It was a smoky morning in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Wallace had been up late reading Lovecraft Country. As he pondered the spectacular events contained in the narrative…he thought about it’s deeper message. He and his family had been traveling to Gatlinburg for over 40 years, and the supreme joys of the Great Smoky Mountains had never grown old to him! In fact each time that he visited…seemed like the first time! Now Wallace had been invited by the Gatlinburg chamber of commerce to investigate the abduction of Barry the black bear…who was a community favorite and lived at the Great Smoky National Park Welcoming Center. Barry had been a Park Star for over 20 years with his friendly demeanor and skill in woodcrafting and collegial conversation. Barry had a craftshop set-up just outside the Center and as he was crafting wooden black bears in his image…he would stop to answer questions from the tourist as well as his local friends. You know some black bears just have a way about them that you like them the moment that you lay eyes upon them! Barry was dressed in bib-overhauls and a flannel shirt with a Tilley hat placed on his large head. Barry had purchased his hat near Destin, Florida last winter when he had vacationed there. Oh yes…black bears enjoy their vacations!
Barry had indicated to his best friend, George, a field mouse, that he had not been feeling up-to-snuff, of which Barry liberally partook of as well as his vintage pipe from the Netherlands, and that he was going to take off a day to rest and enjoy some television shows that he had been meaning to watch on Netflix. George thought that Barry’s assertion that he needed a day off seemed somewhat suspicious…as Barry had never taken a day off in the 20 years that he had worked at the Welcoming Center. Barry had taken Monday off…but had not returned Tuesday… George went to his Den and knocked at the door and suddenly he heard a rattling in the leaves…when he turned to look it was Marvin the mole. Moles are extraordinarily near-sighted and Marvin had misplaced his glasses…which he regularly did. Marvin called out, ‘Is that you, Barry?’ George replied, ‘Have you lost your glasses again, Marvin? It is me, George, and I am looking for Barry.’ As they both entered Barry’s Den they noticed that there were still live embers in his fire place and that his pipe was on it’s pipe stand and was warm to the touch… ‘He has not been gone long,’ said Marvin.
Wallace had been called in to the investigation by Frank W. Fox, who was in charge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, and thus he convinced the chamber of commerces to call on the famous Wallace T. Brooks to investigate the preculiar case of Barry the black bear. Frank made his home in Cades Cove and did not enjoy disruption of his regular routine…unless he was doing the disrupting. Franks middle initial stood for Wild and he was not proud of that name unless you upset him. Frank had studied at the University of Tennessee @ Knoxville…and that significant dose of higher education was supposed to have taken all of the wild out of his nature. However…under certain circumstances…the animal emerged. Well, there was the time that Frank had been badgered by the Tennessee Bader Club for not wearing something orange as he sat watching the Tennessee Volunteers football game. In any event that is another story…as Frank will only spin the yarn after two or three Dirty, Grey Goose, martinis!
Wallace hailed from Southern Illinois and had extended family in Boston, Massachusetts. He was a dapper fellow and prided himself on his appearance! He purchased much of his clothing from Brooks Brothers and Blue Cobalt as well as LL Bean. Wallace often said that first impressions are the most important impressions that you will ever make! Wallace had been convinced to take the case by his aunt Abigail. Abigail had visited the Great Smoky Mountain Welcoming Center on many occasions and had a crush on Barry the black bear. She told her nephew that Barry had always been so friendly to her and that she had purchased a hand carved wooden black bear from him and that the likeness was remarkable! Abigail told Wallace that she had sat and listened to Barry’s stories…for hours…while she sucked on horehound candy… Periodically Barry would relight his vintage Dutch pipe and the cherry tobacco was to die for! As the fragrant smoke curled around his head…and the wood chips flew as he carved the wooden bears with his Swiss Army Knife…she fell in love.
Wallace knew that expedient action was the watchword for this case as he had to be back in Carbondale by Thanksgiving since it was the majored family celebration of the year and also Grandpa Brody’s 100th birthday! Thus he drove to the Welcoming Center and requested that George the field mouse and Marvin the mole and Frank the Fox join him in solving the case of Barry the Missing Black Bear…