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Casper's Paper Caper
By Helen Ackerman
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2013 Helen Ackerman
All right reserved.
Chapter One"Mom, I'm going to go to the newspaper to cash up now," yelled Chris as she raced down the stairs, pushing her glasses up on her nose as she headed for the front door.
"Don't dillydally. It's going to be getting dark soon," called Mom from the kitchen. Chris knew that her mom wouldn't worry too much because Casper, New York, was a small town in Central New York. In Casper, everyone knew everyone, and the adults pretty much kept an eye on each other's children. The worst crime that ever happened was harmless teenage pranks, all on Halloween. Although there was the time that old Mr. Perkins forgot his glasses after having a few cocktails on New Year's Eve and started driving down the sidewalk instead of the road. He said he did it because of all the drunks on the road that night, but everyone knew that he was the one that was drunk. Overall, though, it was a great place to grow up. Casper was big enough so that there was always something to do, but small enough so Chris and her close friend Lisa could ride their bikes to whatever they wanted to do.
"Where ya going, Chris?" asked Joey. Joey was her little six-year-old brother who, like all little brothers, wanted to do everything that he saw his big sister do, and he had a great imagination.
"To the paper to cash up," replied Chris as she jumped on her bike.
"Can I come too?" whined Joey. "You never let me go anywhere with you."
"No!" yelled Chris, already halfway down the block, heading for the local newspaper office to cash up her two routes. She didn't mind being the only girl paper carrier in Casper. She thought making forty- seven dollars a week total for both routes was pretty good pay for a thirteen-year-old, and that wasn't even counting tips.
Arriving at the newspaper office, she ran in to cash up before the office closed. As she entered the building, she noticed that Nicole was working and breathed a sigh of relief. Nicole was a thirty-year-old married lady who never talked to any of the paper carriers like they were dumb kids. She knew that, sometimes, homework had to be done and chores had to be finished before collections were made and turned in.
"Hi, Chris," called Nicole. "How are you doing?"
"I'm doing good, Nicole," answered Chris as she handed over her collection money and payment stubs. "I can't seem to catch old Mrs. Miller at home though. She now owes me for two weeks. I keep leaving a paper for her, and it keeps disappearing, but I never see her. I checked her mailbox last night, and it was empty. I never see any lights on either. Do you think that something bad has happened to her? Maybe we should call the police."
"I'm sure that everything is OK. Just keep trying, and I will send her a bill and also call her," assured Nicole.
"OK," answered Chris as she put her pay in her pocket. "I'll catch you later."
On the way home, Chris decided to check on Mrs. Miller again. When she arrived at Mrs. Miller's house, she jumped off her bike and stood looking at the house. Walking up to the porch, she shivered and looked around, feeling like she was being watched. She stopped and looked up at the second floor, thinking that she caught a glimpse of a flashlight.
"It was just some car's reflection in the window," muttered Chris to herself as she stopped near the front porch. She stood looking at the old house for a minute or two. It was an old two-story unpainted house, badly in need of repairs. Mrs. Miller lived there all alone since her husband died five years ago. Chris thought that she heard somewhere that they had a daughter that lived downstate and a son that lived in Buffalo, but she wasn't sure. She kept looking up to the upstairs windows, sensing that someone was watching her, but she failed to see anyone.
"Come on, you twit," she told herself. "Get a grip ... Pretty soon the boogie man will be opening the door." As she walked up the walk to the front door, Chris knocked, waited, and knocked again. Then, without knowing why, she tried the doorknob. It turned, and she slowly walked in.
"Anyone home?" she called out. "Mrs. Miller, I'm your paper girl, Chris." Chris glanced quickly around the living room, hoping to see some sign of Mrs. Miller. The shadows seemed to be daring her to go farther into the house. The house had an old musty smell that older houses get when they have been closed up for a long time. She could hear the old grandfather clock ticking steadily on. She thought that she heard a creaking from the upstairs thenbam!
Chris whirled around with her hands over her mouth, trapping a scream before it could come out, only to find that the wind had blown the door shut. Now it was really dark. She felt her way to the door, and when she was almost there, she tripped over a footstool and fell right on her face. Reaching up to her nose, she pulled her hand down and groaned. Now she did it; she had another bloody nose and was getting blood everywhere. She decided that she might be safer crawling to the door. When she reached the front door and stepped off the porch, holding her nose, she noticed that the streetlights had come on, and it was starting to rain.
"Oh great, this is all I need right now," Chris muttered to herself. By the time she got home, she was soaked to the bone and knew that she was in for a lecture from her mom on responsibility.
"Mom, I'm bleeding," Chris called, deciding that if her mom knew she was hurt, she wouldn't get the lecture.
"What on earth happened to you, Chris? I was starting to worry," her mom said as she hurried toward Chris carrying a towel. "Supper is now all mush from waiting for you. Your father took the car and went out looking for you. Your brother said the aliens took you away and is now moving his things into your room."
"Mooooom," cried Chris. "You know aliens didn't get me, so why are you letting Joey move into my room?"
"Oh, come on now, Chris. He only took his pillow, favorite blanket, and your old ET doll that you gave him to you room," answered Mom.
"Hey, Chris," called Dad as he walked into the house, shaking the rain off himself. "Where have you been? We were worried about you. I went to the paper to find you, but Nicole said you had already gone. I didn't see you on the way there or back home. Where were you?"
"I know that I shouldn't have, but I went by Mrs. Miller's house to see if I could collect," answered Chris. "I haven't been able to collect for two weeks, and it's strange ... I can always catch her at home."
"Let's go find something to eat. It's almost bedtime for Joey. You both have school tomorrow," said Mom. "We'll worry about this later."
Later, Chris lay in bed thinking of Mrs. Miller. She was old and frail-looking, and Chris wondered what had happened to her, or maybe she just was away visiting. But then, why was the front door left unlocked and her newspapers gone? She wasn't really worried about being stiffed out of paper money. She was worried about Mrs. Miller. She always had freshly baked chocolate chip cookies for Chris when she stopped to collect paper money. She always sat on the front porch with Chris and talked while Chris ate her cookies. She hoped that everything was ok.
"Oh no," Chris groaned and turned over in bed, holding her hand to her forehead. "I probably got blood all over the floor from my nose."
Chapter TwoIn the morning, Chris jumped out of bed. As she got dressed for school, she came up with a plan to find out what happened to Mrs. Miller. Pushing her glasses up on her nose, she hurried to the kitchen.
"Mom," Chris asked as she sat down to eat a bowl of cereal, "did you get the blood out of my shirt from last night?"
"No, Chris. Right now, I have it soaking," replied Mom. "And you still haven't explained to us how you ended up with a bloody nose."
"But will it come out? It's one of my favorite shirts."
"Sure," replied Mom as she hurried around the kitchen getting everyone's lunches ready. "Now, how did you get hurt?"
"What are we doing tonight after supper?" asked Chris, hoping to sidetrack her mom. She knew that if her mom or dad found out that she went into someone's house without permission, she would be, at the least, grounded.
"I guess there is nothing planned ... Why? What do you want to do?" replied Mom.
"Nothing special. I was thinking of just seeing if Lisa wanted to ride bikes, is all," said Chris.
"Can I ride bikes with ya?" asked Joey.
"No!" replied Chris quickly. "We want to talk about boys and dolls and other girl things that you don't like."
"We should have let the aliens take you last night," muttered Joey. "You never let me do anything with you."
"Joey, let's go!" Mom called out as she started for the front door. On the way to school, everyone was quiet except Joey. He kept bugging Mom about having a friend over the next day, which was Saturday.
As her mom pulled up to the school parking lot, Chris scanned the group of students entering the school for her closest friend Lisa. Chris and Lisa had been best friends since the first grade when Lisa had moved into the school system.
"Lisa, wait up," called Chris as she spotted Lisa entering the school. Chris ran to catch up.
"Will you save me a seat at lunch? There's something I need to ask you to help me with," asked Chris.
"Sure," replied Lisa. "But can you tell me what it is all about?"
"Not really ... not right now. I need time to explain everything, and I don't really want anyone else to know," answered Chris mysteriously. She knew that she could count on Lisa for any help and to keep quiet, but she wanted to get her curious so that she wouldn't forget to save a seat for her.
"All right, Chris. Come on, spill it. What's going on? What do you need my help for?" Lisa asked, pouncing on Chris as soon as she entered the cafeteria.
"Just let me get some food, and I'll fill you in," answered Chris.
Later at the table, Chris started, "I can't find old Mrs. Miller. I keep leaving her paper at her door, it keeps disappearing, but she never seems to be home. And her door was left unlocked last night."
"But that doesn't mean that something is wrong," stated Lisa.
"Hey, is this a girl talk show or what?" butted in the class pain, Travis.
Excerpted from Casper's Paper Caper by Helen Ackerman Copyright © 2013 by Helen Ackerman. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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