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The Freshman Dance Mystery
written by El
Trixie Belden, Honey Wheeler, and Di Lynch were sitting in Di's luxurious bedroom. The Lynches and the Wheelers were the two wealthiest families in all of Westchester County. The Beldens, however, lived on a small farm and could not be considered wealthy at all. However, Trixie and the other girls were best friends and no amount of money could change that. The three girls, all 14, went to Sleepyside High School where they were now freshmen. They were busy discussing their plans for the first dance of the year which was coming up that weekend, although they were supposed to be studying World History together.
"I still can't believe he asked me!" Honey exclaimed for about the fourth time.
"Well, I can," Trixie replied. "But no one has asked me. Do I have to go?" She looked at her two friends imploringly, begging them to let her off the hook.
"No one asked you because everytime anyone talks to you you moan and groan about how much you miss Jim," Di pointed out. She leaned against her bed, the history book open in her lap.
Trixie stuck her tongue out a little. "Honey misses Brian and Nick still asked her."
"She doesn't mention it every five seconds."
"I can't spend forever wondering if Brian likes me or not. I've got to get over him. He probably hardly thinks about me now that he and Jim are in California." Honey spoke calmly, but there were tears brimming in her eyes. She looked back down at her own history text.
"Exactly," said Di. "I mean, not that he doesn't think about you Honey, but that you need to get over him. I will not have you two moping about for the rest of our high school years. And, Trixie, you need to get over Jim, too."
"Remember, you said no when he talked to you about going steady even though he didn't actually ask you, just asked you if you would if he was staying, so that's just like you broke up with him," Honey reminded her gently. "You don't know how much you hurt him."
Trixie nodded. She understood exactly what Honey was saying, even if nobody else did. "I'm sorry, Honey. Thank you for understanding my point of view though. I was really worried you wouldn't speak to me again when I told you."
Honey closed her book, giving up all attempts at trying to study. "After the last fight we had? Nothing comes between us, not even our brothers."
"Right," Di added, closing her own book and setting it aside. "So now you have no right to mope over Jim. You are going to the dance with us, and that's final."
"But you're going with Mart - I still don't know what either of you see in my brothers. And now Honey's going with Nick Roberts. I'll be a fifth wheel."
"Nonsense. The dance is still a few nights away. And Dan doesn't have a date either. Why don't you go with him?" Di asked.
"First, I will not ask Dan for a pity date. Second, he is going, with Ruthie Kettner." Trixie noticed the other two had given up on studying and closed her own book as well. She pushed it aside and leaned back in the comfortable arm chair in Di's room.
"Oh, I didn't realize he'd asked her out again." Di seemed genuinely surprised by the news.
"Yeah," Honey snickered, "he finally got up the courage even though she slapped him during last year's dance."
"What?! How come I didn't know anything about that?" Trixie asked excitedly.
"Me neither!" Di complained. "Spill."
"Well," Honey explained, "I don't know the whole story, but Brian and I saw him standing outside just before we went home, and he didn't look too good. So Brian told me to wait and he would go talk to him. Of course, I snuck as close as I could so I could hear what was going on. Brian asked what happened and Dan said 'oh I just wanted to kiss her goodnight and she took it wrong', but he was rubbing his cheek when he said it and I could see this huge red spot where she had slapped him."
"And you didn't tell us this before! Why?!" Trixie shot daggers at her best friend.
"And you call yourself our friend! Keeping secrets like this. Hmmph." Di crossed her arms and turned her head as if she were really mad.
"OK, I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I just sort of forgot about it until now. Forgive me?" Honey laughed.
Di and Trixie looked at each other and then at Honey. "Forgiven," they said together and all three laughed.
Di pulled out some orange nail polish and started painting her toenails.
"Did you get that from my cousin?" Trixie joked.
Di chuckled, "Yes, actually. Hallie and I exchange strange colors all the time."
"Sorry I asked!"
"What other colors do you have?" Honey asked. "You know, do you have something not so flashy?"
Di pointed to the drawer and Honey peeked inside. She found a light pink and started to do her own nails.
"How about you, Trixie?"
"One of these days ... " Honey and Di winked at each other.
"So, how is it that Ruth forgave Dan and they're going to this dance together?" Trixie asked, mostly to take the focus off anything having to do with her and makeup of any kind.
"I don't know. He must have charmed her," Honey said.
"Hmmm, with his good looks, that wouldn't be hard." Di had a dreamy smile on her face.
"Di! I thought you were interested in Mart!"
"Sure, but I can sneak a look once in awhile, can't I?" Di examined her orange toenails on her right foot, then switched to do the other foot. "Anyway, we're still left with who will escort Trixie this Saturday."
"Stop trying to set me up," Trixie said with a scowl as she slumped further down into the armchair.
"Actually, there's lots of guys interested in her. Pete from my homeroom for one. And Mike in our history class." Honey shook her hand to dry her nails faster.
"Yeah. And Jason asked me about her a few times."
"'Scuse me, but I'm still here," came a muffled voice. Trixie had burried her head in her arms, trying to avoid this discussion.
Di ignored her. "I could ask Jason to ask her. He's pretty cute."
"And I'll tell Pete she's both available and interested," Honey also ignored Trixie. "Then we can see which of the two ask her first."
"Yeah, forget about Mike," Di grimaced. "I hear he only goes out with girls that are easy. Yuck!"
Trixie picked up two lilac colored pillows with the initial 'L' embroidered in silver and threw them at each of her friends.
"Hmmm, did you just feel that?" Honey asked innocently.
"Something flew past me, but where could it have come from?" Di pondered. "You don't think we have a poltergeist in here, do we?"
"Oh you two just crack me up," Trixie snorted sarcastically. "And 'poltergeist'? More proof you're hanging around my brother too much!"
The three burst into another round of giggles. Finally, Trixie mentioned she had to help Moms with dinner, and Honey decided to leave also. They had ridden their bicycles over so it wouldn't take too long to get home. Honey made Trixie promise that if one of the guys asked her to the dance, she would accept the invitation, and Trixie reluctantly agreed.
The next afternoon both Pete and Jason asked Trixie to the dance. Trixie didn't really believe it, but they both seemed sincerely interested in taking her out. However, Jason Sullivan had asked first, and since Trixie had promised Honey, she agreed almost immediately, although later she was embarrassed for seeming so eager. Jason was just flattered and elated that he would have Sleepyside's famous and cute detective on his arm for the evening.
Meanwhile, Di had asked Ruthie to spend the night on Friday, along with Trixie and Honey, and then they could get ready for the dance together. Ruthie seemed a little in awe of being invited to the Lynch Estate, but a call from Di's mother to hers gave her little chance to back out. Although Di really didn't care for her father's wealth, she could use it to her advantage; like knowing that Mrs. Kettner would be thrilled to have her daughter hanging out with the 'in' family. Di had come a long way from the shy girl she was just under a year ago, and she hoped she could pull Ruthie out of her shyness also.
"So, this is your room?" Ruthie asked. Kind of large, isn't it. But be polite. Afterall, these are Dan's friends.
"Yeah, I know it's a bit much, but I've gotten used to it." Ruthie and Di looked around at the enormous suite recently redecorated in a deep plum, lilac, and silver. The full sized bed took up only a fraction of the entire room, and the mirrored wall opposite only made the room look even larger. The mirrors also hid a walk in closet that could house Trixie's entire bedroom. Di also had a comfortable sofa and two armchairs in the main area of the room for when her friends visited.
"When are Trixie and Honey going to be here?" Ruthie had taken the bus home with Di and her friends, but Trixie had chores she had to do at home first, and Honey had joined her.
"They'll be here in a little bit. Trixie has to help her mother first and I think she'll have Honey's chauffeur drop them off. Here," Di eyed the bag in Ruthie's hand and opened one of the mirrored panels, "why don't you give me your dress for tomorrow night and one of the maids can touch it up if it needs some ironing."
"Oh, okay." Ruthie nervously opened her bag and handed a plastic-wrapped garment to her hostess. Why did I let Dan talk me into this?
"Oh, but Ruthie! This is simply beautiful!" Di admired the deep rose colored dress. She held it up against Ruthie who started blushing. The color flattered her and the cut was modest yet dressy, coming just above her knees. "I bet I have some nail polish that will match this."
I bet she has nail polish to match anything, Ruthie thought. But she does seem sincerely nice. I'll have to try hard not to come off sarcastic. "Oh, okay," she mumbled.
"So, Ruthie," Di asked as she searched through her nail polish collection, "do you like horseback riding?"
"Um, I've never been on a horse before."
"Our horses here are really pretty gentle. My horse is named Sunny, and I'm sure you could ride her. My daddy's horse, Thunderer, on the other hand, is a handful, but not nearly as bad as the Wheeler's black gelding, Jupiter. I don't know why Daddy even keeps a horse. He hasn't ridden in simply ages. But the groom likes him. The horse I mean." Di realized she was rambling, but she couldn't help herself. She was taken aback by how nervous she was.
"Oh." That seemed to be all Ruthie could contribute to the conversation. Di thought she must be bored.
"Well, do you swim? We have an indoor heated pool, so even though it's a little cool out we could still go swimming."
"I didn't bring my suit."
"I have tons, and we're about the same size. I can lend you one."
"Is there anything you don't have tons of?" Ruthie asked sarcastically, then immediately regretted it when she saw Di's hurt look.
"I guess not," Di admitted.
"I'm sorry. I shouldn't have said that."
"It's okay. A few years ago I would've probably felt the same way."
"That's right!" Ruthie exclaimed. "I just remembered you used to be poor, too. I'm sorry Di."
Di reached over and hugged her, startling Ruthie. "It's okay, Ruthie. I'm sorry, too. I didn't mean to flaunt my family's wealth. Honestly, I sometimes miss being, uh, miss our old apartment."
"You weren't flaunting. I was being rude." Ruthie smiled for the first time since she got there. "And I think I understand, about missing being poor."
"All this," Ruthie pointed around the room, "seems overwhelming to me. And I do remember how withdrawn you'd gotten when you first moved into this mansion. At first I thought you were just stuck up. Later I realized you were miserable, but we'd never really been friends, so I didn't say anything."
"You've always been shy, haven't you?" Di asked.
"I guess so. And you've always been outgoing. At least up until your dad got rich. And now you are again. Outgoing that is. Not like me."
The sound of children running in the hall made Di get up and poke her head out her door. "Terry, Larry, Missy, Krissy! Come and meet my friend Ruthie."
"My name's M'lisa, not Missy," four year old Melisa Lynch said quite clearly.
"And I'm Kristina, not Krissy," the other girl added in a sing-song voice, sticking her tongue out at her twin. "It's nice to meet you, Ruthie." She pronounced each word carefully to be sure not to make any embarrassing mistakes.
The boys had ignored their older sister and were already on their way down the stairs. Mrs. Lynch came around the corner just then. "Terry! Larry! Come back here and say hello to Ruthie." Mrs. Lynch extended her own hand, "Hi Ruthie, it's nice to meet you. Please make yourself at home here." In an aside to her daughter, she whispered, "Melisa, say hello."
"H'lo Ruthie," Melisa mumbled.
Terry and Larry climbed back up the stairs, shouted "Hi!" as one, and ran back down.
Mrs. Lynch shrugged her shoulders. "Dinner will be served shortly, girls. Are Trixie and Honey joining us?"
"They should be here any second, Mummy." As if on cue, the doorbell rang.
After the casual dinner, or at least as casual as it could be with Harrison lurking around with his silver tray, Ruthie felt a little more at ease. She realized the Lynches were just like any other family with four rowdy kids and one teenage daughter. Ok, not just like, but close enough. The teenage daughter and her three friends excused themselves and ran up the stairs.
"Ok, Ruthie," Trixie said breathlessly, "I've been wanting to know ever since I found out," here she glared at Honey, who in turn stuck her tongue out much as Krissy had earlier, "what happened between you and Dan when you went to the dance with him last year?"
"If you found out, what's to know?" Ruthie asked calmly, as the girls settled down comfortably on the various furniture in Di's room.
"Your side of the story. All I know is you slapped Dan because he wanted to kiss you," Honey explained.
"Oh. Is that what he told you?"
"Well, that's what I overheard him tell Brian, only he didn't say you slapped him. That I kind of concluded on my own," Honey admitted.
"Well, I did slap him. The nerve of him. Kissing me on the first date was fine. It's when his hand started to wander a little," Ruthie blushed and stopped, embarrassed.
"Dan!" Di shrieked. "Dan tried something?"
"And you're going out with him again, anyway?" Trixie asked.
"Well, he did apologize." Ruthie blushed furiously. "And you know we have the same gym period? Well, he'd been playing basketball with some of the other guys and he took his shirt off right before heading into the boys locker room. Yowza!"
"Yeah," Trixie grinned. "I've seen him chopping wood."
"Trixie! And you were giving me a hard time the other day for noticing him," Di admonished.
"So that's how he built up those muscles." Ruthie licked her lips subconsciously. "I just can't believe he's interested in me."
"But why wouldn't he be?" Honey asked.
"Well, look at me. I'm shy. I'm a loner. I wear glasses."
"I think Dan likes loners," Di winked.
"And you're way prettier than me," Trixie added. "I wish my hair was as blonde and straight as yours."
"Um, the hair's bleached, I'm not really this blonde. Anyway, look at your figure compared to mine. I'm like a popsicle stick."
"Don't be silly," Honey said, "both of you have good figures and you're both very pretty. Besides, Ruthie, you're not nearly as flat chested as me."
"Are we really going to have this conversation?" Di asked Trixie.
"I'm all for changing the topic," Ruthie replied.
"Ok," Di complied. "I think those new frames you have on make you look sophisticated, by the way. Not like the ones you had last year."
"Yeah, my brother accidentally broke those ugly things. Lucky for me! Otherwise I wouldn't have been able to get new glasses at all." Ruthie said this kind of sadly, but if anyone picked up on that, no one said anything.
"I didn't know you had a brother. How old is he and what's his name?" Trixie asked.
"Matt, and he's eleven. I also have an older sister, Leslie. She's twenty-three. She doesn't live with us anymore."
"At twenty-three, I wouldn't live at home either," Di noted.
Late the following afternoon the four girls started getting ready for the school year's first dance. Ruthie applied the nail polish that Di supplied, and while she was waiting for her nails to dry she watched the three slightly younger girls get ready.
"Hey, Trixie," Ruthie suddenly called.
Trixie peeked over the edge of her Lucy book. She wasn't busy getting ready like Di and Honey were. "Yeah?"
"Remember what you said yesterday? About wanting straight hair?"
"Well, I read something in Seventeen and I think it would work, if you'd let me try."
"Try what exactly?" Trixie asked suspiciously.
"To straighten your hair."
"Go on, Trixie," Di coaxed, "Let her try."
"I'd trade hair with you anyday," Honey added as she adjusted the curling iron to give her own hair more body.
Trixie shrugged her shoulders and a few minutes later when the quick drying polish Ruthie had used proved to be set, Ruthie started to work on the curly mop. It was a good thing she'd started early, because it took over an hour to work the curls out. Ruthie used a round brush and a special hairdryer attachment she found in Di's drawer. After tugging and pulling on the curls and, Trixie felt, nearly burning her neck a few times, Ruthie finally let Trixie look in the mirror.
"Gleeps! Is that me?" Trixie gingerly fingered the straightened tresses that fell a few inches past her shoulders. "I look so different."
"Wow, Ruthie, how did you do that?" Di asked.
"Like I said, it's a trick I picked up from Seventeen magazine." Ruthie showed how you had to pull the hair taut and apply enough heat to straighten out the curls.
"Have you ever thought of being a hair dresser?" Honey asked.
"No, never crossed my mind. I just like to play with my own hair a lot. It's so mousy normally, so I usually dye it or bleach it and try different things."
"If only Jim could see me now," sighed Trixie.
"Forget about Jim. Now, let's see what we can do about a little mascara and lipstick," Honey quickly replied. She didn't want her friend moping over her brother right now. Especially since her date was going to be picking her up in less than an hour. Trixie, in a state of shock over the straight hair, actually agreed to the light make-up, and even put on some clear nailpolish.
Nick Roberts was the first of the four dates to arrive. He parked a borrowed van at the top of the long driveway. Since he was the only one old enough to have a driver's license, he had agreed to drive all the couples to the school. After being led into the sitting room by Harrison, he greeted the girls quietly. He then pulled Honey aside to ask where Trixie was and who the new girl was. Honey nearly spit from keeping in her laughter. He shrugged his shoulders and his cheeks turned a little red, but he still didn't know what was so funny. "I'm sorry, Nick," Honey finally managed. "It's just, you must not have looked very closely, because the new girl is Trixie." Nick looked again and his cheeks turned even more red. "Well, I was too busy staring at you to notice, I guess," he grinned, trying to cover up his embarrassment.
Jason Sullivan showed up next. He was nearly six feet tall and had straight blonde hair that he wore just a little bit long. He, like Mart and Dan, didn't have a driver's license yet, so his father had dropped him off. Jason took one look at the transformed Trixie and thanked God that Jim Frayne had moved away. "So," he looked around as if searching for his date, then looked at Trixie and winked, "you must be new here? I was going to take this gorgeous blonde to the dance, but since she's not here, would you mind escorting me instead?" He wiggled his eyebrows and Trixie blushed. She couldn't find her voice to respond but meekly took his arm. Jason leaned over and whispered to her, "I love the new look, but don't lose your curls forever."
Di and Ruthie high-fived and waited for Mart and Dan. They showed up ten minutes later. Mart blamed Dan for being late, and Dan blamed Mart. The two were so busy squabbling they didn't notice Trixie right away. Dan noticed first, gave a whistle and a wink, and said no more. Mart turned to follow Dan's gaze and let out a sound similar to the yelp he'd uttered when Trixie pretended to like Ben Riker, Honey's older cousin. Finally finding his voice, he merely said, "you look nice, Sis."
"Thanks," she replied, surprised he hadn't teased her.
"Ok gang, let's get going," someone said and the four happy couples made their way to the car and then to Sleepyside Jr-Sr High.
Trixie and Jason squeezed onto the dance floor between a bunch of other couples. Megan Thompson, a girl from Trixie's homeroom, gave her a dirty look as she saw her with Jason. What was that for? Trixie thought to herself but then shrugged it off. Honey and Nick were nearby and everyone was having a good time, when the lights suddenly went out. Sleepyside residents were used to sudden storms coming up on the Hudson, but there weren't any forecast. And even so, it was pretty unusual for the electricity to go out. Trixie felt someone run past her. "Jason?" she whispered, as her eyes were still trying to adjust to the nearly dark room.
She felt him touch her arm as he answered, "Right here, Trixie."
"Did you see who just ran past us?" Her eyes finally focused on her date.
"No, I did feel someone run past, but I couldn't tell who it was."
"Oh. Well, let's go find the others."
Trixie found Dan and Ruthie over by the buffet table. Dan explained he thought Mart would either be there or head that way soon. Sure enough, Mart and Di also found them. While they were looking around for any sign of Nick or Honey, the lights came back on. All the students blinked their eyes to readjust to the bright light. As they did so, Trixie spotted Nick at the other end of the gym. Soon the four couples were back together.
Mr. Stratton, the school's principal, walked on to the stage carrying a megaphone. "Attention students! Attention everyone!" he shouted to the crowd. Everyone quieted down. "Apparently the fuse blew. I'm not sure why but we'll be looking into it. Meanwhile the DJ will have the music back on shortly, so everyone enjoy yourselves." He made the short speech quickly, but Trixie noted that he seemed a little upset. She mentioned it to Honey and Di. Di thought he looked upset also, but Honey really hadn't noticed whether he was upset or not. She suggested it could just be annoyance at having to replace the fuse. Trixie felt a tingle down her spine. Something was up, she was sure of it.
The lights were dimmed once more and the D.J. put "Could I Have This Dance?" by Anne Murray on the turntable. Jason pulled Trixie onto the dance floor for the slow dance and she actually felt herself relax again as they swayed quietly to the romantic tune.
The dance ended promptly at eleven p.m. Before they had arrived, the eight friends had agreed to meet at Wimpy's after the dance, and that each couple could make their own way there. Trixie and Jason walked hand in hand right in front of Honey and Nick. Honey was a little surprised that Trixie was actually holding hands with Jason. She wondered if maybe Trixie shouldn't get over Jim quite so quickly, but then Nick reached for her hand and she decided that there really was no harm in holding hands after all. She smiled pleasantly at Nick as he looked fondly at her.
The four of them found a large booth in the already crowded diner. "It's a good thing we got here quickly," Nick commented. "I don't think there's any more booths large enough for eight people."
"The place really is filling up fast," Honey agreed. "I hope the others get here soon."
Trixie, feeling a little bit tired, leaned back in the booth and closed her eyes. Suddenly she sat back up. "Did you guys hear that?"
"Hear what?" Jason asked.
"No, we didn't hear anything," Honey and Nick both said.
Trixie leaned in close to the table and the others did the same thing. "Whoever's in the booth behind us just said something about the cash box from the dance being stolen," she whispered.
"Really?" Jason stood up nonchalantly, and turned around as if he was looking for their friends. "No," he said loudly, "that wasn't Dan." He sat back down and whispered, "The people behind us are Jane Morgan and Patty Morris, along with Paul Victors and Joel Brown."
Trixie gave him an approving glance, "Wow, thanks Jason."
Honey was equally impressed. She was sure neither Brian or Jim would've done that for Trixie. Well, maybe Jim, but only after being talked into it. Jason did it without anyone asking or mentioning it. "If it's Jane," Honey finally whispered, "then we can't put too much faith into it."
"True," Trixie whispered back, "We know how she loves to spread rumors."
"And what is all this murmuration about? I beseech you to adumbrate."
Di shot her date a dirty look and the two of them sat down. "So what's going on?" Di whispered to Honey.
"That's just what I asked," Mart told her.
"Yes, but her we can understand," Trixie replied.
"Hang on, here come Dan and Ruthie," said Nick.
Ruthie seemed upset about something but Dan looked calm as the two of them squeezed into the booth.
"Ok, go ahead Ruthie, tell her," Dan said.
"Trixie, everyone, I just found out that the cash box from the dance was stolen." Ruthie announced nervously.
"That's what we were just whispering about," Jason replied with a smile.
"Where did you hear that?" asked Honey.
"From Mrs. Von Trammel. I mean, she didn't tell me directly. I overheard her talking about it with Mr. Stratton."
"What exactly did they say?" Trixie demanded.
"What I heard was Mrs. Von Trammel saying that someone had pushed her when the lights went out and when they came back on, the cash box was gone." This dance had cost each student two dollars to attend, and the money was supposed to be used to help with the dance expenses, such as the DJ, refreshments, and decorations. The school's budget had left no room for any extras, and the dances for the year would've been cancelled altogether if the students hadn't agreed to chip in for some of the dance costs. And now that money was gone.
Trixie's eyes had that gleam in them that almost everyone recognized. Dan spoke next, "It's a petty theft, the person who took the money is probably long gone, but if there's anything you think we can do to find him or her, count me in."
"Thanks, Dan," Trixie smiled at him.
"I agree with Dan," Mart said, giving up his oversized vocabulary for the moment.
"Jason, weren't we dancing near the entranceway where Mrs. Von Trammel was?"
"I think so, but I honestly can't remember now. If it helps at all though, that person that ran past us, I thought it was you and tried to grab your arm. Whoever it really was wore a fuzzy sweater or jacket."
"Hmmm, that doesn't give us much to go on, and it may be totally unrelated, but it's a start. Let's head back to the school and see if we can find any other clues."
"I don't think that will be possible," Nick commented. "They probably have the whole area closed off. You know how Mr. Stratton feels about vandals and thieves."
"Let's go anyway," said Honey. "You never know. We should at least be able to look around the fuse box to see if there's anything unusual there."
They made their way out of the diner, and the booth they vacated was immediately filled by another crowd of students. Mart grumbled aloud that they hadn't even ordered anything.
"Wait a second," Di said, "Maybe some of us should stay here and keep our eyes open for someone wearing something fleecy or fuzzy?"
"That's a great idea, Di. Who wants to stay?" Trixie asked.
"Why don't Mart and I stay. That way he can get something to eat." Mart gave her an appreciative glance.
"Okay. Anyone else?"
"Nah, I couldn't eat anyway, and it's too noisy in here," Dan replied.
"Is this a secret club thing or can I come?" Jason asked.
"You can all come," Trixie told him and the others, though she secretly felt like it would be better if it was just the Bob-Whites.
Nick and Ruthie both opted to stay, anyway. They weren't very comfortable about traipsing around the school grounds after a thief.
Trixie, Honey, Jason, and Dan agreed to meet the others back at the diner within half an hour and then left. They walked quietly back to the high school. The gate at the school was already locked, so Trixie started to climb it.
"Are you nuts, Trixie Belden?" Honey asked her. "I can't climb in a dress and heels. And you shouldn't be either. Maybe there's another way in."
"Actually, the fence over by the football field has a huge gap in it. We might be able to squeeze through over there. It's closer to the gym anyway," Dan suggested.
They made their way over to the fence Dan referred to. Dan pointed out where the fencing was ripped away from the post. It was a tight squeeze, and Trixie's dress snagged and ripped a little, but they managed to get through. Dan had gone through after Trixie and retrieved the small scrap of fabric from her dress that had caught on the fencing. They walked quietly to the gym and had to hide before they got there. One of the Sleepyside police cars was parked right outside and Trixie could see Mr. Stratton and an officer talking.
Honey suggested they give up for the night and try to come back in the morning when no one would be around. "It will be daylight then so we have a better chance of spotting something. Besides, I'd rather be doing this kind of detective work in jeans and sneakers."
"We're already here, so let's wait just a little bit," Trixie pleaded.
"Does anyone know exactly where the fuse box is?" Honey asked.
Jason and Dan looked at each other and shrugged their shoulders.
"Hmm, so how do we find out? And how can we look around with all the cops here?"
"Sorry, Trixie, but I think we will have to give up for the night," Dan said. "Let's head back to the diner and figure out a game plan."
Trixie reluctantly agreed and they headed back to Wimpy's. Inside, they found Mart, Di, Nick, and Ruthie had literally squeezed into a mini booth meant only for two people. Some of the high school crowd had started to disperse, as many of the teens had a midnight curfew, including most of the Bob-Whites. Nick suggested they either find a larger table or go somewhere else. Since all the girls were still spending the rest of the weekend at Di's house, she suggested going back there. They all piled into Nick's dad's van and headed back to the Lynch estate.
"Guys, I'd love to be in on this, but I promised my father I'd get back by 12:30," Nick said.
"Me, too," Jason said, then to Trixie he added, "Dad originally told me to be home by midnight, but I convinced him that wouldn't give me time to see you home."
"Oh, that's too bad," Dan said sincerely. "I guess you'd better get going then."
"Come on, everyone, let's give the couples some privacy," Di teased with a wink, as she led the others into the house.
Jason took Trixie's hand and walked to the other side of the van with her, for even a little more privacy. "Thank you, Trixie, for letting me take you to the dance. I had a lot of fun." He leaned in and tried to brush a kiss on her lips, but Trixie turned her head. She was blushing furiously, and Jason was a little embarrassed also.
"Uh, good night," she mumbled and practically fled back to the safety of the Lynch mansion.
Meanwhile Honey, blushing, said to Nick, "I had a really good time tonight. Thanks for asking me to the dance."
"I enjoyed it, too. I hope I can see you again sometime?" Nick held her hand and asked her hopefully.
"That would be nice." Honey reclaimed her hand. "I guess I'll see you at school, then. Good night." She turned and followed Trixie into the house, glancing back at Nick a few times.
"Dang!" Jason muttered under his breath as he and Nick got back into the van.
"You okay?" Nick asked.
Nick nodded and started up the van to head back to town.
Mart and Dan carried trays laden with crackers, olives and cheese, vegetables and dip, and cookies. Behind them Di and Ruthie were carrying bottles of soda and some large plastic glasses. Trixie and Honey were already on their way up the stairs to Di's room when they heard the other four giggling behind them.
"If you didn't have your hands full with goodies," Honey commented, "I'd smack you for leaving me and Trixie out there alone with those guys."
"Hah! You smack anyone? That'll be the day," Dan teased her as he caught up with her on the stairs.
"The two gentlemen of which you articulate incontestably would not endeavor anything uncouth with the stramineous squaws of our assemblage." Mart noticed Trixie's flushed cheeks and continued to tease her. "Beatrix would most certainly apprehend said uncouth escort, if he did."
"Stramineous?" Dan asked in a whisper.
"Blonde," Di whispered back with a roll of her eyes.
Trixie ignored her brother's speech, opened Di's door, and flopped down in one of the chairs. "I'm exhausted. Maybe we should just call it a night."
Dan raised an eyebrow questioningly. This was very unlike Trixie! She wasn't reacting to Mart's teasing at all. He put his trays of food down on the table in front of him and Mart did the same.
"What?" Mart asked. "Are you denoting that you would rather be in a state of torpor than auscultate the potential leads Di, Ruthie, Nick, and I came up with?"
"That's right!" The gleam was back in Trixie's eyes as she sat up again in her chair. "We have a mystery to solve."
"Mart! Can't you stick to plain English?" Di complained, while she opened some of the sodas and gestured to everyone to help themselves.
"But I do speak English," Mart defended himself.
"No, my dear twin brother, you speak Dictionarese," Trixie told him, getting annoyed with her almost-twin. She was also upset he had called her Beatrix earlier; she'd have to get her revenge later but she wasn't in the mood right now.
"So what are these leads?" Honey asked tactfully, getting them back on the subject at hand. "Did you see anyone in a fuzzy sweater?"
"Well, we saw quite a few people in what could be called 'fuzzy' sweaters or jackets," Di replied. "But fuzzy is such a vague term. Anyway, Ruthie and I made a list of who was wearing what. You never know, it could help."
"Plus there was this one guy in particular that caught our attention," Mart added in plain English. He didn't want to upset Di any further.
"Go on," Trixie encouraged.
"He had a sea-green, well, maybe more grey than that, jacket on that was that fleece-like material."
"It's called polar fleece," Ruthie interrupted him.
Mart nodded at her and continued, "And he was with a group of about five other kids. He insisted on paying for everything and the others were kind of teasing him about being suddenly rich."
"Does anyone know who he is?" Dan asked.
"He's in my Math class," Ruthie said. "I think his name's Steve."
"Ok, so we know someone stole the cash box from the dance, and we know someone ran past Jason and me and that person was wearing a fuzzy sweater, and we know that this Steve guy was wearing a polar fleece jacket and had lots of money on him after the dance." Trixie looked at her friends. "It could add up, but even I'll admit that's not much to go on."
"I have a suggestion," Di said. When everyone looked at her expectantly, she added, "Jason said the sweater or jacket was fuzzy, but like I said before, that is so vague. Trixie, can you call him and see if he'll go shopping with you?"
"What!?" Trixie exclaimed.
"Brilliant!" Honey exclaimed.
"No!" Trixie answered. Then more calmly, "Why? Why would I want to go shopping and why would he come with me?"
"He can feel different fabrics so we can get a better idea of what kind of sweater or jacket it was. Right, Di?"
"Right, Honey. I knew you'd understand."
"Well, I am not going shopping."
"Fine, one of us will go. Just please call him and ask him to meet us somewhere," Di pleaded.
Mart and Dan looked at each other like they were nauseous. "Just let him know why, or he will never agree to go shopping with girls! At least I hope not," Mart said finally.
"Look, if you want to go shopping with him, then you call him. You set me up with him after all!" Trixie was really upset and it looked like she and Di might get into a fight.
"Trixie, Di," Dan said calmly, "let's not get into an argument. Why don't we all think about what little we have to work with and talk about it tomorrow?"
"Thanks, Dan," Honey half-smiled. Usually she was the one keeping things calm, but she gladly let Dan take on that role this time.
Mart and Dan said goodnight to everyone and left. The girls were once again alone in Di's room.
"Okay, Trixie, what's going on?" Di asked. She was worried that maybe Jason wasn't such a nice boy, or that maybe she wasn't as good a judge of character as she had thought.
Trixie calmed down a little since the boys had left. She did not want to talk about boy stuff in front of her brother, and she was having a hard time figuring out why exactly she was so upset anyway. She walked over to Di and gave her a big hug. "Oh, Di, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to get upset at you."
"Was it really so awful, Trixie? Was he awful?" Honey asked, also curious about what had happened.
"Who, Jason? No, I guess not. I'm just not sure about things right now."
"What kind of things?" Di asked, genuinely concerned.
"I can't explain it right now. Maybe we can talk about this later?"
Di nodded. Honey also seemed satisfied that they were working things out. Ruthie was just minding her own business, not wanting to get involved in the trio's friendships.
Ruthie and Honey went to the guest room to sleep, but Di invited Trixie to stay with her. Di was soon snoring softly but Trixie couldn't seem to relax. She kept thinking about Jason almost kissing her. Why wasn't it Jim? Shouldn't my first kiss be with Jim? Maybe I should call him and tell him the truth. Maybe I should tell him how I really feel, but how do I feel? And what good would it do? And what if Jim already met someone else in California? I'll call Brian in the morning and find out. Trixie had a mystery on her hands, and it had nothing to do with the stolen cash.
|Continue to Chapters 5 - 7|