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Chapter 2: 'Sleuth Undercover'

June 10, 2008|By LYDIA HADFIELD

After the afternoon crowd left the circus, Zelda the elephant and Lou the trainer weren't hard to find. They were first on the list of performers - and suspects - circus owner P. Jaybody gave me.

Before I approached Zelda's enclosure, I reviewed the smeary case notes I'd made on my arm:

1) Jaybody wants to send Zelda to African preserve

2) Money for Zelda's move stolen from J.'s locked trailer between 9 and 10 last night

3) J left window open a few inches

4) Window locked so could not be opened/closed further.

I fingered the small red bow tie found at the scene of the crime. It rested in my blue and yellow striped vest pocket. Jaybody said he noted a sweet smell at the scene of the crime. At the moment I tried not to choke on the stink of elephant. I tilted my pith helmet back on my head and leaned on the fence by Zelda's enclosure.

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A boulder of a man hosed off Zelda, while the elephant rested in the shade of the animal truck. He noticed me.

"Hey, buddy, next show's not till eight," shouted Lou, Zelda's trainer.

"Oh, I know."

Lou squinted and observed my unconventional sleuthing uniform, "You a new act?"

"Um. I might audition," I lied.

"Might want to spruce up that costume, kid."

"Would you have a bow tie I could borrow?"

Lou snorted, "A bow tie? On my neck?"

"How 'bout Zelda?"

"Only fancy thing Zelda likes is pith helmets. She stole one right outta the audience today. Gave it back though, good girl."

My face burned candy-apple red.

"You can ask that scrawny clown of ours - ValJohn. He wears bow ties. Wanda, the knife thrower, might know where you can get one in town. But that suit might need more than a bowtie, pal," Lou turned off the hose.

He patted Zelda's enormous side and sighed.

"So how are you?" I asked.

"What? Uh ... OK," Lou leaned up against the enclosure fence, "Tonight is Zelda's and my last show."

I listened carefully.

"S'alright, though. I'll miss her, yeah, but I got a gig at the information desk at a zoo," Lou shrugged.

"Not training animals?"

"Naw. I'm ready to stop smelling like elephant dung. It ain't a hit with the ladies - if you know what I mean," Lou punched my arm.

"Oh, sure," I rubbed my arm. My mind was running out of inconspicuous questions. I hated to admit it, but my skills were rusty. I solved my last case three months ago. I had recovered my landlady's denture cream. It'd fallen out her bathroom window into an azalea bush.

"So what'd you do last night?" I asked.

"Whoa, pal."

"I mean, I'm wondering what a typical night at the circus is like ... Since I'm auditioning and all."

"Zelda's in the truck asleep by 8. But I - oop!" Lou pointed, "There's Wanda if you want to ask her about the bow ties."

I thanked Lou and dashed toward the woman entering the trailer next to the animal car. I'd interviewed one act. I still had to question the contortionist; the knife thrower, Davie, and His Amazing Trained Cats; and ValJohn the Clown.

Jaybody was counting on me to solve the crime that night. If I was going to close the case, I'd have to work fast.

To read Chapter One of "Crime at the Circus," go to www.herald-mail.com.

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