“Oh, no!” wailed Angela. “Now the electric heating element isn’t working.”
Marty hurried over to take a look. Sure enough, the element was turned on, but there was no heat.
“It was working when I checked it after dinner,” he said with a frown.
He flicked the switch on and off and fiddled with the cord, but nothing helped. Puzzled, he began to trace the meandering path of the extension cord from Angela’s display table back to the gymnasium wall where it was plugged in. Halfway there he stopped and bent over to take a closer look.
“Well, there’s our problem,” he stated. He held up the two ends of what had once been a complete thirty-foot extension cord, now severed in half.
Marty sighed. Without the electric element to heat up the “lava”, the cool volcano experiment Angela had entered was nothing but a big papier mâchè mountain. With judging set to start any minute, it appeared the only thing erupting would be Angela’s temper.
“Whoever did this is going to pay,” she muttered through clenched teeth. “Marty, if you catch who did this, I’ll split half of the prize money with you.”
“Can you write that down and sign it?” he asked in mock seriousness.
She fixed him with an icy stare.
“Marty Brennan, now is not the time for joking around!”
“I’ll figure it out,” he promised her, “but right now the most important thing is to get power to your table. You try to delay the judging. I’ll see if I can find another cord.”
He hurried out of the gym and headed for his friend Mac’s office located in the downstairs electrical room. Mac was the school maintenance man and would have a good supply of extra cords.
On his way, Marty thought about how he was going to keep his promise to Angela. He had a pretty good idea who the culprit was. Where there was trouble, Bully Hayes would not be far away. His entry into the fair this year put Marty on the alert right away. Only the $100 first prize and a devious plan for winning it could have gotten Bully motivated to actually work on a science project.
He found the electrical room door ajar.
“Mac?” he called out.
There was a muffled exclamation inside. He pushed the door open and stepped inside.
Without warning a bright light shone in his face blinding him. He put up his hands trying to shield his eyes. Then it was gone and the room was plunged back into darkness.
Marty stood still, his heart racing. He strained his eyes to see into the gloom. All at once he was pulled forward with tremendous force and thrown across the room. He tripped and went sprawling.
Marty lay very still, not daring to breathe. The pitch-black room remained silent. He finally started to sit up, but froze when he heard footsteps approaching outside. The door swung open and the main light was switched on.
“And what might you be doing sitting on the floor in my electrical room, Marty boy?” asked a voice in a very familiar Scottish accent.
“Mac!” cried out Marty. “Am I ever glad to see you! There was someone in here. Did you see anyone come out? I needed an extension cord so…”
“Whoa, whoa, Marty slow down!” exclaimed Mac. “What happened to you?”
As Mac helped him to his feet, Marty explained how he had ended up on the floor. He also filled him in on his suspicions that Bully was trying to keep Angela from winning the science fair.
“Well, I wouldn’t put it past the rascal,” stated Mac, “but you know the old adage Marty – innocent until proven guilty.”
He strode across the room to a storage cupboard.
“I keep a few extra cords in here for emergencies like this.” He pulled open the doors. “Thundering typhoons!” he exclaimed. “They’re all gone!”
“It had to be Bully,” Marty growled in frustration.
“Well, we can’t just go searching his locker without a good reason, Marty boy.”
Marty didn’t reply, just stood there thinking.
“Then I guess I’ll have to get him to give us one,” he said finally. He turned to Mac. “Can you find Principal Jacobs, tell him what’s happened, and bring him to the gym?”
“Sure, but what…” Mac didn’t finish his sentence because Marty was already gone, sprinting up the stairs.
Marty raced into the gym and made a beeline for Bully’s table.
“What do you want Brennan?” Bully snapped. “Can’t you see I’m busy?”
“I was wondering if you’d happen to have an extra extension cord that Angela could borrow?”
Bully’s threatening scowl slowly turned into a big smile.
“An extension cord? Hmmm… I don’t think so, but let me check.” He made a half-hearted effort to look under his table. “Nope, I guess not.”
Marty glanced at the clear glass pot of boiling water on Bully’s table. “I see you’re using about 6 cups of water. I suppose you’ve been here the last ten minutes watching it boil?”
“You’re right. Can’t put nothing past you, can I?” Bully shook his head in mock admiration.
“Everything all right here boys?” asked a deep, authoritative voice from behind Marty.
“Oh, everything’s just fine with me, Principal Jacobs,” stated Bully. “But Smarty Marty here has a problem and he’s trying to accuse me of having something to do with it.”
“That’s right, Principal Jacobs,” Marty admitted. “I thought Bully had something to do with the missing extension cords that Mac told you about.”
Principal Jacobs nodded.
“But,” Marty continued, “he says he’s been here boiling his eight cups of water for the last five minutes.”
“It wasn’t eight cups of water, it was six,” Bully corrected him. “And I’ve been here for at least ten minutes watching it boil. As you know, it’s not good to leave boiling water unattended,” he added in a grave tone.
Principal Jacobs glanced over at Bully’s experiment. He stared at the pot of boiling water for a moment.
“Mr. Hayes, would you please turn off your burner and come with me? I think we need to take a look in your locker.”
“Wha… what?” Bully stammered. “Why? I didn’t take those stupid cords. I’ve been in here the whole time, I just told you.”