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(Please note: the following excerpt is chapter one from Concord Cunningham: The Scripture Sleuth, Copyright 2000 FOCUS PUBLISHING. No part of this text may be reproduced without written consent of the publisher except for brief quotes used in reviews written specifically for use in a magazine or newspaper.)
Before yesterday, people in the Northwestern town of Pine Tops didn't know what a Scripture Sleuth was. They knew that the word "Scripture" meant the Bible. They knew that a sleuth solved mysteries like a detective. But they didn't understand how somebody could use the Bible to solve everyday mysteries.
It made perfect sense to Concord Cunningham. No matter what the mystery was, he could find a clue in the Bible to help solve it.
Unfortunately, he could also find the canned spinach in the local grocery store.
"Maybe it'll be sold out, Concord," his dad said as they walked down the vegetable aisle.
"We can only hope," Concord said with a sigh. He dreaded the spinach casserole his mom was making for dinner.
A few steps later, Concord's expression fell as he saw that the spinach shelf was fully stocked. But he wasn't ready to admit defeat. He spent two whole minutes making sure he had selected the tiniest can available. Just as he was putting the can into the grocery cart, his dad's cellular phone rang.
"It's probably the paper," Mr. Cunningham said, reaching into his overcoat pocket for the phone. As the top reporter for the Ponderosa Press, the local newspaper, Mr. Cunningham was always called when there was a breaking story.
"Hello," the tall reporter answered. He listened for a moment, then pulled out his notepad and began scribbling. "I see. What was stolen? Okay," he said as he looked at his watch. "I'll get over there right away."
Mr. Cunningham put the phone back into his coat pocket and turned to Concord. "We've got a change of plans, Concord. How would you like to help me cover a story?"
"You bet," Concord said excitedly. He'd always wanted to go with his dad on a reporting assignment. "What's the story?"
"An antique vase was stolen from the Blue Spruce Apartments this morning," Mr. Cunningham said. "We need to get to the crime scene right away. My editor wants to put the story in the evening edition of the newspaper."
"I guess the spinach casserole will have to wait," Concord said with a grin, putting the tiny can of spinach back onto the shelf.
"No complaints here," Mr. Cunningham said, grinning back. "I'm sure your mom will understand."
They hurried out of the store and quickly drove across town. They were soon parked along the curb in front of the Blue Spruce apartment building. As they got out of the car, Concord grabbed his backpack and slung it over his shoulder. He seldom went anywhere without it.
The Cunninghams entered the building, and an elderly doorman greeted them suspiciously in the lobby. Mr. Cunningham fumbled through his pockets and finally found his press pass. He held it out for the doorman to see.
The doorman glanced at the pass and then looked back at Mr. Cunningham. "The police are up on the seventh floor," he said. "That's where it happened."
"Okay. And which apartment?" Mr. Cunningham asked.
"There's only one apartment on the seventh floor, the penthouse. That's the top of the building," the doorman said. "The stairs are right over there."
"What about the elevator?" Concord asked, glancing across the lobby.
"It hasn't worked for months," the doorman grumbled.
"Thanks for your help," Mr. Cunningham said cheerfully. He and Concord headed for the stairs.
When they emerged on the seventh floor, Police Chief Riggins motioned Mr. Cunningham into the large apartment.
Chief Riggins was a plump man with a neatly trimmed mustache, and he always wore a freshly pressed uniform. He and Mr. Cunningham knew each other well from past crimes that Mr. Cunningham had reported.
"Just a minute, Bill," Chief Riggins said, holding up his hand. "Who's your new partner?"
"Oh, this is my son, Concord," he replied. "He'll stay out of the way."
The chief rubbed his chin and looked down at the slim, sandy-haired boy.
"I guess it's all right," he decided. "Just don't touch anything, Conrad."
"That's Concord," Concord corrected.
"Uh, right," the chief mumbled.
"So what have you got so far, Chief?" Mr. Cunningham asked as he pulled out his reporter's notebook.
"Well," Chief Riggins began, "the vase was stolen while the tenant, Mrs. Jessen, was out running errands this morning. We think the thief is sitting right over there." Concord and his dad looked across the room. Sitting on the couch was a man wearing jeans, a tee shirt, and a tool belt. "He's an electrician who's been working in the building today," Chief Riggins continued. "We found the stolen vase in his van, which is parked down in the alley."
"That was a pretty quick investigation," said Mr. Cunningham.
"Yeah, except it isn't quite over," the chief said. "The electrician says he didn't steal the vase. He says somebody else stole it and put it in his van."
"And you believe him?" Mr. Cunningham asked with surprise.
"Normally, we probably wouldn't," the chief admitted, "but we can't figure out how the electrician could possibly be the thief."
Mr. Cunningham stopped writing and looked up at the chief. "What do you mean?" he asked.
"Well, did you two notice anything special in the stairwell when you climbed up here?" the chief asked.
Concord nodded. "There were security cameras," he said.
Mr. Cunningham looked down at Concord, impressed with the observation.
Chief Riggins grinned. "Very good, Conway."
"That's Concord," Concord corrected.
"Uh, right," the chief mumbled. "Anyway, we've looked at the recording that the security cameras made. The tape shows that the electrician made two trips up the stairs to the seventh floor while Mrs. Jessen was gone. But, the tape also shows that the electrician was not carrying a single thing on either of those trips. Not the vase, not something that he could hide the vase in or under, not anything."
"And nobody else came up to the seventh floor while Mrs. Jessen was gone?" Mr. Cunningham asked.
"Not according to the security tape," the chief said. "And we don't think there's any way up here without being seen by those cameras."
"Could somebody have climbed up the outside of the building and come in a window?" Mr. Cunningham asked.
The chief shook his head. He walked over to the window and looked down at the alley. "Mrs. Jessen said that she always keeps the windows closed and locked. She also said that all the windows were still locked from the inside when she got home, and none of them was broken."
"What about the possibility of somebody climbing up the elevator shaft?" Concord asked.
"The security cameras also monitor every opening to the elevator shaft, even though the elevator hasn't been working for a while," the chief said. "The tape shows that nobody has been in the elevator shaft today."
"It sounds like you've got your work cut out for you, Chief," Mr. Cunningham said. He started looking back through his notes to see if he had missed anything. "Oh, I almost forgot. Did Mrs. Jessen report anything else stolen?" Mr. Cunningham asked.
"She didn't report anything else stolen, and we didn't find anything else in the electrician's van. But, Mrs. Jessen did report a couple other strange things," the chief said as his forehead wrinkled. "She said that she had a picnic basket all packed up for lunch in Evergreen Park this afternoon. When she got back from her errands, all the food had been taken out of it."
"So the thief was hungry?" Concord asked.
"That's what I thought, too" Chief Riggins chuckled, giving Concord a soft slap on the back. "But all the picnic food was just sitting on the kitchen table. Not one piece of it was eaten."
Concord's eyes began to dart back and forth. The situation was reminding him of something he had read in the Bible.
"Was there anything else strange?" Concord asked.
"One other thing," said Chief Riggins. "Mrs. Jessen said that it looked like somebody took a nap in her bed. All the blankets were messed up. She says that whoever napped there must have been pretty cold, too, because every extra blanket from her closet was also on the bed."
Concord nodded as he thought about the clues. Then he opened his backpack and pulled out his Bible. He turned to a chapter in the book of Acts and began reading. A moment later, Concord's eyes locked on a verse, and a grin moved across his face.
"Chief, the electrician did steal the vase and put it in the van," Concord announced, "and he did it all by himself."
The entire room fell silent. The electrician raised one of his eyebrows and looked over at Concord from the couch. The chief bent down and flashed a quick grin at Concord.
"How could he possibly do that?" the chief asked doubtfully.
"The proof is right here in Acts 9:25," Concord said.
The electrician laughed and looked relieved.
The chief stood up with a look of confusion. "Acts 9:25?" he questioned, looking at Concord like he was crazy. "In the Bible?"
"That's right!" Concord exclaimed.
Curiosity got the best of the chief, so he bent down to read Concord's Bible. After a moment he looked up, winked at Concord, and then arrested the electrician for the theft of Ms. Jessen's vase.
Read Acts 9:25 to find the clue that Chief Riggins got from Concord.
Please click here for the solution.