It was a heavy day in the city. The sun blasted through the dirty glass and touched everyone in the store with the fire of a kid holding a magnifying glass over a hapless ant.
Okay, it’s not like a big city, it’s Princeton. And it wasn’t all that hot, really, and I have no idea if the people at the pharmacy felt hapless or not. Hell, I wasn’t even there. But I heard this actually happened.
There’s a lady at this pharmacy and she finds a note on the floor. As curious as anyone, and probably – like anyone – hoping the slip of paper was actually a winning lottery ticket someone had accidently dropped, this lady snaps it up and reads it.
“Murder In The White House,” it says.
You know this little old lady, gray hair and special shoes, is thinking What the fuck?
“Murder On Capital Hill,” it says.
Holy shit, our geriatric detective thinks. Murder is afoot, murder most foul and it is up to me, Thou Whost Would Buy Metamucil and bunyon pads, to stop it!
“Murder In The Supreme Court,” the note reads.
Surrepticiously, our heroine takes the note to the owner of the pharmacy. Quietly, so that the plotters and evil-doers who’ve conveniently dropped the note can’t hear, she gives it to the head drug dispenser and asks that she pass it up the line.
“Up the line?”
“We must get this to the police. Perhaps it can be dusted for prints. Mine, obviously, will have to be taken as an exclusionary set. Also, the ink can be analyzed for what kind of pen wrote this note. We can then trace that back to the manufacturer, the wholesaler, and the retail outlet. Perhaps they have credit card records of this sale. The paper, too, can be traced, though it is more difficult. We shall have to alert the FBI and Homeland Security.”
“But – ” The pharmacist points at the note.
“Murder at the FBI,” it says.
“Egads, who is left to save us?”
“Uh…the Princeton Police Department?” the pharmacist asks.
“Brilliant. Call them.”
And then our note-finder leaves. Hey, she’d done her bit, she doens’t have to stay for all of it.
But something about the note feels wrong, like an odd note played in the midst of a contemporary music experiment…I know, it’d be hard to find a wrong note in those kinds of aural train wrecks, but you get what I’m saying.
So our druggist calls Officer Peoria (I don’t want to embarrass him, if you can dig it), and gives him the note. It feels strange to him, too. So Officer Peoria takes the suspect note (as opposed to the suspect’s note) to our local bookseller and says, “Does this note, encrypted though it appears to be, mean anything to you?”
Our bookseller looks long and hard, racks her formidible brain, and says – sagely – “Yes.”
“Well, I believe it to be less a threat of political assassination than a listing of books by one Margaret Truman.”
“Mary Margaret Truman. Once upon a time, she was a singer. Then a writer. Also the daughter of President Harry S. Truman.”
Officer Peoria frowns. “Truman was, I believe, a Democrat.”
“So the daughter of a Democrat, probably also a Democrat, is plotting a massive political killing spree against the machinery of these United States? Currently run by Republicans?”
“Well, probably not…as she’s been dead since January 29 of this year.”
“Died this year, huh?”
“So did Arthur C. Clarke.”
“Well, there you go.”
“So I can throw this note away?”
Our bookseller nods and offers up a trash can. “I think so.”
– editorial fair play: what I’ve written is EXACTLY – almost – how it happened. I’ll leave it to you to sort truth from truthiness.