Drexton Cage Middle School Private Eye

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The Twist

The loading dock behind the school looked almost congenial in the morning sun. Birds chirped and the smell of garbage didn’t claw into my nostrils and do nasty things on my brain. Bushy tailed I was ready to get the needed info from Backwards.

Betty Ann and I came around the corner and stopped short. Shelia, Scatters, Trident and Snake sat along the loading dock wall, heels bouncing lazily against the concrete. Each of them had a pair of giant needles in their hands, connected to balls of yarn.

A sight I never thought I’d see in school and my body didn’t know what to do. So it just locked up and watched in frozen fascination.

“Now da secret to knittin’ is not to lose count. You knit once, pearl twice. Knit one, pearl two. Simple.” Backwards explained.

The kids stared hard at their needles. Tongues out, brows furrowed, they were a study in concentration.

“When do we do the overhand slip knot?” Scatters asked. One good eye locked on her needles, the other doing an involuntary tour of the world.

Backwards sighed. “That’s crocheting. We’re not crocheting here. ‘Dis is knittin’.”

“Right. Sorry,” Scatters said.

Betty Ann blurted, “Knitting?!”

Trident, Scatters, Snake and Shelia all looked at us, but didn’t run away this time. I took that as a good sign. Derf jumped of the wall and sauntered over to us. “Keep your voice down. Knitting is a private and personal matter. ‘Dey don’t need de rest of the school makin’ fun of ’em.”

“For learning how to knit?” Betty Ann persisted.

“Yeah. People don’t understand.”

“That’s true,” Betty Ann said. “I’m people.”

“’Dey all think knittin’ ain’t cool. But if some cool kid did it, suddenly it’d be very cool. But dese guys know they ain’t cool so knittin’ must be uncool. By default whatever they do must be uncool so why not do something they kinda like. It’s baseline logic.”

“Why knitting?” I asked.

“Knittin’ is very zen,” Backwards explained. “Calms the mind and settles the soul. Clears your head so you can think straight later. It’s also very creative, like an art with ’de use of color, texture and shape. It increases eye-hand coordination and unlike a video game, when you’re all done you got sumpthing. A sweater, or scarf, or mittens or sumpthing. You get that from your Ninetendo DS?”

That made sense and it seemed kinda unfair that the popular kids got to decide what was cool and what wasn’t. We stood silent for a long moment. Then I jumped in. You texted me.”

“I did?”

“Got it right here,” I said. Held up the phone as evidence.

“Don’t know nuffin’ about ’dat,” he said.

I reached into my pocket, pulled out the thirty-eight bucks and waved it like a miniature flag.

“Oh yeah, now I remembers. Got that info you wanted.”

“Yeah?”

“Now what was it again?” He rubbed his chin and searched the clouds a moment.

I handed him the cash and he quickly shoved it into his pocket.

“It’s twelve bucks short,” I said. Backwards looked at me like a disappointed father. I know the look. I put in the eight from my own stash and explained lamely, “I couldn’t get the full fifty.”

Backwards blew air between his teeth in an intricate pattern as he thought. Finally he sighed and said, “I give you this, yer gonna owe me.”

“Sure,” I said.

He hesitated another few seconds, then said, “De answers for the Pentathalon are kept in the school district mainframe.”

“Could you hack it?”

He looked insulted and hurt.

“Sorry. Could anybody else hack it?”

“Course. Any true genius with a high end unit could probably crack it in a coupla weeks.”

“Coupla weeks. So this was planned for a while.”

“Naw, I don’t think so. Why spend a coupla weeks hackin’ into the mainframe when they change the answers every week? Don’t make no sense. Naw, ’de way I figure it whoever stole those answers had to have the password.”

“How would somebody get the password?”

“District passwords are kept in de office of each school. You just need somebody with access to the office. ’Dey get the password, bing-ba-da, they’re in and printing up your answers.”

“Sounds easy enough,” I said.

“Any moron could do it,” Backwards said.

“Thanks Fred,” I said.

“Hey, that’s my brudder’s name.”

“Sorry Backwards.”

“One more thing,” he said. “Whoever did it got sloppy. ’Dey didn’t have the pages printed more than two minutes before the alarm went off.”

“Thanks Backwards,” I said.

He nodded and shot me with his forefinger.

“I know that look Drex, what dya got?” Betty Ann said.

“School office,” I said. “Where did we hear that recently?” I punched buttons on my cell until I got video playback of the Hammet Pentathalon practice. Betty Ann and Backwards scooched in close so they could see.

On the screen, Sincere talked to his team, “Hey, it’s hard on me too, okay. I go right from here to my job at the school office. Then I take my little brother to hockey practice, get home, make dinner, before three hours of homework. But I know, I just know we’re gonna win this time.”

I rewound and played it again. “I go right from here to my job at the school office.”

I hit pause and Betty Ann stared at me, eyes wide. “I know,” I said.

“Sincere Thatcher,” she said.

“So it seems,” I agreed. Old Sincere had motive, with a job at the school office he had opportunity; the crime clung to his back like a Yu-gi-oh backpack.

We said goodbye to Backwards and headed toward the parking lot. I felt so chipper I nearly had a spring in my step. Nearly.

“I love it when it lays out this easy,” Betty Ann said.

“Looks like we’re heading back to Hammet High,” I said.

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