96. Vandals

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Late that night, Henry crept through the woods, carrying a bat in his hand. The waning gibbous moon cast a silvery glow over the narrow trail of rough and rooted terrain.

Behind him, Big Willy followed with a burlap sack that held a couple dozen old baseballs. Together, they made their way toward the black bunkhouses. If the vandals showed up tonight, they'd be ready for them.

The high pitched trill of crickets filled the air. In the distance, a night-heron released a series of sharp squawks every now and then.

Henry was surprised Willy was able to move around so quietly. Looking back at his big buddy, he wondered if there was a little cat in his blood. Henry had assumed Willy was just as determined as him to catch these hooligans in the act. But seeing the nervous twitch in Willy's cheek, maybe not.

They emerged from the woods and scurried about fifty feet to the side of the first bunkhouse, pressing their backs against the building.

Henry looked up at Willy and raised an index finger to his lips.

Willy nodded, remaining quiet.

Slowly, Henry peeked around the corner of the building.

"There they are," Henry whispered. "Look!"

Big Willy peered over Henry's shoulder.

Henry pointed to the three white men with paint brushes on the side of house number four.

Wait!

Henry recognized them. They were the same men who had been sitting with Clayton during the second Pioneers game; the last one they'd lost. Clayton and these men had hollered from the stands and gotten the home umpire to call him out.

Henry and Willy moved back along the side of the bunkhouse, out of sight of the vandals.

"There's only three of them," Henry whispered. "And they don't have guns."

Big Willy looked unconvinced. "You sure about that?"

"I'm sure," Henry said. "They're not Vigilantes either. We can take them."

"I don't know," Big Willy said, "Maybe we should get some help."

Henry furrowed his brow. "There's no time for that. We have to act now. Are you with me or not?"

Willy sighed. "With."

"Good!" Henry said before peeking around the corner of the bunkhouse again.

The vandals continued to paint up the side of the bunkhouse four, dipping their brushes into one of the two cans of white paint that sat on the ground between them.

During their mail runs, Dale had pointed out each of these men.

There was Hans Schiller, a lean five-foot-ten German. His brother Karl looked like a circus strongman, and he was almost as big and tall as Willy. The stocky fellow in the middle was Ralph Garvey, an assistant supervisor at the mill.

The men were whispering amongst themselves, their voices too low to make out the words.

Henry turned to Big Willy. He set his bat down and pointed at the sack.

Willy lowered the bag to the ground. "I sure hope you're right about this."

Me too, Henry thought. He removed two baseballs from the sack and handed them to Big Willy. Then he grabbed a couple for himself. He met Willy's huge round eyes. "Remember the plan?"

Willy gave a shaky nod. "I remember."

Henry stepped away from the building and fired the first baseball like a shot out of a cannon.

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