The Mystery of the Venerable Beade
by Jeff Baker
“Golly!” Danny McFarlane said.
“Don’t say that, you sound like an old movie,” his older brother Russ said, grinning.
They stood on the sunny dock staring upwards at the masted ship there in the dock at Gravity Cove.
“The Venerable Beade,” Russ read aloud. “Or at least, a good copy of the Beade.”
“Yeah, but we’re not here to gawk.” Danny said. “Commodore Reginald is actually paying us to investigate.”
“Yeah, but what are we looking for?” Russ said. “Still, it beats mowing lawns.”
The McFarlane Brothers had gained a little notoriety by figuring out who was blackmailing the heads of the company their Dad worked for and then uncovered who was stealing money from the High School. Luckily, the story hadn’t been on the news or they couldn’t do any inconspicuous snooping.
Which in this case was as easy as buying a ticket and taking the tour of The Venerable Beade.
The ship had been built on orders of Commodore Reginald who had bought what was left of the original Venerable Beade which had been wrecked nearly 120 years earlier after Admiral Blankenship’s unsuccessful attempt to sail to the North Pole. Commodore Reginald was wealthy and eccentric which explained why he was paying the two brothers to investigate a ship he owned. He told them they would attract less attention “than a raft of policemen.”
He wasn’t sure what was wrong, but he knew that something was.
“Watch your head,” Danny said as they walked down the steps. “And quit humming that song.”
Russ had been humming the theme to Gilligan’s Island. He grinned again.
The Commodore had taken pains to make sure that everything on the ship was the way it had been in the Admiral’s time, except for a modern navigational aid and a radio. Picture hung over the cabin door, curtains on the window, engraved plaque on the wall, navigational charts.
And, most importantly, original timbers salvaged from the wreck of the original Venerable Beade incorporated into this copy of the ship.
If it was the copy. Commodore Reginald had a suspicion that this was yet another copy, minus the historically priceless timbers from the original ship. Something, he had explained, had felt wrong the one time he had been on the ship since returning from a six-month stay in the Far East.
Danny and Russ looked around the cabin, admittedly gawking at items nearly 175 years old.
Then, Russ called Danny over to one part of the cabin and pointed. Danny stared. Then the brothers turned and looked at each other with widening eyes.
It was two hours later and the boys were sipping on sodas in Commodore Reginald’s hotel suite and telling them what they found.
“It was the plaque on the wall,” Danny said. “They were careful copying everything on the ship but my guess is they had somebody else do the plaque and they slipped up.”
“It was a prayer Admiral Blankenship had inscribed,” Russ said.
“I remember. ‘God be with us whether we turn this ship to starboard or to port or go forward,’” the Commodore said.
“When was the last time you looked at that plaque?” Danny asked.
The Commodore shrugged. “I probably just barely glanced at it when I was looking around before I headed East,” the Commodore said.
“You said something felt wrong,” Russ said. “Well, that was it. Even clever criminals aren’t all that smart.”
“How so?”asked the Commodore.
“The plaque in the phony ship doesn’t read ‘Starboard’ or ‘Port,’” Danny said. “Instead it says ‘Right’ and ‘Left.’ That’s not in the original, we checked online. And anyway, ‘right’ and ‘left’ are not something a Nineteenth-Century Admiral would write in a prayer about his ship.”
“Oh, I should have noticed,” the Commodore said.
“I bet you did but it didn’t register,” Danny said.
The Commodore took a sip of his cognac. “Now, how do we find my ship?”
The boys looked at each other.
“That’s probably out of our league,” Danny said. “I’d say you call the police.”
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’d been reading through one of Leslie McFarlane’s original Hardy Boys mysteries, admiring his gripping storytelling and decided I’d do a riff on the whole thing. Hence, the McFarlane Brothers. Any errors in nautical terminology are mine. —–jeff baker, June 24, 2022