THE CASE OF THE VANISHING VOLUMES: The Solution!

This month, the Tuesday Club Bloggers are talking about Children in Crime. Just in case you didn’t get a chance to read this newly discovered adventure starring my childhood detective heroes, The Hardy Boys and Encyclopedia Brown, here’s the linkI was going to wait till Friday to post the solution, but WE HAVE A WINNER!!! So here’s the answer you’ve all been waiting for – enjoy!

Chief Brown stared at the three grinning boys. “Don’t tell me you all know who the thief is!” The three ace detectives smiled and nodded together. “Well, out with it, gentlemen!”

As the oldest junior sleuth in the room, Frank Hardy began.

“Chief, the culprit responsible for the theft of our book collections was identified through one of Dad’s sources – Anne Graham. Correct?”

The Chief nodded in agreement, and Frank went on.

“But we proved conclusively that Miss Graham could not have been the thief! The elevator had broken down, so from the moment we came downstairs until after we returned and discovered the theft, nobody could have used it to go upstairs. And although Miss Graham had the key to the emergency staircase, the presence of undisturbed dust on the floor and railing indicated that nobody had used the stairs either.”

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That clears Professor Friedman, too,” piped in Joe. “Plus, he had no key to the stairway and he has unimpeachable witnesses who can swear he was downstairs the whole time: us!”

“I follow you so far, boys,” said Chief Brown. “And I’m relieved that two of Idaville’s finest citizens have been proven innocent. But where does that leave us?”

“It means that the burglar must be someone who was already on an upper floor and had access to the stairs,” Frank explained. “Now, we could consider every hotel guest or hotel staff member who was between the second and the sixth floor at the time. But if we narrow our focus on the three guests who shared our floor and were present during the theft, I think we’ll find our culprit.”

“So what do we know?” asked Joe. “Well, Wendy Carn was next door taking a bath –“

“Most improper for that young lady to answer her door in such a state of dishabille!” sniffed Aunt Gertrude. “I’m sure you boys felt just as mortified as I did.”

All three lads blushed crimson. Joe hurried on.

“Er, yes, Aunt Gertrude. Both Otto Q Street and Mr. Stratemeyer claim they were in their rooms, but we only have each man’s word for it.”

“With the elevator out, where could either of them have gone?” asked Frank.

“Now, did I mention everybody?” Joe looked around at the others. “I did not! Remember that Mr. Stratemeyer opened the door and asked a passing maid for one of the towels she was carrying!”

“The maid!” cried Aunt Gertrude.

“Yes,” said Joe. “Where did that maid come from? She couldn’t have taken the elevator to the sixth floor, so she either walked up the stairs or she was already on this floor.”

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He paused triumphantly. The pause stretched into a long moment until the Chief could stand it no more.

“Well?” he asked. “Which was it?”

At this point, Encyclopedia stirred. He turned to the Hardy Boys.

“May I?” The boys deferred graciously to their young colleague. “Let’s step back for a minute, Dad, to Mr. Hardy’s phone conversation with you. We’re assuming that Mr. Hardy’s source made a mistake when he gave the name ‘Anne Graham,’ right?”

Chief Brown started. “Do you mean that after all this Miss Graham is guilty?”

Encyclopedia shook his head. “Not at all. But what if Mr. Hardy misunderstood what his source was saying? Maybe the name he heard meant something else. Not “Anne Graham” . . . but ANAGRAM!!!”

Chief Brown looked around him. The Hardy Boys were nodding and smiling at their friend. Aunt Gertrude’s face was a study in surprise.

“Anagram?” she sputtered. “Do you mean –“ She thought for a moment. “What exactly do you mean??”

“I mean that the source knew that the culprit was using a name that was an anagram for another name,” said Encyclopedia.

“But which guest does that lead us to, son?” asked the Chief.

Frank raised a hand. “Well, sir, it couldn’t be Mr. Stratemeyer because he is actually quite a famous person, a publisher of impeccable taste. Unless he is pretending to be Mr. Stratemeyer, that is. But I’m pretty sure he can prove who he is easily.”

Joe took up the narrative. “And it couldn’t be Otto Q Street!”

“Why not?”

“The Q, Dad,” explained Encyclopedia. “Q was his entire middle name, remember, and that means the only letters you can attempt an anagram with, besides the q, are e, o, r, s, and t . . . “

The Chief smacked his forehead. “ . . . and no “u”!!! You can’t make any word or name with a ‘q’ and no ‘u’”

“Exactly, sir,” nodded Frank approvingly. “Good thinking.”

“Which leaves . . . “ said the Chief.

Joe’s face grew troubled. “Which leaves only one person . . .”

*          *          *

Chief Brown led the procession of sleuths down the hall to Room 601, where he rapped on the door commandingly. Presently, the door opened, and Wendy Carn stood there, a vision in a smart yellow dress and green sweater. She stared at them all with an expression of utter innocence.

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“Oh my goodness,” she said. “Another unexpected pleasure!”

“May we come in, Miss Carn?” asked the Chief.

“Of course.” Wendy opened the door wider to allow them entry. She had made some attempt to clean up the earlier clutter. “What can I do for you boys?”

“Young lady, there is a lot you can do to assist us in our enquiries! I’ll let these young men explain.”

Joe stepped forward a little bashfully. “Wendy, I guess you were having me on all morning, but I’m here to tell you nothing but the truth: we know you broke into our room and stole our books!”

Wendy’s face broke into an “O” of surprise. “Me?”

Frank nodded “What’s more, we know why you did it.”

Wendy’s expression hardened. She strolled over to an armchair, sat down and folded her arms. “I’m listening.”

Encyclopedia, sat down beside the girl and said in a gentle voice, “Here’s what happened: When we went downstairs this morning, we met you coming out of the elevator. That clued you into the fact that the Hardy’s room was empty and that it was time to put your plan in motion.”

Wendy snorted. “What plan?”

“You went into your room and changed into a maid’s outfit that you had brought with you. You had some sort of skeleton key or pick with which you could open the hotel room door. You grabbed a stack of towels from your own bathroom to help with your disguise and made your way toward the room next door to you.”

Frank took up the story. “But Mr. Stratemeyer came outside of his room hoping he could snag some towels. He saw you, and you played the helpful maid perfectly.” The Chief glanced sharply at Frank. The young man sounded almost admiring of the girl’s tactics.

“Ridiculous!” cried Wendy.

Joe replied, “Let’s invite him over. Perhaps you wore a wig or glasses, but I’ll bet a man who publishes mystery fiction would be able to identify you as the maid he spoke to.”

Wendy shifted uncomfortably. “Go on,” she muttered.

“You then made your way across the hall, broke into our room and stole the books by wrapping them in the remaining towels you had brought with you,” said Encyclopedia. “Afterward, you returned with the books to your room.”

Chief Brown interrupted. “But son, when we searched Wendy’s room earlier, we found no sign of the books.”

“That’s correct!” Wendy said triumphantly. “And why would I ever want to steal your stupid book collections?”

“I can answer both those questions,” said Encyclopedia. “Dad, we’ve assumed that the thief wanted to steal the books in order to sell the autographed copies for a profit. But what if they were stolen for another reason?”

“What reason?” asked the Chief and Wendy together.

“What if they were stolen in order to destroy them?”

“But that’s – that’s just spiteful!” the Chief rubbed his jaw in puzzlement.

Frank chimed in. “I think Wendy went into our room to be spiteful, sir. She didn’t know exactly what she was going to do. She just wanted to make trouble for us.”

“And when she saw the books,” added Joe, “she got her idea. She took them back to her room – “

“ – and she destroyed them,” finished Encyclopedia.

“But where? How?” asked the Chief, looking around the room. “There was no sign of any torn or burned books.”

“Not in this room,” replied his son. “But what about the bathroom?”

Wendy stood up abruptly from her chair, but Joe was too fast for her. He dashed to the bathroom door and flung it open. A wave of steam wafted out of the doorway and surrounded Joe, who stared dumbfounded in front of him.

“Oh my gosh! Look, guys!” Joe pointed. Frank, Encyclopedia and the Chief hurried to stand beside him. Their mouths dropped open.

Mist rose from the bathtub full of hot water, but it couldn’t obscure the piles of ruined, drowned books that lay at the bottom!

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Everyone turned to look at Wendy Carn, whose eyes brimmed with tears. Chief Brown walked over to her and said sternly, “Young lady, can you explain this?”

Wendy opened her mouth to speak, but then she flounced back down on the chair and folded her arms tightly across her chest. Chief Brown looked from his son to the Hardy Boys in amazement, then he crossed to the telephone by the bed and picked up the dial.

“Dad, what are you doing?” Encyclopedia asked.

“I’m calling for a squad car. This young lady has vandalized personal property.”

“Er . . . can we just let it go, sir?” asked Frank.

The Chief stared at them. “I don’t understand, boys! You’ve found your burglar. Why don’t you want me to arrest her?”

Frank and Joe looked at each other, then at Encyclopedia, who turned to his father.

“Because we understand why she did it.” He turned to face Wendy. “I can see how upsetting it would be for you to watch the Hardy Boys and me being honored today. But I don’t think you can blame Professor Friedman. He’s just not as well read as we are.”

Wendy, who had been dabbing her eyes with a tissue, stopped and stared at all three of her accusers.

“You really do know, don’t you?”

Joe Hardy walked over to the chair and kneeled before Wendy. Taking her hand, he said, “If it makes you feel any better, we all think you deserve the same accolades we got. Maybe more, considering how much harder it is for a girl to break into this business.”

The Chief slammed the phone back onto the receiver. “Will somebody please explain to me what is going on? Just who is this young lady?”

Encyclopedia smiled. “Dad, not everyone who can disguise themselves and break into a room is a thief. This girl possesses the skills of a very clever detective! One who has earned every honor that we received this morning.”

Frank chuckled. “I’m surprised Mr. Stratemeyer didn’t recognize her this morning even with her disguise, considering he published 175 books about her.”

The Chief blinked slowly for a moment and then turned to his son. “You said – you said her name was an anagram?”

Encyclopedia Brown smiled and said, “That’s right, Dad, an anagram. Wendy Carn is an alias. Shake hands with Nancy Drew!”

 

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Congratulation to John, who figured out, well, more of the solution than anyone else did! (Maybe not the motive, John . . . “shameless hussies” in a children’s story???) John is the winner of a genuine used copy (from my very own childhood) of Hardy Boys Adventure #3: The Secret of the Old Mill. Great sleuthing, sir!

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17 thoughts on “THE CASE OF THE VANISHING VOLUMES: The Solution!

  1. Thanks for a couple of fun posts. Loved it! A kind of kid lit detective fiction version of Murder by Death. I kept thinking that the Ann Graham clue had something to do with phonetics since it came over the phone. But I gave up after five minutes of trying to find a sound-alike. As for the motive and hiding place — so close! If only I thought she wanted to ruin the books rather than save them. Ah well, just goes to show you I’ll never be able to write children’s books. They’d be overflowing with all sorts of inappropriate subtext. Like Lemony Snicket mixed with Jean Genet. There’s something too nightmarish to contemplate.

    I suggest you give the prize to a runner-up for the most clever non-solution. I didn’t really get the whole thing and I have way too many books in this house. If one of my nephews was still in the age range for Hardy Boys I’d accept the prize and ship it off. All but one are over 30 now, are married, and have kids of their own – mostly girls!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, John. I think kids relish the snark of Lemony Snicket (almost as much as we adults do), but the thought of adding a dash of Genet IS quite shattering. (Maybe Mr. Stratemeyer could have encountered a PAIR of maids . . . yet imagine how frustrating for Frank and Joe if they had tried to date them!)

      I will honor your wish NOT to receive the Hardy Boy book, but I offer my congratulations on how much of this solution you DID get! I fear my love of intricacy would turn off any children’s book publisher, but I had a blast writing this.

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  2. Very clever, Brad, an excellent conclusion — totally missed the maid, thought it was too obvious a bluff. Congrats, too, to John — a most worthy winner.

    What with this and Rich’s occasional forays into “five minute mysterys” I’m starting to question if I’ve gained any transferable skills at all from my years of detective fiction-reading. I’d hate to think I’d been wasting my time, after all…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. JJ, I figured you, Kate and I could go into business as the Three Investigators, but she thought that I was the culprit, so back to Detective School she goes! Maybe John or Rich himself will join us. I get a lot of good practice with Rich’s cases by ignoring completely all the evidence presented. It eliminates all the nasty distractions that plague a detective, like providing proof.

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    1. Which gives me a wonderful idea for a story, Bev! What if the great sleuths were distracted by life’s little issues? How would that affect their ability to detect? What if Poirot’s OCD got the better of him? Or Miss Marple kept dropping stitches (same with Miss Silver)? Or Nero Wolfe ran out of Tums and couldn’t concentrate for the heartburn??? The possibilities are endless . . .

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      1. Brad, you are just too clever by half. 😉 I do have to take a bit of issue with you making the culprit Nancy though. My childhood heroine would never steal books. (imagine finger-shaking here)

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Brad, I recently responded to your comment on my blog and just had to look at your story. Wonderful, wonderful stuff, and I wish I had seen it when you first posted it so that I could really try my hand at the solution (though, knowing my track record with mysteries, I probably wouldn’t have gotten it). As a devoted childhood reader of both the Hardys and Encyclopedia Brown, I really appreciated it.

    I’ve got a bit of what EQ called (in Ten Days’ Wonder) an “anagrammatic mind,” giving me a weakness for dying clues and the like, so I was very, very impressed with both your “Anne Graham” clue and with “Wendy Carn.” The second actually reminded me of The Last of Sheila, in fact, and I’m so fond of that movie that everything that reminds me of it is first-class in my book.

    With that said, I must agree with Bev that Nancy wouldn’t–couldn’t–have stolen books… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Karl! Now that I’ve started following YOUR blog, I’m going to look up all your originals and match wits with Geoffrey Lord. (Almost as good a pastiche as Celery Green or E. Larry Cune!) I am sure I will fail miserably.

      I also wanted you to know how you inspired me: I’ve just posted something I was working on earlier but couldn’t finish about my own guilty love for the dying message. You and I share a passion, my friend.

      Thanks for your kind words on my story. It’s not one tenth as clever as The Last of Sheila, but I appreciate you lumping it into that esteemed category!

      Liked by 1 person

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