“When Fortune Fails”

Article courtesy of Kellyn Gagner of Creative Writing Club

Detective Fredrickson’s coat flapped in the hilltop breeze, pipe in his teeth. Fair Field apartment building where Philip Phell had lived rose behind him, Phell’s balcony like an awning over his head. Junior Detective Fendson stood nearby, wishing he had a billowing coat.

“What do you think?” the junior detective asked, hands in his pockets as he leaned against the dumpster.

Detective Fredrickson took the pipe from his mouth. “Strange case.”

“I can’t believe this all happened to one guy,” Fendson said with a sigh. “What you reckon he died of? Rat poison? Drowning? I guess that’s most likely since they found him in the river.”

Fredrickson grunted. “‘Once you eliminate the irrelevant, what remains — no matter how strange —must be important.’”

“Isn’t that…?”

“A great piece of advice. I know.” Detective Fredrickson pointed down the slope to the glittering river. “We’re still looking for whoever pushed him off the balcony.”

The detectives looked up at the balcony. Fredrickson coughed and replaced the pipe.

Junior Detective Fendson jumped as an idea struck him. “Say, what if Philip Phell started the fire?”

“What fire?”

“The dumpster fire the witness was busy putting out.”

Detective Fredrickson frowned. Fendson continued, “Say he came out onto his balcony to have a smoke. He threw the butt in the dumpster and—bam—a dumpster fire!”

“How does that help?” the senior detective asked, noticing the ash and charring on the dumpster. “We still don’t know who pushed him, let alone how he got all the way into that river.”

“Wrong!” Fendson cried, grabbing the rim of the dumpster and hoisting himself inside.

“Now, now, kid, this is no time to play in the garbage.”

“Here!” Fendson’s head popped over the rim of the dumpster accompanied by the face of the honorable Mayor Phineas Flores. Detective Fredrickson started and dropped his pipe.

Fendson tossed out a cardboard cutout of the mayor and climbed after it, a newspaper in his hand. “See? The roommate said no one was on the balcony. I bet the witness saw this cutout on the balcony and thought it was a person.”

“But why would Phell have a cardboard cutout of the mayor?” the senior detective asked, picking his pipe up off the grass.

“Phell helped catch the Cat Thief, remember? And the mayor was on vacation this week, right?”

“Yes, yes, but that doesn’t explain—”

Fendson held the newspaper in front of Fredrickson’s face. A photo of the late Philip Phell and the vacationing Mayor Phineas Flores framed the front page.

“If Mayor Flores was visiting family, how could he also be in this photograph that was taken the day before Phell fell and died?”

“You’re suggesting that he posed with a cardboard cutout?”

“And took the cutout home!” The junior detective agreed. “I bet he had it on the balcony, the witness saw it and the roommate threw it into the dumpster when he realized the police were coming. If he threw it out before, it would have been burned, or at least singed, but it’s not.”

Detective Fredrickson smiled, pwwuffed on his pipe and looked out over the river. “Finally, the fragments of Phell’s fall are falling into…flace.”

“Flace?”

“I couldn’t think of another word that started with F.”

 

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