“It’s her,” Nick said. “She’s the spy.”
“Who is?” said Tesla.
She looked around. She and her brother were in their uncle’s backyard, about to test-fly the hoop glider they’d been working on that morning. There was only one other person in sight: a fortyish woman crouched over a bed of begonias about forty feet away. She was wearing jeans and a T-shirt and dirty gardening gloves. A sweat-soaked bandana was wrapped around her head.
She didn’t look much like a spy to Tesla.
“You mean Julie Casserly?”
Nick nodded, eyeing the woman suspiciously.
“I can feel it in my gut,” he said. “She’s always watching us. Always glaring.”
“Well, of course she is. Wouldn’t you if you lived next door to Uncle Newt?”
Nick and Tesla’s uncle was an inspired, ingenious, innovative inventor. Unfortunately, he was also a forgetful, dreamy, not-particularly-safety-minded one. Since the kids had come to stay with him a couple weeks earlier, his out-of-control creations had chewed up Julie’s flower beds, demolished one of her garden gnomes, set her lawn on fire, and splattered her car with thirty pounds of putrid bananas flambé. (Uncle Newt was convinced he could build an engine for a vacuum cleaner that ran on compost. So far, he’d only succeeded in building several extremely smelly time bombs.)
Maybe Julie would have overcome her dislike for Uncle Newt and warmed up to Nick and Tesla—maybe
—but the kids were wannabe inventors themselves. They could often be found in their uncle’s backyard testing out homemade hovercrafts and balloon rockets and robots.
And, this day, a hoop glider.
“What is that?” Julie said when Tesla lifted the glider and prepared to send it on its first flight. She’d turned from her begonias to shoot Nick and Tesla a wary glare. “A remote-controlled spear?”
Tesla lowered the glider. It was just a couple hoops of stiff paper, a small one in front and a larger one behind it, connected by a straw.
“No,” said Tesla.
“A computerized javelin?” said Julie.
“A self-shooting arrow?”
“Some kind of missile?”
“It’s a glider,” said Nick.
Julie narrowed her eyes. “And what’s that supposed to do?”
“Uhh . . . glide,” said Tesla.
Julie cocked her head, her lips twisting into a tight, sarcastic smile.
“Oh, sure. It just glides,” she said. She pushed herself up from her knees and began walking away.
“Well, let me get inside before you set it loose. I don’t want to be here when it ‘glides’ someone into the hospital.”
The woman marched around the corner of her house and disappeared.
“Not very brave for a spy,” Tesla said.
“Maybe that’s just her cover,” Nick grumbled. “Anyway, go ahead. I want to see if this thing works.”
Tesla brought the glider up again, pointed it away from Julie’s yard, and launched it with a flick of the wrist. It shot away with surprising speed and flew smoothly over Uncle Newt’s lawn, arcing to the left as it went.
“Whoa! Look at it go!” said Nick.
“And go and go and go,” said Tesla.
She’d expected the glider to fly five yards, tops, yet even after twenty it was still six feet off the ground and not slowing down. In fact, it was soaring toward some trees on the other side of Uncle Newt’s property, perhaps about to fly out of the yard altogether.
“Hey, kids!” a cheerful voice called out. “Whatcha up to?”
It was Uncle Newt’s other neighbor, Mr. Jones, stepping out onto his patio. The paunchy, gray-haired man was wary of Uncle Newt’s inventions—which was wise—yet he always had a smile and a wave for Nick and Tesla.
Unfortunately, it was a really bad time for a smile and a wave.
“Mr. Jones!” Nick cried out. “Duck!”
“A duck? Where?”
Mr. Jones looked up into the sky.
The glider came swooping through the trees and smacked him in the face.
Nick and Tesla ran to the old man as he staggered back into his house. He managed to find his footing again just as the kids reached him.
“Where did that crazy duck go?” he started to say.
Then he saw the hoop glider lying in the doorway.
“Oh,” he said.
“We’re sorry, Mr. Jones,” said Nick.
“We had no idea it was going to fly this far,” said Tesla.
Mr. Jones rubbed his bulbous nose—which was now slightly more bulbous and way
redder than usual.
“No harm done,” he said.
He didn’t sound like he meant it, though, and the smile he gave the kids when he handed them their glider seemed strained.
Mr. Jones closed the door on Nick and Tesla, muttering something about getting an ice pack.
“Great,” Tesla said as she and her brother trudged away. “The one neighbor who’s nice, and we go and throw a paper airplane up his nose.”
“It was an accident,” Nick said. “And who’s to say Mr. Jones is such a nice guy anyway?”
Tesla looked over at her brother, thinking he might be joking.
Nick hadn’t been joking much lately, though. And he never
joked about this.
“It’s him,” Nick said. “He’s the spy.”
“Mr. Jones? He must be, like, two hundred years old.”
“Spies get old like everyone else.” Nick threw a suspicious squint over his shoulder. “He’s always watching us. Always smiling.”
“So now being nice makes someone a suspect?”
“Why not? You remember what Mom said.”
Tesla did remember, of course.
She just wished
she could forget.
Copyright © 2014. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.