The Case of Hidden Meanings
A Shirley Holmes Fan Fiction
April / May 2003 10000 words
The Case of Hidden Meanings : Chapter One : Surprises and Soot
It was a windy autumn day. The ground was covered with crisp, fallen leaves and the sky seemed to be a permanent shade of hazy gray. Soon the ground would be covered with a thick blanket of white, but until then, Shirley Holmes satisfied herself with watching the final leaves fall gracefully to the muddy earth from her attic window, her pen and journal in hand. She was just finishing an entry in which filled many lines with glorious details of her latest case when she heard footsteps echo through the staircase up to her little attic.
"Hey Shirley," said a dependable familiar voice.
"Hey Bo, what's up?" Shirley asked, not needing to turn around and identify the voice for she new it belonged to her best friend, Bo Sawchuk.
"Are we gonna catch that movie at eight?" He asked, sitting down in one of the various old, worn, yet very comfortable chairs that were arranged throughout the room.
Shirley looked down at her right hand and gasped.
"I had no idea what time it was! Give me two seconds to get dressed," she replied quickly, and before Bo could suggest a later movie time, Shirley was halfway down the stairs.
Bo just shook his head and sighed and made his way down the stairs and knocked on the outside of Shirley's bedroom door, which had been closed too quickly, and stood open just and inch.
"Hey Shirley, we could just go to a later showing," Bo started to say, but Shirley's head was too deep in her closet to hear.
"Shirley?" Bo repeated, knocking lightly on the door, with no answer. Bo decided to peek his head in a little, to find Shirley half naked, her back to Bo. She turned and screamed when she saw him.
Bo shut the door quickly, his face reddening.
"Sorry! I just thought, maybe we-could-go-some-other-time-I'll-call-you-later," Bo said in a rush, and flew down the stairs and out the front door of the mansion, quite embarrassed.
* * * * *
The next day Shirley contemplated how Bo would act around her. She sat in her bedroom, fully clothed in her school uniform ready for school, talking aloud like she often did to her basset hound Watson.
"Obviously the issue needs to be handled, but I don't want to make a spectacle of it. Ignoring it will probably make it worse, but I have no idea how to address it. I mean I can't just say 'Hey, Bo, remember that time you walked in on me half-naked? Well, can we just forget about it and go on as though it never happened?' He practically ran away!" Just then, she once again glanced at her watch to find school was starting in no less than ten minutes. She grabbed her book bag and an apple on her way out the door. Her father and mother had early morning meetings and Gran was getting back from Fiji next week. Shirely was lucky she had noticed the time at all.
Shirley was soon bicycling down the street as fast as she could, really not wanting this unnecessary tardiness on her already shady record. Then once more, something caught her eye. When stopping momentarily to cross the street two down from Sussex, Shirley noticed, one block ahead, the familiar glare of yellow police tape surrounding what used to be her Gran's favorite herbal tea-shop, but what was now smoke and fallen wood. She took a bite into her shiny apple and slowly walked her bike toward the rubble.
Meanwhile Bo sat, staring at the clock as the bell rang for class, thinking of Shirley. He had expected her to fly into the class, land in the now vacant desk in front of him, at the final moment before the ringing sound filled the halls and classrooms of Sussex Academy, and tell him all about the latest case that had detained her that cool fall morning. But instead he sat alone, half-listening to the sound of Mr. Howie lecturing on one of his favorite period in history, wondering why Shirley wasn't there. Had him walking in on her in her bedroom scared her to the point of not coming to school? He hadn't really thought of it since it had happened the night before, but now, as the Shirley-less minutes passed, all he could think of was the way the curve of her back seemed so smooth, and how it would feel beneath his hands.
Bo jumped sightly, startled by how far his thoughts had wandered, and how they had wandered to a place they had never gone before.
"You ok, man?" whispered Bart from the seat behind him.
"Yeah, just daydreaming," Bo mumbled scooting back up into his chair.
"Hey, do you know why Shirley isn't here?" Bart asked a few minutes later. The sound of Shirley's name brought a tickle down Bo's spine.
"How would I know?" Bo said, much more sharp and louder than he had intended.
"Excuse me Mr. Sawchuk, but if there is something worth interrupting The Crusades for, I think the whole class should hear it," Mr Howie said tartly.
But just then the bell rang, signaling the end of first period, which erupted with the noise of the class wanting to leave the room before Howie could assign homework. Bo hurried out of the classroom, not looking back at a baffled Bart.
Shirley put her bicycle in a crowd of bushes diagonally from the smouldering smoke. She then carefully crossed the street, looking like no more than a school girl on her way to school. She took another bite into her apple and inched her way closer to the once teashop. The shops on either side seemed perfectly intact and two cops stood conversing behind the police tape and small crowd of onlookers gossiped on the other side of it.
"Forensics is backed up. This may take a while," one of the cops was saying.
Then Shirley spotted a trash can next to the small crowd and had an idea.
She reached into her back-pack and retrieved two pieces of flashy paper and a lighter. She hadn't had any reason to use this special paper yet, and couldn't resist the opportunity. Shirley carefully slipped the paper and lighter up her sleeve and inched toward the crowd, muttering things like "such a shame" and "what a waste" with the rest of them before gingerly placing the paper into the trash can and setting it on fire. She then walked on away from the crowd and trash can, slipping the lighter seemingly into her jacket pocket. Soon enough she heard the response she had intended to hear.
"Fire! Fire! Another fire!" shrieked an old lady, a shaky finger pointing at the "fire" in the trash can. The police men rushed forward and Shirley took this moment to take a closer look at the smoke-black building. Her magnifying glass was in one of her plastic covered hands and Shirley walked carefully through the debris of the tea-shop. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. But there had to be something, because something is always taken, something is always left behind.
Shirley was getting worried, knowing that the fake fire wouldn't distract the cops and crowd very long, but then it caught her eye. In the corner of the shop, near the back door, was a very clean, very new bubble gum wrapper, it's corner sticking up underneath some soot. Shirley took a zip-lock baggy and placed the wrapper in it, than headed back out the tea-shop, unnoticed, and started toward her hidden bicycle. It seemed as though Shirley had found another arson to warm her up that cool autumn morning.
The Case of Hidden Meanings : Chapter Two : So Beautiful
Bo sat, staring at his plate in the cafeteria later that day, half listening to Bart and Alicia argue about their plans that weekend.
"It's not every day that a sci-fi convention of this capacity comes to Redington, Alicia!" Bart spat.
"I wonder why? Who would actually go to one of those boring things!"Alicia snipped back.
"There are plenty of people with an IQ higher than that of a chipmunk that would fill the convention!" Bart said impatiently.
"Ah! Are you calling me a chipmunk?" said Alicia, shocked.
"No, I was simply saying that ....... " Bart trailed off.
"Bart, I'm not going. And neither is Shirley or Bo. Alicia turned to Bo, who was still playing absent mindedly with his food. "Right Bo?"
"Right Bo?" Alicia repeated persistently.
"Huh? Right, right Alicia," Bo said, having no idea what he had just agreed to.
"I expected more from you Bo than to agree with this teeny-bopper who cares more about her lip-gloss than her friends!" Bart said sharply, leaving the table, and marching out of the lunchroom.
"Hey, I am not a teeny-bopper!" Alicia yelled after Bart, following him out of the lunchroom, leaving Bo to wonder about Shirley by himself. Part of him worried that she may be in trouble, for his friend always seemed to find some somewhere to get herself into. That was part of the reason Bo always went along with Shirley on their cases, because he felt as though he needed to protect her, be her "own personal white knight".
Just then a familiar set of footsteps echoed through the room behind him.
"Bo!" Shirley said, breathlessly, sitting beside him.
"Where have you been," Bo started, but Shirley placed a hand up to is mouth to stop him from speaking while she caught her breath.
"Gran's favorite tea-shop caught fire. I've approximated from the burns sometime very early this morning. And when I went to investigate I found this gum wrapper," Shirley took the zip lock baggy out of her jacket pocket to show Bo, "Under some soot, very intact. I didn't have time to properly investigate, but I did manage to make a mental sketch of the lay out of the fire pattern," Shirley reached into her bag and took out her notebook in which she had recorded all she had seen, "I think the fire started from this corner of the shop," she pointing to he picture she had drawn, "which is two feet from where this wrapper was found. There has to be a connection," Shirley finished, that so familiar excited glint in her eye.
Bo looked down at Shirley's hand, which was still over his mouth.
"Sorry," Shirley said, removing her hand, allowing Bo to speak.
"So what you're saying is the arsonist left it there on purpose," asked Bo.
"Someone did which doesn't make sense because why did it not burn up? They must have left it after the fire had been put out," Shirley said.
"Which means we need to return to the scene of the crime," Bo said, grinning.
"You're catching on," Shirley smiled.
Just then the bell rang signaling the end of lunch.
"We have to go now," Shirley said, exiting the lunchroom.
"Ok," Bo said, following his friend.
* * * * *
"What is it with us and arson?" Bo whispered, rubbing his cold hands together, following Shirley through the back door of the once tea-shop.
"Look! Footprints!" Shirley pointed to the muddy ground. She stooped down the look at it closer.
"These are going toward to building and these are going away," Shirley traced the path with her index finger.
"Hey, doesn't that set look wider to you?" Bo said, also leaning down to get a better look.
Shirley took out her measuring tape.
"They are an exact match in indentation and length, but the second set are wider," Shirley whispered excitingly.
"Meaning there were two different people here," Bo chimed in.
"Exactly," Shirley nodded, jotting down notes in her notebook.
A silence grew between them as Shirley made two plaster casts of the footprints. She then stared down at the scene, her eyebrows slowly began to furrow. One of the wider footprints, the one leading to the shop, was indented into a brown, crisp leaf.
"What's wrong," Bo asked, sensing her confusion.
Shirley didn't answer right a way. She stood up and craned her next up to look at the tree whose branches loomed over the scene. It was naked of any leaves in the cold fall afternoon.
"Yesterday, there was a leaf removal, right?" Shirley asked.
"Yeah, why?" Bo answered, wondering what Shirley was getting at, but knowing she was getting at something.
"The trucks were all backed up, because of all the leaves. There were more than expected because of the wind storm on Saturday," Shirley continued.
"Right. They didn't get to my house until nine o'clock at night," Bo sais, confused.
"Which is two blocks from here," Shirley said, taking a small map of Redington out of her back-pack. "And the place where they take all the leaves is here," pointing and gloved hand to the map.
"So? Shirley what does this mean?" Bo asked, wanting to hurry things up because his nose was getting cold.
"It means that the owner of the wider footprints was here before the arson, Bo! And according to the leaf route, after nine o'clock, which is four hours after the tea shop closes, and many before the arson," Shirley explained.
Bo nodded his head, in wonderment of Shirley's analytical mind.
"So what you're saying is that someone was hanging around here before the fire, and then someone, a different someone, was hanging around here after the fire to leave the wrapper. So where does the arsonist come in, Shirley?" Bo asked.
"An excellent question. What we need now are some eye witnesses," Shirley replied.
* * * * *
"Shirley, can we hurry this up? I'm freezing!" complained Bo.
"According to this police report," ignored Shirley, "the owner of the tea-shop, lives here."
The two stood on the porch of an old colonial style house with a great gray door with a worn out screen door, and brass knocker.
"How did you get access to those police files ?" Bo stopped, not needing to know the answer.
"Mr. Cohen? Mr. Cohen we have a few question to ask you!" Shirley said through a closed door, knocking on it politely.
"I'm coming, I'm coming," they heard from the other side of the door.
"Yes? Hey, haven't I seen you from somewhere?" Asked the man, pointing at Bo.
"No, I don't think so, I have that kind of face though" replied Bo, using one of Shirley's lines to get out of trouble.
"We heard about your teashop catching fire this morning and we were wondering if you could help us out by answering a few questions," Shirley began.
"Look, I told the police, there's nothing much to tell. It was probably an accident. That stupid teenager I have working the evening shift probably didn't turn something off, is all," The man said, crossing his arms, his eyes wondering behind Bo and Shirley, as though he was checking to see if anyone was watching them. Shirley noticed the classic sign of lying.
"But the police reported it as an arson Mr. Cohen," Bo said.
"Police can be wrong, so just leave me alone,"Mr. Cohen said in a huff, shutting the door in their faces.
"Well, he's definitely hiding something. You thinking insurance scan?" Bo asked.
"Now that would be too ironic, don't you think," Shirley laughed.
"So where to, or what now?" Bo asked.
"I think for now our best bet would be to keep an eye on Mr. Cohen. His body language meant that he's worried about something and I'd like to find out what," Shirley said matter-of-factly.
"Great. A stakeout in the freezing cold," Bo grumbled, as the two sat on a park bench across the street from Mr. Cohen's house.
"It's not that cold," Shirley said, although at that very moment her teeth started chattering.
"Ha!" Bo exclaimed, "You can't hide anything from me Shirley. You're just as cold as I am," Bo laughed.
"I doubt that. You're not the one in a skirt," Shirley said sharply through chattering teeth.
"Here, move closer, you're freezing," Bo said gently, sliding over the cold park bench to be closer to Shirley.
"Thanks," Shirley mumbled, very aware of Bo's leg next to hers.
And awkward silence fell between the two as they stared at Mr. Cohen's house from a distance.
"You know, we haven't really talked about, you know, when I walked in on you, yesterday," Bo started even more awkwardly than the silence that had been between them.
"What is there to talk about? It was an accident, that could've happened to anyone, case closed," Shirley said simply, her cheeks slightly pink.
Bo laughed right out loud.
"You never cease to amaze me Shirley, the way your mind works. You're just so ......" Bo said, turning his head to look at Shirley,
"So ....... " He repeated, but seemed to have forgotten the rest in his gaze. The feelings he was having in Mr. Howie's class that morning were coming back, stronger than ever.
Shirley looked over, their faces very close. Her breath became short in her chest.
"So ..... ?" she said, softly repeating Bo's words, trying to help him along in his sentence.
But Bo just sat there looking at this face, the face of his best friend, a face he had looked at millions of times, and at times, never wanted to look at again. But in that moment, when a light autumn breeze brushed the hair out from behind her ears, when her cheeks seemed to have been kissed by roses, and eyes glowed as blue as the farthest roaring ocean, it seemed as though he was seeing this face for the first time.
"Beautiful," Bo said quietly.
Once more silence grew between the two, it wasn't awkward, but comfortable and sweet. Bo reached his hand and slowly put the independent strand of hair back behind Shirley's ear, feeling the softness of her cheek and wondering if it had always been that soft. Then, Shirley nodded her head slowly, as if to say she knew what he was feeling, and she was feeling it to.
Suddenly, the sound a screen door shutting startled the two out of their precious moment.
"Mr. Cohen!" Shirley said, jerking herself back into reality.
The two stood up off of the park bench quickly, follwoing Mr. Cohen from a safe distance. Mr. Cohen was walking rapidly down the street, very suspiciously. He soon lead them to the very place Shirley had secretly assumed he would. Back to the alley behind the torched tea shop.
The Case of Hidden Meanings : Chapter Three : I'll Wait
Mr. Cohen stood at the backdoor of the teashop, looking in with remorse on his face. Shirley and Bo peaked around the corner, carefully spying on his every move. For a moment Shirley wondered if he had simply come to this place to look upon his once beloved teashop, but he soon proved her wrong. He entered the frame of the once backdoor and leaned down. Shirley heard him shifting wood and rubble around and muttering "where is it...where is it?"
"Of course!" Shirley muttered, pulling Bo away from the mouth of the alley. "He's looking for the wrapper, the gum wrapper." Shirley pulled the zip lock baggy out of her jacket pocket and examined it more closely.
"There are thirteen numbers on the back of this wrapper I didn't notice before! 1 9 2 3 2 0 8 1 8 1 9 2 2." Shirley whispered aloud to Bo.
"A code? A password?" Bo whispered back.
"Maybe. Or maybe it's ......," Shirley started, but the sound of footsteps echoing throughout the alley made her stop. The pair peaked around the corner once more to see Mr. Cohen climbing over the fence on the opposite side of the alley.
"He's getting away!" Shirley yelled, starting to run, Bo behind her.
Mr. Cohen looked back for a second, seeing Bo and Shirley running after him, before increasing his speed.
Bo got to the fence first and jump highly onto it. Shirley started to climb, but her bobby sock got nagged on a lose wire on the fence. Bo was almost over the fence. Shirley tugged at the sock, but in doing so lost her balance and fell backward onto the alley below.
"Ow!" She yelled, feeling the sudden rush of warm blood at her elbow. Bo was on the other side when he turned and saw that Shirley had fallen, he started to run back toward her.
"No, keep going!" Shirley called.
"Are you ok?" Bo asked, climbing the fence once more.
"Bo, we're gonna lose him now!" Shirley yelled.
"Are you ok?" Bo repeated, seeming to care nothing of Mr. Cohen and only of Shirley.
"I'm fine Bo!" Shirley said angrily as Bo stooped down to put a concerned hand on her shoulder and to examine her elbow.
"You're bleeding pretty bad," Bo said.
"I have hurt my elbow before you know," Shirley said, getting up. Bo put his hands on her shoulders to help her.
"I'm fine Bo! We can still catch him, come on!" Shirley said, running around the opposite side of the alley onto a bare street.
"Darn!" Shirley said, seeing no signs whatsoever of Mr. Cohen. "You could've tailed him if you hadn't stopped to help me,"
"And you could've been seriously hurt," Bo said.
"Come on, let's go to the attic and try to decrypt the wrapper," Shirley said, not wanting to argue.
* * * * *
"Of course!" Shirley exclaimed, an hour and a half later. She was sitting at her table, examining the wrapper, many sheets of crumbled paper surrounding her, with her laptop diagonal from her microscope.
"What is it?" Bo asked, walking over to her from his chair, and leaning in to look at the wrapper.
"The Johnson's Method!" Shirley said.
"The what method?" Bo asked.
"I can't believe it took me so long to decrypt it!" Shirley said, standing walking toward the large sketch book which stood on one of Gran's canvas stands. A large, heavy-looking book was propped up against the canvas entitled "Hidden Meanings". Shirley picked up the book and said, to Bo, who had wheeled around his chair and sat facing her,
"I've been reading this fascinating book about decoding numbers and their meanings. It features a lot of CIA and FBI type methods," Shirley explained.
"So," Bo said simply.
"So, the numbers, thirteen of them. I thought that that was a rather large number for maybe a teashop security code, I mean even that vault I got locked in didn't have thirteen numbers," Shirley said, pacing the room while voicing her thoughts. "And then I started thinking of the different representative methods,"
"Representative methods?" Bo asked.
"Numbers representing or symbolizing other things, usually letters," Shirley said.
"And those letters make words," Bo asked.
"Exactly," Shirley said, excitingly. "And the Johnson's Method works best with odd numbers in the teens," Shirley began to write the numbers on the sketch book. "Each number has a letter that corresponds with it. One, nine, two, three, two, zero, eight, one, eight, one, nine, two, two."
"Whoa, wait a sec. How does zero have a letter?" Bo asked his eyebrows raised.
"It doesn't," Shirley answered, facing the sketch board.
"Then how," Bo started, but Shirley cut him off.
"They're not single digit numbers," Shirley.
"It's actually nineteen, twenty three, twenty, eight, eighteen, nineteen, and twenty-two," Shirley said, rewriting the numbers on the sketch board. "If a number is repeated, it means that the symbol, or letter in this case, is repeated in the solved code, parallel to the number of times the number is repeated in the unsolved code."
"So whichever letter nineteen represents, is twice in the solved code?" Bo asked, starting to catch on.
"Precisely," Shirley nodded.
"But how did you decide to make those two digit numbers?" Bo said.
"Because the Johnson's Method states that whatever you do to one side of a code you must do to the other, and there must always be a common number, in this case eight, for it has three, two digit number on either side of it," Shirley said.
Bo sat, dumbfounded.
"Because that's the right way Bo," Shirley said putting it simply.
"Talk about hidden meanings. So what's the answer?" Bo asked.
"That's where I get stumped," Shirley said more quietly.
"What?" Bo asked, grinning.
"I said that's where I get stumped," Shirley repeated, turning her back to Bo, staring at the numbers in front of her.
"Huh?" Bo asked.
"I don't know the rest, Bo!" Shirley said loudly.
"I know, I just wanted to hear it again," Bo laughed.
"Yeah, and I just wanted you to follow Mr. Cohen but did you? No, you had to swoop in and be the hero," Shirley said sharply.
"Better safe than sorry, right?" Bo said, seeming to have no need to defend his actions.
"Yes, but I," Shirley said turning around. Bo stood behind her, his face close to hers. She almost gasped from the surprise. How long had he been so close to her? She looked up into his eyes. Had they always been that blue? She could smell his cologne. Had he always smelled so sweet and strong? "I just," Shirley continued, trying to stay levelheaded, but the moment was getting the best of her.
"Shhh," he said softly, leaning closer to her.
Everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. His breath was warm against her lips. So much had happened so quickly. Shirley felt as though she had no control over her feelings. She suddenly felt trapped in this need, this want for Bo to kiss her. He was so close, too close...
"St. Vincent's Street!" Shirley exclaimed, almost making Bo jump.
"What?" He asked so bewildered from being jerked out of such a wonderful moment so quickly.
"That's the answer to the code!" Shirley turned back toward to board. Bo looked down, suddenly feeling cold and empty. "St V 23 hrs! When you rearrange the numbers, this is one of the answers you get. The twenty three is what was throwing me off! It stays in numeral form! Someone wants to meet Mr. Cohen at eleven o'clock tonight on St. Vincent's Street, that's why he was looking for the wrapper. But Mr. Cohen doesn't know this. If we let him know, we can follow him and record the meeting, and see what he's been up to," Shirley finished, crossing the attic.
"I'm not going," Bo said quietly.
"What?" Shirley asked, not wanting to believe what she thought she just heard.
"I said I'm not going," Bo repeated, fiercely, a painful look in his eyes.
"Why, Bo?" Shirley asked, fearing the answer.
"You obviously don't need me anymore, Shirley. You have it all figured out on your own," Bo said, starting to walk past Shirley.
"What are you talking about?"
"If you hadn't noticed I was just going to kiss you Shirley! Do you even care? Do you even care that all I've been able to think about all day is how I wanted to kiss you? Feel your cheek next to mine? But no, all you care about is your case, that's all that matters," Bo said, starting to walk further.
"Bo, please, I just," Shirley said, her eyes shining.
"And that's all you have now, your cases, because you don't have me anymore," Bo said, angrily storming down the steps of the attic. Moments later Shirley heard the front door slam. Shirley stood, stunned for a few seconds then made her way down the stairs, thankful her father was still at the embassy. She looked at her watch. It said that it was nearly six. She had five hours to prepare for the meeting that night.
* * * * *
"Mr. Cohen. St. Vincent's street. One hour. Be there."
Shirley turned off her laptop and put it safely into her backpack, thankful once again that she downloaded all of those voice altering programs. Her father had returned home and went to bed a half an hour earlier, and thought Shirley had done the same. After placing the phone call to Mr. Cohen, she flicked her light back off, and went back under the covers, checking to make sure the alarm on her watch was set to go off in a half an hour. She was completely dressed underneath her robe, which she had kept on for safe keeping. She rolled over, restlessly thinking of Bo, wondering if he was thinking of her, and hoping that she hadn't caused him even half of the pain that shone in his eyes. And so she lay, pretending to be asleep, pretending as though she wasn't hurt by Bo's words, though her wet pillow begged to differ.
* * * * *
St. Vincent's street stood empty except for a stray cat finding shelter underneath some newspaper, and Shirley Holmes. She too found shelter underneath some newspaper, behind a dumpster, dirt smeared on her cheeks and wearing patched up clothing as though she were nothing more than a homeless person finding some warmth a still autumn night. She carefully watched the street before her. In two minutes it would be eleven.
Suddenly the sound of footsteps echoed through the otherwise silent street. Shirley saw that it was Mr. Cohen, looking nervous in the streaks of moonlight that filtered through the clouds, wringing his hands ten feet from Shirley's hiding place. And soon another set, two sets, of footsteps followed. Shirley was recording every sound in the street. Her breath quickened with excitement.
The two men stopped a good fifty feet from Shirley's spot and motioned for Mr. Cohen to come to them. Shirley craned her neck slightly, trying with her hardest might to hear what they were saying, but she couldn't hear one word, they were too far away. Shirley knew her tape recorder was useless if it couldn't pick up the meeting so she ever so carefully lifted her body and began to move farther down the dumpster. She could hear the mumbling of words, but couldn't make out what they were saying. She had to get closer. She spotted a trash can approximately twenty feet from the three men, well hidden in shadows. She started to make her way toward it, but suddenly she slipped, an empty bear bottle shattering in the alley. Shirley hid behind the trash can quickly.
"What was that?" said a masculine voice. Shirley heard footsteps coming toward her spot.
"What do we have here?" another man said, looking down at Shirley, his facial features not quite visible in the dark. He grabbed her by the arm roughly and pulled her up. He smelled of bad cologne and cigar smoke. "You know this girl Henry?" the man called asking Mr. Cohen.
"No," Mr. Cohen said, Shirley's costume had done it's job.
"Well, we don't like nosy little girls eavesdropping on conversations where they don't belong," the man said into Shirley's ear.
"Ask her if she heard anything?" the other man said. Shirley sadly thought "No,"
"Now, you didn't happen to hear anything, did you girlie? Did you?" He said, tightening his grip on Shirley's arm considerably. Shirley didn't answer. She quickly looked down and saw that her tape recorder was still sitting by the trash can, fully intact, and rolling.
"I asked you a question girl!" the man said angrily.
Just then the sound of another bottle braking further down the alley distracted all three men. Shirley started to kick the man whose grip had slightly loosened, but his strength and height was too much for her. Suddenly another shadowy figure lunged at the man holding Shirley, forcing him to let go of her arm.
"Run, Shirley, run!" said a familiar voice.
"But," Shirley started, not wanting to leave her savior alone to fight with the cigar-smelling man.
"Run!" he repeated, untangling himself and grabbing Shirley's hand, "Let's go," he yelled, as the two ran out of the shadowy alley.
* * * * *
The pair stood outside, in Shirley's driveway looking up at Shirley's mansion of a home. They hadn't spoken the whole time they ran from the men.
"I just can't get rid of you, can I Bo?" Shirley laughed nervously turning to face Bo. The golden thread of sun clung to the horizon, yet the moon shined brighter than ever upon the two.
"No, you can't Shirley Holmes, and you never will," Bo said seriously, his hands in his pockets.
"Bo, listen, I'm really sorry about earlier. I just was so caught up in, in the case and I really didn't mean to hurt you, I'd never mean to hurt you on purpose," Shirley said sincerely.
Silence came between the two once more. Shirley searched to the right words to say, but Bo found some first.
"I said some stupid things up there Shirley, and it's all I've been able to think about since. You'll always have me. And if you aren't ready to cross that bridge into something more, I'm not going to push you," Bo said, moving closer, taking his hands out of his pockets and placing them on her shoulders. "I'll wait," he whispered tenderly, placing a light kiss on SHirley's forehead. He then turned and walked down the driveway and onto the still street.
The Case of Hidden Meanings : Chapter Four : Francis
The next morning a golden ray of sunlight shined onto Shirley's sleeping face through a gap in her closed curtains. Soon she would be forced back into a reality of mysteries and stress, but for now she lay, peacefully dreaming until the sound of her alarm filled her ears and bedroom. Shirley wanted very badly to lay her head ever so gently back into her pillow, so comfortably, but she fought off the erg and wondered into the bathroom. She stretched and yawned, putting her hand up to her forehead and rubbing it gently. And then it came back to her, the events of yesterday, Bo's actions and words, Bo's kiss... Shirley stood for a few moments thinking things over, wondering how to continue on with the case, how to continue on with Bo, before stepping into the shower, the hot water warming her up that cold autumn morning.
She entered her room five minutes later, her hair in a towel, and Asian patterned robe tightly around her waist. As she sat at her window seat, combing out her increasingly long, dark mane, she thought about her feelings for Bo. Although they were confusing, she couldn't deny that she was feeling the same way he was, but that scared her. Shirley Holmes kept everything in control, kept everything organized and right, believed that everything somehow had some explanation, but these feelings couldn't fit into a category or be explained. But what she was most scared of wasn't that she could be losing a friend, her best friend, but that she would care too much, get too close.
Shirley suddenly realized that she had been combing through the same wet section of hair in a sort of daze, for the past several minutes. She quickly snapped out of it and finished. Ten minutes later she was down stairs in the kitchen to find a note from her father that her mother and him to leave early to get to some sort governmentally meeting, that was very "hush hush" according to the note, which was written in her father's hand writing with a smiley face next to it. Shirley began to smile herself when he read the note and knew this meant making her own toast for breakfast. She was actually going to be on time to school today, so she enjoyed it.
Later that day, when walking into first period, she noticed Bo in his usual spot next to Shirley and diagonally from Bart.
"Hey," he said when she sat down, smiling slightly.
"Hey," Shirley answered back, sort of awkwardly.
"Do you have any idea how to we're gonna continue the case, since last night's meeting fell through?" Bo asked leaning forward.
"Yes, I think we should try to talk to Mr. Cohen again. He may be vulnerable enough to talk to someone besides the police. And if that fails we can always,"
"Return to the scene of the crime?" Bo said, cutting in.
"Exactly," Shirley smiled.
Soon Mr. Howie continued on with his lectures and the class settled into it's regular quiet stupor.
The rest of the day crawled by slowly, but finally the last bell rang, the great double doors to Sussex Academy banged open and Shirley and Bo met the cold air of autumn turning into winter. Bo craned his neck up to look at the sky.
"Look's like snow," he commented.
"I hope not. Watson always gets throughly excited when it's the first snow, chasing snowflakes through the windows, plus it'll make it a lot more difficult to further investigate the scene of the crime if it comes to that," Shirley said.
"Then we better hurry," He said as the two reached his car, putting Shirley's bike on the top.
* * * * *
Shirley knocked on Mr. Cohen's door again, the same way she had the day before. It was hard to believe that the fire just happened yesterday, so much had happened since then.
The two heard footsteps echoing from inside the house. Mr. Cohen opened the door tentatively, then sighed.
"What do you two want?" he said. There were great bags under his eyes and his hair was flat in places and stood straight up in others.
"We just wanted to ask you some more questions, Mr. Cohen," Shirley began patiently, but the willowy man began to close the door. Bo put his hand up to stop it.
"We know about your meeting last night!" Shirley said quickly.
"How did you,"
"You're clearly in trouble over your head, sir, and we just want to help," Shirley said. Mr. Cohen's gaze settled upon the two for a moment, then said,
"Fine. What do you want to know?"
"What do you know about the arson?" Bo asked.
"I left the teashop at three o'clock and left Benjamin in charge," he began,
"Benjamin?" Shirley asked.
"Benjamin Michaels. The colder it gets, the more business there is. I hired him for some help, "
"But why did you leave two hours before the shop closes," Shirley asked.
"Because I had to run an errand. Bank, grocery store, things like that,"
Bo and Shirley exchanged looks.
"How long has Benjamin been an employee?" Shirley asked.
"About two months." Mr. Cohen answered.
"Who were the two men on St. Vincent's street last night?" asked Shirley.
"You know, maybe this isn't the best time," Mr. Cohen started.
"Mr. Cohen, I can premise that they were the ones who burned down the shop. What will they do next?" Shirley asked cunningly.
"I, I can't, I'm sorry," Mr. Cohen said, slamming the door. Bo began to stop him like he had before, but Shirley stopped him.
"Let's go check out this Benjamin and see what comes up," Shirley said, walking down the steps of the porch.
* * * * *
The shadow of an apartment building loomed over Shirley and Bo, four blocks from the once teashop. Shirley went straight to the door, setting her backpack underneath the security lock, a handy pocketknife in hand and while Bo stood close by, keeping watch.
"Got it," Shirley said, hanging her bag over her shoulder, holding the door open for Bo.
"According to the phone book the fifth Benjamin Michaels lives on the sixth floor. Great, no elevators" Bo complained.
"Come one, the walk will warm us up," Shirley said, starting up the carpeted steps. Bo rolled his eyes.
When they finally made it, after some panting, Bo knocked on the door in which had the shiny numbers "64" hanging loosely on it.
A male, that Shirley premised was about seventeen, opened the door. He was tall with dark hair and a slim figure.
"Benjamin Michaels?" Shirley asked.
"Yes," he asked, slightly confused.
"You work at that teashop that just burned down a few blocks from here?" Bo asked.
"Yes, how did you know-,"
"Is it true that you were working there up to closing, alone?" Shirley asked.
"Did you see anything suspicious when you left?" Bo asked.
"No not really,"
"Do you like working for Mr. Cohen?" Shirley asked.
"What time did you arrive home after you closed the shop?" Bo asked.
"About five thirty,"
"Can anyone account for your whereabouts?" Shirley asked.
"Listen, I already talked to the police about this. I don't know anything. I closed down the shop as usual and I have no idea how the fire happened," Benjamin said impatiently.
"Do you know that Mr. Cohen said that you may have left one of the burners on?" Bo said.
"He said that? I can't believe it! My own uncle!"
"What?!" Bo and Shirley said in unison.
"He didn't tell you that, did he. Plus the police said it was an arson, nothing mechanical," Benjamin said bitterly.
"Has you uncle ever been involved with anything illegal to your knowledge?" Shirley asked.
"No, but me and my mom, Uncle Thomas' sister, just moved here three months ago. I didn't know him that well before the move. Did he tell the police he thought I forgot to turn something off? If anyone would, it would be him. Since we started serving tea and coffee a month ago, he's always had trouble with the machines and stuff," Benjamin said.
"So you don't know of your uncle knowing someone dangerous at all?" Bo asked.
"No, not really, except I did see something really peculiar a couple of days ago. I was in the back getting some more English Breakfast, and when I came back he was talking to someone in a dark coat at the counter, talking to him. When he went to get the man some coffee, my uncle dropped this little piece of paper on the counter and the man picked it up. When he left with his coffee, I followed him out because he had forgotten his hat at the counter, and I saw him crumple the little piece of paper up and through it on the ground. It had a bunch of numbers on it, very weird,"
When Benjamin had finished Bo raised his eyebrows very high at Shirley.
"Do you still have the hat?" Shirley asked.
"Yeah, I never caught up with the guy. I kept in case he came back into the store," Benjamin leaned to the coat rack and handed it to Shirley. She spotted something that made her gasp.
"What?" Bo and Benjamin asked at the same time.
"Nothing, thank-you for all of your help," Shirley said, pulling Bo and racing out of the apartment building.
"Hey! Who are you two?" Benjamin called after them, but they were already going down the stairs.
"Shirley, what gives?" Bo asked, when they were out of the apartment building.
"This hat was made in a small town in Switzerland where there version of the CIA is! Mr. Cohen has some connection to international affairs involving national security." Shirley stated.
"Are you saying Mr. Cohen is a spy?" Bo asked, his eyebrows raised.
"It would account for him knowing how to decrypt that wrapper," Shirley said.
"Ok, if we have to dress up as clowns are ride in a laundry chute again, I'm leaving," Bo said, shaking his head.
"I don't think it will come to that, Francis. But I do think it's time to check in on our local friendly police force and see what they've come up with," Shirley finished.
"Alright," Bo said.
* * * * *
"Shirley, check this out," Bo said.
The two were in the attic. Shirley, making notes, reading passages in "Hidden Meanings" and going over the clues, and Bo sat at her laptop, clicking and typing away. He moved the screen over so that Shirley could look too.
"The police have ruled it an accident?!" Shirley exclaimed.
"Yep," Bo said.
"But their original report said that it was an arson!" Shirley said, leaning in closer.
"This doesn't make sense! The fire patterns were obviously arson like. What is their reasoning? Mechanic ?" Shirley read, leaning even closer into Bo.
"Yep," He said, looking at Shirley and not the screen.
"This was last updated two hours ago, around the time we left Mr. Cohen's house," Shirley observed.
"Can you access the original report from here?" Shirley asked.
"Yep, I mean, no, I mean, they don't keep those on the computer files but on the actual files at the police station," Bo said.
"Do you have a black hat?" Shirley asked.
* * * * *
"Ouch! That was my foot!" Bo yelped.
"Shhh!" Shirley warned, "The security men come around every four and a half minutes! We don't have much time to extract the report," Shirley said, pushing Bo forward.
She then took out a small tweezer looking advice while Bo kept watch. Within no time the door swung open and Shirley whispered "I'm in." With a flashlight in hand, she went over to Detective Tremain's, the detective assigned to the case, filing cabinet and began to look through file names carefully, while Bo continued to watch for anyone.
"Seems that Tremain hasn't been very tidy today," Shirley said under her breath, when seeing the file still on the detective's desk.
She took out her handy pen looking picture taker and began to click the images of the different papers. But the clicking ceased for a moment when one of the papers caught her eyes.
"Shirley, come on!" Bo whispered.
Shirley pocketed the paper and left everything as it was originally found and went to Bo, who was getting nervous as distant footsteps grew louder.
"You won't believe what I found," Shirley said, and her and Bo exited the building quickly.
* * * * *
"Five years ago a Mr. Thomas Cohen was sent to Switzerland on a special project," Shirley and Bo sat in the attic once more. Bo yawned widely, playing with a bouncy ball in his hands as Shirley took one of the photographs and hung it up to dry. Both her parents were away at the conference and Shirley was supposed to be staying at Sussex , but called in saying that the conference ended early.
"What kind of special project?" Bo asked.
"He worked for the police as a special investigator. He had been studying an illegal organization in Switzerland,"
"Like the mob, only with wooden shoes?" Bo laughed.
"That's Sweden, but yes. Tremain did his homework, recovering all of the notes Cohen took during his stay. He didn't prove anything, Cohen I mean, their organized crime is pretty good at what they do. He returned two years ago, unsuccessful. He then retired," Shirley said.
"But those two men in the alley didn't have accents," Bo said.
"Yes, but the gum wrapper got me thinking. The numbers were written differently," Shirley said.
"Especially the fours and sevens?" Bo asked, bouncing the ball on the ground and then catching it.
"Ha-ha. My point is, it is not a coincidence that Cohen meets with strange men in a dark alley the day his tea shop burned down three years after he researched and investigated organized crime,"
"But you said he didn't come up with anything. No need for revenge," Bo said, rubbing his eyes.
"Did he? Maybe that has to do with the reason he retired. According to some of his superior's reports, he was at the height of his career, why quit?" Shirley said, seeing the side that no one else ever saw.
A contemplative silence fell between to two. Only the sound of rubber on wood was in the attic.
"You know, Mr. Cohen was kind of reluctant to talk about his family, not mentioning Benjamin and all. Does he have a wife? Any kids?" Bo asked.
"Of course!" Shirley looked through the report. "Golda Cohen died three months ago to cancer. Does Golda sound Canadian to you? And, of course, remember that project we did about six months ago? About medical advancements involving the cell reproduction of cancer!"
"The latest study was performed in Switzerland!" Bo said as Shirley nodded.
"There has to be a connection," Shirley said. "Cohen probably used his connections in Switzerland to get the treatment for his wife,"
"But she died anyway,"
"Well, it's still an experimental treatment," Shirley said. "But this information still doesn't explain why the police suddenly ruled it an accident," Shirley sighed.
"You should probably go home and get a couple hours of sleep," she said after a few moments of thought.
"It's nearly two. My parents think I'm staying at Bart's. Is there anyway I can just crash here?" Bo said, yawning once more.
"Sure. You could stay in the guest room," Shirley said, her cheeks the slightest pink.
"Nah, I'd rather stay up here, I'm so used to the couch and all, if that's all right with you," Bo said.
"No, that's fine. I can get you a couple blankets from the hall closet." Shirley replied.
She raced down the stairs and got a fluffy blanket and a pillow to match. When she realized she was practically running, she slowed her step. She peered into the hallway mirror and saw that she was flustered. It was no big deal, Bo sleeping in her house, he's done it before...but that was before they're feelings had changed, had progressed. Shirley pushed her hair behind her ears, as Bo had done the day before, and walked up the stairs slowly and as nonchalantly as she could.
But when she arrived at the couch, she found Bo fast asleep. Shirley simply smiled and shook her head. She then carefully lifted his legs onto the couch, his feet hanging off the end slightly, then removed his shoes. She placed the blanket over him and then turned off the lights. The moon shone beautifully through the gap in the curtains, and for a moment Shirley just watched Bo, his chest slowly, serenely, moving up and then down, up and down, like a familiar dance, with a familiar rhythm and texture. Shadows clung to the curves in his face, and it was in this moment that Shirley Holmes realized that she was in love.
* * * * *
"Good morning," Bo said, as Shirley entered the kitchen the next day. He was already dressed in his Sussex uniform, but Shirley was still in her bath robe. She jumped slightly at the sight of Bo, and then remembered the night before.
"Did my parents call?" Shirley asked, sitting down and sipping some orange juice.
"They left a message saying that the conference will be over a little late and when you got home from school and got the message, not to worry. What's that conference all about anyway?" Bo asked.
"No idea. Something top secret involving both of their jobs. They won't tell me anything," Shirley sighed.
"You'll probably figure it out. No one can hold a secret from you for very long,"
"Okay, I gotta say it," Bo said after a moment of toast-crunching and orange juice drinking.
Shirley's stomach did a back flip. What did he have to say?
"I think the case has gone stale," Bo said.
"Oh," Shirley said.
"I mean, we can't win them all. I just think the any way to get any more information is from Mr. Cohen and I don't think we'll be having a friendly chat with him anytime soon," Bo continued.
The truth was Shirley hadn't thought about the case all night. She had only thought about the guy that sat in front of her.
"We could always return to the scene of the crime, but I don't see what good that'll do," Bo was saying, but Shirley was hardly listening.
Something had changed. She had always put a case in front of everything, everyone, no matter what. But now, part of her seemed to care more about spending the time with Bo than what they would discover in that time.
"Hey, Shirley are you listening?" Bo said.
Huh? Sorry, I just spaced out I guess. I gotta go get dressed," And Shirley rushed up the stairs, leaving Bo bewildered at her actions.
* * * * *
After school Shirley and Bo were heading toward the Quazar Café, when Shirley asked to turn right, onto the street of the torched tea shop.
"I have a feeling that we may find something," Shirley said. She headn't dealt with her feelings yet, but knew that usually, she would continue on with the case with full speed, so she did that.
"You'll never give up," Bo said.
"We made a big improvement last night, and I just want to review all of the facts before going to Mr. Cohen one last time," Shirley said.
"Alright," Bo said, stopping the car.
The back alley looked the same, but Shirley had her rubber gloves on anyway. She looked through the rubble where the first wrapper was found.
"Eureka!" Shirley exclaimed. "Another wrapper, a new wrapper!" Bo rushed forward. The number were written in the same foreign hand writing as the other one.
"Can you tell what it means?" Bo asked excitedly.
Shirley looked at the numbers. She had spent so much time reading "Hidden Meanings" she could almost decrypt it in her head. But she slipped her hand into her backpack and retrieved a pad and pen to make sure she was right.
"Your last chance" Shirley read.
"Mr. Cohen could be in trouble!" Bo said.
"We have to go talk to him, force it out of him if we have to!" Shirley said, placing the wrapper into a baggy as they raced to the car.
* * * * *
"Mr. Cohen, your life is at risk, please let us in!" Shirley said, pounding at the door.
"Please, Mr. Cohen, this is very important!" Shirley yelled.
Mr. Cohen opened the door.
"What is with you two?" he said, irritated.
"They left a message for you. It says ‘your last chance'. They could do more than burn down your tea shop. They could hurt you are your nephew,"
"How did you,"
"Don't ask," Bo said.
"Mr. Cohen, this is serious. We want to help you," Shirley said.
"I think you two have watched too much TV," Mr. Cohen said.
"Where have I heard that one before?" Bo mumbled sarcastically.
"Mr. Cohen, we know about your wife, Golda. Please let us help," Shirley said. At the sound of his wife's name, Mr. Cohen's eyes shifted, and his demeanor changed. After a few anxious moments, he let them in and left them to the dining room table.
"Now if I tell you, will you leave this alone?" He said.
"We'll do what we can," Shirley said patiently.
"Fine. I met Golda in Switzerland when I was studying the organized crime over there. She was the daughter of the big boss, the most dangerous man, the leader of the clan," Shirley and Bo, both looked at each other quickly.
"Guess there's something you didn't know. Anyway, we were in love, but my job, and her father's life conflicted. I had spent over a year coming up with information that could bring the whole organization down, but her love was more important to me," Bo's eyes flickered toward Shirley warmly.
"Her father knew who I was, what I was doing there, and wouldn't allow us to marry. Then I came across evidence that would put Golda's father in jail. But, I chose to marry her instead, and destroyed the evidence. We came back home, I retired, and opened the tea shop. Her father never hurt me because of Golda, but that all changed when she was diagnosed with cancer. You see, there are territories much like here, in Switzerland, and the opposite "gang" so to speak of Golda's father had access to the treatment Golda needed. They would never give it to her, even if she died, because of the territory and honor. I as frantic, I was panicking. Here my wife's life is at stake because of a petty contest in Switzerland, who can be the most cruel. The other side told me if I would give them the incriminating evidence on Golda's father, they would give me the treatment she needed. It was experimental, and only they had access to it, some how. I would've given anything for the treatment, but Golda disagreed. Her cancer was too progressed, the treatment had no grantees, and she wouldn't bring her father to jail. So we didn't try the treatment, and, and Golda died." Tears, formed at his eyes, "but a couple weeks ago, Golda's father was arrested and sent to prison because of the evidence I recovered. I have no idea how anyone got it, it wasn't me who turned it in! I was too busy mourning my wife to worry about some little territory games. So Golda's father's side is after me. Golda's dead, and so in their eyes, I should be too. I have a friend who's dad's pretty far up in the police force. He convinced him to rule it an accident so there wouldn't be anymore trouble. But it didn't work, I don't know what to do next,"
Shocked, stunned, silence. Bo and Shirley looked at each other.
"I know exactly what to do Mr. Cohen," Shirley said, reaching over and patting Mr. Cohen's hand.
* * * * *
"So, there's another one of our cases' victims in witness protection," Bo said as the two stood outside Shirley's house once more.
"Yeah. It was a beautiful story really. I can't wait to write about it in my journal," Shirley said, wondering how she was ever distracted from the case.
"Yep, really beautiful," Bo said, looking at Shirley. She smiled.
Just then it began to snow.
"Oh, I love the first snow!" Shirley exclaimed, much more enthusiastic than she had intended.
"I know," Bo smiled, looking up at the gray sky and falling white flakes.
"Well, I gotta go. I have a lot of homework to catch up on from our adventures. I'll see ya later," Bo said after a few seconds, turning around and walking down the driveway. He was nearly to the street when,
"Bo wait!" Shirley yelled. Everything had become so clear. She knew what she wanted, what she needed, and knew she could deal with the rest later. She started to run down the driveway to meet him.
When she got to him, she said simply,
"I'm ready Bo," then, as the snow began to thicken, wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him into a passionate kiss. It was so sweet, so comfortable, so nice, it seemed as though they were always meant to touch their lips together as one. When they finally broke apart, Bo leaned his forehead on hers and closed his eyes, wondering if anyone had ever felt as happy as he was at that moment.
"I'm sorry that I've hurt you and that I took so long, it just took me a while to realize that," Shirley said softly.
"No, let me say it first," Bo said. His eyes shined and his cheekbones stuck out.
"I love you Shirley Holmes," he said gently.
"I love you too Bo Sawchuk," And after a few tender moments, Shirley added in a sarcastic tone,
"Francis." And the snow continued to fall around them.