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The Creature in Ogopogo Lake
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Robert Papp
ALBERT WHITMAN & CompanyCopyright © 2006 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
A Monster Lurks
"Do you think it's true?" asked six-year-old Benny. The youngest Alden had his nose pressed up against the window of their rental car. "Is there really a monster in Ogopogo Lake?" His eyes were huge.
"You mean, Okanagan Lake," corrected twelve-year-old Jessie, who often acted like a mother to her younger brother and sister. "Ogopogo is the name of the famous Canadian monster that lives in Okanagan Lake."
"I like Ogopogo Lake better," insisted Benny. "After all, it's the monster's home."
Henry, who was sitting up front beside Grandfather, smiled back at his little brother. "There's no real proof the monster exists, Benny." Henry was fourteen. He was the oldest of the Aldens.
Grandfather slowed down for a curve in the road. "They've even used underwater cameras to search for the creature," he said, "but nothing's turned up. Of course, that doesn't stop folks from keeping their eyes peeled. Everybody hopes to catch a glimpse of Ogopogo."
"Good thing I brought along my binoculars." Benny grinned.
"And I packed my camera," put in Violet, who was ten. Photography was one of Violet's hobbies. She almost always brought her camera along when they went on vacations.
James Alden and his four grandchildren—Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny—had just arrived for a holiday in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia. They were on their way to the Ogopogo Resort in Peachland. Grandfather was renting a cabin from his good friend Abby Harmon.
"Should I check the map, Grandfather?" asked Jessie, who was the best map-reader in the family.
"That's okay, Jessie. I haven't forgotten how to get to Peachland."
"Oh, that's right," said Jessie. "You used to come here all the time. Didn't you, Grandfather?"
"We came every summer when I was growing up. My parents always rented a cabin from the Harmon family. Abby was about my age, and we soon became great friends."
"And you never lost touch," said Violet. "Right, Grandfather?"
"No, we didn't." Grandfather smiled at his youngest granddaughter through the rear view mirror. "We've been pen pals ever since. After Abby's father died," he went on, "she inherited the Ogopogo Resort. She still rents out cabins and runs a small gift shop."
"Sounds like fun," said Henry.
"Abby does enjoy it," said Grandfather. "But ..."
"But what?" asked Violet.
"The place is getting old," Grandfather answered. "From what I hear, it's badly in need of repair. I'm afraid, with all the new resorts springing up everywhere, people aren't coming to stay at Abby's cabins."
Henry looked puzzled. "Why doesn't she just spruce the place up a bit?"
"Abby doesn't have the money for repairs, Henry. In fact, she's even been thinking of selling the resort."
"How sad!" Violet sighed.
"Abby hasn't made her mind up yet, Violet," Grandfather told her. "But someone said he would buy it. She's trying to decide what to do."
"That must be hard for Abby," Jessie said. "To make a decision like that, I mean."
Grandfather nodded. "The Ogopogo Resort is the only home she's ever known."
"We kept our old home," Benny said. "Thanks to you, Grandfather."
After their parents died, the four Alden children had run away. When they discovered an abandoned boxcar in the woods, they made it their home. Then their grandfather found them and brought them to live with him in his big white house in Greenfield. He even surprised his grandchildren by giving the boxcar a special place in the backyard. The Aldens often used the boxcar as a clubhouse.
They were all enjoying the car ride as they looked out the windows and saw the beautiful green orchards and vineyards. In the distance, dry brown hills were scattered with tall trees. Benny was the first to break the silence.
"I was just wondering," he said, sounding a bit uneasy. "What exactly does it look like?"
Grandfather seemed puzzled, but only for a moment. "Oh, you mean Ogopogo. Well, it's supposed to be a long, snakelike creature with a head like a sheep. Some people say it's a plesiosaur."
Benny made a face. "A what?"
"A plesiosaur," said Grandfather. "A creature left over from the dinosaur era, Benny. It was thought to be extinct for more than one million years."
"Has Abby ever seen the leftover dinosaur?" Violet asked.
"Not that I know of," answered Grandfather. Then he chuckled. "Back when we were kids, we thought we'd spotted Ogopogo swimming in the lake. Turned out to be logs floating in the water."
"Ogopogo is a funny name for a monster," Jessie noted.
Henry nodded. "Not exactly a scary name, that's for sure."
"Ogopogo is supposed to be quite harmless," Grandfather informed them. "If there is a monster in the lake, it seems to keep pretty much to itself."
Benny looked relieved to hear this.
"I bet Ogopogo doesn't like being around strangers," guessed Violet. She was shy, and meeting new people often made her nervous.
As Grandfather slowed to a stop beside a fruit and vegetable market, Benny clapped his hands. "You read my mind, Grandfather!" he chirped. "I was just getting hungry."
"Benny, you're always hungry!" Henry teased. The youngest Alden was known for his appetite. They all got out and stretched their legs.
"I thought we'd stock up for the week," said Grandfather as they went inside. "The Okanagan Valley is famous for its fruit."
In no time at all, they were all busy filling their baskets. Jessie was checking out the cherries when she heard someone talking on a cell phone nearby.
"Of course, I'll do whatever it takes!" a woman was saying, sounding annoyed. "Look, I need this sale. I won't come in second. Not again. Not this year!"
Jessie didn't mean to eavesdrop. But from where she was standing, it was impossible not to overhear.
"I know how to handle Abby." The woman was talking loudly now. "I'll get that rundown resort sold, if it's the last thing I do!" With that, the woman pocketed her cell phone and hurried away.
Violet couldn't help wondering if she'd heard right. Was that smartly dressed woman with the dangly earrings talking about Abby Harmon?CHAPTER 2
After making another stop for groceries, the Aldens were soon heading into Peachland. Everywhere they looked, tourists were strolling along the sidewalks and in and out of the shops and restaurants beside the sparkling blue lake.
"The resort's just up ahead," Grandfather told the children. "Keep your eyes peeled, everybody. If I remember right, there should be a sign hanging from a tree out front."
It wasn't long before sharp-eyed Benny cried out, "There it is!" He pointed to a huge pine tree where three signs were hanging, hooked together, one on top of the other—OGOPOGO RESORT, CABINS FOR RENT, and OGOPOGO GIFT SHOP.
"Way to go, Benny!" said Jessie, as they turned into the gravel driveway. "Those signs aren't easy to spot from the road. The paint's all faded and peeling."
At the end of the driveway, Grandfather parked the car beside the long grass. Everyone piled out. Benny looked over at the line of cabins nestled among the pines.
"One, two, three, four, five, six," he counted. "Which cabin does Abby live in?"
"Abby lives over there." Grandfather nodded in the direction of a small building where a mustard-colored bench stood beneath a large plate-glass window. The sign above the door read: OGOPOGO GIFT SHOP.
Benny raised his eyebrows. "Abby lives in a store?"
"She has a small place in the back of the shop, Benny," Grandfather explained, as he led the way across a lawn covered with dandelions. "Let's go say hello."
As they stepped inside, a bell jingled above the door. A woman looked over as she tucked her short silver hair behind her ear. Her face broke into a smile as soon as she saw her old friend.
"James!" She rushed out from behind the counter. "It's been so long!"
"Much too long," said Grandfather, returning his friend's warm hug. "Abby, I want you to meet my grandchildren—Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny."
They all shook hands. "It's very nice to meet you," Jessie said politely, speaking for them all.
Benny glanced around. "You sure have lots of Ogopogo stuff in here."
Violet followed Benny's gaze. Everywhere she looked, she could see the famous monster on everything from posters to T-shirts.
Abby laughed. "That's our claim to fame around here, Benny. Peachland is known as Ogopogo's home."
The four Alden children looked at each other in surprise. "Ogopogo lives in the town?" Benny asked in disbelief. "I thought he lived in the lake."
"Actually, he lives in an underwater cave just across the lake from town," Abby replied. "At least, that's what they say." She pulled a set of keys from her pocket. "I was just about to close up shop. Why don't I walk you over to your cabin?"
"Sure thing." Grandfather gave her a cheery smile.
"By the way," Abby said, "how does a picnic supper by the lake sound? I'm planning a get-together tonight."
Grandfather thought it sounded great. So did everyone else.
"I chose the cabin at the far end for you," said Abby. They followed a stone path that looped its way around the gift shop. "I've been airing it out, but ... I'm afraid it still smells a bit musty in there."
Grandfather waved that away. "I'm sure it'll be just fine, Abby."
Benny, who had raced ahead, suddenly called out from the cabin porch. "Come and see this!" He sounded excited.
"What is it, Benny?" asked Henry, taking the steps two at a time.
The youngest Alden pointed to a large wooden carving of a green, snakelike creature with a head like a sheep.
"Wow!" Henry nodded approvingly. "That's pretty cool."
"There's an Ogopogo carving on every porch," said Abby, coming up behind them. "Patch O'Brien was quite an artist."
"Patch?" Benny said. "That's a funny name."
"His real name was Patrick O'Brien," Abby explained. "But Patch always suited him better." She paused for a moment. There was a faraway look in her eye. "I don't think I ever saw my old friend in anything but patched-up clothes."
"Oh, I get it." Benny nodded. "Patch was his nickname because he wore patches."
"Yes—exactly," said Abby. "It's been a few years since he passed away," she added. "But I still miss him."
Violet didn't like to hear the note of sadness in Abby's voice. She was trying to think of something cheery to say when Jessie spoke up.
"It looks like Patch was an expert carver," she said.
"Oh, yes!" Abby's face brightened. "And you know, he made an especially wonderful carving of Ogopogo just for me. He left it to me in his will," she said, "along with his old boat, and—" She stopped herself in mid-sentence.
"And what, Abby?" Benny wanted to know.
Abby hesitated, then laughed a little. "Well, this is going to sound strange," she said, "but Patch also left me something rather odd."
The four Alden children were instantly curious. "What was it?"
"A riddle," said Abby. "It's supposed to lead to a treasure."
Henry blinked in surprise. "A treasure?"
"Wow!" Benny clapped his hands. "If you found a treasure, you could keep the resort!"
Abby smiled. "That's a nice thought, Benny," she said. "The problem is, Patch never owned anything of real value. Of course, I'd love to figure out the riddle," she quickly added. "But ... I'm afraid I can't."
"Maybe we can help," Violet offered, and the others nodded.
"You never know," insisted Benny. "The treasure might be worth lots and lots of money!"
"My grandchildren are first-class detectives, Abby." Grandfather sounded proud.
"You're welcome to take a shot at it," Abby said, looking pleased. "I'll show you the riddle right after dinner if you like."
At that moment, a maroon car pulled into the driveway. A woman with reddish-brown hair, wearing a business suit, stepped out of the car. Jessie recognized her immediately. It was the woman she'd overheard on the phone at the fruit and vegetable market.
"Oh, that's Rilla Washburn." Abby waved her hand. "Rilla's a local real estate agent. And a good friend," she added.
"I thought you might enjoy these," said Rilla, rushing over with a basket of cherries.
After thanking her friend, Abby quickly introduced everyone.
Rilla gave the Aldens a brisk nod, then turned her attention back to Abby. "So ... have you made a decision yet?" she asked in a businesslike voice. "About selling the resort, I mean."
Abby shook her head. "No, I'm afraid I haven't decided yet."
"You haven't decided?" Rilla did not look happy to hear this. "Listen, Abby," she said. "I don't mean to be pushy, but my client made you a very generous offer. If you keep dragging your feet like this, he might back out."
"I know." Abby sighed. "But this whole thing upsets me very much."
Grandfather turned to Rilla. "The resort's been in Abby's family for years," he pointed out. "It's not an easy decision to make."
Rilla frowned. "Well, isn't it lucky Abby has such good friends to look out for her," she said, but it sounded like she didn't think it was lucky at all.
Henry and Jessie looked at each other. Why was Rilla Washburn so unfriendly to them?
"It kills me the way you try to keep this place going, Abby," Rilla continued. "Don't you think it's time to move on?"
"Perhaps," Abby admitted. "But as James said, it's not an easy decision to make. I'm afraid your client will just have to wait."
Rilla looked as if she wanted to argue, but Benny spoke first.
"Don't worry, Abby," he said. "We'll find the treasure, then you can keep the resort."
"What?" Rilla turned around to face the youngest Alden.
"We're going to find a treasure!" Benny was all smiles. "The one Patch left for Abby."
Rilla threw her head back and laughed. "You must be kidding! Patch O'Brien never had a nickel to his name. Everybody knows that."
"But—" Benny began.
"No buts about it!" snapped Rilla. "Oh, I've heard those stories before—how Patch wasn't as poor as he let on. But you know what? That's about as crazy as believing in a lake monster. Absolute rubbish! That's all it is!" She turned to Abby. "Trust me, Abby. The sooner you decide to sell, the better."
"That's a very determined lady," Grandfather said, as Rilla walked away.
Abby unlocked the cabin door. "Yes, that's probably why she's such a good salesperson. You know, she's been runner-up for the top sales award seven years in a row. I'm keeping my fingers crossed she'll win this year. The award ceremony's just a few weeks away."
Inside, the Aldens found an old couch and some worn-out chairs grouped together around a crumbling stone fireplace. Tattered yellow curtains hung from the windows, and faded green wallpaper covered the walls.
Grandfather looked around. "Things haven't changed a bit."
Abby laughed. "That's just the problem, James."
"Well, I like it here!" said Benny.
Abby smiled warmly at the youngest Alden. "I wish everybody felt that way, Benny," she said. "I'd better go and let you get settled in. Now, don't forget about that picnic supper by the lake," she added, then hurried away.
The four Alden children began to unpack groceries while Grandfather napped on the couch.
"I really like Abby," said Violet.
"So do I." Jessie nodded, as she opened the refrigerator and put the lettuce away. "I sure hope we can find that treasure for her."
Benny passed a box of cornflakes to Henry. "Rilla Washburn doesn't think there is a treasure," he said with a frown.
"Well, it does seem odd," Henry had to admit. He put the cereal into the cupboard. "How could Patch O'Brien have left Abby a treasure in his will if he was flat broke?"
"That's a good question, Henry," said Jessie. "Still, it's worth checking out."
"I hope Abby doesn't sell the resort before we have time to find the treasure," Benny said.
"Rilla sure was trying to get Abby to sell as soon as possible," said Violet. "I wonder why?"
"She's a real estate agent," Henry pointed out. "Whenever one of her clients buys or sells property, she makes money. That's how she earns her living."
"That's true, Henry," said Violet. "But she's also Abby's friend. Don't you think she should back off and give Abby a chance to make up her mind?"
"She won't back off until Abby sells the resort," said Jessie.
"What makes you so sure?" Violet asked in surprise.
Jessie quickly told them about the phone conversation she'd overheard at the fruit and vegetable market. "Rilla said she needs this sale, and that she doesn't want to come in second this year."
Henry nodded. "I bet she was talking about the top sales award."
"I have a hunch," Jessie said after a moment's thought, "that if Abby doesn't sell the resort, Rilla won't win."
"I think you're right," said Violet. "And she plans to do whatever it takes."
"Well, guess what?" said Benny. "We'll do whatever it takes, too—to find the treasure."
"For sure, Benny," said Henry.
Excerpted from The Creature in Ogopogo Lake by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Robert Papp. Copyright © 2006 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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