Middle-Grade Mystery Monday: The Clever Cheese Curl Caper
Melinda T. Falgoust
"It's snack-food sabotage!" Elmer Green bellowed. Chief Tom Putt stood looking at the large empty space in the chip and snack aisle at "The Green Grocer". Greens in Elmer's family had served Freyburg residents for generations. Now, Elmer managed the small grocery store. His wife, Louise, ran the cash register. His teenaged son, Reggie, bagged groceries and stocked the shelves. Except, it seemed he'd forgotten to stock the Curly's Cheesy Cheese Curls. Though Reggie swore he had stocked the shelves full the night before, there was now a gaping hole yawning between the potato chips and the pretzel sticks.
"It was Mike Mulligan! I know it!" Elmer's face reddened like the apples in the produce section. Mike Mulligan was Freyburg’s most recent citizen. He'd moved from the big city and opened "Mulligan's Market" - right across the street from "The Green Grocer".
The Chief waved his hands slowly. "Now, hold on, Elmer. Why don't we start from the beginning?"
"Well, you know Curly's Cheesy Cheese Curls are the most popular snack-food in Freyburg."
Chief Putt rubbed his hand over his midsection. "Yes, I think I might have an idea."
"Until Mr. Mulligan opened his store, ‘The Green Grocer’ was the only place in town you could buy them. Curly's Cheesy Cheese Curls are a big part of my business."
"That's dandy," Chief Putt mumbled distractedly. He had just leaned against the canned green beans and now had a crumbly, orange stain streaking the shoulder of his normally pristine uniform.
"It's not 'dandy'. It's disastrous!" Elmer moaned. "Mulligan started stocking them in his store. What's worse is he's stealing MY supply right under my nose!"
The Chief forgot about the stain and looked at Elmer. "Now, that's a serious accusation, Elmer. Can you prove it?"
“Of course I can. I left the store around six last night. Reggie stayed behind to finish stocking the shelves. We had just gotten a delivery on canned goods,” Elmer began.
Reggie picked up where his father left off. “That’s right. Then I left around half-past six, locked the back door, and headed straight home.”
Mrs. Green nodded. “Reggie knows I like to serve dinner promptly at seven. He came in, washed up, and came right to the dinner table. He didn’t eat much, though, I’m afraid. I was even serving his favorite – liver and brussel sprouts.”
Katy wrinkled her nose. She wasn’t sure she would have eaten anything either.
“Anyway, when I arrived the next morning, I found my entire supply of Curly’s Cheesy Cheese Curls gone! I went straight to the security camera footage and saw Mike Mulligan peeking in the front windows. So, I immediately called the police and came out front to wait for you to arrive.”
“Did you actually see him taking the cheese curls?” the Chief asked.
Elmer faltered. “Well, not exactly. I only have the one camera, and he stepped out of frame. But, I’m sure he went around and broke through the back door! That’s how the lock got broken.”
Most mysteries were easy to solve, Katy figured. You only needed to pay attention. Grown-ups were just too distracted by the details of everyday life to notice the little things. But, clever Katy noticed them. Maybe that’s why she wasn’t buying the story Mr. Green was selling to Chief Putt. She wrote in the notebook she always carried with her and showed it to her father.
Chief Putt read the note then lowered a gaze at Elmer. “The only ‘frame’ that’s going on here is the one you’re trying to pull on Mike Mulligan. I think your cheese curl caper was pulled off by someone a little closer to home.”
What did Katy write in her notebook? (SOLUTION)