by jason gusmann
visuals by rhoda penmarq
After dinner in the white and yellow kitchen, Hap races up to his bedroom, which is sizable for a boy his age.
The walls are painted sky blue.
On one wall, there is a forest green pennant that reads FOOTBALL.
On the opposite wall, there is an oxblood red pennant that reads BASEBALL.
On a heavy brown wooden table in the middle of the room there is a chemistry set, a fingerprint set, a mini-camera, several disguises, a flashlight, a magnifying glass, and a yellow legal pad and pen.
Parallel to the table, resting against the BASEBALL wall, is Hap’s bed which is neatly made.
Hap sits on it and reaches down to pet Bodie, who has followed him up from the kitchen.
Jeepers, boy, we’ve got a mystery on our hands!
But Dad and Aunt Bea will never let me out at night to look for more clues...
I know! I’ll climb out the window after they’ve gone to bed!
Bodie whines sadly.
Aw, Bodie, it’ll just be for a little while!
Besides, I’ll wear one of my disguises so that if anyone sees me they’ll think I’m a grown-up!
Hap gets up and walks over to the wooden table upon which all of his detecting equipment lies.
He picks up a false nose and glasses as well as a black corkscrew wig.
See, it’ll be fine!
Bodie lays down, his head pointed away from Hap.
Aw, you’re no fun!
Hap spends the next few hours reviewing his shortwave message and consulting his Codes & Codebreakers book.
Soon enough, Dad comes knocking on Hap’s door.
Lights out, Hap!
Hap responds, Okay Dad! Goodnight!
He jumps into his bed and turns off the light.
Dad responds, almost laughing as he does so, Goodnight son!
In the background, Aunt Bea calls out to him but he cannot make out what she says.
After he hears the footsteps move down the hall, Hap turns on the flashlight under the covers and scrutinizes the message one last time.
DEVIL MASK...what could that mean?
Devil – that could mean the Devil’s Cove, up by Chimney Rock.
And mask? Mask...
Of course! Hap snaps his fingers.
Scuba masks! They’re smuggling out of the Devil’s Cove - underwater!
No wonder no one has realized it yet...
Hap turns off the flashlight and carefully gets up out of bed, stepping lightly so that no floorboards creak.
He takes up a light fall jacket and moves to where the window is open.
Bodie whines, but Hap shushes him and Bodie obediently puts his head down.
Hap quietly slides out the window to the narrow porch above the front door, then shinnies down the drainpipe to the bushes below.
The night air is clear and cool.
Hap takes out his flashlight and begins to walk down the green tree-lined sidewalk.
The town is silent and motionless.
The houses are all dimly lit, closed up for the night.
The moon is just a thin white crescent in the black sky.
Hap looks left and right, keeping his eyes wide open, looking for clues.
He moves toward the town square, directly ahead of him.
In the middle of the town square there is a gray statue of a man with a beard.
The bearded man is wearing a gray hat.
Hap raises his flashlight to the base of the statue where a silver platter rests.
Lying on the silver platter are two insects: an ant and a bee, carefully arranged.
Hap looks down at them, scratches his head.
What could this clue mean?
An ant and a bee?
Hap slaps himself on the forehead.
What’s missing? A fly!
Fly-ing! They’re not smuggling by water, they’re smuggling by air!
Hap smiles and shakes his head.
Sometimes I can be a real dope!
Hap begins walking toward the North side of town, to the airport.
Along the way, his flashlight isolates something on the sidewalk in front of him.
It is red and white and crumpled.
As Hap moves closer he can see that it is a white apron with red stains on it.
He peers closely at the apron and also sees that the white apron strings trail away from it in both directions.
Tied to apron strings...family ties...
The smugglers are a family business!
Hap gets a very determined look on his face.
To the airport, before it’s too late!
the story so far: geraldine garfield, aka the kid, a hotshot reporter for the minsk times (english language edition) had found her career at a crossroads after a series of professional and personal setbacks -
including being duped by a young woman claiming to represent a worldwide gang of feral youths headquartered in karachi
and the abrupt end of her torrid continent-spanning romance with helga morgenstern,
the doyenne of international correspondents. for a change of scene, she had returned to her native north america, where, walking along the shore of one of that continent's
magnificent lakes, she met heidi jones, a young woman she had attended high school ( the north american term for gymnasium) with.
although geraldine and heidi had moved in different circles at that time, the inverse proportions of time, distance and accurate memory had acted in classic fashion, and they greeted each other with something close to ecstatic abandon.
heidi was accompanied by the three youngest of her four children, and the oldest of these, a boy of eight with the unpleasing sobriquet of dylan, watched the two matron's emotional antics with the truly pitiless gaze that only the very young can summon, and which quickly bored into the back of heidi's head.
"dylan, why don't you go look for some native american arrowheads, i know you are interested in them."
"how do you know that?"
"well, aren't you interested in them?"
"not particularly. if you want me to leave so you can talk garbage with this lady, why don't you just say so?"
"all right, dylan, why don't you run along so that i can talk to my old friend without your beady little judgmental eyes drilling holes in my brain, is that all right, john calvin junior?"
"fine." dylan turned and was swallowed up immediately by the primeval forest.
"kids these days," heidi shrugged at geraldine, reddening slightly.
"yes," geraldine agreed. "i've had my own problems with kids these days."
"mommy?" five year old hannah spoke up.
"will dylan get eaten by a bear?"
"well let's hope not. why don't you run along after him, and protect him?"
"because he'll probably throw rocks at me."
"oh, i don't think he'd do that. i have certainly spent enough time on educating him not to do such things. "
"that doesn't mean he doesn't do them."
geraldine changed the subject. she pointed across the lake. "are there any monsters in this lake?" she asked the little girl.
"i don't think so," hannah answered seriously. "but there are monsters in the woods - and ghosts too."
"and ghosts of monsters!"
geraldine smiled at the child. "sounds scary."
"don't laugh. these woods are haunted by the ghost of - the clown!"
suddenly the woods seemed a little darker and cooler. heidi pulled her jacket
a little tighter around herself.
"you must remember the stories about the clown," she said to geraldine.
"i must," said geraldine. in truth, after so much time among the cathedrals and colosseums and cobbled streets of the old world, the new world and its nameless terrors had largely faded from her consciousness.
"but why don't you refresh my memory ? wasn't there something about an abandoned summer camp?"
"oh no," heidi and hannah exclaimed together. "that's wilroy you're thinking about it."
"the clown was worse," hannah told geraldine. "much worse."
it suddenly grew even darker. a few raindrops began to fall, thwacking loudly on the big green leaves on the trees, and sending small animals scurrying through the underbrush.
"oh, dear," said heidi. "maybe we should be getting back." she awkwardly twisted the baby carriage with eleven month old woody in it around . geraldine smiled politely as it went over her bare toes.
"would you like a ride back to town?" heidi asked geraldine. she started up the trail pushing the carriage in front of her. hannah and geraldine followed.
"thank you. but you can drop me off at the old buffalo leg trail entrance."
"but - why?"
"because i'm staying at the old henderson place."
"the old henderson place!"
"don't tell me it's haunted."
"haunted!" cried heidi. "it's possessed."
"well. i haven't had any problems so far." geraldine looked around as the rain began falling harder. "what about the little boy?"
"dylan? oh, he spends so much time in the woods he's half native american.
he'll be all right." heidi maneuvered the carriage over the quivering body of a snake crossing the dirt path.
"hah!" said hannah. "he probably made straight for the car and is waiting for us right now."
by the time they reached the car - an early model duesenberg -
the rain was coming down harder and rattling on the canopy of leaves above them. there was no sign of dylan, but heidi remained unperturbed. geraldine helped heidi strap the baby carriage to the top of the car.
hannah got into the back seat with baby woody, and geraldine got into the front seat beside heidi and they started down the trail away from the lake, which was now being whipped soundly by the rain.
"you sure you don't want to come to dinner?" heidi asked geraldine.
"we've got some fresh bison steaks to throw on the fire.
they'll be ready in no time."
"why, that sounds great, heidi. i haven't had a good bison steak since i can't remember when. say, you don't mind if i smoke, do you?"
"no, why would i mind?"
geraldine took a pack of gitanes out and offered one to heidi,
who was now gripping the steering wheel tightly with both hands as they bumped down the rocky trail.
"did you roll those yourself? they look mighty tight."
"no, they were made in a factory. in belgium, i think."
"oh, i don't think i want one of those."
"can i have one?" hannah asked from the back seat.
"no!" answered her mother. "i've told you before, no smoking until you are eight years old."
"awww - hey look!" a flash of lightning illuminated the trail and the trees which pressed against it.
"did you see that?" hannah cried.
"it was just the lightning," heidi told her.
'i'm afraid i wasn't looking," geraldine told her.
"it was the clown!" hannah insisted.
"oh, i don't think so."
after that they continued their way without incident to heidi's log cabin, with the rain coming down unabated.
heidi's oldest child, eleven year old joni, was sitting on the front step of the cabin paring her fingernails with a bowie knife.
smoke was drifting from inside the cabin, where dylan was grilling up the bison steaks.
"did you do your homework?" was the first thing heidi asked joni.
"yeah. and i made myself a rabbit stew, so your new friend can have my steak."
"no need to be a smarty pants and a martyr, missy, there's plenty of steak to go around."
"whatever." joni took her cigarette out of the corner of her mouth and spit on the ground between the gap in her front teeth.
heidi glared at her but moved inside with geraldine and the two other children behind her.
the inside of the cabin was was lit by an oil lamp.
shadows flickered on the walls.
"make yourself comfortable," heidi told geraldine, pointing to a big stuffed chair in the corner.
later, after they finished the steaks, heidi and hannah took turns telling geraldine the story of the clown,
as joni and dylan smoked and sulked.
at first geraldine listened with only one ear, paying more attention to heidi than the story. a woman with four kids, she thought, quite a change of pace from helga morgenstern.
but then she began to pay more attention to the story...
"coffee?" uncle joe asked the kid.
"sure." the kid put her notepad down and shook her wrist, which was a little sore.
the flap of the tent opened wider and billy freed the shooting gallery proprietor came in. he looked at the kid suspiciously.