The following is a Whodunit by Hy Conrad featuring Jonah Bixby, a twelve-year-old crime solver and son of a police detective. Can you solve the crime?
(Image credit: David Monniaux)
For half his life, Jonah Bixby had been doing his homework in police stations. He would walk to the precinct house right after school, say hello to Sergeant Brown at the front desk, then make his way to some unused room and keep himself busy until his mother got off duty.
One day in late October, Jonah sat alone in an observation room, working on some boring math problems. There was a one-way mirror between him and the interrogation room, and when the lights went on and people started entering the interrogation room, Jonah flipped the microphone switch. He knew he shouldn't do it, but he couldn't resist. It was just like having his own private police reality show.
Jonah was surprised to see his mother beyond the one-way mirror. She was talking to another officer, and Jonah was able to piece together the details of their current case. There had been a robbery that afternoon at a warehouse. The police were tipped off by a silent alarm, but when they arrived on the scene the perpetrators had escaped.
"They obviously had a lookout who warned them," Detective Carol Bixby told her partner. "The area around the warehouse is pretty deserted, but we did manage to round up three suspicious characters. I think we should question them together."
Jonah knew this was unusual. The police almost always preferred to question suspects separately. But when the three men walked into the interrogation room, he saw that this was a highly unusual situation.
The first suspect wore sunglasses and walked with a white cane. He was blind. The second was accompanied by a civilian police employee. They signed back and forth with their hands, and Jonah quickly deduced that this suspect was deaf. The third had his right arm in a plaster cast.
"I guess you should all introduce yourselves," said Detective Bixby. Then she stepped back and watched the almost comical scene as the deaf man signed his "hellos" to his interpreter who spoke them aloud. Then the injured man held out his left hand instead of his right and the deaf man shook it, and the blind man held out his own left in a different direction, trying to find the injured man's hand, and finally... Finally, all the men had exchanged names and greetings.
The deaf man was the first to speak, although his hands did all the talking. He had been on the corner of Spruce and Industry, waiting for a bus. He had seen the police cars driving by. Their lights were flashing, but of course he had no way of knowing if their sirens were on. "I certainly didn't call and warn anyone. How could I?"
The injured man had just come out of his doctor's office when he was picked up. "I broke my arm this morning and just had the cast put on." Carol Bixby felt the plaster and could tell it was still wet.
The blind man said he'd been on his way to a seeing-eye dog facility in the area. "My last dog died two weeks ago," he told the officers. "I can get around without a dog, but it's not easy." He claimed he heard the sirens passing by, but had no idea if they were police or fire trucks or ambulances.
"We'll check out their stories," Carol told her partner. "But we have no cause to hold any of them right now." As she said this, she was standing by the mirror and could hear a light rapping on the glass. It was a code, Jonah's secret code, and Carol Bixby instantly knew her son was on the other side.
"Excuse me," she said to her partner and the suspects. "I'll be right back."
WHICH SUSPECT WAS THE LOOKOUT?
WHAT CLUE DID JONAH CATCH?
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.