I was still in bed when the phone rang. I rolled over to the end table, picked up my phone, and looked at the screen…a long distance number and unknown caller. The third since Harvey died. I rejected the call. It was too early. Harvey would have answered it. 

Harvey was the morning guy. I’d come in at ten and he would have already done a day’s work. Harvey liked to start his surveillance early, pick up the tail when the subject was just beginning his work day. 

I’m an evening guy. I surveil after hours, in the bars and the nightclubs, the no-tell-motels. That’s why Harvey and I worked so well together, double shifts. Then his heart gave out.

The day Harvey died he had been working on the case of the missing SUNY Adirondack mascot, Eddie Rondack. Well, not the kid, but the costume; a Timberwolf with a big, hairy, gray and white head and a long black snout on top of a big, hairy, gray and white body wearing a navy blue, SUNY Adirondack tee shirt. 

Someone stole the costume just before the Elite Eight of the 2020 SUNY Mascot Madness competition. Eddie Rondack had to forfeit. The forfeit was one thing. But, mainly the school wanted the costume back. Harvey died before he could finish the job.

I got up and had my usual black coffee and burnt toast breakfast. The phone rang again. The same long distance number and unknown caller; but, this time the caller wanted Facetime. I answered.

“Hello, Joe.”

“Harvey!? But you’re dead.”

“Yeah, but I can’t rest. I have to finish that mascot case. I’m an alum, you know.” 

“This is weird, Harvey. Dead people don’t do Facetime.”

“What can I say, modern tech.” He shrugged.

“I interviewed a couple of suspects,” Harvey said. “A couple of Eddie’s Mascot Madness competitors. I thought the losers might have a revenge motive. Eddie beat Oakie Acorn from the College of Environmental Science and Forestry in the Sweet Sixteen. I talked to her and ruled her out. She’s a nut, but she ain’t a thief.” 

Harvey continued, “Then, I talked to Damien the Great Dane from the University of Albany. Rondack beat him in the opening round of thirty-two. But, Damien had an alibi. He was playing the ponies at Saratoga. The dog had no bone to pick. Gamblers lose, but they usually don’t steal.”

Harvey shook his head slowly, “I kicked the bucket before I could interview the mascot from Columbia-Greene Community College, Rip Van Winkle. Winkle was Rondack’s scheduled opponent in the Elite Eight. Maybe you could check him out for me?”

“Of course, Harvey. I’ll get right on it. Can I reach you at this number?” 

“Sure, Joe. I’ll be here. I ain’t going nowhere. Thanks.”

I drove down 87 to the Columbia-Greene Community College. Nice campus, red brick buildings around a green quad. They told me that I would find Rip in his Sleep Study 101 class in the main building, across from the gym. I had a hunch, though, and before looking for Rip in class, I decided to check out the locker room at the gym. My hunch paid off.

It really wasn’t hard to miss. The gray and white Timberwolf hairs hung out from the bottom of the locker door like, well, Rip Van Winkle’s whiskers.  I took a photo and texted it to Harvey at the number he gave me. Funny, huh, a direct line to the other side. “That’s it!” Harvey texted back.

I figured to confront Van Winkle after his class, using the pretense of being a sports reporter. “Mr. Winkle,” I approached him. “Congratulations on being in the Final Four of Mascot Madness. I’m with Adirondack Stream Media. Do you have a few words for your fans?”

“Huh, well sure. Happy to,” he was open, which is where you want a perp. 

We talked a bit. I massaged his ego. “Nice double flip in the Sweet Sixteen.” Then I asked him if we might take a few pictures over at the gym. “Sure, sure,” he said good heartedly. “How about starting in front of your locker,” I suggested. “Sure, sure,” he was obliging.

I had him at the locker. When I promised to keep it just between us, he had no choice but to confess and surrender the costume. I called Harvey to tell him, but I got a pre-recorded message.

“The number you have dialed is no longer in service.”

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