The Further Adventures of
DICK PISTON, HOTEL DETECTIVE
(but not much further)
"Murder By Midnight"
a 10-minute mystery
by Jeff Goode
copyright © 2007
Scene: Dick Pistons Office
(Enter DICK PISTON, hotel detective, in his office.)
PISTON: The story Im gonna tell you, youre not gonna believe. But every word of it is true. I know because it happened to meBut enough about me. We really dont have time for that. And by we, I mean, me: Dick Piston, hotel detective.
It was a Friday night in the big city. And on a Friday night, youll find me making my rounds at the Lakeview Hotel: a two-bit armpit on the upside of downtown. Anytime before midnight, that is. After midnight, youll catch me drowning my proverbial sorrows at the five-star dive bar in the lobby of that hotel. But at ten minutes to midnight, Im always in my office, watching the clock.
Not that Im a proverbial stickler for whatever punctual people stickle for. And not that I couldnt use the overtime. But my employer had made it clear that anyone who did use the overtime would be spending their spare time xeroxing resumes at the discount copy shop on the corner.
You see, the hotel had been wallowing in red ink like a stuck proverbial pig for quite some time now. And it was likely to continue hemorrhaging money until it stopped hemorrhaging hotel guests. And I only wish that was a metaphor. The Lakeview Hotel had the highest mortality rate of any luxury accommodations west of Baghdad. Or east of Baghdad. Or in Baghdad.
In fact, as hotel detective, I had personally investigated six unsolved murders in the last five weeks alone. And committed four. So the management wasnt entirely happy with my proverbial job performance. And they had made it clear to me that anyone who clocked even one minute of unauthorized overtime would be out of a proverbial job. Literally. And by anyone, they meant me, Dick Piston, hotel detective.
So thats why, at ten minutes to midnight, I had my proverbial eyes glued to the literal clock. Because when that strikes twelve, my Friday night troubles become somebody elses Saturday morning problem. So if my luck holds true
(A naked WOMAN bursts into the office wearing nothing but a bath towel.)
WOMAN: Dick Piston! I need you!
PISTON: Lady Luck. You could set your watch by her.
WOMAN: I need your help.
PISTON: Im afraid Im not the man youre looking for.
WOMAN: Youre not Dick Piston?
PISTON: No, Im not helpful.
WOMAN: Arent you the hotel detective?
PISTON: For nine more minutes I am. But theres not going to be a tenth, so Im afraid if its anything more time-consuming than a stuck pickle jar, Im going to have to refer you to the day shift.
WOMAN: But Im the victim of a crime! You have to help me!
PISTON: Well, unless that crime is unnecessary wetness, theres really not much I can do, in the time allotted.
WOMAN: Its not unnecessary wetness.
PISTON: Are you sure? Because Ive got a blow dryer in the desk.
WOMAN: Mr. Piston, please! You cant just turn your back on me.
PISTON: Not in that outfit, no.
WOMAN: Then youll try to help?
PISTON: For eight more minutes, I will. But thats all the time weve got.
WOMAN: Will that be enough?
PISTON: Not likely. Depends on the crime. Whats yours?
WOMAN: I think they call it murder.
PISTON: Uh huh. And you say youre the victim?
WOMAN: Yes, it happened just now, up in my hotel room.
PISTON: You know what murder is, right?
WOMAN: Its the one where somebody kills someone, right?
PISTON: Thats the one.
PISTON: Hoo boy. (taking out an egg timer) All right, Im going to take your case. But Im also going to set an egg timer. When that goes offNo matter what: Case dismissed. Is that understood?
WOMAN: Mr. Piston, I cant tell you how grateful I am for this.
PISTON: Coming here in a towel is thanks enough.
WOMAN: Youre welcome.
PISTON: Now, if youll have a seat, Ive got to make a phone call.
WOMAN: Dont you want to rush up to my room and investigating the scene of the crime?
PISTON: Ordinarily, yes. But we dont have that kind of time. (on phone:) Hello, front desk? Its me, Dick Piston, hotel detective! Put me through to the kitchen.
WOMAN: What are you doing?
PISTON: Ordering room service.
WOMAN: Will that speed up the investigation?
PISTON: Not at all.
WOMAN: Then why are you doing it?
PISTON: Because no man in his right mind would ever be alone in a room with a woman in a towel without at least a bottle of champagne and a half-order of oysters on the way. (on phone:) Ill have the honeymoon special. Send it to my office right away. And a box of condoms.
WOMAN: Thank you, Mr. Piston. How can I ever repay you?
PISTON: Well, theres condoms on the way.
WOMAN: Mr. Piston, Im married.
PISTON: You can never repay me.
WOMAN: And what makes you think this is a honeymoon?
PISTON: Just, tell me about your murder and get it over with. If we make this quick, maybe Ill still have a job in the morning.
WOMAN: Well, I was up in my room, having a shower before dinner.
PISTON: So you havent eaten?
WOMAN: No, not yet. But those oysters sound delicious.
PISTON: And the murder took place in the bathroom?
WOMAN: No, it was in the bedroom.
PISTON: After your shower?
WOMAN: No, before. Or during.
PISTON: So you were shot in the shower by somebody in the bedroom.
WOMAN: What makes you think I was shot?
PISTON: Because if it was a stabbing, youd have been in the same room with the killer.
WOMAN: My God! You think he was in the shower with me?!!
PISTON: No, I think you were shot.
WOMAN: But I wasnt shot. Look!
(She throws open her towel. He looks at her.)
PISTON: Nor stabbed, for that matter. But you have had a very close shave of some kind.
WOMAN: No, thats waxing.
PISTON: All right, given that you dont seem to be injured in anyway
WOMAN: Have you ever been waxed?
PISTON: What makes you think you were murdered?
WOMAN: Oh, I wasnt murdered.
PISTON: But you said you were.
WOMAN: I said I was the victim of a crime.
PISTON: And the crime was murder.
WOMAN: Good work, Mr. Piston! With your keen eye for detail, well have this case settled in no time!
PISTON: If the crime is murder, and youre the victim, why are you here?
WOMAN: Well, I had to report it, didnt I? He was my husband, after all.
PISTON: The killer?
WOMAN: No, the killeree.
PISTON: The murder victim is your husband?
WOMAN: Yes, he was shot in the bedroom. In the head. In the bed.
PISTON: So youre the victim by marriage.
WOMAN: This was supposed to be our honeymoon.
PISTON: I see. And is this how you were dressed when you discovered the body?
WOMAN: Yes. I had just stepped into the shower where I was nude, Mr. Piston, can you imagine? when I heard what sounded like gunshots and a blood-curdling scream. Naturally, when I finished my shower, I put on a towel and raced into the bedroom at once to see what was the matter. Thats when I found him dead on the bed with a slug in his head.
PISTON: Were there any signs of forced entry?
WOMAN: Not yet. But it was our honeymoon. So I was hoping.
PISTON: I mean to the room.
WOMAN: No, everything seemed perfectly normal. Except for that horrible dead guy lying there.
PISTON: You mean, your husband.
WOMAN: Yes, that was his name: Guy.
PISTON: And he was horrible?
WOMAN: Oh, yes, brains everywhere.
PISTON: Well, Mrs. Guy, ordinarily, this is the point when I would rush up to your hotel room to examine the body. But were short on time, so lets just cut to the proverbial chase
(A BELLHOP walks in.)
BELLHOP: Room service!
(Piston shoots him dead: BANG!)
PISTON: Theres your killer!
WOMAN: Oh my! But how could you possibly know that?
PISTON: Was your husband clinically insane?
PISTON: Thats how I know.
WOMAN: I dont understand.
PISTON: And theres no time to explain. (looking at the egg timer) No, wait, theres four minutes. Allow me to explain If there were no signs of forced entry, then your husband must have let the killer into the room himself. Which means the murderer must have been someone your husband knew personally, or expected shortly. A bellhop, for example.
WOMAN: Why would he be expecting a bellhop?
PISTON: Because as weve already established, your husband was not clinically insane.
WOMAN: No, not clinically.
PISTON: And since no man in his right mind would ever be alone in a room with a woman in a towel without at least a bottle of champagne and a half-order of oysters on the way, we know that your husband must have ordered room service.
WOMAN: It makes sense!
PISTON: And, as youve just witnessed, the service in this hotel is incredibly prompt.
WOMAN: Yes, Im impressed. We ought to make sure and leave him a big tip.
PISTON: So your husbands order should have arrived at the room while you were still in the shower. But you havent eaten.
WOMAN: Because there wasnt any food.
PISTON: Exactly! And if there were no edibles in evidence, it can only mean that whoever brought the food removed it after the murder to conceal the fact that the killer came from the kitchen.
WOMAN: I dont know why I didnt see it before!
PISTON: Which means, your husband was murdered by the night shift bellhop, who gained access to your room under the pretense of delivering a romantic appetizer, which you never enjoyed, because after murdering your husband in cold blood and not wanting to leave any evidence that the killer was a member of the hotel staff he removed the tell-tale oysters and champagne from the scene - something that only a member of the hotel staff would do - leaving in their place, the even more tell-tale absence of oysters and champagne which confirms his guilt.
WOMAN: But why would this bellhop want to kill my husband?
PISTON: Because unbeknownst to your late husband, this bellhop was having an extra-marital affair with his wife!!
WOMAN: (to the Bellhop) Youre married???
(She kicks the dead Bellhop.)
PISTON: No, you. He was having an affair with you!
WOMAN: How could you possibly know that?
PISTON: Because you still havent asked me the one question that any widow in her right mind would ask in this situation: Why would this bellhop want to kill your husband?
WOMAN: But I did ask.
PISTON: You did? When?
WOMAN: Just now. Just a second ago. I said it right away. It was the first thing that popped into my mind.
PISTON: Oh. Right. Well, never mind. Hmm.
WOMAN: You havent been paying attention to anything Ive said, have you, Mr. Piston?
PISTON: For Gods sake, youre wearing a bath towel!
WOMAN: Thats no reason to accuse me of being an adulteress, and an accomplice to murder!
PISTON: Youre right. Im sorry. I apologize.
WOMAN: Accepted. Shame about the bellboy, though.
PISTON: Yeah Listen, my bossll have my proverbial head if she finds out I shot another innocent bystander. Do you think we could just agree that this was self-inflicted?
WOMAN: Yes, of course, Mr. Piston. He looked suicidal the moment he came in here.
WOMAN: (startled) Oh!
PISTON: A likely story!
WOMAN: Its your story!
PISTON: But what widow in her right mind would agree to cover up the murder of a man who had nothing to do with her husbands murder, unless he in fact, did have something to do with it, and she was in on it?
WOMAN: Youre forgetting one possibility, Mr. Piston.
PISTON: Whats that?
WOMAN: That she is not, in fact, in her right mind! (jumping around like a chimpanzee:) Oo! Oo! Ee! Oo oo oo!
PISTON: Hmm Looks like I was wrong again. And my shift is almost over. So I guess youre free to go.
WOMAN: Thank you, Mr. Piston. You may not have solved my husbands murder, but knowing Im innocent is a huge load off my mind. What little there is left of it, I mean. How can I ever thank you?
PISTON: Well, weve got champagne and oysters. And Im off in two minutes.
WOMAN: Oh, Mr. Piston I think we can get you off before that
(She kisses him. A shot rings out: BANG! She falls dead.)
PISTON: I didnt see that coming.
(The Bellhop rises shakily to his feet, a smoking gun in his hand.)
BELLHOP: Neither did I.
PISTON: Youre alive? But thats impossible.
BELLHOP: No, youre a terrible shot, Piston.
PISTON: Oh. Sorry about that.
BELLHOP: Dont be. You were right about us, Piston. Until recently, this lady and I were having a torrid affair, behind her husbands back. And over his dead body.
BELLHOP: At least I thought we were. I thought we were in love. But now I see she was just using me to get what she wanted.
PISTON: What gives you that idea?
BELLHOP: What woman in her right mind leaves her husband for another man, only to throw herself into the arms of a third rate hotel detective, over the lifeless body of her dead lover? Unless, of course, she never truly loved him to begin with, and was only using him to get rid of her wealthy husband, who she also didnt love. And she probably didnt care much for the detective either. She used all three of us.
PISTON: But if youd waited a couple minutes, she might have used me a little bit more.
BELLHOP: Forget it, Piston, she was nothing but trouble. Were all victims here.
PISTON: Well, actually, not me.
BELLHOP: No? (turning his gun on Piston) But if you got a minute, I think I can fix that.
PISTON: Wow, look at the time.
(Piston tries to run, but the Bellhop blocks his exit.)
BELLHOP: It looks like yours is up Dick Piston hotel detective .
PISTON: But why would you want to kill me? I havent done anything to you! Besides shoot you a couple minutes ago.
BELLHOP: I think youre forgetting one possibility: That I, too, might not be in my right mind.
PISTON: No, I took that into account when you killed two people at your place of work.
(The Bellhop closes in on Piston, jumping around like a chimpanzee with a gun.)
BELLHOP: Oo! Oo! Oo oo oo!
(A bell goes off: DING!)
BELLHOP: (distracted) What was that?
PISTON: Your luck running out.
BELLHOP: No, it sounded more like an egg timer.
(Piston grabs the egg timer and punches the Bellhop in the head with it: DING!!)
PISTON: Case dismissed.
(The Bellhop falls to the ground, unconscious.)
PISTON: It was a Saturday morning in the big city. And on a Saturday morning my proverbial work here is done. Literally.
(He puts away the egg timer and punches out for the night.)