The following story is set in the same universe as my other story, "Tales from the Black Swan: The Gunman Incident". Rated T for violence.
The Locked Room Murder
At long last, a classic case of murder inside a locked room. I could see the excitement on Adrian's face as he now finally had a chance to put his idle brain to use. He had been without a good case for over a month now and was getting increasingly bored. And now, here was a mystery that would challenge everyone's brains and push them to its limits.
Now, you may wonder the only thing difficult to determine in any murder case would be the identity of the murderer. Not this one, however. Forget about the murderer, we weren't even close to determining how the victim had been killed.
His detached head lay near his body leaning against a shut window. Blood completely covered the window pane and the wall and the floor around it. The stench was overwhelming and it was all I could do to keep myself from vomiting. The policemen who were busy examining the room had masks on their faces. I should have been thoughtful as them. Adrian had already examined the body and his face had turned a sickly green too.
I knelt down to examine the body, holding my breath in the process. The head had been chopped off from the body in a clean cut. It seemed that it had been done in one sweeping motion; the bone showing itself in the neck had smooth edges. If the neck had been attacked even twice, the bones would have been jagged. I stood up and risked a breath.
"So what do you think Peter?" Adrian asked.
"Hey, I'm an astronomer. Don't forget that."
"Whatever, you write mystery stories too. That's proof of a cognitive mind. Now, what's your opinion?"
I moved away from the body. To anyone else, the whole room and the corridor outside would have carried an acrid smell of equal intensity. But to me who'd examined the body up close, the air seemed cleaner even three meters away.
"Well, his neck was sliced in a single motion that much is certain," I said. "But what kind of weapon do you think could manage to do that with so neat a cut?"
"A sword maybe? No kitchen knives could do that. And it's certainly not an axe. Not in this case anyway. You'd have to place the body somewhere and then swing down with an axe. Then, you could get a clean cut like that. But there's no place here you could use to support the neck. Using simply the floor would've left a mark. And then you'd have to drag the body here and leave it in its current sitting position as it is."
"Well, the body definitely wasn't dragged or the fact would have stood out because of the blood. And with the amount of blood that sprays out of the neck the instant you cut it, it'd be almost impossible to hide the trail it'd left if the body had been dragged."
"You didn't need to deduce all that to prove that the body wasn't dragged–"
"Sir, may I?" a voice cut Adrian off.
Adrian and I both turned to find the source of the voice. It was a policeman, a young one. Perhaps he was a recruit.
"Yes officer?" Adrian asked.
"What if the murderer used a container to contain all the blood so as to avoid the trail of blood as he–" he turned to look at me "–suggested."
I smiled. There was respect in his voice. He wasn't mocking my deductions, just clearing his doubts.
"It's simple," Adrian replied. "As I was just telling Peter, he didn't have to deduce all that to prove the body wasn't dragged. The proof is right there. Look at the body. And look at the pattern of blood on the window and the wall above it. Looks like a fountain to me. It's obvious the body was already in the position when it was cut; the blood erupted vertically from his neck and sprayed the window and the wall in that pattern."
Adrian was right. It was all right there. And I'd gone through all the useless deductions. Well, he wasn't a detective for no reason. I moved to the body. Putting on the surgical gloves that Adrian had lent me, I moved the body aside a little and examined the wall behind it. Smooth. No markings of any sort.
"Well, if what you say about that part – the body already being in that position when the head was severed – is true then it was certainly not done by any knives or an axe," I said. "It'd have left a mark on the wall. If, somehow, it was a knife of some sort, then the killer would've had to be god-like to the stop the knife before it hit the wall. Which I don't think is the case here."
Adrian sat down on a couch behind him and sighed. I looked at his face and was a little surprised to find somewhat of a defeated face.
"A locked room. A victim with his head severed leaning against a shut window. No sign of any struggle. No sign of any kind of weapon. The site of murder, twenty stories high with no means of leaving but the door, which was locked from the inside. Damn, I take my word back about being excited about this."
"There's this window through which you can leave, theoretically speaking," I said.
"And what, fall to your death twenty stories below? There's no fire escape or verandas the killer could have used, assuming he was brave and idiotic enough to do so, to get down. There're only windows, vertically lined up all the way down. And they don't provide good footing. And besides."
"There's one more reason to disprove my theoretical claim?" I asked wearily.
"An obvious one. There is no trace of blood on the window sill or the ledge. When they found the body, blood was still flowing down the wall. Which means blood was readily flowing down when the killer left. If he'd used the window, which is covered in so much blood, the outside would've been bloody too."
"So, no means of escaping but the door?"
"Yes. Which was locked. From the inside. With the key still in the keyhole."
"They had to break down this door in order to get in," the officer added.
"Well, I admit. This is one heck of a case. But if the killer didn't leave through the door then that only leaves the window. And you yourself said, 'Once you've ruled out the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be true.'"
"I didn't say that. That's a Sherlock Holmes quote. I just like it so I say it at times. And in this case, escape through the window is impossible Peter. It's the door. Now, it must have taken the people a while to get here, considering how high up this apartment is and the neighbouring ones are empty. In that time, the killer got out but managed to lock the door from the inside. We just have to figure out how he did that."
"Don't forget leaving the key in the keyhole."
"I know. God, this'll take some time."