Henry's Gallery Café

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Saturday, December 18th

The sun was shining, not a cloud in the sky, but the temperature was still near freezing.  It was, in spite of the sun, a rather cold, brownish-grey day, and rather uninviting.  That didn't stop the cheerful teasing between the two almost-twins as they made their way up the hill to Manor House. Brian, a few steps behind them, re-wrapped his scarf around his neck, pulling it up over his ears a bit.  None of their boots left prints on the hard, frozen ground.

"I hope we'll get some snow soon," Brian called out.

Mart stopped walking and turned around to wait for his older brother.  "I hope so, too.  It just won't feel like Christmas without snow."

Trixie had also stopped, and she nodded her head in agreement, making the blonde curls poking out from her cap bounce gently.  "The weather forecast said it wasn't likely that we'd get any.  Looks like we'll have a brown Christmas."  She pouted slightly but then smiled again.  "But at least we'll be here for Christmas this year.  I really enjoyed going to Arizona and Vermont, but it was awful being away from home."

"We were actually here for Christmas last year," Mart pointed out.

"Well, yes, I know."  Trixie rolled her eyes a bit.  "It was just, between Moms' Garden Club and the Open House and then leaving for Mead's Mountain right away..."

"It was a busy couple of weeks," Mart agreed.

In just two steps, Brian had caught up with his siblings.  "Very busy.  Come on.  Let's get to Honey's." Mart quirked an eyebrow at his older brother. "And Jim's," Brian added hastily.  "It may not be snowing, but it is cold out here."

The three linked arms and continued up the hill.

"So, do you think we can manage one Christmas without a mystery?" Mart asked his sister, a twinkle in his blue eyes.

Fifteen-year-old Trixie Belden just smiled.  "You never know," she finally said.

It wasn't long before they were standing inside the impressive foyer of the Manor House.  Boughs of pine and sparkly ornaments hung elegantly across the doorway.  "Everyone else is here," Celia said in greeting.  "They're in the den upstairs.  I was just bringing up some popcorn and sodas."  She gestured toward the tray hastily placed on the sideboard before opening the door.  "Now that you're here, one of you boys can bring the tray up for me."  Celia winked as she picked up the tray and placed it in Brian's hands.

Mart grinned.  "Here, let me lighten the load."  He grabbed a handful of popcorn and shoved it into his mouth, dropping a few kernels on the floor in the process.

"Stop causing me more work," Celia teased.

"Hah!"  Mart winked back at her.  "We're already saving you work by taking the tray up."  But he bent down and, with a flourish, scooped up the fallen kernels.

Trixie bounced impatiently.  "Stop clowning.  Let's go already."  She smiled at Celia and then gently pushed her brothers to get them moving toward the spiral staircase.

"Watch out or I'll drop all this," Brian chided, but he adjusted the tray and proceeded up the stairs.

The three of them heard the others before they reached the den.  The den was a large room with plush sage green carpeting, two large windows to let in light, and enough comfortable chairs and sofas for all the Bob-Whites and then some.  Bookshelves filled with the romance novels, mysteries, adventure stories, and other favorites of the Wheelers lined one wall of the room.  There was also a large table for playing cards or board games, and, of course, a couple of cabinets filled with such games.  Presently, there was also a large Christmas tree, lavishly decorated, standing in one corner.

Di and Honey were seated comfortably on one of the large sofas while Jim and Dan each occupied an armchair.  As the three Beldens entered, the room still echoed with laughter from the merry conversation between the occupants.  Brian put the tray down on the coffee table nearest Honey and picked up a couple of sodas.

"Dr. Pepper?" he offered, twisting open the bottle top.

Honey smiled and took the bottle from him.  Her cheeks were rosy, and her eyes were bright with excitement.

"What about the rest of us?" Dan asked from his armchair.

"Help yourselves," Brian replied calmly as he claimed the empty spot on the couch next to Honey.

Di snickered and reached for some popcorn, while Mart and Trixie found seats on the other couch.

"I guess if we don't have honey-colored hair, we're out of luck," Jim commented dryly.

Brian grinned at his best friend and shrugged his shoulder slightly.  "So, anyway, what have you been discussing?"

"Oh, I was trying to think of something for us to do this holiday break since we're not going anywhere for once."  Honey's smile grew and encompassed the whole group.

"Have you come up with anything?" Trixie asked, curious and excited as always.

"Why, I was hoping we could do some volunteer work for Saint Ann's or one of the other churches.  Or maybe we could do a Bob-White project of some kind.  Something to help feed families."  Honey settled back against the couch, tucking one leg underneath her and accidentally rubbing her foot against Brian's thigh in the process.  Brian moved slightly so she could get comfortable, and he was rewarded with yet another smile.  "I was with Daddy at the church fundraiser the other day, and this one little girl just broke my heart.  She was only four years old, and she said all she wanted for Christmas was for her mom to find a job so they could have dinner again."

Di sniffed.  "I know what you mean.  Even in our poor days, there was always enough for food.  We were never that bad off."  She reached for another handful of popcorn and then looked guiltily at it.  "I'd like to do something to help those who are hungry."

"But there are food drives going on all over the place," Mart said.  "We could just contribute to them.  I'd rather do something more, somehow.  Something that would really help and would get us more personally involved."

Dan nodded and got up to get a soda.

"Maybe we could adopt a family?" Trixie suggested.

No one was surprised when Jim replied, "That sounds like a great idea."

"How would we do that?" Dan asked, as he sat back down and twisted the cap off the glass Coke bottle.  "Are we talking about a homeless family that we would invite to come live here?  I think we need to talk to Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler about that first."

Trixie shook her head.  "No.  Not like that.  But if we could find a family that could use a hand, we could visit them, bring them food, maybe do chores for them or something..."  Trixie trailed off, unsure herself of what she meant.

But Honey nodded and added enthusiastically, "That sounds great.  If the family was having hard times, maybe we could cheer them up.  Spread Christmas cheer and good will, you know?  Maybe if they have young children we could play with them or take them to the park.  There's lots of ways we could help."

Brian hated to dampen Honey's spirits, but his practical nature made him speak out.  "It sounds like a good idea, but would a family want a bunch of teenagers around?  Wouldn't they feel, I don't know, uncomfortable with all of our help?  Maybe helping with a food drive would be a better idea."

Trixie frowned and looked like she was about to say something, but Mart caught her eye and stopped her.  "I think this adopting a family thing could be a great idea," he said.  Mart noticed Trixie's surprised expression.  "But we should look into it more first.  How would we find a family that wants to be adopted?  Because like Brian said, we can't just foist ourselves on people."

"Well, since my family actually attends Saint Ann's regularly, maybe I could ask Father Patrick about the idea?" Di asked.  "And if any of you would like to attend Mass with me tomorrow, let me know.  I'm sure you'd all be welcome to come."

Sunday, December 19th

All of the Bob-Whites had taken up Di's offer.  After the Mass was over, they waited for the crowd to disperse so they could talk with Father Patrick.  Many of the parishioners had gathered around him simply to say hello.  When the Bob-Whites were the only ones left, Di shyly approached him.

"Hello, Diana."  Father Patrick smiled kindly at her and the others.  "I'm so glad you brought all your friends along today."

"Hi, Father Patrick."  Di smiled back.  Pointing at each person in turn, she introduced them all.  "This is my friend, Trixie, and her two brothers, Mart and Brian.  And this is Honey and her brother, Jim."

Father Patrick interrupted her before she got to Dan.  "It's nice to meet all of you.  And, Daniel, it's good to see you again."  He shook hands with everyone in turn.

Dan blushed ever so slightly.  "Good to see you, Father."

"Father," Di started again shyly.  "We wanted to ask you something."  She looked around at the others for support.  "We were hoping we could help some people out over Christmas break."

"Help out?" Father Patrick perked up.  "That's great.  We could always use more volunteers for the food drive and at the soup kitchen."

"Actually, Father Patrick, that's not exactly what we had in mind," Mart stated.

Father Patrick raised an eyebrow.

Mart hurried to explain.  "We were hoping we could kind of adopt a family.  Help them out by doing chores, keeping them company, and, of course, with meals.  Things like that.  We wanted to connect with some people on a more personal level."

"Hmmm, that's an interesting idea.  Let me think about it and ask a few of our parishioners."

"Thank you, Father," Honey replied.  "Do you know when you might be able to let us know?"

"I should know in a few hours. I can call your parents tonight, Diana.  Would that be okay?"  Father Patrick started walking them out.

"That would be great," Trixie answered for her.  Then, with a sheepish look at Di, she added, "Uh, wouldn't it?"

Di giggled and nodded.  "That would be great.  Thank you, Father."

Just as they were about to leave, Father Patrick called them back.  "Wait a minute, please."

The seven teens turned back around and waited with anticipation.

"There is this one family that I'm certain could use your help, Trixie, if Sergeant Molinson's opinions have any merit."  Father Patrick winked kindly at the blonde teen.  "It's a mystery of a sort, if you will."

"Oh, no!  Not a mystery!"  Mart clutched what he could of his short blond curls while covering his face with his elbows.

Father Patrick laughed but then turned serious.  "It's no laughing matter really.  It's the O'Donnells.  Their son, Henry, goes to school with some of you, I believe."

All the Bob-Whites nodded; even Jim and Brian remembered Henry O'Donnell, a shy, rich boy in some of Mart's classes.

"What about Henry O'Donnell?" Trixie asked.  She couldn't imagine anything mysterious about the boy, except that he did seem to have developed quite a chip on his shoulder this last year.

"He's run away from home.  At least, I think he has.  Mrs. O'Donnell is convinced he was kidnapped, but she hasn't told me of any evidence which points in that direction.  She has reported his disappearance to the police, and she and Mr. O'Donnell have been putting flyers up all over town."  Father Patrick paused and looked over the group of teens who had a reputation for being helpful and intelligent.  "It's not the kind of volunteer work you came here asking about, but being close to Henry's age, and knowing your reputation with problem solving, I hope you can help find Henry... and help his family in the process."

Honey thought back on her own upbringing and wondered if she would have been in a similar place if it hadn't been for Trixie and Jim.  Of course, she didn't actually know much about Henry and his family, but she could imagine.  "Of course, Father.  We'll do our best," she said.

Dan nodded.  "If Henry has run away, there's a good chance he ran to the city.  I know some places there we can look into."

"We should probably start with home first, though," Jim commented.  He didn't really want Trixie or Honey exploring those places in New York City that Dan knew.  "Would his parents talk to us?"

"I'm sure they would, or I wouldn't have mentioned it at all.  Mr. and Mrs. O'Donnell are quite worried."  Father Patrick led the group back inside the church and over to the bulletin board in the entry way.  He picked up a homemade flyer with Henry's picture on it from a stack of flyers sitting on the bench.  "Like I said, Mr. O'Donnell distributed these yesterday.  You'll find their address and phone number on here."

Jim took the flyer, and they all thanked Father Patrick again as they made their way to the station wagon.

Jim handed Brian the flyer before climbing in behind the wheel. After they were all seated, Brian read to the others.  "Henry O'Donnell was last seen on Thursday, December 16th, at the bus stop at Sleepyside High School.  He was wearing Levi's jeans, a dark green sweater, a blue coat, and white Nike tennis shoes.  He may have been carrying a blue Adidas duffle bag."  Brian looked up from the flyer and then turned to the others in the car.  "So, he never got home from school on Thursday."

Instead of making the turn from Albany Post Road that would lead to Glen Road and home, Jim turned left on Mystic Drive.  "The address is listed as being on Mystic Drive, so it shouldn't be too hard to find."

Jim was right.  There weren't that many homes on Mystic Drive, a circular road that mostly overlooked the river.  He soon pulled into a long driveway that led to a sprawling estate.  Strings of Christmas lights decorated the outside of the home, and a large wreath adorned the door.

"Should we all go up, or should some of us wait in the car?" Dan asked from the back seat.

"I think it would be overwhelming if we all went," Trixie answered.  "Maybe just two of us should go."

It was quickly decided that Trixie and Honey would go first and then get the rest of the Bob-Whites after talking to the O'Donnells.

The woman who answered the door barely let Trixie get a few sentences out before she quickly ushered Trixie and Honey inside and then went to the car herself to get the rest of the group.  She led the teenagers to the living room, talking the whole time.  "I just can't get over that Henry ran away. Of course, Marcia and Thom are out looking for him right now, that's why they're not home.  Marcia asked me to stay at the house in case he returns, and, of course, I said I would, so here I am.  That boy has a lot of nerve worrying his parents and the rest of us.  His parents have had to drop everything so they can spend their time looking for him."

"Excuse me, Ms, uh..."  Honey interrupted the woman's monologue.

"Tracy.  Tracy Hopkins.  I'm Henry's aunt.  Marcia's sister.  Marcia is Henry's mom."  Tracy continued to explain.  "Are you friends of Henry's?  You look like you're about his age.  Do you go to the high school with him?  I told Marcia and Thom they should have sent him to a private school.  Maybe he would've turned out better --"

This time, it was Mart who interrupted Ms. Hopkins.  "We're not exactly friends of his, but we do know him.  Father Patrick at Saint Ann's Church thought we might be able to help find him."

"We were hoping we could get some clues as to where he might have gone by talking to you and his other family, and maybe even looking around his room."  As soon as the words came out, Trixie realized that it sounded rather forward.

"I don't know what you think you'll learn that the police haven't," Ms. Hopkins stated rather defensively.  "On the other hand, the police didn't really do much since he's a runaway, and I suppose they don't spend much time on runaways.  And if Father Patrick sent you -- Father Patrick did send you?"

Trixie nodded vehemently, as did the other Bob-Whites.

"I guess it couldn't hurt any.  Do you know why he ran away?"

Honey looked confused.  "No, we have no idea.  Did he mention why he left?  I thought Mrs. O'Donnell thought it was a kidnapping."

"Oh, of course, Marcia can't believe her boy would ever run away.  He had everything here.  That's the problem.  Henry's such a spoiled brat.  He got everything he asked for and then some.  But his parents wouldn't buy him the new stereo he wanted.  So he up and left."  Ms. Hopkins shook her head, causing her bangs to fall into her eyes.  She swept them back with her hand.  "Marcia says Henry's not like that, but she has a mother's bias.  I haven't offered you anything to drink, have I?  Would you like some juice?"

Everybody declined the offer of a drink, and after a bit more one-sided conversation, finally got Ms. Hopkins to show them Henry's room.  The Bob-Whites decided to split up instead of all crowding into Henry's space.  Jim and Mart joined Trixie and Honey in the search.  They were anxious to look around for any possible clues:  a journal, a newspaper article, anything that might get them headed in a certain direction.  Henry's room was similar to Jim's, except instead of the outdoorsy theme running through Jim's belongings, with Henry, everything led to cars or mechanics. 

Meanwhile, Brian, Dan, and Di waited outside in the hallway and talked quietly amongst themselves.  A door next to Henry's opened a crack and then quickly closed again.  The three teenagers exchanged looks of raised eyebrows, and then Di went over to the door and knocked quietly.  There was no answer, so she knocked again.  Slowly, the door opened, and a girl about nine years old stood there timidly.  She had mousy brown hair but beautiful, large grey eyes.

"Hi," Di said smoothly.  "We're, uh, we're friends of Father Patrick.  Do you know him?"

The girl nodded her head.

"I'm Di, and this is Brian, and this is Dan."  She pointed to Brian and Dan in turn.

"I'm Kelly."  She said it quietly, but confidently.

"Hi, Kelly.  It's nice to meet you.  Are you Henry's sister?"

"Yes.  Are you friends of Henry's, too?"

Di shook her head.  "We sort of know Henry from school, but we're not really friends."

"Oh, that's too bad.  He didn't have a lot of friends."  Kelly frowned.  "So, why are you here then?"

"We want to help find Henry," Brian answered.  "Do you know where he might have gone?"

Kelly shrugged her shoulders.  "He always talked about going to the city.  But I don't know for sure.  I just wish he'd come back.  I miss him."  She frowned again.  "And I miss my mom and dad."  She looked up as Jim, Honey, Trixie, and Mart emerged from Henry's room. 

"Did he ever say where in the city he would go?" Dan asked.  "Maybe we could find him there."

Kelly shook her head, and tears started to form in her eyes.  "If he said, I don't know."

"Don't worry, Kelly," Brian and Di said at the same time.

"Yes, don't worry," Jim added.  "Trixie always finds her man."

Tuesday evening, December 21st

"I called the shop in the ad that was circled in this Model Car and Track magazine we found on his dresser," Honey reported.  "The man who answered was pretty unhelpful."

"That's not surprising," Mart muttered.  Then, with a bit more enthusiasm, "What did he say?"

"Oh, the usual.  'We get hordes of teen boys in here.  How would I know one from another?  And I don't ask their names.'"  Honey paused, knowing what she was going to say next might be met with resistance.  She looked at her partner, who nodded.  "Trixie and I think we should go down there with a picture of Henry."

"That sounds like a good idea," Brian responded, earning a smile from Honey and a surprised swallow from Trixie.  "Even if the shop owner doesn't recognize him, maybe some of his customers will.  It wouldn't hurt to post some flyers in his shop."

"Thank you, Brian."  Trixie was sincerely grateful for her oldest brother's support.  "Henry's been gone at least four and a half days now, and it just feels like we need to be doing something more.  We're obviously not getting anywhere here in Sleepyside."

"Makes me glad that we haven't had any snow yet," Brian commented quietly.

"Snow or no snow, it's cold outside.  I hope he's found shelter."  Honey's eyes filled with tears at the thought of anyone sleeping outside this time of year.

"I'm all for going to New York to look for him, also," Jim added. "I wasn't too keen on the idea at first, but we really don't have any other leads."

Mart nodded his agreement also. "Dan, Di, what do you think?"

"Sounds great," Dan said.  "Where is this shop?"

"The address is 305 West 118th Street.  Do you know where that is?" Honey pulled out a map of New York City, opened it, and looked at Dan, Jim, and Brian.  She really hoped none of them would be familiar with the area.  She was not lucky.  She could actually see Jim trying to picture where that would be in his mind.  And she knew when he opened his mouth that he'd figured it out.

"When Father Patrick suggested we help the O'Donnells find Henry, I don't think he meant for us to go wandering around Harlem!"  Jim shook his head vehemently.  "I really don't think Henry would have gone to that neighborhood, if he even went to the city at all."  He looked at the other Bob-White males for support.

"I knew it.  Drat."  Honey looked over at Trixie.  "Your turn, partner.  The time for tact is over."

Di giggled.  She fully intended to stay out of the discussion, and out of any trips to dangerous New York City neighborhoods, but her curiosity won out.  She looked at the map with a questioning glance at Honey, who pointed out the likely intersection for the store Henry may have been interested in.

Meanwhile, Trixie stood up, ready to make her argument.  "Jim, listen!  We know he wanted to go to New York.  We've talked to everybody in Sleepyside that we could.  We did some research at the police station here in Sleepyside.  The only real lead we have is that circled ad for that model car shop."  Trixie was ticking the items off on her fingers as she talked.  She was pacing now.  "Besides, lots of teenage runaways end up in Harlem where they can get cheap housing, and no one bats an eye at them, and the longer we wait to try to find him, the more likely he'll get himself involved in something he may not be able to easily get himself out of."

"Besides, if my name was Henry, and I was running away to New York, and I saw a street named Henry Hudson Parkway, I'd follow it, too," Di chimed in, surprising herself.  She'd seen the name of the street on the map near the neighborhood Honey had pointed out.

"That makes about as much sense as, well, no sense at all!" Brian snapped, hurting Di's feelings.  Honey frowned at him, and he quickly added.  "I just don't want you girls going to such a dangerous neighborhood."

"Well, if you go with us, it won't be so dangerous.  Right?"  Honey looked pointedly at Brian.

Mart chuckled, easing some of the tension.  "The neighborhood will be just as dangerous.  However, I agree with the point you intended to make.  The more of us that go along, the less in danger we will be.  Or something like that."

Dan, who'd been fairly quiet since Jim's outburst, drummed his fingers on the table.  "I don't know what happened to our dictionary-swallowing friend's vocabulary or grammatical skills, but I agree with him.  The point is, if we all go, we should be fine."  Dan held up a hand as Jim was about to say something.  "Yes, that area of the city, which is actually south of Harlem, is a very bad area of town.  I'm surprised anybody even has a shop there.  But, Trixie's also right in that lots of homeless teens end up around there, especially since it's near Columbia University.  Call it a hunch, but I think we'll find Henry.  I've been feeling frustrated that we haven't gone down to the city before this to search for him.  Let's leave first thing in the morning, if we can."

Di gulped.  "Count me in." 

Wednesday, December 22nd

The teenagers had finagled their way into getting their parents to believe they were just going to visit New York to do some last minute Christmas shopping.  The Wheelers graciously lent them use of their penthouse and also provided a couple of chaperones in the form of Tom and Celia.  After confiding in Tom their real reason for being in New York, Tom decided to accompany them, much to Jim and Brian's relief.

It wasn't too difficult to get to the area between the Upper West Side and Harlem, known as Morningside Heights, using the subway.  Morningside Heights was an old neighborhood inhabited by college students, immigrants, and other less wealthy folks; it also had a pretty bad reputation. 

When they first got on the subway, the seven teenagers were excited, and even Tom felt their enthusiasm.  By the time they reached the Cathedral Parkway station, the mood was more wary and nervous.  Although none of the other subway passengers paid any attention to them, they felt as if they stuck out like a bunch of sore thumbs.  When they finally climbed out at 116th Street, they grouped together to form a plan. 

"We'll definitely be conspicuous if we really do stick together.  We should probably split up," Tom suggested.  "Maybe just a few of us could go check out the store, and the rest of us could check out that church there.  They might have some idea where a homeless teen would seek shelter around here." 

"Well, I don't know this neighborhood very well."  Dan looked up and down the street and then around at the group.  "I do think both places are worth checking out.  Maybe Trixie, Jim, Mart, and I could go and check out the store.  Would that be okay?"

Trixie looked gratefully at Dan.  She knew what Tom really meant when he suddenly decided they should split up.  Di also looked gratefully at Dan.  She thought the church looked rather inviting compared to the dim surroundings.  The Upper West Side neighborhood the Wheelers' penthouse was located in had Christmas decorations hanging from the street lamps, and all the houses had a festive air.  Here, it looked like Christmas had been forgotten. 

Tom looked at both of them, and the rest of the group, and finally nodded.  Trixie should be safe if the three boys stayed with her, and he knew they would.

Trixie linked one arm through Dan's and reached for Jim's with the other.  "Come on, Mart.  The store should just be a couple of blocks from here."

"Wait a second," Brian called.  "We should agree to meet back here."

"'Natch," Mart agreed.  He turned to Trixie.  "How long do you think we'll need?"

Trixie shrugged.  "I don't really know.  Let's say we meet back here in an hour?"

"Sounds good," Tom agreed.  "If you aren't back here in an hour, we'll come looking for you."

"Good luck," Honey called out to the group as she turned and linked her arms through Di's and Brian's.  Tom followed the trio into the doors of Saint Paul's.  The church was practically empty, and they could not find an office of any kind.  There was one woman sitting in one of the pews, but they did not want to interrupt her in case she was praying.

After a few minutes, a couple of young girls, probably in their twenties, walked in.  They were a bit surprised to see Tom, Brian, Honey, and Di standing inside the church foyer, and while they had been talking as they walked in, they became quiet and then walked down some stairs on the right.

"Do you think we should have asked them something?" Di asked the others.

"Probably."  Honey giggled.  "But they seemed so startled by us."

The door opened, and three more people walked in: two guys and one girl.  They seemed a bit older than the other two, but like them, they seemed really surprised to see the four strangers in their church.

"Excuse me," Brian said.  "Could we ask you a couple of questions?"  He pulled out a flyer with Henry's picture on it.

"No, sorry," was the response.  None of them even glanced at the flyer, and they also turned to the right and walked down the stairs.

When the next person also ignored them and went downstairs, Honey followed her, and Brian followed Honey.  There was a hallway that led to some restrooms, but further on, just around the corner, was another door.  A sign on the door stated in simple bold letters, "SIA", and in smaller writing, "Wednesdays:  11:00am - 12:00pm.  Fridays:  6:00pm - 7:00pm."  Honey turned around and looked at Brian.  "Do you have any idea what SIA stands for?"

"Not a clue," Brian replied.

"Hmmm.  Shall we?"

"Allow me."  Brian stepped in front of her and slowly opened the door.  It was a large room, sparsely furnished, and a little less than a dozen people were sitting, some cross-legged or on their knees on the floor, a few others sitting on a bench on one side, and a handful in some metal chairs.  Brian and Honey had seen six of them enter the church, but they each wondered where the other four people had come from.  All ten faces turned toward the couple.

"May I help you?" a voice said coldly, and Honey suddenly realized they were interrupting.

"Well, yes, I hope you may."  Honey forced what she hoped looked like a friendly smile and not a menacing grimace.  She checked her watch and noted that it was not quite eleven yet.  "I'm looking for --"

"I'm sorry."  A man with sandy brown hair and piercing blue eyes, probably in his early thirties, stood up and walked towards them.  "My name's Stephen. I apologize if we've been rude.  Are you here for the meeting?"

"Well, no," Honey admitted.

"Then what can I help you with?"  Stephen smiled but motioned them back out into the hallway.  He followed them and was about to close the door, except two more people had come down the stairs and were waiting to enter.  They stared at the strangers in question but smiled at Stephen and went inside the room.  Stephen closed the door behind them and then looked at Honey and Brian, waiting for them to speak.

"We're looking for someone," Brian started to explain.

Stephen's attitude changed at those words.  "I don't think anyone here will help you."  He started to turn around to go back inside again.

"Wait," Honey said.  She put a hand on his arm.  "I don't know what your SIA group is all about, but Brian and I, my name's Honey by the way, belong to the BWGs.  We're a group that tries to help people.  Would you at least hear us out?"

Stephen raised an eyebrow.  "Honey?  Is that really your name?"


"Okay, you're looking for someone.  I'm listening."  Stephen leaned against the wall and crossed his arms.  He may have been trying to look casual, but his stance still put out waves of wariness.

"Thank you.  We're looking for a boy about our age.  He's run away from home."  Brian held the slightly wrinkled flyer out towards Stephen.

Stephen shrugged his shoulders.  "Maybe he had a good reason to run away."

Honey nodded.  "Yes, maybe he did.  My brother ran away from home once and he had good reason."  She paused, blushing.  "Let me re-state that.  He ran away from his former home.  Once my friend and I found him, we got him out of that situation, and now he's my brother."

Stephen smiled.  "Okay, so you helped some runaway once, and your family adopted him.  What's that to do with this kid?"  He tilted his head to point his chin at the flyer still in Brian's hand.

Brian thought he understood where Stephen was coming from.  "Not much, except that we'd really like to find him.  I promise if he's in a situation at home that is dangerous to him, we won't make him go back."  He thrust the flyer forward again.  "Have you seen him?"

Stephen took the flyer and looked at the picture.  "No."  He shook his head.  "I haven't seen him.  Have you tried over at Andrew's Inn?  They don't usually question who stays there."

"Andrew's Inn.  Where is that?" Honey asked.

"Just a couple of blocks away on 117th.  Go towards 7th Avenue.  It's a pretty cheap place, if this kid had any money at all.  A lot of young runaway kids start out there."

Honey was pretty sure she didn't want to know, but she had to ask.  "And if he's run out of money?"

"It depends."  Stephen shrugged again.  He thought this young girl really didn't want to know about life on the streets.

But Honey pushed him.  "Depends on what?"

"On if the pimps get to him first or the pushers."  Stephen frowned.  "Look, I hope you find him.  I gotta go."  With that, he turned back into the room.

Trixie, Mart, Dan, and Jim looked dubiously at the dusty window of Luke's Slot Cars.  There was no display, and boxes of model cars blocked most of the view into the store.  Trixie reached for the door and gently pushed, causing a bell to jingle.  The four teens entered the store.  There were only two other occupants in the store:  an older man standing behind the counter, and a young boy of about twelve or thirteen who was sitting in a corner putting together a model car.

Trixie, flyer in hand, marched up to the counter and addressed the man.  "Have you seen this boy recently?"

The man took the flyer and studied it carefully, squinting through thick glasses.  "Are you the same girl that called here yesterday morning?"

"No.  That would've been my best friend."  Trixie nodded at the flyer.  "So, have you seen him or not?"

The old man stared back at her.  "We get a lot of kids come in and out of here." 

"Yeah, I can see you're real busy." Dan mustered up an old Cowhand-style glare.

The kid in the corner snorted, earning a glance from the old man.  "What's it to you if I've seen him or not?" the man asked.

"It's important." Mart answered.  Collectively, the four teens stared at the old man, waiting for him to answer.

The man sighed.  He looked around at the shelves scattered with merchandise.  "Yeah. All right.  I saw him.  He came in here Sunday.  Looked at every single box we had and then just walked out.  It's a shame.  He looked like he could've afforded to buy a few things."

"That's great.  So he is in the area."  Trixie became excited.  "Do you have any idea where he might have gone?"

The man shook his head.  "I figured he went home.  Thought he was just slumming."

"He hasn't gone home," Jim said.  "Do you know if there's anywhere around here a homeless teen might hang out?"

"Nope, don't really know."

"Okay.  Thanks for your help."  Jim looked over at the boy in the corner.  "Do you know any place we can start looking?" he asked him.

The boy just shook his head.

Dan motioned to the others that they should leave him alone.  Saying a few last thanks, the four of them left the store.

"What now?" Mart asked.

"He was here on Sunday, and it's only Wednesday.  Hopefully, he's somewhere close by."  Trixie's eyes shined with excitement.  "We still have about forty minutes before we need to meet the others.  Let's just walk around and see what we find."

Dan shrugged his shoulders.  A lot could happen in a few days, but he didn't want to dampen Trixie's enthusiasm.  "Doesn't sound like the best of plans, but I haven't got anything better to offer."

Jim nodded.  "Works for me."

They quickly decided to head towards Morningside Park, a large park across from the Columbia University campus.  They spent thirty minutes combing just a small part of the park.  They found drunks, they found people strung out, they found teenagers hanging out, but they did not find Henry.  Soon, it was time for them to meet the others at the 116th Street station.  They gave up and headed back, their mood bleak.  Trixie shivered.

When they got to the meeting place, they were astonished to find Di brimming with uncontainable excitement.

"Do you have some news?" Jim quickly asked.

Di jumped up and down and grinned.  "There's a café, not too far from here."

"A café?"  Mart's puzzled expression just made Di grin wider.

"Henry's café," she said proudly.

Brian rolled his eyes, and tried to explain.  "We went to Andrew's Inn to see if Henry had stayed there, and he had, but he'd already left.  On the way, we passed a café called 'Henry's Gallery Café.'"

Di took over.  "And Yuchi, the owner, he saw him.  He knows him.  He said there's a good chance Henry will be back tonight.  Yuchi took pity on him and told him if he was hungry to come back."  Di glanced at the astonished faces of Dan, Mart, Jim, and Trixie.

Trixie finally found her voice.  Although she was disappointed she hadn't been the one to find this latest lead, she really was grateful for the good news.  "That's super.  Should we go there now?"

"Andrew's Inn?" Jim asked, still trying to follow what had happened.

Tom quickly filled in the gaps for the others, telling them about the cheap motel and about the kind coffee shop owner and how he kept the name Henry when he took over the café a few years before.

Dan laughed and congratulated Di.  "You did say he'd follow his name.  Good for you."

Honey went to Trixie's side.  She knew how her best friend was feeling.  "It is good.  Even if Henry doesn't show up tonight, we have some solid leads."  She put her arm around Trixie's.  "Did you find anything at the model car shop?"

Trixie filled them in about the store and the park, and, in doing so, got back some of her excitement for the case.  Henry was close by, and there was a good chance they would find him.  Then they could, hopefully, reunite him with his family.

Wednesday evening, December 22nd

Since Tom wasn't going to let the teens go back to Henry's Café alone at night, he and Celia both accompanied the group this time.  The nine of them were crowded around two small tables shoved together in a corner of the warm restaurant.  Trixie talked with Yuchi and found him friendly and honest.  He told her how bad off he'd been when he first immigrated to America, and how he had worked hard and saved money to open his own business and provide for his family.  He also told her how sad it made him to see anyone go hungry, which is why he always offered a meal to those who couldn't afford to pay.

It was nearly ten o'clock at night before Henry finally walked in.  He looked tired, dirty, and scared.  He walked up to the counter, and Yuchi greeted him with a friendly "hello".

"Hiya, Yuchi," Henry answered.  "I've got some money this time.  Can I get a turkey sandwich and fries, please?"

"Where you get money?" Yuchi asked kindly.  "I hope you no sell drugs.  I no take drug money."

"Nah."  Henry shook his head.  "I told you I'm clean.  I don't want any part of the drug crowd.  I sold some of my things at a second-hand store.  Figure I have enough to get by for a couple more days."

"What you do then?"  Yuchi wiped down the counter in front of the boy and then started to prepare the sandwich.  He glanced over at the Bob-Whites.

The Bob-Whites had agreed beforehand that it might be overwhelming for Henry to see them all at once, so Mart was elected to approach Henry.  He had already gotten up and was now sliding into the stool next to Henry's at the counter.  "Henry?"

Henry nearly jumped. He stared at Mart.  "Mart?  Mart Belden?"

"Yep, that's me.  Thought I recognized you."  Mart gave Henry a friendly grin.

"Are you slumming?" Henry asked.  "I never thought I'd run into you here."

"Funny," Mart answered.  "I could say the same thing.  Maybe even more so."

"What do you know?"  Henry jeered.

"I know that your parents miss you.  And so does Kelly."  Mart's gentle blue-eyed gaze met the angry stare from Henry's grey eyes.

"My parents barely know me."  Henry slumped.  "They think they can just buy me whatever I want and that will fix everything."

"What is it that needs fixing?" Mart asked.

Henry didn't answer right away, and Mart didn't push him.  Finally, he said, "I don't fit in at school.  I don't know why.  I try to.  I thought that if I had the coolest clothes and the latest things, people would like me.  But I don't need those things.  And I don't even really want them."  Henry looked embarrassed.  "I tried talking to my parents about stuff.  About how the boys pick on me for being a geek.  About how the ones who do say they're my friends only like me because I have the coolest slot cars, the latest gizmos.  But none of it's real."  Henry looked out the window, and Mart turned his head to follow.  "That's real, out there.  Very real."

"I disagree."  Mart looked at the boy from his class.  "That's not real at all.  Not for you.  I'll tell you what's real."

Henry looked at Mart, challenging him.

"Your little sister is real.  She needs a big brother.  Your parents spending the last six days searching for you is real.  Maybe they don't understand exactly where you're coming from, but so what?  They love you.  They care about you.  A lot of people care about you."  Mart wasn't sure if he was getting through to Henry or not.  "Father Patrick at Saint Ann's cares about you.  We care about you.  Otherwise, we wouldn't all be here."  Mart turned toward the corner of the coffee shop and pointed to the table where the rest of the Bob-Whites and Tom and Celia were waiting.

Henry wavered.  "I do miss Kelly.  She can be a pest sometimes, but mostly she's not."  He paused and looked at Yuchi, who was nodding.

"Go home, Henry," Yuchi said wisely.  "You are lucky you have a home you can go to."

Henry swallowed.  "I suppose I can say you all dragged me back against my will?"  He looked hopefully at Mart.  He didn't want to admit that he wanted to go back home.

"Natch," Mart answered with a smile.

Friday, December 24th, Midnight Mass

The Bob-Whites stood in the Lynches' pew, singing along with the choir.  Trixie smiled at Mart and then looked over at one of the pews across from them.  Henry and Kelly O'Donnell were singing enthusiastically, along with their parents.  Henry must have felt her stare, because he turned around and smiled.  Marcia O'Donnell also turned and smiled at Trixie, tears making her eyes bright.  She mouthed, "Thank you, again," and then turned back to the singing.

All out of darkness we have light,
Which made the angels sing this night.
All out of darkness we have light,
Which made the angels sing this night:
"Glory to God and peace to men,
Now and for evermore, Amen!" 

Brian held Honey's hand tightly, admiring her radiance as she sang along with the choir.  With the song over, they sat down.  Honey nudged Brian and pointed out one of the lower windows.  A light snow was falling.  It would be a white Christmas, after all. 


Author's Notes:

Jennie, I really enjoyed writing this story for you, in spite of my complaints to my editors and my muses. *g* I'm so glad I participated and I hope you enjoy this story.

Pretty much everything is made up except the stuff that's real.

Things that are real include but are not limited to Morningside Heights, the Upper West Side, Morningside Park, Columbia University, Saint Ann's Catholic Church in Ossining, Vermont, Arizona, popcorn...

Things that are not real (or if they are it is coincidental) include but are not limited to Saint Paul's, Luke's Slot Cars, Andrew's Inn, Father Patrick, Yuchi, the entire O'Donnell family...

Something that is sort of real is Henry's Galery Café. This place exists in Oakland, California, and the owner is very nice, is not named Henry, is Chinese, and is not named Yuchi. And they make the best breakfast sandwiches.

Things that I wish were real include but are not limited to Mart, Brian, Jim, Di, Dan, Honey, Trixie, Sergeant Molinson (yes -- him, too), Tom, Moms, the Sleepyside Garden Club, Sleepyside, Crabapple Farm, Manor House...

Background picture is from iStockPhoto.

Happy Holidays, everyone! I hope you all have a place to call 'home'.

Word count: 7522

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