Beyond the Western
The Matter of the Swiped Spectacles
Steve Levi  


Beyond the Western

Captain Noonan, the "Bearded Holmes" of the Sandersonville Police Department, was having a difficult time seeing. His eyes were betraying him. His vision was distorted and not getting any better. The letters on the paper before his eyes were blurred and he could not tell one from the others.

“Now,” said a voice, “is this better?”

Suddenly the letters snapped into focus.

“This one,” said the “Bearded Holmes.”

“Fine,” said the oculist as she flipped a lens. “Now, how about this one?”

“Nope,” said the detective. “Go back to the other one, the previous one.”

After a few more choices, the woman behind the machine which switches and rotates lenses said Noonan’s vision was “fine. Just a slight change from last year. Your retinas are good,” she stalled for a moment and then said, “for your age.”

Then Noonan asked the magic question: “Will my insurance pay for the new lenses?”

“Absolutely,” said the woman with the retinoscopy expertise. “And the frames as long as you choose the ones on the far left of the waiting room.” The optometrist, a born saleswoman, then stated. “But if you find other frames you like, well, we’ll see what we can do with the insurance.”

“Big pharma wins again,” Noonan said snidely.

The mistress of the eye mechanism pulled the sight machine away from Noonan’s face and then said, “You’re the detective who solves all those wild crimes, right?”

“I wouldn’t call them ‘wild crimes,’” Noonan said carefully. “I like to think I stop crime before it starts.”

“Yes, I can see how that works.” The eye woman kind of hemmed and hawed for a few seconds and Noonan – who could read a reluctant witness like the page of a LARGE PRINT BOOK— finally said “What’s on your mind, doc?”

“Well, I’m not an MD,” the optometrist finally said. “It’s just that, well, in this business, the word gets around.”

“And the word getting around is, . . .” Noonan asked.

“A strange thing with eyeglasses happened in Washington. State, not D. C. No one seems to know why.”

“And the strange thing is . . .”

“Someone broke into an eyeglass recycling nonprofit and stole more than 400 pairs of used glasses.”

“I can see how that would be a problem for the local police,” Noonan said and almost chuckled at his pun. “I’m assuming you mean the glasses were being collected to be given to indigents, people with no eyeglass insurance.”

“Correct. The nonprofit collects old eyeglasses and then donates them to charity. Oculists like me donate a day every few months to match people with no insurance with eyeglasses that are their prescription. Or close to it.”

“But the glasses are given for free, right?” Noonan asked.

“That’s right. Someone stole more than 400 pairs of used eyeglasses that have no street value, to use one of your law and order terms. Why would anyone do something like that?”

It was such a good question Noonan did not have an answer.