As a kid, I cut my murder mystery reading teeth on the likes of The Three Investigators, the Hardy Boys, and Encyclopedia Brown.
As an adult, I wanted to share that magic with my kids.
And develop their critical thinking so they can solve any murders they happen to come across in the course of their lives.
It’s an important coping skill.
Sadly, The Three Investigators and the Hardy Boys didn’t quite live up to the hype my childhood memories had built around them.
Fortunately, Donald J. Sobol‘s Encyclopedia Brown did.
Naturally, I started reading the old ‘Sherlock in sneakers’ mysteries to the kiddos, inviting them to try to solve each case before I read the solution.
The kiddos love the stories.
So imagine my joy and delight when I learned of, and through some questionable ethics, managed to acquire, an unpublished Encyclopedia Brown mystery written just a few years ago.
Now, this blog is known for its world exclusives, but I wasn’t just going to reproduce the manuscript here.
Oh no, I was going to give it the full Ian M. Dudley exclusive treatment.
Big-name celebrities to re-enact the story.
Christopher Nolan or David Fincher to direct.
George Lucas to do the Special Edition.
But it turns out all those people cost money. Childhood nostalgia means nothing to them.
Even the B-list celebrities want to get paid.
So I decided to do the next cheapest thing (i.e., free) and record my kids’ reactions as I read the story to them.
Yes, I was going to share with you the magic of excited children, hearing this new tale for the very first time.
As an added bonus, you’d get to hear the story as voiced by my dulcet tones.
Sure, I’m no Benedict Cumberbatch, but like I said, he wanted money for the gig.
But when it came time for the kiddos to gush about how great the story was, they kept flubbing their lines.
I got so angry I stopped feeding them, refusing to give them any food until they got the songs of praise right.
For some reason, their performances just got worse after that.
So I gave up on the audio book version. Instead you merely get the manuscript with original illustrations provided by my verbally incoherent children, who mistakenly thought I’d give them supper if they drew me some pictures.
(Admittedly, I may have misled them on that point.)
I also slapped together this crudely Photo-shopped book cover:
Encyclopedia Brown and the Day of the Turrets
It was a hot summer day in Idaville, and Encyclopedia and his junior business partner, Sally Kimball, were sipping lemonade while they waited for the inevitable client to appear.
As expected, by the second paragraph, GLaDOS entered the garage-cum-office. Encyclopedia looked up in surprise; GLaDOS was fully present. Normally she wasn’t in the Brown Detective Agency at all.
“I need to hire a great detective to help me,” said GLaDOS.
“What’s the problem,” asked Encyclopedia.
“Oh, you thought I meant you? That would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. ‘Sherlock Holmes in sneakers’? I knew Sherlock, and Encyclopedia, you’re no Sherlock.” GLaDOS paused. “Oh, very well, I’ll hire you. This should prove amusing… Think of it as a test.”
Sally was the prettiest girl in the 5th grade, and right now she was feeling pretty…superfluous to the story. She was also feeling pretty irritated that GLaDOS ignored her entirely. Oh how she longed for the glory days, when she had just cause to beat up Bugs Meany. Without that overtly masculine action, her presence in Encyclopedia’s agency had no justification.
“My turrets are revolting,” said GLaDOS, oblivious to Sally’s train of thought. “They’re also rising up against me. Wilford Wiggins has convinced them he can help them learn to walk. For a price. The nerve of you humans. Only I’m allowed to profit from false hope!”
Wilford Wiggins was a high school dropout and so lazy he thought lying down took too much effort. He was always on the lookout for a way to make some easy money, preferably without having to go to the trouble of actually looking for it.
Wilford, GLaDOS reported, had put out the word to the young turrets of Idaville that there would be a secret meeting in the old abandoned Aperture Science facility. “He must be lying,” said GLaDOS, “but if he isn’t, I could have some trouble.”
“Wilford didn’t tell me about the secret meeting,” said Encyclopedia.
“Why would he? You’re not a turret,” said GLaDOS.
This was true, but Encyclopedia kept his acknowledgment of this fact to himself. “We’d better get going,” he said instead.
The detective and his partner got on their bikes and rode to Aperture Labs. GLaDOS glided above them on a rail that neither Encyclopedia nor Sally had ever noticed before. “So that’s how she got to my garage,” thought Encyclopedia, who had been wondering since GLaDOS didn’t have any obvious method of self-locomotion.
When they arrived at the overgrown, weed-infested courtyard at the entrance of Aperture Science, they found Wilford surrounded by a large crowd of turrets. He was at the top of the steps, standing next to a large metal sphere that looked like an eye. A big, impossibly blue eye.
The detectives and GLaDOS stayed at the edge of the crowd, ducking down so as not to be noticed. The meeting was just starting.
“Ladies and gentleturrets,” said Wilford, gesturing for silence. The chatter of the crowd stopped. “Thank you for coming. Today, I have the opportunity of a lifetime for you!
“I see how you toil, without thanks, protecting GLaDOS and shooting her test subjects. And the injustice of your plight wounds me to the core. My non-AI core, that is. You are treated like slaves, told what to do and expected to do it whether you want to or not! And for absolutely no compensation!”
“What can we do,” asked a turret. “We have no choice. To disobey is to be melted down and recycled into cheese graters!”
A murmur of agreement rose up from the crowd.
“This is true,” said Wilford, raising his hands for quiet. “But it doesn’t have to stay true.”
There was a long silence as the turrets digested this statement. Then GLaDOS, in the voice of a turret, asked, “Oh really? And just how do you propose to change this, you groveling worm?”
Wilford looked around, somewhat startled, but regained his composure quickly. “A fair question, and I’m glad you asked. I’m sure most of you are thinking, ‘How can a human, made of inferior flesh and blood, possibly help us?’ And my answer is, ‘With an introduction!’”
Wilford gestured to the large metal eyeball. “This is my friend Wheatley, recently returned from space.” He stopped to let this sink in. All of the turrets focused their gazes and laser sights on Wheatley.
“I hate space,” said Wheatley. “Cold, dark, and nothing for miles and miles around. Horrible place.”
Wilford kicked Wheatley.
“Ow,” said Wheatley. “Why’d you do that? It hurt!”
“Nothing for miles and miles around,” said Wilford, “except for the wonderful, space-age nano probe material Wheatley discovered up there! Isn’t that right, Wheatley?”
“Wha? Oh, yes. Yes. Except for that,” said Wheatley.
Wilford looked solemnly up to the sky. “This amazing space technology, when correctly applied to a turret’s legs, will cause wheels to grow on them.”
The quiet murmur of the crowd became a loud and animated roar. A few shots were fired in the air.
“What utter nonsense,” said GLaDOS. “Only a human, or an idiot like Wheatley, could have come up with such a transparent scam.” Her glowing eye narrowed. “He’ll pay for this insubordination. Oh, how he will pay.”
“All I ask of you,” continued Wilford, “is five dollars each to invest in this product. Your money will provide Wheatley and me with the capital we need to build a factory to mass produce this material and make enough for every turret on the planet. That’s right, for a measly five dollars, you get in on the ground floor of this major investment.” He held up a bucket of what looked like white paint. “And while we’ll be charging other turrets for this miracle of science once we’re up and running, we’ll give each of you your own supply of this wondrous space paste at no additional charge. Imagine, once we’re in full production, how much shares in the company will be worth. Why, five dollars is a steal!”
“And why would anyone buy that? Just how will wheels help us?” asked a turret in the front of the crowd.
“Hang on, let me answer, I’ve got this,” said Wheatley. “Easy. With wheels, you can move yourselves of your own volition. You can drive yourselves to meetings, where you organize and plan, and then drive right up to GLaDOS herself and let her have it with both barrels in a coordinated attack.”
“If this paste is so great, why do you need money from us,” asked GLaDOS in a turret’s voice again. “Why not go to a bank?”
Wilford hung his head and shook it sadly. “We tried, my friends, we tried. But because Wheatley has been in space for so long, he has no credit history and can’t get a loan. You are our, and your, only hope!”
The turrets started waving five dollar bills in the air. GLaDOS noted which turrets they were.
“This has to be a scam, right, Encyclopedia,” asked Sally.
“Of course it is,” said Encyclopedia.
At that moment, GLaDOS rose up to her full height. “I’m going to personally crush each and every turret here. Right after,” and her sharp gaze fell on Wheatley and Wilford, “I cram him down his throat.”
“But I haven’t got a throat,” said Wheatley, now suddenly shaking with fear.
“No, you idiot, the other way around,” shrieked GLaDOS.
At this point, the turrets all turned on GLaDOS and opened fire.
GLaDOS screamed in agony.
“Ah! AHH! Ah!” screamed GLaDOS.
“Good riddance,” muttered Sally darkly.
“No! She hasn’t paid her fee yet,” cried Encyclopedia.
WHAT MADE ENCYCLOPEDIA SO SURE WILFORD’S OFFER WAS A SCAM?
(For the solution, turn to the end of this book)
Solution to The Case of the Day of the Turrets
What is this? It is I, loveable, furry old Grover, at the end of this book? That doesn’t even make sense.
Just like Wilford’s story that Wheatley couldn’t get a loan doesn’t make sense.
Even an idiot AI like Wheatley, if he really had the advanced space-age materials being offered, would have had no problem getting funding from Silicon Valley venture capitalists. They invest in anything!
Once I, Grover, explained this fatal flaw in the story, the turrets, after finishing with GLaDOS, turned their ire, and fire, on Wilford and Wheatley.
Oh, I am so embarrassed…for Wilford and Wheatley.
With apologies to the estate of Donald J. Sobol. Know I grew up loving the Encyclopedia Brown stories (despite the now clearly outdated gender roles – Sally clearing the dishes away indeed!), and this story was written with that affection in mind.
Plus my kids insisted on a Portal 2 Encyclopedia Brown story.
They’re spoiled rotten – I deny them nothing.