Who’s the Thief?
“If you all could follow me this way, we will see the players’ team room,” said Sally. Sally was a tour guide at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The New Orleans Saints have always been her favorite football team, but Sally felt as though she had more potential than a simple tour guide. She had just finished college with a degree in Communications, but she was unable to find a single well-paying job that interested her. So, she took this job and started at the bottom of the totem pole. She would be content with her job if only there were a little more excitement in it.
“You all can throw out your pretzel bags in this trashcan before we enter the team room. Please do not touch any possessions of the players, and DO NOT GO BEYOND THAT YELLOW LINE,” she grimaced as a kid touched the line painted on the floor. If Sally was anything, it was a stickler for rules.
“Oh, don’t yell at him too much,” said the teacher, pulling Sally aside. “Bobby has been going through some serious mental retardation problems this month.”
Agatha Christie’s daughter, Rosalind, had asked her to join her 4th grade class on this field trip to the Superdome. Although she had a lot of work to do at her office, she agreed to Rosalind’s pleading eyes. A couple of other adults had volunteered to chaperone for this field trip as well. These people consisted of the teacher Mr. Right and a couple of parents: Mr. and Mrs. Stevenson, Mrs. Oakes, Mr. Hutt, and, of course, Christie.
As the class approached the team room, Mrs. Stevenson asked Sally to direct her to the nearest restroom. After giving the information, Sally led the class the team room without her. She showed the players’ most prized possessions from their lucky charms to their best helmets that were worth millions of dollars.
Mrs. Oakes turned to Mr. Right, “If you will excuse me, I need to go powder my nose.” As she spoke, she began to pull out a rectangular box with little pebbles inside of it.
Mr. Right found it very strange that Mrs. Oakes shared this information with him, but he nodded and kept moving with the class as though nothing happened. He did not want to cause any disruption during the trip.
Next, the class visited the press box, where all of the newspaper writers for sports sections gather and collect their data. After Sally said her speech about the press box, she let the kids look around for a few minutes. Another chaperone, Mr. Hutt asked Sally where the nearest water fountain was. Sally gave him rather complicated directions to the closest vending machine of water bottles. She was prepared to give the directions again, but she was surprised when Mr. Hutt simply thanked her and briskly left the box.
After visiting the announcer’s bin, the locker rooms, and the coaches’ offices, Sally led the class away after a few minutes and began the procession back to the front lobby to conclude the tour. Christie noticed that after each stop on the tour, Mrs. Oaks had asked Sally to direct her to the bathroom. Although Sally thought that this was a little strange, she directed Mrs. Oaks each time without complaint. Again, Mrs. Oakes pulled out her rectangular box with the small pebbles.
The teacher began counting off the students while Mr. Hutt and Mrs. Stevenson silently returned to the group. The only person missing was Mrs. Oakes, but the teacher assumed that they could wait for her on the bus as it was a nice day out. As the class began walking towards the exit, an alarm sounded, and the doors automatically locked in front of them. Everyone began to panic as that every exit was locked.
An announcement on the intercom ensued, “Attention! There has been a robbery in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Four helmets have been stolen from the team room. We will be in a lock-down from now until the thief is caught. Thank you.”
The students looked at the adults with questioning eyes. What were they to do? Where was this thief? The only question that the children did not think of: were they in the presence of the criminal?
Sally acted quickly. Having read the employee handbook at least ten times, she knew how to handle a lock-down situation. She took the students to the tunnel where the players come out for games, usually not a part of the tour. The kids seemed very excited about staying here, but the parents and teacher were more edgy. This spot was perfect for hiding from an aerial attack in case the criminal was armed. Mrs. Oakes arrived at the tunnel a few minutes later and joined the other chaperones, stuffing her rectangular box away as she walked.
Christie thought about the situation she was in and asked Sally, “Is there supposed to be anyone else in the Superdome at this time besides the janitorial staff? And how does the alarm system work?”
“No,” answered Sally, “Everyone else does not show up until early in the afternoon before the games start. We are also the only tour group today. The alarm system first sets off a silent alarm to alert the police about a robbery. So the police are probably outside of the Superdome. Then, it alerts the stadium to let the thief know that we know he stole something.” Christie considered this information. The thief was narrowed down to the staff and the school trip.
As she thought, the rest of the staff entered the tunnel and was accounted for by role call. All were accounted for. Well, thought Christie, at least we know that whoever had robbed the Superdome was here.
Christie found something else strange. Throughout the trip, an adult had asked Sally to leave the group for some reason. Each time someone left, it took him or her about ten minutes to find the group and continue the tour. Was that enough time to steal the helmets from the locker room, conceal it on the bus, and return to the group? Christie figured that the only way that she was to get home was to assume that this was the case.
Christie thought about which adults had left the groups. The first person to leave the group was Mrs. Stevenson. She had left for the bathroom after the team room. Mrs. Stevenson did not stay for the actual reveal of the team room, but she must have passed it on the way back to the group. Was she able to steal the helmets then? However, she would not leave her son for too long, because of his condition. Hence why she was only gone for a couple of minutes.
The second person to leave the group was Mr. Hutt. Christie tried to recount what out-of-place things Mr. Hutt had done on the trip. She could only think of the time when he had asked Sally for a drink. Sally had given him a rather long list of directions, but he seemed to memorize them almost immediately. He had taken the longest time to return to the group. In fact, he arrived just before Mrs. Oakes.
Speaking of Mrs. Oakes, she left the most often. In fact, she had left the group frequently. She also did not rejoin the group until after the alarm went off. Christie recalled that she had told Mr. Right in the beginning of the trip that she was leaving the group to “powder her nose”. Could it have been something more than just letting him know where she was going?
How strange, thought Christie. Perhaps Mr. Right knows something about Mrs. Oakes that the rest of us are oblivious of. Then again, Mr. Right did not leave the class at all during the trip so he could not have been involved in the robbery directly.
As Christie looked at the chaperones and the class sit on the wall, she saw one particular parent holding a child tightly. This occurrence enabled Christie to figure out who the thieves were and their motive. She just needed one more piece of evidence to put them under arrest.
Christie pulled out her cell phone and began dialing. Mr. Stevenson demanded, “What do you think you are doing? What if the thief has some sort of technology that can trace that call to the tunnel?!?”
Christie had dialed the police and gave them directions to the tunnel. She said that she figured out who had stolen the helmets. The police arrived shortly and demanded to know who was to be arrested.
Christie explained: “During the course of the trip, Mr. Hutt, Mrs. Oakes, and Mrs. Stevenson had all left the group at some point during the tour. Mr. Hutt had left to get a drink after the second part of the trip. One could think that this drink was enough time to steal the helmets. However, the entire class had just had pretzels, so it makes sense that at least one person in the group was thirsty after the salty snack.
“Mrs. Oakes left several times during the trip. She claimed to have gone to the restroom after each stop during the tour. She even told Mr. Right that she was 'powdering her noes'. At first, I had thought that Mr. Right had something to do with the helmets being stolen. When Mrs. Oakes returned after each time, she had a rectangular shaped boxed with little pebbles inside. At a closer glance, I think that Mrs. Oakes just has a bladder issue and those pebbles are pills to help her control it. Is that right Mrs. Oakes?”
“Yes it is,” she answered sourly, “but I just wished you did not reveal my issue to the entire group.”
“Sorry, Mrs. Oakes, I was just clearing your name as well as Mr. Right's. The last person who left the group at some point was Mrs. Stevenson. She left right after we saw the team room. Although she did not enter it herself, she must have passed it to catch up with the group. That makes her the person most likely to steal the helmets. She also needs money. She has a son, Bobby, who is mentally retarded. If I guessed correctly, then Mrs. Stevenson would have stolen the helmets and sold them for her son’s medication. Is that right Mrs. Stevenson?”
“Yes, it’s true,” Mrs. Stevenson broke down in tears. She clung to her son, but she was chained and pulled away by the police.
“That is not all,” continued Christie. “Mr. Stevenson was also caught up in the robbery. As we can see from the display that Mrs. Stevenson just demonstrated, she has a secure attachment with her son. Therefore, she would never leave him unsupervised for more than a few minutes. She had left Mr. Stevenson to keep an eye on Bobby as she stole the helmets. He also made for a good lookout to make sure that no one from the tour group returned to the team room.”
The police handcuffed Mr. Stevenson and took him away. Sally would come to love her job as a tour guide because of this experience. A few months later, however, Sally was finally promoted to be an executive in security for the Superdome. This job raised her salary, and she continued to give tours of the Superdome herself.