At the corner of 5th and Adamson Street lay my best friend Madison. As usual, she was texting on her phone and didn’t see me. The corner of her mouth moved, almost to form a smile. At the same moment, she glanced up at the setting sun, to see the fluorescent colors change into a midnight black shade.
I took a step closer and she turned my way. The heel of my boots clicked against the cracking cement each time my foot traveled from one spot to the next. I was almost positive that others as well glanced at me wondering about the awkward noise that could be heard across the busy street.
“Hey Spencer, I’ve been waiting forever for you. It’s been like….a whole five minutes,” Madison jokingly peeped. Madison is one of my funniest friends. She always knows when to cheer you up, but sometimes she can take it a “bit” far.
“Oh sorry,” I sarcastically rolled my eyes as I leaned to my right and gently sat down my lavender and white backpack on the sidewalk. I snatched the rusted part of a zipper and quickly revealed the tiny pocket of my backpack. I took a pack of Extra gum from the depths of that pocket. I unfolded the shamrock green tab and snatched a piece of sweet smelling spearmint gum.
Madison stood up, grabbed her JanSport bag, and abruptly asked, “Are you ready to go shopping? I was thinking first we go to American Eagle, then Under Armor, then Macy’s, then a few more places I NEED to go to, and then wherever you want. Ok?”
“Um,” I mumbled. “So, you know we only have an hour and a half before we have to go to Heather’s, right?”
She responded, “Well. Yeah, but I figure we go to six shops that I want to go to and two for you. That will be a total of eight. And we’ll need about fifteen minutes to and from the mall. That scratches off thirty minutes. So, an hour divided by eight gives us roughly about seven minutes at each store. Sound good? Ok. Let's go.”
“Ok…. nerd,” I coughed. Ever since we were kids Madison had always had a talent for mathematics. She used to compete against the older kids and whenever she would win, she would brag about her glorious talent. She may be a sore winner, but she was my annoying best friend. Madison smiled widely and made a quiet chuckle. Then we began to walk towards the large mall. On our way, we mumbled on about the school drama we often heard about.
As we reached the front entrance to the mall we could already tell something was wrong. There were seven bright, noisy cop cars in the parking lot that flashed like crazy. Madison and I held a glance for nearly ten seconds and then dashed up the few steps into the almost empty mall that smelled of salty pretzels. We walked around a few stores and tried to figure out what was wrong. Personally, I loved mysteries, and Madison often followed along with me trying to solve them. Finally, we reached American Eagle, Maddie’s favorite store. There were maybe ten or so cops lined up outside or inside the store. There was an ugly mustard yellow colored crime tape that reached from wall to wall outside the store. Madison tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to a large cop in a navy blue uniform that was talking to what seemed to be the store manager. I stared. My gaze caught on them.
Suddenly Maddie’s mom showed up. In her fancy police uniform the captain of the precinct, Mrs. Graye, grabbed us by the shoulders and pulled us to the side.
“Girls, you shouldn't be here, there is a very serious matter going on,” she explained.
After we pleaded for her to tell us what was going on she explained, “The store was robbed. One of the clerks was shot. The intruder got away with over $2,500. Now, I want you each to leave immediately. This does not concern either of you. Bye!” As we shuffled to the side I thought of how I so desperately wanted to solve the mystery, even if the mystery was kind of scary. Although, I understood why Mrs. Graye did not want us to become further involved.
“Ugh. I don’t want to go home. I just want to shop and find out what is going on,” Madison complained.
I excitedly said, “Same. I just wish there was some way we could get in the store.”
“Yeah, WAIT! I have an idea. There is an employee entrance that leads to the storage room. It is usually unlocked during store hours. Maybe we can sneak through. What do you think?” She whispered.
As I thought deeply I mumbled, “I don’t know. And how do you even now these things?’
Excitedly she squealed, “It’ll be fine. And I know the manager's daughter.”
“Ok,” I responded, scared we were doing the wrong thing.
Madison led me to the employee door around the small corner. It had a big violet sign that read “Employees Only”. She glanced around the mall, looking at the entrance, the other stores, and the people talking with their shopping bags in their hands. Then she snatched on to the doorknob and pulled open the door. We sprinted inside and twirled around on the carpet floor to shut the old door. The silver shelves were stocked with tons of clothes, enough to fill a zoo. We must have looked around for thirty minutes before we found something.
The first thing we found was a crack in the left shelf. It looked as if it had cracked from some sort of collision. Then we thought the door must have caused it. The door lined up perfectly to the shelf if you released it to swing back to its full capacity.
“A clue,” I announced.
“Yeah… I wonder, do you think the intruder came through this door? It makes sense. It is almost always unlocked and the crack looks relatively new because of these clothes on the floor. Before I just thought they fell randomly. But if it wasn’t recent, someone would have picked them up by now. Hm, let’s try and find more and then venture to the great beyond,” she proclaimed, excited with her discovery
“The great beyond. Ok?!” I laughed.
Madison answered, “Let's just look around for a few more minutes.”
The next thing we found was a pager. It was shoved behind the right shelf, the third row, with all the blue jeans. It took us a while to find because there were so many jeans. It was surprising because it was Spring and not very cold. The pager was solid black and short. After we had found it we discussed about why it might of been used or if the intruder used it. Madison and I came to a conclusion that maybe the intruder was working with someone. It would make sense. One person could have gotten an escape vehicle ready and drove off when the job was done.
After we had found two interesting clues we decided that like we said before, we would venture to the great beyond, whatever that meant. I walked slowly over to another door in the organized room.
“So, where does this door lead to?” I wondered.
“Um, I’m pretty sure it leads to the cash registers and check out,” Madison confirmed.
“Ok,” I nodded as I pulled open the autumn colored door.
As Madison and I entered the checkout she pulled her index finger up to her mouth and made the quiet sign. I nodded and silently shut the door. We tip-toed about three yards until we reached a tall shelf full of thin Spring shirts. The colors ranged from a solid red to a chartreuse color. When we tried to shuffle the shelf to the side it kept making squeaky noises. The fourth noise was unusually loud, compared to the others. A quick glance between the both of us showed our worry and shock. Suddenly soft sounds and big clunky steps appeared. I dove under the bulky cash register pulling Maddie’s arm down with me. As her dry mouth had begun to form a word I cupped my hand over her mouth. With her surprisingly sharp teeth and angered look she bit down on my hand. I had to hold in a death-defying scream full of pain.
“Hey. Did you hear that?” One of the voices asked.. It was an emotionless voice.
The second voice reminded me of a cop I had met before, “Yeah. That was weird.”
“Hm. Let’s take a look around,” the first deep voice spoke.
“Ok,” the second started to add, “Did you hear about James at the department?” Then the two cops began to start a long, dull conversation about the downtown precinct. After around five cold and boring minutes the clunky sounds from before, walked off into the distance.
“Phew. That was close,” I coughed.
“I know right. I can’t hear any more voices anymore. I don't think anyone is close. Let’s try and make our way to the front,” Madison muttered.
“Yeah, ok. Let’s go to the left, though. The cops were gathered on the opposite side before. So we can investigate the empty side first,” I mentioned as we waddled around the neat parts of the floor.
A few minutes later we were in the turquoise room, filled with all the shorts and pants. Madison walked over to the back left corner to her favorite section. It appeared that she was doing more shopping than investigating. I rolled my tired eyes at her and continued scrambling through the messy shelves. From the sloppy mess of clothes, I inferred that the police must have already looked for clues.
“Yes!” Maddie shrieked.
“Shh. Did you find a clue?” I said eagerly.
“No. I just found perfect jeans. They’re darkish blue with a short cut,” she squealed. “Wait. I think there’s something stuck to them,” Maddie muttered then paused, “Wow!”
I replied in a high pitched voice, “What? What?”
“This could be the answer to everything. It’s a piece of paper. It has an address and a name. Hunter Mast is the name. I think the address is for this place. Maybe the cops can catch this Hunter guy and investigate the handwriting. Maybe the guy could be the intruder.”
I gasped, “Oh wow.”
“Let's go tell the police immediately.”
I laughed, “Ha. Ok, wait. Let's go through the way we came in. We don’t want to raise any questions on how we got in here. My mom would get really angry with me if she found out.”
“Ok,” Madison answered.
We slowly went down the path we came in from. Madison twisted the doorknob and cracked open the door wide enough for both of us to creep through, as if we were the intruder, which in a way we were. I stepped through and placed my bright blue boot on the white carpet. The door shut. The both of us walked across the room to open the exit door. I held the knob and twisted right. Bonk. It was closed. I twisted it to the left. Bonk. It was still closed. Quick glances between one another signaled we had the same idea. Someone must have closed it. The store hours were over.
“I guess we will have to go through the front of the store,” I said and Maddie nodded. Suddenly we heard voices in the other room. There was a click. I started to get worried.
The first dull, deep voice reminded me of one of the men from before, “I wonder why this door was open. That’s odd. Captain, are you sure you want to arrest the manager. He seems pretty innocent to me.”
I glanced at Madison. Oh no. Her mom was going to arrest an innocent man.
“Victor. There is nothing left to do. We have no other leads. And he was the last one seen here before the shooting,” Mrs. Graye spoke sadly.
The voices then drifted off, leaving Madison and me to think.
“I can’t believe this is happening. We have to get to them,” Maddie explained.
“Yeah,” I twisted the knob. It was locked. How could this be happening? A possibly innocent man was going to end up going to prison for a crime he did not commit. We needed to get this note to the cops, even if the note did not reveal the true suspect.
Madison and I sat in silence on the perfectly white comfy floor, when finally she spoke, “I have an idea.”
She glanced at the small, shiny vent near the bottom of the floor, “The vents in the mall lead to multiple things. If we take a right and go straight we have a good chance to end up near where we came in. You go. You’re smaller. I can direct you. Then you come back for me and we WILL find my mom.”
“I don’t know Maddie. That is a tight space,” I said quietly scared of what would happen.
“You can do it. Come on. We have to help the innocent man and get justice,” she pleaded.
Out of my own stupidity, I answered, “Ok.”
Madison knelt on the ground signaling for me to do the same. I bent my shivering legs on the soft carpet and head first squeezed into the vent. Madison directed me for about three minutes until I found an exit. I squirmed out into the open main area of the mall discovering it was abandoned. It must have closed or something. I sprinted to the bright yellow front of the store. A few cops were still there (including Maddie’s mom). I waited for them to turn the opposite way so I could enter. I just barely made it and went to the checkout, to open the door for Maddie. Giving up on the fact that we would most likely get in trouble, we ran to Mrs. Graye through the store.
“Mom, look we found this note. It has this address and a name on it. We think it can lead to the intruder or intruders. We assumed that because of the clerks usually clean and organize the clothes every day that the note must be relatively new. We found other clues too,” Madison shrieked in excitement then waiting for her mom to answer.
There was a freaky moment of silence. Then, her mom spoke, “Girls, this is wonderful. Thank you. Now, let me handle this situation, and you two go to your friend Heather’s house. Later I will talk to you both later about disobeying my rules.”
Her mom walked off to share the news at the same moment that, “Yes!” exited from our mouths.