|Publisher:||Whitman, Albert & Company|
|Series:||Boxcar Children Series , #18|
|Product dimensions:||5.25(w) x 7.63(h) x 0.30(d)|
|Lexile:||510L (what's this?)|
|Age Range:||7 - 10 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Listen — listen to this!" said Benny Alden. He was reading the newspaper after breakfast. "Science and Hobby Fair. Oakdale, July 25-26. The last day's today!"
"A two-day science and hobby fair?" asked Jessie. "That sounds interesting. I'd like to go."
Benny looked at Violet and Henry.
"Well, come on then," said Henry. "Let's all go! I'd like to see what other kids have invented and built all by themselves. Let me see the paper, Ben."
Then Henry read aloud, "One hundred exhibits by young people and adults. Special exhibits by factories to show what they make and show that Oakdale is a fast-growing town."
"How can we get there?" asked Jessie.
"We can ride our bikes to Oakdale," said Violet.
"Oh, no, Violet," Henry said. "Oakdale is thirty miles away. That's too far to bike both ways in one day."
"Well, what about the bus?" Benny asked. "We'll have to look at a bus timetable. But we haven't got a timetable."
"It just happens that I have a timetable," said Grandfather Alden. He took a timetable out of his pocket. "It's a brand new one," he said, "so it will be right." He gave the timetable to Henry.
Henry looked it over. "No," he said, "we can't go straight to Oakdale. We have to change buses at Plainville Junction, and we have to wait there an hour for the bus to Oakdale."
"That's OK," said Benny. "People always have to wait at stations for buses and trains. That's what stations are for."
Jessie said, "If we hurry, we can get the morning bus."
Grandfather Alden laughed. "Well, Benny, you've started something as usual. I wish I could come along, too. I know that there's a lot of new business around Oakdale. I hear something about a new company near Plainville Junction."
"What about lunch?" Benny asked.
They all laughed. Benny was always hungry, and he could always eat even when he was not hungry at all.
"I think there will be plenty to eat at the fair," Henry said. "Perhaps at the bus station, too."
"Yes, I think so," said Mr. Alden. "As I remember it, the bus station is at a crossroads in a lonely spot. The station is near a red bridge over the river. Not many people live around there."
"We can wait till we get to the fair in Oakdale," Jessie decided. "I'm sure we can eat there."
"Look up a bus that will bring us home, Henry," Benny said. "If there are buses at the right time, we can go and come back all in one day."
Henry looked at the timetable again and found a return bus that would bring them back by dinnertime. He looked around at the others and said, "This is one time we don't have to pack a bag or a lunch or take a thing."
"Better take a little money," said Grandfather with a smile.
"For bus tickets," agreed Henry.
"And for something to eat," put in Benny.
"Perhaps we'd better take raincoats," Jessie added. "We've been caught in plenty of showers."
"It won't rain," objected Benny. "Look at that blue sky!"
Mr. Alden shook his head. "I'd call this day a weather breeder. Better take your raincoats. This is just the time of year for a sudden storm."
So with money and four raincoats, the Aldens started off for the Oakdale Hobby Fair. They got to the Greenfield bus station just in time to catch the bus for Plainville Junction.
"You can get tickets to Oakdale at the Plainville bus station," the driver told them. "I suppose you are going to the fair."
"That's right," answered Benny.
There was only one other person on the bus, an old gentleman. Jessie and Violet sat together, and Henry took a seat behind the bus driver. Ben sat down with the old gentleman. He liked company, and he liked to meet strangers.
"Just going somewhere for the day?" asked the old man with a smile.
"Yes, we're going to Oakdale to the hobby fair," Benny answered. "Are you going to Oakdale, too?"
"No, I'm not going to change at the junction. I'm going right through. I have a long trip before me. I'm going to Ohio."
"If you come from Ohio," Benny said, "you don't know this part of the country very well."
"Well, yes, I do. I grew up in New England near Plainville Junction. But I moved out to Ohio about ten years ago. I come here once in a while to visit my old friends in Greenfield and in Oakdale."
Benny said, "You must have had a good time visiting everyone."
The old gentleman smiled. "Yes, I did. But everything is changing. Some of it's good and some of it's bad. Or that's what people told me."
Benny and the man talked about the things they passed, and the time went by quickly. In a little while the bus came to flat countryside.
"My grandfather says no one lives around here," remarked Benny as they rode along. "Everything is deserted."
The man laughed. "You mean was deserted. You'll see what I mean when you get out at the bus station. I had to change buses there to get to Greenfield. The man in the station is all stirred up about what's going on. He says there's going to be a big fight."
"A fight?" asked Benny. "About what?"
"Some kind of factory. Some people think it's good because there is more work. Other people are afraid the river will be spoiled. Polluted, you know."
"Yes, I know about pollution," replied Benny. He looked out the bus window. He saw that the road was running along beside a little river. Up ahead he could see a red bridge.
"The station is right around the next bend," the old man said. "Three highways come together. That's why it's called Plainville Junction. The bus for Oakdale will cross the bridge and pick you up. It's about ten miles to Oakdale."
Just then the bus came to a stop. They were at Plainville Junction.
Benny picked up his raincoat and said good-bye to the old gentleman.
"The man who runs the station is named Frank," the old man called after him. "Ask him how he likes his new neighbors."
The old man laughed, and Benny guessed it was some kind of joke. But maybe not a funny joke.
The Aldens looked around. Mr. Alden was right. The bus station seemed to be all by itself except for some big trees. There was not a house to be seen. There was not even any traffic on any of the three roads that met at the junction.
A sign said "Frank's Place," and under it, "Bus Station."
The four Aldens climbed down from the big air-conditioned bus. It was already a hot day. Benny sniffed. "What an awful smell," he said.
But Benny did not have more time to think about the air. Suddenly the door of the bus station flew open. Two boys — older than Benny but younger than Henry — came flying down the steps. Right behind the boys came a man with a cook's apron on.
"Don't come around here again!" he shouted. "I don't need help from any of your family. Just mind your own business. If you want to take a bus, you can wait outside."
The boys jumped down the rest of the steps. The man in the apron slammed the door shut.
"Well, well," said Henry softly. "Our trip isn't beginning very well. I wonder what those boys did to make that man so mad."
Violet added, "I wonder if that cook was Frank."
The two boys glanced at the Aldens and at the bus. Then they ran over to a big tree and threw themselves on the grass in the shade.
Benny looked up at the friendly old man in the bus window and waved. The man smiled and waved back. There were no more new passengers. The bus driver honked his horn to show that he was leaving. Then the big bus pulled away.
The Aldens stood together, looking from the bus station to the two boys.
"What do we do now?" asked Jessie.
"We go in and buy our tickets," Henry said calmly. "That quarrel has nothing to do with us."
"But what about that cross man in the bus station?" asked Violet. "I don't like to have people shouting at us."
"He isn't going to shout at us," Henry said with a laugh. "We haven't done anything to annoy him. Those boys must have done something he didn't like."
"Must have been something big," Benny said. "Was he ever mad!"
While the Aldens were talking, the mailman came along in his car. "Are you going into the station?" he asked the Aldens. "Hand this letter to Frank, will you?"
Benny said, "Sure," and took the letter. It was a thick letter with the name Frank Timmons typed on the front. It looked like a business letter. Benny couldn't help seeing the printing in the corner of the envelope. A large, bright-colored paint can was printed in the corner. Paint running out spelled the slogan, "Pickett's Perfect Paints."
"Come on," Henry called. "Let's see if the bus for Oakdale is on time."
He went up the steps to the station and opened the door. Benny was the last one to enter. He thought he heard the two boys under the tree laugh as he went in.
Were they laughing at him? Benny didn't know.
The bus station really turned out to be a small lunchroom. There was a counter on one side, and along one wall were some small tables with chairs pushed up to them. There was one bigger table. Near the door was a bench where passengers could wait for the bus.
The man who had just slammed the door looked up as the door opened. He held a watering can, and he was watering a plant at one end of the room.
"You're Frank, aren't you?" said Henry at once.
"Yes, I'm Frank," the man said shortly. "What do you want? It's too early for lunch. I haven't made any sandwiches yet." He didn't smile.
The four Aldens were thinking the same thing. This man was not very polite. In fact, he was not a good man to run a lunch counter in a bus station.
"Do you sell bus tickets?" asked Benny as if nothing had happened.
"Yes," answered Frank, "and I run this lunch counter."
Benny explained, "We are going to Oakdale to the hobby fair. We have to change buses here to get to Oakdale. Is that right?"
"That's right," said Frank, not so crossly. "But the bus to Oakdale will be late today. You may have to wait here an hour."
"Yes," said Jessie, nodding. "We expected to wait here an hour, even before we started from Greenfield. We don't mind."
"This is a nice station to wait in," added Violet. She was thinking about the two boys Frank had told to wait outside.
Benny went over to the counter and said, "If you are Frank, I think this is your letter."
Without saying thank you Frank took the letter and threw it on a shelf behind the counter. But he said to the Aldens, "You can wait here. Do anything you like. Sit down. Walk around. It's pretty hot outside."
His voice was pleasant now as he spoke to the Aldens. It was plain that he liked them better than the two young boys.
The Aldens folded their raincoats across the wooden bench. They all sat down.
Henry asked, "Can we buy our tickets now from you?"
"Yes, indeed," said Frank.
"We want just one-way tickets," Henry said quickly. "The bus driver told us we could buy our return tickets at Oakdale."
"Right," said Frank, handing four tickets to Henry.
Violet was looking out of a window. "Oh, dear," she said, "I hope it doesn't start to rain. Just the same, we're lucky that we brought our raincoats."
The others looked out. Dark clouds were beginning to fill the western sky. But the leaves on the trees hardly stirred.
"No need to worry about the rain," said Frank. "This won't last long. You can keep dry if you wait inside."
Benny suddenly remembered the bad smell outdoors. Now he said, "Oh, we'll wait inside for sure. The air outside smells just terrible."
Frank's face changed. He looked angry. "That's my new neighbor," he said gruffly. "New neighbors — they have no business here. I don't have any use for neighbors of that kind."
The Aldens were puzzled. But they did not dare ask any questions. Did the man mean the two boys or did he mean someone else?
Frank turned his back to the Aldens. They sat still on the bench and watched him.
The telephone rang. In the quiet room it sounded loud. Violet jumped.
Frank went over to the wall telephone and picked up the receiver. "Frank speaking," he said.
Someone began to talk and Frank started to frown. "Yes, I just got your letter," he said. "No, I haven't opened it. I told you I wasn't interested. You can't offer me enough."
Frank started to hang up, but the voice on the line didn't give up.
"What?" Frank asked. "You'll do what? Is that what you wrote in your letter? Well, I'd like to see you try. That's all, I'd just like to see you try. You can't do something like that to me. I'll find a way to stop you."
Frank put the receiver back in place without saying good-bye. He frowned angrily. Then his face changed. He had the saddest look that the Aldens had almost ever seen.
The Aldens looked at each other. Something was certainly going on. Here was a man who could be angry one minute and sad the next. Why was he so troubled?
Benny muttered in Henry's ear, "A deep and dark secret."
Frank reached up and turned on a radio. Jessie thought that Frank felt the music would be better than his silence.
No one said anything for a little while. Frank washed some cups at the sink behind the lunch counter.
Suddenly the music stopped in the middle of a song. A radio announcer's voice broke in. "This is a National Weather Service warning. A tornado watch is in effect in York and Plain counties. High winds expected, with some thunderstorms. We will give you more information when we have it. Stay tuned to this station for up-to-date storm bulletins."
Violet was pale. All the Aldens looked out at the day that now looked so dark and stormy.
Frank looked at Violet kindly and said, "A tornado watch only means we might have a bad storm. Now, if it were a tornado warning then it would be much worse." He was trying to make Violet feel better.
Henry and Frank walked to the door and stepped outside. They saw that the wind had begun to blow the dust on the road in front of the station. The tree branches swayed in the strong wind.
Henry looked for the two boys under the tree, but they had gone.
Violet peeked outside. "Look at those black clouds, Jessie. They're moving so fast!"
The sun had gone behind the clouds. The sky was growing darker by the minute.
Frank and Henry came back inside and shut the door. Frank turned to the Aldens. They could see he was worried.
"I have a little house on the river just a mile from here," Frank said. "I think I left the windows open this morning. Maybe I should go back and close up the house before the storm hits. I have a small boat pulled up on the riverbank. I want to see that it is tied tightly to its post so that it won't float off in the storm."
"It's all right with us if you go," Benny said. "But is it safe for you outside?"
"Oh, don't worry about me," Frank said. "I'll be safe. I have a car parked behind the building here. I can drive over to my house in just a few minutes. I can get there before the rain starts. If I get caught, I'll stay in my house until it is over."
"You'll come back here, won't you?" asked Violet.
"Oh, yes, I'll come right back to the bus station. You'll be all right if you stay in the station. This is a strong brick building. It doesn't leak."
"We'll be fine," Jessie said. "We won't go outside unless the bus comes to take us to Oakdale."
"Yes," said Frank. "If the bus comes, you can just shut the station door as you leave. The door will lock if you shut it tight. When I come back, I can open the door with my key. I don't expect anyone to stop at the station anyway. Everyone will see the storm coming and stay indoors. Too bad for the hobby fair. There won't be a crowd on a day like this."
"We'll keep the radio on and listen for the weather bulletins," Henry said. "I'm sure everything will be all right. Don't worry about us."
Frank walked to the door to go out. Then he stopped as if he had remembered something. He turned to the Aldens and really smiled. "You four might get hungry while I'm gone. You can just look in the refrigerator and take whatever you'd like."
"Why, thank you," said Jessie. She was surprised. "That's very good of you."
Benny added, "We'll look in the refrigerator the minute you're gone. Be sure of that."
Frank laughed. "You can just leave the money by the cash register," he said. "I'll know what it is for."
He smiled again and waved good-bye. Then he walked out and shut the door behind him.
But a moment later the door opened. There stood Frank. This time he looked angry again.
"I forgot to tell you something," he said. "If you see two boys hanging around, don't let them in. They are troublemakers. I don't want to have anything to do with them."
Then Frank turned around and went out. This time he passed the window, and in a minute or so the Aldens heard him start his car. He drove off down the road that ran close to the river.
"Well," said Benny. "What do you make of that? First Frank is friendly and thinks we might get hungry. And then he gets angry and tells us to watch out for those boys he doesn't like. I don't understand what makes him act so."
Jessie said thoughtfully, "Frank knows those boys and we don't. Nobody would order them out of a public bus station unless they had done something very annoying."
Benny said, "Well, so far it's a mystery to us. We don't understand anything about it. But I know one thing. I'm not going to ask Frank about it and get my head taken off."
Jessie glanced quickly around the bus station. She began to see a lot of interesting things.
"Look at those beautiful pink flowers on the windowsill," she said. "They're on all the windowsills. Frank must love flowers."
"Birds, too," added Benny, looking out of the window. "Just look at the bird houses. And there are some bird feeding stations, too."
Excerpted from "Bus Station Mystery"
Copyright © 1993 Albert Whitman & Company.
Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman & Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 "Wait Outside!",
2 Trouble Inside,
3 No Bus in Sight,
4 A Discovery,
5 Not Fair!,
6 What Did Happen?,
7 The Snooper,
8 Tricked Twice,
9 Frank's Problem,
10 Benny Guesses,
11 Back to the Station,