It was Shrove Tuesday, otherwise known as Pancake Day. The City Mayor was sitting up in bed eating his breakfast, a big pile of pancakes with black caviar and sour cream, washed down with champagne. Black caviar, in case you don’t know, is an extremely rare and expensive food with each spoonful you eat a thousand little beady black eggs of a mighty river fish called the Sturgeon. If you tried it, you might not even like it, but the City Mayor loved caviar as much as some people love chocolate. Indeed, he was quite content, apart from the fact that he would have to give something up for the 6 weeks known as Lent which comes after Pancake Day and runs up until Easter. He pondered this and decided to give up beetroot because he never liked it, anyway. As he took another silver-spoonful of caviar, his mobile phone rang. How he hated it when people called him while he was still at breakfast! He was about to throw his phone out of the window when he noticed that the call was coming from the Chief of Police.
“Oh dear,” thought the Mayor. “He probably wants to miss our card game. He always claims he’s busy fighting crime, but I know he just doesn’t like losing.”
And so he reluctantly flipped open his phone.
“His Honor the Mayor speaking,” he said in a weary voice.
“Good morning Horace,” said the Police Chief. “I hope I didn’t wake you up.”
“No, no,” huffed the Mayor. “I’ve been at my desk since dawn; this great city of ours never sleeps.”
“I’m afraid I’ll have to miss tonight’s card game. I have a serious crime to solve. A kidnapping.”
The Mayor smiled to himself. Another one of his excuses, he thought. But after he had wished the Police Chief better luck with his case than with cards, he closed his phone and reached for the remote control to turn on his television set to catch the news.
A red banner flashed across the bottom of the screen: “Breaking News: Kidnapping,” it said. And the Mayor thought to himself that it must be somebody important that had got him or herself kidnapped. And it was. The reporter who was standing outside some large factory gates wore her most serious face. She was saying:
“A ransom note was sent this morning to the head of the Yummy Chocolate Factory demanding 100 million pounds for the safe return of one the most loved and respected creatures who have ever hopped across the planet.”
And the Mayor understood that it wasn’t a person, but an animal who had been kidnapped. But what sort of animal could it be that was worth 100 million pounds? Even a champion racehorse was scarcely worth such a fortune? Perhaps some old aristocratic lady with more money than sense had lost her favorite pussy cat? But why was the note sent to the Head of the Chocolate Factory? He’d just have to keep listening to that reporter on the 24 Hour News Service.
“And joining me now is the President and CEO of the Yummy Chocolate Factory, Sir Percival Yummy. Sir Percival Easter is just around the corner. How will the Chocolate Factory cope without the services of the Easter Bunny?”
“I’m afraid the situation is very grave,” said Sir Percival. “Without the aid of the Easter Bunny, it’s simply impossible to deliver chocolate eggs to all the children of the world all in one night. It’s a bit like Christmas without Santa Claus… it’s, it’s …unthinkable.”
And the Mayor thought that Sir Percival was about to cry. The reporter did not seem to notice this.
“So will you pay the 100 million pound ransom?” she pressed him.
“No we will not,” he replied steadfastly. “It is the policy of the Yummy Chocolate Factory never to pay ransom money under any circumstances. That would simply encourage more kidnapping.”
It took a moment for the seriousness of the situation to sink into the Mayor’s brain. When it did, he leaped out of bed faster than he had done for years and ran down to his office, still in his pajamas. He turned on his computer and saw hundreds of emails downloading into his inbox. Many were from anxious parents, teachers, and nannies with subjects like:
“Help, my kids are going hysterical and won’t stop crying…”
And then there was another email from the chief gardener entitled:
“So, shall we cancel the Easter Egg Hunt?”
The Easter Egg hunt took place every year on the grounds of the Mayor’s House. The Easter Bunny hid eggs behind the flowers and in the bushes, and children from all over the city came and searched for them. It was one of the most popular events of the year and showed the Mayor as a politician with a heart, who cared for families and children. It won him lots of votes.
By now he was starting to grow angry. He picked up his red telephone and shouted: “Get me the Chief of Police!” And a minute later he was again talking to his friend:
“You blithering idiot!” he cried. “Why haven’t you found that bunny yet?”
The Chief of Police was used to his old friend’s swings of mood, and he replied calmly: “Horace, rest assured that the finest crime-fighting unit in the land is on the case, and at this very moment is rounding up the usual suspects.”
And at the top of the Police Chief’s list was a name which we have come across before: It belonged to somebody who was known to go quite berserk at the merest sniff of chocolate. He lived in the city zoo, he was a monkey, and his name was Theo. If you’ve heard the story called “The Monkey Who Loved Chocolate” you will know that Theo once ate some chocolate and went completely bananas. He went on the rampage stealing chocolate all over the place. It was coming up to Easter and there was almost no chocolate left for the children of the city, but Theo calmed down eventually and promised to be good.
His hairy face was currently staring out of the Police Chief’s computer screen. Normally his round brown eyes were cheeky but cute, but at the time his police photograph had been taken, he was startled by the flash and looked like a completely crazy ape.
“Ooh, he looks like a bedouin,” said a woman Police Officer who was passing by.
“No worries,” said the Police Chief. “We’ll soon have him behind bars.”
But of course, Theo was already living behind bars in the zoo. And much to his surprise and delight, that morning he had found a chocolate egg in his bed of straw, and he had gobbled it up and was now swinging across the roof of the cage screeching
“Ooo Ooo, Ah Ah Aha!”
When the police came to arrest him, his face was covered in brown chocolate, and that made him look especially guilty. The police sergeant said: “There he is. That’s the bunny snatched and constable put on your white gloves and pick up all that chocolate-smudged silver foil that’s evidence that is.”
Mr. Grabber, who was the zookeeper in charge of the monkeys, tried and catch Theo, but it wasn’t easy because he kept swinging around the bars.
While this was all happening, a police dog got chatting to a bulldog whose name was Titanic. Titanic was a squat, muscular, squash-faced animal, and not the brightest canine who ever lived. His owner was Mr. Grabber, and wherever Mr. Grabber went, Titanic went too.
“Perhaps I should have been a police dog,” said Titanic, “because I’m really good at catching things. Only yesterday, I saw a white rabbit sneaking into the monkeys’ cage and chatting to that Theo. When he came out, I chased him into a corner by the visitor’s toilets, and I would have gobbled him up, only Mr. Grabber came along and popped him into a bag, and now he’s keeping him in a hutch behind the Llamas’ enclosure. There’s something very unusual about that rabbit, because he smells, not like he’s supposed to, but like chocolate. I hope we have him for dinner tonight because I’d really like to try what he tastes like.”
And when the police dog heard this, he understood that they had come to arrest an innocent monkey. Because it wasn’t Theo who had kidnapped the Easter Bunny, but Mr. Grabber and his bulldog.
Eventually, when the police threatened to shoot him with a dart that would make him go to sleep, Theo decided to come quietly. He was put under arrest, handcuffed, loaded into the police van, and driven away at high speed with the blue light flashing and the siren going “De De De De De De.”
When they got to the police station, Theo was led into a cage. But unlike the cage at the zoo, this one was small, dark, and not very nice because it was a police cell.
Theo screeched, “Help, let me out. I’ve been framed!” But the police officers could not understand. All they heard was “EEK Ahha Ahha!”
An hour later the Mayor was standing on the lawn outside his office and talking to the reporter from the 24 Hour News station. He looked into the TV camera and said: “I am delighted to tell you that I have successfully guided our city through this grave crisis and the situation is now under control. The villain who committed this terrible crime is behind bars, and tomorrow he will be tried and found guilty and then I will personally throw away the key to his prison cell.”
“But Mayor,” said the reporter, “any news of the missing bunny?”
“No more time for questions, duty calls,” said the Mayor, and he turned around and went back to his office.
The hours went by, and Theo began to feel very sad and lonely, and a bit frightened. A policeman brought him some bread and water and offered him a chance to make one phone call. But Theo didn’t have anyone to call. And then a lawyer came to see him, and they went up to an interview room where a police officer turned on a tape recorder and said: “You have a right to remain silent, and anything you say may be taken down and used in a court of law as evidence against you.” And Theo said:
“Oooh, ah ah ah.”
And then they took him back to his cell.
It was a few hours later, as Theo tried to sleep, that he heard the jangling of keys. He buried his head in the pillow and pretended not to notice. Then a gruff voice said:
“Come on, wake up. It’s time we sprung you out of here.” He opened his eyes and saw that it was a police dog with keys in his mouth. In a jiffy, Theo had sprung up, reached through the bars for the keys, and climbed up to get the lock open. Monkeys are highly intelligent primates, you see, and it’s not at all difficult for them to do such things.
“Put on this blue coat,” said the dog. It was a sort of jacket that police dogs sometimes wear. The word “Police” was written on the back. Theo put it on.
“Now try to act like a police dog,” said the dog. But as they walked together through the busy part of the station, a policeman said “I didn’t know we were using monkeys on the force,” and another policeman said: “I expect that they climb in through windows and catch criminals by surprise.” Still, nobody stopped them, and soon they were out on the street and running down the road.
On the corner, they paused for breath, and the dog explained what he had heard about Mr. Grabber kidnapping the Easter Bunny. “I might have known it,” said Theo. “He’s a REAL villain, that Mr. Grabber.”
But the important thing was that Theo knew where the Easter Bunny was being kept a prisoner at the back of the llama pen. He caught a 49 bus straight back to the zoo and soon was able to find his old friend and release him from his hutch.
I don’t need to tell you how glad the bunny was to be let free, not least because it was his busiest time of year and he had so much work to do before Easter. He would have just loved to go straight to the police station and tell them all about Mr. Grabber, but he couldn’t do that, because, well, he was a bunny you see. So he ran back straight to his secret hideaway to catch up on sorting out his Easter Eggs.
The next morning the Mayor sat up in bed and turned on his television set to see if there had been any developments overnight in the case of the missing bunny. A red banner flashed across the screen saying:
“Breaking News. Monkey Escapes.”
And the reporter was saying:
“The chief suspect in the case of the missing Easter Bunny has escaped from police custody.”
The Mayor rushed down to his office and was about to pick up his red phone and demand the immediate sacking of the Chief of Police when he noticed a little envelope on his desk. The envelope was sealed with wax and imprinted with a secret sign, a sign which very few people know and recognize, but fortunately, the Mayor was one of them. It was the seal of the Easter Bunny, and every year he used it to communicate with the Mayor and to arrange the annual Easter egg hunt.
“That’s strange,” said the Mayor. And he fumbled open the envelope. Inside he found a card and on the card was written the following words.
“Dear Mayor. The Monkey is Innocent. Yours Sincerely, the Easter Bunny.”