When Jane Darcy and her chum Margaret Sullivan walked back into the camera shop; they were hoping against hope that the photos would reveal a shred of proof, or an obvious clue that would help them piece together the mysterious puzzle surrounding the strange events in Pinecrest.
As they stepped in the door, they were met by a confident Josh; holding up a large envelope for them to see.
“You got here late, it’s almost closing time!” He began, “I thought you ladies might not be coming back today. I got your photos developed, and in record time, too.”
“Splendid, Josh!” exhaled Jane as they approached the counter. “We’ve uncovered a few things ourselves; and I have to say I’m exhausted!”
“I feel like we’re running in circles.” sighed Margaret, “Quick open the envelope, I want to see what was on that photo roll.”
Josh handed the envelope to Jane. She rotated the small metal clasp to the side, and slid the photos out onto the counter, spreading them apart like cards. The girls examined them, however the photos revealed nothing of great importance. After a few moments, Margaret shook her head.
“These don’t mean anything!” she declared, tossing the picture she had been holding back on top of the others.
“That’s what I thought when I saw them. By the way, that man who came in this morning returned soon after you two left.”
Jane’s baffled expression was not lost on Josh, and the envelope slipped out of her hands.
“He did? Margaret, he must have been the one tailing us, and followed us straight to this store!”
“So we didn’t lose him after all?” Margaret sounded disappointed. “I sure thought my driving skills were enough to shake him.”
“He’s more clever than we thought. Josh, what did he say?”
“He said he was looking for you, and wanted to know where you went. He also wanted to know if you had brought in any film to be developed.”
“What did you say to that?”
“Not much. He tried to tell me that he was your friend again; now that I know he’s a phony, I told him you just stopped in for a visit. He turned around quickly after that and left.”
“I wonder if he followed us to the diner…” Jane murmured. “And another thing, we’ve known Zack for years haven’t we?”
“We sure have,” agreed Margaret. “He’s always been pretty stable. He used to pretend he was a lifeguard at the lake, before he started working as a security guard in the museum.”
“That’s why none of what happened today adds up; the dog whistle on the table top, the camera; and his suspicious behavior.”
Jane reached into her purse, and pulled out the dog whistle. They each in turn inspected it, however Jane still wasn’t convinced, and decided to keep an eye on Zack just to be safe.
After an hour of contemplation and much deliberation; they decided to return to Sadie’s old house in search of new clues. And with luck, they would come across more information on who Sadie is; or where she went.
What Jane Darcy and her friends needed, were answers. Everything they had gathered up so far, were only fragments of an enormous jigsaw puzzle.
En route to Sadie’s home; Jane and Margaret had been accompanied by Josh, who had taken a great interest in their suspenseful adventure.
“Is there any way we could possibly find out more about that jewelry robbery with Ted Hayden?” Jane questioned, watching closely as the houses and landscaping flew by outside the car window.
“I used to work for the local newspaper as a photographer.” Josh answered, “We can look at the archives, and see if any more news had been printed about it at the time.”
“That’s genius!” Remarked Margaret, taking the last turn on the road that lead to Candlewood Lane.
The sun had set on the hot summer day; leaving the air humid and deathly still as they rolled to a stop by the curb. Jane Darcy slowly opened the car door, stepped out, and leaned her head back in through the open window.
“I’ll go in alone like before. We don’t want to call attention to ourselves, it’s easier if I scout out the place and come back for you two once we know the coast is clear.”
“Be careful, Jane.” Margaret cautioned, “I was so afraid the last time.”
“Don’t worry, I’ll be as quiet as a cat!”
Jane Darcy tiptoed around the back of the house this time; becoming more and more familiar with the property grounds at night. Stealthily, she turned the doorknob to the backdoor; and much to her surprise, it was unlocked.
Stepping into the darkness, there was nothing to be seen except for the light shadows streaming in through the kitchen windows. She walked, quietly; slowly, and bravely. First across the cold kitchen floor, then to the hallway, and beyond.
Her noiseless investigation boosted her confidence, but she couldn’t shake the feeling of being watched. The house appeared deserted; yet, it felt occupied.
As her shoes crossed the threshold to the living room, she was taken aback abruptly by a chilling voice; and the outline of a head above the armchair.