I wrote this in fall 1990. I feel I have yet to surpass these 1340 words for sheer obviousness.

Murder on the Obvious Express

a Simple Mystery for the Deductively Impaired

James "Kibo" Parry

Detective Herb D. Tective had a hunch that someone was about to be murdered. He had a gut feeling, that sort of feeling you get when the story hasn't even begun yet but you know how it will end, that Milton Victim was about to be murdered, and that the murderer would be Mr. I. M. DeMurderer. Detective Tective sighed and tried to concentrate on the crossword puzzle he was doing as he climbed aboard the Obvious Express. The other three passengers were already on the train.

"All aboard!" called the conductor.

"What's a two-word, ten-letter phrase meaning 'distraction from the mystery at hand inserted at random to sidetrack the reader'?" Tective asked him.

"Why, 'red herring', of course," the conductor replied, explaining further that the very conversation they were having was a prime example of a red herring because it had nothing to do with the murder which is about to occur!

Just then, a hideous scream sliced through the air like a flying six-foot razor blade would slice through a skyscraper made entirely from margarine if such things existed outside this story. In other words, someone was screaming loudly, damn loudly.

"I just heard a scream," thought Tective to himself.

"I also just heard a scream, in fact, the same scream," thought the conductor.

"I didn't hear a scream," thought George Random, "because I am completely deaf." This is probably an important element in the plot and should not be underemphasized.

The only other passenger, I. M. DeMurderer, was the sole person who was not sitting right next to Detective Tective at the time that Mr. Victim was killed at the other end of the train, and so we do not know whether I. M. DeMurderer heard the scream or not.

Detective Tective, who was always alert for suspicious activities, also noticed a piece of paper lying on the floor that had been dropped by some careless person sometime in the past. It was apparently a criminal record of some insane killer who had killed six hundred people on board six hundred trains; however, it was torn in half, so that Tective could not read the killer's full name, only the first two initials "I. M.".

Tective, the conductor, and Random decided to walk to the other end of the train to figure out what was going on. Tective's arms were full because he was holding the torn piece of paper in one hand and a crossword puzzle in the other, so he asked the conductor, "Mr. Conductor, would you please open the sliding door that leads into the next compartment, because my hands are full?"

The conductor replied, "Sorry, Detective, but as is obvious, the push-button that opens the sliding door is on the left so that it can only be pressed with the left hand, and I have no left hand, because my left hand was chopped off by a malfunctioning sliding door last year. Perhaps Mr. Random will open the door for us."

Mr. Random explained that he too could not open the door because he had also lost his left hand, although he had lost his when a giant flying razor blade appeared out of nowhere and sliced it off. Tective thought it was significant that of the three possible suspects (Random, the conductor, and DeMurderer) two of them had no left hand. Tective stuffed his crossword puzzle into his hat and opened the door. The door squeaked.

"Did you hear that?" Tective asked Random.

"No," replied Random with utmost sincerity, "I am deaf."

"Sorry, in the excitement of the moment, I forgot that important fact."

"That's okay. Even I sometimes forget that I have been deaf since birth. For instance, yesterday, I turned on the radio to listen to some rap music, before I realized that I could not hear it."

Tective and the two right-handed men exploded into the rear compartment. Inside was Mr. DeMurderer, who was standing over the dead body of Mr. Victim. Mr. Victim had a pair of left-handed scissors sticking out of his chest. Mr. DeMurderer had bloodstains under his fingernails.

"Okay," Tective said, "Now that we're all here in the same room, I must ask that nobody leave the room until we figure out who the murderer is. Somebody has committed an act of dreadful violence, and I will not rest until they are apprehended and punished, preferably by a flying razor blade. Mr. DeMurderer, I will start by asking you a few simple questions. What are your hobbies?"

"Well," I. M. DeMurderer replied in a sleazy voice just like that of a stereotypical deranged serial killer, "I am the proud owner of the world's greatest collection of left-handed scissors. Because I have only a left hand, unlike these other suspects who have only right hands, I cannot use ordinary scissors made for right-handed people. So, I have amassed this my collection of left-handed scissors, which I can use. They are from all over the world, and they have incredibly sharp blades, which slice through paper, plastic, and human flesh like a giant flying razor blade would slice through a skyscraper made from margarine."

The conductor leaned over and spoke confidentially into Tective's ear. "Incidentally, I forgot to mention this earlier when we were discussing 'red herrings', but it is common practice in a murder mystery for the writer to repeatedly mention a 'red herring' so that readers will notice it and get distracted by it. Just because giant flying razor blades have turned up several times in our conversations today, doesn't mean they are relevant to the identity of the murderer. I would expect that the identity of the murderer can be gleaned from details most readers will have overlooked, such as the fact that Mr. DeMurderer is the only suspect who has a left hand."

"Indeed, you are right, Mr. Conductor, this I. M. DeMurder fellow is starting to look a little suspicious. In fact, I had a hunch earlier that said that an I. M. DeMurderer would murder Mr. Victim. Perhaps this is the same man. However, that is a circumstantial assumption. However, I have this piece of torn paper which may prove to be of some importance. It says that a person whose initials are 'I. M.' is a notorious killer. Mr. DeMurderer, your initials are I. M., are they not?"

"No," chuckled I. M., "They're I. M. D."

"Don't get cocky with me!" snarled Tective, his voice taking on a sharp edge like a giant flying razor blade. "I have a sneaking suspicion that maybe, just maybe, you killed Victim."

"How do you know?"

"Well, for a start, Victim was killed with left-handed scissors."

"You haven't proved anything, Tective. You only took the author's word for the scissors. How do you know they're not a red herring or a typographical error like the one in this sentanec?"

"Okay, I will examine the scissors," said Tective, picking them up and trying to use them with his right hand. Because they were pointed backwards, he cut off two of his own fingers when he squeezed them. "Ow," he said, "see, they are left-handed."

"Curses! I am caught in an inescapable trail of logic!" snarled DeMurderer, who was revealed to be the murderer. "I am just no match for your deductive capabilities! You're as sharp as a giant flying razor blade!"

Irritated by the constant repetition of that cute phrase, Mr. Conductor and Mr. Random lunged at Mr. DeMurder and proceeded to strangle him, each contributing one hand to a cooperative effort.

"Well, it looks as if justice has been done," said Tective, unfolding his crossword puzzle again and starting on the "Down" clues.

"Gosh, that was great," said Random.

"I had a hunch it would be," said Tective. And with those words, he flew off into the night, metaphorically speaking, of course, slicing through the "Across" words in his puzzle like a giant vertical razor blade through a horizontal skyscraper made of margarine.

"What did he say?" asked Random, who was still deaf.


James "Kibo" Parry
last revised Feb. 24, '98

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