Right after our meeting you would find "CC", our Crayfish client, strolling thoughtfully along in the same area where the unknown jellyfish had a few days before sailed by asking if he was going to the whale's birthday party.
But THIS time, so high above him that he was a mere speck in the sky, sailed our good friend Barney Sea Gull.
"Gather around, friends, and I will tell you what I know and outline my plan of attack.
"It is my strong suspicion that our friend CC here has been mistaken for another crayfish by a jellyfish messenger. This jellyfish carried a coded message from the dock gang leader, Leopard Seal to wit: "The whale will come to your birthday party."
In a simple case of mistaken identity, the jellyfish delivered the correct message, but to the wrong crayfish!
"I know for a fact that there is another crayfish-- calling himself Edgar Allen Crawfish in our neighborhood--because I mistook him myself for our CC! Truly they could be identical twins!
"I believe this whole mystery revolves around a large shipment of black pearls which is now in the possession of the seal gang--and THEY are trying to sell them to Edgar Allan Crawfish who must be a fence for stolen items!
"Our friend Barney Sea Gull discovered the news about the black pearls--and for this key information I am VERY grateful!
"This is going to be bigger than I thought, Barney. I think I had better call for back-up right now! Will you please flap on over to the pool where Starry Starfish hangs out and tell him I need him pronto! I will be at the Sea Breeze Hotel where I need to check in with CC Crayfish."
"Right-O, Constable! This reminds me of the Good Old Times, don't it?"
"It sure does, Shipmate! I'll see you soon with Starry--we should be on this mystery QUICK!"
Barney soared into the sky and I hurried to the Sea Breeze Hotel.
"Constable Crab--my old buddy! What in the world brings you down to my rock today?"
"Barney--so good to see you again!
"I need your help. I believe there is something fishy going on down at the docks--and there is no one that knows the docks like YOU do. Whataya say? Will you help me?"
"Glad to! It'll be great to work with you again, Constable! Something at the docks you say? Anything specific?"
"Something about a whale coming to somebody's birthday party...
Honestly, Barney, I don't have a clue to what could be going down--but some harbor seals have been seen down in my part of the beach and they seem to be following a certain CC Crayfish. He is terrified and doesn't know why they should be interested in HIM!
Another thing--there is a look-alike crawdad who calls himself Edgar Allen Crawfish also hanging around my neighborhood. I am at a loss as to what all this adds up to! It's a mystery for sure--but I think it is tied up somehow to the docks..."
"Sure, Constable! Your hunches are usually correct!
I remember that time back with the White Shark Mystery...anyway, I will mosey down to the docks and keep my eyes and ears open--if there is anything happening that you should know about, I'll let you know about it pronto!"
"Thanks, Barney. It is great to see you again after all this time and I know I can count on you!"
I seldom got down to the docks, but I needed to find out what was happening to bring harbor seals all the way down to my stretch of beach. It HAD to be something important--and bad, if I knew the habits of those seals!
But first I had to take care of Effie and CC Crayfish.
"Effie, please accompany Mr. Crayfish over to the Seabreeze Inn and check him in as my guest.
"CC, I want you to stay at the Seabreeze until I know it is safe for you to return to your usual residence. I have a strong suspicion that something strange is occurring at the docks and I intend to find out what it is.
"I have a friend who knows EVERYTHING which happens at the docks and I am going to talk to him right now!
"So, Effie and CC, be brave and please do as I have told you."
"We will, Constable." Effie said and took CC by the claw to lead him away.
"Thank you, Constable! I feel so much better now you are taking action in my behalf!" CC trembled.
"The Whale will come to your birthday party? Are you having a BIG birthday Party?" I queried CC.
"That's the oddest part of the message, Constable. I am NOT having any birthday party!
"Hmmm--no birthday party, you say. Could this message refer to anything else you can think of? Or maybe you misunderstood the message?"
"The jellyfish was quite clear. I have no idea what it was talking about."
"It may have been a coded message that someone would understand. And there is a look-alike to you hanging around--in fact the crayfish calling himself "Edgar Allen Crawfish" could be your twin brother! Maybe the "birthday party" message was meant for HIM! Something is up--or something is "going down" as they say and we are going to get to the bottom of it now!"
I raced to the door and looked up and down the street, but there was no sign of anything unusual. The gang Effie had seen had disappeared.
So I returned to confront CC Crayfish and to calm Effie.
"There seems to be something behind your fears, CC." I said. "And, if what you say is true, you have done nothing to attract the attention of a gang of thug harbor seals. This is unusual and most perplexing."
"I swear I have done absolutely NOTHING to deserve this torment, Constable."
"And you have only been followed for a few days?"
"No more than four--though I may have been followed earlier without paying it any attention. As I say--I have NEVER been in trouble of ANY kind! No reason for anyone to follow ME!"
"And has NOTHING unusual happened to you in the last few days--let us say about a week?"
"Absolutely NOTHING! Uhh--wait a minute--something rather odd did happen to me about a week ago! As I was out walking, an unknown jellyfish drifted by and said something very strange to me. It said: "The whale will come to your birthday party!" and then it drifted swiftly away--"Most peculiar." I remember thinking at the time--but with all the other things happening so suddenly--I forgot it until you asked me just now to remember anything unusual."
Effie was looking so shocked and pale, I immediately jumped up and offered her the easy chair.
CC looked absolutely terrified too but I would have to take care of poor Effie first and then get back to him.
"What on earth WAS it you saw?" I asked after her breathing had almost returned to normal.
"Oh, constable!" she moaned--"Right outside--practically on our DOORSTEP--" she shivered and could not go on for a few breaths--"There were several--you could call it a GANG---I KNOW it was a gang---of those low, ruffian harbor seals!"
"Harbor seals!?" I questioned--because harbor seals seldom left the docks--though they DID travel in gangs and they WERE disreputable in the extreme! (They were known to do almost anything for one small fish!)
"I know it sounds imPOSSible, Constable, but I am sure they were harbor seals!
"Right-o my shellfish friend!" I said from the easy chair. "Now if you will kindly explain just WHAT is going on here--without prevarication, please!"
"I am dreadfully sorry for my unforgivable behavior Constable. The simple fact is--I have NEVER been in ANY sort of trouble before! But the last few days have comp-letely changed my outlook on life! I have NOT been so frightened since the class bully terrorized me in the first grade!"
"Now, just calm down CC. I assure you that you are not in danger here in my office! Suppose you begin with the beginning..."
At this very moment, Effie returned looking quite pale.
"Constable--I can't believe it!" She gasped, "You asked if I could spot anything different outside and, believe me, I have SEEN SOMETHING!"
This time I stopped in the outer reception room of my office and spoke to Effie.
"Effie." I said very quietly so as not to be overheard in my inner office, "There is something very strange going on here. Will YOU please step out into the street and see if there is anyone or anything you would say is unusual out there? I am going to stay right here to be sure our guest doesn't take it on the lam."
"Of course, Constable," she whispered. I'll be back in a few with a complete report!"
I settled myself into an easy chair to see what would happen.
Sure enough, as soon as the outside door closed behind Effie, "CC" Crayfish rushed out of my inner office!
Very curious, I walked into my office--and there he was--not at all different from the last time he had visited--well, maybe a little more nervous and worried looking.
"Constable Crab!" he said with vigor, "I a SO sorry I left so precipitously last week. The fact is I was simply terrified. I have been so worried--so sure I have been followed by someone who means to harm me--that when you left the office I panicked."
"That's quite all right, uh, C.C. But didn't I just speak to you a few minutes ago at the Farmer's Market?"
"The Farmer's Market! Absolutely NOT! I have never been to the Farmer's Market! I just arrived here a few minutes ago and your secretary suggested I wait for you here."
"Have you ever heard of a person called Edgar Allen Crawfish III?"
"The name is vaguely familiar but, no, I don't believe I know anyone by that name. But you are making me feel very nervous now."
"I am sorry, C.C., but I was just talking to someone who could be your twin at the Farmer's Market."
"Please stop, Constable! My poor nerves just can't take very much more. I am SURE I have been followed here!"
"I want to help you but if I check outside, will you wait for me here this time?"
My prediction, as it turned out, was absolutely spot on-- because only a few days later I caught a glimpse of our "C.C. Crayfish" at the Farmer's Market which is held every week on Tuesday evening in our village.
I had stopped by to check the produce. Sometimes I can get a great bargain on fresh local-grown algae at the Farmer's Market, you know.
So I was quite surprised to see, standing at ease in front of the algae stall waiting for the clerk, none other than C.C. Crayfish.
"Mr. C.C. Crayfish I presume." I said jokingly tapping him on the shoulder.
"I beg your pardon, Sir. Do I know you?" The crayfish said, turning to look me in the face.
"I think so." I said, "We met in my office just a few days ago. I am Constable Crab."
"Constable Crab?" Replied the crayfish. "Surely not, Sir. I have a very good memory for faces and I assure you I have never laid eyes on you before. My name is Edgar. Edgar Allen Crawfish III."
All of us are now learning how to grow algae and other tasty sea vegetables--the coral reef is in top condition--and we even feel healthier as vegetarians!
Several other Crown of Thorns starfish have arrived and, though there are some cultural differences to be sure--they are all dedicated vegetarians and good neighbors!
I have even heard that Starry is dating one of the young Crown of Thorns females so I think things are going to be all right.
Of course Starry and I thanked A. Clam for his undercover assistance in private--though his information was not of so much help--putting him in hiding in the coral reef at least got us in early touch with Spike and allowed us to meet Mr. Ishimoto and to begin our new work as vegetarian farmers!
But you know, for me the farming is just an interesting hobby . I enjoy it and the veggies we grow are very nice but my main work will continue to to be Constable.
Needless to say, we three vegetarian-convinced conspirators looked at each other with more than a little wonder.
Spike had certainly beaten US to the punch--and he had even called in an expert gardener to advise him in his vegetarian decision and plans.
We saw Spike and indeed the entire Crown of Thorns race in a new light for sure--they had suddenly gained a LOT of respect from us!
"That's wonderful, Spike." I said politely, "And you too Mr Ishimoto! I think I speak for ALL of us here in the reef when I thank you for making this wise decision--and we would like to join you! We ALL want to be algae farmers, vegetarians and VERY good neighbors!"
Mr. Yen Ishimoto was a large crab--slightly blue in color--with a very dignified look about him.
I was about to shake his hand when he surprised me by bowing deeply to us--so, of course, we all bowed back!
"Mr. Ishimoto is here to help me learn to grow algae." Spike said. "We Crown of Thorns starfish have all decided to become vegetariansand..."
"VEGETARIANS!" We all exclaimed at once--looking at each other in astonishment."Vegetarians! Really this is almost too much!"
"I expected you to be a little surprised," Spike said, "Since I know the reputation we Crown of Thorns people have--about eating ourselves out of house and home and destroying the very reefs we inhabit and all that. But we are no fools! We know that if we don't change out ways we will destroy ourselves along with our environment! And we also know it will be hard--especially at first--since we have evolved as coral polyp eaters--to change our habits--BUT we want to survive and Mr Ishimoto here is going to help us learn a totally new way of life--starting with me--and I will pass along the new skills and new way of life to all of my relatives!"
"Wait just a minute!" Starry exclaimed. "If Spike is just the advance agent of a swarm of his relatives who want to emigrate to our reef--well, there won't be enough ALGAE to feed them AND us. Spike may be willing to change HIS eating habits and he MAY be able to convince his relatives to change THEIR eating habits--that will save the reef! BUT there won't be enough ALGAE to feed all of us!"
"That's true!" Agreed Clam. "There won't be enough algae to feed ALL of us!"
"I see your point." I said. "Let me think this over a bit--"
"All right, men!" I said, "Than we are agreed! We GOTTA convince Spike to change his eating habits! The best way to save our reef--and his reef too is for HIM to become a VEGETARIAN! But HOW can we do it?"
"I dunno." Clam said. "Some of us have sort of evolved to fit some kinda niche in the food chain--ya know what I mean?"
"We know what you mean, Al, but we gotta TRY. It may be hard but changing his eating habits might be the only way out--and OURS too!" I said.
"Wow! THAT is an IDEA for sure!" Starry exclaimed with spirit. "And the plain fact is that I WAS NOT ALWAYS a vegetarian myself!"
"No Kidding?" said Clam.
"Really! I ate all kinds of things--even, uh--shellfish."
"No!" Clam said with a slight tremor in his voice.
"I am sorry to admit it, Al--but even some kinds of shellfish. But I was a young and foolish starfish back then--I saw the error of my ways long ago! I am now a confirmed ALGAE eater! In fact ALGAE is ALL I EAT-- Honest!"
"I have known Starry for a long time Clam, and I can tell you that he is telling the truth. He eats algae--and he has even influenced ME for the better. because I eat mainly algae too!" I added.
"Coral polyps? YUCK! Not on your life!" Starry said looking a little sick.
"Then, don't you see?" Clam smiled happily. "THAT is the solution to our problem!"
"No, I DON'T see! What ARE you getting at, Albert Clam?" Starry replied defensively.
"Only THIS, you thick starfish you!" Clam said, "We only have to convince the Crown of Thorns Starfish--and all his relatives--to become VEGETARIANS like you and our little coral reef will be SAVED--and their own reef--if there is anything left of it--will come back to life and even FLOURISH!"
"But don't they understand that they will destroy THIS coral reef too?" Starry asked.
"They know this is a small reef--and there are MANY of them--but all must EAT to live. And what they EAT is CORAL polyps." Clam replied.
"Then there doesn't seem to be any way out of this, Constable." Starry said, turning to me. "It looks like we are going to lose our coral reef--and all of the residents of the reef will lose their homes and livelihood."
But I had a sudden thought.
"Wait a minute, Starry!" I said, "YOU are a starfish! How is it that YOU don't eat the coral polyps which build our reef?!"
Exactly at noon, Starry and I met at the sandy space below where the Crown of Thorns starfish had set up his abode in our coral reef.
Working quickly, we alerted Al Clam to our presence with our secret code knock on the sand, helped him from his hiding place and spirited him away to a quiet alcove in the coral reef fairly nearby.
As soon as we were all comfortably sitting on the sand we began to ply our "undercover agent" clam with questions.
"Here is the gist of what I have learned," Clam said. "The Crown of Thorns starfish will soon be joined by hundreds, if not thousands of his kind. They will travel here the same way this starfish did, clinging to the bottoms of ships--then when they are nearby---they will release their grip on the ship's hull and drift down into this reef."
"But why go to all this trouble?" Starry asked.
"That is the sad part of the story." Clam replied. "They have killed their own reef! They multiplied in an out-of-control way and literally ate their way out of house and home. They have destroyed their original reef!"
What did you learn about the Alien Starfish?" I immediately asked Starry.
"Well, he's not THAT bad a sort." Starry replied, "But it is unfortunately true that his kind of starfish feed on the little coral insects whose tiny skeletons make up the coral of the reef. If he intends to live here he will destroy the reef--and, just as we feared, that will happen fairly quickly!
Now, Constable--were you able to talk to Clam?"
"Yes! He came out of his hiding place as soon as you left--but he didn't have time to tell me anything about the Crown of Thorns starfish's plans--though he had learned something! I told him we would return at noon to take him away to a place where he can make a full report..."
"Good! Then I will meet you here at noon today! Now we'd better both get some rest!"
"I like this little bit of coral reef just fine." Spike was saying as they approached. "Yes it suits me right to the end of my spines!"
"So you plan to stay a while?" Starry asked.
"Well I don't know about that." replied Spike. "Ahhh. Here's your friend Constable Crab. I am sure you two will want to continue your midnight stroll. It was very interesting to meet you both and I hope to see you again. Goodbye."
Starry took my claw and we walked slowly away from the strange Crown of Thorns starfish.
"Am I ever glad to see YOU, Constable! I have learned a lot about the Crown of Thorns starfish and about the plans of the whole race of Crown of Thorns starfish to take over this reef!"
"Go on Albert! Let's have it!" I said with no hesitation.
"First of all--I could hear the starfish..."
"His name is Spike." I interrupted.
"Right--Spike! Well, I could hear Spike fairly clearly even though he was communicating very softly using some sort of wave broadcast channel of the C. of T. starfish people. Luckily, you put me in exactly the right place to tune in!"
"Good! Go on!"
"They plan to..."
At this very moment, I heard Starry coming in the distance!
"...and so, Spike, how do you like this little bit of reef?" he was saying so I quickly gestured to Albert to hide underground again--whispering to him, "We'll come back at noon! Be ready to leave with us!"
"Uh--Happy to meet you, Mr. Jones." I said. "I am Constable Crab and this is my friend and associate, Starry Starfish."
"Pleased, I'm sure, Crab and Starfish--you will forgive my not shaking hands with you since gripping my spines can be a rather unpleasant experience I've been told--and you can call me Spike--everyone does!"
"As long as we're getting acquainted, Spike," Starry said, "Even though the hour is very late, I would love to have a little chat with you! I have never met a Crown of Thorns starfish, but since I am a starfish too I am sure we'd have lots to talk about."
"You don't mind if we starfish just go up into the reef a bit and have a good yak together, do you Constable?"
Oh, you clever Starry, I thought as I replied, "Oh, not at all! I know you starfish must have lots to talk about! I'll see you later, Starry and nice to meet you, Mr.--uh--Spike!"
"Wind, my spines!" Came a gruff but smooth reply--and slipping down from the coral reef and right into our faces came the dreaded Crown of Thorns starfish himself!
"You don't seem too happy to see me, neighbors." he said with a wry chuckle.
"It's just--uh--we expected to see someone else!" Starry improvised.
"Ahh--really?" replied the alien starfish. "Well, come poking around this little coral reef at midnight and you might meet just about anyone! Right? But since I am the only one here now--you might as well meet ME! Spike Jones, at your service!"
To communicate with our clammy undercover agent, we decided to simply knock "Shave and a Haircut" on the sand covering him every night at midnight--and he would come out of the sand and whisper what he had learned .
Of course we would provide him with food and whatever else he needed. (And luckily, clams don't need much!)
When Al Clam offered his help as an undercover agent for us we immediately discussed what he could do.
We decided that we would help him get down to the coral reef that same night--then in the cover of darkness, he would slide under the sand as near as possible to the place the Crown of Thorns starfish had settled.
He would then pick up any information he could about the unwelcome visitor--and pass the info to us as clandestinely as possible.
"Crown of Thorns Starfish!" cried the clam, "That is bad news indeed for the residents of the coral reef! Once the Crown of Thorns Starfish decides to make his home there--the rest of the reef dwellers had better start packing because the coral reef is doomed!"
"We know that very well." Starry said, "and we hope that you can help us preserve our reef." "But what can I do?" the clam asked pointedly, "I don't know anything about starfish."
"I know a little about starfish", Starry replied, "because I am one! But we don't know anything about this Crown of Thorns starfish--why he is here and what his plans are. We hope you can help us--using your undercover skills--to find out more about the intruder so we will know what to do."
"The Crown of Thorns Starfish is no friend of mine. I'll do what I can for ye, Constable and Starry."
Starry thought for a moment and then abruptly exclaimed: "YES! I DO know someone who is very good at undercover work! In fact my friend spends almost his entire life undercover! My good friend Albert Clam."
"A clam?" I questioned.
"Right! My good friend A. Clam! He is quiet, stealthy and very alert. He is our best bet for finding out all about the Crown of Thorns starfish. I am SURE of it!"
"Then," I said, "Let us go and ask this good clam if he is willing to take on what may be a very dangerous assignment."
"You know as well as I do, Constable , that my cousin, the Crown of Thorns Starfish, is VERY dangerous--he will destroy our coral reef if he is left alone to do his damage! Eating the tiny coral creatures who make up the coral reef is how he LIVES!" Starry lamented when we were comfortably seated on some tide pool rocks.
"I know all the facts, Starry." I said. "But as a starfish--though not a destructive one--in fact a very nice, friendly one--do you have any suggestions as to what we should do?"
"I don't know anything at all about the habits of my cousin, Constable! Up to now I hardly knew of his existence! Oh what a calamity! Why didn't he just stay put in whatever part of the ocean he came from?!"
"Then we certainly need some good intelligence!" I said. "Who do you know that is good at finding things out--at spying--to be blunt?"
Starry Starfish was in his tide pool where I expected him to be--but he didn't seem to be his usual bright self--in fact he appeared distracted and even gloomy.
He saw me coming and waved weakly in greeting.
"Hello, Constable." he said, clearing his throat, "I think I know what brings you here this morning. Have a seat and lets talk."
This was so different from his usual bantering way, that I guessed at once that he had heard about the Crown of Thorns starfish's appearance in the coral garden.
"You are doubtless here concerning my cousin--the Crown of Thorns starfish." he said. "Bad news certainly travels fast! I am at my wit's end about this matter too!"
"You probably know, Constable, " he continued bleakly, "that my family has very little to do with the family of the Crown of Thorns. True, we are related, but that side of the family has always been in ill repute. In fact, I had never even seen a Crown of Thorns in my entire life! I had absolutely no idea he was coming..."
"That's all right, my old friend." I immediately interjected, since I could easily see his emotion was getting the best of him. "No one is to blame for one's relations! We just have to deal with the good as well as the bad! The question is WHAT shall we DO?"