Director: Matt Codd
Cast: Antonio Sabato Jr., Christian Toulai, Heather Marie Marsden
The Case Of The Errant Ex-Rental
All over America, criminals kept telling
each other, "Stay away from Idaville!"
The inevitable response they kept getting
from that was, "Ida-who?"
Idaville was actually what passing
motorists felt was any normal seaside town. It was big enough to have
three movie theaters, though motorists who lingered would discover the
curious fact that it only had four banks. It had churches, a synagogue,
and two delicatessens for those who worshiped food. It had big houses
and small houses. It had a lovely beach with white sand everyone could
use. It also had another beach reserved only for those whose skin color
matched that of the sand.
And it had, everyone believed, the best
police force in the world. For more than a year, no one - child or
adult - had gotten away with breaking a single law.
People said it was because Idaville's
police officer's were the smartest and bravest in the world, and that
their commander Chief Brown was the smartest chief of police in the
world. No one questioned if Idaville was one of those towns where not
much unlawful ever happens, or if the criminal population was unusually
incompetent. No one also questioned why the excellent track record of
Idaville's finest wasn't bringing in any media attention.
If it had, reporters would have quickly
discovered that it was all thanks to the chief's son. His name was
Encyclopedia Brown, America's Sherlock in Nikes (having finally
realized sneakers were so passé.)
For a year now, Chief Brown had been
telling his son his cases during dinner each evening in his red brick
house on Rover Avenue. At the table he told Encyclopedia the facts of
the case. Usually Encyclopedia solved the mystery before he finished
dessert. If he needed longer, his mother was disappointed - she wanted
him to use his brain power at least momentarily to taste the meal she
had spent hours preparing.
Chief Brown stayed silent about his secret.
Who would believe him? Who would believe that the world's greatest
detective was even shorter than Columbo?
Well, a lot of people probably would
believe it, as long as if it was presented in a straightforward manner
with evidence to back it up. Boy geniuses aren't unheard of. Take
Mozart, for example.
What really worried Chief Brown was not
only the fear of his force being accused of incompetence, but that he'd
personally be accused of exploitation.
So Chief Brown said nothing.
Encyclopedia stayed silent about the help
he gave his father. He didn't want to seem different from other
fifth-graders. He also knew it was best to stay silent when it
concerned his father. He learned that when he angrily accused his
father of cheapness, because he was being held in the fifth grade
instead of being placed in a school for the gifted. The swelling in his
ear didn't go down for several days.
All the same, he was stuck with his
nickname. Only his parents and teachers called him by his real name,
Leroy. Everyone else called him Encyclopedia.
An encyclopedia is a set of books filled
with facts from A to Z. So was Encyclopedia's head. Though the nickname
was apt, Encyclopedia wondered why people had given him one with six
syllables and somewhat cumbersome to pronounce. Still, he could have
been called worse. He felt lucky that radio stations were now catering
to those who grew up in the '80s and '90s, and wouldn't be playing any
Jim Croce songs.
Encyclopedia didn't always get exploited
when he did detective work. He did some exploiting of his own after
opening his own detective business in the Brown garage, offering his
services to the constantly victimized children of Idaville - for a
In front of the garage he had placed a sign:
13 Rover Avenue
No case too small
(only medium-sized cases and up)
25˘ per day plus expenses
One morning while in his makeshift office,
nine year-old Darren Van Doren walked up the driveway. He was carrying
Like what seemed to be the case with every
child in Idaville, Darren was an eccentric. In his case, the great
interest was in movies, though on those issued on DVD. He already had
his own DVD newsletter on the Internet, which he updated regularly with
reviews of the latest releases. He had already made a name for himself
with his frequent rants on discs he felt were not up to standard, being
one of those DVD fanatics insisting on absolutely perfect visual and
audio presentation. Several months earlier, when he heard MGM was
releasing Revenge Of The Ninja in a full-frame version,
he circulated a recall petition amongst his classmates, despite the
fact that was how the movie was originally filmed. The fact that the
DVD carried a gorier print not seen in theaters or previous home video
editions did little to curb Darren's fury.
As he walked up to the table Encyclopedia
was sitting behind, a sour look could be seen on Darren's face.
Encyclopedia was braced for another rant. He guessed it would probably
be aimed at Paramount, because they almost never put any extras on
their discs, not even trailers. So Darren's first statement took
Encyclopedia by surprise.
"How many gallons of water are in the
Pacific Ocean?" Darren asked Encyclopedia.
Encyclopedia took a pencil and scratched
some calculations on a piece of paper. A few seconds later he
responded, "From calculating 169,000,000 cubic miles, and knowing there
are 231 cubic inches to the gallon, that would make approximately 190
"Good enough," said Darren. "Anyone so anal
that they bother to remember facts as useless as that has got to have a
mind that can help me. I've got a problem."
"Do you think we're missing some sea
water?" asked Encyclopedia. "Actually, we're against the Atlantic
Ocean. But I just happen to know -"
Darren waved a hand. "No, that's not the
problem. This is."
He opened the bag and pulled out a box. It
was a VHS box with the tape still inside it. The title of the movie was
written in big red letters on the front of the box: Shark Hunter
Encyclopedia recognized the movie. It was a
production by the UFO company, an outfit known for churning out genre
movies like Lost Voyage. The star of the
movie was Antonio Sabato Jr., a former soap opera star and underwear
model of questionable talent. In this movie, he played Spencer
Northcutt, a professor of oceanography. When his character was only a
boy, the sailboat he and his family were in one night was struck by
some huge force coming up from under the waves, and only Spencer was
the survivor. Of course, anyone knowing the title of the movie would
have a pretty clear idea what caused this force. Anyway, as an adult,
Spencer is responsible for the building of a gigantic submarine than
even the American navy would have problems budgeting its construction,
let alone in its subsequent maintenance. An abrupt change in
sponsorship seemed to suggest Spencer wouldn't be able to go on the sub
during its maiden voyage, but Encyclopedia had correctly guessed that
same "force" Spencer encountered as a child would quickly strike again
somewhere near - and of course that would mean the sponsors would need
every man they could get to investigate why their gargantuan sized
underwater base (also which the navy would never bother with) suddenly
Encyclopedia could easily have told Darren
all of this, and more. But instead he stated, "I'm familiar with the
movie. What about it?"
"I was ripped off by this movie, that's
Darren explained, his voice slowly becoming
more shrill by the sentence. The Video Venue, a local video store, had
finally closed its doors. Like many failed mom and pop video
businesses, it had made the mistake of trying to directly compete with
large draconian video chains like Blockbuster, instead of specializing
by stocking titles those chains generally wouldn't touch.
"They were selling off their stock,"
explained Darren, "and I went there to see if I could pick up some
DVDs." However, by the time Darren got there, everything had been sold
Darren continued. "But at that time, this
older kid came out of the store carrying a large sack over his
shoulder. He recognized me, and said that he was in need of quick cash
after spending all his money there. So he said he'd give me a good
"That movie?" Encyclopedia said with some
disbelief in his voice.
"Yeah," said Darren. "He told me all about
this alternate type of media. He called it videotape. He said this was
the kind of media all the television and cable channels use nowadays."
Encyclopedia started to explain, "But the
videotape that those channels use is a different ki-"
Darren interrupted him with a voice
starting to border on hysteria. "He told me that this media was being
phased out! And that would mean this movie was already a collector's
item! He offered me the movie for ten dollars, which I promptly gave
him. So I took it home and right away I put it up on Ebay. Do you know
what I found out?"
Closing his eyes, Encyclopedia wearily put
his hand up to his forehead. "I can't imagine," he lied.
"I found out that the movie was worthless!"
Darren was now shrieking each sentence out loud. "Dozens of Ebay users
e-mailed me with messages mocking the twenty-five dollar minimum bid I
put up. But that's not the worst thing! I found a friend who had a
machine that could play the movie. And what did I find? That this
'videotape' gives out a picture and audio nowhere as good as that of
DVD! And that's not all! No! The movie was presented in a full-frame
Encyclopedia weakly uttered, "But the DVD
edition of the movie is also presented in -"
"I've been ripped off!" Darren repeated.
His voice suddenly softened. "I need your help in getting my money
"Let me guess," Encyclopedia replied in a
tired tone. "It was a kid that wore a shirt with TIGERS written on it
with big letters, and you heard some kids dressed like him calling him
'Bugs' right after your transaction."
"How did you know?" a shocked Darren
"It's always Bugs Meany,"
Encyclopedia explained. "At least just recently, since Wilfred Wiggins
was found dead in that alley across town not long after his mother
finally kicked him out."
Bugs Meany was the leader of a neighborhood
gang of tough older boys. They called themselves the Tigers. They
should have called themselves the Stupid Jerks. That's because they
were stupid jerks.
"Well, can you get my money back?" Darren
"Cash up front." Encyclopedia pointed to
Darren threw a quarter on the gasoline can
beside Encyclopedia. "The little girl down the road only charges a
nickel for her help," he grumbled.
"You get what you pay for. Come on, let's
The Tigers' clubhouse was an unused tool
shed behind Mr. Sweeny's Auto Body Shop. It was pretty easy to discover
why the Tigers had made it their home - they had drilled a hole from
the shed into the ladies' room of the shop. It was harder to determine
why Mr. Sweeny let juvenile delinquents hang around his place.
Encyclopedia found the answer during another recent case involving
Bugs. During his investigation, Encyclopedia had found out Mr. Sweeny
had drilled a hole from the shop into the men's room, which the Tigers
frequented regularly because of all their beer drinking.
The tool shed had changed greatly since the
last time Encyclopedia was there. A sign had been placed out front
reading Tigers' Used Videos. Inside, shelves of hasty
construction had been placed against the wall, each one holding dozens
of used videos. One corner of the shed had been blocked off by a couple
of shower curtains attached to a post. On one of the curtains was a
sign reading 21 & Over Only.
Bugs was seated behind a table covered with
piles of videos. He was reading a book. Looking up, he frowned as he
"Scram," he said in a threatening tone, "or
I'll kick you in the balls so hard that your ears will bleed."
Encyclopedia was used to Bugs' unkind
greetings, though he wasn't used to Bugs talking the way a tough kid in
real life would. Neverless, he kept his composure.
"We're here about the movie Shark
"A good movie," Bugs yawned. "Now get out
of here." Bugs jabbed his thumb back to a sign hanging above him. It
read, We Reserve The Right To Refuse Service To Anyone.
Darren abruptly blurted out, "You ripped me
off! You sold me a copy of that movie with the claim that it was worth
a lot of money."
Bugs looked at Encyclopedia with a totally
innocent look. "I did no such thing! Now leave! I have enough problems
running this place." Pointing to the curtains, he asked, "How the hell
can I get behind that area and sweep up with that sign there?"
"Maybe first you can answer some
questions," offered Encyclopedia.
"No," spat Bugs, and his eyes went back to
Encyclopedia asked Bugs a question about
the transaction. Bugs looked up, gave Encyclopedia a devilish smile,
and went back to his book. Encyclopedia asked another question. Bugs
still gave no response. This happened a third time, then a forth.
Encyclopedia became silent. Bugs looked up again, and gave out another
"What's going on?" asked Darren.
Encyclopedia was quiet for several more
seconds. Slowly, he answered Darren. "It seems Bugs has finally
realized all the times I caught him in the past was because he would
always make up a bogus story. Those stories always had flaws, which I
would point out to prove he was lying. So he's refusing to say anything
that might incriminate himself."
"Oh no!" cried Darren. "I'll never get my
"Don't worry," assured Encyclopedia. "Bugs
thinks he has covered all his bases, but he overlooked one thing."
WHAT HAD ENCYCLOPEDIA NOTICED?
(Click here for the