LIVE JOURNAL ENTRIES:
TITLE: The Death Valley Mystery
GENRE: Young Adult Mystery Series
DISCLAIMER: These characters do not belong to me. They were created by the wonderful and talented Mr. Robert Arthur, may he rest in peace. I am writing my own story about them because they were such an integral part of my growing-up years and I love them a lot. This is purely a work of fiction, and any resemblance to any persons living or dead is completely coincidental. I do not profit from this venture, and no copyright infringement is intended.
RATING: G (anyone can read this)
FEEDBACK: Yes, please!
SUMMARY: The boys travel to Death Valley and end up solving a nearly twenty-year-old family mystery.
Chapter 7: “You’re Hired!”
Left alone with Kelly Kipley, Pete felt his cheeks flame anew. He stared intently at his clenched fingers, refusing to acknowledge the girl’s presence. He decided that if he displayed snobbish disinterest toward her, maybe she would change her mind about wanting to talk to him. He desperately wished she’d picked Jupiter instead. Having been an actor in his younger days, Jupe could bluff his way out of any awkward situation with surprising ease. His trained eye could also immediately spot a phony act in someone else. And judging from Jupiter’s secret signal to him, Pete realized that his friend suspected Kelly would use a form of trickery to get information from him. Well, he would make sure she didn’t succeed. He would clam up and ignore her completely if he had to!
He could hear the girl moving about the tiny room, removing her jacket and hanging it together with her hat on the hooks by the door, and the splash of liquid as she poured herself a drink from the water cooler. She sipped slowly and leisurely, as if she had all the time in the world. When the silence became too heavy for even Pete to bear, he tentatively raised his eyes. Kelly was leaning casually against the table, staring out the small, round window beside her. When she felt his gaze on her, she turned, treating him to a warm and friendly smile.
“Hello,” she said. “I don’t think we’ve been properly introduced, have we? My name is Kelly Kipley. What’s yours?”
Pete stared at her suspiciously. What was this girl thinking? After capturing him at gunpoint, forcing him to come to this tiny shack out in the middle of nowhere, she expected him to perform introductions as if they had met at a high school dance? Her behavior just didn’t make sense.
Still, he didn’t see any harm in at least letting her know his name, just so he wouldn’t have to be addressed as “you.” “I’m Pete,” he answered, watching her warily.
Kelly smiled again. “I’m glad to meet you, Pete,” she said, sounding for all the world as if she were sincere. Then she reached into her jeans pocket and produced a shiny silver switchblade. Pete sucked in a horrified breath as she flicked open the long blade with just a light touch of her thumb. Was she planning to threaten him with that knife in order to make him talk?
As she approached him, Pete shrank back, staring wide-eyed at that wicked-looking blade gleaming in the light. I won’t let her near me, he thought wildly. I’ll make a run for it, and break down that door with my foot if I have to!
He tensed his muscles, ready to spring to his feet at the first threatening move this girl made. But she was still smiling as she stopped in front of him.
“You’re my guest,” she continued. “So I want to make you just a little bit more comfortable.” And with that, she reached down and, in one smooth motion, sliced through the ropes that bound Pete’s hands.
This action took the Second Investigator completely off guard. It was the last thing he’d expected her to do! He stared up at Kelly in amazement while unconsciously rubbing his wrists.
“Why did you cut me free?” he demanded. “Do you realize I could just get up and leave, right now, and bring the police back here with me to rescue my friends?”
Kelly nodded and sat down on the bench to him. Pete found himself wishing she’d move away from him a little, for he found her nearness quite disconcerting. But he would have rather died than let her know the effect she was having on him, so he forced himself to stare directly and challengingly into her deep blue eyes.
She calmly returned his gaze. “Yes, I realize that,” she said. “But I don’t believe you’ll do that. In fact, I know I’ve aroused your curiosity enough that you’ll be glad to stay and hear what I have to say.”
But it was annoyance, rather than curiosity, that made Pete snap, “Well, get on with it, then!” He was growing tired of her games. Besides, it had to be close to noon by then, and he was beginning to feel ravenously hungry.
As if reading his mind, Kelly suddenly dropped her charming hostess act. She threw a quick and pensive glance toward the door behind which her father, Jupiter and Bob waited. Then she looked up at Pete, her face taking on a deeply troubled expression.
“I’m so glad you guys came to town,” she told him in a half-whisper. “I need somebody’s help, and desperately!”
Pete frowned, wondering whether to believe her. Was she just trying to win his sympathy so she could manipulate him more easily? Or was she truly in need of help?
Kelly saw his expression and dropped her gaze to her hands. “I knew you wouldn’t believe me,” she said morosely. “I’m not even sure I believe it myself. But I’ve got to tell someone, anyway! Maybe you’ll have some ideas I’ve never thought of.” She looked up at Pete again, her eyes pleading. “Will you at least hear me out?”
Staring into her distraught face, Pete felt his resolve softening. He decided that she must be telling the truth. After all, she was completely isolated from the rest of the world, so it was obvious that she had no one to talk to. It would be cruelty on his part to refuse her a listening ear, he decided.
He nodded to her. “All right, talk. I’m all ears.”
A relieved smile flashed over the girl’s face, and Pete felt his heart lurch in spite of himself. “Thank you,” she sighed gratefully. “I was hoping I could count on you! That’s why I told Pa I wanted to talk to you alone.” She grinned mischievously, winking at him. “Of course, that’s not the only reason. The other is the one I already gave my Pa!”
Pete blushed again, but this time he felt a glow of pleasure along with his embarrassment. He found that he very much enjoyed receiving compliments from such a pretty girl as Kelly.
“Thanks. You’re…uh – I think you are too,” he mumbled, a trifle shyly. Then, to ease his awkwardness, he added more briskly, “So, what do you want to tell me?”
Kelly sighed and lowered her eyes. “I guess you already know about the hidden deed to the Hartwell property? You have to; it’s the biggest thing that’s ever happened to this tiny town.”
“Oh yeah,” Pete said. He thought quickly, trying to be as truthful as possible without revealing the true source of his information. “Uh, the police chief told my friend Jupe about it when he visited the station yesterday. Jupe also found out about you there, ‘cause he saw your WANTED poster.”
“See, that’s my whole point!” Kelly burst out unexpectedly. “I don’t want to be an outlaw! I want to find that deed so I can sell the Hartwell property and move out of the state so I can make a fresh new start.” She stared up at Pete appealingly. “For years I’ve been waiting for the chance to get away from this terrible life I’ve been leading, and this is the perfect opportunity! Will you help me, please?”
Pete felt a surge of excitement. Here was the perfect case for the Three Investigators! They could join in the exciting treasure hunt for the deed, while at the same time, avoiding the danger they would face if they accepted Jupiter’s idea of helping to catch armed criminals instead.
“Sure, we’ll help you!” he promised eagerly. “All three of us. In fact, we happen to be private detectives.”
As Kelly stared at him in surprise, Pete removed his wallet from his hip pocket and withdrew a large white business card. He handed it to Kelly with a flourish. It read:
THE THREE INVESTIGATORS
“We Investigate Anything”
? ? ?
First Investigator………….Jupiter Jones
Second Investigator………….Peter Crenshaw
Records and Research…………..Bob Andrews
“But…does this mean you’re professionals?” Kelly asked doubtfully.
Pete was prepared for her skepticism. It was most people’s initial reaction, usually due to the boys’ youth. But another card he carried almost always convinced them of the Three Investigators' reliability.
“Our police chief swears by us,” Pete announced, showing Kelly the second card. It said:
This certifies that the bearer is a Volunteer Junior Assistant Deputy cooperating with the police force of Rocky Beach. Any assistance given him will be appreciated.
(Signed) Samuel Reynolds
Chief of Police
This time the girl’s eyes widened with admiration. “Wow! You mean you’re a junior assistant deputy in your hometown? I’d say that qualifies you!” She laughed, then tucked the white business card carefully into her jeans pocket. “Okay, Second Investigator Peter Crenshaw. You’re hired!” Solemnly, as if sealing a pact, they shook hands. Then Kelly cast another anxious glance at the door. “But, on one condition. You and your friends have to promise you won’t tell a soul you’re helping me!”
Pete, with a puzzled frown, looked over at the door behind which Sam Kipley and the other boys waited. He had noticed that his and Kelly’s entire conversation had been conducted in a half-whisper, as if the girl was afraid of being overheard.
“I don’t understand why you want to keep it a secret, even from your own father,” Pete remarked, giving her a questioning look. “He’d probably be glad to help you if he knew how you felt.”
With another, almost fearful glance toward the closed door, Kelly shook her head. “No. That would be the last thing he’d want to do, Pete!”
“Why?” Pete demanded, surprised at her attitude.
She avoided his eyes. “Because,” she murmured, “I have a feeling that…that he’s not really my father!”