Barking Up The Right Tree

Chapter 21

"I don't believe it! After all that, no one in the entire Empire State Building has ever heard of Jarod?" Miss Parker pounded the elevator button.

"It doesn't look like he had anything to do with investigating the death of that man," Sydney answered. "Do you think he didn't go to New York at all?"

"I am going to kill Angelo when we get back to the Centre."

"Parker, Angelo didn't mislead us. His responses to the New York Times articles were quite weak. We assumed Jarod would come here."

"So I guess he's disappeared again," Broots said.

Sydney forestalled Miss Parker's snarl with a soothing, "He always reappears again. Don't worry."

Miss Parker seethed all the way back down to the car. The sight of a youth of about fifteen leaning negligently against the car gave her vent for her wrath.

"What are you doing? Get away from my car, or I'll shoot you!"

For some reason the threat didn't faze the boy. He grinned. "Are you Miss Parker?"

"Yes!"

"Mr. Ardilla said to give you this." He handed her a manila envelope.

"Mr. Ardilla? Who is that? Jarod?"

"Yeah, that was his first name."

"Ardilla? What's that supposed to mean?"

"It's Spanish, Miss Parker," Sydney answered. "It means squirrel."

"Squirrel? Did you find him climbing trees in Central Park?"

The boy's eyebrows went up. "Uh—no. He just came and asked me if I wanted to earn twenty bucks, said you would be here today."

With a sigh, Miss Parker opened the envelope. And there it was, the red notebook she had come to loathe the sight of. Broots and Sydney crowded around as she opened it. The first article was the short one she had read in the New York Times, the one about the man who fell out of the window. The second was longer and gave a full explanation of the police investigation and conclusions. One sentence stood out, highlighted in yellow: "The police report that they were greatly assisted in their efforts by an anonymous call from North Carolina and request anyone with knowledge of this anonymous genius to come forward and give them information."

"North Carolina!" Miss Parker groaned. "He never left Mayberry to solve this crime! He only came to taunt me!" She threw the manila envelope on the ground. Broots picked it up again.

"I think there's still something in here."

"Give me that." She drew out a cassette tape. "And what's this? His plans to invade the Centre by remote? Again?"

The boy obviously had no idea what she was talking about. "Mr. Ardilla said it was a recording he made of a friend playing guitar. Something to do with sheep."

Miss Parker stared at the cassette in her hand. How did he know? He always knew what was going to get to her.

"You listen. If you see this Mr. Squirrel again, give him a message from me. Tell him I said he should treat himself to a big bag of pistachios. Got it?"

"Uh—sure," the boy answered.

"Come on. We're done here."

As they got in the car, Sydney paused and looked across the parking lot to the park just beyond. "Look, Miss Parker! Chess players in the park."

"Would you forget the games, Sydney? Let's go!"

It was only as they were leaving the city that Broots noticed the date on the second newspaper article. "Miss Parker! This newspaper is today's paper! Jarod's still in New York!"

In the small park just on the other side of the parking lot, a group of people gathered around two chess players whose hands and brains moved like lightening, maneuvering pieces and slapping the timer. All too soon one groaned and conceded defeat, flicking over his king.

"You're too good for me, Jarod. I've never seen anyone here better than you. How long you been playing?"

Jarod looked at his watch. "About three hours." As everyone groaned and laughed, he smiled, "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to work."

"What do you do?"

He picked up a bucket and squeegee. "Today I'm an outside window washer. At the Empire State Building."

The End