The doorbell rang about an hour after dinner. George was a little surprised, because they weren’t expecting anyone. Mom put the crossword down with a sigh. “I’ll get it,” she said.
“Awww…” Lizzy said. “I’m closest.” But she backed up and let mom answer the door.
“Janie!” a man said, hugging Mom. “How’s my favorite little sister?”
Mom rolled her eyes. “I’m your only sister. Kids, this is your Uncle Herman. I’m not sure why he came to visit. Susan, I need you to clear him a space on the couch so he can tell us.”
Susan, who had been sitting in a nest of stuffed animals, folded her arms with a pout. Then she kicked all her toys to the floor and turned her back on the room. Alex and Lizzy picked up the toys and put them on the stairs in rows while Uncle Herman sat down.
Uncle Herman was tall and skinny. He had a skinny moustache, and his hair was going all thin in front too. George was fairly certain he didn’t remember ever meeting Uncle Herman before. How strange.
“So, why are you here, Herman?” Mom asked.
“Well, I heard you got married,” Herman said.
“I’ve been married thirteen years. You were at the wedding,” Mom said.
“I heard you had a baby,” Uncle Herman said.
“I’ve had four. My youngest is three,” Mom said.
“Congratulations,” Uncle Herman said. “In honor of this special occasion, I am going to give you a special deal.”
“Are you selling vitamins again?” Mom asked.
“No,” Uncle Herman said. He smiled and opened his arms wide like he wanted to hug the world. “I have started a detective agency. I will solve one case for you at half price, if you agree to give me the names and email addresses of thirty of your friends.”
“I do not agree,” Mom said.
“Well, let me talk to your husband. Maybe he has a case for me. His name was Bob, right?” Uncle Herman asked.
“My husband’s name is Arnold,” Mom said.
“Well, where is he?”
“Hmmmm. I wonder,” Mom said. She didn’t look like she was wondering. She looked annoyed.
“Oh dear,” Uncle Herman said. “A kidnapping case. I accept. I’ll go talk to my contacts on the outskirts of society.”
“Dad’s taking a nap,” Alex said. “We’re supposed to leave him alone.”
“Excellent,” Uncle Herman said. “We’ll study the scene of the crime first. Lead the way, young man.”
“Herman,” Mom said. “Leave Arnold alone. Why don’t we sit and talk and you can tell me more about what you’ve been doing lately?”
“Janie, Janie, Janie. You don’t need to worry. You’re in good hands. I’m a professional,” Uncle Herman said. He turned back to Alex. “Now, lead the way.”
Alex led Uncle Herman back to the bedrooms. Mom sighed and got up and followed them. George, Lizzy and Susan followed her. There was a gasp from the bedroom. “Janie,” Uncle Herman said. “This man is dead.”
George pushed past mom and looked into the bedroom. Dad was lying very still. George felt frightened, and then he heard Dad snore. He sighed in relief.
“I think you should start by canceling his credit cards,” Uncle Herman said. “We can take care of the body after that. After all, he won’t get any deader.”
Dad snored a little louder.
Uncle Herman ignored him and started to pace. “I have a magnifying glass in my car. We can check for fingerprints on the doorknob. Oh wait, I touched that on the way in.” He paused. “Oh well, it shouldn’t matter. We can check anyway.”
Dad sat up and yawned. “Herman? What are you doing here? We haven’t seen you in ages.”
Uncle Herman turned and looked at him for a moment. “Bob? No, wait, I think I have it…Arnold, right?”
“That’s right,” Dad said. He looked confused.
“Excellent! Another case successfully solved.” Uncle Herman said. He patted Mom on the shoulder. “Janie, I’ll let this one be on me. Just make sure to send me the forty names and email addresses we talked about.”
“I didn’t agree to that,” Mom said. “And I think you said thirty.”
“Here’s my card,” Uncle Herman said. He handed her a little square of paper with something written on it in pen with terrible handwriting. “Just send them to the email address at the bottom. Unfortunately, I have to go. I have another appointment.”
“Herman, I can’t even read this. Are you really leaving already? I’m not sending you any email addresses,” Mom said. But Uncle Herman was already gone.