Disclaimer: I am making no profit from this story. Random House owns the characters. The hotel and restaurants mentioned in Charleston do exist, and as of the last time I was there, menu items did as well (can you tell I am giving Mart some good food scenes? J ). While Charleston is known for its ghosts, I have made one up, so it is MINE!Notes:
Without further ado, may I present to you .
The Mystery of the Glowing Ghost
Fifteen-year old Trixie Belden peeled her head off the window long enough to grab the can of soda offered by her best friend Honey Wheeler.
"Thanks", she murmured, pulling the can tab and hurriedly taking a gulp. "I knew the heat down south was going to be bad, but this is ridiculous."
"Hold your horses Trix." Jim Frayne, Honeys 16-year old adopted brother laughed as he turned the air conditioning up in the rented Escalade they were in. "We just got back in the car and it will take a few minutes for it to cool down."
"Fine then," Trixie sighed. "I make a motion that the next time Mart wants to stop for food, we pull through a drive through." Her words were spoken with a grimace, but one look in her eyes through the rearview mirror told Jim that Trixie was merely, as usual, teasing her sibling. He smiled at her.
"I think not." The person about whom Trixie had spoken finally turned his head around from the front of the vehicle. Mart Belden was Trixies brother, older by only 11 months. Their fair, curly hair and similarity in age contributed to people often mistaking them for twins, a fact that Mart tried to belie by keeping his hair cut unusually short. "When partaking of lifes journeys, we must consider every opportunity we are afforded and that is inclusive certainly of the culinary delicacies of even this stretch of interstate across our nation."
"I wouldnt think youd even be hungry enough to stop after having eaten such a big dictionary," Trixie said dryly. Mart had a penchant for using big words.
"I think what Mart means is that were not really on a time table too badly so it might be fun to stop at as many different places as possible. Daddy and Regan have to arrange for the horses to be brought to Charleston from Aiken before we even get there and theyll only arrive tonight. In Aiken, I mean," Honey added hastily with a giggle. Not always did everyone know what Trixie and Honey said to them, but they always seemed to know what each other meant. "Youre right though. That heat outside was almost overbearing. And were only in Fayetteville North Carolina."
Honeys words were meant to calmly soothe any ruffled feathers. Even though Mart and Trixie cared deeply for one another, they displayed it only if necessary. Their sibling bickering however sometimes had to be halted before it grew out of control. Honey was not the only Bob-White who had played the peacemaker.
Trixie, Honey, Mart and Jim were members of a semi-secret club known as the Bob-Whites of the Glen, or BWG. They were traveling from their home in Sleepyside, New York, about 45 minutes from New York City, to Charleston, South Carolina. Mr. Wheeler, Honey and Jims father, had recently developed an interest in acquiring Thoroughbred horses that he intended to race on the circuit. Bill Regan was the family groom. His experience with racing early in life and more recently in Saratoga were catalysts of this interest. Regan, as he was known, was enthusiastic about the new endeavor of Matt Wheelers and was flying down to the upstate of South Carolina to assist in the purchase as he would soon become the trainer of these horses. The horses would be transported by van from Aiken to Charleston where Regan would attend a Thoroughbred trainers conference and where Mr. Wheeler had other business interests to attend to. Later in the month, the horses would be flown to their new home in New York.
Honeys father, despite remembering the reservations he had after the St. Louis trip, had invited the Bob-Whites on a summer vacation. Regan, when not working with the horses in Charleston, would chaperone. Along with Trixie, Mart, Honey and Jim, there were three other members of the Bob-Whites. Brian Belden was Mart and Trixies 17-year old brother. Dan Mangan was Bill Regans nephew and had not yet turned 17. Diana Lynch and Honey were almost Trixies age of 15.
They had been unable to attend this trip. Brian was attending a week of orientation for Columbia, the college he had chosen. Diana Lynch was in Europe for the month with her family and Dan was doing an internship for the summer with the New York City Police Department.
Traveling in the rental vehicle, the journey had been fairly pleasant and the four Bob-Whites had managed to see some of Washington, DC when they stopped overnight. Though the heat had been less than appealing, all four were more than ready to make it to Charleston, a city they heard to be filled with much to see and do. Trixie, of course, had already been on the Internet checking out the local mysteries.
"There are ghosts Honey, hundreds of old ghosts all up and down the coast of the state," she was now saying. "Ill bet we can find them."
Mart rolled his eyes. "Oh so esteemed Beatrix, we are not partaking this journey to rewrite the local native folklore. I should be ecstatic if for once we might enter and leave a destination without having made headlines."
"I didnt say we would Mart. I only want to go ghost hunting. Theres even a ghost walking tour we can take."
"Just so long as you dont have us hiding out in abandoned, ruined churches at night," Jim winked at her. "I would like to get some sleep on this trip." Trixie merely looked thoughtful.
"Were reaching the border," Honey said, looking at a mileage marker on the side of the road. "There was a sign for South of the Border. I read about it. It sits on the border of North and South Carolina. They have a few amusement park rides and greasy food and a lot of huge animals to take pictures on. Well, fake ones I mean."
"You did mention food, right?"
"Mart!" Trixie cried. "We just stopped not an hour ago."
"Come on Trix. They have to have something scrumptious, like root beer floats. Tell me you wouldnt want to stop for that."
"Yeah. And my waistline wouldnt stop for it either," Trixie mumbled under her breath.
Jim had perfect hearing however and was quick to speak up. "Theres nothing wrong with your waistline, Trix. Lets stop. You can come sit up here with me and well share one."
Trixie merely blushed furiously while nodding at him in the mirror. She evaded the watchful eyes of Honey.
The teenagers stopped at South of the Border and clowned around for a few minutes while their ice cream specialties were being made. Trixie was standing wistfully looking at the Ferris Wheel when Jim came up to her handing her the root beer float he had been drinking. "Maybe on our way back," he said quietly, looking in her round blue eyes. It came out more as a question.
"Okay Jim," she answered softly. She sipped at the float as they walked back to the car. Trixie hopped in the front with Jim while Mart and Honey sat in the back.
The drive to Charleston lasted only a few more hours and shortly they were pulling up at their hotel. The Mills House was located on Meeting Street in the heart of the downtown historic district. It was a moderately tall structure, beige-peach-pink in color. Immediately, a valet rushed out to greet them.
After turning the keys over, Jim motioned the girls and Mart inside to check in and make sure that a bellhop was attending their baggage. Upon seeing Jims ID, the desk clerk indicated that all of the necessary arrangements had been made and handed their room keys to him, pointing in the direction of the elevator.
Their rooms were reminiscent of old-world charm and Mart and Jim rolled their eyes at the girls romantically oriented chatter from the adjoining room.
"Therell be no living with them after this," Jim muttered to Mart under his breath.
"Not to worry, Mr. Frayne, not to worry. I would wager a substantial amount of the amassed Wheeler, Frayne and Lynch fortunes that our two shamuses will so swiftly ensconce themselves, and us, in a charming Charleston enigma that theyll have neither the time nor inclination to badger us with that sort of musing."
"Mart? Have you ever managed to condense 60 second paragraphs into 6 second sentences?"
Jim looked up from his unpacking and conceded the loss, grinning. They had agreed to meet the girls downstairs in a couple of hours for dinner, each desiring to rest after the long drive. He closed his suitcase, gently shut the adjoining door and flopped down on his bed, hearing Mart making the noises of having done the same.
"Do you think well manage to get through this vacation with no mysteries?" he asked.
Mart turned his head to face Jim and raised one eyebrow.
Jim sighed. "I didnt think so." He rolled over to face away from Mart, not wanting Mart to see the grin on his handsome face.
This chapter is dedicated to MaureenXO. For an explanation, see the authors notes
The sound of a ringing telephone awoke Jim from his dreams. As usual though, he had little idea what they were about. He just knew they had been pleasant. "Hello?" he answered, attempting to sound alert.
Matthew Wheeler was not fooled however. "I see it was necessary to take a cat nap after the drive? I did offer to fly you guys down in the jet, you remember."
Jim felt himself grinning sheepishly. "I know but we wanted to see Washington again, as well as a few other places. It was a fun trip. Just long."
"Regan and I are about to get on the plane. We should be in Aiken tonight and as far as I can tell, were completing the sale tomorrow morning and the horses will be transported in the afternoon to arrive there by evening. Id like you guys to be on hand when they arrive. Regan and I will meet you for dinner and we can all drive over to the livery where they will be stabled until we move them up to New York."
"That sounds fine dad. Well just make sure that we stick around here later in the afternoon."
"What are your plans for this evening?"
"Mart is awake now and I guess as soon as we get the girls out of bed well go and find something to eat. We picked up some guide books in the hotel lobby on our way up and there look like a lot of great places to go."
"Sounds good. Well Bob is signaling to us so Ill let you go. Be careful and have fun and well see you tomorrow."
The two men said their good byes and hung up the phone. "Yes, Mart. I saw you over there rubbing your stomach. Lets find out what those sleepy head sisters of ours are doing." Jim walked over to the adjoining door with Mart following and knocked softly.
"Come in," came Honeys voice.
The boys walked in and found Honey and Trixie sitting on their beds, under the covers. They had the guidebooks spread out in front of them however and Jim could see that several pages had been dog-eared. He walked closer and sat down on Trixies bed, leaning over to pick up the one she was flipping through. "Walking ghost tour? Trix, you couldnt wait, could you?" he teased.
She snatched the book back from him and lifting her pert nose replied, "if you dont want to go, Ill go by myself."
"Oh this I wouldnt miss for the world," he laughed.
"Hey guys? Honey seems to have obtained the book I myself am most interested in. Why dont we involve ourselves in the pursuit of what the fair maiden has discovered?"
"I should have known it would take all of two hours of being in Charleston that he would start to talk about food. Actually though," Trixie continued, "we did find a bunch of great looking places. Theres one that we thought would be nice to try tonight. Its called California Dreaming. Its built to look like an old fort and sits on the Ashley River at the mouth of Charleston Harbor. It kind of overlooks the city so the view should be nice. They say that sometimes if you go at dusk, you can see dolphins playing in the river. They come in from the ocean."
"Sounds good to me. Mart?"
"Give me a second to get ready and Im there."
Jim walked with Mart back to their room and soon the four were driving across the Ashley River towards the restaurant, having obtained directions from the concierge.
"Hmmm," Honey mused. "Ashley. Thats an interesting name for a river."
"Actually whats even more interesting," Mart broke in, ignoring the "here we go again" look that Trixie gave Honey, "is that there are two rivers in Charleston. One forms the northern side of the city and this one, the Ashley, forms the southern side so that Charleston is really a triangular shaped peninsula tipped to the east by Charleston Harbor and then of course, the Atlantic Ocean. The northern river is called the Cooper and oddly enough, both rivers are named after the same person, Ashley Cooper. He was an important southern proprietor."
"Mart really only studies these things because one day hes hoping that someone will consider him knowledgeable enough or important enough to name some sort of land form after him," Trixie muttered to Honey.
Honey giggled. "With the havoc weve wreaked on some of the cities weve been in well lets just say that one day we might be in the history books as well."
Jim had by now pulled into the parking lot of the restaurant and whistled at the scores of cars that were there. "Looks like well have a wait guys."
He was correct. After being handed an electronic paging device and told that the wait would be upwards of an hour, the Bob-Whites walked back outside to the dock beside the restaurant hoping to find a table to wait at. Sure enough, they managed to grab the last remaining one, Jim and Mart kindly making sure that the girls had the best view of the river. Talking quietly, they made plans for more activities during their time in Charleston. It was decided that after dinner they would take a walk along the battery, a high walled pathway that winded around the southeast point of the city sandwiched between the harbor and a park called White Point Gardens. If time allowed, they would make their way to the cities newest park, Waterfront Park which had fountains that people could cool off in, and a huge T-shaped dock with swings and benches to relax on.
The pager presently went off and soon they were seated at a table, luckily on the lower level just beside the massive windows that looked out onto the mouth of the river. "This is an amazing view," Mart said, for once forgetting to use dictionary-sized words.
Their server smiled at them and said, "it used to be better but they put in that connector highway heading out to the beach. Even I have to admit that it makes it a lot quicker to get to Folly from downtown, but the view . Oh well," he said, once more picking up his pad and pen. "Progress is hard to stop. Even in a timeless city like Charleston. Im Eric and Ill be your server tonight. So whatll you have folks?"
Honey looked up at him and said, "Trixie and I are going to split the chips and spinach-artichoke dip and each have a house salad."
"French," Honey replied.
"Umm, the European Bleu cheese for me," added Trixie.
"And for you guys?"
"Ill have the prime rib sandwich with a baked potato and house salad. Ranch dressing," Jim finished.
"Ill have the California Dreaming Salad, also ranch dressing, a Mushroom and Swiss burger, medium-rare with the French Fries, and a bowl of fried okra. Oh and a side of croissants to go." Mart had finally put down his menu. "For later," he mumbled.
"Mart! Will you be able to walk after dinner?" Honey asked.
Eric merely laughed and said, "you did say a California Dreaming salad, right? Not a house salad? The first is twice as big."
"Excellent. My taste buds will thank you twice as much," Mart said.
Eric walked away shaking his head. He was back in moments with four salads. Meanwhile, Trixie had been admonishing Mart. "Were down here on Mr. Wheelers expense. Maybe you shouldnt eat away so much of his generosity." Mart had the grace to look sheepish.
"Its okay Trixie. Daddy wants this to be a really nice graduation and birthday present for Jim. He said we were to not worry about money. I know that kind of goes against our rules, but really, hell make us order everything on the menu when he gets here anyway."
Trixie shrugged. "If you say so, Honey. Im almost too excited to eat much though. There is so much to do and I know were going to have a perfectly perfect time. When are your dad and Regan getting here anyway?"
"Tomorrow in time for dinner. I forgot to tell you two," Jim broke in. "He called just before we came in to wake you up. He and Regan were about to get on the jet to Aiken and he said hed meet us tomorrow in the late afternoon so we could all go to dinner and then drive out to see the horses. Theyre finishing up the details of the sale and the horses are being sent down here mid to late afternoon. They should arrive about the time were finishing dinner I guess." Jim had been gesturing with his fork but now stopped to slip a bite of lettuce, bacon and tomato into his mouth.
"Imagine, Honey. Regan training horses just like Carl Stinson. Do you think well get to go see them race in Saratoga?"
"I dont see why not. These horses have already started their training, and are registered to race. Regan could probably tell you more about when theyll be ready for it."
"I wonder what their like? I wonder if well get to ride them. I wonder what their parents were like?"
Honey had started giggling and was having difficulty stopping. "Oh Trixie. If I had a nickel for every question you just asked Well, I was going to say Id be rich but " She stopped, realizing what she had been about to say. "In any case, I dont know if well get to ride them. I know daddy has a business friend who has a son thats an amateur jockey and daddy says hell probably do a lot of the riding when it comes to the racing part. But the horses arent always racing. They need exercise like our own horses and we might get to ride them. Youd have to ask daddy or Regan about their bloodlines. And all I really know about them is their names and what they look like. Fireaway is a strawberry roan. Pancake is a chestnut."
"Is that named for that other horse that has a breakfast food name?"
"Leave it to Mart to ask about the food horse," Trixie laughed.
Honey laughed. "Yes, Mart, I would imagine its name was somewhat taken from the famous "Seabiscuit". At least thats what Daddy gathered from the owner. And Cielo is a black horse. Odd I guess, when you think about it."
"Why?" asked Mart, putting down his salad fork on top of his plate to make way for the main courses that were arriving.
"Cielo means Heaven in Spanish," was the reply. "A black horse named Heaven. Daddy said the owner had thought about calling the horse Lucifer but felt it might bring bad luck. So he did the opposite." She shrugged.
The foursome continued to eat, refusing dessert in favor of grabbing some ice cream from a vendor should they happen to see one and after a short time, were parking the car beside the battery and White Point Gardens. The moon had risen in the sky over the water and Jim, Honey, Trixie and Mart climbed silently up the slate stone stairs. They walked towards the edge where a black iron railing prevented anyone from falling into the water and took in their surroundings for a moment.
"Hey look over here guys," Trixie called, motioning to the others. "Its a plaque telling what points you can see from here. It says that Fort Sumter is just straight out ahead of us at the mouth of the harbor. I remember we studied about that in history class, right Honey? Its where the Civil War was started."
"Well, one could say that. Its where the first shot of the War Between the States was fired at," Mart answered for her. The first shot of the war was fired from Fort Johnson which appears to be over there." He motioned to a spot across the Ashley River somewhere to his left. If I remember correctly from my reading, Fort Johnson has now been turned into an institute operated by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and jointly used by the Medical University of South Carolina for research."
They had begun to walk while listening to Mart and soon Jim had pointed out another site. "That must be Patriots Point," he whistled. "Its supposed to be the worlds largest maritime museum. Theres an aircraft carrier from World War II. You can see that one from here. They also have a destroyer and submarine from the same period, and a coast Guard Cutter. Ive also heard thats one of the two places you can get a boat out to see Fort Sumter so well definitely want to stop there."
The soothing noise of the waves gently crashing against the wall of the battery mellowed out everyone after their long drive and they were soon content to merely walk, looking at the houses that were hundreds of years old, as well as the waterfront of Charleston. In no time, they were walking out on the pier at Waterfront Park. Jim motioned to Trixie and helped her up onto a swing while Honey and Mart sauntered down to the end of the pier. None of them had noticed how deserted things had become. Jim looked at his watch. It read 10:13.
"I really dont want to end this relaxation, but there doesnt appear to be many people out here. The city was more crowded a few streets back into town. Were kind of on the outer edge here."
"Well be okay for a little while. Then we can go back to the hotel and get some rest before tomorrow."
He looked over at her, and placing one arm on the swing behind them, smiled. "This is an incredible city, Trix with so much history and so much to see and do. It reminds me of Washington, D.C., or Boston. I really prefer cities like this that have some history behind their so-called tourist attractions. I hope one day my kids will enjoy coming to places like this as much as I do."
Trixie smiled shyly at him and then looked away, changing the subject. "It does seem as though there is something for everyone here. Im glad Mart and I could come with you and Honey. Itll be great."
"Yeah. Dad I know will have to do some work while hes here though, and Regan has a lot of meetings to attend for that conference."
"Whats your father doing here again, Jim?"
"One of the mini-corporations inside Wheeler International is acting cooperatively on a number of things with a consortium of other companies. Theyve decided to try and push a gambling issue through Charleston."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, some people here want to allow gambling in the city, like Atlantic City, or Las Vegas. Some people want it allowed only on the water, or waterfront like Vicksburg or Shreveport. And some dont want it at all. The corporation is meeting and making a decision in the next few weeks. Dad has come down to act on behalf of the company under WIs management and to see what he can do."
"Does he want gambling here?"
"I dont know Trix. I havent talked with him about it that much. Sometimes I forget that my dad was a businessman long before I knew him, and that our business views might not always agree. So sometimes I dont broach subjects with him as much as I maybe should."
Trixie looked down at the dock, seeing it slowly pass into and out of view as Jims longer legs pushed the swing gently back and forth. The two lapsed into silence, merely breathing in the salt air. Suddenly, as though bitten by a snake, Trixie jumped up from the swing.
"Jim!" she whispered as loudly as she dared.
He stood up and grabbed her arm, looking in the direction of her shaking finger. "What IS that?"
Not more than 50 feet away from them, at the end of the dock opposite from where Honey and Mart had stopped was a glowing figure. It merely stood, poised at the end of the pier. And then just as soon as it appeared, it was gone. The two teenagers stood open mouthed, looking at each other, and slowly turned towards where Honey and Mart stood.
Jim put his fingers to his lips and whistled. Bob-White. Bob-White. Honey and Mart looked quickly around and rapidly began a walk back to where their friends stood.
"What?" Mart demanded. "Whats wrong. You two look like youve seen a ghost."
"Dont laugh, Mart," Jim said. "I think we just did."
"Jim, you know that whistle is only supposed to be used for serious things," Honey gave a mild admonishment.
"Honey, dont I look serious?" Jim asked, turning towards her. She could see in his eyes that he was.
Understanding dawned. Mart and Honey raised their eyebrows, staring at Jim, Trixie turned to him with the same expression. Taking one finger, she poked him in the arm a few times. He looked down at her.
"Who are you and what have you done with my Jim?"
"Well, dont take this the wrong way Jim, but even though I know what I saw, I wasnt exactly expecting you to agree, much less take the words right out of my mouth."
"Ha, ha. Funny. But I know what I saw as well."
"Sure, but, you know, I kind of expected a there has to be a logical explanation for this."
"My names Jim, Trix. Not Scully."
"Well okay then." She started off down the pier not towards town but towards the spot where they had seen the glowing figure disappear."
"Where are you going?"
Trixie turned around. "To investigate."
"Wait just a minute. We probably shouldnt even be out here. Were not going down to investigate."
"Theres the Jim I know and love." Trixie had been merely using a cliché but at a slight raise of Jims head, she realized how her joking must have sounded.
"Uh you guys can stay here. Im just going to run down there and look for clues." She took off down the dock at a fast enough pace to be jogging, but slow enough to not be noisy. In case that thing is still there, she told herself.
Jim meanwhile, gave Honey and Mart a set-jawed not again look and pulled them along behind him.
"Jim, why dont you tell us exactly what it was you saw?" Honey asked.
"It was definitely a person, or, well I dont know if it was a person, but it had the shape of a person. I couldnt tell if it were male or female. It was glowing."
"Glowing as in fluorescent paint glowing or Christmas tree light glowing?" Mart asked.
Jim gave him a funny look.
"Just trying to cover all the bases. I guess that means weve eliminated a Ghostly Galleon and Santa Claus."
"Hey guys, over here!" Trixie called to her friends. She had reached the end of the pier and was now bent over the railing looking down. "Whats that piece of paper floating in the water among those reeds?"
"Looks like some sort of newspaper clipping folded up. So?" Mart shrugged.
"Look at it. If it had been in the water very long, you wouldnt have been able to tell what it was. It might not be entirely wet yet, being folded up like that. Someone help me get it."
"How?" Honey asked.
"Ill lower myself through these two slats, and you guys can hold my legs so I dont fall into the water."
"Not that is a tempting idea," Mart laughed.
Trixie wrinkled her nose at him and got down on all fours on the wooden pier. Lowering herself down as if she were doing a push-up, she wriggled between the tight slats. "I dont know that I have to worry about falling," the others heard her calling. "I barely fit as it is. Must have been that root beer float."
Jim rolled his eyes as he knelt down beside her form. Her waist was now over the edge and he could tell she was stretching out her hand.
"How close are you?"
"So close. Almost there." She wriggled some more, ignoring the feel of the wood planks boring into her thighs as well as Jims strong hands around her calves. She didnt know whether or not she was glad she had worn shorts tonight or not. "Got it!" came her triumphant call. "Whoa! Now how am I going to get back up?"
"One inch at a time, Trix," Jim said, keeping his hands in their place, more lightly now as she maneuvered her body backwards, mumbling something about inches. What seemed like minutes later, Trixie was finally able to stand up. She gently laid the piece of paper on the nearest bench and bent over to look at it. "Look at this. Its an article talking about the gambling proposal."
There was silence among the Bob-Whites. Trixie was not immune to the quick look that Honey gave Jim. "Trixie," Honey said, placing a hand on her friends shoulder. "I know that were all a little excited about being down here, and you know that I am usually totally supportive of your ideas. But if youre about to somehow relate that article to this apparition you saw, Ill be forced to tell you that I think its way past your bedtime."
"Honey," Trixie groaned. "I dont know if the two are related. And Im not going to jump to any conclusions about the article."
"Just yet," Mart murmured.
"But imagine if there is a connection. What kind of detectives would we be if we didnt at least try and gather some clues."
"Trixie, we are on vacation. And about to celebrate my brothers birthday no less. We are not getting into the middle of another mystery," she said firmly, pulling on Trixies arm. "Were going to go back to the hotel, and chalk up your glowing ghost to some severe residual effects from the math class we just finished last month, and wake up tomorrow morning bright, cheery and ready to see the city. Right?" She looked around her for confirmation.
"I second the motion," Mart said.
Jim merely laughed. "I know how much Trix has been itching for a mystery. Besides, you two didnt see that thing. And Charleston is famous for its ghosts. I dont know that I think the article has anything to do with it. It could just have been a recent litterbug among the people that just left the dock before we got here. So Im pleading the fifth and staying out of it. However, I would say that getting back to the hotel is a good idea. Its close to 11 and we still have to walk back down to where we left the car, which I am not sure is such a good idea. So Id suggest we hail a cab."
Trixie giggled. "This isnt New York City Jim. How many cabs have you see since we got here?"
"One, I think," he grinned. "But we can use the phone to call the number of that company. I stored it in dads cell phone when I saw the cab drive by."
Trixie shook her head at Jims Boy Scout like preparedness. But secretly she admired him for his thoughtfulness and level headed ideas. At times she wished she could be more like that herself. But, unruly blonde curls and short figure aside, Trixie pretty much liked herself the way she was.
She followed the others up the pier and shortly they were back in their vehicle having called a taxi. Back at the hotel, they entered through the door to the boys room. After setting plans for a breakfast time, the girls said good night and shut the adjoining door behind them.
They went about their nightly bed time rituals fairly silently until Trixie turned to her friend with her hands on her hips. "Okay, out with it. Whats wrong?"
"Im not sure what you mean, Trix."
"Usually you believe my theories or ideas, even without having seen what I saw. Why not this time?"
"Well, Trixie its just that I guess I was looking forward to an actual vacation for once and though I believe you and Jim saw what you say you did I guess I was kind of wishing you hadnt seen it."
Trixie sank down on the bed. "What are you saying Honey? Are you saying you dont want to solve a mystery?" Her words trailed off. "Are you saying you dont ever want to solve any mysteries?"
"Oh Trixie," Honey cried, walking quickly over to her best friend. "No. Im not saying that at all. But wouldnt you, for just once like to go on a real live holiday where the only worries we had were deciding what to do and see next?"
"No. And I cant believe you really feel that way either," Trixie returned flatly. "Theres something else bothering you. And I want to know what it is. Honey, weve been through so much together. Cant you tell me whats wrong?"
Honey sat down on the bed beside Trixie and sighed. "It wasnt so much the glowing thing you and my brother saw, so much as it was the article you found."
"What do you mean?"
"Daddy and Jim talked only briefly about the reasons he was taking this trip. Lately Daddys been talking more and more to Jim about the business and trying to teach Jim things. Before each trip, he and Jim will go riding, or play golf or something "
"Jim? Play golf? He hates golf," Trixie interrupted.
Honey giggled, a sound that Trixie was relieved to hear. "You know that, and I know that, but Daddy doesnt. I go sometimes just because they let me drive the golf cart. You should hear the grumbling Jim does while Daddys teeing off. But anyway, this time when Jim asked him about the trip, Daddy just clamed up and wouldnt say much about it except to talk about the horses. And you know thats only an extra reason for this trip. He could have sent Regan down here alone. He trusts his judgement. But he wouldnt tell Jim hardly anything about the business and the company Daddy is representing. Jim knows that it has something to do with gambling. And hes afraid that because of the way Daddy is acting, that well hes just not sure but he told me the night before we left that something was just not right."
"And so the article I picked up kind of brought the problem back," Trixie mused. "Jim mentioned the gambling thing to me just before we saw the ghost " Honey glanced sharply at her.
"It looked like a ghost so thats what Im calling it. In any case, I could tell he wasnt too happy with the subject. But he never got a chance to say more."
Honey yawned as she moved to her own bed. Crawling in she pulled the covers over her as they turned the lights out. "Trixie, what do you propose we do about this ghost of yours anyway? Whatever it was, it was not there when you went to look. We cant exactly hang out on that same pier night after night waiting for it to reappear."
Trixie was silent.
"Trixie. No. I will not spend these beautiful nights chasing ghosts. Not even for you."
"Honey, first of all, where else would you rather be in Charleston on beautiful moonlit nights, than beside the water?"
"The beach, or that evening dinner cruise we read about," Honey mumbled.
Trixie ignored her. "Secondly, what if the article and my ghost are related. What if it shed some light on this gambling controversy? Would you want to investigate it then? It could be affecting your own family."
"Unfair blow, Trix. Can we just sleep now and think about your glowing ghost in the morning?"
Trixie grinned as she turned on her side to snuggle under the covers. "Glowing ghost it is. And yes Honey, we will think about it in the morning," she grinned.
Honeys heavy, patterned breathing was the only sound that greeted her words.
The Bob-Whites had decided to spend the next morning at Boone Hall Plantation, an ante-bellum mansion near the Cooper River. They were waiting for the valet to bring the car when Trixie spied a headline on the front-page corner of that days Charleston Post and Courier.
"Honey, look at this!" Trixie held the paper as her best friend leaned over. "MYSTERIOUS CONTAMINANT FORCES EVACUATION OF RIVERDOGS STADIUM." The article went on to read that at approximately 10:15 the previous night, the baseball stadium for the Charleston Riverdogs had been evacuated in the 9th inning of the game as fans experienced choking and irritated eyes from an unknown substance blowing into the park. Fifteen people had been hospitalized, including a noted Charleston businessman. J. Robert Morrison had been attending the game with his family. Other game goers received treatment for their injuries. There had been no word of the identity of the substance as of the articles printing.
By this time, Jim was motioning to the girls that the car was ready. Trixie dropped the newspaper back on the coffee table and taking Honeys hand, ran outside. "Wow! That was really mysterious," she said buckling her seatbelt.
"Oh no," Mart groaned. "There is nothing mysterious. There is nothing mysterious. I want you to repeat after me. There is "
"Mart!" Trixie twisted her head around from the front seat.
"Okay, okay. What did you and Honey find that is so mysterious?"
Trixie told the boys about the article they had read, with Honey adding in some details.
"10:15? That was when we had just sat down on the swing last night. I remember looking at my watch," Jim mused. "I wonder who was winning."
Trixie rolled her eyes. "In any case, its mysterious."
"Okay, Trix," Jim sighed, trying to hide a rather affectionate grin. "Its mysterious."
Trixie nodded her head at having made her point and began to look at the map on the back of the brochure they had grabbed. "Were still on Meeting Street, right?"
"Right. We just passed Calhoun," Jim answered.
"It says to get on US 17N and that looks like it will take us right here. It shows 17N as being a bridge. Ill bet its those bridges we saw last night from the park."
"Ah yes," Mart broke in. "The twin spans of the Cooper River Bridges. The first bridge, the Grace Memorial, was built in 1929 and spans a distance of 2.71 miles. It rises 150 feet above the river at its highest point and is one of the most unsafe bridges in the United States. Ironically enough, to avoid having to travel some 20 miles total out of ones way to work in the morning by utilizing the perfectly safe Interstate 526, many people still take the old Grace."
"I hesitate to ask you anything Mart, but whats wrong with the second bridge?" Jim asked.
"The Pearman span, built in 1968 and encompassing 2 miles of waterway, is undoubtedly safer, yet only has one lane of southbound downtown traffic. My dear James, it would simply not support the vast amount of weight such stand still rush-hour traffic would create."
"And which one are we going to use?
"Well, to go where we are currently going, the second one. Its the only one that has any northbound lanes. But to come back, well use the Grace Bridge, even though its usefulness is questioned."
"Then why are we using it?"
"Simple. Its the fastest way to point B from point A. Its a longer bridge but the Pearman dumps you in a different spot that will make it difficult at best to get back to our hotel."
"I had to ask. What did you do last night after I went to bed? Read maps for pleasure?"
Mart merely looked smug.
"Well apparently someone isnt satisfied with the bridges the way they are because look," Trixie broke in, pointing to her left as they accessed the bridge and Jim began the long climb to the top of the first half of the northbound bridge. Construction had begun on what looked like it was to become yet a third bridge directly to the west of the smaller and more fragile looking of the two bridges.
"If you had partook of the myriad of reading material available to you this morning, instead of perusing merely through the "mystery section", you would have gained far greater knowledge and enlightenment, such as I did."
"Meaning what, Mr. Walking Encyclopedia?"
Mart smiled at his sister. "There was a big development article in the paper this morning. They are building a third span but the stretch of highway we are currently on, as well as the asphalt in the opposite direction will be torn down as soon as the more useful and recent one is completed."
Honey smothered a sigh. "Why are the two lengths different? One is two miles and the other almost three?"
"I mentioned as we entered the bridge that the southern span does not end where this one does. And also, you might notice if you look over the side of the car, that the other span dips much lower towards the water in the center. That too will add mileage. James might find it interesting to note that each year there is a Bridge Run over this very large pile of concrete and steel we are on. It is the worlds 8th largest 10K race and attracts runners from all over the world."
"Make up your mind. Is it asphalt, or concrete? Apparently you forgot to read the A and C encyclopedias last night, right Jim?" Trixie laughed.
But Jim however, had his eyes on the road. The bridge was not fun to navigate not in the least because of the road conditions but because from here he could see Fort Sumter, Patriots Point and any number of other fascinating sights. "I wonder how many accidents tourists cause on these bridges for trying to see their whole surroundings while sitting up here on top of the world?" he mumbled.
Honey, who had been reading through their guidebook at some of the other sites they wished to see, raised her head. "Jim, dont make us a statistic." Everyone in the car laughed and relaxed for the rest of the ride. After about 10 minutes, Jim noticed the turn off for Boone Hall, surrounded on either side by peach orchards and strawberry fields, part of the testimony to a still working plantation.
Upon turning onto the road and driving a short distance, they soon found themselves on a road canopied by huge oak trees. "This is beautiful!" Honey breathed.
"And the official designation of the this that the esteemed Miss Wheeler is referring to is The Avenue of Oaks. These magnificent trees were planted in 1743 by Major John Boone and comprise approximately one-half a mile of hardwood."
"They sure provide a lot of shade," Trixie said.
"Incidentally, speaking of oaks, although these oaks are impressive and certainly on the geriatric side of nature, they are by no means the crux of spectacular when compared to the massive Angel Oak on Johns Island, approximately 20 miles south of this fair city we are visiting. It holds the distinct honor of being the oldest living thing east of the Mississippi River at an estimated 1400 years old. This particular Quercus Virginiana reaches 65 feet high and has a circumference of almost 26 feet. The entirety of the Charleston Ballet Company, at 19 people, can fit behind it. Its longest limb is 89 feet."
"Mart, do you intend to regale us with a fact sheet on every place we visit?" Trixie asked with mild annoyance. "I mean, there are docents and tour guides for that sort of thing."
"Ah, you mean the poor soul, excuse the expression, who will be responsible for answering all of your earth shattering questions on the ghost tour?"
"Aha! You thought Id forgotten about our specter friend from last night, didnt you?"
"Not for one second. But Trix, seriously " Mart stopped and looked at his sister, showing her that he was indeed being frank. "Why dont we just enjoy the morning without a care and!" he added quickly, seeing that she was about to object, "talk about it at lunch.
Trixie was nothing, if not generous, and so she conceded with a nod. By now they had reached the admissions gate and Jim had already handed the money to the clerk. He drove on and presently, the shapeless white blob they had been able to see far off in the distance turned into the front of a beautiful southern plantation house with huge white columns on a wide veranda.
They parked the car and walked slowly to the house where a group had begun to gather in front. Some were sitting in wicker rocking chairs on the porch. Hearing the docent announce that the days first tour through the public rooms of the plantation house was about to begin, the Bob-Whites climbed the steps and handed their tickets to the guide. Their group was comprised of only 10 people as it was still a little early in the morning for tourists and they were quickly ushered into the house. In front of them stood a white winding staircase.
"Good morning and welcome to Boone Hall Plantation. My name is Kesley and I will be guiding you through the house today. If you have any questions at any point during the tour, please feel free to ask. At the end of the tour of course you will be allowed to visit other places on the plantation. Docents will meet you at the slave cabins that you passed beside the entrance to the immediate grounds and answer any questions you might have there. Please feel free to visit the smokehouse, which is one of the oldest buildings in South Carolina, as well as the marsh and gardens. Now, if you will please follow me." She turned and led them into a room to her right and the tour crowded into the room to hear more.
"Boone Hall has the honor of being Americas most photographed plantation. One of the more obvious reasons is that it looks like the picture of a southern plantation that many people have in their minds. Not all plantation homes looked like this one, so distinct was their architecture. Boone Hall was one of the primary filming grounds for the 1980s mini-series "North and South" as the home of the southern Main family. Only the outside shots were filmed here because as you well can notice, the inside of the house is not as big as it appears from the outside and larger areas were needed.
The land for the plantation was a land grant in 1681, as many plantations were. Major John Boone built the first house and since then, successive houses have been built on the site. Boone Hall also is distinct in that the plantation home was not burned by Shermans men on their march to the sea. It is the only one on the Cooper River to have survived that fate of so many others. The home you are in now is not that home, it was destroyed later. This home was rebuilt in 1936 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places"
She began to describe the rooms, and various aspects of the house until they had progressed to what looked like a screened in porch with a door leading to the outside. "You will note this wheel like table in the center of the room. This was used for grinding corn meal. The meal was then fried and used to throw to hunting dogs to keep them silent, and hence, a southern delicacy was born." As she said this, her guests could notice a twinkle in her eye. She turned around and began to walk out of the house through the back door. Turning only her head over her shoulder, she winked at the group. "Hush puppies." Everyone laughed and a few people asked if she were serious to which she replied that she quite was.
Trixie was one of the last people out of the door and had turned around once more to see the grinder. She was surprised to notice a man still in the front doorway to the room staring intently at her. As she looked up at him, he turned and left the way they had entered, not bothering to follow the tour outside. She furrowed her brow for a moment and then ran to join the others. Jim looked down at her as she came to stand by his side, but she shook her head indicating to him that it was nothing.
"That will end this tour. I hope you have enjoyed it and have learned something new. The grounds are yours to enjoy now. Please be careful at the marsh. We do have alligators and while they have not been known to carry anyone off, its not a trend we want to start."
Kesley received numerous thanks for her guidance and the four teenagers stepped away from the group slightly to plan what to do next. "I vote that we walk by the marsh. I think that will take us past the smokehouse. And then we can go past the gardens on our way to the slave street," Jim said, consulting the small printed map.
"Sounds like a plan," Mart answered. They walked along the side of the house until a path led to the marsh beside a small river. The salt grass was brown this time of year, but the sea gulls and pelicans flew noisily beside the water and the sound of frogs could be heard as well. Hermit crabs crawled along the sandy banks. It was a peaceful feeling that made Trixie almost glad she had agreed to put off her "ghost" discussion. They continued walking and soon came upon the smokehouse, a small circular building where meats had been cured and smoked.
The gardens were filled with many varieties of flowers and plants. Some were not in bloom because of the season, but it still made for a magnificent sight. "Moms would love this, dont you think?" Trixie asked in general.
"Im sure she would. And Mrs. Elliot as well."
Trixie giggled. "I guess gardens arent so bad when you dont have to tend them yourself."
A short time later, after having left the brick wall that separated the house from the Avenue of Oaks, they came to the Slave Street, as it was known. Slave cabins sat next to each other over to one side of the street. A docent walked over to meet them.
"Im David. Let me know if you have any questions."
"How old are these?" Jim marveled, running his finger delicately over one of the bricks.
"They were built around 1800 we think. No records remain, but theyve been dated then by their architecture and style."
"And these are original?" Mart asked, as they rounded the corner and prepared to step up and over into the structure."
"Yes. Very few original ones remain in the states. These were single or double family cabins. Some cabins just like this housed even more people," he continued.
However, by virtue of his training, David was silent as the Bob-Whites entered, letting the cabin speak for itself. "Oh Trixie," Honey said, her voice quavering, one hand over her abdomen, as though that could make the pain go away. She stood in the room, slowly turning around in a small circle. "My bathroom is bigger than this." Tears filled both of the girls eyes, as they looked around at the room, no bigger than an 8 by 12 foot room. She looked at David, who by now was used to the reaction. "People lived in these? Whole families?"
"Sometimes more than one," he answered quietly as Jim put an arm around his sisters shoulders.
"But why?" Trixie asked, her voice almost a whisper.
David sighed. "The long answer has been printed in history book after history book. But if you want my opinion, which is the short answer I dont think anyone really ever will know what makes the world do such horrible things to others. The utmost of inhumanities were inflicted on these people. And although we can get answers right on history tests about it, I dont know that anyone will ever be able to understand it."
There was little else to say. And little else to see in the barren room decorated only by a small loft and a fireplace for warmth and cooking. They exited the slave cabin and said good-bye to David, being quiet as they walked to the car. Unbeknownst to them, a strange light began to glow in the very cabin they had just left.
The car was consumed with silence at what they had seen and learned about the plantation until, just shortly after leaving the grounds, Jim was forced to stop at the end of a very long line of non-moving traffic. He rolled down the window to get the attention of a boy driving a Jeep with no top. He had been talking on a cell phone and now hung up to speak to Jim.
"Theres been an accident on the bridge," he shouted, in response to Jims inquiry. "Just happened a bit ago. Im about to head in a different way myself, when we hit the next intersection."
"How else can I get to downtown?"
"The intersection were about to come to is 526. Head west towards Savannah and look for the signs for I-26 east. That will dead end into Meeting Street."
"Meeting thats where were headed. Do you know what happened?"
"My friends up a few miles and he just told me that he couldnt tell exactly, but that theres a huge gaping hole in part of the bridge. Theyre routing traffic to the other one, and have opened two lanes for southbound traffic, but the onlookers are ridiculous."
The boy nodded slowly as he saw the others give each other horrified looks. "Listen yall, I need to step on it and were almost to 526 so if youll let me in front of you, Ill lead you to 26. Youll head east and Im bypassing town to head on south to Hilton Head."
Jim nodded and said thanks, rolling up the window,
"Dont say it," Mart said, leaning back against the seats headrest. He was trying to tease his sister lightly but everyone could tell how affected hed been by the news.
"Mart, I dont have to even know completely what happened to know that it was a disaster. And last night must have been a near disaster as well. You dont think there might be a connection?"
"I dont know, Trix, but these things do tend to happen from time to time. Theyre tragic, but people chalk them up to spells of bad luck and move on. They dont make a mystery out of everything bad that happens."
"Mart. For once, go with your gut and agree with me that something funny is going on."
Mart was silent. It was Honey who finally spoke up. "Sorry Mart, but I really think Trixies right. There is something strange going on here. It looks like the Belden-Wheeler Detective Agency is on another case," she sighed.
At the exit for Interstate 26, Jim waved at the boy who was motioning to the sign and they traveled back into Charleston. Having decided that the restaurant they had picked for lunch was close enough to walk to, they decided to leave the car at the hotel and see some of the city as they traveled. Passing a large hotel that looked as though the first floor was small boutiques, Honey looked at Trixie and smiled. Trixie rolled her eyes affectionately at her friend, knowing that Honey would want to do some shopping while in Charleston, especially at the Laura Ashley boutique she had spotted. They walked across the street and all of the Bob-Whites stopped to peer in the windows of Speedo, agreeing to include shopping on their list of activities for one day. "I suppose with stores like this one, we men-folk could handle it," Jim grinned.
Around the corner, on Beaufain Street, they found the place they were looking for. Vickerys was a Charleston restaurant renowned for its low country and Cuban oriented food. Mart was in Heaven. "Look at all of these things on the menu! I want to try them all."
Honey giggled. "Mart were supposed to be taking it easy this afternoon and maybe swimming at the pool. We dont want you to sink to the bottom."
"No chance of that Honey. Right now, Im concerned about feeding this bottomless pit."
They gave their orders to the server, Honey and Trixie getting sandwiches and splitting French fries with pepper gravy, and Jim ordering an entrée of shrimp, sausage and cheese grits with a salad. Mart decided to order a selection from the appetizer menu, choosing the Bourbon Butter Shrimp, Oyster Bisque and a bowl of Gazpacho, again getting a strange look from their waiter. After Honey had split her Jerk chicken Caribbean sandwich for half of Trixies Classic Cuban roasted pork, talk turned to the mystery they had stumbled into.
"What do we know so far," Jim said, trying to get the facts as organized as possible.
"Well, we saw the ghost last night, we found the newspaper article on gambling right where the ghost was and also last night something happened at the baseball stadium that was pretty horrific. This morning something pretty disastrous happened to or on the bridge" Trixie stated matter-of-factly, taking a bite of her sandwich.
"But Trix," Jim started slowly, "Youre assuming that all of those things are related. Why?"
"I just have a feeling. No, thats not just it. Something you said this morning, Jim, made me think. You said that you looked at your watch last night as we were sitting down on the swing. What time was it?"
"And the article said that the incident at the stadium happened at 10:15. It had to have been just a minute or so after 10:15 that we saw the ghost because we hadnt been on the bench for very long before we saw it."
"So youre making a connection between the appearance of the ghost and the event that happened just before it?"
Trixie had been so sure of her hunch, but upon the piercing look from Jim, was feeling a bit less sure of herself. "Yes. I guess thats what Im saying," she mumbled, popping a French fry slathered with gravy into her mouth. Slightly more bravely, she held a fry out to Jim who had his hands full with his fork and water glass. Instead of taking it from her hand, he bent down and used his teeth to grasp the fry, winking at her in thanks. Neither one caught the way Mart looked over at Honey and rolled his eyes but they both saw the tell tale blush spreading fiercely across Trixies face.
"Well Trix, I might go along with that theory except it has a few holes. First of all, as I said the other night, we werent the only ones on that pier when we first got there. One of the people leaving as we came could have dropped it. Second, what would a ghost be doing carrying around a newspaper article, and what could said ghost have anything to do with the gambling issue? Third, how does any of this relate to what happened on the bridge, and in fact we still dont know what happened. There might be questions about the baseball game problem, but there could be a perfectly real cause of the bridge incident. And fourth," he continued with a sympathetic look, seeing how Trixies face had clouded over. "If the appearance of the glowing ghost occurs just after a disaster strikes, where was it? If it was on the pier, we werent there to see it. Well never know. The two could simply be a coincidence, especially as it seems youre also relating the gambling article to the ghost. How could the gambling issue possibly relate to these two events?"
"And Trix," Mart said, finally slowing down his eating enough to get a word in. "Even you are cognizant of the fact that in most events involving apparitions being connected with doom, it is the apparition foretelling of "impending" doom not following the event."
Trixie was smarting from their failure to see her point. "First of all, smarty-pants, there is always a first time," she pointed her fork laden with yet another fry, at Mart who was in the process of stealing one from Honeys plate. "Second who said the ghost was actually a ghost? Im not sure I believe in ghosts."
"Trix, even I saw this one with you. I cant deny that," Jim threw in.
"I didnt say we didnt see it. I said Im not sure I believe in ghosts. We saw something. Im just not sure it wasnt human, and that could explain the article. Third when we find out what happened on the bridge, well know more. And fourth, maybe the ghost doesnt always appear at that pier. Maybe it was someone else and no one has come forward to say theyve seen it. Which is why I think we should hang out at that pier tonight again."
"No way, Trix. Were meeting dad and Regan tonight."
"But afterwards ."
"Not on your life. Were not sneaking out of the hotel to watch for some ghost." Jim spoke with a tone of finality, setting his jaw firmly. Trixie merely looked down at the table and continued eating. When Jim next spoke, it was less harshly. "Im afraid youll have to do more to convince me that all of this adds up, Trix."
"Fine, Jim. I will," she said simply. "I will."
Honey looked uncomfortably at the table and changed the subject. She hated it when her friends shot down Trixies theory, knowing from past experience that they were usually right however farfetched they might have sounded at the beginning. They soon finished the meal however and made their way back to the hotel, stopping for some dessert in the Godiva Store at the shops they had passed on their way to Vickerys. Agreeing to meet down at the pool in a few minutes, for a swim before resting, the girls again went through the connecting door to their room.
"Trix," Honey started.
"Honey, dont. Please dont defend your brother to me right now," Trixie said quietly, searching for a bathing suit in one of the drawers.
"I wasnt going to," Honey said, just as quietly. "Im sorry that hes not seeing what we do right now, but -."
"You mean you agree with me? You agree that all this connects?"
"Trix I have to admit, it does sound a bit unreal right now. But I know you. And I know that this isnt the first time I have thought that, and youve turned out to be right. Well both prove to Jim, and Mart that theyre related," she finished firmly.
Trixie pulled the suit she wanted out of the drawer and moved to Honey.
Throwing her arms around her she whispered," youre support means a lot to me Honey. Thank you."
"Were partners, Trix. Thats what Im here for."
"Good." Trixie backed away, turning towards the mirror, holding up a black and red color blocked tankini top, making sure it looked okay.
"And in the meantime, with that sleek suit, " Honey teased her, "you can show Jim what hes here for."
Trixie turned away so Honey could not see her face. "Hes here because he graduated and his birthday is coming up." It would have been impossible to miss Honeys next words as she bent down to pull off her shorts.
"Those are the least of the reasons hes here."
The Bob-Whites spent the rest of the afternoon swimming and lounging by the pool. They had asked other hotel guests and staff if anyone had heard word on the bridge tragedy, but so far, no one had any more information than they did. Near 5 oclock, they went up stairs to shower and change. The news gave the same non-information, only confirming what they already knew. While waiting for the arrival of Mr. Wheeler and Regan, they sat on the beds in the girls room and played cards. Jim and Trixie sat on her bed and trounced Mart and Honey time and time again in Rummy.
"I give up!" Mart said, dropping the remains of his loosing hand on the table they had pulled between the two beds. "I dont know what was in the food that you guys ate for lunch but apparently Honey and I ordered the wrong thing."
"Nope," Jim said. "Its the partner," he laughed, with a wink at Honey to let her know he was kidding, and nudging Trixie as he did it.
Just then, the phone in the boys room rung. Mart jumped up, eager for an excuse to leave the room and regroup. He came back a few minutes later to find Trixie, Honey and Jim engaged in a game of War.
"That was your dad. He and Regan just got here. Theyre going to take showers and meet us down in the lobby to leave for dinner."
"Are the horses here?" Honey asked excitedly.
"He said they were near Columbia and should be arriving just in time for us to meet them out at the livery. Hes calling us back when he and Regan are ready so we should have enough time for another game."
"You mean youre ready to get beat again?"
"Oh so cocky, dear little sister. You cant win forever. Statistics and probability are against you on this one."
Trixie merely nodded her head and looked at Jim. "You ready, partner?"
"Ready." He dealt the cards and they began another round.
As they played, Trixie spoke. "Jim, tell us more about the gambling controversy. Werent you reading an article in the paper about it, at the pool?"
Jim played, then answered her. "Yes, I was." He wasnt about to admit that neither his mind nor his eyes had been completely on the newspaper. "It seems to be a pretty clear cut issue. I had to put a few things together from what little I could get Dad to tell me and what I gleaned from the article, but apparently the state of South Carolina voted to allow gambling within Charleston county limits, including the water ways. The catch was that the citizens of Charleston would have to approve it on a referendum in the next election which is coming up this year."
Seeing Honeys puzzled look, he clarified. "The state has given the okay for legalized gambling, but only if the people actually want it. Its sometimes difficult to truly establish the true desires of the people of any one constituency, or district, when you spend most of your time in the state capitol over 100 miles away. So sometimes they let people directly vote on an issue. Its called a referendum. This November, the people of Charleston County will have the final say as to whether or not companies will be allowed to introduce gambling here. Being that this is an off year for elections, theres a great deal of frenzied lobbying regarding three main areas. The first is simply getting people to the voting booths. And for one reason or another, a lot of people dont vote in non-major election years."
"How are major or non-major years determined?" Trixie asked, laying down a card.
"Major election years are the ones when people such as a President, Governor, or United States Congressperson are being voted on. If the election only has someone such as a city councilman or a judge, for instance, its not generally considered of enough importance by many people, to be considered major"
"But is that right?"
"It might not display an affection for the democratic values that make this country the land of opportunity such as it is, but it is most typical of the principle of laziness that pervades this country when it comes to political action. The very notion that voting is never at and will never reach 100 percent participation, and is in fact greatly reduced during off years, is completely indicative of democracy itself," Mart said with a sigh, making his move. As it turned out, it was conducive to Honey and he winning the game.
"So what you just said is that people should vote because its not a right every country grants its people, but most people take it for granted?" Trixie asked.
"Very good, Trix," Jim said. "Unfortunately, getting people to the polls is only the first problem. They also have to figure out how to vote. They can either vote to completely allow gambling anywhere in the city, to allow it only on the waterways, such as on a boat that people walk out to, or not to allow it at all. There is some major pushing going on in this city right now from people on all sides of the issue."
"But how does Daddy fit into this?" Honey asked.
"Well, he simply wouldnt say much to me about it. Maybe now that were here and his horse business is completed and hes here for the gambling issue, hell open up a little more. In any case, if anyone can get the answer out of him, its Trixie. I say we let her have a go at dinner tonight," he grinned.
Trixie merely stuck out her tongue at him, ducking as he tried to grab it. Only a few minutes later, they were called down to the lobby and Honey ran to Matt Wheelers arms to hug him. Jim gave him a more reserved but still affectionate greeting, hugging one side of him while Trixie did the same on the other. Mart received a handshake and Regan was given similar greetings by the Bob-Whites.
"Alright kids. Youve been studying the guidebooks I assume. What do you feel like and where should we go for dinner?"
"Well dad, why dont you tell us what you feel like and well tell you where we think would be good," Jim replied.
"We are on the coast," Regan suggested quietly.
Mr. Wheeler laughed good-naturedly. "I think Im hearing a vote for seafood," he said.
"Oh, well, I mean, its your choice, naturally."
"Nonsense. Youre going to make me a very happy man with my race horses and you already take care of the ones I have, in addition to my children," he added with a wry grin. "Dont think of yourself as just my hired help especially on this trip. Say what you want."
Regan grinned. "Okay then. Ive had good seafood on my mind since I knew wed be coming down here."
"Seafood it is, then."
"And I know just the place," Trixie broke in.
"Lets go then." They walked to the front door and Jim handed the Escalade keys to the valet, as it would hold the six of them much better than Matts rented BMW. It soon arrived and Jim let Matt take the wheel as he and Mart hopped in the very back with Trixie and Honey in front of them. Regan took the seat beside Matt, still trying to get used to the praise from his employer.
"Where to, Trixie?"
Trixie began giving him directions and it soon became apparent to the other Bob-Whites that she was directing them to a restaurant they had talked about going, called Ronnies. Ronnies was a seafood place located on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant, a town outside of Charleston. Traveling to this restaurant also made it necessary for them to cross over the high Cooper River Bridge. Trixie could just about pinpoint when the others began to realize where she was having them travel.
"I just hope that the traffic has died down. You really planned this well, didnt you?" Mart said, leaning over the seat to whisper in Trixies ear.
"Hush. By the time we head back this way, traffic should have eased up. I just wanted to see what it looks like. And maybe someone at the restaurant will know what happened. No one we talked to at lunch or by the pool had any answers."
Crossing the bridge took them a fair amount of time. The Bob-Whites could tell Matt Wheeler was getting impatient with the long line of traffic. "There must be an accident on the other side. There are no cars coming in this direction." No one answered him, already knowing what he or she was about to see and as they passed the last span of the bridge, Honey let out a gasp. There was a hole about the size of a tractor trailer missing from the span. Emergency and construction equipment were parked in various places. Looking down into the water they could see coast guard boats hauling out and dropping divers down into the mouth of the river.
"What in heavens name happened?" Regan asked, sitting up taller in his seat. He was able to see more than Matt was who had to peer through two lanes of inbound traffic, as well as keep his eyes on the road.
"We heard about it today. No one we have talked to still knows what happened. We turned on the news before you got here, but there was still no information. Or at least they werent giving any," Jim returned.
It didnt take long for them to be too far past the bridge to see anything else and soon they were heading past the maritime museum, Patriots Point, and into the town of Mount Pleasant. Ronnies sat on the inland part of Shem Creek and as they got out of the car, they could see the shrimp boats tied up at the dock for the day. Mr. Wheeler asked for a table outside and overlooking the creek, and they were soon seated. After ordering, talk turned to the Bob-Whites activities so far, and their plans for the rest of the trip. Trixie, antsy with wanting to know more about Mr. Wheelers business in Charleston, had to sit on her hands to keep them from bouncing up and down on the table while she waited for their food to arrive. Finally, she could stand it no longer.
"Mr. Wheeler, please tell us about the gambling business that has brought you here," she said, straining forward as if this would make the answer come more quickly. But after seeing Matt drop his Hush Puppy in his lap in surprise, and the flash in his eyes of something that no one was quite sure what it was, she decided that shed be lucky to receive an answer at all.
"Its a complicated situation, Trixie. Are you sure you want dinner time conversation to revolve around this?
"Yes. Yes, were really interested."
He sighed, "If you insist. To be honest, I really think Id like to get the opinions of some other people and get it off my chest once and for all." At his words, all five of the others leaned forward to listen expectantly. His words were placed on hold however, at the arrival of their food.
Disclaimer: I think this is Déjà vu, but in any case, Random House holds the copyright; I am making no profit, and in fact in the interest of time, which is money, am loosing some. But in any case, as an educator, if I can do my part in encouraging people to read and write, Im happy. Now, if only I could do something about the math part of things.
Authors note: I know I have dealt with this before, but I wanted to make something clear. I am trying to write as traditional as I can. That means that I have some personal convictions about this chapter possibly not falling in that category. But I will say that I am also writing from 2003, and if these had continued into this century like certain other female detective series, which shall remain nameless, I think this could have happened at some point in time. If you need help seeing it think The Vanishing Victim and the little night driving that takes place in that one.
They were well into their meals before Mr. Wheeler decided to speak. Sensing that what he was about to tell them had weighed heavily on his mind, they merely sat wide eyed as they ate.
"Some number of weeks ago," he began, "I was approached by Garrett Julius. Hes the acting-CEO of Dakotalina, one of the companies I have bought, revamped and set to rights from a rather dismal outlook. He, himself, had been asked by his shareholders to bring Dakotalinas business to Charleston when the gambling is approved. Being that it would be a bit of a risk, the high controversy surrounding the venture, for Dakotalina to involve itself in the hype, he asked me if I would travel to Charleston and represent the company. Until the year ends, I am still officially able to act on the companys behalf. There are meetings all week long to plan not only the roles that businesses will have in the area, but also to brief lobbyists and volunteers for the big "VOTE YES" campaign thats being unveiled to the public next week. George and I became good friends while we were working to rebuild his company and I imagine he still values my opinion apparently," he chuckled. "In any case, he said hed much prefer that I make the final decision, as he still has to work with his shareholders after this year. So here I am, and I wish the story ended there," he said sighing.
"A little over a week ago, on the train home from the city, I was approached by someone and given a letter. It was addressed to me but I didnt think to stop the man who had given it to me until after I read it. I dont have it with me but I can tell you that the contents were that I was to basically swing my support to the anti-gambling corner or regret it. Believe it or not, there are some companies that are lobbying to keep gambling from Charleston."
"What sort of companies, Dad. And what exactly is Dakotalina that they would be able to so easily swing both ways like this person seems to think they could?" Jim asked with a frown.
"Dakotalina is a company that specializes in architecture and landscaping for major hotels. Obviously, this is an area that will soon have a number of those if the referendum passes. However, there are two reasons that a company such as this one might not be for the addition of gambling to Charleston. First, theyd feel the need to hop on the bandwagon and join the open market in Charleston along with other companies wishing to see their goods and services utilized. Its possible that the shareholders might want that. But shareholders dont always have the big picture in mind and what if the backlash from the gambling is larger than anyone ever expected and companies involved in propagating it here are snubbed. People are, after all, fickle. One day they want something and the next day they dont."
"You said there were two reasons?" asked Mart.
"Yes. Some companies are simply over extended already. They have their eye on other projects elsewhere and those opportunities might prove to be more lucrative than this one. Dakotalina certainly could be in that position. My job is to examine the feasibility of going along with the gambling project here and to answer the question of whether Dakotalina should get involved or not."
A heavy silence descended on his last words. At last, he spoke. "I have no idea who the writer of that note was. I dont know if it was just something with no substance behind it, or if it was something to take seriously. In any case, I think it bears concern. Thats why Ive been reluctant to tell you kids about it. Bird-dog Trixie would be liable to take up the scent of another mystery. But I dont want you bothering to worry about that note. Prank or not, it wont affect my decision. I do, however, want you to be careful while you are here in Charleston."
Trixie saw Honey look as though she were about to open her mouth. Please dont let her tell Mr. Wheeler that we already are involved in another mystery. Honey caught the look that Trixie threw her and wisely shut her mouth before Matt Wheeler had known anything was wrong. Regan, however, caught the exchange as plain as day, but he said nothing, looking at Trixie sharply. His look told her that the subject was far from being finished.
"Dad," Jim said, glancing at the desserts on the cart that had been pushed to their table. Selecting a piece of cheesecake, he continued. What exactly is your stand on gambling?"
Matt Wheeler leaned back in his chair and put his fork down on his plate. Motioning to the waiter that he and Honey were going to share a piece of chocolate pie, he thought carefully before he spoke. "Im going to give you two answers Jim. The first is that from a business perspective. Its an industry that cant be beat. People love to spend money and whats more, they love to make money, especially if it involves as little action as playing a game or pulling a lever, or even picking a particular horse because of its name. If youre involved in the business, quite simply, you make money."
"And from a personal standpoint?" Jim asked stiffly, knowing instinctively that this was the second answer his father would give him.
"From a personal standpoint, Jim, though I see no reason to encourage them, I have little sympathy for people who want to throw their money away. I worked hard to get where I am. I certainly had advantages. But advantages were all they were. Nothing was handed to me on a silver platter. I was handed lemons, not lemonade. Gambling can be a form of entertainment if used wisely. You know that yourself from the races we have been to in Saratoga. But you also know you have never seen me bet more than a few dollars at a time and that if I loose, its a laughing matter. Not a crying one like it can become to so many. I, myself, will be contributing to the market already when I race my horses. It might simply be fun to me, but I had to come to terms with the fact that it might mean going hungry to someone else. However, ultimately if the people of Charleston vote to allow gambling here, they will have to deal with everything else that comes with it; ruined lives, crime and many abuses most people have not thought of. It is their city, and their lives."
"And as for Dakotalina? Are you sticking with the shareholders on this one? Or will you recommend that they not follow up on this?"
"Dont forget Jim, that recommendations are all I can make. I might be able to have a loud voice until the end of the year. But in any public company, the shareholders are still a very powerful entity."
Jim took his eyes off of Trixies unfinished peach cobbler and looked squarely at his father. "But you didnt answer my question."
Matt Wheeler looked back at his son knowingly. "I dont expect you to like or agree with everything I do. Im a businessman, son. Unless something changes my mind, I will recommend that Dakotalina start selling its services in Charleston." He waved his hand to the waiter for the check.
The others had been silent during the entire exchange. Honey, ever full of tact said, "Shall we go and see the horses?"
"I think thats a great idea," Trixie said quickly. She had been looking at Jim during the moments after Matts last words and seen the disappointment he had with his father. Unfortunately, she had also seen the uplifting of Matts chin as if to say, Im sorry for your disappointment son, but youll simply have to get past it.
Eager to talk to Honey in private, but just as eager for the tense pall that had been cast on the group, she stood up with the others. Jim pulled back her chair and she squeezed his arm in thanks as she moved around it. Shortly afterwards, they were back in the vehicle and using the directions Regan had, were traveling further into Mount Pleasant back to the 526 interchange they had used earlier in the day. 526 would take them to a location about 5 miles southwest of the Charleston peninsula.
"It looks like we take the exit for Ashley River Road south and travel about 5 miles. The stables are just off the street," Regan said.
"Regan, tell us more about the horses," Mart said, doing his part to ease the silence. "We were wondering if we were going to be able to ride them or anything?"
"Well, now, I think that will have to depend on Mr. Wheeler. These horses arent quite like Jupe, and the others. Theyre like babies that much have certain treatment at certain times or we run into trouble."
"I see no problem with them exercising them in the field every now and then, do you?" Matt broke in.
"Not if you dont. Jeff will be over every day to participate in the training but Im sure hed like some company from time to time while hes schooling."
"Jeff?" Trixie asked.
"Hes Garrett Julius son. Hes an amateur jockey who grew too big for turning professional. But since Im racing these horses for fun, I had no intention of putting a pro on them anyway."
Honey, Trixie and Mart politely made conversation until they reached the stables. Jim, however, sat somewhat silently in the back, speaking only when spoken to. Trixie instinctively knew that he was not merely being sullen. Something else is bothering him. And I intend to find out what it is.
Within moments, they had reached the livery where the horses were to be temporarily stabled while in Charleston. Matt stopped the car beside a long horse van and eagerly they all jumped out. From within the stables they could hear voices. Moving to the open doorway they saw three men, all of who were dressed in jeans, boots and loose fitting shirts.
"Hi!" one of the mens voices boomed. Matt approached him and held out his hand. "Matt Wheeler."
"Brandon Dawkins," he returned. "I own the place. Your horses arrived just fine and weve just got them settled."
"Great, great! This is my groom, Bill Regan, Regan for short, my children Honey and Jim, and two of their best friends, Trixie and Mart."
"Ah so youre the man to become trainer to these fine animals." Mr. Dawkins leaned over to grasp Regans hand, while nodding at the teenagers. "Youre very lucky, Mr. Wheeler. I was looking earlier at their forms in the book and judging by their lineage, they should earn you a nice chunk of money," he smiled.
"Its just Matt. And that will be nice of course, but its more an entertainment interest of mine."
"Well, if you like to win, I think it will prove to be entertaining. Of course one never knows, but the prospects look great. Come on. Ill show you your horses."
He led Mr. Wheeler, Regan and the BWGs around, showing them the horses and discussing their care while in Charleston. Although he had personnel who regularly exercised and took care of horses in his care, Matt and Regan assured him that the BWGs would in fact want to come out and ride the horses at least once while in the city. An extra horse could be found then, he said, so they could all ride at once.
After giving each horse one more pat on the neck while Mr. Dawkins and Regan worked out their schedules, they were soon back in the car and headed towards town.
"Werent they just beautiful?" Honey asked of no one in particular.
There were many murmurs of agreement and then the car lapsed into silence. Jims lack of speech was troubling now to all the Bob-Whites, not only Trixie. Not wanting to spark an argument however, everyone was content to let the silence carry him or her back across the Ashley and to their hotel.
After making plans to meet for breakfast in the lobby at 8, Honey, Trixie and the boys said good night to Mr. Wheeler and Regan who were sharing a room farther down the hall and went into their own room.
"What do you suppose is wrong with Jim?" Honey asked, slipping on her nightgown.
"He seemed to get really quiet after what your father said about his opinion on gambling. Thats the only thing I can think of. What specifically is wrong, I dont know." Trixie wasnt the least bit tired. Her mind was moving in a number of different directions, and unfortunately, Jim was only one of them. "Hey Honey, Im really not tired at all. I think Ill go and sit down in that little courtyard with the pool and read for a while. Maybe that will wear me down some."
"Okay, Trix," Honey mumbled, letting her head hit the pillow. "Dont forget to take the room key, and be careful."
Trixie smiled at her best friend as she gathered the key and her new Lucy Radcliffe book. Honey had always been able to fall fast asleep whereas it usually took Trixie a good deal of winding down before she was able to rest. Closing the door softly behind her, she crept to the elevator and got in. The lobby was deserted by this time and Trixie walked quietly down the hallway leading to the pool yard. Opening the door, she looked out. She was never able to figure out whether she was surprised at what she found, or not. Jim sat on the edge of the pool, his feet dangling in the water, shoulders hunched as if in defeat. He had been facing away from her but as she approached said, "Its amazing when you get to know someone so well you can tell its them by the sound of their footfall."
"Are you sure it was that or have you developed ESP?" she grinned, sitting down beside him.
"Trix?" Jim said, looking earnestly at her. "Can we go somewhere?"
Her eyebrows shot up. "Somewhere? You mean, like now?"
"Well, yeah unless you have something better to do."
"No, Jim," she answered quietly. "I dont. I just came down here to read and relax, but if you want to go somewhere, we can. I just though you werent really wanting to sneak out tonight."
He gave a short laugh. "I didnt mean go somewhere to look for ghosts, Trix. I guess I feel this is a little different. I just want to go for a drive and talk. I dont usually spill my feelings, but I need to talk about this with someone. I cant talk to Honey about it. And Mart was asleep before he got into bed. And those things really wouldnt matter. I I want it to be you. Youre one of my best friends Trix, my special friend."
She was quiet for a moment, digesting his words. Dont read too much into it Trix. Let him do the maneuvering. "Okay. Lead me, James."
He smiled down at her and got up. Reaching out for her hand, he helped her up and they walked to the lobby. The valet went for the car while they stood quietly, absorbed in their thoughts. It was not long before Jim was heading west on Meeting Street and taking a left onto Calhoun.
"Do you mind my asking if you have an idea of where were going?" Trixie asked him.
"I dont mind," he gave her a gentle smile. "But Im not telling you. Youll see when we get there. I looked it up on the map yesterday and I think if we can find it, it will be a nice little drive and when we get there, we can go for a walk."
"Whatever you want, Jim." Trixie turned a little towards him and snuggled down into the seat, sitting so that she could better view both him and the scenery to the side of her. They were soon traveling back across the Ashley River but on the connector bridge that they had viewed from California Dreaming their first night in town. Jim steered the car so that he continued under the highway sign indicating that Folly Beach was near at some point down the road. They passed signs for Johns Island as well as Fort Johnson, both places Mart had mentioned to them at some time, and soon the roadside was filled with marshland. Occasionally they would cross a bridge with signs indicating the small island they were entering until finally a long bridge led them to the town of Folly Beach. Jim looked carefully for the road sign of the street he wanted to take and turned left. Beach houses lined the road for about a mile until all at once, breathtakingly, the Atlantic Ocean appeared out of nowhere to their right.
"Oh Jim," Trixie breathed, sitting up and sticking her nose to the window. He grinned and pushed the button to let her window roll down. She drew in a deep breath and the smell of salt filled humid air entered the car. There was a stretch of beach about half a mile long before the next houses appeared, those that sat right on the oceanfront.
"I understand they call this the washout. Its supposed to have good surfing. Mart and I want to come here one day and try it. I think we can rent boards in town."
"That sounds like fun. I didnt really even know they surfed on the Atlantic. Those waves dont look very big."
"I dont suppose they are compared to the ones I have heard are found on the Pacific, but they say this is some of the best surfing this side of the Mississippi. Well see."
Jim drove until he reached a gate across the road where the houses stopped. A sign hanging on the gate announced that it was the property of the Coast Guard. "Well we cant go that way, but it looks like we can park here in the public spaces and walk down to the beach from here."
"Is there any particular reason were all the way down here at this end of things?"
"Yep," he laughed, while shaking his head. "Youll find out in good time, birddog. All in good time."
She playfully swatted at him until he merely grabbed her hand and pulled her after him. They traveled down the sandy pathway until they reached the entranceway to the beach. "Lets leave our shoes here," Jim suggested.
Trixie pulled off her flip-flops, and Jim lay his Nikes beside hers. "I doubt anyone will be here this time of night. Oh! I just thought of something. What if Honey or Mart should wake up and find were gone?"
"I left Mart a note that I might be going for a drive late and not to worry. Im sure Honey would get him before she went looking on her own."
"Will he know Im with you? I just told Honey I was going down to the poolside."
Trixie couldnt see Jims face, but from the manner of his reply, she guessed it was as red as his hair. "I implied that you might be with me. In all honestly, I was hoping that you might come down to the pool. Maybe there is something to this ESP of yours, after all."
Trixie said nothing, not wanting to ruin the special moment she felt like they were having. They kept walking for what seemed like miles although Jim told her that he thought, from the map he had consulted it was only one or two. Trixie was not sure exactly what he had looked up on the map. Beach was beach, wasnt it? Her opinion changed however, when they rounded a bend in the sand. Their left side had been obscured by high sand dunes and these had been fairly close, as because of the tide, they had not had to walk very far out to reach the water. Standing in the water in front of them, not the length of a football field out, was the most amazing view of a lighthouse.
Trixie was speechless. Jim had much to say but was silent, wanting her to appreciate it first. Although both could tell that it was old and badly in need of a paint job, the moon behind it cast a long shadow onto the sand in front of them, and gave the structure itself an ethereal quality. They slowly moved towards it, marveling at the sight. The sharp curve in the beach line allowed them to sit in dry sand and merely view the lighthouse.
"Do you know which one it is?" Trixie asked softly.
"Morris Island. Its out of commission because they now use the Coast Guard one up on Sullivans Island. Well see that one tomorrow when we go to Fort Moultrie. But the guide book said it was easy to walk to and beautiful to see at night so here we are." He paused for a minute. "Trix, I know its a great sight and we can sit here all night looking at it. Its not like me to ask things like this but can I at least tell you whats on my mind?"
"Jim, you never have to ask that. Thats what Im here for whether its here, or anywhere."
Jim smiled at her, gratefully and then began.
"My dad my biological dad, was like an idol to me. He was the greatest. I can remember thinking he could do absolutely no wrong. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up. And I still do to a great extent. But when I started living with the Wheelers, I realized pretty soon that not all fathers were like my dad. Dads great of course, but well, I dont know. In any case, tonight when dad talked about how he thinks of gambling, I just remembered our last conversation before we left to come here. He took me to play golf. We had just stopped the drink cart for some lemonade well, I got lemonade. Dad had a beer. Anyway, I asked him about this latest trip. I think at some point I realized he had made no attempt to talk with me about it, which was unusual. I mean, dad knows I am intent on running my school for a career, but he still wants Honey and I to retain controlling interest in Wheeler International when that time comes and so hes sort of slowly mentoring me. So I asked him what this latest trip was about and basically he clamed up. He had been talkative the entire game, but we virtually spent the last 7 holes in silence. All he would say was that he was to represent some smaller company that he had once owned in a gambling business venture." Jim stopped at this point and put his elbows back on the sand behind him and leaned against them. Trixie scooted backwards so she could better hear him.
"I dont know that I entirely put two and two together, but I eventually figured out that he had never hesitated to talk about his business before, and that as gambling is a sensitive subject with some people, well then maybe that was the problem. I guess it kind of hurt that he felt he couldnt expound with me. But I let it pass figuring that Id heard the last of it. I think I knew then that I wasnt sure I wanted to hear his views on the subject. So even though I was hurt, I was also relieved. And after dinner tonight, I know that I didnt want to know. It made me so angry with him. I remember thinking right after he said what he did about not considering it his concern what people do with their money, COWARD. Hes my dad. I cant think things like that about him, not to mention it cant really be true. You dont get as far as Matt Wheeler has in life by being yellow." He stopped.
Trixie sighed, running her fingers through her hair, which had turned damp from the salty air. "Jim how do you want me to handle this?"
He looked up in surprise. "What do you mean?"
"Well, do you want me to just sit and listen? Should I talk, ask questions? Do you want me to tell you what I think?"
"I always value your opinion, Trix."
She grinned lightly, not wanting him to think she was making light of the situation. "And thats all it is; my opinion. And I value yours. I even think I can understand why you feel the way I do. But heres the thing, and theres really no way of getting around it. Jim, your dad is just as human as your father was. Ill have to call Mr. Wheeler your dad and Mr. Frayne your father. This could get confusing," she giggled.
"They were both human. And when we look up to someone, to the point of idolization, we can tend to forget that. I know your father was a great man. It takes little of knowing much about him to know that. But Jim, I also know that he hurt your mother, at some point in time. I know that he also hurt you at some point. I know that he and your dad had a fight. I know that he spent money on things he probably shouldnt have. I know that his language was not always appropriate. And I also know that had he lived, he would have had at least one solid belief that you disagreed with. How do I know all these things when I have never even met him? Because they are things we all do. They are things nobody is proud of, but nevertheless, they happen. And I know you know this too. But does knowing these things make him any less of a hero in your eyes? No. It doesnt. And it doesnt make him any less of a good person. It just makes him not perfect. Im not saying that you should start to view him as all of those imperfect things. But perhaps its time to take the pedestal down a notch?
Because if you dont, Jim, what I think will happen, I think already has begun. I think that without even knowing it, you compare your dad to your father every day. And because of the height of that stool you have him on, your dad will unfairly always loose the battle. I think you have an easier time seeing Mr. Wheelers faults because of the way you feel about your father. And I think theres nothing wrong with you because of it. But perhaps now it will be something to think about?"
Jim was quiet for what seemed like an eternity. When he finally spoke, his words were far from what Trixie was expecting to hear. "So are you saying that you agree with dad and his philosophy on gambling?"
"Would it matter if I did?" Her words came out stilted and he looked up in surprise.
"Dont answer that Jim. I want you to think about if it truly would. But for the record, I dont. And to be honest, I dont think Honey does either. So neither one of us agrees with your father about something. And this wont be the first time either. What you need to decide is if it truly matters between two people who love one another. And thats something only you can decide."
Jim sighed, looking out at the lighthouse. "I just wish this whole thing had never come up. Things like this happen, and they make us turn ourselves inside out. I hate it. I wish he would just change his views. Itd make things easier."
"That doesnt sound like the Jim I know. You hold tight to your morals and views. Why shouldnt you want others to do the same thing?"
"Maybe Im finding its different with someone who you think youre beginning to idolize like you did your father, and you dont like it when things creep in the way, trying to prevent it."
"Then perhaps the problem isnt what your father was, or what Mr. Wheeler is. Maybe the problem is that as men, not angels, they can never live up to the height that you give them. The higher you build someone up to be, the longer the fall is for you when they fall off at least in your eyes. All I can ultimately say is this. Your dad wont change who he is for you, I think because to him, staying true to himself and his own values is the best way to help you stay true to yours. And Jim, I dont think inside, you really want him to change for you. I think youd like it if things were that easy. Wed all like an easier life. But if it were, and your father were to reinvent himself for you, wouldnt you honestly feel like a huge lie had happened?"
He shrugged his shoulders in defeat. "How have you managed to make everything so clear. Sometimes I cant understand a word youre saying, you and that sister of mine. But this this, I understand. I guess I do tend to have rather lofty expectations of people. I guess I expect no less from others than I myself am willing to give. Thats why I do things like get mad at you when you make simple mistakes in math and go off on another scent without stopping to think and be sensible. Maybe I need to start realizing that when I dont think someone is meeting my expectations, it isnt their wrongdoing, but me thats the problem."
Trixie snorted. "Yeah, because you forget how many times you mess up yourself!" She sobered for a moment. "All kidding aside Jim, you are a pretty wonderful guy. But youre no more perfect than anyone else, and I know you know this, which is why Im not even sure why were having this conversation."
"Everyone needs to be reminded from time to time of his or her imperfection," he smiled. "Maybe I did already have the answers. But it was nice to talk about it, get it off my chest. And spend some time out here with you."
They smiled at each other, and then turned away. Somehow, it was easier to express feelings without the rest of the BWGs looking over their shoulders. The moon had moved directly behind the lighthouse by now and though it was still bathed in a glow, the sky seemed darker as if they were experiencing their own mini-eclipse. Trixie and Jim sat still listening to the sound of the surf crashing against the shore, enjoying the peacefulness until it was shattered by the sound of an explosion.
"What the " Trixie scrambled up, grabbing Jims arm. Together they turned and looked out into the dark water cut every now and then by white foam. On the horizon was a brilliant orange red glow. Although they couldnt make out what it had been, they certainly knew what had happened to it. "Jim, should we do something?"
"Ill call for emergency." He pulled Matt Wheelers cell phone out of his pocket and dialed 911.
"911, please state your emergency," came the disembodied voice.
"Jim Frayne, Im at the tip of Folly Beach with the lighthouse on it. We just saw an explosion some distance off shore. Whatever it is, its still burning pretty bad."
"Thank you for the call, we have received an emergency call from the vehicle having the trouble. The coast guard is on the way." There was a click on the line.
"Well, thats that," he said. "Whoever was on the boat or whatever was able to call and report the trouble themselves."
"I wonder what happened?"
"I dont know," he replied. "In any case, the coast guard is coming, and we should probably head back to the hotel and get some rest before tomorrow."
She nodded, her eyes still on the burning boat. He reached for her hand to gently draw her away from the sight and together they walked back to the footpath where they had left their shoes. Trixie slipped in to hers easily, allowing Jim to use her shoulder as a support while he pulled his on with one hand.
"Just the right height," he grinned.
She stuck out her tongue and pulled out from under him in time to cause him to stumble slightly. He laughed as he regained his balance. "Race ya!" he said and took off towards the car. Laughing softly so as not to disturb the few houses on either side of the sandy path, Trixie raced after him but did not notice that he came to a dead stop at the paved parking lot. She plowed right into his back.
"Hey, whats ." Jim held up one hand and merely pointed to the car. Sitting on the hood was the same glowing figure that they had seen at the pier. Only this time, it was glowing bright orange. It was the color of fire.
Authors note: To view pictures of some of the aforementioned Charleston sites go to:
I have used certain facts from memory, and looked up others that I was not sure of. Like I said, it has been 4-5 years since I was at any of these sites, except California Dreaming, and so I have tried to be as accurate as possible. If I have not been so on something, I apologize, but do know that I am representing these visuals as accurately as my memory will allow.
Thanks to everyone who suggested horse names. I wish I could have had Mr. Wheeler buy 30 horses, but alas, he only bought 3 so I could only use 3 names. Thank you Michelle (LadyeJayne). Were not having Biscuits for breakfast, but Pancakes. Thank you Bernadette. I didnt take the name you wanted but well hope non-Satan behaves himself. Thank you Diann for "Fireaway"ing a few suggestions that I mangled to get what I wanted. :) And finally, thank you Maureen. I am so sorry about your brother. And I thank you for the name that I will use in honor of him.
Vickerys has changed their menu. They dont have the French fries with pepper gravy on it anymore L but if you go, ask them to make it. They sound simple, but are absolutely to DIE for!
I dont know if gambling can be legalized the way I have depicted here, but at this point, Im not sure I care. J Also, I know this is supposed to be a traditional oriented story, following the series, and I intend to keep it that way as much as possible. But I find it hard not to write in more Jim/Trixie things than the series did. So one or two of the things in this fic will seem non-true to the series, but it is still about as traditional as I am able to get it without disappointing my own desires. Thanks for reading!