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.