Jack squirmed, but could not get away. "Hey, what are you doing?"
Calvin tried to turn his head, but could not get a glimpse of the man who was holding them.
Willie heard the commotion, opened his eyes and saw a large man with big muscles. Really big muscles. The biggest muscles he had ever seen. Like the muscles of bodybuilders he had seen on TV. The man was big, intimidating, and scary. Willie knew he should do something. Instead, he froze.
"You boys need to get out of here. We don't want some little kids getting hurt. A train wreck is a dangerous place," the man warned. While holding the boys in the air, he turned and tossed them to the ground.
For the first time, Calvin and Jack saw the man, the huge muscular man. The biggest, strongest man they had ever seen. They were stunned. They froze.
The man was wearing loose black pants and white shirt that fitted closely around his muscles. Calvin noticed the man was wearing a belt. While the belt was latched in one hole, the leather around the hole next two holes was broken.
The man turned his hands over so that his palms were face up. He moved his hands away from his body, like he was shooing them away. "Go ahead. Get out of here and don't get hurt."
Still in shock, Calvin looked at Jack and Willie. "Okay. Come on guys, let's go.” Calvin turned and walked away, toward the front of the train. Calvin led them through the overturned cars, making sure they did not stop. Several times, Calvin looked back over his shoulder, trying to see the muscular man. At first, the man watched them. As the boys continued to walk, the man disappeared, apparently satisfied they were leaving.
They continued to walk until they found the Sheriff. He was still talking with the older, suit wearing man. Calvin tried to get the Sheriff's attention. He glanced at the boys, waived them away, "Get out of here. We’re busy."
"But, Sheriff, this is real important," Calvin pressed.
"As you can see, we have a mess here. I don't have time to spend with a some twelve year olds. Go away!"
As the boys walked away, Willie asked, "What are we going to do now?"
Calvin looked at Willie. "We’ll go to the Deputy. He is your uncle. He should listen to us."
The boys walked back through the wreckage. They found the Deputy helping with injured people and helping EMTs. They approached a stocky muscular man who sported a goatee. "Hey, Uncle Chuck!" Willie shouted.
"Willie, I don't have time."
"But, this is important. Trust me; you need to listen to us."
"All right, but this had better be good."
Calvin explained that the safe had been robbed and he believed the tiger was intentionally set free to cause a distraction. Initially, the Deputy was skeptical, so the boys showed him the safe with the hole in the back. Finally satisfied, Chuck said, "Well boys, I think you have something. I'll go tell the Sheriff and I want you boys to go home, where it is safe."
"Okay," Calvin responded as he started to walk away.
Jack ran up next to him. "Seriously, you just plan to go home now?"
"Yes, that is the safest thing to do." Calvin began walking to his bike. "Come on."
They got on their bikes and followed a path that led to a two lane road. When they reached the road, Calvin stopped, turned to his friends and said, "I have a plan for catching the tiger. I just didn't want them to know. They would’ve stopped us."
Jack was upbeat, "I knew you couldn’t give up that easily. So what’s the plan?"
"Catch a tiger? Maybe we should’ve given up," Willie mumbled.
"We’ll build a trap. First, we need bait. We’ll all go home, eat lunch, and grab any hamburger or red meat we can get from our homes. Then, we’ll meet back at the path to the lake."
Jack was still excited, "Sounds great."
Willie was not so excited, "As long as I’m not the bait."
The boys rode the windy, hilly road until they passed a sign announcing, "Borough of Bear Creek". At that point, they went separate ways to their homes.
Calvin lived on the outside of town and arrived home, a large, two story, red brick house. He opened a key pad by a garage door, entered a four digit number, and the garage door rose. He walked into the empty house. Both parents, lawyers, were at the office. His older sister was not home. He did not know where she was and did not really care. He went to the kitchen, made a sandwich, and quickly ate it with some pretzels and orange soda. After cleaning up his mess, he went to the freezer and grabbed some steaks and hamburger. He placed them in a bag and returned to his bike. He ran to the shed, grabbed a wagon that he could tow with his bike, and threw the bag of meat in the wagon.
He ran back inside, upstairs, to his room. Opening his dresser, he pulled out a camouflage t-shirt, and put it on. He reached under his bed, pulled out a box, opened it, and found two more camouflage shirts. He gave the one shirt a funny look, thinking, "It will have to do." He ran out of the house, closed the garage door, and left. He had more to do to set the tiger trap.
Jack opened the screen door of the small two story, white house. The door creaked as it opened and made a loud thud as the spring pulled the door closed. "Is that you Jack?" his grandmother's voice came from upstairs. The kitchen was hot. A fan was spinning in the corner. He heard her steps come slowly down the stairs. He opened the refrigerator, grabbed some sliced ham for a sandwich, and closed the door. His grandmother walked in and threw her arms around him. "Oh, I’m so happy you are home safe."
He pulled away and looked up at her. "What are you talking about? I’m fine."
"The news says there was a circus train accident and a tiger is loose. You boys play in those woods. I was worried about you."
"It's nothing. I am fine."
"Good. But, you are going to stay home the rest of the day."
"Grandma, I am going to go play with Calvin and Willie."
"Not any more today. Not until they catch the tiger."
Knowing that arguing with Grandma was useless, he finished making his sandwich, ate it, and cleaned up. Grandma went to the living room and sat on the couch. After cleaning up, he looked at the kitchen door. Grandma was not there. He opened the refrigerator; no meat. He checked the freezer; again, no meat. "Not surprising," he thought. He quickly walked upstairs to his room. He closed the door and walked to his dresser. He flipped the radio on. The Phillies were playing an afternoon game. Bottom of the first inning and the Phillies were losing 1-0. "Nothing new there."
He paused and looked at a picture of his parents sitting next to his radio. He had not seen them in years. He barely remembered them. The State took him away from them when he was three. His parents could not care for him because they were involved with drugs. The State sent him to live with his grandparents and his parents disappeared. He wondered what life would be like with them. Well, at least he lived with people who love him.
He could not stay here long, though. He had a tiger to catch. He turned the radio up a little louder so his Grandmother could not hear him. He moved a fan away from the open window and perched himself on the sill. From there, he jumped a few feet, grabbed a tree branch, and wrapped his arms around it. He pulled his legs up and wrapped them around the limb as well. He shuffled his body down the limb to the trunk. At that point, he lowered his legs and dropped a few feet to the ground. He glanced back at his window. Grandma was not looking out. He did not hear her. He ran out through the back of the yard. He made it.
Willie walked into the open garage of his two story home. From there, he entered the air conditioned kitchen. "Hi Mom. I'm going to get lunch." He opened the refrigerator door, grabbed some leftover meat loaf and vegetables, put them on a plate and re-heated them in the microwave. His older and younger sisters were in their rooms; neither interested in greeting their brother.
His mother walked in and gave him a hug. "Glad to see you're home."
"I’m only home for lunch. I’m going back into the woods with the guys."
"Well, have fun. I'm going back upstairs to clean the bathroom. Make sure you put your dishes away."
When hot, he ate his lunch and obediently put his dishes in dishwasher. He peeked out of the kitchen to see if anyone was around. It looked like everyone was upstairs. He opened the freezer, threw three steaks and some hamburger in his backpack, and quickly left the house. He strapped on his helmet and road to the trail to meet his friends.
Jack rode to a house a few blocks away. A dog barked at him. He slowly approached the collie. "Hey, girl. How are you?" He walked toward the dog with his hand out. The dog yelped while attached to a chain straining to hold the dog back. He got on his knees and wrapped his arms around the dog. The dog jumped in his lap, licking his face. "Calm down girl. We're going for a walk." He pulled a rope from his backpack and tied it to the collar. Holding the rope, he released the chain. He returned to his bike with the dog leaping against his legs. Keeping the dog with him, he rode to an alley behind Main Street and parked his bike behind Johnson's Family Market.
With dog in tow, he walked around the store and knelt down by the front door. He grabbed the dog by the collar and untied the knot. He slowly opened the door a couple of feet, pulled the dog into the doorway and whispered, "Have fun girl." The dog walked into the store and Jack closed the door.
Quickly, Jack ran around the building to the back door. He opened the door a couple of inches and looked inside. He saw Mr. Johnson, the store owner. The boys had nicknamed him "Ogre" because he was six and a half feet tall and weighed 300 pounds. He had short hair that stuck straight up in the air. He did not shave often, leaving short, unkempt whiskers all over his face. He had deep set eyes surrounded by chubby cheeks, making it appear that he was always squinting. Because of his size, he moved slowly, giving the impression of a large lumbering monster.
Jack saw Ogre look over the meat counter and yell, "What are you doing in here!" He had seen the dog. Ogre was cutting meat at the time. Holding his meat cleaver, he walked around the counter to chase the dog away.
This was Jack's chance. He snuck inside the back door. He saw some steaks and a large bag of hamburger sitting on a counter. Keeping his head below the counter, he crawled to the meat. With his head down, he reached up, grabbed the steaks, and put them on the floor. He reached back up and found the bag of hamburger. He pulled it off of the counter. As he pulled the bag, it bumped against a knife, knocking it to the floor, with a bang.
Ogre quickly turned and looked over the counter. Jack looked up and saw Ogre’s eyes staring at him. "What are you doing? Stop!"
Jack, with steaks in his left hand and the hamburger in his right hand, scrambled for the door. Trying to stop the boy, and out of instinct, Ogre threw the meat cleaver at Jack. Jack pushed the door open and looked back at Ogre. He saw the cleaver spinning in mid-air, heading straight for his head.