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Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1865728-The-Conspiracy-of-the-Phony-CandidateSAM
Rated: E · Short Story · Children's · #1865728
A mischievous girl suspects there's a secret society of rabbis taking over the city (Old).
KING'S COURT


Anna's tendency to exaggerate propelled her into a world of trouble. She made bold attempts to investigate her own unusual suspicions. She never prevailed at providing any proof. Instead, she won a front row ticket to one of her father's boring lectures. Mr. Greensteen never bothered listening to her twelve year-old explanations. He overthrew her high pitch with his man voice. He was king Greensteen according to his own illustration. Strangely, his princess could never persuade him.

One time she and Peter were caught snooping in the kitchen of the local pizza shop. Anna claimed the owner was in cahoots with crooked cops and housed wanted criminals in exchange for cold hard cash. The man called her father without hesitation. He insisted he provide her a leech. Mr. Greensteen yelled out her full name when she returned home. That’s when she knew the king hadn’t forgotten. Anna slid out of her sandals and sat Indian-style, holding her toes and counting the number of times he repeated himself. He described her suspicions as royally ridiculous. She tried explaining, but he pointed to her room before she could finish.

His responses never changed. In another case, she begged the principal to cancel the school trip to Boxwood. Anna warned her of a possible abduction by alien UFOs—(Unidentified Floating Objects). She claimed crossing the Atlantic was like touching the third rail. The principal crossed out her name and contacted her father, suggesting he speak to the school counselor. When Mr. Greensteen arrived, he spoke his apologies and escorted Anna out the door. Before he drove off, she reached for the volume—. Once the king saw, he quickly turned the knob until there was complete silence. He described Anna's behavior as castle comedy. Sarcastically, he offered to pay for two weeks at Carolines that summer. Though being a comedian, in Anna's opinion, was much more exciting than driving a limousine all day. She thought that the only thing funny—was that giant bow tie he was wearing. Despite the entire city knowing the family name, Anna set her sights on becoming a detective, leaving King Greensteen's Limousines as nothing more than his favorite pastime.

SLEEPING SUSPICION


The children sat with their eyes glued to their teacher's bifocals throughout an entire forty-five minutes of lecture. Planet structure and global warming however, was not exactly the topic that set Anna's brain wit on fire. She stood out like sore thumb—nodding away in five-minute intervals. Ms. Guileberry walked toward her desk and tapped the edge for Anna's attention.

"This is the last time, Miss Greensteen. Next time, I will be contacting your father."

She lifted her head, and then slouched in her chair.

"Is it almost over?"
"It is, though you will [...]" The bell rang, and the children bolted out of the class.

"Anna Greensteen," she said, "just where do you think you're going?"

"Oh come on, Mrs. Guileberry. There's three days left, not fifty."

"Yes, but there is a quiz tomorrow and a test on the third day, which I must prepare you for," she said.

"Test?"

"I see you haven't been paying attention. I'll just have to see what your father suggests I do about keeping you awake in my class."

"Oh, great," Anna sighed.

She adjusted the straps on her shoulders and stormed out. When she entered the hall, Anna looked around for Peter, though he was nowhere in sight. She made her way out the double doors and waited at their usual spot by the horseshoe. Minutes flew by and still no Peter.

"Hay, have you seen Peter?"

"Who?"

"Peter Kindly," she said, "have you seen him?"

"Oh, the geek?"

"I guess so."

"I saw him a minute a go with some other geeks," he said. "They said something about a try-out."

"Did you see where they went?"

"Who—them?" he asked, "no, and who cares. I'm the one you should be looking for. What's your name again?"

"Yeah, right." She held onto the straps hanging from her backpack and walked off.

The problem with having a boy as a best friend was that not all the others were as friendly. However, in most cases, she forced herself to deal with it. When it came to Peter and baseball in particular, Anna knew there was a closer bond.

Realizing Peter likely ditched her for a run-down baseball mitt, she began walking home. She stopped at the crosswalk surrounded by noise and the aroma of salted pretzels and hot nuts. From afar, she noticed a tall bearded man standing along the curb. When the signal changed, he was the only person she saw not move an inch. Anna was curious to know why he wore a suit on the brink of summer. He drew her glance toward him as she made her way across.

"Exuse yourself, little girl," the woman said, as Anna nearly knocked her over spying on the bearded man.

"Oh, sorry," she said, as she kneeled to help gather the woman's balance.

"Hay, aren't you daughter of Louise?"

"Who wants to know?"

"I was a friend of hers. Oh, I miss her dearly," she said. "Please, tell your father Mary says hello."

Though the woman spoke kind words, Anna's walk home became longer as she started to reflect. She pictured her mother standing at the end of the corner, waiting for her to cross. When she reached the end, the image began to drift slowly. At that moment, Anna knew her mother still watched. Before crossing, she noticed something strange. A group of men was carrying loads of plants and flowers into an apartment building. She crept behind the large truck to get a closer look and noticed the bumper sticker. It read,

"Ziggum for mayor."

She moved toward the entrance, stepping between the men. One carried two fichus trees and another held a large pot full of red roses. They waited by the elevator door, and Anna slowly paced back and forth. She tried appearing as normal as possible.

"May I help you?"

"Oh no, I'm…just…waiting on someone."

"I can call them, you know?"

"No thanks, they should be down any minute."

The woman stared before making her way into the office. The elevator sounded, and Anna scooted her way inside. She stood squished between the two men, waiting for the numbers to change. When it stopped, the men entered the hall. Tactful Anna followed close behind. They came to an open door and walked straight inside.

"You may place them anywhere you see fit."

Anna recognized the voice and moved closer to be sure. She slithered inside, and, immediately, she was surprised. All around were plants and flowers. Baskets hung from wire, vines covered the ceiling, and cactus lined along the mantle. While hiding behind the counter, she noticed the large frame over the sink. It read, "Mother Nature's Queen." She peeked over and watched the men leave.

"I wonder what all this is about." She unzipped her backpack and loaded her camera. "Okay, Evette, you're all ready to go." She whispered. On her tiptoes, Anna moved closer and hid behind the couch. After a few snap shots, she bombarded her science teacher.

"Anna Greensteen!" she shouted.

"Gee, Ms Guileberry, don't you think this place is a little extreme? I mean—come on; you've got vines on your ceiling."

"What on Earth are you doing here, and why are you taking pictures of me?"

"Oh, spare me the whole damsel in distress routine. I caught you red handed."

"And what exactly have I done?"

"Only a Celtic Wicca is this obsessed."

"A witch?"

"You heard me."

"I'm calling your father. Your top has flow too far off the bottle this time, young lady."

She always believed something was odd about her. Ms Guileberry's unusual kindness—in Anna's mind—was an excuse to justify casting spells on students to obtain their total submission. Besides, Yankees are brasher. Magic never worked on Anna because her mother watched, sprinkling angel dust as tough as nails.

"Go right ahead because this time I have proof." She held her camera by the strap, dangling it in her face.

"Give me that!"

"Not until you admit it," Anna said, whipping out her father's old tape recorder.

Ms. Guileberry stood with the phone to her ear.

"Hello, Mr. Greensteen, My name is Augusta Guileberry—Anna's science teacher. I have her here with me. She apparently thought it would be humorous to spy on me. She has taken pictures as well, and I would like to have them [...] Yes, thank you."

Anna stood holding her camera close to her chest. Handing over the film would be like letting go the memory of her mother.

"Your father has strictly ordered you to give me those pictures." Ms Guileberry said, with her palms out. Anna noticed sweat slithering through the lines and felt this was the opportunity to prove her father wrong. However, with all the lectures and constant room sentencing, she rather hand it over and leave the investigation for fate to solve.

"Sorry, Evette," she said, as she opened the camera.

"Thank you, now I'll be seeing you in school tomorrow. Be sure to get enough sleep. I don't want catch you dozing off again in my class."

Anna turned toward the door, reached in her pocket and pulled out an extra roll of film. Swiftly, she loaded her camera. Before stepping outside the apartment, she turned and faced Ms. Guileberry.

"Say cheese!" she shouted, and bolted out the door.

A WOMAN'S TOUCH


Before entering the apartment, she took a deep gulp of air. She wished her mother magically appeared once she opened the door. She turned the knob and could hear Dixie scratching, anxiously waiting to be petted. When she walked inside, Anna noticed her father standing in front of the mantle, staring at the portrait above it. She slid out her sandals and tried tiptoeing pass.

"Anna Louise Greensteen," he said.

She hung her head and walked into the den area. Prepared for a long conversation, she grabbed a cushion from the sofa and sat on the ottoman near him.

"You know, you look just like your mother." He stared into the eyes of the portrait, and then glanced at his daughter. "She was always better than me at times like these. You're a lot like her. She understood you better than me. I'm much too stubborn to [...]"

"Oh, dad, you're not that bad."

"I'm not?"

"You're king Greensteen for crying out loud. Being stubborn obviously wasn't enough to stop your dreams from coming true."

"You're quite the charmer." He laughed.

"Let me here you say it. ‘For top of the line from A to Z...'"

"'Call King Greensteen's Limou-sines—'"

"That's the spirit." She stood from the ottoman and tried easing her way to her room. "And remember, hold your high head high, and [...]"

"Anna," he interrupted, "where do you think you're going?"

"You know what's funny? Ms. Guileberry asked me that same question today. Speaking of her, I have tons of homework and [...]"

"Get back here, young lady. I'm not through with you."

"I'm sorry, dad, but—I didn't plan it, I swear."

"I've told you time and time again. All this… knight and shinning nonsense has to end.” The king said. “The last thing I want is to see my little girl in a world of trouble I can't get her out of."

"But, dad, I [...]"

"No buts, Anna."

"Will you just listen for a second?"

"Not another word. This is the last time. Next, I will arrange for you to spend the entire summer and the duration of junior high in Bayonne. Perhaps, with a woman's touch, you'll come back prepared to finish high school without any incidents."

"Please, dad, not aunt Peru—"

"I just don't know what else to do."

As she snuggled with Dixie, she thought a woman's touch was the least of what she needed. "A dog is a man's best friend," and a step in becoming a woman, in Anna's mind, was having a cat—the friend of a woman. Though she wasn’t full grown, she felt halfway there—with Dixie nearby.

Anna reached for the pillow by the footboard and placed it behind her head. She pictured her and mother dancing in the kitchen after preparing the king's favorite dish. With the sun beaming through the window, the smell of spring lilies filtered through the rays. They played patty-cake with spatulas and took turns singing lead to their favorite songs. Then, her memory started to drift and reality set it. Dixie hopped off her belly and circled the bowl lying on the floor.

"What is it, Dix—no milk?" She took the bowl and made her way into the kitchen. Mr. Greensteen sat in his Lord Raffles Lion, licking his index finger and skimming through each section. Anna filled the bowl and placed the container back in the fridge. She walked to her room and pushed open the door with the tips of her toes. Dixie ran between her legs, then back through them nearly causing a spill. Anna sat the bowl on the floor and gently patted her cat on the head. Before she could get comfortable, she noticed the window left opened. She closed it and reached for the blinds. Then, she paused—and noticed a bearded man standing on the sidewalk. With all those people around, it mysteriously seemed like she was the only one who saw. She watched as he reached in his blazer and pulled out a note pad. After taking notes, he checked his watch. Anna noticed another across the street, walking toward the phone booth. He looked around before stepping inside. The other, then reached in his pocket. However, this time—he pulled out a cellular phone. After a few words, the bearded man tucked it in his blazer, while the other exited the booth.

"Well, that was strange," Anna thought to herself, as she watched the men fade into the city.

She shut the blinds and threw herself flat on the bed. Though she was curious about the men, her record for proving any of her suspicions was zero out of one hundred. The last thing she wanted was to spend an entire summer in Bayonne. A touch from aunt Peru caused nothing but sorrow. It made putting the pieces of her broken heart even harder to place back together.

KIND OF PURPOSE


"Only two more days," Peter said. "So, what do you want to do this summer?"

They stood on the corner waiting for the signal to change.

"I don't know—unless you want to go with me to Bayonne again."

"Aunt Peru," he said, "no thanks. The last time I came—I ended up sleeping in a tent outside the front door because she said I snored too loud."

"Oh come on, Peter;—it's only a week."

"But the Sharks are having try-outs and [...]"

"Baseball? You choose baseball over your best friend?" Anna glanced over her shoulder, and then turned around in complete shock. "Peter, look!" She grabbed him by the wrist and ran across the street. They nearly knocked people to the pavement and cars stopped abruptly.

"Hey, you kids watch out!" a man shouted out the window.

"Anna, where are we going?"

"Don't worry! Just follow me!"

They hid behind the stairs of a small apartment building.

"Do you see that man in the suit, Peter?" She slid her backpack off her shoulders, pulled out her camera, and took pictures.

"Yeah, I see one every day, and they all look the same: long beards and black suits.

"Well, I think they're up to something."

The bearded man opened the cab, and it drove off.

"I don't know, Anna. They seem harmless to me."

"That's what they want us to think.—Think about it. Don't you think it's weird to see men dressed like that all the time? I bet their part of a secret society."

"I admit—they do seem weird. I never see them talking to anyone—except themselves."

"Well, I'm going find the meaning behind these men."

"Well, I'm starving. I can taste my mother's liver and onions right now."

"Now that's disgusting. I guess I'll see you later, Peter."

Whenever she mentioned any of her suspicions, he always tried to help—no matter how outrageous they seemed. That time she suspected the pizza shop was a haven for wanted criminals, he noticed—for the owner—wearing an apron was an all day routine. Before their invasion, he caught him hopping out a cab in a suit instead. Peter watched him walk to a group of men and accept a brief case. The owner opened it before fleeing the area. However, Peter could not see what was inside. The men stood there as casual as tourists did on their second visit. Walking home from a late practice, he knew his mother was waiting, so he ignored their next move. Unfortunately, Anna was unable to find any important evidence in the days that followed. However, her friendship with Peter was becoming something in which she could feel normal.

When Anna arrived home after Peter's boy hunger rushed him away, the king sat in his Lord Raffles Lion, sipping coffee from a steaming mug, while—in the other hand—he held the phone against his ear. Anna tried easing pass him, though he noticed and signaled her to sit. She followed his instructions, hoping it was not her science teacher leaking the quiz results. Anna feared she passed only by the skin of her teeth.

"One moment, darling," he said, and then hung up the phone. "That was your aunt Peru."

"Well, what did she say? Please, don't tell me she's moving to the city."

"No. You don't have to worry about that," he laughed. "Though, we did discuss your visit this summer."

"Wait, let me guess. I can stay here the whole summer?"

"Sorry, Anna, but I've arranged for you to stay an extra week."

"Two weeks!" she shouted, grabbing her pigtails and yanking them to the floor."

"Now just calm down; she has it all planned out for you; she guarantees it'll be fun."

"Fun? Aunt Peru's idea of fun is counting to one hundred backward while running the dishwasher," she said. "I'm not going!"

"You don't have a choice. You will go and behave yourself."

The last sound Anna made came from her room door— after she slammed it on her way inside. It nearly shook every light object in the home. She threw herself on the bed and laid facing the ceiling with her knees bent in the air. She was angry, though everything in life has a purpose. Refusing to look on the bright side, she wished her mother were there and in charge. Twittering her thumbs all summer would be bliss—compared to spending two weeks in Bayonne. There was no one to blame for her attitude—except her father of course. She thought if her mother were there, his hard approach would soften. Only a rare love—like the kind he had for her mother—could cause that change. However, now that she's gone—his responses hardened. Even if a limo crashed into him, his heart would still be without a dent. Since her mother's death, the only time he seemed the least bit concerned about Anna's feelings was when she awoke in a cold sweat. After screaming, she claimed she had a nightmare. Lizards—standing on two legs—dragged her to a swamp where their king decided her fate. Mr. Greensteen rushed to her aid, though Anna was unwilling to receive him. The king lizard she dreamed about was similar to another king—better known as her father. They were both "green" and a dictator. Mr. Greensteen closed the door after speaking his piece, and Anna laid back down. This time she hoped to enter a more pleasant land. If dreams have purpose, then her bad one could mean that perhaps she may end up in the middle of something that requires her mother's protection.

STAR OF DAVID


"Class, as you all may know, tomorrow is the last day of school. Be sure to study for your test. It will be vital to your advancement."

"Come on, Ms, G, we studied for the last test. Couldn't you just give us the answers this time?" one of her students asked.

The class laughed.

"Now settle down, class. We don't want to encourage ignorance," she said, "Anna, lift your head up off your desk. Class will be over in matter of minutes. After tomorrow, you will have the entire summer to sleep."

Anna lifted her head and in a raspy voice she begged, "Please, Ms. Guileberry, whatever you do, don't call my dad."

"Please, Ms. Guileberry, don't call my dad," another classmate teased, "You better straighten up, or else no more free limo rides for you, young lady."

"Oh, back off. I walk to school."

"Why? Your dad is one of the richest men in the city. He probably calls you princess and tucks you in at night, doesn't he?"

"Young man, enough. I will contact both of your parents, if you two continue pestering each other."

"He started it," Anna said, gathering her things.

The bell sounded and they all crowded at the door, squeezing their backpacks between the doorway.

"May the star of David protect you all, and remember to study! Ms. Guileberry shouted, before the room became completely empty. Anna was last to leave the class. That catnap clearly left her sluggish.

"Later, Ms. Guileberry," she said, walking toward the door.

"Miss Greensteen, I will be grading your test extra hard. You seem to know everything, since you use my class as you would your bedroom. You don't have to worry about me contacting your father again, because I'm certain that the reason your sleeping is due to long nights of studying, am I right?"

"Sure, Ms. Guileberry," she said, "well, I'll see you tomorrow. Oh, and my dad says hello."

She lied to avoid any problems. Anna didn't want any spells to be casted against her. Surprisingly, Ms. Guileberry never even spoke about the incident and Anna's wild claim. With only one day left to deal with unruly youth, her teacher perhaps felt that by next year—Anna would have forgotten.

"Anna," a voice shouted in the hall. "Wait up," he said, running toward her.

She kept walking, knowing who the boy was.

"You were supposed to be by the horseshoe."

"I know, but I was talking to Vaughn and he said [...]"

"Let me guess, something to do with baseball."

"Yea, how did you know?"

"I'm only your best friend, Peter. Sports are all every boy cares about," she said. "Hey, do you know what the Star of David is?"

"No, why?"

"I don't know. Ms. Guileberry said something about it protects us."

"From what?"

"Bad dreams, I guess."

When they reached the crosswalk, a man approached them, holding a velveteen jewelry roll. He opened it and kneeled to show them. Anna immediately recognized the name stitched on the breast of his shirt. It read,

"Ziggum for mayor."

"What was that, little lady?"

"Your shirt," she said.

"I know it's a little old-fashioned, but it's for a good cause. So, which one would you like?" asked the jeweler.

"Um [...]"

"This one looks pretty cool," Peter said, as he pulled a ring from the case.

"That one, my friend, is the rarest piece of them all. It is a symbol of protection, known to us as the Star of David."

"Us?"

"The Jews—"

"Let me see that," she said, snatching it from Peter.

"Hey, what's the big idea?"

"The big idea, Peter, is this, remember? The Star of David!"

"Are you Jewish?" the jeweler asked.

"No, but my teacher is. This is magic too, isn't it?"

"Magic? More like matrimony. David was a great king before Christ, whose spirit guides us. There's a place right over there, where you can learn more. The rabbis will be more than willing to help."

"What's a rabbi?" she asked.

"A great man with wisdom—whose job is to provide answers to the problems in humanity," he said.

Anna stared for a moment—as if there was something strange about the man. She opened her backpack and pulled out her camera.

"What's that you have there?"

"Her name is Evette, and she's my camera. You don't mind if I take a few pictures, do you?"

"I'm sorry, but please—no pictures."

"Just one won't take that long. Here, hold this, Peter."

"Little lady, please—"

She held it up, and took a shot.

"Give me that." The jeweler said, reaching for her camera.

"Run, Peter!"

They ran inside the local pizza shop.

"Out! Out!" the owner shouted.

"This way, Anna!"

They hid inside the local bus station.

"Is he still there?" she asked.

"No, I don't see him."

"He wouldn't come here anyway."

"Why not?"

"Do you know where we are? Port Authority, you goofball, stays surrounded by police."

"You think that guy was hiding something?" Peter asked.

"Think—? I know."

BIZARRE BOREDOM


In the back of Anna's mind was the thought of her father sending her to Bayonne for good. Upon aunt Peru's request, he would pack her bags in an instant, forcing her to spend the remainder of junior high surrounded by bizarre boredom. In her eyes, it was a bad idea leaving the city for somewhere dull. She was almost a teenager. As the years begin to fly by, the need for excitement will overflow her heart. Anna would end up involving herself in even more risky activities. Mr. Greensteen should allow her to stay, because in Bayonne, it could only get worst. Aunt Peru was traditional and followed the rules of righteous living. Anna didn't disagree with doing the right thing. However, the modern day is more about improvising—which she was used to.

She arrived home, and Mr. Greensteen was sound asleep in his Lord Raffles Lion, turned to his side with his hands between his cheek and the lumbar support. Anna crept passed him. He looked more like a knight sleeping on watch than the king he often referred to himself as. As she eased passed, she spotted the ticket on the floor beneath him. To rid herself of worry, she planned to throw it out. However, before she could kneel and grab it, Dixie crawled in. The cat purred, yearning for Anna's attention.

"Shh, Dix. You're going to wake him up."

The cat just stood, staring into her eyes.

"Oh, don't look at me like that, Dix. I know we shouldn't be doing this, but I can't go to Bayonne. You know that. I won't let you change my mind if that's what you're trying to do. I know what I'm doing."

"Louise, is that you?" He wiped the corners of his mouth with his sleeve, and Anna ran to her room.

"See what you did? Now, I'm going to go check on him. This time, you stay here."

Anna took slow steps back toward his chair. She reached for the ticket. Before she could grasp it, he rolled over facing her with his eyes closed. After gathering herself, she snatched the ticket and turned toward her room.

"Anna," he said, "have I been that negligent to where you think I can no longer sense your presence?"

"Uh [...]"

"You may place that back where you found it."

"Oh, this—it was on the floor. I was just—putting it in a safer place."

"There's a nice spot right on the mantle."

"You're right. Why didn't I think of that?" She did what he told her to do and walked to her room with her head to the floor and arms hung low.

In her room, Anna laid in bed undecided on whether going to Bayonne was two weeks of vacation or victimization. Since her mother passed, Mr. Greensteen has been harping more on her need of a woman's touch, and Anna was overwhelmingly annoyed. However—with the obvious age difference, the old man could be right. The truth is the death of her mother was traumatic. Her heart was still dangling from her organs—like her camera hanging from its strap. All these outbursts may very well be result of a broken heart. Unless she admits it however, the pieces of it will remain scattered.

THE JEWELER'S JUDGEMENT


"Good luck next year, students. Remember, a sincere approach to all things is the only way to become one with your soul purpose."

"What did she say?" one of her students asked on the way out.

"Who cares?" the other replied.

"Yea, besides, it's the last day of school!"

As usual, Anna was slow leaving the room. She gathered her things and walked toward the door. Before stepping in the hall, she recognized the sticker above the doorframe. It read,

"Ziggum for mayor—"

"What was that, Anna?" asked Ms. Guileberry.

"Oh—nothing," she said. "I was just—thinking about how much I will miss being in your class."

She laughed and said, "I'm sure you had some good dreams, since you slept through it the whole year. However, somehow you were able to pass. For that, I must give you credit."

"Thanks, Ms. Guileberry, I'll definitely stop by and see you next year."

She exited into the hall, and, immediately, she remembered the phrase stitched on the jeweler's shirt. Anna made her way through the double doors. Before she reached the horseshoe, someone tapped her on the shoulder. She turned around, but no one was there. She sat down to wait for Peter, trying to put the clues together. Then, he surprised her.

"Anna," he shouted.

"Was that you tapping me on the shoulder?"

He laughed and said, "You should've seen the look on your face."

"Very funny, Peter."

"So, what's new?"

"Well, I noticed something strange."

"What else is new?"

"I'm serious, Peter. Ms. Guileberry has a sticker on her door that says, 'Ziggum for mayor—just like the jeweler. Oh, and when I was in her apartment I [...]"

"Wait. You snuck into Ms. Guileberry's apartment. I bet that was weird."

"Tell me about it. There were plants everywhere, and the place she ordered them from—had the same sticker on their truck."

"But still—what's the big idea?"

"You don't get it, do you? She asked, "Remember how strange the jeweler was? How weird was it for her to order all those plants from a company that's voting for the same guy? Who is Ziggum anyway?"

"Whoever he is—he has some strange people pulling for him, but I don't think it's suspicious; it's just politics."

With her eyes wide open, Anna walked toward the spot where they met the jeweler. Peter followed close behind, still trying to convince her that voting is every Yankee's God- given right. She ignored him until he pointed him out, standing in his long black trench coat. Anna ran toward him, hoping to find out who exactly is Ziggum.

She tapped him on the shoulder. For a moment, he seemed as though he didn't recognize her. He opened his jacket and showed the pieces dangling from the lining, then offered her a price as if she were a twelve-year-old piggy bank. Once he realized, his smile immediately became a frown. She asked about the man's name on his shirt, and he refused to speak. If she was not willing to buy, he rather she walk the other way. Anna cleverly told him that her father was unsure who to cast his vote for, and the jeweler adjusted his attitude. He asked— in exchange for his help—if she would hand over the pictures. Anna agreed, and the jeweler suggested that her father visit the synagogue to learn about the campaign.

"Synagogue?"

"Yes. Once he enters, he will never be the same."

"Uh, I don't like the sound of that," Peter said.

"Where is it?"

"I've already shown you, remember? That building over there; now, give me those pictures."

"Pictures? Oh yea, that's right." She reached in her backpack and pulled out her camera. "Say cheese!"

"Run, Anna!" Peter shouted.

"Get back here!"

As cars began to slow down and the signal changed, they ran across the street. They kept running as the jeweler followed close behind. People watched though none interfered. Anna followed Peter down the stairs to the local subway station. Though before they could hop on the train, the jeweler grabbed her by the by the collar.

"Let her go, Frank."

"Rabbi Ben Able? You're back. My humble apologies, sir—I was just [...]"

"You were just what? These are children," he said. "You two go on and enjoy your summer."

"Oh, thanks mister," she said.

"Come on, Anna. Let's get out of here." Peter grabbed Anna by the hand, and they made their way up the stairs the same way they came down them.

Though she realized all the bearded men were nothing but rabbis, Anna still wondered—why so many of them? To add to that, why did the jeweler refuse to be specific? The only information he gave was where to find Ziggum—but not who he was. If promoting this man was for "a good cause," then why was he acting so suspicious?

"Anna, look," he said. "Do you see what I see?"

She turned her head every direction, noticing the eerie sight surrounding them. Anna reached for her camera and began to take photos of all the people wearing the exact phrase the jeweler wore on his shirt.

"'Ziggum for mayor,'" she read aloud. "Peter, something isn't right about this. We have to check out that building tomorrow."

BAD NEWS


"Are you sure this is the place?" Peter asked.

"I don't know. There's no sign outside that says, 'Synagogue' or anything."

The door opened as they approached it. The building blended in with the others on the outside, though the inside was deteriorating. The stained glass windows were faded, and pews all lined up in rows covered with dust and tiny webs. They followed the trail of old artwork scattered on the floor, all the way to the sanctuary.

"Wow," she said. "Peter, take a look at that." She pointed at the shinning blue star behind the pulpit, and then loaded her camera.

"The Star of David," he said, walking toward it.

"Wait, Peter. Do you hear something?" Anna put her ear to the floor. "Someone's down there."

Peter kneels to listen.

"Someone's down there," he whispered.

"I just said that."

Anna did not understand why someone would use this place to campaign. She thought that perhaps someone was rebuilding. However, the voices below gave the hint that there may be secret kept between these walls. Either way—this place told a lot about the religion itself—or the man in charge.

"Over here, Peter."

"What is it?"

"It looks like a trap door?"

"Open it."

"I'm trying to open it." She pulled the handle until she turned red, and then suddenly fell through.

"Anna, are you alright?"

"I'm fine. Come on, Peter." He slid down the passage, while Anna waited at the bottom. "That was awesome."

"Shh—do you hear that?"

They walked down the dark hall toward the sound. When she noticed the dimmed light at the end, she gave Peter the signal not to make a sound. Anna crept toward the door and opened it wide enough for her to see.

"They're everywhere," she whispered to Peter.

"Who's everywhere?"

"The rabbis."

Anna listened as they spoke.

"How much is accounted for?" the rabbi asked another.

"Five-hundred thousand," he said, lifting a large icebox onto the table. He opened the top and pulled out rolls of cash. "They have been broken up into thousand dollar rubber banded rolls, sir."

"Look at all that money," she whispered.

"How much is it?"

"I don't know."

The men started speaking to each other. However, a familiar voice overshadowed all the others.

"Rabbi Ziggum, I just want to tell how much I value being in your presence again, sir."

"Do you have what you owe?"

"Well, you see, that's the thing. I'm afraid I have some bad news. Rabbi Ben Able is back from Jerusalem. He said he'll be here tomorrow, and he plans to re-claim his position as head of the church. He forced me give him what I earned, saying that you have violated Jewish law."

"Ben Able will do nothing against me. I am in charge and he answers to me now. If you see him before tomorrow, tell him I will be waiting for him."

Still with her nose in their business, Anna was shocked at what she witnessed.

"I knew there was something suspicious about that jeweler."

"Hey, who goes there?" Ziggum stood and moved toward the door.

"Run, Peter!" she shouted, and they ran through the dark hall and found the staircase leading to the sanctuary. The rabbis followed close behind.

"Stop!" one shouted.

Anna and Peter entered the sanctuary and split up. With two behind her, she knocked over a large vase full of umbrellas, and the rabbis slipped, falling flat on their backs. Peter ran between the pews as a rabbi chased after him. Then, he jumped clear over the last row, leaving the bearded man completely out of breathe.

"Come on. Let's go!" They ran out the synagogue, and into the street.

"Look out, Anna!" Peter shouted, and someone quickly grabbed her and placed her out of harm's way.

"That was close, my darling. You two seem to always find yourselves in a lot of trouble."

"Rabbi Ben Able, thank you."

"Oh you're welcome, though is everything all right?"

"No, Rabbi Ziggum is using all the members of the church to help pay for his campaign," she said, breathing heavily.

"Oh, I am quite aware. Come with me, and we'll talk some more."

"Well, I got to get home, before my mom worries to death."

"Wise decision, my boy," he said. "I tell you what—meet me at that coffee shop ten o'clock sharp tomorrow. Maybe you two can help me bring Ziggum to justice, before the entire city is following his deception."

THE LAST TOUCH


She entered the home, kicked her shoes off, and rushed to bathroom. When she opened the door, Mr. Greensteen was combing his hair plugs, admiring himself in the mirror. Startled, he dropped the comb on the floor, and then ran to the kitchen. Skeptical as usual, she grabbed the open jar of hair grease on her way out. When she read the label aloud to him, the king confessed that he found a new queen. He tried explaining the relationship, claiming he was in dire need of woman's touch. He recommended Anna meet her for a touch of her own. She ignored his suggestion, stating that her mother was the only one capable of understanding her psyche. In her mind, he was just making an excuse for trying to get rid of her mother's memory. Before storming to her room, she vowed to prove him wrong—not only about her need of a woman's touch, but that her suspicions were far from imagination.

Anna laid in bed with Dixie beside her. She took a deep sigh and reached for the Polaroid beneath her pillow. She held the picture close to her chest, and imaged her mother sitting on the edge by the footboard. The spirit reached out its hand, and Anna sat up to touch it. Though her natural hand could not hold on, she felt instant comfort. She tried to speak to it, and the spirit smiled and began to fade. Anna begged for it to come back, but it kept fading and tears covered her face. It was time to move forward. Anna was unsure and hoped that was not the last touch she would receive. However, judging by the smile on the spirit's face, it may have been all she needed. One last touch that would make her free, so that her alone time would not be spent mourning. Instead, she would rejoice, knowing that her mother is in a better place.

END SAMPLE
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