The Pomeranian Diamond: A Jack Cliche Mystery

Submitted into Contest #194 in response to: Write a story inspired by the phrase “The plot thickens.”... view prompt


Mystery Funny

It was February 4th, the day after my fifth birthday. I’d been doing this detective thing since Halloween… and I was starting to get the hang of it. If there’s one thing I’ve learned It’s that tough guys aren’t so tough, and dames aren’t always giving it to you straight. I’m Jack Cliche, and I’ve worked a number of hard cases, but none as hard as this one. 

The day started like any other Thursday. It had rained cats and dogs the night before, driving the criminals and thugs underground, so the morning was starting slow. I was sitting back, feet up, chewing bubble gum at my desk and looking through the funny papers. 

The birds outside my window cawed a warning before our cat Charlie pounced through it, landing on my desk and nearly knocking over my juice.

“Get out of here, Charlie.” I pushed him on the chest with a foot.

He barely budged, never breaking eye contact.

“What do you want?”

He stared at me, judgmentally, and looked away.

“Ain’t talkin’?” I scoffed and returned back to my rag. “No skin off my knee.”

Charlie set his gaze on me with a scrutinizing squint as I pretended to peruse the news.

As I finished up the latest Beetle Bailey, Charlie strolled to the edge of my desk next to my army men. He plopped his butt down with an audible thump and pawed at one of the riflemen.

I caught him looking at me from the corner of my eye and gave him a little, tsk, without taking my eyes from the paper. 

He paused, scowled, and knocked the army man off the edge of the table, gazing an indifferent stare into the distance.

I regarded it as it tumbled to the ground, fell into one of my slippers and grumbled up at him. “Gettin’ tough, huh?”

He faked like he couldn’t hear and pawed at another army man.


She kicked the door and threw it open. Charlie jumped. I narrowed my eyes and pulled the top desk drawer open, resting my hand on my cap gun.

“Where’s Ruby, dingus?”

Charlie ran back where he had come from with two bounds and a bristled back. I played it cool. I closed the drawer, straightened my paper with a snap, and kept reading as I told her what I knew. “Last time I saw her was after breakfast. She had her snout buried muzzle deep in one of dad’s shoes.”

“Ugh! Gross.” She sneered and held her nose. “Dad’s shoe?”

I folded a corner of the funnies and smirked at her. “And you let her kiss you.”

“Shut up, dingus,” she snapped at me, a shade of embarrassment on her face. She shot me a nasty look before she remembered what she came for and softened into a sweet tone. “I’ve got, like, two minutes to get ready or mom’s gonna kill me and I need you to find Ruby.” She laid it on thick with a little sing-song in her voice. “Can you do that for me, buddy? Pretty please?”

My smirk turned to a grin. “What’s in it for me?”

“Ugh.” She slouched in exhaustion against the door frame. “Oh my god.” She rolled her eyes and threw a wave at me. “You can have my dessert.”

I pulled a sharp inhale between my teeth. “I don’t know? One dessert?”

She scowled at me, “Fine. two.” and then she shouted at me as if it was settled. “Go find Ruby,” and then with a smirk she added, “Shamus.”

I returned her smirk and gave her an I’m-on-the-case nod. I squished my bubblegum into my bubble gum tray and shouted after her. “I'm on the case.”

I heard her mutter, “dingus,” under her breath as she left. 

I grabbed my pack of gum and crumpled it. Empty. I searched my pockets for another pack. Fresh out. I groaned as I set up out of my chair. Guess I better get on the case. I straightened my tie and headed out into the house.

I figured the best place to start was where she had last been seen. The Kitchen. 

I passed through the foyer, took a turn at the living room and entered the breakfast nook. The slatted rays of the early morning sun slashed through the faint tendrils of smoke still lingering in the air from breakfast. Mom wasn’t the worst cook in the world but she sure did like to burn a piece of toast or two. Mom was still in the kitchen. She was on her hands and knees scouring the corners of the floor. “Where the hell could it be?”

I Climbed halfway up one of the barstools at the counter and poured myself another glass of juice. Mom’s face popped up on the other side. “Jack.”

“Morning, Mom.” I tipped my cup to her before taking a sip.

“Jack, have you seen my ring? I swear I left it right here.” She patted the spot on the counter where she usually set it. 

My mom wasn’t exactly Mrs. Memory. In fact, she was on her third wedding ring, but who’s counting? I knew she wasn’t lying. I had seen it myself. She had had me snapping the green beans when she took it off and set it on the counter before digging her hands into the meatloaf.

“Not since last night, mom.” I sipped my juice as I walked around the kitchen island and stood on my tiptoes to peer over the counter at where the ring had been. I saw it just as I was about to give up and look for a new lead. They were faint but unmistakable. The fat paw prints of Charlie. He must have been digging in one of mom’s house plants before jumping up on the island and sitting right next to where the ring had been. “Looks like Charlie was messing around up here,” I commented. 

My mom’s head popped up over the counter again. She peered at the dirty paw prints. “Damn it, cat.” She stood, snapped up a dish rag and wiped away the evidence. I’m not saying she was trying to cover it up, but she sure wasn’t helping. A missing ring and cat prints at the scene were starting to paint a picture. I stared at the spot on the edge of the counter where the ring had been, and tried to imagine Charlie knocking it off and it falling to the floor. My eyes fell on a single loafer. My dad’s. I picked it up and peered inside. Nothing. Wait. On the instep. A dried splotch of drool. “The plot thickens,” I muttered to myself.

That’s where I left them.” I hadn’t heard my dad come up behind in his stocking feet. He snatched the loafer from my hand and leaned over me, examining the spot I had picked it up from. “Where’s the other one?” 

I shrugged. “Don’t know, pop. There was just the one.”

He threw on the one shoe and circled the island in an off-kilter shuffle as he searched for the other shoe. 

I slugged down the last of my juice and put the empty cup on the counter. “I saw Ruby sticking her nose in one of them this morning.”

“Damn dog,” my dad muttered under his breath.

“What?” Mom heard anyway. She had ears in the back of her head.

My dad lifted his glasses onto the top of his head, putting on his most innocent tone. “Have you seen my other loafer, darling?”

She flashed him a suspicious glance before covering her bare ring finger with her other hand.

The awkward mannerism caught my dad’s eye. He flashed her his own suspicious appraisal. “Lose your ring again?”

“No,” she lied.

“Mm-hm.” My dad knew better than to challenge her on it. He gave her hand one more obvious ogle and let the issue go, resuming his hunt for his missing shoe and muttering under his breath. 

My mom snapped her pocket book closed, tossed it into her purse, and slung it over her shoulder as she swept her car keys off the counter with a jingle. “Tara! Let’s go!”

“I’m coming!” my sister’s distant screech echoed from upstairs.

“I swear to god.” my mom brushed her bangs out of her face with an exasperated exhale. She turned to watch my dad shamble through the back door and onto the deck with a one-shoed trundle before settling her eyes on me. She gave me a warm smile and leaned down to me. “Are you still playing detective today?”

I rolled my eyes. Leave it up to my mom to not see my detective work as a real job. “I’m a detective every day.”

She nodded, “Of course. Of course.” and tousled my hair. “You want to take a case for me?”

I brushed her hand away as I considered. “Maybe. What kind of job are we talking about?” I already knew, but when it comes to clients you want to make sure to play the game.

She gave the backdoor a glance, making sure dad was still outside and then turned back to me, speaking in a confidential hush. “Find my ring for me. Ok, Mr. P.I.?”

I nodded nonchalantly. “I think I might have some time to look into it. How much we talking?”

My mom smirked. “If you find my ring I’ll give you double dessert for a week.”

I tilted my head and frumpled my chin, unimpressed.

She rolled her eyes in an exaggerated show of acceptance. “Alright Mr. Toughguy. Two weeks.”

I nodded. The deal was starting to sound pretty sweet. “Consider me on the case, miss.”

She tousled my hair again as I attempted to ward her off and then she was off in a snap. “Tara! If you’re not down here in thirty seconds I’m leaving without you!”

“I’m coming!” my sister shrieked, still upstairs and not sounding anywhere near ready.

It was turning out to be a busy day. A missing canine case and jewel theft. I wasn’t sure what it all added up to yet, but I had a few suspects in mind. I climbed the stool and poured myself another couple fingers of juice. I put the juice away and leaned against the fridge, sipping as I considered the scene. Unable to glean anything new, I headed to the back door. Dad was just coming back inside, his eyes darting from corner to corner. “Where the heck is—” His eyes fell on me. “Hey, buddy.” He leaned down and tousled my hair too. I fended him off and swept my hair back out of my eyes. “I’ve got to do some work in the office for a few hours. You need anything just come get me. Ok?”

“I’m good, dad. I’ve got a pretty busy day too.”

He huffed a one-breathed guffaw and shot me a wink. “Bet you do.” He took a step to go before pausing and turning back. “You playing detective today?”

I shrugged. “Yeah. I’m working a couple cases.”

My dad gave me an impressed nod. “Think you have time for another one?”

I shook my head in regret. “I don’t know. I’ve got a lot on my plate, already.”

He raised a hand. “No. No. Of course.” He crouched, hands on his knees and glanced around the kitchen to make sure they were alone and then leaned in closer. “I’ve got a deal for you. You find my missing shoe and I’ll double your desert tonight. 

I scoffed and shook my head. When it rains it pours, I guess. And besides, I had a feeling his missing loafer was tangled up in all this mess. I flashed my dad an assuring smile. “Consider it found, dad.”

He huffed a snort, flashed me a grin, and gave my shoulder a squeeze as he headed to his office. “Come get me when you’ve cracked the case.”

“Will do.” I shot him a two fingered salute. “Hey, pop.”

He paused and raised an eyebrow.

“Got a stick a gum?”

He patted his pockets and paused at his back right. He brought out a fresh pack, started to pull a piece out for me and then stopped to consider. He pushed the piece back into the pack, “Keep the pack.” and tossed it to me.

I caught it and pulled a piece loose as I tucked the rest into my shirt pocket. “Thanks, pop.”

He gave me a wave as he disappeared around the corner.

A run away dog, a lost shoe, and a missing ring. What did it all add up to? I couldn’t help shake the feeling that they were all somehow connected. I chewed the stick of juicy fruit as I turned the facts over in my head. The ring was last seen after dinner last night. That puts the theft anywhere between 8:00 pm and 7:00 this morning. The shoe and Ruby both disappeared sometime after breakfast. I figured finding Ruby was the best place to start and I knew a few of her hangouts. Plus my sister had come to me first, so I figured I should start there. I didn’t want to play favorites with my clients. I opened the kitchen door and stepped onto the back deck. 

The cold air smacked me in the face. I pulled up my collar and stepped to the edge of the deck surveying the backyard. I squinted at the distant hedges on the southside. They were quiet. As I listened, I heard the muted grunts of our neighbor, old man Mcgillicuddy, emanating up from behind the eastern hedge. I scanned the thick-branched bare boxwood bushes before catching a flash of his red kerchief he always wore when he worked his yard. I pulled the front of my coat closed and made my way across the yard to the other side of the hedge where he was toiling.

“Hey, Gilly.” He had asked me to stop calling him “mister” ages ago.

He stopped with a grunt and squinted through the chaparral at me. “Jack? That you?”

“Yep.” I raised a hand. “Hey, have you seen Ruby around?”

He sighed and grunted as he pushed himself to his feet and removed his gloves. He loomed over the hedge at me. “Got out again, huh?”

“Looks like it.” I buried my hands in my pockets and shrugged my shoulders. 

He gave me a subtle scolding shake of his head. “Well, it’s not my fault if she gets into something over here again.”

“Yeah. sorry about that.”

“Don't feel sorry for me. Feel sorry for that poor puppy of yours. I couldn’t imagine it was a picnic, having to pass those shiny lures of mine she ate.”

I pictured trying to poop out a handful of washers and shuddered a little.

He punctuated his point with a reprimanding shake of his finger. “She’s just lucky I hadn’t set their hooks yet.”

“Sure was.” 

Old Gilly huffed and grunted as he lowered himself back down on his knees and began pulling his gloves on.

“So, you haven’t seen her then?”

He bent over one hand bracing himself and rasped, instantly winded. “Yeah. I saw her over by the east fence not a half hour ago.” He waved his trowel toward the far side of our yard.

I peered to where he was pointing before turning a wave back to him. “Thanks, Gilly.”

“Mm-hm.” He grunted as he dug at the still frozen soil.

Finally, My first lead after a morning of nothing but questions. I couldn’t add it all up yet, but I was sure that if I could find Ruby she would point me in the right direction.

The east fence was quiet, save for a few sparrows and a squirrel. I poked around for a while and came up empty handed. I was starting to catch a chill and thought that I might have missed something at the first scene. Besides, it was a lot warmer inside. As I turned to go a shadow caught my eye. One of the small pieces of lattice dad had nailed up to skirt the back deck had come loose and hung from its corner at a dilapidated angle. I crept across the path and stooped to peer under the deck. I saw only darkness as I waited for my eyes to adjust. The first thing I could make out were the two pinpoint reflections of her eyes. They flashed off and on as she went from looking at me to nuzzling something.

“Come on, Ruby.” I coaxed her with a snicker and an open hand. “Come on.” I could make out her faint silhouette. She stood, and started waddling toward me. “Get your toy, Ruby.” She paused, turned back to what she had been chewing on, and walked backward toward me as she dragged it out with her. I stood to give her room. She snorted and huffed as she dragged the shoe out after her. She turned up to me with a shoe-eating grin and barked, her tail wagging with pride. I knelt and petted her nape as I smirked down at my father’s shoe. “Good girl.” She barked again and trundled off. “Get in the house, Ruby.” I called after her absentmindedly as I picked up my father’s shoe. I turned it over and peered inside. Empty. I followed Ruby as she trundled back inside. I’d found the dog and the shoe. Two out of three ain’t bad. Still the missing ring tugged at me.

It hit me that night at dinner as I watched my sister shove an onion ring in her mouth.

“Hey, sis.”

She turned a scowl on me. “Huh?”

I shrugged as I played it cool. “You walking Ruby tonight?”

She narrowed a sneer on me. “Why? You gonna take her for me, dingus?”

“Naw. I was just thinking you should probably bring a doggy bag.”

April 20, 2023 21:35

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Chris Miller
21:49 Apr 25, 2023

Nice work, Levi. Fun story. "shoe-eating grin" made me smile.


Levi Michael
20:16 Apr 26, 2023

Hee hee. That little play on words made me smile as well. Hearing that it was fun to read might be the best review I could hope for. Thank you, Chris.


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Tricia Shulist
00:46 Apr 24, 2023

Good story. And good use of the term shamus. And who doesn’t love a hard-boiled five year old? Thanks for this.


Levi Michael
19:24 Apr 24, 2023

Thank you, Tricia. Yeah, I liked throwing shamus in there. Also, I couldn’t agree more about a hard-boiled five year old’s lovability.


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