The Stratenhoufen Case
Author's note: This was my first detective story with my fictional detective, Jack Mason. But since then I've... Show full author's note »
The Violin ShopWhen they arrived at the small violin shop, Jack read the sign:
Sir Borlamile's Violins
The rain had lightened only slightly by that time. As they approached the officer standing before the door, Inspector Burrow flashed his badge at him. The man stepped aside and saluted:
Upon arriving inside, Jack noticed a huge safe in the room, although it was more like a thick metal box, whose door was secured with a padlock, which had been severed. The door stood ajar and the safe was empty. Jack and the inspector also discovered a rather small man wringing his hands nervously, and pacing back and forth. Jack recognized the long, thin fingers of a musician.
“Uh... Sir Borlamile, I presume?” Jack began. The man seemed slightly startled, but stammered,
“Mr. Borlamile Hunter IV. Sir Borlamile Hunter was my great grandfather, the man who first opened this shop.”
“I see. Well, pleased to meet you, Mr. Hunter. My name is Jack Mason. Inspector Burrow has invited me to look into the case. (I work in such things.) Burrow informs me of a theft of a considerable sum of money, at your expense.”
“Correct, sir. The night before last it was. 300 pounds, Mr. Mason! 300! I needed that money to pay my rent. It's due in three days! I don’t know how-”
“Calm yourself, sir. Simply relay the facts to me in the highest possible detail, and I will endeavor to unveil the perpetrator as fast as possible, to the best of my abilities,” said the detective.
“Well, yesterday, a man who identified himself as “the respected Mr. A. Stratenhoufen,” staying in the Baker Street Hotel, came in and bought one of my best violins, costing precisely 300 pounds. I put this money in the safe.” He motioned to the massive object behind him. “Then this morning, when I came down from my apartment on the second floor, I opened the shop and checked my safe as I always do, and discovered what you can see now. Now I distinctly remember locking the safe after I put the money in, and, as you can see, the lock has not been picked, so I have no idea how it happened!” He started pacing the floor again.
Jack thought for a moment, then said, “Uh, may I have a look?” Jack inquired, gesturing toward the safe in the corner, behind the desk.
“Ah, of course.”
“Have you checked for fingerprints, inspector?”
“Yes. There were none but Mr. Hunter's. Whoever stole the money was apparently wearing gloves. Oh, and, uh, also the lock on the door outside the shop has been picked,” replied Inspector Burrow.
“Yes, I saw that. Mr. Hunter, are there perhaps any assistants of yours that may be able to offer any useful information?”
“Yes, I do have an assistant. He's in the back. John!” Mr. Hunter called, walking to the back. “Your assistance is required up front!”
“But sir, I thought we were closed today,” answered a voice from the back room.
“No, no. Just come,” replied the shopkeeper.
Thus returned Mr. Hunter with a young red-haired boy, his face covered in freckles. He seemed a timid young man. Jack estimated him to be around twelve years old.
“This is Mr. Mason, he’s a detective, and Inspector Burrow, with the local police. They're here about the stolen money, and want to know if you have any useful information you could give them.”
“Why would I know anything about the stolen money? Do they think I stole it?!” The boy said defiantly.
“All we want to know is if you can tell us anything about it. Nobody's accusing you of anything,” came the calm, quiet voice of Jack.
“No. No! I don't! So leave me alone!” The boy ran to the back room.
“Well that didn't do us much good,” said Inspector Burrow.
“Positive, inspector. Think positive,” Jack smiled, then turned to Mr. Hunter.
“May I see footage of your security cameras, of the purchase of the violin?” he said, motioning to the camera above the door, and the one pointing at the safe.
“As you wish,” replied the man, starting for the back, waving for Jack and the inspector to follow. Having seen the footage and having imprinted a picture of Mr. Stratenhoufen's face in his mind, Jack took a further look around. He then said,
“Well, that will be all for now. Good day, Mr. Hunter. Thank you for your help.” Jack and the inspector then exited the building and re-entered the police car waiting for them outside.
“Well, obviously the boy himself didn’t break the lock,” Burrow began. “He was too small.”
Jack nodded in agreement, looking out the window into the rain thoughtfully.
“But, perhaps he was involved, somehow, with the person who did…”
“I don’t know… maybe he’s just scared.” Jack finally spoke. “That Mr. Stratenhoufen, though, would certainly seem to have been the one behind it. Perhaps he wanted the violin and the money, so after purchasing the instrument he stole back the money…” He paused, thinking, then said, “Inspector, lets go to the Baker Street Hotel, and see if we can meet this Mr. Stratenhoufen.”