Bus Station Bomber!

“Where have you been?” Sergeant Wilson stepped around the burned and mangled debris of what had been the rear wall of the Capital City bus terminal. “I thought you must be sick.”

Gunther Wilson was secretly dependent on Sherman Holmes’s habit of showing up uninvited at crime scenes. He certainly wasn’t used to waiting three hours for the odd, pudgy millionaire to make an appearance.

“Sorry, old man.” Sherman sniffled. “I haven’t been myself. Spring allergies.”

Wilson pointed to a four-man squad arranging charred bits of metal on a white sheet. “The bomb was in a locker. It went off at 3 pm. There were a few injuries, but nothing serious. The mechanism was an old wind-up clock wired to two sticks of dynamite. It was triggered by the alarm mechanism hitting the ‘3’.”

“Do you have a motive?”

“Not a clue. My guess is he did it for the thrill, like some of the sick arsonists we’ve dealt with lately.”

“Let’s hope we catch him before he tries again.” Sherman glanced around the terminal. “Did anyone see who used the locker?”

“I got in touch with the night clerk.” Wilson waved over a slight, sleepy-looking man. “Mr. Pollard, tell my associate what you saw.”

“Certainly.” Andy Pollard adjusted his thick eyeglasses and cleared his throat. “Last night as I was coming in to work, around 2 am, I saw this cabdriver parking out front. He walked in with a red travel bag and put it in that locker.”

Wilson waved again and two more men crossed to join them. “We checked with the cab companies. Only two taxis were in the area around 2 am.  Unfortunately, Mr. Pollard can’t identify the driver.”

“I remember the red bag,” Pollard apologized, “but not the guy’s face.”

The first driver was a tall, fair-haired lad, barely out of high school.

“I’ve been driving for about a month,” he explained. “I picked up a passenger at the airport and dropped her off at the hotel on the corner. That was around two. Then I filled up at the gas station on Highland and ended my shift. If this guy says I came in here, he’s lying. I haven’t been in a bus station in years.”

The second driver was around the same height but middle-aged and with a pronounced gut hanging over his belt. “I dropped off a fare in front of the terminal,” he told them. “My fare said he’d left his car in the parking lot earlier in the day and had to pick it up. That was a few minutes after two.

“Then my dispatcher sent me to a bar on Fifth to pick up a drunk. No one was there. A man waved me down and I took him to an all-night diner on Swann Street. It’s all in my log book if you don’t believe me.”

One of the members of the bomb squad was standing by, waiting for a chance to speak. “Excuse me, Sarge,” he said. “The container was a red bag, just like the witness said. A red leather satchel.”

“Thanks,” Wilson said, then turned to Sherman and shrugged. “Not much to go on, huh?”

“Just enough to give us the bomber,” Sherman purred. “I can’t tell you why he did it, but I can certainly tell you who.”

WHO BOMBED THE BUS STATION?

WHAT FACT CLUED SHERMAN IN?

The two cab drivers, the clerk, and the bomb squad officer all gaped in disbelief.

Sergeant Wilson tried to look nonchalant. “I caught the clue, too,” he lied. “But I’ll let you have the fun of telling them.”

“Thanks,” Sherman said, playing along. “If the perpetrator had picked a more complex bomb, it wouldn’t have been so easy.”

“But that’s what makes it hard,” the bomb squad officer objected. “You can buy a wind-up clock just about anywhere. And as for the sticks of dynamite…”

“Let’s stick with the clock,” interrupted Sherman. “The alarm hand is what set off the explosives, correct?”

“Correct.”

“So, let’s say it’s 2 am and I set the alarm for three. When will the bomb go off? At 3 am — or at 3 pm the next day?”

“At 3 am, of course, an hour later.”

“Then how do you explain the fact that the bomb didn’t go off until thirteen hours after the witness saw it placed inside the locker?”

The bomb expert scratched his head. “I can’t explain it.”

“That’s right,” Sherman said. “There’s no way to explain it, except to say that the night clerk is lying. He planted the bomb himself— at some time after 3 am.”