Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD

It was a cold and kind of eerie day here in Florida. It is usually warm and sunny but today I felt like I was in Minnesota in the middle of winter. It was bone-chilling cold and the only thing lacking was some snow on the ground. I managed to peel myself out of bed, got dressed, grabbed my trench coat and fedora, and headed out the door for a cup of hot jo at my regular greasy spoon.

I entered the diner as I did almost every morning, but this time everyone including Flo was dressed like they were on an expedition to the South Pole. I grabbed a seat next to the Admiral, who immediately started reminiscing about his days in the Navy, and the many cold days he experienced. The cold must have snapped him out of his dementia, since this was a brand new story instead of the same old story he tells every day. Flo poured me a cup of Jo, said good morning and said the heat is off, so the coffee is on the house. Well, that explained why everyone was dressed like they were living up North!

 Just as I finished my coffee, my cell phone rang. “Stone Detective here,” I said, my voice quavering as I shivered. The voice on the other end was faint and low. I could hardly hear what she was saying. From what I could make out, this lady was telling me that she had a strange sound coming from her shower in the master bath. She said it was intermittent and it kind of sounded like a tapping sound.  She told me it was driving her crazy and she couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.  I told her I could take a look at it sometime that afternoon. She asked me to hurry, and that hopefully I would be able to hear the sound when I arrived. I asked her if there were certain times during the day or night that she heard it. She said mainly at night, but sometimes during the day. I hung up the phone, ordered a Taylor ham and egg sandwich and another cup of jo to go. I turned to the Admiral and made the mistake of asking him how cold that ship was. He then went into a rant that seemed to last for over 20 minutes, basically saying “Pretty darned cold,” in colorful Navy language.

That afternoon had arrived and I made my way over to the lady’s house. I knocked on the door and a middle-aged lady dressed in an evening gown greeted me. I asked if she was going somewhere and that I could come back later. She said no, she always dressed like this for afternoon cocktails. My immediate thought was that she was a little crazy, and this sound she was hearing was either all in her head, or martini-induced. 

She led me to the bath and pointed to the shower. I turned off the exhaust fan and waited to hear something. Nothing – not even a peep. I next turned the water on and let it run, thinking that maybe there was a leak in the shower and perhaps she was hearing a dripping sound. Again, nothing.

Then I got an idea. I told her I would be right back. I went out to the Woody and grabbed my stethoscope. I went back inside and, lo and behold, I could hear a faint tapping sound. I placed my stethoscope up against the wall and sure enough, there was a weird tapping sound. It would start and then it would stop.  I had no idea what the sound might be so I told her a destructive test would be needed. Fortunately, it was possible to access the back of the wall from a closet on the other side of the shower wall. 

The Case of the Strange Sound

I gathered my tools and cut a 12 x 12 inch panel out of the drywall. I shined a light into the hole and saw part of the waterproof membrane shredded on the floor! And then saw what was causing the sound. On the floor was a copious amount of  rat or mouse droppings. So, the weird sound she was hearing was likely  a rodent in the wall chewing on the waterproof membrane. This was a new one on me. I told her she needed to call an exterminator, since the sound she was hearing was that energetic chewing on the membrane. It didn’t seem to be leaking yet, so once those dirty rats were caught the sound should stop. She had a bigger issue, though. I recommended she consider getting the membrane replaced. Another case was solved and a new one for my case files.

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD, written to entertain and educate. Dr. Fred has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world.  Send your comments to