Brian Henry

The Abstract Detective and the Case of the Square Killer
“These body parts have been arranged in a perfect square.” “That’s why we knew it was a job for the Abstract Detective.” The Abstract Detective made a sketch of the square in his notebook, being especially careful to incorporate the right hand’s missing finger. “Who’d do something so gruesome, Abs?” asked Detective Knowling. “What? I didn’t catch that. I must’ve been abstracted.” “Who’d do something so gruesome?” “The world’s full of ignominious scoundrels who love nothing better than to decorate their crime scenes with geometric symbols and arcane, non-representational references. I should know. I’ve spent an entire lifetime fighting them.” “And you don’t look any the worse for it, handsome.” Rita Doublegirl, crime reporter for the Daily Objective had appeared. She was as sultry as ever, with lipstick darker than a ripe plum and a set of earrings that would’ve made a blind man jingle. The Abstract Detective gave her a smile like a tired rubber band. “Fighting off the dames is what puts the years on me.” But Rita was right. Like one of the Platonic forms he often referenced in his criminological work, the Abstract Detective looked smooth and ageless, as though his face was an eternal egg with perceptive features lightly penciled on its surface. “Who’s the victim?” asked Rita. “And I don’t mean of your charms.” “It’s Mayor Mault’s son, Single,” replied Knowling. “We have reason to think he was involved in a hallucinogen smuggling operation.”


Brian Henry “What’s your reason?” “We found multiple references to dancing gourds in his diary.” “This crime was the work of a Bohemian,” declared the Abstract Detective. There’s marijuana ash on this severed toe and these latte droppings are scarcely dry. Search the Bohemian quarter!”

The Abstract Detective didn’t shy from a pad-to-pad search and accompanied the police as they startled one beret-wearing cultural refugee after another, turning album collections inside out and yanking down batik wall hangings in a relentless search for clues. The Abstract Detective confronted one haze-ridden yogi with a peremptory question. “When did you last see Rusty Lasagna?” “Rusty dropped some acid Friday and went tripping in the desert. He’s camped out in Ocotillo Cleft with Moon Muffin.” “Then he wasn’t at the Sestina Café on Saturday night?” “No way, man.” The Abstract Detective clicked his rectilinear pen closed. “I have no further questions.”

Knowling met the Abstract Detective as requested in his underground office. Rita Doublegirl, sensing a breakthrough in the case, was there as well. “The killer is Feargal McCracken,” pronounced the Abstract Detective.


Brian Henry “The Scottish hippie poet!” cried Knowling. “Are you sure? All his poems are about peace and love and such like.” “That, and the devastation that awaits the world of squares.” The Abstract Detective pointed meaningfully to the photo of the body parts. Within hours of the pronouncement, the police had surrounded the abandoned length of drainage pipe that McCracken called home. McCracken confessed when the Abstract Detective confronted him with the fact that the fourth line of his sonnet, ‘A Peanut I Loved’ read, ‘I will kill a square in cold blood’ when read backward. Rita bought the Abstract Detective a large coffee at the First National Café afterward to celebrate. “You want cream?” “No thanks. I like my coffee dry and my women lean-limbed.” Rita smirked. “Then you’ve come to the right place. I gotta hand it to you, Abs. You not only solved the crime, you cleared up a textual riddle that’s puzzled Scottish poetry scholars for years. How’d you do it?” The Abstract Detective pulled a small square of paper from his pocket. “I found this note tucked into Single Mault’s scrapbook of plaid postcards.” Rita read the note in one heavy breath. “’I love you and I’m leaving Feargal next week. Your honey, Deirdre’.” Rita whistled. “Deirdre Wigget?” “Who else. McCracken’s longtime muse and love interest. We’re talking crime motivated by passion and cultural politics.”


Brian Henry “Amazing. Only you could crack a case that descended so far to the depths of the Bohemian subculture.” “It’s like I said, Rita. Every crime has its own undeniable geometry.” “I never heard you say that.” “It was before you got here.” “Oh.” The two sipped their coffees, as the crime-inducing darkness of night fell around them, silence acting like their only other friend.


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