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Dark clouds billowed across the night sky as lightning flashed, a sharp, piercing light. The steady sound of rain thumping on window panes of houses aroused an intuition - something was going to happen - something unlike ever before.

"Dinner's ready, Shelby! Come downstairs!"

A shrill voice was heard within one household in the quiet neighborhood of Nirongville, Maine. It called to an intelligent girl of 16 years, who was trying to study for her upcoming AP Biology test. The rhythmic drumming of raindrops rang in her ear, depleting her concentration level. Shelby walked to the far end of her room, where the windows were, and pulled the curtains apart. A natural glow filled her face as Shelby murmured under her breath, "Something is going to happen."

Shelby sat at her tiny desk the next day in a dingy corner of her Science & Engineering high school biology class. She had finished her test early, subsequently staring glumly at the classroom clock. Painful moaning emerged from some of her classmates, who were undoubtedly stuck on an abnormally difficult question. Shelby was beginning to doze off when the PA speakers went off suddenly, without warning.

"Excuse me, Ms. ... Wonton? May we please have Shelby ... Woo? To the main office please. She has a visitor."

At the mention of her name, Shelby snapped out of her distant reverie, head erect and ears straining to hear more. She gave an inquiring glance at her weary teacher, Ms. Wonton. In return, Ms. Wonton knowingly nodded her head in acquiesce, and Shelby quietly left the room.

The otherwise boring walk down to the main office turned out to be an adventure of its own. Inexplicable questions arose in the high school girl's mind. Shelby wondered who would have requested to see her, and what urgency it was this time to proceed during school hours. Oblivious of where she was walking, Shelby suddenly caught a glimpse of a moving object in front of her, and, not being able to stop herself in time, bumped into it.

She looked up sheepishly into the face of a handsome young man, tall and blonde. His sturdiness suggested that he worked out often, and his tan skin signified frequent visits to the beach. After all, the weather in June near the shores of Maine was beyond pleasant, and visits to the nearest beach could easily become a routine part of anyone's lifestyle.

Shelby came to her senses and managed a weak hello as she gazed earnestly into the man's smiling face. He replied,

"Why hello! And you must be Shelby Woo, whom I just requested to see. Am I not correct?"

Shelby identified herself and began to question why he was here. The man absent-mindedly took a card out of his left vest pocket and handed it to Shelby. He then explained himself.

"My name is Richard Delangino - call me Rich if you'd like. I work for a movie director, a right-hand assistant of sorts, in," at this Rich carefully paused and struggled for his choice of words, "... in Pennsylvania."

Richard stole a glance at Shelby to see if she was still paying attention. Shelby returned his glance; she had been spending more time observing his facial expression rather than listening to his careful selection of words.

"I have heard, Shelby Woo, that you are a very intelligent young lady. Many confirmations to this thought have been made - your teachers, friends, members of your community - and I am sure they can't be wrong about your impressive mystery solving abilities. The reason I pulled you out of class today, well, I have a job for you to do. A mystery that I should like you to help me and solve ... if you're interested, I'll tell you more ..."

Mr. Delangino began to stutter and fidget. Shelby searched her mind for an appropriate retort, then quickly settled on a simple yet informative answer.

"I'd gladly try to help you out, Mr. Del ... Rich, I mean. Tell me what I can do for you."

Rich smiled, flaunting his perfectly aligned white teeth.

"Good. I'll meet you tomorrow at the Hibiscus Diner. 4:30 P.M."

Shelby stood still as a statue while Richard proceeded to leave the school building. Never in her life had she been asked by someone so formal-looking to solve a mystery. This whole thing seemed peculiar to her, but she couldn't quite put her finger on what it was. The idea of having a stranger ask a favor of her was terrifying, yet exhilarating. If only she could understand why she was feeling mixed emotions ...

"Shelby WOO!!" screeched the secretary through the half-open office door. The high-pitched scream caused Shelby to wince, then mutter an inaudible apology, followed by her journey down the main hallway back to her Biology class.

When school ended the next day, Shelby, clad in appropriate jeans and a light T-shirt, hurriedly dropped her backpack at her house, taking care to bring along her handy pocket-sized notepad and a pen. She locked the door behind her, and walked to the Hibiscus Diner two blocks away.

Shelby was greeted by a crude-looking waitress, who looked her up and down thoroughly.

"You must be Shelby Woo. There is a guest waiting for you," The waitress pointed a bony finger at the tidy table where Richard Delangino was sitting, "over there."

Shelby heeded the command the waitress implied in pointing to a table. It's no wonder they don't have much business thought Shelby. She forced a smile and sat down across from Rich, who began to introduce himself again, this time without hesitation.

"Good afternoon, Shelby. As you may remember from yesterday, I am Rich Delangino, and I'm an assistant for a movie director back in New York ..."

Shelby didn't hear the rest. She was almost positive that he had said Pennsylvania the day before. Unwilling to accept the fact that he had lied, Shelby settled for the cause that Rich was a busy man, and he made mistakes when speaking like any other normal person.

" ... so I'll cut to the chase."

Shelby wiped the blank look from her face and tuned in on what her new client was saying.

"Last Saturday, my father David Delangino was murdered."

The only sensible thing that Shelby could think to do was murmur, "Oh my goodness, I'm so sorry."

"It's not your fault, Shelby. Listen, I've got to leave for a business trip in two hours, so I've got to tell you everything."

"I received a phone call from the Nirongville Police Station last Saturday that my father was murdered in the Studio Room on the third floor of the house. The housekeeper, Mr. Gongja, was reported to have been in the house on the first floor when this took place, except he wasn't the one who actually found my father dead. Later, I'll escort you to the crime scene - the housekeeper and the neighbor Mr. Milger will tell you more.

"I need you to retrieve a packet of snapshots; obviously they are missing, and I have good reason to believe that these snapshots may contain sufficient evidence to nail down the culprit. I have no idea why my father programmed his camera to take pictures at the exact moment he was killed, but I know for a fact that pictures were taken, and in these pictures the murderer was caught in action. However, these pictures were not stolen by the murderer. Our automatic cameras are extremely high-tech, and my father takes care to buy only the very best. The camera which took the pictures makes no sounds and has no flashing lights. If the murderer didn't know that pictures were being taken at that precise moment, he would never have found out he was recorded on film."

Rich chuckled lightly to himself and motioned for Shelby to drink the raspberry iced tea that had been offered to her by the grumpy waitress, then continued.

"So basically, if we find the pictures, we've found the murderer. Well, that's all I can think of to tell you. Have any questions for me before we visit the crime scene?"

The high school detective shook her head no and stood up, ready to leave - the sooner this mystery was solved, the better. Richard accompanied her into a stretch limo that had obviously been waiting for them outside the diner.

When the limo pulled into Rease Ct., part of one of the wealthier communities in Nirongville, Shelby gazed at the size of the houses, awed at the beauty of the entire scene. Suddenly, the main attraction of Rease Ct. Came into view. This was where David Delangino lived, and this was also where he was murdered.

When the limo pulled into Rease Ct., part of one of the wealthier communities in Nirongville, Shelby gazed at the size of the houses, awed at the beauty of the entire scene. Suddenly, the main attraction of Rease Ct. Came into view. This was where David Delangino lived, and this was also where he was murdered.

Shelby politely dismissed Rich after he waved good-bye. She stood on the sidewalk surrounding the victim's mansion. The cool breeze blew Shelby's long, jet black hair in several directions, and Shelby retreated to a solitary corner. She decided to question the housekeeper Mr. Gongja first.

Ringing the doorbell proved to be unnecessary. The front door was wide open, and several brutal police officers patrolled at the gate. Shelby greeted them meekly, and introduced herself. Surprisingly, the office admitted her without much trouble.

Shelby asked around for the housekeeper, Mr. Gongja. She was directed to the kitchen, where Mr. Gongja was washing dishes. Shelby was compelled to introduce herself again, when the housekeeper stopped her with a heavy accent.

"You must be Shelby Woo. I know why you are here. Let me tell you all I know about the unfortunate murder of Mr. Delangino.

"He was a kind old man, he took care to never anger anyone. The Saturday when he was murdered, I was in this exact same room fixing filet mignon for dinner. I did not hear anything. It was about 6:00 P.M. when I let the neighbor Mr. Milger into the house. Mind you, Mr. Milger is a good friend! He was the one who found Mr. Delangino - dead in the Studio."

Shelby inquired rather quietly if David had said anything to him that day, before his death.

"What? What?" Mr. Gongja's reply came unexpectedly and was almost hostile. Instinctively, Shelby flinched and sat very still on the chair she had been resting on.

A police officer appeared in the doorway and advised, "Don't bother with that housekeeper. He's already hard of hearing, and the death of Mr. Delangino was just too much for him to handle. If you want any more information, I suggest you go talk to Mr. Milger. He's slightly more sane - the neighbor - outside in the front yard digging right now ..." as an afterthought, the officer mumbled to himself, "Though I don't see why. Looks like he's burying something. A wealthy man like him, burying something in his front yard by himself! Ha! Plenty of workers willing to dig in yards for pay, and he's doing it himself! Hahah ..." the officer withdrew his head from the doorway and resumed his position at the front door.

Shelby took the officer's words into consideration, then stepped out of Mr. Delangino's mansion to see if Mr. Milger, the neighbor, was really there. She found him digging in the front yard with an unusual looking tool. Shelby watched from a safe distance as Mr. Milger dug dirt and piled it into a shallow dirt hole. Even though he was clearly destroying the beauty of his lawn, Mr. Milger seemed oblivious of this fact. Bravely, Shelby walked along the sidewalk until she was within a few feet of the man.

Mr. Milger looked in his middle years, and Shelby immediately noted his nervous and fidgety expression. Shelby cautiously approached, and eased her own expression.

"Good afternoon, Mr. Milger. I have a few concerns about the murder of Mr. Delangino, would now be a convenient time?"

Mr. Milger looked almost relieved to be excused from his tedious task. He didn't wait for Shelby to question him, he volunteered what he knew. Flicking his dark brown hair behind his ear, he began to tell his side of the story.

"Early evening of last Saturday, I was working in my garden right here when I heard this ... strange ... moaning sound coming from the window of the East Wing Studio Room. I never heard a stranger sound before, so I thought something was wrong. The housekeeper Mr. Gongja let me in to check it out, he didn't hear anything. I headed straight for the East Wing Studio Room, and there I found ... I found ..."

Shelby comforted the man and asked him what he was burying. Mr. Milger suddenly tensed and narrowed his eyes.

"That is none of your business, young lady!" he snapped.

The detective quickly apologized and left him alone to his mysterious task. She decided to check the crime scene more thoroughly. Shelby once again entered the magnificent mansion. She walked around the corner, hoping to find someone who would direct her to the Studio Room.

Instead, the housekeeper popped out of nowhere and handed her a slip of paper. Shelby noticed a light grin on Mr. Gongja's face as he quietly whispered, "Follow the signs to the Studio Room," and pointed to a temporary sign nailed into the whitewashed walls. Then, he slipped away as furtively as he arrived.

Shelby stared hard at the piece of paper. Her eyes moved sluggishly over each word as she read:

"Dearest friend, Mr. Gongja. After I die, please take the photos and hide them in the lion's fur. Give this note to the one who is trying to solve my murder mystery. I leave now in peace ~ Dave Delangino."

Shelby muffled a scream as her eyes darted around the deserted hallway, hoping to catch a glimpse of the housekeeper.

She saw nothing. Obeying her instinct, she followed the signs that would, according to Mr. Gongja, lead her to the Studio Room. Before proceeding, Shelby slipped out her notepad and pen. She wrote down two numbers, and next to each of those numbers, she put down a name.

The maze of hallways and staircases confused Shelby. She felt glad knowing that her way back would be clearly marked. Finally, the teenage detective reached the entrance of the Studio Room. She looked around to familiarize herself with the place. Shelby saw large double doors giving way to a professional-looking studio atmosphere. A crystal chandelier hung, motionless and limp, yet majestic, from the ceiling at the center of the room. A stone sculpture of a lion was placed on the right of the entrance.

"A lion," thought Shelby. She fished the slip of paper out of her jeans pocket and reread it.

"Hide the photos in the lion's fur ..." she repeated to herself, over and over again.

Shelby walked up to the stone lion and put her hands on the cold, unyielding fur of the lion.

Her eyes caught on a camouflaged switch on the side, a tiny button most people would have dismissed as part of the design. Shelby's breath grew thin, her heart pounded. She flipped the switch, then waited for a reaction.

The lion's fur parted to reveal an intricately designed compartment. The compartment automatically opened and Shelby gasped.

A packet of photos lay within her reach. A packet of photos that would help Shelby convict the murderer. She snatched the photos in one quick sweep, then clutched it safely by her side. The next reasonable step was put in action. Shelby entered the Studio Room.

The room looked ransacked, probably from the police. Shelby delicately stepped around the equipment and advanced toward the open window. She looked out and found herself staring at Mr. Milger's stooped figure on his own front lawn. Shelby immediately knew that it was possible for Mr. Milger to hear a sound from this room. Shelby spotted a comfortable couch and sat down. She opened the sealed packet of photos and examined them carefully.

Other than the slumped figure in the center of all the photos, Shelby noticed a suspicious character lurking in the background. The face was not visible, but it was plain as day that whoever was in the room at the time of Mr. Delangino's death was the murderer and had short blonde hair.

Suddenly, Shelby Woo spotted something else. On the table in front of everything else was a small, rectangular white card. A closer look startled Shelby. She could vaguely decipher what the card read. Shelby flipped through some more photos. Strangely, some photos showed the card, and some did not.

She dug into her pockets and pulled out her notepad. But what came out was Richard Delangino's business card - a small, rectangular white card. Shelby gazed calmly at the card. Her gentle expression gradually melted into a horrified one. She compared this business card with the one in the photos. They were identical to the last detail, same colors, same wording, and same business logo.

There was only one more thing for Shelby to do. She searched about for a phone in the room, and when she spotted one near the door, the 16-year-old called the telephone number on the card. She only hoped it was a valid number.

"Hello, Richard Delangino speaking. Who is this?"

"It's Shelby Woo, Mr. Delangino. I'd like to ask you something else. Where were you when your father was killed?"

There was a brief silence on the other end of the line.

"Why, I was in New York, still screening some movie clips for my producer. Of course, I hurried up here to Maine when I found out about my father ... anything else, dear? And have you found the snapshots yet?"

"Nothing else, and I haven't found any pictures yet," Shelby lied. "Thank you for your time, Mr. Delangino."

Shelby hung up and started out of the room when another piece of paper fluttered to the ground. Shelby picked it up and scanned over it.

"Name: Richard Delangino Reservation Date and Time: June 11, 7:30 P.M. Restaurant destination: Hibiscus Diner, Nirongville, Maine. ~ADMIT ONE~."

Shelby stopped in her tracks. She racked her memory until all the pieces fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, bit by bit. She understood what had happened.

Without hesitance, the detective walked back to the phone, but this time, she dialed 9-1-1.

A week later, Shelby found herself walking with the Chief Policeman of Nirongville on the front lawn of the Nirongville Police Station. The Chief thanked Shelby for helping them convict the murderer.

"We couldn't have done it without your help, Shelby. Nobody would have suspected that David Delangino's only son Richard had committed the murder.

"Richard testified under intense questioning that he was indeed guilty. He had been in town many days before he killed his father. Rich still insists that he doesn't know why or how his father programmed the camera so accurately, but he sure was careless to let himself be caught in pictures without at least a disguise. It was easy enough for him to sneak in the mansion without being caught. He knew all the shortcuts, secret passageways, and rooms to his father's mansion. What's more, he claims to have committed murder because he found out his father left him an enormous sum of money in his will. The greedy boy wanted that money and couldn't wait until his father died of natural causes, so he took it a step further and killed his father himself.

"He says that the housekeeper knew all along that he was the murderer. In fact, the housekeeper was clever enough to know that he was not capable of convicting Rich, so he informed Rich about the snapshots that were taken without giving away their location. Richard got nervous and picked you to seek out those missing snapshots. And that's where you came in, Shelby. I cannot praise you enough. Would you like to come to the police station and talk to Rich yourself?"

Shelby shook her head and smiled a deep, meaningful smile. As if in response, it began to rain lightly. Shelby looked up and saw the most beautiful rainbow she had ever seen.

"Not today," she began. "I'm going home."