It was a VERY slow day. McFarley's the name. Crystal McFarley. Sleuthing is my game.
Actually, on that day my game was Solitaire. I was just starting round ten. It was a sunny Saturday in mid-July. I'd finished my chores hours before, and was now on the front porch alone with a deck of cards, wishing SOMETHING exciting would happen.
Ever heard the saying, "Be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it."? Well, what happened next is proof that there's some truth to it. The phone rang.
I ran inside to answer it, because my Dad was out golfing, and Mom was repainting the hall.
"I need help.", stated an oddly calm older woman, "Some stone heads have turned up missing, and I do not wish to involve the police. My name is Mercy Robinson. I live directly behind you. Do you think you could help me?"
"I'll do my best. When would you like me to come over?"
"Now, if that's possible."
Warning bells began to ring inside me head. This woman DID live behind me, but I didn't know her very well. I'd heard some pretty weird stories about her and the big house she owned. Still, I could never resist a mystery.....
So, armed with my notebook, pen, purse, and ample warnings to be very careful from Mom, I headed toward the house on the hill.
Michelle Brown, who lives next door to me, is my sidekick in case solving. That day, though, she was shopping with her older sister. I was sure, as I ran up the hill, that I was going to miss her knack for calm thinking this time around.
The front of Mrs. Robinson's house looked even more scary than the back. I stood in awe for a minute before gathering the courage to ring the doorbell. A butler answered.
I was ushered into a large living room. Mrs. R. started in right away.
"Older brothers are a pain, don't you agree?"
"You're talking to the wrong person, I'm afraid. I'm an only child."
"Count your blessings, dear."
Then, she proceeded to give me the facts of the case.
Mrs R. was, until the night before, in charge of the care of four round stones, on which were carved the faces of Jesus, David, Ruth, and Paul. Her father etched them, and left them to her in his will. In a display case they had remained, until last night.
Her older brother, Micheal, had arrived without warning, saying that he wished to stay overnight. He was on his way to California. Mrs. R. was very happy to see him. She and "Mike" had always been on good terms. As he usually did whe he came to visit, Mike made a big deal about the stones. And so, as usual, Mrs. R. took them out of the case to show him.
After a few minutes, they were called to dinner by the butler and cook. Mrs. R. put the stones away. After the meal, they chatted for about two hours. Then, they went to bed. Mrs. R. didn't hear a strange thing all night, but when she came downstairs this morning the stones were gone, and so was Mike.
"Will you take the case, Crystal?"
"I'll sleep on it."
Michelle was home by that time, so I stopped by on my way back. After admiring her new outfits, I filled her in on the case. Her eyes lit up, and she offered to help me, of course.
Dinner was quiet. I loaded the dishwasher, and went up to my room to puzzle Mrs. R.'s story over. I came up with more questions than answers. I'd told Mrs. Robinson I would "sleep on it", but I could tell I wasn't going to get much sleep.
I knew there was someone watching me even before I awoke the next morning. That's a very creepy feeling, let me tell you.
"Crystal! Wake up!" It was Michelle. Whew! "Crystal, Micheal is back!"
"Mrs. R's brother!"
I was up in record time. Once dressed, I shoved a handful of grapes into my mouth for breakfast, grabbed my purse, and was heading out the back door when that sense of danger hit me again. I warned Michelle about this, and she said we should walk slowly over to the mansion.
So by the time we were seated in Mrs. Robinson's living room again, it was a quarter past nine. Five minutes later, Micheal walked in, apparently catching his sister totally by suprise.
Ever so casually, he pulled the stone heads out of his jacket pockets and replaced them in their display case!
"Last night, when I came downstairs to get a drink of milk, I heard a scuffling sound. When I investigated, I saw a big man making off with the heads. Not to worry, though, I apprehended him."
"Is everything all right then, Mike?" Mrs. R's voice was tremendously calm, but her face was very pale.
"I assure you it is."
Then, Mike motioned Michelle and I to follow him. We did so, reluctantly. Once outside, however, his manner changed. He ordered us into the back seat of a waiting car. When we refused, he tried to shove us into it. When that didn't work, he showed us a knife. I kick better than I hit, so I aimed a swift one at his knee and took off for the house, with Michelle at my heels.
Mike stopped dead in his tracks when he saw me with the telephone receiver in my hand.
"You're a jewel theif, and I'm calling the police.", I told him calmly.
I dialed the number, and listened to a computer say, "At the sound of the tone, the time will be....." over and over, all the while giving "Chief" the lowdown and asking him to come right over.
Mike had become very pale. "How do you know? You don't have any proof!"
Michelle asked Mrs. Robinson, "Did your father carve small, secret compartments into the back of the heads?"
"Yes, but how in the world did you know?"
I explained that when Mike put the heads back into the display case, I'd seen him tap each head lightly, which made me wonder. Then, I had remembered the news report from this morning about an apparent shoplfting at Jan's Jewelers. Only one emerald, one ruby, and one pearl had been taken. I had been in to much of a rush to pay much attention to it at the time. But by the top of the hill, I'd slowed down enough to think about a possible connection between that case and mine.
Mike, who was trembling by this point, burst out with, "Well, you can't blame a person for wanting to get a nice present for his wife!"
Mrs. R got her Bible and gently talked to her brother about the fact that stealing is against God's law, but He forgives anyone who asks Him to. Then, she opened the heads, put the jewels she found in them into her purse, and told Mike he'd have to come with her to Jan's Jewelers and admit what he'd done. Very reluctantly, he left the room.
Mrs. R rose to follow him. Before she left, though, she thanked Michelle and I for our help.
Then she added, "Shame on you, Crystal. You know better. Lying about calling the police!"
"How did you know?", I gasped.
Her brown eyes twinkled. "You're not the only detective around here, Crystal McFarley!" Her laughter rang through the house.
Now, Michelle and her family are on vacation. Dad still golfs. Mom still enjoys coffee with her friends. And me? Well, now whenever things get slow, I just jog up the hill and listen to my friend, Mercy, spin yarns and tell of her adventures when she was my age. They're really exciting and creative. Maybe you can come with me the next time I visit.
Right now, though, I think I'll turn in for the night. See you around!