Only One Thing Wrong
By D.J. Lutz © December 2011
Little Billy Watson had just arrived home from school when the kitchen phone rang. It was his friend, Sally, and she was quite upset, something about missing Christmas cookies. Billy slammed the phone down, grabbed his coat and yelled “C’mon, Zinger, someone stole Grandma’s cookies! We have a case to solve!”
At 8 years old, Billy had already established his reputation as an innovative crime fighter and detective. After all, who else would have thought to spray the bank robber’s car with water, in the middle of a blizzard? It took the police a few hours to chip through all that ice and by the time they got the car door open, the bank robbers were ready to give up on the condition they be taken to the nice warm jail. But now someone has stolen Sally’s cookies, the same cookies that Billy had brought over that morning on his way to school. The same cookies that he and his Grandma made the night before. “No one messes with Grandma,” Billy said as he and Zinger, the wonder dog, left the house.
Billy walked up to Sally’s house, noticing that there was a white van parked in the driveway. Sally opened the front door and invited Billy and Zinger inside. Sally’s dog, a beagle named Babette, was sitting on the sofa, curled up trying to nap.
“So when was the last time you saw the cookies, Sally?”
She looked at the clock on the mantle, then declared “I remember seeing them this morning, just before I went to school. Then, when I got home, about an hour ago, the furnace repairman had just gotten here. That’s when I discovered the cookies were gone. They were on a plate in the kitchen, on the table. Now there’s a plate, but no cookies. Not even crumbs.”
“Hmmm,” Billy said. “ Could the repairman have taken them?”
“No,” she said. “I followed mom and him upstairs when they were looking for the broken therm-stat. Mom says her therm-stat is old and needs checking every week otherwise she gets too cold. That’s why the repairman always stops by on Thursdays. No, I would have seen him if he took the cookies.”
“And no one else is here, except you?” Billy asked.
“Just me. My brother and his weirdo friends are down at the lake, ice fishing, even though the lake hasn’t even frozen over yet, but he didn’t care when I told him that, and dad is still working at the bank. He won’t be home until six. He’s the president and he can’t leave until everyone is done working. He’s always the last one to leave. He’s a real hard worker.”
Billy looked at Zinger and said “Zing, old buddy, you stay here with Babette and keep watch. Sally and I will look around and investigate.” The old dog just tilted his head, then headed over to the sofa, where he slowly lowered himself to the ground and stretched out in front, deciding two dogs napping was better than one.
“We’ll search from the basement to the roof if we have to, Sally. We will find those cookies or whoever stole them. I just know it!”
The two young kids went down the stairs into the basement. They looked inside the washing machine, the dryer, and even on the shelves full of old toys and a few dusty books. No cookies. Then Billy spotted some cabinets, hidden behind the furnace. “What’s in those cabinets, Sally?” he asked.
“That’s where my dad keeps the money sacks. But those cabinets are always locked up. The cookies can’t be in there.”
“Your dad keeps sacks of money there? Really?” Billy may have only been 8 years old, but he knew enough about money to realize stacks of cash should be in the bank.
When he mentioned that to Sally, she matter-of-factly rebutted, saying “And that is exactly why he keeps the money sacks here. Bank robbers always look for the money in the bank, silly. They would never think to look here. So to keep the bank’s money safe, we lock it up here in our basement. But don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.”
“Okay. Let’s keep looking,” he replied.
With the rest of the basement found cookie-less, the duo went back upstairs. Having already searched the first floor, it was time to move on to the second. The first room they came to was Sally’s bedroom. A quick search found nothing except a missing button from one of her dolls.
“Could your brother have hidden the cookies in his room?”
“I don’t know, maybe we should look. He sometimes acts so weird, I think he could eat cookies and not even know it,” she replied. Opening the door, she let the world’s youngest detective inside.
Billy looked around, but there was nothing out of the ordinary, just a few gardening magazines and some tools. “I didn’t know your brother liked to garden. My Grandma does that.”
Sally went over to her brother’s desk and reached underneath, pulling out a key that had been taped to a drawer. The key fit the closet door. “He’s got a special indoor garden here in the closet, see? He has to keep these lights on all the time for the plants to grow. And look how tall these ones have grown! Aren’t they great?”
“I guess so, but they sure smell funny,” Billy said. “At least the cookies aren’t in here. I bet they would smell awful if he hid them here. Let’s keep looking.”
“Now that I think of it, I think my brother likes brownies better than cookies anyway. That leaves my mom and dad’s room, but I’m not allowed in there without permission,” Sally said.
“Did your mom and dad say I couldn’t go in there?” Billy asked.
Sally paused, thinking as best an 8 year old could do. “Well, no. Mom has never said you couldn’t go in there. Would you? I mean, you probably won’t be noticed if you are quiet about it.”
“I think I can handle it. I’m a detective you know. I’m used to sneaking around, catching bad guys. You open the door just enough for me to crawl in. I’ll look around, and if the cookies aren’t in there, I will crawl right back out.”
The plan seemed logical enough for Sally, so she slowly, quietly turned the door knob, allowing the door to open a few inches.
Billy crept inside, crawling like a cat hunting a mouse. He circled the room, then slipped back out into the hallway. “I’m afraid I have bad news. Sally.”
“What? What did you find? Was it the cookies? Were the cookies in there? You didn’t bother the repairman did you? My mom would kill me if that happened,” she asked, her eyes widening.
“No, but he must not have fixed the therm-stat yet. They were both trying to stay warm under that quilt on the bed. No, Sally, the bad news is that I didn’t find any cookies.”
“Now what?” she asked.
“Let’s go downstairs. I have a plan,” he replied.
They walked down the wooden staircase, waking both dogs. “Zinger, old boy. Glad you’re up. Listen, Sally’s cookies were stolen and we can’t find them anywhere. What’s your opinion?”
Billy lowered his head down to Zingers mouth. The dog just panted, then licked Billy on the cheek. “Great idea, Zinger. Let’s do it!”
Sally looked confused. “What’s Zingers idea? Does he know what happened to the cookies?”
Billy slyly looked back at his friend, saying “Zing thinks there is really only one thing wrong in this house – it needs more cookies. Therefore, Zinger and I will go back to Grandma’s house and make some more. We’ll be back after dinner with a fresh plate!”
“Oh, Billy. That sounds like a great idea. And thanks, Zinger, for being such a wise old dog. You’re smarter than any old owl, that’s for sure.” Sally was all smiles as she walked Billy to the front door. She closed the door as Billy and his dog walked away.
“And thank you, Babs, for not squealing that we ate the entire plate of cookies for breakfast!”