The Case of the Disappearing Chocolate: Solved!

The chocolate was gone!

We looked at each other in amazement. We had just awakened from a nap in the lobby of our hotel in Bariloche, after investigating the mysterious disappearance of chocolate from the shops in town. The shop owners had given us some free chocolate and we had left it on the table while we took our nap. And now it, too, was missing! We decided it was time to resume our investigation and started out to look for the penguins. Maybe they had found out something while we were asleep.

But on the way, we came across a construction site, where we confronted by a man we had never seen before. “You! The cat and panda! Stop right there!” The man ordered as we approached the construction site. Obediently, we stopped in our tracks. “What are you doing here?” he demanded. “And where did you come from?” We looked at each other and Panda spoke first. “We’re from Fresno,” he ventured. “My name is Panda and this is my best friend, Foster.”

The man eyed us suspiciously. “Well,” he began slowly. “I’ve never seen a panda in these parts before. Especially with a T-shirt and jeans. Is that a real pocket?” Panda replied patiently that it was. Then he said, “Umm, can we go now? We’re on a special mission to find out why the chocolate is disappearing here in Bariloche.”

The man seemed hesitant at first. “I’m not supposed to let anyone past this point,” he said. “But if you’re telling the truth, you might be able to help us. We found some chocolate buried in this construction site. Would you like to take a look at it?”

Of course, we accepted the offer immediately! Two construction workers showed us where the chocolate had been found.

“Yep,” I said, after jumping up to get a better look. “This is it, all right. But how did it get here?” The men shook their heads. “We have no clue,” one of them said. “It’s a real mystery. We’ve heard rumors that the chocolate shops are running out of chocolate faster than usual, but that still doesn’t explain how it got here.”

“Don’t worry,” we responded. “We’ll get right on this.” We thanked the men for the information and headed back to where the shops were. As we walked, we enjoyed seeing the quaint European architecture which, in addition to the chocolate, makes Bariloche famous. We were so absorbed in our discussion of European architecture that we noticed little else.

Upon revisiting the chocolate shops, we found that they each had one or two small holes in their back walls, accessible from the alley. “What do you see?” Panda asked anxiously when I looked into the first one we found. “It leads into the kitchen,” I said, sniffing the delicious chocolate aroma from inside. “This could be how the thieves are getting the chocolate out.” Panda looked skeptical. “They would have to be some pretty small thieves,” he remarked.

It was then that we noticed some small bits of chocolate, about the size of crumbs, leading away from the hole and down the alley. We followed the chocolate crumbs until we came to an old, dilapidated warehouse on the edge of town. “Wow!” Panda exclaimed. “I wonder what’s in there?” I shrugged, then replied, “Well, based on the crumbs, it could be our chocolate.”

It was then that we noticed a tiny creature moving in the doorway. Although we had never seen one before, we thought it looked like a hamster! We approached cautiously, and when we got close enough, I called out a greeting. “I’m just finishing up with a chocolate delivery,” the hamster called back, “and then I’ll be right with you.”

“A what??” we demanded in unison. Our new acquaintance opened the door wider and motioned to us to go inside, where he was standing in a crate, completely surrounded by chocolate! “A chocolate delivery,” he said, as though it were the most natural thing in the world. “I’m a chocolate delivery hamster. As far as I know, I’m the only one in Bariloche.” Panda and I exchanged glances. Panda was the first to recover his voice. “Umm, you deliver chocolate? How did you get a job like that?” The hamster pulled out a card to show us. “Head chocolate deliverer, MIOJ, Incorporated,” he read proudly. “Come on,” he added, motioning to a steep stairway just inside the door. “I’ll show you my warehouse.”

After climbing for what seemed like forever, we finally reached the top of the stairs. Imagine our surprise when we saw that our penguin friends had gotten there before us! “Hey!” I exclaimed. “How did you guys get here?”

The penguins explained that they had been investigating the chocolate shops in town and, just like we had, they came across a small hole in the back wall of each one. On closer inspection they realized that there were chocolate crumbs leading away from the holes. They had followed the chocolate crumbs and arrived at the warehouse just before we did.

At the top of the stairs, we were amazed to see a lavish apartment, completely filled with chocolate! Suddenly, we kind of got a feeling of DeJa’Vu. “It seems like we’ve seen this apartment before,” Panda remarked as we inspected the piles of chocolate all around us. The penguins agreed. “But how could we have?” I asked. “We’ve never even been to this warehouse.” Then it slowly began to dawn on me. Turning to our hamster friend, I asked to see his business card again. “MIOJ, Incorporated,” I read aloud. A look of recognition lit up Panda and the penguins’ faces. “Men In Orange Jackets!” they exclaimed in unison. I nodded seriously. “Umm. . . I think we need to talk.”

We left the apartment and went back downstairs for a meeting. “We have some important information we need to share with you,” the head penguin began, addressing our new friend. The hamster was amazed to find out that the men in orange jackets were con artists and that he had been tricked into taking the chocolate out of the shops for them. “Oh my word!” he exclaimed. “I had no idea! They approached me on the street and offered me the job, and it all seemed legit to me. I did kind of wonder what they wanted it all for, though.” The penguin nodded gravely. “They wanted to sell it, just like they did the gold in Tokyo and the fish in Cayucos. It’s time we got those guys locked up for good!”

It wasn’t long before we came up with a plan. “We’ll go to the police station,” the head penguin directed. To the hamster he said, “Figure out a reason to get the men to move the chocolate. Foster and Panda, you two stay here and help get the chocolate ready to go.” Soon everything was ready. The plan worked like a dream! The men in orange jackets loaded up the chocolate and, at the hamster’s directions, drove it straight into the trap set by the police and the penguins! The men were soon arrested, and the chocolate was returned to its rightful owners.

Back with Francisco in the guardaparque cottage the next day, we told him all about our adventure. “I’m glad you found the chocolate and that nobody got hurt,” Francisco said as he poured us some delicious yerba mate. “And what are your plans now?” We explained that Panda and I would be leaving for Fresno that same evening. The penguins were going to continue their trip to the South Pole, and the hamster had taken a job with the Bariloche police department as an undercover agent. “I’m proud of you guys,” Francisco said. “You’ve really done the city of Bariloche a favor. Any time you want to come back and visit, you’re welcome to stay here.”

On the way home we flew over the breathtaking city of Buenos Aires. We made a mental note to stop there the next time we came to Argentina. We were so tired we fell asleep, and before we knew it, we were back in our front room, just like we had never left.

Author’s note: The background photos for this story are from Unsplash.com, a royalty free photography site. The men in the orange jackets were tried for their crime and extradited to Tokyo. We still don’t know how the chocolate got buried at the construction site.

4 thoughts on “The Case of the Disappearing Chocolate: Solved!

  1. Anonymous

    Chaplin: “Hmm … I still think our Dada must have been the mastermind behind this whole thing. Especially on account of the orange.”
    Charlee: “CHAPLIN!!!”

    1. Foster: Well, orange is a kind of odd color for someone to like, if you ask me. You could have a point there, Chaplin.
      Panda: Maybe you guys should check around your house to see if you have any unusual gold, fish, or chocolate lying around!

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