Read New Adventures of the Mad Scientists' Club Online

Authors: Bertrand R. Brinley,Charles Geer

Tags: #Juvenile Fiction, #Science Clubs, #Action & Adventure

New Adventures of the Mad Scientists' Club (6 page)

       
"OK!" he said.

        Homer
pointed the remote control box in his direction and pressed the other button.
The lid of the cashbox flipped open. Jeff dumped the contents out in front of
him and methodically counted the money while the rest of us sat there with our
arms and legs crossed and repeated the count after him.

       
"Three dollars and eighty-seven cents," he announced. "Homer was
pretty near right."

        "I
am right!" came Homer's voice from the rafters. "We never count those
two Indian-head pennies. That's our reserve for bad debts."

       
"OK, OK!" said Jeff. "The matter is closed." He put the
money back in the cashbox and signaled Homer to raise it again to the roof.

       
"Can I come down now, Mr. President?" asked Homer.

       
"Yes!" said Jeff.

        Despite
our shortage of funds we all agreed that we should make the trip to Claiborne
to attend the White Elephant Auction. If we couldn't manage to buy the Japanese
submarine, at least we could find out who did get it.

        "I
move that we take all our money with us and let me handle the bidding,"
said Freddy Muldoon, standing up on his chair to give himself a little better
position to argue from.

       
"That's a great idea!" Mortimer Dalrymple cut in, with his usual
sarcasm. "You're a born loser, so we won't have to argue about how much
money we have any more."

       
"OK, Mr. Bigmouth," Freddy shot back. "Maybe I'm not the world's
best horse trader, but at least I know a jackass when I see one."

        Mortimer
came up out of his chair like a whirling dervish, and Henry and I grabbed him
just in time to prevent mayhem. Freddy stood fast, with his hands on his hips
and that sneering look on his face again, while Jeff rapped his gavel on the
crate. When the commotion had died down, little Dinky Poore stood up, at his
most truculent, and said, "Mr. President, I second the motion, whether
anybody likes it or not!"

        In the
Mad Scientists' Club, when anybody seconds a motion it's almost sure to pass.
The reason is that Freddy and Dinky vote in favor of almost everything, and
Jeff Crocker, the President, only votes in case of a tie. So anybody making a
motion knows that he has three votes to start with. And if somebody is dumb
enough to second his motion, he knows that he's got it made because four votes
are already in the bag. But if Freddy or Dinky makes the motion, it's a little
different of course. You might say that they face an uphill fight.

        In this
case, I felt a little sorry for Freddy, so I voted in favor of letting him
handle the bidding for the submarine. After Henry and Homer and Mortimer had
all voted "no," it was up to Jeff Crocker to decide the issue. He
flipped a coin and it came down "heads" and he figured that was a
good omen. So he voted in favor of Freddy risking our three dollars and
eighty-five cents.

        By ten
o'clock Saturday morning we were all piled into Zeke Boniface's wheezing old
junk truck, Richard the Deep Breather, jolting along on the seventy-five-mile
drive to Claiborne. Dinky and Freddy were crouched down behind the seat of the
open cab, playing mumblety-peg on the wooden truck bed and exchanging
conspiratorial whispers. The rest of us didn't pay too much attention to them.
We were too busy figuring out how we would load the submarine on the truck and
haul it back to Mammoth Falls, if we were lucky enough to get it. We had
brought along the overhead traveling crane rig that Zeke uses to lift engines
out of cars, but we were only guessing at how big the sub was, based on Henry's
research.

        Mortimer
Dalrymple had insisted on rigging a hammock between the two chain slings of the
traveling crane so he could be comfortable during the trip. Mortimer likes his
sleep, and he can catnap right through a club meeting or a dogfight; take your
pick. But he didn't get too much sleep on the way to Claiborne. We had the
crane stanchion lashed down securely to the truck bed, so he wasn't in any
danger, but he took some pretty violent lurches (Henry called them "yawing
moments") when Zeke threw Richard the Deep Breather into fast-breaking
curves on the Claiborne Road. When he pulled into Claiborne, Mortimer was
pretty seasick but he'd be the last one to admit it, and the rest of us
wouldn't embarrass him by noticing it unless there was some real fun in it. At
least he'd escaped the bumps and jolts that the rest of us had to suffer.

        The
White Elephant Auction was being held in front of the American Legion Hall,
because the submarine was the biggest thing on the list and the Legion didn't
want to bother moving it off its concrete pedestal unless they were sure it was
sold. When Zeke wheeled Richard the Deep Breather into the parking lot there
was already a crowd of two or three hundred people gathered in front of the
place. The auctioneer was having lunch at a hot-dog stand and just marking time
until the appointed hour for the auction to begin. We were a little dismayed to
see the size of the crowd, but the auctioneer was licking the mustard off his
lips with double relish, knowing he had a good thing going.

        After we
had something to eat we mingled in the crowd and left matters in the hands of
Freddy and Dinky, who had all our money. We saw them whispering to each other
on the edge of the crowd, and then Freddy got down on all fours and crawled
through people's legs up to the front. He ended up to the right of the
auctioneer's stand, and Dinky popped up in front of the crowd on the left. A
whole bunch of worthless junk was sold at ridiculous prices before the auctioneer
got around to mentioning the submarine. It was already three o'clock and Freddy
had pulled the last hot dog out of his pocket and eaten it, and was looking
around for something to drink, when the auctioneer climbed down off his stand
and rapped his gavel on the hull of the sub.

       
"Ladies and gennemun!" he cried. "Here is the
piece de
resistance
of the afternoon. What am I offered for this genuwine trophy of
war brought back from the far Pacific by the valiant sons of Post 1142 of the
American Legion? This is a real conversation piece. Ladies: If you have a real
handyman around the house, he can convert this historic tub into the most
unique outdoor barbecue you have ever seen. With this symbol of America's
triumph over the forces of evil in World War II installed in your backyard you
will be the envy of your neighborhood. Other women will pull out their hair
competing for invitations to your evening soirees."

       
"Blah, blah, blah, blah," said Mortimer. "How about getting down
to business?"

        Finally
the auctioneer pounded his gavel on the rusting hull again and rasped,
"What am I offered?"

       
"Five dollars!" came a squeak from the right side of the semicircle
of onlookers. All eyes turned to where Freddy Muldoon stood, looking as nonchalant
as his pudgy frame would allow, with one foot crossed over the other and his
arms folded in front of him.

       
"Has he gone nuts?" Mortimer gulped. "That's more money than we
have."

       
"Maybe the truck ride affected his brain," Homer offered. "We'd
better go pull him out of there."

       
"Leave him alone!" Jeff snapped. "We all promised to let him
handle this."

        The
auctioneer paused in mid-sentence. "What was that, my young friend?"

       
"Five dollars!" Freddy repeated. The auctioneer snickered
indulgently. "Did you hear that, ladies and gennemun?" He laughed.
"We have one of the last of the big spenders with us here today -- one of
America's great natural comedians -- and he offers a paltry five dollars for
this priceless relic of the late great war." He beat a tattoo on the steel
hull of the submarine with his gavel. "Ladies and gennemun!" he cried
in a loud voice, raising his hands high in the air and blowing all his words
out through his nose. "Ladies and gennemun, I tell you what I'm gonna do.
I ordinarily would treat such an offer with the disdain that it deserves. But I
can go along with a gag as well as the next one. And just to indulge our young
friend here - whom I am sure must be the grandson of the late great Oliver
Hardy - I will open the bidding for five dollars!" Again the gavel
descended upon the rusty hull, which was still ringing from the last blow.
"Do I hear ten dollars?"

       
"Four fifty!" came an even squeakier voice from the left of the
crowd.

        The
auctioneer's jaw dropped. "What was that?" he asked incredulously.

        "I
bid four dollars and fifty cents!" said Dinky Poore in a slightly louder
voice. There was a laugh from the crowd.

        The
auctioneer snickered condescendingly again. "I must apologize, ladies and
gennemun," he said, fixing a baleful glare on Dinky Poore, "but I
didn't realize that we were also honored with the presence of the grandson of
Stan Laurel. It isn't every day that you find two jokers in the same
deck!" Sweeping his hat from his head, he made an elaborate bow in the
direction of Dinky. "Are you aware, young man, that I already have a bid
of five dollars?"

       
"That old tub ain't worth five dollars," said Dinky. "I bid four
dollars and fifty cents."

        The
auctioneer clapped his hat back onto his head. "Do I hear ten
dollars?" he shouted, banging his gavel on the hull again.

        "I
think he's right!" said Freddy Muldoon. "I bid four dollars,
even."

       
"Wait a minute!" shouted the auctioneer, pointing his gavel at
Freddy. "You can't pull that on me. You already bid five dollars for this
item."

        "I
changed my mind," said Freddy.

        "Do
I hear seven-fifty?" shouted the auctioneer.

       
"Make it three and a half and I'll take it!" Dinky shouted back,
cupping his hands to his mouth to make himself heard above the laughter of the
crowd.

       
"Three dollars, even!" Freddy hollered.

       
"Two seventy-five!" countered Dinky.

       
"I'll go two fifty, and that's my final offer!" Freddy bellowed.

        The
auctioneer rapped his gavel on the submarine's hull so hard that the head came
flying off. "Sold, sold, sold!" he shouted, pointing the broken
handle at Freddy Muldoon. "Sold for two dollars and fifty cents before you
can open your big mouth again!"

       
"I'll take it!" said Freddy. He marched up and put two dollar bills
down on the auctioneer's table. Then he turned to Dinky Poore. "Can you
lend me fifty cents?"

       
"Sure!" said Dinky, pulling out a handful of small change, and the
crowd roared as he dumped the coins onto the table.

       
"Get this thing out of here before I change my mind!" fumed the
auctioneer.

       
"Right away, sir!" said Freddy and Dinky.

        We
needn't have worried about how we were going to load the sub on Zeke's truck.
There must have been fifty people from the crowd trying to get a handhold on it
to help us ease it onto the truck bed after we got it suspended in the slings
of the traveling crane. We threw a big tarpaulin over it and drove right back
to Mammoth Falls, where we parked it in Zeke's junkyard. We had a lot of work
to do on it before we could take it to our hideout, because the first thing we
had to do was get it in condition to operate.

        Our
hideout was made to order for the job we had in mind. It's a real cool cavern
hidden from view behind the huge falls where Frenchman's Creek plunges over a
precipice about a mile northwest of Strawberry Lake. These are the falls that
gave the town its name, and they're a big tourist attraction. But very few
people know about the cavern. Almost nobody ever visits it because you have to
swim under an overhanging ledge of rock to get to the entrance. Once you get
through the narrow opening you're in for a surprise. The cavern widens out into
a high-ceilinged chamber with a floor of fine white sand that must have been
deposited there when the creek bed was a good deal higher than it is now. The
floor of the chamber drops off suddenly after about sixty feet, and there's a
deep pool of clear green water dividing the chamber in two. It must be fed by
subterranean streams and connected with the lower level of the creek, because
the water in it is always the same level as the creek. The place would be a
real mecca for sightseers if the town would ever build a covered walkway to the
entrance, like they have at Niagara Fails, but they've never had the money.

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