Adventures in reading, p.13
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       Adventures in Reading, p.13

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Dave held the lighter high and illuminated the little reflectors that Mr. Jackson had recently posted. No way would they get lost as long as the lighter held fluid. With that thought he jiggled it a bit and figured it was at least half full. He was kind of glad that he was wasting Rob’s lighter and not his own. If his little brother was using up his lighter he would just make him get another one, that is, steal one from his mom or dad, who both smoked.

  “Is that you breathing so hard, moron?” Dave asked. He looked back at Rob who had stopped and had clamped his hand over his own mouth. Rob pointed with his other hand first to his ear and then down the tunnel. Dave heard it, too. That little bit of noise must be coming from their brothers, probably they were hiding around the corner. Dave motioned to Rob to stay put then he closed the lighter and waited.

  Missy and Kevin stayed absolutely still. Missy willed herself to breathe quietly. Rob and Dave were just as still in the total darkness. No one moved. Two, three minutes passed.

  “Turn the lighter back on,” Rob finally said, “and let’s go.”

  “Yeah, you’re right. Nobody’s down here,” Dave agreed, but he turned the lighter on and mouthed to Rob “they’re right there”. They noisily entered the next tunnel and pretended to head on.

  Missy and Kevin slinked around the corner and headed away from the boys and farther down the tunnel under the lake. When there was no more glow from the others’ lighter Kevin switched on the flashlight. “Let’s hurry,” he whispered.

  “You were right,” Rob said, “and I think they’ve got a flashlight. Where did they get that?”

  “Let’s get those little snots.”

  They jogged in pursuit as fast as they could without the flame blowing out. Dave kept yelling, “We’re gonna get you!”

  “Oh, no,” Missy whimpered, “go faster, Kevin.” They were what would have been more than halfway back across the lake only underground, changing tunnels based on the color of the little arrow reflectors. Kevin knew exactly which way would lead to the “end of the tunnels” and the secret escape that he and Missy and their friend Jessica had discovered a few weeks ago. If they could just reach the large cavern they could duck behind the drapery. It hung over the opening completely and hid the entrance. Lettering that had been painted on the cloth announced: The end of the caves. Congratulations! That ought to stop the boys. They would think that they had taken a different route and would keep on searching.

  Dave stayed in front of Rob by a couple of feet, but it was hard to follow the faint glow of the flashlight ahead with the lighter in front of his eyes.

  “You go first, Rob,” he said, unwilling to give up the lighter.

  Rob passed him and his eyes adjusted to following the fainter glow a dozen yards ahead. “We almost got you!” he shouted and then tripped on some loose gravel and sprawled headlong on the cave floor. Dave stumbled over Rob’s legs and fell, his right knee landing hard on his friend’s back. He reached out his hands to break the fall and the lighter flew to the side and went out.

  “Ow, get off me,” Rob grunted. Dave rolled to the right and searched blindly for the lighter.

  “Help me search for the lighter. They’re getting away.” Dave stretched out on his belly and extended his arms out moving them side to side as if he were making a face down snow angel. He inched forward and repeated the action two more times before his fingertips felt the smooth side then the hot tip of their only hope of seeing in this cool black darkness.

  “Found it.” He got up, lit the lighter and handed it to Rob, who had a smudge of blood on his chin. “You hold it, Miss Tripsy, and I’ll go in front.” They quickly resumed their pursuit.

  “Did you hear that?” Missy whispered. “Sounds like they fell down.”

  “Yeah, maybe we can get far enough ahead that they won’t know which tunnel we took.” Kevin kept up a steady jog, but they couldn’t go too fast or they would end up like their pursuers, sprawled on the hard rock floor. He thought about ducking into one of the little caverns and turning off their flashlight, but the idea of hiding in what would amount to a dead end closet did not seem wise. It sounded like the guys thought they were chasing their own brothers, but if they caught Missy and him instead, it still wouldn’t be good.

  They came to a fork in the tunnels. The left tunnel was a maze of interconnecting routes that looped around without any other exit. The right tunnel would take them to the cavern with the hidden way out. Kevin didn’t hesitate in choosing the right tunnel. Missy stayed close on his heels and they arrived at the cavern without a sound behind them.

  Kevin hurried to the drapery that hung over the exit. He held it out and Missy slipped under it and reached up for a handhold. The tunnel up and out was a couple of feet above the floor of the cavern. The drapery that hid it didn’t reach the ground. No one would suspect that the tunnel was even there since all the other tunnels were at the same level. If the older boys found this cavern and saw the drape with its ‘end of the caves’ message it was unlikely that they would guess it concealed a get-away.

  Kevin gave Missy a boost and up she went. She turned and reached for the flashlight and Kevin easily jumped up and into the narrow passageway. Behind him the curtain fell back into place, quivering a little before settling back into its stillness.

  They emerged from the tunnel into a smaller cavern that had stalactites and stalagmites. They knew they were just below the lobby of the lodge and all they had to do was climb the ladder and pop through the trapdoor.

  “You have the key?” Kevin was still whispering. Missy pulled out a chain from around her neck on which hung two very distinctive keys. She climbed the ladder first and unlocked the trapdoor. She eased it open slowly, praying that no children were playing in this cute little area under the stairs where toys were stored.

  Rob and Dave almost reached the fork in the tunnels when Dave stopped and grabbed something off a niche in the cave wall.

  “Hey, Rob, look, I think I found a candle.” He held out a small votive candle, slighter larger than the ones his mother used to freshen the bathroom, and Rob held the lighter to the wick.

  “Great, now we don’t have to waste any more lighter fluid.” Dave said and Rob closed the cap. He almost stuck it back in his pocket then decided to wait until it cooled a bit first. Dave handed the candle to Rob and reminded him to hold his hand in front of it so it wouldn’t blow out. Dave turned to continue the hunt though there was no longer any ghost of light to follow.

  They reached the fork and stared intently down each path, straining their eyes and ears.

  “I’m pretty sure they’d have to come back this way to get out. We could just wait here,” Dave said. “Or we could split up and you take the candle and I’ll use the lighter.”

  Rob held the candle up high then down low. “I may be wrong,” he said, “but I think they took the right passage. See how it’s scuffed up here?”

  Dave agreed and they followed the tunnel to the large cavern.

  “What the heck is this?” Rob said and he went right up close to the drapery and read the message by the flickering light.

  Dave cursed and blamed Rob for making them go down the wrong tunnel. “They’re probably half way back by now!” He cursed again. He wanted to throw something so he picked up a handful of loose stones and hurled them at the drapery then he plucked the candle from Rob’s hand and led them back through the tunnels.

  Lonnie and Ricky reached the lodge’s beach and dragged the canoe up next to the one they had earlier rescued.

  “We forgot one thing,” Ricky said, “they’re gonna want to know how the canoe and paddles got put back.”

  “We can shove it back out now, sink it, maybe.”

  “Um, I see your mom coming out the back door.” They ran across the beach and ducked into the woods out of her sight.

  “Think of something else,” Ricky said.

  “Okay,” Lonnie swatted at a mosquito, “I know what we can say. We’ll tell them that we saw Mr. Jackson bringing it ba
ck. They won’t talk to him.”

  Ricky agreed. “Okay, let’s go check out our room. I’m glad our folks are letting us share. My brother snores.” The boys laughed.

  “Let’s stay out here some more,” Lonnie said. Ricky usually let Lonnie have his way so they headed deeper into the woods.

  Missy and Kevin were in luck. No little kids were in the playroom and they could emerge, relock the trapdoor and cover it up with a small rag rug. Missy peeked out of the playroom door and found the lobby empty, another bit of luck for them. They dashed through the lobby and cut through the dining room. When they reached the back porch a lady was heading out the screen door and they could see beyond her to the beach where Lonnie and Ricky were stepping out of the canoe. They watched the boys glance toward the lodge then scurry off to the woods.

  “Wow,” Missy said, “we beat them back here.”

  “Yeah,” Kevin answered, “which means that we can’t beat the brothers back to the stone cottage to move the stove off the trap door. I don’t want to be there when they find out they’re trapped.”

  “Maybe it’s time to tell your dad how mean these guys are.”

  “How mean what guys are?” Old Mr. Stark said. He had come up behind them without a sound.

  Kevin and Missy looked at each other first and when Kevin shrugged his shoulders Missy went ahead and told her great-grandfather what the two sets of brothers had just done.

  “Well,” the old man said, scratching at his beard and chuckling, “serves those boys right to be trapped down there for a while. A little punishment’s not a bad thing. I don’t suppose the younger brothers would go back and move the stove. No, hmmm,” he paused, “I’ve got an idea. Since we wouldn’t want their parents to panic when they don’t show up for dinner, here’s what you can do.” He bent closer and explained his solution.

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