Sunday, January 16, 2005

The Tenth Life

Contributor's Note: Since some of our gentle visitors imagine themselves amateur, if anonymous, sleuths, we offer the following knock-off, re-tread, dead-beat mystery. There is one twist: we will allow our gentle visitorship to offer the last few words, which will solve the real mystery. If you have it figured, please post a comment. For extra credit, please tell us what all of the characters have in common. Elementary, really.

Felino blew out the last puff of smoke, glanced at the diminished butt, and flicked it in to the wide circular drive. He looked over the ornate stonework surrounding the door. At each end of the lintel, a relief of a lion’s head. Maybe something smaller. A civet? he thought. Hard to tell. He rang the doorbell again. In a moment, a white-haired, refined specimen in a dark coat appeared. Something out a mystery book, Felino thought.

He flashed his badge. "Agent Felino, San Bernardino CID."

"Oh. Come in, officer. We’ve been expecting you."

The butler led Felino across the marbled foyer and into an expansive parlor. The decor was exquisite, if dated; the upholstery elegant, if slightly yellowed. A grand Balinese vase stood near the window; Tiffany lamps on the end tables; beside one, a Siamese figurine. Felino, who suffered from allergies, sniffed once. He detected fine particles in the air. Molds, maybe. Mites. Whatever. Something didn’t smell right.

"Here she is officer," said the butler, gesturing toward the floor. And, there was the body, stretched on the Persian rug, between the sofa and coffee table. Felino crouched down. Elderly female; gray hair; no pulse.

"When did you find her?"

"Not an hour ago, sir. She didn’t come for breakfast. Sometimes, she would sit on the chaise by the window – just sit there, in the sunlight. But...I ... I found her here. I phoned immediately."

She had seen better years, for sure. Still, it looked like foul play. Felino examined the corpse closely. She was already stiffening and cold to the touch – a trickle of blood at the corner of her mouth. And there, on her chest, a small, puncture wound – looked like between the fourth and fifth rib. By her head, a stray, mismatched hair.

"Who else was here?"

"Well, besides myself, only the maid, the cook, and her nephew, Tom."

"Get 'em in here."

Felino rubbed his nose and looked again at the decedent. One open eye – gray-green and fixed – gazed back at him. Poor thing, he thought. Never liked these pure-bred types, but she didn’t deserve this. He straightened himself slowly and stiffly. But... hey, one day your luck runs out. Hell, he’d been shot at, stabbed at, knocked down a flight of stairs, hit by a truck, nearly hit by a train, and almost poisoned back during the Birman affair. One day it would come for him. But, not today. Too bad, babe: your number was up.

The butler cleared his throat, and Felino turned to watch the suspects file in: the maid – Somali, probably undocumented, frightened; the cook – Russian, blue hair, surprised; the nephew Tom – American, long hair, contemptuous; the butler – British, short hair, drawn. Felino stifled a sneeze, then motioned for the butler.

"What was her name again?"

"Mitzy."

Felino frowned and wiped his nose.

"All right," he said, pacing back and forth, attempting to look as fierce as he could. " Which one of you killed ____ ____ ____?"

9 Comments:

Blogger Gone Away said...

Okay, I'm no sleuth, amateur or otherwise, but this is what I think. The relevant piece of evidence is the "stray, mismatched hair". Since we know that Mitzy had grey hair, this mismatched hair must be of another colour. This would eliminate the butler and the Russian, since I defy anyone to tell from one quick glance at a single hair the difference between blue (a fancy word for grey), white and grey itself. So the hair must have been of a colour sufficiently different from grey for our erstwhile detective to have noticed it. We are left with Tom and the Somali cook. Perhaps I should point out at this stage that they are all cats and the detective has an allergy to such animals. Both the American long hair and the Somali can be colours other than white or grey but we are not vouchsafed this information. I take a leap of faith and accuse Tom. His hair is long and therefore more likely to be noticed than the shorter hairs of the Somali. The cat theme is very clever and runs right the way through the passage, from the "civet" heads on the lintel to the Siamese statue on a table. It is this statue that leads me to suppose that Mitzy is (or was) a Siamese, although this is not necessary information to solve the riddle - she was grey with age, at least at the muzzle. Okay, now you can tell me how wrong I am. ;)

1/16/2005 05:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"...Mitzy the Cat." Extra credit: they're ALL cats. Where's my prize?!? (RC)

1/16/2005 05:03:00 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Oh, and a suitable ending would be, "Which one of you killed Mitzy, the Siamese?"

1/16/2005 05:03:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I concede to Gone Away (aka "Smarty-Boots"), which is what I'll be in a sec. These mini-mysteries have been nothing but an exercise in extra-large humiliation.

1/16/2005 05:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Smarty-Boots blushes appropriately...

1/16/2005 05:13:00 PM  
Blogger Remainderman said...

Once again, our gentle visitors prove themselves smarter than your humble Contributor, since the only mystery was that all of the characters were cats, including Felino (feline). We'll have to conjure Agatha so that we can provide a real challenge.

I think the prize goes to Gone Away (honorable mention to Anonymous). Since he's Gone Away, we'll ship the prize to him on his return.

Kudos.

1/16/2005 07:54:00 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Thank my lucky stars that I arrived late.

1/16/2005 09:23:00 PM  
Blogger Harry said...

Damn. After the fact, the title is so blatantly obvious. Oo, and I hate you smartypants! :p

1/16/2005 09:25:00 PM  
Blogger Gone Away said...

Such is the price of fame... :|

1/17/2005 07:45:00 AM  

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