JOE THE DREAMER: THE CASTLE AND THE CATAPULT
By Ada Brownell
Joe sneaked into his uncle's office and used his dad's laptop to see if he could find any clues to his parents' disappearance. He's been reading his dad's blog, and there were threats amid arguments about whether Christians helped or harmed the world. Joe's dad, Darin Baker, related the history of education, beginning with Jewish men who had to learn to read scripture by age 12, and Christians who read both the New and Old Testaments, influencing the creation of the printing press after the Reformation so everyone could read the Bible.
Joe stopped reading. What was that sound? How he wished Hefley were still inside, but an adventure with Patrick’s chocolate had put him in a backyard prison.
Something was going on outside. Perhaps the click of a car door? Or was that Hefley adjusting the chain Faulkner had put on him? Were the neighbors outside, talking quietly?
Tempted to trot back to bed, Joe almost shut the laptop, but he heard nothing more and read on.
“In the United States, free public education wasn’t available until the end of the nineteenth century, and children weren’t required to complete elementary school until 1918.
“The world still is being educated by Christians. Wycliffe Translators, who are Christian missionaries, live with primitive tribes and give them a written language and then teach them to read,” Darin wrote. “Wycliffe translated the Bible into hundreds of languages and brought literacy to many nations. In their ‘Last Languages Campaign,’ Wycliffe’s translators hope to have the last twenty-two hundred languages translated by the year 2025. Currently, Wycliffe has fourteen hundred translation literacy and language development programs, touching nearly six hundred million people in 176 countries.
“But missionaries and literacy bring other benefits in addition to the spiritual. For instance, AIDS prevention education.”
Suddenly Hefley barked, snarled, and went into a barking frenzy. Neighbors’ dogs joined the barking choir.
The night light blinked, and the room plunged into darkness except for the computer, which ran on battery backup.
A flash of light reflected off the laptop. Was it lightning or a flashlight shining through the window blind?
Hefley’s frantic bark from the backyard continued to rip the silence.
Heavy footsteps in the hall jiggled the floor.
Joe grabbed the laptop, dropped to his knees, crawled to the closet, and eased the door shut. Uncle Faulkner was going to catch him in his office.
“Naw, we don’t want the girl—at least for now,” a deep voice whispered right outside Joe’s hiding place. “She’ll be trouble. We want the son. Must be in the other bedroom.”
“We could take ‘em both.”
“We’ll have enough trouble getting the boy without waking ever’body.”
The footsteps squeaked the floorboards down the hall. Suddenly, weight rattled the floor, and voices grunted and mumbled. A car engine roared. Tires squealed, and Faulkner’s shout shook the house.
“What are you doing, Joe? Stop it, and shut that dog up!”
Joe opened the closet door, walked through the dark hall, and stood behind his uncle’s bed. “I didn’t make all that noise.”
Faulkner sat up in bed.
“Someone was in the house. I was in the office and heard them talking. I think they were after me.”
“No. The one guy asked if they should get Penny, and the other dude told him she’d be too much trouble. Then they went down the hall and made lots of noise, but went out without finding me. I hid in the closet.”
“Something did happen to the lights.” Faulkner got out of bed and grumbled as he went to check the electricity breaker box. He flicked the breakers off and on. No lights came on. “Maybe they cut a wire.”
Joe trembled as if he were cold. “Glad they didn’t find me.” His teeth chattered.
“What were you doing in my office, this time of night, Joe? Your only reason to be in there is to kiss Penny goodnight. My office is off limits to you.”
“I know. Sorry. I looked at Dad’s laptop to see if there were any clues to Mom and Dad’s disappearance, and there are threats on his blog.”
“I told you to leave your dad’s computer alone! Did the burglar get Darin’s laptop? That’s probably what they were looking for. Someone knows about the missing chip design. Must have discovered you live here.”
“I had the laptop with me in the closet.”
Joe turned to go. Anna stood outside the door in her housecoat. “Did you call the police?”
“I guess I should,” Faulkner said. “Joe says somebody was in here, and we do have a problem with our electricity. If I were guessing, Joe, I’d say some of your friends from that gang just burglarized my home. I’m going to look around and see what’s missing.”
“Shouldn’t we call in the police first to check for fingerprints?” Joe asked.
“I’ll try not to touch anything,” Faulkner said. “Don’t you touch anything, either, and get back to bed. I’ll take care of everything.”
With a sinking feeling, Joe flicked on his flashlight. When he entered the bedroom, he noticed Patrick wasn’t snoring.
“Guess that noise woke you, too.”
When he didn’t get a response, Joe flashed the light toward Patrick’s bed. He wasn’t there. The bedspread was gone, and empty sheets, yanked off the bed, crumpled into a pile on the floor. Strange.
Using his flashlight, Joe made his way to Faulkner and Anna’s room where Faulkner was jerking pants over his pajamas. “Where’s Patrick?”
“Isn’t he in bed?”
Acting disgusted, Faulkner slowly followed Joe. When he looked at the bed, Faulkner gasped.
“Patrick?” he yelled. He walked through the house, shouting. “Patrick!”
Then he went back and surveyed the bedroom. “The laptop I was going to give Patrick is gone too!”
Joe used his flashlight and went outside with Faulkner to see what happened to the power. Wires dangled from the house.
“Stay away,” his uncle said, holding his cell phone in his hand. “The wires might be live.” His fingers put in a number and he put the phone to his ear while they walked back into the house, the flashlight beam penetrating the darkness. Hefly yelped.
“This is Faulkner Shaw. We’ve had a break-in and my son is missing!”