Sunday, September 13, 2009

Chapter Three. Danger Comes to Balmy Bay!

“Yes, I know,” Slate Burly said. “I’m sure Mrs. Diamond must be very concerned.”

Chip gaped open-mouthed at his father. Flint’s reaction, as ever, was less apparent, but he was no less surprised than his brother.

“How long have you known?” Chip asked.

“Mrs. Diamond called the police three nights ago,” Slate said, “when Lucy didn’t get home in time to watch Family Affair. Chief Chalk spoke to me about it the next morning.”

“Then you’re helping the police look for her?” Flint asked.

Slate looked uncomfortable for an instant, then turned back to the book he was reading, a well-worn copy of Modern Methods of Detection. “I don’t think my help is called for in this case,” he said.

“Not called for!” Chip cried. “But whillikers, Dad! You’re one of the best-known private investigators in the country—after having served for years at the ace detective of the Baltimore Police Force—and are famous for all the seemingly unsolvable missing persons cases you’ve cracked!”

Slate looked sharply at him. Too sharply, Chip thought. “That’s very well put, son,” he said slowly. “But not every case of a missing young person is necessarily a mystery. Nor will a detective, no matter how skilled, necessarily be able to help.”

“But we don’t understand, Dad,” Flint said. “How can it not be a mystery when a nifty gal like Lucy Diamond suddenly leaves the hometown she loves?”

Slate closed the book. He looked thoughtful. “Yes,” he said softly. “A mystery indeed. But not in the sense you boys understand.” Then he looked at them again, first Flint and then Chip, but with something in his eyes that looked like a deep sadness. “This is a mystery that even the greatest detective cannot solve.”

“But dad!” Chip said. “We were going to ask you if you thought we should take on the case ourselves!”

“No!” Slate snapped. Then, catching himself, he softened his voice. “Listen, boys, I know how much you want to prove to me that you’re mature and capable enough to become private investigators in your own right—"

“You said it, Dad!” Chip said. “Ever since Flint and I cracked our first case, The Mystery of the Whistling Whirligig, when we were fourteen and thirteen years old respectively, we’ve been trying to convince you that your detective firm should be Burly and Sons!”

“I understand that,” Slate said patiently. “And after you’ve gone to college and grown up a bit more, we’ll discuss it again. But there are some things that are simply not appropriate for boys of your age to investigate.”

Flint nodded soberly. “That’s what I was saying, Dad.”

“Okay, okay!” Chip said. “But gibbering krill, this is one of our classmates who’s disappeared! And one of the keenest girls you’d ever hope to—"

“She was,” Slate said. “I’m sure Lucy was as ‘keen’ as they come, as you youngsters say. But people change, son. Especially these days. I think you should just try to remember your friend as she was.”

“What do you mean, Dad?” Chip asked. His voice was quiet, like a little boy’s.

Slate looked at him for a long time, apparently weighing a great decision in his mind. At last he closed his book, rose up out of his easy chair, and stepped to the window. He gazed at the perfectly even lawn and neat hedges of the Burly home as they glowed in the light of sunset. Across the street old Mrs. Ash tilted a watering can over her roses. The Colgate boy, Skip, zipped past on his paper route. Slate reluctantly turned away from the window and said, “All right. I suppose it’s time you boys learned the truth. You’ve probably heard some mention of it on television or in those pop songs you kids listen to anyway.”

Some of Chip’s favorite songs ran through his head—Happy Together by the Turtles, Sweet Pea by Tommy Roe, Wooly Bully by Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs—but if any held a clue to his Dad’s meaning, he just wasn’t seeing it.

“Whatever it is, Dad,” Flint said, “we can handle it.”

Chip nodded and looked as resolute as he could through his fear.

“The times,” Slate said. “They are changing. And not for the better, I’m afraid. Every day, everywhere, in the best towns and the best families in America, young people are suddenly abandoning everything they’ve held dear and striking out for who knows where. It’s as if they are turning on some deadly device within their minds, tuning in to some strange broadcast the rest of us can’t hear, and dropping out of normal life. Some are swallowed up in the anti-war movement, or phony organizations claiming to defend ‘free speech’ or a ‘democratic society.’ I honestly don’t know where they go, and I don’t know that I want to know. I only know that few go of their own volition. And those who are tracked down and brought home…just don’t seem to fit anymore somehow.”

There was a long silence. At last, Flint asked, “Then you think Lucy is one of those kids?”

“If she had simply disappeared, I wouldn’t be so sure,” Slate said. “But her mother told Chief Chalk that Lucy had been dressing strangely for weeks before her disappearance, and spending time with some peculiar people from out of town. Including a young man who…played the guitar.”

“But who could they be, Dad? What could they be doing to kids like Lucy? How are they tricking them into leaving Balmy Bay?”

Slate fixed his gaze on Flint, and there was a terrible light in his eyes. “There are mighty forces out there, son. I’m sure you’ve heard them whispered about. Forces devoted to undermining our American way of life. Infiltration, propaganda, and brainwashing are only a few of the tools they have mastered in order to carry out their ends. Our brave agents in the FBI and CIA are doing all they can to counter their efforts, but there’s a limit to what they can do—since our side is committed to honesty and legality in all our tactics.”

“Whillikers,” Chip said. “It’s almost like there’s a disadvantage to being the good guy!”

“You could argue that,” Slate said. “But the rewards of hewing to the strait and narrow are well worth the cost. You wouldn’t want to be like them, would you?”

“But what can we do against such forces, Dad?” Flint asked. “How do we protect kids like Lucy?”

“Vigilance,” Slate said. “And a willingness to expose evil whenever you see it. These groups always hide behind the same sorts of disguises. ‘Peace’ movements. Political agitators. Chemical gurus. College organizations that aren’t fraternities, sororities, or sports teams. Couples cohabiting out of wedlock. Folk music.”

“But there’s nothing we can do for Lucy now?” Chip asked.

“There is one thing you can do,” Slate said. He stepped up to his sons and put a hand on the shoulder of each. He paused for a moment, looking from one to the other. Then he said, “You can pray, boys. You can pray.”


After praying, the boys decided they needed to get out of the house to clear their heads. Although their father’s talk had sobered them, and they’d put away all thoughts of investigating the Lucy Diamond disappearance, both felt subtly troubled in ways they couldn’t identify. Chip suggested that they go see their girls and talk about the sock-hop, but Flint pointed out that they’d already talked to their girls about the sock-hop all day. Flint suggested that they drop in on one of their friends, like Jelly Roll Horton or Buff Powers or Vinnie Frito, and this time it was Chip who reminded his brother that they’d spent ample time with each of the aforementioned chums at the picnic. Finally they decided to just take their motor bikes for a spin.

But before they could make their exit they were confronted by their Aunt Hortense.
“Why the long faces?” she bellowed. Aunt Hortense had a voice like a bullhorn, which caused people meeting her for the first time to think her ill-tempered. Yet in reality she was a kindly old maid, and very solicitous of her nephews’ well being.

Flint shrugged. “Dad just talked us out of taking a case, is all.”

“Well, father knows best,” Aunt Hortense said. “But where are you restless jitterbugs off to now? You’d think you’d be all done in after the way you cavorted at the picnic.”

“We’re just taking the motor bikes for a spin, Aunt Hortense,” Chip said.

“Well, don’t be gone too long, unless you’re not interested in trying some of my fresh-baked cherry pie.”

“Stuttering magpies!” Chip cried. “Fresh cherry pie!”

“You bet we won’t be gone long!” Flint said.

True to their word, the boys kept their ride short. They took the Old Coast Road south, but turned back when they reached the bridge over Smoky Creek, only a few miles out of town. Ordinarily, they were vigilant motorists, but the wind in their faces, the lowering red ball of the sun, and the wavelets lapping on the shore lulled their senses.

Neither noticed the black car until it was too late.
Flint, in fact, didn’t notice anything until he happened to glance to his left and saw his brother’s bike veer off the road and carom off the hillside. It took a moment for the fact that the bike was riderless to penetrate his mind. Finally he heard a whoosh and felt a blast of air as a black car passed him on his right, barreling along at a good seventy-mile-an-hour clip. Flint turned in time to see the driver glance over his shoulder at him, a man wearing dark sunglasses.

A moment later the car vanished around a curve in the road.
Finally, Flint slammed on his brakes and turned to see what had become of his brother, a lump lodged in his throat. But the first thing he saw was Chip lifting himself off the road, apparently none the worse for wear. As Flint tooled back his brother was brushing angrily at his slacks and v-neck sweater.

“Flappin’ flapjacks!” Chip said. “That guy clipped me as he shot past!”

“And he didn’t even have the decency to stop,” Flint said. “You all right?”

“I’m fine. But, golly, I hope my bike isn’t busted!”

A little paint had been scraped off the rear fender, but other than that the bike seemed to be undamaged.

“What say we try to head that guy off?” Flint suggested, a grim look darkening his visage.

“You mean go over the hill? Sounds good to me!”

Although the hills bordering the western edge of the Old Coast Road were quite steep, the boys had often tackled the ascent on their motor bikes. They did so now, and after following the curve of the crest for a couple of minutes, they spotted the black car in the distance just as it was entering the town of Balmy Bay proper. Keeping their quarry in sight, they proceeded to fly down the far slope, having cut the black car’s lead significantly by the judicious use of this shortcut.
When they had jolted back to ground level they momentarily lost sight of the black car. Putting on a burst of speed, they raced up Harding Boulevard, slowing slightly at each intersection to peer up and down the street.

Finally, at the third one, they spotted their baby. They spun a left onto Dulles Avenue just as the car was making a sharp right.

Suddenly Flint was holding up his hand, motioning for Chip to slow down.
“He turned up Coolidge Avenue!” Flint cried. “Lucy’s street!”

“What the heck?” said Chip.

The boys screeched to a stop just shy of the intersection. Leaving their bikes parked at the curb, they edged to the corner and squatted down behind a parked car, from which they commanded a view of Coolidge Avenue. The black car, they saw, had pulled to a stop right in front of Lucy’s house.

“Your hunch was right!” Chip said.

“Maybe he’s one of Lucy’s new friends that dad was telling us about,” Flint said.

“Wouldn’t surprise me a bit,” Chip said. “They sound like the sort of people who would knock a teenager off his motor bike!”

But then the man in the dark sunglasses was climbing out of his car and the boys were forced to revise their opinions. Decked out in a natty black suit and glistening black shoes, his stride bold and imperious, he exuded an air of power and authority.

“Hmm,” Flint said. “He doesn’t look like any college student I’ve ever seen.”

“Or like any folk singer I ever saw on Hullabaloo,” Chip said.
“I wonder. Could there be more to this than even Dad suspects?”

“You really think so?” Chip said, clearly troubled by the possibility. “Jumpin’ jeepers, I can’t ever remember dad being wrong!”

They watched the man approach the Diamond residence. He cut across the lawn toward the front door, but suddenly veered left and, after casting a furtive glance up and down the street, made straight for the side yard. The boys watched in stupefaction as he disappeared around the far side of the house.

“What in Sam hill?” Chip cried. “Do you think he’s a burglar?”

“Don’t know,” Flint said, his brow beetling. “But I think it’s time we had a little talk with this man in black, whoever he is.”

As one, the boys broke into a run and the made for the side yard of the Diamond residence. When they rounded the corner, however, their quarry was nowhere to be seen. They sped down the side of the house and emerged in the back yard. Once again, there was no sign of the man in black.

They were pondering where to look next when they heard the sound of a car engine starting up front.

“C’mon!” Flint yelled.

They rounded the front of the house just in time to see the black car screeching around a corner.

“He gave us the slip!” said Chip.

“Yes,” Flint agreed. “But what I want to know is, what could he have wanted with the Diamonds?!”

Chapter Four. Malignant Influences!

When Mrs. Diamond opened the door she looked as if she’d seen a brace of ghosts. “Why, Flint and Chip Burly! I was just about to call you boys and hire you to find Lucy! Don’t tell me you include mind-reading among your many talents.”

“Heavens no, Mrs. Diamond!” Flint said, blushing. “We just chased off a prowler from your yard!”

Mrs. Diamond clutched the collar of her chiffon dress. “A prowler, you say?!”

“Well, we don’t really know what he was.” Flint went on to describe the man’s appearance and his odd behavior. “Do you know anybody who matches that description, Mrs. Diamond?”

“Not that I can think of,” said Mrs. Diamond. “Do you suppose…that he might have anything to do with Lucy’s disappearance?”

“That we can’t positively answer, ma’am,” Chip put in. “But it seems funny that some strange man would come poking around your digs only days after Lucy turned up missing! If there’s one thing we’ve learned in this business it’s that coincidences are rarely coincidences!”

“Oh, my,” Mrs. Diamond said. “I can’t imagine what to think! But please, don’t just stand there. Come in. Come in!”

The boys hesitated. Their father’s admonitions rang in their ears. But they couldn’t very well refuse to enter, not while Mrs. Diamond stood there holding the door open. Finally, Flint roused himself and crossed the threshold. Swallowing with an audible gulp, Chip followed in his wake.

Mrs. Diamond seated them in the front room and offered them some cold milk, which the boys gratefully accepted. While she was getting it the boys took a glance around the room. It was very attractively appointed, and the brothers both noted that its furnishings were not at all dissimilar to the style favored by their mother. Over the fireplace mantel hung a portrait of the family. It had been completed, Flint and Chip remembered, only weeks before Mr. Diamond’s tragic death in a boating accident. Between the two beaming parents posed a thirteen year-old Lucy, already as pretty and wholesome as the young lady she would grow up to be. It seemed impossible to them both that she would willingly leave such a happy home, especially with the sock hop barely two weeks away. Could it be that their father really had erred in his assessment of the situation?

“Hey, Flint,” Chip whispered. “What are we going to do? You know what dad said!”

“We can’t very well just get up and leave!” Flint hissed back.


“Let’s just hear what she has to say,” Flint said. “Where’s the harm in that?”

Mrs. Diamond returned bearing a tray on which sat two tall glasses of cold milk. She handed them out to the boys, watched with satisfaction as they took appreciative swallows, then said, “I imagine you’ve heard about my poor Lucy.”

Flint cleared his throat. “Yes, ma’am. We understand that she’s been gone for three days, now.”

Mrs. Diamond glanced at her watch. “Nearly four, actually.”

“That’s right!” Chip cried. “Tonight it’ll be four days since Family Affair last aired!”

Mrs. Diamond nodded vigorously. “That’s when I knew that something was horribly wrong. Lucy loved Mr. French. Nothing in the world could make her miss that show.” With that, tears misted her eyes.

Chip hastily held out his glass. “Would you like a sip of my cold milk?” he offered.

Mrs. Diamond looked at him blankly for a moment, then shook her head. “No, thank you, dear.” She seemed to be in better control of herself now, as if Chip’s gesture had cheered her a little.

A silence ensued. Flint knew that, as detectives, they should be asking questions, but he also knew that their father had indicated in no uncertain terms that they were not to take this case. Thankfully, Mrs. Diamond jumped into the breach.

“Chief Chalk seems to think she wasn’t kidnapped, as he believes we would have received a ransom demand by now. And he was kind enough to check with all the hospitals in the area and, thank God, Lucy was not admitted into any of them.”

“That’s wonderful news,” said Flint.

“No kidding!” added Chip.

“So that just leaves one possibility,” Mrs. Diamond said, and her hands clutched at the string of pearls at her throat. “That Lucy left of her own volition.”

“No!” said Flint, realizing she was almost certainly right, but not knowing what else to say.

“I won’t believe it!” Chip said, finding himself in the same boat.

But Mrs. Diamond was forlornly shaking her head. “I’m afraid it’s true,” she said softly. But then an edge came into her voice when she added, “But I’m positive leaving home was most emphatically not her idea!”

“No?” asked Flint.

“Now that I can believe!” put in Chip.

Mrs. Diamond went on as if she hadn’t heard them. “And I’m certain she succumbed to malignant influences!”

Flint and Chip locked eyes. This was starting to sound uncomfortably familiar. “Malignant influences?” Flint asked, in a small voice.

“Yes. She started spending time with strange new people…but especially that Schwartz boy! She took up with him a month ago and would hardly see anyone else! Siddhartha, he called himself.”

“Hominy! What a loony name!” Chip said.

“I’ll say it is,” Mrs. Diamond said. “I was simply aghast when Lucy brought him home. Why, he wore a string of beads around his neck! And open-toed sandals! Oh, if Lucy’s father had been alive…”

“Kaboom!” Chip cried.

A silence fell again. Mrs. Diamond was looking at them expectantly. Flint realized that he couldn’t keep on pointedly not asking questions. They were, after all, supposed to be detectives, even if only of the boy variety. At length he decided that making a few inquiries did not commit them to taking the case, and he said, “Was he from around here?”

“I should hope not. But tragically, I never asked. If we only knew where he came from…”

“We would have had a clue!” Chip completed the sentence for her.

Flint cleared his throat again. “What specific…uh…influences do you think he had on Lucy, Mrs. Diamond?”

Their hostess’s eyes fell. When she spoke her voice trilled with grief. “You boys attend the same school as Lucy. Surely you noticed.”

Flint closed his eyes in concentration. A moment later they snapped open. “Holy cow!” he said. “Even though I didn’t have Lucy in any of my classes this year, I remember seeing her around school. And, now that I think about it, I realize she had abandoned the grooming and hygiene that she always took such pride in!”

“Why, I’ll be a brittle pork rind!” Chip cried. “Even though Lucy is a year older than me, I’ve seen her around the campus, too. And I realize now that she’d taken to dressing in a most peculiar way!”

“Most peculiar indeed,” Mrs. Diamond said. “Why, do you know what that girl did? She…she started wearing her grandmother’s dresses!”

“Crawlin’ crawdads!” Chip said.

“What else, Mrs. Diamond?” Flint pressed.

“Well, that boy played the guitar, you know.”

“The guitar!” Flint said, remembering his father’s words.

“Yes. But he didn’t play any of the nice love songs Lucy liked so well. Or any of those dance tunes Mickey Milk and the Milkmen favor. He played these peculiar songs. Songs about purple mists, and about being able to see for miles and miles, and about hard rain!”

“Hard rain?” Chip said. “Doddering daffodils! Don’t they use that stuff to make A-bombs?”

“That’s hard water,” Flint said.


But Flint was thinking about the other things his father had told them. “Tell me, Mrs. Diamond. Did Lucy ever say anything to you about an anti-war movement?”

“A what?”

“Or anything about…uh…free speech or a…a democratic society?”

“Oh, please, Flint Burly. Now you’re starting to scare me! Why are you asking about these…things?”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Diamond. I’m not trying to alarm you. But please bear with me. Did that Schwartz boy ever mention those things? Did he strike you as a political agitator, for instance? Or as a…a chemical guru?”

“A what?”

“I’m not sure what it means either, Mrs. Diamond. But you hear things. About forces assiduously undermining our American way of life. Or something like that.”

“And you think this boy…”

“I don’t know, Mrs. Diamond. And again, please don’t be alarmed. I’m just fishing. Trying to get a handle on this…this beatnik. For all we know, he may not have a thing to do with Lucy’s disappearance. Come to think of it, it’s quite possible that Lucy may have fled to escape his clutches.”

“Say, I hadn’t thought of that,” Chip said. “Or maybe she ran off to get away from that mysterious stranger we followed here!”

“Oh, dear. I’d forgotten about him.”

“Have you seen any other strange men hanging around her in the last few days?”

“No. I can’t say I have.”

“How about a black car?”

Suddenly Mrs. Diamond sat stiffly erect. “A black car? Why, now that you mention it, I did notice a black car parked right up the street! I remember noticing it just yesterday. And, yes! It’s all coming back. When I saw it just parked there, I remembered thinking that I’d seen it before! But with all the worry that’s been consuming me, I guess I just put it out of my mind. What can it mean?”

“I wish I knew, ma’am,” said Flint.

“It might provide us with a clue!” Chip noted.

Flint took a sip of his ice-cold milk and pondered his next question. “Can you think of anybody else we could talk to, Mrs. Diamond? Anybody who might have a clue to Lucy’s whereabouts?”

“Well, there’s Susie Charmin, of course, Lucy’s best friend.”

“Oh, yes," Flint said. “Lives over on Patton, right?”

Mrs. Diamond nodded. “Between Taft and Lodge. So how much do you boys charge? Or should I speak to your father about money?”

“Oh, no!” Chip blurted. “I wouldn’t do that!”

“What he means,” Flint put in, “is that we can’t guarantee that we’ll be able to take this job, Mrs. Diamond.”

Mrs. Diamond blinked. “Why ever not?”

‘Well, you see…” Flint began. “Our father…well…he seems to feel that Chip and I aren’t quite ready to handle a missing persons case. You see, we usually just tangle with smugglers, counterfeiters, pirates, and the like. Right, Chip?”

“That’s right, Flint!”

“Then shall I talk to your father? Will he take the case? I just thought that since you boys are Lucy’s age…or a year younger, in Chip’s case…”

“I’ll tell you what, Mrs. Diamond. Before you talk to dad, let’s see what Chip and I can learn from Susie. If we turn up a solid lead, then we’ll talk to our father again, and take it from there.” Then a thought occurred to Flint, something he remembered that his father always did when he took on a missing persons job. Not that he had any intention of taking on the case, but it seemed like the right thing to do anyway. “One more thing,” he hastily put in. “Would it be all right if Chip and I had a look at Lucy’s bedroom?”

The look that came over Mrs. Diamond face surprised the boys mightily. For the first time since their talk had begun a smile brightened her features. “Certainly, Flint. Although I’m sure it won’t be of any help.”

“Why’s that?” Chip asked.

“You’ll see.”

Sure enough, the moment the boys had climbed the stairs and entered Lucy’s room, they saw what Mrs. Diamond meant. At first glance, it was clearly apparent that the boys would find nothing anomalous that might point the way to where Lucy had gone.

“This room has been my only comfort,” Mrs. Diamond said. “Despite all the changes Lucy went through, she never changed a thing in here. It’s as if she knew that eventually she’d come back to her senses, and find comfort in the familiar.”

Neither Flint nor Chip had had many occasions to enter the bedrooms of their girlfriends, but they’d done so just enough to recognize a typical teenaged girl’s quarters when they saw one. Posters of Frankie Avalon, the Dave Clark Five, and Rock Hudson hung on the walls, interspersed with school pennants and pom-poms. The canopied bed was covered with stuffed animals and the vanity littered with bottles and vials and jars of cosmetics. A little bookshelf was filled with the adventures of the Merry Barristers and the spine-tingling mysteries of Nancy Reagan, girl detective. The room pointed to the past, not to the future or the mysterious present.

“Swinging meathooks!” Chip said. “It feels familiar, all right!’

“Have you had a good look around, Mrs. Diamond?” asked Flint. “You spotted nothing out of the ordinary at all?”

“Not a thing,” Mrs. Diamond said.

But then Flint’s trained eye spotted something sticking out from beneath a stuffed penguin on the bed. He strode over and yanked out what he recognized as a record album. Chip and Mrs. Diamond were instantly at his side, peering at the jacket’s cover.

“Why, I’ll be a monkey’s third cousin!” Chip cried. “Do you think it’s a clue?”

Depicted on the jacket where four scruffy people, two men and two women, all crowded into a bathtub. Next to the tub sat a naked toilet bowl.

“Who the heck are these oddballs?” Flint said, his lips curling with distaste.

“They’re called the Mamas and Papas,” Chip said. “They’re really popular, only they’re a little too…weird for my taste.”

“Are these more of those English moptops you’re always complaining about?” Flint asked.

“No, I think they’re Americans,” Chip said. “But not really American, if you know what I mean. There’s just something about them that isn’t wholesome. Why, their lead singer is almost as portly as our chum Jelly Roll Horton!”

Flint turned to Mrs. Diamond. “Ma’am, does this look like anything Lucy would have bought?”

“Heavens no!” said. Mrs. Diamond. “Lucy would never bring such horrible music into the house. Not that I’ve ever heard any of it, of course, but…look at them!”

“Hmm,” Flint said. “Might it have been a present from that Schwartz boy, do you think?”

“Yes!” cried Mrs. Diamond. “It must be! Another malignant influence!” And suddenly she had covered her face with her hands and her body shook with sobs.

Except for a gun-moll that the boys had crossed paths with in their sixteenth adventure, The Clue of the Chattering Tommy Gun, they’d never seen a grown woman cry, and both felt terribly uncomfortable. They stood watching her for a moment, but when Mrs. Diamond showed no signs of calming down they quietly let themselves out of the room.

Click on Older Posts to see Chapter Five!

Chapter Five. A Boy Named Siddhartha!

“So what now?” Chip asked.

“We talk to Susie Charmin.”

“But Dad said…”

“We’re only going to talk to her.”

“But if we find a clue…?”

“Then we’ll have more information to bring to Dad.”

“And you think he’ll let us take the case then?”

“One thing at a time, Chip.”

“Boy! I sure hope we find that clue!”

Night had fallen. The boys tooled through the deserted streets of Balmy Bay and swung onto Patton Avenue. Although they’d been trained from a young age to be keenly observant—on the principal that you never know what detail, no matter how seemingly insignificant, might crack a case wide open—they were practically oblivious to what they saw, as Patton looked almost exactly like every other residential street in Balmy Bay. Maples arched over the street. Two-storied cottages loomed at the terminus of manicured lawns. Pontiacs and Chevrolets and Buicks reposed in every driveway. As they pulled up in front of the Charmin house the Colgate boy, Skip, whizzed past, having just completed his paper route.

The young woman who came to the door looked almost exactly like every other young woman in Balmy Bay as well. The pert nose and the perky gleam in her eyes. The jaunty pony-tail. The demure blouse and the skirt that fell just below the knees, the ankle socks and saddle shoes. The peppermint-scented breath. The boys wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Before they could even greet her a voice from within the house demanded, “Who is it, Susie? Isn’t it a little too late for your friends to come visiting?”

“It’s Flint and Chip Burly,” Susie called over her shoulder.

Mr. Charmin and Davy, Susie’s eleven-year old brother, appeared instantly at Susie’s side.

“Why, Flint and Chip Burly!” Mr. Charmin boomed. “What brings you boys here? Hot on the scent of another mystery?”

“Ha, ha,” Flint chuckled politely.

“Hiya squirt,” Chip said to Davy.

“I just finished reading The Mystery of the Crimson Foot!” Davy piped. “That means I’ve now read thirty-two of your books, each and every one packed with mystery and action!”

“Gosh!” Flint said. “You’ll have read them all in no time.”

“Not at the rate you boys keep solving new cases!” Davy said.

“Ha, ha!” Chip said.

Just as Mr. Charmin steered them into the house Mrs. Chairman emerged from the kitchen, wiping her hands on an apron.

“Look who’s here, dear!” Mr. Charmin said.

“Why, if it isn’t Flint and Chip Burly!” Mrs. Charmin said. “Can I get you boys some cold milk?”

The boys said that would be wonderful and Mrs. Charmin bustled back into the kitchen. The rest of them sat down. Flint admired the family portrait that hung over the mantle. Chip noted that the sofa they sank into was every bit as comfortable as the one at home. They both appreciated the nice song by the Lettermen wafting gently from the hi-fi.

“So tell me, Flintie-boy,” Mr. Charmin said. “Do you think the Balmy Bay gridiron squad will win another championship next year?”

“We will if I have anything to say about it!” Flint said.

“And Chippie-boy,” Mr. Charmin said, “I know we don’t see as much of you, being you’re a year younger, but I hear you really distinguished yourself on the track and field team this year.”

“Why, that’s nice of you to say so, sir,” Chip said.

When Mrs. Charmin returned with the milk Mr. Charmin got to his feet and said, “Well, we old fogies will leave you young people alone. Give my best to Slate, boys! Come on, Davy. I’ll beat you in a game of checkers.”

“That’ll be the day!” Davy cried.

Left alone, Susie regarded the brothers and said, “I bet you’re here to talk about Lucy, right?” When the boys nodded she went on. “Well, I don’t think I can help you, fellas. You see, Luce and I had a falling out days before her disappearance.”

“Gosh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Flint said. “What happened?”

“Well, I’m sure you noticed her new…manner of dressing. But that only started the trouble. What really did it was that boy Siddhartha. He was just icky. Do you know that he liked to call himself a hippie?

“A hippie!” Chip cried. “You mean like Herman’s Hermits?”

“Well…sort of. Except he was just a creep. That Herman is such a dreamboat!”

“Sufferin’ swordfish!” Chip said. “Why do our red-blooded American gals always go ape for these English moptops?”

“How was this Sid a ‘creep,’ Susie?” Flint asked, with a sharp look at his brother that Chip had learned over the years meant to rein in his impetuousness.

“The way he dressed. The way he smelled. The horrid music he liked to play on the guitar. The fact that he even played a guitar!”

“Do you think Lucy might have run away with him...or run to get away from him?”

“I don’t know, fellas. While it’s true that she was really gone on him, who in their right mind would run away with a boy like that? Especially with the annual Start of Summer Sock Hop coming up!”

“Do you have any idea where they might have headed?”

Susie looked thoughtful for a moment. “I wonder. There was this song she was always listening to…”

“By the Mamas and the Papas?” Chip put in.

“Oh, no. Luce didn’t like them at all.”

“Did Sid?” Flint asked.

“Sid? Not a chance. I remember him saying once that he thought they were square. ‘Like square, man.’ That’s the way he talked. A real creep, I tell you.”

“Do you have any idea why Lucy might have one of their records?”

“Luce? I can’t imagine Luce having one of their records!”

“Let’s get back to that song you were going to tell us about…” Flint prodded.

“Right. It was this song about going to San Francisco and that if you went there you should wear flowers in your hair.” Susie crinkled her nose and added, “Isn’t that silly?”

“It sure is!” Chip said.

“But anyway, the reason I’ve been thinking about it, is that I once saw Luce picking pansies at McCarthy Park and putting them in her new braids. Just like in the song!”

“Picking flowers in the city park?” Flint gasped. “But…but that’s against the law!”

“Galloping jeepers!” Chip cried. “Everything else we’ve heard about Lucy was just strange. But…breaking the law! That sure doesn’t sound like the Lucy Diamond we knew!”

Flint had recovered his wits. “So you think she and Sid might have gone to San Francisco?”

“I can’t really say, fellas. But it’s the only place I can think of.”

The boys thanked Susie, called a farewell to the rest of the Charmin clan, and took their leave.

“So what do you say, Flint?” Chip asked. “Is that the clue we were looking for?”

“I’m not sure,” Flint said. “But I’m thinking. Maybe we should run all this past Chief Chalk before we talk to dad.”

“But the cherry pie will get cold!”

“Forget about the cherry pie, you knucklehead. We’re on the scent of a mystery here!”

Chip smiled ruefully. “Jeepers. I’m starting to sound like Jelly Roll Horton!”

It was a short drive to the police station. The boys were relieved to find Chief Chalk was still on duty and were shown into his office without delay.

“Flint and Chip Burly!” the chief cried when he saw them. “What can I do for you boys?”

Breathlessly, Flint blurted out the news. “We think we know what might have happened to Lucy Diamond, Chief Chalk!”

Chief Chalk narrowed his eyes. “Lucy Diamond, you say?”

“That’s right, chief,” Chip said. “Flint and I have discovered that she fell under the malig…the malig…”

“Malignant,” Flint finished.

“That’s right!” Chip cried. “The maligananent influence of a boy named Siddhartha Schwartz!”

“Ah, yes,” Chief Chalk said, nodding his grizzled head. “The Commie.”

“Don’t you mean hippie, sir?” Flint asked.

“No, I mean Commie. As in, dirty Commie. As in, we should bomb them all from the face of the earth Commie! I pegged him for what he really was the moment Mrs. Diamond, poor soul, told me about him.”

“Gosh. I hadn’t put that together,” Flint said.

Chief Chalk sighed. “There are mighty forces out there, son. I’m sure you’ve heard them whispered about. Forces devoted to undermining our American way of life. Infiltration, propaganda, and brainwashing are only a few of the tools they have mastered in order to carry out their ends.”

Chip’s eyes were wide as saucers. “Why, that’s what our dad said!”

“Word for word, I believe!” Flint added.

“Yes, your father knows the score, if any man does. He knows that the insidious threat of Communism—foul, virulent, parasitic—lurks over our cherished way of life from behind every bush, poised to strike at the unwary!”

“And you think…?”

Chief Chalk shook his head. “I know, son.”

“Tell him about San Francisco, Flint!”

“That’s right,” Flint said. “We have reason to believe that boy lured Lucy to San Francisco!”

Chief Chalk was frowning. “What makes you boys think that?”

Flint told him about the song prescribing the wearing of flowers in the hair, and how Lucy was seen sporting pansies in hers before she disappeared, but omitted any mention of Lucy having purloined the flowers from the park. He was not in the habit of withholding evidence of a crime from the police, but he felt that in this case poor Lucy was already in enough trouble without bringing a misdemeanor charge to bear.

The chief sighed. “I’m sad to hear that, Flint. “If she’d gone anywhere else, I might hold out hope. But San Francisco? I’ll alert their police force, but I wouldn’t get my hopes up. Sometimes I wonder if that whole city—no, if the entire state of California—wasn't invaded while we slept!”

“Tell him about the man in black, Flint!” Chip suggested.

“Oh, yes,” Flint said. And he proceeded to tell the chief about the man who had first run Chip off the Old Coast Road and later acted suspiciously at the Diamond residence.

“And you say he drove a black car?” the chief pressed. “And that he was dressed all in black?”

“That’s right, sir!”

“And tell me,” the chief said. “Did he wear dark sunglasses as well?”

“Why, however did you know?” Chip cried.

The chief was smiling now. “It all fits,” he said musingly. “If you boys are correct, and this Schwartz boy transported Lucy across state lines, well…guess whose jurisdiction that falls under?”

Now both the boys’ eyes were wide as saucers. “Why, the FBI’s!” they cried in chorus.

“That’s right, boys. The good old FBI!”

“Why, those guys are our heroes!” Flint said.

“Did you know that dad once helped Mr. J. Edgar Hoover himself crack a very important case?” Chip cried.

“That I did, son. The Clue of the Hissing Typewriter, it was called.”

“That’s the one!” Flint said.

Chief Chalk leaned toward the boys from behind his desk. “Can I give you a word of advice, boys?”

“Of course, sir,” said Chip.

“Forget about this case. With summer vacation just around the corner, during which you routinely help solve many cases, surely something will come up to keep you occupied at your sleuthing. But leave this one to the big boys. Can I count on you lads to do that?”

The boys hesitated a moment. Then they looked at each other, and an unspoken understanding passed between them. As one they said, “Sure thing, chief.”

The brothers were silent as they walked from the police station to their motor bikes. Only as Flint mounted his bike did he speak. “The chief’s right, Chip. We may routinely cross paths with extortionists, safe-crackers, and ivory poachers, but what chance do we, a couple of boy detectives, have against the international menace of Communism?”

Chip shook his head. “I hate to admit it. But not much, I guess.”

They revved their engines, looking dour. Then, seeing the disappointment in his brother’s eyes, Flint forced a smile. “So what say we go home,” he yelled, “and have some of Aunt Hortense’s fresh baked cherry pie?”

“And some cold milk!” Chip called with a laugh.

And with that they pointed their motor bikes homeward.

Chapter Six. The Broken Bird!

“I’ve been thinking about what you told me this morning,” Jelly Roll Horton said with a scowl. “And I’ve gotta tell you. I think it stinks!”

Every day at 10:15 Balmy Bay High had a fifteen-minute period called Nutrition during which donuts and assorted beverages were available at the snack bar. Flint and Chip had each bought a plain donut and a pint of milk and were looking for a place to sit when they found themselves confronted by their irate chum. He was balancing three jelly-filled donuts with one hand and carrying a plastic cup with the other. Like the brothers, he’d always been a big milk drinker, but lately he’d taken to favoring Kool-Aid.

Before the boys could reply they were joined by several of their classmates who wanted to know how Flint felt about the football team’s prospects for next season and if Chip thought the track and field squad could overcome the challenge sure to be posed by South Side High. A good five minutes of the period had been spent before Jelly Roll was finally able to recapture the brothers’ attention.

“Tell me you’ve come to your senses,” he pleaded around the last bite of his last donut. “Tell me we’re not going to stand by and let that poor broken bird fend for herself!”

“The what?” Chip said.

“Broken bird. That’s what Travis McGee calls girls in distress. Like our Lucy.”

Flint sighed. “We already went over the whole thing with you, Jelly.” That morning he'd filled Jelly Roll in on the events of the previous evening. They’d finished their account just as the bell had summoned them to class, and apparently Jelly Roll had been seething since.

“Okay. So maybe we’ll have to tackle a bunch of Commies. So what? Do you think Travis would give up because he had to go up against a few lousy Reds?”

“That’s fine, Jelly,” Flint snapped. “But we’re not Travis MacDonald, or whatever his name is.”

“You’re right,” Jelly Roll said. “Travis McGee is a man alone, operating out of a houseboat in Fort Lauderdale. On our side of the ledger, all we’ve got is the two most intrepid boy detectives in the world, their dogged chum—yours truly—and for backup the most famous detective in America, not to mention the cooperation of law enforcement agencies everywhere. That’s all!”

“He has a point there, Flint!" Chip cried.

“Okay, okay,” Flint conceded. “But the FBI is already on this case. What can we do that the Federal Bureau of Investigation can’t?”

“Maybe nothing,” Jelly Roll said. “But did we back off when INTERPOL got involved in The Mystery of the Deadly Whatsit? No! Did we pack up and go home when Scotland Yard was searching for the same stolen treasure we were in The Clue of the Sierra Madre? No! And when the Royal Canadian Mounted Police stuck their nose into The Mystery of the Gyrating Moose, did we politely step aside? No! We persisted and we prevailed!”

“Yes, but…” Flint started.

“And another thing,” Jelly interrupted. “Didn’t you tell me your dad said that kids are vanishing all across America? Well, to the FBI, Lucy is just another anonymous brat that went missing. How much time and resources can they bring to bear for one kid? Whereas in our case, Lucy is our school chum! We wouldn’t leave a stone unturned in our search for her! By golly, we’d have her home before the sock hop!”

“He has a point there, Flint!” Chip cried.

“Fine,” Flint said. “But what if dad’s right about Lucy being brainwashed? What if we do succeeded in finding her and she isn’t the same person when we bring her home?”

“Boy!” Jelly Roll thundered. “Do you ever need to read some Travis McGee books! The fun is just starting when Travis finds the broken bird with a wing that needs mending!”

“What do you mean?” Chip asked.

Jelly Roll fixed Chip with a leer. “What do you think I mean? How do you think a damsel in distress likes to show her appreciation to the knight in shining armor who just rescued her?”

“G-g-golly!” Chip sputtered.

“Come on, fellas!” Jelly Roll said. “Isn’t it time we became serious, modern private dicks? Or do you want to be boy detectives until you’re fifty years old?”

“He has a point there, Flint!” Chip cried.

Flint spun on his brother. “You, too?”

“What I mean is, if we can prove that we can solve this kind of case, then maybe we can, you know...”

“Finally grow up?” Jelly Roll said with a smirk.

“Well…I was going to say we could help even more people then. But, yeah. Maybe I sorta meant that, too. What say, Flint?”

“Yeah! What say, Flint Burly?” Jelly Roll said. “You know you want to take on this case as badly as we do!”

Flint was frowning broodingly. At length he opened his mouth to respond, but just then the school bell rang and they all dispersed to their classes.

* * *

After school that day, Flint told Jelly that he’d call him later, after he’d asked his father permission to take on what he was beginning to refer to as the Case of the Vanishing Diamond. But Jelly had other ideas.

“I’m sticking to you clowns like gum to a shoe,” he said, in the odd new speech pattern he’d been developing since discovering adult detective stories. “I’m not gonna let you roll over on this one without at least getting in a few licks of my own.”

Jelly seemed to lose sight of his own objective when they first arrived at the house, as the smell of Aunt Hortense’s baking rhubarb pie drew him into the kitchen while the brothers pounded up the stairs to their father’s study. But after learning from Aunt Hortense that the pie had at least another half hour to bake—and after wolfing down what was left of last night’s cherry pie—he hurried after his friends and arrived, flushed and wheezing, as the argument picked up steam.

“But boys,” Slate was saying from behind his desk, “even if I agree—purely for the sake of discussion, you understand—that there might be more to Lucy’s disappearance than just another tragic case of adolescent rebellion, why on earth should I allow you to drive your motorbikes all the way across the country on such a flimsy clue as a single song? What sort of detective would conclude that his quarry was going to San Francisco simply because a song she enjoyed entreated her to do so? Personally, I’m a great fan of the song Fly Me to the Moon, especially as Tony Bennett sings it. Do you see me rushing off to Cape Canaveral to hitch a ride with John Glenn?”

“But Dad!” Chip said. “It didn’t just tell her to go to San Francisco! It told her to go to San Francisco with flowers in her hair! And like we just said—"

“There’s a great gulf between plucking flowers from the city park and finding one’s way three thousand miles to a terrifying new world. Even if the flower-plucking in question is a misdemeanor. If there were any other clues…”

“I think…I can answer that…Mr. Burly,” Jelly panted, struggling to catch his breath after his race up the stairs. “You see…Flint and Chip…”

“Good evening, Jelly Roll,” Slate said.

“Oh. Good evening…Mr. Burly,” Jelly wheezed. He’d forgotten what a stickler for proper manners Mr. Burly could be. “But…as I was saying…Flint and Chip did find…another clue…at Lucy’s house. An album…by the Mamas and Papas…”

“A photo album or a musical album?” Slate asked.

Jelly had also forgotten what a stickler Mr. Burly could be for the precise presentation of evidence. “A musical album…sir. And I happen to know…that one of the songs on that album…is called California Dreamin’!”

“But wait a second,” Chip said. “I also saw a song listed on there called Spanish Harlem.”

Jelly rolled his eyes. “Fine. But nobody saw Lucy picking a red rose that’s never seen the sun and only comes through the concrete when the moon is on the run, did they?”

Chip looked confused. “Well…no…”

“So there you go!” Jelly yelled triumphantly.

“Jelly Roll, I appreciate your effort to help…” Slate began.

But suddenly Flint was on his feet. “No, Dad—he’s right! Those are matching clues! Lucy is on her way to San Francisco! I can feel it!”

Slate opened his mouth to protest but his younger son interrupted him. “Come on, Dad! Pardon my interruption, but…you know how it is when Flint says he can feel something! His hunches are almost never wrong! Remember in The Riddle of the Rickety Dynamo when—"

“I can hardly give you permission to ride across country based on a hunch, no matter how uncannily accurate those hunches have been in the past.”

“But you’ve done it before, Mr. Burly,” Jelly said. “Didn’t you let them drive their bikes to the Klondike in The Mystery of the Blue-Eyed Brown Bear just because Flint knew in his gut that that so-called Eskimo was really an Italian? What’s different this time?”

Slate gazed out the window, where the sunset light again slanted, as it always did, across the perfectly manicured lawn. He watched Mrs. Ash water her roses and the Colgate boy, Skip, zip by on his bike. But he did not speak.

“Yeah, Dad,” Flint asked, more quietly. “What’s different this time?”

“What’s different?” Slate echoed, and there was a strange hollowness in his voice. “What’s different is…that place.”

“Huh?” Chip said. “You mean Frisco?”

“Frisco!” Slate laughed bitterly. “Such a friendly-sounding name for…a place like that.”

“But we don’t understand, Dad,” Flint said.

“Neither do I, boys,” Slate said, looking earnestly at his elder son, and Flint could swear he caught the glint of tears in his eyes. “I don’t know what’s in that place, but I do know one thing…people who go there usually don’t come back.”

Chip furrowed his brow, trying to follow him. “You mean like the New York Giants?”

“Or the Philadelphia Warriors?” Flint added, always proud of his knowledge of athletics.

“Yes, those,” Slate said quietly. “But thousands of others you would never have heard of. Young people who didn’t know what they were getting themselves into. And, even more strangely, not just young people. Do you boys remember Professor Jenkins at Balmy College?”

“Why, sure we do,” Chip said. “He’s the one who helped us spot that counterfeit Spanish doubloon in The Mystery of the Counterfeit Spanish Doubloon.”

“Do you remember that he was subsequently offered a position in the history department of San Francisco State University?”

“Sure, now that you mention it,” Flint said. “But what…?”

“He told you he’d stay in touch with you, didn’t he? Well, has he? Have any of you heard a word from him?”

The three boys looked at one another. They all shook their heads.

“No one has,” Slate said, in a voice barely above a whisper. “The last anyone heard of him, he sent an article he’d just written to his former faculty fellows at Balmy. In that article, he actually suggested that America should give up aspiring to be the policeman of the world! I believe he even used the word ‘imperialism.’ Dean Ivory, naturally, called the FBI, fearing that his old friend had been brainwashed by foreign powers or replaced by a look-alike. For some reason, Professor Jenkins grew angry about that, and no one in Balmy Bay has heard a word from him since. I tell you, boys…that place does something to people!”

The Burly boys fell silent. Their father’s words hung like a shadow over the room. It was Jelly Roll who broke the ominous spell.

“I understand your concern, Mr. Burly. But surely you must know that your sons are made of sterner stuff than any ivory-tower academic. Why, these two young men sitting across from you are the bravest, most resourceful boy detectives in the world. Whatever strange power San Francisco has over weaker minds and characters, I think it’s fair to say it will have met its match in Flint and Chip Burly.”

Slate looked at Jelly for a long moment. And this time there was no doubt about the tears in his eyes. “All right,” he said at last. “If you boys truly believe that Lucy Diamond can be rescued, and that her trail leads through…that city…then I suppose I can’t tell you not to do what’s right.”

“Really, Dad?” Chip said.

“Really,” Slate said. Then he scowled and raised his index finger. “But on one condition.”

“What’s that, Dad?” Flint said.

“You’ll be missing the last week of the school year,” Slate said. “You’ve got to get permission from Principal Ajax and your homework assignments from every one of your teachers.”

“Don’t worry, Dad,” Flint said. “We already asked them all this afternoon, just in case you said yes!”

Slate looked at him in surprise, then for an instant in anger. But then he burst into laughter. “Just like a Burly!” he chuckled. “I imagine you will be just fine in San Francisco at that!”

As the boys left Slate’s office, Flint clapped a hand on Jelly’s shoulder and smiled at him appreciatively. “That was sure keen what you said about us to Dad, Jelly.”

“Hey, whatever it takes,” Jelly said. Then he chortled wetly and rubbed his hands together. “Broken birds, here we come!”

Click on Older Posts to see Chapter 7!

Chapter Seven. Such a Strange Vibration!

Having camped out on many of their adventures, Flint and Chip were no strangers to the art of “roughing it.” As their motor bikes could only accommodate so much baggage and, furthermore, as they had to leave room for Jelly Roll to ride behind Chip, they had no choice but to travel light. In the end, they made do with their bedrolls, cooking utensils, extra slacks and v-neck sweaters, assorted toiletries, a picnic hamper and a freshly baked peach pie (both courtesy of the indefatigable Aunt Hortense), their schoolbooks and homework assignments, and their portable crime lab. By seven in the morning they had finished loading the bikes and the time had come to say goodbye.

The night before they had informed Mrs. Diamond that they were taking her case, and so grateful was she that she hugged them both, kissed the cheeks of each, and made them sit on her sofa while she baked them a tray of brownies. She was unable to give them any more information about Lucy that might be of use, but she did provide them with her school picture. It wasn’t quite the Lucy they’d be looking for—the perfectly crafted flip hairdo and frosted pink lipstick in the photo were poignant reminders of a girl now lost to braids and naked lips—but it was the best they had.

From Mrs. Diamond’s they’d ridden to say their farewells to their girlfriends, starting at the Snow residence. Pixie was accustomed to her boyfriend taking off on action-packed adventures, but she wasn’t too happy about the timing of this particular outing.

“You better be back in time for the sock hop!” she admonished.

Her brother Buff was there to see them off as well. He had accompanied them on many past adventures, on which his large frame and athleticism had often proved useful in tangling with ne’er-do-wells, but his parents were sticklers about his not missing school. “I sure do envy you fellas,” he said as he shook hands with Flint. “Jeepers, I’ve heard they’ve got a bunch of crazy new dances in San Francisco!”

Their last stop was at the Horton farm just outside of town. While Jelly Roll gathered his things (the boys had decided that Jelly should spend the night at the Burly residence so that they could wake him up in time for their early departure), Flint clinched with Candy.

“Don’t forget to do your homework!” she said. “It would be a shame to end your streak of straight A’s!”

And then, much to the boy’s surprise, Jelly Roll’s usually phlegmatic parents had gotten into the act. Speaking slowly around his corncob pipe, Mr. Horton drawled, “Now listen up, boys. If you should encounter any of that there free love they’ve been talkin’ about, remember this: Ain’t no such thing as a free lunch!”

Giving the boys no time to decipher that cryptic remark, Mrs. Horton patted their shoulders and charged them with looking after Jelly Roll, who tended to be rather impressionable. “Promise me that he won’t get into none of that loco weed,” she concluded.

Mystified, the boys simply nodded their heads is if in compliance, while inwardly wondering just what it was they’d promised to do.

Now, on a bright June morning, they faced Aunt Hortense and their father for their final farewells.

“Make sure to brush your teeth after meals,” Aunt Hortense said as she crushed Flint to her matronly bosom.

“I promise, Aunt Hortense,” Flint gasped.

Enfolding Chip in her work-toughened arms she exhorted, “And don’t forget to change your socks every day.”

“Yes, Aunty,” Chip squeaked.

Finally they turned to their father, who had been uncharacteristically pensive all morning, even when he’d checked over their portable crime lab to make certain all their forensic equipment was present and accounted for. Usually he had a suggestion or two to make about the fingerprint kit, microscope slides, chemical test powders or other contents, but today he’d not uttered a word.

“I expect you boys to write every day,” he said. “I want to be kept apprised of every development in this case.”

“Yes, sir,” the brothers said.

“And the moment you feel any strange influence pervading your minds—any at all—you are immediately to contact local enforcement agencies and seek their help. Do you understand me?"

 “Yes, sir!”

Solemnly, they shook hands. Then they were sitting on their bikes and waving goodbye. Then they were passing the Colgate boy, Skip, who was starting his paper route, and only the open road beckoned ahead.

* * *

Jelly Roll wanted to stop for lunch at a quarter to ten, but the boys ignored him and pushed on. They soon crossed into Pennsylvania, where there were lots of barns.

“There sure are a lot of barns in Pennsylvania,” Flint noted.

A little later they saw their first hitchhiker, but they didn’t think anything of it. It wasn’t until they passed their fifth in just over an hour that they recalled their dad’s words about young people abandoning everything they held dear and striking out for who knew where. All the hitchhikers had been young, and they’d all carried bedrolls slung on their backs, as if they weren’t planning on returning any time soon. One of them, the trio noticed, was even wearing some buttercups in his hair.

Finally they stopped for lunch outside a little town called Pleasant Gap. They pulled off the road and sat under the shade of a tree next to an abandoned farm. Soon they were tearing into a roast chicken that they found in the picnic hamper.

“Oh, God,” Jelly Roll said, gnawing on a leg, “I thought I was going to starve to death!”

Flint was chewing absently on a thigh, a quizzical frown on his face. “Tell me something, Jelly,” he said. “What did your dad mean by ‘free love’?”

“Hey, I was wondering the same thing!” Chip cried.

Jelly Roll was now attacking a breast. “Beats the hell out of me,” he admitted.

“And what was that ‘loco weed’ your mom mentioned?”

“I wish I knew, Flint.”

“Well, let’s examine the phrase for a moment. Loco—if I remember correctly from our trip to Mexico in The Clue of the Stinking Badges—means crazy. And weed means, well, weed. So what in the world is a crazy weed?”

“I don’t know, I tell you! The old folks just say weird things sometimes. Can’t we leave it at that?”

“It just makes you wonder,” Flint said thoughtfully. “I mean, it seems like our folks hear about things that never reach our ears. All that stuff dad seemed to know about today’s youth, and then Jelly’s parents warning us about things they seem to except us to run up against. Sometimes I wonder why they don’t let us kids in on this stuff. Do they think we’re too young to take it?”

Jelly Roll was tearing off a huge chunk of the peach pie with his fingers. “Of course that’s why,” he said. “Just like I’ve been telling you. Everybody treats us like brats. It’s as if they expect us to go on being boy shamuses forever. Like in the comic books. Batman and Robin are the same age today that they were thirty years ago! Jefferson W. Fairchild may have acknowledged over the years that we’ve aged from thirteen and fourteen years of age to seventeen and eighteen, respectively, but sometimes I get the feeling that we’re supposed to get stuck at this age forever!”

“How old is that Travis McGee?” Chip asked.

“I’m not sure. Pretty old, though. At least twenty-five. Why do you ask?”

“No reason,” Chip said, with a wistful look on his face.

“Hey,” Jelly Roll said. “Do we have time for a nap?”

Jelly Roll grumbled when they hit the road five minutes later, but he managed to doze off against Chip’s shoulder. He slept through most of Ohio, and missed the amber waves of grain, which Chip noted were amber. He also missed the hitchhikers. They passed a good twenty more in that state alone. But he snapped to attention when, just across the border into Indiana, they stopped at a little grocery store and bought a gallon of milk to wash down the rest of the pie. After a brief rest they crossed miles and miles of fruited plains, but they were all too tired to note them. Nobody even remarked on all the hitchhikers they passed, whose numbers were now becoming legion. Finally, as they neared Portage, they decided to call it quits for the day.

They found a place to camp in a little arroyo off the highway and Jelly Roll soon had a fire going. They fried up the bacon Aunt Hortense had packed away in the hamper and with the tomatoes she’d also included made bacon and tomato sandwiches with the bread she’d thought to add. They washed the sandwiches down with milk and after brushing their teeth, doing their homework (Civics for Chip, Trigonometry for Jelly, and a Literature report on the works of Elbert Hubbard for Flint), and dashing off a letter to Slate, climbed into the bedrolls they’d unfurled beside the waning fire.

“Ah, ain’t this the life?” Chip said.

“It would be if we had another of Aunt Hortense’s pies!” Jelly Roll said.

“Did you guys notice all the hitchhikers?” Flint asked.

“Sure did!” Chip said. “Some of them even had flowers in their hair!”

“And they all had that scruffy look,” Flint said. “Like that boy Siddhartha is supposed to have.”

“It’s a whole generation,” Jelly Roll said.

“Huh?” Flint said.

“They have a new explanation,” Jelly Roll said.

“An explanation for what?” Chip asked.

“They’re people in motion,” Jelly Roll said.

“Piping polliwogs!” Chip cried. “Make sense, will you?”

“Jeez, guys,” Jelly Roll said. “Get with it, will you? I was just quoting from that song Lucy was listening to before she disappeared. You know, the one about wearing flowers in your hair if you’re going to San Francisco.”

“You mean you know the lyrics?” Flint demanded.

“Sure. Peanuts Salter has the record. He’s working out how to play it on the tuba.”

“Then give us the whole thing, not just fragments!”

“Sure!” Chip cried. “Maybe there’s a clue in it!”

Jelly Roll screwed up his face in concentration and was soon intoning the words.

If you’re going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair.
If you’re going to San Francisco
You’re going to meet some gentle people there.

For those who come to San Francisco
Summertime will be a love-in there.
In the Streets of San Francisco
Gentle people with flowers in their hair.

All across the nation, such a strange vibration.
People in motion.
There’s a whole generation with a new explanation.
People in motion, people in motion.

“Well, don’t stop there,” Flint demanded, when Jelly Roll had trailed off.

“That’s all there is,” Jelly Roll said. “After that he just repeats the same stuff.”

“But what does it mean?” Flint said.

“How the hell should I know?”

“Why would a nation vibrate?” Flint pressed.

“And what the heck is a love-in?” Chip cried.

But Jelly Roll had no answers. By and by, listening to the wind sigh through the leaves overhead, they drifted off to sleep.

* * *

The next day saw Illinois and Iowa and half of Nebraska dwindle into their rearview mirrors, along with a veritable army of flower-bedecked hitchhikers. They spent the night outside a little town called Ogallala and on the morning of the third day they allowed themselves an extra half hour of sleep and didn’t get started until seven-thirty. But even at such an early hour the highway was already festooned with scruffy youths holding their thumbs out. When they stopped for lunch somewhere between Laramie and Rawlins and polished off the rest of the ham Aunt Hortense had included in the hamper Flint said, “I think I’m starting to understand that song. A new generation really is in motion!”

“Leaping lemmings!” Chip cried. “They’re just like…like lemmings!”

“But I still don’t get the part about a new explanation,” Flint admitted.

“Or the love-in!” Chip said. “That’s the part that’s driving me crazy!”

The spent the early part of the afternoon scaling the Rockies and the latter part descending them. They were exhausted when they reached Salt Lake City but they hurried through the town regardless. They remembered all too well their adventure there in The Mystery of the Scarlet Purple Sage, and none wanted to linger. Soon they passed into the salt flats beyond and, exhausted as they were, elected as one to push on into Nevada rather than spend the night amidst such desolation. Just shy of the town of Elko they spotted a sign that said a campground was coming up and decided they’d had enough for the day. It wasn’t until they had turned off onto a dirt road that led to a copse of trees that Chip noted they hadn’t seen any hitchhikers for the last half hour.

“What do you think happened to them?” he called to them above the roar of the motor bike engines.

“Maybe we could deduce the answer if we know why they were out here in the first place,” Flint said.

But the conversation went no further, for as they braked to a stop under the trees they found that they weren’t alone.

Chapter Eight. Sing Along!

They found themselves confronted by a group of youngsters sitting around a campfire. Flint noted instantly that the group consisted of seven boys and four girls, all between roughly eighteen and twenty-one years of age. At first glance they reminded him of a band of gypsies, such as the brothers had encountered in The Mystery of the Gypsy Band. But upon closer inspection he spotted many differences.

As with any group of gypsies, there was a great deal of brightly colored clothing in evidence, as well as strings of beads and sandaled feet, but these youngsters lacked both the swarthiness and the truculence of those European wanderers. And although the males had let
their sideburns fill in and their hair grow into moptops (several of which were bedecked with flowers), none sported the bandanas or hoop earrings that were the trademarks of the nomadic folk of Romany. In the end he was forced to concede that he was not going to be able to pigeonhole these most unusual youngsters.
The youngsters themselves were studying the newcomers just as intently. Abruptly one of their number, a teenage girl, sprang to her feet and approached the trio. “Hey man,” she called cheerily, although she didn’t seem to be addressing any of the three “men” in particular. “You want to sing with us?”
Flint’s trained eye immediately noted that the girl’s hair was parted down the middle and hung limply down the sides of her face, without benefit of curl or flip, and that her face was bereft of makeup. The dress she wore, a loose gingham affair, reminded him of the dresses his grandmother had favored. In an instant he realized that the girl’s look was identical to that adopted by Lucy Diamond!
Jelly Roll, to the surprise of the brothers, quickly accepted the invitation. Although it was their stout chum’s habit to raid the picnic hamper first thing when making camp, here he was agreeing to join a group of strangers on an empty stomach!
More surprising still, as the trio approached the group, one of the boys flashed them a V-for-Victory sign. Flint had no idea what to make of this. The war, after all, had ended twenty-two years ago. Had America’s police action in South Vietnam, he wondered, already resulted in victory? That would be great news indeed, but it seemed unlikely, as just the other night his father had predicted that the Reds probably wouldn’t surrender completely until the end of the year, or even early 1968. Whatever it meant, Flint had a hunch that the gesture signified something special to this group, so he flashed the sign in return.
“Peace, brother,” another youth called.
“Uh, of course,” Flint said faltering. “We, uh, come in peace, too.”
That, inexplicably, earned them some strange looks, but nothing more was said about it. As the boys sat themselves around the fire, a youngster with a wispy beard and the type of shirt that Flint remembered once seeing on a Hindu hatchet-man, reached behind his back and produced a guitar. This gave the Burlys pause, but both elected to remain seated for the present. Should a malignant influence begin to seize their minds, they could always make a break for it.
A teenage girl wearing bells on her fingers and a t-shirt upon which were emblazoned in dazzling colors the words Feed Your Head said, “Play something by the Stones, Catfish.”

The boy thus addressed played a song that the Burly boys didn’t recognize, something about a girl who wouldn’t say where she came from. Most of the group did, however, as they evinced by singing along with the guitar player. Then the boy fielded requests to play songs by bands called, improbably, Buffalo Springfield and Country Joe and the Fish. To the great surprise of Flint and Chip, Jelly Roll started singing along with a last song, a tune about a girl who dressed in black with celestial secrets engraved on her back.

When the song ended Chip cried out, “Do you know On Top of Old Smokey?”
Now it was Chip’s turn to feel himself impaled with the most peculiar of looks. Had he not known better he might have interpreted the looks as hostile. But why, he asked himself, should a simple song request provoke hostility, especially when the song was a campfire standard?

Just as the scowling Catfish seemed on the brink of saying something to him, Jelly Roll cried out, “Hey. Do you know Mellow Yellow?”
The scowl left the guitarist’s face as quickly as it had come and he launched himself into the number. Jelly Roll once again surprised the brothers by not only knowing the name of such an outlandish song but all the lyrics as well. The girl who had invited them to join the group suddenly sprang to her feet and started dancing—although it would be more accurate to say that she undulated and swayed rather than executed any recognizable dance steps. For a brief moment it seemed to Chip that she was attempting the Frug, but after his apparent faux pas he refrained from asking if such was indeed the case.
Finally Catfish laid his guitar down. A boy wearing moccasins that came to mid-calf asked if anybody had any dope. Flint assumed he meant the dope, but he didn’t have any idea as to the nature of the information requested. Everybody else turned expectantly to everybody else, but nobody spoke up.

“Oh, well,” said the boy with the extravagant moccasins, “there’ll be plenty of dope when we get to San Francisco.”
“Oh, you’re going to Frisco, too?” Flint asked, instantly alert.
“Who isn’t?” a girl asked. She had wildly frizzy hair and a tiny rainbow drawn on her cheek.
“It’s a happenin’, man,” Catfish said.
“The summer of love, man,” a boy wearing Benjamin Franklin spectacles said.
“They say Haight Street’s a trip,” the girl with the bells said.
“Hate Street?” Chip said. “But I thought you said it was the summer of love.”
“Oh, man,” Catfish said. “Are you guys for real?”
Flint almost answered in the affirmative before he caught himself. Of course they were real! Did he think they were fictional characters? How was he even supposed to answer such a preposterous question?
 Suddenly a youngster who had been sitting to the far right of the Burlys and who had yet to say a word leaned forward until he was illumined by the flames.

The boys saw with shock that he was a Negro! But a Negro the likes of which they’d never imagined. His hair was all bushy and he wore a bright yellow scarf around his forehead and his t-shirt was a swirl of riotous colors. “Hey, man,” the Negro said. “Why the hell are you going to San Francisco?”
Flint promptly pulled the photo of Lucy out of his wallet and handed it to the Negro. “We’re looking for this girl,” he explained.
The Negro scarcely glanced at the photo before handing it back. “What do you want with her?” he asked.
“Her mother hired us to bring her home,” Chip said.
“Oh, shit!” the girl with the bells cried. And before Flint could even glance at his younger brother to see if he’d been disturbed by that ugly word (or if, as Flint hoped, he was mercifully unfamiliar with it), she added, “What are you guys? Pigs?”
As an angry murmur rose from the rest of the group, Flint wondered how to respond. Clearly, neither he nor his two companions were livestock. It’s true that Jelly Roll had sometimes been called a pig by their peers, especially the time when he’d scooped up four donuts during Nutrition period when Mrs. Tallow the cafeteria lady turned her back. But what that might have to do with bringing Lucy home he couldn’t imagine. Luckily, he was saved from having to formulate a response by the Negro.
“Wait a minute!” the flamboyantly clad youngster cried. “I recognize you guys. You’re the Burly Boys! And your chum must be Jelly Roll Horton!”
“Who?” the girl with the frizzy hair asked.
“Chum?” said the boy with the moccasins. “What kind of bullshit word is ‘chum’?”
“Yeah!” the guitarist named Catfish cried. “It is the Burly Boys! Man, I thought they looked familiar!” He turned to the frizzy-haired girl. “Haven’t you heard of them, Polly? They’re boy detectives and stars of innumerable lively adventure stories, packed with mystery and action.” For some strange reason, he cackled piercingly.
“Sorry,” the girl addressed as Polly said. “All I ever read was the spine-tingling Nancy Reagan mysteries.” Then she laughed too.
“So you’re saying they are pigs?” the boys with the funny glasses said.
“Yeah, but…” the Negro started to say.
“Man, I don’t care if they were your heroes when you were a kid,” the boy with the funny glasses said. “A pig is a pig.” He turned angrily on the Burlys. “What is it with you guys? You may not be over thirty, but it sure seems to me you belong on the other side!”
“What other side?” Chip asked.
“God,” Polly said. “They’re like…like totally out of it!”
“Yeah, now that I think about it, they were that way in the books, too,” Catfish said musingly. “But hell, I was still in that ten-to-fourteen year old bracket when I read them.”
The boy with the funny glasses was undeterred by the interruption. “The other side, man. The over-thirty side. Haven’t you heard of the generation gap?”
“The what?” Flint asked.
“Oh, man,” Polly said.
“The generation gap,” the boy with the funny glasses repeated. “The war with the straights. Don’t you know the straights hate us, man?”
“Hate who?” Chip asked.
“The hippies, man. Who the hell do you think I’m talking about?”
The word fell like a bombshell among the Burlys. The very same term had been used by Siddhartha Schwartz—the boy who had seduced Lucy Diamond’s mind—to describe himself!

Flint, older and in tighter rein of his emotions, was the first to recover his voice. “Why do these ‘straights’ hate you?” he asked.
“Because of how free we are,” Catfish put in.
Flint mulled that over for a moment. “You mean they hate you for your freedoms?”
“Golly,” Chip cried. “That sounds like the way a bunch of dusky foreigners would feel about America, not how Americans should feel about their fellow citizens!”
“You got that right,” the Negro said. “Only it don’t ever seem to work that way.”
“So what are you going to do if you find this girl?” the persistent boy with the funny glasses demanded. “You gonna drag her home against her will?”
“But what if she wants to go home?” Chip cried. “What if she’s been brainwashed or something?”
The group broke into loud guffaws. Flint was about to argue their cause when he suddenly realized that Jelly Roll was nowhere to be seen. They’d been so rapt in the incomprehensible conversation that they’d hadn’t noticed their chum’s departure.

“I think he took off with Katie,” Catfish said, having noticed his unease.
Flint glanced around and saw that the girl who had first approached them was missing as well. Seizing the opportunity to extricate themselves from the group, the boys walked to their motor bikes and as unobtrusively as possible pushed them to the far side of the campground.
“Sufferin’ sardines!” Chip cried, when they were out of earshot. “Do you think she kidnapped Jelly?”
“She didn’t look strong enough to have done that,” Flint said.
“Then maybe she brainwashed him!”
“I don’t think she had enough time to do that either,” Flint said.
“Then what…”
Suddenly there was a thrashing in some bushes beside the road, and a moment later Jelly Roll came bounding into view, a huge grin on his face. But that wasn’t what caught the boys’ attention. Around his chubby head, their chum sported a garland of flowers!
 “Like it?” Jelly Roll asked. “Katie made it for me!”
“Are you okay?” Flint demanded.
“Okay? Are you kidding? She told me I was groovy!”
“Groovy?” Chip asked. “Is that supposed to be a good thing?”

“I should hope so!” Jelly Roll said. “When she said that, she kissed me on the cheek!”
“Well, I’ll be a baboon’s butler!” Chip cried.
The boys laughed uproariously. Partly in relief that their friend was unhurt, partly in utter stupefaction.

* * *

Just before noon of the following day they crossed the state line into California. To their enormous relief, the place looked no different than the rest of the country. After all the warnings they’d heard about the state, they hadn’t known what to expect. But all they saw were snow-capped mountains and pine trees and telephone poles. The cars they passed looked like ordinary cars and the people in them like ordinary people, and nowhere was there a hammer or sickle to be seen.
But the deeper they penetrated into the state a number of changes became apparent. The number of hitchhikers, for one. Where they had been numerous before, they constituted a veritable army now. And their attire, it seemed, had became increasingly more outlandish the closer they drew to San Francisco, as if the mere proximity of the city exerted a fey influence on all who drew thither. Then they began to see vehicles that were far from ordinary. Volkswagen vans painted all the colors of the rainbow. Enormous motor bikes with flames and skulls decaled on the fuel tanks, ridden by bearded men in leather and denim. And strangest of all was a school bus driven by a hatchet-nosed individual with a wild gleam in his eye. The Volkswagen vans they’d seen paled in comparison to the variegated day-glow colors that had been splashed on its sides. A hole had been cut in the roof and a man who looked nothing like a student sat atop the bus, playing a guitar and shouting a song at the top of his lungs. When they had passed the bus and glanced over their shoulders for one last look at this outrageous spectacle, they saw the word FURTHUR had been painted in the slot where an ordinary bus would have stated its destination.

Despite the misspelling, the word resonated with the boys. They might have traveled much further in terms of miles in their careers, but they felt like they’d never before put so much distance between themselves and home.
For a while they’d convinced themselves that the “hippies” they’d met at the campground were crazy. No city on the planet could be as bizarre as the San Francisco the youngsters had evoked. How could any municipality—a conglomeration of buildings and people—be a happening or a trip? And what in the world was a summer of love supposed to be? Was the city to host it? Was it like the World Series or something? Then they’d started seeing all the strange vehicles converging on their destination, and they’d begun to wonder again. Even Jelly Roll, who had been inexplicably charmed by their hosts of the evening before, seemed uneasy.
“Something’s happening here,” Flint said. “What it is isn’t exactly clear.”
Even as he spoke the words, an unsettling feeling of déjà vu came over him, as if he’d heard them somewhere before. The words seemed to summon up a melody, a slow but compelling rhythm, and the rise and fall of firelight in his eyes. Then his analytical mind snapped on the truth like a trap on a rat: he had heard those words sung by the hippies last night! And now they haunted him, as no other campfire tune, not even the tragic My Darling Clementine, ever had. He posited that there might be some strange power to this new music, some hypnotic effect crafted into the tunes and cryptic lyrics by the foreign masterminds who had most likely concocted it, in order to weaken a young man’s resistance to malignant influences. Flint vowed then to be vigilant against all music played by hippies and made a mental note to explain all this to Chip and Jelly as soon as they stopped.
But as they pulled into a service station near a little town called Fairfield, the pendulum of Flint’s emotions swung wildly once more. Suddenly everything seemed normal again! The station was part of a roadside service area called the Nut Tree, and in it was everything that made motoring along America’s highways and byways such a fulfilling experience: the inexpensive gasoline, the genial pump attendants, the clean restrooms, the bountiful fruit stand, the ample acres of parking, the gift shop with windows festooned with locally themed pennants and ashtrays, the fleet of station wagons stopping to disgorge their cargoes of laughing, tow-headed youths. There was even a Nut Tree Restaurant, with a banner proclaiming, “Try our delicious fruit pies!”
Jelly Roll wasn’t the only one who was nearly beside himself with relief at the sight. They’d polished off the pickled tongue they’d found at the bottom of the hamper for lunch, and that had finally exhausted Aunt Hortense’s bounty. It was now two in the afternoon, three hours since they’d had their last meal, and a slice of pie and a cold glass of milk in homey surroundings sounded like a slice of heaven to the weary trio.
The pie, although not as good as their aunt’s, was still delicious, the milk was ice-cold, and their fellow patrons might all have come from Balmy Bay, so clean-cut and wholesome they appeared.
“Whew!” Flint said. “Now this is what I call a ‘return to normalcy’!”
“No kidding!” Chip said. “You sure have a way with words, big brother!”
“I can’t take credit for it,” Flint said. “That belongs to former President Harding!”

Then he added with a sharp look, “Say. Don’t tell me you’ve already forgotten what you learned in Miss Talcum’s History class!”
Chip gave his brother a playful punch on the arm and said, “Heck, how dumb do you think I am? I’m just ribbing you! Isn’t that what younger brothers are for?”
“They sure are,” Flint said with a grin. “Unfortunately!”
The brothers laughed uproariously, their moods entirely elevated by the pie, cold milk, and normalcy. But when they looked at Jelly, expecting him to be laughing along, they were shocked to find him looking embarrassed. As the attractive young waitress came by to refill their milk glasses, he seemed almost to be trying to shrink beneath the counter.
“Jesus Christ, guys,” he muttered. “Do you have to be such goons in public?”
Flint’s face darkened at that. Nothing was quite going as it usually did on their adventures. “Something’s hap…” he heard himself saying, but he snapped his lips shut before the words were entirely out of his mouth. He reminded himself again to banish all the songs he’d heard last night from his mind.

Then he stood, put down a five dollar bill to cover their lunches and desserts, and announced to his brother and chum that it was time at last to confront San Francisco.

That's it for the adventures of the Burly Boys right now—but we'll let you know when they're on the road again!