Thomas Smith: 10 years old. His interests includes playing video games, cutting grass to earn money for video games, and getting his brother in trouble.
Luke Smith: 9 years old. He is the younger brother of Thomas. He likes riding bikes and any things that has wheels, like skateboards and skates.
Missy Johnson: Thomas and Luke’s younger cousin. She is 6 years old and hangs out with Thomas and Luke to have something to do.
Desiree Brown: Also an 10 year old that lives in Columbia. She is in town spending some time with her Grandma. She tends to be bossy and must have it her way. This can cause friction between she and Thomas.
Anne Smith: Thomas and Luke’s mother. She is a writer that spends most of her time on the computer.
Will Johnson: Missy’s dad and Thomas and Luke’s uncle. He works at a grocery store so he is gone most of the time.
Beth Johnson: Missy’s mom. She is a stay at home mom that spends most of her time taking care of Missy’s baby sister.
Granny: Thomas, Luke, and Missy’s grandmother. She loves to spend her time crocheting and cooking.
Detective Chris Wilson: A detective at the local police station. He also happens to be good friends with Will and Beth Johnson.
Mr. John Morgan: An older man that used to live in a house near our cast of characters. After his wife passed away, he moved away and left the house as it was. It has since grown up. Mr. John has moved back to town, but does not live in the house.
The school bell rang meaning the end of another school year. Thomas, Luke, Missy and Desiree were looking forward to spending the summer hanging out in the tree house that Thomas, Luke, and Missy’s Papa had built in the huge oak tree in the back yard. Right after breakfast the four friends met in the tree house to plan their summer. Thomas sat in the old bean bag his mother had when she was a kid and began to play his video game.
Luke asked Thomas, as he was playing around the tree house on his skateboard, “Is this your big plan to play the game all summer?
In reply Thomas said “It sure beats spending the summer in a cast after you break a bone on that thing.”
“Maybe we can get someone to take us to the park.” Desiree said.
Luke said “Our mom is working.”
Missy chimed in ,“My mom is feeding the baby and my dad is not home.”
Desiree added, “Nana don’t have the car today.”
Luke said “I am going to ride my bike.” So he slid down the slide that was installed so they could get out of the tree house. Desiree and Missy followed Luke and they all left the yard on their bikes. Thomas, wanting to make sure no one got into trouble, decided to follow and see where they were going. Just as Thomas caught up with the group they all stopped when they saw something strange in the woods.
It was an old house it had been empty so long that the trees were as tall as the house Yhe gang only knew that it was a house because they could see the roof that was about to fall in from all the leaves that had accumulated.
“Let’s go see if there is anything in there.” Luke said,
“No” Thomas said “There could be snakes in there.”
“Or somebody!” Desiree exclaimed.
“Look at that place! There is no way that someone in there.” Missy said.
Luke and Desiree started walking toward the house. Missy followed not too far behind and Thomas came along so that he could tell on the others when they got into trouble they could not get out of.
Luke pushed the old heavy door open and it creaked as it opened. They were surprised it was not locked. When they looked inside, all they saw was a thick layer of dust and spider webs clinging from ceiling to wall all around the room. Just looking at the room made Thomas sneeze, which caused all the children to hide, thinking someone would catch them. When no one came, Luke decided to step inside. The other three children entered the house and began to look around.
They saw old pictures and all kinds of old furniture that the owner left behind when they moved away. Luke walked over to the fireplace where there were pictures, hoping there may be some clue as to who this house belonged to. As he reached for a picture and began to remove the dust, his hand hit a clock that was on the mantle and it fell off onto the floor. Once it hit the floor, it broke into several pieces.
“Look what you did!” Thomas said to Luke.
Fearing that they were sure to be caught, they scooped up the clock and ran out the house, back to their bikes and back to the tree house.
“Now look what we did! We stole that clock from people we do not even know!” Missy said “Now what are we going to do?”
“I am going to try to fix the clock and take it back.” said Thomas “Until I do no one can say anything about where we were and what we found.”
The four friends agreed that they would not even tell their parents where they had been. Thomas would fix the clock and take it back, and no one would ever have to know about the old house in the woods.
As Thomas began trying to fix the clock he noticed something inside the clock that he had to take out to get the part to fit in place. As he pulled it out he noticed that it was green and rolled up. He pulled it out only to realize that it was a roll of money.
“Hey ya’ll look what I found!” Thomas said as the rest of the gang gathered around.
“Wow money!” M`issy said.
“How much is it?” Luke asked.
Thomas unrolled the money and began to count. “$400” he said
The four friends looked at each other in shock. What were they going to do now?
“What are we going to do now?” Desiree asked, breaking the silence. “Now we have stolen a clock and some money and we don’t even know who from.”
“That much money could really get me a cool skateboard”, Luke said as he was rubbing his hands together.
“Hold on there.” Thomas said to Luke “We cannot spend this money. We have to go along with the plan and fix the clock and put the clock and the money back in the house. We still have to stay quiet about going to the house in the first place.”
“No, Thomas. Things are different now that we found the money” Desiree said “ We have to tell someone about the money. Maybe our parents will know who lived in the house that owns this money and the clock.”
After more discussion, the four of them agreed that they would think more about their discovery overnight and in the morning, they would decide how they would handle what they had found.
When it began to get dark, they all went to their homes with a lot on their minds. It was going to be tough to keep something that big a secret.
The next day was Sunday so no one was allowed to go to the tree house until after church and lunch. Since Thomas, Luke, and Desiree were too old to go to children’s church, Missy decided to stay in big church with the rest of her friends. They all sat on the same row as the Pastor began his sermon. Pastor Bob preached about being honest, and the four children began to think that someone had to6ld him about what they had found. When church was over they all agreed to meet in the tree house right after they finished eating lunch.
Missy and Desiree got to the tree house first and sat there talking while they waited on Thomas and Luke. When they all finally got there, Thomas said that they were late because Granny had taken a long time to cook lunch and then they had to eat.
“Who told the Pastor about what we found?” Thomas asked, knowing that it was most likely Missy that had spilled the beans.
“It wasn’t me.” Luke, Missy, and Desiree said in unison.
“Then how did he know?” Thomas asked. “He didn’t know.” Missy said “I guess that is what he was supposed to preach and what we was supposed to hear,”
“Well, I thought someone told him.” Thomas said “He did say some things that we needed to hear about how to deal with the clock and the money. After having all night to think and listening to today’s sermon, does anyone have any suggestions?”
“I think we should talk to your parents and tell them about what is going on.” Desiree said.
“I think that we should talk to Mr. Chris, one of the local police officers,” Missy said.
“I don’t think that we should involve the police.” Thomas said “After all, we did steal the clock and the money.”
“It was an accident.” Missy said “And that is what we would tell the cops.”
“I think we should talk to Granny.” Thomas said “She has been here the longest. If anyone know who lived there, it will be Granny.”
The four friends slid down the slide and ran into Granny’s house. Papa told all of them to be quiet because Eddie was asleep. Eddie was Thomas and Luke’s baby brother. They all went into the living room where Granny was sitting in her chair, reading the latest book she had checked out from the library. When she saw them come in she put down the book and asked them what they had been doing.
Thomas asked. “Granny, have you ever noticed that there is a house in the woods?”
“What house?” Granny asked not knowing what they were talking about.
“The house down the dirt road.” Missy added.
“O you mean the Morgan house.” Granny said “Right after we moved in here the Morgan family moved in that house. It was Mr. John, Mrs. Jane and their children. After the children all grew up and moved away and Mrs. Jane passed away Mr. John moved across the country but then he came back. I hear he is living a few miles down the road with some other family.”
“Why, have you been in the house? Granny asked.
“We saw the house from the road when we were riding bikes and were just wondering.” Luke said. Obviously he hadn’t paid attention to the sermon at church earlier that morning.
“Whatever you do, don’t go in there.” Granny said “I hear that the house is haunted. People say they hear Mrs. Jane over there slamming doors and making all kinds of creepy noises,”
With all the new information the kids had they headed back out the door to the tree house. Thomas picked up the phone book as he went out. They were all reminded that Eddie was asleep so they would be quiet.
“A haunted house in our own neighborhood. This is cool!” Luke said after they had all got back inside the tree house.
Thomas sat in the bean bag looking through the phone book. “I do not see a listing for Mr. John Morgan.” He said.
“Were you going to call him if you found his number?” Desiree asked.
“Yeah, but I can’t find it.” Thomas said.
“So, now what are we going to do?” Missy asked.
“We will fix the clock and take it back.” Thomas said “That was the plan to start with, so we will stick to it.”
“Yes, we get to go into a real haunted house.” Luke said “I will take the clock back if everyone else is too scared to.”
“There is no such thing as ghost, or haunted houses.” Desiree said “That is just things people make up to scare you away from places you are not supposed to be. At least that is what my momma always told me.”
Thomas went on to fix the clock, as the others sat around talking about what they would do if the house was really haunted. When Thomas was done, they came out of the tree house, and went to their bikes to take the clock back.
When they got back to Mr. John’s house they saw something that was totally different from the last time they were there. The front door was wide open and when they looked inside, all the furniture had all been tossed around and the pictures had been knocked off the wall. It was clear someone had been there hunting something, but what was not clear was if they were still there or were they going to be coming back.
The children did not know what to think or do. Was Granny right about the house being haunted? Was it safe to go in there? They decided to quickly run into the house and put the clock on the mantle and get out of there without anyone knowing where they had been. They stepped into the house and got midway through the room when all of a sudden, the door slammed behind them.
“Where is my clock?” a voice came from nowhere. There was no one in the house but them, and hearing the voice made them believe that granny was right. It was the voice of an elderly woman, but where was she? “You stole my clock and I want it back!” the voice said again. Hearing it this time made the children run out the door. Luke and Desiree got out first and left the other two in their dust. If there was a ghost in there she wasn’t getting them! Thomas and Missy ran out after them and headed back to the tree house until. Missy stopped.
“Thomas,” She said “What is that in the woods?”
Thomas stopped and took a step back toward Missy to get a better look. “It is a car.” He said.
“Who would park their car there in the woods next to an abandoned house?” Missy asked. “Let’s go get a better look.”
“No wait! Don’t you see what this means.” Thomas said “It means that the house is not haunted, and whoever owns that car is in there trying to scare us away. If we go over there. he will see us. Let’s go back to the tree house and tell Luke and Desiree what we saw and then come back later.”
Missy agreed and the two of them walked their bikes back to the tree house, talking about what they had just discovered. When they got back to the tree house, Luke and Desiree were already there waiting on them.
“Where is the clock?” Missy asked.
Luke pointed over to the table where Thomas fixed the clock and said, “It is over there.”
“Is the money still in it?” Thomas asked
“Yes it is, and why all the questions?” Desiree asked
“After you two ran out and left us in the house,” Thomas began to explain, “Missy and I made a discovery. We saw a car in the woods. The car is not a car that has been sitting there for a long time because there was no dirt and leaves on it. It looks like the house is not haunted, and the person that drives that car was in the house trying to scare us. They must know about the clock and the money in it, and that we have it. Now we need to get a better look at the car. But since the person behind the voice knows that we have the clock, they will be looking for us. We have to split up. Only two of us go and get a better look at the car, while the other two stay here and wait for the others to get back. Since Missy and Luke are the smallest, I think they should go. Leave your bikes here and go as much through the woods as you can. Make sure that you get the license number so that we can track down the people that are looking for the clock and money so that we can find out what they are up to.
Everyone agreed and Missy and Luke left the tree house to see what they could find. Thomas sat down to play his video game until they got back and Desiree decided to listen to music.
When they reached the car, Missy said, “There it is!”
“The car looks like it still runs, and look that is where it comes in.” Luke said, as he was pointing to a path that led back out to the road.
“Look the tag is all numbers, 5455646. I wonder what that means?” Missy asked.
“I don’t know, “ Luke said. “But we have looked around here. Let’s get back and tell the others what we found out.”
Back at the tree house Missy and Luke told the others what they found.
“The car is almost new and has not been there very long. We saw the path that the driver used to get the car in the woods so that no one sees it. The car was locked so we could not get in but the strange thing is the license number. It is all numbers 5455646.” Luke said.
Thomas went over to the white board and picked up a marker and wrote the numbers down. 5455646 “What can that mean?” he asked.
“Well it is 7 numbers.” Desiree said “Maybe it is a phone number.”
“That is a thought but we don’t have a phone.” Thomas said.
“I will go see if I can use Nana’s phone.” Desiree said “I will be right back.” She slid down the slide and ran toward her Nana’s house leaving the other three thinking of what that could be just in case it was not a phone number.
When Desiree got back with the phone she dialed the number as she looked at the board.
“We’re sorry. The number you dialed is no longer in service. Please check your number and dial it again.” Came the voice of the operator.
“Well it is not a phone number.” Desiree said. “What could it be some kind of code or something?”
The four of them sat there looking at the board saying anything that popped into their heads that may be what the numbers stood for.
“I got it!” Desiree shouted “It is not a phone number but you need a phone to figure it out. Look my mom texts people all the time so maybe that is what this is. If we figure out the text we will know who owns the car that is trying to find the clock.”
“We have tried everything else.” Thomas said “Let’s give it a try.”
“The number 5 is JKL and since that number is used most all of those letters may be important. The number 4 is GHI and the 6 is MNO.”
Thomas wrote what Desiree said down on the white board and they all began to study. They looked at all the letters and numbers and soon they all said together “Lil John.”
As soon as they cracked the code they heard Granny calling Thomas and Luke to come in for supper. Missy said that she had to go also because they were having company. Mr. Chris was coming over.
“Missy since Mr. Chris is a cop maybe you should tell him what is going on.” Thomas said. “This is not just a haunted house anymore. Our lives could be in danger if this man wants this clock bad enough.”
Missy agreed and they all went home for dinner agreeing to meet in the morning to see what Mr. Chris said.
After dinner Mr. Chris was sitting in the living room watching football on TV. Beth was also in the living room feeding the baby. Will was in the kitchen washing dishes when Missy came into the living room.
“Mr. Chris can I talk to you?” She asked
“Yes.” He said as he turned off the football game to give her his attention. “What can I do for you?”
“Well it’s something that involves Thomas, Luke, Desiree, and I.” She said.
“What have you done this time?” Beth added.
“Well it’s like this.” Missy began “We went for a bike ride one day and while we were tiding we saw a house in the woods covered up by some trees. We didn’t know the house was there so Luke and Desiree decided they wanted to get a better look so they went over to the house. I went because they were going and Thomas also went.”
“You were where?” Will asked from the kitchen now starting into the living room.
Chris waved his hand and motioned for Will to go back to the kitchen. Missy was more likely to tell him the story if she knew she was not going to get into trouble. “It’s Okay Missy go ahead.” Chris said.”
“Missy said “When we got to the house you could tell that no one had lived there for some time because there were dust and spider webs everywhere. When Thomas went in he started sneezing so he waited outside. Luke and Desiree went inside and I followed them. Luke started looking at the pictures on the mantle and he knocked a clock off and it broke on the floor. Fearing that we were about to be caught Thomas came in and picked up the broken clock and made everyone leace so we left and went back to the tree house.”
So you took the clock.” Mr. Chris asked.
“Yes.” Missy said “Only to fix it until we found the money.”
“What money?” Beth asked.
“There was $400 hid in the clock.” Missy said.
“So where is the money?” Chris asked.
“It is in the tree house in the clock.” Missy said
“So the clock is fixed?” Chris asked.
“Yes it is and we tried to take it back that is when it got weird.”
“What happened?” Chris asked
“When we went to take the clock back we noticed that things were different before we went into the house. Inside the house was much worse. The furniture was all tossed around and when we walked inside the door slammed behind us. We were beginning to think Granny was right about the house being haunted.” Missy said.
“Wait Granny knew you were in the house?” Beth asked.
“No we never told Granny we were there.” Missy explained “We only asked her if she knew who lived in the house. She told us it was Mr. John and then told us to stay away from there because she had heard that his dead wife was haunting the house.”
“You should have listened to your Granny.” Mr. Chrs said. “What happened next?”
“After the door slammed behind us we heard a voice telling us that we had stolen the clock and that we needed to put it back. We were all scared so we all ran out of the house. Luke and Desiree came back to the tree house but I noticed a car in the woods and I told Thomas about it. We decided tp go back later and check it out later.” Missy said “Luke and I went back later and looked around we saw that it was a black car that had not been there very long because there was no dirt and leaves on it. There was also a path that the person used to park the car in the woods when they were in the house. We also got the license plate number although it was a code.”
“What was the license plate number?” Mr. Chris asked.
“5455646 was the numbers. We knew it was some kind of code. We first thought it was a phone number but we tried that and it was not a phone number. We thought for a while and soon figured out it was a text message. The numbers spell out lil john.” Missy said.
“Okay.” Mr. Chris said “I have heard all I need and I will look into it. I want you and your friends to stay away from that house. Chris looking at Will who was now in the living room with everyone else said. “I think that you need to call Thomas and Luke’s mom as well as Desiree’s Nana and let them know what is going on and make sure that they keep the kids away from the house. If someone is there and they know these kids have the clock and money there could be trouble.”
“Oh don’t worry.” Will said “I am calling Ann now and I can assure you these kids will be grounded for a long time. Will picked up the phone and began to dial the number. When his sister answered the phone Will said “Ann this is Will and I need to talk to you about what the kids have been up too. Will filled Ann in on what Missy had just told them and then he hung up the phone.
“Well it is getting late and I need to get home.” Mr. Chris said as he said his goodbyes and went out of the door. When Chris left Beth and Will turned to Missy. “Now young lady have you learnt your lesson.”
“Yes.” Missy said.
“That is good.” Will said “Because you are grounded and after tonight I am sure the others are as well.
Will was right. Thomas, Luke and Desiree were also grounded and the kids would not be playing together for some time to come.
The next day, Det. Wilson had to work the morning shift. After he performed his daily neighborhood drive-trough’s, he had some time on his hands, so he decided to check out Missy’s story. He started by going to the Morgan house. He parked the car and then got out. He could not go into the house because he did not have a search warrant. He walked around outside. The first thing he checked was the path and if the car was there then. He soon noticed that the car was not there, So he was free to walk around and see if he saw any more clues about who had been making frequent trips looking for the clock. Coming up empty, he decided to leave and try to come up with something else.
His next choice was to find Mr. John. He started looking at Mr. John’s granddaughters house where he learned that Mr. John was living. He pulled up in the yard, parked his car, and got out. He walked up to the front porch and rang the doorbell. After no one answered he knocked on the door. He heard a voice coming from inside, “I’m coming, I’m coming!!” The voice was that of an old man and when the door finally opened, Mr. John stood there.
“Mr. John?” Chris asked, “I am Detective Wilson from the Ridgeland Police Department. I would like to ask you a few questions about your house down the road.”
“Sure, come on in.” Mr. John said as he walked from the door. meaning that Det. Wilson could come in. Chris followed Mr. John into the living room where he invited him to sit down and ask him whatever he needed to know.
“Well Mr. John, it seems that there has been some action around your house.” Chris went on to tell Mr. John about the kids finding the clock with the money, and that someone was now looking for the kids to get the money back.
“Well, we all knew that my wife used to hide money where ever she could find a place to put it,” Mr. John said. “The only one that would be looking for it now though would be my son Johnny.”
“Where is Johnny now?” Chris asked.
“He lives in a house on the other end of town.” Mr. John said.
“Does he have a car?” Chris asked.
“Yes, he has a black car with some numbers on the license plate.” Mr. John said.
Having all the information that he needed, Det. Wilson thanked Mr. Morgan for his time and left. His next stop was Thomas and Luke’s grandmother’s house. After he arrived, he requested that they call Desiree and Missy to come over so that he could talk to them all at the same time.
“So Missy has been telling me about some money that you found in a house. Where is the money now?” Det. Chris asked.
“It is still in the tree house.” Thomas said.
“For starters I think you need to bring that in the house so that it does not get stolen.” Chris said. “Then we need to think of a way to figure out who it is that is looking for the clock and why they want it. That is where I am going to need your help.”
“What can we do?” Missy asked.
“Why don’t we go to the tree house? Maybe we can figure out something from up there.” Chris said. He and the children went to the tree house. While Chris was looking around, he noticed something interesting. “Well, will you look at that.”
“What!” The children all said in unison.
“Hold on, I will be right back.” Mr. Chris said as he started down the ladder and went to his car. He got out a pair of binoculars and came back up the ladder.
“Just as I thought.” He said.
“What?” Thomas asked.
“Well, it just happens that this window looks out to Mr. John’s house and if you use a set of binoculars, you can see the place where the car was parked. Now all we need to do is watch for when the car comes back. Then we can move in and see who it is that is looking for the clock.”
“So how do we help?” Missy asked.
“You all get to take turns looking for the car. When you see it you use this walkie-talkie to call me and tell me that it is there, then I will get some other cops to go over there with me to see who is there. I need to warn you that since the driver of the car knows you have the clock, it may be a while before they come back.”
“A real stake out just like on the TV show. How cool!” Luke said with excitement.
“Yes a real stake out but just like a real stake out, you can’t tell anyone.” Det. Chris warned the kids “And when you are up here looking you can’t make a lot of noise. That may scare them away or worse they may come over here trying to take what is theirs,”
The four kids promised Det. Chris that they understood about what they needed to do and they promised that they were going to be good from here on out. They had been scared and now they were going to play by the rules. Starting with Thomas they all decided to take a hour shift in watching for the car. They would not leave the tree house unless they were going home. And they would not tell anyone what they were doing.
This went on for some time until finally they saw the car. They immediately called Mr. Chris to let him know that the car was there. Within minutes the whole scene was blue from all the cop cars over there. All they had to do was wait to see what happened.
The gang sat in the tree house trying to see what was going on when they saw car lights coming into Granny’s yard. “Okay you guys, come down and get in the car.” It was Uncle Will “Mr. Chris called. They caught the person that has been scaring you and he wants you to meet them.”
The children slid down the slide and got into Uncle Will’s car. After the short drive, they arrived at Mr. John’s house. Outside, standing next to an unmarked patrol car was Mr. Chris and an old man. He must have been at least 80 years old. They got out of their car and walked over to the car.
“Hi guys.” Mr. Chris said “This is Mr. John. This is his house and that is his clock and money you found. Mr. John was the one scaring you so that he could get his money back.”
“Why didn’t you just tell us it was you and we would have given it back?” Thomas asked.
Mr. John explained, “Well I was not sure there was money in the clock. My wife had a habit of hiding money anywhere she could because she did not like banks. When you found the clock, I began to get curious and when you came back to the house to put it back, I heard you say there was money in it. I wanted it back because it was mine. I figured if I scared you when you ran away you would drop the clock, but you didn’t. Then, it just seemed logical to make Det. Chris think it was my son Johnny until tonight when I came back to see if you had brought it back yet.
The kids gave Mr. John the clock back and promised that they would not do any more plundering where they were not supposed to be. To thank them Mr. John gave each of them $50. Then Mr. Chris took Mr. John home and the children all went back home.
“Wow!!” The kids said with excitement “What are we going to do with $50?”
“I don’t know about ya’ll, but I am going to buy a new skateboard.” Luke said.
“I think maybe we should take you somewhere away from here with that money.” Beth said “Like, maybe we should go to the water park.”
All the kids agreed, and they each went to their own homes to get ready. They had a lot to tell Ann, Nana, Granny, and Papa. They had to do it soon because first thing in the morning they would not be thinking of clocks with money in them. They would be more interested in splashing down water slides.