JWMS Newspaper Club
Detective Frenchado: THE BOOK BURGLARY by Aiyla S.
On one crisp October day, Detective Lucille Frenchado was walking briskly through the raucous town of Dalesburg. Her brown boots, which she had strapped on earlier that morning, clacked against the stone grounds. With her magnifying glass in hand, scarf thrown snugly around her neck, notepad and worn pencil pocketed, head tucked under a brown hat, leather briefcase gripped tightly in her other hand, and her extra pair of handcuffs latched onto her cinched belt, she was ready to burst through the doors of the library’s grand marble halls.
There was only one reason Detective Frenchado was rushing so urgently when it was just past dawn. Earlier that morning, she had received a call before even lumbering out of bed---the caller had dialed her emergency number eight too many times---from a frantic man who sounded half-asleep on one hand, but on the other, seemed as if he were wide-awake and prepared to jump right through his ceiling. He claimed he was Marlo Haddice, and was calling to alert her of a burglary that had taken place just the night before. According to Marlo. Haddice, the thief had burgled him of a cherished book the Haddices owned, a book that was of great value. He couldn’t find any suspicious clues worth observing, he reported, so there was no way to prove to the police that he had been robbed. But before Lucille Frenchado could finish suggesting that maybe he misplaced it, he cut her off brusquely and insisted that he always tucked it away safely and didn’t move it. She considered it a good reason to be sprinting down the streets so early in the morning.
She reached the building---she avoided the library’s main entrance, conforming to Mr. Haddice’s instructions to be inconspicuous, as if she knew not how to be a detective---and pushed open the doors, ignoring the loud creak of a door swinging on poorly-oiled hinges as she proceeded. Detective Frenchado had agreed to meet Marlo Haddice in the library’s rotunda, and she quickly found a skinny, balding man who was doffing his hat.
“Hello,” she said, only slightly out of breath from the fast-paced walk. “You must be Mr. Haddice.”
“Call me Mr. Haddice, please,” said Mr. Marlo Haddice, as if she hadn’t just done so. “You must be Detective Lucille Frenchado. I’m certain I’ll be pleased to meet you if you can speed up your detective process.”
She listed her head, baffled by the odd words of the droll man. “Of course,” she said, schooling her features so she didn’t seem confused. “May you please summarize your case again, so I might take some additional notes?” She sat down, indicated the seat across from her, and pulled out her notepad and pencil. Detective Frenchado set her casual brown briefcase on the tabletop and listened as he began the story once more.
Once Mr. Haddice finished summing up his case, as she had requested, she cleared her throat, scrutinizing him carefully. “I see,” said Lucille Frenchado. “It’s quite clear now.” She folded her hands seriously and asked, with an idea forming in her clever mind, “Earlier, when we spoke on the phone, you said you couldn’t find any proof. Now, you must know that clues and proof are key.”
“No, the burglar didn’t get in using keys,” Mr. Haddice corrected cluelessly. “I’ve told you twice now, they broke the window to rob me, but I couldn’t find a rock.”
She stifled a snicker against this man’s ignorance. “Certainly, Mr. Haddice, but since you don’t have proof of this---and I know, you searched up and down for the book---”
“Down and up, rather. I checked under the bed first, and then in the nook above the bed.”
“Of course you did.” She straightened. “I need to know if you’ve informed the police of this crime yet. Because you really should.” When he confirmed that yes, he had indeed told them, Detective Frenchado nodded. “You have? Well, that’s splendid. That will be key---ah, never mind. Now, have the police done anything yet? Do they have any suspects lined up?”
“Of course they do,” Mr. Haddice replied. “Three of them, already taken into custody. I called the cops hours ago, and the suspects are already waiting to be interrogated.”
“Three?” She lifted her head. Perfect. “That’s good. And you’re sure they’ve narrowed it down to only three suspects?” He confirmed this. Detective Frenchado suppressed a beam. “I can see why you chose this library to rendezvous at.” The county jail was across the street, and it was used not only for locking up miscreants, but also to keep suspects of a crime behind bars until a case was solved, the criminal caught. Which meant that the three said suspects were right across the street from where Lucille Frenchado and Marlo Haddice were, and once she arrived there, the answer would be right under her nose.
She sat in a small alcove in the back of the county jail. Her confined quarters allowed her to mull over the three interrogations she had just conducted with three suspects, one named Theodore Dalesburg, who appeared innocent, then Jerrico Mavillen and a mechanic named Seamus Daphdenn. The plot of the burglary became clearer to her now. Finally, her request to speak with Seamus Daphdenn again was approved. A sheriff led her into the room and left. Detective Frenchado sat down across from Seamus Daphdenn and delved into her new questions.
“Let’s get down to business,” she ordered, just noticing a hole carved right behind him. She could see something small and thin daring to stick out. “Do you, Mr. Daphdenn, admit to robbing Marlo Haddice last night? I warn you, lies are not in your favor. I have a knack for deciphering dishonesty.”
He gulped. “I’m just an innocent mechanic.” Noting her arched eyebrows, Mr. Daphdenn said, “But I can tell you one thing that’ll be of use to you.”
“And what might that be?” Detective Frenchado leaned forward ever so slightly.
“I have the book.”
She resisted the urge to shoot up from her seat. “I beg your pardon, Mr. Daphdenn?”
“I have it,” he repeated. “But it doesn’t belong to old Haddice. He has his own. Same book, different copies. I wanted to clear it up that what’s mine is mine, and if you see me toting that book, it’s not Haddice’s.”
“How interesting,” Detective Frenchado drawled, remembering how Mr. Haddice had told her that his book had an axiomatic crease on the cover from years of use, and how page 52 was torn. “Seeing that you adore your book so much, you must know it very well. I’m going to ask you about some of its details.” She began. “Let’s see. . .” Lucille smirked. “Does it have any folds on the front cover? Any imperfections, a crease, maybe?”
To some, it seemed that Seamus Daphdenn was racking his brain to picture the details of the cover of his book and answer the question. But to a skilled detective who knew what to look for in a guilty human, it was obvious that he was deciding if he should pretend he knew the answer. Finally, he answered, “Yes. And. . .a crease on page 53, I believe.”
Now she knew who had stolen it, but it wasn’t proof. “And what does the cover look like?” Maybe, just maybe, if she could---
“The book is so loved, the cover’s been ripped off. If you saw it, you wouldn’t know.”
“Oh?” She feigned confusion, smirking inside. “Well. May I ask when you got it?”
“Now that I know for sure,” Mr. Daphdenn said. “I got it six years ago, in 1948.”
“Aha!” Detective Frenchado lunged forward before he could react. She jumped for the small hole she had seen earlier, a hole with something small and thin barely sticking out. A hole that was small, but big enough to temporarily house a small book until it could be retrieved by a certain burglar. She slunk back into her seat triumphantly, noticing that the book had been stripped of its cover and flipped to the page of the book that came before page 1. The page warning readers of how the book had been stolen if the cover was gone, labeling it as a “stripped book.” Every book she had ever read warned her of that. But right below that was a paragraph with the most useful information. The publication date. 1950.
“You stole it,” Detective Frenchado accused him. “You say you got it in 1948?” She brandished the book in front of his face. “The publication date was 1950.” She got up and stalked toward him. He cowered, spitting protests against her accusation of his flawed plan, the plan to steal a book and lie about it and tear off the cover so it could not be identified, but it did not matter now.
“That is not proof!” Mr. Daphdenn spat. “It’s just a silly, wild guess of yours!”
“No,” she said. “It’s not. Because I have more proof than that.” She held up the book again. There was a dark black smudge of grease on the page informing people of the publication date, made only by a diligent mechanic.“You tore off the cover. And next time, I suggest you don’t leave behind evidence of your career.” She dipped her head mockingly and snapped the handcuffs around his flailing wrists. “Good luck, Seamus Daphdenn the mechanic,” Detective Lucille Frenchado deadpanned, and her first case of the day was solved.