The wind blew relentlessly across the desert landscape. It did nothing to cool Detective Carl F. LaMingo, though. Carl hated the heat. He hated the desert. Nothing good happened out here. Carl scanned the horizon, but the only movement he could see was the occasional dust devil whipped up by that unrelenting hot wind. Carl’s longtime partner Doug stood next to him sweating through his off-the-rack JC Penny’s suit. Both had their attention on the man kneeling in front of them who identified himself only as the “Cap’n.” Carl had arrested the Cap’n that morning, but he still wasn’t sure what crime the Cap’n had committed.
In truth, the Cap’n had given himself up, walking right into the police station with his hands extended as if they already had cuffs on them. Dressed in a blue 18th century naval outfit, the first officer that the Cap’n spoke to tried to shoo him along assuming he was some crazy just looking for attention. But his uniform was clean and well pressed and he had a massive and well-kempt white mustache all of which suggested a man that should be listened to. So when he asked for Detective LaMingo by name and said that he would confess to some truly heinous crimes, the officer decided to err on the side of caution. When Carl and his partner came out to talk with him, the Cap’n offered them a deal: if Carl and his partner would drive out to the middle of the desert and wait until 7PM, the Cap’n would provide them with the details of his crimes.
“I don’t understand,” Carl said, his eyes scanning the desert and his mind working to decode the Cap’n’s cryptic actions. “Why are we out here?”
“All in good time, my dear Detective LaMingo,” the Cap’n said, a ever-so-subtle smirk working its way across his face, as he stroked his mustache.
Carl didn’t like that smirk. In his experience, people like the Cap’n weren’t what they appeared: like a sugar cereal, so sweet and delicious, but maiming the roof of one’s mouth to shreds after just one bowl.
“Over there,” Doug said, pointing to the horizon where a plume of dust was making its way to where they stood. “I think it’s a car.”
“Shit,” said Carl, “This might have been a trap. Grab the car, and cut him off before he can get too close!”
Doug ran over to the car and jumped in the driver’s seat as quickly as he could manage. After starting the engine, he hit the gas hard and the tires spun out trying to gain traction on the dirt road. Dust kicked up and obscured Carl’s view. He could barely make out Doug intercepting the approaching car, which was stopped about 100 yards away. He could only see vague shapes and outlines.
“I wish I could have been a normal man like you. I wish I could have a simple life.” the Cap’n said to Carl, his voice calm, but with a hint of remorse.
“What the fuck is going on here?!” Carl said, directing all of his focus on trying to decipher the blurred visions and muffled sounds coming through the dust.
“I want you to know, I wish I could have lived like you do.”
“What? What are you talking about? What happened?”
“Are you listening to me, Detective LaMingo? I’m trying to tell you how much I admire you… and your family’s breakfast choices.”
“What did you say?”
“It’s surprising how easily a man dressed as a cable guy can get access to a stranger’s home.”
Carl looked up and saw Doug walking back towards the two of them holding a plain brown box. The top of the box was open but Carl couldn’t see what was inside.
“What’s in the box, Doug?” Carl asked, worry creeping into his voice.
Before he could answer, the Cap’n began laughing, lightly at first, but then building until he was in near hysterics.
“Shut up!” Carl screamed, “Doug, what’s in the box!”
“It’s… it’s… just a bunch of cereal boxes,” Doug manages, clearly confused about Carl’s agitation and the Cap’n’s laughter.
“Just cereal boxes?”
“Well, a bunch of opened cereal boxes. It’s all kid’s cereal.”
Carl looked from the confused face of Doug, back to the laughing Cap’n, back to the confused face of Doug, and then back again to the laughing Cap’n.
“Why would you bring us out here to show us a bunch of opened cereal boxes?” Carl asked.
“My dear, dear Detective LaMingo,” the Cap’n said, barely containing his laughter, “It’s not about the cereal boxes, but what’s in them – rather, what used to be in them.”
“I’m not following. What used to be in the cereal boxes?”
“Indeed. I think you’ll find that if you search through all your now opened cereal boxes, you will find that all of the prizes promised in those cereal boxes have been removed… by me! And you’ll never find out where I’ve hidden those prizes!”
“Wait. The crime your confessing to is that you stole all of the prizes out of the cereal boxes in my home?”
“Jesus. You are crazy.”
“Crazy like a fox!”
“Nope. Just crazy. Also the uniform you have on is for a naval commander, not a naval captain.”
“Yeah. I’m thinking you’re a few cards short of a full deck. Let’s take him to the loony bin, Doug. He can hang out with that guy who thinks he’s a man-sized toucan.”