Axel came out from the back room. “Timmy, don’t be rude!”
“He is not being rrrude,” said Mr. Richter. “He is rrrecognizing my abilities.”
“But you didn’t!” said Axel. “You said they were rubes. You said you wanted to shake them up. But I thought you meant your great scientific achievements, like that transporter machine.”
“You would deny me my crredit? My glorrrry?” Mr. Richter sounded amused, rather than angry. “The worrrld ignorrres my scientific worrrks. Calls them magic trrricks. Eccentrrricities. I will make them cowerrr.”
Beatrice took this opportunity to lead the way to the laboratory. Timmy followed. Mr. Richter continued to brag to Axel. Axel kept trying to take the light tube from Beatrice, but she was too fast for him.
Suddenly, Beatrice stopped. “Is this the vibrating table?”
“Yes,” said Axel. “Would you like to try it?” He reached out for the light bulb.
“No, she wouldn’t,” said Timmy.
Beatrice handed Axel the tube. Then she climbed onto the vibrating table, and Axel flipped the switch. “Oooh, this is fun!” She danced on the table. She giggled.
“Stop that giggling at once!” shouted Mr. Richter.
Beatrice just giggled louder and faster. Timmy reached toward the wall switch. Axel shoved his arm away and pushed him into the laboratory.
The intense lights from the invisible source made everything in the white and silver laboratory appear sharp and dangerous. Timmy quickly spotted Hildegarde’s white sides and sleek brown stripe deep inside Communicator.
At the top of the Communicator, near the ceiling, out of Timmy’s reach, a hammer tapped on the central pole that supported the house. Evenly spaced gentle taps. Timmy had no idea how long it had been tapping, but he knew that these seemingly gentle taps had no gentle purpose. He looked around for a ladder. There was none.
He saw the colored buttons arranged just like the ones in Hildegarde’s training station, with the white toggle switch to the far right. He had no idea what each button did. His arms were too short to reach inside and press them. But Hildy could do it. Just like Grandma had said. Hildy could press buttons that he couldn’t reach.
“Hildy, press the green button.”
“What arrre you doo-ing?” shouted Beatrice from the vibrating table. “You might set the ma-chine off.” Timmy heard a loud thump and turned around. Beatrice had jumped off the table.
“Komm hierher, Hildy,” said Beatrice. Hildegarde ignored her. She was leaning with all her might on the green button. Timmy heard a faint click. Hildegarde had pressed the button. But the hammer continued to tap.
“You don’t know what you’re doing!” shouted Beatrice. “Don’t set the thing off. It could cause an earthquake.”
Hildegarde knew she had succeeded. She squeaked, hoping for a treat.
Beatrice began rummaging in her purse.
“It’s already been set off,” said Timmy. “See that hammer tapping on the central pole?”
Hildegarde looked at Timmy and squeaked again.
“You’ll get a treat when we’re done,” said Timmy. “Press the blue button.” Hildegarde obediently walked over to the blue button and leaned on it. Nothing happened. She climbed on top of it. After a moment, it, too, made a gentle click. The hammer continued to tap the pole.
Hildegarde squeaked louder and looked at Timmy demanding a treat.
“Press the white switch,” said Timmy. Hildegarde continued to stare at him, demanding a treat.
A bar inside the Communicator moved towards Hildegarde.
“Komm hierher,” said Timmy. Hildegarde ignored him and continued to demand a treat. Timmy could see that the bar was swinging on top of her. It could kill her. He stuck his leg into the machine. The bar came down in what looked like slow motion. It hit his leg and bounced slightly, then came down again, crushing his ankle. The bar formed a triangle over Hildegarde, sloping over her back.
He saw Hildegarde’s ribcage compress and heard the clang of the falling bar as it hit against the bottom strut of the Communicator. Hildegarde didn’t move. Was she dead? Had the falling bar crushed her spine? And with her, all their hopes for turning off the Communicator, and preventing the earthquake?
Timmy saw Hildegarde’s ribcage expand slightly. She was still breathing. The fallen bar was wedged against her back. Was she, trapped? crippled? The hammer continued to tap the pole.
Timmy tried to lift the bar with his leg. Pain shot through him and the bone cracked. He tried to shift the bar with his hands, but it was wedged beyond his reach. He was trapped. And so was Hildegarde. Another bar began to move. Mr. Richter entered his laboratory.
“It is too late to stop me now. You will be at the epicenterrr of the earrrthquake. Verry little damage, perrrhaps none, to this house. You arrre safe. The town will be destrrroyed.”
‘You’re just trying to frighten them, so they’ll stay out of your lab,” said Axel. “I know you’d never do anything like that.”
Hildegarde stretched out her front paws. She looked at Timmy, and squeaked for a treat. “One more,” said Timmy. “Press the switch.”
Hildegarde squeezed her way out from under the bar. There had been less than an inch clearance, but Hildegarde had survived. Grandma was right. Rats could indeed squeeze through small spaces.
“Hildy, press the white toggle switch,” said Timmy. “Please.”
“She will not press that switch.” Ms. Weber entered the lab from the opposite side. “I have trained her not to press toggle switches.”
Timmy’s pant leg was stained with blood where the bar crushed his ankle. He couldn’t move. He saw the carob box his grandmother had sent, lying open on the floor.
“Your grandmotherrr’s gift of oscillatorrrs has made this grreat day possible.”
... to be continued
There are 2 more chapters. If you can't wait, the entire book is available on Amazon or at a store near you.The Reluctant Spy