The Making of a Detective:
Dead Bodies, Abandoned Factories, and Cemeteries
“Our town has an unsolved mystery,” Annie Laurie told me. “It was all about something that happened long before we were born.”
She said that a physician named Dr. Hansen had disappeared. His clothes were found on the bank of the nearby Missouri River. No body was ever found, so the verdict was that he had drowned.
“I don’t believe that one bit. I think he put his clothes there and ran away,” Annie Laurie whispered. “I’ll solve this mystery. Do you want to join me?”
We were both in the sixth grade, but she was a year older and a head taller than me, so I became her follower, “What do I have to do?”
“You have to become a detective,” She said, pronouncing those few words solemnly.
“I’ll have to ask my mother,” I said dubiously, my eyes widening at Annie Laurie’s next words. “No, you don’t!” We have to be secret about this. Don’t tell a soul.”
According to Annie Laurie I could become a detective after I passed a series of tests. The first was that I had to go with her through the abandoned Vinegar Factory with its broken windows, rotted floors and ten years of trash. That one was easy and we did it in the afternoon so we could see where to step.
The next test was to prove that a good detective was brave-even in the dark. She told me that I had to meet her after supper for a visit to a scary place. It meant sneaking out into the cold November night.
My mother was sitting in her rocker reading the paper. As I headed toward the back door she called and asked me to bring her an apple from the back porch. “Be sure to put the blanket back over the bushel basket,” she ordered.
She didn’t notice that I had my coat and hat on when I handed her the fruit, so I escaped unnoticed out into the night. Annie Laurie was waiting on the corner, stamping her feet in the cold. She showed me her cap gun that she’d brought along for protection. On her direction we scurried out of town to the Wyuka Cemetery to prove our bravery among the tombstones. It was dark, deserted and so quiet I could hear my coat and overshoes shaking; all by themselves.
I raced back through the sleeping town, plunging through the backdoor immediately thankful that my mother was still in her rocker reading the paper.
At school the next day, Annie Laurie snorted, “You’ll never make it as a detective.” She was right, I never did.
Mary Elizabeth Mruzik