The Mystery of the Gorilla in the Phone Booth: A Somewhat Short Story
Hello everyone! I thought I'd post my mystery that I wrote for school. It's my first mystery, and I can't say that it was all that easy. But here it is! Feel free to critique, but please note that I am on vacation until Sunday and probably won't be able to reply. Thanks!
(Click the "Read More" thing to see the whole story)
(Click the "Read More" thing to see the whole story)
The Mystery of the Gorilla in the Phone Booth
“There's a gorilla in a phone booth, sir!”
“What?! Repeat yourself, private!”
“I repeat, there is a gorilla in a phone booth!”
The head investigator scratched his head in confusion. Of all the things that his apprentice had told him in the time he'd been in training, this was by far the strangest. “Private, are you sure?”
“Positive, sir!” his student's voice crackled through the phone.
“Well, private, looks like we've got a mystery on our hands.”
“I'll come over right away, sir!”
The head investigator smiled at the young man's enthusiasm. “Actually, I have something else in mind . . . ”
* * *
Peplum Witz practically skipped to the crime scene, the excitement clearly evident on his face. His boss had sent him on a case alone, for the first time ever. This was a rarity in and of itself, not to mention how this case was one of the strangest, and probably the most complicated, of its kind.
As he arrived to the scene, the first thing he noticed were muddy footprints from the gorilla enclosure. The footprints were spread far apart, as if the person had been running. Peplum bent down and placed his hand next to the footprint. The footprint was a little larger than his hand, a size eleven he guessed. When he took his hand off of the ground, dirt still lingered on his palm.
He stood, following the tracks. As he followed them, he accidentally ran into someone.
“Pardon me, sir!” he squeaked.
The man gave him a dirty look. “Watch where you're going, junior. I've got work to do, and you're in my way. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a gorilla to track down. Good day to you.” He mimed tipping his hat to Peplum with a sneer.
“Hey, wait!” Peplum called, grabbing the man's dark green jacket as he started to walk away.
“What do you want, junior?”
“I was just wondering if you knew anything about the missing gorilla that was found later today in a phone booth?”
The man rolled his eyes, running an impatient hand through his dark hair. “Look, kid, I really hate that gorilla. I could care less if Pretzel just packed up and went to join the circus before retiring in a secluded area near the equator.”
“The gorilla's name is Pretzel?”
“And you want him gone?”
“Of course I do! Took you that long to figure that out?” With that the man stormed off.
“Sir! Wait! Can I at least know your name?” Peplum asked, chasing after him.
The man turned, his expression stony. “Marcus. Marcus Dixon. I'm six feet two. I'm a zookeeper here. I'm allergic to cilantro. I'm really bad with tech stuff and once crashed the secretary's computer. Any more questions?”
“Then good day to you.”
Peplum didn't bother trying to go after the man again, but he did note him down as a possible suspect in his notebook. Tucking the little notebook into his pocket, he began following the footprints that had been leading to the zoo. His storm gray eyes squinted as the footprints began getting farther apart from each other, as if the person had really been hightailing it out of there. Suspicious.
The prints eventually led Peplum to a jewelry store in town. The owner, Scarlette Quinn, was frantically pacing back and forth in front of her store, wringing her hands. There were sirens blaring and a multitude of police men crawling all over the place, flashlights in hand.
Peplum jogged over to the woman. “Excuse me, miss, but could I ask you what happened here?”
Scarlette turned to him, her face pale and stressed. “I suppose so. It's just that I'm a little bit scrambled right now.”
Peplum gave her a reassuring pat on the shoulder. “Take all the time you need.”
Scarlette gave him a small smile, her hands clenched tightly. She tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear, its messy appearance making it look like she had a fiery, red halo. “Alright. I think I'm better now. What was it you wanted to know again?”
“Could you tell me what happened here? There are policemen all over the place!”
Miss Quinn's face fell. “Oh, it was awful! Simply dreadful!” she sniffed. Her gaze flicked up to meet Peplum's. “What did you say your name was?”
“Peplum Witz, ma'am. Private investigator in training.”
“I see. Well, Peplum, it was awful! Simply dreadful!”
“So you've said . . . ”
“I was sitting in my shop, completing a few orders for my customers, like I always do. My employees, Danielle Stockera and Anatole Price came in at ten, the time they do every single day. They both seemed a little on edge, but when I questioned them, they assured me that everything was fine.” Scarlette sighed. “But that's not the worst of it. Torey Benson, a rather elderly lady who lives next to the shop decided to interrupt her morning run and come by the shop just to irk me. She's had a grudge against me for years ever since that tofu pie incident.”
Peplum's eyes widened, but he didn't ask about the pie. Some things were just better left alone.
“Torey always messes with the jewelry displays, and today was no different. After she had succeeded in destroying all of Danielle's displays that she had worked so hard on, she left the store in a hurry, probably afraid to face my wrath,” Miss Quinn grumbled, disgusted.
“I would be too,” Peplum muttered under his breath.
Scarlette ignored him, or perhaps she just didn't hear him. “The police told me that they found Torey's fingerprints on the window outside, so they have noted her down as a possible subject.” She shrugged, as if it was no big deal. “Anyways, it was a little after lunch when the alarms started going off. I sprinted in from the break room, sandwich still in hand. All I saw was a shattered glass case and the contents missing. I shrieked and dropped my sandwich, just as Danielle and Anatole came running in from outside. They had probably been out for lunch,” she added.
“And that's it,” Scarlette concluded. “I called the police and then you showed up.”
“Thank you for telling me, Miss Quinn. I'll do my best to see that your crime is solved.”
“Oh, thank you so much!”
As Peplum began walking off, his foot kicked something shiny on the ground. Curious, he picked it up. It was a pair of car keys. He waved Scarlette over and handed her the keys, which she handled delicately, as if she was afraid that they might explode at any second.
“These are Anatole's keys . . . ” she murmured. “Strange that they would be out here, but maybe they just fell out of his pocket when he came running in from lunch. He really ought to invest in deeper pockets.” She handed the keys back to Peplum. “Better hold on to these,” she suggested.
“Do you have any reason to suspect your employees of committing the crime?” he asked, tucking the keys into his pocket.
Scarlette shook her head vigorously, then slowly began to nod as a thought came to her. “Danielle's a hard worker, but she's quite rude, and, frankly is quite selfish. The reason she would need the jewelry is because she could sell them and get some money to pay off her family's debt to save their home.” Scarlette held out her hands like a balance, lowering one of them. She raised it back up and lowered the other one down. “Anatole's a really sweet guy, and amazing with technology, but he's always been overlooked by his parents because he's the youngest. That alone makes him an avid attention-seeker. Stealing could make him well-known couldn't it?”
“Makes sense,” Peplum said, stroking his chin thoughtfully, as something else caught his eye. He strode over to where a shiny badge sat in the grass. “'This badge belongs to Marcus Dixon, zookeeper,'” he read aloud. His eyebrows shot up as he realized that was the same man he had met at the zoo. He had been here. Could he have been the culprit?
His surprise must've been evident because Miss Quinn gave him a startled look. “Are you alright?”
“Yeah . . . er, yes. Yes, I'm fine, miss. I think I'll go poke around your store if that's alright.”
“By all means, please do!”
As Peplum gingerly stepped over the police tape, he scanned the room, taking in everything, from the shattered glass to the smudges on the window. The fresh dirt that covered the floor in a thin layer. He reached out a finger and swiped it on the floor, peering at the dirt now on his finger. He sniffed it, poked at it, even considered licking it, before coming to the conclusion that this dirt was the same as the dirt from the zoo. It felt the same, the identical grit and texture made it a perfect match.
He held his thumb and forefinger on the bridge of his nose, eyes closed, deep in thought.
“The two crimes are connected,” he whispered, his eyes popping open. “The two crimes are connected!” He nearly shrieked with joy at the breakthrough he had discovered. Feeling a rush of enthusiasm, he began rooting around the store in earnest. As he searched, he noticed a security camera. It was an expensive-looking one too, one that was perfect to keep a jewelry store secure. He lifted the camera off of its little stand on the wall, taking note of the fact that it had been disabled skillfully, as there were no wires broken or poking out. This was no rookie heist; this was a professional job.
Peplum sat down on a countertop, absently fiddling with the trinkets in his pocket, pulling them out and setting them on the countertop next to him. He had Anatole's car keys and Marcus's zoo badge, both of which came from people who could have easily committed the crime and who were the highest on his list of suspects.
Torey was a harmless old lady with a grudge, and Danielle was a loyal employee who mouthed off from time to time. Neither of them had “culprit!” written all over them.
But Marcus had always hated the gorilla, which was the obvious motive for why the gorilla had been missing. He could easily have freed it while he was working one day. But how would that explain the disabled security camera? Marcus had even admitted that he was horrible with tech things. There was no way that he could have pulled off disabling the camera that cleanly.
But Anatole? Anatole was excellent with technology; Scarlette herself had even said so. He could have disabled the camera with ease. He also wanted attention, which could've led him to do something drastic to get it.
Peplum smiled to himself. In his heart he knew the person he had pinpointed as the thief was the right person.
He hurriedly slipped off of the countertop and out the door, notebook now in hand. He approached Scarlette, who was back to wringing her hands, and did his best impression of the head investigator's calm, knowledgeable expression.
“Miss?” he called, waving her over.
“Yes?” she asked, her eyes sparkling in hopes of the words he hadn't yet said.
“I believe I know who stole from your shop.”
“Really?! That's amazing! Who was it?”
Peplum went on to say how he had come to the conclusion that the thief had to have been Anatole, and showed her all of his evidence that proved it.
After he explained, he scratched his head thoughtfully. “What I can't understand is how the gorilla got out. The crimes are connected—I'm sure of it! I just don't know how.”
It took Peplum a day or two to finally piece the whole thing together. After contacting Anatole and interrogating him intensely and threatening him with a bunch of oregano, he managed to figure out just how the two crimes were connected.
Anatole had prepared for his heist for weeks before putting it into action, but it didn't go exactly as planned. He had disarmed the security cameras the night before, making sure that everything was in place before he left. He had arrived to work at the normal time, heading out the door with Danielle when it was time for lunch. As soon as he went out the door, he told Danielle to wait just a minute, he'd be out in a jiffy. He snuck inside, rewiring the alarm system in a matter of seconds so that they wouldn't go off for another twenty minutes after an initial break-in. He grabbed a nearby jewelry stand and used it to smash the glass on the case carefully, taking care not to let large chunks clink onto the floor. He grabbed the jewelry and stuffed it in his pocket, casually walking out of the store. Then Anatole had pretended that he'd forgotten to meet a friend and hurried off, leaving Danielle on her own for lunch.
Anatole had raced through town, trying to find a place to blend in. He settled on the zoo. As he melted into the throng of people, he noticed a large crowd huddled around the gorilla enclosure. He quickly joined them, making himself inconspicuous as possible. Suddenly a small child accidentally run into him, desperate to find her mother in the crowd. The bump was enough to jolt the jewelry out of his shallow pocket and into the gorilla's enclosure.
Horrified, he dashed off, shoving people out of his way. He found the lower entrance to the exhibit, but it was locked. Only a zookeeper's badge could be swiped through it to open it.
Anatole scanned around the area, his eyes settling on a dark-haired zookeeper who looked nearly half-asleep. He snuck up on the zookeeper, knocking him out with a sharp pound to the back of his head. He fumbled to get the badge off of the man's shirt, but he eventually succeeded. He jogged back to the door to the enclosure and swiped the badge. The doors opened, and he sprinted into the enclosure and snagged the jewelry before sprinting back out, praying that no one had seen him clearly enough to recognize him.
Unfortunately, he left the door open, thus letting Pretzel the gorilla escape and end up in a phone booth, where Peplum had found him later. Anatole had run from the zoo to the store before realizing he still had Marcus's badge. He dropped it there in hopes to frame him. He didn't succeed.
Peplum had solved his first mystery, and it would not be his last.