by Hy Conrad
The witch and the young Sherlock Holmes left their car in a parking lot and made their way along Center Street toward the police department’s annual party. During the rest of the year, the witch was better known as Carol Bixby, an officer in the city’s major crimes division. And the crime solver was her twelve-year-old son.
“What if there’s a homicide?” Jonah asked. “Are the detectives all going to show up in costume?”
Carol whacked him playfully with her broomstick. “That’s right. Napoleon and Frankenstein will be on the case. And Sherlock Holmes, of course.”
It was October 31, and a festive assortment of ghouls and ghosts strolled the streets. Adding to the fun were the decorations–paper skeletons stapled to doors, plastic cob webs and comical tombstones. Jonah and his mother were taking a shortcut down an alley when they saw that someone on the third floor had placed a Dracula dummy in a chair on a balcony, with a stake through its heart.
“Mom,” Jonah said, tugging on her sleeve. His face was suddenly ashen. “That’s not a stake–it’s a corkscrew. And that’s not a dummy. It’s a real man.”
As they looked on, the door opened and a zombie and a gypsy woman stepped out on the balcony. The gypsy woman smiled and touched the corpse on the shoulder, then took a closer look at the corkscrew. Her scream was piercing.
“Looks like we’ll have to skip our own party,” Detective Bixby told her son. “I don’t even have time to take you home.”
“That’s okay,” said Jonah, trying to look blasé. The only thing better than a Halloween party, in his mind, was a Halloween party with a real crime to solve.
His mother brought him up to the third-floor apartment, and they walked in on twenty costumed guests, all looking shocked and ready to leave. When the other officers arrived, Carol instructed them to take statements.
During all of this, Jonah was pretty much ignored. He glanced around at the new furniture, then wandered into the kitchen and saw the spanking-new appliances and cookware, one of everything. “This is what they call a corporate apartment,” his mother explained as she passed by. “All very basic.”
The victim was a businessman from New York, Thad Jericho, who used the apartment about once a week. He had been hosting this Halloween party for his local employees when one of them must have joined him on the balcony and stabbed him.
The zombie they’d seen on the balcony approached Detective Bixby. “I’m Kendall Brown, office manager,” he said, wiping a dribble of fake blood from his mouth.
Carol Bixby nodded. “From the statements we’ve been getting, it seems Mr. Jericho wasn’t very popular.”
“He made a lot of unpopular decisions. And? ” The zombie shrugged. “Thad was a bit of a jerk.”
“A big jerk,” said a newcomer. It was the gypsy woman, otherwise known as Gina Gershwin, personnel director.
“Did anyone see Mr. Jericho go out on the balcony?” Carol asked.
“No,” said Kendall. “No one remembers seeing him for at least half an hour before the body was discovered.”
“Actually, I think I discovered the body,” said a cowboy who had just joined them. His name was Herbert Horner, senior accountant. “I got here rather late.”
“Right,” Gina agreed. “We didn’t think you were coming. I was just uncorking the last bottle of wine when you walked in.”
“That’s not my point,” said Herbert. “My point is I took a shortcut through the alley. I saw Thad up on the balcony, already dead. I thought it was a decoration.”
“Did you see anything else?” Carol asked.
“No,” said Herbert. “I just came up and joined the party. About ten minutes later, Gina and Kendall found him out there.”
“Mom,” Jonah whispered. “I need to talk to you.”
For the first time, the guests noticed that there was a twelve-year-old among them dressed as Sherlock Holmes. Gina cracked a smug smile. “Looks like we have our own little detective here. Maybe you can tell us who killed him.”
Jonah looked up to his mother. “Can I, Mom?”
“Go ahead,” Carol said and saw the gypsy’s smile fade.