The Case Of The Disappearing Menagerie
The Case Of The Disappearing Menagerie
THE PUZZLING RIDDLES
MR. GABERLUNZIE BINDLESTIFF
CASE OF THE DISAPPEARING MENAGERIE
Mr. Gaberlunzie Bindlestiff gaze appreciatively out the window of his silver motorhome which he had nick-named the Kale Mobile, which might offer some indications of his beginnings in Wales.
Beyond the window was the closest version of a common land or village green he had come across in Canada, at least in Ontario. It was the expansive reach of a Walmart parking lot that was friendly toward itinerant, motor home travellers and Gaberlunzie was most indubitably a traveller. It was early yet, and the store had not opened, but when it did, he would have his man go in and make a purchase of something they required. He left that decision to Winslow who managed all such things.
He was enjoying a breakfast of a medium boiled egg, two strips of bacon, a sausage and fried rye bread in the fat of the meat. Of course, there was the morning beverage of coffee, strong and two cups. Winslow was sitting across the table enjoying his usual breakfast of toast with marmalade and strong Canadian, Red Rose Tea. They always ate at the same table while travelling because there was only one.
Mr. Bindlestiff had just sipped his coffee and set the cup down when, in his moderate but faded welsh accent said, a little excitedly. "My, my now. This is very interesting!"
Experienced with such outbursts from My Lord Winslow knew that it meant Mr. Bindlestiff had come across something of a Puzzling Riddle, as he called such things.
"My Lord?" Winslow inquired punctually.
"I have just read an interesting article in an online news blog published in the hamlet of WIlliamsford, on route to Owen Sound on highway six. There is a manor, Dunbury Manor refurbished to be a museum. One of their most exquisite, and apparently priceless exhibits is a collection of mythical animal figurines made from sapphire and gold that once belong to the Lord of the Manor, Jannsen Dunbury. The collection consists of twelve pieces, rather had twelve. It seems they have a thief among them who has pilfered two, a dragon and a Griffon. It also seems the local constabulary has failed to catch the culprit."
"Shall I prepare for departure My Lord?"
Indeed, you should but we shall not leave until we have made some sort of purchase from our most gracious host. I doubt an hour will change anything at the stricken museum."
"Very well. I shall clear up and prepare so that when I have returned from the store, we are at leave to depart immediately."
Precisely at the hour of 7 am Walmart opened its doors for business. 37 minutes later Winslow returned with a bag of food purchases, put the final touches to their departure routine and settled into the driver's seat of the Kale.
And off they set toward adventure, intrigue and Puzzling Riddle solving, a situation that caused Mr. Bindlestiff an enormous serving of excitement and cheer.
Gaberlunzie Bindlestiff shared his attention between searching for more information about Dunbury Manor Museum and watching the world go by out the window. It was not a long drive, slightly over an hour and a half and the scenery was pleasant.
And while all that was going on Mr. Bindlestiff pondered the purpose behind stealing only one piece of the sapphire menagerie at a time. Would it not prove simplest to stow away with the entire collection in one foul, thieving sweep?
Winslow said, as if there was a minor possibility, he had read My Lord's mind, "It seems to me that the pilferer might well be an opportunist who had no designs on the collection as a collection but as a chance snatch in passing."
Gaberlunzie... pause for a point.... In the name Gaberlunzie the 'A' is long..... just a note of clarification.... now onward and forward.
Gaberlunzie considered his Man's insight and deemed it logical and added it to his own list of possible reasons for the one at a time theft. Of course, the situation begged the question, "Why did the curator not go to lengths to protect the remaining pieces until two had been stolen, if indeed he or she had taken that precaution yet.
It was nearly nine thirty when the silver motor home parked in front of the Dunbury Manor, Museum. By all appearances it was closed still, not surprisingly since it was mid-week and there was likely to be few or no visitors at that hour of the morning.
"Shall I go knock and see if anyone is in attendance My Lord?" Winslow inquired.
"No Winslow. I believe we should take a walk about the manor and examine the exterior. Your suggestion was inspiring but there remains other possibilities, such as late-night break and enter by means not protected by alarms."
"Something only someone working at the museum would know about." Winslow acknowledged another possible MO.
At that, the two men removed themselves from the silver land yacht and went exploring.
They quickly discovered the grounds were well manicured and were attended by a rather large and unfriendly guardian whose teeth were nothing less than miniature sabers and was endowed with a hellhounds bark.
"I would suggest My Lord this was not a viable alternative for thievery." Winslow suggested as he ushered his lord away from the danger.
They had just returned to the Kale when the front door of the manor open and a woman of middle years, slim, not unattractive, with grey highlights in her hair and a voice that would startle the devil as she yelled at the two men for being so foolish as to trespass on the museum's grounds.
Like two boys caught stealing from the cookie jar they stood and took their scolding. Then Gaberlunzie introduced himself and Winslow and carefully began explaining their transgression.
The woman immediately descended the veranda steps, hurried along the cobblestone walk to the iron gate at the sidewalk and admitted the two men.
Mr. Bindlestiff. How very fortunate you have come. I have read much about you and your exploits into solving mysteries. Have you come to help? I am Lady Barbara Dunbury, owner of Dunbury Manor and curator of the museum."
Replied Winslow in a curious tone. "This being Canada which does not have such titles is yours self-imparted?"
"If this were home it would be legitimate, and I would love nothing more than to return to England, but the condition of my inheritance forces me to remain here." Lady Barbara answered pointedly. "I consider it legitimate and thus address myself as such." There was an aristocratic cut to her tone.
"Very well My Lady." Winslow accepted with a slight bow then added, "This is Lord Gaberlunzie Bindlestiff, also an exile of his mother home."
Barbara Dunbury smiled amusedly then invited the visitors in. Immediately upon entering they spied to the left a dining room with two people at breakfast. There was also a sign in the foyer that gave directions, right, to the museum and left to the dining room for bed and breakfast guests.
"How many guests at the B&B have you had during the disappearances of the sapphire figurines?" Gaberlunzie inquired.
"One other besides these two and none of them have visited the museum. The second piece went missing in between." Lady Barbara answered in a hushed voice to avoid being heard by her guests. Gaberlunzie nodded in response and eliminated the possibilities from his make do list.
I would like to meet all those who are employed by yourself. Employee theft is always a strong possibility in these Puzzling riddles."
Barbara then led them into the museum and on first glance of the display containing the figurines she squealed. "Look. A third one is missing. Someone has stolen the Unicorn now."
"It was there last evening." Lord Bindlestiff inquired.
"Yes. I checked during my nightly rounds at ten pm. The Unicorn was still there." Lady Barbara replied anxiously.
"Who else stays the night in the house besides yourself and your guests in the Bed and Breakfast?"
"Cindy, the maid and such a dear, Mrs. Johns the cook and her husband Ralf who serves as Butler and chauffeur. Everyone else leaves at 5 when the museum closes. I have two employees working the museum, one to clean and one to greet visitors and show them about."
"And you trust them all?" Winslow queried.
Lady Barbara met his gaze with a negative glint which Gaberlunzie saw right off."
"Who do you miss-trust?"
"Neither of the museum workers have been with me long. Only since the beginning of the summer season. I hire University students each year. Their lodging in the cottage at the back of the property is part of their pay."
So, they live on the grounds." Gaberlunzie noted aloud. Then put in. "I wish to interview everyone."
"I will gather them in the dining room at lunch break from noon til one."
"That will do perfectly Lady Dunbury." Replied Mr. Bindlestiff.
Gaberlunzie and Winslow returned to the silver motorhome for a tea and discussion, both sporting some preliminary thoughts on the Puzzling Riddle. It seemed both had gotten the same idea which made it a strong possibility.
"Winslow my man. We are not likely to resolve this matter today, even with such a good ponderance of the situation, but if one of us could stay at the B&B this night and the other creep about incognito my guess is, we will come to a conclusion by morning.
"I will do the creeping about My Lord since I believe I am
somewhat more attuned to such clandestine activity, having served and all Sir." Winslow suggested to which Gaberlunzie readily agreed.
At lunch as planned Gaberlunzie interviewed all the employees of Dunbury Manor, keeping all busy for the full hour of lunch. In the meantime, Winslow did some mid-day creeping about in the museum. His time was nearly up when he came to an old antique desk, one which he knew would contain at least one secret compartment, which he quickly found and opened. Inside he found a small brass key, clean of dust as was the drawer itself. He pocketed the key and returned to the dining room where the interviews were being held.
With the interviews complete the two men once again returned to the Motorhome where Winslow presented the key.
"It may prove nothing My Lord. But then again it may prove everything."
"I am certain the cook nor the butler had nothing to do with these thefts." Said Gaberlunzie. "And both the student employees swear they came nowhere near the Manor after dark being much too afraid of the guard dog."
"What about Cindy?" Winslow asked with a raised eyebrow.
"She has been with the manor since before the death of Lord Dunbury and the cook gives her five stars for her work and loyalty, however, there has come to my attention that there is one more person of interest. A delivery man who comes twice a week with groceries whom the maid is apparently sweet on and entertains the delivery man regularly, in the drawing room, which happens to be attached to the museum."
"A little obvious don't you think My Lord."
Gaberlunzie nodded but frowned at the same time.
The delivery man arrived that very day at four, an hour before the museum was to close. Cindy was a little distracted at the time which had some interesting side effects because, as witnessed briefly by Winslow, the delivery man met in the drawing room with Annlee, the museum cleaning girl who allowed the man the favour of a kiss. And when Cindy arrived the Annlee was gone the same occurred, though the kiss was far more lingering.
Winslow went immediately to discuss the situation with Lord Gaberlunzie who was settling into one of the B&B guest rooms.
"And it seems obvious what may be going on", said Gaberlunzie, skeptically.
But it was still all speculation and at 5 all the remaining pieces of the sapphire menagerie were still in the case. Winslow, when no one was looking tested the key in the lock of the menagerie show case and sure enough it fit, a point he shared with Gaberlunzie.
"Put it back Winslow. Tonight, you watch like an owl to see if anyone comes for it. That will be our thief."
"Very good My Lord, but as a matter of curiosity, I did not see the delivery man leave."
Gaberlunzie merely smiled in response, indicating he knew something important about that.
At ten pm, right on schedule Lady Barbara made her rounds to make sure everything was securely shut and locked and at 10:15 she let the guard dog out and activated an aging but still functioning break in alarm system attached the front and rear doors. The windows remain unprotected except for the dog.
With everything in order guest, hostess and watching owl settled in for the night, though no one quickly fell asleep, which was too bad because that night absolutely nothing occurred, as you might expect since things seldom go along with an outsider’s idea. But all was not completely lost.
"We are leaving Lady Barbara. We can solve nothing now." Said Mr. Bindlestiff at breakfast the next morning.
"And I am still left to my own devices and one by one my figurines will vanish." Her ladyship replied.
"Not exactly but we still must leave." And so, at nine am the silver motorhome drove off, for all the world to see.
I suspect you suspect there were other plans in the making at this point and you would be right. Gaberlunzie and Winslow did not exactly leave Lady Barbara high and dry though she was not aware of the fact.
And another day passed as usual and another night came to a close and in the darkness two pairs of eyes spied on the grounds of Dunbury Manor. When all the lights went out the fun began and a shadow in full stealth mode crept into the yard and the guard dog met it in silence and wagging tale.
"As I suspected Winslow. The thief was on to us and of course would do nothing as long as we were present."
"Who is it My Lord. It must be the delivery man." Replied Winslow.
"Indeed, you would think so, but I am afraid you have miss calculated. Have you the flashlight ready"
"I do. Just give the word."
How angry would you be if I dropped the ball right here and did not finish the story? Or maybe you think you have it all figured out and would not care a bit. But are you absolutely sure you have it right? Are you sure you know who the thief is?
But I won't do that. I shall complete the tale I started just in case you might consider reading my next tale of Puzzling Riddles.
To start. If you believe it was the delivery man well, you are mistaken.
Nor was it the cook or her husband, or the museum attendant.
The next morning Lord Gaberlunzie and Winslow at the steering wheel drove away from Dunbury Manor for real with another Puzzling Riddle solved though as yet had not reported their results. They had to wait for one more thing to happen, which did some weeks later. News of the thefts the sapphire menagerie came once again in a news blog stating that all the pieces had disappeared without a trace and that the Mid-West Alliance Insurance company was going to pay up
At that moment Mr. Gaberlunzie Bindlestiff called upon the office of the insurance company in Owen Sound ad reported his discoveries concerning the vanishing figurines.
It really was quite an elaborate scheme.
The shadow that the dog was ever so friendly with of course knew the intruder which was her Ladyship Barbara herself, who, by the way was at that point one phone call away from having a foreclosure notice on the manor. But it was not her that actually pilfered the figurines. Her job was to distract the Dog. The actual thief was the one person I did not allude to earlier. Cindy, who would pawn the gems for herself while Lady Barbara claimed the insurance money.