Chapter 3: It's A Jungle Gym Out There (Jimmy)

Published on 5 September 2022 at 12:20

It took almost the entire hike to the clubhouse before I was calm enough to start telling JB the full scoop from my meeting with Mr. Krause. I still couldn’t believe it myself. A bad detective? Me? I knew that our principal was getting older, but I thought he still had a couple of good years left before his mind went completely. Poor guy. Having to add senile to the list of bald, old and annoying, I couldn’t help but feel a little pang of sympathy for the simpleton.


JB seemed a bit quieter than usual on our walk, but I chalked that up to him being excited about all of the cases we were going to solve this summer. I couldn’t blame him, we were getting pretty good at it.


The clubhouse was about a fifteen minute walk from JB’s house, hidden away in the middle of Lions Park. I can’t help smiling like an idiot every time I come here, it’s one of my greatest achievements.


We live in a super small and strange town in the Midwest, a place called Villa Park. Or Weird VP, as I like to call it. I learned in school that it was established in the 1800s by German immigrants looking for farmland. So I really shouldn’t have been surprised when it was super boring all the time. And, according to my investigating so far anyway, it was also overrun by Nazis. Mr. Krause? More like Mr. SauerKrause, am I right? That was a good one, I couldn’t wait to tell it to JB.


Weird VP may be small and sometimes inactive for a stretch, but it was always full of mysteries waiting to be solved. It was the perfect training ground for a super sleuth in the making like myself. Why do so many things disappear and then end up on a light post over by the Jewel? Where does the Prairie Path really end? Is it true that the hill behind the high school is really an ancient Indian burial ground? And what could possibly be the nefarious reason behind all of the toilets spontaneously appearing on curbs all over town? No one knows, but I sure intended to be the first one to find out. All of those things had to wait, however, as we already had our first case to take on for the summer.


We walked up the ramp to the park, careful not to scratch our hands on the sharp paint chips that were jutting from the fire engine red railings. After we walked the ramp and crossed the bridge, we came to it, my work of genius.


Our progress was halted by a crisscrossed web of caution tape; caution tape that I had, um, borrowed from the back of the police station. It had rolled out of a cruiser when an officer was getting into his car, and I knew a good investment when I saw one.


With that roll of tape and some scrap wood I had commandeered from the annual construction on our highway, I had made a pretty convincing sight. Right after the ramp there was a big round plastic tunnel for kids to crawl in. Once you’re through it, you can take the spinning slide down. I spun my web of yellow tape across the end of the ramp right before the tunnel as a deterrent, weaving a pattern so meticulously calculated that only a super agile person like me or JB could navigate past it. After the tape web, I used a big secure piece of wood to write OUT OF ORDER and KEEP OUT and DANGEROUS and, my personal favorite, PARENTS WILL BE HELD FINANCIALLY ACCOUNTABLE FOR WHAT HAPPENS. No one ever disturbed it.


I dislodged the duct tape and wood chip system that held the sign in place and, after looking both ways to insure no one was watching us, moved the sign to the side and slipped in, JB right behind me. As I secured the sign behind us, I thought about how long we’ve had this clubhouse without anyone knowing. It was awesome. They even had a town meeting about it once, the parents were all peeved about the park not being fixed in a timely fashion, or the looming threat of a lawsuit if any of their snot nosed kids trespassed. Lots of angry people talking and blaming, but nothing came of it as there was nothing to fix. I removed the sign when the inspectors came out and I put it back up as soon as they said everything was fine and took their easy paycheck. It’s now been eight months and everyone has all but given up on it. It was the greatest hang out since the abandoned Ovaltine factory, and this one had a swirly slide for a quick escape. Or to pee down in case an investigation goes long and you’re out of bottles.


As soon as JB and I took our usual places in the tunnel, I told him the final moments of the meeting with our principal and my sweet exit line. Then I revealed what I’d been pondering on ever since that talk: what Mr. Krause was really saying.


“So, in closing, I think that he was trying to convince me to give up my investigating because I was too close to something. But which thing? Is it the lunch lady who I’m ninety nine percent sure is feeding us human meat on Meatloaf Mondays? Or how they might have cloned the whole marching band when they left for that field trip because they all came back acting weird, remember that? Or maybe it all goes back to the Nazi thing, it always does! Mr. SauerKrause, am I right?”


I sat back proudly, waiting for JB’s input on my investigation so far. My right hand man, my number one deputy. I never do a case without him, which I can tell he appreciates.


JB remains quiet. I suppose he’s really deep in thought. “Well?” I prodded. “What do you think? Do you think it’s the Nazi thing we’ve been looking into? JB? The Nazis? You think?” I look at him until he meets my gaze, then he lets out a sigh. Uh oh. Not a good sign. My sleuthing sense was tingling.


“What do you think about what Mr. Krause said, about how investigating things makes school harder for you? Do you think that that might be true?” JB looked at his shoes after asking me that question, suddenly very interested in the way his scuffed sneakers were laced.


Interesting, I thought to myself. What a suspicious question. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, maybe he’s just got very early summer sadness. He must not of understood what I was saying this whole time. 


“I already told you what I think,” I said very very slowly, making sure even a dummy like him could follow my words, “I think that he is trying to scare me off because I am getting too close. In fact, remember that dead bird that was on the front step the other day when I was over for dinner? You said it was probably just a neighborhood cat, but what if it was him? A warning? Like, ‘you better not sing like a canary’, something like that. It’s an old expression but remember, he might be a Nazi and they’re old anyway so that checks out.”


JB nodded slowly, looking like my words were taking longer than usual to process. He was being really weird. After another long moment, he sighed and met my gaze again. “Jimmy, I have to be honest with you about something. This last year, I had so many extra classes and tournaments and stuff, it was hectic. I was kind of hoping that this summer we could do something different. Maybe, you know, take a break from the cases for a while? We could just go swimming and check out the pet stores and play baseball and stuff.”


For the second time that day, I felt my heart in my face. And I felt like both were getting punched.


“My dad said that he would take both of us fishing, you don’t even have to have your own pole or anything, he said he’d get it for you nice and easy. Maybe we’ll even catch and get to say hi to the class goldfish you released in Lufkin Park, remember? You said Mr. Gruetwine was performing mind control experiments on him?”


My heart continued to pound away, I could feel the tunnel spinning around me. Of course I remember Swim Burton! I remember him, and also the way that our teacher tapped the fish food exactly three times before picking it up to feed him. Three times every time. Some kind of a Nazi fish morse code I was still trying to crack. What did that have to do with any of this? Was it all connected.


I closed my eyes and swallowed hard. “Do you think we need to consult the fish about this? Like he has some insider information? I’m trying to understand what you’re saying here man, it’s hot in this tunnel and I don’t get it right now. I haven’t cracked their code yet, I don’t think it’ll help our investigation.” 


I felt sweaty. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. No cases? What?


JB sighed and spoke again, trying to force excitement back into his voice. “No, no I don’t mean we should consult a goldfish before we do our cases. I just think we can use a break from the cases, from all the spying and investigating and mysteries. Just for a while, just for one summer. Do you think we can?”


My throat tightened. I fanned myself and I clawed at my shirt. It was clinging to my body, I felt like I was suffocating. “I think I need some air, can we please take a walk?”


Without waiting for a reply, I allowed myself to collapse into the slide entrance and tumble my way to the ground, the same way my whole world seemed to be tumbling down around me.

Add comment


Definitely Not J-Bidniss
a year ago

This one is really good. On the one hand JB may have a point, but I think Jimmy should stick with those cases. I want to believe! And I want to know where those toilets are coming from!