ï¿¼THE WINCHESTER-NABU DETECTIVE AGENCY
YEAR TWO: CASE FILE NO. 21-73
ï¿¼AMBER LOVE 01-OCT-2018 Catch up on Year OneÂ and previous Year Two cases at the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency. This work is supported by the generous backers who adore my cat stories at Patreon.com/amberunmasked and they also get first access to whatâ€™s happening with my books and podcast. For a one-time tip, you can go to the new PayPal.me.
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Where we left off:
Last case file was a treacherous ordeal involving our friends Big Louie and Charlie Pluck. This week we have another friend who freelances for the Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency, Simon.
The Cat with One Red Shoe
Simon Squishypaws is a bonafide New Jersey gumshoe. That’s an old timey word for private detective. For Simon, it’s even more true because he’s essentially glued to his shoe collection. He loves shoes. He sleeps on shoes. He cuddles shoes. If you have case involving shoes, Simon is your guy.
Oliver Winchester gave Simon a call because it was a busy week in New Jersey and we can only take on so many cases. Considering how much criminal activity we deal with because the Chipmunk Mafia in our borders, there’s ample opportunity for the other cat detectives out there to take on crime solving work.
Simon’s human, Erica, is a writer who sometimes has to travel for days. This gets stressful just like in our house. The felines and humans are extremely attached to each other. While Erica traveled for comic conventions (did I mention she’s a great writer and you can hear us talk about comics on Vodka O’Clock?) Oliver thought it best to keep Simon busy with extra work and he had just the right case.
Edison, New Jersey is southeast of us. It’s a huge city compared to the outskirts of Hackettstown (but we have an M&M plant). It’s a pretty famous city too. There are a lot of celebrities from there including that guy, Patrick McDonnell who creates the comic strip Mutts! Plus, if you can believe what you read on the internet, Edison even has sister cities in India and China.
The Winchester-Nabu Detective Agency received a call from a client on the eastern side of the state. It was too far for us to investigate, so Simon was called. A woman (we’ll call her Ms. Byron) reported finding strange footprints around her house. They looked like boots and she said much larger than her own feet. As she lives alone, she became worried that someone was trying to burgle her home or much worse.
Simon got to work immediately. He had full access to all the computers since his humans weren’t home and he often used that alone time to hack for information on bad guys. The client handed over access to Simon for her end of the information search. The first thing he checked were the utility companies. It would be odd if they walked around the house to places other than where the meters are, but it was worth ruling out the obvious. Simon logged into the billing statements of each account to see when the last meter readings were. Nothing came up for that day.
The next thing to check were the surveillance cameras which were prevalent in a city that size. Simon found the key intersections around Ms. Byron’s neighborhood. He had to dig deeper into the system to the files for the past days instead of the live camera feed. Footage is only required to be retained for a month, but generally speaking, municipal governments don’t keep up with their records retention and file dumps.
Bingpot! The day before, a man could be seen walking around Ms. Byron’s house. He had parked a small white truck in front of the house. It was the same kind of truck the cable company would have. He wore dark coveralls and a baseball cap. He carried a clipboard as he peered through the windows of the house. Simon zoomed in on his feet and took a screen captures of his boots and other details.
He emailed Ms. Byron images of the man to see if she could identify him, but he wasn’t hoping for good news. Most of the times, perps like this are strangers or someone people would meet through a business transaction and they’re casing a place.
Ms. Byron called Simon right away. “I do know him. That’s my nephew Francis! Well, they call him Frank, but I always called him Francis. What on earth is doing at my house like that?”
Simon didn’t want to break the woman’s heart too quickly. He said he’d keep poking around to see what he could find. He hoped it was all a misunderstanding and nothing squirrelly was going on with Frank. Before he hung up, Simon asked her an important follow up question: did she have valuables or cash in the house that Frank knows about?
“Oh you know how it is. Most of the things in here are sentimental. I don’t know how much any of these old antiques are worth. I have some of my grandfather’s things from the Korean War. I don’t want to part with all this stuff I inherited. I guess it’s no secret that I have old jewelry.”
Jewelry? That makes things interesting. Family pieces were probably known throughout the family including ne’er-do-wells like a shady nephew. Simon pressed further for more details about the family loot. Among the modest collection were: two engagement rings and wedding sets (one from her grandmother and one from her great grandmother); a pearl choker; a pair of gold watches (one man’s and one woman’s); a lot of “junk” pieces made of plastics or faux in the costume jewelry boxes; and several lapel pins.
Simon let Ms. Byron go for the rest of the afternoon. He consulted with Oliver Winchester and they came to same conclusion. To prove their theory, Simon had to do a little more work, but he needed the help of Oliver and Gus to bring in a rover who could leave the house and roam more freely. No one wanted to hire a cat off Craig’s List so that meant Gus and I would have to go out on assignment for reconnaissance.
With the information from Simon, we found the nephew’s apartment building and began our stakeout. Fortunately, I was just given a pair of binoculars for my birthday. He didn’t have a job with a utility company, but he used to – sort of. He worked for a tree trimming business in the summer. He remained friends with a couple guys from the crew. New Jersey’s coastal area has had a lot of trees blown over from storms to keep companies like that busy. Frank was more of an “on call” type of employee. He could get a month’s worth of work in two weeks and then not work for a while.
Frank got the keys for one of the trucks from his pal, JT. Together they planned the heist. It was going to start with who they felt was the easiest mark, Frank’s aunt. Once they had a success under their belts, they would move on to other targets.
Gus and I snuck into the apartment and snooped around. We found what we were looking for. Frank’s muddy boots were right in the living room. We had all the confirmation we needed, so we got back to the offices to see how Oliver and Simon were doing with their tasks. Simon’s vast knowledge of footwear confirmed that the boots we took a photo of matched the surveillance camera footage and matched the footprints around Ms. Byron’s house.
Oliver had the final task of calling Ms. Byron and giving her the news. She took our advice and called a security company to get her own cameras and wiring set up. She left a message for her sister, Frank’s mother, letting her know that her son was up to serious crimes. Frank would no longer be welcome at Ms. Byron’s house. She also picked up a fire proof and water proof safe that was large enough for the collection of jewelry and important documents. Frank could consider himself foiled.
Simon’s History as written by his Mom:
Squadron Leader Simon Carter Squishypaws The First (retired)
His family is originally from Germany and then emigrated to England where they changed their names from Von Squishypaws. They dropped the Von. Simon was a Pilot in the RAF and had a undisclosed incident (itâ€™s not declassified yet) which has caused him ptsd. We donâ€™t know how he made his way to the US, but he ended up in a shelter in NJ.
* Photos provided by humans.
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