The girls made their way back to the library slowly, each of them thinking about everything they had learned thus far. They didn't say a word until the door of the study room was shut behind them.
"So, now what?" Terry asked. "Apparently everyone knows about the treasure and believes it's just an urban legend!"
"Two guys who work at Cedar Ridge do not count as everyone, Terry," said Arden. "They just told us what they know. Which just so happens to be that they've already looked and didn't find it."
"All I know is that my head hurts from gathering all this information. I need a swim," said Sim.
Terry rolled her eyes and said with a chuckle, "Of course you do."
"Hmm," said Josie thoughtfully, "we have been going at this for a while. Maybe a break is a good idea."
"We will have to head back to our rooms to get our swimsuits," remarked Terry.
"Glad you noticed, Captain Obvious," returned Sim with a smirk and a scoff.
Terry crossed her arms. “Oh, right, I forgot, you’re always prepared with a swimsuit. You wear it under your clothes all the time.”
Eileen glanced at Sim in surprise. “Wait, you do?” Sim just shrugged.
Terry let out a half sigh, half chuckle. “Yes she does, all the time. And I can guarantee that she’s not a mermaid, she definitely needs her oxygen.”
Arden bobbed her head. “Oh, definitely.” She grinned. “She has been practicing holding her breath underwater for as long as she can. One of the jobs she had considered was being a mermaid at one of those amusement parks, but now that we find out that mermaids are real …”
Sim waved her hand and scoffed. “I can still get that job. Highly doubt there’s a mermaid who has tails like the ones they use.”
Mary Louise laughed. “That is a fair point. They are pretty elaborate.”
Terry, Arden, and Sim turned to her in surprise. “You’ve seen them up close?”
Mary Louise smiled and nodded. “Yes, my grandfather would take me and my mother to a few amusement parks, especially PixieLand.” A wistful, faraway look came over her face. “It was my mother's favorite amusement park, so we went there a lot. The mermaids there were especially spectacular, almost fairy-like.” Mary Louise chuckled softly. “I suppose that it should be like that for an amusement park called PixieLand.”
Eileen chuckled. “That would make the most sense.”
“But the fact that you’ve been to more than one! And more than once!” Terry let out a wistful sigh. “That must have been lovely.”
Mary Louise raised an inquisitive eyebrow. “You mean you’ve never been to one in your life?”
Terry shook her head, pouting. “No, my family could never afford to go. Paying for just one kid would have been too much.”
“If I may ask, how many siblings do you have?” asked Mary Louise.
“I have five siblings,” said Terry, “two brothers and three sisters.”
Mary Louise’s eyes and mouth widened to a perfect o. “Wow! So many siblings! What’s it like having such a large family?” Mary Louise let out a little sigh. “It must be nice having so many siblings.”
Terry scoffed. “It all depends on what you consider nice. Stealing my things, breaking them, teasing me, and some days I can’t even be by myself!”
“Oh!” Mary Louise chuckled. “Well, not having any siblings is no fun either. But since you’ve never been to an amusement park, why don’t Grandfather and I take you to one? Heck, maybe we could take everyone!”
“Really?” Arden, Sim, and Terry chorused as their faces brightened.
Mary Louise glanced between them in shock. “You mean all three of you haven’t gone?”
Ethel chuckled. “Arden and Sim didn’t want to go without Terry.”
Josie turned to Ethel. “What about you?”
Ethel blinked. “I beg your pardon?”
“It seems like all four of you like to hang out, but you only mentioned them, you didn’t include yourself. Why is that?”
“Oh, uh, Ethel always liked to go off on her own. While we do include her as a friend, she, uh, tends to be more of a loner,” Sim quickly said.
“And she doesn’t mind hanging out with us because she’s known Sim since second grade,” remarked Terry.
“Oh I see,” said Josie, but to Arden, it seemed like her eyes said the opposite, and that detective’s brain was racing. Arden and Terry had often wondered the same thing, but always refrained from asking any more about it due to Sim’s insistence that their secret will be revealed when they were ready. Arden and Terry both agreed that pushing them to reveal before they were ready was a bad idea. But what if Josie, someone who didn’t know them, tried to find out behind their backs? Would Arden and Terry be able to stop her?
“So, shall we go get into our swimsuits real quick? Daylight’s fading fast, and I for one would like to have a shower before the party tonight,” Terry said. Arden smiled at her. Good ole Terry.
"That is a good idea," remarked Mary Louise. She glanced at the table. “Do you think we should check out any of the books?”
Josie walked to the table and picked up the book containing the Senator’s poems. “I think we should check this one out for sure. These poems … I definitely think they were written to be clues.”
Arden nodded as she watched Josie open the book and flip the pages. “I think so too. There’s no way the treasure isn’t real with the way those poems were worded.”
“So then, why hasn’t anyone found it yet?” asked Terry.
“Maybe they’re not smart enough,” muttered Ethel.
“I think there might be a piece missing,” whispered Josie. “Or the key, maybe they weren’t able to find the key, or heck, they couldn’t find all the clues that led to the treasure. Sure, the two groundsmen already looked everywhere, but that might be the one guy is back even though he’s been fired, he’s realized they were missing something, and he aims to find it. I think we need to be more careful from here on out, and we should only speak about this among ourselves, and in a secluded area. We never know who could be listening.” As she spoke, she glanced at the door. Sim, being the closest, turned and opened it, peeking out into the hall. She brought her head back in and quickly closed the door.
She turned to the others and shook her head. “No one’s out there, but now I really need to take a swim. Just thinking about someone following us puts me on edge!”
“When you’d rather be on the edge of a pool,” quipped Ethel.
Arden chuckled. “Alright, alright, we get the hint.” She turned to Josie. “Do you think we should check out any of the other books?”
Josie glanced back at the pile and looked at each spine carefully, weighing her thoughts, before turning back and shrugging. “Not sure, besides this one.”
Eileen rolled her wheelchair up to the table and grabbed a book off it, flipping through the pages. “Well, I would like to check this one out.”
“Which one is that?” asked Mary Louise.
Eileen held up the book. “It’s about the legends of the school. Maybe there’s more in there that we’re missing, or that we might need later.”
Josie nodded. “That’s a good idea. Every angle must be covered. We don’t know what it is they’re looking for. Heck, I don’t think they even know.” She paused, her brows furrowed. “And that could mean they might not attack us until we’ve found the treasure.”
“But how would we find something that so many others looked for, and failed?” asked Terry.
“That’s the thing, we could look at this from a different angle,” replied Josie. She glanced at Sim. “And finally heading out to the pool just might help.”
Sim smirked. “I was wondering when someone would say that.” She opened the door. “And I’m leaving before we get sidetracked, again.”
Arden chuckled. “Alright, alright, we’re coming!” The others quickly followed Sim out of the room, and out of the library. They split up to get their swimsuits and met up at Pixie’s Pub and Pool. Sim immediately dove into the pool, followed closely by Ethel. A few minutes later, Terry and Mary Louise eased in and merely floated there. Eileen sat on the edge and let the water lap against her legs. Josie was in her swimsuit, but she had brought the book about Senator Reeves and was reading it. Arden scooted closer to her and peeked over Josie's shoulder. If Josie noticed, she didn't let on that she did or that she minded. Both read the book, Arden trying to figure out what Josie was looking for, what she noticed, and was on the lookout for any clues to pop out at her too.
"Do you think that maybe the Senator meant something else than literal green curtains?" Josie's question nearly made Arden jump out of her skin. But she quickly composed herself and shrugged.
"Not sure, I mean, it's possible, but then, what would green curtains be a metaphor for?"
Josie turned back to the book. "That's what I don't get, I'm not particularly sure myself. Maybe that could be tomorrow's search, the symbolism of green curtains."
"I don't know, based on the way that poem reads, you'd think he meant it literally. Or, at least, maybe not quite literally as there are apparently no green curtains anywhere at Cedar Ridge, but something similar."
Josie rubbed her chin. "But if that is the case, what would fit the description of green curtains?"
"Maybe we have to look all over Cedar Ridge?" Arden knew that would take them a while, but unless another clue came forward to give them a better idea of what to look for, it was their best shot.
Josie’s lips turned down in a frown. “That’s going to take us a while, maybe the whole year, what with classes and homework. And that’s not including anything else we might want to do.”
“We can split it up, get everyone involved. Assign certain parts of Cedar Grove to certain people, and they can search when they can.”
Josie nodded slowly. “That does sound like a good idea. But each time I read this poem, it seems like it should be obvious.”
Arden shrugged. “Well, maybe back in Senator Reeves’ day it was, but things change, and it’s no longer as obvious.”
“That is one way of putting it,” Josie said slowly. “Which then begs the question, is it even still around?”
Arden let out a breath. “Ok, there’s that too. Though, if that is the case, we wouldn’t even be looking for anything related to green curtains of any kind.”
Josie’s eyebrows furrowed. “Or maybe it’s just something green …”
“What do you mean?”
Before Josie could answer, their attention was diverted by a splash which was followed by a scream and Mary Louise crying out, “Eileen!” They glanced over just in time to see a fellow dashing towards the front door.
"You jerk!" Josie shouted before she jumped up and took off after him.
"No wait! Josie!" Arden started after her, but paused and glanced at the pool. Eileen was flailing, trying to keep herself afloat. But Arden noticed the water just beneath Eileen's legs churning. Arden took a quick glance at the others. Mary Louise and Terry were swimming towards her and would be there in a minute or so. Ethel was coming from the other corner and would take longer. But Sim was still, her lips moving, saying something the others couldn't hear. Arden glanced back at Eileen, then reached down and pulled her up. Terry and Mary Louise swam up a moment later and quickly helped. They got her back into her wheelchair.
Mary Louise tended to her friend. "Eileen! Are you alright? Are you hurt?"
Eileen shook her head. "No, I'm fine." She then smiled. "That might be the closest to swimming I've ever been!"
Mary Louise let out a huff, then began chuckling. "You could have died, and you found the silver lining."
"I have gotten quite good at finding them," Eileen said with a smirked.
Mary Louise glanced at the door. "Now I just hope Josie's alright."
Arden looked at each of the girls. "Did any of you get a good look at him?"
"Besides the fact he was wearing something too warm for the weather?" Terry said. "No, he had his jacket pulled up around his mouth and his hat pulled down low."
Arden's eyes widened, then narrowed. "So, we're on to something."
Terry tilted her head. "What do you mean?"
"Josie and I were talking about the green curtains and wondering if we just needed to look for something green, right before Eileen was pushed."
The others gasped and glanced at Eileen. At that moment Josie came storming back in. "That jerk!" Her faced softened at seeing Eileen in her wheelchair. "Eileen! Are you alright?"
Eileen smiled. "As fine as ever! Thanks to Arden." She patted Arden's hand and smiled gratefully at her.
Josie grimaced. "And I just ran past to get that guy."
Eileen patted her hand. "Oh, you're fine! You were trying to stop him from getting away. Thank you, both of you."
Mary Louise grabbed the handlebars of the wheelchair. "Well, I don't know about you, but I think that's enough of the pool today."
Eileen chuckled nervously. "I agree. Let's go, I want to change out of these wet clothes."
"And I want to inquire around to see if anyone has seen that guy," said Josie.
Eileen nodded. "Good idea." She gasped. "Maybe he's the guy who's been ringing the bell!"
"It's a possibility, and maybe we can find out why. Come on." They began walking towards the front. Arden hung back a bit. Sim and Ethel had gotten put of the pool now, and Ethel didn't look too pleased with Sim.
"Do you want us to be found out? The Elders haven't given us permission!"
"I had to do the right thing, Ethel. Eileen's life is more important than our secret," replied Sim.
"Besides, talking about it will only raise suspicions," stated Arden. The two jumped, and Ethel turned a scowl on her. Arden shrugged. "I'm not trying to find out your secret, I'm just telling you how to best keep it a secret. Josie is a detective, and the daughter of one. She's more likely to be ruthless in finding out the truth than Terry is or I am. Just saying."
Sim glanced at Ethel. "She does have a point. We should keep it quiet, the less said the better. And if I make a decision regarding our secret, no more reprimands from you. If they can't figure it out it's me, then it's best to say nothing. Arden's right, your reprimands would do more harm than good."
"But you shouldn't keep using it!"
Sim turned to fully face Ethel. "I won't, it was just this time to protect someone's life. That is the only reason I will use it." She glanced at Arden. "Now come on, we've already said too much as it is." The two turned and walked out. Arden's heart was pounding. Was her best friend able to use magic of some kind? It would explain a lot. She shook her head, and pushed the thought to the back as she walked out. No, she couldn't continue that line of thought, she swore that Sim's secret would be the one mystery she left unsolved. But it looked like she was still getting clues, and the solution was coming ever nearer.