The next few days of summer were as wild as expected, as the case became a real media circus. Lizzy and I stuck to prong seven and let Jimmy do all the talking, which was very hard to do at times, especially those times when he was still insisting that there was some kind of mutant experimentation going on.
Just as he promised though, things did all seem to shake out the way that they should. Don, although hairy and grumpy, at the end of the day he was just doing his job and trying to stop intruders, so he wasn’t in any kind of trouble. Sid was a different story.
Although there were some holes in the story of what happened, and a lot of weird evidence pointing to a lot of different things, one thing was abundantly clear: Sid was a dick. He was a dick and a criminal of some sort. Not every charge could stick, but it was uncovered that he was running an illegal adoption ring out of the shop, taking the healthiest or most valuable animals that came through the shelter and hiding them in the back room. He auctioned them off online and even shipped them across state lines now and then, but not using overnight delivery or with air holes, so a few more animal cruelty and mail fraud charges came his way, as well as fines from the invasive species act.
They couldn’t seem to determine if Jimmy was actually touched inappropriately or not, but it was very hard for Sid to look completely innocent with his Johnson in his hand in a locked room and a kid with a wig and a name tag that said BJ on it just a few steps away. One thing was agreed on by anyone who talked to Jimmy or interviewed him though, and that was that he probably needed therapy either way. So the agreement came that none of us kids would get in trouble for the break in, the assaults, the fire and a slew of other charges, if Jimmy would get weekly therapy for at least the next year. He stubbornly agreed but, in typical Jimmy fashion, it came with some negotiating.
In return for going to therapy and agreeing not to commit any more crimes the rest of the summer, Jimmy asked for a job at the shelter. It was granted on a trial basis, but it quickly became permanent. He had a love for animals and a knack for naming them and giving them little biographies, which led to record rescue adoptions. It also doubled as a way for him to continue his investigation into the mutants, but this time with an access badge of his own.
Nancy and Jimmy made up with each other. He apologized to her for their confrontation after she apologized to Lizzy for lying about the cat. Jimmy had been right about her guilt and her body language that day, as she knew that the cat was in the back room at the time. Sid had made it very clear to everyone working there not to intrude on his scheme. She didn’t like it, but she went along with it. Jimmy made her swear to never do anything like that again, and they quickly became lunch buddies, laughing together about all kinds of things during their volunteer hours. He’s currently trying to convince her to give him an office to train the smartest animals as pet detectives, calling the business Sherlock Homes for Wayward Pets. She laughs because she still can’t tell that he’s serious.
As for me, my dad was pretty peeved about us sneaking away and getting into so much trouble. He was also mad at first when I wouldn’t tell him everything that had happened, as I had promised Jimmy that I wouldn’t. He was angry at the situation, but when I convinced him that all of us were not hurt and would all be fine, he relented a bit and also told me he was proud of me for helping a friend and sticking to my word. It meant a lot to me.
Lizzy and Velcro were reunited and the cat often now accompanied her when we hung out, the cat riding pocket shotgun as the panda was still always on hand too. With Jimmy in therapy, working part-time, and also grounded for a large chunk of the summer, Lizzy and I got a lot more time together uninterrupted. We went to the arcade a lot, went on long walks, and we rented a bunch of MST3K tapes from the library. It was in the middle of watching one of these bad movies, The Final Sacrifice, that we were interrupted by the doorbell ringing.
A pock-faced teenager in a brown UPS uniform was at the door, holding a manilla envelope addressed to Lizzy. All over its surface were written warnings of FRAGILE and IMPORTANT and HIGHLY SENSITIVE MATERIALS and DO NOT LET COME INTO CONTACT WITH SKIN.
I recognized the last one as a typical Jimmy bluff, and I knew instantly who it had come from. She opened the envelope, revealing a short handwritten letter in super sloppy print, which was accompanied by a tiny wrapped box.
The letter read, “Thank you for all your help. You’re pretty cool. You know, for a girl anyway.” It was signed Lead Detective.
She opened up the box, which was tied tightly with a ribbon, and then duct taped as an added measure. Once she got it all peeled off, she found a mess of bubblewrap inside to unravel. At the very center of it was a small, jagged piece of plastic. It was another part of his favorite badge, the one that our bully had snapped in half years ago. It was now broken three ways. Underneath all of this, written in permanent marker directly on the bottom of the box, were the words ‘welcome to the team’.
After the movie, when I walked home, I found that I had a letter waiting for me too. Instead of thanks though, it contained an itemized bill for all of the detective work he had allegedly done. The opening line was, “Since it was your idea to take the stupid case, I figured you should cover the expenses.”
I scanned the lines, only half-paying attention. I didn’t think that he had really spent over six hundred dollars on traps, official FBI internet training, and wigs and mustaches for the case, but I wasn’t going to challenge him on it. Luckily, he concluded the letter by telling me that I could work off the debt over the course of the next five years.
I sighed. I thought about my plans tomorrow with Lizzy to go get Taco Bell for dinner. It was almost like a date. I smiled. All in all, despite all the heaps of trouble and awkwardness at the beginning, this was still shaping up to be the best summer of my life.