The Matter of the Breakfast Scramble

Heinz Noonan, the “Bearded Holmes” of the Sandersonville Police Department, was having a great afternoon. It was such a great day he did not want it to end. He was involved – telephonically speaking – with a young woman in a distant city – Cleveland – who had a sense of humor to rival his own. He did not usually remember jokes. Rather, when a matter came up for which he had read, heard or created a joke, phrase or bit of knowledge, he sprang the item on whomever was near. He was a fervent believer in the famous Charlie Chaplain quip that every day without a laughter was a wasted day. Oddly, Chaplin’s personal life was nothing to laugh about.

The two were discussing an odd theft in Cleveland which centered around a 600 pounds of bacon, eight dozen eggs, four cases of hash browns and a pound of scallions.

“A pound of scallions?! That seems a bit odd, you know,” Noonan said. “Everything else says breakfast for 30 people.”

“I agree,” replied Jennifer Afridi. “Do you know the difference between eggs and bacon for breakfast?”

“Not sure,” Noonan replied.

“The eggs are a day’s work for a chicken but a lifetime for the pig.”

Noonan liked that joke. He followed with one of his own. “Do you know the name of the smartest pig in the world?”

“I’ll bite – but not the eggs.”


Both of them broke into hysterical laughter. Noonan’s was so loud Harriet, the office Il Duce of common sense, stuck her head around the door frame to see what was so funny. Noonan waved her away.

When Noonan stopped chuckling, he asked, “OK, enough with the jokes.” He opened a page in his notebook. “Jennifer Afridi in Cleveland. The ‘mistake on the lake.’ What kind of a name is Afridi?”

“Afghani. My father was a Marine and my mother was a teacher at a girl’s school. When the Americans pulled out, so did my mother. With my father.”

“America only pulled out of Afghanistan a year ago. Your English is perfect.”

“No, my American English is perfect. If you had ever been to England you’d know no one in America speaks English.”

“Ah,” Noonan chortled. “Two great countries divided by a common language.”

Both of them broke into laughter.

When the chuckling subsided, Afridi said, “My parents are both strong supporters of education. Not so much schooling but education. The path to success is earning a good education. You don’t get an education, you earn one. My education started after the Taliban pulled out of our town. When I was 16. Then my parents sent me to my father’s home in Cleveland. I graduated from high school there and went on to Cleveland State. I wanted to become a teacher but the law called me away. I work for a nonprofit that provides legal services and food to the destitute. Someone has to do it. So I am.”

“My hat’s off to you,” Noonan said seriously. “Now, as to your problem. Let me make sure I have this right. The theft is 600 pounds of bacon, eight dozen eggs, four cases of hash browns and a pound of scallions. That’ll make quite a breakfast.”

“Correct. That’s what the State Troopers said. And he said the same thing I thought.”

“Which was?” Noonan asked.

“It looked like the thief took the bacon for profit and then eggs, hash browns and scallions for breakfast for the crew who stole the bacon.”

“He may be right,” Noonan muttered, “Now, first, the theft did not take place in Cleveland. Not in the city of Cleveland but in the county?”

“Correct. Cuyahoga County. Not in the city itself. Outside the city. We’re not a town, in kind of suburb. A new suburb. It’s a Silicon Valley upstart. We’re building up, so to speak, with three new elementary schools, a junior high, high school, art school and a lot of warehouses for online products that will be shipped out. The best I can do for you is give you cross streets where we are but you won’t be able to find us on Google maps. We’re too new.”

“I’ll take the cross streets.”

“Bob Hope and Paul Newman.”

“You’re kidding!”

“Nope. Bob Hope and Paul Newman are both from Cleveland. All the streets are named for famous people from Cleveland. We’ll have streets named for Halle Barry, Joe Walsh and Drew Carey when the subdivisions have been laid out. They’re all from Cleveland.”

“I guess you can say it’s not a joke when someone says they’re living off Drew Carey or Halle Barry.”

“I’ll remember that line.”

Noonan looked at his notes. “You said, there will be warehouses in the area for shipping out goods. I take it the warehouses are in the process of being built as opposed to being fully operational.”

“Oh, some of them, the smaller ones, are operational. The biggest is not operational yet. But as I said, we’re building up. Population is moving in and we’re having the usual growing pains. Residential neighborhoods are being built on swamp land, streets are being paved, sewer and water lines are being buried. Power is in.”

Noonan scratched his head. “Cleveland. Aren’t you on the Cuyahoga River? The one that burned?”

“That’s not something we want to remember, but yes. The big one was in June of 1969. There was a lot of pollution in the river and one day, June 22, it went boom. Fire lasted about 20 minutes and had flames reaching as high as a five-story building. But what most people don’t know is the river had caught fire about a dozen times before that. The 1969 one was the big one, the one that made the national newspapers.”

“Well,” Noonan snickered. “When they say it’ll be a hot time in the whole town tonight, Cleveland certainly knows how to do it.”

They both laughed.

“OK,” Noonan said as his laughter went to a chuckle. “Give me the details of the theft.”

“Really not much to say. We had ‘em and they’re gone. From our warehouse.”

Noonan chuckled. “Gone as in one day they were there and the next gone. Or, say, over a six-month period, they vanished?”

“Oh, not that long. Say three or four weeks.”

“Six hundred pounds of bacon is a lot. You’ve got to have a truck to move that kind of merchandise.”

“Yup. We figure it took two, maybe three trips. But when we looked over the security tapes, we didn’t see any strange trucks leaving our warehouse. All trucks coming in were delivering, not taking out. By that, I mean there was someone there to check in the deliveries. To take out the food, you would have to do it with no one looking. The security system is 24/7 all around the building so we know there wasn’t a glitch or the extraction was when we were closed.”

“Huh,” Noonan muttered. “And there’s too much to be taken out under someone’s coat.”

“Unless they’re Godzilla.”

Noonan laughed. “How many people do you serve in a day?”

“We don’t serve any people here. We’re the nonprofit meal distribution facility. So we are open all day. We have six sites where we give out food. We aren’t giving meals like in a cafeteria. We are giving out food that people will take home and cook. Give or take, 300 people a day.”

“How is the food packaged?”

“Everything is in boxes. That is, we give out the food in boxes. Each box has a week’s supply of food for a family.”

“As in a family of different sizes, right? I mean, everyone does that get the same size box.”

“The boxes are all the same. For a family of four, we give four boxes. That way we don’t have to maintain a pile of boxes for one person, for a family of four or for a family of six.”

Noonan was writing on his notebook pad. “Bacon has to be refrigerated. Are the boxes you give out refrigerated?”

“Refrigerated, yes. Not frozen. We do give out frozen food occasionally but we shy away from those foods because we’d have to buy six freezers. Our food leaves pretty quickly and pulling something out of a freezer would slow us down.”

“How does the bacon usually arrive in your facility?”

“Boxes. Twenty pounds each. The bacon is not in slabs, as in it has to be cut. It’s packaged. In plastic. The way you see it in the store. Packages of one pound of bacon, already sliced.”

“Twenty pounds seems pretty light. I’d expect a store to be getting crates of bacon in heavier amounts.”

“Could be. I guess we get light packages because we don’t have forklifts. Everything we offload we do by hand.”

Noonan did some calculating in his notebook. “At 20 pounds per box, that’s 30 boxes. And nothing on the security cameras?”


Noonan thought for a moment, then he said. “I’m guessing, but stealing bacon from a place that got it for free and is giving it out for free might not be considered a serious crime. Or a crime at all.”

“Oh, we’re not planning on prosecuting anyone. We just found it hilarious that anyone would steal 600 pounds of bacon. Your name was given to us as someone who would find it humorous.”

“Didn’t you say the local police were informed?”

“Sure, we can’t prove it was stolen. We get donations in odd sizes and weights all the time from multiple sources. The bacon might have come in from, say, six or seven supermarkets, a dozen smaller grocery stores, a distributor and maybe even some cafeterias. When the bacon starts to get old, we get it. For those who donate to us, it’s a write-off. Just because the bacon is beyond its expiration date does not mean anything to us because the people we give it to eat it right away. We keep track of the poundage from the paperwork we get.”

“So the bacon wasn’t stolen all at once.”

“We don’t know. We just know we are 600 pounds short.”

Noonan chuckled. “OK, I’m going to ask you some questions. I’ll call back in a few days and I want you to give me all the answers at the same time.”

“Fine with me.”

“Here goes, do you know for a fact all the bacon was received in 20-pound loads, how does the bacon come into your facility, who actually packs the boxes you give out, are those people the same every week, what do you do with the empty boxes after the 20 pounds of bacon has been taken out of them, what do you do with the dozen egg flats if one of the eggs is broken, do you ever get food returned, what do you do with returned food, how often do you get spoiled food, what do you do with spoiled food and that’s all I can think of for the moment.”

“I’ll await your call.”

* * *

Whenever Noonan got a loo-loo call, he went to his two tried-and-and-true sources of information: history and the newspapers. Finding information on Cleveland was easy. He just pulled up “Cleveland” on Wikipedia. Cleveland had been created on what was the formal layout of a city with square city blocks emanating from a public square. The actual design was done in 1796 by surveyors from the Connecticut Land Company and was part of what was, at that time, the Western Reserve of Connecticut. Noonan found this odd for two reasons. First, Cleveland, in Ohio, was on the far side of the Alleghany Mountains from Connecticut and the first settlement on the western side of the Alleghany Mountains had been Boonsboro. Noonan had to look up the date for Boonsboro. That was in 1778 so, having the city of Cleveland laid out in 1796 meant the land speculators were moving fast. No surprise there.

Noonan speculated the city was laid out by the Connecticut Land Company because 12 of the 13 original colonies received royal charters which gave them land grant which stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific. So, technically, Washington and Oregon were originally part of the Connecticut Colony as well. Rhode Island, now the “State of Rhode Island” but originally the “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations,” the 13th Colony, was not a royal land grant colony. It was founded by religious dissidents who wanted nothing to do with the other colonies. In fact, Rhode Island did not even send delegates to the Constitutional Convention and was the last colony to sign the document.

Further, also a surprise to Noonan, was that the city of Cleveland was actually laid out logically. Having been in New England, if there was any one gracious description of the layout of their city streets it was “haphazard.”

Cleveland itself was named after the leader of surveying expedition, General Moses Cleaveland – with an “a” in the “Cleave” – who left immediatelyafter the surveying and never returned. Cleveland was on Lake Erie which made it a prime trading center and, during the War of 1812, a supply depot for American troops. The city was incorporated shortly thereafter, in 1814, and struggled to survive until 1832, when it had access to both the Ohio and Erie canals. But by then, historically interesting, it became “Cleveland” with the “a” removed when a local paper, The Cleveland Advertiser, dropped the “a” so the spelling of the masthead could fit on a sheet of paper. Before the Civil War it was a final stop on the underground railroad for slaves heading for Canada and during the war it was an important supply center for the Union troops.

Noonan could find nothing on the startup of a Silicon Valley in Cuyahoga County and looked for information on bacon stealing. The only incident of interest he found had been in Virginia in 1895 when a man by the name of Joshua Stover was convicted of stealing three pounds of bacon. Since he was a habitual criminal having already served time twice for stealing, he was sentenced to life.

Life for stealing three pounds of bacon! That was quite a punishment! Noonan mused.

Stover did not serve life, however. His conviction was overturned the proceeding September and he was re-sentenced to a year in prison.

Noonan wandered through the internet and found zip. He got exactly the opposite when he punched up Cleveland on N-DEx, the national database of criminal justice records. He found too many crimes for Cleveland, ranging from murder to DUI and shoplifting to armed robbery. He narrowed the search by looking for locations of crimes by street. He had four names to use, Bob Hope, Paul Newman, Halle Barry and Drew Carey. Again zip. Then he got clever. If the streets in the Silicon Valley were going to be named after Cleveland celebrities, what other celebrities were there? He got a list off the internet and ran them one at a time.

And he got a hit.

On Jim Bakus Street.

Mr. Magoo lived again!

And Thurston Howell III. But Noon thought sadly those names would not ring any bells with millennials.

But it was an odd theft.

It was 60 yards of chicken wire stolen from a home improvement store. The wire, in three spools, had been leaning against a back fence and someone – or many someones – had simply reached over the fence and snagged the spools. Noonan pulled up the police report, all one page of it, and something else caught his eye. In addition to the theft of the chicken wire, about a dozen warped two-by-fours had been taken from the company’s trash area.

A distant chime gonged in his brain cavity.

* * *

When he called Jennifer Afridi back, he had a few more questions.

“I hope you have a joke for me,” she said when she answered the phone. “It’s been a tough day.”

“OK,” Noonan said. “What does a skeleton fear most?”

“A tough one. I don’t know. What does a skeleton fear most?”

“A dog,” Noonan said flatly.

Afridi erupted into laughter. “Well, since you brought up skeletons, what instrument does a skeleton play?”

“Xylo-bone?” Noonan guessed.

“Close, but nope,” Afridi said. “A trom-bone.”

Noonan chuckled. “OK, not back to business. Is Jim Bakus Street near you?”

“Not nearby but fairly close. It’s by the art school and museum.”

“Is that a private art school and museum?”

“Well, the art school is private but the museum is part of the county library being built out here. I think the art school has been here for about 30 years. Gifted by a local sculpture who never made it big time.”

“Where’d he get the money to fund the art school if he never made it big?”

“He never made it big as a sculptor. Went into real estate and made a killing.”

“Ah,” Noonan said. “The way of the world. Now, can you give me answers to the questions I asked?”

“Sure,” Afridi said. “Here goes. We do not know if the bacon was only delivered in 20-pound crates. We just know it is missing from the paperwork. The bacon from the supermarkets comes in the crates, yes, but a grocery store or cafeteria might bring in a load of food with the bacon mixed in with canned foods, bottles and whatever. The large shipments come in the warehouse door. The smaller shipments come in by car or pickup. Someone parks in the parking lot and carries the food into the building or has someone from the building go out to the parking lot with a dolly.”

“Does your surveillance cover the parking lot?”

“No. Only the warehouse.  All sides.”

“Go on.”

“The actual unpacking of the food and filling boxes is done by volunteers. They change from week to week. We have high school students who come in as part of their graduation requirement, some church elders who do the paperwork, we’ve had about a dozen art students who have volunteered over the past year, a few dozen Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts working on merit badges and felons putting in community service hours. It’s always a hodgepodge. Don’t forget, we are packing boxes for six distribution sites so there are a lot of people in the main warehouse.”

“Were the students from the high school and art school working when the bacon went missing?”

“Well, we don’t know when the bacon went missing but, generally, yes. But they were not all the same students. They changed with semester. But there were – and are – a lot of them.”

“OK. What do you do with the empty crates?”

“We have a compactor in the back by the parking lot. At the end of a shift we take the carboard out and compact it. As far as your other questions go, we are careful with eggs and if we find one broken, we replace the egg. We don’t use spoiled food, so to speak because if it does not meet our standards, we just dump it.”

Noonan thought for a moment and then asked, “Is there anything special happening over the next week or so?”

“I don’t know what you mean by special. Construction is always ongoing. The only thing special, and I use the term loosely, is a ceremony to open the largest of the warehouses for the online service of products. It’s going to be a big deal for the papers. Not for us.”

A chime resounded in Noonan’s brain.

“When is that going to be?”

“Next Monday at noon. In five days.”

Noonan chuckled. “Ever been to Alaska?”

“That’s an odd question.”

“My wife is from Alaska. Up North, they have an expression: ‘gone fishing.'”


“Correct. Whenever there is something going to happen that you do not want to be part of, you go fishing.”

“You mean get out of town.”

“No. ‘Go fishing.’ I suggest you and your top staff go fishing Monday. Don’t even come in to work on Monday. Go fishing.”

* * *

The next Thursday, Harriet, serving as both office detective and common sense guru, wafted into Noonan’s office and plopped down in the empty chair next to his desk. As Noonan looked up, Harriet placed an 8 ½ by11 photograph on his desk. “Tell mama about the pig.”

“Pig?” Noonan looked at the photograph in surprise. It was the sculpture of a six-foot pig wrapped in what looked like bacon. On the ground in front of the pig was what appeared to be a bacon-brick road disappearing toward a building in the distance. “Ah, that pig!”

“Don’t ‘Ah, that pig!’ to me. Tell all.”

“Not much to tell. I just made a guess. Turns out I was right. Was there a note with this picture?”

“Yup,” Harriet replied. She flipped the picture over and read “It wasn’t BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S, just breakfast for about 30.”

Noonan chuckled.

Harriet stared at him.

Finally Noonan said, “Long shot. You know what happens when you play tug of war with bacon?”

“A joke, ha, ha. No, what happens when you play tug of war with bacon.”

“You get pulled pork.”

“Ha, ha.” Her laughter was flat. Harriet tapped the photograph. “Tell.”

“Lucky guess. A charity food distributor was missing 600 pounds of bacon. It wasn’t stolen from its warehouse so it had to have been purloined somewhere else. When smaller donations of pork are made from restaurants or cafeterias, the pork is dropped off from cars in the parking lot. When staff went out to bring in the donations by dolly, the pork was put in cars. There are no security cameras covering the parking lot so no one was the wiser. 600 pounds over the period of about a month. They also took eight dozen eggs, four cases of hash browns and a pound of scallions.”

“Scallions?” Harriet said perplexed.

“I figured that was for one hellacious breakfast.”

“OK. Now the pig,” she said as she pointed at the photograph again.

“I searched N-DEx and got a hit from the area. Theft of some chicken wire and two-by-fours. There was an art school near the theft and some art students volunteered at the food distributor. I guessed the bacon, chicken wire and two-by-fours were going to be used as some kind of sculpture.”

“Why in front of this building?”

“My guess, art students were making a statement that mass production is not good for artwork which is one-of-a-kind. I’m betting it was their way of saying the distributor is a pig, putting profits before quality. It was just a guess.”

“A good one. What’s the reference to BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S?”

“I suggested the eggs, hash browns and scallions would be used to feed the artists while they were making the pig. She and her staff should go out to breakfast on Monday.”


Noonan chuckled. “I gave her an old Alaskan adage.”

“Which was?”

“When you know something is going to happen that you want no part of, you go fishing. In other words, get out of town for the day. That way you cannot be quoted in the paper and if ever asked what you think of an incident, you just say, ‘I don’t know. I was out fishing that day.’ I’m betting they went for a long breakfast somewhere.”

“While the bacon thieves were making the pig.”

“My guess.  That’s why I suggest she get out of town.  ‘Go fishing.’”

“Good advice. Clearly the people at the nonprofit took it.”

“It’s nice when people take my advice,” Noonan said and then smiled. “Did you know Shakespeare wrote an entire play about bacon?”



Steven C. Levi is a sixty-something freelance historian and commercial writer who lives in Anchorage, Alaska, his home for past 40 years. He has a BA in European History and MA in American history from the University of California Davis and San Jose State. He has more than 80 books in print or on Kindle.