It was Friday morning.
Noelle Trocoderro and Todd Sloan were walking to school.
When they turned a corner, they saw the sheriff's car parked in front of Mr. Roper's grocery store.
"Let's check it out!" Noelle said.
She and Todd started running.
Noelle was always looking for mysteries to solve.
Their teacher, Mr. Merlin, called their class the Third-Grade Detectives.
Just as Noelle and Todd reached the front of the grocery store, the sheriff and another man came outside.
The sheriff was carrying a big box.
"I'll teach you to steal from me, Roper!" the man was shouting. "I'll see you in court! You're going to jail for a long time!"
At that moment, Mr. Roper appeared at the door. "You're full of hot air, Williams!" he shouted back at the man. "You can't prove this, because it didn't happen!"
Mr. Williams waved his fist at Mr. Roper. "You just wait and see! Your grocery store will soon belong to me!"
The sheriff and Mr. Williams got into the car and drove off.
Mr. Roper went back into his grocery store.
"This is terrible, Todd! We have to talk to Mr. Merlin right away!" Noelle said. "He'll know what to do."
When they got to their classroom, Mr. Merlin was writing some spelling words on the chalkboard.
"Mr. Merlin! Mr. Merlin!" Noelle shouted. "Mr. Williams is going to take Mr. Roper's grocery store away from him! He's going to send him to jail for a long time!"
Mr. Merlin stopped writing. "What?" he said.
"Mr.Williams said Mr. Roper stole something from him," Noelle explained. "But we don't believe him! Mr. Roper would never do anything like that!"
"It's a mystery, Mr. Merlin!"Todd said.
"Then maybe the Third-Grade Detectives can solve it," Mr. Merlin said.
The bell rang.
Noelle and Todd took their seats.
The rest of the class came into the room.
Noelle was sorry that Mr.Williams wanted to send Mr. Roper to jail.
But she was glad they had a mystery to solve.
Amber Lee Johnson will be so mad, Noelle thought.
Amber Lee always liked to find the mysteries for Mr. Merlin's Third-Grade Detectives to solve.
When everyone was seated, Mr. Merlin looked at Noelle. "Would you like to tell the class what happened this morning?"
Noelle stood up.
She described what she and Todd had seen.
Amber Lee gasped. She started waving her hand.
Noelle ignored her.
Amber Lee jumped out of her seat.
She looked really mad.
"This is my mystery, Mr. Merlin!" Amber Lee shouted.
Mr. Merlin looked puzzled.
"What do you mean, Amber Lee?" he asked her.
par"My mother and I were inside Mr. Roper's grocery store when it happened," Amber Lee said.
Noelle looked really disappointed.
"We stopped there so my mother could buy some oysters for a party she's giving this weekend," Amber Lee said.
"Yuck!" Leon Dennis said. "Oysters are disgusting!"
Amber Lee gave him a dirty look.
"My mother bought three dozen oysters,"
Amber Lee continued.
"They were still in the shell.
"We had just started to leave when Mr. Williams arrived with the sheriff.
"Mr. Williams accused Mr. Roper of stealing oysters from him.
"He said he had proof and was going to bring criminal charges against Mr. Roper.
"Mr.Williams had a court order allowing the sheriff to take all of Mr. Roper's oysters.
"But Mr. Roper said he didn't steal the oysters from Mr.Williams.
"He said he bought them from Mr. Spencer's oyster farm."
Mr. Merlin thought for a minute. "This is very interesting, class," he said. "Mr.Williams owns an oyster farm on North Bay, fifty miles north of town, and Mr. Spencer owns an oyster farm on South Bay, fifty miles south of town."
"Did your mother give the sheriff the oysters she bought?"Todd asked.
"Of course not! She had already paid for them!" Amber Lee said. "She needs them for her party!"
"Why did they take Mr. Roper's oysters?" Misty Goforth asked.
"Evidence," Amber Lee replied.
That's strange! Noelle thought. How can oysters be evidence?
Text copyright © 2003 by George Edward Stanley
Illustrations copyright © 2003 by Salvatore Murdocca