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Mystery Story Essay, Research Paper

With an exhausted sigh, Dirk Crozier unlocked the door to his business office at exactly 8:53 to begin another night

of work. As he walked through the doorway, he threw his hat in the general direction of his coatrack. It missed, of

course, but Crozier didn’t bother to pick it up. He carefully walked over the old faded dark-red rug, passing between

the two ratty old chairs that he always kept for any customers, and slowly moved around his desk to his own chair.

Running his fingers over the scarred and lifeless wood surface, he collapsed into his red leather chair and closed his

eyes. He thought: I love this chair, I hate this job. At 9:02, just a few minutes later than usual, his assistant Lois

Ripley walked in. She immediately looked around for his hat, which she found discarded at the foot of the coatrack.

Picking it up and hanging it on its hook with a look of boredom on her face, she slumped down into one of the

visitor’s chairs and regarded her boss with her lazy brown eyes. “You know, Dirk, I am not your cleaning lady.” “I

know, Lois, I know.” They sat there in silence for a few minutes. Then suddenly Lois leaned forward and spoke, a

note of desperation in her voice. ?You know what?s wrong with our operation, Dirk?? ?First, it?s my business, not

ours. Second, I do know, but I suppose you?ll tell me anyway-again.? “Customers. We haven’t had a customer in a

week and a half now, and only three in the last month.” “I keep the records. I know what the situation is.” “Dammit,

Dirk,” she suddenly exploded, “how can you just sit there and be so nonchalant about not being able to pay your

office rent? You have to get cases to stay in business, or have you forgotten that?”"I will still be able to pay this

month’s rent, thanks to Mrs. McCarthy.” “Oh, yes, she was so generous, wasn’t she? Gave you the $20 you asked for

to find her cat and then flipped a silver dollar at you and said, ‘As a reward, sonny.’ With big spenders like that, I’m

sure you’ll be able to pay your rent for this month sometime around August five years from now.” Crozier slowly rose

from his chair, so slowly that he almost lost his balance and fell back into it again. “I know all this, Lois,” he replied as

he paced the room to the side window. He lifted the blinds, peeked out at the bright lights of New York, then shut his

window to the world with a sharp downward tug on the string. “I guess I just don’t care about being a private eye

anymore.”"Why did you even start?” “Well, when I was a kid, I got hooked on Agatha Christie novels. It got to the

point where I became addicted to mysteries of all kinds. Sam Spade, Nero Wolfe, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot, I

knew them all. I thought that being a gumshoe must be the most exciting thing anyone could ever do for a living. So,

as soon as I got out of college with my useless Literature degree, I set up my own PI shop. I solved–” “You solved

two cases in your first three days on the job, and you were headed for greatness.” He turned and gave her a pained

smile. “I’ve told this one before, haven’t I?” “Only every other day, but don’t let me stop you.” He turned back to the

wall and continued, completely missing the sarcastic roll of her eyes. “Then I didn’t get any more cases for a while.

And then I finally realized why this was always pictured as such a hard life–it is. The late hours, the long waits

between cases, everything just wasn’t what I thought it was going to be. It wasn’t so glamorous, and there were

never any closing credits, and I never got to toss off any ?Here’s looking at you, kid? dramatic lines. It was boring.

But this was all I had to do with my life–” “So you stuck with it.” “So I stuck with it. Exactly.” “Fabulous story, Dirk.

It gets better every time I hear it.” “OK, enough with the sarcasm already.” “Sorry.” She didn’t sound so sorry to

Crozier’s ears. “Anyway, what about that discussion we were having a couple of days ago that you promised to

finish yesterday but didn’t?” ?Which one was that again?? ?Famous detective strategies. You are supposed to be

teaching me, right?? ?Yeah, right. Where did we leave off?? ?You were telling me about some of your favorite

novels.? ?Yeah, now I remember. We left off at MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS, by Agatha Christie. In this

novel, Hercule Poirot is trying to solve a case of murder on board a train. He quickly discovered that everyone had a

motive, the means, and an opportunity, or some combination of the three. Therefore, not a person on the train stood

out as a suspect. Further, they also all had an alibi that was confirmed by another suspect-hardly a great basis for

belief in the alibi. So what was the only answer?? Lois thought about it for a few seconds, and then gave up. ?Natural

causes?? ?Nope. There was a combination of murderers. Everyone on the train had assisted in the actual kill.?

?Interesting. What if a situation like that came up in real life???There?s really no way it could. No average person is

hated that much, and all of the circumstances and coincidences would have to be so completely bizarre that there

would be little or no chance of that actually occurring. The odds are that there is always one single person or group

that you can single out from a range of suspects. That person did it.? ?But what if the circumstances don?t let you

single out any one person? What if there are no suspects?? ?Funny you should mention that, because it brings me

to my next point. In another Christie novel, AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, you have ten people trapped on this

island with no one but each other. One of them is a murderer. The only people you can?t suspect are the ones who

are dead. But just before the end of the book, everyone is dead. The last person alive, who by the way was not the

murderer, hung herself. So the question every amateur sleuth has to answer before they read the last chapter is,

whodunit?? Crozier had made Lois really think about this one. ?Well, if there was nobody alive, and the last person

wasn?t the murderer, who was it?? ?One of the people who was already dead-supposedly dead, I should say. He died

during the middle of the book, but it turned out that he enlisted somebody?s help to fake his death, and then that

person was the next one to go. There were no witnesses, the man was dead, so everybody thought that the murderer

was still alive and with them. And he was?just not the way that they thought.? ?So what lesson am I supposed to

learn here?? She pulled out a small notebook and a wooden pen carved to look like a tall, slender Christmas tree. She

always took notes from each of his lessons?perhaps that was why they got along so well, he mused. ?One: look for

any possible thing that would make the criminal stand out, and then look for someone who has those characteristics.

If you can?t find that, then look for the person who has the best reason to commit the crime and examine them

closely, but don?t rule out the possibility of a group crime. Two: never accept an alibi unless other people you know

couldn?t have committed the crime have confirmed the alibi?s truth. Three: never assume something to be true

without close scrutiny, even the things you think you know. Otherwise, something nasty could come back and hit

you before you realize it and after you can do something about it. Four, and maybe most important, the oldest

detective axiom of them all.? She repeated the first lesson he?d taught her. ?Whenever you have disposed of the

impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.? ?Exactly.? ?Well, I?ll keep those in mind for

when I get to be a sleuth myself, Dirk. ?Shoot! It?s 10:05, Dirk! I have to be at Royal?s now. Will you stay here till I

get back?? ?Sure. Will it be your usual time?? ?Midnight, yeah. I?ll be there if you need me.? ?OK, Lois, I?ll mind the

store while you?re gone. Hope you and your beau have a good time.? She grinned at him and flamboyantly

sauntered out of the room. Crozier leaned back in his chair with a sigh. This was going to be a lousy night, but at

least he had some reading material at hand. Well, OK, it was an adult magazine, but he still loved the tired old excuse

about reading it for the articles. Besides, maybe a case would come up. You never know, he thought as he opened

the top drawer and pulled out the magazine. He was soon lost in fantasies worlds apart from the realm of the private

investigator.

He was still marveling at the body curves of the centerfold when someone knocked on the door. Crozier

almost jumped out of his chair, but banged his knee against the underside of his desk and fell back into a sitting

posture grimacing in pain. He quickly opened a random drawer, shoved the magazine into it, and then shouted for his

visitor to come in. He was in the act of shutting the drawer when the building?s maintenance man turned the

doorknob and walked into Crozier’s office. The short fellow took a quick look around, and grinned. ?Thought I might

have interrupted something special.? ?Screw you, Max.? Crozier said it with an affectionate tone. Every person in

every office of the building was familiar with the small, competent night shift man who had a knack for remembering

everyone?s names and birthdays. He always took the trouble to leave a greeting card and a little gift for each birthday

boy or girl in the building. Crozier still had his last gift, a small bottle of whiskey in his desk, unopened. He pulled it

out now, and held it out to Max. ?Drink?? ?No thanks, Mr. Crozier. Got to get home and see my family. Almost

midnight?m?shift?s up real soon.? ?No kidding?? Lois would be back in a few minutes. ?Yup. But I thought before I

went, I?d drop this by your office.? Max laid a white envelope on the desk. ?It came earlier today, maybe about 8 or

so. The gentleman who brought it said it wasn?t urgent, but read it when you got around to it, so I didn?t bring it up

to your office till now. That OK?? ?Sure, Max. Good night.? Crozier picked up the envelope off his desktop.

?Night, Mr. Crozier. With that girl coming back, I guess I won?t have to wish you a good night, will I?? ?Why, you-?

Crozier playfully started around his desk, but Max had already dashed out the wooden door laughing his head off.

Giving up the chase as useless, the detective turned back to the envelope. Out of long habit, he neatly tore the top

off, pulled out the folded sheet of paper inside, deftly unfolded it, and began to read.

Mr. Dirk Crozier, PI:

My name is H. Cornelius Richards. I am sure you have heard of me, so I will dispense with the pleasantries. I have a rather unusual problem. Of late, I have begun to suspect that a member of my household is working for my imminent demise. To put it in colloquial terms that I am sure you will understand, Mister Crozier, I have reason to believe that someone is plotting against my life.

My wife and I are hosting a somewhat large social affair to celebrate our second wedding anniversary tonight, Wednesday, at our mansion outside of New York City. You are on the guest list. I cordially request that you attend so that we may speak more about this matter, but your investigation may commence whenever you wish. In advance, let me say that your base salary for this affair will be $10,000.00, plus any expenses you may incur. If this figure is not acceptable, then I will of course be more than willing to renegotiate. For your information, I will add that in the event there is, in fact, no murderer, the pay is guaranteed.

You may wonder why, out of all the private investigators in the immediate area of New York, I have chosen you. One of my friends, Mrs. Darnell McCarthy, referred me to your services because of some small matter you handled on her behalf. I only hope for my sake, sir, that you are as deft at handling cases of life and death as you are at the smaller affairs. Please contact me as soon as possible.

Warmest regards,

H. Cornelius Richards

P.S. I believe that the murderer is not a figment of my admittedly vivid imagination, and that he/she may strike soon. So, Mr. Crozier if something has happened to me before your arrival, I would counsel you to remember: These are the times that try men’s souls. Do not despair.

Dirk Crozier looked up from the letter with eyes blazing. Finally! After so many petty thefts, after so many lost pets,

was this the case he had always been looking for? Attempted murder, and of the greatest steel tycoon since

Carnegie! Even if the old man was senile, then Crozier would still get his cash, and he would be able to save his

business for the next two months at least. He could also ask Mr. Richards for some references, and that would buy

him more time still. If there was a murderer, on the other hand?Crozier pictured national headlines. Soon after, his

business would be flooded with cases. He could hire assistants, and maybe even expand his agency to a larger

office. This case could be his salvation. Just then, Lois walked in the door to be greeted by one of the strangest

sights she had seen in her 24 years: her boss sitting at his desk with a strange letter in his hand and the dawn of new

hope on his face. She stood in the doorway for a few seconds before he saw her. When he did, he practically hit the

ceiling, leaping out of his chair and over the desk. “Lois,” he cried, waving the letter in the air, “we have a case!” He

continued his exultation around the room, knocking over various knickknacks, some of which broke. Crozier didn’t

notice. Neither did she. “We actually have a case? You’re not just putting me on? We have a case?” “I would swear

on a stack of anything you want! We have a real case–a murder case!” “You’re joking!” She stood in utter horror

while he paraded triumphantly around the room. “Somebody got killed, and you’re happy about that?” “No, they

haven’t gotten killed yet. They might, though. That’s why I’m excited. This will do wonders for business; we can save

the business! And it’s real, a real murder case at last!” “So, let me in on the details.” Crozier then grabbed Lois’s arm

and almost broke it while yanking her behind him. “Come on, I’ll explain on the way there. We have to see this man

tonight. Let’s go!” He continued towards what he had always believed to be his destiny, while she, an unwilling

animal on a strong and unyielding leash, was pulled along for the ride. There were times when Lois just didn?t

understand her boss. These were the times when he dropped any pretense of being a detective and started acting

like a schoolboy. It was most unusual when not even the act of going to the scene of a potential case could snap him

into his ?sleuth on the prowl? mode. Tonight, he was as wound up as a new watch spring. Nothing she could say

would get him to dwell on the particulars of his promised topic?he simply continued about how wonderful his

opportunity was. They were just driving out of New York City when Lois finally changed the subject. ?This is the

route I usually take going to Grandfather?s house.? ?Really?? It was obvious from his tone that Crozier was

concentrating more on the road than on his partner. She decided to impress him, however slightly. ?Yes. Cornelius

Richards.? Crozier slammed on his brakes and rapidly steered the car to the shoulder of the road. He turned and

regarded Lois curiously. ?Did you just say your grandfather was Cornelius Richards?? ?Yes,? she replied timidly.

The car pulled back onto the road and sped up, well past the speed limit. In the car, one solitary voice broke the

puzzled silence. ?Lois, I think that your grandfather may be in serious danger.? ?WHAT?? Crozier heard outrage and

shock in the tone. Poor girl, he thought, she doesn?t realize how cruel the world can be. She doesn?t yet know

about the letter I got. Impulsively, he reached across the short space between them and held her hand. Over the next

few minutes, he told the story about receiving the letter and briefly explained its contents. He left the magazine out.

“So what you’re telling me is that my granddad thinks he’s being stalked with intent to kill,” Lois said as they pulled

into the open gate of Magnolia Gardens, the private estate belonging to H. Cornelius Richards, founder of the Rialto

Steel Company. “That about sums it up. What do you think?” “I don’t know, Dirk. I mean, he’s always had a really

overactive imagination–” “He admitted as much.” “But still, if he thinks somebody’s going after him, then I’d be more

likely to believe him than not. If you knew him, you’d think the exact same. He always comes up with plots against

him, but he never tells them to anybody outside his own family unless he thinks the situation is serious.” “Who does

he consider a member of his family?” ?Well, there’s me, and of course his wife, Brittany. And then his butler, Henry

Ross, who’s been with his estate for about 15 years. Also, he considers his family lawyer to be a large part of his life.

Invites him almost everywhere. He?s a real friend of the family.? ?What?s the lawyer?s name?? ?Gerald Noland.? His

eyes never swerved from following the road to meet with hers. ?Is there anyone else, besides the people you

mentioned? No additional people?? ?No. He never had any siblings, and only one child, a daughter, who married my

father. Both of them were killed in a car wreck six years ago, after I was at college. My grandfather would never leave

anyone from his wife?s family anything. And my real grandmother died from a heart attack four years ago this June.

That leaves us as the only family.? ?He doesn?t consider Noland?s wife to be family?? ?Not really, except when he

has to in association with Gerald.? ?How old is Brittany?? ?My age–24.? That pulled Crozier up short. He risked a

quick glance at Lois, unconsciously stopping the car. ?I know, Dirk, she?s too young for him. But it makes him feel

like he can recapture some of his youth. That is definitely the type of man my grandfather is, always living in the past

when he can afford to. Personally, I think he should start acting his age…he turns 74 this August.? Lois paused, then

impatiently gestured towards the road. ?Well, keep going, we?re almost there.? Dirk sighed, and started driving the

car again. People with Drama majors were so theatrical, he reflected. So hard to please. Maybe someday, Lois could

just learn to express whatever it was she kept hiding behind that mask of contentment all the time. Until then, he?d

keep trying to coax her out.

Just a few seconds after they finished their conversation, Crozier’s old beat-up Dodge rounded the final corner on the

long winding drive up to Richards? mansion. It was hard for the sleuth to suppress a gasp of awe when he saw the

beautiful fa?ade of Magnolia Palace. Of course, everyone had seen it in magazines time and again, but the envy felt

seeing it on the front of a national publication wasn?t even close to the wonder experienced from seeing it in person.

A man clad in a white tuxedo with black cummerbund strode out of the house towards the car. His steady gait belied

years of walking just so and behaving in the correct manner. Still, Crozier noticed, the eyes shifted about quickly,

never focusing on one thing for too long. If I had to live with a man like that, Dirk thought, I?d be seeing conspiracy

everywhere I looked too. ?How do you do, sir,? the man said. ?My name is Henry Ross, and I am the butler and

personal secretary of Mr. Richards. If you would please enter the house?the party is over, but he has been

expecting you for some time now.? Ross formally turned to Lois and made a half bow. ?Miss Ripley, it is so nice to

see you again. Your grandfather wishes me to convey his personal greetings.? ?Thanks, Henry,? Lois said sweetly.

From the foyer, Lois steered her boss into the parlor, where a short and slender woman was sitting at a table. Upon

seeing the pair, she immediately waved them over. As soon as they were close enough for her to speak in a normal

tone of voice, she spoke. ?Lois, dear! How are you? And this gentleman is?? ?This is my boss, Mr. Crozier. I?m

doing well, thank you, Brittany.? Crozier carefully sized up Richards? second wife. She looked very elegant in her

element, sitting in a very expensive cocktail dress entertaining guests. Her charm was on full blast; her outfit?s pearl

luster set off her jet-black hair to perfection. It was easy to see why Mr. Richards hadn?t remained single more than

two years. ?But this is delightful! Your boss, you said? This is the detective?? For the first time since their arrival,

Crozier felt compelled to speak up. ?Yes, ma?am, that?s me. I?m afraid that I?m here on a business call, not a social

visit.? For the slightest moment, she looked antagonistic. ?But there?s been no call for your services here, Mr.

Crozier, so I am afraid that I don?t understand you.? ?Ma?am, there was a request made of me by your husband,?



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