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?

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