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“Mom! Dad! Mimi! Pop Pop!

I saw…” Jekka
shouted as she ran inside.

“Whoa, slow down, honey – your sister’s sleeping,”


her mom said.

“Sorry, it’s just that…”

“Wait a minute,” said her dad, “You’re dripping all


over the place. Hold on while I get a towel.”

“But I’m trying to tell you…”

“And didn’t I say not to go in the water?” her mom


added, with a skeptical look.

“Yes. Sorry. It was an accident. My binoculars got


tangled and I fell in.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have been so close to the


lake, peanut,” her dad chimed in, handing her a towel.

Jekka felt like she was going to explode.

“It was Champy!” she finally shouted. The room


got suddenly silent, and Jekka repeated herself, this time
quietly. “I saw Champy, and I think I took his picture.”
Other Books By Dan Ward

Meet The Boomer Sisters


The Boomer
Sisters Meet
Champy!

By Dan Ward
A ROGUE PRESS BOOK

New York

2006

Visit us at www.lulu.com/RoguePress

Copyright © 2006 by Dan Ward


Cover design by Mandy Hoelmer
For My Parents,

who taught me to aim high.


Faith means believing the unbelievable.
Hope means hoping when everything is hopeless.
- G.K. Chesterton
CONTENTS

1. Vacation Begins 1

2. First Encounter 7

3. A Garden Tour 14

4. Letters In The Attic 24

5. Cornerstone Bookstore 32

6. Beach Day 41

7. Visiting ECHO 50

8. Loon Rescue 60

9. Pieces Coming Together 69

10. Flying The Lucky Duck 77

11. ECHO’s ECHO 87

12. Pistachio Launch 98

13. In The Lake 110

14. The Deep Water Program 119

15. Close Encounter 127

16. Back To The Garden 133


Chapter 1: The Vacation Begins

“5… 6… 7…” BJ Boomer carefully set her socks


into the suitcase, counting each pair out loud. “8… ooof –
JB!” BJ glared at her little sister, who had come into the
room unannounced and bumped her arm, scattering socks
all over the bed. “Look what you did! What are you doing
in my room?”

“7, 8, JB? JB isn’t a number, silly,” replied the


youngest Boomer girl with a grin. “And besides, that’s not
even my name anymore. From now on, I want to be called
Jekka.”

“Mom!” BJ yelled. “JB is bothering me and she


messed up my socks and she probably didn’t even pack
yet!”

1
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“I said I want to be called Jekka now,” she replied,


then ran towards BJ’s door and collided with her mom, who
had just arrived.

“Girls, please don’t harass each other,” Mrs.


Boomer said with a sigh. “We’ve got a long drive ahead of
us and it would be nice if everyone would get along.”
Turning to her youngest daughter, she said, “JB, are you
packed already?”

“Yes, and I want to be called Jekka now,” she


answered in her most regal, princessy voice.

“OK, Jekka, let’s check out your suitcase.”


Together, the two went into Jekka’s room, and BJ heard her
mom give a small gasp. “Um, sweetie, nice try, but you
can’t just throw a wad of clothes into a bag and call it
packing. Look, it’s all shirts and no pants. Here, let me help
you…”

BJ sighed and silently started counting out her socks


again, then began picking out some shirts to bring.

“The Camp Mimi Express leaves in thirty minutes,”


BJ heard her dad say from the hallway. BJ started to pack
faster.

For as long as she could remember, BJ and her


sister had gone to Plattsburgh, New York, to visit their

2
grandparents for a week each summer. The girls called
them Mimi and Pop Pop, and everyone called the trip
“Camp Mimi.” This year, instead of just one week, they
would stay for two, while their mom and dad took a hot air
balloon trip across the country.

BJ loved visiting her grandparents any time of year,


and loved going to Camp Mimi most of all. Mimi and Pop
Pop lived in a part of Plattsburgh called Cliff Haven, on the
shores of Lake Champlain. Summers there were filled with
canoeing, picnics on the beach, snorkeling, and trips on her
grandparent’s boat, Air Force Blue.

Mimi had a garden which wrapped around the entire


house, and even though BJ didn’t like dirt, worms or bugs,
she loved helping Mimi take care of all the beautiful
flowers. Plus, with her parents gone, she and JB – I mean
Jekka – got to stay up late, eat candy, and do all the things
kids can’t do when their parents are around.

“Um, hello?” BJ’s dad poked his head into the


room, startling her. “Are you packing or did you go to Cliff
Haven in your mind already?” he asked with a chuckle.

BJ realized she had spaced out, thinking about the


trip, and was standing motionless in her room, one hand on
a half-folded shirt.

3
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“Oops, sorry Daddy,” she said sheepishly. “I guess I


got distracted by my own brain. I’m almost done packing,
don’t worry.”

“Sounds good, kiddo,” he answered. “Let me know


when your bag is ready and I’ll put it in the van. You’ll
have plenty of time to daydream while we’re driving.”

“I’m going to find Champy this year,” Jekka


announced from the doorway as their dad moved into the
kitchen. She had a pair of binoculars around her neck and a
camera in her hand.

“I don’t think he’s real,” answered BJ, surprising


herself a little with her response. She used to believe in the
monster that supposedly lives in Lake Champlain, and
spent hours looking for him every summer. Lately, though,
she was beginning to doubt whether such a huge creature
could live in the lake without being noticed. Part of her still
believed, and most of her wanted to believe, but she wasn’t
entirely sure what she should think.

“He is real,” shot back Jekka, stomping one foot


defiantly. “And I’m going to take his picture.” She spun on
her heel and disappeared down the hallway at her usual
high rate of speed. BJ heard her dad say “oof,” as Jekka
crashed into him.

4
BJ zipped her suitcase, then picked up her book bag
with a grunt. She had packed close to twenty books the
night before, and they were heavy.

“Whoa, that’s a lot of books you’ve got there,


kiddo.” Her dad was back. “You know you’re only going to
be there for two weeks, right?”

“Oh Daddy, these books are for the car ride, not
Camp Mimi. Pop Pop said he would take us to that cool
bookstore while we’re up there, and get even more books.”
BJ’s neck tingled at the thought.

“Oh,” he answered, as he picked her full suitcase


up. “Well, if anyone can read all these books in four hours,
I imagine you can. Let’s get it started, shall we?”

“Can we bring our flying bikes, Daddy?” Jekka


asked.

“Sorry kiddo, there’s not enough room in the van.


Besides, I’m sure you’ll have plenty of adventures and fun
in Cliff Haven, even without winged bicycles.”

“Ok. Then can I bring my little flashlight?”

“Sure,” Mr. Boomer answered with a chuckle. “By


all means, bring a flashlight.”

5
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

The drive to Cliff Haven took forever, as usual. BJ


spent most of the time reading, while Jekka hummed and
sang along with the music on her headphones. The last
half-hour, however, everyone spent staring out the window,
in a contest to see who would be the first to glimpse the
lake.

“There it is!” Jekka shouted, a second before BJ


joined in. “We see it! We see it!”

At first, all they could make out was occasional


glimpses of brilliant blue water, occasionally broken by
white capped waves. Then the glimpses turned into larger
patches, and before long they were driving along the shore.

Ten minutes later, they were pulling up to Mimi and


Pop Pop’s house, spilling out of the car into the bright
sunshiny day, hugging their grandparents hello while Joey
the cocker spaniel barked and barked.

Camp Mimi had begun.

6
Chapter 2: First Encounter

Dinner was a noisy, active event. Pop Pop grilled


his special burgers and hotdogs in the backyard, and Mimi
laid out a huge platter of strawberries and fruit. Jekka ate a
ton of berries, as usual, but BJ didn’t have much of an
appetite. She felt funny all over, and alternated between
being too hot and freezing. She slumped down in her chair,
and didn’t even perk up when Mimi brought out her
favorite dessert – apple pie from Rolf’s orchard.

“Are you alright, honey?” asked her mom.

“I don’t feel good,” BJ answered, in a whisper.

“Can I have your strawberries, then?” Jekka asked.

“Sure,” muttered BJ as her mom felt her forehead.


“I didn’t touch them.”

7
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“Oh dear, you’ve got a fever for sure. How does


your head feel?”

“It hurts. So does my belly.”

“OK, let’s get you to bed, peanut. I’m sorry you’re


sick!”

Mimi bustled around, bringing BJ some medicine


and setting her up in the bedroom at the end of the hallway.

“I don’t want to be sick, Mimi,” BJ protested. “I


want to go work in the garden.”

“Don’t worry, sweetheart. The garden isn’t going


anywhere. It’ll wait for you, and there’s always something
to do out there. Just rest now, so you can get better.” She
kissed BJ’s forehead.

Jekka came in, clutching an old stuffed duck that


used to be yellow. She set it on the bed next to her sister.

“You can sleep with Du-yaya if you want to,” she


said in a gentle voice, “Cause you’re sick.”

“Thanks, Jekka.” BJ smiled, then closed her eyes.


Two minutes later, she was asleep.

Back in the kitchen, it was clean up time.

“Pop Pop, do you believe Champy is real?” Jekka


asked as she put the empty berry dish into the sink.

8
“I sure do,” he answered.

“Have you ever seen him?”

“Well, I’m not sure. I’ve seen things on the lake that
I can’t explain, which may or may not have been Champy.
But, believing and seeing are two different things, and even
though I can’t say I’ve definitely seen him, I definitely
believe he’s real.”

“Oh.” Jekka thought about that for a minute. “Well,


I hope I see him this summer.”

“That would be great,” Pop Pop answered. “I hope


you see him too.”

“BJ said Champy isn’t real,” Jekka added,


hesitantly.

“She did, did she? How does she know, I wonder?


It’s a pretty big lake, and you’d have to search the whole
thing from one end to the other to know for sure, and it’s
over a hundred miles long.” He bent down to look Jekka in
the eyes. “Do you think BJ has been surveying the entire
lake without telling us?” His eyes twinkled, and there was
laughter in his voice.

“Oh Pop Pop, you’re so funny.”

9
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

When the table was cleared and the dishes put away,
the grownups laid out a map on the table and began talking
about Mr. and Mrs. Boomer’s hot air balloon trip. Jekka
had other things in mind.

“Mom, can I go look at the lake?” she asked.

“Sure, honey, but stay on the shore, OK?”

“OK, I just want to look for Champy. I think he


likes to come out at dusk. I won’t go in the water.”

“OK. Good luck, honey!”

Jekka hung the binoculars around her neck, grabbed


her camera, and ran across the street, through a grassy field
and towards the water. Her parents said there used to be a
rocky beach there a long time ago, but now there was a
cement wall, to prevent erosion, and a set of stairs leading
down to the water.

The lake was perfectly still. The evening air felt


cooler as Jekka got closer to the water. With the sun setting
behind her, Jekka shivered a little bit and breathed in the
gentle scent of the lake. She walked down the steps and sat
on the last one, drawing her knees to her chest to stay
warm.

10
The sky was a darkening shade of blue, which the
lake reflected like a mirror. Jekka stared out at Crab Island,
and raised her binoculars to get a better look at the island’s
memorial. It looked like a giant white toothpick stuck in the
ground, and wasn’t very interesting, so she let the
binoculars dangle over her knees and scanned the lake with
just her eyes.

She sat quietly for a few minutes. A sudden


movement on the lake caught her eye. Off to the right,
about half way between the shore and Crab Island,
something was moving.

Whatever it was, it was underwater. All Jekka could


see was a v-shaped wave moving north, parallel to the
beach. It wasn’t a boat, but it was very fast and seemed like
it must be quite large. It picked up speed until it was
directly in front of her, and then the wave, or wake, turned
towards the shore.

Jekka sat like a statue, her eyes huge, not daring to


move or even blink. The v-shaped wave got closer, and she
thought she could see a dark shadow under the water. It
looked enormous.

The thing slowed down and the wake was harder to


see. The sun had nearly set, so Jekka leaned forward to get

11
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

a better look. She had forgotten all about the camera, which
was still in her hand.

At this point, several things happened at once. A


long, skinny, shiny, neck-like object broke the surface of
the water. It had a head that looked like a cross between a
horse and a snake with horns, and it moved from side to
side, as if looking around. Jekka screamed in excitement
and fear and tried to stand up, but the strap from her
binoculars (which was still around her neck) was somehow
looped around her toe. Instead of standing, she fell head-
first into the lake.

She was still holding the camera in her left hand,


and as she fell, she pressed the shutter button. The flash
went off right before the splash. By the time Jekka got
untangled from the strap and was standing up again, there
was no sign of the neck, the head or the v-shaped wave.
The lake was perfectly still again, and she was alone.

She stood there, in water up to her knees, breathing


hard, dripping wet, laughing and crying all at the same
time. She had seen Champy, there was no doubt in her
mind. She just knew that was him, and he was magnificent.
She looked down at the camera in her hand, the camera
which just might contain proof of Champy’s existence. Still

12
laughing and crying and dripping, she sprinted up the stairs
and shot back across the street to her grandparent’s house.

“Mom! Dad! Mimi! Pop Pop! I saw…” Jekka


shouted as she ran inside.

“Whoa, slow down, honey – your sister’s sleeping,”


her mom said.

“Sorry, it’s just that…”

“Wait a minute,” said her dad, “You’re dripping all


over the place. Hold on while I get a towel.”

“But I’m trying to tell you…”

“And didn’t I say not to go in the water?” her mom


added, with a skeptical look.

“Yes. Sorry. It was an accident. My binoculars got


tangled and I fell in.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t have been so close to the


lake, peanut,” her dad chimed in, handing her a towel.

Jekka felt like she was going to explode.

“It was Champy!” she finally shouted. The room


got suddenly silent, and Jekka repeated herself, this time
quietly. “I saw Champy, and I think I took his picture.”

13
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

Chapter 3: In The Garden

It took hours for Jekka to fall asleep that night, but


she finally did. She was just so excited about what she’d
seen, and could scarcely wait for the morning to come so
they could take her film to get developed. She also couldn’t
wait to tell BJ. Even though she’d told the whole story to
the grownups three or four times that night, Jekka was sure
she’d never get tired of talking about it.

She woke up early, as usual. Mimi and her dad were


already awake and drinking coffee, but everyone else was
still in bed.

“Can we walk over to the lake again?” Jekka asked.

“Sure,” her dad answered. “Are you looking to get


another peek at Champy?” he asked with a gentle smile.

“Kinda,” she replied, taking Mimi’s hand. Together,


the three of them walked across the street. Jekka went

14
down the stairs carefully for a change, and sat on the
bottom step, dangling her feet in the chilly water.
Something hard and a little slimy bumped her foot, and she
jumped up with a squeal.

“What’s the matter?” her dad asked. “Did a fish


nibble your toes?”

“I don’t know. I felt something.”

They all looked into the water, and Jekka sighed


with relief.

“It’s just some driftwood.” She reached down and


pulled it out of the water. It was long and straight and fairly
thick. At one end was a root ball, bent like an L, with a few
short branches sticking out from it. There was something
vaguely familiar about it, but Jekka couldn’t quite put her
finger on it.

“Cool stick,” her dad said.

They sat there for a while, enjoying the quiet lap-


lap-lap sound of tiny waves coming in from the glassy
lake.

“Hey you guys,” said a voice from the top of the


stairs. It was Mrs. Boomer. “How’s the lake today?”

15
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“Good,” answered Jekka and Mimi together. Jekka


added, “But no Champy this morning – just a stick.”

“Well, Pop Pop got up and he’s making pancakes.


He sent me over to let you know they’re almost ready.”

Jekka grabbed her driftwood and raced for the


pancakes.

Back in the house, BJ was still sleeping. She slept


through breakfast, so Jekka ate enough pancakes for both of
them. BJ only opened her eyes a little when her parents
came in to say goodbye and confirm that her fever was
gone. They were leaving for their hot air balloon trip and
had to get on the road to meet up with their crew.

“Give us a call on our cell phone when you get the


photo developed, ok?” Jekka’s mom said to her. “I want to
hear all about it! And keep us posted on how your sister is
doing, of course. Love you, kiddo! Bye!”

After breakfast, Pop Pop took Jekka to the drugstore


to drop off the film. When they got back, BJ was finally
awake, curled up on the couch with Mimi, a cup of juice,
and a book. The radio was tuned to WIRY, and the DJ was
reading a list of people’s birthdays.

16
“Hi BJ! How are you feeling? Did you hear about
Champy?” Jekka asked, adding “I saw him last night, I
really did! And you said he wasn’t real.”

“Yes, Mimi told me. And I never said he wasn’t real


– just that I wasn’t sure if I believed in him anymore.” BJ
sniffed. “It’s not fair. I wanted to see him too.”

“Don’t worry, I think I took his picture before I fell


in the lake, so you’ll get to see him soon too. It should be
ready in an hour.”

BJ didn’t feel like talking anymore. Her head still


hurt a little, so she snuggled deeper into the couch and
picked up her book. Mimi took Jekka outside to work in the
garden, while Pop Pop read the newspaper on the couch
next to BJ and listened to WIRY. Joey wandered outside
too, sniffing the ground and occasionally barking at birds
flying overhead.

Mimi’s garden sort of reminded Jekka of Uncle Q’s


shop, except the garden was outside and alive. Some
flowers were tall and enormous, while others were tiny and
delicate. A winding path ran through it, paved with stepping
stones made by BJ and Jekka during previous summers at
Camp Mimi. The stones were made of cement and
decorated with brightly colored pieces of mosaic glass.

17
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

Jekka walked past the patio swing and the table where they
sometimes ate “outside lunch.”

“These are Bee-Balm,” Mimi said, pointing to big


red flowers that were taller than Jekka. “Oh, a humming
bird! Hummingbirds love Bee-Balm. That’s why I planted
them.” She bent down and pointed to some tiny blue
flowers. “These are Forget-Me-Nots. Their seeds are very
sticky, which is why they are all over the place.”

“What are these Mimi?” Jekka asked, pointing to


another blue flower. “They look like hot air balloons!”

“Those are called Balloon Flowers, actually. They’ll


look different when the blooms open, of course, but you’re
right – they got their name because they look like balloons
when they’re closed.”

Mimi gave her a tour of the rest of the garden,


pointing out Sweet Williams, big Purple Coneflowers, tiny
pink Coral Bells, and giant pink Dahlias – Jekka’s favorite.

As they came around the corner, towards a


wonderful smelling Lavender plant, Jekka gasped in
surprise. There was Champy, poking his head up out of the
roses! He had the same long neck, the same curved head
and pointy horns she’d seen the night before.

18
“What?!? Mimi – look!” Jekka exclaimed, pointing.
Then she breathed a big sigh of relief. “Oh, never mind. It’s
just the driftwood.”

In her race to get some pancakes, Jekka had left the


stick lying in the driveway. Pop Pop must have moved it,
propping it up against the side of the house. Jekka took a
closer look at the twisted ball of roots and laughed at
herself.

“I thought the stick was Champy just now. It’s sort


of the same shape I saw last night…”

Then a terrible thought hit her. What if this is what


she saw in the water last night? If the stick could fool her
for a second in broad daylight, in a garden, couldn’t it fool
her at dusk, in the water?

“Yeah,” Mimi was saying, “It does look a little like


a Champy head, doesn’t it?”

“Mimi, what if it wasn’t him? I mean, what if it was


him… I mean, what if it wasn’t really, I mean, if the
stick…” Jekka stammered.

“Slow down, honey,” Mimi said, putting her hand


on Jekka’s shoulder to comfort her. “I don’t understand.
What if what was who?”

19
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“What if this stick is what I saw last night, instead


of Champy?” Jekka finally blurted out. “What if Champy’s
not real?”

“Oh my,” Mimi said. “Let’s have a seat and talk


about this.” She took Jekka’s hand and led her to a huge
Maple tree in the backyard. There were four large rocks
under the tree, where the girls often had picnics.

“Now, I don’t know what you saw last night, but


you did say it was moving pretty fast, right? Even though
the lake was perfectly calm?”

“Yeah…”

“OK. How fast do you think a stick like this can


swim?”

Jekka laughed in relief.

“And,” Mimi continued, “You said it was poking up


out of the water, right? Have you ever seen a stick floating
in the water? Aren’t they usually laying down flat?”

“Yes!” Jekka jumped off her rock and gave Mimi a


big hug.

“Thanks, Meems.”

“There’s one more thing you need to understand,


Jekka.” Mimi looked pretty serious now. “Just because

20
there’s a fake of something doesn’t mean the real version
doesn’t exist. Even if what you saw last night was the stick,
that wouldn’t prove anything about Champy.”

Pop Pop came around the corner, followed by Joey.

“Oh, there you two are! Does anyone want to come


with me to get that film?”

Jekka spun around three times, bounced into Mimi


and gave her a big hug, then dashed off towards Pop Pop.
She grabbed his hand and didn’t slow down, so together
they ran towards his car.

The trip to the drugstore only took five minutes, but


to Jekka it felt twice as long as the drive from her house to
Cliff Haven.

When they finally arrived, Jekka ran to the photo


desk, waving her arms wildly to get the clerk’s attention.

“Are they ready? Are they? Are they?”

The girl behind the counter smiled.

“Yep. Here they are. That’ll be $9.46.”

Pop Pop paid while Jekka ripped open the envelope


and flipped through the photos. There was one of her own
backyard, taken the week before. There was one or two
from school… and then the photo she took the night before.

21
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

She stared at it for a long moment, unable to move


(for a change). Despite the sudden fall into the lake, despite
the water, despite the darkness that night, the photo was a
perfectly clear, unmistakable shot of… her bare foot. The
camera must have been pointing down as she fell.

“Oh,” was all she could say. Pop Pop saw it too, and
put a hand on her shoulder.

“So, that’s the photo, eh?” he said. “Looks like


Champy is pink and has five heads. Cool.”

Jekka laughed in spite of herself. “Oh Pop Pop,


those are my toes.”

“Yes, I suppose they are. Well, they’re very nice


toes, but not exactly what you were hoping for, I know.” He
handed her a lollipop. “Here, I got you this, too.”

“Thanks.” She popped it into her mouth and tried


not to cry. Pop Pop put his arm around her and together
they walked slowly back to the car.

Back at the house, they showed the photo to Mimi


and BJ, who was starting to feel better. They sat there,
quietly, and then they all went out to the garden together.
Jekka wandered towards a small round hut, about the size
of her shoe. Mimi called it a Toad Abode, and Jekka bent
down to look inside. It was empty.

22
“Toads are sort of like caretakers for the garden,
you know,” Mimi said from beside Jekka. “They eat the
slugs, so the slugs don’t eat my hostas.”

“Your toad is missing,” Jekka replied, pointing at


the empty hut.

“Oh, he’s not really missing. I just don’t know


where he is at the moment. He’s around somewhere, doing
his thing, looking for slugs. It’s a pretty big garden,
sweetie, and the toads could be anywhere.”

For some reason, this made Jekka feel a little bit


better. Then again, being in the garden with Mimi always
made things better.

23
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

Chapter 4: Letters In The Attic

The next morning dawned gray, cold and rainy. A


steady drizzle was falling, the kind of rain that can last all
day and seems like it will last all week. The lake was a
steely gray color, matching the sky, and had hundreds of
tiny waves on it, flowing in all different directions, as if the
lake couldn’t decide which way the wind was blowing.

“Great!” BJ said. “I’m feeling better, and now it’s


raining! I’m never going to get to go to the beach!”

“Oh, I think you’ll enjoy what I’ve got planned for


today, sweetie,” Mimi said with a hug. “And I’m so happy
to see you’re feeling better!”

“What is it? What do you have planned?” asked


Jekka as she bounced into the room.

24
“Well, I thought we’d eat some breakfast, then have
a treasure hunt in the attic. Then, after lunch, we can visit
the used bookstore downtown.”

“Yay!” Both girls jumped up and down.

“What kind of treasures are in the attic, Meems?”


asked BJ.

“If I told you, it wouldn’t be much of a hunt, would


it?” she replied. “And besides, how would I know what
your treasures are? Only you can decide that. But first,
breakfast.”

The girls tore through breakfast in record time, and


cleaned up even faster.

“Let’s go!” laughed Jekka, tugging on Mimi’s arm.

“OK, follow me!” Mimi answered.

She led the girls to the hallway, and pulled on a cord


that dangled from the ceiling, unfolding a wooden staircase.

“Now, be careful up there, girls. We had a momma


raccoon and her babies up there last spring, and Pop Pop
put his foot through the ceiling when he went up there to
trap them.”

The girls laughed at the thought of Pop Pop’s legs


dangling through the ceiling.

25
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“We’ll be careful,” they promised.

The attic was lit by a single bare bulb, and the


whole place smelled like dust. There were mysterious
looking piles of boxes, objects covered with sheets, and
everything else you would expect to find in a grandparent’s
attic. The girls could hear the rain pattering on the roof,
which made the whole place feel even more magical.

Jekka found a cardboard box full of stuffed animals


and pawed through it. She picked out a stuffed manatee,
and Mimi said she could keep it. Then she found a trunk
full of old costumes.

“That’s our Halloween trunk,” Mimi said. “Your


dad and Uncle Q used to love to play with that stuff when
they were your ages.”

Jekka put on a wig of wild red hair, a black eye


mask and a cape, then looked around for a mirror.

BJ, meanwhile, had opened a trunk labeled Zeke,


which is her dad’s name. It was full of old comic books,
and she saw a stack of letters with unusual looking stamps
on them. BJ took a closer look. The return address said
Scotland!

“Mimi, who does Dad know in Scotland?”

26
“I don’t know. Let me see.” Mimi came over for a
closer look.

“Oh, these are from your dad’s cousin-twin, Debbie.


Her family lived in Scotland for a few years, a long time
ago.”

“A cousin-twin?” asked Jekka, who was now


wearing a princess gown and a horse head mask. “What’s a
cousin-twin?”

“Well, they’re not really twins – they were just born


in the same year, so that’s what they called each other.”

“Ok,” said Jekka, returning to the costume trunk.

“Can I read some of them?” BJ asked.

“I’m sure that would be fine,” Mimi answered.

BJ carefully opened the top one.

Dear Zeke,

Hiya cuz! How is my favorite cousin twin? I


am well. Scotland is beautiful, but I miss Virginia.
Y’all think I talk funny, you should hear the people
around here. I can’t even understand them
sometimes. I try to explain that I ain’t got no accent,
but I’m not sure they can understand me either.

27
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

We are on vacation – they say “on holiday”


around here – and are visiting Loch Ness for a
whole week!!! I haven’t seen the Loch Ness Monster
yet, but she’s named Nessie and they say Nessie is
like Champy. I go out to the shore with binoculars
every day.

Thanks for your letter. I am sorry you


haven’t seen Champy yet, but I bet you will
someday. I have to go now. My mom says it’s
lunchtime.

Love, Debbie

BJ carefully folded the letter and put it back in the


envelope. Her brain was full of thoughts of Scotland. She
pictured her Dad’s cousin as a girl about her age, standing
on the misty shore of a deep, cold Scottish lake.

“Mimi, did Cousin Debbie ever see Nessie?”

“You’ll just have to read some more letters,” Mimi


replied with a wink. “Maybe the treasure you’re looking for
is in there.”

BJ opened letter after letter, looking for more clues


about Nessie or Champy. She read about the skirts Scottish
men wear, called kilts. She read about the weather (rainy),
the schools (different), the other kids (nice) and the food

28
(weird). She folded the last letter with a sigh, disappointed
that Debbie hadn’t seen the Loch Ness Monster after all. As
she replaced the stack of letters in the trunk, she noticed
another letter, which had slipped down among the stack of
comics.

Dear Zeke, it began

You won’t believe it, but I think I saw Nessie


this morning! I was up real early, cause this is the
last day of our vacation, and I walked down to the
shore. There was some steam coming off the Loch
and everything was perfectly still and quiet. Then I
heard some splashes out towards the middle of the
Loch, but I couldn’t see nothing. I tried to use my
binoculars, but all I could see was white.

The splashes sounded like a hand slapping


the water, or maybe a flipper or something. They
got louder and moved closer, first over to my left,
then towards the right. I think I saw a dark shape
moving around through the mist, sort of like a
shadow, but it was dark and misty and I couldn’t see
it good. Then there was one big splash, and
everything got real quiet.

29
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

Maybe it was a fish or duck or something,


but I bet it wasn’t. I bet it was Nessie.

We are going home today, and we’ll be back


in Virginia in a few months.

Now we’ve both seen lake monsters.

Love, Debbie

BJ could scarcely contain herself. She read the last


line over and over again, half expecting it to disappear. It
didn’t.

“Mimi! This letter says she saw Nessie, and Dad


saw Champy!”

Jekka popped her head out of the Halloween trunk.


She had apparently found some clown makeup and was in
the process of applying it all over her face. Judging by how
it looked, however, she hadn’t found a mirror yet.

“Read it to me! Read it to me!” she asked, waving a


fistful of makeup sticks.

BJ read the letter out loud, while Jekka smeared


more colors on her face. She squealed when BJ got to the
part about the shadow, and yelled “No!” when she read
“maybe it was a fish or a duck.”

30
“What did she mean ‘now we’ve both seen lake
monsters’?” asked Jekka. “What did Daddy see?”
“I don’t remember exactly,” answered Mimi.
“Probably a duck.”

“Mimi! You’re teasing me!” Jekka protested.

“Yes, I am. Of course I remember. When your dad


was about your age, he saw a v-shaped wave moving along
the lake, sort of like what you saw, Jekka. It didn’t last
long, and there wasn’t anything dramatic like a head or
humps, but he was always convinced that it was caused by
Champy.”

“Cool!”

“Well,” added Mimi, “Let’s go have some lunch. All


this treasure hunting is making me hungry.” She turned to
Jekka and had to laugh. “And I’ve got some cold cream for
you, sweetie, unless you want to wear that clown makeup
all day.”

31
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

Chapter 5: Cornerstone Bookstore

The Cornerstone Bookstore was one of BJ and


Jekka’s favorite spots in Plattsburgh – aside from Mimi’s
garden, the Cliff Haven beach, Rolf’s orchard… well, it
was a place they really, really liked. It was particularly nice
on a cozy, rainy day like this one, and after lunch, that’s
where they went.

The bookstore was absolutely stuffed with books.


Jekka imagined that if someone brought even one more
book in, the whole place would explode, scattering pages
everywhere and covering downtown Plattsburgh with a foot
of fluffy white paper, like Christmas in July. That never
happened in real life, of course, but it happened in Jekka’s
imagination every time she visited.

As she walked in, shaking drops of rain off her


jacket, BJ took a deep breath. She loved the wonderful

32
scent of old books and wooden shelves, mixed with rain
and a little whiff of coffee from the shop next door. She
loved the sight of floor-to-ceiling shelves, stacks of
paperback novels on the floor everywhere, and winding
stairs leading up to the second floor. But mostly she loved
the thought of all the stories, waiting to be discovered.

BJ quickly assembled a small mountain of books


she wanted, and curled up to read as much as possible
before Mimi said they had to leave. Jekka, however,
wandered around for a while, then approached the lady at
the checkout counter.

“Excuse me,” she said in her most polite voice,


“But where are your Champy books?”

“I think we’ve got some in the children’s section.”


The lady answered helpfully. “Here, I’ll show you.”

Jekka followed her around a corner or two, then


spent a few minutes flipping through the picture books and
stories. Not satisfied, she went back to the lady.

“Um, do you have any Champy books for grown-


ups? The kid books were too kiddish.”

“Oh, I see. Actually, a new one just came in this


morning. Maybe it will be more along the lines of what
you’re looking for. Follow me.”

33
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

The lady led Jekka through the maze of crowded


shelves once again, this time ending at a shelf titled Natural
Mysteries.

“Here it is – The Case For Champ – A Scientific


Assessment of Lake Champlain’s Elusive Monster, by Dr.
Haydu Leonchuk.”

Jekka took the heavy book from the lady, said thank
you, then sat on the floor to read. It was full of big words
and long sentences, but she did her best to read and
understand it.

When early explorers like Samuel De Champlain


came to the region, they heard stories from the
Native Americans of a “horned serpent” which
lived in the lake. Champlain himself reported
sighting an unusual creature in 1609, and there
have been over 300 reported sightings in the last
100 years alone.

She flipped ahead a few chapters, and stopped at a


photo of a familiar looking neck-and-head shape sticking
out of the water.

The creature, called Champy in New York and


Champ in Vermont, is often compared to the Loch
Ness Monster. The most famous evidence of

34
Champ’s existence in recent years is the Mansi
Photograph (figure 8). Taken by Sandra Mansi in
1977, it has been subjected to extensive testing and
shows no sign of tampering. However, the negative
was lost, leading some skeptics to doubt the photo’s
authenticity.

Jekka wasn’t sure what that all meant, but it didn’t


sound good. She continued reading.

A team of scientists from Japan, using sonar to


chart the lake, reported seeing “a very large
object” passing underneath their boat at one point.
While the object was not positively identified, its
size was consistent with estimates of Champ’s size,
and much larger than any known lake fish.
However, Lake Sturgeons have been known to reach
lengths of 7 feet and 300 lbs. They can not be ruled
out as the source of the Champ legend.

Jekka decided to stop reading the words and just


looked at the pictures instead. She found a map of recent
Champy sightings and a drawing of a long-necked
prehistoric whale called a Zeuglodon. There was a photo of
Zeuglodon fossils being dug up in Charlotte, VT, only a
few miles away from the lake.

35
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

The book said zeuglodons were extinct, but it also


said there was a fish called a coelacanth that everyone
thought was extinct until a fisherman caught a live one in
1938.

“I’m telling you, there is no monster in this lake,”


said a man’s voice, startling Jekka and making her lose her
place in the book. She looked around but didn’t see anyone.

“How can you know for sure?” asked another voice.


This time, Jekka could tell it was coming from the other
side of the bookshelves. She leaned forward to hear better.

“Well, people would have seen it, for starters,”


answered the first voice. Jekka peeked around the corner
and saw two men, each with a stack of books in their hands.
One of them was wearing a baseball cap that said Imagine
on it.

“I agree - nobody has ever seen Champy…. unless


you count all the people who have seen Champy,” said the
man in the hat. He chuckled, then continued more
forcefully. “The truth is, people have been seeing Champy
for hundreds of years, maybe even longer. Just because
they didn’t snap a photo of it doesn’t mean it didn’t
happen.” Jekka found herself liking this man very much.

36
“Bah! People see what they want to see and believe
what they want to believe. They don’t worry about facts.”

“Does that apply to you too? It seems like you want


to believe Champy is just a story, even though the facts are
not on your side.”

“The facts?” sputtered the first man. “What facts?”

“Yes, the facts. Like, all the sightings. Like the fact
that the only way to disprove Champy’s existence would be
to drain the lake. You know what they say – a lack of
evidence is not evidence of a lack.”

“Of course. But you have to admit, the idea of a


plesiosaur in Lake Champlain is pretty far fetched, even for
you. Isn’t it more likely to be a log, or a sturgeon, or even a
prank?”

“Ah, now we’re getting somewhere,” the man in the


hat answered. “People do play pranks sometimes. Logs do
float. It is indeed far fetched to think an otherwise extinct
animal has managed to survive. But…”

“It’s happened before,” Jekka blurted out and


jumped up, then covered her mouth and sat down again.

“What was that?” asked the first man.

37
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“I think we’ve got an eavesdropper,” replied the


second, peeking around the corner and seeing Jekka. “Hi
there. I assume you heard some of our conversation?”

Jekka nodded.

“That’s alright,” said the first man, with a grin.


“You said ‘it’s happened before’ just now. What’s happened
before?”

“Um, an extinct fish got unextinct. I mean, it wasn’t


really extinct, people just thought it was.” She turned to the
book and quickly found the page again. “It’s called a co… a
co-el-a… I don’t know how to say the name, but here’s a
picture.” She held the book out for the men to see.

“A coelacanth?” said the man in the hat as he


accepted the book from Jekka. “Well, what do you know? It
turns out extinction isn’t always forever after all.” He
turned to the other man and said “Steve, you just got taken
to school by a little girl. Nice job!” He handed the book
back to Jekka.

“That’s very interesting,” said the first man, whose


name was apparently Steve, “and I don’t want to rain on
anyone’s parade, but it’s not exactly the same. The
coelacanth is a lot smaller than Champy is supposed to be,
and it lives in the ocean, which is a lot bigger than Lake

38
Champlain. It would be much easier for a small fish to hide
in a big ocean than for a large monster to hide in a small
lake.”

“But you have to admit, it’s possible, however


unlikely,” answered his friend.

“I suppose I do.”

“Oh, there you are,” said Mimi as she came around


the stacks. “I see you’ve made some friends.”

“Yeah, we’re talking about Champy,” Jekka


answered.

“Cool. Did you learn anything?” Much to Mimi’s


surprise, both men said yes.

“That’s a smart girl you’ve got there,” said the man


in the hat.

“Yes, she sure is,” Mimi replied, then turned to


Jekka. “If you’re done teaching for the day, let’s go find
your sister and head home, sweetie. It’s time to make some
dinner.”

Jekka waved good-bye to the men, then took


Mimi’s hand and went to look for her sister. When they
found her, the pile of books around her was even larger
than usual, and she wanted them all.

39
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“OK,” Mimi said, “How about I buy you as many


books as you can carry, instead of this whole pile.
Otherwise, we’ll need a truck.”

“Great!” BJ scrambled to load the books into her


arms, and staggered towards the checkout desk. Jekka was
content with her single copy of The Case for Champ. They
paid, then dashed through the pouring rain towards Mimi’s
car. BJ finished two more books on the five-minute drive
home, while Jekka hugged her book and watched the rain
slip along the car’s windows.

40
Chapter 6: Beach Day

The next day dawned brilliantly sunny and hot,


almost as if it was a different country. The lake had steady,
small waves and looked cool and inviting.

“Beach day!” shouted Jekka as she ran into the


kitchen for breakfast. She was already wearing her bathing
suit and reeked of sunscreen.

“Well, you didn’t waste any time, did you?” Mimi


said.

“Beach day!” BJ echoed, as she entered the room


too. She was also in her bathing suit, and smelled just as
strong as Jekka.

“Sounds good to me,” answered Mimi, lifting up the


corner of her t-shirt to reveal she was wearing her bathing
suit too. “Pop Pop already said he is going to meet us there
for lunch.”

41
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“Can we take the canoe to the sandy beach?” asked


BJ. “It’s way more fun than walking.”

“That’s already set up too – Pop Pop brought it


across the street for you before he went to work this
morning. Let’s eat quickly.”

As they finished their breakfast, there was a knock


on the door, and Joey started to bark.

“I wonder who that could be at this time in the


morning.” Mimi shoed Joey away as she opened the door.
“Oh, good morning, Ella. Good morning, Jake.”

“Ella! Jake!” shouted Jekka as she ran towards the


door. Ella and Jake lived across the street from Mimi and
Pop Pop’s house. They were just about the same ages as the
Boomer sisters. Jekka saw they were wearing bathing suits
too, along with lifejackets. They each had a canoe paddle in
their hands.

“Do you want to go to the beach with us?” BJ and


Jake said at the same time.

“Jinx!” Jekka and Ella added, also at the same time.

“OK, BJ, Jake, Jekka and Ella,” Mimi said with a


wink, “Let’s get into the canoes and head on over. I’ve got
lunch packed.”

42
She lifted a heavy-looking cooler, and the whole
group trudged to the waters’ edge. They carefully set the
cooler into Jake and Ella’s canoe, being careful not to crush
the beach toys and minnow nets Jake had stashed in the
bottom.

BJ, Jekka and Mimi got into their canoe. BJ and


Jekka did the paddling, while Mimi sat in the middle. Jake
and Ella launched their canoe into the water, and in a
moment, both groups were moving south along the shore,
towards the beach.

The sunlight turned the lake into a glittering field of


moving diamonds. BJ was content to paddle slowly,
enjoying the sun, wind, water and everything. All her
senses were tingling, and she even forgot to paddle for a
minute.

Jake brought his canoe alongside and playfully


splashed BJ.

“Hey!” she squeaked, then splashed him back.

“Wanna race?” he asked.

“OK. Mark-get-set-go,” BJ answered, as fast as she


could. Jekka let out a wild laugh and began paddling as fast
as she could, splashing water in all directions.

43
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

Jake and Ella lived right on the lake, and spent most
of their summers in a canoe. BJ and Jekka hadn’t been in a
canoe since the previous summer, so after a quick start,
they started to fall behind.

“Faster! Faster!” shrieked BJ, and the girls began to


catch up with the other kids. Steering was tricky and they
started to curve to the left.

“No, that way!” hollered Jekka, laughing. “Paddle


on the other side!”

“I am paddling on the other side,” answered BJ.


“You paddle on the other side.”

“Which side?” asked Jekka, turning around to see


BJ.

“No, Jekka, don’t turn around!” BJ said, but it was


too late. The canoe wobbled, then started to tip. All three
passengers leaned the other way, but they leaned a little too
far and found themselves bobbing in the lake beside their
upside down canoe.

“Well,” laughed Mimi as she wiped water from her


face, “we got further along than I thought we would before
we fell in. It’s a good thing I put the cooler and towels in
the other canoe!”

44
It wasn’t easy, but BJ, Mimi and Jekka managed to
get their canoe right-side up again, with them inside it. The
rest of their trip to the beach was uneventful and quick. As
much as they loved canoeing, they were all glad to get their
feet on the sand.

After pulling the canoes securely onto the beach,


the kids got right to work. There were sand castles to build,
minnows to chase and catch in buckets, and, of course,
swimming and splashing in the water.

Jekka wandered over to the lifeguard stand and


looked up at the tall, tanned lady in a red bathing suit.

“Hi Lifeguard, I’m Jekka,” she said. “What’s your


name?”

“I’m Kim,” she answered. “Are you new? I haven’t


seen you here before.”

“We’re just visiting our grandparents. I was


wondering, have you ever seen Champy?”

“Not yet, but I keep looking. Why do you ask?”

“I saw him two nights ago. Well, I think I saw him.


I’m pretty sure, but it was dark and I fell in the water and
took a picture of my own toes.”

45
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

Kim laughed. “That must have been quite an


experience. You know who you should talk to? There’s a
guy named Dr. Van Der Warden Velden. He’s an aquatic
biologist. That means he studies things that live in the lake.
He works at the ECHO Center in Burlington, and Champy
is sort of his specialty. He probably knows more about
Champy than anyone else. Plus,” Kim added with a wink,
“he’s cute.”

“How do you know him?” Jekka asked.

“Well, being a lifeguard is just a summer job. I’m


also a college student, and I’ve done some research projects
with him over in Vermont. He’s very nice, and I’m sure he
would be glad to help you out. Oh, I should warn you, he
can be a little hard to find sometimes, but I bet a smart girl
like you will figure it out.”

“OK. I’ll ask my Mimi if she’ll take me there.


Thanks!”

Jekka ran over to where Mimi was sitting. The kids


had buried her in sand up to her chin, and were now
sculpting the sand into a set of curvy octopus legs, which
radiated out from her head. It looked pretty weird.

Jekka carefully avoided stepping on them as she


made her way over to Mimi’s ear.

46
“Look out, Jekka,” Mimi said, “I’m a person-
headed sand octopus, and I like to gobble up kids!”

Jekka pretended to be scared for a minute, then told


Mimi about what the lifeguard had said.

“So can we go to ECHO?”

“Sure! Tomorrow is Saturday, so Pop Pop can come


too. We could even take Air Force Blue to get there.”

Satisfied, Jekka busied herself making more legs for


the Octa-Mimi. Then Jake got out his underwater viewer
and everyone stood in waist deep water, taking turns
peeking at the silty, sea-weedy, rocky and sandy world
below the water’s surface. The viewer was basically a tube
with glass lenses on each end, and a few mirrors in the
middle. It reminded Jekka of a telescope, only instead of
looking at her friend the moon, she was looking at
minnows.

“Ew,” said BJ, when it was her turn. “The seaweed


looks gross!”

“It’s an important part of the lake’s food chain, you


know,” replied Jake. “It is a source of nutrients for lots of
fish, which then are food for larger fish. And then…”

“Yeah, I know, but it’s still slimy.” BJ replied.

47
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“True,” answered Jake, nodding thoughtfully.

“Pop Pop!” shouted Jekka, pointing towards the


beach. “Pop Pop is here!” She started to run but tripped on
an underwater rock and fell face first into the water. She got
up laughing.

“Good thing the water was there to catch me!”

By the time the kids got to the shore, Pop Pop had
reached Mimi and was helping to unbury her.

“Sorry to mess up the Octo-Mimi,” he said, “But I


think she’ll enjoy lunch more if she can use her hands. Oh,
I almost forgot – you two got some mail!”

He produced two postcards and handed them to the


girls. BJ’s had a picture of a jack rabbit with antlers, and
Jekka’s showed a cowboy riding an enormous snake in a
rodeo. BJ’s card said:

Howdy, Kiddo! We’re flying over Texas today. The


weather is good and the winds are strong. The view
is amazing. We miss you two, but we’re sure you are
having fun in Cliff Haven. See ya in a few days!

Love, Mom & Dad

Jekka’s card said pretty much the same thing.

48
“Are there really big snakes like this in Texas,”
asked Ella when she saw Jekka’s card.

“I don’t know,” answered Jekka. “I hope not.”

“No, silly,” added Jake. “It’s just a trick


photograph.”

Mimi and Pop Pop had been busy setting out lunch
while the kids read their mail. Now it was all ready and
everyone started eating. The kids were starving after such a
busy morning, so there wasn’t much talking. Then Jekka
bumped her juice box by accident, scattering sand all over
her plate.

“Rats!” she said. “Now I really have a sand-wich.


Yuck!”

Eventually it was time to go home, so they loaded


up the canoes and pushed off. This time, nobody fell in.

49
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

Chapter 7: Visiting ECHO

Saturday morning was bright and cheery, just like


the day before. The girls filled their backpacks with snacks,
binoculars, sunscreen, sunglasses and other essentials. By
nine o’clock in the morning, they were down at the marina,
getting ready to cast off.

BJ loved to watch her grandparents work on their


boat. She loved the tidy coils of rope, the knots to tie and
untie, and the hundred little tasks that were part of getting a
boat ready.

Jekka loved watching the ducks that hung around


the docks, begging for bread.

Pop Pop used to be in the Air Force, so they named


the boat Air Force Blue. It was long and sleek, with a cozy
little cabin towards the front. The sides were decorated with

50
blue stripes, and the roof was a plastic-and-canvas
contraption that could be removed like a convertible.

After a little tinkering, the engine roared to life,


scattering the ducks away. Pop Pop carefully backed away
from the dock.

Soon, they were shooting along the lake, heading


towards Burlington, Vermont. The wind blasted their ears,
making it hard to hear, but somehow Pop Pop’s hat stayed
on.

“Hey girls, did you know there are over 80 species


of fish in this lake?” he shouted over the wind. “You’ve
met the minnows, of course, but we’ve got big fish too.
There’s Muskellunge, which can weigh up to 20 pounds.
We get salmon in the spring and fall. In the winter, when
the lake freezes, people like to go ice fishing for a fish
called smelt.”

“Don’t the fish die when the lake freezes?” Jekka


asked.

“Nope! The fish dig little tunnels in the ice, so they


can swim along no problem.”

“Pop Pop! That’s not true!” said BJ with a laugh.


She turned to her little sister and explained, “Only the top

51
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

of the lake freezes. There’s still lots of liquid water under


the ice, so the fish can still swim around and not get stuck.”

“Oh, yeah, that’s what I meant to say,” said Pop


Pop, grinning.

“How deep is the water?” asked Jekka, peering over


the side.

“Well, right now it’s about 60 feet, which is actually


the average depth for this lake. But some parts are as much
as 400 feet deep. That’s a whole lot of water!” He slowed
the boat down, and brought it to a gentle stop. Now that
they weren’t moving forward, the waves made Air Force
Blue rock from side to side. It wasn’t a bad feeling.

“What’s wrong?” asked BJ. “Why are we stopping


in the middle of the lake?”

“Nothing’s wrong. I just wanted to show you this.”


He pointed to a round yellow object bobbing in the water
off the port side of the boat.

The girls scrambled to get a closer look. They saw


the words Underwater Historic Preserve written on it.

“It’s a marker buoy,” Mimi explained. ‘That means


there’s a shipwreck under here. They put these markers out

52
so people can find it. Sometimes scuba divers go down to
look at the wrecks.”

“I wonder how many shipwrecks there are,” asked


Jekka.

“Nobody knows for sure, but it’s probably around


300,” answered Pop Pop.

“Someday I am going to learn to scuba dive so I can


see them!” Jekka announced.

“I’m sure you will,” replied Mimi.

Pop Pop started the boat again, and soon they were
cruising along at full speed again, shooting across to a
landing site on the Vermont side of the lake. BJ and Jekka
took turns holding the steering wheel, then Pop Pop guided
the boat into the dock.

As they were stowing their gear and tying their


knots, they heard the sound of a plane flying low overhead.

“Oh, I wonder if that’s Grampy!” said Mimi to the


girls. Then she turned to Pop Pop and asked, “Is your dad
scheduled to fly today?”

“I think so,” he answered. “Yup, that’s him – over


there!”

53
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

The girls looked in the direction Pop Pop was


pointing, and quickly located the plane. It was bright green
and had two pairs of wings, one on top of the other. The
body looked like a boat, and the tail looked like nothing
they’d ever seen before.

Grampy had been flying patrols for the Coast Guard


in his sea plane for several years. He said he needed
something to do now that he was retired from the Navy. BJ
thought it was funny that Pop Pop used to be in the Air
Force, but he had a boat, while Grampy was a Navy man
with an airplane.

Everybody waved, and the plane wiggled its wings


as it turned a slow circle overhead.

“Do you think he saw us?” Jekka asked.

“Well, he is a spotter, and looking for things on the


ground is what he does, so… yes, he probably saw us,”
answered Pop Pop.

“What sort of things does he look for?” asked BJ.

“People with boat problems, mostly, so the Coast


Guard can come help them. In the winter he looks for ice.”

They finished securing the boat and Grampy’s plane


headed out over the lake.

54
“OK, are you girls ready to visit the ECHO?”

“Yes!”

The ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center is


perched right on the shore of Lake Champlain. It’s a large
building, with lots of windows, and it’s full of cool
exhibits.

They walked right up to the sign-in desk, to get


their admission bracelets.

“Excuse me,” Jekka said in her best grown-up


voice. “I am looking for Dr. Van Der Warden Velden. I was
told he works here.”

“I’m sorry, honey,” said the nice old lady behind the
desk. “I don’t think there’s anyone here by that name.”

“But…” Jekka sputtered. “But that lifeguard said!


She told me he’s here and he knows all about Champy!”

“Oh my. I think she was pulling your leg, dear. But
we do have an art exhibit for children to color pictures of
Champ. It’s right over that way, near the West Tower.”

Jekka felt tears begin to well in her eyes, and BJ put


an arm around her. As they walked away, neither girl
noticed the nice old woman push a button on the desk and
whisper into a small microphone.

55
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“How could the lifeguard tease me like that?” Jekka


sniffed. “How could Dr. Van Der Warden Velden not be
real?”

“You have to admit, it does sound like a made-up


name,” BJ said, sympathetically. Jekka nodded and her
shoulders drooped.

They wandered around from exhibit to exhibit, but


Jekka’s heart wasn’t in it. She was staring duly at a perch
tank when she heard her name.

“Hey Jekka!” It was BJ, calling from across the


hallway. “Come look at this! You’ve got to come see it!”

Jekka’s natural curiosity got the better of her, and


she ran over to see what her sister was pointing at. She took
a look, then turned on her sister with a huff.

“It’s a picture of people on a boat, BJ,” she said


flatly. “Big deal.”

“Look closer, Jekka,” BJ insisted. “The boat is a


research ship from the University of Vermont. It’s named
the Melosira, and I think that’s our lifeguard friend standing
on it.”

Jekka peered closer, then gasped. It was Kim the


lifeguard. And the man standing next to her must be Dr. V!

56
A familiar-looking figure was half visible in the
background, but his back was to the camera, so the girls
couldn’t see his face. They returned to staring at the
lifeguard and the handsome scientist standing next to her.

“Look!” whispered BJ. “The sign is missing!”

Sure enough, all the other photos had little signs


posted next to them, explaining the image and identifying
the people in them. This photo of the Melosira was the only
one without a sign.

“I wonder where it went,” Jekka whispered back.


“Who took it? Kim did say he was hard to find. Maybe
someone is trying to hide him. Maybe he took the sign
down himself!”

They looked at some of the other photos and read


the signs, looking for clues.

“Wait a minute!” Jekka said. “What does ECHO


stand for again?”

“Ecology, Culture, History and Opportunity,” BJ


answered, proud of her excellent memory.

“Are you sure?” Jekka asked, with a sly smile.


“This sign says there’s an Elusive Creature Hunting
Organization that searches for Champy around here, and

57
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

that spells ECHO too. And look – there should be a photo


of the creature hunters right here, but it’s missing too!”

BJ looked closer. Sure enough, there was a blank


spot on the wall next to the sign, where the photo should
have been.

“I’ll bet our lifeguard friend is in that picture…”


Jekka announced. “Along with the mysterious Dr. V.”

Jekka was back to her usual excited self again.

“Hey, let’s go over to the West Tower like that lady


suggested. We can do some drawing and coloring while we
think of what to do next.”

“OK,” BJ replied.

The Boomer sisters ran towards ECHO’s art wing.


Jekka drew a picture of the photo she wished she’d taken
the other night. BJ’s drawing was of Champy swimming
underwater, chasing a school of fish. After completing their
masterpieces, they looked around for a place to hang them.

Jekka found some moveable dividers where lots of


other kids had posted their pictures of Champy. She added
hers, then gave the wall a final pat for good measure.

58
“Oops!” she shouted, as the divider began to fall
down. “Oh no, sorry-sorry-sorry…” her stream of sorries
trailed off as she took in the sight in front of her.

The moveable dividers, which were now in a


jumbled mess on the floor, had been covering up a door. On
the door she saw four words: Elusive Creature Hunting
Organization. Below the words was a name: Dr V.

She immediately grabbed the knob, but the door


was locked. Then some stern-looking security guards came
over to set up the dividers again. They shoed the girls away.

“Did you see that, BJ? It’s real! He’s real! I almost
found him!” Jekka was practically bouncing out of her skin.

“I saw the door and the words, but lots of names


could begin with V, you know.”

“Yeah, lots of names… like Van Der Warden


Velden, for one. It’s him. I’m just sure of it. It’s got to be
him.”

59
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

Chapter 8: Loon Rescue

It was almost closing time, so the girls found their


grandparents and got ready to leave ECHO. On the way
out, they passed the sign-in desk, but the lady wasn’t there
anymore, so Jekka couldn’t ask her about the other ECHO
or the door or Dr. V.

Back on Air Force Blue, Pop Pop let the girls take
turns steering again, as they discussed their discoveries.

“Well,” Mimi said, “The Dr. V on that door might


be the guy you’re looking for, Jekka, but BJ is right – lots
of names could start with the letter V.”

“But it said Elusive Creature Hunting, and Champy


is elusive, right? So it’s got to be him, and even if it’s not, I
still want to meet Dr. V, whoever he is.”

60
“It’s too bad you two didn’t mention this when we
were in the place,” Pop Pop interjected. “Maybe we could
have helped.”

The girls felt a little foolish for not thinking of that.

“I guess we’ll just have to go back tomorrow,” said


Jekka.

“I guess so,” answered Mimi with a grin.

Pop Pop took control of the boat and eased it into


position alongside the dock.

“Avast, ye scurvy dogs!” said Pop Pop, in his best


pirate voice. “Secure the midden! Batten the hatches! Swab
the deck! Scuttle the flibbers!”

The girls giggled as they scurried around the boat,


tying and cleaning up. In no time at all, they were walking
along the bouncy, floaty dock towards the shore.

A sudden movement on the beach caught BJ’s eye.

“Look! It’s a bird!” she said, pointing.

“It’s a plane!” added Pop Pop, looking into the air,


“It’s… Superman!”

“No, I’m serious,” BJ said. “It really is a bird, and I


think it’s hurt.”

61
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

She rushed over to get a closer look, but was careful


not to get too close. She bent down, softly muttering
soothing sounds.

The bird’s sleek body was mostly black, with


specks and stripes of white. Its bill was pointy, like a knife,
and even though it sort of looked like a duck, BJ knew right
away it was a loon.

Its webbed feet were tangled in some sort of fishing


line. It tried to flap its wings, then laid its head down on the
sand, clearly exhausted.

“We’ve got to help this poor loon!” She looked at


Mimi. “Can we take her to Mrs. Rose Marie? She’ll know
what to do!”

Mrs. Rose Marie was a wildlife rehabilitation


specialist who lived next door to the girls’ other
grandfather, Pop Pop Dave. She helped take care of all
sorts of injured animals. Last summer, she had shown the
girls some baby squirrels she was caring for in her
basement, along with some birds and a three-legged
raccoon in her backyard.

“Sure, honey,” answered Mimi, pulling a towel out


of a bag and handing it to Pop Pop. “Here, pick it up

62
wrapped in this towel. Gently – and watch out for that
beak!”

Gingerly, Pop Pop placed the towel around the bird,


which was too tired to struggle. He picked it up and led the
group across the parking lot to their van.

“Hey, good thing Joey’s traveling crate is in here!”


BJ said peeking into the trunk. “It’s the perfect size for a
loon!”

Pop Pop Dave’s house was nestled in the woods, not


far from the marina. BJ winced with every bump and jolt
on the 10 minute drive, and watched the loon through the
slots in the dog carrier.

They pulled in to Pop Pop Dave’s driveway. Jekka


rant to the door to tell him what they’d found, while BJ
stayed in the car with the loon, crooning softly.

“It’s ok. You’re going to be ok. You’re a pretty bird.


You’re going to be ok…”

Mimi and Pop Pop followed behind Jekka.

“Well, hi there. I see you’ve got a bird that needs


some help,” Pop Pop Dave’s voice boomed out. “Let’s take
it next door and see what Mrs. Rose Marie can do.”

63
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

Pop Pop Dave was a giant. He reached one long


arm into the van and effortlessly picked up the box with the
loon. When he turned around, BJ saw that Jekka was on his
back, getting a ride.

Mrs. Rose Marie answered the door, and the girls


quickly explained the situation. She led everyone to her
basement, where she had some work tables and other
equipment.

“OK, maybe everyone should stay upstairs,” she


said, looking around at the small crowd of people. “We
don’t want to make the loon any more nervous and loony
than it already is.”

“Can I stay?” pleaded BJ. “I’ll be quiet and stay out


of your way, I promise.”

“Well, I suppose one person in the room will be


alright.”

BJ grinned and took a spot near the wall, while the


others filed back up the stairs.

Mrs. Rose Marie carefully pulled the towel-


wrapped loon out of the box, laying it on the table. She
uncovered it and clucked sadly.

64
“Poor little guy. Someone wasn’t very careful with
their fishing line, I see.” She pulled out a pair of scissors
and carefully began snipping the bird free from the tangle.
It flapped its wings a little, then decided it wasn’t in any
danger and relaxed. Mrs. Rose Marie had that effect on
animals.

“That’s right,” she whispered, “Rose Marie won’t


hurt you. I’m here to help. Ah, there you go.”

She snipped the last bit of fishing line and the loon
was free. It waved its feet and tried to stand, but Mrs. Rose
Marie held it firm.

“No, no, not yet,” she whispered. “Let me have a


look at those pretty legs first.”

BJ craned to see and caught a glimpse of red marks


on the loon’s legs and feet.

“BJ, can you hand me those bandages over there?”


Mrs. Rose Marie asked. “I’ve got to hold this guy down.”

Happy to be able to help, BJ quickly brought the


box over. Mrs. Rose Marie took out a few bandages and
wrapped up the loon’s injuries, after first applying some
cream. She looked it over, gave each leg a little tug and a
pat, then put the bandaged bird back in the dog carrier.

65
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“This bird is going to be fine,” she announced. “I’ll


need to keep him here for a little while, but he should make
a complete recovery. It’s a good thing you brought him
here, though, because if he’d stayed on the beach all
tangled up like that, he would have died. Let’s take him to
an outside cage and tell everyone the news, shall we?”

They went back upstairs to announce the news, then


Mrs. Rose Marie led the whole group to her backyard. She
carefully deposited the loon in a cozy cage, right next door
to a two-story squirrel house.

She brought out a big bag of loon food and filled up


a dish of water. They all watched the loon check out its new
surroundings. It sniffed the food, took a sip of water, then
settled down to sleep.

As they walked back towards the house, Pop Pop


Dave bent down to examine a little cluster of milkweed
plants.

“Whoa!” he muttered, then turned to his neighbor.


“How did you get so many monarch caterpillars?”

BJ took a closer look and, sure enough, there were


four, no five, little black and yellow striped caterpillars
crawling around on the milkweed plants.

66
“I’ve got a ton of these plants in my yard, and
haven’t seen a single caterpillar or butterfly!” he moaned.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” Mrs. Rose Marie


answered. “They just sort of show up wherever they want
to.”

“Oh well,” Pop Pop Dave sighed. “Maybe they just


haven’t found my yard yet.”

“I’m sure that’s it,” she answered.

“Mrs. Rose Marie, will you call us later to let us


know how the loon is doing?” BJ asked.

“Of course, dear. And you can come visit him when
you like. I think he’ll be here for several days.”

“You know a lot about animals, right?” asked Jekka.

“I suppose so.”

“What do you know about Champy? Have you ever


seen him?”

“Oh, you’re interested in Champy, are you? Have


you been to the ECHO center yet? I think they have some
information…”

“Yes,” said Jekka, interrupting excitedly. “We were


looking for someone named Dr. Van Der Warden Velden
but we couldn’t find him, except we found a door, only it

67
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

was locked, and we didn’t ask Mimi and Pop Pop to help,
so we’ll have to go back, but the lady at the desk said he
wasn’t there, but I think he was, and I think he’s real…”
She ran out of breath and paused.

“Well, I agree you should go back and try again,”


Mrs. Rose Marie said, with a strange smile. “Something
tells me you’ll find what you’re looking for this time.”

“I know,” answered Jekka. “I know he’s there, and


I’m going to find him.”

68
Chapter 9: Pieces Coming Together

The next day was Sunday. The girls went to church


with their grandparents. They were both itchy to get back to
ECHO, but it was closed on Sundays, so they would have
to wait.

The priest said something about faith and believing


in things you haven’t seen, but BJ and Jekka found it hard
to concentrate. All they could think about was Dr. V and the
locked door. They perked up when they heard the name
“Champy.”

“Some people say there is a monster in our lake,”


the priest was saying. “I don’t know for sure if Champy is
real or not. But I choose to believe in Champy, even though
I have never seen him. Do I believe Champy is real because
I have scientific proof of his existence? No. Is it because
there is some reason he must exist? Again, no. There is

69
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

certainly some evidence he is real, but at this point there is


no proof. So, why then do I believe in Champy?

“Well, faith is complicated. Maybe I believe


because my parents believed. Maybe it’s because believing
makes me feel good or special. Maybe I just want to
believe, for reasons I will never know, and maybe that’s
enough.

“Of course, Champy’s existence seems reasonable


to me, but is that why I believe, or does it seem reasonable
because I believe? Which came first – the belief or the
reasonableness? I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t matter why
I believe, or why I think I believe.

“Ultimately, faith is a mystery, whether it is faith in


a God we haven’t seen or a lake monster. And mysteries are
part of what make life so wonderful. I must admit – part of
me doesn’t even want proof that Champy exists. If
someone were to discover some sort of proof, the mystery
would diminish. Without mysteries, life would be pretty
dull.”

After church was over, Pop Pop took everyone out


for pancakes, as usual. They drove past the beach on the
way home, but Kim the lifeguard wasn’t there.

“Let’s just go home,” Jekka said.

70
“Yeah, I want to work in the garden,” added BJ.

“That sounds wonderful to me,” answered Mimi.

Back at the house, Pop Pop settled down with his


newspaper, and Jekka curled up next to him with The Case
For Champ. BJ went outside with Mimi.

“So, what did you think of church today?” asked


Mimi as she pulled some weeds.

“It was good,” BJ answered. “He talked for a long


time, but I liked it when he talked about Champy.”

“Yeah, I thought you would. I liked that part too.”

They worked in silence for a while, pulling weeds


and carefully trimming the flowers. The sun was gentle and
warm, and BJ could hear the sound of waves from across
the street. A few bees flew around, but BJ ignored them and
they ignored her. Both BJ and the bees focused on the
flowers instead.

“Did I tell you this garden has been certified by the


National Wildlife Federation as an official Wildlife
Habitat?” Mimi asked.

“No. What does that mean?” BJ replied.

71
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“Well, it means this is a safe place to live for wild


animals, like the toads and birds and butterflies. It means
I’m helping to protect nature.”

“Toads aren’t wild animals, Mimi,” BJ said with a


laugh, picturing a toad with sharp teeth and claws. “I
thought wild animals meant things like bears and tigers.”

Mimi laughed along with her.

“Yeah, I guess toads aren’t the first thing I think of


when it comes to wild animals, but they are wild because
they aren’t domesticated.”

“They do live in houses,” BJ teased, pointing to a


toad abode and giggling. “And I still haven’t seen any. How
do you know they are around here, anyway?”

“I’ll show you.” Mimi stood up, took BJ’s hand, and
led her to a large plant with big flat leaves. “This is a hosta.
Slugs love to eat hostas, and there are a lot of slugs in this
area.”

BJ wrinkled her nose at the thought of slugs, and


shuddered at the phrase “a lot of slugs.”

“But look at this plant, BJ” Mimi continued. “It’s


healthy and enormous. There aren’t any slug bites in the
leaves this year. When I started my garden, my hostas had a

72
hard time. The slugs were actually killing them. But ever
since the toads moved in, the hostas have been just fine.
And as long as these plants are healthy and slug-free, I can
be pretty sure the toads are around.”

They wandered through the garden some more,


hand in hand.

“I saw a leopard frog the other day too,” added


Mimi. “He was really well camouflaged, and he sat really
still, so I almost missed him.”

“Cool.” BJ answered.

They came around to the back patio and sat on the


bench swing. BJ stared at a purplish gazing ball that rested
on a pedestal in the middle of a cluster of pink and white
Astilbes.

BJ was amazed at how much motion there was in


the still garden. Bees and butterflies zipped and floated
from flower to flower. The wind pushed the plants this way
and that. An occasional squirrel scampered through, and the
trees swayed and rustled. It was a peaceful kind of
movement, and BJ wished she could sit in the garden with
her Mimi like this forever.

She was lost in thought when she heard a door slam


and Jekka came charging outside, waving her arms and

73
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

shouting “I found him! I found him!” She was carrying The


Case For Champ over her head, and she skidded to a stop
directly in front of the swing.

“What is it?” asked BJ, slightly annoyed to have her


peaceful garden time interrupted by her explosive little
sister.

“It’s Dr. V!” Jekka said breathlessly. “He’s in the


book, only it’s not him, except it is, but he’s got a different
name, but it’s him…” She realized she wasn’t making
much sense, so she shoved the book forward. “Look!”

BJ slowly took the open book from Jekka and


peered at the photo she was pointing at. It showed a
scientist in a white lab coat, standing next to some strange
looking equipment. It seemed to be a tuba, or at least part
of a tuba. The caption read Dr. David Durkee of the ECHO
Science Center’s Speculative Elusive Creature Research
and Education Team (S.E.C.R.E.T.), with his experimental
underwater sound machine.

“I guess he sort of looks like the guy we saw in the


picture at ECHO,” said BJ. “But this man’s name is Dr.
Durkee.”

74
“No, it isn’t!” Jekka replied, proud to have noticed
something her sister overlooked. “Look closely. There’s a
name on his lab coat, and it’s not Durkee.”

BJ leaned closer to the book, so she could read the


tiny letters embroidered on the lab coat. Sure enough, the
name was clear – Dr. Van Der Warden Velden. BJ gasped.

“Why does the caption have a different name, if his


coat says Dr. V?” asked BJ.

“That’s what I want to know,” Jekka answered.

“Maybe he was borrowing the coat from the real Dr.


V?” Mimi suggested. “Or maybe it’s a nickname.”

“Maybe…” Jekka said. “But even if the man in the


picture isn’t named Van Der Warden Velden, he’s wearing
that coat and he probably knows him. In any case, this
picture should definitely help us find him. We’ll just bring
this back to ECHO tomorrow and show it to the lady at the
sign in desk. She’ll have to admit he’s real when she sees
the photo.”

Just then, Pop Pop came into the garden.

“I just got off the phone with Grampy,” he said.


“He’s wondering if there are any young ladies around here
who would like an airplane ride tomorrow morning.” The

75
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

girls cheered, and Pop Pop continued. “He’s planning to


land his plane on the lake right here at 6:00 tomorrow
morning. We’ll paddle you out to it in the canoe, and he’ll
drop you at ECHO when it opens. We’ll take Air Force
Blue and meet you there. Oh, and he said don’t forget to
bring your binoculars.”

76
Chapter 10: Flying The Lucky Duck

Early mornings on the lake can be chilly, even in


the summer, so the girls were wearing long pants and
sweatshirts as they walked across the street towards the
lake shore. The water was like glass, and small wisps of
steam rose from it here and there. They each sipped from
cups of hot chocolate while scanning the sky for Grampy’s
plane.

Pop Pop lowered the canoe down to the water,


setting off a series of ripples as the water made room for
the little boat.

“Shh…” BJ said. “I think I hear something.”

“I don’t…” Jekka started to say, then added “Wait, I


do!”

The sound was a low, steady noise, faint at first but


growing louder quickly. It seemed to increase in volume,

77
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

speed and pitch as it got closer. Then, all of a sudden the


plane was directly overhead, roaring loudly.

The girls cheered to see it, and waved their arms


crazily at the departing plane as it shot past their location.

“Where did he go?” asked Jekka. “Why didn’t he


stop?”

“An airplane isn’t like a car, silly,” BJ answered.


“He can’t just stop right away.”

“That’s true,” added Pop Pop. “Plus, I think he likes


to fly over a landing spot once before landing, to make sure
it’s clear and safe. Look, he’s turning around and coming in
for a landing.”

Sure enough, the double-winged, boat-shaped plane


was carving a lazy circle in the sky and heading towards
them. The noise from the two big propellers changed again
as it slowed down and came in for a landing.

The girls had never seen an airplane land on water


before. They held their breath as it inched closer to the
surface, and clapped when it touched down with a splash. It
sent out big waves on both sides as it slowed.

Grampy’s plane was named The Lucky Duck, and it


had a painting of a grinning green cartoon duck on the side

78
of the dark green fuselage. The duck wore a hat and had a
big shamrock on its chest. Light green shamrocks covered
the rest of the plane. The duck was giving a double thumbs-
up sign, and the words Lucky Duck were painted right
below its feet.

The paint job wasn’t the most unusual thing about


the Lucky Duck, however. The structure was pretty strange
too. For starters, it had two pairs of wings, one above the
other. A large, rounded set was mounted high above the
aircraft’s body, while a smaller, stubby set was attached to
it, directly behind the cockpit. These lower wings acted as a
platform to stand on when the plane was on the water.

A pair of enormous propellers dangled between the


upper wings and the cockpit. The tail was made up of a
series of struts and bars, extending straight back from the
upper wing and up from the back of the passenger section.
These struts held up a flat tail wing, with two tail fins
sticking up through it.

“Hey, there’s Grampy!” BJ said, pointing excitedly.

Grampy emerged from a hatch on the top of the


passenger section, and stepped out onto the lower wing.

“Ahoy there! The Lucky Duck Express, at your


service!” He shouted across the water. Then he danced a

79
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

little jig right there on the wing, making the plane rock
alarmingly. The girls laughed as they climbed into the
canoe with Pop Pop and got ready to paddle out to the
plane.

“Are you ready to fly?”

Both girls shouted yes as Pop Pop paddled.

“This time, try not to dump us into the water, OK


Jekka?” said BJ from the front, without turning around.

“Oh BJ, I always try not to dump us into the water,”


Jekka said, “But sometimes it just happens.”

“I was afraid you were going to say that.”

Fortunately for the girls and Pop Pop, it didn’t


happen this time. They reached the plane without any
problems and climbed aboard – first Jekka, then BJ. Pop
Pop slid to the middle of the canoe and got ready to paddle
back to the shore, where Mimi was waiting.

“Thanks for taking them on patrol with you, Dad,”


he said to Grampy. “We’ll meet you over at ECHO around
10:00.” Turning to the girls, he added “Have a fun flight!
Make sure you buckle up for takeoff and landing, ok?”

“We will!”

80
The girls scrambled through the hatch into the
plane, and Grampy followed. He gave a final wave towards
the shore then swung the latch until it clicked.

The Lucky Duck’s interior was small, but cozy. The


low ceilings were just right for the girls, and Jekka giggled
at the thought of her giant Pop Pop Dave trying to fit
inside. She slid one of the windows open and stuck out her
hand to try and touch the water.

“Welcome aboard the Lucky Duck,” Grampy said as


Jekka pulled her dripping hand back inside. “One of you
can sit in the co-pilot seat while we take off, and the other
can sit there for the landing.”

BJ turned to her sister and said “Rock – Paper -


Scissors, winner goes first.”

“OK,” answered Jekka, then together they said


“Rock, Paper, Scissors – shoot!”

BJ thrust out her hand with her first two fingers


sticking out – scissors. Jekka’s hand was open and flat –
paper. She groaned.

“Scissors cuts paper – you get to go first, BJ.”

Grampy led the way to the front of the plane, and


squeezed in to the pilot’s chair. BJ slid into the seat next to

81
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

him, and looked in wonder at all the dials, lights and


buttons that covered the cockpit’s front panel.

“Make yourself comfortable back there, Jelly


Bean,” Grampy said to Jekka. He always called her that.
“This ship was originally built to carry 8 passengers, so
you’ve got plenty of space.”

He flipped a few switches and the engines roared to


life. The propellers began to move, slowly at first, then
quickly became a blur. Grampy put on headphones and
adjusted the mouth piece, then handed a set to BJ who did
the same. The Lucky Duck started to move forward.

Meanwhile, Jekka had buckled herself into a seat,


grabbed a set of headphones and was looking around the
cabin. The interior was painted green, and the ceiling was
covered with shamrocks, just like the outside.

Each side was lined with windows, larger than the


ones on the big planes she’d been on before. She could see
Pop Pop Bud standing on the shore with Mimi and the
canoe. She waved.

A few of the original seats had been replaced with a


table, which had a large map of Lake Champlain taped to it.

Grampy pushed a few more buttons, flipped more


switches, checked some dials, then pushed forward on the

82
funny-looking steering wheel. The plane picked up speed,
splashing loudly through the still lake. Everything suddenly
got quieter as they lifted into the air.

“How are you doing?” Grampy’s voice crackled


over the headsets each girl wore. “Everyone comfy?” They
nodded, grinning broadly.

“Let me tell you a little bit about my plane. It’s


called an S-38, and they built a bunch of them all the way
back in 1928. That means it’s about as old as I am. It can go
120 miles an hour and as high as 16,000 feet. And,
everyone who flies in it becomes extra lucky for the rest of
the day.” He chuckled.

“I think we’re pretty lucky already,” said BJ.

“How sweet it is!” Grampy replied, as the Lucky


Duck began to curve to the right.

BJ strained her neck to see out the cockpit window,


but her chair was low and the windows were high, so all
she could really see was a few clouds in a blue sky.

“You’ll probably see better from the back,” Grampy


said, watching her squirm in her chair. “Just plug your
headphones into the wall when you get back there, and I’ll
still be able to talk with you.”

83
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

BJ nodded and scrambled back to sit in a window


seat, across the aisle from her sister.

“Lake Champlain is 110 miles long,” Grampy was


saying as BJ plugged back in, “But we can go 750 miles
before we have to land. Of course, I usually don’t go that
far. Mostly I circle around this area, watching for any
stranded boats or any bad guys.”

“Do you ever see any?” Jekka asked.

“Stranded boats? Sure! Bad guys – not very many.”

“Tell us more about your plane, Grampy,” BJ asked.

“Well, there were some movie makers named


Martin and Osa Johnson, who had a plane just like this one,
back when the S-38’s were new. They painted it with zebra
stripes, named it Osa’s Ark, and flew it all over Africa,
making movies about the animals there.”

“Cool! I want to see one of their movies,” BJ said.

“Maybe you will some day. But for now, what do


you think about helping me make a movie about Lake
Champlain?”

He pushed a button and two screens popped down


from the ceiling. A pair of joysticks poked up from the
armrests on the chair. The screens both were showing

84
scenes of a lake, apparently taken from an airplane. BJ
could see boats, islands, and even some houses on the
shore.

“Your Uncle Q helped me put some movie cameras


on the bottom wings. They are controlled by those
joysticks, and you can point them in whatever direction you
want. The screens will show you what the camera sees, and
it’s all recorded on the plane’s computer”

BJ was amazed, and Jekka was already jerking


wildly on the stick, panning her camera from side to side
and up and down. BJ gingerly moved her joystick, and
watched as the image on the screen shifted accordingly.

The girls spent the rest of the flight collecting


beautiful shots of the lake. As the morning went on, they
watched the lake transform from a quiet, motionless body
of water into an active, rolling series of waves, full of
boaters and swimmers.

Grampy flew low over Crab Island, and Jekka got a


close-up shot of the memorial. BJ saw a family of ducks
take flight and wondered how her loon was doing.

Finally, it was time to land. Jekka decided to stay in


her back seat, and watched the landing on the movie screen.
Touching down on the water was surprisingly smooth.

85
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“How sweet it is,” Grampy said as they taxied


towards the shore. “How sweet it is.”

86
Chapter 11: ECHO’s ECHO

Mimi and Pop Pop were waiting for them on the


dock, and the girls ran up to greet them excitedly.

“How was the flight?”

“It was amazing!” Jekka shouted. “We flew higher


than birds and made a movie about the lake and I got to see
Crab Island close up and we went a hundred miles an hour
and everything.”

“That sounds fantastic,” Mimi said, as Jekka finally


took a breath. Then she turned to Grampy. “Thanks again
for taking them up, Chief.”

“Any time, my dear. Any time.” He answered.

“Are you going to join us at ECHO?” Pop Pop


asked.

“But of course!”

87
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

The five Boomers walked hand-in-hand towards the


front door. Mimi had brought along Jekka’s copy of The
Case For Champ, so they could show people the photo of
Dr. V / Dr. Durkee. As it turns out, they wouldn’t need the
photo after all.

The nice old lady was back at the front desk, and
when she saw them approaching, she pushed a button and
spoke quietly into a microphone.

“Welcome back folks,” she said sweetly as they


arrived. “Professor Markster will be right with you. It will
be just a moment.”

They looked at each other confusedly.

“I’m sorry – Professor who?” asked Pop Pop.

“No, Professor Who is not here today, but Professor


Markster will be glad to show you around. He’s the
director, you know, and I’m sure he’ll answer all your
questions. Ah, here he comes now.”

She pointed to a tall man with an enormous beard


and sparkling eyes. He wore a suit and tie, but BJ noticed
he had sandals on his feet, and no socks. She liked him
right away.

88
“You must be the Boomer family,” he said with a
big grin. “We’ve been expecting you, and I’m so glad you
made it. Right this way, please.”

He turned to go, but Pop Pop stopped him.

“Hold on – you’ve been expecting us? Are you sure


you’ve got the right group? We’re just…”

“You’re just the ones we were waiting for,” finished


Professor Markster. “You’re the ones who asked about Dr.
Van Der Warden Velden, right? And you rescued a loon?
And you’re looking for Champy?” Jekka gasped. “Oh,
you’re the right group, for sure. Please, come with me.
We’ve got a lot to talk about.

He turned again and set off at a quick pace. BJ and


Jekka had to almost run to keep up. They headed towards
the West Tower, where Jekka had discovered the hidden
doorway, but Prof Markster stopped suddenly at a door
labeled Cleaning Supplies.

He looked around to make sure nobody else was


watching, then opened the door and hustled everyone
inside. When all six of them were squeezed into the small
closet, he closed the door, engulfing everyone in darkness.

“Sorry about the dark,” he said. “It’s for security


reasons, you know. I’ll get some light in just a moment.”

89
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

BJ heard a beep, and suddenly she could see.


Something about the light was strange, however. After a
second or two, she realized it was coming from the floor.

“Hold on,” the professor said, as he pressed a button


on his watch. BJ and Jekka grabbed each other’s hands as
the closet lurched and began to fall downwards.

“We built this secret elevator,” Prof Markster was


saying, “to provide access to the underground portion of
our facility. This is where ECHO’s Elusive Creature
Hunting Organization does it’s work – the ECHO’s ECHO.
In a moment I’ll introduce you to the S.E.C.R.E.T.
researchers – that stands for the Speculative Elusive
Creature Research and Education Team.”

“That was in the book too,” Jekka whispered to BJ.


“This is so cool!”

The elevator jolted to a stop, and the professor


opened the door. He led the group down a long hallway. It
was lined with windows, and BJ realized with a start that
they were under water. A fish swam past, on the other side
of the window.

“The ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center is


committed to the highest level of scientific integrity,” said
Professor Markster, sounding very much like a professor.

90
“That means everything we say and everything we teach
must be accurate and true. We work very hard to make sure
we don’t present the public with anything we can’t prove.”

He paused at a door at the end of the hallway, his


hand on the knob.

“So, we keep some of our ongoing research


underground, or rather, underwater, until we have verifiable
results. That’s what this facility is all about.”

“Why are you showing us all this?” asked Jekka.

“Why? Oh, there are many reasons why.” Prof


Markster answered with a grin. He squatted down so his
face was level with BJ and Jekka. “You two have been
searching for Champy for a long time, and we thought
you’d like to meet some other Champy hunters.

“You helped rescue a loon, so you obviously care


about nature. You see, Mrs. Rose Marie is a friend of mine,
and she called to tell me all about you. Then, a lifeguard
called to vouch for you as well, and…” he paused. “I’ll let
the last guy introduce himself. Wouldn’t want to spoil that
surprise.”

He stood up, opened the door, and gestured for them


all to enter.

91
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

They stepped into an enormous room. The ceiling


was so high they could hardly even see it. One of the walls
was lined with televisions, each of which showed a
different underwater scene. Another wall was completely
blank, aside from a big seam running down the middle. A
bank of computers hummed and blinked off to one side.

In the middle of the room, a huge glass ball


dominated the room. It was large enough for four grownup
to fit inside easily. It rested on a pair of long, pointed
cylinders, which lay on the ground and had big propellers
at one end. Several people were busy at work, pushing
buttons and examining numbers on handheld computers. BJ
noticed a faint smell of popcorn.

Professor Markster cleared his throat to get


everyone’s attention.

“Ahem. Ladies and gentlemen, the Boomer Family


is here.”

A man in a white lab coat turned around to face


them, and Jekka squealed happily. It was the scientist in the
photo! He came right over and shook everyone’s hand.

“Hallo,” he said, with a thick accent. “I am Dr. Van


Der Warden Velden. Please, you can call me Van. I think
you have met my assistant, Kim?”

92
It was Kim the lifeguard. She looked more like a
grownup in her white lab coat, and she shook everyone’s
hands too. Then the girls heard a familiar voice from inside
one of the big tubes.

“Girls! I am dee-lighted you made it!” Uncle Q’s


head popped out of a hatch on the side of the cylinder, and
the rest of him quickly followed. “Welcome to the
underground ECHO,” he added, as he hugged his nieces.
“How do you like our new submarine? It’s almost ready for
it’s first test drive… I mean, test float… or test swim…
hmm, now that I think about it, I’m not quite sure what to
call it.”

“How about just calling it a test?” BJ suggested.

“Brilliant! Amazing! You should come work here


full time!” Uncle Q turned to his friends. “I told you these
girls were amazing, didn’t I?”

“Thanks, Uncle Q. I don’t know how me and my


brain do it,” BJ answered.

“Is this glass ball really a submarine?” Jekka asked.

“Oh, it’s not glass, and it’s much more than a ball,”
said Dr. Van. “The E.R.I.N. is a state-of-the-art research
submarine, designed to explore Lake Champlain. The big

93
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

glass ball, as you called it, is the observation bubble. We’ll


have quite a view of the lake from inside there.”

“Those two long tubes,” Uncle Q added, “One of


which I was in, are engines. They will move the sub around
underwater. See the propellers at that end?” He gave one a
little push and it swiveled from side to side. “It should be
remarkably maneuverable.”

“But if it’s not glass, what is it?” Jekka asked,


gently touching the hard, cold ball.

“It is transparent alumina,” answered Dr. Van. “Also


called aluminum oxide, to be precise. It’s chemical name is
Al2O3. It is amazingly light, completely see-through, and
three times tougher than hardened steel. It will never
break.”

“Believe it or not, girls,” Uncle Q added,


“Aluminum oxide is basically the same stuff rubies and
sapphires are made of. The only difference is ours doesn’t
have any color.”

“So it’s made of rubies?” BJ asked, incredulous.

“Well, sort of,” said Dr. Van. “It’s actually made up


of lots of tiny pieces of clear ruby material. We built it with
some help from the Fraunhofer Institute, using a flame
spray method called the Rosenflanz technique. Anatoly

94
Rosenflanz is a genius about sintered materials, but you
don’t need to worry about all that.”

“Would you like to take a look inside?” Uncle Q


asked.

“Yeah!” both girls shouted.

Uncle Q led them between the engine tubes, to a


small hatch on the bottom of the big ruby bubble. A small
ladder dangled down, and the girls scrambled up behind
him.

“Here it is,” he said, gesturing around the cabin.


There’s not a lot to see in here – isn’t that wonderful? You
would think a science submarine would be full of confusing
equipment, right? They usually are, but not the E.R.I.N. All
the electronics and controls are built into these two seats,
and into the bubble itself.”

“That’s right,” said Professor Markster, who had


joined them. “We designed the sub to be very simple. Even
a child could drive it – no offense. Here, sit in the pilot
seats.”

BJ and Jekka dove into the two seats in the center of


the bubble. There was a single joystick, mounted in
between the seats, in easy reach of them both. The arm rests

95
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

each had a little ball securely nested in it, with a pair of


buttons, like a computer mouse.

“This stick controls the sub, so you can drive from


either seat,” Uncle Q explained. “Most of the controls are
voice activated, and the shell of the bubble acts as a
computer screen. Watch!”

He turned to face forward and said “Pistachio!” He


turned back to the girls and explained “The computer’s
name is Pistachio.”

Facing front again, he said, “Pistachio, turn on the


video cameras.”

A computer voice said “Command Accepted,” and


suddenly the curved wall in front of them was covered with
a video image of Dr. Van. He obviously didn’t know he was
on camera, because he was making a lot of silly faces into
the camera.

“These cameras will show us what’s happening in


the water around us, particularly in the areas where the
pilot’s vision is obstructed by the engine tubes. They also
let us record footage to study later.”

“The computer screen is programmed to show


important information about the sub, too,” added Prof

96
Markster. “Things like your speed, location, depth, what
direction you’re heading. It’s all very simple.”

“Let’s go back outside, shall we, so Dr. Van can


show you the coolest part of the sub,” said Uncle Q. “It’s
the part that’s going to help us find Champy.”

97
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

Chapter 12: Pistachio Launch

The girls, Uncle Q and Prof Markster piled out of


the sub excitedly, and rejoined Mimi, Pop Pop and Grampy,
who were talking with Dr. Van and Kim. Dr. Van was
busily adjusting a curled metal tube that was mounted at the
front of the bubble, in between the two engine tubes. It
ended in a large opening, and reminded BJ of a tuba.

“This is an experiment in aquatic acoustics – that


means making noises underwater,” Dr. Van explained. “I
believe this device will produce the sort of noise a Champ-
like creature might make, if it exists. Of course, if Champ is
more like a Zeuglodon and less like a pleisosaur, that would
change things a bit, but in either case, I think the two would
actually sound quite similar.”

“The basic idea,” added Prof Markster, “Is to


activate the device in a deep part of the lake and see if

98
Champ comes to investigate. Sort of like a hunter using a
duck call to attract birds. The main difference, of course, is
that we aren’t going to shoot the animal we call.”

“The other difference,” Uncle Q added with a smile,


“Is we know for sure that ducks exist. And what they sound
like. And where they live.”

“Wow, do you really think it’ll work?” Jekka asked.

“I have no idea!” Uncle Q answered, “And there’s


only one way to find out! We’ll just have to test it. If we
knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be research.”

“I have a question,” BJ said, “It’s about the


computer. Why did you call it Pistachio?”

“Ah, good question!” Uncle Q replied. “We started


out calling it ‘Computer,’ but that got us into all sort of
trouble. For example, I might say ‘Don’t push that button,
it makes the computer shut down.’ The computer hears me
say ‘computer shut down,’ and turns itself off. That would
be most unfortunate if it happened in the middle of the lake.
So, we decided Pistachio would be a safer name, since we
are less likely to accidentally say it.”

“So, the computer only pays attention to commands


that start with its name,” Kim continued. “We’ve also
programmed it to ignore any sounds coming over the radio,

99
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

so it doesn’t accidentally get reprogrammed just because


someone left a microphone turned on. And as a double fail-
safe, some of the more important commands have to be
repeated twice.”

“But the ship is named the E.R.I.N., right?” BJ


asked.

“Yes,” answered Prof Markster. “Pistachio is only


the computer’s name. We named the actual sub after my
wife. E.R.I.N. stands for Exploration, Recreation,
Innovation and Nutrition.”

“Nutrition?” asked Jekka. Prof. Markster blushed.

“Um, we sort of had a hard time coming up with a


word that started with N. Nutrition was the only one we
could think of.”

“Oh.”

“Have you told the girls about the robot fish?”


asked Dr. Van, changing the subject.

“Not yet,” answered Prof. Markster. “Please, go


right ahead.”

“Follow Me,” Dr. Van said as he walked over to a


wall covered in TV screens. Each showed a different

100
underwater scene, and BJ could scarcely take her eyes off
them.

“The E.R.I.N. is our manned research sub, but we


have quite a collection of unmanned projects as well,” Dr
Van explained. “We call them our robot fish because, well,
they are robots that look like fish.”

“Are they really robots? Like in a movie?” Jekka


asked.

“In a way, yes. The main difference between these


and a movie robot, of course, is ours don’t talk. Our robot
fish are able to move themselves around and respond to
their environment, but they are really not very smart, and
we have to tell them what to do.”

“Oh,” Jekka said, trying not to be too disappointed.

“Each one has a video camera inside it,” Uncle Q


continued. “They transmit a video signal back to us as they
swim around. Here, let me see if Kim can get two of them
to come together, so you can see what they look like.”

As Kim fiddled with some dials and buttons, BJ


continued to stare at the screens. One in particular caught
her attention. It was darker than most of the others, and she
thought she saw something large moving on the edge of the
camera’s view.

101
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“Are all these robot fish looking for Champy?” BJ


asked.

“Sure!” answered Dr. Van. “But they are also


helping us do other things, like count how many fish are in
the lake, watch for pollution, and look for shipwrecks.”

“Ah, here we are,” said Uncle Q, pointing at two


screens. “Smile for the camera!”

At first, the fish on the two screens looked like


normal fish, not like robots at all. But after a moment, BJ
noticed that their eyes looked a little strange, and the way
their tails moved wasn’t quite right.

“They are beauties, aren’t they?” said Kim.

They watched for a few more minutes as the robot


fish circled each other. Then, Uncle Q pushed another
button, releasing them to continue their research. BJ
watched the larger one disappear into the murky water with
a stiff swish of its tail.

“Are you going to launch the E.R.I.N. today?”


Jekka asked, after the last robot fish swam away.

“No, it’s not quite ready,” Dr. Van answered. “The


submarine itself is complete, but we haven’t finished

102
programming Pistachio. It’ll probably be finished in a week
or two.”

“Aw, we’ll be back home by then!” Jekka protested.


“Can you please, please, please finish Pistachio faster?”

Uncle Q laughed.

“Sure, peanut. We’ll do our best.”

Suddenly, Jekka remembered something. She spun


towards Dr. Van.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you – who is Dr.


Durkee?”

Dr. Van looked around confusedly. “I do not know


anyone by that name.”

“Really?” Jekka said, “Because my book says you


are someone by that name!” She walked over to Mimi, who
was still holding the copy of The Case For Champ. She
opened it to the right page and held it out for Dr. Van to see.

“Strange,” he muttered. “It is my photo, but


someone else’s name.” He flipped to the next page and said
“Ah ha! Just as I thought.” He handed the book back to
Jekka and pointed to a new photo.

103
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“That is Dr. Durkee, not me. Apparently the


publisher made a mistake and put his name next to my
picture.”

Jekka looked at the photo Dr. Van was pointing at. It


showed an older man, with a bald head and big whiskers.
The caption said Dr. Durkee.

“These things happen,” Dr. Van continued. “It just


goes to show you can not believe everything you read.”

“Now that we’ve solved that mystery,” BJ said, “I


have a question. How are you going to get this enormous
submarine out of this room and into the lake?”

The scientists looked at each other, their eyes large


and mouths open.

“Oh no…” said Dr. Van.

“Well… um…” said Prof. Markster. “Actually, we


didn’t think about that…”

“Maybe we – no… or we could – no…” said Uncle


Q. “Or perhaps – no, that wouldn’t work either.”

“I told you we shouldn’t build it here,” said Dr. Van.


“I wanted to build it upstairs, but you wouldn’t listen.”

“I thought building it here was your idea!” replied


Uncle Q.

104
“My idea? I wanted…” Dr. Van started to say.

“OK boys,” Kim interrupted, with a laugh. “That’s


enough joking around.” She turned to the girls and
explained “They’re just pulling your leg. I think maybe
they’ve spent too much time underwater. Come on – I’ll
show you the airlock.”

She walked over to a large blank wall and pushed a


button. The wall slid open to reveal a big empty room, just
large enough to fit the E.R.I.N. BJ saw some big pipes
extending into the room from the side walls, near the
ceiling. The ceiling itself was made of metal and had a
large seam running down the middle.

“Do you know how an airlock works?” Kim asked.

“I think so,” BJ answered. “You put the sub in here


and close the doors. Then you suck out all the air, right?
And then the water comes in?”

“That’s pretty close. We don’t actually have to suck


out the air. We just seal these doors and open some valves.
Water comes in through those pipes up there, then the
ceiling opens and the E.R.I.N. sails away.”

“And the computers are all connected, of course,”


added Dr. Van. “So the whole thing can be controlled by
Pistachio.”

105
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

BJ giggled again at the computer’s name.

“I want to sit in the submarine one more time,” said


Jekka. “Can I? Can I, please?”

“Sure! Then we’ll all go get some lunch, ok?” Dr.


Van answered.

BJ followed Jekka into the submarine, while the


grown-ups discussed what to eat. They sat in the drivers’
seats and pretended they were undersea explorers.

“Look, there’s Champy!” Jekka said in mock


surprise, pointing to an empty spot in the air.

“Oh, she’s beautiful!” BJ answered, playing along.

“I wish we could be here for the Pistachio launch,”


Jekka said with a sigh.

“It’s named E.R.I.N.” BJ started to say, but she was


interrupted by a sudden movement.

The ship shuddered and the girls heard the hatch


close with a loud clang. A computer voice said “Launch
command received. Please confirm.”

What’s going on? What did you touch?” BJ asked.

“Nothing! I didn’t touch anything! I just said…”


she gasped at the realization.

“You said Pistachio launch!” BJ shouted.

106
“Launch command confirmed,” said the computer
voice. The sub lurched towards the open airlock room.

“You said it too! Help!” Jekka replied.

BJ could see the grownups in the lab scrambling to


get out of the way of the sub as it rumbled slowly forward.
Kim was frantically pushing buttons on a computer, but the
E.R.I.N didn’t slow down.

Uncle Q’s voice came over the sub’s loud speakers.

“Hold on tight, girls, and don’t worry. You’re both


fine. We’ll get control of the sub in just a moment, so sit
back and enjoy the ride. I do apologize for the little surprise
here. I also apologize that it isn’t going to last very long. As
adventures go, this one is probably going to be pretty dull
and short. We’ll have control of the sub again in just a
moment. And speaking of subs, we’ve decided to get subs
for lunch.”

The E.R.I.N. continued to move forward, and was


soon entirely in the airlock. There was a loud clang and the
massive doors behind them began to close.

“Don’t be scared, Jekka,” BJ said bravely. “They’ll


get us out of here right away.” BJ stole a quick glance at
her little sister, and saw that Jekka was grinning
enormously and bouncing in her chair.

107
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“I wish we could…” Jekka started to say.

“Don’t say it!” BJ shouted. “Last time you opened


your mouth, we ended up… here.”

“I was just going to say…”

“Nothing! Say nothing! We’re going to be fine.


They’ll get us out of here any minute now. Just don’t panic.
Whatever we do, don’t panic.”

The airlock doors banged shut, and water began to


pour out of the pipes, filling the airlock room. It looked like
four enormous fire hoses were shooting at the sub. The
noise was tremendous for a minute, then the room was full
and everything was silent.

“Was that supposed to happen?” BJ asked,


frantically. “Is this thing water tight? When are they going
to let us out? How much air do we have? What if…”

“Alright girls, I think we’ve got it under control.”


Uncle Q’s soothing voice came over the radio. “Now we
just need to drain the…” Uncle Q’s voice stopped. “Uh-
oh.”

The sub’s engines kicked to life as the ceiling


opened. BJ and Jekka held on to their seats and the E.R.I.N.
launched itself into the lake.

108
“Small problem,” Uncle Q’s voice continued.
“Pistachio is not responding.”

109
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

Chapter 13: In The Lake

“Not responding?” BJ yelled. “What does that


mean?”

“BJ, relax,” said Jekka. “They’ll figure it out. Cool


– we’re in the lake now! Look – fish!”

“Girls?” Uncle Q’s voice was back. “Can you hear


me? Press the green button on the chair’s armrest to turn on
your microphones, so I can hear you.”

BJ pushed the button and said, “We can hear you,


Uncle Q. We are OK. Can you come get us?”

“Well, we’re working on that,” Uncle Q answered.


“We could put on scuba gear to come get you, but the
E.R.I.N. does not have an airlock, so we would not be able
to actually get into the sub with you. And we would need to
use the airlock room to get to you anyway, which would
mean closing the door and pumping out all the water, which

110
might take a while. I think it would be faster to have you
just return the E.R.I.N. to the room directly.”

“OK, but we don’t know how.”

“I’ll walk you through it. First, you’ll need to turn


on the video camera and the ship’s status reports, so you’ll
know what direction you’re facing and how deep you are.
Just tell the ship’s computer to do it.”

“OK,” BJ answered tentatively. “Pistachio, turn on


the video cameras.”

“Command accepted,” came the reply.

Just like before, the front wall of the sub now had a
square video image on it. This time, instead of Dr. Van
making funny faces, it showed a watery, murky scene. The
camera was pointed straight down, giving the girls an
excellent view of the open doors of the airlock’s ceiling.

“Pistachio,” Jekka added, “Show us the status


reports.”

A stack of numbers and letters appeared alongside


the video feed.

“Is it responding to you?” Uncle Q asked. “What do


you see?”

111
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“Yeah, it’s doing it,” BJ answered. “We can see the


airlock below us. We are facing west, the water is 30 feet
deep and our depth is 20 feet.”

“Excellent! Incidentally, how’s the view?”

“It’s awesome!” answered Jekka. BJ realized with a


start that in all the excitement, she had forgotten to look
around.

The world outside the sub was a wonderful blue-


green-brown color. It looked very peaceful, and the girls
saw a few large fish swim past the sub. Looking out
straight ahead, they could see the silty, rocky lake bottom
dropping away.

It was hard to judge distances, and the water


appeared to get dark and hard to see through pretty quickly.
They looked up and could see the bright surface, sparkling
20 feet over their heads.

“Can we stay out here for a little while?” Jekka


asked.

“No!” shouted BJ, a little louder than she intended.


She tried again, softer. “I mean, no. We need to get back.
It’s close to lunch time, and I’m getting hungry. Besides,
the view is a little scary.” She wrapped her arms around
herself and took a deep breath.

112
“Alrighty then, let’s get you back inside, shall we?”
Uncle Q’s voice responded. “Kim is sort of our expert on
this sort of thing, so she’ll guide you through it. Here she
is.”

“Hi girls! I’ll have you back inside in a minute and


a half. And can I just say how lucky you two are to be out
there? I really wish I could be there with you, on the
E.R.I.N.’s first test.”

“Yeah, I wish you were here too,” answered BJ,


“Although I don’t feel too lucky yet.”

“Well, hang in there. We’ll get you back as fast as


possible. First, let’s give the computer a chance to bring
you back. Say it’s name and give it the command return to
airlock.”

“Pistachio,” BJ said, “Return to airlock.”

“Command not understood,” came the reply.


“Please try again.”

“OK, that’s what I thought might happen,” said


Kim. “We’ve only given the computers the directions on
how to go out. It doesn’t know how to come back yet – I
was going to do that part tomorrow.”

BJ shuddered.

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The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“That’s alright – we’ll just do it manually. One of


you needs to do the driving. Any volunteers?”

“Me!” said Jekka.

“You!” said BJ.

“That was easy,” said Kim. “Alright, Jekka, I need


you to take the control stick – it’s the big thing in between
the chairs. Be gentle with it now, and press it forward.”

Jekka nudged the stick and the E.R.I.N. lurched


forward, heading towards the deeper water in the middle of
the lake.

“Yee-haw!” said Jekka with a laugh.

“Um, why are we going out?” BJ asked. “I thought


we wanted to go down?”

“I need to let Jekka get used to how the controls


work,” Kim explained, “Before I have her try to land it in
the airlock.

“Now, Jekka,” Kim continued. “Gently push the


stick to the left. You’re going to turn the sub around in a big
circle, then come back towards the hatch. BJ, you need to
watch the depth indicator and make sure the sub doesn’t get
too close to the bottom, ok?”

114
“OK,” BJ answered, happy to have a job to do.
Jekka turned the sub in a wide arc.

“When the screen says you’re facing East, stop


turning and press the stick forward.”

“OK, I did it.”

The sub zipped along, and BJ took a big breath.


They were heading back towards shallower water, and
would be safe in the lab in just a few minutes. She realized
her shoulders were all hunched up, and she put them down
with a sigh.

Jekka was grinning fiercely and singing a little song


to herself as she piloted the ship back to the base. BJ
recognized it as Hush Little Baby.

“You should see the airlock any moment now,”


Kim’s voice said. “BJ, you might have to adjust the video
camera a little, in case you didn’t come back to exactly the
same spot. The control is on the armrest.”

The depth monitor said they were 20 feet deep and


the bottom was 30, so BJ figured they were close to the
hatch. She pressed the video controller, and as she panned
the camera, the image on the wall slid to the side, until she
was looking at it over her shoulder. She slid it back to the
front, then to the other side.

115
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“Oh no,” BJ gasped. “I see the hatch, Kim. I see it


right there, but it’s closing!”

“It is? Are you sure?” Kim asked.

“Yes – unless there’s more than one big airlock


hatch around here.” The Boomer girls heard a clang
through the water as the hatch closed completely.

“I heard that,” Kim said. “Hold on a second.”

“Like we have a choice, right?” BJ muttered.

Jekka maneuvered the sub towards the closed hatch.


She was getting the hang of it, and was really enjoying
herself.

“I’m going to be a famous sub driver when I grow


up,” she announced proudly.

“I think you’re a pretty great sub driver already,”


answered Kim over the speakers.

“Um, hello?” injected BJ. “Can we stop talking


about Jekka’s future career plans for a moment and focus
on getting these doors open? I’d like to get back on dry
land.”

“Right – sorry,” said Kim. “I guess the doors closed


automatically after a few minutes. I forgot about the timer.
Ask your computer to send the open signal.”

116
“Pistachio,” BJ started to say, “Open the…” She
paused. “Hold on, Pistachio. Kim, if I tell the computer to
open the… the things… it’s not going to open the… um…
things on this submarine, is it?”

“Good thinking, but don’t worry. The sub door


won’t open if it’s underwater. We made sure of that first
thing.”

“OK, here goes nothing. Pistachio, open the airlock


doors, but not the ones on this submarine.” BJ added, for
good measure. She watched the image on the screen in
front of her, but nothing happened.

“That didn’t work, Kim.”

“Try telling it to open the airlock doors at the base.”

She tried, and still the doors didn’t budge.

“Don’t worry, girls, we’ll figure it out. Just, um,


give us a minute. Why don’t you sit back and enjoy the
view? Maybe count the fish?”

“Couldn’t we just steer it to the shore?” BJ asked.

“Ah, yes,” Uncle Q’s voice answered. “We might


have you do that, actually, but we want to try one more
thing before giving up on the airlock. Kim is finishing that

117
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

right now. And you two are perfectly safe, of course, as


long as you don’t activate the deep water program.”

BJ was starting to relax, and said, “Pistachio is a


funny name.” But before she finished her sentence, Jekka
interrupted with a question.

“Activate the deep water program?” said Jekka.


“What does that me…?” She stopped in mid sentence, as
the submarine’s engines revved up again and the sub began
to turn back towards the west. “Oh no, I said it and it’s
doing it!”

“Cancel deep water program! Cancel deep water


program!” shouted BJ, who was almost in tears. “Cancel
deep water program, Pistachio!”

But Pistachio didn’t respond. The sub faced west


once again, then began to move forward and down, into the
murky, dark center of Lake Champlain.

“Oops!” said Jekka, glancing at her sister. “Sorry


about that!”

118
Chapter 14: The Deep Water Program

“OK, girls,” Uncle Q’s voice came over the radio.


He sounded a little nervous and a little excited, all at once.
“It looks like you’re going to get more of a tour of the lake
than we’d expected. There is no need to worry, and at the
moment there’s not a lot you can do other than sit back and
enjoy the sights. Here, I’ll let Kim explain.”

Kim’s voice was calm and reassuring. “The Deep


Water Program is designed to automatically go to a pretty
deep spot in the lake. It’s about 300 feet of water, but don’t
worry, it’s not terribly far from here. Once you get there,
the computer should automatically trigger the underwater
sound maker – the Champ Caller – and then the program
will end.

“At that point, control of the sub will revert back to


the pilot. That’s you, Jekka. Once you get control, I want

119
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

you to shoot straight to the surface. We’ll meet you there


with Air Force Blue and tow the E.R.I.N. back to the
Marina. In fact, your grandparents are leaving right now.
I’ll stay here to guide you.”

“Hey, was that a duck?” Jekka asked, pointing at a


trail of bubbles that crossed their path.

“It was probably a loon,” BJ answered. She glanced


at the depth indicator, which said they were 80 feet down
and the water was 130 feet deep. “Wow, they dive pretty
far.”

“I wonder,” came Dr. Van’s voice, “If you would


mind turning on the video recorder? I would like to save
the footage, just in case you see anything interesting.”

“Sure, no problem.” Jekka answered.

A familiar looking fish appeared alongside the sub.


It had strange looking eyes, and it’s tail looked a little
funny.

“Hey, it’s one of the robot fish!” BJ said.

“Yes,” came Dr. Van’s voice again. “Kim was able


to send one over to keep you girls company. It can’t go
much deeper than 100 feet, so it won’t be with you the

120
whole time, but we figured you’d enjoy the company. Wave
to the camera! We can see you!”

For some reason, the robot fish’s presence made the


girls feel better. Just knowing the grown-ups could see
them was reassuring.

“My little robot fish friend tells me you are


approaching something called the hypolimnion. It’s a layer
of cold water at the bottom of the lake, and in the summer it
starts around 90 feet down. You might want to buckle up,
because things might get a little bumpy for a few minutes,
as you cross that boundary.”

BJ was already buckled in, and now Jekka clicked


her seatbelt too.

“Say goodbye to the robot fish! He can’t get much


deeper.”

The girls waved as the fish disappeared into the


gloom. Even with the submarine’s powerful outside lights
on, it was hard to see very far, compared with life on land.

“Look, Jekka!” BJ squealed, pointing. “It’s a


shipwreck!”

Sure enough, just off to their left was an ancient


looking boat. For a shipwreck, it looked in remarkably

121
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

good shape. The strangest thing was the fact that it was
sitting upright on the lake bottom, as if waiting for a crew
that would never come. Its mast was still standing, and a
cannon was still perched on the front. The girls gaped as
they drifted past.

“Ah, that’s probably the Spitfire,” said Kim. “It’s a


gunship from the Revolutionary War. It was commanded by
a guy named Benedict Arnold, and it sank in 1776, during
the Battle of Valcour. It wasn’t discovered until 1997, and it
was another two years after that before anyone knew for
sure which boat it was.

“Pretty amazing, huh? I’ve only seen pictures of it,


myself. Have I told you girls how lucky you are?”

“I’ll feel a lot luckier when I’m on dry land again,”


BJ replied. “For that matter, I’d settle for seeing sunlight.”

The sub continued its long, downward journey.


Suddenly, it started to bounce and rock back and forth.

“Help!” said BJ.

“Whee!” said Jekka.

“Ah, it sounds like you’re crossing the hypolimnion


I warned you about,” said Kim. “The bumps shouldn’t last
long.”

122
“Before she even finished the sentence, things got
smooth again.

“Whew!” said BJ. “I’m glad that’s over.”

“Nice job, ladies,” Kim said. “Can you tell me what


your location is? Look for the words Lat and Long,
followed by some numbers.”

“I see it,” BJ answered. “It says Lat 44 28 01 and


Long 73 16 47. What does that mean?”

“It means you are about to leave Burlington Bay.


The lake gets deep pretty fast now, so you’re almost there.”

“Oh good,” muttered BJ.

“Also, you… radio… work…” the loudspeakers


crackled with static.

“Kim?” Jekka asked. “Can you hear us? Hello?”

There was no answer.

“I think she was trying to tell us the radio might


stop working at this depth,” BJ said, looking at her sister.
“Looks like we’re on our own.”

Jekka played with the video camera controls,


sweeping the screen from side to side and singing a
nonsense song about polka-dot fish that she made up as she
went along. She saw schools of fish zip past. An eel briefly

123
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

appeared, its long snake-like body wriggling in the water in


a way that made BJ uncomfortable.

The sub slowed down as it approached a long,


narrow, flat space. The depth indicator said 305 feet, and
both girls instinctively took a breath.

306… 307… 308… The sub gently settled onto the


flat bottom of Lake Champlain, kicking up a cloud of silt
that obscured their view.

“Ooohhhhmmmmpppffff…” A huge groan echoed


through the E.R.I.N., and both girls put their hands over
their ears.

“Ooohhhhmmmmpppffff ….” it repeated.

“What the…?” BJ shouted. The sound made her


eyes water.

“It’s the Champy Caller!” Jekka answered, grinning


wider than ever. “I wonder if he’ll come. Or maybe it’s a
she. Or maybe a hundred Champys will show up!”

“Even if a whole bunch of Champys show up, we


won’t be able to see them, because of all the silt we kicked
up.” But even as BJ spoke, she noticed the silt cloud had
mostly settled down again. “Oh, never mind.”

124
“Um, did it just get quiet all of a sudden?” asked
Jekka.

“I think the engines turned off,” BJ answered


nervously. Then, the lights went out.

The girls were engulfed in the darkest darkness


they’d ever imagined. They both felt like their eyes were
closed, and they strained to see even the smallest glimmer
of anything.

“What’s happening, BJ?” asked Jekka, all hints of


her previous happiness gone. “I’m scared. It’s so dark!”

“It’s OK,” BJ said, reaching out her hand. “Take my


hand. I don’t know what’s going on, but we’re going to be
fine.” She managed to find her little sister’s hand, even in
the dark. It felt small and cold, but it was the most
wonderful thing she had ever felt.

“We are going to be fine,” she repeated. “It was


probably programmed to turn off the stuff and wait for
Champy. The engine noise and the lights would probably
scare him away.”

“Yeah, but they’d make me feel a lot better,” Jekka


answered. “I don’t care about seeing Champy right now. I
just want to see something. And how would we see
Champy anyway? It’s all dark.”

125
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“I don’t know. Maybe they didn’t think of that


part.”

“Ooommhhhoommpppffff…” Another long, low


groan echoed across the sub, quieter this time.

“That sounded different,” BJ said. “And farther


away. Do you think…?”

“Ooohhhhmmmmpppffff …” the original groan


sounded again, just as loud as the first time. It was
answered by a quieter, different-but-similar sound, then
another one, shorter but louder.

“It’s coming from outside the sub,” Jekka


whispered. “And I think it’s getting closer!”

126
Chapter 15: Close Encounter

“I wish we had a light… wait a minute!” BJ yelped.


“Pistachio, turn on the lights.”

“Lights are deactivated during the Deep Water


Program,” answered Pistachio in his computer voice.

“Pistachio, deactivate the Deep Water Program,”


said BJ.

“Command not understood.”

“Stupid computer.” BJ sighed. “It was worth a try.”

Suddenly, BJ realized she could see. There was


Jekka, grinning sheepishly. They couldn’t see very much,
and their world was still very small and dark, but compared
to seeing nothing, this was wonderful.

“I just remembered I had this little flashlight in my


pocket,” Jekka said. “Sorry I didn’t think of it sooner.”

127
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

BJ was too relieved and happy to be mad. Her eyes


soaked up every bit of the light, like a person in a desert
who finds water, except water was the one thing the girls
had plenty of.

“Thank goodness!” BJ unbuckled her seatbelt and


went over to hug her sister. “OK, we need to think of a way
to get out of her.”

“Pistachio,” said Jekka, “Go to the surface.


Pistachio, go up. Pistachio, float. Pistachio, rise. Pistachio,
climb.”

The sub didn’t budge.

“Hold on,” BJ said, “Don’t confuse it. Let’s try one


at a time. Pistachio, end Deep Water Pro…”

“Ooohhhhmmmmpppffff…” BJ’s command was


drowned out by the booming groan of the Champy Call.

“Pistachio,” said BJ, trying again. “End… what was


that?”

She pointed to a spot outside the sub, behind Jekka.

“What? What did you see?”

“I don’t know, but it was big. I think I saw a fin!”

“It’s Champy! squealed Jekka, clapping her hands.


“He’s come to rescue us!”

128
“Maybe it was just a fish,” BJ replied. “I’m… I’m
not sure what I saw.”

Both girls were peering out through the transparent


sub walls. Jekka slowly swung her flashlight from side to
side. It didn’t penetrate the water very far, but then again,
there wasn’t much to see, so they couldn’t really tell.

“I’m cold, BJ,” Jekka said, shivering.

“Yeah, it’s getting cold in here,” BJ answered,


putting her arm around Jekka. “Pistachio, go up.”

“Command not understood.”

BJ sighed and tried to think. The Deep Water


Program couldn’t last forever, could it? There must be a
timer or something. Another groan rocked the sub, startling
her.

“Pistachio,” said Jekka. “Can you answer


questions?”

“Yes,” said Pistachio.

“Pistachio, how can we get out of here?” Jekka


asked.

“The exit hatch is on the rear of the submarine,”


Pistachio answered.

129
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“That’s not what I meant. Pistachio, when will the


Deep Water Program end?”

“In one hundred hours.”

“Um, Pistachio,” BJ said tentatively, “How much


oxygen do we have left?”

“There are 28 minutes of oxygen left.”

The girls looked at each other, wide-eyed, and


Jekka started to cry silently. BJ took her hand again.

“Pistachio, can we turn off the Deep Water


Program?”

“Yes.”

“How?”

“Command not understood.”

“Arrgh!” BJ pounded the sub wall in frustration,


then stopped for fear of breaking something.

She wiped her eyes, then froze. Something was


outside the sub again – something big and close. She saw
its smooth skin gliding past the sub wall. The strange groan
sound came again, softer and gentler, and not the one made
by the Champy Caller. It was right outside the sub.

Then, BJ and Jekka both saw the eyes, right up


against the sub.

130
They were large and yellow. They didn’t look angry
or mean, but they didn’t look nice and cozy either. They
just looked strange and different and curious. They were
mounted on a head that looked like a horse and a snake and
a fish, all at once. There seemed to be horns or ears or
something poking up from the creature’s head.

And then, just as quickly as it had appeared, it was


gone. The girls realized they were both holding their
breath, and both breathed in deeply at the same time.

“Did you see that, BJ?” whispered Jekka.

“I think so,” whispered BJ. “Did you?”

“Oh yeah. I definitely saw it… oof!” Jekka


stumbled into BJ.

“Hey, careful,” BJ started to say, but she lost her


footing too. The girls ended up in a tangle of arms and legs
on the floor. The sub was rocking from side to side.

“What’s going on? Jekka, get into your chair!” BJ


helped her sister to her feet, and together they made their
way into the pilot seats.

The massive dark shape glided along outside the


sub, and BJ saw a long tail press up against it, causing it to
rock even more.

131
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“What’s it doing, BJ?” Jekka wailed. “Is it going to


eat us?”

“No, it isn’t. I won’t let it. Pistachio, it’s an


emergency. Get us out of here!”

“Emergency command received. Deep Water


Program terminated. Activating Emergency Extraction
Program.”

The engines roared to life, making the girls ears ring


after so much silence. The lights came back on, giving BJ
and Jekka one last brief glimpse of the big creature outside
the sub. Its long neck and flippered body was a sight they
would never forget. The sub began to rise in a fast spiral,
heading for the surface.

BJ looked at her sister, who was smiling bigger than


ever.

“I told you Champy was real, BJ,” she said. “I told


you…”

The water outside the sub got lighter and lighter as


they shot upwards. First it was a dark brown, then a blue-
greenish brown. They finally broke the surface and
shielded their eyes from the bright sunshine that sparkled
along the beautiful, wonderful, fantastic surface of Lake
Champlain.

132
Chapter 16: Back To The Garden

“We’re safe,” said BJ with a happy sigh.

“And we saw…” Jekka started to say, before she


was interrupted by a voice over the radio.

“Girls? Are you alright?” It was Grampy. They


heard the rumble of an engine in the background.

“Yes!” answered Jekka. “Grampy, we’re safe and on


the surface again. And we saw…”

“Super! I can see you. I’ll land the Lucky Duck


nearby right away. Hold on while I radio the others and let
them know where you are.”

The girls looked out through the transparent wall,


scanning the skies for the strange green plane.

“There he is!” BJ said, pointing.

Another voice came over the radio.

133
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“Welcome back, girls,” said Kim. “How was your


adventure?”

“Scary,” said BJ.

“Awesome,” said Jekka, “And you won’t believe it.


We saw…” her voice trailed off and she pointed. “BJ,
look!”

A small navy was heading straight for them. Air


Force Blue was in the lead, riding high on the waves and
kicking up a big spray. The girls could see Pop Pop at the
wheel, his hat turned backwards so the wind wouldn’t blow
it off.

A pair of Coast Guard ships was right behind Air


Force Blue, and they were all joined by the research ship
Melosira. The Lucky Duck, with its huge green wings and
noisy engines was flying low alongside them. BJ gasped as
she saw the plane land with a big splash.

“Is everybody alright in there?” It was Mimi’s voice


on the radio.

“Yeah, we’re fine,” answered BJ. “I think Jekka


wants to go again, but I can’t wait to get back onto dry
land.”

134
“It’ll just be a few more minutes, sweeties. What do
you think about your welcome party? The Coast Guard
came and everything!”

Jekka bounced in her seat and waved at everyone.


The Coast Guard rescuers waved back.

“And, we’ve got one more surprise for you – look


up.” Mimi added.

“A surprise? What could… Mom and Dad!”

In the air above them, the girls saw a big hot air
balloon. It had a bright yellow happy face painted on the
side. The girls watched it shoot up to a higher elevation,
and then two figures jumped out of the basket. BJ and
Jekka gasped, then sighed in relief as they saw a pair of
parachutes open.

A few seconds later, Mrs. Boomer gently landed on


top of the E.R.I.N. Mr. Boomer waved with both arms as he
came down alongside the sub and splashed into the water.
They both unhooked their parachutes at the last second so
they wouldn’t get tangled up, and one of the Coast Guard
ships peeled off to pick the parachutes up.

“Hi girls! Sounds like your trip was even more


exciting than ours!” said their mom as she sat down on the

135
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

top of the sub’s dome. Her voice sounded strange through


the submarine’s walls. “Hold on, I’ll be right down.”

She kicked off and slid backwards along the sub’s


curved exterior, landing backside first in the water. Then
she opened the hatch, and in a flash BJ and Jekka were
getting a pair of very wet hugs from their very wet, very
happy mom and dad.

The girls rode back to Cliff Haven in Air Force


Blue, with their parents, grandparents and uncle. Grampy
joined them at the house later, after returning the Lucky
Duck to its hanger. Dr. Van Der Warden Velden towed the
E.R.I.N. back to Burlington, using the Melosira. Pop Pop
invited Dr. Van and the whole ECHO team to come over for
dinner. The grill was hot by the time they arrived, and
everyone settled in to comfortable chairs in the back yard,
surrounded by the garden.

“So, tell us all about it,” said Prof. Markster,


stroking his beard. “What did you see?”

In between bites of hotdog, BJ and Jekka took turns


telling their story, each filling in details the other
overlooked.

“Did the video camera capture anything?” asked


Jekka, as they finished.

136
“Ah, I’m sorry to say no,” said Dr. Van, wiping a bit
of mustard off his cheek. “Just lots of black, then it
apparently turned itself off. We’ll have to fix that before we
send it out again.”

“Bummer!” said Jekka. “I wish we’d got proof


about Champy.”

“I don’t,” said Uncle Q, to everyone’s surprise. “In


fact, I’m actually a little bit glad you didn’t come back with
proof.

“Champy has been a wonderful mystery for


hundreds of years. He has sparked people’s creativity and
imagination, and that’s a really very super much a lot good
thing. The world doesn’t have enough mysteries, if you ask
me, and I’m not sure I want this particular one solved
anytime soon.” He took a long drink of his soda, then
added, “So don’t feel bad.”

BJ and Jekka thought about that for a second, then


pounced onto Uncle Q and hugged him tight, almost
knocking him into a tall clump of purple cone flowers.

“Thanks, Uncle Q,” they said together.

“And we did see him! I mean, we did see Champy,”


Jekka added.

137
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

“You did indeed, and that’s a very special thing.


Nobody can ever take that experience away from you.”

The phone rang. Mimi got up to answer it while Pop


Pop sliced the delicious smelling apple pie from Rolf’s
orchard. BJ was determined to make up for the pie she’d
missed last time. Mimi came back, carrying the phone to
the backyard. She handed it to BJ.

“It’s for you and Jekka.”

The girls looked at each other in surprise, then


huddled around the earpiece, holding it so they could both
listen.

“Hello?” said BJ.

“Hello girls,” answered a familiar sounding voice


on the other end. “This is Mrs. Rose Marie. I was listening
to WIRY and heard about the adventure you had on the lake
today. I’m so glad you’re doing well. And speaking of
doing well, I wanted to let you know your loon friend is
making a great recovery. I’ll probably release him in a day
or two, and I hope you can stop by before then.”

“We will,” BJ answered. “Thanks for letting us


know.”

“Bye!”

138
“These are for you too,” Mimi said as she took the
phone back and handed over a stack of mail. “Boy, first a
phone call and now the mail. It’s like you live here or
something.”

Everyone chuckled and the girls took a look at their


mail. They each had a final postcard from their parents.
BJ’s showed a picture of the planet Earth, and a note from
her dad said “I wonder where they stood to take this
picture. Do you think they used a really big camera?”
Jekka’s postcard had a picture of a group of nuns in habits,
playing with hula hoops. Her mom’s handwriting on the
back said “The world is full of surprises, isn’t it? Even nuns
doing the hula hoop.”

There was also an envelope addressed to the


Boomer Sisters. The return address in the corner said New
York City. BJ opened the envelope carefully, and read the
letter out loud.

Dear girls,

I hope you are having a great time in Cliff


Haven this summer. I’m sure you are seeing
lots of fun things and enjoying the lake.
Have you read any good books?

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The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

I have a bit of a mystery on my hands at the


moment. I’ll tell you all about it in person. It
would take too long to do it in a letter. We’ll
talk with your parents about when you can
come visit me here in New York City. Come
soon. I could really use your help.

Love,

Mimi D

“I wonder what the mystery in New York City is,”


said BJ.

Jekka turned to her parents and asked, “When can


we go there?”

“Soon, I’m sure,” Mrs. Boomer replied.

The sun had disappeared behind the trees, and the


evening was starting to get cooler. Out of the corner of her
eye, BJ saw a small, sudden movement among the flowers.

She turned to get a closer look, and saw a big, fat


toad sitting in the garden. It turned its head to look at her,
blinked twice, then hopped under a hosta leaf.

BJ settled back into her chair and looked at the


garden all around her. Mr. and Mrs. Boomer were telling

140
everyone about their hot air balloon trip. Jekka was eating
another piece of pie.

With her family all around her, a successful


adventure behind her, and a new mystery to look forward
to, BJ felt a warm glow of happiness run through her. And
even though her parent’s story was exciting, she fell asleep
in the garden before it was finished.

141
The Boomer Sisters Meet Champy

Author’s Note

Benedict Arnold’s gunboat, Spitfire, sank on Oct 11th, 1776,


during the Battle of Valcour. For her protection, the
location and depth of the Spitfire has not been released to
the public. The depth and location referenced in chapter 14
where the girls saw the shipwreck is actually at the edge of
Burlington Bay, nowhere near the site of the battle.

Also, the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center is a


real place, but as far as I know it doesn’t have a secret
basement full of silly-face-making scientists, robot fish and
experimental submarines. However, all the scientific and
historical stuff mentioned in this book - the hypolimnion,
the Rosenflanz technique for sintered materials, transparent
alumina, the un-extinct coelacanth, finding zeuglodon
fossils in Vermont, Osa’s Ark, Samuel De Champlain
seeing a strange lake creature in 1609, etc.- are totally real.
Isn’t that cool?

The book The Case For Champ, unfortunately, hasn’t been


written yet – maybe you could do that for us some day. As
for Champy himself, all I know is people have been talking
about him for a very, very long time…

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About The Author

Dan Ward is an electrical engineer, an Air Force officer and


an amateur juggler. He lives in Central New York with his
wife and two daughters. This is his second novel for kids.
You can find more of Dan’s books at Rogue Press
www.lulu.com/RoguePress

About NaNoWriMo

Like the first Boomer Sisters book, The Boomer Sisters


Meet Champy was written during November, which is
National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). It is a lot of
crazy fun to write a novel in 30 days, and everyone is
invited to join in. You can find more details at
www.NaNoWriMo.org. There is even information for kids
and teachers who want to use NaNoWriMo in the
classroom.

143

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