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Farnsworth Smythe, the legendary investigator, stood before a roaring hearth-fire in the drawing room of Tumbridge Manor.
"I have gathered you here this evening to reveal the identity of Sir Alfred’s murderer!" Smythe announced to the dozen men and women arrayed before him. "You, Captain Shearer!" The Boer War hero was seated rigidly in a high-backed armchair. "You are marksman enough to have accomplished the job, but swiftly!...And you, Mr. Bunting?" Smythe whirled to face the stoop-shouldered groundskeeper. "Ever the faithful servant, are you? Sir Alfred's most trusted man, forever doffing your cap and tending to the shrubbery? But did you not nurture a secret loathing for your liege, for decades of beagling mishaps and petty slights?!" Smythe turned to Sally Perkins, the American movie starlet, stretched languidly across a chaise-longue. "Miss Perkins! It may not shock these ladies and gentleman to learn that Sir Alfred fell victim to your minx-like charms -- but did he also learn too much about your past? Did he learn so much, indeed, that your only recourse was to that most dastardly crime: Murder?!"
A glint appeared in Smythe's cobalt eyes. "Everyone here had motive to commit this heinous act. But detective work is a science, and an art. And in this case, as in my past successes -- The Case of The Clock That Struck Twelve Twice, Murder At St. Jameses, Death By Glue -- it wasn't one clue, but a web of hints, twists of circumstance, and minor miscues, through which the murderer revealed himself: a shadowy figure, glimpsed at first in silhouette, who came into the sharpest focus! And that most malevolent scoundrel, the author of the wretched deed that snuffed an innocent life...is...none other than...I! Detective Farnsworth Smythe, of Scotland Yard!!!"
Gasps filled the room. The widow Lady Hortense trembled and collapsed at the feet of Percy Wilton, the Wimbledon Champion. Oliver Cotswald, Smythe's lead investigator, rose. "But Smythe!" Cotswald implored. "It's quite impossible! I myself was with you, dining in Biarritz, hundreds of miles from the scene of the crime, at the very hour it occurred!"
Smythe's eyes narrowed. He nodded gravely. "Yes...Cotswald…yes…But has it occurred to you that in fact Sir Alfred was not murdered at that time at all?! That he was quite alive -- that he was seen motoring in the countryside! -- several weeks after the killing was to have taken place?!"
"Smythe! Impossible! The coroner's report states conclusively that the murder took place on February 5th! You yourself examined Sir Alfred's body not 48 hours later!"
The suspects were drifting out of the room. Vladislav Pikovsky, the pianist, began playing a Chopin nocturne. Guests huddled around Lady Hortense with smelling salts.
"Once again," Smythe thundered, "A wicked plot has been unraveled!" He took a bite out of his monocle and nibbled thoughtfully. "A squalid jail cell awaits the perpetrator of this most diabolical of crimes: cold-blooded murder!"
Date Written: March 17, 2004
Author: Craig Lewis
Average Vote: 4.1667