“You go. I didn’t pay twenty-five cents to get a black eye.”—Gary Hale, pointing out that in addition to solving mysteries, Encyclopedia also serves as protection. Maybe Encyclopedia should start charging more than a quarter for his services. The Case of the Battle Cries
The last time we met Lucy Fibbs, her pig, Gwendolyn, had been stolen right before some pet obedience contest. This time, she feared that someone was a little too interested in her hog, Julius Caesar, who she was training in hopes of becoming the strongest pig in the world. The night before Encyclopedia and Sally came by to visit, Lucy said that she suspected one of the local boys tried to steal Julius, but was scared off by Lucy’s dog’s barking.
How would the thief hide the fact that she stole a pig from a neighbor? It’s not like pigs are easy to hide – and they’re neighbors. Also, wouldn’t the thief’s parents start asking questions about a pig mysteriously showing up? “Where did this pig come from? Oh, Lucy just gave it to you? Why? Well, I should probably call her parents and thank her. No? You don’t want me to do that? In fact, you don’t want me to look into anything you’re doing? Okay, 10-year-old son, you’re the boss. Not monitoring your child’s actions ever is good parenting.”
Conrad Benton, Morris Purvey and Andrew Wagner were always playing practical jokes on each other. Just as Lucy was showing the two detectives what Julius could do, the boys were making each other’s lives miserable as always. As Conrad was sleeping on the grass, Morris sneaked up on him and tied his shoes together. While he was doing that, Andrew had sneaked up on Morris and stuck several matches in his shoe, and lit them. Morris jumped up and yowled and did a funny dance as his foot burned. Seriously, how did Morris not see Andrew?
At that point, Encyclopedia noticed that Andrew was wet. Lucy took the detectives to her back porch and showed them the puddle of water. Earlier that day, Andrew asked Lucy for a drink of water. While he was inside, one of the other two boys balanced a bucket of water above the screen door so that it would soak him when he walked out.
Why was Andrew bugging Lucy for water? He lived nearby. He couldn’t go to his own house for that? And why were they even hanging out at Lucy’s. She didn’t seem all that happy that they were there.
Anyway, onto the business at hand: attempted pig stealing.
Lucy figured that one of the three neighbor boys was off to steal her pig, so she set a trap. She wrote up a book describing what she fed Julius and showed the three boys where she kept it. She figured that the boy who wanted to steal the pig would be satisfied with stealing a book laying out the pig’s diet. That’s assuming diet is the only factor to creating a super strong pig.
Why would Lucy give away her secrets? She wouldn’t. The diet in the book was fake. It was all part of her not-so brilliant plan. She would catch one of the boys stealing the book and then assume that he was the one who tried to steal the pig.
I disagree. Just because someone stole a book giving the pig’s diet doesn’t mean they tried to steal the pig. Maybe one of the boys thought, “Wow, [blank] is an idiot because he tried to steal a pig. No way that would have worked. If I stole that book, that could be the first step to training a pig like Julius. Plus, it would be easier to get away with it because books are easier to hide than living, breathing pigs.”
Lucy took the two detectives into her house to show them the book, but it was missing. Yes, that was another weakness of her plan; it revolved on her seeing the book get stolen. If she wasn’t around to see who stole the book, creating the book then became a gigantic waste of time.
Luckily, with Encyclopedia around, that meant that someone was around to figure out who did it. He immediately noticed a clue – footprints. There was a set of footprints that led from the back door to the living room and back. Based on the footprints, it looked like the thief took off his shoes, making sneaking around easier, but since he had stepped on the wet porch, it left the wet footprints. It also showed that his big toes had been sticking out of each of his socks. The boy who had holes in each of his socks was the culprit. But the boys weren’t about to voluntarily take their shoes off for these kids, so they had no way of knowing who it was.
Encyclopedia figured it all out. It was Morris. When Morris got his hot foot, he didn’t bother taking off his shoes because he knew that if they saw his socks, they would be able to match his footprints to the ones in the house. When this fact was pointed out, he confessed his crime.
So, not only is Lucy bad at setting traps, Morris is even worse at not getting caught. The fact that he refused to take off his shoe, despite the discomfort of his foot being on fire, meant that he realized that he didn’t want to be recognized as having holes in his socks. That means that he was conscious of the fact that he was leaving footprints in Lucy’s house. The point of him taking his shoes off was so that he wouldn’t be heard in the house, but he didn’t seem to care that he left footprints.
If he realized that he had left that footprints and was worried that his socks were going to give him away, he should have gone straight home to change his socks. Or better yet, he could have seen that he was leaving footprints in someone else’s house and cleaned up after himself – which would have been both polite and would have erased evidence which pointed to him. I find it very difficult to believe that someone who could bungle a simple burglary this badly would be able to raise a pig with super strength, even if he did have a book outlining the correct diet.
Idaville was all abuzz because talent scouts for the new television show Young Americans were in town to hold tryouts. Encyclopedia and Sally were at the civic auditorium to watch their friend, Fangs Liverright, try out. His act was eating three apples while juggling them.
Before the tryouts, the two went backstage to wish Fangs luck. On their way to see him, a woman in a yellow dress carrying a yellow suitcase rushed by them.
Most of the other contestants were older, but that didn’t faze Fangs. He wasn’t expecting to be picked for the show, but he wanted to do it for the experience. His goal was to eventually make juggling his career. He even told Encyclopedia that he hoped to get a juggling scholarship from Oberlin College.
I’d like to say I was making that part up. I’m not.
As it was time for Fangs to get ready to go up, he noticed that his apples were gone. They had been kept in a yellow suitcase, but it appeared as if someone had stolen it. And no, it wasn’t the one that the woman had been carrying because one of them had zippers while the other had buckles.
Sally immediately suspected one of the other jugglers, Archie Longmire and Claire Foss, so she marched over to them and told them that someone had stolen Fangs’ suitcase. They both said that they had never seen Fangs with his suitcase, so they wouldn’t be able to help. Encyclopedia asked if they had seen anything suspicious and Claire remembered the woman in the yellow dress. Archie chimed in saying that the suitcase she had was yellow like Fangs’.
Archie said he never saw Fangs’ suitcase. How did he know it was yellow?
The more I read about the town, the more I’m disgusted by its people. How low are these dirt bags that not a single event can go on without someone trying to sabotage their competition to give themselves a better chance?
Encyclopedia and Sally were at the park when they saw Cephas Keefer making weird faces. It turned out he was actually trying to blow bubbles with his chewing gum to prepare for a bubble gum shootout against Malcolm Nesbit. Not actually against Malcolm, but I’ll get to that.
It started a year earlier when Cephas and Malcolm were playing outfield in a baseball game. Someone had hit a ball into a bush and when the two went for it, they noticed a brand new ten-speed bicycle in the bush.
They brought it to the police, but no one claimed it. Officer Carlson told the boys that if no one claimed it after a year, they could have it. Is that what happens in cases like that? That doesn’t seem right.
It was a year later, and no one had claimed the bike. I find that incredibly hard to believe. Idaville is filled with dishonest thieves who go to great lengths to steal a few dollars. No one came to the police claiming to be the bike’s owner? Not even Bugs Meany?
Since the bike was going to be theirs, Cephas and Malcolm had to think of a way to decide who would actually get to keep the bike. Since Cephas was great at blowing bubbles with his chewing gum, they decided to have a bubble gum shootout. Only, it wasn’t going to be Cephas against Malcolm. Malcolm was going to pick a stranger at random. If the stranger won, Malcolm got the bike.
That’s a remarkably dumb idea.
Encyclopedia and Sally watched the shootout. Malcolm found a 15-year-old girl, Teresa Byrnes, to compete for him. Before getting into things, Teresa set down a brown paper bag, which she said was her lunch. Encyclopedia peeked in the bag and saw that it was a jar of peanut butter and a few napkins.
Teresa ended up winning by blowing a bubble 12½ inches wide.
This story contains three Encyclopedia Brown universe tropes:
Someone cheating at a contest. Oh, I haven’t pointed this out yet, but Malcolm and Teresa were cheating. I don’t only know this because I’ve read the entire story; I also know this because every single contest to take place in Idaville has to contain some kind of cheating. I’m beginning to think that it’s in the town’s charter.
Encyclopedia figures out that someone is about to cheat, but allows the contest to go on anyway.
Encyclopedia uses terrible logic to prove something impossible to prove.
Okay, so they cheated. But how did Encyclopedia know?
He knew because Teresa’s “lunch” was just a jar of peanut butter. Even accepting the idea that Teresa eats just peanut butter for lunch, there weren’t any utensils in the bag to serve the peanut butter.
Using Encyclopedia’s logic, since peanut butter is used to untangle bubble gum from people’s hair, the fact that Teresa was walking around carrying a jar of peanut butter proved that she had some sort of connection to bubble gum. Actually, all it really proves is that Teresa was lying about it being her lunch. Or that she has really boring lunches and maybe she forgot to pack a spoon. Or she used a plastic spoon that she had since thrown out. Or she dips her fingers in the jar because it’s her jar of peanut butter and she could do whatever she wants.
It turned out that Teresa wasn’t some random stranger; she was actually Malcolm’s cousin, who also happened to be the bubble gum champion of Glenn City. She agreed to show up at the park at that set time and pretend to not know Malcolm in order to win the bike for him.
I guess you can always figure out who the bubble gum champions are because they’re the ones who always carry peanut butter around? I wouldn’t know, I don’t know any bubble gum champions.
You know who does know bubble gum champions? Cephas, a bubble gum champion in his own right. I’d imagine their paths would cross within the competitive bubble blowing circles. They live in neighboring towns. He didn’t recognize Teresa as a ringer?
Encyclopedia was doing yard work when Lisa Periwinkle raced by his house. She stopped to tell him that she was off to the city dump because Wilford Wiggins had an investment opportunity for everyone. Encyclopedia explained that Wilford doesn’t invite him to those meetings. Lisa acknowledged that that was because Encyclopedia always points out how Wilford was just cheating the children out of their money.
So Lisa was pretty much admitting that she was heading right for a trap, but she was going anyway. I’m going to go ahead and say that Lisa is just stupid.
She encouraged Encyclopedia to come along to keep her and the other kids from being cheated.
If I had been Encyclopedia, I would have said, “No! You want to avoid getting cheated by Wilford, then don’t give him any of your money. It’s that simple, you freakin’ idiot.”
Encyclopedia’s nicer than I am, so he went.
At around sunset, Wilford appeared with a Bill Canfield. Bill was 18-years-old. He wore an overcoat with a bulge in it. No, really. An 18-year-old man stood in front of a crowd of children wearing an overcoat with a bulge in it.
Wilford started his pitch and Bill opened his overcoat and pulled out a rooster. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small box with a few button. He hit one of the buttons a few times, and each time he did, the rooster crowed. He then put the rooster back into his coat. Wilford explained that Bill had invented a mind-control ray to make the rooster crow.
The crowd was unimpressed. Why would anyone need a device that makes rooster crow?
No one would, Wilford conceded. But he explained that controlling roosters was easier and that Bill was now working on a ray that worked on hens. The ray would tell the hens to lay more eggs. Farmers everywhere would want them. This could end world hunger. Anyone getting in on the ground floor of this investment would get rich.
Encyclopedia figured out that the rooster wasn’t crowing because of some mind control ray. It was crowing because it thought it was the sunrise. It had been in the darkness of Bill’s overcoat and when it came out, it saw the sunset.
And if I had been there, I would have turned to Lisa and said, “See? I freakin’ told you!”
Hilbert Capps was a champion hollerer. When he wasn’t hollering, he was talking about hollering. Boy, he sounds fun to be around.
On the day that Hilbert stopped by the Brown Detective Agency to go with Encyclopedia and Sally to Maggie DeLong’s birthday party, he was quiet because his voice was shot.
He explained that he had been walking around the neighborhood a few days earlier when he heard screaming coming out of a window. It sounded like someone was being killed, but it actually turned out to be the number one song for the month. That gave Hilbert an idea. He could make a ruckus and record it. Maybe he could record a hit song.
He went to Maggie’s place, who lent him a tape recorder. With the help of two hound dogs, a washboard, some trash can lids and just lots of screaming, he recorded a song titled I’ve Been Crying Over You Since You Fell Into the Well. He was excited about his creation and Maggie had agreed to play it at her party.
Good, now we’re all caught up. Let’s head to Maggie’s party.
At the party, Maggie announced that she had a surprise and told the story about Hilbert’s foray into the music industry. She went to go get the tape, but returned very upset with a tear running down the outside of her eye. The tape had been stolen.
Ehh let’s cut to the chase. Maggie stole it so that she could try to sell the tape herself. She wanted to make herself look very upset that Hilbert’s tape had been stolen to draw suspicion way from her, so she used an eye-dropper to make it look like she had been crying. Only she put the tear drop on the outside of her eye, and not the inside, where tears normally fall.
Did she not realize that had she sold this stolen tape and made a lot of money off of it, she would have been in even bigger trouble?
This idiot stole her friend’s tape and possibly could have gotten away with it, but she’s apparently so dumb, that she doesn’t know the properties of tear drops? How does she not know what side of the eye tear drops fall from? Has she never cried? What is she, a robot? If she was a robot, wouldn’t she be advanced enough to pass as a human that she would cry out of the correct side of her eyes?
It was the First Annual Idaville Children’s Dog Show was being held, and Encyclopedia and Sally were on hand to look at all of the children’s dogs dressed in different costumes.
We’re already a paragraph into this story, and I already have a problem with it. You shouldn’t use the word “annual” until you’ve already held the event two successive years. Whatever, I’m just being nitpicky at this point. Wait, isn’t that the point of this whole deal?
All in all, it seemed like a pleasant event. And with the exception of the heavily favored Twitchy to take the title Ugliest Dog, it was a pretty uneventful day. It should be noted that Twitchy wasn’t able to compete because his owner had been unable to wake him up in time. There’s nothing suspicious about that.
Scott Curtis, who we have met before, was taking photos of all of the participants. When the event was over, Scott wanted to take a picture of all of the winners. However, Kate Felton, whose dog named Something Else had won the Ugliest Dog Contest, refused. She had accidentally brushed by a wall with wet paint, so she didn’t want to appear in a photo with her skirt covered in paint. When Sally offered to trade skirts with her, Kate scoffed because the colors didn’t match.
That’s when everyone openly criticized Kate. “Aw, hurry up and change,” yelled Bill Seiple. “Who’ll notice the colors, anyway?” asked Ted Corbin. Earl Hanes offered that the colors “won’t even show.” Debbie Worthheimer gave the most convincing argument by yelling, “Stop acting like a spoiled brat.” Because seriously, Kate, stop being a brat.
So, it seemed like a pleasant experience for all; just another great day in Idaville. Except for maybe that part where that girl was shamed and taunted by her peers into doing something against her will. Oh, and also when that dog wasn’t able to wake up.
Later that evening, Encyclopedia got a phone call from Jim Mack, Twitchy’s owner. Jim had been worried about his dog’s inability to wake up, so he took him to the vet. It seemed as if Twitchy had been drugged. A few minutes later, he got a call from Scott saying that someone had switched the film in his camera at some point, and that he only had the few pictures taken at the end of the day, and those had been in black and white. Scott explained that he had always shot in color.
That’s nice. Most young and pretentious photographers occasionally shoot things like fallen leaves and a dirty old shoe in black and white because “it’s artistic.” Good for Scott for not being that guy.
Sally, still grumbling about her unwillingness to pose for a photo, immediately suspected Kate. Normally, I’d be with her. Her dog won the event that the heavily-favored dog was mysteriously absent from. And with that whole story about her getting paint on herself, she was getting an awful lot of play in this story.
But the culprit this time around was actually Earl Hanes. When Earl was in the mob bullying Kate to pose for that picture, he mentioned that the colors wouldn’t even show. How did he know that the colors wouldn’t show? Because he knew that he had replaced the film in Scott’s camera with black and white film.
Earl had been the one who drugged Twitchy, in order to give his dog a better chance at winning. But he then began to worry that Scott unknowingly got a picture of him drugging a dog, so when Scott was away from his camera, he switched out the film with his own.
So that meant that this kid is always carrying a roll of film on him? Okay, benefit of the doubt; maybe he had the film because he had his camera bag with him. But that doesn’t explain why this kid, in the early ‘80s, would carry only black and white film. I’d say that maybe Earl was the pretentious type who only took black and white photos “for his art,” but he seems to be more of the type who poisons animals to give his pet a better chance at winning a stupid contest. I have a hard time believing that these groups have much of an overlap.
Encyclopedia got a mysterious phone call from someone telling them to meet them out by the old cattle range at ten in the morning. He and Sally thought it was suspicious, as this was a method Bugs has constantly used in his ill-thought-out plans to get them to the scene of some crime, but they showed up anyway.
With the exception of a few birds on the power lines, it looked as if the two detectives were the only living creatures around. There wasn’t much to look at out there except for the used firecrackers that littered the area.
After a few minutes of waiting, a police car was seen driving down the road. The car stopped beside the two. When Officer Friedman came out of the car, Bugs emerged from some nearby bushes asking the officer if he had heard a noise. He explained that Encyclopedia and Sally had just set off a firecracker just as he was driving up, but he conceded that Friedman may not have heard it because he was giving his position over the radio.
Friedman said that the station got a report that a boy and girl had been setting off firecrackers at that location the previous evening and were planning on doing it again at 10 a.m. the next day. Bugs told everyone that he was the one who had called the police, because he and his Tigers are only concerned with making sure the laws of upheld.
Friedman, apparently completely clueless to Bugs’ past, told Encyclopedia and Sally that he was going to have to report that.
Sally, in a moment of desperation and frustration, pointed up to the birds sitting on the power lines and bemoaned the fact that they couldn’t talk, because they saw the whole thing and could tell the officer that Bugs was lying. Encyclopedia said that they didn’t need to speak, because they had done plenty for their defense.
If Encyclopedia and Sally had just set off a firecracker, those birds would have flown away, so there went Bugs’ claim.
But even if the birds had not been there, this is still a very poorly-executed scheme by Bugs. In order to claim that Encyclopedia or Sally had been setting off fireworks, Bugs would have to assume that one of them had been carrying matches or a lighter. Since neither of them had a weird smoking habit, that wouldn’t have been likely.
Even if they did had matches, there still isn’t any evidence to prove that they had set off any firecrackers. If Friedman didn’t hear the firecracker go off, then he didn’t any of it. Friedman should be suspicious about the idea of about not hearing the firecracker that Bugs had said had been just set off. If he had been busy talking on the radio, he still would have been able to hear a firecracker going off.
So now, we have a police officer responding to a call about firecrackers going off, and it’s been shown that Encyclopedia and Sally were innocent. Who did set off those fireworks? Did Bugs do it?
If that’s the case, not only did his plan not get Encyclopedia and Sally in trouble, but he also alerted the police of the fact that he had broken the law.
I suppose we don’t have enough evidence to prove that Bugs was the one who set the firecrackers off. There is the possibility that Bugs happened to be in the area and noticed that someone had set off a bunch of firecrackers and his first thought was, “I should totally blame Encyclopedia and Sally for this,” and then got that wheel going.
Either way, this was another case of Bugs giving a fake report to the police, which is probably a more serious offense than setting off firecrackers.
“You have to start the swimmers when they’re two or three days old. First you teach them to drink milk from a baby bottle. Then you lead them to the water. Soon they dive to get the bottle. In six weeks, splasho! They’re swimming.”—Lucy Fibbs explains how she prematurely separates her piglets from their mothers and forces them to learn how to swim for the purposes of some competition. The Case of the Overfed Pigs
Garth Pouncey came to the Brown Detective Agency after spending $3 on a dinosaur-hunting license from Bugs Meany. He was concerned that maybe Bugs tricked him into buying something that he didn’t need.
Really? Garth still hasn’t figured out that dinosaurs are extinct? Maybe he should consider himself lucky that he’s only out $3, because this kid really doesn’t deserve to have money in the first place.
After looking at the license, Encyclopedia remarked that you can send away for “these fun licenses,” which means that Bugs sent away for the specially printed fake license and only got $3 for it. How much did it cost to have printed? How much was shipping and handling? Bugs couldn’t have been getting that big of a return if he was selling them at cost. Why was he wasting his time?
Garth explained that he had taken his bicycle to Mill Pond for a swim. His bike hit a rut and he fell into Bugs, who then dropped his towel into the water. Garth decided that the right thing to do would be to offer Bugs his towel. As a “favor,” Bugs told Garth that he would sell him a dinosaur-hunting license.
Encyclopedia told Garth that he’d get his money back. Garth also wanted his towel back. His mother had taken it straight out of the dryer and he knew he’d get in trouble if he didn’t bring it back.
The two of them went to the Tigers’ Clubhouse where they saw a towel hanging up in tree branches, but Garth was worried that Bugs was going to deny getting a towel from him.
That’s exactly what happened. Garth thought that maybe there would still be soap flakes on the towel from the top of his mom’s dryer, but when Encyclopedia checked the soft and fluffy towel, he couldn’t find any.
Bugs stood by his word and said that if they could prove that that towel wasn’t his, then he would return the towel and the money.
Encyclopedia pointed out that if it had been Bugs’ towel drying in the sun, it would be stiff, but since this towel was soft and fluffy, then that meant that it came out of the dryer.
Wait, so that meant that Bugs didn’t actually use the towel at all. Then why would he be hanging it up to dry? And where was his wet towel? Wouldn’t it have made more sense to Bugs to hang up his towel and to hide Garth’s? That way, if anyone came by, Bugs would be able to say, “Hey, that’s my towel hanging up. Garth never gave me a towel.”
And why did this story involve a dinosaur-hunting license when the mystery was about a towel. Regardless of whose towel that was hanging up, Bugs had to admit that bit about the license was bullshit, so why was that even included?
“If you went out of mind, no one would notice.”—Bugs Meany to Wilford Wiggins, moments before he was ready to give Wilford $5 to invest in square eggs, despite the fact that Wilford had any evidence that these eggs even existed. The Case of the Marvelous Egg
Chief Brown had no idea what to do with his latest case, so he had Encyclopedia take a crack at it.
Someone had broken into William Quinn’s house and stole an Ignazio Saracco painting worth thousands. Don’t feel bad if you’ve never of Saracco, neither has Google. The story tells us that he was a 15th century artist.
How crappy is this painting for it to be 500 years old, but only be worth thousands?
It happened one day when Quinn’s was out of town visiting her mother. Quinn decided to let his hair down and throw a kickin’ party. He had invited three of his friends – Edgar Trad, Tom Hauser and Murray Finkelstein – to come over and play checkers.
At first, I wondered why Quinn was such a lame-o. This guy’s wife was out of town, so he invited his friends over to play checkers? Then I realized that Chief Brown was telling the story to his 10-year-old son. “Play checkers” was obviously code for something a lot more interesting.
After hours of “playing checkers,” Quinn told his friends that he had to leave to go to the store to pick up four rolls of paper towels. Now, had I been in that room, my reaction to such a statement would have been, “Why four rolls?” Why did he announce how many rolls he was getting? Quinn could have easily had said, “I’m getting some paper towels,” or simply, “I have to pick up a few things.”
These three guys had a completely different reaction. They all said, “Hey, you’re going to the store? Can you do me a favor and pick up…?” Quinn didn’t mind, but I totally would have minded. Finkelstein asked for two loaves of rye bread, Houser asked for four tubes of toothpaste and Trad wanted Quinn to pick up a broom.
His friends left and he went to Morey’s Supermarket. At this point in the story, Mrs. Brown cut in to complain about Morey’s. She had stopped going there because the checkout process took too long. It was fine if you had ten items or less, because the express line was pretty speedy. But the other lines were much slower and it added about fifteen minutes to the whole shopping experience.
Anyway, so when Quinn returned from the store, he saw that someone had broken into his house and taken his undervalued Renaissance painting. The instinct would be to suspect one of the three “checkers party” guests. Chief Brown pointed out that these three weren’t the only people who know Quinn’s house was going to be empty. He saw people at the store. Neighbors could have seen him leaving.
Yeah, but this is an Encyclopedia Brown story, so that means that it was one of those three people. It was also possible that Quinn faked the robbery, but since there was no mention of insurance, that wasn’t the case.
It seemed that there was no way to get to the bottom of this. But to me, it’s pretty obvious
Encyclopedia asked his one question that would solve the mystery once and for all. “In what order did Quinn’s friends ask him to pick stuff up?”
See, I’m doubtful the answer to this is in Chief Brown’s report. If Chief Brown had had enough insight to question every minute detail of this crime (ex: “So three people asked you to buy stuff at the store. Please tell me the order in which they asked you.”) he would have already figured out the one fishy detail that points to the thief.
Chief Brown told Encyclopedia that the order was Trad, Finkelstein and Houser.
That’s when Encyclopedia figured it out. The thief was Houser. He and I had different ways of reaching this conclusion. Encyclopedia knew that Quinn was going to the store to buy four items. Trad asked him to buy one broom and Finkelstein wanted two loaves of bread. Houser said he needed four tubes of toothpaste, which would put Quinn’s purchases up to eleven, meaning that he wouldn’t be able to use the express checkout line. That meant that he would be out of his house for an additional fifteen minutes, leaving it the perfect prey for an art heist.
Here’s how I knew it was Houser: he asked for four tubes of toothpaste.
A broom and two loaves of bread, these are things that people could possibly need in the immediate future, given some weird circumstances. The two loaves of bread is a little odd, but not impossible.
Four tubes of toothpaste? How could someone be that desperate for four tubes of toothpaste? Someone in Houser’s position would have said, “Oh shit. I forgot. I’m completely out of toothpaste. Can you pick some up for me? I’m kind of desperate.” When Houser asked for four tubes, some red flags should have gone up. If someone absolutely needed toothpaste, they would ask for one tube and then stock up the next time they got to the store.
No one needs four tubes of toothpaste. Four tubes of toothpaste isn’t an emergency; it’s someone stocking up. If you’re asking someone to pick up some stuff at the store for you, you’re asking for things you’re going to need in the next few hours, not the next few months.
Why did Quinn even agree to buy four tubes of toothpaste for someone else? And why does he have a 500-year-old painting hanging up in his living room. That should be in a museum, even if it is only worth a few thousand dollars.
“[Wilford] must be afraid you’ll shoot him down again. Say, maybe I’d better hire you to come along – just in case.”—Chester Jenkins, referring to Wilford Wiggins’ latest “investment opportunity.” The Case of the Marvelous Egg
The Parent-Teacher Association was holding its annual summer carnival. The proceeds from the event were to go towards getting a new air conditioner for the cafeteria.
I feel like this is part of a viscous cycle. We have a public school system that pumps out easily-fooled idiots and doesn’t spend its money improving the quality of the education it offers. Instead, it spends its money on an air conditioning system. So we have a crappy school paid good money to have it kept relatively cool when it’s mostly empty.
Shortly after arriving, Encyclopedia and Sally met up with Benny Breslin, who explained that the worm race had been cancelled that year because too many of the racers had been stepped on. Bugs Meany himself had angrily stepped on five worms after the caterpillar he had made to look like a worm changed into a butterfly and lost.
Why cancel the race? It seems like the problem was that one kid cheated and acted like a sore loser when his scheme blew up in his face. It’s not like this was the first time Bugs had acted like an ass. Ban Bugs. Everyone just needs to ban Bugs from everything.
Bugs had been supposedly trying to make up being such a dick the previous year, so he got Adler’s Sporting Goods Store to donate a baseball glove to be raffled off. Bugs was going to run the raffle.
Bugs was spotted at the raffle table. When someone bought a chance at the glove, he handed them a paper with a number on it. The corresponding number written on a ping pong ball was dropped into a clear plastic tub. Under his chair was a thermos, but he seemed to be ignoring it. Instead, he was drinking from a root beer can on the table.
When it was raffle time, Bugs had Miss Spottswood, the school nurse, blindfold Duke Kelly to pick the winning ping pong ball. Right, because Duke Kelly has proven himself to be a trustworthy member of society.
Duke stirred the balls around for a few seconds and picked out number 81. Rick Larsen had the winning number. No one should be surprised here, but Rick was a friend of Bugs. Of course, it seemed that Bugs and Duke cheated, but how could Encyclopedia prove that?
The answer was in the thermos. Encyclopedia asked to feel the winning ball. As he suspected, that ball was colder than the others. He theorized that Bugs had kept the winning ball in the cold thermos until a few minutes before the drawing. That way, the blindfolded Duke could just feel for the cold ball and pull that one out. Encyclopedia was tipped off by the fact that Bugs had a thermos, but he hadn’t been drinking out of it.
Normally, I’d point out the possibility that Bugs had come to the carnival with a cold drink in the thermos, but had finished it and later bought a can of root beer at a nearby soda machine. And while those set of events aren’t all that unlikely, Bugs has gone a lot further in order to cheat, swindle or steal.
Of course, all of this leads to a simple question of why anyone would entrust Bugs with anything? Ever. If he ended up stealing every penny the raffle raised, the Idaville PTA would only have themselves to blame.
“After lunch, Edsel let Sally clean up [his] kitchen…”—Not a quote uttered from a character, but actual narration in the story. The word “let” implies that Sally had wanted nothing more than to clean someone else’s kitchen. And that Edsel, out of the goodness of his heart, allowed her to do so. Edsel didn’t ask for Sally’s help cleaning his kitchen. Sally didn’t offer to clean Edsel’s kitchen. Edsel let Sally clean up his kitchen. Chivalry is alive and well in Idaville.
Cosimo Bender had asked Encyclopedia and Sally to show up to the Children’s Hobby Show two hours before it began. He had entered his two-and-a-half-foot ball of string in the Collecting for Fun division – a section of the event which showcased worthless collections that could not be sold or traded. Cosimo had originally hired the Brown Detective Agency because of a rumor floating around saying that he cheated and put a basketball in the center of the ball, but all of that fell to the wayside when Cosimo discovered that someone had taken the ball of string.
On the table where the ball had been, Encyclopedia noticed five small scratches in a line about 6 1/8 inches apart. A sixth line was 4½ inches from the last scratch. The figured someone would have noticed someone walking out of the main door with a ball of string, so the thief must have gone out of the narrower back door. Encyclopedia noticed similar scratches near that door, only the last scratch was 5½ inches away.
There were seven other children entered in this division. Since four of the others were friends of Cosimo, they were given a pass. The mode of thinking there was “what kind of person would try to jerk over his friend?” It’s a reasonable question, but that brand of assholery is prettycommon in Idaville.
Anyway, that left three possible thieves. One had a collection of model ships, another had a collection of rare coins and money and the third collected baseball cards. All three entrants were considered experts in their field.
You know who should be disqualified from the Collecting for Fun prize? These three kids whose collections could easily be sold for money. Especially the one whose “worthless collection” was money. Money was created specifically for the purpose of buying and trading. The fact that it has been entered in a section of the show that is devoted to things that cannot be sold or traded absolutely blows my mind. IT’S MONEY!
Encyclopedia didn’t bother with this blatant misclassification on the part of the Children’s Hobby Show judges; he was only concerned with getting the ball of string returned. He knew who did it too. It was John Morgan, the boy with the “worthless” money collection.
Encyclopedia recognized that 6 1/8 inches is roughly the width of a dollar bill. John must have used a dollar bill to measure the width of the doorway and the ball of string to see if he was able to the ball out of the door. Since he didn’t have a pen or pencil, he etched the marks with a key.
John had enough foresight to know that taking the ball of string out of the main door would raise suspicion. However, when it came to measuring the ball and doorway, he went with the most conspicuous method imaginable.
No one noticed this weird kid with a dollar bill and a key carving little lines into the door and into table next to someone else’s exhibit? Was everyone that entranced by that other kid’s baseball collection?
“The police department won’t touch the [oversided] mousetrap. We claim it’s the job of the department of parks. They say it’s the job of the department of roads. It may be the job of the fire department or the dog pound. They mayor is looking up the law.”—Chief Brown, explaining how he passed the buck, which led to his own Idaville’s municipal government grind to a halt. I’m sure the taxpayers are glad to pay his salary. The Case of the Giant Mousetrap
Lucy Fibbs kept and trained pigs. In the past, they had been trained for obedience contests. She later moved on and went into the world of pig racing. She was training one breed of pig to run fast, and she was training another breed for swimming. She was going to enter a team for the first All-Pig Olympics. The problem was that the swimmer pigs were gaining weight too quickly. She suspected that someone had been overfeeding them, making them too heavy to swim and taking them out of the competition.
You may have trouble believing this, folks, but I believe someone in Idaville is cheating at a competition.
The night before Lucy hired Encyclopedia to find out who was doing this, her parents had come home to find that the kitchen light was on. The intruder ran away as soon as he heard the car pull up, so Lucy’s parents didn’t get a good look at him. When Lucy’s father went inside, he found a mysterious slip of paper with the words “pig iron” written on it.
Later that night, a neighbor said that he had seen a car that had been parked nearby getting towed by another car. Since it was dark, the neighbor didn’t see the cars or the people.
After hearing this story, Encyclopedia just had one question, “Where’s the phone?” As Encyclopedia suspected, the only phone in the house was in the kitchen. With that information, Encyclopedia was able to solve the mystery.
The guy who was overfeeding the pigs was Jim Hearn. He wanted to fatten up the pig because he wanted his own pigs to be famous. The night Lucy’s parents saw Jim in the kitchen, his car had broken down. With no other choice, he broke into the Fibbs’ home to use the phone to call his friend for a tow, but he dropped the piece of paper while he was in the house. But what’s the significance of the paper?
Jim had brought the phone number of the place where his friend was going to be that night, but since he wanted to be careful about someone finding it, he wrote the number in letters. It just so happened that the phone number, 744-4766, spelled out “pig iron.” We find out that the police traced the phone number to Jim’s friend, and he and Jim were arrested.
I don’t understand why Jim had brought the phone number of the place where his friend was going to be. And I don’t understand why he spelled the number out. For that to be a concern, Jim would have had to have thought that his car was in danger of breaking down AND that he’d need to break into the Fibbs’ home and call his friend for a tow. On top of that, he would have to be concerned about leaving the slip of paper somewhere where it could be discovered. I’m all about someone planning for ahead for unlikely events, but those are a pretty specific list of ifs.
And if Jim was going somewhere to overfeed pigs and it just so happened his friend’s friend’s phone number spelled out “pig iron,” would he really have needed to write that down? It’s “pig iron,” dude! The first word is taken care of, because you’re dealing with pigs.
This story has the rare occurrence of telling us that someone got arrested for their crimes, which is not common. Even the man who kidnapped his 10-year-old neighbor and the ice cream man didn’t get arrested. Here, the police arrested Jim as well as his friend. Why was Jim’s friend arrested? All he did was tow Jim’s car. I suppose he had possibly aided and abetted a criminal, but they’d have to prove that he knew why Jim was there. Considering that Mr. Fibbs didn’t even call the police after seeing someone had broken into his house, I don’t know how serious of a crime any of this is.
Idaville’s poster boy for childhood obesity, Chester Jenkins, was seen hurrying past the Brown Detective Agency carrying an egg. When Encyclopedia asked Chester what the rush was, Chester answered that Wilford Wiggins had told everyone that “egg power” was going to make them rich. What followed was the same conversation that occurs every time someone tells Encyclopedia about Wilford’s latest scheme:
DUMB CHILD: Wilford told everyone to meet him at [time and place, though the place is usually the city dump].
ENCYCLOPEDIA: That’s odd. I didn’t hear anything about any meeting.
DUMB CHILD: Oh, he probably didn’t tell you because each and every single time he has tried to pull one over us, you’ve pointed out that it was a scam. Even though I have no indication that this time is any different, I’m sure Wilford’s telling the truth this time, though. But hey, just in case, maybe I’ll hire you to come down with me to see if it’s a scam. Or I could just not go, because it’s not going to be worth my time… No actually, I’ll just go and hire you to do the thinking for me.
Encyclopedia, Sally and Chester went to the city dump just as the meeting was getting started. Standing next to Wilford was a tall boy wearing a crash helmet, jump suit, goggles and a parachute.
Wilford held up a box, and without opening the box, he told the crowd that there was a square egg inside, and he told the children to dare to dream the possibilities of living in a world with square eggs. One child remarked that square eggs wouldn’t roll off the edge of the counter and break. Another noted that sandwiches with sliced hard-boiled eggs wouldn’t waste the corners of the bread. Beyond those two things – and really, the last one is a bit of a stretch – there’s really no reason to mess with nature. But whatever.
Wilford claimed that he bred chickens to lay square eggs. That’s quite a feat with someone with absolutely no background in animal science or genetic engineering. Also, I’d imagine square eggs have got to be pretty painful for the chickens laying them.
Wilford then noted that he hadn’t taken the egg out of the box, and that they must think that he was avoiding showing everyone because it was fragile. This was where his friend in the jump suit came in. Buddy Sidwell was a skydiver. He was going to jump out of a plane at 20,000 feet. When he parachuted to a landing in front of reporters and cameras, he would show that the egg was unbroken.
Once word got out, the world would demand strong, square eggs. The only problem was that Wilford needed money to rent the plane for Buddy. That’s why he needed the children’s money. If they all pitched in for the plane rental, Wilford could make them rich.
The children were excited to give their money away, but Encyclopedia put that to an end and pointed out that skydivers normally wear two parachutes, in case the first one failed, but Buddy was only wearing one.
That was the problem Encyclopedia saw with this? No one else saw anything wrong with this entire proposal? If Buddy had said, “Yeah, I’m going to put another one on before I get on the plane,” would Encyclopedia have left it at that?
What about the fact that Wilford never showed anyone the egg? He even pointed out the fact that he didn’t show off the egg. Wasn’t there anyone in the crowd curious to see it? It’s a square egg. I’ve never seen one before, I’d want to see it and I’m not even being asked to invest in them. Actually, I’d want to see two so that the person could break one open and prove that it’s a real egg.
And what would parachuting the egg out of a plane prove? The point of the parachute is so that the person wearing it, and anything he may be holding, land safely to the ground. By having Buddy hold the egg while he parachutes out of a plane, absolutely nothing is being demonstrated except the quality of the parachute. Buddy could jump out of a plane carrying the finest crystal and, assuming he kept a firm enough grip on it and he wasn’t jostled too much in the landing, the crystal would be fine. That wouldn’t be because of the crystal is strong, it would be because he was wearing a parachute.
Unlike Caswell Philpott, who did headstands as part of his yoga, Elton Fisk did his for charity. He would stand on his head on the street corner and raise money for the local hospital. Like Caswell, Elton witnessed something that would be of great interest of the police, but took the information to the Brown Detective Agency instead.
Elton had seen three men wearing yellow overalls and carrying paper bags go into a store downtown. While he didn’t think twice about it at the time, he found out the next day that three men wearing yellow overalls and masks had robbed the First National Bank, carrying their loot in paper bags.
It was assumed that these were the same men. Good assumption.
It was also assumed that the store they went into must have been their hideout and that that was where they could be found; presumably ad infinitum. Bad assumption.
Just because they went there after they robbed a bank, it doesn’t mean that that was their designated hideout. Why would three bank robbers go to their downtown hideout together in daylight while wearing the same thing they did during the robbery? Wouldn’t they worry that someone would see them? And why rob a bank wearing something easy to spot, like yellow overalls? I guess I can give a pass to that one, given that this is the town where past bank robbers have worn capes.
So let’s suspend logic and doubt and assume that the bank robbers could be found at the one place where they were seen, the question was what store was it?
Well, Elton had no idea. All he knew was that there was a black and white sign in the window, but he couldn’t read it because he was upside down. Not only was he upside down, it the sign was being reflected by a mirror.
Why was it being reflected by a mirror? You see, once while he was standing on his head, Bugs Meany sneaked up behind him and gave him a hot foot. Since then, he’d bring a mirror with him so that no one would be able to sneak up on him.
Why didn’t he just do a headstand with his back near a wall so that no one would be able to sneak up on him? I don’t know.
Why didn’t some adult just grab Bugs by the shirt after this hot foot and say, “You little asshole. This kid is doing something for charity. Can you be a semi-decent human being once in your life?” All Bugs needed is a few good adult role models, and he’d cut the shit almost immediately. I digress.
Elton did say that the sign had two words that were upside-down and backwards, so he was able to read them while standing on his head and looking at it through a mirror. The problem was that he couldn’t remember what those words were, nor could he even remember what store it was or even a general idea of where he was at the time.
So Elton is completely useless.
Encyclopedia decided the best thing to do would be to tell his father, the chief of police, what Elton saw. Maybe with Elton’s information, he could back it up with other witness accounts. Because, surely, someone must have been downtown to see three guys wearing bright yellow overalls. It’s downtown, there must have been someone around.
No, I’m just kidding. Encyclopedia, Sally and Elton decided to do their own detective work. After all, it’s not like the police would care about information regarding a bank robbery, right?
They combed the streets of downtown. Surprisingly, there were four black and white signs – usually, the list of suspects is whittled down to three – but none of them had words written upside-down and backwards.
Slattery’s Fish Market was advertising its sale on choice cod. Meleger’s Furniture Store was having a summer sale. McDuffy’s shoe store had “prices slashed.” And Dwight’s Men’s Store was touting “bargains.”
Well, the trick here is that the words weren’t actually upside-down and backwards, they just appeared that way. Elton should have maybe seen these signs and had some sort of recognition. Usually, people don’t think they could remember something, but then they have their memories jogged, and suddenly, they have an “oh yeah” moment. Elton was apparently too dumb for even that.
The men were hiding out at Slattery’s Fish Market. Encyclopedia knew this because the words “CHOICE COD” appear the same when it’s being read upside-down and backwards.
Wait, were the three men wearing yellow overalls because they were fishermen? That didn’t tip anyone off?
“The Odd-Ball Olympics are run on the honor system. No cheating.”—Encyclopedia Brown, who seems to genuinely believe that one event could take place in Idaville without anyone cheating, despite the fact that that has yet to happen. Ever. The Case of the Fifty Mosquitoes
Otis Dibbs had carved out a summer gig for himself diving for golf balls hit into the water hazards of Idaville’s golf courses and selling the balls back to golfers. He had himself quite the business until Helga Smith started butting in and taking over.
Helga was one of the town’s laziest 17-year-olds, whose only noted activity was getting weekly manicures. Otis didn’t want to have to share his profits with her, so he hired Encyclopedia and Sally to get rid of her.
The three biked to the golf course at the country club and walked to one of the water hazards near the sixth hole. As they approached, Helga was getting out of the pond. She pointed out a poorly-made sign near the shore that read “Caution: Divers at Work.” Helga told Otis that it had cost $20; another dip into his profit margin.
Helga said that the business could afford it, as the company had two divers instead of one. Otis protested, saying that she never went diving. All she did was sit in the shade, count balls and collect money. Helga responded by telling Otis to watch his temper, while saying that she did that “shame, shame” gesture with her fingers, and as she did she took an opportunity to show off how perfectly smooth her fingers were and her well-maintained manicure.
At that point, a ball sailed by the children and went right into the water. Helga told her supposed partner to go get the ball because she had been tired from diving the past hour. When it was brought up she could have just gotten in the water to make it look like she had been diving for a while, she claimed that she had found the balls that were in a nearby pail. Otis argued that he had found those balls before heading off to the Brown Detective Agency.
Helga didn’t like being called a liar. She even offered to bow out of the business if Otis could prove his case. Yes, it was obvious that Helga hadn’t been in the water for an hour because she had just shown off her hands. If she had been in the water for an hour, her fingers would have been wrinkled and pruney.
Now, I understand why Helga wanted to get money for doing as little as possible. I just don’t understand why she chose that way to go about it. I don’t know how much Otis was earning, fetching golf balls, but I don’t imagine it must have been that much. Oh sure, it was probably a lot to someone who was 9 or 10 years old, whose only expenses are ice cream and comic books, but kids that age don’t need too much money.
Whatever Otis was making, Helga wanted half of it. What good is that little money to a 17-year-old? What kind of person says, “Oh, I can make $5 a day, and all I have to do is bully a 9-year-old? I’m in.”
This is just another example of everyone in Idaville either being a truly awful person, or one of the truly awful people’s hapless victims.