~A Little Hardys Adventure by Lily~
The Mystery at the Beach
We’ve Got a Mystery at the Beach!
Shortly after 8 o’clock the next morning Fenton opened the door to their hotel room in response to the hesitant knock that had sounded moments before.
A slouching man in a security uniform stood there. He looked up at Fenton as if he were surprised the door had been answered so soon. “Oh, uh, hi there! Sorry to disturb you folks on your vacation. I just needed to have a word with you…uh…if that’s okay.”
“Certainly, won’t you come in?” Fenton offered as he opened the door wider.
“Oh, uh, no…no, I don’t think so. You see, uh, I need to stay out here in the hall, you see. Gotta keep visibility up, you know, presence of authority and all that. You never know when some crook might be lurking around these halls looking for an easy mark,” he stumbled his way through his explanation. “So, thanks, but…nope. I’ll stay right here. I’m fine. Really.”
“I understand, Detective Timmons,” Fenton graciously accepted the odd explanation.
“Detective Timmons! Boy, you are good, Mr. Hardy! How’d you know that?! I’m even out of uniform, well, actually I’m in uniform, but it’s not my regular uniform. I usually wear a suit, you know, as house detective…so I’ll blend in with the hotel guests. But today I thought I’d better wear my uniform uniform so that people wouldn’t get skittish when I knocked on their doors. Wow, the great Fenton Hardy…” The man rested his chin in his hand and looked at Fenton with admiration. Then he snapped to, realizing he had been staring. “Oh, uh, sorry for staring. It’s not every day that you get a chance to meet such an accomplished detective! You’re the reason I’m so good at my job! Yeah, if it weren’t for following your career through the newspaper and magazine articles, I probably couldn’t find my way out of my own house! Well, actually, I don’t live in a house; I’ve got an apartment, or technically, I guess it’s a condo…”
“Thank you for the compliment,” Fenton said politely as he tried to maintain a friendly expression despite a sudden headache. He decided to help them both out by getting back to the reason for Detective Timmons’ early morning visit. “Is there some sort of trouble?”
“Huh? Trouble? Oh, oh yeah! That’s why I’m going door-to-door you see, informing all the guests of a roaming thief, yeah. He’s a man, we know that, or actually, we don’t know that – the telltale footprints could have been made by a woman with very large feet…well, anyway, we’re pretty sure the thief’s a man. He’s been roaming up and down the coast in our general area, stealing valuables from the beachgoers. He’s lifting stuff from bags and even digging stuff out of the sand where the owner’s buried their keys and money in one of those little capsule-like things for while they’re out in the water. Yeah, he’s a real desperado. It’s like he’s casing the joint and just helping himself when they’re away from their beach blankets. The hotels all up and down the coast here have been hiring extra security to watch out for the guy and catch him in the act, but he’s a wily one alright.”
Fenton opened his mouth to say something, but the talkative house detective didn’t notice and started talking again.
“So you should either keep your valuables locked in your room here or better yet, let us lock it up in the hotel safe for you. It’d be safest there, you know, in the safe and all, locked up good and secure like that. That’s why hotels have those things, don’t you know?” he continued on conversationally. “And I don’t mind tellin’ ya, as one detective to another, this case has me stumped!”
“Well, thank you very much for the information, Detective Timmons. We’ll certainly continue to safeguard any valuables we might have. And I wish you success in catching the criminal very soon.”
“Wow, thanks, Mr. Hardy! Boy, I hope I can! I’m doing my darnedest, that’s for sure! Well, I’ll see you around, uh, have a nice vacation!”
With that, the head of hotel security turned to his right and headed down the hall. However, as Fenton was closing the door he observed the man as he came to a sudden stop, smacked himself in the forehead, turned around and went down toward the left. He had apparently started going the wrong direction.
Fenton closed the door and leaned against it. He covered his face with his large hands and his shoulders began to shake, yet he made no sound. Laura came over and pulled his hands away from his face. Her husband was laughing so hard that tears were running down his cheeks. Laura found herself starting to laugh quietly, too. They didn’t want to risk hurting Detective Timmons’ feelings, but the conversation had been calling for it all along – especially when Fenton had to take that ‘compliment’ about being the reason Timmons is such a ‘good’ detective! That was one compliment that Fenton would rather have gone through life never receiving.
Laura commented with a smile, “It was very nice of you not to point out that his name is stitched on his uniform.”
Fenton flashed a grin at her.
“He’s an awful lot like some of Tim Conway’s goofball characters,” she aptly observed.
“Yeah, he does bear quite a resemblance, personality-wise, doesn’t he?”
“Is he really the house detective, do you think?”
“Yes, I recognized him. He’s Cleve Timmons, head of hotel security.”
Even though the two little boys in the room had been watching “The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle” cartoons on the TV set, the one with dark eyes hadn’t missed a single word of the adults’ conversation. And his mind was working fast…
Later, down by the ocean in their favorite spot once again, the Hardys enjoyed the serenity they found there. Fenton and Laura started reading in their books while their sons tossed a ball back and forth.
When their parents appeared to be deeply engrossed in their mystery novels, Frank took Joe’s arm and led him a few feet away, “We can help catch the bad guy!”
Joe looked at him askance, “How we do that?”
Frank looked around, “Be ‘servant. Look around. If we see somebody messin’ with stuff that isn’t theirs – we tell Daddy an’ he can stop ’em!”
“But how will we know it isn’t theirs?”
“We’ll watch. See those people over there with the orange ‘mbrella?”
“There’s a mommy, a daddy, a almost growed girl, an’ a almost growed boy. If somebody else messes in their stuff, we’ll know that’s the bad guy!”
“‘kay!” Joe agreed enthusiastically with a happy smile on his little face.
“We’ve got a mystery at the beach!” Frank announced with satisfaction.
The rest of the morning yielded no suspects. Frank and Joe were more than a little disappointed. They had hoped to wrap up the case by lunchtime! They were finding out that detective work could be quite tedious after the initial excitement wore off. It had been fun spotting the differences among the beachgoers, making mental notes of which stuff belonged to whom, but even this game got a little tiresome after a while. Things looked brighter shortly after lunch though…
“Hey Frank! I see ‘im! I see ‘im!” Joe cried excitedly as he pointed down the beach.
“Where?” his brother asked, trying to see where something was amiss in the huge crowd of people.
“There by the green cooler fam’ly! He’s not su’posed to be getting’ into their stuff!”
Frank looked over at their parents. They appeared to be asleep in the shade of the umbrella. Should I wake them? Wait! I’ve heard Daddy talk about cit’zen’s arrest before…and Joe and I are cit’zens, too…
“Let’s go get him, Joe!” Frank announced boldly as he started to walk toward the suspect just two families away.
“But what ’bout Daddy? We need big people help!”
“Nah, I thought about that…we can trip him!” Frank stated confidently as he continued to lead the way.
Pulling himself up to his full height and taking a deep breath, Frank commanded with all of the authority his four-year-old voice would allow, “Stop right there, fella!”
The man obeyed out of sheer surprise. He turned around and saw two little boys glaring up at him. Bewildered, he looked around and then asked, “And why should I do that?”
Frank wasn’t expecting such belligerence. He stared at the man darkly for a moment and then answered, “‘Cause that’s not your stuff, that’s why!”
The man looked down at the beach bag in his hand. How would those two kids know that?
“Well?” Frank demanded, encouraged by the lack of resistance or denial.
“Um, well…okay so it’s not mine, technically…but I do have permission.”
“You ‘spect us to believe that?!” Joe asked with a frown. “You weren’t here before!”
“I gave him permission,” a feminine voice spoke from behind the boys. They looked up and recognized one of the ladies from the ‘green cooler family’ as the boys had dubbed them for identification purposes.
“Really?” Frank asked feeling a little embarrassed.
“Are you jus’ bein’ nice?” Joe questioned. “He wasn’t around here before.”
“Yes, he really does have permission and no, I’m not just being nice. He’s my brother…he was just late getting here because of all the traffic. Thank you for watching out for my stuff, though. It was very nice of you boys.”
Frank observed them for a few moments longer before he decided everything was indeed okay. He nodded to the lady, apologized to the man, turned to Joe, and said, “Come on, Joe. We’ve still got more work to do!”
The brother and sister smiled as they watched the two determined little boys go back over to their little beach chairs, discussing things very seriously.
The next couple of days were leisurely and fun for the Hardy family, even though the boys were disappointed at not being able to catch the thief. He had struck again several times, but always on a section of the beach other than where the Hardys were. Thinking over this information one morning on the beach, Frank had an idea…
“We need to go to a dif’rent part of the beach!” he confided in Joe. “Then maybe we’ll catch the bad guy.”
“But this is our beach…we’re p’tectinin’ it!” Joe insisted.
“Hey, maybe you’re right…maybe we’re scaring him off – or Daddy is, if the bad guy knows he’s here.”
“Maybe Mommy can take us for a walk while Daddy sleeps,” Joe suggested. “Then we can find the bad guy and catch ‘im!“
“Yeah, that’s a good idea. We’ll try that.”
And they did…but this attempt didn’t lead to their catching the crook, either. Most of the people they saw were unfamiliar, so the boys weren’t able to tell if anyone was getting into stuff that didn’t belong to them.
Laura, Frank, and Joe looked for seashells on the way back to Fenton and as they returned to familiar territory, the boys scanned the crowd for anything even slightly amiss. It helped that most people were sitting or lying on their beach blankets or the two little boys wouldn’t have been able to see much of the area at all.
One good thing the boys had learned after a few days on the beach was that many of the same people returned to their exact spot each day…just like the Hardys did. This made it much easier for the boys to pick up on any new faces on the hotel’s section of beach, thus narrowing down the list of possible suspects.
“Hey there, little friend! Havin’ a good time?” a familiar voice spoke.
All three Hardys looked over as Joe greeted his bench buddy, “Hiya Seth! Yeah, I’m havin’ lots of fun! We found a pretty shell, too! Wanna see it?”
“Joe…” Laura cringed inwardly as she tried to think of a way to smooth over what must be a very uncomfortable situation for Joe’s blind friend.
“It’s okay,” Seth quickly interjected before he had to listen to yet another adult try to explain to their child about a subject they didn’t really know. He appreciated the attempt to protect his feelings, but they usually had no idea how to do so. People ask me, ‘What’s it like to be blind?’ How am I supposed to answer that? It feels…normal, I guess. For me, anyway. I’ve taken to answering, ‘What’s it like to be sighted?’ They can’t explain that any better than I can explain what it’s like for me not to be sighted. He reached out his hand to Joe and said, “Let’s see it.”
Joe placed the fluted shell with rippled edge in Seth’s palm and sat down next to him on the sand. Joe took Seth’s index finger and had it touch on the shell as he explained the colors. “The skinny part is white an’ it turns purple an’ then peach at the wavy end.”
“Nice,” Seth nodded. As he felt the varying textures of the shell he teased his little friend, “Did it used to be orange until someone left it out in the sun too long?”
Joe laughed and answered, “No, that’s the color it was born!“
“Oh, I see,” Seth nodded as if taking the information in with all seriousness. He smiled and reached out to ruffle Joe’s hair. “You’ve got a real nice little seaside treasure here, Joe. It’ll make a nice souvenir to remind you of your visit to the beach.”
Joe smiled happily and took the offered seashell back into his hands.
Just then a ruckus erupted from somewhere up closer to the hotel!
“Thief! Somebody stole my wallet! Thief!” a man shouted.
The beach crowd crowded closer as the man continued to fume.
Joe spoke confidentially to his friend, “We gotta go now, Seth. Frank and I are gonna go catch a thief!“