Rule #13: Never take money for solving a mystery. The only compensation a teen super-sleuth needs is the satisfaction of a job well done.

It’s interesting how easily money burns. Almost as easily as bad men bleed.

High evergreens tower over me. The night is cold, but the roaring fire keeps me warm. The flickering light of the flame lights my face, and the face of the late Jonathan Lyre. A bank robber. It’s the money he stole ten years ago that fuels the fire. He had buried the money out here in the forest. I found myself out here with him, helping him dig up the money. I’m not sure what story I told him, what lie convinced him to bring me into his confidence, but whatever it was, it worked. He trusted me completely, up until the point when I hit him in the knees with the shovel. He fell down to the ground with a cry. My knife followed him down.

I lugged the money and the body over to the campsite. Now, I sit and eat a large dinner. Enough food for two, in fact. I finish eating and put on my backpack. I’m not staying here tonight. I suspect that some large scavenger will visit the camp soon, and leave with a large portion of Jonathan in its stomach. It’s a short walk to the road. Jonathan had parked his truck on the side of the road. I pull the keys out of my pocket and unlock the door.

There is a police scanner in the truck. Ol’ Johnny used it to avoid the cops. I use it to seek them out. Killing Jonathan was satisfying, administering justice after ten years of him getting away with it, but the night was young, and I was wide awake.

Flashing red and blue lights illuminate the crime scene. The two deputies obviously haven’t dealt with a murder before. I can tell because one of them is throwing up in the bushes while the other one just stares at the body. I stop the truck a respectful distance away from the crime scene and get out. I can tell from here that the dead man was shot in the chest. I ask them what’s going on. The one that isn’t puking out his dinner looks at me, tells me to move along. I open my mouth, about to spin some yarn to get information, to get a clue, but something catches my eye before I can speak.

An envelope, tucked into the dead man’s pocket. It’s sticking out enough that I can read what’s written on it. Big block letters. They spell out my name. The deputy says something else, but I’m no longer listening. I lunge forward, snatching the letter. The deputy with the stronger stomach goes for his gun. He starts to aim the gun at me. Before he can raise it all the way up, I snatch it with my free hand. As I take the gun, I ram him with my shoulder, pushing him into his partner, who is still hunched over. They fall together, landing in the bushes. I suspect they’re both going to be taking a long shower later tonight.

I run towards the still-idling truck, emptying the gun into the police car’s front hood as I go. The gun bucks in my hand, jerking around in an attempt to leap out of my hand, but my grip is firm. I get in the truck and speed off. I throw the gun onto the floor on the passenger side. I hate using guns, hated even just shooting at that empty car, but if this letter was what I thought it was, that just might have been necessary… I don’t remember stopping the car, or opening the envelope, but here I am, parked at the side of the road. Staring at the letter’s signature.

I had hoped I was wrong about who wrote the letter. I wasn’t. It’s her signature. It’s her.

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