A Queer Coincidence

And just how did Jim see some of the things that happened in the Bob-Whites’ New York City adventure?  Read on to find out!  I decided to follow Meagan’s lead and keep things in the third person; I just seem to write better that way.  I have blatantly plagiarized from Trixie Belden and the Mystery of the Blinking Eyebut because I’m not making any money off of this, that makes it okay, right? :)  This is for the Jixemitri Circle Writing Challenge, and I used the 1963 Hardback Cameo version of Blinking Eye.

Links to corresponding illustrations from the Cameo and Deluxe versions of Blinking Eye are embedded in the text.

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Jim and the other boys were just entering the girls’ apartment the next morning when the phone rang.  Jim started toward the phone but Trixie called out “I’ll get it!” and made it to the phone first.

Jim didn’t think anything of it until he heard Trixie repeating “Hello?  Hello?” and rattling the cradle where the receiver had rested.  Between the men who had been apparently following them and the break-in, Jim didn’t like Trixie receiving a mysterious phone call.

“That’s funny!”  Trixie exclaimed.  “I was sure someone was on the line, but nobody said a thing.”

“Wrong number!”  Honey said.  “It happens all the time.  People have a hard time remembering seven or eight digits when they look them up in the directory.”

“I’m not so sure it was a wrong number,” Trixie said in the voice that Jim recognized.  He called it her “shamus voice.”  He could almost hear the wheels turning in that head of hers!  “My dad once said that thieves sometimes telephone to learn if anyone is at home.  We didn’t hear one word from the police about the robber who was here.”

Jim was inclined to agree with Trixie.  He exchanged a look with Dan and saw that he seemed to feel the same way.  But by unspoken agreement, neither boy wanted the others to worry.

Dan spoke up.  “I told you before that as long as that thief didn’t steal anything, you probably won’t hear a word.  I don’t think that call was anything but a wrong number.”  And then he changed the subject.  “Let’s all wade into the waffles Miss Trask is making.  Boy, real maple syrup, too!”

Jim was glad that Mr. Maypenny had agreed to take over Dan’s chores, including chopping wood, and allowed Dan to come on this trip.  As a New York City native, he knew a lot about the city and the way things worked here.  Jim thought Dan would be invaluable in helping to keep Trixie’s sleuthing from getting her in too much hot water.  Jim loved Trixie’s free spirit, but he wanted her safe, too.

“You eat this waffle you just baked, Miss Trask.  I’ll bake the rest of them.  I know you’re in a hurry to get to the hospital, since you didn’t go last evening.”  Jim watched as Trixie took over the task of making waffles.  She was always thinking of other people’s needs.  That was one of the things the redhead really liked about her.

“Where are you going today?”  Miss Trask asked as Jim pulled out her chair and pushed the syrup jug where she could reach it.

Bob and Barbara, in their usual enthusiastic way, spoke up.  “Bedloe’s Island!  Statue of Liberty!”  Barbara added, “I’ve wanted to see it my whole life!”  Jim grinned at the way she managed to sound breathless and excited over just about everything.

“Not quite that many years.”  Mart grinned.  “It’s not ‘Bedloe’s Island’ now, either, Barbara.  It’s ‘Liberty Island,’ but nobody calls it that.”

“Whatever you call it, that’s where we’re going,” Trixie answered in the happy voice that was music to Jim’s ears.  “If we get back from there in time, we may go tea dancing, then have a light dinner.  We want to go to the Empire State Building for a view of the city at night.”

* * *

The Bob-Whites and their friends had to scramble for the subway to get to Battery Park in time for the nine o’clock boat.  It only ran on the hour, and Jim thought they would need to spend at least two hours on the island to see everything they wanted to see.  As they ran through Battery Park, Jim smiled as he saw a young boy hopping along on his pogo stick and a little girl enjoying her hula hoop.

The group boarded the small ferry just as it tooted its last call.  Soon they were bobbing in the bay.  From the rail they looked back on the shoreline and the sparkling towers of mid-Manhattan.  The bright sun tinted the roofs with gold until they blended in one shining blur. 

In the bay husky little tugs steamed and snorted as they nudged huge barges on their way or pulled freighters into place.  The water was alive with craft of every kind, from small power boats to huge liners heading for the open sea.  The Bob-Whites and their friends happily wandered around the boat, taking in the sites from all different vantage points.  Jim managed to find Dan alone.

“What do you think about that phone call this morning?”  Jim asked Dan in a low voice.

“Quite frankly, Jim, I don’t like it.  I tend to agree with Trixie—that it was one of the men casing the joint,” Dan admitted.

Jim nodded.  “That’s what I think, too.  I don’t know what Trixie has stumbled into this time, but whatever it is, it must be pretty big for these thieves to be hounding us the way they are.”

Dan smiled ruefully.  “Trixie will always find an adventure.  And they usually beat the adventures in those Lucy Radcliffe books she’s forever reading.”

Jim laughed.  “That’s true.”  Then he sobered up.  “But if she’s not careful, one of these days she might not find a happy ending.”  Jim was very troubled at the thought of something happening to Trixie; Dan looked equally as worried.

“Well, Jim, we’ll just have to keep a close eye on her and the other girls.  Make sure nothing happens to any of them.”

Jim nodded his agreement just as the others joined them.

“I wish I had as many eyes as a fly or a spider,” Barbara said as she ran from one side of the ferry to the other, excitedly calling out to Bob the new things she saw.

“I’ll settle for the sight of the statue itself, over there ahead of us,” Ned said.

“Isn’t she huge?”  Barbara sighed.  “Isn’t she perfectly beautiful?”

“I’ve seen it many times, but every time is a new thrill,” Honey agreed.  “Look, the ferry’s stopping.”

“I’m going way up to the very top,” Bob said, pointing, “to that little balcony right under the torch.  See it up there?”

Dan shook his head.  “Nope, you’re not.  Nobody can go up there any more.  I don’t know why.  But don’t worry, Bob, because you can see just as much from that balcony that runs around her head.”

As they drew near the great base of Liberty, Jim said,” Bartholdi, the man who designed the statue, was a genius for symbolism.  Look at her bare feet.  They show her humility.  The broken chains of slavery lie next to her feet.  In her left hand she holds a tablet symbolizing our Declaration of Independence.”

“I don’t see how you can tell all those things from here,” Barbara said.  “Her feet are so huge they’re all I can see.”

“I can’t see anything but her feet right now, myself,” Jim said, smiling.  “I know the other things are there, though.”  Jim really liked Barbara’s exuberance and sincerity.  He had seen New York City many times, but Barbara’s excitement was catching and he was seeing things through her eyes.  He was glad she wasn’t as sophisticated as her Iowa friend, Dot Murray.  Jim much preferred this type of girl.  She even reminded him a bit of Trixie with her enthusiasm.

The group went inside the base of the mammoth statue and looked around eagerly.

“Let’s climb up to the first balcony,” Mart suggested, “or maybe you girls can take the elevator and we’ll meet you there.”

Jim did not like that idea at all.  He was determined to stay near the girls.  “No, you don’t,” he said.  “We’ll all climb or we’ll all take the elevator.  We can’t lose sight of the girls for a minute after the queer things that have been happening.”

“I guess you’re right,” Brian agreed.  Under his breath he said to Jim, “I didn’t like that odd telephone call this morning…no one on the line.”

Jim answered in a low voice.  “Dan and I talked about it.  We didn’t like it either.  We have to be especially watchful while we’re out and about.”

The group headed up the stairs.  At different levels there were pictures of the sculptor Bartholdi and of the different stages in the development of the statue and its site.

“Boy, is that a view!”  Bob said as they went out to the first balcony.  “See the midget tugs and—gosh—look at the country all around here!”

“Yes.  You can see Manhattan, of course, and Jersey City, over there,” Brian pointed them out.  “Brooklyn, Hoboken—what are you laughing at, Ned?”

“Some of the names.  Hoboken is funny-sounding.  So is Weehawken.  And Tonawanda.  Spuyten Duyvil…there’s a doozie for you!”

Jim felt honor bound to defend his home state, especially to Ned.  “I suppose you think some of the Iowa names didn’t sound funny to us—Pottawattamie, Maquoketa, Winneshiek…!”  Jim smiled.

“Maybe they do sound odd if you aren’t used to them,” Ned agreed.  “They’re all Indian names.”

“So are the New York State names…all except Spuyten Duyvil.  It’s Dutch.  It means just what it sounds like—‘spite the devil.’”  Jim felt much better now that he realized Ned wasn’t making fun of New York.  He hated to admit it, even to himself, but he might have been a little jealous of the attention Ned had paid Trixie when the Bob-Whites were in Iowa last spring.

“Are you two going to sit down and discuss semantics, or are we going to have fun?”  Mart asked.

“If that’s what we’re discussing, we’ll stop it right now,” Ned said.  “I’ll have to ask Bob the meaning of that word.”

“Never mind.  He tripped me up once, and that’s enough,” Mart said.  Jim smiled to himself.  Mart was forever using big words to annoy his almost-twin, but Jim had to admit, they got on his nerves sometimes as well.  He had been happy to see Bob get the best of Mart for once.

“It’s one hundred and sixty-eight steps up to the next balcony.  Who wants to go?”  Mart was asking.

“I do,” Trixie said quickly.  Jim knew he could count on Trixie to be ready for any adventure.

“So do we!” the rest of the group called.  Then, when Diana saw the narrow spiral stairway, she hung back.  Jim sighed inwardly.  Diana was a great girl, he just wished she’d soon be able to get over some of her timidness, as Honey had been able to do.

“Oh, come on, Di!”  Trixie begged.  “If you don’t go, we’ll all have to stay down here.  Jim will go ahead of you and one of the other boys right back of you.  It’s not so bad.”  Jim silently applauded Trixie’s efforts to boost her friend’s courage.

It wasn’t too bad, but Jim could see that Diana was shaking when she reached the top.  He smiled to himself—not everyone had Trixie’s sense of adventure!  He outwardly smiled when he saw that Di clung to Mart’s arm as they walked around the small balcony.  He knew that Mart must be on cloud nine having the object of his affections hugging him so close!

“I’ll bet we can see as far as Des Moines!” Barbara exclaimed breathlessly.  “Which direction is Westchester County?”

“You can’t really see it now,” Brian explained.  “It’s way over there past the tip of Manhattan.  You’d better tie your scarf, Barbara.  There’s really a wind up here.”

“Everything’s so gorgeous I don’t mind the wind,” Barbara cried, standing on tiptoe.  “See all those people streaming from the ferry.  There must be thousands of visitors on this island right now…and thousands of boats and barges and steamships and everything out there in the bay.  They all look like beetles—even the big steamships!”  Jim had to once again smile at Barbara’s eagerness.

“Manhattan looks like something I used to build with blocks,” Bob said.  “Gosh, it’s really neat!”

“I doubt if people in Manhattan would use that adjective to describe it,” Trixie said.  “It shines like a diamond necklace seen from here, though.  That’s Ellis Island over north of us.”

For a long time, the Bob-Whites and the Iowans watched the movement in the water far below.  Jim looked around, taking in everything: the picture-taking tourists, the city far below him, how happy his sister looked pointing something out to Brian, Trixie’s eyes sparkling like sapphires as she said something excitedly to Dan, Barbara, and Bob.  Up here on top of the world it was hard to believe that there were bad things in the world.  Jim could almost forget the queer little idol Trixie had bought, the strange prophecy of the Mexican woman, and the thieves who seemed determined to make trouble for them.  Almost.  Jim sighed, looking at Trixie.  He owed everything he had to the blonde “schoolgirl shamus,” as he called her.  Jim didn’t want to think about what he would do if her nose for sleuthing got her hurt, or worse.  Looking at her now, so bright and alive and happy, he put those thoughts out of his mind.  Nothing was going to happen to Trix—he would do everything in his power to make sure of that.

Mart’s voice interrupted Jim’s thoughts.  “The ferry is just backing away from Battery Park on its way over here.  If we want to get it going back, we’d better scram down these stairs.”

Jim sighed.  For all of Mart’s teasing about Trixie impetuousness, he himself could also say things without thinking.  “And knock over a hundred people coming up?”  Jim asked practically.  “Watch your step, everybody!”

The Bob-Whites and their friends crowded as far over to one side of the steps as they could.  When they reached the lower balcony, they had to wait nearly ten minutes before they had a chance to go on down the stairs.  Now I know how a sardine feels, Jim couldn’t help thinking, clichéd though it was.

After they finally completed their journey down the stairs, they raced to the ferry.  As the group lined up along the ferry rail on the return trip, a large oceanliner crossed the bay.  The cruise passengers waved merrily to the passengers on the ferry, who eagerly returned their own waves.

“Wouldn’t it be so fun to go on a cruise some day?”  Trixie asked, her eyes sparkling in anticipation of an ocean adventure.

If you only knew, Jim thought and opened his mouth to agree but was stopped by Mart’s snort.  “Sure, my sleuthing sibling, so you could get our collective assemblage known as the Bob-Whites of the Glen into a perplexing dilemma in a maritime environment.”

Trixie made a face at her almost-twin.

“I don’t know, Mart, I think an adventure on the high seas might be a fun excursion for our club,” Jim said with a wink for Trixie, his green eyes twinkling.  Trixie smiled up at Jim in appreciation.

Mart started to respond but just then Barbara squealed, “We’re here!  Let’s go.  I can’t stand to be idle for even one minute in New York!”

The Bob-Whites joked and laughed as they deboarded the ferry.  Honey looked at her watch; it was after one o’clock.  “I’m starving,” she announced.  “Shall we have our luncheon at a restaurant in Battery Park?”

“You mean not go to that place where we can dance?”  Barbara asked.

Jim noticed she sounded disappointed and, knowing how much she was looking forward to dancing, he rushed to assure her.  “Of course we’ll dance!”  He turned to Honey.  “Here’s a candy bar to keep you from starving, Honey.  It’s my last one, so you may have to divide it.”

Honey eagerly took the candy bar from her adopted brother, stripped the wrapper off, broke it, and offered it to the others.

“Shove it in your mouth in a hurry, if we’re going to make the train!”  Mart suggested.  “Look at that gang making for the subway station.  Watch out there, sir.  Watch where you’re going!”

A shabbily dressed man had shoved Trixie rudely against the stone wall of the subway entrance, then pushed ahead of her to block her way on the stairs.

Jim fumed at watching Trixie treated so disrespectfully.  “Hey there, you!”  Jim called.  He and Brian and Ned closed in on the man just as he made a quick grab for Trixie’s purse.  The man missed it, cursed, turned, and ran down the steps two at a time.  Jim and Brian took off after him.

“Stay and watch after the girls,” Jim called.  He pushed his way past a group of tourists in pursuit of the shabby man thinking, I just vowed I wouldn’t let anything happen to Trixie.  I can’t let this creep get away!

He watched the man turn a corner, but then the husky redhead got entangled with a little old lady and what looked to be her granddaughter.  By the time he extricated himself, he saw that Brian was rounding the corner.  With a burst of speed, he flew around the corner—and bumped right into Brian!  Brian was standing still, looking at an empty alley.  There were plenty of doors leading into buildings on either side of the alley, but no one else was about.

“Where’d he go?”  Jim panted.  “I saw him turn this corner.”

Brian shook his head in frustration.  “He must have ducked into one of these doors.  C’mon, let’s get back to the others.”

The two discouraged boys turned and headed back to where the others were waiting.

“It was no use!” they reported, panting, when they joined their friends at the foot of the subway stairs.

“He just disappeared,” Jim said, frustrated.  “Trixie, I believe it was your friend with the scar.”

“It couldn’t be,” Trixie moaned, her voice trembling.  Jim hated to hear her sound like that.  “How could he possibly know we were going to be here?”

“Keep on walking, kids,” a man back of them said impatiently.  “Forget that guy!  He didn’t get your purse, miss, did he?  Call yourself lucky.  Thieves hang out at these entrances.  They’re after tourists like you.  If you dangle your purse at the end of your arm, don’t blame anyone but yourself if a thief gets it.  If you lived in New York, you’d know what to expect.”

The frustration and worry that Jim felt was suddenly channeled into anger upon hearing this comment.  He directed his anger toward the man who had spoken the rude words.  “We do live in New York,” he spoke in a terse voice, a fierce look in his green eyes.  Then he turned his back on the man and urged the others to hurry.

Jim sighed in relief when they were all seated in the subway car together,

“See now?”  Trixie exclaimed as they huddled close together.  “That’s more of the prophecy coming true.”

Jim wouldn’t admit it, but he did eagerly wait for Trixie’s justification.  Maybe there was something to this after all… Jim shook his head as if to rid himself of this thought.  No way, it’s just a silly poem from an old woman amusing herself.  There couldn’t be anything to it…could there?

Mart voiced his opinions.  “I sure don’t recall anything as sensible as ‘Statue of Liberty’ or ‘Bedloe’s Island’ in that stuff the Mexican woman wrote.”

“You don’t?”  Honey quoted softly, “’Watch out for thieves, they’re everywhere.’”

“Gosh, Honey, Trixie already quoted that about the thief who broke into the apartment.”   Mart smiled.

If you weren’t so impatient, if you didn’t interrupt, if you’d listen for a minute, Honey would tell you the rest. Go on, Honey,” Trixie said as Jim smiled at her impatience with her almost-twin.

“Watch out for thieves, they’re everywhere, at home, on island, dead beasts’ lair.”  Honey recited.

“Now what do you say to that, Mart Belden?”  Trixie said triumphantly, her blue eyes flashing.  “’On island,’ the prophecy said.  We just left an island, didn’t we?”

Jim looked at Mart to see what he would say.  Jim himself was starting to get a funny feeling about all of this.

“You win, Trix.  I still say it’s just a queer coincidence.”

“Didn’t he call our stop?”  Jim asked, more to stop the thoughts that were starting to take shape in his mind than anything else.  The group jumped to their feet, hurried through the door on to the platform, and up the stairs.

A queer coincidence indeed, Jim thought.

 

Ever the masochist, I also decided to challenge myself even further and add carryover items from all previous Jixemitri CWPs: a pogo stick (#1), a hula hoop (#2), picture-taking tourist (#3), someone other than Dan chopping wood (#4), mention of a Lucy Radcliffe book (SA#1).

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