CEREAL KILLER, the Leprechaun Murder
The body of world-famous Lucky the Leprechaun was discovered today floating facedown in a large pool of Lucky Charms and 2% milk.
“It’s a tragedy,” said long-time friend Sugar Smack Bear. “And on Saint Patty’s Day!”
Lucky is survived by green clovers, blue diamonds, and purple horseshoes.
My name is Robbie Brown and I am a product icon detective in the homicide division. This story is not for the lactose intolerant, but it’s one that must be told.
As I scoped the scene, I noticed Lucky’s little green coat was askew, as if he put it on in a hurry. “Get him out of that milk. He’s getting soggy.”
The Keebler Elves worked the crane controls while Papa Elf guided the scooper to Lucky’s lifeless body. He was lifted, lowered, and left on the grass behind his beautiful bay home. I knelt beside him, right away finding the first thing out of place. “Where’s his Lucky Charms?”
“No clue.” That was my partner, Lucas Eagle, who knelt down beside me. “What do you think happened to them, Robbie?”
I didn’t answer. Something wasn’t clicking. That jacket looked soft. Too soft. Like it had been cleaned right before the leprechaun was dumped.
“Who would wear their jacket to take a swim?” Lucas asked.
“He wasn’t taking a swim. We’re dealing with a Cereal Killer.”
“How can you tell?”
“They left a clue.” I pointed to the amber-colored goo beneath Lucky’s left lapel.
Lucas touched it. “What is it?”
“Syrup. This was a mob hit, and I bet it will lead us back to Aunt Jemafia.”
Aunt Jemafia is the leader of the mob. Known for her brutal use of syrup torture in the 90s, she spread out and employed other products to do her sticky bidding. In 2002, she hired the Nesquik Bunny to lace the chocolate Quik at the governor’s ball, though we could never link her to the crime. A brief partnership with Little Debbie led to the cupcake queen’s disappearance for several months, after her saucy affair with Chef Boyardee was discovered. The mob leader was never at a loss for icon henchmen, what with the economy being at an all time-low and breakfast cereal over four-dollars a box, most icons were looking for some extra cash to pay the bills.
Later that day, I sat eating a bowl of Honey-Os while watching the TV. I never buy the brand name stuff. Can’t stand those flat-box, beady eyes staring at me while I eat. Not to mention the surveillance technology built into every box ever since Tony the Tiger was busted for slipping steroids into Frosted Flakes. As I slurped my milk, I couldn’t help but wonder what happened to those Lucky Charms. I’d have to hit the streets for answers.
The Dairy Queen Bar was the hot spot for product icons. Everyone from the Cottonelle Bears to the Boo-Berry Monster hung out there. First on my list of suspects was the Cookie Crook. His gig had gone south, replaced by Chip the Dog, who was fired for peeing on the cereal, and then Chip the Wolf, because the FDA deemed the thief image too negative for a kid’s cereal. He sat at the bar, a good forty-pounds heavier, with a shot of milk, a plate of fig newtons, and a half gallon of whole milk left behind by the bartender.
“Evening, Mr. Crook,” I said.
“Scram, Copper. I ain’t taking the rap.”
“I haven’t accused you of anything.” I sat beside him. “Sure sound mighty guilty.”
“You’re looking to blame someone for the Cereal Killer’s work.”
“What do you know?”
“I don’t know nothing.” He downed his shot and poured another. “And even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you anything.”
I stared him down, waiting for him to crumble.
He faced me. “I don’t know why you’re bothering me. I’ve been clean for three years. Ain’t stole a single chocolate chip cookie from no one. Stopped eating them completely. Made a new life for myself.”
“And you should be proud of that. But I’m sure you still hear things, having a reputation of working for Aunt Jemafia on more than one occasion.”
“Scram.” He shoos me aside. “Beat it. Unless you’ve got a warrant.”
I hadn’t one, so I stood and whispered in his good ear. “A leprechaun’s dead, and that means anyone could be next. Even retired icons like yourself. Cereal Killers don’t care if you’ve deserted your box or not.”
As I turned to leave, he grabbed my wrist, stopping me in my tracks. “You didn’t hear this from me,” he whispered, “but that silly rabbit has worked the streets for the mob for years. They pay him in Trix. It’s the only way he can eat his own cereal.”
“Pretty twisted. Heard he’s only had it back in ’76 and once in the 80s.”
“It is twisted, and enough to drive an icon to do things they wouldn’t normally do, if you buy what I’m selling.” He released me. “But you didn’t hear it from me.”
I reached into my pocket and laid two chocolate chip cookies on the bar. “Thanks for your time.” On the way out, I Facetimed Lucas. “And idea where to find the Trix Rabbit?”
“He’s been picked up a few times for shoplifting and harassing the kids down near the river. Lost his home back in the 90s after the market crashed.”
“Grab a few boxes of Trix and meet me near Riverfront Playground. I’ve got a call to make.”
Little Debbie lived in a small treetop trailer park on the outskirts of town. She’d shagged up with an ex-Keebler elf turned diabetic who ate too much product and could no longer perform his duties. The two lived off his disability checks and the dwindling cash reserves she had left from selling her cupcake conglomerate. Cobwebs cluttered the corners of the door frame. I knocked gingerly.
“Hold you horses,” came a hoarse voice from behind the wood door. It opened on rusty hinges. Little Debbie wore a flannel nightshirt to her knees and fuzzy slippers, her short hair wound tight in curlers. “Can I help you?” A cigarette teetered between her lips as she spoke, and she removed it only to cough.
“I’m Officer Brown.” I flashed my badge. “I’m looking for information on the Cereal Killer. You heard of him?”
She shrugged. “I watch the news.”
“Do you know the whereabouts of the Trix Rabbit?”
“I’m sorry, Officer, but am I being accused of something? Cause I’m a very busy woman.”
“The theory is this was a mob hit. You know of Aunt Jemafia, don’t you?”
She blew out a dark chocolate-hued cloud of smoke. “Come inside.”
We sat in the center room attached on one side to a small kitchenette. A slim hallway led to a bedroom and bath at the other end. A bald-headed elf sat in a wheelchair facing the TV. One of his legs had been amputated at the knee.
“Bernie,” Little Debbie said louder than necessary. “We have company.”
The elf swiveled around. I showed my badge. He ignored me after that.
“Cup of Joe?” Little Debbie asked, holding out the pot. I nodded, and she poured for each of us. We silently stirred in our cream and sugar. I smelled the coffee that lingered among the cigarettes Little Debbie chain smoked, but the scent of flowers layered subtly beneath it all. I wondered why.
“Not so long ago, Aunt Jemafia and I were the best of friends,” Little Debbie began. “We were like sisters. But her syrup got to her head and she ruined my reputation. I was forced to sell my business, my house, everything I owned. Gone.” She dragged off her newly lit cigarette. “After that, no one would work with me. No one would even talk to me, except Bernie, which isn’t saying much.”
“What about Chef Boyardee?”
She snorted. “That creep? He swore by his meatballs that he loved me and would leave that frozen-hearted Marie Callendar. But after I lost my swiss cake rolls, he left me. Said he couldn’t be with someone without a future.”
“Wanted his cake and wanted to eat it too, huh?”
“That’s right. Anyway, none of this would have happened if that Mrs. Butterworth wannabe hadn’t opened her big fat lid and blabbed to the whole world about me and Chef.”
“Do you think she’s got something to do with the Cereal Killer?”
“Could be. She’s got a gambling problem; owes dough all over town, mostly to Betty Crocker and Orville Redenbacher.”
“Interesting.” I jotted names in my notebook. “Any idea if the Rabbit plays in?”
“He’s a junkie. Will do anything for Trix.”
“Even commit murder?”
“Especially. All you need to know is his weakness.”
I’d heard all I needed. I stood and said, “Thanks for your information.”
“Anything to get Aunt Jemafia busted.”
“I’ll let myself out.” As I walked to the door, I wondered if Little Debbie was involved. She had motive, but until I could prove it I had nothing. I headed toward the playground, hoping Lucas had brought a lot of breakfast cereal.
Riverfront Playground stayed open from dawn to dusk. Typical equipment and wooden benches created a commonplace ambiance no different from any park anywhere in the country. Lucas sat on the swings, a black duffle bag on the sand beside him.
“Thanks for meeting me.”
“What’s this all about, Robbie?”
“I’m not certain yet.”
“You think the rabbit did it?”
“I think the rabbit was put up to it.” I cupped my hands to my mouth. “Silly Rabbit? ILPD. We just want to talk.”
Nothing stirred. I faced Lucas. “You got the Trix?”
Lucas unzipped the duffle bag. Lemon-lime and orange zest and raspberry filled the air. “I give him one minute.”
The door to the playground tree-house swung opened. A white creature with long ears dragged across the wood chips.
“Is that him?” Lucas asked.
“It must be. But he’s got to be at least thirty pounds lighter.”
The Rabbit approached, the streetlamps cast creepy shadows across his sunken cheeks and blood shot eyes. “You got Trix?” he muttered.
Lucas quickly zipped the bag closed. “That depends on your answers.”
The Rabbit tried to run, but Lucas and I were on top of him like the graham crackers on a smores. “Let go of me!” the Rabbit screamed.
“Why’d you kill Lucky?” I asked.
“I didn’t kill no one.”
“You’re lying!” Lucas said.
“No…no, please…let me go!”
“You talk, or we’ll feed you to the Goldfishes.”
“PLEASE! Anything but that. I don’t know nothing!”
Lucas and I carried the Rabbit to the dock and hung him upside down over the river. His ears dragged on the surface. Instantly, the Pepperidge Farm Goldfish jumped in the air and clamped their barracuda teeth around the Rabbit’s stringy ears. He yowled in pain.
“Who killed Lucky? Was it you? Did Aunt Jemafia put you up to it?”
“No. It wasn’t me. He was dead when I got there. Just get me away from the Goldfish.”
Lucas and I brought the Rabbit back to the park and sat him on a bench to catch his breath. “Who sent you?”
“Aunt Jemafia told me to meet her there.”
The Rabbit shrugged. “Didn’t say.”
Lucas unzipped the duffle bag. The Rabbit’s eyes glazed over. I shoved a handful of Trix into my mouth, and so did Lucas.
“She said she needed me to steal Lucky’s pot of gold to pay off her gambling debts.”
“To who? Betty and Orville?”
“I don’t know.”
Lucas and I ate more cereal. I chewed with my mouth opened.
“The Pillsbury Dough Boy.”
“That puff? He’s got plenty of dough,” Lucas said.
“Yeah, but he loaned a crescent rollful to Aunt Jemafia so she could buy out the Little Debbie snack company under a false name.
I shook my head. “This doesn’t make any sense. Why would Aunt Jemafia incriminate herself? Why would she tell so much to a junkie like you, and then bail out?”
“No idea, man. Go talk to her. Maybe she’s shizo and has a double personality or something. Could you just give me the Trix already?”
Lucas zipped the duffle bag and swung it over his shoulder. The Rabbit stared at us as we walked away. “So that’s it? What about my Trix? You promised me you’d give me some if I talked.”
I smirked. “Silly, Rabbit. Trix are for kids.”
And we left the poor fool pounding his head in the sand, screaming, and yanking at his own ears. I felt bad, but I knew in the long run we were doing him a favor. At least that’s what I told myself.
I sent Lucas back to the station to check on forensics. Hopefully, the lab was able to turn something up. I headed to Aunt Jemafia’s flat pancake in the downtown district. I rang the bell and she greeted me, as if she knew I was coming. The scent of waffles fell out of the house.
“Detective Brown, what brings you here? Breakfast for dinner?”
She’d put on a few pats of butter since I last saw her. “I’m looking for information about the Cereal Killer and your possible connection.”
She laughed. “I figured you’d show up at my door eventually. Who was it? That strung out Rabbit? Or that Sarah Lee tart Little Debbie?”
“Both. They say you owe money all over town, and that most of it belongs to the dough boy who lent it so you could take out your competition.”
“Little Debbie has never been my competition.”
“Then why’d you buy her out under a fake name?”
“You can’t believe everything you here.”
“I don’t care either way. I’m just looking for justice.”
“Well, I was here all day yesterday and I can get Dig’em Frog and Frankenberry to validate.”
“I don’t believe it was you.”
“Then why are you here?”
“Because I think someone is framing you, and I haven’t decided if you’re in or on it or not.”
Her face etched with lines of rage. “Well unless you have a warrant you need to get off my property.” She slammed the door in my face. But as she did, the same scent of flowers I smelled at Little Debbie’s place seeped out.
Why in the world would they both have the same smell? My phone rang. It was Lucas. “Tell me something good.”
“The residue on the Leprechaun’s jacket was definitely syrup, but not Aunt Jemafia’s. But that’s not all.”
“Traces of ethyl acetate, ethanol, and benzyl alcohol were found around the syrup. What does it mean?”
Chemicals? Foreign syrup? I thought hard, reminded of the flowery scent at both ladies’ houses. Suddenly, I gasp. “I know who did it.”
Lucas and I met back at Little Debbie’s house. She opened the door. A ring of smoke surrounded her head like a honey-nut Cheerio.
“What now? You come here to tell me you arrested that Silly Rabbit?”
“Actually, we came to search the place.” I flash my search warrant.
Little Debbie’s face goes velvet red and she screeches. “What in the world? You think I had the Leprechaun drowned? You think I stole his Lucky Charms.”
I smiled widely. Bingo. “I never mentioned they were missing.”
The cupcake queen went quiet as Lucas and I pushed past her to search the trailer. I went straight to her laundry room and opened the dryer. Lucky’s charms spilled out onto the floor. Lucas handcuffed Little Debbie and read her rights while the elf stared at the television screen as if nothing was happening.
As we lowered her into the squad car, Little Debbie said, “How’d you know it was me?”
“The fabric softener. I smelled it at your place and at Aunt Jemafia’s. I figured maybe it was the Snuggle Bear who’d been hired by the mob, but turns out he has a summer home in Venice where he’s at right now. That left the puzzle of why both houses smelled like flowers, but then I got it. You laundry-ed money for the mob. Washed and dried Lucky’s pot of gold for Aunt Jemafia, but you got caught in the act. The Leprechaun showed up while you were doing the deed so you off-ed him. The question is why.”
Little Debbie stared up, tears streaming down her pink cheeks. “She said she’d give me my company back. I can’t keep living like this, in a piece of crap trailer park with a useless diabetic elf who can’t get a job and has a terrible drinking problem. I just wanted my life back.”
“So you took Lucky’s life? Don’t you know you can’t have your cake and eat it too?”
“I just wanted a new start.”
“You’ll get a new start, sharing a jail cell with Aunt Jemafia. Maybe the two of you can clean up your acts. Mr. Clean heads up the parole board, so you’d better make sure you wash behind your ears when your time comes.”
As the patrolman drove Little Debbie away, I grabbed a laundry bag and filled it with Lucky’s charms. The streets were safe again for product icons with the Cereal Killers headed to prison. Just another day’s work for a guy like me…Officer Robbie Brown, though most people don’t know my real name is Dr. Hypnosis. Think I’ll stroll down to the river and see how that Silly Rabbit is doing. After all, he’s the one that really did that Leprechaun in. I needed those Lucky Charms, and being as good a hypnotist as I am, I was able to make them all believe they were the ones who did it.