Dale the Detective:
It was a bustling spring day in the park. Patrons enjoyed the cool green walkways and the warm carpet of grass. Children’s laughter joined with parents’ and friends’ talk to create a general buzz that emulated the buzzing of the bees as they collected their pollen to make honey. Inside the park’s largest oak tree, there was a good bit of buzzing going on as well, but neither bees nor humans could make any claim of responsibility here. It was solely the work of two semi-testy chipmunks, bantering back and forth.
“For the fortieth time, the answer is no!”
That was Chip’s fortieth answer to Dale’s same question, and once again it didn’t satisfy the red-nosed chipmunk. “Aw! C’mon, Chip. I never get to do the real neat detectiving stuff on the team!”
Chip took off his hat and ran his hands through his head fur. He felt a headache coming on. “That’s because you’re not the detective sort. I’m the one that does that. Your part’s to help out and to keep from breaking things.”
Dale wasn’t giving up that easy. “You think it’s easy being in my shoes...uh, feet? You always get to be the hero! You don’t think I could do your job? Well, you couldn’t do my job if your life depended on it! You don’t have a funny bone in your body.”
Dale crossed his arms defiantly and Chip mirrored him.
“Doing what job?” Chip chided. “Sleeping late every day? Reading comic books and watching the late, late, late show? Sounds like a reeeeal challenge.”
Gadget, as always, was the intermediary in these squabbles. She’d just come into the main room to find Chip and Dale locked in the throes of unreason. “Oh guys, can’t you ever agree on something?”
“I agree that he’s overbearing and won’t listen to anyone!” Dale said.
“I agree that he’s stupid and doesn’t take anything serious!” Chip retorted.
The chipmunks came nose to nose but the inventor mouse pushed them apart. “Chip, Dale, stop this! Now Chip, if Dale wants to have some responsibility on the team I think that’s a good thing. Don’t you?”
Chip crossed his arms again. “Well, I suppose…”
“Good. Then why not allow him to take the next case that’s not too demanding? We’re always getting requests from people who need help on simple matters, and it would be a good way for Dale to learn how to use his detective skills.”
Dale nodded, defiant. “If I had a gauntlet I’d throw it down—and if I knew what one was. Anyway, I’ll accept on one condition, that Chip has to be funny and good natured for as long as I’m on the case!” Chip eyed Dale suspiciously. “Funny? Why should I have to do that?”
“Hey, you said it was a real challenge being Dale,” Dale said, grinning wolfishly. “Afraid to walk a mile in my... footprints?”
Chip mulled it over for a minute, and while he did the others came in from breakfast. Monty for one was for the idea. “Sounds like a right good plan ta me. Why, I remember the time I was in Borneo and I traded places with the local potentate for a day. He got to go ‘round as a regular Joe and I got to eat all the cheese I wanted! ‘Course, having to walk over coals every time I made a proclamation got a little old after the first few hours...”
“Okay Dale, I’ll do it,” Chip said, turning the table’s attention back to him. “But you’ve got to take whatever case you get seriously and follow it through to the end. No running off to the comic book store or the candy shop!”
“Deal!” Dale said, holding out his hand to Chip. “And you have to smile and be cheerful and upbeat at least for a day!”
“Deal!” Chip said, shaking Dale’s hand.
At that moment, as fate—or the writers—would have it, Tammy burst in through the front door. She was visibly upset, and headed straight for Chip. “Chipper! Oh Chipper, it’s dreadful!”
Dale took a dramatic pose. “A young woman in need! How can the Rescue Rangers be of assistance?” Tammy ignored Dale and continued talking to Chipper, er Chip. “You’ve got to come right away! My mom’s necklace is missing and she just loves it and you’re so good at finding things and all and we’ve looked high and low and she’s beside herself and...”
“Okay, calm down,” Chip said. “Now, tell us exactly—”
“Ahem!” Dale interrupted. “Chip, I believe that’s my department now. You’ve gotta be me, remember?”
Chip glared at him, but assented, taking on a goofy look. “Zowie!” Chip began jumping around excitedly. “We’re gonna have an adventure!” Dale objected immediately. “Hey! I’m not that bad, am I? Uh, never mind about that! We’ll be back in a minute, Tammy. We need to get ready for battle!”
Dale grabbed Chip’s arm and began dragging him to their room. Tammy blinked, confused, and looked at the other Rangers still present. “Did I miss something?” Monty pointed the way the munks had gone. “Uh, the boys are having a bit of a challenge goin’. They’re trading places for one case.”
“Neither thinks either one can do the job of the other,” Gadget added.
Tammy looked a little worried. “Oh, okay. Um, do you think that Dale can find my mom’s necklace?” Zipper sighed, annoyed that he was in a story where he couldn’t speak. “Buzz.” Monty was glad he had learned buzzeze. “What he’s tryin’ to say is that we’ll give it our best shot.”
Dale appeared, now in full Holmes regalia, including the magnifying glass and the pipe—which blew bubbles. Dale marched up to Tammy and gave her his most serious look. “Put your concerns at rest, young lady, for I, Sureluck Dale, am on the case!”
A very sour Chip slunk into the room, wearing one of Dale’s tacky Hawaiian shirts. Gadget covered her mouth, laughing at the scene, and it was all Monty and Zipper could do to contain themselves. Tammy just stared.
Chip gave them a “I can’t believe I’m doing this” look and announced, “Two nuts walked into the park, and one was a salted.” Dale just shook his head and looked at Chip, disapproving. “Oh really, Chip. Now’s not the time for that. There’s a case to be solved!”
Dale leaned over and whispered in Tammy’s ear. “I always wanted to say that!”
Tammy walked over to Chip, grinning. “Oh, you’re so cute in that shirt, Chipper! You look just like that guy on that Hawaiian show who used to laugh so funny!”
While Chip did his best to control himself, Dale started the interview. “Now, tell us about this necklace. When was the last time you saw it?” Tammy took a seat and tried to act the part of the serious client. “About two years ago.”
Dale dropped his bubble pipe, then picked it up. “Two years! But the way you ran in here and all...”
“Oh. Well, you see,” Tammy started to explain, “mom doesn’t allow Bink or me to play with her jewelry so I haven’t seen it in a couple years. But mom has her necklace and other things in a walnut box and she was going to get it out and wear it to her garden club meeting. Then she screamed it was gone and she thought we’d took it but we hadn’t and now she’s all upset!”
“We need to investigate the scene of the crime!” Dale said, pointing upward dramatically with his left index digit. Then Dale bonked Chip on the head. Chip rubbed his head, miffed. “What’s the big idea!”
“I dunno, but usually after you tell us what you plan to do I end up getting bonked on the head.”
Chip grimaced. “That’s because you usually end up saying something ludicrous!”
“Oh. Well then, say something ludicrous so it balances out.”
Chip clenched his fists and snarled, but got control of himself. He took on a dumb pose and said in a very stupid-sounding voice, “I think Flash the Wonderdog really has superpowers!”
Dale started to bonk him, but then stopped. “Hey, don’t make fun of Flash! After all, he turned out to be a nice guy.” Chip started to argue, but let it ride. “True. Okay, I’ve said something stupid and been bonked on the head. Now what, fearless leader?”
“Now, you stay here and read comic books and watch TV while Zipper and I go and help this unfortunate young lady,” Dale said, taking Tammy’s hand.
Gadget walked over, surprised. “Gosh, Dale. Don’t you want us to come?”
“Naw,” Dale said. “You and Monty stay here and make sure he watches cartoon shows and horror movies and none that public broadcasting junk he likes. And make sure he reads all the latest issues of Kablammo Man and Spiffo. I’ll quiz you on ‘em when I get back, Chip!”
Chip headed for the sofa. “Okay, but Zipper has to make sure you pay attention to details and stay focused on the case.”
Zipper saluted and joined Dale and Tammy at the door. For her part, Tammy didn’t like this arrangement. “Uh, can’t you work as a team on this? It is a valuable family heirloom, as in ‘it will pass to the eldest daughter’ kind of thing.”
“Sorry, Tammy,” Chip said. “We sort of agreed that Dale could work the next case, and I’m sure he’ll do a good job.”
“You bet he will!” Dale said. “Chip, you don’t sound happy enough!”
Chip started cavorting around the room wildly. “Oh goody goody day! Dale’s on the case! Yippee!”
Dale led the way outside, Zipper following. Tammy followed a moment later, looking back at Ranger Headquarters with a helpless expression. She didn’t see the reasoning in all this, but at least she was getting some help. Soon the three of them were at Tammy’s house and when Tammy’s mom saw who was leading the investigation she wore the same helpless expression.
“Oh, how...how nice of you to come so quickly,” Donna said. “Won’t you come inside?”
Dale whispered into Donna’s ear as he passed by, “Don’t worry. If I mess up, Chip and the others will solve the case.”
Zipper buzzed with annoyance at Dale
“You’re right, Zipper. Chip doesn’t go into things thinking he can’t do it. He always believes he can do it. So we’ll solve this case!”
Tammy’s mom led a now-determined Dale and the others to her room and the jewelry box in question. Dale studied the box, as well as everything in sight, with his magnifying glass.
“Well, do you see anything?” Donna asked.
“So far, just lots of dust,” Dale said. “When was the last time you cleaned in here?”
Zipper cleared his throat, Donna looked cross, and Dale continued. “The other jewelry’s still in the box. If someone took it, why didn’t they take the rest of the stuff?”
“You’re the detective!” Tammy said.
“And detectives have to ask questions and all!” Dale countered. “When was the last time you saw the necklace, Mrs. Chesnutt?”
Donna sighed and answered, “A week ago. I had taken it out to decide if I should wear it this week to the annual Park Garden Festival.” Dale appeared deep in thought. “Hmm...so from sometime last week until now, it got pinched. Have any suspicious characters been around?”
Dale turned to Tammy. “Tammy, you seen anyone new around lately, or who looked out of place?” Tammy wanted to say something, but decided not to. “There was the plumber, a girl scout selling cookies and my aunt, Miss Spelling.”
The red-nosed detective pulled out a pad and pencil, writing all this down. “Okay. We’ll give ‘em all a visit, then. Do you happen to remember the girl scout’s name, and if she’s coming back by with more cookies?”
Donna thought for a moment. “I think she said her name was Nails. Tuffaz Nails, if I recall correctly.”
“Yeah, she said she’d be back,” Tammy said. Dale wrote the name down, then looked up with a strange thought lodged in his mind. “Gotta wonder what that child’s parents were thinking. Okay, we’ll get on this right away.”
“Don’t you want to know what plumber we use?” Tammy asked.
Dale brought out his notebook again. “Oh yeah—I forget, not everyone has a Gadget Hackwrench to help out. Who’s your plumber, then?”
Dale started writing “Gad-get...Hack—hey! You mean Gadget’s a suspect?”
“I suppose so,” Donna said.
Dale got a big smile on his face. “Oh wow, this is getting to be a real interesting case! We’ll go interview Gadget and Miss Spelling and be back to talk to the little girl. When did she say she’d come back?”
“She didn’t say,” Donna said. “Just that she’d be around, and we wouldn’t know when.”
“Oh, okay. Well, we’ll come back as soon as we’ve talked to the two other suspects. Want to tag along, Tammy? This is your chance to work with a real professional detective in action!”
Tammy was all for that. “Yeah! Besides, I want to see how Chip’s dealing with being happy all day.”
“Happy all day?” Donna asked. “Chip?”
“It’d take too long to explain, mom,” Tammy said. “Let’s go!”
The first stop was Ranger Headquarters. Tammy knew it would be worth the trip, and she stifled a giggle when she saw the normally-stoic chipmunk in that colorful blue and green floral Hawaiian shirt again. He was watching “Return of the Wrath of the Claw Monsters” on television with a stack of comic books at his side. Chip turned in surprise, hoping that Dale might have given up this insane odyssey already. Dale’s next words squashed that hope flat.
“Gadget Hackwrench, front and center!” Dale commanded.
Gadget looked around, surprised, then came up to Dale. “What’s wrong, Dale?”
Dale put on his best accusatory look. “Nothing, just routine investigation. I’ve been talking with Tammy and her mother, and it seems that you were over there doing some plumbing work for them within the past week. Now, where were you the night of the jewelry heist?”
“What night was that?” Gadget asked.
“I don’t know! It’s just what every detective starts out saying.”
Dale showed Gadget to a chair so he could stand over her and continue his rigorous work. Chip rolled his eyes but Dale caught him at it and Chip immediately went back to commenting on how great the Claw Monsters were. “Now Gadget, suppose you tell us exactly what you did when you visited the Chesnutts’ house to fix their plumbing?”
Half an hour later Dale was fighting to stay awake.
“...and I had to use the snake—the drain snake, not a real snake. Not that I have anything against snakes, even after our run in with Bud,” Gadget babbled. “But anyway, the drain snake found this clog. Not like a wooden shoe clog or anything. I mean, I don’t think that Tammy, Donna or Bink does clogging, but then again—”
“Uh—ahem, very good,” Dale said, considering drinking his first cup of coffee. “Did you come anywhere near Mrs. Chesnutt’s jewelry box?”
“Well, that settles it!” Dale said, gesturing dramatically. “She didn’t do it.”
Dale waited until Gadget stood up, then approached her quickly. “But don’t leave town. I’ve got my eye on you.” Gadget gave him a smile and mumbled something into his ear. Dale smiled, blushing, and turned to leave. “It’s the smiling, innocent-looking ones you have to watch out for, Tammy. Remember that.”
Tammy shrugged and sighed, following Dale to interview their next suspect. Miss Spelling was the long-time English teacher at the park’s local animal high school, and was known for being a no-nonsense strict disciplinarian. It came as little surprise then when she demanded that Dale remove his deerstalker hat and put his pipe away before entering her classroom. The veteran teacher was erasing the blackboard after the day’s lesson, her classroom now empty of pupils.
Dale felt he was starting to get the hang of this detective business and started in with his questions. “Miss Spelling, we’re investigating anyone who was at Tammy’s house during the last week and Tammy tells me you were there. Can I inquire why you were there?”
Miss Spelling continued erasing. “I don’t know, can you? It’s may I, Mr. Oakmont, not can I.” Dale instinctively returned to the very desk he sat at when he attended her class as a child. “Yes, ma’am! Uh, I mean, may I ask why you were there?”
“They’re family. I visit them often.” Miss Spelling turned around to find Dale seated. “You need not concern yourself, Mr. Oakmont. There will be no grading on your performance. However, I was there to discuss a new drama society I am starting, and I wished to inquire of Tammy’s mother if she would be able to sew some costumes for us. Now, do you have other questions or does that suffice?”
Dale stood up, raising his hand. Miss Spelling pointed to him. “Yes, Mr. Oakmont?”
“Were you anywhere near Miss Squirrel’s jewelry box?”
“Okay, that’s all,” Dale said. “I’ll just be running along.”
Dale stood nervously and rushed out the door, causing Miss Spelling to call out, “Mr. Oakmont!” Dale came back in. “Yes, ma’am?”
“How do we leave a room?”
“Oh yeah. Sorry.”
Dale slowly walked out, Zipper and Tammy in tow, and quietly shut the door. “Well, that’s Gadget and Miss Spelling off our list. That leaves just the little girl scout. Guess we’d better start back for your place, Tammy. Maybe she’s there by now.”
Covering the space between the school and the park quickly, Dale and his entourage soon neared Tammy’s tree. It also happened that someone else was doing the same. A rather large rat in a girl scout outfit, wearing a blonde pigtail wig, climbed the tree while the detective trio watched.
“Oh. Well, that explains the name, anyway,” Dale said.
Tuffaz crushed a cigarette in her hand and smiled sweetly at Dale as he approached, using a tone that sounded somewhat roughly feminine. “Would you like to buy some cookies, mister?”
“Yeah!” Dale said. “Well, when I’m off-duty anyway. You see, I’m investigating a robbery that took place at this house sometime this week. You were here before—anything you can tell us about?”
Tuffaz looked as innocent as someone named Tuffaz can. “It’s a nice place, lots of nice things.” Dale smiled, turning to look at the house. “Yeah, it sure is. Say, why don’t you come inside with us? I’ve got to go over the crime scene again and since you’ve seen the place maybe being inside would jar your memory as to any clues that would help us.”
Tuffaz put her hands behind her back, slipping off the diamond rings she had been wearing and as they walked in she discreetly removed her diamond earrings too. Tammy’s mom came in, pleased to see a guest. “Oh yes, it’s the girl scout again. I really like the chewy coconut cookies—I think we’ll order an extra dozen. Tammy, would you help me in the kitchen for a minute?”
“Sure, mom,” Tammy said.
Tuffaz started looking around. “I need to powder my nose.”
“Straight back and to your left,” Dale said. “Say, why’d your folks name you Tuffaz Nails?”
“It’s a family name.”
Dale paused then nodded. “Oh, okay.”
Dale and Zipper sat down, enjoying the chance to get off their feet after a hard day’s investigating. Dale took the recliner then frowned when he couldn’t get the chair to recline. He began fidgeting with the lever mechanism as Tammy and her mom brought in some refreshments. Zipper and Dale partook eagerly.
Now it was Tammy’s turn to look around. “Say, where’s Tuffaz?”
Dale pointed toward the rear of the house. “Oh, she went to the little girl’s room. Wait, here she comes...”
Tuffaz reappeared, then took not only a lemonade and a piece of cake but also Donna’s cookie order. Once the repast was through, Tuffaz stood up from the chair she’d bent half-over with her weight. “I hate to eat and run, but there’s lots more cookies to sell!”
“You run along, dear. Come back anytime!” Donna said.
“I will, ma’am. I will.”
Tuffaz started for the door when Dale finally figured out the chair mechanism. He proudly flipped it up—just in time to trip Tuffaz, who promptly fell and lost two pockets’ worth of jewelry and a hairpiece to boot.
Dale leaped into action like the gentleman he was. “Oops, you dropped your jewelry.... Hey! That’s not your jewelry!”
“And that girl scout’s not even a girl scout!” Tammy shouted. “She’s a guy in disguise!” Tammy’s mom had already brandished a broom. “You get out of here, you nasty crook! Out, out, out!”
Soon Tammy and her mom were both hitting the thief with brooms, and the surprise of it all plus the discovery of the crime got the bad guy on the run. Dale started after him and grabbed his legs. The crook’s sight was blocked with brooms, and with his legs pinned he fell and conked his head on the guard rail outside and fell unconscious. Dale and Zipper got busy tying him up.
“Oh gosh!” Tammy said. “He was a real criminal and you caught him, Dale! You’re a hero!” Tammy’s mom let out a cry of delight and ran back into the house. “And my necklace! It’s here, with all my other jewels!” She ran back outside, giving Dale a congratulatory hug. “Oh, how can I ever thank you? You got my jewelry back. You’re a wonder!”
Dale did a victory dance then stopped, remembering that Chip would never have done such a thing. “There’s no need to thank me, ma’am. It’s my duty to clean up this lawless town. But now my work here is done.”
Dale began walking away. Tammy called after him, “Come back, Shane!”
“Uh, the name’s Dale,” he said, looking back.
“Oh yeah. Sorry about that.”
Donna waved at him. “Be prepared for an extra special dinner invitation soon for your reward!” That was music to Dale’s ears. “Wow, you bet I’ll come back for that! Just one sad thing about all this, though.”
“Buzz?” Zipper asked.
Dale pointed to the unconscious crook. “Well, he wasn’t a real girl scout. So now, there won’t be any cookies!”
Tammy and her mom smiled and groaned, while Dale laughed heartily. Soon the crook was in custody and Dale and Zipper headed back for headquarters. Chip was still at the couch, and the other Rangers stood up when Dale came in.
“You all right, pallies?” Monty asked.
“You’ve been gone a long time,” Gadget said. “Is everything okay? I’m not still a suspect, am I?”
Chip called out over his shoulder, “Keep it down! I can’t hear the movie!”
Dale shook his head. “You’re in the clear, Gadget. I nabbed the bad guy and recovered the stolen jewels!”
You could have heard a pin drop.
Monty whistled. “Too-ra-loo! You mean, ya got the blighter and it’s all said and done?”
“Yep! Now that I’ve had my little adventure, it’s time for me to return to my rightful place as comedy relief. Chip, you’re the leader again.”
Gadget hugged Dale in congratulations. “Dale, I’m so proud of you! How did you manage to catch the criminal so quickly?” Dale smiled back at her, then shared a knowing look with Zipper as he answered, “Well, criminals can evade the law for a while, but eventually you know they’re going to trip up!”
“Don’t open the door! You know he’s going to be in there waiting to get you!” Chip shouted, still watching the movie. Dale looked over at Chip quizzically. “Say, what’s up with you, Chip? You look like you’ve seen a ghost or something!”
“Quiet!” Chip said. “Talk during commercials and go get me more popcorn.”
Monty leaned over toward Dale, whispering, “Now, can you do something about Chip? He’s taken his role as Dale a little too seriously.” Dale shrugged. “What else is new? Oh well, a super-detective’s work is never done...”
Dale headed for the kitchen, returning with popcorn. Soon, both chipmunks were on the sofa, enjoying the movie. Monty, Gadget and Zipper traded looks, then shrugged as well and joined them. For once, things were entirely peaceful and they decided to let it go at that for now. They knew all too well tomorrow would have the two chipmunks back to normal, fussing as usual.
-- The End --