A Matter of Style

a short story by E.W. Farnsworth

The victim lay sprawled on the pavement. After falling thirty-two floors, every bone in the corpse’s body was probably broken, but some clue might remain to inform about a homicide.  The police detective had received orders to handle the case “efficiently.” Detective Olson knew that code.  After all, the victim, Fyodor Brzezinski, was linked to the Russian Mafia, which had arranged for mob hits by defenestration in four public cases in the last eight months.

            “While the forensics crew combs for evidence down here, I’m going back up to the thirty-second floor to look for clues.”  Olson took the elevator.  He went to the window where the body had fallen.  He looked down at the ant-sized figures working on the pavement. 

A hotel manager sidled up beside him.

            “How do you do, Detective.  I’m Steve Holbrook.  I was the night manager on duty when the man fell.”

            Olson did not turn around but kept his eyes fixed on what was left of the window.  “What would it take to make a hole like the one in the window?”

            “You’d need a sledge hammer or equivalent.  The window was built to withstand a hit from the outside flying at over one hundred miles an hour.”

            The detective nodded.  “So, where’s the sledge?” He stepped around the glass shards and searched the room looking for the tool.  Not finding one, he asked, “Where would the nearest fire ax be located?”

            “We have a fire station halfway down the hall on the right.”

            Olson found the fire station, but it did not contain an ax.  He called the forensics detective on the ground level and asked whether there was any sign of an ax near the body.  Since there was none, he ordered that the entire area be searched for a fire ax.

            He told the night manager, “I’d like to see all your surveillance tapes of this floor immediately.”

            In the security room of the basement, the night manager showed Olson the tapes.  Two burly men with gloved hands had entered the victim’s room at 3:28 am.  One wielded the fire ax he had worked free from the fire station.  When the two men emerged from the room one hour later, the tapes showed the same man carrying the ax.  Olson confiscated and bagged the tapes.

            On the ground level near the body, Olson found the forensics detective.

            “Detective Olson, we found the ax you were looking for in the dumpster across the street.”

            “Good work.”

            Detective Olson called to update his chief.

            Chief Reilly asked, “Do we have enough to make this case Federal?”

            “Definitely.”

            “I’ll call the FBI. Between us, what happened?”

            “Fyodor Brzezinski was defenestrated by two Russian Mafia thugs.  The new modus operandi was using a local fire ax to break the window.”

            “Keep that thought private.  Let me know when we can close the case in our records.”

            “WILCO.  It seems some methods are a matter of stylewhile our case handling is the same, regardless.”

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