Friends at the Office

By Hy Conrad

Homicide Detective Gilson was visiting his accountant in a small, seedy office building when he heard noises coming from above. First there were angry voices. Then came a scream, followed by a heavy thud.

Gilson excused himself and raced up the stairs. On the next floor, he found an open door. Wiley Kline, a low-rent lawyer, lay on the floor of his office, a switchblade knife sticking out of his chest. Gilson called in the murder and immediately found himself assigned to the case.

Friends at OfficeWhen his partner arrived, the detectives examined the office. Not far from the victim’s hand was a half-smoked cigarette. On the floor beside it were a turned-over wastebasket, a cheap lighter, and a blank notepad. On the desk they noticed a telephone, a pen, a shot glass smelling of bourbon, and an ashtray filled with cigarette butts and burned matches.

“It’s funny how none of his neighbors poked their heads out,” Gilson observed. “Let’s go talk to them.”

The floor contained three other offices. The first door they knocked on produced Helen Hurly, a massage therapist. She told them she was relaxing between appointments. “I didn’t hear a thing,” she claimed, pointing to the stereo headphones she’d just removed. “You say Wiley was murdered? I’m not surprised. He must have cheated everyone he’d ever met.”

The second office belonged to Jackson Cod, an artist. In one hand he held a paintbrush, in the other an unlit cigar. “Sure I heard the scream. But I was right in a moment of inspiration. Besides, you hear all sorts of things in this building.” Jackson held out his cigar. “Either of you fellows got a light?”

Behind door number three was Lionel Wafer, a chiropractor, also between appointments. “I heard a scream. What happened?” Gilson told him; then he asked Lionel why he was holding an ice pick. “Oh. I’m defrosting,” Lionel said and returned to the old, ice-ladened refrigerator in the corner. “You want a drink or a cigarette? We should celebrate. Kline deserved what he got.”

Later, the detectives compared notes. “Well, we definitely have a suspect,” Gilson said.


By examining Wiley’s ashtray, Gilson concluded that the lawyer had been a smoker and that he lit his cigarettes with matches. The cheap lighter on the floor by the body had probably been left accidentally — by Wiley’s killer.

Jackson Cod smoked cigars but didn’t seem to have a lighter or matches in his studio with him. That made him a prime suspect.