A Young Charles Splints Case: Hide-and-Seek
By Dan Leicht
Charles Splints sat with his feet kicked up on the principal’s desk. At his side was a small table with a mug of chocolate milk. Between his lips was a candy cane which he’d sharpened into a spear with his tongue. He pulled the cane from his mouth and stared at it a moment as he pondered.
“This is a serious situation,” said Splints.
“What should we do?” asked the principal from the corner of the room. He was siting in a chair four sizes too small for him.
There were two seats in front of the desk where Splints sat, both occupied by witnesses that the detective considered suspects.
“So, Randy,” said Splints, pulling the cane from his mouth, “it was your turn to count, am I correct in this understanding?” He placed the cane into his chocolate milk and stirred. “How high did you count? Don’t lie to me. I’ve seen your math scores.”
“I counted to fifty,” replied Randy. “I counted so fast it only took me thirty seconds.”
“Nobody can count that fast!” shouted Kevin.
Kevin was restless in his chair beside Randy, as if itching to speak. Kevin had deemed himself as Splints best friend, a title the detective wasn’t eager to agree with.
“Kevin has a point Randy,” said Splints. “I stood in the hall and listened to you stutter through generations during your history presentation last week. I hardly believe you could count to fifty at all. As I’ve said before I need you to take this seriously. What we’re dealing with here is essentially a missing person’s case. William Westbrook hid during a game of hide-and-seek during recess and has yet to be found. According to the clock on the wall recess ended an hour ago and the school buses will arrive to pick everyone up in two hours. Poor Westbrook is out there in the heat, probably baking to a crisp. If we wait any longer he could end up like the grilled cheese sandwiches from Tuesday’s lunch special.”
“The cheese tasted like rubber,” said Kevin, “but with a little ketchup it wasn’t too bad. I only ate half before I got full. My mom says I have a little tummy.”
“That’s great news, Kevin,” said Splints, “you’ll make a great personal trainer someday.”
“Everyone else was hiding near the playground,” said Randy. “That was the rule.”
“I was in the slide!” shouted Kevin. “It smells like pee in there.”
“Kevin,” said Splints, pinching the bridge of his nose, “thank you once again for your glorious insight. I’ve decided you’re no longer a necessary witness. You can leave.”
“But can’t I stay?” whimpered Kevin. “The principal already told my teacher I’d be gone for a while. Right now they’re probably going over fractions. I don’t understand fractions!”
“All the more reason to be in class.” Splints sipped what was left of his chocolate milk. He wiped his mouth clean with his fist and set the empty mug on the desk. “It’s about time I go outside and look for Westbrook myself. You’re all coming with me. You too, Chief,” he said, looking at the principal.
“Why me?” asked the principal.
“You have to watch Kevin,” said the detective, getting up from his chair. “He’s too unpredictable and may run off. Think of him as a puppy.” He stuck the candy cane between his teeth and chomped down. He tossed the hook of the cane into the trash and walked to the door. “Come along now. Westbrook needs us.”
Outside Charles Splints stood with his hands at his hips, overlooking the playground. He took a step foreword, leaving the lush green grass and stepping onto the crunchy uneven footing of wood chips. He recalled the time Kevin ran around during recess a month prior, a much simpler time, with a handful of wood chips. Kevin ran up to anyone willing to listen to his pitch, for in his imagination the chips weren’t so dull, but instead hard to come by Nose-Pickers 3000s. The detective’s ‘Best’ friend was unwilling to showcase the potential of the product however, a rookie mistake for an up-and-coming salesman. Splints cracked a smile while reminiscing, but caught himself and hid the curls of his lips before anyone noticed.
“Where were some of the other kids hiding, Randy?” asked Splints. He turned his head and looked to Randy, who was picking his nose.
“Wha? Oh, uh, I think, uh,” stammered Randy, “well Kevin was in the slide.”
“He’s no good at being ‘It’,” said Kevin. “He found me by throwing handfuls of wood chips and nailing the side of the slide. I thought it was thunder so I screamed.”
“Why would thunder make you scream?” asked the principal.
“Because I’m a puppy,” said Kevin. He smiled and winked at Splints. The detective rolled his eyes.
“Is this true, Randy?” asked Splints. “Were you cheating?”
“Looking for people is too much trouble,” whined Randy. “Look at all the potential spots to hide around here. There’s two slides, four tunnels, not to mention the small play-house. Some kids move around too. I turn one corner, and they run around out of sight.”
“Sounds like you need to see an eye doctor,” said Splints. He pulled another candy cane from his pocket and began to peel the wrapper off. “So wherever Westbrook is hiding is out of your range.” He walked over to Kevin. “Hold this for a second.” He handed him the wrapper and walked away. “I want you to stand in the middle of the playground and throw a handful of chips in every direction.”
Randy did as he was instructed, throwing a handful of wood chips in each and every direction. He was able to hit both slides, all four tunnels, and even made some through the kitchen window of the play-house.
“Hope those didn’t get in the sink,” said Splints. “They could really do a number on the garbage disposal. So, if we’ve learned anything here it’s that Randy can’t throw more than ten feet in front of him when at the center of the playground. I imagine that’s where you stood for the majority of the game?”
“Y-yes,” said Randy.
“Very well,” said Splints. “So it stands to reason that Westbrook is out of range of the playground. He in fact broke the rules.” The detective strolled around the perimeter of the playground, looking around the surrounding area for other potential hiding places. He spotted a tree, about forty feet away, that split into two not far from the base of the trunk. The tree was known throughout the school as the V-tree. The V-tree was a popular spot for the cool kids who road their bikes to hangout after school. The gym teacher used it as a starting point for running exercises, with it’s long green cap of leaves it made for a perfect shady place to rest.
Splints maneuvered the candy cane around his mouth, clacking it against his teeth as he tried to whittle the tip to a point with a mouth full of saliva and a precise pink tongue as a warm blade. He walked over to the V-tree and peered through the center of it. William Westbrook sat on the other side of the tree, out of sight from the perspective of the playground.
“You’ve found me!” said Westbrook. “Wait, you’re not Randy. Does this mean I’ve won?”
“It means you’ve cheated,” said Splints. “This tree it out of bounds. You gave everyone quite the scare. Do you have anything to say for yourself?” Splints motioned for the others to come over.
“Did I win?” repeated Westbrook.
“Oh thank goodness,” said the principal.
“You-you can’t hide here,” said Randy.
“It smells like the slide over here,” said Kevin.