“I have no idea how that card got there!” I said to Ray in the commons outside Harrison’s and Reyes’s classrooms.
“Someone’s playing a joke on you, Abe. That’s all it is. Whoever took your Monster Deck 3 is doing this.”
Liz bee-bopped up.
“Yeah, someone, Ray, and I have a guess,” I said looking with squinty eyes at Liz. She’d been known to do this kind of stuff before. “Where did you run off to, sister?”
Liz looked at the floor and then smiled a crescent moon. “I had a hunch about Ben, so I wanted to check it. I think I know why he’s so scared: He’s being bullied by an eighth grader named William Fry. I saw Ben give William something – I think it was money. He’s probably threatening to beat the little kid up if he doesn’t give him lunch money or something.”
“Maybe he is giving Monster Deck 3 cards to Fry as a ransom or something,” Ray said.
“You mean blackmail.” Liz was no dummy. She, like Ray, was smart and could throw ideas around like the Giants’ infielders tossing a baseball.
I smiled at the two of them like some stupid looking ventriloquist dummy, I’m sure. But here they were, solving this problem, troubleshooting. It was like we were an investigation company! If only we could get paid.
“Yeah, ‘blackmail’ works. Maybe,” Ray said. “We ought to make a list of things we know so far… One, Ben is scared. Two, Liz has seen him talking with Fry. Three,”
“Three, stuff is disappearing… like that artwork in the hallway by the elevator,” I said. I couldn’t get a word in on these two investigators.
“Four, your monster deck was stolen,” Liz added, nodding to me.
“Five, cards keep showing up secretly,” Ray said.
“Don’t forget aliens,” I said. “And what about the dummy of Harrison?”
“Who you calling a dummy?” Harrison said behind me in a booming voice.
Holy Cow! I almost jumped to the ceiling!
Ol’ Lizzy got a chuck-chuckle out of that. After the incident at my uncle’s cemetery, I’m pretty sure Liz liked scaring us.
“Hey, Mr. Harrison, I saw a blow up beachball-type dummy of you in the closet downstairs,” I said. I wanted to look like I knew how to investigate something. You know… be in charge and all that. “Did you have that specially made for something?”
“Ah, you’re on to us, Abe Table. I knew you’d get around to it. Well, we replacements would like to finish the task our alien master gave us and take over Lake Middle School, if you don’t mind.”
Harrison stood there with a serious grin on his face. You know, like the Mona Lisa or my sister’s cat when she brings dead animals and drops them off at the door as a weekly sacrifice.
Ray jumped in on this one, and it’s a good thing because I didn’t have a clue what to say. What kind of investigator was I? Here the criminal was admitting what he was doing right to my face and I couldn’t think. What was wrong with me?
“Look, Mr. Harrison, we know that you are an alien. Don’t try to fool us or get away with something. We are watching you,” Ray said.
“Let’s get to work and figure out our plan after learning today.”
And then the unthinkable happened!
Harrison made a sign to Ray that sent goosebumps on my arms: He nodded.
No, no, no. I know what anyone would think. They’d say, ‘like, what are you talking about, Abe? Are you some freak of nature? It was only a nod.’
Yeah, I know it was. But there was like a flash in the eyes between Ray and Mr. Harrison that told the whole story. Ray was an insider. He was one of them!
Just as my mind was about to blast off with every normal thought I’d ever had and doom them all to a cave on Mars, Reyes came out of his room and made a series of flapping hand motions and face signals to Harrison. Right in front of us!
“To class everyone,” Reyes said as the bell rang.
Ray and I were in Reyes’s room and Liz went to Science. As Reyes closed his door and introduced our Clear-As-A-Bell thinking prompt for the day, I watched as he smiled and nodded to Harrison through the window.
“Did you see that?” I whispered to Ray. I was still watching Reyes like a hawk.
“Ray,” I whispered, “did you see that?”
“How Reyes nodded to Harrison… like something was in place or something was going as they had planned.”
“Naw, I missed it, Abe. I’ll have to keep an eye out.”
Ray got up to sharpen his pencil and as he walked by, his binder fell off his desk.
There it was! A Monster Deck 3 card fell out – a Cawing Crow! It had to be from my deck and WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE A CROW? A crow card was a spy spell, of course! Ray had been spying on me, on Liz, on our group. He was one of them!
I scooped the card up as quick as a snap so Ray wouldn’t know I knew, you know? I had no idea what I was going to do, but it was going to be tricky.
I only hoped Liz was still on my side.