Whales on stilts, p.1
Whales on Stilts,
WHALES ON STILTS!
RUN OUT AND BUY ABSOLUTELY
EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THE
OTHER TITLES WE’RE PUBLISHING
IN THIS THRILLING SERIES
OF PALS IN PERIL!
The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen
Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware
a Pals in Peril Tale
M. T. ANDERSON
Illusrations by KURT CYRUS
BEACH LANE BOOKS
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BEACH LANE BOOKS
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This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Text copyright © 2005 by M.T. Anderson
Illustrations copyright © 2005 by Kurt Cyrus
Originally published in hardcover by Harcourt Books
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Anderson, M. T.
Whales on stilts! / M.T. Anderson ; illustrated by Kurt Cyrus.
p. cm. — (A pals in peril tale ; )
Summary: Racing against the clock, shy middle-school student Lily
and her best friends, Katie and Jasper, must foil the plot of her father’s
conniving boss to conquer the world using an army of whales.
ISBN 978-1-4424-0695-7 (hardcover)
[1. Best friends—Fiction. 2. Friendship—Fiction. 3. Adventure and
adventurers—Fiction. 4. Whales—Fiction. 5. Scientists—Fiction.
6. Science fiction.] I. Cyrus, Kurt, ill. II. Title.
ISBN 978-1-4424-0696-4 (eBook)
To my cousins
Ham and Santa
On Career Day Lily visited her dad’s work with him and discovered he worked for a mad scientist who wanted to rule the Earth through destruction and desolation.
Up until then life hadn’t been very interesting for Lily. There had not been very many mad scientists. She lived in a small town called Pelt. There was a supermarket and a library, and several mini-malls with discount clothing outlets. The highway went through, and people were pulled over by the police if they drove more than five miles above the speed limit. It was that kind of town.
Most people didn’t know that Lily herself was interesting. She watched things a lot, and thought about them a lot, but she didn’t say much, except to her closest friends. She hid behind her bangs. When she needed to see something particularly important, she blew on her bangs diagonally upward, either from the left or the right side of her mouth. Her bangs parted like a curtain showing a nose-and-chin matinee.
Lily believed that the world was a wonderful and magical place. She believed that if you watched carefully enough, you could find miracles anywhere. The town’s baseball team had a secret handshake that went back to the time of the settlers. A professor down the street had a skeleton hanging in his vestibule. Behind the dry cleaner, some ladies held newt races. There were interesting things like this everywhere, waiting to be noticed. Though Lily thought that she herself was too quiet and too boring to ever do anything interesting, she believed that if she just was watchful enough and silent enough— so silent that no one could even tell she existed—she would eventually see marvels.
Of course, she didn’t expect that she would see any marvels at her dad’s work on Career Day. She didn’t know what he did at his job, but it didn’t sound unusually exciting or flabbergasting. She thought it would be nice to know what her father did—that way she could understand a little bit more of what her father and mother talked about at dinner—but she certainly didn’t suspect that the visit to her dad’s work would eventually lead to daring escapes, desperate schemes, brilliant disguises, and goons with handguns.
No, frankly, it would have been hard to figure that out, based on what she’d heard about her dad’s work from little things he said. For example:
“I’m going to be home late from work.”
“I’ll stop and get those shirts from the cleaner. It’s on the way home from work.”
“A guy at work had his wisdom teeth removed as an adult.”
“I spilled it on my pants at work.”
There was not much that suggested hidden lairs. Terrifying invasions. High-tech weaponry. That also goes for statements like:
“I spent the whole day at work circling number threes for the Dorsey account.”
“I’ll take the day off work to do the mopping.”
“At work we could really do with some air-conditioning.”
“The vending machines at work just got these little packages of muffins. Eighty-five cents. I could eat a whole package at once.”
There really was not much to suggest that this would be a day unlike any other in Lily’s life. When Lily got into her dad’s car on the morning of Career Day, ready to hang out in his office, she was interested but not exactly expecting something thrilling.
Her dad drove for a while, eating cinnamon toast with one hand.
“I don’t even know where you work,” said Lily.
Her father gestured with his toast. “Edge of town,” he said. “Abandoned warehouse.”
“Abandoned?” she said.
“Yeah. Mmm-hmm.” His mouth was full.
She asked, “What do you do?”
“Very complicated,” he said. “Very.”
The abandoned warehouse sat near the bay between a business called Nullco and a factory that made industrial filling. There were old chain-link fences around everything. Lily’s dad parked in the lot. They got out and walked over to the abandoned warehouse. It was made of old bricks, and all the windows were black with soot and broken. There was a big spray-painted wooden sign that said:
Lily’s dad lifted the sign and turned an old pipe that stuck out of the wall. A secret door slid open. He walked in.
Inside there was a desk with a receptionist. The receptionist said hello to Lily’s dad and gave a big smile. “Good morning, Mr. Gefelty,” she said.
“Good morning, Jill,” he said. “How are things today?”
“I’m okay, I guess,” said the receptionist. “Except I’m having pains in my knees from doing something stupid with a big round of cheese.”
“I’m sorry to hear that, Jill,” said Lily’s dad.
He showed his badge, and the receptionist clicked a button that let them through a do
They walked into a laboratory. People in lab coats were holding test tubes over flames. There were beakers and lasers and so on. Bunsen burners and alembics and computers. You know the drill. Everything looked incredibly top secret. Lily was blowing her bangs out of her face as quickly as she could. She glanced at everything they passed. She was amazed.
“What is this place?” said Lily. “Dad?”
Lily’s dad looked bored. “Research and Development,” he said.
She looked around again. He took her wrist and dragged her forward. “Come on, honey,” he said. “They don’t like people to look at what they’re working on. After a minute the guards start shooting. First near your feet, then at your knees.”
The guards stood with big guns next to all the doors, watching everything and frowning.
Lily rushed to catch up with her father. She grabbed at his sleeve. She whispered, “What do you make here?”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I’m in Sales and Marketing.”
“Dad, you must know. There’s something weird going on here.”
“What’s gotten into you?”
Careful to keep walking, she whispered, “This is like some sort of mad scientist’s laboratory. What do you really make here?”
“Oh,” said her father, laughing. “A ‘mad scientist’s laboratory’? Nothing quite so sinister. I think your imagination has gotten the better of you. No, honey, it’s all completely aboveboard. But it’s kind of complicated to explain.” He patted her arm. “Keep walking. The guards’re looking antsy.”
They reached a staircase and started up. Lily lingered behind, looking back at the lab.
“What’s wrong?” her dad asked.
Lily blew the hair out of her face and looked straight at him.
“Oh, come on, honey,” he said. “It’s not really as suspicious as it seems. We’re a midsize company devoted to expanding cetacean pedestrian opportunities.”
She looked confused.
He smiled. “We make stilts for whales. See? Nothing suspicious.”
Her father stuck his hands in his pockets and jogged up the steps, whistling. The tune was “How Much Is That Doggy in the Window?”
“Dad ...?” she protested, but her voice was too soft, and he was already a flight above her.
Lily’s dad’s office was large and kind of bare. He had a desk and a computer and a phone. He sat her down in a chair over in one corner and read his e-mail. He drank some coffee. He typed some things.
Lily wanted to get up and explore the abandoned warehouse, but she knew she wouldn’t be allowed. She had brought along some homework, but she couldn’t really concentrate on it. Not while sitting in the middle of an extremely dangerous, highly guarded high-tech, secret scientific laboratory.
She tried to work on math. She told herself that there weren’t really mad scientists, and that if there was a mad scientist, the worst place he or she could build a lair would be in an abandoned warehouse, because that’s where everyone looked for mad scientists. But she kept on hearing weird beeping noises through the walls.
At about ten thirty, Lily’s father took her down to the break room to get some of the little muffins that came in packages. She kept her eyes wide open to see what she could notice. She had always wanted to see what the break room in a mad scientist’s laboratory looked like.
It was kind of like any other break room, with vending machines for candy, chips, and soda, and an old microwave, and some tables and chairs. The door of the microwave had been slightly melted by something hot.
“Hey there, Gefelty,” said a man in a chair. “How’re you doing?”
“I’m doing just fine, Ray,” said Lily’s father. “What’s up?”
“Nothing much,” said Ray, yawning. “Just the usual. We’re a little bit behind schedule. But you know, sometimes it almost makes me curious—why all of the giant, destructive lasers? And why all of the maps of North America?”
“Yeah. Sure. I guess. Oh, Ray, have you seen the memo about the meeting with Paul?”
Ray looked both ways, like he was about to say something important.
Lily held her breath. She pretended to be interested in the candy selection.
Ray said quietly, “Okay. You know, it’s only my opinion, but I think that Sandy should have been in charge of that project, not Paul. I mean, Paul’s a great details person, but he doesn’t always get the overall picture—you know what I mean? And Sandy’s good both with details and with the big picture. But you know, Sandy doesn’t get on so good with Loretta, and I think that’s why they hired Paul after that whole thing with Bob and Sheila.”
Mr. Gefelty said, “I agree, but—hey there, Larry!”
Both men straightened up when someone who was obviously the boss came in. The new-comer was dressed in a pin-striped suit, very natty, with a grain sack over his head with two holes cut out for his eyes.
“Hey, boys,” he said. “Everything well?”
“Larry,” said Mr. Gefelty, “I’d like you to meet my daughter, Lily.”
Larry held out a blue, rubbery hand. “Hi, Lily. Nice to meet you.”
Lily was shy, especially of blue, rubbery, concealed people, and so she didn’t say much. She shook his hand.
“Say hi to Larry, Lily,” said her father.
“Hi,” said Lily. “It’s very nice to meet you.”
“She’s a charmer, Gefelty. She’ll sweep ’em right off their feet. Oh, hey, Gefelty, can I get that report from Sheila on my desk ASAP? I want to pass it on to R and D.”
“Sure thing, Larry.”
“Great. Great! Hey, the little girl reminds me—when are you planning to go on vacation with your beautiful family?”
“Oh, next month, once school’s out.”
“Oh, great, great. Where you planning on going?” asked Larry, opening the fridge, and pulling out a large vat of green brine and lifting it over his head.
“We’re going to go visit Lily’s grandmother in Decentville.”
“You from there?” asked Larry.
“Oh, great, great,” said Larry, dumping the vat of brine over his head so it soaked his grain sack and his suit. He put down the empty metal vat. “Oh, wait a second. Wait a second, Gefelty. Just thought of something. By then, I will have taken over the world, and Decentville, er, you know ...” Larry made a noise that sounded like several large futuristic lasers blowing up the Decentville police station and the Bijou Theater and the rest of the town being engulfed in flames and destruction as car alarms went off in deserted burning alleyways.
Lily’s father bit his lip. “Aw, shoot,” he said. “Well, we’ll reschedule.”
“Best thing for it,” agreed Larry, nodding his shrouded head. “Best thing.” He clapped Lily’s dad on the shoulder. “Oh, hey, hey—question for you: Do you guys prefer the nondairy creamer or real milk for the coffee?”
“Could the office stock both?” asked Ray.
“Well, see, the milk keeps going sour before it’s used. That’s what I’m worried about.”
Ray nodded sadly. “That’s what milk does,” he said.
“You betcha; that’s milk for you,” said Larry. “I’m thinking of switching the office over entirely to the nondairy.” He sighed, and they all thought about it for a minute. Then Larry said, “Awrighty. I’ll see you guys later. Lily, it’s nice to meet you. Have a great day at the office.” He left the room with a wave, dripping brine.
“See?” whispered Ray. “This is what we have to put up with at this place.”
Mr. Gefelty nodded. “You’d prefer the milk.”
“Of course I’d prefer real milk! Who wouldn’t? Huh? Tell me.”
Lily’s head was spinning. In just a few weeks her grandmother’s town would be in flames and the mysterious Larry would be ruling the world! Lily felt like she couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. Her dad just sipped his coffee. She steadied herself against a table.
The cat, however, just looked terrified.
Lily and her father sat in his office.
This situation was too big for Lily. She didn’t have the first idea of what to do.
She tried talking to her father.
“Dad... Don’t you think that Larry is... strange? I mean... how he wants to take over the world?”
“Honey, sometimes adults use irony. They don’t really mean what they say.”
“He poured that... brine all over his head!”
“He has a skin condition, Ms. Nosy.”
“But—” said Lily.
“Sweet pea, don’t let your imagination go crazy. We’re just a cetacean prosthesis company in an abandoned warehouse.”
“Honey, do you see all the things on my desk? I have to do all these things.” He picked up a piece of paper. “This thing, and ...” (another piece of paper) “this thing and ...” (stick-it note) “this thing ...” (folder) “and even this thing. So why don’t you do your homework and let me do what I have to do?”
So Lily quietly worried. She thought that Larry was pulling the wool over his employees’ eyes. He was going to try to take over the world. She didn’t know how, but she believed that was what he was after. What could she possibly do? She was just one person, just a short person—and Larry was an adult, a full-grown blue, rubbery, concealed adult, taking over the world. What could she possibly do? This thought like huge words filling a bleached pale-white page.
She decided she needed help.
There was no question who Lily should ask for help: her two best friends, Katie and Jasper. Lily thought of herself as just a boring, quiet girl-but she knew she had interesting friends. Katie and Jasper had been through a lot of adventures, and were famous for their bravery and heroism.