Sherlock O’Brien, Boy Detective, and the Case of the Pilfered Pearls
“Morning, dear,” yawned Police Chief O’Brien, walking into the kitchen.
His wife looked up from the newspaper. “Goodness, you got in late last night!” she said. “Working on a case?”
“Mm-hmm,” answered the Chief as he poured a cup of coffee. “A robbery at Mr. Hennessey’s jewelry store. An antique pearl necklace was stolen late Thursday night. The strange thing is, the door and windows were locked all night and the alarm never went off. There’s no sign of forced entry, and yet someone managed to walk off with a strand of pearls worth over $100,000!”
“Could it have been an inside job?”
“It doesn’t seem likely- Mr. Hennessey’s only employee is Beth Harper. She’s the only other person who has keys to the store, and Mr. Hennessy trusts her completely. Besides, she has an alibi- she was at home watching a baseball game on television with her twin sister, Esther.”
“Do you have any suspects at all?”
Chief O’Brien sat down at the kitchen table. “No, I’m afraid we’ve hit a dead end. It may be time,” he said significantly, “to call in some special assistance.” He turned to his son. “What do you say, Sherlock- any ideas?”
Chief O’Brien’s twelve-year-old son was slouched at the table playing Ghost Recon on his GameBoy. His real name was William Charles O’Brien, Jr., but his father always called him Sherlock, because he had an uncanny knack for solving even the most complicated mysteries. Centerville, the town where the O’Briens lived, had the lowest crime rate in the state, and it was all because of the Police Chief’s secret weapon: Sherlock O’Brien.
“Any ideas, son?” repeated the Chief; Sherlock didn’t appear to have heard him.
“WHAT?” shouted Sherlock, slamming the Gameboy onto the table.
“I said,” the Chief chuckled, “Do you have any theories on the Hennessey robbery?” Sherlock stared, as if his father had just emerged, waving tentacles, from the portal of a UFO. “No! Jesus!” he cried, and picked up his Gameboy again.
Chief O’Brien shook his head affectionately. “Something tells this case is going to be solved very soon,” he said, winking at his wife.
“Well, there’s one thing that’s not a mystery,” she said, tousling Sherlock’s hair. “Somebody needs a haircut.” Sherlock jerked his head violently away and continued with his game, muttering under his breath.
“What’s that, son?” asked the chief.
Sherlock didn’t answer.
“Why do I have to come?” asked Sherlock, his voice cracking with emotion.
“I told you, son” his father answered as he parked in front of Hennessey’s Jewelry Store, “I could use some help with this case.”
“Whatever,” sighed Sherlock.”Just drop me at the mall after.”
Inside the store, two uniformed officers were dusting for fingerprints. Mr. Hennessy came out from behind the counter to greet the Chief. He was a nervous-looking man in a rumpled suit, his dark hair graying at the temples. “I’m sorry to bother you again,” said the Chief, “but I’d like to talk to you and Miss Harper about the robbery one more time. I believe you know my son, Sherlock.”
“Yes,” said Mr. Hennessy, with an edge in his voice. “I know ‘Sherlock.’”
Several times Mr. Hennessy had been forced to chase ‘Sherlock’ and his friends away from the parking lot next to his shop, where their barely-controlled skateboarding and unnecessarily loud, profane discussions had intimidated his customers. The last time they had been evicted, one of the boys, perhaps ‘Sherlock,’ had called him a “dickwad” as they walked away.
Mr. Hennessey led them to his office at the back of the store, where Beth Harper sat working at a computer. “Can I get you something to drink?” he asked as they sat down. ”Some water?”
“Do you have Coke?” asked Sherlock.
“No, I’m afraid not.”
“Then no,” said Sherlock to the wall.
Mr. Hennessy turned to the Chief. “Um, well,” he began, “I’m not sure there’s anything that I haven’t told you already- I left the shop at 5 pm Thursday, just like I do every night. The necklace was in it’s display case, and Beth was getting ready to close up for the night.”
Sherlock yawned dramatically, his fists jammed into the pockets of his hooded sweatshirt.
“Miss Harper?” said the Chief.
Beth Harper was an attractive, red-haired woman in her thirties. She furrowed her brow as she thought back to the evening of the robbery.
“I closed the shop at 8 pm, and I remember setting the alarm,” she said. “I’m sure the necklace was in it’s case when I left because I could see it clearly through the window as I locked the front door; there was a full moon that night”
Beth shifted uncomfortably in her chair. She had become aware that ‘Sherlock’ was furtively glancing at her chest.
“I went straight home after work,” she continued. “My sister and I watched the baseball game and then went to bed. It was exactly 11:00- I could hear the bells from the clock tower on Maple Street.
Chief O’Brien nodded thoughtfully, and turned to his son. “Do you have any questions, Sherlock?”
“Yeah. When can we leave?”
Mr. Hennessey cleared his throat. “Maybe we should talk about this later,” he said.
“I don’t think that will be necessary,” announced the Chief. “Sherlock, tell us what you think happened to the pearls!”
Sherlock stared sullenly at a wall calendar, kicking his heel against the leg of his chair.
Mr. Hennessy glared at Sherlock.“William,” he said.“Your father asked you a question. Do you know where the pearls are?”
Sherlock sighed heavily. “Gee, I don’t know,” he muttered. “Maybe they’re up your ass.”
How did Sherlock know the pearls were up Mr. Hennessey’s ass?
In fact, the pearls were not up Mr. Hennessy’s ass. Sherlock was simply giving voice, once again, to his seemingly limitless feelings of pre-adolescent rage and impotence. He had barely listened to the conversation about the robbery, and in any case, he couldn’t have cared less about the problems of Mr. Hennessy, who was, in his opinion, a dickwad.
It had become painfully obvious, once again, that Chief O’Brien’s absurdly high opinion of his son’s intellect, character and maturity was unfounded and unshared. In the awkward silence that followed Sherlock’s remark, Chief O’Brien experienced a brief sense of shimmering disorientation, sometimes referred to as cognitive dissonance; it was as if he was looking through a camera as it was thrown in and out of focus. Could this sulking, joyless lout really be his son? Was it really possible that Centerville’s crime rate, far from being the lowest in the state, was actually rather high, even for a deteriorating post-industrial city with an intractable drug problem? Did the City Council really have “very serious concerns” about his performance as Police Chief, as stated in a recent letter from the Council President? After a moment, he rose, rather unsteadily, and said goodbye to Mr. Hennessey and Ms. Harper. His own voice seemed to come from far away. Sherlock followed him out of the office.
The pearl necklace was never found.
Don’t miss the next Sherlock O’Brien mystery: Sherlock O’Brien and the Case of the Missing Maestro!