They left the store by the rear entrance, where Mrs. Grote had parked her car. Nancy was relieved. If anyone had followed the van and was waiting for her in front, he would be fooled!
“Are you enjoying your visit here?” Mrs. Grote asked as she drove off.
“Oh, yes,” Nancy replied. “It has been very exciting.”
“In what way?” Mrs. Grote asked.
Nancy did not want to give any details concerning the mystery, so she merely talked about their interesting boat rides, their trip to the Easton estate, and the show the Indian had put on.
Soon Mrs. Grote drove into the club grounds, so it was not necessary for Nancy to explain any further. She thanked the woman for picking her up and wished her a good score in her golf game.
Mr. Gonzales was seated in the lobby. “I’m so glad you came,” he said, and led her to the dining room.
While they were eating, Nancy told him about Colombo and what he had said regarding the officers of the Crocodile Ecology Company.
“I’m not surprised,” Mr. Gonzales commented.
Nancy mentioned the phrase: They want five hundred. Can you carry that many? “Mr. Gonzales, have you any idea what that could have meant?”
The man furrowed his brow. “No, I haven’t. Surely they couldn’t have been talking about crocodiles. There wouldn’t be enough to fill such a big order.”
“Do you raise anything else on the island that they could have referred to?” Nancy asked.
“No, nothing. I could ask my partners, but if I do they will know that I received word from Colombo. Then they are likely to go after the poor man and harm him.”
“You’re right,” Nancy agreed. “Would you like to speak to Colombo personally?”
“Indeed I would. Do you know how to reach him?”
“I’ll try. Colombo said he would be staying at the YMCA.”
Nancy stood up and went to a phone booth in the lobby. Luckily the receptionist at the Y confirmed that Mr. Banks was registered and offered to get him. Soon he was on the line.
“Hello?” he said hurriedly. His voice sounded frightened.
“Hello, Colombo,” Nancy replied. “It’s Anne Boonton. Could you meet me at this club?” She gave the address. “A friend of mine wants to speak to you about Crocodile Island. Take a taxi. I’ll pay for it.”
“All right,” he said. “I’m glad it’s you and not one of my former bosses. I’ll be there as soon as lean.”
Half an hour later the man arrived. Nancy hurried outside to pay the cabbie, then took Colombo to the tropical garden to meet Mr. Gonzales. When the young man heard that he was one of the partners in the Crocodile Ecology Company, he looked at Nancy apprehensively.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “Mr. Gonzales is not like the other men. He wants to find out what’s going on at Crocodile Island and if his partners are dishonest.”
This reassured Colombo and he talked freely about the hardship he had suffered and the things he had observed.
“I’m in real trouble,” he finished. “I’ve been trying to find a job but haven’t been successful. I’m running out of money, but I’m afraid to contact my relatives for fear of being tracked down by Gimler.”
“Perhaps I can help,” Mr. Gonzales offered. “I heard the other day that one of the men in the club kitchen is quitting. Wait here, and I’ll see what I can find out.”
He went to the lobby to talk to the manager, and returned a few minutes later with a smile on his face.
“You’re in luck, Colombo,” he said. “Do you know how to prepare seafood?”
Colombo grinned. “I did that in New Orleans. But I never cut up a crocodile!”
Nancy laughed, and Mr. Gonzales asked Colombo to come along with him to see the head chef in the kitchen.
“We won’t be long,” he told Nancy.
Within ten minutes the two were back with a third man, who proved to be the pastry chef. Mr. Gonzales said that this man had finished his work and was about to drive home. He would take Colombo with him.
The cook went to get his car. Meanwhile, Nancy was told that Colombo had been given the job and was to report for work the next morning.