Story time: The very first mystery!
“TICKET NUMBER 37!” the announcement is made at the bank.
“That’s us,” Jonathan tells his father, the famous detective Alfred Bates, as soon as their token number is called.
“No Jon, we have ticket number 57,” Bates makes him sit back, on the chairs meant for those waiting for their call.
“Still 20 more people before we go to the counter!” Jon replies.
“That’s why I hate banks,” Bates says for the umpteenth time.
“Why are we using a cheque?” Jonathan couldn’t resist asking. “We could have simply gone to the ATM machine and taken out the money.”
“No can’t do it!” Bates replies in his typical no-nonsense style. “I have had my share of troubles with Auto Teller Machines, and I don’t trust banks either.”
“Why do you hate banks in the first place?” the son asks.
“I hate it because of the kind of people who visit it round the clock,” Bates discloses. “Some are here to escape the heat, some are here to just pass some time while the ones who are here for genuine reasons, they get their work done late because of these yo-yos! Plus, it was a bank where I solved my first case.”
“I didn’t know that, Dad,” Jon says, while not hiding his amazement.
“Long before you were born, or ATMs were even invented, people used to go the banks for everyday transactions,” Bates begins to narrate his first case. “When I went to cash in my first salary cheque, I not only managed to stop a robbery but also used my observational skills for the very first time.”
“I thought you became a detective because of your observational skills?” Jon asks.
“I did, because when I went to the bank that day, I was not a detective but just a sergeant starting his career,” Bates clarifies.
“What happened at the bank?” Jon asks another question.
“That day, I noticed a man who seemed normal to me. I was waiting then — just like today — and he was standing in the queue wearing a shirt, a tie and trousers…”
“What’s wrong with that?” Jonathan barges with another question.
“There was something that made him stand out from the rest of the people,” Bates completes his explanation.
“What?” Jon couldn’t help posing the question.
“He was sweating profusely in the bank, and even in those days, the bank was air conditioned, meaning there was something wrong,” Bates explains, again.
“He could have been ill?” Jon said, defending the man in his dad’s past.
“Nope, he wasn’t ill at all,” Bates replies. “He was, however, colour blind, short of cash, divorced with a temper that got him into trouble.”
“How could you say all that?” Jon couldn’t stop asking in disbelief.
“He was wearing a black sock on his right leg, and a blue one on his left. Hence colour blind,” Bates answers his son, as he begins to unveil his observations.
“Short of cash?”
“He was arguing with the manager about it, genius!”
“Oh that. His shirt wasn’t properly ironed,” Bates explains. “Had his wife been living with him, she wouldn’t have let him go out that way.”
“Maybe she was dead!” Jon asks.
“She was as much alive as we are right now.”
“How did you know that?” the impatient kid asks, continuing his line of questioning.
“Had she been dead, he would be wearing a wedding ring in her memory,” Bates continues his narration. “Since his ring finger was tanned, it meant he recently took the ring off!”
“And his temper?” Jon asks without pausing.
“You ask so many questions Johnny boy!” Bates replies. “He was shouting at the clerk, meaning he had anger issues!”
“So what did you do, Dad?”
“I approached the guy, told him what I had just told you and he started crying,” Bates says. “He told me that he came to the bank to rob it because his cheques bounced due to some issue with his signature. He even told me that his wife left him because of the bank!”
“How is that possible?”
“It is!” Bates tells his son. “That guy told me that whenever his wife came to the bank, they sent her back saying that his signatures didn’t match the ones in their record. He added that he came to the bank with the intention of taking a look at his signatures, but since they didn’t let him do that, he wanted to rob it.”
“Wow Dad! I am proud of you,” John says. “This means that you were able to prevent a robbery in a bank, the place you hate!
“TICKET NUMBER 57”
“That’s us Jon,” Bates says. “You go and take out the money…. I would like to stay back and observe. Who knows what kind of criminal is lurking within these nice people!”