Maxwell Smart slept late on Monday morning. After saving the world three times in the last week, he was ready for a break, and the Chief had given him two days off. Max was really looking forward to doing absolutely nothing. He locked the door of Apartment 86 and walked down the stairs, planning to drive out to Sandy Point and have a nice relaxing day at the beach. No KAOS, no Chief, no Admiral. Unfortunately, there would be no 99 either.
Max had just reached the apartment house lobby when Mrs. Anderson, his downstairs neighbor, came running toward him. “Please help me, Mr. Smart!” she said. “I think someone’s broken in to my apartment! The furniture is all askew, my sons are hurt, the baby’s crying, and I don’t know what’s going on! You’re a detective or secret agent or something, won’t you help me?
“You’ve got it wrong, Mrs. Anderson,” said Max. “I’m only an unassuming greeting-card writer. Nevertheless, the eagle eyes of Maxwell Smart are always on the lookout for ways to serve the cause of niceness, so I will come see what’s wrong with your children.”
They walked into the Anderson apartment. The dining table had been tipped on its side, and the chairs had been knocked about. In the living room, the stuffed chair was lying on its back, but the couch was still upright. “These are my sons Gary and Dennis,” said Mrs. Anderson, indicating two boys sitting on the couch, nursing bruises. “They’re both eight years old.”
“That’s interesting,” said Max. “Are they twins?”
“That explains why they’re the same age, then,” said Max. “Too bad; I thought it might be a clue.”
Mrs. Anderson frowned. “And this is Joan. She’ll be seven months old on Thursday. I don’t know what’s happened to her. She was fine when I left.” The little girl was sitting in her highchair, screaming and waving her arms. “I served breakfast for all three of the children, and then I popped out to the corner store while they ate. I came back and found them like this, and the twins won’t tell me anything.”
“Don’t worry ma’am, I’ll get to the bottom of it. Is there anyone else living in the apartment?”
“Well, there’s my husband, but he left for work hours ago. And the two dogs. There’s our five-year-old mastiff, Admiral, and then we just got a three-month-old Golden Lab named Rusty. Admiral sleeps in the master bedroom, and Rusty sleeps in the boys’ room. They should both be in their rooms now.”
“All right, Mrs. Anderson, not to worry, just let me investigate.” Max crossed the room and looked down at the boys.
“Are you a spy?” Dennis asked.
“Do you carry a gun?” Gary asked.
“Have you ever been in a fight?”
“Is it dangerous being a secret agent?”
“Has anybody ever punched you?”
“I’m asking the questions, here,” Max interrupted imperiously. “Mrs. Anderson, is there somewhere we can go to be alone?”
“You can go in the boys’ bedroom. There’s nobody in there but Rusty.”
“All right, come on, boys, let’s go.” Max led the way into the small room. A bunk bed was pushed up against one wall, two dressers against the other wall, and on a rug in the middle of the floor, a dark-haired mastiff was curled up sleeping. “That’s no puppy,” said Max. “I thought your mother said your Golden Lab slept in here?”
The twins glanced at each other but said nothing.
“Are you going to tell me what happened? I need to know what happened. I won’t even tell your mother.”
The twins stared at the floor.
“Now listen, boys. Someone once told me that in this world, there are the good guys and the bad guys. The good guys are the ones who will stand up for niceness and goodness no matter what, who are honest and love their country. The bad guys are the liars and cheaters and traitors who defend badness and rottenness. Now, are you good guys or bad guys?”
The boys continued to stare at the floor, then one of them looked up. “I don’t want to be a bad guy, Mr. Smart! I want to be a good guy, like you! But Rusty started running around, and then the table got knocked over, and we thought we could fix things but we just made them worse, and now I don’t know what to do.”
Max sat down on the bottom bunk of the bed. “Okay, Derry—I mean Guinness—uh, which one are you?”
The other boy rolled his eyes. “He’s Gary. I’m Dennis.”
“Okay, Gary...and Dennis...here’s the deal. If you’ll tell me what happened, I’ll see what I can do to help you.”
The boys exchanged another glance. “Okay,” said Dennis.
“It started when Mom left,” said Gary. “Rusty was being really crazy and we didn’t know what to do so we took Joan’s prunes but that just made it worse and then—”
“How about you tell me what happened in order,” said Max.
“I’ll tell you what happened,” said Dennis. “After Mom left, Rusty came flying down the stairs chasing Admiral. Admiral’s normally really calm, but he was mad because Rusty was annoying him. They ran into the dining room and started knocking over chairs. They banged into us too. We dragged Joan’s highchair out of the way, but they were really going crazy. Then Rusty grabbed Dad’s gold tiepin and ran off with it.”
“But it’s okay, we found the tiepin!” said Gary.
“I’m getting to that! So we knew we had to look for the tiepin, and we didn’t want Mom and Dad to know the dogs did anything because then they might get rid of Rusty. So we found this bottle in the kitchen cabinet that said ‘Sleep Formula: Take 3.’”
“Wait a second,” said Max. “Please don’t tell me that you gave sleeping pills to the dog!”
“Sure we did! We emptied out the powder and mixed it in with Joan’s prunes and gave it to Rusty.”
“I asked you not to tell me that,” said Max. “What else did you do?”
“Admiral calmed down once Rusty went to sleep. Then, since Gary and I already had bruises from the dogs jumping on us, we decided to pretend that we had gotten in a fight and it was us who had knocked over the furniture. That way they wouldn’t blame Rusty.”
“Yeah!” said Gary. “Then, we hunted all over the house and finally found the tiepin under Rusty’s rug in our room.”
“We put the tiepin back with Dad’s things, but we thought we’d better switch the dogs so nobody would suspect Rusty. So we carried Rusty into Mom & Dad’s room and gave Admiral treats to come lay on the rug in our room. That’s what happened. We didn’t mean to do anything, and we don’t want Rusty to have to go away. What are you going to do, Mr. Smart?”
“I’m going to start by checking on Rusty and the tiepin. You boys better go and pick up the furniture. And rinse out the rest of those prunes!”
The door was wide open on the master bedroom, so Max went in. Sure enough, a golden puppy was curled up at the foot of the bed, breathing stertorously. A gold tiepin was sitting on the desk in the corner. It looked like the boys had indeed managed to fix things up.
Mrs. Anderson was sitting at the kitchen table, feeding baby food to Joan. Max ran toward her and snatched the jar away. “Don’t give her another bite! They’re very dangerous, you know, these jars of baby food...green beans. Actually, green beans are okay, it’s the prunes that are dangerous. Don’t give her any prunes.”
“That’s what Dennis told me. He poured the rest of the prunes down the sink, he said the dog had gotten into them.”
“Well, Mrs. Anderson, I think your family is safe. Nothing is missing and nobody is permanently injured. The boys have finished picking up the furniture, so I think I will return to writing greeting cards. Goodbye.”
“Goodbye, Mr. Smart, and thank you for your help.”
Gary and Dennis walked with him to the hall.
“Who told you that anyway, about the good guys and the bad guys?” asked Gary. “Was he one of your secret agent buddies?”
“Actually, that was Siegfried. He’s the Vice President of Public Relations and Terror at KAOS. He’s one of the bad guys.”
“I want to be a secret agent someday,” said Dennis. “It sounds dangerous.”
“Yes, it is,” said Max. “I’m facing danger every minute, every moment of the day—and loving it.”
“Goodbye, Mr. Smart! And thank you!”
Max walked back through the lobby and headed out to his car. There was someone sitting in his car—not good. He drew his gun and sneaked up behind the stranger.
“All right, who are you, and what are you doing in my car?”
The stranger turned and smiled. “Hello, Max.”
“99! What are you doing here?”
“The Chief sent me to find you. There’s an emergency at headquarters, you need to come in at once. What were you doing?”
“Nothing much. My neighbors asked me for help. It was just the old drug-his-prunes, fake-the fight, ransack-the-apartment, and switch-places-with-the-Admiral trick. That’s the second time that’s happened this week!”