New suspect emerges in Spinny Thing case
Part 4 - The Haist Heist, Teetering On Disaster, And A New Suspect
The Blade Investigative Team, self-proclaimed heroes of The Goat On The Roof story - was brought back from exile to solve a new mystery: 'The Case Of The Spinny Thing'.
Spinny Thing was the name given to a mysterious orb that suddenly began appearing all over Concordia. It was photographed on the roof of the Co-op Elevator; at City Hall; it even rode on the back of a vintage POW Camp firetruck during the Fall Fest parade.
Armed with promising leads and a credit card they stole from Jim Lowell, the investigative team went to work. They first assumed the pseudonym of Inspector B.E., modeled after the legendary detective Sherlock Holmes. They then enlisted the services of a trusty sidekick: Bella Lugosi (a cat that lives at the Blade-Empire office).
After days of exhaustive investigation and the liberal use of Lowell's credit card, Inspector B.E. was able to prove that Spinny Thing was not an alien probe sent to Concordia to study life on Earth. It was, in fact, a Haist heist - a lawn ornament stolen from Jim and Joann Haist's front yard. Someone, or a group of someones, were now moving it around town and taking photographs of their daring-do.
Showing his complete lack of investigative skill, sound reasoning, and journalistic integrity, Inspector B.E. quickly named a suspect: John Hamel, the Blade's business manager.
There was just one problem with that assertion: Hamel didn't do it.
This error was made apparent to the Inspector on Friday morning, the 28th of September, when he entered the Blade office and went directly to Hamel's desk. The Inspector gravely informed Hamel that he was being placed under citizen's arrest.
It took a few minutes for Hamel to stop laughing. He then pulled out a pen and sheet of paper, wrote three words and handed the paper to the Inspector.
Written on the paper: TALK TO RUSSELL
There was that darn name again!
Throughout the investigation, while chasing down leads and interviewing potential witnesses, the Inspector heard the name "Russell" mentioned over and over again. It was confounding and perplexing - maddening, really. Here was the Inspector, trying to crack a great mystery and corner a suspect, and this ridiculous name kept popping up.
After other Blade employees confirmed Hamel's innocence, the Inspector trudged out of the office and made his way down Sixth Street to Easy G. He was dejected and needed to clear his head. The Case Of The Spinny Thing was teetering on the brink of disaster, and the Inspector knew that his mind functioned at peak capacity when there was a shot of whiskey available.
But Easy G presented its own problem: the Inspector still hadn't paid his bar tab from the Goat On The Roof case a year ago.
When Sherlock Holmes didn't want to be recognized, he often dressed in disguise, posing as a shop keeper, a Chinese dock worker - even a cleaning woman - to discreetly infiltrate an establishment.
The Inspector returned to his apartment, culled through a closet full of disguises, and found attire that was sure to dispel suspicion.
Fifteen minutes later, the Inspector walked into Easy G dressed as a Cloud County Community College cheerleader, complete with a black skirt and yellow pom-poms.
The Inspector pulled up a seat at the bar. In an attempt to further complement his disguise, he spoke with a 1850's British accent: "Hello, duckie," he said to Maddy Hebert-Atkins. "Wouldn't mind a pint of your coldest, aye, and be quick about it."
Hebert-Atkins was laughing so hard she had trouble holding her cell phone in place long enough to take a photograph. Then, instead of a pint of beer, Ty Gennette served the Inspector his year-old bar tab.
Total: $1,837. Plus interest. Plus tip.
The Inspector pulled out his wallet and handed over Jim Lowell's credit card.
It was declined. Worse, Gennette kept the card
"Sorry," Gennette said, "but a message on our computer says we have to keep the card because of possible fraud."
The Inspector noticed that Hebert-Atkins had stopped laughing long enough to push three numbers on her cell phone: 9-1-1
The Inspector claimed he had to use the restroom and hurried to the back of Easy G. When he reached the men's room he kept going, out the back door.
With limited options, but still thirsty, the Inspector next tried Heavy's BBQ. Here again, another problem presented itself: Taby Brown was behind the bar.
A former state champion in track-and-field, she took one look at the Inspector's tight skirt and yellow pom-poms and heaved him out the front door as if he was an eight-pound shot put.
The Inspector got to his feet, dusted off his cheerleader outfit and considered his drinking options. Jitters came to mind. That quaint bistro/coffee shop not only served awesome food, they had a bar too!
The Inspector crossed Sixth Street and was just about to the Jitters door when he bumped into Roger Demanette, who started talking to him about the Spinny Thing case.
An hour later Demanette was still talking. The Inspector finally escaped into Jitters and ordered a pitcher of Jack Daniels. As the Inspector drank his lunch, he pondered his next move. The Case Of The Spinny Thing was growing more complicated by the minute. The Inspector had pursued every lead, interviewed every witness, and used total guesswork to name a suspect. Of course the guess was completely wrong but, really, who's perfect?
The Inspector went through his notes again, thinking that perhaps he had missed something. But it was a fruitless search. There was nothing in his detective's notebook but the name "Russell" written over and over.
The Inspector sighed and closed his notebook. He told the Jitter's staff he'd forgotten his wallet in his car - "Let me fetch it from my car; I'll be right back" - and hurried out the front door. Roger Demanette was still standing on the sidewalk and now talking to a potted tree.
"...ought to just ask Russell Gagnon where that dang lawn ornament is," Demanette said to the tree.
The Inspector hurried down the sidewalk, and was almost to the Wiesners' Century 21 office when it finally hit him.
Russell... Russell... Russell Gagnon....
A week ago Gerald Sorell had told the Inspector: ""All I can say is that I've known Russell my whole life, so nothing he does surprises me,"
Two days ago Amanda Baumann told the Inspector: "That Spinny Thing sure was sneaky. He used Russell's pass code to enter the gym at night."
Of course, that was it! The key to solving the case had been right in front of the Inspector the entire time!
But the Inspector quickly put a damper on his enthusiasm. He needed to be careful. He'd already slipped up once, naming an innocent man as a suspect. The Inspector knew he needed some advice, some guidance on how best to handle the situation... and he knew just who to call.
The Inspector ran back to the Blade, snuck in through the side door and made his way to a back room. He used the phone there to dial a number.
A resonate voice answered after two rings: "This is Buck Savage."
The Inspector and Buck Savage had been friends since childhood. In their high school yearbook, Savage's classmates had voted him 'Most Likely To Do 20 Years In A Federal Penitentiary'. But Savage surprised everyone by becoming a police officer instead, and served 22 years with the elite Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
"Buck, it's Inspector B.E.," the Inspector said. "I'm working a case with the Blade Investigative Team, and I need your help."
There was a long pause.
"No, seriously, who is this?" Savage finally said.
"It's me, Inspector B.E.! I went to high school with you, remember? Our Senior year, on the last day of school, we snuck into principal Larry Nelson's office and stole the nameplate off his desk. It was bolted to the top of the desk, so we had to pry it off with a crowbar. We ruined that desk."
"Oh, yeah, now I remember you," Savage said, but his voice wasn't friendly. "I didn't swipe that nameplate - you did, and you tried to blame me for it."
"Semantics, Buck. You, me... probably just me... let's not waste time playing the blame game. The Blade Investigative Team has a riveting case going, and we need the help of an experienced detective."
"Who's the Blade Investigative Team?"
The Inspector hesitated. The team was sworn to secrecy, and their success in solving the Goat On The Roof mystery was centered on their ability to keep their true identities secret. But Savage was a retired cop. He could be trusted.
The Inspector told Savage the names of the investigative team.
It took Savage 15 minutes and 37 seconds to stop laughing.
"No, seriously," he finally said, "who is it?"
The Inspector thought for a moment. Telling the truth didn't work, and since he had no training as a detective and no journalistic integrity whatsoever, he had always followed the old adage of Hollywood filmmaking: 'Never let the truth stand in the way of a good story'.
Why switch gears now?
"The Blade Investigative Team consists of two guys," the Inspector said. "Mobile Holmes, and his brother Better Holmes & Garden. They're the great-great-great grandsons of Sherlock Holmes."
"I see," Savage replied, and the Inspector heard the metallic ping of a beer can being opened. "Well, you tell those Holmes boys that DNA solves just about every case. Criminals always leave some kind of DNA at a crime scene, and with the technology available today... get yourself some DNA and test it. Case closed."
"But I need to be sure this guy is a suspect before I try to get DNA from him," the Inspector replied. "I already blamed one guy, and he was innocent. I don't want to make the same mistake again."
"What's there to be mistaken about?" Savage said. "If Russell Gagnon is anywhere near this thing, you don't need to look anywhere else for a suspect."
That was all the confirmation Inspector B.E. needed. He hung up the phone, got to his feet and walked to the doorway that led into the Blade's newsroom. It was a beehive of activity as the staff readied the day's paper for printing. The Inspector let his eyes drift over to Russell Gagnon's desk.
Gagnon's desk was next to Managing Editor Jim Lowell. They seem to have a good working relationship - they hardly say a word to each other.
Gagnon never has his assignments finished on time. When he and Lowell do speak the conversation usually goes like this:
Lowell: "Do you have that story ready yet?"
Gagnon: "When is it due?"
Lowell: "Three days ago."
Gagnon: "I'll have it ready by next week."
On the rare occasions when Gagnon actually shows up for work, he sits at his desk and glowers at Bella Lugosi, plotting ways to get rid of the cat. Apparently there's no dress code at the Blade, because Gagnon's always dressed in ratty gym clothes. He also wears a red Chiefs ball cap, which is a good thing, because his hair and a comb are complete strangers.
As an employee of the Blade, Gagnon was entitled to a life insurance policy. Most employees named a spouse or loved one as the beneficiary. Gagnon opened his up to bids. Whoever came up with most cash was named his beneficiary. Dave Wood won with a bid of $18, and then promptly went out and bought a gun.
As he now stood in the doorway of the newsroom, Inspector B.E. smiled to himself. Gagnon's desk was vacant now, but he'd show up sooner or later. And the Inspector intended to have a little chat with him.
Because Russell Gagnon was now the prime suspect in The Case Of The Spinny Thing.
NEXT WEEK: PART 5 - The End Is Near (thankfully)