Here we are. As you observe, the deceased was dispatched by a blow on the head from a heavy, blunt instrument. A straight-forward case—not quite so dramatic as the cases I see where the victim has been poisoned with a rare South American poison, or with the venom of a snake or spider. Real villains don’t use ordinary weapons; they don’t want to be mistaken for common assassins. It’s demeaning to their intelligence, you see, so they always use something unusual.
Judging from the angle and the extent of the blow, our villain must be a brutish, swarthy, heavy-set, noticeably unpleasant fellow. How do I know this? Oh, it’s simple. All the perpetrators of crime follow that description. They are, of course, only the henchmen of the true criminal masterminds behind this devious plot.
More on that later but now—ah! What is this? Cigar ash from an unusual and easily identifiable type of tobacco! Our victim, like all good casualties of crime, never smoked. The villain must have smoked this while he was waiting to commit his dastardly crime. The clerk at the local store will certainly remember who bought this kind of cigar. What’s that? The probability of our suspect smoking at such a time? Why, my good man, it steadies the nerves. Besides, if he hadn’t, we would have fewer clues. Would a small local store even be selling that kind of cigar? Oh, don’t bother me with trifles.
Another clue! It's a scrap of paper that the police overlooked! It must have fallen from the criminal’s pocket while he made his escape. It’s very cryptic; must be a code. But we’ll figure it out soon enough, never fear! Why, the type of paper and the age of the ink has already told me several things.
Just a peek around the garden and…ah, look at this! Footprints in the soft earth beneath the window. Isn’t it wonderful how it’s always been raining just before a crime is committed? Makes our work here so much easier. The footmarks indicate that our felon has a clubfoot and walks with a decided limp. And, like all thugs, he has peculiar taste. Instead of browsing through Dick's Sporting Goods or the Shoe Department for some decent shoes, he has bought himself a foreign variety that will be easy to trace. Add that to the bloody handprint on the windowsill, and this crime is fitting into place neatly.
Now, we must interview the servants. They are a talkative lot and they throw in gossip about the neighbors and threaten to fall into hysterics, but one of them might know something useful. We might even find out that one of the maidservants is in love with the thug and therefore in cahoots with him. What's "cahoots" mean? It's...well...look it up in the Detective Dictionary.
All right, Gumshoe, we are finished with the crime scene. Our next job is to locate the bad guys’ den. That information will, of course, be furnished by that helpful scrap of paper that the suspect dropped at the scene of the crime. Crooks always carry incriminating evidence in their pockets when they perpetrate their crimes. It’s a mark of their trade.
That’s the telephone…answer it for me, will you? Short conversation; who was it? You don’t know? Oh, I see. An unrecognizable voice on the other end, warning us to stay off the case. We must be hot on their trail. I’m surprised they didn’t break my window with a brick to which they've attached a threatening note. Spiteful things—they cost me thousands in window replacements every year.
The doorbell now? I shall answer it myself. It might be a parcel with a bomb in it. Gracious me! It’s a dying man staggering in with a knife in his back! Quickly, he must impart to me his mysterious message before he expires!
Hmm, the message didn’t make much sense.
But wait! I have it! Coupled with the clue from the note, I now have the exact location of the crooks’ hideout. It’s on a lonely island near here. Or it’s in the back room of a seedy business. Or possibly it’s in a deserted country house. We'll soon find out which it is!
Come on! What? Oh, the dead man. Leave him lying on my doorstep. Someone will take care of him. We detectives can’t be expected to be undertakers, can we?
Here we are at the hideout. The criminals have kindly left a window wide open and they’re speaking in loud voices so we can overhear their nefarious schemes.
Listen carefully. They are telling each other everything that they have done so far. They must enjoy reminiscing, or else they are extremely methodical and like to make sure they review exactly what has happened. What? You heard something? It’s your imagination. The villains are far too secure to bother checking for eavesdroppers.
Whoops. Guess I missed their man on guard. I should have gone with my instincts and disguised myself as a one-eyed, lame beggar. Or perhaps I should have donned that concealing hood that our crooks like to wear, even around each other. But it’s too late now.
Does your head hurt? That's too bad. I’ve been in this business for a long time and my skull is still as good as new. I’ve been bashed on my head and knocked unconscious more times than I can remember and the constant concussions never have any effects at all—not even a hint of amnesia! Isn’t it wonderful what skulls we detectives possess?
Don’t worry—I know they’re tying up our hands just now, but there’s always something sharp that just happens to be lying around. Villains always drag an axe into the house. Or they drop their knives just within our reach. How careless of them.
Ah! My arch-nemesis himself, the criminal mastermind behind this devilish plot! Notice how he’s sallow, thin, and positively emaciated. They always are, these genius villains. This is the smiling, superior type of crook; the other type is the homicidal wacko who shrieks with maniacal laughter.
Don’t be afraid. Put up a brave show when he threatens you with a gun. (I wonder why he decides to display his firearm now. He never uses guns on his victims—too crude.) That’s right, tell him that justice will always prevail. Tell him that he can’t escape the law forever. That will make his composure snap suddenly and he’ll spill the beans about his next diabolical plan. Since he plans to kill us anyway, he thinks it’s safe to confess everything. Of course, we’ll tell the police once we escape.
Hmm, things go from bad to worse. Our creative criminal has left to complete his devious deed, but he has attached us to an elaborate Rube Goldberg apparatus that will kill us after a certain amount of time has expired. Ho hum. Well, all we have to do is wait until the very last second to extricate ourselves from this disaster. It will be a near thing, of course, but we detectives work better under pressure. If we escaped too quickly, how would we build up the suspense?
Now quickly! On to save the world from his sinister scheme! We should make it with only a moment to spare. One more second and he’ll…stop, hands up!
Ah, we arrived in the nick of time. Now all we have to do is explain to the criminal how perfectly obvious he was, and how he made so many mistakes that we were put wise to his scheme right away. He will, of course, swear vengeance, and announce that we haven’t seen the last of him. We must respond with courteous sternness before he’s hauled away to jail. He might escape, but we can’t be too hard on the police for their negligence, can we? Life would be so routine if our villains didn’t escape from completely secure jails. You ask how the criminals could be smart enough to break out, but not smart enough to hide their trail? Well, my lad, we can’t know all that goes on in the criminal mind. Evil motives can cloud the mind, you know.
Well, here we are. Our adoring fans have anticipated our appropriate exit from publicity. If they offer you money, don’t take it (we detectives manage to live without paying the bills). And if they ask how they can ever thank you, respond with all modesty. They’ll probably treat you to a lavish champagne dinner anyway.
At last, the celebratory relaxation at the end. Promotion and glory! It’s wonderful, isn’t it? We bagged our criminal, rounded up his gang, and saved the world from ruin. The peoples of the globe are eternally indebted to us.
And now that you have watched me at work, my dear Gumshoe, you also can declare “It’s elementary, my dear Watson!”
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I write YA/adult fantasy & sci-fi that explores fantastic and interconnected worlds, with stories that burn through the darkest realities with hope and redemption.
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