Read The Wild Culpepper Cruise Online
Authors: Gary Paulsen
“Are you sure this thing will hold us?” Amos asked.
“Wrap your leg around it just in case. Mountain climbers do that. That way if they slip, their leg catches them.”
Amos moved an inch at a time. The deck was still a good ten feet away. “I sure am glad it’s dark.”
“That way I can’t see how far it is down to the water.”
“It’s about a two-story drop,” Dunc said.
“Thanks. I needed to hear that. It’s much easier knowing that if I fall, I’ll have time to die of a heart attack before I drown and get eaten by sharks.”
“Nobody’s going to drown. We’re almost there. Only a few more feet to go.”
Amos groaned and moved a few more inches. “By the time we make it to the banquet, it’ll probably be over. The captain will be in bed, and this will all be for nothing.”
“No, these things go on all night. They never eat right away. They talk and make all kinds of introductions first.”
“I’ve reached the end, Dunc. Now what?”
“This is going to be the tricky part. You have to let go with one hand, grab the rail, and swing up. Be careful.”
Dunc heard a ripping sound. “What was that?”
“My pants. Watch that bolt as you swing up.”
Dunc swung up behind him. “We made it. Are you okay?”
“Except for my pants. I’m sort of exposed in the back.”
“We don’t have time to go back to our room.” Dunc looked around. He pulled a red-striped cloth off a deck table. “Here. Put this on.”
Amos tied it in a knot around his middle. “I can’t wear this. It looks like a dress.”
“You look fine. Come on.”
The banquet hall was crowded. Most of the people were dressed in formal evening clothes. The crew wore their dress uniforms.
Everything about the room was elegant. Chandeliers hung from the ceiling. Delicate ice sculptures of dolphins and various fish sat on each table. Food was stacked everywhere.
Dunc shook his head. “Three countries wouldn’t be able to eat all the food here.”
When Amos walked in, he heard a small ripple of laughter. He looked down at himself. His bow tie was crooked. He straightened it and hitched up the tablecloth.
“I thought you said I looked fine,” he whispered.
“Don’t worry about it,” Dunc said. “Help me find the captain.”
Hundreds of people were standing around in small groups talking. It was hard to see.
“There he is.” Dunc pointed to a group of women standing around an officer. They made their way through the crowd. Everyone they passed stared at Amos.
He stared back. “It’s the latest thing. Your
kids will all be wearing tablecloths soon. Wait and see.”
The captain was surrounded by layers of people. Dunc tried to elbow his way in, but it was impossible.
Amos didn’t try. He decided to stop at the dessert table and sample at least one of everything. The choices were almost endless. He started with a piece of five-layer chocolate cake. Then ate his way down one side of the table. At the other end he was about to reach for a strawberry parfait when he happened to look up.
Skinny and Scarface were on the other side of the table.
Amos looked around for Dunc but couldn’t find him. He stepped back and started to run—or tried to. But he tripped on his tablecloth and fell into a woman carrying a glass of punch. It went down the front of her dress. She screamed.
He tried to stand up. Scarface reached for him. Amos dodged and fell backward onto the end of the dessert table. The other end came up and sent cakes, pies, and ice cream flying through the air.
The five-layer chocolate cake went straight into the ceiling fan. Pieces splattered all over
the room. The floor was a slippery mess. People were screaming and sliding into each other.
Amos crawled under the drink table. He thought he was safe until an arm reached for him. Reflexes took over, and he tried to stand up. All of the crystal glasses and a huge silver punch bowl went crashing to the floor.
Amos crawled out on the other side of the table.
Above all the noise and confusion he thought he heard Dunc’s voice. He looked up. Dunc and the captain were waving to him from the kitchen door.
He frantically scrambled to his feet and ran for the kitchen. When he got there, Dunc grabbed him and pulled him down behind the stove.
The two crooks ran in after him. They looked at the chef and the waiters. Scarface growled, “Did you guys see a kid come in here?”
Everybody in the kitchen pointed at the big walk-in freezer. The crooks looked inside. The captain and some of the waiters came up from behind, shoved them in, and locked the door.
“There’s no place like home.” Amos slam-dunked a dirty sock through the hoop on his door.
“We’ve been home for over a week. When are you going to quit saying that? You sound like Dorothy in
The Wizard of Oz
“I can’t help it. I’m glad to be back. No seasickness. No jewel thieves chasing us. It’s great. Hey—what happened to those guys anyway? I hope they got frostbite.”
“No such luck,” Dunc said. “The Coast Guard was nearby. They came out right away and
picked them up. The captain handled everything. He even arranged for your parents to go on the next cruise.”
“Yeah, I guess he’s okay. I wish it had been our picture in the paper instead of his, though.”
“He was the one who thought of trapping them in the freezer. And after the mess we made of his ship, we’re lucky he didn’t give us to the Coast Guard.”
Amos made a long shot with another sock. “I guess you’re right. I heard him say something about us and the
“Oh. I almost forgot.” Dunc reached into his pocket. “Your mailman brought this package.”
“Stick it on my desk. I’ll give it to my parents when they get back.”
“It’s addressed to you.”
Amos grabbed the package. “It’s from Vanessa. How did she get my address?”
“Open it,” Dunc prodded.
“There’s a letter with it.” He cleared his throat. “ ‘Dear Mr. Binder. I am writing this letter on behalf of my charge, Princess Vanessa.’ ” He looked up at Dunc. “Princess Vanessa?”
“Read the letter.”
“ ‘Her Grace would like to thank you for your kindness toward her aboard ship. The money
you gave her will be given to a charitable cause in our country. Enclosed is a drawing done by the princess. She would also like for you to have this silver fountain pen, due to the excessive amount of letters you write. She hopes you will think of her when you use it.’ It’s signed, ‘Sincerely, Princess Vanessa Elizabeth Dumont of Cervina Bosnio.’ ”
“How about that.” Dunc grinned. “Vanessa is a princess.”
“A princess who took all my money,” Amos said.
“What did she draw?” Dunc asked.
Amos pulled a stiff piece of paper out of the envelope. It was a stick-figure drawing of Amos, Vanessa, and her doll.
Dunc looked over his shoulder. “It’s a perfect likeness.”
“Cute,” Amos said. He ripped open the box. “Look at this pen, Dunc! I think it’s real silver.”
“That Vanessa must be really special,” Dunc said. “It’s not often that people go to so much trouble. Especially someone as young as she is. You’ll probably treasure that pen for years and years. It makes you feel good. Kind of restores your confidence in people, doesn’t it?”
Amos dropped the letter and headed for the door.
“Where are you going?”
“To see how much Eddy Sanders will give me for a solid silver pen. Where else?”
Dunc grinned. “Like I said, it restores your confidence in people.”
When Dunc Culpepper and his best friend, Amos Binder, first see the parrot in a pet store, they’re not impressed—it’s smelly, scruffy, and missing half its feathers. They’re only slightly impressed when they learn that the parrot speaks four languages, has outlived ten of its owners, and is probably 150 years old. But when the bird starts mouthing off about buried treasure, Dunc and Amos get pretty excited—let the amateur sleuthing begin!
Dunc and his accident-prone friend, Amos, are up to their old sleuthing habits once again. This time they’re after a band of doll thieves! When a doll that once belonged to Charles Dickens’s daughter is stolen from an exhibition at the local mall, the two boys put on their detective gear and do some serious snooping. Will a vicious watchdog keep them from retrieving the valuable missing doll?
Dunc and Amos are researching the Civil War cannon that stands in the town square when they find a note inside telling them about a time portal. Entering it through the dressing room of La Petite, a women’s clothing store, the boys find themselves in downtown Chatham on March 8, 1862—the day before the historic clash between the
. But the Confederate soldiers they meet mistake them for Yankee spies. Will they make it back to the future in one piece?
Dunc and Amos meet up with a new buddy named Lash when they enter the radical world of skateboard competition. When somebody “cops”—steals—Lash’s prototype skateboard, the boys are determined to get it back. After all, Lash is about to shoot for a totally rad world’s record! Along the way they learn a major lesson:
kiss a monkey!
Dunc and Amos are planning the best route to get the most candy on Halloween. But their plans change when Amos is slightly bitten by a werewolf. He begins scratching himself and chasing UPS trucks—he’s become a werepuppy!
Dunc and Amos have a small problem when they try hang-gliding—they crash in the wilderness. Luckily Amos has read a book about a boy who survived in the wilderness for fifty-four days. Too bad Amos doesn’t have a hatchet. Things go from bad to worse when a wild man holds the boys captive. Can anything save them now?
Dunc’s not afraid of ghosts, although Amos is sure that the old Rambridge house is haunted by the ghost of Blackbeard the Pirate. Then the best friends meet Eddie, a meek man who claims to be impersonating Blackbeard’s ghost in order to live in the house in peace. But if that’s true, why are flames shooting from his mouth?
Deciphering a code they find in a library book, Amos and Dunc stumble onto a burglary ring. The burglars’ next target is the home of Melissa, the girl of Amos’s dreams (who doesn’t even know that he’s alive). Amos longs to be a hero to Melissa, so nothing will stop him from solving this case—not even a mind-boggling collision with a jock, a chimpanzee, and a toilet.
In order to impress Melissa, Amos decides to perform on the trapeze at the visiting circus. Look out below! But before his best friend for life, Dunc, can talk him out of his plan, the two stumble across a mystery behind the scenes at the circus. Now Amos is in double trouble. What’s really going on under the big top?
Camouflaged as piles of rotting trash, Dunc and Amos are sneaking around the town dump. Dunc wants to find out who is polluting the garbage at the dump with hazardous and toxic waste. Amos just wants to impress Melissa. Can either of them succeed?
Dunc and Amos, best friends for life, are at it again. Some older residents of their town have been bilked by con artists, and the two boys want to look into these crimes. They meet elderly Betsy Dell, whose nasty nephew Frank gives the boys the creeps. Then they notice some soft dirt in Ms. Dell’s shed, and a shovel. Does Frank have something horrible in store for Dunc and Amos?
Dunc and Amos head for camp and face two weeks of fresh air—along with regulations, demerits, KP, and inedible food. But wherever these two best friends go, trouble follows. They overhear a threat against the camp director and discover that camp funds have been stolen. Do these crimes have anything to do with the tattoo of an exotic red flower that some of the camp staff have on their arms?