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Meg Mackintosh and the Mystery on Main Street
A Solve-it-Yourself Mystery
By Lucinda Landon
Secret Passage PressCopyright © 2000 Lucinda Landon
All rights reserved.
"Meg, you've got to help me!" Peter called as he pounded on his sister's door and stumbled into her room.
Meg leaned back in her chair and gave Peter a long look. "Let's see, I detect that you've been shopping at the camera store, had a close encounter with a holly bush, and spilled stuff on your jacket," Meg observed. "It also looks as though you've lost a mitten, and maybe something else, since you're so upset. How am I doing so far?"
"Pretty good, Sherlock," Peter replied. "But listen, this is serious. I did lose something, and I'm in big trouble if I don't find it. You're the ace detective. You've got to help me find it."
Meg took out her notebook and pen. "Peter, start at the beginning, tell me exactly what happened."
Peter dropped his bag on the floor and stretched out on Meg's bed. "I went over to Gramps' house after school," Peter began. "He asked me to run some errands — pick up a mystery novel he'd ordered at the Book Nook, go to the florist for some holly, and take a ring to the jewelry store to be cleaned."
"Wait a minute — what kind of ring?" Meg asked.
"Well, old. It was his grandmother's. It's gold with rubies and diamonds, so I'm sure it's worth a lot of money. But to Gramps it's a priceless antique."
Meg had a sinking feeling. "Let me guess: You lost the ring? Or maybe it was stolen?"
"Yeah, it's awful. Gramps wanted the ring polished at the jewelers so he could give it to Mom for Christmas. I told him I'd be especially careful and now look what happened," said Peter with a heavy sigh. "If I don't find the ring, I'll ruin Christmas for Gramps, Mom, and me."
"And maybe me, too," Meg muttered under her breath. "This does sound pretty bad."
"It's hopeless," Peter moaned. "The ring was in a little white jewelry box. I'll never find it on Main Street, especially during the holidays."
Skip, their dog, jumped on the bed to console him.
"Pull yourself together, Peter," said Meg. "I'll help you solve this, but I need more details. Exactly where did you go after you left Gramps' house?"
"I went straight to Main Street. I saw Zeke and Zack building a snowman in front of their house, so I helped them for a minute."
"Where was the ring? Did you put it down while you were making the snowman?" Meg quizzed him.
"I carried it inside my mitten, so I could feel the box the whole time," replied Peter.
"And you probably wouldn't have taken off your mittens while making a snowman," Meg commented.
"I don't think so," Peter looked anguished.
"Was their older sister Becky there?" Meg asked.
"No, but they told me she was helping at the bakery next door," Peter continued. "So I went there, just to say hi."
"Okay, now think back to the bakery," Meg commanded, trying to get her brother to visualize the scene. "Tell me what was going on."
"Becky was stirring batter for a big batch of gingerbread, and I —" Peter stammered, blushing. "I took out the box and showed her the ring," Peter confessed. "Then I went to the bookstore and the florist, but when I got to the jewelers, I realized I didn't have the ring."
"Okay, that's a good start to the investigation," she said, writing The Mystery on Main Street at the top of her notebook page. "Now, empty your pockets. There might be some clues in them."
What do you deduce from the contents of Peter's pockets?
"Ah, ha! Here's a receipt for two donuts and a hot chocolate — so you stayed at the bakery for a snack, and that's probably what you spilled on your jacket." Her eyes widened as she unfolded another piece of paper. "Hey, these are instructions for a new camera! Did you buy something for yourself right before Christmas?"
"Meg, I've been saving up for that camera," Peter tried to explain. "My old one broke, and I'm planning to make prints for Christmas presents."
Meg gave him a dubious look and continued. "Peter, if you want me to help, you've got to tell me the whole story. Now, when did you buy the camera?"
"The camera store is the first place I went — before Zeke and Zack's house." Peter said humbly.
Meg shook her head. She studied the other items from Peter's pockets and jotted in her notebook.
"Peter, was Aunt Alice at the Book Nook by any chance?" Meg asked. "Gramps told me she's working there while she visits during the holidays."
"Yes, in fact I paid her for Gramps' book," Peter answered.
"And?" Meg urged him on. "Anything else?"
"She yelled at me for giving her a ten dollar bill that was all sticky with hot chocolate," Peter admitted. "You'd think she'd give me a break since we're related."
"You know Aunt Alice better than that," said Meg.
"Do you think she took the ring?" Peter gasped. "She's always up to something."
Just then their father called from downstairs, "Peter! Meg! Time for dinner!"
"Remember, mum's the word," Meg advised Peter on their way downstairs. "But there's one thing you have to do tonight."
What do you think Meg wants Peter to do?
"The film container in your pocket was empty. That suggests that you had already loaded the new camera, and were snapping pictures that might hold an important clue," Meg whispered to Peter as their parents sat down at the dining room table. "I need to see them as soon as possible."
"You're right — I'll develop the film tonight," muttered Peter.
"What was that, Peter?" their mother asked. "You're going to work in the darkroom tonight? Great, could you make some prints of last year's archeological dig in Greece — I need them for a proposal for a new expedition."
"Where are you planning to go next? Egypt? Chile?" Dad asked.
"The excavation sites won't be decided until spring. For now, I'll just be discovering treasures on Main Street," Mom laughed.
What does she mean by that? Meg thought to herself. She tried to change the subject. "How are things in the math department, Dad?"
"Better than ever as of one o-clock today, because the college closed for vacation," Dad joked. "I finally had time for some Christmas shopping this afternoon. I saw Aunt Alice on Main Street. Don't forget, she and Gramps have invited us over for cookies on the afternoon before Christmas."
"Where did you see Aunt Alice?" Meg asked.
"She was coming out of the jewelry store," Dad replied. He smiled mischievously. "She said she had a little surprise for you two. Something about an old family treasure."
"Really?" said Meg, kicking Peter's foot under the table. Could Alice have the ring? she wondered.
Meg worked on her notes while Peter developed the film in the dark room. After a while, she knocked on the darkroom door. "Peter are you done yet? Can I come in?"
"Yeah, it's okay." Peter opened the door and flicked on the lights. "I just hung the film to dry, but I won't have prints until tomorrow."
"I guess I can wait," said Meg. "There are other things I can investigate tomorrow on my way to school."
"Where are you going first? Not Gramp's house I hope. I don't want him to suspect that something's wrong." Peter looked at Meg's notes. "Do you think you'll have to smash down Zeke and Zack's snowman to look for the ring?"
"You're wrong about that, Peter." Meg replied. "But maybe I should go to the camera store and return your camera. Then you'll have some money to replace the ring."
"Meg, you wouldn't!" exclaimed Peter.
"No, Peter. I intend to find the ring," said Meg confidently. "And I know where I'm going to start."
Why was Peter wrong about smashing the snowman? Where was Meg going?CHAPTER 2
Meg walked past Main Street every day on her way to and from school. This morning, she stopped to observe the setting of the mystery. She saw the snowman, but she knew that the ring wasn't lost in the snow, or at the camera store, because Peter still had it at the bakery when he showed it to Becky.
Meg quickly sketched a map of Main Street, being sure to put all the stores in the right order. She knew the bakery would be the only store open that early.
"I think I have time to do a little investigating," Meg said to herself, as she felt in her pocket for some change. "And time to get a little snack before school."
Mrs. Roberts, the baker was putting the finishing touches on a gingerbread house when Meg entered the cinnamon-scented shop.
"Hi, Mrs. Roberts. Wow! That house looks too pretty to eat!" said Meg.
"Thanks, Meg. I love decorating with all of these candies and sugar crystals ... they sparkle like diamonds, don't they!" Mrs. Roberts exclaimed.
Meg was startled at the mention of diamonds and looked carefully at the glittering, candy roof.
"Can I get you something?" Mrs. Roberts asked.
"I'll have one of those cinnamon buns, please," Meg replied. "I was wondering — did you see Peter in here yesterday afternoon?"
"Yes, Peter was here. How could I forget? He spilled hot chocolate all over," Mrs. Robert's wiped icing from her brow.
"Would you remember seeing a small square jewelry box that Peter had with him?" Meg asked.
"Yes, I do. I think he showed Becky what was inside. Maybe Peter's got a crush on her," Mrs. Roberts smiled.
Meg paid for the bun and thought about the big batch of batter, and how clumsy Peter is when he's flustered. "Did you make this gingerbread house out of yesterday's batter?"
"No, we made gingerbread men with that batch. I sent them all over to your school for today's holiday party." She returned to her decorating.
Meg sat down at a little round table and jotted in her notebook while she nibbled on the bun.
"Hmmm, there are lots of possibilities, and I'm just getting started." Meg looked at her watch. "Uh, oh, I'd better get going to school."
It was the last day of school before vacation. Meg's classroom was having a Winter Holiday Party celebrating festivals from around the world. Mrs. Wong, Simon's mom, was at school that day helping out and collecting canned goods donated to needy families. She had Simon's two-year-old brother, Eric, with her.
"Wouldn't you know, my mom had to bring my little brother to the party," Simon complained to his friend Nick. "He's always making a scene. You should have heard him screaming at the toyshop yesterday when he saw Santa. It was so embarrassing."
"Hi, Meg. Would you like a gingerbread man?" asked Simon's mom. "I saw your brother on Main Street yesterday. He was nice enough to take some photos of Eric for me."
"That's nice," Meg said. She took a bite of the gingerbread man, thinking hard about the clues so far. Suddenly Eric started screaming and knocked over a plate of cookies.
"Quick, give him something to do!" Simon jumped in. "Have him stack these cans and boxes — it's the only thing that makes him stop crying!"
Meg stared at her notes. "Hey, Nick and Simon, there's something I need you to do for me, and I don't think you'll mind."
What does Meg want Nick and Simon to do?
"I need you to eat the rest of these gingerbread men and make sure that you don't swallow a ring that might have been cooked inside — I'll explain later. And make sure no one else in the class finds it."
They looked at Meg quizzically.
"Not a bad job," said Nick.
"As long as we don't chip our teeth," said Simon as he grabbed a handful of gingerbread men.
Meg's best friend Liddy came over. "Meg, what's going on? It sounds as though you're trying to solve a case."
Meg pulled Liddy aside. "I am on a case — a mystery on Main Street. Peter lost a valuable ruby and diamond ring and I have to find it before Christmas. Can you help me after school?" Meg pleaded.
"A mystery on Main Street! I love it! What do we have to do? Do you think someone stole the ring? Do you have any suspects?" Liddy gazed at Meg's notes.
Meg told Liddy the facts of the case as they set off to the Book Nook to question Aunt Alice.
"Hello, dearest dears." Alice greeted them. "Did you come to see what I wanted for Christmas?"
"That's it, Aunt Alice." Meg glanced at Liddy. "You're the only one left on my list."
"Jewels, my dear, jewels and books. They're the only things I really treasure anymore," Alice said with a twinkle. "Be sure to mention that to your Grandfather. He has some old family heirlooms I'm hoping he finally wants to part with."
Liddy gave Meg a curious look.
Meg ignored her and asked Aunt Alice about the previous afternoon. "Did Peter leave anything here yesterday when he picked up Gramps' book?"
"No, no, I'm sure he didn't. He was very busy loading film in his camera. All he left behind was some wrappers, which I threw away, and his sticky money," answered Alice, somewhat testily, as she looked at her watch. "Oh, heavens! Look at the time. I'm off work now, and I have lots to do." Alice dashed for the door, grabbing her coat, purse, and books.
"That was an awfully quick exit," said Liddy.
"She does seem suspicious," Meg commented as she jotted in her notebook.
"Now where do we go?" asked Liddy.
Where would you go next?
Meg and Liddy paused on Main Street before they went into the florist shop. It had started to snow.
"It's hard to suspect people during the holidays, especially my own relatives," Meg confided to Liddy. "Why, I even suspected my own mother of finding the ring, when she joked during dinner about excavating on Main Street."
"Meg, remember what you always say — a good detective is suspicious of everyone," Liddy told her. "And on that wise note, I have to get home now. We're celebrating Hanukkah tonight."
"Oh, I almost forgot," said Meg as she took a package out of her knapsack and gave it to Liddy. "Happy Hanukkah!"
Liddy unwrapped the present. "A magnifying glass!" she exclaimed. "Thanks, Meg, it's just what I wanted." She gave her a hug. "Why don't you wait and open your present on Christmas. Here, put it under your tree."
"Okay," Meg promised. "You'd better get going — and be sure to call me if you find any clues on the way home!"
"Well, I did notice something suspicious when I compared your notes about where Peter went yesterday with all the stores on Main Street." Liddy suggested.
Look again at Meg's sketch of the Main Street stores. What did Liddy find suspicious?
"I can't believe Peter went into all these stores and didn't go into the toy store. It's just not like Peter," Liddy commented. "He loves toys and gadgets."
"You're right, that is strange" Meg agreed.
"Meg, look, there's the florist." Liddy nudged her. "He's locking up his store. You'd better catch him."
Meg waved goodbye to Liddy and caught up with the florist. "Mr. Drum! It's me, Meg Mackintosh. My brother Peter was in your shop yesterday, buying holly. I was wondering if he left anything there?"
"As a matter of fact, Peter did drop something. I was going to give it to your Mom. I've seen her a lot on Main Street lately," said Mr. Drum as he pulled something from his coat pocket.
Meg's eyes widened with anticipation.
"Oh, it's Peter's mitten." Meg took it and quickly checked to see if the jewelry box was still inside. Alas, it was empty. "Thanks," she said. Could Mr. Drum have taken the ring? She sat down on a street bench and looked over her notes. A few minutes later she saw Mr. Drum coming out of the toy store and he locked that door, too! Then he went into the jewelry store.
Meg's notes were getting soggy from snowflakes. Everyone is looking suspicious! she thought as she packed up her things. Then she noticed a skinny white stick stuck to Peter's mitten. Hmm, what is this? she wondered. It smells like peppermint.
Do you have any ideas what's stuck to Peter's mitten? What does the clue mean?
Meg examined the stick. It had a slight curve to it. It's a candy cane with all the stripes licked off, she deduced. She carefully folded the mitten back around the candy cane. "Evidence to show Peter," she muttered as she headed home.
She found Peter in his room and pulled out the mitten to show him. "Peter, look what Mr. Drum, the florist, found."
Peter looked up. "You're kidding! You found it!"
"No, I'm not kidding. He found your mitten in his shop. But the ring box wasn't inside." Meg showed him. "And this candy cane was stuck to it. Come on, Peter. Something about your story doesn't add up! You didn't tell me you went in the toy store. That's where they were giving away free candy canes. Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't tell you because I went in there to get you a Christmas present," Peter explained. "Look, I was going to tell you tonight, when I showed you these photos."
"Is there a picture of my present?" Meg asked slyly.
"No. And I still didn't get you anything," Peter said sheepishly. "But I will tomorrow. Now take a look."
"I can make at least one deduction," Meg declared.
What has Meg deduced?
"I deduce that you lost the ring between the bakery and the florist, because you showed it to Becky at the bakery, it wasn't in the gingerbread batter, and the mitten was empty at the florist." Meg drew on her map. "Now let me see the photos you took."
Excerpted from Meg Mackintosh and the Mystery on Main Street by Lucinda Landon. Copyright © 2000 Lucinda Landon. Excerpted by permission of Secret Passage Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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