Jasper Dash and the Flame-Pits of Delaware



Whales on Stilts!

The Clue of the Linoleum Lederhosen

To the monks of Vbngoom, wherever you are

Thanks to Sam and Hannah Anderson
for their expert help and advice.


An imprint of Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing Division 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020

Text copyright © 2009 by M. T. Anderson

Illustrations copyright © 2009 by Kurt Cyrus

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

is a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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The text for this book is set in Stempel Garamond.

Manufactured in the United States of America

First Edition

2 4 6 8 10 9 7 5 3 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Anderson, M. T.

Jasper Dash and the flame-pits of Delaware / M. T. Anderson; illustrated by Kurt Cyrus. — 1st ed.

p. cm. “A Pals in Peril Tale.”

Summary: Boy Technonaut, Jasper Dash, and his friends Lily Gefelty and Katie Mulligan travel into the mist-shrouded heart of the forbidden mountainous realm of Delaware to try and unravel a terrible mystery.

ISBN 978-1-4169-8639-3 (hardcover: alk. paper)

[1. Adventure and adventurers—Fiction. 2. Friendship—Fiction. 3. Characters in literature—Fiction. 4. Humorous stories. 5. Mystery and detective stories.] I. Cyrus, Kurt, ill. II. Title.

PZ7.A54395Fl 2009 [Fic]—dc22 2008044415

ISBN 978-1-4391-5608-7 (eBook)



When Lily Gefelty got out of bed on the morning of the big game, she looked out the window to see what kind of a day it was going to be. She discovered that it was the kind of day when a million beetles crawl out of the ground and swarm the streets, forecasting evil.

She didn't know about the evil yet, of course. She just saw the million beetles, brown and restless, dropping from trees and mobbing fire hydrants. She was not usually disgusted by beetles or anything else. But these did not seem natural.

She went to look up beetles online. Her eyes narrowed. She blew her bangs off her face. No question: It wasn't the time of year for beetles.

No, not the time of year for beetles—but as it turned out, it was indeed the time of year for
evil. On that fall day, a white van had rolled into town, filled with wickedness. It had turned off the highway at dawn. It headed for Lily's school. It was headed for the town of Pelt's big game.

Quite often, when evil comes to town, animals get restless. Horses whinny. Dogs bark at the windows. Dolphins hide their shiny pates and chitter. And in this case, the bugs, which had just settled down for the winter, crawled back out of their dens, filled with unease.

Of course, Lily didn't know that evil was in a white van, ordering sausage egg croissants at an O'Dermott's drive-thru. Neither did her friend Katie Mulligan, who knew a thing or two about evil.

When Katie and Lily were dropped off at the school gym, where the day's big match was going to take place, Katie complained, “These beetles are disgusting,” kicking a few out of the way as she stepped out of her mom's car. The hard little bugs rolled a few times and skittered into a sewage drain.

“It's like a plague,” said Lily, watching the beetles shiver.

“Are waterproof shoes also anti-beetle?” asked Katie, lifting her heels. “I mean, do they fend beetles off?”

“I don't know,” said Lily.

“Shoes,” said Katie, “should come with a complete fending list. ‘These shoes fend the following.'”

Lily was thoughtful. “It's pretty late in the fall for beetles.”

“Oh, lordy,” said Katie. “I hope that these beetles aren't signs of a coming evil.”

“Hello, chums!” called Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut, crunching across the school lawn in Wellington boots. “What-ho and tippy tippy dingle and all.”

“Eww, Jasper,” said Katie, “you're crunching on june bugs.”

Jasper inspected the soles of his boots. “Aha,” he said. “I had noticed a jaunty crispness to my stride this morning.”

“Um, Jasper,” said Lily, “do you have lead weights taped to your eyelids?”

“Yes, indeed,” said Jasper. With a show of great concentration, he held out his arms, puffed out his breath, and slowly raised and lowered his lids. “I want every muscle in my body to be ready for the big match today.”

“Who're you playing against?” asked Lily.

“The Delaware team. From Edgar R. Burroughs High in distant Ogletown, Delaware: Dela ware's state champions. They are, frankly,” he said, lowering his lids and raising them again, “
supposed to be terrors. I do not mind telling you, they have left the wreckage of many another school's athletic department in their wake. Mothers weeping on the bleachers.”

“Wow,” said Katie. “You've really gotten into this, haven't you? I never knew you were so into sports.”

“A healthy mind in a healthy body,” said Jasper. “That is what I strive for.” His lids opened and closed, opened and closed.

Pelt—where Jasper, Katie, and Lily lived—was not a very exciting place. It was a small town with a library, police department, some old Victorian houses covered in aluminum siding, and a street of failing stores down near the docks. To pep up business on Main Street, store owners had put mannequins out on the sidewalk, advertising dusty sweaters or pillbox hats, but the mannequins were just assaulted by gulls.

There was not much to do in Pelt. There was a museum in town, but it wasn't very exciting. Its main exhibits were on how people used to churn butter. Now, I have enjoyed my share of incredibly dull museums,
but even I found the Pelt Museum unbearable. No one really went there except third-grade field trips during their “Making of Margarine” unit. There was also an opera house in town, but it was closed and dogs lived there. At night, sighing came from the upper windows.

Given that there was not much to do in Pelt, people cared a lot about the schools' drama clubs and athletic teams. Sporting events were very well attended, and before big matches, games, and meets everyone put signs on their lawns cheering on the Pelt teams. The
Pelt Observer
always ran big stories about competitions with nearby towns.

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