Note: Shirley Holmes and all other characters from The Adventures of Shirley Holmes belong to Credo and Forefront. The rest belong to me. Also, my SH fanfic world is set after season three, but replaces season four. Get it? Got it? Good. Happy reading.

The Case of the Mysterious Man-Part One
by HA

Shirley Holmes sat in the attic and clipped out the top story in the newspaper. She studied the headline: "MONA LISA STILL MISSING."

As Shirley placed the clipping in her scrapbook, she thought about the amazing theft. The Mona Lisa, one of the world's well-guarded art treasures, had been missing for a week now. Police around the world were baffled; there were no breakthroughs. The thief or thieves had gotten away without leaving any clues or a ransom note.

Shirley went downstairs to the kitchen, where her father, Robert, and grandmother, Peggy, were having breakfast and watching TV. Her mother, Dr. Joanna Holmes, got up early for a morning jog. The reporter on the TV was talking about the theft of the Mona Lisa. "As of yet, Interpol and the Paris police are still trying to find the missing masterpiece."

"Hi, Dad. Hi, Gran," Shirley greeted as she sat down to have a quick bite. Mr. Holmes and Gran returned the hello silently and continued to watch the local news.

"Speaking of the police, the Redington Police Department received a strange note yesterday," the reporter said. "Inspector Markie, who was the first to read the note, read it to our field reporter."

The TV then showed Inspector Markie holding a piece of paper. Shirley knew Inspector Markie from previous encounters; fortunately for her, he did not know her.

"'Playing is easy and fun, but the clothing is murder,'" the police inspector read. When asked what it meant, he replied, "It's utter nonsense. Probably some wise guy's idea of a joke. We're not going to waste our time investigating it."

As the reporter moved on to other stories, Mr. Holmes said to Shirley, "Can you believe it, Shirley? The Mona Lisa, stolen! And no one has a clue on who did it."

"Since there's no ransom note, maybe the thief did it to keep it, to sell it, or to just prove it's possible," Shirley said.

"For any reason, it would be difficult to keep the Mona Lisa," Gran said. "The Mona Lisa is one of the most recognized paintings in the world. No one would be stupid enough to buy it."

Shirley was not so sure about that. The whole subject was dismissed when something more important was brought up by Mr. Holmes. "Better go to school, dear, and let the proper authorities handle this matter. You don't want to be late...again."

* * * * *

Later, in Sussex Academy's lunch hall, Shirley talked with her friend, Bo Sawchuk, about the Mona Lisa theft. "What do you think?"

"To be honest, Shirley, I really don't care," Bo replied. "The theft of some old painting really doesn't affect my life."

Shirley was shocked at how Bo did not see the significance of the theft. "Bo, the Mona Lisa is a famous masterpiece done by the great Leonardo da Vinci! Art lovers around the world are stunned."

"I'm not an art lover," Bo pointed out.

"Well, here are the facts." Shirley began to recall what she had learned about the case. "Before the Louvre was opened for the public, the Mona Lisa was gone. Someone managed to get past the security system and cut through the three inches of glass in front of the painting. The Louvre was closed while the French police investigated the crime. They found the security system was still working, so they concluded that somehow it was shut off from the outside during the crime. They didn't find any fingerprints or any other clues. They checked all persons leaving the country and turned up nothing."

"Maybe the Mona Lisa is still in France," Bo said.

"Maybe, but whoever stole the Mona Lisa knows he or she is marked, so he or she must be hiding it well. The thief needs to keep moving in order to avoid capture," Shirley said.

"Okay, what is the thief going to do with one of the world's most famous paintings?" Bo asked.

"Since there's been no ransom note, I guess the thief is going to keep it or sell it." Shirley took a bite from her lunch. "Of course, keeping it is a risk, not to mention selling it."

"Believe me, people would pay anything to have something so valuable," Bo said.

"True. Who can resist owning the Mona Lisa?" Shirley said.

Bo ate his lunch. "You see all this as a big challenge, don't you?"

Shirley smiled. "The Mona Lisa missing, no clues, no suspects. You're right, Bo; it's a challenge."

"Too bad it's not in Redington," Bo said. "It isn't our problem, Shirley. I'm sure the police will find the Mona Lisa."

"Maybe you're right, Bo." Shirley could not help but be a little disappointed. The Mona Lisa theft was the perfect crime. She remembered her great-grand uncle Sherlock Holmes' words: "Any mystery devised by mortal minds can be solved therewith." It was a shame the Mona Lisa was located in Paris, not Redington.

"Hi, guys." Alicia Gianelli walked up to where Shirley and Bo were sitting. She was with a tall boy with neatly cut light-brown hair, one who Shirley had never met. Alicia introduced him. "Shirley, Bo, this is Blake Hewitt. He just moved to Redington with his mother from California." Alicia added proudly, "Ms. Stratmann asked me to give him a tour of Sussex Academy."

"Hi," Blake greeted the two nervously.

Bo immediately said "Hi" back, but Shirley stared at Blake. She noticed how cute he was. He was, to Shirley, perfect.

"Shirl?" Bo noticed the dumb-struck look on Shirley.

Snapping out of her daze, Shirley replied, "Hi, Blake." Regaining her composure, she continued to talk to the newcomer. "So, what brings you to Redington?"

"My mom's an archeologist," Blake answered. "She's been on a lot of digs in Africa. She felt that she and I needed a change of scenery, so we moved here because she accepted a job at the museum. Also, she was born here."

"What do you think of Sussex?" Bo asked.

"Not bad, although I need to get used to the uniform." Blake scratched his arm. "Too itchy."

"You'll get used to it," Bo said, speaking from experience.

"Mind if we join you?" Alicia asked. "Are we interrupting something?"

"No, not really," Shirley said. "Bo and I were just discussing the Mona Lisa theft."

"The Mona Lisa theft?" Blake sat down next to Shirley. He sounded excited. "No one's solved that yet! Any hypotheses on that?" he asked Shirley.

"I take it you like mysteries?" Shirley asked Blake.

"I read, live, and breathe them. The harder the better," Blake replied. "So, what do you think of the Mona Lisa theft? Any thoughts?"

*A kindred spirit!* Shirley thought happily. "Well," she began, and soon the two were discussing the Mona Lisa theft.

Alicia sat down next to Bo, who watched as Shirley and Blake talked and exchanged ideas. To Alicia, Bo looked a little jealous. Although Alicia was a little disappointed, she was happy at seeing Shirley and Blake together. "Don't they look cute together?" she whispered to Bo.

"Yeah," Bo said, trying not to reveal any emotion and still looking at Shirley and Blake. "They sure do."

* * * * *

Somewhere else, a man in a blue uniform known as Number One approached the large double doors guarded by two armed, uniformed men in SWAT gear. He was nervous and sweating a little.

The two guards saw Number One. "Halt!" one of them shouted. "State your business!"

Number One was upset. He was the second-most powerful person in the organization and he was being treated like a common lackey! "It's ME, you lugs!" he said angrily.

The guard who spoke realized his mistake. "Sorry, Number One," he apologized. "Mr. E gave us strict orders not to let anyone in unless it's important."

"I have some news concerning the Mona Lisa theft," Number One stated.

The two guards talked to each other, then one of them said, "Okay, you can go in." He opened one of the doors.

"Thank you," Number One said. He walked through the door, wondering if he should demote the guards to the millions. The incident had temporarily cured his anxiety.

Number One looked at the room he was in. It was spacious and was lit by fluorescent lights. About three yards in front of him were two bookcases on each side. One was filled with a mixture of mystery, puzzle, science fiction, and fantasy books. The other contained an assortment of toys, especially Lego creations, buckets filled with Legos, and toy guns. Number One knew how Mr. E loved to build with Legos. He also knew the toy guns were modified to act as real weapons. He noted the real katana swords, shuriken, and claw gauntlet with a dart and shuriken shooter built in. Between the bookcases was a large, wide desk. The desk had a switchboard phone/intercom/fax machine, two TV monitors, one connected to a video camera on a stand, a computer with a modem, a Rolodex, and additional equipment. On the back wall and above the desk was a red banner with a golden question mark drawn like a snake, its mouth open, revealing its fangs. Three spikes shot out of the snake's back as if to form an "E." The word "ENIGMA" was written within the snake's form and was arranged to match it. The same symbol was also on the center of the floor and the front of the desk.

Sitting behind the desk was Mr. E, a young man in his late teens dressed in a dark uniform and a cape. His hands were covered in dark gloves. His eyes were hidden by dark glasses. Number One knew that despite his youth, Mr. E was extremely brilliant...and dangerous. He was currently finishing a game of Freecell on the computer. He smiled as he moved a card and all of them started flying toward the spaces in the right corner of the screen.

"Well played, sir," a thin, elderly man dressed in a butler's uniform said. He was Nigel, Mr. E's manservant. Number One knew that Nigel's frail appearance was deceptive.

Nigel noticed Number One, who was waiting to be acknowledged. "Sir," he began to tell Mr. E, "Number One is here to see you."

Number One beat his fist on his chest, then raised it in the air. "ENIGMA forever!"

Mr. E looked at Number One, then stood up and addressed him in an English accent. "Ah, Number One. You have something important to report?"

"Yes sir." Number One wanted to deliver his news and get out of there fast. "It concerns the Mona Lisa..."

"Ah, the Mona Lisa." Mr. E smiled. "Many thought no one could steal it as long as it resided in the Louvre. They thought the security system and three inches of glass were enough to deter thieves." He chuckled. "Of course, they didn't know about ENIGMA and its advanced tools, did they, Nigel?"

"Most certainly not, sir," Nigel answered. "We have accomplished what other modern criminals have dreamed of doing. We have successfully stolen one of the most famous paintings in the world."

"Yes, Nigel." Mr. E was full of pride. "ENIGMA now has in its possession the Mona Lisa, the seemingly safe Mona Lisa." He took a deep breath. "Think of the money that can be made from its sale, Nigel! This is the greatest operation ENIGMA has ever undertaken. If it succeeds, our bank accounts and prestige in the criminal underworld would be enhanced!"

Nigel clapped. "Your grandfather would be proud of you."

"As well as my famous ancestor," Mr. E added, taking the applause with a bow. He noticed Number One and remembered that he had news about the Mona Lisa. "Sorry, Number One, what is your report?"

Number One cleared his throat. "Well, sir, I have good news and bad news on the Mona Lisa mission."

Mr. E did not like the sound of that. Everything was going according to plan. The Mona Lisa had been smuggled out of France. The ENIGMA agents who had the Mona Lisa were on their way to the place where the sale would take place. How could there be bad news? "Give me the good news," he ordered Number One, trying to stay as calm as possible.

"Well," Number One began, trying not to lose his nerve, "our agents have arrived at the rendezvous point with the Mona Lisa still and Interpol has not caught up to them yet, at least officially."

"Good, good." Mr. E knew that although Interpol officially had no clues about the Mona Lisa's disappearance, he knew of one man's investigation. "The bad news?"

Number One gulped. "The buyer called while you were out. He said he'll arrive a day later than expected."

"WHAT!!?" Mr. E was furious. Everything was going according to plan, and now the client dared to muck up everything. He picked up the receiver from the switchboard phone and started dialing. "That nitwit has thrown off my whole timetable," he muttered to himself as he waited for someone to answer.

Mr. E finally got who he was looking for. "Listen, you," he told the person on the other line, "we agreed that the item you wanted would be given to you on...What?!! You just scheduled an important business meeting? Cancel it! Say you have some out-of-town business to do." He listened for a moment while the other person objected. "Well, it's not exactly a lie, you know. You must pick up your purchase as soon as possible. Everyone's been looking for the Mona Lisa, and someone might get lucky!" He listened to more talk. "Don't think you'll escape any blame if my men are caught! Your reputation won't protect you; we've got proof." He heard more talk. "Don't get too cocky. Double-cross us and you'll regret it. I mean it." He heard the other person talk. "You know, we can find another buyer. We don't need you." He heard the other person plead. "So, you want it that badly, don't you? Cancel your meeting, get to the rendezvous point as scheduled, and you'll get it. Remember to bring the rest of the payment. You know the location. I faxed it to you." He listened to the other person. "Well, get someone! Anyone who can fly a bloody plane! Good day, sir!" With that last remark, he slammed the phone down while the other person was still pleading.

Mr. E sat back in his chair and tried to relax. "You know, sir," he heard Nigel say, "your grandfather had more tact."

Mr. E sighed. "Sorry for that, Nigel, but this is ENIGMA's greatest moment . I will not have that total boob ruin it."

"What did he say, sir?" Nigel inquired.

"He'll cancel the meeting, but all of his personal pilots are on strike. He said he'll get another pilot, but it'll take a while." Mr. E looked at Number One. "Inform our agents that there's going to be a delay. Tell them to keep a close eye on the painting."

"Yes, sir." Relieved that he was still alive, Number One left the office.

Mr. E leaned back in his chair. He was not in a good mood. So far, in all the thefts and sales and other crimes ENIGMA has committed under his command, none of its members has been caught. Now that perfect record was in jeopardy. *What else could go wrong?* he thought.

END OF PART ONE