Chapter 5: The Yellow House Again
“So why did you bring Sam’s electro-acoustic transducer?” asked Pumpkin, as soon as they were well out of the small throng of annoying people the world has the graciousness to call “reporters.”
Johnnie pulled her eyes violently down in an attempt not to roll them. “It’s a phone; just say phone. We can stop talking code now.”
Pumpkin shrugged. “I’m not the one who thought using three words instead of one was a good code. But anyway you know Sam gets mad if anybody answers his phone calls.”
“Well, I needed it,” Johnnie explained. “Tradam’s going to send him a picture of Mr. Semmes – and we may as well do something as not.”
“Like look at it?”
Johnnie nodded. “Might as well have as much fun as we can while Sam’s stuck in the parking lot,” said Johnnie to herself, grinning. “You don’t happen to know his password?” she added aloud.
“Oh no,” replied Pumpkin, quickly. “He doesn’t have a password, he uses one of those fingerprint things.”
Johnnie looked at the phone in sudden horror, and as she looked at it in horror she exclaimed, “Dash it! then we won’t possibly be able to break into it. Oh bother it all, now we have to go back. Oh bother!”
“Oh no, it’s okay,” said Pumpkin, reassuringly. “My fingerprint is just the same.”
“That can’t be true,” argued Johnnie, wishing it could be, but from a habitual lack of trust in Pumpkin, looking disappointed already.
“Everybody says that. But it really is the same,” said Pumpkin defensively, swiping his finger across Sam’s phone and proudly holding it up to Johnnie.
“You unlocked it!” she exclaimed, laughing in delight.
“Oh jolly, he already sent the picture,” replied Pumpkin, opening the notification.
Tradam had texted a selfie of himself and Semmes in a thunderstorm.
“Trot! I can’t see anything! The picture’s way too dark, the old rascal…” Johnnie exclaimed, getting frustrated.
Pumpkin laughed and said, it was a cool picture anyhow (because you could see a lightning bolt).
“Hey,” said Johnnie, all of a sudden, as she scrolled down to the other pictures. “We know that guy.”
“Not me,” began Pumpkin, raising his eyebrows. “Oh, unless he was that cashier at Starbucks who passed me a lollipop – but he was young back then, so it doesn’t quite square.”
“You probably weren’t alive when he was young,” began Johnnie.
“He’s not that old,” said Pumpkin.
“He is old,” said Johnnie.
“That is not old,” contradicted Pumpkin.
“That’s it!” exclaimed Johnnie.
Pumpkin looked startled at this sudden escalation in the argument, and rapidly began preparing for battle – but as matter of fact, Johnnie didn’t at all mean it the way he thought she did, and it quite relieved him when he heard her say that she had just remembered something very important.
“It was that night I went into the Yellow House and met Crossing Streets. Jolly, I know just where it is too! Let’s go find it – the Yellow House, not Crossing Streets,” she added, the thrill of adventure coming once more into her eyes.
Pumpkin looked eager enough to follow her but said first, holding on to her by her hoodie, “Wait up, hotshot, it’s – Crossing Streets? I’m confused. Your explanations are not boring enough.”
And you probably think so too, dear reader; but we all have our faults, and this, no doubt, was Johnnie’s.
“It’s the guy I first bumped into – the guy who had a bodyguard. I don’t know his name and I didn’t give him one because he didn’t cross the streets or – anyway, he didn’t cross them the way Crossing Streets did. The guy who ran into the wall – the crazy guy,” she added flailing her arms around expressively and accidentally smacking him in the face.
Pumpkin said “Ow” and that, at any rate, he was satisfied; so without more ado, they dashed off to find the Yellow House.
It was of course, as you very well know, the same Yellow House that we met in the prologue, and this being the fifth chapter, it is high time we introduce it again.
Pumpkin saw it and said, “Oh, what a pretty ugly house!”
And Johnnie said, “It does look nice by daylight, to be sure. I’m not sure I can trust myself too near it, it would be too tempting. Doesn’t it look alarmingly inviting?” she added, smiling brightly at Pumpkin, who nodded and said rather thoughtlessly, “So it does. Do let’s go in,” and suiting the action to the word (something he did with more frequency than was quite proper, as in the present instance) he walked in.
“What are you doing?” Johnnie whispered with a tense zest at his daring.
“Oh come on, Johnnie, we have to get in somehow,” Pumpkin replied, quickly disappearing behind the door. “Anyway, it’s no less respectable to walk in the door as to climb – surreptitiously, through the window,” he added quellingly, sticking out his head again.
Johnnie hadn’t got anything exactly to reply to that, except “Crossing Streets did it first”; so she walked in, and as she walked in, something happened that made them quite walk out again. And this is what happened.
A long white coat with a man in it appeared, coming down the stairs that Johnnie had peered down, some days ago, and he said, with a lack of evinced surprise that puzzled Johnnie, “Ah, children! -The everlasting pla- delight of humanity. What is going on?”
“Your beard is very long,” said Pumpkin, uncompromisingly.
“And you don’t even have a little one,” replied the doctor, suddenly sounding a little younger, and swinging his briefcase, which Johnnie had not noticed up until then, threateningly.
“Are you a doctor, sir?” interrupted Johnnie hastily.
He nodded. “From Birmingham Hospital, in – Moddletown. On vacation for a week. Attending the case of a friend.” He sounded pleased with himself, the-way-people-do-when-they-have-said-something-which-makes-them-think-they’re-clever, when he had finished telling her this.
Johnnie nodded as much as to say, it was all very much a matter of course, that he should work at the Birmingham Hospital in Moddletown, and be on vacation for a week, for she wanted to be as natural as possible, in such unnatural circumstances – circumstances too, that would shape the future of her career as a GOA detective – so she added, “Does Mr. Anton Semmes happen to be here right now? We just came in looking for him,” she added, disingenuously, with a disarming smile, as she looked past him up the stairwell.
“Oh, you’re looking for Tony? Sorry if I seem…” he cut himself short at the bad pun, and suppressing his grin said, “I have very bad news about your friend, however you may happen to know him, which is none of my business I’m sure.”
(And he said it just like that, as if everything was an afterthought.)
“You see he – he’s not at all well. As a matter of fact, he has had severe mental anxiety for some time now, and suffered a mental breakdown last – Saturday was it? I believe it was.”
“It was – last Friday night,” Johnnie corrected hastily, looking ready to say goodbye, and making room for him to pass down the stairs and out the entryway.
The doctor didn’t move, but simply said, “I’m very sorry, but you won’t be able to see him today; he’s quite indisposed, and is, as a matter of fact, at a critical stage where he needs care and – no distractions. There are several nurses caring for him now, he’s going to be quite alright. You’ll get to see him another time, when he’s a little better.”
“Thank you,” said Johnnie, inclining her head and wetting her upper lip. “Come along Pumpkin.”
“Come back tomorrow,” the doctor called out good naturedly, as he watched them go, and smothered another grin.
So that, you see, is how they came to be walking out again, and though Johnnie had every intention of watching the doctor walk away, and finding a way to get in the house again, she was very vexed to find that he had locked the door behind him, and the window was closed.
“What an earth-vexing fellow!” she exclaimed, kicking a pebble out of her way, and then heaving a deep sigh. “I wonder why he’s so careful,” she began, a moment later, glancing at Pumpkin, who had been silent for sometime now.
“Oh,” he replied.
Johnnie looked at him again and he added, “What? They like to be bossy, that’s all. These doctors think they have the key to life and death.”
“Well, there’s nothing for it but to come back tomorrow morning with a diamond,” said Johnnie gloomily.
Pumpkin looked at her in horror. “A diamond?” he began, but Johnnie said “To cut the glass of course,” and he was silenced again.
“Well, I’m off to do some research. I’m going to figure out all about that WAS. We’ve been on the case two days now, and we still know nothing!” Johnnie complained, kicking Pumpkin, for lack of a pebble.
“On the contrary,” remarked Pumpkin, with a bright look, as he rubbed his leg thoughtfully. “We have quite solved the case. Come now, we know where Semmes is.”
“There’s a lot more to it than that,” began Johnnie. “And anyway, it doesn’t do us much good if we can’t get at him.”
Pumpkin nodded. “To be sure. Grandma quite agrees too – you know there are cookies in the cookie jar, but it doesn’t do any good if you can’t get at them. I’ve told her so quite often, that’s how she understands. She didn’t at first.”
But Johnnie was already halfway across the street by the time he had said as much, and, not wishing to prolong a conversation so unattended to, Pumpkin, like the good fellow he was, made up his mind to go find Sam, and bring to him the very wonderful news of their having found Mr. Tony Semmes – and of course, his phone.
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