Ending something always sounds like the hardest part of everything, and in a lot of ways, it is. In my line of work, you find all kinds of people that just don't seem to know when to quit; don't know when to end some things off; some people just don't seem to understand when things have already ended. Today's case wasn't about endings, though. No, literally the opposite.
I knocked on the door of apartment 3C and waited. While I was waiting, I thought I could hear a loud, continuous banging of metal from down the hall. The sound was intriguing, but I had to catch myself from wandering off track. I knocked again.
"Mr. Long, it's the detective," I called through the door. "I'm here about your lost–"
Before I knew what was happening, the door flew open, a pair of hands grabbed me and ripped me into the room, and the door was shut again in an instant.
"What kind of detective are you?" Mr. Long demanded. "Screaming my case for all to hear?"
"I'm the kind that detects," I retorted. "And I have a hard time detecting through doors. The boys in the lab haven't figured that one out yet."
"Well, nonetheless, I'm glad you're here," Long's tone had shifted considerably. "I can't find it anywhere."
Mr. Long led me into his office room where I saw pictures, graphs, pages of scribbles, and all sorts of pieces of paper sprawled all over the walls. It was as if I had just stumbled onto the home of a crazed murderer or conspiracy theorist on one of my routine investigations, but instead, this was the home of the person I was investigating for.
"A lovely workroom you've got here," I said calmly. "Can really tell where everything is."
"Yeah, except for the most important thing!" Long basically yelled.
"I know, I know. The beginning."
I pulled out a chair from behind a large stack of paper and set it down in front of Long's desk chair. I walked around and analyzed the room. Each cluster of papers focused on a different topic than the others, painting a clear picture of what was going on here. The clustered topics ranged from how much blood a person could lose and remain functioning, to how much money kidneys can go for on the black market, all the way to a cluster talking about how to break The Fourth Wall. I made sure to take several mental notes about that one.
I then analyzed Long as closely as I could, much to his dismay. He was a very disheveled man with pale skin. His clothes looked like he had just bought them from GoodWill, and his shoes were miraculously the cleanest things in the room. He seemed uncomfortable with me looking over him the way I was, but he was the one who called me in. And I'm the kinda guy that takes my job seriously.
Satisfied with the information I had found thus far, I sat down in front of Long and began asking him questions.
"Where were you when you realized the beginning was lost?" I asked calmly.
"I was right here," Long replied. "I was typing away at my computer and finishing the ending of my story when suddenly I realized that there was no beginning."
"Do you think it's possible you simply forgot to write the beginning?" I questioned.
"That's preposterous," Long guffawed. "What kind of a writer would I be if I didn't write the beginning?"
"Then what is it that you think happened?" I asked.
"I don't think what happened, I know what happened," Long insisted.
I leaned in closer.
"It was stolen!" Long yelled.
"You think somebody stole the beginning of your story?" I repeated.
"Yes! It's the only logical explanation!"
It didn't take a detective to realize this man was clearly just a struggling writer who simply had a hard time writing the beginning of his stories and couldn't admit it, but I didn't have any other calls for the day, so I figured I'd humor him. I leaned in closer.
"Well, then looks like we've got a tough case on our hands," I said with a grin. "Do you have any enemies? Any people you think would want to steal your hard work?"
"Yes!" He yelled in excitement. "I know exactly who it is!"
With that, Mr. Long practically jumped out of his seat and ran out of the room.
"You do?" I asked, more so for myself as Long was already long gone.
I followed Long's rather loud footsteps out of his apartment and down the hall into the room that had the banging metal sound emanating from it, which appeared to have stopped. In the room, I saw Mr. Long standing above another man who looked just like him.
"Who is this?" I asked, unable to take my eyes off of the man.
"This is my twin brother," Mr. Long said. "Jake."
"It's Jack," Jake groaned.
"Yeah, that's what I said," Long shook his head. "James."
Jack looked up at me.
"What do you want?" He asked.
"Uh, sorry to disturb you," I said quickly. "But your brother here seems to be under the impression that you have stolen the beginning of his story."
"Oh, he's just saying that because he hates me," James replied, crossing his arms. "I don't even write!"
"Well, I'm supposed to investigate every lead I get, so I guess I'll be the judge of that," I replied. "Now, Mr. Long."
"Yes?" Joseph and Mr. Long asked in unison.
"No, the one who called me," I said sternly. "Do you have any proof to back up your claim?"
I was fully expecting Mr. Long to just give a quiet 'No' and for this case to be over before it truly began. This was already the easiest case I've ever had, I just needed him to admit what really happened. But he seemed to be unable to do so.
"Why yes, I do," Mr. Long said with a grin.
He reached into his back pocket and pulled out a thick roll of paper. He unrolled it quickly and it began to pile onto the floor as it was so long. He finally got it all unrolled and showed me the top of the paper.
"This is my outlining sheet for my book," Mr. Long explained. "And this up here at the top is where the beginning was. Now, look at it."
I inspected the top of the paper and found a simple message written in a box.
U smell like buttz.
"He stole my work and then insulted me!" Mr. Long yelled. "Arrest him!"
I had to give it to this man, he was dedicated. Not a lot of people are willing to insult themselves like that in order to get somebody else in trouble.
"That's not even my handwriting!" José interjected. "See?"
He grabbed a piece of paper and a pencil sitting on the side of his coffee table and wrote the same message onto the paper. I looked closely at both messages and could confirm that it was not the same handwriting.
"He's faking his handwriting!" Mr. Long insisted. "He's a petty thief!"
"I mean, he does have a point," I said, looking at Joel. "You could very easily be faking your handwriting."
"Exactly!" Mr. Long cheered. "Arrest him!"
"Slow down there, Bud," I gestured. "Do you have any more proof?"
Just when I thought it was over, it keeps on going.
"Why yes, I do!" Mr. Long said.
With that, Mr. Long sprinted out of the room, nearly tripping over the coffee table in the process.
"You have a weird brother," I said.
"Yeah, I do," Justin sighed.
"Say, what was that metal banging earlier?" I asked.
"I didn't hear any banging," Jay replied.
Within moments, Mr. Long barged into the room with an old video camera.
"I have video proof of his confession!" He declared as he opened the camera.
On the screen was either Mr. Long or Joshua sitting before the camera sobbing while attempting to speak. The man was sitting in Mr. Long's office.
"I, Jonathan Long, am sorry for stealing the beginning to my awesome brother's wicked cool story," the man said.
Mr. Long slammed the camera shut.
"See?" He said excitedly. "He confessed! Now, arrest him!"
"With all due respect, Sir, you both do look exactly the same," I said. "That could've easily been you."
They both gasped.
"A racist detective are ya?" Mr. Long asked angrily.
"You're literally twins," I said, confused.
"Ah, you're sexist then?" Jesus asked as he rose to his feet.
"What?" I asked, absolutely baffled. "Okay, anyway. So, Mr. Long, you're saying that he broke into your office to steal the beginning of your story, immediately felt bad about it, and recorded his confession and left it in your office?"
"Yes," Mr. Long said proudly.
"And you're just now sharing this with me?" I questioned.
I shook my head in confusion and looked over at Jeffrey, who just shrugged his shoulders.
"Fine, if that's not enough proof for ya, then I know what will be," Mr. Long said, reaching into his pocket again.
I hadn't even been investigating this case for any more than 20 minutes and I already wanted it to be over. Then I saw what Mr. Long pulled out of his pocket.
"He left several hairs laying around on my desk from when he did it!" He announced as he held the hairs before him.
"Oh finally, some actual evidence," I whispered to myself.
I picked up the hairs from Long's hand and inspected them closely, but I quickly noticed something wasn't right about them. I looked at Jackson's hair and compared it to the hairs in my hand.
"Mr. Long, these are not his hairs," I sighed.
"And what makes you think that?" He demanded.
"These are too short and not the right color," I stated. "These are honestly probably from mice."
The hairs were short and gray, whereas the brothers had somewhat long and black hair. It was nowhere near a close match. Mr. Long ripped one of the hairs out of my hand and inspected it himself.
"He must have dyed his hair gray and cut it when he stole the beginning," Mr. Long decided, as if that was a natural thing to do.
"So he did that just to steal the beginning of your story, then dyed his hair back and grew it out again right before you called me?" I questioned.
"Yes!" Mr. Long agreed and raised his hand to give me a high-five.
I left him hanging.
"Mr. Long, could you please–"
I was cut off by the sound of the metallic banging again. It was coming from somewhere inside that room, but I couldn't tell where.
"Hey Jude," I demanded. "Where's that sound coming from."
Mr. Long crossed his arms and glared at his brother who was visibly growing more nervous by the second.
"I–I have no idea what you're talking about," Josh mumbled.
"Where's the banging coming from?" Mr. Long interrogated, stepping closer to his brother.
"Your mother," Juan replied, unaware of who he had just said that to and what that meant.
"Why you little!" Mr. Long tackled his brother onto the couch and began trying to grasp at his throat.
In the middle of all of the noise, I heard a mouse squeak coming from the corner of the room.
"It's coming from over there," I pointed, stepping onto the coffee table.
I used the coffee table to propel myself over the couch and rushed to the corner of the room where I found a vent with the screws missing. The cover was being held on by two pieces of duct tape and was constantly trying to be forced open by something on the inside causing the banging. I ripped the tape off and caught a mouse as it was trying to get out. Around its neck was a metal vile with a notch to pop the end open with.
Upon opening the vile, a piece of paper fell to the floor. I set the mouse down and read the paper. It was the beginning of Mr. Long's story written in the same handwriting as the message on his outline and it had several tear stains on the paper.
"Oh my god, he actually stole it," I said in a monotone voice.
"Did you find it?" Mr. Long asked over the sound of his brother being choked.
"Yeah," I called back halfheartedly. "I guess you were right."
Mr. Long flung himself over the couch and snatched the paper out of my hands. Joe began breathing heavily on the couch and gasping for as much air as he could get.
"Hot dog!" Long cheered. "I've finally got the beginning of my story back!"
They say endings are some of the hardest things to do and saddest to experience, but if I've learned anything from this case, it's that: beginnings are some of the hardest things to find, and you'll be baffled your entire way towards finding them.