At last she found Long’s private office. She walked in to find…
… Winnie, stabbed to death with a toothbrush. The floor around the desk was littered with pooh fluffies. Podunk rushed to his side, sobbing and vainly attempting to revive the bear. Tigger, upon peeking out of her purse, fell into a state of catatonic shock.
When Podunk had recovered herself, she examined Winnie more closely. The instrument of death was of the common variety, readily available at any hotel. In fact, this toothbrush was labeled “Zhongguo Hotel” with an address in Chinese.
‘Hm,’ thought Podunk to herself, ‘A clue’. But it remained to be seen if this clue would lead her on a wild toothpaste chase.
Upon exiting the building, she noticed a foreigner on the corner attempting to cross the street. The poor woman was like a duck being chased by a lion. After nearly being hit by a bus, she managed to clobber her way through the bikers back to the curb she started from. Back and forth, back and forth she went, never making any real progress.
Podunk finally just grabbed the woman by the arm and manhandled her across the street.
“Oh thank you,” gasped the woman. “I thought I’d never get my cheese.”
“Cheese?” Podunk looked into the pharmacy on the corner for any signs of stray cheese.
“Oh yes. The supermarket on this corner has the best cheese in Beijing.”
“You mean the one on that corner?” Podunk pointed across the intersection to the OPPOSITE corner.
“Oooohh!! What a lovely little friend you have!” The woman had found Tigger, still in a comatose state. “He looks a little down though. Let me…”
Podunk snatched Tigger away from the mad woman. “Just who are you anyway?!?”
“Oh. Yeah. My name is Rita Elaine Ting Ava Rexamita Dolores Ondrashek. But people just call me Retardo for short.”
‘No wonder the Chinese have trouble with foreign names…’
“I’m an expert in Chinese traditional medicine. It’s my hobby.”
“Quite. I’m Jo. And this is Tigger.”
He mindlessly extended a paw, which Retardo began “practicing” on.
“Ah. Ah hah. Hm. Yes. Hm. Alright. You need a picture.”
“A what?” Podunk remained skeptical. But Tigger immediately brightened and began to pose. A few minutes and about 12 pictures later, he was his usual bouncy self again.
“Well, I’m not sure about your methods, but thanks for reviving Tigger.”
“We really must be off though.”
“Can I come with?”
Podunk was not ready for more distracting company on her adventure, but this Retardo had saved Tigger… “We’re on a bit of a case, actually…”
“Well, I can help!”
“Um. I suppose…”
“Great. Fill me in on the way to the scene of the crime!”
After an arduous cab ride, they arrived at the hotel. Unfortunately, no one was at the front desk.
“Let’s ring the bell again.” Retardo began dinging the bell incessantly. Her attempts did result in a few mumbles and thumps seemingly from somewhere behind the counter. “Oh no! The ship is sinking! Avast, me hearties! Lower the gangplank! Save the pirates!” With that, she leapt over the counter.
Podunk sighed, opened the counter door, and walked back to pick Retardo up off the floor. In addition she found a bound and gagged man.
“Mmm. Mm-hmmm mm,” he said.
“What?” said Retardo. Podunk ungagged him.
“Thanks goodness you came, Podunk. I’m Long Yagao. Please, the ropes…”
Retardo entertained herself while Podunk got busy with the ropes and some questions.
“How did you get here?”
“After I called you, I was assaulted in my own office. The attackers brought me here. I never saw them, but I might be able to ID a voice. I heard one talking on the phone here several times. Evidently the hotel has been closed for renovation—the perfect place to stash all of China’s toothpaste.”
“Did the attackers have any other identifying characteristics?”
“They smelt of jungle berry Aquafresh.”
“Jungle berry? Are you sure?”
“I know my toothpaste.”
Both of them were startled by a scream and several thuds.
“It’s Retardo!” Podunk leapt up. “She must have wandered off…”
They run upstairs to find Retardo attempting to dig herself out of a mound of toothpaste tubes spilling squishily from one door.
“Hey Podunk. I found the toothpaste.” Retardo beamed, flinging away a tube accidentally with her wild gesturing. “Oh no! Not again—I’ve dropped my toothpaste,” she said crestfallenly.
Podunk could only shake her head.
Later, back at her hotel, Podunk received a note from Crest:
I’ve been called to Alaska on urgent business. Sorry I won’t be able to run into you again.
Ciao for now,
‘So,” she thought, ‘perhaps he’s fleeing the scene. But he did have such a lovely smile…’