Home >> At Home >> Chaptersbychance >> Education World At Home

Search form

Home > At Home > Archives > Chapters By Chance!

Chapter 8

From Newspaper Caper
By Max Elliot Anderson


Tom had been afraid a few times in his life. Like just before a big test, or when it was time for report cards. But he had never, ever been so scared as he was right now. Not only was it dark out, and the boys were all alone, but they were actually watching a car as it was about to be stolen. Worse than that, Tom knew one of the men. His heart began beating so fast, he had to sit on the ground for a moment.

“What’s wrong with you?” Jimmy whispered.

“I’ll be okay. Just give me a minute. I need to think of a plan.”

“Wouldya hurry up,” Matt said. “Because somebody’s car’s about to be hauled off to…”

“Get ready,” Tom ordered.

The boys watched as Jake stepped out of the truck. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a key. He slipped it into the car’s lock and tried to turn it. But the lock wouldn’t open. He tried again, but it still didn’t work.

“What’s wrong?” the other man asked. “You do have the right key, don’t you?”

“Of course it’s the right key. I’m not an idiot.” But the harder he tried the angrier the truck driver became.

He stormed out of the truck. “Here. Give me that,” he demanded. Then the driver tried the key. He couldn’t make it work either. So he walked around to the other side and tried that lock, but no luck.

“The guy at the hardware store must have made a mistake,” Jake suggested. “I mean, we haven’t had any trouble with all the others we’ve stolen.”

That sent a cold feeling through Tom.

The driver threw the key on the ground and went to the back of his truck. He hooked something under the front end of the car. Then he walked back to the levers on his truck and began lifting the car’s wheels off the ground.

The tow truck made a loud noise as the hooks continued lifting.

“I’ve got it,” Tom announced.

“Got what?” Jimmy squeaked.

“When they get ready to leave, we’ll run across the street so they know somebody saw them.”

“I’m not runnin’ anyplace,” Matt protested.

“We’ll be okay,” Tom said. “It should happen so fast they won’t know what happened. I just want to rattle them.”

“I’m already rattled enough for all of us,” Matt complained.

“After we run, we have to hurry to our bikes. If we ride fast enough, we might be able to see where they take the car. Then we can tell the police.”

“I don’t need this much excitement,” Matt said.

“Just be ready,” Tom ordered.

He tapped his friends on the shoulder. “When I give the signal, you guys follow me.”

As soon as the car was up in the air, the tow truck driver quickly jumped back in the cab, shifted into drive, and began pulling away from the curb.

“NOW,” Tom ordered.

The boys streaked across the street just a few feet from the front of the truck. By this time its headlights were on. Tom and Jimmy made it across, but Matt, well, he had a problem. He wasn’t as fast as his friends, but something else happened. Right in the middle of the street, Matt tripped and fell. The truck roared as it moved forward. The driver almost drove right over Matt, nearly crushing his body under the massive front wheels.

Tom turned back and looked in horror, thinking his friend was about to be squished to death. Somehow the driver was able to instantly move his foot from the gas peddle and jam on the brakes just in time to stop his truck only inches from Matt’s head.

At that instant Matt looked up into the powerful headlights. Tom could see Matt’s reflection in the truck’s bumper, but worst of all, the men in the truck got a clear look at Matt’s face. There was no way he could ever feel safe, walking around town after that.

“Run, Matt, run!” Jimmy yelled. Tom watched as the driver turned his head from Matt and looked directly into his eyes. Tom felt like he was going to pass right out.

While all of this was going on, something else happened. When the truck skidded to a stop, the car behind it flew forward. It hit the back of the truck with so much force that the whole front of the car smashed in. The crash made such a loud sound that people from a couple of the houses nearby turned on their lights as they peered out of their windows.

Matt managed to get back to his feet and limped to the safety of the bushes on the other side. Once he was out of the way, the driver gunned it and rumbled down the street.

Then a man ran out from one of the houses. “Hey. Stop them. That’s my car!”

“Let’s get to our bikes,” Tom called. “We can still catch them.” He and Jimmy made it to the bikes at almost the same time, but Matt was a little slower. This time it was because his knee hurt from hitting the pavement. But he still ran pretty fast. The three boys jumped on their bikes and rode off in the direction of where the truck had gone. Tom could still see its taillights in the distance as it turned onto another street.

“Come on, you guys. Hurry.” Tom stopped quickly to pick up the key from the pavement. He put it in his pocket for evidence later.

“Matt. You still got your cell phone?” Tom asked.

Matt reached into his pocket but sadly reported, “I smashed it when I fell.”

The boys peddled as fast as any racers they’d ever seen on TV. As they rounded the turn, Tom just caught a glimpse of the truck’s lights again.

“There. I see them.” And the chase was on again.

But the truck made a right turn onto one of the main roads in town. The speed limit was higher on that street. Tom knew there was no way they could ever keep up. He brought his bike to a stop.

“Hold it,” he ordered.

His friends pulled up on each side.

“What do we do now?” Jimmy asked.

“There’s nothin’ we can do,” Matt answered. “And my knee is killing me.”

“Let’s just go back to Matt’s house. It’s all over for tonight,” Jimmy added.

“I guess you’re right,” Tom sighed.

The boys turned their bikes around when Tom saw it.

“Wait just a minute!” he exclaimed.

The streetlights caused a reflection in something on the street. Tom hopped off his bike and knelt down beside a thin shiny stripe. He touched it with his finger, and then lifted it to his nose.

“Oil. The car is leaking oil,” he announced. He turned his head in the direction where the truck had disappeared.

“Follow me!”

Again the boys began peddling like Olympic champions. All along their route, streetlights transformed the line of oil into a silver thread in the night. Now it didn’t matter how fast the truck was going, Tom knew they could still find out where it went. The oil line only went straight for three blocks until it turned again onto a slower side- street.

“This way,” Tom called.

“Hey,” Jimmy yelled. “I hear something.”

“It’s a train,” Matt said.

“Faster. Ride faster,” Tom encouraged.

As they did, the boys were able to see the end of a freight train just as its last car rolled through the crossing and rumbled into the distance.

“There they are,” Tom yelled.

As the crossing gate rose, the truck sped away.

Jimmy called out, “We got ‘em now.”

They wound through an area with dark abandoned buildings. The street was rough, so the boys had to be extra careful not to get their bike tires stuck in the cracks and potholes all over the pavement. Tom noticed the truck couldn’t go very fast either. He watched as it began making a left turn.

“Let’s go down this alley,” Tom pointed.

The alley went in the same direction as the street where the truck drove, but this way there was no possibility for the men to see them. It was only a hunch, but Tom thought they might be coming close to the place where the truck was about to drop off the car before heading out to steal another one.

He was right. When they came to the end of the alley, the boys looked down the street. They watched as the tow truck stopped in front of a high fence. Tom lowered his bike to the ground.

“Let’s get closer.”

The boys hid in the shadows as they made their way closer to the gate. In this part of town there were fewer streetlights. Plus, most of the buildings looked run down. Tom wondered how some of them kept from falling apart.

He heard the truck’s horn as the boys stopped behind some rusty oil drums stacked near the fence.

The driver blasted his horn a second time, and something amazing happened. The gate began opening all by itself. Tom looked around to see if anyone was pulling on it, but they weren’t. It reminded him of a big prison.

Tom motioned to his friends. “Come on.”

They moved forward in a crouched position, making sure they stayed out of the light. The gate came to a stop, and the truck pulled inside the fence. Then the gate began to close.

“We’re not going in there, Tom,” Matt cried.

As the truck pulled up to a darkened building, a large door began to open, just like the gate. The truck moved forward and disappeared inside as the door closed again automatically.

Tom leaned against the fence. “We gotta see what’s in there.”

Suddenly the boys heard a low growling sound. Then another, and another. Tom looked up just as three mammoth guard dogs charged the fence. They slammed against it only inches from Tom’s head. He quickly pulled his fingers out of the fence and jumped back as the dogs barked their warnings. Lights came on inside the building.

“Dogs,” Matt cried. “Why did it have to be dogs?”

“We’d better move before those guys come out and catch us,” Jimmy suggested.

“Yeah, and don’t forget. They saw me,” Matt reminded them as he pointed at his chest.

“All right,” Tom whispered. “But we are going to find a way in that place.”

“You crazy?” Matt asked.

Tom looked back toward the dogs. “We just have to.”

Education World®

Copyright © 2008 Education World

Back to EducationWorld At Home main page