Thursday, June 30, 2011

19. Plans

I was partnered with the moray eel in the next afternoon's croquet game.

"I hear there is a ghost taking my side at Heavenly Abode." he chuckled.

I admitted that there was some sort of problem and that Angela was quite alarmed.

"Well, personally I don't believe in ghosts," he said, "--but if one helps me win my desire to buy the old mansion I would not mind it too much--though I would not like to worry Angela, of course. It is your turn to strike the ball, Constable."

I took my shot.  

"Nicely placed, partner.". Morris said and we discussed the ghost no more.

After the game I suggested to Angela that Charles should perhaps stay near or in her bedroom in case the ghost should try any haunting in the night. 

"I have already asked him to stay with me." she said. "He is really quite brave for an archaeologist and I will feel much safer with his company."

"Starry and I will again take turns patrolling the house and I would like you to announce that fact to everyone since it seems that this ghost does not like to have watchful people about when it is active."

"Good." Angela said. "I was scared half to death last night when that doorknob turned but now in the light of day the whole thing seems so silly. I seem to be an awful scardy-cat."

"No one blames you for being frightened, Angela. Something very odd is going on, but we are going to stop this ghost business now if we can."  I said.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

18. Weeping Ghost

I was awakened in the middle of the night by a shriek--Angela's voice I was sure--followed by a crash of furniture. 

I leaped from my bed, raced out of my room and down to her room at the end of the atrium where I knocked on the door.

"Angela, are you all right?" I cried.

Angela, pale and trembling,  opened it.

"The ghost." she said. "The ghost woke me, weeping outside my door. It turned the doorknob--locked, of course--but when the knob turned I was so frightened I screamed and upset my night table."

By this time the commotion had aroused the entire household, Starry, Charles, Clarence, Hettie and several other servants were gathered about. 

I immediately asked if anyone had seen anything--person or ghost--as they came from different parts of the house--but no one had seen a thing. 

"Then Starry and I will take turns patrolling the house for the rest of the night." I said. "You can all return to your rooms--there is nothing to fear. You can sleep peacefully, Angela. We will allow no weeping or wailing on our watch!"

As they left, whispering among themselves, Starry asked how we should go about our task.

"I will take the first watch and will call you in a couple of hours." I said. "I am pretty sure our ghost has done his haunting for this evening, but we might as well keep awake and alert--just in case."


Monday, June 27, 2011

17. After Dinner

The dinner was nothing short of wonderful--a sort of Japanese-style melange of carefully prepared foods--a large variety of flavors and textures beautifully presented and served. We left the table perfectly satisfied. 

After the meal those who wished to met in the conservatory for a short program of chamber music performed very capably by members of the household staff. 

Angela, complying with requests from friendly guests, sang two folk-songs in a lovely clear soprano voice with the accompaniment of a solo viola d'amore played by Charles--certainly very becoming entertainment.

It had been a very full day for us. 

The guests who had arrived from other nearby homes said their good-nights and left in twos and threes and the Heavenly Abode became darkened  and silent for the night. 

Starry and I met for a brief conversation in the upstairs hallway near our bedrooms.

"A pleasant evening, wasn't it, Constable?" Starry remarked.

"Awfully nice." I replied, "but keep alert my friend. Ghosts love to do their haunting late at night, you know." as I entered my bedroom and gently closed the door behind me.


Friday, June 24, 2011

16. Dinner Talk

Morris the eel had been invited for dinner and I asked Angelica to seat me beside him.  There were a couple of things I hoped he would discuss with me.

When all were seated and it was appropriate for a little small talk with our dining neighbor, I turned to him and asked if he enjoyed music.

"Music, Constable?  Well, I certainly DO enjoy  music! 

Unfortunately my business concerns keep me so occupied I scarcely have time to practice, but in my youth I was quite a performer. I especially loved to play the harp and I still have a go at it whenever I can--not for an audience, you understand, but just for my own pleasure. By the way--did you know there is a lovely antique harp in one of the guest bedrooms upstairs?"

I told him I had seen the harp and it WAS a beauty. Then--to cut right to the point--I asked him about his interest in purchasing Heavenly abode.

"Aha! I see you have been talking about me with Angelica! Well it is certainly no secret that I would like to buy this old house. It's a beautiful place, no doubt of THAT--but so impractical. Cold in the winter as you have probably noticed, ruinously expensive to maintain and the TAXES... !  

I  hate to see Angelica stuck in a past age, you know, just by the accident of birth. 

I have made her a most generous offer, you understand, since I can realize a good profit by developing the parcel of land into multiple private homes after removing this structure--and nice modern houses too--but, of course, she won't HEAR of it!

Not yet! 

But I don't intend to give up! 

Time is on my side, as they say--some day I expect her to agree that MY plan would be best for all concerned."


Thursday, June 23, 2011

15. My Turn

It was my turn. I concentrated on my stroke but continued to question Angelica: "Does  Clarence also play the harp?"
"Yes. In fact most of our staff are musical and since we had the harp on hand, many have learned to play. We support the arts and encourage participation by everyone--in fact one of our forester's children is attending the Great Barrier Reef Conservatory in Australia right now on an Angelfish Family Scholarship."

"That is quite wonderful." I said--and made my shot.

"THAT was very good too."  Angelica complimented me. 


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

14. Family History

"I am also responsible for providing the livelihood of a large number of people." Angela continued, "If I sold Heavenly Abode to Morris, the staff would be unemployed with no place to live. Many of the staff here have literally worked for the Angelfish family for generations."

"Really?" I replied. "That is amazing."

"Oh, I know. In this day and age it is practically unheard of--but a few--like Hettie and Clarence, for example--have been servants of my family for years

Clarence's great, great, ever so great grandfather was the friend and partner of my great, great, ever so great grandfather when this country estate was built, and Hettie and her family worked for my old Aunt Minerva at her country home until Aunt Minerva died and her home was sold to a developer and destroyed--then Hettie came here to work for me."

"Then Hettie would be familiar with the harp? Aunt Minerva's harp in your guest bedroom, I mean?"

"Of course. In fact I believe she took some music lessons using that very harp when she was a child--since we Angelfish always treat our servants more like family than like mere employees. That's probably why they stay with us for generations!"


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

13. Croquet

The afternoon weather was perfect for a game of croquet so Angelica invited us all down to the lawn to play.

As the game progressed we enjoyed the usual enthusiastic but not very skillful action and the wry banter expected from amateur players.

When Starry and Charles were having a friendly argument about one disputed shot, I took the opportunity to ask Angelica about something her friend Morris the eel had said to her when we first arrived.

"Angelica, WHAT was Morris referring to when he suggested you think about the conversation you had with him last week?"

"Oh Morris!" Angelica replied, "Morris has been interested in buying Heavenly Abode from we Angelfish for years. Uncle Egbert told him we were not interested in selling--but I guess since Uncle Egbert passed away and since I am alone, Morris thinks this might be an opportune time for him to ask again. I told him last week that I am NOT interested in selling, but he continues to plead with me."

"Then Morris wants Heavenly Abode as a residence for himself?" I asked.

"If that was his only reason, I might consider it since this big old home IS a bit much for ONE angelfish! But Morris only wants to tear the place down and develop the grounds into a swarm of one-family mansions---you know the kind I am sure--where the developer builds hundreds of junky but expensive luxury residences and then retires while the buyers pay off their lifetime mortgages."

"I know what you are talking about only too well." I said sadly.

"Besides, I may not be alone forever." Angelica said, glancing over at Charles. "And there may be future generations of Angelfish which need a good place to live..."

"That too." I said with a smile.


Monday, June 20, 2011

12. Charles

With a flit of her fins, Angelica spun away from us, flew out of the room and away down the stairs, bubbling: "Charles! Charles! Charles!" as she went. (And Angelfish CAN move very rapidly when they want or need to!)

The rest of us followed at a slightly more leisurely and quieter pace and when we arrived in the main hall we discovered Angelica in animated conversation with a handsome young angelfish.

As we gathered around the comely pair, Angelica cried: "Constable, Starry, I would like you to meet my dear  friend, Charles! He is  Graduate Assistant for an important archeological expedition." turning back to Charles, "However DID you manage to get away?"

"When I received your note about a ghost, dear Angelica, I simply moved heaven and earth, and here I am!"

"That is WONderful, Charles! Now you must meet Constable Crab and Starry Starfish--I have invited them here to investigate the mystery. You can stay too, can't you Charles? The guest bedroom with Aunt Minerva's harp in it is empty--we think!"

"Of course. I came to be of service in any way possible for as long as necessary--and don't worry about my job. My superior, Professor Sturgeon, has granted me a leave of absence--for as long as I need to be away!"


Saturday, June 18, 2011

11. Facts

"Though there are no physical clues to the identity of our ghost," I said, moving to the harp and brushing my claws lightly across the strings, "we can draw a few interesting conclusions from the facts of the musical attack from this room.

Our ghost was not violent. Music, even spooky music, is not going to hurt anyone under normal conditions.

The ghost knew the general lay-out of this large house--knew enough to perform the musical sounds in the empty room next to the room only occupied for a very short time by Starry--and at a volume which Starry could hear but not be overly disturbed by--and, if the ghost is material--she, he or it could also enter and leave this room without being observed.

The ghost knew of our arrival and wanted to welcome us, or at least make us aware that it knows of our presence, with this musical demonstration."

"The ghost also has a certain amount of cultural awareness--that is--is able perform some sounds on a harp which Starry understood as music."

"I thought it was nice." Starry interjected.

"And the ghost is also shy enough or smart enough to keep well hidden when we are all present."

 At this point Clarence entered the room and announced: "Miss Angelfish, Charles has arrived and is waiting for you below."


Friday, June 17, 2011

10. Suspects

After lunch, Angelica guided us upstairs to the empty bedroom containing the harp.

The house staff kept everything spotlessly clean, of course, so there were no marks in dust, finprints or anything of that sort.  

As I suspected, the old-fashioned locking devices on the door could only be locked from inside by the occupants of the room. 

Anyone could have entered the room to play the harp--and there was a small army of workers around the mansion--including upstairs and downstairs maids--handymen, cooks and scullery workers, gardeners and groundskeepers--even gamekeepers and foresters--an impossible number of "suspects"--and all the windows in the room were unlocked and open.

"Angelica," I said, "There are no clues here. Is there any reason anyone would want to drive YOU away from this house? Do YOU have any enemies?"

"As I told you, Constable, this is the Angelfish family home. We Angelfish have lived here for more than six generations, but I personally have not lived here since I was a child. I only visited my uncle Egbert here on school vacations. I have only come here to live in the last few months--since my uncle's death--and I don't think I have an enemy in the world."

"And the trouble with the ghost?"

"All the frightening events began only  a few weeks ago."


Thursday, June 16, 2011

9. Tasty Tarts

This musical information, though unexpected, only put me more on my guard.

"No doubt  the perpetrator of this musical joke has left the room with the instrument by now, so let's enjoy this good meal. Afterward  we will go up to the empty bedroom and investigate. Perhaps she, he or it has left some clues for us to ponder..."

"Oh, Constable Crab--I am SO glad you are here!" Angelica said. "This is the kind of strange occurrence that has got me absolutely unstrung!" 

"Don't worry, Angelica. A little harp music never hurt anyone! Very tasty, these jam tarts!"


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

8.Haunting Music

When I came down to the dining room for lunch I was charmed by the pleasant display of food on the large table--plates of elegant cucumber sandwiches (Starry would be delighted!), bowls of seaweed salad and  and trays of  jam tarts.

Angelica was waiting near the table and greeted me with the welcome words: "Please help yourself, Constable. We do not stand on formality for luncheon."

I was filling my plate when Starry arrived.

"My word, this all looks delicious!" he chuckled, "And  I see you have the start on me, Constable!"

"Tuck in! Tuck in! And welcome!" I replied.

"Lovely guest bedroom, Angelica." Starry remarked to Angelica, "And I SO appreciated the music!"

"Oh, Dear..." Angelica said, looking disturbed, "WHAT music?"

"Why the sort of haunting  melody--harp, I think--coming from nearby. It was just the thing to help me relax after our journey."

"But  there was NO music playing near your room, Starry. There are four bedrooms on the second floor: yours, Constable Crabs--and the other two are empty. There IS a harp in one of the empty rooms, however--an old harp which belonged to my Aunt Minerva--but SHE HAS BEEN DEAD FOR YEARS!"


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

7. Vacation

After our short interview with Morris we entered the elegant, lavishly furnished old mansion. 

"Hettie, will you please show Constable Crab and Starry to the guest bedrooms on the second floor?" Angelica said to the housekeeper.

Then, turning to me she quietly remarked: "The bedrooms on the second floor are where most of the ghostly disturbances have taken place--I am afraid I am putting you in harms way, gentlemen."

"Perfectly all right since that is why we are here, Angelica." I replied. "We are most curious to experience for ourselves your ghost's doings."

Starry and I were led upstairs and shown to separate very nice bedrooms next door to each other--both with splendid views of the large formal garden below.

"Luncheon will be served in the dining room in half an hour if that will be convenient for you gentlemen." Hettie informed us. "Or, if you need more time to relax I can postpone it as you wish..."

"That will be fine with us." I replied. Then to Starry: "I'll meet you in the dining room  in half an hour--and, in the meantime,  keep your eyes and ears open."

"Oh, I will, I will."  Starry laughed, "And this is not such a bad place for a little vacation, is it, Constable? I hope it's cucumber sandwiches for lunch!"


Monday, June 13, 2011

6. Morris

We were about the enter the palatial old home when we were startled by a voice from behind us.

"Welcome home, Angelica--gentlemen--I will call on you later, and, Angelica, do not forget our conversation of last week."

"Morris! In the daylight?" said Angelica,"Well, as long as you are awake and here, you must meet the two persons I have asked to help with our problem. Constable Crab--Starry Starfish, this is a neighbor and old friend, Morris."

"Delighted, I'm sure." said the large and rather think moray eel and Starry and I returned his greeting.

"Yes, I seldom get out and about in the daylight--I am such a night person--but I wanted to meet your guests and to welcome you home, Angelica."

It was indeed unusual to see a moray eel by daylight. In fact I had never seen one, since they are all creatures of the night. 

But Morris certainly looked to me like a good specimen of the type--slippery, muscular--with excellent teeth and bright, rather beady eyes--and, in this case, a cultured upper-class voice.


Sunday, June 12, 2011

5. Introductions

Next day was perfect for travel and before noon the three of us--Miss Angelfish, Starry (who was quite willing to come on the adventure) and myself arrived at the imposing front entrance of the Angelfish family mansion, their "Heavenly Abode".

Angelica pulled an iron headed lever and deep within the massive reef home a bell sounded. 

Soon a maid-fish appeared followed by an imposing trumpet-fish.

"This is Hettie, our Housekeeper, Constable and Starry and our Head Butler, Clarance. 

Hettie, Clarence--these two gentlemen will investigate our problem and hopefully soon return things to normal around here."

"Oh, I DO hope so, Mum." squeaked the maid and the trumpet fish gravely bowed to us and added: "You are very welcome, Sirs, and I offer you any assistance of which I am capable."


Friday, June 10, 2011

4. Invitation

I knew the location of Heavenly Abode, a stately manor in an out-of-the-way part of the reef,  and it seemed to me the best way to discover the veracity of Angelica's strange tale was to go there and investigate on the ground.

It also seemed good to me to invite my old friend Starry the starfish along  since there might be more to this adventure than I could handle on my own, so I made this request to the young angelfish.

"Whatever you think best, Constable." she said.
"I am so relieved that you will take an interest in what must seem to you to be some figment of my imagination. I am staying with friends here--I have been too frightened to stay at Heavenly Abode even though there are servants there of course. Perhaps you and your starfish friend could come home with me tomorrow morning? And you must stay there for a while since the ghosts are not active until darkness falls and they do not appear every night." 

"I will contact Starry." I said, "Please meet us here in the morning about nine and we will travel together to your home."

Angelica thanked me profusely and, with a becomming flutter of her fins, left. 
Shortly afterward I went out into the wintery afternoon to see if Starry could join me.


Thursday, June 9, 2011

3. Ghost Story

"Your reef home is haunted?" I said trying not to show too much surprise.

"I know it sounds demented, but I am terribly upset--and the strange going's on at our family's estate--we call it Heavenly Abode--are too weird to be explained in any other way." 

"And what are these "strange going's on", please, Miss Angelica?"

"Terrible, frightening things, Constable. Weird sounds in the night. Objects being moved from one place to another. Shadows and even horrible apparitions suddenly looking in the windows!"

"Hmm." That is all I could say. This young angelfish certainly looked sane, but her story was pretty unbelievable.

"I know you must think me mad--sometimes I doubt my own sanity--I  have never believed in ghosts or the supernatural but I have reached the limit of my endurance. Please help me, Constable Crab!"


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2. Sad Angelfish

A young female angelfish was at the door--pretty, but with a sad expression on her face.

"Yes?" I simply said--allowing her to tell me the purpose of her visit.

"Constable Crab--I need your help."

"Please come in and tell me what I can do. I'll help you if I can, of course."

She came in with a flutter of yellow fins and arranged herself very daintily, as angelfish do, to speak.

"My name is Angelica. I was left without parents at a very young age and have been raised in a good school chosen by an uncle. Recently this uncle also died leaving me quite alone--and the sole owner of the family estate.

Finishing my education, I have returned to live in the great reef home of  my family...but...but..."

The angelfish was obviously under some strain so I quickly came to her rescue.

"Please be calm, Miss Angelica. You are absolutely safe here. I assure you that I will give you all the aid in my power. Please continue your interesting story."

"Oh Constable Crab, I feel like such a fool--but I am afraid my great reef home is--is--is--HAUNTED!"


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

1. The Haunting of Heavenly Abode

"HI there!

Welcome back. 

You are in the mood for another story from my casebook and I am ready with one that you will like--though at the time of the story I thought that it was NOT so very much fun!

I call the case "The Haunting of Heavenly Abode".

When the case began it was winter and the weather was not pleasant. In fact it was a good day to stay indoors with a good book--which is where I was--when there was a knock on my door.


Monday, June 6, 2011

40. Wind Up

So that is how I found myself carrying a coffer  of black diamonds out of the abandoned pier and into the sunlight of the beach.

There was a growing crowd of curious bystanders waiting. I spotted Chief Bigelow and a lot of police walruses--(that is what was drawing the crowd)--but I could also see Starry and Edgar Allan Crawfish--not too close together and mingling with the other creatures in the crowd.

There was nothing to do about the Crawfish--I hadn't CAUGHT him doing anything illegal and I was pretty sure he would disappear from our neighborhood. 

I would go to the Sea Breeze Hotel and set CC's mind at rest. He would not be bothered by odd messages about birthday parties again.

I had a feeling no "rightful owners" of the black pearls would ever be found so some charity would have a windfall of needed funds.

My job was done. This "Crayfish Caper" case was closed. I felt good.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

39.What Now?

"They are beautiful pearls, Leo. But they are stolen--so what do we do next?"

"Look, Constable--their reputation is: STOLEN PEARLS, but I am not even sure about WHO these pearls were stolen FROM. The path of these baubles to my paws was long and crooked and shrouded in mystery--even if I WANTED to return them to their "rightful owner" I wouldn't know where to look."

"You have a reputation too, Leo. Are you going to FIGHT  the police walruses to keep these pearls?"

"Nah. I have everything I need and I don't think I have to defend my reputation any more--that I am a thoroughly bad and dangerous seal is too well documented."

"Do you trust me, Leo?"

"Crab, you are about the squarest shooter I have ever come across in my long, and busy life of crime. Oddly enough, I DO trust you."

"Then let me have the pearls. I will turn them over to Chief Bigelow. We can trust him to either return them to their rightful owner--or if they cannot be found--sell them and give the money to some charity, then YOU will be off the hook and I will guarantee that no charges will be filed against you."

"Why not? I got to own them and to admire them for a few days . What in the heck do people DO with these silly treasures anyway? Take em! Give 'em to Bigelow and I hope he can use them to help somebody who needs help!  I got too much on my conscience already to want any more!" 


Saturday, June 4, 2011

38. The Pearls

I followed the harbor seal a few paces into the old pier's wreckage into a cleared space.

There was a table in the center of the space and behind the table, the awesome, dangerous bulk of Leo the Leopard Seal.

"Crab. Constable Crab." he said in his familiar, deep, resonant voice. "How have you been?"

"Fine, Leo. You look well."

"Can't complain,Constable. I suppose you have surrounded the pier with police walruses and your usual help?"

"They should be here any moment."

"Always the cautious Crab, eh?  Ah, well.  The life of crime is not what it used to be. Sending that ignoramus of a Jellyfish on a man's job..."

"You could always change, Leo."

"It's not easy to try a new career at our age, is it Constable?  Ah, well. Come closer--you see this pretty coffer on the table?  Open the lid--it's hinged--and take a look inside."

I followed his directions. The cover of the well-made small coffer  opened easily and revealed a mass of glittering, black bead-like objects.

"Pearls, Crab. More black pearls than you will ever see again in one place."


Friday, June 3, 2011

37. The Ruined Dock

The old abandoned dock was a gloomy place.

All normal creatures avoided the rotting piles and collapsed wooden structures which irresistibly attracted criminal types .

Entering the area I expected to be met by some of the low-lifes that hung out there and I was not disappointed.

As soon as I was in the shadow of the ruin a sleek harbor seal stuck his pomaded snout out from behind some crates.

"Ahoy matey." he said, "You can STOP right there because no one is allowed to visit these premises--they are off limits to browsers."

"My name is Constable Crab." I said,  "And I am here to speak with Leo the Leopard Seal."

"Constable Crab, is it?" sneered the harbor seal."Well you ARE a cheeky sneak..."

"Let him in!" roared a voice from somewhere inside the maze of fallen timbers, "I have been expecting him."

With a mock show of politeness, the harbor seal led me into the ruined dock and I was soon confronting the fearful bulk of one of the most ruthless residents of the sea, Leo the Leopard Seal.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

36. Gathering Forces

"But we are going to need some SERIOUS back-up, Barney! SO fly down to Police Rock right now and tell Chief Bigelow what is going on. 

Ask him to bring a squad of police walruses and be at the abandoned dock pronto if he wants to catch Leo and the Spiny Lobster, Edgar  Allan, and confiscate the shipment of stolen black pearls!

I will go down directly myself --I am SURE Starry will be there too!"

"Sounds good, Constable. I'm on my way!"


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

35. Go for Leo

As soon as I reached the beach there was a flutter of wings and Barney Sea Gull appeared before me.

"Ahoy, Shipmate! How's the weather up there?" I smiled.

"Perfect visibility, Constable! I could see your meeting with the jellyfish and the two crawdads and I could easily guess what happened when I saw you all split up. Now--what's the move?"

"You sea gulls certainly don't miss much! I think my client, CC is out of danger--and I think we should carry the battle to the enemy."

"You mean go after the kingpin and the loot?"

"Right, Barney! I think we can apprehend Leo the Leopard Seal and the shipment of stolen black pearls."

"Constable, I happen to know that Leo is staying in his (ahem)  secret office under the old abandoned dock. And I suspect he still has the black pearls somewhere near. Maybe we could catch him when he tries to pass them on to  the pale blue fence of whom we know--Edgar Allen Crawfish by name?"

"You've read my mind, Barney, and Starry is tailing that slippery crawdad right now!"