don't know what i thought i would find
 

Chapter VII: Don't Ya Ask Me

February 10, 1957

"I read an article the other day that Dr. Lillehei was working with an engineer from Minnesota to develop a battery-operated pacemaker," Brian said, swinging open the door to the clubhouse.

Neil entered in right behind him. "Yeah, I'll bet they make some huge breakthroughs in cardiac treatment this year. I heard at school that a doctor from Cleveland said he would have an artificial heart ready for testing soon."

Mart dropped the rag he'd been using to polish an antique mirror frame. "Don't you guys ever get tired of doctor-speak?" he asked.

"Coming from the talking dictionary? Really?" Brian replied, rolling his eyes. He walked over to the table where Danny was working and picked up a sheet of sandpaper.

Danny glanced up and noticed someone wasn't with them. "Where's Harvey?" he asked.

"He went up to Manor House to eat," Brian answered.

With a mumbled "of course", Danny continued rubbing the fresh scratches off a couple of antique chairs. Tom, the Wheeler's chauffeur, had picked up some sandwiches and a casserole from a kosher shop in White Plains the previous day, and Harvey had cleaned one of the Manor House refrigerators so it could hold the kosher food.

It was only a minute later that the door swung open again, this time revealing Jim and Honey. "Hey there," Danny greeted.

"We thought we'd be first to be here," Jim said. "When we saw Harvey on his way up to the house, we knew we'd slept in too late."

Trixie snorted from the other room where she was straightening the sports equipment that had been thrown around by the previous night's intruder. "You forgot Mart wakes up with the sun, no matter how late he's up. And apparently Danny's the same."

Neil grumbled. "Those two had us up and ready well before any decent hour." He sorted through some smaller items on the ground, placing some silver candlesticks and a silver platter in a box.

"I thought doctors had to be able to sleep and wake at all sorts of odd times," Mart commented as he took the finished mirror to a clean corner of the clubhouse and placed it against the wall. He picked up another one that still needed some work.

Brian grimaced. "Don't remind me." He stopped sanding the back of a chair and wiped the dust away with a cloth. "Having to survive on little to no sleep is not something I'm looking forward to."

"You know you'll be able to handle it," Honey commented. "You'll be a great doctor when you finish school." She walked over to the window where the curtains had been ripped from the rod and pulled some sewing supplies out of the bag she was carrying. "At least it just ripped on the seam and didn't rip the actual fabric. I can get these back up in no time," she said after examining the draperies.

The teens worked quietly in the clubhouse, all concentrating on their tasks. It wasn't long before Di and Harvey had also joined in to do their part.

"We're here!" Di called out as she opened the door. Harvey stood behind her.

"You're looking a little less emaciated," Danny told his younger brother.

"Har-dee-har." Harvey patted his stomach. "It is good to finally eat again." He looked around the room. "What can I do to help?"

"These two tables are ready for a touch up on the stain and then some oil finish." Mart pointed to two identical small end tables.

Harvey headed over to them, taking the stain from Mart and picking up a cloth from the large table in the middle of the room. "I'm on the stick."

"So, what's the story about this little clubhouse anyway?" Neil asked.

Not for the first time, Danny was grateful for Neil's insatiable curiosity. He had wanted to ask, too, but had been waiting to ask Honey later. From what he could see, the clubhouse was just a small two-room cottage. One room had a large table and some benches, and currently also held a large number of antiques that the kids were fixing up for an antique sale to benefit UNICEF. The other room, really just a partitioned-off section of the main room, had shelves for storing all sorts of sports and camping equipment. The partitioned-off section held even more antiques squeezed in among other items.

"It's actually the old gatehouse for our home," Jim answered.

Trixie nodded. "The gatehouse was in disrepair last year, and we all fixed it up so we could use it as a clubhouse. Jim and the boys patched up the roof, and Honey made those nice curtains for it."

"Are you all part of a club?" Harvey asked.

"Some kind of antique lovers society?" Danny asked with a wink, looking up from his work. He had finished sanding the fresh scratches off of one chair and was now working on a chair that had only been donated to the UNICEF cause last week.

"Well, we're supposed to be a secret club, or at least a semi-secret club," Honey admitted. "We call ourselves the B.W.G.'s or Bob-Whites of the Glen; Bob-White, because of our club whistle, and Glen for Glen Road. But I don't think we're very good about the secret bit of it. Especially when we wear our matching jackets with 'B.W.G.' stitched on them."

Mart beamed at Honey. "Which, moreover, Honey embroidered, and she did a first-rate job with them."

"Matching jackets? With initials? Kind of like a gang." Neil grinned.

Danny groaned inwardly but kept quiet. He wanted to throw something at Neil. Preferably something very heavy, like the chair he was still sanding.

Brian snorted. "Hardly. For one thing, it's just the six of us. And I'd hardly say our charitable work would compare to any kind of gang activity."

"We're more like brothers and sisters, always helping each other out," Jim explained.

"And not just with antiques," Di added. "Over Christmas we helped my uncle with his ranch while his staff was gone. We waited tables, cleaned rooms, and the boys cooked."

"Sounds great," Neil commented. "Why just the six of you?"

"Mostly because we're the only teens that live out here," Mart replied.

"Oh, so if someone around your age moved out here, then you'd probably ask them to join your club, too?" Neil probed.

Danny kept working on his chair. The room was suddenly quiet. He felt like someone was staring at him. Probably Neil. He refused to look up. He and Neil had discussed the possibility of Danny moving to Sleepyside a few times over the last week, most recently the previous night when they both couldn't sleep. Danny wished he had Neil's fencing épée so he could pierce him with it, even if the tip was dull. Neil would push the Beldens into inviting me into their club.

"Well," Jim said in an overly casual tone, "if someone our age moved here, and we knew that person was the kind of guy that would fit in with us, yeah, we'd invite him to be a member, too."

Danny found another spot on the sandpaper that was less worn out and moved to another leg of the chair.

He caught Harvey glancing his way. "And if that guy didn't move here?" Harvey asked.

Danny felt the leg of the chair in front of him, admiring the precise carving of the ancient dark wood, checking for any especially rough spots or stickiness. I wish they'd change the subject already.

"We'd still want him to be a member of the club," Brian affirmed. "After all, this person, hypothetically, would still be around, visiting often, right?"

"Forget the hyp - hypo - thecally," Trixie said.

"Hypothetically." Mart instinctively corrected Trixie's mispronunciation of the word.

Trixie snorted. "Forget that. Danny, we would like you to join the Bob-Whites."

Danny stopped sanding for a second. "You barely know me."

"True," Mart admitted. "We just met, but we're pretty good judges of character. We all think you'd fit in great."

"I can't. Sorry." Danny remained crouched by the chair and kept sanding.

"That's it? You can't?" Jim sounded surprised.

Danny shook his head. For a few seconds the only sound in the room was the scritch of his sandpaper against the wooden chair leg as he carefully smoothed out the small scratches that came with age and use, and still kept the intricate design intact. He stopped sanding again. He kept his voice calm and neutral. "No, I can't."

"Why not?" Honey asked. She sounded worried.

Danny shut his eyes, trying to fight off the sudden headache in his temples.

"Please," Di said. "I thought you liked us. It's not about anything that Jane Morgan said last night is it? We're not like that."

Danny opened his eyes and turned to face her. "I know, Di," he answered her. "You all are the most. And the club sounds great." He paused, looking around the room at the others. He didn't know how to explain. "I'm just ... I'm not so good with groups." He bent his head back down and continued to work on the chair.

"We're in a group now. It's not like there're more of us; this is it. I don't get it." Brian's voice conveyed his confusion.

Danny kept sanding. He didn't want to be Danny of the Cowhands, or Danny of the Lincoln High Rail-Splitters, or Danny of the Bob-Whites of the Glen. He just wanted to be Dan Mangan. "Why me?"

"Because we like you," Trixie answered. "Like Mart said, we just met, but we already know you fit in with us. I mean, look at this morning, how eager you were to get here and start helping us clean up this mess."

Danny listened. He was still crouched down. He didn't want to stand and face them. "What about Neil and Harvey? Are you inviting them to be members, too?"

"Well, no. We are going to ask them to be honorary members, of course, and you could be one, too." Trixie replied.

"Since you're Regan's nephew, we figured you'd be around a lot more often," Jim added. "We'd love to have you all as honorary members."

"What's an honorary member?" Harvey asked.

Honorary. Danny mulled over the word. Clouded visions of the honors his father had received in the military, some posthumously, entered his thoughts. Honorary; getting something in name without having the actual responsibilities associated with it. That sounded even worse to him.

"An honorary member just means you don't get a nifty red jacket," Mart answered. "And, you don't get to be part of meetings."

"Meaning you wouldn't be able to vote on any major decisions," Trixie amended. "Not that we have many of those."

Honey giggled. "And you wouldn't have to pay any fines. No worrying about being late or losing your temper."

"I'm honored to be an honorary member," Neil said.

"Me, too," Harvey said. "Sounds like a good thing to me."

"So, how about it, Danny?" Jim asked. "Will you become a Bob-White? Or at least an honorary Bob-White?"

Danny sighed. "Why is it so important to you for me to join? I mean, can't we just hang out without being part of the same club?"

"Of course," Honey said. "We just thought with you being Regan's nephew, you'd be here, in Sleepyside more often. And if you're here anyway, and we're all here, and we all get along, why wouldn't we ask you to join our club?"

Danny stood up and looked over at Honey. He smiled at her. "Thanks." He really did appreciate that. "I get that. And I'm glad you want me to join." He glanced around the room at the others again. "Maybe someday."

"I guess we jumped the gun asking you to join so soon," Trixie admitted.

"If you ever change your mind, just let us know," Jim added. "The offer stands."

Danny nodded. "Thanks," he said again.

 

The teens worked hard all afternoon, breaking only to eat some hotdogs, and a kosher sandwich for Harvey. By two o'clock, they were ready to call it quits for the day. They accomplished a lot, not only cleaning up the mess the thief had left, but also finishing up more donations so they would be ready for the antique sale.

"We've all been working our arm muscles all day; anyone else up for some exercise for our legs?" Brian asked the group.

"What kind of exercise?" Di replied, wrinkling her nose a little.

"Ice skating." Brian went through the partition and returned with two pairs of skates in his hands. He handed one pair to Jim.

"I'm always up for skating," Mart replied. "I think I left mine at the boathouse, though."

"Keen. I'm up for skating," Di said.

Trixie walked past Brian and brushed against him on purpose, pretending he wasn't there. She returned with three pairs of skates. "My brother, the chivalrous." She shook her head at Brian, her blonde curls shaking with her, as she handed skates to Honey and Di.

"Why, thank you, Trixie." Honey grinned.

"Mine are still at the stables," Danny commented.

"And ours are at the Belden house," Neil added. "I'll grab yours, Harv. We'll meet you at the lake." Neil grabbed Danny's arm and led him out the door.

The two boys walked along the trail to the Wheelers' driveway side by side. "What was that about earlier?" Neil asked. "Why don't you join their club? It's not like they're the Cowhands, or anything like that."

Danny shook his head. "It's not that. Remember, I couldn't even bring myself to join the hockey team at school."

"Because why? They're a team? A group? What?" Neil shrugged his shoulders.

"Yeah. Because I just need to be on my own for a bit." Danny shuffled his feet along the snowy path. "No groups, no teams, no clubs, and no gangs. Just me."

"I'd give my eyetooth to belong to a group like that. They're great. And you're an idiot." Neil scowled and stopped walking.

Danny stopped and turned around to face his brother. "Maybe. But let me be an idiot. On my own."

"Haven't you been on your own long enough? What were you up to for those months on the streets?" Neil shook his head sadly. "Idiot," he repeated.

"Jerk." Danny shoved his hands further into his pocket. As tempting as it was, he did not want to punch Neil.

Neil's dark eyes gleamed angrily. "So you want to be alone. Well, how about us? Do you no longer want to be a part of the Diamonds? We're a group, you know."

Danny clenched his fists inside his jacket pockets. "Family's different." Danny turned his head and stared up the driveway toward the stables. The snow on either side was no longer fresh and clean. Grey footprints and animal tracks criss-crossed, making smaller paths in the snow.

"Are you at least going to explain to them why you can't be part of the Bob-Whites?" Neil asked.

Danny frowned. "I thought I did."

Neil let out a breath, vapor coming from his mouth in the cold air. "No, really explain. Tell them why you need to be on your own. Tell them about the Cowhands."

Danny looked at Neil, black eyes meeting grey. "Look, I won't ask you to stop interfering in my life. For one thing, I know that would be pointless."

Neil snorted. "You got that right."

"And for another," Danny went on, ignoring the interruption, "there have been plenty of times I've been grateful for your interference."

"As well you should be." Neil grinned.

Danny glared at the older boy. "But do not tell them about the Cowhands."

"I won't." Neil started to turn down the path to Crabapple Farm. He turned back around. "But you better," he called out.

Danny sighed and continued up to the stables.

 

By the time Danny reached the lake, skates in hand, everyone else had laced up and was out on the ice. He hurriedly put his own skates on while admiring Honey and Trixie as they went through a jumping routine together. The two of them were pretty good. When they finished, he clapped and whistled.

"I know what you should do for your next fund-raiser. An ice show." Danny grinned as he skated up to them. "That was impressive."

Trixie grinned back. "It was fun, that's for sure. We've been practicing that routine all winter."

Honey smiled. "It is fun." She looked down at the ground, her cheeks rosy. "I sometimes like to imagine I'm at the Olympics wearing a glittery costume. Silly, isn't it?"

"Not at all," Danny told her. "Keep practicing like that, and maybe someday you will be at the Olympics."

"Honey maybe, but not me. I'm too clumsy." Trixie winked at her friend. "I think I'll go mention the ice-skating idea to Jim."

Danny skated closer to Honey. His heart beat a bit faster. He suddenly remembered dancing with her last night and wished they were back at Di's party, with no interruptions.

"What?" Honey asked, staring back at him.

"I never did get another chance to dance with you." Danny quirked an eyebrow. "Shall we?"

"Can you dance in skates?" Honey asked, winking.

"Probably better than without." Danny grinned. "Let's give it a whirl."

Honey glanced at the other teens on the ice. Danny's eyes followed hers, wondering if she would go for it or not. She turned back to him, and, with a curtsy, put her hand in his.

Danny remembered seeing Eddie "Lockjaw" Davis perform at a club not too long ago, and he had done a good version of the classic "I'm Just a Lucky So and So". Danny started humming and singing the tune softly. "Doo-doodoop-dooweedoop."

The two of them skated hand in hand in close circles. After a minute, Danny turned to skate backwards, one hand on Honey's waist while his other hand still held hers. Her eyes sparkled merrily. Danny pulled away from her and pulled her hand up, indicating she should twirl around. She did an expert spin and then skated beside him for a few more steps.

Honey slowed down and then stopped. "You do dance better in skates," she said, her hazel eyes twinkling.

"Told you." He grinned impishly. Her light brown hair looked almost golden as the sun reflected off her natural highlights. A wisp of that hair brushed one of her rosy cheeks gently. Should I just kiss her, or is she the kind of girl I should ask first?

"We should probably join the others."

Danny heard some reluctance in her voice. He shrugged his shoulders and then skated around her, stopping her from heading toward the other teens. "Why? I'd much rather stay here with you." He smiled at her. "I want to hear more about all those adventures you've had since you met Trixie."

Honey giggled. "Well, then, we really should join the others. They can tell the stories much better than I can."

Danny tried not to let the disappointment show in his eyes. "If you really want to, I guess."

Honey cocked her head to the side. "Maybe you can tell me about some of your adventures in the city? You must have had some."

Too many. "Like collapsing at Neil's dinner table from a high fever?" Danny shook his head. "That doesn't sound nearly as interesting as being kidnapped by trailer thieves."

"Nearly kidnapped. We weren't really." Honey pushed her bangs out of her eyes. "Al actually accused us of being in some teenage gang. And I went along with it, trying to act like a tough gang member. I know I didn't really fool Al for one second, but I think it confused him. Although between my sneeze and Trixie kicking him off the ladder, he was already caught off guard."

Gang. Danny held her eyes. He pictured Honey as a Cowhand girl, like Crystal. It was not a pretty sight. "You don't belong in a gang." He blinked, trying to focus on something else instead. "Was Al one of the thieves?"

"Yeah." Honey looked at him thoughtfully. She skated around a bit and Danny followed her. Honey let him catch up to her and kept talking while still skating. "He tried to frame his partner and make off with all the stolen goods from the trailers. He was pretty mean." She did a small jump on the ice. "Have you ever had any run-ins with a gang?"

Danny swallowed. "Has Neil told you anything?"

"Neil? No. Why?" Honey glanced over her shoulder at him, looking puzzled.

"Sneeze? Ladder?" Danny asked. He really didn't want to talk to her about the Cowhands at all. He started skating a bit faster. They were now on the opposite side of the lake from the other teens. "Where were you?"

"Oh, we were hiding in a loft; Trixie and I. It was actually an abandoned barn where Al and his partner were keeping all the stolen equipment." Honey circled around on the ice a couple of times while Danny watched.

"So, you were hiding in this loft, and, you sneezed?" Danny saw her nod as he tried to piece together what had happened. "So he found you and started to climb up the ladder to get you. Only Trixie kicked him off the ladder." He grinned. "I hope she waited until he was pretty high up so he'd have a bigger fall."

"Danny!" Honey tried not to smile back. "We were just trying to keep ourselves safe. But if I remember rightly, his chest was up to her feet, so he was pretty high up."

"You girls did good," Danny acknowledged. "So, what happened after that?"

"The police showed up. We both hoped that Jim had called them earlier, and although he hadn't, thankfully Mr. Darnell had." Honey skated beside Danny as looped around the edge of the lake.

Danny puzzled over what Honey had said the previous night at Di's party. "I thought Jim had run away."

"Oh, he had. We were trying to find him. That's why we were in the barn in the first place. We figured Jim had spent at least one night there, and he had." Honey went into another short spin.

"And didn't you notice the barn was a hideout for the trailer thieves when you went in? What with all their stash sitting there?" Danny raised an eyebrow but he couldn't help grinning at the two girls' spunk.

"Oh, yes. I didn't want to go in there at all. But it was raining hard and we didn't want to stay outside and get soaked either," Honey admitted.

"That was pretty brave of you to enter the thieves' den." Danny looked at her with new admiration.

Honey blushed, ducking her head so her bangs fell over her eyes again. "You really think I was brave?" she asked, not looking at him. "I guess I was, maybe. I think it was probably kind of stupid of us."

"Definitely a bit of both." Danny winked.

Honey skated a bit more. She pushed her bangs out of her eyes with one of her gloved hands.

Danny looked over her shoulder and saw the other teens skating to and fro.

Honey turned around as well. "Looks like they're playing tag. Let's go join them." She smiled widely and gestured for him to follow as she skated quickly to the other side of the lake.

Danny watched her for a few seconds before following her into the crowd.

"You're it!" Mart yelled, touching him on the arm as he sped by.

Danny shook his head. It took only a few seconds to put thoughts of Honey aside and refocus on the game at hand.

The closest person to him was Jim, but Jim was already skating in the other direction. Harvey and Di were furthest from him, therefore least suspecting. Trixie and Brian were following Neil over to the side of the lake near the boathouse, and Honey had made her way to the iced-over dock.

Carefully looking at his options, he opted to go for Harvey or Di. He skated around the edge slowly, making Trixie, Brian, and Neil, scatter off in all directions. Strategizing, he followed Neil until Neil sped past Harvey, and then Danny quickly turned and got his speed up to maximum. He tagged Harvey with a gleeful "Gotcha!" before he realized he didn't have enough room to stop. Turning quickly again, he spun around and slipped, coasting across the ice a few feet before he actually stopped.

He watched Harvey, laughing, chase after Trixie. Shaking his head again, he carefully got up and skated around a bit.

"You okay?" Jim asked, catching up to him.

"Nothing hurt but pride," Danny answered, lifting one corner of his mouth in a half-grin.

Jim grinned back, the freckles standing out across his cheeks faded as he did so. "Good to know."

Danny skated back into the game, hoping for a chance to tag Honey, or better yet, be tagged by her.


chapter viii: we'll talk about some things