The Bob-Whites strode past mahogany-paneled walls, adorned with colorful Expressionist paintings, their steps muffled by the thick Persian rugs beneath their feet.
"Whoever our host is he - or she - has great taste," Di, lover of art and antiques, commented.
Dan grinned. "Of course he - or she - has great taste. This mysterious benefactor invited us here, didn't he?" His friends laughed in response.
Presently, the group came upon an elegantly ornate mahogany door that blended beautifully with the décor surrounding them. "Conservatory" was announced in elaborately engraved letters upon a gold plaque.
"It's the conservatory, gang. What are we looking for?" Brian asked, turning to Honey, who held the instructions.
Honey's hazel eyes scanned the scarlet envelope. "So, each of you will take a turn in the order of the board game: Miss Scarlet…" Honey looked up at her friends, her eyes sparkling with anticipation. "That would be me," she said as she carefully opened her envelope and pulled out the scarlet linen paper inside.
"And the winner is…" Honey paused dramatically, pretending she was a presenter at an awards show. "The candlestick!"
"No fair," Trixie cried involuntarily. She grinned sheepishly when everyone turned to her. "The candlestick was always my favorite."
Mart rolled his eyes but did not say a word as he opened the door and the Bob-Whites had their first view of the conservatory.
The room was indeed filled with all sorts of greenery. The carpet was thick and plush and a deep maroon color. The walls were painted a soft pine color that immediately reminded Honey of the Moores' cottage in the Ozarks. Honey found the color combination of the carpet and the walls very pleasant and soothing. Several small potted trees were located at various places throughout the room, including one on each side of a soft-pine-and-tan art nouveau couch from the turn of the century. Two matching high-backed chairs sat nearby. A low mahogany coffee table from the same period completed the ensemble.
In each corner of the room was a floor-to-ceiling étagère filled with plants: African violets, bromeliads, flame violets, philodendrons, and peace lilies. On a particularly tall, carved mahogany stand near the large picture windows on the far side of the room, English ivy was allowed to trail. Two similar stands held grape ivy and Swedish ivy. Several hanging pots were hung about the room, colorful geraniums and begonias blooming attractively.
Unusual standing plants, such as ficus, Christmas cactus, and palms, were also present.
Brian was the first to speak. "Wow! Moms would love this!"
"Would she ever!" Trixie exclaimed. She looked affectionately at her sleeping daughter. "Hopefully, my little girl inherited her grandma's green thumb, since it seems to have passed me by. As much as Moms' green thumb was a cause of complaints when I was a kid, I wouldn’t mind having some of it in me."
Mart laughed. "Sure, Trix, I can just see you puttering around your garden, forsaking the mysteries and excitement you crave."
Trixie stuck her tongue out at her almost twin. "Well, it'd be nice to have a hobby."
"So, I guess we should begin looking for the candlestick," Di stated in an attempt to stop a bickering match such as the two siblings were infamous for.
Mart smiled at his wife. "Don't think I don't know what you're doing, oh-smoother-of-roughed-feathers."
"Old habits die hard," she told him cheekily.
Jim headed toward the couch. "I'll take the couch. Trix, you wanna search the chairs?"
"Sounds good to me," Trixie agreed and headed toward the nearest chair. She gently placed the sleeping baby's carrier next to the chair and eagerly began her search. Dan knelt down and checked underneath the coffee table, while Honey, Brian, Di, and Mart each headed for an étagère to check among the assembled plants.
"This is going to be tough," Honey stated. "There's so much foliage in here, it could be anywhere." She looked warily at a nine-foot tall jade plant, its branches completely hidden by its abundance of succulent leaves. "The candlestick could be fastened to any of the branches in these taller plants. They're so thick with foliage, you can't see underneath."
"Let's just check the easier places then, before we resort to that," Trixie said as she looked underneath the chair she was inspecting. A search underneath the cushions had been fruitless.
The Bob-Whites busily looked in and around plants and furniture and behind the maroon drapes that cascaded gracefully from near-ceiling height down to the floor.
Finally, the group admitted defeat.
"It's got to be in here somewhere," Trixie said, frustration apparent in her tone.
"Natch, Trix, but where?" Brian asked, his chocolate eyes roaming around the room yet again.
Dan spoke up. "Well, it's time we take Honey's suggestion and check within the branches of the trees. There are four foliage-thick trees and four men. We'll divide them up."
Trixie put her hands on her hips, her blue eyes defiant. "Since when is it only the men who can search trees, Dan Mangan?"
Dan threw up his hands in mock fright. "First, your husband threatens me with a shotgun and now you're shooting daggers at me with those baby blues. I give, I give!"
Honey giggled. "Now, now, you two. Trix, the men are taller than us and those trees are pretty tall. I think we can stroke their fragile masculine egos by letting them investigate the trees for us. After all, we get to do the important investigating at work."
"Fragile masculine egos?" Dan exclaimed.
"Important investigations?" Mart said at the same time.
Jim and Brian, knowing their significant others as they did, wisely kept their mouths shut and just smiled.
Di laughed out loud. "Come on, you guys. All you heap-big-brave men take a tree and start investigating."
The four men immediately did as they were told. Trixie managed to be everywhere at once, supervising all of the male Bob-Whites in their quest. Di took a closer look at the art nouveau furniture. Honey's eyes wandered the room once again.
Her gaze lit upon something she hadn't noticed before. Although all of the other vegetation in the room was growing in soil, there was a vase of roses partially concealed behind a small, bushy snake plant. The vase was rather long and narrow.
The perfect hiding spot for a candlestick! Honey thought as she eagerly crossed the room to where the vase stood. She carefully lifted the flowers out and, to her delight, discovered that there was indeed a candlestick hidden inside the vase.
"I found it!" she said triumphantly. The six other members of the search party immediately abandoned what they were doing and crowded around Honey.
"What's the clue? What's the clue?" Trixie questioned excitedly.
"Patience is a virtue, dear Beatrix," Mart stated, earning himself a dark look from his sister.
Honey inspected the candlestick. "Well, there is nothing inside the candle hole and nothing taped to the bottom."
Jim took the candlestick from Honey and inspected the underside. He pulled out his Swiss Army knife and pried the felt covering from the bottom of the candlestick, revealing that the candlestick was hollow. He handed the 'weapon' back to his sister. "Here, your fingers are smaller than mine - see what's inside the base of the candlestick."
Honey reached her slender fingers inside the hole and pulled out a small piece of scarlet paper. "Good thinking, brother-mine."
She unfolded the clue and read aloud:
The color of money still is green…
Extra words: For also
"Pool!" Mart exclaimed.
Trixie snorted. "I believe the correct term would be 'billiards' as in the billiard room."
Diana looked at the assembled group, a sly smile alighting her face. "Billiards, anyone?"
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