Can you solve this mini-mystery?


By Adrian Ludens

Sheriff Jason Grable scratched his cheek thoughtfully. His mug of black coffee grew cold on his desk. Grable tore open a white envelope that had arrived in the mail. He'd been waiting for this letter, but he hadn't anticipated feeling so confused by the contents. Maybe it was a joke after all. The envelope was addressed to him directly and bore no return address. Inside was a sheet of plain white paper. Someone had typed the following cryptic warning: STOP DO NOT ENTER DIP SLIPPERY WHEN WET.

* * *

The call had come in two days prior. The caller had refused to identify herself and insisted on being put through to Sheriff Grable's direct line. Patty Malone, the dispatcher on duty, had patched her through.

"Sheriff Grable speaking," he'd said after putting the receiver to his ear.

"You might not want to believe this, but two members of your force have withheld evidence." The woman on the other end of the line had whispered. Grable had had to really focus to hear every word. "They plan on making some cash on the side with their ill-gotten gains."

"How so?"

"They made a large drug bust during a traffic stop on the highway south of town, but never reported it. Never turned in what they confiscated. They plan on reselling it themselves."

Sheriff Grable's guts had tightened up when the caller had said this. It actually sounded plausible. His deputies certainly deserved to earn more, but budget cuts had hit the town hard.

"How did you obtain this information?" he asked.

"Liquor loosens tongues, Sheriff. Makes some guys feel ten feet tall and bulletproof."

Grable knew there was truth in this. He'd wondered if she were a barmaid or waitress somewhere in town. "May I ask who this is?"

"I'd really rather not say. I see these guys around, y'know? I'd rather leave an anonymous tip and leave it at that."

"Can you give me their names, then?"

"I will, in a roundabout way. Again, this is for my own protection."

"If this turns out to be a prank, we can trace this call." Sheriff Grable had warned.

"I'm calling from a pay phone, Sheriff. But I really do want to help. I'll send you a letter in the mail with their names." The woman's voice had sounded tired, worn.

"I appreciate you choosing to do the right thing," he'd said, but the line had already gone dead.

* * *

Sheriff Grable read the cryptic message again. Then he stood and walked to the dry erase board where he scheduled the deputies' shifts. He peered at the list of names.

Cody Blake was the newest member of the force. Crissy Davies demanded respect from her male counterparts. Jimmy Hines had a perpetual grin and the reputation of a prankster. Mason Lawrence always brought along a book in his patrol car. Tony Rhodes lifted weights and fancied himself a ladies man. And morose Freddie Tucker was the grizzled veteran of the group.

Sheriff Grable scratched his cheek again. He pondered which of his deputies had crossed the line between right and wrong. Deputy Tucker approached.

"You got a funny look, Sheriff. Don't tell me we got more budget cuts coming."

"No Freddie. Not yet, anyway. But we may be down a man or two real soon."

Deputy Tucker raised his beetle brows and followed Grable back into his office.

Sheriff Grable grabbed a pen and drew three vertical lines through the message he'd received.

Tucker leaned across the desk and read the message aloud. "Stop. Do not enter. Dip. Slippery when wet. What the heck does that mean, Sheriff?"

"This is an anonymous tip about a couple of bad apples in our own picnic basket. You and I need to bring in two of our deputies for questioning."


Grable wrote two words on the page: Road signs.

Then he slid the paper to Tucker. "You tell me."


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