Nessie and the Viking Gold
Chapter One by Lois June Wickstrom and Jean Lorrah
©2001 text by
Lois June Wickstrom and Jean Lorrah
As Craig and Linda lifted their suitcases from the rental car trunk, their father said, "This year, stay out of the water!"
"No more Nessie hunting!" added their mother. "You nearly drowned last year."
Sweet breezes blew the mist from Loch Ness, and the scent of wildflowers wafted across the yard. Linda remembered - the day she first saw Nessie had smelled like this.
A curly haired girl, about twelve years old, stepped out of the shed beside Mrs. Carmichael's Bed and Breakfast. She said, "I'm Anna. Did I hear you mention Nessie? My dad's here looking for Nessie. He wants to tape record her noises with his hydrophone."
"Your dad is too old to be looking for Nessie," said Craig's dad.
"I agree," said Anna. "Parents can be so immature!"
Linda looked at the girl. She was pretty. She wore make-up. She was everything Linda hoped to be.
"We saw Nessie last year. She sang to us," said Linda, hoping to impress Anna.
Anna batted her eyelashes at Craig. "Did you see Nessie, too?"
"Maybe I did, and maybe I didn't," said Craig. Linda's brother was thirteen, and thought he knew everything now that he was a teenager. He stuck his hands into his pockets and did his best to pretend he was ignoring Anna.
Mrs. Carmichael came out to greet them, holding a plate of warm gingerbread cookies. Craig grabbed one and mumbled, "Thank you," with his mouth full.
"Welcome back to Loch Ness," said Mrs. Carmichael. As Linda took a cookie, Mrs. Carmichael turned to Anna. "One of my favorite families," she explained, holding the plate just out of Anna's reach. "I don't bake cookies for just anybody." She was clearly teasing. Then she moved the plate towards Anna. "You're family now, too. Have a cookie."
"You'll ruin their appetites," said Craig and Linda's mother.
"There's plenty to do here. Don't worry, they'll work up an appetite," said Mrs. Carmichael.
"I've told them to stay out of the water," said Craig and Linda's mother. "No more Nessie hunting."
"There's lots of other things to do at Loch Ness," said their dad. "They can go to Urquhart Castle and look for ghosts."
"Not ghosts!" exclaimed their mother. The aroma of warm gingerbread drew her closer to the plate. She took a cookie and bit the gingerbread man's head off. "These are good," she said, taking another. Mrs. Carmichael chuckled delightedly. Their dad took one, too.
"I don't care about ghosts," said Anna, still holding her cookie, uneaten. "Portia is coming to sing at Urquhart Castle." She performed a mock swoon, making her long curly hair sway gracefully. "Don't you just love Portia!"
Linda saw that Anna was looking at her, expecting a response. Linda didn't know what to say. If she said she loved Portia, Anna would expect her to know Portia's songs. But if she admitted she didn't know Portia, Anna would think she was a baby, and never be friends with her.
"I've never heard of Portia," said their dad, "but she's got to be better than Nessie. She won't be luring my children out into the loch."
"Portia is just the best singer!" said Anna. "She's so wise. She knows all about life and love and everything. You've got to hear her."
"Have you got any of her music with you?" asked Linda, fingering a braid and wondering how her hair would look loose like Anna's.
"Sure," said Anna, "but you haven't lived 'til you've been to a concert."
"Let's all go to Urquhart Castle and hear Portia!" said Linda, in her most grown-up sounding voice.
"If she's like most teenaged pop stars, I'm sure we can hear her right here." said Linda's mom. "There's no need to buy expensive tickets and go across the lake."
"You've got to go hear her up close!" insisted Anna. "You feel her music through the ground and bouncing off the walls. You have to wear earplugs to protect your hearing. It's a full body experience!"
"We've got to go!" said Linda, hoping for once her parents would be reasonable.
"Craig, Linda, go put your suitcases in your rooms," said their mother. "And unpack."
Craig grabbed his suitcase and hurried into the B&B, as if he couldn't get away from Anna fast enough. Slowly Linda pulled out the handle on her suitcase and began rolling it past the daisies and violets in the back yard. She really wanted an excuse to stay and talk with Anna about Portia. But it was better not to upset her mother, or her mother would never let her go to Portia's concert.
As she closed the door behind her, she heard her mother say, "I'll thank you not to put ideas into my daughter's head, young lady."
"Seems to me," said Anna, "that she's old enough to think for herself." She paused. "And so is her brother!"
Linda didn't like the sound of that. Was Anna actually interested in Craig for a boyfriend? Linda wanted Anna for a girlfriend. Someone to teach her to put on make-up and tell her about the important singers, and help her become a teenager. Other ten-year-olds dressed like teenagers, but her mom refused to buy her the clothes or even a tube of lipstick. And her allowance was too small to buy anything truly cool.
On the way to her room, Linda walked past the kitchen. There on the counter, where she'd left them a year ago, was the bowl of purple singing flowers. They'd multiplied while she was gone. Or had Mrs. Carmichael found more? Linda could hear them humming softly in the sunshine that streamed through the backyard window. She remembered how the singing flowers had let her breathe under water when she and Craig visited Nessie's Grotto last summer. She had picked them as a present for Mrs. Carmichael, and they had saved her life. She walked quietly up to the singing flowers and kissed them. One of them seemed to kiss her back, and she heard them sing
"Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And auld lang syne?"
Wasn't that a New Year's song? She'd have to ask Mrs. Carmichael.
Through the window, she heard her father ask Anna, "What does your father do for a living?"
Anna answered, "He works in an office, selling stuff."
"He and I will have to chat," said Linda's father. She could hear her mother shuffling her feet, like she did when she was bored.
Linda knew she had to get her suitcase to her room before her mother found her in the kitchen and yelled at her for dawdling. Mother had to be kept in a good mood if there was to be a chance to go to the concert. Linda dragged her suitcase to her room. She thought about putting her clothes in the dresser, but she had to talk to Craig. They had to find a way to see Nessie again.
Craig had avoided talking about Nessie with her, ever since she'd told her best friend about their adventure in Nessie's Grotto. Her best friend blabbed to her big brother, and then it was all over school. Craig the Monster Hunter. Nobody believed Linda, but Craig couldn't lose the nickname. Of course, Craig blamed her for all the taunting he'd endured. He'd be starting at a new school in the fall and he wanted to make a fresh start. But that didn't mean he couldn't see Nessie again, did it?
She rolled her suitcase beside the dresser. Then she looked in the mirror to be sure she didn't have cookie crumbs on her teeth. Craig could be a horrid tease. Her teeth were okay. She tugged at her braids, wishing they didn't look so little-girlish. Then she went down the hall, and knocked on Craig's door.
"Go away!" shouted Craig.
"It's me," said Linda.
"Girls are stupid," said Craig.
Good, thought Linda. At least he's not interested in Anna.
"You need my help if you want to see Nessie," Linda whispered outside the keyhole.
Craig opened the door. "Okay, you can come in."
Linda entered, and saw that Craig was nearly done unpacking his suitcase. When did he turn into such a goody goody?
"Do you have a plan?" he asked.
"Maybe I do, and maybe I don't," said Linda.
"Out with it!"
"I saw singing flowers in the kitchen. We take some so we can breathe under water. Then we jump into the loch, and swim to Nessie's Grotto."
"That's dumber than I expected from you," said Craig. "You don't even know where Nessie's Grotto is. Remember, we only got in last time because Nessie took us there."
"We could take the net from the shed and catch her again," said Linda.
"She let herself get caught last time, because she wanted that blue stone in my pocket. What do we have for her this time?" said Craig.
Linda had a sudden inspiration. "Your gold coins! Mrs. Carmichael said they were cursed or blessed. She said your coins will find their way back to Nessie's Grotto."
"You leave the coins out of this! They're mine!" Craig looked defensively at his bottom dresser drawer.
"If you didn't intend to use them, you'd have left them in Birmingham, in the safe deposit box, like Dad told you." Linda knew she had him.
"I didn't bring them to just give them back," said Craig.
"You brought them for their magic," said Linda.
"Maybe I did and maybe I didn't," said Craig. (He knew that line annoyed Linda.) "I'll talk to you again when you are prepared to be reasonable," said Linda. (She knew that line annoyed Craig. She hated it when her mother used it with her. But it was fun to say.)
Anna's father was Sverre Thorburn. He wore his wavy blond hair tucked behind his ears.
Linda heard her father whisper to her mother, "Looks like a hippie." Sverre Thorburn confirmed their suspicions when he refused to talk about his office job.
Before they sat down to dinner, Mr. Thorburn pulled out his pocket knife, flipped open the screwdriver, and tightened the knob on the dining room door.
Linda's mother watched, worried. "Aren't you afraid you'll break it?" she asked.
Mr. Thorburn ignored her.
"Thank you," said Mrs. Carmichael. "I've been meaning to do that for years, but every time I come into the dining room, my hands are full of food."
Mr. Thorburn chuckled.
"What brings you to Scotland," asked Mrs. Carmichael.
"Vell, vee vill see," said Mr. Thorburn. "I hope to record Nessie. People all over the world are waiting to hear what Nessie sounds like." All his w's sounded like v's. It was funny, because Anna sounded like Craig and Linda
"Fa-ther!" said Anna, tossing her long curly hair.
"How are you going to record Nessie?" asked Mrs. Carmichael, as she served stewed rhubarb.
Mr. Thorburn took a deep breath. "I'm going to dangle my hydrophone about 10 meters down into Loch Ness, and hope she swims by."
Mrs. Carmichael gave him a quizzical look.
"Do you have a better idea?" he asked.
"You could swim down and look for her," said Filan McDuff. He proudly carved the big salmon he'd caught just a few hours before while fishing in Loch Ness.
"You're joking, right?" said Mr. Thorburn.
"Certainly not," said Filan McDuff. "Just ask Craig and Linda here. I do not joke about our Nessie."
"I'm really not interested in hearing any more about Nessie," said Craig and Linda's father. "I came here to meet clients." He reached into his pocket and pulled out a colored whistle. "Here's my calling card. Get it? Calling card? It's got my name and phone number stamped on it. And a whistle is for calling." He guffawed at his own joke. Nobody else did.
"I don't want to hear about Nessie, either," said Anna. "I came along to hear Portia." She started to sing, "White looks grey in any grey light..."
"Not again!" said her father. "That is such shallow philosophy, I don't see why you want to repeat it."
Linda thought it was exciting, but she didn't want to get into an argument and upset her parents. "I've been thinking of changing my hair style," she said, as casually as she could. "How does Portia wear her hair?"
"Portia has a braid on one side and short hair on the other," said Anna enthusiastically. "She looks really cool! I could do your hair like that."
"Thank you anyway, young lady," said Linda's mother. "Please don't bring scissors anywhere near my daughter's head. She has such lovely hair. I don't want her to have a faddish hair style that she'll hate in a few months, but that will take years to grow out."
Linda thought about it. A braid on one side and short hair on the other sounded pretty silly. But if a famous rock star did it...