Dr Pheidippides and the Case of the Missing Food

Dixie heaved a sigh of relief. Finally, the garage door was in sight; this was a relief. He and his brothers Pixie and Trixie had been running for half of the night, or lumbering (which means to run with difficulty) in the case of Trixie. Trixie was seriously overweight. This bothered Dixie; but it didn't bother him as much as the problem they were hoping to solve tonight.

Dixie signaled to his brothers. "Almost there" he said signaling to the garage door, "one last sprint and we'll be at the garage". So the mice ran across the road and up the driveway to get to the garage door. Pixie started to scan along the bottom of the looking for the switch. He knew that if he could find it then one of the patterned squares would open and they could simply climb through. He was just giving up hope when out of the corner of his eye he spotted a small pile of leaves pushed up against the wall; he dug in and hey presto - the switch. He pushed the switch, the little door opened and they all walked through.

The three brothers gasped; they had been warned what they were up against but seeing it for real was still very scary. In front of them was one of the largest, most complex and most dangerous assault courses that had ever been devised. Disguised as a haphazard collection of bikes, motorbikes, toys, building parts, garbage cans and litter was a set of traps, hazards and tripwires that was almost completely impenetrable.  And somewhere in there was the dreaded "sock of death".

Trixie reached into the pouch of his sweater and pulled out the map. Every one of the traps was detailed and the safe route was marked. All they had to do was follow the pathway and they should be fine. So the brothers ran and scampered and ducked and weaved until finally they got to the back of the garage and the final obstacle - the sheer rock-face. In truth the height to climb was only two feet; but to a mouse that is two inches high that would be insurmountable (which means impossible to get over) - unless you knew the trick.

Fortunately Pixie knew the trick. He ran around along the wall until he came to the old fishing rod with the line and the hook. Grabbed the line and ran back to Dixie and Trixie. He had been practicing this bit for days. He swung the line with the hook around and around his head and then threw it up, up, up until it caught on the edge they hand to climb. Tugging once to make sure the hook held, Pixie climbed the line hand over hand until finally he stood triumphantly on the edge of the box. "You next!" he called out and Dixie started the ascent (which means upwards climb).

Ideally Trixie would have climbed up last; unfortunately he was far too heavy to climb. Instead the brothers unhooked the hook, pulled up the end of the wire and then threw the hook down. Trixie hooked the hook into the belt of his thick outdoor coat and then Dixie and Pixie jumped off the edge and down into the box that was their destination. At least they almost jumped all the way down; that was the way it had worked when they practiced. But this time they were left dangling in the air; the line wouldn't budge. Trixie was now heavier than Pixie and Dixie combined (which means together).

"May I be of assistance?" A deep voice rumbled from the corner of the box. From a large pile of moss appeared a small and seemingly insignificant tortoise. Dixie and Pixie squealed and almost let go of the rope. Whilst the tortoise had been the one they wanted to see, and whilst they had been rehearsing what they would say to him, they had not expected to meet him while dangling from the end of the rope. "Er, hello!" said Dixie. "Sorry to drop in on you like this! But we really could use your help!". "Evidently" (which means 'yes - I can see that') said the deep voice. "You are not far from the ground, you can just let go." The tortoise continued. "No we can't sir," said Pixie "our brother is on the other end of the rope; we wanted him to see you too!"

The tortoise raised an eyebrow and moved towards the mice taking hold of the rope in his mouth. He pulled quickly and the rope stayed still. "A much bigger brother I take it" said the deep voice. "Well, actually, we are identical triplets," said Dixie and then he lowered his voice to whisper "but Trixie has a little bit of a weight problem!"  "I see ..." said the tortoise. Taking a firm grip the small tortoise dug all four feet into the ground and began to heave. He was indeed quite small for a tortoise; but given tortoises carry their home around all the time, they are very, very strong. Two minutes later the rope went slack and Trixie came crashing into the box; flattening Dixie and Pixie.

The three brothers scrambled to their feet, brushed themselves off and stood up smartly. "We are ever so pleased to meet you Mr. Pheidippides Holmes, Sir" said the three mice saluting. The tortoise scowled (which means looked cross) for a moment and then said "Mr. Who?" "Pheidippides Holmes, Sir," said Dixie. "You are the great Pheidippides Holmes that captured the "Red Hand Gang" aren't you sir?" said Pixie. "Tsk, tsk tsk" said the deep voice. "I am Pheidippides and this is my home and I am a captive Red Foot tortoise" said the tortoise; "but other than that I have no idea what you are talking about!"

"Oh!" said the mice looking crestfallen (which means miserable and disappointed). "So you are not the leader of a super-secret organization of super-spy animals?" said Dixie. "You are not the greatest investigator of all time?" whined Pixie. "You are not a super hero that has left his mark on man and beast alike?" gasped Trixie. "Well," said Pheidippides "I have pooed on quite a few people, and that does leave a nasty brown mark, but as for every else - most certainly not!"

Dixie and Pixie looked miserable. "Then that is probably the end of us," they said sadly. Pheidippides the tortoise looked concerned. "So what did you need this other Pheidippides for?" he asked. "Did you want an autograph or something?"  "Oh no," said the brothers, "it is much worse than that. We have a mystery we need him to solve and if he cannot solve it for us they we might starve to death!"

Pheidippides looked at the two brothers and they were indeed skin and bone; he believed that they might be telling the truth so he continued: "well, I'm no super-hero. But many mysteries are quite easy to solve if you just look at the facts. So tell me the problem and we might be able to use logic to discover what the solution is." The mice looked doubtful. They had wanted a famous spy mastermind and action superhero, the nemesis (which means enemy that beats you) of every villain out there; not some tiny tortoise. Still - they had nothing left to lose.

"Well," said Trixie "every day we take turns to go hunting for food. Sometimes it is very difficult and we don't get any. Sometimes it is easy and we get quite a lot. When we get plenty we store it in a super secret place in our home. Then when we don't get food on a particular day we can share some of our stash. Mice in our family have lived this way for years!" "That was up until a month ago" said Dixie. "Then one day we came to our super-secret stash and it was gone!" said Pixie. "We went hungry for a day but then we found some food and stored it away nice a safely; but again when we came back to eat it - gone!" The mice were now shaking their heads.

"Hmmm ..." said Pheidippides, "have you considered moving your hiding place?" "We have moved it three times!" said the mice "and we have even taken turns to guard it but sooner or later the food disappears." "This is indeed a serious matter," said Pheidippides, "perhaps, I should go and sit under my heat lamp and see if the warmth gives me any good ideas." "Ok," said Dixie, "we'll stay here with Trixie and wait for you." "You all are quite welcome to come." said the tortoise. "Trixie can't stand the heat" said Pixie. "Often at night when we are all curled up in bed together he gets so hot that he has to go for a walk around the house to cool off!" said Dixie.

"I see!" said the deep voice. "Then I am pleased to tell you that I know what is happening to all of your missing food and I know how and when it is happening!"

---- So - do you know what Pheidippides knew? Think about it before you continue ----

Dixie, Pixie and Trixie all looked shocked. "How" said Trixie? "Well" said Pheidippides "you are identical triplets and you told me you take turns collecting the food and that when you eat you share your meals." The mice all nodded quickly: "we were always told to share fairly" said the three mice. "So" said Pheidippides "if you were born the same, work the same and eat the same; why is it that one of your weighs more than twice as much as the other two?" Dixie and Pixie looked confused; Trixie looked at the floor. "And why;" said Pheidippides "is Trixie wearing a sweater and heavy outdoor coat if he doesn't like the heat?"

Dixie was now looking angrily at Trixie, "why would you lie about being hot?" he yelled. "Perhaps" replied the tortoise, "to give him an excuse to walk around the house while you were in bed?" "And the food was always stolen while you were guarding OR at night!" yelled Pixie. "Perhaps" continued Pheidippides "you may wish to borrow some of this fishing line to keep your brother out of the pantry (which means closet used to store food) in future. Now if you don't mind; I am but a simple little tortoise and I need my sleep. Please let yourselves out."

With that Pheidippides marched off to his log hideout with a very angry look upon his face. The brothers thought he was angry because he had been woken up; but they were wrong. See if you can figure out why he was angry - before the next story.


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