Read an Excerpt
The Boardwalk Mystery
By GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER
Albert Whitman & Company, ChicagoCopyright © 2013 Albert Whitman & Company
All rights reserved.
Henry shut down the lawn mower and suddenly everything was very quiet in Grandfather's front yard. It was so hot that the birds were not chirping. Henry looked up at the blazing sun. He wiped his brow. Then he looked around the yard. Something was missing.
"Benny!" Henry called out to his little brother. "Where are you?"
Just then, ten-year-old Violet came out onto the front porch.
"Have you seen Benny?" Henry asked. "No, I haven't," Violet said. "I thought he was helping you to cut the lawn."
Only six years old, Benny was the youngest of the four Alden children. Henry, Violet, and their sister Jessie took very good care of their little brother. The Aldens were orphans. When their parents died, they ran away from home and lived for a while in an abandoned boxcar in the woods. Their grandfather found them and brought them to live with him in his big house in Greenfield.
The screen door opened and twelve-year-old Jessie stepped outside. She was carrying a pitcher of lemonade and a plate of cookies.
"Benny is missing," Violet said.
Jessie looked around the yard. For a minute, she was concerned. Then she smiled. She saw something that Henry and Violet had not seen. "Watch this," Jessie said to Violet.
Jessie leaned over the porch rail. "Who wants chocolate chip cookies and lemonade?" she shouted.
Henry, Jessie, and Violet soon saw two little white sneakers dangling from within the tree on Grandfather's front lawn.
"I do!" came a small voice from behind the leaves. "But I can't get down!"
Henry rushed to the tree and caught Benny just as his brother slid from the bottom branch.
"Thanks, Henry!" Benny rushed straight to the porch. "Are there any cookies left? I'm starved!"
Benny was small, but he was famous for his big appetite.
"What were you doing in the tree?" Henry asked. "I thought you were raking up the grass for me."
"I'm sorry, Henry," Benny said. His shoulders slumped. "It's just that it is so hot. I was melting. The tree looked like the coolest place to be. But I was sweating even in the tree. It is hot everywhere!"
Mrs. McGregor, the Aldens' housekeeper, appeared in the doorway. "Benny Alden!" she cried. "Look at all that dirt on your clothes! What happened? Are you okay?"
Benny looked down at his shirt. He tried to brush the dirt off. "I climbed the tree, Mrs. McGregor! I'm tall enough to reach the bottom branch!"
Mrs. McGregor smiled. "I hope you are tall enough to reach the sink. You need to wash up before you have any cookies."
"I'll take him inside," Henry said. "I need to wash up, too."
"Be quick," Mrs. McGregor said. "I was just coming out to tell you that your grandfather called. He will be home soon and he has some exciting news for you children."
Henry and Benny cleaned up and quickly joined their sisters on the front porch.
Jessie took a long drink of lemonade. She was wearing a light summer dress and fanning herself with a magazine. "What do you think the news could be?" she asked.
Violet patted her face with a cool cloth. Her cheeks were bright red from the heat. Even the purple ribbon in her hair seemed to droop. Purple was Violet's favorite color. "I don't know, Jessie. But I can't wait to find out!"
"We'll soon know," Henry said. "Here comes Grandfather now."
A big car drove up the long driveway. Grandfather waved at the children.
"Grandfather!" Benny jumped up. "What is the exciting news? Did you bring ice cream?"
Grandfather laughed. "That would have been a good idea, Benny, but I do not have ice cream. I wanted to tell you that I have to go out of town for a business meeting. Would you like to come with me?"
"We'd be happy to come, Grandfather," Jessie said. "Where is the meeting?"
"It is in a town called Oceanside in New Jersey. I have an old friend who recently moved to Oceanside. He has a big house right on the beach and he invited all of us to be his guests."
Benny dropped his cookie and ran into the house.
"Benny!" Jessie called. "Wait! Where are you going?"
"To pack my suitcase!" Benny called.
Everyone laughed and followed Benny inside. It wasn't long until their bags were packed and everyone was settled comfortably into
Grandfather's car for the long ride.
Violet was the first to guess when they got close to Oceanside. She saw seagulls flying above. Some were perched on the top rails of a bridge that the car was approaching. The bridge crossed over a lot of water.
"The bay is beautiful," Violet said.
"I like it here already," Benny said. "And it smells good."
Grandfather lowered all the windows in the car. He took a deep breath. "I also like that smell, Benny. It is the salt air."
All at once, Benny cried out. He pointed out the car window. "Look! Is that the top of a Ferris wheel?"
Violet looked off into the distance. "I think you are right, Benny. Is there an amusement park in Oceanside, Grandfather?"
Grandfather smiled. "In Oceanside, it is called an amusement pier. And there are several of them."
Benny bounced in his seat. "There is more than one? Cool!"
"Why is it called an amusement pier?" Jessie asked.
"I will show you." Grandfather turned the car onto Ocean Avenue. "See the boardwalk over there?"
Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny stared. They had never seen anything like the boardwalk. It was made out of wood planks. It was like a street, but it was raised above the ground, and there were no cars. People were strolling along it. It seemed to go on for miles.
"Does it go on forever?" Benny asked.
Grandfather laughed. "The boardwalk is several miles long, but it does not go on forever. You cannot see from here, but on the other side of the boardwalk are the beach and the ocean."
Just as Grandfather finished speaking, he pulled the car up beside a large, old house on Ocean Avenue. A pretty porch with wooden rails circled the house. Potted flowers hung from the top of the porch and swayed in the cool ocean breeze.
"Hello!" called a friendly voice. "Welcome!" A tall man with short brown hair hurried down the wooden steps. He shook Grandfather's hand. "It's so good to see you, James," he said.
Grandfather introduced his friend to the children. The man's name was Carl Hanson. "We're very pleased to meet you, Mr. Hanson," Jessie said.
Violet was still gazing at the old house. "And your home is very lovely," she said.
Benny looked past the house. He started to jump up and down. "I see it! I see it!" he cried. "There's the ocean! It's right in your front yard, Mr. Hanson! Right over those dunes. This is way cooler than sitting in Grandfather's tree."
After everyone had unpacked and was settled into their rooms, Mr. Hanson invited his guests outside onto the porch. The porch sat up high on the second story of the house and looked out over the dunes, the boardwalk, and the beach.
Benny was too excited to sit. He hung over the rail and stared out at the waves crashing onto the beach. People strolled past on the boardwalk. Some pushed babies in coaches or licked dripping ice cream cones. There were lots of shops and arcades. And Benny could now see the big Ferris wheel slowly turning against the sky.
Violet came and stood beside Benny to see all the sights. They noticed one girl walking very slowly across the beach. She was staring at her phone. She was wearing shorts and a T-shirt and there was an odd spray of red dots on her shoes. Violet and Benny watched the girl walk all the way up to the Hanson's porch.
"Wendy!" Mr. Hanson cried. "What are you doing here?
The girl looked up. She seemed surprised to see the Aldens. She had long blond hair and her green T-shirt said "Hanson's Amusements" on the front.
"The roller coaster is broken again," the girl said. "I hurried here to tell you."
Benny looked at Violet. He was confused. Wendy had not been hurrying at all.
Mr. Hanson sighed. "How could that be? I just had it fixed yesterday! Did Will look at it? Is anyone stuck on the ride? Who is working in the ticket booth while you are gone?"
Wendy shrugged. "I don't know." She went back to looking at her phone.
Mr. Hanson introduced Wendy as his daughter. Then he jumped up. He ran his hand through his hair and walked back and forth on the porch. "I'm sorry to be so distracted," he said to the Aldens. "But I am a little worried. I recently bought one of the amusement piers on the boardwalk."
Benny's eyes grew wide. He pointed toward the Ferris wheel. "Do you mean the amusement park down there? That is so cool!" Mr. Hanson nodded. "That's the one, Benny. But it hasn't been as much fun as I thought. I used to work there during the summers back when I was a teenager and visiting with my grandparents. Those were some of the best summers of my life. So when I heard that the amusement pier was up for sale, I bought it and moved my family here from Colorado."
"But why isn't it fun?" Benny asked.
Mr. Hanson ran his hand across his forehead. "Nothing is going right. The rides keep breaking down. The tickets have gone missing. One day there was a nest of bees in the cotton candy machine! Last week someone even painted smiley faces on the walls of the haunted house. It took me hours to clean it up."
"How terrible!" Jessie said.
"And now the roller coaster is broken again. And it is my most popular ride. Two of my employees have already called in sick. It's going to be such a busy night. I don't know what I am going to do."
"We could help," Jessie said.
"Yes," Henry agreed. "I'd be happy to do any small repairs you might need."
"Henry is really good at fixing things," Benny said.
Mr. Hanson looked very surprised. "But you children are on a holiday. I could not ask you to do all that work."
"My grandchildren are very helpful," Grandfather said. "They don't mind hard work."
Wendy glared at the Aldens.
"Well," Mr. Hanson said. "If you are sure you don't mind, I really could use the help."
"I guess you don't need me anymore," she said to her father. "I'm going to go take a nap." Wendy turned to the Aldens. "Have fun, kids. But you better watch out for old Mrs. Reddy. She's prowling around again." Wendy stomped into the house and slammed the screen door.
Mr. Hanson sighed again. "Don't pay attention to that, kids. Mrs. Reddy is the lady who used to own the amusement pier. Even though she sold the pier to me, she can't seem to stay away."
"Then why did she sell it to you?" asked Benny.
"She told me she was ready to retire," Mr. Hanson said. "Running an amusement pier is a lot of work. But now I think she misses it. She does not like any of the changes that I have made to the pier. She complains that I am doing everything wrong. And she gets into arguments with Bob Cooke."
"Does he work for you, too?" Benny asked. "Oh, no, Benny. Bob does not work for me. He owns the amusement pier next to mine. It's a long story." Mr. Hanson rubbed his hands together. "I better get going. Why don't you kids have a snack and relax for a little bit after your trip? I'll see you later on tonight." Mr. Hanson hurried away.
"What a shame," Grandfather said. "Owning the amusement pier has always been Carl's dream."
Jessie stared toward the tall Ferris wheel. "It sounds like his dream is turning into a nightmare."CHAPTER 2
Lost in the House of Mirrors
After Grandfather left for his meeting, Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny cleaned up the snack plates from the porch.
The children could hear Wendy walking back and forth in a room upstairs. The old floorboards creaked. She was talking to someone on her phone. Soon she began to shout angrily.
"We should probably leave now," Jessie said. "It is not right for us to eavesdrop."
Henry agreed. The children quietly left the house and began walking on the boardwalk toward the amusement pier. The sun was warm, but a fresh ocean breeze blew through their hair.
"Why was Wendy shouting?" Benny asked. "Who was she was talking to?"
"I don't know, Benny," Jessie said. "Something must have upset her."
"I hope she is all right," Violet said.
Benny began running ahead. "Wow! Look at all these shops!" he cried, pointing to the long rows of stores along the boardwalk. There was an ice cream shop with thirty different flavors. Next to it was a candy store. In the window a machine moved back and forth, pulling saltwater taffy. A souvenir store displayed colorful shells, beach balls, postcards, and paddleball games.
"Can I buy a souvenir?" Benny cried. He darted toward the store.
"Benny, watch out!" Jessie cried. Violet dashed toward her brother.
"Watch the tramcar, please! Watch the tramcar, please!"
Violet grabbed Benny's shoulders and pulled him back just in time. Benny turned, wide-eyed. A long yellow vehicle, like a train on rubber wheels, came to a slow stop right where Benny had just been standing!
Henry and Jessie rushed to their brother. "Are you all right, Benny?" Jessie asked.
Benny was shaken. He looked like he might cry.
A girl with dark hair jumped from behind the wheel. "Is everyone all right?" she asked. "Yes. We're sorry for holding you up," Henry said.
"Oh, that's okay," said the girl. "It happens all the time. People are looking at the ocean or the shops and they do not see me coming. But I drive very slowly. I have never hit anyone!"
"But why are you driving a train on the boardwalk?" Benny asked.
The girl laughed. "It does look like a train. But this is the tramcar. The boardwalk is very long. Sometimes people get tired of walking. The tramcar takes them on a nice ride so they can rest. Why don't you hop aboard?"
"Really?" Benny turned toward Jessie. "Can we?" he asked.
Jessie smiled. "I don't see why not," she said.
The tramcar driver introduced herself. Her name was Leslie. She showed Benny a button next to the steering wheel. Every time she pushed the button, a tape played over a loudspeaker. "Watch the tramcar, please! Watch the tramcar, please!"
"So, you see, it wasn't just you, Benny," Leslie explained. "Plenty of people do not notice the tramcar coming. They are too busy having fun on the boardwalk! That is why I have this recording. It saves my voice!"
Suddenly, the children heard a loud banging. An older lady seated in the last car of the tram was banging her cane against the side. "Let's get a move on!" she shouted. "What is going on up there, Leslie?"
"We'll be starting in a minute, Mrs. Reddy," Leslie called. "Just picking up a few passengers."
"Tell them to stop standing around and get into a seat!" Mrs. Reddy called.
"We're very sorry," Jessie said.
Henry, Jessie, Violet, and Benny quickly climbed aboard. Benny leaned from his seat so that he would not miss a thing. Suddenly, he felt a tap on his shoulder. The old woman was poking him with her cane.
"Better not lean too far out, boy," she said. "Do you want to fall out?"
Jessie had her arm around Benny's shoulder. She knew Benny would not fall out. "He is safe, thank you," she said.
Benny turned to face the old woman. "We're going to Hanson's Amusement Pier!" he said. "They have rides there!"
The old woman folded her hands over her cane. "Well, maybe it is called Hanson's now. But it used to be called Reddy's. It was called Reddy's for fifty years. Stupid to change the name, if you ask me."
"Watch the tramcar, please! Watch the tramcar, please!" Leslie turned on the recording to warn a lady who was walking too close to the tramcar. The lady had a large camera and she was taking pictures of the boardwalk.
"Who built the amusement pier? The Reddy family, that's who! Who made it a big success? The Reddy family! Carl Hanson will ruin the place. He doesn't know what he is doing." The old woman scowled.
Just then, Leslie stopped the tramcar. "This is Hanson's Amusement Pier, kids. Do you need to get off?"
"Yes, thank you," Jessie said.
The children jumped down from the tramcar and thanked Leslie for the ride.
"Any time," Leslie said. Then she lowered her voice. "Don't mind old Mrs. Reddy," she whispered. "She is still upset about why she had to sell her amusement pier." Leslie waved good-bye, and the tramcar began to roll off down the boardwalk.
Jessie held Benny's hand. She wondered what had happened that made Mrs. Reddy sell her pier. The old woman seemed very unhappy about her decision.
Benny waited for the tramcar to safely pass, then let go of Jessie's hand and ran across the boardwalk to the pier. "Look!" he cried. "This is it!"
The name "Hanson's Amusement Pier" flashed in red letters high over Benny's head. There was a log flume that splashed water on the passengers. A tall roller coaster with lots of twists and turns made the boards under Benny's feet rumble. A scary monster with green eyes looked out from the top floor of the haunted house. There was even a giant slide and swings that flew round and round out over the beach below.
"I'll go ask where we can find Mr. Hanson," Henry said. He walked toward the ticket booth. For a moment, he was confused. He thought he saw Wendy's face in the booth window. But she could not have been there. Then he realized that it was a boy in the booth. The boy had the same blond hair and blue eyes as Wendy. He also had the same unhappy look on his face.
"Excuse me," Henry said to the boy. "But would you please tell me where I can find Mr. Hanson?"
The boy opened a door and walked out of the booth. He was a little taller than Henry and he looked a few years older. "Are you those Alden kids?" he asked.
"Yes," Henry replied. He introduced his sisters and brother.
"I'm Will Hanson," the boy said.
"You look just like Wendy!" Benny said. "We do look alike," Will said. "Wendy and
I are twins. My father is in the shed at the back of the pier."
"Thanks," Henry said. "We promised we would stop by."
Excerpted from The Boardwalk Mystery by GERTRUDE CHANDLER WARNER. Copyright © 2013 Albert Whitman & Company. Excerpted by permission of Albert Whitman & Company, Chicago.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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