Jane rubbed her eyes and glanced lovingly at the coffee machine, humming to life as usual on a Monday morning. Ever since moving to Minnesota with her husband, Charlie, and their two kids the previous year, Jane found it hard to wake up. Something about the cool Minnesota mornings encouraged her to stay in bed.
“You feel it too?” She asked Piper, the 5 year old black lab who still acted more like a puppy than most dogs her age. Today, however, Piper was calm. She lied down flat on the floor next to the big sliding glass door in the kitchen, a perfect spot to watch the neighbors walk by.
Jane sighed, “Okay, good girl. I’ll feed you.”
Just as Jane had scooped up a cupful kibbles, she heard it.
Jane sprinted up the stairs two at a time. She never heard her son yell like this before and it frightened her. Probably only five seconds had gone by but it felt like an eternity to get up to his room. She ran through the doorway, panting.
“Mom!” shrieked Sammy. “ Somebody killed Teddy!”
Jane let out a sigh of relief she didn’t know she’d been holding in.
“Mom! This is serious!”
“I know, sweetie, I know. But could you please stop screaming, you’re going to wake your brother.”
Sammy wiped a tear from his eye and moaned. His lower lip was wobbling as he struggled to hold back more tears. “Just look at him!” he lamented.
Sure enough, when Jane walked over to Sammy’s bed she saw the fluffy remains of Teddy–Sammy’s favorite and unimaginatively named teddy bear. White polyester balls covered the end of Sammy’s bed, surrounding Teddy himself like a snow angel. More innards threatened to spill out of the rips of his plush, fur lining.
“Wow, Sammy. I’m sorry bud,” Jane placed a hand on his shoulder as he mourned the loss of his best friend.
Sammy sniffled, “It’s awful.”
Jane sighed. This was not how she expected to start her morning.
“Well, there is only one thing to do in a situation like this.”
“What?” Sammy wiped a tear and glanced longingly at his mother. All he wanted was to bring his best friend back.
“You need to investigate! Put on your detective hat and solve the crime!”
“But, I don’t have a detective hat.”
Jane laughed inwardly and spotted a Minnesota Twins baseball hat in the corner of his room. “This will work.” She gently put the hat on Sammy’s head, gave him a hug, and smiled at him.
“Go get ‘em, Detective. You have 30 minutes to bring this criminal to justice before school starts. I believe in you.”
The chief of police walked out of the office and left Detective Sam to do his work.
“Okay, team. What do we know for sure?”
Detective Sam wasted no time gathering the most compitent team of investigators his Toy Town had ever seen. Elmo, Stretch Armstrong, Furby, and a Cabbage Patch doll named Susie sat in a line watching the detective pace back and forth in front of the standup chalkboard.
“Well,” squeaked Furby with considerable effort, being uncomfortable speaking during important meetings, “we know that Teddy was okay when Mom tucked Detective Sam into bed last night.”
“Good point,” said Sam as he picked up a piece of blue chalk. “What time did we go to bed last night?”
“Anyone?” Sam looked around incredulously. “One of our own has been murdered and none of you are helping!”
Furby let out a soft moan.
“Except for you, Furby. You’ve been great.”
“We went to bed later than normal. Probably around 8:00. Mom read an extra bedtime story because we played so well together yesterday,” recalled Stretch.
The Detective nodded in agreement. Mom had told him that he was so good during bathtime that she would read his favorite book The Hungary Caterpillar two times. Thinking back to such simpler times made Detective Sam happy, but he knew he had an important task at hand.
A sobbing sound suddenly pulled Sam from his memory. He looked at the group and saw Susie putting her arms around Elmo.
“It’s okay,” she comforted him. “It’s okay.”
“No it’s not! Teddy is gone and Toy Town will never be the same! The young toys don’t understand. Teddy and I have been with Sammy since day one. Who was there for Detective Sam when he got shot at the pediatrician? Who comforted him when he faced off with the dentist? Who slept in his bed every night to keep the monsters at bay?”
Stretch sniffled a little bit, “You and Teddy did. You were always there for him.”
“Teddy was like a brother to me,” Elmo cried. “What kind of monster would do this to him?”
“Elmo!” Susie sat up excitedly. “You’re exactly right!”
Everyone just blinked at her, not quite following her train of thought.
“Who would do this to Teddy? Meaning, who could have done this to Teddy! All we need to do is find out where everyone was last night and we will find the killer!”
“Susie! That’s genius!” Detective Sam exclaimed. “Let’s get started on this right away. Furby, read back the notes.”
Furby gulped, “Um...I don’t know how to read.”
“And you don’t know how to write,” Stretch added.
Detective Sam looked back at the chalkboard and saw his incoherent scribbles.
“No matter! Everyone, we have work to do!”
The investigation team quickly identified four suspects: Mom, Dad, Sam’s younger brother Will, and Sam himself.
“Really?” asked Detective Sam. “Why am I a suspect? I would never do anything to hurt Teddy. He was my best friend.”
“Hurtful,” commented Stretch. Sam shrugged.
“I personally don’t think Sam should be a suspect. He would never hurt a fly,” added Susie.
“Yeah!” agreed Sam. “Plus, if I had killed him, you all would have seen it.”
Stretch looked like he was about to argue before Furby voiced agreement.
“Fine,” conceded Stretch. “Detective Sam isn’t a suspect.”
Elmo looked very proud, “We’re already making so much progress!”
The team debated on the next course of action. Furby and Elmo wanted to venture down the Wooden Mountain to see if LayZlandia showed any clues. However, Stretch quickly pointed out that a trip down the mountain was dangerous and they were better off traversing the Hardwood Highway to Will’s bedroom before making the trecherous journey. Nobody could find any faults with it, so it was decided. Detective Sam quickly packed his puppy themed backpack with all the essentials: 3.5 crayons (one of them being literally broken in half), one of Piper’s tennis balls, and an extra pair of underwear (because you never know what could happen). Sam pulled down on his detective hat to make sure it was on, then the group set off on their adventure.
As the group walked through the door onto the Hardwood Highway, Sam looked around confusedly.
“That’s odd,” he finally noted.
“What, Detective?” asked Furby.
“Mom always closes the door when she tucks me in to bed. But I just remembered it was open when I woke up this morning.”
Susie gasped, “So whoever killed Teddy must not have closed the door!”
“Exactly!” shouted Elmo.
Stretch nodded, “We will keep that in mind, Detective.”
A few steps onto the Hardwood Highway and Sam noticed a potentially lethal mistake. He had forgotten to take his socks off before beginning the hike. One false step could send him tumbling to the floor and potentially send him out of commission for the rest of the investigation. He quickly sat down, removed his socks, and put them in his backpack.
“Good call, Detective,” applauded Elmo. “Everybody knows the Highway is especially slippery this time of year.”
The group treaded carefully down the Highway until they reached Will’s door.
“Is it just me, or does anyone else think this door is exceptionally imposing?” asked Elmo.
Stretch laughed, “Considering the fact that you’re only 1 foot tall, I’d say you’re just short.”
Elmo didn’t like this answer and frowned, “We can’t all stretch like you.”
“Guys!” cut in Furby, who seemed surprised for cutting into their conversation. “We’re on a mission!”
Detective Sam pushed the door open as slowly as possible. He leaned his head in slowly to make sure nobody was in the room. His mom must have just taken Will downstairs for breakfast. Once they were sure nobody was watching them, the team entered the room to look for evidence. Nothing immediately drew their gaze until Stretch made an important discovery.
“Woah. You didn’t tell me your brother was incarcerated.” Stretch pointed to the cell next to the window with bars on all four sides.
“Yeah,” sighed Sam. “He’s been there for about a year now. I keep waiting for the day he can finally be free and play with me.”
The group shared comforting looks with the Detective.
“But there is a good thing about this,” noted Susie. “Your brother couldn’t have killed Teddy.”
“Yeah! There’s no way he could have gotten from his cell to your room!” agreed Elmo.
The team shared a congratulatory moment, knowing they were one step closer to finding out the truth.
“That only leaves Mom and Dad,” said Detective Sam. “Do you really think one of them would do it?”
“There’s only one way to find out,” whispered Furby. The reference to the Wooden Mountain sent shivers down their spines.
Elmo looked around the group. He saw the tired faces, the sagging shoulders, and the trembling lips.
“For Teddy,” he whispered putting his hand out. One by one, Detective Sam, Susie, Furby, and finally Stretch put their hands in the middle.
“For Teddy!” they screamed.
“Is it just me, or does the Wooden Mountain look even steeper than normal?” Furby gulped.
“Again,” Stretch rolled his eyes, “you’re six inches tall.”
The team looked down. They stared at the ragged edges of the mountain jutting in and out. The right side of the mountain was admittedly scarier with rectangular trees lining the path. It was rumored the tree trunks could slice a toy straight in half.
“Let’s take it one step at a time,” Detective Sam said as he gave a smile to his team. He knew everyone was relying on him to be strong. “I’ll go first.”
Everyone watched as he took a hesitent step down. At one point he was only balancing on one foot before placing the other on the ground below. There was a slight quiver in his balance before he caught himself. It was a moment Susie knew she’d remember for the rest of her life.
“It’s okay,” Sam reassured himself.
One by one they started to make their way down the mountain. It stayed scary, but Sam noticed it was easier when he got into a rhythm. They were about halfway down when he looked back and saw that Furby was still at the top.
“Furby! Come on!”
“Yes you can!”
“I can’t do it!” Furby began to cry.
“You can!” encouraged Susie. “You can do anything!”
Furby looked hesitant.
“We are right here!” agreed Elmo who handling it surprisingly well.
Furby began to lean a foot down when it became apparent to the group below that the edge of the mountain was too tall. There was no way Furby would make the step. Before they could say anything, Furby began to tumble one step after another until he zipped past the rest and landed at the bottom.
“No!” screamed Sam. Without thinking he raced down the stairs. He did not know he could hike down the mountain that fast but he knew he needed to get to Furby as fast as possible.
“Furby!” he picked him up and held him close. “Oh Furby! This is all my fault.”
Furby’s eyes fluttered open, “Sammy?”
“Yes, Furby? How are you?”
“I’m...I’m…” Furby stretched a little bit. “I’m good! I’m plush! That didn’t hurt at all!”
Detective Sam let out a long sigh of relief.
“Furby! No! Not now. You’re too young! Don’t go toward the light, Furby! Stay with us! Oh dear god no!” Stretch was just finishing the last step and did not know that Furby was okay. Tears welled in his eyes when he saw Furby in Sam’s arms.
“No!” Stretch shouted.
“Stretch, I’m fine!” Furby smiled.
“Furby!” Stretch pulled Furby away from Sam into a warm embrace. “I thought I lost you.”
“Never,” smiled Furby. “It will take more than the Wooden Mountain to get rid of me.”
Susie and Elmo finally caught up with the rest of the group.
“You’re so brave,” Susie smiled.
“The bravest adventurer there ever was!”
Furby smiled, happy to finally feel like a true part of the team.
Stretch wiped a traitorous tear from his eye, “Uh, guys. This is great and all but let’s get back to the mission.”
LayZlandia was only a short hike from the Wooden Mountain so the team arrived quickly. They stood on the carpet at the bottom of the canyon. Sam knew from various games of hot lava with his friends that the cushy sides of the canyon made an L shape with a large mahagony plateau in the middle.
“The only thing I found that could even be considered evidence is this bag of Chex Mix,” sighed Detective Sammy, who could look onto the plateau.
“Chex Mix? What’s that?” asked Fruby with a newfound confidence.
“It’s that gross thing my dad eats whenever he stays up late to watch a football game. Usually I’m asleep when he eats it but sometimes he saves the pretzels for me.”
“As gross at it is, I don’t think it counts as evidence,” Susie shrugged.
“Yeah,” sighed Detective Sam. This investigation was turning out to be harder than expected. The group sat down to think about the next course of action. Sam had not foreseen the investigation going on this long. His time was almost up.
“I just want justice for Teddy,” he whispered. “But I don’t know what to do.”
The group heard him loud and clear. They all agreed that they would stop at nothing until justice was served.
“Detective Sam! Come quick!” the Chief of Police suddenly came running into LayZlandia.
“What is it, Chief?” Detective Sam stood up quickly.
“There’s been a break in the case! You’re needed to investigate!”
The team wasted no time in running over to Laundryville.
“What’s wrong?” asked the detective.
“Look in Piper’s food bowl!”
Susie gave Sam’s hand a squeeze of encouragement before he walked closer. There it was! Clear as day! Right next to the bowl was a small piece of polyester fluff. Detective Sam could recognize that fluff from anywhere.
“Piper did it!” He gasped. The group looked shocked.
“I’m just as surprised as you are,” frowned the Chief.
It was a somber moment for everyone.
The Detective looked up at his mom, “Is Piper going to be punished?”
“Yep,” she nodded. “She will be doing hard time in the dog house.”
“But she likes the dog house,” argued the Detective.
“You make a good point. In that case, an entire day with no treats ought to teach her a lesson.”
Everyone agreed this was fair punishment.
“Good word, Detective. Let’s get you ready for preschool.”
Later that day, Sammy still felt the loss of his best friend. All day long he saw his friends playing with their favorite toys. Even though he was happy the investigation was over, he was sad.
When he walked into the kitchen after school, he couldn’t believe his eyes.
There was Teddy! Waiting for him with an afterschool snack!
“Hey Sammy! Thank you for helping me!”
Sammy smiled at his mom, “How?”
She just winked at him.