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A Shocking Homecoming
When Omri's parents drove home from their party, his mother got out in front of the house while his father drove around the side to put the car away. The front-door key was on the same key ring with the car key, so his mother came up the steps and rangthe bell. She expected the baby-sitter to answer.
There was a lengthy pause, and then the door opened, and there was Omri, with Patrick just behind him. The light was behind him too, so she didn't see him clearly at first.
"Good heavens, are you boys still up? You should have been in bed hours ag--" Then she stopped. Her mouth fell open and her face drained of color.
"Omri! What--what--what's happened to your face?"
She could hardly speak properly, and that was when Omri realized that he wasn't going to get away with it so easily this time. This time he was either going to have to lie like mad or he was going to have to tell far more than he had ever intended aboutthe Indian, the key, the cupboard, and all the rest of it.
He and Patrick had talked about it, frantically, before his parents returned. "How are you going to explain the burn on your head?" Patrick asked.
"I don't know. That's the one thing I can't explain."
"No, it's not. What about all the little bullet holes and stuff in your parents' bedroom?"
Omri's face was furrowed, even though every time he frowned, it hurt his burn. "Maybe they won't notice. They both need glasses. Do you think we should clear everything up in there?"
Patrick had said, "No, better leave it. After all, they've got to know about the burglars. Maybe in all the fuss about that, they won't notice your face and a few other things."
"How shall we explain how we got rid of them--the burglars, I mean?"
"We could just say we burst in through the bathroom and scared them away." Omri had grinned lopsidedly. "That makes us out to be heroes."
"So what's so bad about that? Anyway it's better than telling about them." Patrick, who had once been quite keen to tell "about them," now realized perfectly clearly that this was about the worst thing that could happen.
"But where is the wretched baby-sitter? Why didn't she come? How dare she not turn up when she promised?"
Omri's father was stamping up and down the living room in a fury. His mother, meanwhile, was holding Omri around the shoulders. He could feel her hand cold and shaking right through his shirt. After her first shocked outburst when she'd come home and seen him, she'd said very little. His father, on the other hand, couldn't seem to stop talking.
"You can't depend on anyone! Where the hell are the police? I called them hours ago!" (It was five minutes, in fact.) "One would think we lived on some remote island instead of in London, the biggest city in the world! You pay their salaries and when youneed the police, they're never there, never!"
He paused in his pacing and gazed around wildly. The boys had put the television back and there wasn't much disorder in this room. Upstairs, they knew, chaos and endless unanswerable questions waited.
"Tell me again what happened."
"There were burglars, Dad," Omri said patiently. (This part was safe enough.) "Three of them. They came in through that window--"
"How many times have I said we ought to have locks fitted? Idiot that I am!--for the sake of a few lousy pounds--go on, go on--"
"Well, I was asleep in here--"
"In the living room? Why?"
"I--er--I just was. And I woke up and saw them, but they didn't see me. So I nipped upstairs and--"
His father, desperate to hear the story, was still too agitated to listen to more than a sentence of it without interrupting.
"And where were you, Patrick?"
Patrick glanced at Omri for guidance. Omri shrugged very slightly with his eyebrows. He didn't know himself how much to say and what to keep quiet about. "I was--in Omri's room. Asleep."
"All right, all right! Then what?"
"Er--well, Omri came up, and woke me, and said there were burglars in the house, and that we ought to . . . er--" He stopped.
"Well?" barked Omri's father impatiently.
"Well . . . stop them."
Omri's father turned back to Omri. "Stop them? Three grown men? How could you stop them? You should have locked your bedroom door and let them get on with it!"
"They were nicking our TV and stuff!"
"So what? Don't you know the sort of people they are? They could have hurt you seriously--"
"They did hurt him seriously!" interrupted Omri's mother in a shrill voice. "Look at him! Never mind the interrogation now, Lionel. I wish you'd go and phone Basia and find out why she didn't come, and let me take Omri upstairs and look after him."
So Omri's father returned to the hall to phone the baby-sitter while his mother led Omri upstairs. But when she switched the bathroom light on and looked at him properly, she let out a gasp.
"But that's a burn, Omri! How--how did they do that to you?"
And Omri had to say, "They didn't do it, Mum. Not that. That was something else."
She stared at him in horror, and then controlled herself and said as calmly as she could, "All right, never mind now. Just sit down on the edge of the bath and let me deal with it."
And while she was putting on the ointment with her cold, shaky hands, his father came stamping up the stairs to say there was no reply from their baby-sitter's number.
"How could she not come?" he stormed. "How could she leave you boys alone here? Of all the criminally irresponsible--wait till I get hold of her--"
"What about us?" asked Omri's mother very quietly, winding a bandage around Omri's head.
"Us. Going out to our party before she got here."
"Well--well--but we trusted her! Thought she was just a few minutes late--" But his voice petered out, and he stopped stamping about and went into their bedroom to take off his coat.
Omri heard the light being switched on, and he bit his lips in suspense.
"Am I hurting, darling?"
He had no time to shake his head before his father burst back in.
"What in God's sweet name has been going on in our bedroom?"
Patrick, who was hanging about in the doorway to the bathroom, exchanged a grim look with Omri.
"Well, Dad--that's--that's where the battle--I mean, that's where they were, when we--caught them."
"Battle! That's just what it looks like, is a battlefield! Jane, come in here and look--"
Omri's mother left him sitting on the bath and went through into the bedroom. Omri and Patrick, numb and speechless with suspense, could hear them exchanging gasps and exclamations of amazement and dismay.
Then both his parents reappeared. Their faces had changed.
"Omri. Patrick . . . I think we'd better hear the whole story before the police arrive. Come in here."