“Don’t!” Bee got up, putting up her palms. “Don’t shout. We’re not thieves or…”
“Murderers?” I rose too, hands up.
“Probably not a great suggestion, given the circumstances,” Bee whispered.
“Muggers,” I said, instead. “Uh, we were just… uh—”
“Concerned,” Bee put in, and slowly came forward, keeping her hands where the guy could see them.
He hadn’t screamed yet, and he still held his coffee cup. He was young, with emerald green eyes and dark hair spiked up on one side. His robe drooped from one shoulder, exposing a stained tank top underneath. “What are you doing in my yard?” The words snapped out from between thin lips.
“We’re concerned citizens,” I said, thinking on my feet. “We heard about the commotion next door, and we wanted to take a closer look. We’re so sorry to have disturbed you.”
Bee nodded along.
“Wait, what commotion?” The guy narrowed his eyes. “I haven’t heard any—” He gasped, and rose onto the tips of his toes, craning his neck to peer over the slatted wooden fence.
Bee and I spun around too, backtracking until we were on the steps to his back porch.
Greta’s back yard was alive with activity. There were detectives, two of them, in their smart dress with their lanyards around their necks, and then regular cops in uniform too, setting up a perimeter around the shack that held the dig site.
“What on earth is going on?” the neighbor asked.
“They found a skeleton in Greta’s garden.”
The guy, who’d been taking a sip from his mug, did a movie-style spit take. “A what?”
“A skeleton. We’re not sure how old it is,” Bee said, casually, “but it’s definitely human. They wouldn’t be out here if it wasn’t.”
“Oh my heavens.” He brushed droplets off his robe, but only succeeded in smearing the liquid over himself and creating a multitude of new stains.
“Listen, we’re sorry we had to meet you like this,” I said. “I’m Ruby, and this is Bee. We own the Bite-sized Bakery Food Truck.”
“Oh right, I’ve seen you parked out by the duck pond. Thor.” He put out a hand. “My mom liked Greek mythology.”
“Pleasure. Sorry for the intrusion.” We shook on it, and Bee shushed us.
“Something’s happening. I think they found something in there!” she hissed.
“You mean, apart from a skeleton?” Thor shuddered.
Police officers had gathered near the opening to the shack, past the crime scene tape. A man in a forensic suit emerged, carrying what appeared to be an old, beat up suitcase.
“I bet it’s full of bones,” Bee said.
“Oh stop,” Thor whined. “Not that. Anything but that. I can’t stand the thought of something like this happening right next door. I always knew that Greta was no good.”
“What’s she been like the past few weeks?” I asked.
“She’s been—” Thor gasped.
The case latches must’ve given way, because the suitcase broke open and piles of moldy money fell from within, scattering to the grass. Frankie barked in the background, held back by another pair of police officers.
“Wow,” Bee said. “That’s a lot of money.”
“Where do you think it came from?” I asked.
Thor set his cup aside and folded his skinny arms over his robe. “I think I know.”
Option 1: Thor tells Ruby and Bee his suspicions about where the case came from, and they have another interesting lead to follow.
“I’ve been noticing a lot of activity at Greta’s house lately,” Thor said, pausing for effect.
I kept my expression clear—hadn’t Thor just said that he hadn’t noticed any commotion? Or was that just in reference to today’s strangeness?
“What kind of activity?” Bee asked.
“Noises at strange times of the night.” Thor craned his neck and we all watched as policeman gathered the money into bags and sealed them. They wore gloves and the appropriate forensic gear to preserve evidence.
“But have you actually seen anything?” Bee pressed on—she was never one to let go of a lead. Heavens, we’d come this far. We’d tracked down Cassidy, broken into Greta’s shack, and scaled a fence.
“Well,” Thor said, “I was taking my late-night coffee on the porch two days ago and I noticed that there were lights on in Greta’s back yard.”
“Wait a second, late-night coffee?” Bee frowned.
“I’m a game developer. I’m often up late working, so I like to take breaks out here. It’s amazing how peaceful the neighborhood is when everyone’s asleep. It’s a different world.” He sighed, wistfully. “But not that night. There was a lot of noise in Greta’s back yard, so I stood here and peeked.”
“And what did you see?” I asked.
“Greta coming in and out of the shack at the back of her property. She had a shovel and was covered in dirt. She wasn’t in her PJs either, which was odd.”
“Sure, that’s the weird part,” Bee grunted.
“I was going to call out to her, but I figured… well, she shouldn’t have been up that late. Greta works at the pizzeria. I didn’t see a reason why she would be awake at 3am other than to do something she shouldn’t have been doing.” Thor paused again, readjusting his robe. “And then I saw him.”
“Greta lives alone, but she’s quite the social butterfly. And she’s been having a lot of visitors lately, some of whom I didn’t recognize. But that night, it was Dan the Man.”
“Who’s Dan the Man?”
“He’s a mechanic who lives down the road. Tall, young, handsome and strong.” Another sigh from Thor. “And definitely not Greta’s type. I saw him enter the back yard carrying that case. Something’s going on between them.”
“Interesting.” Bee tapped her chin, and I could already tell where we’d be spending the rest of the afternoon. “Very interesting. What about Cassidy?”
“The dogwalker?” Thor wrinkled up his nose. “Oh, I hardly ever see her except when she brings Frankie into the backyard in the evenings. She seems all right.”
“Do you know if she has a copy of Greta’s keys?” I asked—after all, Greta had accused the dogwalker of stealing her keys earlier on.
“No, sorry, no idea. I keep to myself mostly. I just observe. People watching is my favorite thing to do.”
So, Greta, Cassidy, and this ‘Dan the Man’ all had something to do with the case. We just had to figure out what it was. And how the case full of money was connected to them and the skeleton.