Monday, September 22, 2014

Mystery of The Pilfered Gnome

Dame Medicine holds me in her sterile clutches, so no posts for a few days. Until my return, I present you an excerpt from a young adult mystery series posted a few years back.

Jimmy Lee Caper: Jerkwad Teen Detective by Preston Haggis.)

Volume VI: Mystery of The Pilfered Gnome


Jimmy Lee Caper - rude, selfish, junior detective.

Elmo Montpelier - Jimmy's best friend, an affable, young hunchback.

Professor Lincoln Mancrisp - Stern headmaster of Quillham Academy; addicted to pizza rolls.

Hannah Hooverton - Jimmy's clever, ambitious classmate.

Dr. Thane Blackingham - Eerie, mysterious owner of a tall dark tower.




"I wonder what the old creep wants now?" said Jimmy, rapping sharply on Professor Mancrisp's office door.

"He sounded mad," whispered Elmo."I think this time we're really gonna get it."

"Don't be such a baby, Mount McKinley."

Elmo rubbed his hunchback defensively. "Do you have to call me that?"

"Yeah, I do. There's an alp growing out of your back."

 The door swung open and Professor Mancrisp towered over the boys, a pizza roll stuck in his great red beard. "Enter, young gentlemen. We're going to discuss a missing lawn gnome. I hope for your sakes that you didn't take it.

Exchanging worried glances, Jimmy and Elmo entered the Professor's cluttered office. They sat upon stacks of books while the professor cleared space on his desk, shoving aside a microwave oven and several pepperoni pizza roll boxes. Perching on a desk corner, the professor wiped away the dangling roll from his beard and grasped a long ash cane. "I want answers."

"Or what?" sneered Jimmy.

Professor Mancrisp smacked the cane down on his desk. "Don't cross me, Mr. Caper, or I'll beat you so hard you'll wail like an old Cheyenne squaw at a massacre."

Elmo pondered the professor's complex threat as Jimmy said weakly, "Better not," Jimmy respected brute force and knew from bitter experience the Professor wasn't bluffing. And for that, he'd pay back Professor Mancrisp someday in a coin of woe.

"The Great Gnome of Quillham has gone missing,"said the professor. "It was last seen yesterday evening in its customary place before the administration building. This morning, one of your peers, Miss Hooverton, reported it missing.

"Ha," snorted Jimmy. "Hanna's nose is browner than a turd. She probably swiped it so she could report it missing and win suck-up points with the teachers."

"Hanna wouldn't do that," cried Elmo."She's kind and decent."

"What do you know, mountain back?"

Professor Mancrisp pointed the ash cane at Jimmy. "That sounds like another hunchback insult. Apologize to Mr. Montpelier."

"Oh, Jimmy was just kidding. It doesn't bother me," said Elmo as Jimmy mumbled something vaguely apologetic. Elmo smiled politely,  but in his mind he crafted an image of Jimmy with one foot caught in a storm grate as a fiery iron mallet descended from the sky, smashing Jimmy Caper into flaming, bloody chunks.

The Professor frowned. "Why do you pal around with him, Mr. Montpelier? He insults you, borrows money that he never repays, and often puts a football under the back of his shirt, the better to mock you. Don't you deserve better?"

 Elmo shrugged. "My Auntie says it's a moral test: if I can hang out with Jimmy all through Quillham, there isn't anything I can't do in life. And after graduation, she'll pay for an operation to remove my hump. At least she says she will. Nothings on paper."

"That's the way it goes," sneered Jimmy in a mocking sing-song.

The professor sighed, seemed about to comment, but shrugged and said, "In any case, that plaster Gnome with its vacant politician's smile, has stood upon the lawns of Quillham for 113 years. It is part of our rich heritage. Now suddenly it's gone. What do you know, Mr. Caper?"

"Man, I didn't take your stupid Gnome. But I'll bet I could learn who did. I bet I could find out before you."

"Really, Mr. Caper? I admit, you've had some success solving small mysteries around here. A few people think you're a young Sherlock Holmes."

"Who's that?"

"Skip it. But I think you've benefited from blind luck and observant companions."

"That's a load," yelled Jimmy. "I'm the smart one. I'm the one who figures things out. And I'll find that gnome and you'll look as dumb as an old wino eating pizza rolls under a bridge."

With a whistling crack, the professor brought the ash cane down on Jimmy's hand.

"Owww! What was that for?"

"Metaphorical insults count the same as real ones. Very well, Mr. Caper. Locate the gnome and we'll discuss our respective intelligence later."

Jimmy smirked. "What do I get for finding it?"

Professor Mancrisp held up the ash cane. "Think more along the lines of what you won't get."

Outside the faculty building, Jimmy and Elmo walked quickly, pulling Quillham blazers tight around their collars in the crisp autumn air. Jimmy seethed, shaking his sore hand. "Where does that old fart get off hitting me?"

"I don't know," said Elmo, still enjoying the moment, relishing the hours he'd replay it in his mind.

 Jimmy seemed mystified. "Nothing sticks to him. I've ratted the professor out to Child Protective Services for beating me with that stick. I've planted kiddie porn on his computer and called the feds. I've told the cops he was an old fruit who tried to queer me. I swear, the guy is made of Lucite. Stuff that's worked with every teacher, parent, child psychologist, social worker, and counselor just slides off old Mancrisp. What's worse, he's becoming a hero to other adults. I gotta find a way to pull the plug on Professor Pizza Roll."

Elmo struggled to keep up with Jimmy."What about the gnome?"

"How the hell should I know? You got five?"

Elmo handed him a new five-dollar bill. "Thanks, McKinley," said Jimmy as he jogged across the quad, away from the hunchback. "I'm gonna get a burger at the student center. Why don't you ask around, see what we can dig up on the gnome. Are we cool?"

"Hey, no problem," called Elmo to Jimmy's back. For a brief moment, he wished he could mentally kill people like in Firestarter, but the impulse passed and Elmo wearily waddled off toward the administration building.

He saw Hannah and waved. She waved back. Elmo started toward her but was suddenly struck on the head by a water balloon, dropped from a nearby tall mysterious tower.  Drenched, Elmo examined the remains of the balloon.

It was then he found the note.

A moment after he realized the balloon hadn't been filled with water.

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