Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Write in the MYSTERY genre (04/05/07)
TITLE: The Nail Clipping Culprit
By Cassie Memmer
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earned as the church’s janitor came in handy each month. Finished with the hardest
part of her job, she moved on to the pastor’s study.
“Ack! This is the third week someone’s left this gross mess!” she vented, as she
entered the small room housing the pastor’s desk and book-lined shelves. There by the
chair rested a neat little pile of clipped toenails. She tried to vacuum them up, but
found some were stuck and she had to hand-pick them out of the carpet fibers.
Pastor Joe, the senior pastor, walked in, took off his suit jacket and hung it in the coat
closet. “Hello, Millie. How are you?”
“I’d be a lot better if I didn’t find a pile of toenail clippings in here every week!”
“Toenails? Uhhh.... who would do that?” He strode toward the bathroom, “I’m hopping
in the shower. It’s been so hot; and I don’t have time to run home before my next
appointment. See you later.”
“Yeah, I wonder who?” Millie muttered as she clomped out of the office, reminding
herself to later inspect the pastor’s restroom again. On the way to tidy the kitchen she
ran into Tom Green, the church’s maintenance man.
“Hey, Tom, have you looked at that leaky faucet in the women’s back restroom?”
“On my way now, Millie. Just got the mowing done and I’m heading to the basement for
“If you get thirsty, you’ll find a fresh pitcher of sweet tea in the fridge,” she said, her
eyebrows lifting, dimples deepening.
Tom grinned, “Thanks, Millie. You’re swell!”
Millie hummed as she made the tea, filled the pitcher with ice, and set it in the
refrigerator. Done with the kitchen cleaning, she carried her supplies to the Sunday
She found the youth pastor and his young wife painting the highschooler’s room--wild,
unconventional colors, in a crazy design. Youth! “Hi, Beth, Ryan. Looks like you’re
working hard.” She peered at the shorts and skimpy tops they wore. She looked at
their feet, especially Ryan’s. Sandals revealed perfectly groomed toenails. “Ah-ha,”
“What’s that, Millie?” Ryan asked as he spun around, sending his paint encrusted
“Nothing. Just doing my cleaning. Looks like you’ve got more paint on yourselves than
anything. You’re nails need a good cleaning, you’ve got paint all over them.”
Beth looked at her hands. “You’re right, Millie. I’m going to need a good manicure after
this. Ryan, do you have your clippers in your pocket? I’ve got a hangnail.”
He dug them from his shorts and handed them to Beth. “Millie, is there anything to
drink in the kitchen? I’m thirsty, “ Ryan asked.
“There’s fresh iced tea in the fridge. Say, do you ever get a pedicure?” Millie quizzed,
still eyeing Ryan’s feet.
“Youth pastors don’t make enough to afford such luxuries,” Ryan laughed. “We have to
do our own pedicures.” He turned back to his painting. “We’ll clean up in here after
we’re done painting, Millie. You can skip this room today.”
Millie finished cleaning and put her supplies away. “Well... it wasn’t Pastor Joe like I
thought. The nail clipping culprit is the new youth pastor. Of course! He’s only been
here for a month and the clippings first appeared three weeks ago. His nails are neatly
trimmed. And that pony-tail! And paint choices! Must have had hippies for parents.
Yes, he’s the guilty party! Now... how do I get him to stop trimming them in the senior
Millie plotted. Saturday she went to clean, knowing the youth pastors would be at the
church finishing their painting and Pastor Joe was out visiting. Before leaving home,
she clipped all her finger and toenails, carefully saving them in a small container. At
church she made a small pitcher of tea, just for Ryan, then lugged the vacuum cleaner
into the pastor’s office. Tom sat there, pulling on his socks.
“Hi, Millie,” he grinned.
“H-hi, Tom. What are you doing here? I thought this was your day off.”
“I’m remodeling my bathroom. Pastor Joe said I could take my showers here. Is that a
There beside Tom was a pile of toenail clippings, his clipper perched beside his shoes.
Millie’s hand flew to her mouth.
“What’s the matter, Millie?”
She bolted from the room, howling, “I’ve got to go and make a new pitcher of tea!”
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