Colombo said, “I certainly appreciate what you’ve done for me.”
Mr. Gonzales patted him on the back. “We’re glad to help, and thank you for some good clues. If you think of anything else about the Crocodile Ecology Company, leave a note for me at the desk.”
“I will,” Colombo promised, then hurried outside, where the pastry chef was waiting for him.
When Nancy returned to the Cosgroves’ home, no one was there. She knew where a key was hidden and went to get it. As she entered the hall, Nancy saw a note from George lying on the table. It said that Danny and the girls had gone to the small local Naval Station with the bottle George had found in the water. “Maybe we can find out about it without going to Key West,” George had written.
At this moment, George was telling her story to a friendly young captain named Smith. He agreed that the old note appeared to be authentic and said he would try to verify its contents.
He stood up and went to a shelf containing and registries. George meanwhile walked around his small office and glanced at photographs on the wall. Suddenly she stopped in front of a group picture of sailors. One of the faces looked familiar!
“Bess,” George said, excited, “come here a moment. Doesn’t this man remind you of someone?”
“Matt Carmen or Breck Tobin!” Bess answered. “Only the sailor’s a lot younger.”
As Captain Smith turned around, George asked who the sailor was.
Child in Danger
Captain Smith turned over the picture George had pointed out. He read the names on the back and said, “This fellow is Giuseppe Matthews. I’ll look up his record.”
After a search in several volumes, he came across the item. “Matthews went AWOL,” Captain Smith explained, “and was never heard from again. Why did you ask about him?”
George replied, “We’ve met a man who looks very much like the one in this picture. He’s older, but there’s a strong resemblance.”
“Where did you see him?” Captain Smith asked.
“Out in the bay, near Crocodile Island. If he’s the same person, he’s using a different name now.”
“What is it?” Smith inquired.
“Matt Carmen or Breck Tobin,” George answered. “We were never introduced so we don’t know which name goes with whom.”
“You realize, of course, that we’re still looking for Matthews,” Captain Smith said. “And that we’ll have to arrest him when we find him. Can you tell me where these men live?”
For a moment George hesitated. “What if one of them is the wrong person?” she asked. “I wouldn’t want to get anyone in trouble.”
“If they’re not Giuseppe Matthews, they won’t get into trouble,” the captain pointed out.
“We saw a boat called The Whisper,” Danny said. “We checked in a registry of ships and learned that it belongs to two men from Bridgeport, Connecticut. One of them is Matt Carmen, the other Breck Tobin.”
Captain Smith wrote the information on a pad, and said he would follow up the lead. Then he checked another set of records for proof that the note in the bottle was authentic. Finally he smiled.
“Here it is,” he said. “This is really amazing. A ship named Venerable was last heard from in Argentina. Her captain was George Wayne. This is the first message received since then.”
“No one reported that she was wrecked?” Bess asked.
“No. And this note must have traveled at least ten thousand miles. I presume it would be considered part of the Venerable’s records, so I’d like to keep it if you don’t mind.”
“Of course not,” George said.
“Perhaps we can locate relatives of the captain and the crew, who would like to see it,” Captain Smith added. He thanked the girls for bringing him their find and remarked, “The government may give you a citation for this.”
George grinned. “That would be fun. I’ve never had one.”
The girls said good-by to the captain and returned home. There was plenty of exciting conversation as they exchanged stories with Nancy. Mr. and Mrs. Cosgrove listened and were thunderstruck at all that had been learned.
“Each day you prove more and more what good detectives you are,” their host complimented them.