Sid and Pip watched the organ grinder from across the square. The monkey returned with a pack of cigarettes, which he handed to the man. Mario took the pack and slid it into his pocket, and removed a lighter from the monkey's vest. A small piece of wire dropped to the ground, which the monkey quickly picked up and placed back in his pocket. Sid and Pip both noted this, and walked to the grocers.
Marble Finley was a squat old woman who most closely resembled an old Russian stacking doll. At any moment, she was expected to split down the middle and have a smaller, slightly more charming Marble Finley pop out.
She wore her white hair up in a bun, so it was impossible to tell the length, and she squinted through glasses at Sid, who was standing in front of her.
"Hello, Ms. Finley. I just have a few questions. Have you ever employed Raleigh? The cleaning woman?"
Marble Finley nodded, her glasses moving dangerously up and down her nose.
"And how did that work out?"
Before Marble could answer, a man piped up from behind Sid. "Good maid, very good maid, but nasty habit of leaving her cigarette butts in my ash trays. Tim Shopper, nice to meet you."
Sid took his hand, and turned to Pip. "Write that all down. Mr. Shopper, that spider monkey, does he buy cigarettes here often?"
Tim nodded. "Oh yeah. Ms. Finley doesn't really care for Mario. Says he don't speak the language."
"At least not well. He's picked up on a few things, from what I hear. What does Ms. Finley think of Mr. Druthers?"
"Oh, she and I, we both hate him. He denied the store expansion for her and wouldn't let me put a pool in. Nice man, but protective of Butterville. Lives alone, this place… This place is his baby."
"And you can begrudge him of that?" Pip piped up.
"Well, it's just flat out rude, you know. Mr. Auger thinks so. McClaren is one of the only people he's let have an extension on his house, and you know, Mr. McClaren let his house go way south. Mr. Auger always held it against Druthers that he would let McClaren have an extension like that."
Pip nodded, and turned to Sid. "What? Do you have it?"
Sid sighed. "I think I do."
"Mr. Druthers… And Mr. McClaren, I suppose, since you're present and it was, in fact, your hammer that did in Frenchie Rawles. I do believe I figured out who killed Frenchie.
"Mario, the organ grinder – no, no, he didn't do it. But he was at odds with Mr. Rawles, correct? His perch for playing accordion was under the apartment, which was fine for most of the tenants, save Rawles, who had to work the night shift. His sleep was constantly interrupted by the raucous applause from the street below. Since Mario speaks only limited English, he was in several altercations with Rawles. They couldn't understand each other, so they would often just flail their arms around – an angry language even a monkey could interpret... And lo, it did.
"This takes me back to the string of break ins. You said, Mr. Druthers, that you were afraid your apartment would be next. But there's no feasible way to get to your apartment from the street. To get to your window, one would have to be an acrobat of some kind."
"Never hurt to take precautions," Druthers said.
"Right," Pip said, taking over. "In this case, it didn't help, though. See, the robberies died down at about the time Mario figured out it was his monkey going and doing the stealing. Somehow managed to get the little fellow to stop. That is, until the monkey came across the right tool. He found a piece of filament wire, and began breaking into houses again. McClaren, he stole your hammer. Mr. Druthers, he broke into your apartment – it was next on his monkey-list anyway, as you said your apartment, following a pattern, would be next."
"Who should he find inside," Sid said, "Then Frenchie Rawles, looking for zoning permits to help him form a lawsuit against Mario. Frenchie broke into your apartment looking for a way to shut the poor Italian up. And the monkey, the poor monkey, only knew of Rawles what he saw in the interactions between Rawles and Mario. Sensing aggression the man, and rightly so, the monkey took the hammer to Rawles head."
Druthers started blankly at Sid. "And how did the place catch fire?"
"You have a smoke filled room, which means something in that room - or at least, close to a ventilation system that leads into that room - is on fire. You assume fire, because you see smoke. Very rarely do you ever think about what it is that is actually on fire, and in this case, it would be a pile of rags put on top of a body. The rags are on top of the body so that the maid will not see it, the lot of good it would do, as she was partially blind, and Mr. Druthers, you would have known this if you had the slightest clue… However, you did know she was a smoker due to the cigarette butts she frequently left scattered around the freshly cleaned rooms. You're not a smoker, Mr. Druthers, so you don't have an ashtray. I do believe Raleigh, who can never finish a full cigarette, would frequently leave half smoked blunts on plates. The monkey, I noted, carries a lighter to help Mario light cigarettes. The monkey found a cigarette on the ground, lit it, had a puff, and tossed it when he heard you coming in.
"The monkey left through the window, inadvertently setting the apartment after getting at the back of Rawles head with the very nasty claw end of a hammer."
"And you're sure?"
Pip nodded. "It all adds up. The missing hammer, the murder in your apartment. Frenchie's motive was there, the motive for the monkey – two sets of foot prints, belonging to you and Rawles. The monkey would have kept elevated, as was his practice as an ex-thief. It explains your window being open. Hiring a smoking maid explains the cigarettes in your apartment – she did clean your place hours before it went up in smoke, and there's a smoldering cigarette near the fountain, where she dropped one earlier today. Of course, this would be awfully hard to prove."
"Excepting that the monkey, returning to a life of crime, would have items that he has stolen. And since he does not want his owner to know, he would have a secret cache. Inside would be the hammer used to murder Rawles. It could very easily exonerate you, all things considered.
"Of course, this theory all hinges on you being innocent. Are you an innocent man, Mr. Druthers?"
"I am an innocent man."
"Very good, then we can do business," Sid said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I have to apprehend a monkey."
Sid left the house and walked across the town square, towards Mario, who was setting up shop again, preparing another knock-em-dead show.
"Excuse me, Mario, may I have a word?"
Mario smiled congenially. "Oh," he said.
"Right, yes, I have to take your monkey. As your monkey is a known murderer."
Mario scrunched his face like an orange being juiced, as if he grasped the rudimentary parts of the sentence, but not fully.
Before Sid could answer, the monkey sprung from it's perch on the accordion case, hitting Sid across the jaw with a mean left hook.
"Monkey!" Sid shouted, putting his dukes up.
Pip watched Sid box the monkey for a few seconds, before the hand clamped down over her mouth. Before she could scream, she was moving head over heels into the footlocker, which sat squarely at the base of a bed.
After a few seconds, her eyes shot open with the sudden realization. She all of a sudden understood just what was going on, and would have slapped her forehead, had she the room to move.
"How could I have been so obtuse!" she muttered, under her breath. And all at once, she longed for a strong cup of Earl Grey.
Sid threw a right hook, but the monkey was far too fast. It dodged, and climbed up Sid's arm, taking perch, slinging its legs around his neck and playing his head like a bongo.
"Gah! Blasted dance-worthy rhythm your monkey is banging out!" Sid cried.
Sid juked to the left, throwing the monkey off balance. It clattered to the ground, and Sid retreated to McClaren's house, removing the bags of sand from his suitcase, and walking back to the town square. A small crowd had gathered, and Sid made a semicircle around himself. The monkey charged at him, fury in the crazy, beady monkey eyes, but as soon as it's feet hit the sand, it fell fast asleep.
"Monkey?" Mario asked. "Dead?"
"No," Sid said, brushing his arm off. There was a small trickle of blood running from a laceration on his forehead. "That spider monkey was of the breed Playastus. They're found on beaches. The touch of sand reminded him of home and the docile life it used to lead before it became a chain smoking murderer. Now, can someone show me where Mario lives?"
Sid was lead across town, to a very small house. It appeared that Mario had been the only person in town to not request an extension on his property, and this would be confirmed as the copies of the paperwork from Druthers's files finally came to light several weeks later.
Sid followed the scent of that blasted monkey to the hammock it slept in, and found a loose floorboard underneath. Inside were a few trinkets. Documents from Druthers's apartment, a few items from the grocers, but suspiciously missing was the murder weapon. Indeed, there was a hammer shaped hole in the goods where it should have gone, but it had been removed what looked like days prior.
Moving hastily, Sid turned, and moved to the unconscious monkey, reaching into it's pocket and removing the filament wire.
"Of course! I'm so obtuse! Mr. Shopper!"
There was a fair crowd following Sid around.
"Yes?" a voice called from the back.
"What is Mr. McClaren's job?"
"Engineer. Mainly works on the fountain."
Sid shook his head. "Of course… Intrigued mob?"
There was a uniform grunt of acknowledgement.
"Please proceed to Mr. McClaren's residence. You'll notice that it is the only house with an extension, and that it is the only house in utter disrepair. You'll find my assistant in his footlocker. If you could use your menacing mob mentality, it would be wonderful if you could corner him."
And so they did, moving across town as a single unit.
Sid opened McClaren's foot locker and slapped Pip upside the head.
"You figured it out?" Pip asked.
"Yes. Finally. Why didn't you tell me?"
"What?" the crowd cried.
"Right, excuse me, we should address the question at hand. McClaren murdered his wife!"
McClaren, who was cornered in the back of the room, cried out. "That's a lie! A falsehood!"
"Where is she, then?"
"Staying with her sister in Surry, that's where. You can't say I killed her if you don't have a body!"
Sid turned to the trunk, offering a hand to Pip. She climbed to her feet, and stepped out of the box, holding a bloodied hammer in her hand.
"Word to the wise, McClaren. If you have a murder weapon, don't leave it where you're going to stash a hostage. They'll probably find it."
"That doesn't prove anything!" he cried out.
"I'll entertain this," Sid said. "Briefly. I'll excuse you being in possession of a murder weapon. I won't even ask why you have it. I'll just assume you missed your old hammer that had been stolen and that's just Frenchie's blood on it, not your wife's. But I do have a fountain to repair," Sid removed the piece of filament wire from his pocket. "If you don't mind."
Sid marched the crowd to the fountain, and in the waning sunlight, opened the electric box at the base, pushing aside a few covered copper wires, before finding an abscess where a small piece of filament used to go. He slowly moved it in place.
There was a churning noise as the gears began to turn, the vacuum began to move water through the tubing.
And the water that emerged from the top of the fountain was yellow and smelled of utmost death.
Sid removed the wire, and moved to the fountain bed, sloshing through the vile liquid, moving to the reservoir maintenance panel, which he opened.
"Pip, a light."
She handed over a small flashlight, which Sid shined into the hole.
"Well, yes, I would say that is one dead woman in there. And with a piece of heavy stone sealing the entrance to the reservoir, it makes a very nice coffin. Only, people would notice if the fountain began spewing foul water, so you had to shut if off. But you left the filament wire on the street, in front of the apartment, where the monkey found it.
"You don't like losing things, McClaren. And she was leaving. So you decided to keep her. As long as the drought kept up, you would never need to get the fountain running. And considering the climate of your area, I would say rain is unlikely."
"So, really," Pip said, "It was your own actions that brought about the death of Mr. Rawles, the destruction of a public building, the incarceration of an innocent man, the return to a life of crime of a monkey, the kidnapping of a child. Selfish, selfish, Mr. McClaren."
McClaren said nothing. He looked utterly defeated, as if beaten by a large 2x4 of impossible logic.
Auger cuffed him and carried him away. There was polite scattered applause, as Sid and Pip stood on the fountain edge and took a bow.
"Nothing to see here," he called out, "Except two amazing detectives. Please, please, return home and forward all donations to my address, which you can find in your yellow pages."
The crowd eventually dispersed, a slow murmur running through about the incredulousness of the preceding events. Raleigh stayed and watched Sid, as Sid watched the crowd. She walked up to him after everyone had left.
"That was pretty good," she said. "I just hope you don't get mauled by a bear."
Sid smiled. "I was attacked by a monkey. Not really the same, but animals are animals."
Raleigh nodded. "If you're ever in Butterville again, you'll come see me?"
"I don't know why on earth I would come back here," Sid said. "Idyllic isn't my setting."
Sid shrugged. "I'll tell you when I figure that out."
Smiling, Raleigh walked away.
Finally, Druthers approached Sid.
"I don't understand everything that just happened, but I appreciate you clearing my name."
"And I appreciate all the money that will be coming in. Pip, have you been taking notes on the entire case?"
"We'll tabulate your bill once we get back to our base of operations. Pip, go pack the bag."
"The bag is already packed. We haven't been here more than a day."
There was a pause, and Sid and Mr. Druthers stared at each other.
"Your bird is innocent," Sid finally broke the silence. "And you're an honest man."
"Hold on just," Mr. Druthers urged Sid to wait a moment longer, while he went back to McClaren's house to retrieve something. A few seconds later, he returned, his prized parakeet chirping.
"I want you to have this," Druthers said.
"I couldn't," Sid objected. "There's hardly any meat on it."
Druthers nodded, smiling. ""It was good doing business with you, Mr. Linner. We can do business."
Sid and Pip turned to leave, walking down the winding grass road out of town. Eventually, Sid relegated the carrying of the bird cage and the noisy small creature inside to the noisy small creature that was constantly beside him. At the base of the foothill, Sid stopped Pip.
" 'It was a good doing business with you, Mr. Linner. We can do business.'
"Pip, make sure to note on the bill, 'Stealing Mr. Linner's line - 200.' That ought to show him."