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First pages

Chapter 1: Meet Me!

My name is Quentin Margolis, and I have everything I need.

Like, literally.

All the time.

You ever leave home without a jacket because it’s supposed to be sunny, and then it gets cold and rainy?

Never happens to me.

You ever forget your lunch? Keys? Homework? Pants?

Not this guy!

You ever see an elephant charging down the street at you, an elephant that can only be stopped by a bag of peanuts or he’ll trample you flat as a dollar?

Okay, to be fair, I wouldn’t have expected that to happen to you. But if it did, you wouldn’t have the bag of peanuts, would you?

Well, I would.

 

I guess I’ve always been that way, but maybe I didn’t notice when I was really little. Not sure I knew enough then to know I even would need anything. Not to say I wasn’t a smart baby!

Wait—are there smart babies?

Well, I don’t think I was a dopey baby.

I remember the first time I really noticed this thing about me. We were living in the old apartment in New York, and we were taking the car out to go visit Grandma and Grandpa Margolis. I wasn’t in first grade yet. Dad went to get the car. Mom and I were leaving the building when I saw a piece of pipe that some plumber had left in the hallway outside another apartment. Just a plain piece of metal pipe, maybe six or eight inches long. But suddenly I had this really strong sensation that I needed to have that pipe—that it would come in handy. I shoved it in my little wheelie bag when Mom wasn’t looking.

We were about an hour outside of town on a smaller road when we got a flat tire. Dad got out to fix it and jacked up the car, but he couldn’t get the lug nuts off the tire. They’d gotten rusted or something and wouldn’t move. Mom tried to help, but even together it was no good. Dad had to call for service, and we waited while they sent a tow truck.

When the truck came Dad said, “Son, fetch anything you’ll need out of the car. We can ride in the truck with the driver.”

I reached in to get a coloring book out of the bag, and the pipe came out.

“What’s that, Quent?” Mom asked.

I felt kind of stupid about the pipe now. I just held it out and said, “Found it.”

“Huh,” Dad said. “I wish I’d known we had that. Could have used it on the lug wrench for extra torque. That could have gotten the wheel off.”

I bet it would have. One of the problems with this power, or whatever it is: I know what I need, but I don’t always know why I will need it or how to use it, or sometimes even what it is.

Anyway, after that incident, I noticed that whenever someone was going to get a cut, I’d have thought to bring a bandage; whenever someone needed a napkin, I always had one. Things like that. I would just know to take things with me that I would need later, no matter how weird they were. I never told anyone about my power, because they’d think I was crazy, but everyone kind of felt that I was a handy kid to have around.

When we moved from New York to a small town in Pennsylvania, I didn’t forget to pack anything I would need.

 

Guild River is a much smaller town than I was used to, and you could think a kid would be bored after living in the big city. That’s what I thought too. I wasn’t real enthused at first. I had a lot of friends back in Manhattan that I would miss. My mom’s mom, the one I call Nana, who refused to move from her co-op, I would also miss, although she could be kind of cranky. Nana didn’t want us to leave, but I guess she didn’t think she’d miss us so much that she should come with us. (She said, “I’m not trading my co-op for a chicken coop!”)

Another thing: I was used to the sound of traffic all night. Guild River was like my dad’s parents’ place—really quiet. I always had trouble sleeping when we stayed with them.

On the other hand, Guild River’s a pretty nice town, not far from my dad’s new college in Charmton, and I liked the idea of having a whole house to romp around in. And I usually can find something fun to do wherever I am. Plus, Mom and Dad said I could ride my bike all over the place—which you can’t do in a city—when I got a bike, and that maybe now we could have a dog, which would be awesome! I did a pile of research on dogs and had about seventy dog names picked out before we even got the truck unpacked.

The first couple of weeks we were in Guild River was all running around and finding things and getting our stuff settled. It was August, and Mom had to make sure I was set for when school started. Dad started teaching right away at the university, which is about thirty miles from Guild River. He’s an economics professor, so he talks about money all the time even though we don’t have a lot of it. Dad said the new job gave him tenure, though, which is better than money, because with tenure they can never fire you. I asked him why he wanted to never be fired if they pay wasn’t that great, and he laughed. When my parents laugh instead of answering it usually means I’m not getting an answer.

Mom used to make more money than he did, speaking of money, but she gave up her job as a project manager for a financial company downtown so we could move here. When I asked her why she was willing to do that, she told me that she hated her job and Dad loved his, and she was sick of the city, and money was not worth being miserable. So maybe that was the answer. She did start looking for a job right after we moved, and I hoped it would be something she liked better than her old job.

Anyway, with all that was going on I hardly had a chance to meet any kids before the first day of school. That was too bad, because I wanted to know some people going in. It’s always easier if you know somebody.

We drove past Guild River Elementary two times and it didn’t look much different than my old school in the city. Not too scary. Of course, schools are always less scary when they’re empty. Unlike my old school, this school ran from kindergarten all the way through eighth grade. I knew I was going to be knee-deep in little kids. But that was okay. Little kids don’t bother me.

The night before school started I was thinking I’d like to make some kind of splash—in a good way, not in a forgot-to-zip-up or fell-in-the-Jell-O or set-fire-to-my-socks-by-accident way—something that would help me get to know people. I was sitting in my room, thinking about it, looking at my five boxes still waiting to be unpacked, when I realized I absolutely needed to bring something with me tomorrow. I dug through all five boxes until I found what I needed.

I just hoped I would know why I needed it when I did.

Chapter 2: The Legend of Davey Shacks

The first day of school was no big deal. I met a lot of teachers and stuff, but I don’t want to talk about the classes now. That stuff can be interesting when it’s happening to you but boring to talk about. If you’ve been to school, you know how it works. Besides, on the first day they don’t do much and only the mean ones give you homework right away. Only one of them, Mrs. Kuster, the Language Arts teacher, gave us anything to do that night, and that was something that could be put off if I wanted to.

The first kid I spoke to for any amount of time had nothing to do with the secret thing I had brought with me. It was a girl, and a nice-looking girl. Big brown eyes and long brown hair around a heart-shaped face. When I saw her I thought she looked familiar, and I had a feeling I should introduce myself. A girl like that is usually popular, and Mom says it’s always good to be on friendly terms with popular people, as long as it doesn’t take you away from real friends. And did I mention that this girl was pretty?

She was talking to some kids by her locker while I was putting some new books into mine. This whole locker thing was pretty cool, I thought. Back in the city we had to drag our stuff around all day because there were no lockers. The school couldn’t guarantee no one would break into lockers. Anyway, when the girl’s friends left I made myself go over to her, although I was mighty darn nervous.

“Hi, hi,” I said, really suave. “I’m Quent, new in town. Didn’t I—”

“See you around the neighborhood?” she said, and she had a kind of loud but friendly voice. “You’re part of the family that moved into the old Busanti place, right?”

I don’t know why it is that all of a sudden I started having problems talking to girls. I never used to. I had lots of girls as friends when I was young. We didn’t do a lot of things together since a lot of the ones I knew were into boring stuff like dolls and ponies and things, and if I jumped rope with them my guy friends got on my case. But I never had problems talking to them. Then suddenly I couldn’t talk like a normal person to girls anymore.

“Uuuuh,” I said.

“You’re the Margolis family?” she asked.

“Yeah, that’s right. I’m Quent,” which I’d already told her, you notice. “We moved into the house. The old house. The old Oak house on Busanti Street. No, the Busanti house. On Oak. They sold it. To us.”

She laughed, and it sounded like crystal bells jingling to me. Should get my hearing checked, I thought.

“I’m Corrie,” she said. “Corrie Daniels. I live around the corner from you on Blue Creek Drive. We were friends with the Busantis. They were a sweet old couple.”

I meant to say that I hoped we would be friends now too, since the Busantis moved to Florida, but I think what came out was something like “Florida friends move we us. Will be.” My face got hot and I think my nose and ears felt bigger.

She smiled and said, “Is Quent short for something?”

“Quentin.”

I’ve had plenty of people mock my name; doesn’t bother me anymore. But when she said, “I like that name, Quentin,” boy, that really got under my skin.

Fortunately the bell rang before I could actually explode into a thousand chunks of smoldering stupidity. “Got to go to PE,” she said. “Enjoy your new house!”

“Yeah, thanks, you too!” I said, as if she’d told me to have a nice day. “Uh, I mean, you enjoy your old house.”

She laughed again and waved.

I staggered off to Math.

 

Even if I acted stupid, it was great to meet Corrie. But I was kind of on the lookout for nerdy kids. Not that I am only friends with nerdy kids—I had all kinds of friends back in the city. It was just that the thing that I had felt I had to bring along made me think nerdy. And I was right.

When lunchtime came I got my food—school food is pretty much the same everywhere—and got a seat with a few other kids who looked like they didn’t already have a big mob of friends. But halfway through a chicken nugget, before I could even say hi to them, I heard a voice behind me that caught my attention.

“Basically,” it said, “that’s a vicious and sneaky attack, but I could still counter it if I hadn’t used my Greek Fire on the last round.”

“That’s why I played it now,” said another voice.

I looked behind me and saw a couple of nerds. I can tell you I’m saying it in a nice way, but that’s just the way it was. The first guy had his back to mine; he was small with thick glasses and tons of curly hair. The second guy was facing him; he had blond and chubby and looked like he might be tall standing up. I didn’t have to see the cards in their hand to know they were playing Coliseum of Chronos. I slipped my special object out of a pocket on my backpack and waited.

“All right,” said the curly-headed kid, “I have to play this.” He slapped down a card.

“Ballistae against tanks?”

“It’s all I got.”

“You could be lying.”

“How could I be lying? I’ve only got five life points left.”

“Well, you have none now!” said the heavy kid. “ICBM for the win.”

As the curly kid looked at his meager cards to see if he had something to keep himself alive for one more round, I tucked my card in the back of his collar. He slapped his neck like he had gotten bit, but his hand came away with my card. He looked around quick and I just smiled and nodded. He turned back to his friend.

“Time Anomaly,” he said, dropping the card on the pile between their trays.

“What? Where did that come from?” said the hefty kid.

“Me,” I said.

“That wasn’t in my deck!”

“Doesn’t matter,” said the curly kid. “Anomaly cards suspend normal rules of play. No cost to use this one, either. Your ICBM enters the time anomaly and falls on you. With my attack yield bonus it’s fifteen hundred life points in damage. Your move.”

In a multiplayer melee the Time Anomaly card can deflect an attack at anyone the user wants, but in a two-player match you just drop it back on the guy who attacked you. The big kid was stunned. There are not a lot of defenses against the ICBM, and he obviously didn’t have one of them. “That card is soooo rare,” he said, tossing down his hand. “You win, Princess.”

“Princess?” I said, laughing.

“He always plays as Princess Crystalle,” said the big kid.

“It’s obvious that she’s the most powerful character you can pick, when you use the right weapons,” said the curly kid. “She’s got the most life points and a high attack yield.”

“You were still meat without that card,” said the other kid.

“Luck of the draw.” The curly kid turned to me, hand out. “Thanks.”

“Sure.”

“I’m Jeffrey.”

“Quent,” I said, shaking.

“How’d you get that card? It is really rare.”

It’s true. Coliseum of Chronos decks are all different, and sometimes powerful and collectable cards pop up. They even sell on the Internet for lots of money. I got mine when I got my first deck—a bunch of kids were playing the game, so I went to the hobby shop to get a deck. I felt drawn to that deck, and won my first match with the Time Anomaly card. “Just lucky,” I said.

“Henway,” said the big blond kid.

“Huh?”

“Henway.”

“What’s a henway?”

“About ten pounds.”

“It’s also his name,” said Jeffrey. “That’s Kenny Henway.”

“But everyone calls me Henway,” he said. “Except my mom and dad and my sisters. Because they’re Henways too.”

“Why aren’t you called Ken?”

“Because everyone’s always picked on my last name,” he said with a shrug, “so I just put it front and center. Get the jokes over with.”

“Well, I’m Quentin Margolis,” I said, moving my tray over to their table. “I get made fun of a little bit too.”

“Question mark?”

“Yeah, especially that.”

Jeffrey asked, “New in town?”

“Just moved here last month. You guys will have to show me the ropes.”

“I saw you in Science,” said Henway. “You have Social Studies next period?”

“Yeah. Mr. Miller?”

“Great!” said Jeffrey. “Us too. I hear he assigns midterm projects on the first day!”

“That’s a little rough,” I said.

“My sister had his class a couple of years ago. It’s got to be a history project, like, local history, state history, or American history. He wants reports, slide shows, dioramas, the works. Maybe a musical sound track too. The good thing is we have a lot of time to work on it, and we can work in teams.”

Henway shuffled the deck, with my card in it. “How many on a team?” he asked.

Jeffrey shrugged. “I think Alice had two on hers.”

“Jeffrey told me he has an idea.” Henway dealt out a dozen cards to each of us and picked up his pen. “Who are you playing?”

“Princess again,” said Jeffrey.

“That’s so lame. I’m General Zotz.”

“I’ll be Achilles,” I said. “What’s your project idea, Jeffrey?”

Jeffrey smiled and said, “I don’t know if Mr. Miller lets us pick our teams or if they’re assigned. I’m not giving away anything yet.”

While we played we compared schedules for the rest of the day and found we did have a lot of the same classes. I had a good feeling about these guys. They seemed decent, and pretty smart.

We only had time for one game, and Princess Jeffrey murdered us both, which annoyed me a little because he got the Time Anomaly card again and used it on me. When we left for Mr. Miller’s class I made sure to get my Time Anomaly card back.

 

Mr. Miller was a really big red-faced guy in a tweed jacket. I thought he looked more like a college professor than a middle school teacher. At least, a lot of the professors who worked with my dad liked to wear tweed jackets, both the men and women. Maybe Mr. Miller wanted to teach college one day.

Jeffrey’s sister was right about the assignments. After calling roll and seating us alphabetically, Mr. Miller announced that we’d have until the end of the week to think about a midterm project, and if he thought the idea was big enough, we could work in teams.

“If I fail to get appropriate input I will assign topics and assign teams,” he said. “Here are some topics you might use.” He started writing on the whiteboard in big, sloppy letters. It was stuff like the founding of Guild River, the Constitutional Congress, the history of a particular state law from conception to implementation. Seemed kind of dull to me.

Jeffrey’s hand was up before Miller had finished writing. Jeffrey really didn’t care if he looked like a nerd. “I have a topic idea, Mr. Miller.”

“Fine, Mr. Cohn. Write your description of the topic and how you’d like to handle it and turn it in.”

“But you might not like it.”

Mr. Miller shot up an eyebrow. “See me after class, Mr. Cohn.”

 

I didn’t get a chance to talk to Jeffrey and Henway again until school let out. I found them standing outside at the carpool lane.

“Hey, Quentin, are you getting a ride or heading for the bus?” asked Henway.

“My house is only ten blocks from the school, so I was going to walk it.”

“I have to see the dentist,” said Jeffrey. “My mom’s picking me up. She doesn’t mind giving rides, though.”

“Tough day,” I said. “First day of school and the dentist?”

“Worse than that,” he replied. “Mr. Miller hated my idea.”

“You thought he might,” I said.

“That’s all wrong,” said Henway. “It’d make an excellent project. I was gonna make sure I got to be part of your team.”

“What is it?”

Henway’s eyes darted around quickly. Then he put his hands on my shoulders and said in a low, hushed voice, “It’s… the Legend of the Lost Loot.”

My eyebrows clanged against my hairline. “Huh?”

“Famous case here in town,” said Jeffrey. “Fifty years ago this fall. The Thunderville Bank Job.”

“The what?”

“Bank robbery.”

Henway said, “It’s like this gang is cursed. Four crooks on a date with destiny. They rob a bank and get away with a bunch of money, except for one man who is shot dead at the scene. Then the gang has a car accident. Another bandit is killed when he flies out of the car.”

“The last two split up,” said Jeffrey. “One of them died later while trying to escape police, but he had no money on him. The last one was picked up here in Guild River, also with no money. He was the only survivor.”

Henway, low voice again: “And they never found the dough.”

“What happened to the last guy?”

“Man by the name of Shacks,” said Jeffrey. “Davey Shacks. Refused to talk. They convicted him anyway and he went to jail, and died there of a heart attack ten years later. His contact with the outside world was monitored, but they never found the money.”

“A cool three hundred grand,” said Henway.

“Henway, stop talking like a movie detective.”

“You called it the Thunderville Bank Job. That sounds like detective dialogue.”

“That’s because everyone calls it that. Anyway, the money was never found and the last bandit was arrested here in Guild River, so everyone figured he hid the money somewhere between the crash site on the Old Post Road and here. As far as we know, it was never recovered.”

I scrunched my face. “All those guys dead for three hundred thousand dollars?”

“That was a lot of money fifty years ago,” said Henway. “Heck, I’ll take it now.”

“It was also a lot for a bank like Thunderville’s at the time,” said Jeffrey. “They robbed it right when the money to cash out the local factory payroll came in. The crook who died at the scene was a former teller who knew when the bank would have a lot of cash on hand.”

“The insider,” Henway hissed, which got an eye roll from Jeffrey.

“But this is excellent!” I said happily. “I want to work on this too! Bad guys, stolen money, shooting, car crashes, lost treasure… it sounds like a great history story.”

“Miller said no way,” Jeffrey spat. “Said true-crime stuff was not part of the curriculum. Said if I wanted to do it, it would have to be extra-credit only. I’m bummed.”

“I am devastated,” said Henway.

“You are fat too,” said another voice.

I frowned at the new guy, and then the frown fell because I couldn’t keep it on with all the shock going over my face. It was another kid, but the biggest middle schooler I’d ever seen. Like, left back so much he was a legal adult kind of big. He shoved Henway and bumped into Jeffrey hard enough for his glasses to fall off.

Now, I’m not the tallest guy, and this guy had lots of height, which I could use a few more inches of. I didn’t like his attitude, though. But I also didn’t want to fight at school. I just said, “Hold on a second, there, big dude!” with a smile, hoping he’d turn out to be one of their brothers or someone else who didn’t really mean being mean.

No luck. “Who are you?” he said and pushed me in the shoulder.

I stuck out my hand. “Quentin,” I said.

“Question? What’s your last name, Mark?”

“Heh heh—close.”

“Real original, Leon,” said Henway.

Leon shoved Henway aside and said to me, “Your name now is loser, because you’re hanging out with these two. Loserdom is contagious, Question Mark, and you got it all over you.”

Fortunately Leon had had enough fun then. He shoved me one more time, laughed, and walked off, and I could hear some other kids laughing with him. I glanced over and saw two other big guys and one girl with straight black hair and a face that was pretty but looked pretty cruel.

“Leon Tavish,” said Jeffrey. “Second meanest person in the school.”

“Who’s meaner? The lunch lady?”

“Lunch lady just looks mean,” said Henway. “The meanest one is that girl with the black hair. Boswell is her name. Merry Boswell.”

“Merry?”

“No one knows how a baby will turn out when they name it,” Jeffrey grumbled.

“Wow,” I said. “Real, actual bullies. Don’t you have an anti-bullying program? I see the posters.”

“Maybe Leon can’t read,” said Henway.

“He’s actually not a bad student,” said Jeffrey. “One of the reasons he gets away with it.”

“He looks just like what I pictured a violent school bully to look like,” I muttered.

“You didn’t have bullies in your old school?” asked Jeffrey.

“I guess,” I muttered. I didn’t particularly want to talk about it. The kind of bullies I knew in the city didn’t beat you up. They used other things to make you feel bad.

“Oh, and there’s Thom Anderson,” said Henway. He pointed to a really tall kid bouncing a basketball by the chain link fence outside the blacktop courts. “Another creep.”

“Thom?” I asked, because Henway pronounced the Th like in thumb rather than like in toe, the way you usually hear with people named Thomas.

“That’s what his kid brothers call him,” said Jeffrey. “The teachers all call him Tom, but he even introduces himself as Thom.”

As if he heard us, and maybe he did, Thom looked our way and scowled. He had really dark eyebrows that ran flat over his eyes, and a frown that made him look like he’d only ever been sore once: from the time he was born to now.

“What’s the matter with him?” I said, keeping my voice low.

“He’s a jerk,” said Henway. “Maybe because his dad is chief of police in Guild River, or because he has four kid brothers to beat up on.”

Thom shook his head and bounced his basketball down the sidewalk. Even when it hit a pebble and took a bad hop he was able to keep it dribbling; he had good ball-handling skills.

“And now he knows we were talking about him,” mumbled Jeffrey. “So we can count on him bouncing something off our heads in PE. Well, today has turned perfect.”

A white SUV honked just then. I saw a woman with glasses waving over at us.

“And now it’s dentist time,” said Jeffrey. “The way things are going he’ll probably send me to get braces.”

“Sorry,” Henway and I both said.

Chapter 3: My Dad Gets a Sidekick that Isn’t Me

I felt bad for Jeffrey, but was happy to get home. The only assignment I had was that reading for Mrs. Kuster, and like I said before, I knew that could wait. We were still unpacking things at home, and that’s what I really wanted to do. Mom and Dad needed help. And I had some good stuff in my boxes that I hadn’t found yet. So far I’d found mostly things I didn’t want, like my ugly bedroom slippers that were so big and fluffy they looked like sheep, which I never wore but felt obliged to keep because Mom gave me and Dad matching pairs at the holidays the year before.

I didn’t know before this how hard it was to move. I sure was hoping Dad would enjoy his new job, since I didn’t want to have to move again soon!

As it turned out he was enjoying the job, and one reason was that he got a sidekick. I found this out when I got home and there was a little car parked next to ours in the driveway. One fender was tan but the rest of it was black, and it had a dent in the back bumper. There were coats and empty bottles and fast-food wrappers all over the backseat. I knew that Mom had been shopping for a good used car—but there was no way she’d have bought this car.

“I’m home!” I said as I came in the front door. “Dad?”

“Back here, son,” came Dad’s voice from the rear of the house. He was either in the kitchen or his den, which Mom let him set up in a spare room next to the kitchen. I hoped it was the kitchen, because I was hungry, but it was the den, and he had company.

“There’s my boy,” said Dad as I came in. “Zack, this is Quentin. Quent, this is Zack Holkum. Zack’s going to be working with me at the college.”

Zack was a tall, stringy guy with a ponytail and glasses. Unlike my dad, he didn’t look like he shaved a lot. I’m not good at guessing ages of grown-ups, but I figured he was in his early twenties. He was in a ratty T-shirt and jeans, which was good for the work they were doing—organizing my dad’s books. We shook hands.

“I’m one of the grad students in your pop’s new college,” said Zack. “I’ll be helping him this semester.”

“I hope it pays by the hour,” I said. “Because Dad needs a lot of help.”

We all chuckled a little, and Zack said, “It’s mainly for the experience, but it does count toward my outrageous tuition. A lot of grad students at the school sign up to be gofers, runners, sidekicks, and general dogsbodies.”

“You study economics?”

“When I’m not studying the back of my eyelids, yeah.”

“How was your first day, son?” said Dad, ripping open another box. There were open boxes all over the room and stacks of books on the bookshelves, the floor, the desk—there was barely enough space for us to stand in.

“Pretty good,” I said. “Met some cool kids. One of them was telling me about this big unsolved mystery here in town.”

“Haunted house?” said Dad, laughing.

“Stolen money,” I said.

“The Thunderville Bank Job?” asked Zack, smiling.

“You know it?”

“A local girl I used to date mentioned it once. Never found the cash, right?”

“Fifty years ago,” I said, and for Dad’s benefit I told them what little I knew. “This kid Jeffrey wanted to do his social studies midterm project on it, but Mr. Miller won’t let him.”

“Miller’s the teacher?” asked Dad. “I’m not surprised.”

“You know him?”

“No, son, but I know what he’s trying to do. He wants you to focus on the building blocks of our society, the laws and traditions. One crime, however spectacular, doesn’t change the course of society.”

“Unless it causes changes in some crucial laws,” said Zack. “Think of the Lindbergh kidnapping, or the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.”

Dad shrugged. “The massacre was just the point of the spear. Organized crime had been a major well-known problem before it. The Lindbergh case did make transporting kidnapping victims a federal crime, yes. But it probably has less effect on the average American than the last omnibus spending bill and no one knows what’s in that. Not even the guys who wrote it!”

I had no idea what they were talking about. “Do you know anything else about the Thunderville case?” I asked Zack.

“No,” he said, and he had this little smirk on, “but I can see why you’d find it interesting. You’re what, eleven?”

“Thirteen,” I mumbled. I get that a lot. Told you I was on the less-tall side.

“You’re still right about what they used to call the Robinson age. More commonly now the Concrete Operational Stage. You’re enthused to acquire skills, do adult-like things, and go on real adventures, not just make-believe. I’ll bet you had a club or a secret society or something before you moved here, something with secrets and rituals. A mysterious lost treasure is just the kind of thing that would get you and your chums excited.”

“You’ve studied psychology,” Dad said.

“Economics is psychology, isn’t it?” Zack said. “With a little math.”

I frowned. “You mean that if I’d heard about this bank robbery a couple of years from now I wouldn’t be interested in it? But it’s an unsolved mystery! Who wouldn’t be interested in that?”

“You, a couple of years from now. You’ll be too interested in girls,” Zack said, laughing.

“I don’t know,” said Dad. “Quent is interested in everything.”

“Puberty tends to narrow the focus,” said Zack.

I didn’t like being talked about like a specimen, so I said, “I’m going for a snack, okay? You want anything?”

Dad said, “Just turn on the coffeemaker, will you, son? It’s all set up.”

“Sure.”

I left, hoping that next semester my dad would have a less annoying helper.


AUTHOR Q&A

About me

Mark Amundsen is an editor and writer from New York's Hudson Valley, who has enjoyed working for a lot of book and magazine publishers.

Q. Why do you write?
A.
Because my life and career have not suited me for honest work. And when I write something I like it makes me happier than anything else I can do.
Q. When did you decide to become a writer?
A.
When I was a boy, I saw a Peanuts comic strip where Snoopy typing a story while sitting on his doghouse. I thought that it was the most amazing thing you could do, to invent your own stories.
Q. What was the hardest part of writing this book?
A.
One of the characters was based on a friend of mine who passed away. The book is a tribute to him. That was also the best part about writing this book.

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