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When Grandpa and I first moved to Wilton, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, I thought I would never get warm again! I mean, in Cocoa Beach, Florida, every season was like summer. But in Boston -- brr! Ice and snow, frost and freezing!
So it sort of surprised me to learn that the Boston area could be warm, too. In fact, when summer vacation began, we were in the middle of a heat wave. Would you believe eighty-eight degrees in June?
Maybe that's what made me begin to feel a little homesick for Cocoa Beach. Anyway, Grandpa noticed that I was moping around.
"Enough of this, Shelby," he said one day. "Everything at the bed-and-breakfast is under control. School's out. You have a two-week vacation from your internship at the police station. You need a change. Get out. Be a tourist. See some of the sights."
My new friends Angie Burns and Vince Rosania agreed -- and Vince said he knew the coolest tourist trip of all: a whale watch! We'd go right out on the Atlantic and see real live whales! That's how it started, but who wouldhave guessed that a perfectly innocent trip like that could turn into a deep, dark mystery?
Shelby hung on as Vince maneuvered his dad's car through foggy early morning Boston traffic. She was almost used to the chaos by now. At first she had wondered why Boston streets looked different from those in Cocoa Beach. Then she had noticed that some of the streets weren't divided into lanes -- they weren't wide enough.
Vince made his own lanes, like everyone else, which made driving an adventure. Shelby reflected that no Boston driver needed a directional indicator -- they were never used to turn.
"Slow down," Angie/I> was in elaborate script lettering on the bow, blue against the white.
Closer to them, just ahead of Shelby and across the street, was a long, low brick building with a fancy arched doorway. A red, white, and blue sign above it read, "Spindrift Cruises: Sightseeing, Whale Watching, and Romantic Voyages." It looked busy. Two families went inside as Shelby and the others crossed the street.
Shelby took a deep breath. The air was muggy, but she sniffed some familiar scents -- salt water and fish. "Reminds me of Florida," she said.
"I guess you went out on the ocean a lot, huh?" Vince asked.
"Not as much as you'd think," Shelby told him. "Grandpa and Detective Hineline had ways of keeping me pretty busy!"
"Well, today you're going to have fun," Angie said, opening the door to Spindrift Cruises. "At least we are if the weather's not too bad for the boat to go out."
"This is just coastal fog," Vince said. "The TV says it's clear out on the ocean, and the whale-watching site is about twenty-five miles offshore."
"I hope the TV's right for a change," Shelby said. They had stepped into a cool lobby. Lots of people milled around: two elderly couples in straw hats and shorts, families wearing T-shirts and sunglasses, and a few people who were clearly employees. The employees all wore navy blue pants and gray sweatshirts, plus round white sailors' hats.
Across the room was a row of ticket counters. Shelby, Vince, and Angie got in line. The man ahead of them, a thin, bald fellow of forty, asked the ticket agent, "Is it going to be rough?"
The clerk at the counter was a handsome young man, maybe twenty years old. He had broad shoulders, neat brown hair, and startlingly blue eyes. "Rough?" he asked. He made his voice harsh and spoke with a pirate's accent: "Har, matey, ye've never sailed the seven seas afore? Why, some o' them waves can get to twelve -- nay, fifteen, maybe twenty -- "
"Feet?" the bald man asked in a startled voice.
The clerk winked at him. "Inches," he said. In his normal voice, he said, "Don't worry about a thing. It's cool and clear out to sea, and the water's calm. If you're worried, we can sell you some medicine for seasickness, but you shouldn't have a problem today."
The relieved customer bought his ticket but turned down the offer of seasickness pills. As the bald man stepped aside, the young man saw Shelby, and his blue eyes fit up. In a soft voice, he began to recite:
"O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope's ear;
Beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear!"
Vince, next to Shelby, said, "Huh?"
Shelby could feel herself blushing. Angie, on Shelby's right, laughed. "Vince, you dummy, that's from Romeo and Juliet."
Someone nearby laughed. Shelby looked up. At the next ticket window, a black-haired young man, taller and skinnier than the one at their window, said, "Watch out, ladies! Dave here is an ac-tor!"
"Oh, great," Vince grumbled.
Winking, Dave said, "Don't worry. Actors don't bite. Anyway, I've never played Romeo. I did Tybalt in high school once, though. What is your wish, fair lady?"
Vince stepped up to the window. "Our wish is to get tickets for the whale watch. And I've got this coupon."
"All right," Dave said. "Three of you for the price of two." He made some entries on a computerized cash register. "The total will be forty-two dollars even, my good man."
Now that they were close, Shelby noticed something odd. Dave smelled a little like -- what was it? "Baby powder!" she said. "That means makeup. Do you have an acting job now?"
Dave laughed. "Good nose! What you smell is the talcum in my makeup kit. When an acting job comes, I'll be ready! But, alas, I am at the moment, as we say, between engagements. And I'm working here so that I can afford next year's tuition at the Boston School of Performing Arts."
"But actors don't wear makeup to auditions," Shelby said.
As he counted out Vince's change, Dave grinned. "Pretty sharp. Actually, I'm going to an audition later today -- yes, it's unusual but they asked us to try out in makeup."
"Yeah, yeah," Vince said. "Well, we have to go."
"Good luck," Shelby said.
To her surprise, Dave clutched his heart. "Wounded! Agh! Never, never wish an actor good luck, fair one! In the theater, you express good thoughts by saying, 'Break a leg!'"
"Break both of 'em," Vince growled.
"Break your neck!" added the black-haired clerk, who also gave off a faint scent of talcum powder.
Shaking his head, Dave said, "I'm surrounded by doubters. Timbo, you'll be sorry one day. I'm going to be a star! And I won't even give you my autograph!"
"Right," Timbo said. "Like I'd want it!"
"Come on," Vince said, grabbing Shelby's arm above the elbow. "We're holding up the line."
"No, we're not," Angie said helpfully. "There's no one behind us."
"Come on," Vince said again.
It was almost ten o'clock. A notice board beside a side door explained that the trip began at ten and would last until about four. "We'd better get aboard," Angie said.
They walked down the pier beside the brick building. It was long and jutted out into the harbor. Across the way, barely visible through the fog, were three tall masts of a sailing ship. "What's that?" Shelby asked, pointing.
Angie said, "Charlestown Navy Yard. The ship is the USS Constitution. Old Ironsides."
"Old Ironsides?" Shelby asked.
With a laugh, Angie said, "I sometimes forget you're not from around here. The Constitution is the oldest ship in the navy. She was built back in the late 1700s and never lost a battle. There wasn't anything her size she couldn't beat, and there wasn't anything larger she couldn't outrun!"
"And it's still in the navy?" Shelby asked.
"Yep," Angie replied. "You can visit it. It's free. And they've got the cutest young sailors to show you around -- "
"Come on," Vince said. "Let's get on this boat."
Angie winked at Shelby. "I think someone doesn't care for cute young sailors. Or ticket sellers, either."
"Huh," Vince said. "That'll be the day."
Shelby couldn't help but feel a little amused. Vince had a stubborn expression. Shelby said, "I'm looking forward to this." She saw Vince relax a little.
"It ought to be fun," he said.
They went aboard the Nantucket Nell. It was larger than Shelby had thought, with room for five hundred people or more. There weren't anywhere near that many aboard today, though, probably because of the foggy weather. Shelby guessed that the ship had maybe a hundred and fifty passengers or so.
The bridge, where the captain ran the vessel, was on the top deck, toward the bow. On either side of and behind the bridge were rows of benches. On the deck below were more benches and a row of seats outside on either side. The m ain deck boasted a snack bar, plus some doors marked Crew Only. A long, narrow platform jutted out from the bow of the ship. All the kids were there, of course, pretending they were in the bow of the Titanic.
Shelby, Vince, and Angie found good seats on the top deck, just to the left of the bridge. Activity picked up as several crew members, distinctive in their gray sweatshirts and navy trousers, came on board. Most were college-age kids, but one or two were grizzled men in middle age. One of these was the captain, who nodded to Shelby and the others as he entered the bridge.
A moment later a shrill whistle sounded, making Shelby jump. Then a loudspeaker crackled to life. "Ladies and gentlemen," a man's voice said. "Welcome aboard! I'm Captain Isaiah Hayes. Before we start our cruise, Coast Guard regulations require some safety information."
The captain went on to explain where the life jackets were stowed. He reminded his passengers there was to be no smoking, and he asked everyone to make sure to stay out of the way of the crew. "Now," he said, "weather observers tell us this fog will be with us just inside the harbor. We're cruising out to the Stell Wagen Bank -- and the word we have so far is that the humpback whales are busy feeding. I'm going to be busy now for a few minutes, but then I'll get back on the horn and tell you some of the sights you could see if you could see anything through this fog! Sit back, relax, and have a great time."
The whistle blew again. Crew members on the pier untied heavy lines fore and aft. The engines roared, and the Nantucket Nell began to back away from the pier. She made a long, slow turn. As they moved closer to the Charlestown Navy Yard, Shelb y could just make out the top of the Bunker Hill Monument behind the Constitution. She pointed it out. "It looks like the Washington Monument, but grayer and thicker," she said.
"Correction," Vince told her. "It was built before the Washington Monument, so the Washington Monument looks like it! Hey, what hill is the Bunker Hill Monument built on?"
Shelby grinned. She knew that one. "Breed's Hill," she said. "Because the Battle of Bunker Hill was actually fought on Breed's Hill. The British made a mistake when they named the battle."
The boat began to move faster. Shelby looked back at the pier, fast vanishing in the fog. She blinked. "What's that?" she asked, pointing.
Both Angie and Vince glanced back. "I don't see anything," Angie said after a moment. Vince agreed.
"Probably it was nothing," Shelby said. She wasn't sure, though. For a second, she had glimpsed a flashing blue light. For a second she thought that a police car had just pulled up in front of Spindrift Cruises. She leaned on the rail, gazing into the fog.
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