The fictional school-aged sleuth inspired our 10-year-old daughter Virginia and her neighborhood friends to uncover an actual mystery, the case of the discarded briefcase. This all started earlier this year after she read “The Secret of the Old Clock,” a classic Nancy Drew mystery story.
The book led to the creation of the Paces Private Investigators Agency. There are two detectives: Virginia and Sara Elizabeth Haydon. The girls have their own business cards and photo IDs in case someone questions their credentials. They even have a clandestine clubhouse. On occasion they wear skirts with preppy blouses in the style of Nancy Drew.
Not ones to stunt literary exploration of any kind, my wife Lori and I encourage her. This is especially appropriate considering the reading challenges Virginia has overcome after spending the last three years at The Schenck School, a school with a special focus on overcoming dyslexia.
After school and on weekends the girls would meet at the clubhouse or each other’s homes and, we can only assume, talk about mysteries. They even solicited business around the neighborhood. There weren’t any takers.
Then they stumbled on an actual case last month.
Paces Forest is directly behind two shopping centers anchored by Publix and the CVS, respectively, on Northside Parkway at or near the corner of West Paces Ferry Road. The neighborhood and the shopping centers are so close that there are several secret passageways through the woods connecting them.
It was near one of these paths that Virginia and her friend Sara Elizabeth came across a briefcase in the woods. It looked nice and relatively new. Upon further inspection they found other items nearby: A box of keys, a bag with men’s clothes and a pair of size 13 shoes. Suspecting something was amiss, the girls rushed to the nearest neighbor’s house for help.
They returned with an adult, who found a business card among the discarded items. It belonged to a commercial Realtor, whose car had been broken into in Buckhead a few days prior. The keys were to his clients’ properties. The Realtor was called and got his items back.
When Virginia first told us about the briefcase, the keys and the clothing, we didn’t know what to think. She is not one to tell tall tales, but it seemed pretty incredible, especially since she had just created a detective agency. But it was all confirmed through the neighbor.
The case remains a mystery, one that will likely go unsolved. It is but another reminder that our once sleepy community is anything but. We are now a little more cautious about letting Virginia and her buddies explore the woods looking for mysteries. While I am sure the Realtor is glad that she did, living so close to the highway makes for fast getaways for criminals and, on occasion, things can get scary at that little corner.
It’s also a reminder that we are a long way from the 1930s, when a great mystery was a missing last will and testament, as in “The Secret of the Old Clock.”
Buckhead resident Thornton Kennedy is a sixth-generation Atlantan and a former news editor of this paper. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.