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The Freshman Dance Mystery
written by El
"You do have a flair for the dramatic," Mart commented.
"I suggest an emergency club meeting here at school right after the last class," Honey stated firmly. "Meet by the dumpsters maybe?"
Dan and Di looked at each other briefly before nodding. Trixie smiled triumphantly. She was glad she hadn't worn that new white blouse today after all, not that she cared much, but her mother would kill her if she got it dirty or torn so quickly. She and Honey walked over to their lockers slowly.
"So, partner," Honey demanded, "let me see that scrap of fabric Dan gave you."
Trixie stifled a giggle at Honey trying to be stern. "Here you go," she said as she handed the material to her. "I think this is from Jason's shirt."
Honey studied the small scrap of dark red cloth. She had remarked before that it was funny both Trixie and Jason had chosen to wear red to the dance, as if they had planned it. But this was definitely not from Trixie's dress. "Ok, so it's from Jason's shirt. So he ripped it when we went back to the school."
"Honey, he went through the fence after Dan. How could Dan have grabbed it from the fence, if he went in after Dan?"
"Are you sure about that? I mean, it was a few nights ago." Honey scrunched her eyes as if trying to remember, causing Trixie to giggle. "I don't remember what order we were in when we squeezed through that gap," Honey finally admitted.
"I do," Trixie stated firmly. "I went first, Dan followed me, then you, and then Jason."
Honey thought for a minute before the warning bell sounded. They looked at each other and then broke into a run to make it to their next class on time. "Later," Honey finally let out as they parted.
As usual, the afternoon classes dragged on and on. Finally, the bell rang, and Trixie jumped up from her chair and ran out the door without waiting to be excused. She dumped all her books in her locker, feeling lucky that, for once, she didn't have any homework that required bringing books home. Without waiting for Honey or Di she ran over to the dumpsters where she'd seen Jason that morning. To her surprise, Dan was already there.
"Hey, Trix," he called. "Ready to go dumpster diving?" His smile broke into a grin as she nodded her head emphatically, her blonde curls bouncing around. Dan pulled some gloves out of his pocket.
"It's not cold out," Trixie remarked. "How did you ever think to bring gloves today?"
"Well, actually," Dan admitted, "I didn't. I sort of borrowed these."
Trixie raised her eyebrows but before she could ask, Honey, Mart, and Di walked up. Trixie pointed out exactly which dumpster she thought Jason had thrown the box in, and she and the others argued amiably over which of them would actually climb in. Finally they agreed she and Mart would go in and look. Dan handed her the gloves and then helped boost her up. Mart climbed in right after her. "Here goes nothing," she said quietly, and then held her breath against the stench. At least these aren't by the cafeteria, so there's not much in the way of old food in here, she thought to herself.
She and her brother rummaged through the trash and found the box burried under a bunch of papers. Trixie continued to look for something that might have been the small white thing she saw Jason throw away. Mart's gasp caught her attention and as she turned she saw what he was holding up.
"Is that what I think it is?" she asked timidly, pointing at the small plastic baggie with white powder sticking to it's sides.
"We'd have to have it tested to be sure," he said grimly. "I think we should bring this stuff to Principal Stratton. Or maybe even straight to the police."
Outside, she heard Honey whistling a quiet "bob-bob-white" in warning. By the time Mart and Trixie climbed back out of the dumpster, Principal Stratton himself was standing right in front of them. He marched them all to his office, and was surprised they came without any hesitation or argument.
Once inside his office, he closed the door and turned to them. "Trixie, I suppose you'll be the spokesperson for this group, as usual?"
"Yes sir," she answered meekly.
He glared at her and the box she was holding. "So I suppose you could start with why you are carrying the missing cash box."
"Actually, we were just going to come looking for you." She held the box in her gloved hands. Mr. Stratton almost took it before Trixie shook her head. "Fingerprints."
"Ah, of course." He smiled at her. "So, please, tell me the story."
"Well, I saw one of the students throw this box in the garbage this morning."
"And why didn't you come tell me, immediately?" Mr. Stratton admonished.
"Well, I wasn't sure if it really was the box, you know, the missing cashbox."
Mr. Stratton threw up his hands and gave an exasperated sigh. "I suppose it didn't occur to you that we could have checked that out? You know, it's my job and the police force's job to follow up on leads. You had a lead. Next time let the proper authorities follow up on it!"
Trixie gulped but said nothing. Her friends also remained quiet.
"Okay," Mr. Stratton continued. "So you saw someone throw the box away and then jumped in the dumpster to dig it up." He picked up his phone and had a quick conversation with the police department. "They're on their way. Is there anything else you'd like to tell me before I assign your detention time?"
Mart gingerly held out the baggie with white powder.
"Drugs?!" Mr. Stratton burried his head in his hands and shook it, then looked at them again. Mart had only touched a small corner of the bag. "I assume that is not yours, right Mr. Belden?"
"I hope that can be checked for fingerprints, too. I'd hate to think you all are involved in drugs."
"Sir, can we leave now?" Di asked timidly.
"No, Miss Lynch, you may not. You will all wait here for the police. Then starting tomorrow, you will all have detention after school for the rest of the week." He turned back to Trixie. "I don't suppose that you also recognized this someone you saw, did you?"
"Excuse me sir, but why are we getting detention?" Mart asked bravely. "I didn't realize looking in the trash was against the rules, and we did bring you what we found."
"You didn't bring me what you found, since I found you first. And I'm not convinced that you would have, had I not shown up. And you should've told me this morning about the box. I'm tired of the way your group meddles in investigations." Mr. Stratton softened his voice. "Look, you're all good kids and you do a lot of good for the community, but you have to admit you do get involved in things when you should, um, just leave well enough alone."
"Well, well, well," Sergeant Wendell Molinson called from the doorway. "If it isn't the good old Bob-Whites, minus two. I assume you're giving them a nice long lecture for me, Stratton?"
"Molinson, thanks for coming." He pointed to the box still in Trixie's hands. "Look what our young detective found."
"Gloves? Very good." Molinson pulled some gloves from his own pocket and then took the box from Trixie's hands. She was still being quiet. Mart handed him the baggie also. "What's this?" Molinson opened the bag and sniffed. He pulled off his glove, took a finger, and dipped it into the powder sticking on the sides. He took a small taste and smiled. "Hmm, next time you want to bribe me, bring me the whole donut please." Molinson joked.
"Donut?" Mr. Stratton asked, surprised.
"Powdered sugar. I assume from a donut, but I could be mistaken. What did you think it was? Coke?" Molinson teased, but in his usual gruff manner.
"Phew," Trixie let out her breath. The other four teenagers grinned in a mixture of embarrassment and relief.
Molinson turned back to the principal. "Well, I'll take this down to the station so we can check it for fingerprints. I don't suppose you collect fingerprints from your students though, do you?"
Mr. Stratton shook his head.
"Still, if we can find some way of linking this box to someone, we can have them come down and be fingerprinted." With that Sgt. Molinson left.
Mr. Stratton dismissed the Bob-Whites shortly after that. His mood had improved with the realization that the powder was sugar and not drugs. Before letting the club members go, he told them he would shorten their detention to just one day, with a warning not to go climbing in the dumpsters again. Apparently, he had forgotten that Trixie had never answered him about just who it was she saw dumping the box.
The school bus had left long ago, so Honey had to call Tom to come pick them up. As they were waiting for him, they held their meeting and quickly discussed the case. They all asked Trixie why she didn't tell Mr. Stratton about Jason.
She blushed, surprising herself somewhat. "I didn't want to get him in trouble." Quite a few eyebrows raised at that, so she continued, "He seems like a really nice guy. Maybe he has a reasonable explanation. Besides, I was with him at the dance. I don't see how he could've ran over to Mrs. Von Trammel, taken the cashbox, dumped it somewhere else, and been back to talk to me in the short time between when the lights went out and we started walking towards Dan."
"That's just what I was wondering. But he must know something if he was the one who dumped the box," Honey pointed out.
"So we'll just have to find out what he knows," Di put in.
"And how do we do that?" Mart asked. "If he's hiding something like this from us, after pretending to help us with the case, I don't think he's going to come forward now."
Tom pulled up then and all talk of the case halted.
The next day at lunch time, Trixie finished her lunch quickly and quietly. The others talked about how much trouble they got in at home for getting detention. They also talked about whether or not they should say anything to Jason. Di felt guilty about the whole thing. She'd been afraid to talk to him in homeroom that morning and hated having to avoid him.
Trixie excused herself quickly from the Bob-White table and went to find Jason. He gave her a huge smile as she approached the table where he was sitting with some of his friends. "Hi Jason," she said somewhat timidly now that she was actually there. She looked around and noticed Megan Thompson sitting at a nearby table, once again giving her a dirty jealous glare. She also noticed four Bob-Whites staring at her. One with an astonished look, two with encouraging looks, and the fourth with a rather confused look. She turned her attention back to Jason.
"Hi, Trixie!" Jason jokingly pushed his buddy Mark Greer off his chair, and then pulled the chair closer to him, patting the seat. "Why don't you sit down and join me?" he asked.
Mark was still on the ground sputtering but laughing. "Don't mind me, I'll just go sit somewhere else, I guess!"
Trixie smiled at the antics, but couldn't bring herself to laugh. Now that she was over here she really didn't know what to say. Hey Jason, why did you steal the money? crossed her mind, but that seemed a bit over the top, even to her. Especially since she was certain he hadn't stolen the money. Where did you find the cashbox and why did you throw it away? No, not in front of all his friends. "That's okay. I just came by to say hi."
"So I can have my chair back, then?" Mark asked no one in particular as he pulled the chair much further away from Jason and sat back down to finish his lunch.
Jason and Trixie ignored him. "So, hi! Umm, sure you won't sit down for a bit?" Jason asked again hopefully. He wasn't sure what kind of vibes he was getting from her. It seemed like one minute she liked him and one minute she didn't. Her coming over here definitely seemed like a good sign to him, though.
"Actually, I was wondering if you could come to our meeting tonight?"
"A meeting?" he asked hesitantly. "As in a Bob-White meeting? Well, sure. I'd be honored."
"Great," she said, forcing some enthusiasm in her voice. She gave him details about when and where to meet and then headed back to her normal table.
"Another emergency Bob-White meeting, immediately after detention," she hissed out just as the bell rang and they had to go back to class.
"You bet there is," Mart agreed.
Trixie dreaded English that afternoon, mostly because of the detention time she would have to serve after that horrible class ended. Mr. Farmer also seemed to be in an especially foul mood. Each student had to take turns writing the spelling words on the chalkboard and today was Trixie's turn. Maybe it was because she was thinking too much about Jason and the case, and also about Jim and what she would say to him when he called on Sunday, but as she walked past Mr. Farmer's desk she accidentally knocked over a picture frame he had sitting on the corner of it.
The glass shattered all over the floor causing those who were already starting to doze off in the back of the room to suddenly wake up again. Trixie hurriedly bent down to start to clean up the mess, carefully removing the glass off of the top of the photo so she could hand it to Mr. Farmer. He glared at her as she handed him the now scratched up picture of a young girl, about sixteen years old, with blonde hair and blue eyes. She flushed under his accusing stare, but continued to clean up the glass as best she could. In a voice as calm as he could muster, Mr. Farmer asked her to step aside and let the janitors take care of it. He muttered something about liability suits and then put the picture in his drawer. Trixie saw a paper in the top drawer that had a list of names and grades, but it didn't look like a regular grade sheet. The names "Sullivan" and "Thompson" had caught her attention and her eyes widened. Did this have something to do with either Jason or Megan? Mr. Farmer slammed the drawer shut, and she hurriedly turned back toward the chalkboard before he caught her looking .
Later that afternoon, the Bob-Whites tried to communicate silently with their eyes during detention time. They failed miserably. As soon as their thirty minutes were up, they jumped on each other outside the door. Trixie whistled and held up her hands. The babble stopped for all of two seconds and started up again. Again, Trixie whistled "bob-white" and they quieted down.
"Gleeps! One at a time, puh-leeze!" she cried.
"So did you find out something else? Did Jason tell you anything at lunch?" Honey asked excitedly.
"What's the big idea with all the drama?" Mart asked right after. "I thought we were working on this case together."
"Ok, Trixie, spill whatever you've got," Dan added.
Di nodded. "All that goes for me too. Except the drama part. So what did you find out?"
"Nothing yet," Trixie answered calmly. "You were all talking about what to say to Jason, or if we should even talk to Jason. So I invited Jason to come talk to us."
"Of course," Dan smiled.
"We need to meet him outside the library in about two minutes. Let's go, shall we?"
Jason was already sitting at a table in the quad, not far from the library doors, when the Bob-Whites came up.
"Hi, Jason," Trixie greeted. "Thanks for meeting with us."
"I'm feeling a little nervous," he smiled. "I get the feeling I'm not invited as a guest, so to speak."
"What makes you say that?" Mart asked innocently, while shooting darts with his eyes.
"Look, before you say whatever you have to say, I may as well just confess." Jason looked around at the somber faces of the people he hoped he could call friends.
"Confessions are good," Honey said quietly. Everyone else just stared at him, waiting.
"You found the box, didn't you?" he asked.
"I thought you were going to confess, not ask questions," Trixie replied somewhat harshly, with her arms crossed against her chest and her foot tapping impatiently.
"I should've told you yesterday." He looked down at the ground. "I found the box in my brother's backpack, already empty. I think he must've been the one who took the money. I asked him about it, but he refused to admit anything to me. Frankly, I'm glad I found it before Mr. Stratton did."
"Who's your brother?" Honey asked kindly.
"His name's David. He's a senior."
"David Sullivan's your brother? He doesn't look a thing like you," Mart commented.
"Brian doesn't look like you either," Di pointed out.
"True enough," Mart admitted. "So you're saying that the varsity quarterback stole the cash?"
"Yeah, that's what I'm saying," Jason admitted. "And of course he won't listen to anything his little brother has to say about it."
"What did he need the money for?" Dan demanded.
"Was it for drugs?" Mart asked disgustedly.
"Drugs?" Jason thought back to his brothers behavior. "Do you mean like steroids or do you mean like marajuana?"
"Either," Mart replied.
"I've never known David to take any kind of drugs. He's all into this 'my body is a temple' sort of philosophy. He doesn't even like to take aspirin." Jason grinned, then his face sobered again.
"So what is your theory, Trixie?" Honey asked, knowing Trixie had probably already figured something else out.
"Is it possible he has to, um, buy his grades to stay on the team?" she asked.
"I suppose it is possible," Jason admitted after a few moments of thought. "I know his marks aren't that good, and I think he has to maintain a B average. I never see him study though."
"So do you think he's paying someone to do his homework?" Di asked.
Trixie shook her head. "I'm honestly not sure. I'm just trying to figure out why he would need the money."
"You're trying to establish motive," Mart commented.
"I'll try to ask him, but like I've said, we're not that close. I doubt he'll tell me anything," Jason said. He looked around at the group. "So am I forgiven for holding out on you?"
"I have to think about it."
"What about the shirt?"
"Huh?" Jason replied to the five responses given all at once. "What about what shirt, Trixie?"
"The red shirt you wore the night of the dance. When was it ripped?" Trixie asked again.
"My shirt's fine. Why do you think it got ripped?" Jason was very confused.
Trixie fished the fabric out of her jacket pocket. "This is from your shirt, isn't it?" she asked again, handing him the small scrap.
Jason looked at it closely. "No, it's not. But it might be from my brother's. We actually both own shirts from the same fabric. My mom likes to sew, and she buys fabric in bulk. Everyone in the house has a shirt this color," he explained. "Anyway, I can check his closet tonight. So, where did you get this?"
"I picked it up off the fence," Dan explained. "I thought it was from Trixie's dress."
"The fence?" Understanding dawned on his face. "Oh, after the dance."
"By the way," Mart smiled and his cheeks flushed a little, "did you happen to eat any donuts yesterday morning?"
"Yeah, why?" Jason asked, confused again at the sudden change in questions.
"Powdered sugar?" Di put in with a smirk.
"Um, yeah. Again, why?"
"Just curious," Mart stated.
"Mart thought it was cocaine," Dan teased. "He should've asked me first before handing it in to Sergeant Molinson. Besides, you'd think Mart would recognize something food related right away!"
Mart flushed, and was about to tease back, when he realized Dan was right. Dan was the one Bob-White who probably knew more about drugs than anyone their age, or any age, should know. He decided to let it drop and ask him more about that shady past at some other time.
"Who's your English teacher this term?" Trixie asked.
"Boy, these questions sure do come out of the blue," Jason shook his head amusedly. "I have Mrs. Peterson. Third period. I can give you my whole schedule if you like." His eyes twinkled merrily as he thought of Trixie walking him to class the rest of the year.
"How about your brother?" she asked, ignoring the slight teasing
Jason thought briefly. "I think he has Mr. Farmer. Why?"
"I have Mr. Farmer, too. When I saw the grade book on his desk, he seemed kind of nervous. And then today I saw a sheet of paper in his desk drawer that had a bunch of names and grades. The name Sullivan caught my attention."
"When did all this happen?" Honey asked.
"On Monday I saw the gradebook, and today I saw the other paper. It might be nothing, but I'd really like to get another look at that paper."
"I can't picture him leaving something lying around on or in his desk for you or any other students to see," Dan commented. "Unless you were already snooping?"
"No, I was not snooping," Trixie defended herself, her temper ready to flare. "I just happened to notice these things."
"Okay, okay, I take it back," Dan teased. "You were not snooping."
"Shouldn't we take this information to Mr. Stratton? I really don't feel like getting more detention," Di commented quietly.
"Tell Mr. Stratton that I suspect Mr. Farmer is selling grades? He'll laugh right in our faces without more proof," Trixie replied.
Jason looked at Trixie questioningly. "Selling grades? That's a pretty serious accusation."
"Trixie's hunches are usually right," Honey piped up.
"She's right, you know," Mart agreed. "If Mr. Farmer is selling grades, it could be why your brother needed the money. If he's even the one who actually stole it."
"Honey, do you think you can come over after school today? There's still tons of stuff we just have to talk about and I haven't really had a chance to talk with you alone all week," Trixie told her friend the next morning on their way to homeroom.
"Actually, I think I'm still in trouble for getting detention. Daddy was pretty upset about it and he said I'm supposed to come right home from school for the rest of the week," replied Honey. "But the horses still need exercising, so maybe we can go riding together?"
"Any chance I can ride Jupiter?" Trixie asked hopefully. It had been over a year since her first and last ride on the beautiful black gelding, and even though she loved Susie most, she still wanted to try riding Jupiter.
"You can ask Regan if you want to," Honey said with a frown. "Me, I won't go near him."
"Who, the horse, or Regan?" Trixie asked with a wink.
"I meant Jupiter!" Honey laughed. "I just don't have the strength in my wrists to handle him unless he's in a good mood. Anyway, my parents are going to some sort of charity auction tonight, so maybe after exercising the horses I can talk Miss Trask into letting you stay for supper."
"I'll have to see if that's okay with Moms, first. She's not too thrilled about the detention either, but compared to some of the other scrapes I've been in, this seems pretty mild to her."
Trixie waited impatiently all day. English just had to be last! To her classmates' surprise, Trixie was already sitting at her desk before most of them even arrived. They were much more used to her running in right as the bell rang. Once roll had been called and the class was working quietly on the grammar lesson, Trixie approached Mr. Farmer's desk.
"Can I help you with something, Miss Belden?" the teacher asked curtly.
Trixie purposefully took her time, stumbling and stuttering so as to stall, as she tried discreetly to see what exactly Mr. Farmer was working on. "I was just, uh, well, I was wondering if maybe, um ..."
"What is it? Just spit it out. Contrary to popular belief, I won't bite your head off."
Trixie was surprised by the smile that played at the corners of his wrinkled old face.
"Well, I know I'm not doing that good in this class and I really want to keep my grades up so I can join the girls' basketball team. The try-outs are just a few weeks away, right after the quarterly grades come out. I have to have a 3.0 average, and I know I won't make it if I don't get some help. I was wondering if you could tutor me, or know anyone else who might."
"Hmm, yes, we could definitely look into something like that," he looked up at her kindly. "Are you very good at basketball? Not to be rude, but I always thought basketball players were much taller."
Trixie successfully repressed the retort that sprung to her mind and kept her voice calm. "Yes, sir, I am actually pretty good. I spend a lot of my free time outdoors shooting hoops."
"Let's talk about it more after class." He waved his hand to dismiss her and went back to his papers.
Trixie fidgeted in her seat for the rest of the period. She had gotten a good look at the papers he had been grading. Fortunately, the senior class was right before hers, and just by sheer luck she saw David Sullivan's paper. She thought it had an awful lot of red marks on it to warrant giving him a B. Her suspicions were growing stronger. The bell rang and most of the students noisily ran out the door. Trixie stayed seated.
"So, Miss Belden," Mr. Farmer looked at her through his wire rim glasses, "your main problems are spelling and grammar."
"I think with just a little bit extra study time, you would probably do just fine. However, if you are unable to push yourself to study more, a tutor would help by making you stick to a discplined schedule. Of course, tutors do tend to charge for their time, sometimes as much as ten dollars per hour. That can be quite expensive for many of our students." He looked thoughtfully at Trixie. "You live out in the country though, don't you? Your parents must be pretty well off to afford one of those estates out there."
Trixie decided not to correct him. Maybe if he thinks I'm rich, he'll offer to just sell me a good grade, she thought. "I don't think money's a problem. Finding the time is. I still have to practice or I won't make the team, plus I have to exercise the horses and have other chores also."
"Well, somehow you will have to find the time. Not just to study, but if you want to be tutored, when do you expect to find time for that? Kids these days, they want everything just handed to them on a plate." He shook his head disgustedly, then continued, "I'm sorry, Trixie, but unless you're willing to make the time, I don't see how I can help you." Mr. Farmer looked at her seriously. "If you do want my help, I'm usually available during first period and also after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you'd rather work with someone else, or can't manage those times, I believe there's a list of tutors in the counselor's office."
"Okay," Trixie nodded. "I'll talk to my parents tonight about it and see if we can work out a schedule. I can let you know tomorrow. I have to run and catch the bus now though, or I'll be in heaps of trouble with Moms." Trixie gathered up her books and ran out the door, thinking about the conversation. It didn't sound like he was the type to sell grades, but maybe that was just a cover. I hope I can talk this all out with Honey this afternoon, she thought. I feel like there's still something missing, and if I can just find the right puzzle piece, it will all fit together.
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