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Stories

The Lost Lawbooks

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     “Well, our train has arrived right on time for once,” Sarah remarked to her brother, Peter, as their train pulled in at the station.

   “Yes,” said Peter, “I am longing to go home.”

   “Welcome back to Woodston,” said the train attendant to Sarah and Peter. Everyone in Woodston knew them as their father was the town Mayor. The two children were coming back from boarding school. They sat in their car and were soon home.

   “Hello! We missed you. Welcome back,” their mother said, as she hugged them.

   “We missed you too,” said the children and ran in to meet their father. They saw that their father was sitting on a chair and worrying about something. His head was in his hands. He looked up wearily as the children ran in excitedly.

“Hello. Did you have fun this term?” he asked.

   The children nodded. “What has happened, Father?” asked Peter.

Sarah stood back and observed her father. He had worry lines on his forehead, quite unlike his usual smiley self.

“Is there another mystery?” she asked. She and Peter enjoyed solving mysteries and were always on the lookout for one.   “I suppose you can call this a mystery,” said their father. “But this one is serious business. Listen now, carefully. You know that every mayor of Woodston has to keep a ‘Law book’ containing all the Laws of the town. Just a few days back, I made up some new Laws and issued a new Law book. I made three copies of those very important books in case any one of them got lost.”

     “So what happened? Are they lost or stolen? How? When?” Peter asked his father.

       “I had a lunch meeting with all the important citizens of the town to discuss the new Laws. We went to a restaurant called ‘MERRY FOOD’. All the Laws were approved. I had taken only one copy of the book with me for safety’s sake. After that, I dropped by the Town Hall for some work. When I reached home, I couldn’t find the Law book I had taken with me. I had either left it at the restaurant or at the Town Hall,” the mayor said.

Peter said, “Now there are two copies remaining. Would you like us to try and find the missing one for you?”

Their father said, “No, the story does not end here. Before the Laws are decided, many people have to agree. So, I took one of the remaining Law books to my friend Mr. Brown, the previous mayor.”

   “Did he approve of the new laws?” Sarah asked.

   Their father said, “Yes, he, too, approved it. We chatted for some time and then I left. On the way back, I wondered where the Law book was. Had I brought it with me? I didn’t remember.”

     “What did you do then?” Peter asked.  

     The mayor said, “I phoned Mr. Brown. He searched the house but couldn’t find it. I can’t imagine what happened to it.”

   Sarah said, “Well, we’ll find the two Law books. Don’t worry.” “Yes,” Peter said. “Just take care of the last one.”

   The Mayor said, “That is the problem. The last one is lost too. I have been so careless. I had gone out for some work leaving the last one at home. I kept it carefully. Only, I can’t remember where in this big house.”

   Sarah and Peter gasped. “You don’t mean to say all of them are lost, do you?” Sarah asked.

   “I’m afraid so,” said the Mayor. He looked downcast. He looked at the floor worriedly and then at the children.

   “Don’t worry, father. We’ll find them,” Peter declared.

   “Thank you very much,” their father said. “Just to help you, the books are brown, fat and have ‘Law Book’ written on the cover. I am also working hard to find them. Mr. Brown and I have already informed the police who are trying their best to find the Law Books.”

   Sarah and Peter immediately set to work. “It’s almost afternoon now. I think we should go to ‘MERRY FOOD’ as it is nearby and then go to the Town Hall,” Peter said.

   "Yes, we should find the Law book somewhere. Tomorrow we’ll ride over to Mr. Brown’s house. We can look for the one at home anytime,” said Sarah.

   At ‘MERRY FOOD’, Tom, the restaurant owner, came up to them.

      “Hello Peter and Sarah!” he said, coming up to the children. “Back home for the holidays, are you? What do you want to eat?” Tom handed them a brown-coloured thick menu.

   “No, we don’t want to eat. We just have to ask you some questions,” answered Sarah and Peter. “Where did the Mayor sit when he came for lunch the other day?”

Tom pointed out a table. It was at the far end of the restaurant. Next to it was a table on which the menus were placed.

   “Alright,” Sarah said. “Did you notice our dad carrying anything when he left?”

   “No,” Tom said. “He wasn’t carrying anything. But some of his friends were carrying bags.”

“Hmmm…… Did you notice if they had left anything behind?” Peter asked, not describing the book as he didn’t want many people to know that the Law books were missing.

     “No, they didn’t leave anything behind. The only things on the table besides the crockery and the cutlery were the menus which I put back.”

“Oh, thank you,” Sarah said. “You’ve been a great help.” They walked out of the restaurant. The children felt that there was no use searching the restaurant because there was nothing that held their interest. They would come back later to check on the place. They didn’t have any clues about where the Law Books might be.

   Peter said, “There is no need for us to go to the Town Hall. Tom said that Father didn’t carry anything out. It means the Law book is still inside the restaurant.”

   “Or maybe it was taken unintentionally by one of his friends as I doubt it is in the restaurant because Tom said there was nothing on the table,” Sarah said.

   “It’s getting confusing. Let’s write it down,” said Peter and they went to their house to do just that. They wrote:-

The law book was taken into merry food.

While the Mayor was talking to his friends, the law book was there.

After that, the Mayor left without the law book.

There was nothing on the table except the plates, cutlery and the menus.

The law books are brown, thick and have law book written on the cover.

Possibilities

Tom was mistaken and the Mayor took the law book and perhaps lost it in the town hall.

The law book was accidentally put into the Mayor’s friend’s bag.

The law book is still there in the restaurant.

 

     “I think we should rule out the possibility of Dad’s friend’s bag as then the friend would phone Father,” Peter said as an after thought. And so their list now became:-

Possibilities

Tom probably was wrong and the Mayor took the law book and perhaps lost it in the town hall.

The law book accidentally went in the mayor’s friend’s bag.

The law book is still there in the restaurant.

  

“Then let’s check the Town Hall out,” Sarah said. They quickly ran to the Town Hall. But it was shut for the next whole week because it was getting renovated.

   “We have no means of checking the Town Hall,” Peter sadly said. “Let’s hope the book is in the restaurant.” But now they did not have time for that because it was their lunch time. They went back home.

   Over dinner that night, their father asked, “How is it going? Are you any closer to finding the Law books?” The children replied with a glum face, “Not yet. Still a long time to go. But, we’ll find it.”

   “We are making progress in finding the Law Books. The police have left no stone unturned in trying to find these Law Books. They have a list of people who have seen books resembling the Law Books and a number of suspects who could have stolen it. I don’t know the list but I am sure that we will find the books,” the mayor said.

The next day, the children went to Mr. Brown’s house. The house was a big one. The children liked the garden the most as it was huge. It had bushes on all the sides.

       “Where did you leave the Law Book while you were chatting?” Sarah asked.

     “I thought your father left the Law book on this window sill. We both forgot about it. The window was open,” Mr. Brown said.

     “When you returned, was the window still open?” Peter asked.

     “The window was closed. I guess it was a windy day,” Mr. Brown replied.

     “The book could have fallen off the sill if it was a windy day,” Sarah thought aloud.

   “You’re right,” Mr. Brown said. “Now why didn’t I think of that?”

   They went down into the garden and searched everywhere. “I can’t find it,” Sarah said, after half an hour.

“Where could it have gone?” Mr. Brown said. He stood near the bushes scratching his head.

     Finally, Peter was the one who found it. They were just giving up when Peter decided to play a game of catch and cook in the bushes. He ran around the bushes, beckoning Sarah to play with him. Sarah shook her head exasperated and turned to Mr. Brown questioningly. He nodded. So she raced after her brother into the thick bushes. Peter was running away from Sarah since it was her turn to catch and suddenly, tripped and fell over something thick and brown. It was one missing Law book!

   “You found it!” Sarah exclaimed. “Hurray!”

“I’m so happy,” Peter said. He got up, brushed his knees and picked up the book. “It doesn’t matter now if we don’t find the other two. We can make copies of this one. But of course, we’ll try to find the others too.”

       “Let’s go to ‘MERRY FOOD’ just now,” she said urgently. Peter and Mr. Brown shot her a questioning look. But she just said, “It’s important.”

   “What do you want now?” he asked. Sarah said, “I just want to see something.” So saying, she went inside. In two minutes, she returned with another copy of the Law book!

   Peter’s jaw dropped open. “From where did you get that?” he asked amazed.

   “It was at the bottom of the piles of menus. Do you remember that the menus resemble the Law books? The Law book must have been put the other way round and kept with the menus,” Sarah said.

     “I wonder why we didn’t think of this before?” Peter asked. “We could have found this lost book yesterday.”

   “I don’t know. I guess atleast this is better than not finding it at all. Maybe, we didn’t realise it yesterday,” Sarah said.

   Now, only one Law book was remaining. And that remaining one had to be in their house! The two children ran home. They didn’t tell their parents about the two Law books. Instead they rushed to their room and placed the two Law books in their cabinet. They could hear their father talking to somebody on the phone about the missing Law Books. It was probably the police or a detective.

   Now, they had to find the last book. Where could their father have hidden it? Peter and Sarah wanted to decide which room to hunt in first. Kitchen? No! Their father could not have hidden it carefully there. Living room? No! It was used every day by people. Things couldn’t be hidden there.

   The more they thought, the surer they became that it had to be hidden somewhere where no one went frequently. There was only one place – the attic. They hurried up there and looked in all the boxes. No luck!

   “It was kept carefully,” Sarah told Peter. The children were puzzled. Where could it be? Maybe they were in the wrong place. Maybe it wasn’t in the attic after all. They lost hope and started returning. Just then, Peter stumbled on a box and fell down. Fortunately, he wasn’t hurt. He grabbed the wall for support to get up. The wall had a red circle on it. On touching it, the wall revealed a secret compartment from which the Law book fell out.

     Maybe their father had hidden it there and forgotten how to open the panel. Since he didn’t know how to open it, he must have thought that it was not there.

     The children were on cloud nine. They had found all three Law books. They couldn’t wait to show them to their parents.

   At dinner, when the two children turned up with the Law books, the Mayor couldn’t believe his eyes! “How did you manage to find them?” he asked. “Where were they?” Their mother asked.

     “It’s a long story. But we’ll shorten it,” said the children. “You know, the day we arrived from school, we came to know that the Law books were lost......”

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