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Sure enough, it was already sprinkling when the girls returned their horses to the riding academy, and they had to run all the way to the Swan to keep from getting soaked. The rain kept up a steady drumming on the roof of the trailer all day, and the girls were forced to play indoor games and read, but it was hard to control their impatience.
At last Trixie said restlessly, “I can’t stand being cooped up here any longer. Let’s dash over to the restaurant and play some Ping-Pong before dinner.”
“All right,” Miss Trask agreed. “I’ll take a nap, but wear your slickers and rubbers. If either of you should catch cold it would ruin the trip.”
“We won’t,” Honey assured her. “And please don’t let the dogs follow us. They’ve already brought in so much mud Trixie and I’ll have to spend most of the morning scrubbing the place.”
They raced around the park in their oilskin capes and hoods and sloshed up the steps to the cafeteria veranda. Everybody in Autoville seemed to have gathered inside and out of the clubhouse, and people were waiting in line for the use of the Ping-Pong table.
“Oh dear,” Trixie complained. “There’s nothing to do here either. I wish we could fall asleep and not wake up until it’s time to start looking for Jim tomorrow morning.”
Honey was examining a magazine at the newsstand. “This quiz test looks like fun,” she said. “Let’s find out how smart we are.” She bought two copies of the magazine and Trixie followed her to a quiet corner of the library. “Ready, get set, go,” Honey said. “The one who gets through first and has the most right answers is the smartest.”
Trixie scribbled a few answers in the blank spaces after the questions in the test, but in a short while her thoughts began to wander. “I always get sleepy on rainy days,” she yawned, bored. “Wish I’d stayed back at the Swan with Miss Trask and taken a nap.”
“I’m sleepy too,” Honey admitted. “Let’s doze right here in these comfortable chairs. We can finish the quiz later.”
It seemed to Trixie that she had hardly closed her eyes when she was awakened by the sound of whispering on the other side of the thin beaver-board wall that separated the library from one of the back rooms in the cafeteria.
“–abandoned barn,” someone was saying, “on that truck farm. Perfectly safe. Hasn’t been used in years. Doubt if the farmer even remembers it’s there.”
“You’re taking an awful chance,” came a whining whisper. “We were better off where we were.”
Trixie sat up. That voice, she felt sure, belonged to Jeff!
“Don’t be stupid,” the other voice said hoarsely. “Those kids rode into the clearing after we passed them on the highway. If they saw that net and guessed–”
“Those dumb kids!” Jeff snorted. “They wouldn’t suspect anything even if they did happen to notice the net. What do you think they are, state troopers?”
“I’m taking no chances,” the other man insisted. “They didn’t look dumb to me and you could tell by the way they were riding along, watching the side of the road, they were looking for something.”
“Oh, all right,” Jeff gave in. “But it beats me how you’re going to get to that barn without being seen by the farmer who owns it. That van’s not exactly small, in case you haven’t noticed.”
“I keep telling you,” the other man whispered impatiently. “Through the back fields. There’s an old road leading from the orchard to the barn.”
“And fine shape it’ll be in after this rain,” Jeff argued. “We’re sure to get stuck in the mud tonight; but have it your own way. I’ll play along, but it sure gets my goat that a couple of clumsy girls can make us change our plans.”
The two men moved away from the wall, and in a few seconds Trixie saw the silhouette of a bushy-haired man move furtively past the library window. She hurried to the veranda, straining her eyes to get a better glimpse of him. He turned as though he might have heard her tiptoeing after him, and she crouched down hastily behind a bench. Peeking through the slats in the back of the bench, Trixie held her breath as the man took a few steps in her direction. Then, jamming a battered hat down over his thick, unruly hair, he wheeled and vaulted over the porch railing to disappear in the shadows of the bushes.