The War of the Red Romer
Lee Tandy Schwartzman wrote and illustrated this story when she was 7 years old. We first published it in 1978 as the November/December issue of Stone Soup. Crippled Detectives is the fabulously funny story of four sisters and a brother - Lee, Sylvia, Anne, Ben and Lisette, aged 15, 15, 5, 4 and 3 - who take it upon themselves to save the world from an evil villain, the Red Romer, and his gang.
As soon as we read the first sentence of the 100-page manuscript we recognized its brilliance. There was only one trouble. It was almost impossible to read! There was no punctuation and words were spelled with considerable imagination. After a huge effort we managed to type the manuscript, standardizing punctuation and spelling. Beyond that we made no changes. What you see here is the story as Lee wrote it.
We are very proud to have published Crippled Detectives and are very happy that, through the World Wide Web, we can easily make it available to you. Print it out! Share the story with children and friends! Enjoy!
A Sad Trial
“Oh!” said Sylvia suddenly. “What?” said Lee alarmed. “Oh I have to go out with you to get firewood,” replied Sylvia. “Oh now I remember,” said Lee, and into the house went the two girls to get Lisette and Ben and the things they would need to chop down trees for wood craft and firewood. The sister and brother came out. “Where’s Anne?” said Lee in a worried tone of voice. “I don’t know,” said Sylvia, turning around slowly to see if she could see Anne from the distance. “Where are we going?” asked Ben and Lisette together. “To get kindling wood if we find Anne,” answered Sylvia. “Here I am,” called a happy voice. “Are we going to get wood again?” said Anne. “I found a place where the trees are thick.” “Oh Anne!” said Lee. “Well, are we going?” asked Anne. “Yep,” said Sylvia.
When they got to the spot Ben and Lisette cut down the tree while Lee, Sylvia, and Anne stood in a patch of ivy. Suddenly a wind sprung up and made the tree fall in the direction of Anne, Lee, and Sylvia. “Run!” screamed Lisette. They ran but they tripped on the vines of ivy. Before they could get up, smack! and blood flowed out. The tree had fallen on their middles where they had had serious operations. Lisette and Ben pulled off the tree and carried them home. Off to the hospital they went and were crippled.
When the others went visiting in the children’s ward, the patients of the family were glad to see them. “Boy,” said Lee, “that was a big eastern wind.” “Yep, it sure was,” said Anne. “It occurs to me,” said Ben, “that that wind was phony and that someone caused it . . .” “Because,” said Lisette, “there are never strong eastern winds in South Dakota where we are now . . .” “And,” said Ben, “we never ever get eastern winds nowadays.” Just then the alarm bell rang and the news machine reported that in Africa a robber had his hand chopped off and was sent here because there were not enough doctors in Africa. “The robber has escaped-aped-aped-aped-aped-aped,” went the machine. The parents wrapped up their sick children in quilts and went to the door. “It’s locked!” screamed Lisette. Ben made a rope out of sheets and pillowcases, fastened it to the beds, and threw the other end out the window. The family got down safely. Some of the nurses and doctors had been shot. Others were hiding. A nurse explained that the robber of Africa was fierce and had stored money from the hospital. “His name is the Red Romer, and he has enough electricity and money to make a strong wind as you say what happened. Run!” said the nurse. So they ran ran ran ran.
After that they went away. They went to France because they had better doctors there. One day Lee used crutches to find Ben and Lisette stranded on the beach with bare feet and a poisonous jellyfish dead on the beach. So Lee said, “Don’t move or the poison will spread. Don’t wink, blink, or talk or walk, don’t do anything except breathe.” Lee put a blanket of seaweed on them and gathered the shells that had points and threw them down into the ocean and got a ambulance to rescue them. Afterwards they were crippled and brought back crutches to use. “But there are no poisonous jellyfish in France,” said all the people, “except the rare moneoe who live in the west not in the east of Paris.”
“Anne, where are you?” said Sylvia. They found Anne dead with a bullet in her forehead, lying on the floor dying with red fingerprints on the gun and a note which read:
A foolish girl who called the police first sight of me and if you want to live keep the police out of this or you will soon have a blown up Europe and 9,000,000,000,000 dead people including you.
Their parents cried, Lisette screamed, Lee shuddered, and Sylvia gasped and the nurse fainted, but it seemed Anne was laughing. She opened her eyes and stood up. “Good trick I played on that Red Romer,” she said, and all saw her taking a piece of plastic off her forehead. Then everybody started laughing. The nurse woke up and rubbed her eyes and laughed too and went to do research.
Lisette and Ben used crutches and could both run and walk. They ate more and slept better. One day the 9,000,000,000 people of Europe were robbed, 601 were killed, 700 houses were ruined or burned down. Then a phony storm came up — wind, clouds, rain, thunder, mist, lightning, snow, frost, and hail — and they went in it so they had to stay there for a while.
“Now we better get to the top of this,” they said. “Now to find out his phone number,” said Lee. “Let me see how we find it,” said Sylvia. So they walked off to the bazaar to find out the villain’s phone number. There were rich plum puddings, chocolate cakes, apple pie, cherry tarts, pineapple biscuits, roast beef with gravy, corn, rice, and chicken and steak. They pushed their way through the crowd to the door and into the lobby hall. They walked through the lobby hall until they came to a door with a sign on it which read: HEAD OF BAZAAR, MR. GRITS. They opened the door which was not locked and stepped into the room which was dimly lighted. A black man with white hair and a white beard sat on a chair by the desk, his head facing down, writing with a black ink pen on some paper. He turned his head up when he saw us and said, “What do you want?”
I said, “How many people were robbed?” “900,” he said. “How many people were killed?” “601,” he said. “How many houses were ruined?” we said. “700,” he said. “May you give me a piece of paper?” I said. “Sure,” he said. He handed a piece of paper to me. I wrote down 900 601 700. “His phone number!” we cried, took the paper, and rushed out. Mr. Grits shook his head and said, “Crazy kids, never know what they’re talking about, crazy crazy.”
Meanwhile our parents were worried about us and asked Flow, a French girl who knew us. She said, “They were going to the bazaar to get information from Mr. Grits. Come, I’ll show you.” She led the way on the path through the woods onto a green lawn past the beach club on a old road to the right of the old-fashioned windmill. They too pushed their way through the crowd to the lobby hall and went into the dim room. Mr. Grits looked up and smiled when they told him that their kids were last seen at the bazaar. “They ran out somewhere,” he said. But the parents knew their kids. They would surely come back for supper with good or bad news.
Meanwhile we were at the new street with the telephone booth on it for special calls. They took a dime, put it in, and dialed 900 601 700. On the telephone a mean gruff voice said, “Hello, who is this?” “Red Romer you tried to kill us, this is Lee Shypman and . . .” “LEE!” roared the voice. “Yes,” Lee said. “Lee, what do you want?” he said. There was a pause. “Speak!” roared the Red Romer, not as loudly as before. “What are you afraid of?” I said. “The special mirror which will reflect back my powers. It has been passed on to you from your grandfather and hidden under your house. If you die it shall be mine,” he said and hung up.
I told the rest of the gang. They said good and dug to find the mirror. Soon we found it and we had to find the villain’s hideout, so we went from all the paths to each house he had been in. It led to a oak tree with a brown rope hanging down that nobody could see because of the brown of the tree. We looked up into the branches. There was a tree house. The door was bolted and locked and chained securely. How could they get in? The windows were closed and locked, except one which was closed but not locked, so they went to it and pushed it open, climbing through. They saw bombs, tanks of oil, huge batteries of electricity, chains, ropes, locks, and firecrackers as big as tanks. Rifles and guns were scattered about. A sleeping guard was lying by the door. Quietly we tiptoed through the mess, past the guard, and into the next room.
Suddenly the guard woke up, saw their footprints, and pressed the alarm button. We heard it and hunted for the door to the room we had got into because the guard would be in another room guarding. Meanwhile it was way past suppertime. Our parents were worried.
While we were hunting we found it and went in, flipped out the window and almost fell down the rope, and scurried to the old country road and back to town. We had failed in our plan to capture the Red Romer. Failed. We had to tell the truth at home, and our parents were proud of us because we had tried. As long as we had the mirror we were safe from all danger, but all was lost because the Red Romer would be aware and bolt, close, lock, chain, and rope all openings, including the faucet, door, chimney pipes, window, and be ready to kill us. But we were ready to kill him with the mirror to reflect back his powers upon him. But if he killed us while we were sleeping that would be too bad, so we took bags of steam and hung it on the door in such a way that if the door was opened the steam would come out, blind him, and wake us so we could take time to get the mirror. Every night we slept together.
But no one came in the night, but all night long not one of them could sleep, so they sang “Lavender Blue Dilly Dilly,” “Yankee Doodle,” and “Pierre” and read Helen Keller, Pippi Longstocking, and Cats, but not a yawn came from their mouths, not a bit did their eyelids close. Not books, records, radio, TV, snacks, toys, games, or studying would do any good, not writing letters and calling midnight calls would do any good, not even sleeping pills. They could not speak, not a sound came from their mouths. Their parents called the hospital. The hospital said it would go away, “But stay amused with things and keep exercising every day. Eat lots every day.” “What do they have?” asked their parents. “Anfibyody,” they said, but they had to stay in the hospital because their mouths were sealed shut. They had to be fed by the veins in a incubator, and it would give them acid for exercising.
Go on to Chapter Six