Can you solve this mini-mystery?


By Richard Ciciarelli

Detective Lori Maine couldn't believe her ears.

"What did you say was stolen?"

"Merlin's wand." Fred Bascomb, curator of the museum, paused and then added, "Of course, it's not really Merlin's wand. It's a prop from a 1920s silent movie about King Arthur's court, but it is a collector's item worth thousands."

"What does it look like?"

It's just a crooked piece of wood, tapered to look like a wand. It's about a foot long."

"Could someone have stuck it into a purse or backpack?"

Bascomb shook his head. "Museum rules forbid anyone to have backpacks or purses or tote bags with them. To prevent theft, you understand. All such items have to be checked at the door."

"Who was in the room where the wand was on display?"

"Just a teacher and a few boys from her class. They're here on a field trip."

"I'd like to talk to them."

Maine was led into a lounge-like room where four boys sat on a sofa. They were all dressed in a similar fashion in shorts and t-shirts with various sayings or cartoon characters on them.

Standing beside the sofa was their teacher, a woman in her mid forties, dressed in a knee-length skirt, white blouse, nylons and sandals.

"I'm Miss Conners," the woman said. "What is this about?"

"An artifact from the medieval days display was stolen," Maine said. "I'm told you were the only ones in that room this morning."

"Yes. The rest of my class was in another part of the museum with some parent chaperones. These boys wanted to see the armor and weapons, so I came with them."

"Miss Conners said her father was in the movie these things were in, so we wanted to see them," a boy with TED on his nametag said.

"No, it was her grandfather, and he wasn't in the movie." The speaker had a nametag that read BARRY. "He worked for the movie company."

"Yeh. He made the props." This boy's nametag read LOU.

"Did any of you boys bring a backpack with you today?"

"We all did," a boy with JOHN on his nametag said. "We have our lunch in them."

"But we had to leave them at the door when we came in," Ted said.

"Did any of you leave the room, even for a little while?"

"I went into the hall to get a drink of water from the fountain," Barry said.

"And I went to the bathroom," Lou added.

Maine turned to the curator.

"I suppose you checked all the places in the medieval room where the wand could have been hidden."

Bascomb nodded. "We even looked inside the suits of armor. It's nowhere to be found."

"Could it have been tossed out a window or hidden in an air vent?"

"No," Bascomb said. "The windows are all locked, and the air vents are too high for anyone to reach without standing on a ladder."

Maine turned to the teacher and her students again.

"Did any of you see anyone take the wand?"

The four boys shook their heads.

"I was busy trying to keep my eye on these boys," Miss Conners said. "They're typical fifth graders. They don't stand in one spot very long."

"Well, then I guess there's only one place the wand can be," Maine said.


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