Friday, April 16, 2010

Bathroom Monologue: Certainty in Mystery

Ten minutes later, Samuel caught up with Dr. Cooth. He spilled into the laboratory, tripping over himself as he cried, “Doctor, the murderer has struck again! The cook has been slain!”

“I know,” replied Dr. Cooth, unscrewing the silencer from the gun in his left hand. It was a custom German-made lefty pistol with a polished oak stock, like all of Dr. Cooth’s specially made left-handed goods. At his feet lay Madame Boudeau, blood pooling from under her slumped form and seeping back into her white cotton chemise.

“Doctor…” Samuel shook his head, back towards the door. “No, it can’t be! After all the years of wrestling criminals, you yourself have succumbed…”

“Not quite.”

The doctor pocketed the silencer and stepped away from Mrs. Boudeau, freshly polished shoes avoiding potential stains.

“I’ve suspected it for years, but today I’m certain. All the bizarre and elaborate murders I’ve solved? No one else in the country has ever heard of such ludicrous cases. The man who murdered his wife while having his identical twin stand in for him at a dinner party as an alibi? The illusion of the ghost dog at that mansion? They all had one mastermind.”

Samuel had one hand on the doorframe, but could not flee. His eyes appealed to Dr. Cooth to not be this mastermind of which he spoke.

“You solved those, Doctor. You brought wicked men and women to justice.” His voice trembled as he tried to assure them both, “You are a good man.”

“Years of murders that made no sense, and somehow I always found the truth.”

He shook his head in memory of Mrs. Boudeau, though he was not mourning for her. His gun still smoked.

“Every case was almost purposefully obtuse. And this morning? Our host, Alistair Boudeau, stabbed to death with his own sword collection in a room where all the doors and windows were locked from the inside? No trap doors, not even one of those ridiculous revolving bookcases. And done at a time when only you and your fiancé were together, leaving five suspects. All preposterous!”

Now Dr. Cooth paced around Mrs. Boudeau’s body, feet walking him in circles while his gaze fixed on his loyal assistant.

“That is when I realized: the killer has never been a madman or scheming woman, but an author. No other detective deals with such cases, and abroad they even joke that I attract them. There is no rational explanation save that these have all been mystery novels, set up by a deviant writer who slaughters us for amusement. His method is obvious hack: he kills, basks in the mourning, kills again, and spins out an explanation from where there could have been none.”


Dr. Cooth shook the gun at Samuel like a steel index finger.

“In all of his plots there come times like this – when everyone is a suspect, little motive is present, and the method makes no particular sense. He hasn’t decided who did it yet and will soon go back to edit it in. The truth is merely a rough draft, and here is where we can stop him. For whoever the author was going to decide to make the killer has already been killed.”

“No, Doctor!” Samuel shook his head. “You haven’t killed all of them…?”

“All but your sweet Marianne, Samuel. You can vouch for each other’s innocence – the author cannot damn you. But the cook, the maid, Mr. Starling from London and Doris Boudeau? Between them and the fifth unaccounted-for suspect, I have a 100% chance of having delivered justice.”

“Doctor…” Samuel stammered, tears already lining the bottoms of his eyes. “I never knew you were so sick a man.”

“Sick but soon to be cured, Samuel. No more of these insipid, implausible murder cases. For I, too, was alone when the author struck. I vividly remember dozing in the garden, roses between my fingers at the time of the crime, but he will soon rewrite that. We must ensure justice, and we cannot put it past this depraved writer to turn the detective into the killer.”

Dr. Cooth put the warm muzzle under his chin and smiled to Samuel one last time.


  1. Forensic metafiction. It's so true, the author is a sadist who derives fiendish, ugly pleasure from creating such detail of destruction

    marc nash

  2. I bet Agatha Christie never had to contend with quite such a sleuth...

  3. Not sure I'll ever quite trust Sherlock Holmes again... Brilliant :-)

  4. John, this was a good mix of humor and some dark twists. I thought I had it figured out, but you surprised me at the end. Good job!

  5. What an excellent story. Proves our characters aren't always as unsuspecting of our intent for them as we believe them to be. Thanks for a fun read.

  6. But damn this is clever. Like watching M.C.Escher's lizards biting their own tails. Great stuff, John.

  7. Wow...dark and perfect. I had goosebumps at the end.

  8. Twisted, brilliant. Great dialogue! Love your work John!

  9. VERY nice, I especially love the ending. Humorous throughout, with a dash of bitter sweet at the end. Well done.

  10. Fewer comments than usual this week, but people are liking it. That's a relief. This story has actually been rejected from more publications than anything else I've ever written. I decided to give it life here because I feel so badly for Dr. Cooth. You might even call him my literary conscience.

    Thank you all for the kind words. I appreciate them, and so does the doctor.

  11. Very cool! This had a great mix of humor mixed in with the detective genre. And I loved the little bit of grit mixed in.

  12. Love. Simple, pure love from start to finish. Even his name, Dr. Cooth, is perfect.

    This is an excellent story, and quite true in its way.

    Did I say I love this story?

  13. I loved it, particularly right on the heals of reading Talking About Detective Fiction, by P. D. James. Thanks for the grins.

  14. Several things popped into my head...

    Just this week, I went to a panel discussion promoting an anthology. One of the topics was when and how your characters talk to you, and don't always behave the way you expect.

    The next: a Star Trek Next Generation episode where Dr. Moriarty became self-aware during the holodeck sessions.

    And then, one of my favorite movies is "Stranger Than Fiction" with Emma Thompson and a subdued Will Farrell.

    Somehow, you did the same topic with a fresh twist.

    Now that I see how much I've commented, I have to say, great story to make me think so much and compare and contrast. I enjoyed it.

  15. Am visiting a friend who is mad about crime stories. Had her read this story and she joins me in thanking you for giving Dr. Cooth life here.


  16. Elementary, my dear John.
    Fine writing, nice end twist.
    What do those publications know anyway?


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