that one girl and life is sweet
 

Chapter 4: It's Gonna Work Out Some Way

September 28, 1957

"Where's Jim?" Dan asked, glancing around the little eating alcove. The small table was meant for informal, quick meals, sitting in a small room just beside the kitchen and in front of large bay windows overlooking the garden. This morning, it had been set for three, but one plate had already been used.

"He left already, with Trixie, to get the bikes and the donations for the bazaar." Honey's smile had a hint of worry about it.

Dan sat at the other empty space, and Celia, looking bright and cheerful, came in with a tray in her hands. "Orange juice?" she offered, as she set down a platter of French toast and another with sausage.

"Sure." Dan replied automatically. "Actually, could I please have some coffee, if there's any?"

"Of course, Master Mangan." She winked at him. "Miss Wheeler?"

Honey giggled. "No coffee for me, thank you. Do we have blueberry syrup, though?" She was already helping herself to a stack of the golden slices of fried toast.

"I'm not sure, Honey. I'll check. I know we have boysenberry, and I'll bring that if we don't have any blueberry. Would that be all right?" Celia walked briskly back to the kitchen after Honey nodded in response.

"So, what's wrong?" Dan asked, now that they were alone. Everything had seemed fine when he'd left Honey and Jim the previous evening.

"What? Why would something be wrong?" Her hazel eyes widened.

"Oh. I thought ... well, you seemed worried. Something about Jim?" Dan wondered if he'd just imagined it.

"Oh. Yes, I guess I am." Honey gestured to the platters of food on the small table, indicating he should help himself, so Dan started to heap French toast and sausages on his plate. "It's just that Trixie came by this morning, eager to go, and you know how my brother feels about Trixie." She grinned.

"The same way I feel about you." Dan winked. "And then what?" he quickly asked, seeing her blush uncomfortably.

"They wanted to stop by the hospital to drop off Harrison's hat. Apparently it got left in the stables last night and Di wanted to make sure it was returned right away." Honey paused as Celia returned with a steaming mug of coffee for Dan and a small silver decanter filled with syrup.

"Boysenberry. There was no blueberry. I'll make sure it's added to the shopping list." Celia quietly slipped away again.

Dan reached for the maple syrup that was already on the table, instead. "The hospital?" He remembered how both Jim and Honey had had an aversion to the hospital in the city.

She nodded. "And you know Jim. He'll do anything Trixie asks, so of course he said he would. I'm just worried about him, that's all. I'm sure he's fine. Right?"

Dan gave her a half-grin. "Of course he's fine. There's no reason he wouldn't be. If he doesn't want to go in, well, then, he'll tell Trixie why and she'll understand."

"That's just it. Trixie already knows that Jim hates hospitals. She shouldn't have asked." Honey sighed. "I love her to pieces, but sometimes her one-track mind drives me batty."

He laughed. "You will never go batty." He glanced around the room, confirming they were alone. "Does Trixie know how you feel about hospitals?" he asked quietly.

"Oh, umm, no." Honey stared down at her plate. "I almost told her once, but then, I don't know, it just seemed so silly. Besides, it's just that one hospital. I don't mind the Sleepyside one."

Dan really wanted to ask her more, but he knew it would upset her, and they still had the charity event to get through. Maybe he could find time to ask her after that. "So what do you need me to do at this bazaar later today?"

She glanced up at him, flashing him a grateful smile. "We'll be serving refreshments. I'm sure you'll make a fine waiter."

"Terrific." He grinned back at her. "But if anyone tries to tip me, I'll make them put the money in the UNICEF fund jar instead."

 

Dan looked around at the crowd of mostly older women perusing the booths at the bazaar. He turned and surveyed the jars of Mrs. Crandall's jams and preserves that he and Brian were trying to sell, mentally calculating how many more they had left.

Brian stood nearby, holding up a jar and shouting out to the people passing by. "Fresh preserves! Only one dollar a jar! It's all for charity!"

Dan smiled at the older woman in front of him. "Can I interest you in some raspberry jam?"

"Oh, yes," she replied. "And if you have any orange marmalade, I'll take a jar of that, too."

Dan nodded and quickly located the two jars. "That will be two dollars, please."

She reached into her purse and handed him two bills. "I know it's far less expensive at the grocery store, but these are fresh and the money goes to charity. I wonder if I shouldn't buy a third jar."

Dan glanced at the jars still left to sell. "We have some strawberry preserves, and nectarine, too."

"Nectarine? That sounds delicious. Go ahead and add it." She turned back to the crowd. "George! George, come help me carry these to the car!"

Dan handed the woman a jar of the preserves and then took another dollar from her and dropped it into a shoe box. "Thank you!"

He looked through the small pile of bills in the box. "Hey, Brian, we're not doing so badly at all."

Brian turned around and walked toward him, taking a peek in the box as he neared. "No, but it's not yet two o'clock. I am worried the crowd will die down once the circus starts."

"Hopefully we'll unload most of this stuff before then." Dan wondered how they were doing with the merchandise at the other booths.

But Brian wasn't paying attention. Dan followed the older boy's gaze through the crowd. His eyes landed on a petite, dark-skinned beauty, thin wire-framed glasses resting elegantly on her shapely nose, and her arm hooked through an older gentleman's. She was wearing a simple green dress and had a white cardigan draped over her shoulders. "Loyola?"

Brian nodded. "She came."

"You doubted she would?" Dan watched as Loyola turned and spotted them, tugging on her grandfather's arm to guide him over.

"Her grandfather doesn't seem to like me." Brian shrugged one shoulder. "I wasn't sure she'd convince him to come out."

"Why wouldn't her grandfather like you?" Dan wondered how any parent figure could disapprove of polite, intelligent Brian Belden.

"Her grandfather's very old-fashioned and doesn't want—" Brian stopped abruptly as the two approached their booth.

"Hi, Brian!" Loyola called out cheerfully.

"Hi, Mr. Kevins, Loyola," Brian answered. "Thanks for coming by."

"Yes, well, it's good to help out UNICEF. You have lots of fine goods here." Mr. Kevins' eyes darted around all the different booths. "Lots of fine goods."

"Yes, sir. Can we interest you in some preserves? We have raspberry, strawberry, nectarine, blackberry, and orange marmalade." Dan listed off the items they were trying to sell. "All home-made."

"I don't think I know you, son. Do you live here in Sleepyside?" Mr. Kevins addressed him.

"No, sir. I live in Brooklyn. But my uncle lives here. I'm just visiting him." Dan smiled in what he hoped was a charming manner.

"Very well, then." Mr. Kevins picked up one of the jars and held it up to the sunlight, carefully studying the contents.

Dan turned to see Brian and Loyola just staring at each other. He jabbed Brian slightly with his elbow, encouraging the other boy to talk.

Brian stood up straighter. "Loyola, do you, um, do you think we could, well, would you want to work together on the, um, upcoming project for Mrs. Cowles' class?"

"Oh, sure!" Loyola smiled brightly as she looked up at Brian. "I was thinking we could study the Croton River, if that's okay with you? I'd love to collect some water samples from there and analyze them."

"The water sounds great." Brian grinned back at her. "I mean the river. The river water."

"It should be interesting," she agreed. "Who knows what we'll find out? I was just thinking we could gather the samples together, maybe from different parts of the river. We'll have to do some of the tests out in the field, anyway, so we should make a day of it."

"Loyola, sugar, don't be flirting with that white boy. You're embarrassing yourself." Her grandfather scowled in Brian's direction.

"Papa!" Loyola frowned. "I'm not flirting! I just want to work on the ecology project with him." She turned back to Brian and smiled shyly. "Sorry."

"It's okay. Well, I, uh, guess I'll see you in school on Monday?" Brian asked hopefully. "Or, maybe, if you're not busy—"

"I'll take this jar of marmalade," Mr. Kevins announced suddenly, still holding onto the jar. "Pay him, sugar."

Loyola pulled a dollar out of her purse and handed it to Brian with a smile. "See you on Monday."

"Smooth," Dan whispered as the two walked away.

"Why do I get so tongue-tied around her? I sounded like a blithering idiot." Brian put the dollar in the box and shut the lid.

Dan smirked. "Because her grandfather doesn't like you?"

"Nah. I'm like that even when he's not around," Brian admitted, blushing slightly.

"Why doesn't he like you, though?" Dan still couldn't understand Mr. Kevins' attitude toward his friend. "Is it just because you're white?"

"Why do any parents dislike a teenage boy that's keen on their daughter?" Brian shrugged, and then suddenly chuckled. "I'd probably feel the same if I was a father, or father figure anyway."

"Hi, you two," Honey called out to them, walking over.

Dan couldn't help smiling at the sight of her. She looked so pretty in her cornflower-blue dress. "Are you here to relieve us of duty?"

"Kind of." She let out a small giggle and pointed to the large red-and-white tent that had been set up earlier. "A lot of the guests here are starting to get hungry and thirsty. I'm actually here to recruit waiters."

Dan walked out of the booth and gave a small wave to Brian. "The jams are all yours. I already signed up for waiter duty."

"Yeah, it's just as well. It looked like Loyola and her grandfather were headed to the refreshment tent. I'd probably spill fruit punch all over them or something." Brian winked.

 

The rest of the afternoon went quickly as Dan and the others were kept busy serving refreshments or helping out with booths. But, by three o'clock, the crowd had died down to practically nothing. The circus in Tarrytown was more competition than their small event could handle, so the Bob-Whites decided to just call it a day, knowing it was unlikely to get busy again.

While they had sold quite a lot of the goods that had been donated, there were also many things left unsold. The boys loaded everything into the station wagon for Jim to take back to the clubhouse, and Dan decided to ride with him.

It didn't take long for the two of them to have everything stacked neatly in the partitioned-off room. Dan waited while Jim locked the clubhouse door and they walked up to the house together. Dan veered to the left to head for the stables and was slightly surprised when Jim turned and walked with him. The two walked in companionable silence.

"Hi, Uncle Bill!" Dan called, seeing his uncle in the arena exercising one of the horses.

His uncle guided the horse—Dan was pretty sure it was Starlight—over to the two boys. "You're back early. Everything go okay?"

Jim nodded. "Fine."

Dan shrugged his shoulders. "It's just that the circus came to town and took all our business. At least we had a pretty solid morning, so hopefully we still made quite a bit of money."

Regan regarded the two of them briefly and then glanced back at the stables. "Well, since you're here, I don't suppose you'd want to go riding?"

"That's exactly why I'm here." Jim nearly managed a grin. "Did you already exercise Jupiter?"

"I did. But if you want to take him out again, I'm sure he won't mind." Regan started walking Starlight back to the stables, and the two boys walked alongside him on the other side of the paddock fence.

"That's okay. Who still needs exercise?" Jim asked.

"Lady and Strawberry." Regan glanced at Dan. "Are you going with him?"

"Only if Jim doesn't mind." Dan watched Jim's face, hoping Jim wouldn't be disappointed. He'd had the feeling the other boy would rather go out alone.

Jim hesitated only a second before answering. His smile seemed genuine as he spoke. "That's fine with me. Some company would actually be nice. Do you want Lady or Strawberry?"

Dan looked over the two horses, trying to remember more about them. "Whichever is the calmer horse. I'm still nowhere near as good a rider as you."

Regan chuckled. "Why don't you take Lady, then? She's pretty mellow and Honey prefers her when she's tired."

It didn't take long for the two boys to be on their way. Jim led Dan along a path he didn't recognize, traveling downhill for the most part. Eventually they came across a road and crossed it. The trees seemed to get thicker until Jim led them out to a clearing. Suddenly, the trees thinned out and they were riding along the edge of a small river. Jim glanced back at him and gave him a half-grin. "Keeping up?"

"Sure." He wasn't, really. He'd been trying to stay at a steady walk, or at least a slow trot, but whenever Lady caught a glimpse of Strawberry ahead of them, she'd increase her speed to try and catch up with the other horse, sometimes trying to break into a canter. Dan was having a hard time keeping her under control, but he was managing.

Lady finally pulled aside Strawberry. "Does Mr. Wheeler own the river?" Dan asked, jutting his chin toward the water.

"Well, it's more of a large stream than a river, but, yes, Dad owns the land on either side, naturally. It's stocked full of trout, too." Jim slowed Strawberry to a walk.

"I'm a city boy. I don't know the difference between a stream and a river." Dan winked. "And while I know a trout is a fish, I wouldn't know the difference between it and any other fish."

"You haven't gone fishing much, have you?" Jim stopped his horse near a large tree and dismounted, quickly looping the reins around a branch.

"Try never." Dan got down from Lady, following Jim to the edge of the stream.

"If you ever want to, there are plenty of us here who'd be happy to take you." Jim sat down on a large flat boulder.

Dan joined him and the two sat together, watching the water flow gently past.

"Dan, would you ever tell Honey if you thought she was wrong about something?" Jim glanced at him and then turned back to the water.

"Well, sure." Dan didn't have to even think about it. Hadn't he just told her he thought she was wrong about how she wanted to approach Miss Trask? "I kind of did, just yesterday."

Jim looked sharply at him. "You did?"

Dan shrugged. "Yeah. But why are you asking? She's not mad at me for it, I don't think. At least, she didn't seem to be too upset after we talked it out."

"No, she didn't say anything to me, so she's probably not." Jim attempted a grin. "I just don't know if Trixie's upset with me. It's hard to tell sometimes."

"Is it about going to the hospital? Because Honey told me she asked you to go visit Harrison with her." Dan frowned. "Did you go?"

Jim nodded. "I did. But it was Di who asked me, well, through Trixie. It wasn't Trixie's idea. I really need to get over that, anyway. Hospitals aren't bad places, are they?"

"No. They're not. I really wish ... if my mom had made it to a hospital, they may have been able to save her, you know? The ambulance wasn't equipped to handle ...." Dan let his voice trail off. "Anyway, hospitals can be good. They do try their best to save people. But I get it. I didn't even want to see the ambulance attendants yesterday."

Jim nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah. I hadn't even thought ... I'm sorry."

"So if it was Di who asked you, why do you think Trixie's upset with you?" He turned the conversation back to Jim.

"I told her she was bossy." Jim frowned.

Dan studied the redheaded boy next to him. "Bossy?"

"Yes. And I don't think she took it very well." Jim sighed. "She gave me the silent treatment after that. She perked up after we picked up the flowers from Mrs. Elliott, but then got kind of sullen again once we were at the bazaar. I just don't know how much of that was directed at me and how much was because of Di."

Dan didn't know, either. "I know I don't know her as well as you do, but she can get very focused at times, almost to a fault, and if she thinks there's something mysterious about Harrison and Mrs. Crandall, she's probably just been concentrating on that. I wouldn't worry too much."

"Yeah, I guess I won't worry. At least she's talking to me again." He frowned and then stood up. "Well, we should probably head back. We can follow this stream all the way to the lake if you want. There are a couple of spots the horses will have to go in the water, so make sure you keep Lady to a slow walk and trod carefully. The browns might be spawning already, although it's still a bit early for them."

Dan could only assume a brown was a type of fish.

 

Later that evening, Dan was finishing up the dinner dishes, staring at the big house and day-dreaming about Honey, when a movement outside caught his eye. He took another careful look and then he spotted her. "Hey, Uncle Bill?" he called over his shoulder, never taking his eyes off the girl.

"You want to go up to the house again?" his uncle asked lightly. "Just don't stay late."

"Okay, thanks." He dropped the towel and practically ran out the door, afraid he'd miss her.

When he reached the bottom of the stairs and turned toward the front of the garage, he slowed down. He heard the faint sobs before he saw her again. She had already put the kickstand down on her bike and parked it in its place. "Honey?" he called softly.

She turned, startled, wiping the back of her hand under her eye. "Hi, Dan."

Dan strode quickly across the space, but, when he reached her, he wasn't sure what to do. "What's wrong, Honey? You look like you've had quite a fright."

"Oh, Dan, I have. It's so much worse than I feared." She nearly burst into tears again.

Dan looked around the garage helplessly, and then grabbed her hand and pulled her over to the dark blue sedan parked inside. He sat on the back of it and pulled her up to sit next to him. "Now, what's going on?"

"We saw it again. The headless horseman. Only, I'm sure now he's not a ghost." Honey took a deep breath. "Trixie found a scrap of fabric that we think came from his cloak, and ... and then we found where the horse is being stabled."

Dan gazed at her in wonder. "You girls were out investigating again? How did you find the stable?"

"Well, it's really an old barn. I should know better about barns by now, right?" Honey let out a bitter-sounding laugh. "Of all the things I'm scared of, I think I'm becoming most afraid of barns."

Dan nodded, understanding. Honey and barns did not seem to agree with each other. "But you're okay. You're here, now."

"Oh, Trixie might be right about Harrison after all! He was there at the barn, too. He and the two people from the museum—the security guard and the assistant curator or whatever she is." She choked back another sob. "He could be the leader of their outfit. Maybe he did steal that Ming vase, too."

"Whoa. Slow down." Dan tried to follow her train of thought. He remembered Trixie saying something about a vase that was missing from the museum earlier that day at the bazaar. "Harrison stole the vase? Is that what you think?"

"Yes. Only, no. Oh, I don't know! I have a hard time believing it, but why else would he and those museum people have been up by that barn tonight? They were up to something." She stared into Dan's eyes. "Can you think of any reason for them to be there if they're not guilty?"

Dan thought for a moment and then nodded. "You say you saw the horseman again? How long after you saw the horseman did you see Harrison and his friends?"

"It couldn't have been that long after—Oh! You mean neither Harrison nor his friends could have been the horseman. They wouldn't have had time to change and then where would they have left the horse if they didn't bring it back to the barn?" Honey smiled faintly. "But then why were they there? Maybe there's a fourth person working with them. Oh, and Harrison couldn't have stolen the vase because they were looking for it, too! I remember they said as much."

"See. Harrison's not guilty of anything as far as we know. But he's definitely mixed up in this business, somehow." Dan frowned slightly. "Maybe he's just trying to prove his friend's innocence. But why now, almost a year after the theft?"

"I don't know." Honey sighed. She leaned against him, resting her head on his shoulder.

He wrapped his arm around her, pulling her closer to him, and tried to concentrate on her words and not the fresh, clean scent of her shampoo or the tickle of her hair on his cheek.

Honey continued telling him her worries. "And this will just make things worse between Trixie and Di. She's already so mad at her. Di wouldn't even speak to her at all during the bazaar, and Mart's pretty upset with her, too. With Trixie, that is. He's positively smitten with Di just as much as ever."

"Just yesterday, Di said she loved Trixie." Dan tried to comfort Honey. "She knows how Trixie is when she's investigating."

"Maybe." Honey sniffed again. "But that was before Mart told her all of Trixie's suspicions. Now she's furious."

Dan rubbed her shoulder and then squeezed it lightly.

Honey sighed loudly. "I hate to see my friends arguing, and I don't even know who's right or wrong, and I can see both sides so clearly, but it makes it impossible for me to choose, if I had to choose, but of course I'd choose Trixie because she's my best friend and—"

"Shh, Honey, it's okay." Dan pushed her away from him just slightly, forcing her to sit back up. It's not that he didn't want her leaning against him, but rather that he wanted more than that. He smiled reassuringly at her. "No one's asking you to choose sides, are they?"

"No. Not yet anyway." She frowned slightly. "It's all just a mess. I hope we figure out how Harrison's involved exactly, and quickly, or it may just drive the Bob-Whites apart."


chapter 5: would you trust me?