Assigned to juvenile detail, reports that a teenage boy has been stealing food from grocery stores comes across the desk of Joe Friday. In the squadroom Joe Friday and Frank Smith have a disgruntled father on their hands. Dad can’t believe his sweet little angel could be guilty, and believes the cops were abusive and heavy handed in picking up his boy.
After listening to the tirade, Joe then offers just enough facts to deflate the blustering dad, and point out the boy’s involvement. In a moment of downtime, Frank tries his hand at working a 15 tile puzzle game. One of my favorites too. A phone call breaks up the fun and a hot tip has Joe and Frank interviewing a lady who reported a robber in her garage. The thief had stolen a few groceries, and left a clue behind. Text books about scientific topics. From the description of the teenager, he’s a skinny nerd who is homeless and living in the hills.
Sure enough, further investigation turns up a cave with the evidence that a nerdy occupant had been living there. Stolen library books lead to a college professor. With cops on the alert to watch for the homeless, starving kid, he still manages to evade them and swipe more groceries. The diligence of the patrol car officers pay off, and Joe interviews the kid at the police station. The aloof kid slowly tells his story. The boy genius even works Franks 15 tile puzzle for him, and behind his back too.
So how was justice dealt? The youth actually gets help from the system, and a happy ending is implied.