Reads: 108


In Trouble


Being grounded ‘until further notice’ was humiliating enough, but when I found out that Samuel Sheehan had won the school competition, it was like an extra kick in each butt cheek for me, followed by getting my little toe squashed in a door. I wasn’t allowed to leave my room for three days, and I wasn’t allowed to use my phone. All I could do was watch the rain make puddles on the main road through my window, and read the same Maths and English study books over and over. Meals came through my bedroom door at morning, lunch and dinner time, and I kept waking up in the middle of the night thinking about Samuel’s smug face and his nasty comments. He robbed me of victory.


On the fourth day, my parents finally let me out. I really wanted to ask them what had happened to Professor Walker, but I knew instinctively that any question about the professor would prove I hadn’t yet learned my lesson, and they would force me to stay in my bedroom prison cell until I could show that I didn’t care about him anymore. As a precaution, I kept my mouth shut, but I saw that my parents were too enraged and infuriated to speak to me anyway.

In addition, a couple of other grown ups were interested in gathering information from me. As I was peering out of the living room window, a police car pulled up our driveway. Stocky and Spooky, fatty and tally, got out looking tired and stressed. Smasher pointed his finger at me, and Jittery waved and smiled. They came into the living room and Jittery said, “A wonderful, cosy home. Safe and secure. I bet you don’t get many robberies in this neighbourhood.”

“This is the safest street in Hamley,” said my mum.

“I didn’t think a lovely, caring and warm home like this would breed a criminal,” said Smasher. “What a shame it would be to leave such a lovely, safe space. Wouldn’t you agree, Jittery?”

“Everyone leaves home eventually,” said Jittery. “Some when they're young, some when they're older.”

“Some when they're even younger!” burst Smasher. ‘How old were you when you left home, Jittery?”

“I was seventeen.”

“Seventeen! What an age! You should have been in school.”

“I was, but I got expelled. The police caught me stealing car parts from garages and they sent me to a young offender’s prison for a year.”

“And they reformed you, didn’t they?” said Smasher. “A year of tough discipline, grit and hard work each day for ten hours, and when you came out, you were a man.”

“From that moment, I decided I should be a police officer. Pay back my debt to society and correct my wrongdoings. It was the best decision of my life.”

“What a story!” said Smasher. “And what a tragedy it would be if the same thing happened to you, Tom Hill. What a reputation! Tom Hill, going to prison for helping Professor Walker? What a story! Tom Hill, expelled from school because of criminal activity? What a scandal!”

“What a scandal,” said Jittery.

“What a let down for his parents!”

“What a let down.”

“It’s round two, Tom,” said Smasher, leaning towards me. “You got away the first time. If you don’t answer our questions, we’ll throw you in prison.”

“Reform yourself,” said Jittery. “Be a good boy.”

“Ten hour work days and no pay,” said Smasher.

“Make the best decision of your life. You will help us, won’t you?”

My parents left me alone in the room with the two officers.

“If you withhold any information from us, it’s the end of the line for you,” said Smasher. “Co-operate with us, and we will clear your name.”

“Tell us what you can,” said Jittery. "Be a good lad."

They asked me an encyclopedia of questions. How I had met Walker. Where he lived. What was in his house. What were his inventions. Where he kept his machines. Who his friends were. What he ate for breakfast, if he was married, if he had a girlfriend, if he had children or relatives, and what his favourite colour was. They asked me if Walker was hiding any money. They asked me if Walker had given me any money. I felt so horrible and evil describing Walker’s character in full detail, down to the minutest thing. Everything I knew about him was now in the open, and I felt that I had betrayed my friend. If I ever saw him again, he would know it was me who had given details to the police. I sat deflated, dejected and tired. I looked at the clock and noticed that it was almost dinner time. 

“Thank you for co-operating with us,” said Jittery, shaking my hand, but I didn’t respond. I allowed my hand to go limp as he pulled it up and down. Smasher took the money that the professor had given to me as wages.

“If we need any more information, we’ll pay you a visit," he said. "In the mean time, stay at home. That’s a direct order from the police.”

“I’m grounded any way, so double thanks," I said.

“And no more smart ass, stubborn attitude, Tom Hill. From now on, you’ll respect the law.”

I was about to give them a mouthful about being innocent, about them wrongfully detaining the professor, and trying to prove them wrong, saying that there was nothing criminal about knowing the professor, but my eyes were heavy and my voice was worn out from answering every question they had like a politician - long, drawn out answers, and probably not even answering their questions in the first place. But somehow I had given them all of the answers they had been looking for.

“Where is the professor?” I asked them.

“He’s in a cell at the station,” said Jittery.

“And you won’t be seeing him,” said Smasher.

“He’s safe, he’s fine.”

“He’s going to suffer.”

“Goodbye Carol, goodbye Dennis,” said Jittery to my parents as the officers went out of the door and drove off. For some strange reason, Mum and Dad didn’t send me back to my room. They seemed relieved, probably because Smasher and Jittery didn’t drag me away in handcuffs. Instead of more punishment, and as a reward for being a good dog, they took me to a restaurant where I ordered a pepperoni pizza covered in red chili peppers, and then they treated me to a gigantic toffee ice cream sundae with fudge pieces inside.

“This is your treat for behaving and cooperating with the police,” said my dad. “But you listen, Tom. This is on the assumption that you won’t visit that mad professor, and you will do an extra hour of studying per night, and you will get your old job back. Understood?”

I knew there was a catch to my parents’ friendliness. They never treated me to anything for free. With the money I earned from Walker, I could have gave gone out to that restaurant by myself and paid with my cash. But now I was broke, and I didn’t have a job.

It was another two days before I read something in the news about the professor. The Hamley online newspaper had an article that read, Machines and Inventions Confiscated at the Old Mill. The police had practically emptied the professor's home. I began to wonder if they had confiscated Doris too. She would have put up a good fight, probably using a broom and a tea cup. She would be have wondered why masses of police cars had arrived and searches were being carried out around the property. She would have feared the worst. I had to see her, but now wasn’t the best time, especially with the news articles about the professor spreading like ants in an open bag of marshmallows.

The weekend came and not being allowed to go anywhere except to the shops or to school was bugging me and limiting my options. With the upcoming Invention Convention, I could enter the competition and demonstrate my sorting box, but without the professor’s expertise and much better inventions, there was no way we could win the prize money. He was the expert. I was just a beginner. To make matters worse, as I was walking home from school, I felt a strange presence close to me. I turned to see our family car trundling along at about two miles per hour. Every time I looked back, it would stop. I saw my mum driving with gritted teeth. She eventually pulled along side me, holding up the other traffic, and she called out of the window, “I’m watching you.”

She followed me to the delivery warehouse, where Trenchbog was hurling parcels into different sacks with a team of delivery drivers moving quickly to their vans and through the warehouse. When Trenchbog saw me, he immediately threw down the sacks.

“You’ve got a lot of nerve,” he said. “Coming back here after you’ve been fired? Is there something you want to say?”

“I’m really sorry about what happened.”

Trenchbog saw my mum waiting with the car engine running. She stared at him and he swallowed hard and gave me a sympathetic smile.

“Do you want your job back?” he said, and I nodded half-heartedly. “Put your polar bear suit on and come here on Saturday morning, usual time.” Then he leaned in to my ear and whispered, “One forgotten or late delivery and you’re toast. Got it?”

“Thank you, Mr. Trenchdog, Sir.”

“Now clear off!” he said. He waved to my mother and then scowled at me. As I was still grounded, I had to go straight home after my deliveries and do an extra hour of studying per night. It had been two weeks since my parents made me a prisoner of the house, and my patience was wearing thin. I doubted that Walker was even in the police station by now, and I guessed that he had been moved to a different holding area in a far away city. Perhaps he was in a high security prison? Then I would truly never see him again.

I felt down on my luck. However, the next weekend, fortune began to turn in my favour.



Submitted: December 23, 2021

© Copyright 2022 Richard C. Parr. All rights reserved.


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