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"I was just pulling into the Piney Bluffs gas station," the shaken witness told the operator. "I heard a gunshot. And then I saw the men—two of them—running out of the station and hopping into a recreation vehicle. They'd killed the attendant." She gave a description of the R.V and a general description of the men.
The R.V was found, abandoned south of one of the roadblocks the highway patrol had set up. The vehicle was just feet away from Piney Bluffs State Park, which was enjoying its first rain in weeks. It was assumed that the men had hiked away into the hundreds of acres of parkland. Officers were sent in to interview the campers.
"Sorry we can't help you," Warren Hatchet told an officer. He and his brother were camping in a tent by a trout stream. They fit the general description. "We hiked in here last night. All day today we've been fishing. Got back just a little while ago."
"You fished in the rain?" the officer asked as he gazed at the two small trout frying in a pan. The brothers invited him to join them for dinner, but he refused.
A second pair of campers also fit the description. The officer joined them inside their tent, sitting on a knapsack in order to avoid the wet ground. "This morning we set up camp," Al Fishburn told him. "Then we went out hiking. When it started raining, we found a cave and holed up there for a few hours. We didn't see anyone—not until you came along."
A final pair of campers were discovered in an R.V. in a section of the park off-limits to vehicles. "I know we shouldn't be here," George Tingle said. "But we're not hurting anyone. A friend in Chicago lent me this R.V That's why the registration's not in my name. If you want to call Chicago and check . . ."
"I don't need to call anyone," the officer replied. "I already know who's lying."
Whodunit? And how did the officer know?
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.