Jack and Randy caught several crayfish, then Randy’s foot slipped down a moss-covered rock and slid into the water.  Green slime oozed between his fingers. “Oh yuck”! He slung his hand in disgust.

Jack bent forward laughing.

Randy grabbed a handful of slime and lunged toward his friend, but Jack ran for the bike. He stopped in surprise.

“Hey Man! Where’s your bike?”

“My bike!” Randy wailed. “Where’s my bike?”

The boys looked all around, but didn’t find Randy’s bike.

“Awe, come on Jack, where can it be?”

“Someone must have taken it.”

“Oh sure! Someone snatched it right from under our noses without leaving a clue. Now how am I going to explain this to my dad?”

“Hey! Maybe they did leave a clue.”  Jack bent down by the fence. “Here are some broken weeds, this could be a clue.”

 Randy looked at the weeds tangled in the fence with interest. “It looks as if these weeds were deliberately twisted around those wires.” He squatted down and looked more closely.

The fence was made of tightly stretched barbed wire. It completely enclosed the big house on the hill and the surrounding acreage.

Jack and Randy walked along the fence a few feet searching for further clues but found nothing more.

 “Let’s check the second-hand bike shop on Fourth Street,” Randy suggested.

“Good idea,” Jack nodded. Old John might be able to give us some help.

Old John was working on a bike when they arrived. He hadn’t heard anything, but he said he would keep an eye out for Randy’s bike.

“What are you going to tell your dad?” Jack asked.

“I’ll have to tell him the truth! He probably won’t believe me. Man I’ll be grounded for years. I’ll rot away in my room,” Randy moaned.

After lunch the boys went back to the creek to look around. They followed the fence farther and found some recently turned over stones. A few yards farther on there were foot prints and bike tracks leading away from the fence.

The tracks led toward the house on the hill. Folks lowered their voice when they spoke of the stranger who’d moved in there. No one knew much about him.

Randy said, as they walked along, “I don’t like the direction we’re going.”

“We’re going toward Spooky Manor.” Jack teased in a low shaky voice.”

“Cut it out Jack, that’s not funny! Look! There’s the house.”

The boys cautiously approached the house, their attention centered on the door. The door opened and a smiling young man came out to meet them.

“I’m sorry about the bike. It was a mean trick, but I wanted to get your attention,” he said. No one ever comes near the house. When I saw your bike I just couldn’t resist.”

He extended his hand. “I’m Bill Kindle, won’t you come inside and have a cold drink?”