I bet everyone thought I had forgotten about this, right? Rest easy, friends, I never forget a recurring segment.
I just forget to do them I just got a little busy. World Cup Fever is a tough hurdle to get over when it comes to productivity. But we’re back to further the story of Shelby the orca, I’m sure everyone’s been waiting with baited breath. The last two installments if you need a refresh.
Shelby, Private Dick
“Are you Old Bill?” I asked, hopped up on adrenaline.
“I’m not that old,” he said. His voice was gruff and monotone. “I’m only fifty-three years old.” Fifty-three is very old for orcas.
“How’d you get to be so big, Old Bill?” Janice asked.
“By eating my vegetables. I’ll ask again, can I help you?”
“Is it true that you can read?” I asked.
“I might be able to,” he said with a short bark of laughter. “Depends on what needs reading.”
I hesitantly held the rectangle out to him. It can sometimes be difficult to read an orca’s eyes since they blend in with out skin so much, but Old Bill had the biggest eyes I had ever seen and you could read then from a mile away. The momentary look of hunger and pure excitement that flashed over his eyes when he registered what the rectangle was sent a chill down my spine. I involuntarily moved Janice behind me just as Old Bill returned to neutral.
“Well, I haven’t seen this in a while!” he said.
“So you can read it?”
“I can,” he said. “But before I tell you what it says, you have to tell me why you went through all this trouble.”
“Because he’s going to find-”
“I found it the other day and just got curious,” I said, cutting Janice off. “I heard that you might be able to read so I came to ask you what it says. It sounds kind of stupid now, but it’s really just curiosity.”
“Uh-huh,” Old Bill sounded a little disappointed. “This is a picture of Shamu, and the writing says Sea World. It’s where the humans took her.”
“This is Shamu?” I said, trying my best to sound surprised. I didn’t like Old Bill’s manner very much, and I didn’t want to let him know what I was thinking. “I thought no one knew what happened to her.”
“The answer was always there. It’s just that no one knew where to look.”
The entire time he said this, Old Bill never took his eyes off the chest.
“Well, you learn something new everyday,” I said, backing out of the cave. “Thanks again, Mr. Bill.”
I shoved Janice out of the cave with my fluke.
“Hey, kid,” Old Bill said as I left. “Shark Tooth Ridge is dangerous, you know. Anything could be lurking out here.”
I gave a half-hearted smile then started swimming as fast as I could towards Orca Town. Luckily Janice was faster than me and could keep up.
“Shelby!” she yelled. “Shelby, wait up!”
I finally stopped a few yards from the town, adrenaline pumping through my veins.
“Shelby, what was that about? I thought you wanted to find Shamu!”
“I do,” I said, “but didn’t you feel that? I thought Old Bill was gonna kill us!”
“He was a little scary, but you totally chickened out!”
“Maybe I did, but it wasn’t a total loss,” I said. “I bet if I was upfront about what I wanted, he would have killed us right then and there.”
“Instead he told us what it said!”
“That’s right. I knew what I was doing all along.”
“What if he lied? We’d have no way of knowing.” Janice was perceptive for her age.
“I suppose that’s true,” I said, “but it’s better than nothing. This investigation is far from over, Janice. I’ve got a plan.”
“You’re just saying that,” Janice said, giggling.
“Just watch. You’ll be sorry you ever doubted. Now let’s get home before Mom skins me alive.”
Of course, Janice was right. I didn’t really have a plan. I was an eleven-year-old trying to crack the biggest case in orca history and all I had was one lead. I had no idea what to do next. What I did know, however, was that I was now addicted to solving mysteries.
On the way home from Old Bill’s, I decided I was through working for Johnny. I would become a private detective and solve cases as I searched for Shamu. I had my landscaping clients; hopefully they would hire me to find their missing pets or something. I didn’t put much thought into it; I just knew it was what I wanted to do.
Because of how often Dad would go on about the various facets of the orca bureaucracy, I knew the first step I needed to take was registering my new business with the overzealous town government. So, first thing in the morning, I grabbed all the money I had made from landscaping and went to Town Hall.
I fully admit that the first day of my new life as a private detective was exceedingly boring. In order to set up my LLC, I had to go to the local business office, wait in a huge line, pay some mysterious fees, then register myself. Not my business yet. I had to register myself as someone who was eligible to run a business. Once I was cleared, I had to go to a different part of the business office, wait in another huge line, and officially declare my business open. Again, we can’t write, so the entire process was verbal. Somehow, I was caught off guard when the orca at the counter asked for the name of my business.
“Name of business?” he asked.
“What’s the name of this business you’re starting?” he sighed. He was very unenthusiastic about this process. “You’re here to open a business, right? So what’s it called?”
“Umm, I haven’t really thought about it, honestly,” I said. “Ummmm-”
“What’s your name?”
“What kind of business is it?”
“I’m a private detective.” He gave me an odd look when I said that.
“Alright, congratulations on opening Shelby’s Private Detective Agency. Now you need to go back to the first office if you want to register it as an LLC.”
Not the most glamorous origin story, but that’s how Shelby’s Private Detective Agency started. Once I had the paperwork squared away (I had to list the address as my home address, but I knew my parents wouldn’t mind), I went to the printing store in town to get some signage Being unprepared, I hadn’t created a logo yet, so the store just took a picture of me and added a monocle, then printed out a big sign that I would put in the front yard. Orca businesses are grown almost entirely from word-of-mouth, so I asked Dad to tell everyone on his route about Orca Town’s hottest new business.
“What do you mean you quit Johnny’s?” he asked at dinner. “I thought you liked it.”
“I hated it, Dad,” I said. “I’m pretty sure you knew I hated it, too.”
“Did you say that? I guess my memory’s not what it used to be.”
I knew he remembered just fine, considering how often I complained to Mom about it. He was just upset that I wasn’t working for his friend anymore.
“Now I’m gonna have to listen to him rail against the younger generation even more,” Dad said. “Maybe think about your old man’s well being before you make these kind of rash decisions.”
“Oh, quiet Harris,” Mom said. “At least he’s doing something he’ll actually enjoy. I’m proud of you, honey.”
“Yeah, I guess I can’t knock him too much. He’s showing some gumption. Sure, I’ll tell people about it. Maybe someone will need you to find their turtle or something.”
“So, Shelby, what made you want to become a detective?” Janice asked mischievously. “Seems kind of out of nowhere.”
“Hmm, yes, I was wondering that, too,” Mom said.
“Well, umm, you know, I uhh” I was scrambling to think of something that didn’t involve Shamu. “Oh, I, uhh, remembered how much I liked the Scavenger Hunt.”
“The ol’ Scavenger Hunt, ehh?” Dad said. “You know, I did pretty well in that, myself back in the day. Found three items, if I remember correctly.”
“Dad, I found four and Shelby found five,” Janice said, giggling. “Three isn’t that impressive.”
“Well, it was good enough to get someone’s attention,” he said, looking at Mom, prompting a swoon from Mom, more girlish giggles from Janice, and a cry of disgust from me.
The next morning, I went on my usual landscaping route to see if anyone needed anything out of a private detective. Everyone said no, and many even made their displeasure that I would no longer be maintaining their lawns known, but they were at least polite about it and said they would keep me in mind. When he came home, Dad said he told everyone about it, but no one had an immediate need. I had a three-day rotation of landscaping clients, so I hadn’t lost hope yet.
Day two was almost exactly like day one. While it was nice to know my landscaping was appreciated, I would have preferred to get some cases than promises that they’d remember me if something ever came up.
The third day I woke up with a small sense of dread. I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to wait around for cases to show up before Dad made me go back to Johnny. If there was a worst-case scenario, that was it.
Unsurprisingly, my clients gave me nothing. I was feeling pretty low, and pretty desperate. The only other thing I could think of to do was to go see Carlo and Russell and see if they knew anyone that needed help.
“Well, I don’t really talk to anyone outside my family,” Carlo said when I arrived at his house, “and none of them need help.”
“No one lost anything or needs someone followed or anything?”
“My family already has plenty of orcas that follow and intimidate,” Carlo said. “I doubt you’d really want to take on those jobs anyway.”
“Why not?” I asked. “I’m trying to build a business, here. I’ll take any jobs I can get.”
“I’ll ask my family, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.”
Whereas Urchin Street was an image of the wannabe nouveau riche, Laver Estates, where Russell lived, was not. I once saw a TV special about these communities humans have called Trailer Parks, and, while Laver Estates wasn’t quite at that level, I always found it odd that it was sandwiched between Urchin Street and Baleen Acres.
Russell lived with his dad in a small house with an unruly patch of seaweed and an abundance of seaball decorations. I suppose you could count the Orca Burger wrappers as décor, too, since there were so many of them on the ground. I’m not sure I ever heard Dad’s thoughts on Russell’s house, but they couldn’t have been good.
“Sup, pussy?” Russell asked as I approached. His dad wasn’t home, and, come to think of it, he usually wasn’t whenever I went over.
“I’m starting a business and need help,” I said.
“A business? You? We’re like, eleven, dude.”
“Yeah, but I’m sick of working for Johnny.”
“Forgot your dad makes you get a job every summer. Such a bummer.”
“You don’t have to tell me,” I said. “But I’m a private detective, now, so do you know of anyone who needs my help?”
“A private detective? You mean like Mackerel Maison?” Mackerel Maison was the main character on a popular children’s TV show that, until that point, I didn’t know Russell watched.
“Sort of, yeah,” I said.
“Why? Seems kind of out of left field.”
“Because I’m good at finding things,” I answered. “Remember the Scavenger Hunt?”
“I remember when I found a bunch of stuff,” Russell said. He could be unhelpful at times.
“Either way, do you know anyone who needs help?”
“Sorry, man, but I don’t think so. I’ll ask around but this is a pretty quiet town, if you hadn’t noticed. Oh! You should go talk to Violet down the street, I think her husband’s cheating on her so she might pay you to follow him or something.”
“Ehh, I might want to avoid those cases, for now,” I said.
“Suit yourself, man,” Russell said. “Just trying to help.”
I went home dragging my fins. How was I supposed to get my business off the ground if I didn’t have any cases? I was beginning to think I should stage a kidnapping or something just so I could solve it and drum up some publicity. As long as I paid for it using a fake name no one would ever find out, right? I couldn’t believe I had wasted all my money on registration fees and a poster that no one would ever see.
Turns out someone had seen the poster. Awaiting my arrival was an elderly orca nervously swimming back and forth in front of our house.
“Umm, hello,” I said. “It looks like my mom’s not here right now if you were looking for her.”
“Is your mother Shelby?” she asked. Her voice was frail and unsure.
“You’re Shelby? This poster is yours?”
“Indeed it is,” I said, trying to contain my excitement.
“Pardon me, young man, I was expecting someone a little older. And female, honestly.”
“Don’t worry, ma’am. I may be young, but I’m real good at finding stuff,” I said. It was off-the-cuff, but it had the makings of a decent slogan.
“Well, I need your help, frankly. Out of the blue my mail courier told me about a new detective service in town, and since the police have already failed me once, I’ve decided to come to you.”
It made me happy that Dad had been spreading the word, but I wasn’t sure how much I liked the idea of my first case being something the police couldn’t solve. I couldn’t turn down my first client, though. I asked her to come inside and offered her some light refreshments. Whenever Mom had company she always asked them if they wanted any Salmon Snakz, but there was no way I was going to give away my favorite junk food to some old lady, even if she was the only one who needed a private detective.
“Mona,” she said, reading my mind.
“So, Mona, what can I help you with?”
“It’s Mr. Loggerhead,” she said, immediately choking up. “He’s missing and I don’t know what to do!”
“Uhh, wait a second,” I said, wanting to be anywhere else in the world, “I don’t think I’m who you should be talking to-”
“That’s what the police said, too! They said they couldn’t be bothered to find something so lowly as a turtle!”
“Oh, Mr. Loggerhead is your pet turtle?” I asked, relieved. I wasn’t ready to take on a missing orca case.
“Yes, of course,” she said. “What else would he be?”
“You never specified what he was,” I answered quietly.
“But he’s missing, and no one will help me find him.”
I was well versed enough in the fantasy shows that aired on Saturday mornings to recognize a call to action when one arrived at my door.
“I’ll find Mr. Loggerhead for you,” I said confidently. “No one ever fails their first case, so it’s a guarantee that I’ll have him back to before you realize he’s gone.”
“Wait, this is your first-”
“So where did you see him last?”
She proceeded to give me Mr. Loggerhead’s entire life story. She purchased his egg from a licensed breeder and buried it in the sand herself before hiring a seagull to escort him back into the water. I, of course, didn’t really care, but it was good to get a sense of how much Mr. Loggerhead meant to Mona. Even if it meant hearing her go on for another fifteen minutes about everything that happened in his life. Finally, she got to the important part.
“So, three days ago, I took him downtown to the vet. I turned around because I heard a loud noise behind me, and then he was gone. I must have covered the entire block, and I didn’t see anything. The police think I’m senile and won’t waste their time finding him.”
“Did you talk to the vet? Maybe they saw something.”
“He denied it. I trust Dr. Bruce with Mr. Loggerhead’s life, so I believe him. Someone must have come by and abducted him! It’s the only explanation.”
“Did you see anyone else on the street?”
“Well, not exactly,” she said. “But I know there had to have been someone. Mr. Loggerhead wouldn’t just run away!”
I, for one, wasn’t ruling that out. Still, I owed it to Mona to at least investigate. She was my first ever customer, and I wasn’t about to let her down.
After she left, I went straight for the vet’s office downtown.
Tune in next time, where I’ll continue to underwhelm readers!