A Young Charles Splints Case: Overdue Library Book
By Dan Leicht
The Young Charles Splints Cases feature the hard-boiled detective Charles Splints as a 7-year-old attending Brooksend Elementary.
Charles Splints walked out of the library with his head hung low. Sitting on the counter was the book he was denied, a mystery novel he was certain he could solve in the first few pages, if only he was given the chance. He was denied because the librarian told him he owed money, lots of money, life changing kind of money, ten dollars and change. Splints knew he didn’t have an overdue book balance. Splints knew he always returned his books on time. Someone has used his name and tarnished his reputation. Splints found himself in a brand new case, and this time the perpetrator had made it personal.
In his hand was a list of books the librarian claimed Splints had recently “checked out”. None of the books on the list were of any interest to the leading detective of Brooksend Elementary.
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Someone had taken out a bunch of nonsense books from the library, kept them too long, and in the process ruined Splints’ perfect library record. His perfect record was something he was planning to include on his college applications, but with that no longer an option he’s have to pay better attention in math class, or sit closer to Kevin so he could glance over at his paper during their weekly tests.
“The principal seems like a good enough place to start,” said Splints.
“Who are you talking to?” asked the school janitor, who was sitting atop his overturned mop bucket and eating a sandwich in the hallway.
“You of course,” replied Splints.
“But I don’t even know the context to what you’re talking about.”
“That doesn’t matter. I’m on a mission.”
Splints arrived at the principals office and walked up to the door, only to be stopped by Principal Garlocke’s newest secretary.
“The Princy-pal is busy right now,” said the secretary, a large lollipop filling up her right cheek as she spoke.
“I have to talk to him. It’s a matter of life or death.”
“Is is really though?”
“Well, no. It’s more a matter of ten dollars and some change.”
“Take a seat. His conference call is scheduled to be over in ten minutes.”
Splints reluctantly took a seat. He couldn’t help but stare at the secretary as she sat in her chair, lollipop in her mouth, her eyes fused to the computer monitor as she scrolled through her social media.
“What do you make an hour here?” asked Splints.
“I can’t discuss that with you,” she replied.
“Humor me. Who am I going to tell?”
“Fifteen dollars an hour.”
“Fifteen dollars! You’ve got to be kidding me. Do you live in a castle?”
“Money goes a lot further when you’re a kid. I’m barely able to pay my rent this month. Yearly raises should be coming up soon, well, as soon as the princy-pal fills out the paperwork.”
“He must think he’s too busy to look out for everyone else. I’ll give him a heads up when I see him.”
“I appreciate it, kid,” she replied. She crunched down on her lollipop and then pressed a button on her desk. A buzzing noise could be heard from inside the principal’s office. “Princy, you’ve got a visitor. Some kid wants to talk to you.”
“Does he have a grimace and a stare that looks like it’s cutting deep into your soul?”
The secretary looked over at Splints.
“I guess. I just know he’s creeping me out.”
“Send the detective in.”
The secretary nodded and Splints got up and walked by her desk. On the way by he noticed her nameplate.
“Thank you, Melanie.”
Splints entered the principal’s office and took the seat behind the desk. Principal Garlocke turned around from pouring himself a cup of coffee and without a second thought took a seat in one of the small chairs on the other side of the desk.
“What is it I can help you with today, Splints?”
“I need you to wipe my record clean at the library. Someone used my account to take out a few ridiculous reads.”
The young gumshoe took out the list the librarian had given him and placed it on the desk.
“Take a look for yourself,” said Splints. “Do you think I’d read any of those books?”
The principal picked up the list. Upon reading it he cleared his throat and looked around the room. Splints noticed the principal’s cheeks turning red.
“That certainly is a peculiar list,” said Principal Garlocke. “I’ll see what I can do about that. Say’s here your fine is ten dollars and some change. Do you need some help paying it?”
“If you’ve got a case I can solve maybe I can earn some of that money to pay the fine. It’s only fair I put in some hard work.” Splints glanced around the desk and noticed a stack of papers with the names of different faculty members in alphabetical order. “Is this the paperwork for the yearly raises?”
“How do you know about the teacher’s yearly raises?”
“Just because I have a C in math doesn’t mean I don’t understand simple economics. Fill out this paperwork before helping me with the case. It’ll be a hard hit to take, what with my record with the library being tarnished, but time heals all wounds.”
“I certainly hope it does. My girlfriend left and I just haven’t felt the same in weeks.”
“What’d you say?” asked Splints.
“Oh, it’s nothing. Grown-up stuff. I don’t need to bore you with that.”
“I lost a hamster last year, Garlocke. I know a thing or two about pain. You said you lost your girl? You wouldn’t happen to be trying to win her back would you?” Splints dragged his hands down his face. “Of course it was you.”
“What’re you talking about? What was me? I’m afraid I don’t understand.”
“How much do you owe the library? Huh? I take it you emptied out the novel section so you could impress the girl of your dreams with a hefty personal library at your place? Let me guess, you kept the books for the entirety of the relationship, wracked up a huge late-fee bill, and in turn couldn’t take any more books out and decided to use my account?”
“How are you so good at this?”
“It’s what I do, ‘Princy-pal’. Get the raises settled, then my library tab, please. I’ve got a school to watch over and I can’t do that if a staggering late-fee balance is weighing on my conscience.”
“Oh, okay,” replied Principal Garlocke. “Certainly.”
“And one more thing.”
“The shower is no place for a garden.”