Reads: 111

17

In Trouble Again

 

The professor ran like a racehorse through his home, searching upstairs and downstairs, knocking over antique items he had collected through the years, frantically looking for something to help us win the invention convention. Or perhaps he was just having an old-person moment, running around and not remembering what he was looking for. He knocked over the swords and shields, collapsed the instruments and almost fell out of an upstairs window, and I had to grab and pull his legs as both of his arms went flailing outside.

“What on earth are you looking for?” I finally said, but instead of responding, he pushed past me and went into the exhibition room. He gasped when he noticed that barely any of his old inventions were left. The police had seized most of them. Large empty glass cages stood alone. The hanging aeroplane was gone. There was just one thing occupying the middle of the room, and he ran his hands over its surface.

“My pride and joy,” he said, touching the Magnipoopifier Mark I. “They didn’t harm you! Oh, how sweet and lovely you are.”

Just then, a creaking noise came from the door. I was about to take cover wen I saw Doris standing with empty hands clasped in front of her, looking puzzled.

“Professor?” she said. Walker looked up and ran to her, lifting her off the ground in a tight embrace and kissing her on each cheek. “Just where the hell have you two been?” she said in a dark tone. It was the first time I’d ever heard Doris sounding so angry and serious.

“Prison, the police, in hiding, you name it, we’ve done it,” said the professor. “I’m so sorry that I left you here alone. The place looks great. It’s tidy and neat, it smells nice, but those mean ogres took most of my inventions.”

“If it’s any consolation,” said Doris, “I helped you out. I managed to hide a few extra items from them. You’ll find them in the barn.”

“Oh, thank you, Doris!” said the professor. “You are wonderful. You’ve been working for me for twenty years. I really should pay you more. Now, they’re in the barn, you say?”

“Just a few powders and chemicals from your experiments,” said Doris. “I couldn’t salvage anything else. They came and took everything so quickly, I didn’t have the chance to hide more of your stuff. They asked me a load of questions. They threatened to arrest me if I didn’t comply.”

“Don’t you worry, Doris,” I tried to reassure her. “There’s a conspiracy to close my school, steal the land and turn it into some silly club, and we’re about to expose the culprits to the town mayor. We’re going to be fine, Doris.”

“I saw the news, and I don’t think you should stay here,” she said. “It’s too dangerous. The police have been in and out of here. They came three times last week.”

The professor and I hurried over to the barn. The professor fist-pumped the air when he noticed that nothing had been touched. The Sprinkledust powder, the formulas, the chemicals to make medicines and Ever-Food was all still in its packaging. The professor’s boy-like chemistry set stood unharmed.

“Quick, Hill!” he said. “Help me gather the Sprinkledust and the equipment. Then meet me over by the swimming pool.” It took me about half an hour to lift and move the boxes he’d asked me to carry, and once I was finished, I joined him at the pool, where he was standing with Doris. He dragged me by my sleeve to a set of floor panels next to the sun loungers. The pool water was murky and greenish, and leaves and acorns and all sorts of tree nuts and fruits were sitting on the surface. It resembled a horrible, poisonous swamp that you would find in some jungle.

The professor took out his hammer combination set and wedged it under a slab. He gave me an extra one, and I forced it in between the cracks in the ground.

“Ready? Heave!” said the professor, and he pulled. The end of my hammer snapped off when I pulled, and the professor raised his side of the slab up, falling backwards and nearly stumbling into the pool. He regained his composure and we both lifted the slab together. We lifted three more slabs to reveal something sleek, black and metallic underneath. On its surface was a large, yellow and round button next to a pressurised gauge. The professor pushed the button and a hissing sound came from it. I watched the pool and the water level begin sinking slowly, and then the water drained away faster and faster.

Once the water was gone, I followed the professor down the ladder and into the bottom of the pool. On one side was a small wheel cemented into the wall. The professor turned the wheel and he ordered me to pull it. With our combined minute strength, we struggled to open the wall. It slid backwards slightly, and then under its own weight, it moved like a door. The movement of this huge block pushed me down, and the professor dragged me out of the way as the heavy door slammed against the side of the pool, almost squashing me.

A huge dark hole welcomed us. We took a step inside and I could smell the age of the place.

“When was the last time you went inside here, professor?” I asked.

“I’d say I’ve been inside once in the last twenty years,” he said. My foot kicked something hard and I hurt my toe. “By the way, Hill, there’s another door.”

“You don’t say,” I said, holding my toe. “That hurt.”

“Hill, where’s that key?”

“Which key?”

“The one you used on the Indestructo. To activate the plane’s magic light. Remember?”

“Well, I don’t have it.”

“You must have it! You’re the last one who used it!”

“Are you talking about this?” said Doris in a frail voice, holding out a shining, gleaming key. “I saw it fall out of your pocket, professor.”

“Well, aren’t you a wonderful woman?” said the professor, giving Doris a cheeky grin and taking the key. Then the professor scowled at me. “You know how old I am. You should be looking after me and making sure I don’t forget the simple things.”

“You seem pretty all right looking after yourself,” I replied.

He pinpointed a spot on the door in front and inserted the key. Opening the door, the professor walked through first, and then he beckoned me.

“I’ll stay here and look after the Old Mill,” said Doris. Stay here, I wondered. Where on earth were we going?

When I walked through, rays of light flashed at me. My surroundings completely changed. I saw a TV, a carpet, a sofa, cream walls and a light hanging from the ceiling. I turned to see the professor close the door. It was a fireplace. We had just walked through someone’s fireplace and arrived somewhere else. I wondered how on earth that key made these things possible.

“Welcome to Professor Leonard Winkle’s house,” announced the professor.

“Where in the…what the…what was that?”

“A passageway from the Old Mill straight into Hamley,” he said. “Built over twenty years ago, just before Professor Winkle disappeared. A safe place and a hideout, should I ever get into deep trouble. We can stay here and do some experiments, and create a better plan to find the mayor and tell her the truth.”

The professor and I worked into the night, making upgrades of Sprinkledust and testing batches of Ever-Food, and updating the professor’s recipes and formulas until we got the consistency of Sprinkledust just right. The professor let me sleep for an hour at a time, shaking me awake whenever he thought he had made a discovery. When the sun rose, I found it hard to get back to sleep, and by the mid-morning I found the professor wearing two pairs of glasses and writing down essential ingredients.

“Professor, we’d better go back to the Old Mill now.”

“Nonsense, I don’t want to get caught. Three more days here and it’s the competition. We’ll survive.”

Stuck with nothing else to do, I wiped the dust from an old TV and switched on the local channels. Scanning through, I stopped when I saw something familiar.

“Professor, you’d better come and look at this!” I yelled, and he stopped his work and ran into the living room.

“Good gorilla with a gun!” he said. We both stared at video footage of my parents being arrested by Smasher and Jittery at my house. The story was part of a manhunt for the professor. Then on screen came a picture of me taken in my polar bear outfit while delivering once, and one of the professor from the 1970s, when he had two working eyes, a darker beard and he could walk without wobbling. They interviewed my design technology teacher, and she said that I had missed school. They started talking about theories like the professor had kidnapped me, and was using me to make a new evil invention.

“We can’t leave this house until Saturday,” said the professor. “Don’t call anyone, don’t speak to anyone, and definitely don’t go looking for your parents.”

“But they’re in trouble, professor. If they know I’m an accomplice, they’ll go straight to my house again.”

“We’ll see.”

“Professor, please!”

“Don’t go outside! It’s too dangerous!” he snapped.

I rummaged around in the kitchen to find food, but there was nothing in the cupboards or in the fridge. Then I looked out of the window and saw that I was in a house on Wilkinson Street, next to Oliver Road which had a small convenience store.

“Professor, I’m starving and I need to eat. I’m going out to get food. There’s a store two minutes’ walk away. I know where I’m going. Can I please go outside?”

“I told you, no going out!”

“But, please! I’m really hungry. You can’t keep a child locked up in a house for three days without any food!”

The professor grunted and stopped working. He dug his hand into his pocket and pulled out a ten pound note.

“Here,” he said. “Get me a whole block of cheese, and a packet of those gummy bear things. Use the rest to get whatever you want. But be back in five minutes. Do you understand?”

“Thanks, professor!” I cried, hurrying out of the front door. There were plenty of parked cars in the street, and I hopped between each one of them, staying out of view of some people walking their dogs. At the end of the street, I turned on to Oliver Road and saw the store. I waited for some cars to go by, then I sprinted until I reached the shop front before continuing inside casually.

I scoured the shelves quickly. Milk, cereal, a spoon. Gummy bears and cheese. I found everything except for the gummy bears, so I chose a packet of those fried egg and sausage sweets which were pretty much the same thing, and slightly cheaper. As I made my way to the counter, I wondered if I would have any change for the professor, and I considered putting the milk and cereal back and just grabbing a yoghurt instead. I paid for my items and took my change, but as soon as I left the shop, two shadows stood over me. I dropped my shopping bag when I saw Smasher and Jittery looming with folded arms and their police car motor running. The milk dribbled down the street.

Without thinking, I immediately ran through Jittery’s legs. He yelped and tried to protect his face, despite the fact that I was going underneath him. I thought I had gotten away, until I ran shoulder first into a moving bicycle, knocking myself and the cyclist into the road. A lorry honked its horn and I saw its wheels coming straight for my head, when Smasher pulled me by my feet and grazed my back. The lorry whizzed away and I sighed.

“You’re nicked,” said Smasher.

“You are kindly apprehended,” said Jittery.

They captured me with kid-sized handcuffs and stuffed me into the back of their police car.


Submitted: December 23, 2021

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

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