A Young Charles Splints Case: Teacher’s Pet
By Dan Leicht
“Sorry to call you on a school night, Splints. I wouldn’t unless the matter was urgent.”
“It’s okay. My mom says I can leave the house as long as I’m back before the street lights turn on. What’s going on?”
“Well, my new puppy has gone missing. He’s only seven months old. I opened the door for just a second and then…”
“Don’t worry, Mrs. Baker. I’m on the case. I’ll hop on my bicycle and be at your address in fifteen minutes.”
“Oh thank you so much.”
He hung up and grabbed his coat.
“Save me some dessert, mom. I’ll need it if this case goes sour.”
His mother rolled her eyes and tapped her watch.
“I know, I know. I’ll be back in time.”
The wind whipped against the sides of his face as he peddled with exuberant haste. The sun was setting and it wouldn’t be long before the lights turned on.
He arrived at Mrs. Baker’s house to find her husband and two children calling out for their dog from the front lawn.
“You must be Charles Splints,” said Mr. Baker.
“You must love math and pop quizzes,” replied Splints. “I’m here on the case of the teacher’s missing pet. When was the last time you saw Dasher?”
“It happened just before my wife called you. He just took off and we don’t even know where to begin looking.”
“And where is Mrs. Baker currently?” asked Splints.
“She took the car and is driving around the neighborhood.”
“Interesting. Has he been on a lot of walks since you’ve had him?”
“Every day. Stephanie and Mike usually take him,” he replied, pointing to his children.
Splints looked over to his kids, both older than him by a few grades. Stephanie, grade six, would be the one leading the walks. Her brother, grade seven, is a nose picker, a hobby of which leaves little time for route plotting.
“Steph, where do you usually take Dasher on your walks?” asked Splints.
“Just around the neighborhood,” she replied. “We never travel further than a ten minute walk from home, in case mom and dad want us back right away.”
“That’s good,” said Splints. “The world is massive from Dasher’s perspective. If he gets nervous out there he’ll head somewhere familiar. I did something similar when I lost my mom at the mall once. She found me sitting at the counter of a coffee shop drinking chocolate milk. Are there any familiar landmarks you can think of from your walks?”
“The V-tree,” replied Mike.
“The what?” asked Splints.
“It’s a tree shaped like a giant letter V. It’s where we usually end our walks and turn around.”
“I bet my lunch money Dasher is hanging around that tree. Probably marking his territory this very second. Where is this tree?”
Mike pointed down the road. “Straight down and then take a right. It’ll be a bit of a ways down, but you’ll see it.”
“Call Mrs. Baker. I’ll be back soon.” Splints hopped back onto his bike and took off.
When he arrived at the tree he saw something quickly scurry behind it. He got off of his bike and wheeled it beside him as he approached the giant letter. He set his bike against the tree and peeked around the corner.
“There you are,” he said, kneeling down to pick up the frightened puppy.
“Oh thank goodness,” said Mrs. Baker. She stood with her family as Splints handed her the puppy.
“All in a night’s work,” said Splints.
“How can we ever repay you?” she asked.
Just then the street lights turned on as darkness began to take hold of the night.
“Call my mom and tell her I’m sorry for being late,” he replied. “Make it sound good so I don’t get grounded.”