Chapter 24: Step 9
When we rode into the empty lot of the aquarium that night, it was as brightly lit as a baseball field. Even though we weren't actually going to do anything, my heart was walloping in my chest.
"I don't see anyone," Minerva said. Her voice echoed off the walls. Did she have to be so loud?
Just then a stooped old man shuffled out of the building with a huge Doberman Pinscher on a leash. The dog lurched and bared his teeth.
"Hey!" the old man said, pulling back on the leash. "What are you doin' here?"
"Hi!" said Minerva. "We were just out for a ride."
The old man's face puckered up like he was thinking. "Kind of late, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Minerva said. "Say, it must get awful lonely here at night. You all by yourself?"
Shut up, Minerva. Just shut up, please.
The old man leaned against the fence. "Well, I guess I am. Don't get too many visitors."
"What about the police?" Minerva said.
"They drive through the parking lot every hour or so, but you wouldn't hardly call it a visit. Speakin' of which," he said, looking behind us, "here they come now."
My stomach flipped. Then I felt a jab in my ribs. It was Minerva's elbow.
"Your watch!" she hissed. "What time is it?"
I held out my shaking arm to show her. Ten minutes to midnight.
The police cruiser glided up to us like a black, mechanical shark. The cop leaned out the window. His face reminded me of the big sea lion's face.
"What're you kids doin' here?"
"Just visiting," Minerva said. "That's not against the law, is it?"
"It's all right, officer," the old man said. "These two are friends of mine."
"You better tell your smartmouth friends to get home to bed."
The cruiser glided out of the lot, its red taillights narrowing into the night.
"Thanks, Mr. Perkins," Minerva said. "We'll come visit you sometime."
We mounted our bikes.
"Oh, yeah," Minerva said. "When are you here?"
"Sunday through Friday, 6 in the evenin' to 2 in the mornin'," Mr. Perkins said. "But don't come by after midnight, because I always stop down to the doughnut shop for an hour or so then."
Minerva flashed me a knowing grin. "OK!"
Just as we started for home, I saw a flash of white beside the building, a face squinting from behind a bush. Eddy! The minute I saw it, it disappeared. Instantly, I was filled with rage. How DARE he? I slammed on my brakes and jumped off my bike, letting it crash to the pavement. I screamed so hard it hurt my throat.
"MACWEENY! I know you're there! You hear me? You JERK!"
Only my echo answered. Minerva stared at me, wide-eyed.
"Didn't you see him?"
"Eddy. He's been spying on us for the last two days."
I got on my bike, and as we rode down the hill Minerva said, "You don't think he knows what we're planning, do you?"
"I don't know."
"Would he tell on us if he knew?" she asked.
"Of course not!" I snapped. But the minute I said it, I wasn't so sure.
We rode on in silence, the only sound the chitter of bats swooping under the streetlights. When we got to my house, Minerva said, "You know, W., this is going to be easier than I thought. Mr. Perkins goes out for an hour every night at midnight, just after the cops make their hourly rounds. That gives us almost a whole hour to get the seals out."
I felt the ground drop from under me. This was getting MUCH too serious. I was running out of reasons to stop this madness.
"What about the dog?"
"He won't leave the dog out. The dog will be shut inside. No problem."
"But ... " I was grasping for excuses now. "What if the cops make a surprise visit?"
"Good point," Minerva said. She wrinkled up her forehead thoughtfully. "We should figure out a - what do you call it? - a diversion to keep the cops busy."
"I don't know. Don't worry. I'll figure out something."
Don't worry! Don't worry, she says. I was worried she WOULD figure out something. In fact, I knew in my sinking heart she would.
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