Penny & Alba


Well…Penny looked at the

antique print once again but

she still couldn’t see why

Uncle Harold was so excited.

Yes it was over a hundred years old –

yes it showed the town a long time ago

and yes it showed where the old fur trading

fort had been on the banks of the Heughan

River. But what had this to do with getting

a butterscotch sundae with toasted sliced


This morning had started like many other

Saturday mornings in the McCutcheon

household. Mr. and Mrs. McCutcheon

and Alba had decided to go out shopping

with Aunt Helen. Uncle Harold, however,

always wanting to be different, had

decided to go exploring book shops

downtown. Penny went with Uncle

Harold because he was always a lot of fun

and he could be counted on to stop at

Gramps’ Restaurant on Main Street for

ice cream sundaes before heading home.

Now, Uncle Harold was still a kid at heart

but he sure loved old things. Penny and

Uncle Harold wandered through the old

part of town until they opened the squeaky

front door of Dusty’s Maps and Books. Uncle Harold

stood in the doorway and breathed in the smell. To Penny it

smelled of musty books and cats but to Uncle Harold it

smelled like he had just walked into a bakery. Searching for

buried treasure or historical clues brought a lot of fun into

his life and he slowly walked over to the bin that contained

a beautiful antique print of the old town of Centreville. He

picked it up with great reverence. He wanted this print

badly but he knew it was a great deal of money and better

left for a time when he could buy it without having to

explain to Aunt Helen why he had spent so much money on

an old print when the roof needed new shingles. Uncle

Harold sighed. Penny learned a lot from Uncle Harold and

one of the things she learned was that being an adult was

sometimes a lot like being a kid. You still didn’t get to do all

the things you wanted to regardless of your age.

Comfortably seated in one of the old booths at

Gramps’, Penny asked Uncle Harold why he liked the

map so much.

“It reminds of a time when I was young,” Uncle Harold

reflected over his chocolate sundae. “My grandfather

used to tell me and your mom stories every night before

we went to bed. They were about times so different

from ours-stories about pioneers, fur traders and

robber barons. Life seemed so exciting then. Why I can

still remember the thrill I felt when he got going on a

story. You know,” Uncle Harold continued, “sometimes

these old maps are useful finding things but mostly I like

them cause they remind me of my grandfather and his

love of stories.”

Penny ate her sundae in silence. She knew that behind

Uncle Harold ‘ s brashness there was a gentleness and a

vulnerability that many didn’t see. He was like all of us, she

thought-a person trying to find his way in the world. Only

Uncle Harold was also trying to make a big adventure out

of it.

Back home at the McCutcheons’, nothing was said about

the print but there was lots to look at from the bazaars

and craft sales. Alba ran in from the hall and showed off

a necklace that she had purchased at a rummage sale. It

was clear in her mind that she had chosen the right

outing cause she got something cool and Penny didn’t.

Penny quietly licked the edge of her lips to make sure

that all the chocolate sauce from Gramp’s famous

Mountain o’ Fudge Sundae had disappeared. Alba run

out again and then stopped in the doorway.

“Oh by the way, Alicia Garby phoned to say that the

work shadow program is OK with her boss and that you

can come to the station tomorrow.”

“Great,” replied Penny. Alicia Garby was the news

reporter for the Centreville TV station and Penny had

asked her if she could follow her for a day as part of a

work shadow project at school. Penny could see herself

being interested in reporting when she got older and

wanted to see what it was like. In preparation for the

day, Penny had been watching the news and following

the story that Alicia was covering; the development of a

new hotel and convention centre on Heughan Creek. She

remembered that Wednesday was the day that the town

council was scheduled to approve the construction. She

also remembered that her mom and some of the other

town councilors were concerned that the land might

have been part of the earliest fur trading fort in the area

but the historical society hadn’t been able to find the

evidence necessary to convince the rest of the town

council to delay the project.

Penny thought that she had better do some research of her

own and took off through a light January snowfall for the

town library. She was surprised to find all of the listings

about the fort so easily and set out to get the books from

the shelves and the articles from the filing folders.

Obviously this was a subject about which the library had a

good supply of material. But each time she looked for

something, the space on the shelf was empty. Even with

the help of the chief librarian, Mrs. Dixon, she couldn’t find

anything in its place. Mrs. Dixon had seen a lot of people

looking at those documents lately. She checked to see if

anyone had taken the material out but most of it was clearly

marked for research within the library only as most of the

historical material was the only copy in town. Some of it

was so valuable and rare that you had to wear special

gloves to touch it and had to sign out the material and read

it only in a special room. She was able to find that the last

person to look at the documents was Albert Gingras, head

of the Centreville Historical Society. By analyzing the

sign-out sheets, Penny and Mrs. Dixon found that on the

previous evening at 6 PM, just before closing, he had left

the library very excited and had made one phone call from

the main desk. Many people had overheard that he had

found something and was going to make a new

presentation to the town council to try to save the old fort

site from the development. Penny stood in front of Mrs.

Dixon’s desk as she phoned Mr. Gingras to see if he had

taken the documents by mistake and a chilliness swept over

Penny. Now in many stories this chilliness was

foreshadowing something spooky about to happen but in

this case Penny actually felt a cold wind and walked inside

the reference room. This time she felt a bit of snow along

with the cool wind. She looked behind the shelves and saw

the sky full of snow clouds. This might have been OK if

there were a window here, but there wasn’t and Penny

found herself looking at a hole in the side of the library wall

big enough for someone to climb through.

“Penny, I’m afraid I can’t help you” said Mrs. Dixon as she

reentered the special reference room. “Mr. Gingras isn’t

answering his phone but one of the other librarians said

that he left the material on the table last night at closing

time and we were going to reshelve the material this

morning. Why is it so cold in here?” she added, interrupting

her own train of thought.

Penny said, “I bet if you check, the research papers

weren’t here this morning. I think that someone was

pretty desperate for that information and made a late

night withdrawal” and Penny took Mrs. Dixon over to

the hole in the wall hidden behind the bookshelf.

Mrs. Dixon was not someone to be shocked but she was

someone to be outraged.

“How could someone do this,” she muttered angrily.

The library and the books in it were her responsibility

and she took her job very seriously. Sometimes when

someone lost a book they were surprised to find how

protective Mrs. Dixon was of the collection. Within

minutes the police were called and the librarians had

made a list of all the material that Mr. Gingras had been

looking at the night before. The police officers were

very thorough but didn’t see the importance of the theft

and break-in. Most people never thought that a library had

things that were so valuable. After all, why would anyone

steal something from the library when you could take most

of the material out for free?

Penny was ignored by most of the adults in the

investigation but was able to get a copy of the research

list from Mrs. Dixon before she went home. When she

arrived at her home on Oak Street, Uncle Harold was

just about to pull out of the driveway. Penny came running

up to his car and shouted “Hey, can you wait a second,

Uncle Harold?”

“Sure what can I do for you Penny?” he replied.

“Take a look at this list of stuff and tell me if you can

see why anyone would want to steal it?” Penny queried.

Uncle Harold, who always loved a mystery, took the list

and put it on the beat-up dashboard of his 1977

Meteor. This was a car in serious need of a junkyard

home but it represented Uncle Harold’s one major

economy. He didn’t spend money on cars.

“They only have to get you from here to there” he used

to say. “Besides, I’ve got lots of other things I’d sooner

spend my money on.” And everyone in the family knew

that that was true.

“Well I’d say that this list of stuff would be all related to

the hotel and convention centre site and most of it

revolves around the old fur trading fort. They’ve been

trying to pinpoint the location of the fort for weeks but

they only know in a general way where it was. You see

here, this print on the list is almost the same one you

and I saw at Dusty’s earlier today. Shows the old town

and the remnants of the fort in 1835. Hard to prove it

today with all those developers trying to get the shovel

in the ground.”

Penny listened as Uncle Harold started to get excited.

“I’ve got to admit, it would be great to have the new

construction in town, but there are lots of places where

it could be built. If they put it where they want, though,

it will wreck all hopes of finding the fort site and

restoring it.”

“Why don’t they wait?” asked Penny.

“The problem is that it takes a long time to get one of

these projects off the ground and they have been

planning on building on this site for ten years. At the

very last minute the historical society (sometimes called the

hysterical society by people in the planning department)

made a representation to town council that the fort was

right where they want to build the parking lot and the hotel

would destroy any further study of this important

historical landmark. Now the town has given the historical

society until tomorrow at 6 PM to come up with proof or

they will have to go ahead with issuing the building permit.

Your Mom is on the council and is afraid that if they delay

any longer without concrete proof, the developers will sue

the town.”

As Uncle Harold kept talking, the snow really started

to come down.

“Looks like we’re in for the blizzard of the century,

Penny. I had better get back to the farm so Aunt Helen

doesn’t worry. Good luck with your search. It doesn’t

look like you’ll find any more of these documents in

town. They look as if they were “one of a kind” and

whoever took them must assume that something in

them would help the historical board stop the project.”

Penny got out of the old clunker of a car and slumped

into the McCutcheon kitchen.

“What’s up grumble guts?” asked Mr. McCutcheon. “It

looks like you lost your best friend.” Penny explained

what the problem was and her dad said “Maybe you had

better ask Mr. Gingras yourself. He obviously was

excited about something last night.”

“What, haven’t you heard?” questioned Alba from the

other room after overhearing her sister and her dad.

“The radio said he was found outside the historical

building early this morning with a big bump on his head.

The police don’t know who hit him but he won’t be able

to talk for several days and the big council meeting is


Penny said, “Well I guess it’s left to us Alba.”

“What’s left to us?” Alba replied.

“We’ve got a mystery with a deadline of 6 PM tomorrow

evening and no one in town is even trying to solve it now

that Mr. Gingras is in the hospital.”

“Where do we start?” asked Alba.

“A hundred and fifty years ago” replied Penny. “The

answer is in the past and we’ve got to find it in the near


Alba and Mr. McCutcheon scratched their heads at

Penny’s cryptic response.

“Mom I can’t stay for dinner. Alba and I have got to get

down to Dusty’s Maps and Books before he closes.”

“Hold on a second, Alba. You’ve got practicing to do”

said Mrs. McCutcheon through the study door.

“Oh yeah, I forgot” lied Alba. “I’ve got a piano lesson

tonight and I’ve got to practice until blood comes out

of my fingers. Good luck with your hunt. You lucky

stinker,” Alba whispered as she sat down at the piano to

do her boring scales.

Penny got on her coat and hat and mitts and gloves and

scarf and everything else she could carry because the

snow was coming down like crazy. It took longer than

usual to get to the book store and Penny was relieved to

see a light burning in the window. Through the window

she saw that Dusty was poring over an old volume with

pictures of weeds. Penny didn’t understand why books

were so important to them but she did see the reverence

that Uncle Harold and Dusty showed when they

touched the covers. She tapped on the window because

the door was locked. “We’re closed” came a gruff voice

from inside.

Penny tapped again.

“Go away” came the reply.

Penny tapped again. Dusty was a little gruff on the

exterior but Penny knew that he would help eventually.

“Alright, alright, I’m coming.” He was pretty surprised to

see Penny as he opened the door a crack.

“What are you doing out on a night like this? Worst snow

storm of the century they’re calling for tomorrow and it

looks like it’s just getting started tonight.”

Penny explained that she wanted to look at the old map

that Uncle Harold had been examining earlier.

“Now isn’t that a curious bag of fish,” he said. “There’s

been a lot of interest in that map recently. Just a couple

of hours ago a slick guy from the city came in looking

for a similar map. He had big bucks to spend but I

didn’t trust him and I wouldn’t sell it to him. Map like

that deserves a good home. If you’re going to buy

something like that, you’ve got to know how to

appreciate it and this guy wouldn’t know a beautiful

antique map from a photocopy.” Penny was honest and

said that she probably didn’t appreciate the difference

either but Dusty looked at her and said, “That may be true

but there’s still hope for you. I bet he was just from the

development company and they only care about money.

Now I like money too~ but there’s more to life than


Penny quickly told Dusty the story and said she needed

to study the map.

“What are you looking for?” he asked.

“I don’t know but I know the map has something to do

with it. Otherwise they wouldn’t have stolen the one

from the library and then someone wouldn’t have

clunked Mr. Gingras over the head this morning to keep

him quiet.”

“Well I can’t give you the map but I can make you a

photocopy of it. I hope that helps. I’d love to see them

develop the fort site in town. I’ve got a great book

about it somewhere.”

As Penny made the photocopy, Dusty climbed the

rickety ladder up to the top shelves and in an enormous

stack of books immediately located the volume he had

been looking for.

“Guard this with your life young woman. It’s the only

copy I know of in the whole country. The guy who was

in earlier offered to pay big bucks for this as well. Maybe

there will be some clues there that can help you solve the


After carefully wrapping up the photocopy and the book,

Penny forced herself through the storm back to her home.

She spent the evening reading the book about the

founding of Centreville and the importance of the fort to

the development of the town.

At 1 AM when the house was in total darkness, Mr. and

Mrs. McCutcheon awoke to the shouts of

“That’s it! I found it!”

Their door flew open and Penny switched on the light.

“If the hotel and shopping centre were right on top of a

burial site, they wouldn’t be allowed to build would

they?” Penny asked her mom.

“What are you talking about? Do you know what time it


Penny repeated her question and her mom said that

would be true but even though the historical board

thought that there had been a cemetery on the site, they

had been unable to prove it.

“But it says so right here in this old book. Listen.”

“Forts contained an entire community.

People were born there and died there

within and just outside the walls. Except

when the traders came in with the furs

and when shipments came from Montreal

and the old country, all parts of life and

death took place right in the Centreville fur trade


“There, that proves it. You can’t allow them to build the

complex until at least the human remains have been

removed from the burial grounds.”

“That would be right” Mrs. McCutcheon replied

sleepily, “but no one has ever been able to show the

exact location of the fort and the burial grounds. So you

can’t stop all development just because there was a

burial ground somewhere in the town. Until you can

prove that the fort was on this site, I think we’re out of

luck. I wish I had better news for you than that. Now

look it’s late. Get some rest and maybe tomorrow it will

become clearer for all of us.”

Well, tomorrow, it wasn’t clearer at all. In fact, you

could hardly see the street by looking out the

McCutcheon living room. This was the day Penny was

going to the TV station and a big pile of snow wasn’t

going to stop a McCutcheon. Still, Penny was pretty

surprised when she arrived at the station and saw no

cars in the parking lot. The snowdrifts were getting so

high that only a few people who lived near the station

were able to get to work. Penny was relieved to see

Alicia at her desk.

“Well, I didn’t think I’d see you today” she croaked.

“You’ll make a good reporter. Showing up even in the

worst snowstorm in the century.”

Penny’s mouth dropped open.

“What happened to your voice?” Penny asked and then

was embarrassed in case Alicia thought she was being


“Laryngitis” she whispered back. “I spent yesterday

trying to get to the bottom of that robbery at the library

and interviewing the people who are trying to build the

hotel. Every time I went outside I got a chill and today I

can hardly talk. But the show must go on. You can

follow me but please don’t get in the way. I’ve arranged

for you to get a brief tour of the TV studio and control

room with our top technician. In fact, he’s our only

technician today. After that, we’ll go and talk to Mr.

Gingras at the hospital.”

Half an hour later after Brian Leach had shown Penny

all the TV equipment and how it worked, Alicia and Penny

were trudging their way to the hospital because there was

no way they could drive with the snow drifts so high along

the roads. Once inside they found that Mr. Gingras hadn’t

yet regained consciousness and they couldn’t get to talk to

him. As they were leaving the hospital, Penny met Sergeant

McGillvray coming in and Alicia asked about the

investigation into the robbery. She started to introduce

Penny but the sergeant said that Penny and her sister, Alba

had cooperated with the Centreville police on several


Alicia looked at Sergeant McGillvray and said,

“Penny’s helping me with my story for tonight’s news.

There are too many loose ends for my liking.”

Sergeant McGillvray said someone really had wanted to

keep Mr. Gingras quiet because they had clobbered him

and left him for dead. Luckily the hospital thought he

would recover but only after a long convalescence. He

also said that Dusty’s Maps and Books had been robbed

late last night and robbers had trashed the place

obviously looking for something.

Penny’s mouth dropped open.

“There’s something that ties these robberies together I

think, but so far we’ve got no clues,” continued

Sergeant McGillvray.

Penny turned to Alicia.

“I bet I know what they were looking for. Come on,”

and with that they left Sergeant McGillvray behind with

a big curious smile on his face.

As they entered Dusty’s, they heard a roar from the

back of the store.

“Get out, we’re closed, I don’t want to talk to anyone.”

Alicia looked at Penny but Penny didn’t pay any attention

to Dusty. This information was too important and time was

slipping away. It was 3 PM and they only had three hours

to save the fort from sure destruction. Dusty shouted again

without seeing who it was. Then he looked up from

the floor where he was poring through books strewn all

over the place. When he saw Penny he ran up to her and

grabbed her. Alicia was about to step in but Dusty blurted


“I was right wasn’t I? This must be the work of that guy

from the city. I wouldn’t let him have the map but it’s

gone now and there are no other copies.”

Penny asked “Are you sure that’s what’s gone?”

“It’s the only thing I can’t find.” blurted out Dusty.

“How would you know where anything is in this mess?”

asked Alicia innocently.

Dusty glared at her.

“You may need a fancy computer for your work, Missy,

but the best computer is right up here,” he said tapping

his head. “I know every inch of this place and the only

thing that’s missing is the map. The rest of the mess was

done to throw me off my search. I’ll skin the monkey

who did this … ”

Penny and Alicia backed out of the store amid a long

tirade of angry words from Dusty and trudged back to

the TV station. Now, there was no power in parts of

town and the phones had been knocked out by the


“It’s a good thing that the TV station has an alternate

power supply just like the hospital and the town hall”

she whispered. “This way we can get the 5:30 news on

the air.”

By this time it didn’t look like Alicia was going to get

anything on the air. You would be able to see her but

not hear her because now she had almost no voice left at


“It’s a good thing that the co-anchor can do the talking.

All I have to do is write the story for him to read.”

And just at that minute, Brian, the lead technician came

running into the newsroom.

“Looks like we’re it Alicia. Rob can’t get into town. His

truck is in a ditch and without phones we can’t call out

for backup.”

“There must be someone else here,” whispered Alicia.

“Only Murph,” he said but I don’t think you want him

on air.

Murph was the janitor who had been at the station for

45 years. He had started work there when the station

began in the early days of radio. He was a great worker

but you couldn’t have gotten him to read the news for

love or money.

“Then you have to do it,” croaked Alicia looking at


“And who’s going to start the equipment, roll in the

news clips, run the audio and the teleprompter then?”

replied Brian. “Usually, we’ve got four to six people

doing these jobs and I’m the only one here, Alicia. Get

your voice back or there’s no TV news tonight.”

“Don’t worry I’ll get it back.” she responded. “I’m a

pro. I’ll drink hot tea and lemon. That’s it. That’s what

my grandmother used to give me for sore throats. In the

meantime, maybe you’d better give Penny a refresher

course on how to get us on the air because this story

can’t wait for anything.”

The afternoon raced by as Alicia tried to finish writing

the remaining part of her story. She was angry that she

hadn’t gotten to the bottom of the robberies and the fort

story. She told Penny that they didn’t have enough

evidence to prove the original location of the fort was

on Hotson Creek. “If only the map from the library wasn’t

stolen the night before.” She showed Penny how she was

going to superimpose the old map of the town on the new

map to show that the fort was right where the hotel was

going to be built. But without the old map, nothing could be

done. lt was obvious to her that whoever stole the map

from Dusty’s and the library knew that Alicia was getting

close to a solution.

Penny shrieked. “Wait a minute,” as she reached into

her school bag. “I’ve got a photocopy of the old map.

Would this do?”

Alicia wrote on a piece of paper. “Quick, go get Brian.

And hurry.”

Penny ran to the control room while Alicia ran to the

weather computer. It contained a lot of visual data in its

memory and she hurriedly called up the map of

Centreville that they sometimes used to show the route

of the Santa Claus parade. After Brian came racing back

down the hall with Penny, Alicia had Brian put the

photocopy of the map under a nearby camera. Alicia

asked Brian to zoom in on the map so that the map of

the town in the weather computer was exactly

duplicating the old map from Dusty’s store. Although

many of the buildings were different, they were able to

find that the oldest stone church in town was still

standing after the great fire of 1934. They also lined up

the Central Bank and Commerce building. By using

these two points on both maps they checked on the

position of the fort.

“Oh no,” grimaced Alicia. And she pointed to the fact

that the fort was one block away from where the hotel

was going to be built.

“I guess I was wrong, all along. The construction site

isn’t where the fort was. I guess I don’t have nearly as

good a story as I thought I did.”

Just at that moment the photocopied map started to move.

“Hey Murph what are you doing?” asked Brian.

” Shows how much you guys know about the history of

this town. The Central Bank and Commerce is at Elm

and Ramsden street now but when I was a boy it was one

block to the east at Elm and Baldwin. Let’s see if that

makes a difference when you line up these maps.”

And as if by magic and with a little help from Brian’s

technical knowledge, the two maps seemed to form one

image that matched very well.

Murph shouted “Bingo.”

“Murph, you’re a genius,” croaked Alicia.

Now the fort location and the hotel location were a

perfect match right on top of each other.

“Penny, brew up some more tea,” shouted Brian.

“We’ve got to get her on air. I’ll switch this through to

the on-air switcher and store it in the frame storer. I’ve

already got the mic and cameras set up for the newscast.

So all I have to do is throw the main “on air”

switch and we’ll be broadcasting.”

Penny raced down the hall to get the tea going and

made it as fast as she could. As she tore back down the

hall Penny heard a commotion and sensed danger. She

slowed to a quiet walk and then placed the tea on the

ground and crawled into an office that adjoined the

newsroom. Peering between the partially open Venetian

blinds she was shocked to see Alicia, Brian and Murph

being tied up by two armed men.

“Don’t worry,” one of them growled. “You’ll only be

tied up for the next half hour. We’ll have you out of

here and out of harm’s way before anyone notices

anything. Once six o’clock comes we’ll be gone and the

town will have issued that building permit. We’ll have

no problems now that we’ve got the map.”

He grabbed the map out from under the camera and ripped

it up.

“We wouldn’t want that to go to air would we?”

Penny was in a panic. The phones were down and it was


What could she do? How could she get help and the story

out in the worst snowstorm of the century? Think, Penny

think. And then her great detective instincts started to come

back to her.

What had Brian said about the newscast being all set up

and the graphic being sent to the frame storer in the

news studio?

Hadn’t Alicia said that the town hall where the council

meeting would be taking place had emergency power

and wouldn’t it make sense that the police station

would also have emergency power?

There were only two options:

1. Hide – definitely the safest option or

2. Get to the news studio and broadcast the message to

the public.

Penny didn’t think twice about her personal safety. These

men had hurt Mr. Gingras and stolen from Dusty’s and the

library. They wouldn’t stop at hurting Alicia, Brian,

Murph…or her. Someone had to do something and that

someone was Penny. She took in a deep breath and

crawled out of the office and down the hall into the

television control room. She was relieved to see a big

dead-bolt lock on the door that could keep out intruders

when the news was on and in this case help keep out those

men in the other room. She slid the lock shut with all her

might and then hurried to the switcher and started to

examine the buttons. And then she saw it. There was one

button that said frame storer. When she pushed it, the

image that they had put together came up on the screen.

Penny raced into the studio through the control room and

found the microphone. But she remembered that Brian

had told her she had to raise the mic level on the audio

board and she had to take off the mic and go into the

control room again to raise the volume of the mic. Penny

went to the board and pushed the button that had “on air”

written on it. The on air monitor in the control room lit up

with the graphic of the maps. Penny was just running on

adrenaline now because a furious banging on the door

began as the men tried to get into the control room. There

were monitors in the newsroom as well and Penny had

forgotten about the fact that they would be able to see the

work she was doing. But there was no time to stop now.

She raced back into the studio to get on her mic and as she

raced by one of the cameras she saw herself on the TV


“This will be great” she thought.

She got on the mic and went in front of camera in front

of a blue flat. She was standing in the spot where they

must do the weather because she could see herself

chroma keyed in front of the map. She had no idea what

she was going to say or whether anyone could hear her or

see her but she had two big jobs and she had better get

them right.

“Hi, I’m Penny McCutcheon,” she started nervously “and

this is an emergency broadcast from CBOR TV in

Centreville. If anyone can hear me, two men are holding

3 hostages at CBOR and they are in great danger.

Please contact the police and get them to the station

immediately. In the meantime, if anyone can hear me at

the town council chambers, I have very important

information concerning the development proposed for

the Heughan Creek area.”

And after that introduction, Penny went on to describe

the two maps and how someone was trying to prevent

the town from learning about the real location of the

hotel and the fort. By the end of the newscast, Penny said,

“I hope this has been useful and by the way ”HELP” if

anyone can hear. And if anyone can hear, I’d like to say

hi to my sister, Alba. Pretty cool, eh Alba?”

Penny took off her microphone ran to the storage area

behind the set and hid among the flats from old canceled

programs. She listened to every creak and moan from the

old building as the storm of the century raged outside. In

the next five minutes she heard a terrifying crashing at

the studio door. Axes smashed and voices screamed.

Penny could only hide and wait. Like a dam bursting, the

studio door seemed to explode inward with the force of

the axes and Penny crawled deeper into the piles of old

studio sets. She could have cried when she heard the

voices of her mom and dad above all the racket.

“Don’t worry Penny, it’s us.”

They hadn’t waited for the key to the studio and they

hadn’t let the storm of the century get between them

and their daughter.

“Well I guess my first broadcast was a big success”

Penny said out loud as Alba and her parents climbed

through the hole in the control room door.

A few minutes later, the storm had started to subside

and the newsroom was full of police and news

reporters. Penny now started to feel the effects of all the

tension and she held on to her sister tightly. This had

been too close for comfort.

“What if the axes on the door had been wielded by

those two men?”

“What if no one saw the newscast?”

Alba excitedly told her sister that the newscast had

gotten out to the few places in town that had emergency

power and the police had immediately gotten to the TV

station. At the town council meeting, they had also seen

Penny at the map and they immediately voted down the

plan for the hotel until further historical review could be

made of the site.

Reporters asked Penny to tell her story for the 11

o’clock news that night and for tomorrow’s newspaper

but she was so tired that after a big hug from Alicia,

Brian and Murph, the McCutcheons fought their way home

through the biggest snow drifts in Centreville since the

Central Bank and Commerce had been on the corner of

Elm and Baldwin Street.

As they left the station Alba could be heard telling the

reporters that she was the sister of Penny and had been

on many adventures with her but couldn’t this time

cause she had to practice the dumb piano. She would be

happy to be interviewed for any show they had coming

up, however, and if they ever needed any other detective

work done, they knew who to call.