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Authors notes:

Thank you once more to my marvelous editors, BethAnn and Leslie!

Well, our distracted detective does manage to wrap up this case with the help of her friends.

The Freshman Dance Mystery

written by El

Chapter 12

"Don't you hate how when people say 'not to be rude' they always follow it with something totally rude!?" Honey exclaimed as she and Trixie walked Starlight and Susie around the enclosure. Trixie had just told her all about her conversations with Mr. Farmer.

"Yeah, I was seething," Trixie grinned. "How dare he imply I can't play basketball just because I'm short. I don't know how I managed to stay calm."

"He should've seen you in Iowa! He would never have said that then." Honey continued to walk Starlight. Because of Honey's detention, Miss Trask had decided that the girls could only exercise the horses inside the fenced enclosure. "So did you just make up that stuff about joining the basketball team?"

Trixie nudged Susie into a trot; Regan had not agreed to letting her ride Jupiter. "Partly, I guess. I mean, it would be nice to be able to join the basketball team, or any team. But it's hard when we live so far out, and we only have the two buses after school to get home. And my grades really aren't good enough. And there's always the horses to exercise and the chickens to feed - "

"I thought the chickens were Mart's job."

"They were, until Brian went off to college. Now he's taken over most of Brian's chores, so the chickens fell to me. On the plus side, Moms decided that since Bobby is in second grade now, he has to make the beds and set and clear the table. It's about time. I was doing chores since I was five."

"Oh. How is Brian by the way?"

"Brian's fine," she answered nervously. "He seems to like California a lot."

"Uh huh, that's what Jim said. I was just wondering if you'd heard anything more."

"Well, not really. How about Jim? He still won't have a normal conversation with me."

"Oh, he told me he was going to call you on Sunday. He seemed to be looking forward to it." Honey grinned mischievously.

"Let's canter," Trixie suddenly decided, urging Susie into the run. Honey did the same on Starlight and the two of them cantered around the field. When they thought the horses had enough, they slowed back to a walk to cool them down again.

Honey regarded her best friend curiously. "So, Trixie, what do you plan on telling Jim on Sunday?" she finally asked.

"As much of the truth as I can," she whispered back. They walked the horses a few more minutes. "Honey, what do you really think of Nick Roberts?"

"Trying to change the topic?" Honey grinned. "Well, Nick's nice. He has those dark good looks you know I go for. He's quiet and introverted and serious, kind of like Brian."

The two girls got to the stables and started to groom their horses. They worked quietly at first, but Trixie fidgeted and couldn't keep quiet that long. "Um, I asked Brian about you," she finally let out.

"You did what? I should be mad at you but I'm too curious. What did you say? What did he say? Tell me, tell me, tell me!" Honey demanded. Then she noticed Trixie wasn't smiling. "Oh, it's not good is it?"

Trixie shook her head slowly. "Oh, Honey! He told me he only thinks of you as a friend. I wasn't sure if I should tell you or not, but when we were riding back there, I knew I couldn't keep you thinking or hoping he felt something more."

Tears brimmed in Honey's eyes. She tried to shake them away. "I guess I should've realized. I don't know why I would think he'd be interested in me." The tears started to spill down her cheeks.

Trixie walked over to her and hugged her tightly. "I'm so sorry, Honey. He should be interested in you. I don't know what's wrong with him." Honey continued to cry on her shoulder. "We Beldens seem to have a knack for breaking hearts at the Manor House. But you'll always be my best friend," Trixie whispered to her.

Honey hugged her back and let the tears flow more freely. When she was finally able to compose herself she smiled back at Trixie. "You'd better unbreak my brother's heart, at least. One of us needs to make us real sisters some day," she tried to tease, but tears started to fill her eyes again.

Trixie blushed and the two girls continued to clean the tack, Trixie doing most of the work.

In spite of having gotten detention, Trixie did have her mother's permission to stay and eat dinner with the Wheelers. Well, with Honey, Miss Trask, and the other help anyway, since Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler had already left for New York City a little bit earlier. While the girls were waiting to be called to dinner, they sat in Honey's room and finally had a chance to go over the case. Honey took out a notebook and made a list of all possible clues.

"I know we said that Megan Thompson was probably just jealous, but she does show up twice on this list. She was near the door at the dance, so she had the opportunity. And her last name is on that mysterious piece of paper in Mr. Farmer's desk. Do you think that's just coincidence?" Honey asked her partner seriously.

Trixie's blonde curls bounced as she shook her head. "You know I don't believe in coincidence. So we definitely need to look into that more. She's in Di's homeroom, so maybe we can get her help on that. And then what about Jason's brother, David? How does he fit into all this? He had the cash box, but he wouldn't admit anything to Jason. Plus there's that scrap of fabric that could've come from his shirt. And he has Mr. Farmer for English and his name was on that list."

"Well, you know how I hate to knock down your theories, but it is possible David snuck through that fence on some totally unrelated occasion, ripping his shirt then."

"I suppose you're right," Trixie said calmly. This case was totally baffling her, so she welcomed any input from her partner, even if it didn't echo her own thoughts about what was going on. "I've been thinking, Honey, that what we're really missing here is the motive."

Honey nodded slowly. "I see what you mean. I mean the obvious motive was that the person needed money. What if that wasn't it though? Or if it was, then why did they need that much money? Was it just plain greed?"

"Exactly. Was this just for the money? Or was there something else behind it. I know Jason doesn't want to turn his brother in, but if we can't find some other explanation soon, we will just have to tell Mr. Stratton what Jason told us."

"But then Jason will get in trouble, too, and we don't want that," kindhearted Honey concluded. "So let's work on it a little longer and see what we can come up with. If we don't know anything more by Monday, then we'll just have to turn him in."

"Agreed. I'm surprised the boys haven't already insisted on turning in David."

"I'm not. If Jim or Brian was here," Honey choked a little at mentioning Brian's name, "then they would make us for sure. End of discussion, case solved. Even though the rest of us could probably get Jim to change his mind because he's all about giving people second chances."

"We really have to check up on that paper in Mr. Farmer's desk," Trixie decided, "And we should also talk to David. Maybe he'll tell us what he wouldn't tell his brother."

Miss Trask knocked lightly on the door to let the girls know that dinner was being served shortly. Trixie and Honey called out that they would be down soon. As they got up to get ready for dinner, Trixie told her friend, "I'll try to talk to Mart tonight, and we can fill Dan and Di in on the bus tomorrow."


Chapter 13

Di had a mission. She sat in homeroom and waited for Megan Thompson to walk in the door. As Megan walked by, Di got up and managed to run into her. Startled by having the violet-eyed beauty walk right into her, Megan dropped her books. Di's books also fell to the ground, making a big mess of texts, notes, and other papers.

"Oh, I'm so sorry, Megan," Di said calmly. She immediately rushed to pick up her books and help Megan with hers. "I really didn't see you. Are you okay?" Di reached for a notebook labeled 'English' and stuck it in between her own books before Megan noticed.

"It's okay, Di," Megan mumbled. She gathered up the books she picked up, along with the ones Di handed her. "Thanks."

Di breathed a sigh of relief. Megan hadn't yet realized that her English notebook was missing. Megan sat down at her desk and started to straighten out her things. At the same time, Di opened her own notebook, covering up Megan's inside it, and looked through the pages of Megan's English work.

This is boring, Di thought, as she looked at grammer assignments and spelling lists. Nothing unusual here. About the only good it seemed to do was to confirm that Megan had a crush on Jason. Scribbled in most of the margins were Jason's name and hearts and their initials. It also confirmed that Megan did have Mr. Farmer for English, and as she looked at the assignments, Di considered herself lucky to have Mrs. Peterson.

Di turned page after page and suddenly let out a small gasp. The class looked up at her. Mrs. Wilson also looked at the normally quiet student. Di blushed slightly, and stammered out an excuse about having just realized she had a Math test later in the day. Jason looked over at her questioningly and Di mouthed 'later' to him. Then she surreptitiously removed the piece of paper she had just come across in Megan's book. She thumbed through the rest of the pages but found nothing further of interest.

Di took another look at Megan and noted that the other girl seemed very nervous. She kept looking through all her books and notebooks and Di realized she must be missing her English stuff. Di tried to get her attention but she was too far away. Finally the bell rang letting the class out. "Megan!" Di called as loudly as she dared. Megan turned her head and Di held up the English notebook. Megan hurried over and grabbed it. "This must have gotten mixed up with my own books when they all fell," Di explained innocently.

"Thanks Di! I thought I left it at home." Megan hurriedly flipped through it and then sighed in relief. "Oh good, I don't know what I was going to tell Mr. Farmer if I didn't hand in the homework today. You wouldn't believe how strict he is about late assignments."

"No problem," Di answered. She walked out with the girl. "So you have a little thing for Jason, I see?" she teased good-naturedly. Just then Jason walked out past them, muttering a quick hello to Di, and Megan blushed a deep shade of red.

"Yeah, but he has a thing for your friend, doesn't he?" Megan asked Di in turn.

Di nodded. "He does, but I don't think Trixie returns those feelings. She's still in love with Jim Frayne."

"That cute red-head who was in school last year?" Megan smiled thoughtfully. "Yeah, I can see that."

Di tried to steer the conversation back in the direction she wanted. "So who did you go to the dance with, then? I know I saw you there."

"Oh, I went with Erik Klein. Do you know him?"

"Not that well. But I think my friend Dan does." Di turned at the end of the hall. "Well, I have my next class over this way. See you later, Megan," she called as the two girls separated. Megan said good-bye also, and Di breathed a sigh of relief. So far so good, she thought.

 

Gym class was one of Mart's favorites. And today, he too had a mission. He'd never been especially friendly with David Sullivan before, but today he would do his best to get to talk to him. David was always hanging out with the other super jock types, so this was going to be a little hard. Especially considering David was a senior and Mart just a sophomore. Lady luck was smiling on him today though. Coach Hendersen asked the students to line up and then counted them out into eight groups of four. Mart and David ended up on the same team. Each group of four students then got to go over to a different set of weight lifting equipment and take turns on it. Mart, David, Gary Hooper, and Lester Mundy went over to one corner of the gym. Gary took the first turn on the weights and Lester spotted for him, so that gave Mart the perfect opportunity to talk to David.

"You'll spot for me, David?" Mart asked casually as he started the assigned stretching exercises.

"I guess," he shrugged. "You'll spot for me, too, Belden?" Mart nodded. "Good. I don't trust Mundy, and Hooper's too weak looking."

"Hey, Sullivan. I need to ask you something," Mart said as casually as he could.

"Yeah, what?" David answered.

Mart lowered his voice to a whisper. "It's about the cash that went missing at the dance."

David scowled. "I forgot you're friends with my brother. Look, whatever he told you, it's all untrue."

Mart held up his hands. "Look, Trixie saw Jason throw away the cash box. Jason told us he found it in your backpack. I'm just warning you, Sullivan. If Trixie doesn't figure out the truth soon, she's going to tell Stratton about both of you."

David scowled some more. "Whatever."

"Then tell me what you know. You don't want to get kicked off the team, do you?" David looked at him with a trace of worry in his face. Mart continued, "'Cause that's what'll happen. If you can't prove your innocence to Stratton, you and your brother will both get suspended. And once you're suspended, you can forget about playing football."

"Is that a threat, Belden?" David whispered fiercly.

"No," Mart replied calmly. "That's the truth. And, for the record, I don't want you to get kicked off the team either. You're a good quarterback."

David nodded, somewhat calmed. "I have to stay on the team. It's my only way into college." He looked at Mart again. "You and your friends, you're in the paper a lot for solving crimes, right?"

"Yeah, that's mostly my sister's doing."

"Sullivan, you're up," Lester Mundy called. "I'll spot you?"

"No thanks, Mundy, I saw how well you helped Hooper. Belden'll spot me." David took his place on the bench as Mart helped him add weights to each end of the bar. Their conversation about the crime ended temporarily as David concentrated on his lifting technique.

Before the end of class, David told Mart he'd meet him at lunch.

 

Dan Mangan and Ruthie Kettner strolled thoughtfully to the crowded lunch table. Both Sullivan brothers were there, sitting between Mart and Trixie. Di and Honey were opposite them, saving a place for Dan.

As he sat down, Di jumped up excitedly, waving a piece of paper. "Gleeps, Dan, Ruthie! It's about time you got here," she exclaimed. "I've been dying to show this to everyone but we were all waiting for you."

"Hi Jason, David. And hi to you, too, Di! Please don't join the ever-dying committee here," he gestured to Trixie and Honey who sat opposite each other as he and Ruthie sat down next to Di.

Ruthie also mumbled a quiet hello to everyone, shy about the two newcomers sitting at the table.

"Ok, Di, sweetie, what's with the mysterious paper?" Mart asked.

"Oh, I don't know. I think you should go first, since you brought the special guest," Di allowed.

David actually blushed a little. "Actually, if that paper is what I think it is, you should go first. Then I'll explain everything."

Encouraged by the older student's words, Di opened up the note and spread it out on the table so everyone could read it:

David,
Mr. Farmer agreed to the plan. Meet me at the bleachers later.
Megan

Meg,
OK. And I'll put in a good word for you with my bro. Thanks for helping me with this. So what do I owe you?

Thanks! Put in a good word for me with Jessie, too. I'd love to be on the cheerleading team and I don't want to waste this trip!!

So how much will it cost?

consider your problem solved. $200.00

Yeesh! That much?

You want to go, right?

Trixie, who had been unusually quiet up to now, turned to look at David Sullivan. "So David and DS, that's you?"

"Yeah, that's me. That's my handwriting," David acknowledged.

"Jessie is your girlfriend, right?" Honey asked. "And head cheerleader?"

"Right again, but then just about everyone knows that."

"So what's this trip she's talking about that costs $200.00?" Mart asked.

"Cheerleading camp. You don't have to go to be on the team, but it does help. It's mostly just to get in with the crowd, hang out with the popular girls. The pretense is to go away somewhere and make up new cheers and dances. Megan really wanted to go. She has her heart set on cheerleading. Don't ask me why," David shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, you're dating a cheerleader, and all the cheerleaders are popular. It makes sense to me why she'd want to be one," Ruthie commented.

Dan glanced at Ruthie and reached for her hand, stroking her palm with his thumb. "I'd rather date you than any cheerleader," he whispered so quietly that no one heard him, not even Ruthie.

"Ok," Trixie tapped her fingers on the table, "so the cash that was stolen, it was used to pay for this cheerleading camp?"

"Yeah," David admitted. "Megan approached me Monday morning after the dance. She said she'd gotten the money but her parents couldn't know how much it cost or they wouldn't let her go. She wanted me to pay for the ticket and give it to her. I was totally shocked that she stole the money."

"How did you know she stole it?" Di asked.

"She handed me the whole cash box. I didn't know what to do with it. It was like this:" David related what happened that Monday morning.

"Holy smokes! You stole the money?" David nearly shouted.

"Shh! You want the whole school to know?" Megan hushed him. "How else did you think I'd be able to pay for the camp?"

"Creeps, Meg, if you couldn't afford it you should've just said so! What the --?"

"It's no big deal, really."

"I don't know. I don't like it."

"Don't tell. I'll say what you did to Erik and you'll get kicked out of school."

"Oh, come on! It wasn't that bad and he's a creep anyway."

"What did you do to Erik?" Dan interrupted the story.

"Nothing really. I just pulled some typical locker room pranks on him. I was mad at him for teasing Jessie about something. But I guess Megan found out when she went to the dance with him." David continued his tale:

"Uh - uh. You know what Stratton thinks of those kinds of pranks! Anyway, I got your grades up, didn't I?" Megan said threateningly.

"Fine. I'm not happy about it, but fine. So what am I supposed to do with this?" David held up the cash box.

"Don't know, don't care. Thanks for the ticket though," Megan smiled innocently.

"You're a real work of art. This is the last time I ever get involved with a Thompson. I should've realized what you were like after what your cousin Bull pulled last year. I thought you were different."

"Whatever. So what did Jessie say?"

"Just go to the camp and be at tryouts. That's all."

"How about your brother?"

"Sorry, but no."

"No? That's all, just no?"

"'No way, no how, no never' if you must know. Sorry."

Jason smiled and nodded. "Yup, I remember that part!"

David shrugged and continued. "Basically, Megan threatened me. She said if I told on her for stealing she'd tell Stratton it was me that pulled those pranks on Klein. She also told me that since I now had the cash box, she'd tell him I stole that too. Her word against mine. She said I owed her for her help with English and History." David paused looking a little sheepish. "I know she's younger than me, but she is smart. She really did help me with my homework and helped me pull my grades up in both classes. So anyway, I told her that if she said anything to Stratton, I'd tell Jessie not to accept her for the cheerleading squad. She really wants to be a cheerleader. I didn't realize what lengths she'd go to though. And I never thought she'd steal the money."

"I guess all those Thompsons are alike. It's a good thing Bull's still at reform school, and it looks like Megan might be joining him soon," Jason commented.

"Do they send girls to reform school?" Di asked, her violet eyes widening in sympathy, in spite of the fact that she didn't really like Megan.

Honey nodded emphatically, "Yes they do. I know some girls from my old boarding school that got sent to a reform school."

"So Mr. Farmer wasn't selling grades?" Trixie asked, almost disappointed. It'd been awhile since one of her theories was so off base.

"Not that I know of," David said. "It sure would've been easier than dealing with Megan."

"Then what was the 'plan' you and Megan mentioned?" Trixie pointed to the first part of the note.

"Oh, just that she would tutor me and Mr. Farmer was going to credit her for it," David replied.

"And what about that paper in his drawer?" Trixie asked aloud, though to no one in particular.

"It might just be something he was grading or keeping track of grades on," Honey replied softly.

"So I guess we go to Stratton with all this?" Mart asked. He was tempted to tease his sister about the false conclusion, but since Brian had left home, he found himself more and more often not succumbing to that urge.

"Will he believe me? Won't I still get in trouble, anyway?" David asked, once again more concerned about his football scholarship.

"You probably will," Dan admitted. "But it's better to come with us than to have us turn you in, right?"


Chapter 14

"What a week!" Trixie exclaimed to her best friend. It was Sunday morning and Honey was at Crabapple Farm helping Trixie clean out the garage. Mart should've been helping too, but he was busy Bobby-sitting. Trixie had gladly traded chores with him this morning so she could hang around the house without Bobby being around.

"Yes, I know. We actually did find out who took the money and why. And now Megan is off to some school for troubled teens. She's lucky she's not going to juvenile hall."

"Maybe she can be a cheerleader for whatever reform school she ends up in," Trixie commented sarcastically. "Oh, I'm sorry," she added as an afterthought. "That really wasn't very nice of me to say."

"It's okay. I know how you feel. At least you only said it to me anyway," Honey giggled.

"Yes. And I'm glad David isn't permanently suspended from the team. It's a good thing we talked him into turning himself in."

"Yeah, he seems like a nice guy for a jock," Honey smiled.

"You're not interested, are you?" Trixie asked, quite shocked.

Honey's jaw dropped, "No way! Not at all my type. But since Brian doesn't know what he's missing out on, I just might go to Di's Halloween party with Nick after all."

Trixie glanced at her best friend and realized Honey was still as smitten over Brian as ever. At least she's not moping about it. She is putting up a good front, she thought. Aloud she said, "Honey, there is still one thing that's really puzzling me."

"What's that?" Honey asked, interested in what could still be bothering her friend.

"Well, it's that paper in Mr. Farmer's drawer. And his whole attitude. And - that's it!"

"What's it?"

"The picture on his desk!" Trixie exclaimed excitedly.

"Trixie!" Helen Belden hollered out the door.

Trixie walked out of the garage, a bewildered Honey right behind her.

"A certain long distant phone call you were expecting just came in," Helen teased her daughter lightly.

Trixie sprinted to the door, nearly running her mother over in her haste to get to the phone.

Honey and Moms looked at each other and laughed, Moms putting her arm around Honey's shoulder as they walked into the house.

 

"Jim? Hello, Jim?" Trixie breathed into the phone.

"Jim, Jim, everytime it's Jim? Do you ever think of your brother first? No, don't even answer that. Anyway, I'm fine, and here's the guy you really want to talk to," Brian ran all his sentences together, but the teasing note in his voice was still obvious.

"Brian?" Trixie asked this time.

"No, now it's Jim," Jim teased and Trixie could hear Brian chuckling in the background.

"Oooh, you two! If you were here why I'd - "

"You'd what?" Jim challenged.

Trixie gulped, momentarily caught up in their old camaraderie, it felt so good. "I've missed this," Trixie admitted.

"Missed what?" Jim asked, somewhat confused.

"This; us teasing each other and being friends. I wish you both hadn't moved so far away," Trixie replied seriously.

"I miss it, too. So are you alone?" Jim asked hopefully.

"Yeah. Moms and Honey went upstairs to give me some privacy, and Mart and Bobby are over at Bobby's treehouse doing who knows what."

"Good. I was hoping we could talk. Really talk."

"Me, too." Trixie made herself comfortable.

"I'm really sorry - " both of them started at once. Jim laughed, "Ladies first, please."

"I'm really sorry, Jim, about what I said to you before you left." Jim remained silent, waiting for her to go on. "I lied, you know. If you were staying here, if you were still in New York, I'd gladly be your girlfriend. I've always thought of you as much much more than just a brother." Trixie couldn't believe how easy it was to actually say this.

"Really?" Jim asked, confused and yet pleasantly surprised by her statements. "So why didn't you say so then?"

"I was afraid you'd throw your future away. You started talking about not going straight to the University, about how you could go to the community college nearby instead. I couldn't let you do that." Trixie held her breath as she waited for Jim's response.

"It would've been my choice, Trixie. I would do anything to stay with you."

"I know. That's why I couldn't let you. You worked so hard, Jim. You're only sixteen and you're in college. Not just any college, but University of California at Berkeley. Brian told me that's a tough school to get into."

"You sound proud of me," Jim tried to sound lighthearted.

"I am."

"Trixie," Jim started, then paused a long time before continuing. Trixie wondered if he was still there. "Trixie, I only worked so hard to finish school early so I could get away from Jonesy. If I knew then that it would take me away from you, too, I would never have done it." Trixie swallowed over the huge lump in her throat. She didn't really know what to say to that. "Anyway," Jim started to ramble nervously, "I wanted to apologize for my attitude towards you lately. Yes, I was hurt that you didn't want to be my steady girl, but I should've been more understanding. I mean we are very young to be having a long distance relationship and I shouldn't have pressured you into any kind of answer about that, especially since I was going away. Forgive me, please?"

"Of course. Forgive me for hurting you?" Trixie asked.

"Always," Jim answered. I love you, Trixie, he thought, but he couldn't bring himself to say it aloud. "So, tell me what's been going on in Sleepyside," he finally demanded, and their conversation turned more normal as Trixie told him about wrapping up the latest case.


the end (until Trixie discovers Mr. Farmer's secret. mwah-hah-hah!)

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