42 Rock Tuff, P.I.: Playing at Crime


Nevertheless I was about to call them to tell them that the next attack would take place on Tyre Street when the phone rang. “He struck again!”

“On Tyre Street,” I said.

“Yeah. How did you know?”

“It’s complicated. I’ll explain later. What does the message in this envelope say?”

“‘The Merchant.'”

“I’ll call you back in a little while. Bye.”

From my desk drawer, we resurrected a map of Blandsville and sure enough there was a street named Venice. I telephoned Trade and Son and told them where the vandal would strike next, but when I tried to tell them how I knew, it was like explaining Einstein’s theories to someone who has to take off his shoes to count beyond ten.

“Besides, we haven’t the manpower to cover a whole street.”

“You don’t have to. Your culprit attacks only businesses, never residences.”

The next day, Trade called me and admitted sheepishly that the vandal had struck again, this time a jewellery store on Venice Street. He was less skeptical when I told him that the next target would be on Verona – the note had said “Two Gentlemen” – in two or three nights.

I joined the stakeout, mostly from curiosity. Around one a.m. I was dozing in my car, wishing I had a cup of Hank’s coffee, when a darkly clad figure stealthily approached a bank, carrying a paint can. As he opened the night depository, police car motors started, light and sirens came on, and red flashers flashed. I got out of my car as the man ran away from the police, towards me. As he neared me, I dodged to my right, he cut to his left, and we ended up on the sidewalk with me somehow on top. He began to malign me, my parentage, and my sexuality. I tried to hold him down, but he was like a hundred-and-eighty pound fish.

“Why?” I asked him.

“I had a couple of unpaid parking tickets and those two dumb detectives came to my house in a police car to collect. My wife and I were embarrassed in front of our neighbours, so I wanted to get even by humiliating them.”

“Where did you learn so much about Shakespeare?”

“At Blandsville High School. Maybe if I’d had you for English, I’d have known less.” Was I somehow to blame for his crimes? But I did feel a little sympathy for him as the police took him away.
The next morning, as Hank and I were imbibing our morning fix of caffeine, I told him what had happened and thanked him for his help. Trade and Son never thanked either of us.

“But it was lucky that he was caught when he was.”

“To prevent more destruction of property?” asked Hank.

“No. Because he was running out of Shakespearean plays with place names in the titles.”


Envelope and note with The Merchant written on it

Gary E. Miller spent 29 years trying to teach English at several high schools in Ontario. In 1995, he made his greatest contribution to education by retiring. He now spends his time in rural Richmond, reading voraciously and eclectically, and occasionally writing stories and poems which do nothing to elevate the level of Canadian literature.
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