Pool Party Puzzler
THRONE . . . AND GROANS
“I’ve heard of sweet sixteen parties before,” George Fayne said, “but whoever heard of a sweet half-sixteen?”
Nancy Drew looked up from the goody bag she was filling for Deirdre Shannon’s sweet half-sixteen party.
“Eight is half of sixteen,” Nancy explained. “So since Deirdre is turning eight, she asked her parents for a sweet half-sixteen party!”
“And whatever Deirdre wants,” Bess Marvin said, dropping a fancy iced cookie into a bag, “Deirdre gets!”
It was summer vacation and the theme of Deirdre’s party was Beach Party Blast. Nancy, Bess, and George had come extra early to help George’s mom cater the party. Louise Fayne had catered lots of kids’ birthday parties, but nothing as fancy as this!
“We’re eight years old and half-sixteen, too,” Nancy pointed out. “And we have something just as awesome as a party like this.”
“What?” Bess asked.
“Our own detective club called the Clue Crew!” Nancy answered with a smile.
Nancy, Bess, and George high-fived. The three best friends loved solving mysteries more than anything. They even had their own detective headquarters in Nancy’s room!
“And my dad just gave me this brand-new notebook,” Nancy said, pulling a notebook with a shiny red cover from her bag. “He told me it would be a good place to write down suspects and clues for our cases. I’m going to call it the Clue Book!”
Nancy’s father wasn’t a detective, but he was a lawyer. To Nancy that was the next best thing.
“But we already write down all of our suspects on your computer, Nancy,” George pointed out. George loved electronic gadgets more than anything!
“That’s true.” Nancy nodded. “But we can take the Clue Book with us wherever we go. It will make us even better detectives!”
“Okay, if we’re such great detectives,” George said, “then why are we all dressed up so goofy?”
“Deirdre asked everyone to wear sea costumes over our swimsuits,” Nancy reminded her. “I’m a sea horse, Bess is a sea fairy, and you’re a—”
“Jellyfish!” George groaned. The ribbon tentacles streaming from her hat wiggled over her face. “Don’t remind me.”
Nancy brushed aside her reddish-blond bangs to look around for Deirdre. She was probably getting ready for her grand entrance. Mrs. Fayne said it would be at one o’clock sharp—after the guests arrived.
“Great job, girls,” Mrs. Fayne said after all the goody bags had been stuffed and placed on a table. “Why don’t you explore the yard before the others get here?”
Nancy smiled as she looked around the Shannons’ backyard. It looked more like a beach than a yard. There was real white sand and beach umbrellas around the pool. On each party table was a sand castle centerpiece surrounded by shells and starfish. Inflated palm trees dotted the lawn. So did some of Deirdre’s birthday presents—like a shiny lavender electric scooter with a matching helmet!
“This party is going to be amazing,” George said. “I’ll bet every kid in River Heights is invited.”
“Every kid but Shelby Metcalf,” Nancy said. “Deirdre is still mad at Shelby for not trading lunches with her at school one day.”
“What kind of lunches?” Bess asked.
“Shelby had peanut butter and jelly,” Nancy explained. “Deirdre had a soggy spinach salad.”
George suddenly stopped walking. “Hey, check it out!” she said, pointing to something in the distance.
Nancy and Bess looked to see where George was pointing. A woman wearing a sun hat was busily snipping hedges behind the pool. The three hedges were shaped like sea creatures!
“Let’s get a closer look!” Nancy said excitedly.
The girls hurried over to the woman. She was in the middle of trimming the claw on a hedge shaped like a crab.
“Hello,” Bess said. “Are you a gardener?”
“I’m what they call a garden designer,” the woman replied with a cheery smile. “My name is Taffy, and I create topiaries.” She pointed at one of the leafy hedges.
“To-pi-ar-ies,” Nancy repeated.
“Topiaries by Taffy,” Taffy said proudly. “That’s the name of my company!”
“Did Deirdre see these topiaries yet?” George asked.
“If she did,” Bess said, “I’d bet she loved them!”
But Taffy shook her head and heaved a sigh.
“Deirdre wasn’t very happy with my topiaries,” Taffy said. “She wanted one of them to look like her!”
“You mean she wanted a grassy statue of herself?” George asked.
Taffy nodded and said, “Deirdre said she was Queen of the Sea and her party had to be perfect.”
“That sounds like Deirdre, all right,” Bess said.
“Oh well,” Taffy said. She gave her topiary one final snip. “I guess I’ll have to surprise Queen Deirdre later.”
Nancy wondered what the surprise would be. Before she got a chance to ask, Bess shook Nancy’s arm.
“The other guests are here!” Bess announced.
Nancy turned to see other kids dressed like sea creatures in the Shannons’ backyard. The most awesome party of the year was about to begin!
After saying a quick good-bye to Taffy, the girls ran to join the others. Many were dancing. Some were sipping smoothies.
Nancy recognized Kendra Jackson, Marcy Rubin, and Henderson Murphy from school. But there was one kid no one knew.
“Who’s that?” George asked. She nodded toward a kid wearing a green sea monster costume. A mask and headdress totally covered his or her face. Both hands were stuffed inside gloves with long webbed fingers!
“I know how we can find out,” Nancy said with a smile. “Let’s go over and say hi.”
The girls walked over to the sea monster kid.
“Hi, there. That’s a neat costume,” Bess said kindly. “But aren’t you hot in it?”
The kid shook his or her head, then walked away without a word.
“We still don’t know who she is,” Bess said.
“How do you know she’s a she?” Nancy asked.
“Her feet weren’t covered,” Bess said. “Did you see her purple sandals and pink toenail polish? Totally girlie-girl.”
“Like you, Bess!” George teased. “Only you would notice purple sandals and pink toenail polish!”
Nancy giggled. Bess and George were cousins but totally different. Bess had blond hair and blue eyes, and she loved clothes more than anything. George had dark eyes and curly hair. She was fine with new clothes as long as they had enough pockets for her electronic gadgets!
“I have an idea,” Nancy suggested. “Let’s get some smoothies—before the tropical ones are gone.”
“Last one there is a rotten coconut!” George declared.
They were about to run to the party’s special smoothie stand when a big voice boomed through a DJ’s speakers. “Attention, kids! Let’s give it up for everybody’s favorite sweet half-sixteen birthday girl, Queen Deirdre of the Sea!”
“It’s Deirdre’s grand entrance!” Nancy said excitedly. She glanced at her watch. It was one o’clock. “And right on schedule!”
The kids gathered on the patio to watch. A trumpet blared as four teenagers wearing huge fish headdresses marched around the side of the house. In each of their hands was a pole. Resting atop the four poles was a giant half-shell throne!
Nancy couldn’t believe her eyes. Waving down from the elaborate shell was Deirdre. The birthday girl was dressed in a glitzy mermaid costume and shell-covered crown!
“Awesome!” Nancy exclaimed.
The teens made a sudden sharp turn and the throne tipped. Deirdre screamed as it swayed back and forth!
“Oh, noooo!” Nancy shrieked as she covered her eyes. “Queen Deirdre is going to fall!”