“What are your new names?” Danny asked.
“I’m Anne,” said Nancy.
“And I’m Elizabeth,” Bess replied.
George grinned. “I’m Jackie.”
Nancy’s first bit of detective work was to call the police early next morning. She inquired about the house where they had been imprisoned and was told that the owners were away on vacation.
The girls’ kidnappers had broken in and “borrowed” the premises for their scheme. The police managed to track down Steven, who told them the couple had approached him in a supermarket and asked him if he would like to earn some money. They needed someone to pick up three visitors from the airport and bring them to their house.
“Steven agreed and assured as he knew nothing about a kidnapping,” the officer concluded. “We’re inclined to believe his story, but we’ll keep an eye on him.”
After Nancy had put down the phone, Mr. Cosgrove asked the girls if they would like Danny to take them to Crocodile Island in the family’s motorized skiff.
“It’s high tide now and a good time to go,” he said. “I wish you luck in your sleuthing,” he added, smiling.
“Thank you very much,” Nancy said. “Do you think we’ll have a chance to go on the island?”
“Sometimes they do allow visitors,” Mr. Cosgrove explained. “On certain days of the week, but I don’t know about today. You’ll have to see.”
The four walked to the marina where the boat was kept.
“How do you like the name I gave it?” Danny asked.
The girls laughed when they saw what was painted on the side of the skiff.
“Pirate!” George exclaimed. “Even if you hadn’t told me, I’d have known a boy picked it.”
“Do you go after all the treasure that’s supposed to be buried on these islands?” Bess asked him.
“I sure do,” Danny replied. “The trouble is, some of the small keys floated away in hurricanes and any treasure on them is lost forever.”
“What a shame!” George teased. “And here we came all the way to Florida, thinking we could dig up a million doubloons!”
The young people laughed, then stepped aboard the skiff. Four swivel chairs were bolted to the deck, and Danny explained that this made it easy for fishermen to turn in all directions. Then he pointed to the large outboard motor in the rear of the craft. “It weighs two hundred and fifty pounds and is raised and lowered hydraulically.”
“Why do you have to raise it?” Bess asked.
“When you get caught in low tide, you literally have to jump along over the sand dunes at a very fast clip. If you don’t, you’re apt to get stuck.”
Danny settled himself behind the wheel and started the boat. As they rode along, he pointed out the shoreline of Key Biscayne with its high-rise condominiums and many-storied hotels. But soon they left the area and one little island after another came into view.
“All of these were built up by coral formations and mangrove trees,” Danny explained. “I’ll show you some trees along the edge. The way they grow is fascinating.”
He pulled up to a small key and stopped the boat. The narrow mangrove trunks rose some fifteen feet into the air, then started to bend over. Their branches were heavy with leaves, which in turn hung down into the water. Being thick and close together, they were a natural catchall for whatever floated by, and together they formed a solid shoreline.
“Over there,” said Danny, pointing, “Is a place where the water is a little deeper. We can glide in between two of the wide-spreading trees and you can get a better look.”
He raised the outboard motor somewhat, moved the skiff forward, then headed among the mangroves. It was a strange sight. Roots twisted and turned. Among them and beyond the shoreline lay fragments of weathered coral rock.
Suddenly there was a grinding sound under the skiff, which stopped so abruptly it almost threw the girls into the water!
“What did we hit?” Bess cried out. “Oh, I hope it didn’t ram a hole in the skiff!”
“I doubt it,” Danny replied. From the deck, he picked up a long pole with a pronged hook on the end. Leaning over the side, he poked around under the boat and raised an enormous pile of matted mangrove roots and leaves. With a chuckle, he swung it into the skiff.