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The Case of the Last-Minute Clue
01 As soon as Danny Samuel arrived home from school, he pulled the crumpled piece of paper from his pocket and looked at it again. “Who could have written this?” he wondered for the thousandth time since finding the note taped to his locker door.
02 Danny reread the note in hopes of finding a clue to the writer’s identity. “The bolts were loose so I tightened them. I accidentally got grease on the bridge and couldn’t get it off. You’ll need to repaint the greasy spot before tonight, but the bridge is sturdy now!”
03 When Danny had first read this message, he thought someone was trying to pull a prank on him. “Bolts? Bridges?” he puzzled. Then he remembered his project for the Science Exhibition that would be held in the school gym tonight. The mysterious “helper” had to be someone who was also competing.
04 Danny was sure that his project, a model suspension bridge, was among the top contenders for an award. To prove the bridge’s strength, Danny would fill two toy trucks to overflowing with rocks and place them on the bridge. That night, he would perform this demonstration before an audience of students and parents. Later, the judges would present ribbons to the winners, and Danny was hoping to receive one.
05 After finding the note, Danny had gone to the gym to check his project. Sure enough, there was a greasy smudge where someone had held the bridge to steady it while tightening the bolts that attached the cables to the supports for the bridge. Danny felt certain that the bolts had loosened when he carried the bridge from the science room to the gym. He had been in such a hurry to get to his next class that he hadn’t taken the time to check the bolts or anything else. “Thank goodness!” thought Danny. “If someone hadn’t noticed and tightened the loose bolts, the bridge would have collapsed the minute I put the trucks on it. My project would have failed!”
06 Danny explained the fortuitous event to his mother. She encouraged him to eat quickly and return to the gym to paint over the greasy smudge. “Maybe I’ll even find some clues to tell me who my ‘helper’ is,” Danny said, as he packed a paintbrush, some paper towels, and the jar of bright orange paint that he had used on the bridge.
7 At school, Danny went straight to the gym. Some students were already looking at the exhibits which had been arranged on a platform. Danny carefully painted the smudged area and then examined his project one last time. Finding nothing amiss, he stashed his painting materials under the platform.
08 Danny decided to look at the other projects, still hoping to find some clue to the identity of his “helper.” The competition this year had been especially tough, and he was anxious to know which classmate had been so thoughtful.
09 Bob Wyatt’s project was a good one. Bob wanted to be an astronaut someday, and his model of a future space station, complete with solar panels and communication satellites, was sure to receive an award. “No clues here,” thought Danny.
10 On the other side of Bob’s project was Joe Don Mason’s operational wind tunnel. It, too, was exemplary. The tunnel wall was made of clear plastic, and a tiny handmade glider was visible inside the tunnel. Everyone had expected Joe Don to do something with wheels or motors because he was always working on his bicycle or talking about the car he was restoring in his garage at home. “No clues here either,” muttered Danny.
11 Seeking inspiration elsewhere, Danny wandered around several other projects. He saw Sun Mai Lee’s colorful display on the formation of desert mirages, J.J. Brandon’s layout of the cables that make up automobile circuits, and Elena East’s exceptional environmental exhibit. “No clues anywhere,” Danny decided, as he drifted back toward his own project.
12 Danny glanced toward the gym door and saw Joe Don hurrying toward the platform. Draped over Joe Don’s shoulder was the olive-drab canvas bag that contained his collection of hand tools. Joe Don never went anywhere without that bag. He was proud of the fact that he could keep his old bike on the road, even if he did have to stop every mile or two to tighten something.
13 Joe Don and Danny reached the platform at the same time. Danny noticed that Joe Don’s hands were greasy. Suddenly, a big smile appeared on Danny’s face. “Working on that bike again, huh?” he asked. Joe Don nodded and held up his greasy hands. Danny reached under the platform and pulled out his roll of paper towels. “Thanks for taking the time to tighten the bolts on my bridge,” Danny said gratefully.
14 “Oh, that was really hard work,” replied Joe Don with a grin.
15 “You saved my demonstration,” Danny insisted, as he handed a paper towel to his smudge-laden friend.
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