April 30, 2024 ·

Sheriff Derek likes being a small-town cop. His reasons? For one, he loves the fact that nothing bad ever happens. In his line of work, a boring day in the office means more time for crosswords. Secondly, he loves nothing more than spending his days off at the grocery store in peace. Last Tuesday while trying to find something to cook for dinner, Derek found that neither reason rang true. There was in fact, a murder on aisle three.

“A murder in the price of olive oil!” Sheriff Derek was quick to say when I spoke to him that morning. “I mean, I don’t know what’s happening these days, but the price of olive oil has literally doubled! How can that be?” At this point in our conversation, Derek was uncontrollable. “We’re talking about OLIVES here, not refined petroleum. Is there a shortage? Should I be concerned? Is everyone stocking up on the stuff? Should I be conducting search warrants?” A crowd had gathered by the time I arrived.

There was also an actual murder. A body. On the floor. A few meters down from the olive oil. To be honest, it was easy to miss amongst the commotion around the olive oil.

Fortunately, this wasn’t Derek’s first rodeo. He was, after all, a horse. He had been in many rodeos. He had a short and promising career as a cowboy’s mount before a sudden tragic accident left him with four torn hamstrings, a broken tail, and a defining life moment where he had to re-think his career aspirations.

“My dad was a cop. And his dad. And come to think of it, his dad too! So I guess it was destiny that I’d become one too. Maybe my weak hamstrings were the push – or pull – HA! – that I needed,” he laughed in his highly televised interviews after the incident. “But I’m the first of our family to be promoted from Steed to Sheriff,” he proudly stated.

Derek was in fact the first horse Sheriff in the town’s history. He was appointed a human deputy, and after a brief experimental phase of seeing whether the human riding the horse, or the horse riding the human was the most optimal configuration, it was decided that some things were left best the way they were. “We’re a great team,” Derek confided in me, “I can make the important decisions, and he has opposable thumbs”.

The deputy was also good at reminding us why were in the grocery store: the murder.

Fortunately for the body, and Derek’s weak stomach, the body wasn’t real. It was a manikin from the front display, and very much covered in tomato sauce. “The murderer has expensive taste,” Derek confirmed after asking his deputy to put his finger in the red substance and hold it up so he could lick it. “This is no supermarket-brand tomato sauce. This is top-shelf ketchup.” Derek requested another lick. Other people from the growing crowd also requested licks. The deputy obliged. And they agreed. It was good ketchup.

“This was an inside job,” Derek then concluded matter of factly. When the deputy asked how he knew, he simply gazed at the ceiling. “We’re INSIDE a supermarket,” he continued, bemused at the idiocy of his human counterpart. “We can’t let this be a cold case. We’re too far from the freezer section. We need it to be open and shut. Preferably by 5 pm.”

There were other clues. There was a trail of tomato sauce from the body that led to ‘out back’ of the supermarket. Amongst corridors overflowing with items that the workers conveniently said they couldn’t find when they went to look for them, was a note intended for anyone who found it. It had been missed by the staff.

The letters on the note were scrambled in a sort of code. But this wasn’t Derek’s first rodeo. I’ve mentioned that already, I’m getting hoarse repeating myself. But if there was one thing horses were good at, it was peeing on demand. 

Race horses often train themselves to urinate at the sound of a running tap to lose vital grams before a race, and after years of completing crosswords while on the toilet, Derek had perfected the art of solving problems fast. It was a perfect trait for a Sheriff.

The deputy turned on the staff kitchen faucet, Derek’s bladder started self-actualizing, and the clue decryption was almost instant – we were off! 

After a quick pee stop, the clues on the note led us on a wild goose chase. But after we caught the goose, he admitted fault and returned the sandwich to its rightful owner without any further charges needing to be laid. But shortly after the goose we arrived at the end of the trail – a local bookstore where, to everyone’s surprise except Sheriff Derek, we discovered there was a book signing about to start.

The author in question? It was Derek! 

The culprit behind the manikin publicity stunt? This too, was Derek! 

The book being launched was a crossword book, entitled “Riddling While Piddling” and the idea for this brazen product placement? Well, I’m offended you think it’s that. I am a highly respected and honest reporter. I have nothing but authoritative integrity and a passion for news and over my long and industrious career just happen to have built a captive audience and a mild ability to influence retail purchases when somewhat related stories cross my desk.

You can buy Derek’s debut crossword anthology for $4.99 where all good books are sold.

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