Judy Bolton Days

Judy Bolton Days
First annual in 1991!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

LOST DANA GIRLS MYSTERY!

I thought this Dana Girls fanfiction mystery was lost when my computer with its files crashed and AOL did away with its webspace at the same time. But Google had it archived! Yay, Google! So now we'll use those pages until I get a new site set up!


An all-new vintage Dana Girls mystery!
Completely online and free!

THE SECRET OF THE ICE CASTLE
This is a full-length fanfiction mystery in the original 1930s Mildred Wirt style. It takes place at a haunted English manor house in the hills north of  Penfield in which a flute-playing ghost roams the halls on long winter nights accompanied by a wolf. Shift the scene to nearby frozen Indian Lake and a white stone castle on Spirit Island where the local Indian burial grounds were once the scene of  a notorious crime. Louise and Jean are asked to solve this mystery from both the past and present, and they meet up with thrills and chills as they track down clues in the bleak winter landscape.

What the reviewers said ten years ago ....


"It was just like reading one of the original novels by McFarlane or Benson. I just want to say thanks for making such a delightful gift available to all of us.".....Frank Quillen, series books aficionado

"This 'new' original-style Dana has all the literary plot development of the first (Danas). The strong setting, the familiar leading characters, the pranks, the coincidences (I love those coincidences), and an unusual mystery - all ring very true to the series book series, Dana Girls." ....Susabella Passengers, series books fanzine

"The Secret of the Ice Castle is marked by a high sense of adventure. It is a gripping mystery that compelled my attention throughout the reading. I was more than pleasantly surprised to read it, and gladly give it a 9+." ....David M. Baumann, Starman series author


(wait a few seconds for the delay)
(or click on 'impatient?')


Click HERE for Part 1

Click HERE for Part 2

Click HERE for Part 3

Click HERE for Part 4

brought to you by THE STRATOMIKER SYNDICATE!

.... and check this out, a sample chapter from a forthcoming vintage Dana!

Click HERE FOR THE SPECTER IN THE SNOW




Saturday, October 22, 2011

VINTAGE NANCY DREW CHAT

GAY TOLERANCE CREDENTIALS

Click on the above; it's a live link to an alt.books.nancy-drew chat thread from 1999 which shows just how zany that group used to be. One of the members bragged about her 'tolerance' of gay people, her 'gay tolerance credentials', and how up-to-date that made her, and how it helped to sell books to them.

Others reacted with disdain to this, thinking her attitude self-aggrandizing, old-fashioned, and still showing prejudice - 'tolerating' instead of 'accepting'.


However, their backlash toward her viewpoint was strictly in accordance with everything else on this group - silly and comedic, and very critical!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A JUDY BOLTON DAY MYSTERY

THE SHROUD OF THE MIDNIGHT PHANTOM 


copyright 2003 by Stratomiker Syndicate
A Julie Kane Mystery set in Potter County PA at the annual Judy Bolton Day weekend.



Chapter One: WINGS TO FLY


Julie Kane smiled happily as she looked in the rearview mirror of her snappy black Jaguar coupe at the receding skyline of Jamestown behind her. "So long, Jimmytown," she said aloud, using one of her pet names for her hometown. "I'll be back soon. Only a weekend trip this time."

Having lived there all her life, Julie loved the city and surrounding area located along the shores of Chautauqua Lake in western New York State. It was a scenic region of rolling hills, fertile valleys, and beautiful lakes, and Jamestown itself was a bustling city experiencing an exciting economic and cultural revival. But the pretty auburn-haired , green-eyed nineteen year-old had been away from home for long periods of time recently since beginning her job as a reporter for the internationally acclaimed LifeStyles Magazine, whose headquarters were based in Jamestown, and there was a touch of nostalgia in her heart right now at having to leave once again.


Harrington Bamberger, LifeStyle's editor, was a close friend of Julie's dad, Gordon Kane, the city's law director. Ever since Julie's very first lead story, The Mystery of the Girl in Blue, had caught nationwide attention and resulted in a sell-out issue, Mr. Bamberger had no qualms about sending Julie all over the globe in pursuit of a good story. She was a crack reporter and a good writer, and he knew she'd dig deep and bring up all the news the readers wanted. What Mr. Bamberger didn't know, because Julie would never tell him, was the danger and peril she'd often had to face unearthing the stories that received such worldwide attention.


In The Secret of Baldwin Manor, Julie had uncovered a plot to imprison the aging film star Ann Baldwin in her beautiful French chateau on the sweeping hills overlooking Chautauqua Lake. It was during this adventure that Julie had found Shirelle, a beautiful multiracial child who later became Julie's little sister through adoption. And other important stories had followed. Among them: in Canada's north woods in wintry Manitoba, Julie uncovered a plot of international implications while facing the terror of the The Legends of the Red Death. And most recently, while attending a Nancy Drew collectors convention in New York City, Julie had uncovered a human-smuggling operations and solved the mystery of a girl from her hometown who had disappeared during the 9/11 tragedies In the Shadow of the Towers.


The girl smiled now, switching on the car radio. No doubt she had faced some serious situations in those adventures, but she knew the story she was covering this weekend would be a simple piece of cake. Nothing to fear, no thugs or criminals to deal with, no perils around each and every corner. Just a normal weekend in Pennsylvania to cover the local Judy Bolton Fall Festival in Potter County and interview Gina Sabreen, America's teen pop singing sensation, who'd be there to do some final scenes for a music video.


Julie gazed at the blazing autumn colors all around her and sighed deeply at the lilting strains of the lovely ballad coming over the air being sung by Celine Dion. The famous hit song from the movie 'Titanic' was the perfect background music for a sunny October morning on the road. It was the Thursday leading into the Columbus Day weekend and the surrounding hills were resplendent with the multitudinous hues of the peak fall foliage. The temperature was in the middle sixties and the weekend was forecast to be warm and sunny, perfect for the festivities in Potter County, one of Pennsylvania's leading vacation destinations.


She was driving south on Route 62. The scenic road would take her right into Pennsylvania at the town of Warren, located on Route 6 North which led through the state's mountainous northern tier counties, world renowned as America's biggest outdoor playground. From Warren she'd drive Route 59 east through the beautiful Allegheny National Forest, one of her very favorite places, and then pick up Route 6 North again on the other side to take her to Coudersport, her destination in Potter County.


It was only a two to four hour drive depending on how many stops one made, and there were plenty of tempting stops to make along the way. Julie wished that her mom and dad and little Shirelle had been able to come, but none of them could make it. Shirelle was in a play at school that Julie was just going to have to miss. Her mother, Lydia Kane, Julie's pride and joy because she was so glamorous and sophisticated, owned an antique shop in Lakewood, a very upscale district on the south shore of Chautauqua Lake. So, of course, she couldn't come either, fall foliage time being one of her busiest seasons. How her mother managed the store, the house, and little Shirelle, too, on a regular basis, Julie just didn't have a clue. Her dad, naturally, being in charge of just about everything that went on in Jamestown, could never get away.


Her  best friend Trudy Phillips, who had been along with her on many an assignment, could not take the time off from work, and her brother Bob was at nearby Cattaraugus State University where it was a big football weekend. He had to stay and do the fraternity thing, so he couldn't join her either. And then there was Dave.......


Julie's eyes rolled heavenward as the car rounded a curve in the road alongside a scenic muskeg swamp with hundreds of spindly naked trees reaching up into the air.


She was like, Dave! Dave! Dave!


Her smiling green eyes belied her emphatic pout. Dave Redmond was supposed to be her boyfriend. Supposed to, she thought in an attempt at dramatic dismay. But she never got to see him anymore. She was always dashing off here and there on assignments and he was always dashing off, too, in his current role as a 'professional' exchange student. She hadn't seen him in months.


Now he was in Paris, of all places. She had talked to him last night. "But Julie," he had responded to her whiny-voiced 'I miss you'. "You're always zipping off somewhere on your stories. I was tired of being in Jimtown all alone. SUNY is willing to send me all over the world on this exchange program. Why should I stay in New York? Get an assignment in Paris and come see me!"


"Ha!" Julie laughed out loud, braking slightly as a tractor trailer loomed ahead of her.


She hadn't told Dave that she was indeed going to Paris in two weeks on an exciting new assignment. A cache of previously unknown Monet paintings, many of them of the famed water lilies theme, had recently been found hidden in the royal palace in Bristania, a small European principality. Julie would be covering their debut showing at The Louvre, and she couldn't wait to surprise Dave by popping up unexpectedly at the door of his Left Bank apartment.


"And he better be happy to see me!" she said with a threatening little laugh.


It was just then that she heard a name on the radio that caught her attention - Gina Sabreen!


She pumped up the volume. "This is Gina's new number one hit," the disc jockey was saying. "Released as a single only on iTunes - it's not on any album yet - four weeks ago, it is now number one in the USA and Canada, and twenty-five other countries around the world, making it one of the fastest selling hits of all time. Our teen sweetheart from nearby Erie PA has given us all a big surprise with this tune. Famous for her string of catchy hip-hop dance hits and their sexy controversial videos, Gina's new hit is a beautiful ballad sung to the accompaniment of the Cleveland Orchestra, the top symphony orchestra in the world, ending all the controversy if she can really sing - or is it all that hi-tech over-dubbing making her sound so good? Well, she sure can sing, folks, so hold onto your hats. Here's Gina...."


Julie held her breath as the opening strings of the Cleveland Orchestra sounded in a plucky pizzicato introduction, then a full blown assault of woodwind and brass, then Gina's stunning still-maturing voice rushing right in with thrilling vibrato............


"Loving you has given me

Wings to fly.
My heart now soars
High in the skies.
No longer grounded
In lonely pain,
Wings to fly
Have brought me life again............"

Julie realized that her hand was clutching at her heart as the beautiful ballad soared on. Good thing the tractor trailer was up ahead, or she might have floored the accelerator and shot down the highway to the strains of the incredible  musical production.


She'd heard the song before, of course. It was getting more airplay than anything she could ever remember, especially around the northwest PA-western NY area, which considered Gina its number one citizen. Julie had downloaded the single the week it came out and burned it onto a CD. She had it in her overnight bag on the seat next to her and intended to have Gina autograph it. Wings to Fly was her current favorite song, not surprisingly, and she never tired of hearing it, much like just about everyone else in the world, it seemed. And the unprecedented hit actually was the main reason Julie was going to interview Gina Sabreen in Coudersport this weekend.


Gina was America's teen pop princess, an incredibly adorable and talented seventeen year-old blonde from Erie, Pennsylvania, a city not far from Jamestown on the south shore of Lake Erie. Bursting with talent and personality from an early age, Gina had been taken to Hollywood by her mother when she was merely eight years-old. Mr. Sabreen, a truck driver, had stayed home in Erie to foot the bills for Gina's hoped-for career, and got to see his wife and daughter only when a long overland haul found him in California. But in a matter of a few months Disney had 'discovered' Gina and she instantly became the most popular mouseketeer since Annette Funicello way back in the 1950s. Later, she landed a starring role on Family Values, a TV family sitcom that stayed in the top ten for five years. But even with all this success, the family stayed centered in Erie, and Gina was very often back in Pennsylvania to experience the more 'normal' life she still loved dearly.


Last year she had left the TV show to give full attention to her budding singing career. Her first CD had spawned three number one singles and gone 'diamond', selling over ten million copies world-wide. The second, released only six months ago, had already sold over six million copies and given the charts two number one hits.


Gina's music was decidedly hip-hop, trendy techno-pop dance numbers and upbeat ballads with lots of sound-gimmicks and overdubs. Although everyone loved Gina - she was just so sweet and adorable even critics didn't pan her - there had been some buzz around for months if she could really sing or not. Julie knew that the ballad Wings to Fly, which had taken the world by storm, was Gina's answer to that question. And Julie's boss, Harrington Bamberger, wanted the story behind the incredible collaboration between a reigning teen queen and the world's top symphony orchestra. He had contacted Gina's agent and arranged for the interview in Potter County.


But Julie, ever alert and a model of industriousness, had already done some work on the story. It was in LifeStyles Magazine itself that she'd seen a photo of Gina at the Grammy Awards show with Benneto Franchi, the son of the musical director of the Cleveland Orchestra. Gina had won the Grammy for Best New Artist, and Benneto had been her date that night. Last week Julie had driven to Cleveland to meet Benneto for lunch and get the scoop on how he and Gina knew each other. Benneto, a very friendly and handsome young man in his early twenties, lived part of the time in his father's Shaker Heights mansion in the tony Cleveland suburb, but most of the year he spent at the family home in Rome, Italy. Last year Gina had opened a concert in Rome for her friends the Jonas Brothers and had met Benneto at a press party afterwards. They became fast friends and dated often in the entertainment world circles. Better yet, Cleveland and Erie were only ninety miles apart -perfect for when they were both in this part of the world. And, as to be expected, Benneto was Gina's 'in' to getting the Cleveland Orchestra to record with her.


Said Benneto, "My dad was absolutely floored by Gina. And after a couple auditions, he knew she could do the orchestra justice. She asked for the collaboration, and there was no way he'd have said No."


The beautiful song ended and Julie lowered the volume, looking forward to meeting this girl who was causing such a stir around the world. She'd been a fan of Gina's throughout the years and still watched the repeats of Family Values when she had the chance. Yes, Gina Sabreen was really someone special, and right now the hottest music act in the world. But there was even more to the story Julie would be writing about the weekend ahead, and a lot of it struck a very personal chord with her.


This past summer Gina Sabreen had starred in her first movie, a made-for-cable TV movie titled The Vanishing Shadow, based on the first book in the thirty-eight volume Judy Bolton Mystery series by the author Margaret Sutton. The movie had been filmed in Coudersport, which happened to be the real town that the fictional town in the books was based on. The series had been a bestseller in the 1930s through the 1970s right along with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys, but it had been discontinued after that because of the waning popularity of such series. But through the efforts of fans and collectors who wanted to keep the series alive for generations to come, the books were now being reprinted. Philly Cable, headquartered in Coudersport, who supported the character Judy Bolton as a local icon, made the movie for its nationwide cable systems, tentatively as one of several to come.


Their coup at getting Gina Sabreen to play the role of redheaded Judy Bolton was not as amazing as it might seem, Julie knew. Gina was actually a Judy Bolton fan herself, having read the entire series which had been handed down to her from her mother and grandmother. When the script came in, Gina jumped at it. No way would she turn down playing her home state's favorite girl sleuth.


Julie herself was also a Judy Bolton fan, having read her mother's copies of all the books over and over again. She even had her own set now for they were always showing up in estates her mother purchased to resell at the antique shop. Julie much preferred Judy Bolton to Nancy Drew and other similar girl sleuths because Judy was a redhead like herself, and because the series was more realistic. Judy Bolton and her friends aged throughout the books, and Judy even got married. But she still kept solving mysteries. Julie knew that her own love for mystery and adventure and uncovering a good story came from the endless hours she had spent reading those thirty-eight classic Judy Bolton Mysteries now experiencing a great nationwide revival.


The Judy Bolton Day weekend was being sponsored by the Potter County Chamber of Commerce. As a local icon, the character Judy Bolton was attracting a lot of attention and even the civic groups were getting in on the action now. Among the events planned were a parade featuring floats depicting scenes from the books, country crafts and foods for sale on the courthouse square, bus tours of the many sites used in the books around the area, a preview showing of the cable movie at the local theater, and many other related events. Mix these in with peak fall foliage tourist season, local antique shows and antique malls all promising to feature the collectible Judy Bolton books, the opening of bow-hunting season and high school homecoming weekend, and it all promised to be a weekend to remember.


And add to that, of course, the fact that Gina Sabreen was going to be in town to film the parade scenes for the video of the song used in the movie, It's No Mystery, written and sung by Gina and planned for inclusion on her upcoming third album. Julie hadn't yet heard the song but she was hoping that Gina would have a demo copy or mp3 she could listen to.


Traffic began to slow down as she crossed the state line into Pennsylvania and entered the outskirts of Warren. She found herself fidgeting in the slower crawl, wanting to be on the open road, eager to get to Coudersport and the good times that lay ahead. She'd been to Judy Bolton weekends before and knew many of the fans and promoters, including executives from the cable company who were involved in the proceedings. But she bit her bottom lip and quelled her impatience, knowing that shortly she'd be driving through the Allegheny National Forest where she always experienced the thrill of freedom and adventure. She used to go camping there with her parents and brother when she was younger, when her dad was just an attorney with a firm and was able to get away from the office now and then, and she couldn't wait to see the splendid wilderness once more.


But traffic tangled up even more through the winding streets of downtown Warren. Although smaller than Jamestown, it was similar in being basically a Victorian city with the obligatory add-on modern amenities. Many of its huge restored Victorian homes reminded Julie of the big 'Vickie' she and her family lived in on Washington Street in Jamestown, high on a hill and looking over the downtown and off to the west to Chautauqua Lake. Sometimes it seemed to Julie that she could see forever, on a clear day especially, from her tower bedroom and small library in the tower's attic room. She smiled now, remembering how she and Bob had used a powerful telescope to watch Baldwin Manor all the way on the far side of the lake from the library when she was suspicious that someone was holding Ann Baldwin prisoner in her own home.


Julie realized she was a really lucky girl. She had a great family and a terrific life. A job she loved. Mystery and adventure that most people would never even imagine. And she was really grateful for it.


But she was still like, Now if only I can get out of this traffic!


Oh well. She winced as another red light caught her. Warren's position on Route 6 North made it the bustling business center on the west end of Pennsylvania's great northern wilderness. And this early October weekend was the weekend it bustled the most. Everyone was out to see the leaves, to go hiking or picnicking, antiquing, bow-hunting for deer, and a hundred other things.


It was almost like, she thought, if you weren't in Pennsylvania, you just weren't anywhere!


Finally arriving at Route 6 North a few minutes later on the south side of the town, Julie pulled off into a McDonald's parking lot and whooshed into a parking space next to a big red Jeep Grand Cherokee. She'd use the bathroom, get a light lunch, and then trek off into the wilds of the national forest. She stretched her lean jean-clad legs after getting out of the car and shook back her long thick red hair which gleamed brightly in the October sunlight. She was wearing a red sweatshirt with white lettering that spelled out University of Manitoba. It had been given to her by the Indian princess Yellow Bird, also known as Nannette Couchee, and her boyfriend Pierre La Pierre, whom Julie had affectionately called 'Pete La Pete'. She'd had a great adventure with them not too long ago in the far northern lands of the big snows and the Red Death, and she had turned it all into a cover story for LifeStyles Magazine. She knew she'd never forget those two fab friends she'd made, nor the French-Indian Metis way of life they had introduced her to.


Julie grabbed her purse and shut the car door. She felt totally exuberant and suddenly flung her arms up with carefree abandon, her green eyes sparkling as she breathed in the crisp autumn air.


She was totally, "Holy flipping cow! What a groovy day!"


Then she laughed and turned happily to walk into the restaurant.


"Yo! Do that again. Please!"


Julie blinked, surprised and embarrassed to see a young man standing right behind the Cherokee, a paper cup of coffee in his hands and his dark attractive eyes dead set on her. He was lean and rugged looking, six feet tall, with thick dark hair mostly covered by an orange hunting cap, and a sharply etched tough but handsome face. His button-down shirt with a leather-like patch on one shoulder and his gray-green-black camouflage pants told her he was a hunter and reminded her of when her dad used to outfit himself like that.


Julie grinned at him. "I'm not really crazy. I guess you caught me in the act. Just in a happy mood on this lovely day."


He set his coffee cup ontop the Cherokee. "Crazy? That was wonderful. It made my day to see such a pretty girl show such joie de vivre. Sure you won't do it again?"


"Of course not. You were lucky to catch it that time. I'd never done it if I'd known someone was watching."


He leaned against the back of the SUV. "So, exactly what is it you're so happy about?"


"Well," Julie began, knowing she was being too friendly with a stranger - something she very often did, especially if it was an attractive guy. But the guy was a hunter, and a hunk. What more could a girl from Chautauqua County, New York, want? "It's a beautiful October day and I'm in Pennsylvania," she told him. "And after I get myself some lunch, I'm going to drive Route 59 through the Allegheny National Forest!"


"I guess that answers that question," the fellow returned, with a grin that showed beautiful white teeth. "That's almost better than winning the lottery."


"Almost?" Julie caught herself eyeing him up and down, and there was a lot of him to get an eyeful of. She made herself focus on his nice smile, just to play it safe. "I'd rather have a day like this anytime than win the lottery."


"It promises to be a whole weekend of days like this. You're gonna be one happy gal."


Julie took a step closer to him, feeling a little of that tingle that an especially handsome guy can make a girl feel. "Looks like you're going hunting, eh? My dad used to hunt a lot when he was younger."


The fellow nodded. "I'm off to Potter County for the bow-hunting. You know, there's more deer there than people, and they ought to be bounding around all over the place in this weather. I hope to get myself a buck."


"I'm headed there, too," Julie told him. "Coudersport. They're holding the Judy Bolton Day festivities there and it's going to be one fun-filled weekend."


The young man put his hand on his hip and his brows knitted. "Judy Bolton. That sounds familiar."


"She's a character in a series of mystery books," Julie explained. "The author lived in Coudersport and based the town in the books on it. Now they use Judy as a civic pride icon, and the festival draws hundreds into town. They come from all over the country."


The dark-haired young hunter straightened up, both hands on his hips now. "I'll be darned. My sister used to read those books when we were kids. My mother too. In fact I read one once. It was on a hunting trip and it rained so hard all weekend we couldn't even go outside. So I sat and moped and read. Didn't she have a brother named ....uh... , maybe Boris?"


Julie laughed happily, hearing the name mispronounced, pleased that this hunky guy knew about Judy Bolton and had actually read one of the books. "Her brother was Horace. You were pretty close."


He snapped his fingers. "Right! Horace. And didn't he save the town from the flood when the dam broke?"


"Right. You are so cool, knowing that. You read the first book in the series, The Vanishing Shadow. Yes, Horace warned everyone in town that the dam was breaking and saved all their lives. It's a true story too. In real life it was the Austin Dam that broke in 1911, and a boy on a bicycle warned many of the townspeople in time so they could flee up into the hills."


"Awesome! I've driven past the ruins of the Austin Dam a dozen times. I do a lot of hunting in that area. But I never connected it to that mystery story I read when I was kid. Who'd think?"


Julie gave him one of her best smiles. She certainly would like to get to know this guy better. "You know, that makes you an official fan. You read the first book. Most of us Judy Bolton fans will be staying at the Westgate Motel. Why don't you stop by?"


"You bet. If you'll be there."


"That's where I'll be. Where do you stay for hunting? A lodge up in the hills?"


He nodded. "I'm meeting my hunting buddy from Olean. We stay at a small lodge in the hills down by Costello, a little south of Austin, just a cabin actually." He shifted on his feet a little, looking at her curiously. "You know, you really look familiar. Like I already know you or something. Who are you?"


Julie was used to being recognized at times by readers of LifeStyle Magazine. She was often in the photos that accompanied her stories, and because they had been so popular, people often remembered her.


"My name is Julie Kane," she told him, offering her hand. "I'm a reporter for LifeStyles Magazine. Perhaps you've seen me in one of the issues?"


The fellow's mouth opened in a kind of O, and he took a half step back, looking really surprised. Then he grinned, and laughed, shaking her hand "Sheez! Of course I know you. I lived in Asheville near Jamestown until just a few months ago. I've read your stories and seen your pictures. You really get around, girl. My name is Andy. Andy Quade from Meadville PA."


Julie liked the feel of his strong but gentle grip. In fact, she hated to let his hand go. But she did, instantly thinking of Dave way off in Paris and how nice it would be to have a boyfriend nearby, at least.


"Great to meet you, Andy. I'm serious. Stop by the motel if you get tired of hunting. We have a ball at these gatherings. Some of the fans are men too, and lots of the gals bring their husbands. So it's not just a girlie thing."


"Ha! Like that would stop me from looking you up." He grinned, again showing those pretty pearly whites. "You can bet you'll hear from me."


The sun glinting off the red paint on the Cherokee caught Julie's eye, and she patted the SUV affectionately. "This is really a beautiful Jeep."


Andy Quade pulled a key chain out of the pocket of his baggy camouflage pants. "It cost a few bucks but it's really terrific. You can't get a more macho vehicle for a guy, yet it's as classy and comfy as a limousine."


He opened the back hatch window with a key and pulled it up so Julie could see the interior. The back seat was folded down so the cargo space went all the way to the back of the front seat and it was loaded with what was obviously hunting and camping equipment, although she couldn't see it all because he had an old chenille bedspread thrown over to cover it.


"You know how we guys have to have lots of gear. I can carry just about everything I own in here."


Julie laughed, remembering the arguments her mom and dad used to have when packing the trunk before hunting and camping trips. He wanted to bring every bit of gear he could, and she just wanted to bring food and dishes. She reached in to stroke the velvety bedspread which was an unusual shade of gray-green.


"This is lovely," she said. "My mom has an antique shop in Lakewood and you'd be amazed at the prices she puts on spreads like this."


He leaned on the tailgate, very close to her. "I've had that since I was a kid. My buddies get nylon camo blankets for gear-covering. I still use my bedspread from when I was a boy."


Julie found that very endearing, and she knew she could spend the rest of the day talking to this friendly guy. But she had to get a move on, and the forest was waiting.....


She pushed herself away from the Cherokee and stepped back. "Don't forget to look me up in Coudersport. I'm really glad we ran into each other, Andy. But I really must be movin' on."


He put down the hatch window and grabbed his coffee cup off the roof. "Me too. Enjoy that Route 59. It's really awesome, especially by the Kinzua Dam. I'm taking Route 6 down to 219 and then over to Emporium, then over to Costello. But for sure I'll be seeing you soon, Julie Kane."


She took one last look at him and then turned away, a pang of regret mingling with her thudding heart. Now if Dave were still living in New York, where he belonged, he could've come with her this weekend. He always made her heart thud! But, oh well, she shook her head and chuckled as she walked into the restaurant. You can't be a lady Indiana Jones hopping the globe and expect to have a steady boyfriend at your side.


Julie shrugged.  She was like, Just one of the drawbacks of my very fabulous life!


A few minutes later, after having used the bathroom and purchasing a Big Mac and chocolate shake to stoke her up for the rest of the drive, Julie walked into the seating area of the restaurant. There were four young teen boys in one booth, all wearing the obligatory backwards baseball caps and baggy cargo jeans and sweatshirts. Julie wondered why they weren't in school, or maybe there was a school nearby and they'd come for an early lunch?


A couple other booths had young families in them with excited little tots eating their special kids meals, and in another was a hunter in full camouflage gear, gray-green-black blotches, pants and shirt and cap. It made Julie feel warm all over to see hunters, and she smiled. It would always remind her of her dad when she was a little girl. In fact, she made a mental note to buy him a complete new camo outfit when she got back home and make him wear it. He still was lean and tough and handsome, and she'd love to see him outfitted again.


Sitting with the hunter was a girl who looked to be a little younger than Julie. As she sat down in a booth across from them, Julie couldn't help looking at the girl. She was dressed in bell-bottom jeans and a Penn State sweatshirt and, even though she wore huge wrap sunglasses that hid just about half her face, there was something vaguely familiar about her.


Must be the hair, Julie thought as she bit into her Big Mac. It was the very same color as her own.


The girl's hair was the exact auburn-red shade as Julie's, which was not at all very common. In fact, redheads were so few and far between that it always intrigued Julie when she saw another. The girl wore her hair in a very different style, though. It was pulled back severely into a twist on the back of her head with just a couple curly tendrils spinning down the sides.


Hmm, I'll have to try that hairdo, Julie thought. It sure looked great on the girl.


Suddenly the girl looked Julie's way, stared at her for a half a minute or so, and then smiled. Julie was a little embarrassed, caught staring at the girl, but she returned the smile and nodded hello. What the heck, they had the same color hair.


Checking her wrist watch, Julie saw that it was almost noon. If she dilly-dallied along the way, which she knew she would, especially in the national forest, she'd arrive in Coudersport a little before three, perfect time to check into the motel. She knew there would be plenty of other fans arriving today too, and she was anxious to see them again, meet the new ones, and gab about the Judy Bolton books and the weekend festivities. And then there'd be Gina.........


"Hi there!"


Julie's eyes flew up from her burger to see the red-haired girl standing right next to the booth.


"Hello," Julie returned, smiling at the girl and placing her half-eaten Big Mac on the napkin she'd laid out in front of her.


"I love your hair color," the girl said, almost whispering. "Mind if I join you?"


"Not at all, " Julie said, noticing again the vague familiarity of the girl. "Do sit down, please."


Julie saw that the man in the hunting gear with whom the girl had been sitting was watching them from the booth across the way. She couldn't help but wonder what she was getting into.


"Is that your natural color?" the girl asked as she slid into the booth across from Julie.


Julie nodded. "Yes, it was more of a strawberry blonde when I was a little girl, but at about five or six I became a redhead for life."


The girl grinned in what seemed almost a mischievous manner. But Julie really couldn't tell for sure because she couldn't see the girl's eyes because of the big dark glasses.


The redheaded stranger pointed to Julie's sweatshirt. "And you're from way up north in Manitoba?"


"Oh no," Julie said, shaking her head. "I live right up in Jamestown. I was in Manitoba recently on a job assignment."


The girl squealed. Then she laughed and pounded a fist on the table. Then she was all, "I knew it! I knew it! You're Julie Kane! I read your story in LifeStyles about the legends of the Red Death. Ohmygod! It was so weird. That missing Indian princess and the kidnapped symphony conductor from Winnipeg, and all that stuff about the Red Death, the small pox plagues from the past and how the people still feared the legends. And that cute guy Pierre. There was a picture of you with him and the Indian girl. Oh, what was her name? Oh ... Yellow Bird! Sa-weet! What a fabulous life you lead! I am such a totally big fan of yours. I read every one of your stories! And, gosh, that last one, about the girl from Jamestown who'd been killed in the twin towers on 9/11. I was like, oh, this is too much. It was just so huge. My mom and dad and I actually drove to Chautauqua Lake one day to see the memorial they'd put in the park there for her."


Julie sat back, agape at the girl's excitement and surprised at being recognized for a second time that morning. "Yes, I am Julie Kane. But who are you? You look familiar to me, too."


The girl slowly pulled down her glasses so Julie could see her pretty blue eyes. "Don't let the red hair fool you. It's a dye job. But, oh, I really like it. I'm actually a blonde."


Julie's brows furrowed and she just stared. It was as if her mind had gone completely blank. Who was this bubbly, friendly girl?


But the pretty redhead with the 'dye job' beamed happily. "This traveling incognito is really working. Yobs, it's a blast! I love it!" She leaned across the table toward Julie and added, "I'll give you a little clue..."


And then, to Julie's complete astonishment, the girl started singing in a subdued but very familiar voice:


"Loving you has given me

Wings to fly....................."

Julie's eyes widened and her hands flew up to her cheeks in surprise as it finally dawned on her.


Then, she was totally like, "Gina! Ohmygod! It's you. Gina Sabreen...............!" 



Click here for Chapter Two!
 


Saturday, September 24, 2011

RICK BRANT GOLDEN DRAGON 8

All chapters through chapter 8 are now available on this alternate site:

THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN DRAGON
https://sites.google.com/site/rickbrantfanfiction/dragon



THE QUEST OF THE GOLDEN DRAGON

or THE SOUTH SEAS CITY OF DEATH MYSTERY

A Rick Brant fan-written adventure from 1959, a sequel to The Phantom Shark.
To get all the chapters, click on 'Golden Dragon' under Labels on side panel.



Chapter Eight: DAREDEVIL FLIGHT TO RABAUL


Rick Brant had driven the motorboat all night on the waters of the Solomon Sea, guided by the moonlight and the ever present shadow of the island of New Britain. He was filled with the exuberance of being free and the thrill of getting closer to Rabaul where the final plans would be laid in the search to find his father.

It was now early morning and the light of the moon high overhead drenched everything in silver. Far to the east on the starboard side Rick could see dawn's early bright, a peachy-pink glow slivered along the horizon. The compass on the dash pointed due north; the island coast had changed direction from east-west to north-south as it curved up toward its northeastern tip where lay Rabaul.

Scotty and Jimmy were sprawled out on the floor behind Rick, fast asleep. After their escape, when they knew the Mirandu to be far behind them, they had stopped to refuel from the supply in the storage locker. Then Rick's two friends had sacked out to rest as he piloted the craft for hours with the hot tropical wind ruffling his hair and the coconut palms swaying to and fro on the dark shore. Caught in the spell of the South Seas night, fueled by the urgency of his quest, Rick felt like he wouldn't need to sleep for the entire week to come!

The sea was calm now. The swells were gone, replaced by flat waters with barely a ripple. But Rick kept an eye out for broken water. It was unlikely there would be reefs this far out but he knew it was best to be on the safe side of caution so they'd get safely to the Meena Islands, which lay directly ahead.

"Just follow the coast." Jimmy had told him before falling asleep, "and you'll run right into them."

In Meena Town there would be a government official to talk to, someone to inform about the pirate attack on the Mirandu. And there might be a better connection to Rabaul, still a few hundred miles on, like a faster boat or even an airplane.

Rick grinned, thinking how great an airplane ride would be after this all-night escapade in the motorboat!

  Then, suddenly, he realized it was lighter. The peachy eastern horizon was streaming upward into a lemon-yellow glaze through which wispy cotton-like clouds were lazily drifting. The moonlight was gone and the few remaining stars could barely be seen in the milky glare.

With a catch of his breath, Rick slowed the boat as it unexpectedly came upon the Meena Islands, as if they had suddenly jumped out of the sea at him.  His dad and Dr. Warren had scheduled a visit to a plantation on the island of Meena in a couple weeks, the Meenas being an important station for copra and other products of the South Pacific. But Rick doubted that would happen now. His visit here today would be just a quick stop, instead.

The beauty of the islands was unearthly in the strange dawn light. He drove slowly past small atolls and coral rock islands, some with white sandy beaches where the palm trees leaned far over the shore. Low native huts hid in the foliage and shadows moved about from the rising sun and drifting clouds like players in a game of intrigue. With the sun's rays slanting on the waters, Rick could see coral gardens below of brilliant colors and fantasy formations as the skiff cruised right over them.

"Holy cow! Look at all that stuff down there!" he heard Scotty burst out from behind him.

Rick turned to see his friend still sprawled on the floor but leaning up on one of the seats looking over the side. "It'd sure be a great place to do some scuba diving," he said. "These must be the Meena Islands. They're pretty close to the coast of New Britain."

"Lots of them, too." Scotty pulled himself up to a sitting position and swept his eyes around at the island-dotted sea. "Hundreds probably."

"Three hundred and fifty-nine, to be exact," Jimmy spoke out with a chuckle, rolling over on his back to look up at the sky. "Wow, it's dawn. Sure is pretty. You've been driving all night, Rick! Tired?"

"No way. I'm too excited. How often do you get to escape from cutthroat pirates in the South Seas?"

Jimmy chuckled. "Not often. In fact, it's the first time for me, and I live here!"

"That's because," Scotty intoned in a superior voice, "you needed the company of Rick and me to qualify for such an experience. Why, we've had major adventures in such far-flung places as Tibet and New Caledonia and ... and ... and Connecticut!"

Jimmy gaped at him, brows furrowed. "Connecticut?"

"You bet," Scotty grunted, shrugging his shoulders. "That's one of the forty-eight states. Strange things seem to happen to us everywhere." He pointed at Rick. "It has something to do with Junior Scientist there. He has weird karma or something."

"You're wrong about that, Mr. Scott," Rick tossed back. "It's good karma. We managed to get through it all unscathed - even last night, escaping the pirates. I'd say good vibrations are working on our side!"

 The boys all grinned for they did indeed feel lucky to have made such a clean getaway. Rick continued to navigate between the islands, some of them looming closer together now. Barriers of coral reef could now be seen forming protective lagoons to keep rough seas away, and the sun's rays on the aquamarine waters made the abundant coral gardens below sparkle with color.

Jimmy joined Rick on the front seat and pointed to a big island straight ahead. "That's Meena Town up there."

Rick could see a low huddle of buildings on the shore, the sun winking off of metal roofs. Broken water showed a barrier reef forming a sizable lagoon . A shipping channel had obviously been cut through the reef, as there were a number of boats docked at the two piers ashore - a schooner, trawlers, launches, and even a small tanker.

"I came here a couple of times with my dad when I was a kid," Jimmy said. "You can see the reef break where there isn't any foaming water. It's big. Just stay on center and you'll go right through it."

By the time they reached the reef the dawn had dissolved into a bright sunny day. Rick easily kept the boat on course through the break and they entered the big lagoon where signs of life were already beginning to appear in the port. Native workers could be seen on the piers and up by the sheds, and a couple small trawlers were already making their way out for the day's fishing.

Rick saw a church with a steeple on the road cutting through the town. There were European-style bungalows nearby it and many native homes leading up into the bush. As the skiff approached the nearest pier, the boys saw a man standing at the end of it dressed in an official-looking uniform. He pulled off his cap and waved it at them as they neared.

"Looks like we have a welcoming committee," Scotty said, leaning between Rick and Jimmy to get a better look. "Who is he, I wonder?"

"Could be the resident magistrate," Jimmy suggested, "the District Officer. But no need to worry, these Aussies are all pretty decent. Of course, we must look an awful sight riding in a stolen boat full of weapons!"

Scotty bopped Jimmy on the shoulder. "I'll hold you personally responsible if we end up in some kind of South Sea island prison!"

"Me?" Jimmy looked at him incredulously. "It's you guys that every black-hearted cutthroat in the Solomon Sea is after, not me!"

"Whoa!" Rick suddenly shouted excitedly as he gaped ahead. "Man, do you guys see what I see?"

Both boys followed his gaze and saw up ahead, moored to the pier, a bush plane on floats that until now had been hidden from view by the rusty old tanker.

"I see it!" Scotty enthused, grinning broadly. "And I want to be in it. Whoosh! Cruising high in the sunny blue sky!"

"It's a possibility," Jimmy declared. "Some of the islands have air service now and that one looks like it could hold all three of us and the pilot, too!"

"It can hold six to eight passengers," Rick told him. "That's a twin-engine DeHavilland Dragon, made in Canada. Wow, I'd sure like to take that baby for a spin!"

The light transport biplane had high and low wings and was painted a drab military green with orange call letters on its side and a colorful national flag on its tail.

"It could have been a war plane," Jimmy mused. "It's got New Zealand's flag on it."

"Rick actually owns an airplane," Scotty told him. "A Piper Cub. It's smaller than that one and only seats two, but we fly it all over the place at home."

"I wish we had it here today," Rick said, guiding the boat to the side of the pier. "We could stop here for breakfast and then head right up to Rabaul."

"Maybe we can get that Dragon." Jimmy looked hopefully up to the man awaiting them on the pier. "This fellow ought to be able to tell us if it's available."

He tossed a rope up to the official who had put his cap back on and seemed eager to help them. The man caught the rope and fastened it to a bollard as Rick maneuvered the motorboat into position next to a ladder. Scotty fastened a rope on the stern to an iron ring on one of the support posts. The man above placed his hands on his hips and looked down at them with interest. His gaze fixed on the rifles, machete, and cartridge belts laying on the floor of the skiff.

"Howdy!" Scotty called to him, as he stooped to stash the pirate weapons and their backpacks in the storage locker. "A fine morning, isn't it?"

"I daresay it's a real topper!" the fellow responded. He was a middle-aged man with slightly graying hair and a military bearing. But his smile was pleasant and his friendliness was genuine. "You must be the young chaps from the Mirandu, eh?"

Rick switched off the engine and looked up at him in surprise. "You know what happened? Already? The pirates ...?"

The official gave him a quick nod. "We received a dispatch from Captain Ambrose early this morning. Apparently the pirates were after you three lads. Once they learned you had gotten away with one of their boats, they abandoned ship. After, of course, they robbed a few unfortunate passengers of their valuables, the scum-bumbles!"

"Ha! I suppose they had to get something for their trouble," Jimmy scoffed as he climbed up the ladder to the pier deck. "Hello there." He proffered his hand, adding, "I'm Jimmy Timateo from Lateela Island. These two fellow are Rick Brant and Don Scott from Spindrift Island, way across the world in the USA."

The man grinned, shaking Jimmy's hand and Rick's and Scotty's in turn, as they climbed onto the pier. "Well, I guess we're all islanders, eh? Welcome to Meena Town, lads. I'm Fitzroy Manders, the District Officer, at your service!"

"That was quite a tale Captain Ambrose had to tell," he went on. "You three blokes are as game as young fighting cocks! First the pirates try to kill one of you, then you steal their very own boat to make a getaway. Good show! You ought to be dead fagged-out by now, eh?"

Scotty grinned at the friendly man. "Heck no. We're rarin' to go! We have to get to Rabaul as soon as possible."

Rick pointed to the floating Dragon moored up the pier. "Is that plane available?"

Manders nodded. "It may well be. It belongs to one of our residents. He transports freight and passengers all over the islands, so possibly he can accommodate you if he's not already booked today. I can take you to his place now, if you'd like. It's still early, but he's usually up at dawn and ready to fly."

"Excellent!" Rick was eager to get on with it. "The sooner we can get going, the better."

"Then come with me," the official said, gesturing up the pier. "Pocka Poco is the fellow's name and he flew transport throughout New Guinea during the war. He's a very experienced pilot."

The foursome walked up the pier past the boats and early morning workers, most of whom were kanaka natives or Oriental laborers. When they reached the Dragon, the boys had to stop to admire the biplane. Rick could feel himself just itching to get in the cockpit and take it up.

"I've never flown a plane quite that big," he said. "But I'd sure like to!"

"Pocka bought it after the war," Manders told them. "The New Zealand Air Force has a fleet of them for search and rescue in their rugged wilderness areas. It's perfect for island hopping. Pocka's an old campaigner. He'll get you there to Rabaul before you can say 'knife'!"

As they walked on toward town, they gave Manders a brief rundown of their activities the night before. He told them that the Mirandu had got its engines going again after the pirates had disembarked, and the ship had gotten back on course. It would stop in Meena Town later in the day, but outside the reef. The freighter was too big to come into the shipping channel and lagoon.

"Those scum-bucket pirates are nothing but a bunch of wankers," the magistrate declared. Then he looked at the boys curiously. "You never know when they are going to attack in these waters, but it sure crowns all that they have a personal vendetta against you fellows. You'd better keep on all fours!"

"We sure will," Rick nodded, glad that the man didn't pry further into their affairs and ask questions he didn't want to have to answer.

They walked up the main street of Meena Town past some commercial buildings and the government office, a couple hotels, and a handful of restaurants, mostly of the Chinese variety. It was early yet and the street was mostly deserted. Pigs wandered freely, grunting and rooting, and hens scratched about aimlessly as if they might actually find something edible in the hot dirt.

The magistrate led them into the bush and coconut palms down a narrow lane that was barely a path. Here there were clusters of native homes hidden from the hot sun by the jungle foliage. Manders stopped in front a primitive bungalow similar to the ones where Jimmy lived on Lateela Island, and knocked sharply on the door.

He grinned at the boys. "Let me warn you. Pocka is a real character, capable of anything."

Rick nodded in return. "Good. Then we ought to really like him!"

The door was pulled open from within by a kanaka man dressed in short pants and a sleeveless tee-shirt. He looked to be in his thirties, tall, muscular and lean, and he had a bush of dark curly hair and bold native features. He nodded at Manders with a friendly smile and looked the boys over, his eyes resting on Jimmy.

"Gawd blimey, boy!" he rapped out, chuckling. "I've seen blond brothers before on these islands, all shades from pink to brown, but never one like you with blue Chinese eyes!"

Jimmy responded to this unexpected salutation with a proud beaming smile. "I am definitely one in a million, sir. There's nobody else like me in all of New Guinea!"

"You can bet money on that, buster. I've been all around and up and down this land, and you're an original," Pocka Poco's  laughing eyes then turned to Manders and he asked, "So what's up, boss? Where'd you dig these boys up, eh?"

"They've got pirates after them, Pocka. The no good freebooters boarded the Mirandu last night and were looking to kill them. Scotty here got shot at. Rick saved his life by thwarting the gunman." He gave him a brief rundown of the incident and the following escape from the freighter.

"Well, now you're talkin'!" Pocka grinned at the boys approvingly. "Anyone who outsmarts those wicked picaroons is a friend of mine. But what can I do for you blokes, eh? Sounds like you can sure as heck take care of yourselves."

"We have to get to Rabaul as soon as possible," Rick told him. "Like today. This afternoon. Can you fly us there in your Dragon?"

Pocka Poco looked at them with suspicious narrowed eyes. "Hmmmm ... runnin' away from pirates ... in a hurry to get to Rabaul? Are you guys on the level? Not in any trouble, are you?"

"We're as level as can be," Rick said in urgent tones. "We're on the trail of a couple missing people, my dad and his friend. We think the pirates got them and they obviously want us, too. Out of the way, you can bet!"

The native man let out a low whistle. "Blimey, but that's some pretty serious stuff!" Then he looked from Rick to Scotty and back again. "Are you boys American?"

"You bet," Scotty answered proudly. "We're from the state of New Jersey, near New York City."

Pocka nodded solemnly and then winked at Fitzroy Manders. "Then you're darn tootin' right-o I gotta help you out! If the Americans hadn't come here to New Guinea during the war, we'd all be speaking Japanese and bowing to each other all day long like a bunch of silly marionettes!"

"All right!" Rick couldn't help exclaiming, his face splitting into a big wide grin. "What time can we go? We're like totally in a hurry to get there."

Pocka checked his wrist watch. "How about in an hour? Go back to town and get some breakfast. Manders will show you where. Then I'll meet you on the pier at nine. I'll get you there hotfoot in a couple hours. We'll fly like the wind, chaps. Like the blimey wind!"

Little did the boys know how true his words would be!

Manders walked them back to town and deposited them at a small European-style hotel where the restaurant was just opening. While the boys awaited their order, the official took out a small notebook and pen from his pocket and took some statements from them about the pirate attack and attempted murder. He agreed to take care of the weapons and motorboat for them, obviously stolen pirate loot. They all agreed there was probably a stolen property report on the skiff somewhere in the islands. When their food was served the magistrate bid them good luck and left the boys to their breakfast, which they ravenously enjoyed after their long night's journey on the water.

At nine sharp the boys were back on the pier and, as Scotty went to retrieve the backpacks from the motorboat, Rick and Jimmy watched Pocka get his Dragon ready for flight. Soon it was fueled and the engine was ticking and the twin propellers whirling. Rick and Jimmy climbed down the ladder to the bottom wing and then up into the plane. There were four rows of double seats behind the solo-seat cockpit, and they took the seats in the first row behind the pilot.

Pocka was now wearing a colorful Hawaiian shirt and pilot goggles and he turned to give Rick and Jimmy a nod and a thumb-up sign as Scotty untied the moorings outside and shoved the plane away from the dock.

"Hey, Pocka," he asked, after he had climbed into the cabin and taken a seat behind Rick. "What are you wearing goggles for? Your cockpit isn't outside like on the old-fashioned planes."

As they fastened their seat belts, Pocka looked back with a wolfish grin. Rick thought he looked like a bug in a flower garden with his bushy hair and big round goggles atop the colorful flower-patterned shirt.

"I gotta look cool for the ladies, man," he rapped. "When I walk around Rabaul Town dressed like this, the marys  all come over squealin'!"

Then, he looked back ahead through his windshield and shouted, "Chins up, chaps! Time to put the ol' iron up our backs!"

The Dragon shot ahead with such a sudden thrust of power that the boys were pressed back hard against their seats. Rick's mouth fell open as the plane's upper wing missed the rusty tanker moored next to it only by inches. His hands gripped the arms of the seat and his eyes bulged as the plane shot out into the lagoon and Pocka let out a wild "Yahoo!" and pointed the craft at the reef.

"Hey, you'll crash right onto that coral reef!" Scotty was saying at the same time Rick was saying, "Jeez, man!", and Jimmy cried out, "Yow! Where ya goin'?"

Pocka guffawed as he horsed back the stick. "Up, brother Blue Eyes! Up, up, and awaaaaaay!"

The Dragon lifted in such an unexpected sharp steep climb that the thrust almost dropped the boys' stomachs right out of them. Rick had never experienced such a quick sudden take-off and all he could do was look ahead out the windshield at the blue sky above that they were screaming up into.

"For cryin' out loud," he grunted. "This is like a rocket to the moon!"

Scotty snorted, his blood leaping in his veins. "The Spindrift rocket to the moon didn't even go this fast!"

Jimmy sat open-mouthed, gripping the arm rests. "If you keep this up, that breakfast I just ate will be all over this cabin!"

"Thought I'd hit the reef, didn't ya, eh?" Pocka's voice slapped out. "This sweetie-pie can take off on a dime. If you know how to do it, that is. Whammo! Right up into the pretty blue! Howzabout it, you blokes?"

The airplane leveled off and Rick felt a moment's relief as the pressure eased. But the next thing he knew, the Dragon went into a straight line rollover and he and Scotty and Jimmy were all shouting:

"Whoa ... oa ... oa ... oa!"

"Yow! Yikes! You're killin' me!"

"Aaaaghh! Aaaiiiieeee ...."

Pocka Poco was chuckling and hooting away and he banged happily on the instrument panel as he leveled the plane. "And you boys thought the pirates were somethin', eh? Five makes you ten you'll remember this better!"

And with that, the Dragon went into a sudden downward spiral, spinning and spinning as it headed straight down toward the blue waters. Gritting his teeth, Rick could feel zero gravity as the plane plunged and spun around and around as he and Scotty and Jimmy were yelling:

"Stop it, man! Stop it!"

"Yo-o-o-o-o-o! If I get my darn hands on you, buster ...."

"Yow! We're gonna hit that water, you ... you ...!

But Pocka pulled back the Dragon and leveled her off at what looked to Rick like five feet above the water and then shot ahead seeming almost to touch the pristine blueness of it.

Rick's heart was banging. "How the heck can you do that with those big floats on the plane?"

"Skill. Total skill, chum," the pilot chuckled, and he pulled back on the stick, heading the plane skyward again.

Jimmy was groaning. "That's enough to make me want to jump out and swim back to shore!"

"C'mon, don't let it beat your ears down," Pocka jeered. "I was just sayin' goodbye to my neighbors on the island. They've grown to expect some kind of antics from me."

"Talk about beating ears down," Scotty whispered to Rick. "Wait till I get him on some solid ground!"

"You don't do that every time you leave with passengers, do you?" Rick asked in astonishment.

"Naw, nobody'd fly with me." Pocka turned to look at them. "I'm hip, boys. That scares the heck out of people.  I just figured you guys would like it!"

The three boys exchanged glances. Rick rolled his eyes. Scotty grinned and shrugged his shoulders. Jimmy made a sour expression and grunted.

"You could've warned us first," he said, managing an ornery smile. "If you're gonna do any more stunts, let us know beforehand! Jeez!"

Then Rick and Scotty and Jimmy all looked at each other and burst out laughing, but hooting even louder was Pocka, and a couple times he banged on his instrument panel for effect.

The boys knew that he was right; they would indeed remember Pocka and his Dragon even better than the pirates!

But the rest of the flight to Rabaul went without event, and the boys stomachs and heartbeats soon settled down. The Dragon flew as smooth and steady as an albatross as the boys gazed out the side windows at the scenery below. The Solomon Sea stretched starboard to the east as far as the eye could see, blue and endless in the glare of the tropical sun. Port side was New Britain, relentless jungle and mighty mountain peaks. It was a land of eerie mystery to the outer world, Rick knew, but merely plain old home to area natives like Jimmy and Pocka.

The pilot from Meena Town gave them a running commentary about the coastline and rapped out stories about his flying experiences during the war. "That's how I learned daredevil stunts," he explained. "You had to be pretty clever to stay away from those Japanese kamikaze pilots!"

He told them that he had bought the Dragon from the New Zealand Air Force after the war and was one of the first practicing bush pilots in modern New Guinea. Rick was impressed with the man's prowess in the cockpit, but he had no desire himself to learn any daredevil stunt flying.

At length, another large island came into view starboard, all dense green jungle and high mountain ranges. It was New Ireland, Pocka told them, another province of New Guinea, and they flew up the St. George's Channel which separated it from New Britain. This eventually opened into The Straits of Bismarck, a vast sea between the islands dotted with thousands of smaller islands. Rick knew that one of them, hoped that one of them, was their destination Palua Pae.

On the Gazelle Peninsula, at the very tip of New Britain as it opened to the Bismarck Straits, lay the city of Rabaul. The first sight of its incredible harbor from the sky was thrilling.

"Check it out!" Scotty pointed out the port side window. "Lookit! It doesn't look real."

Rick peered through the glass. "Volcanoes! Man, there's two, no four, no five of them! Wow, and all smokin' like crazy!"

"It's a caldera," Pocka explained, banking the plane so they'd get a better view. "A bowl-like ring of volcanoes wrapping around the harbor. They say there's no other place like it in the world!"

The beautiful harbor was indeed shaped like a bowl, surrounded three-quarters of its perimeter by mountains and five active volcanoes spewing out clouds of ash high into the sky.

"That's Vulcan," Jimmy said, pointing out the window. "There, on the southwestern edge of the harbor. And the big one on the other side, northeast there, that's Tavurver. They're the biggest and most dangerous of the volcanoes, blowing all the time."

"Vulcan used to be an island,' he went on, "but about ten years ago it blew its top and grew into a mountain from the ash and rock it spewed up. The fallout destroyed the town, buried it. But the people came back and rebuilt it. How could they stay away from such a beautiful place, eh?"

"They'll always come back to Rabaul Town," Pocka tossed in. "It could happen again and again but the people would always return. There's no other paradise like it!"

Rick totally agreed. He had never seen such a beautiful sight as the jungle island harbor below surrounded with smoking volcanoes. It was a perfect circle of deep blue waters, dazzling in the sunlight, a sight worth coming all this way just to see it. On the beach in the center was the town, and behind it the jungle easing up in waves of green darkness to the thick dense highlands beyond.

The sight gripped him strongly and he felt a sudden pang in his breast, a quick unwelcome fear. Would they find his dad and Dr. Warren here? If not, would they at least unearth a clue to help guide them on their quest?

The irony of the situation was not lost on him. Here was one of the true beauty spots of the world, glorious under the blazing tropical sun, but it was only the ugliness of evil that followed behind them and almost certainly that awaited ahead!



Coming Soon: Chapter Nine!


Friday, September 9, 2011

RICK BRANT AUTHOR 1945 PULP STORY

HAL GOODWIN WORLD WAR 2 PULP ROMANCE

Hal Goodwin, author of the Rick Brant boys adventure series from the 1940s - 1960s also wrote for the pulp fiction magazines in the 1940s when he was a war correspondent in the South Pacific. He wrote under several pseudonyms, one of them being Shelby Grant. Here is a story of his that was included in the February 1945 ALL-STORY LOVE pulp magazine about a soldier who is returning home from the war in the Pacific to something even worse - girl problems! Click on the images to enlarge them for reading. Then click on URL to bottom left of image to enlarge further.












Wednesday, August 10, 2011

RICK BRANT THE PHANTOM SHARK

 THE MYTHICAL TERROR OF THE SOUTH SEAS

This is an in-depth article about the Rick Brant book The Phantom Shark that appeared in the April 2001 Yellowback Library fanzine. Click on the images to enlarge for reading. Then click on the URL at bottom left of image to enlarge further.









To read The Quest of the Golden Dragon, the fan-written sequel to The Phantom Shark, being presented on this blog in serial format,
click HERE for Chapter One: STEALTH IN THE NIGHT


Thursday, July 28, 2011

RICK RAIDER ETERNAL FLAME 6


RICK RAIDER: THE SEARCH FOR THE ETERNAL FLAME
copyright 2011 Stratomiker Syndicate

To get all the chapters click on 'Eternal Flame' on the sidebar.



Chapter Six: THE ELYSIAN FIELDS


Rick and Sally stared at each other for a moment, exchanging worried glances. The war between the Olympians and Zaxxons was over, and the Zaxxons had won it! And even though the robot was still smiling, they knew he was extremely upset.

"This is terrible, Princess," ABL089 said into the communicator. "Where are the King and Queen? Why are you at your uncle's villa?"


"My mother and father are being held captive in the Royal Palace by the Zaxxons," came Princess Athena's reply. "I was lucky enough to escape when the soldiers came, and I rode one of the horses out here to Uncle Orion's villa. But he's gone too! He went to Zaxxonia in search of Apollo."


ABL089 looked at Rick and Sally and shook his head in frustration. "What in the name of Andromeda are we going to do?" he asked. Then, to Princess Athena, "But don't worry, Princess, I'll soon be with you. And the Earthlings are terrific young people, just like you and Prince Apollo. Together we'll figure it all out."


"I hope so, Abey. I'll be waiting here for you. Lock into my laser beam with your ship's computer for landing guidance. May good fortune be with you!"


"And also with you, Princess." ABL089 slipped the microphone back onto the panel and hurried over to the control desk. Rick and Sally watched as he flipped several levers and typed a code on the row of keys.


"Now Aristotle is on laser guidance," he said, "and the beam from Princess Athena's unit will guide us to our landing place at the Elysian Fields."


Sally anxiously drummed her fingers on the control desk. Her faint smile held a touch of sadness. She was like, "Oh, Abey! The Princess is in a whole lot of danger. If the Zaxxons have the rest of the Royal Family in captivity, they'll want her too!"


"Right," Rick readily agreed, his hands on his hips and his face grim. "We've got to think of a way to protect her."


"We definitely can't stay at Orion's villa," ABL089 said. "The soldiers will surely look for her there.  That's where they found Apollo. We'll have to flee, but I don't know where to!"


"Yo, what's up?" Charlie asked as he came into the control room. "Why do we have to flee?"
Rick filled him in on the sudden turn of events.


Charlie groaned, all, "Talk about radical! This situation gets worse every minute." He turned to the robot. "But don't worry, Abey. Rick will think of something. He always does."


Rick grinned at Charlie's expression of confidence. "I sure hope I can this time. How are the officers?"


"They finally all came to. But they're still pretty out of it. I told them what's happened and they agreed to stay in there and rest. But Captain Ion insisted we call him when it's time to land the ship."


ABL089 nodded. "I'll let them rest a spell before telling them about the dreadful outcome of the war. It'll be a while yet before we land."


Rick was gazing thoughtfully at the glowing planet of Teutron on the viewscreen. "Tell us about the Eternal Flame, Abey. Why is it so terrible that the Zaxxons have stolen it?"


"Whoever possesses the Eternal Flame rules the planet," the robot explained. "It's the tradition on Teutron and nothing could change it, not even a signed edict from the gods. The Olympians have held the Eternal Flame for thousands of years and, because they are peace-loving people, they have allowed the Zaxxons to be free. But now that the Zaxxons possess the Eternal Flame, they'll no doubt turn Olympus into a military state. There will be no freedom for the Olympians!"


Sally frowned. "But why is the possession of the Eternal Flame of such great significance that it gives control over the entire planet? It doesn't make sense, tradition or not."


"It's the War Law of Teutron," ABL089 said. "You see, thousands of years ago there was a great nuclear war between the two nations of the planet. The Olympians conquered the Zaxxons, who had begun the Great War. But almost every one of the planet's great cities had been destroyed, and millions of lives were lost."


"Yow, that's pretty dreadful," Charlie said. "Thousands of people all over Earth are calling for nuclear disarmament. The same thing could happen there!"


"It certainly could," the robot agreed. "And for the sake of your people, I hope it doesn't. After the Great War on Teutron, the rulers of both nations met and signed the agreements known as the War Law. It strictly forbids the production or use of any nuclear weapons on the planet, in times of peace or war. At this same meeting, the Eternal Flame, then used for the Annual Games in Olympia, was placed in a golden vessel and given to the Olympian King as a token of victory. It was taken to the new site of the city of Olympia, for the old city had been destroyed by the warheads, and enshrined in the Temple of the Sun. The War Law states that whichever nation possesses the Eternal Flame rules the planet, and throughout the ages this law has been respected and upheld."


"A wise decision," Rick said. "It probably saved Teutron from another nuclear holocaust."
Sally shook her head sadly. "But now the Zaxxons have the Eternal Flame, and with it the rule of the planet."


"And the Olympians will no longer live in freedom," ABL089 added.


Charlie growled in frustration. "If only there was something we could do!"


"There is!"


It was Rick who had spoken, and in a low firm voice. The others all looked at him and saw the grim determination on his face.


Then he was like, "When we land on Teutron we'll go and find this Eternal Flame!"


Charlie gaped at him quizically for a moment, then excitement flamed in his eyes. "Dude! Right! We'll find the Eternal Flame for the Olympians same as we found the missing Yukon expedition last winter."


Sally beamed too, catching their passion. She was all, "Totally! Ohmygod, it'll be huge! And we'll rescue Prince Apollo too. Then the Olympians will be sure to reward us by taking us back to Earth."


ABL089 looked pretty astounded. "Do you think you can do all that?"


"Of course we can," Rick said. "There's a way to accomplish anything that has to be done. We'll just have to figure it out."


Charlie put his arm around the robot's shoulder. "And we'll change the Olympians' opinion of Earthlings too. Completely!"


Sally pointed to the viewscreen. "Look, you can see the two continents of Teutron now."


On the screen was the image of the planet, its two great continents now clearly defined. In the northern extremities the two masses of land almost touched each other, separated only by a narrow channel of water. Southward, the waters widened into a mighty sea and the lower regions of the continents wrapped around the globe.


ABL089 pointed to the left side of the screen. "That's Olympus, and Zaxxonia is on the right. The Elysian Fields are in the northern tip of Olympus, near the channel separating the continents." He pointed to the location of the Elysian Fields and then to the site of the city of Olympia, not far west of it.


"There's a place called the Elysian Fields in the mythology of Earth's ancient Greeks," Rick told him. "It's supposed to be a beautiful land where those who lived good lives go after they die."


The robot looked fascinated. "Then it's similar to the Elysian Fields of Olympus. Ours is a delightful region populated mostly by retired folks. Unfortunately, we'll have to leave the district as soon as we land. We've got to take the Princess to a place where the Zaxxons can't find her."


Sally got up from her seat at the control desk. "Charlie, will you take over? There's something I want to do for the Princess."


"Sure." He took the empty seat. "What's up? What are you going to do?"


"You'll find out later." She smiled mysteriously as she left the control room.


Charlie shook his head as he eyed the controls. "Humphh! Girls! They always have to have secrets."


As the ship flew towards Teutron, ABL089 and the boys remained at the control station discussing the turn of events on the planet and the courses of action open to them after landing.


"Where's the last place the Zaxxons would look for the Princess?" Rick asked.


"Why, in Zaxxonia, of course," was ABL089's quick reply.


Rick nodded thoughtfully. "Then that's where we ought to go."


Charlie agreed. "Good idea. They'll never think of looking for her in their own country. And I'll bet that's where they've taken the Eternal Flame."


"And Prince Apollo too," Rick added.


"I think you've got the right idea," ABL089 agreed. "We can escape the Zaxxons and search for Prince Apollo and the Eternal Flame all at the same time."


Rick looked up at the viewscreen. "Abey, is there a way we can cross the channel from Olympus to Zaxxonia?"


"I'm sure we can find some means of transportation, Rick. Orion owns an airship, the latest model. Perhaps it's still at his villa."


"Perfect." Rick crossed his fingers hopefully. "I hope it's there. There's no time to waist once we land. We have to get Princess Athena out of Olympus as fast as possible."


When landing time was near, Rick and Charlie went to sick bay to inform the crew. Although still weak from their injuries, Captain Ion and Officer Polamus returned to the control room with the boys. The other two men were unable to resume their responsibilities and had to remain on the bunks.


ABL089 told the Captain and his mate about the recent occurrences on Teutron and that the ship would be landing at the Elysian Fields rather than at the Olympia spaceport. The officers took this news with the calm reserve common to military men and proceedings were begun for landing.
After entering the atmosphere, the spaceship was soon sailing smoothly over the surface of Teutron. Rick and Charlie watched the viewscreen as the craft flew over a rugged mountain range riddled with glaciers, and then down to a district of rolling hills and orchards.


"We're now flying over the Elysian Fields," ABL089 said from his post at the communications panel. "In a few minutes we'll arrive at Orion's villa."


Sally came into the control room and greeted the two officers.  "We're almost there!" she said excitedly.


Charlie eyed her curiously. "What have you been doing?"


"I was in the lounge. I baked more brownies and cookies with Aunt Bea's supplies. That spectra-wave oven in the galley is outta sight! It works ten times as fast as the microwaves we have on Earth."


Charlie gave her a dirty look. He was all totally, "Puh! Thanks for bringing me some to eat. I'm freakin' starving."


Sally wrinkled her nose at him. "Dude, you are always starving. They're for the Princess, anyway. I hope she likes them."


"You can count on it that she will," said Officer Polamus, who was sitting with the Captain at the control desk. "I've never tasted anything here on Teutron with that unique flavor in those food samples I found on Earth."


"You must mean the chocolate," Rick said. "It comes from the cocoa bean, the seed of the cacao tree that grows in the tropical Americas on Earth."


"I wonder if we have any such plant growing here on Teutron," Captain Ion mused. "Why don't you check it out, Abey?"


The robot nodded and closed his eyes. The others could hear the whirring in his head as he checked his memory banks. When his eyes opened, he said, "I have no data of a similar plant in existence on our planet. There's also no word for 'chocolate' in any of the contemporary Teutronic languages. It must be a commodity particular to Earth."


Charlie hooted, all,  "Man, do I ever feel sorry for Teutronites. Life without chocolate! Who could imagine? That's what I call majorly deprived."


"Well, get yourself prepared for deprivation," Sally told him. "That's just what we'll be experiencing when our supply of cookies and brownies is gone."


Rick smiled to himself. Here they were, landing a spaceship on a planet besieged by worldwide war, in a nation now occupied by a barbarian enemy, and they were all talking about chocolate.


"Some good might come out of this trip to Teutron after all," he said. "I think Charlie's going to lose those extra pounds he's been carrying around lately."


Charlie sneered at him. "Think so, huh? Don't count on it. I'll find something on this planet to eat!"


Just then, the spaceship approached a populated area and they all turned to look at the viewscreen. Scattered here and there amongst the rolling fields were large stone villas. Captain Ion guided the ship above them to an open field aside one of the homes, and then he and Officer Polamus brought the craft down to a gentle landing.


"Home at last!" ABL089 croaked happily as he left his post at the communications panel and crossed to the control desk. "Captain, I must report directly to the Princess. I'll take Rick, Charlie and Sally with me."


"Certainly." Captain Ion turned to Rick, Charlie and Sally and thanked them for their help in saving the ship and its crew from disaster. "Unfortunately, this is not a good time for you to visit Teutron," he added. "But King Pallas will be informed of the help you've given us and, should Olympus once again rule the planet, he will see to it that you are properly rewarded."


"The only reward we want is to be taken back to Earth," Rick told him. "Olympus must rule again. That's the bottom line!"


After leaving the control room, they followed ABL089 to the lounge. The robot took his flight bag from a cupboard and, after adding to its contents the cookies and brownies Sally had baked, they hurried down the corridor and out the lowered ramp.

Awaiting them in the field were several servants from Orion's villa. One of them, a tall woman dressed in a simple tunic-like gown, stepped forward to greet them.  "Abey! What good fortune that you have safely returned. Are these the Earthlings you told the Princess about?"


"Indeed they are," he nodded eagerly, introducing them to the woman whose name was Hestia, the housekeeper at Orion's villa.


With an expression of awe she greeted Rick, Charlie and Sally, welcoming them to Teutron. Then she turned and gave orders to the other servants who had been standing there gawking at them.

As the servants hurried up the ramp to carry out the orders and attend to the crew, Hestia gestured to follow her.
"Come, we must hurry. Princess Athena has already left the villa. She was afraid to stay any longer in case the Zaxxon soldiers came back looking for her."


ABL089 was dismayed. He was all, "The Princess isn't here? Where did she go?"


As they hurried across the field to the villa, Hestia told them that Princess Athena had gone to Elysia, a nearby resort town, and that she wanted them to meet her there at a night club called the New Wave Canteen.


"She rode her horse to Elysia," Hestia added. "There are four other stallions in the corral saddled and ready for you."


"What about Orion's airship?" the robot asked. "Is it not here?"


"No, he flew off in it yesterday to Zaxxonia, the old fool!" Hestia rolled her eyes in dismay. "He went alone to look for Prince Apollo, and we are all worried to death about him."


ABL089 groaned as well as his cheerful programming allowed. "Then we'll have to ride the horses. But first we must get some clothes for our friends. They can't travel about our planet in those Earth clothes!"


The villa was set into a gently sloping hillside and a series of  landscaped terraces led up to the entrance. They hurried up the stone steps and entered the sprawling house. After sending Sally off with Hestia, ABL089 led Rick and Charlie down a marble-floored hall and into a large airy chamber at its end.


"This is the room Prince Apollo uses when he visits here," he said as he pulled open louvered closet doors. "Good, some of his clothes are here. You are all three about the same size, so they should fit you. While you boys change, I'll go to the kitchens and pack some supplies."

"Yes, food! Lotsa food!" Charlie shouted after him.


He and Rick pulled off their clothes and piled them on a shelf in the large closet. Charlie burst out laughing as he slipped into one of Prince Apollo's tunics.


He was totally, "Why do they dress like this here? It's so queer. I feel like I'm wearing a mini dress!"


Rick cracked up, laughing at his friend. "Your legs sure ain't as nice as Sally's, bud. Hard to believe, huh? They had nuclear war thousands of years ago, but no one here has invented jeans and tee-shirts yet!"


"I feel like we're getting in costume for one of those Greek tragedies the Lake University Drama Club puts on," Charlie added.


Rick belted the tunic he had pulled on. "We are dressing for a tragedy. The one playing out now right here on Teutron. Sheez! I sure hate to think of the Princess out there all alone with the Zaxxons on her trail."


Charlie slipped on a pair of sandals and tied the straps that came up to his calves. "Ditto on that. I hope she'll be safe in Elysia till we get there." He gaped down at his feet, all, "Man, how nuts is this? Gladiator shoes!"


There was a backpack on the closet floor and they put extra underwear and a couple changes of clothing in it. Rick flung it over his shoulder and they left the room. They met Sally in the entrance hall. She was wearing a simple white tunic-like gown, and she also carried a backpack.


"This is Princess Athena's dress," she told them. "Pretty neat, eh? Hestia said that the weather here is almost always warm. You seldom have to wear anything heavier than these light garments."


Rick nodded admiringly. "You look pretty ultra," he said. "Just like an Olympian Princess."


"I'll say she does," ABL089 agreed as he entered the hall. "With her long golden hair, Sally's almost a double for Princess Athena."


The girl's eyes widened. "Yikes! Then I hope the Zaxxons don't see me!"


The robot was carrying two backpacks now. "I put some supplies in these," he said, handing one to Charlie. "You young people do know how to ride horses, don't you?"


Rick assured him they did, having grown up riding the horses at the Connors' farm. As they crossed the marble floor to the door, Hestia came running into the hall.


"You've got to hurry," she said in worried tones. "Zaxxon soldiers are approaching the villa. Their road vehicles are coming down the lane. They've come back again! It was so awful when they were here earlier and took Prince Apollo!"


"We're outta here!" Rick said. "Let's go!"


"May good fortune be with you!" they heard Hestia cry as they rushed outside.


As they ran down the terrace steps and across to the outbuildings, the rumble of the approaching Zaxxon vehicles could be heard. Rick turned to look down the tree-lined lane that led up to the house. He could see a formation of rocket-shaped tank-like trucks speeding toward them.


"I hope they don't see us riding off on the horses," he shouted. "They won't have any trouble catching us in those space-age trucks of theirs."


ABL089 looked at him with wide eyes. "No way, Rick. Those are ground vehicles. They can't fly."


"Fly? Well neither do horses," Sally laughed as they rounded the corner of a large stone barn.


The next moment she stopped dead in her tracks and stared ahead, her eyes wide with astonishment.


Charlie, too, came to an abrupt halt. He gawked ahead in total amazement.


"Dude! Raider! Do you see what I see?" he blurted.


Rick's grin was almost as wide as ABL089's.

He was all, totally, "I sure do, buddy. Those Zaxxons won't catch us now!"


In a corral directly ahead of them were four white stallions, each with a long flowing mane, and each with a pair of beautiful widespread wings.


ABL089 let out a shrill peal of laughter. "I take it the horses on Earth don't fly, eh? Well, you kids are in for the ride of your life. These are four of the fabulous flying Pegasi of Teutron!"



Coming next! Chapter Seven: THE FLIGHT OF THE PEGASI