Monday, June 15, 2009


Read this 4th of July mystery to your class and have them guess who stole the flag.


Mrs. Cowel
Tori Carter
Mr. Beard
Mr. Matthews

It was the last Eagle Scout meeting before the July 4th parade, and the winner was soon to be announced. Mike was so excited that his hands were sweating and he felt as if he was going to jump right out of his skin. He hoped that his display of the history of the American flag would be judged the best. The victor would march in the parade carrying the antique flag that was displayed in the public library. Mr. Matthews, the troop leader, told the boys that he had tried very hard to win the same contest when he was a kid, but he came in second place. Mike leaned nervously toward his friend, Brian, and whispered, "My father was the one that beat him and got to carry the flag in the parade." Mr. Matthews cleared his throat and announced the winner, "Mike Carter is this years champion!" Mike jumped up out of his seat and shouted, "Yay, I did it!" "We'll go pick up the flag tomorrow, Mike," said the scout leader.

Mike was making a yummy peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the kitchen when his sister, Tori, came rushing through the back door. He ran up and gave her a big hug crying, "I did it, Sis! I came in first!"

Flustered by his unusual greeting, she pushed him back and said anxiously, " Mike, stop, I'm all wet. It's raining like crazy out there. W..w..well, that's great Mike. Now you can carry the flag in the parade just like Dad. Hey, I saw Mr. Matthews staring at that very flag in the library tonight. I said hello but I guess he didn't hear me. He looked a little sad."

Mike looked extremely puzzled. "I wonder if he went to pick up the flag? He said we would go together in the morning. That's part of the fun. Well, who else did you see at the library, Tori?"

"Nobody was there, except that weird janitor, Mr. Beard, and that mean librarian. That janitor usually moves as slow as a snail but tonight he was rushing around cleaning like a roadrunner. I don't know what got into him."

"I heard that his uncle died. I think the funeral is tomorrow." Mike couldn't help noticing the books his sister left on the counter, and read one of the titles out loud, "How to Make Cash Fast. Hey, what kind of books are you reading, Sis?"

"It's none of your business. I've got to go dry my hair," she said, as she marched off in a huff.

As the morning sun peeked through Mike's window the following day, he opened his eyes and smiled, as he remembered that he was to have the honor of representing troop 492 in the annual fourth of July parade. He pinched himself to make sure it was real and not just a dream.

At the same time, Mrs. Cowel's key was unlocking the library doors. As soon as she walked inside, she could sense that something was wrong. The books near the bathrooms were a mess and there were several lights left on all night. "I've been the librarian here for 36 years now and I've never left the lights on," she said, as she tidied up the books.

Tori was the first customer to arrive. She dropped her books on the table when her cell phone rang. Mrs. Cowel, already annoyed shouted, "I told you last night, young lady, no cell phones in the library. "I'm sorry Ma'am, I'll shut it off," said Tori nervously.

"Who in the world messed up these books?" asked Mrs. Cowel. "I don't know, they were f..fine last night," stuttered Tori.

Mrs. Cowel often felt that she was taken for granted and longed to retire to a beach somewhere. Although she was tired of stacking books, she knew it was impossible to retire on just her Social Security check. As Mrs. Cowel stepped into the computer room, Tori heard her scream. She ran into the room to see the librarian lifting the glass case in the middle of the room. "It's gone. It was here last night, and now it's gone," she cried. The American flag that was used during the Revolutionary War had been the treasured attraction of this country village for more years than anyone could remember. For generations it had been the symbol of freedom and pride and was used to commemorate all the special occasions in this tiny town. Suddenly, it had vanished!

Just then Mr. Matthews and Mike walked into the room. "We're here to pick up the flag," shouted Mike excitedly. "Sorry we're late. We had to let a funeral pass," said the scout leader. "Yeah, I think it was Mr. Beard's uncle's funeral, the uncle who was a Marine hero. It was really cool, they had his casket covered with an old flag and they carried it on a red wagon pulled by two beautiful horses with feathers on their heads," said Mike.

"Mrs. Cowel, you look so pale. Are you ill?" asked Mike. "The antique flag has been stolen, Michael," she exclaimed. "Oh no! I've been waiting all my life to carry that flag. How'd they get in?" cried Mike. "I don't know, the doors were locked properly," she whispered in disbelief. "Let's check the bathroom," said Mike, as he took off running. The others followed closely behind. "The window's broken, but I don't see any glass. The floor is completely dry. There are two umbrellas in the corner and one of the handles is broken. Maybe the thief used an umbrella to break the glass." Mike avoiding the sharp edges, carefully leaned out the window and shouted, "Wait a minute, there's glass outside the window. And I see footprints leading to the parking lot."

Mr. Matthews urged everyone to calm down, not to jump to conclusions, and recap the events leading up to this tragedy. "Now Mrs. Cowel, you and I left together last night when you locked up, right?" "That's right Mr. Matthews. I locked the door at 8:00 o'clock and turned on the alarm. It stopped raining when I got home at 8:20 but, my feet were already soaked." "My wife had a good laugh when I came home drenched," said Mr. Matthews. "Are you sure that no one was in the library when we left, Mrs. Cowel?" "Mr. Beard asked to leave early for his uncle's wake and when I turned off the lights I didn't see Tori or anybody else for that matter," she said.

Suddenly, Mike jumped up and shouted, "I've got it! I know who took the flag!
Do you?"

No one saw the thief leave the library because he was hiding in the bathroom.
The glass was outside the window because he had to break out, not in.
The floor was dry because he broke the window after the rain had stopped.
There was an old flag on Mr. Beard's uncle's casket.

Tori needed cash but, she couldn't have stolen the flag because she was wet when she came home.
Mrs. Cowel wanted to retire, but she didn't steal it because she locked up at 8:00 in the rain.
Mr. Matthews has wanted the flag since he was a boy but, he didn't steal it because he left at 8:00 and arrived home drenched.
Mr. Beard stole the flag to put on his uncle's casket. He brought it back the next day and apologized.
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Donna M. McDine said...

Terrific mystery. Have you submitted this to a magazine for consideration. If not, you should.

Children’s Author
Write What Inspires You Blog
Donna M. McDine’s Website

kathy stemke said...

Thanks, Donna. I published it on Helium already sooooo I guess I can't submit it to a magazine. Right?

Character Education said...

i have read this some where else.