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|Charlie MacDuff and the Test of Time|
by I. MacPenn
George said, "I'll knock on the door and talk to her. Maybe I can find out who she is and what's going on."
Alice argued, "Are you crazy, you can't just knock on someone's door and ask them about the time machine they just lost."
"I wasn't going to do that," replied George, "I'll just try to find out who she is." And before Alice or Charlie could object, he left and headed toward 2121 Emit Road.
George knocked on the door. After almost a minute, a very tall, wiry, red-haired man answered the door. He was wearing black pants and a red polo shirt. The man was obviously annoyed, and asked, "What do you want?"
George answered meekly, "My name is George and I live nearby - I'd like to do some chores for you. I can mow your lawn or rake leaves, and ... uh ... I can go to the store to pick up your groceries, or trim that tree over there, or walk your dog. Please, I'm a really good worker and I only charge 5 dollars an hour."
The man said, "No, I don't have a dog, and I don't need anything done."
George wouldn't give up - he tried again. "But I can empty your gutters or clean your windows or ..." Just then a woman ran down the stairs into the living room behind the red-haired man.
It was the woman they had followed. She was out of breath and her face was red. Sounding desperate, she said, "Talon, it's gone - I can't find it. I've looked everywhere. Do you have it?"
The man said, "No, of course not. I knew I couldn't trust you with it. Don't panic, Gertrude, we'll find it." At this point he slammed the door in George's face, forgetting that he was there.
George returned to his friends. He told them about the Talon and Gertrude, and how the woman had just noticed that she had lost something important.
While Charlie, Alice and George were arguing about what to do next, they heard a door slam. Talon and Gertrude had left their house and were walking back towards the fire station.
Alice said, "They must be retracing her steps to find the time machine."
Charlie added, "And they're not going to find it."
George said, "I have another idea - let's see if we can see anything through the windows that will give us a clue about them. So far, all we know is what they look like, their first names, and where they live. We still don't know why they're here."
As they quietly went up to the old house, Alice asked, "What if someone else is home?"
"Well, we could knock on the door and see," replied Charlie. He went up and knocked on the door and waited - no one answered it.
"Lets go around back and try there," said George. As they walked around to the back, they looked in each window, but there was nothing to see except rather ordinary furniture and average-looking pictures on the walls. When they got to the back door, Charlie knocked and waited. When there was no response, Charlie tried the knob.
The door was unlocked. Charlie opened it slowly and stuck his head inside. He said quietly, "Anyone home?" He repeated it a little louder, then turned to his friends and asked, "Should we go in?"
"Definitely," said George.
"No," said Alice, "I am absolutely not going in there."
Charlie added, "We have to find out why they're here - they might be trying to do something really bad."
"And they might being trying to do something really good," added Alice.
"Okay," said George, "Charlie and I will go in and look around. You can be our lookout."
"That's a good idea," added Charlie, "Alice, go to the front door and wait. If you see that couple coming back, ring the door bell three times to warn us."
"We'll meet back here when we're done," said George.
Alice headed to the front of the house as Charlie and George went in the back door. The boys snooped around the kitchen, but it looked like an ordinary kitchen with ordinary food. The living room next to it was also uninteresting. They went upstairs and into the bedroom. George looked in the closet, which contained nothing but clothes. Charlie looked in a chest of drawers, and found of interest in the upper drawers. In the bottom drawer, under some shirts, he found a notebook. He took it out of the drawer and called to George.
The boys looked at the notebook, but they didn't understand the writing at all. "It must be some really strange language," said Charlie.
"There are too many numbers," replied George, "I think it's some sort of code - maybe a computer program. But it's not a computer language I've ever seen before."
The doorbell started ringing, and Charlie and George both counted the number of rings nervously in their heads. One, two, three. It was Alice warning them to get out fast. Charlie put the book back in the bottom drawer under the shirts and closed the drawer. They were about to start down the stairs when they saw the front door open. The boys ran back into the bedroom and closed the door quietly. Talon and Gertrude entered the house, arguing loudly. They began to walk up the stairs.
The boys were trapped.
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