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The Emerald City
"Is it true, Grandfather?" asked six-year-old Benny. "Is there really an underground city in Seattle?" He couldn't believe his ears.
James Alden smiled at his youngest grandchild. "There sure is," he said, looking around the airport. "In fact, you can take a tour and check it out for yourself."
"We'll put it at the top of our list of places to see, Benny," promised Jessie, who was twelve. She often acted like a mother to her younger brother and sister.
"Don't forget," added ten-year-old Violet, "we'll be here for a whole week. That's plenty of time to see all the sights. Right, Henry?"
"Right," said Henry. Then he quickly added, "At least we can see quite a few." Henry was fourteen. He was the oldest of the Aldens.
Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny had been invited along on their grandfather's business trip to Seattle. Now they were waiting for his good friend Finn Evans to meet them.
"One thing's for sure," added Violet, "we'll be too busy sightseeing to solve any mysteries on this trip."
Grandfather chuckled. "You never know," he said. "You might be able to solve a mystery and see the sights at the same time."
Henry laughed. "We're good detectives, Grandfather. But we're not that good!" The Aldens loved mysteries, and together they'd managed to solve quite a few.
Just then, Grandfather waved as a tall man with a mustache hurried through the crowd towards them. A young woman followed quickly on his heels.
"James!" The tall man held out a hand. "I hope you haven't been waiting long. I'm afraid we got stuck in traffic."
"You couldn't have timed it better," Grandfather said, as he shook hands with Finn. "Our plane was a bit late getting in."
"This is my daughter, Reena." Finn beamed proudly as he introduced the young woman by his side. "She decided to come along for the ride."
Grandfather shook hands with Reena. Then he introduced Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny.
"Welcome to Seattle," said Reena with a warm smile. She was wearing a pale yellow sundress and sandals. Her wavy brown hair was pulled back into a ponytail.
"It's nice to meet you both," said Jessie, speaking for them all.
"We can't wait to see all the sights," Henry added, as Finn and Reena led the way through the crowded airport.
Inside the parking garage, Reena remarked, "You're going to love the Emerald City!"
"The Emerald City?" echoed Benny, his eyes wide. "Isn't that where the Wizard of Oz lives?"
"It's also the nickname for Seattle, Benny," Henry told him.
Grandfather nodded. "Seattle gets so much rain that everything stays green," he explained, while he helped Finn load the suitcases into the trunk of his car.
"Oh, I get it," said Benny. "And emeralds are green. Right?"
"Right!" said Reena. "You catch on fast, Benny."
"They say folks around here don't tan," said Finn. "They rust!" Everybody burst out laughing.
Jessie quickly added, "Besides, we brought along our umbrellas."
When they were settled in the car, Jessie asked, "Do you work in your father's office, Reena?"
"No, I'm afraid I don't have a head for business, Jessie. I'm studying to become a veterinarian."
The youngest Alden looked puzzled. "What's that?"
"A veterinarian is an animal doctor," Henry explained.
"Oh!" Benny nodded approvingly. "Well, guess what? We have an animal. He's a dog. We found him when we were living in the boxcar."
Reena smiled. "Oh, really? I didn't know you had a dog. But I did hear all about your days in the boxcar. Sounds like quite an adventure."
After their parents died, the four Alden children had run away. For a while, their home was an old boxcar in the woods. But then their grandfather, James Alden, had found them. He brought his grandchildren to live with him in his big white house in Connecticut. Even the boxcar was given a special place in the backyard. The children often used it as a clubhouse.
"I love dogs," said Reena. "I wish Watch had come along."
Jessie was surprised by Reena's words. How did she know Watch's name?
"Watch is at home," said Benny. "He's keeping Mrs. McGregor company."
"Mrs. McGregor is our housekeeper," explained Violet.
"And a super cook," added Benny. "Sometimes I even have second helpings."
"Oh, Benny!" Henry laughed. "You always have seconds!" The youngest Alden was known for his appetite.
As they drove into the city, Grandfather said, "One thing's for sure, you won't go hungry on this trip, Benny."
Finn was quick to agree. "Yes, we have some wonderful restaurants in Seattle."
"That reminds me of something," said Reena. "I was hoping I could take you out to lunch tomorrow. Maybe show you some of the sights. How does that sound?"
"That sounds wonderful!" said Jessie. "Are you sure it won't be too much trouble?"
"No trouble at all," Reena assured her. "I work at a pet store, but tomorrow's my day off."
"Is that all right with you, Grandfather?" asked Violet.
Grandfather gave his youngest granddaughter the thumbs-up sign. "That'll work out just fine," he told her. "I'll be tied up with business most of the day."
"Here we are!" Finn announced, as the car slowed to a stop outside the hotel.
Everyone scrambled out. Henry helped Finn unload the suitcases from the trunk.
As they stepped inside the hotel lobby, a young man in a blue blazer smiled at them from behind the front desk.
"You must be the Aldens," he said, looking at his guest list.
"That's us!" Benny piped up. "We're staying for a whole week."
"Glad to hear it! If you need anything, just ask for Toby Spinner." He pointed to the nametag pinned to his blazer. "That's me."
The youngest Alden grinned. "Hi, Toby. I'm Benny, and this is Henry, Jessie, and Violet." He pointed to his brother and sisters. "We're going sightseeing tomorrow."
As Grandfather checked in, Toby said, "You're welcome to use the indoor pool anytime. Oh, and here are a few brochures you might find helpful. They list all the tourist attractions." He placed a handful on the counter. "And how about a few maps? We wouldn't want you getting lost."
Grandfather chuckled. "Not much chance of that," he said. "My grandchildren know how to take care of themselves."
"Jessie always gets us where we're going," Violet said, a note of pride in her voice. "She's the best map-reader in the family."
"I help, too!" put in Benny.
"You sure do," said Jessie. "We count on your sharp eyes, Benny." The youngest Alden had a way of seeing things the others didn't.
"Well, if you need anything, just let me know," said Toby. "I'm new on the job, so I'm still learning the ropes. But if I can't answer your questions, I'll find someone who can."
"Thanks, Toby," said Henry, speaking for them all.
"We'll leave you to get settled in," Finn told Grandfather.
"I'll see you kids tomorrow," added Reena. "Why don't we meet at the Hungry Heart Diner around noon, rain or shine. It's just down the street. You can't miss it."
"We'll be there!" Henry promised.
While the Aldens waited for the elevator, Jessie suddenly remembered the brochures and the maps. As she hurried back to get them, she noticed Reena deep in conversation with Toby.
Jessie didn't mean to eavesdrop, but she couldn't help overhearing.
"If they find out something fishy's going on," Reena was saying, "it'll ruin everything."
"Don't worry," said Toby. "You can count on me."
As Jessie stepped up to the counter, Reena looked startled, as if she'd been caught doing something wrong.
"Oh!" Reena smiled uneasily. "I was, um, just ... asking about the weather forecast," she said. "For tomorrow, I mean." She seemed unable to look Jessie in the eye. "Anyway, I'd better dash!" Then she hurried away.
As Jessie headed back to the elevator, she wondered just what Reena and Toby Spinner were up to.
Upstairs, Jessie soon forgot all about the strange conversation as she looked around their three-bedroom suite.
"Henry and Benny can share one room," she said. "Violet and I can share another, and there's one for Grandfather."
"We even have a kitchen!" Benny opened the refrigerator. "We can do our own cooking. Now all we need is food."
"Don't worry, Benny," said Grandfather. "We'll eat in the hotel restaurant tonight. Then tomorrow we'll stock up on groceries."
"We'll go shopping in the morning while you're at your meeting, Grandfather," Jessie said. "We're not meeting Reena until noon."
"Guess what?" said Violet, who was standing at the window. "We have a view of the water!"
"That's Puget Sound," said Grandfather. "It's an inlet from the Pacific Ocean."
"And look at the mountains—how pretty!" said Violet. She always noticed beautiful things.
"There's so much to see in this city," said Henry. He was sitting on the couch, the brochures spread out around him.
While Grandfather had a nap, the four Alden children looked through the brochures. "It's hard to know where to start," said Violet.
"We're starting at the Hungry Stomach Diner," said Benny. "Remember?"
Violet couldn't help smiling. "The Hungry Heart Diner."
"The Hungry Heart?" echoed Benny.
"I think the Hungry Stomach is a better name for a diner," Benny said after a moment's thought. "If I had a restaurant, guess what I'd call it."
"The Hollow Leg?" said Henry, a teasing twinkle in his eye.
Benny shook his head. "The Hungry Benny's Diner," he said. Everyone laughed.
"I wonder where we'll be going after lunch," said Violet.
"There's no way of knowing for sure." Henry shrugged. "It's a mystery."
"That's not the only mystery," Jessie told them.
This got Benny's attention. "What do you mean, Jessie?"
"Well, it was a bit odd," said Jessie. "Reena knew Watch's name. Did you notice?"
"What's strange about that, Jessie?" Violet wanted to know.
"How did she know it?" answered Jessie. "She said she didn't know we even had a dog."
Henry, Violet, and Benny had thought nothing of it. But now they wondered, too.
Henry frowned. "I wonder why she would lie about something like that?"
"Maybe she just made a very good guess," suggested Benny.
"Maybe," said Jessie. But she couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't quite right.CHAPTER 2
A Mysterious Riddle
By the time Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny got back from the grocery store the next morning, it was just starting to rain.
"I hope Reena still wants to go sightseeing," said Benny, while they put the groceries away.
"Remember what she said, Benny?" Violet put the onions and green peppers into the refrigerator. "Rain or shine!"
Henry pulled a jar of tomato sauce out of the grocery bag. "It's supposed to clear up," he said. "At least, that's what they said on the radio."
"Even if it doesn't, we're not going to let a little rain stop us, are we?" asked Jessie.
"No way!" cried Benny. "Nothing stops the Aldens!"
It wasn't long before they were splashing their way along the wet sidewalks. When they were almost at the diner, a woman came rushing out, hidden beneath a blue umbrella. She was in such a hurry, she almost knocked Violet over.
"Are you okay, Violet?" asked Henry. They watched the woman dash away.
Violet nodded slowly, her eyes still fixed on the woman under the blue umbrella. "I think so."
"That lady wasn't very nice," said Benny, as they stepped inside the Hungry Heart Diner.
"No, she wasn't," Jessie was quick to agree. "She didn't even stop to apologize."
The Aldens left their drippy umbrellas in a stand by the door, then made their way to an empty table by the window. No sooner had they sat down than the waitress hurried over, shaking her head.
"This section's closed, kids," she said. "If you'll follow me, there's a spot over here."
"No problem," Jessie said. They headed for an empty booth nearby.
Henry craned his neck as he glanced around. "I don't see Reena anywhere," he said. "Do you?"
Jessie shook her head. "No, but I think we're a bit early. What time do you have, Violet?"
Violet didn't answer. She seemed to be deep in thought.
"What's wrong, Violet?" Jessie asked, giving her sister a gentle nudge. She could see that something was troubling her.
"Nothing really," said Violet. "I was just thinking about that woman outside."
"The one who bumped into you?" asked Henry.
Violet nodded. "For a second, I thought it was Aunt Jane."
The others looked at her in surprise. "Aunt Jane's back in Connecticut," Henry reminded her. "Miles and miles away." Aunt Jane and Uncle Andy lived in the small town of Elmford. The four Alden children often took the bus from Greenfield to visit them.
"Besides," added Jessie, "Aunt Jane would never be that rude."
Benny was quick to agree. "She'd never bump into somebody and then just hurry away without even saying she was sorry."
"I know." Violet laughed a little. "That's what makes it so weird."
"We might as well take a look at the selections while we're waiting," Henry suggested. He reached for the menus tucked behind the shiny napkin dispenser.
"Good idea!" said Benny scooting closer to the table. "I wonder if they have any—oh!"
"What is it, Benny?" Jessie asked.
"There's a piece of paper stuck to the bottom of the table," he answered in surprise.
"Maybe it's a list of the specials," joked Jessie.
"It's a note!" said Benny, prying the folded piece of paper loose. "Can you read it, Jessie?"
Taking the note, Jessie began to read silently. Then her eyes widened and she gasped.
Violet asked, "What does it say?"
"It ... it's some kind of message," Jessie said in a quiet voice.
The others were instantly curious. "Read it, Jessie," urged Benny.
"All right." Jessie nodded. Then she read aloud:
Through the eye of a needle
a clue can be found
where a saucer is resting
high off the ground.
"That sure isn't a list of the specials!" noted Benny.
Violet laughed. "We were close, Benny," she said. "It's a mystery, and that's our specialty."
"It doesn't make any sense," said Henry, when Jessie passed him the note. "How can you find a clue through the eye of a needle?"
"It must be a teeny-weeny clue," Benny said. "I wonder who left the message here?"
"And why," added Jessie.
"Oh, here comes Reena!" Benny put up a hand and waved.
Jessie quickly put the note in her pocket. "Let's keep this to ourselves for now," she said in a low voice.
Nobody argued. The Aldens wanted to figure a few things out on their own first.CHAPTER 3
The Flying Saucer
"Hi, kids!" Reena greeted them with a cheery smile. "I was afraid the rain might keep you away." She slid into the booth beside Violet.
Henry grinned. "Nothing keeps Benny away from food," he teased. Everyone laughed, including Benny.
Just then, the waitress came over to take their order. Henry chose a cheeseburger and a glass of lemonade. Jessie and Violet both had chicken strips, coleslaw, and milk. Reena ordered a garden salad and iced tea. And Benny decided on a grilled cheese sandwich, fries, and a chocolate milkshake.
"That should do it for now," said Reena, closing her menu. She glanced at the name on the waitress's uniform. "Oh, your name's Gwen? That's one of my favorite names."
The waitress smiled a little. "It's short for Gwendolyn," she said, tucking a wisp of red hair behind her ear. With that, she quickly hurried away.
"It started with a contest, you know," Reena told them as they waited for their food to arrive. "That's how they chose Seattle's nickname."
Violet was surprised to hear this. "You mean, the Emerald City?"
"Didn't Seattle have a nickname before then?" Benny wanted to know.
"Oh, yes," said Reena. "It had several. It was known as the Queen City for a while. The problem was, other cities had the same nickname. And some people called it the Rainy City because it rains so much here."
"I like the Emerald City best," said Violet. "Don't you, Jessie?"
But Jessie wasn't listening. She was watching their waitress lead a young couple to the table by the window. "That's funny," she remarked. "I thought that section was closed."
The others glanced over. "Our waitress asked us to move over here," Violet explained to Reena.
"It probably just opened up," guessed Reena. "The lunch crowd's trickling in."
Jessie nodded. But she couldn't help noticing that there were still some empty booths.
"I'm hoping the rain will let up," said Reena, quickly changing the subject. "I want to show you a very special place."
Benny's eyes lit up. "Is it the underground city?"
"No, Benny," Reena told him. "We'll be going up, not down." Seeing their puzzled faces, she added, "I'm taking you to the top of the Space Needle!"
Jessie and Henry looked at each other. Was it just a coincidence that the strange note had mentioned a needle?
"I was reading about the Space Needle in one of the brochures," Violet said. "Wasn't it built in 1962 for the World's Fair?"
"Yes—exactly," said Reena. "The view from the observation deck is amazing. At least, it is on a clear day."
"I bet the sun comes out soon," said Benny.
Sure enough, by the time they had finished lunch, the rain had stopped.
"Will it take us very long to get there?" Benny asked, as Reena led the way along the busy sidewalks. "To the Space Needle, I mean."
"Not if we take the Monorail," Reena told him with a grin.
Benny scrunched up his face. "The Monorail?"
Excerpted from The Seattle Puzzle by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER, Robert Papp. Copyright © 2007 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of ALBERT WHITMAN & Company.
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