It was a sunny day at the James Sanderson Learning Center. Daniel, Laurie and Arthur sat on the swing set. “So, have you met that girl, Polly Peten?” Laurie asked Arthur and Daniel. “You mean the girl who never takes off her stilts?” Arthur asked.
“I don’t even get it,” said Laurie. “Every time I see her, she’s walking on stilts. I heard she insists on saying every word in her sentences twice in a row.”
“Why?” asked Arthur.
“I don’t know,” said Laurie.
“Well, maybe it’s just her thing,” said Daniel. “Everybody has their thing.”
“Hey, check it out,” said Arthur.
Just then, the two wealthiest kids in the school walked by them. The tall one wore a white and gold buttoned-down shirt and expensive-looking sunglasses. His hair was combed back neatly. He had a look on his face that said, “I am rich, and you know it.” The boy next to him, his younger brother, had long black hair and wore a purple striped t-shirt and shiny sneakers. He had a fancy watch on his left wrist and carried a backpack stuffed to the brim.
“It’s the Firestall brothers,” said Arthur.
“So,” said Daniel. “What about them?”
“Well, it’s just that they’re so rich,” Arthur said. “I’d do anything to be that rich.”
“Not if you were the Firestall brothers,” said Laurie. “Their dad was a ruthless businessman who sold weapons of mass destruction to the highest bidder. Eventually, he made a financial decision that cost him millions of dollars, tarnishing his reputation. He fled to an island to escape the shame, but the island he picked was once used for testing the deadly weapons he sold. And the natives of the island were not happy when they found out he was living on the island that he helped destroy. Some say they burned him at the stake. No one has heard from him in years.”
“Burned at the stake? No way,” said Arthur.
“It’s just what I heard,” said Laurie.
“That must bite for them,” said Daniel. “To have a dad just disappear like that.”
“It can’t be that bad,” said Arthur. “They now have their mitts on all his money.”
“It’s not just about money,” said Daniel.
Daniel, Laurie and Arthur looked at the Firestall brothers, who had stopped near the edge of the playground, just a few feet away from them. The eldest brother, Larry, looked at his brother, Tim, and said, “I am thirsty. Get me a water bottle.”
“Yes, brother. I have one in my bag,” said Tim. He pulled a large water bottle out and gave it to Larry.
“By the way, did you do my homework?” Larry asked.
“Yes, brother. It’s in my bag. I wrote the answers as close to your handwriting as possible.”
“Very good, Tim. Just make sure you turn in that homework before Monday. Got that, Tim?”
“Yes, brother,” said Tim.
Daniel, Arthur and Laurie looked at the brothers with confusion. “Wow, Larry sure does boss Tim around,” said Arthur.
“You’re telling me,” said Laurie.
“It’s not right,” said Daniel. “A brother shouldn’t treat his younger sibling like that.”
“Don’t worry about it, Daniel,” said Laurie. “Rich people are weird like that.”
“I don’t know,” said Daniel. “It just seems wrong.”
The three of them continued to watch Larry order his brother around. “Give me a towel,” said Larry. Tim took the towel out of his backpack and handed it to him. Larry wiped his sweaty forehead with it and gave it back to him. “Throw that out, Tim.”
Daniel felt concerned about what he had just witnessed.
Later that week, Daniel, Laurie and Arthur sat at a cafeteria table, eating lunch. “Have you finished the homework for Miss Winkle’s class?” asked Arthur.
“Yeah, I am almost done,” said Daniel.
“I like Miss Winkle,” said Laurie. “She’s a very understanding teacher.”
Just then, Kyle, the school bully, and his two friends, the Boneybrox twins (bickering about something as usual), approached their table. Kyle wore a blue t-shirt and a baseball cap. The twins wore what they usually wore—baggy and raggedy clothes. Each of them wore one sneaker with a toe sticking out. They followed Kyle, slapping each other on the shoulders.
“Hello, Kyle,” Daniel said, trying to be polite.
“Hey, dweeb,” said Kyle, standing over him with his arms crossed. The Boneybrox brothers stood behind Kyle. “You need your diapers changed, Danny boy?”
“No, do you?” Arthur chimed in.
“Get bent, freak,” said Kyle.
One of the Boneybrox brothers chimed in. “Yeah, you’re a freak.”
Just then, the Firestall brothers entered the cafeteria and sat down at their personal table.
“Tim,” said Larry Firestall. “Fetch me a napkin.”
“Yes, brother,” said Tim. He got up and ran to the table where the silverware and napkins were. He returned with a napkin.
“Excellent,” said Larry. “Now fetch me utensils.”
Tim ran back and returned with utensils.
Kyle became distracted by the Firestalls. His mouth hung open, not from shock but from a strange mixture of awe and excitement.
“Did you actually want something?” asked Laurie.
“Shove it,” said Kyle. He and the Boneybrox twins turned around and walked to the Firestall brothers’ table.
“What’s he doing now?” asked Daniel.
“I don’t know,” said Laurie. “But if he plans on picking on the Firestall brothers, he’s in for a big lawsuit. Not even the president can touch a hair on their heads without a lawsuit.”
The Firestall brothers noticed Kyle and the Boneybrox brothers heading toward their table.
“Tim, defend,” said Larry.
Tim jumped out in front of Larry and held out his fists.
“I suggest you don’t take another step closer. My brother is trained in Taekwondo and several other major martial arts.”
Kyle raised his hands. “Woohoo, easy,” he said. “I just wanted to see what your brother was doing.”
“Tim, stand down,” said Larry.
Larry then gave Kyle an awkward side look “I’m afraid I do not know what you’re talking about , my brother was not doing anything.”
“Yeah, he was. He did it just now,” said Kyle.
“Did what?” asked Larry.
“He did exactly what you said when you said it with no questions asked.”
“Oh, that,” said Larry. That’s just something Tim does. He finds a need to please me whenever he gets a chance.”
“Really?” said Kyle, smirking. “Does he do everything you say?”
“I don’t know,” Larry said as he scratched his chin. Then he looked at his little brother. “Tim? Would you do whatever I said if I asked you to?”
Tim nodded and said, “Yes, brother.”
Kyle smiled. “I don’t believe it. Why don’t you prove it to me, Larry? Ask him to punch himself without slowing down.”
“Very well,” said Larry. “Tim, go ahead and punch yourself.”
“Yes, brother,” said Tim. Then he reached into his bag, pulled out a boxing glove, and punched his face.
Kyle and Boneybrox brothers burst out laughing. “Say, Tim,” said Kyle. “Did that hurt any?”
Tim looked confused. He then slipped off the boxing glove and put it back into his bag. He pulled out a pair of old-fashioned brass knuckles. He asked Larry, “Do you want it to hurt?”
“Of course not, Tim,” said Larry. “I was just proving a point to Kyle.”
Kyle and the Boneybrox brothers walked away, laughing. “Did you see his dumb face when he pulled out the brass knuckles?” said Pete Boneybrox.
“Yeah, what a pathetic runt,” said Mitch Boneybrox.
As they walked out of the cafeteria and down the hallway, Kyle turned to the Boneybrox brothers and said: “Listen, I think that pathetic runt is just what we need.”
Later the next day, Daniel stood under the old oak tree with the broken branch in the schoolyard. He had just finished his classes for the day and was waiting for Laurie and Arthur to show up. That’s when Daniel, once again, spotted the Firestall brothers. They were sitting at a picnic table, examining what looked like some important papers.
“Tim,” said Larry. “I am out of soda. Get me another one.”
Tim rushed off to the soda machine.
Daniel, knowing he shouldn’t get involved, walked over to the picnic table anyway.
There he got a better look at what Larry was doing. He had laid out a blueprint for a building Daniel couldn’t quite recognize, and several other important papers were scattered across the table. Larry didn’t notice Daniel had approached.
“Hello, Larry,” said Daniel.
Larry nearly jumped out of his seat and immediately started rolling up the blueprint.
“I am sorry. Did I interrupt something?” asked Daniel.
“You could say that,” Larry said.
“I know we haven’t properly met, but my name is Daniel Smith.”
“Yes,” said Larry. “The boy who almost beat me in the lake race. It was a close race. Is there something I can help you with?”
“Actually, yes,” said Daniel. “It’s about your brother, Tim.”
“What about my brother?” said Larry.
“I just noticed…” Daniel felt a little nervous. “I just…”
“Well, spit it out,” Larry said. “I am a very busy person.”
“The way you’re treating your brother is a little mean,” Daniel spat out.
Larry was taken aback for a second, then he laughed.
“Well, Daniel, despite that being none of your business, I can assure you that me and my brother are very close in heart and mind.”
“I was just a little concerned. I see you bossing him around so much,” said Daniel.
“I hear what you’re saying, and I understand what you’re talking about, but my brother loves doing things for me. I can’t stop him. You can try, though. It’s just something he does.”
“Don’t you see even a slight problem with it?” Daniel asked.
“I guess it could be a little unhealthy, but I don’t see any major problems with it,” Larry said.
Tim returned from the machine with a can of lemon soda.
“Ah, Tim, you’re back,” Larry said. “Did you get my favorite kind?”
“Yes, brother, Lemon soda, just what you wanted.”
“Can’t you open it yourself,” said Daniel. “What is he? Your slave?”
Larry was taken aback. “Well, Daniel, if you’re so concerned about my brother’s well-being, why don’t you ask him about his happiness yourself?”
“Okay, I will,” said Daniel. “Tim? Don’t you have a problem with your brother bossing you around?”
Tim hesitated before he spoke. “That depends,” he said. “Does Larry want me to have a problem with it?”
Daniel was disturbed by Tim’s response.
“Well,” said Larry. “It seems like he has no problem with it.”
“That’s not at all what he said,” said Daniel.
“Listen here, Daniel. Tim and I were working on something before you got here, and I would like to get back to it. But if it will put your mind at ease, watch this: Tim, am I a good brother to you?”
Daniel could see there was no arguing with crazy. He walked away, even though he knew he wasn’t done with them.
Later that week, nurse Reneck was patching up Jeremy Guestburg, who had bruises all over his body from tripping and falling on the running track. “Don’t worry, Jeremy,” said Nurse Reneck. “Don’t cry. I just have to put a little medicine on your scrapes.”
“But the medicine really hurts,” cried Jeremy.
“Don’t worry. It’ll be over in a second,” said Nurse Reneck.
Sitting in the waiting area of the infirmary was Pete Boneybrox. He looked up at the door to Nurse Reneck’s office, which usually remained closed and locked, especially when she was treating students. He watched Jeremy leave the nurse’s office with tears in his eyes and band-aids covering his shins and elbows. Pete grabbed the open door before it closed and leaned against it.
Nurse Reneck had her back to the door and was sorting through a filing cabinet.
“Hello, nurse,” said Pete.
“Who’s there?” she asked.
“Uh, it’s just me, Pete Boneybrox.”
“Well, Pete Boneybrox, is there a reason why you’re here? You should be in class right now. Do you have a note?”
“Uh, no,” said Pete. “I was on my way to class. But I started getting a cough.” He faked a cough. “I was just wondering if you could give me some cough syrup before I go to my next class.”
The nurse narrowed her eyes at his story but shrugged and said: “I have some cough syrup in the back. You just wait right here.”
As soon as she left the room, Pete darted to her filing cabinet and opened the drawer marked “F.” And just like Kyle told him to do, he found Tim’s medical file and took it. He returned to the door and leaned against it with the file behind his back.
Nurse Reneck returned to the room and said: “Here’s some of that cough syrup you requested.”
“Oh,” said Pete. “No need! I feel better now! Thanks!” He ran out with file in hand.
Later that same day, on the other side of the campus, Daniel was walking back from class when he saw Tim entering the mailroom. He was alone. Daniel seized the opportunity and followed Tim inside the mailroom. Tim was loading several packages onto a cart.
“Oh, hi, Tim,” said Daniel. “Those are a lot of packages. Are they all for you?”
Tim shook his head no. “They’re for Larry. He had me order them and pick them up for him.”
“Do you need any help?” asked Daniel.
“No, I am not sure that Larry would want that.”
“You sure do love your brother, don’t you?”
“Of course, I do. He’s the best brother ever.”
“Are you sure?”
“I am very sure. My brother would never do anything bad to me.”
“I hate to point this out,” said Daniel. “But I don’t think the way your brother treats you is normal. It’s not nice.”
Tim looked down at the ground and said, “Thank you for your concern, but my brother loves me.”
“But do you like being treated like a servant?” Daniel asked.
Tim paused. “Well, I have to. It’s for him.”
“It’s pretty concerning,” said Daniel. “You’re rich. Can’t your brother hire someone to do the things he makes you do?”
“He doesn’t make me do anything. I do it because I want to.”
“Why? Can you at least tell me why?”
Daniel and Tim stood by the door of the mailroom. There were piles of packages and envelopes casting shadows on the walls.
“No one has ever asked me that,” said Tim.
“Well, then, what’s the reason?”
Tim paused and took a deep breath.
“When we were younger, my brother and I lived in a mansion with my mother and father,” said Tim. “My brother and I didn’t get along. I found myself so lonely in the halls of that place. No one to talk to. No one to hang out with. My father was a monster. Throwing wild parties in the halls that only the adults could attend. And he would always get very drunk, drunk to the point where he would leave the party with his business friends and come back covered in ash or something else horrible. He would always have this deranged look in his eye. However, he was the worst when he was drunk. After the parties, he would beat Larry and me separately with his fist. Finally, one night, he went out of control and grabbed one of those fire pokers from the fireplace. He came at me, but for some reason, even though we didn’t get along, Larry took the blow. He has a terrible scar that runs down his cheek and neck that he covers up with heavy makeup. But he doesn’t like me to talk about it.”
Tim’s story touched Daniel. “I am sorry,” he said.
“Please don’t tell anyone I told you,” said Tim.
“I won’t,” said Daniel.
Daniel felt bad about what Tim had told him as he walked back to the dorm. To be beaten by your father. It must’ve been a nightmare, thought Daniel. It must’ve taken a lot of strength to tell me that story. Maybe I was prying too deep into the Firestall’s business, Daniel thought. Then, his mind turned to what Tim had told him about the scar on Larry’s cheek and neck. He had never noticed any makeup on it. He couldn’t stop thinking about how horrible it must’ve been.
Daniel wondered, however, if it excused him from the way he bossed Tim around. As he approached his dorm, he decided he would not concern himself with the Firestall brothers, at least for a while. Daniel didn’t know that later the next day, Kyle and the Boneybrox twins would have plans for the Firestall brothers that weren’t good.
In Kyle’s room, the Boneybrox brothers sat on the floor along with Kyle. In the middle of the room was the file he took from Nurse Reneck.
“So exactly what is the plan, Kyle?” asked Mitch.
“I’ll tell you what the plan is,” said Kyle. “Tim and his brother are probably the richest kids in the whole country. And they go to our school, which means we have access to them. And now we have access to this: Kyle lifted the file and shook it.
“But why do we want it?” asked Pete.
“Because Tim Firestall has the obedience of a military-trained dog,” said Kyle. “But he only listens to Larry. However, now that we have his medical file, we can use it to find a way to get him to listen to us. For instance,” he said as he opened the file and looked down at it with a smile. “Here. A list of fears and phobias. Just what we need. The three friends huddled around the file and read the list: worms, aglets, praying mantises (crippling fear).
“What’s an aglet?” Pete asked.
“It’s a thing connected to the top of your shoe-lace,” said Kyle.
“Oh, so that’s what it’s called,” said Mitch.
“It doesn’t matter,” said Kyle. “We’re not going to use aglets to scare him. But I think we can do something with praying mantises.”
The next day Tim was sitting in the schoolyard doing his homework. Kyle and the Boneybrox brothers approached him. They had their hands behind their backs. “Hey, Tim,” said Kyle.
“Hello, Kyle and company,” said Tim without looking up from his textbook.
“Is your brother around?” Kyle asked.
“He just left on a trip.” said Tim. “I have to do his homework and my homework.”
“That’s too bad,” said Kyle.
“Not if Larry wants it,” said Tim.
“We just wanted to let you know,” said Kyle, looking back at the Boneybrox brothers, “we heard the school gym might be infested with praying mantises.”
“Wait, infested?” said Tim, looking up from his textbook. His eyes widened and he started to shiver. “All the way infested?”
“Yes,” said Kyle. “The place is crawling with them.”
Tim put his hands over his mouth. “praying mantises?” he said. “No way. I don’t believe you.”
“Well, you better believe me,” said Kyle. The infestation is heading this way. In fact, I think I even see some praying mantises behind you.”
Tim turned around and scanned the ground. “I don’t see any praying mantises,” he said. Then, he turned back around to face Kyle, who held a jar of live praying mantises up to Tim’s face. Tim screeched with horror and fell backward.
Kyle laughed. “You’re right, Tim. They’re not infesting the gym. From now on, they’ll be infesting you! To think all I had to do was order a few jars full of these things from off the internet ”
“Get them away from me!” Tim screamed.
“No,” said Kyle. “Now that I know how terrified you are of praying mantises, it’s never going to stop unless you do a couple of favors for me,” he said. “Expensive favors,” he added.
“No!” Tim screamed. “I am not going to do any favors for the likes of you.” He picked up his things and stormed off.
“Well, now what, Kyle?” said Mitch.
“Simple,” said Kyle. “He’s forced our hand.”
The next morning inside his private dorm room, Tim awoke within his large expensive bed to a strange sensation under his covers. He threw off the covers and screamed. At least a dozen giant praying mantis were crawling up his legs. He sprinted out of the room, crying.”
That afternoon, after class, Tim sat alone in the cafeteria with a stone face. Kyle and the Boneybrox brothers approached his table. “So, Tim,” said Kyle. “Did you sleep well?”
Tim didn’t respond, but he looked distraught.
“Have you taken all that you can and can’t take anymore?” Kyle asked. “Because there is a way out unless you prefer sleeping with a Praying mantis in your bed. All I am asking for is a couple of donations. What say you?”
Tim looked grim. “Okay,” said Tim. “I’ll do it. Just keep the Praying mantises away from me.”
“Good,” said Kyle. “And you better not tell your brother about any of this.”
Tim followed Kyle everywhere for the next two weeks and paid for all his snacks at the vending machine. Then he even started giving Kyle and the Boneybrox brothers expensive gifts regularly: fancy watches, new clothes, and a new game console for each of them. Everyone at school noticed Tim hanging out with Kyle.
Daniel, Arthur, and Laurie were sitting on the grass near the tree with the broken branch in the schoolyard. Daniel noticed Tim giving a big wad of money to Kyle. They were standing at the other end of the schoolyard.
“I don’t get it,” said Daniel, who was sitting next to Arthur. “Since when does Tim Firestall just hand out money? And to Kyle of all people?!”
“And where is his brother?” Arthur asked.
“He’s usually in my art class,” said Laurie. “But the teacher said he had to fly to another country on a family business trip.”
“Do you think he knows about Tim giving money to Kyle?” asked Daniel.
“Maybe they’re just becoming friends,” said Arthur.
“I hope you’re right, Arthur,” said Daniel.
Later that day, Daniel and Arthur walked back to their dormitory. That’s when they saw Tim, Kyle, and the Boneybrox brothers. They were standing a little off the path, and Daniel and Arthur could overhear what they were saying. “Come on,” said Daniel. “I want to know what Kyle is saying.” So they walked to a tall bush a couple of yards away from the four of them and stood behind it.
“Remember,” said Kyle. “I want more money into my account by this weekend. And that includes the money for the Boneybrox brothers. And I want some separate money delivered to a separate account. Here’s the information.”
“I’ll try, but you’re asking for a lot of money,” said Tim.
“You have the money, don’t you?” said Kyle.
“Yeah, but my family will be suspicious, I mean they are usually very careful when handling their money and a thousand dollars doesn’t just randomly go missing” said Tim.
“Ok, do you want praying mantises in your shower next.?” said Kyle.
“No,…It’s just that my family will think I am stealing from them,” said Tim.
“That’s not my problem,” said Kyle.
Then he and the Boneybrox brothers walked away laughing.
“Later, CASH COW!” said Pete.
As soon as Kyle and the Boneybrox brothers were out of sight, Daniel and Arthur walked up to him.
“What was that about? asked Arthur.
Tim looked at them with tear-filled eyes but said nothing.
“What are on earth is Kyle doing to you?” asked Daniel.
Tim hesitated before responding, unsure whether he should respond.
He finally belted out: “KYLE HAS BEEN BLACKMAILING ME.”
“What? How?” said Arthur.
“He found out about a crippling fear that I have. It’s praying mantises,” said Tim. I know many people are scared and disgusted by praying mantises as well, but I am petrified of them. It’s a long story, but basically, I once got stuck under the floorboard of my mansion, and a praying mantis crawled right up my face. And now Kyle is using my fear to exhort money from me. I know I am rich beyond the stars. But all that money has to come from somewhere. And I have to steal from my family to give it to Kyle.”
“Question,” said Arthur. “Why don’t you just tell the teachers? Or heck, tell your family what’s going on. I mean, your whole family is richer than Midas, and I doubt Kyle and his friends could last a minute under a lawsuit from them.”
“I would, but I just can’t,” said Tim.
“Can’t what?” asked Daniel.
“If I told my brother that I let this happen, he’d think I am weak, just like my father did,” said Tim. “Larry means so much to me. I couldn’t let him down like this.”
“I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but you already did let him down,” said Arthur.
“Exactly why I can’t tell him,” said Tim. “I am already a burden on my brother. I can’t let him know about this.”
“But you gotta tell someone,” said Daniel. “Kyle can’t just keep pushing you around like this.”
“I am sorry, Daniel,” said Tim. “But I can’t tell him or the teachers about this.”
Daniel looked at Arthur as Tim walked away.
“If Tim doesn’t do something about Kyle, then we have to do something for him,” said Daniel.
Later the next day, Daniel, Arthur, and Laurie sat by the tree with the broken branch. Daniel and Arthur relayed the story of what happened.
“That creep, Kyle!” said Laurie. “If I knew how to fight, I’d whack him a good one.”
“I think we should be more focused on Tim,” said Daniel. “If Kyle has complete control over him through this Praying mantis thing, he’ll keep asking for more and more money.”
“Why don’t we just tell the teachers?” asked Arthur.
“Tim would hate us for that,” said Daniel.
“Isn’t it better that he hates us rather than having to keep paying off Kyle as if he’s indebted to him,” said Laurie.
“True,” said Daniel. “But I think I have a better idea.”
An hour later, Daniel, Arthur, and Laurie watched Tim from a distance. He was standing in the doorway of the school library, searching through his wallet.
“Ready?” said Daniel.
“Ready,” said Laurie.
“Wait. Maybe I should do it,” said Arthur.
“It’s fine,” said Laurie. “I can do it.”
She walked out from behind the corner and approached Tim. “Hey, Tim,” said Laurie.
“Hey,” said Tim, not looking up from his wallet.
“I lost my phone,” said Laurie. “Can I borrow yours? I need to call my mom.”
“Sure, I have three,” said Tim.
He took his cell phone out of his backpack and typed in a password. “Here you go,” he said, handing it to Laurie.
“Gee, thanks. I am going to go make my call over there,” she said, pointing to the corner where Arthur and Daniel were trying to look casual.
Tim went into the library. Laurie rushed over to Daniel and Arthur.
“Got it,” she said with a smile.
“Look up Larry’s phone number, and I’ll jot it down,” said Daniel, who had a pen and paper in hand.
She found it within seconds and read the number out loud to Daniel. After that, she returned to the library and handed the phone back to Tim.
That night, Daniel and Arthur sat on their beds in their room.
“You up for this, Daniel,” said Arthur.
“For Tim’s sake, yeah. I am up for it.”
“Good,” said Arthur. “Because once Larry finds out you stole his brother’s phone just so you could get his number while he’s on a business trip, you can kiss whatever life savings your parents might’ve had for you goodbye. At least, when his lawyers are done with you that is.”
“No,” said Daniel. “He’ll understand once he hears his brother is in trouble.”
Daniel pulled out his cell phone and dialed the number Laurie gave him. He put it on speaker. The phone rang, and after the third ring, someone picked up. It was Larry.
“Who is this?
“It’s me. Daniel Smith from school.”
“How did you get this number?”
“I got a hold of it because your brother needs your help.”
“What, what’s wrong with my brother?”
“You know that jerk from school, Kyle? He’s been blackmailing your brother.”
“Wait. What exactly is he being blackmailed about?”
“Apparently, your brother has a fear of praying mantises, and Kyle found out about it and has been threatening to put them in his room.”
“How would anyone know about his fear of praying mantises? It would only be listed in his personal files.”
There was a pause. The phone felt warm in Daniel’s hands. He looked at Arthur, who sat across from him on the bed, shrugging. Neither one of them could tell if this conversation was going well or not.
“I don’t know how Kyle would’ve found out about it,” said Daniel. “But your brother has been too scared of upsetting you to ask for your help. Listen, Larry, your brother looks up to you. I think it’s time you step up and start being his brother.”
Daniel and Arthur could hear Larry making a grumbling sound. It was late, and the moonlight shined through their window.
“Indeed,” said Larry. “Thank you for informing me about this.”
“What are you going to do about it?” asked Daniel.
But Larry had already hung up.
The next day, Daniel and Arthur woke up from their beds particularly early and walked to the cafeteria for breakfast. On the way there, they noticed a large group of kids pointing up at the sky. Laurie was among them. They ran over to her. “There you guys are,” said Laurie. “I thought you’d never wake up.”
“We’re up, and it’s earlier than usual,” said Arthur, annoyed.
“What’s going on? What’s wrong?” asked Daniel.
“That’s what’s wrong,” said Laurie, pointing up to the sky. A giant blimp was hovering just above the main school building.
“Why is there a blimp over the school?” Arthur asked.
“No one knows,” said Laurie, “and it’s not supposed to be there.”
“How do you know it’s not supposed to be there?” Daniel asked.
“You don’t need a Harvard education to know that a blimp that size shouldn’t be landing so close to the school ground.”
Just then, someone in the crowd pointed up to the blimp and yelled: “Someone is jumping out of the blimp!”
And sure enough, someone was jumping out of the blimp, but to everyones amazement they didn’t fall. Instead, the person who was wearing what could only be described as some sort of rocket powered jetpack. soared forward through the sky. Before safely landing himself down onto the ground.
It quickly became clear that the person who had landed was Larry Firestall.
“What an entrance,” said Laurie.
“Thank you,” said Larry. “But I have only one question. Where is Kyle Penesco?”
“I don’t know, but I am sure he’s here somewhere.” Daniel answered
One kid who was nearby said: “If you’re looking for Kyle, he is in the dining hall.”
Larry marched over to the hall with great speed. Daniel, Laurie, Arthur, and the rest of the kids followed. When they got there, Larry saw Kyle and the Boneybrox brothers sitting at a table with Tim, plucking grapes from a platter and feeding them to Kyle.
“Slow down, you don’t want me to choke, do you, Timmy?” said Kyle. “After all, you don’t want to get covered in praying mantises.
Suddenly, Larry yelled across the room: “You think being covered in praying mantises is bad? How about being covered in blood?”
Kyle spat out the chewed-up grape in his mouth. “Oh, hi, Larry,” he said. “I didn’t know you were back.”
“Brother, it’s not what it looks like,” said Tim.
Larry walked over to their table. “Before I begin, Tim, I want you to know that you don’t have to hide anything from me. I am your brother, and I’ll never be angry at you for needing my help. I love you, and all the money in the world couldn’t change that.” Then he turned to Kyle. “You must be even more stupid than I thought. That you think you could get away with this unscathed. I think it’s time that I teach you a lesson.”
“But I am too rich to do it myself. So, instead, I am going to have my BFFs do it for me.” He took out his cell phone, pressed one button and said: “Yeah, in here, now.”
Kyle smirked. “Like I am scared of a bunch of your friends,” he said.
“You don’t understand,” said Larry, putting his phone back in his pocket. BFF doesn’t stand for “Best Friends Forever.” It stands for “BIG FIGHTING FREAKS.”
Two huge men, wearing sunglasses and black suits, burst into the room.
“This is the one, boys,” said Larry, pointing to Kyle.
They face Kyle, cracking their knuckles.
Kyle screamed with terror and tried to make a dart for the door, but one of Larry’s BFF’s with blond slicked back hair, grabbed him by the collar and hoisted him high off the ground. Kyle squealed.
The other BFF, standing nearby, with a long black beard, approached Kyle, without unclenching his teeth he said: “Now tell me how do little chickens like you go? Kyle repeated frantically: “Bowk, bowk, bowk.”
“Very good,” said the BFF, dropping him to the ground.
“That’ll be all, boys,” said Larry. Both BFFs walked out of the cafeteria.
Larry walked to Kyle who was still on the ground, shaking. “I think we’ve all learned a valuable lesson today. Haven’t we Kyle? Bullying is not very nice. Taking advantage of people is not very nice. Blackmailing people is not very nice. I don’t want to catch you doing that to my brother or anyone else. Got it?” He leaned in close, “You may know my brother’s fear, but I know yours.”
Kyle looked petrified.
Larry walked back to the table where Tim sat. He looked at Daniel who was standing nearby, awestruck at what just happened and said: “Thank you,” He turned to his brother, “Come on, Tim. Let’s go.”
“Yes, brother,” said Tim.