William Whimsy was short, thin and liked solving problems. His house was filled with all manner of clever inventions. He used an electric train set to bring him his slippers, and he fed his dog using a bizarre contraption that looked like a bicycle wheel attached to a rubber duck.
William Whimsy's dog was a very clever Jack Russell called Nipper who was white with brown spots. Nipper could walk, run, heel, fetch and perform every trick in the book. He could also do some other clever tricks which William hadn't noticed yet. William didn't notice very much at all because he was always busy. When he wasn't reading about problems that need fixing, he was in his workshop inventing things to fix problems.
One day, William's friend Arnold Riverbottom came to visit. He banged on the door so loudly that William – who was in his workshop at the time – jumped and dropped a very heavy hammer on his toe. Biting his tongue to avoid saying too many bad words, William hopped to the door. Arnold hurried inside as soon as the door was opened without even waiting for an invitation. On a normal day you would expect to find Arnold immaculately dressed, often in a white silk shirt with a bright red tie. Today, however, poor Arnold was in a dreadful state: his hair was messy and he'd put his jacket on backwards.
"William, you must help me," cried Arnold Riverbottom.
"Whatever is the matter?" said William. He was a little bit cross because he wasn't used to having people burst into his house as soon as he opened the door. And his toe hurt.
"Can I sit down? It's been a very tiring week."
"Of course, why not?" said William, begrudgingly helping Arnold out of his back-to-front jacket. They sat down in the living room. Seeing that Arnold was far too preoccupied to notice, William removed his left shoe to examine his injured toe. "Why don't you tell me what the matter is, Arnold?"
"Oh, I don't know where to start! It's all been a mess, ever since Tuesday. I don't know what to do. I went in, just as I always do, and where it should have been, it wasn't. So I went out and went back in again. It still wasn't there. I walked in and out fifteen times until I finally realised that it definitely wasn't where it should be. And then I called the police."
"The police?" said William, removing his sock and wincing as he prodded at his toe.
"Yes, I couldn't think what else to do."
"What did they say?"
"They said they didn't know where it had gone. They didn't even know where it had been in the first place. I say William, what's wrong with your foot?"
"Never mind that, I'm still trying to understand what's got you in such a bother. Has something gone missing?"
"Yes! It was where it always was but I went to check on it and there it wasn't."
"What do you mean, what?"
"What is missing?"
"Oh. Oh, I see. The sword."
"Not just any old sword: The Sword. The sword that's been in my family for five hundred years, passed down from generation to generation. That sword is the sword that dangled over the head of Damocles. It's the sword wielded by King Harry as he charged into battle in 1077. It's the sword they found buried to the hilt in a lump of granite over two thousand years ago. And now it's gone."
"Can you help?"
"Yes, help! I need help! The police aren't helping me at all. They say they'll keep an eye out for it but what good is that going to do? Whoever's stolen my sword won't be taking it out for walks or carrying it around with them at the supermarket. I need someone to hunt for clues. I didn't just have that sword lying around with a big sign on it saying 'Steal Me'. I had guards, and locks, and gates. Big gates! I don't just need someone to say they'll look for my sword, William, I need someone to find it for me. And that's why I've come to you."
"Well that's very flattering Arnold, but I don't understand why you're here. I'm no good at finding things that have been lost. In fact most of the time I have trouble finding things that I know are definitely there. I count myself lucky if I can find a matching pair of socks in the morning."
"Don't tell me you can't find things. Finding things is simply a matter of solving a group of problems. The thief got into my house without setting off the burglar alarm. How did he do that? That's a problem for you to solve. The thief also managed to walk off in broad daylight carrying a sword that's twice as big as a normal man. Why did no one notice him? That's another problem for you to solve."
"I don’t think--"
"William, I need your help. Please. It's got to be you. There's no one else. At the very least, please come and take a look."
"Ok, you win. I'll take a look."