The Mystery at the
The Bob-White station wagon pulled up and parked
beside Mrs. Beldenís Taurus station wagon. Dan Mangan and Diana Lynch,
along with her twin brothers and sisters, piled out of the official Bob-White
vehicle, while the four Belden children: Brian, Mart, Trixie, and Bobby, along
with Jim Frayne and Honey Wheeler, emerged from the Belden car. The
Bob-Whites were taking their younger siblings to the County Fair, and it was
hard to say which group was more excited: the older or the younger group.
Spirits were definitely high as the young people called greetings to each other
and began making their way through the grass parking lots to the fair.
Trixe linked arms with Diana and Honey and began to sing, and the other girls
soon picked up the melody and joined in:
"I went to the fair that they have in the summer
I danced with a boy, while a bugler and drummer
†played old-fashioned songs, then he said he would bring us
a strawberry soda to share."
"What a perfect song for you, Trixie," Jim said with a wink. "If we can find some strawberry soda, will you share one with me?"
Trixie smiled as the girls continued on with the chorus:
"Oh, dear, what can the matter be?
Oh, dear what can the matter be?
Oh, dear what can the matter be?
Johnnyís so long at the fair."
Honey and Di laughingly substituted "Jimmy" for "Johnny" in the last line and were rewarded for their efforts by the blush that crept up on Trixieís face.
For once, it was Mart who saved his sister from further embarrassment, saying, "Hey, everyone, I heard another version of that song from that Irish exchange student who was here last spring. Do you want to hear it?"
The BWGs and the younger kids all begged him to sing it, so Mart obliged, crooning slightly off-key:
"Oh, dear, what can the matter be?
Three fat ladies stuck in the lavatory
They were there from Monday to Saturday
The vicar had tea alone." * * *
Everyone laughed at the mental picture this created, and Bobby and his friends clustered around Mart, begging Mart to sing it again, so they could learn it.
"Shhh," Honey warned, aware that they were getting closer to the gates, and the crowd was thickening, "Maybe you could teach the kids that song later, Mart. I wouldnít want to offend anyone."
"Just look at the fair," Trixie exclaimed, "I just love the County Fair! It always makes me think of Charlotteís Web.† Remember when Charlotte made her last web that said Ďhumble,í and Wilbur won the special award and finally knew he wouldnít be turned into ham and bacon? Charlotte was really a true friend."
"True friends are hard to find and impossible to forget," Jim agreed soberly, looking around at all his friends as he said it.
"Well, I think Templeton the Rat was so
funny," Diana put in. "Gorging himself on all the remains of the fair
food. Who could forget Paul Lyndeís hysterical portrayal of him in the
"Itís funny that Templeton was your favorite character, Diana, because he reminds me a little of someone," Dan put in as he watched Martís eyes light up at the scent of popcorn, Italian sausage and fried dough wafting through the air.
Everyone laughed, but Martís face was serious. "If youíre referring to me,Ē he defended himself, ď I have to agree. Templeton had the right idea. I, for one, intend to eat my way through the fair until my belly will probably grow about as big as Templetonís."
"And what girl will go dancing with you to a bugler and drummer and share your strawberry soda then?" Di asked him with a teasing smile.
"For you, fair Diana, I would cheerfully suffer through multitudes of exercise to reduce the afore-mentioned waistline, but please donít ask me to give up my food. This place is a food loverís paradise."
"I wouldnít ask that," Diana assured him, "because I intend to do quite a bit of eating myself. So I guess Iíll be exercising right along with you, or Iíll be one of the three fat ladies stuck in the lavatory."
"Not you, Di, but I think weíll all need some extra exercise after tonight," Brian said as they came up to the gates, and he took out his wallet to pay for the Beldens.
"What I remember most about the fair in ĎCharlotteís Webí is how little they paid for it," he continued with a rueful smile. "I think Mr. Arable gave Fern two quarters and two dimes, and Avery five dimes and four nickels. Seventy cents each. Can you imagine that? Iíve only paid our admissions and Iíve already spent $32.00. Thank goodness at least Bobby is free."
"It does cost a lot of money now," Jim agreed, "but itís also a lot of fun, and county fairs are so much a part of our history. I like to think about our grandparents and great grandparents going to county fairs over 100 years ago.Ē
"And itís so romantic," Honey said with a
happy sigh. "My favorite part of Charlotteís Web was when Fern rode
the Ferris wheel with Henry Fussy. Fern said that it was the most fun
there is when the Ferris wheel stopped with their car on the top and Henry made
the car swing and they could see everything for miles and miles.Ē
Honey looked dreamily at Brian, who grinned at her, but only said, "Weíd better get going. Weíre holding up the line here."
As they moved toward the midway, Trixie said, "Personally Iím looking for something a little more exciting than the Ferris wheel. What should we do first?"
Although Brian, Jim, Dan, Di, and Trixie wanted to go on the bigger rides, Mart wanted to check out the 4-H Farm exhibits, and Honey wanted to see the needlework on display, they elected to take the younger kids on some of the tamer rides first. After all, the trip to the fair was really supposed to be for them.
After going through several fun houses, a haunted witch ride, and a small roller coaster, they all wanted to try the giant slide. As Trixie, Honey, and Di helped Diís younger sisters, Samantha and Sarah, get settled on their burlap mats, Trixie whispered to her friends, "Do you see that girl standing near the bottom of the stairs?"
"Do you mean the one with the long red hair?" Di asked.
Trixie nodded and said, "Yes. This is the third ride Iíve noticed her on with us. Donít you think thatís a little strange?"
"I guess so," said Honey, "But itís probably just coincidence. People tend to walk in one direction and keep going that way, so thatís why sheís probably hitting the same rides as we are. Besides, why would she be following us?"
"I donít know," Trixie answered, "but thereís something mysterious about her and the way she keeps watching us."
Mart came up behind the girls, and looked over to see whom they were talking about, saying, "That girl looks about as mysterious as Moms does. Now will you girls please slide down? Once again, youíre holding up the line, and Diís sisters are waiting for you at the bottom."
"Yeah, come on, hurry up," chimed in Bobby, Terry, and Larry, "We want our turns, Trixie!"
"Okay, weíre going, but there is something funny about that girl, Mart Belden, and if you think thereís not, then answer me this: Why is she just standing by the stairs and not even going up them? Most people who pay for a ride actually go on it." And before Mart could think of an answer, Trixie went sailing down the slide with Di and Honey.
Next, the Bob-Whites decided to try the games. The big and little boys tried to show off their prowess at throwing basketballs and baseballs and shooting at targets, while Trixie gave them some serious competition. Honey and Di and the younger Lynch twins enjoyed the water gun races. The red-haired girl followed them everywhere, and the Bob-Whites were beginning to agree with Trixie that there was something mysterious about her. Soon the girlsí and younger kidsí arms were so full of stuffed animals and trinkets that the boys agreed to make a run to the cars to stash the loot, so they wouldnít have to drag it around with them the entire time. The girls watched as the boys headed toward the parking lot, and noticed that the red-haired girl was also watching after them.
"This is getting kind of freaky," Di said.
"Youíd better watch out, Di. She seems to have her sights set on Mart," Honey said, only half-kidding.
"I was thinking sheís after Dan for some reason," Trixie said. "I was watching her before, and you wouldnít believe the way she was staring at him!"
"Do you think she just thinks heís hot?" Honey asked. "She hasnít tried to talk to him or anything."
"I donít know, but it is strange; donít you think?" Trixie replied, "If I see her again, Iím going to try to talk to her."
Just then, Diís twin sister saw a face painter at work and decided that it would be fun to get their faces painted. Sarah chose a kitten and Samantha chose a bunny, and they looked adorable. The lady then asked the older girls if they wanted to have their faces painted.
Trixie made a face, and Di told her, "No, I think the bunnies and kitties look cuter on my little sisters.
"No, I did not mean those," the woman explained, with a halting accent "We have other ones here. Look at these, just like tattoos, only you can wash them off at the end of the day."
She looked at Trixie. "How about a pretty flower for your pretty cheek?"
The girls crowded around the display. "Go for it, Trixie," Di encouraged, "It will look sweet."
"Just make sure you pick out a blue one," Honey teased. "I hear itís someoneís favorite color."
"My dadís?" Trixie asked innocently, but she picked out a blue flower, and she had to admit it looked nice when the lady had painted it on her cheek, just below her ear, with some sparkles in it.
Di was admiring a butterfly design and asked the lady if it could be done in violet.
"To match your beautiful eyes? I think it will be nice in a design of purple and blue. I will add some silver sparkles, and it will stand out more than the plain violet."
Di agreed and, to Honeyís and Trixieís surprise, asked if she could get it put on her shoulder, right next to where her sleeveless top ended. All four of the girls admired the effect, however, when it was finished.
"Mart will go crazy," Honey told her and Trixie agreed. The woman turned to Honey, asking, "What about you? What would you like?"
"Oh, no, I donít think so," Honey told her. She was always hesitant about trying new things. Immediately, Trixie and Di began trying to talk her into it.
"Come on, we did it," Trixie pleaded.
"Thatís right, and weíre not leaving here until you pick one out," Di told her firmly.
So Honey decided on a little bird design in emerald and gold. The woman looked at her appraisingly.
"How about on your thigh?" she asked her. " You have such pretty legs."
"Oh, no," Honey said, blushing furiously. "I could never do that."
Di and Trixie giggled as the woman said, "You will hardly be able to notice it. It will only give a little flash of color when you walk. It is like a little flirt."
Honey was wearing a denim skirt that ended just above her knees, with small slits on each side. The woman wanted to put the "tattoo" almost inside one of the slits, so it would be barely visible. After much urging from Trixie and Di, Honey finally agreed. When it was finished and she had inspected the finished product, she looked somewhat relieved, "You can hardly notice it, can you?" she asked the other girls.
"I know someone who will definitely notice it," Trixie teased.
"Shhh, here come the boys. Donít say anything," Di warned her, and she quickly asked her younger sisters not to mention the older girlsí tattoos.
The boys admired the faces of the Sarah and Samantha, and then Mart glanced at Trixie.
"So, you girls decided to play dress up, too," he started to kid the girls, but stopped when he noticed Dianaís butterfly. "Very nice," he said, running his hand gently over her shoulder. He couldnít seem to take his eyes off it.
Jim seemed to be having similar problems with Trixieís flower. "Wow," was all he could come up with at first, but finally managed to say, "That really looks great, Trix. Nice color."
Brianís eyes scanned over Honeyís face, neck, and arms, but he couldnít see anything different.
"Didnít you get one, too, Honey?" he asked her.
"Oh, well, you know, itís not really me," Honey told him, looking away and trying to keep from blushing or giggling.
Too bad, Brian thought, but wisely said nothing.
"Where to next?" Jim asked.
"Food!" Mart said positively, "Iíll just waste away if I donít eat something soon."
"After all the so-called Ďsnacksí youíve eaten as weíve been walking around? Iím surprised you have any room left in that bottomless pit you call a stomach," Trixie told him.
"Iíve noticed youíve had quite a few snacks, too," Mart told her, "Youíd better watch your waistline before it runs away on you."
Trixie flushed angrily. She couldnít believe Mart had said that to her, especially in front of Jim and Dan.
"Oh, go jump in a lake," she told her brother, "Or better yet, how about that little river with the boats over there? Just jump right in and then I wonít have to listen to you anymore."
"Thatís not a river. Thatís a Tunnel of Love,Ē Jim corrected her. "Iíve never actually seen one before. What do you say, Trix, want to try it out?"
Trixie looked at him uncertainly. Part of her wanted to go, and part of her was a little nervous about it.
"Whatís the matter? Are you afraid?" Jimís green eyes held a challenge
"No, of course not," she told him with a toss of her head. "Sure, Iíll go with you. But just remember to behave yourself, Frayne."
"Iíll have to remember," Jim said as they made their way toward the little boats, "I think the looks Brian and Mart just gave me are forever imprinted on my brain."
"Well, Mart can stop giving you looks because it looks like he and Di are going to try it, too," Trixie said. Jim turned to see Mart and Di making their way toward the boats just as he and Trixie entered the tunnel.
Brian, Honey, and Dan watched with the younger kids from the fence surrounding the ride. Brian looked over at Honey, but she was staring rather pointedly in the other direction. He sighed, and didnít notice when she looked back at him expectantly.
Honey sighed, too, and commented, " I guess weíll stay with the kids until the others come out."
Brian thought she sounded relieved. He felt a little frustrated - no tattoo and no Tunnel of Love. The fair wasnít turning out to be as much fun as he thought it would be. To hide his disappointment, he walked over to the other side of the ride, where the others would disembark.
Dan watched him go, thinking, Well, it canít hurt to try. Aloud, he said, "Would you like to go through the Tunnel of Love, Honey?" He looked at her with an exaggerated leer.
Honey smiled. "No, thanks, Dan. I mean no offense or anything, butÖ"
"None taken," he assured her with a laugh, "I canít believe Brian didnít ask you - heís nuts."
"He didnít seem too interested," Honey said, frowning.
Dan thought, I donít think thatís it, but said nothing aloud. He glanced over to where the red-haired girl was watching them, and Honeyís eyes followed his gaze.
"I think Trixieís right, Dan. She seems to like you."
"Thereís something vaguely familiar about her," Dan said musingly.
"Well, sheís certainly pretty enough," Honey said. "Why donít you ask her to go through the Tunnel of Love with you?"
Dan laughed, "I wouldnít mind, but I think thatís a little forward, donít you? Maybe Iíll go talk to her, though. Want to come with me? Maybe we can solve the mystery of the red-haired girl before Trixie gets off the ride, and weíll be able to enjoy the rest of the night in peace."
"Okay," said Honey, and they herded the five younger children over to where the girl was standing. As she saw them coming, however, she moved away and quickly disappeared into the crowds.
"Sorry, Dan, but I guess we let the girl of your dreams get away," Honey said teasingly.
"Yeah, I guess we scared her off. Well, she was cute, but maybe now sheíll stop following us and weíll get some peace. Come on. Letís see if the others are off the ride now."
The group proceeded to the back of the ride to join Brian, who was leaning against the fence. Trixie and Jim were just getting out, and everyone laughed when they saw that Trixieís tattoo was smudged, and Jim had blue paint all around his mouth.
Bobby looked at Jim and yelled, "Hey, Jim, how come you have blue paint all over your mouth?" Jim put his hand up to his face, while Trixie turned crimson.
Mart and Di were next, and although Diís face was somewhat flushed, they both looked very happy.
"Looks like Di successfully accomplished the near-impossible," Brian joked. "She kept Martís mind off of food for a full ten minutes."
"Did someone just mention food?" asked Mart, "Letís go!"
So the young people went to claim picnic tables and partake of the various fair delicacies.
As they were finishing their meal, Trixie whispered to Honey, "Donít look now, but guess whoís sitting two tables over from us?"
"Our red-haired friend?" Honey asked, and when Trixie nodded, she told her friend what had happened near the Tunnel of Love.
"Well, Iím going to talk to her after lunch. Donít tell the boys. Theyíll just try to discourage me," Trixie told Honey.
"Iíll come with you," Honey said.
Brian watched as Honey finished her lunch and went to throw away her trash, and noticed that she had something on her leg. What was it?
Mart echoed his thoughts, "Whatís that on Honeyís leg?"
"I donít know, " Brian answered. "I thought it might be a bruise. Maybe I should make sure she didnít hurt herself."
"I wouldnít do that if I were you," Dan advised, and the other boys turned to give him questioning looks. "Actually, I think it might be one of those tattoos."
Brian stared at Dan and then back at Honey, as she walked to the ladies room with Di and Trixie. He could see just a little flash of color when she walked. He watched her, mesmerized, for a few minutes. Then a thought occurred to him.
"Hey, what are you two clowns doing looking at Honeyís legs?" he demanded of Mart and Dan.
Jim heard him from across the table and asked, "Yeah, what are you three clowns doing looking at Honeyís legs?"
Brian started to turn red, and then turned to smile at Jim.
"I have two words for you, Frayne - blue paint."
Brian was gratified to see Jim turn red at his words. I guess that shut him up pretty quickly, he said to himself, as Mart and Dan laughed at the look on Jimís face.
As they walked to the rest room, Di asked, "Honey, did you see the way Brian was looking at your legs?"
"Do you think he noticed the tattoo?" Honey asked her.
Di nodded, and Trixie said, "He sure noticed something, and so did Mart and Dan."
Di felt a twinge of jealousy, but then she thought about Martís reaction to her tattoo and his obvious enthusiasm for the Tunnel of Love, and smiled to herself. As long as he just looks, she thought.
As Honey and Di finished fixing their hair and faces, the girls told Di about their plan to question the mysterious red-haired girl.
"Count me in!" Di responded quickly.
"Well, hurry up, you two," Trixie said impatiently. "What if she leaves before we get back?"
The girl was in the same spot, however, as they walked back to the tables. As they approached her, the girl started to get up, but by the time the girl began edging toward some of the exhibits, Trixie was right behind her. As soon as Trixie started to run, Bobby saw her and wasnít about to be left out. He had no idea why Trixie was running, but he wasnít going to miss any of the action.
"Come on, guys!" he yelled to Terry and Larry, and the trio took off after Trixie. Not far behind were Honey and Di, with Diís little sisters bringing up the rear.
Brian and Jim watched the group run by and
exchanged glances.††† Jim shrugged.†† "Here we go again," he yelled,
and the four older boys joined in the chase.
They ran through an exhibit hall where prize-winning fruits and vegetables were displayed, and through another one where various handicrafts were on view. Almost knocking over a large arrangement of flowers, Trixie managed to stay right behind the girl as she ran through a tent with cows, and she wrinkled her nose as they passed through one with pigs in it. Trixie increased her speed as she saw the girl veer into a tent that contained a small petting zoo enclosed in a rope fence. Trying to avoid the children feeding the animals, Trixie jumped over the short fence, tripped, and landed in the middle of a bunch of goats and sheep, along with a large camel. All the animals looked curiously at the mysterious creature who had landed in their midst. The camel leaned its head toward Trixie, who yelled and jumped away. She was already dirty enough from her landing in the not-so-clean hay, and bits of straw were sticking to her hair and clothing. She had no intention of allowing a camel to slobber all over her.
Bobby took one look at her and yelled, "Trixie, what are you doing in there with all the animals? I donít think they allow people in that part. You better come out of there."
Trixie looked up to see the younger children staring
at her open-mouthed, and the Bob-Whites trying to hide their grins.
"Did anyone see where she went?" she asked dejectedly. Mart opened his mouth to say something but closed it quickly when he saw the look on TrixieĎs face. Even though a bunch of zingers were shooting around in his head, even he didnít have the heart to tease Trixie right now. Jim reached down to give Trixie a hand up, and Honey gave her a quick hug as the three girls once again headed to the bathrooms.
Trixie took one look at herself in the mirror and didnít know whether to laugh or cry. She was completely disgusted that she had once again embarrassed herself in front of everyone.† Still, at the sight of her hair with bits of hay sticking out of it, a giggle was erupting in spite of her low mood, and she could see the laughter behind the girlsí eyes. Before long, all three girls were laughing hard, tears streaming down their faces. The laughter released some of Trixieís tension, and when she could speak, she said, "I donít mind so much you two laughing at me because I feel like youíre more laughing with me, and not at me, if you know what I mean. But I hate being a klutz in front of the boys. Even though Mart didnít say anything, Iíve given him enough ammunition to last until weíre senior citizens, and Jim must think Iím a complete idiot."
"Jim thinks youíre perfect and we all know it," Di said. "The boys may tease you, but they have a lot of respect for you when youíre on a case. You always give 100%, even if it means falling into a petting zoo, and thatís why you solve so many mysteries that no one else has a clue about. Honey and I didnít have a chance at catching that girl - we were miles behind you, and so were all the boys except Bobby. If anyone had caught her, it would have been you."
"But we lost the girl, and Iím still dying to know why she was following us," Trixie moaned. "I made a complete idiot out of myself for absolutely nothing. Besides, why am I always the pathetic, clumsy one that everyone has to feel sorry for? How come neither of you ever trips or drops things?"
Honey giggled, but answered loyally, "If you want me to, Trixie, Iíll trip just to make you feel better. And itís not like I never do anything clumsy. Iím clumsy all the time, but luckily itís usually when no one else is around."
Just then Diís little sisters came in. Samantha said, "Mart wants to know if youíre going to stay here all day, because he really wants to see the animals and Sarah and I do, too."
"Well, Iíve seen more than enough animals tonight, and definitely more up close and personal than I ever want to again," Trixie said as she gave one final brush to her hair, and they walked out to meet the boys.
"Oh, Trixe," said Sarah, " donít you at least want to see the baby chicks? They are so tiny and cute, and my friend said they let you hold them, and you can see some of them hatching out of their eggs.
Trixie was about to retort that she had also seen enough chickens to last a lifetime, too, when she stopped in surprise. Honey, walking in front of her, had just tripped and fallen headlong. She would have fallen on her face if a grizzled man with a beer belly hanging out of his undershirt had not reached out and grabbed her. "Steady there, sweetie," he said, leering at her. Honey took one look at him and fled to Brianís side. Brian put his arm around him and glared at the man until he staggered away, muttering that he was just trying to do someone a favor. Trixie and Di doubled over with laughter.
Brian looked at them disgustedly, "Itís lucky Honey doesnít laugh like that every time you trip, Trixie. Youíd think you of all people would have a little sympathy for her."
Apparently, he had missed the twinkle in Honeyís eyes, and his statement only made Di and Trixie laugh louder.
Jim, Mart, and Dan looked at them quizzically, but Jim decided to change the subject, saying, "Should we split up for awhile? Mart and the kids want to see the animals, but the rest of us guys want to go check out the thrill rides."
"I want to go on the thrill rides, too," Bobby protested. Sometimes the Bob-Whites still treated him like he was six. Brian agreed that he could, and Di thought the older twins would be okay, but didnít think the girls were quite old enough.
"Besides, we want to see the chicks," Sarah reminded her.
"I do, too,Ē said Honey. So Mart, Honey, and the little girls went to check out the exhibits while the others headed toward the rides. Dan walked next to Trixie.
"Too bad, Trix," he said. "I was sort of hoping youíd catch up with that red-haired girl so we could find out what she wanted."
"Why, do you think sheís cute?" Trixie asked him with a grin.
"She was definitely cute," Dan said, returning her grin, "but she also seems vaguely familiar to me. Does she to you?"
Trixie shook her head, and then asked the rest of the Bob-Whites, who also answered in the negative.
"Well, maybe it will come to me," Dan said as they reached the ride. "She probably was in one of my classes or something. Well, Trixie are you ready for this? You wanted thrill rides, and this one definitely qualifies. We probably should have gone on this before dinner."
"Backing out, Mangan?" Trixe teased him.
"You know I love these rides, but after that meal I just had, Iíd hate to be the person sitting next to me. I think Iíll sit this one out and be ready for the next one," Dan replied.
The guys gave him a hard time, but Dan steadfastly refused their dares, and Trixie noticed that his face did look a little pale. Maybe his dinner didnít agree with him and heís better off sitting it out, she thought.
Trixe then rushed to join the others on the ride. The young people screamed as the ride turned them upside down, and Trixie didnít have much time to think as it whipped them around. As it slowed down, however, she noticed Dan talking to a middle-aged man with a goatee. They were smiling and laughing, and when Dan looked up and saw Trixie watching him, he gave her a wave. She returned the wave, and then braced herself as the ride speeded up again. By the time she got off the ride, she had totally forgotten about Dan and the stranger, and almost wished that she had stayed off the ride, too. We definitely should have eaten after the thrill rides, she thought.
Jim looked at his watch. "Itís getting late. I think we should just do one or two more and then we have to think about meeting the others."
"Whereís Dan?" Di asked. The Bob-Whites and the younger kids looked around. Dan was nowhere to be seen.
"He probably went to the Menís Room. He didnít look too good before we went on the ride," Brian said.
"I donít think so," Trixie objected, and then told her friends about the man she had seen talking to Dan. They looked at each other uneasily, until Jim finally said, "I donít see any reason to be worried. Danís a big boy and if he can take care of himself on the city streets, then he can certainly take care of himself at the County Fair. I know youíre worried about him, Trixie, and your instincts are usually right, but how about if we go on the ride right next to this one, and see if he shows up. After all, you did say he was laughing and joking with this guy. He doesnít sound too threatening."
Trixie thought it over. What Jim said was true. Dan had really seemed to be enjoying the other manís company. Reluctantly, she agreed.
"I guess one ride couldnít hurt. Heíll probably be back by then."
"Good girl, Trix," Brian said. He knew how much she wanted to find out who Dan was talking to and how difficult it was for her to give in to the othersí plan.
The ride proved to be even more hair-raising than the last, which successfully kept Trixieís mind off of Danís whereabouts. As soon as it ended, however, she rushed off of it and looked around for Dan. He was nowhere to be seen, and the others were beginning to be worried, too.
"Letís take a walk around the thrill rides and see if we see him," Jim suggested, concern evident in his green eyes. After completing their walk around the oval where the rides were set-up, however, the Bob-Whites still could see no sign of Dan. They grouped together and discussed what they should do.
"I think we should stay in this area," Brian suggested. "This is where heíll come back to look for us."
"Weíve already searched here thoroughly," Trixie argued. The thought of staying in one place and waiting was almost unbearable to her. "Weíve got to search the rest of the fair for him."
"He could be anywhere," Jim protested. "If we start searching the fair we could go in circles all night looking for him, while he does the same searching for us."
"Maybe we should split up," Bobby suggested. "Some of us could search and some of us could wait here in case he shows up."
"I donít like that idea," Brian said, worriedly running his fingers through his dark hair. "We donít need to lose anyone else tonight."
"Well," began Diana slowly, looking at her wristwatch. "Itís almost time to meet the others. How about if we make our way over there and look for Dan along the way?"
"Good thinking, Di," Jim said. "That sounds like a plan. If Dan does comes back here, and doesnít see us, heíll probably realize we went to meet the others and head over there."
The others agreed and made their way past the midway and games, the kiddie rides and the food stands, looking around for Dan the whole time. Trixie also looked for the red-haired girl, because she was sure that she was somehow mixed up in all this, and for the man with the goatee she had seen talking to Dan. As they walked across the hill that faced center stage, where an Irish band was performing, they kept to the rear so as not to block the audienceís vision. They could see Honey and Mart and the younger Lynch twins waiting on the other side, and hurried over to join them. Trixie anxiously scanned the audience looking for one of the three faces, although she was sure that Dan wouldnít be sitting there listening to music when he knew his friends would be getting worried about him by now. As they passed the stage, she glanced at the performers and stopped short. On the stage, sitting on a high stool, was the red-haired girl, playing a guitar and singing a lively Irish folk song with the band around her. Trixie motioned to the others, who stopped to see what she was staring at. They stared in shocked silence at the girl on the stage. The song ended to loud applause, and the girl nodded her head in thanks. When the crowd quieted, she said, "Thank you very much. Now Iíd like to slow it down a bit and sing one of the romantic songs that Ireland is famous for, and here to sing with us is a special guest whom I know youíll love. Please give a warm welcome to an old friend of mine - Danny Mangan!"
"Itís Dan," Bobby whispered loudly, but even Mart didnít have the presence of mind to answer him. He could only stare dumbly at the stage with the rest of the Bob-Whites and the Lynch twins. They all stared, transfixed, as Dan walked onto stage, blending in well with the band in his black jeans and t-shirt. His face was a ghostly white, however, as he looked out into the audience. A hush came over the crowd as Dan sat on a stool next to the girl, and she strummed the first few notes of an Irish ballad. Her soft musical lilt started the song, and soon Danís strong voice joined hers. He seemed to lose all his nervousness as the song continued, and the Bob-Whites listened, enraptured by the beautiful, haunting melody.
"Heís really good," Mart hissed. "Who knew he could sing?"
"Shhh!" warned the others. As the song came to a close, none of the girlsí eyes were dry, and the boys cleared their throats and looked away in an attempt to hide their emotions. The audience apparently felt the same way, as they burst into thunderous applause for the duet.
One of the other band members came forward and said, "Danny Mangan, ladies and gentlemen; remember that name." As the crowd finally quieted, he continued, " I hope Dan will stay around and help us out with our final number, and we hope youíll all help us out, too, by singing along."
The band swung into an old favorite that many of
the audience members knew and sang along to. On stage, Dan, too, sang
along and looked right at home as the band gave another verse of the lusty
song. As the final applause faded out and people began to pick up their
blankets and folding chairs, the Bob-Whites looked at each other, laughing in
"It kills me to quote Mart," Brian said with a grin, "but I have to repeat: who knew he could sing?"
The others all shook their heads, and Trixie said, "He was fantastic, wasnít he?"
They all agreed that he and his friend had really brought down the house with their ballad.
"Do you think heís really an old friend of hers, like she said on stage?" Di asked.
"I donít know, but letís go on up and talk to him. Iím dying to find out what the story is," Trixie said, and the Bob-Whites followed her up to the stage. When they got up there, they saw Dan and the girl coming out from the side of the stage, and Trixie noticed that the man she had seen Dan with earlier was right behind them.
Dan froze when he saw the Bob-Whites. He stood there for a minute, looking as though he was trying to find his voice, finally saying, "Sorry I took off on you guys. Um, how long have you been here?"
"Long enough, Danny boy," Mart assured him. "We saw the whole performance!"
Dan visibly groaned, as the girls rushed to hug him and the boys shook his hand, telling him how wonderful his performance had been. Dan blushed at the unaccustomed praise and didnít know quite where to look, until the red-haired girl came up and took his arm.
"This is your mysterious red-haired girl, Trixie," Dan informed them with a grin.† "Her name is actually Nora, and this is her father, Mr. OíConnor. These are my friends," he told the Oí Connors, and rattled off the names of the Bob-Whites, Bobby, and the Lynch twins as Nora and her father shook hands with each one, Mr. OĎConnor encouraging them to call him Sean. The Bob-Whites enthusiastically told Nora how much they had enjoyed her performance.
As Nora shook hands with Trixie, she smiled shyly and said, "Iím sorry if I caused you any worry. I didnít mean to be mysterious. When I first saw Dan, I knew I had seen him before but couldnít think where I knew him from. The memory kept nagging at me, so I followed you for a little bit, trying to figure out who he was. It finally came back to me when I was watching him outside the Tunnel of Love."
Dan grinned, "Yeah, I knew you looked familiar to me, too, but I just couldnít place you." He looked at the Bob-Whites and laughed when he saw that Trixieís face was almost bursting with curiosity, and the others werenít concealing theirsí much better.
"I think weíd better put them out of their misery, Nora, and tell them how we know each other."
Nora smiled and continued her story. "I finally remembered that I knew Dan from when I was a little girl. We lived in the same neighborhood in New York City, and there were several Irish families who used to get together on Friday nights to sing. We had the best sing-alongs," she remembered, her eyes shining. "Dan and his mother were usually there, and Dan and I usually ended up singing at least one song together."
Noraís father took up the story, saying, "We were all impressed at two young children from different families who sang so well. They always did sound great together, and from tonightís performance, Iíd say that they still do."
Nora and Dan both looked embarrassed by the praise and seemed glad when Trixie asked a question, "But, Nora, why did you keep running away when we tried to talk to you? We could have solved this mix-up a lot earlier if we could have just discussed it."
"Well, Trixie," Nora said quietly. "You may not realize it, because you seem very outgoing, but the whole group of you seems very overwhelming to a shy person. I wasnít a hundred percent sure that Dan was who I thought he was, and I was very intimidated about approaching the whole group of you. Even when I saw him standing by himself, I asked my father to approach him because I had too many butterflies in my stomach at the thought of doing it myself."
"Iím so glad he did, though," she finished, taking Danís hand and squeezing it.
"Me, too," Dan told her. He couldnít seem to stop smiling. The Bob-Whites couldnít help smiling along with him. Dan was always there for them, and they so rarely saw him truly happy.
"Well, I hate to say it," Di said. "Itís been so exciting meeting you and your father, Nora, and hearing you and Dan sing, but my parents are expecting the twins home soon."
"Weíll walk out to the parking lot with you so we can talk for a few minutes more and exchange addresses and phone numbers," Sean OíConnor said, and his daughter smiled gratefully at him.
"Just a minute," Brian spoke up. "Thereís one more thing I want to do before we leave. It shouldnĎt take long, Di."
"Whatís that?" Jim asked, "It really is late and we do need to head home."
"I know," Brian said, "but we just canít leave until we ride the Ferris wheel." He grinned over at Honey, whose eyes lit up at his proposal. Immediately, Bobby and the Lynch twins began clamoring for the last ride, and Di didnít have the heart to refuse. The group strolled over to the Ferris wheel, talking and laughing, and got in line.
Diana looked at Mart, her eyes begging him to understand. "I think I want to enjoy this last ride with my little sisters."
Mart good-naturedly agreed, saying, "Okay, Iíll ride with your brothers."
Mr. OíConnor declined to ride, so Dan and Nora took the next car. That left Trixie, Honey, Jim, Brian, and Bobby. Trixie looked at Brian hopefully.
"Um, Brian, would you and Honey mind Ö" she began.
"Not a chance," Brian told her. "We paid our dues while you two were smooching in the Tunnel of Love. Hereís your car. Have fun!"
Trixie and Jim reluctantly climbed into the car, and Bobby squeezed in between them, warning, "And no smooching on this ride, either."
Jim sighed and reached over and took Trixieís hand behind Bobbyís head, "Did you have fun at the fair, Shamus?" he asked her.
"I had the best time ever," Trixie replied, as the car swung them up in the sky and they looked down at all the lights of the fair. "Didnít the mystery turn out great?"
"Yeah," Jim agreed, "I have a feeling weíre going to see a lot more of the OíConnors."
"I hope so," said Trixie. "I still have a lot of questions I want to ask them. Isnít Nora beautiful?"
"Not half as beautiful as you," Jim assured her. He studied Trixieís face. "Are you disappointed that we didnít get to share a strawberry soda and dance to a bugler and drummer?"
"No," Trixie said, smiling at Jim over Bobbyís head. "After all, I got to go in my first Tunnel of Love with my favorite red-head AND we got to solve a mystery AND end the night with a ride on the Ferris wheel with you."
"And me," Bobby piped up.
"And you," Trixie agreed, giving him a quick hug, which he didnít even try to wriggle out of.
Ahead of them, Dan and Nora talked quietly. "Itís been quite a night," Dan said, taking her hand. "It means so much to me to find you and your dad after losing my mother. I thought I had lost all ties to the life we had before she died."
Nora squeezed his hand and looked up at him shyly, "It means a lot to me, too. I just know weíre going to have a lot of good times together." Dan nodded his head in agreement, as they silently watched the fair beneath them, each lost in their own thoughts.
Honeyís eyes lit up as the Ferris wheel started to turn. Brian scooted closer to her, whispering, "I like your tattoo."
Taken aback, Honey hoped the darkness was hiding her red face, "Oh, you noticed it?" she asked teasingly.
"Yes. I was disappointed at first when I thought you didnít get one," he told her, "but this one is definitely worth waiting for." He ran his hand along her leg, and then asked, "Why didnít you want to go on the Tunnel of Love?"
Honey looked out at the fair, the twinkling lights and music and crowds illuminating the darkness. "You never asked me," she pointed out. Then she turned back to face Brian. "Besides, I like the Ferris Wheel a lot better," she told him with a smile.
He was silent for a moment, then asked, "Well, Fern, I take it youíre enjoying your ride on the Ferris wheel?"
"Yes, Henry, itís wonderful," Honey replied with a grin.
"Would you like me to rock the car at the top like Henry did?" Brian asked.
"I donít think so," Honey answered, biting her lower lip at the prospect.
"But what if the car just happens to rock a little?" Brian persisted.
Honeyís expression was puzzled. "Why would it do that?" she asked.
"From something like this?" Brian asked her, pulling her into his arms and bending down to kiss her.
There was no need for a verbal answer. †
Authorís Notes: Carol did a fantastic job on these graphics, didnít she?† While I donít have the know-how to set the page up as well as she did, I was very thankful that this was one of the sets preserved at The Wayback machine site!† Thanks to Mary (the other Mary C *g*) for posting about the site on the board.† It was extremely helpful in recovering parts of my site!!!!
This story is dedicated to the 138th Barnstable County Fair* and all the people who have worked hard over the years to make the fair a success. I really had no intention of writing this story. I hadnít planned on starting anything else until "School Days" is finished, but I took my kids to the Barnstable County Fair, and the Bob-Whites decided they wanted to go there, too. It started out as a short story that was supposed to be written very quickly, but itís been over a month since I started it, and itís gotten quite long in the process. Oh, well. Itís kind of a silly story, but I had fun writing it. Trixie, Honey, and Di are going into their junior year of high school, Mart and Dan into their senior years, and Brian and Jim into their sophomore years in college.
* For more information, go to http://barnstablecountyfair.org/
"So Long at the Fair" is a traditional English folk song (author unknown). This is the verse I remembered from when I was younger and I thought it was "perfectly perfect" for a Trixie story, with its strawberry soda reference. I looked at several websites with song lyrics, however, and couldnít find this verse. This is my ex-husbandís version of the song that he learned growing up in Ireland (they always have the off-color version of every thing!) I hope it doesnít offend anyone. Iím chubby myself, so Iím making fun of myself as much as anyone. Itís just for fun!
Since the Bobwhites quoted freely from Stuart Little in The Mystery of the Blinking Eye, it makes sense to me that they would be equally familiar with E.B. Whiteís Charlotteís Web. In my opinion, they are two of the best childrenís books of all time.
Jimís quote about friends is an anonymous quote.
Somewhere, my mother has pictures of ancestors of ours attending the Barnstable County Fair in the 1800ís, the women all in long, fancy dresses and hats and the men in suits. Like Jim, I love to think of that now when I attend the fair.
Okay, so thereís not a Tunnel of Love at the Barnstable County Fair. Everything else from the story was there. I thought a Tunnel of Love would make the story more - ahem - interesting. So sue me!