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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

The Case of the Oreo Cookies

This is the first short story I ever wrote. I was 13 years old!

The Case of the Oreo Cookies
©1999

It was about 3:00 p.m. on a stormy Friday afternoon. Brad Neville was working with his dad at Neville’s Grocery Store as he always did each evening after school. Watching a step-van back up to the loading dock filled with all kinds of Nabisco cookies and crackers, Brad wondered why his dad was so anxious to have the Nabisco man finally arrived.

Offering to set up the cracker and cookie displays for his dad in an attempt to get out of mopping the floors, Brad opened the back of the step-van. Mr. Neville, the store owner of fifteen years, said, “Sure, son, go ahead… all except the Oreo display. And don’t forget the floors.”

While his dad arranged the Oreo display, Brad stacked Wheat Thins and Animal Crackers. He was determined to finish his displays before his dad finished the Oreo display. Brad had been kept busy all day in the store and was due for a break. He was hungry, and those Oreos would be just the snack to fill that empty spot. But with the floors still to mop, he was sure break time was only a dream. As he got the mop and bucket out, he kept one eye on the Oreo display as he watched his father place the final package of Oreos at the very top of a perfectly formed pyramid. With all the Oreos in place, Mr. Neville made eye contact with his son as he turned and went to his office.

As Brad passed his father’s display on his way to the storage room to get the cleaning compound, he skillfully swiped the top package of Oreos from the perfect pyramid. Quickly, he dashed into the storage room without turning on the light. He knew the storage room like the back of his hand. Hearing the door suddenly open behind him, he stashed the Oreos between cardboard boxes that would likely be tied up and sent away for recycling. Just in the nick of time, the lights came on and standing in the doorway was Mr. Neville. Asking the boy what he was doing here in the dark, Mr. Neville suspiciously eyed Brad and waited for a response.

“Gee, Dad, you know how the light in here always shorts out on stormy nights.”

Mr. Neville reluctantly nodded and muttered, “Oh yeah, I’ll fix that darn light one of these days.” Then he looked down at his watch and said, “I’d like to close up early tonight, Brad. Business has been slow and you need to get home and get going on some homework.”

Somewhat relieved, Brad smiled and said, “Sure thing Dad, right after I finish mopping the floors.”

Along about 9:00 p.m., Mr. Neville had Brad finish up a few odd jobs around the store before sending him home.

* * *

About half an hour later, Mr. Neville, who was still in his office looking at some expensive property he dreamed of owning someday, suddenly heard a noise inside the store. Walking quietly up and down the aisles, he heard another noise coming from the storage room. The storm outside made it difficult to get around the store in the dark, but he found the door to the storage room easily because light was shining through the bottom crack. With adrenaline rushing, he turned the knob and pushed the door open. At that precise moment, a bolt of lightning struck and the light shorted out.

Always keeping a flashlight handy near the door, Mr. Neville instantly grabbed it and turned it on when he saw a dark figure rushing for the back door.

When the identity of the intruder was revealed, the store owner felt both shock and relief all at once. After all, it was only Brad who had now stopped in his tracks.

“Brad!?” he exclaimed. “Are you stealing from my store?”

“No sir,” Brad stammered. “Honest. I wouldn’t steal…”

“Then what is in your hands?”

“Nothing, Dad.”

Mr. Neville gave him a stern look.

Seeing he was obviously caught, Brad confessed, “Alright, they’re Oreo cookies.”

Taking the unopened package, Mr. Neville looked at it and said, “I thought there was a package missing.” He gave it back to the boy. “Go home Brad, it’s late.”

Feeling ashamed, Brad took the package and left.

* * *

Brad got up early the next morning and, as usual, was hungry. Waffles sounded good, so he thought he would mix some up… until he spotted his partially eaten package of Oreos. He grabbed the package, turned on the radio, and made his way over to the table where he noticed a note written in his dad’s handwriting. Munching on his favorite snack, Brad read the note.

Am down at Bobby’s shop.
Fix yourself something for breakfast.
Should be back soon.
-Dad

“That’s cool,” Brad said aloud, as he put the next whole cookie in his mouth.

With music blasting, he thought about his dad’s best buddy, Bobby James, owner of the Hunting, Fishing, ETC. Shop. His thoughts then turned to Bobby’s daughter, Trisha, who Brad had been hanging out with these days. They had hit it off real well together and if Brad could, he’d like to ask her to go with him. There was just one problem… Bobby James. Brad knew Bobby James couldn’t stand him. This feeling became obvious when he first started taking Trisha out. Before that, Bobby James only pulled practical jokes on Brad. He would get a kick out of doing thing like tripping Brad or filling his soda pop can with sand. Brad was always a good sport about it though. Now Bobby James would, well… let’s just say, if looks could kill, Brad would be dead.

***

This is where I come into the picture. So, you ask, who am I? I am Private Investigator Jesse Booth. I was called in on the case a couple of weeks ago. Mr. Colby Neville walked into my office and laid out his suspicions. He hired me to follow his friend Bobby James, who he thought wanted to murder his son. According to Mr. Neville, his son Brad started dating Bobby’s daughter, Brad had gone from being a “naïve nerd” to a “smart-aleck schmuck.” He told me that Bobby James said Brad was a good-for-nothing idiot and would never measure up in his eyes. Bobby James even boasted that he was planning the biggest prank that he had ever pulled on the kid. And this one was going to hurt. That’s when I decided to look into the history of Bobby James. I found nothing of great significance. So I parked my van outside the Hunting Fishing ETC. Shop and watched the comings and goings of Bobby James and I must say in my investigation I came up with a lot of intriguing information on the case. But first, back to Brad Neville, in his kitchen, devouring those crunchy and creamy chocolate cookie treats.

Suddenly the DJ came on bringing Brad out of his day-dream with this special announcement: “Hey all you Oreo cookie lovers! Do you also like sporting goods? Well, have I got news for you! Thousands of Oreo cookies have been stocked at Neville’s Grocery Store, but ladies and gentlemen, only one package of Oreo cookies contains one single cookie without, AND I REPEAT, without that yummy creamy middle.”

Just as Brad reached in for the last Oreo cookie, he noticed that frosting was not in the middle! Could this be real? Brad quickly turned his concentration towards the radio: “That’s right folks, if you are the lucky winner of this Oreo contest, bring your creamless cookie down to Bobby James’ Hunting, Fishing, ETC. Shop for a prize to die for!”

Brad’s heart was racing. To think that he held in his hand the one and only creamless cookie Oreo cookie in the world; his ticket for a prize to die for! What could it be? He imagined the new Hot Rod 2000 fishing rod and reel, the one he had been wanting for the past three months. His first urge was to head right over to Bobby James’ store and claim his prize. Remembering Bobby James’ shop didn’t open until 10:00 a.m., Brad hesitated as he looked at the clock. It was only 9:13, but his dad was already there so he could probably go early.

***

Now back to me, Jesse Booth P.I.

I had done my homework and I was ready and waiting at Bobby James’ shop before anyone got there. I knew what was about to happen, and I was there to make sure it wouldn’t. I got myself safely inside the shop in my usual undercover fashion, which will remain my secret. At exactly 8:01 a.m. I heard the jingling of keys at the door. I could see through the door window. It was Bobby James, coming in and locking the door behind him.

It wasn’t ten minutes more and Colby Neville came knocking at the door. I remained undercover as Bobby James let him in. From the back room where I was hiding, I watched the two men discuss something. Bobby James reached for a case with a glass cover and showed Mr. Neville its contents. I couldn’t tell what it was until he opened it up and pulled out some kind of pistol, possibly a 22 caliber. Bobby’s eyes became filled with crazed excitement as he pointed it towards the backroom. I ducked briefly, just in case. Then, turning, Bobby James held his gun up to his own hand and pulled the trigger. A stream of water fell from his hand and onto the counter. The two men slapped the counter and hooted with laughter. Replacing the water pistol back inside the case and closing the glass lid, Bobby James put the case on top of the counter. Bobby and Colby then went out of the store, locking the door behind them.

I had the overwhelming feeling not to leave, that there was more to witness. My gut feelings proved correct because not long after, I heard the lock on the shop door being fiddled with. I strained to see who was at the door, but they must have been kneeling where I could not see because the counter was in the way of that half of the door. I did see the door open but still could not see who was coming in because of the counter. I didn’t move or make a sound as I watched carefully as a hand came up the other side of the counter, opened the gun case, reached for the water pistol taking it out. A second or
two later, I watched the same hand replace it with what looked like a real 22 caliber pistol. My guess was that it was loaded. As craftily as the prowler came in, he also went out.

***

At precisely 9:27 a.m., the door was unlocked again and Bobby James came in. This time he would get ready to open at 10:00. Colby Neville came in announcing that his son, Brad, was just turning the corner coming down the street. The two men gave each other a knowing look. The bell on the door signaled Brad’s happy arrival. Holding the single creamless Oreo in his hand, he sang out, “I WIN!!! I WIN!!!”

The two men looked at each other and then, faking a surprised look, congratulated Brad. The unsuspecting victim showed his proof and Bobby James nodded his approval. “So, Brad, what do you think the prize is?”

Shrugging and looking around the store, Brad’s eyes rested on the Hot Rod and Reel 2000. Full of hope, he asked if the prize could possibly be the fishing pole.

“I bet you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” Bobby James responded to his gaze.

With wide eyes, Brad nodded, “Yes.”

Bobby James said, “Well, I’m happy to say the prize is something better than that, Brad. It is to die for! Can you guess what it is?”

Growing impatient, Brad replied, “I can’t imagine what it could be.”

Knowing that the moment had arrived, Bobby James said, “Well, I guess I’ll just have to let you have it.” Sliding the gun case closer to him, Bobby pulled the gun out and slowly aimed it at Brad. With an evil grin, he pulled the trigger. Brad screamed in terror! Then, wiping water from his eyes and face, he moaned, “Oh man.”

Bobby shrieked with laughter.

At that moment, Colby Neville cried out, “What the heck?”

That’s where I came in. Coming from the back room, I said, “Are you surprised, Mr. Neville? Was this not what you had planned?”

Startled, all three turned around but no one’s eyes were as quite as big as Mr. Colby Neville’s. Revealing a pistol of my own, I stated with composure, “Mr. Neville, you are under arrest. The charges? Attempted murder.”

“I don’t see how there could be a murder here with a squirt gun,” Mr. Neville said coolly.

I answered, “With a squirt gun, no. But with a real 22 caliber pistol, such as the one here in my pocket, there could be a murder, couldn’t there?!” I pulled the murder weapon out with my free hand as the eyes of all three men got very big. “Mr. Neville, you should recognize this gun. It is yours, isn’t it?”

“I don’t own a gun and I don’t know who I’d be murdering if I did.”

“Well, Mr. Neville, maybe I could help you remember. First of all, your son Brad is the murder victim and you and your buddy Bobby here set Brad up to come down here today, and with what...? his favorite snack, an Oreo cookie.”

“But it was all a part of a little practical joke, Mr…. uh… who are you anyway?” Bobby James wanted to know.

“I’m the private investigator Mr. Neville hired a few weeks ago to find out why you would want to kill his son.”

Bobby James was horrified and Brad was dumbfounded. I went on, “Yes, Mr. James, your good friend set you up to kill his son for him. The hand I saw switching your water pistol for a real 22 belonged to Mr. Neville. Before you and Mr. Neville returned to the store, I switched the 22 back to the water pistol. It seems strange that anybody would want to have his own son killed. Or is he your son, Mr. Neville?”

“Of course he is, he has my name.”

“So, you say his name is Brad Neville?”

Brad spoke up suddenly, “Sir, that is my name and this is my dad. He is a darn good dad, too.”

Speaking to Brad now, I said, “Kid, I know this is going to be hard for you to hear, but you might as well find out now. This man is really your Uncle Colby, brother to your mother who passed away with your father in an accident when you were an infant. You see, your mother and Uncle Colby were born to very wealthy parents. Your mother was the older child and so when her parents died, she was put in charge of the estate. As she rewrote the new will, you, Brad, were named the next heir of the estate, not her brother. That’s a little hard to swallow, isn’t it Mr. Neville?”

“Where did you get your information, Mr. P.I.?” Mr. Neville demanded.

“Oh, the state records are a fairly reliable source,” I responded. “And the records state that Brad Neville isn’t Brad Neville at all. He is really Brad Kerr!” Then with sarcasm, I said, “Mr. Neville, I admire you taking guardianship of this young man for so many years. How unselfish of you.

“All you had to do was get rid of him and take the estate for yourself. So you needed someone to do the dirty deed for you. It was a pretty good setup, except you needed a private investigator to convict someone other than yourself, right?”

With a cherry red face, Colby Neville bellowed out, “It wasn’t fair! My sister should have given me the estate, not him! The money will be mine!” he promised.

I moved around the back of Mr. Neville to handcuff him.

“I’ll get you Brad! That money is mine!” Neville said as I ushered him out the shop door. “Sure, sure,” I said. “Save it for the chief down at the station.”

Another case closed, and no one got hurt.


***

“So, Brad Kerr, huh?” asked Bobby James. Both still in shock, Bobby James offered Brad Kerr an Oreo cookie. Never refusing an Oreo, Brad took it, put the whole thing in his mouth, and with a sticky voice said, “M-m-m-m-m… Minty!!!” With a sheepish grin, Bobby James replies, “Yeah, toothpaste!”

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