A locked room
By Kevin Thornton
They were four in the Stranger’s Room, the only clubroom where talking was allowed. The two brothers, a contrast in physical appearance, were obviously related by the similar steely look on their faces; one lean and aquiline, the other stouter though even more resolved. Opposite them sat a small man dressed in the black of a priest. Alongside, the tall Frenchman called Duroc.
“Alors Monseigneur,” he said to Father Brown. “The conversation drags. Regale us.”
The others said nothing, their quietude implying assent.
“Perhaps then, a locked room mystery,” said the priest, “one that displays an impossibility.
“A Squire has a room at the top of the stairs, solid walled and roofed, one door, no windows. It is where he keeps his gold and he has the only key. It may be accepted that the only mortal access to the room is through this door, off a landing, bare except for a window some forty feet away.
“Every night he is up there. Now he has three nephews who hope to inherit. He treats them abysmally, and it is no surprise they harbour dark thoughts.
“One night they hear a gunshot. Ned and Dan run upstairs to find Tom already at the door, struggling. ‘Over there, Dan,’ he says pointing to the key on the window sill. ‘Bring it to me.’ Dan does so and they burst in to find the Squire dead. It looks like suicide, except he is holding the gun in his left hand and he is right-handed.”
“The Police are called,” the priest continued, “and they determine it a murder. The scientific evidence is such that suicide is precluded.
“How was it done?” he continued. “How did someone get into a sealed room, kill the Squire and escape the nephews?”
“It is an impossible crime,” said the Frenchman.
“There is no such thing,” said the younger Holmes. “One of the nephews is the murderer.”
“What about the key?” asked Mycroft.
“Ned and Dan said that Tom could not have done it from the time they heard the shot until the arrived at the door.”
“Tell us then,” said Duroc as the other two feigned good grace.
“Tom did it,” said the priest. “he had a chance to sneak up behind his uncle and hit him on the side of the head as he was opening the door. It was the left side, which was his undoing as he had to disguise the mark. He left his uncle on the floor, placed the key on the window sill, went back in, shot the Squire through the bruise then walked out the room.
“So how did he lock the door?”
“He didn’t,” said the Priest. “He pretended to unlock a door that was never locked”
“Aha”, said Mycroft, “but you told us it was a locked room mystery. Strictly speaking it was not.”
“That, then, is the impossibility to which I referred, the one none of you suspected from a man of the cloth. I lied.”
Kevin Thornton writes execrable poems, debauched short stories, opinionated newspaper columns and uncirculated novels. A four time Arthur Ellis Nominee and currently a Crime Writers of Canada Regional Vice President, he lives in Fort McMurray where he can be found in the Saturday edition of the local paper, or at http://theoldfortamusingfromtheoilsands.blogspot.com/
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