Baker Trittin Press
Eddy Thompson was known by his friends and his enemies for one thing: Eddy cheated . . . not just sometimes. He cheated on anything, anytime, anywhere. At the same time, he was pretty slick about it. People around Eddy knew when he was up to something, but they could seldom actually catch him.
“If you don’t change your ways,” his principal at school warned him one day, “you can plan to spend the rest of your life in prison.” Not the kind of encouragement an ordinary twelve-year-old student needs to hear. But then Eddy wasn’t exactly ordinary. He’d already been to court, nearly getting shipped off to juvenile detention twice.
Eddy’s squinting eyes, dark, slick hair, and pointed features did nothing to lessen to his shifty reputation.
“It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission,” he’d say. “That’s my motto.”
“You have a sharp mind,” a teacher once complimented. “There’s no telling how far you could go if you put it to doing the right things.” But Eddy tended to ignore such comments.
Eddy lived in Crown Point, Indiana. That in itself was kind of funny because the town is famous as the place where the FBI brought one of the worst gangsters in American history for trial. His name was John Dillenger. Eddy liked the idea that this criminal also grew up in Indiana.
“Best thing to ever come out of this state,” he liked to say about Dillenger.
John Dillenger robbed banks.
At least Eddy hadn’t gone that far yet. But he’d done his share of stealing from stores in the area. More than his share actually.
“People who pay retail are stupid,” he’d say.
The way Eddy figured it, he had a good excuse for the way he acted. “Everything I know about beating the system I learned from my dad,” he’d announce proudly. “And he’s never even been arrested.”
You could say that Eddy took dishonesty to a whole new level. If it were possible for a student to major in the subject of cheating, Eddy could probably teach the class. He’d definitely get straight A’s, and find his name at the top of the principal’s list. He was on a list all right, but not for his good grades.
This was the last class period before Christmas break. Weather forecasters predicted a colder than normal winter. So far they had been right on target. Heavy snow already covered the ground. The temperatures and wind-chill readings had been brutal.
But if Eddy didn’t get a B or better on the exam this afternoon, he was going to flunk history. If that happened, he was in danger of being held back a year. This thought alone left him feeling colder than anything winter could threaten.
“That’s just not gonna happen,” he told his friends defiantly, snapping a pencil right in half.
“Only because part of the test is about your hero,” Chet teased.
Although Chet always did his best to follow the rules, he was probably Eddy’s best friend. Eddy watched him constantly. “How come you’re so different?” he asked Chet one day.
“It’s something on the inside. I’ll tell you about it sometime.”
Then there was Rusty Arnold. It was difficult to decide what Rusty did best . . . complain or worry. He and Chet went to the same church.
Chet and Rusty liked Eddy a lot. When he wasn’t’ cheating, he was fun to be around. They only wished he’d change the way he did things.
“Yeah,” Rusty added. “You should ace the Dillenger questions.”
“I know he was smart enough to break out of our jail even when everybody said that’d be impossible.”
“He was smart all right,” Chet said, “but not smart enough.”
“What do you mean?” Eddy asked.
“You must not have read the whole chapter. The guy got it on a street in Chicago.”
“That’s because he messed up,” Eddy answered. “I don’t intend to let that happen. I’m gettin’ an A on the test and that’s that.”
“This I gotta see,” Rusty challenged.
Eddy looked around. “I have a secret weapon,” he told them quietly.
“What is it this time?” Chet asked.
“Last night I went over to the apartments where our teacher lives.”
“What did you do? Get down on your knees, pound on the door, and beg her for extra credit?” Chet teased.
“Better than extra credit?” Rusty asked.
“I did a little dumpster diving.’
“Dumpster diving. You know. I went through her trash and guess what I found?”
“Trash most likely.”
“Yeah,that too. But I also found three crinkled up papers with all the answers on them.”
“Sure. Want to see them?”
Chet held up his hands. “No way. I studied all week for this test. I’m not taking any chances.”
“Whatever you say,” Eddy sneered.
Just then the bell rang. Chet, Eddy, and Rusty joined the rest of their friends in Mrs. Hokstra’s history class.
A half hour later, Eddy was the first one finished. He stood up and marched proudly to the front of the class where he dropped his exam on the desk.
“Finished so soon?” his teacher asked.
“It was simple,” he told her.
“We’ll see,” she responded.
As Eddy headed for the door an uneasy feeling came over him. Exactly what did she mean by that he wondered? He shuffled to the school library and waited while his friends finished their tests. Eddy sat there all alone until the bell sounded. Soon Chet and Rusty came to the door.
“You going to spend your Christmas break in here, or shall we go home now?” Rusty asked.
Eddy shuddered. “Don’t even think such a horrible thought. Actually I wanted to ask you guys about something.”
“What?” Chet asked.
“Well, you know my dad owns a cabin on Wolf Lake, up in Michigan?”
“So he was talking about going up there between Christmas and New Year’s.”
“What ever for?” Rusty asked. “I thought your cabin was only for . . . like . . . spring and summer.”
“It is, but we have a fireplace and a stove. It’d be cold, but us guys could handle it.”
“Us guys?” Chet asked.
“He wants you both to come with us. Your dads too.”
“What is there to do up there?” Rusty asked.
“Lots of fun stuff.”
“One? I can give you a bunch of them. People go ice fishing on the lake up there.”
“Do they catch any ice?” Rusty joked.
“You’ve never been ice fishing, Russ?”
“I think you’d like it. Plus our cabin is in the middle of nowhere. Who knows what might happen in a deserted place like that? You’ve never seen dark like it is up there at night.”
“I don’t think I like the sound of that,” Rusty warned.
“Me neither,” Chet added.
“Our dads will be there too. Come on. What could possibly happen to us?”