What the Killer Forgot

Despite all the pleasures of crime solving and despite all the hours he spent with the police, Sherman Holmes was never comfortable in police stations. So late one evening, when Sergeant Wilson suggested they meet at Precinct House #5, Sherman found himself pacing nervously in the station’s vestibule, just outside the lobby, waiting for his friend to arrive.

“Mr. Holmes, hello! You waiting for the Sarge?” It was Officer Maloney, a beefy giant with a broad grin. “There are chairs inside, you know.”

“That’s hardly necessary. Wilson said he’d be here by 10:30.”

“And what time is it now?”

How can people not wear watches? Sherman wondered, as he unpocketed his silver pocket watch. “10:26. Just a few more minutes.”

“Is that an antique?” A second officer had just entered the station and immediately noticed Sherman’s elaborate timepiece.

“Oh, hello, Officer Valdez.” He held out the watch for inspection. “As a matter of fact, yes. It belonged to my great-great grandfather, Sherlock Holmes.”

Valdez was a dark, weathered, rather serious-looking man who’d worked with Sherman on several cases. “Was that passed down in the family,” he quipped, “or did you buy it in a pawn shop?”

Before Sherman could reply, a third policeman joined them. It was near the beginning of their shift. Pretty soon a dozen more officers would make their way into the vestibule, unlocking the door of the locker room and going inside.

“Officer Longo,” said Sherman with a wave. He prided himself on knowing most of the boys in blue by name.

“Hey, Shermie,” said the tall, friendly patrolman as he fiddled with his key chain. “You guys gonna stand here all night or are you coming to work?” And with that, he unlocked the door and sauntered in. Maloney and Valdez accompanied him into the warren of cubicles where they would change into their uniforms.

The amateur detective was once again left by himself, but only for a minute. The locked door opened and officers Valdez and Longo both poked out their heads. “Shermy?” asked Longo sheepishly. “Can you come in here?”

Sherman followed them into the locker room. There, lying by an open locker, was the body of Lieutenant Wheeler, a bloody nightstick lying inches from his fractured skull. Officer Maloney stood guard over the body, looking as stricken as the other two.

We found him as soon as we walked in,” Longo said with a shake of the head. “Body’s still warm.”

“I know we have to follow procedure,” said Valdez. “But to have a cop murdered in the precinct house, and by another cop…”

“By another cop?” Sherman asked, stunned by the thought.

“Only cops have keys to the locker room,” said Maloney. He pointed to a door marked exit. “There’s an emergency exit but it only pushes out.”

“And the only entrance is the one in the vestibule?”

“Right,” said Longo. “So unless you can work your magic and tell us how an outsider could have gotten in here…”

Sherman had always dreamed of this moment, to be surrounded by police officers all pleading for his help. He visually examined the half-dressed man. “Was he leaving work or arriving?”

“Leaving, I guess,” said Longo. “The Lieutenant worked Internal Affairs, on the trail of dirty cops.”

“Could he have been meeting an officer here?”

“It’s possible,” said Valdez. “Near the end of one shift, near the beginning of another.”

“Did any of you speak with him recently?” Sherman asked. “What was he working on?”

Maloney shrugged. “This is my first shift since my vacation. I haven’t seen Wheeler in weeks.”

“I saw him yesterday,” said Valdez. “He didn’t say much, but I got the feeling he was close to breaking something big.”

“He questioned me about a week ago,” said Longo. The young man seemed uncomfortable. “He was looking into accusations of a cop taking payoffs from a gambling club.”

“A cop on the night shift?” asked Sherman.

“Maybe that’s who he was meeting,” Valdez said, lowering his voice. “A dirty cop on the night shift who thought Wheeler was getting too close to the truth.”

The locker room fell into a long silence. “Ah-hem,” Maloney finally said, checking his watch. “The rest of the guys are gonna be coming in any second. What do you think we should do? Mr. Holmes?”

Sherman had a good idea, and the idea centered on one of the three officers in front of him.

Which cop does Sherman suspect?

What made him suspicious?

Sherman Holmes crooked a finger at Longo. The tall, young officer crossed to his side and bent down, his ear within an inch of Sherman’s mouth. “Do as I say,” Sherman whispered. Longo nodded. “Arrest Officer Maloney.”

Longo stood up slowly. A second later, his side arm was drawn and aimed at the beefy giant. “Maloney, you’re under arrest.”

“What?” Maloney blustered. “You’re kidding.”

“Afraid not,” said Sherman. “You arrived early for your shift, for a meeting with Wheeler. You killed him. My guess is you got blood on you and took a quick shower. We’ll check the clothes in your locker.”

“That’s ridiculous,” said Maloney.

“You left by the emergency exit, but you made one mistake.”

“Guys, you can’t believe this little freak.”

“You forgot your watch.”

“What are you talking about? I got my watch right here.”

“I know. But when I met you in the vestibule, you didn’t have it. You asked me for the time. While the other two went out to get me, you retrieved your watch and put it on.”

“No,” Maloney protested. “I left my watch here at the end of yesterday’s shift.”

“But you’ve been on vacation for a week.” Officer Longo smiled. “Good work, Shermie.”

“Thanks,” Sherman said with a little bow. “Now stop calling me Shermie.”