Here’s a quick sketch
“In 1938, as Jim and Jeannie Kosciusko and their brood of six, cope with the great depression and anticipate another war, nine year old Pat Kosciusko struggles with multiplication and long division at the Elizabeth Wilder School and is leery of his fourth grade teacher, Mister Cross, who is sometimes strange and often irritable. Unknown to Pat, Mister Cross’s odd behavior also includes a diabolical play for the charms of Helen Fitzgerald, the married fifth grade teacher in the classroom next door.
To complicate things, Helen’s husband Bryce, suspecting infidelity, hires private detective C.D. Dick, whose values and morals are often in suspense, to find out for sure. But C.D. Dick and Bryce are fooled. The distaff member of Mister Cross’s tryst is not Helen Fitzgerald.
Concerned about a smaller commission from Bryce, the unsavory C.D. Dick, gambling that he can intimidate Mister Cross, decides on blackmail to make up the difference. But Pat Kosciusko inadvertently overhears C.D.’s threat and Cross knows he was listening.
Pat is a sudden problem, and Mister Cross is desperate.
Stunned, the Kosciuskos ask for help from neighbor and confidant Charlotte Stuart, also a private tutor. Charlotte contacts a friend and school board member. Together, they launch a plan that reveals Mister Cross’s true partner and achieves retribution and comeuppance where appropriate. Charlotte also cooks up a nifty scheme to blackmail the blackmailer.
Here are some thoughts paraphrasing Pat…
...“there was something about Mister Cross that caused Pat to feel wary and suspicious”…
...“He wasn’t like his own dad who, while mostly serious and adult-like, offered a smile and sometimes a pat on his back when he did something good. He also taught him how to do important things like hit a baseball, throw a punch, and take apart a bike’s back sprocket…”
…“And Mister Cross didn’t kid around, teach him how to hit a golf ball, or tell any jokes like Mister Stuart next door. And he didn’t stand at his front porch doorway and say ‘Good morning. How are you, Patrick?’ like Mrs. Hunsicker, their neighbor on the other side”…
…“And he didn’t look like he mowed his lawn, shoveled his walks, and painted his house like other people in the neighborhood”…
…and some quotes from neighbor Charlotte Stuart…
…“I’ll also remind the judge, that, because you make a good share of your living taking advantage of other people’s moral lapses and indiscretions, in consequence, you barely reach the lower levels of legitimacy as a moral business.
“You wouldn’t want to test my resolve on this. I don’t bluff.”
“This is blackmail,” said C.D. while glaring back at Charlotte.
“You don’t say,” added Charlotte with ease.”