Wilson Wins One

Zach Albans has the worst luck,” Sherman sighed as Sergeant Wilson pulled into a parking space in front of the store. The sign on the roof proclaiming Albans Jewelers had just been installed this morning. The shop wasn’t even open for business and it had already been robbed.

Zach Albans rushed out to greet them. “Sherman,” he said, pumping his old friend’s hand. “I thought changing locations would change my luck, but I guess not.”

Albans escorted them inside. The officers who’d answered the call were examining the empty glass case while Albans’ two employees stood around, looking help­less. The shop owner used to employ three people until last year when one had been arrested for robbery.

“How did it happen?” Sherman asked.

“We were setting up the display cases,” Albans told his friend. “The space isn’t ready; we don’t even have a working bathroom. But our opening party is tonight, so we have to make do. At around noon, I went into the back office. Our front door was propped open—no air conditioning yet. I figured either Melanie or Ricky was in the front showroom watching things. Seems I was wrong. They’d both stepped out. That gave the thief enough time to see the rings, run into the store and grab all six of them. They’re insured, of course, but only at wholesale value.”

“I’ll do my best,” Sherman said and crossed over to Wilson who was shaking hands with Melanie, the manager.

“I had to go around the corner and feed the parking meter,” she said, then glared accusingly at Ricky. “I told him to stay here. When I came back, the showroom was empty and the rings were gone. I ran into the back. Zach was on the phone. He hung up right away and we called the police.”

Wilson thanked Melanie for her help, then ambled over to speak with Ricky Mayfield.

“I shouldn’t have left the front door open,” said the guilt-stricken employee. “But I didn’t know if Melanie had her key with her or not. After Melanie left, I ran to the coffee shop next door to use their bathroom. Since I wasn’t a customer, I kind of sneaked in. I don’t know if anyone saw me. Zach and Melanie were here when I got back, trying to figure out how much had been stolen.”

“Sergeant Wilson? Can you come out here?”

The voice had come from the store’s open courtyard located directly behind the showroom. An officer was standing by the pine tree in the middle of the shady yard. His hand was wet with pinesap, but there was a red felt bag in his hand and a smile on his face. “I reached inside a hole in the tree and found this bag wedged in a crevice.”

Wilson took the sticky bag into the showroom and opened it. The rings were all there, safe and sound.

“What do you think?” whispered Wilson.

“Obviously an inside job,” Sherman whispered back. “Zach could have taken them when the store was empty. The same with Melanie or Ricky. The thief wedged them inside the tree, knowing he or she could get them later. It’s a bit too early to know which one.”

Wilson grinned. “Too early for you, but I know.”

Sherman tried to hide his shock. How could Wilson know and not him? What bit of information did the sergeant have that Sherman didn’t? He was mortified.

And then he realized what must have happened.

Who stole the rings?

What evidence did Wilson have?

SOLUTION

“Congratulations,” Sherman said with as much grace as he could muster. “Of course you had a piece of information I didn’t.”

“True,” Wilson admitted. “It’s quite elementary.” He was nearly champing at the bit. “Do you want me to explain it?”

“No need,” Sherman said, with a good imitation of a yawn. “Now that you’ve confirmed that you had information I didn’t, the answer is child’s play. The thief was Melanie.”

Wilson was crestfallen. “How did you know?”

“Elementary, as you said. The one thing you did here that I didn’t was shake hands with Melanie. I imagine her hand was sticky.”

“Yeah,” Wilson growled. “It was.”

“Sticky from putting the bag in the crevice. The shop’s bathroom isn’t working, so she couldn’t have washed it off. Since you admitted having information I didn’t, that was the only possibility.”

“I solved this one on my own, Holmes. Don’t try to take credit for it.”

“I never do.”

“I know.” Wilson pouted. His success left him frustrated. How could he brag about finally besting Sherman Holmes when Wilson always took credit anyway?