"I'm a proud, patriotic Canadian, Mr. Tuff," said the old man sitting in my office. I had already deduced that from his neat military uniform with the many bars across his left breast like straightened rainbows, the ring with the big beaver emblem on his left hand, and his red-and-white maple leaf wristwatch. He was General Reginald Ment, retired.
"Why does a proud, patriotic Canadian need a private investigator?" I asked. I hoped that he hadn't been leaking official secrets or stealing stationery. But does a retired soldier, even a general, have access to either?
"I fly a number of Canadian flags on my house and lawn and someone keeps stealing them. They're not cheap, you know." Nothing is, I thought.
I asked the usual questions: Any clues? Any enemies? Any unpatriotic neighbours? And received the usual negative replies.
I took his address and phone number and promised to get to work on the case, but before I could, another client entered my office. Goodness, maybe I would have to hire an assistant. I wondered if Amanda Friend, who had helped me on several cases in the past, was available. No, she was very good-looking and had a pleasant personality and working with her would be a pleasure, but mabe one shouldn't mix business with pleasure.
My new client, Mrs. Vera Neatby, was prim and proper, almost too much so: I could imagine her in a mall reprimanding girls for their dress and boys for their behaviour. She was angry about a dog or dogs that were using her front lawn as a puppy privy. Enemies? Many. Suspects? Any neighbour with a dog. Her address was on the same street as General Ment's and not far from his place. Coincidence? Maybe. Likely.
I drove to General Ment's house and parked. Several flags, some on poles on the lawn, others on the house, flapped in the breeze like a one-country United Nations. I wondered if he raised them every morning and lowered them every night. A thief who wanted a Canadian flag had a wide choice of sizes. I knocked on the door and talked to the General briefly, just to let him know that I was on the job.
Then I drove along the block to Mrs. Neatby's house. Her lawn, despite the scatological attacks, was green and healthy. As we talked, a shabbily dressed old man walked past with two small dogs on a tandem leash. They were obviously of mixed ancestry but very cute, and in the autumn chill they wore home-made coats.
Because the crimes occurred at night, I was going to have to do a stakeout, a boring, lonely operation, but one best done solo. I spent a little time walking around the neighbourhood, but observed only that a few lawns needed mowing, a few flowerbeds needed weeding, and a few slabs of concrete in the sidewalk needed replacing – nothing unusual for Blandsville, or any town.