The Mystery of the Whispering Statue
Fifteen-year-old Trixie Belden hurried to the back of the school bus where her friends Honey Wheeler and Diana Lynch were waiting.
"We didn't think you were going to make the bus, what kept you?" said Di. "Did you have to stay after in Mrs. Brown's algebra class?"
"More likely she was waylaid by the latest edition of the school paper," Honey said with a smile in her hazel eyes. Honey's golden hair and sweet disposition had earned her the nickname, and everyone agreed that no other name would suit her as well.
"I was waylaid by a ton of papers jumping out of my locker," Trixie admitted ruefully. "The last edition of the paper was in there, so I guess that's close enough." She brushed sandy curls off her forehead and sighed. "I don't even think I got to read that issue yet, either!'
"I know what you mean," said Di. "With all the work we just did for the auction to benefit the museum and starting school, my mind has been in a jumble for the last two months."
"Well, we can be real ladies of leisure this weekend, with no homework and the reception at the museum to attend."
"And harvesting the remains of the garden, and getting the club house ready for winter, and exercising the horses; some weekend of leisure, Honey Wheeler." Trixie's blue eyes sparkled at her best friend.
"Yes," added Di. "A frightfully dull weekend."
The three girls discussed the events to come on the way through Sleepyside-on-the-Hudson, the small town west of New York City, until Trixie's stop. Waving goodbye to her two friends, she strolled up the driveway to the Belden farmhouse, admiring the charming picture it made in the hollow where Trixie lived. Especially now with the fall colors at their brightest, she thought.
Beldens had lived at Crabapple Farm for generations. Nestled between a good-sized garden and a small orchard of crabapple trees, it always had a cheery and welcoming look. Trixie lived there with her parents and 3 brothers. Mart, Trixie, and seven-year-old Bobby were blonde like their mother. Mart, who was fourteen months older than Trixie, looked enough like her so that they were often mistaken for twins, a fact that annoyed both of them to no end. Seventeen-year-old Brian was dark like their father, with deep brown eyes and a serious way about him.
Trixie walked into the kitchen with a "No homework this weekend Moms!"
Mrs. Belden looked up from preparing dinner and smiled. "I'm glad to hear it, Trixie. The last of the squash and tomatoes are ready to be brought in."
She looked up again in amazement when Trixie said, "I guess I'll get it done now as soon as I change."
While Trixie gathered the last of the tomatoes she looked up the hill to the big mansion called the Manor House. It was from that very spot in the garden she had first spotted the Wheelers moving in. So much had happened since then. Honey had been a timid and shy child when she met Trixie, but soon she forgot her shyness when all sorts of adventures started to happen to them, beginning with finding Jim Frayne, a red headed runaway whom Honey's family soon adopted. They made a clubhouse out of the old gatehouse and formed the Bob-Whites of the Glen, dedicating the club to helping others. Soon Diana Lynch joined the club. Diana had shoulder length black hair and violet eyes and was considered the prettiest girl at Sleepyside High by many, yet she was lonely until she joined the Bob-Whites. Then came Dan, who was the seventh member of the club. Trixie thought about the latest fund-raiser they worked on successfully for the art museum. The Bob-Whites raised so much money for renovations they were invited as special guests at the fancy reception on Saturday.
It will be exciting, but things just seem dull anyway lately, thought Trixie. Perhaps I miss Brian and Jim being around.
Brian and Jim, although only seventeen, were both freshmen at the local college. They were only a forty five-minute drive away and came home almost every other weekend.
Then again, maybe it's just that there hasn't been a mystery to solve lately, except for the mystery of my organizational skills, Trixie told herself.
Her basket full, she made her way to the house.
Trixie was glad that Mart hadn't seen the avalanche that spilled forth from her locker that afternoon. He would have something silly to say about it. Mart loved to use big words to annoy Trixie, and it usually worked. Adjusting the full basket, she made her way into the house.
Trixie set the table while Mrs. Belden stirred the huge pot baked beans on the old fashioned stove in the kitchen.
"I guess there will be plenty of leftovers with Mart eating with Dan tonight," Mrs. Belden said. "I hope they had no trouble finishing the shed; I am glad Mr. Maypenny allowed the boys to help out this year."
Trixie grinned. "My guess is that you will have no trouble with leftovers tonight, not with Terry and Larry Lynch here to help Bobby. His appetite is starting to rival Mart's!"
"He's happy to have the boys here for the weekend. They've been actually wearing Reddy out with a game of tag out back all afternoon."
Reddy was the Beldens' harum scarum Irish setter.
Trixie peeked out the kitchen window. "Who's wearing who out, Moms? Reddy looks like he could still run circles around the boys."
As she watched, Reddy stopped running and stared towards the front of the house. When the familiar chug of Brian's jalopy could be heard, the boys joined him in running to the driveway.
"You don't need a dog's sixth sense to know when Brian's home," chuckled Trixie as the old car backfired twice in the driveway.
"And your father should be soon behind. Go upstairs and wash up boys," she called to the three boys who were busy jumping up and down in front of and behind Brian as he strode into the kitchen. "Trixie, will you toast these rolls, please, while I get the hot dogs ready."
Brian hung up his jacket and bent over the pot of beans, inhaling deeply. "Mmm smells great, Moms. All set to go to the museum tomorrow, Trix?"
Trixie was carrying the rolls and relish plates to the table. Her eyes sparkled at the mention of the exciting event. "I can't wait Brian, but jeepers, I wish we didn't have to dress up! Why do receptions and openings have to be so fancy? "
Knowing Trixie's loathing for any type of dressing up, Brian grinned and remarked, "I'm sure I don't know. I guess society isn't ready for the Schoolgirl Shamus look." He pretended to admire her grubby jeans and old sweater.
"Well it should be,"she sniffed. "Anyway, this is perfectly suitable for horseback riding after dinner. It will be nice to have all of the Bob-Whites together for this weekend."
"You're right there. Jim and I miss being around you guys, believe it or not. Although college life is much quieter ."
Trixie sighed. "It's been too quiet around here. I wish ."
"Oh, no," Brian groaned. "No more mysteries. We don't want to sit at the university and worry about what kind of trouble you and Honey are into here."
"We never try to get into trouble. I am a little nervous about tomorrow, though," she said in a lower voice. "I'm bound to crash into something or say the wrong thing."
"Don't worry about it Trix. You'll do fine." He grinned at her as he headed upstairs.
Trixie smiled at him and finished setting the table as Mr. Belden came in from work and the boys came down the stairs. Brian is so reassuring and dependable. He is going to make a fine doctor, she thought.
Each of the Bob-Whites had big plans for the future. Jim wanted to run a school for orphaned boys, and Brian was to be the resident doctor. Mart said he wanted to be in charge of the agricultural end of the school, but Trixie was sure he would teach at least one linguistics class. Dan wanted to be a New York policeman, and Trixie and Honey were going to open their own detective agency. Only Di still wasn't sure what she wanted to do yet.
Well, Trixie thought on the way up to the stables with Brian after dinner, She still has lots of time. We all do. She smiled at the sight of Jim on Jupiter, the big black gelding. Jim was cantering around the practice paddock trying to get some of the extra frisk out of the horse that Jupiter always seemed to have.
"Hi Regan!" she greeted the Wheelers' red haired groom. "Moms sent a fresh batch of crabapple jelly for you." She put the jars in the small but tidy office and hurried to her favorite mare, Susie.
When all the Bob-Whites were ready to go, Regan called out to them. "It seems this group is as ready to go as the horses are. A good long ride will probably be good for all of you--which way did you plan to go?"
"I thought we would explore the hills past Ten Acres," replied Jim. "There will be plenty of room to run there."
"Just be careful of gopher holes, and remember plenty of time to let the horses cool down on the way home."
"We know, Regan," said Honey. "We are sorry we haven't exercised them much lately."
Di joined them as they were speaking, astride her palomino, Sunny. "Aren't Mart and Dan coming, too?"
"They should meet us where the trail connects from Mr. Maypenny's," said Brian. "I guess Mart has Strawberry with him. ?"
"Well, Jupe is ready to go meet them," said Jim. "Shall we?"
The Bob-Whites smiled their agreement; the crisp fall air and the excitement of being together again sparking the sense of adventure in all of them as they rode into the woods. They met Mart and Dan and followed the trail winding down past the Belden farm and rode up the eastern hill past the land where Ten Acres used to be before it burned down. The mansion used to belong to Jim's great uncle, and was the site of Trixie and Honey's first mystery, helping Jim escape his evil stepfather. Seeing him adopted by Honey's family gave both of them great pride, and Honey something she treasured above all, an older brother.
The land was part of Jim's inheritance, along with half a million dollars, put aside to help him complete his dream of a school for orphaned boys. They rode on past the ruins, to the edge of Jim's property, laughing and teasing each other, with the horses briskly trotting along, catching the mood of the exuberant teens.
"Which way now, Jim?" Trixie asked as they reach the marked edge of the field.
Jim turned to face his friends. "I thought we would ride around the twenty acres of fields on this side of property."
"Shouldn't we get permission from the owner?" frowned Dan.
Jim smiled. "I hereby give you permission, good sir." Jim waited for the uproar his statement should cause. Exclamations of " What" and "When did this happen" and "That's incredible, Jim" filled the air.
"So you are entering the lofty position of land baron? I neglected to bring my formal attire for this prodigious occasion!" exclaimed Mart.
"How did you do it?" asked Honey. "Is this what you and Dad were meeting about last weekend?"
"Affirmative, Sis. Dad helped me arrange it. We noticed that farmer Yoder put his fields up and Dad's been negotiating. Everything just went through Thursday. I own this twenty plus the ten to the road. Dad owns the forest to the Hudson River."
A light burned in Trixie's brain. "Then you must be planning to build your school here! Oh, Jim!"
He returned her smile. "Yes, Trix, I thought of a lot of places, but this seems like home, and a great place to teach."
Everyone congratulated Jim and looked around at the hills happily.
"I had always hoped that you would build in Sleepyside," said Di. "I just couldn't imagine it anyplace else."
Everyone was silent for a few moments as they looked at the rolling fields.
Trixie looked at the other Bob-Whites and thought, Heavens, everyone is growing up so fast all of the sudden. Brian looks so much older since college, and now Jim is putting serious thought into his school. She frowned slightly. Honey and Di look older, too. Even Mart seems more mature now that he has his driver's license. I wonder if the BWG's will still have fun when we grow up?
Honey seemed to sense her pensive thoughts and winked at her. "Well, we should have a few years to explore these fields before anything will be built on them."
Jim gave a mock grimace. "Yes, we may have gray hair before we get through college, right, Brian?"
"I may have gray hair before this first year is through!" He mimicked Jim's frown.
"Well, may I suggest we follow the popular idiom, that excessive studious pursuit manufactures an imbecilic lad, but exuberant amusements create a youthful demeanor?" asked Mart.
"What did he say?" said Di, her violet eyes wide.
"I think my cohort means to say that all work and no play ." smiled Dan.
"In that case," said Brian, "last one to the other side of the property cleans the winner's tack!"
Urging their mounts into a canter, the Bob-Whites took off across the wide field. Jupiter quickly gaining the lead; Trixie's little black mare quickly coming aside him. Jim looked over at the sandy blonde, curls bouncing and face flushed with excitement. He found Trixie very attractive, especially like now, with adventure in her eyes. He smiled to himself and urged Jupiter faster as she began to pull ahead of him.Yelling and cheering, the Bob-Whites galloped across the field, the only future worry being who would be the last one to the other side.
* * *
Trixie and Honey strolled along the wide veranda of the Manor House.
"I wanted to talk to you before you had to head for home," said Honey.
"Well, since Mart is busy cleaning Strawberry and Jupiter's tack, we have some time," replied Trixie with a grin. Brian and Jim were supervising the job while Dan and Di went to their homes. "I wanted to talk to you, too, about tomorrow."
"I can't wait! You are still coming up here to get ready tomorrow afternoon, aren't you? Di will be coming over around three o'clock."
"I can be over about then, I got a lot of the gardening work done today--Honey-- isn't it exciting about Jim's school? Didn't you know at all?"
"Well, I sort of suspected, especially when Jim and Daddy went on and on about zoning laws at dinner one night. It is just perfect, though, isn't it?"
"Perfectly perfect, you mean."
Both girls giggled at their favorite expression.
"You seemed a bit quiet tonight though, Trix. Is something bothering you?"
Trixie looked at her best friend and sighed. "It seems that everyone is getting so...so grown up and everything, but I don't feel any older. Or maturer. Everyone will look it, too, at the museum tomorrow, and I will still look like a goon in a dress."
Honey laughed. "You will look just gorgeous, Trixie. If anyone has been getting older looking, it's you! I was just thinking how much everyone but me was becoming more mature. Haven't you looked in a mirror lately, Trixie?"
"Humph," Trixie sniffed, "still looks like the same freckles under the same unruly hair to me."
"Well, don't worry about tomorrow. I can't wait to see the renovations to the museum. Di says the paintings have moved upstairs so that the Hudson River exhibit can grow. The Far East wing has been expanded with lots more exhibits. Your Dragon box will have company."
Both girls smiled at the memory of the mystery of the marshland, and Miss Rachel's gift to Trixie, which now was a featured piece at the museum.
"There will probably be so many mysterious things to keep my little green-eyed monster company," said Trixie, the sparkle back in her eyes at the prospect of seeing all the new exhibits the next day.
Honey smiled. "Speaking of your green eyed creatures, here comes my brother."
A blush replaced Trixie's sparkle as she sighted the boys coming up the hill. "I don't know what you are referring to, Miss Wheeler," she said nonchalantly, trying not to blush deeper.
Trixie's feeling for Jim was well known by Honey who liked to encourage it, but couldn't resist teasing Trixie about it from time to time. Trixie simply didn't like to admit it or talk about it.
"And here comes my poor brother," she said aloud to Honey. "We may just have to carry him home."
Mart did look tired.
"I guess I'd better get going. See you tomorrow!"
Honey waved back at Trixie and tried not to giggle at the sight of Mart lagging behind her and Brian down the path to the Belden farmhouse.
* * *
Trixie turned around from where she was putting away the last of the dried dishes.
"Mart Belden, what do you think you are doing?"
"Merely following parental dictate that all discordant dishes be brought to the sink, and these were accumulating in my domicile."
"Then why didn't you bring them down before, like when it was your turn to do the dishes?"
Mart's answer was muffled by a blueberry muffin.
"You can wash your own dishes!" she stormed. "I have the vacuuming and tons of dusting to get done before I can go to Honey's, and you know it!"
"Temper, temper, Beatrix," he drawled, calling Trixie by her hated full name. "I, too, have a day full of woe and work."
"You have to feed the chickens and take Bobby, Terry and Larry over to see Mrs. Vanderpoel. Some work! Old Brom will keep the boys entertained with his stories while you stuff yourself with Mrs. Vanderpoel's windmill cookies!"
"It's a dirty job ." He grinned. "Besides, what's the hurry?" He followed her into the living room as she began to dust. "It's ten o'clock now, and you don't have to be at Honey's until three."
"Moms has a garden club meeting this morning, so I have to iron my dress before I shower."
She took an angry swipe at a lampshade, barely missing Mart's nose.
He sneezed violently. "Although I will be accompanying you to the museum tonight, I do not wish to be mistaken for one of the items therein. Quit covering me with dust."
She turned her back to him as she began work on the mantel. "Perhaps they should put you on display there. The world's biggest pest in a crew cut." She brushed past him to work on the knickknacks in the corner shelf.
"Rush all you want," he said as he sauntered from the room. " All the time in the world won't get you ready for high society. Better to wrap yourself in gauze and pretend you are Maude."
Maude was the Sleepyside schoolkids' pet name for the museum's resident mummy.
In the kitchen, Brian was telling his parents about Jim's land purchase.
"I think he is sort of relieved to have made a decision as to where to build the school. He had considered so many places. How will you feel about a school up the hill?"
"Well, I am glad you all will be close by, Brian," his mother said. "When will he start building?"
Mr. Belden smiled. "Probably not for quite some time, dear. The boys have a few years ahead of them in school, and then they will probably get some experience before starting on their own."
"Well, the years will go by fast. Too fast." Mrs. Belden frowned. "Everyone is growing up so fast."
A noise outside made them all turn to the window, where the sight of Trixie chasing Mart around the side of the house with a feather duster made them smile.
"You were saying, Moms?" chuckled Brian as he walked to the garage for the lawnmower.
* * *
Strong gusts of wind blew in Trixie's face as she struggled up to the Manor house. Three- fifteen, she moaned. Will I ever be on time?
Readjusting the dress in its plastic bag, she slung it over her shoulder and hurried inside.
"My, my, what the wind brought in!" said Miss Trask, Honey's governess. "We were beginning to wonder if you were coming."
"Sorry, Miss Trask, I had some extra work. I hope the wind has dried my hair." Frowning, she put her free hand up to feel the top of her head.
Miss Trask 's blue eyes twinkled, but she said nothing.
Just then, Jim came around the corner with his springer spaniel, Patch. He stopped and stared at Trixie. "Honey's waiting upstairs," he said, suppressing a grin.
Trixie looked at them both. Patch had even stopped to gaze up at her with a confused stare. Trixie walked past them to the big hall mirror. Her eyes got wide at her reflection. Not taking time to dry her hair before she left, she found that the wind had blown it straight up from her forehead. Tentatively she pulled a lock down, only to watch miserably as it sprang straight up again.
"Don't worry, Trixie," Miss Trask came to her side, "we will fix it. Jim," she continued, "Will everyone be here at five o'clock?"
"We are going to meet at the clubhouse then and take the station wagon." He quietly left the room without further comment, still barely suppressing a smile. Patch followed, but not without glancing over his shoulder.
Trixie cast a rueful glance at her reflection. "Miss Trask, do you have any gauze?" she asked as they climbed the stairs to Honey's room.
* * *
Di and Trixie sat on the end of Honey's bed sorting through the tangle of Honey's necklace drawer.
"I know that string of violet beads is in there, Di." Honey was frowning as she brushed her hair distractedly. "Perhaps Mother borrowed it. I'll go and check." Trixie looked up to see her floral print dress go around the corner.
"For as neat as Honey is, you would think this drawer wouldn't be so tangled. Honestly, Di, I can't tell where one necklace begins and another ends!"
"I know what happened, Trixie. Remember when we were up here making plans for the auction for the museum?"
Trixie slapped her forehead. "Do I? I had to bring Bobby and Honey let him 'go sploring'. I am so glad Moms told Mart to watch him today."
"I'm glad your parents let Terry and Larry spend the weekend. Mummy and Daddy are so looking forward to this evening."
"Your parents have been friends with the curator for a long time, haven't they?"
"Yes, Daddy went to school with Mr. Xavier. We were really happy when he got the curator job last year. Mummy and Daddy feel safer about loaning pieces to the museum now that he is there."
Trixie laughed. "I think half the things in there belong to your father's collection, 'on loan'."
Di smiled. "My parents both love art and collecting. Since taking Mr. Crider's art course in school, I guess I can say it runs in the family. I really like studying all about the history of art and the different techniques." She laughed. "Much better than studying math, anyway."
Trixie made a face. "Don't mention such a gruesome subject tonight, please."
"I found it!" Honey was all smiles. "What's so gruesome?"
"Algebra, geometry, calculus ." Di laughed as Trixie rolled her eyes and covered her ears.
"Sorry I asked!" Honey handed the necklace to Di.
Di fastened the deep purple beads around her neck. They were the perfect complement to her lavender dress, which was the perfect complement to her eyes.
Trixie sighed. Di and Honey always had a polish to them. Trixie...well, at least her hair was no longer defying gravity. "I didn't know you liked art history that much, Di. Perhaps you could get a job at the museum part time."
"Actually, I was almost offered one, but the new assistant had a brother that needed work. Barbara Gray says when she goes to college next fall, I will probably be offered her job. She also helped me pick which courses to study to help with a career in that direction."
Honey's eyes shone at her friend. "That's wonderful, Di! I wish someone would tell me what classes detectives are supposed to take."
"As long as they aren't math." Trixie added, "It's nearly five o'clock, isn't it? I can't wait to see the museum!" She sprang up from the bed, nearly upsetting the drawer of jewelry.
Honey smiled at her friend's enthusiasm as she put the drawer away. "Do you want a necklace, too, Trixie? These seed pearls might complement your dress."
Trixie wore a navy dress in a simple style that suited her well.
"Gleeps, no, Honey! I seem to destroy or lose all my jewelry."
Diana's eyes sparkled mischievously. "I think her bracelet is the perfect complement for her dress, don't you Honey?"
Both girls looked at the silver I.D. bracelet Trixie wore that Jim had given her after the Happy Valley mystery. Trixie reddened and didn't wait for Honey's reply.
"I think we should get to the clubhouse," she said, starting for the door, "We don't want to keep the boys waiting. Especially Mart," she added over her shoulder, as she walked out the door. It was now Di's turn to blush, since it was no secret that the Lynch girl and Mart were fond of each other.
Giggling and teasing each other, the girls walked down to the clubhouse.
* * *
The Bob-Whites strolled into the opulent lobby of the Sleepyside museum. The main lobby had high ceilings, with a marble staircase curving up to the second floor galleries, which were made inaccessible for the evening by plush red velvet ropes hanging between gleaming brass dividers. A huge totem pole stood in front of the alcove where the coats were hung, its many faces grinning at all visitors. A modernistic fountain with crystal clear water trickling gracefully off its many curves stood in the center of the room. A replica of Henry Hudson's ship stood off to the left near the entrance to the local history wing.
Only a few other guests had arrived early, some were gaily conversing in small groups in the lobby by an enormous buffet spread, and some were walking about the renovations, admiring the exotic exhibits.
Barbara Gray was the first person to see the Bob-Whites enter the museum. She hurried to meet them, her brown eyes dancing.
"Hello everyone! You must see our new additions to our gift shop!" She grabbed Di by the arm and brought them into the small room near the front of the spacious lobby. Trixie looked around the shelves. Besides the usual prints and postcards, there were rocks for collecting, jewelry and Native American and Egyptian artifacts for sale. Her eyes brightened at the shelves Barbara was showing them.
"To compliment our new exhibits in the Far East wing. They were one of Mr. Pierce's ideas." She pointed at a slim, well dressed man with dark features in the lobby. He was talking with a shorter man in a slightly dusty suit.
"Is that his brother?" asked Trixie.
"Yes. His name is Gary." Barbara gave an uncertain smile. "He's a lot easier to get along with than Mr. Pierce, who can be a bit short with people. I don't mean to gossip." She added hurriedly, "Our new assistant has done wonders for the inventory system in the basement. He and Gary practically run all of it, which frees more time for Mr. X. And he brought these neat items into the gift store. Who can resist these dolls?"
On one row were small fabric dolls in kimonos, looking like small Japanese maidens peeking shyly from under paper umbrellas. Di and Honey were already holding one.
"Neato!" They heard Mart exclaim. "These samurai sword letter openers are cool, Barb." He and Dan were soon engaged in mock battle.
"What has got your eye, Trix?" asked Brian as he looked up from a book of Meditations from India.
Trixie didn't answer. Instead she reached out, spellbound, to pick up one of the little clay statues from the lower shelf.
"That's a Dragon Dog, Trixie," said Barbara, smiling. "The ancient emperors posted them at the doorways of the palace to guard against evil spirits."
Trixie stared into the fierce eyes of the little statue. "He's beautiful."
"Oh, no," said Mart. "No more statues, Trix." He waved the sword at her in warning.
Ignoring Mart, she turned the statue over and over. "What's this symbol on the bottom mean?"
"It's probably the mark of the artist," said Mart. "Most Eastern artists have an individual stamp they use instead of a signature. Each stamp is crafted by or for the artist with his own personal symbol on it."
"That's correct, Mart, only this mark is they symbol of the company that mass produces these clay figures. I think they originate in California, and have statues in many museums across the country. Mr. Pierce, our new assistant, suggested these. They had them in the Chicago museum, where he comes from."
"I would really like this, Barbara. Are you still open?"
"For five more minutes." She rang up the statue. "Do you need protection from evil spirits?"
"Just the ones with crew cuts." Taking her statue, she crossed her eyes at Mart and walked back into the lobby.
" I have to get these two dolls for the twinnies," said Di.
"Mother would love one of those dolls, too,"said Honey. "Her birthday is soon, and this would be perfect."
They paid for the items and everyone joined Trixie in the lobby, and watched as Barbara locked the gift shop behind them.
"Will you give us a tour of the new exhibits, Barb?" asked Honey, looking up from her doll.
"I've got to go downstairs and do some paperwork before the party, Honey. You all will just love it, though. Everything is off to the right, you are welcome to go ahead and look. We might never have been able to display all these wonderful artifacts without the Bob-Whites." She smiled at the group again.
"At your service, Miss Gray," clowned Mart with a deep bow in front of her.
"Seriously, we are glad to help," said Brian, playfully cuffing Mart on the shoulder.
"You have all the hard work organizing the displays and the gift shop inventory, Barbara," remarked Jim.
"It's not work to me. I can't think of anywhere else I'd rather be," she replied. "Mr. Xavier has done such wonderful things since he took the job. Expanding the local history section actually gave us more room for the art wing, since we moved it upstairs and the offices downstairs. But the best change is in the Far East section. We have many exhibits on loan, and some reproductions for decorative use really make you think you are in China or Japan."
"What are we waiting for, gang? Shall we go look?" Trixie had caught their friend's excitement. Waving goodbye to Barbara, she led the group into the wing.
Paper lanterns hung from the ceiling of the first room. Scrolls and screens along the walls depicted gentle nature scenes. Mountains wrapped in fog, cherry blossoms and chrysanthemums bloomed from the subtle ink strokes. Honey was instantly drawn to the bright kimonos encased in glass, dragons and peacocks and flowers made of many delicate stitches winding across the delicate fabric. On the opposite side of the room, Dan and Mart were exclaiming over the sets of samurai swords with intricately carved handles. Under the glass tables in the middle of the room, small vases and lacework were on display.
"Everything was made so beautifully then," breathed Trixie looking reverently at the carved boxes.
"Everything had a meaning, too, Trix," said Di. "The animals and flowers and the colors. "
"Correct, Miss Lynch."
They turned to see Mr. Xavier behind them, smiling.
"I am glad to see you all here tonight. Your club was a great help with our fund raising. Have you seen our new room yet?"
They shook their heads and followed him into the next room. A collective gasp went around the group as they stared at the exhibits. A small Japanese style arch stood in the middle of the room, with a beautiful stone bell hanging from the center. One wall held the samurai armor collection; empty suits still noble and threatening. Along the other wall, in the middle of two glass cases housing some small articles stood a giant Dragondog statue. Trixie walked over to the larger cousin of the statue in her purse, completely mesmerized by its beauty. About seven feet tall, he proudly sat, huge paws with claws extended, ready to pounce. Trixie's head was at the same level as the fierce open mouth, grinning at her, while it's eyes looked down at her from under noble brows.
"This large figure here is one of our reproductions, like the "stone" Buddha in the corner." The curator smiled at Trixie. "The dragondogs were guardians of the palaces, keeping the emperor safe from evil spirits. Unlike our western history, where Dragons were evil creatures, they were a mark of good fortune in the east. They had dragons that represented the elements, especially water and air." Mr. Xavier pointed to a nearby scroll depicting a river guardian and a magnificent five-clawed golden dragon in a mass of swirling clouds.
"I'd rather have one of those as a protector than an enemy, myself," remarked Jim.
"What are these queer little figures here?" asked Di standing at the glass display in the far corner by the other entranceway.
Honey looked up from a display of Japanese dolls and Trixie pulled herself away from the huge statue.
Everyone gathered in front of the glass shelves to look at the small figures in strange positions lined up against a colorful tapestry background.
"This is one of our collections on loan. The figures are jade, of course."
The Bob-Whites stared at the figures, some with animal heads and some with many arms. Many were in intricately twisted poses.
"Who is the poor fellow with the elephant head?" asked Dan, peering over Trixie's shoulder.
"That's Ganesha, Remover of Obstacles, according to this little tag," replied Honey.
"Here's Vishnu and Shiva the destroyer." Di pointed to more figures on the next shelf.
"I recognize these guys," said Mart, imitating the see no evil-hear no evil-speak no evil monkeys. "I didn't know they originated in Indian legend, though."
Trixie grinned at her brother. "Do us a favor and imitate the middle one again, Mart."
Brian stepped between the two before another one of their famous arguments started. He pointed at a warrior with bow and arrow off by himself. "Why is poor Rama over here alone?" he mused.
"Very good," said the curator. " You must know the legend, Brian. Poor Rama is missing his Sita, unfortunately."
Trixie looked up puzzledly. "I don't understand, Mr. Xavier."
"Rama and Sita are the ideal Hindu woman and man. Legend says they should not be separated, at risk of bad karma, or luck. There is a jade figure that belongs with Rama, but she is missing from this set, which is much of the reason we are able to display it here in Sleepyside. Without the Sita, the collection loses much its value."
Trixie frowned. "Where is the jade figure?"
"No one knows. It was lost during a move between several museums. The shipment was sent to the wrong place, and the crates holding the pieces were badly damaged. Fortunately, the jade was not hurt, but the Sita figure was missing. At first the host museum thought she was stolen, but after investigation by the police, nothing has been able to prove that theory." He smiled at Trixie. "Some people have said that since Sita and Rama were shipped in different boxes, the unluckiness of separating the two caused the accident. No-one really knows."
Suddenly, the lights flickered twice and then as the group looked up at the ceiling, they went out completely. Before anyone could react, they snapped back on, emitting a low hum.
"Don't worry, kids, we've been having trouble with the lighting throughout the museum lately. Ever since we renovated the basement for the offices, in fact. Please excuse me while I go look at it again. The reception will be starting soon, and I'd prefer the lights to be on for it."
Smiling at the Bob-Whites, the curator hurried down the hall.
"I think I'd prefer the lights to be on, too," said Honey. "Being in the dark with this hollow samurai armor is creepy."
"I guess the workmen mixed up the wiring somehow," mused Dan. "We could always light these paper lanterns."
"I must disagree. The candescence of these lanterns while being quite pleasing to the optical orb, is not sufficient enough to illuminate the path to the generous buffet being offered to the distinguished guests this evening."
Everyone shook their heads at Mart.
"Come on then, gang, shall we join the party while we can see what we are putting on our plates?" chuckled Jim.
"More people are arriving. There's your parents, Di," Honey said waving to the Lynches as she and Di went to meet them.
Trixie was not paying attention to the chatter. Over by the roped off section at the end of the room something under a small cherry endtable by a door had caught her eye; a quick sparkle as she had glanced over at the canvas covered crates near the door. She leaned closer to the divider, straining to catch a glimpse of the object. Cautiously she started to step over the velvet rope.
"What do you think you are doing?"
Mr. Pierce, the assistant curator, was striding towards her, his face flushed and dark eyebrows knit close together. Trixie whirled quickly, only to become hopelessly entangled in the rope, awkwardly crashing to the floor, the divider landing next to her with a loud bang.
Angrily, he stood over her, hands on his narrow hips. " What do you think you are doing?" he repeated. "This area is roped off for a reason!"
Her face red, Trixie stuttered, "But I I mean, I saw I only meant ."
Roughly, he grabbed her arm and pulled her to her feet. "We do not need any more accidents around here! Xavier said you kids were the responsible type who did not cause any trouble." He grumbled to himself as he reset the barrier. Turning to Trixie, he said, "We have rules at this museum. I hope the rest of this evening will be a quiet one!"
"My sister meant no harm, Mr. Pierce," said Brian, as the boys ran over to her.
Mr. Pierce gathered his composure a bit. "I am sorry for my outburst. We have so much trouble here, with the lights, and the help. I am a bit on edge. Tonight must go smoothly."
"Is there anything we can do to help?" asked Jim
"No." He smiled at them. "Just please enjoy the reception. Within the reception area." He added, looking at Trixie from the opposite side of the divider. Whirling on his heel, he strode over to the door near the table and went downstairs, closing the door behind him firmly. Quietly, they watched him go.
"Boy, does that guy have a short fuse!" exclaimed Mart.
"Well, I guess he has a lot to worry about. Are you all right, Trix?" asked Brian.
Trixie was beyond speech. "He Well I ." she waved her hands in frustration.
"Calm down Trixie. I don't admire his people skills either," said Jim.
"He did have a point, though. What were you doing going into the roped off area?" Brian's face was serious.
Trixie took a deep breath. "I thought I saw something odd by the door back there. So I. "
"You decided to ignore the established rules yet again in the pursuit of the unfathomable, resulting in your usual chaotic disturbance of the peace." Mart finished.
Trixie's face grew red at the thought of her sprawled in a tangled mess in front of the assistant.
"Let's try to have a normal evening without something mysterious, for a change," sighed Brian.
"I'm all for solving the mystery of what is on that table in the conference area." Dan started moving in that direction.
"Yes, now that is a ponderance worth pursuing. I, for one, am going to investigate before my dear sister decides to drop in, and I do mean drop, on that suspicious area." Mart hurried after Dan.
"Coming, Trix?" Jim and Brian were walking down the hall.
Trixie waved them on, hoping they didn't see the hot tears gathering behind her eyelids.
Why do I have to be so clumsy? No one will want to investigate further with me now.
She paused in front of the dragon dog statue, tearfully gazing up at its glowering eyes. Even the statue seemed to be admonishing her. It was probably just a piece of glass, anyway, she told herself, ignoring her intuition telling her otherwise. It's certainly not worth disgracing the Bob-Whites for. She reddened again at the memory. Perhaps, she thought dejectedly, I should give up sleuthing. At least at events like this.
She looked up at the dragon dog, again admiring the graceful lines of its face, and fierce open mouth.
Trixie looked around sharply. No one was in the room except for the hollow suits of armor. She looked back at the statue. I must be hearing things! she thought.
"Look for the green lady."
Trixie's eyes grew wide. She wasn't imagining it. The statue was speaking to her!
"Are you O.K., Trixie?"
Trixie jumped and turned around quickly. Honey was standing next to her, with a concerned expression.
"Jim told me what happened. Oh, Trixie, I'm so sorry Mr. Pierce was rude to you!" Honey's eyes were full of sympathy.
Trixie waved her hands impatiently. "Never mind that, Honey, did you hear it?"
Honey looked at Trixie. She had expected to find her best friend distraught, but the short blonde was staring back at her with a curious look of disbelief on her face instead.
"Hear what? Trixie, what do you mean?"
Trixie pointed excitedly at the statue. "The dragon dog, Honey! It spoke to me!"
Honey's hazel eyes widened. "What?"
Trixie nodded. "It spoke to me. It told me to be careful."
Honey looked doubtfully at her. "Did you hit your head when you fell, Trixie?"
Trixie heaved a big sigh in frustration. "No. The only thing I hurt was my pride. I came over here to calm down, and that's when it spoke to me."
Honey gazed at the statue. "You mean its mouth moved?"
"No. The voice just came from the statue."
"Perhaps you overheard someone nearby."
Trixie turned to face her. "No-one was in the room. The voice was hollow. It seemed to come from inside the statue, somehow ." She looked again at the dark mouth of the beast.
"Well, no one is in here because the curator is about to start his welcome speech. I came to get you and see if you were feeling alright ." She met Trixie's eyes with a puzzled look.
Both girls looked at the statue for a few minutes in silence. Its regal ears turned back, and the intricate swirls of color on its back belied its grin, which now seemed to be mocking Trixie. Not a whisper was heard.
"I give up!" Trixie threw her hands in the air. "This day has been a complete disaster. First I make a fool of myself, now I'm hearing objects talk to me."
Honey smiled at her. "Maybe a glass of punch will help. Won't you come out into the lobby?"
"Alright." Trixie braced her shoulders. "Just do me a favor and keep me from spilling it all over myself if something else mysterious happens to me."
This time Honey laughed. "Oh, Trixie, it's not that bad. What were you looking at when you fell, anyway?" she asked as they strolled into the crowded lobby.
Most of Sleepyside's prominent families and investors in the Museum were there. Di and her parents were chatting with the curator and Mrs. Boyer. Trixie noticed that the boys were busy by the buffet table. Even the Lynches' butler, the prim and proper Harrison was there, talking with his friends from the museum society. Trixie involuntarily reddened again at the thought of any of them seeing her tumbling over the dividers. She was glad most of the guests were out in the main lobby at the time.
She was about to answer Honey when Mr. Greenfield came over to them. "Good evening, Honey," he said, with a friendly nod to Trixie. "Please excuse me, but I was wondering if you knew the directions to that tearoom your father told my wife and I about at dinner last week. Your parents aren't here, are they?"
"No, Mr. Greenfield, Daddy went on a business trip to Canada, and Mother loves it there so she went along. I do remember the place, I'll be happy to write down directions for you. Be right back, Trix," she said, giving her arm a comforting squeeze as she walked off.
Trixie sighed and closed her eyes. "Look for the green lady!" echoed in her head. I know I'm not hearing things. She frowned. What green lady? she wondered. She looked around the room. Several women were wearing green, including wealthy Mrs. Boyer, an elderly lady of society who chose to live in the Glen Road Inn, instead of a big mansion.
The catering staff was wearing green vests, she noticed, on a second survey of the room. What could it mean? What was she to be careful of? Mrs. Boyer, although a bit eccentric, was not dangerous. She pulled her statue out of her purse to look at it.
Was the warning meant for her? The miniature version of the dragon dog just grinned fiercely.
"May I have everyone's attention, please?" The curator was tapping his glass and silencing the crowd. Everyone turned as Mr. Xavier gave his welcome speech. Trixie was only half-listening, while she scanned the crowd for women wearing any sort of green.
A dull humming noise in the background was getting louder. Was it her ears buzzing? She shook her head slightly. No, it was the lights again! Trixie looked up as they flickered once, twice, then wavered slightly.
Suddenly the room was plunged into blackness. Someone screamed. Voices murmured excitedly. Trixie shook her head again, trying to decipher sentences in the confusion. Where were the other Bob-Whites? She started to move in their direction.
"Calm down, everyone, we will have the lights on shortly," said Mr. Xavier. "Remain calm."
Trixie felt the hair on her arm stand on end. Several people held lit matches and held them in the air. Through the haze she glimpsed a figure in green falling.
Someone rushed past her, almost knocking her over. The statue fell from her hands, and she heard it break on the hard marble floor tile. With an almost unbearable brightness, the lights came back on. Trixie squinted her eyes at the room. Everyone else was doing the same, trying to get their bearings again. Mrs. Boyer was being helped to a bench, where Brian was helping to revive her. Jim and Dan were heading toward Honey, who stood by the entrance to the lobby.
Trixie looked at the broken pieces at her feet. The statue was shattered into too many pieces to glue back together. Silently, she bent to clean up the mess, her head throbbing.
Everyone was laughing and chatting again, relieved that the excitement was over. A few couples were heading home. Trixie made her way to the trashcan with the broken pieces of her dragon dog.
"Continuing your destructive ways in the dark, I see." Mart strolled up beside her.
"Oh, Trixie, your statue," moaned Di. "What happened?"
"Someone bumped into me in the blackout, and it fell," she replied sadly. Placing the pieces in the trash, she turned back to them with a woeful expression.
"Why did you have it out of your purse?"
"I wanted to see if ." Trixie looked at Mart. He could be very helpful sometimes, but right now she didn't think she could take another ounce of teasing.
"....if the eyes were straight or crossed," she finished lamely.
He looked at her carefully. "Guess they are crossed now. I wonder where the staff has gotten to?" he asked, changing the subject.
Di frowned. "Mr. Xavier has been making sure that Mrs. Boyer is fine, but you're right, Mart, I don't see anyone else." She looked around the room.
Dan had caught up with them. "They are probably playing with the circuit breakers. Sorry about your little statue, Trix."
Trixie smiled at Dan. "Thanks, Dan," she said quietly.
He looked somberly at her for a moment. Taking a deep breath, he looked around and said to no one in particular, "I've guess I'm not much of a social kind of person. I'm about ready to head home. How about you guys?"
"I'm riding home with my parents, but you're right, it's been quite an evening, Dan," said Di.
Mart frowned. "I, for one, am going to entertain my tastebuds with an encore at the buffet before we head homeward." He started for the food laden table.
Trixie smiled tiredly at Dan. She opened her mouth to speak, but a scream filled the air before she could form any words.
"Mother!" gasped Di, and they hurried in Mrs. Lynch's direction.
Mrs. Lynch was clutching her throat.
"My necklace!" she cried out. "It's gone!"
After that, things were a giant blur to Trixie. Everyone hunted around the room, while Barbara rushed to call the police. Di comforted her mother, while Mr. Lynch pulled at his hair and wavered between anger and sympathy.
The police arrived soon and started questioning people.
Mr.Pierce and another assistant were talking to Sergeant Molinson when Trixie came over. She ignored them and looked up at the policeman who grimaced when he saw her.
"Should have known you'd be in the middle of this, Belden," he grumbled.
"I may have a clue," she said.
Sergeant Molinson rolled his eyes.
"Someone rushed past me in the dark a great hurry." She frowned at the sergeant. " I think it may have been the thief escaping."
Molinson laughed. "Over fifty people at a party and the thief bumped into you. I don't think so. More likely the thief pocketed the necklace, then quietly left when everything went back to normal. That's how professional thieves do it," he said, looking down at her.
She flushed, but held her ground.
The assistant glared at her. "This is the young lady who made such a disturbance earlier, sir."
"Miss Belden has a knack for getting in the way, Mr. Y." He shook a finger at her in warning. "Don't think about getting in the way on this one, either. Jewel thieves are a desperate and dangerous lot. Understand?"
Stiffly, Trixie nodded. The others had gathered closer and had heard the conversation. Knowing Trixie's temperament, they wisely gathered their coats and made small talk while they left the museum.
Trixie laid her hot forehead on the cool window of the station wagon all the way home. Once there, she bade everyone a weary good night and trudged up to her room without a word to her brothers.
Alone in her room she let the events of the evening tumble through her head, all the events tangling together as they went round and round. She shook her head. Tomorrow I will start to sort this out.
Wearily, she changed into her pajamas. As she stood in front of her dresser, it hit her. Dejectedly, she sat down on the edge of her bed and looked down at her arm. Her silver bracelet was gone, the last straw to the eventful night.
Her mind overloaded, she lay down and pulled the covers over her head.