Solve-it #22: The Case of the Red-handed Vandal

featuring Nina Chase & Max Decker


“Someone thought this was a good joke,” Mrs. Locke told Max and Nina. “But I’m Furious.” She pointed to the white sheets hanging on her backyard clothesline. all four of them were smeared with red blotches.

“Will the paint wash out?” Max asked.

“I doubt it. Looks Like enamel.” Mrs. Locke shook her head. “I finished washing these sheets early this morning. then all the electricity went off. I found out it would be off several hours on this street because of the construction up to the street.”

“So you decided to hang the sheets outside?” Nina asked.

“It’s a nice spring day. I knew it would only take a few hours. the sheets are dry now. but they’re ruined. I suspect it was one of the boys in the three houses right next to mine. Justin Trent, Trevor North and Nathan Krammer. those Three are always into mischief of some sort.”

“We’ll talk to them,” Max said.

Justin was sitting on the steps in front of his house. Nina noticed a smudge of paint on his right hand. A nearly empty paint can was beside him. “so somebody got even with Mrs. Locke, huh?” he said, after listening to Max and Nina’s story “Nobody likes her. she’s a real crab. I joy by her house nearly every morning, and she’s always yelling that I’m stepping on her grass.”

“Did you jog by this morning?” Nina asked.

“Sure. Got home a few minutes ago. I Stopped by that construction site. A fellow there gave me this.” he nodded at the can beside him. “I just needed a bit of red to touch up my mom’s wooden tulips. they’re the only yard flowers she can grow, she says.”

Minutes later Trevor’s little sister told the cousins her brother was in the garage.

“Can’t say I feel too sorry for Mrs. Locke,” Trevor said when he heard about the ruined sheets. “she’s always grumbling about something or other. called my mom and dad and said I’d tossed garbage on her porch. I sure didn’t!”

“Did you see her today?” Max asked.

“No. I’ve been out here in the garage all morning. Haven’t left. I’ve been busy using my dad’s sander. I’m making a dollhouse for Tina.”

“That’s a lot of work,” Max said looking over the panels of smooth wood. “Good thing you didn’t have to sand all this wood by hand.”

“You said It!” trevor pushed back his hair with Fingers stained with red paint. “I’m painting the roof red now. Tina said that’s what she wants. why not check with Nathan about those sheets? he’s another one who doesn’t like Mrk. Locke.”

“Trevor right,” Nathan told the cousins when they reached his house moments later. he stood in the doorway frowning as they told him what had happened.”

“Nobody likes Mrs. Locke. she’s always complaining that I play music too loud. So Somebody threw red paint on her sheets? good! But it wasn’t me.”

Nina moved closer. “but you have-”

“This?” Nathan held out hands that were stained with red paint. “I’ve got an excuse for this. I’ve been down in the basement painting my brother’s red tricycle. Mom was Afraid He’d get paint all over.” he gestured at the red splotches on his jeans. “Looks like I made a bit of a mess myself!”

“So all three of them were caught red-handed,” Max said as he and Nina walked back to Mrs. Locke’s House.

“Yes,” she answered. “but only one had an impossible excuse. He must be the guilty one, since he wasn’t telling us the truth.”

Whom does Max suspect?