Another wonderful day in Whoopieland. Mr. Gleam, the sun, shone down warmly and brightly; in Whoopieville, the bird chorus was starting a new selection of tunes; Sam the Panda and Mr. Noogle were fishing by Whoopie Brook, but, because they brought only one pole, they alternated, with one holding the rod, the other holding the line. You wouldn't expect a more pleasant day in a world of a children's Saturday morning television show.
Suddenly, the peace was broken by a cry. "Help!", Huffleby Wugbuzzle called from the second floor of his 138 1/3 story mansion, "Help! Police! Police! Help!"
Huffleby Wugbuzzle's voice is among the most distinctive in Whoopieland, and it carried quite a distance. Mr. Gleam heard it, so did Princess Pretty in her castle, and Mr. Grumblekin at the East Whoopie Falls train yards, Captain Scuttle, the pirate, on his ship, the "Barnacled Blunderbuss" and the residents of Rex Rawhide's dude ranch. And so did Inspector Bumble of the Whoopieland Police Department. One of the nosiest people in Whoopieland heard Mr. Wugbuzzle almost as he began shouting, and immediately set out for the mansion as fast as his size 24 clown shoes could carry him. Along the way he picked up three Whoopieland policemen, Officers Wibble, Bibble and Fleep, but they didn't like being carried, so he let them run alongside him.
Together, they got to Mr. Wugbuzzle's mansion in two twitches of a cat's whiskers. And if you doubt it, you can ask the cat.
"Don't worry, Mr. Wugbuzzle", shouted Officer Will Wibble, "help is here!"
"Thank goodness!", sighed Mr. Wugbuzzle, "Where are you?"
"Just coming up the drive!", replied Officer Bob Bibble.
"How many of you are there?"
"Three police officers and Inspector Bumble!", answered Sergeant Flora Fleep.
"I thought you said help was coming!", retorted Mr. Wugbuzzle. "I'll get the door for you!"
"We don't need you to get us a door", replied the Inspector, "But if you have any lemonade, we'd like some!"
"I thought you said help was coming!", repeated Wugbuzzle.
Turning, the 15th richest man between Whoopieville and the southern shore of Lake Whoopie, sped to the stairs. But, he was also the 12th heaviest man in all Whoopieland. Being a computer generated character, he could use any of a number of methods of getting to the front door quickly, but he was a traditionalist. He took the stairs.
But making his way down the stairs required some doing. It took him a minute and a half, but he finally managed the first step. Another minute and a half, the second step. By the time he got to the bottom, his frenzy had him speeding. He took only a minute and a quarter to make the last three steps. By the time he got to the door, the police were playing cards, the three officers playing five handed whist and Inspector Bumble playing "Old Maid Gone Fishing".
"Thank goodness!", said Wugbuzzle.
"Gladly", said the Inspector, "where is he?"
"You don't understand", said Wugbuzzle.
"What else is new?", asked the three officers at once.
"I was robbed!"
"Really? I was always a Bumble", said the Inspector.
"What else is new?"
"No, no, no! My diamond is gone! It's been stolen! My fabulously, incredibly, unbelievably, unquestionably, fantastically valuable Doozie Diamond is gone!"
"That is serious", said the Inspector grimly, "What do you want us for?"
"What else is new?", the officers said in union, again.
"I need you to find my diamond!"
"Oh, well, then, it's fortunate for you it's missing!"
"What else is new?", said the officers again.
"How do you know it was stolen?", asked the Inspector.
"The thieves who took the Doozie Diamond left a note!"
"How do you know it was from them?"
"It was signed 'The Thieves Who Took The Doozie Diamond'."
"Don't make inane suppositions, Mr. Wugbuzzle", admonished the Inspector, "That's what we're here for!"
"Can we see the note?", asked Officer Fleep.
"Well, it's written with ink on paper, so I'm sure you could..."
"I mean, where is the note?"
"Oh, it's right in here. It's chilling."
"It frightened you that much?", asked Officer Wilbur Wibble.
"Oh, no, I mean it's in the freezer. They figured that's the most likely place to leave it so I could see it."
"Let's see the note", ordered the Inspector.
Wugbuzzle led them to the kitchen. He was right, the note was chilling. It was 20 degrees below zero when Bumble read it.
"Hee Hee Hoo Hoo Hahahahahahaaaa! We have your fabulously, incredibly, unbelievably, unquestionably valuable Doozie Diamond! And you'll never get it back! By the way, we also took a couple of ice cream sandwiches! And we won't pay you for those, either! Hee Hee Ha Ha Hoo hoo Hahahahahahaaaaa! Very cordially yours, The Thieves Who Took The Doozie Diamond."
"The fiends!", said Officer Wibble, "they didn't mention the diamond was also fantastically valuable!"
"P.S.", read Inspector Bumble, "The diamond is also fantastically valuable! T.T.W.T.T.D.D."
"Well, they may be thieves", said Wibble, "but at least they have ethics!"
"Do you have any idea who might have written the note?", Sergeant Fleep asked Mr. Wugbuzzle.
"Yes, I do."
"One of the robbers!"
"Don't jump to such idiotic conclusions", warned the Inspector, "That's not your job. That's what the police are here for!"
"Are you sure it's gone?', asked Sergeant Fleep, "Maybe someone was just playing a joke on you."
"That's what I thought", said Wugbuzzle, "so I checked on my diamond in the safe on the wall in my living room. And it's gone!"
"And you found the diamond gone?", asked the Inspector.
"No", said Mr. Wugbuzzle.
"You don't mean the safe's gone, too?", asked the Inspector.
"No", said Mr. Wugbuzzle.
"Are you saying..."
"Maybe you'd better come with me."
Leading the police from the kitchen, Mr. Wugbuzzle brought them around the corner leading to his living room. Mr. Gleam glowed warmly and brightly on the granduncle clock in the near corner, a couple of birds sat on the daybed, a couple of others on the evening chair, a small flock on the mid-aftenoon-slightly-after-tea ottoman, and, in the distance, the peak of Mount Frosty shone frostily.
"You see?", Mr. Wugbuzzle moaned, "It's gone! It's all gone! My fabulously valuable diamond, my expensive safe, and the wall of my living room! They're gone! Gone! Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone! I need your help! I need your help! I need your help!"
Inspector Bumble looked the scene up and down, side to side, back and forth, to and fro, in and out, fore and aft, then returned to where Mr. Wugbuzzle stood weeping miserably.
"You need our help with what?", asked the Inspector.
"What else is new?", asked the officers.
The next step was to bring the department in on the case. Time was of the essence, so when Bumble called up headquarters, they did a split screen and the officers and detectives walked from one screen to the other. Immediately, they got to work going over the mansion with a fine toothed comb. Then they used a wider toothed comb. Then a couple of military brushes. Finally, they decided they needed detective equipment.
Meanwhile, Detective Stumblebum, Inspector Bumble's assistant, and Chief Kronk, the Inspector's superior, arrived to help in the interrogation.
"You didn't notice a wall missing?", asked the Chief.
"I did a lot at the office so I came home early to take a nap. I decided to go straight to bed without even going in the living room."
"I have to agree", said Bumble, "The way the living room is situated, you can miss it easily. When Mr. Wugbuzzle brought us in and led us to the kitchen, even my incalculably astute detecting prowess failed to notice the wall missing."
The bird that had been building a nest on Bumble's hat the past couple of days started chirping loudly, so he shooed it away.
"Besides the diamond", asked Kronk, "was anything else of value taken?"
"Everything in this house is of value!", exclaimed Wugbuzzle,"My wife's family is quite affluent and they gave us much of their treasure. Why, on the same wall as the safe was the portrait of my wife's parents, painted by Driggle. It's acclaimed to be one of the most unsuccessful attempts to make miserable looking people appear halfway decent! Hung on a nail over the fireplace is a gigantic mirror in a gilded frame."
"The mirror is that valuable?", asked Fleep.
"No, the nail is! Hand forged by the famous nail maker, Horace Gronnick. And the safe itself was hidden behind the famous still life by Otto Huffenhuff of a peach sitting on a tire iron."
"I've heard of that painting", said Detective Stumblebum, "What's its name again?"
"'The Famous Still Life By Otto Von Hoffenhoff Of A Peach Sitting On A Tire Iron', of course."
"I didn't know you owned that painting", said Sergeant Fleep, "When did you buy it?"
"Oh, that comes from my wife's family, too", Wugbuzzle said, "They had it for a long time."
"The painting?", asked Fleep.
"No, the peach. Hoffenhoff saw it one day, liked it, then painted a picture of it sitting on a tire iron. Then he gave the picture to my wife's family and I got it from them."
Suddenly, Wugbuzzle shouted, "Look out!" and launched himself at a spot on the rug near one of the remaining walls.
When Officer Wibble climbed down from the chandelier, Wugbuzzle held up a piece of fuzz from the floor. "This is a piece of dust from the uniform of Admiral Muffin, after he earned his medal by his exemplary behavior at the Bitter Battle of Buzzard Bay, against Captain Scuttle and his pirates, one of the most heated stalemates in the history of pointless naval encounters! I was wondering where it was. I'm going to build a special display case for it! I told you everything in this house is valuable!"
"Are you saying someone can remove a wall and you didn't know about it?", asked Stumblebum.
"Well, I was upstairs sleeping at the time."
"You can sleep through the racket they must have been making?", demanded the Chief.
"Well, I'm an awful loud snorer. My snoring was loud enough to drown out anything."
"How could you hear yourself snoring if you were fast asleep?", asked Sergeant Fleep.
Wugbuzzle thought a moment, then, "That's why I'm so tired! You know, they're right. If you don't do something the right way, you might as well not do it at all!"
"Was there anybody else in the house at the time this happened?", asked Detective Stumblebum.
"At that time, I think only the butler."
"What's the butler's name?", asked the Chief.
"The butler, Diddit?", asked Bumble.
From just outside the scene, the rim shot guy did a quick riff on a snare drum and finished with the cymbals.
"Where is the butler?", asked the Inspector.
"Do you need something?", a sudden ominous voice from just behind the Inspector asked ominously. A tall, sinister looking figure, with a menacing face and a butler's uniform.
After Bumble crawled out from behind the daybed he stalked up to the figure.
"Pardon my interruption", the figure said, "I heard voices and I heard the reference to the butler. I took it upon myself to offer my assistance."
"That's alright", said Bumble, "I appreciate the cooperation. Now, do you know where the butler is?"
"What else is new?", asked Kronk, Stumblebum, Fleep and Wugbuzzle.
"I am the butler", replied the figure.
"Oh, so you're sure to know where the butler is!"
"Is there someone else I can speak to?", Diddit asked.
"Did you notice anything strange going on this afternoon?", Stumblebum asked.
"You mean, before the Inspector showed up?"
"I was in another part of the house all day. I heard something like a saw cutting through a wall and the wall being dragged away, but I thought it was the master snoring."
"It was", said Wugbuzzle.
"And there was no one else in the house?", asked Stumblebum.
"Most definitely not."
"How do you know that?"
"Because the master's wife was at a luncheon, I sent the cook out to fetch some exotic and hard to find vegetables for dinner, I sent the chauffeur out to take the car to the mechanic because someone had gone over the engine with a sledge hammer, I sent the gardener out to try to find a rare twuffleblump tree and I locked the maid, bound and gagged, in the guest house."
"And we're supposed to believe you weren't involved in taking the safe?", asked Bumble.
"Absolutely", replied Diddit.
"How do we know that you weren't stealing the diamond?"
"Because I was stealing the silver at the time!"
"Oh. Okay then. You're cleared. You can go." As Diddit turned to leave, Bumble added, "But don't leave Whoopieland!"
A thin, reedy figure in severe black frock coat, black stove pipe hat and long handlebar mustache came into the living room and, ignoring the police, started going through Mr. Wugbuzzle's desk, removing papers.
"Hey!", shouted the Inspector, "Who are you?"
"Miserly Q. Skinflint", replied the stranger.
"He's my money manager", said Mr. Wugbuzzle.
"Don't mind me", said Miserly Q. Skinflint, "I'll only be a minute."
He took out a small stack of papers and, flipping open a lighter, started to set fire to them.
"Hey!", shouted Fleep, "Do you see what he's doing?"
"I certainly do", said the Inspector. Walking up to Skinflint, Bumble demanded, "Do you have a license to burn paper indoors?"
"Actually, I do", said Skinflint.
"Oh, well, that's alright, then", said Bumble.
"What are you doing?", demanded Stumblebum.
"Just destroying some papers that might be incriminating."
"Do you realize that's against the law?", said Bumble.
"How can it be against the law? I only said they might be incriminating, not that they definitely are incriminating!"
"Actually, he does that a lot", said Wugbuzzle, "He comes in once every couple of weeks, makes a lot of phone calls in some kind of coded language, writes a lot of notes in some kind of coded language and makes out a lot of checks. Then, a couple of days later, he comes in and burns all the papers."
"I only destroy my own papers, no one else's", said Skinflint, "so don't worry."
"Well, I'm not putting up with this!", roared Bumble, grabbing the remaining stack of papers.
"Actually,...", began Skinflint.
"There's no way I'm going to allow..."
A sudden explosion as the papers spontaneously burst into flame, followed by Inspector Bumble's trenchcoat, Inspector Bumble's deerstalker cap and Inspector Bumble himself, settled the issue.
"I program them to burn up if I don't get to them", said Skinflint, "Well, thank you for your time, hope I didn't interrupt too much."
"Just a minute", said Bumble, "Do you know anything about this?"
"You mean some criminals stopping by, cutting out Wugbuzzle's living room wall and stealing the safe with the fabulously, incredibly, unbelievably, unquestionably valuable Doozie Diamond?"
"It's also fantastically valuable."
"Right. No, I don't know anything about it!"
"How do we know you don't know anything about it?"
"Believe me, there's a lot more potential illegal profit in the potentially incriminating papers I burned up that you can't prove anything about than in stealing the safe!"
"Okay", said the Inspector, "You can go. But don't leave Whoopieland!"
"Chief", said Officer Wibble, "we finished examining the spot where the wall was removed." "Did you find anything?"
"Where the wall was removed!"
"Oh, yes. We found nothing."
"Nothing at all?"
"How could we, the wall was gone."
His agitation growing, Chief Kronk asked, "Are there any indications of how it was removed?"
"Oh, no, nothing."
"No indications it was sawed out or anything like that?"
"Oh, no, no sawdust, no splinters, no exposed nails."
"What about fingerprints?', asked Inspector Bumble.
"What about fingerprints?"
"Did you find any fingerprints?"
"Oh, no, there weren't any."
"That doesn't make any difference", said Stumblebum, "a lot of the cartoon characters around here wear gloves, and anyone with identifiable prints likely would also wear them."
"Maybe we should stage a flashback", said the Inspector, "that'll show us everything that happened."
"For a flashback, we need at least one person who was there to start it", said the Chief.
"Well, there's a simple way around that", said the Inspector.
"Just find out whoever removed the wall and we can have them do a flashback!"
To avoid the impulses that were working at him, Kronk stalked over to the open area where the wall had been. Officer Wibble was right, though, there was no sign the wall had been sawed away from the rest of the building. The area was smooth, no roughness, almost as if the wood had been sanded.
"Chief", called Officer Bibble, "we got witnesses!"
Officer Bibble came around the side of the house with the live action character, Peter Pesky, with his tiny pointed green cap, green jerkin and green pointy toed shoes, the computer generated character, Sonnie The Lion, and the computer generated character, Sam The Panda.
"Were you here when Mr. Wugbuzzle was robbed?", demanded Bumble.
"Was that before or after he started shouting he was robbed?", asked Sam The Panda.
"We think it was before."
"Oh, yeah, then we were here", said Peter Pesky.
"What were you doing?", asked Kronk.
"When?", asked Sonnie The Lion.
"When the robbery occurred!"
"Oh, we were playing ice hockey", replied Sonnie.
"How long had you been playing ice hockey?"
"Oh, a couple of years now", replied Sam The Panda.
"I mean today!", Chief Kronk demanded.
"Not long", said Peter Pesky, "Do you know how short a time a piece of ice lasts when you're playing hockey with it?"
By this time, the Inspector, Stumblebum and Officer Fleep had joined the Chief.
"What happened to the wall in Mr. Wugbuzzle's house?", the Chief asked.
"Which wall?", asked Sam .
To spare the Chief's growing aggravation, Sergeant Fleep broke in.
"The wall that's missing."
"Some men came and took it away", said Sam .
"Which men?", asked the Inspector.
"I don't know who they are", said Peter, "but one of them looked exactly like Knuckles McCracken, another looked just like Pressler The Wrestler, and the others looked precisely like the Goon brothers."
"How did they remove the wall?", asked the Chief.
"Who?', asked Sonnie The Lion.
Interjecting to soothe the Chief's agitation, Detective Stumblebum reeled off the names Peter had mentioned.
"They said the wall needed some work and they asked our help to remove it."
"How did they remove it, by sawing it?"
"Oh, no", answered Sam, " They wanted to, but suggested I use my new toy, the Nucleonic Sub-Atomic Saw It In A Newspaper Comic Baryonic Electronic Pretty Please With Whipped Cream On It Vaporizer Ray. Watch!"
By the time they managed to stop Sam giving them a demonstration, he had split Mr. Wugbuzzle's car in two, opened a pear shape hole in one of the windows and taken several divets out of the lawn.
"We helped them carry it to their truck and they hauled it away", said Sonnie.
"Who left the note?', asked Stumblebum.
"When we were finished with the wall", said Peter, "they invited us into the kitchen and said we could have anything we wanted out of the refrigerator."
"We chose ice cream sandwiches", said Sam.
"That's a good choice", said the Inspector brushing some ice cream sandwich crumbs from his mustache.
"While we were eating", said Sonnie, "the guy who looks so much like Knuckles McCracken took a piece of paper from his pocket and slipped it in the freezer."
"Maybe we'd better make sure the guys who took the wall are who they say they are", said Sergeant Fleep, "We have witnesses. We could go through a flashback now."
"I don't mind the harp music", said Bumble, "but does anyone else think the wavy screen makes them look weirder?"
"Bumble, there's nothing that could make you weirder than you are now", said the Chief.
"That's the nicest thing you ever said to me, Chief."
"Yes, it certainly is."
Sam volunteered to do the flashback. Standing in the living room, he concentrated on the events of only a short while before. Soon, the scene began to shift and writhe, and harp music in the background signaled the coming of the flashback. When the scene steadied again, the living room was intact. The far wall stood as it always had, windows on both sides, decorated with heavy chintz curtains. Between them, a stone fireplace with a giant mirror over it, and, on the mantel, a mantel clock, a mantel vase, a mantel statue and, hanging on one corner of the mantel, a mantel. To the sides, electric sconces, the portrait of Wugbuzzle's mother and father-in-law, shelves with bric-a-brac, and some brac-a-bric and, to the left, Mr. Wugbuzzle's safe, covered by "The Famous Still Life By Otto Von Hoffenhoff Of A Peach Sitting On A Tire Iron".
Suddenly, a beam of light entered the room through one corner, singing some wallpaper. It moved slowly along the edges of the wall, shattering a small vase in its way, cutting a corner off the sofa and slicing through the legs of a chair Inspector Bumble chose to sit in for the flashback.
"Ooof!", yelped the Inspector as he crashed to the ground.
Suddenly, the wall was lifted away from the rest of the building and carried to the side. Knuckles McCracken, Pressler The Wrestler and the Goon brothers were doing the lifting. Sam doing the flashback waved to Sam in the flashback and Sam in the flashback waved back.
"See?", asked Sam, "Doesn't one look like Knuckles McCracken and the other look like Pressler The Wrestler?"
"I'm afraid you're wrong there, Sam", replied the Inspector, "One looked like Pressler The Wrestler and the other one looked like..."
"Stop the flashback!", ordered the Chief.
A flow of harp music, a waving of the screen and everything returned to normal.
"So it's Pressler The Wrestler, Knuckles McCracken and the Goon brothers", observed the Chief, "Put out an APB!"
"How do you spell that?", asked Bumble.
"I don't think they'd keep it on them", said Detective Stumblebum, "They probably dropped it off somewhere."
"It wouldn't be safe trying to hide something like that around here", said the Chief, "Most of the criminals in Whoopieland work out of Whoopie City, don't they?"
"A place they call 'Crime Town'", offered Sergeant Fleep.
"Then we'll start there", said the Chief, "If we're lucky, they won't have had time to hide the wall yet."
"What is all this?" A tall, haughty looking computer generated woman came stalking up the steps.
"Who are you?", demanded Inspector Bumble.
"I am Mrs. Matilda Wugbuzzle", the woman replied.
"Are you related by any chance to Mr. Huffleby Wugbuzzle?"
"Do you have somebody else I can talk to?"
"Mrs. Wugbuzzle", Chief Kronk said comfortingly, "your house was robbed."
"Robbed of what?", she asked.
"No, robbed of a wall", said the Inspector, "containing the safe and the fabulously, incredibly, unbelievably, unquestionably valuable Doozie Diamond!" "It's also fantastically valuable", Mrs. Wugbuzzle reminded the Inspector.
"Oh, yes, that, too."
Mrs. Wugbuzzle screamed and tossed her handbag into the air. "Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh, no! Oh no! This is awful! This is horrible! How could something like this happen?" She threw her hat at Inspector Bumble and tossed her coat at Chief Kronk. "The Doozie Diamond! The fabulously, incredibly, unbelievably, unquestionably valuable diamond! It's also fantastically valuable, too! Stolen! This is terrible!" She pulled off her jacket and threw it at Bumble, she threw a ring at Detective Stumblebum and she threw a shoe at Officer Bibble. "We thought it was safe! But they took it! Right from our very house! Right from under our nose! They invaded our domicile and purloined our property!" Pulling off her scarf, she threw it at Sergeant Fleep, the other shoe she threw at Officer Wibble. "This is awful! This is terrible! This is monstrous! I can't stand it!" Taking off her gloves, she threw them at Inspector Bumble, her necklace she tossed at Sergeant Fleep. "Our home, invaded, robbed! How can we endure something like this? No one should have to go through something like this!" She threw her earrings at Inspector Bumble. She threw her bracelets at Inspector Bumble. She threw a frying pan at Inspector Bumble. She threw an anvil at Inspector Bumble.
"I'm glad you're taking it so well", said Inspector Bumble.
"We think we have some leads on who took your diamond", said the Chief, "We're going to follow up on them immediately. If you'd like to come to the station house, we can get your statement, while the police finish up examining the scene."
"Oh, thank you", said Mrs. Wugbuzzle, then, "The police station? Oh, dear, I have nothing to wear!"
"You very nearly don't", said the Chief.
Gathering up her clothes, she allowed herself to be led out to a police car waiting outside, along with her husband.
As she was leaving, Bumble called after her, "Until this investigation is over, don't leave Whoopieland!"
"Does anybody?", she retorted.
"Bumble", the Chief said," "I'm not sure we're going to be able to track down those crooks before they dispose of the diamond. We have to know where they or whoever takes it off their hands might stash it."
"Don't worry, Chief, I have some contacts I can check with to find out if any hot merchandise has been moved lately. One guy I know actually fences stolen items."
"Chief! I'm surprised at you! That's not good! That's not good at all! That's what we're here to stop! I must say, this is a side of you I never thought I'd..."
"I don't know why I'm saying this, but, finish up investigations here, then report back to the station. I'm leaving Officer Gorgle, Borgle and Glunk to help you."
"You know how you can count on me, Chief!"
When Chief Kronk left, Bumble returned to the living room. There he found Officer Gorgle going through Mr. Wugbuzzle's personal papers on his desk.
"Officer! Those are private property!"
"I'm just looking for tidbits of gossip I can trade over the backyard fence."
"Oh, well, as long as you've got a good reason!" Slowly Bumble paced about the room. "You know what's bothering me, Officer?"
"Why do they put only two scoops of ice cream in the Super Triple Chocolate Ice Cream Float at the Whoopieland Department Store snack bar?"
"No. Well, yes. But, also, I suspect there's another party behind this theft. A canny and powerful intellect. Someone almost on a par with my own intelligence." Bumble sat on the chair that had been sliced through in the flashback and fell backwards again.
"I'll keep that in mind", said Gorkle, "But why do you think there's another party involved?"
"Because these guys, McCracken, Pressler, the Goon brothers, they're not smart enough to pull a caper like this. This was thought through very carefully."
"Why do you think they couldn't have thought this up themselves?"
"Well, consider their using Sam The Panda's ray gun."
"We're kiddie show characters! Among other things, we can pull anything we want from behind our backs! Look!"
With a single motion, Bumble reached behind and pulled out the anchor of the Pride Of Whoopie Lake cruise ship.
"That's right", said Gorgle, "Say, wouldn't the Pride Of Whoopie Lake need that?"
"No, she foundered on the rocks shortly after...the last time...I...never mind!" Hurriedly, he put the anchor back. "McCracken could have pulled anything from behind his back to loosen the wall. But none of them thought of that. Also, McCracken had the note to leave Wugbuzzle all ready in his pocket. He didn't write it himself! If we track down the author of that note, we'll have the brains behind this crime!"
"You know, that's actually pretty good!"
"Given my own lead, I am a pretty fevver clellow. I mean feller clevvow. I mean cleller fovvow. I mean booble gumgum."
"Do you mean you're a clever fellow?"
"Can I see the note?"
"I'm sure you could. It's not on invisible paper."
"No, I mean, may I see the note?"
"Oh, right here."
Bumble handed the paper to Officer Gorkle. The Officer studied it for several seconds.
"You know what I'm thinking?"
"We could catch more fish if they put twenty reels on a fishing pole instead of one?"
"No. Well, yes, but also, I'm not sure it's going to be so easy catching whoever wrote this note."
"Why do you say that?"
"Well, it seems to be a very popular style of handwriting. I've seen similar examples elsewhere."
"Really? Like where?"
"Well, the entries in Mr. Wugbuzzle's books are in the same handwriting!"
The Inspector checked out Gorkle's statements.
"You're right! And I was just thinking about something."
"We should have convertible clothing, like sneakers that turn into a tuxedo?"
"No. Well, yes. But also, I just realized these two handwritings are similar to the writing on a note I got this morning telling me to be near the Wugbuzzle house at around 2:87 in the afternoon." Bumble pulled the sheet from his trenchcoat pocket.
"Did you get it by mail?"
"No, it was thrown into my house through a window, attached to a brick", Bumble said rubbing the bump on the back of his head.
Gorkle looked at the note Bumble received, the note McCracken left and Mr. Wugbuzzle's ledgers.
"They are all alike! Boy, that must really be a popular handwriting style!"
Bumble thought for a moment, then, "Do you know what this means?"
"Darn! I was hoping you could tell me!"
Back at the station, action was furious. As usual for him, Inspector Bumble launched into an intensive interrogation of everyone who could have anything to do with the theft.
He interrogated Mr. Grouser, the flat cartoon hermit who lived at the top of Mt. Frosty. Mr. Grouser was well known for despising trespassers and having a very brusque way with people he didn't like. Sliding down the side of a mountain face first became number 1 on Bumble's list of least favorite ways to travel. Next, he interrogated Waddles, the giant computer generated duck. Being flown, wrapped up in seaweed, then dropped on his destination suddenly became Bumble's second least favored way of traveling. Then he interrogated Aunt Droodie, who ran a business of selling candies and cakes. Being pursued down the street, pelted with crumb buns became his third least favored method of getting where he wanted.
He even interrogated Sippy the Clown. Not because he thought Sippy knew anything, but he was always good for a laugh.
"What did the goose say when he crossed the road?"
"I don't know, what did the goose say when he crossed the road?" "Hey, I didn't know I could talk! Wowsie! Wowsie!" Off in the corner, the rim shot guy did a riff on the snare and finished with a crash on the cymbals.
Getting back to the station house, Bumble found out that the force had brought in McCracken, Pressler and the three Good brothers. Bumble couldn't wait to interrogate them. He was a firm believer in ganging up on a guy with a sun lamp and forcing a confession. Unfortunately, he ganged the criminals all together in the interrogation room, and he was the only policeman there. It took three hours to get him untangled from the sun lamp.
And, of course, he wouldn't neglect to interrogate the maid, Gloria Glunk.
"Did anybody ever say anything to you about wanting to steal the Doozie Diamond?"
"Mpllgh mpl m mgh mpglmgh mgh!"
"Did you see anybody suspicious hanging around that day?"
"Mgh mggl mpggh mpgmpgh!"
"Do you know anyone who would be able to fence a hot diamond?"
"Mpgglp mpl mggh mg mpl!"
"Don't you think that gag gets in the way, Inspector?", asked Officer Gorkle.
"I'll have you know this isn't a gag!", replied Bumble, "It's a skit!" To the maid, "Alright you can leave!"
Gloria Glunk got up as easily as she could, considering she was still tied up, and hopped to the door.
"And don't leave Whoopieland!"
"Mg mggl mggl?"
Inspector Bumble got back to the reports from the crime scene. He didn't mind all the investigation, the details and follow-up that these cases demanded. It was all part of the work. But he did mind Chief Kronk being on his back about it. Not that he denied Kronk the right to keep a close watch over his work, he just wished he'd do it from another position, like standing next to Bumble's desk.
"Now look here, Bumble", said the Chief climbing down from his back, "this is a major case. I don't want to see it ruined by some third rate bungling!"
"Don't worry, Chief, everything I do is always first rate!"
"That's what I'm afraid of! You said you know some people who handle stolen goods."
"And they might know who handled Mr. Wugbuzzle's diamond?"
"And they'll give us the information?"
"Yes." This was going nowhere. "Well, who are they?"
The Chief was about the re-apply the sun lamp in a way that would take six hours to undo when Officers Gorkle, Bipple and Plunch stopped him.
"Chief, this is no time for games!", admonished Bumble, "I've been speaking with someone who could have some information for us. A guy named Mitch."
"Who's Mitch Fitch?"
"He's a snitch."
"Why would he help us?"
"He's got an itch."
"What kind of itch?"
"An itch to be rich. He thinks he can make a lot of money selling information, or at least getting rid of all the competition."
"So Mitch Fitch the snitch has an itch to be rich. How will that help us?"
"He knows a guy he thinks will squeal."
"A driver for the crooks who transport stolen goods. A guy named Steel Wheel Neil."
"So, Mitch Fitch the snitch with an itch to be rich thought he could get Steel Wheel Neil to squeal?"
"But there's a glitch."
"When word of Mitch's aim got unwanted fame, he couldn't hide in hole, cranny or niche. A gang of tough thugs and plug ugly mugs looked under stones and rocks and old hooked rugs, and pitched poor Mitch Fitch in a ditch."
"So it didn't work out?"
"Oh, I got a name."
"I know him. He's a pretty small time crook to handle a deal as big as the Doozie Diamond."
"That's what I said in the first segment. He must have somebody big in back of him." Bumble rushed to the door.
"Where are you going?"
"I want to set up surveillance on Elm before he can get rid of the diamond."
"We can put some other officers on that."
"Not a chance! I want to be there when that fence gets taken down. I want to make that creep crawl. I want to see Slippery slide."
"You sound like you're making this a vendetta."
"Well, I should be aggravated. They really got me annoyed cutting away the wall and stealing it like that, when they could have just cut out the safe. We got too many other cases of stolen walls now, and they have to add another one!"
Bumble resumed rushing to the door, then realized it was the wrong one and turned and rushed to the other door.
"But you haven't finished the interrogations yet", said The Chief, "You haven't even interviewed Mrs. Wugbuzzle."
"You can do that, Chief. I have faith in you. You're almost as intelligent as me!"
"Now, you have me scared."
"We'll have to be careful", said Mitch Fitch, plucking another broken twig out of his hair, "This is a pretty seedy neighborhood."
"I know what you mean", said the Inspector, dusting sesame seeds, apple seeds, pear seeds and several peach pits from his trenchcoat and deerstalker cap.
Together, the two huddled at the window in the second floor of Mrs. McGill's Flop House With Excellent Views of Criminal Hideouts For Police Stakeouts.
"Are you sure you can see Slippery Elm's hideout for stashing stolen goods from here?", asked the Inspector.
"Absolutely, but you have to look in just the right direction." He motioned out the window and Bumble followed with his field glasses.
"Look between the two hideouts for stolen goods on the other side of Arson Avenue to the gambling den on Bludgeon Boulevard."
"I see it."
"Now, look through the alley between the gambling den and the bootlegger's to Ransom Road."
"Now, you see the building painted green just to the right?"
"That's not it. Look three doors to the left."
"Is that the hideout?"
"No. Now look five doors to the right."
"I see something that looks like a closed up garage."
"Does it have a sign above it?"
"What does the sign say?"
"'Slippery Elm's Hideout For Stashing Stolen Goods'. What a cunning criminal intellect! Imagine disguising a hideout so effectively!"
"Well, that's not the hideout."
"The building next to it is the hideout. The one with the sign that says, 'Not Slippery Elm's Hideout For Stashing Stolen Goods'."
"Egads! We are dealing with a criminal genius!", exploded the Inspector, "Now that we know where it is, I'll call in an APB. We finally figured out how to spell it!"
"Well, not just yet. You see, in exchange for them just pitching me in the ditch and not doing anything worse, I made an arrangement."
"What kind of arrangement?", asked Bumble.
"I'll tell you what kind of arrangement", said Slippery Elm, standing in the doorway. Ma Mayhem and her boys and Gorilla McGurk could be seen behind him. "Right now, though, reach!"
"For what?", asked Bumble.
Matilda Wugbuzzle sat calmly filing her nails in Chief Kronk's office. They had scheduled an interview in the interrogation room, but she found the glare of the sun lamp too strong to apply her makeup, although it did help when she wanted to singe off some hair ends that had grown too long, but the two way mirror didn't give a good enough reflection for her to touch up well..
"If you don't mind my saying", said Chief Kronk, "you seem inordinately comfortable with this process. Do you realize the Doozie Diamond was stolen?"
"I know enough not to worry when it's not necessary", Mrs. Wugbuzzle replied, "Insurance will take care of it."
"You seem very comfortable with that, too", said the Chief, "You know, your house is an insurance agent's nightmare? Do you know your butler is stealing your silver?"
"He hasn't finished yet? What is he doing, smuggling them out one fork at a time?"
"You knew about that?"
"The flatware says 'Jenyuine Silvur'. If he wants to take it, let him have it!"
"Did you intend to file a claim for that, too?"
"No, not at all. I have place settings that say 'Reely Reel Sillver, Honest' when he gets through taking these."
"I didn't realize your family thought so poorly of Wugbuzzle that they'd give you that as a dowry."
"Oh, they didn't give it to us, Huffleby's family did!" "I thought they were relatively well off."
"They are. But that's how poorly they thought of him!"
"Why do you even keep Diddit around if he's absconding like that?"
"He makes a nice cup of tea. And he cleans up the ashes real well when Skinflint is through going through the papers."
"Was the Doozie Diamond a fake, too?"
"No! It's been in my family for several seasons now!"
"You know, you're not making it easy to have arranging for the diamond to be stolen pay off for you."
"What makes you think I arranged to have it stolen?"
"Call it intuition on my part. Mr. Wugbuzzle came home early, which no one expected. Except for him, everyone else in the house would have been somewhere else. Diddit accounted for everyone in the household staff being otherwise engaged. Which you evidently knew about. But he couldn't make sure you weren't there. But he didn't have to, since you made sure yourself that you were out. You were the only one who controlled the absence of everyone at just the right time. Except your husband."
This was enough to make Mrs. Wugbuzzle stop filing her nails. "That's a good guess."
"I've found that, if you make enough good guesses, eventually some of them can start to overlap the truth. Do you want me to guess some more?"
She stared guardedly at Kronk for a few seconds, then, "Alright, yes, I arranged to have the diamond stolen. To keep it from looking like I arranged it, I had them do it the way they would normally."
"Yeah, cutting out an entire wall does sound par for the course for them. But if you knew about it, why did you become so frantic when we told you about it?"
"Well, I didn't want to tip my hand. It seemed appropriate. Besides, it was a good excuse for throwing things at Bumble."
"Well, I have to go along with that. But if you're not looking to file for insurance on the diamond, why have it stolen?"
"What makes you think I don't intend to file for insurance?"
"You wouldn't have been content to just let Diddit take the other flatware if you did. Something tells me you're not doing this for monetary reasons."
She stared at her shoes for a few moments, screwing up her courage. "Alright, I didn't intend to file for insurance."
"Because you expected to get it back?"
"Your guesses can be very irritating."
"Why did you arrange to have it stolen?"
"I...did it for my husband."
"How is that?"
"When I married him, Huffleby was a competent businessman, but not as big as he is now. But he didn't do it by himself. A lot of it was from my own family's influence after we were married. And even at that, he hasn't gotten as far as others even with our help. And I think he noticed that. My husband is a dear, sweet man, but not the most effective in business. In fact, I'm the one who does most of the family bookkeeping. And I think that that all bothered him quite a lot. And more than once, I've made the arrangements to smooth over a business deal that went sour on him."
"Did Wugbuzzle ever display any resentment about always being bailed out like that?"
"Well, besides becoming sullen and dejected, losing interest in work, moping around the house and saying I was only interested in controlling him, no."
"Darn! I thought we were onto something there." Then something else occurred to Kronk. "If I may, why did you marry him?"
"It surprises you that I might enter something as important as marriage for something other than greed?"
The intensity of the reaction startled Kronk and, somehow, he didn't like her particularly thinking he thought badly of her.
"Forgive me", Kronk fumbled, "but I have seen people do any of a number of things for any of a number of reasons. And I need to know whatever I can about the case to get to the bottom of it."
"I'm the bottom of the case", said Mrs. Wugbuzzle, "but, to honor your question, I saw great potential in him. I thought he could truly make something great of himself, given just the right impetus."
"Was this supposed to be the impetus?"
"Then how was this supposed to help him?"
A hesitation, then, "Well, after getting married, fortunes did begin to pick up for him. That was inevitable. But as much as the business picked up, it was nowhere near as much as he thought it would. I guess Huffleby didn't know how to handle it. He took to...gambling. He'd had had a history of gambling before, but now, it got a lot worse. When he started a business deal, he wouldn't gamble at all. But, then, when the deal went bad, he would start gambling. And, when I paid his way out of the situation, his gambling would become a major problem."
"Yes, I've seen gambling have an effect on many marriages. I know some couples who divorced over it before they even got married! What kinds of games did he play?"
"The hard ones. Tiddly winks! Hopscotch racing. And...and..."
"...high stakes jacks!"
That was enough to soften Kronk. "What you must have gone through! Floating jacks games has been a major problem in Whoopieland for some time now. I've been doing what I could to get the department to crack down on them."
"My poor husband. He would try and try, but he could never get past his foursies! Eventually, he lost heavily to..."
"You heard of him?"
"Our paths have crossed. But what has that got to do with this?"
"He owed 'Fivesies' Malone big and I decided to use this opportunity to try to cure him."
"Huffleby wasn't able to get his hands on enough money to pay Malone off, and Malone was getting nervous. Malone had Skinflint approach me to tell me he had a plan to get his cut of money and give me the opportunity to file an insurance claim. I suggested to Malone that I pay him what Huffleby owed, plus enough extra to arrange a pretend theft of the diamond. He would contact some criminals to do the job and I would make sure everything was clear."
"Skinflint knew about this?"
"Only as a go-between."
'You don't think he'd try to hijack the operation and steal the diamond for himself?"
"Oh, no, he doesn't have anywhere near the facilities to hide, cut and fence a diamond like the Doozie. To say nothing of the fact that he would never deal with the kind of henchmen that would be necessary for something like this."
"Well, among other things, he's very precise in the handling of his crimes. He always arrives right on the dot to rip up evidence of his pilfering our funds. He could never find henchmen who could be that fastidious."
"Yes, I know. They always insist on leaving messy crime scenes. What's the other reason he wouldn't deal with that kind of henchmen?"
"He's a coward."
"You thought this would solve your problem with Wugbuzzle's gambling?"
"I thought that, with the diamond gone, Huffleby would think he wouldn't be able to get enough together to pay his debt. At the last moment, I'd tell him the truth and maybe the shock would startle him out of it."
"i can't say I've heard of something like that working", said Kronk, "But do you know you could get into a lot of trouble for fabricating a theft?"
"I wouldn't mind if it meant Huffleby was better. If it was necessary for me to take the blame, I didn't mind. I know he can return to the right path, and I don't care what it takes."
Unbidden, Kronk opined, "Why is it those who deserve it least always end up with the most caring people?" A sudden look from Mrs. Wugbuzzle stoked him into changing the subject. "You know, even though 'Fivesies' Malone was acting as a contact, dealing with the likes of Knuckles McCracken, Pressler the Wrestler and the Goon brothers can be dangerous. McCracken is about as tough as they come, Pressler isn't much less dangerous, and, even though they aren't the most...circumspect,...the Goon brothers can be a lot of trouble."
Mrs. Wugbuzzle's face took on a puzzled look.
"Who's Knuckles McCracken? And Pressler The Wrestler? And the Goon brothers?"
"They're the ones who stole the diamond. They're the muscle 'Fivesies' usually uses."
"Well, Malone only mentioned Ma Mayhem and her boys and Gorilla McGurk!"
Ma Mayhem and her boys and Gorilla McGurk stood menacingly in the corner of Slippery Elm's hideout for stolen goods. That means they were acting casually. When they want to really look dangerous, they could make wallpaper peel. Elm himself stalked back and forth in front of Bumble and Mitch the snitch. A sniveling little man, he had slicked back hair, a pencil mustache and a sports jacket. Elm's sports coats were the loudest around. The one he wore now wasn't too bad right now, though. It was probably asleep.
"Do you realize the trouble and expense I had to go through to put this together?", demanded Elm, "And then, when they get there, there's nothing to steal! How do they go about stealing something that's not there?"
"Well", said Bumble, turning from examining the peeled wallpaper around the hideout, "first you find a fulcrum..."
"Shut up!", shouted Elm, "I promised them they were going to get cut in for 5% of the action each. Do you know how much 5% of nothing is?"
Forty five minutes later, Bumble asked for a pencil and paper.
"Forget it!", demanded Elm, "This is a problem for me and you're going to help me get to the bottom of it! I've been double crossed and I want to know who did it!"
"Look, Elm", said Bumble, "let's face facts. You're a two bit, penny ante, small fry pipsqueak of a hood."
"But with the shiniest shoes on the north side of town!"
"When I'm not on the beat, that is! But you don't have what it takes to arrange handling something like the fabulously, incredibly, unbelievably, unquestionably valuable Doozie Diamond."
"It's also fantastically valuable."
"Right. Besides, I'd already deduced that whoever was behind this was an intellect on a par with my own, nothing like you, uhm...uhm...uhm..." "Slippery Elm."
"No, I'm Bumble! I know someone's controlling this. Who are you working for?"
"You leave 'Fivesies' Malone out of this!"
"Okay. But who are you working for?"
Slippery Elm looked to Mitch Fitch. "Is there somebody else I can talk to?"
"I just got pitched in a ditch. I'm not sure I know who I am."
"The only one who could have double crossed you", said Bumble, "is the one who was running the whole show. Who was that?"
"I said to leave 'Fivesies' Malone out of this!"
"Alright. But who was running this?"
"I think I'm going to go pitch myself in a ditch", said Mitch.
"You might as well tell us", said Bumble, "We'll find it out from the guys who pulled the heist, Knuckles McCracken, Pressler The Wrestler and the Goon brothers."
"Pressler the Wrestler, the Goon brothers and Knuckles McCracken?"
"No, Knuckles McCracken, Pressler The Wrestler and the Goon brothers."
"I don't use those guys! They're mugs 'Fivesies' Malone uses for his personal jobs!"
"You leave 'Fivesies' Malone out of this!", said Bumble.
"I think I'll pitch myself in a ditch, too", said Slippery Elm.
"That gives me an idea! Since they're guys that 'Fivesies' Malone uses, maybe we should pay him a call", said Bumble.
"I don't know if we could get there quickly", said Slippery Elm, "the hideout he uses to stash stolen goods is on the other side of town."
"Then we'll just use a 'fade to' to arrive in the hideout", said Bumble.
"Fivesies" Malone's hideout was awash with police when it faded in around Bumble, Mitch and Slippery Elm , and more were arriving every second. A squad of them trampled Bumble accidentally. Or maybe not. Chief Kronk and Matilda Wugbuzzle stood to one side of the hideout; contemptuously surveying the scene was "Fivesies" Malone, every bit the dapper criminal mastermind, with pin stripe suit, wing tip shoes and fire opal pinky ring.
Really. A pin striped suit. Really. Wing tip shoes. Really. A fire opal pinky ring.
Getting up and brushing himself off, Bumble saw Chief Kronk and Mrs. Wugbuzzle.
"Chief! You? Here? I don't believe it! I always had such faith in you! I always had such respect for you! I always thought it was safe to hide my gumballs in your desk drawer!"
"Bumble,...", started the Chief.
"But it all seems so clear now! You saying it's good to fence stolen goods! And all those cases where we never found the guilty parties! And don't tell me otherwise. I know all about those screwed up cases! I was in every one of them!"
"Thought you were too smart for the department, didn't you? But the department's got you surrounded, don't they?" Bumble pulled the cigar from the Chief's mouth, dropped it to the floor and stomped on it. "What do you think of that, you loud mouthed tub of lard?"
"Don't besmirch the name of 'Bumble' by using it!", demanded the Inspector, "Every Bumble has always had the greatest respect for the law, if you don't count my cousin Wallace, my uncle Oscar, my Aunt Heloise, my second cousin Deborah, my fourth cousin Emmett, my six and three quarters cousin Dudley,..."
"And this tootsie must your moll, huh? Flashy and trashy! Just your style of dollie, eh, you crooked creep?"
While Slippery Elm and Mitch Fitch worked to extricate the Bumble from the sack Kronk had fashioned the Investigator's trenchcoat into and stuffed him in, Kronk approached Malone.
"Alright, Malone", said the Chief, "where's the wall?"
"Take your pick", said Malone, "we got lots of walls here."
"You know which one I mean."
Without a word, "Fivesies" turned to a door in the corner and whistled. Knuckles McCracken entered. After ripping away a quarter of the wall to fit.
"What do you want, boss?", said McCracken.
"Go get the wall", ordered Malone.
"Which one, boss? We got lots of walls."
"You know which one."
"Can I wrap Bumble up in a sun lamp, again? That was fun."
"You'd have to get in line to do that", said the Chief.
"Just get the wall."
A quick exit, a short conversation, the sound of some scraping and the sight of several other pieces of walls being moved aside, and McCracken returned with Wugbuzzle's wall, assisted by Pressler.
"Hey," shouted Pressler, "there's Bumble. You want to wrap him up in a sun lamp?"
"The boss says to just bring in the wall."
"There you go, Chief", said "Fivesies, "the Wugbuzzle wall. Would you like to check it to make sure the diamond's there? I don't know the combination, but Safecracker Sal wouldn't mind the chance to show off his skills."
"It doesn't matter, I'm sure the diamond's there."
"Why do you say that?"
"Because even you don't have the resources to cut up a rock that big, or avoid the repercussions of destroying such a valuable diamond, or of protecting it from the other gangs who would catch on and try to steal it."
"You make it sound like I was crazy to steal it in the first place."
"Not if you only intended to keep it a short while."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Why did you double cross Slippery Elm?"
"What makes you think I did?"
"Matilda, I mean, Mrs. Wugbuzzle says she arranged with you to steal the wall, but you only mentioned Ma Mayhem and her boys and Gorilla McGurk. Those are muscle that Slippery Elm usually contracts out to. Mrs. Wugbuzzle never heard of Knuckles McCracken and the others who actually carried out the heist. You gave the job to Slippery Elm, but, at the last second, you decided to take over."
"So I double crossed Elm. I'm a crook! That's the kind of things we do! So what?"
"You don't usually twist deals like that", said Kronk, "You're evil, but you're reliable."
"So you're saying someone convinced me to take over?"
"The only other person here who would have enough resources to arrange that."
"You mean, the butler, Diddit?" The rim shot guy play a riff on the snare drum and finished with the cymbal. "Why would I deal with him? I've got tons of "55 Carrot Gold" flatware!"
"How much did Huffleby Wugbuzzle promise you to take over the caper?"
"Fivesies" Malone took on an uncharacteristic pose of being bested, but quickly regained himself. "What makes you think he did?"
"Mr. and Mrs. Wugbuzzle were the only ones whose presence couldn't be controlled by the butler while he was stealing the silverware. Mrs. Wugbuzzle was away because she didn't want to be around during the heist and she expected her husband not to be. But he came home unexpectedly, apparently to make sure everything went smoothly and because he wanted to be able to get the police there as soon as possible. So you wouldn't have to keep the diamond in your possession for too long."
"And just how would he have found out about the plan?"
"You told him."
"Why would I do that?"
"He already owed you. He already had a connection to your operations. You probably felt you could get some more money for yourself out of it if you told him." Kronk stalked up to Malone. "But you probably weren't prepared for Wugbuzzle to have his own deal for you!"
"What makes you think I made a separate deal with Wugbuzzle?" "Actually, Bumble can take the credit for that."
"Of course I can!", said Bumble, "What did I do?"
To Bumble, Kronk replied, "You said you were bothered that they took the whole wall and not just the safe containing the diamond. And you were right."
"Of course I was right! About what?"
"And what kind of deal would Wugbuzzle want?", demanded Malone.
Without answering, Kronk walked over to the wall and looked at the painting.
"A brilliant painter. Does extraordinary copies of fine paintings. His imitation of Huffenhuff's style is impeccable. Why do you ask?"
"So, this is a copy of the original painting Wugbuzzle had on his wall?"
"He had me commission Hufferhuff."
"When I told him his wife's plan, he made some of his own. He was going to unload the original and, with that money, he was going to pay back his wife for his debts, take care of Elm and his gang and then finance a new start for himself under an assumed name. And he wasn't even doing his wife that much of a disservice, leaving her the Hufferhuff. Hufferhuff is gaining in popularity. It used to be a Huffenhuff was worth half a hundred Hufferhuffs, now one Hufferhuff is half a Huffenhuff."
"So he's gone?", asked Mrs. Wugbuzzle.
"He left a note, if that helps", said Malone handing a piece of paper to Wugbuzzle's wife.
"Matilda", she read, "I heard from Mr. Malone about your arrangement. I can't allow you to do that. So I am changing the terms of the deal. They will steal the painting and I will unload it on some unsuspecting sap and use the money to clear my debts and disappear. So you won't be able to find me, I'm changing my name. Signed, Hubert Bimblewomp."
"I see he's still falling short in his handling of business", said Kronk, "But we still can't allow this. A crime has been committed. A real one. Mrs. Wugbuzzle may have the diamond back, but she still doesn't have the Huffenhuff in her possession."
"Don't worry too much about that, Chief", said Bumble, "Maybe Wugbuzzle tried to pull a fast one with the diamond, but I got him on the painting."
"What do you mean?", asked Kronk.
"I mean I got the Huffenhuff!"
"How did you do that?"
"Before I left the station house, Wugbuzzle approached me and offered to sell the Huffenhuff for the Whoopieland museum when he got it back. So I wrote him out a promissory note to be collected at Whoopieland Town Hall. He signed this copy and he said I'd get what's coming to me. 'An unsuspecting sap', indeed! Shows how much he knows!"
"So Whoopieland will pay me for Wugbuzzle's debts!", extolled Malone, "That's rich!"
"Chief", said Sergeant Fleep, "what'll we do now?"
"Bumble", said Kronk, "that paper you made the promissory note and the copy out on, is that the self destructing paper Skinflint was using?"
"Now that you mention it,..."
The rest of Bumble's reply was drowned out in a massive fireball that left the Inspector's clothes charred and smoking.
"I don't see how...", began Fleep.
A second explosion came from the rear room of Malone's hideout, flames could be seen around the corners of the hole McCracken had engineered. His clothes as blackened as Bumble's, Wugbuzzle stalked around the corner.
"You idiot!", Wugbuzzle roared.
"No, me Bumble!"
"Officers", declared Kronk, "grab that creep!" When they immediately moved to seize Bumble, Kronk realized they needed straightening out. And, after a few minutes, he instructed them to grab Wugbuzzle.
As they were leading him away, Kronk faced him down.
"You know, some people really don't know when they have it good. Married into a fine family. Lots of opportunities. And a wife who wants to see you succeed, and you do something like this!"
"What are you talking about?", ground out Wugbuzzle, "Of course she wanted me to succeed, I was her pet project! I always got that look of personal disappointment every time something went wrong! Even if it went right but not right enough! And if it went perfectly, she only acted like that's the way it should be! I didn't want her to go through with her plan because I knew she would treat me like a failure forever afterward!"
"Don't worry, Huffleby", said Matilda, "my family will bail you out of your problems."
"Stop presuming to take over everything in my life!", Wugbuzzle demanded, "If I fail, let me fail and get myself out!"
"Now you know better than that!"
Matters had left the arena that Kronk was prepared to deal with and he wanted to restore his position.
"Alright, get them both out of here! Keep some men on station here. I want to check this whole thing out."
"Right, sir", said Sergeant Fleep.
"Just a minute", said Bumble. Walking up to Wugbuzzle, he stared him in the face and demanded, "Now what is this about a missing diamond?"