The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Sherman Oliver Holmes, a mysterious crime solver and great-great-grandson of Sherlock Holmes. Can you solve the crime?
(Image credit: Flickr user Yumi Kimura)
Here's a little backstory on our hero:
No one knew where Sherman Oliver Holmes came from or how he'd gotten his money. One day, Capital City was just your run-of-the-mill metropolitan area. The next day, a short, rotund millionaire in a deerstalker cap began showing up at crime scenes, claiming to be the great-great-grandson of Sherlock Holmes and offering his expert opinion.
Sergeant Gunther Wilson of the Major Crimes Division was irritated by how often this eccentric little man with the southern drawl would appear within minutes of a grisly murder and stick his nose into official police business. What disturbed Wilson even more was the fact that this eccentric little man was nearly always right.
"The loony should be committed," Wilson had been heard to say on more than one occasion. "He always has some outlandish theory. I'd sign the commitment papers myself Đ if I didn't have a soft spot for him." But Wilson didn't have a soft spot. What he did have was a phenomenal record for solving cases, thanks in large part to his "loony" friend.
To his credit, Sherman wasn't much interested in taking credit. As far as the public was concerned, the Capital City police were simply doing a better job than ever before. So Sergeant Wilson decided to swallow his pride and befriend the exasperating, unique little gentleman who had nothing better to do than pop up like a fat rabbit and do the work of an entire detective squad.
And now, the 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 three P.M. 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?"
"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 into work, around two A.M., 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 two A.M. 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 whodunit above was provided by American mystery fiction author Hy Conrad.
In addition to his work in mystery and crime puzzles, Hy was also one of the original writers for the groundbreaking TV series Monk.