Harry had just come into the office following an early morning fishing trip when they heard footsteps coming up the driveway. He looked at Bertie, who was preparing to leave. “Perhaps you should wait and see who this is,” he suggested.
“Only a few minutes. I have errands to run.” There was a knock on the door and she went to open it. She showed the woman inside and closed the door again. Then she returned to her seat.
“My name is Lucy Walters,” the woman began, “and I need help.”
Harry pointed to the chair in front of his desk. “Have a seat, Mrs. Walters.”
“I called the police station and spoke to that nice Detective Parkins. He suggested that I contact you, since they are kept pretty busy every year with Halloween pranks. He also said you have a knack for this kind of thing.”
Bertie snickered and Harry shot her a stern look. “I’ll bet he did,” he mumbled. “Tell me what’s going on, Mrs. Walters.”
“Someone is stealing the little hay blocks from our Halloween display.”
“Kids playing a prank, probably.” Why had Bruce sent her to him, he wondered. There didn’t seem to be much of a mystery here.
“I’m not so sure,” Mrs. Walters said. “Would they just take the hay and leave everything else untouched?”
Harry rubbed his chin. “Hmm… that is a little unusual. Nothing else is ever touched? Not tipped over or maybe rearranged?”
“Nothing. Just the hay.” She shook her head. “It’s strange. Paul and I have no children and we always enjoyed doing Halloween displays for the kids in the area. Always had lots of treats on hand too. Now we’re down to one display and this happens.”
“You had more than one display in past years and nothing was touched?” Harry asked.
“Never,” she said. “There are fewer kids now, but I didn’t really want to give it up entirely.”
“Why did you cut down to one display?”
“Paul had an accident several years ago which required some reconstructive surgery on one leg, and he has to use a cane for support. It’s difficult for him to get around on an uneven surface like the lawn. He didn’t want me to do too much on my own, so I compromised and just did the one display.”
Harry nodded. “Sounds like a sensible solution.”
“Do you have a full display in place now?” Bertie asked.
“Yes, I just replaced the two hay blocks that were stolen last night.”
“Mrs. Walters, what time do you and your husband go to bed?”
She gave Harry a puzzled look. “Paul is usually in bed by ten at the latest, but I am always up until midnight.”
“Midnight… okay… what time do you both get up in the morning?”
“Paul gets up around five and leaves at five-thirty to drive to the city for work. I get up around seven.”
“Do either of you check the display first thing in the morning?”