A Charles Splints Case: A City, A Mayor, And A Dog
By Dan Leicht
“Thanks for staying open.”
The barkeep looked up from polishing a glass. “Least I could do. Thanks for getting rid of the trouble last night.”
“Get some rest.”
“You too,” replied the barkeep.
“Too early for that.”
By the time he left the bar it was time to clock in for the day. At his office he walked past his secretary, Jimmy Smalls.
“Hey, Splints. How’d the bar case go last night? Did we get a good payday out of it?”
“It went well. No payday other than enough free drinks to take down an elephant.”
Jimmy sighed and slinked down into his chair.
“You can’t keep accepting drinks as payment, Splints. I’m not working here for free. Not anymore at least.”
“You’ll get your check. I’m putting on a pot of coffee. Need some?”
Jimmy raised his mug in the air. “All set.”
As Charles Splints poured his coffee he could hear Jimmy mumbling something into the phone on the other side of his office door. Then the young phone-jockey opened the door with a grand smile on his face.
“We have a new case,” said Jimmy. “Sounds like a big deal, too.”
“Calm down, calm down.” He took a sip from his mug. “What’s the case?”
“The mayor’s personal aide just called. Turns out the mayor’s house was broken into last night.” Jimmy’s smile was still creased up to his ears. “His dog’s been stolen. Can you believe it? The mayor wants us on the case. You know he bought the election, Splints. We can ask for three times, no, five times our normal rate. What do you say?”
“I’ll take the case,” he took another sip, “and charge my usual rate. Fifty befo — “
“ — Before the case and fifty after it’s all done, plus any expenses. I know, I know,” interrupted Jimmy, rolling his eyes. “Can I at least come with you this time?”
Splints knew how badly Jimmy wanted to get into the field, instead of spending each day at a desk waiting for a phone to ring. A case about a missing dog seemed innocent enough to get his feet wet.
“Fine,” replied the hungover sleuth. “But don’t act all annoying or anything.”
“Really? You’ll let me come along? Great, let’s get started. I’ll grab my jacket.”
“Hold on, kid.”
“Let me finish my coffee first.”
The duo arrived at city hall around noon. Splints rubbed at the purple sacks under his eyes as they walked up to the entrance. Waiting for them was the mayor’s aide, a slim man with a pencil-thin mustache.
“Charles,” said the mayor’s aide, “glad you could come on such short notice.”
“Call me Splints,” he stuck his hand out for a handshake, “this is my associate, Jimmy. You two spoke on the phone.”
“Pleasure to put a face with the voice, Jimmy. The name’s Henrdick. Right this way, the mayor should be getting out of his meeting any minute now.”
They followed along with Hendrick until they reached the conference room. They looked on through a large window, but couldn’t hear what was being said. The room was packed with men and women in suits sitting at a large glossy conference table. Everyone had a cup of coffee and a stack of papers in front of them. Splints drifted in and out of sleep as he stood looking at the mundane display. When the mayor noticed them waiting outside he wrapped up what he was saying and headed for the exit.
“You’re the detective, right? Charlie Splinters?”
“And you’re the mayor of this fair city, right? Mayor Dipshit, was it?” replied Splints.
“It’s Mayor DiPasetti,” interrupted the mayor’s aide.
“Right, so anyway. Are you two going to be able to find my dog? My kid is having an eruption of a tantrum over his animal. I don’t know why anyone would’ve taken him in the first place. The damn thing is a menace.”
“Right. We’ll take the case,” replied Splints. He looked over his shoulder at Jimmy. “Two hundred to put us on the case, another two hundred when it’s done.”
“Plus any expenses,” added Jimmy.
“That sounds reasonable. Henrdick,” said the mayor, “write these men a check for the first two hundred.” Mayor DiPasetti made a note of his own and handed it to the detective. “Here’s my address. My maid should be there about now, she’ll be able to let you in. Tell her Terry sent you.”
“Is Terry your wife’s name?”
“Cute,” replied the mayor. “My wife’s name is Deloris. She’s a prosecutor and will be tied up in a case all day. My kid will be home in an hour. Ask him any questions about the dog you want. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have real work to do.”
“Good luck with that, Terry.” Replied Splints.
The mayor’s aide handed Jimmy the check and they took their leave.
Jimmy ran ahead and was the first to knock on the door. The maid opened up, a look of disdain prevalent on her face.
“Can I help you?” she asked. Her clothes were wet and she smelled of bleach.
“Jimmy Smalls, ma’am. I’m here with private investigator Charles Splints. We’re on a case.”
“A case? A case about what?”
“A missing pooch. Goes by the name Jiggles,” said Splints. “Thankfully such names are reserved for those who can’t argue against them. Mind if we come in? We were sent here by Terry himself.”
“Of course, come right in. I’m just finishing up, but I’ll be in the upstairs master bedroom changing the linens if you need anything.”
“Much obliged, ma’am,” said Jimmy.
“Quit talking like that, kid,” whispered Splints as the maid walked upstairs.
“Like what? I’m just being polite.”
“Polite and annoying are closely related. You strike me as the kind of guy who holds the door open too early, forcing some poor soul to have to go for a light jog in their wingtips or heels. Just say what you need, nothing else. We’re on the case, not here to make friends. And stop taking notes.”
Jimmy put his notepad back into his pocket of his slacks.
“Where should we check for clues first?” asked Jimmy.
“The kid’s room. It’s probably where the dog sleeps.”
The entered into the kid’s room and turned the place upside down. The maid heard the commotion and burst into the room.
“What’re you doing in here?” she cried.
“We’re looking for clues,” replied Jimmy, shaking a piggy bank upside down.
“What clue do you expect to find in there?” she asked.
“No clue is too small,” replied Splints. “Any clue will do really. Just something to feed Terry so his tummy doesn’t get too upset. You know how he gets without his snacks.”
“I’m going to have to ask you to leave.” She stood with her arm blocking the way out.
“You’re not making this easy on us,” replied Splints.
Just then the mayor’s son entered the room from below the maid’s arm. He tossed his backpack onto his bed and joined them in the destruction of his room.
“Edward!” shouted the maid.
“It’s okay, we’re having fun,” replied Edward. “What is it we’re looking for?” He looked over to Jimmy for the answer.
“We’re going to find your dog,” said Jimmy. “We’re searching for clues. Want to help us solve the case?”
The young boy’s eyes grew wide and his smile even wider.
“You’re the amazing detectives my daddy hired to find Jiggles?” he said. “Let me help! Let me help!”
He expelled his energy tenfold in turning over ever toy and pillow strung about the room.
“Is this a clue?” asked Edward, panting and out of breath as he held up a receipt.
“Depends,” said Splints, taking the receipt from Edward. He inspected it and looked down at the boy. “Have you been out for coffee lately?” The boy shook his head. “What about you?” He stared at the maid. She shook her head. “Then yes, this is a clue. Good job, Edward.”
“How is that going to help us, Splints?” asked Jimmy.
Splints looked over to the maid. “How often does the father or mother enter this kid’s room?”
“Rarely ever, that I’ve seen. His mother reads him a story at night, but they both sit in her bed.”
“Tonight is a story about a magical dinosaur!” shrieked Edward.
“When it all boils down to it every story is about a magical dinosaur, kid,” said Splints. He glanced up at the maid. “Sorry, I didn’t catch your name.”
“Which of the parents like their coffee black, Rita?”
“That would be Mr. Terry.”
“Mr. Terry, eh?” replied Splints.
“What’s that mean?” asked Edward.
“It means I need to have a chat with your dad. I think he knows more than he’s telling us. One receipt isn’t much to go on. Where’d you find this?”
Edward showed them the corner where his dog slept, which was on the other side of the room where they put his dog bed.
“My mom tried moving the bed to over here but Jiggles just moved it out of the way. He likes it by the window, but likes the carpet under his tummy.”
“What kind of dog is Jiggles, Edward?” asked Jimmy. “Do you know the breed?”
“Umm…” Edward looked up at Rita and shrugged.
“He’s a beagle,” replied Rita. “He must be about two years old now.”
“Any chance he knows how to fly a plane?” asked Splints.
“No, that’d be silly,” said Edward. He laughed to the point of snorting at the idea of his dog flying a plane around the backyard.
“Just covering all my bases,” replied Splints, smirking at the boy’s joy. He walked over to where the dog sleeps and knelt down. Beside the paddled down area, lined up almost perfectly with the wall, he pulled a strand of brown hair from the carpet. He held it up as he inspected the mop atop the boy’s head. Edward’s hair was black. Rita’s hair was blonde. He thought back to his brief discussion with the mayor, his hair was also black. “Jimmy, who do we know with brown hair?”
“Hendrick has brown hair,” said Edward.
“He also picks up the coffee for Mr. Terry,” said Rita.
“It’s always the aide,” said Splints, grunting as he got to his feet.
“You think Hendrick took my dog?” asked Edward.
“Don’t fret, kid,” said Splints. “I’ll call him up and see what he knows. Maybe he came by to pet him.” He nodded to Rita as he left the room, with Jimmy not far behind.
“What’re you thinking, Splints?” asked Jimmy from the driver’s seat of the car.
“The mayor’s aide wouldn’t’ve acted unless instructed by the mayor.”
“So if he did it then why’d he call us?”
“He probably didn’t think we’d find any clues, figured we’d have to tell the kid ourselves his dog just ran away.”
“Sounds like a lot of trouble to go through just to get rid of a dog.”
“A dog is part of the family,” said Splints, “it’s not as easy as dropping it off at the pound and walking away. At least it shouldn’t be.”
“So you really think the mayor had Hendrick get rid of the dog?”
“We can ask the man ourselves,” replied Splints, pulling up to city hall.
They entered the building and walked up to the receptionist.
“Excuse me,” said Splints, “I have an urgent meeting with the mayor’s aide. We’ve brought his prescription, the ones he needs for,” he leaned over the desk and whispered, “his condition.”
“And what condition would that be?” asked the receptionist.
“Damn, we’ve been made! Make a run for it, Jimmy!”
“Sorry about him,” said Jimmy to the receptionist, “he’s had a long day. We’re actually here about a case the mayor put us on. His dog went missing. Could we speak with Hendrick?”
“He’s in a meeting with the mayor at the moment but if you take a seat I’ll let him know you’re here.”
An hour and two energy drinks later the mayor’s aide approached he wired sleuth and his trusty secretary.
“Did you two find anything?” asked Hendrick.
“Only everything,” replied Splints. “Did you happen to order a medium black coffee and a donut yesterday morning? Say around seven? Because if you did, then you’re suspect numero uno.”
“He hasn’t slept,” said Jimmy. “Most of what he said is relevant, though.”
“I did. I pick up the mayor’s breakfast every morning. Why does his order matter?”
“We found this in Edward’s room,” replied Jimmy, handing him the receipt, “it was on the floor where the dog sleeps. Along with what we believe is a strand of your hair.”
“You think I took the dog?” scoffed Hendrick. “That’s preposterous.”
“No you’re preposterous,” retorted Splints. “You’re,” he lowered his voice to whisper, “mom is preposterous.”
“Did you take the dog or not?” asked Jimmy.
“Fine.” Hendrick held his chin high. “I did what the mayor asked of me. Apparently,” he adjusted his tie, “I wasn’t precise enough in my execution of the act and — ”
“ — You executed the poor pooch?” asked Splints. “Are you insane?”
“Execution of the act, the taking of the dog. I didn’t kill Jiggles. That’d be — “
“ — Preposterous,” interrupted Splints.
“Yes, this time you’re correct in your use of the word. I brought Jiggles to my apartment until I could figure out what to do with him. He was driving the mayor crazy with all his insistent barking. With his reelection around the corner he needs all the sleep he can get. We were hoping you’d tell the boy the dog ran away.”
“Hire us to be the bad guys,” said Splints, shaking his head. “Didn’t I say this in the car, Jimmy?”
“You were right as always, Splints.”
“So what happens now?” asked the aide. “The mayor wants the dog gone. You won’t get the rest of your money if you bring the dog back to the house.”
Splints looked over at Jimmy. Jimmy nodded.
“You can keep the rest of your money,” said Jimmy. “Edward needs his dog back.”