The Case of the Missing Dolls--Conclusion
by HA

After everyone present was done staring at Shirley incredulously, Mr. Mott spoke. "You don't have to tell me who the thief is!" he said, pointing an accusing finger at Ms. Anderson. "I bet she did it for the publicity!"

"Actually, you'd be wrong," Shirley told the plump man. "From what I've learned about Ms. Anderson, I highly doubt she'd resort to something like this. Plus, the guards would've seen her do it."

"Well, I know who did it," Bo whispered to Shirley, pointing at Mr. Trump. "Considering how Ms. Anderson treats him, I wouldn't blame him."

"Except for helping with the delivery, he didn't leave his workplace, remember?" Blake pointed out.

"He could've snuck out with the dolls," Bo countered.

"The cover for the exhibit wasn't disturbed until today, remember?" Shirley reminded her friend.

"Well, who did it, then?" Ms. Anderson said, crossing her arms across her chest and tapping her foot impatiently.

After a tense moment of silence, Shirley spoke. "Mr. Mann, could you please restrain Mr. Obley?"

As soon a the words left Shirley's mouth, Mr. Obley tried to bolt for the store's entrance. Bo and Blake were about to head him off when the doll collector suddenly fell to the floor face-first. Nearby, Mr. Trump had his foot out.

"Well, that was a close call," he remarked as Mr. Mann roughly pulled Mr. Obley to his feet.

"Looks like we have our thief," Bo remarked.

"Thief? Me?" Mr. Obley said. "Why would I bother stealing Larissa dolls when I have my own collection?"

"You were the only one other than Mr. Mann here who was present at the setup of the display," Shirley said. "You had the chance to get rid of the dolls while in here."

"Oh, come on!" Mr. Obley said angrily. "Do I look like I have any dolls on me? No!"

"Should I search his vehicle?" Mr. Mann asked Ms. Anderson as Mr. Obley struggled in his grip.

"No need," Shirley said. "I know where he put them."

"Where?" everyone asked at once.

Shirley walked over to the display. Without a word, she took the side of the platform's front and swung it upward, revealing a hidden chamber. Inside were the stolen dolls, all still in good condition. "I assume you were planning to sneak them out after things cooled down," she said to Mr. Obley.

Ms. Anderson stared at Mr. Obley in disbelief. "Why, Clarence?"

At that point, Mr. Obley sobbed. "I couldn't handle a collection that outdid mine. Plus, I never could find some of those dolls. I just had to have them! I just had to!"

"Methinks the guy's really lost it," Bo whispered to Blake.

"I'll take Dollboy here to the security office and call the cops," Mr. Mann said, aiming his prisoner at the store's exit. "That is, unless you don't want to press charges, Ms. Anderson."

"Oh, I'm sure I'll be pressing charges," Ms. Anderson said, glaring at Mr. Obley.

Mr. Mann led Mr. Obley out of the story rather roughly. "Well, that was easy," Bo remarked to Blake.

Ms. Anderson eyed her corporate rival. "Unless you have anything else to say, Mr. Mott, I think you should leave."

Giving her a dirty look, Mr. Mott exited the store quietly. He brushed past Mr. Trump, who let out an "I never!"

Once Mr. Mott was gone, Ms. Anderson looked at Shirley. "You saved the display! How can I ever repay you?"

Shirley looked at Mr. Trump. "First, I think you can give Mr. Trump a raise since he stopped Mr. Obley from escaping." Her gaze shifted to Bo. "Then, there's another matter I'd like resolved for my friend here."

* * * * *

As the crowd started pushing their way back into the toy store, Shirley and her two friends made their way out. Bo was careful to keep his newly acquired gifts close to him.

"That was quick," he remarked as he watched people looking in awe at the newly restored Larissa exhibit.

"Good thing they were able to put everything back the way it was," Blake commented.

"With a little help from Ms. Anderson," Shirley added, recalling how Mr. Trump and some secruity guards set up the exhibit as the toy company head bellowed out orders. She did notice the big smile on Mr. Trump's face as he worked; his recent raise obviously made up for future verbal abuse from his employer.

Bo held out his shopping bag. "Nice of them to let me have these for free." Through the almost transparent blue bag, Shirley could make out the Larissa dolls Bo needed. "My cousin's sure to love these."

"And you didn't have to spend one cent, Bo," Blake said with a grin.

"That was definitely the best part," Bo said, sounding relieved.

The three friends continued to walk away from the toy store. Bo listened as Shirley and Blake discussed the facts of the mystery they just solved moments ago and what new mystery books were now out. Suddenly, he stopped walking, and it was only a few paces later that Shirley and Blake realized he had stopped.

"Hey, Bo, what's wrong?" Blake asked.

Looking at his friends, Bo felt the feelings he fought so hard to supress trying to surface. His hand tightened around the handle of his shopping bag, but in the end, what he truly wanted to say gave way to something else.

"Oh, nothing," Bo said, a little nervousness leaking into his voice. "Just want to get this home ASAP, ya know." He waved with his free hand. "See ya later," he said before turning on his heel and walking off.

Shirley and Blake watched as their friend quickly made his way through the throng of shoppers walking to and fro. "That's odd," Shirley said. "The mall exit's the other way."

* * * * *

That night at the Sussex Academy dorms, Molly Hardy quickly poured the contents of her shopping bag onto her bed. Taking a deep breath, she looked through the contents. "Good, good, good," she muttered, her hands closing over the box of small light bulbs. Opening the box, she took out one and brought it to her desk, where the recipient awaited.

After doing what she had to do, Molly got ready for bed. She put away the remaining light bulbs and made sure to tuck her other purchase under her arm. She walked up to the light switch, and like many nights before, she froze as she stretched out her hand to flick the lights off.

"It's just for tonight," she told herself, now squeezing tightly on the soft object in her arm. "It'll still be here tomorrow."

With that affirmation, she flicked off the lights. Taking another deep breath, she made her way to her bed and settled in. She looked down at the stuffed teddy bear in her arms. It was light blue with a big smile and a yellow bow on its head. At that moment, she regretted getting rid of her old teddy in order to grow up, and she hugged what she had even tighter.

As Molly closed her eyes, she told herself she would be able to see again tomorrow. While she tried to sleep, her night-light shone brightly in one corner of the room, ensuring that the room was not enshrouded in total darkness.