Too Clever for His Own Good
Chapter 1 – The Burned Pancake
“No! No! No!” a man was yelling at a television.
“. . . suspects that the woman had fallen asleep at the wheel,” a newswoman reported on the screen. “Police remind drivers to take precautions and avoid getting behind the wheel when feeling tired.”
“Problem?” A slightly smaller man had appeared from the kitchen. He was wearing an apron and waving a spatula.
“It doesn't make sense, Sean,” the taller man exclaimed, standing right in the middle of the room, pointing at the television. “Look! Quick!”
Behind the newswoman, a picture of the scene of the accident was projected on a green screen. An ambulance and two police cars stood parked on the road, right next to an area cordoned off with the signature white and blue tape that read: ”POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS.” The back of the crashed grey sedan was barely visible in the top-right corner.
“Dear me, is that about the accident?” Sean Tippett sighed. “Yeah, I heard about that. Tragic. Had a small kid, too.”
The taller man paced in circles, rustling his messy hair. “No, no, no. It was not an accident. It was murder. Has to be.”
“Murder? You're not serious?” Tippett said, looking confused. “It says right under there that the police don't suspect a crime.”
“Oh, what do they know. There's something wrong with that picture, I'm telling you.”
Tippett squinted tightly at the screen. “I think you've lost it this time, William. There's nothing there.”
“You're not looking, Sean,” William Crowden said adamantly. “Look at the road. Look at the tire tracks.”
“What tire tracks?” Tippett frowned, almost sticking his nose on the screen. The only tracks he saw were on the grass next to the road where the car had drifted off. “There are no tracks on the road.”
Tippett turned. He saw Crowden in an odd zen-position with his eyes closed, two fingers on each temple. His lips were quivering but didn't make a sound. “What are you doing?” Tippett asked.
“Calculating, what does it look like?” Crowden mumbled, waving a finger to indicate silence. “That car cannot have been going more than twenty miles an hour, based on the curvature of the marks on the side of the road.”
Tippett stared at him in bewilderment. “Twenty miles an hour? That. . . seems awfully slow.”
“Doesn't it?” Crowden's eyes flashed open. “Enough to kill a person? Highly doubtful. Also considering that the speed limit on that road is fifty-five, and our victim was a 38-year-old woman in good health, with perfect vision and a steady job, I find it all the more intriguing that she would have wound up dead from a twenty-mile-an-hour impact on a clear day at noon on a Wednesday.”
Tippett did a double-take at the television. The news story had already switched to local weather reports. “You got all of that from the picture on that screen?”
“Naturally not, Sean. Don't be absurd. I peeked at the autopsy report,” Crowden said nonchalantly. “Well, it was more of a first draft.”
“Autop-” Tippett started, shifting in his place. “Where on God's good Earth could you have managed to get your hands on that?”
Crowden looked at his friend in confusion. “Oh, don't be so close-minded. You'd be surprised what twenty pounds can get you.”
”Ah, well, of course,” Tippett answered, the sarcasm causing his friend to raise his brow. “Why are you so sure, anyway? Doesn't the lack of tire marks prove that she fell asleep at the wheel? No heavy breaking, swerving. . . I think it rather makes sense.”
Crowden was shaking his head, biting his lip. “No, there's something more. She died of a blow to the head.”
“And what?” Crowden asked. “You know where I'm going with this. The speed, Sean! It isn't right!”
Tippett cleared his throat, eyes wandering. “Wha– . . . erm. . . What if you're wrong?”
The words halted Crowden in his place, as if time had momentarily stopped. He snapped out of it, incredulous. “Wrong? My calculations are never wrong. You know that.”
“No, yes, I know. . . But. . .” Tippett tried to find the right words. ”Are you sure you're not just fidgeting because you've been unemployed for the last four days?” he asked in a cautious voice. When Crowden was clearly waiting for elaboration, Tippet added: ”Occam's razor.”
”What about it?”
Tippett took a seat on the sofa and crossed his legs. ”Well, it states that the simplest answer is usually correct. I'm willing to bet that she did fall asleep at the wheel, and that you are just looking too vigorously for something to occupy your suddenly evacuated mind.”
”I will take that bet, my dear friend,” Crowden stated, offering a hand. ”Seems like a win-win situation, in my view.”
Tippett shook his hand in acceptance, uncertain what would come of this.
”By the way, Sean, I feel I need to point out that I am not the only one occupied by this event at present,” Crowden said, looking around suspiciously. He then turned back to Tippett, smiling. ”You might want to consider opening a window. It's positively cakey in here.”
Tippett's eyes shot open in panic as they met the spatula he had been fiddling with in his hands. With a comedic run-up, he tumbled his way to the kitchen, where smoke was puffing up from the pan. ”Oh, great. That's just great. You couldn't have said something a little earlier, could you?”
Crowden shrugged, trying to portray innocence. ”I found this an easier way to avoid your cooking.”
Tippett flung the burned pancake into the trash and took off his apron with noticeable frustration. He looked over to William, whose face smugly portrayed a feigned grin.
”Now, come on,” William Crowden said snappily. ”We're going out.”
”Yes, we have business to attend to.”
”You call breakfast a business now, do you?” Tippett scoffed.
”Oh, certainly. We wouldn't want to solve a murder on an empty stomach, now would we?”