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A Matt Christopher Adventure Classic


Author: Matt Christopher
2016 Reissue Edition
5"x 8" Trade Paperback
Retail: $9.95US

ISBN 978-1-62268-067-2 print
ISBN 978-1-62268-068-9 ebook
LCCN 2016950541



Bantam Berns heard a car below his second-story window, but he was too busy watching the planet Jupiter to bother to look down.
    Through his high-powered telescope he could see the red spot on Jupiter just as clear as anything. Funny about that spot, he thought. It even puzzled astronomers. Some thought it might be a volcano exploding far under a layer of ice that covered the big planet. It was just a guess, though.
    Jupiter's shape was changing, turning flat at the bottom, when the motor of the car died out. Bantam took his eye from the telescope and glanced out of the window. The car's lights were out, and it was barely visible in the darkness.
    Someone got out of the car with a large, thin object about four feet square and carried it toward the basement door. Bantam wished that the moon were shining so that he could see whoever it was.
    He sat and wondered if he should continue looking at Jupiter or go to bed. It was probably way past eleven o'clock and Aunt Janet didn't know he was up. She might have let him stay up if he had asked her. Then again, she might not have. He felt funny about it.
    It would be a different matter if Uncle Dick was home, but he was working late. This was the first week they had lived here at Fugitive House, a large wood-framed inn on the shores of Moonbeam Lake in upper New York State. It was the only place Uncle Dick had been able to find that was close enough to his work. The inn not only had rooms for guests, but several apartments. Bantam was staying in one of them with his aunt and uncle until they found a house.
    Uncle Dick was strict. Even more strict than Mom and Dad had been, or Miss Daley, his teacher back at Rock Island. And with good reason, too. No one but Bantam would dare bring a bumblebee into social study class in a glass jar and accidentally let it loose. No one but he would dare give Miss Daley a thirteen-inch baby alligator for Christmas, knowing that Miss Daley was even afraid of worms.
    A movement outdoors caught Bantam's eye. The person was returning to the car empty-handed. A second later the car started up and headed for the road that ran parallel with the lake.
    Bantam tilted the telescope to point in its direction and placed his eye to it. When the car reached the road, its headlights came on. Just before the car turned left, Bantam spotted a red band running across the middle of the bumper, and the first part of its license plate, LF14. The car disappeared before he could read the other numbers.
    Now what was that all about? Why did the person turn the car's headlights on after he had reached the road instead of before? Had he just forgotten to?
    Bantam rubbed a fist across his tired eyes and brushed a lock of thick, black hair back from his forehead. He'd better go to bed. He didn't want to sleep too long in the morning, even though Aunt Janet and Uncle Dick would let him. They had been very good to him since Mom and Dad died in an airplane crash over a year ago. They had no children of their own and were glad to take him under their wing.
    But Bantam was always falling into mischief—whether he intended to or not.
    A talking-to by the teacher, and then by the principal, had been followed by punishment from Mom and Dad. They would cut off his allowance for a while, or refuse to let him watch TV for a week, or forbid him to do something else he would like to do very much.
    Sure, he'd promise not to get into trouble again. But somehow trouble would meet up with him, as if the two of them just couldn't stay apart for very long.
    He had to try to avoid trouble as much as he could now that he was living with Aunt Janet and Uncle Dick. He couldn't—he just couldn't—let them get mad at him. Perhaps they would be sorry then that they had taken him in. And he loved them too much to ever be separated from them.
    Just as he started to turn away from the window another movement caught his attention. A man had run out of the building and was heading for the road. He was slightly stoop-shouldered, and was carrying something under his left arm.
    Bantam rose quickly from the stool to see where the man was going, and accidentally bumped the telescope with his elbow. The instrument spun off its perch on the tall box and crashed to the floor before he could catch it. The noise sounded like thunder.
    Bantam froze. The telescope was the first instrument Aunt Janet and Uncle Dick had bought him. Stars and planets fascinated him. He had three books about them which he had read and reread.
    Please don't let it be broken, he prayed. Please. Lenses were expensive, and his aunt and uncle had paid a lot of money for the telescope.
    He stooped to pick it up and heard the door open. There stood Aunt Janet in her robe, staring at him. "What happened, Michael?" she whispered. Her eyes focused on the telescope in his hands. "Is that what made that noise?"
    Aunt Janet closed the door behind her. The soft blue bulb in the lamp beside Bantam's bed heightened the look of curiosity on her face. "You shouldn't be up, Michael. Do you realize that it's after eleven o'clock?"
    "It's a clear night," he said, avoiding her eyes. "I wanted to look at the stars and planets."
    "You could have asked me," she said. "I might have let you."
    Might have. She didn't say would have.
    He looked at the lenses in the telescope. Thank goodness none were broken.
    "Is it okay?" Aunt Janet asked.
    He folded the legs of the telescope and put the instrument away in its cardboard box. Then he said his prayers and crawled into bed.
    Aunt Janet pushed the stubborn lock of hair back from his forehead and smiled. "Don't look so frightened. I'm not going to scalp you. But you did make me believe I could trust you, Michael."
    "I'm sorry, Aunt Janet. You won't tell Uncle Dick, will you?"
    "I'll tell him. But don't worry. He won't scalp you, either." She kissed him on the forehead. "Close your eyes and go to sleep."
    "Aunt Janet." He rose to his elbow, his eyes suddenly wide. "A little while ago a car drove up and a man got out of it. He was carrying something. Then after he drove away, another man . . ." He faltered. He didn't want Aunt Janet to think he was afraid.
    "Go on," she said curiously.
    "This second man ran out of the building. He was carrying something, too."
    "Sounds as if you saw a lot more than stars tonight. Did you recognize either one of the men?"
    "No. It was too dark."
    She pushed him gently back on the bed and tugged the blanket up under his neck. "Forget it. They were probably men who work or live here. Fugitive House is a big inn. There are several families living here. Perhaps what you saw tonight happens all the time."
    She switched off the light and went to the door. "Good night, dear," she said. "And sleep tight."

copyright ©2016 Matt Christopher Royalties, Inc.


About the Author:

Everyone knows Matt Christopher as the most prolific and bestselling sportswriter for children and young adults. From books on football and baseball to soccer and skateboarding, his work has spanned three generations of readers.

He has also written several Mystery/Suspense/Adventure novels which showcase his exceptional storytelling ability. His mystery books are sure to delight everyone--young and old:


Visit the author's website at:

Author: Matt Christopher
2016 Reissue Edition
5"x 8" Trade Paperback
Retail: $9.95US

ISBN 978-1-62268-067-2 print
ISBN 978-1-62268-068-9 ebook
LCCN 2016950541

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read an excerpt
book details
larger view of cover


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