The Mystery Grows

By Linda Porter Carlyle

MacKenzie Isabelle Evans leaned over and kissed her mother on the cheek.

“Do a good job today, you two,” Mrs. Evans said as Mac climbed out of the car’s front seat and Joseph out of the back.

“Thank you for the ride,” Joseph remembered to say before he slammed the door shut.

“You are welcome,” Mrs. Evans replied.

Mac pushed open the gate in the white picket fence surrounding Beekman House. “I had so much fun last week!” she said as they walked up the brick pathway. “I’m sure I will have just as much fun today. I love being a volunteer! I wish we could work here more than once a week! I wonder if somebody will steal something today. It’s too bad we didn’t know who took that old comb and brush set last week. It would have been really exciting if we could have caught the thief!”

“Yeah,” Joseph agreed. “But if you don’t know who did it, you can’t tell the police, and they don’t know who to look for,” he said.

“Well, I’m going to keep my eyes wide open!” Mac stated. “I’m going to make sure nobody steals anything from the kitchen!”

“Hi!” Louise said with a grin as Mac and Joseph went in the back door. “Joseph, please put the mat down outside the door so the visitors can wipe their feet. And then fill up the woodbox for me. Mac, wash your hands, and you can start making the cookie dough,” she instructed.

“It’s cold outside,” Joseph grumbled. “You should be glad you get to work in the house!”

Mac grinned at Joseph. “I will save you a hot cookie,” she said.

“Just don’t burn it,” Joseph muttered.

Soon it was time to open Beekman House to the public. “Mrs. Beekman” let Mac go into the sitting room and turn the Closed sign in the window around so it said Open.

The first eight visitors of the day filed into the kitchen. Louise smiled and asked them all where they were from. There was a family of five people, tourists from Japan. The father was the one who answered Louise’s question. He spoke very good English. Mac stared, fascinated. She had never met anyone from Japan before. Each member of the family had a camera slung around his or her neck, even the littlest girl, who was only about as tall as Mac’s waist.

Mac gave a little sigh. She had wanted a camera of her own for a long, long time. Maybe someday her parents would take her on a trip and buy her a camera to take along too.

A very tall man and his very tall wife introduced themselves next. They said they were visiting from Washington State.

The last woman in the group had hair that looked just like hay, Mac thought. It was the color of hay, and it stuck out straight and wild from under her red baseball hat. She carried a big tote bag over one arm. Knitting needles stuck out of the top of the bag. She was visiting from California, she said quickly.

Mac’s eyes were drawn to the bag and the knitting needles. She remembered the visitor who had carried a big tote bag with knitting needles in it last week. Mac remembered how unfriendly the woman had been when she asked her what she was knitting.

Louise began to tell the visitors all about the kitchen—the cookstove, the icebox, the electric lights. “Would you like to take our guests into the sitting room and introduce them to Mrs. Beekman?” Louise asked Mac.

Mac smiled proudly. Louise had never asked her to do that before. She turned around quickly and bumped into the woman with the tote bag. Mac’s face flushed. “I’m sorry,” she said quickly.

The woman looked cross. She hugged her tote bag tight against her body. But not before Mac caught a glimpse of bright green yarn down inside it.

Mac led the visitors into the sitting room. As she walked back into the kitchen, she had a frown on her face.

“What is the matter?” Louise asked.

“I don’t know,” Mac said. She paused. “That woman looks like she is carrying the same knitting bag as a visitor we had last week,” she said slowly. “But it can’t be the same woman,” she went on. “I have never seen anybody with hair like that woman today! Did you see how it sticks out like a porcupine?”

Louise’s eyes narrowed. “You think it’s the same tote bag though?” she asked. “The same bag you saw last week?”

“Yes,” Mac said. “Even the yarn inside is the same color. But why would two different people have the very same tote bag?” She stopped short as a thought hit her. “Do you think it could be the same woman just wearing a wig?” she whispered.

“Stay here,” Louise whispered back. “I’m going to warn all the volunteers to keep their eyes on her. And when she leaves, we will watch and see what kind of car she has. We will write her license number down.”

Mac sucked in her breath. This was too exciting! Could that really be the same woman who had visited Beekman House last week? The tote bag looked like a perfect size for slipping an antique comb and brush set into. Had the woman actually been last week’s thief? Had she come back today to steal something else?

Continued next week.

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