Officer Jackson Carlisle of the Fairy Tale Mishap Investigations Bureau frowned as he examined the evidence spread on the table before him. He mentally arranged it into two piles: evidence of import to the prosecution, and the evidence that favoured the accused.
First, there were the statements of the Bear family, a husband and wife and their only child, a son. Their stories were fairly consistent, reasonable, and, with the amount of neighbours who had stepped forward to vouch for their respective characters, extremely credible. Jackson scanned the first statement briefly, more to have something to do with his hands than for a desire to refresh the details of the case he already knew by heart.
Three bears sitting down to breakfast head out for a walk to let the porridge cool. Upon their return, they find the front door ajar, and, certain that they had locked it, rush inside. Dirty footprints lead to the dining room, where they find two of the bowls of porridge thrown across the room, the third licked clean, and the child's chair smashed to pieces on the floor. The Bears follow the footprints upstairs, where they find mud tracked into the bedrooms, and the sheets on two beds irreparably soiled. Upon entering the last room, they find the culprit fast asleep on the third bed, incriminating mud encrusting their shoes. As the Bears enter, the perpetrator leaps to her feet, giving the Bears a clear look at her face, and flees the house by a back staircase. Father Bear gives chase, losing the girl in the forest soon after he leaves the house. All three Bears identify the culprit as a Miss Goldy Locks.
Officer Jackson set the report carefully back on the table, and eyed the rest of the evidence against Miss Locks. Photographs of the footprints, of a shoe size consistent with Goldy's feet; photographs and remnants of the shattered chair, the splinters of size, shape, and velocity to suggest it was crushed by someone weighing approximately 110 pounds, once again consistent with Miss Locks; a strand of golden hair, regrettably void of any DNA evidence, left at the scene, of a similar colour and thickness to Miss Locks' own hair.
Jackson sighed. Were it not for an ironclad alibi on her part, there would be no question as to the guilt of Goldy Locks, but her rather bizarre story had been repeated almost word for word by three eyewitnesses. He snatched up her statement irritably, and read it over for what must have been the tenth time that day.
Miss Locks departs alone from her home at 10:00 am, thirty minutes prior to the crime, en route to visit her elderly grandmother. She happens to make the acquaintance of a Mr. Wolf, also strolling through the woods, and, as they converse, they find they are both bound for the grandmother's cottage. Finding themselves on amiable terms, they continue together. They reach the grandmother's cottage at 10:25, both checking the sundial in the garden on their way inside.
Jackson grunted, hung up, as always, on the fact that they had both consulted the sundial. If only Goldy had checked, and then relayed the time to Mr. Wolf, Jackson could have argued that she had committed the crime prior to visiting Granny, and lied to the wolf to provide an alibi for herself. Frustration mounting, he turned back to the document.
Upon entering the cottage, they find the grandmother to be in very poor spirits, and in an attempt to cheer her, the wolf dons a spare nightgown, and begins to re-enact some comical incident that the three of them recall together. It is at this moment that a passing hunter stops in to visit the elderly lady as well, providing a third corroborator for Miss Locks' story. Unfortunately, the hunter, seeing the wolf in Granny's clothing, and Granny and Goldy positively sobbing with laughter, immediately assumes the worst. Only after a lengthy chase, and some even lengthier explanations, the four come to terms with each other, and sit down to tea as the clock strikes 11.
Present and accounted for half an hour on either side of the crime. Jackson threw the statement back onto the table with disgust. The Bears had all the evidence they needed against Goldy, but with three separate people confirming her story, there was nothing he could do to prove that she was lying. And yet, neighbours confirmed seeing the Bears exit the house with all three chairs visibly intact through the kitchen window, and returning to find one smashed, so the Bears also told the truth. Jackson harrumphed angrily. Who was lying?
He jumped to his feet all of a sudden as an entirely new possibility occurred to him: what if they were all telling the truth, and Goldy Locks had been framed? He began to pace as the pieces fell slowly into place, but now he had an entirely new question on his mind. Who had framed Goldy?
Whoever had managed it must have been both extremely clever, and a remarkably adept planner. They would have known the Bears generally took a walk to let the porridge cool, and that they only had porridge for breakfast on Thursdays, and then matched this particular Thursday with one of Goldy's irregularly spaced visits to her grandmother, knowing that she would spend time in the forest alone. The only thing they hadn't foreseen was her chance encounter with the wolf, thus providing her with an alibi.
Jackson paced faster. They would have taken great care to plant the evidence convincingly enough to seem accidental, and to point to Goldy without requiring any DNA or irrefutable arguments. Any one piece of evidence could be overlooked, but together they provided a very strong case against Goldy.
His thoughts whirled. They had been prepared for the Bears to walk in and... He froze. No, Jackson realized, they had been counting on the Bears to walk in! Why else would they risk breaking and entering, destruction of property, and theft of essential nutrients only to leave footprints leading straight to the site of their after-crime nap? And all this while leaving carefully suggestive incriminating evidence everywhere they went! It was all so simple when you knew the answers! They had wanted to be caught, disguising themselves so that the nearsighted Bear family would swear up, down and sideways that the vandal had been Goldy!
Jackson marched the length of his office feverishly, certain that he was on the right track. But to catch a villain such as this... oh, they would be slippery. They would have to be profoundly involved in forest life to know the habits of the Bears, Goldy, and her Granny. They had known Goldy's hair type, weight, shoe size, schedule, and family, as well as the perfect method to impersonate her.
Who could possibly Jackson wondered, then halted abruptly as he realized it had been staring him in the face the whole time. He whirled around, racing out of his office and down the hall to inform the Superintendant, cursing his own stupidity with every step.
Who had access to every area of the forest without exception? Who could enter and exit dwellings at will, heedless of locks and bolts? Who followed every detail of every life in the Fairy Tales, and quoted schedules and habits as some did poetry? Who intruded even on the private thoughts of the characters involved in the stories all around them?
Jackson burst into Superintendant Wilson's office, breathless from his run and determined to bring this criminal to justice. "Sir," he announced with a dramatic flourish, "I've solved it!
The superintendant looked up, beady eyes narrowing with suspicion, or anticipation, or perhaps both.
"Well?" he asked around the cigar tightly clamped between his teeth.
"It was," he cried, "the narrator!"