Every week, Madison can’t wait for her favorite show, Crime Time—she loves mysteries and knows she would make a great detective. So when her flute teacher’s priceless sheet music goes missing, Maddie decides to solve the case. As she collects the clues and compiles the list of suspects, Maddie realizes that the thief could be anyone! But soon, playing detective starts to get in the way of Maddie’s friendships, and snooping around takes her to places she doesn’t belong. Is there even a real crime to be solved, or is this just Maddie’s overactive imagination running wild?
About the Author
Author Laura Dower has a lot in common with Madison Finn: They’re both only children and they both love dogs, the color orange, and books! Laura has written more than ninety kids’ books to date, including twenty-five in the series From the Files of Madison Finn. Her other books include the new Palace Puppies series and For Girls Only, a guide to girl stuff. When she’s not writing, Laura loves to garden, sing (loudly), and volunteer as a scout leader for her daughter and two sons. She and her family live in New York. Want to be keypals? Drop her a note at www.lauradower.com.
Read an Excerpt
On the Case
From the Files of Madison Finn, Book 17
By Laura Dower
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2004 Laura Dower
All rights reserved.
"PHINNIE, MOVE! YOU'RE BLOCKING the screen."
Madison Finn reached into the blue ceramic bowl on her lap and munched another handful of popcorn.
"Mmmphinnnn!" she mumbled, trying to shoo her pug away from his inconvenient seat directly in front of the television set. She quickly stood up and gave Phin a nudge with her foot.
Nothing could get in the way of watching Crime Time every Friday night; this was especially true for the beginning of the show, when host Major DeMille did his introduction and presented the Case of the Week. Each Crime Time episode featured reenactments of crimes, with actors in the roles of attackers, victims, and so on. But Major DeMille was the major attraction. Madison even had downloaded his photograph to use as one of her screen savers—when she wasn't using one of her favorite animal photos.
"Are you going to have any more of this dinner?" Mom asked. She strolled into the living room holding a plate of pasta salad.
Madison waved Mom off.
"Madison, put down the remote control and answer me," Mom said.
"Mom!" Madison cried. She threw her hands into the air. "I'm watching Crime Time right now. You know I've been waiting all week to see this new episode. Can't we talk later?"
"Well, do you want this food or—"
"No, thanks, I have popcorn."
Madison turned back to the TV and her post-dinner snack.
"Crime Time, huh?" Mom wrinkled her brow. "I don't know how I feel about all these crime shows, Maddie. You have been talking a lot about mysteries lately. And I know it's only eight-thirty and this should be considered okay viewing for a twelve-year-old, but still—"
"I'm almost thirteen, Mom," Madison said, correcting her. "Um, can we talk about this later? Please?"
Mom sighed and sat on the sofa. "What is so interesting about this show?"
Madison settled back onto the sofa and turned the volume up so that her mom wouldn't interrupt her again. Phin jumped onto the couch and curled up at Madison's side.
Welcome to a place where crimes are stopped dead in their tracks ... where the only way out is justice ... where anytime is Crime Time.
Major DeMille's blond head filled the screen. Madison swooned. Major squinted as though he were staring right through the screen, into Madison's living room, and directly into her eyes.
The police have already surveyed the scene. But there are still many questions. Questions that no one seems to know how to answer ...
"Isn't he dreamy?" Madison asked aloud. She grabbed another handful of popcorn.
"Who? That guy in the leather coat?" Mom asked.
Madison shot a look in Mom's direction. "Are you kidding? Mom, that is Major DeMille. He is only the hottest crime fighter ever."
"He solves the crimes?" Mom asked. "But isn't he an actor? He's just the narrator, Maddie."
"Yeah, well ..." Madison nodded. "Last week was 'Double-Cross My Heart,' an episode about this couple who disappeared. Major DeMille was right there with all the key evidence."
"Maddie!" Mom said, rolling her eyes. "How can you watch this?"
Madison nodded. "Shhhh! They're coming to the best part."
Mom promptly stood up and clicked off the television.
"What did you do that for?" Madison asked frantically.
Mom crossed her arms in front of her chest. "Because," she said sternly, "I don't think this is the right thing for you to be watching."
"Mom!" Madison huffed. "Everyone watches this. It's fun to help solve the crimes."
"Oh, Maddie," Mom groaned. "Why don't you go read a book or something instead?"
"Mom, I finished my homework. What's the problem?"
"Madison ..." Mom pursed her lips.
"Mommmmmmm," Madison whined.
"Oh, fine!" Mom threw up her arms. "Do what you want, Maddie."
She walked out of the living room and left Madison alone with the dog and the popcorn.
Half an hour later, Major DeMille reappeared to give his Crime Time recap. On-screen, faces flashed. People confessed. Police sirens wailed. The Crime Time gavel came crashing down.
Tune in for the next thrilling episode of Crime Time ...
Madison waited for the preview of next week's show, which was titled "Bad and Badder," before she turned off the TV set.
"Hey! Mom!" she called out. "It's over now. Are you happy?"
But Mom wasn't listening anymore. She had the phone in her hand and a serious look on her face.
"What's wrong?" Madison asked as soon as Mom hung up the phone.
"That was Dad. Stephanie is in the hospital. She broke her wrist. Fell down when someone bumped into her on the street. He called to say that dinner tomorrow would have to be postponed."
"Wow," Madison said. "Is she going to be okay?"
"Yes, she'll be fine. She needs to wear a cast for a while. She's heading home tonight. Dad just wanted to let you know."
Madison realized that she was still holding on to the empty bowl of popcorn. She placed it in the sink and sat down at the kitchen table.
"Are you heading upstairs now?" Mom asked.
Madison nodded. "I have to get my beauty sleep. Besides, tomorrow I'm going to stay up later than late to watch part of the Crime Time marathon."
"A marathon?" Mom asked. "Sounds long."
Madison grinned. "Yeah. They're going to show the best twenty shows over and over, back to back, all weekend."
"But haven't you seen all of the episodes already?" Mom asked.
"Uh-huh. I think I've seen a couple of them five or six times," Madison said. "But Fiona hasn't seen any."
Fiona Waters was one of Madison's best friends. She lived right up the street and around the corner. They liked to spend as much time as possible at each other's houses.
"That's what you and Fiona are planning to do for your sleepover tomorrow? Watch television?" Mom said, sounding wary again.
"You should really watch, too, Mom," Madison said with a smile. "Major DeMille is showing 'The Talking Skull' and 'Footprints to Nowhere.' Those are some of the best Crime Time episodes ever."
"Whatever you say, Maddie," Mom said, rolling her eyes. "I'm sure you and Fiona will have a super time—without me."
"And you, too, Phinnie," Mom said. "Can't forget you."
On Saturday night, Fiona arrived at Madison's house dragging her backpack and pillow behind her.
"Why didn't Aimee want to come to our sleepover?" Fiona asked Madison as she walked inside.
Aimee Gillespie was the other best friend in Madison and Fiona's trio of BFFs. She was also one of the best ballet dancers in the seventh grade—or any grade.
"Aimee thinks watching Crime Time is stupid," Madison explained. "She likes love stories more."
"Well, I can't wait to see it!" Fiona said excitedly. "I love scary stuff."
"It's not exactly scary," Madison explained. "More like mysterious. And Major DeMille is hot."
Fiona giggled. "Great."
Madison cracked up. "Not as hot as Egg, of course ..."
Fiona elbowed Madison. She knew it was a joke. Fiona had been "going out" (at least that's what they called it) with one of Madison's best guy friends, Walter "Egg" Diaz, for a little while. At first, Madison had hated the idea of their dating, but she was getting used to it over time. Now she could even tease Fiona about it a little without hard feelings.
They grabbed the tuna sandwiches and fruit salad Mom had left them for dinner, along with a bowl of buttered popcorn, and headed into the living room to watch the show. That night's episode was based on recent events. It was called "The Masked Avenger."
Madison turned the lights down. The TV set cast a pale blue glow over the entire room.
Tonight we meet a robber who wears a different disguise for every robbery he commits. Last week, he broke into houses wearing a rabbit suit. Yesterday, he knocked off a bank wearing a red beard and a patch over one eye. Tomorrow, who knows what he'll be wearing?
"A hula skirt," Fiona said, cracking up.
"Fiona, these are serious crimes," Madison insisted.
"Serious? In a rabbit suit?" Fiona said.
It did sound funny, but Madison was right. Despite the rather humorous disguises, this was one nasty robber, and he had committed one crime after another. He'd stolen more than two million dollars over four years, robbing banks and homes across the country.
Major DeMille's voice got very low as he stared into the camera. Madison stared back.
Will the Masked Avenger ever be caught? Will the Masked Avenger strike in your neighborhood next?
Madison flinched. Her neighborhood?
"Wait," Fiona said. "I heard my dad talking about this guy the other day. He robbed some banks in the next town. Don't you remember? Wow. That's a little close for comfort."
Madison's head spun around toward the window. "Did you hear that?" she asked, gripping the pillow on the sofa.
"Hear what?" Fiona said. "That was just the wind."
"Are you sure?" Madison asked.
"There it is again!" Madison said. She jumped up and peered through the window. "That was not the wind."
"I guess not," Fiona said. "It sounded like someone stepping on twigs or something."
Even Phinnie cowered behind a pillow on the sofa.
"Look!" Madison pointed to the scene outside the window. "It's a full moon tonight."
"Um, Maddie, you're scaring me," Fiona said.
Madison's voice got very low. "Fiona, do you think the Masked Avenger could be—"
Madison and Fiona grabbed each other tightly. The knock had come from Madison's front door, just a few feet away from where they were sitting.
Fiona gulped. "Do you think ...?" she mumbled. "Could that be the Masked Avenger?"
"YES!" Madison cried. Her mind raced. She clicked off the TV set. The room got very dark.
"Rowwwwwroooo," Phin barked.
The girls jumped again.
"Shhhhh! Be quiet, dog," Fiona said.
"There is no way the real Masked Avenger could be outside right now," Madison said, trying to be calm even though every hair on her body was standing up.
They stared at the door. They didn't move.
Light flooded the room. Mom stood there, shaking her head.
"What are you two doing in the dark? Did someone knock at the door? I thought I heard a knock."
"M-m-mom," Madison stammered. "I—I—I think someone did ..."
"Maddie?" Mom crinkled her nose. "Are you expecting someone?"
"No," Madison shook her head. "I'm not. Don't answer it, Mom."
"Why?" Mom asked.
"It could be the Masked Avenger!" Fiona cried.
"What? Girls!" Mom said, reaching for the knob. "I think you've had quite enough of Crime Time. Your imaginations are running wild."
Mom went to the door and started to open it. Phinnie waddled over, his tail between his legs. Even he was afraid of what would happen next.
"Surprise!" a voice cried out from the other side of the door.
Fiona and Madison both jumped backward onto the sofa, their hearts beating fast. "A-a-a-aaaaghhh!" they screamed at once.
"Maddie! Fiona!" Mom shrieked. "What's gotten into you girls?"
There in the doorway stood the mysterious visitor. But it wasn't the Masked Avenger. It was Aimee, with a sleeping bag and duffel.
"Oh-em-gee!" Aimee said. "Why did you scream like that? I almost fell down your porch steps, Maddie."
"Aim! It's you!" Madison said, relieved.
"Joining the sleepover?" Mom asked.
Aimee shrugged. "I hope so," she said. "If Maddie and Fiona don't mind."
"I thought you said you didn't want to come over for the Crime Time marathon," Fiona said.
"Yeah, you said my favorite show was boring," Madison added.
"I know," Aimee said. "But I don't want to sit home alone. That's even more boring."
Aimee knelt down and scratched the top of Phin's head. His tail was wagging.
Fiona knelt, too, and threw her arms around Aimee.
"Are we ever glad to see you! We thought you were one of the escaped criminals from Crime Time," Fiona admitted.
"Huh? Escaped criminal? From a TV show?" Aimee said. "What are you talking about?"
"Long story," Madison said, a little embarrassed. "Want some popcorn?"CHAPTER 2
It's official. I watched episodes of Crime Time on the marathon from Friday until last night, and my eyes are sooooo tired. But wow do I love that show! And I LOVE MAJOR DEMILLE EVEN MORE!!!! He gets to be more of a hottie with each new episode. He's featured in this month's issue of Star Beat too, and I am putting his picture on my locker. Definitely.
Rude Awakening: Crime Time flies when you're having fun.
Right now I'm up in the media lab at school, between classes. We had a fire drill just now and got released from second period a little early. I should be finishing up math homework, but I'm not. Instead, I have Crime Time on the brain. All I can think about are forensic DNA, footprints, and other evidence like what I saw on the show. Everything looks like some kind of clue to me. Like this chewed-up yellow pencil I see on the floor. Who does it belong to? Why is it there?
Someone was yelling in the locker room earlier today because she had her sneakers stolen during morning basketball practice. She should have yelled for me. I bet I could have found them.
Madison heard a noise behind her in the media lab. She pressed the SAVE button on her keyboard. The screen saver featuring Major DeMille popped up.
"Who is that turkey?" said the person behind her.
"Egg! Way to give me a heart attack!" Madison cried. She turned around to face her friend. "Do you always have to creep up on me like that when I'm at the computer?"
"Well, yeah. I like it when you jump," Egg said.
"I hate you sometimes," Madison said, poking him in the ribs.
"Drew and I were up here picking up a book. Want to walk to Mrs. Wing's class together?" Egg asked.
Drew waved from across the library.
"Sure. I'll walk with you," Madison said. She popped her flash drive out of the computer and stuffed it into her orange bag.
Luckily, the time in Mrs. Wing's technology lab zipped by. So did the rest of the day's classes. Madison even survived her third-period math class in spite of not having completed her homework. When the final bell of the day rang, Madison rushed to her locker.
Madison stopped just before colliding with Hart Jones, her longtime crush at school.
"Hey, slow down, Finnster," Hart said, touching her arm. Lately, he'd been showing some serious signs that the crush might be mutual.
"Hi, Hart," Madison said quietly, pulling her arm away.
"I saw you earlier today," Hart said. "I guess you didn't see me."
"Oh?" Madison said. "No, I guess I didn't. I've been a little preoccupied today. Sorry."
Hart smiled. "So, what's up? Why are you preoccupied?"
"Yes," Madison said.
"Huh?" Hart said.
"I'm fine," Madison said.
Hart sighed. "Actually, what I asked you was—"
"Do you ever watch Crime Time ?" Madison blurted out. Sometimes, when she couldn't think of anything else, Madison would just say the first thing that came into her head. This was one of those occasions.
"You mean the TV show?" Hart asked.
Hart shrugged. "Sometimes I watch it. When there's nothing else on."
"Oh," Madison said. "There was a marathon over the weekend. I've seen every episode at least once."
But Hart didn't seem very interested in the fine points of Crime Time. In fact, he'd turned completely around and was staring in the opposite direction. Madison bit her lip. Was she boring him? She needed a better topic of conversation. Fast.
"What did you do this weekend?" Madison asked. But before Hart could answer, Poison Ivy appeared from around the corner.
Once upon a time, Ivy Daly had been Madison's best friend. But that had all changed in third grade. Now Ivy was her number-one enemy. To make matters worse, it seemed as though Ivy always appeared when Hart was around.
"Hiya, Hart," Ivy said, smiling sweetly. She turned to Madison and sneered.
"Hello, Ivy," Hart replied.
"So ..." Ivy said in a singsong voice. She cocked her hip, waiting for Hart's next comment. "So?" she asked again.
But Hart didn't say anything else. He just stared.
"I like your sweater," Ivy told him. She batted her eyelashes.
Hart grunted a little. "Uh-huh."
"Do you like mine?" Ivy asked, looking down at her own lavender short-sleeved top.
Madison wanted to yell, Who cares about your ugly sweater! Instead, she gritted her teeth and bit her tongue. She couldn't lash out. Madison didn't want Hart to think she was being mean.
Excerpted from On the Case by Laura Dower. Copyright © 2004 Laura Dower. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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