Authors: Gordon Korman
For Patrick J. Rankin, genius
Beware The Fish!
Chapter 1: Much Ado About Spinach
Chapter 2: I Never Get Caught
Chapter 3: Attention, World!
Chapter 4: We’re Looking Into It
Chapter 5: Room 13
Chapter 6: An Uncommon Cure
Chapter 7: Operation Popcan
Chapter 8: A Question of Ownership
Chapter 9: Euclid is Putrid
Chapter 10: But Will It Fly?
Chapter 11: In the Name of the Law
Chapter 12: Take Cover!
Chapter 13: Hot Gazoobies!
Chapter 14: Featherstone Out
The Wizzle War
Chapter 1: WizzleWare
About the Author
The Macdonald Hall Series
This Can’t Be Happening at Macdonald Hall!
Go Jump in the Pool
The Wizzle War
The Zucchini Warriors
Lights, Camera, Disaster!
The Joke’s on Us
William R. Sturgeon, Headmaster of Macdonald Hall, a kind, understanding, yet firm administrator who is secretly very fond of his students
An underground criminal leader who is using public communications to send messages to members of his evil organization
A large labelled diagram of the Pacific salmon that hangs on the wall in the room of eccentric genius Elmer Drimsdale
Few people would argue that Macdonald Hall, located east of Toronto just off Highway 48, is not the best boarding school for boys in Canada. Even the most severe critics of modern education point to the ivy-covered walls of the Hall as a symbol of the happy blend of tradition, enlightened administration and progressive educational policies that have resulted in a rare combination of pleased parents and contented students.
Why, then, are rumblings echoing rom the dining hall?
* * *
“Yes! Okay! So we need another vegetable! But why spinach?” exclaimed Boots O’Neal in disgust.
“Stewed green leaves,” agreed Bruno Walton, pushing the spinach as far from the rest of his dinner as he could without actually toppling it off his plate onto the tray. “Last week they started serving raisins and figs instead of cake and ice cream. Now it’s spinach instead of french fries. If this keeps up I’ll be the healthiest person ever to starve to death at this school. Yeccch!”
The other boys at the dining hall table murmured their agreement.
“I told you before,” said Larry Wilson, the Headmaster’s office messenger, “it’s the dietician. I heard Mr. Sturgeon tell her to cut costs but keep the nutrition the same.”
“They’re trying to kill us all!” moaned big Wilbur Hackenschleimer, who was used to having triple helpings of everything.
“You cannot possibly die,” put in studious Elmer Drimsdale, “on this diet. It is nutritionally and chemically balanced.” He methodically deposited some spinach into his mouth.
“You can die if you don’t eat it,” retorted Bruno. “We’re starving! This isn’t
“Seems to me Macdonald Hall is doing a lot of cost-cutting lately,” complained Boots. “Yesterday someone kicked the soccer ball out onto the highway and it got run over by a truck. End of ball, end of game. Can you imagine a school this size owning only one soccer ball?”
“And they’ve stopped our evening snack,” added Wilbur miserably.
“I never considered it,” said Elmer thoughtfully, “but the science laboratory is very low on materials and they’re not being replenished. The big microscope has been broken for a week, but Mr. Hubert has made no move to have it repaired.”
“No cereal at bedtime,” mourned Wilbur.
“The office is crazy for saving paper,” added Larry. “And Mr. Sturgeon is using straight pins instead of paper clips and staples.”
“At least The Fish gets to eat food,” said Wilbur sadly. “I’ll bet Mrs. Sturgeon doesn’t cook garbage like this for him.”
“And the thermostats are nailed at twenty in the dormitories,” Boots pointed out. “Bruno and I almost froze to death last night.”
“The food used to be so good here,” Wilbur reminisced.
Suddenly Bruno pounded his fist onto the table. The others jumped and turned their eyes towards him. “Something’s wrong,” he declared. “The Hall was never like this before. The Fish always used to stand up for us and get us the things we needed. Why isn’t he doing it now?”
“Larry,” Bruno went on, a determined gleam in his eyes, “when you’re on duty around the office, keep on the lookout. If we can find out why this is happening, we can do something about it.”
“You’ve got it,” agreed Larry. “I’ll try.”
* * *
“Mildred,” Mr. Sturgeon, Headmaster of Macdonald Hall, announced to his wife, “I see no alternative. I am going to resign.”
“Now, William,” she said soothingly, “what good would that do?”
“The situation has become intolerable!” he exclaimed, pacing the small living room of the Headmaster’s residence. “The budget is constantly being cut. My students are being deprived — not just of treats and luxuries, but of necessary school supplies as well. I cannot sit by and watch this going on, yet I can’t do anything about it. My only course is resignation.”
“That’s the easy way out,” his wife accused him. “You’d be abandoning our boys if you just quit. Why can’t you stay on and fight?”
Mr. Sturgeon stopped pacing and eased himself into the rocking chair by the window. “I’d love to fight,” he replied, “but I have nothing to fight with. The trustees do — enrolment is down and costs are soaring. They’re not giving me enough money to run Macdonald Hall properly. The fact is, Mildred, if this keeps up we’re going to lose the school.”
“Oh, dear! Can it be that bad?”
He nodded emphatically. “At the last Board meeting there was some serious talk of putting the land and buildings up for sale.”
“But this has been our home for eighteen years!”
The Headmaster shrugged unhappily. “What can I do?” He sighed. “But you do have a point: The captain should go down with the ship. I’ll stay on.”
* * *
Friday evening, just before midnight, the silence of the moonlit campus was disturbed by the squeaking of the window of room 306 in Dormitory 3. Bruno Walton and Boots O’Neal scrambled over the sill and jumped to the ground. They darted across the tree-lined campus, crossed the highway and nimbly scaled the wrought-iron fence around Miss Scrimmage’s Finishing School for Young Ladies.
“It’s a good thing we’ve got this place handy,” said Bruno in an undertone. “If Cathy and Diane weren’t feeding us we’d starve to death!” He picked up a handful of pebbles and tossed them at a second-storey window.
Cathy Burton’s dark head appeared over the sill. “Your provisions will be right down,” she called softly.
A few moments later a large paper bag came sailing out the window and landed at their feet. Printed on the bag in green was the message:
Happy eating. Courtesy of Miss Scrimmage’s Finishing School for Young Ladies, Cathy Burton and Diane Grant, Caterers
Boots looked up at the open window. “You’ve just saved a couple of lives,” he called.
“Our pleasure,” answered Cathy. “Any time. Just don’t expect frequent flyer miles.” She waved, then shut the window.
The boys grabbed the food parcel and retraced their steps to the Macdonald Hall campus and their own Dormitory 3. They climbed back into their room.
Boots shut the window as, still in the dark, Bruno hurled himself onto his bed. There was a wild, terrified scream. Squinting in the moonlight, Boots could just make out the figure of his roommate struggling on the floor with an unknown assailant. Without hesitation he threw himself into the battle. Arms and legs thrashed. Muffled grunts filled the room. Boots could feel the intruder slowly forcing him into a headlock. He reached out blindly, grabbed a foot and started twisting.
There was a sudden click and the light came on. The arm around Boots’s neck was Bruno’s; the hand twisting Bruno’s foot was Boots’s. Standing by the light switch, pale and shaking, was Larry Wilson.
“Douse that light!” Bruno gasped angrily. “Do you want The Fish on our necks?”
Larry switched off the overhead light. “Sorry,” he said, still stunned.
“What the heck are you doing in our room?” demanded Boots as he and Bruno disentangled themselves and stood up.
“You asked me to keep my ears open,” Larry complained. “I came here to report, not to get beaten up. You guys were out, so I lay down to wait for you. I guess I fell asleep. Do you think the racket woke up the Housemaster?”
Boots laughed. “Wake up Mr. Fudge? Don’t you know about him?”
“Old Fudgie wouldn’t wake up if an express train passed under his bed,” said Bruno. “The first year we were here at the Hall, Boots and I came back from Scrimmage’s one night and climbed into his room by mistake. If that kind of laughing in his ear won’t wake him up, nothing will.”
“You said you heard something,” Boots reminded their visitor. “What’s up?”
“You aren’t going to like this very much,” Larry said nervously.
“Oh, no,” groaned Bruno. “I suppose they’ve eliminated lunch.”
“Worse than that,” said Larry. “The Fish has given orders to close up Dormitory 3.”
There was a long moment of stunned silence.
Bruno was the first to find his voice. “No,” he said quietly. “They can’t do that. This is our home.”
“It’s being done,” said Larry. “Tomorrow the orders will go out telling you where to move.”
“We won’t go!” stormed Boots. “We’ll barricade ourselves in and hold out to the end!”
“Why?” cried Bruno. “Why would The Fish do this to us? Why?”
“Well,” said Larry, “no one has actually said it, but it looks to me as if Macdonald Hall is going broke. They can’t afford to run three dorms any more.”
“Then let them close 1! Or 2!” howled Bruno. “But not ours! It’s not fair!”
“What if you get sent to one room and me to another?” put in Boots in a strangled voice.
“No, no,” soothed Larry. “You two guys are both being sent to 201.”
There was another shocked silence.
“Elmer Drimsdale!” Bruno and Boots howled in unison.
“I can’t live with Elmer Drimsdale!” cried Boots. “He’s crazy!”
“Oh, no!” moaned Bruno, who had once been Elmer’s roommate. “No, no, no!”
“But you guys are friends of Elmer’s,” Larry said, mystified.
“Yes, but that’s a lot different from
with him!” Bruno exclaimed. “Elmer keeps ants! And fish in the bathtub! And plants all over the place! And he’s always performing some experiment that takes up half the room! And he gets up at six in the morning!”
“What have we done to deserve this?” asked Boots in despair.
Bruno felt around in the dark, located the bag from Cathy and Diane and ripped it open. “Let’s eat,” he suggested glumly. “I always suffer better on a full stomach.”
The three boys began to eat the assortment of cookies, fruit and cheese filched for them by Miss Scrimmage’s girls.
“I’m getting sent to Dormitory 2 as well,” Larry told them as he savoured the almost forgotten taste of a chocolate chip cookie. “I’ll be across the hall in 204.”
“204!” Bruno laughed despite his unhappiness. “That’s Sidney Rampulsky. Be sure you pay up your accident insurance. That guy could trip over a moonbeam.”
“At least he doesn’t keep ants,” moaned Boots.
“You know,” said Bruno thoughtfully, “we’re losing sight of the most important thing in this whole mess. If Macdonald Hall really is going broke, then we won’t only be out of a dormitory. We’ll be out of a school!”
“We’re going broke, all right,” said Larry. “Today I took a phone call from a real-estate company. Maybe the Hall is being put up for sale.”
In the darkness of room 306, Bruno Walton’s face took on a look of grim determination. “That does it!” he exclaimed. “They’re starving us, they’re forcing us out of our dorm, and now they’re selling our school right out from under us! We won’t let this happen!”
Boots, who had long ago learned to recognize the beginning of one of Bruno’s crusades, felt a twinge of uneasiness. “This is all management and high finance,” he protested. “It’s even above The Fish. What can
do about it?”
“Well, I know what we
do,” replied Bruno. “We can’t just sit back and let the Hall go down the drain! And that’s exactly why the Macdonald Hall Preservation Society is meeting tomorrow at lunch!”
The following Saturday morning, Miss Scrimmage’s girls were enjoying a delightful brunch on the front lawn of the school. At the head of the table Miss Scrimmage herself was pouring tea. Unnoticed by her, two girls had stolen away to the apple orchard adjoining the school. From halfway up a large tree Cathy Burton was staring across the road through her binoculars.
“I told you something weird was going on at the Hall,” she called down to her blonde roommate, Diane Grant. “The whole place is in an uproar. It looks as if they’re moving or something.”
“Moving where?” asked Diane, mystified.
“That’s just it,” was the reply. “They’re not moving anywhere. They just seem to be walking around with suitcases and beds. And bumping into each other a lot.”
“Can you see Bruno or Boots?” Diane asked.
“There they are,” said Cathy. “Boots is just standing there. And Bruno’s sitting on the biggest pile of stuff you ever saw!”
“Catherine! Diane!” Miss Scrimmage came marching into the orchard, her expression severe. “Young ladies do not perch about in trees, nor do they leave the table without permission. You will be restricted to your room this evening and every evening this week. Return to your places at once.”
“Don’t worry,” whispered Cathy to Diane as she dropped to the ground. “They’ll let us in on it soon enough.”
* * *
Across the road, the objects of their attention were busy hauling beds and belongings from Dormitory 3 to the other two buildings. In the midst of the hubbub, Bruno Walton had flopped down on his possessions. “You go on without me,” he said dramatically to Boots. “I’ll be along — eventually.”
“Come on,” said Boots. “Let’s get there and get it over with!” They were both finding it hard to leave 306. Reluctantly Bruno struggled to his feet. The two boys piled their belongings on top of the bed and began to carry the whole arrangement towards Dormitory 2.
“It’s a good thing,” Bruno muttered, “that Elmer has a spare bed. It would kill me if we had to carry two of them!”
They managed to struggle into the building and down the hall to room 201. Bruno kicked the door open.
“Hi, Elmer. It’s us. We’re moving in.”
Elmer turned from his desk where he had been peering through a microscope and making notes.
“Hello,” he greeted them. “Come right in. You can put the bed right over — uh — where
you put the bed?”
The room was already filled almost to capacity. A large fish tank gurgled on top of the bureau, and a huge sand-filled terrarium — the home of Elmer’s ant colony — perched beside it. Books were piled everywhere, and an assortment of peculiar-looking devices lined the walls. On every available surface a plant pot stood. There was a fern, a trailing ivy, a Venus fly-trap, a desert yucca and, pride of the collection, a two-metre cactus currently in flower. There were also countless unidentifiable herbs and fungi. The only wall decoration was a large labelled diagram of the Pacific salmon. It was rumoured at Macdonald Hall that Elmer kept an endless supply of these in case the one in use became shabby.
Bruno indicated a complicated-looking mechanical device standing against the wall. “Why don’t we move that electroformionic impulse pussy-footer, or whatever it is?” he suggested.
“Oh, we can’t do that,” said Elmer. “It’s bolted to the floor. You’ll just have to put the bed in front of the door.”
“But how will we get in and out?” asked Boots, more concerned with getting out than in.
“We’ll have to climb over it,” said Elmer. He peered at Boots earnestly through his large horn-rimmed glasses. “You don’t mind, do you?”
“Oh, no, of course not,” said Boots, thinking longingly of nice, roomy 306. He cast a stricken glance at Bruno. Bruno shrugged.
* * *
“Listen!” cried Sidney “Butterfingers” Rampulsky indignantly across the lunch table. “Everyone drops a clock now and then!”
“But you dropped
clock!” protested Larry Wilson, his new roommate. “And you broke it!”
“Well, I cut my finger on the glass,” protested Sidney. “Don’t I get any sympathy for that?” He held up a bandaged finger to support his claim.
“No,” said Larry sourly. “If Macdonald Hall didn’t have to keep a klutz like you in bandages it wouldn’t be in such a pickle now.”
“That pickle,” Bruno Walton cut in, “is what we’re here to discuss.”
“They cut out pickles five weeks ago,” sighed Wilbur Hackenschleimer.
“I thought we were here to eat.” Boots looked with distaste at a dainty cucumber sandwich. “But I guess I was wrong about that.”
Ignoring them, Bruno got up and surveyed the table. Larry and Sidney were still glaring at each other. Big Wilbur Hackenschleimer sat dreaming of a triple-decker hamburger with the works. Pete Anderson, who was now rooming with Wilbur, Elmer Drimsdale and Boots made up the rest of the committee.
“Macdonald Hall is in trouble,” Bruno announced dramatically, “and the responsibility of saving it rests with us, the Macdonald Hall Preservation Society!”
The boys looked at him uneasily — Bruno’s causes were notorious.
“I’m having enough trouble saving myself,” said Wilbur. “Besides the fact that they’re not feeding us, what’s wrong with Macdonald Hall?”
“I’ll tell you what’s wrong,” exclaimed Bruno. “It’s going down the tube! They may even put it up for sale!”
“That’s ridiculous,” snapped Pete. “The Fish would never allow it!”
“The Fish is only Headmaster,” Bruno reminded him. “He doesn’t own the place; he just works here. He’s a victim, like the rest of us.”
“I don’t believe it,” said Sidney flatly.
“Believe it,” said Larry. “I’m The Fish’s messenger. I’m around to hear what goes on in his office, and it’s true.”
“What do you think all these economy measures are for?” added Boots.
“That’s right,” agreed Bruno. “It’s a bad situation and we’ve —”
The salt shaker in Elmer’s hand slipped from his fingers and clattered to the table. He raised astounded, owl-like eyes to Bruno. “Do you mean that Macdonald Hall is going bankrupt?”
“We just finished saying that, Elmer,” said Bruno patiently. Although Elmer was the school’s genius, he was not known for his quick grasp of everyday matters. “Pay attention. This is very important if we’re going to save the school.”
“But what can
do?” asked Pete. “We’re just students.”
“Well, it seems to me,” said Bruno who had, as usual, taken over the proceedings, “that if we can do something really great and get a lot of coverage in the newspapers and on radio and TV, then we’ll get all sorts of new students. Everybody’ll want to send their boys to a school where such terrific things happen.”
“Sounds good to me,” said Sidney.
“What terrific things?” asked Boots cautiously. He had been involved too many times before in Bruno’s outrageous schemes.
“Well, that’s going to be the hard part,” admitted Bruno. “I haven’t thought of any yet. But I’ll have a suggestion box outside our room — that’s 201 — right after lunch. Talk it up a lot so all the guys will know. I want that box full of suggestions by morning. If we don’t come up with an idea to put this place on the map, then we don’t deserve to keep Macdonald Hall!”
* * *
After lunch Bruno, Boots and Elmer went back to Dormitory 2 and climbed over Boots’s bed into their room. “Elmer, what have you got for a suggestion box?” asked Bruno. “Ah — there’s something.” He reached down and tapped a large black box that sat on the floor by the bureau.
“No!” cried Elmer. “Don’t touch that! It’s extremely delicate electronic equipment. I’m working on a groundbreaking new method of television broadcasting. The digitized images are beamed along pathways of charged particles in the atmosphere. I call it Positive Ion Transmission — PIT for short.”
“Hot gazoobies!” said Bruno happily. “Our first suggestion. You invent some new TV thing and we’ll get all sorts of publicity. But I still haven’t got a suggestion box. I know, we’ll use Boots’s suitcase.” He picked up a canvas duffle bag, zipped it open, dumped the contents on the floor and smiled in triumph. “Come on, Boots. Make yourself useful. Draw up a sign saying
“Can I pick my clothes up off the floor first,
!” asked Boots sarcastically.
“Oh, we’ll help you do that,” Bruno replied cheerfully. “Elmer, pick up his clothes. Hurry up with that sign, Boots. I’m expecting millions of suggestions.”
“And what will you be doing, oh master?”
Bruno hurled himself onto his new bed and wriggled until he was quite comfortable. “I thought I’d take a nap,” he replied. “We’ve got to get to Scrimmage’s tonight.”
“Why?” asked Boots. “We’ve got plenty of food left.”
“We need the girls’ suggestions,” said Bruno. “And,” he added, “it wouldn’t hurt to get in a little more food. Don’t forget, we’re begging for three now.”
Elmer was touched.
* * *
Elmer was not quite so touched at midnight when he found that he was expected to accompany the expedition to Scrimmage’s.
“But — but it’s against the rules! If we get caught we’ll be punished!”
“Agreed,” said Bruno. “But I never get caught, so punishment is out of the question. Come on, Elm, live dangerously for once in your life!”
“Come on, Elmer,” grinned Boots. “Those are
“That’s just it,” said Elmer. “Girls make me extremely nervous. I simply cannot talk to them. My tongue dries up and my throat closes.”
“Well, this is a good time to start learning,” decided Bruno. “Come on, Elmer, it’s for your own good.” He nodded at Boots, and between the two of them they hustled Elmer out the window and dragged him across the campus and the highway. Before he knew it he was climbing the wrought-iron fence and then watching Bruno toss pebbles at the second-storey window.
When Cathy and Diane stuck their heads out, Elmer ducked behind Boots.
food?” Cathy called in disbelief.
“That too,” said Bruno. “But we have to talk to you. We’re coming up.”
One by one, with much hoarse protesting from Elmer, the three boys shinnied up the drainpipe and were helped in through the window by Cathy and Diane.
Cathy regarded the skinny, crew-cut boy who stood cowering before them. “I see we have a newcomer,” she observed.
“You know Elmer Drimsdale,” said Bruno.
“By reputation.” She grinned. “We haven’t been introduced. Hi, I’m Cathy.”
Elmer made a strangled noise deep in his throat.
“And I’m Diane,” said the blonde girl. When there was no reply she glanced questioningly at Bruno. “Doesn’t he talk?”
“No, I do not,” croaked Elmer.
“He’s a little nervous,” explained Boots. “It’s something to do with his tongue and his throat. We live with Elmer now. The Hall closed down Dormitory 3 and kicked us out of our room.”
“That’s terrible!” exclaimed Cathy. “Uh — I mean — no offence, Elmer.”
“That’s what all the ruckus was about then,” said Diane. “All that running around with beds and everything.”
Boots nodded gravely.
“Now down to business,” said Bruno. “We’re in big trouble.”
“So what else is new?” asked Cathy with a grin.
“No, he doesn’t mean us; he means Macdonald Hall,” said Boots. “The Hall is going bankrupt. We could close up soon. You girls could end up with a slaughterhouse across the road instead of us.”
“No, no,” soothed Elmer, finally regaining his voice. “The zoning bylaws would never permit a slaughterhouse. A large sewage-treatment plant, perhaps. I understand the city is looking for a place to locate one.”
cried Diane, appalled.
“Well,” Elmer added dubiously, “perhaps it will only be a highrise condominium development.”
Cathy and Diane moaned in unison.
“Wait a minute, wait a minute,” Bruno put in. “You’re not getting any of that stuff across the road because we are going to save Macdonald Hall. We’re going to get so much great publicity that enrolment will double and there won’t be any reason to close the school.”
“What’s our job?” asked Cathy.
“We’ll do anything!” Diane put in.
“We need publicity,” said Bruno. “Your job right now is to figure out how we’re going to get it.”
“Tell all the girls,” Boots added. “We need all the suggestions we can get.”
“We’ll be back in a couple of days,” said Bruno, “to hear what you’ve come up with.” Behind him, Elmer groaned. This adventure, he was certain, was enough to fill his lifetime quota of excitement. Having Bruno and Boots as roommates was not going to be easy.
“Now,” said Bruno, “how about some food?”
Diane tiptoed to the door. “Be right back,” she whispered.
True to her word, she was back in less than five minutes, carrying the usual paper bag. “Sandwiches tonight,” she told them. “Part of tomorrow’s lunch.”
“We’d better get going,” Boots suggested anxiously. Bruno took the bag and stuffed it into Boots’s hand. He swung a leg over the window ledge. “Thanks for the grub. Work hard on those suggestions.” He started to shinny down. Boots followed, and Elmer, anxious not to be left alone with the girls, was right behind him. Bruno’s feet hit the ground with a thud.
“Halt!” cried a voice.
Just as Boots slipped to the ground behind Bruno, a beam of light illuminated the two of them.
At the top of the drainpipe, Elmer, frozen with fear, felt hands grasp at his arms. Cathy and Diane hauled him back up over the sill and into the room.
“Stay down!” Cathy whispered. “It’s Miss Scrimmage! She’s got Bruno and Boots!”
“I thought I heard screams!” said Miss Scrimmage, pointing a shotgun at the two boys. “You should be ashamed of yourselves, coming over here and terrorizing my poor innocent girls! Hands over your heads!” Her hair curlers bounced as she gestured with the shotgun towards the highway. “Now quick-march back to Macdonald Hall! I’m taking you to Mr. Sturgeon! Move, both of you!”
Bruno looked around. There were only two of them. What had happened to Elmer?
Miss Scrimmage, seething with indignation, marched them across the road and the Macdonald Hall campus to the Headmaster’s cottage, which stood at the edge of the south lawn. Heedless of the fact that it was one o’clock in the morning and that she was in her dressing gown, she rang the bell insistently.
A few moments passed before Mr. Sturgeon appeared at the door in his red silk bathrobe and his bedroom slippers. He took in the scene with one horrified glance.
“Miss Scrimmage, put that weapon down this instant!” he exclaimed. “How dare you point it at any of my boys!”
“They are marauders!” Miss Scrimmage accused. “I caught them on our grounds terrorizing my poor, defenceless girls! You may consider yourself lucky that I did not simply turn them over to the police!”
The Headmaster hustled Bruno and Boots into his house and placed himself between them and Miss Scrimmage. “The police,” he said in icy rage, “would be interested to know that you chase children around with guns in the dead of night. These boys will be dealt with. Good evening.” He slammed the door in her face.
Mr. Sturgeon turned to Bruno and Boots to find his wife comforting them.
“Mildred,” he said, “please go back to bed.”
She ignored him. “Bruno, Melvin, you poor boys! You must be awfully frightened! What were you doing over there?”
Wordlessly Boots held out the food parcel.
Mrs. Sturgeon opened the bag. “Sandwiches! Oh, William, they were hungry! I told you growing boys have to have their evening snack!”
“Enough of this!” exclaimed Mr. Sturgeon. He opened the door a crack and peered outside.
“Is the coast clear, sir?” asked Bruno in a small voice.
“You may go,” barked Mr. Sturgeon, “but you will be in my office at eight tomorrow morning. Goodnight.”
* * *
“Oh, Miss Scrimmage, it was just terrible!” quavered Cathy. “We were so scared! Thank goodness you saved us!”
Miss Scrimmage sat down on the bed under which Elmer Drimsdale cowered, paralyzed with fear. “You poor darlings,” she said comfortingly. “You have nothing to fear while I am here. I can smell an intruder anywhere!”
Underneath the bed, some dust went up Elmer’s nose. He sneezed.
, dear,” said Miss Scrimmage.
“Thank you,” said Cathy and Diane both at the same time.
“Would you two girls like me to spend the night in your room?” the Headmistress offered kindly.
“No!” cried Diane.
“What she means,” said Cathy quickly, “is that she has this terrible cold — you heard her sneeze — and we wouldn’t want you to catch it.”
“Oh,” said Miss Scrimmage. “How thoughtful of you. But Catherine might catch it too. Come along, Diane. To the infirmary with you. I shall look after you.”
With a glance of pure hatred at her grinning roommate, Diane followed Miss Scrimmage from the room. Cathy dragged Elmer out from under the bed. “All clear,” she said cheerfully.
Elmer mouthed the words, “I think I’m going to be sick.” His voice was gone again.
“I can understand how this sort of thing might upset you, this being your first time here,” she said sympathetically. “I’ll get a cold cloth for your head. You’ll have to stick around for a couple of hours anyway, until the heat’s off. Meanwhile, please make yourself comfortable. There’s a nice bed over there. Diane won’t be needing it tonight.”
Elmer moaned and lay down, gingerly trying to sort out the events of the evening.
* * *
“Where can he be?” exclaimed Bruno for the umpteenth time, pacing the floor like a worried father.
“I don’t care where he is!” cried Boots. “Bruno, will you think of us for a minute? The Fish is going to kill us tomorrow!”
“But what about Elmer? He’s helpless! And we just left him there!” Bruno was stricken with guilt.
“We didn’t leave him. We were marched away at gunpoint.” Boots sighed miserably. “Don’t worry, Bruno. The way our luck has been running tonight, he’ll probably turn up safe and sound!”
It was four o’clock in the morning when Bruno and Boots were awakened by a frantic scratching at the window. The two boys rushed over and pulled Elmer in.
He was a sight to behold. His face was shiny with perspiration, and his usually neat crew cut was standing on end. He was twitching nervously and his eyes were wild. He looked like a hunted animal.
“Where have you been?” stormed Bruno. “We’ve been worried sick!”
His shaky knees collapsing under him, Elmer sat down on the floor to tell his tale of woe. “It was horrible!” he croaked. “After those two girls saved me from Miss Scrimmage they wouldn’t let me leave! They made me hide under the bed! When Miss Scrimmage came in and sat down on the bed, I was terrified!”
Bruno and Boots could bear it no longer. They burst into uncontrollable laughter.
Elmer was outraged. “It’s not amusing! And besides, they told Miss Scrimmage the most horrid lies about you. They said you were terrorizing them until she came along and saved them!”
By this time Bruno and Boots had collapsed to the floor in hysterics.
“Then I had to stay there for three hours before that Cathy person would let me leave,” Elmer continued. “It was the most harrowing experience of my life!”
“No more, Elmer!” gasped Bruno, exhausted. “I can’t stand it!”
Boots caught his breath. “Not bad for a first time out! Elmer, I’m nominating you for Rookie of the Year!”
“It’s all very well for you to laugh,” protested Elmer reproachfully. “You didn’t have to go through what I did.”
“Hah!” said Boots. “Old Scrimmage marched us to The Fish at gunpoint and he almost had a fit! We’ve got to see him in the office at eight o’clock. We’re cooked!”
Elmer turned even paler. “Does — does Mr. Sturgeon know about me?”
“No, he doesn’t,” said Boots. “You’re clean.”
Elmer sighed with relief and turned to Bruno. “You told me you never get caught,” he accused. “Miss Scrimmage caught you.”
Bruno shrugged. “It was a one-in-a-million chance,” he said. “Even a pro like me can have an off night. There’s no way it could ever happen again. She got lucky.”
“Lucky or not,” Boots said mournfully, “we’re the ones who are going to have to face the music.”
* * *
“William, what are you going to do to those poor boys?”
Mr. Sturgeon sipped his breakfast coffee. “I don’t know, Mildred,” he replied. “I am still Headmaster here, and roaming the countryside in the dead of night is frowned upon by this institution.”
“But they were hungry,” his wife pleaded. “They aren’t getting enough to eat!”
getting enough to eat,” he snapped back. “They just aren’t eating it.” He shook his head. “I should be furious with them, but somehow I just feel angry at that awful Scrimmage woman. Every time I think of her being allowed to own that shotgun … If she ever hurts one of my boys, I’ll —”
“William, you’re shouting again.”
* * *
At precisely 8 AM, Bruno and Boots marched past the heavy oak door with HEADMASTER lettered in gold, and into the office. They ignored the comfortable chairs intended for visitors and automatically sat down on the hard wooden bench facing Mr. Sturgeon’s desk.
The Headmaster leaned forward, fixing them with the cold, fish-like stare which made his nickname all the more appropriate.
“Lights-out at Macdonald Hall occurs at exactly ten o’clock,” he said icily. “From that moment on all students are expected to be in their beds. Miss Scrimmage’s Finishing School for Young Ladies is off limits at all times, especially in the middle of the night. Are those rules something new to you?”
“No, sir,” Bruno admitted quietly.
“I’m very happy to hear that,” said Mr. Sturgeon. “I never want to catch you over there again. Is that understood?”
“Yes, sir,” chorused Bruno and Boots.
“Excellent,” said Mr. Sturgeon. “At least I’m glad to see you didn’t involve Drimsdale in your nonsense. As for your punishment — except for mealtimes, you are to spend the rest of today in your room.” He stood up. “Dismissed.”
“Thank you, sir.” The boys backed out of the office and scurried down the marble corridor of the Faculty Building.
Once outside, Boots let his breath out in a long sigh of relief. “A day’s punishment?” he said incredulously. “I thought he was going to murder us!”
“I knew he’d go easy,” replied Bruno. “He doesn’t like Miss Scrimmage anyway. He was so mad at her he forgot he was mad at us. It’s all very simple. Anyway, we need a quiet day in our room.”
“You bet!” said Boots enthusiastically. “I could use a nap. I hardly slept at all last night.”
“Who said anything about sleep?” demanded Bruno. “Our suggestion box must be full by now. We have to get to work.”
“Swell,” said Boots without enthusiasm. “We could have started getting publicity for the Hall last night if we’d thought of it. Picture this:
Students Shot By Crazed Headmistress
. Wouldn’t that have enlarged our enrolment?”
“Don’t be an idiot,” scoffed Bruno. “This is an important thing we’re doing. If everyone takes it as lightly as you do and Macdonald Hall closes, then where will we be?”
The two boys headed for Dormitory 2 to serve their punishment and read the suggestions.
* * *
about the budget!” snapped Mr. Sturgeon into the telephone. “My boys
have their evening snack … Because they’re young and healthy and they’re growing, that’s why. They’re also begging food over at Scrimmage’s, and I’ll not have that! We may be in financial difficulty, but surely we have some pride! … Yes, a little cereal and milk would be fine. I’m glad you agree, Jim … Thank you. Good-bye.”
He replaced the receiver with a look of satisfaction on his face. It had taken Bruno Walton and Melvin O’Neal to get him back into harness, but at least now he was fighting back.
* * *
In room 201 the Pacific salmon smiled down on industrious activity. Elmer Drimsdale’s head was buried deep inside the black box containing his PIT system. He was tinkering happily while humming a Bach fugue.
Bruno and Boots sat cross-legged on the floor. Between them was Boots’s duffle bag, filled to overflowing with small pieces of paper.
“Here’s something,” said Boots. “
Let them close the place up so we can all go home and get a square meal
. It’s signed Anonymous.”
“You know, I’m a little disappointed in all this,” said Bruno. “A lot of the guys don’t seem to have understood what we wanted. Look at these suggestions —
rob a bank, get caught and get your name in the paper; commit a murder
, same notation. What’s the matter with these idiots?”
Boots laughed. “Here’s one from Sidney Rampulsky. It says,
Discover gold on the campus
“Ha!” said Bruno. “I wish we could. Here’s two more
rob a bank
, for goodness’ sake!” He shuffled through several others. “Hey! Now here’s something! Marvin Trimble says we should fake an ancient Indian burial ground. Then the government will declare the site a national monument and they’ll never allow anything to be built here, so the school will stay.”
“Bruno, are you crazy?” Boots exclaimed. “We can’t do that. Where would we get ancient relics?”
“An arrow is an arrow,” shrugged Bruno.
“Not when it’s plastic and says
Made in Japan
“So we’ll make a few in shop,” argued Bruno, “and we’ll stomp on them a bit so they’ll look old.”
“They won’t be ancient enough,” insisted Boots. “Those archeologist guys have ways of finding out how old things like that are. They’re not just going to take a quick look and say, ‘Great heavens! Arrows!’ and then put up a national monument. They’re going to check to see if the stuff is real — which it won’t be. And then we’ll be in trouble again.”
“I guess you’re right,” conceded Bruno. “What a stupid guy that Marvin Trimble is! Do you see anything else in this mess?”
Boots nodded. “Rob Adams says someone should make a great discovery, like a cure for a terrible disease. Just like that!”
“That’s Elmer’s department,” laughed Bruno. “Hey, Elm, as soon as you’re finished with that TV thing would you mind discovering a cure for some dread disease?”
Elmer’s head emerged from the black box. “Oh,” he said seriously, “as a matter of fact I’m working on a cure for the common cold right now.”
“I thought you were working on that broadcasting thing,” said Boots.
“I am,” replied Elmer. “I am currently involved in seventeen different projects — or is it eighteen? I don’t remember.” His head disappeared again.
Boots cast Bruno a look of pure wonder. “Does he ever finish anything? Is he ever successful?”
Bruno shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“At last!” cried Elmer. “It’s completed!” He leapt to his feet and gazed earnestly at Bruno and Boots. “Would you mind helping me set it up to test it?”
“Sure,” said Bruno.
He and Boots picked themselves up off the floor and watched in amazement as Elmer began gathering equipment from every corner of the room, under the beds and in the closet. They spent the next hour fetching, carrying and holding electronic gear for the eccentric genius as he set up his new invention.
When it was all done, several yards of wire and cable snaked across the walls and under the furniture to Elmer’s PIT system. On top of the box sat an enormous jumble of circuits, tubes and resistors, and a condenser microphone, all attached to a camera turret. The lens was pointed directly at Elmer’s Pacific salmon poster. On the back of the black box was a small television monitor and speaker. Bruno and Boots were awed.