Disclaimer: The Adventures of Shirley Holmes and its characters are owned by Credo and Forefront. Everything else is my creative property. If you want to use one of my original characters, ask me first or face the wrath of the Mecha-Pikachu ;o)

The Case of the Missing Dolls--Part One
by HA

On Saturdays, the Redington Mall was usually packed with shoppers, especially young people. After enduring a week of school, the mall offered them a place to relax and hang out with their friends. The wide variety of shops and refreshment stops were enough to draw them in.

Shirley Holmes was among the young shoppers this particular Saturday, but unlike her peers, she did not come with her friends. Standing near a clothes rack, she watched as her companion pulled out a white buttoned-up shirt with flowers and stars.

"Shirley, I think this will look great on you," Dr. Joanna Holmes said, holding the article of clothing before her daughter.

Shirley stared at the shirt. "Um, I don't think that's my style, Mom," she admitted.

Dr. Holmes rolled her eyes and sighed. "Shirley, we've been through this. You're starting to grow out of your clothes. You need a new wardrobe." She rummaged through the clothes rack and pulled out a pink shirt. "What about...?"

Shirley shook her head and quickly pulled out a shirt colored half red and half light green with yellow polka dots. "I believe this will suit me, Mom," she said, holding the shirt up for her mother's inspection.

Dr. Holmes stared at the shirt, blinked, rubbed her eyes, and stared again. "If you say so," she said, taking the shirt and draping it on her arm along with the other choices her daughter made.

"You know, I think this matches your eyes."

Shirley turned around and found a smiling Blake Hewitt standing behind her with a light-blue T-shirt in his hand. The look of surprise on her face quickly vanished due to her self-control. "Blake," she finally said after a brief period of silence. Before she could stop herself, she took the shirt from Blake. Feeling her hand brush against his, she fought the urge to blush as she handed the article of clothing to her mother.

"So, this is the infamous Blake Hewitt," Dr. Holmes said, looking over the young man as she draped the blue shirt over her arm. "Shirley talks about you a lot."

"Mom," Shirley said, bowing her head as she felt the heat rush to her face. Blake's smile grew a little.

"And you must be the infamous Dr. Joanna Holmes," a woman with light-brown hair shaped into a blunt cut commented from behind Blake. She was carrying a packet of underwear and some pairs of socks. "Dr. Lauren Hewitt," she introduced herself.

"Ah, the latest addition to the Redington Museum," Dr. Holmes said in a friendly tone. "My mother-in-law is very anxious to meet you. She couldn't come with me and Shirley today, however."

"Why's that?" Dr. Hewitt inquired curiously.

"She's taking it easy right now," Shirley answered. "She's camping out in Yorkshire on the moor, I believe."

"What a remarkable woman," Dr. Hewitt said. "She really must come back in time for our next great exhibit."

"Really? What's being exhibited?" Dr. Holmes asked.

"I don't know," Dr. Hewitt admitted with a shrug. "The curator's keeping everything hush-hush. However, Mrs. Holmes will have plenty of time to see it. We're not opening it until a week or two later."

"I'll be sure to tell her. Thank you," Dr. Holmes said.

Dr. Hewitt noticed the clothing Dr. Holmes had draped all over her person. "A little mother-daughter shopping, I see," she observed with a grin.

Dr. Holmes faked exhaustion. "I felt Shirley needed new clothes since she's outgrowing almost everything she owns," she explained. "Apparently, I should've looked into what Shirley likes to wear."

Dr. Hewitt looked at the two teen-agers, then gave a wink at Dr. Holmes. "I think we should get to know each other better over a little coffee or something like that," she said.

Dr. Holmes smiled. "Yes, we should go have a little something to drink after all this walking."

"Oh no," Blake said.

"They're big kids now, so I'm sure they'll be fine, Joanna," Dr. Hewitt said. "Blake's a good kid, and nothing bad will happen."

"I suppose," Dr. Holmes said, looking at her daughter and her new friend.

"Well, we'll just pay for everything now." Dr. Hewitt started towards the cashier. "You two can wander around for a bit. Just meet us at the center of the mall, okay?"

"Yes, Mom," Blake said, submitting to his mother's will .

"We'll see you later, Shirley," Dr. Holmes said as she followed Dr. Hewitt, leaving Shirley and Blake by themselves.

Both teens looked each other over for a while silently. Blake broke the silence first. "So, where do you want to go?" he asked, keeping his eyes on the floor.

"I'm...not sure," Shirley replied, lowering her head. She felt the heat spreading through her cheeks. "Any suggestions?"

Blake gulped and willed his head to rise. "We could try the bookstore," he blurted, feeling his own cheeks heating up. "I think there are some new mystery novels there, including some recent stuff starring Sherlock Holmes." He watched as Shirley looked at him. "Well, that is, if you're interested and..."

"Blake, it's okay," Shirley said, smiling a little. "I'll go with you."

"Oh," Blake said, swearing that he was losing his breath. "In that case, let's go, then!"

Shirley's smile grew larger as they walked towards the other side of the mall. As she kept up with her companion's stride, she studied him closely. Blake was taller than her; in fact, he was as tall as her best friend Bo Sawchuk. He was a little muscular, but not too much. Her eyes alternated between his frame to his hand. *I wonder if I should take his hand...* Thinking that Blake was about to turn and look at her, Shirley averted her gaze away from him. *I can't believe I'm acting like this!* the amateur sleuth admonished herself. *I should be acting like Great Granduncle Sherlock. I need to be able to function above emotion.* Noticing Blake was not looking at her, she eyed him again. *However, I have to admit Blake is rather attractive.* Her eyes wandered from Blake to the rest of her surroundings. *I haven't felt this way about anyone except...*

Despite focusing on what was in front of him, Blake sensed he was walking by himself. Stopping, he noticed he was by himself in the sea of mall-goers. Searching the area, he found Shirley standing in front of a store window. Making his way through the passing people, he caught up to his friend. "Hey, Shirley, are you okay?" Not getting a response, he looked at what had gotten Shirley's attention.

Both teens were looking at a display of cowboy clothing. Shirley was staring at a mannequin shaped like a teen-age boy. It was wearing a flannel shirt, jeans, and boots with spurs, all covered by a long coat. She noticed the hat, which has strands of fake dark hair shooting out from underneath. Her brain replayed images of a past trip to a ranch, where she encountered a young cowboy who almost resembled the dummy. It was there that she began to exhibit feelings she once thought to be childish and silly. Soon she was recalling how at one moment, they nearly kissed if not for some animal interference. Her mind said only one word: *Matt...*

"Shirley?"

Startled, Shirley spun around and found a concerned Blake. "You okay?" he asked

Shirley responded after catching her breath. "I'm fine."

Blake looked at the cowboy display again. "Hmmmmm, interested in the Wild Wild West?"

"You could say that," Shirley answered. "Let's go to the bookstore, okay?" she added quickly.

"Er, if you say so," Blake said.

Once again, they joined the moving crowd of shoppers, occasionally apologizing to someone carrying their purchased goods if they brushed by them. At one point, Blake said, "Hey, isn't that Molly?"

Shirley stopped and focused on where Blake was looking. Sure enough, she spotted a girl with long blonde hair heading in the opposite direction. From the way the girl walked, Shirley was sure it was Sussex Academy's most popular student and one of its academic leaders, the very influential Molly Hardy. Only she, Bo, and Blake knew her for the scheming manipulator that she was. A closer inspection showed that Molly was clutching something to her chest. As she made her way through the crowd, Molly bumped into a man and dropped whatever she was carrying. Shirley watched as the man bent down to help her, but Molly snatched her purchase, exchanged a few heated words, and quickly departed the scene.

"I wonder what she's up to?" Shirley said, knowing that Molly's head was filled with numerous schemes to increase her sphere of influence.

"I doubt she'll tell us," Blake said. "Let's just worry about it later."

"With Molly, prevention is essential," Shirley remarked in her usual serious tone, turning around and going after her nemesis. Sighing, Blake followed her.

Making her way past her fellow shoppers, Shirley kept her eye on the departing Molly. Behind her, Blake made sure not to knock anyone over. On the other hand, Shirley felt she had no time to make any apologies. She plowed through the other shoppers, determined not to lose Molly.

The young detective got a brief break when Molly bumped into a woman carrying two shopping bags. This time the impact was enough to knock the beautiful sociopath to the floor, and Shirley was able to see through the crowd that the bag in Molly's possession landed and spilled its contents. The woman, who managed to stay upright, bent down to help Molly, who frantically started scooping whatever she bought into her bag.

"Miss, I can..." the woman began.

"I'm fine!" Shirley heard Molly yell. A small crowd began to gather around the blond teen-ager, blocking her from the young Holmes' view. An older boy made his way through the curious people, and a few seconds later, Shirley heard Molly say, "I said I'm fine! Leave me alone!"

Shirley watched as the people backed away after a few minutes, and she could see a glowering Molly clutching her bag closely to her chest. Brown eyes met Shirley's own curious blues, and Molly's mouth curled into an expression of contempt that matched the glare of death she was giving Shirley. Without addressing the girl who served as a threat to her plans, Molly turned on her heel and ran off, not caring who she knocked aside. Soon the stream of shoppers swallowed the cold-hearted blonde. The object of its curiosity gone, the crowd dispersed.

"Hmmmmmm..." Shirley tilted her head down and tried to ponder what just happened.

Behind her, Blake rejoined her. "Sorry," he apologized. "Had to help an old lady pick up her stuff after I nearly ran her over." He searched the area for Molly. "Looks like she got away."

"That's a definite," Shirley said, still deep in thought.

Blake walked around Shirley and stood before her. "So, ever find out what she was carrying?"

"No," Shirley answered, looking up at Blake.

"Well, I guess we'll know when she puts her plan into action," Blake said.

"I just wish we could have stopped her," Shirley said, sounding a little disappointed.

"Hey." Blake placed a reassuring hand on Shirley's shoulder. "You've beaten her before. You can do it again," he said with a smile.

Shirley smiled back, and her face began to heat up again. Realizing what he was doing, Blake tried to will his hand to lift itself off her shoulder, but it was too late. The young Hewitt's cheeks finally exhibited a crimson hue. With reddened faces, they stared at each other, wondering what to do next.

While that was happening, Bo Sawchuk was watching from a small distance. Molly had ran into him a while ago, and before he could yell "Hey, watch it!", the sociopath bolted away. He did not get the chance to see what was inside her shopping bag. His speculations over what its contents were filed into another part of his brain when he spotted his best friend and his new friend. He was about to say "Hi," but then he saw Blake put his hand on Shirley's shoulder. From there, feelings of sadness, rage, and acceptance fought for dominance in his psyche. Bo's hand occasionally closed into a fist at his side and opened. Only his reason for coming to the Redington Mall stopped him from screaming in agony, and he pressed on, trying to stay out of their sight.

His effort was in vain, for Shirley's watchful eye picked him out among the throng of shoppers. "Bo!" she shouted to her friend.

Blake quickly yanked his hand off Shirley's shoulder and found his other friend. He moved away from her, and his hand went into a greeting wave. "Hey, Bo!"

Defeated, Bo forced himself to walk towards his friends. *Just relax, just relax, just relax...* he told himself repeatedly. His hands struggled to remain open, and his deep breaths did succeed in calming him down. When he was face-to-face with his friends, all signs of his discomfort were kept off his face. "Hey, guys," he said in his usual friendly manner. "What brings you to the mall?"

"My mom's buying me new clothes," Shirley answered.

"And you?" Bo asked Blake, fighting the urge to glare.

"Same here," Blake answered. "What about you, Bo?"

"None of your business," Bo snapped. "Er, I mean I can't say. Hey!"

Shirley had reached forward and yanked out a piece of paper sticking out of Bo's jacket pocket. Opening it, she read, "Surfboarder Larissa, Doctor Larissa, and Mountain Climber Larissa." She put the list down. "Larissa?"

"Larissa?" Blake looked over Shirley's shoulder and read the note. "You mean the Larissa line of dolls? Those are pretty popular, Bo."

Bo snatched the list away. "They're for my little cousin's birthday."

"They're also very expensive," Blake pointed out.

"I've been saving my money," Bo said. "After all, I don't have a family fortune to..." Only Shirley's glare stopped him from ranting on about Blake's wealth, and he went back to explaining the Larissa situation. "This morning, the toy store set up an exhibit of all the Larissa dolls produced throughout the years. They've also cut prices in half during this week, so I can afford probably at least one of them."

Blake let out a whistle. "That's a good deal."

"I believe we'll be helping you find your dolls, Bo," Shirley said. "That is, if you'll have us."

"No problem. Helps make me feel less embarrassed about the whole thing." Bo gave the two a look. "Er, weren't you going in the other direction?"

"Not anymore," Blake said. "The new books will have to wait. Gotta make sure Bo doesn't feel uncomfortable with the dreaded dolls."

"Right. The toy store's that way," Bo said, pointing the way.

All three proceeded on their way to the toy store. With Shirley taking the lead, Blake leaned sideways and whispered to Bo, "Er, sorry, man."

"For what?" Bo whispered back.

"I saw you watching us," Blake said. "Look, if I'm intruding on..."

"You're not," Bo said sharply, feeling his face heat up. He quickly looked away from Blake. "Let's just get those dolls, okay?"

The rest of the walk was quiet after Blake decided to drop the subject. The three friends arrived at the toy store and found a large crowd gathered outside. Shirley noted the number of little girls with one of both of their parents. She also noted that a significant number of them was apparently talking to a mall security guard, a large muscular man with a curly mustache. Shirley noticed how he kept holding his hand up to people as if to prevent them from entering the toy store. In fact, from where she was standing, Shirley couild not see any customers inside the store.

"Guess they're having a little delay with setting up the exhibit," Bo surmised. "A lot of Larissa dolls were produced over the years, and this exhibit has all of them."

"Funny," Blake said, consulting his watch. "I thought the exhibit should have been ready by now."

"Hmmmmmmm..." Shirley turned to a nearby woman who was trying to keep her grip on a little girl attempting to break loose. "What's going on?" she asked.

"Yeah, why are they keeping everyone outside?" Bo asked.

"Well, apparently someone stole some of the dolls from the exhibit," the woman recalled, still struggling to hold the girl. "At least, that's what someone else told me."

Bo was about to say something when he spotted Shirley plowing her way through the crowd. Blake bolted after her, and after a deep sigh, Bo went after his friends while apologizing to the people he occasionally brushed aside.

END OF PART ONE