After eating their fill, Marti left the two of them in the cottage while
he went to check on the cow. He put her in the shed and lay some fresh hay
on the ground. “Lie down. I’ll be back later, Heidi.”
The sun sat low, sending its reddening rays into the deepening
blue sky. It would soon disappear, sinking below the horizon. When Marti
opened the door to the cottage, he stuck his head in and called, “We’ve
got time to make one more trip into town before it is dark. I know the
chances of finding them are slim, but we must try. It’s urgent!”
Gretel and Crispin grabbed their coats and followed.
“The villagers must have hurried home right after they got off
work. Aside from one or two shops with lights still burning, the streets
look empty. Let’s try the cuckoo clock shop. Johann is still there. I see
his light on.” Gretel pointed to the golden glow in the window.
“When I open the back door, go inside quickly. I think there’s
a customer still in there, so be quiet.” The children nodded. Marti led
them into the alley behind the shop and opened the door. He put his finger
to his mouth. “Quiet.” They went inside, staying hidden in the shadows.
Johann stood at the counter talking to a customer.
Marti whispered, “It’s only Inga. She’ll talk up a storm. Do
you see any dragons?”
“I see a blue one. He’s on the wall, over there.” Crispin
showed Marti and Gretel. “Look! He’s trying to catch the cuckoo when it
comes out.” Crispin giggled.
“It’s Devi.” Marti whispered the dragon’s name. “Grab your
bag, Gretel. We’ll have to do this very quietly, even though I’m sure
Johann won’t hear a thing over Inga’s chattering.” Dropping to their hands
and knees, they crawled over to the wall.
The dragon hung from one of the chains dangling from a cuckoo
clock, swinging back and forth. A cuckoo bird popped out.
Raising his arms, the dragon tried to catch it each of the
five times, but the bird went back inside to wait until the next hour
passed. Devi left claw marks on the Black Forest cuckoo clock.
“Now!” Marti gave Gretel a nudge.
Gretel tossed the bag over the dragon’s head. It fell to the
ground in front of Marti, landing with a thud. Legs flailed about,
scratching everything in their way.
Crispin peeked above the counter to see if Johann or Inga
heard the noise. They hadn’t.
Holding the top of the bag in his hand, Marti and the others
crawled into the back room, dragging the squirming dragon behind them.
They heard Inga shut the door. “She’s finally leaving.” Gretel
Johann went through the shop turning off the lights in each
room. “Let’s go before he comes back here.”
Gretel didn’t want to be caught and have to explain the dragon
Once safely out of Johann’s shop, they headed down the street.
The hairs on Marti’s
neck stood straight up and his back stiffened. Someone must be watching
us. He heard the occasional crunch of a twig, or a footstep on the wooden
walk. Not wanting to frighten the children, he didn’t say anything.
“There’s still a light on in the Watch Shop,” Crispin said.
“Do you think there might be a dragon in there?”
By now the sunset filled the sky with crimsons and brilliant
pinks. Wispy clouds reflected the colors, adding intensity and vividness.
The tall mountains silhouetted against the sky reminded Gretel of sleeping
giants. Standing in front of the shop, she looked in the window. “I see
one. It’s a girl dragon, a green one. I wonder if it’s Tabitha. She looks
smaller than the others. How silly! She’s got a watch around her neck and
is trying to get it off. I see Mr. Fulfer and he’s helping someone, but I
can’t tell who it is.”
Crispin raised his head and peered inside. “It’s the stranger,
the man in the black cape. What’s he doing? I’ll bet he’s still trying to
find the dragons.”
“Maybe he wants to buy a watch,” Gretel said.
“I doubt that. We’d better get in there and catch her before
they see her.” Marti walked to the back door. Grasping the handle, he
tried to turn it, but it wouldn’t move. “Crispin, you’ll have to go in one
of the windows.” Marti pulled on the closest one, but it wouldn’t budge.
He tugged each one with the same results. “They’re all locked. We’ll need
some sort of distraction to get Nichol and the man outside. Crispin,
here’s another bag. Gretel and I will find a way to do it. When you see
Nichol and our mysterious stranger run out, you sneak in and get that
dragon.” Marti dropped the tied bag holding Devi, who screeched. “Sorry,
little one. I’m going to leave you here, behind this bush. We’ll be back
“Do you think he'll be safe here?” Gretel glanced at the
“He’ll be fine. Don’t worry. We’ll only be gone a few minutes.
Are you ready, Crispin?”
He nodded. “I’ll go and stand on the side of the shop and wait
for your signal.”
Marti took Gretel’s hand. “We’re going to have
to do something to get the two of them out of that shop.” When they
reached the street, Marti looked both ways and ran north. “I see something
that might help us. Come on.”
“What are we going to do with those?” Gretel stared at the
stacked wooden barrels. “Are they empty?”
Marti pushed one over. “They’re empty. I hope Salina won’t
mind us making a mess of her barrels. I’ll apologize to her tomorrow. Now,
when I say go, roll them all as fast as you can towards the Watch Shop and
start shouting.” He looked around to make sure nobody was in the way and
Gretel pushed every barrel over on their sides and rolled them
down the street; their wooden slats bumping into everything in their path.
She screamed at the top of her lungs. “Help! Help! Help!”
Marti toppled several more over and shouted. “Danger! Watch
Soon Nichol and the stranger came rushing out of the shop.
“What’s all that noise?” Nichol saw the barrels rolling towards him. “What
is going on here?” He and the other man jumped out of the way as the
barrels crashed into poles, buildings, and railings.
Crispin looked around the side of the building
and saw the rolling barrels. “Now’s my chance.” With his back against the
wall, he inched his way into the shop. Closing the door behind him, he
grabbed the dragon and pulled the watch off her neck and over her horns.
She wiggled, trying to get free of Crispin’s grasp. The watch fell to the
“Come on now. Work with me, girl.” Crispin left it lying there and bagged
the dragon. Scratch marks from her claws stretched from his wrist to his
elbow, turning red. He rubbed the sore spots. “Naughty dragon. You
scratched me!” He looked out the window. Both men jumped up and down,
dodging the barrels. With the bag over his shoulder, Crispin went out the
back door; it locked behind him.
Marti saw Crispin run into the alley. Thankful for the
darkening sky, he and Gretel dashed across the street and behind the shop,
where he’d hidden the other dragon. “Good. You’ve got her. That leaves
only four more we have to find. We’d better get these two back to the
cave. I think a storm’s coming. Look at the moon. See those clouds
floating by? Those are snow clouds. I fear we’re in for a heavy snowfall.”
“Do dragons like the snow? I don't,” Gretel
“Actually, I don’t think they know what snow
is. They’ve spent their entire lives down in the cave. I’m not sure what
“Won’t the last four dragons freeze to death?”
Crispin adjusted the bag over his shoulder.
“We need to find them before it snows. I don’t
want them to get wet and cold.” Gretel wiped a tear from her eye.
“Don’t worry. We’ll find them.” Marti forced himself to
believe his own words. Gretel’s attachment to the dragons touched him.