The Case of the Stolen Keepsake

Chapter 1

by Stacey (SST205 at aol.com)
1/18/02

I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.
My help cometh from the LORD, which made Heaven and earth.
He will not suffer they foot to be moved: he that keepth thee will not slumber.
Behold, He that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is they keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve thy soul.
The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in
from this time forth, and even for evermore.

Michael Walsh shut his pocket Bible and closed his eyes a moment. Psalm 121 had always been one of his favorites. He liked to read it before embarking on a new 'adventure'.

The middle-aged man looked out the window of the shuttle. As it often did, his mind wandered.

Sherlock Holmes, alive! He thought, staring into the reflection of his coffee-bean brown eyes . This has got to be the weirdiest thing Walsh & Associates has ever looked into....

The thirty-one year-old leaned his head back on the seat, fingering the leather pouch that hung around his neck on a cord. I thought that nothing would top the time we went hunting for One-Eyed Willy's treasure.

He chuckled to himself. Oh, well. Even if it's not true, I'll at least have been able to go to New London....

He ran a hand through his wavy hair, which had gone from light brown to blond over the years. The fistful of jewels he had crammed into his marbles bag when he and his friends had found the treasure of the pirate One-Eyed Willy had been put to good use. The money from their sale had bought the land on which he and his friends' houses stood, saving them from being knocked down by a rich developer. It had also helped put Michael and his older brother Brandon through college. Michael had graduated two years before with a degree in Journalism.

His hand closed more tightly around the pouch that lay on his chest. Glancing around to make sure no one was looking, he used his fingers to tug the drawstring closure open, then dumped the contents into his hand.

The sun that came in the window made the nine-carat garnet in his hand sparkle. Of all the ones he had crammed into the old marbles bag that he now wore around his neck, he had been allowed to choose and keep this one, though he hadn't been able to actually carry it until he was eighteen. It was a truly beautiful stone, and one so large that most folks didn't think it was real -- which was a good thing.

Just then, words flashed on a computer screen set into the back of the seat in front of him. Arrival in New London in five minutes.

Michael yawned. "Already?"

He slipped the jewel back into the bag and tugged the drawstring to shut the pouch. Afterward he stood, stretched, and removed his duffelbag from a compartment above the seat. As he closed the compartment door, he heard a metallic voice.

"All passengers for New London, please proceed to disembarking station. All passengers for New London, please proceed to disembarking station...."

The journalist snickered, watching the box on wheels roll down the aisle, a red light flashing on its square "head" while it repeated the instruction over and over. Reminds me of something Data would have built in his garage. If he'd built it, though, it would probably be shooting sparks.

He hefted the duffel over his shoulder and headed for the front of the shuttle, where some other passengers were already gathered by the door.

"Yes, move along." a tired-looking attendant sighed as she looked at someone else's passport. When Michael stepped up to her he tried his best to smile, though he was also very tired.

She flipped his passport open after he had handed it to her, and she squeezed the button underneath the plastic to make his picture appear. She looked up at him, then at the identification card on the other side of the passport folder. Above it was a business card which read:

Walsh & Associates
Publishers of "Not Your Everyday News"
--
700 Oceanview Place
Astoria, Oregon, United States of America
Michael Walsh, Head Journalist

The tired woman closed the passport and grinned as she handed it back. "Here to see Sherlock Holmes, are you?"

The man started. "Er...."

"You're not the first," the woman said in a lower tone. "Difficult to get an audience with him, I understand. Best of luck to you."

Michael walked off of the shuttle, feeling a bit stunned. Great. Maybe I did come all the way here for nothing.

He made his way through the terminal, heading for a booth that said: Monetary Exchange on a sign above. As he made his way over, he bumped into someone.

Looking down, he saw a dirty youth that was nearly his size. "Oh, I'm sorry."

The youth shrugged, then headed over to the wall where two other young men stood, both as dirty and ragged as the first though a bit larger. Michael didn't notice the three talking amongst themselves and looking in his direction as he continued toward the exchange window.

After getting his bills changed to pounds and credits, he headed out onto the street. Where do I start? he wondered. Guess Baker Street's as good a place as any, but I have no idea how to get there from here. I should go and get a map.

Michael turned to go back into the terminal, when someone grabbed his shoulder and pulled him around the corner.

"What the--UNGH!"

Immediately he was slammed into the wall. A young man wearing a bandanna on his head looked him in the eye. "You been pushin' my li'l brother around, Yank," he growled.

"What are you--" the American started, when he saw the teen he'd run into in the terminal standing behind his assailant, along with a larger boy. "Hey, that was an accident!"

"Accident or no, we don' allow no bloody Yanks on our turf!" said the youth who had him pushed against the wall. With that he took a firm hold on Michael's shoulders and shoved him to the ground, knocking the wind out of him. Before he could get a decent breath, the three young muggers were on him, half beating him up and half searching him for valuables.

"Let--go!" the American wheezed, trying to get away in vain.

He was answered with a smack in the back of the head. Then the young man who had his knee in Michael's back said, "Well, now, what's this?"

To his dismay, Michael felt a tug at the cord around his neck. "No--gasp--please--"

He was answered by another whack to the back of his head. Michael's eyes rolled back in his head, then he blacked out.

On to Chapter 2!

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