Trixie Belden and the Mystery of the Missing Heiress:
A Jix Retelling

Chapter 1: Discovery at the Marsh

As told to Dana
by Mart

"Honk the horn!"

That was my sister, Trixie, exercising her vocal cords at their habitual high-decibel level. She has a frequent propensity for this type of vocal expression, much to the chagrin of her three ever-suffering brothers. Aside from yours truly, Mart Belden, that includes our responsible eldest sibling, Brian, and our perpetually six-year-old brother, Bobby.

Although Brian was the one driving the vehicle in which we were currently ensconced, my dear female sibling decided that she needed to assist him in said horn-honking, reaching over to put her hand over Brian’s tanned fingers. Our eldest sibling has the patience of Job, because he merely smiled at her tolerantly as he stopped his battered jalopy in front of the Manor House, which happened to be the formal name of the huge estate that served as the domicile of two of our best friends, Honey Wheeler and Jim Frayne. Jim was Honey’s "full-blooded adopted brother."

"If I know Honey and Jim," Brian said, "they’ve been looking out of the window for half an hour, rackets in hand, waiting for us."

I knew Honey and Jim, and I knew that they had better things to do than sit in front of a window for half an hour waiting for us Beldens. Jim and Honey were two of the most punctual people I had ever met. If you told them to be ready at noon, they were ready at noon on the dot. Not at five minutes before. Not five minutes after. Brian seemed sure of his convictions, though, so I kept my mouth shut. I knew when to pick my battles.

Trixie seemed to agree with me, because she merely said "Maybe" as she jumped from the car. "They should be coming around the house right now if they heard the car."

I wasn’t sure exactly why we were exiting the vehicle since, as Trixie so astutely pointed out, our friends probably were hurrying toward the jalopy at that moment, but I found myself swinging my legs over the backseat. I decided it was time for me to add my two cents. "Heck, they can hear it the minute Brian backs out of the garage, half a mile away."

Which is another reason they wouldn’t be sitting idly in front of the window for the last half-hour! I thought, but because I have the utmost respect for my eldest sibling, I refrained from saying this last statement out loud.

We passed the Wheelers’ young chauffer, Tom, who was washing down the station wagon that was used by the Wheeler staff to run errands. We called out a greeting, which Tom returned with a broad grin.

I liked Tom for a variety of reasons, not the least of which was that he seemed to have as much fun teasing my sister as I did.

It was Tom’s next words that piqued my interest. I hated to sound like my daffy sister, but there was certainly something mysterious about them!

"I’m trying to clean and polish this car so it’ll look just the way you want it," Tom said. "I didn’t think it would take long for you to get here, once you heard the news."

Why on earth would Tom be trying to get the car to look just the way the Beldens would like it? Yep, there was definitely a mystery afoot. As much as I liked to mock Trixie and her perpetual case of "mystery-itis," I had to admit that deep down I really did enjoy a good conundrum just asking to be solved!

Of course, Trixie was full of questions—and did a little jumping to conclusions as per her usual modus operandi—at Tom’s proclamation. "What news?" she asked breathlessly. "Hi, Honey! Hi, Jim! Are you going on a trip? Is that the news?"

At that, Tom threw down the hose and a look of disgust settled on his features. "Do you mean you Belden kids don’t know what I’m talking about? Gosh, Honey, I sure opened my big mouth. Your dad will be plenty mad at me."

"No, he won’t," said Honey, laughing. "Daddy never gets ‘plenty mad’ at anyone without a very good reason."

I could attest to this. My lame-brained sister had recently gotten herself and Honey kidnapped at gunpoint, and yet the man still lets Trixie near his daughter. Go figure!

"Then what did Tom mean?" Trixie asked insistently. Trust me when I say she really doesn’t have any other mode. "Aren’t we going to play tennis this morning?"

Jim just laughed. He’s much more patient with my sister than I am. It was his instruction to look in the garage, though, that had us three Beldens peering with wonder at the brand-new Continental sedan, shiny and blue, glittering with chrome, that sat in all of its glory in the cavernous building in which the Wheelers stored their vehicles.

I couldn’t help myself. The sight was so magnificent that I forgot to use the longest words in the dictionary as I expressed my awe and appreciation for the impressive automobile. "Gol, it’s neat!"

"Cool!" was my brother’s reaction to the awesome sight of this wonderful car.

"Isn’t she a beauty?" Tom asked, laying his hands on the hood in a way that could only be described as "lovingly." Tom had a greater appreciation for four-wheeled vehicles than anyone that I knew. "She’ll sure leave you far behind in the old station wagon, Jim," he continued.

"Are you going to drive the station wagon now, Jim?" Trixie asked. Her voice was absolutely dripping with interest as she looked up at the tall redhead. It didn’t matter what type of activity Jim might be engaged in—my kid sister was sure to be interested.

"Not only drive it. I’m part owner!" Jim said. I wasn’t sure I liked the look he was giving Trixie, but I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt and chalk it up to his excitement at becoming even a part-owner of one used but perfectly serviceable station wagon. Other than Brian, none of the other members of our little club could claim ownership of a set of wheels.

"Is Honey the other part?" Trixie, a never-ending font of questions, immediately wanted to know. Then she seemed to sadden a bit as she added, "She can’t even drive."

I didn’t have time to roll my eyes over Trixie’s thoughtless statement because Honey was saying excitedly, "You are, too, Trixie, and Brian and Mart and Diana and Dan!" She giggled as we stared at her in absolute stunned silence, trying to grasp exactly what she was trying to tell us. She didn’t make us wait long for the full explanation, as she blurted out, "Daddy is giving our station wagon to the Bob-Whites of the Glen."

Being the ever dignified chap that I am, I took the news very stoically and acted in the most mature manner. Who am I kidding? I turned cartwheel after cartwheel down the concrete drive.

As I heard Trixie yell, "Look at what Mart’s doing!" I came to my senses and immediately stopped acting like a varsity cheerleader. As I dusted myself off, I stamped my foot in mock frustration. "Why am I so steamed up? I won’t be old enough to drive for another year. But, say—" I paused for dramatic effect and grinned impishly—"I sure can order my own limousine."

I then proceeded to open the station wagon’s rear door with a flourish, stepped in, and commanded, "Home, James!"

It was a perfectly executed joke—as all of my jokes are, ahem—and I was not surprised to be greeted with delighted laughter at my hysterical antics.

Okay, okay, I may be willing to admit that a teensy bit of the delight expressed by my compatriots might have been from the excitement of having a glorious station wagon gifted to us by the ever-generous Mr. Wheeler. For the next several minutes we acted silly, running around the car, patting it, and every so often letting out exclamations of joy. It was a heady moment in time, if I do say so myself.

Even Reddy, our Irish setter, had gotten in on the action. He had wandered over from the farm and was clearly having as good of a time as we humans were as he raced madly around us, tail wagging happily.

It wasn’t long before Trixie came up with one of her better ideas, calling out, "Let’s take a spin down Glen Road and sound the horn all the way. Beep! Beep! Honk! Honk! Come on gang. Who’ll drive, Jim or Brian?"

I stopped admiring the station wagon and watched Jim and Brian closely, as I knew an argument was about to break out. These two took honorability to a point that was absolutely exhausting for us mere mortals. I knew that Jim would insist that Brian drive. In return, Brian would insist that Jim drive. Both of them were stubborn, so I wasn’t sure who would win, but it was always fun to watch the two of them escalate their honorability to new levels.

I was immediately proven correct. (In case you’re wondering, I usually am!)

"You drive," Jim said as he opened the door to the driver’s seat and gestured for Brian to get in.

"Nope....you," Brian protested. He looked at his jalopy, a fond look settling over his features as he did so. I imagined that he was remembering the agony we had all gone through to earn the fifty dollars it had cost months before. "I have to wheel my jalopy out of the drive, anyway. We’ll have to stop at Di’s, then hunt up Dan and tell him."

And so Brian happened to win this particular exercise in honorability.

"Hi, Regan!" my older brother greeted the Wheelers’ groom as he came out of the stable and over to the station wagon.

Regan was more than "just" a groom. We Bob-Whites counted him as one of our best friends, and sort of a father figure. Okay, if not a father figure, then maybe an uncle. When Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler were away on one of their extended trips—which were frequent—Regan, along with Miss Trask, Honey’s former governess, kept Honey and Jim "in line," as he liked to say. His protective attitude extended to us Belden kids, too, especially Bobby.

Since he was such a great friend to the Bob-Whites, we respectfully obeyed his next proclamation, as excited as we were to take a spin in our new automobile.

"The car’s swell. I’m glad you have it—but it doesn’t have to be exercised. Inside the stable—" he gestured with his thumb—"I have five riding horses begging to be taken out...pawing and restless. That’s the first order of business. Right, kids? Don’t forget the Sleepyside Turf Show next month!"

It took every fiber of my being not to rebel and demand that Jim and Brian be allowed to take us for a ride in our shiny new car, but like I said, Regan was great, and the last thing we wanted to do was disappoint him. Reluctantly but understandingly, I nodded my head, and I realized that everybody else was nodding, too. Their faces mirrored my feelings.

Any other day, I thought, just any other day...

Something told me that my almost twin was thinking the exact same thing as she turned resigned blue eyes toward the authority figure standing in front of us.

Of course, being Trixie, she didn’t stay quiet for long. "Okay, Regan," she said aloud as we all walked toward the stable. "You win. But, jeepers, it’ll be forever before we get to try out our new car. When we come back, we’ll need to groom the horses, clean the tack—"

Have I mentioned that my sister is an expert at hyperbole and dramatization?

Even Regan couldn’t seem to take it, interrupting her diatribe. "One thing at a time, Miss Fidget!" I grinned, wondering if Regan knew that every teacher Trixie had ever had since kindergarten had also called her that. It certainly wasn’t a new or unique nickname by any means. "I just might help," Regan offered.

I expected Trixie to jump for joy at this, but instead, she surprised me by looking ashamed. "You nearly always do," she said. I was feeling proud of her for actually stopping to recognize all that Regan did for us until her next words. Then I just thought she might be an alien in Trixie’s body. "Shall I ride Susie today?" she asked as she stroked the little black mare’s nose.

The little black mare that she always rode, I might add. I wondered why she’d even bother to ask but then chalked it up to being so bamboozled by the station wagon that her normally scrambled brains were even more scrambled.

"If you will, please, Trixie. You ride well enough now, though, that you could almost have your choice of horses."

"You can’t ride Jupiter!" Jim warned as he saddled the mettlesome black gelding. "Brian’s the only one who rides him, except me."

Ah, okay. Now I understood. It was apparently time for my associates to engage in some expository dialogue masked as friendly banter.

Honey apparently had gotten the memo, too, because she reminded him, "You forget Daddy. Jupiter’s really his horse." She swept her hand around, indicating the walls of the tack room. "Look at the ribbons he’s taken for jumping! Oh, well, I’ll take Lady any day."

I didn’t understand exactly when Mr. Wheeler had time for entering horse competitions, what with his job running a multinational corporation and all, not to mention the fact that he was usually traveling, but the ribbons on the walls, which I have to admit I had never really noticed before, seemed to tell a different story.

Not to be outdone with my friends’ exposition, I couldn’t help but add, "That leaves Starlight for Brian and Strawberry for me."

After determining that Reddy and Jim’s springer spaniel, Patch, would accompany us on our ride, we decided to go to Di’s house first and then pick up the final member of our club at the cottage he lived in on the Wheelers’ huge game preserve with Mr. Maypenny, the Wheelers’ gamekeeper.

I found myself becoming happier and happier as we drew closer to the driveway of Diana Lynch’s great stone home. I refused to scrutinize why my joy might be increasing as we drew closer to the domicile of the fair Diana and instead enjoyed the sunny day and the impromptu horseback ride, thoughts of our previous plans to play tennis far from my mind.

When we arrived at Di’s, we whistled the clear club call: bob, bob-white!

Around the corner of the nearby exercise yard, a silver and gold palomino raised his head and whinnied. I didn’t even really notice him. My eyes were fixed on Diana, a beautiful girl with shining black shoulder-length hair. She was wearing tan jodhpurs that looked as though they could have been molded to her burgeoning curves. As I stared, mesmerized and awestruck, she answered the whistle: bob-white! bob, bob-white! and ran out.

"I knew you were coming. Miss Trask called me," Di announced as she drew near. The blouse she wore with her jodhpurs set off her violet eyes.

What? I notice things. Sue me.

"She did?" Honey asked. "She fixed some sandwiches for us to take along. Isn’t she a dear? Did she tell you anything?"

"Just that you were riding and wanted me to go with you. I’ve saddled Sunny. Say...what could Miss Trask have told me? Why are you all grinning? Tell me!"

Far be it for me to allow the fair maiden standing before me to be troubled for long. I urged Strawberry closer to Diana—to speak more easily with her and certainly not for any romantic purpose, I assure you!—and brushed my hand nonchalantly over my hair. "It’s nothing...really nothing...it’s just..."

"That the Bob-Whites have their very own car!" Trixie exploded. "A station wagon!"

Leave it to my almost twin to steal my thunder! I stared at her in great irritation, barely registering Di’s comments about half of us not being old enough to drive and wondering how we would have obtained a motor vehicle. Of course, Trixie didn’t notice my exasperation and set about answering Diana.

"Honey and Jim’s father," the source of my vexation said dramatically. "He has a marvelous new Lincoln Continental and has given his old car to the Bob-Whites. Did you ever hear of anything like that? Jim’s going to paint our club name on the door. Jim and Brian will drive it, for now, and Dan will learn. But it belongs to every one of us! Oh, hurry, Di. We’re going to Mr. Maypenny’s cottage to tell Dan the news, too."

Diana didn’t move. "I just can’t believe it," she gasped. Even gasping in surprise, her voice was harmonious and melodic.

What? I notice things!

The raven-haired beauty continued, "It’s too—too—too super! Why, even the Sleepyside Turf Club doesn’t own a car!"

It was high time I got the conversational reins away from Trixie and worked my way back into this tête-à-tête, so I joked, "Why speak of that unimportant organization in the same breath with the Bob-Whites of the Glen!" Then, because I really am appreciative of all that I have, I added, "Gol, when I think of all that’s happened to us in the past year or so..."

Apparently, that was a cue for more exposition because Trixie said, "Ever since Honey’s family moved to Manor House, and Di’s family moved here—and Dan!"

Trixie was conveniently forgetting that Di’s family had moved from their crowded apartment in Sleepyside into this large estate before Honey’s family moved into the Manor House from New York City, but I didn’t bother to correct her.

"We have the best club in the United States of America," Honey said. She gets her hyperbole from Trixie. Trixie’s particular brand of exaggeration is contagious, I swear. "I always wanted to belong to a club like ours."

Trixie nodded her head. "Now all seven of us belong."

"With a clubhouse thrown in," Brian reminded her.

Well, I was certainly not going to be the only Belden not expositing! "Which we broke our backs mending and rebuilding and furnishing—" I stopped when I saw the absolutely furious look on Trixie’s face.

What’d I say?

"Mart Belden! We’re the luckiest people in the whole world! Just think of it—the Wheeler gatehouse for our club!"

Maybe Trixie was mad because she wanted to out-exposit me?

"It’s true, what Mart said," Honey said quietly. "It looked terrible, all choked with vines and so dilapidated." I sighed inwardly as Honey jumped on the exposition train. "Daddy’s so proud of the way we fixed it up without any help from anyone." Uhh, did Honey’s dad not realize that Mr. Maypenny helped us? Like, a lot. "That’s one reason he gave us the station wagon. He likes the things the Bob-Whites do."

With the voice of reason so eloquently ringing in all of our ears, I decided to finish what I was trying to say before Trixie interrupted. And, of course, I had to take the opportunity to admonish my little sister in the process.

"Trixie didn’t give me half a chance to finish what I started to say. I liked the work we did on the clubhouse. I was just trying to be a little bit funny. There’s no end to the things Mr. Wheeler does to help our club—Di’s dad, too, and our own mom and dad."

Well, if Honey was going to jump on the exposition train, I figured I might as well drive the darn thing!

Honey wasn’t finished, though. Apparently, she wanted a chance at being the conductor, too! She shook her honey-haired head. "There’s more to it than that, Mart. When I think of the crazy, dressed-up kid I was before I met Trixie and the rest of you...Heavens, I never even owned a pair of jeans before. I never had one day’s fun in all my life till..."

I couldn’t help it. This dialogue was becoming too much for me. I tried to interject some humor into it, hoping we’d move on. "Poor little rich girl!" I said in a teasing tone and dried imaginary tears. Honey was a good sport. I knew she’d know I was just joking with her and not making fun of her.

"It’s true. Jim and I practically live at Crabapple Farm now...picnics and barbecues...your mother’s cooking. It’s a lot easier to give things to people when you have too much yourself. It’s better to do things with and for other people. The Bob-Whites have taught us that, haven’t they, Jim?"

And with that invitation, Jim boarded the exposition train and settled himself quite comfortably in the seat next to Honey. "Sure! Of course, I’m a Johnny-come-lately—just since your family took pity on a down-and-out orphan, Honey, and adopted me. I sure think I fell into a great life with some great friends. It took a punk like that stepfather of mine to make me realize this."

What the heck was Jim saying? A Johnny-come-lately? Trixie had met him the very same day that she met Honey, so he wasn’t any more "Johnny-come-lately" than other members of our club. And calling himself down-and-out? Jim was one of the most resourceful people I had ever had the pleasure of meeting. He was doing just fine on his own when Trixie and Honey tracked him down in upstate New York after he ran away from Ten Acres.

He was right about his stepfather though. That guy was a punk of the highest order.

It was time to end this particular discussion and get to Dan’s, though. Since my gentle teasing hadn’t worked to prod the conversation along, I decided to be less subtle.

"Ho-hum!" I broke in, pretending to stifle a yawn. I’m not sure what was possessing me to act quite this obnoxious, but I was done with all of this exposition and feeling the desperate need to move on. Not to mention Strawberry, who was pawing the ground, eager to get going as well. "Is this a love-in, or are we going to ride?"

"Ride!" Trixie said briskly. I felt a moment of fleeting joy that we were going to get going—but then my sister settled herself onto that darn train, too! "It doesn’t hurt anyone, though, to stop now and then and think about good things people do. Too many people are running down our country and everyone in it, with a special hate for teenagers. I like us. I like all of us." Speech over, she then turned Susie sharply, urged her into a trot, and called back over her shoulder, "You have to remember that Dan doesn’t know about the car. Let’s turn into the woods here."

That’s my sister. Once she makes her mind up about something, she’s all business and impatient to get going. It served my purposes this time, so I didn’t give it a second thought as we rode along the trail, soon reaching Mr. Maypenny’s rustic old cottage, which sat at the edge of a clearing among the tall spruce and pine trees that surrounded us.

Nearby, Dan Mangan was cutting up a fallen tree. Dan is forever cutting up fallen trees! He never complains though. The ladies really seem to like his developed biceps. And he likes that the ladies like his developed biceps.

Someone sounded the Bob-White whistle, causing him to look up and shout a welcome. This time, Trixie was so overcome with impatience to share the news that she didn’t even wait until we had reached our friend. As we neared, she called out the news, and Dan’s welcoming grin broke into what can only be described as a whoop of joy.

Not to be outdone by my lamebrain sister, as I dismounted and ground-tied Strawberry, I added "One-seventh of the car is yours. Jim and Brian will give you driving lessons right away."

Why not volunteer other people’s time for them? It always seemed to work for Trixie.

"How about that? A station wagon of our own!" Dan shouted to Mr. Maypenny, who had come out of his house when he heard Dan’s whoop.

"It’s no more than you all deserve," the gamekeeper said.

Now, Dan and Jim have a really strong connection, being orphans and runaways and having lived through some seriously bad stuff at a young age no one should ever have to experience in life, ever. But Dan and I, we have a connection, too. We love to goof around together, and this moment was no exception. How else would we celebrate our good fortune but spontaneously break into an Indian war dance? Unfortunately, though, Jupiter took exception to our antics, which I suppose could be viewed as ever-so-slightly racist, but Dan and I meant no harm. Anyway, the dance came to an abrupt end when Jupiter reared, exciting the gentler horses.

After we had all calmed our horses and had mounted them again, Jim spoke up. "Dan, can we pick you up on the way back? We’re riding the horses into the woods for exercise."

"Go along with them," Mr. Maypenny told Dan. "Lay down the saw—the wood can wait—and saddle old Spartan. It’ll do him good to get a little trail riding, too."

Trixie mirrored my gladness that Dan wouldn’t be left out, as he so often was, when she held up her hand, fingers crossed. "I was hoping and wishing Dan could come!"

It didn’t take Dan long to saddle Spartan and fall in behind us. We rode single file, in silence, enjoying the summer sun that peeked through the branches above us. We took the winding trail until we could no longer ride the horses as we neared the bluff. Signs proclaimed that the ground was barred to horses, so we tied our horses and walked on foot until we came to other notices forbidding any further progress, two-legged or four-legged.

"I wish Dad owned this part between here and the bluff," Jim said. "He’d do more than warn people. He’d fence off this part. He may do it yet, if the county will let him."

Erosion had undermined the lip of the bluff so that only a dangerously thin shelf remained, ready to crumble and fall without warning.

I don’t know what made us visit the bluff that day. It was a trail that we seldom rode on, preferring to stay in the "heart of the labyrinth," as Trixie and Honey called the tangled web of trails in the game preserve. There was no danger in the middle of the preserve. Only peaceful spots for picnics or babbling brooks that allowed our horses cool drinks on hot, sunny days. There were no foreboding signs warning of hazards and peril. The earth was not paper thin, ready to plunge someone into the mighty Hudson—and their death—below.

When I look back, I realize it was that visit to the bluff that marked the beginning of that particular adventure. And what happened after we had eaten our sandwiches, safely on firmer and higher ground than the bluff, was maybe even a little bit of foreshadowing of the exploits that lay ahead.

We had decided to visit a little strip of marshy land below, reached by a worn and precipitous footpath, and as we crossed near the bluff, Diana walked into the forbidden area.

My heart absolutely stopped beating, and everything seemed to occur in slow motion. I opened my mouth to yell to Diana, terrified that she could plummet to her death at any moment, my tense muscles ready for action as I started to spring forward to grab her. It was Jim, however, closest to her, who jerked her back with such force that she sprawled on the ground.

"Can’t you read?" he asked, his voice hoarse with the fright that I myself was feeling, as adrenaline surged through my veins. My heart, having skipped a beat in that terrifying moment, was now racing with such intensity that I thought it might burst out of my chest.

Thank God for Jim, who was now helping Diana to her feet as he continued his admonishment. "That shelf of earth is so thin that a rabbit’s whisper might break it off. Don’t do that again, Diana!"

I’m not proud of what came out of my mouth next, but I had had such a bad fright that the words just tumbled out, and I had no control over them whatsoever.

"That was a close call. Girls! They have to be watched like babies! Let’s go back."

"We will not, Mart." Predictably, my sister was having issues with my words. And this time, I couldn’t fault her, not one bit. I was so angry at myself—and ashamed—that my fear for Diana’s safety had manifested in a perfectly obnoxious way, when all I wanted to do was take her in my arms and hold her and feel her next to me so that my brain could process the fact that she was, indeed, safe. That she was still here with us. But that was just not something I could ever do—and certainly not in front of the rest of my friends.

I barely heard the rest of Trixie’s justified tirade. When she was finished, I apologized. And since I really needed to man up about my idiotic reaction, I tried to add an explanation to my apology. "When I get scared, I...Let’s go find out what’s up with those men down there in the marsh."

Okay, maybe I wasn’t ready to completely man up. I sighed with self-recrimination at my cowardice in not being able to articulate what I had felt when I had been so terrified for Di’s safety.

In an unspoken agreement to move past the frightening moment, we inched our way down the path to the marshy strip of land. When we reached the bottom we saw men busy with sump pumps at the water’s edge.

"What goes on?" Jim asked a tall, muscular man with closely cropped black hair who stood nearby, apparently supervising the work of the other men.

"Some outfit from Canada is going to build a factory here," he said. "They’re going to drain the swamp."

"That’s been tried many times before," Jim countered. We all nodded in agreement, and Brian asserted, "It wouldn’t work. There’s no bottom to the marsh."

"They’ve found one now, kid," the man answered. "Some engineers came up with a new way of doing it. There’s been enough publicity about the project. If you’d read the papers, you wouldn’t have to ask so many questions and interrupt our work—you and a dozen others."

I looked around the area, feeling discouraged and troubled about this new development. This wetland was a very important part of the area ecology. In late fall, it was a resting place for waterfowl on their migratory flights. Botany classes from Sleepyside Junior-Senior High had been visiting this marsh to collect specimens for herbariums since my grandfather was a boy. This factory would mess up the fragile ecosystem surrounding us.

I couldn’t help but wonder aloud, "Gosh! What’ll we do for stuff for botany? Where will the migrating birds light?" Okay, there was Martin’s Marsh, I’ll admit, but I still didn’t like to see any wetlands destroyed in the name of “progress.”

Anyway, I wasn’t expecting the workman in front of me to answer the questions, but he decided to jump down my throat anyway.

"Questions! Questions! Questions! You’d better get out of our way...go back up where you came from. Read the answers to your questions in the newspapers." Given his obvious animosity, we were only too happy to obey his command and started to retreat toward the path when he called us back. "Say, aren’t you going to take the old guy with you?"

I turned. "What old guy?"

"That old guy there. He asked more questions than you kids. Isn’t he with you?"

I shook my head. "There’s no old guy with us."

At that moment, I noticed my sister looking into the distance and turned and followed her sharp, blue-eyed gaze. Far up the road, a man faded into the shrubbery and out of sight.

Despite the warm and sunny day, I shivered. I couldn’t help myself. A sense of something evil pervaded me to my very core. I also noticed something else.

My sister had had the very same reaction to the man.

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Author Notes

Many thanks to Susan, Mary, and Julia for their super quick, lightning edits! Even though this was a favorite of mine as a child, as an adult, I found the writing awkward...and downright ridiculous in some parts...so I couldn’t get into it and couldn’t get into it. Until it was the last minute, and I had to! Thank you, ladies! Julia also had a very astute observation about Martin’s Marsh, so I had to make a little addition to my chapter based on her comment!

Another thank you to everyone who participated in the re-write this year!

I don’t know why, but even though I’m not a fan of writing in the first-person, this was the only way Mart would speak to me! I used the "Short and Ugly" version as the basis for the chapter, since that was the original. My word count was 3,378. Susan made a comment in her editing that tickled me, so I stole her words, so seven words are hers! With KK’s 2,084, the total word count for the chapter is 5,469.

Trixie Belden® is a registered trademark of Random House Books. These pages are not affiliated with Random House Books in any way. These pages are not for profit. Images are copyright © Random House Books and used respectfully, albeit without permission. Chapter contents, except canon text as noted, and graphics copyright © Dana.