Chapter 12

“Jiminy, but that’s disappointing,” said Mervin Frostly with a sad shake of his head. “She was so efficient.”

Bea looked around the room. Frostly was clearly a man of many interests, but keeping organized was not one of them. No wonder he needed an assistant, very much like Hortensia needed her.

“You’ll find someone else,” she said with a smile of encouragement. “And don’t worry…I’ll still take the tea tray down to Mrs. Quigg!”

As if at the mention of her name, Mrs. Quigg’s voice rang out from a silver box near the elevator door.

“Excuse me Mr. Frostly,” she chimed, “but Ms. Fidelius just ran out of here like heck’s a’poppin’! I thought she was going to attend the speech with you.”

Mervin Frostly furrowed his brow, and scratched his chin.

“The speech…” he said. “The speech!”

“The speech?” repeated Bea.

“The speech!” said Frostly. “I’m giving a speech at an alumni luncheon today! This is alumni weekend you know!”

“What time do you need to be there?” asked Bea.

Frostly pushed a button on the silver box.

“Mrs. Quigg!” he said. “What time do I need to be there?”

Mrs Quigg’s voice crackled through once more.

“The luncheon is at one o’clock dear,” she said. “You should leave soon.”

“How soon?”

“Very soon.”

“Well come on then,” said Bea. She knew how to step in when there was stepping in to be done. “Let’s take this tea tray downstairs and get going!”

“May I give you a ride home?” asked Frostly. “It’s just on my way.”

Bea had none of the usual reservations about taking rides with strangers when it came to Mervin Frostly. He was hardly a stranger, even though they’d just met face to face.

“No thanks,” she replied anyway. “As you know, my house is right around the corner!”

With a ding, the elevator door opened, and Bea presented the tea tray to Mrs. Quigg.

“She was in such a hurry!” exclaimed Mrs. Quigg, evidently still flustered by Dierdre’s hasty departure.

Mrs. Quigg would be a worthy witness, Bea thought to herself.

“Mr. Frostly,” said Bea. “So you’re really, really not going to sell our house? And my friends are really going to keep their scholarships?”

“Really really!” insisted Frostly. “I really mean that, don’t I Mrs. Quigg?”

Mrs. Quigg nodded, apparently still a bit confused about whether or not Bea was the paper delivery girl.


Feeling much reassured, Bea stepped out of the clock-tower, into a minor midday snowstorm. A dusting of snow covered the ground and walkways, and flakes swirled dizzily in the air.

She hustled back through the park, now deserted by the koo-bar eating mom and children. She still had to think through how to stop all the koohoo eating in New Stirling, but at least she had some good news to deliver at home.

But as she rounded the corner onto Crotchett Street, she was startled by Nola and Odin hurrying down the sidewalk in her direction.

Odin skidded on the snow, which was forming a fluffy layer on the sidewalk, and Nola grabbed Bea by the arm.

“Gordy and Kitty!” said Nola. “We haven’t seen them all morning! And Kitty missed Biochem! Kitty never misses Biochem!”

“There is definitely some oddly aberrant behavior in town,” added Odin. “And not just Alumni Weekend stuff.”

“People are acting weird!” added Nola.

Bea glanced around to take in the weirdness. “Well,” she said, “they were already looking weird…I guess acting weird is the next logical step.”

As if to illustrate that very point, a man in a flour-covered apron suddenly charged out of the nearest house and practically ran in front a police car cruising down Crotchett Street.

“Stop Officer, stop!” cried the man, puffing off clouds of pastry flour as he banged on the police car.

The officer stepped out of his cruiser and tried to calm the distraught man down.

“My kids!” the man exclaimed. “They ran off in the middle of making cream puffs and I can’t find them anywhere!”

“Okay sir,” said the officer, taking out a notepad, “can you describe the missing children?”

“Well…” said the baker, taking a deep breath, “Suzette is eight, and has red hair. Really red. Really long red hair…and Chuck has blond curly hair and curly horns. Like a sheep. They’re new…but we try to act normal about it.”

“They try to act normal about it?” said Bea irately.

Nola almost shushed her, but was interrupted by a woman rushing out of a corner drug store with a picture of a boy.

“Officer!” cried the woman. “This is Hans! He’s twelve! We can’t find him anywhere!”

Bea tried hard to maintain her level head. It wouldn’t help if everyone in town went berserk.

“Let’s think,” she said. “Where did we last see Gordy or Kitty? We’ll start there.”

“The house,” said Nola.

“The front steps,” added Odin. “I was showing Gordy my music generating algorithm.”

As they backtracked a block toward number 107, the children Bea had seen in the park, (she was sure it was the same ones–she’d recognize the horns and tail anywhere,) skipped around the corner from the alley. No sooner had they emerged onto the broad sidewalk, when a black limousine with tinted windows pulled away from the curb and stopped near the children.

As Bea, Nola and Odin watched, but before they’d grasped the situation enough to react, one of the car’s doors opened, indistinguishable words were spoken, and the two children scrambled into the back of the limo. The limo made a quick u-turn, maneuvered precariously around some stalled traffic, and disappeared around the corner. The police officer down the block apparently hadn’t noticed. But Bea had noticed every detail.

“I know where Kitty and Gordy are,” she said. “They’re at Bean-Tek headquarters…which is exactly where those two kids are being taken.”

“And the cream-puff kids!” said Nola.

“And young Hans, one presumes,” added Odin.

“We need to alert the police,” said Nola.

“Yes,” said Bea. She looked around. The police cruiser on Crotchett Street was now wedged into the curb by a taxi and a pick-up truck, which had skidded on the slick, snowy road. At each corner of the block the intersections had grown impassible as slips led to fender-benders, and snow accumulated on windshields. It seemed that the black limo had escaped with no time to spare.

“Yes. Alert the police,” agreed Bea. “But I’m going to get there first!”

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