Bell, Booke or Kendal?

“My regrets, Wilson. I have no idea who killed him.”

“What?” Sergeant Wilson thought he would never hear Sherman Holmes say those words. He wasn’t too happy about it, either. “Okay, okay, calm down.” Wilson sounded close to panic himself. “Mr. Boren, maybe you should review the facts.”

Sherman and the sergeant were in the downtown offices of Boren Technologies, a designer of handheld computers. Arvin Boren sat at his desk, eyeing the professional detective and the eccentric amateur. “Someone’s been stealing our designs. My vice president, Don Silver, and I kept the problem secret. And we narrowed the suspects down to three.” He pointed out the window of his private office to where a skinny kid in shirtsleeves was stuffing yellow envelopes into a mail slot.

“That’s Wally Bell, an intern from City College. He does a lot of our copying and binding, so he has access to our priority documents. The heavyset guy sitting outside my office, that’s Solly Booke, my assistant. He’s sending his son to private school. I don’t know where he gets the money.

“The third possibility is Inez Kendal.” A young woman in a tasteful, expensive suit was tacking a newspaper article to a bulletin board right next to the elevators. “Inez is director of public relations. She has the most contact with our competitors.”

Sherman nodded. “Was it Mr. Silver’s idea to try to trap the traitor?”

“I’m afraid so,” Boren sighed. “We’re developing a new version of our Wrist 2002. Don left the plans lying conspicuously on his desk. The thief never took originals, only copies. Don planned to hide in the copy room and catch the guy. Only the guy must have caught him.”

Sergeant Wilson took over the narrative. “Silver was killed in the copy room by a blow to the head. Mr. Boren and an associate found the body almost immediately. All three suspects were immediately sequestered and their possessions searched. We haven’t been able to locate the plans.”

Sherman took the sergeant across to the window but didn’t lower his voice. “The thief couldn’t afford to be caught with them. My guess is the plans got thrown down that mail slot. It’s the only place they could be.”

Five minutes later, Sergeant Wilson persuaded a maintenance man to open the ground-floor mail chute. There the plans were, nestled right on top of a layer of yellow envelopes. “Just as I thought,” Sherman said, turning to Wilson. “Now I know the killer.”

WHO KILLED DON SILVER?

HOW DID SHERMAN KNOW?

SOLUTION

“It was the intern,” Wilson guessed.

Sherman looked surprised. “No, of course not. There was no thief.”

“Sure there was. Mr. Boren told us…” The sergeant’s eyes widened. “Oh!”

“Precisely. I don’t know why Arvin Boren wanted to kill his vice president, but it had nothing to do with stolen plans. He killed Silver in the copy room, then he found a witness and ‘discovered’ the body. Boren made up that story about Silver trying to catch the thief and, of course, Silver wasn’t around to contradict him.”

“What made you suspect Boren?”

“I suspected from the beginning, but I had no proof. So I made up a story about the plans having to be in the mail chute. Boren needed to preserve the illusion of a thief, so he grabbed a set of plans and tossed them down the chute. That’s the only way to explain why the plans are on top of the yellow envelopes instead of underneath them.”