Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Who?: Round 1

It's pretty simple: a crime has been committed, and you can solve it by reading the blogs of seven of your ACFW friends, gathering the capitalized keywords, and sending an email to the Christian Review of Books with those keywords and the name of the culprit. Everyone who gets it right will be entered to win an autographed copy of Jill Nelson's latest release, Reluctant Runaway.

Just send an email with the info to review@christianreviewofbooks.com with the subject line WHO? Check back the rest of this week for the rest of the game.

WHO? Volume 1

Quinn by Roseanna White
See it at www.ChristianReviewofBooks.com

Of all the displays in this New Mexico museum, it was the room containing Native American artifacts that always made the hairs on the back of Quinn’s neck stand up. He hated leading his tour groups in here. His fingers inevitably got itchy and hovered over the two-way radio on his belt.

He stepped into the room after the last of his six guests. They were chatting among themselves, most of them focused on the one other man in the group, an old guy who had introduced himself as Grandfather. Quinn kept several feet away from them, staying near the exit. So when the sound of metal screeching over metal sung out from right behind him, he jumped and spun.

The metal security gate came crashing down, its criss-crossing slats sliding between him and the rest of the museum. Quinn’s eyes moved from the obstacle to the unobtrusive camera and security console secured near the ceiling in the corner. Its red light was flashing angrily, signaling the sounding of a silent alarm. Apparently, a silent alarm from this room.

"Hey!" It was the woman with the wild black hair who was all but punching him in the shoulder to get his attention. When she motioned toward the lowered gate, her crimson talons almost nicked him. "What's the big idea?"

"Just stay calm, ma'am." Even as he spoke, Quinn was palming his radio off of his belt and pressing the call button. His eyes, however, were moving over the other occupants of the room, trying to identify what had triggered the alarm. Everything looked to be in place. The Native American pottery was all under its glass casings, the tools in their proper displays. And the faces of his tour group were all identical masks of confusion. "Mack, it's Quinn. What's up? We just got locked into the Indian display."

The static from his radio screeched out briefly before his friend's voice interrupted it, the high-pitch squeal making talon-woman wince. "There's been a breach in security."

Obviously, the whole group heard that. The overweight, auburn haired girl who was standing off by herself shifted from one foot to another and darted a glance at the one man in the group. He had introduced himself as Grandfather and had just been sharing with them all that he was one-quarter Nez Perce so had been eager to get to this room. Now the old guy was looking with wide eyes at Quinn as if he was responsible for this unforseen turn.

He pushed the button again. "In here?"

"Negative. The room you just came from. A book's gone. Cameras were blocked, but it's gotta be someone from your group, they're the only ones who've been through."

The woman still standing at his side put her hands on her hips and rolled back her shoulders. "All right. Which one of you idiots ruined my day?"


"I'm a cop, buddy, I can handle this."

Quinn sighed and rolled his eyes as the woman marched over to the overweight girl and all but poked a finger in her chest.

"You. What's your name?"

The girl cast another look at the old man, who stood with his hands in his pockets, looking on mournfully. "Jessica. But I didn't do anything, I swear. Why would I want something from some stupid museum, anyway? I was talking to Grandfather the whole time."

That, of course, just made Madam Cop turn her pointed finger on the old man. "Well you've seemed mighty interested in everything here."

Grandfather just smiled and raised his empty palms up in a peaceful gesture. "Calm down, Marina. I was right beside you, wasn't I? Wouldn't you have noticed if I had pocketed a . . ." His brows knit, making the wrinkles of his eyes fan out. He looked over at Quinn again. "What was taken, son? Did he say a book?"

Quinn just nodded and glanced at the other three women in the room. Gracie, a schoolteacher scoping the place out for a possible field trip–or so she said–was standing with mouth agape and long auburn hair still pulled over one shoulder. She had mentioned how chilly the air conditioner was, and her white sundress didn't do much to keep her warm. Beside her was Tiffany, whose posture had shifted over the past minute from sultry to uncertain. He'd been flirting with them both off and on for the whole tour. Only Tiffany had flirted back.

But it was the third woman he settled his gaze on. With her flyaway red hair, Maxine Webb looked like a total airhead. But he knew better. She was the one he pointed at. "Is this all part of one of your acts?"

Tiffany raised a perfectly shaped brow and pivoted a little on one stiletto. Quinn had noticed from the outset that her shoes were about as practical for a walking tour as her black dress with the plunging V neck that dipped low enough to make him smile. She looked at Max as if noticing her for the first time. "Huh?"

"Ms. Webb's with our security company." Quinn clipped his silent radio back onto his belt. "They like to stage robberies–to test their systems."

Max shook her head. There was worry in her eyes. "If this were one of ours," she said in her Texas drawl, "I'd be behind a computer tracking Desi, not locked in here with you."

Gracie rubbed a hand over one goose-bumped arm. "Or maybe that's what you want us to think. I saw an empty display case in that other room—that must have been where the book had belonged. I was the last one that went by it–which means it could have been any of you. Or all of you, working together." She paused and shifted from one strappy heel to another, tilting her head and obviously evaluating her own words. Then she wrinkled up her nose. "Okay, probably not. Still."

Marina let out a near-growl. "Well, let's do a search. Obviously neither of our beauty queens have it hidden in their little dresses, and I can vouch for Grandfather." She narrowed her gaze on Jessica again. "What have you got under that baggy sweater?"

Tiffany snorted and tossed an auburn lock out of her face. "Nothing a few weeks in the gym with me couldn't fix. Seriously, Jessica, let me give you my card. I could do wonders for you."

Jessica just sent Tiffany a dirty look. Quinn stepped into the middle of their loose circle before Officer Marina could ask any more questions or Gracie could come up with a more intricate conspiracy theory, raising a hand to get everyone's attention. "Okay, look. One of you took it–and there's nowhere to go. Maybe you stashed it somewhere in the hall or had an accomplice, I don't know. But you're not getting away with it. There are enough of us here that someone had to have seen something. So let's just figure this thing out, okay?"

He paused and looked from one suspect to another until they were all staring back at him. "One of you is a thief. The only question is, who?"

(There is no keyword in the above scene)

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