01. June 2022 · Comments Off on VIRTUAL ASSISTANT · Categories: ---


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19. October 2020 · Comments Off on FRANKIE IN THE FOREST · Categories: ---

By Harriet Darling

Frankie got a hundred on his spelling test just before vacation. But he had some work to do on his state capitals. He brought his geography book home but he didn’t have time to think about schoolwork when his family all piled into the car.

Corky, Frankie’s best friend, sat beside him in the back seat. Frankie was eight last month so he sat beside the window without a booster seat. Beside the other window was little Nancy, who had to sit in a car seat because she was only five years old. Corky was almost two.

At the park, Dad asked a ranger for a map to where they would camp. When the car stopped, Frankie pulled the door open and Corky jumped out and ran toward the trees. Before Dad could stop him, Frankie was chasing the dog. He was quickly lost in the big forest.

Frankie was usually good at finding his way home. But he hadn’t seen much of the campsite before Corky took off. So he wasn’t sure he and his buddy could get back before dinner. He really didn’t want to miss Mom’s chocolate pudding.

When he caught Corky, Frankie knew they had to find their way back to the car. Frankie and Corky ran between two people who were running. They stopped and asked if they could help him.

“I think I’m lost,” he said, and Corky woofed. “Do you know where my family is?”

They shook their heads, but they had a map. They told Frankie how to get to the camp area and he listened very carefully. But when they jogged away, he forgot what they said.

Then he saw a teenage girl sitting under a tree. She said her name was Angie but she didn’t know where his family was. She agreed to walk with him to the edge of the woods. When they found the road, he looked all around but didn’t see Dad’s car. He held Corky’s collar and waved goodbye to Angie as she walked back into the woods.

Frankie and his dog walked along the path beside the forest. They met a short bald man coming the other way. The man grinned at Frankie and asked, “What do you need, my young friend?”

Frankie asked the man where his family was, but Corky barked at the man and he ran off before answering.

How would he find his family again? Frankie sat down under a tree. He saw Corky sniff at a bush near him, and suddenly he had an idea. He should let Corky find his family. Dogs were good at smelling people, Frankie knew.

He asked Corky, “Where’s Nancy?” and Corky ran off. Frankie hurried along after him and it wasn’t long at all before Corky was jumping up to slurp little Nancy’s grinning chocolaty face.

Mom said, “I’m glad you got back in time for dinner, Frankie. Do you want whipped cream on your chocolate pudding?”

19. October 2020 · Comments Off on ADELE’S TIARA · Categories: ---

By Harriet Darling

When Henry Modari, President of the land of Genequa and a billionaire three times over, and his wife Eve, found they were going to have a baby, Eve’s sister set out to give her a baby shower, and invited everyone she could think of, from both sides of the family, as well as the wives of all the politicians in the land. The baby shower was a terrific surprise to Eve, and she was thrilled that so many of Henry’s family had come, all bearing wonderful gifts for the fortunate child.

“It’s a girl!” Eve informed them. “We have an ultrasound. Would you like to see it?”

Of course all the ladies at the shower wanted to see the unborn child’s photograph, and it was passed from hand to hand. About halfway around the circle, it reached Henry’s two great-aunts, Dianna and Alice Modari. They were considered spinsters as neither had ever married, and to Eve they did seem ancient. But she smiled at their enthusiastic cries about the child’s beauty, sweetness, and loveliness.

“I’m so glad you’re happy, Aunt Dianna and Aunt Alice. We agree that our child, Adele, will be beautiful, sweet, and lovely. She will be a most fortunate child.”

When the ultrasound photos had made the rounds, Eve settled back to open the gifts her friends and family had brought. Her sister, Emma, sat beside her and recorded each gift and its donor. After at least a dozen gifts had been opened, revealing christening gowns, silver spoons, and crystal picture frames, a beautifully-wrapped box was brought to Eve and identified as being from Aunt Dianna and Aunt Alice.

Eve smiled at them and opened it carefully. The tiara she lifted from the cloud of tissue was golden, and sparkled with gemstones. Emma recorded the gift, and then Eve turned to her husband’s great-aunts. “I’m speechless,” she said, shaking her head. “But this gift is far too expensive, and surely it’s too big and too mature for a tiny baby.”

But Aunt Dianna grinned, her multitude of wrinkles making her face seem like a many-times folded piece of paper. “Ah,” she said, “but it isn’t too big. And of course it isn’t too expensive; Adele will be the first female in our family since we ourselves were born, nearly a hundred years ago. So nothing is too good for her.

“And as for being too mature, this is a very special piece of jewelry. It is a magical tiara,” Dianna said. “It has a mystical power. It will make our sweet Adele more beautiful, smarter, and richer every day she wears it.”

As Eve stared at her in shock, the other great-aunt, Alice, smiled benignly around at the circle of ladies. She looked at Eve and said, “Sweetheart, my gift to the child is simply a promise. If Adele should ever lose that tiara, and with it all her beauty, wit and riches, she will gain a pure, loving heart in their place.”

Eve and her sister Emma didn’t quite know what to make of these gifts. But since Henry hadn’t seen his great-aunts for many years, and knew very little about them, the parents accepted the gift at its face value – a beautiful tiara with seven large, stunning gems set in it. There were two rubies, two emeralds, two sapphires, and a large diamond set in the center. And of course it was made of pure gold.


Little Adele grew up to be spoiled rotten, and being so much smarter, prettier and richer than anyone else, she became an unbelievably proud, vain, selfish, cold-hearted little tyrant. She was generally a completely unbearable pain to everyone except her doting parents. She went through maids and nannies like they were water, and the Modaris had to pay the new maids and nannies more and more to get them to stay. But no matter how much money they received, almost none of them stayed longer than a few months. The one exception was Francis, a stout, elderly woman with a very gentle and generous disposition. By the child’s fourteenth birthday, Francis had been with Adele for four months.

Adele had no friends, either. Her mother, Eve, played games with her when she could, and she demanded that the maid and the nanny also play with her, but these games were not particularly merry. Adele insisted on winning any game, whether her opponents were better players than she or not. She also demanded to be read to, since she had never bothered to learn to read.

One day, shortly after she turned fourteen, Adele became bored with her video games, her dolls, her jewelry, and her beautiful clothes.

“I want to see the world beyond the mansion walls,” she told her nanny, Francis. The tiara given to her by Great-Aunt Dianna was her favorite piece of jewelry, and she wore it constantly. It seemed to Adele, who had been told all about the baby shower by her mother, that the claim Aunt Dianna had made of the tiara’s magic must be true. It had grown along with the girl since it was first put on her head, when she was just a year old; it always fit her perfectly. She had never been allowed to leave the mansion before her fourteenth birthday, so as to protect the gems and the tiara.

When she decided to escape, Adele insisted on dressing in a beautiful sapphire-blue velvet gown. She drew on pristine white gloves and stepped into blue satin stiletto heels. She had Francis fix her lovely blonde hair in ringlets. She was a vision of beauty, and she was well aware of it.

She told Francis, “I know my parents will not allow me to leave by the front door. So I must figure out how to leave without their knowledge.”

After she’d scoped out the possibilities without telling Francis, the little rich girl successfully escaped her suite of rooms by climbing out onto the terrace and hanging from it. It was only two floors up, so she hastily let go and dropped to the grassy mound beneath. She happened to crush an entire bed of her mother’s spring flowers, but that didn’t bother her.

She walked down the curved driveway to the road that ran a hundred yards in front of the house, and proceeded to get lost in her upper-class neighborhood, Castle Creek. Before she realized she had lost her way, she had come upon a lovely, rapidly flowing stream, in a still pool of which she saw a perfect reflection of her face. As she gazed down into the still water to admire her beauty, the magical tiara fell from her head and into the stream which swirled away, and the tiara was lost.

Immediately, Adele was a plain middle-class teenager, her rich velvet gown now a dull cotton house dress, her hair straight and stringy around her ears, and her feet bare. She had forgotten everything about herself. She looked around, wondering where she was, where she was supposed to be, and who she was. She set off walking, knowing nothing else that might help.

She wandered deeper into the neighborhood, unable to remember anything, and before long, an old woman called Edwina, who picked up stray cats all the time, found her wandering the streets. Out of pity for the ragged, seemingly homeless child, Edwina took her into her own home and let her live with her and feed her cats. She called the girl Catrina.


Catrina, who had been Adele, now possessed a kind and loving heart. Happy to care for the many cats in Edwina’s home, she cleaned up after them, cooked lovely meals for them, and made herself truly welcome. She was most grateful for what little the old lady could offer her, a stray, homeless amnesiac, and was happy to live in her humble two-bedroom home, nestled between two great mansions in the Castle Creek neighborhood.

Adele’s parents, of course, were horrified to learn of the disappearance of their beloved daughter. They sent an email message to all their friends and acquaintances, saying that should anyone succeed in locating their daughter, that person would be richly rewarded. He would become engaged to Adele, and receive half her father’s billions. Included in the email was a photo of her at her fourteenth birthday party, a beautiful blond girl with sparkling blue eyes and a sneering grin.

One rich young man, who had heard about Adele’s great beauty and matchless wit, had fallen for her from afar. His name was Perry Hamilton, and he was eighteen and darkly handsome. He was the eldest son of a world-famous actress and her husband, an award-winning playwright. Perry was determined to find Adele, and with his chauffeur, traveled far and wide seeking her. But everyone they spoke to said that the rotten little rich girl could just as well stay lost.

“She don’t sound much like a rich bitch,” Hank the chauffeur commented. “She sounds more like my cousin Amy the Terrible, who makes everyone’s life miserable.”

But Perry chided him. “You’d better keep your opinions to yourself, Hank. Adele is entitled to be a little bit self-involved. She’s young, and she has so much. She just needs to do a little growing up.”

Hank shrugged, and drove on. Finally, after a long search in and around the city, Perry and his limousine came to Castle Creek, the upper-class neighborhood in which Adele’s family had their mansion. Since he assumed she would have been able to find her way home from anywhere in that neighborhood, he nearly allowed the driver to pass by. But he had a hunch, and they drove in to the neighborhood of Castle Creek.

Against the chauffer’s objections, Perry got out of the car to walk around but quickly got lost in the unfamiliar streets. As he wandered, trying to find his way back to his limo, he happened to see something sparkle off the sunlight, beside Castle Creek. It was a golden circlet, which had washed up on the river bank and now sat, glittering in the sun.

He picked up the circlet and studied it. He was certain it was the tiara he had heard about, the “crown” that Adele had worn all her life. Tired and lost, he set off again and happened upon the old cat woman’s house. Gardening in her front yard, Edwina saw him, and liked his looks and his manner. “Please,” she said, “you look exhausted. Stay with us. You can sleep on the sofa with some of my kitties until you feel rested enough to continue your journey.”

He agreed and spent a few days there, and met the sweet, plain young Catrina. He soon learned that the plain girl had a gentle, loving heart. It was then that he realized he was no longer interested in the little rich girl, Adele. But he had her tiara. When he got around to calling the Modaris from Edwina’s home, he told them, “I believe I have found your daughter’s tiara.”

“Please describe it, young man,” Henry said distantly. There had been a good many calls like this one. When he heard the description, though, he was thrilled: it was most definitely Adele’s tiara. “Bring it to us this very afternoon, if you would be so kind.”

He said he would, and collected his things. He had gotten in touch with his chauffeur some days before, and the limo driver came to collect him and bring him to the Modari mansion. Perry told Edwina and Catrina, “I promise you I will return soon.”


Henry and Eve were understandably overjoyed at the return of the tiara. Henry told his wife, “I know it would only fit our daughter’s head. We will send an email message to our friends and family, and all the President’s cabinet, that every girl of the correct age must come here to the mansion to be fitted for it.”

As expected, a great number of candidates arrived at the mansion over the next few days. The tiara was passed from head to head, but fit no one. Perry, who had been provided a room in the mansion and would by rights win half the Modari fortune if they found her with his assistance, by now had had enough of all this.

“I will only stay until sunset today,” he told Henry and Eve. “If your daughter is not found by then, I must leave.” He was eager to return to Catrina, whom he now knew he loved.

As the sun set below the horizon, Perry left the Modari home, climbed into his limo and headed toward Edwina’s house. As luck would have it, he saw the plain, young girl, Catrina, on the road leading toward the mansion. He was very happy to see the kind and humble girl he had met in the little house.

“Catrina,” he called, “get in the limo and we’ll drive you to the mansion.”

Once she sat beside him, he took her hand and swore to her, “Promised or not, fortune or not, should cruel Adele ever be found, I will not accept her hand but instead will marry you, gentle Catrina.”

In the end, of course, the tiara did fit Catrina, and she transformed back into the Adele of old, with her memories and all her beauty, intelligence, and riches restored. When Perry learned this, he was horrified. He couldn’t help but recall the general consensus of the people he had spoken to as he’d searched for her. He was distressed, believing that Adele was once again the hard-hearted, selfish girl he had heard she was, and that his gentle, sweet Catrina had vanished forever.

But Adele’s heart had permanently thawed, and when she recognized her parents she fell down on her knees and, teary-eyed, begged forgiveness from them, and from her nanny Francis, for every cruel deed she had ever committed. The people rejoiced, and Perry, now a billionaire in his own right, was very happy to agree to marry her, his true beloved.

19. October 2020 · Comments Off on A PIXIE CALLED EMERALD · Categories: --- · Tags:

By Harriet Darling

A young pixie called Emerald was on his way home after finishing his job helping a sick child. It was a hot day so he decided to cut through a section of the forest that looked nice and shady. “It’ll just take a few minutes,” he assured himself. “Nothing can happen to me in just a few minutes.”

But as he started onto the path through the trees, the sun went behind a cloud and the leaf-laden branches hanging over the path cut off the warmth and light that had been there just a moment before.

Emerald, the pixie, now shivering a little from the abrupt cold, stopped short and whispered, “Oh, no.” He wondered if he should keep walking, or turn back. “Oh, there’s nothing here that can hurt me,” he told himself sternly. “It’s only trees, and I love trees.”

A dead log lay beside the path just ahead, and Emerald saw an indentation in the log where he might sit if he were tired. “But I’m not tired,” he murmured as if explaining to someone. He kept walking, but just as he passed the indentation, a large brown and green thing suddenly burst out of the log and flew straight into Emerald’s face, screeching loudly and flapping pea-green translucent wings.

After screaming in terror, Emerald calmed down a bit and assured himself, “It’s only a wood nymph.”  But he was actually terrified; the creature was twice his size, and fluttered far too close to his face, laughing and pointing at him.

He could hear the gravelly voice of the nymph jeering at him: “Little pixie, the woods are no place for you! This is my domain, I’m the one in charge here, and you are not welcome!”

Emerald squeezed his eyes shut and told himself, “That is not true; the wood nymph only belongs in tree trunks and dead logs; she is not in charge of the entire forest! She cannot hurt me, and she has no business threatening me!”

But in spite of this seeming confidence, Emerald knew that at least the nymph could flutter around his face and perhaps cause him to stumble, or fall into a hole or off a cliff. She did have a certain amount of power over a pixie. Even the fairies steered clear of wood nymphs despite their magic, which was usually strong enough to conquer most any other forest creature.

The only ones who could walk fearlessly through the forest were the elves, who were taller and stronger than any of the other magical creatures of the forest. But Emerald was no elf.

The next thing the little pixie knew, he was out of the shaded trees and running just as fast as he could on the path, which was now sunlit once again. In explanation to no one, Emerald muttered as he ran, “This is why I stay out of forests. Now let’s hurry on home before that creature comes after me.”

And he ran all the rest of the way home.


19. May 2018 · Comments Off on THE STOLEN NECKLACE · Categories: ---

People aren’t always as honest as they seem, even when you’ve known them a long time. After her best friend Grace’s birthday party, 17-year-old Amy Watkins stood at her parents’ front door and kissed Walt Emerson goodnight. He was not a terribly interesting date, but she’d known him for years and he was safe. She staggered up the stairs to her bedroom and sank down in front of her vanity, barely able to keep her eyes open. Shutting them for just a moment, she thought about the party and daydreamed about how much she’d enjoyed Grace’s big brother’s attentions to her. He was a real hunk, which she’d never expected of Grace, and he’d seemed quite interested in her. His name was Hank Patterson, and at 6’2, he stood eight inches taller than she, just the right height for a dance partner.

Her next thought was about Greg Kaczynski, another young man at the party who had shown an interest in her. He was the same height as Hank, but there the resemblance ended. Greg had reddish-blond curly hair and twinkling blue eyes, compared to Hank’s dark brown hair and brooding brown eyes.

Turning to the mirror to gaze at her reflection, she had to agree with her two best friends that she’d looked tremendous earlier. Her own mahogany-hued hair and hazel eyes had been beautifully enhanced by the deep green satin dress her mom had helped her pick out. And the necklace and earrings had been the perfect jewelry to wear with the ensemble.

Smiling to herself, she reached for her hairbrush to begin getting ready for bed. She recalled, with a guilty pleasure, the envious looks she’d gotten from Rita Jackson, her “frenemy,” when the girl had walked into Grace’s living room. Amy reached back to unhook the necklace but her fingers couldn’t find the clasp. Then she realized there was no clasp — and no necklace! Her necklace was gone!

Her necklace was made up of a strand of cultured pearls with a pear-shaped emerald pendant, two and a half carats in weight. It had been left to Amy by her aunt when she died last year. The stone was framed by two rows of glittering diamonds, and her aunt had told her it was worth nearly $6,000. Each of the graceful, sophisticated earrings, worth $5,000, had a pearl from which dropped a half-carat emerald, surrounded by micropavé diamonds. Ever since she’d gotten them, Amy had yearned for a place to wear them.

She cried out and then began to sob until her younger sister, Belinda, rushed in from her room across the hall. “What’s the matter, Amy? Are you hurt?” 14-year-old Belinda exclaimed. She ran over to her sister and threw her arms around her. “What happened, Amy?” she asked.

After weeping brokenly for a few minutes, Amy was able to stammer out, “My necklace!” She clutched at her throat. “It’s gone!”

Her brow furrowed in confusion, Belinda drew back to look at Amy’s neck. It was true, she saw, there was no necklace there. Belinda had watched Amy getting dressed earlier that evening, and knew she’d worn the pearl and emerald necklace. “Did you lose it?” she asked, trying very hard not to sound judgmental.

“No, I didn’t lose it,” Amy said. “I think someone must have stolen it.”

“Who could have done that?” Belinda asked with a frown. “Did you take it off and put it down somewhere? Was the clasp broken? Or did someone hold you up with a gun? You’re still wearing the earrings. So if someone stole the necklace, they didn’t get the earrings, too. Should we call the police?”

“No!” Amy cried. “I don’t know how it got stolen. I was wearing it the last time I looked in a mirror at about 11, when I went into the bathroom to check my hair. So it was taken between 11 and 1 o’clock, when I walked in the front door. I know the clasp was all right so it didn’t fall off, and no one held me up at gunpoint. I never took it off this evening. Ever!” She turned away, put her head down on her fists and began weeping again.

After a moment, Belinda, trying hard to be logical, asked, “So who did you dance with? Could one of your partners have unhooked the necklace while you were dancing with him?”

Amy shrugged and shook her head; she hadn’t thought of that. “But none of my partners would have done that!” she exclaimed. “And I only danced with Greg and Hank. And I’m sure they wouldn’t steal from me.”

“Are you sure those are the only boys you danced with?” Belinda asked. She took a tissue from the box on the vanity and handed it to her big sister. “Did you dance with Grace’s father, maybe? Or what about your date, Walt? Surely you danced with him.”

“Hmm,” Amy pondered. “You’re right. I did dance with Walt, and I danced with Grace’s dad, too. And Mr. Allen cut in on Hank, I remember.”

“Who’s Mr. Allen?” Belinda asked. By now Amy had begun undressing, and had washed her face. The two of them sat on Amy’s bed while Belinda tried to get her big sister to focus and help her to figure out how she might have lost the necklace.

“Mr. Allen was my English teacher last year,” Amy said. “But Mr. Allen wouldn’t have stolen my necklace; he’s a teacher!”

“Well, Amy, let’s sleep on it,” Belinda said. “I’ll figure out who stole your necklace, and Felicity and I will get it back for you.” She waited until her sister was under the covers, and stayed in the room until she saw that Amy had begun to relax.

Back in her own bedroom, Belinda sat at her desk and wrote out a list which she headed “Suspects.” She decided she’d better wait until morning to call her best friend, Felicity. The two of them could work on solving the theft when they were both fresh. Amy could tell them a little more after breakfast.

Belinda lay in her own bed and her dreams, though she didn’t really remember them all in the morning, were about digging holes in the backyard, and searching her mother’s and her sister’s drawers, though in the dream she didn’t know just what she was looking for.

After breakfast, while Amy slept in, Belinda called Felicity. “Come on over,” she said, “we have a mystery to solve!”

“A mystery?” Felicity asked. “What are you talking about?”

“Amy’s necklace was stolen last night, and we have to find the thief! Come over right now and we’ll go over my list of suspects.”

When Felicity arrived just ten minutes later, the two girls sat down at Belinda’s desk and talked over how they planned to solve this mystery.

“The first thing we should do,” Felicity suggested, “is interview Grace. She threw the party, and she should know everyone who was there. We can interview all the people at the party.”

“Interview them about what?” Belinda asked. “Amy told me she danced with a guy named Greg Kaczynski and with Grace’s brother, Hank. Do you think we should just come right out and ask them if they took the necklace? And if we don’t ask that, would they tell us if they had?”

The two girls looked at one another, and then Belinda said, “Amy also danced with Grace’s dad, with her date, and with Mr. Allen, her high school English teacher. So we have, what, five suspects?”

“And what was a high school English teacher doing at a teenage girl’s birthday party?” Belinda asked. Felicity shrugged, and agreed they would need to interview each of those people. “But who else could have stolen the necklace?”

“I think Amy said something about a jealous girl named Rita,” Belinda said. “She might have done it. Or she might have seen something. So that’s six people to interview. And if we count Grace,” Felicity said, “that would be seven. Seven witnesses; that’s a lot.”

“Well,” Felicity said, “that’s a good list to start with. I don’t think we should try to interview everyone who was there – that’s about twenty-five people. Who should we talk to first?”

When they got off their bikes and knocked on Grace’s door a half-hour later, she told them, “Oh, yes, I remember her necklace. It’s stunning! I had to compliment Amy on it. I told my boyfriend Aaron I want one just like it. Or at least similar, since I don’t wear pearls, and green doesn’t look good on a blonde. So my necklace will be a sapphire — well, not a real sapphire; I doubt Aaron can afford that. And I don’t have pierced ears so I can’t get a pair like Amy’s. But my necklace will be almost as beautiful as hers. Don’t you think so, Belinda?”

Belinda smiled and nodded, though she doubted anything Grace’s dopey boyfriend might buy would be anywhere near as beautiful as Amy’s necklace. Then she asked if they could talk to Grace’s dad. “Sure; he’s just upstairs,” Grace said, and called him.

When her father came downstairs, Belinda asked if he had noticed Amy’s necklace. He frowned and shook his head. “No, of course not. I’m a man, and we men don’t care about jewelry. She did look very nice, though, and she’s a very good dancer.”

That didn’t help the girls at all so they nodded and then, just as they finished with Grace’s dad, Hank came home. Belinda asked him if he had seen the necklace and he said, “Oh, those green and white beads she wore? Sure, I saw it. It was nice. What about it?”

“Well,” Belinda asked, deciding not to correct him about the necklace’s value, “when did you see it last? After you danced with her?”

“Yeah, I guess when she and Walt left, about 2 o’clock. I noticed it because she got her hair stuck in the clasp when she was putting on her coat, and I had to help Walt unhook it for her. She’s a real nice girl, isn’t she?”

Belinda nodded, and the girls left the house. “Don’t you think that was a little suspicious?” she said. “Hank saying she caught her hair in the clasp? She didn’t say anything about that. Well, we’d better try and find out where Mr. Allen lives.”

“Oh, I know where he lives,” Felicity told her. When they arrived at his house, he answered their knock and grinned as he greeted them. Felicity said, “Mr. Allen, you don’t know me, but my brother was in your English class last year. Could we ask you a few questions about the party last night?”

“Oh, of course; come on in,” he said. “And please call me Nick. Would you like something to drink — a soda, or a glass of water?” When the girls shook their heads, he asked them to sit down and said, “So now, girls, how can I help you?”

Belinda was a little embarrassed to be asking this of a stranger, and a teacher at that. She hemmed and hawed for a moment, then said, “Well, we just wanted to ask if you remember seeing the pearl and emerald necklace my sister Amy was wearing at the party last night.”

“Oh, yes,” Nick said warmly, “I saw it. That was an emerald? You know, the emerald is almost as hard as a diamond. But maybe it was synthetic. You know, they’re making synthetic gemstones, including diamonds, that are almost as good as the real thing. And those pearls could have been synthetic, too. What do you think?”

“No, they’re real,” Belinda said confidently, and immediately was sorry she’d given away the jewelry’s value; what if he’d stolen it? He’d know that he could get a lot of money for it. “But do you recall when you saw the necklace last?”

Nick considered for a moment, and then shook his head. “No, hon. I just danced with Amy once, and then Grace’s brother cut in. But you know, now that I think of it, Walt did admire her necklace and I noticed it then. That must have been nearly midnight, and I left the party soon after. I had to get home and feed Harvey, my dog. He gets upset if he doesn’t get his dinner before my mother goes to bed.” He started to stand. “Would you like to meet my mother?”

Belinda shook her head, and indicated to Felicity that they should leave. “It was nice meeting you,” she said, extending her hand to shake his and motioning to Felicity to do the same. “And thank you for answering our questions.”

“You’re welcome, girls; I hope you find the necklace,” Mr. Allen said warmly as he shut the door behind them.

“Well,” Felicity said, getting on her bike, “do you believe him? I guess he knows now that the jewelry is valuable, but if she caught her hair in the clasp when she and Walt were leaving, that should let him off the hook. So I guess he wasn’t much help. What about that guy, Greg Kaczynski? Do you know where he lives?”

Belinda did, but when they spoke to him, Greg was no help at all. His answers to their questions were mostly, “I’m sorry, I don’t remember.” Belinda figured he’d been drinking, so he probably wouldn’t be much help. But, “I do remember one thing. When I danced with Amy, I thought her date, Walt, was gonna jump me. He had a look on his face that, I dunno, I didn’t like. If the necklace is missing, it might be he didn’t like me being so close to it. What do you think?”

The girls both shrugged and nodded with little interest and, as they walked on to Rita Jackson’s, Belinda pointed out, “We can’t really rule any of them out yet, even if Greg was drinking. He might not have had that much to drink.”

Rita lived on the same street as Greg but, when they talked to her, all they learned was what Amy had said, that Rita was envious of how lovely Amy had looked. “You know, kid,” she told Belinda, “even though you’re her little sis, you gotta know how ignorant she is. That necklace wasn’t the real thing – hah! Where’d she get anything valuable like that? So, all in all, kid, I don’t know a thing about her necklace. Okay?”

“So who else is on the list?” Felicity wondered as they stood outside Rita’s door. “Have we talked to everyone? Maybe we’ll need to expand our list of suspects since none of them so far knows much of anything.”

Belinda studied the list. She had crossed off nearly all the names. She said, “Well, there’s only Walt Emerson left. But he was Amy’s date. We’ve both known him for a few years, and I doubt he knows anything. But I guess we should check him out anyway.”

“I know where he lives. Let’s go interview him,” Felicity said.

Walt Emerson lived just a few blocks away from Rita Jackson, so the girls rode their bikes over and knocked on his door. His mother answered as she was leaving, and she invited the girls in. “Walt’s in the family room,” she said. “Go on in. I’m sorry but I have to go.”

When they walked into the family room, they saw Walt stealthily shove something under the sofa cushions. Then he stood up and frowned. “What the hell are you doing here?” he demanded.

“What are you hiding?” Belinda asked suspiciously.

“Nothing,” Walt said brusquely. “None of your business.” He stood up and walked over to a recliner and folded his arms, glaring defiantly at them.

“Well, I’m not sure it’s nothing,” Felicity said. She looked at Belinda and winked, and then she walked over to stand in front of Walt while Belinda came up beside him. While he was focused on Felicity, Belinda reached out and pushed him over into the chair. Then she turned and reached under the sofa cushion, pulling out Amy’s necklace!

“It was you!” she cried. “You stole Amy’s necklace! Why would you do that?”

Walt scoffed. “That necklace isn’t worth anything. Why would I want to steal it? My mom has a lot better costume jewelry than that.”

Belinda raised an eyebrow and studied Walt for a long moment, and then grabbed a poker from the fireplace beside her. Holding it threateningly above her head, she cried, “Felicity, I’ll hold him here; you call 911.”

While they waited for the police to arrive, Walt started to cry. Between sobs, he said, “I need money. Amy’s necklace was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, and I knew it would get me off the hook with Ed Connors.”

“Who’s Ed Connors?” Belinda asked. She lowered the poker a bit and Walt cringed. He doesn’t know me very well, she thought; I’d never use it on a person.

“He’s a bookie my mom uses,” Walt explained brokenly. “I bet on the last game of the pennant race, when Mom was so sure the Mets would win. She wouldn’t give me any money to bet so I took my college fund out of the bank. But the Mets lost! And if Mom knew I’d bet and lost, she’d be furious and send me back to my dad. So I had to do something! You get it, don’t you?”

“I do not get it,” Belinda said. “All I know is you’re a thief and a deceitful fool, and you don’t deserve my sister. We’re taking the necklace back to her, and you’re not going to college, you’re going to jail.”

When the police arrived, both girls were sitting on Walt, who was still weeping helplessly. As soon as he heard the story, the officer clasped handcuffs on the boy and then dragged him off to jail.

When they got back to Belinda’s, Felicity rushed upstairs to be the first to tell Amy they’d gotten her necklace back. Belinda held back; she wasn’t sure how Amy would take the information that it had been her own date, Walt, who’d stolen her necklace. But Amy took it well. She grinned and kissed both girls, and then put the necklace on again and the three danced around the room in excitement.

A few days later a press conference was held in front of the police station, and Belinda and Felicity were awarded a special medal by the Mayor of the city. It was in all the newspapers and even on television, but Amy had asked the girls not to say too much about the necklace. She had already put it in their mom’s safety deposit box.

“We don’t want to give other potential thieves any ideas,” she told her sister.