The Sherlock Jr. Detective Agency
by Marc Morgenstern
Genre: YA, Teen Mystery
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The trials were an age-old initiation process that all members of Sherlock Jr. had gone through. They were to test physical, mental and intellectual abilities. The trials had to be completed in a certain amount of time. If the subject failed to complete any of the trials in the specified time frames, they couldn’t become a member. The test was only administered to a person once. If you failed, you flunked out for good. So you had better be positive that you could do it.
The first trial was always a test of strength and endurance. You were pushed hard and fast which was why the location was widely known: the school playground at Benjamin Harris Junior School, named after the president who was in office when Sherlock Holmes was first published. Kids needed to pass this first trial and they needed to practice. Today was no different.
As the Sherlock Jr. members walked up to the playground, there were a few kids that were trying to beat the minimum time allowed. Most failed. The team crowded around Jeremy. By the looks on everyone’s faces, half were excited to get a new member, the other half were skeptical.
No one had just ever jumped into the trials. Usually they had interned and helped out around the clubhouse and, when they were ready, they took a few practice tests and when they were confident, they took the trials. No one had ever done what Jeremy was attempting to do.
Sally, who had cleaned herself up, pulled out her huge stop watch and stood before Jeremy. Jeremy looked out into the playground with ease. He’s lived five minutes from here for most of his life. He’s played on this particular playground since he was four years old and considering he’ll be fourteen in a couple of years that was almost a decade! Sally snapped her fingers in front of his face to get his attention.
“Alright, listen up. You have to travel up the slide, make your way to the monkey bar, swing across.” While Sally talked, Jeremy didn’t take his eyes off the prize. “Continue to the rope bridge, cross the rings and make your way to the end. To qualify, the time to beat is one minute and thirty seconds.”
Jeremy’s lip curled in amazement. This seemed too easy. He turned to Chas who was obviously the guy with the best time. “What’s your record?” he pried.
“I wouldn’t try for my record. You may hurt yourself,” gloated Chas.
“Just tell me,” insisted Jeremy as he stretched out his arms and legs. Chas looked Jeremy up and down, was this going to be a battle for Alpha Dog status?
“Fine,” Chas acquiesced. “Forty-six seconds.” The record had stood for four years. Chas was very proud of it. He had beaten his older brother Michael’s record by a good nine seconds.
“Forty-six seconds,” Jeremy confirmed. Chas’ smile dropped away. He hoped that this Jeremy kid wasn’t a show off.
“Look, don’t strain yourself,” Chas said, trying to ease Jeremy into doing a good job. “You just need one minute thirty seconds to qualify.” It didn’t seem to matter, Jeremy was focused and determined.
“Alright, on your mark,” Sally bellowed as her stopwatch clicked back to zero. Jeremy put his hands on the foot of the slide. The same slide he had traversed a thousand times before. “Get set,” Sally urged. Jeremy readied his body and gripped the edges. The others watched with determination. Chas worried about his record. Sally waited an extra second to add suspense to the entire scenario. Then she yelled “Go!” and clicked the stopwatch.
Jeremy bolted up the slide faster than anyone had done before. To him there was no slide, no monkey bars or rope bridge. It was just him and the record – forty-six seconds. He focused on the slide and tuned out the cheering crowd.
“Ten seconds!” shouted Sally. Jeremy was in fine form. Making it to the top of the slide, he quickly ran up to the monkey bars and leapt. He flew through the air with a mighty blur and made it to the fourth rung from his jump, it was quite impressive. The average kid would start at the first or second rung, not Jeremy, he was a dynamo. Then much to the amazement of all, he crossed the bars two at a time! Chas’ jaw dropped.
“Fifteen seconds,” Sally’s voice encouraged Jeremy further. Several other kids from the neighborhood ran up. They all knew what this was. Chas started to bite his nails.
“You look worried,” Xander commented as he leaned in to be heard. Chas didn’t take his eyes off Jeremy. “No, of course not,” Chas unconvincingly replied. By this time Jeremy had cleared the monkey bars and was running up to the rope bridge - the playground’s toughest obstacle. If Jeremy was going to stumble, it was going to be here.
“Twenty-five seconds!” Sally shouted. The rope bridge did prove to be a little tough. It hadn’t rained in a while, so the rope was dry like sandpaper. Jeremy’s hands burned with each grasp of the rope. Chas watched him carefully, noting each stumble or mistake. He didn’t have to count high. As he neared the end of the rope bridge, Sally shouted, “Thirty-five seconds!”
Jeremy had one more obstacle. The hanging rings. Everything seemed like it was going in slow motion. Jeremy grabbed the rings and swung out skipping the next two rings leaving air between the first ring he left and the third ring he grabbed. The crowd went wild. Chas watched nervously as this kid from nowhere was clearly getting close to beating his record. Then the unfortunate happened. Jeremy missed one of the rings. There was his fatal flaw, this new kid was over confident, thought Chas. Chas’ grin grew as Jeremy swung back and had to grab a closer ring to advance.
“Jeremy! Jeremy! Jeremy!” chanted the kids. Jeremy jumped down from the rings and rounded the final bend. He pushed himself harder than he had ever before. As he made his way toward the finish line, Chas swallowed hard - this kid was good.
The crowd, which had increased three-fold cheered him on. As Jeremy crossed the finish line Sally held her hand up while simultaneously clicking the stop watch.
“Stop!” She cried. Jeremy skidded to a halt causing a tremendous amount of dirt to fly up and rested with his hands on his knees and out of breath. All of the kids quieted and stood on pins and needles to hear the results.
“Well?” wheezed Jeremy.
“Forty-three seconds,” declared Sally. There was a moment of silence for everyone to fathom what had just happened. It seemed to go on forever. In the future when this story is told, this moment will be at least a good minute and a half. Not so, it was more like half a second, but you could, as they say in the biz, drive a truck through it.
Chas’ face dropped. His record was defeated. Everyone cheered and ran up to Jeremy to congratulate him. As they patted him on the back, the crowd parted to reveal Chas standing, staring at him in silence. The master was now the student. Chas made no movement. Was this the passing of the torch or were there hard feelings?
Chas thrust his hand out. The team jumped back. Was there going to be a fight? It was one thing to break the record, but to smugly say you’re going to do it beforehand and then do it was another.
“Good job,” complimented Chas. His hand was open waiting for a handshake. Jeremy stuck his hand out and shook it. There were no hard feelings. More cheers erupted from the neighborhood kids.
“Nice work,” Sally said stoically while jotting notes on her pad. “Next is a test of observation.” She then pulled a blindfold out of her pocket. A murmur started amongst the crowd. Jeremy was in for something special.
Since then, Marc has achieved international recognition with his Cannes Lions Shortlisting commercial "Poker Face", that either placed or won in 10 different award shows.
One of Marc's greatest industry accomplishments was as the creator of the variety show HouseCapades with Mike Bullard, and achieved the #1 show of its kind in its time slot and ran for over 250 episodes, one of the longest running television shows in Canadian history.
After that, he ended up becoming the Broadcasting Creative Director at Avid Life Media, where he created and produced over 80 international commercials for over 30 markets and directed the documentary Affairs Across America. With Avid Life Media, Marc has written and developed a variety show, a reality show, two feature films and a sitcom.
Marc is no stranger to directing children. He also created the three award-winning nationally renown live-action shorts titled: Operation: LabBrats. In 2013 Marc moved to California where he immediately went into production, writing and directing the feature film 'Vitals' with Christopher Showerman, Charlene Amoia, Tim Russ, Claudia Wells and Sachin Mehta.
He currently lives in Burbank, CA with his loving wife Tanya.
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