by Jerold P. Zell
I can’t begin to count the number of times I’ve told my man, Friday, to stick to the facts. Yet once again I found myself standing before the Commissioner with no explanation for Friday’s flat-footed philandering other than our departmental record of successful convictions ever since his promotion from beat-cop to detective.
“I don’t care about your departmental records, Crusoe,” the Commissioner shouted. The people don’t care… What they want to hear, Crusoe, is that your department is shutting down the Goody Store Bandit!” He looked as if he might have more to say on the subject, but I figured on slipping out the store before he succumbed to an aneurysm. I could only hope that Friday was more involved with the Goody Shop case than he was with his new partner, Rapunzell.
I was starting to get worried about the goody crime wave myself. For the past month, goody shops all over town had reported the theft of their products during their delivery runs. If something wasn’t done soon, the goody delivery trade in our fair city was going to come to a standstill.
I headed for the bullpen, intent on getting the latest word on the case… and taking a bite of my own out of Friday’s rear end. The manure was beginning its inevitable slide, but for once I wasn’t the guy standing at the bottom of the hill.
When I got to his desk, I found Rapunzell sitting in Friday’s chair, combing her long blond hair. My intentions must have shown on my face because she sat up suddenly, holding out her ivory comb as if to ward off an attack.
“It helps me think,” she said, apparently referring to her hair.
“We need less thinking and more results!” I snapped. “Where is Friday?”
“He went to get a statement from Nana Hauptfrau at the Black Forest Goody Shoppe.”
“Well, tell him I want to see both of you in my office as soon as he gets back.”
Friday didn’t make his report until 1655. As if by enlisting the clock to his aid, he might avoid admitting his failure to nab the Goody Bandit.
“Where’s your partner?” I asked.
“She’s getting her hair done… she says it helps her think,” he said.
“Tell me we’ve got something on the Goody Bandit case.”
“We’ve got something on the Goody Bandit case,” he said, dropping a pile of glossy photos on my desk.
The photos were all somewhat blurry 8×10 black and whites of the same person: young, obviously female, and clothed only in a long hooded cloak. “They call her Little Red,” said Friday, “because of the color of her riding cloak.”
“What’s the story on her?” I asked.
“She’s a local bad girl. Nothing major, but she’s got a sheet of minor raps three pages long. Word on the street is that she’s taken work as a courier for B.B. Wolf.”
“Yeah, I know. Sure doesn’t look good for her to be hooked up with him.”
B.B. Wolf is the boss of the Grimm Brotherhood, the closest thing in our enchanted city to an organized crime family. If they were involved in the goody shop capers, we were in way over our heads.
“D’you think we need to call the Feds in on this one?” I asked.
“Nah, not yet, Boss,” said Friday. “I want Rapunzell to check up on some split ends before we do that.”
“Fair enough. Meanwhile, let’s pull in Little Red and see what she’s got to say for herself.”
Little Red didn’t come easy. Friday was sporting a black eye, and Little Red’s cloak was torn so badly, it barely covered her unmentionables. We marched her into the interrogation room where Rapunzell sat calmly combing her hair while contemplating her bust.
Rapunzell stopped combing and opened Little Red’s file. “You got somethin’ to tell me?” she asked Little Red as she threw the 8x10s down in front of her.
“You got nothin’ on me,” said Little Red. “And even if you did, you can’t question me without my grandma present.”
“I’m afraid you’re a big girl now, Red,” said Rapunzell. She tapped her silver comb on Little Red’s file. “It says here that you turned eighteen last week.”
“I know my rights,” said Little Red. “I want my attorney.”
“You wanna stick with her until the Wicked Witch shows up?” Friday asked me. “I think I’m gonna take Rapunzell with me to ask Nana Hauptfrau a few more questions.”
The girl’s attorney wasted no time in springing her. “My magic mirror says you’ve got no evidence against my client,” she said. “If you aren’t going to charge her, she’s leaving.” I sure hoped Friday and Rapunzell were having better luck up town.
I headed back to the bull pen after I released Little Red to her attorney, and was surprised to find Rapunzell still in the building.
“Friday decided to go see Nana on his own,” she said. “I think he’s really a little sweet on her new barrista, so I told him I’d stay here and think on the case a little.” Her tortoiseshell comb was moving through her hair as if it had a mind of its own. “Uh oh,” I thought. “Here comes big trouble for our enchanted city.”
The clock on the wall read 1673 when Friday bounced into my office. He had a cute little brunette in tow. “This is Rebecca,” he said, “from Nana Hauptfrau’s shop. Can we make this quick? We’ve got a date.”
I arrived at the precinct the next morning with the expectation of another summons to the Commissioner’s office. On top of that, my stomach was already doing flip-flops over the stale donuts and cold coffee I’d had to buy from a street vendor, because my usual breakfast stop, the Blackforest Goody Shoppe, was closed. Take away a man’s soul juice and it puts him in one fine foul mood. I decided that Friday had better have some new developments on the Goody Shop case… or else.
Friday must have had a premonition, because he looked as glum as a teetotaler on Mardi Gras. Rapunzell, though, was wearing a tight, self-satisfied smile. And for once, she wasn’t combing her hair – it was all wrapped up in an intricate French braid, and her tiny gold fine-tooth comb sat unattended on her desktop. I was immediately suspicious.
“What’s going on here?” I asked.
Friday waved a despondent hand at the holding cells, and tossed me the a.m. edition of The Fable. “Rapunzell figured it out last night,” he said. “Nana Hauptfrau was making a bid for a goody monopoly. Her primary competition was the Grimm Brotherhood, so she framed Little Red’s courier service, hoping we’d go for the easy arrest.”
“What about your sweet little brunette?”
“Not so sweet, Boss – Rebecca is Nana’s granddaughter. She needed money to save the family farm, so she enlisted as Nana’s partner in crime. Nana planned the thefts and Nana carried them out.”
“I’ll have the official report ready for you right away, Captain Crusoe,” Rapunzell said, “but the paper has it mostly right.”
I looked down at The Fable in my hands. The bold print of the headline read: GOODY CROOKS SNARLED BY CITY’S FINEST.
Copyright © 2013 Jerold P. Zell
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