Detective Case 3: The Pen is Mightier Then the Sword
Brains versus brawns appear when local competitions seem to be skewed, despite checks.
Author's note: You can tell which kid detectives’ series I like and dislike, or read and never read. I also may get sports timing wrong so apologies.
Timing: I did say there's the time period follows the date in real life but in this case, I retcon and placed it in the autumn months. No COVID-19 here, luckily.
Continued from previous story
"You want to form a what...teen detective agency?! Like Nancy Drew?" Lin asked.
"I hate Nancy Drew. Never read most of the books. Doesn't fit me Brit," Chelle countered.
"Then what? If two of us, a female version of Hardy Boys?"
"Nothing American, I said. Well ok… maybe the Hardy Boys series weren't so bad. So, a female version of Frank and Joe Hardy..."
"Or maybe the Famous Five..." Lin mused.
"I'm not getting a dog; my sis Kate is allergic to most of them. Five is too many and I don't know about roping in guys..."
"So then, just the two of us gals?" Lin pondered.
"Three wouldn't be a crowd. "
Later that weekend
"Michelle Summers, you were almost killed twice so far! I don't want to hear about my daughter's death in the news!" Margaret Summers cried as she dished out her chicken stew.
"Mum, it was a false device in the first and I escaped from that chamber easily," Michelle countered, eating the stew.
"Mich, you're here to study, not to play Wonder Woman. Remember those reporters 'camping' at our doorstep?" Her mother never called her 'Chelle'.
got them off," she argued. "Dad would be more persuaded. Where is he
"Yeah, I miss Daddy," Kate added, stirring the vegetables around in her plate.
"He's working overseas. Eat your carrots Catherine."
"Remember bao bei, we're still new in this area and country," Lin Ling's father, Yong Hong Chan, stated as the family tucked into stewed beef brisket and steam coy sum with oyster sauce. Bao bei means 'precious' in Mandarin.
"Doesn't mean I get to be picked on, Pa," Lin replied, scooping up rice using her chopsticks.
"True, but don't push it," Mrs Pearlyn Chan, who despite being in her late fifties, looked twenty years younger and unlike her husband, had no speck of grey hair.
"You mean like," Lin described the racist words drawn across her school blouse earlier.
"Just don't push it with those people," her dad suggested.
"I can beat them academically and physically Papa," she declared. "I got tons of ideas."
"Ok, " her mother sighed. "On that note, can you please clean up those science-y stuff in your room and the next? It's like a junk pile."
The next week
"Mum wants me to be safe rather that curious," Chelle told Lin as they walked into school. "And I don't think Kate would want to be involved in anything dangerous."
"My parents reminded me how we're new to the UK and all the usual stuff," Lin added. "So, still want to be a teen detective?"
"QuizWhizz coming up! QuizzWhizz! All students must sign up! Prizes of all kinds to be won! Hurry!" The announcement blared over speakers and the girls saw lines of students signing up manually on a whiteboard or electronically on school desktop computers.
"Local annual competition involving series of tests, both academic and physical. Croonford traditionally is pitched against the nearby Moorly School in this competition. Minimum of three students per team," Michelle read from a poster. "Well, how about this? We just need to find another student."
"Hold on," Lin interrupted and ran up to the teacher who encountered her and the bullies. They engaged in a short conversation before Lin burst out in anger and threw her bag down. "What's up?" Michelle asked.
"Remember those rats who drew those racist words on my blouse? Well the guy Jono or what the-heck-is-his-name didn't get detention or any punishment at all!!! Something about his family having some big political connections or what not. This means war!"
"Hey Chan," Art Morton popped out of the corner as the two girls entered class later. "You heard it ya?"
"If you first speak proper English your little loser," Lin retorted not looking at the gang member, "and not get another loser to help you, then I'll talk to you."
"Aw, Missy saw she can't get her revenge. And she won't in the QuizzWhizz. Ready for it?"
"I'm ready for anything, Arty," Lin spun around and readied herself in a Taekwondo stance. Art, remembering what happened last time, backed up then laughed. "Ready eh? With who? Miss Emma Watson there? Who's your third team member? I'm with Callum and Stuart, and we came runner's up last time. We're sure to come first this time, beating Moorly and your loser team, if you have a team." Chelle did look quite a lot like a young Emma Watson. During lunch period, Lin poked at her Ploughman's Lunch, and tossed the plate away. Draining her fruit juice, she poked Chelle. "We've got to find a third member, come on."
"But almost everyone has picked their old teammates or formed groups of four," Chelle noted. "Rumour says even the teachers favour certain other groups to take on Moorly."
"Yeah, and the top classes are the fav," Heather, a blonde-haired classmate who took the remains of Lin's plate said. "You see that lass over there?" She pointed at a brown-haired girl chatting with some other girls. "That's Jenn Thompson from 8A, the class for super-duper smart people. Her team was second in the mock and real comp last time."
"I thought Art said his team came second," Chelle said, starring at the brunette.
"They came second the boy's category; Jenn's group the girl's." Heather replied. "Ooops, Got to meet my group."
Chelle sauntered over the new girl and just before she introduced herself, Jennifer did so. "Oh, you're the one who nearly go killed by that IED," she pointed.
Chelle turned slightly red with that remark and asked her about her team.
"Oh I've got Molly and Bethan in, we're the greatest gal team. You've formed one yet?" Before Chelle could answer, Jenn continued, "oh that Hong Kong girl, right? Ling?"
"Lin," Chelle corrected. "Would you happen to know of a third...." the bell rang, cutting their conversation off. Later, both she and Lin looked through the quiz details. "Science questions, " Lin read, "I can handle that."
"History questions," Chelle continued, "I can handle that. And current affairs, maybe some of the topics. Now the sports part," she moved the screen down. "and a 1.5 miles run under 15 minutes from old farm to city centre for each female contestant, like what the hell?! This isn't the Olympics!"
"Why Chelle, never tried competitive sports? While we search for our third member, let's practice. Say meet you in sports attire on Sat? We'll try a short one from the school to the town centre.
"Brr, it's cold, how the hell can wear a sleeveless shirt?" She pointed to Lin on Saturday, who was wearing a tank top with her black sport bra just visible from underneath.
"Why not? I've ran before in colder weather. Shall we warm up?" The girls soon started at a steady pace then Lin accelerated, making Chelle pant while trying to catch up. The girls moved passed the various stores then saw the old and new clock tower. As Lin turned the corner, they saw the preparations for the competition - banners being stapled, route marking placed up, benches being placed up. They reached the train station where a goods train was pulling in and finally after Lin reached the town centre, Chelle caught up just slightly over five minutes later.
"Good work," Lin patted her friend and passed a spare towel she brought.
"Water?" Chelle panted.
"Better idea. My home's just over there. I think mum has some snack ready."
Chelle, still thirsty, followed and greeted Lin Ling's mother. "Oh dispense, with the Mrs. Chan; I'm Pearyln. There's water and Chinese tea and I've steam some char siu bao ready."
"Yum, thanks ma," Lin replied then explained that the snack was something like a pork pie. "Just peel away the paper at the bottom and be careful it’s hot." Snack over, Pearlyn offered to drive Michelle back home but also remarked, "Lin Ling, I told you to clear your stuff from the room next to yours. It's taking up so much space."
That room was indeed cluttered but Lin described it as her hobby. "Well besides looking at the latest fashion," she added, rummaging the shelves. "Check this one out, radio device. Small enough to fit around your earrings." With Michelle handing over her stud earrings, Lin careful attached the device to back of both earrings. "Just press the back, now, stand apart and say 'hello, test, hello'", Lin instructed.
"Hey, it works!" Chelle exclaimed. "What rang...."
"Chan Lin Ling, I told you to change and clear up." Pearlyn Chan interrupted. "Michelle, car's ready." Dejected, both girls parted but just as Lin boarded the bus, she noticed the school gang members crowding around a seat and jeering. She quickly recognised the seat occupant as one of her classmates, though she hadn't had the chance to talk to her.
"Hey! Leave the girl alone!" Lin shouted. The boys turned to her and the leader who wrote racist words on her blouse came face to face with her. His face was almost rectangular in shape, and his haircut complement it. "Oh, it's our Eastern little gal. Want another decoration girlie?"
"I'll decorate your nose, all your noses if you don't..." Lin threatened.
"Hey, no fighting here or all of you will be walking to school!" The driver yelled and after sharp glares, Lin sat down next to the girl with Michelle in the seat behind.
"Thanks…thanks..." the brown-haired girl whispered. "Those rats were...oh it's you two!" she exclaimed, quickly mentioning that she heard about both girls exploits.
"Nah, we're just normal new students," Michelle smiled. "Say, you have quiz questions there?" She pointed to the girl's open bag.
"Previous years. Just printed them off from a site last night. But I need a team. Two from my former group left for a new school and the other girl joined another."
"Wanna join us and form a team?" Happy that the team for the competition was formed, Chelle turned the focus on the detective team. "I'm not sure if Hatty's detective material, so our third companion is still missing," Michelle observed a few days later during another lunch break. Hatty was their classmate and teammate. "Anyone else in mind?"
"Not yet and my ma's still bugging me to clean up my science pieces. If we want a teen detective group, we need a meeting plac...."
"Hey, Harriet's in pain!" Heather called. The girls rushed over and found their classmate right arm bend and clutched in pain. There was a collapsed wooden easel nearby. "Damn that easel!" She cried, clutching her arm.
"Move, move away students!" The senior school nurse cried. "She needs medical attention!" As Harriet was tended to and the students scattered, Lin remarked, "poor girl. And poor us; we're down to two again for the comp."
The following day, Lin heard an angry slam in the locker room. Bracing herself mentally and physically, she peered over the side. She found Jenn Thompson in a foul mood. "What's the matter?" She asked.
"Just when it all when all seem right, Molly and Bethan decided to go to party and get food poisoning. Oh it's not that serious,” she said with tears in her eyes, “but I won't have a group that can do the sports part of the competition. Boo!" She flung her blazer against the locker door.
"Well, what a coincidence; Hatty from our team is out as well. We're down by one, you're down by two. Want to join us now?" It was over lunch break when Jenn came over to Chelle and Lin. After some deliberation, Jenn extended her hand, agreeing to join them for the team.
"13:30," Lin called as Jenn finally came to a sweat-stained stop during a training. Just as she passed out mineral water, a car came to a stop next to them. "Hi, DI Heath, I mean, Nikki, this is our friend Jennifer."
"Hello. Michelle, Lin, I need to trouble you for further statements regarding that bust, Walter Munro and his son. Well after you girls complete your training," she smiled, Michelle and Lin engaged in short conversation before she drove off.
"That regarding your museum case?" Jenn enquired.
"Not exactly a case, more of a mystery," Michelle replied then paused. "Would you like to… err… join us as a team of detectives?"
"Detectives? You mean teen girls looking out for cases?"
"Well I haven't reached my thirteen birthday, but yeah short that," Michelle remarked.
"I'm not sure about adventures. And I just fear getting bound and gagged."
"Welcome to the annual Croonford-Moorly Competition! I'm Clarence Hobbs, your chief judge. Here are the rules..."
"Chief Judge? He looks more like a scarecrow," Lin mumbled. Hobbs rattled rules on and Jenn started fidgeting. "Hurry the heck up," she also whined.
"Don't worry, I'm bored as well," Michelle whispered.
"Yeah, but I hate been dressed like this," she pulled at the thick school suit they were wearing. "I hate formal wear."
Much later, the trio had entered the final rounds of the quiz part of the competition, and they were facing Art Morton's team and an all-male team from Moorly. There were two remaining questions, the first which was a live multiple-choice question: Who was the scientist who invented the gas centrifuge for uranium-235 enrichment? A) Robert Oppenheimer B) Gernot Zippe or C) Georgy Flyorov?
"Gernot Zippe!" yelled Jenn, pushing them further into the lead.
"Last question," the judge called. "Write it down. What deadly gas smells like freshly-cut grass?" All three teams wrote down and submitted their answers almost simultaneously, but with a drum-roll blaring from the speakers, the judge declared Michelle's team the winner for the quiz round.
"Hey, we got the answer correct!" Yelled one of the boys from Moorly.
"You spelt 'Phosgene' with a 'f' not with 'Ph'," countered Mr Hobbs. "Now get dressed for the sports side of the QuizzWhizz."
"Ready for it, Lin?" Art Morton taunted as he did his final stretching
"Just a walk in the park, Morton," Lin Ling replied, in her best Maverick voice.
"Three, two, one, BAM!" The hordes of school children from various team shot off. Lin shot ahead leading far ahead that most of the other girls. Michelle held steady pace slightly behind but as she turned one corner, she heard a slight groan and noticed Jenn was slowing down.
"I think I tripped on some pothole or rock," She groaned.
"Need to stop?" Chelle asked but Jenn waved off. "Come on, I'll pace with you."
Lin came in first place and miraculously, Michelle and Jenn tied a minute and ten seconds behind her. "And the winner, scored first in both the quiz and sports category..." the announcement blared.
"Has to be us," Lin whispered.
"The reigning team from Moorly, well done to Jack Seager, Tom Richardson and Richard Blampied!"
"Hey that's not fair!" Lin shouted from her seat. "We came in first for the quiz and based on our running times, we should be first!"
"My decision is final," thundered Clarence Hobbs, "and the Moorly team scored first in both." Lin, along with Michelle and Jenn, continued to protest, but they were eventually escorted off.
"That game was surely freakin' rigged," Lin whined the next day to the girls. "We definitely need to get to the bottom of it."
"Clarence Charles Vincent Hobbs," Chelle read out from her laptop, "Former Head Teacher, now head of some private education agency...wait, here's his Facebook....that's set to private..."
"Give me that," Lin said and after attaching a flash drive, she read "loves to hang out at the Gun Barrels pub Friday afternoons. Let's go and check it out. Oh, that was a programme to enable all social media accounts free to view."
"That's so creepy," Jenn remarked, looking up from her book. "And shadowing someone? I'm not sure about it."
"I'm in, but have extra Maths class that day, catch you then Lin?"
Lin decided to take a jog that Friday, along with a recording device built within the cover of mobile phone. The Gun Barrels pub apparently lived up to its name, formed in the shape of a rifle barrel and numerous barrels of various firearms surrounding the sign of its doorway. "We ain't serving your age, Missy," the shaggy bartender growled to Lin as she approached the counter.
"I'm not buying alcohol, well, fruit juice or water will do," Lin argued. "And information on a Clarence Hobbs who comes here."
"You pay for the apple juice. But I aint know no Hobbs girlie."
"Really, a bartender who does know his customers?" Lin shot back, then unfolded her arms. The bartender paused and studied the teen. In his foreign travels, he had met Eastern girls in seedy clubs but not many of them matched his liking. In front of him was a quite attractive girl even in sports attire...but she's a teenager.
"Hobbs was here well he headed to the loo," he finally said. "And…. oh, thanks for the tip," he called as Lin rushed towards toilets. There's no way I can enter the men’s, she thought, then noticed how thin the walls were. Entering the ladies, she pressed he ear against the wall and listened. She immediately heard running water, flushing and the scampering of feet. After a pause short conversation came.
"Yeah man, that was … you twisted the scores in the quiz..." She heard and with her heart racing, she activated her recorder.
"And … the pothole... that shorty girl did ...trip"
"Best of all, you fixed the town clock and the time recording chip so the …. the scores were skewed towards Moor..." Lin heard the sound of a hand dryer then footsteps. She immediately dashed out of the ladies but the two figures from the other toilet had scuttled out the back.
"Chelle! I overheard a conversation and yes it was rigged...yes I have part of it on recor…" before Lin could complete her call, someone struck her on the back of her neck and she blacked out.
When she came to, Lin immediately groaned, but it was a muted, much muted groan. What the...she tasted some thick cotton between her teeth. She immediately tried to spit it out but it was secured well with further strips of cloth bound securely behind her head. Lin immediately flexed her hands but discovered they were bound behind her back and immediately felt hands securing some more strips of material around her ankles. With her eyes now wide open, she saw it was rounds of cloth - further strips were below and above her breasts, securing her arms together.
"All done?" The masked figure on the floor nodded and Lin saw a another thinner masked figure.
"Little girls shouldn't go jogging...little girls shouldn't go to pubs...and little girls shouldn't overhear conversations from a loo..." that figure remarked then removed his mask, revealing Clarence Hobbs.
Michelle Summers was frantically rushing the school, colliding into students. Suddenly, she spotted Jenn Thompson packing up. "Jenn!" She cried, then yanked her to a side. "Lin's in trouble...listen," she played back the conversation she had with Lin.
"Oh my!" Jenn now exclaimed. "We've got to find her!"
"So, you found out about our rigged scheme," Hobbs said, standing over Lin. "Yeah, so your team actually won but so did the one from Moorly," he smirked. "And such was the case every year. Until your lot came along. No one beats, Moorly," He stamped his foot on the ground near Lin. "No one! Now," He turned to the other figure, "watch over her while I prepare a surprise."
With Hobbs gone, the other masked guy bent down and started stroking Lin. Despite her furious kicking, she was in little position to resist the caressing. Then the hands reached down to her shorts and the figure felt the outline of her phone. "Oh, this must go," she heard him remarked, but Lin screamed as not just her phone was thrown across the room, but her shorts were pulled down as well!
"Come on, come on!" Michelle tapped the bus stand. "Where's the freakin' bus?"
"It says another ten minutes," Jenn said, looking at her phone. "We could wait or..."
"Let's walk, no run the last block."
"So, having too much fun with the girl?" Hobbs said returning to see other guy caressing the help school girl, whose shorts were now down to her ankles. "The coast is clear. Help her up." Despite Lin's best struggles, both men carried her out. She spied she was in the back area of rubbish area. She was thrown back facing down in an open bin.
"Good bye Chinese girl," Hobbes taunted. "With any luck, a refuse truck will come by and bam! you'll be added to the waste, and crushed with it. So much for running by!"
"Mmmpph! Mmmph!" Lin cried but her gagged cries was further cut off as the bin lid was slammed down.
Michelle and Jenn finally reached the Gun Barrels pub. "Hey, we're closing now and re-opening at 5. Shouldn't you lasses be shopping or someplace else?" The bartender noted.
"We're...we're looking for our friend. Chinese girl...black hair..." Michelle panted.
"Oh, the jogger. She was in the ladies," he thumbed the direction. "Didn't even touch her apple juice. Would you..." But Chelle already ran to the loo area, with Jenn trailing behind. "Lin? Lin?" Hearing no one, she dialled Lin's number.
Meanwhile, Lin was struggled against her bonds and her struggles brought more piles of rubbish on top of her. She tried her best to pick her at her wrist bonds, but simply couldn't loosen any part. Damnit, why didn't I think of bringing my foundation penknife. She was literally getting her knickers in a twist...
"Hi, it's Lin, I'm not here at the moment, leave a message and I'll get back to you." Chelle heard the voice mail.
"Maybe she's in an area with weak reception," Jenn suggested.
"Not likely," Michelle countered then remembered. She pressed her earrings and called. "Lin? Lin? It's me Chelle."
Lin continued to fight against her bonds. Just then, she felt something crawl up her bare legs. Shit, shit! Ants! She turned and kicked but that brought more of those creepy crawlers up her legs. Shit...
"Lin?" She heard a garbled voice. Wait, that was from..."Chmmmlle!" She cried her best through the cloth gag. "Chmmmlle! Hemmmp!"
Michelle heard the cry through from her earrings. "Lin! Where are you? Lin!"
"Lin?" She tapped her earrings but the reception was cut off.
"Radio?" Jenn asked.
"Yes, yes, I'll explain later. Did you hear that last part?"
"Rubbish...bins... outside come on!" Both students raced out of the pub but failed to see any bins in sight.
"Lin!" Michelle pressed her earrings and called again. "Can you hear me? Come on, which bin?"
Meanwhile, while fighting to find some loose part in her bindings, Lin heard the sound of a vehicle. Wheels screeched then halted. Suddenly, the bin she was in was lifted up and she screamed into her gag.
"Hmmmmlp! Hmmmmlp!" Michelle was running around when she heard the cries again.
"Lin! Where..." She too heard the sound of a bin being lifted. "Bin lorries!" She exclaimed, then Jenn heard a sound from nearby. "Come on!" They both ran and saw a bin lorry lifting up a large wheelie bin. The contents were emptied and a churning sound began.
"Stop! Stop!" Michelle yelled frantically to the crew. "There's a girl in that refuse! Stop!" Jenn, catching up behind, picked up a nearby brick and threw it against front of the vehicle. The brick dented the front window and the crew stepped out.
"Ok what the hell...what the hell you girls doin'?" A heavily tattooed operator cried.
"There a girl in the waste in your truck...in that bin you emptied!" Chelle yelled. The lorry crew were heavily sceptically, but finally one of them moved behind and pulled out some bags with his gloved hand. Suddenly, he heard continuous yelps.
"Oh damn!" He cried and after help from his colleagues, Lin was finally lifted out of the lorry. "Damn," the men cried in unison noting her undressed state.
"Thanks for finding me," she much later, rubbing her sore wrists.
"It was all in the ears," Michelle smiled.
"You actually invented these things?!" Jenn asked.
"Yeah, I....darn we've got to find my phone! It has all the recording!" After half an hour, the girls discovered Lin's phone in a room below the pub--it was used and accessible from a door in the male toilet.
"Damn, I thought it was a goner," Lin said, replaying the recording. "Now to get it to the authorities."
"But the prize giving is like in... oh in the next hour," Jenn tapped her watch. "We're supposed to be there for the runner's up category."
"Really? And Hobbs is supposed to give out the prizes. That gives me an idea," Lin smiled.
"Announcing the winner of the annual QuizWhizz," The Emcee began. "The team from Moorly."
"I likely to congratulate the reigning team," Clarence Hobbs began, "You defended...'
"Best of all, you fixed the town clock and the time recording chip so the …. the scores were skewed towards Moor.." Lin's recording suddenly blared across the speakers over and over again and the crowd stirred.
"What's the meaning of this?" Hobbs cried.
"It mean the games over, Mr Hobbs," DI Nikki Heath said, approaching the stage and cuffing the judge. "Nice try in rigging the whole QuizWhizz. We found CCTV footage of you rigging the clock tower and the stop watches. And nice work using the competition banners to bind Miss Chan up. well , we'll probably find your DNA on it. Take him away.
"So he rigged all previous QuizWhizzs in favour of Moorly, not just the one we participated in," Michelle noted.
"He was a former teacher at that school, and his son Jack was in the team against us and also an accomplice," Jenn added, reading the news.
"What a pervert," Lin remarked, remembering what happened to her.
"So, is this what you two have been up to? Finding cases, chasing baddies and getting into trouble?"
"Yeah, you still not keen about this?" Michelle asked.
"I've changed my mind. I'll join the club."
Michelle, Lin Ling and Jennifer will return in 'Flaming Angels'.