Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Death by Dune Buggy/File Cabinet

Somebody — I think it was Rodrigo from Valladolid — wrote in to ask whether I should be concerned that the relatives of two of my Stenos had died so suddenly and coincidentally.

Well, now that's a good point. And I've been making calls, following up.

The way I see it, there are two possibilities: (1) Opie and Big Cheese are playing hooky, and they've gone down south to take in some spring training baseball and get some sun; or (2) somebody hell-bent on derailing my Bid for Power has been targeting family members of my staff.

I can tell you that I've already ruled out (1), because I've had Opie and Big Cheese tailed by private investigators. Big Cheese is where he should be right now, with his bereaved sister in Kansas City. Opie is down in Venice Beach — in the sunshine, admittedly — but only because his parents had retired there, and it was his mother's wish that her body not be returned to North Carolina for burial, but set to sea on an inflatable (and presumably inflated) raft.

On to (2), then. I think a good point to start here is to consider the Circumstances of Death. Opie's mother, age 75, run down by a dune buggy (police are guessing, based on the tire tracks coming and going) while she walked the beach at sunset. The hit-and-run perpetrators have not been caught. No known enemies, no gambling debts or money trouble. She had embroiled herself in a protracted squabble with neighbors about the color of their mailbox, which she thought detracted from the uniformity of her gated community. But those neighbors drive a Cadillac Coup de Ville.

Big Cheese's brother-in-law was hit by a file cabinet that fell from a fourteenth-floor window just as he left his office. This sounds completely suspicious to me, and I told the police that I thought so. They begged to differ, on the ground that a file cabinet takes some time to fall a full fourteen stories, and what is more, it's a difficult object to aim. The odds of successfully hitting a target with a file cabinet from fourteen floors are slim:

"If you wanted to kill a guy, why not hire a sniper?" the lieutenant asked me.

I asked him if the building had a 13th floor. You know, Brother/Sister, how triskaidekaphobe contractors will "elide out" the 13th floor when they build a building. They'll actually call the 13th floor the 14th floor — as if that fools old Beelzebub.

The policeman confirmed that the building did not have a 14th floor.

"Aha!" I said. "So the file cabinet only fell thirteen stories!"

"So?" said the lieutenant.

"So it was 7.14285% easier to aim than you think."

"Wait a minute. who are you again?" the lieutenant asked.

"I'm Phutatorius."

"And what do you have to do with this investigation?"

"I employ the deceased Mr. Woczniak's brother-in-law on my staff up here in Massachusetts. I'm a famous and controversial Internet personality, and I have reason to believe that somebody killed Mr. Woczniak to get at me."

"Are you kidding?"

"I absolutely am not, Lieutenant, and I encourage you to speak with Sergeant Huntington at the Venice Beach Police Department in Florida. They're investigating another homicide down there, and you may find some leads worth exploring by comparing notes. In fact, you might check the surveillance video, see if there was a dune buggy parked near the building when the accident happened. With Florida plates, maybe?"

"Yeah — yeah, I'll totally look into that," the policeman said, in that uninspired way that policemen have.

I don't expect much in the way of results from the KCPD, but I owe it my Stenos to get to the bottom of this. I'll keep these private eyes on the case in Kansas City and Venice Beach. I also intend to contact a renowned statisticsologist (right word?) I know, just to see what the odds are of two acquaintances suffering accidental family deaths in the same week.

Statistician, PePe says. He's right. Sometimes I think he knows the language better than I do.

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