The Genie, the Movie Star and the Hobo

By Hy Conrad

Detective Bixby picked her son up from school, waving him quickly into the car. “We just got an anonymous tip,” Carol Bixby said as she pulled away from the curb. “The Diamond Expo is going to be robbed today.”

Jonah had been looking forward to going home to his usual after-school snack, but this was even better. “Diamond Expo? Isn’t that at the Hotel Royale?”

“Right, as always,” Ms. Bixby said as she turned down First Street. “The tip says Margo the Cat will be involved. No one knows what she looks like, so we’re blanketing the hotel with undercover officers.”

She parked at a broken meter and whisked her son into the hotel lobby. “You stay here,” she ordered as they passed the hotel shop. “And try to stay out of trouble. This case is for grown-ups.”

Jonah did as he was told, but kept his eyes peeled. What caught his attention first was not a woman but a man, burly and bald, like a genie in a fairy tale. The genie was loitering in the hotel lobby’s shop. Eventually he bought a bottle of aspirin, foot powder, and a pack of anti-snoring strips.

Right next to the shop was the hotel’s jewelry store. Jonah saw a man in there, perfectly dressed and movie-star handsome. He was browsing the display cases, even though the Diamond Expo, a hundred feet away, contained many more interesting samples.

The third suspect resembled a street person. His tousled hair and scruffy whiskers reminded Jonah of the hobos he’d seen in old photographs. The man was circling the lobby’s flower arrangements, smelling the roses, and looking over his shoulder.

It was at about this time that Jonah wandered into the
 shop and became distracted by a mystery novel in the book
rack. He picked it up, read the jacket blurb, examined the
 cover illustration, and was convinced that he’d figured out the
 ending.  And then the lights went out.

Three minutes later, when the hotel’s power came back on, his mother had rejoined him. Things were bad. Despite the police presence, Margo had struck again, using the darkness and the failure of the alarm system to get away with two million dollars’ worth of gems.

Detective Bixby blamed herself. “We knew Margo had just gotten married, so we should have known she’d have an accomplice. There’s a power closet right in the lobby. Her husband must have slipped in and cut the lines.”

Jonah described the three suspicious-looking men. “Maybe one of them is her husband,” he suggested. All three were brought over for questioning.

The genie’s name was Alfred Kingsley. He claimed to be a bachelor, living alone in the suburbs. “I drove in to see the Expo, then bought a few things I’d been meaning to pick up.”

The movie star was Cliff McCaskey, a salesman who worked at one of the Expo’s jewelry booths. “I was just on a break,” he told them. “Out of curiosity, I stepped into the jewelry shop. The stuff at my booth was much better.”

The hobo claimed to be homeless and was carrying no I.D. “My name is Homer Gates. I came in to get out of the cold. I hung out by the flowers, hoping to grab a few and sell them on the street.”

Jonah listened to all three stories, then whispered to his mother. “That man is lying,” he said, pointing at one of them. I think he’s Margo’s husband.”



Detective Bixby eyed the man her son was pointing to. “The bald guy?”

Jonah nodded, “He claims to be a bachelor living alone, and yet he bought a package of anti-snoring nose strips. If you live alone, there’s no one around to tell you that you snore. My guess is his new wife, Margo the Cat, complained about his snoring. He got to the lobby early and used the extra time to buy something to help him stop.”