“The crime…” Tria murmured just loud enough for Chloe to hear. “Which one?”
“You’re right!” Chloe said. “There has been four robberies. Actually, five now. You would never guess where the robbery was.”
“Your house? Bill’s Bakery? The Cloud 9 photo gallery? James’ factory for fun? The Museum of Natural History?” Tria guessed.
“No, no, no, no, and no,” Chloe answered. Tria waited for the reveal but it never came. They just stared at each other expectantly for a few minutes.
“You gonna tell me?” Tria asked. Chloe waited a few seconds before saying, “Sure. Yeah.” But Chloe didn’t say anything after that. Tria watched Chloe for a while, but she looked a bit blank faced.
“Hello? Earth the Chloe,” Tria said, waving her hand. “Yes,” said Chloe. “I was just getting caught up in thought. Anyway, he robbed um… the bank. Shouldn’t that be obvious?”
“But, you said that I would never guess!” Tria exclaimed, a little bit frustrated.
“Well, you didn’t guess it! So, when I said you were never going to guess, you assumed that meant it was really hard to figure out. So, since a robber robs banks, you probably would not guess that it was the bank and I would be right. Things are sometimes best hidden in plain sight,” Chloe explained.
“Wah. I can hardly say that I get that. But, I do.” Tria said slowly.
“By the way, that is a really cute shirt,” Chloe said pointing at Tria’s blue, frilly T-shirt. Tria looked down as if she was admiring it for a second and then said, “Thanks.”
“Anyways, we should get to work.”
They spent the morning doing research on the robbery. For some reason, the police still had hardly looked into it. They gave the bank some money but didn’t move an inch about finding the robber. Chloe had looked at the few security tapes that were let out on the news and figured out for sure that it was the same robber: Burtir Tie. Tria was busy seeing every news article on Burtir. She was the one who found out his name. By 10:00 a.m., they had figured out probably more than any person would find out about any burglar.
“Whoo!” Chloe said and pretended to wipe the sweat off her forehead. “I think you’d better get going now, it’s been 3 hours.”
“Yeah, I should,” Tria said awkwardly. She began putting on her coat when Chloe said, “Hey.” Tria’s head shot up. “Thanks for coming.”
“Oh, no problem!” Tria said. Chloe smiled at her and then Tria left. Maybe a quick stop at the All3way would be nice.
Pal was patting at a seat beside him when Tria got in. She sat there and watched him. He had a dull knife in one hand, and a little humanoid figure in the other. He dug the knife into the wood and sliced off just enough by the chest to make it look like the figure had a scarf. Then he set off with the hair.
“Hey, Tria!” Tepo yelled across the room to Tria from behind the counter. This made Pal jump, knock over his little wooden person, and sent the knife soaring in the air. It landed with the blade shooting right into the table. Some of the old varnish cracked around the knife in the table.
Pal laughed and laughed, and Dan tried to suppress a chuckle. But, Tepo looked outraged. “Why you broke that table eh?”
“Because you nearly scared the skin off my bones!” Pal said, trying very hard to pull the carving knife out of the table.
“Why are you going on breaking my shop?” Tepo said, still quite mad.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Dan said. “This is my shop.”
Tepo just meanly stared at Pal as he tried to pry it out of the table. “Fine, but you’re fixing that up with our extra tarnish,” said Tepo. Pal grunted, but he could not look up from his work. Finally, the knife flew out of the table, and Pal was lucky that it didn’t spring out of his fingers.
Then, Tepo handed Pal a big pail of quick-dry varnish and a very big paintbrush. By then, Tepo was cooled down and he patted Pal on the back. He still would not let Tria help Pal though.
After Pal was done, he handed the bucket and paintbrush to Tepo and said, “I’m moving tomorrow.”
“Oh, to where?” Tria asked.
“Like, some exotic place like Hawaii or something. I dunno. My wife wanted to go there,” Pal replied.
“Oh,” Tria said sadly. She had made good friends with him, and she really did want to read his story. She got up to leave, but just as she left she stopped. She walked back and poked her head through the doorway. “Pal?”
“Yes?” Pal said, sitting back down at the table again.
“Who were you carving?” Tria asked.
“The Little Prince,” he replied.“Oh,” Tria said, and then slipped away into the cold, deserted, alley.