Case Number: 02313204
Client Name: Gladys Tucker
Appointment Purpose: Theft Investigation (House call)
Appointment Time: 15:00, 32 Phoenix, 1332
Appointment Location: 17 Valley Ln, Shaemoore, Queensdale
I arrive at Mrs. Tucker’s address just as I hear the Reach’s distant bells chiming for the top of the hour.
I knock on the door, there is no answer.
I wait for a short moment, decide to re-tie one of my boot laces before trying again. Still no answer.
I double check my daily planner, confirm that I’m in the right place at the right time. Think that maybe she forgot about the appointment, or she didn’t give me the correct address during our initial consultation.
Unsure of how to proceed, I step back from the front step and begin to walk the house’s perimeter.
It’s a cute place, small in size, but situated on a quiet street with a great view of the river valley and the windmill in the distance. Cozy construction, a thatched roof, with a lot of hanging vines and ivy draped over the place. The grass and bushes are a little bit overgrown, indicating a reluctance or inability to perform the more physical aspects of the yardwork. However, the tidy and prosperous planters at the back hints at Mrs. Tucker’s prideful appreciation of a well-maintained herb garden.
I don’t get close enough for a thorough inspection of the structure, but I don’t spot any possible points of entry aside from the doors and windows, all of which look securely closed. No obvious cracks or holes in the facade, though it’s possible something small might be able to squeeze their way in between the bricks and spackle that make up the walls.
As I peer over the lowest section of the wall into the garden itself. Something catches my eye. Droppings. Could they belong to the elusive pantry bandit? They are certainly larger than anything a rat would leave behind, and definitely on the large side for a cat as well. I start to wonder if perhaps the perpetrator could be something larger than I had initially estimated, like a racoon or a coyote.
I make my way back to the front door and knock one more time. Yet again, I am greeted only by silence.
Just as I begin to consider turning and leaving in confused defeat, I hear something. Or perhaps I imagine hearing something. The sound is extremely faint, but at a high pitch that ceases in an abrupt instant. I stop in my tracks and listen in the hopes I might hear it again. Nothing.
Something I can’t explain compels me to reach forward and try the door’s handle.
My pulse races as the knob gives and turns in my hands. I release it again, allowing the door’s weight to slowly insist its way open. The neglected hinges squeal in protest. I stand motionless before the threshold, paralyzed with uncertainty.
“Mrs. Tucker?” I call out into the silent, musty space before me. The curtains are all drawn, making the room surprisingly dark for a sunny Phoenix afternoon. “Mrs. Tucker?!”
Even after the slight raise of my voice, I hear nothing in response. Perhaps she’s out, misinterpreted the appointment and made her way back to my office in the Reach. Either that or I really do have the wrong house.
“It’s Reed Ingrams, I’m here about the-” And then It hits me. Just as I take a single step across the threshold, an all-too familiar scent hits my nostrils.
Feeling concern well up in the pit of my stomach, I’m emboldened to advance through the main room and sweep the house in search of the smell’s source, dreading what I’ll discover.
Then I find her.
The motionless corpse of Mrs. Tucker, collapsed on her kitchen floor.
The look of shock is still visible on her face, indicating the sudden nature of her passing, but there is no wound or visible indication of any violence inflicted upon her. There’s no obvious signs of a struggle, save for the tea towel clutched in her hand. Best I can tell, she died of something internal, all in a matter of seconds. It has only been a day since she came to meet with me. Best I can guess, it happened a few hours after our consultation.
Finding her in such a state is definitely a shock, but not a surprise. What surprises me more is the little puppy that sits beside her, waiting patiently for her to start moving again. He must have been the source of the sound that I heard from outside.
She never mentioned having a puppy.
He gets up and runs to greet me as soon as I enter the kitchen area, ecstatic to find that another human (and possible provider of food) has finally come to see him.
It’s a lot to take in, and as I kneel down to try and keep the fluffy little furball calm, my eyes continue to study and investigate the scene. My mind races, considering everything that surrounds the situation. I think about what the next steps need to be, and begin to form a plan of action.
I have to inform the Seraph, of course, and let the coroner’s office take over. It’ll be fun explaining this to them, and I’ll likely become a person of interest if they launch an investigation, but given the circumstances they might not even go to that much trouble.
I realize that the puppy has likely not been fed yet all day, so I decide to make my way over to the pantry to fetch him something to eat. It’s not difficult to find and retrieve some of the precious jerky that Mrs. Tucker raved about. As the puppy delightedly smacks away on the flavorful meaty treat, I fill up his water bowl for him as well. Then it all starts to make sense to me.
The puppy was the thief all along. Mrs. Tucker was feeding it the same food she purchased for herself, and never realized that it was depleting her stores at a faster rate. She likely retained the same regular shopping list and habits from all the years she spent alone, and didn’t account for it after adopting the extra mouth to feed. Based on the puppy’s apparent age, the timelines line up to coincide the food disappearances with when she likely would have adopted it.
Though there’s no concrete evidence to prove my theory, I’m unable to find any indications of forced entry in the rest of the house. There’s no animal tracks or claw marks in the larder, and nothing to indicate the culprit being anything more than her own dementia and paranoia.
After spending a few more minutes walking around and taking a few pictures of the various scenes, I decide to set off for the Seraph precinct in Shaemoore. I realize I can’t just leave the puppy behind, so I scoop him up and take him with me. He’s got no tag, so I have no idea what his name is, but I gotta admit he’s a damn cute little animal.
He’s winning me over pretty quickly, and given the circumstances, it kind of seems like fate. Think I’ll see about trying to adopt him.