A violent thunderstorm thrashed the trees outside of Doreens 24 HR Eat Gas Now Café. Lightning flashed and the wind slapped rain against the large windows. Darkness was so thick that it seemed to be midnight.
The usual suspects were gathered around Doreens large corner booth. I stood and addressed the crowd. "Ive called you all together because a crime has been committed."
Shocked, the Hunting Club recoiled when they realized that I, the Outdoor Detective, was on the scrap.
Doc leaned over. "Move your foot so I can pick up this scrap of paper."
He handed it to me.
"I dont know any Bill." I hid it from Doreens sight. "Ive gathered you all tonight..."
Woodrow rubbed his hands together under the table. "Its one in the afternoon."
"This afternoon, then. In this room, there is someone, a potential criminal, who borrowed my skinning knife this past season and didnt give it back."
The Capn sighed in relief. "I thought you were looking for whoever took your last sinus pill. I feel better, now that I know what youre looking for."
"Do you feel better because you took the pill, or because you think youre off the hook?"
"Ill get back to you later." I thoughtfully perused the room. "My handmade knife is gone and after a long investigation through my own house and car, I know one of you has it."
Delbert P. Axelrod tried to effect a Bogart sneer that looked as if his nose itched. "What makes you think it was any one of us?"
"Because youre the only suspects I have," I argued, exasperated.
"I didnt do it and Im leaving," Woodrow started to get up.
"You cant leave." I held out a hand, remembering the murder mystery movies of my youth. In them, the detective gathered the suspects in a spooky old house during a storm and interrogated everyone. "The bridge is washed out and the electricity will probably go out before were finished. Usually at this point a gun fires and some girl screams."
Wrong Willie looked embarrassed. "Ive been known to scream like a girl if a gunshot surprises me."
"Isnt someone supposed to faint at this point?" Jerry Wayne asked.
"Thats usually a female," I explained.
"Ill just take a nap, then."
"I bet the butler did it," Wrong Willie suggested.
"We dont have a butler."
"If we had one, hed have stolen your knife, I bet."
In order to make the culprit nervous, I paused.
It didnt work. I almost completely lost their attention when they went back to doing what they do, and thats drink coffee and talk.
I tried not to whine. "Guys, one of you borrowed my knife and didnt give it back."
"Hes not as good of an Outdoor Detective when hes standing here in the café." Doc sipped his coffee and suddenly lLightning flashed, illuminating the large mole on Doreens chin in its harsh illumination.
Wrong Willie shrieked like a little girl.
Doreen didnt bat an eye. "Are any of you idiots going to order?"
"Yes!" I shouted over the thunder. "I order someone to confess to having my knife!"
"I dont have it!" the Capn shouted back. "Coffee!"
"She said order. I want coffee."
"I want my skinning knife. I might need to skin something."
"What does it look like?" Willie asked.
"The Something I want to skin?"
"No, this alleged knife."
"It has a silver blade and a handle made from elk antler."
They pondered the description.
"Its sharp on one edge."
They nodded in understanding.
"It cuts stuff."
They began to look uncomfortable. As a trained detective, I knew something was up. "One of you knows something. So just come forward with it and the rest of you can go."
Lightning flashed again, and in the super-sharp illumination, I saw the answer to my question. "Willie! You are the guilty one!"
The others looked upon the accused in shock. "Is he right?"
Willie put both hands on the table and laced his fingers. A bandage covered one digit. A digit that had been cut...with a very sharp knife.
"All right!" he cried. "I confess. I borrowed your knife and its in the truck. And you know what? I proud I did it."
We looked upon the Guilty One.
"And that old saying is right. Confession is good for the soul. I feel much better now. Doreen, bring me a chicken fried steak."
"And a dull knife," I told her. I try to take care of my friends, even though theyre guilty of overextended borrowing.
While he sawed at the steak, I rushed through the rain to retrieve my own very sharp skinning knife...so I could cut my own chicken fried steak that sat cooling on the table.