“Why do rainy days always bring trouble? Keira Keegan certainly didn’t know. She was just five. And reading ‘War and Peace,’ of course, as beads of water dripped down the window of her room, splattering on the moist grass below. Her green eyes scanned the page as her short black hair fell across her face. Suddenly, she heard a piercing scream.”
Why do rainy days always bring trouble? Keira Keegan certainly didn’t know. She was just five. And reading War and Peace, of course, as beads of water dripped down the window of her room, splattering on the moist grass below. Her green eyes scanned the page as her short black hair fell across her face. Suddenly, she heard a piercing scream. Keira’s book dropped to the floor, and she pressed her face on the glass. A woman ran on the other side of the street, clutching a briefcase to her chest. A man chased after her, clearly trying to catch up to the fleet-footed lady. Keira realized that the man had produced the scream. Talk about an interruption, she thought and went back to her novel. But she still memorized her brief image of the speedy thief in her photographic memory, just in case. Keira was that type of person.
Quite a few years later…
Keira woke up on a certain Sunday in April to rain panging on the roof of 765 Haren Road at seven o’clock in the morning. “Darn you, sleep cycle,” she grumbled. But she resisted the urge to nap until noon and did her morning routine. As the droplets poured down, she remembered that day many years ago, with the woman and the man and the briefcase. Keira went downstairs and switched on the TV.
“We have breaking news,” Chuck Chuckerly, lead reporter on Channel 8 News said. “The famous artist Willam Magrotte has gone missing.”
Keira stood there, frozen in shock. “Welp,” she said, throwing up her hands suddenly. “Another thing that no one will be able to solve, just like all the robberies and murders before.”
An idea formed in her mind, though. Then I’ll solve this myself.
A Day Just a While Before
Willam Magrotte was working in his quarters. His apron was splattered with paint, and his immaculate mustache had a couple of specks of white on it. Another masterpiece was being born. He was just finishing up the tail of the animal on his new painting, La Vie du Chat, The Cat’s Life, when something fell in the workshop. Willam turned. The door was ajar. He saw a figure in the corner. In an instant, the artist had fallen and was bound to a chair, blindfolded and gagged.
Mrs. Jane Ellison was a stickler for rules. Obviously, she resented the reckless Keira Keegan. Keira was always getting into trouble, with her tendency to talk back. Mondays were always the worst. All of Mrs. Ellison’s seventh grade students were snippy from the early times they had to wake up, a change from the lazy weekends when they didn’t have to hit the snooze button until noon. But especially Keira.
The 8 a.m. school bell rang, and Mrs. Ellison began to take attendance. “Aaronson, Addie. Abrams, Genevieve. Barnhart, Hunter… ” all the way up to “Kaye, Theodore” and “Keegan, Kei — oh, it seems that Miss Keegan is not here with us today,” the teacher said with a smile. But at that moment, Keira walked in.
“Ah, Miss Keegan. You’re here,” Mrs. Ellison said slowly. “I was just about to print an absentee report for you. However, I guess we’ll just have to settle for a tardy slip.”
“Well, you didn’t finish saying my name, therefore I didn’t have to say ‘here,’” Keira quipped, provoking laughter from her classmates. Mrs. Ellison turned red.
“Keira Keegan,” Mrs. Ellison snapped. “Take that back this instant!”
Keira didn’t though, because the PA system crackled. “Keira Keegan, please report to the janitor’s closet. Keira Keegan, please report to the janitor’s closet. Thank you.”
“Well then, Miss Keegan. Take the hall pass. I trust you won’t be straying off anywhere?” Mrs. Ellison said.
Keira obeyed and set off to the closet, wondering why she was needed there.
The closet door was painted a drab gray shade. There was a grate on the bottom, with metal slats that provided ventilation. “That’s weird,” she mumbled to herself. “These weren’t here on Friday.” She noticed the jagged edges of the vent. A hasty job, she thought. She opened the door and stepped inside.
“Hello?” Keira called. Her voice echoed off the dirty walls. She heard a click and turned around. The door. She shook the knob. It didn’t budge. She was trapped.
Willam Magrotte heard a sound. It was more than one, really. First, the opening of the door. It startled him. The only sounds he had heard since he woke up here were the noises of a school. It was definitely a school he was in, for the loud chatters and stomping of feet and creak of lockers opening and closing and the occasional shout from a teacher were unmistakable. But back to the sounds. Willam’s enhanced hearing allowed him to detect the slightest sounds, all the way down here in what he believed was a basement. He heard a small voice ask who was there. Then, a sudden shaking noise was heard. The artist knew there was someone there, someone that wasn’t his captor. He shouted out, desperate for help.
Got to Go
Mrs. Ellison was in the middle of teaching social studies when she seemed to receive a message on her smartwatch. The students stared, wide-eyed, at their teacher when the tinging beep blared around the classroom. Mrs. Ellison checked it quickly and put her assistant in charge of the class. “Urgent business,” she explained. “I’ll be back soon.” She left in a hurry.
Keira leaned against the door, scratching herself on the jagged outline of the metal grate. What am I going to do? Mrs. Ellison is going to be reeeaaaalllyyy mad if I don’t get back soon, she thought. A shout interrupted her musings. “Aidez-moi! Je suis pris au piège dans ce sous-sol sale. Ce n’est pas un endroit pour un artiste!”
“What?” Keira asked, confused. But then she remembered the contents of a French dictionary she’d read in first grade. “Help. I am trapped in this dirty basement. This is no place for an artist,” she translated. An artist. Wait, so — the artist Magrotte went missing a few days ago. This person says he’s an artist. Magrotte is French. This guy is French. Yep. It has to be him.
“Are you Willam Magrotte?” she called to the direction of the plea. When she didn’t get a response, she resaid it in French. “Êtes-vous Willam Magrotte?”
“Je vais vous sortir de là!” I’ll get you out of there.
Keira rushed to find where the voice had come from. Eventually, she found a door. It was rusty but looked strong. She tried the knob. No luck. But she felt a small rectangle above it. It seemed to be a small box that was painted to blend in with the door. She undid the lock and lifted the lid. It had a keypad inside. “One plus two plus three plus four. Multiply and wait for more,” Keira read out loud.
“Not so fast,” someone said behind her.
“Little Miss Keegan. Did you really think you could free my captive?” a figure shrouded in black said. The voice was quite familiar — Keira was certain she knew the kidnapper. But she couldn’t put her finger on it.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Well, I wouldn’t say it here, you know.”
“Well, I know your code. I’ll free Magrotte.”
“Ugh, I forgot about that photographic memory. But my codes are unbreakable, you should know that. So I’ll let you go on your way. I have to be somewhere too.”
“Oh-kay?” Keira walked back to class, looking unnaturally calm. But on the inside, she was severely shaken by her encounter.
When she arrived back to class, Mrs. Ellison was waiting. But she seemed rushed. Her elaborate hair was disheveled, and her clothes were rumpled, a change from the neat creases that were the result of excessive ironing. “Nice of you to join us,” Mrs. Ellison said. Her glasses were lopsided.
“Well, considering that I was trapped inside a closet with a kidnapper… I think I made pretty good time,” Keira retorted. The class laughed uneasily. She slipped into her seat without waiting for a response.
Figure it Out
“Y’know,” Keira’s best friend, Raina, whispered to her. “Mrs. Ellison left the classroom just a few minutes after you did.”
“Really? That’s weird,” Keira said. She could always count on Raina to give her the truth, though.
All through her classes, Keira tried to make sense of the riddle she’d seen in the closet. One plus two plus three plus four. Multiply and wait for more. One plus two plus three plus four. Multiply and wait for more. One plus two plus three plus four… she repeated in her head. It definitely had something to do with math. That wasn’t a problem. She knew how to do calculus. She’d learned it when she was seven. But the math in this problem was easy. Too easy. One plus two plus three plus four was ten. But… what about the next line? Multiply by what? She had to find out.
“Hey, Raina, I need your help,” Keira requested at lunch as they sat down together to eat. “I have a riddle, and I think you can figure it out.”
“Sure, what is it?” Raina asked. She was a petite girl, with long blond hair.
“‘One plus two plus three plus four. Multiply and wait for more.’”
“Well, one, two, three, and four add up to ten… Wait, in the second line, is it the number ‘four?’”
“No, it’s f-o-r,” Keira explained, spelling the word out.
“Hmmm… oh, I think I got it!” Raina jumped in excitement. “What if the ‘for’ in the second line is actually a number? So you have to multiply by the number four. That’s forty!”
Keira’s eyes widened. That’s it! I have the answer! she thought. She hugged Raina hard. “Thank you so so so so so so so much!”
“You’re welcome. But sheesh, you don’t have to be this excited, Keira, it’s only a riddle… ”
As soon as the clock struck three, Keira rushed back to the janitor’s closet with her keys for a just-in-case weapon and a hairpin to unlock a door, if needed. She also included a small pen. Always be prepared. That was her mantra. Her parents wouldn’t mind if she came home late. They arrived back even later. As suspected, the room was locked. She stuck the pin in and jimmied it. It opened silently, and she stepped inside, immediately going over to the keypad. She entered the code four-zero in, and the door swung open with a hiss.
Willam made like an ice cube and froze when he heard the basement door open. Another sound had been heard. But was it his captor, or the French-speaker from this morning? He didn’t know, but he stayed silent just in case.
Lost and Then Found
Keira walked down the stairs to find an expansive room with nothing in it. Nothing but a person. A person that was strapped to a chair. A chair that was bound to the person with thick ropes. Ropes that were accompanied by a blindfold and a gag that had fallen onto the floor. Willam Magrotte.
She stepped towards him. “Monsieur Magrotte?”
“I’ve come to save you,” she said in French. “Stay calm.”
“Je vais.” I will.
She untied the knots holding the artist to the chair and took off his blindfold. “How are you feeling?”
“Pas trés bien.” Not very well.
“Come with me. We have to go upstairs.”
“Wha-what happened to me?” he asked in broken English.
“It’s a long story. Just know that you have been saved.”
“Are you sure about that, Miss Keegan?” a new voice broke in.
Miss Keegan. Miss Keegan. Miss Keegan. It echoed through her head. Only one person ever called her “Miss Keegan.”
“Mrs. Ellison? Is that you?” Keira said as she stepped back. She whispered a command to Willam. “Montez à l’étage du bureau du directeur. Dites-lui d’alerter la police de venir dans le placard du concierge.” Go upstairs to the principal’s office. Tell him to alert the police to come into the janitor’s closet.
“Why, yes. I’m not surprised that you figured out my identity. But it would provide me a great convenience to tell me how,” her teacher replied. Keira noticed that Willam had managed to sneak past the distracted kidnapper.
“Well, someone called me ‘Miss Keegan’ this morning in the closet. And then Raina told me that you left the classroom after I did. And you called me ‘Miss Keegan’ again just now. So that’s how I know whodunit. But I do have one question: Who called me to this closet in the first place?”
“Very good, Miss Keegan,” Mrs. Ellison nodded. “Very good. That idiot the janitor must have done it. He was supposed to be my accomplice. I guess he’s gone rogue. He’ll be my next victim, after you, of course.”
Click. Keira pressed the top of her pen. A red light stopped blinking.
“Congratulations, Mrs. Ellison, you’ve been taped. I have your whole villainous monologue on this pen.”
“Give that to me this instant!” Mrs. Ellison reached for the writing utensil in Keira’s hand. Keira dodged and ran up the stairs past the teacher to ground level, Mrs. Ellison close behind, just as the cavalry arrived.
“Put your hands up!” the chief yelled. Mrs. Ellison didn’t obey.
“You really think you can best me? You have no evidence, other than that dratted pen this little girl has in her hand… ” Her voice faltered, for Keira was replaying Mrs. Ellison’s explanation.
“‘He’ll be my next victim, after you, of course.’” the crackly recording wrapped up.
The police arrested Mrs. Ellison immediately, reading her rights. “You have the right to remain silent. If you do say anything, what you say can be used against you… ”
A Good Job
“Kid, you did a good job today,” one of the officers said to Keira. “Mr. Magrotte told us everything that happened. You’ll provide some more evidence too, right?”
“Yes sir, I’ve got a photographic memory, and I’m not afraid to use it,” she replied.
“Good.” He clapped her on the back.
“Keira?” someone else said. It was the janitor, Steven, who had worked at her school for years. As the former accomplice of Mrs. Ellison, he was there to give some insight into what caused her to kidnap Magrotte. Of course, it was for the ransom money.
Steven seemed changed, though, as he led Keira to a corner. He’d lost his mustache. Well, he could’ve shaved, Keira thought. His voice was different. Well, people’s voices can change. The color of his eyes were brown instead of green. Well — she couldn’t think of an explanation for that.
“Keira, I’m not actually Steven, you know. The name’s Kingston, Ricky Kingston. How would you like a job in the spy business?”
“Well, sure. Just leave me a day or so to get prepared,” Keira said. She smiled.