A/N: Well, here it is: the final chapter. It has been a joy writing it these past two years, and it feels strange that I'm finally finishing it. Well, enjoy!Mystery Solved
Everyone in the room: the 8th graders, Ren, and even some police officers stared wide-eyed at Miss Pateer, who stood stiff as a board on the bottom step of the staircase. Her face remained expressionless as Louis broke the silence.
"Miss Pateer's a Stevenson?"
No one said a word after Louis spoke. After about a minute, Tawny left Officer Stan's side and stepped off the staircase. Everyone parted and made a path for her as she walked around the banister and to the sofas. Officer Stan walked Miss Pateer over to where Tawny stood, as another police officer took her other arm.
Suddenly, Miss Pateer blurted out, "Just because Henry and Clarice died, doesn't mean that the whole family went down with them!"
Louis jumped back at her sudden yell, nearly stepping on Twitty's foot.
"How did you find out?" Miss Pateer snarled at Tawny.
"Simple, really," Tawny replied calmly. "Obvious, actually."
She looked around the large parlor. "Your attachment to this place, Sophie saying she knew some Stevensons, and the pictures in the photo album."
"What pictures?" Louis asked.
"You remember seeing pictures of a Patty Stevenson, don't you?" Tawny asked him.
Suddenly, Ren, Twitty, Allison, and Tom's eyes widened even more.
"I get it!" Louis cried out. "The photo dated in the 1940's. That was you!" He pointed to Miss Pateer, who still remained emotionless.
"Patty Stevenson," Tawny said, almost to herself. "Remember also when I was 'murdered'? When I was hiding under the blanket, I heard Sophie say that Patty's the one who had to come back here after all of that. It just made sense."
Miss Pateer stared at the floor and shook her head. Then a soft sob escaped her lips. Suddenly, her face became raged as she stared up at everybody, the 8th graders crowding the room, the police officers…
She began breathing hard. "You, you, you horrible little brat! That will belongs to me! It's my birthright! There's no one else to claim the family fortune. There's no one else but me!"
"That's where you're wrong, Miss Pateer," Officer Stan cut in. "We did a check on your family background after Miss Dean's call, and we came across another Stevenson—a Scott Stevenson. Do you know this name?"
Miss Pateer didn't answer at first, but then quickly shook her head. "I've never heard of him in my life."
"Oh, I think you do," Officer Stan said. "How could someone forget their own brother?"
There was another stir in the room, as students began whispering to one another. Sophie and Francis looked even more intimidated, and there were police officers keeping an eye on them as well.
Miss Pateer stared back down at the floor, avoiding Officer Stan's glare.
"He never knew about the money, did he?" he asked her. "Did he?"
"No." Miss Pateer continued to stare at the floor.
"Look at me when I speak to you!" Officer Stan suddenly barked at her.
Miss Pateer snapped her head up and met his eyes. At his sudden shout, many other people in the room had nearly jumped out of their socks as well.
"Tell me, Miss Pateer," Officer Stan spoke softer now. "Please sit down before we take you to the station. I believe everyone here should hear this."
Miss Pateer nodded and walked around the coffee table, Officer Stan's hand never leaving her arm, and sat down. It was silent for a moment. Everyone stepped a little closer to the sofa where she sat, anxious to hear what she had to say. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, she began speaking.
"When I was a little girl, about 9-years-old, my parents died of cholera. We were living in this house. It had been passed down many generations since Henry and Clarice's deaths. We all knew that the Stevensons had hidden their money and a copy of their will after Jacob Schemer had threatened them. They didn't trust anyone, not even the bank, to hold on to their money. They were afraid it would crash. The only thing the bank held onto was the official will. Each time another Stevenson was born, the version of the will they kept was modified. After they died, their relatives continued modifying it until Scott was born. That's when it stopped.
"The Stevenson strongly looked down upon women. They only believed that their fortune should be passed down to men. So I was not included in the family will. Scott was. Scott had been going to a boarding school in Nevada since he was six, and our parents never discussed the will with him. He didn't even know he was included in it. He often asked during the summers, but they never told him. I, on the other hand, went to private school in town, and was able to eavesdrop on my parent's conversations in their bedroom after school." Miss Pateer seemed quite proud of herself as she said this. "All I could understand was that the money was hidden somewhere in this house, and that they had modified the will after my brother was born. I also had already known that women were not included in it. My father spoke of this often." There was a hint of bitterness in her voice now.
"I also heard them one day say that they were arranging it so the photo albums they were putting together would give clues as to where the money was hidden, just in case something happened and their relatives needed to find it. Well, when I finally worked up the courage to face my parents and ask them about the entire thing, they took ill. I never got a chance." Miss Pateer wiped at a tear that fell from her eye. "But there was another person that I was even closer to than my parents. Our housekeeper, Sophie."
Everyone turned to look at Sophie, who stood near the front door, looking as though she were about to faint.
"Sophie," Miss Pateer continued, "was my friend. I could talk to her about anything—except the money. Not even she was trusted enough to be let in on my parent's conversations. Our butler, Francis, didn't know anything either. When my parents died, their own personal will instructed that both Sophie and Francis be put in charge of my well-being. Scott continued to go to school in Nevada, and he began to spend his summers there as well. This gave me a chance to talk with Sophie and Francis aloneas I grew up. We only occasionally searched the albums; we didn't have enough time on our hands to do it every day.
"When I went to college, I left this house for four long years. Sure, I came back during the summer, but it was hard too. It was becoming harder and harder to even look at that house, where so many people had died. We would have sold the house right away, had it not been for the unfound money. There were no relatives to contact—that's why Sophie and Francis were the only people available to take care of me—so when I graduated college, we continued to search the albums. Up until now we had only gotten through OLOP 13. Our lives were too hectic, and Sophie and Francis refused to work on itwithout me. I had to get a job, and it was impossible to find a lot of spare time. I grew older with Sophie and Francis, never with Scott. He married and moved to Nevada permanently. You're right, sir." She acknowledged Officer Stan. "He never knew about the money."
"And you never told him," Officer Stan said to her. "The money that was rightfully his was never brought to his attention. That can mean some serious trouble for you, Miss Pateer."
Suddenly, Miss Pateer jumped up, causing Officer Stan's grip on her arm to loosen. "I have already lost my parents and my husband, and I will not let this fortune slip out of my hands as well!"
She jerked herself toward Tawny, but Officer Stan and the other officer grabbed her arms and held her back. They then forced her back onto the sofa.
"Your husband?" Officer Stan regained his breath.
"Yes, Edward. Edward Pateer." Miss Pateer began sobbing now. "He may not have been a blood relative, but he lived here with me and needed that money to support us and Sophie and Francis. He deserves to rest in peace, knowing that the money is finally ours."
"It's not that simple, Miss Pateer," Officer Stan told her. "That money was not left to you. It belongs to your brother."
Miss Pateer shook her head, crying silently now. "It's not fair." That was all she said.
Officer Stan looked up at Tawny. "Miss Dean, can you clarify some more of this for us?"
"I think so," Tawny replied, taking a deep breath. "At the beginning of the trip, when we found the storage room full of albums, Twitty, Alan I mean, used OLOP 14 to get away from Francis."
Now everyone stared at Twitty, who looked down at the floor awkwardly. Nevertheless, Tawny continued.
"The album was on the coffee table, which means Miss Pateer was looking at it, apparently looking for the clues. When Alan took it, she tried to find it."
There was another murmur among the crowd of students.
"And after being murdered in the attic, I know for a fact that the murderer must have been one of these three." Tawny pointed to Miss Pateer, Sophie, and Francis. "Someone who wanted to keep me from figuringthem out."
"But wouldn't Ren have known this whole time?" Louis spoke up, staring at his sister. "You wrote us our characters, didn't you?"
Ren smiled nervously. "I wish I could tell you who the murderer was, but Principal Wexler had told me to let Miss Pateer handle the actual murderer. He said that she told him she would pick the person and tell them when they arrived. That way, I could play also."
"So, who was it?" Louis demanded. "Who was the murderer?"
Everyone quickly looked around and stared in the direction of where the voice had come from. They stepped away from the front door, revealing the now open space where Sophie and Francis stood.
Sophie stepped forward. "I was the murderer."
"You," Officer Stan said. "Why wasn't one of the kids the murderer?"
Sophie sighed. "When Patty saw that boy," she gestured toward Louis, "she became convinced that he was in relation to Jacob Schemer. She wanted to make sure that he wasn't up to anything, so just in case he was, she wanted me to be the murderer so I could take care of him if he tried to pull anything. As the week progressed, the she became evenmore suspicious of him. She was especially worried when she found him almost in the secret passageway. That completely convinced her that he was after the money. So she tried to lock him and his accomplice into the attic right away, and deal with the other students' curiosity later. Of course, when Miss Dean asked me about the two boys, I had to make sure that nothing was revealed. The only thing I could do was shoo her out of the kitchen.
"I had grown to love Patty over the years, but she becameso obsessed with finding that money that she would stop at nothing to get it. She began to treat us badly, yelling at us on random occasions, telling us that we were the problem. Yes, she grew old with us, but she was never the same 9-year-old girl she had been before her parents died. Once, I even tried to contact Scott to tell him about the money, but she caught me, and never trusted me again like she had when she was a child.
"Then, we decided to make amends and do some work on the house. We would find the money eventually, but for now we had to make a living. Then someone came and knocked on our door—"
"Oh, I'll never forget that day," Miss Pateer suddenly interrupted. "The day when that man came to our door and told us about starting a murder mystery house here. All I wanted to do was refurnish the house! But no, he insisted that we start a mystery house. I would have refused if he hadn't offered me the sum of money that he did. I then decided that I had no choice. I took the money and we began cleaning up a bit for the first group.
"Then this Lawrence Jr. High School came up somehow and we were practically forced to call and offer them the first visit. Then they came, and you know what happened after that. When that album disappeared, I had a fit. Then I realized that that girl, Tawny, whatever her name is, was too smart for her own good. I knew that she was up to something with those two boys. When Francis and Sophie went to screw the vent closed the first time, Francis later informed me that he had noticed someone inside the room. We had earlier put a block of granite in the vent just in case, so I knew they wouldn't escape. I knew it was one of those three in there, so I sent them back up, knowing that they had at least locked the door.
"But then they came back and told me that whoever had been in there was gone! I hoped I would catch them, so to avoid making a scene, we took everyone else out to lunch."
Now the 8th graders were gasping and talking loudly. The officers shushed them down and urged Miss Pateer to continue.
"When I had Sophie and Francis finally screw the vent closed, the removed the block of granite, thinking we wouldn't need it anymore." She shot a threatening look at the two, but now they didn't melt under that deathly stare of hers.
"You know, Patty," Sophie said to her calmly. "When I took care of you, I made you exercise with Francis and me, but you refused. You always were a stubborn child. Then you thought that you could take advantage of the fine shape we were in, now in our late 80's, to shove these poor children around. Well, I have had just about enough of this. I'm through with you, Patty. I should have just left you years ago. You don't care about Francis and me anymore. All you care about is the money. You became so obsessed with it that you forgot about the people you loved. And now, it has all caught up with you. And I'm not going to be a part of this any longer."
"Miss Pateer, I think it's time to go now," Officer Stan told her. "We'll question you further down at the station."
This last comment sent Miss Pateer over the edge.
"I knew you were trouble the second I saw you! You all were!" she screamed at Louis and the rest of his friends. "You'll pay for this!"
"That's enough!" Officer Stan yelled. "Miss Pateer, you are under arrest for putting innocent children in danger, and attempting to steal the Stevenson's inheritance that is not rightfully yours."
"It should be mine!" Miss Pateer exclaimed as he began to read her rights to her.
More officers grabbed hold of her and pulled her across the room and out the door to the police cars. Sophie and Francis were brought out the door too. The students crowded around the doorway, trying to watch what was happening. Tawny and Louis had to shove their way through the crowd to get out onto the porch. Many neighbors had come outside to see what all the commotion was about.
"Who knows, Miss Pateer?" Louis called out to her. "Maybe your brother will even share it with you!"
That remark was half a joke, and half sincerity. But either way he had intended it, he received another jab in the ribs from Tawny.
Back inside, Officer Stan had come back in and was now talking to Louis and Tawny.
"We'll see to it that the inheritance is delivered to Mr. Stevenson, after a firm confirmation from our department attorney," he told them. "I can't thank you enough for all of your help. Not many people knew about the hidden money. And to just pull this out of thin air like you did, well, that itself is amazing. Now, we're going to do a thorough investigation of this house to see if we can uncover anything else."
Louis and Tawny nodded and stepped aside as police officers began looking around.
Feeling suddenly exhausted, Louis and Tawny collapsed onto the sofa Miss Pateer had been sitting on minutes before. Ryan broke away from the crowd and looked at them astonishingly.
"That Sophie was creepy when she killed me," he told them. "I would have never guessed that it was her."
"Me neither," Louis said.
"I had been wondering what you guys were doing in the girls' room all that time," Ryan said to Louis, as well as Twitty and Tom, who had just joined them on the sofa.
"Well, now you know," Louis said.
Ryan nodded and smiled slightly. Then he walked away.
"You know what, Tawny?" Louis asked her.
"What?" she smiled.
"You're a genius." With that, he kissed her on the cheek.
Later, Mr. and Mrs. Stevens burst through the door, grabbed Ren and Louis and hugged them fiercely. They were hysterical from the fact that their children had been in that kind of danger all week, and hadn't been able to call them. After their 'thank goodness you're okay's and 'how in the world could you do this without getting help's, they finally calmed down and listened as their son and daughter told them the entire story.
Tawny, Tom, Twitty, and Allison repeated the story for their parents too. In the midst of their conversation, Officer Stan emerged from the gift shop, holding a photo album.
"I thought you might want to see this," he told them.
"OLOP 1." Tawnyread the cover.
Officer Stan opened the album to the first page and held it out for everyone to see.
Louis read the label. "Eleanor Stevenson, our everlasting sunshine."
"Eleanor," Tawny breathed, a tear escaping her eye.
They all stared at the worn photo.
"We believe it was the only picture taken of her," Officer Stan added.
The baby smiled at them from the picture. Her short blond curls covered the top of her round-shaped head, and her beautiful large eyes were heart-warming. To think that those eyes had seen the horror they had on the night of her murder. Tawny and Allison began crying openly. Twitty hesitantly wrapped his arm around Allison's shoulder, and then seemed to relax into it. She leaned on his shoulder and her crying stopped a short while after.
"I think it's about time that we get you home," Eileen Stevens said to Louis and Ren.
"Yeah, me too," Louis replied.
Now that he thought about it as he packed upstairs, Louis hadn't spent much time in his own room. When his suitcase was closed, he gave it to his dad and went to see how Tawny and Allison were doing. They had obviously finished packing before him, and were just sitting on Allison's bed, talking.
"Well," Louis said, looking around the room. "We sure had a fun time here, didn't we?"
"Yeah," Tawny laughed softly. "We sure did."
"You know what?" Louis asked. "I'm actually gonna miss it."
"Me too," Allison smiled.
Twitty and Tom then joined them.
"We're finished packing," Twitty said.
"Then I guess we had better go now," Tawny said, standing up.
"Hey, where's that photo album?" Twitty asked.
"I turned it in to the police," Tawny replied. "They're going to look at it some more. I have a feeling this will be in the newspaper tomorrow."
This comment was met with silence.
"Well, we had better get downstairs. The bus is leaving with the other kids. And our parents are waiting," Tawny said.
They filed out of the room, pulling their suitcases behind them. Tawny, who was the last to leave, took one last look at the room, smiled slightly, and then closed the door.
When all of their luggage was outside and packed into the cars, Louis and Tawny stared up at the house, which was now surrounded by the darkness of the night.
"To think of the horrible memories this house holds," Tawny said.
"Yeah," Louis replied. "I guess some things are worse than paper trash pickup."
"Mail's here!" Ren called.
The summer sun blazed through the windows, and not even the air conditioning could keep all the heat in the atmosphere under control.
It had been two months since their visit to Stevenson House, but they had not forgotten it. They had been recognized in both school, and the newspapers that ran near Stevenson House, as heroes. Louis and his friends didn't get through one day during their last months of junior high without being congratulated on their work there or hearing it mentioned somewhere in the school.
Now Louis charged down the stairs, whipped around the corner, and almost collided with Ren.
"Watch it! Gosh," Ren said angrily, as Louis tried to grab the mail out of her hands, but she snatched it away and began flipping through it. "Hey, it's here!"
She pulled out a manila envelope and shoved the rest of the letters into Louis' arms, who tossed them onto the kitchen counter. Ren quickly opened it and pulled out a large picture. "Wow, it's beautiful!"
"Let me see!" Louis grabbed the picture out of her hand and stared at it. "Whoa, I barely even recognized it!"
A couple weeks after the Stevenson House visit, Scott Stevenson had given the Stevens a call to thank them for their help. He told them that the will had been proved valid and he had decided to use some of the money to refurnish the house. His sister, Miss Pateer, was in court, but Sophie and Francis had received much less severe punishments. They hadn't heard anything about the court's ruling, but Scott had decided that no matter what happened, he thought his sister deserved a small fraction of the money. Louis and Ren didn't know if they agreed with him, but respected his decision.
"After all," Louis had said. "That's what brothers are for."
Now they looked at the picture of the newly furnished Stevenson House. Its siding and bricks had been replaced and the entire inside torn out and redone. As they flipped through more pictures of the inside of the house, they were amazed at how much it had changed. The parlor looked completely different. Its wooden floor had been polished and its walls repainted.
They looked through some more pictures of some bedrooms, the kitchen, and the dining room. It even took a while to figure out which rooms they were, because of how different they looked. Finally, as they came to the last photo, they recognized it immediately. The pale pink walls had been painted a more dominant and festive shade, and the window had been replaced and decorated with a new curtain. The wooden floor was shining and the vent cover had been replaced as well.
"I wonder if that's what Eleanor's room looked like when they first moved in," Ren said, staring at the picture.
"Maybe," Louis said. "I think I'll scan these and email them to the gang."
Before he was able to leave, Ren reached inside the envelope and pulled out something else. "Hey, wait! There's a letter."
Louis stopped in his tracks and stared at the piece of paper she held in her hands.
"It's from Scott Stevenson," Ren said, scanning the letter. "It says that Stevenson House is going to become a museum; it'll have the albums on display and everything." She looked up. "We should go visit it when it opens."
"Yeah, that would actually be kind of cool," Louis agreed. "We could see its new glorious self in person."
Ren smiled. "You had better go email those pictures. I know they're dying to see them."
"Okay," Louis said, grabbing a couple of them from Ren. He turned on his heel and ran backto the stairs.
Ren sat down at the kitchen counter, looking over the pictures again.
What a week that was, she thought to herself.
Well, she knew one thing now at least. It would be a very long time before she decided to be a High School Helper again.THE END
A/N: I would like to give a very special thanks to:
Qwerty, VampireWithASoul, LiDdLeGurLyAnGeL, MS, almostalone, aL33Na, lily, Jas, bballfreak1888, Padfoot n' Moony, soul of molten chocolate, themessenger, Megan, Queen-of-sarcasm, cutypie786, MD Excavator, vikingod, TanLam, yukistar2, LCDM, john, princess4eva, TrappedinAb0x, Msoreo, Jesse's Grl, Kate, adaire, BlackCats08, and DracosGurl.
Thank you to everyone who reviewed my story, and even if you didn't review, I hope you liked it and I appreciate you reading it. I have had a lot of fun writing this story, and I'm really going to miss adding to it. But thanks again, and I hope you'll read other stories by me in the future!