The call came in as I was reading the newspaper. “Helser’s on Alberta has been hit! Another hashcapade,” my frantic colleague from Hashcapade Scene Investigators (HSI) announced. “Dammit! When?” I demanded to know, adrenalin already kicking into high gear. “We intercepted a tweet around 10:17AM this morning,” she responded. “I’m on it!” I shouted. Swigging the last bit of coffee in my mug, I grabbed my camera and raced out the door to northeast Portland. Speeding across the Fremont Bridge, I prayed for a break in the case. Why? Because these hashcapades had confounded HSI for the better part of a year. When would this insanity stop?
My unmarked car lurched to a halt on a side street near the corner of NE 16th and NE Alberta. My trained eye immediately spotted the traffic camera system that had been “bagged”, as we like to say. This clever mastermind of hash had the foresight to blind Big Brother’s ubiquitous cameras. Would the staff be able to help me ID this perp or would I be SOL? Pushing through the doors, a customer pointed to a waiting list and said in a helpful tone, “There’s a wait.” I must have drilled right through him with my gaze and caustic reply, “I ain’t here to eat, pal. I’m here to solve a crime. Move!” I heard him mumble, “Jerk!” But I could have cared less as I made a bee-line straight to the scene of the hashcapade. My nemesis must have left in a hurry because half a plate of Smoked Salmon Hash remained. Was this the break I was looking for?
“Bag the silverware, sister, and bring me a container for the leftovers,” I barked at the waitress who intercepted me at the table. “Excuse me, Mr. HSI, but I’ve got a full restaurant to manage,” she countered. Slightly annoyed and amused at the same time, I switched gears and tried to calm down. “You’re right, this place is busy. Take your time. I’m just going to look around a bit, but I’ll need to ask you a few questions.” I decided to sit in the chair my archenemy had occupied to see what he saw; to try to imagine what drove his maniacal obsession with hash. Looking at the Specials on the board, nothing jumped out at me. However, a menu stashed among the condiments caught my eye. Stunned, I noted that Helser’s must have been on this perp’s mind for a while – no fewer than three hashes were available!
Seconds ticked away like hours as I scanned the room, expecting to see nervous diners. Instead, I observed animated patrons sipping coffee, eating delicious food and sharing stories. How could a hashcapade go down in the middle of brunch and not even catch someone’s attention? Just then, the waitress returned, pointed to the next table and offered a brief summary, “That’s what he ordered, the Smoked Salmon Hash. He was here with an accomplice, a short one at that. They were polite, but shifty and constantly fidgeting with their smartphones. I told Alex, the owner, that we might have a hash-and-dash on our hands.” “Did you get a good look at either of them? Did you notice tattoos or anything?” I asked. “Mister, this is Portland. Half the folks have tattoos. Good luck, Einstein!” she sarcastically replied. So, this was how she was going to play it. Kind of like Robin Hood to her, this hash maniac seemed to be, and I, the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Undaunted, I laughed to make her think I wasn’t taking this personally and chuckled, “Good point!” She wasn’t expecting that and seemed to soften a bit. She reflexively asked, “How about some coffee?” My ninja psychic skills were razor sharp. “Thanks, but I think I have what I need. You’ve been super helpful,” I practically gushed. As I turned to leave, I noticed a CCTV camera up in the corner. It wouldn’t show the perp from that angle, but perhaps it would have caught his accomplice in action. I whirled around in excitement and asked, “Can you get me that footage?” “Sure, follow me and I’ll give you the tape,” she helpfully responded. SCORE!
With the tape in hand, I raced back to the HSI computer labs and let the techs work on it. Time stood still as I chugged another cup of joe, waiting impatiently for them to work their magic. “Sir. The image on the left shows a hooded male with a Mario hoodie. We managed to use a de-layering algorithm. He is actually a blonde boy in a Timbers jersey sipping orange juice. Later frames show he ate pancakes,” the wizard technician informed me. “Holy frijoles!” I cursed like a Spanish sailor. “Has this man no shame? Taking his son on a hashcapade?!” This case had taken an unexpected turn for the worse…