Chapter 25: Discovery Interrupted


The box sat on the table waiting to be opened. Sophie’s mom walked around the table looking at it. 
Her dad did something on his phone. 

Sophie and Parker were real antsy to open the box, but nothing seemed to be happening. Suddenly, they heard someone knocking in the craft room. This scared them really bad and made them jump. Sophie’s dad went into the room and Parker could see that he was pulling the bookcase away from the wall. This completely bewildered him. 

Through the tunnel opening stepped three men; two men in police–type uniforms and one man in a suit. 
They shook hands with Sophie’s dad. By that time Sophie was peeking in too, and he saw them come out from behind the bookcase. 

Sophie and Parker looked at each other and knew their gooses were fully cooked, carved and served. The men came into the main room and Sophie’s dad introduced the three men as, 
the Dallas County Sheriff, Leo; 
Sergeant Steele of the Adel Police Department 
and Mr. Grey, the Dallas County Attorney. 
You could see our young friends wilt like lettuce in a hot pan. 

The men looked at the unopened the box, and then asked if there was somewhere they could all sit down and talk. Sophie’s dad led them all upstairs to their living room. Once upstairs, Sheriff Leo wasted no time in telling the children the difficulties of this situation. 

“Your father contacted me with concerns about what the two of you might be up to here. You gave him some sort of riddle to solve and he contacted me after he probed this building and found the old tunnel entrance.” 

Sophie and Parker again looked at each other, aghast that they were so completely caught. 

Sheriff Leo continued, “You kids are very adventuresome, courageous and determined. I can see this. 
However, I have to ask a few questions. Were you actually in the courthouse?” 

Parker nodded ‘yes’ first, then Sophia agreed.

 “All right then; that brings up a couple of issues. That tunnel comes from the courthouse. 
What if the three of us had been detainees that escaped from a court hearing? What would you have done?” 

“We never even thought of that.” stuttered Sophie. 

The sheriff nodded and said, “Where exactly in the courthouse did you go and did this riddle come from the courthouse? And did you take anything else?” 

Reader, you already know what happened in the courthouse, so I’ll proceed to the next part. 
The Sheriff, Sergeant and County Attorney, having heard the details of their visit, were all concerned about the young pair’s wanderings in the courthouse and very curious about the shanty in the courthouse attic. 

Sophie produced the six original pages taken from the dresser. The adults passed them around and studied them. 

“Hmm.” Said the Sheriff. “The shanty in the attic is news to everyone. We’ll have to look at it. 
But now, Mr. County Attorney, what do you make of this incident, from a legal point of view?” 

Sophie and Parker inhaled deeply and held their breaths. Is this where the sheriff put the handcuffs on them? 

The County Attorney thought for a bit, then said, “Several years ago, before the locks on the courthouse were outfitted with electronic alarms, someone neglected to lock one of the courthouse doors on a Friday night. There was a family event downtown the next day, on Saturday, with children all over the place. Because of their nature, children test locks; that’s what they do. 
An Adel police officer saw a child go into the courthouse.  He found the boy on the second floor, seeing how far he could make the water fountain squirt. That fountain has always over-squirted its catch-basin. 
The officer took him to his parents. All was done without legal consequences to the child, though the police don't know what happened to the boy when the family got home." 

"I suggest we treat this case in a similar manner; as children that explored and tested locks. I presume this activity will not be repeated, eh? After all, you two are getting too old to use childhood curiosity as an excuse." 
he said, speaking to the children with one raised eyebrow."

Parker and Sophie quickly agreed with Mr. Grey. 

“Well,” said the sheriff, “I’m satisfied with the outcome, unless the adults of this house want to press charges for destruction of property for tearing a hole in the basement wall. Speaking of which, the building inspector will be contacting you to make sure you replace the opening; and he will suggest that you set forms and pour concrete, so young hands can’t chisel through again. 
This is what we’ll be doing on the courthouse side of the tunnel.” 

“That will be fine Sheriff." Sophie’s dad said, “Even so, I would like to see you give these kids community service, 
since county property was involved in the trespass. It will make it more real, and take this transgression out of the family realm.” 

“That’s a good idea... Mr. Grey, what would be an appropriate amount of time for these youngsters to serve, given the circumstances?”  the Sheriff asked the County Attorney. 

“Hmmm." Mr. Grey thought, then asked Sergeant Steele, “Sargeant, Is the city having any events that need trash pickup during and afterwards?” 

“Yes, yes we are. We are having 3-day music event on the Square this weekend. They could be assigned to a city work-team who would be responsible for them.”

“That’s sounds good.” said Sophie’s mom. “That will also be our disciplinary action for them, since it’s all related. 
One last question for you gentleman.” Sophie’s mom asked, “Is there any dispute over the ownership of the box downstairs, since it is connected to the county?” 

Mr. Grey thought for a moment and then replied,

” If the man filled the box with his personal property, 
and then abandoned the box to the building, which was sold----
since the box was with the property, 
and if the contents of the box were never County property, 
then the box is the property of whoever owns this building.”
 
Even so,” he continued, “I would ask that the opening of the box to be a shared event. I’m sure that there are many people, including the three of us, who would be interested in the contents of the box. And since you contacted the Sheriff, this will become public record.” 

“So this event should be open to certain people? Who would you invite if it were up to you?” Sophie’s mom asked. 

“I would invite the mayor, the curator of the historical museum, and elected county officials, at least. I understand that this is also a family event and you don’t want to turn it into a circus sideshow.”  said the Sheriff.

“Does that mean we’re not going to open the box right now?” Sophie asked in an anguished voice. 

“Correct.” her dad replied. Given the historical value of what we’ve discovered, I think we owe it to the community to let them in on it. And a few days delay in the opening will be additional discipline for breaking a hole in the basement wall; unless you would rather be grounded from your phones for a few weeks." 

"NO WAY!” Parker said. “We‘ll take the week. OH! Idea! After people see the stuff, Sophie and I can sell tours of the basement to make money. What do you think…'For one small dollar, each person gets to see where 100-year-old treasure was hidden AND see the old jail cells.' Eh?” 

Sheriff Leo did a facepalm and laughed. "I appreciate the boy's ingenuity. He would have made a good barker for the Orton Circus. I think we're done here. We would like to leave the same way we came." 

Sophie's dad took the men downstairs and they stepped into the tunnel with flashlights on. 

As they were walking back, the Sheriff asked Mr. Grey, "By the way, when did that boy get caught at the water fountain?" 

"When I was eight." Mr. Grey said with a sheepish grin. The Sheriff and the Sergeant laughed all the way back to the courthouse. 

Eric J. Rose
middlegrademysteries.com
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