Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Plundered Painting

It was a sunny day in Idaville and Leroy Brown stared out his office window. Leroy Brown may have seemed like an average 34 year old detective, but there was more to him than met the eye. While other detectives would spend hours combing a crime scenes for clues, Leroy would simply listen to the facts of a case, and figure out the culprit within a matter of minutes. There was one other odd thing about Leroy, and that was his nickname. While his ailing parents still called him by Leroy, everyone else called him Encyclopedia, on account of his vast knowledge.

An encyclopedia is a big book that is filled with facts. Encyclopedia took a drag on his cigarette and reached for his bottle of bourbon that he kept under his desk.

Bourbon is an alcoholic drink that helps calm down adults when they’re under stress. Encyclopedia was under lots of stress from his divorce and threats of eviction from his landlord. An eviction is when someone is required to move away from their apartment because he or she dos not pay rent.

Sally Kimball stuck her head into Leroy’s office and spoke, “Encyclopedia, I’ve got Clarence Carver here to see you.” He nodded and Sally showed a disheveled looking man into the office.

Clarence read the sign that sat on the desk:

“Brown Detective Agency
13 Rove Avenue, Apartment 14B
Leroy Brown, President
no case too small
25¢ per day plus expenses.”

“Aha…” Clarence said. “So its just a quarter per day?.”

Leroy shrugged. “Thats just a tax loophole that I found. It keeps the IRS out of my hair and lets me write off all my income. For ‘expenses’ I charge two hundred.”

The IRS is a government organization that makes sure that people pay their taxes. Leroy suspected that they were investigating him.

Clarence sighed and relented “Sure, I’ll gladly pay. So long as you can solve the case, I mean.”

Sally walked into the room and picked a cigarette out from Leroy’s open cigarette case. She leaned at Clarence. “Of course he can solve it. Encyclopedia is the most clever detective in town.”

“Thanks Sally” Leroy said with a blush. “Clarence, what is it that I can do for you?”

“Well, I own a local art gallery in town called “Carver’s Canvases.” he began.

“Oh I’ve heard of that!” Sally said excitedly. “You’re hosting the van Gogh exhibit next…”

“We were hosting the exhibit next week.” Clarence interrupted. “But we can’t now, someone has stolen one of the paintings! Everyone was going to come from all around Idaville to see van Gogh’s newly discovered painting, but now its gone.”

Clarence put his head in his hands while Leroy leaned back in his chair and asked, “How was it stolen?”

“The paintings came in last week. I locked up the gallery last night, and this morning the painting was gone. There was no sign of a break in, but I did find this.” Clarence handed Encyclopedia a typed note: “If you want the painting back, leave 10 thousand dollars in a paper bag under Idaville Bridge at midnight.”

“I cant afford that, it would bankrupt my business!” Clarence sobbed.

Encyclopedia read the note several times. “Does anyone else have keys to the gallery?”

“Its just me, two of our curators” David thought, “Oh, and our new janitor, Bugs Meany.”

“Bugs! Its got to be him!” Sally exclaimed.

“Don’t be so quick to judge, Sally” Encyclopedia sighed. “Maybe his last stint in the slammer has changed him.” The slammer is a slang term for prison, where Bugs had been recently on charges of vandalism and arson.

Sally glared at Encyclopedia, unconvinced. Encyclopedia continued, “Do you have any reason not to trust any of those people?”

“No” replied David. “I’ve known my two other curators for 15 years and Bugs has only been working with me for a month, but he’s been a model employee. And even if I did, I have no proof that any of them did anything.”

Encyclopedia thought for a moment. “I think we’ll be able to take care of this from here, David. We’ll give you a call when we get it figured out.”

Fifteen minutes later, Encyclopedia and Sally were standing inside The TigerClub Lounge. Bugs was sitting at a stool in front of an easel and mixing colors on his large palette. Bugs looked up from his work.

“If it isn’t my good old friend, Dictionary Brown.” Bugs said smirkingly.

“Come on Bugs, you know his name is Encyclopedia.” Sally corrected him with a frown.

“Whoops, sorry.” Bugs laughed sarcastically. “I don’t want to get a pretty girl like you upset.”

Encyclopedia interrupted them, “Bugs, do you know anything about the stolen painting from last night?”

“What? Someone stole a painting from the gallery? Thats awful!” Bugs said. “As a fan of high art, I can’t believe someone would do that.”

Bugs motioned towards his painting. It was a large oil painting of a nude woman. With thick brushstrokes, Bugs had depicted the woman in a rude pose.

Sally sniffed in disgust. “Look Bugs, if it wasn’t you that took it, where were you last night?”

“I was here of course, the bartender will vouch for me. I was working on this.” Bugs pointed at the dry oil painting. “I painted the first layer of it last night and I’m going to put on a second layer today. I just need to get this purple to blend right.” Bugs leaned down to the palette and mixed in some more blue.

Sally turned to Encyclopedia and whispered, “I know that its him! He’s no fan of art. He must have stolen it!”

Encyclopedia closed his eyes and thought. He suddenly opened them and began to dial his cell phone . “Nice try Bugs, but after the police get here, you’ll have plenty of time to work on your art” Encyclopedia winked at Sally, “from your prison cell!”

How did Encyclopedia know that Bugs was lying?

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