An investigation into the kidnapping of his schoolmate leads young Tom Austen to the seedy Golden Boy Cafe and an unexpected encounter with a desperate criminal. After getting one step too close to the kidnappers, Tom is taken prisoner and needs all his wits to survive.
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It was night when Tom Austen and his friends approached the mystery house. “All right,” Tom said in a low voice, “are your instructions clear?”
Matthew and Art nodded.
“Any last minute questions?”
“Final check of watches.” Tom pulled back his parka sleeve. “Total silence.”
He ran his eyes over the deserted house. No signs of life, but he gazed a long time at the attic window. That’s where he’d seen movement yesterday. No one had believed it, so Tom proposed a mission into the house. Only Art and Matthew had the courage to come along.
Spring would arrive soon, but the cold of winter still gripped Winnipeg. Branches rattled together in the icy wind, and the black sky was scattered with brilliant stars.
The house had been empty a year. People crossed the street if they had to walk past, and there were rumours of ghosts. Then, yesterday, a dog was barking at the house when Tom went past. Looking up at the attic window, he thought he saw some movement.
Tom motioned for Matthew and Art to stop. “Foot-prints,” he whispered, pointing at a patch of snow. “Coming from the yard.”
“They go to that basement window,” Matthew said. “It's been broken.”
The window opened easily. The boys dropped down into the cellar. It was dark and smelled of old newspapers. Tom’s nose wrinkled. He signaled to Art, who was posted as a sentry outside the window. He’d go for help if they weren’t back in 15 minutes.
The house moaned. Fear ran across Tom’s skin. Another moan, then a long creak that shivered through the darkness. Outside the broken window, Art waited. His breath steamed in the cold air. He looked safe. For a second, Tom wished he was sentry, but he was leader and had to do the hard part.
Switching on their flashlights, they tiptoed to the stairs. As they started up, the house seemed to whisper Stay away.
Tom’s scalp prickled. He looked at Matthew, wanting desperately to say something, but the rule was no talking. He looked up the stairs, knowing they had to keep going. Tomorrow at school, everyone would be asking questions.
What if someone was waiting upstairs with a gun, planning to spring a trap? Keep Tom and Matthew prisoner in the attic until they starved to death?
Tom stared at Matthew, wishing they could talk. Maybe they should come back another time. What if someone really was lurking with a gun? Maybe it wasn’t just his imagination that the house had whispered Stay away.
The steps creaked as they climbed from the cellar to the kitchen. Through the dirty windows, Tom saw the sky growing darker. He looked at the old enamel sink, the wooden cupboards, the thick dust on the floor. He heard a scrambling sound, whirled, and saw a mouse rushing away.
Matthew was trembling. Tom squeezed his friend’s arm and tried to smile as they entered the hallway. The plan was for Matthew to wait here as sentry while Tom climbed the dark stairs alone to the attic. That didn’t seem like such a good idea anymore.
The house had stopped creaking, as if it was watching and waiting. Tom looked up the stairs.
BANG BANG BANG
The sound crashed down from the darkness. Tom jumped, then Matthew grabbed his arm. “What was that?” he whispered.
BANG BANG BANG
The crashing filled the air. Matthew said something and ran; Tom stared up into the darkness, then rushed into the kitchen. He heard Matthew crashing down the cellar stairs. “Art,” he was screaming, “help, Art, help!”
Tom flew down the cellar stairs, certain that someone with a gun was close behind. Matthew was wiggling out the window. “Wait for me,” Tom yelled, scrambling after him. “Hurry,” he shouted, as they ran across the yard. “Hurry!”
When they reached safety, Tom turned to study the deserted house. The attic window stared back, its secret still guarded. Tom promised himself he would return.
“That banging,” Matthew gasped. “What was it?”
“I don’t know,” Tom said.
“What happened in there?” Art demanded. "One minute I’m waiting for you guys and the next minute we’re racing across the yard!”
“It was a ghost!” Matthew’s eyes were wide. “It made a slamming noise, warning us away.”
Tom shook his head. “I don’t think it was a ghost, Matthew. But I can tell you one thing - tomorrow we face some tough questioning at school.”
“That’s right,” Matthew exclaimed. He looked at Tom. “What’ll we do?”
“It’s simple,” he replied. “Tell everyone we’ve got some good leads, and our plans are top secret. Beyond that, no comment.”
“It makes sense,” Art said.
Matthew nodded. “If Dietmar Oban finds out, we’re finished. Everyone will be laughing."
Tom looked at his watch. “Fortunately, my parents are away on a trip, but you guys are in trouble. It’s getting late.”
“Gosh,” Matthew exclaimed, looking at his watch. “I’ll be grounded for sure.”
“Me, too,” Art groaned. “Forget the detective business, Tom. It’s just plain scary.”
Tom shook his head. “No way. I’m on to a good case, I can just tell.” When the others looked doubtful, Tom smiled. “Wait and see.”
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Back to the list of Eric's books Back to Eric's Home Page The Case of The Golden Boy Copyright 2012 by Eric Hamilton WilsonAll rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced inany manner whatsoever without prior written permission except in thecase of brief quotations embodied in reviews.