The Adventures of Stunt Boy and His Amazing Wonder Dog Blindfold (5 page)

8

It's your circus war, not mine

I
slid the metal garage door up quietly and poked my head outside to check if any of Chesterley's goons had been posted on sentry duty. Lucky for us the coast was clear. The sky had already turned black and the stars were out. It meant it was late enough that Benny would be grounded for the rest of his life because the Stoked people would have raised the alarm when we hadn't turn up for dinner. I'd never miss dinner. They probably thought that we'd run away or even been kidnapped! There'd be pictures of us in our school uniform all over the news bulletins because that is what happens when kids get kidnapped or run away.

We made our way back to the fence. I'd hoped with all my heart to see Blindfold, all wagging tail and floppy ears, patiently waiting for me, but there was no sign of him. I got a bit choked up, thinking about what might have happened to him. But I couldn't let myself think about that now – we had to get away quick smart.

There was only one problem. On top of the hole we'd dug sat two heavy boulders. They were too big for us to budge, despite Benny's muscles and my determination. I stared up at the fence in the light of the half-moon, but there was no way of climbing over it, not with all that barbed razor wire running like tumbleweed along the top.

‘We are going to have to sneak through the circus, Benny, and climb over the front gate,' I said before making a mean joke. ‘But this time try not to scream like a girl if you get spooked. I don't want to end up back in that cage.'

‘Stunt, you know I hate heights,' Benny replied. ‘Anyway, you're not blaming me for getting caught, are you? I never wanted to come over here in the first place! It's your circus war, not mine. The only reason I came was to keep you out of trouble, as usual, and where do I end up? In trouble, as usual. Anyway, what would you have done if an elephant had farted in your eyeball?'

He had a point, but I wouldn't have screamed like a girl, that's for sure.

‘Come on, let's just get out of here,' I said not wanting to have an argument about the pitch of Benny's scream.

We concealed ourselves in the shadows as we made our way along the fence and then through Chesterley's circus, hiding behind caravans, then sneaking around the big top towards the front gate. Benny has amazing eyesight, so he saw Chesterley's thugs first.

‘Goons! Get down!' he whispered and pulled me down behind a small pink car just as two of Chesterley's henchmen passed.

‘What's he going to do with those kids?' said a man with a voice made of ten million disgusting cigarettes and gravel cough lollies.

‘Leave them to rot, probably,' said the other one with a laugh. ‘Anyway, enough about those kids. Did you see that chick? Hot!'

Once they passed, we sprinted as fast as we could towards the front of the circus to a flagpole, where a bright yellow flag with
Chesterley's Family Circus
embossed in red flapped in the wind.

‘We're going to have to go up that pole,' I whispered to Benny. ‘It's the only option.'

‘Great,' said Benny, shaking his head.

‘You can do it, Ben. Remember I taught you the Russian climbing technique,' I said.

Circus performers by their very nature are travellers, so we've always had guest artists from all over the world to train with us and share their skills. I learnt it from a guy called Uri from the Ukraine.

‘I'll go first and you keep watch. If you see anyone coming, let me know.'

‘Great, Stunt, then I'll get caught.'

‘Make a sound like a frog if you see anyone coming. I'll make a frog noise when I'm at the top to make sure the coast is clear for you,' I said, as I scooted up the pole. The really difficult part was the jump from the flagpole to the flat narrow top ledge at the top of the gate. If it was hard for me, it was going to be super tricky for Benny. I made a frog sound and waited as Benny emerged out of the shadows.

While it took me just one go, it took Benny six tries (it was actually eight, but I didn't want to correct him later when he said he'd done it in six) to climb the pole, because he wasn't a master at the Russian wrap technique. When he got to the top and saw the drop, his face totally dropped.

‘Stunt Boy, what the hell?' he asked. ‘How am I going to get to that ledge?'

‘Just swing your legs out and then drop down,' I offered.

‘Are you nuts, Stunt? I'm in training for the State Championships!' said Benny as he clung to the flagpole. ‘If I fall, I could break something!'

Then the wail of a police siren sounded. It grew louder and louder until a police car skidded to a stop right in front of me and a beam of bright light shone into my eyes. If I didn't have such excellent balance, I could have fallen off the wall. Benny was using all his strength to stay at the top of the pole.

‘Police. Don't move!' came a voice from behind the light. ‘Put your hands above your head where I can see them.'

I lifted my hands in the air in surrender. The light made my shadow look long and dark, as if I was a ten-foot-tall zombie monster, but I wasn't, I was just a kid. I turned to see Benny raise his hands and then slither down the flagpole.

‘Oh no,' he said as he disappeared into the darkness.

‘Okay, don't move!' said the policeman as he got closer. He was wearing big black shiny boots and a blue uniform. His badge glimmered in the light.

‘They've been vandalising my property, and my staff and I have been assaulted,' said Chesterley, blustering through the gate and holding Benny by his tracksuit top.

Chesterley's thugs eventually emerged with a ladder that they begrudgingly put up for me to get down.

‘I'm in so much trouble,' Benny whispered as we were reunited. ‘I might never be ungrounded in my entire life.'

‘Hooligans! I want the full weight of the law brought down on them,' said Chesterley. ‘I want them charged and put into a home for juvenile delinquents!'

‘How old are you, boys?' asked the police officer.

‘Twelve,' I said, staring at the fuzz of hair at the top of his ears in the light.

‘What, both of you? You look like you're eight, son, and he looks like he's sixteen.'

‘Eight!' I said, totally offended.

‘Sorry, I'm just big for my age,' said Benny apologising for looking older. ‘You can check with my mum.'

‘What are your names?' said the police officer.

‘My real name or what people call me?' I answered.

‘Don't get smart me with me, son! I'm already beginning to lose my patience,' he said.

‘That one is Evan Stoked's boy,' said Chesterley, pointing at me. ‘They've always been a family of troublemakers.'

‘William Stoked,' I said, looking at the ground.

‘And you?'

‘Benny Henberry,' said Benny, before adding solemnly, ‘Benjamin. My real name is Benjamin.'

‘So you're the missing kids from OverWest that I've been hearing about over the police radio,' said the policeman.

‘So are you going to charge them with trespassing?'

‘Barry, they're twelve years old and they've been missing for hours.'

‘Well, at least give them a beating to teach them some respect!' fumed Chesterley. ‘In my day, a policeman would give us a smack around the head if we were out of line.'

‘You know I can't do that, Baz!' the policeman said. ‘They're just kids. Right,' he said, turning to us, ‘I'll let you off this time, boys, but next time you won't be so lucky. Now I want you to apologise to Mr Chesterley and promise that you'll never set foot on his property again.'

‘But he might have shot my dog! I heard a big bang and a dog howling and now there is no sign of Blindfold,' I said, feeling my bottom lip quivering like a jellyfish washed up on the shore at the beach. ‘And I saw him beating a little baby elephant with a big silver hook! Benny here is my witness.'

‘It's true,' said Benny, nodding and backing me up. ‘It was a little baby elephant.'

‘We were breaking in an elephant,' said Chesterley to the policeman. ‘How dare you accuse me of mistreating animals to deflect attention away from the fact that you broke into my premises.'

‘Calm down, Baz,' said the policeman before turning to me. ‘Making such allegations is called defamation of character, which means saying things that aren't true about a person. You could get yourself in serious trouble for that.'

‘I'm not leaving without my dog,' I replied.

‘People are out looking for you. They just want you home,' said the policeman. ‘You can look for your dog later.'

‘If you've hurt a hair on his head,' I said to Chesterley. ‘I swear –'

‘You swear what, Runt Boy?' he replied, shaking the elephant hook. ‘See what I mean? The kid is out of control. Get them out of my sight and if I see you here again, you'll have more than just your mutt to worry about.'

I just hoped that Blindfold had found his way back on his own, even though he made the entire journey OverEast in a bag. Dogs can remember places by smells and they've been known to make their way home from hundreds of miles away, but not if they've been shot.

P.S. The Russian Wrap Technique:

1. Stand with the rope on your right. Reach up as high as you can with both hands and hold the rope with one hand above the other.

2. Bending your left knee, lift the leg until your thigh is parallel with the floor. The rope should rest outside your left shin. Point your foot up.

3. Grip the rope. Lift your right foot up to underneath the rope so that the rope coils under your left foot and over your right. Squeeze your feet together so the rope is held between them.

4. Gripping the rope with your feet, stand up tall. Reach as far up the rope as you can and get a firm grip on a spot above.

5. Let go of the rope with your feet. Bend your legs and haul yourself up.

6. Coil the rope under your right foot and over your left, so you are holding the rope using the same technique as above.

7. Straighten up and repeat until you get to the top.

8. Nailed it!

9

We were going to jail

T
he policeman shepherded Benny and I towards the police car.

‘Right, get in, lads,' he said wearily as he held the back door open.

I slid in after Benny and the policeman shut the door behind me with a thud.

Did you know that police cars don't have actual proper seats in the back? They have hard black plastic seats that are really uncomfortable.

‘Why do you think they're plastic?' I asked Benny.

‘Maybe because if some drunk guy is sick in here then the police can just hose it out without ruining the seats,' suggested Benny, who seems to have an answer for everything.

‘Right, boys, it's been a long shift and I need some peace and quiet. I don't want to hear another peep out of you. And put your seatbelts on,' the policeman added, looking over his shoulder.

He picked up his radio, the crackle of static filling the car.

‘Fifty-two at Chesterley's Circus, Eastside Parade,' called in the policeman.

‘Receiving, Fifty-two,' said the female dispatcher, and I nudged Benny excitedly – they were talking about us! He rolled his eyes and shook his head, as if to say this wasn't a good thing.

‘With regards to the break-in at Chesterley's, it was those two missing twelve year olds from OverWest. They haven't stolen anything,' he said. ‘So I'll bring them to the station.'

Oh no, we were going to jail and I was starving. I hadn't eaten since breakfast. I wanted to ask Benny if it was true that you only got bread and water in jail, but I kept quiet.

‘Hold tight, Fifty-two. I'll get confirmation on that,' said the female operator as the news of car accidents and robberies crackled over the radio.

Benny and I looked at each other nervously.

‘Fifty-two, the chief wants you to take them to Stoked Stunt Circus.'

‘That's a forty-minute drive away! My shift is supposed to finish in an hour!' he complained, glaring at us in the mirror.

‘Sorry, Fifty-two. That's an affirmative. Take them straight to Stoked.'

‘Great! Now I'm going to miss the football because of you two,' he said in a bad mood.

‘If you put the siren on and speed through the traffic lights, you could get there faster!' I suggested helpfully, thinking it would be cool to be in a speeding police car with the sirens blazing like we were on a cop show.

‘This isn't a joyride, son,' said the policeman. ‘You're in a police vehicle and that means you've done something very bad by breaking and entering into Chesterley's.'

Benny looked at me and raised his eyebrows and dropped his bottom lip to reveal his bottom teeth as if to say, ‘Yikes'. I decided not to say anything else for the rest of the journey. I could have fallen asleep because I was so tired, but it was too exciting being in a police car and I didn't want to miss a thing. However, it was a relief to see the gates of our circus and the big red sign surrounded by light bulbs that spelt out
Stoked Stunt Circus
greeting us.

Unlike Chesterley's, our gates were wide open and we drove straight into the compound. When the police car drew to a halt, we were immediately surrounded by a big group of people staring at us through the window. I saw Jem, Benny's parents, Sue, Leonie, Mellie Bellie, Biker Pete, Lefty Blue Eye and Ginger Styles, to name a few. I smiled and waved, happy to see them, but nobody smiled or waved back.

Did you know that when you're in a police car you can't open the doors yourself? Makes sense, otherwise criminals could jump out at the traffic lights and escape. Benny and I had to wait for the policeman to open it for us, like he was our chauffeur.

But I didn't feel like a VIP when I followed Benny out of the car and saw the glare on Jem's face. Her ears were completely red, popping through her blonde hair as if she had devil's horns. That was nothing compared to Benny's mum, who looked even madder still by about two hundred per cent even though she was hugging Benny and crying and telling him that she loved him.

I knew we were in serious trouble, but I was more worried about Blindfold.

‘Has anyone seen Blindfold?' I asked, scanning the crowd for him. ‘Is he here? He was with –'

‘William John Stoked!' said Jem, as if she was my mum instead of just my sister, and completely ignoring my question. ‘I can't believe you would do something as stupid as this! Well, I can but –'

‘Same goes for you, Benjamin Nigel Henberry!' said Benny's dad, who didn't look quite as furious as his mum.

Why do people always use your full name when you get in serious trouble? Is that why middle names were invented in the first place? No one ever uses them unless they're telling you off.

‘Do you know how worried we've all been? You could have been kidnapped or anything. And what's this about me being afraid of heights?' said Mrs Henberry, sounding put out. She glanced at Sue, who was looking at me as if she was really disappointed. ‘I used to be a rock climber! I climbed to Mount Everest Base Camp, didn't I, Paul?'

Benny's dad confirmed that Benny's mum had been a rock climber. Wow! I couldn't imagine Benny's mum climbing anything.

‘The boys were caught breaking into Chesterley's Family Circus and vandalising his property,' said the policeman in a very serious policeman tone of voice. ‘We won't press charges due to the children's ages. Chesterley says the boys assaulted him but he will let it go.'

‘Benny, I'm very disappointed in you. I've brought you up to have principles and you do this! Assault for crying out loud,' said Benny's mum. ‘You could have been thrown out of the State championships for something like that! And you went all the way OverEast by yourselves?'

‘We weren't by ourselves, Mum. Blindfold was with us,' said Benny, telling the truth. ‘And now Blindfold is –'

‘Don't get smart with me, young man. You weren't with an adult! You are grounded for life,' said Benny's mum, hysterical now. ‘For life!'

Grounded for life? That was a bit harsh, and it wasn't even his fault. It was my fault.

‘Benny didn't even want to go!' I protested. ‘I made him by going
bawk
,
bawk
,
bawk
,' I fessed up to his mum and dad.

‘I told you Stunt Boy was a bad influence on Benny, Paul!' said Mrs Henberry. ‘He's wild! He does as he pleases.'

Gosh, that was hardly true! I was bossed around like crazy by everyone at Stoked and my sister was a human equivalent of a backpack that's on my back twenty-four hours a day! I was just lucky we didn't have grounding in my family.

‘You're grounded too, Stunt!' said Ginger Styles, stepping forward and clamping my shoulder in a vicelike grip.

Since when did Ginger Styles have the authority to ground me?

‘But how can you ground me?' I said, looking up at her in confusion. ‘We aren't even related.'

‘Your uncles have made me your legal guardian whilst your dad isn't well. They wanted you and Jem to go and stay with them, but I convinced them to let you stay here, so you could still visit your dad. But after this incident they might just change their minds.'

What did my two uncles have to do with it anyway? They hadn't even been to visit my dad after his accident. Although they did send a bowl of fruit, which was pretty stupid as my dad was in a coma and couldn't eat!

‘Jem?' I said, looking at my sister. ‘What's going on?'

‘It's true,' she said, looking miffed that her reign as my boss was officially over. ‘Uncle Kevin and Uncle Ken have got their lawyers on the case. They say they're going to sort out Stoked and that includes us. Plus they've promoted Ginger from front of house manager to general manager. She's in charge of everything at Stoked now.'

‘No way!' I said, incredulous.

‘Yes way, young man,' said Ginger Styles, ‘and I won't be surprised if your uncles change their minds if they find out that you were missing in action on my first day in charge. As if Stoked needed any more bad publicity, but boy, do we have it now – a runaway Stunt Boy!' Ginger was on a roll now. ‘So what do you have to say about your disappearing act?'

I was so shocked that Ginger Styles was the boss of me that it all came out without any stops for breath. ‘We just went to see what Chesterley was up to because I think he rigged my dad's bike to crash so he could steal our people, then we saw him hit his baby elephant and I think he killed Blind–' I said, my voice going all crackly and high, so I couldn't croak out the ‘fold'.

‘It's what they do with young elephants when they're training them. It's to make them submissive,' answered Ginger Styles, actually sticking up for Barry Chesterley and ignoring the fact that Blindfold could be dead! ‘It really doesn't hurt them. I worked in animal circuses for years before I started working in human circuses for your dad.'

‘Yeah, right. Would it hurt you if you got hit on the ears by a heavy silver hook?' I said to Ginger Styles.

‘And Barry Chesterley put his hook right on my throat!' said Benny pointing to his neck, where there was a small graze from the hook.

But the adults were more interested in getting us in trouble than listening to what we had to say. They all started talking at once, telling us off.

‘Has anyone seen Blindfold? He could have been shot dead!' I shouted above the din trying to get my point across.

‘What do you mean, Blindfold could be shot dead?' said Jem, her hand going to her mouth in horror.

‘They put Stunt and me in a cage and Chesterley said if Blindfold gave them any trouble to shoot him then we heard a gunshot and a dog howling,' said Benny.

Then, in the distance, carried in on the night-time breeze, came the sound of a dog barking. I'd have recognised that bark anywhere.

‘Blindfold!' I yelled as I ran towards the front gate, the spotlights at the entrance picking up the tan colour of Blindfold's fur as he came limping in, his front left paw curled in pain.

‘Blindfold! You're alive!' I cried out as I ran to him and he fell down exhausted in front of me. His heart was beating so hard, I thought it was going to burst through his ribcage.

He barked out three despondent little woofs, which in dog probably meant, ‘Only just, Stunt Boy,' but I don't speak dog so I could be wrong.

‘So much for Barry Chesterley shooting your dog, eh boy?' said the policeman, as if I had been telling everybody a pack of lies. I wanted to say,
My name is Stunt Boy, thank you very much
, but my dad had taught me that you should never be rude to a police officer because they can throw you in jail, so I just shut up and pulled Blindfold into my lap and hugged him extra tight.

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