by jason gusmann
visuals by rhoda penmarq
After dinner in the white and yellow kitchen, Hap races up to his bedroom, which is sizable for a boy his age.
The walls are painted sky blue.
On one wall, there is a forest green pennant that reads FOOTBALL.
On the opposite wall, there is an oxblood red pennant that reads BASEBALL.
On a heavy brown wooden table in the middle of the room there is a chemistry set, a fingerprint set, a mini-camera, several disguises, a flashlight, a magnifying glass, and a yellow legal pad and pen.
Parallel to the table, resting against the BASEBALL wall, is Hap’s bed which is neatly made.
Hap sits on it and reaches down to pet Bodie, who has followed him up from the kitchen.
Jeepers, boy, we’ve got a mystery on our hands!
But Dad and Aunt Bea will never let me out at night to look for more clues...
I know! I’ll climb out the window after they’ve gone to bed!
Bodie whines sadly.
Aw, Bodie, it’ll just be for a little while!
Besides, I’ll wear one of my disguises so that if anyone sees me they’ll think I’m a grown-up!
Hap gets up and walks over to the wooden table upon which all of his detecting equipment lies.
He picks up a false nose and glasses as well as a black corkscrew wig.
See, it’ll be fine!
Bodie lays down, his head pointed away from Hap.
Aw, you’re no fun!
Hap spends the next few hours reviewing his shortwave message and consulting his Codes & Codebreakers book.
Soon enough, Dad comes knocking on Hap’s door.
Lights out, Hap!
Hap responds, Okay Dad! Goodnight!
He jumps into his bed and turns off the light.
Dad responds, almost laughing as he does so, Goodnight son!
In the background, Aunt Bea calls out to him but he cannot make out what she says.
After he hears the footsteps move down the hall, Hap turns on the flashlight under the covers and scrutinizes the message one last time.
DEVIL MASK...what could that mean?
Devil – that could mean the Devil’s Cove, up by Chimney Rock.
And mask? Mask...
Of course! Hap snaps his fingers.
Scuba masks! They’re smuggling out of the Devil’s Cove - underwater!
No wonder no one has realized it yet...
Hap turns off the flashlight and carefully gets up out of bed, stepping lightly so that no floorboards creak.
He takes up a light fall jacket and moves to where the window is open.
Bodie whines, but Hap shushes him and Bodie obediently puts his head down.
Hap quietly slides out the window to the narrow porch above the front door, then shinnies down the drainpipe to the bushes below.
The night air is clear and cool.
Hap takes out his flashlight and begins to walk down the green tree-lined sidewalk.
The town is silent and motionless.
The houses are all dimly lit, closed up for the night.
The moon is just a thin white crescent in the black sky.
Hap looks left and right, keeping his eyes wide open, looking for clues.
He moves toward the town square, directly ahead of him.
In the middle of the town square there is a gray statue of a man with a beard.
The bearded man is wearing a gray hat.
Hap raises his flashlight to the base of the statue where a silver platter rests.
Lying on the silver platter are two insects: an ant and a bee, carefully arranged.
Hap looks down at them, scratches his head.
What could this clue mean?
An ant and a bee?
Hap slaps himself on the forehead.
What’s missing? A fly!
Fly-ing! They’re not smuggling by water, they’re smuggling by air!
Hap smiles and shakes his head.
Sometimes I can be a real dope!
Hap begins walking toward the North side of town, to the airport.
Along the way, his flashlight isolates something on the sidewalk in front of him.
It is red and white and crumpled.
As Hap moves closer he can see that it is a white apron with red stains on it.
He peers closely at the apron and also sees that the white apron strings trail away from it in both directions.
Tied to apron strings...family ties...
The smugglers are a family business!
Hap gets a very determined look on his face.
To the airport, before it’s too late!