July 18, 1969

“Tom, I know you would like to have full-time hours.” Mr. Standiford sighed and drummed his fingers on the blotter of the battered metal desk that occupied a third of his tiny office in the Sleepyside Texaco station. “But the business right now won’t support another full-time employee. My boys have to be my first line guys because they will inherit the business. I’m sorry, Tom. You’re a great employee, customers love you, and you have a real instinct for troubleshooting car problems. But at this time, I can’t—I can’t offer you more than you’re getting right now.”

“Yes, sir.” Tom sighed, too. He did understand, but that didn’t make it any easier. He was twenty-two years old, still living with his parents, and still cobbling together several part-time jobs in hopes of being able to afford his dream car before he was too old to enjoy it. A two-year stint in the Army had convinced him the military wasn’t his career, although he was grateful for the mechanic’s training he’d received. Right now he just hoped he didn’t get drafted back into service, what with the war in Vietnam going the way it was. College also wasn’t his dream. Hell, his dream was to drive cars, to work on cars, to customize cars. And his secondary dream was to spend vacations hunting and fishing—which wasn’t very compatible with a regular full-time job. Seeing a car pull up to the gas pumps, he donned his cap and ran out to greet the customer with a smile.

Four hours later, he hung up his cap and ducked into the employee restroom to wash the black grease from his hands and change into clean clothes for his second job at the Cameo theater, where he sold tickets, managed the concession stand, served as an usher and handled customer complaints three nights a week and half a day on Saturdays. Luckily, the Cameo was only a few blocks from the service station. It was actually closer than if he went home first.

You can trust your car to the man who wears the star …” Tom caught himself whistling the Texaco advertising jingle, and stopped abruptly. He frowned, remembering his job dilemma. But the Cameo was showing a sneak preview of a new movie tonight. It starred Paul Newman and Robert Redford, and was a Western. He and the other Cameo staff had been able to preview it the previous evening. Exciting, action-packed, lots of nature—and a catchy theme song. He started whistling again, trying to remember exactly how the tune went.

Raindrops keep fallin’ on my head… He experimented a few times before deciding he’d captured it.

By the time he reached Sleepyside’s single movie theater, he felt his mood lifting. Something would turn up. He’d tried his hand at a number of other jobs, but whether it was circumstances, congeniality of the work, or inadequate pay, nothing had really stuck so far. But his personality was naturally upbeat and optimistic, and he could never stay truly downhearted for long.

Seated in his ticket booth, he spoke to each person in the line as they purchased tickets. “Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Stratton,” to the principal of the junior-senior high school. “I hope you’re enjoying the summer.”

“Good evening, Mr. Crimper,” to the owner of Sleepyside’s oldest department store. “I hope you’ll enjoy tonight’s show.”

“Hello, Mrs. Green and Miss Watson,” to a well-known local woman who did occasional housekeeping and childcare, and her unmarried sister. “I didn’t realize you ladies were Western fans.”

Miss Watson giggled and blushed, but Mrs. Green just smiled. “Paul Newman!” she exclaimed with a sigh.

A petite young woman with a blonde ponytail, accompanied by a solid-looking, middle-aged woman, approached the ticket window.

“Good evening, ladies,” Tom greeted them. “I don’t believe I’ve met you before.”

The blonde smiled, blue eyes sparkling. “We’re new,” she explained. “We both work for the Wheelers at the Manor House, out on Glen Road.”

“Nice to meet you,” Tom replied, returning the smile. “Tom Delanoy. I also work part-time at the Texaco station in town, if you all need to service any of your vehicles. So are you ladies Western fans?”

The blonde giggled, just as Miss Watson had done. “I can take or leave Westerns,” she admitted. “But Robert Redford and Paul Newman!” She giggled again.

“Well, I hope you enjoy the movie.” Tom smiled again and handed the two their tickets.

Once the curtains opened and the newsreel started, Tom manned the concession stand unless he needed to show someone to a seat in the darkened theater, or pass on an important message to a moviegoer. Among the patrons lined up for popcorn, candy, and/ or soda during intermission, he recognized the young blonde woman from the Manor House. She was the last person in line, letting several older people in line ahead of her.

“A small popcorn and a small Cherry Coke, if you have it,” she said, when she finally reached the counter. “And please make that two orders.”

“No Cherry Cokes, sorry.” Tom scooped the popcorn and waited for her response.

“Two small Cokes, then.” She sighed a little. He dispensed the drinks and popped them into a cardboard caddy.

“Here you go.” He handed her the caddy as he accepted her money. “My name’s Tom, by the way. Tom Delanoy.” Too late, he remembered he’d already introduced himself. The young lady didn’t seem to mind, though.

“Celia, Celia Drummond,” she replied with a bright smile. “It’s so nice to meet you; I just moved here from White Plains for this job, and don’t know anyone in Sleepyside yet.”

“I’ve lived here all my life.” Tom made sure his dimples showed when he smiled at her, and decided quickly to ask the question that had been on his mind ever since he encountered her in the ticket line. “If you have a day off, maybe we could meet in town for a sandwich and ice cream. Clayton's Drug Store has Cherry Coke.”

“That would be fun, Tom.” Her blue eyes sparkled. “I’m off on Wednesday afternoons, after lunch is served. I’ll have to check with Miss Trask, though, and she’s away right now. I don’t have a car, but she or Regan drive the staff back and forth to town when needed, or I can take a taxi.” She glanced at her watch. “Oh, my goodness! It’s probably time for the movie to start again. I’ll see you later.” She grabbed the snack caddy and started back to the auditorium with a pert swish of her ponytail. Tom watched her until he couldn’t see her any longer.

Darn! I didn’t take her phone number, he rebuked himself. I’ll have to see if I can call the Manor House tomorrow.

Wednesday, July 22

Tom had planned out his afternoon carefully. He’d arranged to borrow his mom’s car with the excuse of washing it and getting her oil changed. He’d traded days off with another of the gas station attendants so that he could give Celia a ride back to the Manor House. He would have picked her up, but she insisted that she could get a lift from the estate into town. It hadn’t been as hard to contact her as he’d feared—the telephone operator gave him the staff telephone number for the Manor House, and Celia herself had answered the phone.

“Tommy!” His mother sniffed the air as he tried to slip out of the house with a quick wave. “Are you seeing a girl? Who is she? When did you meet her?”

Of course he always showered before leaving the house, but why, oh why, had he picked today to use his best aftershave? And was it too much? With a wry sigh, he stopped to hug his mom.

“I’m meeting a girl at the lunch counter of Clayton’s Drug Store. She just moved here, and works at the Manor House out on Glen Road. I met her Friday night at the Cameo. It’s her afternoon off, and I’m going to take her home after… well, after we do whatever we do. She might want to do some shopping or something.” He felt his face heating—and why? They weren’t going to do anything that the whole world couldn’t see.

“Well, I know you’ll be a gentleman.” His mom gave him a fond smile and reached up to stroke an unruly lock of black hair that had fallen down onto his forehead. “Have a good time, and I hope we’ll get to meet this young lady soon, if the two of you hit it off.”

“I will, Mom. But let’s don’t rush things. We just met.” He grinned then, kissed her and gave the jaunty wave he’d intended.

“So, do you like working at the Manor House?” he asked Celia as the two of them sipped soft drinks from tall soda fountain glasses. Their lunch orders for sandwiches and chips were pending as they sat at the long lunch counter.

“Yes, I do. The Wheelers aren’t at home right now; they actually left on a trip the day after they moved in. But Miss Trask—she’s the daughter’s governess—is basically in charge of things, and she’s very nice. Between her and Regan—that’s the man who takes care of the Wheelers’ horses—everything runs pretty well. The only thing they really need is a chauffeur. There are so many staff who live in town and need rides to and from work every day, and it keeps Miss Trask and Regan both on the road more than I think they really want to be.” She giggled. “And Regan hates cars. He’s not a very good driver, because he’s never needed to drive. He always thinks the car will respond to voice commands, like one of his horses.”

“Is Regan an older guy?” Tom tried to imagine any of the guys he knew not liking to drive, but failed.

“Oh, no!” Celia’s eyes were wide. “He’s young—about your age, I think. But he’s been living in the city and working at a riding stable there for several years.”

He made a mental mark to find out more about this guy Regan. Already, he wanted to get to know Celia better, and he liked to know his competition.

“So, what exactly is your job?” he asked. “Did you have to take any special training for it?”

“My official title is ‘upstairs maid,’ but I actually do a little of everything, except for being a personal maid. Mrs. Wheeler travels a lot and she does her own hair most of the time. There are two older maids—I mean they’re older than me—but I’ve worked at the Manor House for a longer time, because I helped with getting all of the Wheelers’ personal items unpacked and put away. I did a training class in the city a few years ago, right after I graduated from high school. My dream was to travel and thought I might be able to find a job on a cruise line or maybe even be a paid travel companion and maid. I did get a cruise line job, but after one cruise, decided I’d rather work in a private home. So I signed up with an agency called Acme Domestic Staffing. I had another job before this one, but the family was moving to France for two years, and I decided not to go.”

Celia took a sip of her Cherry Coke. The faint aroma of potato chips and chicken salad on toast tickled Tom’s nose as their waitress set a plate in front of each of them.

“I love a good Wimpy burger,” he said. “But this is probably my second favorite lunch.” He took a bite of his sandwich, enjoying the crunch of toast and celery. For a few moments they were quiet as Celia, too, started to eat.

“Tom, did you say you have another job besides working at the Cameo?” Celia asked before popping a potato chip into her mouth.

“Yes, I work part-time at Standiford’s Texaco station,” he said. “I love cars, and working on cars. But Mr. Standiford has two sons who are joining the business, and I can’t get a full-time job there. Right now I’m working those two jobs, saving some money, and keeping my eyes open for something with more of a future.”

“Well, I hope something turns up for you soon. Do you want to keep working on cars?” Celia finished off the last bit of her sandwich and used her napkin. “Here, have the rest of my chips, if you want them.” She pushed her plate toward him.

“Thanks, I will.” She’d hardly eaten any of her chips.Probably one of those who watches everything she eats, Tom thought. She has a cute shape already. “If I could get a job that involved driving and working on cars, it would be my dream job. But hopefully I could fish and hunt in my spare time, too.”

“I’ll have to let Miss Trask know about you when she gets back,” Celia said. “She’s still gone. She, and Honey Wheeler and Trixie Belden, have gone upstate in the Wheelers’ travel trailer to try to find a boy who was camped out at the old Frayne place out by us.”

“What?” Tom stopped eating and stared at her. “The old recluse’s place that burned last week? Why?”

“It seems this boy was a great-nephew of the old man, and is his heir. The girls met up with him one morning and they became friends, but were being very secretive, because the boy—I think his name is Jim—was afraid his mean stepfather was looking for him. He walked or hitchhiked all the way here from up around Albany.”

“Wow! How long was he here? My dad delivers mail out there, and he never mentioned a boy living there.” Tom tossed another chip into his mouth. He was too surprised to worry about manners just now.

“I’m not sure about all of that,” Celia said with a regretful sigh. “Like I said, the girls were very secretive. But the Wheelers moved in on Thursday, the tenth, and I’m pretty sure it was the very next day when the girls found him. Mr. Frayne had been taken to the hospital the day before, and Trixie told Regan she just wanted to make sure the house was locked up, like a good neighbor.”

“Hmmm. Yes, I can imagine Trixie saying something like that.” Crunching the last few chips, Tom reflected on the inquisitive sandy-haired girl who’d trailed her two older brothers from the time she first went to school. Trixie was pretty sharp, although she was capable of letting her curiosity get her into scrapes at times.

“Jim might’ve been right about his stepfather,” Celia continued. “You know how dry it’s been, and when Ten Acres burned the other night, the fire chief told Regan that a creepy guy was skulking around the ruins while the fire department was trying to make sure the fire was extinguished, screeching about his stepson being inside.”

Just then, the counter girl whisked away their plates, and returned with a small chocolate sundae for each of them. Once again, Tom and Celia ate in companionable silence for several minutes.

“Will you be working again Friday night—at the Cameo, I mean?” Celia blushed a little.

“Sure will. Are you coming to see Rosemary’s Baby ?” Tom smiled. “Even though it came out last year, it’s just now getting out to some of the smaller theaters.”

“Well… I heard it was pretty scary.” Celia shuddered. “I don’t usually go in for that, but Cook likes to see a movie every Friday, no matter what it’s about, even though she sometimes falls asleep during the show. So if she wants to go, I’ll probably go with her.” She finished off her sundae by popping the maraschino cherry into her mouth with a spoonful of whipped cream, closing her eyes and smiling in delight. Tom, who disliked maraschino cherries, stared at her in disbelief.

“I suppose I’d better call a taxi and get back to the Manor House,” she said with a glance at her watch. “There’s not a specific time I need to get back, but I’m also trying to save some money and I don’t need to do any shopping today.”

“You don’t have to call a taxi. I’ve got my mom’s car and I’ll take you home,” he told her. “If you trust me, that is.”

“Somehow I feel like I can trust you,” she said. “Especially if you’re driving your mom’s car.”

“I promise, no funny business.” Tom held up two fingers. “Scout’s honor.”

Friday, July 25

As usual on a Friday evening, Tom was at the ticket window of the Cameo, greeting the moviegoers and watching for Celia and the Manor House cook. Although he felt a little distracted as he watched for her, he forced himself to make his usual small talk with the customers as he took their money and handed over their tickets. Finally, he glimpsed the petite blonde and her middle-aged companion.

“Good evening, Miss Celia and Mrs. Rachel,” he said with a smile. “I hope you both are ready to stay on the edge of your seats tonight.”

“I’ve seen a lot of Hitchcock’s pictures,” the older woman said with a smile. “I think I can take it. But we’ll see.” She glanced at Celia. “Now, this one… I’m not sure about her.” She chuckled and pushed a couple of bills over the ticket counter for her own admission and Celia’s.

“I admit I’m not a horror fan.” Celia blushed. “But that’s why I’m with you.” She gave a slightly nervous giggle.

“Well, here you go.” He handed over their tickets and the two women moved on into the theater.

When Celia came out to the concession stand minutes before the picture was scheduled to start, she gave the snack order and then sighed. “I hate to pass on bad news, but the Wheelers don’t want to hire a chauffeur right now. The girls found that boy, Jim Frayne, and it turns out his father was a friend of Mr. Wheeler’s in school. So the Wheelers have decided to adopt Jim, and they don’t want to make any changes in the household until everything is settled for the adoption and Jim is adjusting to living here.” She stared up at him, eyes watering. “I’m sorry!”

“Hey, no worries.” He managed a nonchalant tone, pushing down the surprising amount of disappointment he felt. Why was he so upset about this potential job, that had never been a sure thing at all? Cool it, Tom, he told himself. Did you just want the job to have a chance to spend more time with Celia? “If the Wheelers need a chauffeur, it’ll probably only become more noticeable in another month or so. It makes sense they don’t want to make too many changes at one time.”

“I suppose so.” Celia sighed again. “But to tell the truth, I was hoping we might be able to see more of each other if you worked on the estate, too.” Her face went scarlet at the admission.

So she does feel the same. “That would be great. But we can still get to know each other better while we’re waiting.” He gave her a slow smile, again purposely working his dimples, and then turned away to scoop her popcorn and dispense her Cokes. “Just keep your eyes and ears open! Now, here are your snacks. Get on inside before the movie starts! I hear the music cuing up.”

Wednesday, August 13

Despite the short time Tom had known Celia, he’d already begun to feel as if it had been years. The Wednesday lunches had quickly become a routine, to the point where Tom had asked to have Wednesday afternoons off as a regular schedule. Today he’d planned something different. He whistled as he packed sandwiches, chips, and soft drinks into a hamper, and checked his best and second-best rod and reel. Celia had told him she’d always wanted to try fishing, and although early afternoon in mid-August might not be the ideal time to go out in a boat, it should be fine in one of the secluded inlets he favored at the nearby reservoir, where you could picnic nearby and then fish off the shaded dock, overhung with trees, for a couple of hours.

Raindrops keep falling on my head… “Mom, I’m heading out. I should be back by five. Can I pick up anything for you in town?”

“Thank you, dear. I don’t believe we need anything today.” His mother reached up to give him a quick hug. “Celia seems like a very nice girl. I hope you’ll be able to bring her to Sunday dinner soon. Your father would like to meet her.”

Ever since he’d stopped by the house the previous Wednesday with Celia, his mom had been hinting he should introduce her to the whole family. So far, Tom had resisted a little. Celia’s schedule—he didn’t know how much flexibility she had to be gone on a weekend. And he hadn’t decided yet if he was ready to get serious about one girl. He’d always planned to wait until he had a full-time job and money in the bank. Still, Celia was special. No one else he’d dated had made him feel the way she did.

“Soon, Mom. I hope so.” He returned the hug. “I’d better get going.” Today he was to pick her up at the Manor House.

As he drove slowly up the long drive to the Manor House, Tom pulled over as far as possible to the right side of the drive. A dark green Ford sedan, driven by a young redheaded man, was headed away from the house. The drive was fairly wide, but not really accommodating to more than one vehicle at a time. He noticed the other car was accelerating roughly, and the driver jerked his wheel to the opposite side when he noticed Tom’s car in his path. As he did so, the passenger-side tire left the gravel drive and dug into the adjoining turf. The night before had seen a brief, but heavy, rain, and the ground was still soft. The other car stopped abruptly and the redheaded man jumped out to inspect the damage. Tom pulled his mom’s car smoothly off of the drive and parked, crossing his fingers that he wouldn’t cause similar damage when he started back. He exited the car and approached the other vehicle.

“Sorry if I caused you to go off the drive, buddy,” he said. “Car giving you trouble?” He noticed there were two women sitting in the back seat. “I’m Tom Delanoy.” He extended his right hand to the other driver.

“Cars!” The redhead grimaced. “Give me a horse any day.” He pushed a forelock of red hair away from his face and noticed Tom’s hand. Extending his own hand, he gave Tom a firm handshake.

“Bill Regan. I’m taking the laundress and one of the maids back to town, since they’re finished for the day. I’m not really used to doing so much driving and Gallagher—the gardener—is liable to throw a fit and threaten to quit when he sees that gouge. I don’t have time to deal with this kind of cra… stuff.”

So this is the Regan Celia has mentioned, Tom thought. I don’t think he’s competition, but I should try to get on his good side. “Let me help you get back on the drive without digging any more out, and at least it won’t be any worse,” he offered.

“Sure, I guess. Why don’t you get behind the wheel, and I’ll push.”

Tom nodded assent and slipped behind the wheel. He doubted if it would be too much trouble. He was certainly a more experienced driver than the Wheelers’ groom. Sure enough, he was able to ease the car back onto the drive without spinning the wheels, and accepted the thanks of Regan and the two women with a smile.

“I work at the Texaco station during the week, and at the Cameo on weekends. You’ll probably see me around if you do any business with either of those places.” He climbed out of the car and shook hands with Regan again as the redhead resumed his place in the driver’s seat.

“You’re the fellow that Celia’s been seeing, aren’t you?” Regan grinned at him. “I’ll definitely put in a good word if the Wheelers decide to hire a chauffeur. See you around.” He pulled away in a spray of gravel. Tom shook his head with a small smile as he walked back to his own vehicle.

Later, at the reservoir…

“Tom, your mom’s sandwiches were really good! And the Cherry Coke was the perfect touch,” Celia said. She tipped her bottle of pop to get the last swallow, and used her napkin. “Are we going to fish now?”

Tom gazed at her through half-closed eyes as he finished his own Coke. She looked awfully cute today, with her blonde hair in a pert flip. For their date, she wore a buttoned sleeveless plaid shirt with a pointed collar, and a short number his sisters called a “scooter skirt,” kind of like shorts with a front panel to look like a skirt. It was several inches above her knees, and he’d been appreciating the view. A flimsy pair of sandals might not be the best for walking around the less-than-smooth ground around the reservoir, but luckily his picnic cooler and rods didn’t prevent him from being able to hold her hand. She’d completed her outfit with a pair of big sunglasses with bright pink frames.

“Yes, as soon as I get this blanket folded back up and stashed in the car,” he agreed. They both stood and he shook the blanket before quickly folding it. The car wasn’t far off and it took only minutes to jog to the parking spot and deposit it, along with the returnable Coke bottles. The cooler still held plenty of ice, and hopefully he’d be able to add a few trout to it before they needed to head home.

“Let’s see how these crickets are doing.” Tom lifted the perforated plastic lid of the coffee can that held his live bait. Celia leaned in a little to see better.

Most of the crickets seemed pretty lively. Celia drew back as several jumped up on the sides of the can. “Ew!” she squealed. “I don’t think I can touch one of those.”

“I’ll bait your hook,” he offered. “I’m the one with a license anyway, I’ll have to claim anything we catch.”

Celia surprised him by actually seeming to enjoy sitting quietly on the dock, waiting for a bite. After a couple of hours they had each caught a trout, but the fish were too small to keep. Carefully, Tom removed them from the hooks and tossed them back into the water.

He glanced at the sun. “I guess it’s about time to head back home,” he said reluctantly. Winding the line on both reels, he carried rods and bait can back to the car, and brought a medium-sized bucket and box of baking soda back to the dock. After dumping some of his ice into the bucket, he asked, “Can you shake some of this soda onto my hands? It’s supposed to be good for getting rid of any fishy smells.”

Celia obediently shook out a generous amount and Tom rubbed his hands together for a minute before rinsing them in the bucket of ice. Dumping the ice from the bucket and cooler, he picked up the two containers together. “Well, that’s that, I think.”

“I never fished before, but that was fun,” Celia said with a bright smile.

“We’ll do it again, if you liked it.” He wished he had a free hand to hold hers.

“Let me carry the bucket,” she suggested. “That way maybe you can carry the cooler with one arm and I can hold onto your hand.”

“Well… sure, if you say so.” He let her take the bucket and hoisted the cooler onto one shoulder, taking her free hand with his own. Whistling as they walked, he thought again that Celia might be the one. If only he had a better job…

Friday, August 22

“Oh, Tom, it’s the most awful thing!” Celia was almost shaking as she burst out with this statement. It was movie night again, and a new Western was showing. Just now, she was the only customer at the concession stand.

“What’s the most awful thing?” Tom asked. Surely it couldn’t be anything too bad, or she wouldn’t have been at the movie tonight.

She wrung her hands. “It’s the chauffeur job! Miss Trask hired a chauffeur yesterday. We’ve needed one for a long time, there’s so much driving back and forth to town with all of the staff and their different schedules, and taking Mr. Wheeler back and forth to the train, and Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler to the airport. Remember, I just talked to you about it the day before yesterday. It was crazy not to hire someone when I first suggested you last month. But this guy—Dick—he came with a letter of recommendation from one of Mr. Wheeler’s oldest friends. When Miss Trask saw the letter and told Mr. Wheeler about it, he said to go ahead and hire Dick on the spot. Once he—Mr. Wheeler—makes up his mind, he doesn’t want to wait around. He wants to take action right away. Then, he and Mrs. Wheeler left right afterward for Chicago and won’t be back for at least a week. I never even got the chance to suggest you to them.”

As Celia poured out her tale of woe, Tom felt his heart dropping down into his stomach. He hadn’t realized how much he’d been counting on getting that job. What chance did he have against someone recommended by one of the millionaire’s best friends?

Celia brushed a tear from her cheek. Tom had thought she was finished, but she burst out with more of her story.

“But Dick—he isn’t nice. He just started yesterday, and he was very rude to Trixie Belden for no reason. Then yesterday he broke out with a bad case of poison ivy, even though he hasn’t done anything outside. And he had a black eye this morning. He told Trixie and Honey that he was grooming Jupiter for Regan and that Jupe kicked him, but I don’t believe that for a second—he hates horses. Then he told Miss Trask he stumbled in the dark and bumped into a door. He actually took the afternoon off to go to a doctor in the city. It just seems weird—why couldn’t he see a local doctor?”

“I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see.” Tom sighed. “That guy sounds like bad news, but if he was recommended by one of Mr. Wheeler’s best friends, he must be okay.”

Celia blotted her eyes again with a tissue. “There was no reason for him to tell two different stories about the black eye, though. I don’t have a good feeling about him.”

“Keep me posted if there are any new developments.” Tom finished filling the paper cups of Coke she had ordered, and pushed the snacks across the counter. “And try to enjoy the show.”

Celia accepted the caddy of popcorn and drinks, and gave him a watery smile. “I’ll try. Now I’d better get back in there before the newsreel ends.” She waved and headed to the interior swinging doors leading into the theater.

Saturday, August 23

On Saturdays Tom worked at the Texaco station until twelve-thirty, and then he was scheduled to be at the Cameo to sell tickets for the one-thirty matinée. He just had time to grab a sandwich at the drugstore lunch counter in between jobs.

Today he’d decided to change into his theater attendant’s uniform at the Cameo, which had a larger, more comfortable restroom than the filling station. As he exited the restroom and walked into the lobby, he could see Mr. Arnold, the Cameo’s owner, waving to get his attention.

“Tom, you have a telephone call in my office,” the older man said. “I told the young lady you could take the call, but please make it quick. People are starting to line up outside.” Mr. Arnold took Tom’s regular place at the ticket window while he hurried to the office. Who could it be? He hoped no one in his family was sick or injured.

Grabbing the receiver that lay on Mr. Arnold’s rather cluttered desk, he said, “Hello?”

“Oh, Tom!” He felt a whoosh of relief. It was Celia, so probably not an emergency. Still, odd that she’d call him at work. “I’m so glad to find you!”

“What is it, Celia? And where are you?” He checked his watch.

“I’m in our suite at the Manor House, silly. Listen! Dick is in for it now. The kids and Miss Trask were talking about him at lunch, and when Miss Trask found out he’s been rude to Trixie, she was very angry. She’s going to let him go, and wants to have a new chauffeur ready to start September first. All of the Beldens talked about how good you’d be, and Honey and Jim even had good things to say about you.”

“What? That guy just started two days ago. He must be a real jerk to have fouled his nest so badly already.” Tom shook his head. What a maroon!

“It doesn’t make any sense, does it? Listen, I need to get off the phone; I know you have to get to work, and Cook will be up here in a few minutes. But Miss Trask is going to speak to you about the job when she brings the kids to the movie tonight. I’m just trying to prepare you.”

“Well, Jiminy crickets! Thanks, Celia. I’ll see you Wednesday, I guess.” He hung up the phone and walked slowly back to the lobby and the ticket window, thinking about what he’d just learned. He’d definitely have to find out the proposed salary and any benefits, but on the face of it, this could be his dream job. He started to whistle as he tapped on Mr. Arnold’s shoulder to let his boss know he was ready to work.

it won't be long till happiness steps up to greet me…

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Author’s Notes

5798 words

This was a fun story for me to write! It takes place between the day Trixie, Honey, and Miss Trask go away in the Silver Swan to search for Jim, and the Saturday that Trixie, Jim, and Regan capture Dick the Dip. Although we didn’t get to know Tom Delanoy (or really, Celia either!) too well after The Mystery Off Glen Road, I’ve always had a bit of a backstory for them in my mind. It fits into my universe, and although I reread Gatehouse twice and also referred frequently to Susansuth’s Sleepyside Files and Julie G’s Trixie Notes, my dates for the last few scenes deviate from Susan’s timeline. In order to fit the events into the year 1969, and the timeline in which my universe is set, I had to adjust the dates just a little. Please don’t report me to the authorities!

Movies referenced:

  1. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was released in 1969—but not until October. So I had it shown as a sneak peek/audience test at the Cameo in July. Its hit theme song, Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head, was written by Burt Bacharach. Tom whistles the tune repeatedly, but I’ve inserted the lyrics in those sections.
  2. Rosemary’s Baby is a 1968 American psychological horror film written and directed by Roman Polanski and starring Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, and others. It won numerous awards. Back in the day, it was common that even major releases might take months to make their way to smaller markets.
  3. The “new Western” Celia and Cook saw on Friday, August 25, and the Bob-Whites saw on Saturday, was True Grit, with John Wayne and Kim Darby (although I didn’t mention the title, LOL). It was a more family-friendly film than the other two, was released in June, 1969, and also had a hit theme song, Goodbye, Little Girl, sung by Glen Campbell. I originally wanted to have Tom whistle that tune, too—but decided it was too plaintive to work.

Although I was around in 1969, I still had to do some research to try to keep the story era-appropriate. I hope it’s basically accurate!

Huge thanks to my dear friend and editor, Ryl, who did a lightning-fast edit at almost the last minute. Any remaining mistakes are mine and not hers!

If not for Janice’s unfailing encouragement, I don’t think I’d have been able to write more than one or two stories for CWE 25. But thanks to her, this should give me a Bingo! It meets the requirements for two challenges: CWE 10, Cherry Pop!, and CWE 19, Good Help is Hard to Find.

Julie G (macjest)’s Trixie Notes and Susansuth’s Sleepyside Files were a tremendous help to me in the sequence of events that fit into Gatehouse.

Thank you to all my wonderful readers! Your comments and feedback really help to motivate me.

Thank you, also, to the CWE team (Vivian, Deanna and Mary C.) for issuing CWE#25: Every CWE Deserves a Second Chance... Bingo.

Disclaimer: Characters from the Trixie Belden series are the property of Random House. They are used without permission, although with a great deal of affection and respect. All other material on these pages copyright 2005-2030 by MaryN/Dianafan. Banner and end button images from pixabay.com and in the public domain; manipulated in Photoshop; remaining graphics made by me. Graphics copyright by Mary N 2022.

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