Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Case of the Burgled Clubhouse

by Annette Dashofy

The other day I was driving down the highway thinking about crimes and crime scene investigations (isn’t that what everyone thinks about when they’re driving?) and I flashed back on what was probably my earliest crime solving effort.

I was eleven years old. My best friend and I had just spent much time and effort “creating” a clubhouse for the two of us. The “clubhouse” was a wooden structure on our farm that had at one time served as the milkhouse, but which had been moved when a cinderblock version replaced it. By the time my friend and I were searching for a place to call our own, the building was used for storage. My grandfather granted permission for us to convert it, but I strongly suspect he never expected two little girls to actually do the necessary work.

But we did. We toted out a couple dozen old chicken crates and a couple of dead carcasses that could have been long-gone farm cats or possibly rats. Or both. Ick. But we did it. We covered the dirt floor with concrete tiles that had been left over from some project one of our parents had been involved in. There were two windows sans the glass. We put up clear plastic and curtains. We applied a fresh coat of paint on the walls. Green. It was left over from yet another parental project. We
decorated the interior with a desk, a toy crank telephone and bookshelves. We even had a ribbon cutting ceremony when we were done.

Never were there two pre-teen girls who were more proud of an accomplishment.

And then someone broke in and trashed the place.

In hindsight, “trashing the place” is too strong a description. But it felt like it to us. Stuff was knocked over and knocked on the floor. Our space had been violated.

We were pissed.

I remember putting it back together again and then sitting down to ponder WHO had done such a thing. You have to realize, we’re talking about an outbuilding on a farm. There weren’t many neighbors. Therefore our suspect list was small. Plus we had one piece of evidence. A shoe print. Too big to be one of ours, but too small to be from one of the grown-ups. And we determined that it was a boy’s shoe. That narrowed it down to two possible perps. One was a neighbor boy and the other was my friend’s own cousin who visited her regularly.

We formulated a plan. We would approach both boys and ask them why they broke into our clubhouse, as if we knew it was them.

The plan worked. Suspect #1, the neighbor, gave us a look like we were idiotic little girls and asked us what the heck we were talking about. Suspect #2, the cousin, got all wide-eyed and asked us how we knew.

Criminals really are stupid.

He never vandalized our clubhouse again. As far as I know, his life of crime ended there with two pre-teen detectives busting him and solving the crime. My friend now plays organ for her church.

I, however, continue to ponder crimes and how to catch the bad guys.

Think back. Can you remember YOUR first attempt at playing Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys?


Tory said...

I THOUGHT the cousin did it. Seems to me it had to be someone who was jealous of what you two had accomplished. I'm impressed with your stick-to-itivness and detective skills as a pre-teen!

I don't remember any detective efforts on my part at that age. Rightly or wrongly, we blamed everything bad that happened in the neighborhood on our neighbor across the street, Carl.

Annette said...

I'm not sure of the guy's motives other than a teen-aged boy's idea of what's funny. Back in those days, that meant tipping over out-houses and such. Times have changed.

Joyce said...

Great story, Annette!

I don't think there were any REAL crimes to solve when I was a kid, but we always played Batman, and then a couple of years later, Mod Squad. That's when my nose wasn't in a Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys book, of course.

Nancy said...

Oh, Annette, my sister and our neighbor and I built a clubhouse, too! Except we didn't actually have a house, but had to build one out of sticks and baling twine in the woods behind our house. And one day we went to play there and it was GONE!! We know who dismantled all our hard word (heck, we spotted him running away from the crime scene!) and we were crushed. You're right.--We felt violated. Now the jerk's on the school board in my hometown. I never, never would have voted for such a criminal.
Love this blog!

Annette said...

Ah, Batman. POW! BAM! Yep, those were the days...

Annette said...

Nancy, that's HORRIBLE! At least our vandalism only amounted to our books being dumped on the floor, chairs overturned, etc. But to have the entire thing dismantled???That's just cruel. Let's start a smear campaign on that skum!

mike said...

Our "clubhouse" on the farm was two attic rooms on the second floor of the old stone spring house. To get to it meant climbing up onto a roof and then crawling through a windowless opening. No one was going to move that building! But we almost burned it down...there was no electricity in the attic, so for light we relied on candles, dozens of them. Our nearest neighbor was half a mile away, so any trashing was all our own!

The only sleuthing I ever did occurred while serving in the Army in West Germany...and it sure wasn't official! I discovered that two "friends" trying to insinuate themselves into our group were actually undercover CID agents planted to ID drug users among the troops (all of whom had the highest security clearances). Talk about stressful times. But I blew their cover, and not a day too soon. I've never told anyone about this--not a bright spot in my resume, you might say--but, goodness, it's been almost 40 years, the base where I was stationed now belongs to the Germans, and I've forgotten all the names of everyone involved. It's all ancient history now.

Kristine said...

Great blog, Annette! I love the picture, too. The pride and sense of accomplishment on your faces speaks volumes. Classic!

I never had any crime-solving opportunities as a kid. I guess I lived too much of a sheltered life as an only child. The only crimes I solved where the fictional ones in my head.

I guess not much has changed, huh?

Donnell B. said...

Annette, I *always* think about crimes and crime scenes while driving. Doesn't everybody?:) Interesting enough, that clubhouse vandalism probably was a spark to your muse and you should actually *thank* your cousin. I started later in life. I lived with two roommates and one night they pulled me from a dead sleep and urged me from our townhome because the place attached to ours was on fire. Turns out it was torched (arson) and as we stood in our robes and pajamas, watching it burn to the ground on a cold Denver morning, I was studying bystanders thinking, which one of you did this?

Annette said...

Good grief, Donnell! That's just about my worst nightmare. Glad your roomies got you out in time.

Anonymous said...

When I was a boy, the girl next door had a clubhouse where she wrote a secret book of cheers with a friend. My sis was excluded from the cheer club. On the eve of my 12th birthday, my sis said she would give me £20 to burgle the clubhouse and retrieve the book. All my friends were over for my party, and were all pumped about the operation. I suited up in my all black windbreaker suit, and hopped the fence. The clubhouse was elevated on stilts about 1/2 a story high. A small stairway led to the door which was locked. On the sides were windows that I was barely able to reach from the ground. I somehow snaked my way into the clubhouse from the window, found the book, and came out the back window and exited towards the street. I got the £20, my sis copied the cheers to her trapper keeper notebook, and I broke in again to put the book back where it belonged. The girl next door had no idea I did it until my sis blew my cover when she was mad at me. By then, I had broken into the clubhouse several times for sport. I think it's just a boy thing to want to break into places and be sneaky. We all want to be James Bond and get away with things. I was rather good at not leaving any evidence. My friends usually got caught when they tried those things, but I continued breaking into places for fun all the way up to college. I still haven't really grown out of it.