Whodunnit...?

Liz hurried home from the library with the small stack of books tucked under her arm. She loved a good "whodunit," which was obvious from the titles: "The Midnight Slasher," "Death by Design" and "The Hotel Holland Homicides: A Maxwell Barringer Mystery."

She was particularly anxious to get started on the latter, written by her favorite author of all time, Percival St. Clair, and featuring her favorite sleuth of all time, the indomitable Chief Inspector Barringer. He was Bulldog Drummond, a Canadian Mountie and the male equivalent of Miss Jane Marple, all rolled into one brilliant package. Maxwell Barringer always got his man...or woman, as the case may be.

When Gail walked through the door of the bedsitter she and Liz shared in Chelsea, Liz was already up to her neck in dead bodies and likely suspects and about to find out if her powers of deduction had been correct.

"Nose in a book again?" asked Gail, only to be met with a gasp of dismay and an expression of total disbelief on her roommate's face.

Liz was speechless. She waved the book furiously in Gail's direction. Gail blinked and attempted to focus.

"What?" she asked, staring at the gory cover.

"It's a crime, that's what!" shouted Liz. Gail pondered the statement.

"Isn't it supposed to be?" She grinned. "I mean it's a thriller, right? By its very nature, that would seem to indicate a crime. Why the surprise?"

Liz scowled, narrowing her eyes. Gail grimaced. "Sorry. Bad joke apparently."

"The last page has been torn out!" cried a horrified Liz. "Who would do something like that? Who on earth would tear the page containing the solution out of a book?"

"A sadist?" question Gail, raising her eyebrows like Groucho Marx and hoping it might relieve the tension. Liz was far from amused. Gail decided to give it another shot.

"The murderer, so nobody would know it was him?" she ventured with a bright smile. Liz's eyes narrowed.

"I don't find this particularly funny, Gail," she said haughtily.

Gail sighed and shrugged her shoulders. "Well there's nothing you can do about it now." She checked her watch. "It's late. I suggest you get some sleep and see if you can find another copy tomorrow."

"Sleep?" screeched Liz. "How can I sleep when I don't know who did it?"

"You're going to keep on about this, aren't you?" asked Gail. She held out her hand. "Give it to me. How difficult can it be to solve a murder? All the clues are there, it just takes a little organization and reasoning."

Liz smiled happily. Gail had such a logical brain, she'd have the answer in no time.

"Well?" queried Liz expectantly, as Gail placed the book on the nightstand. "Who did it?"

"How should I know?" snapped Gail. "The last page is missing!"

"You said you could figure it out," accused a disappointed Liz.

Gail declined to answer.

Liz yawned. The whole business had been totally exhausting. "Guess the only thing to do is get some sleep then."

"Sleep?" bellowed Gail. "How can you think of sleep when we don't know who did it?"

"You're right," agreed Liz, suddenly wide-awake again. She was infuriated and determined to make somebody pay for the aggravation. "I'm going to give that librarian a piece of my mind tomorrow, I can tell you!" she stated. "How dare he let someone check out a murder mystery when the last page is missing!"

Gail nodded vehemently. "I'm with you, girl!"

The timid library employee cringed beneath the vented force of Liz's wrath. He didn't much care for the menacing countenance of her companion either. Aggressive females frightened him, especially young ones.

No. He couldn't tell them who had torn out the last page, but hastened to assure them that it hadn't been him. No. There wasn't another copy available, much to his deepest regret and they had absolutely no idea how deep that regret ran. No. He hadn't read the book personally and was, therefore, unable to identify the killer. He apologized profusely for that and agreed, like the miserable worm that he was, when they told him in no uncertain terms that he was a moron for lending out books when he hadn't read them.

The librarian hung his head in shame.

He coughed. It was rather a pathetic sound. "Perhaps," he offered warily, "you could try contacting the publisher. They could most probably tell you where to obtain another copy."

Gail's eyes glinted. "Marvelous idea," she said. The browbeaten man was thankful for the reprieve.

"Worthy of Maxwell Barringer himself," agreed Liz. She leaned over the counter. "Can we use your phone?"

"By all means," said the cowering librarian, inching it toward her with the tip of his pencil.

He busily sorted through his already immaculate card catalog and listened uneasily to the conversation. Things did not appear to be going well. Liz's tone grew more icy and hostile with every, "I see," "Is that so," and clipped "Uh-huh."

She slammed the receiver into its cradle.

"Most of the copies have been pulped," she snarled. "Not that it would make any difference. Percival St. Clair died before he finished the manuscript. Left it uncompleted. The inconsiderate fool!"

Liz stared incredulously at the librarian. "What an idiot to up and die only a couple of sentences before he'd revealed the murderer!" The little man nodded in complete agreement.

"But they still published it anyway?" questioned Gail. "Whose intelligent recommendation was that?"

Liz shrugged. "They thought people might want to read what there was, it being his last work and all. They said there's a disclaimer to that effect in the front of the book. Course, I always go straight to the first chapter so I didn't see it." Her shoulders sagged.

"What you need," Gail told her comfortingly, "is a different form of relaxation for a while. Maybe music. You've always said how you'd like to know more about opera and the famous composers. Now's your chance."

Liz brightened. So did the librarian.

"We have all the classics available for check-out on compact disc," he informed Liz with much enthusiasm, smiling hesitantly for the first time that day.

"Mozart's Don Giovanni...Tchaikovsy's Romeo and Juliet...Schubert's Unfinished Symphony..."

It was several seconds before he realized his mistake.

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