Thursday, August 03, 2006

Day XI - Chicago Style

In keeping with the theme of Chicago detectives here is a story I wrote about two young detectives. I wanted to start a kind of short story series starring these detectives.

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St. Julian’s Papers
One: The Half-Baked Mystery

“It must have come already.” Toni had her hands on her hips when I came back from swimming. She was the red headed daughter of our building superintendent.

“What would it have looked like?” Mr. Byrne, the mailman asked.

“Just big enough for a spice jar.”

“What’s wrong Toni?” I asked.

“I ordered cinnamon weeks ago and it hasn’t arrived yet. I called the company and they said that they mailed it five days ago. It’s for my apple pie. I need it if I am going to win the block party bake-off again.”

“That’s fifty dollars this year right?”

She nodded.

“I’m sure Mr. Byrne would have remembered if he had delivered it, right?”

“Well.” Mr. Byrne said. “Yesterday I had trouble with my contacts. That’s why I’m wearing my glasses today. I needed a little help with some of the packages.”

“Who helped you?” I asked.

“George Gestas helped me a little.”

“George is a creep.” Toni made a face.

“He only helped me with two things, junk mail for Dr. Padua and a package for him. He left once he got his mail.”

“Typical.” Toni said.

“Could that package have really been for Toni?”

“I suppose.”

“I bet that creep told you the package was for him and it was really mine.”

“I don’t think it smelled like cinnamon.” Mr. Byrne said.

“It wouldn’t. Real cinnamon is very delicate. The stuff most people use is really cassia. It’s a lot stronger so it’s cheaper.”

“Well, but the package would have been sealed and you couldn’t have smelled it anyway.” I said.

“Then, oh yes, Addy Foligno helped me with the rest. I think there were a couple of small packages then. One of them was for her.”

“Mrs. Foligno is suspect number two. Of course it could have been lost in the mail.”

“My money’s on George.” Toni said.

“Let’s go talk to them.”

As we walked to the stairs Mr. Biscop came out of his door.

“Cozy, I’m glad I caught you. Did your Mom give you the money for your piano lessons?”

“Yes Mr. Biscop, but I just came from swimming, I don’t have it on me.”

“Will you get it to me as soon as you can. I am a little short of cash right now. I lent Addy some money and she hasn’t paid me back. Mrs. Biscop will be furious with me.”

“Yes Mr. Biscop.”

“Benny!” Mrs. Biscop called came from inside the apartment.

“Coming Cecilia. Got to go girls.”

We hurried up the stairs. The St. Julian apartment building is a four story twenty-flat. George lived on the second floor and Mrs. Foligno lived on the third.

“I’m going to crown George.” Toni said.

“We don’t know he took your package. Besides, what’s his motive?”


“Yes, why would he take it?”

“Because he’s a creep.”

We knocked on the Gestas’ door. George answered. He was a tall boy the same age as Toni with a black crew cut. He was wearing a white tee shirt and spotty jean shorts.

“Oh, hi Toni.” George said. He didn’t even look at me.

“Where is it?”

“Where is what?” George seemed to be trying to keep us from seeing into his apartment. Toni tried to look over and then under his arm.
“My secret ingredient. You took it from Mr. Byrne yesterday.”

“Secret ingredient? Toni I would never take anything from you, I mean, I don’t even know what your secret ingredient is, I mean, secret ingredient for what?”

“For my pie.” She crossed her arms.

“George, did you get a package yesterday?”

“Yes.” He finally turned to look me in the eye. I was a year younger, but just as tall.

“What was it?”

“What was it?” He looked back at Toni. “Well, it was, a book. Yeah, a book about football.”

Toni was trying to look around him again and sniffing at the door.

“Is that baking I smell?” She asked.

“Baking, oh no. Well, I have to go now. Bye Toni.” He ducked back in and shut the door. It did smell a little like cinnamon baking. Toni shook her head.

“Let’s go ask Mrs. Foligno about her package.” I said and pulled Toni away from the door.

“That boy is so strange.”

When we reached the top of the stairs on the third floor Miss Peggy Magalen jumped out of her door and grabbed Toni’s arm. She was a tall, heavy woman with thick gray hair.

“Toni dear. I have a question. What does ‘tbl’ stand for?”

“In cooking or baking it means tablespoon.”

“That’s the big one, right?”


“Oh good.” She spun around and dashed back into her apartment.

“Mary, it’s the big one.” She said as she shut the door.

“What was that all about?” I asked.

Toni shook her head. “Everybody wants to bake something for the block party. I suppose they are trying to win the contest too.”

I laughed. “They can’t boil water.”

“I know.”

Toni and I chuckled until we reached Mrs. Foligno’s door. We knocked, but it took a long time for her to come to the door.

Mrs. Adelaide Foligno was a small dark woman who always dressed impeccably. She came to the door in a dark housedress with flats and her silver and black hair pined back neatly.

“Hello girls. What can I do for you?”

“Mrs. Foligno, Toni has been expecting a package and we were wondering if you saw it yesterday when you were helping Mr. Byrne with the mail.”

She tapped her lips in thought leaving a white fingerprint. “I don’t remember.” She said.

“It was a small package.”

She shook her head. The phone rang and she excused herself. Toni and I eased into her apartment. It was as neat as Mrs. Foglino always was.

“I promise I will get it for you Benny, just give me until after the block party. Thanks, bye.” She put the phone down. It was a little dusty.

“Oh girls, I’m sorry, the house is such a mess. I really can’t have company right now. I am so imbarrassed. The place is just a fright.”

She ushered us out into the hall.

“Are you sure you didn’t get a package yesterday?” Toni said.

“Yes dear. I’m sorry.”

“Mr. Byrne said that you got a small package yesterday.” I said.

“I guess he was mistaken. He couldn’t see properly yesterday could he?”

An alarm rang in the apartment.

“Got to go girls. That means it’s time to feed Roxy.” She shut the door.

“She uses a timer to reminder her to feed her dog?” I asked.

“Whiskers usually lets me know in no uncertain terms when it’s time to feed her. Anyway, I’m going to go down and feed that jerk George to my cat.” Toni turned to go.

“Don’t Toni.” I said. “I’m not so sure he took it. Let me work on this for a while and if I’m sure he did it I’ll help you feed him to Whiskers.”

She smiled. “Thank’s Cozy.”

I had no idea how I was going to figure this out so I did what I always did. I went to Redy Johnson’s apartment.

Redy was in my class because he had skipped a grade. He was still the smartest one in the class. He was a small boy and his afro started far back on his forehead. It made his head look big.

I walked right in and back to his room. Redy was bent over a circuit board and a soldering iron.

“What do you want Cozy?” He said without looking up.

“I have a mystery.” I sat on his bed.

“Really?” He still didn’t look up.

I told him everything and then he finally looked up. “What do you think?”

“I think George likes Toni.”

“What?” He was surprised.

“I don’t know why, but I think he does.”

“What does that have to do with anything?”

“A lot. Boys do strange things when they like a girl.”

He shook his head, then he stopped and pinched his lower lip. That meant he was thinking hard.

“I guess that would fit the clues too.”

“Then George did take Toni’s cinnamon.”

“I didn’t say that.”
“Then what are you saying?”

“I think we should go down and ask Mrs. Foligno how much money she owes Mr. Biscop. I’ll bet she took the cinnamon thinking that with it she could win the baking contest prize money and pay him back.”

“How do you figure?”

“Well, George didn’t take it because you could smell it in his apartment. Cinnamon doesn’t smell as strongly as sangamon so he was probably using sangamon. Then Mrs. Addy Foligno had flour dust on her hand. It got on her lips and on her phone when she told Mr. Benny Biscop that she would have ‘it’ as soon as the party was over.”

“She did take it.” I said.

“Yes, and I’ll bet she lost the money Mr. Biscop lent her, playing bingo. She loves that game.”

You know, that little boy with the big head was right, again.

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