September 23, 2011

"Right this way, boys." New York Chief of Police Brent Saunders ducked under the yellow tape, holding it up for the two men accompanying him into the area. They were an odd pair, to say the least. The first man was tall and imposing, clad in a dress shirt and slacks, topped with a long black duster that almost brushed the ground as he walked. He had sharp, brown eyes and dark, well-trimmed hair. His companion, however, was his antithesis; he was short and stocky, dressed casually in a maroon jumper and khaki pants. He had about four days' worth of scruff, and heavy-lidded blue eyes that seemed to slide over everything they touched on without really taking it in. The two looked nothing like the typical law worker, but they carried themselves with an air of authority, so that no one dared question their presence.

The crime scene was a restaurant of great esteem and fame. Its name was the Red Eagle*, and it was a place where one could normally find the high-class city socialites dining and chatting, clinking glasses of expensive wine and looking down their noses at the staff. Now, it was empty, all of the staff and any unnecessary onlookers cleared away, to make room for the professionals.

The police Chief led the two men through the empty restaurant to a back table, where a grisly sight awaited them. The body of a dead man lay on the floor, his face frozen into an expression of horror and fright. he had fallen out of his chair and lay twisted on the floor, as though he had been in pain before he had died.

Saunders waited a moment in silence, gauging the reactions of the men standing over the body. "Well then, Mr. Longstreet," he said, turning to the taller of the duo. "If you want to begin..."

The taller man was shaking his head, smiling. "I'm not Jack," he said.

The Chief of Police looked embarrassed. "Oh. Well, er, sorry, Mr. Longstreet," he mumbled, turning his attention to the shorter of the two men. "I had just assumed..."

"Most people do," the man replied in a voice with a soft Scottish burr. He smiled amicably and turned to the body.

"Death by asphyxiation, it appears," he said, speaking to himself. "Name was Gerald Kinsworth. Husband to Shirley, a model. So it wasn't he that was in the papers, it was his wife...that would rule out business rivals, but would add jealous suitors as a possibility. What killed him, Frankie?" he asked, without turning around. Frankie stepped forward, pulling a pair of white surgical gloves as he did so. He knelt and poked and prodded at the man, shining a light into his mouth and turning his head from side to side, examining.

"Cyanide, plain and simple," he announced at last, pulling the gloves off with a snap.
"Probably in the appetizer, as he's only...ten hours, forty minutes cold. Eleven, tops."

Jack nodded slowly, the gears clearly turning in his mind. "May we see the kitchen, Mr. Saunders?" he requested.

The dazed-looking cop opened his mouth to speak, snapped it shut, and nodded. He led the duo through the restaurant to the back kitchen. It was a close and crowded area, with pots and pans lining the walls and hanging on racks, and unfinished food piled along the counters. The burners were off, but soups and various broths were still cooling on the stoves. Along one particular counter lay a row of small appetizers. They were made from pita bread, sliced into squares, piled with hummus and tomato. Sliced chives completed the ensemble, and the completed entrees were lined up in rows along the black counter-top. Several were missing from the lot, and it was to these that Jack Longstreet headed, barely sparing the rest of the kitchen a passing glance.

"Frankie?" he inquired, stepping aside for the lanky man. Frankie stepped forward and studied the food for a moment, brows furrowed. The dumbstruck Saunders watched on, uncertain as to what was happening next.

"Definitely the right food," he declared after a moment. "Look, some are missing, and they aren't piled elsewhere. I found traces of pita in the man's molars. Cyanide, concealed in the hummus. Fairly straightforward." Frankie snapped his fingers suddenly. "But there's more here! The killer didn't want this to be easy for himself. He was playing a game. I like games." His eyes glinted. "He didn't put the poison in every single one of these. He put them in only some, to try his luck. Let's try mine." Frankie suddenly stretched out a hand and snatched up a pita. Saunders opened his mouth in alarm, but the man had already popped it into his mouth and was chewing gleefully, eyes alight with exhilaration.

Jack watched this display with a look close to apathy and Frankie swallowed and rubbed his hands together excitedly. "You seem to have survived," he said, raising an eyebrow. Frankie nodded thoughtfully.

"That I have," he replied, appearing almost disappointed. "Then again, I was always good at gambling. Problem?" he asked Saunders, whose mouth was opening and closing like a fish out of water.

"Wh-what's going on?" he blurted. "H-how do you know all this? Where did you get your information from? You two were from the mortuary, you were supposed to take the body back with you! What's happening here?"

Frankie chuckled, a sinister sound. "Oh, no, Jackie, we've been caught by the big bad policeman," he said, his voice mocking. "Want to play a game, policeman? I like games." He held up a pita. The cop's face turned white, and he started to scramble backwards, only to be caught from behind by Jack, who had snuck behind him when he wasn't looking.

"Don't struggle," he cautioned, his voice monotone. Where he had appeared bored before, the Scotsman had gone from apathetic to lifeless; his eyes appeared dead and without luster to the terrified policeman.

"Let's play a gaame," Frankie sang, holding the man's nose so his mouth would open. "Is this pita poisoned, or safe? Let's find out!" He stuffed the pita inside and clamped the jaw shut, patting it affectionately before lowering his lips to the man's ear.

"You want to know how we know all those things about the murder? Who the man was, who he was married to, how he died?" he whispered, a wicked sneer on his face. "It's because we killed him." Saunders began to choke, a look of panic crossing his face. Frankie's, by contrast, became almost serene, watching as Jack allowed the dying man to slide to the floor, clutching at his neck. "And now," he whispered softly, watching the light go out of the other's eyes, "we've killed you, too."

The author's comments:
A kind of Sherlockian story, with a twist.

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