The Haunting of Wildwood Farm
© 2021 Mark D. Gallant. All rights reserved.
Chapter Seven: Drew's Plan
Drew spent most of the next week holed up in the basement of his house in his father's old workshop, a private backroom with a slew of tools and wood crafting equipment. The workshop was Drew's happy place where he could find quiet seclusion to focus on his many projects. His father had established quite the set-up here, and Drew assumed responsibility for maintaining it after his father left.
There were all sorts of hand tools and power tools neatly organized in small bins along the under-shelf of a long workbench against the wall. There was a moveable work stand in the middle of the room, a drafting table where Drew made his designs, and a rollaway table saw tucked away in the corner of the shop.
Along the opposite wall, Drew's father had built a bleacher shelf to house the many succulent plants he collected. The variety of cacti brought an earthy vibe to the room, balancing the cold, gray metal of productivity. Drew made sure the succulents were fed as needed, even adding to the collection and putting his own money toward the upkeep of nature.
Each afternoon when school let out, Drew hurried home and toiled away at the drafting table, trying to design a foolproof plan for getting in and out of Kent Cottage without being detected by ignorant adults who could not comprehend his vision for freeing an ancient treasure from the clutches of its current hiding spot. He swung the spring-loaded, adjustable arm-lamp over his eight-and-a-half-by-eleven sheet of white paper and went to town, scribbling notes here, schematics there, and escape routes in every direction except near Mr. Heard's office in the barn.
When he made a mistake, he threw the paper away and started over. If he felt the plan was faulty, he'd do the same. If he thought Mr. Heard might sniff it out, he put a big X through it and said sayonara. And when he looked down at the office-sized trash bin on the floor next to the drafting table, he saw that it was overflowing with crumpled pieces of paper. Then he dropped his head in his hands and racked his brains for a better idea.
By Wednesday night he had grown frustrated, but on Thursday afternoon he seemed pleased with his most recent attempt. This left him enough time to finalize the supply list, so he scoured the workshop for items they would need.
"First thing we'll need are flashlights," he thought to himself. "It'll be dark, and we need to see in the dark." He found his trusty flashlight on the workbench. A gift from his grandfather, it was smaller than a standard flashlight, but really powerful. It had two settings, one for semi-bright, which would come in handy on a covert mission such as this, and another setting for super-bright. It took three triple-A batteries as opposed to C or D batteries. The triple-A's were small and lightweight and very convenient, where the D's were heavy and cumbersome and a real pain.
He put a check mark next to the word 'flashlight' on his supply list, and moved on to the next item. And then the next item. And then the next. And although he would be providing most of the items on the list, he made three additional copies to distribute to the rest of the Wildwood Gang tomorrow at school.
Drew carefully looked over his plans and supply list. He was pleased with his work, and let slip a faint smile, most likely unaware that his diligence in planning would've made the legendary John 'Hannibal' Smith proud. And if you don't know who that is, don't worry, you're not alone. Just know that good ol' Hannibal Smith loved it when a plan came together. And if Hannibal approved, how could this not work?
The Wildwood Gang would know soon enough, for Friday had arrived, and our heroes had gathered for lunch in the school cafeteria. Well, three out of the four had anyway. Jeff and Ethan sat next to each other at one of the fifth grade lunch tables, chatting about the cliffhanger in their favorite comic book. A few moments later, Sofie and Ben emerged from the kitchen and walked over to join them. Despite bringing a bagged lunch from home, Ben felt the need to accompany Sofie through the lunch line, and, in true gentlemanly fashion, carry her tray to their table.
Now I have to say, the quality of the lunch served at the Dixon Elementary School was top notch. It was light years ahead of the stuff they served when yours truly was in elementary school. In those days, most of that stuff was barely edible. Friday was pizza day, and that was fine, but the spaghetti was not. The tomato sauce, and I use this term loosely, had a texture (and taste) that resembled school paste; and the hamburgers, most likely made from some non-beef product sitting at room temperature for a week-and-a-half, were vomit inducing.
But not at the Dixon School. The food here was tasty and healthy and fresh. And I'm sure it might've had something to do with the fact that the cafeteria manager was a local mom, classically trained in the culinary arts, who absolutely refused to serve these kids slop in a trough.
Sofie's oven-baked chicken tenders (with a side of steamed carrots, corn bread and fruit cup) found its way to the table compliments of Ben, and greetings were exchanged when they sat down opposite Jeff and Ethan. Sofie had barely taken a bite of her first tender when she grilled Jeff and Ethan on the progress of their costumes for the Halloween Festival.
"It's coming along," Jeff said in regards to his Scarecrow costume. "Cody gave me a burlap sack and Grandma's gonna help me stitch it into a mask. It's gonna look really cool."
Ethan didn't share Jeff's enthusiasm. The stress of designing his own costume was overwhelming, especially an iconic character like the Cowardly Lion. "I could use some help," he said.
"What have you done so far?" Sofie asked.
Ethan looked down at the table. "Nothing."
"That's okay," Sofie said, offering some encouragement. "My Dad has a pair of tan coveralls that might fit you. I'm sure you can borrow them. It'd be perfect for the Lion, and we can get some brown fur from the fabric store and make wrist and ankle cuffs."
Ethan's spirits perked up. "Oh, that's great, Sofie. Thanks!"
"You guys will look really good," Ben said, looking at Sofie. "And you'll be the most beautiful Dorothy ever."
Sofie blushed and turned away. No boy had ever called her beautiful before, and the compliment was a little more than she could bear. Fortunately, Drew arrived at the table in the nick of time, extinguishing any awkward emotions.
"Where've you been?" Jeff asked, curious as to why his friend was so late to his favorite part of the school day.
"Finalizing things," Drew replied as he sat down next to Sofie and removed some papers from his backpack. He looked over at Ben and frowned. "Is this going to be an everyday thing now?"
"Is what going to be an everyday thing?" Sofie asked.
Drew nodded in Ben's direction. "Him."
Sofie looked at Ben, then turned back to Drew and scowled at him. "It's a free country. He can sit where he wants."
"We have Wildwood business to discuss," Drew said, "and he can't be here."
"Who made you king?" Sofie huffed.
"It's okay," Ben said. "I can move to another table."
"No," Sofie said, adamant that Ben stay put. "Drew will just have to deal with it."
"Whatever," Drew muttered. He took the papers in his hand and passed one to each member of the team. Jeff, Ethan, and Sofie looked them over.
"What's this?" Ethan asked.
"A supply list," Drew replied, not wanting to reveal too much to Ben. "For the thing we discussed."
"Oh, are you guys going on another Wildwood adventure?" Ben said, a touch of excitement in his voice.
"None of your business," Drew growled.
Sofie's face turned beat red, but this time it wasn't from blushing. "Drew, why do you have to be so mean?"
"Look, Sofie, it's no big deal," Ben said. "I'll catch up with you later." Then he stood up and grabbed his lunch and retreated to one of the other lunch tables. Sofie watched him leave, the membranes protecting her irises tainted with heartache. She turned back to Drew, the heartache turning to anger.
"How dare you!" she said.
Drew let her words roll right off his back. "I don't care what anyone says. I have a bad feeling about that guy."
Sofie didn't even bother with a response. She just shook her head and stared down at the sheet of paper in front of her. The four of them sat in silence for a few moments, and then Drew spoke up.
"I have most of this stuff," he said, "but you three will have to bring some things too. Like flashlights. And extra batteries."
"What's the hammer for?" Ethan asked, perusing the list.
"For prying boards off the window," Drew answered. "We have to get in somehow."
"And the rope?" Ethan said.
"You never know when you're gonna need a rope," Drew said. "Always good to have one."
"Swiss Army knife, sure," Jeff said. "But the pliers?"
"Just in case," Drew replied. "They come in handy sometimes."
"What the heck's a stud finder?" Ethan asked.
"It's used to find studs in a wall," Drew said. "Like two-by-fours. And I figured if the treasure is hidden in a wall, this might help us find it."
"You know how to use one of those?" Jeff said.
Drew nodded. "Yeah. I have one in the workshop. Same with the drywall knife. Next on the list."
"What are we gonna do with that?" Ethan said.
"Cut through drywall, what do you think?" Drew said sarcastically.
"The house is pretty old, Drew," Sofie snarled. "Who knows what the walls are made of?"
"It'll cut through most materials," Drew said. "Don't worry about it."
"My Dad has some infer-red goggles we could use," Ethan said. "You know, the kind that can see in the dark."
"I think you mean infrared," Sofie corrected him.
"Yeah, that's what I said," Ethan replied. Sofie snickered and looked away.
"Yeah, whatever," Drew said. "Bring 'em if you like. Can't hurt."
Jeff scanned the paper and saw they had come to the end of the list. "Anything else we need to bring?" he asked.
"Everyone needs to bring a backpack," Drew said. "For the gold. We need to carry out all we can."
"Maybe we should just bring a wheel barrel," Ethan suggested.
"No. We use backpacks," Drew said. "We can distribute the weight better, and get out of there faster."
Ethan nodded in agreement, and nothing more was said. Drew looked at each one of his teammates. Jeff and Ethan seemed content with the plan. It was harder to read Sofie because she was still upset over the Ben incident, but her silence told Drew she had no objections.
Drew fought to suppress a grin, excited that later that evening, they would put his plan into action. "Any other questions?" he asked, merely as a formality.
"Yeah," Jeff said. "How's your costume coming?"
"I'm working on it," Drew replied with little interest in the topic. Then he tucked his papers in his backpack and left. He chatted briefly with the faculty lunchroom monitor, and seconds later she let him exit the cafeteria.
"Can you believe him?" Sofie said, her agitation refusing to subside.
"I know," Ethan said. "I can't believe he's skipping lunch." Then he picked up half of his sandwich and devoured it.
© Copyright 2021 Mark D. Gallant. All rights reserved.