After Mom paid for the groceries, we hopped into the car. We stopped in front of an old, white farmhouse, and waited for Dad to appear. The front door opened and Dad thanked the man. He walked across the snowy yard and opened the car door.
“Well?” Mom asked, anxiously. “Will he plow the road?” We all knew the answer when we saw Dad’s face.
“Nope, it’s broken,” he sighed. “There are only two people who have plows in the area, and his is broken.” Mom shifted gears and drove on down the road. We pulled into the parking lot of Stanley Motel and parked the station wagon. As quick as a flash, Robby and I were outta that car and racing over to the fort. I was just about to make a flying leap to the inside of the fort, when something caught my eye. I skidded to the pavement, pulling Robby down with me.
“Hey!” he cried. “Why did you do that?” I stood up and brushed some snow of my coat.
“Look!” Sure enough, solid boot prints were all around and inside the fort. They were small, and had a distinct print of a star.
“These weren’t here when we left,” I said. Robby’s mouth dropped open. Just to double-check, we looked at the bottom of our boots to see the prints. Neither pairs matched.
“There about the size of my foot,” Robby said, sizing his boot up with the mysterious prints.
“Robby, I bet that boy was out here,” I said.
“Oh, yah!” Robby exclaimed. “That explains it.”
“No it doesn’t,” I said, sitting down. “It just makes everything more confusing. We figured the strange boy had been kidnapped. If that’s true, which I now doubt, why didn’t he just run away?”
“Robby, if you had been kidnapped, and you managed to escape, would you stop to play in a snow fort?” Robby shook his head.
“Duh! Then, who is he? And what is he hiding?”
“You mean what are the Stanley’s hiding,” I said.
It had been 3 days since we had left for Clarksville. I was beginning to get a little uneasy. Would we reach Grandma and Grandpa’s house in time for Christmas? There was a mystery to solve and road to plow and I couldn’t do either one. I felt helpless.
It was the next day, and Robby and I were in the living room discussing Christmas. Would we have to spend it here?
“Some Christmas here,” Robby snorted. “Not tree, no food, no presents.”
“At least we have each other,” I said, trying to sound like Mom.
“But how will Grandma and Grandpa feel if they have to spend Christmas alone?” he asked. I shrugged my shoulders.
“There’s still a chance,” I said. I got up from the couch, and walked out the front door. Robby followed. We walked up and down the sidewalk, enjoying the crisp, December wind. We reached the office door. I paused. If we were going to ever figure out what was going on, we needed to investigate. I smiled. There was no black sedan parked as usual. Perfect.
I grabbed Robby’s hand and yanked open the office door.
“Yoo-hoo, Mr. Stanley!” I called. Silence. I shut the door. The office was in its usual disarray; papers and files exploding from every drawer. I walked past the oak desk and rapped lightly on the apartment door. When there was no answer, I turned the golden doorknob and squeaked open the door. Robby cautiously followed me into the apartment. The living space was small and crowded. There was a couch and a small table behind it. There were two bedrooms off the living area. I walked past the floral couch and into the first bedroom. It was plain, with a small bed and dresser. Nothing strange here. I opened the closet door. Ah-hah! A few small shirts were hung in the closet. Proof. There was a little boy here. I was about to shut the closet door, when I noticed there was a small puddle of water on the floor of the closet. I knelt down. Sure enough, a stream of cold water flowed from a pair of small boots, just recently brought in from the snow.
“Hey, Robby! Look at this,” I exclaimed. He knelt down beside me on the floor. I lifted one of the dark blue boots and turned it over. Chills went up my spine as I saw the same five-pointed star we had seen in the snow earlier. Questions whizzed through my head. Who is he and why is he hiding? Why did Floretta say there were no children around when there was one in her very apartment?
Suddenly, I thought I heard a voice. I gripped Robby’s arm and listened. Sure enough, a man’s voice could barely be heard. I shot off of the floor and ran out of the room. To my horror, the knob on the front door was slowing turning. I looked frantically for a way to escape. But there was nowhere. Panicking, I opened the hallway closet door and dove into the darkness. Robby followed closely behind, shutting the door just in time. For a second, neither of us dared to breathe. I didn’t even bother to move the point of the umbrella that was embedding into the side of my head. We heard the front door open, and we could now here the voices clearly.
“Make sure you take your boots off,” Floretta said. “I just mopped in here a few days ago. And here, give him his coat.” I looked at Robby, although it was too dark to see his face. The ‘him’ must be the boy! We listened carefully. But there was nothing. The place fell into an eerie silence and the only noise heard was Robby’s breathing. I reached for the handle of the closet door. Turning it, I pushed open the door ever so slightly and peeked through the crack. Seeing nothing, I opened it farther. The bedroom door was shut, and I knew they were in the apartment. Robby and I dashed out of the closet and through the front door. It wasn’t until we had gone out of the office and reached apartment E that we finally relaxed. We burst through the front door.