The Mystery on the Mississippi
almost finished now,” she told Trixie. Then her voice fell to a whisper. “That man outside in the utility area wanted to
get in here to see if he’d left anything. See him?” The dark-haired man had his back to Trixie and was rifling through papers in a big trash basket. He turned, started to speak to her, then seemed to change his mind.
“What’s he doing?” Trixie whispered quietly to the maid.
“Hunting for some papers I must have emptied from the basket in your room. That’s what he told me. If you ask me, I think he’s a little bit....” She pointed to her temple and shook her head. . “Why?”
“He raised the roof when I said he couldn’t go inside your room. He made such a fuss, I had to let him go in, but I went along, too, to see that he didn’t touch any of your things. He’s a queer one.” The man seemed to sense that they were talking about him. He looked at the maid viciously. Visibly frightened, she raised her voice to throw him off the track. “Where’s the first place you’re going sightseeing, Miss Belden?”
“We’re all just crazy to take a ride on a steamboat,” Trixie answered. “I guess we’ll go to the Jefferson Memorial first, to see the exhibit of old steamboats there. Someone there surely will know about present traffic on the river.”
“Sure they will. I’ll be through here in just a few minutes.”
Trixie hesitated at the door. Maybe I'd better do exactly what Brian told me to do, she thought. Maybe I should give the papers back. She started to open her purse, then reconsidered. I think I’ll just hold on to them for a while. A person doesn't get as angry as he did unless he’s doing something shady. I’d like to know who he is. Guess I'll ask at the desk.
As Trixie left, the man stood up, cursed under his breath, and said hoarsely to the maid, “Why did you have to wait around forever? Now it’s too late.”
Trixie wasn’t quite sure she had understood what he had said. She stopped, perplexed, then went on to the desk.
In answer to her inquiry, the clerk pointed to the register. It read: “Pierre Lontard, General Delivery, New Orleans, Louisiana.”
“Boy, did you take your time!” Mart greeted her. “The camera must have been buried in the bottom of a trunk.”
Trixie paid no attention to him. “Guess what that man’s name is,” she said mysteriously.
“What man?” Brian asked.
“The one I told you about, the one who grabbed the briefcase in our room. His name is Pierre Lontard. He’s from New Orleans!”
“So what?” Mart looked disgusted. “New Orleans is a big city, Trix. Boy, are you hard up for a mystery if you have to make something out of the fact that a guy lives in New Orleans!”
“It isn’t just that. He is mysterious. His address is just ‘General Delivery.’ If a person can’t give a street address, there’s something strange about him.”
“Oh, for pete’s sake, Trix, forget him!” Brian took his sister’s arm to hurry her on toward the parking lot. “Give you a little time, and you’ll come up with a better mystery than that. Let’s get the show on the road.”
“All right. You can make fun of me if you want to.”
“I’m not making fun of you, Trixie,” Honey said as she hurried to catch up. “There’s that man now, over there near our car. See him? He’s the one just getting into that black Mercedes. He’s having some trouble unlocking his car.”
“I’m having some trouble myself,” Jim said, “but it’s not with the lock. It’s getting you girls into the car and on the way. Crowd in. Here we go.”
The car turned sharply and sped down the road leading to the main highway.
Trixie, still skeptical, turned her head. “He’s right behind us now!” she exclaimed.
“Give him a run for his money!” Mart cried. Jim stepped on the accelerator. At a stop sign, the big black car crowded close. It seemed to be trying to sideswipe the small car. Inside, the man sat low, watching for the light to change.
As the signal turned green, the Bob-Whites’ car shot ahead into a free lane.
From the rear window, Trixie, Mart, and Honey watched the Mercedes as it disappeared behind a huge truck.
“FI bet he’s spitting fire!” Trixie cried exultantly. “I’ll bet a cookie he doesn’t know we’re alive,” Mart insisted.
“We’ll see. Just you wait and see. Of course he knows we’re alive. You know what Mr. Wheeler told us. This whole area for miles around could just be alive
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