“But…he could be a suspect,” Detective Wesley fumbled as he scanned the contents of a large folder. Scrawled notes were headed by “The Case of the Drowned Barber” in bold ink on each page.
“No, Mr. Wesley, he is in prison. You always give that excuse. This time you will have to find some real suspects,” his assistant responded, looking through his steel-rimmed spectacles with a tight brow.
“Yes, I suppose you are right, Daughtry,” the detective said with a curved smile. “How do you suppose I find some?”
“My stockings, Mr. Wesley, I’m always puzzled at how have you’ve managed to keep your license all these years. You must have some relevant information in that file of yours.” He poked a finger at the detective’s folder and winced. “Is that an etching of a hound dog in the midst of your official records?”
The detective pouted slightly. “My sketches help me to remember things, you know that. I caught that emerald-thief after realizing that the owner’s cat was of a strictly non-shedding variety from one of my illustrations, causing what we thought was feline hair at the scene to be undoubtedly of the red-haired butler.”
“Fine, fine, I’ll give you that, but I would wager you cannot name another lucky instance.”
Detective Wesley stopped himself in the middle of shuffling his papers. His gaze was hard-set on the mocked drawing. “You would have lost a farthing, I’m afraid. Look here.”
Daughtry peered again at the image. “At what?” he asked.
“The dog’s fur was quite dry and scruffy when I drew it,” the detective began. “If the barber had been hustled into the water by a criminal the dog would have come to its master’s aid and therefore been sopping wet. This drowning wasn’t a murder, it was an accident.”
“Mr. Wesley, that’s brilliant! I only wish it was true.”
“How can you be so sure that it isn’t?”
“Sir, that dog was clearly a stray. It’s right there on your parchment, the dog was skin and bones.”
The detective cleared his throat. “I suppose you are right.”
“However, you have given us a lead with your idea, I do believe. Even if that dog was a stray, it would have started barking a torrent if it watched two men thrashing only feet from the dockside. Whoever the killer was, he was clever and quiet.”
“A hired man perhaps.”
“I was thinking that as well.”
“That leaves quite a question though. Who would be motivated to have a humble barber killed, while also having money to spare on the act?”
“Indeed. Was he associated with any of the higher-born in this area?”
The detective thumbed through his papers yet again. “Of course, Laurence Black, the owner of his tenant-house. I’ve heard many tales about his—the dog!
“Not that beast again…” Daughtry trailed.
“No, I’m not referring to that mongrel. Sally Black is known for her many courtships to men of lower birth. That must be it; Laurence Black had the barber drowned to keep him from marrying his daughter.”
Daughtry looked at his boss wide-eyed for a moment. Then he stuck out his hand and chuckled. “Bravo, Mr. Wesley. Bravo.”