You come home from work, exhausted. It’s been a busy day of trying to appear productive whenever your supervisor Timmy walks by, so he won’t notice you secretly watching Steven Universe on your phone. After the obligatory five-minute doorway cry, you head to the fridge for a cold, refreshing can of Mr. Peebs. Your plan is to vegetate on the couch for a moment, before you vegetate on the couch for the rest of the evening (#couchgoals). You open the fridge and discover, to your horror, that the entire six pack of Dr. Peeper is gone, vanished, missing, left town without a forwarding address. Clearly, a crime has been committed. A crime against taste-exploding-in-mouthness and also lounging-exploding-on-couchness. What do you do?
Your first impulse is probably to lie down and die. What’s the point, right? Everything is ruined. Unfortunately, a person can’t just will themselves to death. Believe us on this. You have to drop a hammer on your head or something. Which, you know, requires you to get up and go find a hammer and all kinds of complicated stuff. Too much like work. So, no. Probably not the best course of action. What then? Here’s what you do: you solve the crime.Yeah, no, we’re serious. Solve the crime. Like on TV.
What Makes A Good Crime-Solving Sleuth?
All good detectives have one character trait in common: they are adolescent girls. They speak French, ride like a cowboy, are skilled drivers, sure shots, excellent swimmers, skillful oarsmen, expert seamstresses, gourmet cooks, and fine bridge players. They carry a flashlight at all times. They also respect boys as almost-people, but don’t have time for a bunch of nonsense. They may have a platonic male friend, but nothing below the belt is happening. Maybe after getting that advanced degree in sleuthamatics. But no promises.
But What If I’m Not An Adolescent Girl?
First off, our condolences. Especially if you’re an adolescent boy, which, well, our deepest condolences. Maybe you’re a grownup, which is probably quieter than an adolescent boy, but also pretty unfulfilling. Really, the best option you have is to be an adolescent girl.
Look, adolescent girls are one of the least respected demographics in popular culture. They’re portrayed as vacuous or petty. They’re sexualized to a disturbing degree. Positive adolescent girl images in pop culture are becoming more prevalent, but there are still plenty of negative ones. The thing is, wtf, culture? What did adolescent girls ever do except try to develop a sense of self and move within a patriarchal capitalist culture while maintaining just a hint of that sense of whimsy they perhaps had as children? Are they into unicorns? Oh-fucking-well. Unicorns are awesome. They’re horses with freaking horns on their heads. And they’re magic. Oh, they’re not ugly as hell? Boo-hoo. Learn how to cry and get over yourselves.
Sorry. We have a thing about unicorns. That’s really more for us than adolescent girls. Look, all we’re saying is girls rule and boys drool. If that weren’t the case, why would there be a rhyme about it? Also — and we can’t stress this enough — have you met adolescent (or — let’s be honest — any age) boys?
What were we talking about? Oh yeah, solving crimes.
In movies and books about crime solving, the main focus is gathering clues. This differs from some law enforcement approaches, which can involve rounding up local minorities and then — OH, HEY, NO, SORRY! WE KID! HAHA! AREN’T WE FUNNY?
Anyway, yeah. Gathering clues. There are several types of clues that might be found. Let’s examine a few, shall we?
Mysterious Written Confessions
These tend to be found in strange places at opportune moments, like just when you don’t know what to do next, and — BAM! — a crumpled letter falls out of an open book. After this everyone in the room looks at each other meaningfully, followed by a commercial break.
The important thing about overheard conversations is that they have to occur naturally. You go inside Old Lady Winslow’s house to get a check for her newspaper subscription, and you overhear her grandson talking to someone on the phone about some nefarious business, such as stuffing Old Lady Winslow up the chimney and then bonking the maid. Or the butler. Or the chimney. The important thing to remember is if you intentionally stake out the house or try to eavesdrop, you are going to get bupkis, zilch, nada. So the best thing to do is randomly wander around everywhere, sidling uncomfortably close to grandson Timmy every time he starts talking.
Let’s say you take a break from solving The Big Case and hit the beach for some R&R. You’re having a great time, until the wind changes, the sky clouds over, and a bunch of crabs come out onto the beach. As you’re gathering your things to flee the oncoming thunderstorm, you notice that the crabs seem to be moving in some kind of pattern. You climb a convenient lighthouse or a nearby pier and realize that the crabs are spelling out a word. It says “Paprika.” Shazaam! A clue!
Coincidentally, while you’re up there, you notice a strange figure running toward the parking lot. It looks an awful lot like that picture of Mr. Winslow, but he’s been dead for 20 years…or has he?
Footprints, Fingerprints, Et Cetera.
So the next day the chimney sweep finds Old Lady Winslow stuffed up the chimney. The first thing to do is tell the sweep you will not be paying extra for old lady removal. Read the fine print next time, Mr. Sweepy! Next, start examining the crime scene. Take a close look at the carpet, because there might be some loose coin or cocaine spillage in the shag. What you find instead is a red powder that you identify as paprika after you licked it, thinking it might be red cocaine. Ah-ha. Just like that you’ve narrowed down the possible suspects to either a Hungarian or a Spaniard. This seems to be going pretty well so far. Next, check for physical evidence. If there are footprints, does the suspect wear some super-rare type of shoes to hide some strange foot situation, like that they have a head for a foot or possibly a small yellow dog for toes? If you can get all the suspects to walk around barefoot, you’ll be making some progress. Maybe get them a groupon for some grape-stomping wine-making? Or toss Steakums at their shoes and see which one growls.
At this point, it’s time to get extra sleuthy. Dust for fingertips. Get out the magnifying glass and tweezers, look for stray yellow dog hairs, bits of kibble, blood splatter, signed confessions (see above). Get your clue-gathering freak on.
So, you’ve gathered a bunch of clues. You’ve got them a-percolating in your think-box. You’re beginning to suspect that Mr. Sweepy might not be who he claims to be. You summon the authorities — Bill, the local deputy, who happens to be your mom’s bf who you hate like he’s a torn cuticle. But this one time, he might be useful.
While Bill is on his way, you break into Old Lady Winslow’s house, only to find the house in disarray. It looks like someone packed in a real hurry. Then, you overhear Mr. Sweepy in the next room having a heated conversation with someone. There’s a crash! Your mom’s bf (who you hate like he’s a burst appendix) arrives right then, and since you entered illegally (You told him you were doing so and left a big sign pointing at the door that reads, “I’m going in without invitation please come arrest me), he comes in to arrest you, which was your genius plan all along. Instead, he sees the definitely not dead Old Lady Winslow being tied up by the strangely familiar Mr. Sweepy, while his shoe growls at her.
You grab a picture off the nightstand and show it to Bill before he can fumble his handcuffs onto your wrists. Mr. Sweepy is Old Mr. Winslow! He faked his death! And then he faked Old Lady Winslow’s death! They were planning on pinning the fake crimes on grandson Timmy and then running away with both the insurance money — since the insurance was in Mr. Sweepy’s name — and the deed to the Winslow Motherlode, a valuable paprika mine. But then Mr. Sweepy betrayed her and planned on stealing the money and deed for himself! He won’t be going to Jacksonville, Florida now; he’ll be going to the Big House, (which might, actually, you know, be in Jacksonville, now that we think about it) where he’ll learn a whole new set of interpersonal skills. (By which we mean they have a really great prisoner education partnership with the local college system.)
After Old Man and Old Lady Winslow are arrested, Bill takes you aside at the police station. “I don’t quite understand why you, a 37-year old man, pretends to be a teenage girl to solve crimes, but I realize that this is just my hangup, and I’ll learn to deal with it.”
“I appreciate that,” you say.
“I just worry what your mom would do if you got hurt. I love her so much. And I love you too. I just want to support whatever you’re dealing with, even though I don’t get it. So, what do you say? Bygones?”
You pause for a moment, then nod, and say “Bygones it is.” You’re beginning to think Bill is not so bad, like a bowl of Kaptain Krunchy before it goes all soggy.
What Have We Learned?
- Girls rule. Boys drool.
- Never trust a chimney sweep who is actually a dead guy with a yellow dog for a foot when he concocts a plan to defraud an insurance company and steal the rights to a paprika mine, because there’s a decent chance a guy who faked his own death might not be the most trustworthy person. Just some food for thought there.
- I guess Bill is okay. I guess. And he seems to really care about your mom.
- Probably best to leave the crime-solving and sleuthing around to actual girl detectives. They have the knack for it. You? Not so much.
- Turns out your roommate drank the six pack of Dr. Mama Peebz, and left an IOU on the front of the fridge, which you didn’t see.