The Case of the Mysterious Man--Conclusion
by HA

On Monday, during lunch at Sussex Academy, Blake found Shirley and Bo eating lunch. Shirley noticed how happy he looked.

"Hi, Blake," Shirley greeted. "Why are you such in a good mood?"

"My dad's going to stay in Redington," Blake said. "Interpol's assigning him here to work with the police department." He looked at Shirley. "I've got my dad back, Shirley. He's moving in with us. My mom's so happy. We've got a lot of catching up to do." He sat down next to Shirley, who did not mind one bit.

"That's great news, Blake," Shirley said.

Bo looked up from his lunch. "So what happened to the ENIGMA agents? Did your dad make them spill their guts?"

"Well, they did talk," Blake said. "They didn't have much choice concerning the evidence my dad got. They revealed how they managed to plant something that caused that foul odor in various places to keep the police distracted. They used something like putty that, when chewed, releases the gas after a while. They pretended that they were chewing gum in a place, then stuck the wad somewhere and quickly left. They also had a gas that eliminated the foul smell. That was what in those blue canisters those guards had."

"So how did they smuggle the Mona Lisa out of France?" Bo asked.

"My dad's still trying to make sense out of that," Blake replied. "It had to do with hi-tech gizmos, though. Something that cloaked the Mona Lisa from detection."

"Did your dad get anything else out of those ENIGMA agents?" Shirley asked.

"Unfortunately, they just confirmed what my dad was told. Nothing new," Blake said. "But Dad's still going to keep investigating them. He won't rest until Mr. E's in prison for good." He leaned closer to Shirley and whispered to her. "By the way, Dad said 'thanks' for your help. He was also wondering if you'd consider a job in Interpol when you're older."

"Tell him I'll think about his offer," Shirley answered. "After all, I live for mysteries."

"Speaking of mysteries..." Blake's manner changed and he became nervous. He looked down while he spoke. "Um, Shirley, I was wondering..."

"Wondering what, Blake?" Shirley asked.

Blake gathered his courage and looked at Shirley. "Well, um, there's this mystery movie that's being shown tonight and I was wondering if..."

"Blake, I'd like to go with you," Shirley said with a smile. She had a feeling that was what Blake was going to ask.

Blake was speechless, then regained his composure and spoke again. Bo simply turned away and ate his lunch. He shook his head and sighed, occasionally looking at Shirley and Blake, who began to make plans for tonight.

* * * * *

All over the world, newspapers proclaimed the good news: The Mona Lisa had been found. Law enforcement agencies around the globe were surprised and pleased that Inspector Christopher Hewitt had survived and had successfully revealed the secret criminal organization ENIGMA as the party responsible for the theft of the beloved Mona Lisa. Art lovers in all countries rejoiced, and local law enforcement agencies followed Inspector Hewitt's lead and began to investigate the shadowy syndicate known as ENIGMA Worldwide, Inspector Hewitt was proclaimed a hero by many, especially the French, who invited the inspector to Paris for a free vacation. He refused politely, saying that he wanted to get reacquainted with his wife and son before he started traveling overseas.

Only one place did not have this glowing opinion of Inspector Hewitt. At ENIGMA headquarters, the recovery of the Mona Lisa was not received joyfully.

Standing in the middle of his office, Mr. E held an enlarged copy of a photograph of Inspector Hewitt standing in front of the Redington Community Theater pasted to a piece of thin cardboard in his left hand. He had gotten it from the local newspaper. It was part of the top story, its headline proclaiming "'DEAD' HERO RECOVERS MONA LISA." He stared at the picture with hatred, his face in a grimace.

Nigel and Number One watched as Mr. E threw the picture upward. As it came down, both men watched as Mr. E, with the katana sword he was holding in his right hand, slashed the picture into pieces. The remains fell to the floor, joining more pieces of other copies of the picture which Mr. E had sliced and diced earlier.

"A pity it isn't the real thing," Mr. E remarked as he walked to a nearby chair with a pile of more pictures. He picked one up and returned to his spot. "What news of our men?" he asked Number One.

Number One gulped as Mr. E threw the picture up and slashed it to pieces as it fell toward the floor. "W-well, sir, I'm afraid they talked." Eyeing the katana in Mr. E's hands, he quickly added, "Not much about us, though. They just confessed on how they stole the Mona Lisa and confirmed what the traitor told Hewitt."

"I see," Mr. E said as he walked over to Nigel, who was holding a silver serving tray with a glass of iced lemonade. Mr. E took the glass and began to drink its contents.

"They had no choice, sir," Number One said as Mr. E drank his lemonade. "The equipment confiscated from them was their downfall. Once confronted with it, they talked."

Mr. E finished his drink and replaced the glass on the tray. "Will you be issuing an execution order for Number Four-Four-Zero and his group, sir?" Nigel inquired.

Mr. E walked back to the pile of photocopies on the chair. "Not a good idea, Nigel," he answered as he picked one up.

"What about Hewitt, sir?" Number One asked.

"I confess that I'm rather tempted, but that's also not a good idea." Mr. E walked back to the middle of the room. "Right now, gentlemen, we can't afford to attract attention." He threw the picture up and slashed it repeatedly with his katana. "Every blasted policeman around the world will on the lookout for us now, and quite frankly, a few mysterious deaths will make them look harder." He shrugged. "Besides, why kill good men? They talked only after being confronted with the truth." He looked at Number One. "How are our other jobs doing?"

"Well, sir," Number One began. "We managed to smuggle those stolen Mayan artifacts out of Mexico and that boating 'accident' we arranged for that Greek politician went rather well."

"How much did we make on those jobs altogether?" Mr. E asked as he got another picture of Inspector Hewitt.

"I believe about five million dollars," Number One reported.

"Mere chicken feed, Number One." Mr. E threw the picture up and quickly reduced it to pieces with the katana. "Compared with what we could've made if we had been successful with the Mona Lisa deal, that amount is chicken feed."

Mr. E paused for a moment and looked at Nigel and Number One. "It's time for a few changes, gentlemen. The puzzles will stay, but they'll be harder. The time between their delivery and the crime will be reduced dramatically. Our agents will improve their stealth skills. As for captured agents, they will not give any new information about us that could help the police and we'll activate the appropriate plan for that situation."

"As you wish, sir," Number One said. "What should I tell our agents?"

"Have them stay underground until further notice," Mr. E told Number One as he grabbed another picture. He looked at it closely. "This Hewitt fellow is rather lucky, isn't he, gentlemen?"

"Indeed, sir," Nigel said.

"Y-yes, sir," Number One said.

Mr. E continued to look at the picture. "My grandfather would have been furious if he were still alive," he commented. "The man he considered the most dangerous threat to ENIGMA is still alive thanks to dumb luck." He thought for a moment, then looked at Nigel. "I take it Number Two isn't taking the news of Hewitt's 'resurrection' well?"

"I believe he shot his television set when he saw Hewitt on the news," Nigel recalled.

Mr. E smiled and shook his head, then returned his focus to the picture. "A clever man, this Inspector Hewitt," he commented. "Hiding from us by using his dead friend's identity. I'm amazed we didn't notice while we were tracking Frederickson that he and Hewitt were the same."

Number One gulped, then gathered his courage. "Although I agree with you on not executing Number Four-Four-Zero and his group, I must strongly insist that we take care of Hewitt in the near future. His actions have threatened the security of ENIGMA."

"I must agree with Number One, sir," Nigel said. "Hewitt's actions have encouraged police investigations around the world. He must be eliminated soon."

Mr. E looked at his two henchmen, then at the picture and smiled mysteriously. "Hewitt's not our main concern, gentlemen. Disposing of him will give me great pleasure, but it will not solve our main problem. He's not the primary threat."

"He isn't?" Number One said, puzzled.

"Why do you say that, sir?" Nigel asked.

"According to Number Four-Four-Zero, 'Frederickson' kept searching clothing stores," Mr. E explained. "That means the third riddle baffled him. Apparently even the ever-clever Inspector Hewitt can be easily fooled." He looked up at Nigel and Number One. "No, gentlemen. Hewitt is not our main problem. It is these 'concerned citizens' that he mentioned that are my current bane in life."

"Why do you say that, sir?" Number One asked.

Mr. E could not believe Number One's inability to see the obvious. He controlled his frustration with him. "These 'concerned citizens' must have solved the final riddle and informed Inspector Hewitt, who managed to stop Number Four-Four-Zero." There was a tinge of anger in his voice. "It is these 'concerned citizens' who are our main problem. They ruined my perfect plan. They, or at least one of them, clearly have acute mental powers which may even equal my own. Quite frankly, I can't have that. These meddlers have dared to defy me, a most fatal error."

"I'm sorry to say this, but we don't know who they are, sir," Number One stated.

"A pity, Number One." Mr. E looked at the picture in his hand and spoke to it disdainfully. "You've won this round, Hewitt. I'll let you have your life and your family back, but at the price of your mysterious benefactors' lives!" He was about to throw the picture upward when he spotted something. He lifted his dark glasses for a moment and studied a part of the picture closely.

"Sir?" Nigel did not understand what was going on.

Still holding the picture, Mr. E walked over to his desk and leaned his katana against it. He grabbed a magnifying glass off it and studied what he saw closely with it. Nigel and Number One watched him silently with curiosity.

Finally, Mr. E handed the picture to Number One and pointed to Hewitt's right. "Number One, have the lab boys enlarge that section and enhance it," he ordered. Seeing Number One's confused expression, he said impatiently, "Well, what are you waiting for? Get moving!"

Startled, Number One mumbled a "Yes, sir," then left the room. "I want a positive ID, Number One!" Mr. E shouted after Number One.

"What did you see, sir?" Nigel asked.

Mr. E laid another picture on Nigel's tray next to the glass and handed him the magnifying glass. He pointed to a spot in the background on Hewitt's right. "I believe I've found one of my little pests," he declared knowingly. "The main one, I presume."

Holding the tray at the bottom in one hand, Nigel looked at the spot that Mr. E pointed at with the magnifying glass. It was the side of the theater, and peeking out from it was a girl with dark hair and a distinctive hat. "She looks rather young, sir," he commented.

"It doesn't matter, Nigel. She and her friends must pay for their interference," Mr. E said. He snatched the picture off the tray quickly and looked at the unknown girl with intense yet controlled rage. He smiled sickly at the picture. "No one messes with Mr. E and gets away with it."

Mr. E went back to his desk and grabbed his katana. In one swift movement, he threw the picture up and reduced it to pieces. "No one," he said coldly, looking down at the pieces.