The view was grizzly. Yellow police tape surrounded the crime scene. A large crowd of people gathered in the aisles at Marty Mart, the local grocery store. There, between the paper plates and paper towels were several crime investigators. They were taking photographs and marking evidence. A single roll of toilet paper sat there alone, torn, smashed.
It was relatively quiet except for the constant whispers among the crowd. Detective Grey arrived on sight wearing a long black trench coat and dark sunglasses. He brought along his sidekick, Bigboy (his real name was Adam Croft, but he wanted a catchy sounding sidekick name).The crowd made a path for them as they approached. Grey quietly studied the area as he paced back and forth. Then he suddenly stopped and stared at a single paper towel roll on the floor.
He put on some rubber gloves, pulled out a small plastic bag and slightly rolled the paper towels away. Underneath was a single pine needle. The detective picked it up and placed it inside a ziplock bag. Delicately, he handed the bag to Bigboy and said, “Get this over to forensics. I need a full spectral analysis.”
Bigboy gave him a, “Yes sir.” And left in a hurry.
Detective Grey made a few more walks around the crime scene and then asked to see the store manager. A tall and awkward man came forward, he said he was the store manager and his name was Kenny Landers. He admitted he was the first person in the building to see what had happened. He was always the first because he had the keys to open the store in the morning.
Grey asked Kenny to describe his morning.
“Well,” started Kenny. “I opened the store as I always do. Came in at 6:00 am sharp.”
“Wait,” interrupted Grey. “Did you notice anything unusual about the building or surroundings when you first arrived?”
“No,” answered Kenny. “Everything was just as I had left it last night. Everything except all the toilet paper had disappeared. I could see that we had been robbed. I don’t know how they did it with the doors locked. I think…”
Grey interrupted again and handed Kenny his business card and told him to call if he remembered anything else. Then detective Grey interviewed everyone that worked at the store. Not one of them made a good suspect. They all had an alibi in one form or another. The case was stagnant.
The next week, another string of robberies occurred. All the toilet paper in the school and the local factory had been stolen. Again, detective Grey had no suspects. The only evidence was the leaf of an oak tree.
Toilet paper had to be trucked in from the next town over. It got to be very expensive for the people of Willakaville.
As the weeks passed by, more and more toilet paper robberies happened. The robber had hit all the local businesses. Each time the detective found a different leaf from a different kind of tree. At the gas station it was a maple leaf. At the hardware store it was an elm leaf. And each time the business had been locked, as if someone with a key did it.
The people of Willakaville had nowhere to buy toilet paper. They resorted to using newspapers. The local newspaper, called the Willkaville Daily, had to print a few hundred extra copies a day to keep up. Detective Grey was now under more and more pressure to solve the case.
Grey sat down in his office, staring at the different leaves. Bigboy watched him in amazement, wondering what intelligent thoughts were going through his mind.
Grey was thinking aloud, “There must be something in common. Some kind of link. Obviously they are all tree leaves. What else is going on? Why would someone steal toilet paper? Why would they leave leafs? Maybe they want us to use leaves instead of toilet paper?”
“Maybe they want to use it to build a giant toilet paper rhinoceros?” chimed Bigboy.
Grey did not answer. He wasn’t always sure that Bigboy was the best choice for a sidekick.
Then he grabbed his head with both hands and said aloud, “What is it?” Frustrated, he got up and decided to take a walk. He went to the local park to get some fresh air. He couldn’t get his mind off the case. While walking around, he stopped and stared at the different trees in the park.
He looked everywhere, searching for something that would give him a clue. Then, he found it! There in plain sight was the answer. He ran back to his office and picked up the phone and called Kenny, the manager of the Marty Mart.
Kenny answered the phone, “Hello?”
Grey replied, “Hello. This is Detective Grey. I have a couple more questions for you.”
“Go ahead detective,” said Kenny.
“Did you receive any deliveries the day before the robbery?”
“Yes, but we receive deliveries every day.”
“Were there any special, or different deliveries.”
“Hmm, let me think…Wait. Yes. There was. Since it is springtime, we received some different outdoor plants. People love plants in the spring. We don’t make much money off of them, but it gets more people to the store. I really…”
The detective cut Kenny off at this point. He didn’t have all day to listen to stories about Marty Mart marketing schemes. He kindly said good-bye to Kenny and made a few more phone calls. Sure enough, all of the businesses that were robbed had plant deliveries the day before. And more specifically, tree deliveries.
Immediately, he grabbed Bigboy, rushed to the car and sped over to the local nursery. He burst in the front door and demanded to see the owner. Inside were a couple of men in dirty clothes. Both of them were chewing gum. They looked like they were getting ready to leave for the day. On the other side of them sat a short bald man with a beard.
“I am the owner,” said the bald man with a defensive attitude. “What’s the problem?”
“The problem,” recounted Grey with force. “is that you have a thief working for you.”
The owner replied with surprise, “A thief. What do you mean? Where is your proof?”
“My proof is right here. It’s all around you.”
The owner turned his head sideways, and squinched his eyes in a puzzled look.
“It is the trees! The trees are the proof,” Continued Grey. At each robbery site a leaf from a different tree was found. Where better to find several different trees in one place? A nursery of course!”
The owner was still defensive and said, “How do you know the leaves came from here? They could be from any old tree.”
Grey answered him confidently, “I know they came from here, because I took some samples last night. Our laboratory matched those samples with the ones from the crime scene. Now I am going to have to take you all downtown for questioning.”
As soon as he finished his sentence, one of the workers got up and ran for the back door. Bigboy ran after him. Grey just sat there. This was because he had already called for police backup and knew they must have the place surrounded by now. The worker ran right into the arms of an officer who immediately handcuffed the man and brought him back inside.
The owner and Bigboy were confused. Bigboy said, “But, you were with me all night. You couldn’t have possibly gotten all those samples to the lab and back that fast.”
The detective paced back and forth for a few seconds and then spoke, “My dear Bigboy. Have I not taught you anything? I was bluffing of course. It did not matter if I had the evidence. It was enough to scare that man into running away.”
“Ooooooh,” said Bigboy. “so that means it was the other worker that did it.”
“What?” replied the frustrated detective. “No. You what? No? Just go and get the leaf samples. We will still need them as evidence.”
“Right.” said Bigboy. “Before his friend outside hides all of it.”
The detective sighed and just shook his head. He could not bear to look at Bigboy any more so he simply pointed to the door. Bigboy took off like a bloodhound to gather some leaves.
The manager asked, “Not bad detective. But why did he do it? What was the point?”
The detective answered in a smug tone of voice, “That part is simple. I was taking a walk through the park and I saw some people planting a tree on behalf of the Tree Conservation Society. This made me think of the one place that would have all the different types of trees, your nursery.
The idea of tree conservation also gave me the idea for a motive. I realized that the criminal must be someone who loves trees and most likely did not like people wasting paper for personal hygiene. I also knew I was looking for someone who chewed gum. This is because I found a piece next to one of the doors of the stores they had robbed. That is how he got in. When he delivered the trees, he would block the door catch with a piece of gum. That way it would be open for him later that night. After he stole the toilet paper, he simply removed the gum and it appeared as the door had always been locked. The only problem was, both of your employees were registered with the Tree Conservation Society and they both chewed gum. That is why I had to use my trick in order to determine which one it was.”
Then the thief spoke up, “I just wanted to save the trees. It is not right. Trees have feelings too! We are destroying our forests!”
“Actually,” replied detective Grey, “The trees that are used to make the toilet paper sold in Willakaville is from a sustainable forest. That law was put into effect last year. That means for every tree they cut down, they plant a new one. They only use trees that are full grown, so the forest keeps re-growing itself. In addition to that, at least 50% of the product come from recycled paper.”
The thief put his head down in same and mumbled, “Oh. Didn’t know that. My bad.”
To wrap up the story: The police took the perpetrator away and he went to jail. They found all the toilet paper hidden behind the toilet plunger factory (ironic). And Bigboy got lost in the woods for a few days. They eventually found him talking to some leaves.
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