Twistery #21 solution .

Prof Mirabilis the inventor tested his new birdcage lock in an empty locked room. When he came back the cage was open & the bird was out.

No murder in this Twistery. No crime of any sort, unless we count a crime against commonsense.

For a man with so many letters after his name (BSc, MSc, PhD, ScD, FRS, to name but a few), Professor Gustav Mirabilis was capable of acts of astonishing stupidity.

There was the time he glued himself to the ceiling to test the super-strength adhesive he had formulated. He was smart enough to wear a suit made from fabric that contained the same secret ingredient. But not smart enough to take into account the weakness of the ceiling plaster. The glue held, the suit held. But the plaster came away. Professor Mirabilis crashed to the floor.

He got up dusty, shaken, a little bloody, especially around his nose, but somehow no wiser. His next experiment, the details of which we won’t go into except to say it involved a pair of flame-retardant braces, resulted in his setting fire to his trousers (which happened to be made from a non-flame-retardant material).

His most famous invention was the hover-chair. To be fair, the tests went without a hitch. The prototype worked perfectly. Professor Mirabilis, who was always the guinea pig for his own inventions, emerged elated and unscathed.

The only problem was he had invented something that was entirely useless. A chair that hovers in a stationary position a foot off the floor. Who needs it?

When this was pointed out to him by the first of his potential backers, he put on his thinking cap (patent pending) and tried to come up with a USP for his creation. The best he could come up with was, “It’s easier to hoover when you hover.”

Not surprisingly, it wasn’t enough to secure the substantial funding he needed to take the prototype into production.

Although he was highly critical of other people’s mistakes, Professor Mirabilis had a blind spot when it came to his own. Which meant that he was constitutionally unable to learn from them.

Injuries sustained falling from the ceiling didn’t make him any more cautious when testing the fire-retardant braces. The failure of the hover-chair was no deterrent to coming up with other useless inventions.

Take the present case. The world didn’t need a new kind of birdcage lock. All the current birdcage locks were working fine. They were simple, effective and cheap to produce. Professor Mirabilis saw a gap in the market for something overly complicated, unreliable and expensive.

You might also argue that there were more important things that needed locking up than pet birds. To narrow the lock’s application unnecessarily was a self-defeating move typical of the man. He could have said it was a new kind of lock. But he had to say it was a new kind of birdcage lock.

Not only that, he chose entirely the wrong sort of bird to test it on.

You should know that there was nothing mechanically or electronically wrong with the lock. It worked precisely the way Professor Mirabilis intended it to. It secured the door of the cage so that it could not be pecked or clawed open by an imprisoned bird. In all but one respect it was foolproof.

Mirabilis had long suspected his assistants of sabotaging his experiments. There must be some reason why so many of them went wrong and it certainly wasn’t anything to do with him. Right?

So he took the cage and its inhabitant into an empty room away from meddling saboteurs.

He set the lock. A simple matter of saying out loud four numbers, which would provide the code for the voice-activated lock. In this case, four, seven, three, zero.

Satisfied that the cage door was secure, he placed it in the centre of the room, with a webcam set up on a tripod to monitor it. He then left the room, locking the door behind him.

It was now that the enormity of his error became apparent. The bird he chose was an African Grey Parrot called Miranda.

As soon as the door was locked he heard his own voice come back to him: “Four, seven, three, zero.”

By the time he reached the monitor, Miranda was out of her cage exploring her surroundings.

“Back to the drawing board?” asked one of the laboratory assistants, rather too cheerfully for the professor’s mood.

Professor Mirabilis’s only answer was a prolonged spasm of the soft flesh beneath his left eye.

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