Chapter 3: Who Stole the Cookie?
The steel door slid open soundlessly. (I don’t know what steel door it was, but as you don’t either it can’t much matter.)
AV waved his hand over the room and announced carelessly, “Mr. Semmes’s office.”
(–“And it really made him sound like a footman,” as Johnnie said.)
There was a rush, a scramble, and a “don’t touch anything!” from Sam to everyone except AV, who was looking on in horror.
“Is everything okay? Why does it smell like freshly mowed grass?” he asked apprehensively, when Johnnie, Sam, Rosy, and their excitement had subsided a little.
“It’s fine, just I’m a liiittle thrilled about getting this case – and it’s Rosy that smells like grass,” responded Johnnie, looking obsessively at all the CDs and DVDs piled on a nearby shelf and beginning to throw them in rapid succession into a pile behind her. “Glory! It’s awfully messy in here. Is that – Spiderman?” she asked suddenly, holding one of the DVD’s up to the light. (This was really not necessary, the lighting was perfectly fine; but as Johnnie remarked to herself, “it’s awfully jolly to be in the detective business again, and I’m jolly well going to make the most of it while it lasts!”) “Mr. Semmes must have gone mad,” she added laughingly.
“Oh – no, dear, no!” replied AV with a jump. “Sorry. Those are mine, thank you. I left them here, quite some time ago,” he added with confused discoposure, while impulsively reaching out his hand for them.
Everyone in the room turned and stared at him.
AV got awfully red. “It’s my daughter’s – Daniella’s. She likes – likes Spiderman,” he began, in an aggravated voice. “I know… is that – that little girl sticking her tongue out at me?” asked AV suddenly, greatly disturbed.
“If ‘that little girl’ is Rosy, then she probably is,” said Sam with a grin. “I don’t even have to look. Don’t worry, she does it to her dad too, on occasions.”
Rosy smiled naughtily, went over to the desk, and peeped over. “Oh look!” she exclaimed, trying to reach the plate Mr. Semmes had left there, “There’s a cookie!”
“We know that,” Sam informed her, pulling back her hand and kindly putting her into the nice leather chair and giving it a spin.
“I like him already – ALMOST as much as I like Sofia the First,” announced Rosy, as the chair stopped in front of the desk again.
AV looked confused and asked “- the cookie?”
“No, silly,” replied Rosy, with ill-deserved scorn. “Mr. Semmes of course. He must be a jolly fellow if he eats cookies all the time,” she added, looking in grave reflection at the one before her. “Mayn’t I eat it? Mayn’t I, mayn’t I, mayn’t I, mayn’t I?” she squealed, shaking her hands in front of her face in little fists and looking at AV.
Panic set in on AV’s face, but he tried to hide it. “Oh dear, I really don’t think you should,” he was beginning in a hesitating voice. “It may be tampering with evidence.”
“That cookie,” said Johnnie, wheeling suddenly round, “is probably the most important thing here – don’t you dare touch it!”
“But I’m hungry!” wailed Rosy, looking at it longingly.
Johnnie hurried over and examined the cookie with great care, as she replied, “Stow it Rosy, you can’t have this cookie. It is the most important piece of evidence here, I’m sure of it. – So don’t you dare touch it.”
“Wait a minute,” objected AV suddenly, “I thought there were four of you.”
“Pumpkin’s late,” laughed Rosy. “He always is.”
“Look everybody!” exclaimed Rosy, a few minutes later.
The only one who actually looked was Sam; Johnnie had gone back to sorting through the books and DVDs on the shelf, Pumpkin hadn’t arrived yet, and AV was on his phone chatting with his daughter Daniella.
“What’s in it?” asked Sam curiously.
So, as soon as Rosy had dusted off the diary she was holding, she opened it and began to read out loud.
“Case file -” she stopped suddenly, for it was a big number, and she didn’t read those (“On principle”- she said, but I’m pretty sure she couldn’t read them if she tried). “Oh dear, that’s a big number! – that’s a lot of files! I wish I had as many friends!” said Rosy, interrupting herself.
“Agent In Charge – Jessie Forrest, W.W.
“Wilkinson, caught and arrested.
“Charged with altering subderma toglyphic digitally, in the vauperserif-” Rosy said “ifific,” but she couldn’t pronounce the word, whatever it was, and was about to continue when Sam ejaculated,“Talk clearer Rosy!”
“Well maybe if AV stopped pinching my nose I could talk a little clearer!!” shouted Rosy, getting frustrated.
So AV stopped, and Rosy continued:
“- of an undercover lab in Bermon, SW.
“Mysteriously escaped. No more clues. Case -” she paused as her eyes floated over the numbers #2017594, “terminated. Cold case.”
They all looked up when Rosy finished and said, “Oh, how odd.”
“Here, let me see what you’re looking at Rosy,” began Sam, taking the diary from her.
Handing him the book, Rosy jumped off the chair and went to hide behind the door. “Shh, don’t tell AV, Sam – I’m going to scare him to death!” she whispered excitedly, as she scrambled down.
Just at this moment a loud sound was heard coming down the hall. The loud sound was somebody’s boots of course, and the only somebody in the whole world who wore boots in summer was Pumpkin.
“Glory, here comes Pumpkin at last,” exclaimed Johnnie fervently. “He’ll help us out!”
Pumpkin burst into the room and observed, “Oh. Sorry. I’m late.”
(“We know that,” said Rosy to herself.)
“Well it wasn’t my fault,” Pumpkin was explaining. “No really, it wasn’t – you see, I had just got… and there were only two, after all… and Grandma had just said…”
“Never mind now, Pumpkin dear,” observed Johnnie. “Just get to work.”
“No, that isn’t what she said,” reflected Pumpkin. “But I must say, it’s a jolly good guess. She’s almost always saying something of that sort. A fellow gets so tired of it!”
Right then Rosy jumped suddenly out at AV and shouted,
“BOO!” in a very scary voice.
AV leaped back with a gasp and said quickly, “You didn’t scare me!”
“I DID,” declared Rosy in daring contradiction.
“You did not!” denied AV, taking, at the same time, a very large lollipop out of his pocket and holding it meditatively near her face.
Rosy looked at it carefully from all sides.
“Alright, I didn’t,” said Rosy, taking the lollipop from his hand (it took awhile, because AV would hold onto it and sit there poking her dimples with it, but at last she got complete hold of it).
“Do you have another one there, AV?” interrupted Pumpkin, swallowing the last of something, and sitting down at the chair in front of the desk.
“What – another lollipop?” asked AV.
Pumpkin nodded and ostentatiously wiped some crumbs off his lap.
“No, of course not – why would I – why would I have two lollipops in my pocket?!” responded AV.
(“Why would you have one?” asked Johnnie, in confusion, but everybody ignored her, because AV had just started to speak and no one was paying attention to her.)
“Did you… did you just -” began AV, pointing at Pumpkin, and looking a little struck by something.
“Did I what?” asked Pumpkin innocently.
Johnnie wheeled around in suspicion and glared at him. “You didn’t…”.
Rosy stretched herself, licked her lollipop again, and said in a loud whisper to AV, “HE JUST ATE THE COOKIE.”
“Alright, I’m done,” said AV, suddenly removing Rosy from his lap. “I’m getting out of this mess. Are you finished looking over the room, kiddos?”
“We’re NOT kiddos,” Rosy was beginning, putting one of her forefingers over the other, “and–”
“Oh, not at all, my dear sir,” interrupted Sam, who was still looking over the notebook Rosy had been reading. “It’ll take us a week to read all of this!”
“They’re just cases, I told you they weren’t important,” AV was beginning, but Sam said, “Right O, sir, but we’ll glance over a few more pages, if it’s okay. It shouldn’t take us that long.”
(“You just said it would take us a week,” remarked Rosy, looking at her lollipop.)
“Well fine,” said AV, in escalating tones, in reply to Sam. “Be that way. You,” he added, closing the door and talking from behind the keyhole, “may holler for the secretary when you want to leave! Goodbye!!”
“BOO!” shouted Rosy, one last time through the keyhole.
They heard AV trip suddenly outside and shout loudly, as he picked himself up, “You didn’t scare me, Rosy!”
Rosy laughed and asked, as she tried the door handle, “Why’d he lock it?”
“Because he doesn’t want you walking into all the offices and distracting people from doing their jobs, maybe?” guessed Pumpkin, picking up Rosy and putting her on the chair again.
“Hey guys, check this out a minute. Something’s wrong with this Fed…” commented Sam suddenly. “Listen to this.” And in an ominous voice, he began to read snippets here and there from the diary he had been inspecting carefully for the past half-hour or so.
“Case file #109834.
“Agent In Charge, S. W. Gould.
“Treddelton Sapter caught and arrested.
“-Turned out to be just an imposter.
“Lost track of Sapter.
“Case file #340110.
“Agent In Charge, Cameron H.
“Peter Looke, caught and arrested.
“-Pleaded conduct disorder. Released.
“Case file #301942.
“Howard Candlestick, caught and arrested.
“-Put on House Arrest. Mysteriously disappeared.
“Case file #109834.
“-Mysteriously lost track of.
“Case file #236579.
“Connor Gomez, caught and arrested.
“Maybe Semmes just put the ones in his diary that… that failed,” objected Johnnie when Sam had finished.
“No,” replied Sam definitely. “I would have said that too, but look, there’s more, these papers are just the same. Nobody’s catching the bad guys.”
“I wish I were a bad guy,” broke in Rosy, suddenly.
“Do you even know what bad guys are?” asked Pumpkin, laughing.
“No,” replied Rosy thoughtfully. “It just seems like they have jolly cool names.”
“Oh, yeah, they do,” reflected Pumpkin, suddenly. “I kind of want to be one too, now you mention it,” he added.
“Stow it, you two!” interrupted Johnnie, “Bad guys are guys who do bad stuff and get put in jail, Rosy. And as for you, Pumpkin, you’ve got us in enough trouble already without being a bad guy. I just know that cookie was important! It probably had a secret message inside of it! Bother.”
Pumpkin looked remorsefully at the plate. “I didn’t taste any paper,” he remarked.
“Well, silly, he took it out once he bit it,” explained Johnnie with ill-concealed patience. “That’s why it is – it was – half-eaten.”
“Oh, I thought it was just ripped,” observed Pumpkin. “That’s kind of gross.”
“Well, you brought it on yourself,” was Sam’s meaningful remark.
“Alright,” began Rosy, who wasn’t much interested in the present conversation. “Back to the important things.”
“Yes, do let’s get back to important things, people,” said Johnnie, in agreement. (“We haven’t gotten anywhere!” she added in a growl.)
“What,” continued Rosy, “is AV’s favorite color and why is he so old?”
“That’s what you meant by important?!” exclaimed Johnnie, glaring at Rosy.
“Do you think he has mephobia?” continued Rosy, thoughtfully, taking a piece of her hair and twisting it.
“What’s mephobia?” asked Pumpkin with great concern.
“A fear of being too awesome, isn’t it?” replied Johnnie, then she hastily added, “Whatever it means let’s just stop talking about it and get back to things that actually matter. Things that have nothing to do with AV, colors, or mephobia!”
“Or morons,” added Sam, with a grin.
“Wait guys, I think I’ve got mephobia too,” observed Pumpkin after a short pause on his part.
“I don’t doubt it,” retorted Johnnie dryly. “Are you done now?” (Pumpkin shook his head.) “Alright, let’s brainstorm about the case then. What are things that jump out to you about Mr. Semmes? There’s got to be a few things that are extraordinary, that might help our process of getting to know him and what he would do, so we can track him down like pros.”
“He’s messy,” volunteered Rosy.
“That’s not extraordinary!” objected Johnnie.
“He likes cookies and he has a grandmother,” added Pumpkin.
“That’s prime but we all have grandmothers,” remarked Sam, “…and most of us like cookies. You’re not very good at this, are you? Now, look here,” he continued, pointing to a place on the desk that didn’t have anything on it. “This here, is a perfect rectangle of nothing, while everything else around this perfect rectangle of nothing is covered in papers and dust and – and things,” he added, picking up a statue of a little monster and putting it down again, “So clearly, whatever was here was a movable rectangle. And it was evidently placed here recently because,” and here Sam ran a finger across the empty space, “there’s almost no dust. So we are drawn to the conclusion that…” his voice began to fade as he looked at a distractingly ugly face Pumpkin happened to be making, but he recovered himself at length, and was about to continue when, “You’re stalling,” declared Rosy, pointing at Sam.
“I am not. And anyways it’s Pumpkin’s fault! What was I saying?” exclaimed Sam, frustrated.
“That your conclusion was…” prompted Johnnie.
“Oh, right. That the conclusion we are drawn to is that there is – pardon me, that there was – definitely a briefcase here. And every briefcase has something important in it. Now, it’s clearly not here anymore, so we know he took it with him when he last left.”
“I don’t think that’s quite big enough for a briefcase…” began Pumpkin.
“Well, no, maybe not, but-” Sam was replying, when suddenly Rosy pointed at Sam’s hand.
Sam looked down at the diary still in his hand and suddenly fell silent.
“Ye-ah, it’s the same size,” said Pumpkin, turning away.
Sam sighed heavily, and looked at the diary in his hand again. “There goes that.”
“Yeah, you get a V for Valiant effort,” offered Johnnie, looking thoughtfully at the spot on the desk. “Honestly, I think the most important thing we’ve found here in this room – other than the cookie, of course,” she added with a dour glance at Pumpkin, “is the diary.” (“Why didn’t you say so at the beginning!?” exploded Sam suddenly, and, “Then we wouldn’t have had to listen to Sam’s lousy theorizing,” put in Pumpkin – but Johnnie ignored them both, and continued.) “There’s something wrong about the WAS, and we have bigger problems than just a boss gone missing.”
She jumped dramatically up when she was done saying this and ran to the door, where turning around she said, “Now let’s get out of here and find Semmes. I bet you he jolly well knows what’s gone wrong!”
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