Dedicated to my parents who have given me
infinite amounts of support and encouragement.
And thanks to Jonathan Singleton for his input.
It was sixth period and the bell was about to ring. Jimmy couldn't wait to get home. Mrs. Wright his teacher, had been talking for an hour, but Jimmy hadn't been listening. He had his mind on more important things. The bell rang. Jimmy jumped out of his desk chair and ran out the classroom door.
As soon as he got home, Jimmy started writing a letter to his pen pal in Korea. He hadn't written to her in two weeks. He was extremely excited about telling her that he had made the basketball team. It took him fifteen minutes to write the letter, and then he headed over to the post office.
When Jimmy got to the post office, his friends Lisa and Robbie were there.
“Hey guys,” Jimmy said.
“Hi!” said Robbie. “I hear you made the basketball team!”
“Yeah, isn't it great?” Jimmy said happily.
“So, who's the letter to?” asked Lisa.
“Oh, it's for my pen pal in Korea,” explained Jimmy. “I haven't written to her in a long time.”
“I'm sending a letter to my aunt,” said Robbie, “she lives in New Jersey.”
“Well I'm waiting here to check our post office box for a letter from my Grandfather who lives in Kentucky,” Lisa said, “I'm supposed to get it today.”
They talked a little longer and then decided to go home.
Meanwhile, at the post office, Mr. Markenson, the local mailman was going through the incoming mail. The light was very dim in the room so he had to hold the letters up to the light to see who they were addressed to. He then put the mail in the appropriate post office boxes. One letter was addressed to a Ms. Haley Fischer. Mr. Markenson happened to catch a glimpse of some words in the letter. He saw one sentence that read, “There is a mean man named Bill Markenson.” Mr. Markenson was a rather angry person already, but this pushed him over the edge.
The next day, Jimmy, Robbie, and Lisa met at Kennan Park around noon. It was Saturday.
“So has the letter come yet?” Robbie asked Lisa.
“As a matter of fact, it did,” Lisa said.
“Well, what did your Grandfather have to say?” Jimmy asked curiously.
“Actually, I have no idea. The letter came in a dark envelope and the
words were all blurry,” said Lisa. “I also noticed that it wasn't sealed all the way.”
“It sounds to me like someone tried to open your letter,” said Robbie. “Did you get it right out of the post office box?”
“Yes, I did,” said Lisa. “How do you know someone tried to open it?”
“Well, if a letter is held over steam, perhaps from a pot of boiling water, the sticky seal may come undone. That usually doesn't happen accidentally,” Robbie explained, in his usual scientific manner.
“If you got the letter right out of the box, then someone must have messed with it during the mailing process,” said Jimmy.
“This sounds like a mystery to me,” Lisa said excitedly.
The Mystery Begins
After church on Sunday, Jimmy, Lisa, and Robbie set up a meeting time for Monday after school. They decided they would meet at Lucky's Cafe for a snack and then head over to the post office.
It was 3:30 in the afternoon on Monday and the kids were halfway to the Singletown Post Office. When they arrived, they immediately hid behind some bushes to set up a plan.
“So who's going to be the decoy?” asked Robbie.
“Decoy?” Jimmy and Lisa said at the same time.
“You know, the person who distracts the postal worker while the others spy on the mailman?” said Robbie; surprised they didn't know the meaning.
“I'll do it,” said Lisa, “I'm good at distracting people.”
“Great, Jimmy and I will split up to see if the mailman is doing anything suspicious while you keep the person at the front desk occupied,” Robbie said with determination.
“Well, what are we waiting for?” Jimmy said. “Let's go!”
Lisa went out first and casually walked into the post office. The boys went in, but they ducked when they got to the counter. As Lisa and the postal worker were talking, Jimmy and Robbie sneaked behind the counter and hid behind a large box. From here they could see what the rest of the postal workers were doing.
After about ten minutes, the conversation between Lisa and the person at the counter faded. As soon as the postal worker turned around, Lisa sneaked behind the counter to join the guys.
“So, what have you seen so far?” Lisa asked in a whisper voice.
“Nothing unusual yet,” answered Jimmy.
“All the mail is in good shape, and nobody is tampering with the letters,” Robbie added.
“Well, let's keep watching,” Lisa said.
They stayed in their hiding place until the postal workers began to leave. They all decided to get going as to not get locked in the post office.
“I can't believe we didn't see anything,” Jimmy said disappointed.
“Well maybe it was just my letter,” said Lisa.
“I'm still not satisfied,” Robbie mumbled.
“Let's all ask around to see if anyone else's letters got messed up. We have about an hour before dinner time,” Jimmy requested.
“Great, let's go!” Lisa said. “Meet back here tomorrow after school.”
They all split up and went to different sections of Singletown. They got the information they wanted and still managed to make it home by dinnertime.
On Tuesday, the friends got to the post office at the pre-arranged time, but this time they didn't hide. Instead they went across the street to the library so they could have a quiet place to talk.
“I talked to two people who's letters were messed up,” Lisa said. “They described them to be exactly like my letter. I also noticed that all the letters that were ruined had colored envelopes. The ones with white envelopes were fine.”
“I noticed that also,” Robbie said.
“Yeah, same with the people I talked to,” Jimmy agreed. “Hey, I'm noticing a pattern here.”
“You're right,” said Lisa. “The reason only the dark envelopes were opened was because you can see through the white envelopes.”
“I still can't figure out why someone would try to read all of the letters,” said Robbie, in a rare moment of confusion.
“Hey, I just realized something,” said Jimmy. “Why would someone open the letters in front of all the other employees?”
“Well, they wouldn't do that,” Lisa answered.
“Exactly,” Jimmy said. “That's why we have to wait until all the others leave so that we can find the culprit and their motive. In other words-who did it and why.”
The Final Clue
It was nearly time for the post office desk to be closed (the post office box area remains open). Robbie, Jimmy, and Lisa found their hiding place from the previous day and remained there until after almost all of the employees left. Only the mailman, Mr. Markenson, was still there. For about ten minutes, he just straightened up the office (it was the janitor's night off). They began to get discouraged until, suddenly, Mr. Markenson began to mumble to himself. He sat down in a chair and began to go through a bag of mail.
“Well, let's see what the nasty people of Singletown have to say about me today,” Mr. Markenson uttered to himself. “It's a good thing I found out about the letter to Ms. Fischer. Otherwise, everyone would be talking about me behind my back, and I wouldn't be able to do anything about it.”
Jimmy, Robbie, and Lisa exchanged amazed glances and then watched as Mr. Markenson put a kettle of water on the portable stove in the post office break room.
He said, “They think they can fool me with colored envelopes that I can't see through. Ha! They're the ones who are being fooled. I sure am teaching them a lesson by steaming the letters open, then destroying the ones about me. So what if the pen writing bleeds together on some of the letters. These rotten people deserve it!”
The kids couldn't believe what they were seeing and hearing!
After almost an hour, Mr. Markenson had opened at least four letters and looked through the envelopes of over twenty other letters. He finally decided to go home.
As Mr. Markenson was turning out the lights, the kids quickly and quietly climbed over the counter and out the post office door. When they got home, Jimmy, Lisa, and Robbie explained to their parents were they had been. Their parents were angry, but since the post office doors were still open, it wasn't illegal.
Guilty as Charged
The next day, after school Robbie and Jimmy were trying to figure out what to do. They met up with Lisa and they talked about the situation. They decided to go to the police station to tell the police about what had happened last night at the post office. The police were glad to get the tip, but told them never to spy on anyone again. Officer Langley followed Lisa, Jimmy, and Robbie to the post office. He talked to the person at the front counter about their plan to catch Mr. Markenson in the act after closing hours.
That night, Officer Langley hid out at the post office alone. He was unsure about the accusation that Jimmy, Lisa, and Robbie had made, but after about five minutes of watching Mr. Markenson, Officer Langley discovered that the mailman was guilty as charged. The plan was successful, and Mr. Markenson was arrested under the charges of tampering with the U.S. Mail.
The kids were headed to the bike ramp on Saturday when they saw the Singletown Outpost. There was an article about the arrest of Mr. Markenson. They were all very pleased at what they had accomplished.
“We should try to find more mysteries to solve,” said Robbie.
“We'd almost always be successful,” Jimmy added.
“Hey, you're right,” Lisa said, “This could be really fun.”