A detective story

Like many, if not all other kids in the world, I, too, once ran a detective agency. It was a very small, no-name – literally – agency, based out of a small, second-floor room in a Helsinki suburb. All I had was a desk. I didn’t even have a chair for my partner. 

Then again, my partner was our dog. And like all proper detectives, I detested sitting at a desk anyway, so I spent most of my time out in the field, looking for cases. 

The chances of a damsel in distress walking up the stairs and into our apartment were slim anyway. 

Probably needless to say, but my detective agency didn’t have any cases per se, but I did spend many an afternoon shadowing people, and even more time shaking off bad guys I suspected were shadowing me. Now, I am sorry to say, my agency has laid dormant for many years. 

Until last week. 

Call it a hunch, call it intuition, call it whatever you want, but as I drove out car onto the ferry to Finland, I felt a familiar, funny feeling in my stomach. Something was up. 

“Something’s up, Riku,” I muttered, out of habit. (It was, and is, something of a catchphrase of mine). 

Unfortunately, Riku The Dog isn’t with us anymore so I couldn’t rely on his observational skills or his uncanny ability to go undercover. I was determined to keep my eye on any and all suspicious activity on the ferry until we’d get to Finland, but I couldn’t tell the rest of the family about my case. 

I was on my own.

I handed in my papers to the check-in person who gave a cursory look at my passport. It was just as well, I used my own passport this time and it’s as clean as a whistle. 

While we were waiting for our turn to rive onboard, I noticed a man, dressed in black, make a mad dash away from the ferry. His run was awkward as his feet barely left the ground but his arms were pumping. I immediately checked if he was being chased, but abandoned the theory quickly. The man disappeared inside a blue cabin and stayed there a while. Once he came back out, his walk was much more relaxed, and he was whistling. I didn’t even have to go look to understand the blue cabin was a porta-potty. 

Emergency averted. 

As soon as we had made our way to the deck, I noticed two men studying the ferry’s map very carefully. One of the men was wearing a tracksuit and holding a cane, the other had a T-shirt with “OLD GUYS RULE” printed on the chest. I decided to keep my eye on them and sure enough, I happened to bump into them an hour later at the duty-free shop. They were in front of me in the line, confusing the person at the register with their questions and then creating even more chaos as they looked for their wallets for a while. 

Were they agents in disguise, creating a diversion? From what?

Follow the money, they say. I went straight to the bingo. 

I hadn’t even got the cap off my bingo pen when a lady in her 30s pushed her stroller straight into my kneecap and asked me to keep an eye on her large purse on the seat in front of me while she was going to get some cash. 

If that’s not suspicious, my name isn’t Philip Columbo. (It isn’t officially, but it is my detective name). 

“Something’s up, Riku,” I said again.

I stayed put, ready to stop anyone trying to get their hands on the purse. Would I dare take a peek inside it? I looked around. Nobody seemed to pay any attention to me. I leaned forward and casually hung my arm over the railing between my table and the purse. I wiggled my fingers and … B23! shouted the blonde lady on the stage. The bingo had started. And I had B23!

The other lady came running in, got her bingo card and sat down. She thanked me and pulled out a diaper from the purse. 

Having come to two numbers from bingo, I moved my stakeout to the karaoke bar where a very suspicious man in a black graduation gown and a Pokemon hat was screaming his heart out, possibly singing a song I simply didn’t recognize. I had to hand it to him. The disguise was clever, and his performance of a drunk man flawless. 

When he, a half a dozen songs later, returned to the dance floor, trying to make contact with another group of suspects, I was sure something was up. The others had come to the ferry dressed as nerds, and they danced in a circle which the man in the Pikachu hat couldn’t penetrate. 

I hauled my sorry behind back to the mess deck for some information – and food. The cook (behind the cash register) spoke first. 

“Rough day, Columbo? The usual?” I think she asked me. 

“That’s right,” I replied. “Meatballs.”

“THE MEATBALLS!” she shouted to someone the kitchen. “Mashed potatoes?”



I sat down in the corner where I could see everyone. With the ferry about to arrive in Finland without an incident, I was pleased to add yet another successful case in my files.

I stabbed the first of the six meaty cannonballs on my plate.

Thirty minutes later, I had another funny feeling in my stomach. But that time I had a half a dozen – ball-shaped – suspects.

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