A Maze of Suspects

Sherman Holmes was out for a drive on a lonely country road. He saw the police car and the sign for the labyrinth maze at almost the same moment. “A labyrinth puzzle plus a crime,” he chuckled, stepping on the brakes. “How lovely.” He switched on his turn signal and pulled off into the parking lot.

The roadside attraction, “Queen Victoria’s Maze,” consisted of a ticket booth, a small, shabby office, and the maze itself, a seven-foot-high square of ill-kept hedges. Curious motorists were lured into paying three dollars apiece to get lost in the confusing pathways inside the hedges.

Sherman bypassed the empty ticket booth and wandered up a gravel path and into the maze itself. Two right turns brought him to a dead end — a dead end complete with a corpse. A highway patrolman was standing over the corpse of a casually dressed man, a knife stuck between his ribs. Three men and a woman faced the officer.

“My husband Kyle and I came into the maze and split up just for fun,” the woman said between sobs. “After several minutes of wandering, I wound up outside at another entrance. I was going to try again. I called Kyle, to see how he was doing. That’s when I heard it — some scuffling — like a fight. Then Kyle screamed.”

“I heard the scream, too,” said the tallest man. “I was on a bench at the center of the maze. I didn’t hear any scuffling, probably because the fountain there drowned it out. I’m Bill McQuire. I hurried out of the maze and found Mrs. Turner. The two of us went back in and discovered the body together.”

“I’m the owner,” said a short, disheveled man. “Paul Moran. These people were the only three customers in there. After taking the Turners’ money at the ticket booth, I went into the office. Abe, my electrician, was rewiring the system. I switched off the main fuse box for him. Then I walked around picking up trash. Abe was still working when I heard a man’s scream.”

Abe, the electrician, was the last to speak. “What Paul said is true. I was in a crawl space under the office the whole time, doing the wiring. I didn’t see anything or hear anyone until the scream.”

The officer bent down to examine the body. “No wallet. Maybe it was a botched robbery. But we’ll have to wait for the experts.”

“I’m an expert,” came a voice from behind. They turned around to find a short, owlish man with a briar pipe between his teeth. “Sherman Holmes, at your service. The solution is elementary, if you’d care to listen.”

WHO KILLED KYLE TURNER?

HOW DID SHERMAN DEDUCE THE TRUTH?

The audience of five squirmed in the narrow corner of the hedge until they were all facing the strange little man with the funny accent. “Two of your stories agree on one point. The electricity was turned off — from shortly after Mr. and Mrs. Turner’s arrival until after the murder.”

The highway patrolman laughed. “It doesn’t take a Sherlock Holmes to figure that out.”

“Sherman Holmes,” the little man corrected the patrolman. “And as I said, the solution is elementary. Since the fountain in the center of the maze works by electricity, it couldn’t have been running at the time of the murder, as Mr. McQuire testified. Of course, Mr. McQuire didn’t know the fountain was off, because he was somewhere else at the time — robbing and killing Kyle Turner, I presume.”