Teen detective helps find a speech. Finally posting this so I can stop being such a baby.
|Sunday morning. The clock read nine twenty-nine. If I knew my client, he'd be there in exactly a minute.
The knock on the door said my clock was one minute slow.
I answered, and a small kid in a big suit decided my hand looked like a maraca. "Thank you, Chad," he said. "I really need your help."
He released me from his two-handed CEO grip and walked into the living room.
"Please, come in," I sighed.
Max Peters sat on the couch. The suit draped over his slight figure made him look smaller, but his hands were large and made up for the loose sleeves. His dark brown hair was slicked to the side with pomade, and some loose pieces stuck out. He had a puffy nose and a small jaw, but the girls at school would swear he was a Disney prince.
He turned his head in every direction, not looking but seeing. He bounced his left leg absentmindedly. He'd never acted like that at school.
"So Max," I said. "You're missing a manuscript, right?"
"It's my re-election speech for class treasurer," he said. "I'm arguing against removing the vending machines."
"You don't have a digital copy?"
"No. I handwrite everything I can. I'm so well-organized I can usually get away with it."
"But not this time."
He scratched the back of his neck. "That's the thing. Someone stole it."
It can never be your fault, I thought. "What makes you say that?"
"Plenty of kids want to get rid of the vending machines, thinking it'll make us healthier. Course, these are the same kids who think more rules means less rulebreakers. It's really more complex than that-"
I got up. "I still don't see it. Your enemy count is in the negatives. I doubt anyone wants to hurt your chances. I'm getting a glass of water. You want anything?"
"Coffee," said Max. "Black."
I shook my head. "No dice, Chief. That's the last thing you need."
I microwaved a cup of chamomile tea for Max and grabbed a glass of water for myself. I went back to the living room and set the hot mug on the coffee table.
Max's eyebrows knitted at the sight. He took the cup anyway and started drinking. "Thank you," he said but didn't mean.
I nodded. "You missed a buttonhole when you got dressed this morning."
"Wha-?" Max looked down. His face went red. The grey button-down had the awkward fold of a rushed morning routine.
"You don't have to fix it," I said. "Just pointing it out. You in a rush this morning?"
"No. I wake up at six, so I had plenty of time. In fact, I got ready slower than usual."
Max nodded. "I spaced a couple times. I finished breakfast and hadn't made the coffee yet."
"Are you writing this down?" he asked.
"It may be relevant to the case. And speaking of the case, when did you lose the manuscript?"
"I noticed it was gone during the last period Friday. I don't know where I lost it. I worked on it all day."
"Do you need it?"
"Would I ask for help if I didn't?"
"Valid." I leaned back in the chair. "I can't guarantee I'll find it, though. Especially not by tomorrow. You'd better make a backup."
Max gaped. "What? I can't rewrite the whole thing by tomorrow!"
"I'm not telling you to. If you can remember your basic points, you could make flashcards."
He raked his hand through his hair. "I can't use those! I need to know exactly what I'm saying."
"If you can think of any other options, that would be great," I said. "But I recommend a backup just in case."
I tore off a sheet from my notepad and wrote up a mock prescription. I handed it to him. "Here. Make a backup for your speech, and take it easy on the jitter juice." In return he gave me a ten dollar bill and a list of all the places he'd been on Friday.
He looked at the note, then at me. "So that's it, then?"
"Yup. I'm gonna look for it, but I need you to do those things for me. Pleasure doing business with you."
"You too. Thanks again." He shook my hand, and I could still feel it when he left. Now that was the handshake of someone who wanted on your good side.
Study hall was my chance to find the manuscript on Monday. I could visit all the classrooms on the list, but I remembered something easier.
I crossed off Max's English class. That was only the class where he found the papers missing.
He'd worked on it "all day" Friday, so he must have lost it right before he noticed. I crossed off all the other places... except the Tech room. Yearbook was his second-to-last class on Fridays.
Mr. Gosling's room was filled with students quietly working. They all looked at me when I entered, making me question whether I was meant to be there.
"Mr G," I whispered. "Have you seen a stack of papers around here?"
"I know exactly what you mean," he beamed. He went to a counter on the edge of the room and produced the stack. It was stapled on the corner. "Are these yours?" he asked.
"No," I said. "Max Peters hi- uh, told me to get them."
"Okay," said Mr. Gosling. handing me the manuscript. "These look important."
"They are. Max needs to deliver a speech today. You didn't notice if he was distracted during class Friday...?"
"Oh. I remember. There's this girl, Jenny Raleigh. She just joined Yearbook. Max has a huge crush on her."
The "studying" kids leaned to our side of the room.
"Us teachers have a way of knowing these things," said Mr. Gosling, "In fact-"
"No time, I said. "Gotta get these to Max."
"Okay, bye Chad!"
I went into the library, where the speeches were held. Max stood in a line of student senate members. He was next in line. Aaron Cappella approached him and put his hand on his shoulder. "Muhboy, muhboy!" he said. "T-C-B, alright?"
He left, passing me to join the audience. "Wait, what's T-C-B?" I asked.
Aaron turned around. "Don't worry about it."
I shook my head and shoved past a group of girls crowding around Max- or anyway, trying. "Well, here you go," I said, giving him his manuscript.
"Thank you," he said. I put my hands in my pockets, so he opted for a tight hug.
"Next up is Max Peters, running for re-election for Class Treasurer of 2025!" said Mrs. Neumann.
Max waved to the audience, then leaned on the podium. He cleared his throat.
"Hello, class of 2025," he said. "I am addressing you all in the hopes that you will re-elect me for treasurer next year. I'm running on the principles of balance, freedom, and..." he sighed. "Hang on, I gotta fix sum'n."
Max picked up the packet by the top edge, gripped the ends, and...
The audience gasped. Especially me.
"As I was saying, I listen to the people. My fellow students deserve to have their needs met. For one thing, we need to keep the vending machines."
He looked around in case someone was surprised. The room was silent.
"I took a poll," he said. "Fifty-seven percent of Centerville High students say they are unlikely to stop drinking sugary beverages if the vending machines are removed. Thirty-eight percent say they will buy it from somewhere outside the school during study hall. Eleven percent say sugary beverages are their only means of hydration. Who are we to take that away?"
A roar rose from the audience. Mrs. Neumann hushed them.
"It is clear that taking away the vending machines will do more harm than good," Max continued. "All it will do is cost this fine school a source of revenue, and make eleven percent of students' hydration experience less enjoyable at best. And another thing."
Though his hands remained on the podium the whole time, they started to shake.
"Jenny Raleigh? I love you."
The crowd forgot they were in a library.
I cut my way through the mass of people cheering him on. "Congrats, man. How'd you memorize all those numbers?"
"Mnemonics," Max grinned. "Fifty-seven Chevy, thirty-eight caliber, Up to Eleven. The best part is I didn't do it on purpose."
Those sound like Aaron things, I thought.
"Alright, well..." I started turning away, but Max got hold of my hand and shook it like he swallowed a jackhammer.
"Thanks again, Chad. Really. I know your efforts might feel pointless, but you helped me a great deal."
"You made me realize I didn't need the manuscript!"
"Oh. You're welcome."
Max finally let me leave so I could catch up with Aaron, who was leaving. "So you're friends with Max?" I asked.
"Yeah, what of it?" Aaron looked straight ahead.
"Nothing, it's just... I thought you didn't like overachieving politician types."
Aaron sighed. "Max and I found out we had something in common last summer. And that's all you get to know."
"'Cause it's none of your damn business."