THE CASE OF THE MISSING CASE.

(Continuing the narrative which began here.)

Chapter 5: Which Describes a Short Visit to a Drive-Through Pierogi Parlor.

 

WE DROVE THROUGH East Hills, East Liberty, East Pittsburgh, Edgewood, Ellicott City, and Emsworth, in alphabetical order. We were nearly at Esplen when we realized we had skipped Economy, so we had to go back and do it all over again. It was very late when we finally got to Esplen, but luckily the Pierogi Palace is open all night. We pulled up to the drive-through menu.

“Yinz ready to order?” came a voice over the loudspeaker.

Mr. Higgins spoke clearly and distinctly into the head of Pierogi the Clown. “Could you perhaps suggest something?”

“We got pierogies,” said the voice. “We got pierogies stuffed with anchovies, apples, artichoke hearts, bananas, basil, beets, burdock, cardoon (which is really the same thing), caviar, cheese, cilantro, cumin, damson plums, dandelion leaves, eels, eggs, fennel, figs, garam masala, goose liver, gunpowder tea, ham, herring, hog bellies, ice cream, India rubber, jujubes, kale, lamb, London broil, mango, marshmallow, mushrooms, near beer, noodles, oranges, oregano, peaches, pears, prawns, quinces, radishes, rose hips, salmon, sole, sushi, tamarind, tarragon, tripe, turnips, umbrine, uranoscopus, veal, venison, vodka, walnuts, watermelon, wintergreen, ximenia (ha!), yak meat, yams, yogurt, zabaglione, zucchini, zwieback, or any combination. Yinz made up your minds, or yinz want to hear the list again, specially since I left out potatoes?”

I leaned over Mr. Higgins and spoke as clearly as I could into the clown head. “Actually, my friend Mr. Harding, who comes here every day, recommended this place to me. I was thinking of having his usual.”

“You mean the potato, tripe, and cheese, with extra cheese and a cup of butter on the side?” asked the clown head.

“Sure,” I answered.

“Five twenty-three at the window,” said the clown head.

“I presume,” said Mr. Higgins, “that you have some procedure in mind that does not involve consuming such a concoction.”

“Watch and learn,” I said confidently. I was in my element now.

We pulled up to the window, and a middle-aged woman opened the glass. “Five twenty-three,” she said.

I handed a ten to Mr. Higgins, who handed it to the woman in the window.

“So I’ll bet you see a lot of Mr. Harding,” I said while she was making change.

“Too much lately,” the woman responded.

“Really? You know, there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell him. When do you expect him next?”

“Oh, he’s here now,” she replied. “In that blue car over there.” She indicated a small Korean hatchback.

“Well, that’s lucky!” Actually, I could hardly believe my luck.

“Of course, he’s dead now,” she continued, “so he probably won’t be interested in what you had to tell him. Hope it wasn’t important.”

“Dead?” Suddenly I didn’t feel so lucky.

“Yeah, he keeled over about three hours ago. Heart attack, I’d say. We’re just waiting for the cops to come and redd up the mess. Not surprising, what with him eating potato, cheese, and tripe with extra cheese and a cup of butter on the side all the time. That stuff would kill a horse. Here’s your potato, cheese, and tripe with extra cheese and a cup of butter on the side.”

Well, that was depressing. Mr. Higgins carefully handed me the order, holding it only with his fingertips. I took it and set it on my lap, which was the only place where it would fit in the Bantam.

We parked next to Harding’s car.

“Something of a disappointment,” Mr. Higgins said. “Still, if he did abscond with the case and the cash, it is very likely that the police will find them at his residence, or perhaps even in his car.”

“No.” I was pretty sure of myself. “The first thing an absconder does is find a place to stash the loot. He knows his house and his car will be searched.” I spoke from experience. Just by coincidence, my cases number 101 and number 102 had also been cases of missing cash. In each case I searched the absconder’s apartment and car first. I never did figure out where either of them stashed the loot, but I did know it wasn’t there.

“Anyway,” I continued, there’s nowhere to hide anything in that little hatchback. You can see right into the trunk, and there’s nothing there but a bunch of automatic weapons and a street map of Ottawa. Nothing interesting at all.”

“So what do you intend to do?” Mr. Higgins asked.

“I’m hungry.” I looked down at the lumpy dumplings in my lap. “You want to eat this?”

“No,” Mr. Higgins replied with an involuntary sneer. “Thank you, but no.”

“Neither do I. Let’s go to the Hagia Sophia Diner. They sell food there.”

 

Proceed to Chapter 6.