Internally locked room. Victim alone, holding a box with a hole in it. Head blown apart. Locked in the box: a gun & a loop of fishing line.
The box was made of ebony, with a mother-of-pearl motif inlaid into the lid. The design depicted Hermes Psychopompos – winged feet, winged helmet, guiding souls to the afterlife.
The gun fitted snugly inside, as if the box had been made for it. Perhaps it had. The muzzle was adjacent to a hole in the side. Around the hole there were smoke marks and the wood was charred, indicating that the gun had been discharged inside the box. According to ballistics, there was no doubt that the bullet that killed him came from the selfsame gun. The hole in the side was exactly the right size for the bullet to pass through.
It could only be the work of that mysterious gang of assassins known as The Men of Mist.
A man of mist had walked through the locked door. A hand of mist had reached inside the locked box to squeeze the trigger.
The victim was one Timothy Drayton-Park. He called himself an investigative journalist, and even had cards printed to that effect. But that was simply a way of dignifying his taste for poking his nose where it wasn’t welcome.
Perhaps it was a strange profession for someone with poor eyesight. Or maybe it was his short-sightedness that compelled him to peer so closely into things. A further irony: though he liked to shine “the full, bright beam of inquiry” into the lives of others, he preferred to live in a permanent chiaroscuro gloom in his own house. He kept the curtains closed during the day, and chose the weakest wattage for his light bulbs.
If one can be certain about anything regarding the Men of Mist, it is that they knew all this about him, and more. And so they were able to exploit his foibles in contriving the method of his dispatch.
We will never know who wanted him dead. Over the years, he had written exposés of many powerful individuals, and had therefore acquired the same number of powerful enemies. It could have been the High Court judge with the sexual fetish for wearing nappies and a baby grow; or the cabinet minister with a penchant for dogging in Alexandra Park; or the billionaire newspaper proprietor with connections to the underworld.
Come to think of it, it was probably the newspaper proprietor with connections to the underworld.
The Men of Mist counted on his curiosity, to pick up and examine the mysterious wooden box left on his desk. The accompanying card said only, “Be careful what you look into.” A red rag to a bull, you would have said, if you’d know Drayton-Park as well as the Men of Mist evidently did.
He would quickly work out that the box was locked. Unable to force the lock, he would peer into the hole on the side. No printed card was going to deter Timothy Drayton-Park.
As he lifted the box to his eye, he would feel an inexplicable tension, as if someone else had hold of it and was trying to pull it away from him.
How well they understood his psychology, the Men of Mist. He sensed a story in the box. A story that someone was trying to take away from him. Naturally he would pull even harder to hold onto the box and discover its secret.
Knowing his myopia and his fondness for dim lighting in his own home, they counted on him not seeing the fishing wire trailing from the box, out under the door.
One sharp tug from the unknown assassin at the other end of the line would be enough both to fire the gun and snap the fishing wire at a pre-weakened point, leaving only the loop that been tied around the trigger.
The assassin could then reel in the wire and flee the scene.
We can never be sure that that is what really happened. But it seems to fit the evidence. Of course, it takes us no nearer to capturing Drayton-Park’s killer. But to do that, you would have to be capable of catching mist in a butterfly net.