Funny Culprits

Certain people say that the world is like a calm pond, and that anytime a person does a small thing, it is as if a stone has dropped into the pond, spreading circles of ripples, farther and farther out, until the entire world has been changed by one tiny action.

Emmett was thinking about what his teacher said. “That’s my car. You shouldn’t peek into other people’s cars.” Emmett was lucky that Mr. Cope didn’t put him in detention. Emmett always thought that Mr. Cope was weird. He had all of sorts of strange habits. Like he would always park his car right in front of the window he was closest to. Once, he made the second grade teacher move her car.

But what Emmett saw in Mr. Cope’s car was super crazy. Actually it was insane. Emmett couldn’t get it out of his head. He kept on seeing the purple blankets over something huge. Then, Mr. Cope’s dog tackled the purple blankets, and rolled into the driver’s seat with them, and Emmett saw a wooden coffin.

Emmett’s mom invited Mr. Cope over for a BBQ. “But why?” Emmett asked.

“I used to be good friends with Mr. Cope in college. Also, I want to discuss the death of Mrs. Lant with someone other than your dad,” his mother said plainly. Mrs. Lant was Emmett’s next door neighbor, who died (or was murdered) a week ago.  

At 6:30 p.m., a blue car rumbled down Emmett’s driveway. A door squeaked open. A tall and bulky man in a suit stepped out of his car. “Hello Mrs. Tarn,” said Mr. Cope happily. “This is wonderful.”

“Thank you. But really. The pleasure is all mine. I haven’t seen you in forever!” Mrs. Tarn was beaming.

“It’s great to see you too,” said Mr. Cope, bulging with happiness.

“Hey Mr. Cope!” Mr. Tarn said, out of nowhere. “Nice to see you. Did Sasha show you our new sailboat?”

“Thanks for reminding me, Doug. Mr. Cope, just yesterday we got a new Four Wind sailboat. It’s the one right next to the big pine tree,” Mrs. Tarn said. “Would you mind me showing it to you?”

“Not at all Sasha,” Mr. Cope looked towards the dock. After their welcoming conversation, Mr. Tarn, Mrs. Tarn, and Mr. Cope walked off to the dock. During this whole time Emmett was peeking inside Mr. Cope’s car. The purple blanket wasn’t there. But what was the same was that the coffin was there. The coffin actually looked sad. There weren’t any painted designs or special carvings.

“So lonely,” Emmett said, looking at the coffin. He sighed, and then looked toward his parents, and his hideous teacher. And, quite by accident, his teacher looked at him.

“Mr. Cope, would you like to say hi to Emmett?” asked Mr. Tarn, obviously noticing his gaze toward him.

“Yes actually, that would be very nice,” Mr. Cope replied, and walked towards Emmett.

“Uh, hi Mr. Cope,” said Emmett, cleary shocked.

“Hi Emmett. Have you noticed what’s inside of my car? Well it’s a new project that I have been working on. Your mom already knows. I’m very excited about it.”

“Cool,” Emmett said meekly.

“Do you want to go in your new Four Wind sail boat? Your dad let me try it. We can talk more about my project there,” Mr. Cope took the coffin out of his car, walked over to the dock in front of Emmett’s house, and put it in the sailboat. Emmett followed, and got in. Mr. Cope untied the boat, and raised the sails. Soon they were out at sea. The water was a beautiful blue and green, with glimpses of the sun light.

“Anyways, back to my project.” Mr. Cope opened the coffin. Inside, Emmett saw Mrs. Lant. He was stunned.

“Emmett, are you okay?” Mr. Cope was grinning. Emmett stared blankly at Mrs. Lant.

He stood in the same boat as the notorious villain and looked out at the sea. Emmett was silent for what he thought was forever.

“Can we go back now?”

“Wai —” but Emmett wasn’t going to wait. He took hold of the sail and turned it around towards home. As soon as the sailboat hit the small dock in front of his house, Emmett scrambled out and sped-walked to his bedroom. He remembered going to Mrs. Lant’s funeral, a few days ago. She was a great next door neighbor; young, nice, and she always had some type of candy waiting for him. But the thing was, Mrs. Lant died at 33; she obviously didn’t die of old age. She was the picture of health. Mrs. Lant was just found dead. She was murdered.

Mrs. Tarn called Emmett outside for dinner, and after a while Emmett reluctantly gave in to his mom’s repetitive yells.

“Emmett!! What took so long?! Sit down and eat your dinner. It’s getting cold.”

“Sorry Mom,” Emmett mumbled. He obediently sat down in a metal chair, and started eating in silence. He was shaking because of the coffin, and Mr. Cope.

“I must be leaving now,” said Mr. Cope, as he went over to the dock, picked the coffin up, and carefully set it inside of his trunk. “Bye Mrs. Tarn. Bye Mr. Tarn.”

“Bye Mr. Cope. Until next time,” Mrs. Tarn said, just as Mr. Cope’s blue car rumbled out of the driveway.

“So, Emmett, how was your boat ride with Mr. Cope? I saw that he took his experiment with him,” Emmett’s dad asked. Emmett was thinking of all the possible things he could say. If he told his dad what really happened, his dad would just tease him. And his mom would hear what Emmett said, and give him a good talk about how he should never fib, and how he shouldn’t tell made up stories.

Grown-ups, Emmett thought, always causing kids so much trouble. So instead, Emmett lied.

“It was pretty cool. Mr. Cope told me the meaning of his, um, fake coffin project,” Emmett said, very uncertain of himself.

“Very nice,” His mom plainly replied.

“Yup. Pretty cool. Did Mr. Cope tell you the meaning of his project?” Mr. Tarn asked. Emmett’s dad was a scientist, so he always wanted Emmet to talk about science.

“Uh, yeah. He, um, said that it was to, uh, um, figure out how coffins um, preserve people,” Emmett said, looking very hopeful.

“Oh. Hmmmmm. Interesting,” Mr. Tarn replied.

“Mom, can I be done with dinner? I’m tired,” Emmett said. But he felt more dizzy than tired.

“Sure honey,” Mrs. Tarn said.

The next morning was a weekend, and that, Emmett thought, would give him some time to plot out a plan to turn Mr. Cope into the police.

After a while, here’s what Emmett came up with: Walk down the street a few blocks, until he reached Mr. Cope’s house (# 316), then, he would go up to his car, tap the window of the driver’s seat three times, (Emmett was always spying on Mr. Cope, so he knows that if you tapped three times on the driver’s window, Mr. Cope’s dog would pounce on the lock that opens the door) and watch Mr. Cope’s dog unlock the door. Finally, he would take the coffin home, and wait until the right moment (which he hadn’t figured out yet), and turn the coffin into the police, along with Mr. Cope.

Emmet was sure that it would work. He decided to carry out his plan on Saturday, which was tomorrow. However, today was Friday, which meant school, which meant Mr. Cope. Emmett would just have to ignore him.

But when Emmett arrived at school that morning, Mr. Cope wasn’t there. Instead, principle Racker was there, making an announcement to the class.

“Good morning class. Today, as you can see, your teacher isn’t here, so I’m bringing in our new substitute teacher. Please behave.”

“Yes Mr. Racker,” the class replied in chorus.

“Aha, there you are Mrs. Stan. Please come in,” Mr. Raker said to a beautiful teacher, who looked young, and kind.

“Hello class. I’m Mrs. Stan,” Mrs. Stan’s voice had a hint of Irish, but was smooth and bright at the same time.

“Okay Mrs. Stan. I’ll leave you to it.” And Mr. Racker left the room.

“Now that he’s gone, we can have some fun,” Mrs. Stan said. Emmett was confused. What teacher wants to have fun? It wasn’t that Emmett didn’t want to have fun. It was just that it was weird.

“So, let’s have a vote to see who wants to do what. You have the option of art, or the history of mummies. Who wants art?” Emmett and about ten other people raised their hands. After Thursday, Emmett did not want to know anything close to the topic of dead people, including mummies.

“Okay. Now, who wants the history of mummies?” Ten hands went up. “Well then. Art it is.” Half of the class booed, but Mrs. Stan just flashed them a sad smile. Emmett was relieved. Right away, Mrs. Stan started art. First there was a lesson (boring!), but then free art started. All during free art, Emmett pondered the reason why Mr. Cope wasn’t there. Maybe it was because of his sailboat ride. But, Emmett couldn’t stand the tension. He raised his hand, and Mrs. Stan pointed to him.

“Do you need anything?” Mrs. Stan asked.

“Oh, I, uh, just, um, wanted to know why Mr. Cope isn’t here today,” Emmett said.

“Oh right! He isn’t here because he was busy at home.”

“Okay. I was just wondering,” Even though he didn’t say it, Emmett knew that there was something more to Mrs. Stan’s answer.

When Emmett got home from school he drew out his plan, and hid it where no one would be able to find it. Emmett’s room was good for finding hiding places. It was in the attic of his house, and had two bookshelves, his bed, an extra bed, a desk, an old couch, a closet, and many boxes with old fashioned trinkets and his toys. Then, Emmett sat down on the old couch in his room, and started to read an old book about mummies. After about an hour, Mrs. Tarn called Emmet down for dinner.

“Good honey. You came down on time. Unlike yesterday,” Mrs. Tarn said. She sometimes was cranky after work because of her cranky patients (she was a doctor.)

“So Emmett. How was your day?” Mr. Tarn wasn’t nearly as cranky as Mrs. Tarn sometimes was. Mostly because he was a scientist, and he didn’t have to deal with annoying patients.

“It was good. We had a cool substitute. But she was sort of weird. She wanted to have fun.”

“Ohhhh. Interesting,” Mr. Tarn said.

“Nice honey. What did you do with her?” Mrs. Tarn asked as she poured gravy on her mashed potatoes.

“Mrs. Stan taught about some famous artists, then we imitated their style of art, and then we   did free drawing. Oh! And she also taught science.”

“Did you say Mrs. Stan? I know her. She’s Mr. Cope’s daughter. She changed her last name when she got married,” Mrs. Tarn dished herself more salmon.

“She is? Wow. Well, good night. Bonne nuit,”  Mr. Tarn said as he kissed Emmet on the forehead and left the table.

“Hmmm. I didn’t know that. Cool,” said Emmett, confused. “Mom, can I be done? I’m sorta tired.”

“You can go to bed now if you’d like. Good night sweetie.”  

“Good night mom.” And Emmett hurried up stairs to his room.

This is crazy! Emmett thought to himself. Mrs. Stan is nothing like Mr. Cope. And now, I know that if Mr. Cope isn’t at school, then Mrs. Stan will be at school, and I can’t trust either of

them. He couldn’t wait until fifth grade. And tomorrow I have a lot of work to do. Tomorrow was when he was going to “make his move” on Mr. Cope. He went over the plan five more times in his bed, before finally falling asleep.

The next morning, Emmett got up. He did his normal morning routines, so he wouldn’t arouse any sliver of suspicion in his everyday parents. When Emmett finished his breakfast, he told his mom that he was going to the park. But of course, Mrs. Tarn told Emmett that he could not go to the park until at least 10:30 a.m.. So, to pass the time, Emmett decided to go upstairs and read more of his book on mummies. But after about ten minutes Emmett’s boredom took over.

“Mom! Can I go to the park now?! Please!!!!!

“Don’t yell, Emmett. And yes, you can go to the park,” Mrs. Tarn sighed.

“Sorry. Bye Mom,” and with that, Emmett rushed out of his house, and towards # 316, Campbell street.

Mr. Cope’s house was very old, and painted all white. In his front yard, there was a crab apple tree, that looked almost as old as his house. On Mr. Cope’s front porch, there was a big wooden lounge chair that had no cushion. Emmett had seen Mr. Cope’s house many times before because of his spying trips, so he knew where everything (or at least almost everything) that had anything to do with Mr. Cope was.

Emmett started making his way to Mr. Cope’s car. “This is great! Mr. Cope’s dog is here, and the window is open.” Emmet was thinking outloud. “Wait. Where’s the coffin?!” The coffin wasn’t in its normal spot in the trunk. Emmett decided to check Mr. Cope’s windows. After looking through three windows on the first floor, Emmett found the coffin inside of Mr. Cope’s bedroom. And the window was open. The problem was, the window that was open was a window that was at the top of Mr. Cope’s bedroom.

What do I do?! Emmett thought to himself. He was clearly stressed. Oh of course! I’ll just climb up this crab apple tree… The crab apple tree was huge. But, Emmett was a champion tree climber. He could do this. Emmett grasped hold of the snaggled lowest branch (which wasn’t very low), and pulled himself up. Then, he planted his feet on the branch next to him and stood up, holding on to the highest branch (which was very high). Now, all he had to do was slip through the window.

Do I really have to do this? Emmett thought to himself. What am I thinking?! I have to do this! Mr. Cope is a culprit! He might murder me!!! Yes. I really have to do this. Emmett took hold of the window and peeked in. The coffin was on the floor next to three boxes of plastic bags, and a few matches.

Uggh! How do I get in here? Emmett looked down at the floor of Mr. Cope’s bedroom to try and find a clue about how to get down. A squirrel scurried up the tree. Emmett was terrified of squirrels. He screamed and almost fell into Mr. Cope’s bedroom. The squirrel started to scurry up the tree, closer to Emmett. Emmett screamed again, and let go of the branch that he was holding… Even though he couldn’t feel it, Emmett fell almost fifteen feet.

“Owww!” Emmett moaned to himself. He had a scrape on his hand, and a bruise on his knee. “Well, at least I escaped that squirrel. And I’m also in Mr. Cope’s bedroom! This is great. Except for the horrifying squirrel part…”  He looked around Mr. Cope’s bedroom. It wasn’t as scary as Emmett thought it would be. It had a normal bed, a dresser, a bookshelf, and two closets. It was actually kind of empty. Emmett tried to lift the coffin, but it was way too heavy for him to carry. Emmett decided to look for a cart. After looking for about five minutes, Emmett found a small cart just big enough to fit the coffin inside. Emmett slowly but surely lifted the heavy coffin up. He carefully set it in the cart, his arms shaking, partly because of the weight, and partly because of his relief that Mr. Cope didn’t come back from wherever he was.

“Yes!” said Emmett. “I’m almost done. All I have to do is take this home…”

After about 10 minutes of endless brakes and pulled muscles, Emmett finally opened the door to his house.

“Emmett, what are you doing with Mr. Cope’s science project?” Mrs. Tarn asked.

“Oh! I’m, um, Mr. Cope let me borrow it.” Emmett was shaken. “I’ll be upstairs…” Emmett went as fast as he could to his room, which wasn’t very fast because he had to carefully push the cart stair, by stair, by stair. When he finally got to his room he opened the coffin, and found Mrs. Lant, as dead as can be, laying down “peacefully” as Mr. Cope’s victim.

Emmett sighed. Poor Mrs. Lant. “Died on April 2nd, 2012…Stupid Mr. Cope killing innocent people.” But then Emmett noticed something. April 1st through April 10th was when Emmett had a substitute, because Mr. Cope was visiting Peru.

“Wait. That means that Mr. Cope didn’t murder Mrs. Lant. Someone else did.” Emmett was stunned.

The End

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