The following murder mystery can be solved from the clues contained within it. Can you identify the murderer, the victim, and the murder weapon? Bonus: How many song titles and artists can you name from the lyrics found in the text? (The total number of songs is also referenced in the story.)
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It was one of those nights. One of those crazy old nights. A hot August night with the leaves hangin’ down and the grass on the ground smelling sweet.
She’d come out of the sun in a silk dress, running. Like a watercolor in the rain. But now? Well… now she’s buying a stairway to heaven.
At that moment it struck me, hard. Like a blow to the breadbasket from a drunk in a bar brawl on buck-a-beer night. My addled brain was thinking in old song lyrics and it had to stop. Yeah it had to stop—in the name of love.
I knelt down for a closer look. She lay stomach down on the macadam, her arms almost akimbo. The half of her face I could see let me know that she was young; maybe a couple dozen birthdays young. And that’s how she was going to remain… forever young. A life that went by like dusk to dawn—isn’t that the way?
The ticking ten-dollar timepiece strapped to my wrist told me it was twenty-five or six to four. I tugged at the collar on my coat, hoping to somehow cover the sickness that slithered across my face like a snake trying to free itself from a layer of dead skin. Years of detective work never made moments like this any easier. Any night was a bad night for a murder, but this one was worse… much worse than most.
Wishing to avoid an unpleasant scene, I looked away. I tried to concentrate on my work. Waves of flashing lights from squad cars reflected rhythmically on the purple pool of blood like a lighthouse screaming danger! across a craggy shore. But this warning would come too late for the victim lying dead at my feet.
An officer named Davies ambled toward me. He was a human meatloaf with the kind of face that begged for someone to shoot out the lights. Suddenly I felt like flying away like a bat out of hell. But I have a job to do and I do it well. So I stayed just a little bit longer and listened to what the man said.
“Here’s what we’ve got. A glove, stained with blood. Found it in that dumpster by the gym—left hand.” The words ran across his bumpy lips like a rickety roller coaster on an old wooden track. “We recovered a second glove, right hand, over there in the grass.”
“No weapon?” I asked, not because I didn’t know the answer, but because I needed a break from the amplifiers ringing in my head. I smoked the day’s last cigarette, remembering what she’d said.
“Not yet,” he muttered, “but the boys are still combing the area.” With a beefy thumb he motioned toward the dark, empty cafe. “Forensics was able to lift a fingerprint from the blood stains they found in the john at the choke-and-puke. Looks like he came in through the bathroom window.”
“You mean she.”
“Lennon and McCartney. Beatles. Or Joe Cocker. Uh, never mind.”
“Um… all right. Well, whoever it was… the bathroom window was broken. Looks like that’s how he… or she… uh… it looks like that’s how the perp got in.”
The night air was as thick as the blood gurgling through Davies’s pork-chop-and-gravy-infused arteries. It almost swallowed the announcement on his radio that they’d found a weapon—a handgun, thrown haphazardly into some bushes behind the coffee house.
“A Saturday night special,” Davies proudly proclaimed.
“Got a barrel that’s blue and gold,” I guess I sort of sang, unknowingly.
“You okay, Ed?”
“As okay as I can be with a dead woman, no witnesses, and a weapon that obviously wasn’t used to kill this girl.” I reached up and rubbed at the kink that was pounding in my neck.
“How do you know it wasn’t the murder weapon?”
“She wasn’t shot… in fact, she wasn’t even…”
I stumbled on the words, unable to complete my thought. I again tried to hide my face… to hide the secret about her that I knew. Suddenly, I wanted to glide down over Mulholland. I wanted to leave this world for awhile.
“It’s… she’s… you knew her, didn’t you?”
It was his use of the past tense that pierced my soul—the sort of pain that cuts like a knife. Knew. Yeah, I knew her. But now she’s gone. I’d met her in a club. Down in old SoHo. I remembered her dark brown voice… a voice that was now just a faded memory. Nothing more than dust in the wind. Why did these songs keep popping into my head? What did they mean?
I could feel it, coming in the air tonight. Then it struck me, much like that final, fatal blow upon her head. They were clues. The clues I needed to help me solve this murder. I studied the crime scene drawing that the boys in forensics had prepared. It was a thing of beauty, but it lacked one detail. A piece they had overlooked. The sort of detail that the wayward murderer had hoped everyone would miss. Something he thought I’d forget.
But rock and roll never forgets.
Okay, it’s your turn. Can you solve the mystery? Or write your own ending?
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