The next day, Tommy Rogers’ usual plan to get to Debbie Roberts’ classroom hit a sudden snag when Dinford the bully blocked his path as he headed for the door of typing class, and the bell sounded.
“What’s the rush, Rogers? You got an appointment?” said the pasty-faced, doughy bully.
“Lay off, Dinford!” said Tommy as he tried to step around the grinning boy.
“Make me, punk!” said Dinford as he grinned broadly, noticing Mrs. Woofentweeter had her back to the scene.
Tommy clenched his fists but then lowered them. I can’t come on like somebody in a Kent Goble picture, although I’d like to wipe that smirk off his face and show him up like Earl Errol in his swashbucklers! he thought. But it would be cheating for a mystery-man to beat up a normal kid! Instead, he frowned and said, “We’re going to be late for class!”
Dinford said, “I knew you were yellow!” He laughed and walked off.
Tommy hurried out into the now-crowded hallway, scanning the hall. He felt dejected as he saw Debbie Roberts walking to her next class with Mike Harrington trailing along by her side. I just have to win the reward and buy her that necklace, thought Tommy.
That evening as he sipped a glass of Ovaltine, he looked up at his father who was reading the paper. “Say, Pop, could I stay over at Tubby’s house Friday night?” he asked. “His folks are going to be away, and you know he gets a bit jumpy.”
“Certainly, if his folks don’t mind,” said Dan Rogers. “He’s stayed here often enough. I know I can count on you boys not to get into any trouble! Act like young men!”
“Thanks!” said Tommy. “We’ll be good!” He grinned as he thought, This could be the break we need!
When Friday came, after his parents had departed, Tubby Watts called a cab and carried an empty suitcase out when it pulled up.
“Hi, young fellow. Where you headed?” asked the rough-looking driver as Tubby climbed inside the back.
“I’m going to stay at my pal’s house — 315 Elm Street,” he said. “My folks are out of town, and I’m sleeping over with my best friend!” His fingers were crossed as he told the fib, which was for a good cause.
As the cab pulled away from the curb, the driver picked up his radio. “Car 4 to base,” he said. “Picked up on 124 Pearl Avenue. Heading to Elm. Will be empty soon and ready for the next trip. Should be a busy night!”
The dispatcher replied via the radio, “Right. We’ll be right on it!”
Tubby smiled as he watched the house pass by. Good thing I’ve got my costume on underneath! he thought. If Tommy’s theory is right, we’ll be fighting the gang tonight at my own house!
At Elm Street, Tubby got out and paid the driver before walking toward the house. When the cab was out of sight, he turned and ran across the yard in the direction of his own house. Got to get back in time to help the guys! he thought.
Meanwhile, within Tubby’s house, Tommy Rogers and Toughy Simms had changed into their blue costumes, and as Little Boy Blue and Blue Boy, they prepared for the possible robbery.
“When I heard Tub’s folks were going to be away,” said Tommy, “I knew we could try to lure the gang here by having Tubby get a cab and let the driver know his place was going to be empty. That is, if the cab company is really a front for robbers. It makes sense, since cab drivers get to know their regular passengers and their routines. They know when they go to work, they know when they get off. They even know things from talking with their customers about details like when their houses are empty. I can guess Mrs. Rutherford’s hospital trip tipped off the cabbie to the fact that her place would be empty. The same could be said for the other houses!”
“Boy, it makes sense to me,” said Toughy. “All the folks hit had a cab ride in some way. Plus, the cab company is new in town! No robberies happened before dese mugs showed up!”
Tubby then rushed inside breathlessly, joining the two in the darkened house. “I did it!” he said. “Now, let’s see what happens!”
They concealed themselves as night fell, and after a few hours they heard a vehicle pull up to the back of the house.
“A van — that’s owned by the cab company!” said Toughy. “I saw it parked at the cab stand!”
“Gosh, I’m nervous!” said Tubby. “I never figured to fight crooks in my own house!”
Tommy placed his hand on his pal’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, we’ll take them down!” he said.
Toughy whispered, “Don’t fret, chum! We got dem losers coming and going! All we gotta do is get dem to the back door!”
The back door swung open slowly as four men slipped inside. “That lock was a snap!” whispered the first man.
The Blue Boys looked to Tommy, and he nodded. He and Toughy had previously rolled a handful of marbles across the floor, and as they planned, the first man stepped directly on them and fell flat. He cried out, and his three allies drew closer.
“Some punk kid left his toys out!” laughed the second man. He was tall, and like his pals he wore all black.
Tommy carefully hurled a baseball with precise aim, and it smacked the second thief in the head.
At that moment, all three boys let out loud war whoops and charged into battle. Tubby flopped into the first thief as he regained his feet, and his impact dropped the man again. Little Boy Blue jumped off a chair to land on the tall man’s back. He broke an egg over the man’s eyes and hung on tightly.
“We’re being hit by some kind of dwarves!” cried a bald man. Tubby recognized his voice from the cab radio; he was the dispatcher.
Toughy fired repeatedly with his slingshot, laughing wildly as his rocks knocked out the fourth man.
“Don’t use your gun! We can’t attract the cops!” warned the dispatcher as he struggled futilely with Little Boy Blue, who had knocked the crook blinded by eggs to the ground and had used his back to spring at the leader.
Tubby smeared ink into the eyes of his own foe and grinned as he saw Toughy tackle the remaining man. They were winning. The thieves had been blinded and surprised, and now they were subdued as the three boys drove them back toward the rear door.
“Now!” yelled Tommy as he and his pals reached down to pull a hidden rope they had tied to the rear door. The rope released a net made of a bizarre assortment of wires, blankets, and cloth. The gang was covered, and the three boys rushed forward to tie them up with another rope.
Toughy grabbed two guns from the gang members as they fought against the covering that nearly smothered them. “Now we call the cops and get the reward!” he said.
Little Boy Blue placed the call and gave his pals a salute of victory. “That was Chief O’Connell! He’s thrilled!”
“He’s a swell guy,” said Tubby. “Most adults wouldn’t give us the respect he does!”
Soon afterward, the police arrived and led the gang off to the patrol cars.
Chief O’Connell, a benign-looking fat man with white hair and a heavy mustache, said, “Excellent work, boys! I have already had my boys pick up the rest of the gang back at the cab stand, and inside the back we found almost all of the loot!”
Little Boy Blue smiled and thought, Great! That means Mrs. Rutherford will get her stuff back before she gets out of the hospital! Pop and I can help her put everything back in place!
Chief O’Connell said, “Oh, and boys, I have a reward for you from Mr. Johnson. You fellas can divide it up as you like!” He handed Little Boy Blue a fifty-dollar bill, and the three pals grinned gleefully.
Later, back in their normal clothes, the three lads sat in their clubhouse and planned for the future.
“I’ll tell my folks that we decided to camp out in the clubhouse,” said Tubby. “After all, they thought I was going to your place for the night, anyway!”
“Right!” said Tommy. “I’d say the excitement about the attempted robbery will help us make them ignore certain fibs.”
“Boy, is this swell or what?” said Toughy. “We can live it up like kings!”
Tommy said, “I know what I’m going to do with my share!”
The next few days passed in a blur of holiday excitement until a nervous Tommy Rogers swallowed hard and approached Debbie Roberts’ classroom after final exams concluded. She was as pretty as ever in a pink turtleneck sweater and matching makeup. She sat behind a desk and graded a few papers as Tommy stepped closer and rather hurriedly held out a wrapped gift.
“Oh, Tommy, how nice to see you! Are you all set for a Merry Christmas?” she asked.
“Yes, and I come bringing gifts!” he said.
“Oh, how sweet!” she said. “You didn’t have to do this. Shall I open it now?”
Tommy nodded and wiped his sweaty palms together as he felt a flushed feeling wash over him.
Debbie opened the box and said, “How pretty this wrapping paper is, too!” She looked down at the necklace and said, “This is lovely! Thank you so much! It will be just perfect for church and special occasions!”
Tommy beamed and waited as he hoped for a hug or some more physical sign of her appreciation. He had played the scene out in his imagination more than once.
“Well, this is wonderful!” said Debbie. “You’ve made it a nice holiday already.”
“I’m glad,” said Tommy. “I’m really glad.”
He stood at her desk hesitantly for a moment, and then she said, “You have a great holiday, Tommy!”
Nodding, he walked out slowly with his mind in a daze. She liked it, but she didn’t hug me or anything! Maybe she couldn’t at school and all! Well, she might send me a thank you note, and maybe she’ll write something swell in it.
He left the classroom with mixed emotions and continual hope. That was the normal state for a young man like Tommy, and that fact in and of itself spoke well for him and all boys like him. He didn’t know what the future would hold, but it was Christmas. It was Christmas, and that wonderful sensation of the anticipated and unknown filled him with good cheer.
Tommy spotted Dinford the bully leaning against a locker, and he yelled, “Merry Christmas, Dinford!”
The other boy frowned and then said, “Yeah, same to you!”
Tommy continued down the hall and slowly stepped out into the chilly air that was so alive with the sounds, smells, and sights of the season.
“Merry Christmas!” he yelled as he glanced back at the school and then turned to head for home.