The quartet huddled together and discussed Tom’s plan. Reluctantly he had agreed to allow the girls in on what they were going to do. They were just finished putting it all together when Carl called to them that the lunch break was over, so they packed up their stuff and went back to work.
The rest of the day and week went by quickly. The cousins worked hard in the fields with grandpa, even choosing to give up one of their free days to work in the fields so that they could look for more clues. On the afternoon of the theft, they had overheard Carl telling grandpa that a lot of melons had shown up at the local packaging plant and shipped out on the mail boat, but they could not tell if they were grandpa’s melons because they were brought in by other farmers. There was no marking on the melons to identify them as Stevenson Farms.
This made the cousins even more convinced that some of grandpa’s workers were stealing his crop.
“Those low lives are selling Grandpa’s melons to the other farmers,” Tom said angrily.
“How can we be sure?” James asked.
“How else would so many of them have melons to send to market?”
The next day at the lunch break, James and Tom snuck away from the farm. Tom knew where grandpa kept an old bicycle. He often used it when he was at work on the farm with grandpa, when he had to take messages to the workers out in the field. That day, he sent James ahead out to the main road, and he came behind, sneaking through a path to one of the fields and cutting out to the road. Cara nor Jill knew when they left. Tom deliberately didn’t tell them, he said later, so they wouldn’t have to lie to grandpa about where they had gone. They didn’t know, so they could not say.
Out on the road, he found James waiting. James got on the bicycle with him and they rode further up the road, deeper into the farming district. They had put on facing caps and pulled them low over their faces. As they rode, they kept their eyes fastened to the other fields they were passing. Tom knew who the other watermelon farmers were and he wanted to see what level of activity they had going on the farms.
The first day of sleuthing revealed nothing. That night at home after dinner, they got together out on the screened porch to discuss their progress. Cara told them that her mom had agreed to send the supplies she had asked for. She had told her mom she wanted to do some crafts while they were on the island.
This was the truth. She just did not tell her mom what kind of craft she was planning to do. The supplies were to arrive the next day.
“Everything has to be set before Sunday night,” Tom instructed. “Monday and Tuesday are the next harvesting days. If they are planning to steal another crop, they may come either Sunday night or before.”
“How are we going to get them to the farm?” Cara wanted to know.
“Tom and I”, stressed James, “We'll take them on Saturday.”
“What will Cara and I be doing?” Jill asked, showing uncharacteristic sass.
“You and Cara will be at home to help Nana with chores,” Tom told her.
“Remember, nobody is to know what we are doing,” Tom added in conspiratorial tones. “Not Nana, not grandpa, and certainly not any of the workers.”
“So,” Cara drawled slowly in a speculative tone, “how are you going to do it without grandpa knowing?”
Tom worked his mouth in that funny little way he did when he was thinking.
“We will just say we want to give him an extra hand on Saturday since things got screwed up this week,” he finally said.
“Why can’t we all go?” Cara quizzed.
But even as she said it, she knew that someone had to stay to help out with the chores. It was either some of them stayed, or they all would have to stay.
The next day, Tom and James went on their little excursion again. As before, there seemed nothing out of the ordinary. As they neared the second of the other melon farms, an old red truck pulled out onto the main road and sped past them going in the opposite direction, back towards Stevenson’s Farm.
The velocity from the truck shook them a bit and Tom had to stop to steady them. They were riding on the wrong side of the road, which they should not have been since drivers on the island drove on the left side of the road. But they were doing so on purpose. All of the farms were on the right side of the road heading south and they wanted to be close enough to get a look at the fields.
“Who was that crazy dude?” James asked, standing on the side of the road since Tom had been forced to bring the bike to a stop to avoid them both from falling.
“Don’t know,” Tom said, but he had that contemplative look again. “Truck looks familiar though.”
“Yeah well, best we get moving,” James told him, getting back on the crossbar and they rose off.
They went as far as they had gone the other days, before turning around and heading back. There was more farmland ahead, but time did not allow them to go the distance. They had to be back at the farm before it was time to go back into the fields.