The snowflakes were gently falling in the New Hampshire night sky as Joseph, Matthew, and Lillian slept peacefully, and though they were only vaguely aware that it was snowing, all three children were dreaming of snowmen, sledding, and hot chocolate with marshmallows.
The ever-so-slight wind that evening was moving the most recent dusting of snow back and forth, back and forth like a pendulum, whish whish whish. Branches were whispering to each other in the night; occasionally a wind chime down the street would ring a barely audible tone.
The eyes of the three startled children opened instantly. Lillian, still coming out of her dream, exclaimed, “I want to see that snowflake!”
Matthew, awake by now, sighed and explained, “That couldn’t have been a snowflake, Lillian.”
Without waiting for further explanation, Lillian stuck her tongue out at Matthew and retorted, “Well Mister Smarty Pants, just exactly what was it then?”
With a hint of superiority, Matthew assumed a professoral tone and explained, “I believe it was one of those ghastly snacks, filled with trans fats and rubidium. Specifically, judging by the mark on the window, my best guess is that it’s a Chocolate Crème Hoo-Hoo.”
“Ah I see,” said Lillian, who then proceeded to dance to the sink, fill a cup with cold water, dance back across the room to Matthew, and dump the entire contents of the cup on Matthew’s head.
“Wh-what was that for?” asked a surprised and wet Matthew.
“Do you really expect me to believe that this Hoo-Hoo, a chocolate crème hoo-hoo, went flying through the night air and just happened to hit our window?
“Oh, I said nothing of the sort,” explained Matthew. “I didn’t say that it flew. Hoo-hoos don’t have wings, Silly. But it may have been thrown or launched.”
Around that time, Joseph jumped into the conversation. “Little Bro, Little Sis,” he began, “Let’s not bicker over flying versus launching, nor on anything else. Instead, we should focus on the virtues that we …”
Another object struck the window with so much force that it stuck there for a couple seconds before falling to the ground. Yet, that was just enough time to confirm Matthew’s suspicions. An oily film was on the outside of the window where the Hoo-hoo had hit; not only that, but a bit of Chocolate Crème had squirted out and was now frozen on the window.
“Now isn’t this odd,” pondered Joseph. “Hoo-hoos wouldn’t do this on their own initiative.”
He thought long and hard. “No,” he decided, “Maybe they could do this on their own. I was thinking of one of Fig Newton’s laws, but I’m not sure that applies to Hoo-hoos.” Feeling a cold draft, he turned and saw that Lillian and Matthew had opened the window.
“Lillian and Matthew!” exclaimed a stern Joseph. “Close that window at once. You’re letting in the cold air.”
“Not really,” said Matthew. “We’re letting out the warm air.”
“Yeah, the warm air,” agreed Lillian, before sticking her tongue out at Joseph.
Fortunate or not, a confrontation never fully developed because at that very moment three Hoo-hoos went whoosh through the open window and smack against the opposite wall of the bedroom.
“Snacks!” shouted Lillian.
“Snacks!” shouted Matthew.
“Shhhhhh! Snacks!” whispered Joseph.
The three children, famished from not having eaten for nearly three hours, opened the celophane of each of the Hoo-hoos and began devouring the delectable treats.
Lilian’s Hoo-hoo was more than an ordinary Hoo-hoo, however. “Hey!” she whined with disappointment, “There’s something in my Hoo-hoo.”
“A Fortune Hoo-hoo?” pondered Matthew.
“What does it say,” asked Joseph.
“It says … oh my goodness …” began Lillian.
“Tell us! Tell us!” begged Matthew.
“Oh my goodness,” repeated Lillian.
“What is it?” asked Joseph.
“Oh my goodness. I can’t read. Here, you read it,” said Lillian, before handing the chocolate-smudged paper to her oldest brother.
“Wow, Lillian. This is neat. It says that your lucky numbers are 7, 15, 20, 27, 30, and 98.”
This time it was Matthew who pondered. “Hmmmm,” he murmured. “Someone’s going through a great deal of trouble to tell us our lucky numbers. Hey Joseph.”
“What?” replied Joseph.
“Look on the other side of the paper,” suggested Matthew.
Joseph turned the paper over. “Oh my goodness,” he exclaimed.
“What’s wrong?” asked Lillian. “Can’t you read either?”
“It’s a message from Bernie. He’s in trouble. He needs our help!” Joseph shouted, forgetting the need to keep hushed tones so the parents would not be roused from their winter slumber.
“What does it say, Bro?” asked Matthew.
Joseph read the message.
“Cape Hatteras. Big Robbery. Missing person. Something fishy going on. Meet me at Ocracoke at 5am. Bernie. “
Lillian put her hand out. “This!” she exclaimed.
Matthew followed, putting his hand on top of Lillians and said, “Calls!”
Joseph put his hand on top of their and said, “For!”
And all three together said, “Action!”
As quickly as they had been awakened by the WHACK just a few minutes earlier, they assumed their true identities. Lillian — Agent Qingwa — was dressed in slick black leather. Matthew — Mr. Hawaii — had on a Hawaiian shirt and Bermuda shorts. Joseph — the Pope — was looking quite pontifical in his Pope hat.
Joseph the Pope quickly took charge. “Qingwa, grab a bag and gather our stuff. Mr. Hawaii, get Red 7. I’ll make sure Mom and Dad are sleeping.”
While Qingwa packed, Mr. Hawaii went into the closet, turned a shoe on the shelf just slightly to the right, and watched as the secret elevator doors opened. Mr. Hawaii jumped in and went to the roof, grabbed a corner of a tarp, and pulled. This was the moment that always put a lump in his throat, a tear in his eye, a jig in his step, for there, before him, glistening in the moonlight, poised and ready for action, was Red 7, the fastest and most beautiful jet on the face of the “oith” (oith oith oith). And as always, Mr. Hawaii looked around to try to figure out where the “oith oith oith” echo was coming from. Shrugging, he went to work, and within seconds Red 7, sleek and magnificent, was ready for the trip.
Mr. Hawaii drove the jet to the bedroom window and parked there (pilots, don’t try this at home). Qingwa opened the window just as The Pope was entering the room. As The Pope said, “All clear,” the two jumped into the plane, joining Mr. Hawaii. Moments later, the Red 7 was zooming at Mach 3.
In what seemed like no time, Mr. Hawaii put the microphone up to his mouth and said, “Break 1-9, Break 1-9, Ocracoke Airport, we’re coming in for landing.”
Qingwa looked at The Pope and whispered, “He loves the next part, you know, the convoy part.”
As if on cue, Mr. Hawaii then said, “Ocracoke Airport, we got us a convoy.”
Qingwa and The Pope looked at each other, smiling.
The response from the Ocracoke tower was less than friendly, however. “Hey cowboy, you can’t land yet. Local air space is full.”
“What do you mean, full?” asked an incredulous Mr. Hawaii. “It’s 2am in the morning!”
“Listen cowboy, we’ve got the world famous celebrity, Miss…”
But before the tower could finish the sentence, Mr. Hawaii firmly stated, “Tower, this is Red 7.”
“Red 7! Red 7! Well why didn’t you say so! Yes sir, come on in. You’re cleared for landing.”
Mr. Hawaii smiled. That was more like it. He brought the jet in for a quick but smooth landing.
As the pilot and his two passengers jumped out of Red 7, a non-descript yellow and pink striped Hummer came to a screeching halt not more than two feet in front of them. Out stepped a non-descript man wearing fake glasses with the Groucho Marx moustache and nose, a chartreuse toupee, and a large pink tutu.
“I’m so glad to see you guys,” exclaimed Bernie with a sigh of relief. “I thought I was coming here for a relaxing fishing trip, but it’s total disaster. Chaos. Mayhem.”
“Bernie, what’s up?” asked a curious Qingwa.
“Where do I start?” asked Bernie.
“Start at the beginning,” suggested The Pope.
“Okay. It was May, 1961. My mom was in the hospital, ready to give birth to her first child.”
“Bernie,” muttered Mr. Hawaii.
“Yeah what?” asked Bernie, agitated at the interruption.
“Not that far back,” corrected The Pope. “Start with your arrival here.”
“Oh, that. Okay,” continued Bernie. “It was a dark and stormy night. I came here with $100.”
“And someone stole it?” asked Qingwa.
“No, nope. I’ve still got it,” said Bernie. To double check, though, he removed his wallet from his pocket and counted the money again. “Yep, it’s all here.”
“Please continue,” Mr. Hawaii said, patiently.
“OK. So, I brought the money here because I was going to deposit it in the Outer Banks. I’ve heard a lot about these banks, and I figured they must be really safe and secure, and they probably offer good interest rates and probably a free checking account and maybe they even have a –“
“Bernie,” said all three in unison.
“Don’t interrupt again. Let me finish,” demanded Bernie.
The three looked at the ground and grimaced, but they let him continue.
“So I got here, right? And there’s no bank! Someone has stolen the Outer Banks! There’s not one remaining. And not only that.”
“What else?” muttered The Pope.
“I went to get a haircut. I saw the barber pole. Now, it’s the biggest barber pole I’ve ever seen in my life, and I figured they must be really good. So I drove there, and walked right up to it, and, wouldn’t you know, the barber is gone!”
“Bernie,” said all three in unison, again.
“I suspect foul play,” said an excited Bernie.
“Bernie,” chanted the three, again.
“At first I thought maybe the barber stole the Outer Banks and then skipped town.”
“But that would be too obvious,” Bernie continued, ignoring the three. “And I remembered how barbers always seem to know everything going on in town. You know, like who caught the biggest fish last week, who got a speeding ticket yesterday, and stuff like that. So I figure, yeah, this makes sense, I’ll bet the thief kidnapped the barber so that he couldn’t talk.”
“Bernie, oh Bernie. It’s 2am in the morning and you called us out here for this?” sighed Qingwa.
“Did … did I goof again?” asked an embarrassed Bernie.
“Bernie, my friend, have you ever heard of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse?” asked The Pope.
“Nope, ‘fraid not,” muttered Bernie, shaking his head.
“Here, read this,” said Mr. Hawaii, handing Bernie a “Guide to the Outer Banks” booklet.
“Will do. Sorry to trouble you,” apologized Bernie.
“No problem, really,” said The Pope.
“Yeah,” agreed Qingwa. “It was good practice for us.”
“Yep,” concurred Mr. Hawaii. “Good practice. Now let’s go home before Mom and Dad wake up.”
The three hopped into the jet, took off, and moments later all three were back home, in bed, eyes closed.
Just then their bedroom door opened.
“Kids?” whispered their father.
The children made no sound.
“Hmmm, I could have sworn I heard something,” said the father, shrugging and then going back to bed.
Qingwa opened one eye.
Mr. Hawaii opened one eye.
And The Pope opened one eye.
They did a quick high-five, and then The Pope said, “We should get some sleep. You never know what tomorrow may bring for the Red 7 kids.”
And within moments, they were asleep, dreaming once again of snowmen, sledding, and hot chocolate with marshmallows.