I don’t exactly recall what prompted us to establish LAPI in the beginning. It was probably a misspent childhood reading every Hardy Boys mystery my twin brother Tim and I could lay our hands on. Or perhaps it was after we’d read the official Hardy Boys Detective Handbook. Surely there was a demand for such an organization. After all, back then Leaside was a very rough neighbourhood seething with crime and intrigue. At least that’s how it seemed to a couple of 10-year-olds with over-active imaginations. So we recruited a good friend who lived down the street and the Leaside Amateur Private Investigators –or LAPI as it is still known in family lore – was born.
The first item of business was not to find a mystery to solve, a case to crack, or a crime to tackle. No. First, we needed business cards. We dug out my Mom’s electric typewriter and carefully typed out the key information we thought you might find on a detective agency business card. Then we typed it eight more times to fill up the piece of paper we’d rolled into the old Smith-Corona. Next, we used a little too much Elmer’s glue to stick the paper onto a piece of cardboard from the One-Hour Martinizing dry cleaner on Bayview. Finally, with our round-edged scissors, we carefully cut out the nine business cards. Some of them even had straight edges, and from a distance, if you had bad eyesight, actually resembled business cards.
As I recall, we put our code names next to our own names on the business cards. Apparently we thought our clients ought to know our code names. Mine was Saturn. I think Tim’s was Jupiter. We were quite interested in space in those days.
Now, what about helping track down a missing bicycle or stolen lunch money? Not yet. Next we created a rudimentary flyer to promote this new community service now available to the law-abiding denizens of Leaside. We typed out several copies of the flyer, hung them up on neighbourhood telephone poles and the community bulletin board in the laundromat on Bayview. We even put our home phone number in the ad because it also happened to be LAPI’s business line. When someone called my mother about the ad, well, let’s just say there was no mystery about her reaction. She was not thrilled that our home phone number was plastered all over the community as part of a LAPI ad campaign. On the positive side, had it happened in 2017 and not 1970, we’d have had a LAPI Facebook page, Twitter stream, Instagram account and Google ads up and running within minutes.
Our first case – okay, our only case – arrived in the form of a very loud bang late one night. We weren’t allowed to leave the house at that hour to investigate, so we waited until morning. On the front lawn of the house across from us, the street sign was bent flat to the ground. Our discerning eyes and steel-trap investigative minds immediately saw the connection between the downed sign and the tire tracks that had torn up the lawn. Then we examined the metal pole itself and, eureka, found flecks of blue paint. Bearing notepads and pencils, we knocked on our neighbours’ doors in search of witnesses. No one had seen the crash, though some had heard it.
We spent the ensuing days, after school of course, scouring Leaside for a blue car with front-end damage. Residents who found us sneaking up their driveways to check the state of their blue Dodges and Buicks thought we were the ones with the front-end damage.
To this day, LAPI’s only case remains open. Probably a good thing as we never did figure out what we’d have done if we’d actually found the car and culprit. It was then fall and we were back in school, playing house league hockey again, so we put crime-fighting on the back burner. LAPI folded shortly after.
Even now, nearly 50 years later, whenever something mysteriously goes missing in our house, my wife will often say, “This looks like a job for LAPI.” Hardy har har.
A two-time winner of the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour, Terry Fallis is the award-winning writer of six national bestsellers, including his most recent, One Brother Shy, all published by McClelland & Stewart.