“Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?”
“Liam stole the cookie from the cookie jar.”
“Kelly stole the cookie from the cookie jar….”
I was vaguely aware of the children’s voices through the hedge, but most of my attention was focused on the remains of a pig sitting on my kitchen table.
It wasn’t exactly a pig anymore – it was three biggish pieces of broken clay and a million shards strewn across the carpet. A snout, a couple of trotters, and a curly tail rocked haphazardly against the water jug.
Inevitably, this once-pig had been stuffed with money. Coins, too many coins to count, glistened in the afternoon sun. If nothing else, this pig had been a fat pig.
But there was a problem – this shattered pig in my house, with its gold coin entrails was not my pig. I had never before laid eyes on it, and I had no idea to whom it might belong.
But here it was. I had been home all morning. Nobody had come calling. And I’d never known a pottery pig to shatter without a sound.
I sat at the computer, intending to do a little data entry, but I kept thinking of the pig. I couldn’t believe that whoever put it there intended me to have it. Maybe it had been stolen and the thief had thrown it through my open door and onto the table as he escaped from pursuers. Maybe, even now, some kid was running down the road thinking he was chasing a red-hot bandit with a pig under his arm. Except now I had the pig. Maybe the police would be involved. Wouldn’t it be wicked if they knocked at my door and found the pig in all his shattered glory in my house?
Enough! I would clean up the mess, put on my thinking cap, and find the true owner. Maybe I’d even find the culprit.
Later that evening my brain cell had still not kicked into detective mode. As I sipped blackcurrant tea, I worked my way back through the day. What had I been doing just before discovering the pig? Was it possible I was too far from the table to hear it? Had I heard anything else unusual? Seen anything?
I knew where I’d been – in the bathroom. And I knew what I’d heard – the kids through the hedge playing Who Stole the Cookie? Another thought inched its way along my neurological pathway – a child’s laughter sounded closer than usual. And then I had flushed the toilet. Which might possibly explain why my aging ears didn’t hear a pottery pig breaking.
I glanced at my watch. It wasn’t too late, surely. I slipped outside, through the hedge and rapped at my neighbour’s door.
Kelly answered the door. A big grin lit her face until her eyes fell to my outstretched hand. “It wasn’t meant to break,” she whispered.
“Ah, so it was you!” I said. “And you gave me your pig and all your savings because…?"
The child blushed; her words came in a rush. “Because we were playing ‘Who Stole the Cookie?’ and we remembered we once ate all your cookies and we wanted to say sorry.”
“Hey, thanks!” I clapped my hands together. “I always wondered where my cookies went that day, and now I know. Tell you what though – you gave me far too much money. You come to the shops with me in the morning and we’ll buy two packets of your favourite cookies and you get to keep the change. You’ll also have to help me eat them – is that a deal?”
I squeezed back through the hole in the hedge, sank onto the sofa, and contemplated my blackcurrant tea. “Ah,” I sighed, “the thrill of the mystery.”
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