Detective Case 2: The Missing Bust
Author's note: All Stories/Case summaries are under Detective Series Plots [https://femaleteendetectivesboundandgagged.wordpress.com/detective-series-plots/ ]and all biographies can be found here [https://femaleteendetectivesboundandgagged.wordpress.com/characters-in-my-detective-series/ ]. Dates of birth have been removed for a while but imagine the characters are aged based on the year the stories are published.
Local Museum, Croonford
4am local time
The lorry driver braked slowly but created enough noise to wake up the half-asleep security guards. "We told you to be awake for this," remarked the driver.
"Yeah, yeah," replied one of the sleepy guards who opened gate. "You were supposed to deliver at 3:30 not 4."
"Ever heard of traffic?" The driver growled as he drove in and parked. After unlocking several locks at the back, he revealed a sealed container and with another assistant, brought it into the museum – but not before another guard had to disarm at least six locks and three infrared detectors. After the item inside the container was brought out, the driver and assistant signed a couple of forms and drove off. At 4:30am, the guard started his rounds and then out of curiosity, spent some time looking at the museum's latest addition.
It was just a bust.
Outside Croonford School
8 am local time
"I can't believe how such an incident could blow up into such a ruckus," Michelle Summers commented to her friend and classmate Lin Ling. "There were dozens of reporters outside my house the last week - so much that my mother had to shoo them away with brooms and umbrellas."
"And my house received hundreds of calls from reporters - where on earth did they get my home telephone number - and even bloggers so much that my parents had to change our number, twice," added Lin, who was re-tying her long hair. "What exactly did we do to deserve this attention?"
"Well you saved me from being blown up."
"Uh, if you were so inquisitive in the first place, this wouldn't happen."
"It wasn't my...oh bugger," Michelle or Chelle for short pointed at the horde of journalists, cameras and equipment massing near the school gates.
"Michelle! Lin Ling!" the cries were almost as if the two students were suddenly famous rock stars. "Ok, ok, look, we're certainly just students ok? Would you please let us pass?" Lin asked.
"Michelle, Croonford Daily. Can you describe what happened?" Some long-haired male reporter asked.
Michelle squinted at the multiple camera flashes. "Uh, didn't you just intrude into my family's backyard the other night? Look, it was simply I saw boys running up to the top stairs. Saw them working on something suspicious, took pictures was captured luckily saved," She patted Lin.
"Miss Chan. Get it right. I can get western surnames right," Lin countered.
"How did you know how to defuse the device?"
"Well, I could..." Just then the morning bell rang. "If you excuse us," Michelle interrupted. "We don't want to be late or get detention." The two girls still had to barge their way through the platoon of journalists before safely entering the school grounds.
Local Museum, Croonford
11am local time
The doors swung open and the crowd eagerly sauntered in. Some headed to their favourite exhibitions while a majority headed for the newest item. "Ladies and gentlemen," the speaker announced "introducing the bust of Sir Edward Davids! Sir Edward as many should remember was a poet and a warrior from the 14th Century and Croonford would not be here without Sir Edward's efforts! The bust was carved by his daughter Emma before his death and was lost in a battle. Thanks to the efforts of the museum's Director, Walter Munro, we have discovered the bust and placed it in this great museum." As the crowd surged forward towards the rope barrier, no one noticed the minute object dropped exactly behind the barrier.
The same time
"I never knew Geography could be that boring," whined Lin as they exited the classroom. "I can't wait for science class later."
"I thought Geog was easy," Chelle remarked. "Not sure about PE later, I mean..."
Suddenly a shorter girl with two pigtails ran up to her. "Chelle, got a spare hair clip? I dun wanna be picked by Mrs Heansworth later." After Chelle passed over one, the shorter girl hugged her. "Thanks sis!"
"Sis?" Lin asked.
"Yeah, Kate, my younger sister. As I was saying..." Suddenly another figure appeared. "Michelle, Lin Ling, can I have another statement about that science lab?"
"Huh, what..." Michelle squinted, initially thinking the guy was a teacher. "Oh, wait, you're another reporter," she noticed the badge on his jeans. "Look, we've been through this like thousands of times."
"And how the hell you get in?" Lin added. "You don't have a visitor's pass." The tabloid journalist didn't budge and repeated his question. Just then, Wiggins the security guard appeared and after a stern warning, he escorted the journalist out.
"Phew," Lin said. "You were saying about PE?"
Local Museum, Croonford
A few minutes later
The morning crowd dissipated and the next lot of visitors arrived. While there were oohs and aahs regarding Sir Edward's bust, no one could see the activities directly below the glass structure of the bust, nor could they see the devious smile.
Croonford School, sports hall
The same time
"Next up, ladies' run. Five rounds around the hall. Michelle, Lin, …." Physical Education teacher Rob Benson called out the first lot of girls.
"Aw, now we see if our Eastern bird really can fly," Arthur Morton, the gang member snorted.
"Oh, zip your tongue, Art," Lin snapped back. "You think you’re the champ just because you aced the sit ups?"
"Bet ya ten quid you be last," he shot back, folding his arms.
"Really, you're on," Lin glared at him and readied herself. With a whistle blow, she zoomed around the hall, easily leading. On the third round, she paced herself to encourage Chelle who was already soaked with sweat. Lin then zoomed like an Olympic runner and completed the five rounds first in line. "Very nice. Come to girl's track team?"
"Nah," Lin replied after a swing of water. "Give me a science lab anytime."
After they showered and changed back to their uniform, Arthur Morton tried to hide himself but Lin easily cornered him. "Pay up, boy," she held up her hand.
"I ain't givin' ya anything," he tried to duck away.
"You lost, pay up."
"No one of ya kind will...Ow!" Morton cried as she easily chopped his knees, causing him to bend and allowing her to yank out his wallet and extract the note. As she happily left, he jabbed his finger at her and said, "I'll get ya for this!"
"Heya, wanting grab and drink?" Lin asked Chelle as they were packing their bags and leaving school, waving the £10 note.
"Yeah...oh no not again," Chelle pointed at the mass of journalists and media equipment beyond the gate. The girls turned to exit via the back gate when they bumped into Louisa Grant, their senior and committee member of the Writing Club.
"Heading off somewhere, Michelle?" Louisa asked.
"Just trying to avoid that blockade," came her answer.
"Well, don't forget your assignment."
"But I gave you..."
"You gave me literally pets stuck up in a neighbour's tree and recycling methods. That's nothing spectacular for the Writing club. Look," she pointed back in the direction of the reporters. "Give me something worthwhile I can write on, and I'll get my dad - he's a media regulator for the county - to deal with those reporters. By end of this week?"
Lin nodded eagerly to her friend so instead of a treat, both girls roamed the streets of their town, hoping to find items of interest. By some coincidence, within an hour. both students were at the entrance of the local museum. "Bust of Sir Edward Davids recovered by Director Walter Munro. Come and view this new item!" Michelle read the poster out loud. "Sounds really interesting."
"Museums, ugh, places collecting dust," Lin countered. Just then a tall lean man walked by. The girls asked and confirmed he was Munro. "I'm wondering if you have any spare time to be interviewed sir?" Michelle started. "My senior would like to write a report on Sir Edward's bust and how you discovered it. It's for school," she added, hoping he would agree.
"Uh, yeah," he replied hesitantly, though the affirmation was good enough for Chelle. "Not today, here," he passed her a business card. "Towards the end of the week, call me to confirm." With that he turned the corner and disappeared.
"Whoa yeah!" Michelle clapped. "That's fixed for Lou. Let's spend that money...Lin? What ya looking at?"
"The device clipped on his belt...it's not a phone or...never mind. Let's have that treat.
Chelle informed Louisa of the museum's director the following day and was relieved that the later agreed to an interview with Munro on Thursday after school. "Writing club first assignment done!" Michelle announced out loud as if she won a prize, patting Lin. "Why the serious face?"
"I'm still wondering about that device on his belt," she replied, adjusting her hair with one hand while reading some science article on her phone with another. "I've seen it before somewhere and at the back of my mind I know what is."
"You're really are a geek. Probably just the latest mobile phone or something. Let's work on that maths problem together."
Local Museum, Croonford
Wednesday, close to midnight
The security woke up just in time for this round. Just before he turned the corner leading to the main hallway, his flashlight died. Cursing, he retreated his steps and changed batteries. Noting the waste of time, he hurried back along the same direction, but just after he punched the code to open the door, he let out a cry.
The next morning
"Hey congrats," Lin shook Michelle's hand as they walked in the school. The mass of reporters were no longer present so they could happily enter via the front. Chelle raised her eyebrows.
"You're wearing a bra, welcome to womanhood."
"Uh thanks, still trying to get used to clipping it on."
"Look what I made last night," Lin said with a smile as she revealed a flat circular object. "Think it's for cosmetics?" she swiped the back and a sharp blade came out. "Cool yeah?"
"Lin Ling, you should we can't bring in any weapons to school," Chelle waved her finger.
"Who's going to notice?" She tucked it into her skirt. "See anything now?" Chelle was about to respond when she noticed her senior nearby.
"Hey Lou," she called. "Ready for the afternoon's interview?"
"Read," Louisa thrust her mobile phone in Chelle's face. "'Recently acquired bust of Sir Edward Davis goes missing despite thoroughly secured museum. Museum is cordoned off as investigations are ongoing'. I got my dad to get those reporters for nothing. Still gotta get something for me, Michelle." With that she left.
"Bust stolen from secured museum? Maybe museums aren't that bland after all," Lin quipped.
After school, with their curiosity growing, both girls headed to the museum in time to catch the director speaking to a large-busted woman with a badge hanging around her neck. "...As I said, it's unbelievable. We have intensive alarms, scanners, CCTVs and constant guard patrols. All of our staff are given routine background checks."
"Very well Mr. Munro, we'll still be investigating. Call me if you notice anything else." After passing him a card, Munro retreated back into the museum. "You two have any business here?" the woman noticed Michelle and Lin.
"Uh no, uh I was supposed to help interview Mr Munro but guess that's not happen," Michelle answered.
"Oh...wait weren't you the one held in the local school's old science lab? And," She turned towards Lin, "Weren't you the one who diffused the IED?"
The youngsters gave a sigh initially with the incident brought up again until Lin blurted out "Are you police officer ma'am?"
"Detective Inspector Nicola Heath. Ma'am only for those in the force, call me Nikki. You must be Michelle and..."
"Lin Ling." They shook hands and Nikki stated the police had cordoned off the museum but it would be mostly opened the following day. Dejected, the girls spilt up--Michelle wandered around town trying to find another good story while Lin was deep in thought. She noticed Munro no longer had the device clipped to his belt and she still knew what is was, but what?
The next day, Michelle was eager to check the museum again while Lin had spent the night looking through all the scientific websites and books she collected. "Excuse me, does the school subscribe to any scientific journal, or an encyclopaedic source for devices?" She asked the head librarian.
"Why yes, but aren't you too young for that? Usually it's for Year 10s and above."
"Do I look like a child to you?" Lin shot back and the stunned librarian showed her what limited journals they had. Lin navigated through the links, entering as many searches and scanning many articles. Suddenly, she yelled, "Bingo!"
The call almost made every other student turn and look in her direction. Instead of calling her friend, Lin ran out, hoping to catch Chelle instead of texting her. Just as she rushed down the corridor, something hard struck her and she landed flat on her back.
"So, there you are!" the gang leader whom she met on the first day on the bus smiled like a Cheshire Cat, leaning over Lin. She immediately tried to get up, but another lot of hands held her arms and legs down.
"Let me g...mmph!" A sweaty palm clamped down hard over her lips. Then Art Morton's face appeared in sight.
"No one ever takes on my guy Art," growled the gang leader. "Take this as a message from Jon-Beatles," he continued, then a marker appeared in his hand.
Despite Lin's strongest struggles, she was held down and Jonathan the leader parted her blazer and wrote 'I AM A LOSER CHINK' on her blouse. Just then, some other gang member yelled 'teacher!' and the members scattered and tall short-haired female appeared. "Stay there!" She bellowed at Jon then helped Lin up, asking if the student was injured.
"Just my pride," muttered Lin.
"Better go see the school nurse and there are spare blouses in the room next door. And you," she pointed at Jonathan. "Follow me to the Headmaster's office, now!"
Local Museum, Croonford
Around the same time
“This museum is a maze,” Chelle thought as she stepped further inside the building. Thankfully, she spotted a printed map on the wall and she finally found her way to where the bust originally lay. Two uniformed constables stood blocking her view though she could see there was some of metallic plate inside the glass box. So, she thought, someone must have disabled the pressure switch to remove the bust without alerting the guards. But how did they get it out of the box, how did they get it pass the infrared detectors and the cameras, how did they even get it out of the building? Wait wasn't there movies relating to this? Something about.... yes, Indiana Jones and Raiders of the lost Ark... wait no, how about Entrapment?
"You got something to do here miss?" Michelle's thoughts were interrupted by a question by one of the constables. Embarrassed, she shook her head and turned back, but even with the map, she lost her way. Just then, her phone buzzed.
Around the same time
The spare blouse was rather itchy but luckily it was the end of school day for Lin. Fuming over the bullying, Lin texted Lin her discovery of the device. 'Your message cannot be sent at the moment.' Oh shit, she dialled the number but received an engaged tone. Frantic, she ran as best as she could then caught a bus to the museum. Come on, "Hey," she heard Michelle's voice, slightly garbled.
"Chelle! I found out what that device is! It's..." She heard another engaged tone.
"Miss, my baby is sleeping, can you tone down?" Lin muttered an apology to the mother but was more concerned about her finding.
Local Museum, Croonford
Which way was it? Michelle stretched open the map. Suddenly, her footsteps created a sharp echo. She tapped her feet again and the sound came back. Bending down, she tapped the floor several times and discovered it was hollow. With curiosity growing, she felt along the edges of the wooden floor and found a wider gap.
Suddenly, human cries emitted from below and the floor sank below her feet!
Michelle dropped and found herself in a dark confined room
"Hey!" She heard a deep male voice cry. "How did ya get in here?"
"I... What are you...hey...mmmph!" A gloved hand clamped down around her jaw.
"Quick. pass me the rope!" She heard a second voice yell. Chelle screamed for a few seconds but found a sharp knife again her throat, ending her cries. Within minutes, the young student was bound tightly with rope around her wrists behind her back and ankles, with one loop holding her arms to her side and a piece of packing tape pasted across her lips. "Now girl, shut up!"
Meanwhile, Lin had just entered the museum. Freakin' expensive entry even for youngsters, she grumbled. She too, found the interior of the building hard to navigate but didn't find any map. She was about to cry out Michelle's name when she heard the slight scream coming ahead of her. "Chelle!" She cried running forward. Suddenly, she was surprised and grabbed from behind.
"Gotcha!" One of those thugs cried, pinning Lin on the ground. "Ow!" Lin cried, and yes, her nose was really bruised after being slammed on the ground. "Get off me you..." She felt the edge of a knife against the back of her neck.
"Stop yer resisting!" He hissed in her ear. Lin, despite her martial arts training, was unceremoniously dragged back down into the small chamber. With the help of the other thug, Lin was similarly silenced just like Chelle with a piece of tape over her lips and bound at her wrists and ankles. Even with the dimly-lit room, the thug binding her ankles took his time, looking up her skirt, causing her to cry in disgust.
"Forget that upskirt; move the rest of the stuff up! People will be suspicious by now!"
Grunting, that thug check the knots then proceeded to lift items in another corner of the room. "Done," came the curt sentence.
"Good, bye girlies, with luck, you'll suffocate once we seal this chamber," came ominous but familiar voice. Seconds later, a 'thud' sound was heard and the whole place plunged into darkness.
"Limmmph!" Lin heard Michelle's muffled cry immediately after and she too responded. Michelle twisted herself on her bum, attempting to move towards where she thought Lin was. Meanwhile, Lin tugged against the rope but the restraints only appeared tighter. Suddenly, she had a brainwave and twisted her bound arms as best as she could until her fingers were against the side of her skirt. Where did I place...the home-made penknife disguised as a make kit dropped out.
Lin had experienced many blackouts as a child living overseas, so she easily worked her fingers and found her gadget. It took two tries before she the knife part out and another couple of minutes before she worked it against the rope around her wrists. It finally came out and she yanked off the tape and cut off her ankle restraints.
"Chelle? I'm free! Where are you?"
"Hold on," Lin crawled in the confined space and finally found Chelle. Minutes later, both were free but still stuck in this claustrophobic chamber. "Look around for some catch, some switch. The floor literally sank beneath me." In the pitch blackness, they did so but the seconds ticked by, they started sweating and the oxygen level was running out. "This can't be...."
Chelle's sentence was cut off as her arm struck against the wall and the ceiling came creaking down on them! Luckily, they managed to roll their bodies towards the side and avoid being crushed. Simultaneously, both girls felt a blast of cold air--air from the corridor above!
"Come on, it's open!" Lin yelled and after much squeezing and turning, both students crawled out. Just then, Michelle felt a dampness between her legs. "Do you always get your period after you get tied up?" Lin shook her head, tossing her a spare pad.
"Where to now?" Lin asked. Michelle dug out her creased map and after some wrong turns, they found themselves outside. "That was the Director I mean, one of them who captured us!" Michelle cried. "He's got to be involved in the theft!"
"Yeah and I know what that device was," Lin added then glanced at her watch. "It's almost closing time for the museum. Where..." Both girls suddenly heard a vehicle start and ran towards that sound. They discovered Munro and a second person by a dented van. "Hey, you," Munro pointed at Michelle. "You know I don't have time for any interview."
"But you had time to tie us up and you're probably the one who stole the bust of Sir Edward."
"What rubbish..." Suddenly another vehicle drove up and DI Nikki Heath got out.
"Alright, what's all the ruckus about?" Michelle reiterated her dangerous accusation while Munro stood firm. Lin meanwhile moved to the back the van and twisted he special penknife against the edge, causing it to open and revealing the bust.
Croonford Police Station
"Basically, a device to render alarms and CCTVs useless," Lin explained once again for Nikki who took notes on a tablet.
"I didn't know such stuff even existed. How did he stop the pressure switch from activating?" Asked Michelle, who was rubbing moisturiser around her chaffed wrists.
"We found that was faulty and we also found another chamber right beneath where the bust was displayed," Nikki added. "Appears that the whole museum was built like that centuries ago, supposedly to store items before they went on display. Munro was actually a recently new director and we've yet to discover his motivation for stealing his own display. He's all clamped up with a lawyer 'guarding' him. Still," she scribbled some more words on the screen before closing the tablet. "That was nice work both of you. Great teen detective work." She shook their hands and escorted them outside.
"Well you owe me one again," Lin remarked.
"What? Oh ok, what you want? A bite a drink? Actually, Nikki said something that caught my attention."
"I wanna nice creamy hot chocolate."
'I mean, the last line she said. You wanna start a detective club?"
Michelle and Lin Ling will return in 'The pen is mightier than the sword' with a third main character.