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Bermuda Shorts

The only way to solve a murder is by finding out who did it.

by David Holzel

(Dear reader: You can't curl up with a good mystery when you're staring at a screen. Try printing this and the following two files for easier reading.)

I glanced at the business card. Where had I heard the name before? I turned to punch it into my database, but remembered I didn't have one.

"Opal, do you recognize the name Titus Whitaker?''

"He’s your 11 o’clock,'' my secretary said with a knife-edge only a surgeon would appreciate. "He's the mug doing crosswords in your waiting room. Do you want to see him or not?''

I looked at my watch. 11:30. If I saw Whitaker now it would likely cut into my lunch hour and make me a very grumpy private detective. To avoid him I'd have to slip out the window. My office is on the 18th floor of the Garbo Building, which gives me a swell view of the oceanfront. There's a lot of oceanfront in Bermuda. But sand is as tough as concrete and every bit as deadly when approached on the perpendicular from the 18th floor.

"Show Whitaker in, Opal"

He wore a dark gray pinstripe suit, the kind of paisley tie you're certain will come back into style any time now, a crisp white shirt and sensible shoes. He held a homburg.

"Rufus Crockett?''

"That's me.''

"I hope you can help me with a small matter,'' he said, settling into the chair that faced my desk. I lit his cigarette. He looked nervous.

"That depends,'' I said.

"Depends on what?'' Suddenly he was asking all the questions.

"I don't know, Whitaker,'' I said, grabbing control of the interview. "Speak up now, Whitaker. While you have the chance.''

"Crockett, I'm an airline pilot. I work for Friendly Guy's Airways. It's a glamorous job. Takes me to exotic settings, mixes me up in intrigue and gets me tangled with the most beautiful women in the world. I know their needs and I have the dough and the stamina to give them what they want.''

He winked in a feeble attempt at male bonding.

"Sounds like what you need is an internist, not a detective,'' I said, lighting up an Old Gold.

"There's more, Crockett. Through it all, there was really only one gal for me. She lives -- lived -- here in town. When I went to her place this morning after the flight from Grand Rapids, I found Muriel dead.''

The smoke rings I was blowing into Whitaker's face cast an eerie pall.

"Why come to me? Why not go to the police?''

"Crockett, you know as well as I that the cops in this town are crooked. And there's another detail I haven't told you yet.''

"What's that?''

"I'm being blackmailed.''



I made a mental note to install that acoustical ceiling tile. The echo in my office was getting worse.

"I've made one indiscretion in my life,'' Whitaker said. "And I pay for it gladly. But if it ever were to revealed, it would bring down not only me, but an entire corporation. That's why my, shall we call it, connection with Muriel must never come to light.''

"I see.''

I didn't.

We rose and shook hands. "I'll be in touch if I learn anything.''

Whitaker took his billfold from his breast coat pocket. "Do you take American Express?'' he said.

The card felt like hard plastic between my fingers. I turned to imput the identification number for a credit check, but remembered I didn't have a computer.


"Yeah, Crockett?''

"Don't leave town.''

"Where would I go?" he said. "It's an island.''

I leaned back in my chair and looked out the window. This case was a puzzle and the pieces didn't fit. For starters, who was this mysterious blackmailer? And what was the suave pilot's indiscretion? And who was Muriel? I dropped the stub of my Old Gold and squashed it with my heel.

Tough questions. The answers would probably crack the case. I suppose I could have asked Whitaker, but don’t you always think of the right thing to say to a person after he’s gone?

I opened the morning paper. On the way to the racing forms I came to the front page. And there it was:

"Local Woman Found Dead!!!"

The headline screamed so loud it made my temples ache.

"Muriel Forest was found dead in her beachfront bungalow early this morning by the milkman, Rafik Halavy. Long estranged from her husband, Guy Forest, CEO of Friendly Guy's Airways, Muriel Forest was known to be the mistress of Titus Whitaker, senior pilot for Friendly Guy's.

"Guy Forest is unaware of his wife's fling with his top airman. But local scientist Dr. Victor Vector used the peccadillo to blackmail Whitaker to preserve his silence. The police believe the woman was murdered when Whitaker refused payment."

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