The home I had been called to belonged to one of our elderly residents in Sherwood Forest. It was seven pm and even the flowers set beneath the latticed window were still awake. They were the first sign something wasn’t right. I gestured for the flowers to be quiet as I approached the door. I twisted the door open and placed my other hand on my water pistol before taking a step forward. Twenty years in the Ladybird Squad I had yet to use it, I was hoping tonight wouldn’t break that record.
The kitchen was immaculate and simple. Everything a small country kitchen can be expected to be. Except a broken basket once containing flowers on the floor. The flowers were too late to be saved. Dainty petals revealing the trail of their fall. They had been absent from water and soil too long. I heard a noise in the next room of the small bungalow.
“Hello? This is the police. Whose there?” I shouted, quietly drawing my water pistol ready to fire. A mixture of moans and sobs answered me. “Hello?” I approached the door cautious of the flickers of movement against the light underneath. More sobs and moans then a sharp voice cried out.
“Well are you going to come in or not?”
I entered and lowered my pistol. I looked around the room once and addressed the station on my walkie talkie requesting assistance.
It was ten o clock when all were assembled in the interview room. It was tough interviewing the two witnesses at this time on the same night as the incident but I didn’t want to give their memories time to fade and exaggerate things. My partner on this case was Detective Locks (herself a former famous house-breaker turned good.) She pressed the record button on our pink stereo.
“If you wouldn’t mind Mrs Granny would you please explain the events that occurred at your house?” Locks asked gently, giving a warm comforting smile towards the old lady. Who fiddled with her red spotted hanky before beginning.
“Well my day was fairly normal before this evening Detective. It was when Mr Wolf came to visit for tea as usual that all this happened.”
“And what exactly happened?” she continued.
“Mr Wolf appeared not to be his self at all. He knocked my basket of flowers right off the table. He usually likes talking to my Buttercups. Poor things never had a chance.” Sadness shone deep within her grey eyes.
“In a normal situation he would have spoken with your flowers?” It all seemed very strange for a wolf.
“Usually yes, he was quite a keen gardener. Had such a wonderful vegetable patch growing behind his cottage. He would often bring me some ripe cucumbers or aubergines, tomatoes, carrots, you name it he grew it. I was always telling him to try selling them at market but he wouldn’t because of all the prejudice towards him.”
“Were you aware of his shady background as a former outlaw? As a member of the Paw Pack?” I asked intrigued.
“Oh yes, he told me all about his past with that horrid gang. But I truly believed he had changed and especially for his turn to vegetarianism. Ever since those three naughty pigs tricked him down a chimney. He even showed me the scars.”
That surprised me.
“What scars?” Locks asked, again ever so soft and gentle. She really could charm anything with those sky blue eyes of hers and sweet fragile voice. She had a long list of lovers as evidence for it probably longer than all the girls Charming went out with before he met Cinders. But then again you could say that was all down to the Fairy Godmother dating agency actually getting a match for once.
“His burn scars from when he fell upon the fire that those pigs lit.”
“Can you describe them to us please Mrs Granny? Where about on his body were they?” I had paper and crayon ready.
The elderly woman paused, her hands yet again playing with the hanky between her fingers.
“Quite gruesome they were if I remember correctly. I think they were underneath the base of his tail and on the souls of both his back paws. They were the first parts of his body that made contact with the fire. It is a wonder to me how he escaped so lightly from those mean little pigs.”
I scribbled it all down and went outside handing it over to Sergeant Rapunzel to take downstairs to the morgue. Her once mile long hair now mere shoulder length since she no longer lived in a tower. This was the information we needed to formally identify the body. The Paw Pack had expelled Mr Wolf since his turn to vegetarianism and they were refusing to co-operate in order to identify the lone wolf we have. They had as much trust of the squad as we did for them. That was one rule I learnt early on, never trust a wolf. If you give them a titbit they will go for the whole bone.
“What else made him seem out of character this evening Mrs Granny?” Locks continued when I had sat back down at the table.
“Everything. He was not polite. He wouldn’t drink the herbal tea I had made him. He even spat out the vegetarian sausage I cooked him. He had never behaved that way towards me before.”
“Could you possibly think why this sudden change in behaviour?”
“No I honestly can’t. I have known Mr Wolf for fifteen years and he has always been a perfect gentleman underneath all that rugged fur. Helping me around the garden and the house. Offering advice on looking after my flowers. All my plants adored him. It makes no sense as to why he would suddenly attack me. Or my poor Buttercups.”
That was when Sergeant Rapunzel tapped on the door beckoning me outside.
“What’s the matter?” I asked concerned by her worried expression.
“The wolf body downstairs has no such scars on either tail or feet.”
Those words stunned and confused me. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. The dwarves have been over every last inch of fur, found a few small scars from many years ago but no such scars that correspond with any contact with fire.”
“So we have a dead wolf that actually isn’t Mr Wolf?”
“Seems that way Big Red.”
“Well it doesn’t make any sense for Granny to lie. Something strange is happening here.”
“What do you want the team to do?”
I paused to think. “Have someone try and speak to the Pack again, see if they are acting at all suspiciously. Remind them how lenient we’ve been recently. Have a few also go up to Mr Wolf’s house search for anything unusual and out of the ordinary. Remember he is claimed to have been a strict vegetarian for fifteen years if you find anything that looks like meat send it down to the lab as evidence and have it analysed for meat content.”
“As you wish.” She agreed turning around.
“Oh bring me and Goldie another cup of cola would you, I feel its going to be a longer night than I thought. We need a sugar rush to keep awake.”
“Right on it.”
With that I entered the interview room once more, looking puzzled at the two witnesses who looked nervously back.
“It seems,” I began. “That the wolf body down in the morgue is in fact not Mr Wolf. The body bares no such scars that indicate burning. Either under his tail or under his back paws. Could either of you tell me why?”
“That’s impossible. It has to be Mr Wolf. He was wearing his usual dinner suit and hat. His tie was a bit out of place because he wouldn’t usually wear a red tie with a green suit but I have known him for so long, if anyone was to recognise him it would be me.” The old woman exclaimed.
“What about you Mr Cutter? Did you recognise the deceased as Mr Wolf?” Locks queried the rather frightened man sitting beside the old woman.
“Oh yes Ma’m I did. He is the only wolf I know but I didn’t spend a great deal looking at him when I was trying to get him off Granny.” He replied.
“Ah yes, you appeared on the scene upon hearing screams from Granny. You were walking home after work up at the logging plant. You entered the house. Saw the deceased apparently attempting to eat Granny and so hit him at the back of the head with your axe. Isn’t that right?”
“Yes Ma’m that’s correct.”
“Mr Cutter isn’t going to be charged with murder is he Detective?” Granny asked turning to me.
“So far I don’t know what we can charge him with Mrs Granny. We have a wolf attacker who appeared to be Mr Wolf, but is now proven not to be. Who was then however killed by Mr Cutter. Don’t worry about the charges yet however, we can’t do anything legal until we know exactly happened tonight and why.”
“All I know is that I was nearly eaten alive and this brave lad here saved me.”
“Indeed he did but until we can establish the identity of the deceased wolf and a logical motive for this attack then we can not move forward with this investigation.”
“Does that mean I have to spend the night here Miss?” A pair of anxious eyes looked at me.
“Perhaps, hopefully my team can establish some more evidence together to solve this puzzle and give us all a happy ending.”
For the third time that night Sergeant Rapunzel tapped on the door this time with a big grin on her face. I went outside. She immediately passed me two plastic cups filled with cola complete with curly straws.
“I’m going to guess you have some good news for me Rapunzel?” I took a greedy slurp of the fizzy brown liquid and sighed as sugar woke my brain up.
“Mr Wolf has been found. Alive and well. Tied up within his cellar. It seems the body downstairs is a member of the Pack. He and some others tied up Mr Wolf, dressed one up in his clothes and went to meet Granny at the usual time planning to kill her and bring back her body to share. He was their newest member and they classed this attack as his initiation. However as you already know their plan went wrong.”
“Good, good, this story is starting to make a lot more sense. Is Mr Wolf well enough to give a statement?”
“Yes, he is on his way over now. He also wishes to inform Granny of his deepest sympathies and is relieved to know she is well.”
“Good work Rapunzel we can finally tidy up this mess.”
I walked back into the interview room and took my place passing Goldie her drink. “There has just been an interesting development which I think will please everyone involved.” I gave a big grin at Locks who smiled contentedly back taking a big swig of cola. “First off the real Mr Wolf has been found bound and gagged in his home cellar and he sends his deepest apologies to you Mrs Granny for this set of events. It seems his former gang decided to use his guise for some rite of passage for their newest and probably last member.”
“Does that mean I’m free Ma’m?” Mr Cutter asked quickly.
“Yes, you’re both free to go as the true culprit has taken the big sleep as his punishment so we do in the end have a lot to thank you for Mr Cutter.”
“Thank you Ma’m.” An essence of pride appeared in his now smiling face.
“Oh thank you indeed my dear Marvin.” Granny cheered grasping the surprised man in a hug. “You must come over for tea tomorrow and I will give you a nice slice of apple pie as a thank you.” Granny blurted out her aged voice crackling like fireworks with delight.
Locks and I escorted the pair out, sending them both back to their homes in squad cars. When all the paper work was coloured in and handed to the bookworms to file away I retrieved my red coat from the rack and made my way out into the car park. My humble red mini waiting for me.
“Hey Big Red, me and Rapunzel are going over to Robin’s Nest tomorrow night want to come along for a milkshake?” Locks called out catching me up wearing her blue jacket and Rapunzel wearing her golden one. “Checked it with Guinevere and we have the night off duty.”
“Sure why not, they owe me a few anyway after all the times I let him off the hook.”
“Aren’t we all owed some?” Goldie added with a cunning smirk of mischief.
“You got to love those rascals though.” Rapunzel noted cheekily. “Their just big kids really. Always getting into trouble.”
“True and there is nothing wrong with annoying Nottingham now and again. I have yet to find a case where he didn’t deserve it.” I smiled at all the fond memories. “Ok I’ll be there.”
“Great see you tomorrow.”
“Night Big Red!”
“Bye girls!” I waved back as I drove down dewberry lane to my little abode at the base of a big oak tree and lived to tell another fairytale.