“I can’t believe Wally’s plan worked,” Carter’s mom said at the breakfast table. It had been a week since Carter helped had first helped Mr. Stalnaker with his lawn. Since then there hadn’t been any more parties.
“Yeah, well, don’t say that to him,” Carter said, buttering his toast.
“Why not?” his mom asked. “I would think he’d enjoy the credit.”
“He doesn’t think it worked. He’s convinced the parties stopped because they’re up to something.”
“Up to what?” his dad asked.
“No idea. He’s old and crazy.” Carter shoved half the toast in his mouth in one giant bite.
“Carter!” His dad glared at him.
“It’s true though,” he mumbled through a mouthful of bread. “He’s obsessed. He spends all day sitting on his porch staring at their house through his binoculars. It’s creepy.”
“Oh dear,” his mom sighed.
“Keep an eye on him,” his dad said standing up and wiping the crumbs from his fingers.
“Please clean up the breakfast dishes and pull the chicken out of the freezer for dinner tonight.” His mom kissed him on the top of his head as she followed Carter’s dad out the door.
“Sure mom.” Then he shoved the last of his toast into his mouth.
* * *
Carter was on his way to the garage when a low rumbling motor started up. Thinking Mr. Stalnaker was up to some of his antics he ignored it and kept walking to the garage. He began his now daily task of sorting. His dad had already taken a truckload of junk that was broken to the dump.
He’d only been in the garage for about 15 minutes when something caught his attention.
“Psst! Hey boy! Err, Carton,” a voice called softly behind him. “Cartoon?”
Carter turned around and saw Mr. Stalnaker peering around the open garage door. He waved his hand motioning him to follow, then disappeared.
Carter rolled his eyes. What now? He followed Mr. Stalnaker around the side of the garage where they were hidden from view of the street by a giant bush.
“Have you noticed what’s going on across the way?” Mr. Stalnaker loudly whispered over the sound of the motor.
“Err, no,” Carter replied. He tried to step back onto the driveway to get a look, but Mr. Stalnaker pulled him back. “Don’t. They’ll see you.”
“So?” Carter asked.
“They’re very touchy about people watching them.”
“Do you think it might have to do with the fact that you’ve been staring at them through binoculars for the past week?”
Mr. Stalnaker just grunted. “I’m serious. There’s something fishy going on. First that Robbie boy took off in car that wasn’t his.”
“His name you can remember,” Carter muttered.
“Then the parties, which had been going on every night since they moved in just stop.”
“Maybe enough neighbours complained,” Carter suggested.
“And now there’s a construction crew!” He gestured towards the Brockett house which was still hidden from view.
Carter looked at him like he’d lost his mind. “So?”
“What are they hiding?”
“They aren’t hiding anything. They probably just want to renovate.”
“That house was renovated top to bottom last year by the previous owners. There’s nothing left to fix,” he huffed, glaring at Carter.
“Maybe it’s not about fixing anything. Maybe they just want it to look different.” Carter shrugged. Mr. Stalnaker’s mouth dropped open like he was going to say something else, then decided against it.
Finally, he just said, “Fine, so you aren’t going to help?”
“Help with what?” Carter asked, perplexed.
“Never mind.” He shook his head and shuffled off towards the driveway and back to his house.
Carter returned to the garage and continued working. It wasn’t until the end of the day when his parents pulled into the driveway that Mr. Stalnaker came back. “Do you see what’s happening?” he waved his binoculars in front of him.
“Hi Wally,” Carter’s dad said, stepping out of the car. “What’s happening?”
“The neighbours. There’s something f—”
“Fishy going on,” Carter finished for him.
“Yes, Carton here doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal. But that Robbie has been power washing all day long. What can there possibly be left to power wash?”
“Maybe he only has it for a short time and wants to make the most of it.” Carter’s dad shrugged.
“There was screaming.” Mr. Stalnaker raised his eyebrows like he’d made the defining point in their argument.
“What?” Carter’s mom asked.
“When?” Carter asked. He hadn’t heard anything. Although to be fair, he’d been wearing his headphones all day.
“An hour ago. And when I heard it, I looked up and a hand came out the window and was waving for help,” Mr. Stalnaker said, gravely.
“How do you know they weren’t waving hello?” Carter asked.
“Because it was too frantic.” Mr. Stalnaker said, getting visibly frustrated. “And besides, Robbie saw me looking. As soon as he saw the hand, he raced back inside. A few moments later the window slammed shut.” He leaned forward and whispered, “I didn’t hear anything after that.”
“Yes, well, that does sound quite, er, dramatic,” Carter’s dad said, carefully.
“Perhaps you should call the police,” Carter’s mom said. His dad caught her eye and raised his eyebrows. “Well, who knows. What if someone is in trouble? Better be safe just in case.” She lifted her hands and shrugged her shoulders apologetically.
“I did call the police,”Mr. Stalnaker said. “They didn’t come. They didn’t seem to think it was a valid threat.”
“Well, if the police don’t think anything of it, then it’s probably nothing,” Carter’s dad said, putting a friendly hand on Mr. Stalnaker’s shoulder.
“Like father like son,” he grunted. “Mark my words. There is something going on over there and I’m going to figure it out.” He shuffled off back to his house.
“That poor man,” Carter’s mom said, once he was out of earshot.