SPINNING THROUGH PERIL
Frank glanced behind him, assuring himself that his little brother was doing okay. Joe trudged along in the snow, head down most of the time against the wind that had picked up, except for when he would look quickly to the sight of his big brother.
Returning his attention to what was ahead of them, Frank tried to guess how much farther to the police station. The closer they got to the downtown area, where the snow plow had gone through, or actually had gone over the now firmly packed snow, the easier the walking became. It was better for traveling by foot; the few cars that Frank and Joe had spotted were still having plenty of trouble. They tried to stay as far away from the vehicles as possible as tires spun in the snow.
Frank had been hoping that they might come across a police cruiser, but they hadn’t yet. He was thankful for the flashlight, by now it was pretty dark. Most places were closed and lights were out from loss of electricity, except for those who had generators.
Although his legs were getting tired, Joe was doing a good job keeping up with his brother. The warm thermos bottle felt nice, but it seemed to be getting heavier all the time. Snow was still falling, but only lightly at this point.
“How much farther, Frank?” he called to his brother. Even more than wanting to know the answer to his question, Joe wanted to hear his elder sibling. Everything was so quiet.
“Not sure. Not too much,” Frank returned over his shoulder. “Doing good, Joe.”
Frank smiled at his encouraging words and continued on. They walked on for a few more minutes. Joe looked up again to call to his brother, when suddenly Frank disappeared right in front of Joe’s eyes!
“Frank!” Joe yelled as he rushed forward, fighting panic.
“No, Joe, stop!” Frank still couldn’t be seen, but Joe clearly heard his voice. Although his fear for Frank made him balk at stopping, Joe did so at his brother’s command, but only for a moment before cautiously moving ahead. How could Frank be there one minute and not the next? Joe had no light, since the flashlight had disappeared with his brother, and there were no street lights where they were.
“What happened, Frank? You okay?” Joe tried to spot some movement to pinpoint his location and help him.
“Yeah, I’m okay.”
Joe had dropped the thermos as he tried to find Frank. Reaching out, Joe’s hand came across his brother’s arm. Frank was struggling to stand and succeeded with Joe’s help.
“Deeper snow here and it was downhill. I tripped and fell,” Frank explained, as he knocked the snow off himself. The coat had protected him well from the wet and cold.
“You sure you’re okay?” Joe asked in concern, as he too, helped brush the snow off of Frank.
“Yeah, I’m sure.” Frank had been diligently using caution while he made his way through the snow.
Joe moved away suddenly, startling his brother, but then was back with the thermos.
“Here, drink some,” Joe said, as he and Frank worked together; one held the thermos cup, while the other poured. The drink tasted wonderful to Frank, and he made sure Joe had some as well. After retrieving the flashlight, they started off again. It couldn’t be too much farther, Joe told himself, unless they had moved it!
The brothers were anxious, knowing that they were taking awhile to get to the police station. They hoped the trucker realized help would eventually be coming.
“Hey, I see it, Joe!” Frank called back, his dark eyes taking in the welcome sight of the police station.
The walking was definitely easier around there as the police officers had cleared some of the sidewalk and street themselves. Frank and Joe climbed up the steps and into the warm interior of the station. They saw Chief Collig coming from the offices and striding up to speak to the sergeant on duty. The police chief stared in surprise as the two little boys hurried up to him.
“Frank and Joe! What on earth are you doing here?” The boys seemed tired but otherwise unhurt, his eyes told him.
“Trucker needs help!” Joe blurted, still a little breathless from the sprint in the cold up the multiple steps of the station.
Frank nodded, and proceeded to fill the chief in on the information they had concerning the trucker.
After listening to the concise report, the chief swiftly moved into action, yelling orders to various officers around.
“Good job, boys,” he said in between giving orders. Frank and Joe glanced at each other, happy that there would soon be help on the way for the trucker.
“Smuff!” yelled Collig as he walked over to the desk. “Get over here!” Oscar Smuff, the arrogant police officer he was calling, came over immediately, anxious for some important assignment from the chief. He was sure Chief Collig saw as easily as he did what an exceptional officer he was.
“Yes, sir!” Smuff said over-loudly, making the chief grimace. “What can I do, sir?” he continued, not lowering his voice any. Frank and Joe caught the chief rolling his eyes at the annoying officer and they grinned.
Then the chief spoke to Smuff but Frank and Joe couldn’t hear all that was said. The boys had told Chief Collig about the trucker but hadn’t taken time to tell him all about Melody bailing on them and their parents still being away. He knew that the boys’ parents would never let them go out alone in this kind of weather, and that Laura had been going to pick Fenton up at the airport. So Chief Collig realized the babysitter was at fault for letting them go out.
“You can make sure these boys get home safely. Take a cruiser and hop to it. Also inform their babysitter of the obvious need for safe babysitting training,” Chief Collig ordered quietly before briskly moving away, leaving the self-important officer and the two boys eyeing each other suspiciously.
“What are you two doing here? Did you get lost?” Smuff asked. He had come across the two Hardys before, yelling at them for such things as riding their bikes and playing baseball. Also for sledding on the secondary roads, which he claimed would make it dangerously slippery for the vehicles. Anything where he decided he could yell at them.
He especially didn’t like the youngest one, Joe; he had a real smart mouth. Smuff had caught Joe doing an impression of him one day, that he thought was nothing like him, but had the blond boy’s friends in gales of laughter. Trouble, that one, Smuff thought to himself.
“No, sir,” Frank answered the officer’s question. “There was a trucker who called for help over the CB.”
“So you thought you could get points with the chief for this rescue, huh?”
“How much eggnog have you been drinking?” Joe piped up. Frank elbowed his brother while Smuff glared at them.
“I know you two are trouble.” Oscar pointed his finger at them.
“Pointing at people is rude,” Joe informed the officer. Smuff continued to glare at him.
“You two troublemakers come with me and keep quiet. I’ve got to take you home,” Oscar sighed disgustedly. Frank and Joe looked at each other in dismay. They’d rather walk home, even though it was freezing out there. Smuff turned abruptly and the brothers followed him in silence out to the parking lot as the officer muttered all the way about how he would someday make detective and then he wouldn’t have to babysit brats.
Once at the car, as Frank opened the passenger door, Smuff started issuing commands.
“Don’t play with any of the buttons or radio, don’t touch anything.”
Joe threw a glance back at Frank before getting in, with his brother following.
“That would be misuse of a police vehicle if we did,” Frank said calmly. Smuff glared at him.
“Listen to you. How old are you? You can’t be as young as you look,” Smuff said, climbing behind the wheel.
Right after they buckled their seat belts, Smuff had another order he threw at them.
“Buckle up!” Smuff snapped. Joe and Frank looked at each other in amazement at Smuff’s attitude. Frank and Joe respected the police, as they had been taught. They were also taught to think for themselves as well, and not just believe anything an adult told them, no matter who they were, to check with their parents for whatever they weren’t sure about.
“Home, James!” Joe said to Smuff, who winced at being referred to as a chauffer as the elder brother chuckled.
“Shut up, kid!” Smuff said, as he attempted to maneuver out of the snow covered parking lot. His tires spun as he pulled out. Joe looked over at Frank, concerned on whether they would make it home safely or not. Home seemed even farther away right then than when they were walking.
“I wish we could just walk home,” Joe whispered quietly to his brother, as Smuff’s tires slid along the road. Joe’s words were unheard by Smuff because the officer was too busy with a soliloquy about driving in snow. “Maybe if I threaten to get carsick, he will let us walk? It would be the truth. His perfume is making me gag.” Frank corrected Joe’s wording of perfume instead of cologne and considered his brother’s idea as they held on while the car fishtailed.
Frank thought he might be the one who would be sick, as Smuff showed how little driving skill he had. The roads were bad, but Smuff’s driving was worse. There were times they were going sideways, and the brothers were very thankful that there were no other vehicles presently around.
Suddenly, Smuff hit the gas, at the wrong time to evade getting stuck, but at the right time to end up against the curb. This made the vehicle end upside a pile of snow that had been pushed there by a plow. Trying several times to get out of the snow succeeded only in ensuring that the car was even more immobile when Smuff finally shut off the engine.
Smuff’s door was unblocked, unlike the passenger’s side. He got out to look at the situation and slammed the door behind him.
The brothers shared a look, and then Joe climbed over toward the driver’s door to get out. He paused at the button that controlled the siren, knowing full well what it was. He reached a finger out as if to press it, making sure his brother saw, but not actually having any intention of causing the siren to go off. Joe grinned and reached for the door handle instead right as Frank gave him a gentle shove.
“I know it’s tempting,” Frank said quietly to Joe. “I personally would have gone for the strobe lights.” Joe laughed causing Smuff to look over sharply before resuming his tirade.
They watched for a few minutes while Smuff trudged around, staring, kicking, and swearing. The brothers glanced at each other and then back at the officer.
“Can we just walk home?” asked Frank, deciding it wouldn’t hurt to ask. Smuff acted like he had forgotten all about the brothers and stared at Frank in annoyance.
“Yeah, go ahead, I don’t care.” Smuff then continued as he had been.
Frank and Joe took off at the words, glad to be away from Smuff.
“Wow! That was awful!” Joe said as soon as they were down the road a bit, wanting to get as far away from Smuff as possible.
“You can say that again,” Frank said.
“Wow! That was…..What? You gave me permission,” Joe said at Frank’s look.
The two brothers continued walking along on the packed snow. They had already put some distance between themselves and Smuff. They didn’t want him to come along to drive them the rest of the way home. Of course, after seeing how deeply embedded the cruiser’s tires had been in the snow from where Smuff had spun them, they knew there really wasn’t any chance of that.
“Are we going to be in trouble?” Joe asked, his breath showing how cold it was out.
“Hopefully not, but Smuff might,” Frank answered, shining the flashlight around.
“That’s his fault,” Joe stated.
Frank agreed, “True enough.” A quizzical expression came over the eldest brother’s face. His voice dropped to a whisper so that only Joe could hear, “I think we’re being followed.”
“By who?” Joe wondered, trying to just glance around casually.
“I don’t know.” Frank got hold of Joe’s jacket and pulled him a little closer, keeping a firm hold, wanting to make sure he would be safe.
They were still quite a walking distance from their house and no one else seemed to be out and about. Except apparently whoever was following them.