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Authors: Charles Tang

Soccer Mystery (4 page)

BOOK: Soccer Mystery
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“Yeah, Elena!” shouted Benny. He looked up at Dr. and Mr. Perez, who were also standing on the sidelines. “She’s a great player,” he told them. “I’m going to be a soccer player like Elena someday.”

Dr. Perez laughed. “I know you will, Benny,” she said.

Just then, Gillian came over. “Benny, I’m taking Violet out of the game so she can rest. I want you to go in and play in her place.”

Benny ran out onto the field. Someone kicked the ball toward him. He raced toward it and kicked the ball as hard as he could — and tripped. The ball skidded away. A Rocket team member fell over Benny and the referee blew her whistle.

“Tripping,” she said, pointing at Benny. “The other team gets to kick the ball.”

“I didn’t
mean
to trip her,” said Benny. But he got on his feet and backed up while the Rocket player kicked the ball.

Benny hurried up and down the field as fast as his legs would carry him. Soon he was very tired. He was glad when Gillian took him out and put someone else in his place.

At halftime, the score was tied, 1–1. “We have ten minutes to rest,” Gillian told the Panthers. “Everybody get a drink of water from our cooler.”

Elena said, “Coach, I’ve broken one of my shoelaces. I have an extra one in my pack in the locker room.”

“You can go get it,” Gillian told her. “But hurry. We don’t have much time.”

Elena trotted toward the locker room.

Soon the referee blew her whistle. “Time for the second half,” she called.

Gillian looked around. “Elena’s not back,” she said.

“Time,” said the referee again as the eleven Rocket players went out onto the field.

“Jessie, you go in for Elena,” Gillian said.

The second half began. Now Henry was playing at the goal. The Rockets kicked the ball toward him, trying to get it past him. But he caught every one.

On the sidelines, Gillian looked around with a worried frown. “Elena’s still not back,” she said.

“I’ll go look for her,” Violet volunteered.

“Thank you,” said Gillian.

Violet ran toward the locker room. She pushed the door, but it wouldn’t move.

Violet pushed again. The door wouldn’t budge. “Elena!” Violet called. “Elena!”

“I’m in here,” called a muffled voice from the other side of the door. “Someone locked the door behind me and I couldn’t get out. I’ve been calling and calling.”

Violet heard people cheering from the soccer field. She glanced over her shoulder. The Rockets had scored.

Oh, no
, she thought.
I have to get Elena out to help the team.
“Don’t worry!” Violet said loudly. “I’ll get you out.”

She looked up and saw that a bolt high up on the door had been locked. She tried to reach it, but couldn’t.

Quickly Violet looked around. She saw an empty metal trash can nearby. She hurried over to it, picked it up, and carried it back to the locker room door. Turning the trash can over, she stepped up onto the bottom of it.

Now she could reach the bolt. She pushed the bolt back, jumped off the trash can, and called, “It’s unlocked!”

Elena burst out of the locker room so fast that she knocked the trash can over. “Thanks,” she gasped to Violet, and ran toward the soccer field.

After setting the trash can upright again, Violet followed Elena. As she reached the sidelines, she heard Elena explaining to Gillian what had happened.

Gillian’s eyebrows drew together, but she didn’t say anything. She just sent Elena into the game to play in someone else’s place.

The Panthers played hard. So did the Rockets. In the end, the Rockets won, 2–1.

When the game was over, Gillian told the Panthers to go shake hands with the Rockets. The two teams shook hands and then went off the field.

“I should have caught that last ball,” Henry said. “Then we would have at least tied.”

“You couldn’t help it,” said Benny. “You slipped, just like I did.”

Gillian held up her hands. “Everybody played very well today. I’m proud of you. But we have a problem. Somebody locked Elena in the locker room at halftime. Does anybody know anything about this?”

All the Panther players were silent. Then someone said, “Maybe the janitor or someone else locked her in by mistake.”

Shaking her head, Gillian said, “No. The janitor would know to leave the locker room unlocked during a game.

“Well, if this is somebody’s idea of a joke, it is not funny,” Gillian said. Then she said, “See you at practice, Panthers.”

Grandfather Alden came up to join them. “All of you are doing very well,” he said.

“Thank you,” said Benny.

“Go get your things out of the locker room,” Grandfather said, “and we’ll go home for lunch. I think Mrs. McGregor is cooking a special lunch to celebrate your first soccer game.”

“We didn’t win,” Jessie pointed out.

“Did you play your best?” asked Grandfather.

They all nodded.

“Then it’s worth celebrating,” he told them.

The Aldens headed for the locker rooms. Players from all the teams were going in and out of the doors of the two locker rooms as they finished their games and got ready to leave.

Robert brushed by them as they reached the community center. “Out of my way,” he snapped. “I’m in a hurry. We’re about to start our game.”

Then he stopped. “Too bad you lost your game,” he said to Henry and Soo Lee. “I told you that the Panthers were a losing team.”

“How did you know we lost our game?” asked Soo Lee.

“I got here early and watched. I watched the Hawks, too,” said Robert. “They got lucky and won. But they’re still losers, too.”

Jessie could feel herself getting angry at Robert, so she said, “Aren’t you in a hurry? I think I heard the referee blow the whistle to start the game.” Robert spun around and sprinted toward the soccer field.

“Oh, Jessie. Did you really hear the referee blow her whistle?” asked Violet.

Jessie grinned. “Yes,” she said. “But I think it was a whistle to start another game, not the one the Bears are in. I just didn’t want to talk to Robert anymore, though, did you?”

“No!” declared Benny.

“Someone locked Elena in the locker room at halftime and someone let all the air out of our soccer balls,” said Soo Lee. “Do you think the Panthers are a bad luck team?”

“No,” said Jessie firmly. “We’re not a bad luck team. But I think someone wants us to
think
we are.”

Just then Violet grabbed Henry’s arm. “Look,” she whispered.

Henry and everyone else turned to look toward the front of the building. “What is it, Violet?” asked Henry in a puzzled voice. “I don’t see anything.”

“It’s him,” she said. “It’s the man in the blue van!”

CHAPTER 6
Follow That Van!

“T
he blue van? You saw the blue van?” Jessie cried.

“No! No, I saw the man who was driving the blue van,” said Violet. She hesitated. “At least, I think it was him. He was wearing dark glasses and a navy blue cap with gold trim pulled down low over his face.”

Henry said, “It could be him. But where did he go?”

“We should look for him,” said Jessie. “But we have to hurry. Grandfather is waiting.”

“We’ll divide up. Violet and I will check inside the building, Benny and Soo Lee can check the parking lot, and Jessie, you go see if he’s at the soccer field. We’ll meet back here in five minutes.”

The Aldens and Soo Lee scattered to look for the mysterious man. Five minutes later they had reunited in front of the locker room doors.

“Not in the parking lot,” said Soo Lee.

“But his blue van is!” added Benny.

“We didn’t see him anywhere inside the building,” Henry said.

“Where’s Jessie?” Violet asked.

“Here I am,” said Jessie, hurrying over. “And I found him!”

“Where?” asked Henry.

“Most of the people watching the games are standing on the sidelines,” Jessie said. “But a few are sitting in the bleachers. He’s sitting up at the very top of the bleachers, in the middle of a group of parents.”

“Do you think he is someone’s father?” asked Benny. “Can someone’s father be a spy?”

Jessie shook her head. “I don’t know, Benny. He wasn’t talking to any of the other parents. And he wasn’t cheering for anyone. He was just watching.”

“I think we should watch him,” said Henry. “Let’s ask Grandfather if we can stay just a little while longer.”

Mr. Alden agreed that they could stay. “But we have to leave at halftime,” he said. “We don’t want to be late for lunch.”

The Aldens and Soo Lee decided to split up again to spy on the man in the navy blue cap. “If we go over there all together,” said Jessie, “it might make him suspicious.”

Henry and Soo Lee went to stand behind the bleachers. Violet, Benny, and Jessie took seats at the top, at the end away from the man in the navy hat. They took turns glancing in his direction to see what he was doing.

But he didn’t do anything. He just watched the Bears playing soccer against the Eagles, the Silver City team. And sometimes he didn’t seem to even be watching. Sometimes he stared down at a notebook in his hand and wrote in it.

“Is he studying for something?” asked Violet.

“Maybe he’s writing spy notes in invisible ink,” said Benny. “Then he’s going to leave the book, and another spy will come along and pick it up and get the notes.”

But when halftime came, the man put the notebook into the pocket of his wind-breaker and stood up. He glanced around, and Jessie, Violet, and Benny froze. For a long moment, it seemed as if his gaze rested on them, but it was hard to tell because he was wearing sunglasses.

Then he walked down the bleachers.

Jessie jumped up to follow him. But just then, the man turned and looked back up the bleachers.

Quickly Jessie pretended she was just stretching. She sat down again. “I don’t think we can follow him,” she said. “I think he is suspicious.”

“What are we going to do?” asked Benny.

“Don’t worry,” said Violet. “Henry and Soo Lee will follow him.”

They waited until the man was out of sight, then jumped up and hurried down the bleachers. Sure enough, they could see Henry and Soo Lee walking a short distance behind the man as he headed for the community center.

“Jessie, Benny, Violet,” Grandfather called across the field to them. “It’s time to go.”

The three walked across the field to join their grandfather. “Where are Henry and Soo Lee?” he asked.

“Here they come,” said Violet.

Henry and Soo Lee came up to join the others as they went to the parking lot.

“What happened?” asked Jessie.

Henry made a face. “Nothing,” he said. “The man just got into the van and drove away.”

“I think he was suspicious of us,” said Jessie. “Maybe that’s why he left.”

“At least we know it is the same man with the van,” Violet said.

“Yes,” agreed Henry. “And if he was here this morning, he could have been the one who locked Elena in the locker room.”

“He was at practice when all the air was let out of the soccer balls,” said Violet.

“I think he is our best suspect,” said Soo Lee.

“Right now,” said Jessie, “he is our only suspect. But we can’t prove anything until we find out why he would try to sabotage the Panthers.”

It was after lunch, and the Aldens had gone out to visit their old boxcar in the backyard. Mrs. McGregor had made a very special lunch for them. Benny had had seconds of everything. He’d eaten so much lunch that it had made him sleepy, and now he was lying in the grass next to the boxcar, his eyes half closed. Watch was lying next to Benny with his head on Benny’s chest. He was waiting for Benny to wake up and play. Soo Lee had gone home after lunch. She had been yawning, too, when she left.

“Are you taking a nap, Benny?” asked Violet.

“No,” Benny answered. “I’m just resting my eyes.”

Henry, who was sitting next to Violet in the doorway of the boxcar, grinned down at his younger brother.

“What are you doing, Jessie?” asked Violet, looking over her shoulder at her sister.

Sitting at the table inside the boxcar, Jessie had her chin propped on both fists. She was staring at the wall with narrowed eyes. At first she didn’t answer her sister.

“Jessie?” said Violet. “Jessie?”

Jessie blinked and looked startled. “I’m sorry. I didn’t hear you. I was thinking too hard, I guess.”

“What were you thinking about?” asked Henry.

“Everything that has happened to the Panthers,” said Jessie. “I was trying to figure out who did it and why.”

BOOK: Soccer Mystery
2.15Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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