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The Clayton Chronicles

The Clayton Chronicles

Book excerpt

Danny Tremain walked intently down Main Street, passing the corner of Chelsea and ignoring Reader Street altogether. He strolled past the candy shop and paid absolutely no heed to the display window in the ToyLand store at the corner of Ashwood Street.

This lack of a pause in front of his preferred loitering spot, where he could gaze for hours at the newly arrived toys and novelties, was pretty unusual. Normally, he would while away the hours staring at all those toys he could never afford to buy on his own, until its owner, Mr. DeSalle, more often than not a very patient man, gently shooed him away with an impatient gesture of dismissal.

Danny Tremain, ten years old, would later return to his favorite spot after he dealt with the important matter he had in mind. He was heading to the sheriff's office to do the right thing. It was a good thing that other kids of his age weren't with him at the time; they would call him a goody-two-shoes, do-gooder, et cetera, et cetera, and whatever silly names they could come up with for a person who knew his civic duty.

Daniel was glad that he hadn't met any of his school buddies… yet. What he had to tell the sheriff was his personal secret and no one else's. So he relished the temporary possession of this dark secret, until the time came to disclose it to someone in authority.

He had been moseying around the industrial back lot in Elm Street, hoping to find something interesting to do near Hector's Junkyard since it was mid-summer, Friday, five days past the Fourth of July and school was out. Bored out of his skull, he had peeked in the narrow belt of greenery that bordered the crappy Latino scavenger's lot. There was a small ditch and a drain pipe there, well concealed by the greenery, and Dan used to hang around that place to see what the feeble current might bring up. It was shady and cool, particularly during these off-school summer days, and he usually made small but interesting discoveries. On one occasion he found a five-dollar bill, which he happily—but wisely—spent on Marvel Comics, two of them each week. On another, a golden chain with a small heart-shaped locket that held the picture of three beautiful girls; he had intended to give this to his mom on her last birthday, but this particular item generally gave him the chills for unknown reasons, and he had briefly reconsidered this notion, saving it for the next Christmas. In another instance he had found in that ditch a dead, bloated beaver. For Dan, since he had never seen one up close except in school textbook drawings, it was a very interesting opportunity to thoroughly examine it as best as he could; of course, all this from the safe distance afforded by a long pointed stick he used to turn the dead rodent around.

Today, Dan went near Hector's Junkyard, and when he entered the greenbelt, he suddenly got more than he had bargained for. He had found a…

Now Daniel stood in front of the sheriff's office at the corner of Main and Sycamore. It was a red brick and mortar two-storied building, with two big windowpanes in front. Stenciled across each, in a graceful arc of letters, was the word 'Sheriff'. Directly below were small letters that read, in a less ornate manner, 'N.P.D.' Daniel nodded approvingly at the sign and then climbed the three front steps, pulled the door open and entered the sheriff's office.

* * *

Being inside the sheriff's office was truly a major source of disappointment for young Daniel. It didn't resemble any police station he had ever seen on TV. Three desks, each one complemented by a set of filing cabinets, and a dozen wooden chairs pretty much summed up the furniture content of its first floor. There was a wrought iron spiral staircase climbing to the top floor of the building and next to it was a barred door that prevented access to a wooden staircase, leading to the lower darkness of a small detention block. Danny felt a certain curiosity about it and briefly considered asking Sheriff Clayton to let him have a look-see—after Dan had told him about what he had found, of course.

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