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Claudia and the Mystery in the Painting

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  “Could you call the airport police and have them check on any flights to Japan?” Ms. Madden asked the officer.

  He got on his radio and talked for a long while.

  “Ma’am, would you and the young lady please follow us to the station? We’ll need you to identify the suspects.”

  Ms. Madden hugged me. I was so relieved and happy that I had to choke back tears.

  Jimmy was waiting in the driveway when we finally returned to Grandmother Madden’s. People were pouring out of the house, each one with arms full of dishes or clothes or lamps — all kinds of stuff.

  “Is Goldie okay? Do you have my cat?” Jimmy asked, running to the car. Ms. Madden took the cat from me and handed her to Jimmy. Jimmy kissed her and hugged her until she meowed.

  “Take her to the tree house and keep her there for a while,” Ms. Madden said. “She might be afraid of all the people.”

  I climbed out of the car, brushing cat hair off of my overalls. Stacey, Mary Anne, Abby, Kristy, Mallory, and Jessi surrounded us.

  “Did the police catch them?”

  “Are you all right?”

  “Can I see the paintings?”

  “What happened?” They all talked at once and it was hard to make out what anyone was saying.

  Mr. Cook joined us. “Come on back to the patio and you can tell us what happened.”

  “Claudia, you’re the one who figured things out. You tell everyone what happened,” said Ms. Madden.

  I took a deep breath. Everything had happened so quickly.

  “Dale Ogura’s father and Grandmother Madden were friends years and years ago,” I began. “The older Mr. Ogura bought one of Grandmother Madden’s paintings, so Dale knew what her work looked like. He also knew how valuable it had become. There’s an older brother, I think his name is Dennis, who took lessons from Grandmother Madden, and he told Dale that the students used to paint on old canvases. When none of the Madden paintings turned up after Grandmother Madden’s death, Dale figured that Grandmother Madden might have let her students paint on top of her work.

  “Stacey, remember when you noticed that Mr. Ogura had paint flakes on his clothes? That was because he was scraping the canvases to see if there was anything underneath. By that time Suzanne, Ms. Madden’s cousin, had showed up and called him. She remembered him from the summers she and her cousins spent here.”

  “I still don’t know how I managed never to meet him,” Rebecca put in. “You said he was around the house, but I never saw him. Whenever you said ‘Mr. Ogura,’ I always assumed you meant his dad.”

  “Oh, Mr. Ogura was very careful about timing his visits here. If you saw him, it would have ruined his plan. But he did want to get into the house. He used his job at Estates Unlimited and his father’s name to do that — though as we know, he didn’t go so far as to take his father’s key to Grandmother Madden’s house.

  “Suzanne and Dale decided to team up and see if they could find the paintings together, since neither one of them was having any luck alone. When Suzanne couldn’t get inside and Dale couldn’t check all the canvases soon enough, they decided that he would offer to buy most of the old paintings.” I paused again.

  “I thought I was lucky that someone was going to take them off my hands,” said Rebecca, laughing. “He offered much more than I’d thought I could sell them for.”

  “This morning, Suzanne tried to double-cross Dale by picking up the canvases first. She was surprised to find the door unlocked. I forgot to lock it behind me when I came this morning to check the Japanese portrait. Sorry.” I looked at Ms. Madden and she smiled.

  “James and I had to run separate errands and we still have only one key. That’s why it was under the stone,” Ms. Madden explained.

  I took another deep breath and continued my story. “Suzanne had gotten to the paintings, but Dale showed up, demanding his share. When I said neither one of them should take the paintings, they locked me in the closet.”

  My friends gasped.

  “It wasn’t too bad,” I said. “While I was in the closet, I concentrated on figuring out where Mr. Ogura and Suzanne might go next. They had to divide the paintings. By the time Mr. Cook and Jimmy let me out, I’d decided that Estates Unlimited would be the best place for that — if no one was there on Saturday. But when they weren’t there I felt as if we’d reached a dead end.”

  I paused for a second and then continued.

  “I looked inside Mr. Ogura’s car, and, luckily, he doesn’t clean it out very well. There was a travel brochure on Japan lying inside. Seeing it reminded me that Mr. Ogura had had an airline ticket with him one day. On the chance that it might be for today, I told the police about it. They stopped Mr. Ogura at the airport, and he told them the name of the motel where Suzanne was staying. That’s where they found the rest of the pictures — and Goldie.”

  “Hooray for Claudia ‘Nancy Drew’ Kishi!” cried Stacey.

  “I thought you’d found one of Rebecca’s grandmother’s paintings earlier in the week,” Mr. Cook said.

  I nodded, remembering the maybe-Madden. “I thought it was a Grandmother Madden too, sort of. There were similarities, but there were also some differences.” I still wanted to see that painting again.

  Ms. Madden laughed. “You found a Madden all right, but it was a Rebecca Madden.”

  “You painted that scene?” I said, surprised.

  “I didn’t know it at the time, either,” said Mr. Cook. “I tried to find it in the catalog of your grandmother’s paintings.”

  “That’s where it went!” said Ms. Madden. “I’ve been looking all over the house for that catalog.”

  We had been too, I thought.

  “When I couldn’t match it, I took the painting to Mr. Ogura — old Mr. Ogura — and asked him to look at it. I knew that if it was your grandmother’s, we’d have enough money for art school for you,” said Mr. Cook.

  “I don’t know how either of you could have thought my grandmother painted that painting. I painted it, thinking it would please her, but she said, ‘No, no, no, Rebecca. This is the way I paint. You paint your own way.’ I probably shouldn’t even think about going to art school. I won’t be accepted. I was late getting my paintings to the committee to review.”

  “Is that who you were talking to about delivering paintings?” I asked.

  Ms. Madden nodded. “Then I picked up a painting from home and decided I wanted another one. James brought it to me.”

  “And I thought he was a deliveryman,” said Stacey, her cheeks growing pink.

  “Anyway, they probably won’t even consider my application,” Ms. Madden finished.

  “Well, I was saving this for when the sale was over and we knew how much money we’d made, but — you were accepted. The call came yesterday,” said Mr. Cook, beaming at his wife.

  “Is that why you were so cranky about the subject last night?” Ms. Madden asked.

  He grinned. “I was saving it for a surprise. I knew we wouldn’t have time to enjoy the news or celebrate until the sale was over. But really, what made me cranky last night was all that art stuff at the museum. Even my son knows more about it than I do.” Mr. Cook shook his head. “I have a lot of learning to do to keep up with you two.”

  “I’ll be your private tutor,” said Ms. Madden, tucking her arm in his.

  “I’d already decided that you were going to go to art school no matter what. I’d raise the money some way. You should have heard what Mr. Ogura — old Mr. Ogura — had to say about your painting. He said it was ‘masterful,’ among other compliments and superlatives. Then the committee said a lot of the same things. We’ll find the money somehow.”

  I laughed. “You don’t have to worry about money now. Those paintings are worth a fortune!”

  “They are, you know,” Ms. Madden said to Mr. Cook. “And I do want to use some of the money for school, but I want to divide it with some of my cousins. Granny didn’t know how much her paintings would be worth when she left everythin
g to me. She would have divided things more fairly if she’d known.”

  Mr. Cook kissed his wife on the top of her head. “You’re a very generous woman. Let’s go see if there’s anything left in the house.”

  They walked off, arm in arm.

  “You’re amazing!” said Kristy.

  “I would have been so scared,” said Mary Anne.

  “I didn’t believe there were any paintings,” said Abby with a shrug. “I guess I’ll have to start trusting your Nancy Drew nose.”

  I brushed off their praise. Now that we’d solved the mystery, I started thinking about the primitive painting I’d begun last week. I had the urge to finish it.

  “When will the rest of us get to see the masterpieces?” Stacey asked.

  For a minute I thought Stacey meant my painting. Then I realized she meant the Maddens. “The police have the paintings now,” I said. “After they return them to Ms. Madden, she’ll have to send them someplace to be restored. Remember, there’s a painting over each one of Grandmother Madden’s works. I hope they will be exhibited after they’re restored. Maybe at the Stoneybrook Museum.” I could already see it, including the three generations of cat pictures — Grandmother Madden’s, Ms. Madden’s, and Jimmy’s.

  “Hey, Mallory! Can your brother come over and play in the tree house with me?” Jimmy ran to us, carrying Goldie.

  “I’ll call and see,” she answered.

  I decided I’d include Jimmy and Goldie in my painting when I finally got around to it. I was sure Grandmother Madden would like that.

  The author gratefully acknowledges

  Vicki Berger Erwin

  for her help in

  preparing this manuscript.

  About the Author

  ANN MATTHEWS MARTIN was born on August 12, 1955. She grew up in Princeton, New Jersey, with her parents and her younger sister, Jane.

  There are currently over 176 million copies of The Baby-sitters Club in print. (If you stacked all of these books up, the pile would be 21,245 miles high.) In addition to The Baby-sitters Club, Ann is the author of two other series, Main Street and Family Tree. Her novels include Belle Teal, A Corner of the Universe (a Newbery Honor book), Here Today, A Dog’s Life, On Christmas Eve, Everything for a Dog, Ten Rules for Living with My Sister, and Ten Good and Bad Things About My Life (So Far). She is also the coauthor, with Laura Godwin, of the Doll People series.

  Ann lives in upstate New York with her dog and her cats.

  Copyright © 1997 by Ann M. Martin

  Cover art by Hodges Soileau

  All rights reserved. Published by Scholastic Inc. SCHOLASTIC, THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB, and associated logos are trademarks and/or registered trademarks of Scholastic Inc.

  The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.

  All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this publication may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereafter invented, without the express written permission of the publisher. For information regarding permission, write to Scholastic Inc., Attention: Permissions Department, 557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

  First edition, October 1997

  e-ISBN 978-0-545-79364-3



  Ann M. Martin, Claudia and the Mystery in the Painting



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