A Mysterious Sign
Mom, of course, wanted to know everything that happened, especially since we hadn’t been there when she’d come to pick us up. But first of all, she said, I needed to have a good night’s sleep.
Early the next morning, Mom woke me up to have me tell them all about it. I’ve never lied, especially not to my parents, so I told them everything that happened. When I told her how we’d had to run away from Sam and his gang, she gasped.
“Bullies!” she cried, tugging on Dad’s arm. “Asa, there’s bullies at Jess’s school!”
Dad’s brow furrowed. “I heard her, dear. We’ll have to go talk to the principal about that. I’m not going to have Jessica get beaten up.”
I sighed. I’d forgotten, in that short day, that they called me two different names. How could I forget? Maybe because I just loved Jessie so much. Or maybe because of Sam. It’s anybody’s guess.
“I’m calling her principal right away,” Mom declared, running off the couch for the phone and beating Dad to it. She dialed a number and held the phone to her ear. “I’m not going to have our darling Jess get beaten up.” She looked up as somebody on the other end said something. “Yes, this is Mrs. Freeman. I’d like to speak to Doug Black, please.”
I sighed and started to walk to my room to grab my backpack for school when Dad caught my arm. “Jessica,” he started, “I think that Jake wanted to see you and Logan after school. He even offered to take you home again.”
“Take me home?” I wondered if I hoped he would hear the horror behind the question or not.
“Yes,” Dad nodded, “and we’ve agreed. You guys are going to have supper over at his house. He just wanted to get to know you guys better.” He shrugged. “He’s such a nice old man, and since he saved your life and all…”
Oh. My. Word. Dad, what are you sentencing me to?!
Mom drove Logan and I to school again. When we got dropped off at the school’s door, Logan looked left and right for Sam, Hunter, and Calvin, and then quickly pulled me through the doors.
“What was that all about?” I snorted as he pulled me towards our first class.
“You heard your mom,” Logan snorted right back. “She’s gone and tattled to the principal. And we’re really dead meat.” He shrugged. “I’m just taking extra precautions.” He grinned. “For your sake, of course.”
I rolled my eyes. “Right.”
School went by faster than I’d thought it would. Maybe because I was dreading going past Sam; or maybe it was because I was dreading having to get picked up by old Jake Schmitz and driven to his house for dinner. I don’t know which. You choose.
Logan, however, seemed more excited. “Remember what you said about something more?” he prodded. “Well maybe we can find out something by going.”
I wasn’t going to be excited until I found something. And I definitely hadn’t found anything yet. Yet, mind you.
The bell rang, and Logan and I collected our books and started for the door. Since Jake knew about Sam and his gang, we’d figured that he’d arrive early, anyways. It seemed we were right as I saw the battered truck parked, waiting, by the curb.
“Hop on in, kids!” he called through the open window.
We did just that, me squishing in between them. Jake drove off, starting to talk.
“I’m so glad you’re coming,” he grinned. “I went and ordered pizza for all of us. You guys like pepperoni?”
“Love it!” cried Logan.
I managed a smile. “I like supreme the best, but pepperoni’s my second favorite.”
Jake nodded. “Fair enough. Hey, you guys having any more trouble from Sam and those other kids?”
“Nope,” answered Logan.
Jake nodded. I frowned. It was almost as if it was all the old man’s doing. Now that I thought of it, I hadn’t seen any of the bullies all day. That was strange. Really strange.
We finally reached Rain Heights and drove through the town. I saw my house and longed for it, even though I didn’t really like it was it was. It was definitely going to be better than Jake’s house, I decided.
“There’s the Sinclair!” cried Logan, pointing towards the tiny gas station that was barely even being able to be called a gas station.
“And there’s my house,” Jake smiled proudly, pointing towards a small cottage on the other side of the Sinclair, half-hidden by weeds. “Hideaway Cottage.”
Jake screeched the truck to a halt and we all got out, stumbling towards the cottage through the tall weeds (I found out they were almost up to my waist!). Jake grinned as he held open the door proudly.
We walked inside. There was a hall that led down to a bigger room. Hundreds of photographs and certificates filled the walls. I found out that Jake was certified to do plumbing, lighting, and to fly planes. Wow. I glanced at the old guy. He definitely didn’t look it.
“Come on!” he urged, going faster than I’d ever thought an old guy could into the next room.
The room had a table with chairs and a small kitchen off to the side. Every available surface was cluttered—books, papers, pens, pencils, containers, clothes…anything I could ever think of was lying just about everywhere. There was a pathway through the junk to the kitchen, table, and another door that I supposed went to his room.
“The pizza’s in here!” Jake called from the kitchen. “Since the dining room’s kinda full, let’s eat it in here, OK?”
Way not OK. I followed Logan into the kitchen.
It looked like he hadn’t cleaned anything for years. At least we weren’t using one of the grim-crusted plates that sat in the sink for the pizza. Jake handed us the now-cold pizza in paper towels (thankfully they weren’t used).
“Yep, this is my home sweet home,” nodded Jake. “How do you guys like it?”
“It’s awesome!” cried Logan. Guys. Always messy.
“It’s very nice,” I managed, quickly biting off another hunk of pizza to keep from having to talk more.
“I’m glad you like it.” Jake chewed off half of the pizza and swallowed it whole. Logan couldn’t stop staring.
We quickly finished our pizza. Logan and Jake were off talking about something and I wandered into the living room. This guy seriously needed to get married or having a housekeeper or something. It was more of a mess than I’d thought before.
I accidentally stepped on a book and stepped back. I glanced at it curiously, and then titled my head. I couldn’t read the title quite, so I picked it up. My eyes traced across the front.
101 Tips for the Experts! The experts of what? I frowned and opened the book, curious.
I gulped. It wasn’t a book. The inside was hollow, stuffed with what looked like passports, an old gun, compass, and a smaller book. With a trembling hand, I moved past the gun and picked up the book. My eye caught something on the cover that made me drop everything.
…by Ace Montana, Senior Spy.
Oh. My. Word.