Who Emptied the Candy Jar?

Ginny hands out the big homemade cookies, each one sealed in a plastic baggie. “My mom’s recipe. We can sell them door-to-door.” She’s brought along samples, one for each kid on the committee. Then she looks at me and frowns. “Sorry, Hunter. I should have brought an extra one for you.”

“That’s okay,” I say.

I don’t mind. I like being ignored, watching my big brother Logan and his friends do their thing. Their thing right now is raising money for band uniforms at our middle school. Logan shares his cookie with me as they talk about ways to make money.

“Great cookie,” says Derrick, who looks like he wants a second one. Derrick always looks like he wants more food.

“Great,” echoes Jocelyn. She’s the tallest girl in school, the only girl who plays the marching tuba. “I wish Brian was here. I’m dying to know how we did at Saturday’s car wash.”

Brian Brown is the band treasurer. His mom called Logan a few minutes ago and said there was some family emergency and that Brian couldn’t make it. So it’s just the four of them sitting in our living room, four plus me.

After the meeting, we all walk over to Brian’s, to see if everything is all right. But there’s no one home. There’s even a handwritten sign telling us this. You see, Brian’s dad is an accountant and he runs his company from his house. Normally, during business hours, the front door is unlocked for customers to come and go. But now we see that Mr. Brown has taped up a sign saying “CLOSED ALL DAY.  FAMILY EMERGENCY.”

“They must have left in a hurry,” I say. Logan is about to ask how I know this, but the answer is simple. I point to the garage door – the open garage door. “They drove off and forgot to close the garage.”

We’re still standing on the porch, wondering what to do, when the Browns come home. Their car pulls into the garage and Brian is the first one out. “Grandma Brown broke her hip,” he tells us. “We all had to go take care of her in the hospital.”

“She’ll be okay,” adds Mr. Brown. “She’s a tough old bird.”

“Why didn’t you call and tell us?” Derrick asks. “We were worried.”

“We thought you’d be at the meeting,” says Ginny.

“I forgot,” says Brian. “Mom finally remembered to call, but that was hours later.  Sorry.”

Mr. and Mrs. Brown disappear into the house, leaving Brian and the rest of us in the garage. It’s Jocelyn who first thinks of the danger. “You guys left the garage door open? You could have been robbed.”

This doesn’t seem to be the case. The garage is crowded with all sorts of things. There are shelves all along the back wall covered with boxes and piles of magazines. Brian scans the place. “Looks like we got lucky. Nothing’s been taken.”

“What about the candy jar?” asks Derrick.

At first I think he just wants candy. But the others know what he’s talking about. They all focus on the middle shelf and watch as Brian pulls out a tin candy jar, half hidden between two boxes. He unscrews the lid and stares inside. “It’s gone,” Brian gasps. “The money’s gone.”

Everyone is in shock. Then Logan explains it to me. The jar is where Brian keeps the band money, before he puts it in the bank. There was almost two hundred dollars in there from Saturday’s car wash. And now it’s gone.

The others yell at Brian for keeping the money in such a stupid place. But they all knew where he kept it, so if they really thought it was stupid, they should have said something. Brian feels terrible. But there’s nothing we can do. He finally goes into the house to tell his parents. And the rest of us go home.

“The police are never going to catch the thief,” Logan says as the two of us walk back to our house.  “A hundred people could have seen the note and the open garage door.”

“You’re wrong,” I say.  Logan doesn’t mind when I tell him he’s wrong. He’s used to it. “Nothing was touched in the garage except for the candy jar. The money was taken by someone who knew exactly where Brian kept it.”

“You mean someone from the committee?” Logan asks. He can’t believe it. “You mean one of my friends stole it? From our own band?”

“They were tempted by the money,” I say. “One of them came by Brian’s house this morning. They saw the note and the open garage door and they just walked in.”

I let this news sink in. We’re just coming up to our front door when Logan asks. “Do you know who it was?” This is a normal question. I almost always know who it was.

Do you know the answer?

WHO TOOK THE MONEY FROM THE CANDY JAR?

WHAT MISTAKE DID THE THIEF MAKE?

 

There’s no one around, but I still lean in and whisper. “It was Ginny.”

Logan makes a face. “I know Ginny loves to shop. What makes you think she’s a thief?”

“Because of the cookies. Ginny said she brought cookies for everyone on the committee. But she didn’t bring one for Brian – because she knew he wouldn’t be there.”

“Maybe she knew some other way.”

“Then why did she lie?” I ask. “She pretended not to know anything. But she obviously knew he was gone. That’s why she didn’t bring him a cookie.”

Logan smiles. “I guess I noticed, too, but it didn’t seem important. Leave it to Hunter Monroe.”

I’m worried that this is going to get Ginny into trouble. But Logan takes care of it. Before dinner, he goes over to Ginny’s place and comes back with the missing money. After dinner, he walks over to Brian’s and returns the money. He tells them an anonymous friend of the band heard about the robbery and donated enough to make up for it.

Brian and his family believe Logan, of course. Everyone believes Logan.