Whistler’s Murder by Fredric Brown

by Arun

Source: The Shaggy Dog and Other Murders

Story Number: 100

Carlos Perry used to be in Vaudeville, a solo act, whistling – and hence the company name of ‘Whistler & Company’, which he had been using for his latest occupation of song writing. But he had cheated a lot of his friends and employees and hence a lot of them were pretty bitter – his nephew Walter traces a few of his vaudeville friends and tells them of his plan to help them when Carlos dies and passes on the inheritance to him. To expedite the process, Walter sends a threatening letter (without having any intention to carry out the threat) to his uncle saying he would die at a particular time. Walter believes that this would soften up his uncle and would help matters but Carlos just hires two security guards from a very reputed agency to guard him during the crucial hour. But in spite of it, somebody finds a way to bypass them and murder Carlos in his estate.

The insurance detective Henry Smith stumbles across this impossible crime when he goes to meet his client Walter Perry to renew his life insurance policy. Walter is the prime suspect as the police trace those threatening letters to him and is eventually arrested. But he has got a perfect alibi and the police can’t figure out exactly how the murder could’ve been committed. 2 security guards were standing guard on the roof of the house, there’s only 1 entry into the house via the front door and the men on guard can see the door and the complete surrounding area – no human could have approached the door without they seeing him. Yet, when there is a telephone call in the night and one of the guards goes down to answer the phone, he finds the man whom they were guarding dead! One person searches the house while the other still keeps watch on the roof but they don’t find anyone.

Smith talks to Walter in the jail and gets the background details about Carlos, his company and information about the people his uncle had cheated. Smith however gets his vital clue from the horse trainer on the estate who says he has been having a jolly good time fooling the city detectives about the difference between the various breeds of horses – which leads him to the ingenious solution of this very clever impossible crime.