate? They just came out of the oven.”
“Sure! Thanks, Mom,” Amanda said. Her mom made the best chocolate chip cookies in the whole world. And she loved it when they were still warm and the chips were all melted and gooey. She poured herself a big glass of cold milk to go with the cookie that was already in her mouth. “Mom, can I go see the new Travel Kids movie tomorrow with Julie?” she asked with a mouth full of cookie. “What time is it?” her mom asked. “It’s the early matinee, so at 12:30, I think.” “Oh, well there is only one problem. I have to be somewhere for 1:00,” her mom said. “That’s ok. Julie said her mom can drop us off and pick us up,” Amanda said as she took the last bite of her cookie. “That’s not the problem. I can’t take Bobby with me, so if you want to go to the movies, you’ll have to take him with you.” “Take him with me?” Amanda’s heart sank. It was a fate worse than death. Taking Bobby anywhere was horrible, but to the movies…with Julie, when they should be having a fun, best friends afternoon together…NO WAY! “I’m sorry, Amanda. If there was any other way, but there isn’t. Maybe you could go next week instead.” Amanda thought about it. What would be worse? Taking Bobby or waiting. She really wanted to see the movie. She heard it was great and they already had plans. Well, the only thing to do was call Julie and see what she said. “Julie, it’s Amanda,” she said into the phone. “Hi! What did your mom say? Can you go tomorrow?” Julie asked.
“Well, yes. She said I can go, but she needs us to take Bobby with us.” “Oh, yuck,” Julie said. “I know. Isn’t it awful? What do you think. We could go next week, by ourselves, if you want,” Amanda said. “Oh. I really want to see it. What if we make Bobby sit a few rows away from us?” “Hey, that’s a great idea! We can pretend he isn’t even with us. He won’t want to sit with us anyway!” Amanda said excitedly. “Awesome! See you tomorrow,” Julie said as she hung up the phone.
Amanda woke up early on Saturday morning, excited about the movies. Aside from butterflies and singing, she loved going to the matinee with Julie. First they would stop at the candy counter and get a big bucket of butter popcorn to share and then they’d go in and get a seat way up at the top. That’s the spot they liked they best. Bobby always like to sit up front, so today, they’d let him. Amanda decided she’d even buy him a box of licorice as an extra treat so he’d leave them alone. So really, they could just pretend he wasn’t there with them and enjoy the movie like they originally planned. Julie and Amanda’s favorite movies were the Travel Kids ones. This was the third one and it was supposed to be the best. After the movies, they would pretend to be like Eva and Henry and travel to different magical places and do really exciting things. Amanda and Julie did fun things, but nothing like the Travel Kids! “Hey, booger breath,” Bobby said to her as she went in to the kitchen for breakfast. He was already stuffing scrambled eggs into his mouth. Amanda made a face at him, but didn’t say anything. She decided that the best way to get through the day without him
driving her and Julie totally crazy, was to just ignore him as much as possible. She would just pretend he was invisible, like he didn’t exist at all. Of course, that didn’t always work because the more you ignored Bobby, the more obnoxious he could become. But this morning, so far, he was too interested in gobbling down his food so he could get back to the video game he’d been playing before breakfast. Amanda was relieved. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad after all. Amanda ate her eggs and toast and drank her big glass of orange juice and then went back to her room to get dressed. She decided to wear a plain shirt with her jeans…no butterflies, so Bobby would have one less thing to bug her about. After she was dressed, she sat on her bed to read one of the Travel Kids books. Maybe it would be the next one to be made into a movie. In this one, Eva had been captured by an evil war lord and Henry was battling to save her. To tried to picture Bobby battling to save her life. Nope, just would never happen. He’d probably help them. Shortly before 12, her mother called to her. “Amanda, Bobby, you’d better have a bite to eat before you leave for the movie.” “Ok, Mom,” she called back. Bobby was already at the table gulping down a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He was such a pig, she thought. Amanda sat down and ate her sandwich in a much more ladylike fashion. After all, if she was going to be a famous singer someday, she’d better practice her manners. “I spoke to Mrs. Rivers this morning and I told her I’d be able to pick you up from the movies when it gets out,” her mom said.
“Ok, Mom. We’ll be out front waiting,” Amanda said. “Now, Bobby, you behave yourself for your sister, understand?” her mom told him. “Sure,” he said with a grin. He knew and Amanda knew that he would do his best to harass her and Julie. “I think that’s Mrs. Rivers now,” she said, as they heard a car pull into the driveway. Amanda grabbed her jacket and pocketbook and headed out the door after giving her mother a kiss goodbye. Bobby followed right behind her. “Hi, Mrs. Rivers,” they both said as they got in the back seat. “Hi, Amanda. Hi, Bobby,” she said. Julie turned around and smiled at Amanda. “I can’t wait to see the movie,” she said, eagerly. “I talked to Emily Roberts this morning. She saw it last night and said it was the best movie she ever saw!” “Joey Morrison said the same thing,” Bobby chimed in. “Well, you guys have a good time and your mom will pick you up at 2:30,” Mrs. Rivers said to Amanda as they pulled up to the movie theater. “Thanks, mom,” Julie said as she got out. After they watched the car drive away, they went into the theater lobby to buy their tickets. “I’ll buy my own ticket,” Bobby said as he pushed in front of Amanda with his money in his hand. “You’d better behave or I’m going to tell Mom when we get home,” Amanda said “Yeah, yeah,” he said. After they had their tickets they went to the candy counter to buy their snacks. They all bought buttered popcorn and soda and Amanda bought a package of red licorice. As
they left the counter, she handed the licorice to her brother. “What’s this for?” Bobby asked, suspiciously. “It’s a bribe,” she said. “You can have it if you promise to sit up front away from us and leave us alone.” Bobby thought about it. He had a tough choice to make. He could sit next to his sister and drive her nuts, or he could sit in his favorite section up front, enjoy the movie and have licorice. The licorice won out. “Okay,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders and ran for one of the front rows. “Good job,” Julie said to Amanda as they walked up to the top row, as far away from Bobby as they could get. The theater started to fill up with other kids and Amanda could see Bobby joking around with one of his friends down front. She and Julie started talking about a school project as the theater lights turned down and the dancing, singing popcorn commercial came on the screen. They settled in to watch the upcoming previews of the movies that be coming that summer after school ended. Amanda was paying close attention to the screen when Julie nudged her. “Hey, where’s your brother going?” she asked. “What?” Amanda responded, as she squinted her eyes to see in the dark. It took a few seconds, but she looked in the direction where Julie was pointing and she saw Bobby headed for the exit door at the side of the screen. “What the heck is he doing?” she screeched. Someone in front of her turned to say, ssshhhh!!! “Sorry,” she said as she eased out of her seat and into the aisle. “I’ll be right back,”
she said to Julie. “I’m gonna brain him when I get my hands on him!” she whispered. As she ran down the aisle she saw the door open as Bobby slipped out and the door closed behind him. She was so mad she wanted to scream. She was going to miss the beginning of the movie just because her brother was an idiot! She was only a few seconds behind him when she grabbed the door handle and turned it. She opened it just a little to see if she could see him, but the hallway was so dark she had to go through the door. The door shut behind her. She stood there in total darkness. There were no lights and no noise. Not even the noise of the movie screen. Amanda started to get nervous. “Bobby?” she called out in a whisper. No answer. “Bobby?” she called out a little louder and much more nervous. Where was he? she thought. Why did he come back here? Why doesn’t he answer me? “Bobby, where are you? If you don’t answer me I’m going to kill you right now!” she said in a loud whisper. Still no answer. She was standing there frozen in the total blackness of the hallway. She didn’t know what to do. She couldn’t even find the door she came through. She started to feel panic rise in her throat. “Bobby?” she started to cry. Suddenly she felt a hand grab her arm and tug at her. She screamed and she heard Bobby say, “sshhh! It’s me!” The next thing she knew, he had hold of both her arms and she was being pulled through an black hole somewhere in the wall. As she felt them both falling through the air, Amanda could hear both Bobby and her screaming, their voices
echoing in the dark. It seemed as though they were falling forever, but it was really only a few seconds and when they landed it was on something soft and squishy. And the darkness was gone. Suddenly there was a soft foggy light surrounding them. It was if they landed on a cloud. Bobby just looked at his sister. “Amanda, where are we?” he whispered. Amanda just started to cry.
CHAPTER 2 -- THE TRAVEL KIDS
“Holy cow, Amanda! What is this?” Bobby asked, as he looked around and saw nothing but fog and mist. Amanda was still crying. “I…I don’t know,” she sobbed. “What did you do? Why did you go through that door?” she asked, nearly hysterical. “I had to go to the bathroom. I thought maybe it was a shortcut ‘cause the movie was about to start and I didn’t want to miss any of it,” he said, really meaning it. “I’m sorry, Amanda.” Amanda started to cry even harder. Her brother just apologized to her, so he must be really scared too, because he never, never, never said he was sorry for anything! All of a sudden, through the fog, they heard voices from far away. The voices were coming closer. Bobby and Amanda didn’t know whether to be afraid or relieved. They wondered whose voices they were. “We’re gonna get it now,” Bobby said, fearing the police who might arrest them for trespassing. But trespassing where? Where were they and how did they get there? “It sounds like kids,” Amanda sniffled. “Look! Look! Amanda,” he yelled, as they saw two kids about their own age walk
through the mist. “Oh my gosh!” Amanda whispered. “It’s…no, it can’t be. It’s impossible! It is. It’s Eva and Henry!” she yelled. “Amanda? What’s going on?” Bobby asked nervously. His head was starting to spin. “Bobby, this must be a dream. This just isn’t real. That’s it. It’s a dream,” she kept saying over and over. “Yeah! That’s it. It’s a dream. Of course. Wait a sec… Is it my dream of yours?” he asked. “I guess we’ll find out when one of us wakes up,” she laughed. She was still laughing when the Travel Kids caught up to them and Eva said, “Who are you? What are you doing here?” “It’s ok, it’s just a dream,” Bobby said. “No. No it’s not,” Henry said to him. “Sure it is,” Amanda answered back. “No it’s not!” Eva said sternly. “Somehow, you’ve broken through the barrier and come over to our side and we have to get you back. And fast!” Eva cried. “Are you kidding?” Bobby asked. “But how? All I did was go through that door near the screen,” he said, innocently. “You must have been going through just as we were arriving and we all got mixed up with each other. Now we’re all in this place and we have to get out. Now!” “But why?” Bobby asked just as Eva grabbed his hand and started running. Henry grabbed Amanda and suddenly they were all running. Just as Bobby was about to scream, why? again, they could feel the ground beneath the start to vibrate a little, then a lot…
then shake violently, as they were all tossed about. Then the fog broke apart and the next thing they knew, they were falling through the mist…falling and falling… “Nooooooo!” Amanda’s voice echoed as the fell. They landed with a plop onto a mound of soft grassy ground. “That’s why,” Henry told Bobby. “Oh,” was all Bobby could say. “I don’t understand,” Amanda said as she was trying to take it all in. It seemed liked this wasn’t a dream after all. They really were with the Travel Kids, but the Travel Kids weren’t real. But they seemed real enough now. What was going on??? Amanda’s head was starting to hurt. “Well, it seems you’ve managed to break through the crack into our world,” Eva said. “But that’s really not good. We’re the only two supposed to be here, except when we travel. And we only have two rings,” she continued as she held out her hand. “Wow!” Bobby exclaimed, as he looked at the gold ring with the shiny green dial. It was the travel ring, the one that took Eva and Henry all around the world to the past and to the future. “Can that take us anywhere?” Amanda said in amazement. “Well, it can take me, and Henry’s can take him, but we don’t have any more rings. What are we going to do about you?” Eva replied. Amanda started to get nervous. What was going to happen to her and her brother? “Can’t we ask Heloise?” Amanda asked. Heloise was the Travel Kids guide through time. She was like a kindly old aunt who helped them when they got into trouble and they were obviously in a lot of trouble now.
“Yeah, Heloise!” Bobby chimed in. “Well, normally we could, but you see, when you broke in to where we were, you knocked us out of our travel pathway. So now we’re lost. See?” Eva said as she held out her ring. As Amanda and Bobby looked closer, they saw the green dial had tiny lines and numbers around the outside and the face seemed to be swimming in a green moving haze. They had no idea what they were looking at. “It’s all been knocked out of whack. I don’t know where we are and how to reset the ring,” she said. “We’re just as lost as you are,” Henry told them. Uh-oh, Bobby thought. I’m in real trouble now. We all are! “I’m really sorry. This is all my fault,” Bobby said. “It sure is,” Henry said back to him. Bobby started to cry. Amanda went to hug him, something she hadn’t done since they were both very little, but she felt really sorry for him. “He didn’t do it on purpose. You don’t have to be so mean to him,” she said protectively. “Thanks, Panda,” he said, calling her by the name he did when he was little. “Sorry. I guess I’m just a little scared. I don’t know what we’re going to do,” he admitted. Henry had never been in this position before. Usually, they had a map and a scheme of where and when they were traveling and Heloise was there if there was trouble. But Heloise was lost to them right now and they didn’t have their map. “What if we try to get back to where we started?” Eva asked. It seemed like the most
logical thing to do. “We could try. I guess it’s probably the best place to start.” Henry responded. “But what about us? We don’t have rings!” Bobby pleaded, afraid that he and his sister would be left behind. “We’ll hold on very tight to you and hopefully you’ll just travel with us,” she said. “And if it doesn’t work?” Amanda asked quietly. They all looked at each other, no-one wanting to say anything because they were all thinking the same thing. “It just has to work. That’s all there is to it! Don’t worry,” Eva said gently. Henry and Eva adjusted the dials on their rings and then they all held hands and held tight. Bobby and Amanda could feel the ground shake again and the mist started to rise. They closed their eyes tight because they were afraid to see where they were going. Henry and Eva were used to this way of travel, but they weren’t. What they didn’t know was that Henry and Eva were just as scared. They had never been lost before and they were as unsure of their future as Amanda and Bobby were of theirs. “Here we go. Hold on!” Eva yelled as a squall blew up around them in a noisy windstorm. Everything went black again, as they fell effortlessly through the air. Amanda held onto Bobby’s hand very tight. This may have all started out as his fault, but she was his sister and it was her job to protect him. All of a sudden, the wind stopped and felt themselves land on a hard mound of dirt. Amanda opened her eyes and started to cough as the dry, dusty dirt they landed on rose
up around them. “Where are we?” she choked, as she asked Henry. “Not where we’re supposed to be,” he said, unhappily. “This looks like…it is! It’s Carver City. There’s a sign on that old saloon! Just like the one in your first movie,” Bobby was yelling, as he dusted the dirt off his pants. Then he realized they weren’t his pants. All of a sudden he was wearing suede cowboy pants with fringe and chaps. When he looked at the others, he saw that they were all wearing cowboy clothes from the Old West. “Cool!” he said. “Not so cool, Bobby,” Eva said. “This means that our rings aren’t working and we don’t know how to fix them.” “That’s okay. We can stay here for a while, can’t we? ‘til you figure it out.” Bobby was asking eagerly. He loved to play cowboy with his friends in their backyard. Bobby always played the outlaw they tried to capture. “There’s only one problem. Remember Dakota Jack and his gang?” Eva asked. “The bad guys who tried to kidnap you?” Amanda asked. “Yeah. They’re probably still around and they weren’t happy with us when we turned them into the sheriff before we left.” “Yeah, but they’re in jail!” Bobby said, happily. “Unless they got the rest of the gang to break them out,” Henry said. “Oh.” Bobby didn’t look as happy anymore. “We need time to figure things out. Let’s go find a place where we can think about this,” Eva said. “Good idea, Eva. What about Parson’s Farm? That was always a good hiding spot,”
Henry suggested. “And it’s not far from here. Let’s go,” Eva said, as she led the way. The others followed, obediently. It was a short walk up around the bend when they saw the old Parson Farm come into view. It had been abandoned years before and was in pitiful shape. The old barn was faded red with a sagging roof and boards missing, here and there. The farmhouse that was once white with black shutters, had yellowing peeling paint and old, broken shutters hanging from their hinges. “This is perfect. Nobody will look for us here,” Eva said, as they let themselves into the barn. “Who’d be looking for us anyway?” Amanda asked naively. “I don’t think you understand, Amanda. We’re the Travel Kids. Wherever we go, there is always trouble. That’s just the way it is. We don’t look for it; it just finds us,” Eva told her. Amanda thought about it and she was right. That’s what their movies were all about… Eva and Henry and their escapades. There was always a bad guy. Amanda wondered if that meant there would be a bad guy for them, too. “I’m hungry,” Bobby said, disrupting her thoughts. She realized she was hungry, too. She had no idea what time it was or how long it had been since they left the theater. “Oh my gosh!” she said unexpectedly. “What? What is it?” Bobby asked. “Julie!” she answered. “Who’s Julie?” Henry asked.
“She’s my best friend and she’s back at the theater. She saw us go through the door. I wonder if she followed us. Oh my gosh! What would have happened to her? She could be out there somewhere floating in space! Oh, Bobby, it’s our fault. She could be…she could be…” her voice trailed off. “It’s okay, Amanda. She’s safe. Once our paths intersected with yours, the pathway closed and it would have just been an exit door again,” Henry said to calm her. “Oh, thank heavens. I would never have forgiven myself if anything happened to Julie. But what is she going to think about us? She’ll think we’ve been kidnapped.” “Well, to be honest, we have more serious things to think about right now. Like if we are ever going to make it back,” he said. “I’m still hungry,” Bobby said again. The rest of them laughed. “What’s so funny?” he asked. “You are,” Eva said, as she tousled his hair. “C’mon, lets find some grub,” she said, just like a real cowgirl. They left the barn and went towards the house. It definitely looked deserted. They followed Henry around to the back door that was half-opened and banging in the wind. He peeked in, to make sure there wasn’t anyone there and then went in. The others followed him. “Are you sure this okay?” Bobby asked Henry, nervously. “Are you hungry or not?” “You bet, I am,” he said a little more bravely. “Okay then. Let’s find the pantry.” As they walked through the kitchen, the old floorboards creaked beneath their feet.
Even though they were alone, they tiptoed through the room. They didn’t want to disturb any ghosts that might just be living there. When Henry found the pantry, he called out to the others. “Well, there’s not a lot in here, but at least we won’t starve,” Eva said. They took down a couple of cans of beans and rummaged through the kitchen for a way to heat them. There was an old wood stove, but they decided not to light it. They didn’t want the smoke from the chimney to signal any unwanted visitors. “Guess there’s no microwave,” Bobby said. “Very funny,” Amanda said. “There’s no phone to call home either.” “So I guess that means no TV tonight,” he added. “Or video games.” Bobby and Amanda began to realize just how lucky they were to be living in the 21st century. When they finished eating their cold beans out of their tins, Henry went to the water pump to see if there was water in the well. After he pumped it a few times, a slow trickle of water started to flow and they all cupped their hands to take a drink. Just like camping, Bobby thought. The sun was starting to set and there was a chill to the night air. They decided to look around for something warm to put on, since they didn’t want to light a fire in the fireplace. The stairs were even creakier than the kitchen floorboards and with the creeping darkness, they were all starting to feel a little nervous. Their voices lowered to a whisper. “I think I found something,” Eva called out in a very quiet, low voice.
“What is it?” Amanda responded. “Blankets,” she whispered, as she handed them each a heavy wool blanket. As they each wrapped one around themselves and crept back downstairs, they heard a noise from the kitchen. “What’s that???” Bobby whispered in a panicky voice. “I don’t know!” “Sounds like someone’s down there,” Eva whispered. “Let’s check it out,” Henry said, leading the way. “No way!” Bobby said. “C’mon. We can’t stay on the stairs all night. And if they know we’re here, they’ll come after us anyway,” Henry answered back. Amanda looked at Bobby and they both realized that being a Travel Kid wasn’t nearly as much fun as it looked on the movie screen. Henry eased himself down the stairs, trying to step very lightly on the stairs to make as little noise as possible. The others followed nervously behind. As they reached the bottom, they heard a clang of metal from the kitchen. They all jumped with alarm. “Let’s run!” Bobby said. “No. Let’s see what it is first,” Eva said, calmly. She had been in this position before and things weren’t always what they seemed. Henry peeked his head around the corner; just enough to see if they were in immediate danger and run if they needed to, when the others heard him start to laugh. “What is it?” Eva asked. Henry went into the kitchen, while the others stayed in the protection of the stairwell.
“This is our goblin,” he said as he carried a small, white fluffy kitten in his hands. They looked at the tiny innocent cat and they all burst into laughter. “Oh, he’s so cute,” Amanda said as she took him from Henry and started to stroke the soft fur. “Can we keep him?” she asked. “Oh, just what we need, another straggler. Aren’t we in enough trouble as it is?” he answered. “But we can’t just leave him here. He’ll starve to death,” she begged. “Well, if we don’t find another place, we could too,” he snapped back at her. Henry was sorry the minute he said it because he could see the tears fill up in her eyes and he didn’t mean to scare or hurt her. Henry was really starting to like Amanda. She was cute and funny and braver than most girls would be in this situation. He felt like protecting her, the way he protected his sister. Only she wasn’t his sister. And Bobby, well, he was okay for a little kid. Henry remembered back to when he was only ten and he knew that he was pretty nerdy too, sometimes. He had learned a lot over the years from when he was 10. He knew he was a lot smarter now that he was 14, much smarter. Hopefully smart enough to get them all back home, safely. “I’m sorry, Amanda,” Henry said, softly. “Of course, we can take him. Why don’t you be in charge of him?” he smiled at her. “Thank you, Henry,” she smiled back. “What should we call him?” Bobby asked, eagerly. “How about Ghost? He’s white and he scared us like one,” Eva offered. “Perfect!” Henry said, as he petted Ghost’s tiny head. The kitten closed his eyes and purred softly.
“Okay, it’s getting late. We should get some sleep so we can get up in the morning and start making some plans,” Henry ordered, in his best take charge kind of voice. He was the most sensible choice for a leader; he was the oldest and most experienced and he was a Travel Kid. Amanda and Bobby knew they could trust him to make the right decisions for them all. What they didn’t know was that he was just making decisions as they went along and didn’t know any more than they did. But he was experienced enough to fake it pretty well.
Amanda was the first one awake in the morning because Ghost started licking her face as soon as the sun started streaming through the broken parlor window. “Stop,” she laughed, as she lifted him away from her face and cuddled him under her chin. Eva was the next one up and they decided to let the boys sleep while they rummaged around the kitchen for something for breakfast. “I hope we can find something other than cold beans,” Eva said. “Me, too,” Amanda agreed. “What about Ghost? He’s going to need some milk. I wonder where he came from.” “There are some nearby farms, so he must have come from there. When the boys get up we’ll have to investigate. Hey! Look what I found. Crackers and this stuff that looks like beef jerky. Pretty nasty looking, but,” she said, as she took a chewy bite of the hard beef, “it’s not too bad.” She handed Amada a piece. “Well, it’s better than cold beans, that’s for sure,” she answered back, as she chewed hard.
They heard they boys starting to stir in the other room and took their breakfast in with them. “Hey, this is great,” Henry said, as he took a big bite of the jerky. “It’s okay,” Bobby said, “but I sure could go for some of Mom’s blueberry pancakes.” Amanda closed her eyes and imagined sitting at their kitchen table just the day before, warm and cozy, eating a warm delicious breakfast. Her mouth started to water. “Well, maybe you’ll be home by tomorrow’s breakfast,” Henry said, trying to be hopeful. “We need to find some milk for Ghost,” Eva said to Henry. “What about Foster’s?” Foster’s was a nearby farm that had milk cows, or at least that did have last time Eva and Henry had been in the area. “I tell you what. Why don’t you girls stay here and I’ll take Bobby over to check it out. The two of us can sneak in easier than all four of us,” Henry directed. “Okay,” Eva agreed. The boys set out for Foster’s with a small tin from the cupboard to collect milk in. “Ever milk a cow?” Henry asked Bobby. “What, are you kidding?” Henry laughed at Bobby’s serious face. “I’ll show you,” he said, as they quietly slipped across the fields, unnoticed. As they approached Foster’s there didn’t seem to be anyone around. It was mid-morning, so the field hands were probably out in the fields working. As they got closer to the barn, they saw a woman in a long calico dress and apron, feeding chickens from feed in the apron pocket. “Can’t we just ask for some milk?” Bobby asked.
“No, that wouldn’t be a good idea. We don’t want anybody to know we’re around. Like I said, the Dakota gang don’t forget their grudges.” After Mrs. Foster finished with the chickens, she went back into the farmhouse. When they heard the screen door bang behind her, they figured it was safe to try the barn. Except for the animals, it was deserted. They slipped through an open plank in the side and went to one of the cows. Henry could tell by the look on Bobby’s face that he’d better do the milking himself. They couldn’t risk any extra noise, like Bobby crying out if he got kicked in the head by an angry cow. “Whoa, girl,” Henry said, as he patted the cow on her rump before he sat on a stool to milk her. It was obvious to Bobby that he had done this before. It only took a few moments with expert hands and Henry had milk squirting into the pail. He filled it halfway figuring there’d be enough for Ghost, as well as some for themselves. Just before he finished, he squirted Bobby in the face with a stream of milk. “Gross!” Bobby yelled. “Ssshhh!!!” Henry whispered. They took the pail and peeked out the door to make sure no-one was around, then headed back to Parson’s. They were nearing the farm, when they heard the screaming. “What’s that?” Bobby asked in a fearful voice. “I don’t know… it sounds like the girls!” he said, as they got closer. Then they saw two horses tied up in front of the abandoned farmhouse. They started running to the door. Just before they made it to the front steps, two scruffy outlaws barreled out, each of them carrying one of the girls over their shoulders. Eva and Amanda were screaming and
kicking and the cowboys had a hard time holding on to them. Henry and Bobby jumped them from the side, surprising them enough to let go of the girls. Eva ran, but Amanda was stunned and scared. The taller of the two men grabbed her up and threw her on his horse and the two men galloped off with Amanda, who was screaming for help. “C’mon! Follow me!” Henry yelled, as he started running back to Foster’s. The three of them raced to the barn and Henry threw a saddle on a white speckled horse and another on a chestnut roan. Without blinking an eye, Eva jumped on the chestnut and Henry grabbed Bobby and pulled him up in front of him on the other. Before Bobby knew what was happening, they were in a full chase after the outlaws who had his sister. He was too scared for his sister to scream. They could see the horses in the far distance ahead of them, but they were riding their horses hard and gaining fast. Bobby had never even been on a horse before, so he hung onto the saddle horn for dear life, afraid he would fall. As they closed the gap to the kidnappers, Henry could see Amanda’s arms and legs flailing, as she tried to fight off the man that held onto her. She was tough, Henry thought. He knew that one of the Dakota gang had gotten wind of them being in town and decided to seek revenge for Dakota Jack’s capture. He knew if they lost sight of them that they might never see Amanda again, so they rode their horses hard. The men up ahead turned into a wooded, hilly area to lose them. Henry and Eva were familiar with the spot, so they let them think they were getting away and came up the hill from the other side. As they neared the back side of the tallest hill, they saw the men get down from their horses and the one that had Amanda, pulled her down. She was still kicking and screaming. He pulled the bandana from his neck and tied her mouth with it.
Then he pulled a rope from his saddle bag and tied her hands and feet. After he moved some brush away from a big rock blocking a cave entrance, he threw her over his shoulder and went in. The other man tied up the horses in a secluded spot to keep them hidden from view. Neither of the men knew that they were being watched from below. “What are we going to do?” Bobby whispered. “Well, the first thing we have to do is let them think they got away from us. So we’ll need to stay here for a few hours before we make our move. Once they think they’re safe, then we can surprise them and rescue your sister.” “But they have her in there. What if they’re hurting her?” Bobby pleaded. “She’s safe for now. They’re gonna want to take her back to their hideout and ask for a ransom. They’re too greedy not to want to hold us up for money.” Henry reassured him. “But we don’t have any money,” Bobby cried. “They don’t know that. And besides, we’re gonna get Amanda out of there tonight!” Don’t you worry,” Henry said, confidently. “Okay,” Bobby said meekly. They tied up their own horses and sat down on the rocks to make their plans.
It had just started to get dark when they heard rustling near the cave. When the first outlaw came out to look around, Henry saw that it was Black Bart. He was Dakota Jack’s right-hand man and one despicable desperado. Seeing that it was Bart, Henry hoped that he was right about Amanda not getting hurt. Black Bart was the type of hombre to be mean, just for the sake of being mean. When Bart was sure they hadn’t been followed, he went back in to get Amanda and
his partner in crime. Henry signaled to Eva to take her place and kept Bobby with him. They had gone over and over the plans for Amanda’s rescue and their getaway, so they knew just what to do. Henry crept silently to the outlaws’ horses, untied them and slapped them on their rumps. Startled, they took off into the darkness. Then he went back to the brush outside the cave, to wait. It wasn’t long before they heard the voices coming out of the cave. “Bart, why can’t we wait until sun-up to leave,” the other man whined. “Because I said so!!! You’ll do what I say or I’ll make sure you don’t ever ask nuthin again, you hear me, Festus?” Bart hollered at him. “Yeah, Bart. I…I…I’m sorry,” the other man stammered. “You just better be rememberin’ it,” he barked back. Henry knew that the other man was Festus McGraw. He was a follower, not a leader and he knew he’d do anything Black Bart told him to do. He was also pretty dumb, which was a good thing for them. If they could separate the two men, Festus would be too confused to be a threat to their rescue plan. Luckily, it was Festus that came out of the cave to get the horses. As he turned to the hitching tree, he didn’t see the horses. He started walking around the tree thinking maybe he tied them up somewhere else. So he started walking farther and farther from the cave. It was just what Henry had hoped for. Bobby was hidden in the brush directly across from Henry. They had taken rope from one of the saddlebags and stretched across between two trees. Henry made a hand signal to Bobby, as Festus neared the rope. On his signal, Bobby pulled tight on the rope,
tripping Festus and the surprised cowboy tumbled to the ground. “What the heck?” Festus was saying to himself. While he was trying to figure out what he tripped on, Henry and Bobby were upon him. They wrapped the rope around his arms first, so he couldn’t grab them. Then, Henry stuffed his bandana in Festus’ mouth and they tied up his feet. Festus was kicking and screaming, but Black Bart was unaware that his partner had been captured. When Bart came out of the cave with Amanda thrown over his shoulder, Eva jumped him from her spot above the entrance. Taken by surprise, Bart fell to the ground, Amanda scrambling away to safety. The boys were prepared with more rope and they quickly tied him up before he even knew what happened. “Bobby! Eva! Henry! I have never been so happy to see anyone in my whole life!!!” Amanda screeched, as they all hugged each other. “Did they hurt you?” Bobby cried, with his arms hugging her tight. “No. They just had me tied up in the cave. But I don’t know what would have happened if you hadn’t rescued me. He was pretty mean,” she said, pointing to Black Bart who was trying to wriggle out of his restraints. “C’mon. We’d better get out of here before anymore of the gang show up,” Henry said, leading them to their horses. “Thank you guys. I was so afraid I’d never see you again,” Amanda said as Henry hoisted her up in front of him on his horse. “Me, too!” Bobby said from his seat behind Eva. Amanda never thought she’d see the day when her brother was really worried about her and that she was really happy to see him.
They sped off on their horses and away from Black Bart and Festus McGraw. Henry knew they needed to get as far away as they could before the rest of the Dakota gang started searching for them. They started heading in the direction of Red Rock Canyon to hide out when Amanda yelled, “Wait!” Henry pulled his horse to a dead stop. “What? What’s wrong?” he said, with alarm. “We have to go back for Ghost!” she said. “What?? We can’t risk it! We have to get out of here, fast!” Henry was saying, trying to convince her. But he already knew by the look on her face, that they would go back for the little white kitten. So they turned the horses in the other direction and went to save Ghost.
Once they had Ghost safe in Amanda’s arms and they packed up some more of the dried beef and crackers in their saddlebags, they took off for the canyon. It was a long ride and they were all exhausted, when they finally got down from their horses. “My butt hurts,” Bobby said, and they all laughed. They barely touched their food before they were all asleep on the blankets they brought from the farmhouse. The next morning, the sun rose bright above the canyon and they woke up starving. Henry passed out their rations and poured Ghost some milk that they managed to save in a tin container. It was cold enough that it hadn’t spoiled. The grateful white ball of fur licked at the tin lid and then fell asleep in Amanda’s arms. Amanda had recovered from her horrible ordeal with the Dakota gang and they were all anxious to plan their next getaway.
“Eva, should we just set our rings to another place and take a chance?” Henry asked his sister. “What else can we do? It’s either that, or be stuck here. And I don’t think any of us want to wait around for Black Bart, do you?” she answered. “No way!!” I vote to get out of here, right now!” Bobby added. “That sounds easier than it is, Bobby. Our rings are broken and we don’t know how to fix them. It’s possible that going through the time-travel warp might jar them back, the way it did when we intersected with you. But we don’t know if that can happen again or not. And we don’t know where we’ll end up if we travel again. We might actually be safer here,” Henry explained. “Well, we can’t stay here forever. I want to go home!” Bobby yelled. “It’s okay, Bobby,” Amanda said, as she took his had. “We’ll get home. Won’t we, Henry?” she said as she looked over to him. He knew by her look that she wanted him to make her brother feel better, even if it might not be true. “Of course, you’ll get home. I was only kidding, Bobby,” Henry said, as Amanda smiled a thank you at him. “Okay then. Eva lets do this together,” he said as he sat next to her on the ground. They hovered over their rings, talking about numbers and grids and things that Bobby and Amanda didn’t understand. Finally, they decided upon the right alignment of the dials and set their rings. As they did the last time, they all held hands; and with Ghost safely tucked in Amanda’s shirt pocket…they were off.
CHAPTER 3 -- EAST SIDE, WEST SIDE, ALL AROUND THE TOWN
Kerplunk! They landed with a jolt and a splash in a big puddle of water. “Yuck!” Eva said, as she jumped up and shook the mud off her hands. “I guess we didn’t make it home,” Amanda said, as she looked down at the long ruffled dress and high-button shoes she was wearing. “I guess not,” Henry agreed, as he helped her out of the puddle and onto the dry street. “Where are we?” Bobby asked. “Well, the question isn’t just where are we…it’s also when are we?” Henry answered. “From the looks of our clothes, I’d say we are somewhere and someplace around the turn of the century.” “What century?” Bobby asked. “The 19th century, Bobby,” Amanda answered, as she recognized the clothing and horse and buggies in the street from what she had studied in history class at school. That seemed so long ago, and yet it was only a few days. A few days and a few light-years away. “Now, as for where we are,” Henry said. He looked around the busy street and determined they definitely were in a city. The street was bustling with activity; street vendors selling fruit and vegetable from pushcarts, horse and carriages up and down the street, kids playing stickball, a boy selling newspapers…that’s it, Henry thought. We need a newspaper! Henry reached in his pocket and fished out a coin. He handed it to the boy in exchange
for the paper. It read, The New York Chronicle. “We’re in New York City,” he said to the others, as he showed them the paper. And it’s Sept.3rd, 1896.” “Wow! Nobody’s ever going believe this, when we get home,” Bobby said. Inside Amanda’s dress pocket, a tiny head peeked out. “Ghost! I almost forgot about you. Are you okay?” she said, as she fished him out and cuddled him against her cheek. He meowed with pleasure. “Well, we’re getting closer to home,” Eva said. “We’re in New York. Can’t we just take a train home?” Bobby asked, innocently. “I wish we could. A train could you to the right place, but not the right time.” “Oh, that’s right. I forgot,” Bobby said unhappily. He was getting tired of traveling. He wanted to go home. “But we are closer. So maybe we’ll get it right the next time,” Amanda said, as she put her arm around Bobby. She felt sorry for him. He looked so sad. “Hey, fella! Who are you?” Henry heard the voice ask him from behind. He turned and saw a boy about his age with a dirty face and three other street urchins in front of them. “Well? Who are you?” the boy asked again, threateningly. “I’m Henry. And who are you?” he said, not backing down from the confrontation. “Rocky’s the name. This is my gang,” he stated proudly, as he pointed to his pals. “Pleased to meet you, Rocky,” Henry said, as he held out his hand. Taken by surprise and realizing that Henry didn’t seem to be a threat, he shook Henry’s hand. “I’ve never seen you around here before,” Rocky said. “We just got here.” Henry told him.
“From where?” “Well…that’s a little complicated,” Henry said, not exactly knowing what to say. “Far away?” Rocky asked. “Yeah, real far,” Bobby interjected. “Oh.” Rocky didn’t seem to need any more of an answer, so they left it at that. “Wanna see our clubhouse?” he asked. “Sure!” Bobby said quickly, then looked to the others, in case he had said the wrong thing. “That’d be great, Rocky,” Henry said and Bobby sighed a big sigh of relief. Rocky and the others led them down a nearby alley to an old abandoned tenement building. There was a broken latch on the cellar door that let them in. It was dark and damp, but Rocky led them up a rickety stairway to a big room with lots of windows that they had furnished as their own. There were wooden crates up-ended as tables and chairs in a corner of the room and ragged, dirty blankets on the floor. “This is cool!” Bobby said. “Sorry. We don’t have a woodstove,” Rocky apologized. “No, cool…neat…terrific,” Bobby said, as he realized they were talking a different language. “You talk funny,” Rocky said. “Like I said, we’re from far away,” Henry tried to explain, knowing Rocky couldn’t possibly understand. “Oh, yeah.” “So what do you guys do here?” Eva asked one of the younger boys.
“Pretty much everything,” the smallest one said. His name was Shorty. “Like what?” “Everything. Eat and sleep and…well, everything,” he said again. “But don’t you sleep at home?” Amanda asked. “We don’t have a home,” Rocky said. “But what about your parents?” Bobby asked. “We don’t have those either.” “You don’t have parents?” Bobby asked in disbelief. “But everybody has parents, or at least a mother or a father,” he continued, because he knew kids at school that had only one parent. “No, Bobby, not everyone is lucky enough to have parents,” Henry said, tactfully about Rocky and his friends. “They are orphans.” “Oh.” Bobby couldn’t imagine not having his mom and dad. “Who takes care of you? Who cooks for you?” he asked. “Nobody takes care of us. We take care of ourselves!” “You guys want to stay with us?” Shorty asked. “They probably have a place to stay,” Rocky said. “Well…actually, we don’t,” Henry said. “If you have room for us, we’d be very grateful.” “You’ll have to get your own food,” Shorty told them. “Is there a market where you shop?” Bobby asked. Rocky laughed. “Yeah, there’s a market.” “Why is that funny?” Eva asked.
“If you are gonna hang out with us, then we’ll have to teach you how to “shop”,” Rocky said. “Why don’t you girls stay here with Shorty and Mac. We’ll take the boys and show ‘em the ropes. C’mon, let’s go.” Eva and Amanda sat down on the crates and Amanda took the wriggling Ghost out from her dress pocket. “Oh! Where did he come from?” Shorty asked, excitedly. “Can I hold him? “Sure,” Amanda said, as she handed the kitten to him. Ghost purred loudly, as Shorty stroked his little head. “He’s so small,” he said. “I had a puppy once…a long time ago,” he said, sadly. “What happened to him?” Eva asked. “He was lost,” was all he said, as he wiped his sniffling nose with his hand, trying to be brave. Shorty was seven and the youngest of Rocky’s gang. He had only been with them for a few months, since he ran away from the orphanage. His parents had been killed in a fire and his dog along with them. He had been at the orphanage almost a year and was about to be adopted by a nice family with the name McDowell, but he didn’t want to be adopted. He missed his own parents and wasn’t ready to replace them. So one dark night, he packed up his few things in a sack and climbed out the window. Rocky found him crying in an alley the next morning, cold and hungry. Shorty was younger than the others, but Rocky felt sorry for him and took him under his wing. Rocky was the ring leader and whatever he said was the law. He had been on the streets ever since he was ten and he could evade even the sharpest of policemen; even Officer O’Reilly, who could catch just about anybody. Rocky was tough. He had to be.
He was in charge of his gang, so he had to keep them in line, for their own good. There was Shorty, who was kind of their mascot. Then, there was Mac, who was eleven and had been with Rocky for over a year. Mac was quiet, didn’t say much. He’d been in an orphanage his entire life and didn’t know what it was like to have anyone really care about him; at least, not until Rocky found him. Then they became as close as brothers and now, Mac would do anything for Rocky. And then there was Gabby. He had gone with Rocky and Henry to “shop”. If he had stayed behind, Eva and Amanda would have known how he got his name. He talked all the time! Rocky was always telling him to be quiet, particularly if they were hiding from the police and trying to avoid capture. None of them wanted to be sent back to the orphanage.
Henry and Bobby followed behind Rocky and Gabby through the narrow alley to the street. Rocky pulled his cap down, shielding his face from sight, so he wouldn’t be recognized by any of the pushcart vendors. They were everywhere, selling everything from apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, fish…everything. Rocky crept up on a fruit vendor with the other boys following behind. When the moment was right and no-one was looking, Rocky expertly grabbed two big handfuls of grapes and threw them to Gabby who caught them and ran. Then Rocky grabbed four apples, stuffed them in his pockets and took off after Gabby. Bobby and Henry just looked at each other and when Mr. Minelli turned and saw them, they took off after Rocky. They ran faster than Mr. Minelli and were able to catch up to the others just as they slipped back into the tenement basement. Once inside, Rocky and Gabby started laughing.
“Hey, you guys did okay. Only next time, try to grab something, too,” Rocky said. “But you stole this stuff,” Bobby said, breathless from the running. Rocky looked at Gabby and they started laughing again. “Well, how did you think we were going to shop?” “At the store. With money,” Bobby said. “And where would we get the money?” Rocky quizzed him. Bobby went silent. He never thought about it. He looked at Henry, who hadn’t said anything because he had been in these places before and knew more than Bobby did. Bobby was just beginning to understand that Rocky and his boys lived in an abandoned building and ate what they could steal. And they hid out so they didn’t get caught by Officer O’Reilly. Bobby was very sad for them. They had no family, no money, no home. And he had so much. More than ever, Bobby wanted to go home. They took their meager meal up to their clubhouse to share with the others. “Whatcha get?” Shorty asked hungrily, as they emptied their pockets. “Not too much,” Rocky said. “We’ll have to go back out later. Maybe Henry can help, next time.” “I will,” Henry said. “Bobby and I will go out by ourselves and make up for what we didn’t get this time, okay?” “Don’t get caught,” Mac said. “We won’t,” Henry said. Bobby was nervous. He had never stolen anything before and he was very afraid he would get caught. Then what? He’d get dragged off to jail and maybe sent to the orphanage. He bit his lower lip to stop it from quivering. He needed to be brave.
After they ate what little they had, Henry took Bobby back out for more food. “Henry, I’m scared,” Bobby confided, as they made their way back down the alley. “Don’t worry. We’re not going to steal anything,” Henry told him. “We’re not?” “No,” he said, as he reached in his pocket and pulled out a handful of coins. “Money!” “Yup. We’re going to buy food. But we’re not going to tell Rocky. We have to keep it a secret, okay?” “Sure. But why?” Bobby asked. “They don’t know who we are or where we’re from. I think we should keep it that way. They’ll never understand and they might end up in trouble if they do.” “Okay,” Bobby said, not completely understanding what Henry said. They made it to the street and found a bakery that sold warm loaves of bread, fresh out of the oven. Henry gave some coins to the baker, took the loaf of bread, and then went to the meat market to buy a small slab of salami. “Wow! This is great! Gabby said, when they came back with their purchases. “We haven’t had meat in a long time. Where did you take it from? Did they see you? They didn’t follow you, did they? Did they…” “Shut up, Gabby,” Rocky said. “Sorry, Rocky,” the boy said. “It’s okay. I just don’t want you to wear yourself out,” he laughed. “Did you really steal this?” Amanda leaned over and whispered to Henry. Henry shook his head, no and kept on eating. Amanda felt better. They were in a
different time and a different place and they would do whatever they had to, to survive, but she hoped they wouldn’t have to do anything against the law. Amanda didn’t want Bobby learning to steal. Maybe he was annoying back at home, but at least he was honest. After they ate their feast, they sat around telling stories until they were all tired enough to curl up on the blankets on the floor and go to sleep. Henry and Amanda were the first ones up in the morning. “When are we going to travel again?” Amanda whispered. “We need to wait until tomorrow. We need another day before the rings can be reset.” “Do you think we’re ever going to make it back?” she asked, seriously. “I don’t know, Amanda,” he said, honestly. “Don’t tell Bobby, okay?” she asked, protectively. “Sure. I understand. But don’t give up. There’s still hope,” Henry said, gently. Amanda nodded her head. Shorty was the next one awake. “I’m going to go see if I can rustle up some breakfast,” Henry told Shorty. “You want me to go with you?” he asked. “No. You stay here and tell them I’ll be back soon.” He turned to Amanda, “I’ll get some milk,” he said, as he pointed to Ghost, who was sitting on her lap, licking his paws. Again, Henry went to the market and purchased food. He bought bread, cheese and milk. He didn’t buy too much because he didn’t want Rocky to get suspicious, but it was too late. Rocky had woken up just before Henry let himself out of the clubhouse and followed him to the street, to help with the haul. But he watched Henry walk right into
the market and walk up to the counter and hand Mr. Grissini the money for the food. Rocky was waiting in the alley. “Okay, what’s going on?” he grilled Henry. “Where did you get that money and why did you lie to us last night? You didn’t steal anything, did you?” “I’m sorry, Rocky. I had to lie. It’s too dangerous to tell you the truth. Besides, you probably won’t believe it,” Henry told him. “Believe what? And there isn’t anything too dangerous for me!” Rocky said in his toughest voice. “We don’t come from here.” “I know that. You said you came from far away. Where? California? That’s really far.” Rocky guessed. “No, Rocky. Let’s go back to the others and I’ll try and explain,” Henry said, as they went back to the clubhouse. Everyone was awake and hungry. They split up the food and Ghost was busy lapping up milk from a tin lid they found, when Henry started to tell Rocky and his pals their story. “Go on! Do you think were dumb? You don’t think you can pull off a fib like that on us, do you?” Rocky yelled at Henry. Rocky had been on the streets for a long time and he wasn’t as gullible as his young friends, who just stared, wide-eyed at Henry as he told about time travel. “Maybe it’s true,” Shorty said, quietly. “Yeah, Shorty. They made a wish and just showed up here. There from the future. Don’t be stupid!” Rocky snapped. The young boy started cry. “Knock it off, Shorty,”
Rocky said, sternly and Shorty wiped his nose on his sleeve. “I know you can’t understand. I don’t blame you. If I were in your place, I wouldn’t believe it either,” Henry told Rocky. “Show him the rings!” Bobby said. “What rings?” Rocky asked, with interest. Maybe the rings were worth something. Maybe they could sell them for a lot of money. “Let me see,” Rocky said. Eva held out her hand and the boys gathered around. “Wow! I’ve never seen anything like that,” Gabby said. “Is that an emerald? Is it worth a lot of money? Can I try it on? Can I…” he rattled on. “Shut up, Gabby,” Rocky said quietly, as he concentrated on the green swirling face of the ring. It certainly was not like anything he had ever seen before and Rocky had been known to be in the company of some pretty shady characters, who dealt in some very unusual stolen jewelry. “Where did you get these?” he asked, very quietly, as he studied the face and dial of the ring. “It doesn’t matter where they came from. It only matters what they do,” Henry explained. “Yeah, yeah, I know. They send you back and forth to the future,” Rocky mocked. “They do. They really do!” Bobby said. “And we have to go back.” “Why? Why can’t you just stay here?” Shorty asked, as he held Ghost tight against his chest. “Because we don’t belong here. We have a mom and dad who are probably going crazy thinking we’ve been kidnapped,” Amanda said to him.
“So what’s stopping you?” Rocky asked, playing along, for he didn’t believe for a minute that they were time travelers. But he wanted to get his hands on the rings. He knew a man named Lefty, who he was sure would fetch a fine price for them. “They’re broken and we haven’t been able to fix them yet. We don’t know where they will send us next. We’re hoping that one of the trips will land us back where we belong,” Eva explained. As they sat around, even the quiet Mac asked many questions about their travels. Only Rocky sat back quietly and listened. He wasn’t so much listening, as he was thinking. Thinking of how he would manage to separate Eva and Henry from their rings.
Rocky knew he didn’t have much time. They said they would be able to travel again the next day, so he had to move fast. He said he had to go out for awhile and left the others to their questions and stories. Rocky ran through the streets until he came to a dark alley that led to the riverbank. Huddled around a small, burning fire were several scruffy looking men warming their hands. “Hey, what’s up, kid?” one of them said to Rocky. “Hi, Lefty. Can we talk?” Rocky said, as he cocked his head to indicate he wanted to talk privately. “Sure,” Lefty said. They walked a few feet from the warmth of the fire. “What’s up, my friend?” Lefty asked, with interest. He had worked with Rocky before and knew he could be trusted to come up with some valuable items. “There are these rings. I think they’re very valuable. But I can’t take them myself. I need your help.”
“Sure thing. How do ya want to handle this?” Lefty asked. “I figured I could set it up so we’re near the shipyard and you could hold us up. I’ll make sure it’s just me and them, ‘cause the gang knows you. I want you to knock me down, so’s they don’t know I’m in on it.” “Sure thing. Sounds like a piece of cake. When you wanna do it?” “It has to be tonight. I’ll take them out around seven, just after dark. You be waiting under the bridge and then grab me first, so it’ll look real.” “Ok, kid. And we’ll split the loot 50/50.” Lefty offered. “Don’t hurt them,” Rocky insisted. He just wanted the money and he felt bad that he had to steal from his new friends. But the money would keep them all in food and extras for at least the whole winter He had to think realistically. And what could they do with the rings anyway. They could be put to much better use once Lefty pawned them. Rocky made his way back to the clubhouse to find his boys still sitting around in a circle listening to Henry tell of places they had been. Dumb kids, Rocky thought to himself. How could they be fooled into believing such nonsense? Well, they were just little kids and not nearly as smart as he was. “Rocky! You should hear where they’ve been!” Gabby said excitedly, as Rocky came in and sat down with them. “So, what happens next?” Rocky asked Henry. “The rings need two days before they can be used again, so we wait. Tomorrow we’ll be able to travel again.” “And we might make it back home, right Henry?” the hopeful Bobby asked. “Absolutely,” Henry tried to assure him.
Boy, what a scam this Henry is trying to pull, Rocky thought. He didn’t know what Henry’s game was, but he knew that it was some kind of scheme and he planned on getting those rings away from them and into the hands of a worthy pawnbroker. “Listen, since you guys are only going to be here one more day, we should take you out and show you around, don’t you think? You don‘t want to be cooped up here all day,” Henry said. “Sure, that would be great!” Amanda said. “Yeah!” Bobby and Eva added. Henry wasn’t so sure he wanted to be out and about. He felt safer sitting tight until they were ready to travel to their next destination, wherever that might be. “I don’t think so. I think we should just wait here,” he said to the others. As he spoke, he could see the disappointment in their faces. “Oh, okay. But just for a little while, and not too far,” he said. “Cool! Thanks, Henry,” Bobby said. “Great. Let’s get going,” Rocky said, as he pulled on his cap and led them all down the stairway and into the street. “Stay together. You don’t want to get lost.” No, Henry thought. That is absolutely the last thing he wanted was for any of them to get any more lost than they already were. Rocky led them into the busy streets that were filled to overflowing with street vendors that were yelling, “fish for sale” or bananas, get your bananas here”. Amanda had never seen such a commotion. The street was filled with such unfamiliar sights and smells. Back home, if you wanted food, you went to the supermarket and bought everything you wanted all in one place. You could even buy socks and toasters where you
bought your food. This was so very different. And they certainly didn’t have toasters, or cars, or street lights with light bulbs. The women were all wearing long ruffled dresses like the one she had on and carried fancy umbrellas Rocky called parasols to protect them from the sun. “Why don’t they use sunscreen?” Bobby asked. “What’s that?” Shorty asked. “Sunscreen, you know. To protect you from the ozone,” Bobby was saying to the boys with blank stares on their faces. “They haven’t invented it yet, Bobby,” Eva explained. “Oh.” It was easy to forget that all the things they had at home didn’t exist yet. “Come on. Let’s go play stickball,” Rocky said. “Yeah!” Gabby said, eagerly and followed after Rocky, as he went down a side alley. There, they set up the game that was a little like baseball to Bobby, but they used a broom handle for a bat and a small white ball from Rocky’s pocket. It certainly wasn’t like the baseball he was used to playing. He was on a team at home called the Tigers and they were in 2nd place. Bobby played outfield and was pretty good at catching fly balls. But this stickball was different. It was played in an alley, not on a nice grassy field, and the bases were made from trash cans. They played for about an hour, until they heard the clanging of a fire truck pass by the alley and Rocky dropped the bat and called out, “Let’s go!” He started running and the others followed. To them, it was exciting to watch the fire truck race to the fire and pump water to try and put the fire out. All except Shorty. Shorty didn’t like fires and never would. He would just sit on a nearby stoop until it was over and the boys were ready to
go back home. As Rocky, Mac and Gabby watched with excitement, The others sat with Shorty on the stoop down the street. Amanda handed Ghost to Shorty and the little boy sat and stroked his head while he held him close. “It’s okay, Shorty,” Amanda said to him. “Amanda?” the little boy started to say. “Yes, Shorty?” “Could I go with you tomorrow?” Shorty asked in a small sad voice. Amanda looked down at Shorty and felt so sorry for him. He was so little and so alone. She knew Rocky took care of him. But he needed his family and they were gone. He needed a mother and father to love and take care of him. “Shorty, why don’t you go back to the orphanage so they can find a home for you?” “I don’t want to go back there. I want to go with you,” he said as he started to cry. “We can’t take you, Shorty. We’d like to, but we can’t,” Eva tried to explain. “It’s dangerous and we’re not sure we’re ever going to make it back.” Eva could see that as she said the words, Bobby’s face froze. “What do you mean we might not make it back? Is that true, Amanda? Is it??” Bobby asked with panic in his voice. Amanda just lowered her head and didn’t say anything. “No!!!” Bobby yelled and he stood up and started to run. Henry and Amanda jumped up and ran after him. Henry called to Eva to stay with Shorty. Bobby ran in and out of streets and alleys with the others hot on his trail. Amanda had a hard time keeping up because her ruffled dress tangled in her legs, nearly tripping her
several times. “Wait, Bobby! Please, stop!!” she called after him, breathless. He kept running. Bobby ducked behind some crates near the docks and out of sight from Amanda and Henry. They had him in their sight and then all of a sudden, he was gone. Bobby was crouched behind the stack of wooden crates, crying. He just wanted to go home. It was all his fault. If he hadn’t gone through that door, they wouldn’t be stranded in time bouncing from place to place. Right about now, he should be home playing video games with his best friend, Marco and eating microwave popcorn. Why, oh why did he go through that door? If they ever made it home again, he was never going to leave his house again! Henry and Amanda ran back and forth between the alleyways frantically searching for him. They had to find him. Bobby was still crying when he felt a hand reach over his shoulder. Thinking it was Henry, he looked up and found himself staring into the smiling face of Officer O’Reilly. “Well now, my fine lad. Just who are you?” “B…Bobby,” he stuttered, wiping his nose on his sleeve. “And just what are you doing here, Master Bobby. Hiding from something, are you?” “No, sir,” Bobby sniffled. “No? And why aren’t you in school, then?” “I…I…I’m lost,” Bobby cried. “Lost are you then,” Officer O’Reilly said in his thick Irish brogue. “Yes, sir.” “Lost, from where? Where do you live?” Officer O’Reilly asked him.
“23 Maplewood Drive,” Bobby said. “And just where would that be?” he asked, skeptically, since he knew of no Maplewood Dr. in the neighborhood. “It’s in…it’s in…” was all Bobby could say. He knew that he couldn’t say anymore because the policeman would surely lock him up and throw away the key if he told him he was from the future. Bobby started to cry again because he didn’t know what to do. “Just as I thought. A runaway. Yer comin’ with me, laddie.” “No! No!” Bobby started to kick and scream, as Officer O’Reilly grabbed him by the back of his shirt collar. “Now, now. Don’t make this harder on yerself, son.” Henry and Amanda heard the commotion and ran towards Bobby’s voice. They saw Bobby being carried off in the strong arms of Officer O’Reilly. “Oh, no!” Amanda gasped. “Sssshhh,” Henry told her. “We don’t want him to see us,” Henry said, as he pulled her down next to him hidden from view. “Where is he taking him?” Amanda asked, frantically. “Probably to the stationhouse to find out where he belongs.” “Oh, my gosh! What will they do to him when he tells them?” Amanda asked. “They’ll lock him up in the nut house!” “We’ve got to get him,” Henry said, as he came out from behind the crates to follow them. “How?” Amanda asked. “I don’t know. But first we have to find out where he’s taking him.”
Amanda and Henry followed the policeman and the screaming, fighting Bobby all the was to the stationhouse. Officer Michael O’Reilly was the biggest, strongest policeman in the police department, but even he had a hard time hanging on to Bobby, as he fought to get away. He had caught many runaways over the years. Most of them were boys from St. Matthew’s Orphanage, thinking they could find a long-lost relative to take them in, but usually there was no-one. After a day or two on the streets, the boys would be hungry and tired enough to let themselves be caught and sent back to the warm dormitory of St. Matthew’s. Having learned a hard lesson, they didn’t usually try again. Rocky and his gang were the exception. They managed okay on the streets and Rocky took pretty good care of them. Most of the time they had something to eat and a place to sleep. They were like a band of brothers that became a family. Rocky even taught the younger ones to read from old thrown away newspapers in the street. And he was pretty good at ciphering, so he taught them that, too. Henry and Amanda crouched behind the trash cans across the street, as Officer O’Reilly carried Bobby up the stairs and through the big glass doors that closed behind them. “Poor Bobby. He must be scared to death,” Amanda cried. “What are we going to do?” “Let’s hope he understands that if he tells them about the rings, they’ll think he’s crazy. We should go get Rocky. He’s been in situations like this before. Maybe he can help,” Henry said to her. “Good idea,” she said and they took off for the clubhouse. “Where’ve you been?” Rocky yelled at them, as they came through the door. He was afraid they would mess up his plan to steal the rings. “They’ve got Bobby!” Amanda cried.
“Who? Who’s got him?” Rocky asked. “The police! We saw that officer take him away!” Amanda told him. “Officer O’Reilly?” he asked. “Yes. Bobby was upset when he found out that we might not be able to make it back home and he ran away. Officer O’Reilly found him and dragged him into the police station.” Henry said, trying to stay calm for Amanda’s sake. “Drats!” Rocky said. He could see the plans he made with Lefty falling apart. There wasn’t much time. He had to think of something…and fast! He had to get Bobby out of there. His mind was racing, as he tried to think of a plan. “I’ve got it!” he yelled after a few minutes. “What is it?” Amanda asked, hopefully. She knew Rocky was pretty sneaky and if anyone could get Bobby away from the police, it would be him. “Okay. You three are new here. No-one has ever seen you, so they might believe that you’re visitors here, and not runaways,” he explained. “Okay,” Henry said. “What’s your idea?” “Well, you could walk right into the stationhouse with a letter, a letter from your parents saying your traveling through to… to where they are, or to some school somewhere, and Bobby got lost from you.” “I don’t know, Rocky. That sounds kind of shaky. Why should they believe us and let him go?” Henry asked, skeptically. “Because we’re going to forge the perfect letter from your parents. I have the stuff,” he said, confidently. Rocky got up and walked over to a corner of the room where he had things stored in a
box. “What’s that?” Eva asked, as he sat back down. Rocky lifted the lid on the worn wooden box that was the only thing he had to remember his mother who died shortly after he was six years old, leaving him an orphan. Carefully, he lifted out a piece of ivory-colored paper. Rocky had helped Lefty on many occasion to craft a false letter for some crooked, yet profitable purpose. Lefty said Rocky had a “gift” for writing and these were the tools he used. “Okay, this might work,” Henry said, as he began to understand what Rocky planned to do. Without thinking, he reached in his shirt pocket and pulled out a pen to write with. “What’s that??” Gabby asked. “It’s a pen,” Amanda said and then she realized they would have no idea what it was or what it did and they wouldn’t be able to use it. “We can’t use this,” Henry said as he clicked the point closed and put it back in his pocket. “No,” she agreed, knowing that the letter they were about to write needed to look authentic and a ballpoint pen from the 21st century would surely be suspicious. “Let me see that,” Rocky said, as he reached across into Henry’s pocket and removed the pen. “So what exactly is this?” he asked, as he clicked the pen open and closed. The other boys sat mesmerized watching him click the pen. Henry took it from Rocky’s hand and clicking it open, he took the paper and wrote his name. “Wow! How did you do that? What is it? Where did it come from? Can I try?” Gabby
spouted. “Shut up, Gabby!” Rocky said. “This is what we write with at home. The ink is inside and when it’s used up, we throw it away,” Henry told them. Such a simple, small thing from home that was like magic to them. They just stared at him. “Where did you get this?” Rocky yelled at him. “What’s wrong, Rocky? Why are you mad?” Shorty asked. “I mean it. Where did you get this?” “It came from home,” Amanda said, gently. At that moment, it dawned on Rocky. They hadn’t been fooling him. They were serious. They really were from sometime in the future! “I didn’t believe you,” he said, as he hung his head in disbelief. “It’s okay, Rocky. It’s a pretty hard story to swallow. It’s hard for me to believe and it happened to me and Bobby,” Amanda said. “Bobby!” Rocky shouted. “We’ve got to get him out!” All of a sudden Rocky was filled with a terrible sense of guilt. Not only hadn’t he believed his new friends, he had also planned to rob them of their only way home. He felt awful! Well, he was going to make it up to them. He was going to get Bobby and keep them all safe until they could travel home. Rocky took out the quill pen and bottle of ink from his box and started to compose a letter in very grown-up handwriting that would fool Officer O’Reilly. When he was done, he passed to Henry to read. “Hey, this is pretty good. This might just work,” Henry said, impressed with Rocky’s
skill. “Thanks.” Rocky felt his face get red and hot from shame. They trusted him and he almost betrayed them. “We’d better get started. We don’t want them taking Bobby somewhere else,” Rocky said. They made up a believable story and practiced it over and over until they knew it by heart. Then Rocky led them back to the stationhouse and waited outside. Only Mac went with them, in case they needed something. He could be trusted to be sent on a errand should something go wrong. “Do you think this will work?” Mac asked Rocky. “It has to!” Rocky hoped he was right. He felt so awful that he planned to steal the one thing that gave them any chance of returning home. But, after all, who could really blame him, he thought. How could anybody really truly believe that they came from the future. It was still pretty unbelievable. But in his heart, he knew it was true. They talked different, acted different and that thing Henry called a “ballpoint pen”. Rocky had never seen anything like it and he knew right then and there that they really had been telling them the truth. So here he was, outside the stationhouse with Mac, hoping his scheme would work. He watched as the three of them walked up the steps and through the glass doors. Henry walked up to the tall desk and cleared his throat to attract the desk sergeant’s attention. “Can I help you,” Sergeant Ferguson asked the three youngsters staring at him from across the desk.
“I believe you found my brother,” Henry said in his most grown-up voice. “And who might that be?” Sergeant Ferguson asked suspiciously. “His name is Bobby Harper,” Henry said in his most confident manner. “We’re traveling to meet our parents in Boston and Bobby got separated from us.” “Is that right?” “Yes, sir.” “Well, let’s go see him then,” the sergeant said, as he led them to the back room where Bobby was sitting with Officer O’Reilly drinking a glass of milk. “Amanda!” Bobby yelled, and ran to hug her. “Bobby! It’s okay,” she said, as she hugged him back. She was so glad to see him. How things had changed from a few days before when he was nothing more than a royal pain in the butt! Officer O’Reilly only saw them hugging. He didn’t see her whisper something in his ear. Bobby looked at her and nodded his head with understanding. “Thank you so much for finding our brother,” she said politely to the officer. “You’re very welcome, little lady,” he said back. “Now, why don’t you tell me exactly what happened.” Officer O’Reilly was not entirely convinced at the truthfulness of their story and needed more convincing. “Well, sir…you see, our brother likes to wander off and we only turned our back for a moment and then he was just…gone. We were frantic and have been looking everywhere. That’s when we decided to look here. We can’t thank you enough. We hope he hasn’t been any trouble,” Amanda said, calmly. Henry marveled at how well she was able to stick to the story they made up. She was pretty convincing, he thought. He hoped she was convincing enough. Henry looked at Officer O’Reilly’s face and saw it soften and knew
that he believed Amanda. It was only a few minutes later when Rocky saw the four of them walk out the stationhouse doors and down the steps. “They did it!” he exclaimed to Mac. They waited until Henry and the others crossed over to them and then Rocky jumped up and slapped Henry on the back. “You did it!” he said, Henry shook his Rocky’s hand. “It was close. Amanda did most of the talking and she did a great job. She’s almost had me believing her story,” he laughed. “Let’s scram before we get caught again,” Bobby said, nervous from his very recent capture. “Yeah,” Rocky agreed and they took off in the direction of the clubhouse. Gabby and Shorty were anxiously awaiting their return. Shorty kept Ghost close to him the whole time. “Amanda!” Shorty yelled, as they came through the door and ran to hug her. He had gotten really fond of her and her little kitten Ghost. “They were great!” Rocky told the others. “I didn’t know if Officer O’Reilly would buy their story, but he did.” “It was your letter that was so clinched the deal. And Bobby was terrific. He hadn’t told them anything but his name. He just kept saying that he was lost,” Henry told them. “I didn’t know what else to say. I figured if I told them the truth they’d lock me up in the nut house! So I tried to stall them for time. I was sure glad to see you guys. I thought I was a goner!” Bobby said. Rocky decided they should celebrate springing Bobby from jail and their last night
together. Rocky now knew that they really would be leaving the next day with the magical rings on their fingers and he would make sure nothing would get in their way. He knew he needed to slip out and tell Lefty that the deal was off, that it was all a mistake. He didn’t ever want the others to know what a terrible thing he had almost done, so he made an excuse about going “shopping” for something special to eat for their celebration and left the clubhouse for his meeting with Lefty. Lefty spotted Rocky, as he walked alone down by the shipyard. He waited a few minutes to make sure he was alone and then approached Rocky. “Hey! What gives? Where’s the ones with the rings?” he asked, annoyed that Rocky was alone. “I’m sorry Lefty. I was wrong. Turns out the rings are worthless,” Rocky said, convincingly. “Rats! I was all set up to sell them for a tidy little profit,” Lefty admitted. “You sure?” “Yeah,” Rocky said trying to sound very disappointed. “I’ll let you know when I find something else, okay?” “Sure kid. We’ve always worked well together.” “See ya,” Rocky said, as he turned from Lefty and went in the direction of the clubhouse. He didn’t see that Lefty followed behind him in the shadows. “Worthless, huh. I think I’ll just see for myself,” Lefty whispered to himself, as he followed Rocky all the way to the clubhouse.
They were all sitting around telling stories when Rocky came back. He pulled a handful of licorice sticks from his jacket pocket. He had grabbed them from the penny
candy store on his way to meet Lefty. “Licorice! That’s my favorite,” Bobby exclaimed. “Me too!” Gabby said, as he took a stick from Rocky’s hand. “What time are you guys going to leave tomorrow?” Rocky asked. “Well, actually, we can leave anytime after midnight,” Henry told him. “I don’t want you to go,” Shorty started to cry, as he clutched Ghost to his chest. “I know,” Amanda said, softly. She felt sad that she would have to leave the little boy behind. The others were older and seemed tougher. Shorty was just a little kid who really needed a mother. “It’s going to be okay, Shorty. We’ll take good care of you,” Rocky said, but he knew what Amanda knew. Shorty needed a mother. He knew that after Henry and the others were gone, he was going to have to get Shorty back to the orphanage so he had a chance to be adopted. He would be sad to leave them, but he needed a mother more. And the orphanage was his only chance. He wouldn’t tell Shorty about it because he knew he wouldn’t leave Rocky willingly. Rocky would miss him, but it was the best thing for Shorty, so it had to be done. They were talking and laughing, so they didn’t hear or see Lefty slip into the corner of the room and into the shadows. He sat very still as he watched Rocky and his gang with the four strangers. His eyes narrowed, as he caught a glimpse of the shiny green rings on two of their fingers. Don’t look worthless to me, he thought, silently. When he was sure they were going to be caught off guard, he made his move. He moved out from the shadows and grabbed Eva by the arm. She screamed with surprise. “Lefty!” Rocky yelled. “Let her go!”
“I don’t think so, my friend,” he said, as he held tied to the squirming girl’s arm. “What’s going on?” Henry asked, as he drew closer to Lefty and his sister. “Well, it seems that you have something that I might want,” Lefty said, as he grabbed for the ring on Eva’s hand. “No!!” she screamed, as she kicked and scratched at him. He lifted his hand to hit her when Rocky jumped across and knocked him down. Eva scrambled away from him. Rocky and Lefty wrestled on the floor as the others watched in horror. “I…I’m sorry,” Rocky called out to Henry. “Get out of here, now! Get away where you’ll be safe!” he said, as he was being overtaken by the older man. Henry realized what had happened and that Rocky was giving them a chance to escape. He grabbed Amanda’s hand and yelled to the others, “let’s go!” He ran from the room with the other’s following, as Lefty jumped up to follow. He was surprised as he was tripped up by Shorty who was not going to let anybody hurt his friends. “Take care of Ghost,” he heard Amanda call out, as she ran from the clubhouse. “I will, Amanda! Don’t worry,” the little boy called after her, as he jumped on Lefty’s back to slow him down. The others followed and Lefty was overpowered as the Henry led the others to safety.
They were out of breath when they finally stopped running. “What happened?” Amanda asked at last. “I think our friend Rocky was going to steal our rings,” Henry said. “No!” Amanda said in disbelief.
“I’m afraid so. I think he didn’t believe our story and thought they were just valuable rings. Then when he realized we were telling the truth, it was too late.” “But he saved us,” Bobby said, defending Rocky. “Yes, he came through for us,” Henry agreed. “It was a close call.” “I hope he’ll be okay,” Eva said. “He saved me from that man.” “I’m sure they’ll be okay. Those boys are pretty tough.” “All except Shorty,” Amanda said, sadly. “He’s going to be okay. Rocky told me that he’s going to return him to St. Matthew’s, so he can be adopted. And now he has Ghost,” he said, as he looked at her. “Yes. Ghost is in good hands,” she smiled.
From the shadows in the alley where they hid, they could see the big clock tower with the hands ticking closer to midnight. “It’s almost time,” Henry said, as he and Eva adjusted the dials on their rings. “I know it’s going to work this time, “ Amanda said to her very nervous brother. “I’m sure it will, “ Eva said, confidently, even though she had no idea where they were going to end up. Just as they heard the clock strike twelve, they held hands and felt the familiar mist and whirling…and they were gone.
CHAPTER 4 -- POODLE SKIRTS AND ELVIS
Whoosh!!! was all they felt, as the wind blew their hair. Bobby’s eyes were closed shut and he was afraid to open them. “Did we make it?” he asked, with his face scrunched up to keep his eyes from popping open. “I don’t know,” Henry admitted, as he looked down at his clothes. He was wearing jeans and a white t-shirt and thought, we made it. Then he looked at the girls and thought, no, we didn’t. They were both wearing white buttoned down shirts and skirts that were different only in color. Amanda’s was pink with a stiff slip underneath that held it almost straight out. And embroidered on the front was a felt dog! It was a poodle. Eva’s skirt was almost identical except that it was blue. He knew from experience that they were in the 1950’s. Well, not quite home,” he told Bobby, as he finally opened his eyes. “Bummer,” Bobby said, more cheerfully than they all expected. Their last close call seemed to have given Bobby some extra courage. It seemed that he was getting used to the unexpected and there seemed to be something vaguely familiar with their current surroundings. “Where are we?” he asked. When Henry said it was the 1950’s, Bobby cried out, “That’s it! I knew this looked familiar. We’ve seen pictures, Amanda…of Grandma and
Grandpa. They used to wear clothes like this, remember?” “You’re right! I do remember,” she answered him. Amanda was just happy that they landed somewhere safely and that her brother wasn’t totally freaked out. “Well, at least we’re closer than we were and this isn’t as scary.” Amanda and Bobby both felt more secure, since they were familiar with something at last. They had heard their grandparents tell enough stories of when they grew up to know a little about the ’50’s. And they always thought some of it was actually pretty cool. “Okay, now we need to figure out where we are,” Henry said. They looked around and saw that they landed in a small town. Definitely not a big city, Amanda thought. It looked like the main street of a town that might be somewhere like Kansas or Iowa. When they looked out passed the center of the town, they saw farm country, with cornfields and wheat blowing in the breeze. The street had small stores running up one side and down the other. There was a hardware store, a drugstore, a jewelry store, a small food market. There was a big white church in the center surrounded by a big green grassy park with benches and trees. It looked like a quiet town somewhere in the country. As they stood watching the people walking in and out of the stores carrying their packages in brown paper bags, they heard a roar of engines from the distance. Heads turned in the direction of the noise and the older people shook their heads in disgust. “Punks!” they heard one of the women say, as they saw three motorcycles with loud engines pull up in front of the drugstore. A group of teenagers jumped off and went in to the drugstore. Inside, there was a soda fountain with a long white counter and stools that served ice cream and sandwiches. Amanda and Bobby had seen something just like it in
the movies. “Hey! This is kinda like that movie….“Back to the Future,” Bobby said. “Yeah, well, I guess it is, sort of. Actually, that’s exactly what’s happened. We’re back to the future and in the movies,” Amanda said. It was one more thing that made them feel like they weren’t totally in a strange place. I mean after all, they weren’t being chased by cowboys! “I’m hungry!” Bobby said. “So what’s new?” Amanda laughed. Bobby was always hungry. At least he wasn’t scared, she thought. “I am, too,” Eva said and they agreed upon a story to tell about why they were in town and went into the drugstore. “Hey, look what the cat dragged in,” a boy a little older than Henry said, as they sat down at the end of the counter. Henry ignored the comment and handed a menu to his sister. He had been in this position before. He could tell just from the boy’s remark that he was the head of the group and he was a bully. “I said, look what the cat dragged in!” he repeated, a little louder. Again, Henry said nothing and pretended he didn’t hear him, but he knew this boy was looking for trouble. “Oh, leave ‘em alone, Rick,” the girl with the blond ponytail sitting next to him said. She took a sip of the ice cream soda they shared and pushed the glass towards him. He took a sip from one of the straws and decided that she would get mad at him if he started a fight right here in the drugstore, so he decided to drop it. There was always later. They
finished their sodas and left, making a loud racket, as they started up their engines and took off on their bikes. “Good riddance to bad rubbish,” the man behind the counter said out loud. “You said it, Ralph,” another man said, as he walked in. “What can I get you kids, “ Ralph said, as he turned to them to take their order. “I’ll have a burger and a Coke, sir,” Amanda said. “Me, too,” said Bobby. “I’ll have a hot dog, please. With a cherry Coke.” Eva said. “Cheeseburger and fries, with a chocolate malt for me, please.” “Sure thing,” Ralph smiled. “You hear that, George?” he said to the other man that sat down at the counter. They said please. Not like that riff-raff that just left.” “Yeah. It’s a shame,” George said, as he cocked his head towards the teenagers that had just left. “Where you kids from?” George asked, as he took a sip of the coffee Ralph placed in front of him. “We’re visiting our aunt and uncle outside of town. We’ll be here a few days,” Henry said, as their appointed spokesman. “Oh. Well, glad to have you. Hope you enjoy your stay.” Henry smiled at Eva. He knew that most of the time a simple explanation would do and they seemed to fit in. As long as they didn’t do anything to draw attention to themselves, they’d be okay until it was time to travel again. Ralph placed their food in front of them and watched the hungry kids gobble their food. Nice kids, he thought. Too bad that all kids weren’t like that. Ralph was thinking of
the group that just left and how different they were. Rick was the ringleader and the worst. The others just followed because they wanted to belong. They weren’t bad kids, except for Rick. They were just followers and they were following Rick right into trouble. When Henry and the others finished eating, Henry paid they check and they left the drugstore. They walked across the street to the park and sat down on the grass to make their plans for the next two days. “We need to stay tucked away somewhere. Those other kids are trouble,” Henry said, talking about Rick and his gang. “Yeah,” Amanda agreed. “The one named Rick scared me.” “We just need to stay hidden. I don’t think we’ll have to much trouble finding a place to hide,” he said, as he looked around. It was summer so it was warm enough to sleep outdoors if they had to and it looked like mostly farming country, so there was plenty of areas to hide. They decided to explore the area to find a suitable place to hang out. As they walked through the small park, there was a group a young boys playing baseball. “Come on, Tommy. Right over the plate,” the boy playing catcher called out to the pitcher. “He can’t hit the side of a barn,” a girl with pigtails called out from the outfield. Tommy threw the ball and the boy that couldn’t hit the side of a barn swung and hit the ball high up into the air and almost to the edge of the park. It landed right in front of Bobby. He picked it up and threw it back to Tommy. “Hey! Good arm,” Tommy said. “You guys wanna play?”
“Can we?” Bobby pleaded. It felt like he hadn’t played ball in forever and he really wanted to play. Henry thought about saying no; he wanted to have as little contact with anyone as possible, but it was hard to say no to Bobby. He looked truly pathetic, as he begged to play. “Okay. But just for a little while,” he finally said. “Thanks, Henry!” Bobby said, as he was running towards Tommy and the others. “You wanna pitch?” Tommy asked Bobby. “Sure!” he said, eagerly, as Tommy tossed him the ball. Tommy and Henry moved into the outfield and the girls sat on the side waiting their turn to come up to bat. Bobby wound up his first pitch and threw. “Strike one,” the catcher called. Bobby smiled. He knew he was really good at baseball and he loved to play. He threw another pitch. “Strike two.” “Boy, he’s really good,” Amanda heard one of the boys from the other team say. She was surprised when she heard herself say, “He’s my brother.” At home, she would rather die than admit he was her brother. She would rather pretend he was an alien from another planet. “Strike three, yer out!” Bobby smiled with a toothy grin, as his team left the field for the next inning. They played for another hour until Bobby had struck out all but one of the other players and led his team to victory. It seemed that he was the hero of the day and he was
loving every minute of it. They made friends with the small group of kids they played ball with and they were invited back to Tommy’s house for a barbeque. “Come on. We have a big cookout every Friday night. Everybody comes! My parents won’t mind. Please?” Tommy pleaded. He liked his new friends and he wanted to make sure Bobby would play on his team again, next time. Again, Henry wanted to leave, but again, Bobby’s pathetic, pleading voice persuaded him to go to Tommy’s. And he had to admit, a barbeque with their new friends sounded a lot better than sitting in some haystack with cold sandwiches. “Okay, but only for a little while.” “You’re the best, Henry!” Bobby said and they left for Tommy’s house. Tommy lived in a house just outside of town with his parents, older brother, and younger sister Ellie. Ellie was six with red hair and freckles. “Nice to meet you,” Mrs. Larson said to them, when Tommy introduced his new friends. “Thank you for having us, Mrs. Larson,” Amanda said, politely. “You’re welcome. There’s always plenty of burgers and hot dogs for Tommy’s friends. Just help yourselves and have a good time.” Tommy had a huge backyard and it was filled with other families having fun. It reminded Amanda and Bobby of their cookouts back home and they both started to feel homesick. “Don’t worry. We’ll get there,” Amanda said to Bobby, reading his mind. “I know. I’m not worried,” he lied. They stuffed themselves on hot dogs and potato salad and washed it down with coke
they drank from glass bottles. As the sun started to set, Mr. Larson turned on the patio lights. They were colored Christmas lights that were strung across the trees. The lightning bugs started to glow in the dark and someone put music on. It certainly wasn’t the music they were used to. It wasn’t In Sync or Raven. But Amanda and Bobby recognized it anyway. It was the voice of Elvis Presley and they were used to hearing their Grandma play it in her car. “You ain’t nothing but a hounddog” they heard Elvis singing and watched, as everybody started to dance. They were all having a great time, when Henry heard the roar of engines in the distance. As they started to get closer, he thought they sounded a lot like the motorcycles from that afternoon and started to get nervous. He knew they should have left hours ago. He was right. Heads turned as Ricky pulled into the driveway with his girlfriend sitting behind him on the seat. They hopped off and came into the backyard. “That’s my brother,” Tommy said to Henry. “Nobody likes him, because he‘s a troublemaker,” he said. Ricky strutted to the cooler and took out a Coke for himself and his girl. “Hey, Pop,” he said to his father. “Hi, Ricky. Hi, Judy,” Mr. Larson said. “Groovy party,” Ricky said, as took Judy’s hand and they started to dance. “He’s always getting in trouble. My mom and dad are always mad at him. I don’t know why he can’t be different,” Tommy said. When Ricky was done dancing, he noticed Henry out of the corner of his eye. Uh-oh, Henry thought.
Ricky walked over to Henry and the others. “Well, what do we have here, little brother?” “Go away, Ricky,” Tommy said. “You gonna make me?” he asked. “Dad will,” Tommy said. Ricky looked over to the picnic table where his parents sat and decided to back off. He never made trouble in front of his parents…just everywhere else. “Later, you little creep,” Ricky said to Tommy. He gave Henry a look that sent chills down his back. Henry knew it was time to leave…now! Henry gathered up his sister and Amanda and Bobby. They thanked Mr. And Mrs. Larson and left. “That was a cool party,” Bobby said, as they walked down the street and out past the houses where Tommy lived. They came to a clearing that was at the edge of a farm, suitable for hiding out. They snuck into the barn and up into the hayloft. It had been a long day and they were all too tired to talk. They fell asleep as soon as they laid down on the scratchy piles of hay. It was early and the rooster crowing in the barnyard woke them up the next morning. The smell of bacon frying coming from the farmhouse made them all hungry. They scurried to their feet and brushed off the pieces of hay that stuck to their clothes and snuck back out of the barn without being seen. They wandered into town to buy some breakfast. It was early and most of the town wasn’t stirring yet. They went into Murphy’s Diner and ordered blueberry pancakes. “You kids are up awful early,” Mrs. Murphy said, as she laid the hot pancakes in front
of them. “We have to meet our…our cousins for a…a birthday party,” Amanda stuttered, as she tried to make up a story. Henry thought, she’s getting pretty good at this. “Well, have a good time. Great day for a party, “ Mrs. Murphy said, as she looked out the window. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. After they ate the stacks of pancakes and washed it down with big glasses of cold milk, they wandered out to a wooded area near the park. There they would sit and wait for the day to pass, until midnight came and they were able to travel one more time. By 8:30, Tommy and his friends started arriving at the park to play their usual Saturday morning game and Tommy yelled as soon as he saw Bobby. “Look, there’s Bobby and the guys from last night. Hey! Hey, you guys, come play with us!” he screamed across the green. “Can we, Henry???” Bobby begged. “Well, I don’t suppose there’d be any stopping you,” Henry called after him, as Bobby was already halfway across the park. “C’mon, we might as well go, too,” Henry said to the girls and they walked over to the game that was already starting. Amanda and Henry were on one team and Eva and Bobby were on the other. Tommy made sure they were on his team. He knew from the day before that Bobby was a star pitcher and he wanted him on his team. Henry wasn’t bad, but Bobby…well, he was terrific. They played until almost lunchtime with Tommy’s team winning both games. They were all hot and sweaty when they finished and went into the drugstore for a coke to cool
down. “Hey, you guys wanna go fishing? There’s a great place we go and I can have my mom pack us a lunch,” Tommy said. “Sure!” Bobby said and then looked over to Henry for approval. “Sure, why not? We might as well stay busy until tonight,” Henry said. “What’s tonight?” Tommy asked. “Oh, well, uh, we…we are leaving tonight,” Eva stuttered. “Leaving?” Tommy asked with disappointment. “Yeah, we have to go home tonight,” Amanda said. “Oh. Are you guys coming back soon?” Tommy asked, hopefully. “I don’t think so, Tommy,” Henry said. “We won’t ever be back,” Bobby admitted. Henry shot him a look and Bobby realized he might have said too much. “Not ever?” Tommy asked. “Well, maybe we will,” Bobby lied, to cover up having said too much already. “I hope so. You guys are groovy.” They all followed Tommy back to the Larson house and into the big white kitchen. “Hi, Mom. Can you make us some sandwiches to take down to Duffy’s Pond? I’m taking these guys fishing,” Tommy asked his mom, who was making a pitcher of lemonade. “Sure, Tommy. Here, I’ll give you a thermos of this lemonade and how about peanut butter and jelly. Is that okay with you kids?“ she asked Henry and the others. “That would be great, Mrs. Larson,” Amanda said, politely.
They watched as she laid the bread out on the table and spread it with Skippy and grape jelly. Then she wrapped each one with waxed paper. Bobby had seen his mother use waxed paper when she baked, but she never used it for sandwiches. His mother used baggies. And they had juice boxes at home that they could just toss in the trash. So much here was different and then so much was the same. As Bobby watched Mrs. Larson, he thought of his mother and how she made his lunch everyday and kissed him goodnight. He was having fun with Tommy and his friends, but he wanted to go home. Just as Mrs. Larson finished packing up their picnic lunch, Ricky wandered down into the kitchen. He glared at Henry and the others. “Hey,” he snickered at them. “We’re going fishing,” Tommy told him. Ricky just grunted. “Morning, Ma,” he said, as he reached in the fridge for the orange juice. “It’s about time you got up,” she said. “Aw, Ma. It’s Saturday.” “That’s no excuse for sleeping the day away,” she scolded. “Yeah, yeah,” he said, as he gulped down his juice. “Mom, we’re gonna go. Thanks,” he said, as he held up the sack lunch in his hand. “Have a good time. And be home by 6 for dinner,” she called after him, as he went out the kitchen door. “Okay,” he said, as the screen door banged close behind them. “Your brother’s scary,” Bobby said, as they walked to the garage to get Tommy’s fishing poles. “Oh, he’s not always so bad. Sometimes he’s okay. But sometimes he can be real
trouble. You just never know what he’s going to do. He once helped me build a go-cart for a race and I came in 2nd place. But then another time, he took my transistor radio and sold it to one of his creepy friends.” They walked past the center of town and down along the train tracks to Duffy’s Pond where there were a few other kids sitting on the banks with their fishing poles. “This is awesome!” Bobby said, as he baited his hook with a creepy-crawly worm. “It’s what?” Tommy asked. “Awesome,” Bobby repeated. “You talk kind of funny,” Tommy said. “Yeah, he says some funny things at home, too,” Amanda said. They sat on the edge of the pond with their poles dangling in the water for only a little while when Bobby started yelling. “Look! Look! I think I’ve got one,” Bobby shrieked, as he started pulling on his pole. “Yeah, I think you do! Don’t pull too hard. You’ll lose him!” Tommy said, as he dropped his pole to help Bobby bring in his catch. It took a few minutes, but Bobby tugged on the pole, pulling it back and forth so he wouldn’t lose the fish and then finally, with one big yank, the fish came out of the water and landed smack dab in Amanda’s lap. “Yuk!!!” she screamed, as she jumped up and sent the fish flying in the air. It landed at Ricky’s feet. “Well, well. Quite the little fishermen, aren’t we?” he said with a sinister smile. “What are you doing here?” Tommy asked his brother. “Can’t I check out what my little brother is doing?” he asked, faking innocence. “What do you want?” Tommy asked.
“I thought I’d just like to hang out with my little brother and his little friends. There’s nothing wrong with that, is there?” Henry and the others were getting nervous. The last thing they needed was for Ricky to throw a monkey wrench into their travel plans. “Oh, go on, Ricky. Just leave us alone, will you?” Tommy said to him. “I don’t think so. I like your new friends. I think we could all be friends,” he said. Tommy didn’t like the way he said it. “You leave them alone!” Tommy yelled at his brother. “Don’t get so nervous, you little punk,” Ricky said, as he sat down between Eva and Bobby. “That’s quite a nice little fish you got there,” he said to Bobby. “Yeah. But he’s not so little!” Bobby said, bravely. “I guess not,” Ricky said, as he picked up the squirming fish that was gulping for air. He held it by the tail, waved it back in forth in front of Bobby and then threw it back in the pond. “Hey!!” Bobby yelled, as he tried to grab the fish before it left Ricky’s hand. “You creep!” Tommy screamed. “Oh shut up, you brat!” Ricky said back. Henry sat silently, as he tried to think of a way to get out of this potentially dangerous situation. Ricky looked over at Eva and noticed something bright and shining on her finger. “Hey, what’s this?” he asked, as he grabbed her hand. “Let go!” she said, as she tried to pull her hand back. But Ricky held tight and she
couldn’t squirm out of his grasp. “Let her go!” Henry said, as he stood up. “You gonna make me?” Ricky asked. “If I have to,” Henry said. Ricky looked down at the ring on Eva’s finger and decided that it was a prize worth having. It would fetch a nice price or better yet, he could give it to Judy. He had never seen anything like it and Judy would be very impressed. Before Eva could stop him, he twisted the ring off her finger, stood up, and took off through the trees. “No! Stop!!!” she called out. Henry ran after him, but Ricky knew the woods and Henry didn’t, so he escaped easily. Henry ran back to the others, breathless from the chase. “We’ve got to get that ring back, Tommy!” Henry said, urgently. “I’m sorry,” Tommy cried. “I told you he could be creep.” “You don’t understand, Tommy. We have to get that ring back, right away!” “If we can’t, I’ll pay you for it. I have a lot of money in my piggybank,” Tommy said, doubtful that they would be able to get Ricky to part with the ring. “No, Tommy. You don’t understand. We need the ring,” Henry said, very quietly. Something in the way he said it made Tommy sit up and take notice. “Is it special?” he asked and as he did, he noticed that Henry was wearing a ring identical to the one his brother had taken from Eva’s finger. “Very special…and we have to get it back!” “We have to tell him,” Bobby said to Henry. “Be quiet, Bobby,” Amanda said to him.
“Tell me what?” Tommy asked with curiosity. “Maybe we should tell him. Then he’ll know why we need to find Ricky right away,” Eva said. “Tell me what??” Tommy cried. “Okay, okay. Sit down,” Henry said and Tommy sat down next to him. Henry told him a short version of the story because they didn’t have time to get into any details. As he spoke, Tommy’s mouth dropped open in amazement and disbelief. But he was only 10, so he was easily convinced in the magic of their story. He knew from the beginning that something was different about them and he knew that he had to help them get back the ring that his brother had stolen. “Let’s go! I know his hangout,” Tommy said, as jumped up and started running. The others ran behind him, as he weaved in and out of the trees to an old abandoned warehouse near the highway. As they approached, they could see several motorcycles lined up and hear voices inside. Tommy didn’t recognize any of the bikes as his brother’s. They sneaked closer, so they could hear. “He’s not in there,” Tommy said, as he peeked around the corner into the doorway. One of the older boys spotted him. “Hey, get out of here, you little creep!” he called out. Knowing how important it was to find his brother, he stepped bravely through the door. “I need to find Ricky,” he said. “Get lost,” one of the other boys said.
“No! I need to find my brother. It’s important!” Tommy said in a loud voice. “I need to find my brother. I need to find my brother,” the boy teased. Tommy felt tears sting his eyes, but he knew he had to be very brave. “It’s an emergency! Ma needs him right away.” “Oh, all right, you big baby. He’s with Judy. Try Lookout Point.” “Thanks, Willie,” Tommy said, as he turned and ran back to the others. “C’mon,” was all he said. Lookout Point was on a hill overlooking the town and Willie was right. Tommy saw Ricky’s motorcycle parked by a big rock. At first he didn’t see his brother, but Eva did. “There they are,” she whispered, as she pointed to a nearby tree. “Let’s go,” Tommy said. He felt responsible for what happened and he was determined to get the ring back. “Okay, Ricky, hand it over,” Tommy said in his toughest voice. “Boy, you’re a royal pain in the butt,” Ricky said as he let go of Judy’s hand. They could all see the travel ring on Judy’s finger. “Give it back!” Tommy said. “Give what back?” Judy asked, innocently. “The ring!” Judy looked down at the dazzling green ring on her finger. “No. Ricky just gave it to me,” she cried, as she covered the ring with her other hand. “It’s not his to give,” Henry said to her. “Who are you?” Judy asked. She had never seen this group of kids before the BBQ at the Larson’s the night before.
“It’s my ring,” Eva said to Judy. “Says who?” she asked. She had no intention of giving up the ring Ricky had just given her. “Says me,” Henry said, as he held out his hand and showed her a ring identical to the one she was wearing. “Oh,” she said, realizing they were telling the truth. “You don’t have to give it back, Judy. I found it and finders keepers, losers weepers, “ Ricky said. “That’s right, Ricky. But you didn’t find it. You stole it!” Tommy said. “Don’t be ridiculous, creep. How could I have stolen it?” he asked. “Right off her finger, you big bully. And if you don’t give it back, I’m gonna tell Ma,” Tommy said. “Oh, drop dead. I found it and you can’t prove that I didn’t,” he said, as he shoved a finger in Tommy’s chest. Henry stepped in to help Tommy and Ricky took a swing at him. Henry ducked and avoided his punch, but the fight started and Amanda and Eva started screaming for them to stop. Ricky and Henry struggled on the ground with wild punches flying. When they rolled close to the edge of the hill, Judy started to scream. It was a sharp drop from the top of the Point and they could be killed. “Stop it! Stop it!” she yelled, but it was too late. They rolled to the edge and Ricky flung a punch that sent them over. “No!!!!!!” the others all screamed at the same time. They ran to the edge expecting to see Ricky and Henry’s bodies at the bottom of the ravine.
When they looked over, they saw Henry sprawled out on a narrow ledge and Ricky hanging below him, clinging to a small branch. “Oh, my gosh! Ricky!!!” Judy cried. “Help! help!!” Ricky screamed up to them. Henry started to stir and as he moved Amanda yelled to him. “Don’t move, Henry! You’re right on the edge. Don’t move!” Henry picked his aching head up slowly and looked around. He saw that she was right. If he moved just a little too far to the left, he would be over the edge and dashed on the rocks below. He looked just beneath him and saw Ricky dangling from a thin branch that was about to break from it’s tree. “Help me,” Ricky pleaded. “Please!” Henry thought, why should I? If it wasn’t for you, we wouldn’t be in this spot. But he couldn’t just let Ricky fall without trying to help. It was dangerous, though. There was very little room on the ledge, as it was. If he reached out for Ricky, there was a good chance they would both tumble over the side to the rocks below. “Please…help him!” Judy called out. Henry carefully raised himself to his knees and steadied himself on the ledge. There was only a thin rim of rock to grab hold of. “Give me your hand,” he said to Ricky. Ricky reached over and grabbed Henry’s arm, just as the branch broke. They could hear the others up above scream, as the branch fell to the ground below. Ricky dangled in midair, as Henry tried to pull him up. There was hardly any room and Henry was losing his balance trying to hold on. Ricky could see that Henry wasn’t
going to be able to save him, that were both going to fall from the ledge. “Let go of me, Henry,” Ricky said. “Save yourself.” It took Henry by surprise. He thought Ricky was a selfish punk who surely wouldn’t have saved him if the roles were reversed. “No!” Henry said, as he found new strength. They could hear the others cheering as he pulled Ricky up to safety. “Thanks, man,” Ricky said. “I didn’t deserve that.” “Well, I don’t think you’re half as bad as you make yourself out to be,” Henry said. “Let’s get out of here,” Ricky said. “Yeah,” Henry agreed, as they figured out a way to raise themselves back up to the others. “Ricky!” Judy said, as she hugged him tight around the neck. “Henry!” the others cried. “We thought you were a goner,” Bobby said and they all laughed. “Judy, give me the ring,” Ricky said to her. She slipped it off her finger and into his hand. “I’m really sorry,” he said, as he slipped it back onto Eva’s finger. “Thanks, “ she said, knowing that he really meant it. Maybe he wasn’t such a bad sort, after all. “Now you’ll be able to get home,” Tommy said to them. “What do you mean?” Ricky asked. “It’s kind of hard to explain,” Henry said. “Your not going to believe it!” Tommy said to his brother.
“What?” “It’s a pretty hard story to believe, Ricky,” Amanda said to him. “After this,” he said as he pointed to the cliff, “I’m up for anything.” “Okay,” Henry said and he told them the story. Ricky and Judy just stared at him. They didn’t believe a word of it. But they were still shaken from their near-death experience and grateful to Henry for having saved Ricky. So they were polite and both said at the same time, “Oh, I see.” Henry knew they didn’t understand, but that was okay. They didn’t need to. They just needed to let them go. “Isn’t that neat?” Tommy asked his brother. “Sure is,” Ricky said. Poor kid, he thought. He really believes this nonsense. “Well, we’d better get going,” Henry said. It was almost 6 and it was time for Tommy to be going home for dinner. Henry would take them back to the woods near the park and they could hang out there until midnight. Then they would be on their way. Please, he thought, let it work this time.
After they stopped at the Diner for burgers and fries for dinner, they went back to settle in for the wait. After a short time, they all fell asleep. It had been a very long day and they had been through a lot. It was dark when the noise from a passing car woke Henry. He looked at the clock tower and saw it was 11:30. Just a half hour longer to wait. He decided to let the others sleep until it was time. He stood up to stretch his legs and walked to a nearby park bench to wait. As he sat there, he watched a group of teens drive up on their motorcycles and saw Ricky and Judy on one of the bikes. They spotted him sitting alone on the bench and
walked away from the others and over to him. “Henry, what are you doing here so late?” Ricky asked him “We’re traveling soon,” Henry replied. “Oh yeah, That’s right. I forgot,” Ricky said, still not believing any of it. “Well, I have to go wake the others. It’s just about time,” he said, as the clock tower started to chime 12. “Sure. And thanks again for this afternoon,” Ricky said, as he reached out his hand to shake Henry’s. “No problem. Take care of Tommy, will you? He’s a pretty good kid.” “Yeah, I guess he is,” Ricky said and he watched Henry walk to where the others were sleeping on the grass. “Bye,” Judy said. Henry waved his hand in the air and then woke the others. “Is it time?” Amanda asked, sleepily. “Yes, it is.” “C’mon Bobby. Get up,” she said, as she shook him. “I’m up. I’m up!” he said wiping the sleep from his eyes. “Me, too,” Eva said. “Okay, then let’s get started,” Henry said to them. Eva stood next to Henry and they both adjusted their rings so the dials matched. Then they all stood in a circle and held hands like before. Just as before, the mist rose and swirled around them and as they took off they could hear Ricky yell to Judy…”They were telling the truth!!!” and they were gone.
CHAPTER 5 -- HELOISE
It was dark and cold when they landed. They couldn’t see anything. Bobby was very scared. “Amanda? Amanda? Where are you?” he cried. “It’s okay, Bobby. I’m right here,” she said, as she reached out and grabbed his hand in the dark. “Where are we Henry?” Amanda asked. “I don’t know,” he admitted. “It’s so dark,” Amanda said. Henry tried to feel around him to see if he could find anything to tell them where they were, but there was nothing. There was no furniture, no windows. The floor was hard under their feet. Henry thought it felt rough like cement, but he really couldn’t tell in the dark. It was so quiet that they could hear themselves breathing. “Henry? I’m really scared,” Bobby whispered. Amanda held onto his hand trying to be brave. She was very scared, too.
“Don’t worry, Bobby. I’ll find out where we are. I promise, it’ll be okay,” Henry tried to assure him. But the truth was, he was pretty scared, too. Henry walked around the room very slowly since he couldn’t see. He finally found a wall and ran his hand along it trying to find any clue as to where they were. “Hey! I found a door!” he shouted and turned the doorknob to open it. The bright outside light filled the room. “Henry! Eva!” they heard Heloise’s familiar voice cry out. “Heloise!!!” they yelled, as they ran into her arms. “We are so glad to see you!! We’ve been lost! Our rings are broken!” they chattered. “I know, I know. I saw the whole thing happen, but it was too late for me do anything to help you. I’ve been so worried!” she said, as she hugged them tight. “And you kids must be scared to death,” Heloise said to Bobby and Amanda. Amanda shook her head, yes and Bobby just broke down and cried. “I want to go home,” he sobbed. “I know, sweetheart,” Heloise said, as she took him in her arms. “You can fix it, can’t you, Heloise?” Henry asked. “First things first. You kids must be starving, and exhausted,” she said. “We sure are,” Henry said. “C’mon. Come with me,” she said. Heloise led them to a comfortable living room and they all plopped down on the couches and chairs. Heloise went into the kitchen to make them something to eat. By the time she came back in with a tray of sandwiches and milk, they were all fast asleep. She went back into the kitchen to put the food in the refrigerator until they woke up. She had
to talk to them about what they had to do next. Heloise knew they weren’t going to like everything she had to say.
They slept straight through until the next morning. When they woke, they saw Heloise sitting in a rocking chair waiting for them. “Wow! We must have been really tired,” Eva said. “And hungry!!” Bobby said when Heloise brought out the food. They all grabbed a sandwich from the tray and gobbled it down. Then they drank the milk she handed them. “Thanks, Heloise,” Henry said. “My pleasure,” she said. She wanted them to be at their best when she gave them the news. “Yeah, thanks, Heloise.” Amanda said. She was just as nice in person as she was in their movies. “Okay, we’d better get everybody back where they belong,” Henry said to her. “Sit down, kids,” she said to them. Uh-oh, Henry thought. He sensed something was wrong. “What’s the matter, Heloise?” he asked. “This isn’t going to be easy. Unfortunately, when you kids broke through the time barrier you disrupted the coordinates that keep everything separated.” Henry was the only one who understood anything Heloise was saying. “Can’t we synchronize the grid patterns to harmonize with the coaxial patterns?” Henry asked. “What did he say?” Bobby asked Eva.
“I don’t know. Henry and Heloise are the only ones who know this stuff,” she said. Henry and Heloise talked back and forth discussing the problem, while the others just sat and waited for them to finish. When they did, Heloise sat down next to Bobby. “There is no problem getting Henry and Eva back to where they belong. I can fix their rings,” she said. “That’s great. When can we go?” Bobby said, excited that he would be home soon. “There’s a problem, Bobby. I said I can fix it for Eva and Henry. It’s not that easy for you and your sister,” Heloise said, softly. “Why not?” he cried. “Well, it’s really too complicated to explain, but to put it simply, I don’t think there is enough room for all of you. I think there is only enough room for 3 of you to pass through the portal safely. “3???” Bobby cried. “That’s not enough. There’s 4 of us!!” “I know, Bobby. That’s the problem.” “Well, then we can’t go. It’s either all of us or none of us,” Eva said. She was not about to leave her new friends stranded in time. “Henry and I are going to work on this. Maybe if we put our heads together, we can come up with something,” Heloise said, trying to be cheerful. “Please, Heloise. Please! You have to help us,” Amanda said to her. “I’m going to try very hard. I promise,” she said. “Thank you,” Amanda cried. “I’m sorry,” Henry said to her, as he handed her a Kleenex to wipe her runny nose. “It’s not your fault,” she sniffled.
“No. It’s mine,” Bobby said, miserably. “It’s all been my fault. If I hadn’t been such a brat, we wouldn’t be here, at all!” “Bobby, there’s no use thinking about that. What’s done is done and it won’t do anybody any good to make yourself miserable,” Heloise said to him. “C’mon Heloise. Let’s try and figure this out,” Henry said to her. “The sooner we find an answer, the sooner we can get Bobby and Amanda home.” Bobby cheered up a little when Henry said “home” in such a hopeful voice. “Good luck,” Bobby said. Heloise and Henry went into the kitchen with some paper and pencils. The others could hear them talking and writing, talking and erasing, talking and more talking. It seemed lke they were in there for hours. When they finally came back into the living room, they both had sad faces. Amanda knew the news wasn’t going to be good. “We’ve tried everything, but it’s no use. It just isn’t safe to take all of us through. If we tried, well, we can’t even take the chance. It’s just too dangerous for you,” Henry tried to explain to both of them. “I’m so sorry,” Heloise said, as she sat back down next to Bobby. Bobby turned towards her and started to cry. She put her arms around him and stroked his hair. “It’s going to be okay. I know how hard this is, but I promise you that whichever one of you stays, I will take very good care of you,” Heloise said. “No! I don’t want to stay here!” Bobby yelled. “Don’t worry, Bobby. You won’t be staying,” Amanda said to him.
“But they said we can’t both go,” he said. “I know,” she said. Bobby sat still for a minute and then he knew what she meant. “No!!!You are not staying here without me!” he shouted at her. “Bobby, I’ll be okay here with Heloise,” she said. Tears started to roll down her cheeks as she thought of all the things back home that she had left behind. Things she would never see again; her mom and dad, her room filled with butterflies, her best friend Julie, singing in the school concert… “I’ll be okay. I promise,” she said, as she wiped her eyes. “We can both stay,” he said to his sister. He didn’t want to stay, but he couldn’t leave his sister alone there. “No, Bobby. Mom and Dad must be going crazy. They can’t lose us both! You have to go home,” she said, as she went over to give him a big hug. She remembered all the times she wished he would disappear or get sucked up in some big vacuum cleaner and go away. And now he would be gone…forever, and she was going to miss him! “I love you, Bobby,” she said. “I…I love you, too, Amanda,” he cried. “I’m really sorry,” Henry said. “But if we are going to go, it has to happen in the next 15 minutes…or it won’t happen, at all.” Amanda let go of her brother and pushed him towards Eva. “Please take care of him,” she whispered. “I promise,” Eva said, as she took Bobby’s hand. This just isn’t right, she thought. She knew how she would feel if she had to leave Henry…and it would be unbearable! Her
heart was breaking for Bobby and Amanda. How she wished there was something she could do. But she knew that in a few minutes, she would be holding Bobby’s hand and traveling through time to take him back home where he belonged. Back home where Amanda belonged, too. But she would have to leave her new friend Amanda here, stranded in time with Heloise, forever and ever. Henry took Amanda by the hand and led her to the kitchen. He had tears in his eyes when he spoke. “Amanda, I don’t know what to say. This is so terrible. I wish I could let you take my place, but the rings only work on me and Eva. I would give anything if you could go instead of me,” he cried. “I know,” she cried, too. She was so scared to be left behind. What was she going to do for the rest of her life alone with Heloise. She would never go to college, never have a job, never get married and have children. But she knew she had to brave or Bobby would never leave. And he had to go home. But how would he explain all this to his parents. What would they think and would they believe him. All of a sudden, she had a thought. “Henry, do you have a pen and a piece of paper?” “Sure,” he said, as he reached into the cabinet. “Here.” “I need to write my parents a letter. Otherwise they will never understand and I don’t want them to blame Bobby. They need to know how brave he is and that he wanted to stay here so that I could go home. I want to say…goodbye,” she said, as she sat down to write the letter. She tried to write as neatly as she could, but she knew there wasn’t much time. She
hurried to write all the things that were in her heart…all the things she would never be able to say to them again. As she wrote, her tears fell on the paper, staining it. When she was finished, she folded it in half and gave it to Henry. I want you to give it to Bobby before you leave him. “I will,” Henry said, as he took the letter and put it in his pocket. “You’d better get going,” she said “Yes, it’s time,” he said, sadly. He looked at her pretty face, trying to memorize it. He would never forget her. He leaned over and kissed her on the cheek. “I’ll miss you, Amanda,” he said. “Goodbye, Henry,” she said as they joined the others. “Okay, Eva, bring your ring here,” Heloise said. She adjusted the dial on both her ring and Henry’s. Bobby and Amanda knew the routine by now, except that this time Amanda wasn’t going to be part of the circle. She stood beside her brother and gave him one last hug before he took Eva and Henry’s hands. They were all crying when the familiar mist rose up around them. Amanda watched as the room started spinning and she could feel the heat and energy around them as they started to leave. “Goodbye,” she whispered through her tears.
CHAPTER 6 -- GOING HOME
As the mist whirled around them and Bobby heard his sister whisper goodbye, he screamed…“No!!” and reached out to grab her hand. She was pulled into the swirling haze and felt herself dragged into the circle. “Bobby, no!!!” she screamed, realizing that he was risking his own life to bring her home. “I can’t leave you,” he shouted over the noise of the blowing wind. He held her arm tightly and she could feel Henry grab her other arm as the whirling turned into churning and they were tossed roughly through the air. This wasn’t how it usually was and Henry knew that they were in trouble. Bobby had thrown them off balance by grabbing Amanda. But he was glad Bobby had done it. Henry was heartbroken at leaving her and even though he knew there was a big risk for Amanda and Bobby, he was hoping they would make it. But the air currents twisted and turned with great force, jumbling them in midair. They all held onto each other very tightly, even though the wind threatened to rip them apart. Then they heard a thunderous roar that was so loud they wanted to cover their ears. But they knew that if they did, they would have to let go of each other and that was something that would mean the end of Bobby and Amanda. If they were to have any
chance at all, they had to hang on! Bobby was starting to feel dizzy and Amanda’s head began to hurt. It had never been like this before. More than ever, she wished Bobby had left her with Heloise. At least they both would have been safe. All of a sudden, everything was bright as the sun and the noise stopped. As they felt Eva and Henry let go of them, they could feel themselves falling fast and Bobby and Amanda started to scream. “Noooooo!!!!!!” they could hear Henry cry, as he watched them falling into nowhere. Crash!! They landed hard on soft carpet, but knocked over something metal that rolled out from under them. “Ouch!” Bobby cried. “Bobby?” Amanda said. “Amanda?? Are you okay? Are we…dead?” he asked. “I…I don’t think so. I don’t feel dead,” she said. “Are you sure? What do you think dead feels like?” “I…I have no idea,” she admitted. It seemed like minutes, but it was only a few seconds when Henry and Eva landed by their side. “Henry!” “Eva!” “Bobby!!” “Amanda!!” they all yelled at the same time. “We made it!” Bobby was shouting. “We did, didn’t we?” he asked Henry, not sure of
anything anymore. “Yes, you made it, safe and sound. I’m so happy!” Eva said, as she hugged him. “Oh, Henry, we’re home,” she said, as she kissed him on the cheek. “Wait a minute,” Bobby said. “Are we home? Where are we, exactly?” “Oh, I didn’t even think of that. Maybe we didn’t make it home,” Amanda said. “No, you’re right. You are home. This is the place where we first got tangled up,” Henry told them. “Hooray!!” Bobby yelped with joy. He had never been so happy in his whole life. Not even the day he put that frog down Amanda’s dress at her last birthday party! He thought it was funny when he did it. He didn’t think so anymore. “What happens now?” Amanda asked. “Well, believe it or not, it’s only a few seconds since you left. When you go back through that door, the movie will be just starting and your friend, Julie will think you were only gone a minute or two.” “Are you kidding?” Bobby asked. “No. That’s the thing with time travel. It’s not what it seems.” “What will we tell Julie?” Amanda asked. “She probably won’t believe you if you tell her the truth. To her, you just went through this door and came right back.” “I guess you’re right. But everything we’ve done, everyplace we’ve been…” “I know. It’ll just have to be a secret between you and Bobby,” Eva said. “That’s okay with me, Amanda,” Bobby said. “It’ll be wicked neat to have this kind of secret.”
“I guess you’re right,” she said. “Okay, we have to go and so do you,” Henry said to them. “How can we say goodbye? I’m going to miss you both, so much,” Amanda said. “Us, too,” Eva said. They hugged one last time and Henry squeezed Amada before he turned and went behind the thick black curtain followed by his sister. Amanda opened the door and she and Bobby slipped back into the dark theater. They squinted their eyes to find their way back to their seats and to Julie. “Hey, where did you guys go?” Julie asked, as she munched on some popcorn and passed the carton to Amanda. “Tell you later, “ Amanda whispered, as the theater went completely dark and the screen lit up with the theme for the Travel Kids movie. Amada and Bobby looked up and staring down at them from the screen were their friends Eva and Henry with the familiar green rings on their fingers. Amanda turned to Bobby and they smiled a secret smile at each other and then sat back to watch the movie.
“Wasn’t that great?” Julie asked. “I think that was their best one,” she said, as they left the theater and went outside to wait for Amanda and Bobby’s mom. “Terrific,” Amanda agreed. Julie had no idea that the movie was nothing compared to the real adventure they had with Henry and Eva. And Amanda knew Henry was right. She would never be able to tell anyone. As far as Julie was concerned, Bobby went through the wrong door and Amanda went to get him It was as simple as that.
“Hi, Mom,” Bobby said, as he jumped in the back seat with the girls. “How was the movie? Was it all you expected?” Bobby and Amanda burst out laughing. “What’s so funny?” she asked. “Oh, nothing. The movie just had a lot of funny parts,” Amanda answered. “It did?” Julie asked. “It was pretty exciting, but I didn’t think it was that funny.” “Was it exciting?” their mother asked. Bobby and Amanda looked at each other. “Very!” they both said at the same time and then started to laugh again. “Well, you two are certainly in a very good mood,” their mother smiled at them in the rearview mirror. “You sure are,” Julie agreed before the car stopped and she got out. “Thanks for the ride,” she said to Amanda’s mother. “You’re welcome. Say hello to your mom for me.” “Sure thing,” Julie said, as she walked up to her front door and let herself in. The rest of the ride home was very quiet. Bobby and Amanda just stared out the window thinking of the adventure that lasted only seconds. They traveled to the Old West, the Turn of the Century, the ‘50’s, and all in the blink of an eye. Did it really happen? Amanda thought. Maybe, she dreamt it all. Maybe she fell asleep when the movie started. That made a lot more sense than what she thought happened. She’d have to talk to Bobby when they got home. The car had barely come to a stop when Amanda and Bobby jumped out and ran into the house.
“Hey, what’s up with you two?” their mother asked, but they were already halfway in the house and didn’t hear her. They went into Amanda’s room and shut the door behind them. “I thought I was going to bust in the car,” Bobby said. “Me, too!” Amanda agreed. “Do you think Julie or Mom know anything?” “They couldn’t. Their isn’t anything to know. We’re the only ones who will ever know. In the car I was even thinking that maybe it didn’t happen at all. Maybe we were dreaming,” Amanda said. “Both of us? The same dream at the same time?” Bobby asked. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. That wouldn’t make any sense. It just seems so unbelievable, doesn’t it?” “It sure does. This morning we were having breakfast in the kitchen and…” “And then we spent the afternoon racing around with Eva and Henry,” he said. “Weird!” Eva and Henry. They both stopped to think about the friends who helped them find their way back home, who protected them and saved them and…they both wondered where they were now. “I’m beat! I think I’m going to my room,” Bobby said. “Okay,” Amanda said, as he started to leave her room. “Hey, Bobby?” “Yeah?” “Maybe later we could hang out. Maybe play Mario Brothers or watch a DVD,” she said to him.
“Really?” he asked. She never wanted to hang out with him before. But things might be different now. “Really,” she said. “Sure.” Bobby went to his room and did something he hadn’t done since he was 3. He laid down on his bed and took a nap.
Later that night after Amanda and Bobby spent the evening playing Nintendo together, their mother came into the den where they were watching SpongeBob. “Okay, what the heck is going on with you guys?” she asked them. “What’s the matter, Mom?” Amada asked. “Nothing’s the matter. That’s whats the matter!” “What do you mean?” Bobby asked. “What do I mean? You haven’t argued one single time since you’ve been home from the movies. Not one single time. That’s what I mean.” “You want us to fight?” Bobby asked. “No, but you two have been fighting almost every day for as long as I can remember.” “Well, we’ll fight tomorrow, okay? We don’t want to freak you out,” Amanda said. “Very funny. Go to bed, it’s almost 10,” she smiled at them. “Okay, Mom,” they said without an argument. Something is definitely weird, their mother thought to herself. They were asleep within minutes of when they climbed into their beds. It felt so good to be home. They never wanted to leave again. They both slept soundly and their mother had to wake them for breakfast.
“Come in,” Amanda said, when Bobby knocked on her door. “Hi,” she said. “Hi,” he said back. “Bobby? Did it really happen yesterday?” “When I woke up, I thought the same thing. I really thought it was a dream. But when I got dressed, I found this in my pocket.” He pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. It was the letter Amanda had written to her parents when they were at Heloise’s. “Did you mean all this stuff you wrote?” “Yes,” she said. “You said I was very brave.” “You were, Bobby,” she said, honestly. “Really?” “Yes. Really.” “You were very brave, too,” he told her. “Thanks.” “Amanda, Bobby…breakfast,” their mother called to them. “Okay, Mom,” they called back and started to leave her room. “Amanda?” Bobby said. “Yes?” she answered back. “I made this for you,” he said, as he handed her a small white box. “For me? …a snake’s not going to pop out, is it?” she giggled, thinking of how mean he used to be to her. “No,” he laughed.
Carefully, she lifted the lid and took out the delicate pipe cleaner design. She held it up and then realized what it was. It was a butterfly.