In an empty conference room at the Crimes Against Gullible Persons Unit, Inspector Goatlock closed the door and locked it.
“Lupine,” said Goatlock, “I’ve called us both together here in this private setting for one reason only. “
“You believe the culprit is in this room?” asked Lupine, looking nervously at the empty chairs.
“Of course not,” Goatlock replied. “But what I am about to tell you is mostly conjecture. Not up to the usual standards, I’m afraid. My reasoning may not stand the light of day.”
“But of course! How could it be otherwise? This case makes no sense to me whatsoever.”
“And yet,” said Goatlock, chewing on his pipe once again, “I believe that it all comes back to Marnie.”
“That surly child,” muttered Lupine. “Never underestimate the abilities of a twelve year old girl! They’re craftier than most humans, and twice as smart as the rest.”
“And yet, I’m afraid Marnie suffers from BS disease.”
“I knew it,” Lupine shouted. “She’s a congenital liar!”
“Not THAT BS, dear Lupine. It’s Brittle Skeleton Disease,” said Goatlock gently. “Her bones … they’re quite delicate. Didn’t you notice the child sized crutches and the mini-wheelchair?”
“Escaped my attention entirely, I’m afraid,” Lupine mused.
“Mine as well,” said Goatlock. “I only remembered them later – once I sat down to piece together this scenario.”
“Damn clever,” Lupine exclaimed. “It’s the sort of detail one would naturally overlook in a home where both parents are in the business of bones and joints and such.”
“Yes, and what kind of child winds up with an orthopedic surgeon AND a chiropractor for parents?” Goatlock posed. “Clearly they were an ordinary married couple at first, but then went in completely different directions in their frantic efforts to develop a workable treatment for her. The afflictions of a loved one can become a full time job before long, so why not get a degree and certification?”
“So when the Doctors Prettyman mentioned that Marnie ‘likes breaking things’, it wasn’t about the eggs. “ said Lupine. “It was her bones they were talking about!”
“Yes,” said Goatlock. “that’s why she described her day as ‘tenuous’. For someone with Brittle Skeleton Disease, every day is like that. And what sort of animal companion do you give a child who can break a bone simply by brushing against a wall or falling down?”
“A turtle!” Lupine realized. “No running!”
“No running and no leaping on to her lap. But no ordinary turtle,” Goatlock concluded. “It would have to be a turtle with the ability to go for help should Marnie … WHEN Marnie gets hurt!”
“Like dear old Timmy and the incredible canine Lassie!” Lupine exclaimed.
“ Just as Timmy knew he could count on Lassie to get past any obstacle when running for help,” Goatlock surmised, “so Sarge needs to be almost magical in his ability to transcend barriers.”
“Amazing creature!” said Lupine.
“And expensive,” added Goatlock. “They needed money desperately. So desperately they scammed a relative for cash.”
“But both were medical professionals!” Lupine noted.
“Medical professionals fussing and arguing over the same patient all day every day. I doubt they had paying jobs. No wonder the poor child liked to be outside.”
“So,” Lupine surmised, “the Prettymans placed a call to Beverly with that made-up the story about Alex and the Canadians. Why didn’t Beverly see through it?”
“Because Alex doesn’t exist, my dear Lupine.”
“You’ll have to explain that one, Inspector. How can a grandmother not recognize the sudden invention of a grandchild?”
“Quite simply because Beverly is a Moose Sweat addict, and she is too open to suggestion to challenge any proposition placed before her. She had all the signs of aphrodisiac intoxication. A nympho grandma so severe, even a first grade teacher from South Dakota could recognize her illness at a hundred paces.”
“What clued you to it? Was it the way she was eyeing you?”
No, dear Lupine. I’m used to that sort of reaction from creatures of all species and sexes. It was the way she was eyeing YOU. Only someone hopped up on a potent mood altering drug would cast such a wanton gaze in your direction. No offense.”
“No offense taken, dear Goatlock,” assured Lupine. “But how …?”
“I suspect the doctors Prettyman got Beverly hooked on the drug as a ready source of money to finance Marnie’s care. Moose Sweat, in addition to its well known enhancement of the libido, is widely used as a pain killing lubricant in shoulders, elbows, knees and toes, so they would have easy access to vast amounts.”
“I hope it also soothes the chafing of tortured logic,” Lupine said. “Otherwise, how could you possibly prove that Alex doesn’t exist?”
“Simply put – his story is flawed. Nobody teaches ethics of any kind in Moscow. I checked. The Russians are too fatalistic to waste time with that kind of nonsense,” Goatlock mused. “… therefore none of it is true. Even Tanya, who I desperately wanted to be real.”
“Astonishing!” Lupine blinked. “Case closed?”
“I hope so,” said Goatlock, “… but I know there are people waiting to poke holes and add details. I think we’ll have to wait to see if this story holds up.”