Chapter 15

This was the first time Bob had ever tried to land, and he did it with a few extra fumbling steps that pitched Odin off his back and left Bea clinging fiercely to his mane.

But once foot-sure, he gave a self-satisfied snort and looked at Bea as if wondering whether she were ready to try it again.

“No Bob,” said Bea. “Not now. And don’t you try to go anywhere either.”

Odin stood up, pulled his phone out of his pocket, and gave it a few nervous taps. With a small relieved sigh, he pointed toward a corner of the rooftop, behind them.

“Let’s tie his reins over there,” said Odin. “There’s a railing near the greenhouse roof.”

Dang, thought Bea. Flying had sure thrown her off her game. What she did best was notice stuff, and she’d completely missed the glass roof poking just above roof level at the top corner of the Bean-Tek building.

“Is there a creepy exit doorway up here?” asked Odin, looking around. “There’s always a creepy exit doorway. Typically it would be banging ominously.”

Bea immediately resumed control of the situation, and scanned the scene. There was no one up here, so they approached the greenhouse roof and looked in.

“It’s there,” she said, pointing through the glass. “The roof doorway. You can see it on the other side.”

She took Bob’s reins and lashed them snugly to the railing running alongside the greenhouse.

“That’s a lot of foliage,” said Odin, squinting down through the glass roof of the greenhouse.

“You’re not kidding,” replied Bea.

Except for the slim gap through which she had spied the doorway to the building rooftop, the upper reaches of the greenhouse were thick with shiny jade leaves the size of dinner plates, interlaced with snaking spotted vines.

“And,” continued Bea, “it’s all koohoo. Come on…let’s get inside.”

They were alone on the roof, so getting in without being spotted was simple enough. The doorway opened into a stairwell, and the stairs led down one flight to another door.

Bea opened the second door a crack and peeked through. There was no one in the corridor ahead, so she and Odin proceeded along it until they arrived at another doorway labeled “Greenhouse.”

She pushed that door open a crack, just enough for them to squeeze through, into a warm damp atmosphere where the scents of fudge, tea, and tangerine mingled in the air.

“Duck,” whispered Bea, pulling Odin under a thick canopy of koohoo leaves. Clusters of thick stalks jutted out of the fragrant soil in the planters all around them, and they took as much cover as they could behind a dense tangle of leaves and stems.

A Bean-Tek worker in the usual green jacket had entered the greenhouse, lugging a five-gallon container in a garden cart.

Bea and Odin held very still and gazed through the foliage as the man connected a hose with a pump attachment to the container and began to saturate the soil in the planters with a greenish liquid.

“Must be plant food,” whispered Odin.

“Looks like they’re overdoing it,” Bea whispered back.

A pager attached to the greenhouse man’s belt emitted a piercing squeee. He hastily turned a stopcock on the nozzle, dropped the hose, and left through the same door by which he’d entered.

“This might be our golden opportunity to move on,” observed Odin. “Got a plan?”

Bea tried to convince herself she did. “Yeah,” she said, “let’s…what? Odin…what the heck?”

Bea jabbed her finger in the direction of the abandoned plant food wagon, which was now more or less surrounded by a lengthy vine of billowing koohoo. The red wagon rolled several feet down the path, and the hose seemed to hover.

“Automated feeding system?” wondered Odin.

“No…,” replied Bea, observing with all her might, “it’s a self-feeding system. An unintended self-feeding system. The koohoo plants are feeding themselves.”

“What are you talking about?” said Odin. He completely forgot about sneaking, stepped out of hiding and walked toward the red wagon. Bea followed.

Tendrils of looping koohoo had lassoed the hose and turned the stopcock, and the plant was now aiming the hose at its fellows, generously dousing their beds with green elixir.

“Here we go again,” said Bea, “…everybody making hasty assumptions about koohoo.”

“What?” asked Odin.

“Hasty assumptions,” repeated Bea. “Mola Peggi of the Waddoo Islands told us not to make any about koohoo.”

Suddenly, The Beatrix Flannery Reel burst forth in startling jaunty tones from Odin’s pocket.

“Odin!” exclaimed Bea. “Put that thing on vibrate!”

In his haste to do just that, Odin fumbled the phone and it skittered across the greenhouse pathway, piping merry musical strains as it slid.

Odin and Bea both dove for it, until Bea’s attention was distracted by the koohoo all around her. It had left off soaking itself with plant food and was now engaged in a peppy exercise that resembled nothing less than an Irish step dance.

“Odin!” said Bea. “The koohoo is dancing.”

“Like in the Frostly Building atrium,” he responded, glancing around.

“But better,” said Bea. “More organized. More choreographed.”

Odin scooped the phone out from under a broad tapping leaf. “Let’s try something else!” he said. “What about a waltz?” He punched several buttons on his phone. The Beatrix Flannery Reel was replaced by Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers. And the koohoo responded, easing into a graceful three-step swaying motion.

“Awesome…” said Bea. “By the way, who was calling you?”

“Who was calling me!” said Odin. He silenced the phone. The plants settled back to nothing more than feeding each other.

“It’s Michael-Dan,” said Odin. “He texted. He says ‘Ew sahnt less gosses…’”

“He says what? Let me see that.” Bea snatched the phone and stared at the screen. “French…French…dang you Michael-Dan, it’s always French…it says ‘où sont les gosses…’ where are the kids! Odin, we don’t know yet. Let’s get out of here!”

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