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Secret of the Sprite Society

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Arden was a woman on a mission. As soon as she, Sim, and Terry told the others about Tom Scott's position as a groundskeeper, they all set off in search of him. They kept an eye out for any green curtains while they searched, but Arden was focused on finding Tom Scott more than the green curtains. Not only could he tell them where they were, he could also tell them more about the bell and the sprites. At least, she hoped he would.
After searching high and low for an hour, they finally found him, working with another fellow at weeding out a garden. The other fellow happened to glance up at the approaching crowd and tapped Tom’s shoulder. Tom glanced up and noticed who was at the front of the group and quickly got up, a concerned and questioning look on his face.
“Arden, Sim, Terry? What brings you here?”
Arden crossed her arms. “We should have come to you earlier about this, but we started investigating it right away.”
Tom glanced between them and asked slowly, “Started investigating what?”
“We heard the bell ringing the other night,” announced Sim.
“All of us,” said Terry.
“Except for me,” said Josie with a raise of her hand. “We tried to see if it would ring again last night, but it didn’t.” She crossed her arms. “And now we’re finding out there’s a treasure on the grounds?”
“Senator Reeve’s treasure?” asked the other guy, jumping up from his work. “Why, Pops said that wasn’t much but a legend!”
“And your father is ...?” asked Josie.
“Oh, one of the head caretakers of the school grounds, Jim Blakely. I’m Jake Blakely,” he replied, proceeding to shake hands with the girls who promptly introduced themselves.
“Who’s the other head caretaker?” asked Josie.
“Anson Yaeger, he’s almost as old as my dad and he’s … something else,” said Jake, shooting a glance at Tom out of the corner of his eye. “Tom gets the pleasure of working with him a lot.”
Tom scoffed. “Pleasure indeed.”
“Oh, I take it not many people like him?” asked Josie.
Jake shook his head. “No, and I can’t wait for dad to fire him and hire someone else. He’s gotten even worse.”
“Worse how?” asked Josie, glancing from one guy to the other.
Tom sighed. “I caught him stealing fruit from the school orchard, selling them, and keeping the money for himself. He doesn’t like that I revealed this to Mr. Blakely, but … he hasn’t exactly done anything to me either.”
“Probably because he’s planning something and is waiting for the right moment to strike,” said Jake. “But he has gotten worse, been lazy, handing off all the hard jobs to us, or at least the ones he doesn’t like, and I know he’s been cutting that stupid goat loose and making all those messes for us to clean up!”
“Wait, you have a goat?” asked Terry.
“The school has an orchard?” asked Sim and Ethel at the same time before shooting each other wide-eyed looks.
“The school does have an orchard, but we don’t have a goat,” said Tom with a soft chuckle. “The goat in question is a rambunctious little tyrant from a neighboring farmer. He will eat everything in the orchard and the garden if we let him.”
“And will leave quite the mess to boot,” muttered Jake. "And the farmer refuses to get rid of him!"
"It's his goat, Jake, and he is figuring out other solutions," remarked Tom. "If anything, he serves as a great watch goat."
Jake scoffed. "Now if we could just get him to watch where he's going, that would be great."
"What I want is for you to be watching what you're doing!" barked a voice. Everyone turned towards the source. A man who looked to be in his mid-fifties was walking towards them, a scowl on his face. "What I can't understand is how your dad lets you get away with slacking off but not me!" He glared at Tom. "And you especially!"
Tom returned the glare. "You know exactly why, Anson, now leave us alone. We weren't slacking off. These ladies were just telling us they heard the bell too."
"And they found out about Senator Reeves' treasure," mumbled Jake.
"So what? Everyone knows about the legend. Whether or not they believe it's real is the question." Anson turned his grey eyes on them. "Well, do you believe it's real?"
"That all depends," Josie replied coolly. "Is there a green curtain hiding a secret door?"
Anson tilted his head back and laughed. "There's only ever been one set of green curtains at Cedar Ridge, and they definitely weren't hiding any doors!" He laughed again. "Those poems by John Reeves mean nothing, trust me, Jim and I have already searched. We scoured these grounds until our eyes nearly fell out of their sockets and didn't find a thing! So allow me to be the first to tell you to put the silly nonsense out of your head because you won't be the ones to find it!" He turned back to Tom and Jake, jabbing his finger at them. "Now get back to work!" He turned to the girls. “And don’t you pester them with such silly nonsense ever again!” He glared at them until Tom and Jake got back to work and the girls walked away before he stomped away towards a grove of trees. Tom waited a few minutes before waving the girls back over.
“Well, that was rude,” muttered Terry as she crossed her arms.
“Well, that was Anson Yaeger,” said Tom, “and that’s one of his better moods.”
“If that’s one of his better moods, I’d hate to think what his worst looks like,” said Terry with a scoff.
“To put it simply, you don’t want to,” said Jake.
“Why hasn’t your dad fired him yet?” asked Mary Louise. “He doesn’t seem like he’s doing much more than ordering you around and is a grump to boot!”
Jake sighed. “Because he was good at his job, and my dad doesn’t want to cut him out just yet. The two of them have taken care of Cedar Ridge for years. And though my dad knows that Anson isn’t too thrilled that my dad got the head caretaker position, he hasn’t given my dad any reason to not trust him where it concerns trying to take the position from him or do anything to him. But since Tom’s more of the new guy, there’s a chance Anson will do something to him.”
“The new guy? How new?” asked Josie.
Tom shrugged. “Four years.”
“And before him we had Freddie Cotton working for us, the meanest, vilest criminal to ever step foot on Cedar Ridge property,” said Jake.
“Wait, he was worse than Anson?” asked Eileen.
Jake nodded. “Dad thought that he was the real reason why Anson was going bad himself, Freddie was filling his head with tales of gold and glory.” Jake glanced down and stabbed the ground with his rake. “And, I did too, for a time. Dad was horrified at how bad Anson and I were getting. Thankfully Dad was able to get through to me and as you can tell, I turned myself around. But for some reason, it’s been harder to get through to Anson. But Dad’s not giving up on him, not quite yet.”
“What, like, Senator Reeves’s gold?” asked Arden.
Jake’s eyebrows furrowed. “See, that’s the thing. Like Anson said, he and Dad searched high and low for that treasure multiple times. Tom and I even attempted it a couple of times over the years, but we never found anything.”
“Definitely no secret door behind any green curtain. That was the first thing we looked for,” said Tom.
“But what if it’s not on Cedar Ridge property?” asked Josie. “Are there any buildings in the orchard?”
Jake and Tom shook their heads. “There’s nothing but an old tool shed in the orchard,” replied Tom.
“Maybe Senator Reeves’s house?” suggested Mary Louise.
Jake shrugged. “Maybe, we just figured he only claimed to bury a treasure. Maybe he intended to and never got around to it before he passed away or he was doing it out of spite because there were some major disagreements going on at the time concerning Cedar Ridge. All I know is, no one who has looked for it has ever found it.”
“But he said in the poem with the green curtains there was a garden palace!” said Terry.
“Is there any place on the campus that could seem to be hiding a secret garden of some kind?” asked Josie.
Jake shrugged. “There are a lot of areas that aren’t in use, but we clean all of those, so no. Maybe the greenhouse could have been this garden palace that Senator Reeves spoke of, but it’s certainly not hidden, and definitely wasn’t behind a green curtain.”
Terry sighed. “Well, there goes that. And I was so looking forward to a treasure hunt!”
“You and me both,” said Eileen.
Tom chuckled nervously. “Sorry about that. I mean, if you want, you could still try looking at the Senator’s house, maybe there’s something we missed. You never know.”
Josie nodded slowly. “Yes, yes we could.”
But Arden thought back to the poem. While it was true that it didn’t mention exactly where the treasure was hidden, it made sense that it would be on Cedar Ridge property. They had read more of the life of Senator John Reeves, he had mentioned in an interview that he was planning on leaving Cedar Ridge with some funds in case of emergency. But if four other people had searched for it on the grounds of Cedar Ridge and hadn’t found a hing, then the only logical place would be at the Senator’s house. Or even at one of the Senator’s favorite haunts. Maybe they should try that angle, just to be on the safe side.
“Oh Tom! Tom darling!”
Tom let out a soft groan as Toots Everett came up and wrapped her arms around his waist. “Oh Tom, I’ve missed you!”
Two other girls were with her, one looked particularly worried. Jake waved to them. “Hi Jess, hi Prim.”
“Hi Jake!” said one girl.
“Um, Jake, hi,” said the worried girl.
“Toots, how many times do I have to tell you, I’m not interested!” exclaimed Tom as he wrestled with her hands, trying to get her off of him.
Toots shot Arden a glare. “Is it because you’re interested in her, or that dumb wannabe actress?”
“Hey, Peggy’s a sweet girl!” blurted Arden, giving Toots a glare in kind.
Tom sighed. “I’m not interested in any of them either. Besides, I’m sure a lovely girl like Peggy would get a lot of attention from other guys.”
“Oh that’s so true, but based on what we saw last night, she seems to have narrowed it down to two,” said Terry, shooting Eileen a sly grin.
“Toots, shouldn’t we tell them …?”
“Oh knock it off, Prim, it can wait,” said Toots as she snuggled into Tom’s back. Tom groaned.
“Tell us what?” asked Jake, looking at the worried girl.
Prim let out a huff. “We just saw Freddie Cotton sneaking around the orchard!”
Tom and Jake shot each other a startled glance. “Freddie Cotton!” they exclaimed.
“He’s been banned from setting foot on college property! Come on Tom!” Jake threw his gardening tools to the ground and took off in the same direction Anson had taken towards the grove.
“Sorry girls, but this is important. Let go of me, Toots!” Tom pried Toots’ hands off of him before taking off after Jake.
Toots humphed. “Now why did you have to tell them, Prim? I said not to worry about it!”
“Because we’ve been told that if ever saw Freddie Cotton on school property to find one of them and tell them about it!” exclaimed Prim. “And you just want to see Tom!”
Toots huffed as she flipped her hair over her shoulder. “Come on girls, let’s join them on the walk.” The three walked away.
“Well, ok then, that wasn’t weird at all,” said Eileen with sarcasm.
“But it is weird that this Freddie Cotton would show up,” said Josie as she was rubbing her chin, thinking. “I wonder if he’s planning something. Maybe some kind of revenge?”
Eileen shrugged. “It’s possible, we don’t know much about this guy besides that he’s apparently worse than Anson Yaeger.”
“Maybe it’s nothing at all and we’re reading too much into it,” said Terry.
“I don’t know,” said Sim as she wrapped her arms around herself, “I have a bad feeling about this.”