In honor of my mother, Brita Anderås, who would have been 92 years old today, I’m publishing a story she told about playing detective. This happened in the seventies, in Huancayo, Peru, where my parents were missionaries.
You can read their story in the book: A Life of Adventure
It was fun to dabble in another profession for a couple of days. One sixteen-year-old boy, named Máximo, was a helper in the feeding station in San Martín, where his mother did the cooking. On his free time he often came to our house and helped with different chores. He also did some carpentry and made benches for the children. He was a nice boy and a member of the church.
One day somebody came running and told us that the police had come and arrested Máximo, accused of robbery in another village. I could not believe that was true. Per had no time to go to the police, so I went instead. Máximo sat at the police station when I arrived and he was very desperate. He assured me of his innocence, and I said I believed him and that I was going to do everything to help him.
GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT
In Peru, like in many other countries, anybody who is accused is considered guilty until proven innocent. Anybody can be accused for anything and then it is very hard to prove the innocence.
When I was going to help the boy, it was to my advantage that I was a woman and also that I was a foreigner. I drove my little Volkswagen, which we had named Zaqueo. The police had no car and I drove one detective and Máximo to the village from where the accuser had come. The man who had been robbed said that he knew Máximo and that he wore a poncho and a brown fedora and that he rode a black bicycle with a luggage carrier.
NO LUGGAGE CARRIER
Máximo thought for a minute and then he said, “My bicycle has no luggage carrier, I have no brown hat and I don’t know anybody who has such a hat. By the way, my bicycle has been at your house.” We went back to the police station and from there I went to San Martín and asked everybody if they owned a brown hat, but nobody had one. What should I do? The boy was still with the police and if I couldn’t get him out within twenty-four hours they would transfer him to the youth prison. To get him out from there would be worse. But he had to stay overnight in jail.
THREE OLD BICYCLES
A person who has been arrested gets no food if somebody doesn’t bring it to him. Early the next day I took breakfast to Máximo. The police did nothing for the case before midday. I asked to take the boy home for lunch. That was against law and order, but I was stubborn and got permission to do that. While we had lunch I got an idea. The man who accused Máximo was going to come to the police station in the afternoon and we should meet him there, bringing Máximo’s bicycle with us. I remembered that we had three old bicycles standing at the Bible Institute and I was going to borrow one of them. Said and done. I found a black bicycle with a luggage carrier. Two men helped me to get it on top of my car and so we went to the police. The bicycle was in a very bad shape, but that didn’t matter in this case. Two other bicycles were at the police station.
FREE FROM ALL SUSPICION
While we waited in the courtyard Máximo pointed to the jail and said with tears in his eyes, “I don’t want to stay there one more night.” “We will see to it that you don’t have to,” I replied. “If we don’t get things settled today, I will stay with you and we can sit in the office.” At about six o’clock the man came and he went straight to the bicycle I had brought, and was very sure that it was that bicycle the thief had used. Then the police officer said, “If he can mistake a bicycle, he can also mistake a person.” It was difficult for us to hold back laughter.
At eight in the evening Per came. He was concerned about us and wanted to know about the case. At that time we were done and Máximo was free from all suspicion. We suspected another young man, but he disappeared and the police never found him. I thought the whole thing was exciting. What if I had been a detective! That must have suited me!
This was my mother, who at age six was asked what she wanted to be. Her answer, “A movie star or a missionary!” I’m glad she became a missionary!
Soon we will meet again in Heaven!