On the trail of cookie crumbs: A short story

I knew I was in trouble from the second I entered the precinct. Maybe it was the other officers all shouting out in unison “You’re in trouble!” and maybe it was that gut feeling you get only after years on a job that requires you to take even the most subtle of clues and use them to solve the hard crimes. I don’t know. I’m not a scientist. I’m a detective.

“Detective, get your ass in here!”

I took my time. I stopped by my desk and collected a few papers, placing them from one pile into another. My captain just stared at me, willing his eyes to burn holes through my body. I refused to play his games.

“Something I can help you with, Captain?” I asked innocently as he swung the door to his office closed.

“I’ve got the mayor up my ass about you, you know that?” He asked, spit flinging from his mouth.

“Sounds like a domestic issue,” I said. I am really that smooth, which is why I’m so popular.

“Wipe that smirk off your face, officer. You are in for a world of hurt if you don’t drop this investigation.”

“You mean the one you dropped on my desk?” I asked.

When the Captain dropped the cold case file on my desk it was immediately clear what was going on. He wanted me out of the way, stuck on a wild goose chase far away from ruffling the feathers of the men and women who rub elbows and grease the hands of our cities politicians. I had asked all the wrong questions and ended up getting all the wrong kind of answers. So the Captain had the idea to shut me up. Little did he realize then that the cold case he stuck me with would turn out to be the missing piece to the puzzle.

“I gave you that case because I wanted you to solve it,” He lied. “Now, you dragged in everyone from the Mayor to the me into this mess. And on an election year.”

“Captain, I just follow the leads I don’t have any culpability just because you don’t like where they go.”

He threw a desk lamp at me. Luckily it was still plugged in so it reached the end of its cord and snapped to the ground, the bulb shattering on impact.

The mess seemed to soothe the Captain. He sat down. “Okay, so let’s hear it. In your own words, who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?”

“I think we both know who stole the cookie from the cookie jar, Captain.”

He stared me down, trying to figure out how much I knew. What he saw in my eyes worried him. At length he asked: “Who me?”

“No, not you,” I said. “No offense, but you aren’t creative enough to pull something like this off. And you’re not desperate enough to try it.”

He smiled. Maybe he thought I had given him a pass. I hadn’t. I turned around and gazed out towards the buzz and chaos of the precinct. Officers and perps moved about in pairs, like unwilling dance partners in a ballet that neither had any idea was happening. I asked what I needed to ask.

“How long have you known about your daughter’s involvement in the cookie jar incident?”

My back was still turned and when he didn’t reply I assumed he hadn’t heard me. I turned around and to my surprise he was holding his head in his hands. After quietly crying for a minute, he composed himself and looked up to me. Always the professional, I thought.

“How did you know it was her?”

“I didn’t. Not until just now.”

He looked astonished, then defiant, then resigned. His head was below his shoulders.

“Look, when I put you on the case I didn’t know my daughter, my Ellie, had anything to do with it. She was always such a good girl. She never would have gotten involved in stealing cookies if her mother were still alive. My job… it’s demanding and I’ll be the first to admit I’m not around as much as I should have been,” He said staring at his desk.

“The day my wife’s hot air balloon went down, my daughter lost two parents…”

I was too hung over from last night’s party (of which I was the life) for sympathy. I brought the cuffs out. Justice would be served this day, although it didn’t feel good.

“Place your hands behind your back, Captain. Nice and easy, don’t make this any harder than it has to be.” He complied and I sat him down again with hands in chains to get his statement. That’s when he saw Ellie walking in shackles being led to an interrogation room by two mean looking beat officers. She looked terrified, and her 5-year-old body was visibly shaking. Prison wouldn’t be easy for her, I thought with regret.

Captain looked up at me. “How did you know it was her?”

“It was pretty simple, although as I said, it wasn’t confirmed until you said it. I simply started by assuming you stole the cookies from the cookie jar.”

“Who me?”

“Yes you.”

He wiggled upright in outrage. “Couldn’t be!”

I smiled. As a detective, sometimes the obvious answers are wrong, but they lead you to the right ones. In this case, it was just a matter of eliminating the suspects and asking yourself: “Then who?”

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