Kidnapped at the Capital

“They’ve gotta be around here,” Marshall said. “Maybe your mom and the president went for a walk.”

KC shook her head. She was beginning to feel worried. “Mom wouldn’t take off without letting me know,” she said.

KC’s ice cream cone dripped on her hand, but she ignored it. With her heart beating fast, she searched the crowd. Nowhere did she see a man in a baseball cap and a woman wearing a purple dress.

President Thornton and her mother had vanished!

This book is for my parents,
Marie and Zeke,
who gave me my first book.
R.R.

1
Vanished

“Come and eat, kitties!” KC Corcoran called out. She filled a bowl with cat food and set it on the floor. Lost and Found, her two kittens, came sliding around the corner when they heard the sound.

Marshall Li, KC’s best friend, poured water into another bowl.

“We have to leave soon,” KC’s mom said. Lois Corcoran held up an engraved invitation. “It’s almost ten o’clock. The president is meeting us outside the Air and Space Museum in half an hour.”

“Do you think Casey Marshall will be there, too?” KC asked.

“I doubt it,” her mother said, looking for her keys. “The president doesn’t want the public to know he has a clone.”

The President of the United States had invited KC, her mom, and Marshall to the Cherry Blossom Festival. Each April, this celebration was held on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Thousands of people came out to enjoy the museums and the beautiful pink cherry blossoms.

KC and Marshall had become friends with President Zachary Thornton when they’d rescued him from evil scientists. The scientists had cloned the president, hoping to use the clone for their own purposes.

But KC and Marshall had saved the president, and the president had saved the clone. Now the clone—named Casey
Marshall after KC and Marshall—lived in the White House.

“Do I have time to run downstairs and feed Spike?” Marshall asked.

Marshall lived in an apartment two floors below KC. He was staying with the Corcorans while his parents were away buying antiques for his mom’s shop.

“If you hurry,” KC’s mom said. “We’ll meet you in the lobby in five minutes.”

KC watched Marshall dash out the door. Spike was his pet tarantula. KC shuddered, thinking of all those hairy legs.

Five minutes later, KC, her mom, and Marshall met in the lobby.

“Say hi to the president for me,” said Donald. He held the door open. Donald was the building manager, and he was also their friend.

The National Mall was a short walk from the apartments. They passed the Capitol building, then cut through the Botanic Gardens. The cherry trees that lined the grassy strip were in full bloom. Everywhere KC looked, people were going in and out of the museums and other buildings on the National Mall.

Kids zoomed around on roller blades. Joggers dodged baby strollers. Vendors stood behind carts selling food, T-shirts, and Washington, D.C. souvenirs.

“There he is!” Marshall pointed to a group of people next to the National Air and Space Museum. In the center of the group stood the president, wearing khaki pants, a blue sweater, and a baseball cap. All around him were secret service agents in dark suits. The president chatted and
shook hands with everyone who came up to him.

“Isn’t it great,” KC’s mom said, “that President Thornton gets out to meet the people who elected him?”

The president looked up and waved at KC, her mom, and Marshall. The secret service agents made an opening for them through the crowd.

“Hi! Thanks for coming,” the president said when they reached him. “Aren’t the cherry blossoms beautiful?”

“Lovely!” KC’s mom said. She picked a blossom from a tree and tucked it in her hair. “Thank you for inviting us, Mr. President.”

“The cherry trees are so pink!” KC said. “I feel like I’m walking through strawberry ice cream!”

“Mmmm, ice cream!” said Marshall.

“Now there’s a good idea,” KC’s mom said. “Would you like to get some?” She dug in her purse, then handed KC a five- dollar bill.

KC and Marshall went looking for an ice cream cart. “President Thornton is so cool,” Marshall said. “Maybe I’ll run for president some day.”

“I thought you wanted to be a bug scientist,” KC reminded her friend.

Marshall shrugged. “I can always be an entomologist in my spare time.”

“I don’t think presidents get much time for hobbies,” KC said.

“That’s lousy,” Marshall said. “If I can’t bring my spiders, I’m not gonna be president!”

KC laughed. “I’d vote for you, but only
if you made me the TV anchor for the White House.”

Marshall spotted a group of food carts in front of the Smithsonian castle. He and KC walked over to a teenager selling ice cream cones.

“What’ll it be?” the teenager asked.

“A cherry and pistachio cone, please,” Marshall told the kid. “One scoop of each, with the pistachio on top.”

“Awesome,” the teenager said. “Looks like Christmas.”

“I’ll have butter crunch,” KC said. “One scoop.”

She paid with her mom’s money, then they began walking back toward the Air and Space Museum.

“I wonder who planted all these cherry trees,” Marshall said.

“Johnny Cherryseed,” KC said, licking her cone.

Marshall laughed. A few minutes later, they reached the spot where they’d left KC’s mom. KC stood on her tiptoes. She tried to spot her mother and the president over the other people.

“Do you see them anywhere?” she asked Marshall.

“Nope, but wait a sec.” Marshall climbed onto the seat of a bench. He craned his neck, looking in all directions. “I don’t see them,” he said.

“That’s funny,” KC said. She joined Marshall on the bench. “There aren’t any secret service guys, either.”

“They’ve gotta be around here,” Marshall said. “Maybe your mom and the president went for a walk.”

KC shook her head. She was beginning to feel worried. “Mom wouldn’t take off without letting me know,” she said.

KC’s ice cream cone dripped on her hand, but she ignored it. With her heart beating fast, she searched the crowd. Nowhere did she see a man in a baseball cap and a woman wearing a purple dress.

President Thornton and her mother had vanished!

2
Top Secret

“Maybe they went into one of the buildings,” Marshall suggested.

KC gazed up and down the Mall. The Washington Monument was at one end, and the Capitol stood at the other. Museums lined either side of the long, grassy lawn.

KC shook her head. “Marshall, my mom has this rule—if one of us changes a plan, we tell the other one. She reminds me all the time.” KC hopped off the bench and threw her unfinished cone into a trash can. “I think something happened to her and President Thornton!”

“There’s something else your mom tells you all the time,” Marshall said, still working on his cone. “Don’t jump to conclusions.”

“I’m not jumping to anything!” KC said. “She was supposed to be here, and she’s not. Wouldn’t you worry if your mom disappeared into thin air?”

“Okay, sure I would,” Marshall agreed. “So what should we do?”

“Let’s look around the Mall,” KC said. “They have to be somewhere.”

KC and Marshall walked the length of the Mall and back. Crowds of people were out, enjoying the sunshine and the cherry blossoms. Twenty minutes later, KC and Marshall were in front of the Air and Space Museum again.

“Something has happened to them,”
KC told Marshall. Her stomach felt jumpy, like she was about to be sick. “I think we should go home. I’m sure Mom will call me.”

They retraced their steps toward home. KC studied the people around her. She kept hoping to spot that purple dress.

Back at their building, Donald held the door open for them. “Have you seen my mother?” KC asked him.

Donald looked puzzled. “Weren’t you all together?”

“We were,” KC explained. “But then my mom and the president disappeared. Did she come here?”

Donald shook his head. “I haven’t seen her since you guys left,” he said. “And I’ve been in the lobby the whole time.”

KC had tears in her eyes. “What could
have happened to them?” she said.

Donald put a hand on her shoulder. “If Lois is with the president, I’m sure she’s fine,” he said. “He’s always surrounded by his secret service agents.”

KC nodded. “But we should go upstairs in case she calls.”

“Good idea,” Donald said. “I’ll bet your phone rings in five minutes!” He walked with them to the elevator and took them up to the fifth floor.

KC let them in with her key. She prayed the phone would be ringing. But the apartment was silent. Lost and Found were asleep on the sofa.

KC switched on the TV and used the remote to find the local news. Standing in front of the TV, she surfed between channels. “Nothing,” she muttered.

“What are you looking for?” Marshall asked. He sat next to the kittens and stroked their soft fur.

“I don’t know,” KC said. “But if something happened to the president, it’d be on the news, right?”

Marshall smiled at his friend. “Of course it would,” he said. “So that means nothing bad has happened.”

“I guess,” KC said. “But Mom would never just go off somewhere!”

KC continued to surf, hitting all the news channels. Finally she gave up and punched the OFF button.

She flopped down on the floor.
Everything’s going to be all right,
she told herself. But still she felt scared. And sad.

KC thought about her father down in Florida. Maybe she should call him. But
she couldn’t—she had to leave the phone line open.

As if by magic, the phone rang.

KC leaped up to answer it with her fingers crossed. Marshall ran into the kitchen and picked up the extension.

KC reached the phone on the second ring. “Mom?” she said.

“KC? This is the president,” a familiar voice answered.

To KC, it sounded as if he had a stuffy nose. She was suspicious. The president didn’t have a cold when she saw him a little while ago! “Are you with my mom?” she asked.

“No, I’m not,” the president said. “That’s why I called.”

“Where is she?” KC almost yelled. “She was with you!”

“No, she was with Casey Marshall,” the president said. “I came down with a cold, so I sent Casey to meet you instead.”

“But where are they?” KC asked. “Marshall and I went to get ice cream and they disappeared!”

“KC, I’d rather talk to you about this in person,” President Thornton said. “I’m sending a car to pick up you and Marshall and bring you to the White House. I’ll explain everything when I see you.”

“Is my mom all right?” KC asked. “Shouldn’t I stay here in case she calls?”

There was silence on the phone. “I can only say I think she’s fine,” the president said finally. “But she isn’t in a position to call you.”

Now KC was really worried. Her hands felt hot and cold at the same time.

“The car will be there in five minutes,” the president continued. “Will you be downstairs?”

KC gulped. “Yes, sir.”

“Before you hang up,” the president added, “have you told anyone else about what happened?”

“Only Donald,” KC said.

There was a pause. “Okay, but please ask him not to say a word,” the president warned. “This is top secret!”

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