Chapter 1: Cookie of Consolation
It was half-past five. The half-past-five train, which has nothing to do with our story, had just heaved into the station; and Johnnie, who was nowhere near the station, had just walked into someone she knew.
“Why, Sam, old fellow, where did you drop from?” she began with a smile, pulling up her hair into a quick ponytail.
“You can’t expect me to answer a question like that,” replied Sam, offering her a cookie.
“Well, at any rate, I do expect you to answer my next question. Is it true that Pumpkin ate three pieces of pickle-and-peanut-butter pie and didn’t leave any for me?”
“Quite true,” Sam replied, with a melancholy air. “I only got two. Pumpkin’s a horrid fellow.”
“There couldn’t be a horrider!” vented Johnnie, aghast at the gluttony of mankind. “Except for you maybe.”
“Let’s just make it clear – I had absolutely nothing to do with anybody’s getting more pieces than me,” began Sam defensively. “And I heard Pumpkin tell Rosy that he wasn’t going to save you any because last month when we were celebrating the S.S.I.C. close of the Bergington case, you didn’t let him have any cookies,” finished Sam, taking a bite out of his own.
“He was on a diet!” exclaimed Johnnie, outraged.
“- for one day,” added Sam, looking reflectively at his own cookie.
Johnnie grinned. “Say, that was a splendid one, wasn’t it?” she remarked, suddenly.
Sam raised his eyebrows. “The diet or the cookie?” he asked, vaguely confused.
“The case, silly,” retorted Johnnie, in a deservedly scornful voice. “It was our best ever,” she continued in a dreamy way, absent-mindedly swallowing a piece of cookie whole, “because we really managed to be a step ahead of him all the way. I’m only sorry we didn’t catch him in time for the S.S.I.C. to be complete.”
“Rosy told the TRC’s boss that if Pumpkin had only told us about the rear view mirror before we crossed the train-tracks, we probably would have,” groaned Sam, sighing painfully.
“I know, Pumpkin ruins everything, doesn’t he?” said Johnnie, looking rather as if she would smack him pretty hard when she saw him next.
“He does, but the worst of it is, he doesn’t know it himself,” concurred Sam, with a faint grimace.
They turned onto a busy street as Sam spoke, and overheard a man say to his companion, “Yes, a headache.”
“He went mad?” said the other politely, at the same time, but catching Sam’s eye instinctively lowered his voice as he added, “of course. Was it a yellow house? There are too many doctors; it’s a case of the boiling pot. I’m sure I never saw a better fellow than…”
The men walked past too fast for Johnnie and Sam to hear much more of what was said.
“Somebody’s mad and that’s clear,” said Sam laughing.
“You don’t always hear conversations as interesting as that. I bet he was going to say he never saw a better fellow than himself,” reflected Johnnie, following the two men walking on ahead with her eyes, and folding her hands over her mouth to squelch a giggle.
“Any new jobs looking up for us by the way?” she added a second later, with a sad little I-know-I’m-going-to-be-disappointed air.
Sam took a small breath. “No,” he replied quickly, and then taking another cookie out of his breast-pocket, he offered it to Johnnie with his eyes thoughtfully averted.
Johnnie sniffed, but took the cookie of consolation.
– and ate it.
This pleasant occupation completely engrossed Johnnie for some minutes, but before she had gotten halfway through, she was startled by the loud screeching sound of a little girl’s voice and the strong smell of freshly cut grass that she and Sam knew quite well.
“Rosy, is that you up there? Stop yelling!” shouted Sam.
“Who should stop yelling?” retorted the little girl. She was hanging onto a stoplight right above them, sticking out her tongue whenever she saw a policeman.
“How many times do I have to tell you that the CEO of the GOA does not appreciate lectures from the police department…” and before ending his sentence Sam was at the top of the stoplight pole, and picking Rosy up, began rapidly to descend.
The second they were down he let go of her, and she immediately rushed back up.
Sam rolled his eyes as he leapt swiftly up over to the stoplight and began to ascend with astonishing athleticism.
Johnnie watched in amazement. “Glory! I didn’t know you could climb like that, Sam,” she said when he had got back down with Rosy on his shoulder.
He looked at her pleased. “Oh, thanks.”
“That’ll be very useful,” added Johnnie in quite a different tone.
Sam looked disillusioned all of a sudden and said, “Oh,” in quite a different tone as well and Rosy pulled his hair.
“I wonder how high you could get before tiring,” continued Johnnie reflectively, as they continued down the street. “Could you climb twice the height of that trellis over there? It’s too bad we don’t live in Paris.”
“I didn’t know you climbed like that, either,” admitted Rosy (but not exactly in an admiring tone). “I climb infinitely betterly. Once I beat Sam-Sam Jenykins in the Olympics,” she added in a very loud tone at, but not to, the various people then passing them in the street.
“Rosy,” began Sam in an admonishing tone, as soon as they were out of hearing. “You ought not deceive anybody, even if they are strangers. This you know; this we know, this we all of us know,” he was continuing (putting emphasis wherever it sounded right) – but, catching Johnnie shaking her head with a weird look on her face out of the corner of his eye, he cut that speech short abruptly, and began on his next one. “I’m afraid I’ve been a very bad father to you, my dears,” said he, in a preliminary sort of way, as soon as they were well out of the unsympathizing crowd.
“We know,” said both girls at once.
“That’s not what I meant!” said Sam.
“Well it’s what you said,” remarked Johnnie.
As there was no disputing this, Sam put Rosy down, and suddenly turned on her.
“What were you doing out, young lady?”
“Oh, oh… oh I just… that is when you… you…” Rosy did various small things with her hands, and then, abandoning all, took Sam’s arm and said, “Oh I love you Sammy!”
Sam lifted up his eyebrows in dry unbelief, and was just making up his mind he would never give in, when Johnnie said, “Oh, can’t you forgive her this once Sam? I’m sure she’ll be good forever after.”
“I’ll become a positive angel-in-a-trice,” vowed Rosy, and she said it just like that, the way I wrote it.
“Only don’t be a prig,” cautioned Johnnie with quick earnestness.
“No fear of that,” said Sam, most unkindly.
Rosy, no doubt, felt this unkindness deeply, which explains of course, why she surreptitiously took all the cookies out of his pockets; and she was just finishing up on the very last one when Sam turned and caught her in the act.
“Some angel!” he was beginning in a grieved, bitter tone, (he really felt it was a very mean thing of Rosy to take all his cookies) but just as he was snatching away her cookie, his phone rang violently and engrossed him instantly and completely.
It is this way with people whose jobs are on their phone.
Johnnie looked at him with a droll grin. “Why do you keep your phone on extra strong vibrations, Sam? It looks extremely silly jumping about all over in your pocket like that,” she added, watching him in great derision.
Rosy was giggling in a most suspicious-ably, agitated way, and would no doubt have caught it again (for setting his phone on extra strong vibrations), had not Sam suddenly made an imperative sign to them to be quiet.
“Yes, sir, I am, sir. They are, sir – we are, sir, and it is very,” Sam was saying, in brief intervals over the phone.
Johnnie shook her fist at him, as much as to say “Stop saying that!” but he looked meaningfully at her and she quieted down and waited with inordinate impatience.
A few minutes later he folded his phone shut and turned to Johnnie and Rosy, who were looking at him with urgently eager expectation.
“Say,” began Sam, looking as pleased as punch. “We’ve just got a job! I’ve got to hurry though, I have to be at the WAS office in half an hour. Let’s run.”
Johnnie gasped. “It was a call from the WAS? Oh glory!”
Sam looked at her with a smile dawning on his face, as if he could barely believe it himself, and pardoned her for not believing it either. “‘Twas so, thou unbelieving gentile,” was all he said however.
“Dash my buttons!” exclaimed Johnnie, energetically. “Come on.”
Sam stopped suddenly and paused a minute, looking rather as if he didn’t know how to phrase something. “Bother it all Johnnie, I’m awfully sorry I forgot to tell you. You’re not supposed to come with me. We’re all on the job, but I agreed to an interview first, just me and them.” He bit his lip, trying not to grin too wide. “I forgot you’d be mad.”
Johnnie stepped hard on his foot and then forgave him. “It’d better end up being something great,” was all she said while Sam was still in evidence.
But directly he was not, she said, to nobody in particular (though she really ought to have said it to Rosy), “I shall be frightfully happy if it does!”
But it was much, much better than she could ever have dreamed.
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