Authors: Carolyn Keene
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NO ONE LOVES WARM WEATHER
more than me! But since trouble seems to find me even when the sun’s glaring down, my summers usually aren’t so relaxing. I decided that this year, however, all that would change. I was going to take a much-needed
summer break from sleuthing!
So when Bess suggested that she, George, and I sign up as counselors at Camp Cedarbark, I thought it was a great idea. I figured I’d spend time with the kids, make a few new friends, maybe even pick up a hobby. Of course, I should have known that escaping mystery-fueled drama is never as easy as it seems. . . .
A Summer Retirement
BESS PEERED DOWN INTO HER
cup and then thrust it back at the girl who’d handed it to her. “Could I get just a
marshmallow?” her cousin George asked, swirling her plastic spoon through her own pile of Strawberry Cheesecake Explosion. “If you get any more marshmallow, Bess, all of your organs are going to stick together.”
My boyfriend, Ned, cleared his throat. “I’m pretty sure that’s not how the human digestive system works,” he said, watching as the ice cream scooper handed the cup back to Bess, “but you
going to have the mother of sugar highs.”
Bess tilted her head at him. “After eating an ice cream sundae? You don’t say.” She smiled at the ice cream scooper, plunged her spoon into a fluffy cloud of marshmallow, and shoveled it into her mouth, closing her eyes in pleasure. “Ohhhh, yeah. That’s the stuff. Besides”—she opened her eyes—“we’re celebrating here. At least, Nancy, George, and I are. Aren’t we?”
“We sure are,” I agreed, stepping up to the counter. “Can I get a strawberry sundae with Oreo chip and whipped cream?”
Ned smiled at me. “Good combination.”
“Thanks,” I said. “I spent all winter planning the ultimate sundae combo.”
Bess took another bite of her sundae and moaned. “And we can spend
eating ice cream now, guys,” she said happily. “Because as of midnight last night, it’s officially
“For twelve beautiful, short weeks,” Ned put in.
Bess glared at him. “Buzzkill.”
“And then comes fall,” Ned said, taking a lick of his own rocky-road-with-sprinkles cone. “Then winter. It’ll be snowing before we know it!”
is,” Bess said, raising her spoon in the air, “that we girls have three months of gorgeous weather stretching ahead of us.
What are we going to do with it all?”
I took my sundae from the ice cream scooper and handed over my money. “Um, if I were to guess? I’ll probably end up solving a mystery or something.”
“You’re so predictable, Nance,” George scoffed, rolling her eyes.
I took a bite of my sundae.
, it was perfect. I’d done it. I’d created the ultimate sundae. “I dunno,” I said, shrugging at George. “Maybe I’ll take the summer off from solving mysteries. Take up knitting or something.”
Now it was Bess’s turn to roll her eyes.
“What?” I asked.
“I’ll believe that when I see it, is all,” she explained. “How are you going to manage it? Mysteries tend to find you, you know. I think the only way you could pull that off is to stop talking to people at all.”
George nodded, chewing on a nugget of cheesecake. “Or go on a really long trip,” she added.
“Where you don’t speak the language,” Ned put in, pausing from licking his cone.
!” I said, getting frustrated. “I’m serious. I mean, kind of.”
“You want to stop solving mysteries?” Bess asked, looking incredulous. She slapped a hand over my forehead. “Are you feeling okay?”
I dodged out from under her. “Not
,” I said. “But it might be nice to just relax this summer. Enjoy nature. Maybe play some sports.”
I expected Bess to laugh again, but instead she looked thoughtful. “I think George might be right,” she said slowly. “I think to do that, you might have to leave town. And I have an idea!” She put her sundae down on a nearby table and then swung her purse off her shoulder so she could start digging in it. Normally this was a twenty-minute process, minimum, so George and I looked at each other and sat down to continue eating our ice cream. But just as I had the perfect mouthful of strawberries, ice cream, and whipped cream, Bess pulled out a glossy brochure and waved it at me.
“Um,” I said, struggling to swallow what I had in my mouth, “okay.”
I took the brochure. The cover showed a beautiful lake surrounded by woods and cabins, and blocky text spelled out
I raised an eyebrow at Bess. “I think we’re a little old for summer camp, don’t you think?”
Bess, who’d sat down with us and was inhaling her sundae, sighed. “Not as
,” she said. “As
. Think about it, Nance. You want to relax, enjoy nature, maybe play some sports?”
“Yeah.” George snorted. “There’s nothing more relaxing than looking after six children who belong to someone else all summer long!”
Bess frowned at her. “Shush. You like kids.” She turned back to me. “And it wouldn’t be for the whole summer. Camp Cedarbark does little mini-sessions, each one week long! Besides, it’s not just any camp, Nancy. I used to go there when I was a kid!”
I squinted at the brochure. “I thought you went to Camp Lark-something?”
“Camp Larksong,” Bess confirmed. “But they closed five years ago, two years after my last visit! Now a Camp Larksong alum has finally bought the place and restored it. They sent this brochure to all the former Camp Larksong campers, encouraging us to get involved or send our kids.”
“Kids?” asked Ned.
Bess shrugged. “Well, Camp Larksong was in business for twenty-three years, so . . .” She turned to me, her face as eager as a puppy’s. “What do you think?”
I raised my eyebrows. “You’re serious?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?” Bess stuck out her lower lip in a pout. “I have so many happy memories of this place! I was sort of thinking of applying to be a counselor on my own, but it would be so much more fun with you guys!”
George looked at her cousin. “You really think I could take care of a bunkful of children and not lose my mind?”
,” Bess admonished her. “We’d each be assigned a CIT, counselor-in-training, who’s a few years younger. And of course, we’d all be there to help each other. Besides”—she pointed an accusing finger at George—“you
children. You’re a great babysitter! Remember when you watched cousin Gemma for the day and taught her how to code?”
George’s lips turned up. “Well,
was an exceptional kid. She had a natural talent!”
“I guess we’d have activities to keep them busy, George,” I said, trying to imagine the three of us relaxing by the lake in the photo. “It’s not like we’d be starting from scratch.”
“And the activities are
,” Bess went on. “I know neither of you went to summer camp, but it’s the greatest! Swimming and hiking and playing capture the flag and . . .”
I looked at George. Bess was right, I’d never been to summer camp . . . but it
sound really fun. And definitely more exciting than sitting in our backyard rereading Harry Potter with my feet in a kiddie pool, which was basically last summer. (When I wasn’t sleuthing, that is.) “It would only be a week or two,” I said quietly.
Bess looked at me, her eyes bulging in excitement as she realized she’d gained an ally. “Ten days,” she squealed. “The mini-sessions are just one week of camp, and three days’ training. That’s not so bad, right? Even if you hated it, it’s
The silence that followed was broken by a
We all turned to see Ned finishing up his waffle cone. “I’m sold,” he said after he swallowed. “But unfortunately, I’m using the summer to bang out my science requirements. You’re on your own, Nance.”
Bess smiled at him. “You weren’t invited anyway,” she said. “It’s a girls’ camp. What do you say?” she asked, looking eagerly from me to George.
“I’m . . .
,” I said, smiling in spite of myself. A week at camp! It was the last way I thought I’d spend my summer, and yet it was somehow perfect. I looked back down at the photo on the brochure. It looked . . .