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Welcome to New York
"There it is! There's New York," said twelve-year-old Jessie Alden. She pressed her face to the window of the train to see the famous skyline.
"How do you know?" Henry, her fourteen-year-old brother, teased. He was sitting next to her and he leaned over to look out of the window, too.
Just then, the voice of the conductor crackled over the loudspeaker. "Next stop, New York City."
"See?" said Jessie.
Both Jessie and Henry laughed.
Behind them in the next row of seats, six-year-old Benny leaned over and whispered to the small dog in the dog carrier on the seat next to him, "We're almost there, Watch."
Watch gave a soft bark. Benny smiled and patted the carrier. Then he straightened and turned to look out the window.
Violet Alden, who was sitting between Benny and Grandfather Alden, glanced out of the window over Benny's shoulder. Then she leaned back and said to her grandfather, "New York is so big." Violet was ten, and she was a little timid sometimes.
Grandfather Alden patted her hand. "It's big and interesting and a lot of fun," he said. "Remember how much you liked it on your first visit?"
Violet nodded. "It was fun," she said.
"And we solved a mystery, too," Benny reminded her, turning back around.
"I remember. The mystery of the purple pool," Violet said. Purple was Violet's favorite color.
"You liked Mrs. Teague and her daughter, Caryn, too," Grandfather Alden went on.
"Yes. We had fun when they visited us for the Greenfield dog show," Violet agreed. She was feeling better now. "I'm glad she invited us to New York to visit her in her new apartment."
Just then the train entered a tunnel and the city disappeared from view.
"Attention, passengers," the conductor said. "Please make sure you have all your belongings before leaving the train."
A few minutes later, the train pulled into Penn Station.
The Aldens took their luggage from the baggage rack above their seats. Henry carried Watch in his dog carrier and they made their way through a maze of corridors to the information booth.
Suddenly Jessie pointed. "Look," she said. "That man is holding up a sign with our name on it."
Sure enough, a bearded man in a dark red turban and a neat driver's uniform was holding up a sign that said ALDEN FAMILY.
"How does he know our name?" Benny asked.
"And why is he wearing that hat?" asked Violet.
"Because he's a Sikh, Violet, from northern India most likely. New York City has all kinds of people. And he knows our name because he's here to pick us up. Mrs. Teague arranged it for us. Most taxis in New York will only carry four people, so she arranged for a special car to pick us up, since there are five of us," said Grandfather.
"Six, counting Watch," Jessie said.
Grandfather shook hands with the man holding the sign and introduced himself and the Alden children.
"Pleased to meet you," the man said. "Welcome to New York. The car is this way." He led the way outdoors to a big dark blue car.
"Are we in New York City now?" asked Benny as they pulled away from the train station. All around them, cars and trucks and buses and taxis swerved and honked. But it didn't seem to bother the driver.
"Yes, you're in the Big Apple now," he said.
Benny eagerly rolled down his window. "Hi!" he cried, waving at the people waiting at the corner.
"Oh, Benny," Jessie said. "Those people don't know you."
"It doesn't matter," Henry said. "See? They're waving back."
Sure enough, the people who were waiting at the corner for the light to change waved and smiled at Benny. Benny waved harder and held Watch up to look at the people. Watch cocked his head. Several more people waved when they saw Watch, and one woman said, "What a cute dog."
"He's smart, too," Benny called out to her as the car drove away.
"This is Central Park," the driver said. "Mrs. Teague suggested I take you on the scenic route."
"Mrs. Teague's new apartment is in a building," Grandfather added, "on the Upper West Side."
The green trees of the park rushed by. Even here, the cars and cabs honked and swerved. Everywhere the Aldens looked they saw people, all different kinds of people.
The cab turned and drove alongside the park. Then it turned again and pulled to a stop in front of a large building. A man stepped out to the curb and opened the car door for them. He wore a gray uniform with gold buttons on the jacket, gold trim on the pockets, and a matching gold-trimmed cap.
"Here we are," the driver said. He got out to help with the luggage. "Have a good visit to the city," he told the Aldens, and with a smile he touched his forehead and made a slight bow toward Benny.
"Thank you. We will," said Benny, and he touched his own forehead and bowed right back.
The driver shook hands with Grandfather. He got into his long blue car and disappeared into the rush of traffic.
Benny looked up at the man in the gray uniform who had opened the car door. "Who are you?"
"I'm Leed," said the man, without smiling. "I'm the daytime doorman for the building. Six A.M. to two P.M."
"How do you do?" said Benny.
Mr. Leed didn't answer. In fact, he looked as if he didn't approve of Benny talking to him.
"Here. Hold on tightly to Watch's leash, Benny," Jessie said.
"I will," Benny promised. He wound Watch's leash around his fingers. Watch, who thought he was much bigger than he really was, looked eagerly around, his short tail wagging. New York's not too big for me, he seemed to say.
"I'm James Henry Alden," Grandfather said to Mr. Leed. "And this is Henry, Jessie, Violet, Benny, and Watch. We're here to visit Annabel Teague."
"Of course," said the doorman. He was a short, stocky man who wore gold wire-rimmed spectacles. "Mrs. Teague is expecting you."
Mr. Leed led the way into the lobby to his desk. He picked up a telephone. He dialed and then spoke into the receiver. "The Aldens are here, Mrs. Teague."
A moment later, he led them across the small lobby to the elevators. "Ninth floor, Apartment D," he said.
He touched his cap and stepped back.
"Good-bye, Mr. Leed," said Benny.
Mr. Leed didn't answer.
When the doors opened on the ninth floor, Mrs. Teague was waiting for them. In her khaki pants and navy cotton pullover sweater, with her red-gold hair pulled back into a bun, she looked almost exactly the same as the last time they had seen her. Mrs. Teague held out her hands, her blue eyes smiling. "Welcome," she said. "Welcome back to New York!"
Benny gasped as he stepped into the hall and looked past Mrs. Teague. "Uh-oh!" he cried. "What happened?"CHAPTER 2
A Friendly Invitation
In the big room off the hall, sheets covered the furniture. Jagged holes had been punched into the walls. Some of the holes had wires hanging out. Plaster dust coated the room from floor to ceiling. Just then a skinny man with thinning brown hair and a brown mustache came into the room. He was wearing overalls and a painter's cap that said EVANS' ELECTRIC and he was carrying a hammer. He was covered with plaster dust from his head to his shoes, He kicked up little clouds of plaster dust as he walked. Even his mustache was coated with white dust.
"I have to pick up a special tool from my shop," he said to Mrs. Teague. "I'll be back in a little while."
Jessie stared at the hammer. "Did you make all those holes in the wall?" she said to the man.
He raised one eyebrow. "Yep," he said. He lifted his hammer. "Bam, bam!" he said.
Violet jumped a little.
"Sorry," said the man. "Didn't mean to startle you." He grinned. Then he walked past the Aldens and out of the apartment.
Mrs. Teague laughed. "Arnold has an odd sense of humor, doesn't he? But yes, Jessie, he's the one who made the holes in the wall. Arnold Evans is an electrician. He's been putting new electrical wiring in my apartment. He's done most of the apartment except the dining room, and he's almost finished in here."
"Oh," said Violet. She sneezed.
"I hope he finishes soon so I can put up the chandelier while you are here. It's a beautiful old crystal one, a real antique." Mrs. Teague raised a sheet on a side table. Beneath it, on a blanket, lay a huge chandelier, dripping with crystal prisms of all shapes and sizes.
"It's beautiful," said Henry.
"When I saw the smashed-in walls I thought you had been robbed," said Benny. "I thought it was a mystery."
Violet sneezed again.
"No mystery, Benny," said Mrs. Teague, ruffling Benny's hair. "Not this time."
Violet sneezed a third time. Benny patted her on the back.
Mrs. Teague said, "Let me give you a tour." She led the Aldens through her new apartment. It was big and filled with sunlight. A terrace outside of the living room looked down over Central Park. "Jessie and Violet, you'll be staying in Caryn's room. James, you'll have the guest room, and Benny, you and Henry will stay here in the study. It has a foldout sofa bed."
"What about Watch?" asked Benny.
"Watch can stay wherever he likes," Mrs. Teague said. She smiled and shook her head a little. "After all, that's what Sunny does when she's home." Sunny was the Teagues' champion show dog, a golden retriever. She was away with Mrs. Teague's daughter, Caryn, at a dog show that very week.
"Good," Benny said. "Come on, Watch. You can stay with us." Watch followed Benny and Henry into the study.
Violet went with Jessie out onto the terrace at the end of the living room. They stared down at the trees and streets spread out below them.
"Isn't Central Park lovely?" Mrs. Teague said, coming out onto the terrace where Jessie and Violet were standing.
"We drove through Central Park to get here," Jessie said. "It's even bigger than I remembered."
"It's eight hundred and forty acres," said Mrs. Teague. "Two and a half miles long and three-quarters of a mile wide. I go there often. In the winter, I like to watch the ice-skaters, and in the summer there are concerts and plays."
"Do you walk Sunny in Central Park?" Violet asked.
"Caryn or I do every day," Mrs. Teague said. "Or our dogwalker, Lydia Critt, takes Sunny out when we can't."
"A dogwalker?" Violet asked. "Is that her job?"
Mrs. Teague nodded. "She's an actress, too. But she walks dogs to make money. She has her own business, Critt's Critters. She walks other dogs in this building every day, I believe. You'll probably meet her."
"Speaking of walks," Grandfather Alden said, coming out onto the terrace to join them, "I know a little dog who'd probably like that idea."
"Come on, Violet. Let's go finish unpacking so we can take Watch out for a walk," said Jessie, smiling.
A few minutes later, the four Alden children and Watch were back in the hallway waiting for the elevator. When the doors opened on the ninth floor, a short round man with a round face and silver hair was in the elevator. His solemn face brightened when he saw the children.
He looked down at Watch as the Aldens got on. "Well, well," he said. "I don't think I've seen you in the building before."
"No," agreed Benny, who was holding Watch's leash. "We're visiting Mrs. Teague and Sunny and Caryn. But Sunny and Caryn are at a dog show. I'm Benny Alden and this is Watch."
"How do you do, Watch? How do you do, Benny?" the man said. "I'm Edgar Pound, Annabel Teague's upstairs neighbor. I'm sure you'll have fun staying with her."
Henry, Jessie, and Violet introduced themselves, too. Henry said, "Do you have a dog?"
Mr. Pound shook his head. "I'd love to have a dog, but I'm afraid I'm too busy for that. PoundStar Enterprises takes all my time. It's my company."
"Your very own company?" Violet asked.
Mr. Pound nodded. He leaned down toward Benny and opened his eyes wide. "It's named after the Elizabeth Star."
"The Elizabeth Star? What's that?" Henry wanted to know.
Mr. Pound straightened up again before he answered. "A diamond pendant. It was given to one of my late wife Kathryn's ancestors by Elizabeth I, Queen of England in the 1500s," said Mr. Pound proudly.
"So it must be pretty old," Benny said.
"Yes. It's old and beautiful. And lucky," said Mr. Pound. "It's always brought our family good fortune. Well, almost always," Mr. Pound added softly as the elevator stopped. When the doors opened on the lobby, Mr. Pound motioned for the Aldens to go first. He stepped out after them.
"Good morning, Mr. Pound," said Mr. Leed, jumping up from his desk.
"Good morning, Leed," said Mr. Pound.
Mr. Leed hurried to open the heavy glass door of the building for Mr. Pound and the Aldens.
At the curb, a man in a uniform got out of a long black car and opened the door. Mr. Pound nodded at the man and got in. The car began to pull away. Then it stopped.
Mr. Pound's window hummed down. He looked out at the Aldens and motioned for them to come closer. "Would you like to see the Elizabeth Star?" he asked.
Violet's eyes widened. "Really?"
"We'd like that," Jessie said.
"Good. Then it's settled." Mr. Pound smiled. "Come see it tonight. It's in my penthouse."
"Thank you," said Henry.
Mr. Pound nodded. "I'll get in touch with Mrs. Teague to make arrangements," he said. The window of the car hummed shut and the car pulled away.
Mr. Leed, who had been standing close enough to hear the conversation, made a sour face and said, "Now, that's a bit of luck, to get a special invitation to see the Elizabeth Star. They say it's worth millions."
"Have you ever seen it?" Benny wanted to know.
"No. Why would I have seen it?" asked Mr. Leed. He turned abruptly and marched back inside to his desk.
"He's awfully cranky," said Jessie in a low voice to the others.
"Maybe he doesn't like his job," said Benny.
"Maybe," said Jessie. She glanced back through the heavy glass door. Mr. Leed was carefully spreading out a newspaper at his desk.
"Come on. Let's take Watch for a walk and explore a little," said Henry.
The Aldens walked to the corner and crossed the street at the crosswalk. They walked until they found an entrance in the low stone wall that bordered the park.
When they got into the park, the noise of the traffic faded. But, reaching the circular drive that went around the inside of the park, they saw plenty of traffic — people traffic! People jogging, people biking, people roller-skating and blading with headphones on, people walking, and people riding in horse-drawn carriages. Vendors sold hot dogs, pretzels, ice cream, and sodas. On benches that lined the walks, more people read newspapers and books or ate lunch. Some people just sat back with their faces tipped up to the bright afternoon sun. One man was feeding bread to a flock of pigeons.
"Woof!" Watch barked as they walked by. The flock of birds swirled quickly into the air and the man laughed and waved. The pigeons landed again almost immediately and went back to pecking at the bread the man scattered around his feet.
"Where are the cars?" asked Benny.
"According to the guidebook, cars aren't allowed in the park during the middle of the day," said Henry. "And not at all on weekends."
Benny nodded. "That's a good idea," he said. "That's what I would do if I were mayor, except I'd make all the hot dogs and ice cream and pretzels free."
"You'd get my vote, then," said Henry, and rumpled Benny's hair.
At a pond where ducks and swans swam, Watch stared intently, wagging his tail a little. But this time he didn't bark.
After they had been walking a little while, Benny pointed. "Look, Watch," he said. "It's a statue of a dog."
Ahead was a statue of a husky, his ears up, his tail curled over his back. "It must be a famous dog," said Violet, "to have a statue."
They walked closer and read the inscription at the base.
"What does it say?" asked Benny.
"Balto," said Henry. "That's his name. It's dedicated to the sled dog team that took medicine to a village in Alaska and saved everybody in a diphtheria epidemic in 1925."
"A hero," said Violet. They looked up at the statue of the brave and noble dog.
As they walked away, Benny leaned over to pet Watch. "Keep up the good work solving mysteries," he whispered to the little dog. "Maybe one day you'll have a statue of your very own back home in Greenfield."
"Oh, Benny," said Henry. He grinned. "I don't think we're going to find any mysteries in New York City. Not on this visit."
But Henry was wrong, as they were all soon to find out.
Excerpted from The Mystery in New York by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Charles Tang. Copyright © 1999 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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Posted June 27, 2000