July 27, 2007

With A Grain of Salt

by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

Taffy had done 18 months for hijacking one of Peter Piper's trucks. Stole16 tons of pickled peppers (Why?! Who knows?). But Piper had a good alibi. He'd been home with his wife, eating pumpkin pie and playing cards with a couple of neighbors. So who killed a two-bit hood by ripping his throat out, dousing him with slime, and dumping him in Sir Reginald Thimble's flower bed? A similar murder in Dressmakers St. put me on the right track My client was a member of the notorious Tailor Gang At last everything was piecing itself together in my head.


Sir Reginald's front door was open. Running up the steps I slipped and landed hard. A trail of goo came up the drive and went through the door. I followed, and almost tripped over the butler. Crushed flat.

Three well-dressed victims had been smoking in a room off the main hall,.my client among them. Blood was everywhere. I stepped back out. A snail the size of a Volkswagen was coming up fast from the back of the house. I pulled a salt shaker out of my pocket and raised it high. The snail stopped in its trail.

"So it is down to me and it is down to you, Deadbolt," the snail gurgled. I was surprised to hear a mollusk quoting "The Princess Bride." Usually they go in for live theater when they seek entertainment.

"One question," I said. It dipped an eye stalk "Why? Did the Tailors pay you to hit the Welshman? And if they did, why start killing them? You're a pro, not a garden-variety psycho."

"You humanoids are all crooked. They put the hit on the little thief cos he was stupid enough to rip them off. Only an idiot steals from a syndicate."

"You won't get an argument from me," I said, "but what about the Tailors? Doing your civic duty?"

"Thread-biters didn't pay me." It sounded outraged. "I let that get out, that people can push in my eyestalks, and I won't be eating."

"Three square salads a day where you're going now," I said, "you can thank me later." Meanwhile, I had unscrewed the lid of the saltshaker. It would last until the cops got here with a couple of 5 pound sacks.

The end



"Peter Piper"

"Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater"

"The tailors and the snail"

July 10, 2007

Raise Your Hand if You Just Became a Vegan

by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

A well-constructed young woman barged into my office Monday morning, breathing hard after running up two flights of stairs. When she regained her composure she told me her great aunt had "drifted away from her moorings." Some time Sunday morning the old lady had started devouring livestock, not just raw, but still living. By day's end she was dead.

"What do you want me to do, Miss Clarendon?"

"Oh, Mr. Deadbolt," she replied, "Why did she eat those critters? The great aunt Sylvia I knew would never do such a thing. She might have been murdered. Maybe by a hypnotist."


"I'm sure you know why I have gathered you together," I began. "You are the relatives of the late Sylvia Clarendon. I was asked to investigate her death, to find out whether foul play was involved. I've checked into all of you carefully, as well as anyone who had business or social dealings with the deceased. I turned up nothing. Ms. Clarendon was universally liked, and was far from wealthy.

"I did partially solve the mystery. She really did take a double dose of several powerful prescription drugs last Friday night as she went to bed. Sunday morning she swallowed a common housefly, and then a spider in hopes that it would trap the fly. Because of the limited opportunities for web construction within her digestive tract, she chose a jumping spider, but of a perfectly respectable species. When the spider failed to return, Ms. Clarendon swallowed a small bird. Its mission was to retrieve the spider, but by 0900 hrs it had failed to do so. Her choice of a house sparrow, a seed eater, may have been part of the problem. There followed in rapid succession the following commandos: a rat, a cat, and a dog, all with rather obvious goals. Her motives of the afternoon are less certain. About 1320 she swallowed a goat, which might have been a bad choice considering the size of the dog it was supposed to subdue. Be that as it may, around 1500 hrs a cow followed the goat. This was a highly reliable operative named Bessie who had successfully completed similar missions in the past. At 1545 a cleaner named Dobbins was sent in, with what tragic results you all know.

"I have, as I said, worked out most of the details of the weekend's tragedy. However, one thing still puzzles me about the whole affair. I don't know why she swallowed the fly."

The end


May 31, 2007


by David C. Kopaska-Merkel

My name is Deadbolt, Hasp Deadbolt. I'm a P.I. In my business, trouble often comes calling. This time a giant bug grabbed my elbow and jerked me around, tearing my shirt.

"Lady," I said, "violence is not necessary."

"Emergency!" She screamed. "My house is on fire, my children will burn!" She pointed. A plume of black smoke rose a few blocks away.

"Did you call the fire department?"

She nodded, urging me in the direction of the blaze and ripping my sleeve clean off.

"Then fly away home; I'll be along." I started running.


By the time I got there, the fire was out. Her children huddled around her skirts, crying. She counted frantically. "Ann, my youngest, isn't here!"

I waded into the rubble. I started in the wreckage of her kitchen. "Here she is ma'am," I called, "under the pudding pan."

While the frantic mother was cuddling the baby, a local cop arrived. Constable Johns and I went way back. Bridget had a sharp eye, she was tough, and she owed me, since the "Boy Blue" incident.

"Good work Hasp," she said, "but why are you interfering with an arson investigation?"

"Arson!?" I exclaimed. "This just happened." If I'd been thinking a little faster I would've claimed Mrs. Ladybird was my client, but just then the lady in question turned to us.

"Arson!" She looked at me. "Hasp Deadbolt?" I nodded. "I want you to help me nail the bastard who tried to kill my babies." She turned to Constable Johns. "What do the police think?"

"Well, ma'am, I'm not at liberty..."

"Deadbolt, you're on the case. Is 100 a sufficient retainer?"


"Constable," I said, "we need to talk. Let me buy you a pastry."

"I'll fill you in," she said, taking a bite, "if you help me." There'd been a string of suspicious fires on the north side.

"We've kept quiet. We don't want copycats."

The fires were set in broad daylight; it had to be somebody who spent a lot of time in this part of town. I rubbed my chin. Old Miz Hubbard was doing time in the happy house. "This is not Georgy Porgy's style. I like Dr. Fell, but I can't say why."

Bridget nodded thoughtfully. "I can put him near two fires, maybe more."

"Let's check his house." I couldn't do that legally, but Bridget could. The next day we waited until the doctor left on his rounds and we went in the back door.


Not much can turn my stomach, but all I will say about what we found there is this: I do not love thee Dr. Fell.

The end

For those unfamiliar with the two nursery rhymes referred to here, these are links to versions similar to the ones I used.

Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home

I do not like thee Dr. Fell