Huge Sunday Just Got Huger.

Autumn’s the best season. Skies are overcast, days are short, the light is always dramatic. Perfect atmosphere, like the weather itself is turning film noir. It helps me think, keeps my wits sharp, and makes me look so cool.

Take today for example, just walking down the street to the client’s door, I get a gust of wind that blows dead leaves around my feet and billows my cape dramatically. The guys in the squad room can snicker about it all they like, you know they wish they had one.

Gaaahk!

Hang on, Max is chocking on his cape-envy, apparently.

A leaf blew in mah mouf!

I guess that dog is a really big fan of cheeselees pizza? Sounds nasty to me.

The story is that a stamp collection was stolen. Sounds a little far fetched, but some of those things can go for millions, so I can see it.

Course when we get there and find that the stamps have been not just stolen but removed from the books they were mounted in, things go all the way back past ‘far fetched,’ to ‘batshitzania.’

“Max, quit trying to look down your throat, put down the mirror, and check out the security arrangements!”

I kin still feel da leaf bits… yehk.

That won’t do any good, detective, rumbles the dog, all the alarms are undisturbed, I checked myself.

“It’s less of a ‘find things out’ job and more of a ‘keep Max out of my fur’ job, but you never know.” Toss aside a book, take the next one. All the places where the stamps out to be, neatly cut out. “I’m no philatelist, so you’re gonna have to explain this one to me. Why would anyone steal the stamps out of the books instead of just grabbing the books themselves? Seems you’d save a hell of a lot of time.”

Who can fathom the criminal mind, detective? the victim guffaws like his need to sound superior to the lower classes is wrestling his dismay at losing expesive bits of brightly colored paper.

“I can.” I shut the book, glance at the others, but it’ll be a waste of time. That’s another thing. If you have the–I’m guessing hours at least–that it’d take to cut each stamp out of the books here in the victim’s living room, surely you’ve got the time to put the books back on the shelf when you’re done? That way you buy yourself some time before anyone notices the goods are even gone.

Which means either the thief couldn’t take the books, but could take the stamps, or he wanted it to be obvious that there’d been a crime. “Max, any holes in the security?”

Not dat I kin find.

“What about the chimmney? It hasn’t been cold for long, and if the fire wasn’t lit-”

By jove, that could be it! Today is the first day of the season I bothered to light the fire!

Wull, unless dah stamps wuz burgled by Santa Claus, dere’s no dice dere, Sly. Dere’s dis grate ovah dah top uh da chiumney, not even I can squeeze thru. Also, Mr Dog here is outa moutwash.

You used my mouthwash? Blast it, sah, that is caddish and foul!

“Thank you for describing Max. But to get back to the case, let me ask you about your tenants.”

Ah, you saw my arrangement, out on the front steps? Yes, quite ingenious, I thought, came across the idea in a book about medieval siege warfare, you know. Peasants taking shelter in the lord’s castle and all that, and I thought, dash it, why not? Instead of trying to keep vermin out, I charge them rent!

Heeeey! Max whines.

“There’s no way that the thief could have come through the… step-apartments?”

Unthinkable, sah! As if I would allow such a thing, no, I made very sure that there was no way from the, er, chambers of the economically challenged, to my own rooms, as it were.

I can almost see the fantasy world he’s thinking of. Big manor, long walk in the woods that he owns, peasants tipping their caps to him as he goes about his business. What I can see under it, and I don’t think he can, is how it probably really was. Some ancestor of his, more wolf than dog, extorting everything from frightened serfs, or else they get turned out to starve in the cold. Wonder how old that coat of arms is. Probably some blood on it, even if it got cleaned off after.

“What’re you charging for rent?”

Well, he sputters, glancing to the side, doesn’t want to meet my eyes, I’m sure it’s perfectly reasonable considering the housing shortage-

“And I assume you’re providing water? Lighting?”

Yes yes of course, legally required and all that.

“What about heating?”

Detective, I am not a monster! Winter is coming, I would not leave my tenants to freeze! There are ducts that lead from my chimney to the back of the steps, the housing inspector assured me that was more than adequate.

For a second, all I can find in my brain is how little heat must get from the chimney to the front steps, and how easy it is to bribe a housing inspector in this town. And how a duct like that, it’d be easy for a mouse to fit trough, but then he wouldn’t be able to take something big, like a book with him, though something small, like a stamp, would be another matter. And it occurs to me that back in the day, when people had a problem like Sir Hound’s hypothetical ancestor, they had a solution called Robin Hood.

Do I really want to play Sheriff of Nottingham?

“I’m gonna say,” I close the empty book, “that probably someone came through the heating ducts. And if you’re lucky your tenants won’t sue you, seeing as someone apparently broke into their homes specifically to get to yours. That’s criminal negligence.”

But the stamps, who could have-?

“No way to say, now, but knowing you I bet they were insured.”

Well, yes. I, er- He’s not meeting my eyes again, Of course. What should I do, detective?

“I’d block up those vents. That’s a huge liability. Course, that’ll mean you’ll be required to put proper heating in those apartments, but it’s that or risk more robberies…”

Of course, of course.

Max is quiet all the way back to the car, for a change. I just enjoy the wind and the smell of woodsmoke.

Sly?

“Yeah?”

You really tink someone broke intah does apartments to get to dah stamps?

I really think that someone wanted to strike back at Sir Hound. I really think that those stamps will sell for enough money to make a heck of a lot of difference. I really think that if I was playing Robin Hood, I’d want to leave the books lying out where the robber baron would know that he’d been robbed.

But all I say is “It’s possible.” I frown at Max. “You grew up in a place like that, right?”

He nods. Family of pigs, charged us through da nose to live in the woodpile. Mom useta joke dat she wished we lived in a hole in da wall.

Not really anything more to say.

I like autumn. But I can see why some might disagree.

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