The Sweet Book Vandal by Charlie F

“Woof woof!”

“What is it, Princess?”  We’d just gotten our daily cinnamon scones from Homa’s Bakery next door. What could she possibly be worrying about? Princess was still pulling harshly on the leash; she was trying to show me something. I ran behind her as fast as my plump legs could take me, nearly tripping over my own feet. Princess finally stopped in front of an old lady with snow-white hair, who was on a bench in front of the library. She was dressed in a bright floral dress and her glasses were bedazzled with gemstones. Despite her upbeat attire, she looked very glum and had tears rolling down her face.

“What’s wrong?” I asked her, between my heavy breaths from running.

“Well,” she sniffled, “everyday when I come to work here,” motioning her hand towards the library, “I arrive to find the books thrown all over the floor with many pages ripped out.”

“Oh that’s appalling,” I told her.

“I can’t figure out who’s doing it, or why”, she continued. Hmm, I thought this was very odd and of course my detective instinct kicked in, hence, I was eager to get more details. Even Princess’ ears perked up with interest. When we both leaned in closer to get the scoop, the old lady cracked a smile.

“And who’s this?”, she asked nodding her head toward Princess.

“Oh”, I laughed, “this is Princess, my fierce bulldog. She’s my valuable sidekick, and I’m Effie. Luckily for you, we are both detectives.” At that very moment Princess jumped up and attempted to kiss the old lady. “Okay”, I said, “Maybe she’s not so fierce, anyway, it seems like we might have a case on our hands.”

I mentioned that if she gave us more details, Princess and I would love to help.

“Ok, I’m Ms. Hackett and I just got elected to be the head librarian. However, it is not going so well. I’m just so sick and tired of coming to work everyday and finding the library trashed. I’m not getting any younger and cleaning up this mess is really taking a toll on me.”  I suggested we go the bakery and further discuss the case over a cinnamon scone. Princess and I had already had one, but we both think clearer when we are eating; besides, my diet was starting the following week.

“Ok,” stuttered Ms. Hackett, “I suppose I could leave the library for a little bit.”

While Ms. Hackett, Princess and I moseyed over to the café I conducted a quick detective assessment.

“I am correct in assuming that you’ve been married for many years, practice yoga, were born in the 1950’s and that you are allergic to mint?” I asked Ms. Hackett.

“Oh dear me, how in the world did you know all that?” Ms. Hackett asked with a stunned face.

Well I explained to her that her wedding ring is quite rusty and dirty, like she hasn’t taken it off even for a second in years. Also, her muscular shape and her “I Love Yoga” sticker on her bag proves that she does yoga.

“How in the-”, I cut her off before she could finish.

“Aaa I’m not done yet! I also know you’re allergic to mint because when I reached in to comfort you earlier, your breath smelled. Seriously! It could drop a warthog at 40 paces. No reasonably good person would let their breath get that bad.” Once I said that, her cheeks turned bright red and she closed her mouth.

After a few minutes of silence she blurted, “You are correct, but how did you know when I was born? Do I look that old?”

“Well,” I stated “the first security camera was invented in 1942, so the only reason you don’t have one in your library is because most people from the 50’s are not comfortable using modern technology.” Ms. Hackett just stood there in awe and her jaw dropped to her feet; meanwhile, I was quite pleased with my accuracy.  

At the bakery, I guided Ms. Hackett to the table where Princess and I usually sit. It was the round marble table in the corner, which, conveniently, has extra large cushioned seats. We were served by a petite middle aged women that had sleek black hair cut in a shoulder length bob. As she handed us our scones, I couldn’t help but notice she had an absurd number of cuts on her hands. She saw me eyeing them and she looked away sheepishly.

“Ahh Effie, I should introduce you to my best friend Homa, she owns this Bakery. I’m so lucky to have her working so close”, Ms. Hackett piped.

When Ms. Hackett mentioned that I was a detective helping her solve the mystery of the ruined books,Homa questioned enthusiastically, “Really is that so?” She quickly excused herself.

Half way through our scones Princess started to get restless, so I knew we needed to get down to business. I asked Ms. Hackett to give me a rundown of her daily routine at library.

“I’m the last to leave work and lock up every night, but after me, the Janitor comes to clean. Supposedly he leaves the place spotless”, she replied.

“But how do you know he leaves it clean?” I asked.

“Because of this.” She reached her long thin arms into her bag and handed me a crumpled piece of paper.

“Hope you like it nice and clean, love Janitor John.”

Princess gave me a look; “Yes princess”, I said, “that is indeed very suspicious.”

“In the morning”, she went on, “before the birds are awake or the sun has rose, the mailman comes into the library to deliver mail and new books. Although, something tells me he’s a bit of a scatter brain as he always leaves the mail in a messy pile and extra mail stamps all over.”

“Have you confronted either of them about the books?” I asked.

“Yes, yes indeed, but both of them said it’s clean when they arrive”.

Hmmm, I thought to myself, one of them could be lying.

After about 5 minutes of me sorting out all the information, I tell Ms. Hackett, “I need to sleep on it and we’ll see you at the library in the morning.” I warned her not to clean up the mess as it might give us some clues. “We will do some investigating.”

“Ok”, Ms. Hackett agreed, “See you tomorrow.”

“Good Morning”, I said as Princess and I strutted into the library. As soon as we entered, we froze. There were books and ripped pages scattered all over the floor. Someone must really despise books to have made such a wreck. I was expecting a mess, not full on mayhem.  It was a disaster. I didn’t even know where to step. Just then I spotted Ms. Hackett emerging from behind a pile of books.

“Hello. My golly this is quite the mess don’t cha think?”, she said.

I agreed, “It’s like a hurricane just hit”. I tiptoed through the mess while admiring the tall oak shelves. I noticed that only the books on the lower shelves were disheveled. As we walked towards the far bookshelves, I saw a red object popping out of a pile of books. Princess pranced over and pulled it out. It was a hat. I studied the logo with my magnifying glass.

“Arf arf,” Princess barked.

“Yes, Princess, this is a mailman hat.” Why would his hat be in a corner with the pile of books when he only delivers the mail at the front? It was very unusual.

“Oh it can’t be Howard the mailman– he’s too nice.” Ms. Hackett proclaimed. I explained to her that we couldn’t rule anyone out. At that moment, Princess started yanking the leash towards a huge pile of books. Then to my surprise, she started licking them.

“No, Princess, stop”, I shouted. It was no use, she was going full hog, licking all the pages of the books. She was devouring the them like they were the most delicious meal. It was the strangest thing in the world. Ms. Hackett just stared in disgust. I tried my hardest to pull Princess away, and luckily after a painful 5 minutes of Princess rending the books apart, she finally stopped.

“Well”, I say to Ms. Hackett to break the silence, “we better get going.” As we dodged the books and headed out of the library, I noticed a little note on the door: “Ahh, the janitor note.” I said.  Following that I looked down to see what it had on it, and read out it loud.

“Hope you like it nice and clean – Janitor John.” Why does the janitor keep leaving these notes? Why is the mailman’s hat in the corner? I wondered to myself.  

I looked down at Princess and questioned, “Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” she nodded her head.

“What are you guys thinking?” Ms. Hackett butted in cautiously.

“Arf woof arf,” Princess stated.

“Huh?” Ms. Hackett questioned while she raised an eyebrow.

“Oh”, I say, “we’re going to meet the mailman and the janitor… today.”

“Today?” she questions.

“Today,” I answer. Once the conversation was over, Princess and I marched out of the library.

 

Right after we left the library, Princess and I walked around the back of the library to the janitor room. Just as I was about to knock on the door, I spotted Homa entering the bakery’s back door. We made direct eye contact and I waved to her. To my surprise she didn’t wave back. Instead, she looked away and pretended like she didn’t see me. I thought that was odd. She’s just busy, I told myself. I then banged on the back door hard, and after thirty seconds, a tall and old scruffy looking man appeared at the door in a blue janitor suit.

“Sorry to bother you, but I was wondering if you know where Janitor John is?”.

“That’s me,” the man answered in a deep husky voice.

“Oh great,” I replied. “Well I’m a friend of Ms. Hackett’s and she says you’re the one who cleans the library every night. Is that right?”

“That’s right” he replied.

“Do you, by any chance, know about the library books getting disheveled and thrown all around?”.

“Yes, however, I haven’t ever seen it, but I’ve definitely heard about it.”

“Do you know anything else about it?” I asked.

“No, but maybe ask the mailman. I know he comes in the morning to deliver mail.”

“Ok thanks. One more thing, why do you always leave a note saying I hope you like it nice and clean?”.

There was a beat too long of silence before he stammered“Oh, it’s a policy the janitor company makes us do.”

“Oh ok, interesting, bye now.”  I thought to myself, That’s a weird Janitor company.  

Later that day, Princess and I approached Howard the Mailman at the post station. He was a skinny pale man with hazel eyes and chocolate brown hair.  

“So Howard, I, uh, heard that you deliver mail to Ms. Hackett’s library every morning.” I began.

“You know Ms. Hackett?” He asked.

“Yes, as matter of fact, I’m a good friend of hers.”

“She is such a nice lady, right?” I could tell he was trying to change the subject, so I decided to put him on the spot.

“Yes, very nice, so have you heard about the books getting thrown and trashed every morning? Do you know anything about that?”

“No, not really,” he muttered under his breath, “all I know is when I come to deliver things every morning the library is clean.”

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Ok, well I brought something for you”, I handed him the red mailman hat from my bag. “I assume this is yours”, I stated, “I found it in the corner of the library. Why was it over there? Don’t you deliver the mail in the front?”

“Oh thanks,” he said and then he snatched the hat from my hands. “I think I left it there when I was looking at some new books on the shelves. It must’ve fallen out of my bag.” I found that hard to believe. Finally, I broke the silence.

“I’d have to get going”.

As I slung my bag over my shoulders I took one last good look at him. On our way out, Princess gave me one of her looks. I knew exactly what she was thinking.

Early the next morning, Princess and I had our beauty sleep interrupted by the phone ringing.

“Effie, Effie, it’s Ms. Hackett. Wake up, it didn’t happen this morning.”

“Huh,” I groaned, my brain still half asleep, “what didn’t happen?”

“The mess!” She practically screamed over the phone, “this morning when I went into the library there was no mess”!

“Really? But why? I need you to tell me everything different about this morning that doesn’t usually happen.”

“Well today started out awful, I slept through my alarm so I was late for the bus then I had to walk to work but of course there had be torrential downpour. Also Homa is away today, so I didn’t get my morning coffee. I then slipped outside on the ground and my favorite pants got ruined, I also forgot my sudoku at home–”

“Wait, where is Homa?”, I cut her off mid sentence. “Does she usually deliver coffee to you every morning?”

“Well, yes, it’s just so thoughtful.”

“Every morning?”

“Yes.”

“But not today?”

“No she’s at her doctor’s appointment. But that’s irrelevant, my sudoku…”

“Ms.Hackett, listen to me. Tomorrow morning you need to be at work thirty minutes early. Do you understand?”

“Yes but…but–”.

“No buts”, I said and hung up my phone abruptly.

The next morning, Princess and I woke up extra early. We drove to the library and patiently waited on a bench across the street. We had a perfect view of inside the library through the large glass windows. After a long two minutes of staring into space, I was suddenly startled by a loud noise.  I looked up to see the villain destroying the library. I already knew who the culprit was, but I thought it would be better if Ms.Hackett discovered it for herself. As we watched, Ms. Hackett ran out with a frying pan in her hands. However, she immediately dropped it as soon as she saw Homa! Oh no, I realised it was going to get nasty. Princess and I ran into the library and came face to face with Homa.

“Ahah! I knew it was you all along. Why would you do such a thing?”, I asked curiously. She turned around and jumped with a look of surprise.  She had a tight scrunched up face full of panic and fear. All of a sudden her face just collapsed and an avalanche of tears started to fall from her eyes.

“I wanted to own this library, it has been my goal for so long, but then you,” she pointed at Ms.Hackett with an evil look in her eye, “you walked right in there and took my job because they loved you so much. I thought by making your life awful here it would make you quit so I could take over.”

“The library is that important to you?”, Ms.Hackett asked, confused.

“Yes,” she sobbed, “everyone in my family owns a library except for me. I’m a failure and it’s all your fault.” Then to our surprise she attempted to tackle Ms. Hackett, but I was quick with my reaction and used my wrestling skills from when I was a kid to take her down. Princess started to bark violently every time she moved. I yelled at Ms.Hackett to phone the police and luckily they came within 3 minutes. They took Homa away and a rush of relief flooded through my body.

“How did you know it was her all along? I never would’ve guessed that in a million years!”, Ms. Hackett remarked.

“It was completely obvious from the start,” I told her. “That day in the cafe I noticed paper cuts on her hands, plus the destroyed books were on the lower shelves and as you know Homa is very short.”

“Wow” she exclaimed “you’re brilliant”.

“Also remember when Princess started licking the piles of books? That was because Homa works in a bakery. She must have left traces of crumbs from her hands that Princess couldn’t help but distinguish from just a normal book. In addition, she has a key to the library and usually delivers you coffee every morning. That gave her the perfect opportunity to destroy the library. Finally, when the morning she was away, it didn’t happen. I knew she was the culprit. However, I wanted you to see for yourself otherwise you may not have believed me”.

“You are correct. I didn’t suspect it was her for a moment. How can I ever repay what you have done for me?” she pleaded.

“Oh with nothing,” I said, “it was my pleasure”.

“Are you sure, not even a cinnamon scone?” Princess gave me an urging look.

“Oh fine”, I approved, “I can never refuse a cinnamon scone.”