After reading all 287 Encyclopedia Brown mysteries, I’ve come to the conclusion that nothing in this universe makes sense. I’m going to revisit my “favorite” stories in the series. I’m using the word “favorite” very loosely. Really, that word could be replaced with any or all of the following: craziest, most insane, nonsensical, wtf?, etc.
I hope you enjoy this list and feel free to let me know if I missed any of your “favorites.”
25) The Case of the Glass of Ginger Ale – A guy prepared an insulated bag full of ginger ale ice cubes, thereby setting forth a complex plan where he would be able to cheat his blind friend out of a priceless violin.
24) The Case of the Silver Dollar – After a boy made disparaging remarks about an all-girls football team, the team’s captain punched the boy and forced him into the woods where he was forced to strip. Thankfully, he escaped before we could see what she had been planned to do with him, but either way, one wouldn’t expect to find a sexual assault in these kinds of stories.
23) The Case of the Jumping Frogs – We learn that a park in Idaville had a section in the park that is completely gated off where its patrons are literally locked in. We also learn that this was to protect the park patrons from a string of thefts, and that the perpetrator was actually a park employee; though when said employee actually hit, he only bothered to steal a single item.
22) The Case of the Lemonade Stand – After Encyclopedia was alerted that his friend had left earnings from her lemonade stand unattended, he went to collect the money to put it somewhere safe. Bugs Meany made it look like Encyclopedia was stealing the money, declaring that he caught Encyclopedia “red-handed.” Encyclopedia argued semantics, since he was actually carrying the money the time Bugs uttered the term “red-handed,” Bugs used the phrase incorrectly, therefore the accusation was supposedly rendered null and void, regardless of Encyclopedia’s intent. It’s unclear what would have happened if Bugs had used a more appropriate phrase, but I’m guessing Encyclopedia would have had a bullshit defense that the police would have bought.
21) The Case of the Missing Watchgoose – I enjoy this story because Encyclopedia ended up eating some of the pet goose he gad been hired to find. I think it should also be mentioned that some strangers in the woods offered Encyclopedia some food and he accepted. That’s a great detail to include in a story for children.
20) The Case of the Astronaut Duck – A man gathered a bunch of children so that he could raise money for a space voyage where he and his pet duck will travel to other galaxies. Encyclopedia nor his friend (who had a great interest in space travel) didn’t find question how fantastically impossible flying to another galaxy would be. Instead, Encyclopedia honed in on the fact that a duck cannot survive in zero gravity.
19) The Case of the Telephone Call – We learned that Encyclopedia’s visiting cousin was fired from his job – thereby making him ineligible for a college scholarship – because his boss doesn’t understand how time zones work. We’re left to assume that this poor kid either no one in his life cares about him enough to ask him why he got fired, or that Encyclopedia is the only person in his life who does understand time zones. Either way, that’s a sad existence.
18) The Case of the Blueberry Pies – A judge in a pie-eating contest didn’t want contestants to get sick, so she changed to rules so that the children competing would have to run a half-mile after devouring two pies. This rules change heavily favored her twin sons, who were track stars. The sons ended up cheating by having one brother eat the pie and the other run in the race. Their mother didn’t question why only one of her sons was present for the race, which leads me to believe that she, at the very least, knew about the plan to cheat.
17) The Case of the Litterbugs – When a typed threat – obviously sent from a child – was determined to have come from a recently purchased or repaired typewriter, the Idaville Police pretty much shit on the Fourth Amendment and search the home of every person in town who had recently purchased or repaired a typewriter to find its author.
16) The Case of the Stolen Coin – Two sisters went through great lengths to drug a dinner guest in order to steal a coin from him. While all of the other guests were observant enough to notice a small mark on the bridge of the victim’s nose, no one was sharp enough to realize that the lights went out every time one of the sisters went into the kitchen, that the victim was drinking from a glass that had lipstick on the rim, or that said glass kept changing positions each time the lights went out.
15) The Case of the Broken Window – After apparently going through the entire house immediately after arriving, a party guest discovered a locked door. Since he was determined to to find out what was in that room, he went outside and scaled the house, unnoticed, in order to climb through the second-floor window. After all of that effort, he ended up stealing a single rare stamp and then returned to the party as if nothing had happened.
14) The Case of the Air Guitar – In what is possibly the dumbest contest ever dreamed up, contestants were to perform air guitar along with music (played on the piano, which of course, sounds nothing like a guitar). The contest didn’t seem to measure style, just time-keeping ability. Each contestant was to perform for one minute. Points were deducted if the contestant stops playing at least ten seconds early. That’s it. That’s the entire contest. Why? Why would that contest exist?
13) The Case of the Missing Ring – Two thieves broke into a man’s home, hit him over the head and ransacked the house in search of a ring. After being attacked, the victim hid the ring and left a note saying where the ring was being kept. Instead of writing the note by hand, he typed it out. Luckily, the robbers didn’t stop to find out the source of the noise of someone using a typewriter. Although time was short, the victim left a pretty detailed note describing the men’s actions. However, the injury caused problems with writing the note. He typed perfectly well except for the fact that he would type ‘c’ when he meant to type ‘v’ and vice versa. That seems like a pretty specific brain injury.
12) The Case of the Stolen Watch – Encyclopedia hatched a plan to recover a stolen watch. The plan hinged on the assumption that the watch was set to the wrong time, that the prime suspect – who was known for always being on time – would not only risk being seen in public with the hot item, but would depend on the watch as his primary timekeeping piece without even ensuring that it was set correctly and that this suspect would even show up to see someone he doesn’t even like.
11) The Case of the Mysterious Handprints – A house guest stole a set of bookends from her host and went to great lengths to make it look like a wheelchair-bound man pulled off the crime by walking across the yard and through the house on his hands.
10) The Case of the Bound Camper – A group kidnapped a camper. Instead of leaving the scene undetected and making a clean getaway, one of the kidnappers stayed behind, posing as a victim left behind, in order to get help. The group was eventually caught because of this completely unnecessary part of the plan was carried out.
9) The Case of the Lucky Catch – A retired baseball hero invited a bunch of children over to his estate for a picnic. During the event, he reported that the baseball from his big game had been stolen. In reality, he reported it stolen in order to collect insurance money. He then made it look like one of his young guests was the thief.
8) The Case of the Mysterious Thief – When Encyclopedia was stumped over who attacked and robbed a restaurant employee in the ladies’ room, Sally accused a couple that had been sitting in the corner. She came to the conclusion that the couple must have been cross-dressing, because the woman – not the man – was sitting the with her back to the room, which goes against the rules of the etiquette. One of the many problems with that theory was that the couple had already left the restaurant minutes before the attack and no one had seen them return. But that didn’t really seem to matter.
7) The Case of the Supermarket Shopper – When his friend announced that he was going to the supermarket, an art thief asked him to pick up four tubes of toothpaste for him; knowing that the extra items would make him unable to use the express lane and would lengthen his shopping trip by ten minutes or so. The man then used that extra time to break into his friends house to steal a centuries-old painting. Seriously though, the victim should have wondered why his friend needed him to pick up four tubes of toothpaste.
6) The Case of the Million Pesos – Encyclopedia’s friend’s uncle was being accused of a bank robbery in Mexico in which two men got away with one million pesos in one-peso bills. Encyclopedia “proved” his friend’s uncle’s accuser was lying because part of his claimed involved one of the robbers counting the money up in one afternoon. He pointed out that two men wouldn’t have been able to count one million bills in a single afternoon, but completely ignored how impossible it would have been for two men to have carried one-million-peso bills out of the bank.
5) The Case of Shoeless Sam – The game of baseball was mired by a team that conspired to do anything – no matter how ridiculous – to keep a member of the rival team from breaking a home run record and by an umpire that seemed to make up his own rules as he went along.
4) The Case of Cupid’s Arrow – Worried that a masked intruder was going to steal his prized diamond, a man tied the piece to an arrow and shot the arrow at a random spot out his window, away from the would-be thief. The police ignore the fact that the arrow came very close to killing a child and instead, used word play to get the intruder to accidentally confess.
3) The Case of the Two Spies – When Encyclopedia told his father that he thought he saw a man following another man into an old inn, the police chief explained that the man being followed was a suspected spy and the man doing the following was an FBI agent. He then told his son that it was all part of an undercover FBI investigation in which they suspected that the two spies were working together. His father then took his 10-year-old son to the inn, where we learn that the inn was swimming with FBI agents and local authorities. Despite all of the manpower, neither agency was able to pick up a shred of evidence that these two men were working together (which makes it unclear why the investigation had even continued to that point). Encyclopedia ended up figured out in a matter of minutes what dozens of professionals couldn’t over several days.
2) The Case of the Runaway Judge – One of the judges of a garden show left town a night early to elope. Mrs Brown had hoped that the judge had at least left a note behind, telling who the judge picked to win her category. There was a note, but it didn’t name a winner. Instead of naming a winner, this judge thought it would be a better idea to leave behind a red dress and a monthly planner left open to January. Since the judge’s past jobs included a jeweler and a code breaker, she had assumed that anyone would be able to see those to items and know that it was some sort of code and that she was saying that the woman whose last name was Garnet was the winner, since garnet is red and is the birthstone for January. This wasn’t obvious to Mrs. Brown (because why would it be?), but luckily, she had brought Encyclopedia around, who cracked the code. Good thing this woman had a spare red dress to leave behind.
1) The Case of the Lady Ghost – On his way home after committing a robbery, a jewel thief noticed that a man saw him walking on the beach. The thief was convinced that this witness was going to tell authorities what he saw and that the footprints he left behind would point to him because of his limp. So he went home, had his wife put on her wedding dress, tied a piece of wood to the train of the dress and follow his footprints in reverse, posing as a ghost. That way, the footprints would be covered up and no one would believe this witness who was also claiming to have seen a ghost. Except, the plan totally backfired, obviously.
On the day of the Idaville Pet Fish Club’s annual show, which was held in Mrs. Finley’s backyard, Encyclopedia was visiting his grandmother. Sally went to the show alone to cheer on her friend Ginger Butterworth.
Ginger showed Sally her killifish, Lovely Lana. Sally noticed that Lovely Lana wasn’t moving; not even when Ginger tapped on the glass. Ginger told Sally that, according to the teenaged Earl Duffy, not reacting to anything showed that the Lovely Lana was not stressed out, which meant that she should do well with the judging.
According to her, Earl had taught Ginger all she knew about taking care of fish. She had met Earl at a table at the farmers market on the day that she bought Lovely Lana. Ginger had noticed that a table selling pet fish had one lone fish remaining. Earl encouraged Ginger to buy the fish, saying that he’d buy it himself, but he didn’t have any money left. He also told Ginger about how he had had two other killifish, but he accidentally killed them when he left the lid closed on their tank for too long, which cut off their oxygen supply. Earl had learned from his mistakes and he was sure that his new killifish, Prince, was in shape to win Best in Show at the Pet Fish Club Show.
When Ginger told Earl that she was going to buy the killifish and enter it for the show, Earl gave Ginger a glass vase for her fish. The vase had a bowl for a bottom and a long narrow neck opening up top. Earl said the vase was meant for a single flower, but it was just right for a killifish because the narrow opening would keep Lovely Lana from jumping out of the water, as killifish supposedly had a tendency to do.
At the show, Mrs. Finley was walking around and judged the other fish. She made comments like, “sunken belly,” “humpback,” and “stressed out.” Finley seemed pleased with Earl’s fish. She didn’t say much when she looked at Lovely Lana. She just said, “Hmmm.” Finley gave the vase a gentle shake and Lovely Lana didn’t move. “Hmmm,” she repeated as she walked away.
Minutes later, she announced that the winner was Ginger’s Lovely Lana.
Earl protested immediately because Lovely Lana was dead. Finley explained that the fish had perfect fins and shows well. “It’s just dead.” She then cited a Pet Fish Show that took place in Ohio several years earlier that used an oft-forgotten rule on the books where a dead fish won Best in Show. It turned out that if a fish died after arrival, it can still compete. Since Lovely Lana was alive when Ginger arrived and checked in, she was still eligible to win.
Sally then accused Earl of trying to keep Lovely Lana out of the show.
Okay, let’s back up for a second to address this insanity.
The implication here is that there is a governing body that oversees Pet Fish Shows, much like the American Kennel Club for dog shows or the Cat Fanciers’ Association for cats. This ruling body for pet fish club shows apparently has universally agreed upon rules that are to be followed in all group events. Although this organization has reach around the country – or even the world, we don’t even know – they apparently have a very small budget. We know this because Idaville Pet Fish Club Show was being held in the judge’s own backyard.
I also take issue with the dangerous precedent this “dead fish rule” sets for Pet Fish Club Shows. If fish lose points for being too jittery or “stressed,” and the dead Lovely Lana received points for “showing well,” meaning it wasn’t swimming frantically – because it was dead – then what’s stopping people from killing their fish immediately after checking into these shows so that they would be motionless for the judges?
So, we’re going to accept all of that as a reality. We also have to note the fact that Ginger seemed to have absolutely no reaction to the news that Lovely Lana was dead. Normally, someone in her position would speak up and say something like, “What do you mean she’s dead?” She didn’t react to the news that her fish was dead OR to the fact that she had just won Best in Show.
We also have to wonder why Lovely Lana wasn’t floating belly up if she was, in fact, dead. An earlier mystery was hinged entirely on the fact that recently deceased fish float to the top when they’re dead.
But let’s ignore all of those questions. How did Sally know that Earl tried to off Lovely Lana in order to win? Well, backing up to see Earl’s entire story, we learn that he’s probably a sick, sick dude.
Let’s go back to that farmers market where these three souls meet for the first time. Earl saw that this table had one killifish remaining. He feared that someone was going to buy that killifish and enter it into the Pet Fish Club Show, thus ruining Prince’s chances at winning Best in Show. I don’t know why he thought this particular remaining killifish was going to eventually be entered in this show. He didn’t allow for the fact that someone with no knowledge or interest in the exciting world of pet fish shows would take that fish home, where it would eventually die without knowing that such an event even existed.
I also don’t understand why he didn’t worry about any of the fish that had been sold earlier would be entered. One would think that someone scouting out potential fish show winners would have bought up the finest specimens already. There was also the possibility that some other fish – one sold months earlier in a pet shop across town – could have been a threat to Earl’s coveted prize. But for reasons unknown, he knew that this one fish was the only fish in the entire world that could beat Prince.
In order to ensure that someone who knew about taking care of fish bought this remaining killifish and had it entered, he encouraged Ginger to buy the fish because she knew nothing about the subject. He knew that he would be able to give Ginger false information so that the fish, and his competition, would be dead. Only, it seemed that Ginger only knew about the Pet Fish Club Show because Earl told her about it. So, if Earl had kept his damn mouth shut about this stupid show, Ginger wouldn’t have known about it and she wouldn’t have even entered. To make sure his plan worked, he even gave Ginger a vase, knowing that the vase would limit the amount of oxygen the fish would get. The fish would die and would be unable to take Prince’s top prize. Or so he thought.
Luckily for Earl, Ginger wasn’t bright enough to question whether or not a vase was a safe home for the fish. If she had said, “Weren’t you just telling me that your fish died because it didn’t have enough air? I’m worried this vase wouldn’t give my fish enough air, so I’m going to put her in a bowl with a screen over it. See you at the show,” Earl would have been screwed.
However, Earl’s luck ran out and his sick and twisted plan failed. Lovely Lana didn’t die soon enough for it to be disqualified.
So to review, in order to win a Pet Fish Club Show, this boy convinced a girl to buy a fish, told her about the show, and then gave her information that would kill her pet. However, he was undone by a rarely cited rule put out by this far-reaching congress that sanctions pet fish shows held in people’s backyards.
I got a bittersweet feeling from reading this story. It’s the last one in the final Encyclopedia Brown book to be authored by Donald J. Sobol (I don’t know of anyone taking over since Sobol’s death). While I’m a little sad that Encyclopedia will likely no longer solve any more nonsensical mysteries, I’m glad that this story did a good job of illustrating how absurd life in Idaville really is.
There’s a real problem at hand here with the inconsistency of the way time progresses in these stories. Time progresses (sort of) in this universe. There have been references to computers, female police officers (though we can tell the very thought made Chief Brown uncomfortable) and even a blisteringly up-to-date reference to the Apollo moon landing (which seems timely in 1970 when you consider that the fact that it was 1995 before anyone in this town made a mere mention of a computer). Nearly half-century elapsed, yet Encyclopedia stayed 10 years old.
That’s fine. He can stay 10 years old. These are the rules of this universe and these rules stayed consistent throughout the series. He went from baby boomer to whatever name they’ll come up with for what’s after millennials (not that anyone in Idaville would ever acknowledge any of these terms).
However, my suspension of disbelief has a line in the sand, and these stories cross that line with this:
Encyclopedia never upped his fee to adjust for inflation.
At best, this means that this is a world where inflation just doesn’t exist. However, it’s more likely that Encyclopedia is just grossly underestimating his true worth. In the first book published in 1963, the idea of a 10-year-old boy charging 25 cents to solve little mysteries was cute. With inflation, a quarter in 1963 worked out to be almost $2 in today’s money; which isn’t too shabby for a kid.
However in 2012, he was STILL charging only $0.25. What can anyone buy for 25 cents? Nothing! I’ll put it to you this way; I have to say things like “a quarter,” “25 cents” and “$0.25” to get around the fact that saying “25¢” requires extra effort since the cents symbol had been wiped from the keyboard 20+ years ago. Why? Because you can’t buy anything for 25¢.
This boy had solved (by my count) 136 thefts, 52 cases of fraud and 10 kidnappings. There were 93 instances of the Idaville Police Department needing his help; that’s nearly one-third of the stories in the entire series where he helped trained professionals do their job. Why is charging next to nothing for his time and effort? For a smart boy, Encyclopedia seems woefully ignorant of how much money he could pull in.
Lou Warwick called Chief Brown to tell him that a large sum of money had been taken from his desk. “I was really calling for your son, because he’s the one who will probably end up helping me. But I suppose you could come too. I mean, someone needs to drive him over here.”
I’m guessing Warwick didn’t really said all of that, but I like to think that he did.
Since retiring from the U.S. Army, Warwick had spent his time fixing up old military vehicles. Chief Brown and Encyclopedia went to Warwick’s garage and went down to business. Warwick said that the theft happened in his office. He thought he’d be able to figure out who took the money, but he couldn’t. That’s when he called Chief Brown.
Encyclopedia looked around the office. There was a desk, a chair, bookshelves, a four-drawer filing cabinet, a water cooler and a door leading to the bathroom. Warwick said that there had been a couple from out of town around earlier that morning. They were there to buy an amphibious jeep. They ended up paying in cash, which they carried in a backpack. Warwick said he wasn’t prepared for all of that cash, as he usually got paid in checks. He put the cash in a few manila envelopes to take to the bank later. However, while he was stuffing the envelopes, a customer walked into the garage. Instead of asking the customer to wait a moment, Warwick rushed with cash and just left it on his desk where anyone could just walk in and take it.
I’m not saying the thief was right for taking the money. I’m saying that maybe Warwick should be more careful just leaving thousands of dollars in cash lying around.
Warwick said that he noticed the three people in his staff enter the office in the half-hour he was helping his customer. All of them swore that they had nothing to do with the theft. He believed them, because the envelopes were too big to have been smuggled out of the office unnoticed.
Ed Winslow, the mechanic, was first in the office. He said that he had gone into the office to get a drink at the water cooler. He noticed the envelopes on the desk with a few bills sticking out, but he didn’t touch them.
Phil Riggs, did body work for Warwick. He told Chief Brown that after Winslow left the office, he went in to get a drink of water. He said he saw the envelopes on the desk and a few bills, but he didn’t steal anything.
Olga Simpson, the small, white-haired woman who handled paperwork, told Chief Brown that she had been in the office to get a drink after Riggs. She said she saw the envelopes and a few bills on the desk, but that she left them there.
Chief Brown and Warwick discussed other possibilities, but Warwick couldn’t think of another way the money could have gone missing other than one of those three taking the money.
Encyclopedia spoke up to give his theory. The money was still in the room. Warwick said that he had searched the entire room, but didn’t find it. Encyclopedia explained that the money was under the filing cabinet. Olga, the thief, put it there, knowing that no one would think to look under there, nor would they suspect that she lifted the filing cabinet.
Warwick didn’t believe Encyclopedia. How could the little old lady have lifted the filing cabinet by herself? Encyclopedia demonstrated. He pulled open each drawer of the cabinet as far as they could go. With the weight distribution thrown off, Encyclopedia was able to pull the top of the cabinet forward, allowing the it to tip. When he did that, the back of the cabinet rose, revealing the envelopes.
Okay, but how did Encyclopedia know that Olga was the one who stole it? Because she was the last one in the office. Since everyone, including her, said that the envelope was on the table, that meant that the last person in the room must have been the one to take the money.
If Warwick knew that Olga had been the last person in the room, why didn’t he suspect that she knew what happened to the envelopes of money? Even if Olga was covering for one of her co-workers, that meant that 1) she knew something and 2) there were two other possibilities. Warwick’s call to the police shouldn’t have been “someone stole money and I don’t know who,” it should have been, “one of my employees stole my money and I don’t know how.”
Mitzi Bowser walked over to the Brown Detective Agency thinking that Agatha Grubs scammed her. Agatha had offered to sell Mitzi her new bike for just $10, but Agatha put a few terms in the deal.
1) Mitzi could pay $5 immediately and the other $5 by noon the following day. 2) Mitzi was not allowed to see the bike before putting any money down. 3) Mitzi had to accept the bike, as is. If she decided she did not want the bike, she surrendered her $5. 4) If Mitzi did not go to Agatha’s before the noon deadline, she surrendered her $5. 5) Only Mitzi was allowed to see the bike. If she came with anyone else, she surrendered her $5. 6) Agatha could pretty much call the deal off at her own discretion. If she did, Mitzi surrendered her $5.
This sounds like a remarkably shitty deal. Why would anyone agree to it? For some reason, Mitzi did and she paid Agatha the $5. No one forced her to do that, so this was her own doing. Mitzi seemed to have forgotten Item #5 of the list of terms, and hired Encyclopedia and Sally to figure out if she had been scammed.
When the three showed up at Agatha’s house, she threatened to call the call off the deal until Encyclopedia and Sally agreed to leave. Only they didn’t really leave, they just hid themselves behind a few garbage cans and watched from across the street. That plan worked until a city truck parked right in their line of sight. They didn’t want to get closer, because they were afraid that Agatha would see them.
A few minutes later, they took a peek and saw Agatha walking the bike back to her garage. Mitzi explained that, although it was a beautiful, she thought she saw a major problem with it. “When the pedal on the left goes forward, the one on the right goes backward – and vice versa. That bike is dangerous! The pedals don’t turn the same way.”
I had to read that quote several times and make sure that her complaint was what I thought it was. It sounded like she was complaining that the pedals moved opposite of each other in a circle. This couldn’t have been what she was complaining about, could it? For her to actually think that this was a legitimate problem with the bike, she would have to have never seen a bicycle, tricycle, a Big Wheel, or anything else that involved pedals.
Agatha returned from the garage and defended herself. She said that she had already explained that the pedals were damaged and that if Mitzi was going to buy it, she was going to pay someone to have it fixed. Agatha said she didn’t know how much, but it could be up to $50 or $60. Mitzi said that she couldn’t afford to bring it somewhere to have it fixed, so she wasn’t going to buy it. Agatha said she was going to keep her $5, and that’s when Encyclopedia stepped in.
Encyclopedia explained that, yes, that’s how bike pedals work. When one side is forward, the other side is back. When one is up, the other is down. I commend Encyclopedia for not losing his patience and yelling, “How the hell do you not know that, you freakin’ idiot?”
It turned out that Agatha had no intention to sell the bike and that she made up a fake problem to scare Mitzi out of buying the bike so that she could keep her $5. Encyclopedia argued that since there was nothing wrong with the bike, that Agatha should still honor her deal and sell Mitzi the bike for $10, which is what ended up happening.
That is complete bullshit. Agatha doesn’t owe Mitzi a damn thing. Yes, the terms of Agatha’s original agreement were ridiculous and they sounded like the worst deal ever. I don’t know what kind of idiot would agree to such terms, but Mitzi did and she paid Agatha the $5 deposit.
Part of that agreement was that Mitzi bought the bike as is, sight unseen. She heard that the bike needed some work, and she declined. Agatha gets to keep the $5; that’s what Mitzi agreed to. By the way, what kind of bike was she expecting for $10? Was she expecting it to be perfectly operational? For $10, I’d expect a rusty heap of metal with two wheels hastily attached.
Part of the agreement was that only Mitzi would be able to see the bike. Encyclopedia stuck his nose into the proceedings and told Mitzi that the bike was actually in full working order. It shouldn’t matter. Mitzi had already declined on buying the bike – meaning that Agatha would get to keep the $5 – and someone other than Mitzi was seeing the bike – meaning that Agatha would get to keep the $5.
No matter how you look at it, Mitzi agreed to the shitty agreement and then broke the terms of the agreement. Agatha should get to keep the $5.
Though Agatha got wrongly screwed over on this deal, she was an idiot for even making the offer in the first place. First of all, she was lucky that she found someone dumb enough to take the stupid offer. How many people before Mitzi said, “Ten dollars for a bike? Sounds good. Wait… I’m not allowed to see the bike before I agree to give you any money and I’m not allowed to let anyone else see it and if I change my mind, you keep my $5? No, never mind.”
But what if someone did agree to that with full knowledge that there was something wrong with the pedals? Even if the repairs did cost $60 worth of work, that’s still $70 for a bike. That’s not a bad deal. It’s an even better deal when you realize that the so-called problem with the pedals wasn’t real.
“Yeah, I know how pedals work. They’re supposed to do that.”
Then Agatha would have to sell her new bike for $10.
However, even though she was trying to scam someone else, I feel like she got wrongfully scammed out of her bike. Encyclopedia could be such a bully sometimes.
We’ve already had a story titled The Case of Wilford’s Big Deal where Wilford Wiggins was starting a business where people purchased the right to name a star. Well, Wilford had another big deal. I think it’s really telling that two Wilford stories would have the same name. By my count, there have been a total of eighteen stories involving Wilford, and they all could have the same title: Wilford is an Untrustworthy Asshole.
This time, Danny Proxmire, 8, hired Encyclopedia because Wilford had called another one of his business meetings. Sally told Danny that he couldn’t trust Wilford, and Danny’s response was “That’s why I’m here. I need you to make sure he’s on the up-and-up this time.”
So Danny was there to see if he could trust the guy he knew he couldn’t trust. That seems like an idiotic way of spending a quarter.
This meeting was taking place at the community center. There had been a dance class scheduled for that particular room, but it had been cancelled. Somehow, Wilford convinced the people at the community center that his talk was educational. It didn’t seem like anyone running the center looked into what Wilford was up to. They just kind of shrugged and said, “Sure, whatever.”
There was a large group of eager, stupid children. Wilford stood at the front of the room. Next to him was a pale, skinny teen named Bruno McCumber.
Wilford began the presentation by explaining that Bruno had just returned from spending three months in the desert where he had been prospecting for gold. It had been a tough three months for Bruno. He had to endure day after day of sun and heat with barely enough water. But, his perseverance paid off, because he found gold. In fact, he found what Wilford said was the richest gold mine in the state.
Wilford explained that now that they know where to find gold, they need a way of extracting it. That would require a lot of machinery, and since all of his money was supposedly tied up in African oil wells, he needed investors. That’s where the children of Idaville came in. He was selling shares so that he would be able to buy the necessary machinery. He promised to make them rich. Wilford also warned them not to tell their parents, because once the adults found out about this gold mine in the Floridian desert, they would move in on the action and leave nothing for Wilford’s investors.
Encyclopedia had just one problem with Wilford’s story; besides the fact that there are no deserts in Florida – maybe they’re near the Floridian mountains? The problem that Encyclopedia had was the fact that Bruno didn’t look like he had been in the desert sun for three solid months. In fact, he looked pale. He should have had sunburn, or at least a tan.
So Danny wasted his afternoon and his quarter finding out something he pretty much knew to begin with; Wilford shouldn’t be trusted.
Chuck Tweedle had been fired from his job delivering newspapers for the Idaville News following an incident that occurred on April Fools’ Day. He had a pretty perfect job performance record up until that day; the papers always arrived on time and the papers were delivered right at the door. He had even been crowned delivery boy of the year, so Chuck’s firing didn’t make a lot of sense. Encyclopedia and Sally decided to ask Chuck what had happened.
On April Fools’ Day, Mr. Miller had complained that Chuck had rolled up his newspaper very tightly and shoved it through the handle of his front door, bolting the door shut. I don’t really get what that means, but let’s move on. Miller’s teenage daughter, Lily, said that she saw Chuck commit this supposedly heinous act. Miller complained to the newspaper and Chuck was immediately fired – no questions asked – despite his spotless record leading up to that.
Chuck told Encyclopedia that Lily was a singer and a cat lover. She had three white cats that shed everywhere. Every night, they would sleep in the living room couch that faces the picture window. The morning of the door bolting incident, he saw the cats on the couch, but he didn’t see Lily.
I have to wonder why the paperboy has such an intimate knowledge of the houses on his route. I could understand if Chuck had said, “I usually notice the cats sleeping on the couch by the window when I come by, and I think they were there that morning.” That doesn’t sound creepy. But Chuck knowing the cats’ nightly routine is creepy because he has no reason to be at their house at night.
Chuck’s theory was that Lily lied so that her younger brother, Horace, could get Chuck’s coveted paper route.
The three went to the Millers’ home to speak to Lily. She reluctantly let the two in and led them into the living room to have a seat. Encyclopedia saw that someone sitting on the living room couch – which he noticed was covered in white cat fur – would have the best view of the front door. He asked Lily about what she saw the morning of April Fools’.
Lily explained that she had to perform at a charity breakfast that morning and that she normally doesn’t sleep very well before she performs, so she got up early. Since she was awake, she decided to get ready for the concert, putting on her black linen dress, and wait for the newspaper. She was then going to read the newspaper while eating breakfast.
Sally asked why Lily got dressed so early and if she worried about getting food on her dress. Lily got incredibly uppity and answered that she always took care of her clothes. “I’m not 10 years old.”
Basically, Lily is a snot.
Encyclopedia asked Lily where she was when Chuck delivered the newspaper. She answered that she was sitting on the couch. She explained that she chased the cats off before sitting down, and then she stopped, realizing that she just screwed herself over.
She realized that, according to her story, she put on her black dress and then sat down on the couch that was covered in white fur. She wouldn’t have done that, because she knew that the dress would have been covered in fur.
Lily was the one who bolted the door with the newspaper (still don’t know what that means) and then claimed that she saw Chuck do it so that he could get fired and Horace could get his route. That would mean that she had a perfect view of Chuck bolting the door, but she had made no attempt to stop him. I don’t know, if I was sitting somewhere that overlooked my front door and saw my paperboy doing something to my door with the newspaper, I would immediately get up and stop him or ask him what he was doing. Lily didn’t do that. She, instead, waited for her father to wake up and told him what had happened; I guess leaving the newspaper where it was the entire time.
If I had been in Miller’s position, and my daughter told me that story, I would have asked, “Why didn’t you stop him?” Instead, he called the newspaper office and demanded to have this boy fired.
If I had been Chuck’s boss, and the father of Chuck’s potential replacement called in a complaint about Chuck, I would consider the coincidence that Horace’s father was the only person who had ever complained about a Chuck, who had been honored as Paperboy of the Year. I would ask Chuck his side of the story, and after Chuck denied it – probably saying something like, “bolted the door shut with a newspaper? I don’t even get what that means.” – I would probably take no action. At most, I might make a remark in his file about the incident, but note that nothing had been proven either way. Instead, Chuck’s boss just fired him, not taking any of this into consideration.
How did Lily come up with this plan? How was she so sure that Chuck was going to get fired because of this? And how did she know that Horace was going to be the one to assume Chuck’s route? I’d imagine Chuck and Horace weren’t the only paperboys that the newspaper employed, and I’d also imagine no one sat Horace down and told him that he would take over for the next person to quit or to get fired. So there was no guarantee for Lily that doing all of this would lead to her brother getting the route that she wanted.
And, of course, this is another situation where someone would have easily have gotten away with something if they had been even a somewhat decent liar. Lily had no reason to include the fact that she had been wearing her black dress at that point in the morning. If she had been in her pajamas, Encyclopedia would have no way of proving that Lily was lying.
It would still be a remarkably stupid scheme to get a child wrongfully fired from his job.
The steady rain was absolutely killing business for the Brown Detective Agency, so Encyclopedia and Sally decided to close up shop for the day and go to the library. When they got there, Encyclopedia asked the librarian, Ms. Moore, if there had been any new books. Moore answered that there weren’t and that, if anything, there was one less book because someone had burned a hole into the middle pages of the novel Fast Wheels. Encyclopedia began the questioning.
Moore didn’t acknowledge the fact that Encyclopedia liked solving mysteries and that she had one for him to solve. I actually would have appreciated her saying, “Oh, I really didn’t think this was a police matter, so I didn’t report it. Maybe you could figure out who did this, since you’re here.” That would have explained why this woman felt compelled to give this boy such a detailed answer to a simple question.
The book had been discovered three nights earlier by the after-hours janitor, Ben Considine. Considine said he found it near the restroom sink and that the book smelled like tobacco. Moore didn’t suspect him, because the book had clearly been snuffed out with a cigarette and Considine didn’t smoke. She had a guess as to who did it, but apparently did very little with that information.
On the day in question, it had been raining even harder than on the day Encyclopedia had come in. As a result, a group of four teenagers were the only people to visit the library that day. They stuck around for about a half-hour and they all checked out books about race cars and drivers.
By the way, it does not surprise me one bit that only four people stepped foot in the Idaville Public Library in the course of the entire day. The people in this town do not strike me as readers.
Encyclopedia asked if she knew the names, Moore didn’t, so she went into the library’s computer system and gave them the names of the four boys. That seems like information the library should be handing out to anyone. The four boys’ names were Chris Wilder, Oscar Lane, Gary Silver and Frank Cloud.
Encyclopedia asked if anything else unusual had happened, and Moore pretty much answered, “no.” And then immediately told Encyclopedia about a mysterious, anonymous note that she had received in the mail that day. Maybe Moore has a different definition of the word “unusual” that I do.
The note read:
He burned the hole in the book. To find out who, have a look. PURPLE MONTH ORANGE.
Ugh, obviously another one of these codes. But that’s no problem, because no matter how ridiculous the code was, Encyclopedia can figure it out.
Moore and Sally spitballed for a while. They started thinking about holidays with purple and orange colors, or foods that were those colors, or maybe it was some sort of poetry, since “book” and “look” rhyme.
When Moore started talking about rhyming, Encyclopedia got an idea. The words “purple,” “month” and “orange” are three of the four words in the English language that had no rhyme. The fourth word was “silver.” The note was hinting that Gary Silver burned the book.
Gary later admitted that he and his friends sneaked into the bathroom to have a cigarette. He had the book with him. When he thought he heard someone coming, he snuffed the cigarette out on the book. One of his friends must have been feeling guilty about the damaged book and didn’t think Gary should have gotten away with what he had done, so he wrote a note and mailed it to the library. Since he felt bad about snitching on his friend, he made it an anonymous note.
I really don’t know what the purpose of putting the note in code would serve, except making it difficult for the library to figure out who destroyed the book. Was that so the snitch could rest easy at night knowing that he didn’t, technically, give the library Gary’s name?
And this janitor was able to smell tobacco in the book hours after the fact, but no one smelled cigarette smoke all day? And I don’t understand why Moore needed Encyclopedia here. Moore knew that only four people were in the library that day. Round up those four people and get some answers out of them. C’mon Moore, you’re a librarian. You should be able to terrify one of them into snitching on his friend.
“Don’t blame me that you’re poor. Blame me for making you rich.”—Wilford Wiggins, uttering his last line of dialogue in the Encyclopedia Brown series. Wise words, except not really. The Case of Wilford’s Big Deal (II)
Encyclopedia and Sally were at the park’s soccer field to see the Chipmunks and the Cobras play the league championship game for the under 12 division. The two stood next to Hugh Canfield, their friend and the manager of the Chipmunks.
The under 12 soccer team was being managed by someone who was also under 12? Were there any adults involved in this game? I can already see some potential problems with this game and the entire league, in general.
Sally noticed a set of twins in Cobra uniforms. Hugh told her that they were Vince and Vernon Hackanstack. They were mean and they talked trash to their competitors.
Three minutes into the game, the referee blew the whistle and yelled, “Chipmunk number eight, you were holding.” When Sally mentioned to Encyclopedia that she didn’t agree with the call, some woman butted in and told her that she should learn to respect authority.
A few minutes later, the referee called a foul against a Cobra. The referee called out, “You were holding, Bob.”
The game continued like that. The twins seemed to behave themselves in front of the referee, but behind their back, they threw elbows, tripped, charged, etc. No one thought it was odd that the referee was completely ignoring the yells of protests from the Chipmunk parents. You would think at a certain point, even Cobra parents would speak up in the name of sportsmanship. Maybe they were hushed by the woman who advocated blind trust of authority.
The contest sounded like a typical “exciting” soccer game, the game was scoreless until the final minutes when the referee called another penalty near the Chipmunk goal. “Chipmunk number four, you pushed Vince off the ball.” The referee rewarded the Cobras with a penalty kick, which they ended up scoring for the win.
Well, since the team that Encyclopedia was rooting for didn’t win, that meant that someone cheated, right? Of course.
The referee seemed to know all of the Cobras by first name, he was even able to tell the twins apart, yet he didn’t know any of the Chipmunks. Was the referee friendly with the Cobras and favoring them?
Yes. Apparently the soccer league allowed him officiate through the whole season, and no one seemed to notice that he was especially chummy with one team. Also, in the course of the entire season, he didn’t pick up the names of any other team members. Then, it just so happened that he was picked to officiate this one championship game. And despite the fact that it was the championship game, there weren’t any other league officials present for the game, so no one was around to speak up that the referee was obviously favoring one team over another.
“I only know of two, Picnic Day in Australia and Peanut Sunday in Luxembourg.”—Encyclopedia Brown, answering Sally’s question if there are any holidays about food. My initial reaction to Encyclopedia’s answer was “Of course you know about a holiday in Luxembourg.” But then after trying to Google “Peanut Sunday,” or looking for it in Wikipedia, I came to the conclusion that Encyclopedia might have made this up knowing that others will believe everything he says. The Case of the Hole in the Book
Encyclopedia and Sally were taking a bus to Mr. Whitten’s toy store where a jelly bean contest was being hosted. Whitten was going to show the children a jar full of jelly beans and whoever came closest to the number would win the jelly beans and, for some reason, a professional basketball.
Pistol Pete saw them outside of the store and told them to “Stick ’em up.” Peter Peabody was a 6-year-old who liked the Wild West. He went around town wearing a gun belt and holster with a water pistol. He would randomly point the water pistol at people and they were supposed to throw their hands in their hands up. If they didn’t, Pistol Pete would squirt them.
In other words, Pistol Pete had awful parents who never told their son that this was not the proper way to behave.
After the two detectives put their hands up, Pistol Pete told them not to be scared because he was just practicing his fast draw. He explained that Butch Ribrock wanted him to pull a holdup at the jelly bean contest. He said that Butch had promised him that he would get his name in the newspapers if he held up the jelly bean contest. By the way, we’ve never met Butch before, but from his description, I can tell that he’s another one of Idaville’s assholes.
I’m not sure what that means to holdup the contest. He wasn’t going to hold up the toy store, just the jelly bean contest. Was it their aim to steal the jelly beans? No, because Pistol Pete later said that Butch was sure that he was going to win the contest.
I get the feeling Encyclopedia had no idea what Pistol Pete was talking about, but he knew that Butch was up to no good. He told Pistol Pete to rethink doing whatever it was Butch had asked him to do. The detectives went inside and the contest began.
Whitten emerged from the back of the store holding a jar of jelly beans. Behind him was his niece, Trudy Pickens. He put the jar on the counter, wrote a number on an index card, showed Trudy and slipped the card under the counter.
Since Encyclopedia was apparently hip to the latest gossip in Idaville, he knew that Trudy had the hots for Butch. So clearly, some bullshit’s about to go down. When it does, it should be obvious to everyone, but no one – not even the adult – will be suspicious of anything; no one except for Encyclopedia, who will be expected to be the sole voice of justice and reasoning once again.
At that point, Pistol Pete came in and yelled, “Stick ’em up!” Trudy was the only person who actually reacted in kind. She stuck both hands up, only her right thumb was bent into her palm. Pistol Pete then ran away. Sally whispered to Encyclopedia what he thought the bent thumb meant, but he said he didn’t know yet.
Pistol Pete eventually left and Trudy collected everyone’s guesses. Whitten then read all of the children’s guesses out loud and announced that no one had guessed correctly and that 45 was the closest guess. He then asked if everyone had handed in their guess and Butch spoke up saying that he still had his. He scribbled something down and handed it to Whitten. Whitten looked at it and then held Butch’s guess up along with the correct answer. Both read “54.”
Now, let’s forget the fact that the girl who knew the answer had a crush on a boy who had entered the contest, and that boy had also told some little kid to hold up the contest with a water pistol. Let’s not consider any of that for a moment.
For now, let’s concentrate on the fact that Whitten had given Butch a ridiculous advantage. Everyone’s guess had supposedly been collected. Whitten didn’t confirm this fact until after he announced that 45 what the closest guess. What he should have said instead was, “Ooh, I don’t have the correct number yet. Are there any other guesses out there?”
By saying that 45 was the closest guess so far, Whitten was giving anyone who hadn’t handed his guess in yet (Butch) a clue. Assuming that Pistol Pete and Trudy hadn’t helped him, Butch still had a 50/50 chance of winning that. All he had to do was guess 44 or 46 based on whether or not he thought there were more or less than 45 jelly beans in the jar.
Now, let’s unravel this insane plan Butch hatched in order to win this contest: Butch must have told Trudy, “Hey, so I’m going to have that annoying kid who points his water pistol at everyone to come by during the jelly bean contest. When you stick your hands up, use your fingers to show me how many jelly beans are in the jar so that I can win.” And since Trudy had a crush on Butch, she was happy to help.
Pistol Pete showed up and Trudy put her hands up, only she bent one thumb, which hinted a five and a four. The problem was that Trudy was an idiot and she thought she was signaling “54,” but she didn’t take into account that she was trying to signal in front of her, so it looked like she signaling for “45.” Yet, for some unknown reason, Butch didn’t guess either of that until – luckily for him – Whitten mentioned that 45 was close, but wrong. How did Butch know not the guess 45 right away? We don’t know. What would have happened if Whitten didn’t blab about 45 being wrong or if he had said some other number? We don’t know.
What would have happened if there were 49 jelly beans in the jar? Or 62? Or 124? Butch’s already complicated plan only would have worked if the answer was a two-digit number where both digits were five or under. Luckily, for Butch, everything worked out.
Might I add that Whitten was a cheapskate. I say that because part of the prize would be the jar of jelly beans. He was giving away a jar of 54 jelly beans. According to info gleaned from the Jelly Belly website, there are roughly 400 jelly beans in one pound, and you can order a pound of their jelly beans for $8.99. That works out to a little over two cents a jelly bean.
At that rate, Whitten’s prize works out to less than $1.25 worth of jelly beans. I’m guessing that’s why he added the basketball as a prize. He knew that the kids weren’t going to schlep from all over town at the chance to win $1.25 in jelly beans. The jar it came in was probably worth about the same than the jelly beans themselves.
Encyclopedia and Sally were at the Harris Drugstore where they saw Bugs Meany and Duke Kelly. They immediately thought that they were up to no good, especially when they saw that Robby Pickens was in the store as well.
A few days earlier, Duke had threatened to beat up Robby unless Robby traded his new bicycle seat for a can of ginger ale. When Sally tried to intervene, Duke took a swing at Sally. Sally ducked and punched Duke in the face. The two detectives were worried that Duke was going to try to get revenge on Robby because he was, kind of, the reason Duke got beaten up.
Why wouldn’t he go after Sally? She was the one that hit Duke. He was that big of a dirtbag that he responded to getting beaten up by going after the smaller kid that he was picking on before he got beaten up.
Robby and Duke were standing in line and Bugs was watching the cashier from behind a table of roses that was across the store. Encyclopedia watched as a woman accidentally bumped into the table of roses, causing one of the polished brass vases to fall over onto the floor. A clerk went over to the table, knelt down, collected the roses and put them back in the vase.
By the time the vase was back on the table, Robby had reached the front of the line and was about to pay Mr. Harris. Duke got closer to Robbie and held up a candy bar. He told Harris that he had just pulled the bar out from Robby’s back pocket. Bugs ran to the cashier counter and said that he had seen Robby take two candy bars from the candy rack and put them his back pocket.
Robby, of course, denied it and Harris said that he couldn’t deal with the alleged shoplifting and he told the children to go to the back of the store. Encyclopedia and Sally followed the other three where they asked Bugs how he happened to see all of that. Bugs explained that he was smelling the roses because he was an expert on the subject. While he was smelling them, he happened to have a perfect view of Robby at the candy rack.
That’s a great story, except the roses that Bugs was supposedly sniffing were fake. Encyclopedia knew that because a vase toppled over onto the floor and the clerk knelt down to pick up the roses. Since there didn’t seem to be water anywhere, that meant that the roses were fake. Anyone should have been able to tell the difference between real roses and fake one. The fact that Bugs upped the ante and said to have been an expert on roses makes me wonder why he would make such claims without being even remotely aware of his surroundings.
And while Encyclopedia was nice to clear Robby’s name, his intervention was completely unnecessary. Eventually, Harris would have heard the same story from the three boys, and after hearing Bugs, he would have said, “You were smelling my fake roses? Why? They have no smell.” And then maybe he could have said something clever like, “The only thing that smells here if your story.”
Actually, since Harris was an adult in Idaville, he was probably devoid of all reasoning skills and he probably would have punished the nice boy with a clean record because the two thieves with a long history of dickheadedness said he stole candy. So maybe it was good that Encyclopedia stuck his nose in on this one after all.
Of course, the way these complete assholes work, Bugs and Duke would probably try to get revenge. Only they wouldn’t direct their vengeance on the girl who beat Duke up or the boy who proved that they were trying to frame someone of shoplifting. They would probably direct it towards Robby, who still hadn’t done a single thing to either of them.
“How can you tell which twin is which? Jerseys outght to have more than a number. They should have the player’s name, too. The Cobra uniforms have just numbers.”—Sally Kimball, seemingly unaware that that twins would share a last name and that if she really wanted to, she could just tell the twins apart by their numbers. The Case of the Soccer Scheme
Right before Chief Brown left for Glenn City to help their police investigate a holdup, a theft had taken place in Idaville. Instead of offering a heartfelt regret to the Glenn City PD because crimes in his own town were a priority over Glenn City’s, Chief Brown went along and left town and had his crack squad investigate the case themselves. He had one of his officers leave a copy of the police report with his family. I’m sure that’s common procedure in most police departments.
After dinner, Mrs. Brown read the police report to Encyclopedia. The report started off by mentioning that jewelry had been stolen from the home of Adam and Gilda Lang. Instead of going on and describing the events about the actual theft, the police report gave a pretty detailed history of the Langs’ Great Dane named Morris.
Morris was a very friendly dog, but the Langs worried that he was too friendly. He never barked at strangers, so he didn’t make a very good watchdog. Mrs. Lang took Morris to a number of obedience schools, but he wasn’t interested in doing much. She then entered him into some sort of dog show that based solely on looks and not on ability to follow commands (this is the sort of dog show that would only exist in Idaville). While a woman was judging him, a bald man tripped and accidentally knocked the judge over, causing her to fall and hurt her hip. From that moment on, Morris barked at every bald man he saw.
So the dog who they were unable to train had the mental faculties to discriminate against bald men because one accidentally knocked over a complete stranger? Even if that was possible or likely, why would any of that be in a police report about a burglary?
The police report then changed gears and spoke about the crime at hand. Mrs. Lang noticed that the jewelry was missing after returning from being out of town for two days. Her brother, Dudley Nelson, lived across the street and took care of Morris whenever the Langs were out of town. She had told Nelson that two repairmen would be coming on one of the days they were gone. Hans would be there to fix the pool pump and Tex would be there to fix the lawn sprinklers.
Nelson was doing some work on his yard, waiting for the two men. They both arrived in the morning, and he realized that both men were bald. He offered both men hats to wear so that Morris wouldn’t bark at them. Hans was given a Yankee hat and Tex a ten-gallon cowboy hat, I guess because he name was Tex. That would seem like an impractical hat to wear while trying to fix someone lawn sprinkling system.
Both men worked in the backyard, where Nelson or other neighbors were unable to see them. At some point, both left separately and returned later with shopping bags. Each man was alone in the backyard while the other man was gone. Both men claimed that they had bought parts for their respective jobs, and that turned out to be true.
I find it distressing that a police report about a theft included no details about where the top suspects went during the time in question, yet it gave the entire history of the family dog’s obedience school career.
The doors to the Langs’ home were locked, but the back door had a doggie door for Morris. Since Morris was such a big dog and Hans and Tex were both small men, either men could have climbed in through the doggie door and taken the jewelry while the other man was out buying supplies.
At that point, the report ended. Mrs. Brown commented that the report gave all the facts except who the actual thief was. I’m guessing that it wasn’t in the report because the police had no idea. Encyclopedia knew that it was Hans.
Tex was wearing a wide-brimmed hat. He wouldn’t have been able to climb in through the doggie door while wearing the hat, and he wouldn’t have been able to take the hat off otherwise Morris would have barked at him. Since no one reported to have heard any barking, that meant that Morris came into no contact with a bald, hatless Tex. Hans, on the other hand, would have been able to climb in while keeping his hat on.
We don’t learn any of the details of the investigation Chief Brown was taking part in in Glenn City, but I’m left to assume that Encyclopedia figured out the solution to that one as well.
Encyclopedia and Sally were at the carnival when they ran into Dexter Mumford, a wimpy seventh-grader. (As a one-time wimpy seventh-grader, I do not mean to disparage wimpy seventh-graders.) Dexter had a lucky game at the booth where you have to shoot the little ducks with a rifle and ended up winning the sharpshooter medal.
A few kids came up to him to congratulate him and to get a better look at the medal. When the small crowd dispersed, only one remained; Max Bungleson. Max Bungleson was a Tiger member, so we all see where this is heading. Max asked Dexter if he could hold the medal for a minute, and Dexter “didn’t have a good reason to say no,” so he gave it to him. Dexter then had the decency to act surprised with Max put the medal in his pocket and walked away.
The three found Max near the roller coaster, showing off the medal. Dexter demanded that Max give return his medal, but Max said that he won it himself. “I won this shooting those little ducks. They didn’t know what hit them. Me and my six-shooters were on fire.”
Dexter was ready to give up, but Encyclopedia knew Max accidentally proved that he stole the medal and lied about it. Max said that he used a six-shooter, but all of the booths used rifles. Had he actually earned that medal, he would have known that.
I can’t say this is a definite win for Encyclopedia. It’s possible Max didn’t know what a six-shooter was and thought it was just a generic term for any kind of gun. If he didn’t any background knowledge in guns, it would be likely that he had no idea that a six-shooter referred to a pistol. When I was that age, the only gun I had any experience shooting was the Nintendo Zapper.
I’m only giving Max the benefit of the doubt here because he was standing right near the booth and should have seen what kind of gun was used. Either Max mistakenly used the incorrect term or he stole Dexter’s prize without having any knowledge of where he won it. I would be willing to accept this as a possibility, except Dexter had just won it. Max had to have seen where Dexter had come from. How would he not know that he came from the booth that used rifles?
I’m not defending Max. Obviously, he stole the medal and Dexter would have nothing to gain by lying and saying a bigger and tougher kid stole something from him.
And a valuable lesson for Dexter here would be never to trust a Tiger member. I would have assumed that everyone knew this, but apparently not.
Paige Dutton was an avid reader and had read almost as many books as Encyclopedia. However, Encyclopedia kind of looked down on Paige because she read only fiction, while he read nonfiction. While that’s kind of dickish of him, you’ll soon be looking down at Paige yourself because despite that she read a lot, we will soon learn that she was still quite stupid.
She hired Encyclopedia to look into yet another business opportunity.
Buster Wilde’s cousin Roger had just had a pretty adventurous camping trip. Buster and Roger were thinking that the story could make a best-selling book, but they didn’t want to share the profits with some publisher. Instead, they wanted to publish and market the book themselves. However, they were looking for investors and Paige thought it sounded like a good idea to help out this venture.
What Encyclopedia should have said was, “I know you want me to go with you to see if this is a legitimate deal or not, but I can give you my answer without even lifting my ass off of this seat.
“These two have no experience writing, editing, publishing, marketing or distributing books. Let me tell you something I’ve learned from my many years of being a detective-for-hire for idiots like you. If someone wants money so that they could publish their book, or sell their ancient pottery, or to open a factory to build a new kind of manhole cover, but they have some dumb excuse as to why they’re seeking funding from children and not professionals who know what they’re doing; these people are lying to you.
“This should be completely obvious, but apparently it’s not to you people. So no, this sounds like a remarkably terrible idea. Even if these two did have their shit together, you shouldn’t give a single penny to pay for the publishing of a book that hasn’t even been written yet.
“That will be twenty-five cents, please.”
He didn’t say any of that. Instead, Encyclopedia agreed to hear Buster’s story about his cousin and the idea for a book. I don’t need to get into the specifics of the story. Roger was camping with his father when, one night, it started to rain. He got separated from his father, had jump into a frigid river to escape a bear, had to dodge rapids and lost everything in his pocket except for his compass. He knew that the ranger’s station was due east, so he followed his compass’s needle until he found the station.
Mind you, Buster’s telling of the story had a lot more pizazz than my description of him telling the story. However, Encyclopedia saw right through it because of one little detail. Roger couldn’t have followed the compass needle east because a compass always points north toward the Magnetic North Pole. Encyclopedia asked a few more questions about the story – details not provided – and Buster admitted that he made the whole thing up.
Yeah the story was fake, but the way Buster gave up, it was almost this was a world where fiction didn’t exist. I’m not sure why Buster didn’t shift gears and began selling this idea as a work of fiction. Just because the story wasn’t real doesn’t mean it wouldn’t make a good story. (This is an odd lesson for a fictional story to teach.) And since Paige only read fictional books, I don’t understand why she would suddenly lose interest in this book.
“Man, oh man! To think that I, Bugs Meany, America’s heartthrob, would tell a lie chokes me with unspeakable fury.”—Bugs Meany, artfully saturating a sentence with delusions and lies. The Case of the Red Roses
It was the annual Father and Son camping trip and while most were out fishing, Henry Millsap and his father were hunting – and eventually found – three Indian arrowheads. It rained that night and it had slowed down to a drizzle by the next morning. While he and Encyclopedia were eating breakfast, Henry asked the boy detective if he’d like to join him for another arrowhead hunt. Encyclopedia accepted, Henry put his three arrowheads in his tent and the two went off.
They returned an hour later with no luck. No arrowheads, but they were soaked and covered in mud. Henry went to his tent to change his clothes when he noticed that someone had been in his tent and stolen his arrowheads. Encyclopedia told his father, who questioned all of the other fathers on the trip. There were three boys who didn’t have alibis because their fathers had slept in.
Apparently, these dads were the kids’ only alibis. That implies that the father and son pairs went off on their own and did not see anyone else and that the boys whose fathers had stayed in their tents ran amok with no supervision. It also implies that the fathers were instantly absolved; as if an adult in Idaville wouldn’t stoop so low to steal from a child.
Okay, for the sake of the story, there were only three boys who had no alibis. Frank Donner was cooking a hot dog over a bright fire. He said that he had spent the morning gathering wood for his fire. He pointed to the pile of wood and said, “There’s the wood – and there’s the fire.” Mr. Donner added his son’s shitty attitude and said, “Listen to him, Chief. He’s making good sense.”
Jack Muir was sitting at his smoky fire. He also claimed that he had spent the morning looking for firewood and said he didn’t know anything about the theft. Teddy Rose, the third camper, also denied knowing about the theft. He complained about the weather and how difficult it was to keep the fire from going out.
Chief Brown searched all three of the boys’ bags, but there was no sign of them. I guess it should be noted that Chief Brown wasn’t searching these bags while on police business; he was ignoring their rights as a private citizen.
Encyclopedia knew who stole it. Both Jack and Teddy’s fire were smoky because the wood burning in it was wet from the rain. Only Frank’s fire was burning brightly, which meant that he had collected his firewood before it rained and stored it in his tent. That meant that he lied about when he collected his firewood.
Since he lied about when he got his firewood and his father was sleeping in that morning; that could only mean one thing – he stole the arrowheads. I don’t think so. Lying about one thing doesn’t automatically make you guilty of another. Frank could have stuck to his story, but he confessed immediately. He gave the arrowheads back and gave Henry another three that he found.
So not only did Frank steal and then lie about it – which, by Idaville standards, isn’t so bad – but his father was in on his lie. When his son told an adult that he had been looking for firewood all morning, Donner stood by the story and told Chief Brown that his son was “making good sense.” The problem there is that Frank’s story doesn’t make any sense. Why would Frank spend the morning collecting wet firewood when he had a pile of dry firewood collected the previous night in his tent? He wouldn’t. So the fact that Donner would arrogantly tell Chief Brown that his lying little shit of a son was “making good sense” either means that Donner was too dumb to make the logical connection to see that his son was a rotten little thief or that he was simply covering for him.
Sarah Jenkins wanted to hire the Brown Detective Agency to check out if an antique map for sale was authentic. At some point recently in these books, the customer base for Encyclopedia has shifted from “please figure out who stole my shit” to “please tell me if the shit I’m going to buy is worth my money.” Encyclopedia has gone from boy detective to boy appraiser.
Anyway, Sarah was part of a new group called the Lost and Found Club. All of its members were interested in explorers and old maps. They thought “Explorers Club” was a boring name. High school senior Nate Switcher had recently gotten in touch with the club to tell them that he had a map drawn by a Spanish mapmaker who accompanied Christopher Columbus on his 1492 voyage. He claimed that he bought it at a flea market while he was on vacation in Spain with his family.
Some random teenager claimed to have owned a 500+-year-old map? Yeah, that sounds legit. Buy it, Sarah. Buy it!
Encyclopedia and Sarah went to see Nate and his map. He unrolled a map that was stained yellow, and Sarah was not impressed. The map appeared to show just a few islands and the words “Atlantic Ocean” written in big fancy letters. Nate explained that Columbus only saw a few islands in what is now called the Caribbean, so North or South America wouldn’t be on a map from 1492. Of course, Nate explained, the Americas didn’t earn their name until 1507 when German cartographer labeled the new continents “America” after explorer Amerigo Vespucci.
That explanation seemed to placate Sarah and Nate seemed to know what he was talking about, but Encyclopedia told her to hold on to her money because “Atlantic Ocean” was written in English.
Here’s yet another example of someone one year away from earning a high school degree from the Idaville school system who probably didn’t deserve one. He went through all of the trouble about learning about the history of the Columbus voyage, how America got its name and making this map. I don’t know how he made the map look old, but I would image it would be pretty labor-intensive. But when it came to actually creating this map, this dipshit used English.
Despite the fact that Columbus sailed for Spain, the mapmaker in Nate’s own story was Spanish and he bought it while he was in Spain. How did it not occur to this dipshit not to use Spanish?
Not only do I worry about the education these kids are getting in the high school, I also worry that attending this school will make Encyclopedia dumb.
“Then [Tiger member, Max Bungleson] asked me if he could hold the medal for a minute. I didn’t have a good reason to say no, so I gave it to him. He held it for a few seconds. Then he put it in his pocket.”—Dexter Mumford, explaining that he couldn’t think of a reason why he shouldn’t give a Tiger member something, and then seeming surprised when that something was stolen. The Case of the Carnival Crime
Chief Brown was able to score some tickets to the circus for his family because he was friends with circus owner Phineas Dailey. I wonder why Chief Brown is so close to so many circus owners.
All in all, the family was impressed with the circus. The only part that didn’t seem right was the lion tamer, who couldn’t get Felix the Ferocious to do anything. The lion tamer whipped and yelled through a megaphone, but the lion did nothing. In an attempt to save the show, the ringmaster brought out a wheelbarrow full of steaks and threw some near Felix, who still did not respond. The ringmaster then moved the show along to the next act.
After the circus was over, Chief Brown took his family backstage to meet up with Dailey. The family told Dailey how much they enjoyed the show. Encyclopedia mentioned that he thought the lion act was funny and unexpected. A few moments later, the Browns were able to hear an argument. Dailey asked Chief Brown if he could mediate in the argument between the lion tamer and the ringleader.
Majesto the lion tamer claimed that Felix had been drugged, which was why he wasn’t responding to anything during the show. Majesto suspected that Cocoa the clown was jealous of him ever since he started dating Cocoa’s ex-girlfriend, Lola the trapeze artist.
The ringmaster said that that wouldn’t have been possible because Cocoa was practicing with the other clowns before the show. Majesto then began to suspect Bruno the strongman, who was Lola’s brother.
The ringmaster accused Majesto of looking for excuses for his terrible act. He even mentioned that he tried to save the act by wheeling out the steaks, which originally wasn’t part of the act. The ringmaster then said that Majesto should be punished because a poorly trained lion could become dangerous. He also called Felix lazy.
I’m not sure what the ringmaster was arguing here. Either it was a dangerous animal or it was too lazy to lift its head when someone threw steaks nearby. It can’t be both.
Chief Brown suggested bringing Bruno out for questioning, but Encyclopedia said that that wouldn’t be necessary, because he knew that the lion had been drugged, and he knew who did it.
Before I get into that, I’d like to say that the lion tamer act didn’t seem to ruin anything. First of all, how much tamer can a lion get than completely ignoring the fact that steaks are being thrown at it? Secondly, Encyclopedia – and I imagine others – enjoyed it. He thought it was funny and unexpected. If it entertained the crowd, then the act wasn’t a failure. It’s that simple.
Encyclopedia thought that that act went off as planned because the ringmaster brought out a wheelbarrow full of steaks. It’s not as if the circus would have a wheelbarrow full of steaks prepared for the show itself, what was it doing there and how did the ringmaster know to get it?
Well, Encyclopedia theorized that the ringmaster drugged the lion to sabotage Majesto’s act and prepared the wheelbarrow before the show so that he could bring it out to make Majesto look bad. He hoped that Majesto would leave the circus because his act went poorly, which would give the ringmaster a chance at getting with Lola the trapeze artist.
Man, this Lola must be one hot little number.
When the ringmaster admitted what he had done, as punishment, he had to clean up after the animals for a month. That’s quite a slap on the wrist.
The ringmaster endangered a circus animal in hopes of sabotaging an act in his own circus, and he wasn’t arrested, fired or given any sort of punishment beyond having to clean up after the animals for a month. He was able to remain ringmaster despite all that he did. That is bullshit and I can’t imagine Majesto being comfortable with having to work in such a hostile work environment.
Chip Caswell’s liked collecting baseball souvenirs. In addition to that, he had kept every ticket stub from every game he had ever been to. That’s why he was excited that a sports museum was opening in Idaville. It doesn’t really make sense that such a museum would open in a small town in Idaville, which had no connection to professional sports. What made even less sense was the fact that there was going to be a spot in the main hall for a kid to donate something. The donator’s name would be put on a plaque put on display.
I don’t even understand why a museum would do this, but there’s no point in me trying to figure out why anyone in this town does anything.
Chip said that museum personnel would be examining donations at noon that day. He assumed that there would be a long line of kids, so he wanted to hire Encyclopedia to see what the kids had so that Chip would know what to offer. So Chip was hiring Encyclopedia as some sort of errand boy. Only, it didn’t really make sense, because Chip went with Encyclopedia. Why would he need Encyclopedia to scope out the competition if he was going as well? I guess Encyclopedia wasn’t about to question it. He got paid either way.
When they got to the museum, there was only one kid there; Tiger member Sammy Jackson. He had a baseball glove that said “Bad Motherf***er.” No, I’m kidding; just a little Samuel L. Jackson humor for everyone.
Sammy explained that there had been a long line, but everyone left once they saw what he brought. He had a baseball signed by Babe Ruth. Not just any baseball; Ruth had hit this particular ball for a homerun.
Sammy told the story of how his great-uncle got the ball. He lived near Yankee Stadium and went to every Yankee game he could. In that particular game, Ruth had already hit two homers. The Yankees were up by three runs by the bottom of the ninth. Even though the game was a foregone conclusion at that point, his great-uncle stayed until the end. In fact, he was one of the few remaining fans in his section. After getting two strikes, Ruth hit a homer that bounced off a seat near his great-uncle, right into his hands. While the homer itself didn’t decide the game, it was Ruth’s third of the game.
Sammy said that his great-uncle had recently passed away and left him that ball. He admitted that he wasn’t as big of baseball fan as his great-uncle, so he thought the ball should go in the museum.
Chip was ready to give up and let Sammy have his fame, but Encyclopedia suspected that the ball was fake. According to Sammy’s story, the Yankees were up by three runs when Ruth hit the homerun in the bottom of the ninth. But when the home team is ahead, they don’t bat in the ninth inning.
Sammy admitted that the ball wasn’t from Babe Ruth, but from the back of his closet. He put the fake autograph on the ball in hopes of scaring everyone from trying to submit their own item from the museum.
What was Sammy’s plan here? Oh sure, he lied to get rid of the competition, but his baseball was still subject to the approval of the museum personnel. One would hope that someone in charge of accepting entries into a sports museum would be able to tell the difference between an 80-year-old baseball signed by Babe Ruth and some other baseball with “Babe Ruth” scrawled on it by some kid. If not, then I’m guessing this museum would be filled with fake sports memorabilia. Actually, the idea of Idaville opening a fake sports memorabilia museum wouldn’t surprise me one bit.
But assuming this particular museum, for some reason, had its shit together, there would be no way that they would have accepted this baseball. They’d also wonder why Sammy was the only one in line when there had been so many children in line earlier. I would think they would just reschedule.
I wonder why Chip, who was supposedly a huge baseball fan, didn’t think it was odd that the baseball game in Sammy’s story had the winning home team batting in the bottom of the ninth. Sammy may have faked the baseball, but it sounds like Chip had been faking his interest in baseball this entire time.
The Browns were waiting in line for Fiona Slocum’s concert. Slocum was Chief Brown’s favorite country western singer. While waiting in line, the three discussed Slocum’s career. That’s where we learned that her first album was successful, but she took some time off after that tour and that this was her comeback tour.
Encyclopedia noticed two police officers heading towards them. The officers told Chief Brown that they were needed. The three were escorted backstage where they were introduced to Colonel Abner Singleton, Slocum’s manager. He explained that the sheet music for Slocum’s latest songs had been stolen. She was planning on performing the song for the first time that night. She was so distraught over the missing sheet music that she needed to be alone. She refused to see anyone. Due to Slocum’s secretive nature, no one knew anything about these songs; even Singleton himself.
Encyclopedia asked if the songs could be rewritten, but they couldn’t. Slocum wrote the music down, but since her memory wasn’t all that great, she was unable to perform without sheet music. She couldn’t even perform songs that she had done hundreds of times before without sheet music.
I’m no doctor, but that seems like a terrible condition. She seems to have some serious brain condition where she has absolutely no muscle memory. It makes me wonder how she was even able to become a successful musician if she couldn’t play any of her music from memory.
Singleton told Chief Brown that there was one suspect. His name was Chuck and he had followed Slocum from city to city. Singleton admitted that Chuck hadn’t done anything illegal. So basically, Chuck was only guilty of being a fan.
Singleton begged Chief Brown to find the sheet music as soon as possible. He said that without her new love songs, Slocum may not get the comeback that she wanted.
Encyclopedia asked how he knew they were love songs if only Slocum knew what the songs were about. Singleton knew that he had been caught. He had heard that Slocum had wanted to fire him as her manager, so Singleton had taken the sheet music. He had hoped that if he was the hero that found the music, he would preserve his job.
Okay, I get that part. He wanted to keep his job. I don’t understand why the police were there.
A singer was claiming that music, that only she saw, was missing. There was no evidence of a break-in or any other wrongdoing. This doesn’t sound like theft, it sounds like the singer just misplaced the music. This doesn’t seem all that out of the ordinary because we’ve already established that Fiona has exceptionally shitty memory. So getting the police involved at that point would be like me calling 911 because I couldn’t remember where I put my keys.
But let’s say that this story takes place in a town where the local police force has nothing better to do and are totally fine with wasting their resources (read: Idaville). That doesn’t explain why Singleton was being helpful to the police.
This is the guy who stole the music and whose plan revolved around him being the one to find the music. Why would the guy whose plan revolved on no police involvement get the the police? Even if Slocum told Singleton to get the police, there was nothing stopping him from lying and saying he did because he was holing herself up in her dressing room.
If Singleton couldn’t even do this properly, it’s a wonder why Slocum didn’t fire him sooner.
Let’s pretend this wasn’t an inside job and let’s pretend the Idaville PD’s only way of solving cases was hoping Chief Brown’s young son didn’t pick up on someone accidentally giving too much information. What kind of investigation would the police be able to launch if the one person who had access to the music locked herself in a room and refused to be talked to?
The town was getting ready for the Idaville Fair, which meant that either someone was getting ready to cheat at some contest, or someone was about to steal something. The latter turned out to be true and Encyclopedia had no problem spotting the victim of the latest petty crime. He noticed a high school student setting up one of the concession stands who seemed to be in a grouchy mood.
Encyclopedia went over to her stand to see if she was okay. She introduced herself as Mindy Harmon, and she said told him that she knew of him because younger her sister, Carrie, spoke about him a lot. She even had a case for him to solve. Mindy paid Encyclopedia a quarter, and he sat down to hear her story. As he was doing so, Mindy’s dog, Cooper, barked at him. Mindy hushed Cooper and explained that he always barked at strangers, but didn’t seem to scare them much.
Mindy explained that someone had stolen a large box of stuffed animals that were supposed to be meant for prizes for one of the games. She had gone to her car to unload some stuff, and when she returned, she saw that the box was gone. She was depending on Cooper to guard the booth, but he obviously didn’t do a very good job. Encyclopedia asked when she noticed the box was missing, and Mindy answered that that had been an hour earlier.
There was no one around who would have seen who might have taken the box. Encyclopedia asked Mindy if she had seen anything suspicious, and she answered that she hadn’t, but did see Biff Bumpkin watching her from a distance before the box disappeared, but he was gone after that. She didn’t know Biff very well, personally, but she knew that he didn’t have the best reputation. I’m not sure why that didn’t raise a red flag in her head.
So to review; Mindy was setting up a booth for the Idaville Fair. She noticed some creepy kid watching her from afar, but she didn’t think twice about him. She left a box of toys unattended, hoping that her easy-to-quell dog would guard the toys from her. When Mindy returned, the box was gone as was the creepy kid. But she didn’t suspect the creepy kid, nor did she alert the authorities – or anyone – about the theft until about an hour later when the resident 10-year-old boy detective happened to pass by. Had Encyclopedia not run into her, she’d still be quietly skulking about her stolen toys completely flummoxed about what could have happened to them.
This Mindy doesn’t sound too bright.
Biff happened to live around the corner from the fair, so Encyclopedia suggested that he and Mindy speak to him. Mindy agreed and asked another volunteer to keep an eye on her booth. If she had asked someone to keep an eye on her crap in the first place, they wouldn’t be in this mess. Also, before heading to Biff’s, it might make sense to ask these nearby volunteers if they had seen who took the toys. It just seems like a wiser tack to build some evidence before confronting the accused.
Biff claimed that he didn’t steal the box of stuffed animals. He went so far to even say that he had no use for stuffed animals. Biff then motioned to Cooper and patted the dog on the head.
Encyclopedia pointed out that Cooper barks at strangers, and that Cooper wasn’t barking because he was already familiar with Biff when he stole the stuffed animals. Biff confessed immediately and explained that he was going to use the stuffed animals to impress the ladies by pretending to have won them.
Well, at least Biff had a decent motive. That almost never happens.
But I have no idea why Biff gave up so easily. He could have explained that he was good with dogs or that he knew Cooper because he had seen him around town with Mindy’s sister Carrie.
“I could sell this map to a museum if all I cared about was the money. The way I figure it, museums have way too much stuff already. They can’t even display most of what they own.”—Nate Switcher, explaining why he was selling his 15th century map to a child for a few bucks and not to a museum for a few thousand bucks. The Case of the Explorer’s Map
“Dollar” Bill Pesada earned his nickname because he was careful with his money and was always on the lookout for good investments. He hired Encyclopedia to check out a tip on a possible investment opportunity.
Bugs Meany was offering shares in a diamond mine. At this point, I’d have to wonder how business-savvy Dollar Bill really was. I don’t know the first thing about telling a good investment from a bad one, but I’d have to say that any investment where Bugs was involved would be a bad one. Just look at the kid’s history. He was constantly stealing and trying to defraud children with bad trades.
Even without hearing anything about this mine, I’m would be willing to go out on a limb and advise against this investment. But Dollar Bill, the sixth-grader who was so good with money they called him Dollar Bill, wasn’t so discriminating. Not only did he not immediately reject the thought of investing in something supposedly belonging to Bugs, he spent a quarter to find out if it was a legitimate opportunity or not.
Despite his nickname, Dollar Bill had a shitty business sense. That’s basically what I’m trying to say.
The two found Bugs in front of the Tigers’ clubhouse, pitching his diamond mine to a group of children. While the details weren’t fully explained, it seemed as if Bugs was selling shares on behalf of his cousin, who owned the mine. Bugs said that some of the diamonds were so large that it couldn’t even be used for an engagement ring because anyone that wore it wouldn’t be able to lift her hand.
Encyclopedia, who knows pretty much everything, could have chimed in and mentioned that the largest rough gem-quality ever discovered was over 3,000 carats, which works out to just under a pound and a half. So right away, it should be obvious that Bugs was full of shit.
Bugs explained that he understood that it could be difficult to convince them that this mine was real, so his cousin sent Bugs a sample to show off to possible investors. The diamond Bugs held was about the size of a golf ball. He said his cousin didn’t mind sending that one to Bugs because that was one of the smaller ones compared to the ones they were finding in this mine.
Dollar Bill asked if he could hold it, but Bugs refused. Bugs explained that if he let Dollar Bill touch it, then everyone would want to. He said that someone could drop the diamond or damage it. It would be completely useless if it was ruined.
As if the supposed size of these diamonds wasn’t enough of a tip-off, Encyclopedia knew that Bugs was lying. Since diamonds are the hardest substance in nature, Bugs wouldn’t need to worry if someone dropped the diamond. Nothing those kids could have done would have damaged it.
Dollar Bill learned an important lesson that he should have learned a while ago; Bugs Meany’s an ass.
Chief Brown was distracted for yet another dinner, because of a case involving a theft at the Idaville Museum. A one-foot-tall statue of the Roman god Mercury was stolen from the museum after it had been closed for the night. Mrs. Brown asked if the museum had security cameras or an alarm system. They did, but there were still three employees inside, so the alarm system had not been armed yet. Someone had shut the cameras off after everyone but the three employees had left.
The three employees being suspected were the Curator of Antiquities, the security guard and the janitor. The curator would be the one of the three who knew how much the statue was worth, but he claimed to have had no idea how to turn the security cameras off. The security guard did know how to shut the cameras off, but he was nowhere near the control room where the switch for the cameras was. The janitor claimed to know nothing about art.
Chief Brown didn’t arrest anyone because each suspect was each other’s alibi. The security guard saw the curator working in his office and saw the janitor washing the floor in the lobby. And both of them saw the janitor rolling the pail away with the mop over his shoulder.
That was a sufficient alibi according to Chief Brown? They saw each other at some point? That doesn’t really work for me. They saw each other working and then went on about their business. It wasn’t as if they were with each other the entire night? Who’s to say that one of them didn’t steal the statue directly after being seen?
Encyclopedia was able to go beyond criticizing his father’s poor police work and was able to figure out who actually stole the statue. He thought it was odd that the janitor, the man whose job it was to keep the floors clean, would carry the mop over his shoulder. That would cause the wet mop to drip on the floor. Why not keep the mop in the pail? Because, according to Encyclopedia’s theory, the janitor had the statue in the pail and there wasn’t room for both the statue and the mop.
How did the janitor get the statue out of the museum? Did he roll the pail all the way home? And then I suppose the janitor’s plot was to find someone who knew the value of the statue who was shady enough to knowingly buy a piece that was stolen from the museum.
I also like how Chief Brown automatically gave the janitor a free pass because he said he knew nothing about art. He wouldn’t need to know anything about art to know that the statue was worth something. It’s a museum. I think it would be a safe assumption to say that everything in the museum is valuable, otherwise it wouldn’t be worth displaying in a museum. It’s not like a museum would display a lot of inexpensive crap to trick those would-be thieves who don’t know anything about art.
Encyclopedia and Sally were roaming the aisles of the flea market. Sally was desperate to find a last-minute birthday gift for her mother. Mrs. Kimball was interested in history, so Sally figured she would be able to find something in that vein somewhere, but she was having no luck.
That is until she came to a booth run by high school student Jack Higginbottom. Sally asked Jack if he had anything historical. He answered that he did have something that wasn’t on display because it was very old. It was a few pages of the diary of George Washington’s mother.
Well, that seemed perfect, yet not at all suspicious that that was in the hands of a teenager and not some archive or museum.
Jack spoke briefly about the life of Mary Ball Washington, and admitted that the diary wasn’t all that interesting as she wrote mostly about daily chores and life on the farm. He did have the entry that she wrote the day after she had given birth to her first child, George. It read:
“I am so impressed looking at little George lying in his cradle. Augustine and I have a feeling he is destined for great things. Why, I wouldn’t be surprised if someday he grew up to be president. I only hope I love long enough to see it.”
Sally was amazed that Washington had written that about her son. To make the story even sweeter, Jack pointed out that Mary Ball Washington died in 1789, months after his son was inaugurated. Sally was sold. She thought it was going to make a great present for her mother.
Before Sally gave Jack any money, Encyclopedia said that the pages were not real. He knew this because the diary made mention of this newborn growing up to become president in 1732. There was no such position in existence, nor would there be until the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1787. For that matter, there wasn’t even a United States of America for infant George to eventually become president of in 1732.
You would think that simply by hanging out with Encyclopedia as much as Sally does, she would have picked up at least some basic reasoning skills. Instead, like the rest of the town, she seemed to depend on Encyclopedia as an intellectual crutch. “I don’t ever need to think about anything. Encyclopedia does that for me.”
This entire town is going to devolve into complete anarchy the day Encyclopedia leaves for college.
It was a hot summer day in Idaville. Sally Kimball was complaining that they weren’t at the beach to cool off. Encyclopedia should have just let her go; she served no purpose in these stories anyway.
Penny Nichols came by and put a quarter down in front of Encyclopedia and Sally and told them that Wilford Wiggins was holding a meeting about his latest business opportunity. Now, it’s not explained what Penny’s motive for going to the Brown Detective Agency was. She didn’t mention that she was excited at the prospect of being rich, nor did she mention any concern for her peers getting swindled. It was just, “Here’s a quarter… Wilford’s holding a meeting.” Why exactly was Encyclopedia being hired? Encyclopedia seemed to assume that he was getting hired to prove that Wilford’s opportunity was another scam, but Penny never specified.
At the meeting, Wilford talked about his uncle who lived on the southern tip of South America. The previous week, he was cooling off on the beach when he noticed a sea chest wash up onto the shore. In the chest were a bunch of gold coins and tools. His uncle figured that if this chest had washed up ashore that a ship must have sunk in the area, so there must have been more chests like that to be found. His uncle had said that a bunch of ships had sunk in the area in the 17th and 18th centuries, and they must be loaded with gold and treasures.
Now, at this point, Wilford still hadn’t made a pitch. However, Penny chimed in and asked, “Wouldn’t it be easier for your uncle to borrow money from grown-ups he knows?”
Once again, a conversation that Penny was involved in skipped a step. Wilford made no mention of wanting to borrow money for something, yet Penny asked her question as if he had. Granted, it was obvious that that was what Wilford was working up to. Maybe Penny was a good person to have around. She was one of those “let’s cut the crap, what do you want?” people, only actually saying that. Except, I’m kind of curious why his uncle needed money. I guess it’s for diving equipment?
Wilford explained that his uncle was worried that if he told his friends about the shipwreck that they would just beat him to it. He asked his nephew – and not his American sibling, the nephew’s parent, who would likely have more money – for some financing. Wilford had to pass, because he claimed that his money was tied up in oil wells, but he went one better. He asked children for funds. “Oh good,” his uncle must have said, “That seems like a smart and effective way of getting money.”
Encyclopedia didn’t believe any of it.
My question was how this heavy treasure chest full of tools and gold was able to wash ashore. It’s not as if it had been floating around was destined to make its way to the shore eventually. That think would have sunk to ocean floor and stayed there. But that was hardly the most obvious thing that didn’t make sense in Wilford’s story.
If it was summer in Idaville, that meant that it was winter in South America. This uncle in the southern tip wouldn’t be needing to cool off at the beach.
How is Encyclopedia the only person in this entire group that knows this? That is the sort of thing that should be taught in elementary school. Do the people in Idaville just not pay taxes? Because it’s been proven that their schools suck almost as badly as their police.
Chief Brown had just picked up Encyclopedia from the library when the police radio came alive. A robbery was in progress at the Den of Antiquities. Chief Brown, unsure the nature of the robbery or if anyone was armed, went straight to the scene with his 10-year-old son.
When they arrived, they saw shop owner Roger Cuthbert standing out in front of his store, holding young junk collector Winslow Brant by the arm. Cuthbert was claiming that he had caught Winslow in the act. Chief Brown asked Cuthbert to let Winslow go and suggested that everyone went inside so that they could discuss this with civility.
Inside, Cuthbert explained that he had closed up shop for the day. He had more work to do, so he left to get some coffee. When he returned, he saw Winslow standing in front of the store and that the storefront window was broken. Cuthbert noticed that a set of three medallions, together worth thousands of dollars, had been stolen. The Browns looked and saw the sidewalk covered in broken glass.
Winslow admitted that he was in the store earlier that day and that he was interested in the medallions, but he didn’t steal them. Chief Brown asked Winslow to empty his pockets. Winslow complied, but that did not produce the medallions.
Cuthbert wasn’t convinced. He thought that maybe Winslow had stashed them somewhere, or that he was working with someone else and his partner had them. Already, we know that Cuthbert was lying. He said he caught Winslow in the act, but he obviously didn’t. If he had, Winslow would have still had the medallions on him.
Remember that time when Bugs Meany claimed that he had caught Encyclopedia “red-handed,” and Encyclopedia’s entire defense was, “actually, he used that term incorrectly”? That, for some reason, worked. Here, Cuthbert said he had caught a child in the act, and no one batted an eye despite the fact that he was obviously lying.
Chief Brown changed gears and asked if anything else was missing. Cuthbert didn’t know, but it looked like the only thing that was disturbed was the display case where the medallions were being kept. Cuthbert went back to pinning blame on Winslow and went off with a tirade. When he was done, he excused himself so that he could get a piece of plywood to board up the broken window.
Cuthbert disappeared to the back of the store and Chief Brown closed his notebook. “It doesn’t look good, Cuthbert.” Winslow tried to defend himself saying that he hadn’t stolen anything, but Chief Brown already made his decision.
Apparently, the only evidence the police needed was the fact that he had been near the store when the store owner discovered that the window was broken. It was Chief Brown’s job to close cases, not to use common sense, logic or police work to make sure an innocent boy wasn’t blamed for a crime.
Encyclopedia finally spoke up. The broken glass from the window was on the sidewalk, which meant that the window had been broken from the inside. The only person who could have done that was Cuthbert.
It turned out that Cuthbert faked the robbery of his own store, going so far as to break the window for insurance money. We got tricked here, because normally the insurance fraud stories include someone conspicuously mentioning that the item in question was insured.
Since Winslow had been in the store earlier and Cuthbert knew he was interested in the medallions, Cuthbert decided to just try to put the fake robbery on this child, collect insurance money and then sell the medallions.
Any decent adult in Cuthbert’s situation would look at Winslow and think, “Hey, here’s a kid who likes miscellaneous treasures, and I’m a guy who owns a store that sells that sort of thing. In a way, we’re kindred spirits. I should encourage him to come in more often. Maybe I could teach a few things. Hell, maybe he could become a valuable customer in the future. At the very least, as an adult, I should try to set a good example.”
No Cuthbert saw Winslow and thought, “Hey, here’s a kid who likes miscellaneous treasures, and I’m a guy who owns a store that sells that sort of thing. I should frame him for a fake robbery so that I can commit insurance fraud.” So far, everyone we’ve met in Idaville with the name Cuthbert has shown themselves to be a total dick.
And I’d like to reiterate the point that Chief Brown almost arrested a boy despite the complete lack of evidence.
“You’re the Chief of Police. Maybe something will come up that demands your attention.”—Mrs. Brown, talking to her husband about whether or not he’ll get an opportunity to meet his favorite singer. She was basically saying that the town was a haven for criminals and that something was going to go wrong at the concert that would warrant police presence. Of course, she was right. The Case of the Missing Songs
Charlie Stewart stopped by the Brown Detective Agency. He said that the reason for his visit was because, “Duke Kelly, one of Bugs Meany’s Tigers, is selling what he says are the largest shark teeth ever. If it is true, I just have to have one. It would be the star in my collection.” This was the first mention of Charlie’s tooth collection since a story published in 1968. I had assumed that the author had stopped playing that element up because of how disturbing it is.
If I had been Encyclopedia, I would have said the following:
“First of all, Charlie, you don’t need to explain to me that Duke Kelly is one of Bugs Meany’s Tigers. I have a lot of experience dealing with him. We have a lot of experience dealing with him. I mean, he once shot you in the foot and then I had him enter your empty house to fetch one of your old shoes in hopes that it would prove that he was the one who shot you.
“By repeating the fact that Duke Kelly is one of Bugs Meany’s Tigers, you’re unintentionally acknowledging the fact that whatever it is that he’s selling is most likely fake. As one of my closer friends, you should know this already.”
But if Encyclopedia told everyone to stop trusting the Tigers, he’d be out of a steady stream of money. Charlie hired Encyclopedia, and they headed to the marina to listen to Duke’s sales pitch.
He explained that his uncle was a deep-sea fisherman who had recently hooked an enormous shark on one of his lines. He went on to say that the shark thrashed for hours and there were a few times when he thought the line was going to break. He was finally able to get the shark up onto the deck of his boat. The sharks thrashing did a lot of damage to the boat. After the shark stopped moving, Duke’s uncle looked into the shark’s mouth and surmised that it was old because its teeth were large and jagged. With as much stuff a shark chews on in the course of its like, it would make sense that older sharks would have damaged teeth. Duke finished the story by saying that his uncle had sent him a box of these teeth for him to sell.
Duke allowed everyone a close-up look, and Charlie was impressed. It was just want his collection needed.
Yeah, the teeth were fake. Encyclopedia knew that because sharks, unlike most other animals, don’t have one set of teeth for their entire adult life. In reality, new teeth grow in every month to replace ones that have worn or fallen out. When Encyclopedia confronted Duke with these facts, Duke explained that he had actually carved the teeth out of wood and painted it white.
Of all of the people in Idaville to know that sharks get new teeth on a monthly basis, you would think that Charlie, who devoted a big chunk of his childhood to his interest in animal teeth, would have known this. In addition to that, was he unable to tell the difference between a tooth and a small bit of wood painted white? Either Charlie’s an idiot, or Duke is a skilled craftsman. If it’s the latter, then Duke is wasting his talents because there’s a future for him in woodworking. It’s most likely the former though. Charlie’s probably just a gullible idiot.