The Mystery of the Sinking Snowman
by Jeff Baker
I didn’t expect to be staking out a field of snowmen. Certainly not in a cold middle of the night in January but that was what I’d been hired to do. The College had a snowman contest and somebody had smashed a couple of the snowmen the last two nights. So they hired me to make sure nobody bashed any snow people.
I pulled my jacket tighter around me and shivered hiding in the clump of bushes. Another fun night for Andrew Navarro, private eye. I glanced around. The snowmen had been built on the far end of the snowy campus with the big stone wall to one side. It wasn’t too hard to keep an eye on everything. The lights at the edge of the sidewalk cast long shadows on the deep snow under the cloudy sky, making the snowmen look like they were in some secret meeting.
I’d had a better chance to check out the snowmen earlier in the day. Some of them were traditional, right down to the carrot and scarf (one rotund snowman in a snow armchair labeled “Nero Wolfe.”) Some were as finely sculpted as Michelangelo’s David. I could see that one and grinned as I found myself thinking of a hot snowman. Between two of the larger figures there was a small, traditional snowman about a foot high with a mini-carrot for a nose and a sign saying simply “dieting.”
I stared. The mini-snowman was moving.
It wiggled from side to side and then sunk into the ground. I stood up carefully from the collapsible stool I had brought with me. Then I saw the snowman and a chunk of the snowy ground rise again. Two figures bundled up in black pushed up from the ground, carefully setting the section of ground with the snowman on it to the side.
A manhole cover, I thought. Or some kind of trap door.
The two figures hoisted themselves out of the hole and one of them pulled out what I thought was a baseball bat.
I stepped out from the bushes and drew my revolver. Any other time what I said might have been funny.
“Freeze!” I yelled into the frigid night air.
I called Campus Security while I had them covered.
It turned out they hadn’t been in a sewer but in some old tunnel that had been overgrown and forgotten. The old tunnel had led from the administration building to the old gym that used to be on the site where the snowmen were now standing. The snowman-bashers had found out about it and took advantage of it. There were plenty of footprints right around the snowmen, so nobody could tell that they weren’t walking across the campus to do the damage.
They didn’t even have a snowman entered in the contest.
I sighed. I’d be paid, but for now all I wanted was to find a place open at one-thirty that sold coffee.
Or hot chocolate.
AUTHOR’ NOTE: My previous story about private eye Andrew Navarro “WRUD New Year’s Eve?” appeared on this site December 21, 2017. ——-j.s.b.