Freddie Ramos Tracks Down a Drone

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Freddie Ramos Tracks Down a Drone Page 2

by Miguel Benítez

  Uncle Jorge in New York is going to be Juanita’s dad when he gets married. I’ll get a new cousin. But we’ve all known each other for a while now.

  “Don’t get ahead of yourself,” Mr. Vaslov said. “First, we have to meet this guy.”

  Mr. Vaslov had a good idea. If my friends met David, they could help me decide if he was okay.

  “Will you come home with me?” I asked.

  5. David

  “Freddie!” Mom said. “You brought your friends!”

  Her voice was really high. I don’t think she expected me to walk in with Mr. Vaslov, Maria, and Gio.

  “Yes,” I answered. “They wanted to meet your friend.”

  Everyone turned toward David, who was standing by the couch with a roll of candies in his hand. He had just popped one in his mouth when Gio charged at him.

  “Peppermints!” he said. “Can I have one?”

  “Sure!” David dropped a round, white candy into Gio’s hand and then walked toward Maria and me. “Would you like one too?”

  Maria took a peppermint. I shook my head. If you take candy from someone, it means you trust them.

  After Mom introduced me to David, Mr. Vaslov introduced himself.

  “I’m not Rosa’s father,” he told David. “But she feels like a daughter to me.”

  Did that mean Mr. Vaslov cared for me like a grandson? Maybe I didn’t have to worry about being replaced by a robot after all.

  “You want to make sure I’m not a bad guy,” David answered.

  Wow! How did he know what I was thinking?

  When they finished their candy, Maria and Gio went home to their own apartment for dinner. Mr. Vaslov stayed to eat with us.

  For a while, it was great. Mr. Vaslov talked to David so I didn’t have to.

  “What are your hobbies, David?”

  “Photography,” he said. “I like cameras and taking pictures.”

  “Really?” Mr. Vaslov’s eyes widened behind his glasses.

  That started a conversation on lenses, light sensors, and other electronic stuff.

  I didn’t have to say a thing until David looked right at me.

  “What do you like to do, Freddie?”

  That was a hard question. My favorite thing was zooming around in my super-powered zapatos. After that, I liked using my super bounce and super hearing. How could I talk about that? Only Mr. Vaslov knew I had superpowers, because he invented them.

  “Freddie?” Mom prodded me. “David asked you something.”

  “Uh.” I stared down at my lasagna. “I don’t know.”

  “Then tell me what you did today, Freddie,” David said.

  At least that question was easy to answer.

  “I helped Mr. Vaslov build a drone.”

  “You have a drone?” David asked Mr. Vaslov. “I just bought one with a camera.”

  “Is it a quadcopter?” Mr. Vaslov asked. “With four arms?”

  “Yes,” David answered. “I call her Birdie.”

  “Bring her over tomorrow,” Mr. Vaslov said. “Birdie can meet our Ladybug.”

  Sunday morning, David was back at Starwood Park, showing off a green drone half the size of Ladybug.

  “Let’s see them fly,” Mr. Vaslov said.

  We stood in the big grassy area beside Building G, where I liked to play soccer.

  Mom was with us. She held her hands over her heart, watching the two drones in the sky. One flew on the left side, the other on the right.

  “¡Increíble!” she said.

  Then things went wrong. Birdie veered toward Ladybug.

  “I’m sorry!” David pushed the buttons on his remote. “I lost the signal for a moment.”

  “Sometimes there’s radio interference,” Mr. Vaslov said, “from power lines or other wireless signals in the air.”


  Birdie went too close again.

  “I’ll send Ladybug higher,” Mr. Vaslov said, “out of Birdie’s way.”

  That didn’t work so well. Ladybug disappeared.

  David brought Birdie down, and we all moved in different directions, looking for Mr. Vaslov’s orange drone. I was the fastest.

  I circled all the buildings. Ladybug wasn’t anywhere on the ground at Starwood Park.

  Was she still flying? I turned on my super hearing to hear noises from far away.

  All I heard was a little kid crying because his sister took his toy car. No buzzing drone sounds.

  Superheroes don’t quit. I kept running with my eyes peeled—up, down, everywhere.

  On the other side of Building H, I finally spotted something orange in a tree. Could I get a closer look?

  Sure! I had super bounce.


  Yep! Ladybug was there, waiting to be rescued.

  6. Learning to Fly


  Super bounce is super handy. I didn’t need a ladder. One quick grab and Ladybug was out of the tree, only a little bit bent.

  “Freddie!” Mom ran over with David right beside her.

  “You found Ladybug,” he said. “You’re a hero!”

  Hero! My favorite word! Should I be happy, hearing it from David?

  We took Ladybug to the toolshed and showed her to Mr. Vaslov.

  “Please let me help fix her,” David said. “It’s my fault.”

  “Thanks.” Mr. Vaslov put Ladybug on his worktable. “But I’ll have to do it later. Mrs. Lopez has a dripping faucet.”

  Mr. Vaslov walked away from us toward Building C.

  “He’s limping,” I said, “like his leg hurts.”

  Mom sighed. “Mr. Vaslov is having trouble with his knees. Many older people do.”

  Is that why Mr. Vaslov wanted Ladybug? Could a drone help him? Wouldn’t it be better if he had something to ride around on?

  I didn’t have much time to think about that before David asked me a question.

  “Would you like to fly Birdie?”

  Who could say no to that?

  David handed me a controller with a cell phone attached.

  “You two have fun!” Mom waved. “I have some laundry to do.”

  Flying a drone meant learning what the levers and buttons were for. It wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.

  “Push the stick gently,” David said. “Make the drone rise slowly.”

  We practiced hovering and landing softly. Then David taught me how to go forward and backward, right and left. Pretty soon, the drone was doing exactly what I wanted it to.

  “That’s it, Freddie,” David said. “Smooth and steady.”

  Maria came by and looked over my shoulder. She liked watching the screen on the remote. Birdie had a camera, and we could see the view from above Starwood Park.

  “It’s what you would see if you were a bird, flying,” David said.

  “Can I try?” Maria asked.

  She caught on quickly, but she didn’t push the stick quite as gently as David wanted. Birdie soared over Building F.

  “Hold on,” David said, taking the controls. “We need to bring her back into our line of sight.”

  But Birdie didn’t want to come. The camera showed her flying lower and lower.

  “What’s happening?” Maria asked.

  David shook his head. “It’s the battery. I should have switched to a fresh one.”

  “She’s falling!” Maria pointed at the screen.

  We watched Birdie tumble to the ground.

  “I’ll get her,” Maria offered.

  “No,” I said. “I’m faster! Let me!”

  With super speed, it only took half a blink to run around Building F, pick up Birdie, and return.

  “Oh no!” Maria cried. “One of the propellers broke.”

  David narrowed his eyes. I was almost glad to see it. He’d been way too friendly. Now he was going to show us who he really was and get mad over the broken drone.

  But I was wrong. Something else was bothering David.

hat just happened, Freddie?” he asked. “Did you step out of a puff of smoke?”

  RATS! I’d made a BIG mistake. Zooming off was not smart. Maria was so used to it, she’d stopped asking questions. David was another story.

  “Ummm,” I mumbled. “Ummm.”

  The back of my neck felt hot. What was I going to say?

  Maria saved me.

  “Freddie does that.” She waved her hand. “He’s just real fast.”

  David opened his mouth so wide, I could see his back teeth.

  I was glad when Mr. Vaslov came across the grass and interrupted us.

  “What’s going on?” he asked.

  David showed him the broken propeller.

  “Looks like we have two drones to fix,” Mr. Vaslov said. “Come to my toolshed.”

  When Mr. Vaslov and David walked off together, Maria turned to me.

  “Everybody likes your mom’s new boyfriend,” she said.

  Was everybody right? Should I like David too?

  I needed more time to make up my mind.

  7. Looking for Clues

  Maria had flying fever. On Monday, it was all she could talk about.

  “Do you think Mr. Vaslov will let us fly Ladybug?”

  “If he can watch,” I said, “and if we promise to be careful.”

  After school, we knocked on the toolshed door.

  “Sorry, kids,” he said. “My drone is missing.”

  “What happened?” Maria asked.

  “I took her out for another test,” Mr. Vaslov answered. “She got away from me again.”

  “Which way did she go?” Maria asked.

  Mr. Vaslov pointed toward Building C. “I searched until my knee gave out.”

  “It’s okay,” I told Mr. Vaslov. “We’ll get her back.”

  “I hope so,” Mr. Vaslov said. “But drones are very popular.”

  “You think somebody took her?” I asked.

  Mr. Vaslov shrugged. “You never know.”

  “Let’s split up,” I told Maria. “You check this side of Starwood Park. I’ll check the other.”

  I circled Starwood Park twice. No Ladybug.

  Maybe she was in a tree again.


  I checked every tree around. No Ladybug.

  Where was Mr. Vaslov’s drone? I needed more clues. Maybe someone had seen it. Or maybe someone had hit it with a broom.

  I knocked on Mrs. Tran’s door.

  “Yes,” she said. “I saw that orange monster by the dumpster.”

  I raced over there, but all I found was a roll of peppermint candy—the same kind David had handed out on Saturday night. Was he here?

  While I was thinking, Gio walked over with Puppy. “Guess what? David brought your mom home.”

  “How do you know?” I asked.

  “I saw them get out of the blue car with the smiley face sticker.”

  So David was at Starwood Park.

  “Did you see anything else?” I asked Gio.

  “Just before he left, David put something orange in the trunk of his car.”

  Ladybug was orange. Did David take her? How could I find out?

  I raced home to talk to Mom.

  “Can we go to David’s house?” I asked.

  She answered me with a sneeze. “Achoo!”

  “Sorry, Freddie,” she said. “I have a cold.”

  “Can we still go?”

  “Achoo!” Mom sneezed again. “Where?”

  “To David’s house. He saw our house. We should see his.”

  Mom smiled. “So you like David?”

  “I didn’t say that. I said I wanted to see where he lives.”

  “Muy bien.” Mom smiled again. “I’ll ask him about Saturday night.”

  “Can’t we go sooner?” I asked.

  “Achoo!” Mom sneezed. “I need to get well first.”

  I sighed. Five days was a long time to wonder if my mom was dating a thief.

  On Saturday night, we took the train to a tall building downtown. We had to go through a lobby, up an elevator, and down a hallway to reach David’s door.

  “Welcome!” he said as we walked inside.

  The table was set with a red tablecloth and white dishes.

  “We’re having pupusas,” David said. “I found a recipe on the internet.”

  I remembered how Mom had made lasagna for David. Was this how grown-ups showed they liked each other? They cooked their favorite foods?

  At dinner, Mom and David told me about how they met.

  “I knew David’s face,” Mom said. “He has meetings at my office.”

  “But we didn’t talk until the day Mr. Torrez dropped his cane,” David said.

  “And you helped him.” Mom smiled.

  Mom thought David was the kind of person who helped others. What if David was really the kind of person who took other people’s drones?

  “May I use the bathroom?” I asked.

  “Sure,” David said. “It’s at the end of the hall.”

  David’s bedroom door was wide open. I only had to take a little peek to see what was inside. Uh-oh!

  I saw a table in the corner of the room with a few tools and a big orange drone.

  8. The New Project

  David sure made it easy for me to catch him. A smart crook would have hidden the drone in the closet, not left it out for anyone to see.

  I went back to the table, not knowing what to do. Should I tell Mom? Or wait until I could talk to Mr. Vaslov?

  “You’re frowning, Freddie,” Mom said. “Are you feeling all right?”

  “Not really,” I said.

  Mom put her hand on my forehead. “Maybe you’re coming down with my cold.”

  Since we’d already finished dessert, Mom decided we had to go home. David took us in his blue car.

  “Gracias,” Mom said as we got in and she buckled her seat belt. “You’re very sweet.”

  “So are you,” David said.

  “Dinner was wonderful,” Mom said.

  I sat in the backseat, listening to Mom and David talk, until we reached Starwood Park and passed Mr. Vaslov’s toolshed.

  “The lights are on!” I said.

  “Mr. Vaslov must be working late,” Mom said.

  What was he building? A new drone to replace the one David took?

  Mr. Vaslov liked David. Mom did too. How could the two people I trusted most in the world be so wrong?

  It wasn’t easy to sleep that night. My head was too full of questions. And in the morning, I dreamed about an orange drone buzzing outside my window.

  Tap! Tap!

  I opened my eyes. Was it Ladybug? No. It was Gio.

  “Get dressed, Freddie,” Gio said through the glass. “Mr. Vaslov needs help.”

  “What happened?”

  “Nothing,” Gio said. “He just wants you.”

  Gio was better at telling than explaining.

  I rushed outside to find Mr. Vaslov on Mrs. Tran’s stoop, rubbing his knee.

  “Can you go to the toolshed? I need a light bulb.”

  I was back in a blink.

  “Thank you, Freddie.” Mr. Vaslov stood up. “Now Mrs. Tran will have light in her bathroom.”

  I was glad Mrs. Tran didn’t have to do her business in the dark anymore. But I wasn’t happy Mr. Vaslov was having trouble with his leg.

  “I’m going to the doctor next week,” Mr. Vaslov said.

  “I hope it helps,” I said.

  “If it doesn’t,” Mr. Vaslov grinned, “I have a new project that will.”

  “Can I see?”

  After he replaced the lightbulb, we walked to the toolshed. The new project was a red electric scooter.

  “This should help more than a drone,” I said.

  “Absolutely,” Mr. Vaslov said. “With this scooter, I should have no more problems with going back for tools or light bulbs.”

  Mr. Vaslov didn’t want the drone anymore. Should I forget what I saw in David’s apartment?
br />   ¡Claro que no! Mom and Mr. Vaslov had to be told.

  I took a deep breath and forced the words out. “David has Ladybug.”

  “I know,” Mr. Vaslov answered.

  What? Mr. Vaslov knew?

  “David found her by the dumpster on Monday,” Mr. Vaslov said, “and called me.”

  That still didn’t explain why I saw Ladybug in David’s apartment. Why didn’t he give the drone back right away?

  “David put a camera on Ladybug,” Mr. Vaslov said. “Now I’ll be able to check the roofs with my drone. I won’t have to climb ladders.”

  “That’s really nice,” I said.

  “David is thoughtful,” Mr. Vaslov said. “He could be good for your mother.”

  But would he be good for me? I could only find out if I gave him a chance.

  A few minutes later, David parked his blue car at Starwood Park and came walking toward us. He had the orange drone in his arms.

  Mom came over too. She was carrying a cooler.

  “Who wants to go on a picnic?” she asked.

  “No thanks,” Mr. Vaslov said. “I have a scooter to finish.”

  “I’ll go.” I raised my hand like I do in school when I want to be picked.

  David drove us to a park outside the city.

  “This is a better place to fly,” David said. “Lots of wide open space.”

  After lunch, David sat on a blanket with Mom, while I flew Birdie.


  She soared in perfect circles above our heads.

  Don’t Miss Freddie’s Other Adventures!

  One day Freddie Ramos comes home from school and finds a strange box just for him. What’s inside?

  HC 978–0–8075–9480–3

  PB 978–0–8075–9479–7

  In this sequel, Freddie has shoes that give him super speed. It’s hard to be a superhero and a regular kid at the same time, especially when your shoes give you even more power!


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