Okay, folks. Here’s the solution for the second devious mini-mystery concocted by the Master of Mystery himself, Hy Conrad for a chance to win a Kindle Fire. If you didn’t guess correctly, have no fear! There are two more mysteries coming up. Remember, every time a mystery is posted, email me your guess to have your name placed into the pool for the drawing that will take place after all the mysteries have been posted. Also, even if you don’t get it right, you also have a chance to get your name placed into the pool just by sharing each mystery post with your friends and letting me know. In all, you have EIGHT chances in all. So, don’t be shy! The next mystery, please be sure to play along.
FANNY SOLVES ONE
On a Sunday spring afternoon, for the first time in months, Amy and her mother sat on their back patio, sipping iced tea and gazing into the garden, a hidden gem guarded on all sides by a few dozen similar brownstones.
It was one of the few communal gardens left in New York, carved out of the center of their block, with access available only through the houses. On this particular afternoon, it was nearly empty, just the Abels and two kids from the Grove Street side. Tommy O’Malley awkwardly rode his skateboard along the meandering paths, crossing in front of them every few minutes. Meanwhile, Megan Graeter played by herself, sometimes vanishing behind a rock, sometimes racing among the trees and bushes.
“She’s playing hide-and-seek with her imaginary friend,” Amy explained. She had played the same game in the same garden 25 years before. “It’s more challenging than it looks.”
Fanny was just refilling their iced teas when Mrs. Pelegrino came marching around the fountain and straight up to their cast-iron table. “Did you see anyone go into my kitchen? One of the children?”
Mrs. Pelegrino’s brownstone stood directly opposite but was hidden from view by a low-hanging pine. “One of those brats stole my gold earrings.” And without a word of invitation, she sat down. “When I got home from church, I left them on a handkerchief on the counter. When I came back from the powder room, they were gone. My kitchen door was open. This used to be such a safe garden.”
“You think it was Megan or Tommy?” That was the logical conclusion. True, Amy and Fanny were also possible suspects, but they served as each other’s alibi. Plus neither was fond of Mrs. Pelegrino’s taste.
“Tommy O’Malley,” Fanny shouted across the garden. “Megan Graeter. This is Mrs. Abel. I want the two of you over here. This instant.”
It took over a minute. Then they sauntered into view: Tommy with his skateboard; Megan walking hand in hand with thin air. “Megan,” Fanny said, “leave your friend. This is just you and Tommy.”
Mrs. Pelegrino smiled. “Thank you, dear. I know your daughter is very clever about crime. I’ve seen her name in the paper.”
Amy heard this and felt a twinge of jealousy. Not her own. She felt it coming from her mother; it was that strong. “We’ll see who’s clever,” Fanny growled then stood to formally greet the suspects.
Tommy had put on his best manners, stepping up and shaking Fanny’s hand. “Ma’am,” he said. “What can I do for you?”
Megan wasn’t as polite. She stood a little distant, glancing back at her invisible friend standing – or sitting perhaps; no one else knew – by the base of the pine tree. “What’s the matter?”
“The matter,” said Fanny, “is that one of you stole from Mrs. Pelegrino.” She went on to explain that stealing was wrong. But if the culprit gave the earrings back, then parents would not be notified.
The children denied the accusation. Megan even volunteered to be searched and Mrs. Pelegrino took her up on it. The elderly woman frisked them both with the expertise of a TSA employee but came up with nothing.
“Not surprising,” Amy said. “When you called them, there was that tone in your voice…”
“What tone?” Fanny asked, using that tone.
“That tone. I’m sure whoever took the earrings stashed them. There are dozens of hiding places. I remember being their age…” She paused. Then her mouth curled up at the corners.
It didn’t take Amy long. She went straight for the pine tree, disappeared around the trunk and emerged a few seconds later, holding a lace handkerchief. “There’s a hole in the trunk,” she said, “the perfect height for a kid. It was stuffed down inside.”
Mrs. Pelegrino’s handkerchief was sticky with spring sap. But Amy placed it on the table and gently opened it. There they were, a pair of round gold earrings. Tommy and Megan turned to each other, eyes locked, ready and willing to deny everything.
“Don’t even start,” Fanny told them. “I know who it was.”
“You do?” Mrs. Pelegrino was impressed. “I guess this is where Amy got her detective skills.”
“You do?” Amy chimed in. “Really?”
“Really,” Fanny said. Amy could see she was serious.
And this presented a puzzle. Her mother wasn’t any smarter than she. She wasn’t more clear-headed or perceptive. Yet, somehow, she knew which child had sneaked into Mrs. Pelegrino’s kitchen, stolen the earrings and stuffed them in the tree. How could she know?
“Oh, wait,” Amy said, hitting her head with her palm. “Duh! I know, too.”
“You’re just saying that,” Fanny shot back. “You couldn’t possibly.”
But Amy did. And she proceeded to sit down and explain.
WHO STOLE THE EARRINGS?
WHAT EVIDENCE DID FANNY NOTICE?
“So…” Fanny’s voice was light and casual, a sure danger sign. “Who took them, dear?”
“That’s not the question,” Amy countered. “The question is… What extra piece of evidence do you have that I don’t?”
“Maybe there’s no extra evidence. Maybe I’m just smarter.”
“Not possible,” Amy said flatly. “And then I remembered. The only thing you did that I didn’t do was shake hands with Tommy.” She turned to the eight-year-old. “Tommy, let me see your hands.”
Tommy reluctantly stepped forward and held them out. Even without touching them, Amy could see the residue of pine sap on his palms and fingertips. “You’re not going to tell my mom, are you? You promised.”
“We promised as part of a plea bargain,” Fanny said, channeling one of a hundred TV lawyers. “In exchange for a confession. But you didn’t give us a confession, did you?”
“Ah, come on.”
“You come on, young man. We’re going straight to your mother.”
Haha! Tommy got busted! And I hope you guys guessed right. I’ll be honest. I missed it myself. I figured that it was Megan because she refused to shake Fanny’s hand. However, that’s not the way these mystery puzzles work. The solution is NEVER about the omission of a detail. It is always about what the detective specifically observed or could observe. Since Fanny didn’t shake Megan’s hand, she couldn’t be SURE the little girl’s hands were covered in sap. However, she DID shake Tommy’s hand…so she most definitely could know his hands WERE covered in the sticky goo. If you didn’t get the answer right, keep that in mind for the next puzzle…which should be posted some time Monday.
By the way, those who’ve read Hy’s Rally ‘Round the Corpse all agree…Fanny is AWESOME! She’s hilarious. If nothing else, you should read this great mystery novel just to laugh out loud at her crazy antics. I promise, you’ll love her too.
So, here’s the link to the book. Trust me…you REALLY want to read this if you’re a fan of awesome whodunnit mysteries. As Monk often says, “You’ll thank me later.”