Mrs. Cosgrove was worried about the pistol, but Danny calmed his mother by telling her that they had already delivered it to the police.
Nancy said, “I’d like to learn more about submarines. Mr. Cosgrove, do you know someone at the naval base in Key West?”
He nodded. “As usual, you’re lucky. It happens that Captain Townsend is an old friend of mine. I’ll give you a letter of introduction and if he can spare the time, I’m sure he’ll show you around and answer all your questions.” He smiled at Nancy. “But don’t ask him to tell you any of the secrets of the U.S. Navy!”
Nancy knew she was being teased because of her reputation as a girl sleuth. She smiled back and said, “Maybe I’ll find out some secrets without being told!”
Danny called across the room, “I dare you to!”
After breakfast the following morning Mr. Cosgrove wrote the letter of introduction to Captain Townsend. “Take this to his house on the base,” he said.
Danny asked to be excused from the trip, because of a dentist’s appointment, so the three girls drove off by themselves. When they reached the Naval Station at Key West, they were amazed at the immensity of it. Two sailors guarded the entrance gate and asked for the visitors’ identification. Nancy pulled out the letter from Mr. Cosgrove and showed it to them.
“Go ahead,” one of the sailors said. “Take a right turn and at the next street ask someone where Captain Townsend’s house is.”
They followed the directions and in a few minutes pulled up to an attractive bungalow. Many varieties of flowers were in full bloom in the front yard.
Nancy parked and the girls walked to the door. They were admitted by another sailor, who took them to Captain Townsend’s office in his home. Nancy showed him the letter.
“So you’re a friend of the Cosgroves?” he asked. “Our families have been very close for many years. Please sit down.”
The girls seated themselves in the comfortable wicker furniture. Then the captain asked what he could do for them.
Nancy said she would love to look around the base. “But before that, I want to ask you an important question.”
She related the story of having seen a periscope in the green waterway at Crocodile Island. “But each time our skiff approaches it, the periscope disappears quickly. Do you know of any sub in that area?”
Captain Townsend shook his head. “No. But let me make a quick call and see if there’s any record of it.”
He punched a number into his desk phone and in a few minutes had his answer. “There’s no record of any sub plying those waters. Are you sure you didn’t mistake a mischievous coot for a periscope?”
“You mean those little black birds that stay underwater with just their long necks and heads showing?”
Up to this point George had not spoken. Now she exclaimed indignantly, “Nancy and the rest of us would certainly know the difference between a coot and a periscope!”
Captain Townsend laughed. “No offense meant. I’m sorry I can’t help you.”
“Perhaps you can help us with another sub,” Nancy said. “I’d like to see one. Are there any in port?”
“You came at a good time,” Captain Townsend said. “I’m going off duty just about now, so I’ll be glad to give you a personally conducted tour of the base and show you a sub.”
“Oh, that’s great!” Nancy exclaimed. “Thank you.”
The officer stood up and led them outside. “I don’t have a car here, so shall we take yours?” he asked Nancy.
“Of course,” she said, and handed him the keys.
He climbed behind the wheel and drove the girls up and down the various streets of the base, pointing out office buildings, barracks, recreation centers, and the air station.
Nancy was fascinated by the very high antenna. Captain Townsend said, “From here we can send messages to every part of the world.”
“By satellite?” George asked.
They passed the base’s hospital and came to an area where helicopters were parked.
“The men who fly these birds are specially trained in antisubmarine work,” the captain explained. “They survey suspicious areas and try to spot invading enemy subs.”