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.”Robbie made a sound like a siren.“Once again, the SPCD arrives in the nick of time, saving this poor child from her cruel mother.”“Another child rescued from a life of misery,” added Ray.Reaching around Nell’s booster seat, he plucked the doll from her arms and began to sing, “Rock-a-bye, baby, on the tree— Oh no!” He shook the doll in his hands.“She’s trying to jump! I can’t hold her back! Ahh!” He pretended to fumble with it, and—so quick Nell couldn’t see—he tucked the doll behind his back.“Oh no!” he gasped.“She jumped out the window.Nell! Your baby’s in the middle of the road! She’s dead!”“Ray!” called their mother.“You didn’t!”Nell began to wail.“My Sierra!”“I didn’t do it, Mom,” protested Ray.“She jumped to her death.I tried to stop her.”Robbie joined in, chortling, “She had to get away from her cruel mother.”“She didn’t! She loves me!” howled Nell, with Nora joining in.“Well, you can go right back and get it,” announced their mother, slowing the car.“And then you can walk home.”“Aw, Mom, we’re just joshing.” Ray pulled the doll from behind his back and tossed it into the seat in front of him, where Nell fell on it with screams and kisses.“You guys are meanies,” said Miri.She hugged the top of Nell’s head.“And you can still walk home,” said their mother, pulling to a stop by the side of the road.“Out.That was a rotten trick, and I won’t allow that kind of unkindness in my car.Out.”“Mom!” moaned Ray.“We didn’t throw the doll out.We were just kidding!”“It was mean, and I won’t have it.” All of her children recognized the Don’t Mess With Me voice.“Nell’s meaner than we are,” grumbled Robbie.“A time-out for spilling milk.That’s crazy.”“Out.”“Mom! It’s sweltering!” pleaded Ray.“Out.”Silently, the boys climbed out of the car and stood on the side of the road with pathetic faces.As their mother pulled away from the roadside, Miri, Nell, and Nora turned for one final look from the back window.“Mom, they’re hitchhiking,” said Miri.Mom did not seem concerned.“Ha.They wouldn’t dare.And besides—nobody uses this road.They’ll walk.”“They’re bad,” announced Nora.“They stole.”“They lied, too,” said Miri.“They stole and they lied,” said Nell.Like Horst, thought Miri.But he stole and lied for real.He wasn’t fooling around like Ray and Robbie were.He didn’t joke, even when he was joking.She remembered his thick voice saying, “You reckon old Molly’s got an allergic to glass? Din’t she lose her specs just last week? Seems like glass and her just don’t get along.” That almost sounded like something Ray and Robbie would say, but it was a lot meaner coming from Horst.You could tell he just loved getting Molly in trouble.He probably took her glasses himself, Miri thought.Just to get her in trouble.He probably hid them—“Oh my God!” she said out loud.“What?” said her mother, braking again.“Nothing!” said Miri quickly.“Sorry.I just thought of something.Nothing.” That was it! She would bet anything in the world that Horst had taken Molly’s glasses and hidden them in the barn.She remembered the glinting light she had spied from the loft.She had thought then that it was jewelry, but it could have been glass.It could have been Molly’s glasses! All she had to do was dig them up.Miri began to whack her feet against the floor of the car.“This is taking forever,” she said.“Stop that,” said her mother.“We’re almost home.”Almost home.Almost.The tires crunched onto gravel.Finally.• • •The smooth handle of the shovel slipped against her sweating hands as Miri lifted the weight of it up and slammed it down with all her strength.There was a moist, splintery sound as it plunged into something under the surface of the earth and stuck fast, and Miri let out a breath she hadn’t even known she was holding.She knelt to scratch away the dirt, and her heart began to gallop wildly, because she saw that the shovel had cut into a rotten board just below the soil.It was an old piece of barn floor, the wood nearly decayed—all she needed to do was shove up the edge over there, and pull it away from the chunk of gray brick that held it in place.Once more, she turned to look up at the spot where she thought the loft had been.If she had remembered the shape of the barn right, this was almost sure to be the place she had seen Horst digging.She burrowed her fingers into the earth until she found the bottom edge of the board, and then she yanked upward.The slimy wood slipped out of her hands and back into place.Miri took a deep breath, dug her fingers under the edge of the wood again, and heaved upward.This time it came.With a squealing creak, the board pulled away from the gray brick and toppled over.Underneath was a hole.It wasn’t a big hole, and weeds and spiderwebs and slug-things filled most of it, but there in the middle was a metal chest the size of a shoe box.Miri sat back on her heels.It was Horst’s box.She had found it.She stared at the box, her breath coming in little pants.She had found it.The glasses.Were they inside?She couldn’t stand to look.She couldn’t stand not to look.Miri forced herself to reach into the hole and lift out the box.Then she paused for a moment, gathering courage.The black metal was rusted through in some places, and its clasp hung uselessly by a single nail.There was no lock.Slowly, she stretched out her hand and opened the lid.A wet, rotting smell rose up, and the first thing she saw were several large, bug-eaten brown lumps that had probably once been paper.Then the glint of metal caught her eye, and, poking the lumps to one side, she found a little collection of jewelry.Horst’s loot.There was a tarnished watch, the kind you wear on a chain; a ring with dark red stones; two gold lockets; a cameo pin; and a gold bracelet.“The pink gold bracelet,” she whispered, though it didn’t look especially pink.But where were the glasses? Miri prodded the brown lumps again and then pulled them out, looking for the shine of glass.They had to be here.They had to be here.With the first sharp prick of desperation, she picked up the box and shook it.Something rattled.There was another bottom.Miri yanked at the top tray and it gave way, breaking into pieces in her hands.And, underneath, was Horst’s most secret secret: a small rectangular metal box.Miri snatched at the box and wrenched it open.There, lying calmly on a piece of yellowed cloth, was a pair of eyeglasses.One of its thin metal rims held nothing, but the other encircled a fragile lens.Just one.But one was all she needed.“Oh boy,” Miri whispered.“Oh boy oh boy oh boy.” With exquisite caution, she turned the delicate frames over.The lens was clear and unbroken.It was perfect.It even looked magic.Okay, not really.But she knew it would work [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]