Case of the Headless Clown

by Christopher P.N. Maselli

An Emily Jones Solve-It-Yourself Mystery

Mysteries often occur when things go wrong. Something goes missing. Someone tells a lie. But that’s when good detectives keep their cool… because a steady mind is a detective’s greatest asset.

My sidekick, Matthew Parker, and I were strolling down Ironwood Lane. Fancy-schmancy houses lined the street, surrounded by iron fences for privacy. But privacy wasn’t on the menu this afternoon. Some girl was shouting loud enough for the whole neighborhood to hear.

“You’ll pay for this!” she screamed.

“Um, Em, I think we should keep walking,” Matthew said.

And I would have. But that’s when the girl recognized me—and I recognized her.

“You! Barrett’s little sister!” Valerie shouted as she marched toward me, unlocked the front gate with a pop and pulled me up the sidewalk. “You’re going to be a witness!”

Matthew reluctantly followed. My eyes darted to the cowering man in a blue Speedy Package Express uniform.

“A witness to what?” I asked.

“Mammoth injustice!”

The Speedy Package Express guy—his shirt revealed his name was Carl—put a clipboard under his arm. “I’ve really got to go. I’m sorry I can’t help.”

Valerie’s eyes flared. “Oh no you don’t.” She turned to me. “I just got home from school and found my package on the doorstep. It was ruined!”

She pointed to an open box on her porch. It had a bit of wear and tear, a slightly crushed corner, but nothing out of the ordinary.

“I called SPE, and they sent the driver back here to help,” Valerie continued. “But he says he can’t do anything.” She glared at Carl.

The deliveryman shrugged. “We’re trained to deliver lightning fast. But that’s about it.”

“My package did get here lightning fast,” Valerie admitted, “but it was all wrong!”

“What do you mean it was wrong?” I asked.

“It was addressed to me, but it was supposed to include a golfer figurine for my dad’s birthday. They sent me the wrong item.”

“That’s not SPE’s fault,” Matthew noted. “Can’t you just return it?”

Valerie sneered. “Sure, I could… if it hadn’t arrived like this!” She reached into the box and pulled out a porcelain figurine.

It was a cute little clown on a ball. Matthew took it from her and held it closer.

I squinted. “I think the clown’s missing its head.”

“The figurine company’s going to think that I broke it, and won’t take it back,” Valerie screamed. “What am I going to do with a headless clown?”

Matthew shrugged. “Start a creepy circus collection?”

Carl the delivery guy tried to leave again. “Look, I can give you a claim form, but that’s the best I can do unless someone can prove that the breakage was caused by our negligence.”

“I can’t give my dad a form for his birthday!” Valerie’s knuckles were white.

“It’s not my fault, miss.” Carl tore a page from his clipboard. “I placed that package safely on your porch. Maybe an animal got to it before you did.”

Matthew bent down and examined the yard. “Hey, there are tracks down here.” He followed them to a nearby shrub, then to a trash can around the corner. Waving flies away, Matthew lifted the trash can lid. He recoiled. “Whew! This is the real crime.”

Valerie tapped her chin. “Well, that would explain why our garbage is sometimes scattered around the yard in the morning. I told my dad he couldn’t keep the raccoons out—no matter how tall our fence was.”

“Raccoons are great climbers,” Matthew said. “And great thieves. That’s why they wear masks.”

“Hey, can I sue a raccoon?” Valerie asked.

“I don’t think so,” I said. I bent down and grabbed the delivery box. It was filled with Styrofoam packing peanuts. A smaller box rested inside the bigger box. “This would have had to receive quite an impact to break off the clown’s head. I don’t think a raccoon could have done it. Was the package sealed when you found it?”

Valerie let out a long breath. “Yes.”

Carl’s hands flew up in surrender. “This isn’t our fault. We make sure packages like this are hand-carried and hand-packed into our planes, trains and trucks. They don’t go through a mechanical process, so there’s minimal jarring. Now if you’ll excuse me.”

As Carl unlocked the front gate and headed to his truck, I called, “Wait! Don’t you want to hear the answer to this mystery?”

Carl stopped in his tracks. “You know what happened?”

Valerie looked just as surprised.

What caused the clown’s head to break off? What were the clues?

Click here to read the solution.

Jones & Parker Case Files

Find 16 of the best Clubhouse mysteries in the Jones & Parker Case Files. Kids can play detective along with Emily and Matthew. Filled with humor and your favorite Adventures in Odyssey characters, it’s no mystery why you’ll love this collection!

You can buy the new book here. (Ask your parents for permission first.)

Copyright © 2012 by Focus on the Family. Illustration © Gary Locke.