A cop drama with toys and children
Word Count: 2428
The bicycle bell dinged as Buster Heyman threw his hand to the side. "Get out of the way doodie heads. I'm late." A group of kids playing jacks for nickels waved their arms and dove for the safety of their front lawn. "Degenerates," Buster said in an irritated tone. Some of these kids would go on to run Monopoly rackets.
He stopped in front of the plain house. He popped the kickstand with a flick of his size six sneaker. His plastic cuffs clicked against the plastic police belt, that house the lone wolf dart gun. It wasn't as accurate as fierce piranha, which kids preferred, but the lone wolf had a 130ft range. In Buster's mind, the lone wolf outperformed newer models. That and his parents said they wouldn't buy him one.
He crossed the toilet paper barrier where their Jerica Schmidt was waiting for him. Word was she lost her two front teeth, and the tooth fairy dropped twenty on her. Buster was a little jealous. Jerica had memorized the wishbook catalog if she couldn't identify the victim no one could.
She was wearing a frilly sundress her mother forced on her. Mrs. Schmidt didn't want to have a tomboy, but Jerica didn't let her dress stop her from being one of the boys.
Buster pointed at the sundress, "Your mom is at it again?"
"I threw one mud ball at Missy Coolridge because she was bugging Mr. Kimball's dog, Old Rex. Mr. Kimball tried talking to her parents, but you know that cootie infested idiot can do no wrong in their eyes," she said. "I heard you were grounded. What happened?"
Buster spat on the grey driveway. "I was up for cookie stealing before dinner..."
"You said you were cutting back. We don't need another Howard incident. Ashton won't let you play if it happens again," Jerica said in a peeved tone. They padded across the fresh-cut grass to where the victim sat under a clean dishrag.
Howard Dawson was the kind of kid that got picked last for kickball. He was the target of thugs and bullies, the kind of people who make you walk home in your underwear after they steal your lunch money.
"Hey, the kid was offering. I obliged." Buster said in an innocent tone.
"The whole plate, Buster? You left right after you took them. I don't think it was very nice." Jerica said. She didn't bother to hide the disappointment in her voice.
Buster glared at Jerica and pouted a little. "That was a one-time thing. It was the dog, by the way. Spot left hairs and muddy footprints at the scene. Mildred confirmed the story."
"You have the coolest older sister. My brother listens to music with bad words and plays video games all day. I don't think he knows I exist," Jerica said wistfully.
Buster stuck his tongue out, "Are we done being mushy? Can I see what we have?" He knelt next to the dishrag and lifted it. "What can you tell me about the victim?"
Jerica knelt on the other side of the rag. "I compared it to the wishbook, and I didn't find a match anywhere. Our guy melted the head and pulled the legs off, and then drew pee-pees and boobies on it."
One look at the disfigured toy caused Buster to shake his head. "Someone hated it enough to do all that? We have to catch this sicko before he does it again. Anyone see anything?"
"No, and no one said they were missing a toy. Our guy is smarter than the average kid. The whole thing gives me the willies." Jerica's arms wrapped around her while she shivered.
In Buster's experience, toys got destroyed by rough play and tantrums. Someone tortured and ripped the unfortunate figure apart. It was personal. "What if the toy is a special one? Weird Billy's big brother collects them. He keeps them in the package and hangs them on the wall."
Jerica frowned and took pictures with an old camera phone. "Jeff is just as cruel as our guy if you ask me. All that cool stuff trapped in plastic. The parents..."
"Jerica, you know we don't question household rules. No one should be above them. I don't like it any more than you do, but weird Billy's parents don't have a problem with it," Buster said. "You know what's weird?"
"What?" Jerica asked while she picked up the pieces.
"There aren't any blade marks on the toy. It should have blade marks from the mower," Buster said, who was all too familiar with the destructive power of the mower.
"That means our guy dumped the victim after mower," Jerica exclaimed. "What's our next move?"
"You're not going to like it," Buster said.
Buster and Jerica left their bikes near Weird Billy's driveway. The Carvers kept everything in order, for the sake of Weird Billy, who was autistic. Buster and Jerica would visit from time to time and were the only kids on the block who Billy let near him.
"You visit with Billy and I'll talk to Jeff..." Buster started to say. He wiped his feet on the welcome matt.
"Why do you get to be in charge? Is it because I'm a girl?" Jerica accused. She wiped her feet on the welcome matt while she glared at Buster.
"No, because you'll act mean. You don't like the way he keeps his toys. I think his room looks cool. Next time, it's your turn to lead." Buster said.
"Are you lying?" Jerica asked while she gave him a shrewd look.
"How long have we been playing this game together?" Buster asked.
"A year," Jerica replied.
"I like the way you play. It's always fun."
"You could tell me more often, you know."
"As if. People might think we kiss we no one is looking." Buster said. His face twisted up and stuck out his tongue. "Yuck."
Jerica gagged. "Gross. Have you seen your parents kiss? It's like their trying to swallow each other." They both laughed. Buster rang the doorbell.
Jeff answered the door. His heavily pimpled face looked down on them and smiled. "Sorry, Billy is at the doctor's."
"What's he building this week?" Jerica asked. Buster couldn't blame her. When it came to building cool stuff with lego, nobody could do it like weird Billy.
"He has a thing for the Taj Mahal this week. I'll tell him you stopped by..." Jeff trailed off as Jerica held out the broken figure. "What's that?"
"Its an action figure. We are trying to find the owner." Jerica said.
Jeff was cool for a big kid. He played along with their games and didn't get grumpy with them. "Its old. Do you see the fins on the laser?" he said as he pointed to the figure's hand. "It looks like something my dad played with when he was younger. I'd take it to Dungeon Master at the comic store. He collects the vintage stuff, valuable stuff."
Of course, toys had value. A person could have all sorts of adventures with one action figure. Buster sensed this is not what Jeff meant. "You mean worth money?"
Jeff grinned and gave Buster a high five, and then gave Jerica one. "Dungeon Master has a figure worth two hundred bucks. The price is going up."
Jerica whistled, "Wow, that's a boatload of money for a toy."
"If it's worth lots and lots of money, we have to tell my dad." Buster's dad was a detective in the local police department. He always wanted to help his dad in some way, but his dad said he was too little.
Jerica looked at Buster and said, "We picked the best day to play detective. We have a real case. I wonder if your dad feels this cool when he works."
Jeff cleared his throat. "As fun as this is, I have homework."
Buster gave Jeff another high five. "Thanks for your help, Jeff. We'll visit Billy when the case is over."
"I hope Billy is feeling okay," Jerica said. She tied her hair up in a ponytail, as Jeff went inside. "We should get permission to go after lunch."
Buster looked at his watch. "Yeah, mom freaks out when I'm late. We should meet up after we do our chores."
Mr. Heyman was there at lunch. Mildred was out with Ms. Heyman shopping. His dad made grill cheese sandwiches. Buster liked hanging out with his dad. Mr. Heyman pointed to the broken action figure, "I assume there is a story behind that?"
Buster sighed as he took a bite of the sandwich, "Well, we found it on Jimmy's lawn. Someone put it there after Jimmy's dad mowed the lawn."
His dad smiled and poured him a glass of milk and asked, "What makes you say that?"
"You remember when I left Mister Bizarre on the front lawn?"
His father chuckled, "You were so mad at yourself. You played with him almost every day. You handled it well."
Buster felt pride in his dad's words. "Anyway, when I picked up the pieces, they had grooves from the lawnmower blade. This figure doesn't have them."
His father was silent for a moment, and then he smiled and put his arm around his son. "Nice observation. What else can you tell me?"
"Well, I thought about how my toys get broken. Sometimes I play too rough, or I get mad and throw them. Someone did this intentionally like they wanted to hurt the owner's feelings," Buster said, taking a big gulp of his milk.
His father looked over the figure and grinned. "I would've drawn the same conclusion myself. What's your next move?"
"Jeff said the Dungeon Master at the comic store might know because he collects vintage toys. I was going to ask for permission to go." Sometimes Buster's parents hesitated to let him go places on his own, even though he was ten.
Mr. Heyman pretended to think about it. "You're building a solid case, and it would be a shame to leave such a big lead hanging in the air. Try not to be too long, okay." He tousled Buster's hair. "Is Jerica going with you?"
"I hope so, she's my partner," Buster said seriously.
"Don't the boys pick on you for hanging out with a girl?"
"No, they're scared Jerica will beat them up. Jimmy called her a bad name once, and she gave him a black eye. Girls can be scarier than boys sometimes," Buster said in a matter of fact tone.
The Griffins Keep Comic store was a child's paradise. Every superhero you could imagine lay beneath the steepled roof. Jerica had to do the dishes before she could go, and Buster went on ahead to wait for her. He read Stupendos Sharkman while he waited.
Jerica arrived twenty minutes later, this time in a horrid green dress with a big red bow on the back. She looked unimpressed and grumpy. "How many times a day do I have to change? Did you know she wants me to change again at supper time?"
Buster laughed a little. "A little tinsel, with some lights, and you could be a Christmas tree," He said.
"I told my mom the same thing. Did you ask any questions yet." Jerica asked in a hopeful tone.
Buster put the comic back on the rack. "No. My dad always waits for his partner. So I waited for you. Its your turn to lead, anyway."
She blushed a little. "That's sweet..."
"Don't be gross and weird about it. It's how real police act, you know," Buster said as he looked around the shop. "Do you know who the Dungeon Master is?"
Jerica rolled her eyes. "What did they teach us in school? If you don't know, ask a grown-up, stupid."
The man behind the counter had a price gun in hand and put the latest Stupendous Sharkman figures on the metal hook. The tacky Hawaiin shirt fluttered against his skinny frame. He turned around and saw the children. "Can I help you?"
Buster leaned against the counter and spoke in a baritone voice, "Do you know the dungeon master?"
Jerica leaned against the counter too. "We have some questions for him. We need some information on an action figure. We heard he collects vintage toys worth money."
The man reached under the counter and pulled out a pointed wizard hat with stars on it. "Behold, I am the dungeon master, master of magic, and action figure mumbo jumbo."
Jerica and Buster laughed as the poodle haired man waved his fingers and eyebrows. "You're so cool," Jerica said between giggles.
Buster took a deep breath and composed himself. He pulled the action figure out, still wrapped in the dishrag. "Do you know what this was?"
The Dungeon Master looked sad. "What you have here is the first edition Blake Steel of Saturn Command. Its collectible and worth a lot of money, or was in this case."
Curiosity tugged at Buster's mind. "How much money is it worth?"
The dungeon master wrote some numbers on a paper and slid it across the counter. Jessica's eyes went the size of saucers. "Wow, I wish my allowance was that big."
"Yeah, that's like a hundred Fierce Piranha's," Buster said.
"And then some," The Dungeon Master said.
Jerica pointed to the phone. "I think it's time to call your dad."
"Yeah, this is starting to look like a grown-up problem. I promised dad I would be safe," Buster said.
As it turned out, the action figure was a part of an insurance fraud scam. Buster wasn't sure what that meant, but some people got arrested for real. His dad's captain gave him and Jerica real police badges of their own. He asked for a Fierce Piranha. The answer was still no.
"How come?" Buster asked.
"Well, I tried to give you another dart gun. You played with it for five minutes, and then you picked up your Lone Wolf again." His dad said, sitting next to him on the old couch.
"Is that bad?"
"No, it's what helped you solve your case. You care about your things and people. I'm like that in my job too. People need answers so they can feel better in time. You helped someone feel better today. I'm proud of you."
"Do you think Jerica and I could be good police when we grow up?" Buster asked.
His father hugged him tightly. "After today, I'd have to say yes"