Monday, January 11, 2016

SHELLY HOBBES AND THE CROOKED BOY

The stories which I have already shared about my adventures with Shelly Hobbes represent only a small fraction of the many cases we’ve worked together. Some, like the thing with the giant rat, I don’t think the world is quite ready for. Others, like the one I am about to relate, I have deliberately avoided writing down out of courtesy to the people involved. In this case, bringing the mystery to a successful conclusion involved agreeing to keep a secret for someone, so I had to hold off writing up my account of the case until very recently.

Actually, it’s sort of surprising that we took the case at all. In the first place, it wasn’t the kind of case Shelly liked to get involved in: The daughter of a rich, important couple was dating a boy that her parents thought was beneath her and they wanted Shelly to break them up. In the second place, they wouldn’t even approach Shelly directly to give her the case. Instead, they sent an intermediary to represent them, which Shelly thought was a little odd.

“If they want me to help them, why aren’t they looking me in the eye and asking me? Why are they sending an errand boy to do their dirty work for them?”

“I’m not an errand boy!” said Myron. “I’m a student in Professor Merville’s history class and she asked me to ask you for help as a favor.”

“And you told them that I don’t get involved in personal family business and they were wasting their time?”

“No. I told them I would ask you.”

“Why?”

“Because I thought you’d want to do your brother a favor which might get him in good with one of his strictest professors. Besides, I think you’ll want to help when I tell you about Barry Groener.”

There wasn’t much Myron could tell us about Barry Groener. He went to our school and was the consummate bad boy. Leather jacket, greasy hair, ripped jeans, red hot rod which needed a new muffler, always going just barely off school property to smoke so that, technically, no one could stop him. He had started at our school earlier that year, amid rumors that he’d done something at his old school which not only got him expelled, but sent to Juvenille Hall. No one knew exactly what had happened, but there were theories:

“I hear he stole the princnipal’s car!”

“I hear he burned down the gym!”

“I hear he killed a janitor!”

So, yeah, basically no one knew anything. But one thing everyone agreed on was that Barry was the very last guy you would ever expect to start dating a girl like Violet Merville. Violet didn’t even go to our school; she went to the private school down the street. And her reputation was as good as Barry’s was bad. Straight-A’s, lots of extracurriculars, teacher’s pet…or at least she was until she started dating Barry. Her grades had suffered, she was cutting class, getting in trouble every week. Her parents were not happy with the path she was on and they blamed Barry.

“If Barry really is as bad as he seems,” Shelly agreed, “then getting Violet away from him might just be the right thing to do. In any case, we need more information about both of them. Right now all we have is the testimony of a bunch of grownups. We need to talk to Romeo and Juliet, not the Montagues and Capulets.”

So, after school, I sought out Barry Groener while Shelly went to Violet’s school to talk to her. Barry was in an after-school club (ceramics, oddly enough), so I went to the student parking lot to wait for him. I stood by Barry’s car and waited as all the other cars drove off. The sun was beginning to go down when another car pulled up and parked in the spot right next to Barry’s. It was a silver BMW, very upscale, and there was a decal in the back window: A capital letter “K” in a circle and with a small crown on top. The girl who got out of the car was visibly from a wealthy family and she eyed me with surprise.

“Who are you?”

“Er…I’m a friend of Barry’s,” I lied. “Why? Do you know him?”

“Yeah. We used to go to the same school. I have something to talk to him about. Something kind of personal. Do you think you could give us some space?”

“Oh, sure. Of course.” But instead I found a hiding place where I would be out of sight, but could still hear their conversation. Sure enough, a few minutes later, Barry came out to his car.

“Kate?” he said, surprised to see her.

“Hi, Barry. How’ve you been?”

“You’re seriously gonna ask me that? After everything that happened?”

“Look, I’m sorry about that, but it wasn’t my fault.”

“Not our fault? It was your idea!”

“You didn’t have to do it! You made your own choice. Besides, you got over me quick enough. I hear you’re seeing another girl already.”

“Leave her out of this!”

“Does she know? I mean, does she know everything?”

“She knows enough.”

“Barry, you can’t lie to people. You can’t pretend to be someone you’re not.”

“Well, maybe this is who I am now. Nice to see you again, Kate.” So saying, Barry got into his car and pulled away. After a beat, Kate also got into her car and drove away. I didn’t know what to make of it, but, fortunately, I wasn’t the one who had to make anything out of it. All I had to do was remember it as well as I could to tell Shelly about it at our rendezvous at Orange Pip’s.

“Interesting,” said Shelly when I told her what Barry and Kate had said. “Also interesting that Barry likes pottery.”

“Yeah, I didn’t see that one coming. Thoughts?”

“A few. I think it’s safe to assume that this Kate knew Barry before he came to Vermissa Valley and that she knows what it was that got him arrested and expelled. It also seems that Barry doesn’t want Violet to know what Kate knows.”

“How did your talk with Violet go?”

“Not that well. She knows Barry’s a bad boy and that’s what she likes about him. She doesn’t know why he was expelled, but she says she doesn’t care. I can’t imagine Kate could tell her anything that would get her to dump this guy.”

“Too bad she’s into bad boys.”

Every now and then, I say something that makes Shelly’s eyes go wide and her whole face lights up. It means that, without realizing it, I’ve given Shelly the last piece of the puzzle she needs to solve the case. Apparently, I’d done it again.

“Warren, that’s it!”

“What’s it?”

“Violet likes bad boys! We’ve been coming at this from the wrong angle. Trying to find something bad to tell Violet to make her break up with Barry is never going to work. But what if…we have to find Kate. She’s the key to the whole thing”

“But all we know about her is that her name is Katherine.”

“No, Warren, we know a lot about her. You said she was well-dressed, her family is fairly well-off. She owns or has easy access to a car, I’m inclined to assume the former. Not many parents would be okay with their daughter borrowing the car after dark to drive to another city and visit a boy. And that decal in the back window, I know I’ve seen that insignia somewhere…Kingston Heights! She goes to Kingston Heights Academy. That’s Barry’s old school! I can find her!” So saying, she kissed me on the cheek and took off, leaving me alone and confused.


When I saw Shelly again the next day, I could tell she had solved the case. She always looks beautiful, but she has a kind of glow when she’s just cracked a case that’s hard to describe.

“Where did you disappear to last night?”

“Sorry, I got excited. I went to my place to hack into Kingston Heights Academy.”

“You what?”

“You know I’m an expert hacker, Warren. There were a lot of Katherines to filter through, but I found her: Katherine Winter, Kate to her friends. I even got a hold of her phone number. She was reluctant to talk to me at first, which didn’t surprise me. But when I explained that it was about Barry, she cooperated. I think she really does care about him.”

“So, wait…she told you? She told you what happened? How he got kicked out of school?”

“Yes she did. And it was not what I was expecting. So this morning, I waited at Barry’s parking spot to talk to him.”

“‘Who are you?’ he asked, rudely.

“‘Shelly Hobbes, consulting detective. I want to talk to you about Violet Merville.’

“‘How is my girlfriend any of your business?’

“‘Because her parents hired me to break the two of you up. But I’m not going to do that.’

“‘You’re not?’

“‘No, I’m not. You’re going to.’

“‘And why am I going to do that?’

“‘Because, if you don’t, I’ll tell everyone at school what happened at Kingston Heights.’ This had the desired effect. He was gaping at me. Dumbstruck that I knew about it. ‘Here are your choices, Barry: Tell Violet the truth about what happened, don’t tell her and break up with her, or do nothing and I’ll tell as many people as I can and you can kiss your reputation at our school goodbye.’ And I just turned and walked away.”

“That’s it?” I asked. “It’s over?”

“Yep. It’s in Barry’s hands now. As long as he either tells Violet the truth about what happened at Kingston Heights or breaks up with her, no one at our school has to know his secret.”

There was a brief pause. “But you’re still gonna tell me, right?”

“Oh, yeah! Of course.”


A day or two later, it was all over school that Violet had dumped Barry. Apparently he had told her the truth and it had upset her enough to break it off. You see, she had only liked Barry because she was going through a sort of “bad boy” phase. She had expected to hear that Barry had been kicked out of school for some violent crime or beating someone up or stealing something…not for helping a girl he had a crush on release the frogs which were set to be dissected in biology class!

Kate Winter was something of an animal rights activist and she had talked Barry into helping her set the frogs free. The frogs ran amok throughout the school, causing havoc, and Barry took the fall. He spent exactly two weeks in juvie for theft and causing a disturbance before being expelled for what was, essentially, a good deed.

If you want a girl who’s into bad boys to dump her boyfriend, don’t try to convince her that he’s no good. Show her that he’s not as bad as she thinks he is. That’s what Shelly meant when she said we were coming at this from the wrong angle.


As it happens, I ran into Barry the other day. We got to talking about old times and he said he was surprised that I hadn’t written up his case yet. “It can’t hurt now,” he said, then got back into his patrol car to go back to the precinct and clock out.

For more adventures of Shelly and Warren, order your copies of Shelly Hobbes: Master Detective and Shelly Hobbes Returns from Lulu.com, Amazon, BarnesandNoble.com, or BAM.com

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The Shelly Hobbes Casebook
Contains all twenty stories from both Shelly Hobbes books, plus additional material never-before-published