The phone rang on my desk at the Bear With Us Detective Agency. I answered it on the first ring. There was a gruff voice on the other end.
“I’m looking for Detective Bearstone Blackie. This is Mayor Bear Nays from the City of El Bruno.”
You’re speaking to him, Mayor Nays, I said. “What can I do for you?”
“The city needs a sharp guy like you to find out why we’re getting reports of trouble coming out of the Wolf Wood Estates neighborhood.”
“Trouble?” I asked. “What sorts of trouble?”
“I’m getting it from both sides,” Mayor Nays said.
“The owner says tenants of his are trashing the buildings and refusing to pay the rent when he comes to collect.
The tenants are saying the buildings are poorly built and that the owner is using scare tactics to collect the rent.”
“This sounds like a job for Bearstone Blackie,” I said.
“Give me all the names, and I’ll get to the bottom of this case right away.”
Mayor Nays had the list ready when I got to his office.
He had made his fortune selling mustard and ketchup before becoming mayor. His campaign slogan was “Not 8
I thanked him for the chance to serve our fair city.
“Just remember, Bearstone,” he said, “All the folks on this list are sandwich lovers and voters.”
My first stop was the downtown office of Wolfram T.
Wolf, the owner of Wolf Wood Estates.
“I’m glad we’re getting some action from Mayor Nays,” Wolfram said. “I try to provide for my tenants in the way they want to be treated, but I think the whole thing has backfired in my face. Help yourself to some of our coffee and donuts.”
I nodded and took a chocolate donut.
“Take the case of Kalua D. Pig,” Wolfram said. “He’s from the Hawaiian Islands. I wanted him to feel at home, so I asked him what kind of a house would he feel comfortable living in?”
I nodded again and took a French donut.
“Without so much as a blink, Kalua says he wants to live in a little grass shack like he did in some place called Kealakekua. So, I say okay. I’ll have one of my guys come over with the materials you need, and you two can put it together. This Kalua guy’s a musician, so I figure I’ll take a chance. He says he’s a violinist, but I figure him for a fiddler. Maybe he’s what they call a busker, someone who plays on the street and gets coins tossed into his hat. Well, you can see, Mr. Bearstone, Wolf Wood Estates is not exactly Park Avenue.”
I nodded. This time I had a croissant.
“Couple days go by, and Kalua has his new grass shack, and he even has the first month’s rent. He tells me he’s working with another musician, a guy named Hamilton Hog who plays the flute. Hog is looking for his own place, but he doesn’t like the grass shack so much. It bothers his allergies. I tell him that we’ll look at the budget and see what we can come up with.”
“Yeah, I called Mayor Nays. He said he knew of a pool cue manufacturer that was going out of business. I could pick up all the cues for a song. With a tube of Titan Glue and a few extras Hog could be living in the sticks. He’d have a home and I’d make a few dollars. Happy all around, no?”
I nodded and sipped my latte.
“A couple of months go by, and it turns out that these two jokers are a couple of deadbeats that don’t have the rent, but want to throw wild parties until all hours. I’m getting complaints from people who live down the road.
They can’t take any more. Here, take this address.”
He handed me the business card of Henry Swine, Contractor, Bricklaying our specialty.
“This guy lives right down the road from the two deadbeats. He’s a hard working guy. He and his wife are great people. Petunia used to work in comics and cartoons. Now she runs that little cafe across from city hall.
“They have great sandwiches there,” I said.
“So, I kept getting complaints from neighbors,”
Wolfram said. “I decided I’d go out there one night and see for myself. I get to the little grass hut, and there’s nothing but a vacant lot. I go up the road to the next guys place, and there’s a huge bonfire and a loud party. The grass shack and the stick house are in the fire and this out of control group is roasting marshmallows and all-beef hot dogs. The two deadbeats are playing loud music, and all the neighbors are yelling that they’re going to call the cops.”
“What happened then?” I asked.
“I grabbed a garden hose and started squirting out the fire. I got so mad I started squirting everyone at the party.
The two deadbeats ran toward Henry Swine’s place. He was out in his front yard chasing them off with a shovel, 10
“Wow,” I said. I grabbed another donut.
“So Henry boosted me up onto the roof of his brick house. I figured I’d surprise them by going down the chimney. I’m thin. The wife has me on one of those caveman diets. Well, it turns out I wasn’t thin enough. I got stuck. Henry had to get a piece of his heavy equipment, a crane to get me out. By that time, Petunia had gotten the better of the two deadbeats by offering them real work as busboys at her café. They couldn’t take it. They opened the front door and ran off.”
I thanked Wolfram and headed out to Wolf Wood Estates.
I got to the lot where the grass hut had stood. It was empty. The neighbor from across the road came up next to me.
“I hope they never build another one of those grass shacks here,” he said. “I told them when they were building it. Same for that one up the road made from pool cues. I told them it was poor construction, but they wouldn’t listen. They just kept eating donuts.”
“Yeah, I told them we get a lot of wind around here.
One huff or one puff would blow those houses down. I told the tenants, too. Went and knocked on their doors and told them. A huff and a puff would blow their house down. They slammed the door in my face.”
“That poor Mr. Wolfram,” the neighbor said. “He tried to give those two a break and they ended up burning down the houses because they didn’t want to pay the rent.”
“Don’t think he’s home,” the neighbor said. “He’s remodeling that old pool cue factory for the mayor. It’s going to be a donut factory.”
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