Chapter 17

After school on Wednesday Ari dodged Flossie Beemis, who was posing coyly by the front door, and caught up with Arden in front of the school.

“Daylatch moved the fight,” Ari said. “It’s going to be on Friday.”

“Friday?” replied Arden incredulously. “It can’t be Friday! That leaves us no time to look for the compass!”

“I’m sure that’s the idea,” said Ari. “He must think we’re closer than we think we are.”

“NEWSFLASH!” shouted Finbar Fenker, popping out from behind the Black Walnut tree. “Ellery Soffit’s execution MOVED to FRIDAY! Place your bets NOW or it will be TOO LATE!” Finbar sidled up to Ari and pouted like a sad puppy. “What did your uncle do to deserve such a pounding Soffit?” asked Finbar with mock sympathy. “Was he a very bad boy in his Daylatch Academy days?”

“You wanna know how bad he was Fenker?,” replied Ari squaring off threateningly in front of Finbar.

“BETS!” squealed Finbar scampering back into the school building. “Place your BETS!”

“Ari,” said Arden impatiently. “Forget Finbar. Do you have the map?”

Ari pulled the photocopy of the map from Blackeye’s Guide to Orienteering out of his bookbag. As he unfolded it, a crunched up business card fell out of the fold and fluttered to the ground.

“Miss Samms’ card,” said Arden, picking it up and smoothing it out. “Jolene Samms, reference librarian.”

“Jolene?” asked Ari. He grabbed the card, then scrutinized the map in his other hand. “Like Jolene’s Four Corners. Right here. In the middle of town.”

“Yep,” said Arden, nodding. “Right about where your deli is now.”

“How about that.” replied Ari. “Dead center of town. Here’s where I started,” he said, pointing at Daylatch Academy on the map, “at North.”

“And then we moved East, South, and West,” continued Arden pointing at St. Zita’s Church, the library, and DiRosa Elementary School. “All the main compass points. And now we’re supposed to look…under the rose, whatever that means.”

“Under the rose,” repeated Ari. “Under the compass rose…the compass rose. The compass rose right in the middle of the compass!”

“Which used to be Jolene’s Four Corners,” began Arden, “but is now…Soffit’s Deli!”

“We’re so stupid!” exclaimed Ari. “That’s why Wilton Daylatch wants to take the deli! That’s where Dewey hid the compass!”

“The compass is hidden in your store?” wondered Arden aloud. “But no one’s ever seen it. You live there Ari…where could a person hide something in your store?”

“I wonder if Jolene knows,” said Ari.

They just stared at each other without another word. Then they ran. By the time Ari and Arden got to the library they were puffing and out of breath. The lady at the information desk glared at them questioningly, but they continued to the archive room.

“Yes dears?” asked the lanky, gray-haired librarian.

“We need to talk to Miss Samms,” said Ari.

“Miss Samms, you say?” asked Miss Simms, the chubby, white-haired librarian, waddling out from the archive room. “Miss Samms retired dearies. Yesterday was her last day of work. We still have some buttercream cake left from the party though. Would you care for a slice?”

“No!” cried Arden in dismay. “I mean, we really need to talk to Miss Samms!”

“Do you know where we could find her?” asked Ari.

“She’s moving to Flower Lake Retirement Village,” said Miss Simms smiling. “Lovely place. Just lovely. Just after her two-week Alaskan cruise. Are you sure you wouldn’t like some cake?”

“She’s writing a book,” offered the lanky gray-haired librarian. “About DiRosa in the days of Prohibition. So many colorful characters. We’re getting the first signed copy!”

“She’s on a cruise?,” responded Arden. “Ari, we’re just going to have to figure this out without her.”

“Come to the deli,” said Ari. “Tomorrow. After school. We’ll find it. We have to.”


It was Thursday afternoon. The last school bell rang. It took all of Arden’s determination to pull Ari past Finbar Fenker, who was standing in the lobby singing “Place your bets and see if Dudge, soon pounds Soffit into sludge!”

“Killing Finbar will do absolutely nothing to help the situation,” insisted Arden.

“But I’d feel so much better,” replied Ari.

They hurried to the deli, jingling the front door bell as they went in. Uncle Ellery was wrapping a pound of salami for Mrs. Vibretti who was casting worried glances at him.

“Ellery,” said Mrs. Vibretti. “You do slice salami thinner than anyone, just the way Mr. Vibretti likes it. I only hope…” She trailed off, but Ari knew she was wondering if Uncle Ellery could still slice her salami once he’d been pounded into a pulp.

Uncle Ellery smiled, and looked unconcerned, but Ari could see the lack of sleep on his face.

“Uncle Ellery,” said Ari. “Don’t mind us. Arden and I are looking for…”

“um…stuff…to…,” continued Arden.

“…measure…,” said Ari.

“Yeah,” said Arden. “Stuff to measure. For math homework.”

They began the search upstairs, since it was the best place to avoid having Uncle Ellery wondering what they were doing. Arden crouched and began rapping lightly on the floor.
“Secret removable floorboards,” explained Arden when Ari looked at her questioningly. “I’m looking for secret removable floorboards. Are there any especially creaky or especially wiggly spots?”

“The whole floor is creaky,” replied Ari. “But none of it is particularly wiggly.”

“How about walls?,” Arden continued. “Any secret hollow places in the walls? Behind pictures or something?”

“We don’t have pictures,” said Ari. “And if I knew about any secret places, they wouldn’t be secret.”

When the rooms above the deli stubbornly refused to reveal any secrets Ari and Arden took the quest downstairs.

“They teach some strange new measuring techniques nowadays, don’t they?” said Uncle Ellery, as Ari crawled along the chips and bread aisle rapping on the floor.

“It’s code too,” replied Arden quickly. “We’re doing measuring and code.”

“Yeah,” agreed Ari. “Like when you have to give the person you’re working with the measurements without talking.”

Uncle Ellery nodded knowingly. “And this would be useful when…”

“When you don’t speak the same language,” said Arden.

“Or when you have laryngitis,” offered Ari.

“Of course,” said Uncle Ellery. “These problems come up all the time when you’re measuring with a partner.”

“Yep,” said Ari.

“Hey,” suggested Uncle Ellery, “Maybe next time you’re down there you can repaint the floor. We’ve got big bald patches in front of the counter and the cooler.”

Ari wondered how Uncle Ellery could even think about bald patches on the floor at a time like this. Especially when the search turned up nothing, nor did the basement prove to be any more helpful.

Arden had to go home, so they had no choice but to abandon the effort and hope that tomorrow they’d think of some way to stop the fight.

Ari wondered if Uncle Ellery was sleeping at all that night. He was certain he himself wouldn’t, and it was at least one in the morning when he began to dream that Dudge Hunker was zooming over the deli in a World War 2 fighter plane, pelting them with bombs which looked like Finbar Fenker’s head, screaming and cackling as they fell.

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