“Now, there are a lot of criminal types out there, but there are three main categories of pants snatchers. You ready for them?”
Lizzy nodded and gave me a thumbs up. She was writing in one of my other notepads, one I gave her to use today. It had a rabid chihuahua on it. The dog was wearing a sombrero and it said Bite Me.
I returned her nod and went on. “Number one, you have your basic pants-crappers. They’re a person who made a big mistake and are desperate to cover it up. They don’t care who they hurt with their crappy actions, they are too ashamed. Luckily, their crimes are fueled by fear and shame, which makes them sloppy, leaving a trail of clues behind.”
I paused, allowing her to write it all down. She was very thorough. I liked that.
“You can tell by the lack of a bad smell that it probably wasn’t a pants-crapper in this particular incident, so that brings us to suspect number two: the cross-dresser.”
Lizzy began writing again. I did my best to slow down for her. “Now usually cross-dressers have their own clothes, and they’re usually better than the average persons. But some of them, they don’t know that they want to cross-dress until they see something that calls to them. It could be their moms shoes at home. Maybe their wife’s dress. Or maybe, juuust maybe, it could be something they see hanging on a neighbors line. Like a special pair of pants.”
She scribbled and nodded, mumbling the words back as she committed them to paper. When she was nearly caught up, I began again. “As of right now, I’m leaning towards a cross-dresser. However, in some very rare cases, there is a third kind of pants grabber.” I gulped, not wanting to say the words. Just in case saying them out loud made it real. Like karma. Or a jinx. Or Beetlejuice. I inhaled deeply and let my breath out slowly before naming the third kind. “Terminators,” I said with a shiver. “They can come from the future but they can only transmit organic matter to the past. So the clothes don’t come with them. Because of that, the terminator would have to go and steal clothes. Like in the movies.”
I paced a small area in the yard, still trying to drink in every single angle of this crime scene, to leave no rock unturned. I saw a rock nearby and I kicked it over, just in case.
As soon as she was done with her notes, Lizzy followed me on my circular route. “So,” she said, “what’s next? Maybe it’ll help to reenact the crime?”
I smiled. “A great idea! More helpful than JB usually is. I mean, look at him. What kind of a perimeter is that?” I saw him standing off in the distance, leaning against a tree and playing with something that looked like a phone. Not his best work by far.
I shook my head and returned my attention to Lizzy. “Let’s reenact it. You’re the crazed cross-dresser, who just saw an irresistible pair of pants. Go!”
She paused for a minute, thinking. She said she was trying to get into the mind of the criminal. I reminded her that she cross-dressed on the last mission and that she should just call upon her own experience. She nodded and took a few steps, over to where the pants had previously hung. She looked left and right, making sure the coast was clear, then pantomimed grabbing pants and running away. When she was only two or three steps away, she froze in surprise. Her hands opened. Had she really been carrying pants just now, they would have fallen in the mud.
“The mud,” she said. “I think that there’s footprints in it!”
I ran over, my heart leapt into my throat. Sure enough, right there in a damp patch of lawn, footprints.
“Do you think they belong to the cross-dresser?” Lizzy asked me. I furrowed my brow and nodded, thinking about it. “Well, they do look like they came from a pair of sensible shoes, so probably. But I don’t know. There’s something about it that I don’t trust.” I tapped my foot again, trying to shake the feeling into focus.
Lizzy pointed to the trail of prints, pointed to where they led. To the tree-line, towards the back of the yard. I chewed on my lower lip. Something didn’t add up.
Suddenly, it hit me!
“Wait a minute,” I said to Lizzy, stopping her in mid-stride. She was already following the footprints. It was easy. Too easy.
She looked up at me, questioningly. I tapped my finger to my temple. “Think about it,” I said. She frowned, thought for a minute, then shrugged. “I don’t get it,” she said.
The prints, I tell her. The footprints. They’re too obvious. Too neat. Too easy. They aren’t real, they’re a misdirect.
“I don’t think they’re a misdirect,” she disagreed, “he or she probably just left in a hurry. Didn’t you say that their crime was fueled by shame and that made them sloppy?”
“No,” I said. “That’s the pants-crapper; check your notes for Pete’s sake! There’s no shame in being a cross-dresser. Just in being a criminal.” I found myself lost in thought again. I felt a buzzing in my head. It was the feeling I got when things were trying to connect but there was something I was missing. Something off.
I tapped my foot faster, this time to the beat of Ride of the Valkyries. A thinking song. Soon enough, the truth dawned on me, as it always did.
“The Backwards Bandit Bamboozler! Of course!”
My words only brought confusion to her face, so I pointed at her pad, indicating that she should take notes, and then I filled her in on one of the oldest tricks in the book.
“The Backwards Bandit Bamboozler, also known as the 3B’s, is a classic criminal psych out. If you want to get away clean after a theft, you have to leave obvious prints on the ground. Only you have them leading away from you, get it?” Lizzy’s face showed that she didn’t so I demonstrated. “Watch me,” I told her, then proceeded to slip off my shoes and put them back on, only backwards. I gripped down with my toes curled in the small heel of the shoe and I stomped with all the weight I could, making sure to leave footprints in the mud. As I walked towards Lizzy, the trail of prints I left behind were walking the other way, away from her. “See? It’s just a dirty rotten trick. Like some sort of an evil Moonwalk. Bad guys use it all the time.”
I corrected the direction of the shoes on my feet and then I spun around with purpose. I pointed towards the neighbors wooden fence, which was the opposite way of the prints that Lizzy had found.
“They went that way,” I announced confidently.