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Caught red-handed

Chapter 5: You Say Tomato; I Say Felony

Chapter 5: You Say Tomato; I Say Felony

August 29, 2006|by LYDIA HADFIELD

Now that I've solved my first case, I'm stationed by the phone, ready to accept the flood of calls I'm sure are coming. My discovery of the Waskotts' criminal deeds landed my picture on the front page of the local paper. I am still amazed that my first mystery has been hanging over my head for a long time. I never would have guessed that I would expose the heinous doings of someone in my own apartment building.

Sometimes, as I lie on the rug in my basement room, my deductive genius astonishes me. I pick up today's paper and, smiling, re-read the black type.

"Local private investigator exposes unauthorized ketchup factory," reads the headline. "Mr. and Mrs. Waskott had a permit to grow organic tomatoes. What they didn't have was authorization from the FDA to bottle and sell a product ..."

I never could have forseen that discovering a diamond ring in the Waskotts' trashcan, buried in red-stained rags, would lead to such a glamorous conclusion. The strange familiar smell in the apartment building, the odd transfer of crates to trucks, the persistent request of french fries "for testing" - it all makes sense. The odd banging my landlady heard was the sound of a ketchup-making machine exploding. The seemingly blood-soaked sheets, curtains and towels (a minor misinterpretation on my part) were only used to sop up the ensuing mess.

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In her confession, Mrs. Waskott described how, when feverishly twisting the soiled towel into a bundle, her wedding ring must have slipped off.

The case more or less came together when I stood atop the bank beside my apartment building to get a good look at the Waskotts' roof-greenhouse. I remembered that Mrs. Waskott was not wearing a wedding ring during our brief conversation. From the roof, I glimpsed not only the tomato greenhouse, but the top of a popular fast food restaurant. My mind quickly associated the smell of a fast food meal with the smell in the apartment building. Ketchup.

So now, I lie on the rug, newspaper in my hand. I can't help but glance every so often at the shiny plaque resting on my beanbag chair. The Food and Drug Administration promptly honored me with a Vigilant Citizen award.

The single lightbulb in its lantern shade swings lazily above my head. The calls should be coming in any minute now.

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