The Case of the Lunchtime Abduction
A Shirley Holmes Fan Fiction

by HA
        17,300 words

The Case of the Lunchtime Abduction : Chapter 1

"I'd never thought I'd actually see it," Bo Sawchuk as he carried his lunch tray.

"See what?" Shirley Holmes asked.

"A peaceful day," Bo said with relief.

Shirley smiled. It had been a quiet day so far. She did not find any reports of unsolved local crimes in the newspaper. For once, there were no mysteries in Redington to solve.

Unfortunately for Shirley, the great-grandniece of Sherlock Holmes, that meant she has nothing to do.

Shirley and Bo saw Blake Hewitt waving them over from a table. Like Bo, Blake was wearing t he Sussex Academy school uniform: white shirt with striped tie, gray slacks, and a dark green blazer with the school's crest on the pockets.

Shirley was wearing a similar outfit except she had a plaid skirt on.

They joined Blake at the table. "So, how are you guys doing?" Blake asked.

"Great," Bo said, beaming.

"Just fine," Shirley said dully.

Blake looked at Bo, then at Shirley. "Did I miss something here?"

"I believe our friend the junior detective is bored to death," Bo pointed out, grinning.

"Let's not exaggerate," Shirley said. "While it's true that nothing interesting has happened in Redington recently, it's not true that I am that bored."

"Well, what were your plans for today, Shirley?" Blake asked curiously.

"Uh..." Shirley thought harder. "Um..."

"I rest my case," Bo said. "Without any mysteries to solve, Shirley gets bored."

"There's still homework..." Shirley began.

Bo just shook his head and smiled. He felt that he had made his point.

Blake cleared his throat. He seemed nervous. "Well, since you aren't that busy today,

Shirley, I was wondering if you and I could go to the Redington Museum later. There's a new group of Mayan artifacts on display. My mom can get us in for free."

Shirley looked at Blake and grinned. "You know, Blake, I'd like that. Thank you."

Upon hearing that, Bo's smile faded. He looked at his lunch and realized he was not so hungry anymore.

Blake noticed how Bo was staring at his food. "You can come too, Bo, if you like."

"Can't," Bo said, not even looking up from his tray. "Football practice after school."

Shirley and Blake talked about their museum date while Bo picked at his food. Their attention was suddenly diverted by an argument nearby.

"You can't do that," Bart James pleaded. "You can't just shut us down."

Molly Hardy stood before Bart, listening to him. "Bart, the school budget needs trimming and I just don't see the importance of the Science Club," she said.

"We do a lot of things!" Bart said, nearly losing his temper. "For example, our current project is exploring the possibilities of putting cybernetic implants into locusts, making it easier to control them."

Molly rolled her eyes. "What's your point, Bart?"

"Well, if we can control locusts, we can prevent them from attacking crops," Bart explained excitedly. "Farmers would be grateful."

Molly was unmoved. "And how is that project progressing?"

Bart gulped. "Well, we haven't really started it. We've just been looking into similar research being conducted in Japan..."

"That just supports my point," Molly interrupted. "The Science Club comes up with these big ideas and fails to deliver. It's a burden on the school budget, and it must go."

"But..." Bart started to protest.

Molly waved dismissively. "Bart, the club's previous projects included developing improved ghost detectors and examining alleged UFO landing sites. These things don't produce benefits for the school, yet they cost a lot."


"No more buts, Bart," Molly said seriously, putting her hands on her hips. "When the Teacher and Student Advisory Council meets in three days, I'll recommend that the Science Club be disbanded. That's the end of that." Molly turned around and walked away.

"Hey, Bart!" Blake called out. "Come and join us."

Glumly, Bart joined Shirley, Bo, and Blake at their table. "This is the worst day of my life," he sighed.

"Molly's planning to get rid of the Science Club?" Bo asked.

"Yeah, and it's not even fair," Bart said. "She's not even looking at the other clubs. She's targeted us only. You know she's got clout on the TSAC."

"There's Molly for you," Shirley commented. "I take it the Music Club is unaffected?"

"Exactly," Bart answered. "See what I mean?"

"Bart, some of the stuff you guys do are pretty much out there," Bo pointed out. "Ghost detectors?"

Bart was hurt. "Hey. People can benefit from improved ghost detectors."

Blake drank some apple juice. "Maybe if you stick to reasonable projects, Molly won't shut you down."

"I doubt that'll change Molly's mind." Bart shook his head and sighed deeply. "Nobody appreciates geniuses."

Shirley thought for a moment.

Molly put away her books from her previous class. She was about to get the things she needed for her next class when she spotted Shirley behind her from the corner of her eye.

"What do you want, Holmes?" she asked disdainfully, still looking into her locker.

"I want to protest an injustice being done to the Science Club," Shirley said as Molly turned around to face her.

"So Bart came whining to you, eh?" Molly said.

"You are aware of alternatives to shutting down the Science Club, like cutting funding for some of the other clubs?" Shirley asked.

"True, but the Science Club is a waste of time and money," Molly replied. "Sussex Academy should support the arts..."

"Like music?" Shirley interjected. Molly glared at Shirley. "Give it up, Holmes. Nothing you say or do will change my mind." She got what she needed and slammed her locker.

"Now, if you excuse me, I have a class to go to." Turning her nose up in the air, she left Shirley at the lockers.

"So she's not budging?" Blake asked Shirley as they looked at the Mayan artifacts at the Redington Museum.

"Yep," Shirley replied. "Molly totally refuses to spare the Science Club."

They looked at the rest of the artifacts. "So, do you want Sherlock's help?" Blake asked with a grin, referring to his computer alter ego.

"Not yet, Blake," Shirley said while admiring a Mayan feather headdress. "I'll look into the budget problem first." She studied the headdress's colorful feathers.

"Beautiful," Blake remarked.

"It is," Shirley said. "This headdress is indeed a work of art."

"I...wasn't talking about the headdress," Blake said nervously. He looked downward because his face was starting to turn red.

Shirley smiled at Blake and started blushing as well.

The next day during lunch, Shirley found Bart and showed him her findings. "Well, Bart, according to my calculations, the Science Club can be spared." She pointed out some items on a piece of paper.

"These expenses are quite wasteful. Cutting them will solve your problem."

Bart looked doubtful. "I don't think Molly would be willing to favor those cuts. She supports some of those expenses."

"Figures," Bo said.

"Maybe if we show Ms. Stratmann..." Blake started to suggest.

"Won't work." Shirley shook her head. "Molly's got Ms. Stratmann wrapped around her finger."

"Well, looks like the Science Club's done for." Bart got up.

"Thanks for trying, Shirley," he said before he left.

"Poor Bart," Blake said as Bart left the table. "I haven't seen him this depressed since somebody told him 'The Blair Witch Project' wasn't real."

Bo looked genuinely shocked. "You mean it isn't?"

Molly walked up to Shirley's table. "Well, well, well, Holmes," she said with a smile. "Still supporting a lost cause?"

Shirley looked at Molly. "You know that there are alternatives to shutting down the Science Club." Molly seemed bored, like she had heard this argument before. "I find it easier to eliminate the Science Club. Its outrageous projects are a burden on the school budget."

Shirley looked at an item on her list. "This cost for a new piano looks more outrageous to me." Molly gritted her teeth. "That piano is of the finest craftsmanship. It was built in Italy." She was tired of talking about the Science Club. "Look, Holmes, the subject is closed. At the TSAC meeting on Friday, on behalf of the student body, I'll recommend that funding for the Science Club be eliminated. I'm pretty sure that the others will agree with me." She turned around and left.

Blake waited until Molly was out of hearing range, then spoke. "Are you sure you don't need Sherlock now?"

Shirley watched as Molly was about to go back inside. A girl suddenly ran up to Molly. Out of breath, she told Molly something that seemed important while Molly listened to every word. Shirley noted the shocked look on Molly' face. Molly and the girl ran off inside.

"I wonder what that was all about?" Bo said.

Shirley's interest was aroused. "Why don't we find out."

The Case of the Lunchtime Abduction : Chapter 2

A few minutes later, Bo found himself hiding behind a bush in front of Ms. Stratmann's office window with Shirley and Blake.

"How did you know?" Bo asked Shirley.

"That girl who came up to Molly has office duty with Ms. Stratmann today," Shirley replied.

All three watched as Ms. Stratmann, the school's headmistress, and Molly talked. There was also a balding man in a suit present.

Shirley recognized the man. "Detective Tremain."

"What's he doing here?" Bo wondered.

Shirley put her finger up to her lips. The window was open just enough for them to listen in. Shirley noticed a piece of paper in Ms. Stratmann's hand. She looked rather anxious.

"This is why I called you here, Detective," she said as she handed Detective Tremain the paper. "This came in by fax about ten minutes ago."

Molly looked impatient as Detective Tremain studied the paper. "I don't see what the big fuss is all about," she remarked. "It's probably just a prank."

"I'm not so sure," Detective Tremain said after he finished reading the paper. "This note sounds serious."

Molly held out her hand for the paper. Detective Tremain obliged her.

"'For the sins of Mr. Hardy, his daughter will pay the price,'" Molly read out loud. "Sounds overdramatic to me."

"I wouldn't take this too lightly, Miss Hardy," Detective Tremain said. "Your father's become unpopular with certain persons due to his recent business dealings."

"Then why don't these 'certain persons' threaten him?" Molly asked.

"Threatening loved ones is a guaranteed way of making someone cave in," Detective Tremain pointed out.

"Well, I'm not convinced." Molly folded her arms across her chest.

"Molly, please be reasonable," Ms. Stratmann pleaded. "You could be in grave danger."

"If I were you, I'd be careful," Detective Tremain told Molly, handing her and Mrs. Stratmann each a card. "Call me if anything else suspicious happens."

"I think that's enough," Shirley told Bo and Blake. They managed to sneak away without being seen.

After school, Shirley, Bo, and Blake met at Blake's house. In Blake's room, Shirley and Bo watched from the bed as Blake worked on his computer.

Bo studied the bookcase filled with a large number of books, mostly mysteries. He whistled. "Blake, you sure have a big collection."

"Yep," Blake said, his eyes still on the computer monitor.

Bo looked at Shirley, who was reading on of Blake's books. "So, how was your date yesterday?" he asked her, keeping his voice low.

Shirley looked up from her book. "My date?"

"You know, the one you had with Blake at the museum," Bo reminded Shirley.

"It was okay," Shirley said. "Blake really knows a lot about Mayan culture. Why do you ask?"

"I was just...curious," Bo said, suddenly turning away.

Shirley raised an eyebrow at Bo, then returned to her book.

Blake turned to the others. "Well, it seems that Molly's dad has been getting a lot of threatening e-mail."

"How do you know?" Bo asked.

Blake pointed at the computer screen. "I just hacked into Mr. Hardy's e-mail account."

"What?" Bo was amazed.

"Good work, Blake," Shirley said.

"Hold it. How did you get Mr. Hardy's e-mail address?" Bo asked Blake.

"When I hacked into Molly's computer in order to get control of her Y web site, I got some info I felt would come in handy in the near future," Blake explained. "Accessing e-mail accounts is a cinch forme."

"You never cease to amaze me, Blake," Shirley said, giving Blake a little smile.

Bo rolled his eyes, trying to control the strange feeling in his stomach. "What did you find out?" he asked Blake.

"Well, besides the five e-mails from Molly, I'd say Mr. Hardy's been getting complaints from environmentalists, recently fired employees, and just some really ticked-off people upset with Mr. Hardy's current business projects," Blake said. "I believe someone from Greenpeace e-mailed him."

"Why are all those people so mad at Mr. Hardy?" Shirley asked.

"It seems that Mr. Hardy is involved in some oil drilling operations in various coastal areas. Also, his company's been laying off people considered 'nonessential,'" Blake explained.

"So some nut ticked off with Mr. Hardy wants to do something bad to Molly," Bo said. "Maybe kidnap her or worse."

Shirley put her book down and thought for a moment. "Hmmmm..."

"Hey, did you hear about Molly?"

"Yeah. Someone wants to kidnap her or kill her."

"I heard it was some crazy environmentalist."

"Poor Molly!"

The next day, while walking down the hallway, Shirley and Bo heard people talking about Molly's meeting with Ms. Stratmann. "How did word about this spread so fast?" Bo asked Shirley.

"The girl who took Molly to Ms. Stratmann is a big gossip," Shirley explained. "She must have been listening in."

Blake found Shirley and Bo and walked up to them. "Man, can you believe how fast the news spread?"

"Who knows about the threat to Molly?" Shirley asked.

"Apparently, everyone," Blake responded. "Great," Bo said.

The gossiping suddenly came to an halt. Shirley saw Molly walking down the hallway. She was looking at everyone, her eyes narrowed.

Everyone tried to keep quiet under Molly's gaze.

"What is going on here?" Molly demanded.

Shirley looked at Molly. "Apparently everyone believes that you're in grave danger."

Molly was furious. "Where would they...oh, that Jennifer Ashton! She was listening in."

Stink Patterson strutted up to Molly. He was wearing a large grin on his face. "You know, Molly, if you need a bodyguard, I'm your man," he said, still grinning.

Molly rolled her eyes. "The day I ask you for your help is the day I actually find you remotely attractive," she told Stink coldly. She turned her attention to Shirley. "Don't even think about it, Holmes," she warned harshly.

Alicia Gianelli joined the conversation. "Molly, you have to be a little worried..."

"I am not worried!" Molly declared. "Will everyone just leave me alone?" With that, she left for her class while everyone stared ather.

"She's either very brave or very stupid," a boy said, keeping his voice down.

Or very smart, Shirley thought.

Lunchtime finally came. As usual, Shirley, Bo, and Blake shared a table, this time outside.

Bo took a big sip out of his apple juice box. "So, what do you make of all of this, Shirley?"

Shirley took a bite out of her lunch. "Although a good detective is supposed to maintain an unbiased viewpoint, I'm getting the feeling of deja vu."


"This could be another one of Molly's stratagems," Shirley stated.

"You mean that this could be all a trick by Molly to draw attention to herself?" Blake asked.

"Exactly." Shirley took a few more bites from her lunch. "Of course, we must also take into account that Molly could really be in danger."

"Of course," Blake said in agreement.

"Speaking of Miss Moving Target, here she comes," Bo said, pointing towards Molly, who was carrying her lunch tray. Stink was at her side, still trying to persuade her to let him protect her. Molly simply looked straight ahead, ignoring him.

"I will never understand what Stink sees in Molly," Bo said. "She always rejects him and she used him once to steal her psychiatric examination."

"Love isn't exactly logical," Shirley said.

"It just happens," Blake added.

Bo looked quickly at Shirley, then returned to his lunch. "Yeah, it just happens," he told himself quietly and regretfully.

Stink was still bothering Molly, who was still ignoring him.

Suddenly, three men ran out from behind them. They were all large and muscular and wearing stockings over their heads. Everyone watched in horror as one of them grabbed Molly, causing her to drop her tray on the ground. Another one shoved Stink to the ground. "Have a seat, kid," he growled.

"What is the meaning of this?" Molly demanded hotly.

The man took out a gun and showed it to Molly. "Keep your mouth shut or else," he warned harshly.

Molly nodded quietly. The man with the gun pointed it upward and fired three times. All the kids present, including Shirley and her friends, ducked underneath their tables. Stink covered his head with his hands. "Nobody try to be a hero!" he shouted.

The third man looked around. "We got the girl. Let's go."

"C'mon, sweetheart," the man with the gun said to Molly, grabbing her by the hand.

Everyone watched helplessly as the three men ran off with Molly. As soon as they were out of sight, the kids got out from underneath their tables. Stink picked himself up and brushed himself off.

"Somebody call the police!" someone shouted.

A boy ran for Ms. Stratmann's office.

"This can't be happening. This can't be happening..." Alicia was telling herself.

"This is not good," Bo said to Shirley and Blake.

The Case of the Lunchtime Abduction : Chapter 3

A half-hour later, the police arrived. Detective Tremain started questioning everyone, especially the kids. He was currently talking to a still frantic Alicia.

"We were all just eating lunch," Alicia began, still shaking. "Then, these guys in stocking masks just showed up and grabbed Molly. One of them had a gun and he warned us not to follow them."

Detective Tremain wrote all this in a notepad. "Besides the stockings on their heads, what did these guys look like?" he asked Alicia.

"Big and muscular," Alicia answered, sniffing and wiping away her tears. "They were wearing T-shirts and generic-brand jeans. I think one of them had holes in his pant knees..."

Shirley observed and heard everything from a distance with Bo and Blake. Teachers were trying to comfort the children while police officers questioned them. Near a lunch table, reporters were swarming around Ms. Stratmann, asking her questions about Molly's abduction. Ms. Stratmann did her best to keep her composure, but it was clear that she was disturbed by what had happened.

"Ms. Stratmann, is it true that someone sent a threat to Miss Hardy?"

"Ms. Stratmann, is it true that radical environmentalists are behind Miss Hardy's kidnapping?"

"Please, please." Ms. Stratmann waved her hands in the air, trying to keep order.

"It is true that a threatening note was sent to the school, but at this time we do not know the party responsible for this...outrageous crime." "Have the parents been contacted yet?"

"Molly's parents are on a business trip in New York City," Ms. Stratmann answered. "We have contacted them about this tragedy and they are now trying to find a flight to Redington."

"Has there been a ransom demand from the kidnappers?"

Ms. Stratmann was about to answer when Mrs. Fish, her secretary, ran up to her. "Ms. Stratmann, Ms. Stratmann!" she called out while waving a piece of paper in the air.

"What is it, Mrs. Fish?" Ms. Stratmann asked, gesturing to the crowd of reporters. "I'm very busy right now..."

Mrs. Fish, still a little out of breath, handed Ms. Stratmann the paper. "This just came in from the fax machine. You may want to read it."

Ms. Stratmann read the paper. Her eyes widened.

"What does that paper say, Ms. Stratmann?"

Ms. Stratmann took a deep breath before continuing. "It''s a ransom note from the kidnappers." She read the note's contents. "'We, the Friends of Mother Earth, or FOME, demand that Mr. Hardy ceases all oil drilling operations in all coastal areas. Otherwise, he will never see his daughter again. We also demand $10,000 as a donation to our righteous cause.'"

Shirley watched as the reporters started asking Ms. Stratmann more questions. Some of the reporters spotted Detective Tremain and went up to him, asking him questions about the kidnapping.

"Man, I can't believe this is happening," Bo said.

"I've heard of these FOME guys," Blake recalled. "They're pretty extreme. Heck, they make Greenpeace look tame."

"I've also heard of FOME," Shirley said. "They are truly devoted to ecologism and animal rights. There was a rumor that they once tried to 'liberate' Shamu from Sea World."

"So Molly's been kidnapped by a bunch of eco-nuts?" Bo asked.

"So it seems." Shirley started towards the dormitory.

Bo and Blake walked with her.

"Where are we going?" Blake asked.

"Molly's room," Shirley answered. "I need to check out something there."

"Well, here we go again," Bo said to Shirley and Blake. They were climbing down the ladder inside the old laundry chute in the dormitory.

Bo remembered how Molly used it once to disappear in order to get her parents to come back from a trip to watch her at the Nationals. "I'm surprised this ladder is holding up all three of us."

"Live and learn," Shirley said from below. She was the first one to climb down the ladder. The next one was Blake. Bo eventually decided to join them despite his doubts about the old ladder's sturdiness.

A while later, they found themselves in Molly's room. Shirley noticed that the computer was still on. A fireworks screen saver was currently being displayed. "Ah, perfect," she said. "Sherlock, would you do the honors?"

"Why, I most certainly would." Blake walked up to Molly's desk and sat down. He put on some plastic gloves, then his fingers started flying across the keyboard after he turned off the screen saver.

"Better hurry, Blake," Bo said. "Someone might come by."

A few minutes later, Blake found something. "Well, well, well..." he said, pleased. Shirley and Bo looked at the screen. A computer program was displayed. Bo was puzzled. "What the heck is all this?"

"As far as I can figure, it's a program that tells the fax machine to send two certain documents at two set times to the school office's fax machine," Blake said. "It's a nice piece of work. I really have to give kudos to Molly. She's good," he said with genuine admiration.

"What documents did she send?" Shirley asked.

Blake pointed to two lines of code. "These. C:\THREAT.TXT and C:\RANSOM.TXT."

Bo sighed. "Looks like Molly's up to her old tricks again."

"Can you access them?" Shirley asked.

"No sweat," Blake answered, already doing Shirley's request. He accessed the right application and the first file was displayed on the screen.

Bo read the message. "This is the same note that Mrs. Stratmann got yesterday."

"It is indeed," Shirley said.

Blake brought up the second document. "It's definitely the ransom note Mrs. Stratmann read to the press," Shirley said.

Blake spotted a little sheet of paper next to the keyboard. He read out loud its contents.

"'Harland Acting Agency in Calgary, three tough-looking men: $10,000.'"

"That explains the ransom demands," Shirley said. "Must be the total fee plus a very handsome bonus."

"Molly's all heart," Bo said dryly.

Shirley walked up to the fax machine and printed out a record of all the recent outgoing transmissions. She folded the paper and put it in her blazer pocket.

"We're done here. Let's go."

Blake returned the computer to normal before he hacked into it. They all exited the room via the secret entrance.

Shirley, Bo, and Blake met at the Holmes residence. School was dismissed early due to Molly's kidnapping.

They settled down in the attic, which served as Shirley's crime laboratory.

"Molly's done it again," she told Bo and Blake as she stood before the portrait of her famous great-granduncle, Sherlock Holmes. She was holding the fax record. "She made reservations under an alias at an expensive hotel in downtown Redington."

"Is it the same place as last time?" Bo asked.

"It's a different hotel," Shirley answered. "Besides that and the kidnapping ploy, it's similar to her last disappearing act."

"Why would she do this?" Blake asked curiously.

"With Molly, it's all about getting attention," Shirley stated matter-of-factly. "As for the 'why,' there are two prominent possibilities."

"Which are?" Bo asked.

"The first possibility is that Molly wanted more sympathy from the TSAC. That way, the Science Club's demise is certain," Shirley said.

"The second possibility is the same one as before."

Bo caught on. "To get her parents back here."

Blake shook his head. "This girl needs a good psychiatrist."

"Or electric shock therapy," Bo commented.

Shirley stared at Bo seriously. Bo immediately shut his mouth.

"So which one do you think is correct, Shirley?" Blake asked.

Shirley picked up her cellular phone. "We'll find out after the police find her." She dialed the number for the police station and waited.

Someone on the other line answered. "Redington Police Department. How may we help you?"

"Yeah," Shirley said, sounding tough. "Get me the guy in charge of the Hardy case. I got a hot tip for him..."

Detective Tremain and three police officers entered the hotel lobby.

People stared at the policemen as they walked up to the front desk.

Detective Tremain showed the front desk clerk his badge. "We got an anonymous tip from some street kid that the Hardy girl and her kidnappers were hiding out here." He showed the clerk a written note containing the room number.

A few minutes later, a bellboy led Detective Tremain and his men to the room. Detective Tremain knocked on the door. "This is the police. Open up!" he shouted. There was no response.

Detective Tremain looked at his men. "Get ready," he ordered them, He tested the doorknob and found it was locked. He took out his gun.

"Sorry about this, kid," he said apologetically to the bellboy just before kicking the door open.

The policemen stormed into the room, guns drawn. "Nobody..." Detective Tremain started to shout, but he stopped and gave the room a second look.

The room was empty. Everything appeared to be in order. There was no sign that anyone

was ever staying in the room. "You know, I could've opened the door for you," the bellboy told Detective Tremain, showing him the room key.

The Case of the Lunchtime Abduction : Chapter 4

Later, the entire Holmes family watched the local news while eating dinner. Detective Tremain was being interviewed about the police's fruitless search at the hotel. "I'm afraid that there was no sign of the Hardy girl or her abductors at the hotel," Detective Tremain reported.

"Our anonymous source was either mistaken or playing a practical joke."

Practical joke? Shirley thought. She did not understand how the police could have found nothing. She gave the right hotel and room number.

"Have there been any other leads on the whereabouts of Molly Hardy?" the female reporter asked.

"I'm afraid there haven't been any," Detective Tremain answered regretfully. "That doesn't mean we're giving up," he added with determination. "The Redington police force will not rest until we find Molly Hardy."

"Who would be so evil as to kidnap a young girl?" Dr. Joanna Holmes, Shirley's mother, asked.

"Apparently, it's a bunch of radical environmentalists upset at Mr. Hardy's oil drilling operation," Robert Holmes, Shirley's father, replied.

"I'm amazed that the parents haven't come back immediately from New York," Peggy Holmes, Shirley's grandmother, said.

"There seems to be some computer problems with all the major airlines in the area," Mr. Holmes said, sitting some water. "It's impossible for people to schedule flights."

"Shirley, do you know Molly Hardy?" Dr. Holmes asked.

"Huh?" Shirley had been trying to figure out what was going on. "Oh, yeah, Mom. I know her."

"Was Molly one of your friends?" Dr. Holmes asked.

"Actually, we weren't the best of friends, Mom."

"I see," Dr. Holmes said.

Actually, we're pretty much the worst of enemies, Shirley thought. As the rest of her family talked about Molly's kidnapping, Shirley continued trying to figure out what was going on.

"I take it you saw the news last night?" Bo asked Shirley during lunch the next day. Shirley nodded and picked through her lunch. "I don't understand it. Molly should have been there."

"I think she learned from last time," Bo pointed out. "You know, she could have put us on the wrong trail."

"Maybe we missed something in Molly's room," Blake said. Shirley thought for a moment. "You could be right, Blake. We have to search Molly's room again."

Bo groaned. "Great, we have to break into her room again. I thought I came to Sussex Academy to stay out of trouble."

Blake grinned. "You can't get into trouble if you don't get caught."

Bart walked up to Shirley's table. "Well, the Science Club's been granted a temporary reprieve."

"Why's that, Bart?" Bo asked.

"The TSAC delayed its review of the school budget because of Molly's kidnapping," Bart replied. "I guess they're hoping she'll be found soon."

Shirley spotted Stink at a nearby table. He was alone and staring blankly at his lunch tray. "I see that Stink's taking this whole thing hard."

"Definitely," Bart said, looking at Stink. "He hasn't exactly been his usual jovial self. All he does now is mope."

Blake looked at Stink. "Poor guy."

"We'd better do something fast," Shirley said urgently.

Once again, Shirley and her friends found themselves in Molly's room after school. "Here we go again," Bo said, rolling his eyes.

They all put on plastic gloves provided by Shirley. Shirley was about to tell Bo and Blake to search the room when she spotted a new fax in the fax machine.

She snatched it up and read it to herself. Bo and Blake noticed the shocked look on her face when she was done.

"What is it?" Bo asked Shirley.

"It's a message from the Harland Acting Agency. It came in a while ago." Shirley read aloud the fax.

"'Dear Y, we are unable to comply with your request for three actors at this time. We apologize for any inconvenience.'"

The following silence was finally broken by Bo. "Wait a minute. You mean Molly's actually been kidnapped?"

"It looks like it," Shirley said. She folded the fax and put it in her blazer pocket.

"Seems that things didn't go according to plan for Molly," Blake stated.

"Let's get out of here," Shirley said, heading for the closet and the secret entrance.

Later, Shirley pondered the problem in the attic. Watson, her pet basset hound, was the only company she had. Bo had to help out at the Sawchuk Fish Store and Blake had gone home.

"So, Watson, who do you think kidnapped Molly?" Shirley asked her pet, who was lying on the ground. Watson responded with a little whine.

"Same thing I've got, Watson," Shirley said with a sigh. She was genuinely stumped. Who would have the motive, the means, and the opportunity to kidnap Molly? she thought. The last time Shirley checked, the police were also stuck. Molly may not be one of my favorite people, but if I don't figure this out...

Shirley cut the thought short. She really did not need on her mind the possible unpleasant conclusion to the matter.

Shirley's thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of her cellular phone. She picked it up and answered it. "Hello?"

"Shirley, it's me, Blake," the voice on the other line said urgently.

"What's wrong?" Shirley asked.

"You'd better turn on the TV and set it to any channel," Blake instructed. "My dad insists that you do. He thinks you might be interested."

Shirley thanked Blake and hung up. She switched on the attic TV. She saw a live news conference in front of the police station. A large group of reporters was present. Detective Tremain stood before it with another man in a suit. The other man looked like an older version of Blake with dark hair. Shirley recognized the other man. "Inspector Hewitt."

"What's this all about, Detective Tremain?"

"Yeah. Why did you call all of us here?"

Detective Tremain cleared his throat. "It seems that the ransom note we received was either a fake or designed to hide the true identity of the kidnappers." "What makes you think that?"

Inspector Hewitt answered the question. "Because we received a message via fax machine from the kidnappers about a half-hour ago." He waved a piece of paper in the air.

"What does it say?"

Inspector Hewitt read the note to the press. "'A red circle representing a right in exchange for a golden child. Contact BIG FIRE for more information.'"

Shirley's eyes were wide open. "It's some sort of riddle, Watson." At that moment, she realized who had kidnapped Molly.

"What does it mean?"

"Well, we know that 'golden child' refers to Molly Hardy, but we're still trying to figure out the rest," Inspector Hewitt revealed.

"Do you have a positive ID on who kidnapped the Hardy girl?"

"We have," Inspector Hewitt answered confidently. "The kidnappers belong to the worldwide criminal organization known as..." Shirley knew the answer. She said it in unison with Inspector Hewitt in a low voice. "ENIGMA."

The Case of the Lunchtime Abduction : Chapter 5

After seeing the news broadcast, Shirley called Bo and told him to meet her at the Hewitts' house. Telling her family that Blake needed to see her about some homework, Shirley took off on her bike for Blake's house. During the trip, Shirley wondered if her mother had smiled at her when she mentioned Blake.

Shirley arrived first at the Hewitts' house and met with Blake in his room. A few minutes later, Bo arrived. Rosa, the Hewitts' maid, showed Bo to Blake's room.

"Okay, why was I told to come here while I was helping my parents at the store?" Bo asked his friends.

"I take it you didn't catch the news?" Shirley asked.

"Sorry. I've been too busy having fun gutting fish," Bo said.

"We can tell," Blake said, sniffing. He waved the air away from his nose. "No offense, Bo, but you really reek of fish."

"Well, I was told to get over here ASAP," Bo said. "No time for a shower." He looked at Shirley and Blake. "So, why are we all here?"

"In nine words, the Establishment for Nefarious, Insidious, Global, and Malevolent Acts," Shirley said.

Bo blinked. "What?"

"Try ENIGMA," Blake said. "Remember them?"

"You mean the masked bad guys who send riddles and who stole the Mona Lisa and nearly killed your dad, not to mention us?" Bo said.

"I do, but aren't they supposed to be gone?"

"Dad believe that ENIGMA went into hiding after we stopped them from selling the Mona Lisa," Blake said. "They were never gone for good, I'm sorry to say."

"Okay, so ENIGMA's back. What do they have to do with anything?" Bo asked.

"ENIGMA's responsible for Molly's kidnapping," Shirley said matter-of-factly.

Blake showed Bo a piece of paper. "My dad just read ENIGMA's demands on live TV a while ago. This is a copy he managed to fax to me without being noticed."

Bo read the paper. "'A red circle representing a right in exchange for a golden child. Contact BIG FIRE for more information.'" He put the paper down. "Okay, what does it all mean?"

"It's a ransom note. So far, Dad's figured out that 'golden child' means Molly." Blake shrugged. "The rest is still a big mystery."

Shirley looked at the note. "So ENIGMA's kidnapped Molly in order to obtain a red circle representing a right."

"A red circle representing a right?" Bo was puzzled. "What the heck is that?" Shirley realized what the answer was and snapped her finger. "The ruby ring!"

"The what?" Blake asked, confused.

"ENIGMA's after the ruby ring Molly once lent to Sussex Academy during the student council elections," Shirley explained.

"I remember," Bo said. "Molly stole it and she later tried to pin the theft on you."

"So what is the right this ring represents?" Blake asked.

"The right to vote," Shirley answered. "King John wore the ring at the signing of the Magna Carta."

"Okay, so ENIGMA will release Molly if they get the ruby ring," Bo said, piecing it all together. "What does ENIGMA want with a ruby ring?"

"They don't," Shirley said. "ENIGMA's essentially a mercenary operation. Someone paid them to get the ring."

"What about BIG FIRE?" Blake asked.

Bo offered his input. "Maybe it's a code name or a place."

"There is no place in Redington called Big Fire," Blake said, shaking his head.

"Actually, that's the simplest part of the puzzle. I'm amazed we're discussing it last," Shirley said. "It's a phone number."

"A phone number? Of course!" Bo slapped his forehead. "They always do that in commercials. How could I have missed that?"

Blake went to his computer and brought up a window with a blank form.

"BIG FIRE would be 244-3473, right?"

"That's right," Shirley said.

"Blake, what are you doing?" Bo asked curiously.

"I'm going to try to identify the place that has that number," Blake explained as he typed data into the form. "I wrote a program for that task, and that's what I'm running right now."

Shirley and Bo got up to watch. "Why did you create this program?" Bo asked.

"I was bored one day," Blake simply said.

They all looked at the screen. The program reported that for the city of Redington, there

was no place that had the number 244-3473.

"Well, this is bad," Blake remarked.

"Define 'bad,'" Bo asked.

"This number is nonexistent and untraceable," Shirley said. "Phone tracing equipment wouldn't work."

"Maybe it's a number for somewhere else in another city?" Bo asked.

"I doubt it," Shirley said. "ENIGMA is more likely holding Molly somewhere in Redington."

"At least we know what the note essentially says," Blake pointed out.

"Give us the Magna Carta ruby ring and we'll release Molly Hardy. Call us at 244-3473."

Shirley thought for a moment. "Can we see your dad tonight, Blake?"

"Actually, he wants to see all of us tomorrow morning at his office," Blake revealed. "He wants our feedback on this." "Well, Blake, he's going to get it," Shirley said.

Saturday morning, Shirley and Bo rode their bikes to the police station to see Inspector Hewitt. Blake was outside waiting for them.

Blake grinned upon seeing them. "Nice look, guys."

Both Shirley and Bo were in disguise. Shirley was wearing yellow-tinted glasses, a red beret, and a long, red wig. Bo was wearing blue-framed sunglasses and a spiky, purple wig.

"I feel so ridiculous," Bo complained, grumbling.

"Well, we don't want Tremain to recognize us," Shirley said. "I can't be effective as a detective if people recognize me."

They all entered the police station. Blake led the way to his father's office. Bo noticed the looks they got from the police officers they passed. "They're staring at us," Bo whispered to Shirley.

"Ignore them," Shirley whispered back.

They made it to Inspector Hewitt's office. Blake went in first, then Shirley and Bo. Inspector Hewitt was surprised at first, but when Shirley said "hello," he knew for sure who they were.

"I must say, Shirley, you really don't want anyone to recognize you," Inspector Hewitt commented, looking over the young detective.

"Tremain and I have had a few encounters. If he recognized me, he'd probably try to stop me," Shirley explained.

Inspector Hewitt got up from his desk. "You've seen the newspaper yet?"

"I have," Shirley said. "The top headline was 'ENIGMA IMPLICATED IN HARDY KIDNAPPING.'"

Inspector Hewitt nodded. "Since I'm the only one here who's ever encountered ENIGMA, I've been officially assigned to the Hardy case."

He grinned a little. "Detective Tremain wasn't exactly thrilled, but he's willing to take any help."

"We've managed to solve the puzzle," Shirley announced.

"That's the best news I've heard so far," Inspector Hewitt said, relieved. "That thing's got almost everyone stumped."

"ENIGMA wants a ruby ring in possession of the Hardy family," Shirley said. "The Magna Carta ruby ring."

"They'll release Molly if they get the ruby ring," Bo added.

Inspector Hewitt picked up a piece of paper from his desk. It was the ENIGMA puzzle. "What about 'BIG FIRE?'" he asked, looking at the puzzle.

"It's a phone number," Blake said. "244-3473."

Inspector Hewitt paced around his office. "Well, Detective Tremain will appreciate this information. I sure do. Thanks, guys."

"Just trying to help," Bo said.

"There's one thing that's been bothering me, though," Shirley admitted. "If ENIGMA wanted the ruby ring, why didn't they just steal it?"

Inspector Hewitt thought for a moment. "I really don't know, Shirley. Despite the recent investigations into ENIGMA, we have little information about it save the stuff I learned."

At that moment, the door flew open and Detective Tremain came in. He was about to say something when he saw Shirley, Bo, and Blake. "Hewitt, who are these kids?" he demanded.

"Oh, my son wanted to show two of his friends where I work," Inspector Hewitt answered, smiling.

Detective Tremain studied Shirley and Bo closely. "Have we met before?" he asked them. "Doubtful," Shirley said, sounding tough.

"Nope," Bo said, shaking his head. Detective Tremain shrugged. "Sorry. You guys just looked familiar."

Inspector Hewitt walked up to Detective Tremain. "Now, Detective, how may I help you?" he asked politely.

Detective Tremain cleared his throat. "The rest of us can't figure out what ENIGMA's demands are." He shifted his feet. "I take it you're having better luck?"

"As a matter of fact, I've already figured it out," Inspector Hewitt declared.

"Really?" Detective Tremain gave a questionable look at Inspector Hewitt. "Well, what does ENIGMA want?"

Inspector Hewitt was about to answer when an officer opened the door and peeked into the room. "I hate to bother you, but some lawyer just arrived. Says he's a representative of the Hardys."

"Show him in," Detective Tremain ordered.

The officer left, and a man carrying a brown briefcase entered the office. He wore black-rimmed glasses and had well-trimmed black hair. He looked at the two policeman, then at Shirley and her friends.

"Uh, don't mind us," Shirley told the newcomer.

"Don't worry about my son and his friends," Inspector Hewitt reassured the man. "They're just here to see me work."

"I guess it's okay," the man said. "As long as they don't say anything and promise not to reveal anything that happens in here, they can stay."

"We promise," Shirley, Bo, and Blake said in unison innocently.

"Okay, who are you and what do you want?" Detective Tremain asked the man.

The man straightened out his necktie. "My name is Henry Mortson, and I am a legal representative of the Hardy family." He looked sideways at Shirley and her friends, then continued talking. "Mr. and Mrs. Hardy contacted me to check on the situation concerning their daughter because they seem to be stuck in New York." He adjusted his glasses.

"Have the police made any progress?"

"Actually, we have," Detective Tremain said, looking at Inspector Hewitt. Inspector Hewitt understood Detective Tremain's cue. "We've concluded that Molly Hardy has been kidnapped by the ENIGMA organization."

"Why?" Mortson asked.

"ENIGMA wants the Magna Carta ruby ring," Inspector Hewitt explained. "They'll trade Molly for the ring."

"I've heard of this ENIGMA group," Mortson said. "They're a group of mercenaries, correct?"

"They are," Inspector Hewitt confirmed.

"Did they leave any instructions concerning the release of Miss Hardy?" Mortson inquired.

"They left us a number to contact them," Inspector Hewitt replied. "244-3473."

"I see," Mortson said. "Have you contacted ENIGMA yet?"

"Not yet," Detective Tremain said. "We just figured everything out."

Mortson thought for a moment. "Mr. Hardy has given me authority over this matter. I can get the ruby ring and then you can call ENIGMA."

Detective Tremain nodded. "Agreed. We'll make the call later. We need to get some tracing equipment ready."

"Very good, gentlemen." Mortson opened the door. "I believe the ruby ring was donated to the museum for a week. I'll go there and get it. I'll call you when I have it."

Mortson was about to leave when Detective Tremain stopped him. "I'll come with you. I have an idea to make sure we get both the Hardy girl and the ring back." "If you insist, Detective," Mortson said.

"Get everything ready while I'm gone," Detective Tremain told Inspector Hewitt as he left the office with Mortson.

Inspector Hewitt addressed his son and his friends. "Thanks for your help, guys, but it's time for the police to do its job."

Blake stepped up to his father. "Okay, Dad," he said, patting Inspector Hewitt on his shoulder. "I'll see you later at home."

"Okay, son. Take care."

Blake led Shirley and Bo out of the office and the police station. As they were mounting their bikes, Shirley asked, "Well, Blake?"

Blake grinned. "The bug's been placed on Dad. We'll be able to listen in when the police call ENIGMA."

"Are you sure this'll work?" Bo asked Shirley.

"It has to, Bo," Shirley said, putting on her helmet. "It has to."

The Case of the Lunchtime Abduction : Chapter 6

In the Holmeses' attic, Shirley, Bo, and Blake waited around the receiver for the listening device. "This is exciting," Bo said, bored.

"So far, we've learned that Blake's dad gets a lot of attention at work and that he loves chocolate covered donuts."

"Hey, don't knock them," Blake said, grinning.

"So far, the police haven't made the call yet," Shirley said.

They listened to more useless talk until they heard Detective Tremain's voice. "Okay, we've got the ruby ring. Show him, Mortson."

The next voice they heard was Mortson's. "Here it is, gentlemen. The ruby ring King John wore at the signing of the Magna Carta."

"Hmmmmm, I'm impressed," Inspector Hewitt commented. "I suppose you have a plan to make sure we get Molly Hardy, the ENIGMA agents, and the ring back?"

"It's simple, really," Detective Tremain said. "The ring box will have a homing device in it.

Once the ENIGMA agents have the ring, we'll track them to their hideout."

"Suppose they find the homing device?" Inspector Hewitt asked.

"It's well-hidden," Detective Tremain said. "They won't find it."

"I hope you gentlemen know what you're doing," Mortson said nervously.

"We do," Detective Tremain said confidently.

"Now that we have the ring, let's give ENIGMA a call," Inspector Hewitt said. Shirley, Bo, and Blake heard him dial a number.

Through the receiver, they heard the phone ring twice, then an electronically distorted voice. "Ah, you've figured it all out," it said.

They heard Detective Tremain snatch the phone away from Inspector Hewitt. "Sorry, Inspector, but it's my case," he apologized.

"Go ahead," Inspector Hewitt said. "I'll just be right by you."

"How rude," Blake said.

Detective Tremain's voice came from the receiver. "Okay, buddy, we've got the ring. What next?"

"Good, good," the voice said. "We'll be straight for once. Have someone meet us at the corner of Main and First Street with the ring in about an hour."

"What about the girl?" Detective Tremain demanded.

"Oh, the girl is fine. Once the ring is in our possession, we will release the girl," the voice replied. "Remember, Main and First. No tricks."

The phone went dead. The sound of the phone being slammed was heard from the receiver.

"Well?" Detective Tremain asked.

"No trace," someone said. "In fact, that number doesn't exist."

"Drat," Detective Tremain said. "Main and First," Shirley said.

"Okay, we know where the ring will be dropped off," Bo said. "What now?"

"Shhhhh," Shirley said, listening to the receiver. "There's more."

"Pardon me, gentlemen," Mortson said. "I would like to present the ring to ENIGMA."

"Why?" Detective Tremain asked.

Shirley listened carefully. "The ring is my responsibility," Mortson explained. "I will stay with it until it is given to those scoundrels."

"Fine, fine," Detective Tremain said. "I'll keep an eye on you to make sure nothing funny happens."

"Are you sure you know what you're doing, Detective?" Inspector Hewitt asked.

"I'm positive," Detective Tremain replied. Shirley noticed a touch of annoyance in his voice.

"I believe that's all we need to know," Shirley said as she turned off the receiver.

"So what's next?" Blake asked.

Later, at the corner of Main and First, Mortson waited for the ENIGMA agents to arrive. He looked at the small jewelry box in his hand.

Behind him was a small cafe. Detective Tremain watched Mortson from a window seat while eating a sandwich. Unknown to Detective Tremain, Shirley and Blake were in a nearby booth.

"Bo, do you copy? Over," Shirley said into a walkie-talkie.

Bo's voice crackled through the walkie-talkie. "I do. Over."

"Do you see anything suspicious? Over," Shirley asked Bo.

"Not yet. Over," Bo replied.

"Okay. Keep your eyes open. Over and out." Shirley put the walkie-talkie away and took a French fry from the wicker basket on the table.

"Are you sure Bo can do it?" Blake asked, also taking a French fry.

"He has to," Shirley said, nibbling on the French fry.

Outside, Mortson checked his watch. "What's keeping them?" he asked himself.

A large blue van with tinted windows pulled up in front of the cafe. Mortson gulped. Detective Tremain watched the van carefully.

Shirley also spotted the van. She took out her walkie-talkie. "Bo," she whispered urgently. "I think it's them. Do it now. Over."

"Got that. Over and out," Bo replied. The back doors of the van opened, and two men stepped out. Both were dressed in trenchcoats, large-brimmed hats, and sunglasses. Their mouths were covered by handkerchiefs. They walked toward Mortson, who was beginning to get nervous. He started to shake.

The two men stood before Mortson. From his seat, Detective Tremain watched them, pretending to be paying attention to his meal. From their booth, Shirley and Blake also kept an eye on the two men.

"This is the ring?" one of the men asked Mortson, pointing to the jewelry box. His voice was disguised by an electronic distorter.

Mortson nervously nodded. "Open the box," the other man ordered him. Mortson held up the box and opened it, showing the ruby ring to the ENIGMA agents. One of them reached out with his gloved hand and took the ring out of its box. "Looks real," the man said, studying the ring closely.

"I assure you gentlemen that it is real," Mortson said shakily.

"We'll be the judge of that," the other man said harshly.

As the two ENIGMA agents examined the ring, Bo snuck out from around the corner. He walked quietly to the back of the van. He stooped down and placed something behind the fender. Fortunately, no one took notice of him. He managed to get out of there without being seen.

"Well, I guess it's the real thing," the first man said, putting the ring back into its box.

"I'm glad you approve," Mortson said, relieved.

"I'm still doubtful," the second man said. He suddenly seized Mortson's arm. "You're coming with us just in case it isn't."

Before Mortson could mutter a protest, the first man held a gun to his chest. "I recommend that you cooperate with us or else."

Mortson nodded quietly and found himself being hustled into the back of the van. The two men slammed the back doors behind them, and the van quickly left the area.

Detective Tremain quickly reached for his walkie-talkie. "This is Tremain. We have a situation. Over."

While Detective Tremain reported what just happened, Shirley told Blake, "I think it's time we were on our way." Blake waived over a waitress. When she arrived, he pointed to the basket of French fries and asked her, "Can we have these to go?"

Shirley and Blake rendezvoused with Bo around the corner. Blake was holding a paper takeout box. "Did you do it?" Shirley asked Bo.

"Yeah. I placed the homing device on the fender. It's secured," Bo reported. "I don't see the point of doing it, though. Tremain's got one in the ring's box."

"ENIGMA's not exactly careless," Shirley said. "I'm betting that they'll find the bug and get rid of it."

"So once again we're going to save the day?" Bo asked.

"Yep," Shirley said.

Bo groaned. "I remember that the last time we encountered these ENIGMA guys, we got "We did get out of it," Blake said.

"We got lucky," Bo countered.

"This time we'll be prepared," Shirley said. "Let's go."

"Where?" Bo asked.

"Stink's dorm," Shirley answered.

"Why?" Blake asked.

"You'll find out," Shirley replied.

The Case of the Lunchtime Abduction : Chapter 7

Stink was lying on his bed when he heard knocking on his door. He sighed and got up. When he opened the door, he found Shirley standing there with Bo and Blake. Bo was finishing up the last of the French fries Blake had brought.

"Hi, guys," Stink greeted, trying to sound cheerful. "Can I help you?"

"As a matter of fact, you can." Shirley took out a small piece of paper from her pocket and handed it to Stink. "We need these items from your dad's joke store. Can you get them for us ASAP?"

Stink looked at the short list. "No problem, but why?"

"We're about to do something crazy and stupid," Bo said.

"We're going to rescue Molly," Blake revealed.

Stink was dumbstruck. "You guys are going to save Molly?"

"Sadly," Bo said. "To be honest, there's a part of me that wants to leave her with ENIGMA."

"Bo!" Shirley and Blake said at the same time.

"It's true," Bo said, sounding a little angry. "I'm sorry if I sound heartless, but Molly's done nothing but cause trouble for us ever since she came here. Shirley, she locked you in the museum vault once, among other things. As Y, she ruined my cousin Zack's music career. She's self-centered, power-hungry, and a sociopath."

"Bo, who are we to judge her?" Blake said.

"Blake, if Molly Hardy vanished from the face of the Earth, the world would be a better place," Bo declared.

"Look, we're going to save Molly. End of story," Shirley said. "She may be bad news, but she's still a human being, and she needs our help."

"What about the police?" Stink asked.

"ENIGMA's fooled them before," Shirley stated. "They'll fool them again."

"Do you know where they've got Molly?" Stink asked.

"We're about to find out," Shirley said, taking out a small device.

"Bo bugged a van belonging to ENIGMA. This device will enable us to track them to their hideout."

Stink put the list into his pocket. "I'll get the stuff for you, but I'm going with you," he announced.

Bo blinked. "Come again?"

"I said I'm going with you," Stink repeated.

"Why?" Blake asked.

Stink bowed his head. "I let Molly down. I could've taken out those guys and saved her. Instead, I let them push me around."

Bo rolled his eyes. "Oh, brother."

Shirley placed her hand on Stink's shoulder. "Stink, I doubt you could've made a difference. Those men were strong and one of them had a gun. You wouldn't have been much help to Molly if you were killed."

Stink shook his head. "I could've at least tried, Shirley. I could've at least tried."

Bo turned to Blake. "I can't believe this. After all the times Molly's treated him like dirt, he's still willing to rescue her."

Blake shrugged. "Love's a funny thing, Bo."

Shirley saw that she could not dissuade Stink from coming. "Okay, Stink, you can come along and help us."

Stink looked up. "Thanks, Shirley. You won't regret it."

"You will if ENIGMA catches us," Bo muttered.

At the police station, Detective Tremain was furious. "I can't believe this!" he said in frustration. He was holding the ruby ring's box in his hand.

"I warned you about ENIGMA," Inspector Hewitt said. "They're too smart to fall for hidden homing devices."

Detective Tremain returned to his desk. "I can't believe they found it and planted it in a ladies' restroom in a restaurant." He buried his head in his hands. "Now I have two kidnap victims and a ring to recover."

"I'm afraid we can't do anything until ENIGMA makes another move," Inspector Hewitt pointed out. "Unfortunately for now we have to wait."

"I demand to see the person in charge of finding my daughter now!"

Detective Tremain looked up to see a tall man in a business suit heading his way. With him was an elegantly dressed woman. He got up to meet them. "I'm Detective Tremain, the one in charge of the Hardy case. May I help you?"

"I am Mr. Hardy, and this is my wife," the man said, gesturing to his wife. "Have you heard anything from the kidnappers?" Mrs. Hardy asked, concerned.

"We have," Detective replied. "They wanted the ruby ring owned by you in exchange for your daughter."

Mr. Hardy took out a cellular phone. "I'd better call the museum and have it delivered here at once. Molly's safety comes first."

Detective Tremain was confused. "But your lawyer already gave the ring to the kidnappers."

Mr. Hardy gave Detective Tremain a puzzled look. ""

"Yes, the one who was authorized by you to get the ring," Detective Tremain explained.

"Because of your difficulties."

"Henry Mortson was his name," Inspector Hewitt added.

"Mortson?" Mr. Hardy put away his cellular phone. "I never gave anyone authorization to get the ruby ring. Even if I did, Mortson wouldn't be the one."

"Why's that?" Inspector Hewitt asked.

"Henry went on vacation to Florida with his family yesterday," Mrs. Hardy revealed.

Detective Tremain and Inspector Hewitt looked at each other silently, trying to take everything in.

Shirley checked the tracking device. "This is the place," she told the others.

Bo looked at the building before him. "Well, this would make a great hideout."

Shirley, Bo, Blake, and Stink were standing before an old warehouse. The metal loading doors had several rust spots. The black tinted windows were slightly cracked. The paint on the walls was coming off.

The blue van was parked in front of it.

"You're right, Bo," Blake said. "From the looks of things, this place hasn't been used for a while."

"It has been occupied," Shirley said, pointing towards the roof. Everyone noticed the satellite dish there.

"Are you sure Molly's in there, Shirley?" Stink asked. "You said that these ENIGMA guys are tricky."

"It's more likely," Shirley replied. "Let's try the back way."

They went to the back. Shirley checked the door while the others kept an eye out for trouble. "It's unlocked," she said, surprised.

"It is?" Stink asked. "Why'd they do that?"

"It could be a trap," Bo cautioned.

Shirley carefully opened the door. "Let's find out," she said, stepping inside.

Blake was next to go in, followed by Bo and Stink. After closing the door, all of them were standing in almost total darkness. Shirley motioned to the others to stand still and not to make a sound. She listened for any unusual sounds. Hearing nothing, she pulled out a flashlight and turned it on.

The boys looked at Shirley in amazement. "Always be prepared for anything," Shirley said in a low voice.

They walked further inside with Shirley leading the way. "I'm amazed we haven't run into any ENIGMA agents yet," Blake whispered.

"Let's hope our luck doesn't run out," Bo whispered back.

"Can't we find a light switch or something?" Stink asked worriedly.

"Might give away our position," Shirley said.

"Isn't that flashlight already doing that?" Stink pointed out.

Shirley ignored Stink and moved her flashlight around. The light revealed piles of crates along the walls. She pointed her flashlight forward again and found the object of her search.

"There," she said, leading the way.

They ran toward the center of the room. There, a girl was apparently tied to a chair. Shirley was the first to reach her. She recognized the Sussex Academy uniform. "Molly," she said knowingly.

The others joined Shirley at her side. "Oh my God," Bo whispered, shocked at the sight before him.

Molly's arms were tied behind her back with rope. Her feet were tied as well. Her school uniform was wrinkled and filthy. Her beautiful long blond hair was tangled and dirty. A black blindfold covered her eyes and her mouth was gagged with a white cloth. Her head was bowed.

Stink noticed that Molly was not moving. "Is she...?" he started to ask, fearing the worst.

Blake put her fingers on Molly's neck. "She's alive. She still has a pulse. She's just sleeping."

"Let's get her out of here," Shirley recommended.

Blake reached for the gag and removed it. He saw how pale Molly was.

He tapped Molly's shoulder. "Molly?" he asked her. Getting no response, he shook her a little. "Wake up, Molly."

Molly slowly woke up. Her head shot up. Her mouth started to move, then it released a loud, long scream. Blake stepped back. Her voice trailed off. "No no no no no..." She shook her head frantically. "I won't cause any more trouble," she pleaded. "Just don't put me back in there! Don't put me back in there!" She bowed her head and sobbed, her tears soaking the blindfold. "Please let me go. Please..." She continued to cry. "Please let me see Mommy and Daddy again. Please..."

Everyone was shocked at what happened, especially Shirley. During the time she knew Molly, she saw how tough and ruthless she was. She could not believe the scared girl before her was Molly Hardy.

Blake quickly took off the blindfold. "No!" Molly shouted, keeping her eyes closed. "You'll put me in the box if I see you!"

"Molly, it's me," Blake said, trying to reassure the poor girl. Shirley handed Stink the flashlight. "It's Blake Hewitt," he said, with Stink lighting his face with the flashlight.

Molly carefully opened one eye. Blake saw how red it was from crying.

"B-Blake?" she said softly.

"Yeah, it's me, Blake," Blake said, smiling a little for reassurance.

Shirley went behind Molly and started to untie the rope binding her hands. Bo started untying Molly's feet.

Molly opened both her eyes. "Blake," she said weakly. "Is it really you?"

"It is," Blake said kindly. "Shirley, Bo, and Stink are with me. We're here to rescue you."

"Holmes is here?" Molly managed to say.

"Right behind you, Molly," Shirley said, finally untying Molly's hands.

Bo untied Molly's feet. "Okay, you're free."

Stink walked up to Molly. "Are you okay?"

Molly looked up at Stink. "Stink...can't believe I'm see you."

"Molly, can you get up?" Shirley asked.

Molly tried to get up. " weak...can't..."

Blake took Molly's right arm. "Stink, take her left."

Stink gave the flashlight back to Shirley and took Molly's left arm.

Together with Blake, he lifted Molly gently out of the chair. Blake and Stink held her up. Shirley and Bo saw how pale and thin Molly was. "What did they do to you?" Shirley asked Molly.

Molly looked at Shirley. "Tied me to chair...gagged...blindfolded me...fed me little...let me out only to use bathroom...bad...lock me in box..." she managed to say.

"She's malnourished," Shirley said. "We've got to get her out of here quickly."

"Impossible," Molly said, still weak. "He every move." She sounded frightened. "He knows. He'll put me in the box if I try to escape...he'll put me back in the box..."

"Who knows?" Bo demanded. "Who's 'he?'"

"I believe she was referring to me," a voice declared. Shirley listened carefully. The voice was electronically disguised, making it sound regal and malevolent. They all looked around, trying to find where the voice came from. Shirley tried to look around with her flashlight, but a red beam shot it out of her hand. "Aaaaagh!" she cried out, feeling a little heat.

"Now, now, my dear Holmes," the voice said. "I'll show myself only when I want to." Shirley grabbed her hand. She was burned slightly. Bo rushed to her side. "Are you okay?" he asked her with concern.

"Just fine," Shirley said, wincing. "I'll live."

Blake and Stink felt Molly shaking. "No no no no no no..." she said fearfully.

"Oh, dear, I think poor Hardy is scared of me," the voice said, laughing evilly. "If Hewitt and Patterson weren't holding her up, I think she would collapse and die of fright."

Shirley looked around the darkness. How does he know our names? she thought.

"You seem to know our names," Bo asked.

"Oh, I do, Sawchuk, plus so much more," the voice said with a chuckle.

"Let's start with the unexpected guest. Sterling Patterson, better known to his friends as 'Stink.' Father owns a chain of gag shops know as Laugh Riot. Parents are divorced. Loves to do practical jokes and stand-up comedy. Hopelessly in love with the charming female sociopath he's helping stand up.

"Let's not forget Blake Hewitt, whose father is Christopher Hewitt, a member of Interpol.

His mother is Dr. Lauren Hewitt, a well-known archeologist. Spent most of his life trying to find out who was really responsible for his father's apparent demise. Loves mystery stories and is a top-notch computer hacker. I must confess that your little programs are masterpieces."

"How did you...?" Blake began, surprised.

"Ah, let's not forget Bo Sawchuk. Full name is Francis Boris Sawchuk, but he hates being called 'Francis' or 'Boris.' Parents are of Ukrainian origin. Used to be a member of a street gang. Attends Sussex Academy in order to avoid reform school. Works at his parents' fish store. To coin a phrase, a 'street rat.'"

Bo balled his fists at his sides. He gritted his teeth. If he could see whoever was talking, he would teach him a lesson for calling him a street rat! The voice continued.

"Of course, last but definitely not least, Shirley Holmes, great-grandniece of the great detective, Sherlock Holmes! Father is Robert Holmes, a British diplomat stationed at the British Embassy here in Redington. Mother is Dr. Joanna Holmes, a virologist thought to have died in Rwanda. You spent your life looking for her, I believe, my dear Holmes. Grandmother is Peggy Holmes, affectionately called 'Gran.' Rather active for a woman her age. As for Holmes herself, she likes to carry on her famous ancestor's legacy. Fortunately, she doesn't have a drug habit like her great-granduncle." The voice laughed.

Shirley looked around in the darkness. "I'm impressed. You've been doing your homework."

"Oh, I've been watching you all for some time," the voice revealed. "I have information on everyone in Redington, especially those who are close to you, Holmes. Some of it is rather...personal."

"Since you've proven that you know about us, would you like to extend the courtesy of knowing who you are?" Shirley asked coolly. After listening to the voice for a while, she picked out some sort of accent.

"Oh, I think I will, but not because of your request, my dear Holmes," the voice said with an evil chuckle. "It is because I feel it is time for you to meet me."

A spotlight was turned on suddenly and shone downward about two meters away from Shirley and the others, revealing two piles of crates. The crates started moving away from each other. When they were done, Shirley saw a man dressed entirely in black sitting in a large metal chair. The man in black had his most of his face covered with a black kerchief and wore a wide-brimmed hat over his head. A black cape was draped over him. Black gloves covered his hands. A pair of red lens goggles covered his eyes. Next to him stood a thin man dressed in a blue uniform. His head was covered by a blue hood with an eyeslit. Shirley saw a gun in the man's hand.

"Allow me to introduce myself." The voice came from the man in black.

"Watashi wa...Mr. E."

The Case of the Lunchtime Abduction : Chapter 8

Molly trembled upon seeing Mr. E, the man in black. Bo stared at him.

"Mr. E? You mean you're the head of ENIGMA?"

Mr. E laughed. "Ah, the street rat has a brain. Most impressive," he sneered.

Bo wanted to rush Mr. E, but he saw the thin man with the gun. He tried to calm himself down.

"What are you doing in Redington?" Shirley asked the criminal mastermind.

"Yeah. Don't you have underlings to oversee your dirty work?" Blake asked angrily.

Mr. E shook his head. "Tsk, tsk. Still bitter that we tried to blow up your father, Hewitt? I thought that you'd be over that by now."

Blake gritted his teeth. "To answer your question, Holmes, since this little job is being done in your hometown, I thought that I'd supervise this operation myself," Mr. E replied.

"By 'little job,' you mean getting the ruby ring," Stink said.

"My, my, the class clown can do something other than make jokes!" Mr. E mocked. "I learn something every day."

He continued. "One of our current clients fancied that ring. He commissioned us to use any means to obtain it for him."

Shirley looked at Molly, who was petrified. "But why kidnap Molly? Why didn't you just steal the ring?"

Mr. E chuckled evilly. "Why, because of you, Holmes."

"Me?" Shirley did not understand.

"Yes, you." Mr. E started to explain. I kept a close eye on this city ever since the Mona Lisa fiasco, looking for an opportunity to clash wits with you once again. Then, ENIGMA was hired to obtain the ruby ring worn by King John at the signing of the Magna Carta. Imagine my sheer delight when I found out that Hardy's father owned the ring. I was also quite happy when I learned that Hardy was planning a fake kidnapping in order to get some much-desired attention. The 'kidnapping' did happen..."

"Except it was your agents who grabbed her," Shirley finished.

"Exactly, Holmes," Mr. E said. "You see, I wanted to observe you in action. I wanted to see if you are indeed like your great-granduncle Sherlock." He chuckled. "You didn't disappoint me, Holmes. Oh no, you didn't. Good work anticipating that we would get rid of the police's homing device and planting one of your own." Bo was surprised. "You knew about our bug?"

"I anticipated it," Mr. E said. "In fact, I allowed it."

"What?" Blake said, astonished.

Mr. E laughed a little. "We couldn't leave Redington without meeting you first, Holmes. I wanted to see you myself, not to mention allow you the privilege of meeting me." He paused.

"I also wanted to see if you would risk your life to save your nemesis. I had some doubts that you would, but you put them to rest, Holmes."

Shirley gestured around. "So all this was a test for me?"

"And you passed with flying colors, Holmes," Mr. E said.

Stink checked on Molly. She was staring at Mr. E and was still shaking. She looked at Blake. "Don't let him get me, Blake," she begged, leaning towards him. "Don't let him get me..."

Stink's blood boiled. "What did you do to Molly?" he demanded angrily.

"Well, well, the coward's developed a backbone," Mr. E said cruelly.

"You never cease to amaze me, Patterson."

"What did you do to her?" Shirley asked Mr. E.

Mr. E chuckled evilly. "After we captured Hardy, she was quite the little hellraiser. We tied her up and she still wouldn't stop telling us that she would make us pay dearly for our actions. We gagged her, and she still mumbled her threats. I was getting quite a headache from her insufferable whining and mumbling, so I decided to try a little experiment and have a little fun."

"Experiment?" Bo asked.

"To put it simply, I wanted to see if I could make our little attention-grabbing sociopath cry," Mr. E clarified. "I wanted to see if I could make her scream in agony. In short," he said with much relish, "I wanted to see if I could break her." He laughed briefly.

"Could the tormentor scream and suffer like the tormented? I always wanted to answer that question for quite some time now."

Molly had let go of Stink and was now leaning fully on Blake for support. Her arms were wrapped around Blake. "Don't let him get me..." she pleaded.

"Looks like you succeeded," Bo said in disgust.

"Oh yes," Mr. E said with satisfaction. "At first, we simply fed her only bread and water and let her out of the chair only to use the bathroom. She was still defiant. We placed a blindfold over her face, depriving her of her sight. She was still defiant. From there, we had to use...extreme measures."

"'Extreme measures?'" Stink did not like the sound of that. Mr. E laughed malevolently. "First, we restricted the amount of food given to her. If she still complained, we'd tell her that if she failed to cooperate, she would never see her parents again. If she was still defiant, we'd untie her and throw her into a big iron box with a little window slit, locking the door. Her gag was removed, but she still wore the blindfold. Oh, she tried to be brave the first time she was locked in, but eventually she started crying in that box. She banged on the sides, pleading for us to let her out. She screamed in agony. Oh, it was all sweet music to my ears." He chuckled with evil joy. "It took maybe four to five hours to break her, but she eventually broke. From that point, she's been more...cooperative. She never said a word. If she made even a little peep, she got thrown into the box. Even when she was trying to behave, we always made excuses to put her in the box. It was good fun." He laughed wickedly. "If she whimpered, we put her in the box. If she cried, we put her in the box. If her stomach growled, we put her in the box. If she chewed too loudly, we put her in the box. Now and then we removed the blindfold. If she saw us, we put her in the box." He laughed again. "It was all good fun. Hardy's been having trouble sleeping. In fact, she was asleep for thirty minutes before you came in. That's the longest she's ever slept ever since we kidnapped her."

"This guy's sadistic," Bo whispered to Shirley.

"You twisted creep," Stink muttered under his breath.

"Please. I merely removed that tough, ruthless facade of hers. She's a lonely, vulnerable girl without it, starving for attention." Mr. E watched as Molly tried to hide behind Blake, still shaking. "Ah, this is truly a wonderful sight," he remarked with pride. "The great and terrible

Molly Hardy quaking in fear before me. Doesn't it please you, Holmes, to see your nemesis, your sworn enemy, so full of fear?"

Shirley looked at the terrified Molly. "No, it doesn't," she replied gravely.

"My dear Holmes, I'm shocked!" Mr. E sounded astonished. "After what Hardy has done to you, you don't approve of what I've done to her?"

"No one deserves that type of treatment," Shirley remarked. "Not even Molly."

Mr. E laughed a little. He sounded amused. "Ah, Holmes, we are indeed equals yet opposites. We are both rather brilliant. We are both outsiders. Then, the differences surface. You show mercy and compassion to all, even your enemies. I prefer to destroy my enemies. You dedicated your life to shining the light on the darkness. I dedicated my life to creating the darkness."

Shirley stared at the ENIGMA leader. In her whole life, she never really knew someone who could be so truly evil. She always thought that Molly was closest thing to pure evil. At this moment, her belief changed.

"Well, enough talk," Mr. E remarked, sounding bored. "Time to end this little game." The lights quickly came on. Before Shirley and the others could react, eight muscular men in blue berets, blue uniforms, blue hoods, and goggles leapt out from behind the encompassing crates and surrounded them. All of them pointed a hi-tech rifle at the five kids.

"What the...?" Stink cried out.

"I believe it is time to say sayonara to you all," Mr. E declared. "I need to deliver the ruby ring to its new owner, and I must cover my tracks."

"You're just going to shoot us?" Bo asked.

"Of course, street rat," Mr. E answered. "You see, I can't have any more problems with you, Holmes, and Hewitt in the near future."

"Still bitter about the Mona Lisa, Mr. E?" Blake asked. Mr. E responded by laughing evilly.

"Oh man. This can't be happening," Stink whined.

"My apologies, Patterson, but you weren't supposed to be here. I was going to settle a score with the three young detectives and dispose of my bait only," Mr. E admitted. "You just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time." "You never intended to release Molly," Shirley said.

"I have the ring. She served her purpose. I don't need her anymore," Mr. E said. Shirley looked at Mr. E's henchmen. All of them were still aiming their rifles at her and the others. They were still awaiting the command of their leader to fire.

"For the record, Holmes, those guns are normally set on 'disintegrate,' but I've decided to be...nice. The guns are set so that when you are shot, you and your friends will be reduced to a recoverable amount of ashes," Mr. E revealed. "It saves your families the trouble of burying you or cremating you themselves."

"You're all heart," Bo said.

"Of course, chances are you'll end up in one big urn," Mr. E mused.

"After my men shoot you, your ashes could get mixed up." He looked at Shirley. "Game over, Holmes. Any last words?"

The Case of the Lunchtime Abduction : Chapter 9

The ENIGMA agents kept their rifles leveled at Shirley and the others, awaiting their leader's command.

"Well, Holmes? Any last words?" Mr. E asked again. Shirley nodded at Bo and Blake.

Blake carefully passed Molly to Stink. "Take care of her," he told Stink.

Molly reached out for Blake. "Don't leave me..." she begged him.

"As a matter of fact, I do, Mr. E," Shirley said, reaching into her pocket. Bo and Blake did the same. "Now!" she shouted.

All three pulled out one golf ball each and threw it as hard as they could into the ENIGMA agents. Before the agents could react, the golf balls landed on them hard, causing little explosions. Some of the agents fell back, startled. Mr. E was surprised. "Nani?" he exclaimed.

"Hey, what the...?" one agent said, trying to understand what was going on.

"Exploding golf balls," Shirley explained.

She, Bo, and Blake threw another round of golf balls at the ENIGMA agents. The explosions made them step back.

"Ante baka!" Mr. E shouted to his henchmen. "Shoot them now!"

The ENIGMA agents powered up their rifles. In response, Shirley and her friends threw some red balls at them. They exploded on contact, each releasing a gaseous cloud.

The ENIGMA agents noticed a noxious odor and started gagging. Tears welled in their eyes. "S-s-stink bombs..." one agent gasped.

"Stink, get Molly to safety!" Shirley shouted.

Stink managed to take Molly past the gagging agents toward some nearby crates. "You'll be safe here, Molly," he told her reassuringly as he carefully leaned her behind some crates.

Molly moaned in response. "S-so bright..." she said, her eyes trying to adjust to the lighted interior.

While the ENIGMA agents were still suffering from the stink bombs, Shirley pulled out a small squeeze bottle out of her pocket. Bo and Blake followed suit.

Bo looked at the bottle in his hand. "I hope this stuff works."

Blake saw the ENIGMA agents starting to recover from the horrible stench. "Let's hurry," he recommended.

Stink took out a squeeze bottle from his pocket. He left Molly and positioned himself behind the agents. "Stink..." Molly managed to say.

"Don't leave me..."

They started running by the ENIGMA agents, squeezing a red powder all over them, especially their faces. They managed to cover all of the agents with the powder before they could fire. Stink ran behind the agents and spread his powder on their backs. He quickly rejoined Molly.

The agents looked at the red specks on their uniforms, then they aimed their rifles at Shirley and the others. "Gee, what was that all about?" one agent asked sarcastically.

Suddenly, the agents dropped their rifles and started scratching themselves, especially in the face and the back. "Itching powder!" one of them shouted, scratching around his uniform and his face.

Mr. E and his remaining henchman watched as the ENIGMA agents fell to the floor scratching their own bodies madly. "What's going on here?" Mr. E bellowed.

Bo read the label on his bottle. "Itching powder. New and improved formula. Seeps through clothing."

The agent standing next to Mr. E fired his gun at Shirley. She moved just in time to avoid being hit by a red laser.

The agent moved in for a closer shot. Blake ran up to him and kicked the gun out of his hands. The agent threw a punch at Blake's head. Blake dodged the punch and grabbed the agent's arm. In one quick move, he threw the agent to the ground. The agent landed roughly on his back. He groaned in pain and did not get up.

Blake picked up the fallen agent's gun and pointed it at him. "Stay down," he said. Bo picked up a rifle and aimed it at the still scratching ENIGMA agents. "Don't try anything," he warned them. He threw a rifle at Stink, who caught it and pointed it at the defeated agents.

Mr. E surveyed the scene in front of him. All of his agents were on the ground scratching themselves with their own guns trained on them. His second-in-command was on the floor as well with his own gun being aimed at him. "Well, Holmes, you're quite the resourceful one."

"My last encounter with your men taught me to be prepared for anything," Shirley told the ENIGMA leader.

"Really," Mr. E said. "I have to give you a little credit, Holmes. My men had laser weapons and you took them down with novelty gags." He sighed. "I don't know whether to be angry or embarrassed."

The back door flew open. Detective Tremain, Inspector Hewitt, and a group of policemen stormed into the warehouse. "Okay, nobody..." Detective Tremain began, drawing his gun. He was amazed at the sight before him: Eight man in uniform rolling around the floor scratching themselves all over; some kids, some of them pointing guns at the man on the floor; and a man in black sitting in a chair.

Inspector Hewitt spotted his son and his friends. "Why am I not surprised?" he said to himself.

The policemen started picking up the helpless ENIGMA agents and reading them their rights. "Make the itching stop!" one agent screamed. "Make it stop!"

"Don't worry. I'm sure the jail's showers are still working," one policeman quipped.

Inspector Hewitt walked up to Blake. "You just can't stay out of trouble, can you?" he asked.

"Can't be helped, Dad," Blake said, smiling and still pointing the gun at the fallen agent.

Inspector Hewitt took something out of his pocket. "By the way, son, here's your bug back," he said, handing Blake the listening device he had planted on him.

"Uh, thanks, Dad," Blake said nervously.

Shirley and Bo walked up to Inspector Hewitt. "How did you know about this place?" Shirley asked.

"Someone called the police station and said that he spotted the van that picked up the ring around this area," Inspector Hewitt explained.

"To be honest, we got lucky." He looked around. "I was going to ask you kids if you were all right, but I don't think I have to."

"You got that right," Bo said.

"So, where's Molly and the ring?" Inspector Hewitt asked them.

Stink brought out Molly from behind the crates. "Here she is," he reported. "Better get a doctor or something."

Detective Tremain saw the poor condition Molly was in. "Somebody get those medics over here now!" he shouted.

As one of the policemen went outside, two more helped Stink with Molly. "How is she?" Inspector Hewitt asked Shirley.

"ENIGMA's been starving her," Shirley answered.

"Not to mention they kept her tied up," Bo added.

"And locked her up in a big box just for kicks," Blake said, still pointing the gun at his prisoner.

Inspector Hewitt looked at Blake's prisoner. "Where's the ruby ring?"

The man looked up at the inspector. "I-in a safe in the upstairs office," he answered shakily.

Inspector Hewitt reached for the man's hood. "Why, thank you, Mortson," he said as he pulled the hood off, revealing the familiar face of Mortson.

Bo looked at Mortson. "Hey, what's going on here?"

"Apparently, this agent took on Mortson's identity in order to gain access to the ring,"

Inspector Hewitt said. He turned to a nearby policeman. "Go to the upstairs office. Take this guy with you so that you can open the safe."

The policeman pulled the fake Mortson to his feet. "C'mon, buddy, and no tricks," he warned him as he dragged him to the closest stairs.

Inspector Hewitt returned his attention to Shirley, Bo, and Blake.

"You kids are really something. Especially you, Shirley Holmes," he said with a smile.

"Why, thank you, Inspector," Shirley said.

The medical personnel had arrived and started to examine Molly. Molly's parents came in and immediately rushed over to their daughter.

"Molly!" Mrs. Hardy exclaimed. Molly looked up.

"Mommy? Daddy?"

Mr. and Mrs. Hardy bent down next to Molly. Mrs. Hardy took Molly's hand. "Yes, Princess, it's us."

Molly tried her best to keep her head up. "Mommy, I don't feel well..."

"Don't worry, Molly, it's all over," Mrs. Hardy reassured her daughter. "It's all over."

Detective Tremain joined Inspector Hewitt. He noticed Shirley, Bo, and Blake. "Inspector, what are they doing here?" he asked, pointing to the kids. Shirley noticed that Mr. E was still sitting in his chair. "Uh, Detective, Inspector, you may want to arrest him, too," she informed them, pointing to the man in black.

"I was wondering when you would get to me," Mr. E sneered.

"And who is this clown?" Detective Tremain asked.

"Try the leader of ENIGMA," Bo answered.

Inspector Hewitt looked at the seated dark figure. "You mean that's Mr. E?"

"That's right," Blake said.

Mr. E looked at Molly and her parents, who were being escorted outside. Stink was with them. "How touching," he said. "I suddenly feel ill."

Inspector Hewitt stepped up to Mr. E. "Looks like I've finally got you," he said. He reached for the kerchief hiding Mr. E's mouth.

"No offense, Inspector, but this is still my case," Detective Tremain declared. "If this guy's going to be unmasked, I'll be doing it."

Inspector Hewitt stepped aside. "Go ahead, Detective. It's your collar."

Shirley and the others watched as Detective Tremain marched up to Mr. E. "Okay, buddy, you're under arrest. We've got you."

"Oh really?" Mr. E said defiantly.

"Yeah," Detective Tremain said. "What are you going to do about it?"

Mr. E laughed a little. "A little piece of advice for you, Detective: Don't be me."

"Oh, I wouldn't want to be you right now." Detective Tremain reached for Mr. E's hat. "You've got a lot of explaining to do about your little group." He removed the hat. "Oh, you really...What the...?" he suddenly exclaimed.

Shirley and the others came in for a closer look. They stared at Mr. E, noticing the uncovered top of his head. It was bald, white, and shiny.

Inspector Hewitt stepped forward and removed Mr. E's goggles and kerchief. His eyes widened in disbelief.

"No..." he said, disappointed.

Everyone saw the exposed head. It was not a real human head. It was a plastic mannequin's head with a simple nose and mouth. Two tiny camera lenses were the eyes. "

A mannequin?" Bo said, confused.

"Try a dummy," Shirley said, understanding what Mr. E meant earlier.

A cruel laugh came from the plastic head. "I told you not to be me," the voice of Mr. E said.

"I don't believe this," Detective Tremain said. "You mean those bozos we caught were taking orders from a dummy?"

The head moved, looking at Shirley and the others. "Disappointed? I said I supervised the entire operation. I never said I was really here," Mr. E said.

"Did your men know?" Shirley asked Mr. E.

"Of course," Mr. E said, laughing. "But don't bother asking them about who and where I really am. They're all lesser agents from one of our smaller bases, plus they're one hundred percent loyal."

Inspector Hewitt looked down. "So close..."

"Ah yes, Inspector. So close, yet so far," Mr. E taunted. "You'll never catch me. Never." Blake tried to comfort his father. "Don't worry, Dad. Maybe next time..."

"Oh, next time." The dummy moved its head, its gaze now fixed on Shirley. "I'll still be keeping an eye on you and your little town of Redington. I'm not finished with you yet," Mr. E said menacingly.

To everyone's amazement, smoke started to come out from the dummy's eyes. "We will continue our little game another time, my dear," Mr. E told Shirley.


"Get back!" Inspector Hewitt shouted.

Diabolical laughter came out from the dummy as more smoke came out of its head. Shirley and the others ran to a safe distance. From there, they watched as the dummy's head exploded.

"Whoa," Bo said.

The destruction of the head did not end Mr. E's laughter, however. It continued to come from the dummy, filling the room.

As the laughter continued, Shirley stared at the headless dummy. She knew that Mr. E was right; it was not over between them.

The Case of the Lunchtime Abduction : Chapter 10

Next Thursday night, Shirley was on her computer in the attic. She was trying to find web sites with information about ENIGMA.

Unfortunately, the information she found so far was of little value.

Shirley looked at Watson, who was lying next to her. "Inspector Hewitt was right. Not much on these guys, I'm afraid," she said to him. Watson let out a tired whimper.

Shirley smiled at Watson, then heard a beep from her computer. "E-mail? At this time of night?"

Shirley accessed her e-mail and found one new message. She noticed that there was no sender name and that it had a sound file attachment only and no text. She read the subject. "'This snake's bite will cause illness.'"

Shirley stared at the screen. She had a good idea who had sent the e-mail.

The next day, Shirley and Bo found Molly next to the lockers. Molly had just returned to school. She looked better now; she had normal skin tone and she was no longer deathly thin. A crowd of students was asking her questions about her ordeal. Molly was enjoying being the center of attention; she answered the questions as best as she could.

"Looks like Molly's back to normal," Bo told Shirley. Shirley walked up to Molly after the crowd dispersed. "Interesting," she said. "There are two things I have to tell you that concern last week."

"And what would they be, Holmes?" Molly asked.

"One, you look rather well," Shirley pointed out. "You're acting normally. That's a big difference from last week."

"Oh, Daddy took me to a therapist," Molly revealed. "He helped me get over being kidnapped and all that."

"Must have been a hypnotist," Bo remarked. "I thought that you'd be gone for a few weeks to recuperate."

Molly gave Bo an icy stare. "I'm all right, okay?" She returned her attention to Shirley. "What else do you have to say, Holmes?"

"Well, even though your plan was not executed, you were still able to get your parents over here," Shirley said.

"Plan? What plan?" Molly asked, looking innocent.

Shirley took out the fax from the acting agency Molly tried to hire and showed it to her. "Sherlock loves your little fax programs, by the way," she told Molly with a grin.

After reading it over, Molly glared at Shirley. "What do you want?"

"Now that you mention it, you can propose some fair cuts in the school budget at today's TSAC meeting," Shirley said, putting away the fax.

"I see," Molly said. "I'll refrain from my attacks on the Science Club, then."

"Good idea," Bo said, smiling.

Molly scowled at Bo and opened her locker. Blake walked up to Shirley and Bo. "Hi, guys," he greeted.

"Hi, Blake," Bo said.

Molly looked inside the locker, then froze. Shirley saw that Molly was shaking a little. Molly stepped back from her locker, her lip trembling.

Molly turned to Blake. "Uh, Blake, can you get my books, please?" she asked him, trying to stay calm.

"Sure, Molly. Just point them out," Blake replied.

Molly pointed to some books and Blake got them for her. "Thanks, Blake," Molly said, breathing a little rapidly. She took off quickly without closing her locker.

Shirley closed Molly's locker. "I don't think that therapist cured Molly completely," she told her friends.

"I'm still amazed that your dad convinced Tremain to keep us out of his report," Bo told Blake during lunch.

"It's a gift my dad has," Blake remarked. "We're still the unknown Good Samaritans."

"It's fortunate for us that our families still believe that your dad took us out for pizza," Shirley said.

"Yeah, but it was true," Blake said, grinning. "It was good pizza."

"So how did the final analysis of the dummy go?" Shirley asked Blake.

"I'm afraid the police couldn't get anything else out of it," Blake replied, sounding defeated. "They did determine that there was electronic stuff in the dummy that enabled it to move its head and to broadcast Mr. E's voice, but it's all melted gunk now. They say that some sort of thermal generator did it."

"Looks like ENIGMA's determined to cover its tracks," Bo said.

"You don't become the most powerful criminal organization in the world by making mistakes," Shirley said.

Molly marched up to Shirley's table. "Okay, Holmes, what did you do to my site?" she demanded in a low voice, leaning toward Shirley.

"What are you talking about, Molly?" Bo asked.

"It seems that while I was undergoing therapy, my Y site's been taken off." Molly glared at Shirley. "Did you have your friend Sherlock take it off the Web?"

"No," Shirley answered.

"Well, whoever did will pay dearly," Molly said, gritting her teeth. She left in a huff.

"Whoa. I guess Molly's still got a mean streak," Bo said, watching Molly leave. Shirley looked at Blake. "Did you...?"

"Uh, no," Blake replied. "I've been paying attention to school and that dummy."

"I thought so." Shirley took out a tape recorder. "I have a good idea who did."

"What's that?" Bo asked, looking at the tape recorder.

"Something I recorded last night from an anonymous e-mail." Shirley pressed the "play" button.

"Its subject was 'This snake's bite will cause illness.'"

"ENIGMA?" Blake asked.

"ENIGMA," Shirley said, nodding.

They all heard eerie music. "Chance!" the tape began, followed with evil laughter. "Chance!" Then came more evil laughter. "No chance, 'cause that's what you've got..."

"I don't know what this song is, but the message is clear," Shirley said as the song played on.

Bo and Blake listened for a while. "The Corporate Ministry!" they said together, recognizing the song.

Shirley raised an eyebrow. "What?"

"The Corporate Ministry," Blake said. "It's a now-defunct group of heels in the World Wrestling Federation."

"That song is their entrance theme," Bo added.

Shirley looked at both Bo and Blake. "You both watch professional wrestling?" she asked, sounding surprised.

"Yeah!" Bo and Blake said excitedly.

The song continued. "...It's just a matter of time. 'Cause you've got no chance! No chance! No chance in hell! You've got no chance! No chance! No chance in hell!..."

"I think our lives just got a lot more complicated," Bo told Shirley. Blake nodded in agreement.

In his office at ENIGMA headquarters, Mr. E, clad in his uniform and wearing his dark glasses, looked through Molly's Y web site on his computer.

"My, my, Hardy is such a gossip," he said, amused.

Nigel, Mr. E's English butler, looked over his employer's shoulder.

" She is rather adept at digging up dirt on people, sir," he commented. "Indeed," Mr. E said, still looking at the site. "I recall that her parents took her to see a hypnotist?"

"A well-known one, sir," Nigel acknowledged. "He's been called on by those in the upper class to get rid of bad experiences."

"Judging from what our spies have observed, he did a good job," Mr. E said. "Looks like Hardy the manipulative sociopath is back."

"His success rate is about ninety-five percent," Nigel said.

Mr. E thought for a moment. "Hmmm, a possibility that Hardy isn't fully recovered...lovely," he said, smiling.

Number One entered the office. He stepped in front of Mr. E's desk, beat his left breast, and rose his fist into the air. "ENIGMA forever!" he said.

Mr. E looked up at his second-in-command. "Ah, Number One. Something to report?"

Number One cleared his throat and steadied his nerves. "Our client is very displeased about not having the ruby ring in his possession," he said. "He wants his preliminary payment back."

"So he wants a refund, hmm?" Mr. E leaned back in his chair, scratching his chin. "Have him killed. Make it look like an accident."

Number One nodded. "At once, sir."

Mr. E returned his focus to his computer. "Have you finished adding the information on Holmes, her family, her friends, and Redington to our master computer?" he asked Number One.

"The task has been completed," Number One answered.

"Including the data collected from this recent mission?"

"It has just been added." Number One tugged at his collar nervously.

"Sir, permission to ask you a few things."


"I've noticed that you're taking this failure rather well, sir."

"Well, Number One, I've achieved my main goal," Mr. E replied. "What else do you have to ask?"

"Well, sir, why exactly are we considering this teen-age girl in a small Canadian city a threat to ENIGMA?" Number One asked out of curiosity.

"She's a Holmes, Number One," Mr. E said vehemently. "Do you need any further explanation?"

"No, sir. I understand," Number One gathered all his courage for another question. "Er, sir, if you don't mind me asking you..."

Mr. E looked at Number One. "I do," he said, slightly annoyed.

Number One gulped. "Well, anyway, during this operation, you were rather cruel to that Hardy girl. You ordered her to be starved and locked into a box with a blindfold. Now you've stolen her web site.

Just out of curiosity, why?"

Mr. E smiled. "Because I can," he said coldly. He glared at Number One. "Are you questioning my decisions, Number One?"

"N-no, sir!" Number One quickly blurted out, knowing what happened to those who dared to question the ENIGMA leader. He recalled what Mr. E did to the previous Number One. It was not a pretty sight.

"Good, Number One. Very good," Mr. E said, returning his attention to the computer. "If there is no more business to discuss, Number One, you may go."

Number One nodded, then left the office. He was very glad to do so.

"Well, Nigel, he's brought up a good point. I must return Hardy's site," Mr. E said. He started typing on the keyboard and using the mouse. A moment later, the site was gone. "Ah, there we go. Hardy has her site back. No threat of anyone tracing its theft back to me thanks to the many relays I use."

"Very kind of you, sir," Nigel said.

"Why, thank you, Nigel," Mr. E said. "I even added a little surprise."

"Computer virus?" Nigel asked.

"Naturally," Mr. E replied, grinning mischievously.

"The same one you once sent to that bully you once knew in Japan? Bill something?"

"Oh, no, Nigel. This one's different. The one I sent to Hardy will lie dormant for a week. If anyone tries to access her site, the virus will spread to his or her computer. If it is not properly disposed of, the virus will activate after a week, causing the computer to overheat and its inner components will melt."

"Sounds like a nasty piece of work, sir," Nigel commented.

"It is." Mr. E accessed ENIGMA's master computer and brought up a file labeled "HOLMES, SHIRLEY." He displayed a text file containing all collected information on Shirley and a recent picture of the junior detective. "Now, to more important matters..."

Nigel looked at the computer screen. "The Holmes girl, sir?"

"Exactly, Nigel." Mr. E leaned back in his chair, staring at the picture. "This young lady is attempting to follow in her famous ancestor's footsteps. This has been proven to be a problem for ENIGMA.

She's brilliant, tenacious, and resourceful. Very bad news for us."

"Your grandfather and the other Mr. Es never had to deal with anyone from the Holmes clan," Nigel recalled.

"I know, Nigel. They were lucky, I guess." Mr. E sighed. "It must be fate. Mother was always so fatalistic. She always took whatever came her way in stride, whether it was good or bad." He cupped his chin and looked thoughtful. "Maybe that's why she looked so peaceful when the military police found her body in the wreckage after the car crash. Father was the exact opposite; he looked positively frightened." He smiled. "He was always a coward at heart. Jerk got what he deserved."

"How true, sir," Nigel said.

Mr. E glared at the picture of Shirley on the screen. "They will take care of this nuisance for me, Nigel," he declared, clinching his fist.

"Are you sure that it is wise to use them to deal with Miss Holmes?" Nigel inquired.

"Lesser agents have failed me, Nigel," Mr. E replied. "They will not."

"Will you use them all at once or separately?"

"Whatever the situation calls for, Nigel. Most certainly not just because of my hatred for the girl," Mr. E answered. "I think we should spread word of our services to Redington, don't you think, Nigel?"

"A sound idea, sir." "After all, we can't have people thinking that ENIGMA has its own agenda," Mr. E said, grinning malevolently. He picked up a metal box from his desk and looked at it. On its lid it had keys with all the letters of the alphabet.

"So, sir, do you think you'll be able to deal with this little problem?" Nigel asked.

Mr. E smiled. "It's just a matter of time, Nigel." He looked at Shirley's picture, then he studied the box closely. "It's all just a matter of time."