Returning to the Scene of the Crime
“Thank you all for coming. I’m sure you’re all wondering why I’ve gathered you here today. The truth is we’ve discovered the identity of Gasparo Floyd’s killer.”
There were gasps of astonishment from the remaining members of the dinner club, but it was Detective Sergeant Grammar who spoke. “I swear miss Burton, if this is some kind of a joke, I will have you arrested for wasting my time.”
“This is no joke I assure you,” said Bonnie. “It all began with the foodies’s potluck dinners. After years of trying to outdo each other, each of you was being driven to make better, more exotic dishes.”
“But you and the police have already questioned all of us,” insisted Harriet Farnsbottom. “None of us could have killed him.”
“And yet each of you is responsible in a small part for his death.”
“What are you talking about?” asked Pierre. “We were his friends.”
“With friends like you,” said Anne, “who needs anemones.”
Bonnie continued, unabated. “It all began when the aquarium opened a new exhibit containing the rare and endangered Queensland Facehugger. This octopus from Australia is renowned for two things. The first is for being irresistibly delicious, probably the main reason it’s endangered. The second reason is its method of attack. It literally attaches itself to the face of its victims, wrapping its tentacles around their bodies and smothering them. That was why he needed the sunglasses from you, Doctor Wun.”
“I don’t understand,” said the doctor.
“Oh, I know!” said Anne. “To hide his eyes!”
“Right you are, Anne,” said Bonnie. “That’s where our friends Archie and Carlos come in. Gasparo figured that if he could hide his own eyes and then use the googly eyes on a sock puppet, the octopus would wrap itself around his hand instead of his face, and he could safely make off with it.”
“But he couldn’t do it while I was hanging around the wharf,” said Joe. “He was worried that I might spot him and turn him in out of spite.”
“When you announced that you were going to New York to attend the gala opening of a new restaurant, Gasparo was insanely jealous, and it pushed him over the edge. He saw your absence as an opportunity to get the octopus and stick it to you at the same time.”
“He was right,” said Joe. “I would have given up a hundred premieres for one bite of a Queensland, and he knew it.”
Bonnie pointed toward an empty bucket lying on its side against a nearby wall. “Gasparo put the octopus in a bucket of salt water to keep him fresh until he was ready to cook him.” With the toe of her shoe, she tapped a piece of dark glass. “I think that I stepped on them when the police arrested us last night, but if I’m not mistaken, they found his broken sunglasses beside the body.”
“We did recover a pair of sunglasses from the scene,” said the detective.
“He must have been on his way to the restaurant when it started to get dark and the fog rolled in. Maybe he tripped, or maybe he was startled by the stray cat like I was, but something made him drop the bucket. Not thinking and desperate to get his prize back, he pulled off the sunglasses to see better. That was all it took.”
“Oh my,” said Harriet. “What a horrible way to die.”
“It seems the food critic got his just desserts,” said Anne, smugly. “Ooh, speaking of desserts, now that the case is solved, I could go for some ice cream.”
“Actually, the phrase is just deserts with one ‘s’ in the middle and another at the end,” insisted the detective. “It’s a colloquial remnant of a now obsolete definition of desert as something that was deserved. Desserts like you’d have at the end of a meal doesn’t even make sense. It’s like saying that you’ve been bad, so you deserve some cake.”
Anne sighed. “Jeez, I can’t make a simple joke without being harassed by the Grammar Police.”
“Well, I want cake with ice cream and some wine to wash it down,” said Bonnie.
“Your theory has one flaw,” said Joe. “There’s still the matter of the missing octopus.”
“That puzzled me as well,” said Bonnie, “until I realized that this alley runs behind Pierre’s restaurant. He must have come out here to take out the garbage after the others left and found the two of them lying there. Realizing what it was, he couldn’t let it go to waste.”
“He was already dead when I found him,” insisted Pierre. “I swear.”
Anne’s turned pale. “But that means…”
“Yup. Our killer was in the gumbo.”
Anne clasped her hand over her mouth. “I think I’m going to be sick.”
“How did you figure it out?” asked Harriet.
“Pierre was the only one of you who wasn’t surprised to learn that Gasparo was dead, so he must have already known.”
Detective Grammar locked up Pierre’s wrists in handcuffs and led him away. “All right, mister. I’m taking you in for obstruction, destroying evidence, and whatever else I can think of on the way to the station.”
“And I would have gotten away with it too,” said Pierre, “if it weren’t for you meddling kids.”
“I’m glad that mystery is finally solved,” said Harriet, “but you said we all were responsible for his death. What did I do?”
“In a way, you were the most guilty of all,” said Bonnie. “You were the one he was really trying to impress. You see, miss Farnsbottom, he was in love with you.”
“With me? What makes you say that?”
“I couldn’t see them yesterday with the fog and the dead body and all, but Gasparo dropped something else.” Near where the bucket had fallen was a bouquet of flowers, still in their protective paper wrapping. Bonnie picked them up and handed them to Harriet.
She opened them up and read the card. “To my darling, Harriet. You are the sweetest dish of all.”
“Ah, how sweet,” said Anne. “In a creepy kind of way.”
“Oh, you crazy fool. I’ll make you the hero in my next book.”
“A fine job, ladies,” said Joe. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go and see if there’s any gumbo left. C’mon Harriet, let’s take the doctor inside and make sure Gasparo didn’t die for nothing.”
“There is one thing I don’t understand though,” said Bonnie. “I can’t figure out how the googly eyes got from the sock puppet to Gasparo’s face, and why they kept showing up at all the other places we went to today.”
“Oh, that was me,” said Anne. “Sorry, did I forget to mention that?”
“When I saw the dead body,” said Anne, “I guess I kinda freaked out. With the googly eyes on his face, he almost looked alive again, and I felt better. After that, I picked up some more at the craft store and just kept going. They say we all deal with death in our own way, and I guess that was mine.”
“Bonnie, you’re a regular Sherlock Holmes,” said Carlos. “I think this calls for a celebration. Why don’t we buy you both dinner.”
“All right, but no seafood,” said Anne. “I’ve haddock enough to last a lifetime.”
“I know a place that makes a great bacon burrito,” said Bonnie. “If we leave now, we can make happy hour.”
“You had me at bacon,” said Anne. “Let’s get out of here.”
And they all walked off into the sunset together, and got very drunk.
The characters of Anne and Bonnie, while loosely based on their real world namesakes, are entirely fictitious. You can find more googly-eyed goodness at vandaleyes.net.