I heard two voices outside my office door. One was Hank, my quasi-landlord, the other sounded familiar. The door opened. "Look who's here," said Hank.
"Who" was John Bannister, the head of phys. ed. at my former high school.
"You look great, Elmer."
"Thank you. Retirement is good for a person. You should try it, John."
"I intend to, as soon as my son is through grad school — or signs a pro contract in the NHL."
John updated me on the school news and gossip: marriages, deaths, separations, and divorces. Then we reminisced. "I remember the time you poured a pint of brandy into the English Department coffee urn. The coffee was all gone in less than two hours."
"And the students got some spirited teaching that morning," I punned, "but I was only alleged to have done that, it was never proved."
"Ah, there speaks the detective. I have to confess, Elmer, this is not just a social visit, pleasant as it is to see you. We have a problem at the school and we're trying to avoid involving the police." If "the police" meant Les Trade and Greg Son, whom I had encountered on earlier cases, I didn't blame the teachers. "When we heard that you had become a detective, we hoped that you might help us, for a fee, of course."
"What is your problem?"
"It's a strange one. Someone is taking dirty gym stuff from the boys' dressing room — tee shirts, shorts, socks, towels. We tell the students to keep things in their lockers, but you know students." I did.
"It sounds as if you have someone with a dirty laundry fetish," I theorized.
"Is there such a thing?"
"I don't know, but why not? A person could have any kind of fetish, I suppose, if he's strange enough."
"But that's not the craziest thing. A day or two later the things re-appear in the dressing room, washed, ironed, and neatly folded."
"It sounds as if Blandsville High has its own Good Fairy, like the Tooth Fairy."
"We wondered if you could come as a guest instructor and investigate. The principal has already agreed."
When I retired several years before, I promised myself that I would never again appear in front of a class — leave the supply teaching to you people looking for jobs — but this case was intriguing and I hated to let John down. Besides, he was almost old enough to qualify as a senior, one of my sometimes requirements for clients, so the next morning I found myself in the BS gym with John and a grade nine class, wearing sneakers, shorts, and a tee-shirt which said NBA. I hoped the students would interpret it to mean "National Basketball Association", but actually it was a gift from a friend, an avid bird-watcher, and stood for "Nonagenarian Birders' Association".