Hope(less) Heist Case #36471-NYPD-00X. Tuesday morning began with Fitzy hitting his snooze control for the third time, but things were going to change in a big way. Bonét heard the slippery sound first and left Froggy’s bed to investigate and came back with a large manila envelope sealed with shiny gray duct tape. Though Bonét couldn’t read he could tell that the envelope was red hot and required Fitzy’s attention, so he dropped the now soggy envelope right on Fitzy’s face.
“What the —-!” Fitzy cursed. “That darn dog drooled all over the Captain’s orders!”
“Five Hail Mary’s and an Our Father, Fritz,” Froggy said, interrupting himself with a glorious stretch. “And put two quarters in the swear jar because you just caught yourself with darn and it counts.”
“You self-righteous bugger … Saint Peter himself,” grumbled Fitzy, as he tossed back his covers and shoved his feet into his clogs. “We’re up, Froggy! Get your sorrowful self out of bed and I’ll read the orders so we can prepare for our day.”
“Hmmmm, soup kitchen … thieves … can’t be found … stole Peter’s Pence?” Fitzy quickly read, growing more excited with each phrase. “Detective work, Froggy – get OUT of bed, NOW!”
The boys tumbled out of their apartment prepared to spend the entire day snooping and gathering facts. Bonét would be point dog on the quest. Thieves had successfully robbed three church Peter’s Pence boxes, a shelter and two soup kitchens and food pantry. The cops had reached a dead end the with case because no witnesses had come forward, and of course no one took credit.
Times were tough, banks and gas station QuickyMarts were knocked off almost weekly – how Fitzy would work the puzzle would be nothing short of miraculous. Bonét wasn’t of much help in the sniffing department because the weather had short-shifted the detectives by raining for the week before they arrived at the first church to interview the office manager and maintenance worker, Mrs. Thomas.
Fitzy halted outside of St. Jude to remind Froggy and Bonét that he was in charge, and that this was His case and that he wa …” “The thinker,” Froggy finished for him.
“One of these day I want to lead,” Froggy mumbled under his breath, “’Cause I’ve been thinking that we should share responsibili …” Bonét whined, knowing what was coming – the two friends argued about doing and thinking just about every day, when they weren’t arguing about Elizabeth. But Froggy’s complaint was lost on Fitzy, busy with locating St. Jude’s rectory office.
“Mrs. Thomas, I presume,” Fitzy said upon meet the manager in the lobby of St. Jude Church. Bonét rolled his eyes and grimaced. Mrs Thomas looked meaner than Captain Able on the hunt for Elizabeth.
“The higher-ups saw fit to send a little doggie to solve the case – well, fellas, he’ll not darken my door,” Mrs. Thomas glowered, ready for a spat.
Hope(less) Heist Case, Part 2. Froggy and Bonét had been duly sent off to inspect the church grounds so they wouldn’t intimidate any of the church office scaredy-cats.
“I don’t want my kitties upset or my doilies messed out of place!” Mrs. Thomas admonished Fitzy as she walked him toward her office.
They were not there to witness Fitzy’s adept handling of a woman that didn’t want to be of any useful help (which he found out late in the game) because she thought people suspected her of being in on the thefts. Once he got past this hurdle he and Mrs. Thomas got on very well and she was able to supply some facts that the police hadn’t known about. Mrs. Thomas even shared her list of lackeys, as she called them, over Irish Breakfast tea, toast and homemade marmalade jam.
Fitzy wrote notes and recorded addresses, drew maps and was happy when Mrs. Thomas said she would call to introduce him to the other church office managers to make it easier to “get inside scoop and chitchat.”
Once inside St. Jude’s vestibule Fitzy found the location of where the Peter’s Pence offering box hung; the plaster wall was scared with savage gouging and prying in the thief’s attempt to hastily get at the donations. Mrs. Thomas approximated that the box netted $369 every Sunday. St. Jude’s box was emptied Monday mornings by the housekeeping staff, then recorded and deposited by Mrs. Thomas herself.
“Someone might have really needed the money badly, maybe for rent,” mused Mrs. Thomas, before Fitzy left her office. “Or to buy lottery tickets, there was a $345 million jackpot that week.”
“Pity,” Fitzy whispered, as he smoothed his hand over the wall.
Sitting back on his heels, Fitzy squinted at the ethereal trails of smoky light coming and going around the bank of votive candles. Two trails distinguished themselves in front of the plaster wall, but one left after dropping something sparkling into the ghostly outline of the box. Fitzy fine-tuned his focus onto the remaining form that suddenly began pumping his fists and pulling at the box. A filmy face turned toward the church doors and then to Fitzy’s direction. Fitzy mentally snapped a picture of the figure’s face but was interrupted by Froggy calling out for Bonét in the nave.
“Back here, Froggy, by the votives,” Fitzy stood and waved to the two that had found the side entrance under the tenth station-of-the-cross.
“I’ve solved the case, it wasn’t as hard as I thought although I don’t know the thief’s name – I guess I’ll have to spend some quality time with the mugshot books.”
“If the perp is even in the book,” added Froggy. “How do you know that the thief was a career criminal?”
Bonét started sniffing around the base of the plaster wall and sudden yelped, his center fur stripe rising, indicating how unnerving it was when one of the ethereal figures passed through him.
Azaleas, Case Solved! Searching the ethereal face, both Froggy and Fitzy shouted at the same time: “Mrs. Thomas’ nephew!” Mrs. Thomas’ nephew didn’t look contrite at all, and he didn’t look like he owed back rent. He looked determined.
“Woof,” barked Bonét. He continued barking as he began scratching at the heavy church doors.
“Should we follow Bonét, or wait until we visit the other crime scenes?” wondered Fitzy. “This case was far too simple, perhaps it was a ruse.”
Bonét lead Froggy and a reluctant Fitzy to a patch of flowers and low azalea bushes past their bloom, in front of a very weathered Virgin statue. A stone fence separated the garden into sort of a grotto that inspired silent introspection. Bonét started digging furiously under one of the azalea bushes, and he couldn’t be deterred even when Froggy used his dog training behavior modification voice. Bonét didn’t stop until he unearthed a plastic shoebox, and then another and another. He finally stopped when six plastic shoe boxes full of change and dollar bills lined the stone wall fence and the garden was destroyed.
“Good dog,” Fitzy said. “This is grand but we don’t know how this money got here or who was responsible. Mrs. Thomas said that St. Jude was only hit once.”
Bonét whined and started digging under the third azalea bush and when he was done three more boxes were found. The fourth azalea netted another box and several plastic zipper pouches with St. Jude’s and a few other church insignias stamped on their sides. This was when Froggy began taking evidence pictures with his cell phone and Mrs. Thomas exited the rectory, red faced and gesturing.
“Here, here, what have you let your mutt do to the garden?” she stormed. “Why, I’ve just finished planting the flowers and you’ve destroyed all my beautiful work!”
“What’s all this?” Mrs. Thomas asked, indicating the zippered pouches. “Where’d you get my missing pouch? Have you two been in on the heists all along?” By this time Mrs. Thomas was beginning to sputter out and realize that she was the one that looked guilty … which wouldn’t do at all so she spun on her heel and retreated back to the rectory’s office without any further words.
“Don’t be leaving the premises,” called out Froggy, “because I’ve already called the police, lady, and you will be in the hot seat.”
“I don’t know, Froggy, but this whole thing, this unsolvable case, has been way too easy to solve – and I can’t get my head around the fact that we went to the first church on our list and solved the whole thing as easy as pie. It doesn’t make sense. Where is the puzzle, the drama, the suspect line-up?”
“Maybe it was the dog? And remembering the thief’s face … and isn’t St Jude the patron saint of lost things? And maybe, Fitzy, you are a pro!”