Sherlock Holmes helps solve mystery

Published 3:49 pm Monday, July 1, 2019

By Jeremy Weldon

Perhaps if Sherlock Holmes hadn’t been dead for so long, the mystery of the missing newspapers might have been solved long ago. But, that chap, or rather his creator, Sir Arthur Ignatius Conan Doyle, has been in his grave almost 90 years now.

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He was still a great help in the case of the Panolian Caper, though, once I considered how the British snoop of literature would attack the mystery. Let me give a little background information, and then you can decide if I’m on the right track.

The Panolian has randomly gone missing on several occasions in the past few months. Whole stacks of them. Mostly from the vending machines around the county, but a couple of times from the United States Post Office, Courtland branch. I’m not sure, but I think they’ve gone missing from the government’s mail outpost in Como also.

We knew all along that these papers were being stolen and were aggravated not so much at the loss of a few dollars, but the general displeasure of our subscribers who were expecting home delivery and the ones who prefer to buy the newspaper at their favorite convenience store or grocery.

There was no rhyme or reason to the pattern of thefts, though. At first I thought that some unfortunate soul had found themselves booked into Sheriff Darby’s jail and hoped to lessen the reach of his/her name in the Jail Log by stealing a bundle or two. A desperate, but conceivable, solution to having one’s grandmother find out about a run-in with the law.

I reviewed the Jail Log after one such incident of missing papers and couldn’t find one name that might raise suspicion. It appeared to be the same old customers at the Crossbar Motel. Check out and check in. Get a meal or two and maybe pick up a little bit of trash. So, I decided it wasn’t any of those folks.

Finally, taking a cue from Holmes, I began to eliminate all the possibilities. Was someone stealing papers, marking them up a little to sell for profit? No likely. Dang thing is too thin to get much more than a buck!

Was someone stealing them to cut out a photo they wanted to send to all the aunts and uncles? No. That might have been the case a few years ago, but now social media solves the problem of everybody seeing a kid’s picture in the paper. In the time it takes me to print one newspaper a photo or news story can circle the globe a thousand times or more.

I thought of every possible reason someone would steal stacks of newspaper, and finally, when all else had been eliminated, I realized it wasn’t The Panolian the low-down thieving scoundrels are after – it’s the coupons!

All the pieces fell into place then. I made note of when newspapers go missing and sure enough, it’s the very dates that a particularly valuable set of coupons are published and inserted into The Panolian.

I was certain the case was solved when the office lady told me how some social media sites have begun to ban some users who advertise household products for sale. They get the items for pennies using coupons and then try to make a profit on these sites.

I can appreciate their capitalistic drive, but not their methods. It’s not only against the law, but against the code of human decency, to steal a stack of papers from the newsracks, leaving only the inserts and flyers not wanted for the next customer.

I’ve included a photo sent to me early Saturday morning by Police Chief Jimmy McCloud, who was trying to find another copy of the paper. This rack is a mess. Our driver neatly stacked newspapers there the day before and some jerk, or lady jerk, helped themselves to the paper and left a bunch of trash.

Don’t worry, Chief Jimmy has joined the effort to end this crime spree, and we’ve undertaken some security measures that I will keep a secret until we find these perpetrators.

The chief also called Monday to remind me about the Picnicking With Police big event at the Civic Center next Saturday. He also wants to remind all candidates for public office they are welcome to come help with the effort, but don’t bring signs or cards to pass around.

This is strictly for the kids, he said. Hmmm…might be pretty attractive for grown-ups, too. Think about it, cold air and with lots of fun and the police have banned politicking. Sounds like a good deal for everybody.

Cutline:  This innocent Panolian newsrack at the Gas Mart on Hwy. 6 W. was molested last Friday, leaving loyal readers without a newspaper to purchase. Please help catch the perpetrators, and report any theft to the office at 563-4591. There is no reward other than the joy of helping one’s community by reducing senseless crime. (Contributed)