A neighborhood watch for kids only, a missing cat that is running out of time, some really bad dudes with guns–what
could go wrong?
Middle schoolers, Finn, Colby, and Sarah Ann, want to do something this summer even more important than playing baseball. Starting a kids neighborhood watch sounds good because who doesn’t want to be a detective? Finding a missing cat that might be dead or trapped without food or water is tough enough, but real robbers are more than they bargained for.
When two scary men target the house across the street, can the kids distract them until the cops get there without getting caught? They have lots of ideas for luring the bad guys over roof tops and through the woods, but nothing goes as planned, and what should be easy for three quick thinking, agile, twelve-year-olds and one very pissed off cat quickly turns deadly.
Saturday was the first day of summer vacation. Finn Alexander was happy to be out of the fifth grade. He had two months and ten days in front of him with no homework.
He had big plans for the summer. His favorite books lately were detective novels. He thought it would be fun to try his hand at being a detective. The first item on his list was to start a Neighborhood Kids Watch. He knew his friends would be outside riding bikes, roller blading, and mowing lawns this summer. They could easily watch for strange cars or people. He had started keeping a small notebook and pen in his back pocket. Wherever he was, he would be able to make notes about anything strange he noticed.
Part of the Neighborhood Kids Watch would be to keep tabs of houses when the owners were on vacation. He needed to let the neighbors know that house watching would be going on. He would have to find out the dates that folks would be out of town. Plus, maybe they would like their lawn mowed while they were gone. That was a service he and Colby would be happy to provide.
Finn’s problem this morning was asking Mr. Barkley, who lived across the cul-de-sac, about mowing and the specific dates of his trip. His father had told him the Barkleys were leaving today, so it had to be now. Finn pushed his blonde hair out of his eyes as he tried to work up his nerve.
Finn was stalling because Mr. Barkley didn’t seem to like him much. He thought that might have something to do with the tree episode last summer. Finn and Colby, Finn’s best friend and next-door neighbor, had climbed the tallest pine tree in Mr. Barkley’s yard. It was perfect for climbing, much better than the trees in their yards. Thick limbs grew close to the ground so it was easy to get started.
They had climbed high enough to look down on the shingles on Mr. Barkley’s roof! When they climbed higher, the branches grew smaller and sort of bouncy. If you jumped on one, it would toss you up a little. Unfortunately, those smaller branches weren’t very strong. When he and Colby both jumped on the same one at the same time, it broke.
They had fallen breaking off other branches on their way down. Pine needles had slapped their faces and scratched their arms and legs. Fortunately the tree was dense with branches that slowed their fall. They weren’t really hurt, except Colby broke his arm and couldn’t play baseball for the rest of the summer.
Mr. Barkley had been more upset over the broken branches than whether Finn or Colby had been hurt. Finn’s mom had pointed out that they had been climbing Mr. Barkley’s tree in Mr. Barkley’s yard, and that they should probably confine their climbing to trees in their own yards.
Anyway, Finn hoped Mr. Barkley must have gotten over the tree by now. Finn could see the tree from his window, and it looked like all the broken branches had grown back. Finn took a deep breath and thought, I’d better get over there before he drives off. The worst that can happen is that he says he doesn’t want his house watched or his lawn mowed. But, I’m pretty sure I can talk him into the mowing. He mows twice a week, so he probably thinks it will turn into a jungle if it goes a whole week without mowing.
After giving himself that little pep talk, Finn stepped out of his door onto his front step. He was startled when Stripes, Colby’s huge brown and black tabby cat, exploded out of Colby’s front door. He streaked across the lawn intent on the birds in Mr. Barkley’s yard. Finn knew that was going to be a problem.
Mr. Barkley loved birds. Finn thought there must be a bird feeder hanging from every single tree in his yard. There were always birds pecking away at the seeds in the feeders. Stripes liked to stalk birds, and often caught them. So, it was no surprise that Mr. Barkley didn’t like Stripes. Colby tried to keep Stripes inside, away from the birds, but Stripes was a genius at escaping. Anytime the front door was open, Stripes headed for it like a bolt of lightening.
Finn watched Colby charge after Stripes. Figured Colby could use some help, Finn sprinted after him. He was eager to do whatever he could to keep Stripes out of Mr. Barkley’s sight. He wanted Mr. Barkley in a good mood.