"I'm telling you, she has to be the thief!" Marisa exclaimed into the phone.
On the other end, Gwen tried stifling her laughter but failed. "Ms. Griffin... really?" she replied. "So you're telling me your next-door neighbor has to be the one committing all the robberies because she lives alone, doesn't work, and has nice things?"
"Not only that, but she drives this huge SUV with tinted windows like she's hiding something," answered Marisa.
"Did it ever occur to you," asked Gwen, "that she might be divorced and took her ex for a ton of alimony?"
"She still comes and goes at weird hours," mumbled Marisa, realizing she hadn't even considered the divorce angle.
"I know you read all of the Nancy Drew books growing up, but this is the real world," stated Gwen. "We're practically out of high school at this point, and it's time to grow up. Besides, you'll get your fill of mysteries when you start your forensics degree at college next year."
Marisa sighed. There was no use trying to convince Gwen. Besides, maybe she was right, and Marisa was just letting her imagination get away from her. Either way, this conversation was pointless.
"Okay, fine..." she consented. "Wanna grab some food or something later?"
"Sure," replied Gwen. "I'm stuck at work until three, and Mom will probably want me to help her in the garden or something for an hour after I get home. Wanna shoot for five?"
"Okay, I'll rescue you then," said Marisa.
"Hah!" scoffed Gwen. "You know, you should've gotten a job that keeps you busy during the day. Only working weekends is giving your mind too much time to make stuff up. Anyway... the boss is giving me that look, so I gotta get back. See ya around five-ish."
"Okay, bye," said Marisa as she hung up. Again she looked out at Ms. Griffin's truck. "I still think something weird is going on."
As if to confirm her suspicions, Ms. Griffin walked out of her front door carrying a large box. The thirty-something woman pressed a button on her key fob, and the tailgate opened, and she loaded her box in the back of the truck.
Marisa continued to watch as Ms. Griffin made three more trips with three more boxes. Then she locked her front door, got in her truck, and left.
Well, it couldn't hurt to just take a look, Marisa thought, either I'm wrong, and I look like an idiot, or I crack this case and look like a hero.
Marisa tied her long blonde hair back into a ponytail, and then she grabbed her phone, a flashlight, and the set of lockpicks she'd ordered off the Internet. She could just peek around the back, sneak in the basement, look around, and get out before Ms. Griffin got back.
Summertime was nice, because most of the neighbors were at work, so no one would see her committing a crime of her own, even though hers was purely innocent in nature.
Marisa sneaked to the back of Ms. Griffin's house and looked at the sliding glass door that comprised Ms. Griffin's walk-out basement. There were heavy curtains blocking her view of the inside, so she tried to remember how to pick a lock based on those videos she watched online.
After about the fifth try, she finally undid the catch, and slowly slid the door open. Marisa slipped inside, leaving the door open behind her in case she heard Ms. Griffin come home early.
Not knowing exactly where the lightswitches were, Marisa took out her flashlight and began peering around the basement. Ms. Griffin's house was laid out similar to hers, so she began going room-by-room, feeling sillier as she only saw things that were in everyone's house, like laundry, canned goods, and workout equipment.
Marisa came to the last unexplored room, and opened the door. The room contained a large stack of boxes similar to the ones Ms. Griffin carried out earlier. Wanting to finally put her curiosity to rest, she opened one of the boxes. Inside were a small stereo system, several iPods, a Blu-ray player, and three cameras. She opened another box, and inside it was a bunch of jewelry. Wasn't it mostly jewelry and electronics that had been stolen from the various houses?
Marisa stood up. "I was right!" she exclaimed.
"And yet, so stupid," came a stern voice from behind her.
Marisa spun around to see Ms. Griffin standing in the doorway with a small pistol leveled at her.
"Mmph!" grunted Marisa, as Ms. Griffin tied the rope around her knees a little too tight. Marisa was standing against one of the basement's support poles with her hands bound behind her back around the pole. More rope circled her waist, pressing her lower back firmly against the column, and Ms. Griffin was finishing binding her legs at the knees and ankles.
As much as Marisa wanted to give the "you'll never get away with this" speech, Ms. Griffin had silenced the wannabe sleuth by stuffing a rag in her mouth and tying another over her mouth to keep it in place.
Finished, Ms. Griffin rechecked all of her knots, ensuring they were snug. "That should keep you out of my way for the time being," she muttered. Then she reached into Marisa's back pocket and pulled out her phone.
"I'll just drop this over by the sidewalk of your house to make it look like you dropped it, and that should buy me enough time to figure out what to do with you."
Marisa's shoulders slumped as her only connection to outside help was taken away from her.
"You should have guessed that any respectable thief would have a silent alarm built into their home. Fortunately, I hadn't gotten far when it alerted my phone there was an intruder," Ms. Griffin explained. "Now, stay put so I can meet with my fence. Then... we'll have to see what happens."
Ms. Griffin left, leaving Marisa alone in the dark basement.
Marisa listened intently hoping to hear Ms. Griffin's truck pulling away. She figured she needed to wait at least ten to fifteen minutes before trying to escape in case the alarm alerted her captor again.
She wasn't a hundred percent sure, but she thought she heard the truck start and back out of the driveway, so she counted backwards from six hundred in her head before trying the ropes.
Between the darkness and her hands bound behind her, she wouldn't be able to use her eyes at all. She twisted her wrist and slowly tried to pull out, but there wasn't enough slack to get her wrist free. That or Ms. Griffin had done this before. That thought sent a chill through Marisa.
She tried twisting one hand up to see if she could hold enough rope aside in order to slip out, but no matter which hand she tried to use or which direction she went, it seemed to tighten the ropes more.
Marisa started to panic, fearing Ms. Griffin would be back before anyone realized she was even missing. She tried jerking forward, but the ropes around her waist kept her from moving more than maybe an inch. She bent at the waist, trying to use her back to pull her hands free, but the ropes held fast.
After several minutes of frantic struggling with no success, Marisa resorted to trying to yell for help. However, the gag kept her cries barely audible above the HVAC unit in the next room.
When she realized she was only wasting her energy, Marisa's muffled yells turned into muffled sobs as she slumped back against the pole, and slowly squatted down into a seated position at the base. All she could do now was wait for Ms. Griffin to come home and see what horrible fate the woman had in store for her.
Marisa must have dozed off, because she jumped when she heard footsteps upstairs. Unaware of how long she'd been out, she immediately panicked and began wrenching her arms against the ropes, fearing her captor had finally come home to deal with her.
The stairway light came on, and it was all Marisa could do to keep from hyperventilating. The footsteps seemed to thunder against the basement walls, although Marisa suspected that was actually her heart trying to pound its way out of her chest.
"Miss Newman?" asked a voice. It was a man, not Ms. Griffin!
Marisa grunted through the gag as loud as she could, and fortunately it was enough, as a uniformed police officer walked into her field of view and quickly assessed the situation. He grabbed his radio and said, "I found her in the basement. She appears okay."
The officer quickly rushed over, removed her gag, and began untying her.
"You're a lucky girl," said the officer. "When you didn't show up at your friend's house, she got excited and had her father give us a call. When we found your cellphone, but saw your car still on the street, we knew something was amiss."
It hadn't even occurred to her that Gwen's dad was a patrol officer at a nearby precinct. Fortunately, his inquiries probably held more weight than the average citizen's.
Once she was free, the officer told her an A.P.B. had been sent out for Ms. Griffin, and she needed to give a statement once she had been cleared by medical staff.
The next few days were also filled with various authority figures warning her about trespassing and instructing her to leave investigations to qualified and trained individuals. Marisa had already vowed this to herself multiple times while she was captive in the basement.
Once she finished her schooling and became a "qualified individual" herself, who could say, though?