Friday, April 27, 2012

Mystery At Random - Part 7

Good Morning FFFs!
Once again I open the hotel curtains and take a look outside. This morning it is cloudy and breezy. It's a different view from the 8th floor. :) I doubt it will be chilly out today.

Since last Friday I have:
Worked at a Homeschool conference on Friday and then on Saturday. Packed up. Had a relaxing birthday on Sunday with Grandparents, brother and sister-in-law and the kiddos as well as my family.
Monday was busy with lots of ironing, and taking care of things. In the evening, my two best friends and I took a stroll around our blocks and talked. Very nice.
Tuesday was more ironing, more things done and Wednesday was much the same only I got the last of the ironing done.  At least until we get back from the conferences. :)
We left home yesterday and headed off to the next conference. My brother and Sis-in-law are at another conference in NE. We are in MO this weekend. You can check Light of Faith to find out where we are if you want to know.

I was able to get a little written. I'm trying to work on Ria and the Gang, but for some reason it is slow going. I did get some ideas though and am looking forward to writing them when I have time. :)
If you read this part of Mystery at Random and wish there was something else to read, you could go visit another writer's blog. Though I do not like all his writings, this story was a delight. :) I think you will probably enjoy it too. So, to read the Fun Story just click and enjoy. 
But first, I hope you will read the next part of Mystery at Random. The end will be posted next Friday. :) Can you wait that long?

Part 7

    “That sounds reasonable. I’ll go call the chief.”
    Chief Gallant was willing to co-operate with Officer Hansen’s plea for a day without flags. He was tired of the mess and wished it to be over. Never had there been a case quite like this one which was causing such controversy about town. Some of the people sided with Officer Erikson while the rest backed the Okeefenokees. And Chief Gallant was stuck right in the middle.

    It was eight o’clock the next morning when the Okeefenokees gathered quietly and soberly at their club house. There were no shouts, no laughing and teasing, no cheerful waves to Mr. Dutton.
    “Jeff has the floor,” Dan announced once everyone had found seats on the floor or on the few boxes and upside-down pails.
    As he looked about at his friends, Jeff knew that there wasn’t a better group of kids he’d rather hang out with. He also was thoroughly convinced that none of them had stolen the flags. “Well,” he began, “Dad called Chief Gallant last night and got him to agree not to put any flags out today. That will give us a little time to get organized and plan what steps we should take to catch the thief.”
    “Do you have an idea, Jeff?” Dwight asked.
    “Yes, now listen up--”

    When the Okeefenokees departed the old shed some forty minutes later, they all wore grim smiles. Woe to the one stealing the American flags now! The Okeefenokees had a plan!

    There were many surprised and pleased mothers in Random that day for every Okeefenokee flew to do their chores for that day as well as the chores for Saturday with a zeal that quite astonished those looking on. Floors were swept, dusting done, rugs shaken, lawns mowed and gardens weeded.
    Officer Hansen’s prediction that the entire town would soon know about the thefts had proved quite true. Anywhere a member of the Okeefenokees went, someone would make a comment.
    “Hey, have you got a flag I could use?”
    “What do you want with all those flags anyway?”
    “Oh, leave them alone. I know it wasn’t them.”
    “I’d bet my whole garden on it!”
    “Of course they had nothing to do with stealing those flags! They’d no more steal than the man in the moon would.”
    As for the Okeefenokees, they neither replied to the teasing, nor answered any questions about the matter. Dan and Jeff had cautioned them against talking. Even a hint of their plan might reach the ears of the true thieves and then it would all be up. So, though some of them longed to speak, they kept their lips shut as they went about their busy day.
    At a quarter past seven, the Okeefenokees again met at the old Dutton shed. Dan and Jeff, having finalized the plans, gave last minute instructions.
    “Since the flags have never been stolen while it was still dark,” Jeff began, “we must assume, at least until we are proven wrong, that the thief likes the daylight. That is why I think this plan will work. We will divide up into two groups and take turns watching the monument.”
    “Don’t worry,” Dan put in. “We’ve figured out just where we can hide and yet see the flags perfectly.”
    “Remember, the thief hasn’t come when we’ve been playing ball, so when it is time to switch groups, the second group will come running out to the park as though to play ball. Then slowly, one by one, in case anyone is watching, those who are hiding will come out and the new watchers will hide. It might take us all day for several days to discover the thief, but I for one won’t give up!” Jeff’s face was grim and his eyes held a glint of determination.
    His words were met with a loud cheer.
    “Now,” Dan spoke. “If any of you don’t want to take a turn watching, speak now so we can take you off the list.
    Not a person moved. There was no way any of the Okeefenokees were going to miss this. Why, the reputation of every Okeefenokee was at stake! No matter how long it took, each member would stick to their assigned place until the thief was caught.
    Dan and half the Okeefenokees were to meet just before dawn. Each person knew where they would be stationed. Jeff and the other half would take the second watch right after lunch. With a rousing cheer, following Dan’s promise to “catch the thieves red handed,” the Okeefenokees charged out of the club house uttering their usual Indian war whoops as they ran. And more than one member found it difficult to get to sleep that night.

    Driving down the street, Officer Erikson noted the two flags Chief Gallant had put out earlier that morning. He didn’t know why there had been none the day before, but they were there now.
    “Humph, I wonder how long these will stay here,” he muttered glancing quickly about trying to catch a glimpse of the thief.
    He would have been very suspicious had he seen any of the six Okeefenokees who at that very moment were watching him from their different hiding places. But, so well hidden were they that Officer Erikson passed them right by without the slightest notice.
    To the six Okeefenokees in hiding the morning passed by slowly, but to the other six who were impatiently waiting their turn to watch, it passed by on even slower feet. Would their time ever come? Would the thief show up during the morning watch or the afternoon watch?
    Officer Hansen, home for the day, wondered what was going on, but wisely refrained from asking. Jeff, instead of being off with the Okeefenokees all morning, was hanging around the house with five other members. Most of their time was spent on the back porch. Once Jeff had come in to ask, “Dad, if we find the thief, should we try to catch him or call for the police first?”

Any thoughts?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Mystery At Random - Part 5 . . . & 6!

Good Morning Friday Fiction Fans,
When I look out my hotel room it is cloudy and breezy. It was rather chilly last night, so we'll see what today is like. Not that we'll be outside much. I don't have much time to write now.
This has been a busy week. It always is when we are trying to get things ready to leave for conferences. Light of Faith is very busy right now and we're helping this weekend and next weekend and on the last day of April.
Since my birthday is on Sunday, I thought I'd have a little celebration right now and right here. I didn't think you would mind. So, I'm going to post the next two parts of Mystery at Random for you to enjoy. I hope you are enjoying it, but it's hard to know since I haven't had a comment since the first week I posted it. That is one reason I don't like to post the same story several weeks in a row. No one leaves comments. I'm not sure if you all just forget, or are going to do it when the story ends or think you'll leave one next week, but whatever the reason, no comments get left and then I don't know if the story is any good or not. I know I leave you hanging, but I don't like to post too long of stories because then no one would read them. :}
All that said, here is Mystery at Random Parts 5 & 6!

Part 5

    “I did a little quick checking and corroborated that fact. The other person missing was Red Simpson. I haven’t been able to fully verify his absence yet, but I’m working on it.”
    Chief Gallant nodded. “Good.”
    “Where did you say Red was, Hansen?” Officer Erikson asked.
    “I didn’t say. I’m still checking on things. Mrs. Simpson was at work last night and I haven’t had a chance to stop by and talk with her.”
    Erikson frowned. “Just don’t let those kids pull the wool over your eyes, Hansen, just because your boy is one of them.”
    Officer Hansen merely nodded. He knew Erikson was already suspicious of the Okeefenokees. He hadn’t been living in Random long and he had come from a big city. He didn’t know these kids like most of the townsfolk knew them.
    “Keep up the investigation, Hansen,” the chief ordered, “but I can’t take you off patrol right now.”
    “I know, Sir. I can keep my eyes and ears open. This story is probably going to be in every house before night. Surely we’ll be able to get a lead or something. Nothing can remain a secret very long in this town.”
    Chief Gallant laughed. “You can say that again! Well, both of you keep on with the investigations. Erikson, have you put flags out this morning?”
    “Yes, sir. Just before I came in.”
    “Good. Keep an eye on them. We’ll see if there is any sort of pattern to when they disappear.”

    “I can’t play ball,” Red sighed. “I have to go help my uncle mow his grass.”
    Dan and Jeff exchanged quick glances and Dan shook his head ever so slightly. “I’ll come help you,” Dan offered. “That way you’ll be done sooner.”
    Red shrugged. “Okay.”
    “I’d go along,” Jeff said, “but it’s rather silly to have three people trying to mow with one mower. Why don’t the rest of us go play some catch until you two get there?”
    “Yeah,” several voices called out.
    So, the Okeefenokees, minus Dan and Red, raced for the park several minutes later.
    “Say, Jeff, look.” Patsy paused beside him and pointed to the police memorial. “There are two flags.”
    Jeff nodded. “I guess someone put some out not too long ago ‘cause when I went by earlier, there weren’t any. Now we know they were here. Come on,” he urged, “don’t be too obvious. Let’s go play.”

    The sun was right in the middle of the deep blue sky when the Okeefenokees, tired and hungry after playing ball all morning scattered for their homes and lunch. Everyone scattered except three. Dan, his sister Patsy, and Jeff. The three of them paused a moment in the shade of a tree and held a quick, low conversation.
    “Red’s uncle has a broken leg,” Dan began. “That’s why Red’s been helping him.”
    “Any sign of missing flags?”
    Dan shook his head.
    “All was fine here too.” Jeff looked over at the flags blowing gently in the summer breeze. “The flags are still there and everyone is gone. Let’s go eat.”

    Grimly stopping his patrol car, Officer Erikson got out and stalked over to the police memorial. “Gone again!” he fumed. “And those kids were here not fifteen minutes ago. I’ll bet anything they are the culprits. Probably stealing them just to see if they can get away with it.” As he muttered, Erikson had slowly moved around the monument. “Ah ha!” he exclaimed, stopping short and bending down for a closer look. “Another footprint and a broken flower. Hasn’t been broken for long though. It had to have been those kids. I know what gangs are like. And, what’s this? If this doesn’t pin the evidence where it rightfully belongs than my name isn’t Ezra Erikson.”
    During the quick drive to the Random Police Headquarters, Officer Erikson sighed several times. As much as he had been confident from the first about the Okeefenokees’ involvement with the missing flags, he also felt rather sorry for Officer Hansen, for he had been so sure his son was hanging out with an honest group of kids. He half wished he had not discovered that last bit of evidence. But it was too late to do anything about it now.

    “All that is, Erikson,” Chief Gallant said, “is circumstantial evidence. You didn’t see them taking the flags, did you?”
    “No, Sir. But I wasn’t away more than fifteen minutes, and the last time I drove by they were still playing. You don’t think that in fifteen minutes those kids would have ended their game, all gone home, and then someone else came and took the flags before I reached the park, do you? I would have seen them, I’m sure.”
    Chief Gallant heaved a deep sigh. This was getting more complicated. Why would the Okeefenokees take the flags? He already knew Officer Erikson’s opinion on that question. Now he looked at the other officer in the room. “Hansen, what do you think?”
    Josh Hansen had been listening quietly to his fellow officer’s report and thoughts. Now, since the chief had asked for his opinion, he spoke. “I think if we only have this small amount of evidence with nothing to back it up except that the Okeefenokees were playing ball just before the flags were missing, it would be a little premature to accuse them openly. I checked on Red Simpson and his reason for being absent from the Okeefenokees’ fence painting party is satisfactorily accounted for. I would like your permission, Sir, to do a little more checking and talk to my son and a few others about this again before any charges are brought against the Okeefenokees.”
    To this request Chief Gallant agreed in spite of Officer Erikson’s evident disapproval.

    At the Okeefenokees’ club house that afternoon, things were beginning to hum. Jeff had slipped back to the park after his quickly eaten lunch only to discover the flags missing. Hurriedly he raced for the Farragut’s home to talk with Dan and Patsy.

Part 6

    “I tell you they’re gone!” Jeff, panting from his race, stood on the Farragut’s front porch.
    “We’ve got to do something now,” Dan agreed. “Come on! Patsy, get the kids on the east, Jeff, take the west and I’ll take south. We’ll get the north kids on the way to the club house. Let’s move!”
    The three leading members of the Okeefenokees took off at Dan’s last words as though shot from slingshots. This was no time to loiter. They had work to do.
    Uttering the air splitting call of the Okeefenokees, Jeff slowed down only long enough to holler to the kids dashing out of their homes, “Emergency! Club house!” before continuing on his way. No explanations were necessary and within ten minutes from the time Dan had ordered, “Let’s go,” the entire gang of Okeefenokees were gathered in the old shed; some were breathing hard from their frantic race while others still held half eaten sandwiches. Tammy had been in such a hurry that she had left her shoes at home.
    Once everyone had at least somewhat caught their breath and Dan could speak without gasping, he stood up and the room fell silent.
    “Gang, we’re in trouble.” Pausing, Dan looked about. Every eye was fastened on his face. “The Okeefenokees are suspected of stealing the flags from the Police Memorial at the park. Do any of you have any ideas that might get us out of this mess?” When no one replied, Dan beckoned to Jeff. “Since you know all about it, Jeff, suppose you come up and tell us.”
    “I already heard about it,” Red called from the back of the room. “Old Mr. Sanders asked me what we wanted with American flags. I didn’t know what he was talking about at first. Then he told me.”
    “Yeah,” Pam added. “Mom said she overheard Mrs. Wheeler and Mr. Overhead talking about it.”
    “I suppose it’s all over town now,” Jeff sighed. “But does everyone think it was us?”
    Several kids called out “no” and then all fell silent.
    “Hey, Jeff,” Levi said, “the flags were there when we played ball this morning. I made it a point to notice them in case your dad asked about them again.”
    “Well, when I went by after lunch,” Jeff couldn’t keep back a sigh, “they were gone.”
    “Gone?” Tammy snorted. “We hadn’t been gone for more than thirty minutes!” She shoved her hands into her pockets and then quickly pulled them out again. “Hey, where’d it go?”
    “What?” several voices asked as heads turned.
    “My pin.”
    “Your Okeefenokee pin?” Patsy asked.
    Tammy nodded. “I know I had it when we played ball because the clasp was loose, and I put it in my pocket. Oh, bother!” She pulled her pocket inside-out and stuck her finger through a fairly large hole.
    “It must have fallen out,” Addy remarked.
    Suddenly Jeff had a terribly uncomfortable feeling creep up his backbone. Turning slowly to Dan, he said in a voice so strange that every member of the Okeefenokees turned to look at him, “Dan, if Tammy lost that pin anywhere near the memorial we’d better find it, fast. Otherwise . . .” His voice trailed off.
    For a moment the room was so silent you could have heard a pin drop. Then Dan shouted, “What are we waiting for, the sun to set? Let’s go!”
    Mr. Dutton looked out his window in surprise. Never had the Okeefenokees left their club house in such a hurry and with so little noise in the three years they had used his shed. What was going on? They had arrived in a hurry and out of breath too, he had noticed, but that wasn’t unusual. Shaking his head, Mr. Dutton turned from the window as the last of the Okeefenokees disappeared from sight. “I suppose I’ll find out some time,” he murmured.

    Hardly had the Hansens begun their supper that night before Jeff blurted out, “Dad, Tammy lost her club pin while we were playing ball. Did anyone find it?”
    “When did you discover she had lost her pin?”
    “When we met this afternoon for an emergency meeting after I discovered the flags were gone again.”
    “You discovered the flags were missing?”
    “Yes, sir. But it wasn’t any of us who did it. We had all gone to lunch. But we couldn’t find Tammy’s pin.”
    “Hang on a second, Jeff.” Officer Hansen reached into his back pocket and pulled out a little notebook. “Now, suppose you tell me everything you know.”
    So, Jeff, eager to help his dad as well as clear up the misunderstanding about the Okeefenokees, told him the entire story of the day’s doings. When he had finished, he asked, “So, can we have Tammy’s pin back?”
    It was several minutes before Officer Hansen replied. He was studying the notes he had just written down as well as going over a few old ones. “I’m sorry, Son,” he spoke at last. “I’m afraid I can’t get her pin back until this whole mess is cleared up.”
    Jeff was quiet for the rest of the meal. How could the Okeefenokees convince everyone that they had nothing whatever to do with the missing flags from the police memorial? Would they forever be branded as thieves if the real thief wasn’t discovered? They would just have to find the thief. That was all there was to it.
    Later, sitting on the floor building a tower of blocks for Baby Emily, Jeff suddenly leaned back on his hands and looked at his father. “Dad, could you ask Chief Gallant not to put any flags out tomorrow?”
    Putting down the newspaper, Mr. Hansen shrugged. “It won’t hurt to ask. Do you have an idea for catching the thief?”
    “Maybe. I still have to think some things over, but I thought if there weren’t any flags out tomorrow, it might be easier to figure things out on Friday and put the plan to work on Saturday.”

Will you be back next week to see what happens?

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mystery At Random - Part 4

Good Morning Faithful Friday Fiction Fans,
I look out my window this morning and see clouds and some clear sky. Everything is wet for it rained earlier this morning. It is chilly and back to spring weather. Perhaps the weather just mistakenly thought March was May. :) Anyway, everything is really green and I had to mow the yard for the second time yesterday. No, I didn't mean I mowed it twice in one day, just that it was the second time this year.

Life is busy these days. I'm not sure where all the days have gone. Perhaps there are some hiding in boxes or closets. Don't you wish you could pull out an extra day now and then? Let me see, what has kept me busy? Saturday my sister and I babysat the kiddos all morning. I did "school" with Pickle Puss, Goof Ball and Funny Boy. We did "spelling, math & science." (We made paper airplanes and they loved it!)
On Easter Sunday we had a really small group for church, but that was all right, we got to visit.
Monday I mailed several things, and now I can't remember what else I did. I know I was busy. :}
On Tuesday I went over to my brother's for about an hour to play with Funny Boy and Doodle Bug. You see, PP and GB were at their grandparents playing with visiting cousins, so FB & DB didn't know what to do by themselves. When I got there, Funny Boy reached up his arms so I picked him up. Then he wrapped his little arms around me and put his face next to mine. He didn't say a word, just hung on and grinned. That little guy just loves to be held, cuddled and tickled. :)
Last night I had a meeting with the JCRCC. (Politics)
Today I have the house to clean, chatting with a friend this afternoon and then this evening, two of my heart-sisters are coming over to spend the night!!!!!! One has a wedding to help take pictures of tomorrow but the other is staying here!!!!!! I can't wait!
I won't get any writing done tonight. :) However, I did get one story finished, one of Priscilla's letters written and am nearly done with another short story. I'm trying to get as much writing done as I can before we leave town for conferences.
Yep, we'll be out of town next Friday, but not to worry, I will post. And since next week is . . . well, . . . I'm going to . . . But I think you'll just have to come back to find out. :D

But let's get back to the Mystery at Random.

Part 4

    Looking his son straight in the eye, Officer Hansen replied quietly, “I don’t believe you had anything to do with it.”
    Jeff gave a little sigh but still looked worried. “Dad, it wouldn’t, it couldn’t be any of the Okeefenokees. It just couldn’t be.”
    Josh Hansen placed a quiet hand on his son’s shoulder. “I feel the same way, Jeff, but we’ll have to prove it. I might as well tell you all we know. The flags have been missing five different days. All of them taken at different times during the day. The reason the Okeefenokees were thought of at all is because there have been two small footprints in the flower bed. One after each of the last two thefts.”
    “But, Dad,” Jeff protested warmly, “it wasn’t us! I mean the footprints might have been ‘cause sometimes when we play ball we have to step in the flower bed to get the ball, but we didn’t take the flags.” He was becoming quite excited and had stood up.
    “Jeff, I believe you had nothing to do with it,” Mr. Hansen said again.
    Slowly Jeff sat back down, his shoulders drooping. “But you don’t believe it wasn’t some of the others, do you?” he asked dully.
    What should Officer Hansen say? He hadn’t believed it could be any of them, but the story of Red helping out an uncle seemed to throw at least a faint suspicion on him. Today’s doings might be checked into, but what about the other days? Then a new thought struck him; what if it were more than one person in the gang and they took turns stealing the flags? But why? Again Hansen was faced with that same question. Why would anyone want to steal small flags? But Jeff was waiting for an answer.
    “I don’t know, Jeff,” he said at last. “I don’t want to believe any of the Okeefenokees did it, but are you sure Red has an uncle that he was helping?”
    “I’m pretty sure. He’s gone out to help him several times in the past week or two.”
    That didn’t sound right to an officer trained in investigative analysis. “In the last week or two?” he echoed. “Have you heard of this uncle before then?”
    Frowning in thought, Jeff leaned his forehead on the back of the chair and thought. He too was beginning to wonder. Not that he seriously thought Red would steal anything, but what about his uncle? Had he ever heard about him before Red started going out to help? After several minutes, Jeff raised his head. “I don’t think so.” Then suddenly inspired, he asked, “Dad, can I do a little talking to the Okeefenokees about this? Maybe I can find out something.”

    After Jeff left the room, Officer Hansen picked up the phone.
    “Hello, Dave. This is Josh Hansen. . . . We’re fine, thanks. . . . I know this is going to sound strange, but . . . Well, I was wanting to verify a few facts. . . . Did Dan and Patsy have dentist appointments this afternoon?” There was a moment of silence in the office. “Can you give me the times again, Dave? . . . Got it. Thanks. . . . Yes. . . . They did? . . . No, they are missing again. . .  You got that right! . . . Sure. Thanks again. Bye.”
    Officer Hansen replaced the phone on the hook and played with his pen a moment while staring at the paper before him. Then he once again picked up the phone.

    The sun had only been up for an hour when Jeff Hansen jogged down the road towards the Okeefenokees’ club house. He had made a detour to check on the police memorial. There were no flags to be seen except for the large one on the flag pole. For a moment Jeff had paused, carefully looking the place over before continuing on his way.
    Arriving at the old shed, Jeff found Dan and Patsy were the only ones there.
    “Dan,” Jeff lost no time in getting to the point. “Dad was asking about the flags yesterday because someone has been stealing them from the memorial.”
    Dan’s eyes opened wide. “Stealing them?” he echoed. “Why?”
    Jeff shook his head. “That’s what we want to know. And who is doing it.”
    “Why did he ask us, Jeff?” Patsy inquired.
    “Well,” Jeff paused and scratched his nose. “I guess we’re suspects.”
    “Huh?” Dan stared at Jeff as though he was crazy. “Us? Why?”
    Patiently Jeff explained what his dad had told him, ending with, “He doesn’t really think it is any of us, but he was asking about Red’s uncle. I don’t remember hearing of any uncle until he started going out to help him, do you?”
    Dan looked at Patsy and she shook her head slowly. For a minute the three members of the Okeefenokees were silent. Surely it couldn’t be one of their number doing the stealing. But, why was Red suddenly helping out his uncle? It just didn’t seem to add up right. But what could they do about it? They had to think quickly because the others would be there soon.
    “Why don’t I offer to go and help him the next time he goes?” Dan suggested.
    “Good idea,” Jeff nodded. “Maybe I should go too.”
    “But who would keep an eye on things here?”
    “I will,” declared Patsy stoutly. “I can do it,” she asserted stubbornly when she saw her brother look doubtful.
    But Jeff agreed. “Sure she can. No one would think that she was keeping an eye open for trouble.”
    There was no more time to talk for shouts and laughter announced more arrivals.

    “I did a little checking last night, Chief,” Officer Hansen was making his report. Officer Erikson was in the room as well. “I found out that three of the Okeefenokees were not painting the fence. Dan and Patsy Farragut were at the dentist.

To be continued . . .
Who did it?
Whose story do you believe?
Have any questions that haven't been answered yet?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Mystery At Random - Part 3

A Lovely Good Morning to My Faithful FFFs,
What a change in weather! Last week it was in the upper 80s and felt like summer had arrived early. We actually turned our AC on for a while on Sunday. Then April came and Tuesday was cooler and Wednesday was even cooler and yesterday was chilly and in the 50s! Crazy! Most of our early summer flowers are already blooming and I'm not sure what will be blooming in summer now.

Tuesday I spent all day long sitting and working as an Election Judge in one of the precincts here. It was a busy day. I sure got tired of sitting, but it was fun to check people in the system. I left the house about 5:20 am and I didn't get home until after 7:30 pm. Told you it was a long day. :)

I've been getting some writing done in the evenings. Very nice. I decided I needed to just get these few short stories written that I had instructions for, so that's what I'm working on. Oh, Home Fires of the Great War is now republished! Finally! After four proof copies, it finally was correct. Now, I'm not saying that there are no mistakes, typos or layout bloopers in the book. But the chapters all start on the right page and the page numbers don't change fonts in random places.

Speaking of random, I hope you are ready for part 3 of Mystery at Random because here it is.

Part 3

    “Hmm,” Chief Gallant frowned. “Didn’t you report a small footprint as well, Erikson?”
    Erikson nodded.
    A heavy silence filled the office. Could it really be that the Okeefenokees were responsible for the missing flags? Were there any other clues that they might have missed? Besides, who would want to steal small American flags?
    “Do we have any other clues, gentlemen?” the chief asked.
    Erikson and Thompson shook their heads after thinking a minute.
    “Hansen?” Chief Gallant pressed the silent officer.
    He turned to look at his chief and spoke quietly. “I don’t see how it could be the Okeefenokees, sir. Just before the call came, I saw them helping Conrad Dutton paint his picket fence.”
    “Did you count heads, Hansen?” It was Erikson who asked the question.
    “No, I didn’t have time. I can ask Jeff when I get home.”
    “Come on, Hansen,” Erikson looked skeptical, “do you really think your son would tell you if the gang had been stealing?”
    “Yes, I do.” The reply was quiet and confident and Erikson said no more.
    “Well,” the Random police chief sighed, “there’s no use trying to keep this thing a secret any longer. Perhaps the very talk about it will help catch the thieves. Do whatever you can to find any other clues. Hansen, I’m not saying I think the Okeefenokees are guilty or not, but see if you can’t discover anything else. Thompson, Erikson, go back to the memorial and do a thorough search for any thing.”

    That night at the supper table of the Hansens, the subject of the missing flags was again brought up. This time by Officer Hansen.
    “Say Jeff, were all the Okeefenokees painting Mr. Dutton’s fence this afternoon?”
    Jeff twirled spaghetti noodles around his fork. “Nope. Dan, Patsy and Red didn’t get there until we were almost finished.”
    Instantly Officer Hansen was on the alert. “Oh, where were they?” He sounded as casual as he could yet his eyes were keenly watching his son’s face.
    Jeff sucked in some noodles with a slurp.
    “Jeff,” his mother scolded. “Manners please.”
    “Sorry.” A sheepish grin crossed the freckled face of the boy. “I think Dan said he and Patsy had to go to the dentist and Red was helping his uncle fix his truck.”
    “Where does his uncle live?”
    “I don’t know for sure. Somewhere past the train tracks near some woods.” Jeff waved his fork in the vague direction where he thought his fellow club member’s relative lived.
    Officer Hansen’s next question seemed unrelated to his son. “Were any of you playing ball in the park today?”
    Jeff shook his head, his mouth too full to say anything.
    Absently Officer Hansen finished his meal. His mind was in a whirl. Could it be possible that some of the Okeefenokees were stealing the flags? If so, what could be their purpose? Should he take Jeff into his confidence and see what he could discover since he was inside the club? It would be easy to check with Dan and Patsy’s parents about the dentist appointments, but what about Red? Was his uncle in on the thefts. If so, he wouldn’t admit to the crime and they would be good alibis for each other. What should he do?
    The phone rang.
    “It’s for you, Dad.” Jeff held out the phone to his father.
    “Thanks. I’ll take it in my office.”
    After Officer Hansen had left the room, Jeff turned puzzled eyes to his mom. “Why is Dad so interested in the doings of the Okeefenokees and if we were all there?” When his mom hesitated and seemed unsure of how to answer him, Jeff made a shrewd guess. “Does it have something to do with the flags on the memorial?”
    “I think you should talk to your father about that,” Mrs. Hansen said quickly.
    Picking up his little sister from her highchair, Jeff nodded. “I will, soon as he’s off the phone. Come on Emmy, I’ll build you a tower,” and he headed into the living room.

    “Dad,” Jeff asked, pausing in the doorway of his father’s office some time later, “can I ask you a few questions?”
    Mr. Hansen looked up. “Sure. Come on in and have a seat,” he invited. He and Jeff had a close relationship.
    Pulling up a chair, Jeff straddled it, folding his arms over the top and resting his chin on his arms. It was a favorite way of sitting with him. Once he was settled he blurted, “Does your interest in the doings of the Okeefenokees have something to do with the flags on the police memorial?”
    Feeling a little surprise at the question, Officer Hansen hesitated. Should he tell Jeff what was going on? Chief Gallant had said it was public knowledge now. Besides, maybe, just maybe Jeff could help him. “Yes, son it does.”
    Quickly Jeff asked a second question. “Why were you asking about the flags?”
    Mr. Hansen decided to tell Jeff everything. “Well, the flags from the memorial are being stolen, Jeff.”
    “Why would anyone want to steal flags? And who would want to?”
    “That’s what we’d like to know, Son. Have any ideas?”
    “No. Don’t you all have any clues?”
    “The only things have been two small footprints in the flower bed around the memorial.” Mr. Hansen’s voice was quiet. He was watching his son.
    For a moment Jeff didn’t speak or move, his eyes remained fixed, staring into space. Suddenly he started up nearly knocking over his chair. “Dad! You don’t mean that the Okeefenokees are . . . that you think it’s . . . but that’s absurd! None of us would want to steal flags! What would we do with them? Why would we want them? We can get them cheap enough at the store if we needed them! Dad, you don’t think it was . . . us?” His young face was full of a mixture of indignation, fear, bewilderment and surprise and his voice was tense. His eyes sought his father’s.

To be continued next week.
Any thoughts so far? Do you think you know who did it?