by Z. B. McClure
Lucy Madison sat bolt upright in bed, clutching the sheet up to her chin, her eyes darting wildly about her bedroom. It was dawn now, and shafts of golden sunlight were casting a warm glow over her covers. She glanced over at the night stand by her bed and squinted. Are you kidding me?! She mumbled. She wasn't sure whether to be afraid or angry. Six O'clock! What in creation was that noise?
The sound had definately come from the front door, so she tip-toed out into the hall way and then up to the front door and hesitated before peaking through the peep-hole. Nothing. Well, there's no sense in going back to bed now.
Just then she heard her cell phone chiming back in her bedroom, so she hurried back,curious to know who was calling so early.
"Yeh Julie? What, are you my new wake-up call or what? Do you have any idea what time it is right now?"
"Eh, ye-ah! I'm actually surprised you anwered so promptly Lucy, usually all I get is your voice mail! What did you do, run? You sound like you're out of breath!"
"Well, I 'm up now girl, so what's up?"
"Well, since it's Saturday..."
"Oh, come on JULIE! College is out, and I just want to get some sleep..."
"You're just a freshman girl, you better get used to doing more than being cooped up in that apartment! This isn't Mayberry anymore...there is a life outside your four walls!"
"Are you through with your lecture Jules? Got enough of those already."
"Sorry! Get back to me after you wake up!"
Lucy opened up her mouth to respond when she realized the call was over. She rolled her eyes and shook her head. For your information Julie...you're a freshman too!
That was how her day started, but it was about to get worse, because after stepping out the front door she suddenly slipped and fell down the steps. Dazed and confused about what had just happened, she heard a boy speaking to her.
"Are you o.k. miss? Don't move, you may have broken something!"
She looked up and saw a young boy in black jeans and shirt, with a back-wards ball cap and glasses. "What happened?" She asked.
"There appears to be something wet on your steps miss, and I would deduct that you slipped on it, thereby falling."
"Brilliant deduction Sherlock. Thanks, but the only thing I broke just now, I think, was my pride!"
That seemed to crack him up.
"Did YOU put that there?" She demanded, "'Cause if you DID..."
He stared back at her in disbelief. "Look, I didn't do ANYTHING miss. I don't know what it is and I don't know how it got there. And I'm pleading the fifth!"
She pursed her lips and considered him. Then as she started to get up, he helped her back to her feet. "No harm done." She smiled at him.
"Hey, you've got a really pretty smile" he observed. Immediately he blushed.
"You live around here kid?"
"Yeh, I live in the apartment just over yours."
"You out of school for the Summer?"
"Yeh." He extended his hand and added "Hi, my name is Winston..."
She grinned and told him her name. "So, you really don't have any idea how this water got here do you?"
He shrugged. "How do you know it's water?" Winston wondered out loud.
"Well I'm just guessing it is."
"I never guess" Winston replied, " It is a shocking habit - destructive to the logical faculty."
Lucy gave him a surprised look, and brushed a stray lock of her red hair from her eyes. She stared intently at him now.
He smiled smugly. "I'm quoting Sherlock Holmes of coarse."
"So you like detective stories, eh?"
"I've got to go now." the boy said before turning around and sprinting off down the sidewalk. And that was the conclusion of their initial meeting.
The next morning it was yet another beautiful day and Lucy was again startled out of a sound sleep by the sound of something sloshing against her front door. You have got to be kidding! For crying out loud it's Sunday! She reluctantly crawled from under the sheet and sat on the edge of her bed for a moment. Then she picked up her cell and headed toward the front door and cautiously peaked out.
The front steps were dimly lit by the orange rays of the rising sun and she could see they were wet again! Clenching her jaw, she opened the door and knelt down to examine the puddle. Glancing up and down the street she saw no one. Looking overhead at the apartment above hers, she saw that the lights were still out.
That does it, she thought, tomorrow morning I'll get up at 5:30 and we'll get to the bottom of this mystery, once and for all.
Until then, she would just enjoy this freedom from classes. She had breakfast and then her cell chimed again. It was Julie.
"You mad at me or something Luce?"
"Why would you ask me that?" Lucy wondered.
"Maybe 'cause I asked you to get back to me when you woke up and you never did? I thought we were best friends?"
Lucy felt a twinge of guilt and a lump in her throat and there was an awkward silence between them. "I'm really sorry Jules, I meant to call you, but there's been some weird things happening here, and I've just been rather distracted..." She bit the corner of her lip and waited for the reply.
"Alright. How about I pick you up for church this morning, and we'll talk about those weird happenings o.k.?"
"O.K. girl." But it wasn't o.k. Lucy felt very out of place in the midst of religious people. She's won this time...I owe her, so what choice have I got. Wonderful.
"Alright then Luce..I'll be there at eight."
Lucy was bent over the steps now examining the puddle when she felt a tap on her shoulder which made her jump.
"Wow! You're more nervous than a cat in a roomful of rocking chairs!" Winston teased.
She shot him a disapproving look and stood up.
"That saying is so old it has dinosaur dung on it Winston."
He smirked and asked, "Is that what they teach you in college these days miss?"
She winked one eye and replied "There probably is a class on it!"
"I'm on my way to church" he grinned, "want to join me?"
"Thanks, but I already have an invite. So, I don't suppose you have any idea how this puddle got here again?
"Did you find out yet what it's a puddle of?"
She looked amused and smiled. "Well Detective Winston, I haven't a clue!"
There was that electric smile again. Winston sighed inwardly and turned back to re-enter his upstairs apartment but she stopped him.
"You just go that's it?" She asked.
"What are you talking about?"
She frowned. "I mean. last time we talked, and you just turned and walked away?"
He just stood there staring at her for a moment. She expected him to say something but he just looked very uncomfortable.
"What did I do?" He finally asked.
"That's just it...you didn't do anything Winston...you just turned and walked away...you didn't say anything!"
"What do you want me to say?"
"Good bye, or..or see you later..."
Winston straightened his ball cap, looked away, and then back at her. "O.k, catch you on the flip side. Satisfied miss?"
With that he added "I'll take a sample of that puddle and test it for you. We'll find out what it is."
When he turned around and started to walk away, she thanked him. He stopped in his tracks momentarily before disappearing again into his apartment.
She went back into her apartment and got ready for church. Lucy knew that she had a great figure because she looked like one of those models in the fashion magazines she read. She had also had several people from agencies approach her about a portfolia. She had laughed at first because she had never thought of herself as attractive.
I don't know what to wear to church. I know I can't dress like I usually do, because it would probably cause a commotion. The most conservative dress I own would be no better than pulling a grocery bag over this body!
Finally she picked out a white knee length skirt with a deep blue blouse to go with white pumps. She looked at herself in the mirror and then heard the sound of Julie's pearl-white Buick Park Avenue out front. She hurried out the door, pausing only to go around the puddle before slidding into the front seat.
"So tell me about the weird stuff", Julie asked as they left the curb.
Lucy hesitated, because she was busy noticing how simply her friend was dressed. No ear-rings, no piercings of any kind! Hardly any make-up at all, and ga-loosh!! She was dressed like an Amish girl! She grinned in amusement.
"Why are you looking at me like that girl? What's got your funny bone?"
"Nothing. Well, there's this puddle."
Julie arched a brow. "You find that weird?"
Lucy shot her a look. "This puddle appears every morning, and...well, on my front step..."
They turned left down Main Street now and the church steeple could be seen acrost town, towering like a sentinel above the houses and maple trees.
"Maybe a dog is peeing on your step!" Jules giggled, her face turning red. Lucy scowled, but quickly caught a bad case of the giggles herself.
"Why Jules...you surprise me! I didn't ever think I'd hear you talking like that!"
Julia cleared her throat. "What? You didn't think Jesus had a sense of humor when He told people to first pull the LOG out of their own eye?"
She gave a shrug. "It wasn't pee. And besides..."
"I was KIDDING Luce!"
That's when they pulled into the church parking lot. That's when Lucy began freaking out.
Julie removed the key from the ignition and glanced over at her friend. She could see terror in her eyes and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Are you afraid of something?"
"I don't want to go in there."
"Why?" Julie wondered.
"That's not an answer girl. Look, your'e my best friend- I'm not going to make fun..promise. Now, what are you afraid of?"
The red head bit her lip.
"Because I haven't been inside a church since I was in kindergarten, o.k.?" She stared out the window into the distance. When her friend didn't respond, she looked over at her.
"God loves you Lucy. And just about everybody in there loves God, and you are welcome here!"
Lucy was watching families entering the front door and removed her seat-belt slowly.
Just then there was a rapping on the window which made them both jump.
Julie rolled her window down started scolding someone when Lucy looked over and noticed it was Winston!
"Winston, what are you doing here?" Lucy demanded. He was dressed in the same black jeans and shirt and ball cap she last saw him wearing earlier this morning.
"This is my church miss" he grinned, "the question is, what are you doing here?"
They got out of the Buick as he explained that he had discovered that the puddle was composed of swimming pool water. They entered the brick building and sat together in the back pew. Lucy relaxed and smiled to herself. Maybe this won't be so bad, she thought looking around. Between my 'amish' friend and detective Winston, maybe everything's going to turn out alright after all.
Next morning, while it was still dark, Lucy and her two friends Julie and Winston, were kneeling beside her, behind the rose bushes near her front door. The air was balmy and it was so quiet that they could hear their own hearts beating. The sun was still well below the horizon.
Lucy was becoming more impatient by the minute until she finally whispered something into Winston's ear.
"It's only five o'clock!" He replied matter-of-factly in a tiny voice.
"Sh-hhhh!" Julie scolded, "Do you want to catch whoever is doing this or not!"
"Shush yourself!" Winston answered back, "You told me that whoever is doing this, has been coming here around six. We've got be patient ladies."
Just then, they heard a bicycle being peddled up the sidewalk towards the neighbors house, the sound of a grunt and something hitting the neighbors porch..."
"That's Michael Schimdt!" Winston whispered, "He delievers the newspaper in this town."
The three silently watched as the bicycle passed by until the night was quiet again.
After about thirty minutes they heard some cars pulling out of driveways, and then a motor-cycle, and the Eastern sky began to lighten up until you could see the houses on the other side more distinctly. Another half an hour passed. Lucy asked Winston for the time and he looked at his watch.
"It's six-ten", he whispered back.
"Well this was a waste of time!" Lucy huffed.
"So what, you ready to call it quits already Luce?" Julie was incredulous.
"Maybe it was nothing..." Lucy waved her hands.
The detective in the group abruptly stood up. "Maybe we should check and make sure there isn't a puddle first!"
They followed him over to the step and they gasped. There on the front step was another puddle!
Lucy knelt down and was just staring.
"Well this is making me mad! Someone or something just did this right under our noses and this makes me look like an amateur!" The ten year old kneeled down and sniffed. "It's pool water. I'm positive!"
"You are an amateur Winston", Lucy declared, "I hate to burst your bubble Dick Tracy, but who ever is doing this is pretty clever."
"Well ladies, he- or she- or IT...is not going to get away with THIS!"
Winston turned his ball cap around so that it was now facing forward and motioned to them. "Come on, follow me, we need to plan this out..."
The two college students looked at each other and back at him again.
"C'mon. You want to solve this case or what?"
"Where, are we going...at this hour?" Lucy demanded.
"To my lab!" He noticed them both staring again. "You got anything better to do right now ladies?"
"I'm in!" Julie stepped forward.
"No. I'm exhausted! You two are crazy! Maybe later." Lucy turned to leave, but Winston grabbed her arm.
"What are you doing! Let go of me kid!"
Winston let her go and she stepped around the puddle and disappeared into the house.
Winston looked over at Julie and asked "What just happened here?"
Julie was about to reply that he was the detective, but kept it to herself. She thought of what she had heard in the sermon the day before and beckoned to him to sit down on the front lawn with her. He sat down beside her and she silently asked the Lord for the words to speak.
"Look, Winston...I've been friends with Lucy for about a year now, and there's something you should know. I can tell you like her, so I Think this may help you to understand her..."
Winston took his ball cap off and looked back up at her.
"Winston, Lucy's parents just got a divorce a few months ago, and she's really having a hard time dealing with that."
Winston's brown eyes got big and he swallowed.
"Least she still has her parents" he murmured wistfully. "Least they're still alive."
"Well..." She gave a slight smile, "Divorce is a sort of death. And to Lucy, it's as if...she's lost them both. Is this making any sense to you Winston?" She noticed his eyes tearing up a bit.
"We should pray for her." the boy suggested. "She's hurting, I know what that feels like." The breeze rustled the dark chocolate curls on the top of his head. The sun was up now and the street was coming to life as people left their homes and drove off to work. You could see a young woman and a small boy bowing their heads together and their lips moving, and something amazing was underway, and Lucy was watching them, unnoticed, between the partly open blinds of her window. They didn't know it then, but a miracle was in the works, and it was just because.
"Glad to see you Winston, come in!" He was smiling broadly and shook the boy's hand.
Winston had called earlier to set up this meeting with Michael Schimdt the newspaper delivery boy, and found him to be very outgoing and friendly. After being offered a seat on the couch and a soda and cookies, the young detective was feeling right at home here.
"So, I remember you from school...you're in Mrs. Emberton's class, right?" He was leaning towards Winston with his hands in motion.
"Yeh, I'm surprised you noticed!" Winston saw him scratching the side of his face and how steady and even his gaze was.
"I remember everything. It's a gift I guess. So, you mentioned the strange incident at Lucy's house- I don't know if I can be of any help, but I hope so."
"Do you have a pool?" Winston blurted out.
Michael narrowed his eyes and hesitated before answering. "Yep. Yep, I do."
"I only asked, because you might notice then, everyone else who does...if you follow my logic."
Michael smiled and nodded. "Hey, you've got a good brain on your shoulders- I like you!"
"My newspaper route covers every street in this town, and there are, let's see..." He closed his eyes for a moment. "twenty four pools in this town."
"Does that include kiddy pools?" Winston asked.
"I was only counting the large pools and the inground ones. There are...thirty of the other ones...no, actually thirty-one to be exact, counting the one on Mayley road."
"So, about fifty five pools of all sizes and types..."
"No. Exactly fifty-five pools. Precisely that many. Tomo
rrow, who knows? Someone may set up another one. Hope that helps."
Winston took a long sip of his cola then a bite of his chocolate chip cookie. This guy is most impressive he thought watching the sixteen- year-old guzzle down a blue Gator-AdeTM .
"Anything else I can do to help out?" Michael cupped his hands together.
"You can join my investigation team Michael, I could use your gift."
Michael leaned forward and they bumped knuckles. "Cool man, I'd be honoured to be part of your team!"
"I've got a problem. There are fifty-five pools in this town, and I need a small sample from each one asap. Any ideas?"
Michael thought for a moment then looked up. "I've got it! I'm going to offer a free service- check the water quality of all pool owners."
"Thanks Michael, you're a genius!"
Once Winston was outside, he flipped open his cell and called Julie. He hoped that she had been sucessful in talking with Lucy Madison. Just then he heard Julie's lilting voice answer.
"Hey Winston detective, how did you do?"
"Michael is IN! Man is he going to be a BIG help!"
"Awesome- Wins?" He heard her giggle. "So, how did you do big sister?"
"Well, Luce and I had a long talk. She reluctantly agreed to join out team. You know as well as I that she wants this mystery solved more than all of us put together!"
"Hey, I've got us a few more team members besides...power of the social media, you know?"
"GREAT! Awesome Julie!"
"I like that Wins...'Awesome Julia' ".
"Alright then. Got to go. Don't forget, the team meets at the library tonight at seven o'clock. Operation Busted Puddle is going down."